Saturday, May 30, 2015

World War III: South American Sphere

(Second in an occasional series as time and events allow)

I know the conventional wisdom is South America wasn't involved in the World Wars (except as a place to which Nazis could escape). It was on the periphery, but the more than two centuries of Monroe Doctrine and military interventions (both covert and overt) by the United States prove otherwise as well. It's just as true today. 

Thus we are going to use Cuba as a jumping of point for the invasion of Venezuela. The ground has been tilled and the rewards will be plenty (Blog editor's note: That reward is such total nuts spin. They scolded him, all of 'em, even allies, told him CIA keep hands off. They know they could be next at any given time. South American solidarity, baby)!

"Big businesses and politicians are putting muscle into their lobbying to end the US embargo of Cuba. A new bipartisan lobbying group called Engage Cuba debuts this month with backing from more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies, said James Williams, who heads the effort. And a political action committee called New Cuba PAC is raising money. Engage Cuba, whose staff includes veteran Democratic and Republican operatives, will focus on striking down the ban on American tourism to Cuba. President Obama has loosened the requirements for official permits for Americans to fly to Cuba to engage in 12 permitted activities, ranging from educational travel to musical performances. A growing number of pro-business Republicans are siding with anti-embargo activists. ‘‘We’re seeing an increasing number of Republicans seeing that this is a better route and that this is an opportunity for Republicans to put their stamp on this policy’’ said Ricardo Herrero, who works with Williams’s groups and heads his own new anti-embargo group, CubaNow....

What could their rea$ons be after so long?

The Obama administration approved the first ferry service in decades between the United States and Cuba on Tuesday, potentially opening new path for the hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars in goods that travel between Florida and Havana each year."

Yup, when money is involved people $tart talking and they do not $hut up. It's a relationship
that is blessed, if you will:

"The Vatican bank said Monday that its profit soared more than twentyfold last year as it recovered from a trading loss and continued making reforms after a scandal-marred past. The bank, officially called the Institute for Religious Works, earned 69.3 million euros ($77.37 million) in 2014, up from 2.9 million euros the previous year. Its net trading result jumped to 36.7 million euros from a loss of 16.5 million euros in 2013, when it lost money on investments and saw the value of its gold holdings drop. Profits were also boosted by a drop in operating costs. In 2013, operating expenses jumped by about 8 million euros as it paid outside consultants to help review its client base and bring it into compliance with anti-money-laundering norms. Bank president Jean-Baptiste de Franssu (left) said the bank’s focus is on improving services to 15,181 account holders and offering low-risk asset management services. De Franssu was named president last summer as the bank, which has been caught up in money-laundering probes over the years by Italian magistrates, began the second phase of a reform process aimed at cleaning up its operations." 

Make sure you check that pocketbook when he stops over before heading to the U.S for more clean up.

Why AmeriKa made peace with Cuba:

"In visit, Castro credits pope for aiding US thaw; Cuban president says he’ll consider return to church" by Jim Yardley New York Times  May 11, 2015

ROME — On Sunday night, Francois Hollande became the first French president to visit communist Cuba, bringing along five ministers and two dozen business people, including the heads of Pernod-Ricard, Cuba’s partner in exporting Havana Club rum, and grain exporter Soufflet.

Cuba was once accustomed primarily to visits from leftist Latin American partners and smaller allies in Africa and the Caribbean.

Now, virtually all of the visiting diplomatic delegations are accompanied by business leaders interested in Cuba’s push to draw more than $8 billion in new foreign investment as part of a broader, gradual economic liberalization.

And U.S. corporations did not want to be left behind.

The delegations are also working to ensure that Cuba does not forget its old friends in what eventually could be a new era of increased business with the United States.

Soufflet has been in Cuba for 30 years. It is among 60 French firms with active operations on the island.

Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, and France are Cuba’s biggest trading partners within the European Union, which is the island’s second-largest economic partner, with a combined $4.65 billion a year in trade in food, machinery, and other goods.

Top partner Venezuela accounts for $7 billion, mostly highly subsidized oil.

Another $tick in U.S. craw.

Many foreign business people in Cuba see the United States not so much as a competitor but as a potential source of accelerated growth for the businesses they have established, or hope to establish, in Cuba.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida became the highest-level Japanese official to visit Cuba when he brought several dozen representatives of his country’s automotive, finance, health, and tourism industries on a trip this month aimed at increasing business.

A British business delegation last month revealed $400 million in agriculture, energy, tourism, and other projects.

That's why Obummer reversed course! US corporations and bu$ine$$ didn't want to be left out!


Oh, how history could have been different:

"Fidel Castro at Harvard: How history might have changed" by Graham Allison   April 25, 2015

In January 1961, John F. Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, took office. His presidential campaign had taken an aggressive anti-Castro posture. He named McGeorge Bundy his national security adviser. After the failure of a CIA-sponsored invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs that April, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, another Harvard graduate, helped create a covert CIA program known as Operation Mongoose, dedicated to Castro’s overthrow. In 1962, the US also imposed a full economic embargo on Cuba.

There they go again, fingering Bobby for it.

The embargo, which barred trade and travel to Cuba, has become one of Kennedy’s longest-lasting policy legacies. President after president has since declared that Castro’s communist outpost would soon fold to US pressure and be relegated to the “dust bin of history.” Yet nine presidents later, with the march of global communism a distant memory, Castro hangs on to life and his brother rules in Havana.

The social sciences rarely allow for controlled experiments, where we can test initiatives for cause and effect. But occasionally the world around us offers its own clues. Is it accidental that the two states that have persisted the longest as bastions of Stalinist authoritarianism are the two that the US has most harshly isolated and sanctioned: North Korea and Cuba?

All the sufferings and terrorism visited on that island all these years was nothing but a social science experiment, huh? 

Shows you how sick the elite globe-kickers calling the policy shots are, folks. Wow.



It sure seems possible:

"The daughter of Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, sponsored a blessing ceremony Saturday for gay couples on an island where gay marriage remains illegal. Nearly two dozen gay couples held hands or embraced as American and Canadian Protestant clergy blessed them as part of ceremonies leading up to the Global Day Against Homophobia on May 17. Castro’s daughter Mariela heads Cuba’s Center for Sex Education, which has been pushing for gay rights (AP)."

Maybe they should cozy up too much to the Catholic Church.

At least they honored Chavez:

"Hundreds gathered Thursday to see military honors rendered belatedly for Cesar Chavez, the legendary rights and labor leader who was a Navy veteran on the 22d anniversary of his death."

Oh, different Chavez and it's no wonder Hugo died:

"Venezuela’s medical crisis requires world’s attention" by The Editorial Board   April 28, 2015

IT HAS BEEN the hallmark of socialism in Venezuela: free, high-quality medical care. Late President Hugo Chávez changed the constitution to guarantee such right to all Venezuelans. But that same health care system is now crumbling under the weight of an economic crisis, causing a severe shortage of normal medical care and many avoidable deaths. Venezuela has grown increasingly alienated from the United States and its Central American neighbors, but its political estrangement doesn’t justify the lack of urgency from the international community. Although many places call out for medical intervention, Venezuela’s growing medical collapse deserves a significant dose of humanitarian aid from near and far.

A jarring report in The Wall Street Journal last month described the plight of sick Venezuelans. Many are dying because underfunded hospitals lack medical supplies, including basic medicines and medical products such as heart valves. Since 2003, it’s estimated that some 13,000 doctors have left the country. The Associated Press also reported on the ordeal of women with breast tumors. Doctors in Venezuela must sometimes resort to 1940s-type treatments: They are performing radical mastectomies in cases where radiation would be effective, because radiotherapy machines are just not available. Indeed, “Chávezcare” is falling apart by any measure.

The medical system in Venezuela is a symptom of an economy in shambles. Inflation is at 70 percent and the nation’s economy is expected to contract by 7 percent this year. Venezuelan hospitals imported only $200 million in medical equipment last year, down from $800 million four years ago. Only about 35 percent of the country’s hospital beds are operational. With medical supplies limited or unavailable, Venezuelans often are left to their own devices to find them.

Venezuela deserves its status as a political pariah: Its brutal crackdowns on its people have included a doctor who pointed out some obvious health risks at one hospital. Unfortunately, the recent US sanctions have only provided Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with fodder to rile up support at home, despite his plummeting popularity. Last month, Maduro took out a full-page ad in The New York Times condemning the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, stating that Venezuela is not a national security threat to the United States. According to CNN, the ad cost $100,000 — funds that could have saved lives had they been used instead to alleviate the crisis in the Venezuelan medical system.

President Obama and his counterparts in Latin America should seize the momentum and good will generated in Panama a few weeks ago at the seventh Summit of the Americas, which Cuba attended for the first time. “The best the US government can do regarding Venezuela is to stay quiet and work through our partners in the hemisphere that have much greater influence in Venezuela, such as Colombia, Mexico, and others in the region,” observes Jason Marczak, a Latin American expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington foreign policy think tank. Indeed, there is huge potential for diplomacy in the region now that relations between the United States and Cuba are cordial. For the sake of many innocent victims of a moribund health care system, Venezuela’s medical crisis deserves America’s attention.


Globe attention and concern over Venezuelan medical crisis, wow!!!


"Venezuela’s economic collapse is driving factories out of business, leaving store shelves barren and wiping out workers’ purchasing power. But MasterCard Inc. is doing just fine. Two powerful forces are pushing Venezuelans to rely on credit cards amid the chaos: runaway inflation and soaring crime. People are racing to spend money to keep ahead of price increases that Bank of America estimates could reach nearly 200 percent this year. With so much inflation decimating the value of Venezuela’s money, shopping with cash would require carrying around a brick-size wad of 100-bolivar billsunwise in a country with the world’s second-highest murder rate. So MasterCard is “displacing cash, even though those families might be consuming the same or even less,” said Gilberto Caldart, a MasterCard executive. The company’s Venezuela business is growing in line with the rest of its Latin America operations, he said — an amazing statement given the depths of Venezuela’s recession. The International Monetary Fund predicts a 7 percent economic contraction in the oil-producing nation this year, following a 4 percent decline in 2014."

What that tells you is the quiet covert coup by the CIA and its assets and allies is making the Venezuelan economy scream.

On the western front is U.S. ally(?) Colombia:

"President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday that he is halting use of an herbicide that has been a key part of US-financed efforts to wipe out cocaine crops, saying Colombia will seek other ways to destroy coca plants. Santos said the move follows a Health Ministry recommendation based on a World Health Organization decision to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen (AP)." 

That's the new guy, and the duplicitous drug war being waged for decades also qualifies as world war -- in this case, the use of chemical weapons.

"Mudslide, flood in Colombia kill 52.... A roaring avalanche of mud and debris devastated a mountainous town in western Colombia before dawn Monday, killing at least 52 people. Residents were stirred from bed in the dead of the night by a loud rumble and neighbors’ shouts of “The river! The river!” as modestly built homes and bridges plunged into the Libordiana ravine. Survivors barely had enough time to gather their loved ones.... Colombians celebrate baby’s miracle survival from mudslide.... The heartwarming tale of survival contrasts with the still-emerging picture of devastation in Colombia’s most deadly natural disaster since a 1999 earthquake." 

Last I saw of it in the Globe(?), and time to move on to the eastern front:

"Chinese premier starts South American investment tour" by Gabriel Luiz and Brad Brooks Associated Press  May 20, 2015

BRASILIA — China’s Premier Li Keqiang and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff agreed on Tuesday to embark on studies for an ambitious railway linking Brazil’s Atlantic coast with a Pacific port in Peru and announced billions in other investments and trade deals.

Woa, woa, woa!!!

Rousseff emphasized the importance of the project to cut the time and cost to move commodities to the Asian market.

‘‘A new path to Asia will open for Brazil,’’ said Rousseff. ‘‘It will cross our country from east to west, and the South American continent.’’

The memorandum of agreement to begin feasibility studies on the trans-Andean railway will also involve the Peruvian government. Rousseff invited Chinese companies to participate.

The stop in Brasilia is the premier’s first on a four-nation South American tour that includes Chile, Peru, and Colombia. It comes as the continent feels the pinch of lessening Chinese demand for its commodities.

‘‘We’re moving into a different era, because China’s economy is transforming to being consumer based and it’s slowing down, so commodity prices are going down,’’ said Kevin Gallagher, professor of international relations at Boston University with expertise in China’s ties to Latin America. ‘‘Chinese trade and investment was Latin America’s best friend for a decade, and now everybody is in a panic.’’

China remains the top trading partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, with $112 billion of the region’s exports heading to China in 2013, according to Gallagher. Li’s trip began in Brazil, where he signed 35 agreements that total a $53 billion investment in infrastructure, energy, and mining among other areas over the next six years.

U.S. is being shut out, folks!!!

Chinese banks will back projects of state-run oil company Petrobras for $7 billion, a relief for the company embroiled in a corruption scandal that has blocked access from credit markets. The kickback investigation has implicated Brazil’s biggest construction and engineering businesses, delaying existing petrochemical complexes and key equipment needed to tap offshore fields.

The Chinese government also agreed to buy 40 planes from the Brazilian company Embraer and to build an industrial park for car manufacturing in the state of Sao Paulo.

 Despite the promise of big investments in infrastructure projects, analysts caution, such announcements do not always result in action.

Still, the timing for any influx of Chinese cash is good for Brazilians, whose economy is expected to shrink by at least 1 percent this year.

Li and Rousseff did not offer many details on the railroad, but the Brazilian leader said it should travel from the Atlantic coast deep through the Amazon jungle states of Mato Grosso and Acre and cross the border into Peru to reach the Pacific Ocean.

It is not clear yet when the feasibility studies will begin, and experts say given Brazil’s infamous red tape on big infrastructure projects, it is likely many years away from being completed, if ever. But Rousseff said that she will travel to China in 2016, invited by President Xi Jinping, to continue talks.

Plans for the railway, along with construction that has already begun on a China-backed canal cutting across Nicaragua, are part of China’s push to ease the delivery of the continent’s commodities to its market.

The Chinese premier said that investments in infrastructure will promote job creation in the ailing South American nation.

‘‘China has gained a lot of experience in this sector and would like to help reduce the cost of infrastructure in Brazil and create more jobs for locals,’’ Li said.

Brazil normally prefers to fund its own big projects, said Renato Baumann, an expert in international affairs at the Brazilian government’s Institute for Applied Economic Research.

‘‘However, the state these days is out of breath. It’s fiscally imbalanced with a savings deficit in the government accounts,’’ he said. ‘‘The state isn’t able to make many important investments.’’

Sound familiar, American?


Just don't try calling home if you are Chinese:

"A year after federal agents raided the Marlborough office of TelexFree Inc., prosecutors are still gathering massive batches of e-mails and other evidence in the alleged $1 billion fraud. According to a recent update filed in federal court in Worcester, prosecutors have met with Brazilian authorities who are also investigating. TelexFree presented itself as a telecommunications company that sold cheap long-distance phone service. But prosecutors and civil regulators allege the business was an illegal pyramid scheme that lured 1.9 million participants worldwide. Among other things, the government has produced 45 gigabytes of TelexFree YouTube videos, backup data, and executives’ personal e-mails. Brazilian prosecutors are expected to deliver 100 gigabytes of information."

RelatedFormer Telexfree agent detained on visa charge

"A 57-year-old man was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on May 11 in Malden after fleeing Brazil, where he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for hiring a hit man to kill a mayor in that country in 2000, officials said. Evandro Sergio Pais Franca, of Brazil, ordered the assassination of Maria Aparecida Vieira, the mayor of Nacip Raydan, on April 5, 2000, ICE said in a statement. She was shot to death that day. Franca was convicted in absentia on Nov. 5, 2012, and fled to the United States, according to ICE."

One great thing about Brazil is they go all out to party.

"Following the Money: The New Anti-Semitism?

By Jim Lobe and Charles Davis | LobeLog | May 1, 2015

In the 1976 docudrama about the Watergate affair and the fall of Richard Nixon, All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward’s source at the FBI, Deep Throat, tells him to “follow the money.” To the Washington Post editorial board in 2015, doing just that is problematic—and probably anti-Semitic. Or at least that’s their charge in a piece published last Friday entitled, “Argentina’s President Resorts to Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories,” the Post opens by asking:
What do lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the director of a Washington think tank have to do with hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously in January? Well, according to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, they are all part of a “global modus operandi” that “generates international political operations of any type, shape and color.”[Links added]
The Post’s problem is that Kirchner posted a “rant” on her website highlighting the fact that Paul Singer—whose hedge fund, Elliott Management, is seeking to force Argentina to repay the full amount of its defaulted debt—has contributed a whole lot of cash to the same neoconservative organizations in Washington that have been tarring the South American nation as a deadbeat ally of Iranian-backed terrorism. These same groups have also uncritically promoted the work of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who in 2006 issued a highly controversial 900-page indictment charging seven senior Iranian officials with ordering the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA), that killed 85 people. Nisman died in his apartment from a bullet to the head January 18, the night before he was set to testify before the Argentine congress in support of new charges that Kirchner and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, had conspired with Tehran to quash international arrest warrants against those same Iranians, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then President Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani, in exchange for a favorable trade agreement.

Making the Links

In 2013, Inter Press Service (IPS) ran a two-part feature by Charles (here and here) on the links between Singer and Nisman’s neoconservative fan club in the United States. The Argentine press and the president herself recently cited this work. The Post, however, plays dumb: “How do Singer, AIPAC and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [FDD] come into this?” it asks. 
Mr. Singer—or “the Vulture Lord,” as Ms. Kirchner called him—won a court battle on behalf of holders of Argentine debt last year; Ms. Kirchner chose to default rather than pay. Mr. Dubowitz’s think tank has published papers on Argentine-Iranian relations, while AIPAC has criticized the Obama administration’s preliminary nuclear deal with Iran. Confused?
Conspicuously and no doubt consciously missing from the Post’s retelling is the fourth sentence of Kirchner’s “rant”: “[Singer] contributed to the NGO Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), $3.6 million from 2008 to 2014.” By leaving this out, the Post is better able to pretend the only link between Singer and Dubowitz and Nisman is their Judaism.

Argentina, whose politics are reputedly as byzantine and Machiavellian as any country’s, does indeed have a history of anti-Semitism. Not only did it offer a refuge to fleeing Nazis after World War II, but the military junta that took power in 1976 included elements that extolled the Third Reich, as eloquently retold by perhaps the most famous survivor of the junta’s torture chambers, Jacobo Timerman (the foreign minister’s late father) in his 1981 book, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.

Kirchner may indeed have a political interest in claiming that an international conspiracy is defaming her government, but the evidence for such a conspiracy in this case is much stronger than the Post suggests. As noted above, millions of dollars have flowed from Singer’s pockets to the various neoconservative groups whose advocacy of confrontation with Iran has extended to attacking Argentina, in particular over its ties to the Islamic Republic.

Singer, who sits on the board of the hawkish Republican Jewish Coalition, turns out to be a generous funder of not only FDD, but AIPAC and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), as well as a number of other right-wing groups and politicians that have stoked hostility toward Iran. In 2010, for example, his personal and family foundations contributed a combined $1 million to the American Israel Education Foundation, the fundraising wing of AIPAC and the sponsor of its congressional junkets to Israel. The $3.6 million he gave to FDD between 2008 and 2011, meanwhile, makes him the group’s second largest donor during those three years. So, it’s pretty clear that what ties AIPAC and FDD together is not only their anti-Iran efforts, but also Paul Singer’s largesse. And that’s the link Kirchner highlights but the Post leaves out.

Make no mistake: Singer and Elliott Management stand to make as much as $2 billion if they can collect full value on the debt they bought for pennies on the dollar after the country’s 2001 default. About 93 percent of Argentina’s bondholders agreed to accept a fraction of what they were originally owed (a fact the Post also conveniently omitted). But Singer—who has done this sort of thing before with other nations that have defaulted on their debt—sued in U.S. court to recover the full amount, a move the Kirchner government has fought every step of the way. The Obama administration and the International Monetary Fund, as well as most of Latin America and Washington’s closest European allies, have also sided with Argentina, viewing Singer’s actions as a threat to the international financial system.

The Iranian “Connection”

What has this got to do with Nisman, though? His allegations of Iranian direction in the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires—and subsequent charges that the Kirchner government was trying to cover up that involvement so as to not undermine its growing economic relations with the Tehran—proved quite useful in another arena: the court of public and congressional opinion. According to IPS’s Gareth Porter, Nisman’s 2006 indictments were based virtually entirely on the testimony of a long-discredited former Iranian intelligence officer and several members of the cult-like Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that fought alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war.

But the claims have undoubtedly been useful to Singer’s cause. “We do whatever we can to get our government and media’s attention focused on what a bad actor Argentina is,” Robert Raben, executive director of the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA) explained to The Huffington Post. ATFA, a group Singer helped create with other hold-out creditors in 2007, spent at least $3.8 million dollars over 5 years doing whatever it could to paint Argentina as a pariah, according to IPS. Connecting the Kirchner government to Iran has clearly furthered that purpose.

“Argentina and Iran: Shameful Allies” was the headline of one ATFA ad that ran in Washington newspapers back in June 2013 as the Obama administration was considering whether to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Argentina’s favour. The ad featured adjoining photos of Kirchner and outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad connected by the question, “A Pact With the Devil?”

“What’s the TRUTH About Argentina’s Deal with Iran?” asked another very flashy full-page ad featuring unflattering photos of Kirchner and Hassan Rouhani published in the Post’s front section shortly thereafter. The ad included excerpts of letters denouncing the joint investigation from members of Congress, including Mark Kirk (R-IL) who received more than $95,000 from employees of Singer’s firm, Elliott Management, in the 2010 election. The signer of one letter urging the administration against siding with Argentina, former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)—who after his re-election in 2014 pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and resigned shortly thereafter—received $38,000 in campaign contributions from Elliott in 2012, nearly twice as much as his next largest donor.

Singer’s generosity also appears to have produced results in the think tank world, with Dubowitz’s FDD leading the way. In May 2013, as ATFA was running the Kirchner-Ahmadinejad ad, FDD release an English-language summary of a new “ground-breaking” report by Nisman detailing “Iran’s extensive terrorist network in Latin America.” (In an extended exchange with ProPublica here and here, Jim pointed out the summary’s many serious holes, leaps of logic, and other weaknesses.) The report triggered a flood of op-eds by FDD fellows and fellow-travellers at other neo-conservative organizations, as well as a series of hearings held by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee. According to FDD’s vice president, Toby Dershowitz, the report provided:
a virtual road map for how Iran’s long arm of terrorism can reach unsuspecting communities and that the AMIA attack was merely the canary in the coal mine. …The no-holds-barred, courageous report is a ‘must read’ for policy makers and law enforcement around the world and Nisman himself should be tapped for his guidance and profound understanding of Iran’s terrorism strategy.
Nisman’s death, on the eve of his testimony before the Argentine Congress about his charges against Kirchner and Timerman (since dismissed by two courts), produced another outpouring of articles by FDD fellows recalling the prosecutor’s tireless efforts to document Iran’s alleged involvement in the AMIA bombings and Kirchner’s purported courtship of Iran. Within a month, FDD announced the establishment of an “Alberto Nisman Award for Courage.” “We must pay careful attention to the detailed Iranian playbook he left behind and from it, heed important lessons in counter-terrorism and law enforcement,” Dershowitz said in the announcement. (For an interesting take on Nisman’s work, see “Why Nisman is No Hero in Argentine Bombing Case” by Argentine journalist Graciela Mochkofsky published last month in The Forward.)

Although FDD clearly lent itself with gusto to Singer’s efforts to tar Argentina and Kirchner with the Iranian brush, AIPAC has been more reserved. It has focused on the issue of Iranian terrorism in its own tireless drive to promote sanctions legislation and a policy of confrontation against the Islamic Republic. In 2010, however, the same year in which Singer and his foundation contributed $1 million to the premier pro-Israel lobby, Nisman was featured on a panel entitled, “Dangerous Liaisons: Iran’s Alliances With Rogue Regimes” at the group’s annual policy conference.

AEI Joins In

As for AEI, Singer would find it attractive not only for its pro-Israel hawkishness and long-standing hostility toward Iran and leftist governments everywhere, but also to its domestic agenda: a hands-off policy toward Wall Street. In other words, he may have had several reasons to give the group $1.1 million in 2009—its second-biggest donor that year—and another $1.2 million over the next two. Whatever his reasons, those who received those millions surely (and demonstrably) knew well enough not to upset their benefactor. And AEI fellow Roger Noriega, a former senior Bush administration official, has certainly pushed the Argentina-Iran/Nisman connection.

As Charles reported in 2013, Noriega has himself been paid at least $60,000 by Elliott Management since 2007—the same year AFTA was founded—to lobby on the issue of “Sovereign Debt Owed to a U.S. Company.” In 2011, he published an article on AEI’s website citing Nisman’s AMIA indictment and denouncing Iran’s offer to cooperate with Argentina in investigating the AMIA bombing as “shocking, in light of Tehran’s apparent complicity in that attack.” The article—“Argentina’s Secret Deal With Iran?”—cited secret documents suggesting that Tehran and Buenos Aires had recently renewed their cooperation on nuclear development as part of a deal “brokered and paid for” by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Two years later, Noriega and Jose Cardenas, a contributor to AEI’s “Venezuela-Iran Project,” co-authored a seven-page policy brief on AEI’s website entitled “Argentina’s Race to the Bottom,” which, among other things, charged that Kirchner’s government was “casting its lot with rogue governments like those in Venezuela and Iran.” Noting that two-way trade with Iran had grown from $339 million in 2002 to $18.1 billion in 2011, the article asserted:
…[T]he Kirchner government has been turning its back on its historical alliances and increasingly tilting its economic relationships toward countries of dubious international standing where rule of law is less of a concern.
And a week after FDD announced its Nisman Award for Courage, Noriega was back at it with an article headlined “Argentina’s Kirchner Reeling from Scandal.” The piece called for a “credible international investigation into Nisman’s case… to ensure that his 10-year search for the truth was not  in vain and that justice is attained not only for his family but also for the victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing.” In a veiled reference to Singer’s quest, he wrote:
From ongoing battles with bondholders playing out in a New York courtroom to pressuring critical news outlets through threats and intimidation to failed attempts to jumpstart a flagging economy, the Kirchner administration cannot end soon enough for many Argentines. Candidates lining up to replace Kirchner in the October elections will likely position themselves as far away from the kirchnerista record as possible. A new administration will have ample opportunity – and likely significant public support – to chart a new economic course. That means reconciling with international financial institutions and markets, restoring trust among foreign investors, and rooting out corruption.
Perhaps Noriega is simply interested in tarring Argentina with the Iranian brush in keeping with his long-standing crusade against any Latin American government that defies Washington’s writ. But like others engaged in this campaign, he and his organization have been paid generously by a very wealthy individual with a clear financial stake in seeing that Argentina’s current government is excised from the community of respectable nations, at least until it pays what he thinks he is owed.

If the Post had “followed the money,” it perhaps would not have been so “confused” by the connections Kirchner highlighted between Singer and those who have attacked her government over its allegedly nefarious relations with Iran. Ignoring Deep Throat’s advice and acting as if that trail of money doesn’t exist allowed the paper to better roll out the powerful charge of anti-Semitism. In truth, it’s not the president of Argentina’s supposed bigotry that offends, though, but the powerful enemies she’s made (and how much they’re worth).


"Anger simmers over bishop in Chile" Associated Press  April 22, 2015

SANTIAGO, Chile — Parishioners in a southern Chile diocese are gathering wherever their new bishop appears, but their presence is not the sort of assembly the Catholic Church would expect.

In the month since Bishop Juan Barros was installed in Osorno, the priest has had to sneak out of exits, call on riot police to shepherd him from the cathedral, and coordinate movements with bodyguards and police canine units.

Such is the public routine of the bishop who is denounced by his opponents as having shielded Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest. For his part, Barros says relations are improving.

The appointment of Barros by Pope Francis has unleashed an unprecedented protest, with more than 1,300 church members, 30 diocesan priests, and nearly half of Chile’s Parliament sending letters urging the pope to reconsider.

They may be emboldened after Francis accepted the resignation Tuesday of a US bishop, Robert Finn, who failed to report a suspected abuser, answering calls by victims to hold priests accountable and ensure children are protected.

At least three men say Barros was present when they were sexually molested in the 1980s and 1990s by the Rev. Fernando Karadima. Karadima was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2011, ordered to live his life cloistered in a nun’s convent. Barros has said he knew nothing of Karadima’s abuses.

The controversy is being watched by victims, advocacy groups, and lawmakers as a test of the pope’s promises to crack down on clerical sex abuse. On April 12, members on the pope’s sex abuse advisory committee traveled to Rome to voice their concerns.


True saints of South America:

"Eduardo Galeano, author inspired Latin Americans; at 74" by Leonardo Haberkorn Associated Press  April 17, 2015

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, whose ‘‘The Open Veins of Latin America’’ became a classic text for the left in the region and propelled the author to fame, died Monday at age 74.

Mr. Galeano had been ill with lung cancer for several months. His death was confirmed by the publication Brecha, to which he contribued.

Mr. Galeano’s work inspired generations of Latin Americans with powerful, acerbic descriptions of the continent’s exploitation by capitalist and imperialist forces. The writer defined himself as someone who helped rescue ‘‘the kidnapped memory’’ of Latin America, a ‘‘despised and beloved land.’’

No work reflected that more than ‘‘Open Veins,’’ published in 1971. In it, Mr. Galeano wrote that Chile with its vast nitrate deposits, Brazil with its rain forests, and Venezuela with its oil reserves, ‘‘had painful reasons to believe in the mortality of fortunes that nature bestows and imperialism usurps.’’

‘‘The world and Latin America have lost a maestro of the liberation of the people,’’ said President Evo Morales of Bolivia, a left-leaning leader. ‘‘His messages and works have always been oriented toward defending the sovereignty and dignity of our peoples.’’

‘‘Open Veins’’ had such strong resonance in the region that Hugo Chávez, the former Venezuelan president, a populist always quick to lionize thinkers on the left, handed a copy of the book to President Obama the first time they met in 2009, calling it ‘‘a monument in our Latin American history.’’ Sales of the book soon spiked.

Mr. Galeano remained a sharp critic of capitalism and of US policies to the end. But he shocked many last year when he criticized his signature work, saying it was poorly written and that at the time he did not have the academic formation to take on such a weighty subject.

‘‘I wouldn’t be capable of reading this book again; I’d keel over,’’ Mr. Galeano said while answering questions at a book fair in Brazil. ‘‘For me, this prose of the traditional left is extremely leaden, and my physique can’t tolerate it.’’

I've reached that point.

Born in Montevideo in 1940, Eduardo German Hughes Galeano began his career at 14, publishing cartoons under the name ‘‘Gius’’ because of the difficult pronunciation of Hughes in Spanish. Shortly thereafter, when he began writing news articles, he would use Galeano.

As a young adult, Mr. Galeano worked at several jobs while he wrote on the side, including courier, factory worker, bank teller, and stenographer.

From the beginning, Mr. Galeano’s ideology and works embraced ideas on the left. Those ideas forced him into exile in Argentina and Spain during Uruguay’s military dictatorship between 1973 and 1985.

‘‘The only way that history won’t repeat itself is by keeping it alive,’’ he once wrote.

Returning to Uruguay after the return to democracy, he was frequently seen in Montevideo cafes debating with other intellectuals or simply chatting with friends or people he had just met.


"Slain archbishop’s beatification opens Salvadoran wounds" by Joshua Partlow and Gabriela Martinez Washington Post  May 23, 2015

SAN SALVADOR — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to convene in a central plaza here Saturday to celebrate the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, 35 years after he was shot in the heart while saying Mass.

Romero, a towering and polarizing figure in Salvadoran history, was chosen by Pope Francis earlier this year to be beatified, the last step before sainthood.

It is the first time a Salvadoran has received this religious honor. After years in which the process was stalled, Francis’s decision was a ‘‘surprise and a thrill for everyone,’’ said Simeon Reyes, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in El Salvador.

But not quite everyone. Within the church, even among the hierarchy in El Salvador, some conservatives have opposed Romero’s sainthood, seeing him as a symbol for the Latin American left and the Salvadoran guerrillas who fought the US-backed military in the 1980s.

Forcing some U.S reflection on the slaughter there.

For a politically divided country still struggling with high rates of violence, Romero’s ceremony has revived memories of a Cold War era and a 12-year civil war that left tens of thousands dead in this impoverished country.

Another CIA special.

‘‘There was so much controversy, because there were always priests who were not in agreement with him,’’ said the slain archbishop’s brother, Gaspar Romero. ‘‘But the Vatican has recognized him as a saintly man, a man of faith, a man who spoke for the neediest, defending the poor from injustices, and who was killed for it.’’

It's a repeating pattern.

Romero’s legacy has been debated since his 1980 death. Known as a conservative prelate for most of his career, he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, and evolved into an unabashed advocate for the poor and a fierce critic of the government.

His opponents viewed him as a subversive and a revolutionary. Amid the debate, Romero’s case for sainthood was bogged down in church politics.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who guided Romero’s beatification cause through the process, said earlier this year that Salvadoran church representatives lobbied the Vatican to not approve Romero.

The archbishop’s opponents over the years argued that he was too politically controversial and a follower of ‘‘liberation theology,’’ a movement within the Catholic Church focused on fighting injustice and inequality.

‘‘The mountain of paper, unfortunately, weighed down’’ his case, Paglia was quoted as saying.

Romero was famous in El Salvador for his radio sermons, in which he catalogued killings and disappearances attributed to the military government. Romero also wrote to President Jimmy Carter asking him to halt military aid to the Salvadoran government. The day before he died, the archbishop called on soldiers to disobey orders and cease their abuse of the population.

The violence he encountered, including killings of fellow priests, ‘‘radicalized Romero, and made him aware that the repression had no limits, that they would attack anyone equally, including the church,’’ said Jose Jorge Siman, a friend of Romero’s for many years.


"Vast crowd sees Romero beatified as a martyr and hero of the poor" by John L. Allen Jr., Associate editor May 23, 2015

SAN SALVADOR — Named the archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, Archbishop Oscar Romero quickly became the country’s most outspoken opponent of a U.S.-backed right-wing government with strong ties to the military.

Romero’s final public act, the day before his death, was to beg, even order, soldiers and security forces not to fire upon civilians protesting government policies. The next day, he was shot through the heart while saying Mass in a small chapel on the grounds of a Catholic hospital, which also contained the modest house where he lived.

Although no one has ever been officially charged, a 1992 U.N. investigation concluded the intellectual author of the assassination was a right-wing politician and former army officer named Roberto D’Aubuisson.

Despite the atmosphere of national celebration in El Salvador, the divisions that surrounded Romero in life have also been apparent during his beatification. Such reactions were also heard internationally.

Obama issued a statement 


He was the “light of the world and the salt of the earth.” 

"Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, where Salvadorans are the second-largest foreign-born community in the city with roughly 70,000 households, said the beatification represents an “examination of conscience” for the United States. The United States backed right-wing forces in El Salvador in the 1970s that are widely believed to have been behind the assassination of Romero, and more recently the vicious gangs that plague the country today were forged in the United States and then exported back to the country as a result of a 1996 crackdown on immigration.... 

Romero was a passionate champion of the poor and an outspoken critic of government violence against civilians during the tumultuous years leading up to El Salvador’s 1980-1992 civil war. He was shot through the heart by a sniper while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980, just a day after delivering a passionate admonition to the US-backed military. Romero’s beatification was held up for years by church politics until then-Pope Benedict XVI “unblocked” the case in late 2012, after it was determined the archbishop had not been an adherent of revolutionary liberation theology as many had contended. Earlier this year, Pope Francis declared that Romero was martyred out of hatred of his faith, clearing the way for beatification. For some in attendance Saturday, the pain of Romero’s death was still fresh enough to bring them to tears. López de Rodriguez, the El Salvador consul general, teared up when she remembered what she was doing when she heard the news: studying in college. She remembered crying, she said, and then she recalled the terror when her university was attacked with tanks." 

He was a “hero,” 

I'm told the beatification was a turning point for Palestinians as well

"The agreement announced Wednesday further cements the relationship between the Vatican and the Palestinians, and certainly Vatican diplomats are not so naïve as to fail to recognize the political relevance of using the phrase “State of Palestinian” in an official communiqué. However.... 

I would hardly described the Zionist tool Abbas as an ‘angel of peace.’

Meanwhile, up north:

"Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado Monday killed 13 people and left at least five unaccounted for. In Ciudad Acuna, Mayor Evaristo Perez Rivera said 300 people were treated at local hospitals after the twister, and up to 200 homes had been completely destroyed. The government was talking with families whose homes had been damaged to determine how much assistance would be needed to rebuild the city of 125,000 across from Del Rio, Texas. The twister hit a seven-block area, which Victor Zamora, interior secretary of the northern state of Coahuila, described as ‘‘devastated.’’

"Federal agents and Massachusetts police have arrested a man accused of killing a Dominican Republic narcotics officer and wounding a second officer in 2013. Authorities said Cristian Aguasvivas, 26, was arrested Friday afternoon in Lawrence. Officials said Aguasvivas is wanted in the Dominican Republic for the May 12, 2013, shooting death of an officer of that country’s National Drug Control Agency and the non-fatal shooting of a second officer. The officers were trying to arrest Aguasvivas on narcotics charges. Authorities found Aguasvivas in Lawrence on Friday after discovering that he was using a fake identity card. Federal immigration officials are detaining Aguasvivas and working to extradite him to the Dominican Republic (AP)."

Been a long time since I've seen any word about Haiti.

Also see: World War III: Real Canadian Bacon


"Anti-Christian persecution is unquestionably a premier human rights challenge in the early 21st century. It’s happening not just in the Middle East but around the world, including nations where Christians are a strong majority."

I'm sorry, I've lost my appetite for such things, and the first four shots on the front of my Metro page aren't helping to wash it down.