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Caribbean Water

By Rud Istvan | Climate Etc… | October 19, 2013

The Associated Press ran an alarming news piece on 9/6/13:  Climate Change Threatens Caribbean’s Water Supply

It was picked up and echoed around the world, from Time Magazine’s Space and Science section in the US to CBC Canada to ABC Australia to ZeeNews India. The headline was everywhere, repeated at the Huffington Post as ‘Caribbean water supplies severely threatened by climate change.” The AP story reported on contemporary expert warnings at an August 2013 UN conference in St. Lucia. The lead AP paragraph is quite clear:

“Experts are sounding a new alarm about the effects of climate change for parts of the Caribbean—the depletion of already strained drinking water throughout much of the region.”

Experts like Avril Alexander, Caribbean coordinator of Global Water Partnership:

“When you look at the projected impact of climate change, a lot of the impact is going to be felt through water.”

Experts like Lystra Fletcher-Paul, Caribbean land/water officer for the UN FAO:                    

 “Inaction is not an option. The water resources will not be available.”

Yet another anthropogenic global warming alarm, and just in time for IPCC AR5, whose newly released WG1 chapters 7 and 11 say there is high confidence that dry regions will get drier, wet regions will get wetter, and storms will get stormier. “But there is only low confidence in the magnitude.” These Caribbean experts are much more certain—Caribbean water resources will not be available.

Little in this MSM AP news is what it seems. Paragraph 2 starts out saying rising sea levels could contaminate Caribbean fresh water supplies. What a curious assertion. Less dense fresh water floats on top of salt water no matter the sea level. Excessive groundwater draw-down can cause saltwater intrusion from below. That is already a problem in urbanized Broward County, Florida despite proximity to the Everglades.  And on the Tuvalu atolls in the Pacific, where government owned tourist hotels have strained its very limited groundwater capacity. Tuvalu is another urban development problem, not AGW. It was caused by Tuvalu’s government itself, eager to develop ecotourism (diving) after their new Funafuti runway was built with World Bank financing.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Saltwater intrusion doesn’t apply much to Caribbean island groundwater. The islands are mountainous. Pico Duarte in the DR is 3098m. Pic la Selle in Haiti is 2680m. Jamaica’s Blue Mountain is 2256m. Cuba’s Pico Turquina is 1974m. Antigua’s ‘Boggy Peak’ is 402m. St. Croix’ ‘Mount Eagle’ is 355m.  Barbados is only hilly, with a maximum elevation of ‘just’ 343m. Barbados:

Barbados

Rising sea levels will not contaminate Caribbean fresh water supplies.

The AP reported that Jason Johnson, head of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association, said the real issue is groundwater replenishment.

“Many Caribbean nations rely exclusively on underground water for their needs, a vulnerable source that would be hit hard by climate change effects. That’s the greatest concern. Those weather patterns may change, and there may not necessarily be the means for those water supplies to be replenished at the pace that they have historically been replenished.”

The AP noted some of the islands experienced an unusual dry spell in 2012. That’s weather. But Cedric Van Meerbeck, climatologist with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology, made the inevitable AGW connection:

“There are a number of indications that the total amount of rainfall in much of the Caribbean would be decreasing by the end of the century.”

Since 2012 was dry, and AR5 WG1 Chapter 7 executive summary says dry will get dryer, perhaps IPCC pronouncements are the indications. But regionally down-scaled GCMs cannot make such predictions on multi-decadal time scales. [1]

Intense rains fully ameliorated the unusual 2012 dry spell early in the usual 2013 Caribbean tropical storm season. AR5 WG1 7.6.2 also says wet will get wetter and storms stormier. That worries Barnard Ettinoffe, President of the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association:

“Heavy rains mean there’s not enough time for water to soak into the ground as it quickly runs off.”

Climate change causes dry to get drier and wet to get wetter according to AR5 WG1 11.3.2.3.1. It threatens Caribbean island water supply both ways!

What is actually going on was clued in the lead AP paragraph above—depletion of already strained water supplies throughout much of the region.

Much of the region is not correct. The AP story cites a 2012 study from British investment risk firm Maplecroft [2] saying Barbados is most at risk, but Cuba and the Dominican Republic also have high water security risk. On the large island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic has 2069m3 of renewable water per capita according the World Bank.[3] Cuba has 3381m3. The UK (another island for comparison sake) has 2311m3 but is not a water risk. The only way Cuba and the Dominican Republic could have a high water security risk rating (when the UK doesn’t) is through some illogic unrelated to water.

Barbados (although verdant, as the above picture proves) does have the least per capita renewable water in the Caribbean, only 284m3. That is because Barbados water consumption has doubled over the past 50 years [4] as its population has grown from ≈232K to ≈280K while its per capita GDP tripled from ≈$4k to ≈$12k. Water has become a major problem, and Barbados doesn’t have the oil wealth to import food (virtual water) or desalinate seawater like Saudi Arabia (86m3). Barbados’ water problem is anthropogenic, but not AGW. It is about unsustainable population growth and economic development on a smallish dryish island–just like on Tuvalu.

Another Caribbean country with current water problems is Antigua/Barbuda, at 590m3. Neither indigenous Caribbean tribes nor Spanish conquistadors settled those islands because of insufficient fresh water. The British did later. The country’s population has almost doubled from ≈54k in 1960 to ≈90k today. That always eventually causes finite resource problems. And now has in naturally dry Antigua/Barbuda.

Climate change does not threaten Caribbean water supplies. Population growth and economic development already do on some of the smaller islands. And they are using climate change to ‘extort’ financial aid (e.g. for desalination) from the usual rich ‘guilty’ AGW culprits.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change organized this regional conference (at St. Lucia’s luxurious Bay Gardens Hotel/Resort) for Caribbean environment ministers and politicians. The UN organizer’s locally televised purpose was to give “these less developed country ministers and politicians the information and tools to know what to ask for in the negotiations leading up to the new world agreements of 2015”. That starts at COP19 in Warsaw in November 2013.

It is no coincidence the conference was held on St. Lucia. Its minister presently heads the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).  AOSIS says its 44 member states comprise 30% of developing countries, 20% of UN member states, and 5% of world population. The AOSIS agenda for COP19 is clear from its PR after being disappointed at June 2013 Bonn meetings:

At the closing of the latest round of U.N. climate talks, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of 44 low-lying and coastal countries that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, released the following statement:

“After losing two weeks to needless procedural wrangling, it is worth recalling the scale of the challenge we face and the precious little time remaining to meet it… Therefore an international mechanism to address the permanent injury our islands are experiencing [emphasis added] must be established this year at the Warsaw conference.”

Tuvalu is the AOSIS member most aggressively agitating for UN ‘climate change aid’, having experienced saltwater intrusion caused by government tourist hotel development. Hence the AP story’s odd second paragraph, which is unrelated to the Caribbean but right in the AOSIS (Tuvalu) lobbying sweet spot.

2010-01-19-Tuvalu copy

Hey mon, its Babylon politricks. (H/T to Bob Marley and Jamaica, a Caribbean island of 2.7 million people enjoying 2473m3 renewable water per capita and fantastic reggae music.)

[1] Pielke Sr., Regional Climate Downscaling: What’s the Point, EOS 93: 52-53 (2012)

[2] Maplecroft Global Risk Analytics, info@maplecroft.com

[3] Available at data.worldbank.org/indicator/ER.H2O.INTR.PC

[4] Barbados Free Press editorial on water rationing 2/28/10

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela: An Ethical Foreign Policy?

By Ewan Robertson | Carnegie Council | July 10, 2013

HugoChavez-Brazil

CREDIT: Manu Dias, (CC)

Venezuela’s foreign policy under the late President Hugo Chávez, and now his successor Nicolas Maduro, has been subject to sharply differing interpretations. Some observers see the oil-rich country’s foreign relations since Chávez’s election in December 1998 as shaped by a visionary who has promoted international solidarity with the oppressed, combated poverty, and pushed for a just world order free of uni-polar domination. For critics, however, Venezuela’s foreign policy has been incoherent, militaristic, and prejudicial to regional stability.

Does Venezuelan foreign policy include ethical considerations, as its supporters claim? The evidence suggests it does and that as a result we can be more optimistic about possibilities for incorporating ethics into international affairs than some scholars would have us believe.

The Ethical Dimension of Venezuelan Foreign Relations

To evaluate a possible ethical dimension to Venezuelan foreign policy, it is necessary to understand the ideology Chávez imbued in the country’s international affairs. Five concepts are central. The first two are the primacy of national sovereignty and Latin American and Caribbean integration. These are based on an understanding of foreign policy as a continuation of the Pan-American vision of Venezuela’s founder and 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, who also gives the name to Chávez’s “Bolivarian” political project. The third and fourth are the importance of international solidarity and south-south cooperation, which hold that Venezuela’s development should be based on mutual solidarity and cooperation with the countries of the global south. Finally, these concepts coalesce to form the pursuit of a multi-polar world order, which sees Venezuela’s international role in strengthening ties with emerging powers across different regions as part of a shift to a more balanced international system which will guarantee “world peace” and “universal well-being.” This implicitly involves an attempt to counter-balance the weight of the United States in international affairs.1

One example of Venezuela’s pursuit of these values is the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). This alliance of leftist Latin American nations founded by Venezuela and Cuba in 2004 has implemented regional development strategies based on the principles of “solidarity, cooperation and complementing.” Programs aiming to guarantee food security, universal literacy, free health and education, and decent housing are strongly marked by values of social justice and human development.2 Social programs promoted by the ALBA include the “Miracle Mission,” which provides free eye treatment and surgery to Venezuelan citizens and those of several Latin American countries. The program has treated around 1.2 million people in Venezuela since its launch in 2004.3

Development assistance and solidarity have also been evident in Venezuela’s outreach to the Caribbean, particularly with the PetroCaribe initiative. Launched in 2005, the program offers Venezuelan petroleum to Caribbean nations at a discount rate. Participating nations only pay a percentage of the oil’s market price up front, with the rest converted into low-interest, long-term loans. A portion of these loans can be amortised through payment in goods and services; for example, Cuba sends medical personnel to Venezuela in exchange for oil shipments. The loans also become important sources of capital spending for the region’s governments. Eighteen Caribbean states now participate in the program, and Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez estimated in 2011 that PetroCaribe covers 43 percent of participating nations’ energy needs.4 In the context of rising oil prices in the 2000s, a Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) report on the scheme described it as “the most concrete proposal on the table to alleviate the region’s suffering.”5

Perhaps no other Caribbean nation has benefitted more from this kind of regional solidarity than Haiti. Following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, Venezuela pledged $2.4 billion in financial and relief aid, more than any other of 58 donors. This aid has included building power plants, shelters, a new hospital (in collaboration with Cuba), sending food and medical supplies, and assistance to develop Haiti’s agricultural sector.6 Venezuela even wrote off $400 million of Haiti’s PetroCaribe debt. This important reconstruction aid was given despite the fact that Haiti is by no means an ideological ally of Venezuela’s leftist government; its president, Michel Martelly, is close to Haiti’s business elite and the United States. Nevertheless Martelly has publicly thanked Venezuela for its solidarity and help since the earthquake, commenting in December 2011 that for Haiti, “cooperation with Venezuela is the most important right now, in terms of impact, direct impact.”7

Africa is another continent where relations seem to be driven as much by ideology and ethical values as by strategic interests. From 2005, Chávez began referring to Africa as a “motherland” and pursuing “south-south cooperation,” or mutual development strategies, in the region. Over the next six years Venezuela established diplomatic relations with all 54 African countries, opened new embassies, and signed over 200 cooperation agreements with the continent, where only 20 had existed beforehand.8 Many of these agreements contain a clear element of solidarity and humanitarian assistance. In 2009 Venezuela pledged $20 million to the West African ECOWAS group for malarial eradication programs, while in February 2013 it offered technical assistance and personnel training to the Sahrawi Democratic Republic to improve the population’s access to safe drinking water. Further, around 500 students from over 15 African countries study in Venezuela courtesy of government scholarships, many of these in medical courses, with the intention that after their studies these newly-trained professionals return to their home countries to provide much needed public services.9 A similar program is offered to Palestine, where Venezuela has also committed to build medical facilities.

Such attempts at greater cooperation with countries of the global south have led Venezuela to play a key diplomatic role in moves toward intensifying Latin American and south-south integration. In addition to founding the ALBA and PetroCaribe, Venezuela was also a founding member of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008, and played host to the founding conference of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in 2011, which brings together every nation in the Americas with the exception of the U.S. and Canada. Venezuela was also host to the II Africa–South America (ASA) summit in 2009, and is set to host the tri-annual summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2015, and thereafter become the president of the grouping of 130 developing nations. The country was also elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council for 2013–2016 and is a mediator in peace talks underway between the FARC guerrilla group and the Colombian government. Taken together, these aspects of Venezuela’s foreign policy have led observers such as Venezuelan geographer and analyst Rosalba Linares to conclude that Bolivarian-era foreign relations aim to construct “a sovereign, democratic and more humanitarian multi-polar world, of greater social justice and fair trade in benefit of those most in need in Venezuela and the world.”10

The Pursuit of Strategic Interests

Of course, it would be mistaken to understand Venezuelan foreign relations as solely motivated by ethical or altruistic considerations. Even solidarity-based policies have clear “soft” benefits such as raising the government’s diplomatic and international standing. Venezuela’s foreign relations have also been shaped by concrete strategic interests. Chief among these are energy interests, which are woven throughout foreign policy, as Venezuela holds the largest crude oil reserves in the world. The Bolivarian government has sought to increase ties with other energy powers for the extraction of Venezuelan crude and to diversify its oil export markets. In the context of the deterioration of relations with the United States, strategic policy goals have also included creating a robust network of international alliances and securing alternative sources of financing, technological assistance, and military hardware.

In the first years of Chávez’s presidency the state oil company PDVSA was brought under greater government control. At the same time the government pushed for the revitalisation of OPEC, advocating the policy of production quotas to help ensure that world oil prices rose to levels favourable to exporting countries. The elevation of oil prices in the 2000s gave the Venezuelan government flexibility to pursue active energy diplomacy abroad while funding a wave of new social programs at home.

The government has built what it calls “strategic alliances” with several energy powers, including Russia and China. Russian energy giant Gazprom now works with PDVSA to explore gas deposits in the Gulf of Venezuela and Russian firms are active in the extraction of oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt. Russia is also useful to Venezuela as a source of military hardware, with Chávez’s government becoming Russia’s biggest customer of military goods after India.11

Meanwhile China has provided Venezuela with a new market for its petroleum exports. Oil exports to China rose from almost zero in 2004 to 460,000 bpd in 2010, a number that officials want to increase to one million.12 The relationship has also resulted in over 300 bilateral agreements and 80 major projects, and has allowed the Venezuelan government access to financing and technology, the latter exemplified by the launching of Venezuela’s first satellites with Chinese assistance in 2008 and 2012.

Venezuela has formed a web of links with other countries enjoying oil and gas reserves, such as Iran, Syria, Brazil, and certain African countries. Given their relatively independent diplomatic stance in world affairs, strengthening ties with these nations has also fitted within the ideological goal of building “south-south cooperation” and a “multi-polar world order.”

Meanwhile relations with Venezuela’s traditional commercial partner and top recipient of crude exports, the United States, have been frozen at the charge de affairs level since 2010. Venezuelan officials blame this on the U.S. government’s belligerence and lack of respect for Venezuela’s independence and sovereignty, including support for and alleged involvement in the short-lived coup attempt to topple the Chávez administration in 2002. For its part, the United States has accused Venezuela of failing to sufficiently cooperate with counter-narcotics and anti-terrorism efforts, and of acting against U.S. interests by pursuing relations with “enemy” states such as Iran. Nevertheless, there are signs that the relationship is improving under the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, after Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua met with Secretary of State John Kerry during an OAS summit in early June.  “We would like to see our countries find a new way forward, to establish a more constructive and positive relationship,” said Kerry  following the meeting. However, it remains to be seen whether the recent decision by President Maduro to offer asylum to ex-NSA intelligence leaker Edward Snowden will have an impact on efforts to improve bilateral relations.

Criticisms and Contradictions

Critics point to contradictions in the conduct of Venezuela’s foreign policy, and question the existence of an ethical dimension to Venezuelan foreign relations.

An accusation which emanates principally from the United States is that rather than seeking “world peace,” Venezuela in fact pursues an aggressive policy of building up its arms stockpile while forming alliances seen as threatening to U.S. national security. In September 2009 then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton raised concerns over  Venezuela’s arms purchases from Russia, arguing that the Chávez administration was engaging in a military build-up which could trigger a South American “arms race.” “They [Venezuela] outpace all other countries in South America [in military purchases] and certainly raise the question as to whether there is going to be an arms race in the region,” she said.13 Further, some conservative politicians and analysts have argued that Venezuela should be considered a “national security threat” due to its ties with countries regarded as hostile to the U.S, such as Iran and Syria.14

However, neither the figures nor events bear out fears that Venezuela is unduly arming itself or seeking military-style alliances with U.S. adversaries. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2009 Venezuela put 1.4 percent of GDP toward military spending, the 5th highest in the region and less than the U.S., Colombia, and Chile. By 2012, military spending in Venezuela had halved as a percentage of GDP to 0.7 percent, with the country spending less than most major countries in the region, being only 153rd out of 173 countries measured globally for military spending.15 Venezuelan government officials meanwhile state that its international alliances are “about peace” and not in any way an aggression toward a third party. This point was highlighted during the visit from former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajad to Venezuela in January 2012. Nicolas Maduro, in his capacity of foreign minister, said to press at the time that bilateral ties between the two countries were part of a “peaceful relationship…we have a relationship of cooperation for development… and above all, for peace”.16

This appraisal of Venezuela’s diplomatic and defence policy appears to be shared by the U.S. military establishment. In August 2012 General Douglas Fraser, chief of U.S. Southern Command, said that although he would like greater cooperation from Venezuela against drug trafficking, he did not consider Venezuela a security threat to the United States. When asked if he thought Venezuela’s arms purchases constituted a danger to the U.S., Fraser replied, “From my standpoint, no…I don’t see them [Venezuela] as a national security threat.” Further, when asked whether Venezuela’s relationship with Iran amounted to a “military alliance,” the general disagreed, stating, “As I look at Iran and their connection with Venezuela, I see that still primarily as a diplomatic and economic relationship.”17 President Barack Obama has taken a similar stance, announcing in an interview in July 2012, “Overall my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”18

Thus the notion that Venezuelan military purchases and bilateral relationships represent a threat to the United States appears to be an overreaction from certain observers within U.S. political and media spheres, who confuse Venezuela’s independent foreign policy with one threatening U.S. security.

Others argue that there exists a contradiction in Venezuelan foreign policy between claims to pursue the values of democracy, humanitarianism, and solidarity, while supporting governments considered authoritarian or with poor human rights records. In 2011, political sociologist and author Gregory Wilpert argued  that Venezuela ran a “significant” risk of losing legitimacy among progressives when  Chávez continued to support former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi against an insurgency in that country, a point that could be extended to several other of Venezuela’s allies in the Middle East.19

Another seemingly contradictory move by a government purporting to promote ethical values in its foreign policy is Venezuela’s decision to withdraw from the OAS’ Inter-American Court and Human Rights Commission (IACHR) in 2012, on the basis of the body’s alleged “shameful” bias against the Chávez administration. The decision is also part of a shifting focus toward Latin American autonomy and integration, with several states in the region pushing for the formation of new mechanisms to promote human rights within the UNASUR and CELAC. 20

A final question for Venezuela’s foreign relations is the extent to which policies pursued under Chávez will continue under the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, who was elected to power in April, following Chávez’s death in March. Maduro was Chávez’s foreign minister from 2006–2012, and in that role helped to build Venezuela’s contemporary foreign relations. The new president has pledged to continue these policies and his active foreign diplomacy over the previous three months seems to confirm this. Present challenges for Maduro include assuming the presidency of the Mercosur trade bloc this summer, and seeking productive relationships with the U.S. and Europe; steps toward which appear to have already been taken.

Between Ethics and Interests

In common with all nation states, over the past 14 years Venezuela has pursued clearly defined strategic and economic interests through its foreign policy. These have included developing greater links with other energy powers and ensuring access to sources of financing and military hardware. The government has also sought commercial, technological, agricultural, educational, health, and other forms of cooperation considered beneficial to Venezuela’s national development.

Although certain criticisms of contradictory behaviour can be levelled at Venezuela’s foreign relations, policymaking has followed a coherent logic. From technological cooperation with China to malaria eradication assistance in Africa, Venezuela’s new foreign relations have been built within an ideological framework embodied by the notions of “south-south cooperation” and a “multi-polar world.”

Further, while all nations could be said to act in their own strategic interests, not all have also placed norms of cooperation, solidarity and humanitarianism as a central focus of foreign policy. These values can be seen in agreements Venezuela has made with countries across all continents, but especially in the Americas and Africa. Even in the United States, PDVSA subsidiary CITGO aids around 100,000 low-income families during the winter with donated Venezuelan heating oil.21 Thus while it would be false to state that Venezuelan foreign policy is solely motivated by ethical considerations, it would be misleading to explain the country’s external relations without reference to these. This ethical dimension to Venezuela’s foreign policy is a demonstration that if the political will exists, governments can pursue such values within their foreign relations. In doing so, concrete and mutual benefits can be reaped for both the development of societies and the wellbeing of peoples.


NOTES

1 Chávez, H. (2012), Plan de la Patria: Programa del Gobierno Bolivariano 2013 – 2019, accessed at: http://www.minci.gob.ve/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/04/PLANDELAPATRIA-20133-4-2013.pdf.

2 Ullán de la Rosa, F.R. (2012), La Alianza Bolivariana para las Americas – Tratado de Comercio de Los Pueblos (ALBA-TCP): Análisis de un Proyecto de Integración Regional Latinoamericana con Una Fuerte Dimensión Altermundista, Estudios Politicos, no. 25, (Enero – Abril), pp131 – 170, Mexico, D.F. (p151-152).

3 Morales, M. (27/5/2013), Hija de Chávez Manejará Presupuesto Millonario en la Misión Milagro, El Nacional.

4 Rojas, R. (December, 2011), Venezuela Increasing Influence in Caribbean through PetroCaribe, Press TV.

5 Lai, K. (January, 2006), PetroCaribe: Chávez’s Venturesome Solution to the Caribbean Oil Crisis, Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA).

6 Information taken from, Wyss, J. (05/07/2010), Venezuela Leads the World in Earthquake Relief, Miami Herald; Edmonds, K. (February 2012), ALBA Expands its Allies in the Caribbean, North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA.org); Robertson, E (01/06/2012), Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina Sign Development Assistance Agreements with Haiti, Venezuelanalysis.com.

7 The Editors, (April, 2012), Haiti Using Funds from PetroCaribe to Finance Reconstruction, Council for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

8 Bolivar, R. J., (February, 2011), “Entrevista: Reinaldo José Bolívar, Viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores para África,” Encontrarte.

9 (14/01/2011), “Venezuela ha Firmado 200 Acuerdos de Cooperación con África,” Agencia Venezolana de Noticias.

10 Linares, R., (2010), “La Estrategia Multipolar de la Political Exterior Venezolana,” Aldea Mundial,  Año 15, No. 15, Julio – Diciembre (2), pp51-62, (p60).

11 Rinna, A. (09/03/2013), “Russia’s Uncertain Position in Post-Chávez Venezuela,” Centre for World Conflict and Peace blog.

12 Ellis, R.E. (2010), “Venezuela’s Relationship with China: Implications for the Chávez Regime and the Region,” Centre for Hemispheric Policy, University of Miami, pp1-10; Cornejo, R. & Garcia, A.N. (2010), “China y América Latina: Recursos, Mercados y Poder Global,” Nueva Sociedad, No. 228 (Julio-Agosto), pp79-99 (p95); Manduca, P.C. (2012), “La Energía en la Política Sudamericana: Características de las Relaciones entre Brasil y Venezuela,” Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,” no. 216, (Septiembre – Diciembre), pp81-100.

13 Labott, E. (16/09/2009), “U.S. Fears Venezuela Could Trigger Regional Arms Race,” CNN.

14 Noriega, R. (08/02/2013), “Hugo Chávez: An Uncounted Enemy,” The Washington Times.

15 Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook (Military Expenditures, Venezuela), accessed at: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2034rank.html?countryname=Venezuela&countrycode=ve&regionCode=soa&rank=153#ve.

16 Pearson, T. (10/01/2012), “Iran-Venezuela Relationship “About Peace,” Venezuelanalysis.com.

17 (01/08/2012), ” Top US General: Venezuela Not a National Security Threat,” Associated Press.

18 Mazzei, P., Bolstad, E., (11/07/2012), “Mitt Romney, GOP howl over President Barack Obama’s remark about Hugo Chávez,” Miami Herald.

19 Wilpert, G, (06/03/2011),  “Venezuela and Libya: An Interview with Gregory Wilpert,” Venezuelanalysis.com.

20 Britto Garcia, L. (12/05/2013), Avanza el Golpe Judicial, Aporrea.org.

21 Citgo Press, (31/01/2013), “Eighth Annual Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil Program Launched,” Venezuelan Embassy, Washington.

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nicaragua and Russia Make Cocaine Bust in Caribbean

Latin America Herald Tribune | April 13, 2013

MANAGUA – Nicaraguan naval forces and Russian drug enforcement agents seized 100 packages of cocaine on the high seas, state media reported, citing military spokesmen.

The seizure was made 30 nautical miles from Quitasueño key in the Caribbean waters administered by Colombia for 84 years until an International Court of Justice ruling on Nov. 19, 2012, restored sovereignty over the area to Nicaragua, armed forces spokesman Col. Orlando Palacios said.

The cocaine was being smuggled in a two-engine boat and arrests were made, Palacios said, without specifying how many suspects were detained.

Nicaragua’s Caribbean region provides a natural smuggling corridor for drug traffickers moving narcotics from Colombia into the United States.

The Nicaraguan armed forces seized 6,870 kilos of cocaine, arrested 143 people and confiscated 52 boats in 2012, the government said.

Nicaragua and Russia signed an agreement to fight drug trafficking.

Russian officials placed the cornerstone for an anti-drug training center in Managua in March.

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Comments Off on Nicaragua and Russia Make Cocaine Bust in Caribbean

The Drug Trade and the Increasing Militarization of the Caribbean

By Kevin Edmonds | The Other Side of Paradise | February 8, 2013

Given the current controversy surrounding the extent of the U.S. drone program and targeted killings, it is important to revisit that in the summer of 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced that unmanned drones would begin patrolling Caribbean airspace as an expansion of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). This is only one aspect of how the War on Drugs in the Caribbean is increasingly looking like the War on Terror.

The U.S.–Caribbean border is the often ignored “Third Border,” which the Department of Homeland Security has referred to as an “open door for drug traffickers and terrorists.” A recent study by the National Defence University has stated that “the region’s nexus to the United States uniquely positions it in the proximate U.S. geopolitical and strategic sphere. Thus, there is an incentive, if not an urgency, for the United States to proactively pursue security capacity-building measures in the Caribbean region.”

While the drones are unarmed for the time being, they will be primarily used to locate drug traffickers operating fishing boats, fast boats, and semi-submarines and would relay information to the Coast Guard, Navy or Caribbean authorities to carry out the interception and arrests. It has been revealed that the drones will be operating out of bases in Corpus Christi, Texas, Cocoa Beach, Florida and potentially the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The shift towards the use of drones in the region is largely based off of an unconvincing pilot program carried out over 18 months in the Bahamas, in which “During more than 1,260 hours in the air off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Guardian (drones) assisted in only a handful of large-scale busts.” That said, the Caribbean governments increased militarization in the region when they implemented the never-ending War on Drugs without any public consultation or debate. This erosion of regional sovereignty may be a slippery slope to a dangerous future in which Caribbean nationals may very well find themselves on kill lists instead of facing a trial.

Such a conclusion is not baseless, as a November 2012 report by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security recommended that Latin American drug cartels be classified as terrorist organizations “so there is increased ability to counter their threat to national security.” Furthermore, in 2009, the U.S. Military drew criticism for placing 50 suspected Afghani drug traffickers on a “kill list” as part of their ongoing efforts to cut off finance stream of the Taliban. The controversy arose due to the fact that drug traffickers (generally classified as civilians) had now been placed into the same legal category as the Taliban “insurgents” and thus became legitimate targets.

This is especially important in light of how the extradition of Jamaican kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke was handled. In September 2009, the United States requested his extradition to face drug trafficking charges, but Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding blocked the request due to his deep political connections with Coke. It was only after months of intense pressure that Golding caved in May 2010. Jamaican Police and the Jamaican Defense Forces led the bloody operation to arrest Coke, which resulted in the deaths of more than 70 civilians—the vast majority of which were unarmed.

The resulting scandal led to the downfall of Golding as Prime Minister but highlighted the power that drug traffickers and gang leaders have had in Jamaican government and politics. It has since been reinforced that the operation was “assisted by the U.S. government and carried out, to a large degree, at its behest.” Information has emerged which reveals that a U.S. spy plane participated in the raid of Coke’s stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, and a Freedom of Information Act action has recently been levied against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) by a group of law students to reveal the extent of U.S. involvement.

To prevent such explosive outcomes in the future, there has been a call for closer integration between Caribbean police forces and the U.S. DEA in a clear escalation of the War on Drugs. A September 2012 Senate Report revealed that Jamaica has been floated as a target for a Sensitive Investigative Unit, which consists of a highly trained police that collaborate with the DEA. A similar program exists in Kandahar, where U.S. and British troops have created and participated in a task force made up of Afghan police officers and U.S. DEA agents to disrupt the drug trade and investigate corrupt Afghan officials.

According to a seemingly benign Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press release announcing the drone program, the “DHS is partnering with Caribbean nations to enhance border security in the region through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) . . . . The DHS is conducting border security training in conjunction with CBSI to increase partner nation capacity to secure their borders.” The problem with such statements is that there is always more shady business going on behind the scenes. Given the direction of U.S. policy in the region, it will only be a matter of time until the War on Drugs becomes eerily similar to the War on Terror.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Drug Trade and the Increasing Militarization of the Caribbean

Pentagon Continues Contracting US Companies in Latin America

By John Lindsay-Poland  | FOR | January 31, 2013

The Pentagon signed $444 million in non-fuel contracts for purchases and services in Latin America and the Caribbean during the 2012 fiscal year, an overall decrease of nearly 15% from the previous year. But US military spending in the region is still considerably higher than during the George W. Bush administration, when the equivalent Pentagon spending in Latin America averaged $301 million a year.

Fellowship Of Reconcilliation conducted an analysis of Defense Department contracts listed on usaspending.gov for Fiscal Year 2012, building on the review we did last year.

More than a third of funds for these contracts in the region are being carried out in Cuba, with $158 million for housing upgrades, intelligence analysis, port operations and other services. The United States maintains the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, site of the 11-year-old detention center that holds 171 prisoners without trial, many of whom have been cleared for release.

An additional $130 million in Pentagon contracts was for fuel purchases, including more than $44 million in Brazil, $35 million in Costa Rica, and $24 million in Honduras. Such fuel purchases supply the Fourth Fleet of the Navy, as well as military aircraft and land vehicles used in exercises, operations, and training.

Colombia remained the country with the largest amount of Pentagon contracts in continental Latin America, with $77 million. A multi-year contract shared by Raytheon and Lockheed for training, equipment and other drug war activities accounted for more than a third of Pentagon contract spending in Colombia. Honduras, which has become a hub for Pentagon operations in Central America, is the site for more than $43 million in non-fuel contracts signed last year.

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The US Southern Command (SouthCom), responsible for US military activities in Central and South America and the Caribbean, is assisting the Panamanian border police, known as SENAFRONT, by upgrading a building in the SENAFRONT compound. The force was implicated in killings of indigenous protesters (PDF) in Bocas del Toro in 2011, and fired indiscriminately with live ammunition (PDF) on Afro-Caribbean protesters last October.

Many countries that host US military activities hope to receive economic benefits and jobs as a result. But more than five of every six Pentagon dollars contracted for services and goods in the region went to US-based companies. Only nine percent of the $574.4 million in Pentagon contracts signed in 2012 (including fuel contracts) were with firms in the country where the work was to be carried out. In the Caribbean, there were virtually no local companies that benefited from the $245 million in Defense Department contracts.

A few corporations dominated Pentagon contracts in the region. CSC Applied Technologies, based in Fort Worth, Texas, received more than $53 million in contracts to operate the Navy’s underwater military testing facility in the Bahamas. Lockheed Martin received more than $40 million in contracts, almost entirely for drug war training, equipment and services in Colombia and Mexico.

Pentagon Focus on Guatemala

Although the Pentagon spent less in most Latin American countries in 2012 than the year before, DOD contracts have more than doubled since 2010 in Guatemala, where there is a ban on most State Department-channeled military aid to the army. However, the ban does not apply to Defense Department assistance. The contracts for nearly $14 million in 2012 amount to more than seven times what it was in 2009. In addition, the US military spent another $8.1 million on fuel in Guatemala last year, probably for “Beyond the Horizon” military exercises held there and in Honduras from April to July, and perhaps to support the deployment of 200 Marines to Guatemala in August.

The contracts included new assistance to the Guatemalan special forces, known as Kaibiles, former members of which have been implicated in giving training to the Zetas drug cartel, as well as the worst atrocities during the genocide period of the 1980s. Two contracts, funded by SouthCom and signed in September, were for a “shoot house” and “improvements” at the Kaibiles training base in Poptun, Petén.

SouthCom also funded a contract for construction of a new $3 million counter-drug base in Santa Ana de Berlin, in Quetzaltenango. This year, SouthCom is slated to build a $1.8 million counternarcotics operations center and barracks in Mantanitas, Guatemala, according to an Army Corps of Engineers presentation.

The expenditures included equipment. For the last two years, SouthCom has been providing Boston whaler boats, radios, and tactical vehicles (Jeeps) to Central American militaries. Guatemala is receiving more of the equipment than other countries in the region – 47 Jeeps and 8 Boston whalers, according to a SouthCom document. SouthCom signed a $2.5 million contract in September for Jeeps for Guatemala, and it has purchased more than $2.8 million of Harris military radios for Guatemala since September 2011.

Department of Defense contracts, summaries of which are posted on usaspending.gov, only represent a portion of Pentagon spending. A report to Congress last April (PDF) of Defense Department assistance worldwide showed more than $15 million in military aid to Guatemala in 2010, including $9 million for intelligence analysis, training, boats, trucks, night vision devices, and a “base of operations.” These funds also included more than $6 million of unspecified support for Guatemalan police operations in Cobán, in the Guatemalan highland department of Alta Verapaz.  The report didn’t include data after 2010.

On December 7, the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency signed a $1.4 million contract with a Guatemalan firm to manage a 10,000-barrel supply of turbine fuel for the next five years in Puerto Quetzal, on Guatemala’s southern coast. This followed a July 2012 solicitation to deliver 63,000 gallons of jet fuel to another southern Guatemalan site, in Retalhuleu.

FOR compiled data on the “country of performance” for contracts. For Guatemala, we also examined data on additional contracts that reference the country, which included a $2.5 million contract signed in late September with a Chrysler distributor to deliver tactical vehicles – some of the Jeeps slated for the country. The US Army also purchased $7.6 million worth of trousers from a producer in Guatemala in 2012.

“Mini-Bases”

Some legislation for DOD drug war construction of bases and other infrastructure limits projects to $2 million, and the Southern Command continues to employ this authority frequently to construct a variety of facilities all over the Americas. Here are some of the facilities the US military is constructing around Latin America.

City, Country Amount of contract Date signed Description
Tecun Uman, Guatemala $550K Dec. 5, 2011 Health post refurbishment
Champerico, Guatemala none — part of multi-award contract Sept 17, 2012 Counter Narco-terrorism (CNT) Ops Center; pier and fuel
Santa Ana de Berlin, Guatemala $3 million (Army Corps of Engineers says $4.1 million) Sept 29, 2012 CNT Barracks, Latrines, refurbish chow hall, motorpool
Las Mantanitas, Guatemala $1.8 million Not known; see ACE FY13 plan. CN Operations Center/Barracks
Summit, Panama $1,078,971 Sept 22, 2012 Counternarcotics maintenance facility
Hunting Caye, Belize $1,778,420 August 10, 2012 Construction of operations barracks/maintenance facility
Puerto Castilla, Honduras $374,882 March 9, 2012 Construction of helicopter landing pads and team room improvements
Dominican Republic $1.8 million Sept 28, 2012 Construct dormitory building
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic $414,444 Jan. 24 and March 8, 2012 Refurbish peace keeping operations training school buildings
Antigua none — supplemental to existing contract October 19, 2011 Emergency response warehouse
Tarapoto, Peru $1,049,265 September 12, 2012 Disaster relief warehouse and search and rescue training facility
Puno and Huaraz, Peru $1,037,808 July 27, 2012 Emergency Operations Centers
Piura and Concepción, Peru $853,500 July 27, 2012 Emergency Operation Center and Disaster Relief Warehouse

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pentagon Continues Contracting US Companies in Latin America