Sunday, April 19, 2020

US Attacks on Cuba During Covid 19 Morally Bankrupt

Personal thoughts     I was in Cuba just before the self imposed lid came down.  The official St. Patrick's Day Parade and Celebration were canceled by the Cuban and Irish governments.  However I was lucky to enjoy on the day itself a program at the Provincial Library on the Plaza de Armas, the original US embassy.  An Irish Franciscan priest based in Havana taught children some basic dance steps.  He also talked about the shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity.  You can feel the spirit here

There are lots of things to be angry about in the way the Trump Administration has handled the corona virus crisis.   Especially unconscionable is their position on international sanctions, and in particular their aggressiveness against Cuba and Venezuela.  The sophistry that US sanctions do not block medical supplies is itself not always true.  But more important at a time of profound world wide crisis, a common sense of humanity dictates that we should suspend embargoes and other forms of punishment that damage daily life for entire populations and undermine the ability of their governments to purchase supplies and equipment to enhance normal existence.   That does no geopolitical harm as foreign investors are not going to initiate large scale projects with the knowledge that sanctions are temporarily lifted for humanitarian reasons. 

For me the same moral logic applies to all countries sanctioned unilaterally by the US.  However, the most outrageous blows have been directed at Cuba and Venezuela.

Anonymous trolls in the  Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor @StateDRL   tweeted nasty and unwarranted attacks on Cuba's provision of medical teams to assist countries afflicted by Covid 19.

Mar 24
#Cuba offers its international medical missions to those afflicted with #COVID 19 only to make up the money it lost when countries stopped participating in the abusive program. Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.

Mar 25
The government of #Cuba keeps most of the salary its doctors and nurses earn while serving in its international medical missions while exposing them to egregious labor conditions. Host countries seeking Cuba’s help for #COVID 19 should scrutinize agreements and end labor abuses.
Cuban medical teams have been a long term target of Miami hard liners and their right wing allies in US politics.  Not only do the doctors and nurses earn good will politically for Havana but their work has been a major source of national income from countries that needed the aid and could afford to pay for it.  Cubans volunteer for assignments and in normal times receive economic and professional benefit over counterparts at home.  That the government which completely funded their medical education receives compensation seems reasonable and analogous to Americans who undertake lower paid military or public health service work in return for our government paying for their education.  There is no reason to believe that Cuban government initiatives and participation in anti-Covid work are any less motivated by compassionate feelings than U.S. government assistance to afflicted countries.

As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I have often wondered whether we or Cuban doctors received lower compensation.   I was particularly struck by the irony that while the U.S. government was criticizing Cuban assistance, as reported in the Washington Post, the Trump Administration had abruptly forced all PCVs to return to the US and terminated their service with no regard for their host country role, its opinion or personal commitment.

For whatever it is worth, this was my tweet to Assistant Secretary Robert A. Destro

@DRL_AS Your department is disgraced by the tweet against Cuba sending doctors to assist with corona virus at same time as Peace Corps withdrew and terminated all volunteers. US looks small. For us to look large help people by suspending all unilateral sanctions worldwide.

Caribbean leaders say Cuban doctors vital in COVID fight, condemn U.S. blacklist attempts   BY JACQUELINE CHARLES    JUNE 22, 2020

On a larger and more dangerous scale was US exploitation of the Covid-19 crisis as a justification for provocative military escalation in the Caribbean. Unexpectedly on April 1 the first part of the widely watched daily White House press conference on the virus was devoted to publicizing military patrols to combat sea borne drug smuggling.  It suspiciously followed by a few days a politically motivated dubious indictment of President Maduro and other Venezuelan leaders on drug smuggling charges.   It was hard not to fear a parallel to the use of drug related accusations against Manuel Noriega to justify the invasion of Panama during the Reagan Administration.

The Washington Office on Latin America did an excellent brief on the issue.

My own thoughts are here

Wiser heads than mine doubt that this was a wag the dog plot to create a military diversion from the Administration's Covid-19 debacle, but I am still worried.

Anthony DePalma has written a good Op Ed for the New York Times  "
Trump’s Pandemic Tactics Hurt Cubans, Too"

In any case, here is a more uplifting approach to the life changing situation that afflicts every person on the planet.

Stay safe and stay well,



John McAuliff
Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Coordinator, Cuba-US People to People Partnership

Friday, April 3, 2020

Venezuela Update # 14

Trump’s administration has attempted to oust embattled Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro by backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the rightfully elected president of Venezuela under the country’s constitution.
Trump’s campaign has criticized Biden’s eight years as vice president as a time in which the U.S. placated the Maduro regime. The campaign kicked off Friday morning by issuing a statement mocking a brief face-to-face conversation Biden had with Maduro in Brazil in 2015, after which a Brazilian newspaper reported that the former vice president complimented Maduro’s hair.
“When given the chance, why didn’t you stand up to brutal Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and instead palled around with him and made a joke about his hair?” the campaign asked in an email posing the “question of the day.”
In Malave’s statement, he said,“President Trump has earned our trust by keeping Maduro in check and weakening his regime.”
Biden and a former administration official-turned-campaign adviser who witnessed the conversation have said the former vice president told Maduro to release political prisoners and set up fair elections. On Friday, Biden criticized Trump’s recent statements that he would meet with Maduro to discuss a peaceful transition of power, and said “the president has been unreliable and self-centered in his approach to the issues closest to the Venezuelan people.”
“He will also surely not mention his stated willingness to sit down with dictator Nicolás Maduro,” Biden said. “Instead, he will use the trip as a photo-op and a distraction from his failures.”
Biden promised to grant Venezuelans already in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status — a program allowing them to temporarily live and work legally in the country — which is a step Trump has been unwilling to make despite urging by Miami Republicans. He said that, as president, he would lead an “international response” to the crisis in Venezuela, target “government officials and their cronies involved in corruption and human rights abuses” and work toward “restoring democracy in Venezuela and aiding in the country’s long-term recovery.”

Trump on Maduro and Guaido

US President Donald Trump says he would consider meeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and indicated he is not entirely confident in the country's opposition leader.despite his government's consistent backing of the opposition leader, Axios reported during the interview Trump "indicated he doesn't have much confidence in Guaido"...
The president said he was "firmly against what's going on in Venezuela," but - referring to the recognition of Guaido - added: "I was okay with it ... I don't think it was very meaningful one way or the other."

I don't mean to be facetious, but now I'm genuinely confused. The US and the opposition are trying to stop gasoline getting to #Venezuela, but when the Maduro government sends 100,000 barrels of it to Cuba they're cross because that causes suffering for Venezuelans.
Quote Tweet
#ALERTA: Hace cuatro días denunciamos que el régimen de Maduro estaba enviando parte de la gasolina de Irán a Cuba . Hoy se ha confirmando . El buque señalado se lleva 100.000 bbl de gasolina. Miserables que ponen a sufrir a los venezolanos para beneficiar a tiranía de Cuba

Embajador de Venezuela ante los #EEUU. Con la obsesión de cambiar a Venezuela.

International calls for easing sanctions

U.N. Calls for Rolling Back Sanctions to Battle Pandemic
Secretary-General Guterres says it’s time for “solidarity not exclusion.”

BY COLUM LYNCH | MARCH 24, 2020, 2:02 PM

United Nations leadership called for rolling back international sanctions regimes around the world, saying they are heightening the health risks for millions of people and weakening the global effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

The appeal reflects mounting concerns that sanctions regimes may be impeding efforts in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe to battle the coronavirus, and enhancing the prospects of the pathogen’s spread to other countries. It comes as China and Russia, which is subject to U.S. and European sanctions for its invasion of Crimea, have also stepped up calls for an easing of sanctions.

“I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a letter to the G-20 economic powers. “Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world.”

Pope Criticizes Sanctions

This is the first time the Pontiff has spoken out against the measures
On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke out against international sanctions during his Urbi et Orbi Easter address from Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
“This is not a time for forgetfulness (…) for division (…) or for indifference,” he reminded Catholics worldwide.
“In light of the present circumstances, may international sanctions be relaxed, since these make it difficult for countries on which they have been imposed to provide adequate support to their citizens,” the Pontiff continued, adding that he wishes to see “concrete and immediate solutions to be reached that can permit international assistance to a [Venezuelan] population suffering from the grave political, socio-economic and health situation.”

Creating a Climate for Greater Conflict

The April 1 press conference at the White House was disturbing.

The first part of it focused on a military mobilization to stop cartels from using the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to send massive amounts of drugs to the US.

I wondered whether President Trump was attempting to use Covid-19 as cover for a Noriega style invasion of Venezuela.  Or whether the Administration believes that a war would divert attention from the frightful domestic death toll of the virus.

The announced military mobilization is an odd response to purported cartel escalation (as though they aren't equally preoccupied and weakened by illness).

Part of the build up is the questionable well publicized indictment on drug charges of President Maduro et al and the phony political compromise Pompeo announced a couple of days earlier.  It was advertised as an inducement for the military to finally turn against Maduro, but the proposed interim government would be a completely one-sided creation by the opposition.

It appears Pompeo and Abrams (and Claver-Carone?) are making the same mistake they have from the beginning, thinking that the Venezuelan military will accept a US sponsored regime.

If they pursue this course militarily, we will tragically discover that Venezuela is not Panama.

When I circulated a version of the above,  two friends who know Washington and the security apparatus better than I responded to my analysis in this way:

1)  "I think you’re right, except the idea of a boots-on-the-ground invasion.  With COVID, no one’s going to enter that country.  But some kind of stand-off military action is not beyond the pale for these people.  The Trump people have tried, and failed, to effect three coups so far.  Maybe number four will be the charm.  With SouthCom sending ships down there, interference in oil shipments may be in the cards.
The indictment was, as you say, a complete fake."

2)  "Just a repackaging of old one-sided ideas that are almost certain to fail as they have so far.  I see virtually no chance these days of a US military invasion.  I think it would backfire badly.  However, these people are capable of almost anything, and they are clearly grasping for a way to turn a failed policy into something positive."