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COHA On: Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest

COHA On: Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest

News reports on May 19 announced that more than 10,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest had been deforested over the last year – an area the size of Massachusetts. Not only is the Amazon rainforest an area of breathtaking beauty and unparalleled biodiversity, through the process of photosynthesis it also ensures the survival of the human race, with its billions of trees producing much of the world’s supply of oxygen. While ultimately Brazil’s progressive president, Luiz Inácio “Lula”da Silva, bears the brunt of this fiasco, the U.S. and European nations also generously share in the responsibility for the destruction of vast swaths of the country’s rainforest. They have promoted the neo-liberal economic polices that persuaded Brazil to rely on the strength of its constantly expanding agricultural sector to pay down its suffocating international debt. As a result, loggers have felled hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees and farmers have cleared vast tracks of the rainforest to grow crops.

Just as was the case under former President Henrique Cardosa, the negative repercussions which result from this arboreal homicide, were relatively mild because – despite presidential declarations to the contrary – Brazil’s environmental polices under Lula have been much more bark than bite. Brasilia, under the “people’s president” has failed to fulfill its commitment to prevent further destruction of the Amazon rainforest as promised last year when Lula announced a $140 million campaign to preserve and ensure better policing of the fragile habitat.

However, external economic factors also have certainly played a role in persuading the government to turn a blind eye to the desecration of its own rainforest. It is critical to our common planet’s survival that the U.S. and the EU develop a comprehensive plan with teeth, in cooperation with Brazil, in order to provide the financial incentives necessary to preserve the rainforest, while also strengthening Brazil’s competitiveness in the global economy. The U.S. and the EU would be wise to accept this responsibility in order to temper the dangerous extremes involved in their push for globalization and the maximization of free trade that threatens the very integrity of the environment, if not the very survival of the human race.

Barbados' Shameless Path Regarding Haiti

On several occasions, Barbados has expressed a willingness to work with the interim Latortue government of Haiti and on May 22, it was reported that Prime Minister Owen Arthur planned to “engage” Haiti. Arthur’s initiative, without question an attempt to curry favor with Washington, is shortsighted and ill advised. Not surprisingly, Arthur has always been considered one of the weaker links regarding upholding a democratic script when it came to the Caribbean Community’s relations with the U.S.-imposed rump government of interim-Prime Minister Gérard Latortue. In addition to lending support to an illegitimate and grossly incompetent Haitian government that has shown little consideration for the constitutionally-mandated right of due process for its own citizens, Arthur’s decision to move closer to Latortue undermines the efforts of the Caribbean Community to promote democracy in its region and carries on a long tradition, save for Prime Minister Erskine Lloyd Sandiford (1987-1994), in which Barbados’ leaders have served as bucket carriers for U.S. policy makers. This attitude of assuming a bent knee in regards to Washington dates back to 1983 when the Tom Adams government cooperated with the controversial U.S. invasion of Grenada by closing down Grenada’s airport so U.S. students, attending Grenada’s St. George’s Medical School, would be unable to escape the island, thus justifying the invasion by U.S. forces, using the stranded medical students as a pretense.

While the overwhelming majority of CARICOM’s member states support the isolation of Haiti until the holding of free and fair elections, Barbados has indicated its willingness to neglect its commitment to democracy and overlook the plight of the Haitian people so long as sufficient incentives, such as improved benefits from the U.S., are furnished. If Caribbean states break rank when the first hint of an opportunity to score points with Washington or Brussels is at hand, then CARICOM faces an uphill struggle to establish itself as an effective, relevant, self-respecting regional organization with a keen sense of its own sovereignty. As for Arthur, to quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Mussolini’s attack on France in 1940, “the hand that holds the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.” At the very least, Arthur owes an apology to his Caribbean neighbors.

The Bolton Nomination

The confirmation of John Bolton as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would represent a diplomatic catastrophe of the worst magnitude. The U.S. currently faces a set of international challenges (Iraq, bitter disputes with Iran and North Korea, UN reform, and U.S. marginalization and isolation throughout Latin America) perhaps more pressing than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall. As such, the U.S. demonstrably needs to be represented by an extraordinarily skilled envoy and not an egregious yahoo pit bull warrior who excels in the fabrication of banal concepts and bizarre rhetoric. The person that the Bush administration has chosen to navigate these often delicate shoals and help revive its tarnished image abroad is the antithesis of what he should be.

Rather than nominate a person of high international station to occupy the seat once held by Adlai Stevenson, the White House instead picked a man whose penchant for rightwing bombast and disdain for international law call to mind the worst images of The Ugly American. The typical exploitative corner bully who grovels before his superiors while mercilessly berating subordinates, Bolton must be viewed as a person with severe emotional disorders who needs help far more than he needs a diplomatic assignment at the UN. His contempt for international institutions will only harm his ability to achieve positive reform of the UN, just as his Olympic skills of intelligence manipulation will only diminish the likelihood that he can convince other nations to combat perceived threats. The Bush administration should do the country an enormous favor by withdrawing this shameless nomination before some dangerously disruptive diplomatic incident is triggered by Bolton’s intemperate as well as self-destructive personality.

These analyses were prepared by COHA Research Associates, Hampden Macbeth, Philip Morrow and Joseph Taves.

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