COHA: Untruths About Barbados
Untruths About Barbados
In response to COHA's June 6, 2005 article "Barbados Creates Rift Within CARICOM - Who are the Heroes and Who are the Knaves?" we received the following letter from Ambassador Michael I. King, who attacked our assertions about Barbados' role in CARICOM relative to Haiti. COHA has selected some excerpts from the letter to include in the Open Forum.
The self-declared mandate of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) is to monitor political, economic and diplomatic issues facing the Western Hemispheric. It prides itself in providing non-partisan professional analysis on regional affairs, and continually trumpets a Congressional definition of its reputation as: “one of our nation’s most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers.”
Regrettably, there is no sign of scholarship, research or objective in the two recent vitriolic diatribes issued by COHA on May 25th and June 6th, 2005 purportedly on the subject of the Barbados Government’s policy on Haiti. Director Larry Birns does a great disservice to his Council’s credibility bias allowing such unadulterated fiction to issue under its name. But given his long-term and visceral bias against the Barbados Labor Party Government, dating back to the Grenada intervention of 1983, it should come as no surprise that Coha would seek to publish a series of articles whose only purpose is to vilify and defame Prime Minister Owen Arthur and his Foreign Minister Dame Billie Miller. His real agenda is not so hidden.
Barbados has been committed for decades, as a matter of policy, to the goal of assisting the people of Haiti to lay the foundations for a lasting democracy that can deliver the benefits of economic and social development to all of its citizens. That commitment became a solemn obligation once Haiti attained membership of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Indeed, Mr. Birns might be surprised to learn that Owen Arthur’s first official act as newly-elected Prime Minister of Barbados in 1994 was to approve the deployment of Barbadian military and civilian personnel to Haiti as part of the UN effort to stabilize the resorted Presidency of Jean Bertrand Aristide. The authors of the articles under reference are woefully, and perhaps deliberately ignorant of the fact that Minister Miller’s visit to Haiti in July, 2004, was neither unilateral nor unsanctioned. If they took the trouble to read the Communiqué issued by CARICOM Heads of Government at that time they would have been aware of the consensus decision by the CARICOM Leaders to mandate the Barbados Minister, in her member Ministerial Team to Haiti for discussions with Haitian officials. They also make no mention of the fact that the Mission met with the Interim Administration, the representatives of political parties, including LAVALAS, and members of Civil Society.
The central thesis of COHA’s writing is that CARICOM is deeply divided over Haiti; that Barbados is somehow the instigator of the division, and that those who do not believe in absolute isolation of the Interim Administration have been coerced into those beliefs by an indeterminate number of Western powers. While this may be a convenient interpretation to support the agenda of anti-establishment activists, it is unfortunately not even a distant cousin of the truth.
From that time until the present CARICOM has been unanimous on the core elements of its position on Haiti. These include: deep concern at the circumstances surrounding the departure of President Aristide from office and at the dangerous precedent set by the use of unconstitutional means to remove a duly elected leader from office; support for the international efforts under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council to restore order and stability to Haiti, and to assist in creating the conditions necessary for the holding of elections and the return to constitutional democracy within an acceptable timeframe; insistence that the actions of rebel forces should not be legitimized, nor should they be included in and interim administration; concern that there be full respect for human rights, and no resort to acts of political recrimination or to disarmament and reintegration and to the fostering of national dialogue to promote reconciliation and political inclusiveness; support for the release of funds by the donor community to assist the development process in Haiti, and above all, acceptance of a deep moral and humanitarian commitment to the safety and well-being of the people of Haiti.
Contrary to COHA’s assertions, there is an overwhelming degree of coherence and unanimity of thinking among the leaders of CARICOM with respect to fundamental policy on Haiti. We have created a Task Force, and have put in place a CARICOM Assistance Programme on Haiti to support the normalization efforts in areas where our countries have recognized capacity, in particular, the area of electoral assistance. The only real difference we have is one not of policy, but of execution. It centres on the dilemma as to what should be the appropriate conduit for the delivery of our assistance to the people of Haiti in the absence of an elected Government. On the one hand, some of our members abhor the notion of dealing with the Latortue Administration. On the other, Barbados and several other member states believe that that in order to be a full partner in the reconstruction effort we must use all diplomatic channels open to us, and must therefore be prepared to engage with Interim Administration. We do not see this as conferring recognition or permanent status on the Interim Authorities, but rather as an accepted feature of diplomatic practice in circumstances such as these. Above all, we believe that this is the only way in which CARICOM can hope to exert political influence and moral leadership in the normalization effort.
The situation of governance in Haiti is one of the most complex in our region, and solution will not come in the form of a single prescription. Barbados will continue to operate on the basis of its principles and values, in the interest of the welfare of the people of Haiti and the stability of the Caribbean region. If the directorate of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs has any lingering doubts as to our independence of thought and action they might wish to research our consistence and principled stances on matters such as constructive engagement with Cuba, the doctrine of pre-emptive strike in the case of Iraq; the question of Article 98 and the International Criminal Court, the transshipment of nuclear waste through the Caribbean Sea or the matter of harmful tax competition and the OECD.
Michael I. King
Ambassador of Barbados to the U.S.A.
And Permanent Representative of Barbados
To the Organization of American States
Evangelicals and Missionaries in Latin America. (26 September, 2005)
COHA received the following letter from Eric Jackson, editor of the Panama News, in response to our September 19, 2005 article "Evangelical Protestants in Venezuela: Robertson Only The Latest Controversy In a Long and Bizarre History."
I look on with dismay at the way that the religious right in the USA is playing the mirror image of Osama bin Laden, moving all across the world to incite a new epoch of holy wars. Like fanatics everywhere, they irresponsibly try to bring violence down upon not only the people they profess to hate, but also those who are nominally "their own people.
Most Latin American Evangelicals are not right wing fanatics. Some of them have very good liberation theology credentials.
But of course, to indigenous peoples trying to advance their cultures in their own terms, missionaries of whatever stripe - Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Communist et al --- tend to set themselves up as enemies. The message is almost always a version of "you're backward and superstitious and we are here to enlighten you and deliver you from your barbaric darkness."
Back in 1993 three men from the New Tribes Mission were kidnapped by FARC from the Panamanian village of Pucuro, a Kuna community. The New Tribes Mission rejected ransom demands and years later, when the captives became far more of an embarrassment than a potential asset to FARC, they were killed.
US military and diplomatic sources told me that what happened was that these missionaries, who were there to preach a conservative but not particularly political brand of Protestant fundamentalism and translate the Bible into Kuna, offended some of the traditional leaders with their religious based denigration of Kuna culture and religion. Thus these leaders for that reason told FARC, which at the time would commonly come through the area to buy groceries and take vacations from their campaigns across the border in Colombia, that the missionaries were running an American spy outpost. So FARC came in and took the men away. New Tribes people told me that they were absolutely not engaged in any sort of spying, though part of their religion is that they don't like FARC or any other sort of communists.
But here in Panama City, it was commonly alleged in leftist circles that the New Tribes people were in fact American undercover agents sent to keep track of FARC's movements in the area.
That notion received a bit of support a few years back when the Panamanian government busted a network of AUC paramilitary folks in Panama, in the series of raids seizing the airplanes of a skydiving school in Chame that was run by a retired Colombian paratrooper colonel. The airstrip and hangars raided were shared with one other group: the New Tribes Mission, whose Panama headquarters are next door.
My gut instincts are that the New Tribes Mission is not a front for the CIA or the AUC, but just as bunch of religious conservatives concerned with saving souls rather than playing politics.
But of course, thuggish posturing by Pat Robertson and people like him puts the New Tribes Mission people in danger. In a region where we once had the Spanish Inquisition and where all through the 19th century Colombia fought wars over, among other issues, whether Catholicism would be the sole legal religion, provocations like Robertson's are sure to move those who are predisposed to do so to smear all Evangelicals, all Protestants, and especially missionaries from these denominations, with a broad brush.
The progressive tradition in this region has historically rejected that sort of thing. Such leaders as Bolívar, San Martín, Sandino, Zapata and Allende were, after all, freemasons who opposed the Catholic Church over the religious liberty issue.
I don't think that the Venezuelan government can take the assassination talk as if it were of no consequence. It's a threat that has to be taken seriously. However, I wish that Chávez and Rangel would be more subtle and selective, watching out for subversive activities by folks who take their marching orders from the likes of Pat Robertson but isolating those people with a traditional Bolivarian policy of religious tolerance rather than swallowing their bait and clamping down on a broad spectrum of religious advocacy.
Editor, The Panama News
Flaws in COHA's Analysis of Brazilian Corruption (21 September, 2005)
Regarding COHA's September 13, 2005 Opinion article, "Doing Right By Latin America's Behemoth," we were criticized for providing a superficial and unrealistic take on the scandals occurring in Brazil. COHA Senior Research Fellow Sean Burges writes from Rio:
Regarding, your release on Brazil on September 13, 2005, it is not the best thing that COHA has released and frankly, I would say is not going to do your credibility much good here in Brazil.
Brazilian democracy IS consolidated. The depth, detail, and sustained manner with which the rule of law is being used to delve into problems of corruption is something that the U.S. would do well to take on board with respect to things such as the naming of CIA operatives and corporate ties between the White House and the Oil industry. What you totally miss in the piece, and this is a titanic event, was the recent arrest of Paolo Maluf, the ex mayor of Sao Paulo on corruption charges -- to the order of taking $200 million. He is still in jail on preventative detention.
The corruption scandals are a problem and point to some systemic problems with the nature of party political structures and congressional representation/election procedures, but they aren’t a disaster. Indeed, they are contributing to a remarkable consolidation of the party system, breathing substantive and forceful life into party authority structures that until now have been but paper tigers. Nonetheless, the extent to which corruption exists in Brazil is slightly disturbing, and these events will only lead to positive changes in the country if they propel society to begin to confront the corruption problem in public and governmental institutions. Another point that you overlook is the structure of the Brazilian economy. Bresser-Perreira´s work on democracy of the elites versus democracy of civil society is very useful here.
There are three massive additional problems with my colleague Alana Gutierrez’s analysis. First, Brazil is not really a developing country. True, it is an unequal country, but also a tremendously sophisticated one, one that has the resources to actually help itself. Take the Brazilian National Bank for Social and Economic Development as an example (BNDES.gov.br), an institution that has R$60 billion available for disbursements this year alone, a sum probably greater than that of the World Bank.
Second, there is absolutely no way that the US would ever be able to have any influence on corruption programs and general socio-economic ordering in Brazil. Just think of what Fernando Henrique Cardoso said to Bush when they first met...his offer of assistance with voting procedures for the next election. Simply put, Brazil is not Honduras.
Finally, any suggestion that Brazil lacks the capacity to resist US attempts to foist an FTAA on the hemisphere is absurd to the point of ridiculous. First, Brazilian diplomacy continues in a more or less consistent trajectory irrespective of what is going on domestically, and has done so for over 100 years. Second, one of the most important and influential actors in global trade talks is Brazil – every decision in WTO talks is rotating around Brazil and Brazil-coordinated positions. To this vein the G-20, led by Brazil, has just started consolidating an alliance among the different developing country groups in the WTO, to push the agriculture issue.
The question you really want to ask is: why are these corruption problems emerging right now? The answer possibly is because the country’s democracy is consolidated and the people are starting to flex their discontent in a constructive, constitutional manner.
Cheerio from rainy Rio,
COHA Response: Sean's analysis is a very incisive one. However, his perspective that the current scandals represent a somewhat positive rather than a negative development - provided civil society seizes upon them to induce a change - provides us with a remarkable, if controversial insight. Nonetheless, we feel that U.S. policies could, as COHA's Alana Gutierrez persuasively argues, help steer the eventual outcome of the corruption scandals towards beneficial change. In this scenario, the U.S. role should not be proactive, but mainly weighing Brazil's national interests as, quite properly, the main determinant of the outcome.
Biased Perspectives on Guyana (8 September, 2005)
In a September 8, 2005 COHA Memorandum to the Public and the Press, "Justice and Democracy in Guyana Fly Limply in the Breeze," COHA referenced the New York-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy. We received the following note from a high Georgetown (Guyana) PPP official:
I don’t have any problems with the article, but you give too much credence to the Caribbean-Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) which, in case you don’t know, is a front organization of the opposition PNC in New York.
Indeed, the crime situation is very serious and political links are in evidence. The Gajraj fiasco has been mentioned, but you did not mention the strong links that the [opposition party] PNC has in it as well. When a notorious murderer/bandit was killed, his funeral was attended by leaders of the PNC and his coffin bedecked with the Guyana flag. His body “lay in state” at the Square of the Revolution” and thousands of PNC supporters went to pay respects.
Think in terms also of all the post-elections violence in 1992, 1997, and 2001, all led by the PNC and occurring during PNC demonstrations because they never wanted to accept the elections results.
The President has made vocal complaints about the judiciary and opposition groups have criticized him for being blunt. They said he has no right to question the judiciary about how it is doing its work.
I am not saying that you should ask the government’s view on this matter, but it will be good if you have a word with Mr. David DeCairies, editor of the independent Stabroek News to get his general views.
But by quoting CGID which has attempted to raise funds for the defense of one person who was charged for treason after organizing a violent attack on the Office of the President in 2002 tells you about its credibility. Very few people responded to this fund and the organization, according to a letter in the Guyanese newspapers, managed to raise just about $300.
COHA Response: By suggesting that it was an independent organization COHA made a serious error in not observing that the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) was markedly pro-PNC/R in its orientation.
Mexico's Disputed 1988 Election
In a September 6, 2005 COHA Memorandum to the Public and the Press, "Madrazo – Gordillo Split Poses a Serious Problem for the PRI and Mexico," COHA stated that in 1988 Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas' "...bid for the presidency fell short by a wafer-thin margin, and forced the PRI to fudge the results in order to make their victory appear more convincing." In regards to this assertion we received the following comment:
Most of this report was very interesting and informative, but I could not believe that you made the following inaccurate statement: In 1988 Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano ... defected to form his own political movement. His bid for the presidency fell short by a wafer-thin margin, and forced the PRI to fudge the results in order to make their victory appear more convincing. Cárdenas did not lose by a wafer thin margin; everyone in Mexico knows that he actually won by a large margin and this has been well documented. (See, e.g., Preston & Dillon, Opening Mexico). The wafer-thin margin was what the PRI/government officials invented when they "fudged" the results. You owe your readers a correction and an apology.
Professor Robert A. Blecker
Department of Economics
While the debate over who won the 1988 election is likely never to be resolved, as the physical evidence was quickly and suspiciously destroyed, perhaps a preponderance of many academics now believe that Salinas did indeed win a majority of the vote. Although it is undeniable that fraud on a truly massive scale did occur, it is impossible to know whether that fraud turned defeat into victory, or simply provided a more comfortable margin. Many believe that in the face of unfavorable early results the PRI shut down the computer system in order to ensure that the rural areas would provide the necessary votes for a victory. In the end, there is no truth that can be uncovered, no definitive answer to the mystery. While we believe our statements was correct, we were remiss in not mentioning the possibility that Salinas did indeed receive fewer votes.
Bolivian Autonomy and Independence
Regarding an August 10, 2005 Memorandum to the Press, "With Bolivia Still Seized by Unrest and Instability, there are Lessons to be Learned about Autonomy from Nicaragua’s Comparative Experience," COHA received the following comment regarding the article's use of the words autonomy and independence:
This is a fundamentally excellent article on the rift between the eastern provinces and the rest of Bolivia. I worked (for the IDB) in that country for several months at a time in 1964 and thereafter, until the mid-70's. Sta Cruz province (and Tarija as well) have gone a long ways. The problems described aren't new, but date back to the post-revolution years of the 1950's. There are, however, two or three flaws (of fact) in the article: First, there are three, not two, Bolivias: the Altiplano to the East, where most of the indigenous population lives, and where the capital and seat of power, La Paz, is located. Second, the northern lowlands, commonly known as the Beni and Pando, which are vastly underpopulated, and perhaps also rich in resources. And, finally, the eastern and southern lowland provinces of Sucre, Tarija and Sta Cruz, with natural gas resources (not necessarily vast), and plenty of agricultural and rangeland, of varying fertility (depending on water resources). That region's main advantage is more ready access to Brazilian and Argentine markets. A last point, is that the main researcher, Melissa Nepomiachi, should be careful to distinguish between autonomy and independence. Which is it that Santa Cruz is going to vote on? Please do not use these terms interchangeably, because they also conflict with each other and mean different things. A correction is in order.
In discussing Santa Cruz's separatist movement we meant to indicate that autonomy and not independence was on the minds of the Cruceno leaders, although some of them are openly calling for the creation of their own country.
Soft populist politics?
In a July 15, 2005 Memorandum to the Press, "López Obrador’s Presidential Bid at a Time of Doubt for Mexican Politics," COHA stated that populist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 2006 Mexican presidential race had softened his politics as he shifted to the mainstream. We received the following comment in regards to the phrasing used to describe the transformation:
Do you know what populist means? "Softening a populist image" doesn't make much sense to me.
What I meant was that as an election approaches candidates tend to put more qualifiers on their language. We probably should have used the phrase “tone down” instead of the words that the piece originally contained.
Moreno's IDB Worthiness
In a July 22, 2005 Memorandum to the Press, "Rising to the Occasion: Does Moreno Have What it Takes to be the Next President of the IDB?" and a July 29 2005 COHA Commentary "Moreno May Have to Reinvent Himself as the New IDB President," COHA addressed the selection of Luis Alberto Moreno as head of the Inter-American Development Bank. COHA Senior Research Fellow Josh Graee stressed the ambassador's inappropriate background for the position and the need to find someone of the same caliber as the then incumbent president, Enrique Iglesias. In response to the article, we received the following communication:
To whom it may concern,
I would like to complain about recent articles published by your organization about the newly elected president of the IDB. Two very negative opinion pieces authored by a Joshua Soren Graae, supposedly a senior research fellow at COHA (no information about him appears on your website), were posted on your website in the past couple of weeks. Far from providing any balanced or well supported arguments for Mr. Moreno's inadequacy as a candidate, Mr. Graee limits his articles to what seem to me to be cheap blows.
In his first article written before Mr. Moreno was elected, Graee refers to him as a "loyal servitor of Washington's cause in Colombia" and goes on to say that he lacks vision and depth and that during Moreno's presidency "the bank could very well slide back to the bad old days when nepotism, corruption and sexism thrived in the IDB's corridors of power." I would like to know the basis of such outrageous claims. Surely, the author must have conducted extensive research that led him to conclude that this peon of the Bush administration will lead the bank like a South American dictator from the 1970's. In this same article, Graee states that Moreno lacks the fiscal judgment to be head of the IDB merely because of his support for plan Colombia. I also believe this is quite a stretch and merely reflects the lack of any convincing arguments. It seems Mr. Graee is more interested in attacking ambassador Moreno personally rather than providing any useful information to your readers.
The second opinion piece written by the same author after Moreno's election starts with a more conciliatory title: "Moreno May Have to Reinvent Himself as the new IDB President". This title suggests that Mr. Graee would finally provide some useful facts and analysis about Mr. Moreno. However, his tone and lack of argumentation remained the same. After talking about salient IDB president Iglesias' 17 year tenure (complete with unnecessary details about an employee who committed suicide), he attacks Moreno again saying his credibility is in question because of his involvement in Plan Colombia and its known shortcomings. Mr. Moreno has barely made his first speech as the new president and the author is already asking him to "go above and beyond rhetorical platitudes". Here I must ask: Are not all speeches of this sort merely rhetorical platitude until their author is actually allowed to go to work and prove his commitment with actions?
Ambassador Moreno has a long trajectory in the private and public sectors that makes him a qualified candidate. He has done an excellent job as ambassador in the US for two different Colombian governments and is widely accredited with restoring relations between Washington and Bogotá after the torrid Samper years. It was his job as a government employee to secure funds for Plan Colombia and advance the Colombian government's objectives in the US and he has performed very well. The presidency of the IDB is a highly political post that, as Mr. Graee himself wrote, requires a "strong background in international finance as well as a keen sense of diplomacy and vision". I find the Mr. Graee's views about this subject to be very confusing. He advocates for a new president with sharp diplomatic skills and someone who can obtain needed funds from the US congress, but he then refers to Mr. Moreno's diplomatic skills as "adroit embassy-style wheeling and dealing", and even though securing funds from the US congress is probably the area in which Mr. Moreno achieved the most results, he actually uses this argument as a reason for him not being qualified to be the IDB president.
I am Colombian and do not necessarily agree with Plan Colombia or think that Mr. Moreno was the best candidate for the IDB post. However, I find Mr. Graee's articles to be poorly researched and inflammatory in nature. They provide no useful information and are completely unfounded. Throughout both of his articles, Mr. Graee makes it painfully obvious that he did not do any meaningful research on Mr. Moreno or the Colombian political situation. His ignorance about these subjects is reflected in the last paragraph of his second article: "While everyone is prepared to allow Moreno to demonstrate whether he’s up to the job, with former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria recently holding the position as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and now Moreno being elected to lead the IDB, some in Washington feel that these regional positions are being used as a dumping ground for Colombian political figures whose shelf lives have expired, and are not particularly welcome in their home country."
I don't understand were Mr. Graee gets this idea as Cesar Gaviria has gone back to Colombia to be elected the leader of the Liberal party and the principal figure in president Uribe's opposition. Additionally, Mr. Moreno is one of the most popular figures in the Uribe government and given the amount of lobbying and the press coverage that his candidacy received in the country, I doubt anyone who took the time to do ten minutes of research on the subject would consider him an unwanted political figure. Mr. Graee's articles seemed to be motivated more by his dislike of the Bush administration than by real solid arguments. It is very sad to see such poor editorial quality coming out of a respected institution such as COHA.
COHA Response: COHA has spent a good deal of time monitoring Ambassador Moreno’s modus operandi and the role that the Colombian embassy has played under his aegis as a result of his long stint in Washington at the embassy. We feel confident in our assertion that the Ambassador doesn’t traffick in innovative thinking and he certainly is without a defining vision. Unfortunately, the determining factor in his being awarded the presidency of the International American Development Bank is due to his Washington sponsorship and the reason why he had that was his service as Washington and Bogotá’s plough horse for a policy that not so much saw Colombia’s conflict as susceptible to peaceful resolution, but as susceptible of being merged into Washington’s elusive, if not chimerical war against terrorism. Because he is a man without either vision, enlightenment, or pluckiness, and has never had a reputation for independence of thought, we must continue to insist that he was grossly the wrong man for the job, and that the growing importance of the IDB was set back by this appointment.