Summit: What a Difference a Day Makes

By Al Giordano

Yesterday’s banner headline on Trinidad and Tobago’s daily Guardian (see below) was “Chávez vs. Obama.”

Today’s is above.

Ponder that for a moment.

Also today, the Venezuelan President said aloud he wants to restore his country’s Ambassador to the US (and, it follows, restore a US Ambassador to Caracas.)

Meanwhile, the foreign policy wonk community and US media has finally figured out what was evident to many of us for the past two years that candidate and then President Obama had been calling for easing the US embargo of Cuba. As Ginger Thompson and Alexei Barrionuevo report from Port of Spain for the New York Times:

…the crack in the door Mr. Obama had opened for new engagement with Cuba felt more like unlocking a floodgate.

For the first time, some diplomats said, the question being asked was when — not whether — the next move will be made…

Julia Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the small but significant shift in policy has set off a chain reaction of expectations that the White House may have trouble controlling. “This is starting to feel as if the ground is moving beneath our feet,” she said.

Meanwhile - if anybody was under the misimpression that Obama's campaign talk about the problems with certain "free trade" agreements would not be addressed at the Summit - US Trade Representative Ron Kirk spent Friday and Saturday huddled with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (who continues to push for the scuttled US-Colombia “free trade” agreement) and his top aides. At a 1:30 p.m. press briefing this afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs commented:

"The President has asked our Trade Representative, Ambassador Kirk, to work with the Colombians to work through our remaining concerns, the President's remaining concerns, about violence against labor leaders in Colombia.

"Ambassador Kirk met with President Uribe yesterday and with the Finance Minister today.  And we hope that that dialogue continues and that we can make progress about the remaining concerns that we have." 

At the same press briefing, White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers responded to a reporter who asked “on Colombia, would you describe yourselves as optimistic that these remaining issues can be worked out and you can come to a point where you could recommend this agreement?” He replied:

"Look, I think it's -- I think it's hard enough to judge things as they are and to predict economies without trying to predict political negotiations.  So we're working on it with respect to Colombia, but I don't want to try to -- I don't want to try to predict what's going to happen."

The overall “feeling” one gets from the Summit is that Latin American presidents are a bit taken aback – but pleasantly so – at what is a strange and new situation for them: a United States government that arrives at the meeting not to impose decrees or dictate other nation’s policies with blackmail tactics, but, rather, one that many have noted is really trying to listen and learn from its long neglected neighbors.

It’s a block association meeting, basically, one with a new community organizer in the neighborhood, and a very different approach to how things get done.

I can relate, as one who has been reporting on these regional meetings for a dozen years now. I’m almost too familiar with so many of the protagonists: Lula of Brazil, Chávez of Venezuela, Morales of Bolivia (who was a professor in the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, class of ’04), Ortega of Nicaragua (whose 1985 inauguration I attended in Managua), and others like the narco-presidents Uribe of Colombia and Calderon of Mexico who have been the subject of years of investigative reports from this corner. I reported all of their elections. And each of them – including Obama of the USA – look like they feel a little out of place, but in a good way; like, who thought that a Summit of the Americas might ever be this fun and fearless all at once?

What is happening in Port of Spain is almost unrecognizable. It’s going to take some getting used to. But I don’t think there is a single participant or careful observer from any country in the hemisphere that isn’t pinching himself right now wondering, “can this really be happening?”




Love that quote...

from the Council on Foreign Relations spokeshole.  Yes indeedy, the "ground is moving beneath out feet."

Sound familiar with comments we were hearing during the Prez campaign?  And there's nothing you or the Rockefellers can do about it!

Like the campaign, we seem to be hitting a tipping point on world relations that is irreversible, at least in the next decade or two.  This doesn't happen by accident or luck.  It correlates directly from a "bottom up" mentality.

Beginning to think I should adopt a religion just so that I can believe that Saul Alinsky is looking down on all this and saying, "Hell yeah, my man!"

Fixing Those "Free Trade" Agreements

The way to fix them is to make them genuine free trade agreements.

First of all, eliminate all the "intellectual property" [sic] provisions, which are utterly abhorrent to any legitimate free market principles.  IP plays exactly the same protectionist role in the transnational corporate economy that tariffs did in the old national industrial economies.  It's the main structural basis for corporate walls.  It prevents the diffusion of the latest production technology and the emergence of native-owned competition not controlled by the finance and marketing networks of Western corporations.  It's probably not coincidental that all the dominant sectors in the global corporate economy follow business models heavily reliant on IP, or on direct government subsidies:  software, entertainment, agribusiness, biotech, armaments, electronics, aircraft, etc.  The entire global economy is a virtual creature of the state.

Second, stop enforcing the artificial property rights of latifundia and hacienda owners, and all other forms of feudal property claims; stop siding with the landed oligarchs (and their ass-buddies in corporate agribusiness); and start recognizing the genuine property rights of those who actually work the land.

Third, stop pushing a neoliberal "privatization" model that amounts to looting of taxpayer-financed assets by politically connected corporations.  If an asset is property of the people, then recognize that fact by privatizing it as social property:  reorganize public services as consumer cooperatives, and state industry as worker cooperatives.

Keep your guard up

From what many have already seen from this US performer, you best keep your guard up.  Latin countries showing way more in democracy than America. People still trying to figure out what hit them in the US. Media always lying.  People do not want to believe they have been duped so bad. Some trying to fix, but there is so much broken over the years. Like what Latin countries are doing. At least you guys are talking about the problems, and applying steady pressure. An honest media over there would be a great start. Understand the president (Obama) has control over it's regulation (FCC), and the stations are leased by the citizens. Why don't they have this president who believes in big change, do his job with regulating the People's broadcast leases. 

Pleased, for the most part

I"ll agree that the media is less than honest.  Fox New Channel, as well as the other cable channels, are not under the FCC or any other federal agency.

You are also correct that we need to be watchful of the president, as we should with all our elected officials.  I am, for the most part, quite pleased with his performance.  I get my information from a variety of sources and do not consider myself "duped."  Sorry if you feel the same way.

Obama's concluding presser

I watched his press conference at the end of the summit.  He was very deliberate in his responses; more so than usual it seemed.

Dan Lothian at what-used-to-be-a-good-news-channel CNN, asked perhaps the dumbest question about how Obama's performance during his recent trips aboard addressed peoples' concerns about his being soft on foreign policy, specifically the receiving the book from Chavez.  Ari Melber afterward called the question "facile."  Of course, the blogger from the Washington Times was shocked, shocked at Obama's cavalier attitude toward the anti-American book and at Ortega's 50-minute rant against the US.  She even mentioned the Drudge Report.

How all of this plays out will be fascinating to watch.  Obama was carefuly, again, to say that these are merely the first steps and that lofty rhetoric is often heard at these summits but the real results are seen after.  I, for one, can't wait.

American Prestige

Handshakes and books notwithstanding, I would bet that the prestige of the USA is soaring in Latin America right now.

Good work for America

It took just hours for so much to happen at this summit in terms of improving relations between the US and Latin America! Very good for the US! Damages done over decades reddressed simply by handshakes and exchange of books!

Carey F. Onyango

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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