Posts Tagged ‘Nicaragua’

The Cold War, Bernie Sanders and me

March 5, 2020

The divided world of 1980. Click to enlarge. Source: Wikipedia

A lot of politics consists of argument about who was right about conflicts of the past.

The rights and wrongs of the Civil War were a dividing line in U.S. politics for more than a century after it ended.  U.S. intervention in World War One and the Vietnam conflict were issues for a generation or more after those conflicts ended.  So it is with the Cold War, which more than 30 years ago.

When the Cold War began, many people, myself included, saw it as a conflict between freedom and totalitarianism.   Over time, increasing numbers of people, evidently including Bernie Sanders, saw it as a conflict between capitalism and revolution.

Joseph Stalin’s USSR killed millions of its people through purges and through famines caused by government policy.  Mao Zedong’s China did the same.  Their goal seemed to be to seed the world with little junior replicas of themselves.  To me, the danger was clear.

As what was called a “cold war liberal,” I was in good company.  My fellow anti-Communists included many liberals and social democrats, including the great George Orwell, and disillusioned ex-Communists, who had come to realize that Soviet Union was the opposite of their ideal of a good society.

But the opposing view had support, too.  It had support from George F. Kennan, Dean Acheson, John J. McCloy and the other architects of Cold War policy, who in fact saw their mission as the defense of capitalism against revolution.

In their correspondence among each other, they did not express fear of the nightmare vision of Arthur Koester’s Darkness at Noon or George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Their fear was that revolutionary movements would cut off American business from access to markets and raw materials.

Here’s how Kennan, who was head of the State Department’s policy planning staff, explained U.S. priorities in 1948:

We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population…. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.

Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity…. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction….

We should cease to talk about vague and…, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization.  The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.  The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

Source: Noam Chomsky.

They didn’t think the U.S. public was willing to accept such harsh truths.  They agreed it was necessary to frighten the American people—to be, as Acheson put it, “clearer than the truth.”

So which side was right—the anti-Communists or their opponents?  Both had facts on their side.  Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China really were murderous dictatorships.  U.S. foreign policy really was more cynical than Americans were led to believe.  The question is: Which facts were more significant?

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The Central American scene: Links 7/9/2015

July 9, 2015

My expatriate e-mail pen-pal Jack sent me a batch of links to interesting articles concerning two central American countries—Nicaragua, ruled by the formerly anti-U.S. Sandinistas, and Honduras, ruled by a military junta covertly supported by the U.S.

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Daniel Ortega is a Sandinista in name only by Stephen Kinzer for Al Jazeera America.

Daniel Ortega Goes From U.S. Foe to Friend in Drug War Battle by Michael D. McDonald for Bloomberg Business.

Nicaraguan Canal Could Wreck Environment, Scientists Say by Brian Clark Howard for National Geographic.  This is about a deal with a Chinese company to build a canal to supposedly rival the Panama Canal.

Nicaragua canal will wreak havoc on forests and displace people, NGO warns by Mark Anderson for The Guardian.

Nicaragua’s Grand Canal: No Indigenous Consent and Probable Environmental Catastrophe by Rick Kearns for Indian Country.

A Canal Too Far: Nicaraguan Campesinos Tell Ortega to Take His Canal and Shove It by Wilfredo Miranda for The World Post.

Long silence from Nicaragua’s president as first lady keeps press at arm’s length by John Otis of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Nicaragua’s Ortega says US senator, congresswoman on official list of banned foreigners by the Tico Times.

Mitch McConnell: John Kerry visited Nicaragua in 1980s to accuse Reagan of ‘engaging in terrorism’ by Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times.

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Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy by Matthew Pulver for Salon.

Hillary Clinton Admits Role in Honduran Coup by Mark Weisbrot for Al Jazeera America.

Hillary Clinton Suggested Lanny Davis Back Channel in Honduras by Lee Fang for The Intercept.

Scandal in the Social Security Institute in Honduras: Key Witness Shot by Aqui Abajo

Ground broken for rival to the Panama Canal

December 23, 2014

nicaragua_canal_624

Ground was broken officially yesterday for a Chinese-financed canal across Nicaragua which, if completed, would be longer, deeper and wider than the Panama Canal.

The $50 billion project is to be financed by a Hong Kong company, the Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group, which is controlled by a Chinese billionaire named Wang Jing.

The groundbreaking was mainly symbolic.  Engineering designs are scheduled to be submitted early next year and excavation to begin late next year.  Completion is scheduled for 2019 or 2020.

Whether the project actually will be built is uncertain.  There’s doubt as to whether Wang Jing, who is said to have made his fortune in telecommunications, is capable of financing and completing the project, and whether the Chinese government secretly stands behind him.

Many grass-roots Nicaraguans oppose the project, because it threatens Lake Nicaragua, the nation’s chief source of fresh water, and because it means taking the property of small farmers by eminent domain.

But if it is built, it would give China an important strategic foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States spent more than $800 billion invading Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction that weren’t there and ties to Al Qaeda that didn’t exist.  China’s financing of construction projects is a much more cost-effective way of projecting its power.

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A Chinese Man, a $50 Billion Plan and a Canal to Reshape Nicaragua by Carrie Kahn for National Public Radio.

Nicaragua’s Rival to Panama Canal Set to Start Dec. 22 by Michael McDonald for Bloomberg News.

Nicaragua launches construction of inter-ocean canal by BBC News.

Nicaragua breaks ground on canal project by Al Jazeera.

The passing scene: November 6, 2014

November 6, 2014

New Shipping Canal in Nicaragua Faces Questions and Opposition by Jens Gluesing for Der Spiegel.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Nicaragua is proceeding with plans for a new canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which will be bigger than the Panama Canal.

The Nicaraguan Canal will be paid for and built by China, which will get a 50-year concession to operate the canal and an option for an additional 50 years.  It would give China a great foothold for expanding its economic influence in the Western Hemisphere.

The canal is scheduled for completion in just five years, although construction hasn’t started as yet.  Unlike the Panama Canal, it will be big enough to handle container ships.

Some Nicaraguans are opposed, because of the impact on Lake Nicaragua, source of most of the country’s drinking water, and because 30,000 Nicaraguans will be displaced from their homes to make way for the canal.  Others question whether the canal will be financially viable, since the Panama Canal is being expanded and other central American countries are building “dry canals”—railroads to transfer cargoes from one ocean to the other.

The New Loan Sharks by Susanne Soederberg for Jacobin magazine.

desperationnationStagnation of American wages and economic uncertainty have made payday loans a big business, because so many Americans are barely getting by and have no savings cushion for unexpected emergencies.

Payday loans are not a marginal part of the U.S. economy.  They are a big business financed by economic giants such as Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, and by Advance America, which is owned by Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas Pilego.

The Red Cross’ Secret Disaster by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica and Laura Sullivan of NPR.

The Red Cross is another charitable organization which has succumbed to the corporate model, which puts fund-raising and public relations ahead of doing its job.