Showing posts with label International Relations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Relations. Show all posts

September 4, 2016

President Arrived at a Changed Sour China for Summit


 The problems began as soon as President Obama landed in China.
There were no stairs waiting for him to disembark from his usual door at the top of Air Force One.
On the tarmac, as Obama’s staff scrambled to get lower-level stairs in place for him to disembark, White House press photographers traveling with him tried to get in their usual position to mark his arrival in a foreign country, only to find a member of the Chinese welcoming delegation screaming at them.
He told the White House press corps they needed to leave.
A White House official tried to intervene, saying this is our president and our plane and the media isn’t moving. 
 Obama is greeted at Chinese Airport

The man yelled in response, “This is our country!”
The man then yelled more and entered into a testy exchange with Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her deputy, Ben Rhodes, while trying to block them from moving toward the front of the plane. 
On what is probably his last visit to China, there were flare-ups and simmering tensions during Obama’s meetings with Chinese officials — a fitting reflection of how the relationship between these two world powers has become frayed and fraught with frustration. Over the past seven years, that turbulence with China has colored and come to define Obama’s foreign policy at-large in Asia.
On Saturday, several White House protocol officers and other staff arriving at a diplomatic compound ahead of Obama’s meetings were stopped from entering and had heated arguments with Chinese officials in order to get in.
“The president is arriving here in an hour,” one White House staffer was overheard saying in exasperation.
A fistfight nearly broke out between a Chinese official trying to help the U.S. diplomats and a Chinese security official trying to keep them out. “Calm down please. Calm down,” another White House official pleaded.
Twenty minutes before the arrival of Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two sides were still arguing in the room where the two leaders would soon be meeting to talk about cooperation. The Chinese insisted there was not enough space for the 12 American journalists traveling with Obama. U.S. officials, pointing to a spacious area sectioned off for the media, insisted there was.
High hopes turn to pivot
When Obama became president in 2009, he began with high hopes of improving U.S.-China relations. He tried reaching out to Chinese leaders with offers of increased engagement and decided not to meet with the Dalai Lama to avoid angering Beijing, to the disappointment of human rights advocates.
 Obama became the first U.S. president to visit China during his first year in office. But his administration was taken aback by how completely the Chinese controlled all aspects that visit. “He wasn’t allowed to say much at all,” said Orville Schell, a longtime China scholar who was in China during the visit. “The Chinese kept him from meeting certain people, from taking questions or even radio broadcasts. He didn’t know quite how to respond. He didn’t want to be impolite. It took the U.S. a while to understand that this was the direction China and the relationship was headed.”
Some have blamed Obama for adopting such an overly optimistic and open stance during those early years. For all his outreach, current and former top U.S. diplomats say, Obama has gotten little in return, except the feeling of being burned by Beijing.
But that result could be equally attributed to the simple fact that China itself was undergoing a seismic shift during those early years of Obama’s presidency.
When the global recession plunged the world into financial crisis in the late 2000s, China escaped unscathed. Its leaders looked around and realized for the first time just how much power China had attained in becoming the world’s second largest economy. And shortly after, they began eagerly throwing that weight around.
No longer were they willing to make concessions or bide their time, from big things, such as territorial claims, down to the nitty-gritty of negotiations over who sits where and says what in diplomatic exchanges.
Obama’s response to this newfound Chinese assertiveness was largely a response to reality. “In a textbook, it would be great to have a strategic vision for how you see things being eight years now,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, Obama’s top Asia adviser during those early years. “But in this case, I think the word ‘reaction’ is right. You had a China that was changing in capacity and leadership.”
If the carrot of engagement didn’t work, the Obama administration decided, they would try the stick. And they gave this tougher policy a name: the “Pivot to Asia.”
The pivot policy boiled down to the idea of turning the resources and attention of the United States away from perpetual problem areas in the short term, such as the Middle East, to Asia — an area that would have clear long-term strategic importance in coming years. 
Those overseeing the pivot strategy, senior U.S. officials said at the time, studied other examples in history, where one power was rising while others were declining: Germany’s rise in Europe after World War I; Athens and Sparta; the rise of the United States, itself, in the past century.
The pivot strategy was developed out of a belief that China would respond best to a position of strength. To find that leverage, the United States planned to forge stronger ties with its traditional allies in Asia and pick up new allies among neighbors alienated by China’s new aggression — including Vietnam, Burma and India.
Using that multilateral approach, the thinking went, the United States could offset China’s rising military power and assertiveness.
Doubts in Asia and among allies
The main problem with the Asia pivot was one of perception and substance.
European and Middle East leaders expressed concern with the idea of U.S. attention and priorities suddenly shifting from their regions to another. Chinese leaders saw the pivot as a U.S. conspiracy to interfere with China’s goals and to slow its rise.
Meanwhile, the very Asian allies the pivot was meant to reassure had their doubts, as well. Many wondered how much of the U.S. pivot was empty rhetoric and how much of it would be backed by economic and military substance.
In recent months, those doubts have resurfaced because the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Obama cobbled together as a way to reach out to Asian allies, may die for lack of support among Congress and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, in the years since the pivot strategy began, the U.S.-China relationship has soured to its current fraught state.
Both countries today are trying to avoid open hostility but are increasingly wary, hedging and frustrated with each other. Other countries in the region continue to fear China’s rise but at the same time are not fully convinced that the United States will be a sufficient counterweight.
The U.S.-China relationship may be the biggest problem Obama’s successor will face in Asia. How he or she deals with it — the exact proportion of carrots and sticks chosen and the Chinese response — will probably define the region in the decade to come. 
If this visit by Obama is any indication, the situation is not likely to get better anytime soon.
On Saturday, even as the two presidents finished their talk and prepared for a final nighttime stroll toward Obama’s motorcade. Chinese officials suddenly cut the number of U.S. journalists who could cover them from six to three, and finally to one.
“That is our arrangement,” a Chinese official flatly told a White House staffer, looking away.
“But your arrangement keeps changing,” the White House staffer responded.
In the end, after lengthy and infuriating negotiations, they settled on having just two journalists witness the leader’s walk.

April 29, 2013

Karzai Got $Millions$ In Suit Cases from U.S.Says to "Help the Poor” How About The Poor Here? “Food Stamp Cuts"

Karzai


Hamid Karzai was responding to a New York Times report that alleged the CIA sent suitcases stuffed with cash to the president's office on a regular basis.
It said tens of millions of dollars "came in secret" and cash was given on a vaster scale than previously thought.

The president said the money was for projects such as helping the sick.
"It was used for different purposes: operational, assistance to injured people, rental costs and other goals. This was efficient assistance and we appreciate it," he said in a statement.
He added that the money had been delivered to Afghanistan's National Security Council, which is part of the president's office, during the last 10 years.
The New York Times report said: "Wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan's president."
It quoted Khalil Roman, who was Mr Karzai's chief of staff from 2002 until 2005, as saying the cash was referred to as "ghost money".
"It came in secret, and it left in secret," Mr Roman is quoted as saying.
The report cited unnamed US officials' assessments that there was little evidence the payment bought the influence the CIA sought, and said that the cash was not subject to the conditions placed on official US aid.
It added that much of the money fuelled corruption and went to paying off warlords and politicians with dubious connections.
The CIA declined to comment on the New York Times report, as did the US state department.
In 2010, Mr Karzai acknowledged that his office has received cash from Iran, but insists this was part of a "transparent" process. He said the money was not for an individual, but to help run the president's office.
Afghanistan receives billions of dollars in aid, but remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

December 17, 2012

Peru Waives Marriages and Gay Relationships Between Cops and Gay Public

 Peruvian police ban on ‘scandalous’ same-sex relationships is repealed just days after it was put forward by the government

 

BY ANDREW POTTS

The Peruvian government has reversed a ban on police officers being in ‘scandalous’ same-sex relationships just days after the ban was passed.
Legislative Decree 1150 for the country’s Police Disciplinary Board stated that officers in homosexual relationships that ‘scandalized’ the Peruvian police forces and undermined its corporate image should be forced into retirement.
The new decree reads ‘sex causing scandal’ and omits the word ‘homosexual.’
In comparison, the originally decree stipulated that police officers who physically or psychologically abused their family members should only be suspended for between six and ten days. This has now been amended to between eleven and fifteen days.
It’s passing resulted in uproar from Peruvian LGBT rights group the Homosexual Movement of Lima (MHOL) and several members of the country’s Congress and was labelled a ‘monumental blunder’ by the Peru21 news agency.
On Wednesday MHOL president Giovanny Romero told Canal N that the law was unconstitutional and discriminatory.
‘If you are going to punish people for their relationships, then it must be both homosexual and heterosexual,’ Romero told Canal N.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala initially expressed support for the decree but it appears that the Peruvian government reversed the rule after cabinet was split over the issue.

June 30, 2012

GOP’rs Cubans in South Florida only Want More Barricades to Cuba

Map of CubaMen repair bicycles in Havana
{HAVANA} The question most asked by people that believe in fairness and proportion it’s been what good does it do for the United States, Democracy or human rights,  to have no leverage on it’s small relations with Cuba? We have relations with governments with both past and present bad track records and through trading and talking we sometimes accomplished what we can’t even accomplish by invasion.  What ever advances Cuba is made on gay rights and human rights, have more to do on a lesbian born to the family than any pressure from the embargo.

You will think that for a government so close to our shores we would have a better relationship that we have places across the globe with the same population or less than Cuba

But the main opposition comes from well to do rich republicans down south, which care very little about gay rights or human rights. What they have always wanted and expected was for a revolution in Cuba, for the government to fall and for the ‘government in exile’ to take over and probably go back to the good old days in Cuba.

adamfoxie*

Barricades:
(Havana) It’s been a rough stretch for the few companies that dare to do business on both sides of the Florida Straits.
Though US officials sometimes play down the economic impact of American trade sanctions against Cuba, several multinational firms in recent weeks have seen their commercial ties to Havana bring new headaches, political heat and hefty legal fees.
Odebrecht, the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate, is now in litigation with the state of Florida over a new law that essentially bars the state and local governments from doing business with companies that have commercial ties to Cuba or Syria.
Pernod Ricard, the French global beverage distributor that partners with the Cuban government to distribute Havana Club rum, is on the verge of losing the brand’s trademark in US federal courts to rival Bacardi Corp.
And Spanish oil giant Repsol appears to be walking away from Cuba after sinking hundreds of millions into an unsuccessful bid to strike undersea crude — while fending off attacks from anti-Castro lawmakers in the US, where the company also has drilling leases.
Large global companies that operate in Cuba often maneuver around US trade restrictions by setting up subsidiary firms that don’t run afoul of the 1962 US Trading with the Enemy Act, the 1992 Torricelli Act or the 1996 Helms Burton Act, pillars of the longest-running economic sanctions in the world.
European companies like Nestle (Switzerland), Adidas (Germany) and Virgin Atlantic (UK) are some of the global brands that manage to do business in Cuba without running into trouble in the US, since Washington’s sanctions generally don’t apply to foreign firms that simply sell consumer goods and services in Cuba.
But other companies that have formed strategic partnerships with the Cuban government for major industrial projects have run into trouble under US laws like Helms-Burton, which punishes foreign businesses whose Cuba operations involve property that was nationalized after the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
That has been the case of the Canadian mining company Sherritt International, whose top executives are banned from traveling to the US because the firm processes nickel ore in Cuban facilities that were once US property.
Florida’s new law is a fresh attempt to add yet another disincentive for global companies that might want to work in Cuba. Though it does not specifically name Brazil’s Odebrecht, the legislation appears to be directly aimed at the company.
Odebrecht’s Florida-based subsidiary Odebrecht USA, Inc has earned nearly $4 billion since 1990 on public works projects in the state, according to The Miami Herald, completing landmark structures like the American Airlines Arena and a new terminal at the Miami International Airport.
Meanwhile, another Odebrecht subsidiary, COI Overseas Ltd, is the lead contractor on an $800 million project to overhaul the Cuban port of Mariel, with financial backing from the Brazilian government, which maintains friendly ties to Havana.
That attempt to make money across the Cuban ideological divide appears to have made Odebrecht a target for anti-Castro lawmakers in Florida, which is home to more than 1 million Cuban exiles and immigrants.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill in April barring local governments or the state of Florida from awarding public contracts worth more than $1 million to any firm that conducts business with Cuba or Syria. Singed by Gov. Rick Scott last month, the law is set to take effect on July 1.
That law aims to reach farther than the federal government's Helms Burton Act by targeting subsidiary companies of foreign firms and placing new powers in state hands.
Last week, Odebrecht filed suit against Florida arguing that only the US government — not individual states — has the right to set foreign trade policy or enforce sanctions.
It also insisted that Odebrecht USA and COI Overseas Ltd are distinct entities. Odebrecht USA “does not engage, and never has engaged, in business operations in Cuba,” the company said in a statement.

It noted that the new law had placed the company in the awkward position of having to sue Florida’s Department of Transportation — the same agency it is trying to win contracts from for highway construction and other infrastructure projects.
Attorneys in Florida have indicated that legal precedence is on Odebrecht’s side. Even if the company wins in court, it will end up paying a political price that could hurt its chances at winning future contracts in the state.
It’s the same type of subtle pressure that may have contributed to Respol’s announcement last month that it is likely to withdraw from future oil exploration in Cuba. The company spent more than $100 million to drill in Cuban waters, hiring a state-of-the-art oil rig specifically designed to comply with US trade sanctions against Cuba.
As for Pernod Ricard, the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a judgment against the company ended a costly, 18-year court battle, and drew a harsh warning last week from the Cuban government, which threatened retaliation against US intellectual property.
"The disrespectful attitude of the United States against the rightful owners of Cuban brand Havana Club could endanger the rights of 6,000 trademarks and 800 patents of the US registered in our country," said Maria de los Angeles Sanchez, director of Cuba's Industrial Property Office.
Pernod Ricard will instead register a new trademark under the brand name “Havanista,” in case the embargo is ever lifted and Americans can once again buy Cuban rum.
 

March 15, 2012

Does This Trio Mixes? A Pope, Cuba and NBC

Classic car in Havana, Cuba, July 9, 2006. [© AP Images]

 

  • Classic car in Havana, Cuba, July 9, 2006. [© AP Images]Classic car in Havana, Cuba, July 9, 2006. [© AP Images]
Isbel Diaz Torres
When they said their goodbyes, the NBC journalists and technicians gave me a lot of things that they didn’t need to take back, including this little mug.
HAVANA TIMES March 12 — When the previous Pope visited Cuba, I was able to earn $750 dollars. That was in 1998, so you can imagine what that money meant for a young Cuban biology student who was living in a Havana dorm.
Along with two other friends, I worked as a translator and an assistant for NBC, though back then I was unaware of its being a giant telecommunications company owned by the General Electric Corporation.
Though I was a member of the Young Communist League, I didn’t stop for one moment to find out what was supposed to be my relationship with the Pope (a figure about whom I’d never thought twice) or a capitalist corporation the size of NBC.
This little circle of my college friends was pretty “apathetic” when it came to such political issues, instead we spent the subsequent weeks in fierce debates about what we were going to do with all that money, which I ended up using to buy my first computer.
Notwithstanding, it was certainly an unforgettable experience. I learned first-hand about the technical quality of the Americans’ equipment and their lack of professional ethics – to cite just two examples.
One day a small group of us went up on top of the roof of the Santa Isabel Hotel in Old Havana to film a live procession. The journalist who was supposed to make the report, when seeing the statue of Christ of Havana across the bay and some people walking towards that place, asked me about the statue.
I told him the few things I knew about sculpture and he immediately turned to the camera and said something like “for the first time in nearly forty years, Cubans are being allowed access the Christ of Havana…”
I was flabbergasted to see how this veteran reporter, his name was Ike, could twist reality like that.
The other case was a young female journalist who seemed concerned mainly about her glamorous hair. Her parents were Cuban immigrants in Florida, so in her hotel room she hung a large sign that read “We will not stop until the Cuban people are free.”
That was something that struck me as kind of funny since she didn’t seem like putting up much of a fight with all that hairspray on. The point was that since she spoke Spanish, she didn’t require my services; she translated her interviewees herself.
When one of her interviewees was talking about poor housing conditions, he said “we settled for a shelter.” However she mistook the word “shelter” (Spanish: albergue) for hamburger, and from there gave a whole report on hunger and homelessness.
As for me, a simple worker, I had no right to an opinion, so I retained that enlightening experience for my own personal consumption. Today, though, I can attest to the bad practices that journalists practice daily both inside and outside of Cuba.
They concerned themselves little with the Pope himself. We went to the Plaza and shot what we could of the Mass, but the closest we got was the moment when he came to the Havana Cathedral. All of the NBC journalists were in a corner shouting excitedly over the sight of the Holy Father.
It was truly absurd to discover myself surrounded by all these people shouting “Oh my God…it’s the Pope, it’s the Pope!” when all I could see was the “popemobile.”
I was able to confirm that mass hysteria is contagious and that it’s recommendable to remain vigilant, lest we be dragged too far away from our own true selves.




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