Posts Tagged Americas
I was a senior in high school, in October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviets ships were heading toward Cuba, with ICBMs, and President John F. Kennedy erected a naval blockade. Eventually, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev blinked, and the ships headed back to Russia. I wondered at the time whether I would be receiving my Diploma in June, or serving in the Army somewhere. However, might we be approaching a similar impasse today—but, with Mexico?
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, in June of 2015, he attacked the Mexican people and, since then, he has gradually expanded his target base to include all Hispanics, and every other demographic, except for older white men. In a recent post, I described my views of Donald Trump’s proposed trade, tariffs and currency manipulation policies; but, for now, I’m focusing on the potential impact of harassing Mexico, on our National Security.
Granted, several of our recent Presidents haven’t shown Latin America the attention that they should have—including Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Presidents Vladimir Putin, of Russia, and Xi Jinping, of China, on the other hand, have each made a number of visits to our southern neighbors, promoting trade.
If we treat a neighbor, who is also one of our largest trading partners this way, how could we assume that other countries won’t take notice. Trade is generally based on necessity, partnership and courtesy. Necessity alone just won’t cut it, since there are generally other nations that can offer the same goods and services.
Mexico is much larger than Cuba, with ten times the population and 20 times the area. So, any joint military exercises with our Enemies, re-fueling and re-tooling bases, or even more nefarious activities, might be somewhat harder to monitor. And, given today’s technological advances—since the Cuban Crisis—ICBMs are almost irrelevant. So Donald, tell me again what the rationale is behind harassing our southern neighbor, across our 2,000 mile common border? And have you given consideration to the much broader implications–like National Security?
NOTE: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Fore Chief-of-Staff, General Curtis LeMay advised President Kennedy to bomb Moscow. He was known as an unstable hothead. But today, with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as well as Donald Trump, baring those same characteristics, anything might happen!
NOTE #2: Mexico has a Plan to fight back, as described in the NY Times and is linked, as follows: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/24/business/economy/nafta-mexico-free-trade.html?ref=economy
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Republican Party is purposely enabling the spread of the Zika virus; however, by playing politics and making wrong-headed decisions, they don’t seem to be contributing to its timely eradication. Let’s take a look.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the Zika, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and other viruses, has been on our Nation’s radar screen since last year. Worldwide, however, it has been around for 70 years. Zika is especially horrific due to the microcephaly it can cause in newborns babies. At the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Barack Obama requested that Congress appropriate $1.9 billion, last February, to combat the spread of the Zika Virus.
The Republican Party, which controls both Houses of Congress, passed legislation authorizing $1.1 billion in the Senate for Zika, and just $633 million in the House. Among the various “poison pills”, which the GOP slipped-in, were one that restricted the work of Planned Parenthood in offering contraception services to young women, and another to remove $543 million from the Affordable (Health) Care Act. Congress broke for summer recess before any legislation was finalized.
Let’s look at the risk of the Zika virus to young women of child-bearing age. The spread of Zika was especially widespread in Latin America, earlier this year, since abortion and contraceptives are not widely-available there, other than to the wealthy. So their only option was: Don’t get pregnant! Surely, we all know what happens with such sage advice. But, unfortunately, that’s what the Republican Party seems to be saying to poor young American women.
Planned Parenthood is arguably the largest provider of comprehensive health care for women in America, especially among the poor, who might be dependent upon Medicaid for health care. So, besides dallying on authorizing the funds requested by the health care professionals, Republicans in Congress have undercut that amount by two-thirds, and they are trying to restrict the access to contraceptive services.
President Obama has promised to Veto this legislation, if passed with those amendments. But, how counter-productive those pills are to the basic legislation? Abortion services, which are a major GOP target, only account for approximately three percent of Planned Parenthood’s business, and it is not government-funded.
Besides playing politics with women’s health care in Washington, Republicans, which also control a majority of the state houses, have also gotten into the act at that level. Many of those same states have refused the Extended Medicaid which, by raising the income qualification, would provide government-subsidized health care to many more poor families.
But, I’m not through yet! Again, in many of these same states, public schools can only teach Abstinence in sex education classes—and not Contraception. Is this all beginning to sink-in yet?
Lastly, the World Health Organization believes that global warming adds to the risks of mosquito-borne diseases, since warmer climates may broaden the contagion’s range, and advance the mosquito’s life cycle. The Aedes aegypti’s life span is just ten-to-twelve days, and it is only capable of carrying Zika toward the end of its life. But if WHO is right, and global warming accelerates Aedes’ life cycle, the mosquito’s ability to spread Zika, or other viruses begins earlier, and its impact could be greatly enhanced!
When I consider all the possible politically-motivated and incoherently stupid things that the Republican Party is doing, at all levels, I can only question: Who’s side are they on? Surely, when Fall arrives, we’ll have a break from the Zika virus; but, will we ever get a similar break from dumb political thinking?
No, I’m not referring to refugees coming from Iraq, Syria and Libya! Approximately half of the three million or so, have been re-settled in grossly overcrowded refugee camps within the Region, mostly in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The rest have taken various dangerous sea or land routes to Europe. And as with any mass migration, in this case, there are always some criminals and terrorists mixed in with the masses who only seek safety, and a better way of life.
Over the several centuries of American history, we have also had various migrations, from Europe and Asia, and more recently Latin America and the Caribbean. There are a number of Puerto Ricans, who are U. S. citizens, who have moved to the Mainland, for the better economic conditions. And since the mid-1950s, the Island’s Revolution resulted in several million Cuban political refugees coming to the U. S., and more recently, some continues, but as economic emigres.
I recently described Venezuela as another failed state, just waiting to explode, and that post is linked as follows: https://thetruthoncommonsense.com/2016/08/07/venezuela-a-failed-state-thats-just-waiting-to-explode/. Now, there have perhaps always been people entering the U. S. illegally, from various nations—either by just coming ashore or failing to return home when their Visas expire. And that will continue to be an on-going fact, as long as there are nations in political turmoil, or with dire economic conditions. But in this post, I am suggesting that the situation in Venezuela will cause a sudden, mass influx when, not IF, it occurs.
Here in South Florida, we are ground zero as a destination for immigration from many places in Latin America or the Caribbean. That’s because we have a diaspora of countrymen from literally anywhere in the Region. The situation in Venezuela, however, is different from others, however, because the catalyst for leaving has already been set. At this time, only the ignition is lacking. And, with a population of 31 million, Venezuela has twice the potential number of sudden refugees, which might arrive in the U. S., as the entire remainder of Cuba and Puerto Rico combined.
I have lived in South Florida for almost forty years. So, if I didn’t like immigrants or diversity, I would have been gone long ago. For instance, when Fidel Castro sent 120,000 people from the Port of Mariel, Cuba, in just a few months time in 1981, Miami took them in. And over time, they found work, paid taxes, raised families and became assimilated into our multi-cultural version of American Society.
The unfortunate fact currently is that we have an ignorant faux politician who is spewing hatred among our Countrymen, and suggesting that we should stop illegal immigration by building a wall. His wife, Melania, came to this country for a reason. Has he asked her why? Oddly, in Donald Trump’s shallow-minded “address” on Terrorism on Tuesday, he suggested that “bigots and hateful people” should not be allowed in. Donald, have you looked into the mirror lately?
NOTE: When there is a mass exodus, from any nation, not everyone leaves. And some people go to various countries, either where they have friends or relatives, or for any of a multitude of other reasons. But as usual in this Hemisphere, we will get a goodly number of Venezuelans.
ed NOW!Leaders of a nation should hope to improve the lot of their citizens. No one expects them to know the Ins and Outs of the many technical facets of their country— food supply, economy, health care, military affairs, physical infrastructure, etc. They should have knowledgeable advisors for that, and also have assembled capable management teams to coordinate the full array of these fundamental national concerns.
The Presidents of Venezuela—past and present—seem to have been doing everything in their power to defeat such good intentions. Its various neighbors appear to have been discussing the problem, but they have not planned any intervention. The Organization of American States has also talked about it, but failed to act. President Nicolas Maduro took over after the death of Hugo Chavez, who ruled from 1999 to 2013.
The sad part is that Venezuela was a rapidly developing nation, with hard-working, highly educated people, and it sits on the largest pool of known oil reserves in the world. Chavez nationalized most businesses, and placed his lieutenants in charge of them, as well as the police and military. Corruption ensued as the new business “owners” rewarded their governmental benefactors handsomely. Technical expertise was lost as foreign corporations and domestic entrepreneurs were evicted from their operations.
Early on, the Chavistas confiscated housing and farmland and, by giving apartments and small parcels of land to the impoverished, it gained their loyalty. However, as the price of oil—the nation’s lifeblood—plummeted, and the access to modern technology was lost in the energy industry particularly, Venezuela’s cash-on-hand has been running on empty. Its peso is worth just pennies on the US Dollar, and inflation is expected to run at 1,700% next year. Yes, that’s right, seventeen hundred percent!
Since there are tens of thousands of Venezuelans living here, in South Florida, we have excellent local newspaper coverage of what’s going on back in their homeland. On Saturday, there was a truly sad, sad picture, in the Miami Herald: two young boys looking into a totally empty refrigerator, with only three jars of some sauce perhaps, looking for something to eat. Even worse, it was as large a fridge as any that I might expect to find here, in the U. S. Pictures of extremely long lines outside of supermarkets reveal mostly bare shelves with foodstuffs, while those with non-essentials are stocked quite high.
About a week ago, Colombia opened a border so that Venezuelans could buy food. The mass of people was approximately 100,000. Also, even hospitals have run out of medicine. Something more than talk needs to be done!
President Maduro’s response to a Referendum, which overwhelmingly demanded a Recall Vote has been ignored. Also, he appears to be avoiding the vote, which could potentially turn him out of office since, if he lasts until January 10, his Vice President would replace him. And, that would surely mean the continuation of the same counter-productive Chavismo.
In 1995, the UN Security Council authorized a NATO-led peacekeeping force, which included 18 non-NATO countries, in Bosnia. Right now, the talk is not putting food into that refrigerator, those children’s bellies and store shelves, or medicine in hospitals. Something, other than talk, is needed–and needed NOW!
WHEN CHINA PROVIDES FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, IT’S USUALLY IN ITS OWN BEST INTEREST. HERE ARE TWO EXAMPLES FROM THE AMERICAS.
China’s Gross Domestic Product, the measure of all goods and services combined, has dropped from 10.3% in 2010, to 7.6% today. That GDP is still much higher than most industrialized nations, however, the fact that the world’s second-largest economy has slumped by 3.3% has created serious concern for the whole global economy.
In my last two blog posts (linked below), I discussed some of the problems that China has from a macro-economic—or government—standpoint. This post, however, approaches how Chinese corporations do business, citing two dismal failures—one in the Caribbean and the other in South America. They are discussed in the linked article from the Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/article42280230.html.
Several years ago, a Chinese corporation began construction on what was to be the ultra-chic Bahia Maria Resort on a prime beachfront property in Nassau, Bahamas. The $3.5 billion project was designed to build four world-class luxury hotels, and include 40 restaurants. In fact, it was expected to open last March. So far, it is 97% complete; however, it now has a chain-linked fence around it, and the 2,000 employees have been laid-off. The developer is reportedly to currently be deciding between filing for bankruptcy or hoping for a “white knight” to buy the resort project for (perhaps) fifty cents on the dollar.
Local Nassau business people are concerned that, the longer that the project remains unfinished and unmaintained, it will fall further into disrepair, and become an even bigger blight on the local prime beachfront area. Dionisio D’Aguilar, a former member of the Bahia Mar Board said that: “Everybody is finding out what we already knew: That dealing with a Chinese bank that is state-owned, government-controlled, is not an easy undertaking.”
Over in South America, the Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Group was awarded the rights to construct and develop a wider and deeper alternative to the Panama Canal, with an agreement to manage it for 50 years. The Chairman of the HKND, Mr. Wang Jing runs a number of different corporations; however, it appears that his main focus is the (Beijing) Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group. Several government-owned Chinese Corporations are among the project’s partners.
Although the funding for the Canal Project, as well as construction, was to have begun in 2015, neither have happened, as I write this in early 2016. The whole $50 billion Nicaragua Canal Project was kept hush-hush, and there were a number of very serious environmental concerns expressed. But, the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, generally doesn’t ask anyone for permission.
Additionally, due to the market gyrations in the Chinese stock market back in August, Mr. Wang’s Net Worth appears to have dropped, from $10 billion to $3 billion, and maybe even more over the past couple of weeks. Currently, this canal project also seems dead in the water, perhaps for lack of funding, as well as lack of conviction. Its important to know that the development group was only formed in 2012.
Although the government of China claims to have no involvement with the operation and ownership of most Chinese corporations, it seems that it has created the environment in which many have been formed. Most Chinese overseas projects appear to be government-financed, and the key owners seem to have close ties to the Elites within the Communist Central Party. Without government connections, how else would someone like Mr. Wang have control of some twenty different corporations, and within so many different industries?
Now, perhaps with the millions of dollars that were floating around in China, when these projects were concocted, basic economic principals and common sense were not considered. But, here are a few questions that I would like to ask:
Nassau Bahia Mar Resort: Was any consideration given to the weak economies in the assumed target tourist market, Europe and the Americas? How about the extremely high construction costs in the Bahamas, since all building supplies and materials must be shipped-in from the Mainland? How about the impact of water and sewage requirements? And, wouldn’t the lender(s) have inquired as to what the alternative repayment plans were, if the project wasn’t completed properly—and on time?
Nicaragua Canal Project: Since construction hadn’t begun, there is no eulogy to give; but, had consideration been given regarding: the displacement of whole villages; building in the jungles; the expense of carting removed soil away or extreme environmental problems? Lastly, was an analysis performed as to why building a 173 mile (245 km) canal would be cost-effective, when the nearby and soon-to-be widened and deepened Panama Canal runs just 48 miles (78 km)? And that competitor has been in successful operation for 100 years.
NOTE: These are the last two blog posts, which discuss China’s situation from a macro-economic—or government—perspective:
Last Monday, Canadian voters sacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, when they elected the Liberal Party to lead the country in the National Election. Surprisingly, Prime Minister-Designate Justin Trudeau doesn’t need to form a Coalition Government since the Liberals won a majority of the seats in Parliament.
I had traded Emails with a friend in Ontario following the election and, although he seemed genuinely pleased with the results, he wrote that: “They voted for a Name.” Justin Trudeau is the oldest son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who led Canada during several periods from the late 1960s to the early 80s. The elder Trudeau’s governments were generally successful–and popular.
The younger Trudeau, a former school teacher, who will turn 44 on Christmas, has only been in Parliament since 2008. Aside from his youth and brief resume, Justin Trudeau exudes flamboyance, just like his father. One journalist compares him to a rock star when he enters a room. He is married to Sophie Gregoire, a TV host, and they have three children. But governing will be a totally different experience for him.
Ms. Cassandra Fletcher, a 40ish “Mom” in British Columbia, perhaps said it best, in her letter to Justin Trudeau. She included her suggested “To Do List” for the Prime Minister-Designate, but did want to advise him as follows: “I need you to know that even though I put my X next to your name, I did not vote for you. I voted against the alternative.” Her letter is as follows: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156185495335154&set=a.10151631685485154.858960.883365153&type=3. (Be sure to click on “Read More”, following the second paragraph of Ms. Fletcher’s letter, for the full text.)
Since Mr. Trudeau’s party won the election last week, he has re-affirmed a number of basic Liberal objectives. Once he is sworn-in as P.M, on November 4, he will probably enjoy a short honeymoon period. And then, the hard work of actually governing will begin. So, the real question remains: Can he deliver on his Party’s promises?
NOTE: I doubt that Ms. Fletcher actually voted for or against Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Harper. In a Parliamentary Election, since ballots only include candidates in their “riding” (district). Ms Fletcher lives in British Columbia, on the Pacific Coast; so, she couldn’t possibly vote for either Trudeau, in Montreal (far to the east) or Harper, in Calgary (in the adjacent Province of Alberta).
NOTE #2: Sorry to be repetitive for any of my Canadian readers. Down south here (the Trudeau-Obama Line, eh?), we’re into our football season, the World Series is starting-up and the endless Trump show is going longer than War and Peace. So, it will be quite nice to let America know that we may be hearing less and less about Keystone XL. LET’S HOPE SO!
There has been a great deal of media hype about the potential for American companies to do business in Cuba. And, that is especially the case here, in South Florida–at what I call ground zero for dealing with Cuba. But, the question is: can the potential business ever match the hype?
Keep in mind that, as the U.S. Trade Embargo has kept our businesses from trading with the island nation for 54 years, there were no such constraints on Canadian and European businesses. But the only real business that they have developed has been in the tourist industry. Why is that?
Economically, Cuba’s population is 11.27 million, with a Gross Domestic Product (the basic measure of economic activity) of $68.23 billion, for a per capita GDP of $6,054. Those numbers pale in comparison with any developed nation, and especially those of the U.S. Our 316.86 million population generates a GDP of $16.77 trillion, and that GDP equates to $52,616 per capita. So, why would a business allow itself to be distracted by tiny Cuba? Corporations are supposed to earn a profit for their stockholders, not engage in Nation-building.
Its also important to realize that Cuba’s economy has been stuck in the middle of the past century. Its legal system is not up-to-date with today’s global economics, their financial markets have barely evolved and, true to the ancient mercantile system, the economy is managed, from Top-Down, by the Castro Regime. Changes are only approved if they meet the government’s plans.
Key to the Cuban economy is a dual-currency system, which only makes sense in authoritarian socialist regimes. If even then? The average Cuban is paid in Cuban Pesos (CUPs), and he or she makes purchases in that currency. Foreign businesses and the tourism industry, however, use Convertible Cuban Pesos (CUCs), which trade at parity with the US Dollar. It takes 25 CUPs to equal one CUC. This creates a headache for foreign businesses. So, why this convoluted system?
The average Cuban earns approximately $20.00 per month–yes, $20.00. The dual system provides him or her with low cost, subsidized necessities, as the government choses; however, it also means that the Cuban masses do not have the money to buy certain luxuries, such as: smartphones; PCs; sophisticated communications equipment; etc. This dual system enables the government to reap the higher-valued convertible pesos, while paying the Cubans, who actually perform the labor, with the lower-valued ordinary pesos. That’s a WIN-WIN…but, only for the Castro Regime.
Given the amount of property that Fidel Castro confiscated, both from ordinary Cubans and foreign and domestics businesses, when he came into power, it’s no wonder that Canadian and European businesses were not willing to make capital expenditures on the island. Also, until some significant legal agreements are worked-out between Cuba and the U.S, I just don’t see that situation ending anytime soon.
Let’s review the landscape for foreign companies doing business in Cuba. The ordinary Cuban people do not have any money to afford their products and services. Foreigners are limited in their travel, and contact with the ordinary people is frowned upon, and probably under surveillance. Due to the dual currency system, you know that only corrupt party officials are benefitting from any business. And lastly, as we have already seen, the Castro Regime continues to blame all of its problems on Yankee Imperialism. So, why bother?