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Después de siete años de gobierno socialista en España, el pasado 20 de noviembre los españoles apostaron por el cambio. El Partido Popular, presidido por Mariano Rajoy, alcanzó unos resultados históricos en las urnas y será el encargado de dirigir las riendas del país en los próximos años. Con más de cinco millones de parados, lo que supone más del 20% de la población en paro, el nuevo Ejecutivo tendrá como prioridad absoluta impulsar la recuperación económica, así como el conseguir que España vuelva a ser un país que genere confianza a nivel internacional.

Durante el mandato de José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero las relaciones del Gobierno español con Estados Unidos han tenido demasiados altibajos. No obstante, a partir de ahora es de esperar que la buena sintonía entre ambas administraciones se recupere. El nuevo gobierno de Mariano Rajoy debería apostar por reforzar los vínculos con Estados Unidos, especialmente por el gran potencial que supone para España la comunidad hispana estadounidense, con más de cincuenta millones de personas. El intercambio cultural, económico y social repercutirá positivamente en ambos países, que comparten una herencia común desde hace siglos y cuyas nuevas generaciones no deberían obviar.

Did Castro Get Kennedy?

Of all the people I interviewed in New Orleans regarding the Kennedy assassination, Carlos Bringuier was the one I trusted most. I could see in his eyes he was always telling me the complete truth.”  (Oriana Fallaci, L, Europeo, 1969.)

y store and started looking around,” recalls Carlos Bringuier about the afternoon of August 5, 1963. “But I could sense he wasn’t a shopper. Sure enough, after a few minutes of browsing he came up and extended his hand. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I’m Lee Harvey Oswald.”

In 1963 the CIA regarded the Di“That weasel walked into mrectorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) “the most militant and deeply motivated of all the Cuban exile organizations seeking to oust Castro.” Carlos Bringuier was their representative in New Orleans. It was DRE agents who infiltrated Cuba and brought out the first reports of Soviet missile installations–to the scoffs of everyone from Camelot’s CIA to the State Department’s wizards, to the White House’s Best and Brightest. It took two months for anyone to finally take them seriously. A U-2 flight then confirmed every last detail of what the DRE boys had been risking their lives for months to report.

“Oswald approached me because my name was so often linked to anti-Castro activities in the local (New Orleans) news,” recalls Bringuier. “He even jammed his hand in his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills, offering to contribute to the anti-Castro cause. I was suspicious and declined, but he kept blasting Castro and Communism in very colorful terms the whole time he was in the store. He returned the next day, snarled out a few more anti-Castroisms and dropped off his training manual for the anti-Castro fight, Guidebook for Marines.”

Two days later Bringuier was astounded to spot Oswald a few blocks away from his store distributing Fair Pay for Cuba pamphlets. Carlos approached, accepted a pamphlet, ripped it to pieces and a scuffle ensued. The cops arrived, the scuffle made the news, and a few days later Bringuier and Oswald odebated on New Orleans radio and TV.

Dozens of books, movies, articles and TV specials depict these events. What they DON’T depict is how, between their scuffle and debate, Carlos and a friend Carlos Quiroga turned the tables on Oswald. Posing as a Castro-sympathizer eager to join Oswald’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Quiroga (who had not been in the store or involved in the scuffle) visited Oswald at his home and they commiserated for hours. “You read everyplace that Oswald was dumb, a flake, a patsy, a set-up,” says Bringuier. “Nonsense. He was a smooth operator and spoke fluent Russian.”

Quiroga noticed that Oswald’s living room was filled with Fair play For Cuba Committee literature. From one stack Oswald pulled an application to join the Committee and offered it to Quiroga. Yet during the Warren Commission circus The Fair Play for Cuba Committee repeatedly denied that Oswald had any links with them.

Among the things that caught Quiroga’s eye during his visit was Oswald speaking Russian with his wife and daughter. “Its good practice,” explained Oswald. “I’m studying foreign languages at Tulane University.” He was lying. Also keep in mind the date: this was 3 months before the assassination. Oswald’s stint in Russia was virtually unknown at the time.

On the very night of Nov. 22rd 1963 Carlos Bringuier went public on American radio and TV: “We don’t know yet if Lee Harvey Oswald is President Kennedy’s assassin. But if he is, then Fidel Castro’s hand is involved in this assassination. ”

Fidel Castro immediately called a press conference to denounce Carlos Bringuier by name and kick off the media disinformation campaign that finally peaked as high comedy with Oliver Stone’s JFK.

“For 15 years of my life at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community, I was involved in a world-wide disinformation effort aimed at diverting attention away from the KGB’s involvement with Lee Harvey Oswald. The Kennedy assassination conspiracy was born—and it never died.”(Ion Pacepa, the highest ranking intelligence official ever to defect from the Soviet bloc.)

But Carlos Bringuier was on to the disinformation campaign from its very birthday.

“Oliver Stone interviewed me for hours while researching for his movie JFK” recalls Bringuier. “This was almost 30 years ago. Stone’s loony–left credentials weren’t yet blatant. I figured he was after the truth. So I went along, telling him everything. Well, his movie comes out –and turns out I’M involved in the conspiracy to kill JFK!” Bringuier laughs. “For fifty years the media has either ignored or turned everything I’ve told them upside down,” says Bringuier. “Finally I got sick of it so when a couple years back 60 Minutes asked me for an interview, I told them: “sure. I’ll do an interview—but this time it has to be LIVE, no editing.” That ended whatever relationship I had with CBS producers.”

“U.S leaders who plan an eliminating Cuban leaders should not think that they are themselves safe!” warned Castro on Sept 7,1963. “We are prepared to answer in kind!”

Many of those closest to the early evidence were convinced that Castro made good on his boast. “I’ll tell you something that will rock you,” Lyndon Johnson told Howard K. Smith in 1966. “Kennedy tried to get Castro — but Castro got Kennedy first.”

General and former Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig agreed with LBJ. Haig served as a military aide under both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. “As I read the secret report I felt a sense of physical shock, a rising of the hair on the back of my neck,” he writes about an incident one month after the Kennedy assassination when a classified report crossed his desk. “I walked the report over to my superiors and watched their faces go ashen.” “From this moment, Al.” said his superiors, “You will forget you ever read this piece of paper, or that it ever existed.”

The classified intelligence report that so rattled Haig and caused so many faces to go ashen described how a few days before the Dallas assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald, accompanied by Castro intelligence agents, had been spotted in Havana, where he’d traveled from Mexico City.

For 34 years Markus Wolf was the chief of East Germany’s foreign intelligence service, a branch of the STASI with many contacts and operations in Castro’s Cuba. It was the STASI rather than the KGB that undertook the training of Castro’s police and intelligence services. Wolf’s autobiography is titled, “Man Without a Face” and subtitled, “The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster.” Most intelligence experts agree that the subtitle fits. Wolf was once asked about the Kennedy assassination and quickly replied. “Don’t ask me — ask Fidel Castro.”

Hugo Chávez, Deadbeat

Even as he continues to suffer a serious illness, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez shows no letup in his headlong pursuit of building his vaunted “21stcentury socialism.”  No one is quite sure — including probably Chávez — what that’s going to inevitably look like, but it clearly includes a lack of respect for private property rights and flouting the rules of international commerce.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chávez was drawing up plans to withdraw Venezuela from the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a little-known, but important entity for multinational corporations to arbitrate disputes with foreign governments.

That followed an earlier Chávez announcement that he was transferring $6 billion in cash reserves held in U.S. and European banks to Russia and China, in addition to repatriating some 200 tons of gold – valued at $11 billion – held abroad to Venezuela’s Central Bank.

The clear implications of these decisions are that, one, Chávez is not interested in compensating the some 20 companies that are seeking more than $40 billion in claims at ICSID for properties he has confiscated from them, and, secondly, he is taking measures to ensure Venezuela has no assets abroad that can be seized in retaliation.

Incredibly, over the past decade, as Chávez has amassed more power and increased state control of the Venezuelan economy, he has ordered the nationalization of some 988 foreign and domestic companies.  While he hasn’t totally reneged on his obligations — there have been some compensations — the prospects that remaining claimants will get paid their due are declining by the day.

Several days ago, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez drove home the point, referring to oil claimants ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips as “typical companies from the empire [the United States],” and that his government will not honor any unfavorable decisions made by international courts like ICSID.  (Ironically, his comments were made at a conference sponsored by the state oil company to drum up foreign investment in the oil sector.)

Meanwhile, the legal shoes continue to drop.  Two more U.S. companies recently sought legal redress against the Chávez government.  First, oil services company Helmerich & Payne filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against Venezuela over the confiscation of 11 drilling rigs belonging to the company.

Days later, U.S. bottle maker Owens Illinois filed a claim for arbitration against Venezuela at ICSID over its confiscated properties in October 2010.  (The company had operated in the country for more than five decades and employed more than 1,000 workers.)

To be sure, no one forced these companies to invest their dollars abroad, and overseas investments are always risky ventures in countries with weak rule of law.  But global prosperity — and U.S. security — also depends on vibrant international trading and investment regimes where adherence to accepted rules and behavior benefits all.

Of course, Hugo Chávez has always believed that Venezuela’s vast oil wealth allows him to play by his own rules — but he’s playing a risky game.  Foreign investment in Venezuela is already sinking like a stone as a result of his rash decisions.  According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, foreign direct investment was a negative $3.1 billion in 2009 and a negative $1.4 billion in 2010.

In downgrading Venezuela’s credit rating recently, Standard & Poor cited growing “uncertainty” over Chávez’s “changing and arbitrary laws, price and exchange controls, and other distorting and unpredictable economic measures [that] have undermined private-sector investment and hurt productivity, weakening Venezuela’s domestic economy.”

It so happens that as the results of Chávez’s hare-brained economic policies are being felt on the street, with shortages of electricity, foodstuffs, and housing, not to mention rampant street crime, taking a toll on the working class — his political base — the country is gearing up for a presidential election in October 2012.  Chávez still remains extremely popular with his base, but their declining economic fortunes, and with the uncertainty swirling around Chávez’s health, may mean the Venezuelan populist’s re-election, for the first time in a long time, won’t be a slam dunk.

José R. Cárdenas served in several foreign policy positions during the George W. Bush administration (2004-2009), including on the National Security Council staff. He is a consultant with Vision Americas in Washington, D.C., and edits the website www.interamericansecuritywatch.com and blogs at http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/.

Is Mexico Our Ally or Our Enemy

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s dramatic declaration last Friday that his nation should seek a truce with vicious narco-trafficking gangs draws attention to a critical issue as Mexicans consider what kind of country they want to leave their children.

Fox’s suggestion also should serve as a wake-up call to our country that we should not take for granted the extraordinary sacrifice of Mexicans who are fighting the same transnational crime syndicates that threaten U.S. security and well-being.

His provocative words may also ensure that Mexico’s 2012 presidential campaign will include a healthy debate on whether its citizens are committed to building a modern, law-abiding society or prefer to tolerate drug corruption that stunts its economic and political growth.

Vicente Fox is no radical. He is the charismatic democrat who led his center-right National Action Party (PAN) to a historic victory in 2000, ousting the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that had held power for over 70 years. Indeed, at the outset of his mandate, Fox battled the powerful narcotrafficking syndicates that control the transit of cocaine and other illegal drugs through Mexican territory to insatiable consumers in the United States. However, he backed off quickly as he realized that his security forces could not go toe-to-toe with the bloodthirsty criminals.

Before Fox, a succession of PRI governments tolerated or sanctioned truces between local narcotraffickers and local political bosses. In some cases, otherwise respectable state governors chose to prevent rampant violence by striking unsavory deals with criminals. In other jurisdictions, notorious politicians were silent partners with the cartels. Political leaders, police or judges who refused such arrangements risked violence against themselves or their communities – and they could not rely on federal authorities for any help. Fox ended his term insisting that his government would make no deals with narcos, he had to accept the fact that de facto truces kept some measure of peace on the streets even as it corrupted Mexico’s institutions.

Fox’s successor, Felipe Calderón would have none of that. He came into office declaring narcotrafficking a national security threat. And he insists that Mexico cannot thrive as a modern nation unless its laws are applied without fear or favor. The effect of his anti-narco campaign – in which he has deployed military units and federal social agencies to back-up local authorities in drug-ridden communities – has been a blood-letting of staggering proportions.

Although the 35,000 persons killed since he launched his offensive are mostly criminals caught up in gang violence, hundreds of security officials have given their lives and too many innocent civilians have been caught in the cross-fire. Moreover, bloody reprisals and turf wars have spread into Mexico City and affluent communities, and splintered gangs have taken up new violent criminal enterprises that menace millions of Mexicans. Fox’s desperate suggestion of an open truce comes on the heels of a casino bombing last week that claimed 52 lives in the well-off northern city of Monterrey.

It is fair to say that Calderón’s offensive should have been preceded by greater preparation by security forces and more robust social development programs to fortify communities against lawlessness. Indeed, launching a frontal assault has provoked a vicious backlash whose toll could not have been predicted. And, only now is Mexico beginning to build the professional police forces and effective courts that can gradually reduce drug criminality to manageable proportions.

Calderón’s critics tend to ignore altogether the corrosive effects of the past policy of tolerance and truces on Mexico’s institutions and social fabric. It is healthy for Mexicans to decide whether or how they want Calderón’s successor to continue his policy of imposing the rule of law, because such a battle requires the commitment of a nation, not only its president.

American politicians are too quick to criticize Mexico, neglecting the fact that it is our most important ally in the drug war and that its government and people are carrying more than their fair share of the burden piled high by U.S. drug abuse.

Although we have provided $1 billion in material support and training in the last five years, it is not enough. Additional funding and political solidarity – from Republicans and Democrats alike – are essential to reassuring beleaguered Mexicans that we will accept our shared responsibility.

If Mexicans elect a leader who sees narcotrafficking as the United States’ problem, that nation, in the long run, will pay a very dear price. But, so will ours. If we consider that possibility we might then demand that our leaders do more – alongside Mexico – to confront a common threat.

Roger F. Noriega was ambassador to the Organization of American States from 2001 to 2003 and assistant secretary of State from 2003 to 2005. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and managing director of Vision Americas LLC.

FTA is the Way

Trade has been throughout history the cornerstone of relations among states. It has also been a tool to boost economic growth, generate employment, mobilize investment and stimulate social transformation. Over the centuries the world has experienced periods of trade expansion and periods of strong protectionism claiming the need to stimulate local industries, protect employment or simply for domestic political circumstances.

Latin America suffered from 1970 to 1990 a period of extreme protectionism derived from the import substitution policies. Under this theory based on developing strategic sectors, many problems took place. Uncompetitive industries became highly protected, exporters relied on Government subsidies, lack of competition, state capture by economic interests and lack of incentives for industrial transformation, were the common denominator.

During the 90s trade liberalization became a vital element of Policy Reform across the region. Some countries took the wrong approach of unilaterally opening their markets without a coherent policy to expand exports based on stable long-term rules. This approach harmed local industries and more importantly the agricultural sector when facing subsidized competitors. Acknowledging the consequences of unilateral opening, intra-regional trade agreements began to emerge simultaneously with the creation of the WTO in 1995.

During the decade between 2000 and 2010 LAC began to search for more long-term stable trade relations, and in 2003 the FTAA was launched in Miami. Unfortunately the agreement did not evolve due to domestic interest from strong political players in the region. At the same time a Global Agreement under the WTO was not moving at the desired pace.

Considering that the FTAA had derailed and that a Global Trade Agreement lost momentum, a round of bilateral trade agreements became the only feasible route to develop access to markets. Countries like Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, the Central American and Caribbean Countries began to engage in bilateral, intra-regional and extra-regional trade agreements.

The Seasons of Change – What Happened to The Arab Spring?

In the several months since the onset of the “Arab Spring,” we have watched as presidents and prime-ministers lauded this so-called revolution as a fait accompli of democratic metamorphosis. Leaders like President Obama waited and watched just long enough to place an additional hand to the back of despots who were being pushed into the abyss of “change” and then springing onto the bandwagon of the new regimes as if these regimes were the 2nd Continental Congress of 1776 ratifying the Articles of Confederation. Jumping into the fray with “rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air,” Mr. Obama even trumpeted a non-war against the Libyan dictator to prove his support for “change” to the world and align himself staunchly with the Arab “springers.”

But, what have we seen in the weeks since all the soliloquy and gleeful rhetoric began? What direction has this metamorphosis taken? In Egypt, we have witnessed the expulsion of an autocrat only to be replaced by a military junta just as despotic and which has aligned itself with the radical Muslim Brotherhood for political expediency. These passionate “lovers of democracy” have brokered an agreement between the PLO and the Hamas, and shown support for the Hamas, a terrorist organization with absolutely no democratic foundation and clearly no vision for one. They have allowed Christian Copts to be murdered by the dozens, opened the Egyptian border with Gaza and allowed a massive Al Qaeda presence to arise in the Sinai. They have acquiesced to Iran, allowing its war ships to traverse the Suez Canal for the first time in decades, have threatened to end the 32-year-old Egypt-Israeli peace agreement and have scheduled a farcical shut-down of natural gas sales to Israel. And that is just Egypt! Time does not allow us to develop the remaining Kafkaesque scenarios in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and the like…but, so far the “Arab Spring” is transitioning into summer with no signs of democracy on the horizon.