Why Castro and Che Guevara Split

 

 

 

Revolutionary Friends

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This is a documentary about Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and the 1959 Cuban Revolution. In addition to exploring the revolution’s early history, the filmmakers trace how Cuba came to rely on the Soviet Union for its economic survival – and how the Soviets forced Castro to exile Che from Cuba for political reasons.

After traveling extensively through South America, Che Guevara, deeply affected by the extreme poverty and exploitation he saw, was totally committed to “permanent revolution.”* In contrast Soviet leaders were committed to socialism in one country and “peaceful coexistence with the US.” They opposed Che’s guerilla activities in Africa and Latin America owing to the potential threat they posed to US-Soviet relations.

The most interesting part of the film reveals that the CIA initially supported Castro’s guerillas  with arms, funding and US volunteers because they viewed him as “easy to control.” It contains priceless footage of Castro denouncing communism (in English) to an American audience and calling for Cuban “representative democracy.”

In February 1959, the US initially recognizes Castro as Cuba’s new prime minister. A few months later, he appoints Che (an avowed Marxist) to head the Cuban national bank. The US responds by blocking all credit to Cuban banks. Castro retaliates by nationalizing Cuba’s American businesses. The US government, in turn, blocks all Cuban sugar imports.

Given that 90% of the Cuban economy is based on trade with the US, the country is on the verge of collapse. Castro is left with no choice but to ally himself with the USSR to trade Cuban sugar for oil and financial aid.

Under Soviet direction, Castro ends Che’s governmental role in 1963 and sends him on a series of foreign missions.After several speeches critical of Soviet leaders (for failing to support third world guerilla movements), Che angers them further by cultivating relations with China, just as the USSR and China are becoming estranged.

After an unsuccessful campaign with guerilla fighters in the Congo, Castro sends Che to Bolivia, where he and ten fighters who accompany him are stranded without weapons, food, medicine or support from the Bolivian Communist Party. On October 9, 1976, Che is wounded in a firefight with Bolivian security services. He is subsequently captured and executed.


*As envisioned by Leon Trotsky, this refers to a country’s continuing revolutionary progress being dependent on a continuing process of revolution in other countries.

This film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons. It can be viewed free until April 7 at the Al Jazeera website: Che Guevara Fidel Castro Revolutionary Friends

Pipelinestan: The Taliban, Unocal and 9-11

Taliban Oil

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Taliban Oil is a documentary about secret negotiations between Unocal and the Taliban to build a pipeline transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India – via Afghanistan. It features interviews with the former president of Unocal (who entertained Taliban leaders in his home in Sugarland Texas), a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative who lost her security clearance for a report warning the Clinton administration for a against US collaboration with the Taliban.

This film contradicts the conventional wisdom that the US invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban refused to build the Unocal pipeline. Filmmakers maintain it was Unocal who canceled the pipeline project. Already by the late nineties, Afghanistan was suffering the ravages of a 20-years of civil war – the Taliban were extremely keen to use the $400 million/year transit fees for reconstruction. The Clinton administration was also heavily promoting the pipeline deal, arranging for Taliban leaders to meet with the State Department, CIA and NSA.

Unocal reportedly withdrew from the deal in 1998, after suicide bombers blew up US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. Clinton blamed the suicide bombing on Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, who was operating jihadist training camps in Afghanistan.

In addition to attacking various training camps with cruise missiles, Clinton made 30 separate requests for the Taliban to extradite bin Laden to the US. Although supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar opposed the training camps, bin Laden was a national hero for his role in expelling the Soviets. It would have brought great shame on the Taliban leadership to hand him over to the Americans. .

In 2001 George W Bush and Dick Cheney reiterated the requests for bin Laden’s extradition, while simultaneously making deals for their own petroleum companies to build the pipeline.

Rejecting the Taliban’s offer to expel bin Laden to a third country, in summer 2001 the Bush administration made plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-autumn. One source* quoted in the film states the jihadists were aware of the impending attack and decided to launch a preemptive strike on the Twin Towers.


*For documentation filmmakers provide an old YouTube clip from Adam Gaddan, the Jewish-born “American” al-Qaeda spokesperson. Gaddan has long been suspected of either Israeli or US intelligence links.

Looting Africa

The Looting Machine: Warlords, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth

Tom Burgis

Harper Collins (2017)

Book Review

This book centers around something global economists refer to as the “Dutch curse.” In 1959, the discovery of oil in the Netherlands led to massive unemployment outside the oil industry. A big increase in dollars generated by oil exports caused major inflation in the local currency. This made imports cheaper than locally produced goods, shutting down hundreds of Dutch businesses and putting thousands out of work.

It’s typical of mineral and oil/gas mining everywhere (including here in New Plymouth) that these industries require vast capital investment but employ only small numbers of workers. According to Burgis, it was the “Dutch curse” that resulted in Russian’s oil-fueled criminal oligarchy prior to the rise of Putin. As the continent richest in natural resources, Africa, which has been ruthlessly exploited by multinational corporations, has a severe case of the “Dutch curse.”

Although multinationals pay far less than market value for oil, gas and precious minerals, they pay corrupt puppet dictators enough that they don’t need to tax their citizens. Burgis maintains this absence of taxation results in a lack of accountability to their citizenry. Instead of holding leaders to account for their failure to provide basic infrastructure, citizens of “resource states” are far more likely to angle for their share of the loot. Retaining power becomes a simple matter of maintain elaborate patronage (payoff) systems and harsh military/security networks.

Burgis also refutes the myth that Africa’s multiple civil wars stem from tribal and religious conflict. Most African wars are pure resource wars (often triggered by CIA and French and British intelligence), with the conflict used as a cover for resource smuggling and even lower net cost to multinationals.

The US government has attempted to crack down on its own corporations via stricter enforcement (since 2000) of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and a section of the 2010 Dodd Frank Act that prohibits the the purchase of Coltan* from armed rebel groups. The new law, which has done little to reduce Coltan smuggling, has opened the door to a Chinese monopoly on the Coltan market.

The Looting Machine presents a detailed country by country analysis, as well as an examination of the Chinese company responsible for most private investment in Africa (there’s less publicly available information about investment by state-owned Chinese companies). Both engage in far more infrastructure development than Western agents do.

  • Angola – principle export oil, with 70% of oil ventures owned by Hong Kong billionaire Sam Pa, operating as Queensway Group or Chinese International Fund. Half of Angolan residents get by on less than $1.25/day.
  • Congo – second most important produce of Coltan outside of Australia, also gold, tin, tungsten and diamonds. Residents live on less than $1.00/day.
  • Nigeria – oil and gas. Cotton/textile industry that flourished in 1980s shut down (causing mass unemployment) by continuous flood of smuggled Chinese counterfeit textiles. Sam Pa and the French oil company Total have teamed up to challenge Shell’s longstanding monopoly on Nigerian oil.
  • South Africa – rich gold, diamond and platinum exports financed the creation of the apartheid state, in which a tiny white minority controlled the entire economy. Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, this minority has been joined by a handful of Black entrepreneurs.
  • Botswana – diamonds. Somewhat protected from “Dutch curse” by the creation of value added industries that cut and polish their diamonds prior to export.
  • Guinea – among world’s richest reserves of iron and aluminum. Bought out by Sam Pa as a result of Western sanctions.
  • Niger – rich in uranium and the world’s poorest country. France previously held monopoly on Niger’s uranium industry, being replaced by Queensway group based on agreement to invest in infrastructure development and employ local labor. (In most countries, Chinese investors import Chinese labor.)
  • Ghana – gold. Financed by Chinese Investment Fund after IMF tried to impose structural adjustment conditions** to refinance a World Bank Loan.
  • Zimbabwe – diamonds, platinum, nickel, gold. Mugabe used revenues from export industries to finance particularly brutal security force. Diamond industry bought out by Queensway as direct result of Western sanctions.

*Coltan is a rare precious metal in high demand for cellphones and laptops.

**IMF structural adjustment conditions typically require debtor companies to privatize state owned industries, legislate deep cuts in social services and accept extensive foreign investment as a condition of receiving World Bank loans.

 

 

 

 

China vs the US: The Battle for Oil

China vs the US: The Battle for Oil

Directed by Jean-Kristophe Klots (2012)

Film Review

The Battle for Oil is about the battle between China and the US over the world’s dwindling oil reserves. Globally China is the second biggest oil consumer – after the US. Owing to its dwindling reserves, they import two-thirds of their oil. High domestic demand for oil leads to periodic power blackouts and long queues at services stations.

China has three state-owned oil companies employing tens of thousands of workers, mainly in London, Singapore, New York. The country’s high demand for oil has led to major investment in African and South American oil producers. Rather than buying barrels of oil, China seeks investment in oil production capacity. Chad, Sudan and other African countries have granted them major oil concessions in return for major infrastructure investment in ports, railroads, telecommunication networks, schools, and clinics.

China’s ability (thanks to immense cash reserves) to invest in massive infrastructure projects gives them significant competitive advantage over western oil companies. As does China’s commitment to absolute non-interference in the host country’s political affairs. This contrasts sharply with western loans. The latter are always accompanied by demands for “democratic” and “human rights” reforms, which turn out to be camouflage for further penetration by Wall Street interests.

In 2005, China freaked out US lawmakers by attempting to take over the American oil company Unocal. Owing to their desire to preserve friendly trade relations, China dropped their Unocal takeover bid and shifted their focus to forging alliances with oil producers hostile to the US, such as Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Much of the current US animosity towards Venezuela stems from growing Chinese investment in their oil industry – a fact rarely mentioned in the mainstream media.

 

The Forgotten Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Houston After Hurricane Harvey

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary examines the plight of Houston’s poor and minority communities a month after Hurricane Harvey. As with Hurricane Katrina, they have fared much worse than Houston’s well-to-do. Many have been left homeless after flood waters contaminated with raw sewage, lead, arsenic and benzene rendered public housing facilities uninhabitable. Despite the 20 billion dollars of federal assistance Houston has received post-Harvey, former public housing residents are getting no help in being rehoused.

Houston’s environmental justice movement has spent years fighting the oil, gas and chemical plants adjacent to their schools and neighborhoods. Routine aerial emissions of benzene and other toxic chemical are already responsible for high rates of asthma and cancer. Located in a flood plain, oil/gas and chemical storage tanks and public housing facilities are subject to annual flooding.

Environmental justice activists are demanding a significant proportion of the $20 billion in disaster aid go to better flood protection. At present Houston’s sea walls only protect against a 15 foot surge. In 2008, Hurricane Ike produced a 25 foot surge. A surge of that size will flood multiple oil, gas and chemical storage tanks, releasing their toxic contents and producing the biggest environmental catastrophe in history.

Oil Privatization: NAFTA and the Rape and Pillage of Mexico

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2017)

Crude Harvest is about a controversial law Mexico has enacted that puts its publicly owned oil industry up for sale to foreign corporations. The law also grants foreign oil companies the right to override the wishes of Mexican farmers if oil is discovered on their land.

Following a massive popular uprising, Mexico nationalized their oil industry in 1938. It’s the last nationally owned oil company to be opened to foreign investment. US oil economies are extremely excited as Mexico is an extremely corrupt country that makes no effort to regulate oil production. They will be allowed to pollute Mexican water and air as much as they like without consequences.

The documentary goes on to reveal how NAFTA has systemically “raped” the Mexican economy and forced the government to sell their oil industry to pay off Wall Street debt. By flooding the Mexican market with cheap (subsidized) American food, the US has wiped out most small Mexican farmers and ranchers and turned many small indigenous villages into ghost towns. Left with no way to support themselves, these former farmers can only survive by turning to organized crime or illegally entering the US.

Once that their lands are to be turned over to foreign oil companies, yet more farmers will lose their livelihood. Meanwhile Mexican debt will only increase as the government loses oil profits that currently comprise 40% of government revenue.

 

The US Military Occupation of Africa

The Shadow War in the Sahara

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

The Shadow War in the Sahara is a thumbnail history of the US military occupation of Africa. The documentary begins with the 1885 Berlin Conference, at which the major European powers divided up all of Saharan Africa to better exploit its rich resources of gas, oil, copper, uranium, coltan and other rare earth minerals.

France initially came out the winner, controlling three-fourths of Saharan Africa until World War II. Even after all their Saharan colonies won independence (1945-62), France continued to maintain a military presence, as well economic dominance over most of its former colonies.

With the discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea in the sixties, this began to change – with the covert US support of armed rebellions in Ethiopia and Angola and its failed invasion of Somalia. Over time, most French troops have been replaced by US troops. While this was done in the name of “fighting terrorism,” the real US agenda has always been to secure oil and mineral resources in the face of Chinese domination over African oil.

Instead of employing military force and direct political intervention via the International Monetary Fund and their “structural adjustment”* policies, China has gained a major foothold in Africa in offering debt-free development loans and a policy of non-interference in domestic policy.

The US is the only major power to divide up the entire world into military command and control regions: USNorthcom (North America), USSouthcom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentcom (Middle East and Central Asia), USPACom (Pacific region and Australia) and USAfricom.

Former Libyan ruler Omar Gaddafi successfully blocked the US from locating the USAfricom headquarters in Africa – so the US built it in Germany instead.

Prior to his assassination by US-backed rebels, Gadaffi was a powerful advocate for African unity. His primary goal in founding and bankrolling (from his massive oil revenues) the African Development Bank and an African Monetary Fund was to assist other African countries to resist western colonialism.

In 2009, he was elected chairman of the African Union, and in 2011 he cancelled major contracts with the powerful (US) Bechtel corporation and with France (for millions of dollars of military hardware). The punishment inflicted by the US and France was swift – a NATO bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed rebels charged with overthrowing his government.


*Structural adjustment describes a process by which the US-controlled IMF forces countries to privatize public utilities, cut public services and open third world economies to western investment as a condition of debt refinancing.