Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Deletions, in Detail

Originally published on CEPR’s The Americas Blog. Also reprinted by Common Dreams.

As was reported following the assassination of prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erased all references to the 2009 coup in Honduras in the paperback edition of her memoirs, “Hard Choices.” Her three-page account of the coup in the original hardcover edition, where she admitted to having sanctioned it, was one of several lengthy sections cut from the paperback, published in April 2015 shortly after she had launched her presidential campaign.

A short, inconspicuous statement on the copyright page is the only indication that “a limited number of sections” — amounting to roughly 96 pages — had been cut “to accommodate a shorter length for this edition.” Many of the abridgements consist of narrative and description and are largely trivial, but there are a number of sections that were deleted from the original that also deserve attention.

 

Colombia

Clinton’s take on Plan Colombia, a U.S. program furnishing (predominantly military) aid to Colombia to combat both the FARC and ELN rebels as well as drug cartels, and introduced under her husband’s administration in 2000, adopts a much more favorable tone in the paperback compared to the original. She begins both versions by praising the initiative as a model for Mexico — a highly controversial claim given the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and the proliferation of paramilitary death squads in Colombia since the program was launched.

The two versions then diverge considerably. In the original, she explains that the program was expanded by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe “with strong support from the Bush Administration” and acknowledges that “new concerns began to arise about human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups.” Seeming to place the blame for these atrocities on the Uribe and Bush governments, she then claims to have “made the choice to continue America’s bipartisan support for Plan Colombia” regardless during her tenure as secretary of state, albeit with an increased emphasis on “governance, education and development.”

By contrast, the paperback makes no acknowledgment of these abuses or even of the fact that the program was widely expanded in the 2000s. Instead, it simply makes the case that the Obama administration decided to build on President Clinton’s efforts to help Colombia overcome its drug-related violence and the FARC insurgency — apparently leading to “an unprecedented measure of security and prosperity” by the time of her visit to Bogotá in 2010.

 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Also found in the original is a paragraph where Clinton discusses her efforts to encourage other countries in the Americas to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during a regional conference in El Salvador in June 2009:

So we worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance — Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile — all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement.

Clinton praises Latin America for its high rate of economic growth, which she revealingly claims has produced “more than 50 million new middle-class consumers eager to buy U.S. goods and services.” She also admits that the region’s inequality is “still among the worst in the world” with much of its population “locked in persistent poverty” — even while the TPP that she has advocated strongly for threatens to exacerbate the region’s underdevelopment, just as NAFTA caused the Mexican economy to stagnate.

Last October, however, she publicly reversed her stance on the TPP under pressure from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Likewise, the entire two-page section on the conference in El Salvador where she expresses her support for the TPP is missing from the paperback.

 

Brazil

In her original account of her efforts to prevent Cuba from being admitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2009, Clinton singles out Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a potential mediator who could help “broker a compromise” between the U.S. and the left-leaning governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Her assessment of Lula, removed from the paperback, is mixed:

As Brazil’s economy grew, so did Lula’s assertiveness in foreign policy. He envisioned Brazil becoming a major world power, and his actions led to both constructive cooperation and some frustrations. For example, in 2004 Lula sent troops to lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where they did an excellent job of providing order and security under difficult conditions. On the other hand, he insisted on working with Turkey to cut a side deal with Iran on its nuclear program that did not meet the international community’s requirements.

It is notable that the “difficult conditions” in Haiti that Clinton refers to was a period of perhaps the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, following the U.S.-backed coup d’etat against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, and some 35,000 women and girls sexually assaulted. As various human rights investigators, journalists and other eyewitnesses noted at the time, some of the most heinous of these atrocities were carried out by Haiti’s National Police, with U.N. troops often providing support — when they were not engaging them directly. WikiLeaked State Department cables, however, reveal that the State Department saw the U.N. mission as strategically important, in part because it helped to isolate Venezuela from other countries in the region, and because it allowed the U.S. to “manage” Haiti on the cheap.

In contrast to Lula, Clinton heaps praise on Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was recently suspended from office pending impeachment proceedings:

Later I would enjoy working with Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégée, Chief of Staff, and eventual successor as President. On January 1, 2011, I attended her inauguration on a rainy but festive day in Brasilia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the country’s first woman President drove by in a 1952 Rolls-Royce. She took the oath of office and accepted the traditional green and gold Presidential sash from her mentor, Lula, pledging to continue his work on eradicating poverty and inequality. She also acknowledged the history she was making. “Today, all Brazilian women should feel proud and happy.” Dilma is a formidable leader whom I admire and like.

The paperback version deletes almost all references to Rousseff, mentioning her only once as an alleged target of NSA spying according to Edward Snowden.

 

The Arab Spring

By far the lengthiest deletion in Clinton’s memoirs consists of a ten-page section discussing the Arab Spring in Jordan, Libya and the Persian Gulf region — amounting to almost half of the chapter. Having detailed her administration’s response to the mass demonstrations that had started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt, then Jordan, then Bahrain and Libya, Clinton openly recognizes the profound contradictions at the heart of the U.S.’ relationship with its Gulf allies:

The United States had developed deep economic and strategic ties to these wealthy, conservative monarchies, even as we made no secret of our concerns about human rights abuses, especially the treatment of women and minorities, and the export of extremist ideology. Every U.S. administration wrestled with the contradictions of our policy towards the Gulf.

And it was appalling that money from the Gulf continued funding extremist madrassas and propaganda all over the world. At the same time, these governments shared many of our top security concerns.

Thanks to these shared “security concerns,” particularly those surrounding al-Qaeda and Iran, her administration strengthened diplomatic ties and sold vast amounts of military equipment to these countries:

The United States sold large amounts of military equipment to the Gulf states, and stationed the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, and maintained troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as key bases in other countries. When I became Secretary I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Clinton continues to reveal that the U.S.’ common interests with its Gulf allies extended well beyond mere security issues and in fact included the objective of regime change in Libya — which led the Obama administration into a self-inflicted dilemma as it weighed the ramifications of condemning the violent repression of protests in Bahrain with the need to build an international coalition, involving a number of Gulf states, to help remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi from power:

Our values and conscience demanded that the United States condemn the violence against civilians we were seeing in Bahrain, full stop. After all, that was the very principle at play in Libya. But if we persisted, the carefully constructed international coalition to stop Qaddafi could collapse at the eleventh hour, and we might fail to prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.

Instead of delving into the complexities of the U.S.’ alliances in the Middle East, the entire discussion is simply deleted, replaced by a pensive reflection on prospects for democracy in Egypt, making no reference to the Gulf region at all. Having been uncharacteristically candid in assessing the U.S.’ response to the Arab Spring, Clinton chose to ignore these obvious inconsistencies — electing instead to proclaim the Obama administration as a champion of democracy and human rights across the Arab world.

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Could US Trade Threaten Sustainable Agriculture in Cuba?

Originally published on CEPR’s The Americas Blog. Also reprinted by NACLA and Common Dreams.

With limited access to chemical and mechanical inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery, Cuban farmers have pioneered innovations in sustainable agriculture out of necessity since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Although most continue to employ conventional agricultural methods, and Cuba continues to import more than half of its food, around a quarter of the country’s farmers have nonetheless succeeded in supplying some 65 percent of national agricultural output using agroecological practices. These achievements, however, could come under threat with the expected resumption of U.S.-Cuban trade relations.

Having lost the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc trade partners, Cuba suffered an 80 percent reduction in foreign trade between 1989 and 1991, leaving it fully exposed to the U.S. trade embargo. Its agricultural sector was hit particularly hard given its heavy dependence on agrochemicals. Chemical fertilizer use per hectare, which had been roughly double that of the U.S. in 1989, fell by almost 90 percent in the following decade, while herbicide and pesticide use dropped by a similar amount.

The result has been a rapid de facto transition toward agroecological and organic methods that has been strongly supported by the Cuban government, including a proliferation of urban and suburban farms that provide some 70 percent of vegetables in major cities such as Havana. Innovations such as organopónicos — urban gardens powered by household waste, manure and crop residues in place of chemical fertilizers, and found in a range of urban environments including rooftops, vacant lots, alleys and backyards — have helped to drastically improve Cuba’s food security. Per capita food production grew by 4.2 percent per year from 1996 to 2005, a considerably higher rate than in any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean, while the costs of organic fertilizer and biological pest control are 98 percent and 89 percent lower than their respective chemical equivalents. Moreover, the dominance of locally grown produce in Cuban cities has also reduced both the environmental and financial costs of transportation in-country and overseas.

The recent thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations, however, could drastically shift the political and economic conditions that spawned and have helped to sustain this unique system of agriculture in Cuba. According to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a bilateral agricultural accord signed during President Obama’s trip to Cuba last month will “allow the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18 Marketing Order organizations to conduct authorized research and information exchange activities with Cuba” (emphasis added). These exchanges will be largely unidirectional, with these U.S. entities providing “nutritional research and guidance,” while “U.S. based market, consumer, nutrition and environmental research findings” will be delivered “to Cuban government and industry officials” in order to “help meet Cuba’s need for healthy, safe, nutritious food.” Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of agroecology or organic agriculture in this USDA press release, which expresses little interest in bringing Cuban innovations to the U.S., where certified organic crops comprise just 0.7 percent of total cropland.

Most worrying of all, however, are the explicit provisions for U.S. agricultural firms to play a central role in these activities (the USDA defines marketing orders as “initiated by industry”). Revealingly, President Obama was joined on his trip by representatives from the U.S. agricultural industry hoping to persuade Congress to open up “a market worth about $2 billion annually.” USDA projections show poultry, wheat, corn, rice and dairy as among the most profitable agricultural commodities in Cuba. Although U.S. firms have been allowed to export agricultural products to Cuba since 2001, Cuban importers still face financial restrictions that are often prohibitive, as they are not allowed to take out loans through U.S. banks.

The stated objective of the accord is to “help U.S. agricultural interests better understand the Cuban market, while also providing the Cuban people with science-based information as they grow their own agriculture sector.” But questions must be raised as to whether the promotion of U.S. agricultural practices in Cuba will only serve to help U.S. agribusinesses infiltrate the Cuban market, posing two distinct risks to the country’s agroecological and organic farms. One concern is that the promotion of U.S. agricultural methods under the new bilateral accord could entice more farmers to increase their use of imported fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, especially if and when these become more widely available in Cuba, and to specialize in monocultures in order to maximize revenue. The networks that currently exist to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise between small farmers could in turn be weakened, putting the entire Cuban agroecology movement at risk.

The other main risk, especially given the considerable U.S. agribusiness interest in exporting to Cuba, is increased competition from U.S. imports. Despite being partially sheltered from U.S. competition by the trade embargo, agroecological and organic farms already struggle to compete against their conventional counterparts. Aside from the challenges facing Cuban agriculture in general, including labor shortages, red tape and limited access to machinery and irrigation systems, these farms face their own unique obstacles, such as difficulty in obtaining natural inputs like compost, microorganisms and earthworms. Existing government policies create additional hurdles, as the state distributes agrochemicals along with improved seeds for cash crops such as corn, beans and taro, allowing conventional farmers to achieve the same results with less labor input.

The future of agroecology in Cuba rests not only on how U.S.-Cuban relations continue to develop but also on how the Cuban state proceeds with ongoing economic reforms. Cuban farmers who practice agroecological methods by necessity will face a choice between committing to them in principle and returning to using imported agrochemicals to resolve the issue of labor shortages. The Cuban government will face a tricky balancing act between using U.S. agricultural exports to settle the question of food security and protecting its own industries, particularly agroecological and organic farms, from increased competition. Will a pioneering, sustainable food system that emerged from a period of extreme scarcity and hardship survive the transition to an era of relative abundance?

How the Panama Papers Could Shake Up the Peruvian Election

Originally published at CEPR’s The Americas Blog.

From Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to FIFA ethics lawyer Juan Pedro Damiani, the Panama Papers have already claimed their first few casualties despite having only been public knowledge for five days. In Peru, the revelations add yet another twist to an already tumultuous presidential election scheduled for this Sunday that has seen two candidates disqualified from running. Four of the remaining candidates now find themselves implicated in the same global financial scandal, including frontrunner Keiko Fujimori and her rival Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who is tied with Verónika Mendoza for second place.

The Peruvian elections were first thrown into turmoil on March 4, a month before the leak, when the country’s electoral board disqualified both Julio Guzmán and César Acuña from the elections. Guzmán, an economist from the liberal party Todos por el Perú (All for Peru), had been regarded as Fujimori’s main challenger at the time, polling between 16 and 18 percent compared to Fujimori’s roughly 30 percent. Acuña, on the other hand, was a marginal candidate with single-digit support. The electoral board voted to exclude Guzmán on a technicality, as his party had completed their paperwork incorrectly, as well as Acuña for illegally purchasing support. But the board then courted more controversy three weeks later, when it allowed Fujimori to continue running despite similar accusations of vote-buying against her.

With Guzmán out of the running, the race for second place is now a dead heat between former Prime Minister Kuczynski and left-wing lawmaker Mendoza, whose support has surged dramatically in recent weeks partly by picking up vast numbers of undecided voters, who still make up an estimated 40 percent of the electorate. Kuczynski is widely supported by the elites, with an agenda focused on promoting private investment by lowering taxes and cutting bureaucratic red tape, while Mendoza has opposed these policies in favor of increasing public spending to promote growth and to diversify the Peruvian economy away from its dependence on mining and other extractive industries. One of the two candidates is likely to face Fujimori in a runoff election in June.

Recent polls show Fujimori with a slightly greater share of the vote since Guzmán was excluded a month ago, with her support having grown to 37 percent. But in a highly polarized election, she also faces immense public opposition for the same reason that her support stands strong: her father’s legacy. Jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori dissolved Congress to grant himself unlimited powers in a “self-coup” in 1992, unleashed military death squads that massacred civilians on the pretext of anti-terrorism, and was eventually removed from office following a major corruption scandal in 2000. He was handed a 25-year prison sentence in 2009 for multiple human rights abuses, bribery and several other charges. Keiko served as first lady under her father from 1994 until his ousting in 2000 and, despite pledging to avoid his autocratic tendencies, remains openly loyal to his political legacy.

Little surprise, then, that some 30,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Lima on Tuesday to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the elder Fujimori’s self-coup and to march against his daughter’s candidacy. The electoral board’s incongruous decision to exclude Guzmán and Acuña but to keep Fujimori has not helped her association with her father’s corrupt and anti-democratic practices – especially given that there was as much evidence against her as there had been against Acuña.

The Panama Papers have dealt the latest potential blow to Fujimori’s campaign efforts. Although Fujimori herself has not been named in the papers, the appearance of two of her major campaign contributors in the leaked documents has called the legitimacy of her campaign funding into question. Sil Yok Lee, a major Peruvian financier of Fujimori’s Fuerza Popular (Popular Force) party, has been revealed as the representative of two offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands, appointed through Mossack Fonseca by another shell company based in Niue in the South Pacific.

The leaks also implicate Jorge Javier Yoshiyama Sasaki, the nephew of Jaime Yoshiyama Tanaka, who served as a minister under the elder Fujimori. Together with his wife Joon Lim Lee Park, Yoshiyama contributed $111,000 to Keiko Fujimori’s 2011 and 2016 campaigns. According to the documents from Mossack Fonseca, a shell company in Seychelles had appointed him in 2010 as the legal representative of another entity based in the British Virgin Islands but with operations in Peru. Mossack Fonseca granted the Seychellois company, and hence Yoshiyama himself, near total control over operations in Peru.

But whether the Panama Papers will ultimately hurt Fujimori more than her opponents remains to be seen, particularly as Kuczynski is also not only implicated but appears in the leaks in his own name. Among the leaked documents is a letter of recommendation written by Kuczynski in 2006, when he served as Prime Minister, on behalf of Francisco Pardo Mesones, a former director of the Peruvian central bank. Pardo used the letter to open bank accounts in Panama for an offshore firm that served as an intermediary on behalf of a private German firm. The arrangement, worth some 60 million euros in contracts, was designed to obscure the fact that Pardo’s German client was producing passports for the Cuban and Venezuelan governments, which it feared would negatively affect its reputation.

Both Fujimori and Kuczynski have downplayed the leaks. Fujimori has declined to comment, while Kuczynski has distanced himself from Pardo, arguing that he was unaware that his letter of recommendation would be used for commercial purposes, before making another press statement questioning the authenticity of the leaked letter. But after the controversy around the electoral board’s dubious rulings, the Panama Papers only serve to reinforce a growing public perception of the leading candidates as dishonest and corrupt and of the Peruvian elections as heavily rigged. With nearly half the electorate still undecided and a runoff vote almost guaranteed, the revelations could yet prove decisive in determining who Fujimori faces in June and, by extension, whether either Kuczynski or Mendoza can beat her to the presidency.

Rubio Sweeps to Victory – in Argentina

Originally posted at CEPR’s The Americas Blog.

Rumor has it that Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign is set to name hedge fund manager Paul Singer as its national finance chairman. The potential move may represent a belated attempt by the Republican establishment to rally behind Rubio in order to derail Donald Trump’s presidential bid, as Politico’s Mike Allen has suggested. It also draws the Florida senator ever closer to his second largest financial backer – who has incidentally just emerged victorious from a decade-long campaign to extract an exorbitant return from Argentina after its financial crisis of 2001.

Almost three years after Argentina defied a New York court ruling that would have forced the country to choose between default and certain bankruptcy, Argentine President Mauricio Macri reached a settlement on Monday with a small group of holdout creditors led by Singer’s Elliott Management. The deal still needs to be approved by the Argentine National Congress, which is set to vote on repealing two laws that currently prevent the country from paying these vulture funds.

Despite having already settled with 93 percent of its creditors through two debt restructurings in 2005 and 2010, paying them 30 percent of the face value of the debt, Argentina still faced Singer’s group of vulture funds, who had no intention of settling under those terms. This week’s settlement will see the country pay out $4.65 billion, amounting to 75 percent of principal and interest, to Singer and company.

The vulture funds’ victory is the predictable outcome of a prolonged campaign aimed at extracting every dollar out of Argentina by all available means. Elliott Management used a Ghanaian court order to detain an Argentine navy ship in Ghana for 10 weeks in 2012. It has also channeled funds into American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), a lobby group pushing for the full repayment of Argentine debts. Part of ATFA’s efforts include an international smear campaign against the Argentine government, which it has accused of antisemitism, ties to drug traffickers and covering up Iranian involvement in the bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires in 1994. ATFA has spent more than $7 million on these campaigns since 2007.

Singer then turned to a New York court, scoring a major victory when Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that Argentina could not make payments to the 93 percent of bondholders who had accepted restructuring until it had paid the 7 percent of holdouts in full. Argentina could afford to pay off both parties under the agreed terms. However, if it repaid Singer’s group in full, bondholders who accepted the restructuring would also demand to be repaid in full. That could end up costing the nation some $120 billion – which it could not possibly afford.

As we have documented, Argentina’s original default in 2002 was a necessary step in order for its economy to recover. Despite having limited access to international financial markets, Argentina was able to deviate from the IMF’s neoliberal remedies and instead drastically increase social spending to stimulate the economy, with impressive results: it emerged from economic depression within three months and returned to pre-2001 GDP levels within three years, such was its rate of growth. Those who accepted the restructuring in 2005 were given extra payouts when GDP growth exceeded a certain threshold, meaning the economic recovery allowed bondholders to obtain a nice profit.

Faced with default despite being willing and able to continue servicing its debt, Argentina’s only option was to defy the court order. Although the state had deposited $539 million with the Bank of New York to repay the holders of the restructured bonds, these funds were being held hostage by Singer and his affiliates, with the blessing of Judge Griesa. But these creditors had never lent Argentina money in the first place. Instead, they had simply bought Argentine bonds from their previous holders at sharply discounted rates for the sole purpose of speculation and litigation, exploiting an economically distressed country to reap massive financial returns – the very definition of a vulture fund.

This latest settlement sets a worrying precedent: in return for their ruthless persistence, the vulture funds are being rewarded with gains of up to 900 percent on principal investment – without even accounting for interest, which amounts to 101 percent per year, multiplied by 10 years. The real return is likely even higher, as Argentine debt was in many cases bought for mere cents on the dollar. Using a combination of court cases, relentless lobbying and smear campaigns, the investors have firmly established that mobilizing all available legal and financial resources over a prolonged period is enough to guarantee a handsome windfall, especially with the accumulation of interest. Following Singer’s example, emboldened investors will now have little reason to accept restructuring when perseverance, it appears, will earn them the returns that they want.

It seems hardly a coincidence, then, that Marco Rubio, the recipient of $124,420 from Elliott Management over five years leading up to 2014, has been at the forefront of efforts to discredit the previous Argentine government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. While questioning Noah Mamet, now ambassador to Argentina, he launched a scathing indictment of Fernández’s administration in which he openly disputed its democratic institutions and whether it truly constituted an “ally” of the United States. Last May, he introduced a Senate resolution that notably took issue with “Iran’s terrorist network in Argentina, the United States, and all of the Western Hemisphere” while – apparently without irony – accusing President Fernández of inventing  “imaginary conspiracies” at the same time.

With Fernández now gone, and her right-wing successor Macri wasting no time in agreeing to terms with Elliott Management, Rubio’s mission in Argentina appears accomplished.