Sunday, February 12, 2006

How to enrage your enemies and alienate your allies

The USA has a lock on the gold medal for meddling. I suppose it's a natural consequence of being the most powerful nation on earth; every nation that has ever found itself in that position has succumbed to the temptation of coercing other nations into doing their bidding.

From the print edition of Saturday's Globe and Mail (emphasis added):
The 45-year-old U.S. embargo on trade, travel and investment dealings with Cuba is an anachronistic leftover of the Cold War that should have been lifted years ago. Instead, the Bush administration has turned more aggressive in enforcing the ban, to the point that it is demanding once more that the foreign subsidiaries of American companies obey U.S. regulations, even when they contravene the laws of the countries in which they are operating.

Such was the case last Friday when the Hotel Maria Isabel Sheraton in Mexico City tossed 16 Cuban officials out of ther luxury rooms and seized their deposit. …

The Cuban trade delegation had been invited to a conference with U.S. energy executives in Mexico City. The sponsor was the U.S-Cuba Trade Association, a Washington-based lobby that seeks to foster business opportunities between Cuba and the United States, which do exist despite the embargo.

When the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control, which enforces the Cuban rules, got wind of the public meeting, a phone call was placed to … Sheraton's corporate parent. Not wishing to run afoul of U.S. authorities, the company ordered the eviction. But in doing so, the hotel embarrassed the Mexican government and likely violated Mexican law. …

Nothing was happening in Mexico City that could have hurt U.S. national interests. Indeed, the trade association said it was scrupulously obeying U.S. rules.

The Bush administration has relied on two pieces of legislation, the 1996 Helms-Burton Act … and the Trading with the Enemy Act, which dates back to the First World War, to intimidate U.S. and foreign companies trying to do business with Cuba.
Canadian companies have also been faulted for "trading with the enemy". The U.S. government has threatened to seize the assets of Canadian companies doing business with Cuba.

To be blunt about it, the Bush administration should f*ck *ff. Message to George Dubya:  you are not the President of Canada. And frankly, you're running your own country into the ground, so we'd prefer to chart our own course.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz

13 Comments:

At 7:13 AM, February 13, 2006, Blogger Lux_Luther said...

Although it's probably worth noting the Helms-Burton, which tightened the existing regulations significantly, was enacted by the Clinton legislation.

 
At 10:55 AM, February 13, 2006, Blogger The Misanthrope said...

I agree with your message to Bush, even if it has nothing to do with Cuba.

 
At 11:19 AM, February 13, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• lux_luther:
You're right, that's worth noting. I'm aware that this isn't just about the Bush administration, though the Globe and Mail says the BA has been more aggressive about enforcing the rules.

• Misanthrope:
Glad to oblige.

 
At 1:48 PM, February 13, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

So hang on. Bush/the US Government is actively encouraging foriegn citizens to break their countries laws?

Does the international community have nothing to say about this?

 
At 2:22 PM, February 13, 2006, Blogger aaron said...

I guess i shouldn't be surprised, but it's still very annoying, aggravating, depressing, infuriating, etc.

 
At 3:02 PM, February 13, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Mrs. Aginoth:
It's surprising how much of this stuff goes on and never makes a ripple in the news. I know I saw an earlier report, when the USA was threatening to seize the assets of any Canadian company that has the gall to trade with Cuba. But those are the only two times I've ever seen a reference to this story in the news.

Whether it gets addressed through diplomatic channels, I don't know. But frankly, I think most countries are just resigned to this sort of outrageous conduct on the part of the American government. Even toward neighbours and friends, like Canada and Mexico.

• Aaron:
Americans like you and Misanthrope must feel without influence in how your country is run. Democracy doesn't quite measure up to its promise, sometimes.

 
At 3:18 PM, February 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...assuming GWB's election had much to do with democracy, at least the first time... It seems a rather undemocratic form of "democracy" has been evolving in the States in the past fifty years.

 
At 5:02 PM, February 13, 2006, Blogger Heather said...

I know diddly squat about trade issues. Really. This just demonstrates me to me how we are really dealing with Americanization - not globalization.

 
At 10:49 AM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• anon:
Even in the second election, there are all those electronic voting machines in Ohio to consider — the ones which don't provide a printed record of each vote counted, and which were manufactured by one of Bush's supporters.

I'm not saying that Bush rigged the election, but it isn't democratic unless the results are verifiable post election.

• Heather:
Americanization, not globalization — in interesting point.

 
At 6:32 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Carolyn said...

Yes, I'm afraid it's all quite embarassing. I've been curious for a while how we so lucky as to have world domination over other governments.

Also, the US doesn't do business because they're communist, right? But we're ok with China (although China is in name communist...it functions more like socialism).

 
At 9:27 AM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

the US doesn't do business [with Cuba] because they're communist, right? But we're ok with China.

I think the Globe and Mail is right, it's a remnant of Cold War thinking. The USA was understandably nervous about having a Soviet ally just off the coast of Florida. But let's face it, Cuba is no longer an urgent threat compared to other scenarios the USA has to contend with.

I've been thinking about Richard Nixon's landmark visit to China. People were shocked at the time — the USA had vilified China for so long. It seems to me that it's about time for an American President to visit Cuba.

 
At 2:54 PM, February 17, 2006, Blogger LoryKC said...

It is embarrassing.
Instead of demobilizing after the Cold War, the United States imprudently committed itself to maintaining a global empire.
~ Chalmers Johnson, "Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire"
Bush seems to not only want to maintain the empire but extend it.

 
At 4:24 PM, February 17, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

It's ironic, because Bush originally campaigned as someone who was not going to spend all kinds of energy building an empire in far away places. He was going to focus narrowly on domestic stuff.

That was before 9/11, of course. But still — if you judge his presidency against what he said when he first ran for office, you'd have to judge him a complete failure.

 

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