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Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
The US, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and 58 other countries sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT’s preamble refers explicitly to the goal of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and to the “determination expressed by the parties [to the treaty] to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time.” The NPT will become effective on March 5, 1970. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write that the NPT “relied heavily on appeals to national interest.” Scoblic will continue: “Given that the treaty allows five states to legally possess nuclear weapons while prohibiting the other 183 from ever developing them, why did dozens of states agree to the top-tiered, discriminatory system—a system of nuclear apartheid, as India put it (see June 20, 1996)? Because it made sense for them to do so.” The NPT gives nations a chance to opt out of nuclear arms races with their neighbors, and gives them the opportunity to share in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the years, far more nations will, under the NPT, give up their nascent nuclear programs—Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, others—than start them in defiance of the treaty. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 274-276]
The population of Buenos Aires grows from 3 to 9.5 million. During this time, the city’s public water and sewage utility company, Obres Sanitarias, is hit with a number of budget cuts recommended by the IMF and World Bank, and cannot afford to implement the needed upgrades and improvements. By the late 1980s, it is apparent that the utility will need a huge infusion of capital to extend its services to the new inhabitants of the city. [Public Citizen, 6/14/2007] Less than two thirds of the city’s population is connected to the water system while less than half has access to the sewers. Moreover, up to 50 percent of the system’s water is lost because of leaks. As a result, the per capita consumption of water is an extremely high 600 liters per customer. [Inter Press Service, 4/13/1993; CBC News, 3/31/2004] The World Bank steps in and offers to lend Argentina hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the city’s water infrastructure—but only on the condition that it privatize Obres Sanitarias. [Public Citizen, 6/14/2007] Critics of the privatization plan will later argue that despite its lack of cash-on-hand, Obras Sanitarias was a “well-run company” with little debt and was capable of expanding on its own—had it been sufficiently funded. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
FC Barcelona signs future superstar Lionel Messi, currently a 13-year-old schoolboy, from Newell’s Old Boys, a football club based in Rosario, Argentina. Messi has growth hormone deficiency; due to Argentina’s economic crisis, neither the country’s government nor Newell’s Old Boys can afford to pay for his treatment. Barcelona offers to pay for the medicine, which the club’s doctors deem necessary. The signing is made by Carles Rexach, Barcelona’s sporting director, when Messi does well after being flown to Spain for a trial. [Daily Telegraph, 4/28/2009]
A number of French dignitaries, including French Minister of Commerce Bruno Durieux, travels to Buenos Aires to lobby on behalf of two French companies—Compagnie Générale des Eaux and Lyonnaise des Eaux—which are trying to win a concession to operate the city’s water utility. On one visit, Durieux reportedly says that France will increase its investments in Argentina based on “how many privatizations we win.” Daniel Chain of Aguas de Buenos Aires will later recall, “The Embassy of France was hyperactive throughout the concession process. Every week it invited political leaders to lunches attended by French ministers. However, the Embassy of Great Britain, which supposedly was supporting the bid of the British company, Thames, had a low profile. It was an unequal fight.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003 Sources: Daniel Chain]
The United Nations passes Resolution 678. The resolution gives Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw entirely from Kuwait (see July 25, 1990) and restore its national sovereignty. The US uses UN authority to build a “coalition” of nations to support its upcoming “Desert Storm” operation designed to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait (see January 16, 1991 and After). 34 countries contribute personnel: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. West Germany and Japan do not contribute forces, but they do contribute $6.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to the cause. While some countries join out of a sincere belief that Iraq must not be allowed to dominate the region and control Middle Eastern oil reserves (see August 7, 1990), others are more reluctant, believing that the affair is an internal matter best resolved by other Arab countries, and some fear increased US influence in Kuwait and the region. Some of these nations are persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab nations as well as by US offers of economic aid and/or debt forgiveness. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] As with all such UN resolutions, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rejects this resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
Eduardo Cevallo, head of the Buenos Aires’ public utility, Obres Sanitarias, says that the state is unable to come up with the billions of dollars in investments that are needed to prevent the collapse of the city’s water and sewer system. He thus argues that Obres Sanitarias is “a model for privatization.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
The World Bank approves and provides funds for a team of British private sector technical and financial consultants to advise the Argentine government on the privatization of its water and sewer sector. [CBC News, 3/31/2004]
After the decision is made to privatize Obres Sanitarias, Buenos Aire’s public water and sewer utility, rates climb 62 percent. Additionally, the utility introduces an 18 percent sales tax. [CBC News, 3/31/2004; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
Rescue workers in the wreckage of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Twenty-nine people are killed in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The bombing levels the three-story building. Argentina, the US, and Israel will later accuse Hezbollah and its backer Iran, but provide little evidence. According to most media accounts and the US State Department’s annual report on terrorism, the bombing was the work of a Hezbollah suicide bomber who drove a truck into the building. [Los Angeles Times, 5/8/1992; Patterns of Global Terrorism, 4/30/1993; Fox News, 10/5/2007] However, a technical report ordered by Argentina’s Supreme Court will find that the bomb was placed inside the building: “Court official Guillermo Lopez said that the investigation had ascertained that the explosives had been located on the first floor of the diplomatic headquarters. ‘The engineers established, with 99 percent certainty, the exact location where the explosives were and the quantity that was used.’” That conclusion is angrily rejected by Israel. [NotiSur, 8/16/1996] The case remains unsolved. [Ha'aretz, 3/17/2008]
World Bank president Lewis Preston, in the luxurious dining room of the Argentine Jockey Club, over plates of smoked salmon and duck à l’orange, declares that Argentina’s “process of adjustment” is “an example for all of Latin America.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
Aguas Argentinas, a recently formed consortium of private companies, wins a 30-year concession to operate Buenos Aire’s water utility. It is awarded the concession because it promised a greater reduction in water rates than the other bidders. But it was close. Aguas Argentinas’s bid was 26.9 percent, just a fraction higher than the bid of another company, Aguas de Buenos Aires, which offered a rate decrease of 26.1 percent. According to the concession agreement, the company cannot raise rates for at least 10 years (rates have risen 62 percent since privatization was put on the agenda two years ago (see 1991-1993)). Additionally, it must invest $1.4 billion in the system, and connect more than 4,200,000 people to water and 4,800,000 to sewage systems. The foreign stakeholders in Aguas Argentinas include French companies Compagnie Générale des Eaux (later known as Vivendi; 8 percent), Lyonnaise des Eaux (later known as the Suez Group; 25.3 percent), Sociedad General de Aguas de Barcelona (12.6 percent), and Anglian Water (4.5 percent). The remaining stakes are held by Argentine companies Bank of Galicia (8.1 percent), Grupo Meller (10.8 percent), and Sociedad Comercial del Plata (20.7 percent). Grupo Meller is run by Sergio Meller, a supporter of Argentine President Carlos Menem, and Sociedad Comercial del Plata is owned by businessman Santiago Soldati, another close ally of Menem. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
Aguas Argentinas, according to its own figures, enjoys a profit margin of between 15 and 25 percent each year. Other economists cited by the Inter-American Development Bank put the profit rate much higher—as high as 40 percent. [Santoro, 2/6/2003] According to Daniel Azpiazu, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences, this rate of profit is far above the industry average. “In the United States, for example, water companies earned between 6-12.5 percent profits in 1991,” Azpiazu says. “In the United Kingdom a reasonable rate of profit for the sector is between 6-7 percent. In France, 6 percent is considered a very reasonable return on investment.” [CorpWatch, 2/26/2004]
Buenos Aires’ public water utility, Obras Sanitarias, is privatized under heavy pressure from the World Bank, the IMF, and the US government. It is taken over by Aguas Argentinas, a recently formed consortium of private companies that won a 30-year concession to manage the city’s water and sewage system (see December 9, 1992). The deal represents the largest transfer in history of a water service and watershed to the private sector. The consortium will be responsible for providing water to the residents of Buenos Aires and 14 surrounding municipalities—some 10 million people (see also 1980s-1993). Oversight of Aguas Argentinas will be conducted by the newly formed regulatory body, ETOSS (Ente Tripartito de Obras y Servicios Sanitarios). Its task will be to monitor the quality of service, represent customers, and ensure that the company fulfills the terms of its contract. [Inter Press Service, 4/13/1993; Santoro, 2/6/2003; CorpWatch, 2/26/2004; CBC News, 3/31/2004; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
Argentine President Carlos Menem issues a decree placing his political ally Secretary of the Environment Maria Julia Alsogaray in charge of ETOSS, the government regulatory body that provides oversight of Aguas Argentinas. Critics say the move is aimed at protecting Aguas Argentinas from public accountability. [Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
The World Bank purchases a five percent stake in Aguas Argentinas, a consortium of private water companies that took over Buenos Aires’ public water utility in 1993. As the civil society organization Public Citizen will later note, the bank’s investment makes it “a lender in, partner in, and public relations arm of their ‘model privatization project.’” The 1993 privatization of the city’s water utility had been made under pressure from the World Bank and IMF. [Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
Aguas Argentinas, a privately owned company that provides the city of Buenos Aires with its water supply, petitions the newly established government authority, ETOSS, for a rate increase of 13.5 percent. The company had previously agreed not to seek any rate increases for 10 years (see April 28, 1993). But according to Carlos Ben of Aguas Argentinas, “What was said in 1993, that there was not going to be an increase in rates for 10 years, was not meant in absolute terms. It was to indicate to the bidders that they should not put a speculative number [on rate reductions]. There was not a presumption of a freezing of rates.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003] The company also claims that it has suffered $23 million in losses because of “extra-contractual costs,” such as speeding up service in very poor neighborhoods. ETOSS, whose operations are financed through the collection of 2.6 percent of Aguas Argentinas’ revenue, approves the request on the condition that the company expedite expanding water and sewage service to the “villas de emergencia” (shanty towns), and that it implement a plan to eliminate the use of well water, which is heavily contaminated with nitrates. [Santoro, 2/6/2003; CBC News, 3/31/2004; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007] A decade later, Menahem Libhaber, the chief water and sanitation engineer for the World Bank in Latin America, will tell the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that false promises are simply part of the game. “You get into the business with low rates or high commitments—all the while telling yourself, ‘When we are in we will renegotiate,’ The public sector has to be aware,” he says, that companies are disingenuously putting their best foot forward. “Sometimes it’s a game to get into the business.… And they [the companies] have leverage once they are in.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
Wreckage of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, [Source: Reuters / Corbis]A Jewish community center called AMIA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is destroyed in a blast. The seven-story building is reduced to rubble and eighty-five people are killed. [BBC, 8/25/2003] Argentinean authorities, as well as the United States and Israel, are quick to blame Hezbollah and its backer, Iran. They accuse an Iranian diplomat of having provided a van packed with explosives to a Hezbollah suicide bomber.
Problems with Investigation - But the investigation becomes the subject of intense controversy. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner will later call it “a national disgrace.” In 2003, it will be revealed that the investigative judge offered an apparent bribe to the man accused of selling the van used in the attack in exchange for his testimony against local police officers charged with complicity in the bombing. That judge will later be impeached and removed from office and the case will collapse. [BBC, 12/3/2003; BBC, 8/3/2005]
Forensic Evidence - Critics will also argue that the forensic evidence suggests that the bomb exploded inside the building, rather than in the street. This will be the conclusion reached by Charles Hunter, an explosives expert with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) who was part of the investigation. Hunter will quickly identify “major discrepancies” between the car-bomb thesis and the blast pattern recorded in photos. A report drafted two weeks later will note that, in the wake of the bombing, merchandise in a store immediately to the right of AMIA was tightly packed against its front windows and merchandise in another shop had been blown out onto the street—suggesting that the blast came from inside rather than outside. Hunter will also say he does not understand how the building across the street could still be standing if the bomb had exploded in front of AMIA. Investigators will find no conclusive evidence against any Iranian diplomat. The US ambassador to Argentina at the time, James Cheek, will comment in a 2008 article: “To my knowledge, there was never any real evidence of [Iranian responsibility]. They never came up with anything.” [Nation, 1/18/2008] Nevertheless, in November 2007, Argentina, with strong support from the US and Israel, will successfully persuade Interpol to issue arrest warrants against several Iranian officials and one Lebanese Hezbollah militant. [Wall Street Journal, 1/15/2008]
By this date, Aguas Argentinas, the company hired in 1993 to provide water and sewer service to the residents of Buenos Aires (see April 28, 1993), has invested roughly 45 percent less ($300 million) on expanding services than required by its contract. The company blames the failure on bad debt, late payments, and a downturn in the Argentine economy. During this period, the company has been able to maintain a comfortable 20 percent profit margin. [CBC News, 3/31/2004]
Aguas Argentinas, a consortium of North American and European private water companies, announces an $800 water and sewer connection fee. The new fee is met with large scale protests, and thousands of demonstrators block the roads leading to the city (see April 1996). [Santoro, 2/6/2003; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
Residents of the suburban Buenos Aires town of Lomas de Zamora protest the new $800 water and sewage connections fees being charged by Aguas Argentinas (see Spring 1996). The movement quickly spreads and thousands of new water clients block roads into the capital. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
An Argentine congressional commission issues a report accusing Aguas Argentinas, a consortium of private water companies that took over management of the city’s water and sewer system in 1993 (see April 28, 1993), of “serious and grave” breaches of contract, failing to meet goals regarding infrastructure development, and failing to inform its regulatory body, ETOSS, of its operations. It orders the company to suspend new connection fees for 800,000 new users in Buenos Aires. [Santoro, 2/6/2003; CBC News, 3/31/2004; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
Aguas Argentinas and the regulatory body that governs it, ETOSS, come to an agreement on the controversial $800 water and sewer connection fee (see Spring 1996). The company will lower the connection fee to $200, but create a new “Universal Service” fee that all of its customers must pay. In agreeing on the fee, ETOSS essentially allows the company to impose a fee that had not been specified in the 1992 concession agreement (see December 9, 1992). An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will later point out, “The real winner was Aguas Argentinas. It had succeeded in imposing fees not described in its contract.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
Aguas Argentinas begins pushing hard for revisions to its 30-year contract to manage Buenos Aires’ water and sewer system. The World Bank, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project and has a five percent stake in it, sends Ventura Bengoechea, one of its senior water managers, to join Aguas Argentinas. The manager stays with Aguas Argentinas until a new contract is signed in 2000. During that period he remains on the World Bank’s payroll. [Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
The head of ETOSS, the regulatory agency that oversees the management of Buenos Aires’ privatized water and sewer utility, tells Congress that Aguas Argentinas has only built a third of the new pumping stations and underground mains it promised to complete by 1997. Moreover, it has only spent 9.4 million of the promised 48.9 million in improving the sewage system. Citing the supposed need for “further investigation,” the company has put off construction of the Berazategui wastewater treatment plant. As a result, sewage is being dumped into rivers and cesspools, raising nitrate levels in the water (nitrates reduce the flow of oxygen to the brain in infants) and increasing the risk of various waterborne illnesses. According to the World Bank, by delaying the project, Aguas Argentinas is saving $100,000 dollars a day. [Inter Press Service, 4/13/1993]
Aguas Argentinas, the private company that is managing Buenos Aires’ water and sewer services, asks ETOSS, a government regulatory agency, to raise water rates by 11.7 percent. When ETOSS approves only a 1.61 percent increase, the company turns to Secretary of the Environment Maria Julia Alsogaray, who then persuades President Carlos Menem to authorize a 5.1 percent rate hike. It eventually turns into a 17 percent increase. When a judge freezes a portion of the rate hike, the government successfully appeals. [Santoro, 2/6/2003] Aguas Argentinas’ original 1992 contract with Argentina had stipulated that the company could not raise rates for at least ten years (see December 9, 1992). This is the second such increase in rates (see also (Early 1994)).
Aguas Argentinas signs a new contract with Argentina for the management of Buenos Aires’ water and sewer services. In negotiating the new contract, the company enlisted the support of Argentine President Carlos Menem. Additionally, it threatened not to invest any more funds into expanding water and sewer access to poor neighborhoods until the new contract was signed. The new agreement significantly reduces the company’s obligations to Buenos Aires. The original 1992 concession agreement (see December 9, 1992) required Aguas Argentinas to invest $1.4 billion in the system, and connect more than 4,200,000 people to water and 4,800,000 to sewage systems, which the company has failed to do. While the company says it currently collects 62 percent of its customers’ sewage—just shy of its commitment of 64 percent—the actual percentage of sewage that it treats is only 5 percent. The rest is dumped untreated directly into the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver). The new contract allows the company to delay construction of the crucial Berazategui wastewater treatment plant as well as a fourth sewer main. It also eliminates the requirement that rate increases be tied to investments and waives $10 million in fines that were imposed for alleged contract violations. Additionally, the contract pegs rate increases to fluctuations in the US inflation rate, calculated in pesos. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
In the midst of a massive financial collapse, the private water company Aguas Argentinas—struggling to pay its external debts—insists that Argentina either implement a fixed peso-dollar exchange rate for its debt payments or allow it to increase water rates by 42 percent. When the Argentine government refuses, Aguas Argentinas threatens to take the country to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. The ICSID is part of the World Bank, which owns a five percent stake in the company (see (Early 1994)). Argentina attempts to block Aguas Argentinas from going to the ICSID, but France, where the consortium is based, acts to permit it. [Santoro, 2/6/2003; Public Citizen, 6/14/2007]
The Argentine government approves Aguas Argentinas’s request for another hike in water rates (see also (Early 1994) and May 1998). This time the rates increase by 9.1 percent. In exchange, the company says it will expedite its plan to spend $1.1 billion expanding services to Buenos Aires’ poorer neighborhoods. [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
A Moroccan militant in a prison in Brazil apparently makes an unheeded warning about the 9/11 attacks. Gueddan Abdel Fatah was imprisoned in January 2001 after a hold-up attempt. On September 5, 2001, he hands a letter to a lawyer named Edith Espinosa, and asks her to take copies to head of the Brazilian prison system and the US embassy. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Espinosa forgets to deliver the letter. On September 10, he sees her again and says that any warning now would be too late. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] In the letter, Fatah says, “I need to talk urgently about very important issues.” He says he intends to reveal information about militant groups that are planning attacks, and he makes reference to “two explosions” that could take place in the US. Shortly after 9/11, he will be questioned and says he was working with a group of Muslim militants in the tri-border area between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay that is a known haven for many Muslim extremist groups. One member of the group had a contact in New York City and “was constantly phoning the United States and holding coded conversations.” This member allegedly told him, “We are waiting for the United States to explode.” [BBC, 9/15/2001] Fatah claims that he visited the US consulates in Argentina and Brazil before his arrest eight months earlier and tried to pass on the warning, but no one paid attention to him. [United Press International, 10/1/2001] Both Osama bin Laden and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visited the tri-border area in previous years (see December 1995 and June 1998).
Douglas Feith suggests in a draft memo [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] that the US should consider “hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, perhaps deliberately selecting a non-al-Qaeda target like Iraq.” Other regions he proposes attacking include South America and Southeast Asia. He reasons that an initial attack against such targets would “surprise… the terrorists” and catch them off guard. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 277, 533; Newsweek, 8/8/2004] According to Newsweek, the content of Feith’s memo derives from the work of the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group (see Shortly After September 11, 2001), a project headed by Michael Maloof and David Wurmser. The group suggested that an attack on the remote Triborder region, where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet and where Iranian-backed Hezbollah is said to have a presence, would have a ripple effect among international Islamic militant groups. [Newsweek, 8/8/2004] Feith later says his memo merely expands upon ideas put forth by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a memo (see September 19, 2001) the secretary wrote the day before to Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Washington Post, 8/7/2004] The logic behind proposing strikes against targets outside of the Middle East, Feith says, was based on the need to “cast a wide net” and achieve “additional objectives,” such as creating fissures in the enemy network, highlighting “the global nature of the conflicts,” showing “seriousness of US military purpose,” and demonstrating that the “war would not be limited geographically to Afghanistan.” [Washington Post, 8/7/2004]
A 2003 report by the Center for Public Integrity finds that 10 years after the privatization of Buenos Aires’ water and sewer services (see April 28, 1993), poor neighborhoods still lack access to safe drinking water. The report cites the example of the Parravicino household, which lives in one of the poorest areas of Buenos Aires. “Mario Parravicino, who lives with his family in the dusty city of La Matanza, gets up each morning praying silently that it won’t rain. ‘When it rains it often floods and the sewage gets into everything,’ says the 60-year-old factory worker. ‘You can’t use the toilet because it backs up. It’s disgusting.’ La Matanza is among the poorest districts in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, a maze of tiny cinder-block homes wedged together along dirt roads. There are no sewers, so the rains flood its houses and septic tanks, which often overflow into wells. Boiling is the only form of water treatment, and not everyone can afford the gas to boil the water. Nitrate levels, caused by sewage contamination, are dangerously high and waterborne diseases common. In Argentina, intestinal infestations cause 20 percent of infant deaths. Across town in Laferrere, the Rusman family has the same problem. Their well is only two meters from the septic tank, and the water is often suspiciously murky after a rainfall. ‘Whenever we can we boil it before drinking,’ Alejandra Rusman explained. ‘But we don’t often have money to pay for gas.’ The local church provides drinking water to those who can’t pay for gas, but the Rusmans don’t wish to be beggars. Alejandra worries constantly about her two sons Pablo and Martin, aged 7 and 4. ‘This situation is dangerous because we forget and the boys drink this cloudy water and it makes them sick,’ she said.” The reports also notes, “A country that only 10 years earlier had Latin America’s highest standard of living was now on a level with Jamaica; half of Argentina’s 37 million people lived below the poverty level.” [Santoro, 2/6/2003]
FIFA executive committee member Julio Grondona, an Argentinian, makes disparaging remarks about Jews’ ability to referee football games. He comments, “I do not believe a Jew can ever be a referee at that level [the Argentinian first division] because it’s hard work and, you know, Jews don’t like hard work.” Grondona will not lose his position at FIFA, but will later become senior vice president of the organization. [Observer, 11/28/2010]
While in Argentina, Donald Rumsfeld gives a speech praising foreign participation in the UN mission to Haiti. Rumsfeld says that Argentina in particular is “playing a truly vital role in the multinational peacekeeping forces in Haiti.” In response to Donald Rumsfeld’s speech, sociologist Emilio Taddei denounces the UN intervention in Haiti saying that the US and France are pressuring Latin American armies to intervene. Taddei adds that “humanitarian missions are the new disguise for the old colonial invasions that served to legitimize a coup d’etat.” [Inter Press Service, 3/22/2005]
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is readying a vote on whether to recommend that the UN Security Council impose sanctions against Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration, as part of its campaign to pressure the IAEA to vote for such a recommendation, briefs the president of Ghana, along with officials from Argentina, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Nigeria, all Security Council members, on its findings on Iran’s nuclear program derived from a laptop computer that contains evidence of Iran’s nuclear experiments (see Summer 2004). The briefing, actually a slide show, contains excerpts of the documents contained on the laptop. The US also presents a “white paper” containing summaries of the findings from the documents to another group of nations; the white paper contains no classified evidence and no mention of Iran’s purported attempts to develop a missile capable of deploying a nuclear weapon, but instead uses commercial satellite photos and economic analysis to argue that Iran has no need for nuclear power and has long hidden its nuclear ambitions. The white paper was prepared by analysts from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on behalf of the State Department. The paper does contain extensive details about some of Iran’s previously hidden nuclear sites. Most foreign officials are unimpressed. “Yeah, so what?” says one European expert who heard the briefing. “How do you know what you’re shown on a slide is true given past experience?” Nevertheless, the presentation is effective; on September 24, the IAEA votes 22 to 1 to adopt a resolution against Iran, with 12 countries, including China and Russia, abstaining. The resolution cites Iran for “a long history of concealment and deception” and its repeated failure to live up to its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1970. The resolution says Iran may now be considered for sanctions by the Security Council. Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, denounces the resolution as “illegal and illogical” and the result of a “planned scenario determined by the United States.” The IAEA will decide whether to send the recommendation to the Security Council in November. It is by no means certain that the Council will adopt the recommendation, as two countries rotating onto the Council, Cuba and Syria, are almost certain to refuse to bow to US pressure. And the IAEA itself is not wholly convinced of the accuracy of the documents, given the US’s refusal to allow the agency to examine the documents. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he is bound to “follow due process, which means I need to establish the veracity, consistency, and authenticity of any intelligence, and share it with the country of concern.” In this case, ElBaradei says, “That has not happened.” [New York Times, 11/13/2005]
McClatchy reports that economies in Latin America are beginning to improve following the global financial crisis. The signs of the recovery include a “booming” construction industry in Peru, strong property sales in Peru, and expanding software companies in Chile. However, McClatchy says that the recovery in Mexico and other Central American countries is lagging behind, due to the slow recovery in the US. Prior to the global financial crash, Latin America had experienced its best five years of prosperity since the 1950s. [McClatchy Newspapers, 9/28/2009]
The tasks before the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are rolled out in the media. The number one agenda item for global leaders will be restraining financial institutions’ compensation and forcing them to clean their balance sheets to avert a duplicate of the near-meltdown of global financial systems. They will also attempt to find new methods for controlling over-the-counter derivatives markets, which are said to have augmented the global crash. The leaders are also scheduled to “increase oversight of hedge funds, credit rating agencies, and debt securitization.” Most leaders agree that it is essential to find a resolution for the huge financial imbalances in trade, savings, and consumption, all of which played a role in the global financial crisis, and ultimately may leave global economies vulnerable to future financial shocks. Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says that signs of economic recovery should not act as an excuse to avoid economic reforms. Officials of France and Germany are recommending stringent financial sector regulations, which incorporate limits on executive pay. The mandate of the G-20 is to “promote open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, which is represented by the rotating council presidency and the European Central Bank. [Reuters, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; Voice of America, 9/22/2009; G-20.org, 9/22/2009]
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. [BBC, 9/23/2009]
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