Adamant: Hardest metal

Mainland China plans to streamline armed forces by cutting 20% of troops

The China Post
BEIJING, Agencies
Mainland China has decided to eliminate 500,000 members of the People's Liberation Army °X about 20 percent of its force °X in an effort to turn the world's largest standing military into a streamlined, modern organization, Chinese and Western sources said.

The plan would cut the size of the army over the next five years to about 1.85 million troops, the sources said on condition of anonymity. The Chinese government spends up to US$60 billion a year on defense, comparable to Russian military expenditures, according to a report last month by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The military modernization is taking place as this country seeks to parlay its emerging economic power into greater geopolitical influence. China now has the sixth-largest economy in the world, according to the World Bank. Once confined to Asia, Chinese interests now span the seas. More than 50 percent of imported oil comes from the Middle East, and China's energy investments range from Sudan to Venezuela and Kazakhstan.

While there has been notable economic success here, military modernization has proved elusive. In late April, 70 sailors and officers died on board a submarine in the country's worst publicly acknowledged military accident. The Council on Foreign Relations report concluded that China is far from becoming a global military power and that it remains at least two decades behind the United States in military technology and ability.

Western and Chinese sources said the troop cuts were approved during the 16th Congress of the Communist Party in November and at a subsequent meeting of the Central Military Commission, the country's highest military body.

In a speech on May 23, President Hu Jintao hinted at the cuts, ordering the military to work on the development of reserve units and to find jobs for demobilized soldiers. In the speech at a meeting of the Communist Party's Politburo to study the "world's modern militaries" °X a clear reference to the United States °X Hu urged the army to carry out "developmental leaps in the modernization of national defense and the military."

Citing contacts in China's armed forces, a Western military officer said the cuts would focus on demobilizing a vast array of nonessential personnel.

Analysts liken the People's Liberation Army to a large state-owned corporation. It has its own hospitals, schools, movie studios, TV production centers, publishing houses, opera troupes, textile factories, farms and hotels. Many of these organizations are "an unnecessary drain on their resources," the Western military officer said.

Dozens of military hospitals will be put under the control of local civilian authorities, a decision that has been further influenced by the outbreak of SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, the sources said. During the initial phase of the disease's outbreak, military hospitals did not report their SARS statistics to the central government, sowing confusion about the extent of the problem. Command headquarters will be closed and military schools will be merged, the officer said.

Significantly, the demobilization, the second major troop cutback since 1997, when China also cut 500,000 soldiers, does not appear to be proceeding simultaneously with an overhaul of the military's command structure, two Chinese sources said. Newspapers in Hong Kong and Singapore have reported in recent weeks that the Chinese government was prepared to replace its Soviet-era continental command structure with a military more geared to projecting power toward Asia's sea lanes and Taiwan.

The Council on Foreign Relations report had listed that reform as a key way to gauge the pace of modernization.

However, the news reports appear to be premature, and China seems to be headed for a less ambitious tweaking of its current system, Chinese sources said. At most, China will cut the number of military regions from seven to six, merging the Jinan Military Region with the Nanjing Military Region, the sources said. The Nanjing Military Region is tasked with leading unification efforts with Taiwan, a focal point for military preparedness. The government continues to threaten Taiwan with attack if the island democracy of 23 million people declares independence.

Chinese military officers said they expect no broad structural changes in the PLA as long as former president Jiang Zemin retains control as chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Throughout the Americas, US increasingly isolated over Cuba

from the June 12, 2003 edition

By Patrick Michael Rucker | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

HAVANA – When Secretary of State Colin Powell appealed to Latin America's leaders earlier this week to help hasten the end of Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba, his message fell largely on deaf ears.

Calling Mr. Castro's government "our hemisphere's only dictatorship," Mr. Powell used an address to the annual meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Santiago, Chile, Monday to remind members that "the people of Cuba increasingly look to the OAS for help in defending their fundamental freedoms."

But during Tuesday's closing statements, even as regional leaders vowed to fight poverty, corruption, and respect for human rights, Cuba didn't even come up.

The on-again, off-again relationship between the US and its southern neighbors is reflected in the current debate - or lack thereof - over Cuba. Left-leaning populists now reside in the presidential palaces of some of South America's most influential nations, with a pro-Castro symbiosis that is now increasingly at odds with US regional policy.

Feeling neglected by the US since Sept. 11, 2001, South America's leaders are now asserting their independence over Cuba in what some analysts say could be a signal of waning US influence in the Americas.

"The Castro issue allows some to remain true to a fabled South American solidarity," says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington. "But it also exposes a region being divvied up between the United States, a superpower, and Brazil, a major regional power."

While many OAS members had registered their disapproval over a recent political crackdown that ended in the imprisonment of over 75 Cuban dissidents, the organization failed to pass a measure condemning Castro's government, despite Powell's appeal.

"Latin America seems to know better than the United States that Castro will be Castro whether one brandishes a stick or a carrot," says Bill Leogrande, dean of the school of public affairs at American University in Washington, and an expert in Cuban affairs. "If they felt that there was a plausible strategy to democratize Cuba, they would probably be supportive. But US policy has not been effective in the past, and Powell does not seem to be proposing anything new."

Some experts see the divergence between the US and much of South America as a sign of emerging divisions over the future of free trade.

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, a strong critic of Washington's Cuba policy, has emerged as a leading skeptic of US-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) - a plan to expand components of the North American Free Trade Agreement to all other countries in the region, excluding Cuba.

While many South American governments were once enthusiastic proponents of FTAA, the global economic slowdown has countries like Argentina contemplating trade protection as the only way to stabilize their economies. In his address to the OAS, Powell repeated 2005 as the target date for ratifying the FTAA, but chances of reaching an agreement by then look remote with many governments in the region still expressing deep misgivings.

"An emerging entente among Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela is raising the fundamental questions about whether neoliberal economic policy is even right for the region," Mr. Birns says. "In many ways, Castro has been asking those same questions. Many respect him for that, as they respect him for standing up to Uncle Sam for more than 40 years."

Mr. da Silva may have gained an ally in Nestor Kirchner, Argentina's newly elected, populist president. Mr. Kirchner came to office in what many here see as a backlash against the previous government and its close economic ties with the US. Kirchner has expressed misgivings about US-led economic reform, though he hosted Powell in Buenos Aires on Tuesday for a brief meeting on the last leg of the secretary of State's trip through the region.

The Cuba issue strained US-Argentine relations last year when Argentina abstained from siding with the US in condemning Cuba over human rights violations. Kirchner has been reluctant to criticize Castro as the Cuban president remains a popular revolutionary figure in Argentina. At Kirchner's inauguration two weeks ago, Castro was heralded as a hero during an impromptu address to thousands on the streets of Buenos Aires.

But if Castro is heartened by the respect he still engenders around South America, that attitude has dismayed Cuba's internal critics.

"Castro has been able to create this romantic image of the liberator who overthrew colonialism and defied the United States," acknowledges Oswaldo Payá, a leading Cuban dissident. "But anyone who looks at Cuba now should see that there are over 11 million people who want their rights. That is more important than an intellectual hypothesis or an ideology of the right or left. We appeal to them. It is right that they should show their solidarity with the cause of freedom."

U.S. excluded from OAS Human Rights Commission

SANTIAGO DE CHILE.— For the first time in the history of the Organization of American States (OAS), the United States has been left out of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which has just ended its 23rd General Assembly here.

PL comments that George Bush’s government unsuccessfully promoted Cuban-American Rafael Martínez, brother of current U.S. secretary for Housing and Urban Development Mel Martínez, for a position in that agency.

However, Washington’s nominee only received 15 out of 33 possible votes; his failure marks the first time that the IACHR has worked without a U.S. representative, informed OAS officials.

The 33 participating countries elected lawyers from Brazil, El Salvador, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Guatemalan Marta Altolaguirre, who has presided over the panel to date, was not re-elected, nor was Argentine lawyer Juan Méndez. Both have traditionally received Washington’s support.

Communism Thrives South of the Border

Phil Brennan,
Friday, June 6, 2003

While Washington’s attention is focused on the Middle East, communism and communist terrorism are threatening America's security in Latin America, where another Axis of Evil is spreading its tentacles throughout the region.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is getting credit from the Internatinal Monetary Fund and Wall Street's useful idiots for following the orthodox economic policies of former president Fernando Cardoso while plunging his nation into communism and allying himself with Fidel Castro and Castro's puppet in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

So radical is the regime under Lula that the Rio de Janeiro city council recently declared President Bush persona non grata by passing a resolution offered by Fernando Gusmao, a councilman affiliated with Brazil's Communist Party.

Brazilian-American Gerald Brant, a writer and former candidate for Brazil's congress, wrote that "anti-American sentiment has grown so high in Brazil that President Bush received a lower approval rating among Brazilians than Saddam Hussein in an opinion poll conducted during the war in Iraq by the respected IBOPE Institute. This phenomenon has some relation to the Brazilian Workers' Party's (known as PT) attitudes towards the US."

When Lula was running for the presidency, Brant reported, he covered up PT's historic radicalism, but once elected he was able to pacify Wall Street while giving itself cover to gradually renationalize formerly privatized assets. "This strategy has worked brilliantly, so far," Brant wrote.

"While Brazil's new socialist government has drawn applause from the IMF and financial circles for continuing former President Cardoso's orthodox economic policies in order to maintain bond and currency market stability, it has adopted an aggressive and nationalistic foreign policy clearly based on PT doctrine."

'Offsetting Our Losses in Eastern Europe'

Brant points his finger at Lula's foreign policy adviser, Marco Aurelio Garcia, a notorious hard-line Marxist operative and founder and executive secretary of Sao Paulo Forum, a coalition of leftist parties and revolutionary movements dedicated, Garcia says, to "offsetting our losses in Eastern Europe with our victories in Latin America."

In other words, rebuilding shattered world communism in Latin America.

A investigation has revealed that Garcia, in his role as head of Sao Paulo Forum, controls and coordinates the activities of subversives and extremists from the Rio Grande to the southernmost tip of Argentina.

This new axis of terrorism begins in Cuba, then works its way down to Colombia, financed with Venezuelan oil billions, and ends in Lula's Brazil.

In a policy dictated by Havana, Garcia has shown special interest in terrorist Manuel Marulanda Velez, a.k.a. "Tirofijo," leader of the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Every year since 1990, Garcia has made it his priority to meet with FARC. The meetings have not just taken place in Havana (with Fidel Castro himself being always present), but also in Mexico, where Marco Aurelio Garcia traveled to meet with FARC member Marco Leo Calara on Dec. 5, 2000.

What they talk about is a matter that remains behind closed doors. But every time they meet, FARC always increases its attacks in the weeks that follow, with a high cost in loss of human lives.

Brazil's foreign policy, under the guidance Garcia, will be designed in Havana. Garcia's Brazil will actively work against United States policy, starting with its policy toward Castro. "We'll attempt to eliminate the trade embargo against Cuba," he promises.

Garcia describes PT as "radical, of the left, socialist." But he is more than radical, and more to the left of mere socialists. Garcia is, in fact, a hard-line communist. He wants to revive communism.

The Communist 'Agenda Is Clear'

In an article which he wrote about Karl Marx's "The Communist Manifesto," he concluded: "The agenda is clear. If this new horizon which we search for is still called communism, it is time to re-constitute it."

Whereas Lula strives to fool the world about the true nature of his Marxist regime, Garcia makes no bones about what is going on. "We have to first give the impression that we are democrats, initially, we have to accept certain things. But that won't last."

Since Lula took power on January 1st, his government:

  • has gone back and forth on abandoning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and building nuclear weapons.
  • has gone back and forth on offering exile to Saddam Hussein.
  • has refused the Colombian government's request to consider the FARC terrorists.
  • shored up Chavez with oil shipments during the height of the Venezuelan opposition's strike.
  • declared a "strategic partnership" with communist China.
  • abandoned scientific cooperation agreements with the U.S.
  • appointed a self-defined Trotskyite and a Communist Party leader as cabinet ministers.
  • repeatedly compared Free Trade Area of the Americas to "U.S. annexation."

  • vocally supported France's anti-war efforts.

  • lobbied Chile to vote against the U.S. on the U.N. Security Council and abstained from condemning Castro's crackdown on dissidents at the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

All of these are ominous signs for the future of Latin America. As Richard Nixon once remarked, "As goes Brazil, so goes Latin America". If that's true, Latin America is headed for a communist takeover.

Brant wrote: "Lula's brand of socialism is becoming a role model for he entire region. Analysts consider Nestor Kirchner's Presidential election victory in Argentina a boon to Mercosul (the customs union between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) and a serious setback for the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) negotiations with the US."

Brant worries that "the entire South American continent may be getting off the train." Note:

  • Chavez has announced he is not going to resign peacefully despite massive Venezuelan discontent with his rule.
  • Leftist regimes are also in power in Chile and Ecuador and spreading fast.
  • In Bolivia, rebel leader Evo Morales could stage a coup or, at the very least, continue to destabilize the government.
  • In Colombia the communist FARC and ELN narco-terrorists are besieging the government.

"Fidel Castro's wildest revolutionary ambitions," warned Brant, "are being fulfilled right under the nose of the Bush administration. As Castro once said, "The US can't attack us if the rest of Latin America is in flames."

Our Leftist in Brasilia

Most shocking is the fact that elements in the Bush administration, including U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Donna Hrinak, is an ardent Lula backer, Brant reveals.

Brant says that Hrinak's sympathies for Lula's Marxist party are "so notorious that the running joke in Brasilia was to ask whether she would show up at Lula's inauguration in a red dress."

According to Brant:

  • Hrinak publicly applauded the global appeasement movement and agreed to meet with Hussein's ambassador in Brasilia at PT's suggestion, just weeks before her boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, requested that all countries expel Hussein's diplomats.
  • Hrinak recommended the U.S. provide financial assistance to Lula's flagship "Fome Zero" (Hunger Zero) social assistance program even though the PT picked a clearly anti-American slogan for the program specifically, "A nossa Guerra é contra a Fome" (Our war is against hunger).
  • When prime-time TV ads sponsored by PT and its allied parties such as PC do B (Brazilian Communist Party) and PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) attacked President Bush for his position on Iraq, Hrinak failed to defend Bush.

At home in the U.S., Brant says, Clinton leftovers such as national security adviser John Maisto seemed to be calling many of the shots on Brazil policy.

President Bush will meet with Lula at the White House on June 20.

Read more on this subject in related Hot Topics:
Bush Administration


Latin America

Editor's note:
Have an Opinion About This? Click Here to Send an URGENT PriorityGram Today

Annan welcomes agreement between government and opposition in Venezuela


30 May – Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the agreement signed between the Government of Venezuela and the opposition Coordinadora Democrática, and pledged continued United Nations support in helping the country to find peaceful solutions to its problems.

A statement issued by a UN spokesperson said the Secretary-General “urges all Venezuelans to take advantage of the opportunity that [Thursday’s] agreement provides to advance in the search for a peaceful, constitutional and electoral solution to the problems of their country.”

The statement also commended the international facilitators, particularly César Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

“The Secretary-General emphasizes that the United Nations will continue to be engaged in supporting Venezuelans as they seek peaceful solutions to resolving their differences,” the statement said.

You are not logged in