This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, is anyone out there? America’s Cuban news service, Radio and TV Marti, debates its future.
KEITH PORTER: And the surprising surge in US-Cuban trade.
JOHN KAVULICH: We are exporting more products to Cuba than we are to Poland, Austria, Hungary. It’s just remarkable.
PORTER: Plus, one man’s personal journey inside North Korea.
DR. NORBERT VOLLERTSEN: There is no running water, and it’s all dirty, old fashioned. They do not have any material, they do not have any disinfection, no bandage material, no anesthesia, nothing.
MCHUGH: More after this.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: A debate is underway in Washington over the future of American radio and television broadcasts to communist Cuba. Radio Marti transmitted its first program to the island in May 1985 from its studios in Washington, DC. Now, 17 years later, the service is on the air twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and there is also a television station, TV Marti, which began broadcasting in 1990.
PORTER: Those behind Radio and TV Marti claim they provide a vital source of unbiased news and information to the Cuban people, but critics say they’re ineffective and a waste of money. US lawmakers recently held hearings on Capitol Hill into the issue of broadcasts to Cuba. Steve Mort reports from Washington on a subject that’s inflaming passions on both sides of the debate.
[The sounds of Radio Marti.]
STEVE MORT: Radio Marti, now broadcasting a mix of news, music, features, and analysis from its studios in Miami, is virtually the only source of information available to Cubans other than official government broadcasts. The station employs 108 people and its budget this year is $15 million.
JOE O’CONNELL: After Radio Marti, there’s more information, Cubans know more about what’s happening in the world. They know more about their own government and their own lack of freedoms.
MORT: Joe O’Connell is the Director of External Affairs for the US government’s International Broadcasting Bureau which was established when President Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act of 1994. The bureau oversees the day-to-day operations of Radio and TV Marti. O’Connell says the services have broad, but important goals.
O’CONNELL: I think the principle objectives of Radio and TV Marti are to provide the people of Cuba with uncensored, straight information about Cuba itself and about Cuba in the world and about the United States and about the larger world, to sort of reach over the Cuban government and try to reach the people of Cuba directly, particularly with our support of freedom and democracy on the island.
MORT: Radio Marti was the result of three years of bipartisan efforts in the US Congress that resulted in the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1983.
[The sounds of Radio Marti.]
MORT: Now, having moved its operations from Washington to Miami, it broadcasts hourly newscasts in Spanish and even transmits President Bush’s weekly radio addresses. Supporters say it’s not just a source of objective information, but also a lifeline for the people of Cuba. Ambassador Dennis Hays is the Executive Vice President of the Cuban American National Foundation—and former Coordinator for Cuban Affairs at the State Department. He says Radio and TV Marti could potentially do even more than just provide news to the island.
DENNIS HAYS: One thing that we’re very concerned about obviously, is there might be another wave of migration. And we know from previous times that there’s great loss of life when that happens. People push out on the rafts in bad weather and in very flimsily constructed boats. So, again, being able to get a message in and tell people accurate, timely information can save lives, in addition to helping move things forward through the transition.
MORT: In 1990, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting was established, and with it TV Marti. And it’s the television operation that has attracted the most criticism. The government of Fidel Castro spends millions of dollars a year jamming the signals of Radio and TV Marti in order to prevent people seeing them. This has prompted claims that the US is throwing money down the drain—nearly $10 million this year in the case of TV Marti—paying for a service that nobody sees.
US REPRESENTATIVE JEFF FLAKE: We’ve spent over $150 million on Television Marti, and there’s no evidence that any Cuban has ever watched a minute of it.
MORT: Republican Representative for Arizona, Jeff Flake, a member of the House Subcommittee on International Relations and Human Rights, which recently held a hearing on the effectiveness of broadcasts to Cuba, is one of the services’ most vocal critics.
FLAKE: That’s a huge waste of resources. Now those who say we ought to continue it, part of the reason they say is if we stop, then Fidel Castro will claim victory. Now, my guess is he laughs himself to sleep every night knowing that we’re spending over $10 or $11 million a year broadcasting a signal that nobody sees. How this would give him a victory that he doesn’t already have, I don’t know.
MORT: But Joe O’Connell from the International Broadcasting Bureau says the fact that the Cuban government tries to block the US signals proves it has something to fear.
[The sounds of Radio Marti.]
MORT: In fact the IBB claims Radio Marti is one of the most popular radio stations in Cuba. But that’s disputed by Congressman Flake, who says the station has suffered since its move from Washington to Miami. He says at that point it effectively became a mouthpiece for the Cuban-American community. He believes the base for US broadcasts to Cuba should be returned to the nation’s capital.
FLAKE: The content is simply so bad. It’s become so stridently anti-Castro; not that anything said isn’t true, it’s simply the Cubans have heard it before, they’re living it. They want an unbiased source of news and they’re not getting it, and so they’re tuning out.
MORT: But many say the Martis should be the voice of American public diplomacy, and an anti-Castro slant to programming is the only way to increase US influence on the island.
[The sound of Radio Marti.]
MORT: Radio Marti has also been come under fire for failing to target a young audience. In fact, Congressman Flake says the station’s entertainment programming alienates the younger set.
FLAKE: Radio Marti airs a lot of nostalgia programs from the 1950s. Most Cubans weren’t born in the 1950s and those that were that remain in Cuba don’t have particularly fond memories. It wasn’t exactly a wonderful regime in place. They want something better. They’re looking forward, not backward.
MORT: But the station’s managers like Joe O’Connell say things are improving. He says the Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Salvador Loew, is looking at ways of extending the reach of the broadcasts.
O’CONNELL: He’s committed to change and to broadening the appeal of the programming. He’s increased the content of news, the amount of news. He said recently he’s doubled it from 2-and-a-half to 5 hours a day of pure news as opposed to other forms of public affairs programming.
MORT: With relations between the United States and Cuba very much in the public spotlight since former President Jimmy Carter’s recent visit to the island, the issue of Radio and TV Marti is again attracting a lot of attention in Washington. Many lawmakers are calling for money earmarked for TV Marti to be shifted to the radio station which has a greater reach. Others are demanding a shake up in the both stations’ programming and others want both services to be scrapped. Those who run the broadcasts to Cuba say crucial changes are being made, including the introduction of new prime time TV transmissions. For now the government appears to believe that the broadcasts are an important part of America’s public diplomacy campaign in the last communist nation in the western hemisphere. For Common Ground, I’m Steve Mort.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
PORTER: Corn from the Midwest, peas from the Dakotas, chickens from Arkansas, and apples from Washington state—these and other American agricultural products are now being served in homes all across Cuba. Just two years ago Cuba ranked dead last among all countries in purchases of goods from the United States. But there’s been a surprising surge in US-Cuban trade. To learn more, I spoke with John Kavulich, President of the US-Cuban Trade and Economic Council, an independent business group based in New York.
JOHN KAVULICH: It was a rather remarkable discovery. We went and looked at the Foreign Agricultural Service statistics of the United States Department of Agriculture for the 180 countries that US companies export agricultural products to. And in the year 2000—because there wasn’t any activity—Cuba ranked 180 of 180. In 2001, simply because of approximately $4 million in ag product exports going to Cuba during the month of December alone, Cuba moved up to 138th. And for 2002 Cuba has already contracted for about $92 million in agricultural products. If they bought nothing else for the remainder of the year they move up to about 64th place. And if they hit the $100 million mark, which they expect to do, they could move up into 50, 52nd, 53rd place. And what’s so incredible about that is we are exporting more products to Cuba than we are to Poland, Austria, Hungary. It’s just remarkable.
PORTER: You mentioned a change in 2001 that took us from making them 180 on the list up to the, to the mid-100s and into the 50s and 60s. What was the change in 2001 that allowed those goods to flow to Cuba?
KAVULICH: In October of 2000 the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, known as TISREEA, was signed into law. What that did was reauthorize the direct sale of food products and agricultural products from the United States to Cuba. The Cuban government announced that they were not going to buy anything because they felt that there were restrictions: the sales had to be made on a cash basis; there could be no financing obtained from US banks or US companies; and there were licensing requirements. And the Cuban government felt it was discriminatory and they said, “We’re not gonna buy anything.” So, through 2001 there wasn’t a lot of activity. People were disappointed with the government of Cuba.
In November of 2001 Hurricane Michelle hit Cuba and it caused a lot of devastation. Five people were killed. The Cuban government said at that moment, “Okay, we’re not gonna change our policy. But this is a one-time aberration in that we’ve had an impact upon our inventories of agricultural commodities, so we’re going to buy them from the US under the TISREEA terms.”
Most of us felt that this was going to be a one-off. And the Cuban government said, “Don’t expect anything else.” Well, quickly Cuba began to expand its constituency. And then when Cuba made the purchases in December, which were about $4.3 million—the first sale was Archer Daniels Midland with about 30,000 metric tons of corn, which they in turn sourced from nine different states. Of course now you have nine governors involved, 18 senators, multiple members of the House. I think the Cuban government quickly found that providing economic value to a desired constituency provides far more immediate and sustained value than does giving them rhetoric. And now, seven months later, the Cuban government will have purchased about $104 million worth of agricultural products on a cash basis from US companies. The companies that have sold the products—about 22 of them thus far—have in turn sourced those products from 28 states.
Now, what’s interesting there is those 28 states represent 66 percent of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and 56 percent of the United States Senate come from states sourcing product to Cuba. So, this is probably the best money that the Cuban government has ever spent.
PORTER: Where does Cuba get the money to pay for these imports?
KAVULICH: In 2001 Cuba purchased about $750 million in agricultural products worldwide. Primarily they source their commodities from those countries where governments provide credit guarantees or companies provide financing. For example, they import rice from Vietnam and China. From Vietnam, the Vietnamese government gives Cuba up to 360 days to pay for it. But the government does use revenues, whether it’s from tourism, whether it’s from their other exports—nickel, etc.—to make purchases on a cash basis. Although not a lot. Quite frankly, everyone involved in the Cuba issue has been pleasantly shocked that they are dedicating $100 million plus in the last seven months to purchase products from the United States, knowing as we do their chronic shortage of foreign exchange. Now the reality is, some of their existing suppliers are not getting paid on time.
PORTER: There are certainly a lot of concerns about human rights in Cuba—lack of political freedom, religious freedom. Are you at all concerned that this trade arrangement helps to perpetuate an unjust system?
KAVULICH: Well, as an organization we take no positions on US-Cuba political relations. With your comments in mind though, no one has ever said that US companies would go into any country, including Cuba, and be agents of the status quo. Companies always want to be catalysts for change. Because it’s in companies’ interests that governments provide more opportunities for their people so that those people can in turn provide greater opportunity for themselves. And hopefully increase their ability to earn foreign exchange, which will help them not only gain a better quality of life for themselves, but hopefully want to import more products from the United States.
PORTER: Just one last question for you. When the US-Cuban relationship someday is normalized, what’s the ultimate potential for US-Cuban trade?
KAVULICH: Cuba has a population of 11.2 million. So it’s about the same size as the state of Illinois. Of course, they don’t have the purchasing power of the people of the state of Illinois, but this is a big country. It’s the largest country in the Caribbean. The potential for US agricultural products to Cuba could range from the $100 million they are now to half a billion to $1 billion or more. But what oftentimes happens is people simply focus on if US policy changes toward Cuba, then we could do this. It’s also about what Cuba does. If Cuba doesn’t have the ability to pay for imports, it doesn’t matter what we do. If we allow financing, they still have to be able to pay it all back. So there is a limit and until Cuba makes commercial and economic changes there’s going to be a limit upon the value of US exports to Cuba.
PORTER: That is John Kavulich, President of the US-Cuban Trade and Economic Council. Kavulich says economic ties between the US and Cuba are likely to continue expanding. Later this year scores of American businesses will participate in the first ever US food and agribusiness exhibition in Havana.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
PORTER: North Korea is characterized in the West in two ways—as a repressive Stalinist regime that supports terrorism, and as a country wracked by famine where most of the population lives in dire poverty. But relatively few westerners have seen the country first hand. One of the few is Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor whose experiences in North Korea led him to take extreme actions. Judith Smelser has his story.
DR. NORBERT VOLLERTSEN: Inspiration was simply curiosity. I wanted to know something about North Korea, because in Germany there is nothing known about North Korea. There’s no travel guide available, no photo picture books.
JUDITH SMELSER: Dr. Norbert Vollersten’s experiences in North Korea went far beyond any picture book. He first set foot in the country in 1999, working as a humanitarian aid doctor with a small German NGO. He traveled to hospitals around the country doing emergency surgery and delivering supplies—and what he saw there changed his life.
VOLLERTSEN: There is no running water, and it’s all dirty, old fashioned. They do not have any material, they do not have any disinfection, no bandage material, no anesthesia, nothing. And when there’s an emergency case, like an appendicitis or whatever, and they’re doing an appendectomy, they’re doing this without any anesthesia, without any disinfection, without any soap. They do not have any soap to clean their hands in front of the operation.
SMELSER: At one hospital he visited, he found the staff had lined up to donate their own skin to a patient who’d been burned beyond recognition. In hopes of building trust, Dr. Vollertsen and one of his colleagues decided to give their skin as well. Little did they know that act of generosity would end up attracting the attention of the state media and catapulting them into North Korea’s limelight.
VOLLERTSEN: They made a real propaganda show out of that, and because there is only one TV channel in North Korea, it was broadcasted on the main prime time news in the evening, so afterwards, we became real prominent. We became nearly VIPs because in every shop, in every hotel, every hospital, they recognized, “Ah, these are the two togi seram (foreigners) who gave their skin.”
SMELSER: Their new celebrity status soon translated into real advantages, including a government medal, a VIP passport, and most importantly, a private drivers license. Suddenly, they could travel the country without supervision, and Dr. Vollertsen took full advantage of the rare opportunity. He put almost 45,000 miles on his car, visiting kindergartens, orphanages, and of course, more hospitals.
[The sounds of a hospital]
VOLLERTSEN: I think the main thing what I discovered was the huge difference between the nice lifestyle of the elite in Pyongyang, in the capital city, where they’re enjoying food and fashionable diplomatic shops, casinos, and restaurants. In the countryside, the people were starving; they were literally dying under my hands. I saw so many little children dying.
[The sound of children crying.]
SMELSER: He took stacks of pictures and shot over an hour of video from underequipped hospitals where emaciated boys and girls are hooked up to IVs crudely fashioned from beer bottles. Their gaunt faces stare listlessly into a bleak and probably short future. Dr. Vollertsen is not the only one who’s seen these conditions. His descriptions are echoed by others who’ve worked in the country, like United Nations worker and academic Hazel Smith.
HAZEL SMITH: I’ve been to hospitals and clinics and schools and nurseries and kindergartens and orphanages all round the country over the past few years. And the lack of inputs, ranging from soap and disinfectants to heating and electricity and food, is everywhere.
SMELSER: Smith agrees with Vollertsen that North Korean doctors are well trained and competent, but that their hands are tied by the complete lack of materials there. Dr. Vollertsen felt that frustration himself, realizing there was little he could do for his patients medically. But he became more and more determined to find some way to improve their plight.
VOLLERTSEN: I was really shocked, and I was so moved, and when I looked into their eyes, and they were so sad, and so I felt like crying. And I thought, “I have to keep my promise with those children. I have to, you know, do something.”
SMELSER: What he did was to embark on a die-hard campaign to let the world see what he’d seen during his time in North Korea. He started by giving unauthorized tours to western journalists who came to cover visits by foreign dignitaries. Then he began giving statements to the dignitaries themselves, describing the human rights violations he’d observed. Not surprisingly, his standing with the North Korean authorities took a nose-dive. Just a year and a half after he first arrived in the country, he was forced to leave. But his crusade was only just beginning—and so was his education.
VOLLERTSEN: I realized that I was an idiot. I do not know nothing about North Korea. Despite all my access in North Korea—I traveled around so many times—I got access to the high elite, I got access to all my patients. I learned I do not know nothing about the reality of North Korea. And this I learned after I was expelled. When I was in Seoul, I learned about all those refugees who are hiding at the Chinese-North Korean border.
SMELSER: From the refugees he heard stories of political prisoners and even rumors of concentration camps. Whether these stories were true or not, Dr. Vollertsen felt a special duty to report them.
VOLLERTSEN: We Germans—you know about history—we were accused that we kept silent when there were the first rumors about concentration camps in Nazi Germany. And we were accused that we failed to act when there were some rumors about Jews who were killed in Auschwitz, and so. And so I think it’s my duty to pay back to history.
[The sounds of Dr. Vollertsen testifying at a hearing on Capitol Hill.]
SMELSER: His quest to pay that debt took him to Capitol Hill recently for a hearing on human rights in North Korea. He’s determined to make people listen to his story—and on this occasion, he felt there weren’t quite enough listeners.
VOLLERTSEN: [testifying before Congress] Unfortunately, most of the people are gone to lunch. Maybe that’s one of the most problems of North Korea. Here are now the eyewitness of human rights violations in North Korea, but there’s nearly nobody who can listen. There’s nearly no more attention. Unfortunately, even some of the Congressmen are gone!
SMELSER: For Dr. Vollertsen, attention is the name of the game. With his shock of blond hair and his boundless energy, he’s hard to ignore… But just to make sure, he’s taken his crusade beyond the quiet halls of Congress and onto the streets of Beijing. Earlier this year, he led a group of North Korean asylum seekers in an invasion of the Spanish embassy there.
VOLLERTSEN: It created a breaking news story, and we got some attention for some North Korean human rights issues, and I think there was a lot of inspiration for North Korean refugees to do it in the same way, and that was our intention.
SMELSER: The incident has touched off a series of similar invasions of embassies and consulates in Beijing, and there have been serious consequences. China has now clamped down on its border with North Korea, meaning North Koreans can no longer travel to China when food supplies at home get dangerously low. UN worker Hazel Smith says Dr. Vollertsen’s heart is in the right place but that he didn’t consider the full ramifications of his actions.
SMITH: With the invasions of these embassies and consulates, both sides—China and North Korea—have felt that they’ve been humiliated internationally, that their sovereignty has been called into question, and so have closed the borders. That means that several hundred thousand people don’t have access to food. So for the sake of political theater and a couple of families getting into Seoul, this has been at the expense of many people suffering and probably dying.
SMELSER: Indeed, Dr. Vollertsen’s methods have opened him up to plenty of criticism. Some in the humanitarian community think he’s too self-promoting, saying aid workers can help more people by keeping their heads down and staying out of the public eye. Hazel Smith says it’s important to weigh the need for political reform against the need to simply keep people alive.
SMITH: Human rights include the right to eat and the right to survive, as well as the right to take part in elections. And in the DPRK at the moment, the need is so severe to simply survive, through having enough food and through having basic inputs which will stop people dying, for instance basic medicines, that’s an absolute priority need. Dead people can’t vote in elections.
[The sound of children]
SMELSER: But Dr. Vollertsen believes handing out food and medicine just doesn’t go far enough for the ailing children he tried to treat.
VOLLERTSEN: You can’t cure it by simple medicine. What shall I do? Shall I make a prescription about anti-depressiva? Shall I give an IV with anti-depressiva? I have to change the political system. Because this is not a natural disaster, this is a man-made disaster because of the North Korean government, and they are responsible for the condition of those children.
SMELSER: It’s a big job for one person to take on, but Dr. Vollertsen is tackling it the only way he knows how. He crisscrosses the globe, from Washington to Seoul to Beijing, telling his story, handing out his illicit photos, and planning protests. He flashes a mischievous smile as he hints at more “crazy ideas” up his sleeve—all in hopes of making up for old sins and preventing new ones. For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.
MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, chaos in Central Asia.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EDUARD SHEVARNADZE: [via a translator] We are waging a serious fight against terrorists in Georgia and I sincerely hope that our American friends will continue to provide their technical assistance and their advice.
MCHUGH: Plus, Angola’s peace plan.
LUKAMBA PAULO GATO: And we must change the culture of violence into one of dialogue and cooperation.
MCHUGH: And, Ecuador’s modern folk singer.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
PORTER: Since the start of the US-led anti-terrorism campaign, American and coalition troops have established presence not only in Afghanistan, but also in the countries surrounding it. Nearly overnight, the United States developed friendly relations with several Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Union. Now, the US is slowly taking a large share of influence in this region from Russia. Anya Ardayeva reports from Moscow.
[The sound of Muslim calls to prayer.]
ANYA ARDAYEVA: Muslim call to prayer sounds out over downtown Dushanbe, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan. Nearly 5,000 miles from Moscow, the now independent Central Asian republic is forging a new and unexpected relationship with the United States. In the months since September 11th, Tajikistan and its neighbors—Georgia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgzystan—have suddenly found themselves in the spotlight. The United States expressed interest in establishing friendly ties with these countries since Tajikistan and Uzbekistan share a border with Afghanistan, and the other two are also close. But diplomacy here is tricky because these central Asian states have long been considered part of Russia’s sphere of influence, having close military and economic ties with Moscow, left since the Soviet Union. On a recent visit to Central Asia, US Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld said the US is eager to establish a presence in countries where it has not been able to do so in the past.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFIELD: [Departing Ireland, speaking on the plane] I have felt since September 11 that it was important to see that we dealt with the war on terrorism, but also I have felt that the events of September 11 have shifted the priorities for an awful lot of countries in the world and their perspectives about the United States and about the problems of the world. And it does offer an opportunity, it seems to me, for us to reconnect with those countries in this new circumstance.
[The sounds of Secretary Rumsfeld being introduced to US troops in Uzbekistan.]
ARDAYEVA: Mr. Rumsfeld has met with American servicemen in Kyrgzystan and Uzbekistan, which has the biggest US presence at the moment. Uzbekistan has also suffered from terrorist activities by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 1999—a group, included in the White House list of terrorist organizations. Tashkent allowed the US to use its air base in the town of Khanabad. Almost 1,200 servicemen are stationed there for what looks like an indefinite period of time. Dmitri Trenin at Moscow’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explains why the US government has decided to shift its priorities toward countries which were virtually unknown to the American public before September 11.
DMITRI TRENIN: I think that the US will value those bases both for their immediate validity in the struggle against international terrorism in Afghanistan and also because they provide an advantageous position to help solidify the situation in Central Asia. And then, who knows what happens to Pakistan in the medium-term future; who knows what happens to Saudi Arabia, who knows what happens to US bases in the Persian Gulf. So as a backup, Central Asia could be very useful.
ARDAYEVA: And the US have turned their attention to Central Asia at a critical time for these countries; their economies have fallen apart since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the majority of their population lives in poverty. US financial aid to Uzbekistan tripled this year to $160 million. Other nations have also received aid, or at least promises of it, in exchange for cooperation.
[The sounds of Georgian singing.]
ARDAYEVA: Georgia, a small mountainous country which has seen its share of war and social turmoil since gaining independence, clearly wants closer ties with the West. There are about 150 American instructors stationed there at the moment training Georgian military personnel to face possible terrorist attacks. They are located not far from Pankisi Gorge, known as “no man’s land,” where some of the world’s most notorious terrorists are believed to be hiding. Georgia’s long-time President Eduard Shevarnadze, as well as the American Defense Secretary, are using very warm words to describe their relations.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT EDUARD SHEVARNADZE: [via a translator] The United States has provided crucial assistance in building Georgia’s armed forces, as well as border guard patrols, and in many other areas, too. This is, in fact, a very long-term cooperation, a program, which is already in place. We are waging a serious fight against terrorists in Georgia and I sincerely hope that our American friends will continue to provide their technical assistance and their advice as well as other means to enhance our ability to counter terrorism here.
ARDAYEVA: Russia’s relationship with Georgia has seen its ups and downs recently. While Georgians accuse Russia of giving little respect to the country’s sovereignty by keeping relations with Georgia’s breakaway Abkhasian province, Russians say Georgia provides safe haven to Chechen terrorists. And these ongoing disputes are forcing Georgia to look for a more reliable partner.
RUMSFIELD: The United States values highly the relationship with this country. We recognize that it’s on a historic transition towards freer economic and freer political systems. And that that is a difficult transition for any country. And that there is no doubt, but that it will be in the best interests of the people of Georgia as they succeed. And it’s very much in the interests of people of the United States to see that Georgia succeeds.
ARDAYEVA: Such plans for long-term friendship in Georgia and Central Asia is starting to alarm Russia, which has so far promised support in the American fight against terrorists. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says his country will seek to put some limits on the American military presence in Central Asia. “In the dialogue with the United States, we now and in the future are going to seek maximum transparency of their military activities in the region and time limits of their military presence,” he says. But Dmitri Trenin says Russia has no choice but to put up with the American presence.
TRENIN: Well, first of all, what’s the alternative? Suppose Russia decided to prevent Americans from gaining ground in Central Asia. Islam Karimov, the Uzbek president, would have loved to use it, to use the occasion to tell Moscow in no uncertain terms that Uzbekistan is no longer under Moscow’s tutelage. That decisions about Uzbekistan are not made in Moscow any longer.
[The sounds of a busy market in Tashkent.]
ARDAYEVA: But they are unlikely to be made in the US, either. Most of the countries Washington is developing relations with, especially Uzbekistan, have very strong authoritarian leaders, whose policies have changed very little since the Soviet times and can hardly be called democratic. With the vast majority of people in these countries living in poverty, that still poses a strong threat to long-term stability in the region. For Common Ground Radio, I’m Anya Ardayeva, in Moscow.
PORTER: Angola’s future, next on Common Ground. And later, South American folk music, with a modern twist.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
MCHUGH: In 1975 Angola gained independence from Portugal and a new government was established. But this government broke down, and as a result Angola slid into civil war which raged for almost 30 years.
PORTER: In April, a cease fire was agreed between the government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known as UNITA, after the death of its leader, Jonas Savimbi. Now, the United States government is urging Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos to capitalize on Savimbi’s death. Vicky Ford has more.
VICKY FORD: As the charismatic leader of rebel group UNITA, Jonas Savimbi once received the support of the United States.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Each of us joins in saluting the heroes of the Lumba River and their leader, the hope of Angola, Jonas Savimbi. [applause]
FORD: Speaking in 1986, former US President Ronald Reagan, treated the rebel leader as a bulwark against Communism and one of the continent’s emerging democrats. The first President George Bush also gave his support to Jonas Savimbi, with the US accused of turning a blind eye to UNITA’s violent excesses. However, since the signing of the 1994 Lusaka accords, Washington slowly turned against its former protégé, accusing Savimbi of being a significant stumbling block on the road to peace, and of trafficking in so-called conflicts diamonds, which the US now says were used in part to finance global terrorism. His death, at the hands of the Angolan army, sparked calls by the US for peace to be restored. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
RICHARD BOUCHER: The death of the UNITA leader is yet another casualty in a war that should have ended long ago. We call on both sides in conjunction with peaceful opposition, civil sectors, and the international community, to fulfill their obligations to bring peace to the Angolan people.
FORD: The last time elections were held in Angola was in 1992, when Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s ruling party—the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola—was victorious, following a peace deal signed a year earlier. But UNITA rebels, led by Savimbi, accused the government of electoral fraud, ended a cease-fire and returned to the bush to restart the civil war. Since the rebel leader’s death, both sides have held peace talks and signed an agreement to end the hostilities. US President George Bush met with President dos Santos shortly after Savimbi’s death. The Angolan leader, speaking through a translator, vowed to push for peace, saying speedy and firm resolution of the immediate consequences of the war were the country’s top priorities.
JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOSE: [via a translator] The government has the responsibility to keep the peace and security and this is our responsibility of any government in the world.
FORD: But such a task is not easy.
[The sound of refugee children crying.]
FORD: Thousands of people are returning to Angola following the cease-fire agreement, while the number of rebel UNITA soldiers and their families entering quartering camps where they will be demilitarized has caught the government and aid agencies by surprise. Officials are warning that Angola is facing the worst humanitarian disaster in Africa since the devastating Sudanese famine in 1998. Georges Chicoti, Vice Minister of External Relations of Angola says there is an enormous challenge ahead.
GEORGES CHICOTI: Angola faces an ongoing situation as a consequence of the war. We do have 4 million people who are displaced from their original homes and all those people still need help from the international community. We do have another 150,000 orphans and thousands of other victims of war.
FORD: There are high hopes that Angola can get through this crisis, and peace can be achieved and maintained with the rebel group itself saying it decided to seize the moment, undergoing a transformation, when Savimbi died. Lukamba Paulo Gato, Chairman of the Managing Commission of UNITA, says they need to move past military issues.
LUKAMBO PAULO GATO: We must adopt politics of inclusion, and we must change the culture of violence into one of dialogue and cooperation. To this end the political space for opposition parties and of their capacity to intervene must be reinforced. The civil society whose efforts were crucial in recent years must be encouraged.
FORD: The United States is providing around $75 million of aid to Angola this year. Walter Kansteiner, US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, says the Angolan government must be helped with the humanitarian crisis in the short term, but further afield it must learn to help itself.
WALTER KANSTEINER: The mid- to long-term, of course, is the economic reconstruction of the country. Tremendous wealth potential, agriculture potential, obviously the oil potential. We need to encourage the Angolan government and help the Angolan government structure their economy in such a way that they can take full advantage of this natural wealth.
FORD: Some argue that after his father’s steadfast support for Jonas Savimbi, today’s President Bush is in no position to dictate Angola’s future. But US officials say he will push for peace in the region, confident Savimbi’s death and the cease fire agreement will provide peace and security for a nation wracked by years of civil war. For Common Ground, I’m Vicky Ford in Washington.
PORTER: Coming up, Jaime Guevara, Ecuador’s Woody Guthrie.
MCHUGH: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
Listen to This Segment: MP3
PORTER: Singer-songwriter Jaime Guevara is a household name in Ecuador, where his gravelly voice and razor sharp lyrics have made him popular among young and old. He admires political folk singers like Woody Guthrie, but he uses contemporary music to tell his story. Reese Erlich met Guevara in Quito.
REESE ERLICH: Like many teenagers Jaime Guevara grew up listening to rock and roll. Nothing unusual about that except he was living in Ecuador, where some people thought rock was an imperialist import aimed at undercutting local music. But Guevara never believed that.
[The sound of Guevara singing.]
JAIME GUEVARA: [via a translator] When I was a teenager, I was very independent in what I listened to. The first rock group I heard on the radio was The Beatles. By the 1970s, I was listening to groups like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all the sounds from Woodstock. For me, the Woodstock music festival was like an evangelical experience.
[The sound of Guevara singing.]
GUEVARA: [via a translator] Little by little I developed a close following of young people who really liked rock. I was one of the first people to sing rock in Spanish here. Others were singing in English or phony English. I translated songs into Spanish and wrote songs about the problems here. These are our songs.
[The sound of Guevara singing.]
ERLICH: Guevara ends this song, “Loco and Rock & Roll,” by writing “remember Rock and Rock is your invitation to rebellion.”
[The sound of Guevara singing.]
ERLICH: For Guevara, rebellion means more than growing long hair and wearing grungy jeans. He had a political awakening in the 1970s when a fellow musician invited him to sing at a workers protest rally.
GUEVARA: [via a translator] My friend said we shouldn’t just sing at rock festivals. The workers will like our music, my friend said. We went to a poor neighborhood where the demonstration was getting very militant. The tear gas bombs were going off—boom, boom. The crowd dispersed. But we stopped to sing at another street corner, and a new group of people came around to listen. We became very close to the popular movement for workers’ rights.
[The sound of Guevara playing.]
ERLICH: Guevara combines Latin America’s Nueva Trova, or New Troubadour, style of protest music from the 1980s with rock, jazz, and anything else that tickles his fancy. In this song, “Down with High Prices,” he champions the plight of those stuck with high inflation. But he combines rock riffs with Nueva Trova lyrics.
[The sound of Guevara singing.]
In Ecuador left wing protest songs aren’t limited to a few folk singers. In fact, says Guevara, people in the US might be surprised by the role reversal among Ecuadoran musicians. At many rock festivals, rock bands put up pictures of Che Guevara or Ecuadoran Indian leaders. The folk groups unfortunately are a bit conformist. They don’t like to sing about politics. The rock groups sing protest songs.
[The sound of Guevara singing at a rally.]
ERLICH: While he has become one of the best known musicians in Ecuador, Jaime Guevara is still available on short notice to sing at protest rallies. In Quito, he recently led a group of young people in singing a song protesting the construction of a new oil pipeline that critics say will be an environmental disaster in the country’s Amazon forests.
GUEVARA: [via a translator] Around the world, people call young people Generation X, saying they don’t have any political ideals. But thankfully, that’s not true here in Ecuador. They have their own struggles.
ERLICH: Jaime Guevara has become adept at singing rock, Nueva Trova and blues. But his real inspiration is 1930s American folk singer Woody Guthrie. He offers this translation of a rather well known Guthrie hit.
[The sound of Guevara singing his version of This Land Is Your Land, in Spanish.]
ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in Quito, Ecuador.
ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is made possible by the Stanley Foundation. The Stanley Foundation promotes public understanding, constructive dialogue, and cooperative action on critical international issues.
Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security