Cuba and American agribusiness

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Wed May 24 08:09:08 MDT 2000


(From A.V. Krebs' "The Agribusiness Examiner")

ELIAN GONZALES:  ADM'S TRADE "AMBASSADOR" TO CUBA?

"Any reasonably well disciplined person can refuse popcorn the first time
it's passed, those of exceptional strength can reject it the second time,
but by the third iteration only the weird or the sainted say no."

--- Sam Smith, The Progressive Review, postulating on the "popcorn
paradigm" and his publication's continued reluctance to cover the Elian
Gonzales "controversy."

Conveniently ignored in the media's countless reams of newsprint and miles
of television film relevant to the recent Elian Gonzales story is the fact
that the 6-year-old Cuban boy, who has been the center of the highly
publicized custody battle between his Cuban father and Cuban-American
relatives in Miami, may well have been nothing but a key player in an
effort by Archer Daniels Midland ("Supermarkup to the World") to gain an
immediate trade beachhead in Cuba.

When one examines some of the lesser known facts of the controversy a
curious pattern begins to emerge highly suggesting that, in the words of
Orlando [Florida] Sentinel columnist Charley Reese, "little Elian Gonzalez
has become a pawn in an international business scheme."

Based on research by the Archer Daniels Midland Shareholders Watch
Committee, in the fall of 1995, ADM's then chairman and CEO, Dwayne O.
Andreas, met with Fidel Castro for dinner in New York. In July 1996,
Andreas announced that he was going to Cuba to see Castro and contemplated
building a refinery in Cuba, but would do it through a Spanish subsidiary
because of the U.S. trade embargo.

Later, in 1997, a Spanish company invested $65 million in Cuba for a
refinery for the production of alcohol from molasses and in October 1999,
Martin Andreas, senior vice president, said ADM would consider constructing
a vegetable-oil plant in Cuba if the market were open.

Last January as the Cuban government was announcing that it was moving
toward consideration of a joint-venture type of relationship with ADM, the
company was the chief sponsor of a Healthcare Exhibition in Havana, the
largest American trade show in Cuba in decades and whose focus was on
medical and nutritional supplies. The Decatur, Illinois headquartered
company is also a hopeful participant in planning a second U.S. trade
exhibition in Havana next December, which will feature food and
agricultural products.

At the same time, several months ago in the midst of the highly charged
debate whether Elian Gonzales should be returned to his father in Cuba or
stay in Miami with relatives a meeting was arranged with the boy's
grandmothers at the home of the president of Barry University.
Coincidentally, Dwayne O. Andreas is also a large contributor to Barry
University, and his wife is a graduate and is past chairman of the board of
trustees.

In late April the Washington Post reported that the fund paying the legal
expenses for Juan Gonzalez, Elian's father, which had been coming from the
United Methodist Church's Board of Church and Society was being turned over
to the National Council of Churches. The Methodist announcement came after
the denomination's financial office decided such fund raising did not
follow rules prescribed in the Methodist policy manual.

The Methodists, through the fund, paid lawyer Gregory B. Craig and his
Washington firm, Williams & Connolly, through contributions designated for
representing Gonzales only, not for denominational programs. But many of
the church's 8.4 million members, the Post noted, especially Cuban American
Methodists in Miami, criticized the society's involvement.

It was the politically powerful law firm of Williams & Connolly who
represented ADM unsuccessfully in a price fixing suit filed against it by
the U.S. Department of Justice. ADM was subsequently fined $100 million for
its role in a world-wide scheme to fix prices in the $650 million-a-year
international lysine market and also in the citric acid market and three of
its top executives were sentenced to two years in jail and fined each
$350,000 for their part in conspiring with Japanese and Korean companies in
the fixing of said prices.

Williams & Connolly, including President Bill Clinton's personal attorney
David Kendall, is also one among several attorneys representing FOX
Television interests battling investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve
Wilson in their suit against their former employer Rupert  Murdoch's FOX 13
TV station in Tampa Bay, Florida. The couple have charged that they were
fired for refusing to broadcast statements which they considered to be
untrue about bovine growth hormone (rBGH), manufactured by  Monsanto, a
major FOX advertiser. The firm's lawyers also represented Clinton in his
1999 impeachment trail before the U.S. Senate.

The origin of the National Council of Churches role in now bankrolling
Craig, who as columnist Reese notes is "he high-priced lawyer who suddenly
materialized to represent Juan Gonzalez, who couldn't afford two seconds of
Craig's time" might well stem from the appointment last October of Andrew
Young, a current ADM board member and member of its public-policy
committee, as the new president of the National Council of Churches.

As Nicholas E. Hollis, president and chief executive officer of the
Agribusiness Council (ABC) observes "under the Internal Revenue Service
(IRS) code the tax exempt organization must report only individual
donations over a certain percentage of the total revenues and only after a
year --- by which time the heat of investigation and inquiring minds is
gone. By shuffling the pea from under one shell to another, the question of
who is actually financing Elian's father remains hidden --- and clouded to
future  investigation.  This is once again the work of the Phantom Factor
at his worst. The `Supermarkup to the World's' chairman emeritus [Dwayne O.
Andreas] must be working overtime in Miami, Washington and Decatur on this."

Aside from the April 23 Reese column and the Decatur Herald & Review's Paul
Brinkmann the media, however, has failed to report these curious
relationships between ADM, Elian Gonzales and Cuba. Brinkmann, who has
covered agribusiness on a regular basis for the Decatur paper, reportedly
was about to publish a story on May 12 making such linkages, but the story
never appeared and Brinkmann has been reassigned as a general news reporter.

"He's another casualty of the dictator Dwayne Andreas," charged ADM's
Shareholders Watch Committee David Hoech. "Shame on the paper for bending
over for ADM, and shame on the editor who made the decision to remove this
breath of fresh air in a city where the Andreas family has been the blight
of the prairie."

Efforts by The Corporate Crime Reporter's Russell Mokhiber to elicit
comments from Brinkmann concerning the paper's action were refused and the
paper's editor Peggy Bellows failed to return a call seeking comment.

=====

New York Times, May 24, 2000

U.S. Farm Groups Join Move to Ease Cuba Embargo

By LIZETTE ALVAREZ

WASHINGTON, May 23 -- Under pressure from farmers to open new markets,
Congress is considering softening the United States trade embargo against
Cuba to permit the export of food, medicine and medical products.

Powerful farm groups, sensing a swing in momentum this election year, are
pushing lawmakers to reconsider the 38-year-old embargo, arguing that it
does more harm than good. Business groups and pharmaceutical companies are
also rallying for change. The effort even got unexpected support this year
from the Elián González saga as some Americans, deluged with stories about
Cuba and Cuban-Americans, began to re-evaluate whether the United States'
cold war strategy toward the Communist island nation still made sense.

Economically, the proposed measure is largely symbolic: It specifically
rules out purchase of food using United States government credit, making it
unlikely that cash-starved Cuba would be able to buy much from American
farmers. And it does little to expand a current provision on exporting
medicine and medical products to Cuba.

The measure's true significance is political, in its newfound popularity on
the Hill among both conservatives and liberals. That marks an important
shift in Congress, indicating a growing impatience with the embargo's
failure and a desire to explore different approaches to dealing with the
government of Fidel Castro.

"I think Castro has used this scapegoat argument against the United States
for years," said Representative George R. Nethercutt Jr., a Washington
Republican who faces a tough re-election battle this year. "If we take this
argument away from him, we export not only food and medicine but also
democracy. He can't then say that America is inhumane. It works to our
advantage. We can't do any worse."

The measure, tucked inside a mammoth agriculture spending bill, was
approved by the Appropriations Committee this month. It has attracted so
many allies that it withstood an attempt by the majority whip,
Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, to strip the measure from the larger bill.

Last year, Mr. DeLay killed the measure before it could be voted on in the
House.

The provision has also cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee, and
faces little opposition there, although Senator Jesse Helms, a North
Carolina Republican and Castro foe, has expressed his displeasure. Last
year, the Senate approved a similar measure in a 70-to-30 vote.

Although the measure stands its best chance ever this year, it faces a few
hurdles in the House, where Republican leaders could still defeat the
provision by preventing an up-or-down vote on it. One hurdle, in the Rules
Committee, could come as early as this week.

Supporters say killing the language will be more difficult this year. "A
fundamental shift has occurred," said Senator Byron Dorgan, the North
Dakota Republican who wrote the Senate bill.

The measure would permit the United States to export food, medicine and
medical products to Cuba, under certain stringent conditions, which were
written into the bill to draw support.

In addition to the prohibition on use of government credit, the bill also
specifies that companies wanting to sell to Cuba would have to obtain
yearly licenses to export their products and would have to wait six months
after the law is enacted to conduct business.

Medicine and medical products are already exported to Cuba under slightly
tougher regulations. Last year, the Commerce Department approved 63
licenses to export medicine and medical products.

Although some opponents say the language is written so loosely that it
could permit bartering and private financing, many critics say the bill, if
passed, would be a hollow victory for farmers.

"It would really be a symbolic gesture," said Representative Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and Cuban-American who is fighting the
language in the bill. "I have no problem with symbolic gestures, if that
makes them happy enough, as long as they are trying not to give more money
to Fidel Castro."

Farm state lawmakers argue that the measure would provide at least some
help to constituents who have been hit hard by falling commodity prices and
a 1996 bill that revamped agriculture rules. And it would allow farmers to
position themselves in Cuba, which trades with a host of other American
allies, including Canada.

Audrae Erickson, an international trade specialist for the American Farm
Bureau, said analysts believe that the Cuban market could be worth up to $1
billion a year.

And because the provision would do little to steer money to Fidel Castro,
even some members who fiercely oppose any softening of the embargo view
this measure as a relatively harmless way to appease farm belt politicians.

"It's all driven by the farm lobby," said a senior Republican Senate aide.
"These people are running around looking for any panacea. They've convinced
themselves the solution lies in Havana."

In the House, the measure received extra support this year from the Elián
González story. The Elián story put Cuba back in the news and painted
Cuban-Americans in Miami as extreme, creating a backlash that prompted some
lawmakers to re-think American foreign policy toward Cuba.


Louis Proyect

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