Sunday, June 24, 2007


To Caesar or to God?

It seems that returning relics to its original places is in vogue now. Italy will be returning the obelisque which was located in front of the FAO headquarters in Rome to Ethiopia and now there is talk about the Machu Picchu memorabilia found in Yale University being returned to Peru.

Their current owners have alleged that more people could admire the ingenuity of ancient peoples and learn about their culture in the great urban centers of the world like London, Paris, Rome and New York, but the truth is that descendants of those who made those relics cannot see and take pride of their ancestors´ works.

The Inca succumbed to Spanish conquest in the 16th century; and the explorer Hiram Bingham III stumbled into Machu Picchu during a travel in 1911 to Peru, while he was a professor of South American history in Yale. Like the stones of Machu Picchu, however, the voices of the Inca ruler and the American explorer continue to resonate., says Arthur Lubow in the New York Times on Sunday, June 24.

With the joint support of Yale and the National Geographic Society, Bingham returned twice to conduct archeological digs in Peru. In 1912, he and his team excavated Machu Picchu and shipped nearly 5,000 artifacts back to Yale. Two years later, he staged a final expedition to explore sites near Machu Picchu in the Sacred Valley.

Lubow says that the pottery of the Inca, which is mostly what Yale has on exhibit, lacks the drama and artistry of the ceramics of earlier civilizations of Peru like the Moche and Nazca.

That has not prevented, however, a bare-knuckled disagreement from developing over their rightful ownership. Peru says the Bingham objects were sent to Yale on loan and their return is long overdue. Yale demurs.

In many ways, the dispute between Yale and Peru is unlike the headline-making investigations that have impelled the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to repatriate ancient artifacts to their countries of origin.

Other countries besides Peru are demanding the recovery of cultural treasures removed by more powerful nations many years ago. The Greeks want the Parthenon marbles returned to Athens from the British Museum; the Egyptians want the same museum to surrender the Rosetta Stone and, on top of that, seek to spirit away the bust of Nefertiti from the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.

Where might it all end? One clue comes in a sweeping request from China. As a way of combating plunder of the present as well as the past, the Chinese government has asked the United States to ban the import of all Chinese art objects made before 1911. The State Department has been reviewing the Chinese request for more than two years.

In general, anything that is patrimony of the cultures of the world, whether in museums in Asia or Europe or the United States, came to be there during the times when the governments of origin were weak and there was no legal tools to defend their cultural patrimony.

It saddens Peruvians to go to museums abroad and see a Paracas textile. I am hopeful that in the future all the cultural patrimony of the world will return to its country of origin, said Hilda Vidal, a curator at the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru in Lima

A clause in the agreement authorizing the historic Bingham 1912 excavation, while not time-specific, states that Peru “reserves the right of requiring of Yale University and the National Geographic Society of the United States the restitution of single and duplicate artifacts that might be extracted and have been extracted,” as well as copies of all research papers and reports.

US current depositaries of Peruvian relics allege the ancient Peruvian history is best served by them keeping the archaeological find, but the agreement written with the government of Peru is very clear, while national sentiment is all for keeping their cultural heritage.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Fidel Castro: Reflections on the Real World

When the spokesman for the US State Department answered reporters´ queries on Fidel Castro´s TV interview on June 5, McCormack just repeated the same old transition song and the maintenance of the failed embargo policy.
In fact, the TV appearance and about ten articles published in the official newspaper Granma have not even touched the blockade issue or the half-century antagonism with the US government.
Peace-building issues are the core of these “reflections” as they have been called here. Warnings on the impact of climate change and the need to tackle the urgent issues of world hunger, AIDS, wasteful lifestyles that are rapidly conveying the world to a holocaust.
Less wishful thinking and more of the real world problems are at the forefront of his articles which advocate for severe cuts in weapons and war mongering.
Times are a´changing, man. But the White House is not aware of the change in the balance of power or the ebbing support for its Cuba policy, mainly by Agribusiness and the Oil sector.
The Cuban President´s name only rings the bell in US officials´minds to smother dissent to US policies and way of thinking, of eliminating that “bad example” set by Cuba with all its solidarity and continental expansion of health programs, now supported by Venezuela.
According to Robert Sandels of Cuba-L Analysis news service housed at the University of New Mexico, Cuba´s oil potential has put US oil giants on a collision course with the blockade policy as the global energy crisis marches on.
US agribusiness, also reined-in by sanctions and red-tape, has nevertheless done business with the island and for more than peanuts. In 2006, Cuba bought around $570 million in food from almost 30 states, in spite of burdensome and expensive regulations imposed by President Bush in 2004.
Cuba buys only about one-fifth of its food imports from its northern neighbor, turning to suppliers like Canada, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Spain and France for the rest of its needs, up to a total expected to reach $1.7 billion this year.
On the other hand, as the peak oil-horizon moves closer, Oil & Gas Review magazine warns that the struggle for oil would take place in poor countries, where the trend is toward tighter state control over their natural resources.
What is brewing then in the near future for the destitute, wars and occupation by foreign powers?
Oil & Gas predicts in a term of up to 20 years, most industrialized nations will be completely reliant on oil supplies from the Gulf states, Venezuela, Libya, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and other poor countries.
Soon after this article was published in 2005, Canadian group Sherritt International –which was already deep into nickel mining in Cuba- and its subsidiary Pebercan announced the discovery of high-quality oil in the Cuban part of the Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Zone.
The US Geological Survey estimates the oil potential of that zone at 4.6 billion barrels or more and natural gas at 9.8 trillion cubic feet.
Sherritt´s president Ian Delaney and other company officials have been punished by the Helms-Burton law by banning them and their families from entering the United States. The links between Sherritt and its Cuban counterparts, far from weakening, have tightened since then.
On June 6, acting President Raul Castro toured energy facilities east of Havana accompanied by Delaney and three Cuban ministers, in presence of who was signed an accord to put into operation phase-8 of the natural gas-producing plant of Energas (joint venture formed by Sherritt International, Cubapetroleo and the Ministry of Basic Industry) in Boca de Jaruco.
Cuba would be only too happy to open up to US investment in oil and other industries. The sanctions and restrictions come from an administration sequestered by the Miami-based mafia of hard-core exiles.
Cuba's oil potential has political, economic, and environmental implicationsfor the United States, says Sandels of Cuba-L Analysis. Legislations presented in Congress show the battle taking place concerning Cuba policy.
Instead of discouraging foreign companies, like the group of Florida Republicans has tried to do at all cost, a bill sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Rep. Larry Craig (R-ID), would free US companies to compete by exempting them from the sanctions.
The bill would allow any US citizen or resident to engage in any transactionnecessary for the exploration for and extraction of hydrocarbon resourcesfrom any portion of any foreign exclusive economic zone that is contiguousto the exclusive economic zone of the United States, as long as they are carried out at least 45 miles from the US coast.
Cuba has an energy policy whose core concept is to rely less and less on hydrocarbons and give greater space in the energy balance to renewable sources like solar, wind, tide and water. Cuba has put in place a conservation system that starts at house level and continues to the public sector and cooperative farms, by substituting incandescent lamps by fluorescent bulbs, distributing energy-saving household appliances and revamping the national power grid.
In the United States, however, there are several approaches to energy policy. While backing up the construction of six new nuclear power plants, Bush is set on an ethanol-producing race that already has pushed up the prices of corn, cereals, eggs and meat.
He is trying to convince Central and South American countries to boost corn, sugar cane and any other ethanol-producing crop so they may supply the US market with that fuel which has already doubled the price of corn and tortillas in Central America while increasing the price of land in Brazil.
In conclusion, the current US energy policy mix favors the expanded use of coal; building nuclear plants; subsidizing ethanol made from food and drilling in the US Exclusive Economic Zone, all of them goals which render no favor to nature or to future generations.

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