The Guardian

The Guardian November 29, 2000


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Cuba offers to help US run a clean election

While the shenanigans in Florida over the counting of votes in the US ŠPresidential election were only in their second week, Cuba's Foreign 
Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, told the US media that a "reasonable" 
solution would be to hold a new election just in that state.

Like some other Third World leaders who have been on the receiving end of 
unsolicited advice from the US on how to be democratic, Roque offered to 
send Cuban observers to ensure the ballot was fair and that all those 
eligible to vote could actually get to vote.

Cuba is ideally suited to this task: their elections are visibly democratic 
and the Cuban people are deeply involved in the process.

Roque was in New York to attend the UN. He raised with the journalists the 
question of what would the US have said if the manifold complaints about 
the way the ballot was conducted in Florida "had been registered during 
elections in other countries".

I think Guardian readers can easily answer that one: if the country 
were a US ally, the State Department would say "Tut tut"; if the country 
were a US target, the President would threaten aerial bombardment while 
unleashing all the other covert and overt actions designed to bring about 
the overthrow of its government.

Good thing the United States is not a US target, eh?

* * *
Family business While on the subject of the US elections, some details of Bush Jr's antecedents have been made public, unfortunately not in time to influence the vote. At the unlikely location of the Sarasota Reading Festival, the author of Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, The Nazis and the Swiss Banks revealed — inter alia — the involvement of Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, in a Nazi-controlled bank, before and during WW2. The author is John Loftus, now the President of the Florida Holocaust Museum but formerly a prosecutor in the US Justice Department's Nazi War Crimes Unit. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Loftus told his audience that his research had found that Bush's grandfather "was a principal in the Union Banking Corporation in Manhattan in the late 1930s and the 1940s. "Leading Nazi industrialists secretly owned the bank at that time, Loftus said, and were moving money into it through a second bank in Holland even after the United States declared war on Germany." Loftus apparently did not need to point out to his audience how unlikely it would be for one of the "principals" of a bank not to know who actually owned it. Anyway, Prescott Bush would have regarded involvement with a Nazi bank as nothing more than normal business practice. Despite its Nazi connections, the Union Banking Corporation was not liquidated until 1951. As part of that dissolution, Loftus told his audience, George W Bush's grandfather and great-grandfather received $1.5 million, a lot of money in 1951. "That's where the Bush family fortune came from: It came from the Third Reich", Loftus said. The bulk of Loftus' speech was concerned with the use of Swiss banks to hide treasure looted from victims of the Nazis. He also dealt with the role of the Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy in smuggling Nazi war criminals and collaborators out of Europe after the War and into Canada, the USA, Central and South America and South Africa. (He could also have added Australia, let us not forget.) But the point of his talk was, in the words of the Sarasota Herald- Tribune, that "the World War II experience points out how easy it was then — and remains today — to hide money in multinational funds". Loftus reminded his audience that that money still flows into American politics today, from "a series of multinational corporations behaving like pirates. They don't care about ideology; they care about money."
* * *
Crash landing The Sun-Herald on November 19 devoted two pages of its Investor supplement to a spread tellingly headlined: "The writing on the wall says `recession'." The paper devoted one of the two pages to detailing all the "ominous signs" in the Australian economy that point to the onset of economic crisis. The prospects are sufficiently grim that the other page (aimed at investors, remember) was given over to ten ways to trim your personal budget, including tips as down to earth as "Take a cut lunch to work" (you'll save $5 a day or $1200 a year). Coincidentally, the International Herald Tribune ran a similar article just two days earlier. Headed "Hints of a Hard US Economic Landing", the article pointed to a recent shift on the part of "economists and policymakers" from confidently predicting a "soft landing" to rather nervously anticipating a rather "bumpy" landing that "may overshoot the runway". In a soft landing "overheated economic growth would slow, but not anywhere near enough to cause an economy shrinking recession". A hard landing may not mean a full-scale recession, but plainly won't be pleasant to endure. The International Herald Tribune quoted several Wall St pundits. Allen Sinai, an economist with Decision Economics Incorporated expects "something harder than a soft landing", while Don Hilber, a forecaster with Wells Fargo Corporation, plumped for a "rough landing", adding that it "won't be pretty". Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's chief economist, Stephen Roach, extended his prediction beyond the confines of the US, warning clients to "remain on maximum alert for a global hard landing in the first half of 2001". Their parrot-like use of the same metaphor may be amusing, but there is nothing to laugh at in their basic prediction of a rash of business failures and mass lay-offs, for it means greatly increased poverty and hard times for working-class people.

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