<em>Guest Post by Patrick Doherty</em>: Bill Richardson: The Anti-Gutierrez?


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I just heard that Matt Cooper commented on MSNBC Live that Secretary of Commerce-designate Bill Richardson is the guy to lead on Cuba. I think Cooper nailed it–the outgoing governor of New Mexico it is a natural fit with an elegant dash of poetic justice rarely found in Washington.
Richardson, many will remember, was famous for his one-on-one negotiations with nasty international characters, including Saddam Hussein and John Garang of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and traveled to Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Korea to handle tough negotiations on behalf of American interests.
Even Republicans agree he’s got the skills. Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, who heads up Western Hemisphere affairs for Secretary Rice at the State Department had this to say in a Reuters interview about Gov. Richardson’s role in freeing American hostages in Venezuela earlier this year: “Governor Richardson is a skilled negotiator with a lot of experience in this field and I am sure he has a lot to offer in terms of understanding possible resolutions of the hostage situation.” That will come in handy as many believe our entire Latin America policy is being held hostage by our failed Cuba policy.
But the poetic justice is really that Gov. Richardson will be replacing Carlos Gutierrez as Commerce Secretary. As the highest-ranking Cuban American in the Bush administration, he’s been the great defender of the embargo at home and around the world. He even lobbied European ministers, unsuccessfully, to stop the EU from ending their remaining sanctions against the island nation that now exports doctors, not revolution. Secretary Gutierrez also co-chairs the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a creation of the Bush administration that coincided with the administration’s tightening of the Cuban-American travel restrictions that, in turn, heralded the end of the unified Cuban-American voting bloc in South Florida.
In fact it is thanks to the over-reach of Secretary Gutierrez that Gov. Richardson will be able to go to Havana knowing that domestic politics – not to mention U.S. national interests – are on his side: Obama won Florida with only 35% of the Cuban American vote and a poll released just today says that anyway, 55% of Cuban Americans in South Florida want an end to the embargo completely.
Gov. Richardson will certainly benefit from the mission, should he in fact be offered it. In Congress, he led the House Hispanic Caucus and worked hard to bring the Latino community into the Obama camp. So look for an early negotiated trade with Cuba around the “Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot” policy that allows Cubans and only Cubans who elude the Coast guard or Border Patrol and set foot on American soil get fast-tracked to citizenship. No other ethnic group gets that treatment, and it’s a thorn in the side of the Latino community that both Richardson and Obama can reap a lot of capital from plucking.
Welcome back to Washington, Mr. Secretary.

–Patrick Doherty


11 comments on “<em>Guest Post by Patrick Doherty</em>: Bill Richardson: The Anti-Gutierrez?

  1. JohnH says:

    Here are the details of the drug bust I inaccurately described above, where a plane was seized “after receiving information from VENEZUELAN and US authorities:
    Here is how the details of the drug bust played out in HR 400, titled ““Expressing Sense of Congress That Venezuela Should Support Strategies for Ensuring Secure Airport Facilities.”
    The Venezuelan role in the drug bust was conveniently omitted in the Congressional resolution.


  2. JohnH says:

    The problem is that insinuation and mischaracterization are standard fare for psyops.
    Though I don’t think Doherty was involved in another particularly blatant instance, the press widely publicized the fact that an airplane carrying drugs was detained at Caracas’ airport a few years ago. The incident was hyped to press the charge that Venezuela was not sufficiently helpful in the war on drugs. Not highlighted was the fact that is was the Venezuelan government who alerted US authorities about the airplane so that it could be detained.
    By selectively telling the story, Venezuela’s helpfulness was miscontrued to demonize Chavez.
    “Freeing American hostages in Venezuela earlier this year” reeks of the same tactics. If it was unintentional, Doherty can easily issue an apology for the poor choice of words and correct the record. Interesting that it has yet to happen…


  3. Noor says:

    I think Patrick inadvertently suggested by his language that the
    hostages were being held by Chavez. It’s ridiculous to think
    otherwise; as arthurdecco points out, the article HE links to says,
    in the FIRST paragraph, that the hostages are being held in
    All you have to do is change this…
    “Gov. Richardson’s role in freeing American hostages in
    Venezuela earlier this year…”
    to this…
    Gov. Richardson’s role in freeing American hostages, when he
    visited Venezuela earlier this year:
    Plus, the picture shows him sitting down and talking with
    Chavez. What more do you want? I was clearly sloppy syntax.


  4. JohnH says:

    David and Arthurdecco are spot on. What’s with the need to talk trash about Venezuela in the middle of a piece praising Richardson? If I recall, it was Chavez who negotiated the release of the HOSTAGES HELD IN COLOMBIA. What was Richardson’s role in the negotiations exactly? Moral support?
    DOHERTY SHOULD APOLOGIZE for needlessly demonizing a foreign leader who proved more than happy to help us out. With such reckless ingratitude, why should foreign leaders bother to help in the future?


  5. David says:

    I forgot to say I think Bill Richardson is a hell of an asset.


  6. David says:

    I’m with you on this one, arthurdecco. And I, for one, am sick and tired of the misrepresentations of Chavez in the standard media story lines. It is even one of my quarrels with Obama. For the love of God, we were complicit in the short-lived military overthrow of his democratically elected government. We still believe we have the right to take, or at the very least enable, military action against any government that dares to nationalize a national resource on behalf of its citizens.
    That has to stop, and we have to start cooperating with all leaders everywhere who are trying to make the lives of their citizens better and are also trying to find ways to reverse the eco-destruction of the planet. We also have to finally comprehend the reality that an unjust world is now an unsustainable world, at least as we currently understand life on this planet.
    Self-serving national interests and ruthless exploitation of countries unable to resist so that the powerful can have the resources of the powerless stictly on the terms dictated by the powerful will ultimately be everyone’s undoing. We cannot muddle through, and things are not going to take care of themselves, except in the sense that the planet will continue, whatever we inflict on it, and ourselves. It will just continue without us.
    Maybe we could stop being idiots?


  7. arthurdecco says:

    “Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, who heads up Western Hemisphere affairs for Secretary Rice at the State Department had this to say in a Reuters interview about Gov. Richardson’s role in freeing American hostages in Venezuela earlier this year: “Governor Richardson is a skilled negotiator with a lot of experience in this field and I am sure he has a lot to offer in terms of understanding possible resolutions of the hostage situation.””
    What is the flaw in propagandists like Mr. Doherty that allows them to think their readers are stupid or ignorant?
    After reading the above bullshit, knowing it was bullshit, I clicked on the Reuters link and read the following:
    “Bill Richardson plans Venezuela trip on hostages
    By Sue Pleming
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Seasoned negotiator Bill Richardson plans to visit Venezuela next month to discuss the fate of three American hostages held by rebels in Colombia, said a U.S. official on Friday.”
    Richardson was going to Venezuela to enlist the support of Hugo Chavez in America’s attempts to rescue Columbian Hostages!. Yet you insinuated that the hostages were being held in Venezuela, Mr. Doherty. So you’re either a liar or you need to attend some remedial reading comprehension classes.
    In either case, your Washington Note privileges should be revoked. Starting NOW.


  8. Bartolo says:

    If Obama and Richardson can correct bad policy made with respect to Cuba some 50 years ago maybe we can then go back another 10 years to work on same regarding the Holy Land.


  9. Mr.Murder says:

    Chavez in sneakers. Classic. You should consider ordering pizza delivery when he talks, he really seems to be informal.


  10. TonyForesta says:

    We can only hope that Richardson works to rewrite our failed oldworld Cuba policies. The American and Cuban people have much more to gain, and nothing more to loose by opening access to Cuba as a trading partner.


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