Monday, April 16, 2007

What's a Polisario? (Part 8)

After Al Cardenas "inked" the extension of the MACP contract last month, Tew-Cardenas partner Roger Noriega now "works on the MACP account."

With "more than two decades of public policy experience," Roger F. Noriega joined Tew-Cardenas LLP by 2006 to direct Advocacy and Government Affairs, and also recently joined Al Cardenas as policy adviser to the Presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (notice both couldn't stop Romney from making an embarrassing blunder in front of Cuban exiles last month). Yet, before Tew-Cardenas, Noriega spent his most controversial years as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2003 to 2005.

By early February 2004, a political crisis in Haiti was unleashed into the streets of Port-au-Prince ending in the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by the 29th. In the aftermath, some have described the culmination of events as the coup d' etat of 2004, with Aristide himself claiming he was kidnapped by US forces, and Roger Noriega calling it "nonsense." Nevertheless, Aristide supporters believe "Noriega was the chief architect of the coup d'etat." They also refer to him as the Architect of the Rule of Terror in Haiti.

The Cuban government saw Roger Noriega in the same light as 2003 saw the creation of the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC), a plan seen by the Cuban government as an annexation operation. By May 2004, the Commission had released its first report, with Roger Noriega as the Commission Coordinator. Noriega spoke proudly of the more than 400-page report calling it "unprecedented" and part of a general "commitment to freedom in the Americas." In 2004, before a USAID seminar, Noriega insisted that the CAFC report was aimed "to help ensure that the hangover after a 45-year dictatorship does not interfere with [the democratic] transition." It seems that Noriega believes some Cubans, and other oppositional groups, must be under a drunken stupor.

By 2005, Noriega seemed to unravel. Amidst the rising suspense of the Venezuelan referendum to recall President Hugo Chavez, Noriega was becoming impatient at the pace of the Venezuelan government to confirm the recall petition. Noriega had already alleged that there was a "worrisome spread in Castro's infiltration of Venezuela." Now, Noriega was threatening "dire consequences" if the recall referendum did not proceed. This comment not only infuriated the Venezuelan government, it upset other US officials who "were trying to improve relations" with Venezuela. During Noriega's term, other South American diplomats had become frustrated with him, and eventually it caused Noriega to be overlooked as Caleb McCarry was appointed as the new Cuba Transition Coordinator for the CAFC.

Shortly afterwards, Noriega resigned and left the US State Department. The following year he joined Tew-Cardenas LLP to be in charge of the Moroccan American Center for Policy account.

[Part 9]

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