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UMC a Pawn or Major Player in Cuba Trade Deal?

Remember Elián González?

by Michael L. Gonzalez

December 18, 2001


Money, politics, world power, and commerce -- just what you'd expect the Church to be involved with, right?  The answer is yes, when you're talking the UMC, GBCS, NCC, ADM, and Elián González!  How does Elián end up in this smorgasbord of alphabet soup, you ask?

This week a ship of goods arrived in Cuba worth millions in sales to some big conglomerate corporations -- most significantly Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Illinois-based agribusiness giant.  Little Elián was part of the stock-and-trade in this deal, so the story goes.  All the UMC General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the National Council of Churches (NCC), and ADM had to do to interest Fidel Castro in the trade business was to ensure Elián's return to the communists.  Having lived up to their part of the bargain, ADM is now beginning what they hope will be a long lucrative relationship with the dictator to the south.

Perhaps you don't recall how the UMC, ADM, and Elián got connected--here's the background:

THE ORLANDO SUN SENTINEL

Published: Sunday, April 23, 2000 

By Charley Reese of The Sentinel Staff 

All of the information comes from the Archer Daniels Midland Shareholders Watch Committee. 

In the fall of 1995, ADM's chairman, Dwayne Andreas, met with Fidel Castro for dinner in New York. In July 1996, Andreas announced that he was going to Cuba to see Castro. He said he contemplated building a refinery in Cuba but would do it through a Spanish subsidiary because of the trade embargo.

In 1997, a Spanish company invested $65 million in Cuba for a refinery for the production of alcohol from molasses. 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 the Cuban government announced that it is moving toward consideration of a joint-venture type of relationship with ADM. In February, ADM announced plans for another trade exhibition in Havana in December.

What has this got to do with Elian Gonzalez?

Well, there are a lot of interesting coincidences. Remember the meeting with the grandmothers at the home of the president of Barry University?

Dwayne Andreas is a large contributor to Barry University, and his wife is a graduate and is past chairman of the board of trustees. The president of the university was initially in favor of returning Elian to his father -- until the meeting with the grandmothers convinced her that the Cuban government was calling the shots.

Last October, Andrew Young, an ADM board member and member of the public-policy committee, was installed as president of the National Council of Churches, an old left front group, which has taken the lead in urging that Elian be returned to his father.

Gregory Craig, the high-priced lawyer who suddenly materialized to represent Juan Gonzalez, who couldn't afford two seconds of Craig's time, is part of a law firm that also represents ADM. Craig is ostensibly being paid by the National Council of Churches.

That seems like an awful lot of coincidences linking Elian Gonzalez with ADM, which calls itself the supermarket to the world. Castro is like any other communist dictator. If you want to cut deals with him, you have to kiss his backside. If you want to open a news bureau in Havana, you have to kiss his backside. Castro wants the kid back, and what do you know?

A leftist church group and a high-priced lawyer, both with ADM connections, pop up to lead the campaign. And, no surprise, the big American news media jump on the same bandwagon.

Institute on Religion and Democracy

April 27, 2000

When Washington attorney Gregory Craig agreed to represent Juan Miguel Gonzalez in his struggle to bring his son, little Elian, back to Cuba, a lot of people assumed the Clinton White House had arranged it. And perhaps the Administration did. Craig did represent Clinton during the impeachment process.

But the full truth may be stranger, with participants including mainline church leaders and possibly Dwayne Andreas, former chairman of food mega-company Archer Daniels Midland.

The head of the United Methodist Church's lobby office in Washington claims it was he who recruited Craig to represent Elian's father. Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the denomination's Board of Church and Society, is a long-time advocate for full U.S. ties to Fidel Castro's government. With a staff of nearly 40 people and a budget of almost $4 million, the Board is the largest church lobby in the nation's capital.

Fassett flew to Cuba in March with Joan Brown Campbell, the former head of the National Council of Churches, to help facilitate Elian's return to his father. Upon returning to the U.S., Fassett's agency created a "Humanitarian Advocacy Fund," to raise dollars for Craig's legal fees in the Elian case. The stated goal was $50,000 to $100,000. Fassett stressed that no church money would go to the fund. Although there was no visible fundraising effort by Fassett, the fund quickly gained $50,000, indicating that donors were already available when the fund was established. "This is not an appeal we've made to anybody," Fassett admitted. "This is a passive fund."

Unlike most of the Board of Church and Society's left-wing political activities, this project gained major media attention. Many United Methodists responded with outrage that one of their church agencies was enmeshing itself in the Elian controversy. By late April, the church's agency for financial oversight forced Fassett to abandon the fund, saying it violated denominational guidelines. The fund, with its over $50,000, was transferred to the National Council of Churches, where the collection for Greg Craig will continue.

Where did the money come from, and how did a church official enlist Greg Craig on behalf of Elian's father? The Board of Church and Society is refusing to disclose its donor list or to explain further. But an obscure group called the Shareholders Watch Committee is alleging that food giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and its former chairman Dwayne Andreas were instrumental in procuring the super lawyer. The committee even alleges Andreas directly donated $10,000 to the United Methodist Humanitarian Advocacy Fund, a charge that ADM denies.

Whatever the credibility of the Shareholders Watch Committee, the connections between Andreas and the Elian situation are numerous. First of all, Craig's law firm, Williams and Connally, does legal work for ADM. Secondly, the president of the National Council of Churches is former ambassador and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young, who also serves on ADM's board. Third, Andreas is a major contributor to Barry University in Florida, where Elian's meeting with his visiting grandmothers was orchestrated. Andreas' wife formerly chaired the school's board of trustees.

Fourth, Andreas has been generous with the National Council of Churches. In 1996 he contributed $1 million to the council's Burned Churches Fund. ADM contributed $200,000 to the fund in 1998. And last November, when Young was inaugurated as the church council's new president, Andreas made a special $100,000 gift to the council. At the time, Andreas explained he was an old friend of Joan Brown Campbell, the outgoing general secretary.

In 1998, Andreas joined a coalition that included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Churches, and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society to lobby for removing U.S. trade sanctions against Castro's Cuba. Fassett and Campbell attended the press conference, while a statement from Andreas was read, in which he insisted that "Now is the time to make a friend of Castro."

The Shareholders Watch Committee points out, based on numerous press articles, that ADM's potential business interests in Cuba are extensive. In 1996 Andreas told The Washington Post he was going to Cuba to see Castro, commenting, "It'll be sugar out, cooking oil in." He said he wanted to build a refinery in Cuba but would operate through a Spanish company to evade the U.S. trade embargo. A Spanish company did the next year build a refinery in Cuba to produce alcohol from molasses.

Last year, Andreas' nephew, Martin, said ADM would consider building a vegetable oil plant in Cuba if permitted. Early this year, the Cuban government said it was considering a joint-venture with ADM for distributing soybeans and other agricultural products in Cuba. Also this year ADM sponsored a major healthcare exhibition in Havana.

Andreas met Fidel Castro in New York for dinner in October 1995. During that same visit, Castro also met at the National Council of Churches with Joan Campbell and Thom White Wolf Fassett, along with dozens of other church leaders, to share strategies on overthrowing U.S. trade sanctions against Cuba.

Left-wing church groups like the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the National Council of Churches are no doubt involved in the Elian saga because of their long-time infatuation with Fidel Castro. But, in so doing, they may be doing the bidding of a mega-corporation more focused on dollars than ideology. It would be a strange alliance, one in which little Elian's best interests were barely a factor.

Jewish World Review

May 8, 2000

by Cal Thomas 

Profiting from Elian Gonzalez 

Who stands to benefit if Fidel Castro is handed a huge propaganda victory with the repatriation of Elian and his father to Cuba? One beneficiary would seem to be Dwayne Andreas, former chairman of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world's largest agribusiness companies. Thom White Wolf Fassett, the head of the United Methodist Church lobbying office in Washington, says Andreas recruited Craig to represent Juan Miguel.

Whether the charge is true, Craig's law firm, Williams and Connally, does legal work for ADM. The president of the National Council of Churches, former Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, serves on ADM's board. Andreas is a major contributor to Florida's Barry University, where Elian's meeting with his visiting grandmothers took place. Andreas' wife formerly chaired the school's board of trustees.

These cozy relations could lead to big business for ADM in Cuba if sanctions are ended. Andreas, along with Campbell, Fassett and dozens of other church leaders, met with Castro in New York five years ago to discuss strategies for ending trade sanctions against Cuba. And couldn't President Clinton -- who, it is speculated, wants to lift these sanctions as part of his presidential legacy -- end up with some sort of sweet deal in his post-White House years from those American companies salivating to do business in Cuba?

The only suspense left in this saga is, just what will the UMC, GBCS, and/or NCC have to gain out of these shenanigans?  Were these communist sympathizers simply altruistic patsies in the deal, who were manipulated and used as throw-away pawns by ADM?  Were these so-called church people simply so zealous in their desires to cuddle with Fidel that they were willing to go begging for ADM?  Or, were these radical liberal socialists figuring to build a long-term relationship with the neighboring communist state, which persecutes Christians and restricts religious freedom?  Perhaps time will tell.

What is apparent at this time is that ADM is reaping the harvest from the Elián trade.

Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review

By SUSAN REIDY -- H&R Staff Writer 
11/21/01

DECATUR -- Archer Daniels Midland Co. reached an agreement Tuesday to sell agricultural commodities to Cuba as part of the first such sales by U.S. food producers in 40 years.

The United States has had an embargo against the communist country since the 1960s. A devastating hurricane earlier this month prompted Cuban officials to propose cash purchases of relief supplies after rejecting an initial offer of U.S. humanitarian aid.

"Obviously it's exciting news," [ADM Larry Cunningham, senior vice president of corporate affairs] said. "It's been roughly 40 years since an American food company has sold any product in Cuba.  We're delighted to be the first people to do so. We're hopeful that it will lead to further relationships."

Congress passed a law last year allowing sales of food and medicine to Cuba with restrictions at the urging of farm groups and companies like ADM.  [emphasis added]

Cuba has sent several delegations to visit ADM and other Illinois agriculture centers during the past few years. Gov. George H. Ryan led a delegation that included ADM representatives to the island in October 1999 and ADM sponsored a trade show there in January 2000.  [emphasis added]

Cunningham said the company was contacted last week by Cubans, who were part of a delegation that visited Decatur last fall, to discuss the possible commodity sales.

"This is an opportunity we've been working on for some time," Cunningham said. "The tragic hurricane created an opportunity to speed things along."

U.S. State Department officials had said earlier they would support the sales given the humanitarian nature of the Cuban's request and consult with other agencies "to expedite authorization."

Decatur, Illinois Herald & Review

Monday, December 17, 2001

By DENNIS MAGEE
H&R Chief Photographer

The Archer Daniels Midland Co. completed its first cash transaction with Cuba on Sunday, when the M.V. Ikan Mazatlan powered into Havana Bay shortly after 2 p.m. In its hold, nearly 1 million bushels of corn symbolically collected from nine Midwestern states up and down the Mississippi River.

ADM, which has labored since at least the early 1990s to retool American trade policy with Fidel Castro's Communist regime . . .  [emphasis added]

"ADM was the first with contracts, and we welcome and encourage the presence of ADM. We would like it to be much more significant --  every day. We would like for ADM to be the main supplier to Cuba," [said Pedro Alvarez Borrego, president of Alimport, the Cuban government's import company].

Alvarez said the Cuban government has committed about $30 million to purchases from the United States since the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle. ADM has listed the combined approximate market value of their signed contracts with Cuba at $14 million.  [emphasis added]

He also said while Cuba would like to greatly increase trade, even if sanctions were lifted completely, not all imports would flow automatically from the United States. He said the Cuban government has twice learned the painful lesson of overdependence on a single supplier.

In 1962, shortly after Castro came to power, sanctions were imposed by the U.S. Then, in 1989, the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies collapsed. The two events each in their turn wiped out Cuba's primary partners that were responsible for 90 percent or more of all trade.

The Chicago Tribune

By Tim Jones
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 11, 2001

[John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York] cautioned that while the expected green light for food shipments represents a thaw in relations between the two countries, it does not signal a widespread change in policy.

"It would be a mistake to believe that these commercial sales under a humanitarian umbrella represent a fundamental change in the bilateral relationship. These transactions are significant, but they are not seminal to the relationship," he said.

In an earlier effort to ease diplomatic relations and create some economic opportunities, Illinois Gov. George Ryan met with Cuban President Fidel Castro in October 1999.

The five-day mission ended with Castro rejecting Ryan's request for the release of four political dissidents, who were jailed after calling for an open dialogue on political and economic reforms.

The U.S. imposed the trade embargo in 1962 after Castro came to power and installed a communist government. Last fall, Congress eased some restrictions to allow cash sales of food and medicine to the island.

The Chicago Tribune

By Vanessa Bauza and Rafael Lorente. Special to the Tribune.

Published December 17, 2001

Compared to Cuba's annual $1 billion in food imports, the recent purchases are a "small operation" Alvarez said. If they were distributed immediately, the commodities would fill about two weeks of consumption. However, he added, the purchases show U.S. farmers and agribusiness that Cuba is a market worth pursuing.  [emphasis added]

Executives from Archer Daniels Midland Co., the Illinois-based agribusiness giant, flew to Havana on Sunday to await the [shipment] bearing 24,000 metric tons of corn, mostly livestock feed.

Larry Cunningham, ADM senior vice president of corporate affairs, said Cuba's proximity makes it an attractive market for U.S. grain surpluses.

"It is our feeling that the best way to build relations between countries is to have them become trading partners," he said, adding that the sales culminated about eight years of "bridge building" with Cuban officials.

Asked whether ADM is concerned about Cuba's faltering economy and the money it owes to other trading partners, Cunningham said his company looks at the long-term potential.

"As the economy improves in Cuba, we think this will lead to the additional production of swine and poultry, which will need grains," he said.

When Castro seized power in 1959, about 70 percent of the island's imports came from the United States. In 1963 those ties evaporated as economic sanctions took hold and the Soviet Union became Cuba's main commercial trading partner.

In Havana, officials have said getting rid of the embargo is their foreign policy priority.

So, there you have the latest events.

What about this ADM corporation?  Just what kind of "bedfellows" did the UMC, GBCS, and NCC link up with?

ADM: Superracket to the World

Dwayne Andreas, the chair of the board of Archer Daniels Midland, went before a packed shareholders meeting in October [1996] and apologized for the crimes committed by his company.

"I consider this a serious matter which I deeply regret," he said. "The buck stops with me. You have my apology and my commitment that things are arranged so that this will never happen again."

Just one week before the shareholders meeting, ADM pled guilty to various felonies and paid a $100 million criminal fine -- the largest criminal antitrust fine ever -- for its role in conspiracies to fix prices to eliminate competition and allocate sales in the lysine and citric acid markets worldwide. The two-count felony charges filed against ADM alleged that the company conspired with other producers (including previously charged Ajinomoto Co. Inc., Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. Ltd. and Sewon America Inc.) in the lysine and citric markets to set prices and allocate sales from 1992 to 1995.

Victims and shareholders were livid over the plea agreement, under which all executives and employees of ADM -- except for two -- will be protected from prosecution if they cooperate with the government. Dwayne Andreas, the big cheese, was protected.

Stock analysts applauded the agreement, saying that ADM could now put the matter behind it, and ADM stock went up after the announcement of the plea.

"There are a whole number of ADM executives who committed these crimes," says David Hoech, co-founder of the ADM Shareholders Watch Committee of Hallandale, Florida. "Those executives should have been indicted first."

Hoech says that political campaign contributions from ADM to both political parties inoculated ADM and its executives from a just result.

Kenneth Adams, a lawyer for the victims of ADM's crime, says the plea agreement is troubling because "there is no disclosure in the plea agreement about the particulars of this crime."

"The government shed no light on who was involved -- whether there were a few individuals or many," Adams says. "I would want to know who did this. These people are still sitting at their desks and we don't know who screwed up."

Adams estimates that the citric acid price-fixing cost his clients $400 million while the lysine price-fixing cost $100 million. Under federal sentencing law, the $500 million total loss could be doubled, thus putting ADM's potential criminal exposure at $1 billion. But the Department of Justice's Gary Spratling defended the $100 million fine, saying "we made all of our decisions based on the evidence we had developed -- we don't think anybody is getting off the hook."

Federal officials said that as a result of ADM's crime, seed companies, large poultry and swine producers and ultimately farmers paid millions more to buy lysine, an amino acid used by farmers as a feed additive to ensure the proper growth of livestock. It is a $600-million-a-year industry worldwide.

Cato Policy Analysis No. 241
September 26, 1995

by James Bovard

The Archer Daniels Midland Corporation (ADM) . . . and its chairman Dwayne Andreas have lavishly fertilized both political parties with millions of dollars in handouts and in return have reaped billion-dollar windfalls . . . 

Andreas has long talked and behaved as if he had a divine mission to give as much money as possible to as many politicians as possible.  The Washington Post noted in 1985 that "Andreas said he was raised in a religious tradition that called for 'tithing' 10 percent of personal income to the church.  And, he adds, 'I consider politics to be just like the church.'"  Andreas likewise declared in 1990, "I was raised to believe you're supposed to support your mayor and your congressman and your politicians. . . . If a fellow is willing to devote his life to public service, and a fellow like me has more money than I ever dreamed existed in the whole world, wouldn't I be an ass if I didn't respond to requests?"  One should not be surprised that the "public services" that Andreas rewards are services that subsidize ADM. 

The Wall Street Journal declared on July 11 [1995] that "for more than two decades, Mr. Andreas has reigned as the prince of political influence."  The Washington Post described Andreas as "one of the great financial 'switch hitters' of American politics," meaning that ADM will bankroll any politician who supports ethanol or sugar subsidies regardless of political creed or ideological convictions.  Andreas has done a masterful job of diversifying his investments by carefully cultivating both Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.  The New York Times in 1990 called Dole "ADM's staunchest ally on Capitol Hill."  The Wall Street Journal likewise recently reported, "In the Senate, Mr. Dole has been the chief promoter of the ethanol subsidy."  The Times also noted that "ADM's private plane has flown Dole to Midwest speaking engagements, and for a time ADM sponsored Dole's commentaries over the Mutual Radio Network.  The Senator and his wife, Elizabeth Dole, then Secretary of Labor, purchased an apartment from Andreas in 1982 at the Sea View, a Bal Harbour, Florida, hotel in which residents hold shares.  They paid $150,000--less than the apartment's market value."  Since 1993 Dole has accepted 29 flights on ADM's private planes (Dole reimburses the company for the price of a first-class ticket--far less than the cost of chartering a private plane).  After Elizabeth Dole became the head of the Red Cross, Andreas's nonprofit foundation gave $1 million to the Red Cross.  Andreas also donated $100,000 to Bob Dole's now defunct Better America Foundation. 

Since 1979 Andreas, family members, and ADM have contributed more than $4 million to congressional and presidential candidates, as well as to the national Democratic and Republican parties. 

In the two years before the 1992 election, ADM gave $772,000 to Republicans but only $136,500 to Democrats.  But the likelihood of Clinton's victory did wonders for Andreas's bipartisan spirit.  According to the Wall Street Journal, "Andreas, whose personal contributions heavily favored Republican candidates in 1992, weighed in a mere six days before the presidential election with a $50,000 contribution to the Democrats' congressional campaign committee." 

Forbes Magazine

Planting Seeds

by Michael Freedman

February 7, 2000

YOU MAY NOT HAVE MADE IT TO Havana in late January for the U.S. Healthcare Exhibition--the first American trade show in Cuba since President Eisenhower slapped on trade sanctions 40 years ago. Among the 100 companies like Pfizer and Eli Lilly that were showing off their wares to local doctors was a somewhat incongruous visitor -- Archer Daniels Midland.

What, exactly, was the $14 billion (sales) processor of grains, oilseed and soy products doing in Castroland? Chairman G. Allen Andreas isn't saying. But it wasn't the first time ADM has swapped pleasantries with the Maximum Leader. Over the past two years the company has donated 360 metric tons of soy products to Cuba. In early October a group of Cuban diplomats had lunch with executives at ADM's Decatur, Ill. offices, part of a tour in which Illinois promoted its agriculture and business. Three weeks later Andreas joined 45 U.S. business, political and civic leaders who went with Illinois Governor George Ryan on a reciprocal visit to Havana, where they pointed out to Castro how easy it would be to ship products to Cuba via the Mississippi River.

"It's our belief that in the next year or two trade will open up," says Anthony DeLio, ADM's point man on Cuba. That's optimistic, given congressional sentiments against lifting the embargo, not to mention the passions aroused by the proposed return of a 6-year-old refugee to his father in Havana. Is it worth the effort? "The idea is to show them what we're capable of," says DeLio, "and to start building a demand for our products."

ADM could use the boost. Since the price-fixing scandal in 1995, in which three executives were convicted and sentenced to jail, earnings have dropped by two-thirds to $266 million in the fiscal year that ended last June 30. If the U.S. trade embargo were lifted, the company believes the sale of feed grain and bulk food to Cuba could add up to $500 million a year in revenues.

Other starry-eyed plans: spending $100 million to own a vegetable oil processing plant on the island. DeLio says investing in Cuba's substantial sugar holdings is yet another possibility, though it might be difficult to disentangle the state from once-private assets.

Nothing illegal about ADM's daydreaming--or its trips and p.r. stunts. But the standoff between the U.S. and Cuba makes food sales impossible for now. A directive issued by President Clinton a year ago allows food donations to Cuba and the sale of food to nongovernment organizations; the Castro regime, meanwhile, forbids such sales to anyone except for the government.

The Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 presents a tiny loophole--exempting medicine and supplies from the embargo. Which is why ADM is pushing soy protein and vitamin E at the trade show.

Build relationships until the politics are resolved--that's been ADM's mantra for decades. Dwayne Andreas, Allen's uncle and now chairman emeritus, met often with the Kremlin politburo and Chinese officials during the 1970s and 1980s. Today 2% of sales come from the former Soviet Union and 9% from China.  Small pieces, but proof the Andreas family can pry loose opportunities in places most fear to tread.

Of one thing we can be certain:  This story ain't over yet . . . stay tuned.

Further References:

Elian's Father Thanks United Methodist For Sending His Son Back To Life In Communist State - June 29, 2000

UM Leader Defends Funding For Greg Craig In Elian Case; IRD Responds - May 12, 2000

UM Fund Raising For Craig To Go To National Council of Churches - April 25, 2000

Outrage Accompanies Global Agencies Financial Support Of Clinton Lawyer And Communist Castro In Elian Case - April 21, 2000

Fox News Interviews Church Agency Head In Choice of Clinton Attorney To Return Boy To Communism - April 17, 2000

Fox News:  UMAction Head Speaks On The Cuba, National Council of Churches, United Methodist Connection In Elian Case - April 11, 2000

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