Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Hurricane Blues

....really got me down. What makes this so bad i think is how we all knew this was possible, yet have done nothing to stop it.

We never recognized an old levee system designed for a Category 3 hurricane was not enough and that we have to pay and plan if we think we can cover a swampland in concrete. We never recognized that telling people to leave but offering nothing to help those who are not as able to was no good. We never recognized that global warming is serious business until it affects us.

But all that awful stuff is drowned out by my outrage over the coverage of the death and looting. Compared to the somber tone the 9/11 broadcasts took after the magnitude of the destruction occured, these amatuers don't see themselves in the poor, mostly dark people suffering, therefore they don't feel it.

And in truly disgusting language, the looting is slowly becoming THE story on Fox and conservative circles. More disturbing was the report that the Mayor of NO told cops to stop searching for survivors and protect insured goods instead.

Though many reports and images show people taking food, ice, water and things they may need - and sharing it - when no stores are open, the O'Reiley's of the world see a bunch of "thugs" and I even heard the Governor of LA last night talking about times like these showing whether people are inherently "good or evil." I had to TIVO that.... and I swear I lost my lid when I heard about the diversion of cops, which is being applauded by (apparently pussy inhumane) psuedo-journalists.

Our country apparently tells its most vulnerable citizens that if they don't have the money, ability or sense to go - they are expendable. A country where people "live on 8 dollars a month" (Cuba) can find a way to get people out of harms way. The problem is the poor do not have the luxury of tghe rich; they do not have enough vehicles, money or insurance to make it on their own. The rich do not have such worries, and their insurance will replace everything they lost.

I don't want to go into global warming, but the warmer waters of the Gulf are not harmless any more. And the irony of Miss. Governor Haley Barbour's uncovered letters to Bush arguing against continuing Clinton's (modest) global warming initiatives because the economy was more important than the envionment is too tragic to really try to capitalize on. But we and the world need action from the US NOW.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Miami Herald Journo Fired, RSF Retreats

News that you can only read out of Havana right now.... but should be a story all journalists would be keenly interested in.

It has been revealed by a Miami radio host that the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF in French) (Robert Menard), an otherwise respected defender of reporters around the world, decided not to join his name to 500 other journalists and intellectuals calling for the Miami Herald to rehire fired star journalist Jim Defede, after he was phoned and told to do so by (ex) CIA agent Frank Calzon. Many smell a political rat in his firing. It is the just the type of murky case the RSF would normally attach itself to around the world.

This comes a few months after it ws revealed that this great organization of press freedom indeed does receive money from the US Government. Ménard, secretary general of the RSF for twenty years, confessed to receiving financing from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization that depends on the U.S. Department of State, whose principal role is to promote the agenda of the White House for the entire world - and who is also particularly active in Cuba and Venezuela. Ménard was indeed very clear. “We indeed receive money from the NED. And that hasn’t posed any problem.”

Jim Defede, the Miami Herald journalist, was supposedly fired July 28th after volunteering a tape recording of the last words of the Miami Commissioner who shot himself last month. The journalist realized he may be hearing a last will of the man, who was moments before taking his own life, and pressed record on his handy recorder. Deferde cooperated, helped write a story, then something happened.

Miami politics got in the way. The Herald is legendary in its anti-socialist railings, fueled by right-wing Cuban/Latin money and Deferde had upset the mafia by writing (well) about the hypocrisy surrounding terrorism in the Miami Cuban community (and politicians like a Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen). You can never prove this sort of corruption, but enough people in the know are asking more and more questions.

The revelation about Menard and RSF is potentially explosive. RSF receives funding from the Center for Free Cuba, which itself receives its budget from the US Government and is headed by known CIA agent (and terrorist associate) Frank Calzon. RSF has in turn been turned into a leading opponent of the Cuban Revolution, singling the country out on its website. After Menard received a call from Cazon, he had to concede to his US masters and embarrassingly explain to bewildered RSF Directors that he would not be signing his name to the list in support of a journalist who truly needs him and others to not allow journalists to be fired for such a flimsy pretext.

If you don't believe me, check the case the Herald allowed Ana Menendez to have... though she eventually supports the "team."

If you don't believe her, check Time

Some of Deferde's columns can be found here. Yes, he strays a bit from the typical Herald hard-line on Cuba in that he actually allows them to state their case in print. However, he certainly does his best to editorialize against every single Cuban Government position that is offered.

But his fatal flaw may have beeen in raising questions about Miami's terrorist heroes, such as Posada Carriles:

"The story of Posada is important because of what it says about my government. Did they protect him and allow him to commit acts of terror? And will they shelter him now by granting him asylum?

Recently declassified documents show that in the weeks and months prior to the Cubana airplane bombing, Posada talked about blowing up airplanes. Why didn't the United States act on that information? And after the bombing took place, and Posada was tried in Venezuela, why didn't the United States provide that evidence to the Venezuelans to help them prosecute Posada?

Posada was twice acquitted in Venezuela. This evidence could have made a difference in those cases.

Imagine, if Germany or France or Italy withheld vital information that American prosecutors needed to go after the 9/11 plotters. What would be our reaction?"


Venezuela to sell cut-price heating oil to U.S. poor

Aug 29 10:39 PM US/Eastern

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Monday his government plans to sell as much as 66,000 barrels per day of heating fuel from its U.S. Citgo refinery to poor communities in the United States.

The offer, made after populist Chavez held talks with U.S. civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, would represent 10 percent of the 660,000 bpd of refined products processed by Citgo. The deals would cut consumer costs by direct sales.

"We are going to direct as much as 10 percent of the production, that means 66,000 barrels, without intermediaries, to poor communities, hospitals, religious communities, schools," Chavez told reporters at a press conference.

The world's No. 5 oil exporter, oil cartel OPEC member Venezuela is a key supplier to the United States, providing about 15 percent of all U.S. energy imports.

But relations between Caracas and Washington have become strained since left-winger Chavez was elected in 1998 promising social reforms.

Chavez, a former army officer who survived a coup in 2002, frequently accuses the U.S. of backing efforts to kill him or topple his government. U.S. officials dismiss those charges but say Chavez has become a threat to regional stability.

At a time when Bush appears helpless to stem rising oil prices (if we believe he really wants to), Chavez shows us the answer is easy: Cut out the middle-men and profit takers, who have carved out an unneccesary niche for themselves.

It's also interesting to note the lack of press coverage of such a significant offer. When Chavez first made this offer last week during the Robertson mess, it was completely ignored by the mainstream press, who apparently did not know how to "frame" such a humanitarian gesture from a supposed ruthless dictator. Yesterday Rueters gave it a headline, but no one appears to have picked it up still. The exceptions are the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg. You would think at a time when gas prices are the number one thing on every person's mind that such a story would merit at least a page 14 mention. But when it contradicts the overarching "story" we like to tell ourselves about good and band guys (and economic systems), then things get ignored.

U.S. Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7 Percent

August 30, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) --The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

Overall, there were 37 million people living in poverty, up 1.1 million people from 2003.

The last decline in overall poverty was in 2000, when 31.1 million people lived under the threshold -- 11.3 percent of the population.

The number of people without health insurance grew from 45 million to 45.8 million. At the same time, the number of people with health insurance coverage grew by 2 million last year.

The increase in poverty came despite strong economic growth, which helped create 2.2 million jobs last year.

U.S. attorney: Cuban militant shouldn't be deported

CNN International
Tuesday, August 30, 2005; Posted: 11:02 a.m. EDT

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- A Cuban militant and accused terrorist is not eligible for asylum in the United States but shouldn't be sent back to Cuba, a lawyer for the government told a judge in the opening day of the man's deportation hearing.

Lead government attorney Gina Garrett-Jackson told the judge Monday that federal officials hadn't yet decided if they would oppose Posada's deportation to Venezuela, where he has been accused of orchestrating the deadly 1976 bombing of a Cuba jetliner.

She cited concerns about torture in opposing his potential deportation to Cuba.
Isn't that rich. A country with an Attorney General who authorized torture on terrorist suspects is scared that Cuba, a country where torture has never been alleged, even by otherwise hostile organizations like Amnesty Int'l., may excercise similar techniques on their Osama Bin Laden.

A number of governments that had citizens aboard the jetliner have demanded the deportation of the one-time CIA operative. The government of Venezuela has requested that the 77-year-old Posada be sent back to that country to stand trial on charges accusing him of plotting the bombing while in Caracas.

A recently declassified CIA document quotes an unnamed former Venezuelan official saying that shortly before the bombing Posada was heard to say that he and others "are going to hit a Cuban airplane."

He was acquitted by a Venezuelan military court but that decision was later thrown out when it was decided that he should be tried in a civilian court. He escaped from a Venezuelan jail in 1985 before the trial had been completed.

The chief of the Organization of American States said Monday that the U.S. should extradite Posada if there is evidence of links to the 1976 bombing. "If evidence against him exists in Venezuela, extradition must proceed," OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said. "He should be extradited to Venezuela to face justice."

Read the whole story here. Do something about it here. A week ago, Bush may have been able to deny Venezuela its right to extradite Posada, but after Robertson put a spotlight on our relations with that country, the Administration is is a much more difficult bind.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The US vs The World

American ambassador seeks to scupper UN's global strategy with 750 amendments after just three weeks in the job

By David Usborne - Independent, UK
26 August 2005

"America's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations is seeking to shred an agreement on strengthening the world body and fighting poverty intended to be the highlight of a 60th anniversary summit next month. In the extraordinary intervention, John Bolton has sought to roll back proposed UN commitments on aid to developing countries, combating global warming and nuclear disarmament.

Mr Bolton has demanded no fewer than 750 amendments to the blueprint restating the ideals of the international body, which was originally drafted by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

The amendments are spelt out in a 32-page US version, first reported by the Washington Post and acquired yesterday by The Independent. The document is littered with deletions and exclusions. Most strikingly, the changes eliminate all specific reference to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, accepted by all countries at the last major UN summit in 2000, including the United States.

The Americans are also seeking virtually to remove all references to the Kyoto treaty and the battle against global warming. They are striking out mention of the disputed International Criminal Court and drawing a red line through any suggestion that the nuclear powers should dismantle their arsenals. Instead, the US is seeking to add emphasis to passages on fighting terrorism and spreading democracy."


Or read Bolton's actual draft mark-ups here

+ Some beauties include deleting the follwing phrases
+ "Respect for nature"
+ The right of self-determination of peoples "under colonial domination and foreign occupation"
+ Fudamental freedoms for all, "in particular women and children"
+ We "remain concerned however, by the slow and uneven implementation of the internationally agreed development goals..."
+ The committment to "external debt relief..."
+ A "predictable and suficient" increase in aid
+ Any mention of the Millenium Development Goals
+ Any mention of countries giving the agreed to .7% of GDP to aid.
+ Any mention of the Educaiton For All Fast Track Initiative

Then he goes on to add language about the need to strengthen confidence in private markets, protect of property rights, and promotion of a predictable investment climate.

Keep in mind all these things in the previous draft had been negotiated with the US' heavy involvement ALREADY. The document is due in 3 weeks. Now we have substantial weakening of poverty reduction goals, UN reform, WMD disarmament, terrorism (Bolton struck out the calls for a UN definition of terrorism (which we had always mocked the UN for failing to come up with before) and climate change. Makes me sick. This better be the lead story in tomorrow's newspapers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Great Independent (UK) Article on Venezuela

Check it at the link above. Some exerpts:

Venezuelans were hardly surprised by an American preacher's call to kill their President. After all, the US funded a coup attempt against him

Los esqualidos [the squalid ones, as the opposition is often called] and Bush have tried everything to get rid of Chavez. They know we have elected him in totally open elections, but they don't care. They have tried forcing a recall referendum in the middle of Chavez's term, but the President won by 60 per cent. They have tried saying the elections were rigged, but the opposition asked Jimmy Carter to come and watch the elections, and he said they were totally free. He didn't say that about the election of Bush in Florida! And they even tried staging a coup. We will never, never forget that."

Washington was eager to ensure the largest pot of oil outside the Middle East - providing 10 per cent of US domestic imports - was placed back under the control of US corporations, rather than a left-winger with his own ideas about oil revenue. It later emerged the US had been funding the coup leaders.

It is easy to see why the people of the barrios support Chavez so passionately: I visited dozens of the "missions" built by Chavez that provide health and education for the poor, in some places for the first time. The Miracle Mission, for example, provides cataract operations, restoring the sight of poor people who have been blind for decades. They would have never seen again under the opposition's vision of slashed public spending and oil revenues directed once again to the rich. If democracy was destroyed, these missions - the lifelines for the barrios - would soon disappear.

(From a random Anti-Chavez couple in a restaurant) "There are really only two classes in this country - the educated, and the stupid. The poor are poor because they are incredibly ignorant. But Chavez tells them it is because we are taking the oil money. It's ridiculous! He is giving the poor money for nothing." Yet there is an irony here: while lambasting the poor as ignorant, it turns out the couple are entirely ignorant of life in their own country. They have never been to a barrio, and they say I am "insane" to visit one.

Across the opposition heartlands, people talk like this - and worse. The wealthy seem to have whipped themselves into a hysteria, convinced that their maids, their police and their president are going to turn on them and lynch them in their homes. The media carefully reinforces this impression, creating a fantasyland for the top 20 per cent to scream in. Yet if you ask them for facts - actual examples of persecution or dictatorial behaviour - they either offer demonstrably false urban myths, or declare: "It will happen soon!" It is true that the medical missions are staffed by Cuban doctors, who Chavez has exchanged with Castro in return for access to Venezuela's oil.

The opposition has seized on this as "evidence" that Chavez wants to make Venezuela into a Castroite dictatorship. But his supporters insist he is taking the good parts of the Cuban model - generous health and education services - while eschewing the pernicious parts, like the liquidation of free speech, elections and the freedom of the poor to make and sell goods.

But you would not know - from what the opposition says in every Venezuelan newspaper, or from the propaganda of Pat Robertson - that Venezuelan elections are open and fair, that Chavez has been approved in polls or referenda no less than seven times, and there is more substantial free speech than in Britain. In Venezuela, people can (and, every night, do) call on television for the President to be killed. Indeed, Chavez has been so reluctant to commit a crackdown that the leaders of the coup are still free and unpunished. Venezuelans are still nervously waiting for them to return, in the form of another coup - or a CIA bullet.

True Democracy in the Workplace Becoming Reality

Imagine actually having some say in how your workplace is run. Not just as it pertain to your tasks, but the entire company - from personnel policies to production goals? This idea is not new, but capitalist countries have long resisted meaningful worker input into corporate decision-making because often the decisions come at the expense of the workforce, instead of working together to come up with better solutions based on the actual day-to-day experience of workers.

But today in Venezuela and Argentina, shuttered factories are being re-opened with the help of ex-workers and the State, this time under a new democratic paradigm that puts everyday workers at the helm of corporate decision making.

Perhaps the most well known of these initiatives was the recuperation of bankrupt factories and businesses that shuttered during the 2001 economic crash in Argentina. There are roughly two hundred worker-run factories and businesses, which were occupied by workers and are being run cooperatively . 15,000 people work in these cooperatives and the businesses range from car part producers to rubber balloon factories.

In Venezuela, experiments with breathing life into bankrupt businesses and worker control are just beginning to pick up steam. There have been a few expieriments that have suceeded and last week President Chavez proposed a Bill to provide tax breaks to companies that elect to allow workers some measure of democratic co-mangement.

"It's us, the workers who decide on questions of production and technology, and it's us who elect who will be our managers," says Alcides Rivero, who works as maintenance electrician at an aluminum factory experimenting with co-management.

It is important to understand that these models of co-management or self-management have nothing in common with the top-down versions often promoted by bosses in the U.S. attempting to break unions by circumventing contracts, said Joaquin Osorio, representing the Bolivarian Workers Force. It even goes beyond the co-management of European social democracy, which is limited to giving the workers shares and a seat on the board.

Democratic planning is such a powerful lever that even with rather outdated technology the Venezuelan aluminum plant has managed to increase production by 11%.

"This is about workers controlling the factory and that is why it is a step towards socialism of the twenty-first century."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Robertson Story, from Tucker Carlson

I really am not a good "blogger." Though I posted the Robertson story here before ANY mainstream media had covered it (you think I wanted to post the pro-Chavez link?), I did not once think of posting my wider thoughts on it.

To be honest, I didn't realize what a story it was becoming until late at work... though I was pleasantly suprised that the LA Times ran it. I thought the story would be like a long line of outrageous and amazingly interesting developments centered around Cuba, (insert socialist president here) and the US that got ignored.

But it is sitting here watching moderate Tucker Carlson, cover the event that really gets my juices going. Here is a rough trancsript:

He (Tucker) is only covering this story because of the "grotesque media overreaction"... he says this with a straight face, with his silly Family Fued bar on his left listing more nothingness on the Natalie Halloway story coming up next. There are always media overreactions, but the people have chosen it on Technorati (#1), google and yahoo.

Then he says we all know "the press hates evangelicals and that "Pat Robertson represents no one"... except the 2 million Christian Coalition members of the government empowered political movement he founded and the GOP heavyweights he's buddy-buddy with.

Then the meat: "What he (Robertson) said is not that far out. Chavez is a serious threat", who "gave a million dollars to Bin Laden", had his political opponents murdered during street protests, and is friends to sadaam hussein, libya and iran." WHOA, WHOA buddy.... I guess it is not that far out for someone who says he admired the terrorist attack on Greenpeace activists off French waters. He is right about one thing. Chavez IS a threat... to US hegemony and fragile oil supplies. But a million dollars to Bin Laden, damn, that takes the cake. Like he needs the money and needs to go to Latin America to get it. The right is even circulating stories I've seen today implying that say Chavez is giving passports to Arab terrorists.

But that crap about the murder is really dangerous, particularly given the awful (declassified) truth about that day. Does Tucker not know or not care to know that more Pro-Chavez protesters were shot than opposition, that all victims were random and not assassinated, that the protest turning violent appeared to be the main motive for the coup plotters that day, that shots likely came from coup plotters, and that the US Government lies that day about the day's events that happened to match the coup ploters exactly. Oh, I can see why powerful folks in Washington need to propgate these lies.

And what have the the good liberals on all these shows said in response to charges like these and worse?Not a damn word. Obviously we can't expect lazy democrat pundits to know the first thing about what's going on politically south of us, nor to stand in the way of slanderous defamations about one of the most popular leaders in South America who happens to be a card-carrying socialist.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cuban-Venezuelan Achievements

As the oil prices increase and Iraq gets worse, the Administration is desperately looking for a new boogeyman. So we have been getting blanketed with anti-Chavez propoganda heavier than usual lately. With Chavez and Castro in Havana this week celebrating their achievements, I thought it would be a good time to compile what amazing things humanity is capable of if there is will, human capital and a bit of oil money: (All of this has happened in the last 5 years)

1) 1.2 million Venezuelans have learned to read through the Robinson Mission.

2) 20,000 Cuban medical personnel have performed 40 million free doctor visits in venezuela's worst and most isolated barrios and rural hamlets through the Barrio Adentro Mission.

3) 1.4 million Venezuelans have enrolled in programs to complete their high school education throught the Ribas Mission

4) 1 million Venezuelans have received training in construction, agriculture, tourism, development and other services through the Vuelvan Caras Mission - and thousands have started small businesses and cooperatives as a result.

5) 700,000 will attend college who otherwise could not have afforded it through the Sucre Mission.

6) 50,000 Venezuelans who are blind or near-blind, will see again due to Cuban science and ingenuity.

7) Thoudands students a year from all over the world will soon be taught to be Doctors, free of charge, at a Cuban-inspired Latin American School of Medicine to be established in Venezuela. 1,500 students, including an American, graduated as Doctors this week in Havana. The only catch is they have to promise to serve disadvantaged communities in their home countries.

This is the instability Cuba is spreading in the region... making people in other countries think of alternatives outside Washington's box.

'Christian' Pat Robertson calls for the assassination of Venezuela's President Chavez

In a direct transcript of his August 22 The 700 Club broadcast Robertson clearly says:

"There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.

It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... this is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen.

We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly.

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Friday, August 19, 2005

Using Oil to Spread Revolution?

From: THE ECONOMIST , July 28th

This is on the moderate side as far as the confusion on Venezuela (and Cuba) go. Still utter deception.

It begins talking about Telsur (a channel I wish i had instead of Current TV) and the counter Bill by Rep. Connie Mack, calling for rival propaganda broadcasts.

>>>"Telesur comes on the heels of other initiatives in which Mr Chávez is using some of his country's windfall oil revenues to procure friends and influence abroad, especially in Latin America. Thus, Venezuela has bought $538m of Argentine debt. It is talking about doing the same for Ecuador's new populist government. Venezuela has also promised to build houses in Cuba and to finance co-operatives in Argentina."

>>>"Most of the schemes involve oil. They began with a pact to expand subsidised shipments to Fidel Castro's Cuba, in return for the services of 17,000 Cuban doctors."

Not true. Venezuela had subsidized Carribbean and Central American countries before Chavez, which they admit in the next paragraph slyly.

>>>"Some of these initiatives, such as Petrocaribe, expand on the polices of previous Venezuelan governments..."

and they go on to rattle off his relationship with Iran, China (called "close ties") and how this is a ploy to influence trade policy and votes on the UN.... like the US is not the king of such gamesmanship, called criminal coercion in the courts.

>>"In parallel, Mr Chávez seeks support among Latin Americans by posing as the leader of a continental revolution. At its cheekiest, this has led him to take advantage of the difficulties of Brazil's President Lula da Silva, a more moderate left-winger, to sponsor a samba school, whose theme will be Viva la Revolución, at next year's Rio carnival."

For the non-British, "cheekiest" is a word that allows one to slyly allege Chavez is taking advantage of a neighboring President Lula facing (unfair) allegations in Brazil when in fact, Chavez has been the only one there publically defending Lula.

<<<"All the same, Mr Chávez's successes are fragile ones. For one thing, it is hard to see what tangible benefits Venezuelans derive from this diplomacy.">>> Ask the million that have learned to read or the millions more than have been able to get health care and food when they needed it.

<<>> Ie. money is being spent on the poor instead of investing in Miami real-estate. the allegations about lack of reports coming out of PDSVA were a result of the wide-scale looting and treasonous sabotaging of record-keeping systems by the real corrupt managers.

<<>> Like every diplomatic corps are not loyal branches of their government's position.

<<>> The costs are nothing for Venezuela and the" long-term" benefits may not fit on your Economist charts, but we'll check the human development numbers in a few years... they were rising before the employer-led strike and depression in 2002 and are rising strong again now, according to the UNDP.

Hope of Becoming Doctors Brings US Youth to Cuba

Agencia Cubana de Noticias

Havana, Aug 18 (AIN) A group of low-income and minority youth from the US have come to Cuba to begin their medical studies in Havana thanks to a unique program offered by the island - free of charge.

This latest group of American students landed in Havana on Thursday accompanied by Reverend Lucius Walker, founder of the Pastors for Peace religious organization, which recently led a caravan of humanitarian aid to Cuba.

The student's arrival coincides with this week's graduation at Havana's Latin American School of Medicine of 1,498 doctors from Africa and the Americas, a figure that includes US physicians Walker pointed out that more than 30 million people in the United States - the richest nation in the world - have no access to public healthcare.

Cuba is offering low-income and minority youth from the US the chance to study medicine at the Latin American School with the sole condition that they return to lower-income and depressed communities to offer their professional services.

The med school's current registration totals 9,692 students from 27 countries, of which 65 are US citizens, said school officials who described that figure as an expression of Cuba's willingness to cooperate with other nations, including the US.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration continues to impose a stiffened economic, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba which dates back for more than 40 years and which has translated into human suffering, scarcity and economic losses in the billions of dollars to the Cuban people.

Like Old Times: U.S. Warns Latin Americans Against Leftists

Protesters try to get the message across the Rumsfeld in Paraguay.

New York Times - News Analysis

LIMA, Peru, Aug. 18-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's visit this week to South America had the throwback feel of a mission during the cold war, when American officials saw their main job as bolstering the hemisphere's governments against leftist insurgencies and Communist infiltration.

During stops in Paraguay and Peru, Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides warned of what they consider to be troublemaking by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Washington's old cold war foe, Fidel Castro.
As in the cold war, bending the region to Washington's way of thinking is proving difficult.

On Thursday, before heading back to Washington, Mr. Rumsfeld met with President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, who is in the final year of a five-year term and grappling with a cabinet shake-up, the latest in a series of blows to his government. (and has an 8% approval rating at the moment)

The American officials said they had some concern that the continuing strife made Peru vulnerable to destabilization by other countries or drug traffickers. Mr. Toledo's new defense minister, Marciano Rengifo, also attended the meeting.

Mr. Rumsfeld's goal in Peru and in Paraguay earlier was to stitch together support for isolating Mr. Chávez, who has become bitterly anti-Washington since the United States tacitly supported a coup that briefly ousted him in 2002. But in some ways the visit has served as a reminder of how resistant Latin America is to pressure from Washington.

The two American officials traveling with Mr. Rumsfeld said Mr. Chávez, sometimes with Cuban help, was quietly backing leftist movements in Bolivia and elsewhere in the region. The officials asked not to be identified because they were in the midst of discussions with governments in the region.
The governments of many of the biggest countries in the area are left-leaning themselves and see little benefit to confronting Venezuela, a major oil producer, or Cuba. Some are as skeptical of Washington's warnings about Mr. Chávez fomenting unrest as they were about its admonitions a year ago that Islamic militants were a serious threat.

"A guy who seemed like a comic figure a year ago is turning into a real strategic menace, but we can't respond to this alone," said a senior Defense Department official traveling with Mr. Rumsfeld.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Stark reality of the American dream

Where is our FDR today?

In what should be a huge story in the United States, which has always prided itself on high levels of social mobility (the ability of poor to become well-off), a wide-ranging comparision of countries now puts the US last in the developing world that category. Even more class-based than stodgy old England

Pro-Amerian journo Humphrey Hawksley of the BBC asks whether that once universal idea of the American dream still exists. Entire article.

I had come to Seattle because of a recent survey by the Centre for Economic Performance in London, on how easy or difficult it was to get rich in different parts of the world - or if not rich, at least move out of poverty.

"If you are born into poverty in the US," said one of its authors, "you are actually more likely to remain in poverty than in other countries in Europe, the Nordic countries, even Canada, which you would think would not be that different."

The study, together with general anti-American sentiment which has become more prevalent since the Iraq war, raised for me a question about the American dream - the idea that the United States is a place where anything is possible.

Or as the Economist has put it lately:

Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace.

Between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%. The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%.

The Economist further noted that the income gap between the college-educated and non-college-educated Americans more than doubled -- from 31 percent to 66 percent -- between 1979 and 1997, but rapidly escalating tuition costs threaten to limit university access to the socially elite. Tuition at Penn State -- Pennsylvania's "state" university -- for example, will top $11,000 a year beginning this fall.

Social class once mattered little in an upwardly mobile America.

That America, the evidence suggests, is history.


Congressman Serrano Blasts Rumsfeld's Statements on Venezuelan Role in Latin America

Thursday, Aug 18, 2005
By: Cleto Sojo -

U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano criticized U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's statements made during the Secretary's recent visit to Paraguay.

According to the Paraguayan daily ABC, Rumsfeld told President Nicanor Duarte "in diplomatic terms, the U.S. has the perception that [Venezuelan President] Chavez is a destabilizing factor for emerging democracies in South America."

Rumsfeld said that the governments of Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in Bolivia in "unhelpful ways," suggesting that the recent political unrest in Bolivia was not a genuine local rebellion but instigated by outsiders.

Congressman Serrano called Rumsfeld's comments "baseless".

"Secretary Rumsfeld is following the careless and dangerous line that this administration has always held on Cuba, though now they have added Venezuela to their equation" said Serrano.

"For the past five decades we blamed Cuba every time impoverished people in Latin America were upset with their governments and did something about it. Now the formula is that Cuba and Venezuela are to blame," he said.

"When will we realize that it is these people's unmet needs at the root of their discontent, and not the agitation of other nations? The real causes of these uprisings are problems like hunger, lack of employment and inadequate educational opportunities. If this administration is serious about stemming discontent in Latin America and around the world, the solution is to respect our Latin American neighbors and to provide social and economic aid to the people. The administration's 'solution' of blanket condemnations and skewed trade agreements will never work," the lawmaker added.

Serrano asked the Bush Administration to stop the attacks on Venezuela. "The truth of the matter is that the Bush Administration is unhappy that the people of Venezuela democratically elected a president who does not pledge full allegiance to American interests. Therefore they cannot resist attacking President Hugo Chavez every chance they get and blaming him for every development in the region that they dislike. Again, it is time for these false statements and innuendos to stop," he said.

Congressman Jose Serrano, representing (the "boogie down") South Bronx is a man of courage. He has also received support for his Bill to relax the Cuban blockade and allow remittances and family visits in the aftermath of Hurrican Dennis, which caused $1 billion in damages on the island. Thank goodness there are a few to check dangerous statements clearly eminating out of an imperialist foreign policy designed to retain diplomatic, economic and military control over a region it is fast losing - the Andes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Ecuadorian Tragedy

A couple bad days around the equator, two terrible tragedies in Venezuela and now
off the coast of Ecuador, with at least 100 would-be migrants killed when a 15-person
boat capsized. This brings to the fore some things about migration Americans don't understand.

A quick quiz:

1) From what country do the most people caught at sea since 1999 by our Coast Guard
come from? A) Dominican Republic, B) Cuba, C) China, D) Haiti?

2) From what country, Cuba or Ecuador, do more migrants arrive in the US every year?

3) What is the only country who's citizens are entitled to automatic US citizenship upon landing on US shores? Who also often receives job-training help, housing assistance and food stamps?


1) A - Thousands more Dominicans and Haitians have been stopped than Cubans, who
are 3rd. Ecuadorians are close behind. (and note the distance from Havana (90 miles) vs. Port Au Price, Santiago or Quito). Yet who makes the news more than Cubans? I guess we've found the media ratio: 100 Ecuadorians equals 5 Cubans on page 5.

2) At least five times as many Ecuadorians have made their way to the US than Cubans in the last 5 years. Half a million (1 of 25) Ecuadorians have left since they dollarized the economy and gave IMF control. The middle class has vanished....poof.

3) You guessed it, I hope.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Thousands rally in support of Brazil's Lula

BRASILIA, Brazil, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Thousands of students, unionists and peasants demonstrated in Brazil's capital on Tuesday in a show of support for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as he struggles to manage a deepening corruption scandal.

The protest, the first of two scheduled for this week, was the first mass rally in Brasilia since the scandal over bribes paid to Congressmen broke out in June.

"We don't want Lula to fall. If he goes it's a setback for all Brazil's social movements," said Gustavo Petta, president of Brazil's national students union.

Demonstrators, many with faces painted in the yellow and green of Brazil's flag, said they wanted Lula to stay in office but urged him to loosen tight economic policies to ease poverty.



BRASILIA, Brazil, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Brazil's government will raise its 2005 public spending limit by one billion reais ($420 million), the planning ministry said on Tuesday.

The measure, which will be made in a presidential decree on Wednesday, follows investor fears a bribery scandal could weaken President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's grip on public spending or prompt him to loosen unpopular fiscal controls to maintain public support.

About half of the billion reais in spending was announced in July but never received a presidential decree needed to be disbursed.

Lula will sign a decree on Wednesday to free up funds frozen to meet budget surplus goals, the ministry said.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ecuador: Sovereignty Takes One Step Backwards

Interesting stuff going down in Ecuador. A fragile new Government installed after the ouster of Lucio Guitierrez is weakened after the forcing out of the popular Finance Minister, Rafael Correa (pictured above). Correa had earned the enmity of the US after pushing for a renegotiated free-trade deal and another deal that would have shared the country's oil wealth more with the poor rather than international banks. When the World Bank then amazingly canceled a promised $100 million loan, he arranged to make up the cost by selling bonds to Venezuela. Venezuela's offer to refine Ecuador's costly oil also pissed off Washington, who fears President Hugo Chavez's growing influnence in the region. Officially, the Government says he was fired for not clearing the moves, though his resignation letter claims that everything had been known by the President.

Or as the always revealingMiami Herald puts it: "Correa's belligerence toward the United States and multilateral lenders, combined with his support for populist domestic policies, made him the most popular member of the administration." For the Herald, standing up for the poor against the wishes of US corporations has always equalled "belligerance" in Latin America.

The current Ecuadorian President, Alfredo Palacio, was installed after protests forced out his predecesor, Lucio Guitierrez. Both men had initially secured support among the social and indigenous movements by promising reform, but lost it by not acting in the interests of the people. Now, Palacio's pick to replace Correa, Magdalena Barreiro, says she will not accept the post unless she received the backing of Correa - now the most popular political figure in Ecuador.

For more information on the sad situation in Ecuador and Correa's sacking, check the August 15, 2005 article by toni solo at by clicking on the title above. And read more Latin insight by Central American activist toni solo's at his webpage.


QUITO -(Dow Jones)- President Alfredo Palacio said Friday Ecuador would continue to strengthen its relations with Venezuela, and tried to downplay growing tensions between the Andean nation and multilateral lenders, not to mention the U.S. government.

Investors and analysts alike said Ecuador's increasing alignment with Venezuela concerns the market, given the virulent anti-American and interventionist policies championed by Chavez. INTERVENTIONIST.... WHO??

Correa is portrayed locally as the "good guy," standing up against U.S. companies, and that type of local reaction does not favorably impress the market, Estes said.

Even if Correa's replacement is someone credible and market friendly it is hard to.... (who needs to finish such a jem)

"Market Friendly" means accepting 40% of a country's budget to service external debt, sacrificing health, education and development projects...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Chavez Supporters Won 80% of Local Offices in Venezuela

From Venezuela Analysis (a
Caracas, Venezuela, August 10, 2005 —

Chavez’s party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), along with other allied parties of the pro-Chavez coalition, won 80% of the city and district council seats that were up for a vote last Sunday. Of these, members of Chavez’s own MVR party won 58% of the seats.

The announcement of the number of seats pro-Chavez candidates won was made Monday by MVR National Assembly member Willian Lara, who explained that MVR candidates won 1,383 out of 2,389 city council seats. If confirmed, this means that MVR candidates won 888 more city council seats than they had won in the last local elections in December 2000, when they won only 495 seats. The successes of other parties in Chavez's governing coalition, such as Podemos, PPT (Fatherland for all), and PCV (Communist Party of Venezuela) increase this margin further.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Breaking News - Cuban Five Win a New Trial!

Announcement from the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

Today, August 9, after more than one year of weighing the evidence, the 11th Circuit Court of a Appeals vacated the trial court's ruling against the Cuban Five and ordered a new trial with a change of venue. This is a sensational victory for the Five, the Cuban people, and the international people's movement that supports them! The Five will now receive a new trial in a place other than Miami. This blow to the U.S. government undeniably was made possible by the hard work and growing support of progressive, justice-loving people in the U.S. and all over the world.

The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five is holding a telephone press conference today with the Five's attorney, Leonard Weinglass, the coordinator of the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, Gloria La Riva, A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Coordinator, Brian Becker, and other activists and legal experts to discuss this landmark victory. We will send more information as soon as we have it. In the meantime, call 323-464-1636 with questions.

The Five are one big step closer to freedom. Let's continue the struggle and ensure total victory. Free the Cuban Five! U.S. Hands Off Cuba!

Volverán! They will return!
National Committee to Free the Cuban Five

For more info call 323-464-1636 or e-mail
Or check the Free the Five webpage here.

Amazing, amazing news. Still not much national traction as of midnight. Here are the main important bits:

1) After 9/11, Cuba voluntarily provided information on wanted terrorists that had US connections or were operating here. Cuba asked the US for a meeting to discuss the matter and share info. The US ignored Cuba's letter for 5 months. Finally there was a response. But instead of arresting the terrorists and those accomplices in the US, the US arrested the 5 brave people who were tracking those behind such mayhem.

2) The 5 were brought to the courts in Miami, while the Elian Gonzalez case was still fresh news in Florida. This despite the fact that the same US Government had, just months earlier, taken the position that an obscure immingration law case could not be tried in Miami because of potential bias.

3) 3 of the 5 were sentenced for life, the other for 15-19 years for trying to inflitrate, not the US Government or anything relating to National Security, but instead for trying to get close to terrorist masterminds such as Orlando Bosch, as well as other exile groups committed to "any means necessary" in removing Castro.

4) The murder charge(s) relates to one of the Cubans relaying information on the illegal flight of a "Brothers to the Rescue" plane to Cuba. When the plane crossed Cuba's airspace, the plane was shot down by the Cubans, who were within their rights under internaional law.

5) The decision today to overturn a decision based on locality is extremely rare and precedent setting. It shows the unique conditions in Miami, where justice when the Cuban issue is involved, is impossible.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A personal account of Barrio Adentro - or socialism does make you feel better!

From a great Blog written by a group of Aussies visiting the Revolution in Venezuela as part of the Venezuela Solidarity Brigade. An unexpected real-life comparision of the private clinics versus the newly built Cuban-staffed clinics in Caracas exposes the truth about Venezuela's new committment to health care for all.

A Personal Account of Barrio Adentro...or it is true, socialism does make you feel better

Coming to Venezuela to witness the revolution and the social missions at its heart, I have ended up having a closer view of one of the most important missions - Barrio Adentro (Into the Neighbourhood) - than I might have hoped. Or cared for, for that matter.

Barrio Adentro was established around two years ago as a way to bring free, quality health care to the poor majority, in whose
neighbourhoods doctors in the past have mostly shunned and who can often not afford the fees charged. In order to get Barrio Adentro off the ground, the government invited Cuban medical volunteers to help staff the clinics established in the poor areas, whilst Cuban doctors (sociailst Cuba has a world renowned health care system and an internationalist approach, with more doctors volunteering abroad than the WHO) teach courses in the free Bolivarian University in order to create a new generation on Venezuelan doctors to replace them. There are currently more than 20 000 Cuban medical personal in the country.

The Venezuelan government invited the Cubans in after first
attempting to recruit Venezuelan doctors to the cause. However only around 50 Venezuelan doctors raised their hands, most - a product of the old system based on using their careers to make themselves more comfortable - declining the governments offer of a US$600 monthly stipend to bring health-care to the poor. The Cubans, who accepted $200 per month, have taken to their roles and proven a big hit with the community. Not being in it for the money, but out of genuine humanitarian concerns, they treat their patients with genuine consideration and respect and have only their best interests at heart.