Monday, October 31, 2005

Bolivia: Go Go Evo!

A U.S. nightmare? Leftist Indian may lead Bolivia

Get ready for a blitz of anti-(soon to be President) Evo Morales articles in the US press and blogosphere in the coming month before the critical Bolivian election. Get ready to hear about a "fiery" cocaine defender and an anti-American cohort of Castro and Chavez. Funny thing is, don't expect to hear it from US Officials, who learned their lesson in 2002 about butting into the affairs in Bolivia, when negative comments from catipulted Evo into a very close 2nd place.

That is if the powers that be even allow the required election to take place (last year's capitulation of powers enshrined a 180 day election or bust Law). It appears the Congress can't decide on the geographic representation of 4 seats in the legistlative body and election preparations are supposedly at risk. Evo smells a rat.

Morales is leader of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, a relatively new grouping that arose after the exposure of the political class for what they were - corrupt, clientialistic and quite incapable of meeting the people's demands. If elected, he would add South America's poorest country to a regional political shift leftward that has seen leftist leaders rise to power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Oil is what is really at stake in Bolivia, as is a major front in the US's so-called War on Drugs. Gas had been a bargain in Bolivia and multinationals have made a killing. Evo Morales pledges to change all that, with nationalization and anti- neoliberal plans that would have provided the country with Billions in much needed revenue in recent years.

Check some great coverage on the blogsopshere from Democracy Center. Also a decent piece from the Washington Post and Rueters UK.

Oh, its gonna ben fun once Nicaragua and Mexico have their elections....

Friday, October 28, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

White Sox: Champions For Chicago...y Venezuela

An hour after the Chicago White Sox clinched a deceptively gut-wrenching 4-0 sweep of the Astros, I've finally washed the smile off my face. It is a glorious hour.

I have been a White Sox fan since I began to think. Yeah I liked Bobby Dernier and Ryno on the Cubs in '84. But when my sense of injustice kicked in a few years later, I made the switch to the South Siders.

This year I saw em from the beginning to end. I was in Tuscon for pre-season when we beat the Cubs 11-9 and saw em whenever they came within 150 miles of my apartment in Los Angeles (San Diego and Anaheim), including 2 playoff games. I even flew home to Chicago to soak in the atmosphere for games 1 and 2 (beautiful).

I have to say the moment is made all the much better because of the particular manner and circumstances in which it takes place. This was totally unpredicted even by the most die-hard fans. In fact I remember screaming at the TV when unnamed ESPN commentartors picked em for 3rd and even 4th place in the Central Division (behind KC) before the season started. I must also say it is great getting there before the Cubs and under Ozzie Guillen with a bunch of ego-less cast-offs built around a Chicago nucleus.

We played nearly perfectly the last 15 games. Hardly any errors, pitching to die for. Timely hitting, "smart ball" and powerball in the same game. A new guy stepping up every game, and no clear playoff MVP. A bunch of guys called Pyrzinski, Podsednik, Uribe, Crede... it is a perfectly South Side team.

As for the drama, save it for your mama. I didn't want to hear it when I was at Anaheim Stadium (get over it) and the constant moaning from Houston didn't leave a good impression... neither did their whitey white organization. Yeah the ump blew a couple calls ... what else is new. The Astros got a free home run, we got a baserunner. Houston wasted all their runners. Plus, you certainly don't need to tell Sox fans about getting screwed.

All in all, it is a moment of redemption, of vindication and of even greater hopes of repeat. Why not? We'll finally have a little money to spend and as long as we sign Konerko, the team should stay in tact. Guillen, we need you back man. Bring that trophy to Venezuela, then come back home.

Meanwhile, Cuba remains in the forefront for Contreras and El Duque. "This is one of the few times when I haven't missed Cuba," Contreras said. "I feel like I'm back with my team in Pinar del Rio." Guillen Jr. says the two Cuban pals frequently talk about their days on the island and have expressed some jealousy about other players' ability to return home. "I know Contreras would give anything to go back for at least three days," Guillen Jr. says. "I miss everything about Cuba," he said. "I've dreamt about schoolmates of mine from when I was 5 years old. Everything — the food, my family, the neighborhood. "What gets my mind off Cuba is baseball. Once I'm on the mound or I'm getting ready, there's nothing else in my mind besides baseball. I think if I weren't playing baseball I'd go crazy."

It is a sad thing to see these two go unrecognized in Cuba. The Cuban Government believes it has to impose the maximum penalties against defection. That is the unfortunate cost of putting the rights of the Cuban people above any one person. My hope is that the new rules Cuba has put on playing abroad, which are similar to Japan's, will help alleviate the pressure on both sides. Players can play abroad after they've played in Cuba and established themselves.

A Tale of 2 Disasters

Cubans receive food and water from government and neighborhood relief crews.

Western Cuba and Havana got flooded just as much as anywhere else, but:

1) No one was killed in Cuba, there were at least 10 in Florida, 6 in Mexico and 12 in the Carribean.
2) There is calm in Cuba, while there's widespread looting in Mexico and mounting frustration in So. Florida.
3) 90% of the power is back on in Cuba, while 2.6 million people in Florida are without power.
4) Cubans are getting food and water rations at the Bodega and from government trucks, while Chertoff admits there's not enough food, water, gas or ice.
5) Cubans are gathering falled fruits and vegetables from their flooded fields, while in the US they'll be left to rot for insurance money, plus costs will rise in the wake.

Still the Miami Herald chooses to ignore all of this and instead runs a story about how salt is going to ruin the 70% of Havana's "precarious" housing stock. They never mention that the 70% figure for Havana encompasses housing in mostly FAIR condition. And they must mention how 1,400 buildings must be vacated and demolished each year. I wonder if the Miami Herald has EVER published the number of Miami units that get demolished every year (4,000) or the number of Miami residents who "can not afford" their housing (50%) according to FIU.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Colombia Declassified: Massacres of the State

The terrific National Security Archive at George Washington U. has released another bombshell of a report based on their tireless work to declassify US intelligence reports. Last year, some might recall them releasing US produced evidence from 1991 listing PResident Uribe as one of the top drug dealers and assasins in the country.

This latest report focuses on the relationship between Colombia's military and the right-wing paramilitaries, whom many have suspected worked together. Well we don't have to suspect any more.

We have first-hand reports that Colombian soldiers "had donned AUC (paramilitary) armbands and participated directly" in one of the massacres in which 150 were kille that month. We have frank assessments from Officers explaining why they choos to ignore the mass killings perpetrated by certain (rightist) groups. We see the US having full knowledge of such, despite the repeated public denials from Bush and Uribe.

The piece, written for Colombia's largest magazine Semana, concludes with the following:

"Cooperation with paramilitary groups was implied, according to the colonel. Abuses were tacitly condoned by the expectations of senior military leaders who sheltered themselves behind a wall of plausible deniability. Former Fourth Brigade commanders Harold Bedoya and Jorge Enrique Mora "looked the other way," he said, and "never allowed themselves to become directly involved in encouraging or supporting paramilitary activities." The once (Bedoya) and future (Mora) armed forces commanders simply "turned their backs to what was happening and felt the Colar [Colombian army] should in no way be blamed for any resulting human rights atrocities committed."

The generals just might get their wish. The lenient terms of surrender and the strict time limit imposed on investigations of paramilitary crimes ensure that they will uncover little new information on the critical role that Colombian military officers have played in fomenting and the groups, thwarting what might otherwise have been an opportunity to use the demobilization process to gather valuable information on the underpinnings of paramilitarism in Colombia. Unless an effort is made to explore this history of collaboration, it is unlikely that Colombians will know either justice or peace."

Add to that the new "Peace Accord" Uribe is pushing that would disallow any future extraditions to the United States of key drug traffickers and cartel leaders.
So lets recap, we have a leader of a country implicated by US DIA intelligence as a key supporter of the Medallin Cartel, who presides over a military who participated in (and allowed) massacres of civillians, who today wants to immunize those same drug dealers and paramilitaries from facing justice. Just imagine if this was a left-wing leader, say Hugo Chavez? The man would be looking at US bombs falling by now.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Colombia: A Creeping Dictatorship? And Coke

Colombia's Supreme Court yesterday voted to allow President Alvaro Uribe his wish to rule for another term, thereby changing the Constitution. The markets and Bush Administration officials love it. Colombia's neighbor's probably don't.

Uribe has been the US's (only?) stalwart friend in the region. That pleasure costs us $3 billion of our tax dollars wasted a year. We are supposedly fighting coke cultivation and are told that the nasty lil' guerilla war has nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, cocoa plants (and refugees) have just moved to neighboring countries and supplies remain unchanged.

The Supreme Court decision has Colombia riveted right now and touched off a growing public row between Justices, with nasty accusations swirling about. The decision to give Uribe another 5 years was not unanimous and many say, had little to do with the legal merits and was all about politics. The Colombian people don't seem to mind, despite terrorist attacks being up since Uribe's been in office.

Meanwhile, there were competing regional drug summits taking place yesterday. Uribe was promoting Plan Colombia (US funded fumigation) and (shockingly) talking about ecology. This despite the lack of progress in reducing acreage or overall supply and knowing full well the environmental damage of spraying mostly non-cocoa areas and that Plan Colombia is what's pushing cocoa into sensitive refuge areas.

The US will no doubt celebrate the Court's move and the media will not be bothered to mention the hypocrisy of the US position on extension of President's terms. I seem to recall a completely different US reaction to similar moves in Belarus, in Uzbekistan and when it was tried in Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Haiti: Update

Haiti is the skid row of our Hemisphere. A truly desperate place where the phrase "hell in a handbasket" sounds apt. Hurricane Jeane's blow killed 2,000 and left 200,000 homeless last month, the country's best hopes are in prison and in recent weeks pro-Aristide rallies have turned violent in the capital.

It's "liberation" (to Bush Admin. Officals and unscupulous businessmen) last year has brought nothing but more bloodshed, more corruption (#3 says yesterdays news), bottom of the UN's Human Development Index, and no authority nor services.

The liberators (US, Canada, France) are scrambling to get elections (and thereby democratic governance) going by the promised date of Feb 7th. The problem is the lack of a candidate list, which is reported to disallow Aristide's Lavalas Party's top leaders.

Speaking of skid row, check out Steve Lopez's amazing front-page 7-part LA Times week of living on downtown LA's skid row. There's a profile on the "broken-down brigade" - the legions of disabled in wheelchairs living on the streets of LA.

Monday, October 17, 2005

When is Killing Civillians OK? When is it a War Crime?

I was going to post a photo of Iraqi children mourning their fallen friend, but decided on this photo taken of children looting the US vehicle in Ramadi, prior to the area being bombed by you and me.

A day after a critical election for the Bush Adminstration, and few days before Sadaam Hussein's first trial begins, a curious thought not that uncommon of a thing happened: The US military reports killing "70 terrorists."

The strike(s) is worth mentioning as it shines the light on the rank hypocrisy the US routinely engages in overseas. Iraqi sources are saying seperate but linked attacks killed at least 39 civillians, including at least 7 children and a few women. The US admits that a F-16 dropped a bomb on a crowd of 20 onlookers who routinely rally around wrecked US military vehicle looking for scrap. In the other incident a village was bombed, where more children and women were killed. The US claims the first 25 were planting another bomb around the wreckage and the second 45 were reaching for the AK-47s to fire at a US helicopter, when the bomb hit.

Does anyone believe the attack was not born out of a desire for revenge for the 5 soldiers who were killed in the area a few days ago? Does anyone not beleive the strikes were ordered to wait until after the ballot-boxes were closed? Does any media organ have enough balls to call out the blatant hypocrisy of trying Sadaam Huseein this week for a crime remarkably similar to the one we engaged in this Sunday?

For what exactly is the difference between's Hussein's group punishmment after an assasination attempt and the US's after a roadside bomb killed 5? Or the difference between leveling Fallouja a town of 100,000 supposedly in the grips of terrorists and leveling a small village of Dujail, also well known as a center for a terrorist (al-dawa) organization. Or what about when Clinton lobbed 23 cruise missles into downtown Baghdad when it was learned that Bush's father was subject to an assassination attempt years prior? Or how about "Operation River Gate" a few weeks ago that (barely mentioned in the press) resulted in the destruction of 3 Iraqi Villages - Haqlaniyah, Parwana and Haditha - and hundreds of casualties. Was each and every one of those killed involved in violence versus us (an occupying force)?

For all were born out of vengence and contempt for "collateral damage." Well one difference is that Hussein had the group rounded up, arrested and tried individually for their supposed crimes. Some were killed on the spot, but it does not appear to be disputed that those were all engaged in gun battles and resistance to the Iraqi forces. All those tried by an (obviously crony) Court, jailed and killed were men of military age - no women, no children.

The US' vision of justice apparently has no patience for even such psuedo-legalities. In such, how are we offering Iraq any model for any kind of post-violent future? And how are able to convince the world that we will not stoop down to the tactics of a homocidal Dictator? And how are we to convince them that this trial is for real?

The Iraqi Health Ministry reports that civillians killed by US strikes are double the number of civillians killed by insurgents.

The planes came and bombed us right after prayers," one man shouted on Monday as others buried bodies near Ramadi. "These are innocent civilians. To hell with this constitution."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Bush Defeated at Ibero-American Summit

Mexico's President Vicente Fox congratulates Cuban Foeigh Minister Felipe Perez Roque for their 2 big victories at the Ibero-American Summit in Spain :)

MADRID (AFP) - The United States responded sharply to a statement by Latin American and Spanish foreign ministers at a meeting in Spain which criticized Washington's "blockade" of Cuba, saying Washington would be unhappy if such phraseology implied support for the Castro regime.

A final declaration at the assembly in Salamanca contained a resolution calling for an end to what it called an economic "blockade" instead of an "embargo" of Fidel Castro's Cuba. "Embargo" is the term preferred by Washington.

Wake up... it wasn't the word they chose to use to describe the blockade. It was the unanimous vote AGAINST its continuation (actually tightening) that expressed support for Cuba, on this most fundamental position at least. For if you don't address US hostility, all other issues in the relationship are non-starters.

The resolution was passed unanimously Thursday by foreign ministers of 19 Latin American countries and three European countries, Andorra, Portugal and Spain.

The embassy spokesman said the word "blockade" gave the impression of confusion over the use of the two terms.

The Spanish government pointed out Saturday that the term "blockade" to describe the more than 40-year-old US economic and trade embargo against Cuba was the term used by the United Nations.

The leaders also approved a Cuban-backed resolution on terrorism in which they supported steps "to achieve the extradition or bring to justice the person responsible for the terrorist attack on a Cubana de Aviacion plane in October 1976 which killed 73 civilians."

The leaders agreed to set up a coordinating mechanism to speed the response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Stan that recently lashed Central America and to work together for orderly migration while respecting migrants' human rights.

(Where again, Cuba has led the way in humanitarian assistance. They also have sent hundreds of Doctors to Pakistan)

The leaders threw their support behind schemes to forgive debt in return for investment in education and Zapatero said Spain was talking to six countries about such agreements

It's really good to see Spain exercising positive leadership in the America's. They say (Socialist) President Zapatero intends to re-orient Spain's foreign policy back to its former colonies, and restore balance to the US dominance in the region.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Foreign ministers urge end to Cuba embargo


SALAMANCA, Spain -- Foreign ministers from Latin America, Spain and Portugal backed Cuba on Thursday in two of its battles against the United States, calling for an end to the U.S. embargo and the expulsion from the U.S. of a Cuban militant wanted for a 1976 plane bombing.

The foreign ministers, meeting in the Spanish city of Salamanca a day before 20 heads of state gather for the 15th Iberoamerican Summit, urged the United States "to put an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade which it maintains against Cuba."

"We reaffirm once more ... that unilateral coercive measures which affect the welfare of people and obstruct integration processes are unacceptable," the ministers said.

The U.S. sanctions, which aim to squeeze the island's economy and push out Cuban President Fidel Castro, are now in their fifth decade. President Bush has sought more stringent enforcement of provisions forbidding most travel to the island.

Cuba claims the embargo has cost it $82 billion.

The foreign ministers also backed Venezuela's efforts have a Cuban militant extradited from the United States to face trial for allegedly masterminding the Oct. 6, 1976 bombing of a Cuban jet that killed 73 people.

Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban native who became a naturalized Venezuelan, is in a U.S. detention center in El Paso, Texas after allegedly crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico in March.

Cuba and others have been clamoring for him to be sent to Venezuela to stand trial for allegedly plotting the bombing from the South American country, but an immigration judge declared last week he could not be deported there, citing the possibility he would face torture - a claim denied by Venezuela.

Venezuela has said that if the United States tries to deport Posada to a third country, it would request his extradition from that government.

The ministers said they "backed moves to obtain the extradition and bring to justice the person responsible for the terrorist attack on a Cubana Aviation plane in October 1976."

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Death Toll Could Reach 2,000 in Guatemala

The disaster in Pakistan quickly overshadowed the tragedy bestowed by Hurricane Stan in Central America. This is a shame and the US's paltry response is a lost opportunity for the US, as the tragedy is as murderous as Katrina and in our own backyard. Maybe if it was Guatemala or El Salvador and not Nicaragua with elecitons coming up soon...

Guatemala, Oct 11
Prensa Latina

As the UN launched an appeal for international aid to Guatemala, fears rise that the death toll from torrential rains, floods and devastating mudslides could reach 2,000.

More than 650 are confirmed dead, but 1,400 are still missing. Rescuers have been forced to suspend their hard work as the mud has solidified in the most affected areas six days after tropical storm Stan brought torrential rains to Central America.

The United Nations has launched a $22 million appeal in aid for Guatemalan survivors of floods and landslides. The UN said that providing food, water, shelter and sanitation are priorities at this moment.

Guatemalan President Oscar Berger said 130,000 people were directly hit by the storm in western Guatemala, particularly the Mayan villages of Panabaj and Tzanchaj and surrounding areas. Over 90,000 people are still living in government shelters.

President Oscar Berger has urged the international community to help his nation of 11.2 million people. Several countries, including Japan, Mexico, Spain, France, Cuba and Canada, have pledged help for Guatemala.

Cuba has committed 575 doctors to the recovery of Guatemala and the final 300 of them have landed in the country.

end of article

In Guatemala, the United States has provided more than $250,000 in relief supplies.

View a slideshow of the devastation at MSNBC.

The Latin-Sabor of the White Sox

"Not too many people like the president. I do. My mom will kill me, but it's an honor to talk to the president." Ozzie Guillen on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, after appearing on Chavez's weekly ‘Alo Presidente' TV show.

Hardcore Leftside readers will know that there is just one opiate that can divert us from the global struggle: White Sox baseball. So this past week has been very special for me.

When I rededicated this site as AV2TS I promised to try to keep to issues related to the Latin-Carribean-US nexus. Fortunately in recent weeks, the White Sox have provided such an excuse. Of course, most MLB teams have major Latin/Carribean connections today, but consider the following:

The White Sox took what was widely seen as a big gamble on two aging Cuban starting pitchers. Many saw the team's 2005 fortune as riding on these 2. Well, despite some ups and downs, in the end they more than delivered and are responsible as anyone for the White Sox's success.

Proud Cuban Jose Contreras is shaping up to be the team's MVP. His stellar late season pitching stopped Sox slides when things looked desperate, winning 9 straight games, including Game 1 of the ALDS vs. Boston 14-2. He will start today vs. the Angels. Unanimous opinion cites Jose's improved state of mind this year after reunification with his family and the addition of countryman "El Duque" Hernandez on the team this year as reasons for his success. Jose was widely considered to be homesick last year in New York. Contreras himself cites his Cuban expirience in big games. Meanwhile Jose is eligable to play with the Cuban team when it plays in MLB's World Baseball Classic next March. He requested a contract clause explicitly allowing him that right.

"El Duque," the 5th starting pitcher, more than justified his position on the roster in the final Game 3 vs. Boston. He shut down the Red Sox for 5 innings after coming in on relief. Duque, Contreras and (Venezuelan) Freddie Garcia are said to bond over Latin soap-operas, a common reminder of home.

Manager Ozzie Guillen, the first Latin manager to make the Playoffs, grew up watching shortstop Luis Aparacio, the first Venezuelan player in MLB. Guillen is known for his hilarious, if sometimes brutally honest, commentary - a trait sorely lacking in today's American sports. But his most important asset may be his ability to keep the team loose, yet focused. Never to be found in the manager's office, Ozzie plays cards and messes around with his players, even acting as a translator for the Cubans when needed. Surely he gets the best out of his players.

And as an interesting history note, Luis Aparicio, who was with the team in their 1959 World Series run, is said to have put a curse on the team when he was traded to Baltimore in 1963. "They won't win a World Series for 40 years," he said (that expired last year). Then there is Cuban legend Minnie Minosa (first dark-skinned Latin in MLB), who is perhaps best known for his DH appearance (1 for 3) at the age of 56, 13-years after his retirement. Another Latin White Sox shortstop Chico Carrasquel (who passed earlier this year), was the first Latin player to make the All-Star game.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Washington Post Pens Outlandish Piece on Nicaragua

Editorial: Nicaragua's Creeping Coup
Monday, October 3, 2005
Washington Post (they're so left wing it's scary)

MANY PEOPLE outside Latin America probably assume Daniel Ortega's political career ended 15 years ago when his ruinous attempt to install a Marxist dictatorship in Nicaragua ended with an election he decisively lost. (Umm, spot the contradiction in line 1? How can a dictatorship lose and election? And for folks who forgot, it was Ortega who ENDED a particularly bloody 40-year dictatorship of Samoza with the overwhelmings support of the people, only to have the US created Contra's extend a savage war for 8 more years. Ortega's party established and won subsequent elections fair and square)...

Thanks to the weakness of the country's new democratic institutions, Mr. Ortega is close to regaining power and to broadening the Latin alliance of undemocratic states now composed by Cuba and Venezuela. (Now the Post is calling Venezuela undemocratic, with more elections and public ratifications in a shorter period of time than in the nation's history - and probably Latin America's as well)....

The left-right alliance (between Ortega and (rightist) Liberal Party head Mr. Aleman)has used its majority in the National Assembly to rewrite the constitution and stack the Supreme Court. (It is true that constitutional amendments have been passed that shift the balance of power from an almost imperial presidency to the legislature. It is also true that many people in Nicaragua, especially on the Left, do not support the Ortega-Aleman pact. Those who do support the legislative changes comprise 86 of 94 members of the National Assembly. A good argument can be made that these ammendments end the "winner take all" approach under the previos system. What is clear is that these are issues of self-determination and no one's business outside Nicaragua.)

The Sandinistas will have plenty of money to spend, thanks to Hugo Chavez. Mr. Ortega recently announced that he had arranged with Venezuela's self-styled "Bolivarian revolutionary" for a supply of subsidized oil." (Total lie. Venezuela is providing below market gasoline to Nicaragua, just as it is doing to the US communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and most regional countries. The subsidized gasoline in Nicaragua is being allocated exclusively to the bus and taxi cooperatives which serve the greater part of the population unable to afford a private car. Neither Daniel Ortega nor the FSLN controls the distribution of that gasoline.)

Read the whole dispicable piece here.
Read the truth about Nicaragua here.