Monday, January 30, 2006

School of the Americas: 6 Jailed for Non Violent Protest


From School of the Americas Watch
COLUMBUS, GA The week after a military jury in Colorado decided not to jail an Army interrogator even after they found him guilty of negligent homicide in the torture and killing of an Iraqi detainee, a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia is sentencing nonviolent activists to federal prison.

This morning, Judge G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced six human rights advocates, including an 81-year-old retired man, to between one and three months in prison; five of those individuals were also fined $500. Twenty-six people still face charges, and trials are expected to continue for several days. Each person faces a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The 32 defendants, ranging in age from 19 to 81, are charged with trespass after peacefully walking onto the Fort Benning military base in protest of a controversial Army training school located there. Those arrested were among 19,000 who gathered in November of 2005 outside the gates of Fort Benning to demand a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy and the closure of the controversial U.S. Army's School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

El Salvador: Huge March Buries Revolutionary Handal

in what the BBC says is the largest crowd to assemble in El Salvador in 25 years, at least 100,000 came out to say goodbye to leftist icon Schafik Handal. From the BBC:

Schafik Handal was the main leader of the political party formed by El Salvador's left-wing guerrillas at the end of the civil war in 1992.

During the war he was a top guerrilla top commander, for 12 years defying the largest US-led counter-insurgency effort since Vietnam.

Before that he was a veteran of decades of clandestine struggle against one of Latin America's most brutal military dictatorships, suffering imprisonment and exile.

This, San Salvador's deputy archbishop Monsignor Rosa Chavez told the crowd, was his most important contribution.

He said Mr Handal had himself wanted to be remembered as a fighter for democracy in his country, whose struggle to get the people of El Salvador the right to choose for themselves.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Haiti: Bush Administration and IRI Lies of Democracy Uncovered

As February 7th elections in Haiti gear up (with important candidates in jail on BS charges and now no voting stations in Port Au Prince''s largest neighborhood - Cite Soleil) the New York Times comes through with an 11 page expose on the Bush Administration's blame for the chaos unleashed so close to our shores - "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos" Turns out the Ambassador to Haiti wasn't even getting the truth from DC, it was the coup-plotting "pro-democracy" International Republican Institute (IRI) who was really running things. Some choice exerpts of the piece:

The chaos: Today, the capital, Port-au-Prince, is virtually paralyzed by kidnappings, spreading panic among rich and poor alike. Corrupt police officers in uniform have assassinated people on the streets in the light of day. The chaos is so extreme and the interim government so dysfunctional that voting to elect a new one has already been delayed four times. The latest date is Feb. 7.

The lie: The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti's democratically elected leader.

The reality: Interviews and a review of government documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.

The culprit: The International Republican Institute, a supposed pro-democracy group, undermined the reconciliation process after disputed 2000 elections (where Aristide's Lavalas Pary won 27 or 28 areas according to everyone) threw Haiti into a violent political crisis. The group's leader in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent from the Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to stand firm, and not work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and drive him from power (a tactic we amazingly saw aped in Venezuela's December Partimentary).

These (democracy) groups walk a fine line. Under federal guidelines, they are supposed to nurture democracy in a nonpartisan way, lest they be accused of meddling in the affairs of sovereign nations. But in Haiti, according to diplomats, Mr. Lucas actively worked against (democratically elected) President Aristide (as they do in Venezuela). a recent interview, (the notorious) Otto J. Reich, who served under Mr. Powell as the State Department's top official on Latin America, said that a subtle shift in policy away from Mr. Aristide had taken place after Mr. Bush became president — as Mr. Curran and others had suspected. "There was a change in policy that was perhaps not well perceived by some people in the embassy," Mr. Reich said, referring to Mr. Curran. "We wanted to change, to give the Haitians an opportunity to choose a democratic leader."

The out of the loop Ambassador for Haiti, Mr. Curran said in response, "That Reich would admit that a different policy was in effect totally vindicates my suspicions, as well as confirms what an amateur crowd was in charge in Washington."

In response, the IRI has said that it never encouraged the opposition not to negotiate, but "In Haiti, (IRI rep) Stanley Lucas's partisan activities were well known. Evans Paul, a leader of the anti-Aristide movement and now a presidential candidate, said Mr. Lucas's stand against negotiating was "a bit too harsh" even for some in the opposition.

Jean-Max Bellerive, an official in three Haitian administrations, including Mr. Aristide's, added, "He (Lucas) said there was a big plan for Haiti that came from Washington, that Aristide would not finish his mandate." As for the ambassador, Mr. Bellerive said, "he told me that Curran was of no importance, that he did not fit in the big picture."

Cuba: Released CIA Papers from 1993 Give Insight

In my attempt to re-establish a list of links over there to the right, I came across the CIA Freedom of Information site, which publishes once classified CIA documents, once they are made public. There is nothing too recent, but this 1993 assessment titled, "Cuba: The Outlook For Castro and Beyond" is way fascinating. The CIA can be called many things, but it is a damn good window into US Foreign Policy thinking and objectives... which doesn't change with Democrats or Republicans in the White House.

Written at the height of the Post-Soviet crash depression (they saw a 33% drop in GDP - the Great Depression saw just a 12" dip), CIA analysts thought counter-revolution was right around the corner. In this context we read the following:

"There is a better than even chance that Castro's Government will fall within the next few years" Oops, a bit off here on the critcal question, as they have been since the 1960s.

"Almost all succession scenarios are likely to entail substantial and possibly protracted instability and large-scale emigration to the US, while generating demands for US involvement.... The new era will be marred by retributory and other violence." I didn't read that in the new "Plan for Transformation."

"With few exceptions, exile political leaders are likely to find scant support on the island and will probably be treated with suspicion and hostility if they are perceived as trying to seize control. Demands to purge Castro Officials is likely to arouse fierce opposition." Somebody better tell Miami

".. the economy will probably continue declining through 1996." Actually things began getting better in 1994 and by 1996, a 7.6% GDP growth rate was achieved.

"in his efforts to manage the domestic crisis, Castro often functions in a practical, rational and flexible manner... and has made no serious tactical errors."

On the risks of dollarization reforms (now retracted): "The benefits will be unevenly spread.... Regime loyalists are the least likely to have relatives willing to send them money... The ability of dissidents to hold dollars will remove a key instrument of repression and could enable them to operate more effectively."

"Relief from the US trade embargo has gained importance for Castro."

"If the US lifted the embargo... Cuba would benefit in the following ways: 1) Savings on lower prices and shipping costs. 2) Increased tourism, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, 3) Addition foreign investment and increased emigre remittances."

On the embargo: "Most political dissidents oppose it... (because) it ties them to a hostile US policy that hurts the average Cuban."

"Between 100 and 200 activists and more than 1,000 supporters are involved with organized dissident groups that span the ideological spectrum."

Then, when discussing the "dissidents," there is the biggest blacked out section of the report. Wonder what is being discussed there?

"Military units... have never been used against civilians."
Then there are in depth assessments of a military rebellion and coup, which they see as unlikely but the best hope for regime change.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Venezuela: Spy Ring for US Uncovered, US "Diplomat" Flees

We learned yesterday of the uncovering of a spy ring in Venezuela, whereby naval officers are accused of passing military secrets to the US Defense Department. Today we find out that the US naval attache, John Correa, a suspect in the case, has fled the country after facilitating the escape of several Venezuela naval officers. Looks like more bad news for the US and surely doesn't help the case of the opposition who claims Chavez is just paranoid all the time. Imagine the uproar if the scenario was in reverse. At present, we have 93 articles in Google, with most major papers running small blurbs on the first part of the story this AM.

(From VHeadline) US naval attache, John Correa (attached to the US Embassy in Caracas), is reported to have fled Venezuela in haste following allegations that he had bribed several low-ranking Venezuelan naval officers into passing top-secret information to the United States. Diario-VEA reports today (Friday) that Correa allegedly facilitated the escape to Miami of several of the Venezuelan officers accused in the latest espionage scandal to have rocked the government of President Hugo Chavez Frias. Correa is believed to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) collecting strategic information in Venezuela's military operating capacity and weaponry.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Venezuela: Media Censorship or Witness Protection?

Brazilians chill at campground today at the 6th World Social Forum in Caracas

The opposition-owned Venezuela media is up in arms over a recent decision by a Judge in Caracas to order that the media cease printing information from the official case file of an increasingly bizarre trial over the murder of Federal Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, who was investigating crimes related to the April 2002 coup, which briefly ousted Ven. President Hugo Chavez. Last week, Attorney General Isaías Rodríguez accused Venezuelan newspapers and broadcasters of promoting a campaign to discredit prosecutors in the case.

Censorship the opposition is yelling loudly, with the mercenary organization Reporters Without Borders taking up the fight yesterday as well. Experts quoted in the mainstream Venezuelan press are saying the act "is not only an attack against freedom of speech, but it is a clear expression of previous censorship. No Venezuelan law whatsoever provides for such an action." Is this true? Let's consider the following:

When the press doesn't publish information on victims of crimes, is that censorship? When they don't publish private information on minors, is that censorship? When, as in the US, the media is not allowed to defame or publish untrue information on private citizens, is that censorship? Is the press "free" to keep information private they know about a crime (as in the Velerie Plame case?)? Can the press publish classified information illegally (witness Bush hunting the NYTimes now for the eavesdropping story)? Can the press incite lawbreaking and violence (ask the Iraqis on the US position on that)?

Common Law has long held that one may be free to publish as one pleases, but if such publicaiton breaks another law, then sanction may occur. In the US, The Supreme Court has ruled that “the right to speak and publish does not carry with it the unrestrained right to gather information.”

When the Internation Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia issued "contempt" charges against 6 Croations for publishing closed testimony and information on key witnesses (almost exactly like this case), were they censors?

In Venezuela, the law protecting witnesses (and victims) is clear:

Organic Law of the Ministry of Public Affairs, Title VII on the Protection of Victims, Witnesses, and Experts, Chapter I and II:

Article 82. The Attorney General, through the Office of Protection of Victims, in their own initiative or due to a request by the interested party or his/her representative, will request that the Judge take all the measures needed to guarantee the integrity of the victim and their liberty and material means.

Chapter II of the Protection of Witness and Experts states in Article 86, "the protection of witnesses and experts will concur with the same provisions of the previous articles on the protection of victims."

As Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez said today, "There is a very focused purpose, to take out the witness from the trial." This must never be allowed to happen. If the press is going to break the law in that aim, what else is to be done to protect the overriding criteria of justice?

Cuba: US Interest Section's Ticker Shanigans and Reuters

Castro visited the "mysterious" construction site in front of the US Interests Section in Havana last night. He said he did not want to "ruin the suprise" by discolosing what is being built. But my bet is something very witty.

Reuters has sullied themselves with it's speculative headline, "Cuba Moves to Block US Electronic Message Board." Despite evidence to the contrary (you don't need to dig up a whole area to construct a wall) and direct confirmation from Cuban workers (and now Castro) of a "suprise" project, Reuters chose to run this headline, which found its way onto every Cuban-American website in a few hours. Reuters needs to answer why it implies that Cuban workers are lying about this when the results will be seen soon enough? They need to answer why a headline asserts something that their own reporting does not? And is it ok to rely on a spokesman from the US Interests Section as a single source for this headline? It is probably not even possible to block the messages, as the anti-Castro Cubans point out amongst their giddiness over the "US Scoring a Run."

This is all a very well thought out plot by the Americans. Try to provoke Castro to make him look like a bad guy. But Castro knows this game, he's seen it a million times. He is not about to fall into this stupid trap. Remember (as I pointed out below) even though Castro never called for a march because of this stupid "ticker," and did not mention it, except for acknowledging that they turned it on right when he was about to speak - the US State Dept., Interests Section and most mainstream press went straight into their prepared lines about Castro being scared of MLK and UN speech. Give me a break. Cubans probably know more about MLK and the UN's conception of human rights than Americans.

State Dept. Briefing 1/24/06
QUESTION: On the messages -- on the messages in the Cuban embassy, do you have any update on anything -- how the situation is evolving in Havana?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there was -- I saw on the television that there were some protests down in Havana organized by the Castro regime, monitored by the secret police there. I find it ironic that they are -- the Cuban Government is organizing these protests against these messages that are being put up on the US Interests Section in Havana concerning -- with quotes "Freedom" from Martin Luther King and other topics. I don't see why that should be a matter -- such a source of concern for the Cuban Government, but nonetheless they have seen it fit to organize these large protests in -- against, essentially, freedom. So I think it's more of the same from the Cuban Government.

Update: I sent the Reuters reporter Anthony Boadle an email expressing my views on this. Maybe I was a little nicer due to reading some of his decent previous articles, (like this on AIDS and this on US lies over Angola) but still firm on wanting an explanation. Here is how he replied to me:

No question the ticker is a carefully-planned provocation. What
exactly the workers are building out there remains to be seen and Fidel is
not spilling the beans. He doesn't give his enemies anything for free.
But it will surely spoil the view. As for the march, it was ostensibly
about Posada, but clearly the protest was called to rebuff the U.S.
ticker. Fidel is pissed off. I do believe he will finesse this one by
building a monument, maybe with very tall flagpoles.


Anthony Boadle

As you can see, he retains his paradigm of skepticism regarding Cuba, saying "it will surely spoil the view" and that the march was "clearly... called to rebuff the US ticker." but then maybe he backtracks and says it will be a monument, maybe with flagpoles. I know the headline was not his, but it was surely irresponsible. Even the Miami Herald had the sense to write "may be blocked." It seems increasingly apparent to me now that perhaps this is all designed for Florida consumption. With all the praises Bush is getting in Cuban-American bloggerland, after weeks of increasing frustration (over baseball and "Wet Foot, Dry Foot"), maybe this is Karl Rove election strategy in motion??

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cuba: VOA Calls Posada "Anti-Castro Activist" in Headline

Today the US funded "independent" news service Voice of America (VOA) ran a headline that stated, "US Considering Moving Anti-Castro Activist to Third Country." I guess that has a little better connotation than "CIA's favorite sabatuer" or "Hemisphere's biggest terrorist," which would actually be true statements. This looks like continued maneuvering to make way for the imminent release of Luis Posada Carriles to a friendly 3rd country... like El Salvador, maybe (there aren't many compliant states any more down south)? This, after an ICE judge ruled that he will not process the extradition order by Venezuela on truly laughable grounds that he may be tortured there. This is really ironic in so many ways, like America's own use of torture, it's apparent routine kidnapping to torturing states, and that Venezuela has not seen much torture since the 1970's, when Posada himself headed their feared intelligence agency, doing the US's dirty work. (at least 3 brave pro-Castro Miami-Cuban groups are calling for extradition)

Cuba: 1 of 12 Cubans March With Castro Against US

News tickers and typical US media headlines read stuff like "In Cuba, Fidel Castro Blasts US Over Human Rights Message," "A Massive War of Words," and straight lazy lies like "Castro Equates Bush With Hitler" (based on the signs above by someone who didn't obviously look at the signs).

But I really love reading Voice of America (VOA) at times like this. Not only does it reveal a well coordinated plot by its State Department master, but it shows a failed one. State expected the day to center around the sign, but Castro made only passing reference to it, (calling it a provocation no other country would stand for). But the message penetrated the DC Press Corps, who focused coverage on it rather than the imminent release of a notorious terrorist.

Also, check out State's clumsy misuse of the word "irony" in their hammed prepared text:"I find it ironic that the Cuban government is organizing these protests against these messages that are being put up on the U.S. interests section in Havana, with quotes about freedom from Martin Luther King and other topics," State's Spokesman said. I can't believe they let this guy McCormack speak for our country to the world!? What is really ironic is the US broadcasting MLK messages about rising up against an oppressive (US) Government. Of course, according several King biographers King privately described himself as a Marxist" and spoke very highly of socialist Sweeden and Norway. The FBI recorded him saying..."The whole structure of American life must be changed.... We are engaged in the class struggle... which must be an era of revolution.... "

Despite this sideshow, a few reports did actually mention the REAL reason for the 1.4 million person march (that lasted 7 glorious hours past the US diplomats window); That is the likely imminent release of Luis Posada Carriles to a third country, NOT Venezuela where he escaped from prison and is wanted for extradition. It appears this is how a criminal government hides its terrorist crimes - in bureaucratic drips and drabs and hypocrisy so deep the press couldn't even begin to tell straight if they tried. Carriles is, of course, the Hemisphere's biggest terrorist, but I wouldn't expect ANY non-Cuba watcher to know that. Does Newsweek say Al-Qaeda "allegedly" blew up the WTC? (Carriles has been found guilty, had Cubana Airlines schedules, the admitted bombers worked for him, and there is evidence of planning meetings he attended).

Cuba's own 9 point reason for the march was 1) Demand extradition of Carriles to Venezuela, 2)/3) call Attention to the failure of US to strangle Cuba's economy/ despt new attempts that hurt families, as well as 4)The Cuban-exile crowd running Washington's Latin desk, 5) Stop the laughable US "Plan for transition in Cuba," 6) The recent Bush action on changing the migration accords, 7) The Coming push to slow agriculture purchases from the US, 8) The forced rupture of any diplomatic relations with continued shenanigans .

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bolivia: President Morales Begins his Work

A truly historic feeling has overcome the proud nation of Bolivia, with the inauguration of its first indigenous President, Evo Morales yesterday. "We have opened a new chapter in Bolivia, one of peace, justice, tolerance and equality, which joins together Bolivians from the north, south, east and west," says an typical Bolivian editorial (BBC, AFP). Polls show 74% approve of his Presidency.

Morales, of course, is just the latest in a wave of socialist leaders being elected in Latin America as a result of a massive popular backlash against American-led free-market policies, which left the region growing slower and with more poverty and unemployment than ever before.

Despite this, as well as the greater prospects for stability, anti-corruption and anti-poverty work in one of the America's most destitute and volatile regions, here in the US it appears the major themes of Bolivian press coverage will continue to be oil and coca - 2 particularly damaging American addictions, which we apparently feel better blaming on others. Typical reports tell or imply a wholesale nationalization of hydrocarbons and a legalization of non-cocaine coca cultivation, despite notions to the contrary. He has cited an EU study on the legal market for coca as a basis for future planning, and on oil he has called for a study and referendum for possible options, which most believe will follow Venezuela's mixed approach).

In his inauguration speech, Morales blamed the "neo-liberal" economic policies of the past and the "looting of our natural resources" for the poverty that affects about two-thirds of Bolivians, mostly Indians. Morales said at the inauguration he wanted all of Bolivia's natural resources, including the vast natural gas fields, to pass to state hands and asked wealthy nations to write off Bolivia's $3.4 billion foreign debt.

Despite much of the mainstream press calling Morales' new Cabinet full of radicals and militants, the BBC notes its ethnic, gender and ideological balance and their being "welcomed by many elements of Bolivian society." Other reports have noted the "soothing," pragmatic tone of his recent speeches. In the inauguration, Morales repeated his pledge to respect property rights, study trade accords for their benefit to poor people and work with the US to fight drug trafficking. He also promised his administration would treat all sectors of society fairly, without "rancor or vengeance." In symbolic terms, Morales is pledging hard work and prudence from his government. He had his first meeting at 5AM and cut his own salary in half. "I want to ask you personally that this government have zero corruption, zero bureaucracy," Mr Morales said.

"We are here to change history," Morales said, with passion in his voice and tears in his eyes. "This democratic, cultural fight is part of the fight of our ancestors, it is the continuity of the fight of Tupac Katari, it is a continuity of the fight of Che Guevara."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cuba and Venezuela: Good Energy News

In a time when even bullish energy analysts and George Bush acknowleges the looming crisis in oil reserves, and the notion of nationalization is becoming popular in Canada and even (mentioned) here in the US, one today must dig to find tangible progress for people. in Cuba and Venezuela state planning and mobilization efforts are showing the benefits of a State-led approach to other countries. This is why these 2 countries are really dispised, they give people "bad ideas" and higher expectations of government.

In Venezuela, (from Business Week) President Hugo Chavez said Friday that Venezuela expects to reap an additional US$1.5 billion (euro1.24 billion) this year in oil income with the return of 32 privately operated oil fields to state control. He said Friday those contracts allowed foreign companies to extract oil at US$4 (euro3.30) a barrel then sell it to the national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, at US$20 (euro16.54). The contracts also required PDVSA to pay the related royalties. "Now this perverse mechanism is over," Chavez declared as he promised to divert the additional revenues from the mixed companies to social programs.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro announced that Cuba will be "blackout free" starting May 1st. This truly would be amazing as fits of mostly schedule blackouts have become a major problem the last 1 or 2 years, a result of aging infrastructure (that often can't be easily repaired because of the embargo) and mother nature (hurricanes). But an aggressive, sustainable plan has been worked out whereby solar and wind power, along with increased energy efficiency and new generators will make this annoyance history.

Meanwhile in the US, where our energy policy is written by the energy companies themselves, we seem suprised by $80 BILLION dollar profits and our inability to do anything constructive to help the poor make it through the winter in the Northeast or to step rising gas prices. Fortunately, Venezuela has announced plans to expand efforts to help the poor across the region cope.

Friday, January 20, 2006

US Caves on Cuba World Baseball Decision

I had a feeling, they would. The prospect of Major League Baseball and sports writers everywhere blaming President Bush for the cancellation of an exciting World Baseball Classic matchup was too much. The purported money "reason" had vanished once Fidel announced that all proceeds were going to Katrina victims.

So now, it is announced that the Treasury Dept. reversed course and Cuba will be allowed to participate in the Classic, which begins March 9th. We can't wait.

Also, if you want I wrote a response to Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria's idiotic editorial blasting Cuban baseball in the New York Times.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Human Rights Watch Report: Their View of the South

Human Rights Watch, an increasingly influential organization, has delivered its annual shame one, shame all-fest, HRW Report 2006. It is making news for it's headline, "U.S. Policy of Abuse Undermines Rights Worldwide," and for calling Iraq's situation "much worse". HRW is somewhat unique in that it manages to really piss-off everyone - the Israeli's, the Palestinaians, Americans, the Cubans and now Chavez appears increasingly in their crosshairs.

Maybe it's what NGO Monitor says, just HRW's 'attempt to provide artificial political “balance.”' Or maybe its just the nature of these groups. They have to go country by country and call attention to something negative in a few paragraphs. I find it all very insightful as this type of liberal/NGO think (sans ideology) is the new global center.

The HRW 2006 Report focuses much of its effort on the developments in the United States. It calls "Inhumane Treatment and Torture" deliberate US Policy, and says US credibility in the defense of human rights has been "severely comprimised." It harshly criticizes illegal detentions at Gitmo and other undisclosed locations, as well as our incarceration rates (now highest in the world with blacks 7x more likely to be in jail), the death penalty, our HIV/AIDS policies, Katrina, imigration and our stance on international treaty and law obligations.

Here's what they say about some of our neighbors to the South:

Colombia: presents the most serious human rights and humanitarian situation in the world.... Members of the armed forces have been implicated with abuses... Impunity... remains a serious problem. Of course, this is a country where we pour $800 million a year in military assistance to those who "support, and commit abuses in collaboration with members of paramilitary groups." The report notes a portion of this aid is supposed to be conditioned to human rights progress but this is not "consistently enforced."

Haiti: Haiti’s already bad human rights conditions worsened in 2005, its second year under an unelected interim government. Mark this another massive and devastating failure in Bush's gift of freedom to the world. The justice system is now "hardly functional" and politically motivated where it does "work." 2005 marked a year where a convicted mass-killer, Louis Jodel Chamblain was aquitted along with 15 former soldiers and paramilitaries already convicted for the Raboteau massacre. Hundreds of millions in US Aid funds that we had withheld from the popular Aristide Government prior to his ouster, now flow into the coffers of the junta-like Government that presides over this mess, while the poor (mostly Brazillian) UN force is now seen as the occupiers. The US and France bear direct responsibility for this state of affairs.

Mexico: Mexico's criminal justice system, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by abuses, and law-enforcement officials often do not investigate and prosecute human rights violators.. Vicente Fox's supposed reform efforts have not "lived up to its potential."

Cuba: remains a Latin American anomaly: an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. Is IS an anamolly, having the best educated, most secure and cultured population in all Lat. Am./Car. Cuban democracy, an evoloving process, is in many ways (like workplace and local government), very democratic and responsive. Participation is high and party affiliation is not important in local elections, who are directly nominated by the community. The President (Castro) is indirectly elected. Political dissent is rare. Though those who engage with enemy government financed groups have been arrested on occasion. A Cuban "human rights" group (who HRW quotes) estimates 300 "political prisoners," the majoroty of who were working for the US Government.

President Fidel Castro, now in his forty-seventh year in power, shows no willingness to consider even minor reforms.
Castro has experimented with capitalist reforms only to see inequality grow too fast and corruption begin to rear its head. In 2004 and 2005 he back-tracked and re-asserted State control in most areas. As a result of increased foreign investment and efficiency gains, there has been a rapid increase in GDP (11.4%) in 2005. Also 2005 saw an even greater share of income being distributed to social programs, many workers and the elderly.

Instead, his government continues to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance, house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment. HRW cites 11 criminal prosecutions of so-called "dissenters" in 2005, most under Law 88, which punishes collaboration with the US Government. Those not working with the Americans have been relatively free to pursuse their aims. An "independent civil society" conference took place without harrassment and many (non US Government tied). There were a couple of incidents where it appears neighbors and activists took matters into their own hands and publicly denounced those they felt were being traitorous.

The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law. They cite maybe 30 people arrested in 2005 on "political" charges. perhaps 50 people can say they experienced any kind of "oppression" in 2005 at the hands of the Cuban government. The recent arrest of a Florida University couple for "working for the Cuban Government" shows that the US does not tolerate similar working for enemy governments on its soil. Cubans enjoy rights to housing, food, health, jobs and education in their Constitution like few places in the world, which this "human rights" report ignores. People are free to pursue careers in the arts and sciences, free from drugs and crime and most other major social problems associated with "advanced" societies.

Venezuela: Since winning a national referendum on his presidency in 2004, Hugo Chávez and his majority coalition in Congress have taken steps to undermine the independence of the country’s judiciary by packing the Supreme Court with their allies.
I suppose the HRW considered the 2002 Supreme Court "independent" because it voted 11-9 to set free 4 military officers in charge of the coup-de-tat against President Chavez. They used the perverse lie that the action was a "power vacuum" and not a coup, which is demonstrably false. Since then, phone evidence surfaced that former Justice Minister Luis Miquilena, who had appointed most of the Justices, was talking to coup plotters about "putting pressure on the Supreme Court." Many tipped Miquilena to be the plotters favored President. Something clearly had to be done, particularly after the nation had demonstrated its huge support for Chavez and his other Constitutional reforms. More Justices were added to the court, as had been done in previous years by US-backed Menem in Argentina and and Fujimori in Peru. Hugo Chavez did not appoint anyone to the court... unlike in the US. The opposition in the Naitonal Assembly boycotted the proceedings, assuring a pro-Chavez tilt

They have also enacted legislation that seriously threatens press freedoms and freedom of expression. Not one media outlet has been closed or journalist arrested. This despite having one of the most gossip-filled, disrespectful, partisan (opposition), and lie-filled media in the world. They are talking about a law that had mostly to do with cleaning up sex and violence from Venezuelan television. The controvertial "descato" (disrespect) provision is common in many Latin countries and requires a very high standard of misconduct. The law is close to our libel laws.

Several high profile members of civil society have faced prosecution on highly dubious charges, and human rights defenders have been repeatedly accused by government officials of conspiring against the nation. Because they HAVE been conspiring against the nation and partipated in an exposed coup. Like those already found guity (and some innocent), those who don't run will receive a fair trial. If HRW is truly defending Machado, Carmona and Poleo (see comments), they are woefully uninformed. Should the small "opposition"and foreign powers be allowed to bring down the most popular government in Latin America with impunity?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Miami: Cuban Spy Story - A Perfect Lens

Cuba watchers immediately smelled a rat with the arrest of 2 Florida International University (FIU) faculty members last week for what the press lazily has called "spying for Cuba." Actually espionage was not alleged; the 2 are charged for failing to register as foreign agents with the U.S. government, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

Those who know the Alvarez's reacted with stunneddisbelief at the news. Collegues called Carlos a "real jem of a guy," "an excellent person," someone everyone loved. FIU President Mitch Maidique (a 25-year long friend) even attended the bond hearing to lobby for their release on bond. Instead, incredibly, bond was denied with the Judge ruling the Alvarez's a flight risk. This despite the fact that the Alvarez's knew the charge was coming for a while now and could have left at any time.

A closer look at what the two supposedly admitted to is in order. Despite all the mentions of scary encryptian devices and shortwave radios, the Alvarez's main preoccupation was little more than political analysis of Cuban-American affairs. From the indictments, it appears the most work was reports on the dangerous activities of Miami groups, many of whom have histories of violence and terrorism on the island. They wrote personality profiles on different Cuban-exile leaders and influential politicians. They wrote papers on the changing attitudes of population on Cuba issues. Big freakin deal!

Depite press reports to the contrary, no evidence has surfaced linking the couple to recriutment of young people to the Revolutionary cause. No U.S. government or military information was sent to Cuban officials, law-enforcement officials said. No payment was received for the work ever.

The hypocrisy of these arrests is perfect. They come, not coincidentally, at the same time the US is seriously considering letting the biggest terrorist in the Western Hemisphere go - Luis Posada Carriles. The problem apparently being that he is OUR terrorist, with loads of stories to tell.

It also comes 2 years after the world threw a collective fit at the arrest of 75 so-called dissidents in Cuba for far more dangerous and illegal work on behalf od the United States. The major difference between the 75 and these 2 being that the Alvarez's were not attempting to undermine the Government that charged them. The 75 were all connected to the US government, had recieved payment, resources or instruction - in order to justify an illegal blockade. If just working for an enemy government is enough to get arrested, then why don't Cuban-Americans understand that is why the 75 are in jail - and others who don't like Castro are not.