Friday, March 31, 2006

Puerto Rican Protest Against Cuban Erupts

A story from the AP, analyzed by a member of the from the LA Solidatiry listserv

Wed Mar 29, 11:48 PM ET
Some 20 demonstrators angered by a ceremony honoring a Cuban defector stormed into Puerto Rico's statehouse Wednesday, breaking tables, windows and a glass case covering the U.S. territory's constitution.

The demonstrators were angered by a tribute lawmakers were paying to Julio Labatut, a Cuban dissident and a renowned florist honored for his charitable works and entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico.

Some alleged Labatut was involved in the unsolved 1979 killing of Carlos Muniz Varela, an activist for Puerto Rico's independence. "We will never forget. Stop the impunity," Muniz's son, Carlos Muniz Perez, 31, told the crowd of several hundred demonstrating in front of the statehouse.

At one point, a protester tried to pull down the U.S. flag in front of the building. Three police officers and one lawyer participating in the tribute were injured, said San Juan police Cmdr. Anibal Marrero. One of the protesters who stormed the statehouse was arrested.

Labatut, who was part of a group of Cuban exiles that encouraged Cuban athletes competing in Puerto Rico in the early 1990s to defect from Cuba, said he was insulted by the protest.

Commentary from listserver Raulmax:
A good example of bias reporting by the US media when it comes to Puerto Rican issues.

First of all, the Capital Building in San Juan is not a statehouse. Puerto Rico is not a state of the US and the mayority of Puerto Ricans do not want it to become one.

Second to characterize Julio Labatud as a " renowned florist" is stretching the point. He has for the past 40 years owned a florist shop in the San Juan Metro area. To say that he does "charitable works" is another stretch. He has given money to Cuban exile charities that deal with the Cuban exile community. Even these charities when asked about his good works were hard pressed to mention them.. This was an excuse given by pro statehood right wing representative Jennifer Gonzalez to justify her honoring activity in his behalf.

Third, Julio Labtud has been linked to not only the murder by cuban exiles of cuban exile Carlos Muniz Varela but to a series of other murders by right wing elements of the cuban exile community here in Puerto Rico. His has been linked to the murder of Santiago Mari Pesquera, the son of pro independence leader Juan Mari Bras. Labatud has been linked together with the " one lawyer participating in the tribute" whose name is Sergio Ramos to the cuban exile organization Abdala. Abdala is responsible for the January 11, 1975 bombing in the Mayaguez central plaza which killed two people and injured 11. Labatud's business FlorArte was the site of Abdala and other cuban exile terrorist organizations meetings during the late 1960s and 1970s. Julio Labatud was known to provide money for these assassinations and for other shooting and bombings aimed at pro independence forces and cuban exiles who were seeking dialogue with Fidel.

Labatud himself in declarations on Puerto Rican TV has admitted to giving money to these cuban exile terrorist organizations. In declarations on a popular interview show he stated that he agreed with the assassination of Carlos Mu/niz Varela.

Labatud like Posada Carriles is being protected by the US government. He and right wing cuban exiles like him have been doing the durty work for the FBI in Puerto Rico for years.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Puerto Rico Sues FBI over Killing

UPDATE: Miami Herald handles the protests decently, quoting Puerto Rico Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá: ''People are very offended with what the FBI did... We have to recognize they have No. 1, made mistakes in those cases, and No. 2, they have not been open and communicative with the people of Puerto Rico to understand what happened'' in both incidents.

We reported on this cold blooded murder when it happened last September. The article on the resulting unprecedented lawsuit below is condenscend from an original WSW article:

The government of Puerto Rico went to federal court last week, accusing the FBI of obstructing justice by stonewalling a local investigation of the FBI’s killing of a leading figure in the island’s independence movement during a raid last September.

The unprecedented court action reflects growing anger within the Puerto Rican population as a whole over the strong-arm tactics exercised by Washington, employing the methods of the “war on terror” against its nationalist opponents on the island.

The case stems from the September 23, 2005 raid carried out by the FBI against the home of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, founder of the militant independence Macheteros group in the southwestern municipality of Hormigueros.

At least 100 agents backed by helicopters and military sharpshooters surrounded the home where Ojeda, 72, and his wife were living. Ojeda, convicted in absentia of having participated in the planning of a $7.3 million armored car robbery in Connecticut in 1983, was a well-known political figure who regularly addressed pro-independence meetings and rallies by means of recorded messages.

After wounding him in a shootout, the FBI cordoned off the area surrounding the house, refusing to allow in emergency medical personnel, attorneys and even the Puerto Rican police. He was left to slowly bleed to death on the floor of his home over the course of many hours. (The FBI also reportedly used pepper spray to disperse angry crowds).

Relatedly, the Washington Post also reported on Tuesday's briefing for House Democrats where PR's Attorney General criticized the FBI. "Only through open and frank communication between Commonwealth and federal authorities can we hope to best service our common interest in the protection of our citizens."

The FBI has refused to disclose the identities of the agents who took part in the raids or to provide more than a minimal amount of information, Sanchez Ramos said.

Also the BBC ran an interesting piece last week on the increasing debate on the island for independence. It emphasized that Cuba's baseball games in Puerto Rico are partly responsible for the upsurge in nationalist spirit. Castro has long urged independence from the US for its sister island. It also noted the irony of the US fighting for democracy in Iraq when people on its own Commonwealth have no say in voting for US leaders - despite having shed blood in every war America has ever fought.

"Every Latino admires Fidel Castro because he has had the bravery or madness to face an empire that can wipe him out in 20 seconds and he has done that for 40 years and he's still around," he says. "So he has a deep admiration in the psyches of Puerto Ricans because all of us would like to have a little of Fidel Castro.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cuba, Nation of Islam and Katrina

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (C) and U.S. medical students on scholarships pose at Havanas Latin American Medical School, Havana.

The US appears to be finding another way to block Cuban aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. After blocking Cuban rapid response medical personnel right after Katrina hit, leaving hundreds od Doctors sitting idle 45 minutes away from New Orleans when hundreds pf people were dying, the US is now denying Cuban's multi-million dollar World Baseball Classic winnings, which were dedicated to Katrina's victims.

This at a time when black Muslim leaders, including Min. Louis Farrakhan, are in Cuba meeting with poor US Medical students studying for free, Cuban volunteer Doctors and Hurricane specialists. The aim is to learn from Cuba in the areas of diasaster relief.

"IF we had this type of preventative system we would have been spared a large part of the disaster caused by Katrina." This opinion was expressed by Akbar Muhammad.

The NOI criticized the Bush Admin. for refusing a Cuban offer to send doctors after Katrina devastated New Orleans last August, flooding neighborhoods mainly populated by blacks and the impoverished.

Farrakhan, who led the Million Man March on the Washington Mall in 1995 to promote black self-reliance and responsibility, said he intended to "spread the knowledge" among impoverished black, Hispanic and Native American communities. He met with young Americans studying medicine in Havana on Cuban scholarships and encouraged them to go back to their communities to deliver medical services needed by those who lack health insurance.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ecuadorian Leader Demands Referendum on FTAA

Things are reaching a tipping point in Ecuador. In advance of today's scheduled opening of US-Ecuador "free-trade" talks the (weak, provisional) Ecuadorean Government has declared a State of Emergency - suspending freedom of association and arresting non violent protesters - in response to a series of protests/blockades lead by the Andean country's indigenous groups. Thousands of police and soldiers are dispersing around the country clearing anti-Government protests before the Americans arrival.

Luis Macas, leader of the left-leaning Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, told reporters Wednesday that his movement would end its protests if President Alfredo Palacio gave in to at least one of several demands. Macas wants Ecuador to pull its trade negotiators out of Washington ahead of a final round of talks scheduled to start Thursday; put the possible free-trade pact to a national referendum; cancel an oil concession granted to U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp.; or convene a constitutional assembly to rewrite Ecuador's constitution.
The Indians contend that Ecuadorean farmers and small-scale Indian producers would not be able to compete with cheap imports from the U.S., where agriculture is heavily subsidized.
... such as in Mexico where 1.5 million farmers have been forced off the land since NAFTA.

The issue with Occidental: US Oil Co. Occidental has also drawn the ire of Ecuadorians and helped spark current protests. The company has been embroiled in legal problems with the government over alleged contract violations and disputed taxes. Occidental has offered $600 million in extra revenues and an additional $100 million for social projects to settle and keep its contract, which is at risk of being revoked. Yet despite this unusual "generosity" the company denies any wrongdoing.

Even more damaging was a recent article by journalist Kelly Hearn that revealed Occidental previously had secret contracts with the Ecuadorian military with terms that included requirements by soldiers to "carry out armed patrol" and "execute and supervise counterintelligence operations."

And check out what Barack Obama and Patrick Leahy have written in a letter to the US Trade Reps. office: "Chevron is reportedly lobbying Members of Congress and your office to use the leverage of the Andean Free Trade Agreement to pressure Ecuador to dismiss the case."

Analysis from Upside Down World: Ecuadorian President(Palacio's) administration has been struggling to contain protests and strikes in the oil producing Amazon region over the last few months. Protesters shut down two oil-pumping stations in February, demanding that the government spend more on social programs and infrastructure projects. Ecuador uses less than 8 percent of its GDP on social programs.
It’s very possible this government could fall. The worst-case scenario is this would result in such instability that it could lead to calls for foreign "peacekeepers." Ideally Palacio will wait to continue negotiations until a referendum is organized or until the country’s next election. But if not, he will most likely be removed and Ecuadorians will have to endure some political turbulence. It wouldn’t be the first time.

In the meantime, social movements in Ecuador need to determine what kind of electoral strategy they want to take. CONAIE and the indigenous political party Pachakutik were left reeling after their candidate Gutierrez turned on his populist promises and instead adopted the neoliberal policies championed by Washington and the IMF. The conditions are ripe for a leftist leader to emerge as president in the next election in October, just as in other countries in the region.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

One Down, One to Go for Cuba WBC Championship

Upon arriving to Petco Park I was not sure what to expect for the Cuban-Dominican semi-final game of the World Baseball Classic (WBC). But after sitting down I noticed that I was in a mostly pro-Cuban section. While there were probably more overall Dominican fans - from a couple conversations I got the feeling most "normal" US fans instinctively were pro-MLB, thereby pro-Dominican - the Cuban supporters were strong all over - and not shy either.

It was a very well pitched game (Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon vs. the amazing 1-2 Cuban combo of Y. Marti and P. Lazo), the Dominicans struck first in the 7th with a very stupid error by 21-year old 2b Y. Gouriski. But the Cubans came right back with singles and scarifices to get snatch the lead back, 3-1. It would be all they would need with Lazo on the mound.

After the game, I ran into a marauding group of obviously pro-Revolution Cuban fans. They were picking up supporters as they went and pitched camp right outside the gates, yelling "Cuba Si, Blockeo No" and misc. pro Fidel, pro-Cuba slogans. One elderly Dominican woman challenged them and they humored her, telling her they also wanted freedom for the por Dominican people. There was drumming and dancing and loads of celebration. What a moment I was thinking for the people of Cuba, How they must be celebrating I thought, particularly given the pessimistic attitude many Cubans had about their prospects.

Though there are (finally) many articcles today that admit Cuba has finally proved itself, most also seemed to slavishly re-phrase the Dominican's sore loser excuses for Cuba's win (and MLB's loss).

Take the really pathetic post-game comments of Mr. Alou, Tejada, Beltre, Perez, et al. Amatuer stuff like: "If we faced them 10 times ... we'd beat them nine out of 10. I really believe that.." Or "The Cubans are close to being major league players.” Or "This is spring training. It's March. Sometimes, your swing is not there yet... If we're in midseason form, no way we score one run against them."

At least Dominan coach Acta has some class: "I'd rather give them credit than make excuses. "I think everybody in baseball knew, even before the All Star Break last year, that we were going to play this baseball classic, and everybody that had the desire to play prepared themselves to play for this tournament.

Maybe the Dominicans (and all MLBers) should realize that baseball is a team game and that swinging for the fences at every chance will not cut it. Maybe they will get off their lazy butt in 4 years a few weeks earlier so they will be "ready," Maybe they'll no longer assume just because they make the most money doesn't mean they're the best. The "market" is not always perfect as the economists say. Maybe they'll realize their passion for Dominica, or Puerto Rico can not nearly be as high as if they still lived there and that a beseigned country has some extra mental stimulation, which in baseball can be critical.

At least finally the MSM sports media like ESPN has come around, after their frat boy mocking early on got nowhere. As has Sports Illustrated who summarized the post-game mood: The powerful Dominicans, sour and a tad on the surly side in defeat, don't want to give the Cubans much credit for what they pulled off in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday. And that's probably fine with Cuba, which is used to scrapping for every piece of respect it can get.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cuba Baseball: Si Si Puede!

Unbelievable!! The baseball gods are good to me this year - first the White Sox, now Cuba in the World Baseball Classic making it to the Final 4 in San Diego - to play Dominica, Korea and US or Mexico.

What a tournament this is shaping up to be, and without players even getting paid. Even if it's not even on US TV(?!), the emotion you are seeing on these player's faces says it all. This Cuba rematch vs. Puerto Rico - and quite a few others - have been just amazing baseball games. The Cubans played inspired baseball, running and slashing - and the pitching came through (I was worried that they couldn't use Lazo).

This writer tries to capture the feeling in San Juan: For all the emotionally intense drama that has arisen in baseball games past, what happened in the final innings on Wednesday night during one wild elimination game in Puerto Rico probably deserves a place in history all by itself.

This is an unprecedented event, and it forces the observer watching it live to view everything from different perspectives. There were some truly wild moments, tempers were rising, the rain was falling, national pride was at stake, elite Major League players were letting it all hang out... There were the Cuban players on top of the dugout as usual, just waiting to release all that pent-up emotion with unrestrained glee.

And then there it was, the final swing and miss, then big Pedro Luis Lazo and those Cuban players thundering toward the mound in an amazing celebration, and the looks of deflated anger on the faces of the Puerto Rican players who now will scatter their separate ways. Just as Venezuela's was, Puerto Rico's unbelievably talented roster suddenly was forced to disband, just an ephemeral piece of history.
Maybe this is the key - Cuba is a T-E-A-M.

The Cubans were dressed in all red, something they made a point of before the game. The symbolism was apparently lost on the NYTimes writer, who actually red meant championship(?) Are we that far away from the Cold War that we don't know what red means?

ESPN showed no clips of Cuba scoring - only arguing, making errors, walking like zombies, arguing more and then celebrating (these images fit into our accepted view of Cuba). The NYTimes and ESPN both approved of the questionable (and critical) calls in favor of PR. I ask then: have they not heard of the routine "neighborhood" double-play call at 2nd base (where a player must get out of the way of an incoming sliding player)? This was a classic case. If every double-play in the US was called like that, we'd have thousands more baseball injuries a year.

Check out ESPN's double-talk: "tough call, --rta looks like the right call. They don't get the neighborhood call in the WBC." So he admits that Cuba would normally get the call in MLB (and everywhere else), but also says this was the "right call" without reason.

And this is mild compared to all the derision and dismissal of the Cuban team endured. It wouldn't have been out of character to hear one of the ESPN a**holes, or Miami Herald cowards openly mock the headline in this morning's Granma. Regarding the Cuban people's pride and joy - their baseball team - the headline was simply "Si Si Puede."

Even in defeat, Jose Oquendo, the Puerto Rican manager, wouldn't relent in aggression. He derisively said the Cubans had "five good players any major league team" would want.

Cuba's coach answered offensive and annoying questions about supposed defections by saying: "Whoever wants to go into exile can walk away or stand next to a policeman. We don't have prisoners. Simply, our athletes are besieged because people want to turn them into merchandise. But they want to play for their country."

Beating Puerto Rico at home in a game that meant everything will rank as a historic Cuban basball achievement. It is the biggest upset of the tourney in most minds (even mine?) and carried so much emotion in the stands and field. Symbolic on so many levels. This WBC has the potential to become an event - and I'm going to be there, watching my Illini as well. And if it is Cuba-US on Monday I might come down with an ailment...

Peru: Humala Bounces in Presidential Polling

Despite the highly suspicious (and utterly unproven) changes leveled at leftist Presidential candidate Ollanta Humala in recent weeks by US funded groups in Peru, he has drawn even with right-wing candidate Lourdes Flores in recent polling. The Financial Times attributes this to a feeling of abandonment outside the capital, by and large of the Indian peasantry, which supports Humala.

From Bloomberg:

March 13 -- Peruvian nationalist presidential candidate Ollanta Humala closed the gap with front-runner Lourdes Flores in polling ahead of April's election.

Humala, leader of the Peruvian Nationalist Party, rose to 30 percent voter support from 26 percent in a poll finished March 10, Lima-based polling firm Apoyo Opinion y Mercado said. Backing for Flores fell to 31 percent from 33 percent from Apoyo's previous poll Feb. 24, while former President Alan Garcia's support was unchanged 22 percent, Apoyo said.

Apoyo surveyed 2,000 people in 79 provinces from March 8 to 10. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Flores, 46, a lawyer and former congresswoman, backs free- market policies and a trade agreement with the U.S. Humala, 42, a former army lieutenant colonel who took over a mine owned by Southern Copper Corp. in a revolt against Fujimori in October 2000, proposes higher corporate taxes, renegotiation of oil and mining contracts and limits on foreign investment.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Puerto Rico to Anti-Cuba Protesters: "Fuera, Fuera"

Baseball fans of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic confront spectators wearing T-shirts with letters that form the phrase 'Down with Fidel.'

I couldn't understand what I was hearing in the late innings of yesterday's Cuba-Dominica game, when the cameras once again turned to anti-Cuban protesters who cleverly did away with their signs and wore "ABAJO FIDEL" on their shirts instead. The ESPN announcers willfully lied (for the 20th time) when they immediately asserted that the crowd was on the side of the protesters and wanted them to stay.

Actually, the chant audible on TV was "fuera, fuera," which means "get out, get out." It was clear to observers (even the Miami Herald admitted it) that the crowd was yelling at the protesters to be removed. Instead they were allowed to stay as long as they covered their political shirt sign. This spontanous expression of support for the Cubans (interpreted by the NYTimes as simply pro-baseball) suprised those who assume the US ignorance and hatred of Cuba extends outside the US borders. Bob Dupay, MLB President, also blogs that he was suprised by the large contingent of pro-Cuba fans in attendance at the Puerto Rican games.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cuba: Baseball and Politics

Catcher Ariel Pestano of Cuba speaks with pitcher Pedro Lazo during their 7-2 victory over Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Baseball is a great lens for politics. Behold some of the mini-eruptions already in play surrounding Cuba, the US and the wonderfully compelling World Baseball Classic.

The largest noise came as the result of an engineered media stunt perpetrated by associates of The Real Cuba (Enrique Rubio) during the Cuba-Netherlands game. Even though this fella purposely changed seats in order to get his sign in the camera's sights (where it remained) and even though such political and offensive signs are never allowed, particularly not directly in the camera's view - this was played in the MSM and blogosphere as an example of Cuban's restricting "free speech." This despite MLB and WBC security clearly stating such signs are against longstanding sport policy.

Then in losing bad to Puerto Rico in a game that meant absolutely zilch, the "end of the Cuban baseball mystique" was prematurely declared by the ESPN announcers every 2 minutes. We were told the emporer has no clothes and that it's clear these "paper tiger" Cubans can't play with major leaguers. We heard idiotic political commentary from the ESPN booth, such as in socialistic/Communistic societies people don't get paid. We heard about phantom defections and "heavy security." The announcers went nuts about the supposed foul play of Cuba in headhunting Pudge Rodriguez - after PR had underhandedly stole a base Cuba was not defending with a 7 run lead. As I recall the PR pitcher was the one ejected.

But the drubbing Cuba eunleashed on Venezuela's MLB star packed lineup today is blamed on errors and poor coaching. It gets little notice for the major surprise it was for everyone, including me (except the announcers who displayed their shock all game). But no articles refer to a major upset - and the Cuban game was not mentioned during the later games.

On the other side, the US, playing in a much weaker bracket, wins a critical game on the account of a very rare (and totally incorrect) overruled call against a Japanese tag runner.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Triumph of Socialist Sport

The face of the controllers of American sport

With the headlines today reading that 32 old rich white men finally decided to socialize "America's" game football (revenue sharing), that Cuba won and USA lost (to Canada) in the WBC and that Barry Bond's steroid use is no longer a serious question, I thought it was not a bad day for the topic of sports and socialism.

People can say what they want about Socialism, but they can't take away it's record on sports (or education or housing or health care). Eastern Europe rose to sports prominence under Communism. Since the revolution, Cuba has won more than 40 gold medals, one of the best per capita in the world (along with my peeps - Norway). Before that, in total, Cuba had won 2.

But forget the medal count, let's think. What is the meaning and purpose of sport? Of course, it is for fun, it is for well-being, to push one further and for the thrill of competition. That means sports should be for everyone, not limited by where you live or income. The state has a role in expanding sport. We love sports because we love rooting for the home team. Shouldn't we encourage players from an area to play for that city, and to discourage constant trading? Sports is NOT about money, nor unnatural enhancement, nor team owners, nor trades, nor most money wins, now luxury boxes, nor rampant commercialism...

Check out this quote from Cuba's star infielder Yulieski Gourriel:

"I think (MLB players) play with other objectives in mind than we do," he said. "They rent themselves. We play for the love of the name across our jerseys and our cities. There they play for the money"

Or this one from the Cuban Coach : "Our players, when they play, don't think, I'm going to break my hand," Higinio Velez, the manager, said. "Because the player that has money sometimes thinks, What happens if I break my hand?" The inference was obvious. The references to playing for the love of the game, not for the money, to playing for the team, not for the individual, flowed freely from the typically cautious Cubans.

Here is an excerpt from my earlier reply to a particularly nasty attack on Cuba by Roberto González Echevarría, which argued they should be excluded from the World Baseball Classic, because they are "s team of slaves:"

"A team of slaves?" Just because the Cubans have set out to retain the purity of the game of baseball does not slaves make. The game is for the people in Cuba, tickets cost les than 5 cents. Does Echeveria prefer that tickets rise in order to pay for hefy salaries brokered by greedy agents? Does he really think there is something evil with players playing for the region they are from (as US players do until college) rather than the lack of loyalty we have here? Does he really think US players a "free" to speak about their own managers and owners? Does he have any evidence of Cuban players harmed for their views? Doesn't he know that Cuban players are now allowed to play abroad for good pay - 2 are currently in Japan? Or is he just lying?

Cuban players are offered briefcases full of dollars, fancy cars and blond women to defect when they play abroad - from unscrupulous US scouts like Joe Cuba. Shouldn't this practice stop before we condemn laws that aim to protect its national pastime from the US? Should every country turn into the Dominican Republic - a minor leauges for the US where the people can't even enjoy their country's talent and thousands of would-be players end up on the streets having been bribed by MLB teams to quit school?

Anyone baseball fan who has studied Cuba's game knows it is an amazingly beautiful, pure expression of sport. That is why they have won just about every amatuer and youth championship since the Revolution. Any attempt to turn it into a US inspired copy - or worse - will ruin what is special about it. Cuban players are intensely proud and baseball considers themselves "slaves." What an insult. Politics has no place in a World Baseball Championship. Thank god everyday Americans, the baseball federations and other countries realize that - and won't let this travesty stand. We should be embarressed.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

While the right seems hell-bent on demonizing Hugo Chavez, (Castro) and now Bolivian President Evo Morales it appears the region's big guns intend to vocally oppose such efforts. Here we have related stories about who Brazil's Lula and Chile's outgoing president Ricardo Lagos blame for the poisened relations.

Chilean president praises Chavez, rejects “leftist wave”

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, whose term expires March 11, had kind words for controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez at an economic forum in Santiago.

Dismissing fears expressed in Washington D.C. of a “leftist wave” sweeping Latin America as a “rather superficial analysis”, he reproached critics for demonizing the Venezuelan leader.

“Hugo is a force of nature unleashed, he is a man of great charisma and I believe that his efforts to defeat poverty have led him to take a path of great participation….I think he has had the good luck of very high oil prices, which has allowed him to do what he does”, Lagos said.

Brazil president wants Bush, Chavez chat
BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil's president says he'd like to get President Bush and ardent U.S. critic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to sit down together and talk out their differences.

"I told President Bush that, before my term of office ends, I want to see him and Chavez seated at the same table," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told The Economist in an interview published Friday on the British magazine's Web site.

Relations between Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, and the U.S. have gradually deteriorated, leading to the recent expulsion of diplomats from each country and threats by Caracas to cut oil shipments to the U.S.

For his part, the left-leaning Silva was at first was distrusted by Washington. But he surprised many by curbing spending, bringing down inflation, and enacting programs to distribute food and boost education among the poor.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chavez's Latin Pipeline a Go

South America unveils pipeline
By Greg Morsbach
BBC News, Venezuela

Officials from Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela are meeting in Caracas to lay the foundations for a jointly-financed gas pipeline.

The 8,000km (5,000 miles) pipeline would provide Venezuelan gas to much of South America.

It will cut across the Amazon rainforest and run all the way to the southern tip of the continent, and its price tag is $20bn.

"We've already taken the political decision to build this pipeline. Now we're discussing the technicalities," a Venezuelan oiloffical said.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Mexico: The Truth About 'The Dirty War'

A leak of a historic official Mexican report alleges "crimes against humanity" and a "scorched earth" campaign in against leftists over 10-year period in the 60's and 70s. For some reason it's leak got insignificant attention in the United States. Maybe because it shows again what WE also were willing to tolerate (and aid) in defeating the Castro-inspired leftist threat.

The report will be released April 15th but it's (Spanish) leak can be found below.

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2006 - The National Security Archive posts on its Web site today a work of history in progress -- a draft of an unprecedented report by Mexico's government on the nation's "dirty war" of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

This document is the result of four years of work by the office of Mexico's Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past (FEMOSPP), Dr. Ignacio Carrillo Prieto. The office was created in 2002 by President Vicente Fox to investigate human rights crimes.

The crimes detailed in the draft report were committed during the administrations of Presidents Diaz Ordaz (1964-1970), Echeverría (1970-1976) and López Portillo (1976-1982). In those years, hundreds of Mexican citizens -- uncounted innocent civilians as well as armed militants -- were murdered or "disappeared" by military and security forces. Thousands more were tortured, illegally detained, or subjected to government harassment and surveillance.

This is all at the time US officials never said a negative thing about Mexico and, in private, called it the "perfect dictatorship". But no one will be held to account, says the Supreme Court. I have to add that the Cuban Revolution has never "disappeared" anyone, nor have their security services tossed bodies out of airplanes, nor can on make comparable claims of widespread and sytematic torture (if at all). But ask 99/100 Americans whether it was Cuba or Mexico that did these things and they would say Cuba.

Phillipines Crisis Showed US' Hypocrisy on Democracy

Imagine if Hugo Chavez in Venezuela were to outlaw public assembly, issue warrants for NGO leaders, lock up a half-dozen opposition (leftist) politicians and raid unfriendly newspapers accusing them of sedition? Imagine of there were to be a phone call where Chavez tells the election Commission head that he wants to win by 1 million votes? Imagine the reaction in the US State Department and the avalanche of editorial page condemnation. It would be considered a full-fledged assault on free speech and assembly and no justification of a supposed coup threat would cut it.

Well, we saw all these things and more happen in the Philippines this last week. And this was not any week, this was the 20th Anniversary of "peoples power" - the most hopeful moment in recent Filipino history, when the people's right to protest was so critical. But in 20 years, a basic democracy has turned to a cleptocracy, progress impeded by a corrupt and entrenched elite.

And guess what, there was ZERO mention by our State Department of the matters. Even worse, there were NO questions asked of them about it. Most Western media outlets covered the story over the weekend, when it appeared things may spin out of the Arroyo's control, but failed to provide context such as the utter failure of US-imposed political and economic structures and the obvious incongruencies of believing that communist rebels have joined forces with important elements of the military who are at war aginst each other.

Meanwhile, minutes before Arroyo announced the lifting of the controvertial martial law, two blasts rocked the Philippine capital near the offices of an elite police team.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cuban Hip-Hop Video(blog?)

A gem from Havana Journal (by way of google videoblogs).
This is a really cool little 5 minute documentary on the development of the burgeoning Cuban hip-hop scene - and its prominent US supporters.

CIA Adds Cuba to List of "Potentially Unstable" Countries

The US has added Cuba have to a short list of countries we are now planning for instability in the medium term (2-5 yrs.). US officials claim the change is because of the CIA's recent diagnosis of Castro's supposed Parkinson's. True or not, what this really means is that our best intelligence either 1) does not agree with the assessment of (mostly anti-Castro) experts who opined on the subject last month at the U. of Miami ("smooth and quick" they concluded) or 2) we really are planning some sort of shenanigans if ever something were to happen. This could be telling of current classified planning on Cuba - and the transition we seem willing to enforce.

Venezuela's Float Wins First Place in Rio

I just love it. I love Brazillians, I love carnival, I love half-naked women singing about Latin-American unity with pineapples, Azteks and a huge Bolivar ;) Cheap propaganda they will call it, or compain about the $1/2million it cost, but it was awesome - the people loved it, the judges voted it #1 and they all knew what they were doing. They knew that even though the spectacle was tame, it was heartfelt and expressed the rising Latin political feeling.

From Rueters:

A samba club backed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took first place in Rio de Janeiro's Carnival on Wednesday with a performance that promoted Latin American unity but steered clear of his outspoken opposition to U.S. influence.

The 4,000-strong (Brazillian) Vila Isabel parade troupe, which received about half a million dollars in sponsorship fees from the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, won the champion's title for its hour-long extravaganza in Rio's annual festival. The club's performance included a song about a "united and strong" Latin American people (and celebrated race mixing) and a float featuring a giant statue of Chavez's idol, Simon Bolivar, revered as the continent's liberator.

In an apparent nod to peace and harmony, the 43-foot (13-meter) statue of Bolivar held a heart in his hand instead of his traditional sword....