Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brazil: Typical MSM BS

Brazil's election begins in a few hours and the Western press has already got the story. The acceptable type of Latin left-leaning President Lula da Silva will win a second term. More idealogically attuned writers will get quite explicit in their love for Lula. Check the hyperbole from the Houston Chronicle:

Silva stunned the world by stabilizing the economy and bringing millions out of poverty without raising taxes as Brazil's first elected leftist leader.

But then they know they have to even it out, so they say something like:

For the United States, Silva's re-election would be a mixed blessing.

He proclaims himself a friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and helped sink the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas in a protest over lavish U.S. farm subsidies. At the U.N. General Assembly last month, Silva blasted the U.S.-led Iraq war, saying the money should be used to alleviate global poverty.

But unlike Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who used the assembly podium to call President Bush "the devil," Silva refrained from mentioning the United States or Bush by name.

Awwww, isn't that sweet? I never thought I's see the day where all you had to do was not mention the words United States or George Bush when bitching about the US to be considered a regional ally and model global citizen.

What is ironic and amazing is that Lula was probably the most serious, radical threat facing the US plans in Latin American in the 1980s and early 90s. Anyone who knows the PT (Lula's Workers Party), knows they were the ones most harsh on the "Washington Concensus" and neo-liberal model back then - and they were young and smart and different. They made their name by concentrating on the more direct/participatory model of democracy, while upholding socialism as the goal - a lot like the model Chavez is pursuing. The difference in Venezuela and Brazil is more style than substance...

The PT is an amazing party, and a guidiing light to leftist movements across the globe. However, the slow pave of poverty alieveation efforts and modesty of reforms has disappointed many on the left since Lula was elected. Yeah, a few redistributive welfare/food program (like Bolsa Bamilia) has meant a decrease in poverty numbers. But a lack of institutional focus means that education, health and job figures remain terrible and water, sewer and decent housing remain a major problem for poor people.

I think he will go much further in his next term, because the economy is stronger and less vulnerable to fund managers and bond traders - and 2nd terms are for going further. I am ultimately mixed on Lula, his 2nd term will be his legacy. But i certainly am happy he'll have a 2nd chance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ecuador: The Amazing Rise of Correa

The most left-wing candidate in Ecuador's Oct 15 Presidential election has gained a strong lead in polls. From the beginning of the month to Sept 22 Rafael Correa's support has grown from 15% to 26.4%, compared to 19.5% for centre-left Leon Roldos. However it is likely that no candidate will get the needed 50% to prevent a runoff. It looks like a repeat of Peru.

It is noteworthy for right-wingers to know this most recent poll was taken a day after the notorious Hugo Chavez speech at the UN. We are told all the time Chavez is weakening the left in Latin America, but I bet our (only 10% disclassified) National Intelligence Estimate would differ (it is interesting, they can release the sections on terrorism but not on out own hemisphere?).

Anyhow, Correa is a former Finance Minister, who quit rather than play along with the banks and fund managers. He is a fellow alumni of U. of Illinois - Masters in Economics, so maybe I'm biased. He's in the Western press today for the first time really - his introduction to the US is in calling Bush "dimwitted." He also said, "Calling Bush the devil is offending the devil. The devil is evil, but intelligent." (saying it with the same tongue in cheek as Chavez's, also saying he loves Americans from his time here and he would respect all leaders as Presidents, but that is his personal opinion...)

Correa's poll rise has moved bond yields in recent days, as he dare suggests that the country get the same debt restructuring deal as many others. He has called for the building of a 'modern socialism' and revolutionary democracy. He has also suggested dropping the dollar in favor of a regional currency and closing the biggest regional US military base.

For this, many are getting nervous. So the gloves are coming off. Roldos has called him "fascistic." Former Ecuadorian president León Febres Cordero recently said, "It is obvious that he is receiving money from Cuba and Venezuela." (totally false). Meanwhile, the Herald is obliging, by running story subtly titled Ecuador front-runner: Chávez is a friend.

Peru part duex (they hope)... but maybe the Ecuadorian people will realize they dont want another Lucio Guitierrez...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Free the Cuban Five NOW

Francisco Letelier, whose father, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated 30 years ago Thursday in Washington, leads a march against terrorism in Washington DC this weekend. Letelier, who lives in Los Angeles, called on the United States to declare Cuban exile militant Posada Carilles a terrorist so that he could remain in US custody and not be released, as was recommended by a Federal Judge last week.

The march of 600 people also called for the release of the "Cuban Five." The five men were arrested for "failing to register as foreign agents" (not as spies) after Cuba disclosed to the FBI that terrorist plans were being hatched in Miami. Instead of going after the plotters, the US Government went after those responsible for the warning - five Cuban men who had infiltrated anti-Castro extremist groups and discovered plots intended for US soil. They have been in prison for 5 years now, despite a judges ruling that found the trial jury unacceptably biased and the fact that others accused of the same crime - but for Saddam Hussein - were let out on bail last week.

One US news outlet covered the event, where each of the 71 names of those killed on a 1976 Cubana Airline was read alound - follow by "JUSTICIA." Posada Carriles has all but admitted responsibility for the bombing, but appears weeks from his release from detainment. It appears the wrath of the Cuban-American community trumps any semblence of justice in the "War on Terror" -as we define it.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Chavez Responds to the Heat

As wimpy Democrats scramble to use the American public's ignorance of Hugo Chavez and the amazing benefits he is bringing to Venezuela's poor, to position themselves as tough during an election year, it is up to Chavez to defend himself. These comments are straight off the press from a Time magazine exclusive to be released next week:

"Bush has called me worse things — tyrant, populist dictator, drug trafficker, to name a few," Chavez said. "I'm not attacking Bush; I'm simply counterattacking. Bush has been attacking the world, and not just with words — with bombs. I think the bombs he's unleashed on Baghdad or Lebanon do a lot more harm than any words spoken in the United Nations."

On the growing support in Latin America for his brand of "21st-century socialism," Chavez said: "After seeing the failure of Washington-backed capitalist reforms in Latin America, I no longer think a third way between capitalism and socialism is possible. Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ — who I think was the first socialist — only socialism can really create a genuine society."

Chavez expressed confidence that the U.N. will vote to give Venezuela a non-permanent seat in the Security Council next month. "It's because of the moment we're living right now, the need to block the cannons of the U.S. empire," he said. "The U.N.'s members believe we can have the most impact on that debate. The U.S. fears Venezuela's presence on the Council because it knows we'll be an independent vote for the Third World."

Chavez also had some pointed comments on his country's role as the hemisphere's largest oil producer. "Bush wanted Iraq's oil and I believe he wants Venezuela's oil," Chavez said. "But the blame for high oil prices lies in the consumer model of the U.S. Its reckless oil consumption is a form of suicide."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

John Bolton, US Top Diplomat, Shows His Ignorance

Here is what John Bolton, the un-confirmed US representative to the United Nations, had to say about the dust-up on 42nd Street yesterday:

I understand that President Chavez of Venezuela had some interesting things to say in the General Assembly this morning. You know it's a phenomenon of the United States that not only can he say those things in the General Assembly, he could walk over to Central Park and exercise freedom of speech in Central Park too and say pretty much whatever he wanted. Too bad President Chavez doesn't extend the same freedom of speech to the people of Venezuela. That's my comment on his speech.

Too bad no one had the balls or knowledge to challenge that completely false statement, that he repeated twice, proving it was well cooked up in the State Dept. lab. If there was an instance of restricting freedom of speech in Venezuela every American would know about it. If a journalist has ever been threatened or killed (like what happened in US lapdog state Guatamala last week) we would know. There are no such restrictions and in fact the Government faces one of the most hostile press in the world. Read their major papers, watch their major TV, internet, etc - there is nothing but anti-Chavez slant and open disrespect for the social revolution. Any talk of repression is just plain ignorance. No one is in jail, no one muzzled, no one facing any sort of presecution at all (unlike this US blogger)-- except the couple of folks who took US money and took part in an overthrow of the Government in 2002.

Even the vehemently anti-Chavez, anti-leftist organization Reporters Sans Fronteres - admits that the press in Venezuela is more free than that in Israel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

UN Endorses Anti-Imperialist Stance by Chavez

The Western media and bloggers think they are having a field day with the speech given by a clearly emboldened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the UN. Most articles (932 at the moment) are concentrating on the "el diablo" phrase, which is quite a common expression in Latin America. More sophisticated, anti-international commentators are concentrating on the "sustained applause" - as supposed evidence of the UN's wickedness. The world disagrees with our President's policies of war, so we must further isolate ourselves and rattle sabers. Smart.

The amazing minutes-long applause by the worlds diplomats and leaders showed everyone that Chavez is not the extremist, like he said. It is the Bush Administration and US foreign policies that are extreme and domineering, unworthy of our great country. Chavez and Castro have such respect because they say things everyone else in the world knows but is afraid to say. But our wonderfully "free" press seems fit to focus on a few strong words, ignoring any semblence of the actual intellectual criticisms that generated so much applause.

Read the speech here and judge for yourself:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cuba: Life Isn't Easy, but Isn't Bad

From the Charleston Daily Mail, not exactly a bastion of liberalism, contains this suprisingly truthful article titled Seeing Cuba: Life isn't easy -- but it isn't bad. Here are some exerpts, read the entire article here.

Except for the most basic information, most of the articles and travel books I read were of little use.

The thieves and pickpockets on the famous Malecon that runs along the coast and the bike-riding purse-snatchers on the Prado never materialized.

Likewise, price-gouging cabbies were nowhere to be found. Ditto with scam artists, crooked moneychangers and the assortment of pests that usually descend upon Anglos in Third World countries. And no one we saw appeared to be hungry, malnourished or homeless.

In short, Havana was perhaps the safest, most tranquil and "human" city I've visited.
For visitors, Cuba can seem a model of efficiency, albeit a strange one.
"I know it may be hard for people to understand," said one man, "but people are taken care of here."

The most illuminating passage comes at the end, comparing the 'paradise' of the Bahamas to Cuba. I felt a similar jarring of perceptions getting off the plane from Havana to Cancun. I never wanted to go back to Mexico...

In the Nassau airport, I asked if there was a way to avoid the $25 cab ride into town. Everyone I spoke to was unfriendly, rude and just plain not helpful. Strange, I thought, we just left a country where people are supposed to be miserable and oppressed and they were, to a person, congenial and helpful. Here, in a country whose stock in trade is "don't worry, be happy," it was completely the opposite.

Once outside the airport, it was easy to see why people were grumpy. It was as if we never left the United States - we saw KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, malls, strip malls, sprawling mansions and characterless hotels.

On one hand, there is an island that has kept its culture, a strong sense of nationalism and a way of life that is simple, though not easy. Then, 200 miles away, capitalism has had its way with another island. And the result isn't pretty.

Want more reports from the NAM summit:
A nation of jovial citizens - Malaysia Star, Malaysia - 20 hours ago
World leaders need little policing in Castro's Cuba - Rueters
Cuba summit sends strong message - BBC News
Cuba summit sends strong message - ABC News

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

375,000 Have Sight Thanks to Cuba

HAVANA (AP) - Cuba will bring its free eye surgery program to Africa and Asia in the coming months, expanding a campaign that has restored eyesight to hundreds of thousands of poor people in 28 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Most of the surgeries are done at the Cuban Ophthamology Institute in western Havana, a complex of buildings with 34 operating rooms where 62 doctors and dozens of residents can perform simultaneous operations, the directors said.

But "Operation Miracle" has also expanded to clinics in Venezuela and Bolivia and Cuban teams will soon expand to Ecuador and Mexico as well.

Various countries in both Africa and Asia have asked for Cuba's help, so in December, the first eye clinic using technology provided by the Cuban government will open in a yet-to-be-named country in Africa or Asia, with more to follow, director Marcelino Rios Torres said in Havana at the Non-aligned Movement's summit.

The Cuban government usually pays for air fare and other costs, as well as the surgeries. Since the program began in July 2004 with a group of poor Venezuelan patients, Cuban doctors have performed eye surgery, mostly for cataracts, on 375,619 patients, Rios Torres said.

As the program has grown, Cuba has acquired cutting-edge technology, mostly from the European Union and Asia because of the decades-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba. In return, Cuba offers specialists whose dedication to serve the poor reflects the zeal of the Cuban revolution, the directors said.

"The mission is only directed at those patients who can't pay for private health care and don't have insurance," said Reinaldo Rios Caso, the institute's vice-director.

The patients, he said, are "poor people who have been blind for years because they're poor and would continue to be blind if not for this kind of help."

US Gov't Monitoring Cuba in "War Room-like Setting"

A (movie-styled) poster in front of the US Interests Section reads "Injustice trembles, Coming soon to a court in north America: 'The murderer' starring Posada Carriles and George W. Bush"... woud be funny if not proven so true.

So we have a new CIA office dedicated to Cuba. We have a "Plan for Transition" report. We have a newly freed anti-Cuba terrorist set free. And now we have 5 new US government groups meeting to "track events in Cuba," including one headed jointly by the NSC/Pentagon.

Looks to me from the incessent harping on Castro not coming back, the US may seriously see that as a critical goal during this period. Problem is, Castro's coming back - he's out of bed now and the past weeks have shown his people want him. And the more the US says stuff like this - plus all the crap that came out of Miami - will make him more determined to regain his role. You know he's dying to talk about all the news lately (see below)...


WASHINGTON - Convinced that Fidel Castro will never regain the power he once wielded, the Bush administration has created five interagency working groups to monitor Cuba and carry out U.S. policies.

The groups, some of which operate in a war-room-like setting, were quietly set up after the July 31 announcement that the ailing Cuban leader had temporarily ceded power to a collective leadership headed by his brother Raúl, U.S. officials have told The Miami Herald.

Their composition reflects both the administration's Cuban policy priorities as well as the belief that the 80-year-old Castro's status as the island's undisputed leader is finished, regardless of the nature of his still-mysterious ailment.

Thomas Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, said last month that Castro ''does not appear'' to be in a position to return to day-to-day management.

Eric Watnik, a State Department spokesman on Cuban issues, went further, telling The Miami Herald that Castro ''will never come back to the position that he previously enjoyed.'' He declined to detail any evidence the U.S. government has for such a belief.

U.S. officials say three of the newly created groups are headed by the State Department: diplomatic actions; strategic communications and democratic promotion. Another that coordinated humanitarian aid to Cuba is run by the Commerce Department, and a fifth, on migration issues, is run jointly by the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security.

Many members of the groups work out of the same State Department office in what one person familiar with the operation described as a ``control room.''
And check out this nugget at the end. The long piece of sanity is DOD??!
The Department of Defense, for instance, has balked at acting too aggressively for fear of igniting a crisis in the U.S. back yard at a time when U.S. forces already are stretched thin by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cuba Economy Grew 12.5% in First Half

By Guillermo Parra-Bernal

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Cuba's economy grew 12.5 percent in the first half of 2006, boosted by a surge in the construction, transport and services industries, Economy and Planning Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said.

This year the economy is likely to attain a second straight year of growth exceeding 10 percent as local investment and proceeds from exports such as nickel and sugar cane boost government coffers and workers' incomes, Rodriguez said at a press conference in Havana.

``We are moving forward in our policies of favoring workers' income, keeping unemployment at low levels and investing in our future ability to generate electricity at lower costs,'' Rodriguez says.

Cuban Airline Bomber to Be Released from US Custody

Click above to see the CIA document where Posada admits planning the Cubana Airlines bombing.

BBC News
A US court has ruled that a Cuban wanted on terrorism charges by Cuba and Venezuela should be set free from a Texas immigration detention centre.

Ex-CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles was held for crossing illegally from Mexico after serving time in Panama for plotting to kill Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Mr Posada Carriles faces deportation, but it cannot be to Cuba or Venezuela.
Mr Posada Carriles' lawyer, Felipe Millan, said his client could be free within 30 days if a federal district judge upheld the ruling.

Prison escape

Both Venezuela and Cuba have accused the US government of harbouring a man they consider to be a known terrorist.

Mr Wingerter said: "If we are serious about fighting terrorism then we need to prosecute all terrorists, not just those opposed to US foreign policy."

The US Department of Justice said it was reviewing the court decision.

The entire Cuban fencing team was among those who died when the Cuban jetliner flying from Caracas was bombed.

Mr Posada Carriles was convicted in Panama of trying to bomb Cuban leader Fidel Castro at a summit in the country in 2002.
More from BBC News

What an insult to America on the 5th Anniversary of 9/11... What really gets me from this disgusting but wholly expected decision, is that the judge had the gall to say this about the "rights" of one who illegally entered the country (and lied about it to Federal Officials). Tell that to the thousands stranded in prison today on immigration charges, many for years and with nowhere to go. Where are the immigration activists, where are the national security politicians, where is the outrage from the press?

The terrorist's fate was secure when the "Magistrate" ruled - based only on the BS presented by Posada's lawyers - that he would face torture if extradited to Venezuela. Nevermind that no human rights organization has alleged any such torture in that country's Federal prisons for many years (ironically from the period when Posada headed that country's intelligence services). And nevermind that US law states that terrorists and "dangers to the community" are exempt from release provisions.

This article states that Posada "faces deportation" but only to a country that will take the hemispere's leading terrorist. Sound to me like a way of quietly releasing one of the world's most wanted men without actually doing so on the record? Quite smart, those bureacrats are. They can do anything when instructed to by Washington.

The Herald cited an interesing bit:

On March 22nd the Homeland Security agency (ICE) denied his release, arguing he was a "danger to the community" and posed a "risk to the national security of the United States."

But Garney (the Magistrate) wrote in his opinion Monday that the ICE statement was not enough to keep Posada in detention. According to Garney, the law requires for indefinite detention a formal certification by the U.S. attorney general that a detainee is a terrorist or threat to the community. "In this case, petitioner was never certified by the Attorney General as a terrorist or danger to the community or national security," wrote Garney, adding the government also had not "moved to detain petitioner under any special circumstances."

In its 2001 ruling, the high court said foreign nationals who cannot be deported can be held beyond six months after removal orders become final -- but only if they are deemed ``especially dangerous individuals.''

The court said those cases must be ''subject to strong procedural protections,'' but did not spell them out.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Cuban Five and the FBI-Miami Connection

The Cuban Five have each sat 5 years in US Federal jail - for working to stop terrorism. The problem was they were trying to stop attacks in Cuba... from Miami. When Cuba shared their findings (about some who plead guilty in Court today) with the FBI, thinking the FBI would act on the weapons and training tips, the FBI opted instead to arrest the Cuban "spies." Spies, who never posessed a weapon, who never plotted against ANY US Government interest, never saught any Government secret, and who acted only in the defense of their homeland.

The arrests of the five patriots was
a conspiracy between the FBI and the Miami mafia


OVER the last eight years, more and more evidence has appeared proving that what occurred on that Saturday, September 12, 1998 in Miami had more to do with a conspiracy between Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and the anti-Cuban terrorist mafia, than with protecting the national security of the United States.

The Miami media acknowledged the following Monday, the 14th, that many experts could not understand why the FBI had made the arrests over the weekend of those individuals who were monitoring counterrevolutionary groups, because it was precisely the FBI that was one of the beneficiaries of the information that these individuals were collecting on violent actions by those groups.

The commentary published on September 15, 1998 in The Miami Herald, said that the FBI had known about what these people were doing within the Miami groups for a long time, and added, "On Monday (September 14), many in Little Havana were speculating that the raid was Washington’s way of balancing the scales of justice against the seven Cuban exiles who the month before had been accused of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro."

In a press conference days later, Héctor Pesquera, recently named FBI bureau chief in Miami, admitted that these arrests had generated contradictions with some of his superiors, who did not support the action, and added that this case "never would have made it to the courts" if he had not directly urged Louis Freeh, then director of that agency, to approve the arrests.

Evidently, something abnormal was occurring...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Revealed: US Govt. Paid Cuban "Journalists"

The hits keep on coming. It'll be interesting to see if this much larger and troubling instance of Government-paid "journalists" gets anywhere near the play the Armstrong Williams story did. Also, check the name Juan Manuel Cao, who 2 months ago was the toast of Miami for his testy exchange with Fidel Castro, where Castro correctly pegged him as a paid mercenary of the US Government. At the time, Cuban-Americans had a field day with this "paranoid" acusation by Castro. Turns out it was 100% true. The 9 others are the cream of the anti-Castro crop in Miami. Looks as if the new owner at the Herald is getting serious about turning the rag into a place with actual journalistic ethics, rather than the biased, pay the piper feel-good rag it had been.

At least 10 local journalists accepted U.S. government pay for programs on Radio Martí or TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald fired two of them Thursday for conflict of interest.

Miami Herald

At least 10 South Florida journalists, including three from El Nuevo Herald, received regular payments from the U.S. government for programs on Radio Martí and TV Martí, two broadcasters aimed at undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro. The payments totaled thousands of dollars over several years.

Those who were paid the most were veteran reporters and a freelance contributor for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language newspaper published by the corporate parent of The Miami Herald. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and writes an opinion column, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio Martí and TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald freelance reporter Olga Connor, who writes about Cuban culture, received about $71,000, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covers the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years.

Alfonso and Cancio were dismissed after The Miami Herald questioned editors at El Nuevo Herald about the payments. Connor's freelance relationship with the newspaper also was severed.

Jesús Díaz Jr., president of the Miami Herald Media Co. and publisher of both newspapers, expressed disappointment, saying the payments violated a ''sacred trust'' between journalists and the public.

''Even the appearance that your objectivity or integrity might have been impaired is something we can't condone, not in our business,'' Díaz said. ``I personally don't believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it's a government agency.''

Other journalists receiving payments from the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio and TV Martí, included: Diario Las Americas opinion page editor Helen Aguirre Ferre and reporter/columnist Ariel Remos; Channel 41 news director Miguel Cossio; and syndicated columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner, whose opinions appear in the pages of El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald.


Radio and TV Martí are U.S. government programs created to promote democracy and freedom in Cuba. Their programming cannot be broadcast within the United States because of anti-propaganda laws. Radio and TV Martí have received $37 million this year.

The payments to journalists were discovered in documents recently obtained by The Miami Herald as a result of a federal Freedom of Information Request filed on Aug. 15.
Journalism ethics experts called the payments a fundamental conflict of interest. Such violations undermine the credibility of reporters to objectively cover key issues affecting U.S. policy toward Cuba, they said.

Iván Román, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the payments from TV and Radio Martí posed a clear conflict of interest.

The journalists involved are among the most popular in South Florida, and many were reporting on issues involving Radio or TV Martí for their news organizations.

Channel 41 reporter Juan Manuel Cao, who received $11,400 this year from TV Martí, made news in July when he confronted Castro during an appearance in Argentina by pressing the Cuban leader to explain why his government had not allowed a well-known doctor and dissident, Hilda Molina, to leave the island to visit her son in Argentina.

During the exchange, Castro openly questioned Cao if anyone was paying him to ask that question. The Cuban government has long contended that some South Florida Spanish-language journalists were on the federal payroll.

''There is nothing suspect in this,'' Cao said. ``I would do it for free. But the regulations don't allow it. I charge symbolically, below market prices.''
The Miami Herald's review of dozens of articles by the El Nuevo Herald journalists -- including several about TV Martí or Radio Martí -- found no instance in which the reporters or columnists disclosed that they had received payment.

Two ethics experts compared it to the case of Armstrong Williams in 2005, when it was revealed that the Bush administration had paid the prominent pundit to promote its education policy, No Child Left Behind, on his nationally syndicated television show.
Entire Miami Herald Article

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Terrorist's Fate Likely to Depend on Ethnicity of Juror

Unbelievable. Imagine any other newspaper in this country casually informing its readers that the fate of two "activists" (found with weapons, intending to cause terrorism = terrorists not activists) would depend on the legal manuevering of their lawyers in regards to the race and ethnicity of the juror pool. There would (rightly) be outrage on every talk show in America. But when your Congressional Representative publicly expreses support and respect for said terrorists, you know things are a little different in Miami (“They don’t go planting bombs in supermarkets,” Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart actually said. He's right, they're only responsible for bombs at hotels and restaurants). As it always has been, violent Cuban extremists (with help from their rich allies) find ways to use our legal system to their advantage. Ironically, the trial date is set for September 11th. Click here for background on the case against these 2.

Hispanic jurors called key to Castro foes' fate
The high-stakes weapons case against two anti-Castro activists will likely boil down to who sits on the federal jury in the Fort Lauderdale trial set for next week.

Miami Herald

When two anti-Castro activists were arrested on weapons charges in Miami, federal prosecutors filed the indictment in Fort Lauderdale -- seen as an ''insult'' by the pair's supporters.

The legal team for Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat tried in vain to move the case back to Miami, arguing it was the only way the Cuban exiles could get a fair jury trial.

As the Sept. 12 trial approaches, their attorneys have come up with a new tactic: Allow Miami-Dade residents to sit alongside Broward residents in the jury pool so that some Cuban Americans might be selected.

It's legal, but it may be a long shot.

And it points to the sensitive issue of choosing jurors in the bordering counties for federal trials in which race or ethnicity can make the difference between a verdict of guilt or innocence.(!!!!)

A longtime jury consultant said the stakes over who sits on the 12-person jury couldn't be higher. Both Miami men, 64, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted -- though there's an outside chance they might cut plea deals at the last minute for far lesser sentences.

''The question is, are these guys terrorists or heroes? In Miami-Dade, they're going to be viewed as heroes,'' said Amy Singer, a South Florida psychologist who heads Trial Consultants, Inc.


''In Miami-Dade, the defendants have a good chance of being found not guilty,'' she said. ``In Fort Lauderdale, the jury might actually listen to the facts of the case. There are a lot of Hispanics in Fort Lauderdale, but it's still heavily Anglo. There's more of an anti-bilingual, anti-Hispanic flavor in Fort Lauderdale.''

Prosecutors flatly oppose the defense proposal, saying it's an attempt to get around the judge's earlier decision to deny moving the case to Miami. Their plan ''is not constitutionally sound, fundamentally fair, or consistent with the Southern District's random jury selection plan,'' prosecutors Jacqueline Arango and Randy Hummel wrote in court papers.

Now, the divisive issue must be answered by presiding U.S. District Judge James Cohn.

Normally, federal jurors are selected from the immediate area where a crime was charged, but a judge can make an exception in a large regional district such as South Florida to protect a defendant's right to a fair trial by a jury of his peers.

It's so rare, however, that lawyers for Alvarez and Mitat cited a case in Tennessee to make their point.

Their attorneys argue that the strikingly different demographics between Miami-Dade and Broward counties should compel Cohn to allow a two-county jury.

Citing 2004 Census Bureau numbers, about one out of three prospective jurors are likely to be Cuban American in Miami-Dade. The number rises to one out of 25 in Broward, according to an analysis by Florida International University professor Kevin Hill.

In court papers, the defendants' lawyers Kendall Coffey and Ben Kuehne wrote: ``With Broward's noticeable absence of a sizable Cuban-American population, drawing from a jury [pool] that includes Miami-Dade jurors will promote a fair trial and ensure the jury is appropriately reflective of the community.''

Last December, Alvarez and Mitat pleaded not guilty to weapons charges -- including illegal possession of machine guns, rifles and silencers with obliterated serial numbers -- in a Miami federal court.

Chanting ''¡Libertad!'' on the Miami courthouse steps, dozens of the men's supporters denounced their prosecution in Fort Lauderdale, where a grand jury indicted them on charges of storing illegal firearms in a Broward apartment complex that belonged to Alvarez, a wealthy developer.

U.S. government agents first learned about Alvarez in May 2005 when he helped Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles emerge from hiding before his arrest for entering the country illegally. Posada is still in federal custody in Texas.

The charges filed against Alvarez and Mitat are unrelated to Posada's past anti-Castro activities, but prosecutors plan to introduce trial evidence showing Alvarez and Mitat ``have been involved in planning and staging insurgent paramilitary operations against Cuba.''