Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bush's Latin Trip - The Low Point of US-Latin American Relations

"The empire is in counterattack, with the head of the empire himself leading the attack, And why? Because they realize that the popular Latin American offensive is for real."

"This is not about Chávez versus Bush or Bush versus Chávez. If this were a personal matter, he would be knocked down long time ago. You know this is not a personal issue." - Hugo Chavez

With the wrap of Bush’s journey down south, experts are already saying the trip will be seen as representing the “nadir” of post Cold War US-Latin America relations and that it went as bad as it seemed. Given all the protests, purifications and lectures by his hosts, I almost feel bad for our President (not). For it is true that he is not solely responsible for the bad blood that decades of coups, death squads and economic strangulation have incurred.

The tail end of the trip, supposedly to right-wing allies in Guatemala and Mexico, ended up being the most humiliating of all. While their complaints were mostly in regards to US immigration policy, the fact they were aired in front of Bush reflected the changed reality of US power and prestige. On the issue Guatemalan President Berger said, “The Guatemalan people would have preferred a more clear and positive response - no more deportations."

The pittances Bush offered his hosts lent himself to ridicule, as Hugo Chavez made significant gestures to Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti along the way. In Venezuela, the virulently anti-Chavez right-wing newspaper El Universal, had this to say about the trip: “Carrying around boxes of lettuce in a colorful Guatemalan coat is not my definition of showing that he’s willing to do poverty alleviation,

Of course, the problem is that Bush is not interested in poverty alleviation, despite the amount of times he mentioned “social justice”. The trip was all about Hugo Chavez, despite the transparently hilarious attempts to ignore him. On that, Bush ended up even more empty handed than ever. Uruguay and Brazil have made their positions on regional unity more than clear and Calderon, with some surprising dignity, showed he is not going to play the game either. He said so bluntly in an interview with The Associated Press, “I am not interested in playing a role with Bush in that respect.” to add insult to injury, his government says it wants to mend fences with Cuba and Venezuela. Surely it did not help that Bush told the largest Mexican newspaper that he thought the symbol of Mexican nationalism, oil giant Penmex, should be privatized before he arrived.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez’s trip was a huge success. He had overflowing crowds in Argentina fired up and hanging on his every word, and delivered an agreement with Kirchner to create a South American natural gas cartel, ala OPEC. In Bolivia, where the US media reported he “was getting a cool reception” because he landed in the province of Evo’s political enemies, he won the hearts of the people by offering ten times the aid the US has, in response to terrible flooding there. His entourage was cheered everywhere he went, including the important El Alto suburb or La Paz. There he announced Bolivia’s entry into the new Banco Sud, a counter to the IMF and its dictates.

In Nicaragua, Chavez announced the construction of a new oil refinery, meant to wean the country off its dependence to the ESSO corporation and provide thousands of jobs. The $1.5 billion plant to be located in Leon represents the largest foreign investment in Nicaraguan history, according to Managua’s Mayor.

But Haiti was the probably the highlight of the tip for Chavez. There he rolled through the scariest slums of Port Au Prince, with mobs of young men and women treating him like royalty. He announced a $1 billion fund to assist Haiti's development, including the spreading of Cuban doctors to every town and neighborhood in the country (Cubans already provide most health care there).



Blogger joice said...

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One of my blogs "implicante" is supposed to have also some content in english. So, I wanted to ask you if this is ok to link you there and also add (or translate to portuguese) some of your blog contents. Just let me know.
Oh and your music blog, Global Radio, is also a really good one!
Thank you,

4:23 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Hello Joyce, boa vinda!

Of course you can take whatever you want from here. Glad you like the music too. Brazillian music is one of my favorites...

I liked reading what I could of your blog also. Keep it up.

9:09 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Meanwhile in Cuba, the confiscation of satellite dishes continues...

9:41 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Stay tuned, Cuban satellite television pirates say

By Ray Sanchez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel


HAVANA - The satellite TV man strutted past a row of crumbling Central Havana tenements, where old women peered down from colonial balconies and clusters of men sat outside playing dominoes.

One entertainment-starved resident after another inquired about the neighborhood's illegal satellite network, which had to be taken down for more than a week after the latest government crackdown on TV piracy.

"Any day now," promised Acea, a 23-year-old medical student and satellite TV entrepreneur. "You'll be watching Sabado Gigante in no time."

But the popular Miami-based, Spanish-language variety show hadn't prompted the most recent government campaign against the banned satellite hookups. The latest raids came two months after U.S.-funded Radio and TV Marti struck deals with two commercial South Florida stations to broadcast anti-Castro programming to Cuba via satellite TV. For years, the Cuban government has successfully jammed TV Marti's non-satellite signal.

Concealed on rooftops throughout Havana, thousands of illegal satellite antennas have become one more symbol of the ceaseless efforts by communist authorities to control the information that flows to the island and by hard-line exiles across the Florida Straits to undermine the government of ailing president Fidel Castro.

Many Cubans who rely on state-controlled media for entertainment and news are caught in the middle. They merely seek to circumvent the tired political rhetoric coming from both sides, they say, to escape lives marked by food shortages, crumbling housing, inadequate transportation and meager state wages.

"You have four channels of communist TV," said Acea, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of government reprisals. "People get tired. If you have children at home, they get bored. If it's not the Mesa Redonda (Roundtable news program), it's the story of the execution of so and so. But it's always politics. Why is our government so concerned that we watch political shows from the U.S. when we're being inundated with political programming here?"

Typical TV offerings in Cuba include math and language courses, the nightly 90-minute pro-government Roundtable news program and local sports.

Recent raids came in the days before and after the Feb. 8 publication of a full-page article in the communist daily Granma about a group of men prosecuted for fabricating illegal satellite dishes. The article said programming by TV Marti and some Miami-based commercial Spanish-language stations was "destabilizing and interventionist and forms part of the Bush administration plan aimed at destroying the revolution and with it the Cuban nation."

Acea and some friends said they operate a burgeoning pirate TV network with two strategically mounted satellite dishes plus a web of cables and boosters to 60 Central Havana homes. They charge about $10 a month for the service, almost as much as most Cubans earn each month. The satellite dishes, they said, are usually smuggled into the country by exiles visiting from the United States. Sometimes airport customs agents are bribed for each dish they allow through.

"Some police officers in the neighborhood have satellite service," Acea said. "Sometimes we provide them with free service and in exchange they let us know when a raid is being carried out."

When they receive word of raids, cables are quickly disconnected and put away. The network is shut down. With the system down most of February, subscribers have not had to pay this month. "It's all part of doing business," Acea said.

One friend handles installations, he said. Another handles the technical aspects of the trade. Acea is treasurer and enforcer.

"I go out every month with a wire cutter and wood plank in case there is trouble," he said. "If they don't pay, I cut the wire right there."

Many Cubans who purchase illegal satellite hookups think the government may be worried about something more ominous than the stridently anti-Castro programs - the TV commercials.

"It's inconvenient for the government that we see that in Florida you can buy three housecoats for $9.99 and here you pay $6 for one," said Frank, a 50-year-old welder, who has an illegal hookup at home. "They don't want us to see that you can buy a kilo of chicken legs in Miami for 99 cents and here you pay $3 for the same thing."

Between 10,000 and 30,000 illegal satellite dishes operate throughout Cuba, leaving some analysts to question their impact in a country of 11 million. But many programs are taped and distributed around various neighborhoods.

"On the news, we sometimes see friends who have left for Miami," said Angel, 32, a member of Acea's team. "Sometimes we'll see someone we know on Sabado Gigante. Other times we'll see friends being picked up from rafts by the U.S. Coast Guard. Days later, you see them walking down the street after being sent back to Cuba."

Last week, after another round of police raids, Acea's Central Havana neighbors were not sure when they would tune into Sabado Gigante again.

9:49 AM  
Blogger joice said...

Thank you! I just posted on "vozes do sul" mentioning your blog and this post. see you.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it great that we live in a country where you can say, print, blog, etc. anything you feel about our president (i.e., George Bush) and/or government? I find it so funny how so many hypocrites denounce our form of government while they reap the benefits of the so-called devil named capitalism. I will never understand why those who praise communism so much don't just re-locate to a communist country like Cuba or Venezuela. I mean come on...Fidel and Hugo gotta be better than George....just make sure you are OK with living in a country where you can't own a computer or typewriter. You would probably really miss posting some blogs, huh? Additionally, I would you feel if George Bush all of a sudden adopts communist ideals, and comes to your home to confiscate all property while saying, "sorry, buddy, but this all belongs to the state, now."? It's really funny how people enjoy talking out of their asses, so to speak. I actually know what a communist government does to a country. My father, may he rest in peace, was born in Nicaragua. It's a shame that so many Americans take their freedom and liberties for granted. We really need to appreciate what we have. However, like I said before, we have the freedom to leave if we want.

11:31 PM  

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