Wednesday, January 31, 2007

US, MSM Cry Wolf Over Venezuela (Again)

The news of Hugo Chavez receiving "unprecedented" "free reign" over Venezuela (from the two AP headlines today) is obviously a significant moment for Venezuela.

However, with the hysteria Chavez is causing around the world, you would think more than ONE press article out of 16,000 on Google have thought important to mention a basic fact: That the Constitutional granting of decree power by the legislature is by no way unique to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. It has been used in each of the last 3 decades, except by US friendly presidents.

I agree with those on the right who have said there is no political reason for Chavez to be taking this step (as his allies control most everything). But that is to assume that quickness and efficiency count for nothing in the lives of the millions that can be touched by an active, responsive government. However, as someone who believes in deliberation and participation, I don't know that I am convinced of the wisdom, but will withhold judgment until I see what this 18 months produces.

Bush's comment in response to the events was some seriously hilarious bullshit. "My worry, of course, is that the nationalization of industry will make it harder for the Venezuelan people to be lifted out of poverty, will make it harder for the people to realize their full potential."

Are Bush's people so unaware that poor people are moving closer to realizing their potential in Venezuela faster than anywhere else in the Americas? Do they really think people in Latin America listening to this are so ignorant as to believe Bush gives a damn about poor people?

Later new #2 at State Dept. John (Iran-Contra) Negroponte chimed in and expressed his concern about the Venezuelan "threat to democracy" - mentioning Bolivia "and others." You can tell Chavez was waiting for Negroponte to open his mouth, as he unloaded on the hypocrisy of being lectured by the guy who engineered illegal terrorist wars against governments in Central America during our first war on/of terror.

The Venezuelan press showed all the class of a hooker as it compared the situation to Stalinism, Nazism and declaring the beginning of the end of their democracy. The "liberal" Tal Cual splashed their headline with "Heil Hugo," equating the enabling law with powers granted to Hitler. El Universal proclaimed the beginning of a Communist dictatorship.

But the overstatement of the day may belong to Rush Limbaugh said with a straight face that the reason the people support Chavez is that if you don't you "die, or get thrown in prisons designed by Fidel Castro. Hugo Chavez is a dictator...." Yup

I've been thinking a lot about the bravery of these young folks who literally risked their lives last weekend in Miami by daring to brandish a sign opposing the release of a known Cuban-American terrorist (Luis Posada Carriles) onto US soil (see below).

While the event served to shine a light on the hatred and violence that is commonplace among a sector of the Miami community, it has also provided an insight into the context that allows this to thrive.

Consider the Miami Herald piecethat followed, with the headline "Bolivarian Youth Speak Out; Victims or Provocateurs?" Beyond giving creedence to the attackers' justification that they were mere provacatuers (who deserved it), the article practicaly mocks their idealism, calling them (amongst other slights) "a throwback to a more, well, unwashed time." It does allow the students to defend themselves, though it seems to print only their more controvertial remarks - likely to inflame many readers. And then the piece closes with an "expert" telling readers that the episode actully "shows a diversity of opinion can be tolerated." Ahh, isn't that nice...

Then we move over to the blogopshere, led by the "top 2006 Latin American weblog" - where I have been banned for 2 years now (they only like free speech in theory I and many others have found fast). Here is just a smattering of the vile comments you can read there there, regarding the students:

I just want to my fist through that asshole's face: Henry "Conductor" Gomez

The have the right to freedom of speech and we have the right to shut them up: Vedado

If I lived in Miami I would expose and protest these communists. Personally find who is renting them space for their meetings and boycott them dry. But I am a bit militany when it comes to opposing communists: Pototo

Because if you really stood there and thought about it for very long, you'd probably knock the living @#$#%$ out of that dude, as I would have: (Our friend) JSB

Lovely eh?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ecuador: Popular Correa Faces Early Tests

From the Washington Post: Supporters of leftist President Rafael Correa armed with sticks and stones fought their way into the Congress building Tuesday, demanding lawmakers call a referendum on whether the country's constitution should be rewritten.

I have been putting off writing a longer piece on Ecuador and the ups and downs first fortnight of the newest member of the evil lefty latin club, President Rafael Correa. The times are very interesting - and fluid - but the events of yesterday make some comment in order.

To anyone just beginning to look at Ecuadorean (or Latin) politics, raiding the Congress may seem extreme. But like most things reagarding the Latin left, it is a scene blown way out of proportion. The protesters were mostly students who broke away from the main peaceful marchers. They only made it to the back patio area of the Congress building, not inside (like the Post and others reported) after.

The real story is much deeper, of course. What is taking place in Ecuador and Bolivia is an epic battle over the transfer of power. Like in Venezuela, the people have realized that a main issue preventing positive change are 200 yeras of dumb laws based on an outdated constitution. Today Venezuela has perhaps the most progressive Constitutiuon in the world, guaranteering the social, civil, political, social, economic rights of all.

Some more background of the situation from the Green Left Weekly
On January 15, Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa Delgado, was sworn in, promising to build “socialism of the 21st century” to overcome the poverty and instability of the small Andean country.
Correa, a 43-year-old economist, used his inauguration to call for a “citizens’ revolution”, using wealth to meet social and environmental needs, rather than maintaining the current “perverse system” that has led to over 60% of Ecuador’s 13 million people living in poverty and forced more than 3 million to emigrate in search of jobs.

“The long night of neoliberalism is coming to an end”, said Correa, “A sovereign, dignified, just and socialist Latin America is beginning to rise.”
Correa has also promised to renegotiate contracts with foreign oil companies, in order to free up money for spending on health, education, the environment and housing. The potential benefits for Ecuador are enormous: the oil company Oxy had its contracts cancelled a year ago, and the government has since made US$1.1 billion from those oilfields alone.

Another priority for Correa is Ecuador’s foreign debt, estimated in November last year at over 25% of the country’s GDP. Correa has suggested that at least part of the debt may be illegal, and is planning to renegotiate, or possibly default on it. He has also called for an international debt tribunal to prevent the exploitation of debt-ridden countries and has threatened to cut ties with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The most important part of the new president’s platform for change is the promise to convoke a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the constitution to allow the recall of elected officials and greater participation by social movements and community sectors in government, weakening the traditional party system and making his reforms possible.

Correa, whose Alianza PAIS party ran no candidates for the Congress, faces a hostile legislature. His opponents in Congress, which is almost universally regarded to be run by a corrupt and inept “partyocracy”, formed a bloc of 76 out of 100 law-makers to oppose Correa’s reforms.
Assuming it is approved, there will now be a referendum on March 18 to endorse the initiative, and a Constituent Assembly of 87 members will be elected soon after from provincial, national and immigrant sectors of the population. The assembly will have 180 days to rewrite the constitution.

The task facing Correa is a challenging one. Previous governments that have promised reforms along similar lines have been unable or unwilling to carry them out, making only small reforms in the hope of placating big business and the people alike. In response, mass popular mobilisations, especially by the indigenous movements, have led to the overthrow of the last three elected presidents.

The hope is that Correa has broken the mould. “We’re not talking about little reforms, about making things less bad”, he said during his inauguration. “Latin America isn’t living an era of changes”, he explained. “It’s living a change of eras.”


Viva Fidel Castro Ruz

Click to watch the video, recorded yesterday in Havana.

Confounding all the "experts" who have for months taken it as a given that the Cuban Government and Hugo Chavez were lying, video has been released showing a much improved Fidel - standing, talking, drinking (I thought he was on IVs?) and laughing with Hugo. He appears to have gained much of his original weight back, though still appears to be a bit worse off and aged - as would be expected.

I could go on about the journalists, editorial boards, bloggers, even normally respectable analysts, who have discredited themselves by making their own medical judgements without facts, but that would take all day.

From a USA Today report:

Castro's medical condition is a state secret, but Cuban authorities deny he suffers from terminal cancer, as U.S. intelligence officials have claimed.

The images seemed to be aimed at knocking down the most recent round of reports about Castro's health, including a report in the Spanish newspaper El Pais earlier this month that described his health as "grave."

In the video, Chavez said he found his friend to be "of good humor, with a good face and in good spirits." He said the pair discussed a variety of issues, including the world's energy crisis and that Castro showed "much clarity, as always in his ideas and analysis."

Monday, January 29, 2007

ECONOMIST: In transition - America and Cuba

Yummm... this Havana Club Rum (anejo 8 anos) was my first purchase in Costa Rica last week. This would easily blow any Rum sold in the US out of the water at its price. Then we all enjoyed Romeo y Julieta's at the wedding rehearsal. Then I got to thinking about going back to Cuba for my honeymoon, if this all goes through!

27 January 2007, The Economist

Pressure is growing for a re-think of policy towards the island

THE fading health of Fidel Castro, coupled with the advent of the new
Democratic Congress, means that America is under growing pressure to
change its tough stance towards Cuba. Before Christmas, a ten-member
bipartisan congressional delegation travelled to that dangerous
island for a series of meetings with senior Cuban government
officials. "It's a time for change," says Jeff Flake, Republican of
Arizona, who led the delegation. "There's a new dynamic now."

Both sides feel it. Since taking over from his invalid brother in
late July, Raúl Castro has twice offered to open normalisation talks
with America. Each time he has been tersely rejected. The Bush
administration says it is not interested so long as either Castro
brother is in power. Critics say the administration is ignoring
political developments in Cuba, where Raúl is showing signs of a less
doctrinaire style of rule. But promoting change in either capital is
no easy task. For the past six years the Bush administration has
fought off efforts in Congress to soften the embargo, using the
Republican majorities there to defeat repeated attempts to alter its

That has now changed. The relevant committees in the 110th Congress
are now headed by longstanding critics of the embargo. These include
Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and
Max Baucus, who heads the Senate Finance Committee. In the Senate Joe
Biden of Delaware, a liberal and non-ideologue, has taken over the
Foreign Relations Committee.

William Delahunt, the Democrat who now heads the oversight panel of
the International Relations Committee in the House, has already
announced that he will hold hearings shortly into Cuban aid
programmes. Other hearings could be held on scandal-plagued Radio and
TV Martí, the Miami-based government broadcasting outlets directed at
Cuba. A government report has already exposed flaws in aid to Cuba's
tiny dissident movement, as well as in funding for anti-Castro
projects in the United States.

Critics say all these programmes have done a good job of fuelling the
anti-Castro industry in Miami, while having little impact in Cuba.
That, of course, has long been the dirty secret of America's Cuba
policy. "The administration is not interested in Cuba, it is
interested in Calle Ocho," says Philip Peters, vice-president of the
Virginia-based Lexington Institute, referring to the main avenue that
cuts through Miami's Little Havana district. Miami's Cuban-American
electorate and campaign contributions have long been seen as
politically vital, less because of their actual size than because of
Florida's perennial importance as a big presidential swing state.

In 2004, though, the Bush administration overreached itself. A
presidential "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba" proposed
increasing aid to the dissidents while imposing tight limits on cash
remittances to relatives on the island. Cuban-Americans were also
restricted to one trip to Cuba every three years, and to visiting
"close relatives only" not including aunts, uncles and cousins.

But the travel and money limits, while popular with some hardliners,
are disliked by many Cuban-Americans, especially those who have
arrived in the past two decades and still have ties to family on the
island. Many now advocate personal contacts as a useful vehicle for

Last month, a group of Cuban exile organisations in Miami echoed the
call for easing restrictions on travel and remittances. Consenso
Cubano issued a report saying that the policy violated "fundamental
rights of Cubans." It was endorsed by the influential, and extremely
conservative, Cuban-American National Foundation. Four prominent
dissidents in Cuba also signed a statement in late November asking
America to lift its travel restrictions. American laws "in no way
help" their struggle, they said. Will George Bush listen? It's not
what he's best known for.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cubans Speak for Themselves: Oral Histories from Cuba

Viva indeed Alacron says Fidel is "still at the helm" and implies skeptics are in for a surprise.

Cuba Overheard
Elizabeth Dore's two-year project aims to let Cubans speak for themselves. She shared her findings at UCLA on Jan. 12.

By Angilee Shah
UCLA International Institute
America's got it all wrong on Cuba, says University of Southampton professor of Latin American Studies Elizabeth Dore.

After two years and 100 interviews -- some lasting as long as 30 hours -- with Cubans of diverse backgrounds, mostly in Havana, Dore has concluded that popular American notions about Cuba and a foreign policy partly based on them are misguided.

"Most Americans think that Cuba is a gulag," she said, after speaking at UCLA on Jan. 12, 2007. But, according to the oral histories she has collected, Cuba's political system operates with "probably more consent than coercion." Dore talked about some of the surprising results of her research, as well as some of the constraints she faced while under contract with the Cuban government.

Her research, called Voces Cubanas, is an oral history project conducted by two UK-based and eight Cuban researchers. Dore talked about the project at the first event of the UCLA Cuba and the Caribbean Working Group, which is funded by the UCLA Latin America Center. Other sponsors were the UCLA Center for Oral History Research and the UC-Cuba Academic Initiative, a multi-campus group in its first year of existence.

The current U.S. policy on Cuba, according the website of the U.S. Department of State, is to undermine Castro's regime and support the advancement of democracy, particularly in the event of Castro's death. It is a policy that seeks to isolate Cuba both financially and from international bodies. But Dore says that this policy is misguided.

"Cubans don't want capitalism and private property," she explains. "At most they're looking for security of tenure" at their state-provided jobs. While her interview subjects expressed frustrations with censorship and government surveillance, Dore says these critiques "do not translate into Cubans wanting U.S.-style elections."

The goal of Voces Cubanas, which is sanctioned by the Cuban government, is to trace the ways men and women in Cuba remember political life in the revolution. Official histories are generated in Havana and counter-histories are put forth by Cubans in exile in Miami -- but Cubans on the island have not been given sufficient space to tell their own stories, Dore contends.

The UCLA audience raised questions about the methodology and results of the interviews. Because the project is backed by the government, many were concerned that interview subjects were vetted or too intimidated to speak freely. Dore... stressed that she has been encouraged by the wide "spectrum of views" that researchers have been able to collect. Interviewees did not always retell the official history of Cuba's revolution. Rather, they told more complex stories with what Dore calls "contrapuntals."

Oral histories have their strengths and some inevitable limitations. "In oral history, it's definitely not truth-telling," Dore explains. Rather, it's examining the way people remember their lives and bring the critical thinking of social science to those memories.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rest in Pieces: CIA Assasin and Coupster Dead at 88

Let us have a moment of silent celebration for the death of E. Howard Hunt - an agent of death and illegality that held high ranks in the US Government, until his downfall after his role in masterminding Watergate (he hired the Cuban "plumbers" who actually did the burlglering).

Arguably Hunt's finest moment was masteminding the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatamalen (Arbenz) government in 1954 (leading to 4 decades of Civil War). An ardent anti-leftists, Hunt also led and planning of black-ops and phychological warfare that surrounded the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba. Though I'm sure Hunt would have said his pride was the tracking and assasination of Che Guevera in the jungles of Bolivia, through the payment of Bolivian army officers and tracking of his transmissions, through CIA issued radios.

To go out on a limb, many reputable scholars also believe Hunt was involved with the assasination of JFK. I was shocked to read this exchange between Ann Louise Bardach of Slate and Hunt a few years ago (after he admitted his role in all of the above):

Slate: I know there is a conspiracy theory saying that David Atlee Phillips—the Miami CIA station chief—was involved with the assassination of JFK.

Hunt: [Visibly uncomfortable] I have no comment.

Slate: I know you hired him early on, to work with you in Mexico, to help with Guatemala propaganda.

Hunt: He was one of the best briefers I ever saw.

Slate: And there were even conspiracy theories about you being in Dallas the day JFK was killed.

Hunt: No comment.

Now if Hunt tesified to the Warren Commission and even went to court to prove that he was NOT in Dallas that day, why did he have so much trouble with the questions when he was late in life and feeling more honest? Hunt obviously had the motive (hatred of Democrats), preferred violence as a weapon and had the friends and experience to pull it off. I even found out that Lee Harvey Oswald had actually written to Mr. Hunt as well... I'm not a conspiracy theorist but I do think this caball of anti-Commies and Cuban-exiles were responsible for a whole lot of our most shameful history. Some even have Hunt in Memphis when MLK was killed.


Miami: Youth Beaten, Chased by Cuban Exiles for Opposing Terrorism

An ugly incidentin Miami yesterday once again showed that the Cuban-exiles have turned the city into an alternate universe. The madness began in Little Havana Tuesday, when hundreds of Cuban-American protesters openly called for "libertad" and freedom for admitted terrorist mastermind Luis Posada Carriles. When three courageous young men and women raised a banner across the street calling for the plane-bombing murderer to be jailed for such crimes, the mob crossed the street and began attacking the defenseless youth - punching, kicking, chasing them, throwing a megaphone at one's head, then kicking the youths car door in.

Watch the Video of the attack.

The incident occured a few days after a US Federal court refused to charge Carriles with terrorism charges. Instead Carriles was charged with lying to Federal agents and entering the country illegally, which may result in his imminent release. His violent past apparently was of no interest to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

The immigration judge has set Feb. 1 for the U.S. government to declare Posada the terrorist that he is, or he could very well be freed. Alberto Gonzales and the DOJ have yet to declare Posada a terrorist. By their inaction the Bush adminstration is doing its best to harbor and release a well-known terrorist - the Bin Laden of Cuba.

Meanwhile Carriles' accomplice, Santiago Alvarez, who is in prison after admitting to a related weapons charge - had his sentance cut in half (to just 2 years) after providing the location of a large arms cache to Federal officials. It was further disclosed that the Feds have in their posession a recording which the terrorists talk about bombing a nighclub full of people because they had the nerve to put music ahead of right-wing politics.

The weapons turnover came just days after Gilberto Abascal, an FBI informant who was previously tied to Alvarez and Carilles, found a pipe bomb under his pickup truck at his Hialeah home. Last August, Abascal was shot at a Hialeah restaurant. Abascal is a marked man after testifying against his former criminal associates.

What is even more unbelievable that all this is that none of these surreal scenes made news anywhere outside Miami. Not the spector of Ameicans being asked to honk in support of a terrorist, not the dispicable act of crushing freedom of speech, not the hypocrisy on the war on terror, not the miscarriage of justice being perpetrated from on high.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cuba: Fidel "Grave" or Recovering Well? MSM Chooses Their Prognosis

The Spanish surgeon who examined Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Dec 27 that Fidel is making a "good recovery" from intestinal surgery and could forseeably return to governing his country.

It has been another amazing day in the world of Castro-watching. Despite a galore of first-hand accounts from those who would actually know in the last few days , which went virtually ignored, the MSM has today printed more than 1,200 stories claiming that Fidel is in "grave condition" in their headlines. Did they have some secret access to Cubans in the know, or Fidel's medical team? No, the authority for a headline is based on what 2 unidentified workers at a Spanish hospital had to say to the newspaper El Pais. Two sources they must have figured.

But lets ignore and say nevermind what Fidel's own son said yesterday - that he is "...better, better. I see him improving." Nevermind Cuban diplomats calling the stories "invented" and Hugo Chavez echoing Fidel's own New Years Address. And certainly do not publish the positive comments from the (above) world's leading intestinal specialist, a Spanish Doctor who visited and diagnosed Fidel 3 weeks ago (or his standing behind the words, which he reiterated today. Nevermind all of that because we have two unknown persons who made the statements every newsroom was waiting for (and saying without proof) for months - that things are not looking good for Fidel.

The problem is that is not true. Fidel's condition is not "Grave," he is - I believe - recovering and will be back in the public relatively soon. Of course, some aspects of these stories coming out of Spain might have some truth. All I know is that the media was printing as fact that Castro had cancer all the way up to the visit by the Spanish doctor disproved that and that they have no real basis to today spread 1200 headlines around the world saying Castro is gravely ill .

An interesting side note is that the headlines coincided with remarks by the US' new Director of Intelligence (Negroponte) who told Senators last week that Castro's days "seem to be numbered." Negroponte tried to lie his way out of questions about why no uprisings had occured in Cuba. Now we know that in official US intelligence view, the post-Fidel transition has already begun and appears to be heading for a "soft landing." Even if we buy this, the USG views this peace and progress unacceptable.

"From the point of the United States policy, we don't want to see that happen," Negroponte said.
Negroponte said last week it is an open question whether Castro's death could trigger a popular demand for democratic change.

"What is not known is whether people are holding back - maybe we're not seeing the kind of the ferment yet that one might expect to see once Mr. Castro has definitively departed the scene".... "We don't know in large measure because it is a repressive society. They've repressed their opposition so severely over all these years, so people aren't exactly speaking up yet."

Oh yeah? Is that what the best intelligence minds in the US have come up with to explain the lack of counter-revolutionary uprising, the lack of even a whimper for counter-revolution in the thousands of press reports? Where is the proof of this severe repression with all these journalists in Cuba? I see only a handful of long-time deviants having a hard time because they are despised by their neighbors, but no police hauling people away or water cannons. Oh, I see it is the oppression "all these years" that has got people scared... unlike in the Soviet Union, or East Germany or Romania of course. I suggest the CIA stop cooking the books and read some straightforward and honest explanation of the current calm. It is on the front cover of Foreign Affairs magazine at Barnes and Nobles - called Fidel's Final Victory by Julia Sweig.


Cuba Urges Press Improvements

As the Miami Herald had the cojones to report today, several interesting comments were heard at a conference of journalists in Havana over the weekend (At a US conference on media reform 3,500 heard Bill Moyers say some interesting things as well).

Rolando Alfonso Borges, head of the Ideology Department of the Communist Party's Central Committee, encouraged the state-controlled media to produce more stories that reflect problems faced by the population, and also called for greater access to the Internet and the "dissemination of the truth of Cuba," according to the reports. One of the original Cuban reports is below

Cuba’s Press Mulls New Challenges
By Mariagny Taset Aguilar -

The 8th National Festival of the Cuban Print Media came to a close Friday afternoon with a call for stepped up training of journalists in the new computer technologies and more effective use of the Internet to circulate Cuba’s reality and positions to combat the hostile international mass media.

Rolando Alfonso Borges, head of the Ideological Dept. of the Communist Party Central Committee, gave the closing speech. He praised the thoughtful and profound debates of the two previous days where the principal problems facing Cuban journalists were discussed in plenary panels and workshops.

Alfonso said that the Party has set as a priority to address the resource needs of the press, limited since the early 1990s as the country struggled to rebuild its economy.

Alfonso said that the Party has set as a priority to address the resource needs of the press, limited since the early 1990s as the country struggled to rebuild its economy.

“We need a press at the same height as the major transformations and needs of the Revolution,” said Alfonso adding, “People must see their problems and concerns increasingly reflected in the media. For that to happen we need investigations, a wealth of language, and creativity with professional and political responsibility.”

Friday’s session opened with a presentation by Eliades Acosta, director of the National Library, who suggested a richer use of language in tune with daily life in Cuba to achieve a better communication with the population. He also emphasized the need to make increased use of the numerous sources available like archives, libraries and the Internet to back up journalist’s arguments and unmask distortions of history that he said take place on a regular basis.

Later in the morning, several presentations were made on the quality and reach of the Cuban online press. The island’s media currently has 128 Internet sites, 34 of which belong to newspapers and local and national magazines. In graphics, the need was shown to seek ways to increase the visibility of the Cuban websites.

Using the Internet as a space to exercise social justice and spread knowledge was noted by the journalists as well as the current disadvantages and other limitations in access and computer technology facing the majority of the populations in the underdeveloped world.
Fidel Castro’s ideas on the Internet were highlighted. For decades the Cuban leader has spoken of the Internet as an opportunity for development, a sphere to influence culturally and politically and a means to defend against the wave of lies and misinformation campaigns.

Alfredo Nieves, from the Foreign Ministry website, noted the importance of the online Cuban sites in different languages as a way to extend the country’s positions to different regions of the world. He pointed also to the need of maintaining the websites updated on a daily basis.
Arnaldo Coro, of Radio Havana Cuba, emphasized the need for ongoing training programs to use the new technological tools to their potential and obtain greater presence on the Internet. Coro said journalists should also be aware of the past, current and future projections of the industry.


Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK on Capitlalism and Imperialism (even Nationalization)

Commie-baiting was the most common line of attack against Dr. Martin Luther King. Through it all he refused to end his relationship with his closest advisor, who was a Communist, or stop attending "Communist front" groups like the Highlander schoool (above) in Tennessee and the Lawyers for Democratic Action.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, we present a slice from some of his final speeches - which were heading towards open denunciations of capitalism and imperialism. This is from his last address to the SCLC:

...And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, Who owns the oil? You begin to ask the question, Who owns the iron ore? You begin to ask the question, Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water? These are questions that must be asked.

Next, from his landmark speech on Vietnam (which has many similarities to Iraq), where he gives an excellent history of the conflict from a side not usually presented - the Vietmanese themselves - and then calls for an American withdrawl.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

-End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
-Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
-Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
-Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
-Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jury still out on nationalization vs. privatization in Latin America

Latin America is still far from settling the question of whether governments or companies run utilities better -- nearly a decade after the region rushed to privatize its state-run industries.

Associated Press
BOGOTA - President Hugo Chávez' announcement this week that he will nationalize Venezuela's biggest telecommunications and power companies sent investors fleeing. Yet the changes are likely to be much less radical than feared -- and not all that unusual for Latin America.

A decade after the region rushed to privatize its state-run industries, it is still far from settling the question of whether governments or companies run utilities better. Several key privatizations have been reversed. Other Latin American countries have hybrid systems where certain strategic industries were never sold off at all.

''Some nationalizations in Latin America are long-standing and exist for mainly national security and even symbolic reasons. They are also a measure of national pride,'' said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

In Chile, for example, copper-mining company Codelco is a proud and extremely profitable ward of a state so committed to free markets that even its toll roads are privately run. In general, state-owned enterprises account for more than 10 percent of the region's gross domestic product and about 5 percent of formal employment, according to the World Bank.

State-run oil is the norm in countries including Brazil, Colombia and Chile, despite the latter two being near orthodox free-marketeers. (Colombia is, however, poised to sell 20 percent of state-run Ecopetrol this year to help fund exploration).

In Bolivia, President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada's sale of a swath of Bolivian industry during his mid-1990s tenure turned out to be less than popular. Current President Evo Morales gained power pledging to roll back the privatizations. He's had some success with natural gas. Electricity and telephones could be next, he's suggested.


Sweeping privatizations in Peru and Argentina were also dogged by complaints. President Carlos Menem of Argentina sold off scores of state industries during his 1989-99 tenure, which helped modernize the country. Yet critics complained the fortunes reaped were later squandered or illegally pocketed and that many buyers failed to make needed investments.

Today, Argentines carp about creaky privatized rail lines. And in Buenos Aires last year, the government rescinded the 30-year contract of French water utility Suez's local subsidiary, accusing it of failing to make promised improvements and neglecting outlying poor areas.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

HRW: US Has Forfeited Human Rights Leadersip to Europe

EU must take over human rights leadership: Report
CBC News
The European Union must fill the leadership void on human rights left by the United States, which forfeited the role with its harsh treatment of terror suspects, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The leading rights group released its 556-page World Report 2007 on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. first sending detainees to its controversial detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"Since the U.S. can't provide credible leadership on human rights, European countries must pick up the slack," the group's executive director, Kenneth Roth, said. "Instead, the European Union is punching well below its weight."

The voice of the U.S. "now rings hollow — an enormous loss for the human rights cause," Roth said in an essay at the start of the report.

He cited a speech last September by U.S. President George W. Bush, in which he spoke of an "alternative set of (interrogation) procedures."

"The last year dispelled any doubt that the Bush administration's use of torture and other mistreatment was a matter of policy dictated at the top rather than the aberrant misconduct of a few low-level interrogators," he wrote.

Which brings us to this tidbit: The Fifth Anniversary of the gulag at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is just the beginning according to an announcement today by the US Department of Defense.

Guantanamo Facility Needed ‘for Foreseeable Future,’
By Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – The United States will need a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for as long as the country is fighting a war on terror, the admiral in charge of operations there said today.

“I think that we’ll have a detention facility and a detention mission for the foreseeable future,” Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of Joint task Force Guantanamo Bay, said in an interview here today -- the fifth anniversary of the start of detention operations at Guantanamo.

“The president has said that he would like to see Guantanamo closed when it’s no longer necessary, and we support that, of course, and we believe in that,” Harris added. “The issue is when it’s no longer necessary. And I believe that today, as long as we’re in the fight, as long as we’re in the global war on terror, and as long as we have forces engaging the enemy in Afghanistan and in Iraq, there is a need for a facility like Guantanamo.”

Peru: Garcia to Oppose Human Rights Court Ruling

Way back in 1992, second year Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, unhappy with the gridlock of democracy and faced with a growing rebel movement, decided to dissolve Congress, annul the Constitution and and begin a Dictatorial reign in concert with the military. After widespread condemnation, the United States decided to support Fujimori's path and defended him from attacks from the likes of the Organization of American States.

In this context the Peruvian armed forces launched an assault on the Castro Castro prison which was full of suspected and convicted members of the Maoist Shining Path movement, including several leaders. Over the course of some days, at least 41 were killed and there is evidence that many were summarily executed.

The killers evaded justice, along with the executioners of several surrended rebels who had taken over an Embassy the same year. The case was brought to the Inter-American Human Rights Court, who last month ruled that the country must publicly apologize for the extra-judicial killings of unarmed prisoners and provide compensation to their families. This has very much upset new President Alan Garcia, who (not coincidentally) has several similar episodes under his belt, from when he was President in the 1980s. Garcia's rejection of the decision comes only one month after he publicly pledged to uphold any human right court decisions.

The BBC has more:

Peru slams ruling on rebel rights
By Dan Collyns, BBC News
Peru's president has said he will challenge an international human rights court after it ruled the country should compensate families of rebels killed.
In December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Peru to pay the families of Shining Path rebels killed in a prison riot 15 years ago.

But Alan Garcia says he cannot allow Peruvian taxpayers to pay the $20m (£10.3m, 15.4m euros) in compensation (and is considering pulling out of the the Court's jurisdiction).
He also criticised his predecessor, Alejandro Toledo, for allowing so many allegations of human rights abuses to be dealt with by the supra-national court.
Human rights groups have welcomed the court ruling as an opportunity for Peru, as a signatory to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to acknowledge the human rights abuses committed during the civil war in the 1980s and 1990s.

Around 70,000 people died in that era - a significant proportion of them at the hands of government forces and their vigilante groups.

Former President Fujimori fled Peru in 2000 amid a corruption scandal. He is now living in Chile from where Peru is seeking his extradition on human rights and embezzlement charges.

Peru has been ordered to pay up to $20m (£10.3m) in compensation and has a year to comply with the court's demands.

But some analysts say the current government of Alan Garcia is reluctant to agree to the court's ruling as Mr Garcia himself faces accusations of political responsibility for a prison massacre in 1986 during his first term as president.

We will closely watch how the human rights groups and OAS respond to this blatant rejection of the Rule of Law, rights to life and judicial procedures.

Oh, I just also learned that the Peruvian Congress held fast and defeated Garcia's attempt to re-institute the death penalty in Peru. Garcia's approval rating is apparently heading down the tubes, but he'll always have friends in Washington given that he defeated a strong leftist challenge in last year's election.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Photo Tour: Managua Nicaragua, Havana Cuba, Los Angeles US

From left to right, Jose Ramon Machado, vice president of Cuba, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega, the new president of Nicaragua, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela and Haiti's President Rene Prebval hold up their arms during the celebrations after Ortega's inauguration in Managua, Wednesday Jan. 10, 2007.(AP Photo/Ariel Leon)

A group of Cubans attend an international meeting held to call for the closure of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, 10 January. Amnesty International called for the international community to press the US government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, as protesters marked the fifth anniversary of its opening.(AFP/File/Adalberto Roque)

A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in Los Angeles in this 2005 file photo. There were 744,000 homeless people in the United States in 2005, according to the first national estimate in a decade. (AP Photo/Damian

Venezuela: A Defense of Hugo Chavez's Socialism

Along with the much needed redesign, I want to begin adding more comment posts from other blogs that I have inceasingly been engaging. As this blog does not get much traffic, I realized I need to go where the traffic is, hence this reply to a Diary post at the liberal mainstay Dailykos. Many so called progressives over there were taking issue with Hugo Chavez's recent moves towards socialism, citing his so-called "authoritarianism" and anti-market tendencies. Although I have covered most of these issues here in the past, I thought this would make a nice and timely post.

As someone who has followed Chavez since day one, I find this debate on the US left fascinating.

First off, it is important to understand Chavez's project has achieved more than just a 10% drop in poverty (it's at least 23%) and fantastic growth. For the first time the masses have a seat at the decision-making table in their communities and nation-wide (and will have even more soon). For the first time, millions of people have the dignity that only access to health care, literacy, education and food security can provide (via the successful Mission programs). Thanks to Chavez millions are becoming owners of their land, their workplaces and their democracy – all things that don’t even register in poverty stats

What liberals don’t understand is that social justice is not about welfare, affirmative action or a $7 minimum wage; it is about fundamentally transforming society so it becomes fairer. There are no market friendly solutions for the 750,000 homeless, 45 million without health care and melting Artic shelf.

Free and fair markets may be fine where they can actually exist and where the public good is being served, but whether telecom and electricity fit that bill is not at all clear. You may "like the energy" of companies but if you were a poor person in the hillside slums of Caracas or rural hamlet and could not get phone or electrical service because it was not profitable enough you might have other thoughts (phones per household have actually fallen since privatization). Companies have bottom line priorities and if they don't mesh with social goals, they don't happen.

As for Chavez’s "authoritarianism," lets talk about the HRW report. First, the "persecuted" political opponents Mrs. Machado and Mr. Corao, are free and have not been charged with any crime – they have been questioned. The (independent) Attorney’s General office is reviewing evidence that Machado’s Sumate group took US funding (possibly covertly), conspired with coupsters and the US (she remains the only Venezuelan to ever step foot in the White House) to bring down an elected government. Her legacy includes signing her name to a declaration that dissolved Venezuelan democracy, funding false exit polls and then claiming election fraud after results were deemed free and fair.

The non-renewal of the broadcast license for one of the many (openly) Anti-Chavez media outlets (RCTV) is a justified response to the irresponsibility this station was known for. How can the people be expected to fork over their airwaves to a station that showed its open disdain for them and their democracy when it really mattered – during the coup and the counter-coup (extolling people to rise up, then totally ignoring the millions in the streets demanding Chavez’s return). RCTV will be free to exist, sell programming to cable and other countries and reapply for their license again later. Anyone in Venezuela can tell you the pricate media is far from decimated or scared – they put ours to shame in their ferocity. Plus Chavez announced these plans BEFORE the election, despite the MSM account.

The slight expansion of the previously existing "descato" (disrespect) law has never been used, is found widely around the world and was a response to unprecedented media attacks upon the Attorney General’s office. The media "social responsibility" law has likewise, never been used, and is aimed mostly at sex and violence in the media. The incitement clause was a response to the media’s coup-mongering role during the coup (imagine what Bush would do to ABC if it openly advocated street actions to topple democracy). That HRW finds offense in a requirement that 60 minutes a week be set aside for education programming speaks for itself (and badly on HRW).

Many here seem to have never learned a basic rule about power - the elite do not gleefully hand it over to the people. Many also seem to not want to admit that the poor are not profitable to corporations, hence they don't get served. Chavez's mouth may be big and is not perfect, but he is showing the masses that another world is indeed possible.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Venezuela: Chavez Takes Big Socialist Step

Hugo Chavez made clear today that he intends to make quick use of the considerable "political capital" he gained in last month's landslide election victory. On the day a huge cooperation and aid agreements was signed with Nicaraguan President Ortega, Chavez let it rip that he intends to re-nationalize the country's vital telecom and electricity industries.

This is huge, if unexpected, news and the hypervenalation by the markets and pundits reflects that. (Re) Nationalization of critical industries is an essential step for a country in gaining it's sovereignty and ability to plan and control its destiny.

But naturally, the power elite (and even some liberals) are going crazy. They thought Chavez had a big mouth and a pesky thing for the poor, but they did not think all his talk about socialism would actually produce the type of concrete, systemic changes needed to take a piece of the country back form those who care nothing about it (Verizon or Mexico's billionaire Carlos Slim).

But let's point out to non-Venezuelans that CANTV (not the cool one) ran a virtual monopoly in most every telcom sector but cel phones - competition never worked out like it was supposed to. Venezuelans also know that under privitization, basic phone costs shot up and service targets went unmet. There are actually fewer telephones per home than there was in 1997. Money is in cel phones, so rural and hillside areas have languised without service. (If you go to the CANTV website you will find "tesimonials" but not statistics).

The plans are still without important details. The US has demanded that US companies get compensated, which they will. If I were to guess I would say we're talking about a majority state ownership deal, not a 100% takeover. But I will bet anyone one thing - that the telephone and internet per household rate will vastly improve in coming years.

Monday, January 08, 2007

48 Years Ago Today: Castro Enters Havana Victorious

Thanks to the Latino Studies Resource page for the pics.

Cuba: 8 Reasons to Dump the Embargo and Travel Ban

Here is something I wrote in reponse to some conservatives asking this question about the embargo: "The rest of the world is free to trade with them, so why is it that we should lift our santions?"

1) It is an utter failure. 47 years after the embargo was put in place to punish Castro’s turn left, we still have a Castro in power.

2) It violates the basic right of Americans to travel. They get around this by saying travel is ok, but spending money there is illegal… Americans should be able to travel to a place 90 miles from its border, which shares much in common with us. And if Cuba is such a failure, the US should encourage us leftists to go there and see for ourselves.

3) It is morally and ethically undefensible. The United Nations has voted every year that the embargo is illegal, this year 183-4 (we had Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau on our side). The embargo is estimated to cost Cuba billions of dollars a year, besides the headaches of trying to secure parts for old American machines or goods that are only manufactured by US owned companies. Cuba is forced to transport things like Rice and grain from China and Vietnam, rather from the port of Miami and New Orleans. Cuba is not allowed to sell anything to the largest and most natural market. Cubans can not import many items like automobiles because ships are prohibited from entering U.S. ports for six months after making deliveries to Cuba.

4) The embargo costs American businesses billions of dollars of lost business. Already, despite all the restrictions (like having to pay cash), Cuba has jumped to the top 20 in export markets.

5) The American people support normal relations with Cuba (66% to most recent polling) and the (Republican) House of Representatives has passed positive legislation numerous times in recent years - only to relent under Bush’s veto threat.

6) Cuban Americans are often not allowed to visit family members if they go ill or have died (they can only visit once every three years, thanks to Bush). And, per Bush’s rules, aunts, uncles and cousins no longer count as family members to be visited.

7) The embargo gives the Castro brothers an excuse for shortcomings of the Revolution.

8) Cuba policy continues to play the largest role in our Hemisphereic policy, forcing counties to choose sides and alienating the US from much of our neighbors.

Cuba: Hemingway's Home Restored

The former Cuban home of author Ernest Hemingway has been opened to the public after three years of restoration. It is where he wrote novels such as The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls and is undoubtedly contains the greatest number of artificts and writings from the author.

The meticulous restoration, which will cost more than $250,000, was funded by the Cuban Government's Culture Ministry. Some of the cost was supposed to be be born by US partners, however the tightened embargo prevented any of the funds from reaching the project.

Hemingway supported the Revolution, and Castro calls him his favorite writer, and even credits For Whom the Bell Tolls for helping him in the Sierra Maestras.

Watch a video report from BBC News here.

You can also read a report from a Oregonian journalist who made the pilgramage when the restoration work was happening this summer.

View of Cuba, Castro is Shifting in Miami

While the Herald asks the wrong question ("Is Raul ready to deal?"), the Houston Chronicle is detailing the only thing that will ever push our country into normalcy with our southern neighbor.

View of Cuba, Castro is shifting in Miami
Hard-line exiles met by new liberal generation that wants ties again

By SUSAN CARROLL, Houston Chronicle

Experts on U.S. politics toward Cuba said there is more middle ground in Miami than is portrayed in the media, or even perceived within the city's Cuban community. A Florida International University poll that has tracked opinions in the state since the early '90s has found growing support for a softened stance with Cuba over the past decade, said Hugo Gladwin, director of the Institute for Public Opinion Research at FIU's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Miami's Cuban and Cuban-American populations, like the city itself, are diversifying. Cuban immigrants who arrived in the early 1960s are typically wealthier and more established, and are more likely to take a hard stance on Castro. But in the waves of immigration that followed, many newer arrivals have developed different views of U.S. relations with Cuba, particularly exiles who still have family on the island, sociologists said.

Cubans and Cuban-Americans on both sides of the debate are increasingly trying to claim the middle ground, Gladwin said, and escape the labels of "communist" and "right-winger."
Casanova was born in Cuba and raised in Austin, and remembers driving to Houston for Celia Cruz concerts and to eat authentic Cuban food. She said she moved to Miami from Texas in the early '90s because she wanted to be closer to her Cuban roots. She said many of her friends in Miami also support lifting the embargo, but they are too intimidated to voice their opinions.

"If you talk individually with people in the exile community here, they probably think like I do, but if you interview them on the TV or radio, there's still fear that if you don't go with the hard-liners, you'll be labeled a communist,"she said.

Santamarina agreed, saying it's time for Cubans of all views to start speaking up.

"I want people in the rest of the country to know that there is not just one voice in this exile community. There are many voices."
Whole article

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bolivia: Taking the Country's Resources Back

Constituent Assembly or not, Morales is moving his country forward at a very nice speed. This symbolically important event occured a day before the Morales Government signaled a six-fold increase in mining industy taxes after it was disclosed the state had received just $45 million in taxes on $1 billion worth of export in 2006.

Bolivia's Morales celebrates foreign water company's exit, plans more nationalization
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 4, 2007

LA PAZ, Bolivia
President Evo Morales on Wednesday celebrated the departure of French-owned water utility Aguas de Illimani from Bolivia and vowed to continue his administration's reversal of a decade-old privatization of key Bolivian industries.

In a ceremony at the presidential palace in La Paz, Morales officially bid farewell to the affiliate of French transnational Suez, which has provided water to the capital of La Paz and its poorer satellite, El Alto, since a former public utility was privatized in 1997.

"Water cannot be turned over to private business," Morales said. "It must remain a basic service, with participation of the state so that water service can be provided almost for free."

Aguas de Illimani's high rates and a reluctance to expand service into the fringes of the twin cities prompted protests in El Alto in 2005 demanding the water system be returned to state control.

Then-President Carlos Mesa moved to rescind Aguas de Illimani's contract, but negotiations continued for two years before Morales' government and the company agreed to severance terms this week.

"We have achieved an agreeable exit, assuring that foreign businesses will not simply be expelled from Bolivia," Morales said Thursday.

The president echoed other speakers at the ceremony in calling for other foreign companies operating in privatized sectors to be returned to state control, including La Paz power utility ElectroPaz, owned by Spanish energy company Iberdrola, and telecommunications company Entel, a subsidiary of Telecom Italia.
Under pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada privatized a wide swath of Bolivian industry in the mid-1990s, including the oil and gas, water, power, railroad and telecommunications sectors, as well as the national airline and pension plan. But the privatization has mixed results and failed to create new jobs as Sanchez de Lozada had hoped.
Whole thing

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cuba Reaches 50% Self-Sufficiency in Oil Consumption

Though i'd post this in relation to the Norway article 2 posts below. It is the Norweigen state owned oil company that is providing much of the assistance in expanding Cuba's oil supplies. As we talk about being free from foreign oil, Cuba is actually doing it through conservation AND responsible exploration.

Cuba reached its target of 3.9 million tons of oil and gas in 2006, while foreign companies in association with the local Cubapetroleo, CUPET, corporation continue exploration in 30 other wells, reported Havana authorities.

The volume represents 50% of domestic consumption and seven times oil and gas production in 1990, totaling annual savings of 260 million US dollars for the battered Cuban economy, according to vice president Carlos Lage.

A spokesperson for CUPET announced that twelve new wells are scheduled to be drilled this year in western Cuba where most proven reserves are, which should help bring CUPET’s production to 2.2 million tons annually.

Oil exploration in Cuba took off some fifteen years ago with Canadian corporations but has intensified in the last few years with the inclusion of new foreign companies which are mostly operating in the island’s Gulf of Mexico EEZ which covers 112.000 square kilometers.

According to CUPET Cuba’s daily consumption of oil is 180.000 barrels of which it produces 80.000 barrels, with high sulphur content and is mostly used for electricity generation. The other 100.000 barrels are provided by Venezuela at preferential prices and which Cuba repays by sending doctors, teachers, nurses, sports coaches and other support personnel following an agreement signed in 2002.

Cuba: Fewer Infant Deaths than US

HAVANA (AFP) - In 2006, Cuba had the lowest infant mortality rate in its history and of all Latin America, putting it in second place behind Canada for the Americas as a whole, according to a health ministry report.

Cuba's infant mortality rate was 5.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006, compared to 5.8 per 1,000 in 2005, making it "the leader in Latin America" in the category, said the report quoted in the official newspaper Granma.

"Within the Americas, only Canada had a lower rate than Cuba," said the health ministry, stressing that Cuba "is among the world's 30 nations with the lowest death rate for children between birth and one year of age."

Since 1995, Cuba's infant mortality rate dropped by 43.6 percent, Granma said. In 1960, at the start of Cuban leader Fidel Castro's Communist Revolution, the infant mortality rate stood at 37.3 per 1,000.

The health ministry attributed the current low rate to three new types of medical exams that detect health-threatening genetical abnormalities and advances in pedriatic medicine and prenatal care.

Extrapolating this rate of infant deaths across Latin America would result in the saving of 700,000 lives a year.

Cubans Booted Out of Their Hotel (Again) - in Norway

In a repeat of the Mexico City incident earlier this year, the US Government appears to be sending a message to Norway for their involvement in developing Cuban oil fields. Trouble is, Norweigens know better and will only rebel. And the US wonders why it is disliked.

Oslo, Norway --- An Oslo hotel owned by the U.S.-based Hilton Hotel Corp. faced protests, a boycott and a police complaint this week after refusing to book rooms for a Cuban delegation because of the United States' trade embargo against Cuba.

The Cuban delegation, set to attend a travel fair in Oslo this month, planned to stay at the Scandic Edderkoppen Hotel in the city center, as they had on five previous visits. However, the 140-hotel Scandic company was bought by Hilton in March, and the Cubans were informed in December that they would have to find another hotel due to the American boycott.

On Friday, the 300,000-member Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees announced that it was boycotting all Scandic hotels in Norway, joining a wave of protests that started when the ban on Cuban guest became news on Thursday.

"We are already looking for other hotels for planned conferences," said the union's deputy leader Anne Grethe Skaardal. "For us, it is unacceptable for the U.S. to dictate to the whole world. In addition, we strongly oppose the U.S. boycott of Cuba."

The Anti-Racist Center in Oslo filed a police complaint against the hotels, saying Norwegian law ensures that "no one can be denied access based on their citizenship or ethnic origin."