Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bush "Morally Outraged" by Venezuela, Cuba

The host of the gathering of Carribean leaders in the White House was the perfefct occasion to give them an earful about who they should be friendly with. Of course they also signed some technical free trade BS, agreed to beef up immigration enforcement and build a facility to hold stray Haitians. What a trip!

Read the reasons the St Kitts minister cites in why Venezuela and Cuba are viewed as vital brothers to the Carribean nations. Or ask yourself who is more "moral," the country that sends thousands of doctors to help the poorest in the region, or the one trying to round up and process them in migration camps?

Tuesday June 26 2007
by Corliss Smithen

US President George W. Bush has told regional leaders that he frowns upon their relationship with Cuba and Venezuela at the just-concluded “Conference on the Caribbean: A 20/20 Vision” between the White House and the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

“The question of our alliances with Cuba and Venezuela arose and President Bush told us, frankly, that he is not pleased with our relationships with those two countries as he considers them to be undemocratic and he was morally outraged by their systems of government,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Timothy Harris reported.
“We, in turn, indicated to the president that we had long established relations with both Venezuela and Cuba. Both of them are members of the greater Caribbean and so, in a true sense, they are part of the broader Caribbean neighbourhood and we want a cohesive neighbourhood and we have a vested interest in that.

“We did say to them that both countries have been extremely helpful to us as we pursue our own development agenda and that, for us, development is our key focus in our engagement with these countries and we were concerned with their own ideological imperatives.

“For us, it was bread and butter issues and we pointed out to him that the United States itself had created a vacuum in which these other countries could now come and join to fill the void by the US’ disinterest and lack of support for development programmes for the Caribbean,” Minister Harris said.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cuban-American City Counilwoman Faces Deportation

Just another typical tragic story about the way non-citizens (even naturalized) get treated in California. Except this woman is a Cuban and a politician. Neither should prevent a deportation according to the current draconian US law, but I have a feeling she'll be allowed to stay.

Los Angeles Times
A former (LA area) City Council member who resigned after questions of her citizenship status were raised two years ago now faces deportation for voting in the 2004 presidential election.

Cuban-born Zoila Meyer surrendered to the San Bernardino County office of the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday and was arrested on charges of violating immigration laws.

The arrest stems from Meyer's voting in the presidential election and pleading guilty to an unlawful voter charge last year.

Meyer, a 40-year-old mother of four who has lived in the United States since she was 1, is a legal alien resident but not a U.S. citizen, according to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.

Meyer could not be reached Friday but told the Associated Press that she always assumed she was a citizen, and was unaware of her immigration status when she voted and ran for office.

"It makes me feel like we're all just numbers," she said. "I see people writing, 'This is my country.' It really isn't. It belongs to the government, and they decide who stays and who goes…. You think you're free; you're really not. If they can do this to me, they can do it to anybody."
She is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge July 18. If Meyer is deported, a possible destination could be Canada — her last point of entry into the U.S. recorded on her immigration card.

The United States does not deport immigration violators to Cuba.
Whole thing


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cuba Wins Historic Victory at UN

Perhaps some UN member states are recalling that "freedom from want" is also a basic human right - one Cuba excels at. Interestingly, EU member nations voted in favor of Cuba just a few days after they decided to continue their petty and meaningless "cocktail war."

Cuba thanked Mexico most genuinely, for their leadership role shepharding the agreement, as current President of the Human Rights Commission. Mexican President Calderon also offered Cuba heartfelt condolensces over the death of Vilma Espin (see below). All good signs.

Associated Press
Wed Jun 20, 3:50 PM ET

Cuba on Wednesday cheered the new U.N. human rights watchdog's agreement to stop monitoring alleged abuses on the island, with Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque saying the decision left the United States "hanging and we yanked away the ladder."

The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva agreed Tuesday to discontinue investigations into the rights situation in Cuba and Belarus, but to continue monitoring Israel. The move drew immediate fire from the U.S., which has crusaded to focus attention on the human rights situation in Cuba.

At a news conference, Perez Roque called the decision "a resounding, undisputed and historic victory" that "defeats the manipulations of the United States against Cuba in Geneva."

"I can understand the annoyance of the Bush regime. I can understand its feelings of frustration that, in the end, a little island in its way has won victory and gained the support of the international community," Perez Roque said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack earlier issued a statement that the United States was "disappointed" by an agreement it considered "seriously flawed."

Cuba says it respects human rights more than many wealthy nations do by guaranteeing broad social services including largely free health care, housing and education, and heavily subsidized food and transportation.

The foreign minister said the government has made "enormous advances in economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights."

"That doesn't mean we don't recognize imperfections and we don't have goals and dreams that are much higher than what we've accomplished," he said of human rights. "But we believe that no one in the world can say that their situation is perfect."


R.I.P Vilma Espin, Cuban Revolutionary Leader

NY Times Obituary
Vilma Espín, an idealistic socialite who fought alongside Fidel and Raúl Castro in the mountains of Cuba and later, as Raúl Castro’s wife, became a prominent advocate of women’s rights and a powerful member of the Cuban Communist Party, died Monday in Havana. She was 77.
As sister-in-law of Fidel Castro, who is divorced, Ms. Espín was Cuba’s unofficial first lady for decades, often appearing with him at official events.

Yesterday, thousands of Cubans filed past a large black and white photograph of Ms. Espín at the vast Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. Raúl Castro was in the receiving line. Fidel Castro did not attend. A floral arrangement was delivered in his name.

Ms. Espín was a revered figure of the revolution. The image of her and several other prominent women shouldering rifles and wearing combat fatigues during the rebel war helped change attitudes about the role of women in Cuba. She founded the Federation of Cuban Women in 1960, and remained president of the organization until her death. Although few women were allowed into Fidel Castro’s inner circle, women advanced in most other fields in Cuba, and Ms. Espín became an international figure in the struggle for women’s rights.

Speaking before an International Women’s Year conference in Mexico City in 1975, she said: “We have already obtained for our women everything that the conference is asking for. Women are part of the people, and unless you talk about politics, you are never going to change anything.”
Whole thing


Cuba: UN Praises Cuban Social Programs

Cubans line up to pay tribute to Vilma Espin, wife of Raul Castro, a day after her death.

Visiting Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Anna K. Tibaijuka, praised Cuba on Tuesday for its support of social projects promoted by the UN to realize its Millennium Development Goals.

She called Cuba an example for the world as the government's set health, education and the people's well-being as its priorities, and that Cuba's social achievements are worthy to be shared with other developing nations.

"Cuba is a nation that knows sustainable development. We want to find out how to share experiences and ideas with other developing nations," she said.

Cuba's Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno said the UN Human Settlements program (Habitat) for helping developing nations, which promotes technical assistance for rural and urban development, poverty reduction and water infrastructure and management, provide solutions to humanity's problems.

Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian, is also Executive Director of the UN-Habitat and runs the United Nations's offices in Nairobi, Kenya.

On Monday, Tibaijuka visited Guasimas in southern Havana, where she met residents who built their homes with their own hands. Her visit to Cuba ends on Wednesday.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Venezuela Takes Another Green Step, Ends Blackouts

As my own heavily Democratic State government in Sacramento sells out to the lighbulb lobby, ditching plans to faze out energy wasting incandescent lighbulbs, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela announced that industrial and commerical establishments will follow the country's residences in replacing all lights with green flourescent bulbs. The Venezuelan government buys the bulbs and has them installed through local community organizations. The Califnornian idea was to just ban normal lights, and offering no subsidy to help the poor find or buy them. Instead it appears the "comprimise bill" is to just wait until 2018 for progress. Scientists estimate if every American installed replaced just one bulb in their home, we'd save the equivalent of 1 million cars on the roads in carbon emissions. So easy it's stupid. Instead the democrats pander to the corn ethanol industry in Iowa...

BY RONALD SUAREZ RIVAS – Granma daily special correspondent

ZULIA, June 17. — Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the start of a new stage in the country’s “Energy Revolution,” with the goal of substituting almost 27 million inefficient light bulbs for energy-saving ones in the commercial, industrial and public sectors.

Chávez said it was necessary to change consumption patterns, which often tend to waste electricity and fuel, and affirmed that the efforts underway nationwide are aimed at protecting the environment.

The campaign to change 26.7 million bulbs began on Sunday; it will cover the 13 states with the most industrial power.

After the replacement of 53.2 million incandescent bulbs in Venezuelan homes, electric power authorities reported that maximum demand went down by 1,400 Megawatts.

In states like Nueva Esparta, Amazonas and Delta Amacuro, where outages were frequent, no blackouts have occurred for months, during which time the improved service has benefited many homes.

“Since the Energy Revolution began last November, the Venezuelan people have begun to shatter paradigms of energy usage,” affirmed Manuel Deza, coordinator of the energy program.

The example of the Termozulia plant, which features reduced emissions into the atmosphere, is another of the Energy Revolution’s components. The program also projects replacing oil with natural gas for electric power generation; replacing air conditioners with more energy-efficient ones, and using renewable sources of energy.


Rangel: Bush wants FTA with Colombia to Curb Hugo Chávez

What a window this story is into the astonishly crude realpolitik going on right now in Washington, as the Bush Adminstration further erodes the legitimacy of in the global war on terror, as well as the fairness of our trade and Latin American foreign policy - all in the name of an apparently refurbished anti-Communist hysteria.

El Universal, Venezuela

Charles Rangel, a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, accused Thursday the government of US President George W. Bush of pressing the Congress to pass a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia in order to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

"The Government is lobbying desperately for this agreement," said Rangel, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. The approval any FTA's between the United States and foreign countries depends on this agency, AFP reported.

"However, whenever I speak to the President, the Treasury Secretary or the Trade Representative, nobody of them would tell me why this agreement is good for the United States," he added during a conference sponsored by The Cato Institute on the US embargo on Cuba held in the Congress.

"All of them say that Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is against Chávez, and, for such reason, the Congress should pass the agreement."


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Colombia: Video links President Uribe with Terrorist Leader

Leaked video shows a 2001 meeting between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the leader of a US-delcared terrorist group - the AUC. Uribe has repeatedly said he's never had any meetings with these folks. Interestingly, the AUC leader - commandante Esteban - is not one of the handful who have surrendered to authorities to take part in the disarmament and truth committee proceedings currently undeway. This man was responsible for at least hundreds of deaths. The Colombian FBI had been staking him out for arrest during the period. He was arrested in connection with 80 deaths just two months later.

By FRANK BAJAK, Associated Press Writer, June 17, 2007

BARRANCABERMEJA, Colombia - In his five years as president, Alvaro Uribe has repeatedly denied accusations that he's been cozy with Colombia's murderous right-wing militias, whose thousands of victims include suspected rebel sympathizers and union activists.

Yet newly uncovered video of his 2001 campaign shows him shaking hands with a militia leader who was arrested only weeks later on suspicion of involvement in multiple murders, and is now a fugitive with a price on his head. It's the latest headache for the law-and-order president, who has seen one ally after another jailed for allegedly colluding with the outlawed militias.

"I haven't known the paramilitaries, haven't been friends with them, haven't had contact with them," Uribe declared on national television on April 19.

The militia chief in the video, which bears an Oct. 31, 2001, time stamp, was identified by three people familiar with him — including human rights activists — as Fremio Sanchez Carreno. Carreno, better known as "Comandante Esteban," had just finished spearheading the bloody militia takeover of this steamy oil-refining city on Colombia's main river when Uribe met with him and about a dozen other people.
Local human rights activists say Uribe could be expected to know that the local leaders in the videotaped meeting answered to the privately bankrolled outlaw army that had just secured control of their city — a takeover that helped persuade the State Department to add Sanchez's paramilitary umbrella group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia — known by its initials AUC in Spanish — to its list of international terror organizations only weeks beforehand.

Opponents contend Uribe, beginning as governor of the neighboring state of Antioquia in the 1990s, promoted landowner-bankrolled militias as a means of eradicating Colombia's half-century-old leftist insurgency and ending a plague of kidnappings and extortion targeting ranchers and other businessmen.

Twelve of Uribe's allies in Colombia's Congress have been jailed since late last year on charges of colluding with the paramilitaries to gain office or other favors. Uribe's former domestic security chief is among his confidants accused of working with paramilitaries, and Colombia's foreign minister stepped down in February after her senator brother was arrested in the scandal on charges including kidnapping.

Uribe's press secretary posted an appeal on the presidential Web site Friday, asking the media to "abstain from making malevolent insinuations," after the video's existence was first reported by The Miami Herald's Spanish-language paper, El Nuevo Herald.

It shows the local leaders pleading with Uribe, who would be elected the following May, to campaign publicly in their city. But Uribe seemed hesitant, telling them: "Barranca is a very delicate case for me for innumerable circumstances, and I'll have to give this the most delicate treatment."

Paramilitaries assassinated 600 people in 2001 in Barrancabermeja, said Ravelo.
Whole Thing


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bolivia Brokers Compromise at Andean Trade Summit

June 14, 2007, 11:48AM
By DAN KEANE Associated Press Writer

TARIJA, Bolivia — Bolivia's willingness to bend its anti-globalization stance allowed Andean leaders work out a common stand on a trade deal with the European Union at a summit here Thursday.

Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales has repeatedly criticized the open-trade positions of richer neighbors Colombia and Peru, which have signed separate free trade deals with the United States.

But the host of the Community of Andean Nations summit agreed not to impose his agenda on his neighbors so that the bloc _ which also includes Ecuador _ can be united in its negotiations with the Europeans. Chile is an associate member of the group.

As a compromise, the leaders have agreed to leave left-leaning Ecuador and Bolivia room to shape the terms of the deal to better suit their less-developed economies.

"Bolivia's effort to make its position more flexible is a brotherly gesture demonstrating a desire for integration, one the other countries are thankful for," said Peruvian President Alan Garcia on arrival at the Tarija airport.

Morales says he is worried that the trade deal might open the way to the sale of public services to European companies. His own rise to power followed large protests against such sales in Bolivia.

He is also wary that a free trade pact might allow foreign companies to patent the Andean region's flora and fauna for use in pharmaceutical products.

"We cannot permit life to become just merchandise," Morales said as the summit opened. "We cannot permit life to be privatized."
On Wednesday, the group's secretary general, Freddy Ehlers, said the agreement with the EU will be broader than the agreements Peru and Colombia have with the United States.

"It's a more complete integration," he said. "It's not only commercial, it's also about political, social and technical cooperation with Europe."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In Reply to a Sly Cuba Hater

This nonsense from Britain's Bella Thomas was posted by LA Weekly/Nation "leftist" political writer Marc Cooper:

Healthcare and education are supposed to be the redeeming graces of the regime, but this is questionable. There are a large number of doctors, but, according to most Cubans I know, many have left the country and the health system is in a ragged state—apart from those hospitals reserved for foreigners—and people often have to pay a bribe to get treated. Michael Moore, the American film director, who has recently been praising the system should take note of the real life stories beneath the statistics. I went into a couple of hospitals for locals on my latest visit. In the first, my friend told me not to say a word in case my accent was noticed, as foreigners are not allowed in these places. I was appalled by the hygiene and amazed at the antiquity of the building and some of the equipment. I was told that the vast majority of Cuban hospitals, apart from two in Havana, were built before the revolution. Which revolution, I wondered; this one seemed to date from the 1900s.

This was my reply:

As for Cuba, it is not surprising that Mrs. Thomas’ critiques come from anecdotes, not from anything resembling empiricism. As such, Thomas is far from even-handed. She is smart and knows how to artfully hide inconvenient truths and place mistakes in the mouths of others.

On health care, she takes the typical route around the WHO studies, UN stats, etc. by telling stories. She says she “was told” that most hospitals were built before the Revolution. Well, actually in 1959 Cuba had only 10 hospitals and 80% of beds were in Havana. Today there are 191 hospitals, 290 polyclinics and many other smaller facilities – the majority outside Havana. Every town has access. She says Cuba has many doctors, but many have left the country, which implies desertion. If fact, the 20,000 doctors serving in the poorest areas abroad are doing so heroically, despite the publicized US offer for automatic US citizenship for anyone who will defect to a US mission (a disgusting move, I hope we can all agree).

Of course, Cuban health facilities and equipment certainly would appear second rate to most Westerners, but does this really matter? The fact that Cuba has achieved results on par with the US, who spends 30 times more per person, in spite of its financial limitations & embargo tells us something more profound about profit-based health care than socialized, I would think. If asking patients to bring in sheets allows more urgent equipment and medicine to be bought, what is wrong with that? Indeed the majority of hospitals in Cuba were refurbished in the last couple years – with money from the foreign clinics – unlike in Thailand or wherever where private companies take the profits and run. As for Cooper’s tale about buying ampicillin, here is a Canadian study that found it to be available in hospitals, even during the special period. I’m not calling the story false, just that stories have a way of not telling the whole story…

Thomas takes the route we have seen before (from Cooper) in psycho-analyzing those (few) of us who defend the Cuban Revolution. It’s all crap. Is it really so inconceivable for someone who studies the problems of US cities to think that capitalism has indeed failed us and can offer no solution to poverty, homelessness, crime, education, health care, segregation, drugs, gentrification, ect.? Why is it so wrong to look at Cuba and say they’ve figured out a way to solve/improve these things with hardly any resources? Sure Cuba has other problems, including many of the things the US does well. But I, like billions of others on this planet, see justice and equality as indispensable and impossible under the tyranny of the free market.


Ethanol Increasing Food (and Beer) Prices

Since Fidel Castro posed the question a few months ago, people are starting to wonder whether it morally acceptable to divert food resources toward the energy crisis in affluent countries (rather than take proactive measures) when there are hundreds of millions of people starving worldwide?

Now, the stars appear to be aligning between democrats and the Bush administration in pushing an even more aggressive and ill-founded corn-based biofuel agenda, despite a Government report today that confirms many of the worst fears about its increasing dominance. The non-partisan GAO report found substance to warnings about including deforestation, strained land and water resources, increased food prices and poverty. It expects biofuels to account for about 1/3 of the total corn produced by 2012.

Already, as a result of US subsidies, an enormous volume of corn is being consumed for ethanol production. Consequently, the price of corn futures has skyrocketed from $2.80 to $4.38 a bushel. The impacts are being felt not only by corn buyers around the world (including in Mexico, where riots forced the “free market” President Calderon to instate price controls earlier this year) but also most other grains. The price of beer has even gone up because the switch from barley to corn production has doubled barley prices in 2 years. Hold everything, I think we have a winning angle! For meat lovers, we have an equally dire predictions from the US cattle rancher association. Joining the cattlemen in opposing the latest legislation are the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Turkey Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, Tyson Foods and others.

The proposed legislation would dramatically increase the amount of renewable fuels mandated to be used in future years. Much of the growth is to come from a yet unrealized form of ethanol made from switchgrass and other “cellulosic” materials. However, a Rueters report today says this new form of ethanol could be limited by competition from corn growers. Apparently the corn subsidies are so attractive at the moment as to exclude serious industry attention.

The slack from underperforming cellulosic materials may have to be taken up by corn-based ethanol, which receives quite a boost under the proposed legislation as well. Corn-based ethanol is the least energy efficient form of biofuel, resulting in little (if any) reduction in net carbon footprints. Beyond that, there is a report that says the building boom in ethanol plants will go bust by the end of this year, scuttled by increased supplies of the fuel, falling prices and reduced return on investment, according to researchers at Iowa State University.

To cap off the exciting day of ethanol news, China has issued rules to ban food-based biofuels in their alternative energy programs. The government decided the food concerns were too real to a population where many still earn less than a dollar a day and depend on cheap foodstuffs for survival. Good for China.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Venezuela: Students Make Fools of Themselves at National Assembly

In an unprecedented display of openness, the Venezuelan National Assembly invited members of student organizations who have been protesting for the world’s media for the last 10 days, to address the body. However, rather than take part in a democratic exchange of ideas in the hall, with the entire nation watching, the anti-Chavez students stormed out in a huff when it became clear they would not be able to dominate the event.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.

Addressing the 167-member body, student leader Douglas Barrios said daily demonstrations against the closure of RCTV would continue. "Today our classes are in the street," he said in remarks that were broadcast nationally.
Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree, organized a debate over the station's closure between pro- and anti-government students and the government required all Venezuelan television and radio to broadcast the session.

The anti-Chavez students -- part of a mainly middle-class movement that has at times drawn tens of thousands onto the streets -- walked out after the first pro-government speech, complaining the event was politicized.
whole thing


Mexico: Media Law Reversal Supports Venezuela on RCTV

In a rare show of defiance of the political and corporate elite in Mexico, the Supreme Court has struck down a law that would have turned Mexico's television concession system into a clone of the pre-Hugo Chavez Venezuelan system. Chavez did on his own what the Mexican Justices had to step in and do here - restore teeth and a concern for the public welfare and democracy into media regulations. Perhaps not suprisingly, given what we are learning aboue privale Latin TV "news" networks, Televisa did not report this crushing news in their evening news yesterday.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's Supreme Court on Thursday struck down key provisions of a controversial media law crafted in large part by the nation's two dominant TV broadcasters.
Thursday's proceedings formally ratified a string of preliminary decisions announced by the court over the last week. The justices rejected large swaths of the media legislation, dubbed the "Televisa Law" by critics because it was largely authored by lawyers from Grupo Televisa and TV Azteca. Together, the two broadcasters control 95% of Mexico's TV stations and virtually all of the industry's advertising revenue.

In a series of stinging rebukes, the justices found several provisions to be unconstitutional because they would discriminate against competitors and would cement the two companies' market dominance. Those provisions would have granted Televisa and TV Azteca 20-year concessions, with renewal virtually guaranteed, and given them new digital bandwidth without having to compete or pay for the public spectrum.

"For the state to give away the broadcasting spectrum required to uphold the fundamental rights of freedom of expression … is unconceivable in a democracy," Justice Genaro Góngora said Tuesday.
Mexico's legislature approved the broadcasting legislation last year in the midst of a tight presidential race. Most Mexicans get their news from broadcast television, making it a crucial vehicle for reaching voters. Legislators have acknowledged intense pressure within their own parties to approve the measure out of fear that their candidates would be denied TV coverage.

"They were incapable of confronting the pressure … the intimidation of those that control the screens and the microphones," said political analyst Jesús Silva Herzog-Márquez, a law professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. The broadcasters have denied using threats or pressure tactics to sway lawmakers.
(Televisa) made no mention of the ruling in its main afternoon news program, devoting time instead to a hepatitis outbreak in southern Mexico and damage to a coral reef in Cancun.

RCTV Just One of Hundreds of Non-Renewed TV Stations

A typical RCTV television show

Again we must rely on the Cuban press to report a bit more context into the uproar over the non-renewal of the RCTV concession in Venezuela. If you are looking for more, check this interesting mental exercise piece on what would happen if NBC (for example) acted like RCTV in cheering on a military coup against Bush.

Chilean journalist Ernesto Carmona compiled other concessions throughout the world that have been cancelled or expired. How come nobody mentioned them?

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recognizes, in all of its breadth, the “sovereign right of each State to regulate its telecommunications, taking into account the growing importance of telecommunications to safeguarding the peace and the economic and social development of States...”

Throughout the world, many countries have adopted sovereign decision to not renew [broadcast] concessions or to allow them to expire. For example:

Peru, in April 2007, decided to shut down two television channels and three radio stations for noncompliance with its Radio and Television Law, expired licenses and utilization of non-homologous equipment.

In Uruguay, December 2006, permits were revoked for radio stations 94.5 FM and Concierto FM, in Montevideo, and a resolution was revoked which had expanded coverage for the broadcast signal of the cable channel Multicanal, part of the Clarín Group of Argentina.

In El Salvador, in July 2003, the concession for the Salvador Network was revoked.

In Canada, June 1999, the Country Music Televisión’s (CMT) concession was revoked.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in July 1969, revoked the concession for WLBT-TV; in 1981 it did likewise for WLNS-T; in April 1999, it revoked the license of Trinity Broadcasting; and in April 1998, that of Daily Digest (Radio). From 1934 to 1987 in the United States, 141 broadcasters lost their licenses, including 102 for non-renewal. In 40 cases, their licenses were revoked before they were expired. During the ‘80s, there were 10 cases of non-renewal.

In Europe, in July 2004 Spain revoked the concession of TV Laciana (a local cable channel) and in April 2005, it shut down open-signal radio and TV broadcasters in Madrid. In July of the same year, it shut down TV Católica.

France revoked the license of TV& in February 1987; in December 2004 it revoked Al Manar’s concession, and in December 2005 it shut down TF 1 for questioning the existence of the Holocaust.

In England, the government of Margaret Thatcher cancelled the concession of one of the country’s largest TV stations simply for having broadcast news that was not agreeable, although absolutely true. She simply argued that “if they had already had the station for 30 years, why should they have a monopoly?” Also in the UK, authorities decided in March 1999 to temporarily shut down MED-TV-Channel 22; in August 2006, it revoked the license of ONE TV; in January 2007, the license of Look 4 Love 2; in November 2006, StarDate TV 24; and in December 2006 it revoked the license for the TV channel AUCTIONWORD.

In 1990, Ireland revoked the license for TV3, which had not yet begun to broadcast.

In Russia, in August 2000, a TV broadcaster was shut down for subliminal advertising, and in March 2002, they shut down TV-6.

In August 2002, Bangladesh revoked the license of Ekushey Televisión (ETV).

And in none of these countries was there any campaign like the one currently being waged regarding Radio Caracas Televisión, which was on the air for 53 years.


CIA Behind RCTV Protests in Venezuela

Bowen Rosten, head of the CIA for Latin America, was seen in a picture taken during a protest in Caracas, where he is seen participating. The revelation was aired on Venezuelan TV by Jose Vicente Rangel yesterday, during his TV program. This evidence is but the latest in a series of clues that increasingly indicate the United States is behind the recent (small but violent) protests in Caracas in recent days.

At a press conference last week attended by 600 social organizations, Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger presented evidence to journalists that unveiled declassified documents that show the payment in dollars of journalists from RCTV and Globovision by the US Government, through its State Dept. and CIA subsidiaries - NED and Freedom House. Golinger is the author of The Chavez Code, which documents U.S. funding of opposition groups and U.S. involvement in the 2002 coup attempt.

The payments were supposedly for travel and expenses related to journalistic training. However, the program also has the purpose of influencing how Venezuelan journalists cover events related to the U.S. foreign policy. According to the documents released, the programs seek to "influence the approach and ultimately the coverage given to issues of importance to U.S. foreign policy and to strengthen the Venezuelan democratic process." Opposition journalists, including Miguel Angel Rodriguez of RCTV, who received more than $6,000, and Maria Fernanda Flores of Globovision, were the main recipients.

The journalists involved in these programs were chosen by the U.S. embassy and could very well have been unaware of the program’s efforts to influence their coverage of U.S. foreign policy.

Golinger also presented evidence of an internationally coordinated destabilization plan, showing a protest flyer apparently designed by Freedom House, a U.S. government funded organization dedicated to democracy and free market capitalism.

Freedom House, previously headed by CIA Director Woosley, has been involved in other countries and other campaigns to overthrow regimes such as Serbia and the Ukraine. According to Golinger, the flyers circulating in Caracas have the logo of a clenched fist, the same logo used in the campaigns in other countries such as Serbia, Georgia, and the Ukraine.

Golinger also made reference to the fact that leaders from the Serbian campaign, and people from the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (Canvas) have been involved with the Venezuelan opposition and have given trainings about nonviolent resistance inside Venezuela. According to the webpage of Canvas, Venezuela is one of three nations in which the resistance strategies are being used.

Golinger said that she found the presence of these programs to be "worrying" in light of the tense relations between the United States and Venezuela, as well as the aggressive media atmosphere in Venezuela in recent years.

"We have to be very aware that there are actors that are looking to create a scenario that later is going to justify what they want, which is an international intervention, above all from the United States," said Golinger.

Thanks to Chris Carlson, for much of this reporting.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

FCC Member: US Media is Failing Democracy

Some timely perspective here on the root of the problem with the US media - not enough oversight and attention paid to enforcing public service laws on the books. The same was the case in Venezuela, until Chavez shortened the license period between renewals from 10 years to 5 (the US has 8 years and Coops calls for a 3 year licensing period here). As Copps says, using the billion dollar public airwaves carries many responsibilities. Taking part in a military coup and backing the economic devastation of your country (putting millions out of work) is not part of that agreement, as RCTV found out.

by Michael J. Copps; NYT; June 05, 2007

AS a member of the Federal Communications Commission, I often hear how fed up Americans are with the news media. Too much "if it bleeds it leads" on the evening news and not enough real coverage of local issues. Too little high-quality entertainment and too many people eating bugs.

It doesn't have to be this way. America lets radio and TV broadcasters use public airwaves worth more than half a trillion dollars for free. In return, we require that broadcasters serve the public interest: devoting at least some airtime for worthy programs that inform voters, support local arts and culture and educate our children -- in other words, that aspire to something beyond just minimizing costs and maximizing revenue.

Using the public airwaves is a privilege -- a lucrative one -- not a right, and I fear the F.C.C. has not done enough to stand up for the public interest. Our policies should reward broadcasters that honor their pledge to serve that interest and penalize those that don't.

The F.C.C. already has powerful leverage to hold broadcasters to their end of the bargain. Every eight years, broadcasters must prove that they have served the public interest in order to get license renewal. If they can't, the license goes to someone else who will. It's a tough but fair system -- if the commission does its job.

The problem is that, under pressure from media conglomerates, previous commissions have eviscerated the renewal process. Now we have what big broadcasters lovingly call "postcard renewal" -- the agency typically rubber-stamps an application without any substantive review. Denials on public interest grounds are extraordinarily rare.

Just recently, the F.C.C. made news because it fined Univision, the Spanish-language broadcaster, a record- breaking $24 million. Univision claimed that its stations offered three hours of children's educational programming per week -- one of the few public interest rules still on the books -- in part by showing a soap opera involving 11-year-old twins.

That was the right decision. But, viewed closely, it also illustrates just how slipshod our renewal process has become.

The commission paid attention to the Univision complaint because the station was part of a chain of 114 TV and radio stations being transferred from a public corporation to private equity firms. Without that, it is unclear when, if ever, the violations would have been acted upon. This even though scholars believe that one-fifth of what is billed as children's programming has "little or no educational value" and only one-third can be called "highly educational." Our children deserve better.

It wasn't always like this. Before the deregulatory mania in the 1980s -- when an F.C.C. chairman described television as a "toaster with pictures" -- the commission gave license renewals a hard look every three years, with specific criteria for making a public interest finding. Indeed, broadcasters' respect for the renewal process encouraged them to pay for hard-hitting news operations. That was then.
Second, broadcast outlets are still primary, critical sources of information for the American public. Nearly 60 percent of adults watch local TV news each day -- it remains the nation's most popular information source. And so it's imperative that broadcasters continue to provide high-quality coverage of local and national issues.

But ensuring they do so means putting teeth back into the renewal process. To begin with, shorten the license term. Eight years is too long to go without an accounting -- we ought to return to the three-year model.
If you need convincing that something needs to be done, consider that only about 8 percent of local TV newscasts in the month before the last presidential election contained any coverage whatsoever of local races, including those for the House of Representatives.

This low number is just one example of how poorly stations are serving their viewers. Do stations that make so much money using the public airwaves, but so plainly fail to educate viewers on the issues facing them, really deserve to have their renewals rubber- stamped?

Michael J. Copps is a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Miami Defends Cuba Book Ban Before Court

MIAMI — Civil-liberties lawyers Wednesday defended a book about Cuba that omits references to Fidel Castro's communist government, as a judge asked them to compare the work to a hypothetical book about Adolf Hitler that didn't mention the Holocaust.

The discussion came as the Miami-Dade County School District asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for permission to remove 49 copies of "Vamos a Cuba" and its English-language version, "A Visit to Cuba," from its libraries. The board argues that the books, for children ages 5 to 8, present an inaccurate view of life in Cuba.

Senior Judge Donald Walter asked American Civil Liberties Union attorney JoNel Newman if a school board would be allowed to remove a Hitler book omitting the Holocaust from library shelves.

Newman said "Vamos a Cuba" is a geography book about daily life on the island, not about Castro himself.

"The political reality in Cuba is not what the book is about," Newman said. "The school board can't remove it because it wishes to inject a political message into it."

Circuit Judge Ed Carnes noted that "there's a difference in enormity" between the Holocaust and actions by Castro's government, but that Walter's hypothetical addressed the "omission of facts."

Carnes presented his own hypothetical, asking Newman if a book about North Korea could be pulled from shelves because it failed to mention problems in that communist government.

Newman countered by saying such political discussions shouldn't be required for books for elementary school students, arguing whether a book about the Great Wall of China must mention Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

The school board wants to ban the book because it does not mention Cuba's lack of civil liberties, the political indoctrination of public school children, food rationing and forced child labor.

"These books are rife with factual omissions, misrepresentations and inaccuracies," said Richard Ovelmen, the school board's attorney.

Board members voted last year to remove the book after a parent who spent time as a political prisoner in Cuba complained. Cuban-Americans, most of them anti-Castro, have significant political sway as the largest ethnic group in Miami.

In voting to remove the book, the board overruled the decision of two academic advisory committees and the county school superintendent.
Whole thing


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Venezuela vs Pakistan: The Definition of Hypocrisy

Today our "good friend" Pakistani dictator Gen. Musharraf arrested 1200 opposition party members. On Monday he issued a decree giving himself blanket power to shut down any independent television network he wanted. The problem are those pesky protests calling for a return to democracy. Musharraf had already stopped transmissions of TV stations that reported on the growing constitutional crisis over Musharraf’s sacking of Pakistan’s chief justice. 50 have been killed in protests by Masharraf militias, etc. etc...

Neither george Bush nor Condoleeza Rice have said one word about the curtailment freedom or democracy in Pakistan. But each of them found time to vehemently attack Venezuela each of the last few days, for the "shuttering" of a shlock soap opera, game show channel RCTV (nevermind that RCTV is still running at full steam, broadcasting its news programs across the country on radio and is showing its programming on a big screen in a plaza in Caracas tonight.)

Oh wait, Bush did mention Pakistan on Tuesday. He coupled his statements in Prague on freedom and democracy to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: “These nations have taken brave stands and strong action to confront extremists, along with some steps to expand liberty and transparency. Yet they have a great distance still to travel.” Isn't that nice.


Venezuela and the Media: Fact and Fiction

A pro-Chavez march featuring hundreds of thousands of protesters Saturday in Caracas that was ignored by the US media, in favor of covering much smaller marches (5-10,000) against the President. What else is new?

We have witnessed quite a week with regards to Venezuela and its portrayal by the US mass media. We have seen the power of a media system that does not have room for background or context on complicated international stories, nor the appetite to present a balanced view of events in a country our Government considers a threat to their hemispheric hegemony. The disgraceful conduct of our media in this episode was criticized by the most prominent media watchdog group in the US - FAIR and now the most respected media critic in the US has weighed in - Robert McChesney - in this much needed (but ignored) piece that Arianna Huffington's blog fortunately picked up.

Robert McChesney and Mark Weisbrot

To read and view the U.S. news media over the past week, there is an episode of grand tyranny unfolding, one repugnant to all who cherish democratic freedoms. The Venezuelan government under "strongman" Hugo Chavez refused to renew the 20-year broadcast license for RCTV, because that medium had the temerity to be critical of his regime. It is a familiar story.

And in this case it is wrong.

Regrettably, the US media coverage of Venezuela's RCTV controversy says more about the deficiencies of our own news media that it does about Venezuela. It demonstrates again, as with the invasion of Iraq, how our news media are far too willing to carry water for Washington than to ascertain and report the truth of the matter.

Here are some of the facts and some of the context that the media have omitted or buried:

All nations license radio and TV stations because the airwaves can only accommodate a small number of broadcasters, far fewer than the number who would like to have the privilege to broadcast. In democratic nations the license is given for a specific term, subject to renewal. In the United States it is eight years; in Venezuela it is 20 years.

Venezuela is a constitutional republic. Chavez has won landslide victories that would be the envy of almost any elected leader in the world, in internationally monitored elections.

The vast majority of Venezuela's media are not only in private hands, they are constitutionally protected, uncensored, and dominated by the opposition. RCTV's owners can expand their cable and satellite programming, or take their capital and launch a print empire forthwith. Aggressive unqualified political dissent is alive and well in the Venezuelan mainstream media, in a manner few other democratic nations have ever known, including our own.

The media here report that President Chavez "accuses RCTV of having supported a coup" against him. This is a common means of distorting the news: a fact is reported as accusation, and then attributed to a source that the press has done everything to discredit. In fact, RCTV - along with other broadcast news outlets - played such a leading role in the April 2002 military coup against Venezuela's democratically elected government, that it is often described as "the world's first media coup."

In the prelude to the coup, RCTV helped mobilize people to the streets against the government, and used false reporting to justify the coup. One of their most infamous and effective falsifications was to mix footage of pro-Chavez people firing pistols from an overpass in Caracas with gory scenes of demonstrators being shot and killed. This created the impression that the pro-Chavez gunmen actually shot these people, when in fact the victims were nowhere near them. These falsified but horrifying images were repeated incessantly, and served as a major justification for the coup.

RCTV then banned any pro-government reporting during the coup. When Chavez returned to office, this too was blacked out of the news. Later the same year, RCTV once again made all-day-long appeals to Venezuelans to help topple the government during a crippling national oil strike.

If RCTV were broadcasting in the United States, its license would have been revoked years ago. In fact its owners would likely have been tried for criminal offenses, including treason.

RCTV's broadcast frequency has been turned over to a new national public access channel that promises to provide programming from thousands of independent producers. It is an effort to let millions of Venezuelans who have never had a viable chance to participate in the media do so, without government censorship.

The Bush Administration opposes the Chavez government for reasons that have nothing to do with democracy, or else there would be a long list of governments for us to subvert or overthrow before it would get close to targeting Venezuela. Regrettably, our press coverage has done little to shed light on that subject.

Our news media should learn the lesson of Iraq and regard our own government's claims with the same skepticism they properly apply to foreign leaders. Then Americans might begin to get a more accurate picture of the world, and be able to effectively participate in our foreign policy.

This article was originally published by on June 1, 2007. If anyone wants to reprint it, please let CEPR know, at