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domingo, julio 16, 2006

7-16-06: Latin American News Report

1 comentario

7-16-06: Latin American News Report
Large protest in Mexico against election result
By Adam Thomson in Mexico City
Published: July 17 2006 04:02

Mexico City on Sunday hosted one of the biggest demonstrations in its history as people from around the country protested against the results of this month’s presidential elections and demanded a full recount of the vote.

According to local police, more than a million people marched on the Zócalo, the city’s main square, in support of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the losing leftwing candidate. Independent estimates suggested the turn-out was slightly smaller.

On July 2, Mr López Obrador, a 52-year-old former Mexico-City mayor, lost to Felipe Calderón of the ruling centre-right National Action party by 0.58 per cent or just 243,000 votes.

He has responded by calling the election “fraudulent”, and has accused Mexico’s electoral authorities of “manipulating the counting”. He has vowed to continue organising mass protests until the country’s electoral authorities give in to his demands for a recount.

At Sunday’s demonstration, which far outnumbered an initial protest last week, Mr López Obrador called on supporters to begin a week of civil resistance and announced another mega rally on July 30 to keep up the pressure on the authorities.

“Democracy and the country’s political stability are at stake,” he told a sea of chanting supporters draped in the gold colours of his Democratic Revolution Party. The rally passed without violence.

Mr López Obrador confirmed last week that his strategy would be to seek an annulment of the election if the authorities did not grant a recount.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal, the highest electoral court, has until September 6 to announce whether it considers there is any merit to the complaints and how it intends to respond.

On Friday Mexican bonds rallied and the peso strengthened to a two-month high against the dollar, which analysts say reflect investors’ growing confidence that Mr López Obrador’s legal complaints will come to nothing and that the authorities will eventually confirm Mr Calderón as president-elect.

The business-friendly Mr Calderón has vowed to continue the economic policies of President Vicente Fox that have helped consolidate macroeconomic stability, reducing interest rates and inflation to historic lows while pushing up international reserves to historic highs.

The campaign team behind Mr Calderón, a 43-year-old Harvard-trained technocrat, has resisted calls for a total recount on the grounds that it is illegal, and last week told foreign journalists that Mexican law does not allow for an annulment of a presidential election.

But on the streets of Mexico City on Sunday, Mr López Obrador’s supporters appeared to be in a confident mood. On Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city’s main avenues, a group of Mexican youth sat on the roof of a lorry beating drums and chanting “vote by vote”, in reference to their insistence on recounting each and every one of the ballots cast.

People of all ages filed past holding posters saying “Hang on López Obrador, the people are rising up” and “We won”. One man dressed in black walked towards the Zócalo with a cardboard coffin balanced on his head with the word “Democracy” painted on the side.

In a radio interview last Friday, Mr López Obrador said he would call off the protests if the authorities granted a recount of the votes. He also said he would accept the result of the recount even if it went against him, though adding that he would only do so “under protest”.

“I won… [and] this election is fraudulent from start to finish.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006


Mexico: A Yellow revolution brewing?
by Dima Khatib, Aljazeera correspondent in Mexico
Sunday 16 July 2006 11:21 AM GMT

Supporters of Lopez Obrador converged on the Zocalo

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador might seem to some to have been the loser in the presidential elections in Mexico on July 2. However, some might say he is probably in the best position he could ever be.

On July 8, Lopez Obrador, often referred to as Amlo (his initials), attracted a crowd up to half-a-million people who poured into Mexico City's main square, known as the Zocalo, proving that the best political card in his hands right now is his ability to mobilise the masses.

For hours the world's second-biggest square (after Tiananmen in Beijing) was coloured with yellow, the colour of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party.

It was an outpouring of public support similar to the Orange Revolution that gripped Kiev after disputed elections there in 2004.

In a country of 103 million people - at least half of whom are poor and 18 million of those live in extreme poverty - most of the protesters have no health services, no education and no land and so feel they have no future and no dignity. They say they have nothing to lose because they have never gained anything. And they are simply fed up.

"With our blood, with our souls, we will defend Lopez Obrador"
Chant from Amlo supporters in the Zocalo

I recently visited one of Mexico City's many poor neighbourhoods; everywhere I went I could smell the sewage.

People here earn less than two dollars a day.

Of course, compared with other countries I have been to, it is not that bad. However, this is Mexico, where there should not be any poverty at all.

The country is rich in resources including oil, gas and uranium, but has one of Latin America's worst records on wealth distribution.

Had Lopez Obrador won the presidential elections, he would have surely won by a very tight margin. He would then have had both chambers of government against him and he would have faced a country divided and difficult to rule.

It is quite possible that these challenges would have been too great to face and his electoral promises would end up too remote to reach.

Lopez Obrador is a former mayor of Mexico City. He, or anybody else, is unlikely to make rapid effective changes that would make the poor less poor.

He would have therefore ended up disappointing the same masses that support him now, and even though he has still not reached the presidency, these masses believe in him more than ever. They hang on to him as a symbol of resistance and hope.

He gives them a dream that nobody else has given them before, although some might say the leader of the Zapatista Liberation Army, Subcomandante Marcos, has been that symbol. But Marcos does not seek power and he does not come from within the establishment, as is the case with Lopez Obrador.

No choice

After all the voting, political manoeuvring and legal argument, it may be that Amlo has no option but to go against the current if he wants to have a political future.

If he were to accept the result of the elections, he would probably lose his popularity and face a long and slow drift into political death, simply because the masses cannot accept the status quo.

"This is idiot is making fun of Mexico" Slogan on an anti-Calderon banner

If he is to disappoint them, then Marcos would be the next person to which they would turn, although he seems to attract fewer and fewer Mexicans to his rallies.

Lopez Obrador manifesto is not anti-imperialist and he would not be likely to make radical changes towards the left. Despite this many of his supporters want an anti-US government in Mexico, want the whole package of radical changes seen in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia. They do not seem to realise that Amlo was going to be none of the above.

Turning tide

Plunging into the human sea in the Zocalo after the rally, I could see great anger in people's eyes. Some scared me. They were shouting: "With our blood, with our soul we will defend you Lopez Obrador."

Many said, or rather screamed at me: "We will not tolerate the rich stealing our country's resources and leaving us poor for ever. It is time for the poor to be on top and the rich to be in the bottom."

Felipe Calderon celebrated - then went on holiday

Some cried, some were hysterical; some grabbed my Aljazeera microphone and shouted irrational, hardly understandable words to the camera.

They even yelled at me: "liar", thinking I was a Mexican journalist not telling the truth about them.

Whether or not Lopez Obrador proves his point about the alleged fraud committed in the elections does not seem to matter that much any more.

The 14 million voters who chose him as their candidate might grow in number now that someone is standing up against the system through which 300 powerful families have always ruled Mexico.

During the rally on July 8, the official winner in the elections, Felipe Calderon from the National Action Party, was relaxing in Cuernavaca, a summer town where rich Mexicans typically have their holiday or weekend homes.

Watching the Zocalo turn yellow, he might have been alarmed. For me it was like the Yellow River in China which floods regularly.

If the Zocalo keeps flooding then maybe Calderon ought to spend less time in Cuernavaca and watch out for wider floods across the country, which could end up at his doorstep sooner than he thinks

Aljazeera: By Dima Khatib, Aljazeera correspondent in Mexico

Cuba Vows Communist Succession Post-Castro = July 16, 2006 at 11:50:46 PDT By ANITA SNOW / ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA (AP) - What will Cuba be like when Fidel Castro is gone? Washington and Cuba have - no surprise - startlingly different versions of a post-Castro Cuba, and many dissidents on the island complain they will be caught in the middle.

In Washington's scenario, presented this week by a presidential commission, a democratic Cuba will endorse multiparty elections and free markets and become a new ally to be rebuilt with American assistance after nearly five decades of communism.

But Castro, who apparently enjoys good health and turns 80 on Aug. 13, has been fortifying the ruling Communist Party to ensure the status quo long after his death. He plans to hand over power to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the first vice president of Cuba's Council of State.

The key aim of the 93-page report by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is to halt that succession, using diplomacy to enlist Cuban citizens and other countries to demand a new government after Fidel dies.

It recommends that the United States spend $80 million over two years to encourage that change, saying Cubans could appeal to the United States for food, water and other aid. It envisions U.S. technicians rebuilding schools, highways, bridges, financial specialists designing a new tax system and the United States helping Cuba join the International Monetary Fund.

"The greatest guarantor of genuine stability in Cuba is the rapid restoration of sovereignty to the Cuban people through free and fair, multiparty elections," says the report that was released July 10.

Other experts say the commission is being unrealistic.

"We need a reality check here," said Wayne Smith, America's top diplomat to Havana from 1979 to 1982. "Anyone who knows Cuba knows the Cuban people aren't going to rise up against a successor regime."

Dissidents in Cuba say they appreciate the gesture, but fear it will backfire and lead to more arrests. In 2003, 75 dissidents were arrested and accused of being "mercenaries" receiving U.S. aid - a charge the activists denied.

Opposition member Manuel Cuesta Morua called the U.S. offer a "poisonous embrace."

"Those are 80 million arguments for the Cuban government to make it seem all Cuban dissidents are financed by the United States," he said.

The dissident community has not fully recovered from the 2003 arrests, and no Cuban opposition leader has emerged with widespread support.

Cuba also lacks the powerful nongovernment institutions that existed in communist-era Poland, where the Solidarity movement, organized around a strong Roman Catholic church and labor unions, managed to topple the Communist leadership.

The U.S. report has been well-received in Miami, where U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-born Republican, said it shows "the strong commitment of President Bush to help the Cuban people free themselves from the shackles of their brutal oppressor."

But Smith calls the U.S. report "pure pie-in-the-sky."

"The reality will end up being somewhere between those two visions, and probably closer to the Cuban succession plan - with the addition of popular pressure for economic reforms," said Smith, who heads the Cuba program at the Center for International Policy, a foreign policy institute in Washington.

Long a taboo topic, Cuba's planned succession has been discussed more openly in recent months with Raul Castro, the longtime defense minister, appearing frequently in state media to insist the party will continue its dominant role.

If Raul Castro does succeed his brother, the United States will likely be sidelined while other countries interact with Cuba's new leadership, said Philip Peters of the Lexington Institute, a think tank outside Washington.

That's because the United States in 1996 tightened its Cuba sanctions and prohibited aid to Cuba until multiparty elections are planned, political prisoners are released, and both Castro brothers are out of power.

Peters said the report only hardens Washington's position on Cuba.

"The report leaves no doubt that the administration will not support in Cuba the kind of change it applauds in China - economic liberalization without significant political change," Peters wrote this week.

Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon said he believes the report's classified section contains plans to attack the island or assassinate its leaders.

"We have the right to expect the worst," said Alarcon, referring to the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and earlier U.S. assassination attempts against Fidel Castro.
On the Net:
Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba:

Cuban government site on U.S. measures against Cuba:

Guantanamo chief to become NATO top commander: July 14, 2006

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Gen. Bantz Craddock, the chief of U.S. Southern Command who oversees the controversial Guantanamo prison, is to succeed Gen. James Jones as NATO's top commander of operations, the alliance said on Friday. Craddock will replace Jones as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) at a date yet to be determined, NATO said in a statement released in Brussels after President George W. Bush proposed Craddock for the post.

"The NATO Defence Planning Committee, which takes this decision, agreed but also expressed to General Jones, in the name of NATO governments, their gratitude for his distinguished service," it said.

Gen. Bantz Craddock, the chief of U.S. Southern Command who oversees the controversial Guantanamo prison, addresses a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, July 13, 2005. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Jones, a U.S. Marine, became SACEUR based in Mons, southern Belgium, in 2003 and had been widely expected to end his tour by the end of the year.

As head of Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, Craddock is responsible for overseeing operations at the detention facility for foreign terror suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

European officials have repeatedly expressed concerns over the treatment of prisoners at the camp, which Bush said last month he wanted eventually to shut, sending inmates back to their home countries.


Chile's president shuffles her Cabinet 8 minutes ago: Friday, July 14, 2006

SANTIAGO, Chile - President Michelle Bachelet shuffled her Cabinet on Friday, replacing three ministers just four months after she was sworn in as Chile's first female leader. In the Interior Ministry, she replaced Andres Zaldivar with Belisario Velasco, a deputy interior minister in the first civilian government after the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Economy Minister Ingrid Antonijevic was replaced by Alejandro Ferreiro and Education Minister Martin Zilic was replaced by Yasna Provoste.

"We have a new challenge," Bachelet said. "We are entering a new phase in which the central task is to complete the changes we have outlined — reaching a democracy with greater participation by the year 2010, with a consolidated social protection system."


Brazil leader begins re-election campaign: Fri Jul 14, 2006
By STAN LEHMAN, Associated Press Writer

SAO BERNARDO DO CAMPO, Brazil - President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva kicked off his campaign for re-election by promising to help Brazil's poor and uneducated working class.

"Our goal was, is and shall be to improve the lives of workers," Silva told supporters Thursday at a dinner in this industrial suburb of Sao Paulo where he helped launch the Workers Party, or PT, 27 years ago. "For us, economic policy and social policy are two faces of same coin," Silva said.

The 60-year-old president, who has rebounded from a corruption scandal and risen in public opinion polls, is heavily favored to win a second four-year term in the Oct. 1 election.

"He's the best president Brazil has ever had," said Valter Samara, a 69-year-old farmer who came from neighboring Parana state to attend the kickoff.

Silva, a grade-school dropout and former factory worker from the poor northeast, has strong support among working-class Brazilians. His cautious economic policy has kept the country on a path of steady growth, while the minimum wage has risen sharply to $160 a month.

"Millions of Brazilians have left poverty under my administration and entered the middle class," Silva said. "Employment rates have in risen every single month of my government."

Life-size posters of Silva and banners reading "Lula again, with the strength of the people" decorated the huge Sao Judas Tadeu restaurant, where some 3,000 people attended the $92-a-plate fundraiser.

In a survey this week by the polling firm Sensus, 44 percent of respondents backed Silva compared with 27 percent for his closest rival, former Sao Paulo state Gov. Geraldo Alckmin of the centrist Social Democracy Party. Sensus said that, discounting undecided voters and blank or voided ballots, Silva would probably get the 50 percent he needs to avoid a runoff Oct. 29.

PT President Ricardo Berzoini said Wednesday that one of Silva's biggest challenges is to recover the support of the middle class, which helped catapult him to the presidency four years ago. He said many middle-class Brazilians felt excluded from the government's social programs aimed at helping the poor. Another major campaign issue is public safety,

Six people have been killed in nearly 100 gang attacks on police and civilian targets in Sao Paulo since Tuesday. Residents had trouble getting to work Thursday morning because several bus companies suspended service out of fear of new attacks. Late Thursday the city said it would put plainclothes police on at least half of Sao Paulo's buses.

The violence comes two months after imprisoned leaders of the gang First Capital Command — known by its Portuguese initials PCC — ordered attacks against police across the city and Sao Paulo state, causing the deaths of nearly 200 police, prison guards, suspected criminals and jail inmates in one week.

Silva's administration and party were rocked last year by a corruption scandal that led to a wave of resignations from his inner circle. A congressional probe found no proof of allegations that the government paid legislators to back bills in Congress, but Silva's popularity slumped. However, his approval ratings rebounded as Brazil's economy improved on low inflation, healthy foreign investment and strong exports.

"In our next government," Silva said Thursday, "we will correct what we did wrong and expand on what we did right."


The Bush Plan on Cuba is a new aggression against Venezuela:
Havana. July 14, 2006
• Communiqué from Venezuelan Foreign Ministry

CARACAS.—The U.S. report on Cuba is a "new aggression against Venezuela," whose name is quoted on nine occasions in it, according to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister.

"It is evident that the plan of the current U.S. government is to utilize the constant hostility and terrorism characteristic of its relations with the sister Cuban people in order to extend actions of that kind against our country as well," the minister noted in a communiqué quoted by EFE.

The note refers to the report drawn up by the so-called Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba that the U.S. State Department presented to the president of that country, George W. Bush.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry maintains that the insistent mention of Venezuela in the document seeks place it as a target of aggression which, it adds, roundly negates recent statements by William Brownfield, the UN ambassador in Caracas, that his country will not attack Venezuela.

The plan presented against the Cuban people is a plan that also takes in Venezuela, as is evident in this report," it notes.

The Foreign Ministry refuted the claim that Venezuela is "a negative influence and a destabilizing factor in the region," and stated that evidence of that is "the excellent relations it maintains with the overwhelming majority of the countries of the world and very particularly those of the continent.

It points out that the document gives "meaning to the brazen protection that the government of President Bush is granting to the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, responsible for killing 73 innocent people traveling from Caracas on a Cubana Aviation flight."

"The same thing can be said of terrorists that who attacked the diplomatic delegations of Spain and Colombia in our country, who have been absolved and protected by that government," it adds.

It affirms that the report "will not isolate Venezuela" or "suspend the cooperation programs" that exist as part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), being promoted by the Venezuelan government.

- Bush's Mein Kampf


Bush's Mein Kampf: Havana. July 13, 2006
BY RICARDO ALARCÓN DE QUESADA (President of the Cuban National Assembly)

"For nothing is hidden unless it is to be disclosed, and nothing put undercover unless it is to come into the open." (Mark, 4:22)

TOM Crumpacker (*) was not exaggerating one iota when he compared the Bush annexation Plan with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. They are, effectively, the only available examples of publicly announced plans to subjugate a nation.

They are also similar in their genocidal and racist nature. In my previous article on this subject, I recalled that the Bush Plan, if it were carried out, would liquidate Cuba, the nation, but also enslave Cubans to extermination. That was the experience suffered by millions of individuals in the European countries occupied by Hitlerian hordes.

The blockade against Cuba is, without a doubt, a crime of genocide. It has been so since the first day and is so today. This definition perfectly corresponds to a policy that proposes to "cause hunger and desperation," as stated in recently declassified official documents from 1959 and 1960. The 2004 Plan and the additional measures approved by Bush this past Monday (July 10) intends to intensify the suffering of all Cubans. But it aspires to go beyond that. The disciple of Hitler, like his master, does not recognize borders.

The blockade, initially conceived and applied for nearly a half century in order to severely affect Cuba and all of its citizens, now wants to extend itself to fall, like a whip, over any other country and over any other Third World people.


Included in the new document are measures that seek to damage Cuban medical cooperation with other countries. Bush specifically wants to impede the services offered to thousands of patients who have been cured of cataracts or other visual disorders and have recovered their sight in Cuba, or those who have received these benefits in their own countries; they intend to thwart the education of thousands and young people who are studying Medicine and other disciplines in Cuba; and equally they are seeking to sabotage the missions that our doctors, technicians, and nurses are undertaking abroad. Bush imagines himself capable of doing away with Operation Miracle, with the Henry Reeve International Brigade, and with ELAM (Latin American School of Medicine).

Of course "actions speak louder than words." Or to use another popular refrain adapted to the occasion: "Bush thinks one thing and the shopkeeper another," But regardless of whether he can achieve that or not, it is among the measures that he has just approved and the rubbish that is yet to be announced.

It is proclaimed on pages 31 and 32 of the document approved July 10: "deny all exports" of medical related equipment that could be used in "large-scale medical programs for foreign patients" or in "institutions of foreign assistance."

Such a proposal implies, ironically, the recognition of a reality that is increasingly difficult to hide: the beautiful display of internationalism and human solidarity to which there are millions of witnesses from Pakistan to Indonesia, crossing Africa and the Caribbean to the Andes and Central America.

Neither the arrogant empire, nor any of its servants in other capitalist countries, can boast of anything even remotely similar to this genuine international cooperation, this real struggle for life and the most elemental rights of millions of human beings. None of them are capable of doing what this little island, assaulted and harassed, has done.

It is an outrage that there are still thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in need of aid. Many were displaced and are living as refugees in their own country. Many have died without the protection or assistance that Bush prevented being given by that same Henry Reeve Brigade that he now wants to destroy. Parents are still looking for thousands of lost children. New Orleans and Katrina will always be symbols of the intrinsic inhumanity of capitalism. Bush’s "Pray and Go Away" summarizes his bungling insensitivity, which will pursue him to hell.

It is already known that Bush, like Hitler, scorns the poor and African Americans in the United States and couldn’t care less if they die abandoned. But now we also know, because he has just openly admitted it, that his hatred extends to all the poor, all the indigenous, all the Blacks and mixed race peoples of the world. It is urgent to stop him and defeat him.

Crumpacker recalled that when Mein Kampf was published in 1924, many Europeans simply ignored it. Fifteen years later, the worst tragedy befell them.

History must not be repeated.

The situation now is worse. Bush has weapons that his maestro never knew. When he drew up his infamous pamphlet, Hitler was in prison. His pupil is walking free. There is no time to lose.

(*) "Planning for the Re-colonization of Cuba" taken from the internet. Tom Crumpacker lives in Austin, Texas and is a member of the Miami Coalition to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba.


Is Venezuela the Real Target of Bush's New Cuba Plan?
Thursday, Jul 13, 2006
By: José Pertierra

Cuba calls the shots; and Venezuela pays the bills. That is the major premise underlying the Report made public last Monday by the U.S. State Department concerning Cuba. Its findings are as much about the Bush Administration's plans for regime change in Cuba, as they are about the alleged threat that Venezuela poses to U.S. national security interests.

The ninety-three page Report was prepared by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. Its recommendations were accepted by President George W. Bush. They include a budget of $80 million during the next two years to ensure a transition, rather than a succession of leadership, in Cuba. The Report also contains a classified attachment that contains a secret plan for regime change in Cuba.

Although the Commission's Report and its recommendations are ostensibly about Cuba, Venezuela is a featured star player in the drama. It mentions Venezuela at least nine different times, always emphasizing Washington's perception that the Chávez government is bankrolling the Cuban government: "Cuba can only meet its budget needs with the considerable support of foreign donors, primarily Venezuela," says the Report.

Subversion in Latin America

Besides keeping the Cuban government afloat, Venezuelan money is allegedly also responsible for subversion in Latin America. The first paragraph of the Report boldly proclaims that "there are clear signs the regime [Cuba] is using money provided by the Chavez government in Venezuela to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments." We are not told which countries the Bush Administration thinks Cuba and Venezuela are subverting, nor are we ever told how.

A good guess may be Bolivia. The South American country recently elected Evo Morales as President. Washington considers him to be a friend of both Cuba and Venezuela. What have Castro and Chávez been up to in the Andes?

Cuba has 719 medical doctors in Bolivia. They go where Bolivian doctors fear to tread. In the most remote areas of the Andean country, Cuban doctors have treated more than 776,000 patients and saved 326 lives. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pledged $1.5 billion in energy investment to Bolivia. Venezuela is also investing in projects to produce organic tea, coffee, dairy and legal coca products there. The Chávez government recently also donated computers to schools in the remote Chapare region of Bolivia.

Cuban doctors and Venezuelan investments: they are a lethal recipe for subversion in Latin America according to the Bush Administration.

"The Castro-Led Axis"

The Bush Administration Commission compares the Cuba´s relation to Venezuela with its "earlier failed relationship with the Soviet Union, only this time not as the junior partner: Fidel Castro is calling the shots." It of course offers no evidence to support its thesis that President Chávez is anything other than his own man. The Report simply posits the myth as fact.

This "Castro-led axis," the Report finds, "undermines our interest in a more democratic Venezuela and undermines democratic governance and institutions elsewhere in the region. Together, these countries are advancing an alternative retrograde and anti-American agenda for the hemisphere's future and they are finding some resonance with populist governments and disenfranchised populations in the region."

From these flawed premises flows the Bush Administration's foreign policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. The Bush Doctrine is clear: in order to protect its interests in Latin America, Washington must overthrow the Cuban government and replace it with one more akin to U.S. interests. To help overthrow the Cuban government, it is necessary to cut off its money supply. That's where Venezuela comes in.

The Report that the State Department released to the public this week makes it abundantly clear that Washington considers Cuba and Venezuela to be two peas in a pod, and that their relationship constitutes an axis of evil that is detrimental to U.S. interests.

The Threat of Using Title III of Helms-Burton Against Venezuela

One of the more troublesome of the Commission's recommendations is the threat to apply Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act, known as "Helms Burton", to Venezuela.

Title III gives the United States unprecedented authority over property within another nation's borders. It permits lawsuits in U.S. courts brought by individual citizens against businesses that operate on property the Cuban government nationalized after the 1959 revolution. Concerned about the chilling effect on U.S. relations with foreign governments if it were to implement it, successive U.S. Presidents have suspended Title III since Helms-Burton was enacted ten years ago.

According to the Commission's Report, the White House is now prepared to apply, for the first time, Title III to individual countries that are "engaged in a process of support for regime succession (with Cuba)." This is a not-so-veiled threat to Venezuela, as well other nations who maintain normal relations with Cuba.

Were the United States to apply Title III to Venezuela, it would have profound and long-lasting implications on U.S.-Venezuela relations. Trade between the two nations in 2005 amounted to almost $39 billion. The specter of Miami Cubans suing Venezuela over nationalized pre-1959 property will loom heavily over any future trade ventures between the United States and Venezuela.

President Chávez, reflecting on the U.S. threats against Venezuela contained in the Report, said that "there are no threats that will discourage Venezuela from supporting the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people." "Rather than thinking of a transition plan for Cuba, he added, "the United States ought to elaborate a transition plan for themselves because this is the century that will see the end of the U.S. empire."

The Bush Doctrine for Regime Change

The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba lays down the gauntlet to Latin America. Under the Bush Doctrine, Cuba's government must be overthrown. Moreover, the United States foreign policy towards other nations in the Hemisphere will be measured by whether these nations support U.S. efforts for regime change in Cuba. Governments that support Cuba risk the wrath of the U.S. government and may be overthrown as well.

The Bush Doctrine makes it clear that legal, political and military options remain at the disposal of the United States government to overthrow the government of Cuba, as well as the governments of the "friends of Cuba." Some of these options are sealed, and we can only suppose their magnitude.

We don't know whether they include another coup d'état such as the one the U.S. launched in 2002 that almost succeeded in deposing President Chávez, or whether Washington intends to activate its Miami-Cuban "assets" to carry out terrorist attacks, or whether an outright invasion is a possibility, or even whether the assassination of President Hugo Chávez is in the cards.

The Bush Doctrine is premised on arrogance and mendacity, but it is consistent with U.S. "diplomacy" in the region. Recent history tells us that it is the United States, not Cuba or Venezuela, that subverts democracy in Latin America. The United States overthrew the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemala and replaced it with a military dictatorship that left more than 200,000 dead and disappeared. The United States is now shamelessly promoting Guatemala as a prime candidate for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Pinochet government with which the United States replaced democratically elected President Salvador Allende in Chile left a bloody trail of terror from Santiago to the streets of Washington, D.C. where Cuban-American terrorists working for the Chilean secret service murdered Chilean exile Orlando Letelier in cold blood.

Who have been Washington's friends and allies in Latin America? The Salvadoran governments that brutally murdered over 75,000 of their own citizens, the Argentinean military junta that tortured, disappeared or murdered over 30,000 men, women and children, the Uruguayan and Paraguayan dictatorships that participated in Operation Condor with zeal, even kidnapping the babies of some of the clandestine prisoners they were torturing.

To help subvert democracy, the United States recruited, trained and employed terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles, known as the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America. He was "our man in Latin America," as he helped train the Nicaraguan Contras, as well as the Guatemalan and Salvadoran death squads. In violation of its own international legal obligations, Washington refuses to extradite him to Venezuela to stand trial for 73 counts of first degree murder in relation to the downing of a passenger plane. Instead, the Bush White House shelters Posada in Texas, as the terrorist threatens to tell how he was just following orders.

The Bush Doctrine was formulated by politicians who are not listening to the winds of change in America. The banana republics of yesterday are being replaced by independent and sovereign nations, free of U.S. interference. This continent will soon see a monumental regime change, but that change will come in Washington--not in Havana or Caracas.
~~José Pertierra is an attorney. He represents the government of Venezuela in Washington, D.C.
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Montt says he was unaware of atrocities: Thu Jul 13, 2006
By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA, Associated Press Writer

GUATEMALA CITY - A former Guatemalan dictator said a Spanish judge's order for his arrest was unfounded and insisted that as president he was not aware of any atrocities committed by military officials during the country's civil war.

"The army followed orders and the law," Efrain Rios Montt told a news conference Wednesday, four days after Spanish National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants against him, Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores — also a former dictator — and six military officials on charges of genocide, torture, terrorism and illegal detention.

Human rights groups say Rios Montt and Mejia are responsible for some of the worst atrocities of Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which left 200,000 people dead before peace accords were signed in December 1996.

On Wednesday, relatives held funerals for 19 war victims whose bodies were recently exhumed from clandestine graves.

Pedraz's order stems from charges filed in Spanish courts in 1999 by Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, whose father was one of 37 people killed in January 1980 when police stormed and set fire to the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala. Pedraz also is investigating the deaths of four Spanish priests by government forces in western Guatemala.

In the arrest warrants issued last week, Pedraz said he encountered "obstructionism" and a lack of cooperation by the accused during a fact-finding trip to Guatemala in June, from which he returned empty-handed.

Rios Montt insisted that he is being accused unfairly by a judge who fails "to remember that there was a war in Guatemala, a guerrilla war in which terrorists destroyed bridges, schools, electric plants and other buildings of the people."

"There were some officials who committed abuses ... the army was not a squad of assassins," he said. "It was men who acted and reacted in defense of the interests of the nation and the people."

Rios Montt described his administration as "a bridge between a black past and a hopeful tomorrow, given that the guerrillas and international terrorism were defeated in Guatemala."

According to a U.N. truth commission, the army was responsible for 626 separate massacres of civilians, mostly Mayan Indians, during the war. About half of those occurred in 1982 and 1983 when Rios Montt was running the country.

Rios Montt said he had no knowledge of the massacres. "I don't believe or disbelieve" reports of atrocities, he added. Aristides Crespo, head of Rios Montt's political party in Congress, called the judge's legal action "a political lynching by those who were defeated in the war." Defense lawyers for Rios Montt have argued that Pedraz lacks the authority to hold hearings on events that took place in Guatemala.


Colombia seeks to rein in rights watchdog: Wed Jul 12, 2006
By JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press Writer

BOGOTA, Colombia - President Alvaro Uribe's government is lobbying to restrict a U.N. agency that has been the most trusted monitor of human rights violations in Colombia, according to foreign diplomats and rights activists.

The diplomats say Colombian officials are trying to remove the agency's right to publicly criticize human rights abuses and publish an annual report on one of the hemisphere's worst rights records. And with the U.N. human rights office's four-year mandate expiring in October, the agency is particularly vulnerable, they say.

The U.N.'s Bogota office, one of 34 such missions around the world, has verified 8,100 human rights abuses in Colombia since it was founded in 1997, implicating rebels, paramilitaries and government forces alike in Colombia's four-decade old civil war. The agency recently revealed details of the killings of 29 civilians in the last 18 months, including pregnant women and children, by security forces who claimed the victims were rebels. Rights groups say the U.N.'s work helped lead to the arrest of 18 soldiers, an embarrassing development for the law and order Uribe.

Now Uribe's government has been lobbying foreign governments to drop the agency's independent monitoring role and limit its work to technical support for the Colombian government, according to the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Washington, meanwhile, stands out in its support of Uribe, its firmest ally in South America. Despite a March letter from 61 foreign and Colombian human rights and development organizations asking U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to support the agency's current mission, U.S. Embassy officials in Bogota said Washington won't get involved.

European diplomats say Uribe's government has intensified its campaign recently by rejecting the top choice to take over the agency — Scott Campbell, deputy director of Washington-based advocacy group Global Rights, who did field work in the Congo for the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Instead, the UNHCHR named Uruguayan sociologist Juan Pablo Corlazzoli to the post last week.

Neither Campbell nor Corlazzoli returned phone calls and e-mails seeking comment and Santos refused to confirm the veto. But one diplomat familiar with the selection process said Santos told him that Campbell was perceived as biased because he worked for non-governmental agencies that have criticized Uribe's rights record.

The Colombian government has complained the U.N. rights reports are unduly harsh and fail to give enough credit to Uribe's get-tough security policies for a sharp drop in reported ransom kidnappings and homicides.

In its most recent annual report in February, the U.N. rights office cited a "series of grave violations" in Colombia — including torture, executions, and forced disappearances — by leftist rebels, illegal right-wing paramilitary groups and, to a lesser extent, government security forces.
And while it didn't accuse Uribe's government of deliberate involvement in the violations, the U.N. office decried an "inadequacy of remedial action," trends also documented in the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report.

Uribe's administration won't comment on its lobbying, but clearly has soured on the human rights groups. In 2003, Uribe called them "politickers for terrorism" and challenged critics of his crackdown on rebel-linked criminals to "take off their masks ... and drop this cowardice of hiding their ideas behind human rights."

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos has repeatedly complained of bias, telling the U.N. Human Rights Council last month that U.N. officials in 2002 had smeared then-candidate Uribe as a "leader of the extreme terrorist right wing." He stood by the comments last week, telling The Associated Press that Mary Robinson was behind the smear campaign.

Amerigo Incalcaterra, now running the U.N. office in Bogota, denied any such comments by U.N. officials.

The European Union and rights activists have called for extending the U.N. office's current broad mandate, since Colombia remains mired in civil war.

"We fought for the office's establishment, with its current mandate, because of the near total impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights abuses," said Eduardo Carreno of the Lawyers Collective, a Colombian rights group. "Sadly, a decade later, that hasn't improved much, regardless of what the government would like people to believe."

Related Link:
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


Brazil's troops to stay while Haiti needs - Lula = Mon 13 Mar 2006

BRASILIA, Brazil, March 13 (Reuters) - Brazil's peacekeeping forces will stay in Haiti for as long as the new government needs them, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said
on Monday. The troops were in Haiti at the request of the United Nations and the Haitian government, Lula said

"Brazil will stay as long as the Haitian government sees it necessary," he said in his fortnightly radio address. "When they say 'we don't want you any more,' we will leave in the knowledge we have completed our task."

Haitian President-elect Rene Preval said in Brasilia on Friday there was more optimism and security in Haiti after the Feb. 7 presidential election, but the country's police and judiciary were still weak and it would be irresponsible to withdraw U.N. forces.

"(Preval) told me the troops there should only leave when he manages to set up the police because you can't have a vacuum," Lula said.

Brazil has commanded the 9,000-member U.N. force in Haiti since 2004 after the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and makes up its largest contingent. Brazil has offered aid in developing the agriculture and telecommunications industry. Haitian electoral authorities set the second-round of legislative elections for April 21. Preval is expected to take office in early May.

Bolivia sees glint of gold in Che Guevara's footsteps:
Wednesday, July 13, 2006

CAMIRI, Bolivia (Reuters) -- The spirit of capitalist enterprise is flourishing in the footsteps of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary who died in his unsuccessful attempt to bring communism to Bolivia.

Enterprising Bolivians think the time is ripe to expand tourism by increasing the trickle of international leftists who travel to Bolivia to pay homage to Che. He was shot in 1967, at the age of 39, and became a revolutionary icon.

"There are great conditions now to develop the (Che) business," said Karen Wachtel, who owns the Chaco Guarani Tours travel agency and played a key role in developing the "Che trail" which connects the landmarks of Guevara's guerrilla campaign. "The left is gaining strength in Latin America and here in Bolivia, there is a much, much talk about Che Guevara."

Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, hung a huge portrait of Che Guevara in the presidential palace after he took office in January and the revolutionary leader is often mentioned in speeches by members of the ruling Movement Toward Socialism. But it is small entrepreneurs, not a socialist state, who are looking to profit from Che Guevara.

The way to do that, tourism operators say, is to offer tours that combine left-wing pilgrimage with adventurous eco-tourism -- on foot, horseback or four-wheel-drive vehicle -- through rugged mountain areas which have barely changed over the past 40 years.

One project, started with a $436,000 grant from the Bank for International Development, aims to turn haciendas (ranches) along the "Che trail" -- which stretches 500 miles (800 km) from Camiri in the South to Vallegrande in the North -- into Che museums and way stations for travelers. "This is a work in progress," said Alvaro de la Quintana, director of Haciendas del Chaco. "It includes recreating the central camp from where Che directed his campaign." ------No mass tourism

Not even the most optimistic entrepreneurs dream of anything resembling mass tourism, but they do see a glint of tourist gold in a remote region that has never attracted visitors in great numbers.

In Camiri, a town of cobble-stoned streets, Che-related sites yet to be developed include the cell where the French intellectual Regis Debray was held during his trial for having been part of Che's guerrilla group. The case attracted world-wide attention and drew scores of international correspondents to Camiri.

"We are trying to track down the papers and notebooks Debray had in his cell and restore it to how it looked in 1967," said Wachtel.

Ironically, some of those involved in establishing a tourism infrastructure for Che nostalgia tours are no admirers of his revolutionary philosophy, an attitude they share with the Bolivian peasants he vainly tried to turn into anti-government guerrillas. A week before his death, after his 50-odd Cuban and Bolivian fighters were surrounded by 1,800 army troops, Guevara complained in his diary: "The peasant population does not help us at all and are turning into informers." Middle-class Bolivians were equally wary. "I grew up in Camiri," said Wachtel, "and I never forget the sight of the helicopters with bodies of young soldiers strapped to their skids flying over our house on their way to burial. We attended a wake practically every day."

Wachtel says she realized the potential of Guevara tourism after a she had a public spat over his Bolivian activities with then-Cuban Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina at a Latin American tourism conference in Havana in 1994. "I disagreed with his version of history and afterwards people came up to me and talked about it, and I realised we could use Che for our benefit."

The Bolivian Che trail, officially inaugurated in 2004, has a serious Cuban rival, the Ruta Guerrillero, a 920-mile (1,480-km) haul for hardcore fans. The route retraces the advance of Column 8, the rebel unit Guevara headed, from Bayamo in eastern Cuba to Havana.

Neither Cubaism, the Cuban company that offers trips covering the route, nor the Bolivians involved in Guevara tourism have precise numbers of tourists or overall revenues. Both are in competition for Che dollars with Web site, which says it has "the largest collection of Che Guevara merchandise found anywhere in the world." Its offers "Che T-shirts, Che tank tops, Che club shirts, Che hoodies, Che headwear, Che military wear, Che collectibles, Che clearance, Che new titles, Che top sellers, Che books, Che DVDs/videos, Che music, Che posters." (Che Guevara)

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