Yeah, yeah, now the Pope’s given another Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square, right under the Che monument (Che monument soon to get a Galway branch, like a bank). Benedict gave lip service to hope and change.
The meeting followed Benedict’s open-air Mass in the same public square where a younger, healthier Castro once delivered official speeches that lasted for hours and frequently railed against the United States.
Here’s a photo,
For Christ’s sake.
Benedict turned a deaf ear to the people clamoring for freedom – in the video above you can hear the chant of “libertad, libertad” (freedom, freedom).
The alleged meeting, which Bocaranda first reported was in the works on March 25, was arranged by Venezuelan diplomats who used to work at the South American nation’s mission to the Vatican, the journalist said. All participants agreed the brief meeting would be without media coverage, Bocaranda said.
Plenty of time to meet the Communists, no time for anyone else.
After creating the ALBA with Cuba ten years ago, Hugo Chávez now is hosting the inaugural for the CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y del Caribe – Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).
ALBA is mostly dependent on Venezuelan oil, and its current members – Bolivia, Nicaragua, (Honduras dropped out), Ecuador, Dominica, St Vincent and Antigua – are not exactly the largest economies in the world. Another Chávez brainchild, the Bank of the South (Banco del Sur) has tanked, so far, due to liquidity issues and lack of reserves.
But Chávez knows how to get publicity, and he also knows that his fellow heads of state in Latin America love to travel all-expenses-paid-by-their citizenry to other countries since it gives the appearance of doing something, everybody gets to badmouth the USA, the local media (which he controls) will lap up the meeting, Mexico wanted to be included in something, and, who knows, there may even be slush fund opportunities in the bargain.
Voilá, CELAC was born, created in Mexico last year.
The map shows the purported growth in GDP for 2010 in each country’s economy. Let me dampen your enthusiasm over these numbers by pointing out that anyone who believes Cuban government statistics deserves to be called a fool. I leave it to you to verify other statistics, for instance, Argentina’s, where their government is prosecuting independent economists.
Raúl Castro turned up for the opening, crowing “for the first time, we’ll have an organization for our America“, conveniently forgetting that his brother said more or less the same thing about ALBA a decade ago. Venezuela rolled out the red carpet and lined up the military in full tin soldier garb, but Hugo couldn’t make it to the airport to greet him,
Because it lacks any formal charter or mandate, however, Celac will be more effective as a forum for left-wing figures like Mr. Chávez to “pontificate” and fan anti-U.S. sentiment, said Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in New York.
It’s a good photo-op, but
“It’s a good show for Chávez. It boosts his standing and shows Venezuelans that he is a regional leader and that other heads of state will come to Venezuela,” Mr. Shifter said.
But beyond photo opportunities, Mr. Shifter says he doubts Celac will be able to distinguish itself from the slate of existing regional organizations such as Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations, the Andean Community of Nations, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.
“There are very significant problems among the subregional organizations,” Mr. Shifter said. “It’s hard to imagine that an organization that includes all of Latin America and the Caribbean will have fewer obstacles.”
On paper CELAC will try to co-ordinate among trade blocks, such as Mercosur and the Andean Community (but UNASUR is also supposed to do that). It will also try to stimulate regional trade and speak with one voice in international forums. If only. The lesson of ALBA is that regional clubs based on political ideology rather than national interest do not get very far.
The USA is the major trading partner for most of these countries.
It’ll be interesting to see what the heads of state end up signing, if anything, at the end of this summit.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he’ll return to Cuba today to receive chemotherapy, ending rumors he was considering Brazil as an alternative venue for cancer treatment.
“I’m going to begin the second stage of this slow and complex process of recuperation,” Chavez, 56, said yesterday on state television. “The second stage will start with chemotherapy that has already been planned in scientific detail.”
He should be on his way right now,
Congress voted unanimously today to approve Chavez’s plan to depart for Cuba at 3:30 pm New York time.
That’s the Venezuelan Congress, who had to approve Chavez’s remaining in power while being abroad for extended periods of time.
“In Cuba, he has the security that nobody will ever know exactly what he has,” said the former official, who added said that he had been told by a senior Spanish diplomat that two Spanish doctors will be attending Mr. Chávez in Havana.
Pajamas Media posts the video of the announcement, where he purportedly quotes Nietzsche, adding also that he had a “baseball-size tumor” operated on,
Considering that the announcement from Brazil had to have been in the works for a while, and that Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo has traveled to Brazil for his own cancer treatment, Fidel may be the one calling the shots (emphasis added),
It is unclear what tipped the decision. From a technical point of view Chavez would be better off in Brazil, Venezuela or a country like Canada, the quality and size of cancer treatments in these three countries is considered to be much more advanced than that of Cuba, even if in Cuba, he could be taken care off by doctors of other nationalities. It is likely that in the end ideology tipped the decision Cuba’s way. I am sure that Fidel Castro and Chavez’ brother Adan put a lot of pressure on the Cuban choice. An isolated Chavez in Havana is much more under control than one in Sao Paulo in a private hospital. Those that have the most to lose, will now control the day to day life of the Venezuelan President and, indirectly, over the country.
Analysts said Mr. Chávez may have decided to go to Cuba for treatment for political reasons more than medical ones. Seeking medical treatment at a private hospital in São Paulo could offend Mr. Chávez’s Cuban allies, Fidel and Raúl Castro, who have long touted their hospitals as a socialist success story.
While Mr. Chávez often lauds Cuban doctors, switching from Cuban to Brazilian care would have suggested the Cubans aren’t capable of world-class care.
Chavez is touting Cuba’s medical reputation at his own country’s expense,
Still, the fact that Mr. Chávez is leaving Venezuela to continue his treatment suggests that hospitals in Venezuela weren’t considered a serious option. That, analysts said, underscores the turmoil in both the public and private medical sectors during the Chávez years—and a deep animosity between Mr. Chávez and the country’s highly educated doctors.
A parallel network in Venezuela of free primary-care clinics, called Barrio Adentro, staffed by Cuban doctors, has provided quicker access to millions of poor. At the same time, it has pulled much-needed resources from the mainstream hospital system, says José Félix Oletta, a Venezuelan health minister under a previous administration.
Deteriorating working conditions coupled with notoriously low pay has driven Venezuelan doctors to jobs overseas, he said. “Venezuela medical professionals who are well-qualified are receiving very little money compared to other countries,” he added.
Despite the brain drain, top Venezuelan doctors say Mr. Chávez would get excellent treatment in Venezuela for all but the rarest sort of tumors. Although Mr. Chávez has attacked private doctors during his term in office, calling them mercenaries, his animosity toward them wouldn’t affect his treatment, doctors insist. “We are physicians,” said one prominent doctor.
While you can rest assured that the Castros will ensure that their pupil gets the best medical care Venezuelan oil money can provide, it would be ironic that Chavez’s undoing comes as a consequence of this decision.
I do not know about you but never have I felt as much a Cuban colony as I am feeling this week, and it is only Tuesday. Not only now our orders come directly from Cuba where Chavez prefers receive treatment that he could perfectly receive at home, and probably of a much better quality, but his latest decisions reek of old style colonialism.
First, that he prefers to receive treatment in Cuba. The pictures of him arriving there were of a very smiling, very upright Chavez, not someone in pain that would receive within hours “emergency” medical treatment. I, for one, could not are less about what ails Chavez, nor would I begrudge that he receives medical treatment for emergency wherever in the world he is. However, I, for one, do not buy for a second the emergency status. For me, it looks like those African presidents that fly to Europe even for dental treatment. To Paris, preferably.
Second, the 1999 constitution, written mostly by Chavez, has very specific provisions to deal with temporary absences of the president.
Third, he appoints his baby brother as the new tsar of electricity. What merits Argenis Chavez may have are not the point. The point is that in time of crisis, outside of the country, in a sector where huge investments are required urgently if he wants to be reelected in 2102, Chavez can only trust a sibling which has already been amply tainted with accusations of corruption. Just as ancient Spanish Viceroys traveled to the Americas with family and friends to occupy the key posts in their new charges.
Everybody is speculating as to Chavez’s malady, particularly since Chavez, who for years has done his interminable TV and radio shows several times per week (averaging 43 minutes per day since he took power in 1999), has limited himself to a single telephone call into state-run television.
Cuba on Tuesday made the most significant change to its leadership since the 1959 revolution, naming someone other than the Castro brothers for the first time to fill the second-highest position in the Communist Party and possibly setting the stage for their eventual successor.
The “new” leader is eighty year old José Ramón Machado, an old crony who managed to stick it out all these years without going the way of Camilo Cienfuegos or Che Guevara.
Gives new meaning to “everything old is new again”.
Bypassing ancillary issues such as the lack of freedom on the island and the enslavement of 11-million Cubans, Carter instead demanded that the U.S. release the Cuban 5. Those are the same five convicted Cuban spies who are serving prison time for espionage and the murder of four innocent American pilots who were shot down over international waters by Castro MiGs.
when the 86-year-old ex-president flew off in the afternoon without Alan Gross on board, it dashed the hopes of Washington officials and relatives who had hoped Carter would be able to bring the Maryland native home.
The Obama administration missed the opportunity months ago when it eased restrictions on Cuba without demanding Gross’s released.
Welcome to the Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean. If you would like your posts included in next Monday’s Carnival, please email me: faustaw2 “at” gmail “dot” com.
The big stories last week were Hugo Chavez’s nationalizing American food producer Cargill in Venezuela, and the change in the Cuban Communist regime. Developing this week: Nicolas Sarkozy’s first state visit to Mexico, and Lula’s visit to the White House on Saturday.
US companies are queuing up as the president moves to ease restrictions on travel and trade, raising hopes of warmer relations and an end to the embargo
President Barack Obama is poised to offer an olive branch to Cuba in an effort to repair the US’s tattered reputation in Latin America.
The White House has moved to ease some travel and trade restrictions as a cautious first step towards better ties with Havana, raising hopes of an eventual lifting of the four-decade-old economic embargo. Several Bush-era controls are expected to be relaxed in the run-up to next month’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to gild the president’s regional debut and signal a new era of “Yankee” cooperation.
The administration has moved to ease draconian travel controls and lift limits on cash remittances that Cuban-Americans can send to the island, a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of families.
This comes as no surprise. Readers of my blog know it’s been in the works, including Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s recommendations. When I wrote about the Lugar report two weeks ago, I pointed out
The report does not specify what actions would represent “sequenced engagement”, which could be interpreted to mean a give-and-take where the U.S. makes concessions dependent on Cuba’s loosening its stranglehold on the people, or simply having the U.S. make an escalated series of concessions with nothing in return.
It now appears that the administration is starting with
The legislation would allow Americans with immediate family in Cuba to visit annually, instead of once every three years, and broaden the definition of immediate family. It would also drop a requirement that Havana pay cash in advance for US food imports.
These items are in the $410bn spending bill due to be voted on this week, which should not be confused with the bailout bill, the stimulus bill, or the budget.
So while we’re in the middle of a deep recession we are going to be extending credit to a country that is in arrears with the rest of the world to the tune of $30+ billion; even the Lugar report recognizes that
“popular dissatisfaction with Cuba’s economic situation is the regime’s vulnerability.”
The American companies that are “lining up to do business” in Cuba won’t get paid, or might even get their assets nationalized if they’re stupid enough to invest in the country, so the Obama administration will end up granting them some kind of bailout. Unless, of course, the deal is being sweetened ahead of time.
Nice of the US to allow Americans with immediate family in Cuba to visit annually, instead of once every three years. I don’t hear that Cuba is allowing anyone to travel freely, not even foreigners visiting the country.
In the past few days there has been a lot of buzz in the foreign media about Raul Castro’s recent housecleaning. Make no mistake: it’s a purely cosmetic change. Not coincidentally, Fidel Castro supposedly is back to walking in Havana, which signals to the average Pepe on the street that the embodiment of the Revolución is still alive, that they must continue to sacrifice and struggle, and that the Castro era continues.
Go read my post at Real Clear World. And please, don’t fool yourselves believing that any easing of US policy without a corresponding, in-kind gesture from the Cuban Communist regime, is going to matter much, aside from signaling weakness to our enemies.
But here’s the perverse part. The U.S. businesses aren’t the ones that end up getting subsidized. They’ll provide goods and services in exchange for the money the federal government will end up paying. It’s the regime that will make out like a bandit because U.S. taxpayer dollars will pay for castro, inc’s shopping spree.
Fidel Castro said Thursday he doubts he’ll make it to the end of Barack Obama’s four-year term and instructed Cuban officials to start making their decisions without taking him into account.
There are those who doubt wheter the made it to the end of George W. Bush’s eight-year term, but I digress. The statement from Castro came in a Granma article,
Thursday’s essay came out on a government Web site shortly before the nightly news. Newscasters did not mention it, instead reading a column Castro had released on Wednesday.
The bulk of Thursday’s column was devoted to praising Obama, the 11th U.S. president since the Cuban revolution, in part for his decision to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Castro recalled his thoughts Tuesday as he watched Obama assume the “leadership of the empire.”
“The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States … had transformed itself under the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King into a living symbol of the American dream,” he wrote.
Castro praised Obama as honest, writing: “No one could doubt the sincerity of his words when he affirms that he will convert his country into a model of freedom, respect for human rights in the world and the independence of other nations.”
However, Castro suggested Obama would succumb to threats greater than his own qualities: “What will he do soon, when the immense power that he has taken in his hands is absolutely useless to overcome the unsolvable, antagonistic contradictions of the (American) system?”
Obama has said he will not end the U.S. embargo on Cuba without democratic reforms on the island, but will ease limits on Cuban-Americans’ visits there and on the money they send home to relatives. He has also offered to negotiate personally with Raul Castro.
The column was Castro’s second in as many days. Before that, Castro hadn’t been heard from in more than a month, fueling rumors that he had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma. Those rumors were dispelled on Wednesday when Argentine President Cristina Fernandez met with him, the first foreign leader known to have done so since Nov. 28.
Referring to Gitmo,
“We demand that not only this prison but also this base should be closed and the territory it occupies should be returned to its legal owner — the Cuban people,”
which we’ve heard lots of times already from the “not to be around in 4 years” dictator.
After all, why should anyone doubt that Castro’s alive? Didn’t Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez meet with Castro just three days ago? Yes, she did.
Didn’t she have her picture taken with him? Oh yes, she did:
According to Noticias 24 Cuban vicechancellor Alejandro González Galeano made a special trip to Caracas (where Fernandez was visiting Chávez) to hand-deliver the photos.
I guess the Cubans couldn’t email them.
Interestingly, Fidel didn’t meet with Panama’s Martín Torrijos and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa when they visited Cuba recently. Raúl Castro insists that Fidel is not dead yet
“Now you know that Fidel is fine,” he said, adding that his brother spends days “exercising, thinking and reading a lot, advising me, helping me.”
“You think if he were gravely ill that I’d be smiling here?” Castro told reporters. “Soon I’m going to take a trip to Europe. You think I would leave here if Fidel were really in grave condition?”
After her “emotional” meeting with Castro, Fernandez went on to a 24-hr visit to Venezuela (her second visit), where she and Chávez pledged to meet every three months to review their bilateral agenda and signed a dozen letters of agreement on energy and agriculture. The Argentinian government-owned company Enarsa might be involved in developing mature oil fields in eastern Venezuela (how effective would that be remains to be seen).
t is unlikely that ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro will ever appear in public again.
“That Fidel in his uniform who walked the streets and towns late at night, hugging the people, won’t return,” Chavez said during his Sunday television and radio program. “That will remain in memories.”
Without a hint of irony, Chávez stated,
“Fidel will live forever, beyond the physical life,”