Cuba’s American hostage

April 9th, 2014

My latest article at Da Tech Guy’s, Cuba’s American hostage, Alan P. Gross.

Brazil: Airports not ready yet

April 9th, 2014

Oh-oh:

Brazil’s Latest Airport Project Not Fully Ready For FIFA World Cup

The Brazilian media have been almost gleefully picking on its country’s lack of preparedness for the FIFA World Cup matches that begin in June, with the latest news being that an airport won’t be fully functional as planned.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. The Viracopas International Airport in the interior São Paulo city of Campinas will surely be opened for its usual flights, but its newest R$2 billion ($800 million) terminal will not be ready as promised.

The airport terminal is not the only problem.

Expanding the roadway in and out of the airport, including areas for taxi service, also requires some new construction. But, again according to Folha, the consortium was only granted its go-ahead environmental permit on March 28. Ownership said that is enough time to expand the roadway before the May 11 deadline, and surely before the World Cup opening.

Not to worry – Putin’s team will get there

For now, team aircraft from Russia, Japan and Portugal, among four others, as well as TAP Airlines will be the only aircraft allowed at the new terminal when World Cup soccer begins on June 12.

Still, the developer says the project will be “fully operational” by May 11.


Mexico: en español, Terapia Intensiva 203

April 8th, 2014

@DrNetas habla sobre “maestros aviadores”, y otros temas,

New book: Chavistas en el Imperio

April 8th, 2014

Miguel Octavio reviews Casto Ocando’s new book, Chavistas en el Imperio: Secretos, Tácticas y Escándalos de la Revolución Bolivariana en Estados Unidos (Chavistas in the Empire: Secrets, Tactics, and Scandals of the Bolivarian Revolution in the United States):

Perhaps nothing summarizes better the book, as Ocando’s revelation in the introduction, that Chavez spent US$ 300 million in propaganda in the US during his first ten years in power. Thus, while Chávez was accusing Washington of trying to destabilize Venezuela, he was outspending Bush and Obama in promoting his revolution. And his buddies in Government, were always (or are?) trying to make friends in the US, to defend their money, their properties and even guarantee protection sometime in the future.

In fact, the promotion was not only of the revolution, but even paying companies in the US to regularly show that Venezuela’s economic numbers were doing well. ironically, while Chávez formed the Venezuelan Information Office and Eva Golinger was hired to show the US was conspiring in Venezuela, there was proof of all the money being spent very directly by the Venezuelan Government to promote itself in teh US and very little proof was ever shown that the US was ding the same thing in Venezuela or elsewhere.

In the end, the book just tells us how Chavismo went from corruption to drugs, joining forces with the FARC, the Iranians and drug cartels, showing that Chávez was willing to allow anything to his buddies in order for the revolution to survive.

This alone would make a valuable contribution to the literature of Latin America’s history.

Ocando, as his Twitter feed notes, is an

Investigative Reporter & Writer with Univision Network. Interests: Public Corruption, Narco-Terrorism, US-LatAm Relations, Venezuela. http://www.univision.com.

I bought the Kindle edition, and will post on it.

Cuba: Alan Gross on hunger strike

April 8th, 2014

Very bad news:
Alan P. Gross, the American who’s been in prison for over four years, has started a hunger strike.

Gross, 63, had already lost over 100lbs and has a large lump growing on his back, which under the “excellent free healthcare” Cubans endure are considered “chronic illnesses that are typical of his age.” He said in a statement (h/t Babalu)

that he was frustrated by the continued lack of effort by the U.S. government to orchestrate his release.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal,” Gross said in a statement released by his attorney. “Once again, I am calling on President Obama to get personally involved in ending this stand-off so that I can return home to my wife and daughters.”

In practical terms, the Cuban government is holding Gross hostage over the release of the Cuban Five, men convicted in federal court on espionage charges. Two of the men have been released from prison and returned to Cuba.

Sen. Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke about Gross on the Senate floor,

“And the clock is ticking for Alan Gross. On December 4th, 2009, Alan Gross, a private sub-contractor for the U.S. government, working to bring information to the Cuban people, was arrested in Cuba. Mr. Gross is a 64-year old development professional who worked in dozens of countries around the world with programs to help people get access to basic information.

“Since 2009, he has been detained in Villa Marista – a prison in Havana notorious for its treatment of political prisoners by the Cuban National Security Agency. This is not a minimum security prison where foreigners are routinely held. It is a harsh, repressive prison –reserved for Cuban dissidents.

“He is still being held at Villa Marista, and so I come to the floor to urge my colleagues – indeed, to urge the Administration – to do all it can to free Mr. Gross, and keep pressure on the Castro regime.

“After serving four years of a 15 year sentence, this 64 year old American’s mental health is reported to be deteriorating and his life may well be in danger.

“The case of Alan Gross is only one example of why we cannot let up until the dead weight of this oppressive regime is lifted – once and for all — from the backs of 11 million Cubans living on that island nation, isolated from the world.”

Gross’ situation is desperate.

Related:
A Cuban immigrant to Ecuador attempted suicide when denied entry.

Castro’s “Murder, Inc.”

UPDATE:
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!

The Juan Boria Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

April 7th, 2014

Juan Boria was an Afro-Puerto Rican poet, teacher and actor whose joyful performances on television I used to watch when I was a child growing up on the island. You couldn’t not have fun listening to him, even if sometimes you didn’t understand the words. I dedicate this Carnival to him, in thanks for the delightful moments his work still brings us. I have not found any YouTubes videos of his performances, only of his audios. Here’s one:

ARGENTINA
Argentina’s economy
Creeping toward normality

BRAZIL
Which Path Will Brazil Choose?

CHILE
Big Earthquake In Chile, Not Many Killed

COLOMBIA
Vote for peace, vote for Santos?

COSTA RICA
The election results are a given, after the challenger stopped campaigning – he’s still in the ballot, though (video in Spanish)

CUBA
AP Considers Twitter “Subversive” — for Cubans

ECUADOR
Chevron Takes Battle To Radical Environmentalist Lobby

JAMAICA
‘Ganga Future Growers’: Pot-growers group launched in Jamaica

MEXICO
Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez admitted to hospital in Mexico City
Colombian author, whose works have outsold everything in the Spanish language except the Bible, is being treated for lung and urinary infections

PANAMA
Mexico, Panama sign free-trade pact

PERU
Visit Choquequirao, Peru
Explore Peru’s famous Incan ruins in the lesser-known but still breathtaking city of Choquequirao.

PUERTO RICO
Ft. Hood: Puerto Rico friends, family of Ivan Lopez shocked

URUGUAY
Move aside, president of Uruguay: We have a new ‘poorest world leader’. He’s still the worst-shod, though.

VENEZUELA

Spain Halts Sale of Riot Gear to Caracas
Madrid Seeks to Avoid Fanning Violence, As 200,000 Spaniards Reside in Venezuela

30 Spaniards have been arrested by forces loyal to the socialist administration of President Nicolás Maduro.

(Related: Who Is Killing Venezuela’s Protesters?
New evidence suggests that Chávez recruited today’s political militia from among the army.
)

Are Race and Class at the Root of Venezuela’s Political Crisis?

Killing dissent? One of Leopoldo López’s aides, and the brother-in-law of an opposition mayor have been murdered. Matan a allegado de Leopoldo López y a cuñado de alcalde opositor
Un allegado del líder opositor venezolano Leopoldo López y un cuñado del alcalde del municipio caraqueño de Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, fueron asesinados en un parque de Caracas, se informó el domingo.

GM Takes $400 Million Loss in Venezuela as Ford Loses $350 Million

Crash dummy policies

NEWS FROM VENEZUELA

The Market For Common Sense

Caracas chaos: Venezuelan general [Antonio Rivero] on the run
Death in the streets, rationing by fingerprints and a general on the run: how oil-rich Venezuela has descended into chaos

NYT Gives Print Op-ed Space to Venezuela’s Maduro, Ignores Growing Repression

The week’s posts:
Ecuador: Pass the Ketchum

Annals of Papal gift-giving, UPDATED

Venezuela; about that Maduro op-ed in the NYT, UPDATED

We interrupt our blogging on Latin America to bring you the latest on Putin

Vargas Llosa going to Venezuela

Ecuador: Looking for fools wanting to part with their money

#SOSVenezuela: Testing Venezuela’s sincerity

The Most Interesting Man in the World has spoken,

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
What Eich means

A makeover for . . . cream cheese?


Mexico: The high cost of limes

April 7th, 2014

Mr. Bingley has noticed that limes are $2.99…for 3 limes.

Here’s why, in order of importance:
1. The Knights Templar: Mexican drug cartel behind increase in lime prices
Lemons being swapped for limes as prices continue to climb

Gustavo Arellano, a syndicated columnist and author who writes about Mexican cultural issues, says the Knights Templar have been making their presence known in an area called La Tierra Caliente for a few years now.

“So what they’ve done over the last couple of years, is that, if they’re nice, they put humongous taxes on the farmers. If they’re not nice, they just kill farmers and take the land and take over lime production themselves.”

Starting last year, however, things began to change in Michoacán, when local militias began to spring up in opposition to the Knights Templar cartel.

Those local militias, which are often backed by lime farmers, have been somewhat successful at curtailing the cartels. And the Mexican government has found itself caught in the middle.

2. Mother Nature:

A severe drought was followed by the spread of a bacterial disease (huanglongbing) that attacks citrus trees, then by a harsh winter that killed tree blossoms.

First came Mother Nature, and then the Knights Templar saw an opportunity – a truck of limes is worth $300,000

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Those of you in the appropriate farming zones considering growing legal marijuana may want to look into lime production instead.

Ecuador: Pass the Ketchum

April 5th, 2014

In anticipation of the bonds-for-the-incurably-gullible issue, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has hired Ketchum:

Ketchum has inked a $35K-a-month contract with Ecuador’s Washington embassy, covering economic development, trade and tourism of the South American state of 14.5M people.

The contract became effective March 1 and runs through the year. It covers services such as ongoing strategic counsel, day-to-day campaign management, social media outreach, crisis PR, influencer outreach to think tanks/foundations, spokesperson trading and collaboration two white papers.

Ketchum created the “All you need is Ecuador” campaign, complete with a middle-age-sounding male voice reciting Beatles’ lyrics:

“All You Need”: A Tourism Campaign to Disguise Correa’s Strongman Rule
Will “Love” Be Enough to Overcome Negative International Press?

The government’s ad campaign sings a tune based on love, but Correa lays out a discourse founded on antagonism, while insulting his opponents and classifying all dissent as treason. What good is it to promote tourism to the outside world without first advancing the rule of law, our democracy, and the guarantee of individual liberty for Ecuadorians themselves?

In this context, the ad campaign appears to not only be geared towards boosting tourism, but also to countering the bad publicity the country has received during Correa’s tenure. There was little talk of Ecuador until the country began receivinginternational press recently, and not in a good way. Problems such as anauthoritatarian president, the persecution of media outlets, and support fortotalitarian regimes have demonstrated to the world an image of government that — far from “loving” — maintains control through fear.

While on the “loving” groove, Harvard to Host Correa, but No Free Press in Ecuador Can Cover It.


What Eich means

April 5th, 2014

Bullying works. Read my post at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Annals of Papal gift-giving, UPDATED

April 4th, 2014

Obama’s gift to the Pope: a seed sampler

Queen Elizabeth’s gift to the Pope: a huge picnic hamper

The hamper contained 18 items from Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Sandringham and Balmoral including two types of honey, a bottle of whiskey, ‘Coronation Best Bitter, ‘Grandad’s chutney’ and ‘Sandringham handmade aromatherapy soaps’.

Purists want to know, Irish whiskey, or Scotch (whisky)?

Look at the size of the thing:

In exchange, Obama received a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, and the Queen was presented with a lapis lazuli orb for Prince George, inscribed with ‘Pope Francis, to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge’

with a silver cross of Edward the Confessor, the 11th Century English King who was made a saint,

The royal couple were also presented with a reproduction of a decree by Pope Innocent XI issued in 1679 which elevated Edward the Confessor into a saint for the Catholic Church.

The Vatican chief of protocol was spot-on in both counts.

Read about what it all means at POTUS and the Pope
The Vatican’s symbolic messaging v. the White House spin
, by George Weigel.

Note to self: Have the Queen over.

Prior papal gifts here.

UPDATE:
Monica Showalter adds,

A nice exchange of gifts. The article doesn’t mention it, but lapis lazuli is found only in Argentina, Chile, Afghanistan and maybe one or two other places on earth. It was an Argentine gift the Pope gave to the Queen. Lapis Lazuli is the basis for the artists’ pigment Ultramarine Blue.

Vatican chief of protocol rocks!