Presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia, are both running notoriously anti-American regimes. They have blasted the U.S. as a capitalist oppressor, and said their whole national mission is to slip its imperialist shackles. Needless to say, they’ve been no friend to the U.S. in the United Nations. Worse yet, they’ve forged alliances with some of America’s worst enemies, like Iran and Cuba. They’ve also grown increasingly slack and obstructive in even fighting the drug war that plagues the entire Andean region. Morales has increased coca production by 8%, keeping the street price of cocaine steady even as Colombia’s production falls 9%. Ecuador has emerged as a major drug transshipment point and money laundering center – something that is evident by its well-developed illegal immigrant smuggling routes to the U.S., which are the region’s best. Ecuador has announced “irrevocably” that it will shut down a tiny U.S. military base at Manta port that tracks drug planes, in order to kick out the U.S. imperialists.
But in exchange for fighting the war on drugs, they’ve both been recipients of large amounts of U.S. aid in 2006 – $120 million in Bolivia’s case and $500 million in Ecuador’s. Along with this aid, which is both humanitarian and technical, they both have preferential “ATPDEA” trading privileges to sell their goods duty-free in the U.S. without having to reciprocate the favor to American firms.
With a setup like that, they can, in practical terms, reject and obstruct the idea of real free trade, which would ask them to open their markets to U.S. competition, as long as they retain their current trade privileges. Thus, America’s generosity to them has provided a platform for them to condemn real free trade with impunity. But under the radar, they feverishly want a continuation of these one-way US trading privileges, which is why they’re suddenly telling America they never really meant it about the ‘imperialismo’ charges and all that as the expiration beckons.
The U.S. doesn’t ask much from Ecuador. Sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has only provided a tiny “forward operating base” at the port of Manta, with 300 U.S. troops conducting aerial surveillance to keep Colombia’s FARC Marxist narcoterrorists from bringing war to Ecuador as they have to their own country.
Instead of helping on that front, Ecuador now vows to shut down the Manta base and let the skies there go unpatrolled.
The Manta shutdown ends any rationale for APTDEA. So does Correa’s refusal to recognize the FARC as a terrorist organization or to chase its operatives from Ecuadorean soil.
Worse, Ecuador has harassed Colombia with lawsuits as it tries to eradicate coca fields, making Colombia’s war that much harder.
“The governors don’t have the power or resources to solve the problems of some areas,” Chavez said in a televised speech today from southern Apure state. “I’d like to have three, four, five vice presidents, like in Iran and Cuba.”
The creation of federal territories would concentrate more power in the hands of Chavez, who won a six-year term in December and has been in office since 1999. Chavez reiterated his call to change the constitution to allow him to be re- elected indefinitely.
“I don’t know if in five years I will have the fire to run again,” said Chavez, 52. “But I think the option should be open for the people to decide to elect someone to serve 10, 20, or 30 years.'”
Not related to any of the above, Colombia and France continue to discuss the possibility of a swap with the FARC for Ingrid Betancourt, who was taken prisoner five years ago:
Mr Sarkozy’s office said that he hoped that Mr Granda’s release could help free the hostages. Ms Betancourt is a minor figure in Colombia but an iconic one in France, where she studied. She has dual citizenship and two French children. A vast portrait of her hangs from the façade of Paris’s town hall. When foreign minister in 2003, Dominique de Villepin, her former professor, sent a crack team to rescue her; their mission was embarrassingly aborted in Brazil.
Since his election, Mr Sarkozy has taken up her case with vigour, twice inviting her children to the Elysée Palace.
I was wondering what Sarko’s approach was going to be on the Betancourt case, but here’s the explanation:
Liberating Ms Betancourt would be a spectacular political coup for a president whose action-man style marks a break with the era of Jacques Chirac and who faces two-round legislative elections on June 10th and 17th.
More blogging later, but before I do, Dynamobuzz is blogging again.
II only watched for a few minutes, but Matt has a penchant for contradicting himself: first he shows a jazzy powerpoint slide of how good Havana would look if only the USA would bring trade and prosperity, and then he mentions that nearly every other country in the world cn trade with Cuba.
Yet people only earn fifty cents a day. Why is that?
Matt just can’t seem to get it, so let me spell it out for him: Because COMMUNISM DOESN’T WORK, Matt!
To the editor: I felt enough had been written about the Princeton Public Library’s recent “human rights” film festival. However, since three letter writers have chosen to keep the subject alive, a response is warranted.
One letter denounced “hard-right anti-Castroites” who protested the inclusion of pro-Cuba films. Well, if it is “hard-right” to loathe a dictator who brooks no dissent, jails political prisoners, and has clung to power for a half-century, I plead guilty.
A few questions for the writer: Does this make you a “hard-left pro-Castroite?” Should you have mentioned that your wife organized the festival? Among those “hard-right anti-Castroites,” do you include the elderly man who spoke about his years in Castro’s prisons? Finally, does Cuba, which Human Rights Watch calls the “one country in Latin America that represses nearly all forms of political dissent,” really deserve to be lauded in a festival about “human rights?”
Festival organizers even embellished their films with a guest speaker:- a particularly noxious woman who would not even concede that Castro’s gulag is less than democratic. For the former prisoner, it was literally insult heaped upon injury.
Another letter praised the festival’s “courageous” pursuit of free expression. With apologies to Warner Wolf, give me a break! “Courage” implies steadfastness despite a threat of harm, such as daring to dissent in Cuba, or boarding a raft hoping to reach Florida.
In the case of our film festival, a few activists used other people’s money (taxpayers) to show films promoting their own world view. Attendees learned about the plight of the millionaire Dixie Chicks, whose “rights” were apparently trampled when radio stations refused to play their music.
At last year’s festival, we heard that corporations, by their very nature, are “psychopathic” and in need of therapy. Yet each year, festival organizers are praised by their colleagues, and letter writers commend their “courage.” My point is that ascribing “courage” to people who dabble in radical politics insults to those who actually deserve that adjective.
It is vitally important to mention that in the festival’s three years, there has not been one offering about the Muslim/Arab world, where “rights” are truly in short supply.
What about the right of a female to drive, to study, to avoid genital mutilation? The right of an Israeli teenager to have pizza without being vaporized by a suicide bomber? The right to publish cartoons mocking the “prophet” Mohammed? Not a syllable in three years. Is it because these “courageous” librarians are afraid to offend Muslims, who fight back with fatwas? Is it because condemning Islamic abuses doesn’t mesh with their world view, in which the West is the source of all evil?
If the festival organizers want “dialog,” let it commence. We might begin by asking whether Princeton’s overburdened taxpayers wish to subsidize a festival that is less about “human rights” than it is a pretense for promoting a political agenda. And, oh yes, those “psychopathic” corporations might consult their therapists about the wisdom of supporting people who loathe their very existence. signed Paul J. Budline
Update, 4PM: Val Prieto and I were Captain Ed’s guests, and you can listen to the podcast here. We discussed the many inaccuracies and omissions from the Today Show, not the least of which are the imprisoned dissidents, like Vladimiro Roca and Oscar Elias Biscet, Coco Farinas (who’s protesting for access to the internet) and also dissidents like Martha Beatriz Roque Escabello and Ladies in White (wives, mothers, and sisters of 78 dissidents who were imprisoned for distributing books). Later in the program Dymphna and Ziva called in. Great news for Maria Conchita Alonso fans, she’s producing a documentary and will be in a movie about Venezuela.
I haven’t had the chance to read the actual immigration bill but one thing is clear: If it smells like amnesty, it’s not sweet. And it does smell like amnesty: The front page of the Washington Post reads,
Sprawling overhaul grants temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants
I wonder how many of the people involved in approving the bill actually read it: it’s 380 pages long
it sounds as though the one thing that happens immediately is that any illegal immigrant who is now in the U.S., or makes his way here in the near future, can “come forward” and receive a “probationary card” that allows him to reside and work here. Eventual citizenship requires payment of a $5,000 fine and fulfillment of other requirements, but such a “path to citizenship” won’t begin until border improvements and the employer identification system have been implemented.
What if they are never implemented, or never implemented satisfactorily? At best, that would derail the path to citizenship and the guest worker program. The one thing that we know for sure, if I am reading the AP account correctly, is that all current illegals will receive a “get out of jail free” card, as, apparently, will anyone who can make his way here in time to ask for one.
We are not sure whether we are for or against the proposed immigration bill. We are not sure because no one has seen it. No one will see it until tomorrow at the earliest, at which point Senator Reid intends to promptly push the legislation through the Senate — even taking the unheardof step of bypassing the Judiciary Committee.
A bill which is being written tonight, and which will exceed 1,000 pages according to many reports, will be voted on at the beginning of next week without ever going through the process of committee review and hearings.
Not only that, but the bill will most likely not appear online and accessible to the public until after the legislation has passed. Why the rush? Senator Reid, the Democrats, and even the President and a number of Republicans are scared of the American people’s reaction. They want to have this ordeal behind them before they go home to face the voters on Memorial Day.
We do not know whether the bill is good or bad. However, given the Senate’s desire to hastily write it and rush it through sight unseen, we can infer that it is most likely not something which would be supported by us or by the American people; otherwise, why would such secrecy be necessary?
And why the rush for this but not for funding the troops?
Associated Press is back to shilling for the charismatic-leader-helping-the-poor-offering-free-health-care-education-adult-literacy-and-job-training-initiatives-that-help-millions-of-Cubanstm through a lie, not that they ever stopped:
Fidel Castro may be ailing, but he’s a living example of something Cubans take pride in — an average life expectancy roughly similar to that of the United States.
Depends how badly:
Homes that were luxurious before Castro’s 1959 revolution are now falling apart and many cramped apartments contain three generations of family members. Food, water and medicine shortages are chronic.
But most prescription drugs and visits to the doctor are free and physicians encourage preventive care.
Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that. I also know that people who travel to Cuba to see their relatives (who are not allowed to leave Cuba) have to get them the most basic supplies, such as sanitary napkins, aspirin, Tylenol, band-aids, and first-aid ointments like Betadine and iodine. Ask my sister’s next-door neighbor, who works at a pharmacy that provides ready-made “care packages” of first-aid items to take to Cuba.
Of course Will Weisert, the AP reporter, hasn’t been told that Cubans treated in Cuban hospitals have to bring their own bed linens because the hospitals don’t have any. The linens are available in Cuban hospitals only to foreigners paying in dollars.
The article continues,
Cuba’s average life expectancy is 77.08 years — second in Latin America after Puerto Rico and more than 11 years above the world average, according to the 2007 CIA World Fact Book.
It says Cuban life expectancy averages 74.85 years for men and 79.43 years for women, compared with 75.15 and 80.97 respectively for Americans.
If an old American lady told a reporter, “Sometimes you have all you want to eat and sometimes you don’t,” is there any doubt he would write a story bewailing our country’s shocking neglect of the elderly, poor and hungry? Why are American journalists more favorably disposed toward an America-hating communist personality cult than their own country?
Lee: Even under the caudillos, Caracas has always been a lively and colorful capital. But one of the things you wrote about in your March 14 column that I found particularly striking, was this impression that under Chavez the city seems to be somehow losing its vitality. Perhaps in the same way that Havana did after Castro? What are some of the most notable atmospheric differences you observed between now and 1997?
Manny: I think one of the most noticeable differences is the tension that exists. You drive through neighborhoods and there’s a distinct us-versus-them atmosphere. Chavistas are boldly marking their territory and taking over the weak fringes, too. Most non-Chavista neighborhoods don’t spray paint their entrances with signs that proclaim their allegiances.
Chavez has spent millions plastering the country with propaganda. “Socialism, patriotism or death” banners hang throughout Caracas as well as a litany of “death to American imperialism” murals.
There also is an unquestionable concern about crime among locals and visitors (though there aren’t nearly as many tourists as there once was). Chavez has created such an atmosphere of entitlement among the truly poor that some now think they have a mandate to take what they want and redistribute it to themselves and their families. And why not? Though there is a decent police presence, I’m told they apparently don’t act on theft or assault charges that often.
Ironically, the socialists are so caught up in the so-called revolution and the attack on middle and upper class Venezuelans, that they don’t stop and think about why Chávez hasn’t significantly redistributed the tremendous amount of oil money he’s raking in. Since he took office the number of truly poor is the same, but he’s confiscated more oil money than the three previous governments combined.
Reagarding the opposition,
Lee: You’ve been in touch with Leopoldo Lopez and have been following the Rosales persecution. First hand, what’s the state of the Venezuelan democratic opposition and can it have a future in the changing constitutional order?
Manny: Yes, Leopoldo Lopez (no relation) read my March 18 column and sent me an e-mail the next day. He thanked me for acknowledging what he says the international media don’t want to write about.
I’ve also been told by friends in Venezuela that at least one of the newspapers in Caracas is translating and reprinting my columns. The intense international interest (I’m also getting e-mails from London and elsewhere), tells me that the opposition is stronger than Chavez would have anyone believe and stronger than he wants.
Internally, Un Nuevo Tiempo is now the unified opposition party. They five former separate parties will have a stronger voice and direction.
But it’s important to remember that Chavez will never allow true democracy to return to Venezuela so they have their work cut out for them.
You’ve got to wonder if there is any end to the capacity of the rest of the world to blame the United States for its problems. Nowhere is that more the case than in Latin America, where out of roughly 500 million people, 200 million live on less than $2 a day.
Why? Is it all the fault of the imperialists from the north? Or is just a little of it the result of local attitudes to poverty, local attitudes to honesty in government, and local attitudes to the rule of law?
In other words, in Latin America as elsewhere in the world, is anti-Americanism a smoke screen, a very convenient smoke screen, whose noxious fumes hide the reality of local failure?
Not that the Beebers are above seeing things through the noxious fumes of cliched terms,
And millions and millions of Latin Americans benefit every day from the powerhouse US economy – from relatives cleaning cars in Los Angeles, making beds in Las Vegas and picking fruit in rural Georgia.
Because, in the Beeb’s eyes, that’s all Latin American immigrants to the USA are fit to do.
Gerard Vanderleun has an excellent post on The Gun School (also sent by Larwyn) that is the only post I’ll link to today related to the Virginia Tech massacre.
I can not handle much more of the VaTech today, since this morning when I woke up BBCA news was playing the killer’s video. I found it extraordinarily disturbing for many reasons, and have decided to not listen to anything related to the story today.
Update, Friday 20 April: I had mentioned the killer’s name in this post, but after reading ShrinkWrapped‘s post I deleted it.
Rwanda filed a case against France at the U.N.’s highest court over a French request that President Paul Kagame be tried by the Rwanda war crimes tribunal.
The Hague-based International Court of Justice announced late Wednesday that Rwanda is alleging that France breached international law by issuing arrest warrants for three Rwandan government officials and that Paris is interfering with Rwandan sovereignty by seeking to have Kagame sent to the Rwanda tribunal.
The Rwandan case appeared to be the latest step in a diplomatic spat between France and Rwanda over an investigation by French anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.
Rwanda severed diplomatic links with France last November after Bruguiere accused Kagame of ordering the assassination of the then-president of Rwanda and nine other ranking Rwandans of plotting the attack.
Rwanda’s genocide began hours after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was mysteriously shot down as it approached the capital, Kigali, on April 6, 1994. About 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing led by radical Hutus.
The killing was only stopped after Kagame and the Tutsi army subdued the country.
The French judge opened an investigation because the plane crew was French.
According to the World Court statement, Rwanda asked its judges to declare that by issuing arrest warrants for three of the suspects, France violated their diplomatic immunity.
Rwanda also asked the court to rule France acted “in breach of the obligation of each and every State to refrain from intervention in the affairs of other States.”
Feel the loooove. Watch those videos and tell me if you can’t almost hear Barry White music in the background. Barbara, shrouded in a soft-focus, wrinkle-covering haze, interviews fawns over Hugo: Now excuse me for a moment, because I’m going to make an exception to my rule of keeping the discourse at an elevated level, but the word that describes Barbara’s puff-piece is fellational.
“Are you married to the revolution?” Like a discalced Carmelite, married to her vocation, Barbara?
Chavez has already spent about $20 billion of his people’s money in trying to buy political loyalties in the Western Hemisphere, about $6 billion in arms and weapon systems and has promised another $20 billion to countries in the region to build refineries, gas lines, houses and roads, as long as they join his team. All of this is taking place while Venezuelans are increasingly undernourished and food shortages are becoming chronic occurrences in the country. One of Chavez’s latest efforts seems to involve the creation of a domestic nuclear capability. A prominent Venezuelan scientist from the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations, Claudio Mendoza, recently denounced these pretensions and was immediately dismissed and is being persecuted as a traitor.
Is that Barbara’s idea of a marriage?
Barbara’s affection for the presidente is hardly surprising, considering La Barbara’s adoration of Hugo’s mentor, which goes back to the 1960s. It never occured to her to ask, as Andres Oppenheimer does, some tough questions,
So with all due respect, I would like to pose the following questions: If you are so democratic, why do you glorify military coups? If you are so progressive, why do you close down independent television stations? If your hero Fidel Castro is so popular in Cuba, why doesn’t he allow a free election? If you respect human rights, why don’t you allow OAS human rights inspectors into your country?
And, finally, if you are so convinced of what you say, why do you only grant interviews to nonchallenging reporters? Last time we met and I respectfully asked you for an interview, you told me to go to hell.
Make no mistake: Barbara’s puff-piece, while ignored here (I didn’t even know it was on until yesterday when a friend told me about it and Larwyn sent me this), is being used as major propaganda in Venezuela and is being flogged on all state media – radio and TV – prompting one blogger to ask, Does Barbara Walters work for Chavez?
Why the need to use Chavez to make a home point against Bush? Can you not find something more palatable at home?
But I do get a double bonus with this post: see, there is the proof on how the Venezuelan media is now controlled by Chavez. All sorts of PSF, of which Barbara Walters is now a full fledged member, keep stating that the Venezuelan media is all against Chavez and that he is always on the defensive. Well, let’s look at the picture above.
Once you pass the invitation to watch the show at 9 PM tonight, you will read the list of all the media transmitting SIMULTANEOUSLY the Walters farce. Details:
National TV broadcast (open signal most of the country): VTV, VIVE
National on Cable and on the main TV markets: TeleSur, ANTV
Local TV: CatiaTve (Caracas), and many local TV stations
The only radio station allowed to broadcast all over the country: RNV
A network of pseudo individual radio Stations in fact owned by chavista agents: Radio Rumbos, Mundial
Many community radios (almost all Venezuelan community radios are authorized by the government, if I wanted to open one I would be quickly shut down)
And to ice the cake, 1 hour later the Venevision network will rebroadcast the interview. Venevision is supposedly private but for the last two years has found itself collaborating closer and closer to the government. I suppose that now that any journalist that criticized the government has been fired, it is a kosher network again and allowed to broadcast to the glory of EL Surpremo.
List of media that WILL NOT broadcast Chavez interview?
RCTV (soon to be closed)
Globovision and Televen (both do not have open signal all over the country, and Televen is semi pro Chavez anyway)
ValeTv (cultural TV that does not have news or talk show whatsoever and only in Caracas or on Cable)
Some local radio and TV stations, very few of them.
As you see, the ratio is now approximatively 3 to 1 in favor of Chavez for all broadcast access existing. In some areas Globovision is not allowed to have open air signal and once RCTV is gone, there will be NO media critical of the government on the air. Only on cable if you can afford it ( a huge if for most Venezuelans). Nice, no?
Barbara, ever the narcissist, played strategically into Hugo’s, the narcissist-Leninist, greedy hands, as A.M.Mora y Leon explains in her article (emphasis added),
For starters, Walters did it on extremely peculiar timing. Walters’ ‘catch’ came through on short notice, but right when Hugo Chavez needed political help. He rarely does interviews, but this week he was trying to repair his image. Walters didn’t say so, but the backstory to her interview is that Chavez has lost tremendous political capital in the hemisphere in the wake of President Bush’s Latin American tour and is actively trying to regain lost ground.
Investor’s Business Daily chronicled Chavez’s troubles from the Bush tour, first describing Chavez’s early effort to hit Bush with nasty street protests in a bid to direct cameras away from the visiting U.S. president, and ‘seize the message. That didn’t work, so his next move was to launch of a ‘shadow tour’ to his allies, in a further effort to draw attention from Bush. The ‘shadow tour’ didn’t go according to plan and worse yet, made him look ridiculous. Instead of getting spontaneous adoring masses and media coverage, Chavez was repeatedly described – from Argentina to Mexico – as a spurned boyfriend stalking Bush, unable to handle his quiet rejection. After that, Chavez watched as his own allies distanced themselves from him, just as it was getting obvious that success was building in President Bush’s own tour.
As Bush warmed the hearts of Latin Americans and accomplished real diplomacy, Chavez became a laughingstock and apparently knew it. He reversed course and started a new soft approach (a first for him), mimicking Bush as now a nice guy, not a firebrand. He said he didn’t really mean anything personal in his Bush insults, despite calling Bush a ‘donkey,’ a ‘drunk’ and a ‘political corpse’ throughout the week. In fact, not only was it nothing personal, he added he’d like to play dominoes with Bush and laugh over old times when the two of them eventually retired. Meanwhile, back in Caracas, his ministers repeatedly denied that Chavez’s shadow tour of Bush was really that. They emphasized it was “only a coincidence,” not a stalking. Obviously, the Venezuelan dictator was in trouble.
In waltzed Walters, possibly ignorant of all this going on (to be charitable), and just thrilled to crow to U.S. viewers about her new interview ‘catch.’ But not only did Walters give Chavez a platform to improve his image – something Chavez had been trying hard to do in the last few days, she piled on the usual claptrap from the Chavez propaganda machine about Chavez’s wonderful generosity to the poor in both Venezuela and the U.S.
But most of Mr Chávez’s neighbours are not enthusiastic about his leadership nor willing to turn their backs on the United States. Lula’s coming trip to Camp David is a sign that Brazil will not be bullied into an anti-American axis. Mr Bush wisely ignored Mr Chávez’s taunts.
Last night I was conversing with Louisiana Conservative, who will post on our conversation. We discussed Venezuela, and what should the USA do.
One of the most effective things I believe the USA should do is to foment wealth creation in Latin America. I firmly believe that the USA should create a circle of prosperous nations through abolishing all agricultural subsidies and trade tarriffs with all Latin American countries that foster true democracy, support the rule of law, and provide property rights for their citizens. A circle of prosperous nations surrounding a Communist nation is not a new approach: it has happened in East Asia.
A cricle of prosperity will defeat Communism, because for Communism to thrive, there has to be poverty and uprising. A circle of prosperity will also solve many other problems, among them the huge numbers of illegal immigrants trying to make a living here rather then in their home countries.
It can happen in Latin America. It’s up to our politicians.
Dear friends of ABC: The interview done by Ms. Barbara Walters to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez has damaged considerably the cause of democracy in our country, Venezuela. Today, Chavez is using all Tv’s and radio stations in the country to reproduce this interview , which amounts to an endorsement by a well-known U.S. journalist in a highly important U.S. television network. It is very sad that the 200,000 abandoned children in the streets of Venezuelan cities, the 13,000 plus Venezuelans assasinated in the country during 2006, the billions of dollars stolen or pilfered by Chavez’s revolutionary gang and the Venezuelan public school students who are being indoctrinated today with socialist slogans similar to those of the grotesque Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960’s cannot receive equal time with Ms. Walters. As a Venezuelan, witnessing first hand the tragedy of our country under this ignorant and vulgar dictator, I resent Ms. Walter’s shameless enthusiasm for this rogue leader and her disdain for objectivity. It is the 1960’s, Herbert Mathews and Fidel Castro all over again. Can’t the lesson ever be learned? Sincerely, Gustavo Coronel