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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 89,375

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Colombia’s FARC fighters call unlimited truce and say it’s “now or never” for a full peace deal

Colombia’s FARC fighters call unlimited truce and say it’s “now or never” for a full peace deal
18/12 08:52 CET

The Colombian guerrilla organisation the FARC has announced an open-ended truce, the first time it has put no time limit on a cessation of hostilities.

The FARC has also for the first time appealed for monitoring by either the UN, Red Cross, intergovernmental regional bodies, or the Catholic church.

“This unilateral ceasefire, which we hope will be prolonged in time, will only end if it is
determined that our guerrilla structures have been the object of an attack by the military,” said FARC representative Ivan Marquez.

At peace talks in Cuba, which have been ongoing since 2012, FARC and government delegates were joined by victims of the conflict, which has raged since the 1960s, to plant a symbolic tree of reconciliation.


America's Man in Havana

Nuevo Mundo
Eleanor Clift

America's Man in Havana

Meet the measured, skillful diplomat who will likely be our first ambassador to Cuba in five decades. No more gratuitous Frank Zappa quotes.

Resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba means a promotion for Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the career foreign service officer currently serving as chief of mission in the U.S. interest section in Havana. He will become charge d’affaires, which confers much the same status as ambassador. Once President Obama’s critics quiet down, and concede however grudgingly that he’s acting in the country’s best interest by taking this great leap forward with Cuba, DeLaurentis could well be the president’s choice for the historic posting of a U.S. ambassador to the island nation after a 54-year hiatus.

The Senate confirmed him once before, in 2011, for a posting to the UN. And he has served in Havana twice before, once in the early nineties, soon after beginning his career after graduating from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and again from 1998 to 2002. He’s a highly regarded professional, says Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at Brookings and a Latin scholar, who was in Cuba Wednesday for the simultaneous historic announcements from the presidents in Havana and Washington.

“He is exceptionally well qualified to manage this historic and positive change in relations for the foreseeable future,” Piccone said in an e-mail that praised Obama’s actions and noted that Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that he intends to visit Cuba in 2015 is “another very strong sign of the deep commitment to move this agenda forward, with or without congressional support.”

Implementing Obama’s decision to normalize relations is not for the faint-hearted. “This will take a lot of solid negotiating,” says Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group. He cited among other factors narcotics, environmental issues, and counter-terrorism, areas that require the skill of a career foreign service officer like DeLaurentis. “He’s a smart guy, very committed, always concerned about issues of democracy, and he’s very professional, level-headed. He thinks through issues.” Schneider points out that DeLaurentis has been in his post in Cuba since the summer, so he’s been in on all the pre-planning that’s gone on unbeknownst to much of Washington for some time. “He’s smart, he’s serious, he’ll do an exceptional job,” says Schneider, a former Director of the Peace Corps and a veteran of many international aid and development programs.


Jeffrey DeLaurentis

Addressing the Cuban Five Injustice

Addressing the Cuban Five Injustice
December 17, 2014

America’s hypocrisy on terrorism included the U.S. government prosecuting and imprisoning five Cuban agents who were actually trying to thwart terrorist operations in Miami. President Obama’s prisoner swap with Cuba finally addressed that upside-down justice, as Marjorie Cohn reports.

By Marjorie Cohn

In the course of delivering his historic speech dramatically altering U.S.-Cuba policy, President Barack Obama briefly mentioned that the United States released three Cuban agents. These men are members of the “Cuban Five,” who were imprisoned for gathering information on U.S.-based Cuban exile groups planning terrorist actions against Cuba.

Without their release, Cuba would never have freed Alan Gross. And Obama could not have undertaken what ten presidents before him refused to do: normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.

On June 8, 2001, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez were convicted of criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit espionage, and conspiracy to commit murder, in a trial in U.S. District Court in Miami. They were sentenced to four life terms and 75 years collectively.

In a 93-page decision, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals unanimously reversed their convictions in 2005, because the anti-Cuba atmosphere in Miami, extensive publicity, and prosecutorial misconduct denied them the right to a fair trial. The decision of the three-judge panel was later overturned by a decision of all the Eleventh Circuit Judges, sitting en banc, so the convictions stood.


US global aid chief to resign; oversaw secret Cuba programs

Source: Associated Press

US global aid chief to resign; oversaw secret Cuba programs

Associated Press
December 17, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The head of the nation’s global development agency said Wednesday he will step down from his post in February, following an announcement by the U.S. government that it would start talks toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Rajiv Shah, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, gave no public reason for leaving the agency he’s lead since 2000. In a statement released Wednesday morning, he said he had “mixed emotions” but did not elaborate.

Shah’s announcement also came hours before U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that USAID contractor Alan Gross was freed from a Cuban prison. He was arrested in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years after Cuban authorities said he tried to smuggle illegal technology into the country.

USAID, under Shah, drew intense criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban government for its Cuba programs. An AP investigation this year revealed the agency – with the help of another Washington-based contractor – created a Twitter-like service, staged a health workshop to recruit activists and infiltrated the island’s hip-hop community.

Read more: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2014/12/17/4032862/us-international-aid-head-to-step.html#storylink=cpy

The spirit is willing: Papal role in Cuba thaw started with John Paul II

The spirit is willing: Papal role in Cuba thaw started with John Paul II
by Tony Karon -
4:25 PM

Pope John Paul II traveled to
Fidel Castro's Cuba in 1998.
Jose Goitia / AP

U.S. officials have reportedly acknowledged that Pope Francis played a significant role in nudging President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro toward the rapprochement signaled by Wednesday’s prisoner release and White House policy announcement.

But the Vatican’s role in promoting a U.S.-Cuba thaw is not a new innovation by a pontiff whose political inclinations are clearly more progressive than his predecessors — and closer to the more left-of-center consensus in his native continent of Latin America.

Obama’s announcement, after all, acknowledged that the U.S. had finally acknowledged the failure of an embargo long decried — and ignored — by the vast majority of the international community. At this year’s version of the annual U.N. General Assembly vote on the Cuba embargo, 188 of the 193 member states voted to strike it down; only the U.S. and Israel voted no.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Obama vowed Wednesday, promising “a new chapter among the nations of the Americas”.


Researchers applaud U.S.-Cuba accord

Researchers applaud U.S.-Cuba accord
By Richard Stone and Allie Wilkinson 17 December 2014 6:00 pm

A new era in U.S.-Cuba relations could be a boon for scientific cooperation between the two nations. The diplomatic breakthrough between the Cold War foes, announced separately today by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, is expected to immediately loosen restrictions on U.S. and Cuban scientists getting together for joint research. It may also pave the way for U.S. organizations to sponsor workshops and meetings in Cuba and to export state-of-the-art instruments to Cuba, activities now essentially prohibited under U.S. law.

“This is huge news for science,” says David E. Guggenheim, president of Ocean Doctor, a nonprofit that has sponsored marine research with Cuba. “These policy changes will go a long way to ensure a more robust science relationship,” said Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS, in a statement. (AAAS publishes ScienceInsider and has been working in recent years to promote science diplomacy with Cuba.) The new Obama administration policy, Leshner says, should boost collaboration on such topics as the spread of emerging pathogens like the chikungunya virus and atmospheric research on hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. has imposed a web of sanctions, including a trade embargo, on Cuba for more than half a century. The U.S. Treasury Department prohibits most expenditures by U.S. citizens in Cuba, including tourism. In 2009, however, the agency relaxed its regulations to allow U.S. scientists to conduct research visits to Cuba under a general license. That rule is unchanged.

~ snip ~
Scientists are already celebrating. “It’s such an emotional day,” says Guggenheim, who has made 81 trips to Cuba. “I was actually just out marching in the street with Cuban students celebrating all of this.”


Television station owner gunned down in Honduras

Television station owner gunned down in Honduras

New York, December 16, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of television station owner and news presenter Reynaldo Paz Mayes, who was shot dead in Honduras on Monday, and calls on authorities to fully investigate the crime and bring those responsible to justice.

Paz, 48, was exercising in an outdoor sporting complex in the city of Comayagua in central Honduras on Monday morning when unidentified gunmen shot him twice in the back, according to news reports. Paz was the owner and founder of a small local television station, RPM TV Canal 28, where he also hosted a daily and weekly news program, according to news reports.

"Honduras has a disturbing pattern of letting journalists' murders remain unsolved and unexplained, perpetuating the cycle of impunity," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Honduran authorities must launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the murder of Reynaldo Paz Mayes, fully examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice."

Local journalists told CPJ on Tuesday that despite having no background in journalism, Paz had founded the television station two years ago and used his news programs to voice support for the opposition political party LIBRE and to criticize the 2009 coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya. As well as news, the channel featured sports, music, and entertainment shows, according to its Facebook page.


Salvadorans protest plan to name street for death-squad chief

Salvadorans protest plan to name street for death-squad chief
Published December 16, 2014/

Victims of El Salvador's armed conflict marched Tuesday in this capital to reject the mayor's decision to name a street after the late Maj. Roberto D'Aubuisson, suspected mastermind of the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

"In the name of the victims, we wish to ask Mayor Norman Quijano and his City Council to find a way...to modify that municipal decision," a representative of the protesters, Jose Antonio Mejia, told reporters.

The march for peace was carried out in honor of Romero and in opposition to changing the name of San Antonio Abad street to Roberto D'Aubuisson, something the Catholic Church also opposes.

The march began with the placing of a floral tribute in commemoration of the late Archbishop Arturo Rivera y Damas in the San Salvador plaza that bears his name.




Congratulations to the brilliant mayor for his towering leadership and goodness. Sarcasm.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blowtorch Bob: The Duty to Remember Roberto D’Aubuisson

El Salvador’s Roberto D’Aubuisson (1944-1992) was uniquely malevolent. He would throw babies in the air and shoot them in midair, just for fun. The death squads of which he was the leader, hunted down and executed insurgents in the slowest, most exquisitely painful ways possible. The Spanish Inquisition could have learned a thing or two about torture from him: his favorite method involved a blow torch, earning him the nickname of “Blowtorch Bob.” I bet no one ever called him that to his face.

During the Salvadoran Civil War, 75,000 people were killed; 8000 were disappeared, and one million were left homeless, slaughtered by D’Aubuisson and his death squads. They killed a group of Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter; and a group of Catholic lay nuns who had just arrived in El Salvador. In El Mozote, they killed at least 794 townspeople: they separated the men from the women, locked them in a church, then took them out in small groups. After they raped the women, they murdered each one of them. Then they burned the bodies.

His crowning achievement was assassinating Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero: On March 24, 1980, one of his gunmen shot him in the heart as he was saying Mass. Romero’s offense? Demanding the end to the killing of innocent men, women, and children in El Salvador’s Civil War. What an odd demand from a Catholic priest: love thy neighbor.

When throat cancer killed D’Aubuisson on February 20, 1992 , sending him, one hopes, to join Satan’s own favorite sons, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Chauchesku in the first circle of hell, I vowed I would remember and celebrate his date of death every year. So today, I remember by telling my students, my friends, and you, my readers, about the fiend of El Salvador, Roberto D’Aubuisson.

D’Aubuisson’s education at the School of the Americas is particularly galling. The SOA, chartered by the United States Congress, and sponsored by the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, gained its fame by training Latin American military officers in methods of interrogation, torture, kidnapping and executions. These methods were described by former United States Representative Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) as “worthy of the Soviet gulag.” Our government allowed and encouraged this instructional program as part of a perverted foreign policy focused on maintaining stability in the region at any cost rather than in protecting the basic human rights of all of the citizens of the hemisphere.


“All I know is that D’Aubuisson is a free enterprise man and deeply religious.” – Jesse Helms

“Take care of this archbishop, these Jesuits, these other priests and especially these foreigners who are ruining the minds of our children. And if the gringos want to help the communists and cut military aid, we didn’t need military aid in 1932. If we had to kill 30,000…in 1932 (during “La Matanza” or “The Slaughter” where farmers and natives were killed during a revolt against the fascist government), we’ll kill 250,000 today.” — Roberto D’Aubuisson telling a rally of supporters what they would have to do ­after winning.

“The major has lived, step by step, the process of pacification of the country.” — Armando Calderon Sol on D’Aubuisson.

Who is this handsome man pictured above, waving his clenched fist at someone off-camera and with his big mouth wide open? It’s Roberto “Blowtorch Bob” D’Aubuisson, given such a charming name for his penchant for using blue-hot butane torches on his victim’s limbs and genitalia during the torture sessions of suspected leftists, liberals, communists and labor leaders. He became infamous in his home country of El Salvador during the civil war against the leftist FMLN movement for leading CIA-trained death squads that carried out scores of massacres. He was trained at the infamous “School of the Americas” in 1972.

The Hitler-loving D’Aubuisson was quoted as saying, “You Germans were very intelligent. You realized that the Jews were responsible for the spread of Communism and you began to kill them.” A former National Guard and founder of the ultra-conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance or ARENA party, it wasn’t popular support but rather support from abroad that was the true source of his power. Robert E. White, Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to El Salvador, called him a “pathological killer” on American national television.

There is no area of the Cold War quite as consistent as the United States’ support for jackbooted anti-communist dictators and neo-fascist mass murderers such as ole’ Bob. His victims were by no means limited to left-wing categories—other undesirables in Bob’s way to neo-liberal privatized power were civilians, villagers, priests, nuns, women, children, infants and pretty much anyone unlucky enough to get between his death squads and supporters of the left-wing in El Salvador.

Despite this, D’Aubuisson and many others like him received exorbitant amounts of financial support and training from the United States. As the New York Times stated,

“In El Salvador, American aid was used for police training in the 1950’s and 1960’s and many officers in the three branches of the police later became leaders of the right wing death squads that killed tens of thousands of people in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s” (1).

A favorite of wealthy landowners and rich capitalists, D’Aubuisson first became known through nighttime television broadcasts where he accused civilian leaders, teachers and unionists of being communist subversives (the mutilated bodies of some were later found). D’Aubuisson studied intelligence and security in Virginia and New York, and in 1970 and 1971 studied at the International Police Academy in Washington. The academy was later closed after members of Congress said it had taught techniques of torture.


Colombia’s Congress approves wealth tax

Colombia’s Congress approves wealth tax
Dec 16, 2014 posted by Adriaan Alsema

Colombia’s Congress has approved a polemic wealth tax meant to increase revenue for the government that — faced with dropping oil prices — is more than $5 billion short of closing the 2015 budget.

The tax reform was approved by the House of Representatives in the final voting round, days after the Senate had approved the reform. The bill will now be sent to President Juan Manuel Santos for sanctioning.

The newly approved wealth tax is meant to increase the government’s spending power with $22 billion in the coming four years. Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas told press after the vote that the money will mainly be used for social investment projects.

According to the new tax system, those who possess property worth more than $500 thousand will have to pay a 1.15% tax over this property next year. The tax rate will then gradually be lowered and abandoned in 2018 for businesses as agreed with employers.


Pro-government Venezuelans protest US sanctions

Pro-government Venezuelans protest US sanctions
Dec 15, 4:24 PM EST

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Supporters of the Venezuelan government have marched in the streets of the nation's capital to protest sanctions that US lawmakers approved last week.

The South American country's socialist government called Monday's march to protest the move by the US Congress and mark the 15-year anniversary of Venezuela's constitution.

The proposed sanctions would freeze the assets and ban visas of people accused of violating the human rights of Venezuelan government critics. The legislation was introduced in the spring amid a violent crackdown on anti-government street protests. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law.

Thousands of Venezuelans marched bearing signs with slogans such as "respect Venezuela" and "Yankee go home." The demonstration culminated in a speech by President Nicolas Maduro.


(Short article, no more at link.)

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