Judi LynnJudi Lynn's Journal
The Sad, Outrageous Case of the Cuban Five
Posted on Jan 9, 2014
By Bill Blum
Even the most hardened critics and defenders of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution should be able to agree on one thingthat the federal prosecution of the group of intelligence officers known as the Cuban Five was a travesty of justice that needs to be remedied, if not by the courts, then by means of a long-overdue diplomatic resolution. Neither outcome, however, appears likely.
In 2001, after a six-month trial in Miami conducted in an atmosphere electric with anti-Castro sentiment and publicity, the five were convicted of multiple counts of espionage against the U.S. military and Cuban exiles in southern Florida. One of the five, Gerardo Hernandez, a group supervisor, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of four members of the anti-Castro group Brothers to the Rescue, who perished when two airplanes they were piloting were shot down by the Cuban air force in 1996.
Although another defendant, Rene Gonzalez, was released from prison and repatriated in 2011, the other four remain incarcerated. Hernandez is serving a life term with no parole date at the federal penitentiary in Victorville, Calif.
The factual background of the Cuban Five case reads like a mini-history drawn from the last stages of the Cold War and the opening salvos of the current American surveillance state:
The five were members of La Red Avispathe Wasp Networkof the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence, who were sent undercover with false identity papers to Miami-Dade County. Their mission was to monitor and infiltrate Cuban refugee groups like the notorious Alpha-66 that, since the early days of the revolution, had been dedicated to effecting regime change in their homeland. Evidence produced at the fives trial showed that, far from being mere propaganda organs, such groups had been implicated in terrorist acts, including assassination attempts against Castro and several bombings of Havana hotels and nightclubs.
Green Going Gone: The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco
Monolithic agricultural companies are claiming they can practice sustainable farming in the heart of one of the world's most important wildernesses. The ravaged state of the Paraguayan Chaco forest is telling a different story.
[font size=1]Deforestation in Paraguay. [/font]
By Christine MacDonald
July 28, 2014 11:50 AM ET
A converted garage in Asuncion, Paraguay, seems an unlikely headquarters for the crusade to save one of Earth's last great wilderness expanses. But in a cluttered and fluorescent-lit room, three geographic information systems (GIS) analysts are hunched over their computer screens searching satellite maps for signs of fresh deforestation in South America's Gran Chaco forest, doing the best they can. "The Chaco is one of the most unknown remaining wildernesses on our planet," says Alberto Yanosky, the activist in charge of those analysts. The problem though, is that "we're losing the Chaco faster than scientists can study it."
The Gran Chaco, which cuts across parts of Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, is Latin America's second most important forest, behind only the Amazon in terms of size and biodiversity. While the Amazon is a lush tropical world of wide rivers and towering trees, the Chaco, located to the south, is a dry 250,000-square-mile area with some of the highest temperatures in the world and some of the most meager rainfall.
But while the Amazon has an institutional charity system fighting for its survival, hardly anyone outside of South America has heard of the Chaco. That PR void has allowed U.S.-based agribusiness giants Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. to aggressively expand in Paraguay with a minimum of international scrutiny or outcry. Sustainable business gurus praise those companies for having saved the Amazon, and the companies themselves say they've adopted conservation policies that prove it's possible to feed the world's exploding population without putting much more land into cultivation. In Paraguay, however, the opposite has occurred. The factory farming system has advanced across the country's most fertile areas. In the last decade alone, 2.5 million acres have been turned into soybean fields, displacing subsistence farmers and cattle barons alike. (Those with the wherewithal purchased cheaper land in the Chaco forest, part of the rush that has helped make the Chaco one of the world's top deforestation hot spots.)
Last year alone, the Gran Chaco lost 914 square miles of forest, the equivalent, according to Yanosky's organization, Guyra, of 29 cities the size of Buenos Aires. During the first five months of this year, 1,040 acres a little more than 1.6 square miles of forest a day were bulldozed and burned in the Paraguayan portion of the Chaco. GIS analyst Fernando Palacios, a boyish 29-year-old, says it's dispiriting to watch what's happening.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/green-going-gone-the-tragic-deforestation-of-the-chaco-20140728#ixzz394PcCUUw
We must end this collusion with terror in Colombia
As talks to end a 50-year war hang in the balance, violent repression carries on and the US and Britain stand behind it
The Guardian, Wednesday 30 July 2014 15.45 EDT
The Colombian port of Buenaventura is a place of misery and fear. Four-fifths of the mainly black population live in dire poverty and paramilitary gangs exercise a reign of terror. Most of Colombias imports come through the port, which is being massively expanded to meet the demands of new free trade agreements.
But theres no sign of any benefit in Buenaventuras slums, whose deprivation is reminiscent of the worst of Bangladesh. Most of the citys population have no sewerage and many no power. Tens of thousands have been forced off their land around the city to make way for corporate megaprojects.
Most horrifically, paramilitaries have been dismembering those who cross them with chainsaws in shacks known as chophouses. The police admit a dozen have met these grisly deaths in recent months, but Buenaventuras bishop says the real figure is far higher.
The government insists the rightwing paramilitary groups that have terrorised Colombias opposition have been dissolved. But in Buenaventura, they can be seen openly fraternising with soldiers on the streets, and they even publish their own newspaper.
Israel 'deeply disappointed' at El Salvador, Peru, Chile for recalling envoy
By HERB KEINON
LAST UPDATED: 07/30/2014 16:58
Israel on Wednesday expressed deep disappointment over El Salvador, Peru and Chile's decision a day earlier to recall their ambassadors for consultations in protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Foreing Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor issued a statement saying that the move constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.
(Short article, no more at link.)
Forty Bullets to Head Shows Why Hondurans Flee to U.S.
By Eric Martin Jul 31, 2014 10:18 AM CT
Heidy Cabrera said she was finishing her shift at a supermarket checkout counter in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, when her mother called to deliver the news. Her boyfriend, Diego, had been killed on the way home from his construction job -- shot in the head 40 times.
Seven months later, with his murder unsolved, Cabrera, 22, got on a bus and left Honduras. She had her eight-year-old son Eduardo in tow and was pregnant with Diegos child, who was born after she crossed into Mexico.
I no longer felt safe living in my neighborhood, Cabrera said, sitting on a bed at a shelter for migrants in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula while cradling 16-day-old Cristopher in her arms earlier this month. My friends have also had family members killed. These kind of things happen all the time. I want a good life for my children in the U.S., one without crime.
Cabrera and her sons represent one of the biggest shifts in immigration to the U.S., one that has been overlooked in a debate about the arrival of unaccompanied children. The number of families apprehended at the southwest border, the primary point of entry for immigrants from Central America, surged sixfold this year, almost exceeding the number of unaccompanied minors, which doubled.
Bolivia declares Israel a terrorist state
By Brett Wilkins
10 mins ago
Cochabamba - Bolivia has canceled a visa exemption agreement and declared Israel a "terrorist state" in protest of its deadly war in Gaza.
Speaking to educators in Cochabamba, President Evo Morales announced the cancellation of the 1972 agreement which allowed Israeli citizens to travel visa-free to Bolivia.
"We are declaring Israel a terrorist state," said Morales, the first indigenous leader of the Andean nation of 10.5 million inhabitants.
"Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community," he added.
Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009 in the wake of the Jewish state's Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, a three-week campaign in which Israeli forces killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, 926 of them civilians, were killed.
Bill to Fight Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Venezuelans
By Humberto Marquez
CARACAS, Jul 30 2014 (IPS) - Venezuela is gearing up to pass a new law to combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, in a country where the epidemic claims nearly 4,000 lives and infects 11,000 mainly young people every year, including increasing numbers of women.
In the first debate in the single-chamber legislature, where the bill was introduced by ombudswoman Gabriela Ramírez, it received unanimous backing from both the governing majority and the opposition not a common occurrence in this severely polarised country.
When she presented the law for the promotion and protection of the right to equality for people with HIV or AIDS and their family members on Jul. 8, Ramírez said it gives parliament an opportunity to promote equality and reduce the vulnerability of a segment of the population that has suffered discrimination.
HIV-related stigma and discrimination are the main barrier in the fight against this epidemic all around the world, Alejandra Corao, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) official in Venezuela, told IPS.
One Year of Resistance in Rio Blanco
Despite U.S.-backed violence against them, indigenous communities are fighting back as multinational corporations encroach on their lands.
By Beverly Bell, April 1, 2014.
This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus, NACLA, and TheNation.com.
Screw the company trying to take our river, and the government. If I die, Im going to die defending life. So said María Santos Dominguez, a member of the Indigenous Council of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Honduras.
April 1 marks one year since the Rio Blanco community began a human barricade that has so far stopped a corporation from constructing a dam that would privatize and destroy the sacred Gualcarque River. Adults and children have successfully blocked the road to the river with their bodies, a stick-and-wire fence, and a trench. Only one of many communities fighting dams across Honduras, the families of Rio Blanco stand out for their tenacity and for the violence unleashed upon them.
The Honduran-owned, internationally backed DESA Corporation has teamed up with U.S.-funded Honduran soldiers and police, private guards, and paid assassins to try to break the opposition. Throughout the past year, they have killed, shot, maimed, kidnapped, and threatened the residents of Rio Blanco. The head of DESA, David Castillo, is a West Point graduate. He also served as former assistant to the director of military intelligence and maintains close ties to the Honduran Armed Forces.
María Santos Dominguezs prediction that she would die defending life almost came true. On March 5, seven people attacked her as she was on her way home from cooking food at the local school. They assaulted her with machetes, rocks, and sticks. When her husband, Roque Dominguez, heard that she was surrounded, he and their 12-year-old son Paulo ran to the scene. The men brutalized them as well. They brought a machete down on the childs head, deeply slashing his face, cutting his ear in half, and fracturing his skull. Dominguezs hand was severely injured, and he also suffered cuts to the face. (Friends of the Earth has organized a petition to urge the Honduran government to investigate, which you can sign here).
The La Penca, Nicaragua Bombing Remembered 30 Years Later
Norman Stockwell 30 May 2014
May 30th is "The National Day of the Journalist" in Costa Rica. This day was first proclaimed in 2010 by then-President Óscar Arias Sánchez (the architect of the 1987 Central American Peace Accord called Esquipulas II) to honor the dead and wounded in a bombing that took place in La Penca, just across the northern border inside Nicaragua on May 30th, 1984. Four people were killed, and more than 15 others severely wounded (some so seriously as to lose eyes or limbs) during a press conference called by guerilla leader Edén Pastora Gomez. On the anniversary of the bombing, here is a look back on what happened that day, its impact on the lives of those who were there, and the unanswered questions that remain.
Almost immediately after the July 1979 victory of the Sandinista revolutionary forces in Nicaragua, a counter-revolution began to take shape. Initially made up mostly of former National Guard forces and those allied to the ousted Somoza government, the rebel forces began to change as some pro-Sandinista Nicaraguans became disillusioned with the direction their new government was heading. Perhaps the most prominent of these was Edén Pastora, a charismatic figure who broke from the FSLN (Sandinista Front for National Liberation) and moved to open a southern front of opposition in the jungle area along the border with northern Costa Rica. By May of 1984, Pastora was being pressured to merge with the northern Contra forces based out of Honduras. He refused and called a press conference at his jungle base in La Penca, just along the Nicaraguan border on the Rio San Juan. It was during this press conference that a bomb was detonated in an assassination attempt on Pastora's life.
Three journalists were killed that day, Costa Ricans Jorge Quirós of cameraman for Canal 6 TV, and his assistant, Evelio Sequeira, and US reporter Linda Frazier of the Tico Times. Her husband Joe Frazier who was then Chief Central America Correspondent for the Associated Press, remembers that day: "I happened to be in [Managua] Nicaragua on other business I'd come back from dinner And I got to the Intercontinental Hotel, and the clerk whom known for many years, since the 79 revolution said Señor Frazier, there's been a...there's been an explosion on the San Juan River. You need to know this And I started asking around calling everybody I knew in Costa Rica, sort of calling in every favor I had out there, and I was getting a little panicky. And finally, I got a radio broadcast - someone had gone up live on the San Juan where the boats were coming back from La Penca, describing what was going on, and one of them said well, there's a red-head foreign lady here who's a correspondent and she is sin vida, without life. And I knew then it had to be...there's no way it was anybody else. ..I realized that in the morning I had to go back to Costa Rica and tell our ten-year-old son what had happened and that's something I don't wish on anybody."
Costa Rican journalist Nelson Murillo, now retired, was a few feet away, asking Pastora a question when the bomb exploded, he said: "I ended up burnt, injured, fractured, I was two months in physical therapy in the hospital I was left with one shorter leg, progressive deafness, PTSD and spinal problems because of the shortening of the leg. Ive already had 30 surgeries because of problems beginning in La Penca, they took 70 shrapnel pieces out of me, metallic pieces of the bomb; since it was homemade it had everything: screws, BBs, thumb tacks, etc. Its been a pilgrimage through the hospitals over 30 years. But there were people with amputations, Don Roberto Cruz, who died 19 years after the bombing of La Penca, lost an eye, and ear, and one leg. Out of those of us left, the present day survivors, (there were others with amputations and deformations and other serious problems that have over time died from natural causes), but of those surviving today, I am the one left with the most serious health problems."
The Three False Premises of the Ryan Poverty Plan
by Stephen Pimpare Posted on July 30, 2014 at 8:30 am Updated: July 30, 2014 at 9:21 am
Paul Ryan has received a lot of attention for his recent poverty proposals. One wonders why, given that he has demonstrated time and again that hes either unaware of the research on the topic, doesnt understand it, or is intentionally misrepresenting it. In any case, he should be ignored.
But hes Chair of the House Budget Committee, a leader within his party, and, whatever poverty scholars and more serious analysts might wish, he will still set many of the terms of the poverty policy debate in DC. He should be ignored, but he probably cant be.
So whats so bad about Paul Ryans thinking about poverty?
First, theres nothing new in it. He offers block grants, cuts to programs, new work requirements, school vouchers, regulatory repeal, more money to faith-based initiatives, and privatizing social services, presenting us with little more than fresh marketing for tired ideas that when tried in the past made peoples lives worse, not better. Even the proposals that might seem promising are badly designed like his way of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. With the possible exception of his proposals to reduce some mandatory minimum sentences which advocates of all stripes have been agitating for for decades its old wine in old bottles. Why should we treat it as newsworthy or innovative?
Theres a deeper problem with Ryans approach beyond the details of his proposal. The foundation itself is rotten: the project is built upon three fatal, false premises.
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