Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What I Missed

Boy, have I missed out. Here's some Cuba-related news I missed from the last two weeks.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released several special reports concerned about the growing incarceration and murder of journalist around the world. One CPJ report shows a dramatic and continuing increase in death of journalists since 2002, making this year "the deadliest year for the press in more than a decade." According to CPJ, "[f]or the fifth straight year, Iraq was the deadliest country in the world for the press." The second-deadliest place for journalists was Somalia, followed by countries such as Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Haiti, Honduras, Russia and Mexico. No mention of Cuba. (Aside from Iraq, the US currently conducts military operations in Somalia, which is a growing conflict considered "the worst on the [African] continent." Also check Human Rights Watch report: "Shell-Shocked".)

But, Cuba was included in the recent CPJ report on journalists around the world jailed without charge. According to CPJ, "[n]early 17 percent of journalists jailed worldwide in 2007 were held without any publicly disclosed charge, many for months or years at a time and some in secret locations." The world's leading jailer remains China (for the past NINE years), followed by Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, and Azerbaijan. "Twenty-four Cuban journalists are imprisoned, CPJ found, most of them swept up in a March 2003 crackdown on the independent press."

Of the top five jailers mentioned above, the US has diplomatic relations with three of them: China, Eritrea and Azerbaijan. Both China and Azerbaijan, despite their human rights record (China and Azerbaijan), have strong diplomatic and economic relations (both with MFN status) with the US. On the other hand, US-Eritrean relations have been getting worse, especially with Eritrean involvement in the Ethiopian/Somali conflict, and an abandoned border dispute between Ethiopia, a US ally.


Last week (December 10th) marked Human Rights Day around the world, but was followed in Cuba by two paradoxical news reports: repeated assault and intimidation against Cuban dissidents and the announcement that the Cuban government is prepared to sign two important Human Rights agreements (check the Cuban Triangle blog).

The new repression of dissidents in Cuba was captured on video (unedited video at US-funded Marti Noticias website) and highlighted in Miami by local Spanish programming (such as "A Mano Limpia" hosted by Oscar Haza). Yet, despite the news from Cuba, thoughts on Human Rights Day was focused on other grave issues.

Irene Khan, Secretary General from Amnesty International (AI), sent a public message from the website explaining that "we have cause for both celebration and challenge." Khan mentions that "[f]rom Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, human rights are being violated, neglected and eroded with audacity and impunity by governments, big business and armed groups." In her message, Khan specifically focuses on seven regions for "renewed commitment": Darfur, Zimbabwe, the Middle East, China, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan and "the world’s most powerful government" (the United States).

A few days before December 10th, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new 140-page report on the massive political crackdown in Burma from September. "[HRW] research determined that that the security forces shot into crowds using live ammunition and rubber bullets, beat marchers and monks before dragging them onto trucks, and arbitrarily detained thousands of people in official and unofficial places of detention. In addition to monks, many students and other civilians were killed, although without full and independent access to the country it is impossible to determine exact casualty figures." The US has trade sanctions on the Burmese government, but the American-owned Chevron Corp. still operates there, and has received increased pressure from human rights groups and Congress to either pull out or push for human rights.

A few days after December 10th, a coalition of human rights groups from Zimbabwe reported that since January "there have been 549 cases of torture, 3,086 of unlawful arrest and detention and 2,719 violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and movement." The high numbers include the violent March crackdown earlier this year against the growing pro-democratic movement in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, President Mugabe , who believed the March crackdown was "deserved", will most likely run for re-election next year, especially with the continued backing of the ruling party and the increased rhetoric against western "sabotage" by the US and the EU. Both the EU and the US have sanctions policies against Zimbabwe that do not seem to be working at all.


Last year's report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found waste and fraud on aid going to Cuba (with reports dismissed by Babalu blog as "pointless" and "hardly news") now has a sequel that again focuses on US policy towards Cuba.

According to the new GAO report (reported by Marc Lacey for the New York Times), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "conducts secondary inspections on 20 percent of charter passengers arriving from Cuba at Miami International Airport, more than six times the inspection rate for other international arrivals, even from countries considered shipment points for narcotics." This concentration on Cuba, according to the GAO, has "strained CBP's capacity to carry out its primary mission of keeping terrorists, criminals and inadmissible aliens from entering the country at Miami International Airport."

The news has already allowed opponents of the US embargo to state that "[i]t’s vindictive. It’s stupid. It’s costly. And now we find out it’s a threat to our national security." Time will tell how this news will be received by the American public.


Also, I wanted to say good-bye and thank you to the bloggers formerly from Stuck on the Palmetto. I enjoyed that blog, as I'm sure many did, and will miss it. Best wishes to both bloggers.

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