Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Among her remarks, Flores mentioned her disgust with a particular incident, of which I can also confirm. She mentioned that aerial banners that day had flown over the park which called on the release of the Cuban Five. I had an instant flashback once she said that because those two planes were unmistakable that afternoon. One after the other, those brightly colored planes flew over Miami's downtown highways, plainly visible to those underneath. I noticed them on my way to the demonstration, but was too far to read what they said.
According to El Nuevo Herald, the two banners read: "Posada-Terrorista-Libertad a los 5" (Posada-Terrorist-Free the 5) and "Posada-Terrorista-Enemigo de América" (Posada-Terrorist-Enemy of America). The exiles saw this as another provocation, but their demonstration saw no other distraction.
Once the final speaker finished and put the megaphone down, the sunburnt crowd began to disperse. Members of Vigilia Mambisa began to fold up their extra-large flag with care and precision, revealing the many times they had unfurled their national colors. Many walked home a short familiar route heading back to Little Havana, still wearing their miniature flags on their guayaberas. But, will it be the same ones the next time around I wondered, concerned with their progressing age.
Flores, reminisced about the old days where large crowds of Cuban-Americans would easily block Calle Ocho in protest, boasting of that old power. She was revealing her concerns about the future of the struggle. What has happened since then she asked herself. She blames communist/socialist propaganda that has poisoned their youth. What else could it be?
Far from Miami, on September 23, 2006, a protest of about 600 people gathered in Washington DC to condemn the incarceration of the Cuban Five, the largest gathering ever for that cause. Just like a bizarro reality, this group called for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela, and condemned terrorism towards Cuba. These calls are also similar to the ones made in 2005 at the Ibero-American Summit in Spain where all the nations of Latin America signed a resolution calling for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela, and condemning US policy towards Cuba.
Flores' concern is real. There is a shift occurring. And, that shift may have to do with the younger generation. But, I am not concerned about them like Flores, I have faith in them.
Several Cuban exile organizations gathered at the Jose Marti Park this past Saturday to call for the release of Cuban patriots in US prisons, such as Luis Posada Carriles. This protest is a repetition of the demonstration that occurred on January 19, 2007, at the Bay of Pigs Memorial on Calle Ocho. That event made headlines when counter-protesters where attacked by members of Vigilia Mambisa and their president Miguel Saavedra, all of whom were captured on video and photographed initiating the fight.
This time, some of the same exile groups came out on what turned out to be a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and the bright blue, cloudless sky presented no premonitions of hostilities. As I drove to Jose Marti Park, I had my radio tuned to Radio Mambi and listened to the 12 o'clock news program. By that time, Radio Mambi was already reporting a high turn out for the demonstration. According to El Nuevo Herald, about 500 protesters made the time to come out that day.
Once there, I noticed many other people, couples and families simply enjoying the weather, playing at the park, taking their pictures with the famous Miami River. I also happened to notice a boy scout troop had assembled nearby and were visiting the river front. Nevertheless, this wasn't any other Saturday for the gathered Cuban exiles.
Protesters calling for the release of their Cuban patriots shouted into a megaphone, making their demands to the crowd and the US government. Some, from as far away as Los Angeles, called for their immediate release, while others called for continued struggle. One made it clear to all who listened that the struggle is already underway to liberate Cuba. Never mind the obstacles that they have encountered all these years, one shouted out, they have plans ready for the eventual overthrow of the Cuban government. He assured everyone that many exile groups have their plans ready, and that they are waiting for the right moment.
[Photo by Ariel Remos of Diario Las Americas]
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat from district 20, is close with Ileana, Lincoln and Mario, and thus supports the embargo by default.
Allen Boyd, Democrat from district 2, is a military hawk that supports the Iraq war, and has supported legislation aimed at the Cuban government before.
Connie Mack, Republican from district 14, is a top recipient of Cuban-American political contributions.
And, Tom Feeney, Republican from district 24, is a corrupt politician who has supported absurd legislation aimed at Cuba for Ileana, Lincoln, and Mario.
Aside from the Florida and New Jersey signatories, Dan Burton, Indian Republican, and main supporter of the Helms-Burton Act, is a top recipient of Cuban-American political contributions.
And, J. Gresham Barrett, South Carolina Republican from district 3, is an associate member of the Congressional Hispanic Conference, which is chaired by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and whose members also include Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Before the letter went out, Ileana was reported as saying that "[o]pening talks now with the brutal Castro regime, before there is any democratization, would be a colossal miscalculation on the part of the OAS that would only extend the grip that the Castro brothers hold over the Cuban nation." This is a false argument that these three Cuban-American politicians have used for lord knows how long. Nevertheless, Ileana, Lincoln and Mario should reread the OAS Charter and consider negotiations if they truly are committed to upholding those principles.
Of the 13 signatories, 8 are from Florida, and three from New Jersey. Nuff said. The three from New Jersey have supported failed policies towards Cuba in the past.
As I have mentioned before, all of the Latin American nations in 2005 signed a resolution that condemned the US embargo towards Cuba. And, looking at the OAS Charter, it is very clear why they did. According to chapter 4, article 20, "[n]o State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind."
According to chapter 5, sections 25 and 26, peaceful settlement of disputes between OAS members shall follow "direct negotiation, good offices, mediation, investigation and conciliation, judicial settlement, arbitration, and those which the parties to the dispute may especially agree upon at any time... In the event that a dispute arises between two or more American States which, in the opinion of one of them, cannot be settled through the usual diplomatic channels, the parties shall agree on some other peaceful procedure that will enable them to reach a solution."
Sanctions are not mentioned.
In fact, the OAS Charter has an entire Chapter titled "Integral Development" with emphasizes economic cooperation and integration between member States. According to chapter 7, article 35, "[t]he Member States should refrain from practicing policies and adopting actions or measures that have serious adverse effects on the development of other Member States."
Obviously, the US embargo towards Cuba fails in these respects.
So, its funny how 13 US Representatives signed this letter to the OAS Secretary General to tell him that he is "contradicting" the OAS Charter. But, things are not so weird when we find out who signed this ridiculous letter.
Let's analyze these arguments. First, in Cuba, the worst political act of repression in recent years was the 2003 crackdown on dissidents, which arrested some 75 Cubans. This did not occur after the US decided, or uttered, to have a dialogue with Cuba. The reasons behind this crackdown are very clear and have nothing to do with dialogue with the Cuban government. Also, Cuba has continuous dialogue with other nations, and since 2003 no human rights organization has described a significant increase in repression. To believe that a dialogue with Cuba will cause more oppression is without basis.
Second, the accusation that Insulza's comments "contradict" the principles of the OAS Charter is also absurd. Article 3, section D of the OAS Charter basically says that the "solidarity" between OAS members is based on "effective exercise of representative democracy." Well, Cuba is not a member and Insulza isn't really asking for "solidarity" with Cuba, he's trying to help them (the people). In Jamaica (Feb. 7, 2007), Insulza said that "[w]e cannot help the people of Cuba if we cannot talk to them." In fact, he is obeying the purpose of the OAS Charter to "strengthen the peace and security of the continent" (article 2, section A).
Also, Insulza never suggested that Cuba become a member of the OAS. But, even if we were to apply the principles of article 3 of the OAS Charter to Cuba, Insulza still does not "contradict" himself. According to article 3, section I, "[c]ontroversies of an international character arising between two or more American States shall be settled by peaceful procedures." A dialogue falls within this principle. And, Insulza (and the rest of Latin America) has made it very clear that he opposes US policy towards Cuba. On the other hand, if we obey the principles of the OAS, it seems that US policy towards Cuba violates the OAS Charter!
Well, yesterday two newspapers in Miami gave a response to Insulza (in a suspicious example of coincidence). In the local newspaper Diario Las Americas, a paper that frequently serves hard-line rhetoric on Cuba, they published a letter presented by the one and only Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican Congressman from the 21st district. Obviously, Lincoln believes that the idea of a "dialogue" with Cuba is contrary to the OAS charter (he cites article 3, section D), and that Insulza is off his rocker. Anyway, his letter is co-signed by 12 other House Representatives from New Jersey and Florida (what a surprise), except for two from Indiana (guess who) and South Carolina (you'll never guess). No real surprises from the list of names that support this letter, which I will soon address.
The other local paper that coincidentally responded to Insulza, the same day Lincoln gets his letter published in Diario Las Americas, is (drum-roll) the Miami Herald! The Miami Herald has had such a rocky relationship with its Cuba-American readers in Miami that it is an entire post all by itself. Anyway, the Herald (trying to win back readers) also comes out and says that Insulza must be nuts to suggest a dialogue with Cuba. They even make the same argument that many on BabaluBlog make. The irony.
There's no doubt that the Miami Herald waited for the letter by the House Representatives to make their own comments. Insulza made his comments more than a week ago! The Herald could have come out all by itself if it wanted to. But, of course, they don't want to step over anyone's feet here. Without question, this is another case where the local media follow the footsteps of the Cuban-American political leadership when it comes to the case of Cuba.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
- "Hate Speech and Intolerance on Radio Mambi: What International Law Has to Say"
- "Cuban Apartheid and Current Views on Apartheid: A Comparison of Histories"
- "Mr.Gomez is at It Again about the Embargo"
Lots of falsehoods to tackle in the future, dedicated to fans and not so friendly people. Best to all.
On January 23, 2007, the Council on Foreign Relations held a round table discussion called: "Cuba After Castro - The Future of US/Cuba Relations." It was moderated by Julia Sweig, who spoke with Jo Ann Emerson, Republican Congresswoman from Missouri, and James P. McGovern, Democrat Congressman from Massachusetts.
On February 7, 2007, the New Democrat Network held a round table discussion called: "After Fidel: A New Day for America's Relations with Cuba and Latin America." It was moderated by Joe Garcia, Senior Vice President of NDN, who spoke with Democrat Congressman William Delahunt, Julia Sweig, from the Council on Foreign Relations, Janice O'Connell, staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen and Associates, and Miriam Leiva, Cuban dissident in Cuba (by phone).
In the NDN discussion with Miriam Leiva, she brings up the possibility of an international effort to help Cuba. This is another argument against the US embargo, it states that the unilateral sanctions on Cuba has actually been an obstacle to finding a multilateral policy. Its a position that many European nations have been supporting for a long time.
"It would also enable friendly countries, such as the European Union members, to devise together with the United States more effective means to assist the Cuban people on the path to democracy."
- Miriam Leiva
Friday, February 16, 2007
The Cuban Memorial, scheduled for this weekend, is a unique feature in South Florida, and its many citizens should take into consideration what this memorial means to many Cuban-Americans.
"The choice that we have is not between remembering and forgetting; because forgetting can't be done by an act of will, it is not something we can chose to do. The choice is between different ways of remembering... Memories do not always bear fruit and may even lead us astray. If we treat the past as holy, we exclude it from the world of meaning and prevent it teaching lessons that might apply to other times and places, to other agents of history. But we do just as much damage through the opposite approach: making the past trivial by likening present events to past ones too easily, trawling it for facile solutions to current issues, betrays history, distorts the present, and opens the door to injustice."
- Tzvetan Todorov, Hope and Memory: Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2003)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
In 2005, the secretary general for the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, was elected to the position for a five-year term. Since then, this "moderate Chilean socialist," has stood out in the headlines every now and then. Concerning Cuba, on May 23, 2006, Insulza was reported as saying "There is no transition and it is not your country." Insulza was responding to the appointment of Caleb McCarry as a coordinator for the US Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.
This disagreement between Insulza and US plans for Cuba has recently been further clarified. When visiting Jamaica last week, and Peru this week, Insulza has been saying the "D" word like a drunken sailor. Or should I say, like a brave sailor.
In Jamaica, Insulza was reported to have said: "I hope that the lack of DIALOGUE about or with Cuba is only a temporary situation. We cannot help the people of Cuba if we cannot talk to them." In Peru, Insulza commented that "it seems to me that the OAS should get involved in at least initiating a significant DIALOGUE with Cuba." What a potty-mouth!
Radio Mambi, since hearing these words, have decided to defame and condemn Insulza for his insult to Cuban exiles. Armando Perez-Roura, in a bit of creativity, called Insulza a "comunista." (Wait a second, he calls everyone he disagrees with a "comunista.") Anyway, Ninoska Perez-Castellon spent a good portion of her afternoon show on Insulza's comments. Basically, her argument goes along the lines that dialogue is forbidden with assassins, vampires, and the Boogeyman. But, most of all its insulting to the victims of the Cuban government, and its exiled community. You should know this by now, its the same policy that has lasted almost a half-century.
Anyway, did I mention that virtually the whole world disagrees with Ninoska Perez-Castellon's position? And no, I don't mean the one about vampires and the Boogeyman.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
"Business arrangements we have entered into [with Equatorial Guinea] have been entirely commercial, have been at market-based rates, arm's length transactions, fully recorded on our books. They are a function of completing the work that we're there to do, which is to develop the country's petroleum resources and, through that and our work in the community, make Equatorial Guinea a better place."
What does this all have to do with Cuba? EVERYTHING.
The US position on dictators is clear: they don't care for their human rights abuses. If they say they do, it's a lie. The US government looks for profits before principles. It's not the other way around. It explains why they ignore the calls of Cuban dissidents on the island, the majority of which reject US policy. It explains why much of US policy towards Cuba is counter-productive in addressing human rights abuses, policies which most human rights organizations condemn year after year. This explains why many nations, besides Cuba, point at US hypocrisy. Some would say that this is cold reality, but some of these people still consider governments as moral agents. Institutions (the US government) are not moral agents, people (citizens) are.
Looking at the Parade list the other day, at those cruel faces of tyranny, each one with hands that have caused someone to suffer harshly, made me wonder: how can such power over people still exist in the world? The answer can only be that the concerns of people all over the world are secondary to the demands for profits of corporations all over the world.
And only people, not governments, can refuse to be accomplices to such abuse of power.
But, there was another dictator that year on the Forbes list that got little attention, and whose vast riches and corruption are based on hard facts and respectable sources: America's favorite tyrant - Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
According to the Forbes article, "Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his government deposited up to $700 million in U.S.' Riggs Bank." And this all came to light when "[a] U.S. Senate subcommittee's 2004 investigation criticized Riggs for failing to report potential money laundering in the Equatorial Guinea accounts." The article quotes a director from Human Rights Watch who says that "[u]nder Obiang, the country's wealth is basically a presidential ATM."
Ken Silverstein, investigative journalist writing for Harper's last year, quoted a member of the House Subcommittee on Africa suggesting the clear corruption of Obiang and his family's wealth in the US, saying "[e]ither that [he's corrupt]…or he's an assiduous saver." In his blog, Wallechinsky quotes a former U.S. ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, John Bennett, saying that Obiang's regime "is not really a government," but rather "an ongoing family criminal conspiracy."
Also last year, Forbes magazine reported that the son of America's favorite tyrant "dropped $35 million [in cash] on an eight-bedroom ocean front mansion [in Malibu] despite a job in his father's government with an on the books salary of $5,000 a month." It's a story that will surely result in another Senate investigation.
The corruption of Equatorial Guinea goes on and on. And, similar to Cuba's plans for a succession of power, Equatorial Guinea is preparing for its own. It has been speculated that America's favorite tyrant is suffering from prostate cancer, and is preparing to hand powers over to his son, Teodorin'.
Will the US allow THIS succession?
"The lack of a published penal code allows for frequent abuses by security forces... Several of the persons had been detained for months or years without judicial proceedings. They were brought before a judge during the year for brief hearings and remanded back to prison for unspecified crimes against the state, rebellion, or terrorism, to be held in 'preventive detention' until trial."
"…there were reports that officials tortured political opposition activists and other persons during the year...During the year authorities reportedly detained members of political opposition parties. Prominent members of the 'illegal' opposition Republican Democratic Forces (FDR), the PP, and the NPU remain detained at Black Beach Prison for their political activities. It remained difficult to estimate the number of political detainees..."
"During the year the government monitored journalists, the media remained firmly under government control, and journalists practiced self-censorship... The government did not tolerate criticism of public institutions and public sector mismanagement and permitted no criticism of the president or the security forces."
"An independent or privately owned press was nearly nonexistent... Journalists were subject to harassment…"
Freedom of assembly, association and movement are highly restricted.
"There have been no free, fair, and transparent elections since independence in 1968."
"The president exercised strong powers as head of state, commander of the armed forces, and founder and head of the government party... Leadership positions within the government in general were restricted to the president's party or the coalition... Membership in the ruling party generally was a great advantage for hiring and promotion, both in the public and private sectors."
This is all in the latest Country Report on Human Rights by the US State Department, yet on April 12 of that year (35 days after the release of the report), Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was welcomed into the White House by Condoleezza Rice and called a "good friend."
It's funny how the world works. And, if we go by the logic of the caller to Radio Mambi yesterday morning, the United States of America is an "accomplice" to the tyranny in Equatorial Guinea. Is this reality?
Obviously, the caller did not read the opening paragraph to the Parade list, where David Wallechinsky (who blogs for the Huffington Post) wrote that Fidel was not included because he had "relinquished power in Cuba to his brother." Yet, Wallechinsky reminds us that Fidel was on last year's list, "coming in at number 15 on the countdown." (My best Casey Kasem)
So, I was looking at this list and I noticed that there were a few faces that I hadn't seen before, but some faces that were very familiar. Wallechinsky writes that the list is based on reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the US State Department (most likely its annual Country Reports on Human Rights). The list is enlightening, yet it is a very short summary of each country's human rights abuses, and fails to highlight the historical background of each case. I recommend the annual reports by those organizations mentioned above.
Anyway, aside from the interest of finding everyone's favorite tyrant on some list, there's one dictator that I notice keeps popping up on these lists, and just so happens to be "a good friend" to the US. His name is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, president of Equatorial Guinea. Now, before I lose you, this has EVERYTHING to do with Cuba, because if you read the latest US State Department Country Reports on Human Rights, you will notice that Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is basically Fidel Castro himself. The differences between the two dictators are miniscule.
Friday, February 9, 2007
I was about to describe the question as a quintessential one, but I don’t think it merits the title because of the wording. To question if something had a good (or bad) effect, essentially places an unequal burden of proof on one side of the debate, and can also be perceived as condescending. In order to be fair, I believe the question should’ve been “What was Fidel for Cuba?”
THIS is the quintessential question. It applies to that which curses all leading political figures of history. And, Foreign Policy magazine has pitted two (good or bad?) men to debate this issue: Ignacio Ramonet (from Le Monde Diplomatique) and Carlos Alberto Montaner (of whom I’ve written about).
Anyway, it was a pretty good debate, but very familiar points are exchanged, and anyone who is familiar with these points may be bored at reading them again. Yet, a person who may want a beginner’s guide to the Cuba debate may find this exchange very informative.
My opinion is that there is no convincing argument on either side. It’s quite a stalemate between opposing views, reflecting how in general there are little attempts to bridge the political gap. Still, I encourage anyone to go read it at your local bookstore or library.
Here are some highlights:
In the Americas, at the turn of the 21st century, a dictatorship where human rights are not respected… cannot be sustained.
Castro’s death will not dismantle a movement hundreds of years in the making. To disavow this national character is to ignore some of the regime’s essential dimensions.
The reason communism has not tumbled in Cuba, just as it has not in North Korea, is because of the country’s complete repression. It’s a brand of repression linked entirely to one dying man. When he goes, so too will much of the fear that his regime instills in its people.
In Fidel Castro’s Cuba, however, there have been no major uprisings. When Castro eventually succumbs to his illness, there is nothing to suggest that Cubans will suddenly rise up against socialism.
Castro will not be remembered as a luminary or upholder of human rights. The Cuban people will look back on the Castro era with sadness.
It is a shame that while you look back with heated reproaches, you do not see the truth of what is happening in Cuba today and do not know how to decode the permanence of its socialist regime.
There’s plenty more (about 7 pages worth of) debate and controversial facts in this edition of Foreign Policy magazine, check it out as soon as you can. There are pictures too.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Aside from Ileana's supporting role in the documentary "638 Ways to Kill Castro," Univision's own Enrique Encinosa plays a small role as "man who justifies terrorism."(my title)
Just yesterday, I posted Encinosa's comment about what he thinks Cubans should do with a thousand boxes of matches. Well, now its pretty clear that Radio Mambi's Enrique Encinosa, who works as their news editor, favors terrorist methods. In this part of the documentary, when he's asked about the hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997, Encinosa replies:
"I personally think its an acceptable method. Its a way of damaging the tourist economy. The message that [almost says YOU, as if he's done it before]... one tries to get across is that Cuba is not a healthy place for tourists. So, if Cuba is not a healthy place for tourist, because there's a few windows being blown out of hotels, that's fine."
There's an interesting psychology involved here. It seems that acceptance for this form of terrorism, which seems to target property only and not civilians, totally denies the fact that there are financial victims nonetheless. And, furthermore, does not account for use of explosives, which can cause accidental bodily harm, or death. Incidentally, the bombing campaign in '97 led to the death of an Italian tourist, of which suspected terrorist mastermind Luis Posada Carriles responded: "It is sad that someone is dead, but we can't stop... That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.''
According to the US Department of Defense, terrorism is defined as:
"... the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives."
There's no question that Posada Carriles' aims are political, and not alone economically focused. In his 1998 interview with Ann Louise Bardach, Posada Carriles passed her a three-page manifesto that read at one point:
"The absence of freedom of expression, of freedom of movement for a hungry people oppressed and terrorized by communist repression... This gives all free Cubans a right to take up arms against the tyrant, using violence or whatever means at our disposal to derail this terrible system and bring freedom to our country."
Enrique Encinosa has mentioned many times on radio that he keeps in touch with Posada Carriles, who is now in prison for federal charges, and how he's a patriot above all. Just last week, Encinosa said that if things get worse, Posada Carriles was prepared to hunger strike to his death!
I can't say I would admire such an act.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Still, those who listen and call to Radio Mambi are older generation Cubans who believe militarism is justified.
On January 5, 2007, another caller to "La Mesa Redonda" (The Round Table) urged Perez-Roura and his listeners that the US must do MORE to help the Cubans on the island, specifically suggesting a naval blockade. Perez-Roura replied that "ojala con tiempo"(hopefully with time) the US would approve such an option.
On January 12, 2007, Perez-Roura invited Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, member of Alpha 66, to denounce the US indictments on Luis Posada Carriles. He basically reiterated an important point on how far some Cubans are willing to go. He mentioned that it was a "sacred pledge... to fight (or struggle) to free Cuba without counting on anybody, nor asking permission from anyone, whatever the price may be."
On January 23, 2007, in another "Tome Nota" radio commentary, Perez-Roura made it very clear that he would not consider any other alternatives to the US/Cuba conflict. He said that their struggle "would not permit, at the last minute, for an agreement to be reached... In Cuba there must be change. There cannot be a succession. There cannot be a transition, where everything definitely stays the same, because we know well how Communists are."
According to Perez-Roura's praise of Luis Posada Carriles and Santiago Alvarez, I'm sure he and others at Radio Mambi would be very happy with a violent coup to settle their anger.
On December 22, 2006 ("En Caliente" morning show), a caller made it very clear what kind of "struggle" Radio Mambi really wants.
Caller: ... because [in Cuba] what we must do is fight, and throw rocks, do anything, and from here [in Miami] guide it. Often we are afraid of others' criticisms because we want everything [in Cuba] to be by the law. With the Communist government, there can be NOTHING by the law. It has to be based on FORCE! Otherwise, they will never be liberated!
Enrique Encinosa (co-host with Perez-Roura): "I'm very much in agreement. If the ten thousand who signed the Varela Project, instead of signing, had instead taken to the streets with ten thousand boxes of matches, it would be over in a day."
On this morning's round table program, Ninoska Perez-Castellon, confidently stated that a coup d'etat is "extremely justified" in the case of Cuba. Also in Venezuela and Bolivia, as a matter of fact. I'm sure she meant in the same manner which occurred in Venezuela with the help of the US in 2002. And, this past Friday (Feb. 2) in his regular radio commentary "Tome Nota", Armando Perez-Roura said that the US should review its Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement of non-aggression towards Cuba. Perez-Roura believes that the agreement is null and void since the collapse of the USSR. In Radio Mambi, there is always room for war.
Yet, this sentiment is shared by many Cubans in South Florida. In 2004, Florida International University conducted a poll of 1,202 Cuban-Americans and found that 46.5% favored a "direct US military action to overthrow the Cuban government," while only 29.6 opposed. The same sentiments were seen in Broward county. But, within the Cubans who came AFTER 1985, there was a split of 41.8% in favor of US military action and 43.7% opposed. And, those who came after 1985 made up most of the respondents polled (32.4%).
Monday, February 5, 2007
The latest news shows that Brazil, who's infant mortality rate seemed stagnant, has finally seen a reduction. The latest numbers from the Ministy of Health reveal a reduction from 49.7 to 28.91 deaths per 1000 live births, from 1990 to 2002. The health minister, Humberto Costa, is giving the credit to Brazil's Family Health program which he plans to extend to poorer municipalities and ask for more funding. The study also attributes the decrease in infant mortality to increased funding of education programs and access to potable water and sanitation.
On the other hand, the latest report on US health from the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention shows that since 2000 "the rate of improvement in the nation’s health status has essentially stagnated."[graph above] They attribute this stagnation to continued smoking, high infant mortality, an increase in obesity, and increase in uninsured Americans.
Infant mortality in the US is 6.6 per 1000 births. The report's media release points out that "Our rate of 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births is double that of Japan, Sweden, Finland, Monaco and San Marino. Countries such as the Czech Republic, France, Germany and Spain also have better rates of infant survival."
We can also add Cuba.
[source: America's Health Rankings Online Report]
More babies born = higher rate of possible infant mortality.
Less babies born = lower rate of possible infant mortality
Thus more babies being aborted = less babies born = lower infant mortality rate.
Given the information that I have presented, this simple logic is insufficient to describe reality. On the other hand, Prieto's remarks reveal the basic argument needed to quickly condemn the Cuban government, regardless of any relevant facts or efforts to find them, and thus support the Cuban Abortion Scheme.
BabaluBlog and its many authors continue their false arguments daily, yet their positions do not withstand scrutiny, of which they quickly take care of with ad hominems. It seems to me that Prieto and friends do not care for facts at all, but instead prefer a false picture of Cuba, an island that must be saved from the evil dragon. Its a fairy tale.
My argument does not suggest that all evidence that appears on BabaluBlog is false, but rather their author's interpretations of Cuba-related facts are disingenuous. As can be seen above.
Prieto calls Cuba's health care "smoke and mirrors." I say the same of Prieto's website.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
In her Havana study, Stephanie Bernal pointed out that "[a]s a result of the economic crisis that occurred in the early 1990s, the number of abortions increased." She quotes a Cuban doctor, Dr. Urrusuno-Carbajal, saying that, at the time, Cuban women "just did not want to give birth." Yet, overall abortion rates have dropped since the early 90's. Bernal writes that "[t]o discourage abortion as a means of contraception, doctors educate their populations about family planning and contraceptive methods... these educational campaigns seemed to be successful. The abortion rate decreased from 70.0 per 100 deliveries in 1992, to 59.4 in 1996."
Interestingly, an abortion study from Cuba last year provided additonal support to Bernal's observations and pointed out a peculiar phenomenon on the island. Miriam Gran, a biostatistics expert, last year conducted a study of more that 4000 Cuban women titled: "Voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception: two methods of fertility control."
She found that the Cuban abortion rate has been declining since 1986, when 93,649 abortions were reported, in contrast to 67,277 in 2004. Gran says that "[o]ver decades, the rate has indeed declined, which reflects well on family planning, health education and sex education. It has to be taken into account that whenever the birth rate falls, as has been happening in Cuba, abortions nearly always decline as well." Gran's study found 43% of respondents had used abortion in the past, 52.2% of those who had abortions gave reasons due to abandonment of other birth control methods, 30.1% due to "lack of knowledge," and 7.3% out of preference. The remaining women cited health-related issues and unwanted pregnancies.
These findings are quite unique in a country where abortion is permitted (with legal notification) at request to women. Dr. Leticia Artiles, coordinator of the Cuban Gender and Collective Health Network, believes that "[i]n Cuba, terminating a pregnancy is not charged with negative symbolism, it isn't seen as a crime... [or loaded with] social taboos against single women seeking contraceptive methods."
These findings do not support a scheme by the Cuban government, but rather a complex social preference, over time, for the procedure of abortion, a legitimate reproductive right, as a response to an environment where women's health is crucial in the developing world.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Epilogue]
"To improve the health status of women, given tight budget constraints, countries... should focus resources on improving basic reproductive health conditions. The interventions required are relatively low-cost, in general, and yet have major pay-offs in health conditions and human welfare. Providing appropriate family planning methods to women who want to control their fertility, providing early and reliable prenatal and essential obstetric care, fostering good nutrition, and developing specially targeted services for women at high risk for sexually transmitted diseases should all be very high on the public priority list."
According to the sources cited, Cuba has met some of these needs through their Mother and Child Plan, but with a slight edge over the rest of its neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean: legalized abortion since 1965.
The 2001 World Bank report states that "[i]n most Latin American countries, between one-quarter and one-third of women 18 years old or younger are pregnant or have already had a child... Up to half of the pregnancies in young women are unplanned"(emphasis added). Currently, abortion is illegal or highly restricted in Latin America and the Caribbean, thus many women seek clandestine abortion. A 1996 study found that "[e]stimated rates of [clandestine] abortion are highest in Peru and Chile (each year, almost one woman in every 20, aged 15-49 has an induced abortion), intermediate in Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic (about one woman in 30), and lowest in Mexico (approximately one in 40)." The World Bank believes "an estimated one-fifth of maternal deaths are attributed to [clandestine] abortion-related conditions, and an estimated 40 percent... experience serious complications."
In 1990, a study in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, "found that the vast majority of hospitalized [clandestine] abortion patients [due to complications]...half (51%) had two or more children." Several other studies have shown that "the majority of... patients appear to be married women who already have all the children they feel able to care for. The difficult social and economic conditions facing many millions of families in Latin America's poor rural areas and vast city slums spur the desire of couples to have fewer children."
These desires, with the help of other available contraception, have expressed themselves in the overall decrease of fertility rates in Latin America and the Caribbean over the years, yet it is mainly in the urban sectors, leaving the rural poor with higher fertility rates and higher maternal mortality rates.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, "[t]he developing areas of the world, where 79% of the world's people live, account for 64% of legal and 95% of illegal abortions..."
*The World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and Pan American Health Association. (2001). The Health of Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington DC: The World Bank.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
In 2005, Jelka Zupan from the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote that "[t]he barriers to appropriate maternity care are not insurmountable. The cost, for example, is moderate, and some poor countries have proved that it is affordable." Cuba's Mother and Child Plan is one example of how Cuban health care has met the appropriate needs of maternity care. In a case of unintended irony, the WHO World Health Report of that year stated that improvements to children's health in the developing world "requires a cultural revolution among health workers to start working with households and communities as partners, and to look at children as children, and not merely as a collection of diseases."
Yet, in two studies in 2005, it was found that the most important factor to improve infant mortality rates was the availability of effective and accessible health care for mothers. One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that initiated an intervention in Pakistan concluded that "[t]raining traditional birth attendants and integrating them into an improved healthcare system were achievable and effective in reducing perinatal mortality." In that same year, a study in the Lancet comparing improved neonatal mortality rates in Brazil from 1982 to 2004, found that "[m]ajor changes in health systems happened in these two decades, of which the most important was the creation of the Sistema Único de Saúde (Unified Health System)... ensuring free health care for every citizen. The expansion in health care in [the city of] Pelotas led to more than 98% of pregnant women receiving some antenatal care..."
According to a 2000 longitudinal study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, "in Latin America the proportion of infant deaths attributable to congenital anomalies increased from 2-6 per cent in the 1950s to 12-25 per cent in the early 1990s", and that "[i]n absolute terms... infant mortality attributable to congenital anomalies caused more infant deaths in poorer countries than in wealthier countries." In Cuba, according to PAHO, "63% of [infant] deaths occurred in the neonatal period [first month]. Perinatal disorders, birth defects, sepsis, influenza, pneumonia and accidents accounted for more than 80% of all deaths in this [one year] age group."
It is within this context that we should receive the news about "automatic" abortions following prenatal diagnosis of congenital malformations and if "[a] heart murmur or other serious problems required an abortion", or any other claims made by Dorschner and his single source: Jesús Monzón. Monzón, Dorschner's only source from Cuba who makes the direct accusation of the abortion scheme, was an obstetrician-gynecologist in Pinar del Río before he left in 1995. Dorschner interviews another exiled Cuban doctor, but he is not quoted making the same accusation.
A 2004 study in the journal of Prenatal Diagnosis concluded that "[d]epending on the gestational age and legal situation the counselor is operating in, termination of pregnancy may be one of the options to consider and one that should ALWAYS be raised in discussion" (emphasis added) when dealing with fetal congenital heart disease. In 1998, according to PAHO, the leading cause of infant deaths in the US was due to congenital anomalies.
The false argument basically accuses the Cuban government of a deliberate abortion scheme to keep infant mortality rates low. The facts point to the contrary and reveal a complex picture of Cuban society, which undoubtedly is unique among the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. My argument will focus on directly debunking the myth of the Cuban abortion scheme, and replacing the argument with a more appropriate discussion about women's reproductive health in Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope to provide a more reasonable answer to why Cuban women are getting more abortions and why the infant mortality rate is low.
In plain simple terms, Cuban women have easy access to and see little taboos about abortion, and furthermore, Cuban healthcare provides effective primary care to women, especially prenatal care in comparison to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. These two factors, in my opinion, are significant in explaining why the abortion rates are high, fertility rates are low and the infant mortality rate is low, and why Cuba continues to stand out in the health sector among the rest of its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.
Friday, February 2, 2007
The article in question is Dorschner's piece titled "Infant mortality rate in Cuba raises eyebrows", which tries to cast doubt on Cuba's infant mortality statistic. Dorschner writes that "[s]ome doctors say they were told to use any means possible to keep the infant mortality rate low." Dorschner relies on two former Cuban doctors, who are now living in the US, and two academic professors (Cuban studies experts) to support the claim that "abortion is a tool used to keep infant mortality low".
This story in the Blogosphere was met with proud confirmation that "Cuba's much touted free healthcare system is starting to be exposed as the propaganda myth that it is," and also that it "reveals another horror about the Cuban revolution: The forced killing of unborn children in order to hold down the regime's infant mortality rate." Obviously, according to these bloggers, the purpose of this evil scheme is so "the regime and its international apologists can confidently use the infant mortality statistics to counter concerns about Castro's otherwise nasty and oppressive record."
Thursday, February 1, 2007
This seems like a personal grievance, but allow me to present a clear example.
I was recently shocked to see that on December 6, 2006, the Miami Herald devoted only 433 words to the latest report on health in the US, while on January 17, 2007, the Herald devoted 1120 words to continued speculation on Fidel Castro's health.
This is an astonishing example of how priorities at the Miami Herald are gravely misplaced.
John Dorschner, health reporter for the Herald, essentially wrote a very brief summary of the annual report titled "America's Health Ranking's." This report, compiled by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association, Partnership for Prevention and other collaborations, is perhaps the most detailed report on the nation's health. Dorschner's piece titled "Florida drops a spot to No. 41 for healthcare", which appeared nicely on top of page 6A, but dominated by the presence of New York's ban on trans fat, saved only the last few paragraphs to describe the real impact of the report: that the nation's health has "stagnated" since 2000, obesity levels are "alarming", and that the US has fallen behind international health standards among the industrialized nations.
Yet, on January 17, 2007, John Dorschner and Nancy San Martin devoted 1120 words to a story on Fidel Castro's intestines, based on anonymous sources from Spain of course. This is tragic. Why couldn't it have been the other way around, with the nation's health receiving 1120 words instead of 433?
Why hadn't the nation's health appear on the front page that day, while a piece on how Hugo Chavez uses Jesus Christ as a socialist inspiration does? Actually, what should have happened was that the Chavez piece, which was 336 words, should have been scrapped, and the nation's health should have been given its appropriate space on the front, and with 769 words total to better summarize the health report.
There's no excuse for such unfair coverage.
This is coming from a man who, according to the Cuban government, was part of an exile mercenary group and was imprisoned in Cuba for 22 years on charges of participating in terrorism operations in 1968. Yet, after all that time, he still speaks of "el sagrado compromiso" (the sacred pledge) "to fight (or struggle) to free Cuba without counting on anybody, nor asking permission from anyone, whatever the price may be."
This is the prevailing rhetoric supporting Carriles and of those who call for his release in Miami.
In reality, there is plenty of evidence against Carriles for his complicity in the Cubana airline bombing of 1976. He even has his own section of declassified documents at the National Security Archive which shows that he was a primary suspect by US intelligence before and after the bombing.
You can also read about how he escaped from prison with the help of Cuban American exiles in Miami. Carriles was interviewed extensively by reporter Ann Louise Bardach on several occasions, and she writes that "Posada acknowledged that he might well still be in jail if friends, such as Jorge Mas Canosa, had not come to his rescue."
He may be a freedom fighter to some in Miami, but he's definitely NOT INNOCENT.
[*]Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez - Radio Mambi: "En Caliente" Morning Show (January 12, 2007)
Currently, Luis Posada Carriles is being held in a US federal prison for charges of fraud connected to his illegal entrance and false immigrant application into the US. And, just this morning in Miami, cries of injustice continue to be called out on the radio. Callers to Radio Mambi, one of Carriles' main supporters for his release, ask Armando Perez-Roura on his morning show: where's justice for this freedom fighter who was already aquitted for his crimes? And, there's a silence. It's a silence that belongs to those baffled with simple logic, based on a false premise. One of the hosts on Radio Mambi's morning show, Enrique Encinosa, responds that there is a lot international pressure in the case of Carriles, but mainly that "para los communistas no importa"[*](it doesn't matter to the Communists) if Carriles has been aquitted.
The truth is that Luis Posada Carriles has NOT been aquitted. Yet, it seems that THIS doesn't matter to Enrique Encinosa, and others who believe that Carriles is an innocent man.
The best clarification of Carriles' false "veil of innocence" has come from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. They write that:
"Posada was first tried before a military tribunal, which acquitted him of the crime of treason. However, a higher military court found that the lower one lacked jurisdiction and annulled the entire case, which was then handed off to the civil courts. They would have prima facie jurisdiction over Posada, as he was at the time a citizen of Venezuela. Initially, the prosecutors in the civil case declined to try him; their replacements, however, saw fit to bring homicide charges against Posada, and it was during this period that he escaped from prison.
"To Posada’s potential benefit, many have interpreted this lack of a verdict to mean that two Venezuelan courts have found him innocent of terrorism. However, neither of the legal actions against him carried any precedential effect. The military tribunal annulment effectively wiped the slate clean, resetting the entire judicial process and leaving all parties situated as if no legal action had ever occurred.
"In the final analysis, Posada was in the process of facing prosecution for a major crime at the time when he escaped from Venezuela."
This description is supported by the official statements of the Venezuelan Embassy in the US. They say:
"The history of the litigation in Venezuela that shows that after litigation in the military tribunals, the case was annulled on March 24, 1983, because it was conducted in the wrong forum. Subsequently, it was sent to the penal courts where, prior to a verdict by the court, Posada escaped from prison in San Juan de los Morros in Guárico state on August 18, 1985... The statutory period for trying the case has not lapsed, because according to Article 110 of the Penal Code, the statute of limitation is tolled for a fugitive until a new legal action is taken."
This is why the Venezuelan government continues to demand for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles from the US, who together have extradition obligations to fulfill. This demand for extradition was also supported by virtually all the countries in Latin America at the 2005 Ibero-American Summit where they agreed on such a resolution.
The case of Luis Posada Carriles is pretty clear in Latin America: he's a terrorist that should be extradited and tried for his charges in Venezuela. But, here in Miami, its a totally different story.
[*]Enrique Encinosa - Radio Mambi: "En Caliente" Morning Show (February 1, 2007)