21 February 2009

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom

MSNBC reports and The Latin Americanist posts,

Colom said Tuesday that "Cuba deserves its own destiny, a destiny that you all built with this revolution of 50 years."

"Defend it," he said, referring to the guerrilla uprising that brought Castro to power on Jan. 1, 1959. "Defend it like you have always done."

Colom's comments drew sustained applause from his Cuban audience.

Like Cubans, Guatemalans harbor a deep resentment toward the United States for past violence. The CIA helped topple the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 and Washington backed a series of hardline military and civilian governments during that country's 36-year civil war, in which 200,000 Guatemalans died or disappeared before peace accords were signed in December 1996.

Ramiro Valdes Menendez

as reported by AP and posted on MiamiHearld.com:

Posted on Fri, Feb. 20, 2009

Cuba makes Ramiro Valdes, 2 others Cabinet VPs

Cuba has promoted revolutionary commander Ramiro Valdes Menendez and two others to the posts of vice presidents of its Cabinet.

Valdes was a leader of the rebel force that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959. He is a communist hard-liner and former interior minister who has been communications minister since 2006.

Also promoted as Transportation Minister Jorge Luis Sierra and Agriculture Minister Ulises Rosales Toro, an army general.

Cuba's top governing body is the Council of State, which ordered the promotions that were announced Friday in Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Vice presidents of the Cabinet are not considered vice presidents of the country.

16 February 2009

Brandon Neely

Army Private Brandon Neely, who “served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation” is obviously not sleeping well.

Human Rights lawyer Scott Horton reflects,

[Brandon Neely] describes body searches undertaken for no legitimate security purpose, simply to sexually invade and humiliate the prisoners. This was a standardized Bush Administration tactic–the importance of which became apparent to me when I participated in some Capitol Hill negotiations with White House representatives relating to legislation creating criminal law accountability for contractors. The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgement that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes.

Quite apart my revulsion, I cannot understand how the Bush administration could have ordered this sort despicable behavior knowing that it would occur on Cuba, a country where the West was all but convinced that the Cuban government was among the worst abusers of prisoners.

Whatever Human Rights edge we may have thought we had, the Cubans are going to enjoy throwing it back at us.

Those, I suggest, are the negotiations you send self-righteous Hillary Clinton to.

h/t Andrew Sullivan

07 February 2009

'Sphere of Influence"

Binden used the historically significant phrase "sphere of influence." I've read many times US officials use the phrase to affirm their rights in Latin America, especially Cuba:

"We will not recognise any nation having a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances," Biden said. "But the United States and Russia can disagree and still work together where our interests coincide and they coincide in many places."

He also talked about Iran, but did not answer Iran's claim that they need to develop their energy supply, which is a valid argument many non-aligned nations make.

I think that there is an opportunity for the UN to develop nuclear facilities on a regional basis in order to meet a baseline for the world, while assuring safety better than we can trust individual governments.

Reuters on Binden via TPM