Latin America

African-Americans in Cuba race protest

Via CNN:

A group of prominent African-Americans has challenged Cuba’s race record, accusing the island nation of harassing its black citizens and cracking down on civil rights activists.

Sixty intellectuals and artists, including Princeton University professor Cornel West, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and actress Ruby Dee, have signed a declaration of protest.

State violence in Cuba

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez describes a gangland-style kidnapping by Cuban government agents, in which she and some of her colleagues were severely beaten:

The curious crowded around and I shouted, “Help, these men want to kidnap us,” but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, “Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.” In the face of our verbal resistance they made a phone call and said to someone who must have been the boss, “What do we do? They don’t want to get in the car.” I imagine the answer from the other side was unequivocal, because then came a flurry of punches and pushes, they got me with my head down and tried to push me into the car. I held onto the door… blows to my knuckles… I managed to take a paper one of them had in his pocket and put it in my mouth. Another flurry of punches so I would return the document to them.

Orlando was already inside, immobilized by a karate hold that kept his head pushed to the floor. One put his knee in my chest and the other, from the front seat, hit me in my kidneys and punched me in the head so I would open my mouth and spit out the paper. At one point I felt I would never leave that car. “This is as far as you’re going, Yoani,” “I’ve had enough of your antics,” said the one sitting beside the driver who was pulling my hair. In the back seat a rare spectacle was taking place: my legs were pointing up, my face reddened by the pressure and my aching body, on the other side Orlando brought down by a professional at beating people up. I just managed to grab, through his trousers, one’s testicles, in an act of desperation. I dug my nails in, thinking he was going to crush my chest until the last breath. “Kill me now,” I screamed, with the last inhalation I had left in me, and the one in front warned the younger one, “Let her breathe.”

Hat tip: Harry’s Place

Breaking the chains – Generacion Y

Via Harry’s Place: At Generacion Y, Yoani Sanchez describes a visit to the offices of the Cuban interior ministry for questioning about an upcoming meeting of Cuban bloggers. She encapsulates the message she was given by interior ministry officials like this:

We want to warn you that you have transgressed all the limits of tolerance with your rapprochement and contacts with counter-revolutionary elements. This totally disqualifies you for dialog with Cuban authorities.

The activities planned for the coming days cannot be carried out.

We, for our part, will take all measures, make the relevant denunciations and take the necessary actions. This activity, in this moment in the life of the Nation, recuperating from two hurricanes, will not be allowed.

Generacion Y is remarkable for candidly reflecting daily life in Raul Castro’s Cuba – a land that in some respects is uncertainly turning to the West, but where the government is still locked in most of the totalitarian reflexes of the past, and where ordinary people are still held hostage in conditions of state-imposed poverty and information control. The blog – published both in English and in Spanish – provides a much-needed antidote to the false revolutionary romanticism of Cuban government supporters like the American actor Sean Penn. For a critical dissection of the attitudes and sentiments of the latter, see this post by Marc Cooper.

Allusions to the past

1) The two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers, which Russian media sources say were intercepted twice by NATO aircraft over Iceland and the Norwegian Sea  on their way westward, landed at Venezuela’s El Libertador air base on the eve of the significant date of September 11.

Their presence is intended as a “warning” to the U.S.

President Hugo Chavez said yesterday: “It’s a warning. Russia is with us. … We are strategic allies. It is a message to the empire.”

2) “For those with a sense of history, a factor behind the 1962 Cuban missile crisis was Washington’s deployment of Atlas IRBMs in Italy and Turkey, which, in the wake of the confrontation, Washington quietly agreed to remove, as the development of ballistic missile submarines, the final component of Washington’s nuclear triad, obviated the need for forward basing of nuclear missiles off Russia’s southern shore. Forty years later, Turkey, sea power, and the Caribbean as subplots in rising U.S.-Russian tensions seem as interconnected as ever.” (John C. K. Daly)

Venezuela exercises to include land-based Russian anti-submarine aircraft

An interfax report dated September 8 says that during the joint Russia-Venezuela naval exercises to be held in the Caribbean in November, Russia plans to temporarily deploy anti-submarine aircraft at air bases on Venezuelan territory.

The warships scheduled to take part in the exercises include the “Pyotr Velikii” heavy atomic missile cruiser and the “Admiral Chabanenko” anti-submarine ship, according to the report which cites information given by Russian foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

Cheney on Russia, Georgia and Israel; Venezuela-Russia exercises

At the Ambrosetti Forum being held at Villa d’Este, Cernobbio, Italy, US vice president Dick Cheney has made a statement on the current situation in Georgia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Excerpt:

In the space of the last 30 days, Russia has violated the sovereignty of a democracy; made and then breached a solemn agreement, in a direct affront to the European Union; severely damaged its credibility and global standing; and undermined its own relations with the United States and other countries.

This chain of aggressive moves and diplomatic reversals has only intensified the concern that many have about Russia’s larger objectives. For brutality against a neighbor is simply the latest in a succession of troublesome and unhelpful actions by the Russian government.

Haaretz reports that

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met with [Israel’s] President Shimon Peres on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti forum on the edge of Italy’s Lake Como on Saturday, telling the Israeli leader that Russia is selling arms to Damascus and Iran with the clear knowledge that they are being channeled to Hezbollah and terror groups in Iraq.

The American vice president later reiterated these remarks in his address at the economic conference, saying that “Russian arms dealing in the Middle East has endangered the prospects for peace and freedom in the region.” He added that the Russian leaders view democracy as a direct threat to their regime. Russia crossed a clear line when it invaded Georgia and attacked democracy and the rights of innocent civilians, Cheney said.

Meanwhile, The BBC reports a senior Venezuelan naval officer as saying that four Russian ships will take part in joint naval exercises, which will also involve Venezuelan aircraft and submarines, to be held in Venezuelan territorial waters (i.e. the Caribbean) in November. This can perhaps be seen as Russia’s response, flagged by Putin on September 2, to NATO’s current presence in the Black Sea.

CSTO fails to recognize S. Ossetia, Abkhazia

Disappointing the Kremlin’s hopes, CSTO heads (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan) meeting in Moscow have failed to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Yezhednevny zhurnal notes.

This leaves Nicaragua’s Iran-friendly Daniel Ortega as the only foreign head of state to have taken steps towards the recognition of the breakaway provinces, though his decree still has to be approved by parliament.