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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 151,960

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From Cuba to North Korea: Torture Disappears From the Media

From Cuba to North Korea: Torture Disappears From the Media
Monday, 29 December 2014 15:01
By Pierre Guerlain, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Hardly had the good news that the US would stop its policy of isolation of Cuba and open an embassy on the Island state when a news item about North Korea captured the airwaves and the Internet. The torture report, or rather the summary of the redacted Senate report on torture, disappeared from the headlines to remain in the alternative media only. Can there be a link between all these events or even a deliberate act on the part of the newsmakers, or is that a stretch too far?

The torture investigation and the publication of a minimal but revealing summary had immense international resonance. Suddenly, the US lost its grandstanding, hectoring, lecturing posture. Countries that have themselves less than a stellar record on human rights, such as China or Russia or even, yes, North Korea, could laugh out loud and denounce the hypocritical "leader of the free world." If the US tortures, then it is in no position to moralize or blame others for their violations of human rights. Human rights then become a fig leaf, a propaganda move to be invoked in a Machiavellian way only to demean enemies.

Torture is a clearly illegal, immoral and terrible violation of human rights and humanitarian law and its use by the country praising and vowing to export democracy undermines the very idea of human rights and respect for international law. In terms of image, the torture report was extremely negative for the US. I say "was," for it soon disappeared from view although key issues were not resolved and there is no investigation of the torturers and their enablers or order-givers in sight. The world was "shocked but not surprised," to use the same expression an official of Human Rights Watch used on "Democracy Now!" given that reports about torture Abu Ghraib and Bagram had reached the eyes or ears of those who wanted to know a long time before the Senate confirmed their worst fears.

Torture was sidelined by the news about Cuba - which all progressives, of course, welcomed, since peace and diplomacy are always preferable to bombs, undercover operations and spying. After 50 years of stealth operations by the US and repression in Cuba, a new era seems to be dawning. Progressives from Latin America to Asia and Europe cheered Obama. Talking to one's enemies is always preferable to bombing them and causing backlash. Obama was lambasted by some segments of the right, but his decision is popular among Americans and even more so abroad. Even sectors of the business world rejoice over the opportunities normalization will afford them.

Yet Obama decided immediately to resort to the same methods of isolation and pressure that had largely failed in Cuba (though caused the régime there to become more repressive) in relation to Venezuela. What is happening in Venezuela and the extent to which any violations of human rights there are in part a reaction to international pressure are not clear. What is clear, though, is that the US is using punitive measures to make the country toe the Washington line. With a great deal of help from Saudi Arabia, the Western ally which beheads gay people but is not blamed for it, the price of oil is going down. The US can therefore kill two birds with one stone, if not three birds. Venezuela, like Russia and Iran, is taking a bashing from the rapidly plummeting price of oil. The US shows it still rules the world in economic matters and can obtain what it wants geopolitically by using the money weapon. The news about Venezuela, however, never made the headlines.


Guatemalan Genocide Trial Set to Resume

Guatemalan Genocide Trial Set to Resume

Guatemala's Constitutional Court undid its historic genocide ruling in 2013. The trial is set to resume on January 5, but faces last-ditch efforts to derail it.

By Jo-Marie Burt, December 29, 2014.

On May 10, 2013, a Guatemalan court found former dictator and army general José Efraín Ríos Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. It was an historic decision: the first time a former head of state had been prosecuted successfully in his native country for genocide, and the first time a high-level leader was convicted in Guatemala for the horrendous crimes that took place during that country’s 36-year civil war.

I was in the courtroom the day the verdict was emitted, one of a team of international observers monitoring the process. A court of law weighed the evidence, and found that there had been genocide. The victims, members of the Maya Ixil community, rejoiced at the ruling. It was a vindication of their three-decade struggle to have their pain and suffering acknowledged, and those responsible punished.

However, under pressure by economic elites and sectors of the armed forces, the Constitutional Court undid the ruling just ten days later, arguing a legal technicality. It set the trial back a month and thereby invalidated the verdict.

Domestic and international groups appealed to the Constitutional Court to overturn the ruling, arguing that the proper route to challenge the decision was through a normal appeal process, and that the majority opinion was flawed. Two judges wrote dissenting opinions substantiating these and other points. The Constitutional Court held fast to its decision

A new tribunal was named to oversee the retrial, but claiming that its docket was full, said it would not be able to hear the genocide case until January 2015. In the meantime, the crusading attorney general who was the architect of the genocide case, Claudia Paz y Paz, was forced out of office early, and the presiding trial judge, Yassmín Barrios, has faced legal sanctions and media opprobrium.


Chile seeks overhaul of Pinochet anti-strike laws

Chile seeks overhaul of Pinochet anti-strike laws

December 30, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

SANTIAGO - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet sent a bill to Congress Monday that would overhaul strict anti-strike laws put in place 35 years ago by late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The bill would rewrite the country's 1979 labour code, which allows employers to replace striking workers, forbids strikes outside the realm of salary negotiations and bans unions from negotiating contracts with multiple companies.

We're repaying our debt to Chile's workers, the leftist president said on introducing the bill, which is opposed by businesses and supported by unions.

Currently just 14 percent of workers are unionized in Chile, one of the lowest rates in Latin America.

Bachelet, who was a political prisoner under Pinochet's regime, has made a priority of reforming laws and policies left over from the 1973-1990 dictatorship.


(Short article, no more at link.)

No, Argentina's president did not adopt a Jewish child to stop him turning into a werewolf

No, Argentina's president did not adopt a Jewish child to stop him turning into a werewolf

The chance meeting of a Latin American president with a colourful myth too good to fact-check proved irresistible for many

Uki Goñi in Buenos Aires
Monday 29 December 2014 14.30 EST

[font size=1]
The articles were based on a grain of truth: by tradition, the seventh son (or daughter) born to an Argentine family is
eligible to become the godson (or daughter) of the president. Photograph: Alejandro Pagni/Getty Images

Nope. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has not become godmother of a Jewish baby to stop him from becoming a werewolf – despite what you may have read in multiple news reports.

Over the past few days, the story has been reported and unquestioningly re-reported across the echo chamber of the internet, picked up by news organisations around the world including Haaretz, Buzzfeed, The Independent and The Huffington Post.

Like all good urban myths, the articles were based on a grain of truth: by tradition, the seventh son (or daughter) born to an Argentine family is eligible to become the godson (or daughter) of the president. Until this month, the honour had only been bestowed on Christian babies, but on Wednesday, Iair Tawil – not a baby, but the strapping 21-year old son of a rabbi – became the country’s first Jewish presidential godson.

In her Twitter account, Kirchner described Tawil, 21, as “completely sweet” and lit Hanukkah candles with his family.

But somehow, the story became entangled with the ancient legend of the lobizón (Argentina’s equivalent to the European werewolf). According to some versions of the myth, the seventh son of the seventh son is particularly prone to fall victim to the curse.


Saul Landau on the Cuban Revolution and How the U.S. Directly Aided Anti-Castro Militants

Saul Landau on the Cuban Revolution and How the U.S. Directly Aided Anti-Castro Militants
Thursday, December 25, 2014

As the United States moves to normalize relations with Cuba, we rebroadcast our 2012 interview with the late filmmaker Saul Landau, who made more than 45 films and wrote 14 books, many about Cuba. We spoke to him about his film "Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up." He discussed the history of the Cuban Five and U.S. support for a group of anti-Castro militants who have been behind the bombing of airplanes, the blowing up of hotels and assassinations. Today they are allowed to live freely in the United States. "What did Cuba do to us?" Landau asks. "Well, the answer, I think, is that they were disobedient, in our hemisphere. And they did not ask permission to take away property. They took it away. They nationalized property. And the United States ... has never forgiven them."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The failed U.S. policy against Cuba, which has for more than half a century stifled relations between these neighboring countries and inflicted generations of harm upon the Cuban people, may finally be collapsing. On December 17th, the two countries announced a series of moves to normalize relations. Cuba released Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor, and a Cuban named Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, who spied for the CIA. The United States released the three remaining jailed members of the Cuban Five.

The Cuban Five were arrested in the late '90s on espionage charges here in the U.S., but they weren't spying on the U.S. government. They were in Miami infiltrating Cuban-American paramilitary groups based there that were dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Cuban government.

- Video and Full transcript follow.


Corporate Predators Want Compensation for Lost Cuban Assets They Stole

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Corporate Predators Want Compensation for Lost Cuban Assets They Stole
by Stephen Lendman

They never forget. Or forgive. Even for what happened over half a century ago. When Cuba got back what they stole.

When Castro ousted Fulgencio Batista's despotic rule, he nationalized foreign corporate assets. Originally valued at around $1.8 billion.

At 6% simple interest, now worth around $7 billion. From sugar processing plants, other factories, mines, oil refineries, power plants, hotels, 75% of Cuba's arable land, cattle ranches, other assets.

US companies have 5,913 outstanding claims. Including from ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Freeport-McMoRan, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter and Gamble, Goodyear, Firestone, General Motors, Owens-Illinois, Avon Products, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and many others.

Office Depot is the largest claimant. It wasn't around during the revolution. A Cuban Electric subsidiary supplied over 90% of the island's electricity.

Its nationalized operations included a utility plant. Worth over $200 million at the time. In 1969, Boise Cascade became a majority Cuban Electric owner.


The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

December 28, 2014

Special Report: In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered “perception management” to get the American people to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome” and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy in to endless war, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the U.S. government’s needs.


American travelers ready to cruise into Cuba

Posted 4:00 AM

American travelers ready to cruise into Cuba

Experts say the response has been overwhelming as the U.S. considers changing its travel rules.

By Joshua Partlow The Washington Post

MEXICO CITY — There are the people who want to honeymoon on the same beaches their grandparents did decades ago. Those who want to extend their Florida vacations with a quick jaunt to the island 90 miles south. Those who want to buy the Havana Club rum and the hand-rolled cigars and to see the mid-century jalopies before they disappear. And they want to go today.

“The response in our office has been overwhelming,” said Tom Popper, the president of Insight Cuba, an organization that has been running tours legally to Cuba since 2000. “We’re flooded. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

President Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement of his intention to normalize relations with Cuba and end the Cold War-era standoff has generated massive interest among Americans eager to see the Caribbean island for themselves, according to travel industry professionals. But the regulations that restrict those trips to small-group educational and cultural exchanges are still in place, and it is not clear that they will change dramatically. While it may become easier to join a tour focused on cultural or educational themes, Americans will probably not be able to simply go sip rum in the sunshine.

“There is some lack of clarity of what it will mean,” said Bob Guild, vice president of Marazul Charters, a Miami-based travel agency for Cuba tours.


Bolivia’s ‘black king’ defies slavery’s legacy

Bolivia’s ‘black king’ defies slavery’s legacy
Sunday, December 21, 2014

LA PAZ: He doesn’t have Queen Elizabeth’s throne or Kate and Wills’ paparazzi, but Bolivian peasant Julio Pinedo is New World royalty: a king who inherited his title from his African ancestors.

Pinedo’s calloused hands, the mark of a lifetime of farming, belie the royal blood passed down to him by the Congolese prince Uchicho, who was brought to the Americas as a slave sometime around 1820.

In the nearly two centuries since then, Afro-Bolivians have lost their languages, religions and much of their history, but Pinedo’s family has managed to hold onto its royal heritage.

Today he is recognised as a king by Bolivia’s black community, some 26,000 people descended from the slaves imported to the South American country under Spanish colonial rule from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

Pinedo, 73, lives in the small village of Mururata, about a two-hour drive north of the capital La Paz, where he still goes out to the fields every day to farm citrus fruits, coca and coffee.



Julio Pinedo, Angelica Larrea, son Roland[/center]

Unearthing the Truth: Mexican State Violence Beyond Ayotzinapa

Unearthing the Truth: Mexican State Violence Beyond Ayotzinapa

Declassified files on migrant massacres reveal impunity and Mexican state complicity in human rights atrocities that predate the recent Ayotzinapa disappearances.

Jesse Franzblau

[font size=1]
A woman from the Caravan of Mothers, in search of her children along train tracks (Lucía Vergara)[/font]

“I feel desperate looking for my daughter because I don’t have any proof, I have questions about everything that they’ve done but they never looked for me; they never handed over evidence,” Mirna del Carmen Solórzano told Mexican news outlet Sin Embargo on March 20, 2014. Similar sentiments have been expressed by family members of the 43 Ayotzinapa rural teachers college students who were disappeared on September 26 at the hands of local and federal police reportedly working in coordination with the drug cartel Guerreros Unidos. But in this case, Mirna’s daughter was found dead over four years prior, in a massacre of Central American migrants that foreshadowed what became deafeningly clear in September: that the Mexican state is frequently complicit in the country’s greatest human rights atrocities.

In what is now called the San Fernando Massacre, Mirna’s daughter and 71 other migrants—many en route from Central America to the United States—were captured and murdered in late August 2010. All public accounts indicate they died at the hands of the criminal organization Los Zetas. While the August 2010 San Fernando Massacre was the most well-reported case of migrant abuse in Mexico at the time, known for its scale and level of atrocity, it was only part of a larger pattern of violence targeting migrants, mostly from Central America, traveling north towards the U.S.-Mexico border. While this case may be seemingly unrelated to the abduction of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, developments in accessing information on the former may have implications on efforts to uncover truth and push for accountability for the later.

Slowly, information on the San Fernando massacre and related violence against migrants is surfacing from behind closed government doors. The dramatic increase in U.S. security assistance programs in Mexico—ushered in through the Mérida Initiative inaugurated in 2008—paralleled a surge in internal government reporting produced by U.S. officials. Open-government proponents have used the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain access to these internal files, which illuminate the links between U.S.-funded counter-drug initiatives and human rights abuses. This article cites a collection of formerly secret declassified files, many of which have been published by the U.S.-National Security Archive (NSA), disseminated by investigative journalists from news outlets such as Proceso and Aristegui Noticias in Mexico, cited as evidence in ongoing legal cases, and used for clarification purposes by a network of activists working to defend migrant rights and increase transparency and accountability for migrant abuses. The slow trickle of such files from the U.S. state archives entails essential clues to understanding the migrant massacres, and is informing the civil society response to the Ayotzinapa disappearances today.

U.S. and Mexican documents from 2011 provide details of the role of government officials in violations targeting migrants in Tamaulipas, where the San Fernando Massacre occured, and other regions of Mexico. In January 2011, U.S. Embassy officials reported internally on receiving “anecdotal evidence” that migrant authorities and local police were turning a blind eye or colluding in routine forms of extortion, kidnapping, and trafficking of migrants, emphasizing the role of the state in the violence.

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