Category Archives: Cuba

Does Cuba Get an MLB Team Now?

The Cuban players never gave up and fought to the end. Team Cuba ...So, there have been 181 Major League Baseball players from Cuba [population 11 million], 230 from Puerto Rico [population 3.5 million] [which is kind of like America, despite its second class political status], and 557 from the Dominican Republic [population 9.5 million].

My friend, who cares not about baseball, asked me last week what normalized American relations with Cuba would mean for the MLB.

And my skin tingled.

Some facts to ponder:

  1. The MLB has been in Canada. Still is. So foreign countries aren’t a problem.
  2. Washington, DC has a team, and it’s not even a state.
  3. Cuba is closer to continental USA than Montreal was.
  4. Cuba has a large and INCREDIBLY COMMITTED fan base, and their players had to leap over the defection hurdle to get to play, so there are likely more professional calibre players than that 181.
  5. If Cuba gets a team, the DR and PR would have a pretty strong case of “us too.” Then maybe Mexico and Venezuela.

So, I’ll be pondering this for 2015.

Mandela Was More Radical Than Most Know

Well, I miss Mandela. The post-Mandela world is sadly less colourful. While all sorts of people, including reprobate politicians in Canada laud him for this and that, it’s important to remember that he never seemed to angle for being a darling of right wing, neoliberal libertarian freedom fighters.

Here are some items we should all remember. If any of this is new to you, click the link at the bottom to flesh out the details. You won’t regret it.

1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.

2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”

3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists without due process.

4. Mandela called out racism in America.

5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies.

6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.

Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About | ThinkProgress.

GlobalTV Mocks Hurricane Deaths

Frankenstorm Promo

How would you feel about a news organization that treats a hurricane as a campy Halloween ratings booster? I’m appalled. Click on “Frankenstorm Promo” above and watch the above clip from GlobalTV last Thursday night.

Hurricane Sandy has killed dozens already and will likely kill more as it runs aground today in the northeast where tens of millions live.

I was stunned to see the jovial treatment that news broadcasters were taking to a subject packed with such calamity.

Cynically, it appears that an attempt to create levity about such an impending disaster is a compelling way to boost ratings to earn more profits for GlobalTV “News” when in reality they should take a more responsible approach.

In the end, I’m shocked, but sadly, not at all surprised.

Healthcare Before Olympics: Michael Moore-Style

Corey Rollins -

We’re days away from the end of the $8 billion obscene Olympic party. Last year, BC’s health authorities were defunded by $360 million. Cut, cut, cut.

Soon the 16-day bash will be over, the guests will leave and we’ll return the empties. Then we’ll walk around the house and tally up the damage. Holes kicked in walls, broken vases, cracked bathroom mirrors, something weird in the carpet that will never come out.

Less than a week after the Olympics end there will be a federal and provincial budget. Expect “tough choices”, which is what neoliberals say when they plan to further separate the rich from the poor.

So in thinking about Danny Williams flying to Florida for minor heart surgery, I went out retrieving this fantastic Olympic maimed-mascot poster.

I also came across something from Michael Moore, from long before Sicko: “The Healthcare Olympics.”

The best part is that Bob Costas, in town now to narrate the Olympics with NBC, is a narrator of this almost 20-year-old piece. Enjoy!

Memo to Harper: Bush Doesn’t Have Your Back Anymore

Someone should really tell the prime minister that George w.Caesar doesn’t have his back on angry imperialist rhetoric anymore.

It’s one thing for Ignatieff to sit quietly, saying nothing, waiting for the economy to implode Harper’s government, but for Harper to show that he still thinks the Bush Doctrine rules the world means his crash will be profound when the federal Liberals pull the plug on this version of their coalition with the Conservatives.

These tidy morsels from this great CP piece below are precious:

  • “Harper took an alternate tack at the summit, waving the banner of free trade as often as possible.” Forget about how neoliberal free trade is largely responsible for our current crisis in capitalism.
  • Harper’s goals: to “maximize the benefits of increased trade and investment”
  • Harper’s new bff, the president of the Dominican Republic: “Of course, with the financial and economic global crisis, that’s the…main problem, the main concern, but this doesn’t mean that free trade for some countries is not in their best interest.” Yes, black is black and white is white, but that doesn’t mean that black can’t also be white. 
  • “Harper spoke of ‘antagonists,’ ‘cold war socialism’ and ‘rogue nations when referring to countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, declaring himself an ‘anti-Communist conservative’ in an interview with right-wing American TV channel Fox News at the summit.” Charming how Harper’s vision of Canada is filtered through Fox News.

Leaders declare Americas summit a success thanks to Obama

Published Sunday April 19th, 2009

Jennifer Ditchburn, THE CANADIAN PRESS

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The hemispheric summit that leaders feared would implode over Washington’s chilly relations with Cuba and Venezuela was declared a success Sunday, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other key players tipping their hats to American President Barack Obama.

Leaders emerged from a retreat at the Summit of the Americas on Sunday unable to sign a wordy final declaration because of reservations by Venezuela and others who wanted stronger language on Cuba and the world financial crisis.

Still, they reached a consensus on adopting a shorter final statement, and more importantly nobody left slamming the door as happened at the last summit in 2005.

There were no confrontations between the Americans and some of their rivals. Instead, there were handshakes and Obama’s photo-friendly smile. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez said he’d like to send an ambassador back to Washington.

The chemistry was key, as host Prime Minister Patrick Manning noted.

“We all came here I think believing that we would have quite a battle among the radically different perspectives that exist on certain subjects…that did not materialize, in fact we saw the opposite,” Harper said a closing news conference. “We saw the replacement of confrontation by dialogue, a very good dialogue.”

Harper joined several others in saluting Obama for his landmark speech Friday evening, in which he brought a message of partnership with the hemisphere based on mutual respect and dignity. Obama also acknowledged certain failures in American foreign policy, including its enforcement based drug policy.

Obama repeated his call for a new American policy in the hemisphere at a news conference Sunday. He noted how many countries are supportive of Cuba precisely because of its humanitarian efforts – it sends thousands of doctors to developing countries.

“That’s why it’s so important that in our interactions, not just here in the hemisphere but around the world, that we recognize that our military power is just one arm of our power, and we have to use our diplomatic and development aid in more intelligent ways so people can see more concrete improvements in the lives of their peoples as a consequence of U.S. foreign policy,” Obama told reporters.

He said there had been promising signs in relations between his country and Cuba and Venezuela, but that the real test would come from the actions that followed after the summit.

The issue of Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American family and future summits was pushed off to the general assembly later this spring of the Organization of American States (OAS). The prime minister did not comment on how Canada would vote at the meeting.

Harper took an alternate tack at the summit, waving the banner of free trade as often as possible.

One of his final acts of the summit was to sweeten the pot for countries Canada is negotiating with, earmarking an extra $18 million in aid over five years to help them “maximize the benefits of increased trade and investment.”

His call for open markets found some allies.

The president of Dominican Republic said he was keen to advance negotiations with Canada for a free trade deal.

“We see trade as part of development, it’s not just trade per se – it’s trade related to development,” Leonel Fernandez told a group of Canadian reporters.

“Of course, with the financial and economic global crisis, that’s the…main problem, the main concern, but this doesn’t mean that free trade for some countries is not in their best interest.”

Harper also adopted strikingly different language than Obama.

Where Obama urged countries in his stirring speech Friday against focusing on ideological labels such as capitalist or socialist, Harper spoke of “antagonists,” “cold war socialism” and “rogue nations” when referring to countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, declaring himself an “anti-Communist conservative” in an interview with right-wing American TV channel Fox News at the summit.

His spokesman continually referred to Latin America as Canada’s “backyard” in a briefing to kick off the meeting.

Some Canadian observers said Harper seemed to misread the tone of the summit, where many countries – and not just the “rogue nations” such as Venezuela and Bolivia – have been feeling a strong domestic backlash against trade liberalization.

Opposition to a Free Trade Area of the Americas was the principal reason the last summit fell apart.

Carlo Dade, executive director of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, gave Harper points for announcing a $4 billion financial guarantee for the Inter-American Bank (IDB), a move that he said took leadership in the hemisphere.

The financial crisis was by far the main preoccupation of countries represented at the summit.

But Dade said focusing on trade was an ill-advised strategy at a moment when many are resentful of trade – part of the reason figures such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales have emerged.

“There’s a lot of blame going on for the financial crisis on trade liberalization,” said Dade, who has been attending summit-related events. “Some countries have suffered in trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. They’re not like Canadian agreements…but (the government) hasn’t done the work to differentiate Canada from this.”

The damage that organized drug crime has inflicted on the region would have been a good topic to raise, Dade added.

Canada is seeing this reticence clearly in its dealings with Caribbean leaders. The 15 members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been dragging their heels on a free-trade deal with Canada because they would like the deal to include funding that would adjust for any economic losses to their people as a consequence of a pact – this despite the fact Canada is the largest donor to the Caribbean region.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said he and other rights organizations were disappointed that Harper did not couple his rhetoric on trade with a vision for social justice and better protection for human rights.

“It certainly does seem that’s he’s been a bit of a solitary voice around this vision of free trade being the answer to all of the woes in the Americas,” Neve said.

“It seems pretty clear that a lot of the other leaders have either moved on from there, or while still interested feel there are other more pressing priorities that really need attention here.”

Harper arrived in Jamaica Sunday evening for an official visit, where he is expected to address a joint session of Parliament.

Diplomatic Engagement 101

In case anyone wondered how actually one [like a president, some members of Congress or a Canadian prime minister] would go about practicing diplomacy on the international stage, here are two examples from today alone.

I think this is why there used to be a red phone on a desk in the oval office:

The Obama administration said Wednesday it will participate directly in group talks with Iran over its suspect nuclear program, another significant shift from President George W. Bush’s policy toward a nation he labeled part of an axis of evil.

via US to attend group nuclear talks with Iran.

And then…

A “very energetic, very clear-thinking … very engaging” Fidel Castro met the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on its weekend visit to Cuba.

“And so all we’re saying is, do we need to move forward to have constructive dialogue based on national sovereignty and mutual respect? And members of our delegation believe that that’s the case.”

via – Obama to be pressed on Cuba before summit.

See? That wasn’t so hard!

But then unbalanced Canadian prime ministers like Harper need to have a bad guy to rhetorically throttle now and again to build up their ego. If it isn’t George Galloway or Abousfian Abdelrazik it needs to be some kind of axis of evil.

Aren’t we yet done with that kind of bravado, when the perfect storm of  peak oil, a climate crisis and an economic meltdown from the rapacious nature of capitalism are stunting the required process of building resilience?

I’m tired of it all. How about you?

The Venezuelan-Russia-USA Dance

We should all be noting a few things about escalating dance between the USA and Venezuela.

A few months ago, after 58 years of being a part of the larger US Second Fleet, the USA reconstituted its Fourth Fleet to enhance its presence in its traditional sphere of influence: Latin America, perhaps the most successful political opposition to the USA’s imperial positions of late, with an electoral machine opposing US hegemony virtually consistently.

And as much as Venezuela is increasing its trade relations with China, the next economic superpower after the USA economically implodes, Chavez has been talking with Russia about getting technology to become the third South American country to develop nuclear energy capacity, while working on joint naval operations with Russia.

Hawks in the USA spins this as reminiscent of one to three generations ago of the Russian Bear infiltrating the USA’s sphere of influence, the sphere itself being an inherently arrogant and imperialist assertion. The Soviet Union’s involvement in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America freaked out the USA during the Cold War. Russian-Venezuelan cooperation on the military and nuclear energy has the potential to either provoke an increasingly desperate and declining empire to rash actions, or more hopefully, to let the increasingly more introspective and protectionist USA know that just because they are part of the Americas doesn’t mean they’re in charge.

And unlike the first 9/11 in Chile in 1973 where the Americans coordinated a coup of the democratically elected government and installed Pinochet, the hemisphere won’t go quietly.

Why I’d Rather Cast a Ballot in Venezuela than Canada or the USA

With Canada’s 19th-century first past the post electoral system and the USA’s rampant electoral fraud and conflicts of interest, voting in Venezuela seems like a tonic.

And in Venezuela’s recent referendum on political change that failed by roughly the same infinitesimal vote as Quebec’s referendum failed a decade or so ago, the North American media cabal is decrying it a triumphant victory for freedom fighters.

Despite that hyperbole, Venezuela’s democracy receives most of my envy. Why?

Here’s why:

Venezuela is Not Florida

By Mark Weisbrot

December 5, 2007, McClatchy Tribune Information Services

Last Monday, with less than 90 percent of the vote counted and the opposition leading by just 50.7 percent to 49.3 percent, President Chavez congratulated his opponents on their victory. They had defeated his proposed constitutional reforms, including the abolition of term limits for the presidency.

No one should have been surprised by Chavez’s immediate concession: Venezuela is a constitutional democracy, and its government has stuck to the democratic rules of the game since he was first elected in 1998. Despite the non-renewal of the broadcast license for a major TV station in May – one that wouldn’t have gotten a license in any democratic country – Venezuela still has the most oppositional media in the hemisphere. But the U.S. media has managed to convey the impression to most Americans that Venezuela is some sort of dictatorship or near-dictatorship.

Some of this disinformation takes place through mere repetition and association (e.g. “communist Cuba” appearing in thousands of news reports) — just as 70 percent of Americans were convinced, prior to the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the massacres of September 11. In that case, the major media didn’t even believe the message, but somehow it got across and provided justification for the war.

In the case of Venezuela, the media is more pro-active, with lots of grossly exaggerated editorials and op-eds, news articles that sometimes read like editorials, and a general lack of balance in sources and subject matter.

But Venezuela is not Pakistan. In fact, it’s not Florida or Ohio either. One reason that Chavez could be confident of the vote count is that Venezuela has a very secure voting system. This is very different from the United States, where millions of citizens cast electronic votes with no paper record. Venezuelan voters mark their choice on a touch-screen machine, which then records the vote and prints out a paper receipt for the voter. The voter then deposits the vote in a ballot box. An extremely large random sample – about 54 percent – of the paper ballots are counted and compared with the electronic tally.

If the two counts match, then that is a pretty solid guarantee against electronic fraud. Any such fraud would have to rig the machines and stuff the ballot boxes to match them – a trick that strains the imagination.

In 2007, Venezuelans once again came in second for all of Latin America in the percentage of citizens who are satisfied or very satisfied with their democracy, according to the prestigious Chilean polling firm Latinobarometro – 59 percent, far above the Latin American average of 37 percent.

It is not only the secure elections that are responsible for this result – it is also that the government has delivered on its promises to share the nation’s oil wealth with the poor and the majority. For most people – unlike the pundits here – voting for something and actually getting what you voted for are also an important part of democracy.

The Bush Administration has consistently sought regime change in Venezuela, even before Chavez began regularly denouncing “the Empire.” According to the U.S. State Department, Washington funded leaders and organizations involved in the coup which briefly overthrew Chavez’s democratically elected government in April 2002. The Washington Post reported this week that the Bush Administration has been funding unnamed student groups, presumably opposition, up to and including this year.

Venezuela must be seen as undemocratic, and Chavez as the aggressor against the United States, in order to justify the Bush Administration’s objective of regime change. As in the run-up to the Iraq war, most of the major media are advancing the Administration’s goals, regardless of the intentions of individual journalists.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.

USA vs. Iran and Cubazuela

When w.Caesar should be gracefully entering his presidential lame duck status and thinking about who to pardon [whoops, he already got on that with Scooter Libby], he is instead feeding warm, bleeding horse meat to the dogs of war.

From today’s Washington Post:

In approving far-reaching, new unilateral sanctions against Iran, President Bush signaled yesterday that he intends to pursue a strategy of gradually escalating financial, diplomatic and political pressure on Tehran, aimed not at starting a new war in the Middle East, his advisers said, but at preventing one. …With yesterday’s actions, which included the long-awaited designations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism, Bush made clear that he is willing to seek such leverage even without the support of his European allies.

I seem to remember the rhetoric in late 2002. Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and that despite all the OCD midnight rifle barrel cleaning, w.Caesar only wanted peace, until the UN Security Council wouldn’t sanction the US invasion plans making him invade with his ethereal Coalition of the Willing instead of Old Europe.

Life is rarely this simple: listen to politicians so that we can believe the opposite of what they say. w.Caesar is good for that.

Moving on to our own hemisphere, w.Caesar can’t stand anti-neoliberal, democratically elected leftist governments in Latin America.

Responding to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who said that Hugo Chavez is a “threat to regional stability,” Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez affirmed that Hugo Chavez is indeed a “tremendous threat” to the “empires of the world,” and assured they would continue to be a “greater threat” as time goes on. “Of course he [Chavez] is a threat to the stability of the empires of the world, for those who consider themselves the world police, for those who think they have a right to invade countries and massively murder the population,” replied the Venezuelan vice-president to a recent statement made by Robert Gates during a visit to El Salvador. …

Gates then warned that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was mainly a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the people of Venezuela.” According to Gates, Chavez “has been very generous in offering their resources to people around the world, when perhaps these resources could be better used to alleviate some of the economic problems facing the people of Venezuela.”

Gates should have said the word “rich” when he called Chavez a “threat to the freedom and economic prosperity of the rich people of Venezuela.” Conveniently, Gates ignored all domestic economic and social reform in Venezuela.

I’m not entirely comfortable with Hugo Chavez’s desire to have decree power. When he has such legislative support, I’m not sure it’s necessary. The USA criticizes Venezuela as being dictatorial, despite its electoral unambiguity compared with Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 and hundreds of other jurisdictions with Republican electoral fraud this decade. Add to this a steaming pile of soft fascism in the USA and we get a sense of US hypocrisy: w.Caesar’s signing statements asserting which parts of legislation the executive branch will not obey, and this tasty list of Amnesty International’s worries about the land of the free and the home of the brave that sounds quite a bit like Chile after 9.11.1973:

  • Secret detention
  • Enforced disappearance
  • Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Outrages upon personal dignity, including humiliating treatment
  • Denial and restriction of habeas corpus
  • Indefinite detention without charge or trial
  • Prolonged incommunicado detention
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Unfair trial procedures

So then yesterday when w.Caesar warned the world that there will be a transition coming in Cuba [presumably when Castro dies], but Cubazuela responded assertively:

“He spoke like an imperialist and a colonialist,” said Venezuelan parliamentarian Saul Ortega about Bush’s statements. Ortega assured that the reaction to these threats will be increased unity among the people of Latin America. “In response we have to close ranks in defense of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination,” he said.

Vice-foreign minister Rodolfo Sanz assured that the United States was making a mistake with their statements towards Cuba and maintained that the “times have changed.”

“We aren’t going to sit here with our arms crossed before some diabolic adventure,” he said. Sanz assured that the Cuban people can count on support from nations like Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, among others, stating that “Cuba is not alone.”

The boldness of the Latin American political economic agenda in the last decade is a testament to the recovery of economic shock, terror and genocide visited upon them by Milton Friedman and his neoliberal storm troopers over the last 35 years. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine‘s final chapter talks about how when people or cultures rebuild their communities and name their oppressors when they recover from shock. This is the spirit in which Cubazuela has responded to w.Caesar’s signaling of regime change in Cuba. Let’s be honest. The US corporate interests in Cuba are legion. Cuba will become the next Haiti as Canada and the US have squashed hope into desperation there.

Words like diabolic, imperialist, colonialist, sovereignty, self-determination and the simple phrase–times have changed–indicate that a Grenada-style hemispheric military excursion into Cuba will not easily guarantee the Republicans’ retention of the White House or a recovery of Congress.

Cuba is indeed not alone. The whole hemisphere is tilted against w.Caesar with the exception of business/media elites and the apolitical or ignorant, RRSP-hoarding, gadget-worshipping [dwindling numbers of the] middle class in NAFTAland and Latin American compradors.

And with the record oil profits that w.Caesar has facilitated as he helped oil pass $80 a barrel, he has ended up funding Venezuela’s upgrading of its military.

Back to Naomi Klein, however, to follow her thesis: war is good for corporate profitability and the GDP. Peace impairs economic growth. So it might not even matter to the disaster/conflict capitalists that a war with Iran or Cubazuela is just, desirable or winnable. It’s just another opportunity to bankrupt governments and shift public wealth to global corporations.

Luckily the other Naomi [Wolf] and thousands of others including have started what will hopefully be a 54 week campaign for Americans to steal back their constitution.

The rest of our hemisphere better get on [not off!] our asses and support them in their attempt to stifle w.Caesar’s soft fascism before it grows horns and starts sending Blackwater mercenaries into US streets. Oh, I forgot. It is already be too
late for that since they’ve been in New Orleans.