Archive for January 8th, 2013

Rubio concerned Hagel called U.S. policy on Cuba “outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant.”

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY ALEX LEARY

President Obama today will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for defense secretary, starting what could be a difficult confirmation process on both sides of aisle. Hagel has already been attacked with TV ads over perceived weak support toward Israel and has had to apologize for anti-gay remarks.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has another concern: Hagel’s position on Cuba, which has lined up with others who say sanctions are “outdated, unrealistic, irrelevant policy.” (more on Hagel’s position here)

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said, “We have a process for nominations, and Senator Rubio won’t prejudge these nominees. Senator Rubio hopes he will be able to meet with Senator Hagel prior to his confirmation vote.  We’ll have questions about some of Senator Hagel’s past positions, including sanctions on Iran and promoting democracy in Latin America, since that’s long been a priority for Senator Rubio.”

Conant said Rubio has questions about Obama’s nominee to ... Read More

Return of the Zapatistas: Are Mexico’s Rebels Still Relevant?

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
From Time

BY IOAN GRILLO

At 11:11 am on Dec. 21, the crowds that had flocked from around the world to southern Mexico to mark the end of the Maya calendar’s creation cycle breathed a sigh of relief when the apocalypse never came. But many doomsday tourists witnessed a different sort of news event when tens of thousands of masked Zapatista rebels, all of them descendants of the ancient Maya, marched in silence through towns in Chiapas state in their most high profile mobilization in five years. The Zapatistas and their pipe-smoking poet leader, a non-Maya Mexican known as Subcomandante Marcos, have always been skilled at generating political theater—and the Dec. 21 Maya mania was a golden media opportunity. “Did you hear it?” a Marcos communiqué asked. “It’s the sound of their world ending. It’s that of ours resurging.”

This Zapatista resurgence wasn’t just meant to coincide with Maya scripture, however. Dec. 22 also marked the ... Read More

UN Report Calls on Cuba to Release American

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY JESSICA GRESKO

A United Nations group is calling on the Cuban government to release an American who has been held in the country for more than three years, saying his imprisonment is unfair.

A 12-page report by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was released Tuesday by a lawyer for the American, Alan Gross. The report is dated November 23 and had previously been released to the Cuban government. Cuba blasted the report’s conclusion in early December, saying that the U.S. government had put pressure on the UN group and arguing Gross had been fairly tried. But Cuban officials did not release the report itself.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working on a project to set up wireless Internet connections for Cuba’s Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for USAID, the US government agency in charge of foreign economic development. U.S. officials have portrayed the work as ... Read More

How Chavez and Venezuela are like a blissful marriage, with hidden secrets

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY OLGA KHAZAN

Questions are swirling as to whether President Hugo Chavez will make it back to Venezuela in time for his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration — or at all.

While the opposition is advocating for a transfer of power to the head of the National Assembly, many Venezuelans are still praying for Chavez’s swift recovery from cancer surgery, the reason he flew to Cuba on Dec. 11.

[Click here for a timeline of Chavez's life]

“We have no idea what to expect. I pray for his recovery but I am expecting the worst,” Joaquín Cavarcas told the Guardian.

Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado told the Associated Press that he and millions of other Chavez supporters have “much faith that he’s recovering.”

Although Chavez’s popularity has waned in recent years, he still won his most recent election by 9 percentage points. So how did Chavez, arguably an autocrat who presides over one of the most dangerous countries in South America, get so popular?

Basically, welfare programs, and plenty of them. ... Read More

Venezuela, un país al borde del precipicio económico

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
ABC Madrid-01

LUDMILA VINOGRADOFF

Los venezolanos llaman «lechuga verde» al mercado paralelo o negro de divisas. Desde que el presidente Hugo Chávez se internó el 10 de diciembre en Cuba para operarse de su cáncer en la pelvis, la moneda norteamericana se disparó un 400 por ciento en el mercado negro. La devaluación tendría que ser inminente, pero el chavismo se resiste a ésta y a otras medidas impopulares pero imprescindibles para hacer frente a la grave situación.

Por razones ideológicas, debidas a su antagonismo con el «imperialismo» de Estados Unidos, el gobierno de Chávez ha prohibido hablar del dólar paralelo. De ahí que por eufemismo lo llamen «lechuga verde». Pero el caso es que, pese a todo, las transacciones en el mercado negro siguen tan campantes, no obstante la prohibición y el control de cambio.

El encarecimiento de la divisa norteamericana se debe a tres factores: el hecho de que se haya secado el suministro oficial de ... Read More

Argentina Grounds President’s Plane

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY SHANE ROMIG

BUENOS AIRES—Argentina has hired a private jet for President Cristina Kirchner‘s trip to Asia and the Middle East later this month due to the risk that creditors might try to seize her official aircraft.

The chartered plane will cost $880,000 for the weeklong trip, or about 20% more than it would cost to travel in Tango 01, the Boeing BA -2.05% 757 customarily used for presidential travel, the government said Monday.

Argentina hired the same U.K.-based aircraft charter company, Chapman Freeborn, in 2010 and 2011 for Mrs. Kirchner’s trips in South America and to Europe.

Mrs. Kirchner plans to visit the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Vietnam from Jan. 13 to 21 to promote trade ties, in addition to a side trip to Cuba to see Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is recovering from cancer surgery there.

The government chartered the aircraft after its attorneys warned that Tango 01 could suffer the same fate as an Argentine ... Read More

Venezuela tensions brew as Chavez remains ill, absent

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
MSNBC

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela are warning that the country’s stability is at risk amid growing tensions surrounding President Hugo Chavez’s long absence after cancer surgery in Cuba.

Catholic leaders in the Venezuelan Bishops Conference said on Monday that conflicting stances by the government and opposition ahead of Chavez’s scheduled swearing-in for a new term make for a potentially dangerous and violent situation.

“The nation’s political and social stability is at serious risk,” said Bishop Diego Padron, the conference’s president, reading a statement from the organization.

Venezuela’s opposition is accusing the government of violating the constitution by proposing to delay Chavez’s inauguration for a new term, slated to take place on Thursday.

The socialist leader’s allies say the Jan. 10 inauguration date laid out in the constitution is just a “formality.”  They say Chavez, who has not been heard from for almost a month after complex cancer surgery in Cuba, can ... Read More

Venezuela after Chavez: Inauguration Day without the president

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
Chicago Tribune

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is almost certainly a no-show for Thursday’s constitutionally scheduled inauguration.

Chavez hasn’t been seen or heard from since leaving for Cuba for a fourth cancer surgery Dec. 11. His condition is described as “delicate” in government statements, but his political opponents want more information — beginning with proof that he’s alive.

Good luck getting answers out of the despots who run Venezuela — or Cuba.

Chavez has long modeled himself after his idol and mentor, Fidel Castro, from his bombastic antagonism toward the United States to the secrecy surrounding his illness. Almost two years into their president’s medical adventure, Venezuelans don’t even know what kind of cancer he has.

Obliged to accept (or not) his assurances that he would be around to serve a third six-year term, they apparently gave him the benefit of the doubt. In October, Chavez vanquished his first serious challenger, Henrique Capriles, despite being too sick ... Read More

Venezuela opposition furious over likely Chavez inauguration delay

| January 8th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY BRIAN ELLSWORTH

Venezuela’s opposition has accused the government of violating the constitution by proposing to delay cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration Thursday for a new term amid growing uncertainty over the polarized OPEC nation’s political future.

The socialist leader’s allies say the January 10 inauguration date laid out in the constitution is just a “formality.” They insist Chavez, who has not been heard from for almost a month after complex cancer surgery in Cuba, can take office when his health allows.

His adversaries say that would be running roughshod over the constitution as the former soldier remains in Havana and appears too weak to return to Venezuela after winning re-election in October for a third six-year term.

“If the president of the republic does not take office (on January 10), the country cannot be left in a power vacuum,” said Tomas Guanipa of the opposition Justice First party, insisting that the head of Congress, Diosdado Cabello, ... Read More