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Posts tagged ‘Bolivia’

Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama.

Image: Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama

By Melissa Clyne

Freedom of the press in the United States has plunged during the Obama administration, according to the 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

“The U.S. under President Obama, who once promised to run the ‘most transparent’ administration in the country’s history, fell from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 13 slots,” The Washington Times reports.

The report reviews the state of media freedoms in 180 countries. Major declines occurred in the United States, the Central African Republic, and Guatemala, while marked improvements took place in Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa, according to the index compiled by the press advocacy group.

Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway continue to lead the index for press freedoms and government openness, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea “continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions.” Syria also ranked near the bottom.

The rating was based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure, according to Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions,” Deloire said in a statement.

The report cited the handling of three events as major contributors to the declining rating for reporter freedoms the United States, according to The Washington Times.

• Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top secret information related to U.S. spying programs;

• Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks;

• The Justice Department’s handling of a probe of The Associated Press and other media organizations suspected of receiving leaked data.

Freedom of the press is increasingly under siege as governments around the globe are targeting journalists — to get to their sources and those people who leak sensitive information, according to the report.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

On Anniversary of Che Killing, CIA’s Felix Rodriguez Remembers.

Feliz Rodriguez, left, with Ernesto “Che” Guevara before he was shot to death in Bolivia.

Former CIA operative Felix Rodriguez, who participated in the historic manhunt to capture Ernesto “Che” Guevara, says the Marxist revolutionary was little more than a criminal and devoted killer who deserves to be demystified.

“I believe that eventually people will see what he really was. He was an assassin,” said Rodriguez, who spoke to Newsmax about Guevara in advance of the 46th anniversary of his death on Oct. 9, 1967, at age 39. “He was an individual with very little regard for life. He enjoyed killing people.”

In the interview with Newsmax, Rodriguez gives a detailed first-hand account of the capture and execution of the man whose image is still being appropriated as a counterculture fashion statement.

Story continues below video.


Rodriguez, a Cuban-American Vietnam veteran who fought in the Bay of Pigs invasion, was recruited to train and lead a team to track down Guevara, who had been instrumental in Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution.

Rodriguez said he talked to the military official who trained Guevara, who told him of Che’s fascination with violence.

“We have history from the man who trained him, who is a Cuban, who was the one who trained him in Mexico,” said Rodriguez. “He was the one who trained Fidel and all of his people.”

Rodriguez said the trainer told him that “Che was fascinated” with killing and recounted how Guevara asked him, “What does it feel like when you personally shoot somebody and you see the blood coming out?”

Guevara was in Bolivia trying to overthrow the government there — probably to spark a similar revolution as Castro’s in Cuba — when Rodriguez began to track him down. An informant advised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara’s guerrilla encampment in the Yuro Ravine.

“We were able to capture a guerrilla,” Rodriguez said. “I interrogated him extensively. He gave us the way that Che would move in the area.”

In late September 1967, a unit commanded by Lt. Eduardo Galindo was able to kill three guerrillas from Che’s vanguard.

“So we knew at that time that Che was definitely in the area. With this information I went to Col. Zenteno Anaya, the head of the ACE division headquarters, and asked him to move the battalion to operation, even though it only still had two weeks of training,” Rodriguez said.

On Oct. 7, one of the battalion’s companies commanded by Gary Prado received intelligence “from a farmer that there were voices at this place called Quebrada del Yuro — nobody was supposed to be there,” said Rodriguez. “So that evening Gary Prado surrounded the Quebrada del Yuro with less than 200 men.”

Rodriguez said, “On [Oct. 8], which happened to be on a Sunday, that’s when the firefight started and Che was … wounded on the right leg.”

First wounded, then captured, Guevara was intent on saving his own life.

“The soldier who captured him told me that when [Guevara] came face-to-face with the army, he told them, ‘Don’t shoot, I am Che. I am worth to you more alive than dead,'” Rodriguez said.

Guevara was taken into custody and delivered to Prado, and he was housed as a prisoner in an old schoolhouse. Rodriguez celebrated with Col. Zenteno in Vallegrande and asked if he could accompany the colonel to see Guevara. The next day they helicoptered in and landed at Higueras, where Guevara was being held.

“I had a lot of mixed feelings … When I saw him for the first time, I felt sorry for him,” Rodriguez recalled. “He looks like a beggar. He’s a man who didn’t even have a uniform, he didn’t have any pair of boots, he had some pair of leather tied down to his foot. He was very filthy and he really looked like a beggar and it was a tremendous shock, remembering that the image when he visited [the] Soviet Union and China … [then] to see this man the way he looked at this point in time.”

During the interrogation, Zenteno did all the talking to Guevara. Rodriquez said he did not utter a word. Guevara, however, wouldn’t answer Zenteno’s questions.

When Rodriguez later went back, Guevara had been tied up and was on the floor with the bodies of two dead Cubans in front of him.

“So I stood in front of him and say, ‘Che Guevara, I come to talk to you,'” Rodriguez recounted.

“He looked at me kind of arrogant and said, ‘Nobody talks to me, nobody interrogates me.’ And then I said, ‘Well, I didn’t come here to just interrogate you. I admire you, you used to be head of a state in Cuba and you are like this because you believe in your ideals even though I know they are mistaken. I just came here to talk to you.”

“So he looked to me for a while to see if I would laugh. When he saw that I was serious he said, ‘Can you untie me? Can I sit?’ So I asked a soldier outside — I have to give the order three times — to untie Commander Guevara.”

“So the soldier came in, they finally untied him, we sat him on a little bench and we start talking,” Rodriguez continued. “Whenever I asked him tactical questions of interest to all, he said, ‘I cannot answer that.'”

At one point, Rodriguez said, he finally got Guevara talking after chiding him about an ill-fated revolutionary action in Africa.

“You don’t want to talk about Africa but we were told by your own people you had like 10,000 guerrillas and they were very poor soldiers,” Rodriguez said he told Guevara. “So he said, ‘Well, if I had 10,000 guerrillas it would have been a big difference, but you’re right, they were very poor soldiers.’ And we talked about the Cuban economy, about the different situations.”

When he asked why Guevara selected Bolivia, Rodriguez said Che told him, “One, it was far away from the United States. Second, it was a very poor country so he didn’t feel that the United States would have that much interest in Bolivia, and third and most important to him, it had a boundary with five different countries.”

Rodriguez said Guevara told him that if he had been able to take over Bolivia, it would have been easier for the revolution to spread to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru —– “all of those countries next to Bolivia.”

As an operative working for the CIA, Rodriguez’s orders were to keep Che Guevara alive — even as the Bolivians were in command and Rodriguez was acting only as an adviser.

The Bolivians, however, were not keen on letting Guevara live.

“After he was captured, I asked Col. Zenteno to try to keep him alive. While I was talking to him on and off, and Zenteno was off in the operational area, there came a phone call and the phone call included the fateful code numbers 500 and 600.”

Rodriguez explained the significance of the cryptic code.

“It was a very simple code that we had created: 500 was Che Guevara, 600 kill him, and 700 to keep him alive. So the order came from the [Bolivian] president and the commander in chief of the armed forces of 500, 600,” Rodriguez said. “So when Zenteno came down the hill before he left I called him inside and I said ‘Mi colonel, there’s order from the high command to eliminate a prisoner.”

Rodriguez said that Zenteno “looked at his watch and said, ‘You have until 2 o’clock in the afternoon to interrogate him. Our helicopters went to camp several times, bringing food and ammunition, taking our wounded and our dead. I want your word of honor that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon you will bring me back the dead body of Che, and you can kill him any way that you want, because we know how much harm he has done to your country.'”

A helicopter pilot arrived with a camera and said the intelligence chief wanted a photo of Guevara as a prisoner. As other photos were later taken, a Bolivian woman approached the schoolhouse where Guevara was held and asked what was happening.

“She said, ‘We saw you being photographed with him out there and look, the radio’s already given the news that he died from combat wounds,'” Rodriguez recalled. “So at that point in time I thought there was no counter-order for sure, so I came into the room, I stood right in front of him, and said, ‘Commander, I’m sorry, I tried my best.'”

Che Guevara would not be kept alive.

“He perfectly understood what I was saying. He turned white like a piece of paper. He said, ‘It’s better this way; I should have never been captured alive.’ And he pulled a pipe from his back and said, ‘I’d like to give this pipe to a soldadito, a soldier that treated me well.’ And at that point in time, Sgt. Mario Teran, who was the one who was doing the execution in the area, had burst into the room.”

Rodriguez said when he asked if Guevara wanted to send a message to his family, the revolutionary responded in a sarcastic way, saying, “Well, if you can, tell Fidel he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America.”

Rodriguez said, “Then he changed his expression, saying, ‘If you can, tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.’ That was his last words. He approached me, we shook hands, and we embraced. And he stood back in attention, thinking I was going to be the one to shoot him.”

Rodriguez left the room. About 20 minutes later, he heard a short burst.

“Sgt. Teran borrowed an M-2 carbine … I understand that he walked into the room and at that point he shot him.”

Guevara was finally dead. A priest would arrive to give him the Catholic benediction. Rodriguez took some photos of the body and pondered what had just happened.

“I thought to myself, this guy who was an atheist, who didn’t believe in God, nevertheless got the last ritual from the Catholic Church.”

Rodriguez took off with the military officials and they landed with Guevara’s body at Vallegrande — with 2,000 people waiting and a massive military contingent.

“There were 15 different aircraft from the different presses, four military planes from different military people, so I just put my head down as soon as the helicopter landed and just ran into the crowd so I would not be photographed,” Rodriguez said of his operative status.

Rodriguez described a gruesome meeting the day after Guevara died.

“We have a meeting with Gen. Ovando Candia, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. At that meeting he looked at one of the colonels and said, ‘Look, if Fidel denies this is Che Guevara, we need tangible proof of it. Cut his head [off] and put it in formaldehyde.'”

“I said, ‘mi general, you cannot do that.’ He said ‘why not?’ Supposedly Fidel Castro denied this is Che Guevara,” Rodriguez recounted.

“You cannot show the head of a human being,” Rodriguez told the commander. “If you want tangible proof of it, we have his fingerprints from the Argentine federal police and they can be checked. Cut one finger’ … He ordered the colonel to cut both hands.”

After the grisly scene, Rodriguez left. The military dug a hole at the end of the runway for an inauspicious burial for Guevara, who was laid to rest with two other bodies.

Rodriguez is uncertain about whether Guevara’s death happened the right way. Instead of a trial, his shooting made him a martyr for many. Even to this day, the counterculture image of Che has been immortalized by college students on T-shirts and other items.

But, he adds, it was not his role to say how it should have been handled.

“I felt that I was there to advise, not to command. It was a decision of the Bolivian government. If I had taken that decision and saved him, it would probably be one that I would really regret for the rest of my life. I decided to let history run its course.”

Guevara’s death was one that would ultimately shape the course of events for South and Central America, Rodriguez said, noting the odd legacy that has risen up around him in popular culture legend.

“The Cuban government, who actually sent him to be killed there, used his image to create this image of the guy who was helping the poor people. His image is seen in a lot of places today, even though a lot of these young kids who would use his face in a T-shirt don’t even know who he is,” Rodriguez said.

“I recall, for example, in Paris … this young Frenchman … had a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s figure on it and he was 20 years old. And the guy looked at it and said, ‘He’s a rock singer.’ So it means that a lot of people see this in the store, they buy it, and they have no idea.”

Rodriguez said: “This guy was really a criminal. It’s a matter of record that you can check that he said many times that if he had the atomic bomb he would have thrown it over New York. To implement socialism in the United States was worth it, the life of millions of American innocent people.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Andrea Billups and Kathleen Walter

Snowden Granted Papers Needed to Leave Moscow Airport.

Image: Snowden Granted Papers Needed to Leave Moscow Airport

Fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden could soon leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been holed up for more than a month, after Russian authorities approved the necessary papers, an airport official said on Wednesday.Immigration services declined comment but the official said Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details of government intelligence programs, had been handed the documents by a lawyer at Sheremetyevo Airport.

Snowden, 30, arrived in Sheremetyevo from Hong Kong on June 23 and has been stuck in the transit area between the runway and passport control since the United States revoked his passport and urged other countries not to give him refuge.

Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, declined to comment as he arrived at the airport.

But the airport source said: “The documents have been handed over.”

It was not clear whether he would immediately leave the airport or where he would go in Moscow once he does so.

Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have said they could offer him sanctuary but none can be reached by a direct commercial flight so Snowden has requested temporary asylum in Russia until he believes he can safely reach one of them.

The United States wants him extradited to face espionage charges. But Russia has refused to send him home and risks further damage to relations with the United States if it grants him temporary asylum – a process which could take three months.

President Vladimir Putin signaled last week that he did not want the dispute to derail Russia’s relations with the United States, and the decision on temporary asylum could be delayed until after U.S. President Barack Obama comes to Moscow for a summit in early September.

Allowing him to stay in Russia even temporarily would upset Washington. It will be Putin’s first summit with Obama since the former KGB spy started a new term last year, and precedes a subsequent G20 summit in St Petersburg.

But a refusal would open Putin to criticism at home that he gave into Moscow’s former Cold War enemy.

Both countries have signaled they want to improve ties, strained by issues ranging from the Syrian conflict to Putin’s treatment of opponents and Western-funded non-governmental organizations since he started a third term in 2012.

“The grounds that he cited in the application…hardly allow for a refusal of asylum,” Kucherena said last week.

Putin has said Snowden must stop anti-U.S. activities. Snowden has said he does not regard his activities as hostile to the United States but Kucherena said last week that the American had agreed to halt such actions.

Snowden, who has been assisted by the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, has not been seen in public since June 23 although he had a meeting at the airport with human rights groups on July 13.

He fears the United States will persuade its allies to prevent him flying through their airspace, or that his plane might be forced down so that he can be taken into custody and extradited.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Putin: Ties With US More Important Than Snowden Case.

CHITA, Russia — President Vladimir Putin signaled on Wednesday that he would not let former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden’s application for temporary asylum in Russia derail relations with the United States.

Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for revealing details of U.S. government intelligence programs, has been in the transit area of a Moscow airport since June 23 and wants to be able to stay in Russia until he can find sanctuary elsewhere.

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Asked whether the affair would cast a shadow over a U.S.-Russia summit due in September in Moscow, Putin told reporters: “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services.”

Putin, visiting the Siberian town of Chita, did not say whether he expected Russia to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, but reiterated that Moscow had told the American he must stop any activities that might harm the United States.

Snowden, 30, says the United States has prevented him from flying to Latin America, where Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela have offered to give him refuge, by putting pressure on other countries not to help him escape U.S. justice.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Bolivia Demands Answers From Europe in Plane Spat Over Snowden.

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia demanded on Monday that France, Portugal, Spain and Italy reveal who told them that former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was on board President Evo Morales‘ flight from Moscow last week.

Bolivia said it was an act of “state terrorism” by the United States and its European allies that the four countries banned Morales’ plane from their airspace on suspicions it was carrying the U.S. fugitive to Bolivia in defiance of Washington.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca summoned and met with the ambassadors from France, Spain, Italy and a representative of Portugal, which has no ambassador in the country, a source in the foreign ministry said. No details from the meetings were immediately available.

“We are simply asking the government of Spain and the other governments, of course, to clarify and explain where that version of Mr. Snowden being on the presidential plane came from,” Communications Minister Amanda Davila said. “Who spread that fallacy, that lie?”

“This is the first case of state terrorism against a president, against a nation, against a people,” she added.

Bolivia and other outspoken leftist governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua are the only countries so far to have publicly offered asylum to Snowden.

Choquehuanca also met with the Russian ambassador in La Paz on Monday. The purpose of the meeting was not made public.

He is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he landed on June 23 from Hong Kong.

Washington wants Snowden arrested on espionage charges for divulging details of extensive secret surveillance programs. President Barack Obama has said any countries that give Snowden shelter would face serious costs.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday he had not yet had contact with Snowden and would wait until Monday to see if the former National Security Agency contractor took up the asylum offer.

The Bolivian government believes the United States knew that Snowden was not on Morales’ plane and simply wanted to intimidate Morales because of his outspoken criticism of U.S. policies.

“We consider that the U.S. knew that Mr. Snowden was not on that plane because there is no way President Morales could leave the Moscow airport without the surveillance and checks that are always done for official flights,” Davila said.

On Sunday, Choquehuanca said his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, told him during the flight troubles last week that he had been informed that Snowden was on Morales’ plane.

According to Choquehuanca, Garcia-Margallo asked the Bolivians for a written note vowing that the American was not a passenger before flight permits were restored.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Rep. Rogers: Snowden Seeking Asylum From Oppressive Governments.

Saying national security secrets leaker Edward Snowden is on a “Governments Who Oppress Their People Tour,” Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan says the United States should not shrug off the seriousness of the case.

Despite his claims of wanting to point out how the U.S. government has improper information on its own citizens, Snowden has sought out help in the oppressive governments of China and Russia, Rogers said. “Now, he’ll do probably Venzuela, maybe Equador.”

Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia all have offered Snowden asylum.

All of Snowden’s talks are with countries antagonistic to United States, Rogers said.

The Chinese and Russians have gotten everything they need out of him, Rogers said, so now Russia, where he is currently trapped in an airport without a valid passport, is poking the U.S. in the eye by allowing the game with Latin American countries to play out.

“This is why we should take [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for a grain of salt in this particular case,” Rogers said. “If he were serious he would send Mr. Snowden back to the United States.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


By Greg Richter

Bolivia’s Leader Threatens to Close US Embassy.

Bolivia’s president threatened Thursday to close the U.S. embassy as leftist Latin American leaders joined him in blasting Europe and the United States after his plane was rerouted amid suspicions U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden was aboard.

President Evo Morales, who has suggested the United States pressured European nations to deny him their airspace, warned he would “study, if necessary, closing the US embassy in Bolivia.”

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“We don’t need a US embassy in Bolivia,” he said. “My hand would not shake to close the US embassy. We have dignity, sovereignty. Without the United States, we are better politically, democratically.”

Morales arrived home late Wednesday after a long layover in Vienna, saying his plane was diverted there because it was barred from flying over four European nations, sparking outrage among Latin American leaders.

The Bolivian leader’s air odyssey began hours after Morales declared in Moscow he would be willing to consider an asylum application from Snowden, who is seeking sanctuary in several Latin American nations to evade US espionage charges.

In a show of support, Presidents Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Desi Bouterse of Suriname flew to the central city of Cochabamba to meet with Morales.

At a rally before the meeting, Maduro claimed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had ordered France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to deny access to Morales’s plane on Tuesday.

“A minister of one of these European governments personally told us by telephone that they were going to apologize because they were surprised, and that those who gave the order to aviation authorities in this country … were the CIA,” he said.

Kirchner urged European governments to publicly apologize for “violating the law,” but Morales said earlier that apologies were not enough.

Correa said the leaders would “take decisions and show that we won’t accept this sort of humiliation against any country of (Latin) America.”

“Imagine if this happened to a European head of state, if this had happened to the president of the United States. It probably would have been a casus belli, a case for war,” he said. “They think they can attack, crush, destroy international law.”

Correa had called for a larger summit gathering leaders of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), but the presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Peru were not present, even though they too condemned the incident.

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In an implicit criticism of his absent peers, Correa said: “If what happened doesn’t justify a meeting of heads of state of our South America, what justifies one?”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos voiced support for Morales but warned on Twitter against “converting this into a diplomatic crisis between Latin America and the EU (European Union).”

Bolivian officials accused France, Portugal, Italy and Spain of denying entry to Morales’s jet late Tuesday as he flew back home from Russia due to “unfounded rumors” that Snowden was on board.

Morales has also lashed out at the United States, urging Europeans to “free themselves from the US empire.”

The US consulate’s walls in the city of Santa Cruz were sprayed with red graffiti, one reading “Gringos Obama out,” while some 100 protesters burned flags and threw rocks at the French embassy in La Paz late Wednesday.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, is in legal limbo in a Moscow airport, trying to escape US justice after leaking details of a vast US phone and Internet surveillance program.

Morales likened his own situation to a “13-hour kidnapping.”

France has since apologized for temporarily refusing entry to Morales’s jet, with President Francois Hollande saying there was “conflicting information” about the passengers.

The Bolivian government has lodged a complaint with the United Nations and planned another to the UN Human Rights Commission.

Russia joined Latin American leaders in condemning France, Spain and Portugal, while Venezuela’s Maduro said his government would review relations with Madrid.

© AFP 2013

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