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Posts tagged ‘Fidel Castro’

Luis Rosales: Time for World to Join Venezuela’s Fight for Democracy.

Everyone who believes in democracy, freedom and human rights today should be standing with Leopoldo López, the brave young opposition leader who is defying the growing radicalization of the ruling government in Venezuela.

López, a charismatic, Harvard-educated former mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, has emerged as the face of the growing opposition to the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro, the successor to the late dictator Hugo Chavez. On Tuesday, López was arrested on what international human rights groups have called baseless charges for the deaths of three people killed in an anti-government demonstration earlier this month.

Although President Maduro has called him a fascist, Lopez is completely the opposite. He is an honest politician who really believes in democracy. He has devoted his life to helping his country stand up to the growing authoritarianism of Maduro. He has long been persecuted by a government that controls most of the country’s media and its corrupt judiciary.

From the beginning, when he was first elected mayor in 2000, Lopez challenged this repressive system. Chavez ordered judges to ban him from holding further office after saddling him with trumped up charges. The government consistently has used this method to eliminate popular opponents. As one of the three most popular political leaders in the country, Lopez stepped back and unselfishly endorsed another opposition candidate for president, Henrique Capriles, in order not to fracture the anti-Chavez opposition.

Chavez died in March, 2013. Maduro, a declared Marxist who many observers consider to be a puppet of Cuba’s Castro regime, succeeded him and was elected after a very controversial process fraught with charges of fraud. The opposition believed it was robbed. But the official apparatus, tightly controlled by the Chavistas, ignored the claims and stifled any official audit of the vote.

That was Maduro’s original sin, the first of many. His rule has been an unmitigated disaster. Venezuela, a global oil power, leads the South American continent in inflation. As the economy has collapsed, it also has taken the lead in other negative indicators like the rate of crime and domestic violence. And that is what feeds the growing opposition movement.

Over the last several weeks, millions have taken to the streets across the country to express their discontent. The government has responded by mobilizing its own armed mobs, backed by both the military and the police, to attack peaceful demonstrators. This, in turn, has divided the opposition.

Capriles leads a group that believes that change can be encouraged through dialogue and nonviolent demonstration. Lopez, however, believes that a repressive government must be challenged with strength when it attacks its own people. He believes that Maduro, like Lenin and Castro before him, is trying to create the conditions for a “proletarian dictatorship,” the first step toward totalitarian socialism.

The history of the last century is replete with nations that have succumbed to this tactic: Russia, the nations of Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea and Cuba to name just a few.

In every case, when socialists took power, they immediately suspended individual liberties, freedom of press and private ownership to end what they considered an “outdated” capitalist and bourgeois systems. The new elites, backed by a massive, authoritarian bureaucracy, never saw any reason to reverse course. What emerged were single party states with either no elections or cruel parodies of them, without freedom, and heavily militarized at all levels of society.

This is the system that Leopoldo López fears will emerge in Venezuela if the people do not stand up and fight now. And it’s going to take democrats and human rights activists from all over the world to help him in his fight. There needs to be a push now to stop Maduro from repressing students and other demonstrators and force him to release Lopez before it’s too late.

We the people have to put international pressure on Maduro’s regime and push our democratic governments and elected representatives to do the same. And we need to do this now, not only for the sake of Lopez, but also for the future of Venezuela and Latin America.

Luis Rosales is a political strategist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the author of the new book, “Francis: A Pope for Our Times.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Fidel Castro Hails Brother for Obama Handshake at Mandela Memorial.

Image: Fidel Castro Hails Brother for Obama Handshake at Mandela Memorial

HAVANA — Fidel Castro praised his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, on Thursday for shaking hands with President Barack Obama at a memorial for Nelson Mandela, saying he demonstrated courtesy and dignity with the gesture.The elder Castro, in his first comment on the death of Mandela, touched on the handshake that made headlines around the world, at the end of a long column published in the Cuban media that praised Mandela and reviewed Cuba’s role in ending apartheid.

“I congratulate Comrade Raul for his brilliant performance [at the memorial], and especially for his firmness and dignity when with a friendly but firm greeting to the head of government of the United States he said in English, ‘Mr. President, I am Castro’.”

The White House played down the handshake, saying it was unplanned and went no further than pleasantries.

Still, the meeting had resonance because U.S. relations with Cuba have undergone a surprise warming in recent months with several instances of cooperation instead of the usual hostile rhetoric.

Obama said last month in Miami that it may be time for the United States to revise its policies toward Cuba, against which it has had a trade embargo for more than half a century.

Obama questioned whether the policy that was put in place in 1961 remains an effective way of dealing with U.S. differences with the communist-ruled island nation.

Fidel Castro, 87, who was operated on in 2006 for intestinal bleeding and never fully recovered, handed over power to his brother, who is five years younger, in 2008.

Fidel Castro made no public comment on Mandela’s death at the time and was too old to attend last week’s ceremony in South Africa.

He has not been seen in public in months, though an official photo released on Monday showed him seated in a blue sweat suit talking with his biographer, Spanish writer Ignacio Ramonet, last week.

Fidel Castro was a leading voice against apartheid when some other world leaders were reluctant to speak out.

Mandela was deeply appreciative of Cuban support in the fight against apartheid — a conflict that included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola.

Castro, in his Thursday column, complained that the roots and crimes of apartheid had been given short shrift in coverage of Mandela’s death, as were his beliefs.

“It’s a very real fact that Mandela was a complete man, profound revolutionary and radically socialist, who with great stoicism withstood 27 years of solitary confinement,” Castro said.

“I have never ceased to admire his honesty, modesty and enormous merit.”

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


Becoming A Man At The Nelson Mandela Secretariat By Ogaga Ifowodo.


Ogaga Ifowodo

When I was elected secretary-general of the students union at the University of Benin in 1987, I headed a secretarial named after Mandela. I do not know when the decision was taken to make Mandela the tutelary patron of our union whose struggles were mundane by comparison to the race-wide, all-of-humanity-embracing, cause that kept him underground for several years and eventually in prison for twenty-seven more. The honour, which was our union’s, served to remind us, student activists almost all born after the apartheid hate machine had jailed Mandela, of the highest aspiration of our youth: to be conscious citizens, to know what is right and to have always the courage of our convictions. But it wasn’t much of a secretariat: a few wood-paneled cubicles partitioned off the first floor gallery of the main cafeteria building. All of its grandeur lay in the name alone. Happily, several battles after, peaking with the nationwide anti-SAP protests of 1989, the UNIBEN students union got a house of its own.

But perhaps it was precisely in the modest nature of our secretariat that we came close to being worthy of taking Mandela’s name. Its physical state testified to the state of siege under which student unionism nationwide had been placed by the combined military dictatorships of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida. For good measure, the main battle across campuses was for the reinstatement of unionism made voluntary and dependent on the say-so of vice-chancellors. That method of pacifying the campuses which had become hotbeds of resistance to military tyranny came from General Abisoye, head of a panel constituted to find the root causes of the 1986 crisis at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria—the same that led to the famous lamentation by Ango Abdullahi, ABU vice-chancellor, that “only four [students] died.” With active unions on campuses, we could more effectively defy the ban purportedly placed on the National Association of Nigerian Students by Buhari in 1984. Mandela’s, after all, was a life lived fighting one banning order after another, including the ultimate ban: from the equal humanity of black and white and any hue it pleased the apartheid policemen of colour to classify and rank humans by.

But if Mandela was the unquestionable African patriarch of my initiation into political manhood — taking his place on the high dais alongside such usual suspects as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Lenin, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Agostino Neto, etc. — he was, also, an inspiration to me as an aspiring poet. The moment I began taking myself seriously as a would-be poet coincided with my entry into the university. While waiting for my admission letter from the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, I wrote a poem for a national anti-apartheid poetry contest organised by the National Action Committee Against Apartheid (NACAP); one of the ways by which Nigeria sought to be deserving of her self-designation as a frontline state.  The poem earned me a consolation prize and my first visit to Lagos for the prize ceremony in the old National Assembly chambers at Tafawa Balewa Square. Having failed to be part of an excursion to Lagos while still at Federal Government College, Warri, I would get my chance three years after with a poem whose theme was a struggle symbolised by Mandela.

And from then on, Mandela as Muse would become fused with Mandela the Political Mentor blooding us with courage in the brutish political terrain of Nigeria’s military tyrannies. The title poems of my first two collections, Homeland and Other Poems (which also includes a cycle of poems on South Africa) and Madiba, bear witness to Mandela as muse to me. And not to me alone, either! Whole museums and libraries would be filled to the rafters with works inspired by, and directly about, Mandela. In any case, I had merely followed two literary fathers, JP Clark-Bekederemo and Wole Soyinka, in seeking to banish despair with hope by looking to a land far more savagely wounded, gashed and bleeding, and yet to be envied due to the sheer ineptitude, corruption and outright stupidity that makes Nigeria the Giant of Anarchy. One only had to look at the glowing list of men and women of unbreakable will, titanic courage, and incorruptible vision that South Africa, apartheid be damned, could boast of to understand the near-instinctive wandering of Nigerian artists, be they poets, musicians or painters, from the B(l)ight of Benin to the Cape of Good Hope.

Three days ago, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was buried among his ancestors. His transfiguration from mortal flesh to immortal spirit marks the end of an era defined by the struggle to restore the full dignity of the black race through the defeat of institutional racism as exemplified by apartheid. His likes may never walk the earth again. As saints and sinners outdid themselves to eulogise Mandela, a man many of them branded a terrorist and left to rot on Robben Island, a man whose prison uniform nearly all of the African leaders of his time, elected or self-imposed, are not worthy of washing, I could only think of the morning after the epochal event as 16 December 2013 AM (After Mandela). What Africa might be with just five leaders half the man that Mandela was!

Source: Radio Biafra.

Obama-Castro Handshake Stirs Old Revolutionary Ghosts at Mandela Memorial.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro
President Barack Obama greets Cuban President Raul Castro before giving his speech at the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg Tuesday. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach )

A handshake between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro stole the show at South Africa’s memorial for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a resonant tribute to a man who brought old enemies together and straddled ideological divides and eras.

The gesture will not exorcise the Cold War ghosts haunting the Florida Straits, but it would have delighted Mandela, who was nothing if not loyal to old revolutionary allies like Raul’s retired elder brother Fidel, who at 87 was too old to attend the memorial.

Had they been alive, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would also have been at the Johannesburg stadium where world dignitaries joined tens of thousands of South Africans paying emotional homage.

During his long career and even in the final years before his death on Thursday, Mandela, 95, maintained unswerving loyalty to veteran revolutionaries shunned by the West such as Castro, Gadhafi and Arafat, who had supported his lifelong fight to overturn apartheid in South Africa.

After he became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Mandela defended these political and personal allegiances, testily rejecting pressure to cut off ties with figures and regimes viewed as pariahs by many in the West.

“The enemies of the West are not my enemies and I’m not prepared to be dictated to at all by anybody,” Mandela said in 1996, defending invitations to Castro and Gadhafi to visit him.

“I’m not going to take advice as to who my friends should be,” he added, saying he was under pressure from at least one global power to break off ties with these anti-U.S. leaders.

The tsunami of tributes pouring in since his death has elevated the former African National Congress freedom fighter to the level of a modern-day saint, obscuring a historical truth some may find uncomfortable.

“We mustn’t forget he was really, and remained, a leftist militant radical cast in the mold of 1950s and ’60s Third World liberation,” said Stephen Ellis, an Africa expert and professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.

He said Mandela and South Africa’s ANC imbibed deeply of the pro-Soviet and pro-Cuban ideological influences that drove liberation and independence movements in Africa in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Reflections of this pan-African Third Worldism show up in South Africa’s foreign policy to this day.

“The ANC, in its foreign policy, still sees itself as fighting for the liberation of the Third World,” Ellis said.

‘Deep Freeze’
At the time when Fidel Castro’s revolution was inspiring radicals and liberation groups in Africa and Latin America, Mandela’s arrest in 1962 and his jailing for sabotage and treason in 1964 locked him away from the world.

“He was in a deep freeze for 27 years,” said Ellis.

When Mandela walked free from prison in 1990, the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union was on the way to disintegration. But his worldview, formed in an earlier time, still saw Castro, Gadhafi and Arafat as fellow freedom fighters struggling to forge a different world.

So while Western leaders like U.S. President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Tony Blair embraced Mandela as an uplifting icon of the post-Cold War planet—setting up the fuzzy modern celebrity cult that envelops his image—the South African made a point of honoring his and the ANC’s older allegiances.

He had signaled this clearly in 1991 when he paid a three-day visit to Cuba to thank Castro and the Caribbean island for its support in the fight against apartheid—a conflict which included Cuban troops who fought and died in southern Angola.

“Cuba is our friend,” he said emphatically, drawing applause in Havana but howls of outrage from anti-Castro Cuban-Americans in Miami who continue to view him with hostility.

“We are now being advised about Cuba by people who have supported the apartheid regime for the last 40 years,” Mandela said sarcastically then about the United States. Fidel Castro sent Mandela rum and cigars on his birthdays, even though the aging statesman did not smoke or drink hard liquor.

Honoring Loyalty
For Gadhafi, too, who was seen by many in the West as a crackpot dictator, Mandela maintained an unflinching loyalty to a man he called “brother leader” before he was killed during a Western-backed revolt two years ago.

Mandela played a crucial role in persuading Gadhafi to surrender two Libyan suspects in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, which killed 270 people and led to United Nations sanctions against Libya.

He visited Libya in the face of stern U.S. criticism and even decorated Gadhafi with South Africa’s Order of Good Hope.

“Madiba had friends who were frowned upon, but you have to honor their relationship,” said Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s former personal assistant, calling him by his clan name.

“It was important to him even in later years to remain loyal to the people who supported him and the ANC,” she added.

That loyalty also extended initially to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe; Zimbabwe was one of the states that Mandela first visited after his release from prison in 1990 to offer thanks for its support for the ANC’s liberation war.

But relations between two of the grand old men of Africa’s freedom struggle went sour once Mandela stepped down in 1999 after a single term in office while Mugabe, buffeted by falling support, economic crisis and popular anger over a costly intervention in a Congo war, hung on term after term.

Finally, even Mandela joined the criticism of Mugabe, lamenting “the tragic failure of leadership” in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, present at Tuesday’s memorial, did not flinch from swiping at the halo of the global icon when he criticized Mandela in an interview in June for being “too saintly, too good” in the way he reached out to South Africa’s whites.

For many though, Obama’s hand to Castro on Tuesday will validate Mandela’s gift for “speaking with the enemy.”

“He shook hands with the apartheid enemy when everyone advised him not to,” said former aide la Grange.

“The way you approach a person determines how that person treats you,” she added. “If we just adopt that in our lives, it makes the world a better place.”


Editing by Alastair Macdonald

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Rubio Slams Obama for Shaking Hands with Castro.

Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Barack Obama Tuesday for shaking hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro while attending the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

The Florida Republican and son of Cuban immigrants said, “If the President was going to shake his hand, he should have asked him about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba,” The Hill reports.

“It remains clear that Cuba is the same totalitarian state today that it has been for decades. This totalitarian state continues to have close ties to terrorist organizations.”

Rubio has been an outspoken critic of the Castro regime, claiming that it sponsors terrorism abroad and within Cuba as well. According to The Hill, he’s also been critical of the Obama administration in the past for reducing restrictions on travel to Cuba, which were enacted as part of an economic embargo during the Cold War.

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Cuba in more than 50 years. Raul Castro took over from his ailing brother Fidel Castro in 2008.

The handshake Tuesday between an American president and a post-revolutionary Cuban leader was the first since 2000 when Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro met at a United Nations function in New York. The brief Clinton-Castro encounter came 41 years after Richard Nixon, then vice president, met with Fidel Castro shortly after he took power in 1959.

At the Summit of the Americas in 2009, Obama shook hands with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who called the U.S. “the biggest menace to our planet.” That encounter was heavily criticized at the time by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

On his way up to the podium to give a eulogy to Mandela, Obama also shook hands with Zimbabwe’s tough ruler Robert Mugabe and gave a hug to Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, who has been fiercely critical of the U.S. government over the National Security Agency spying scandal, according to NBC News.

A White House official said that the Castro handshake “wasn’t a pre-planned encounter,” and pointed out that it was in keeping with Mandela’s struggle for peace and freedom based on basic human rights.

“Above all else, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela, and that was the president’s singular focus at the memorial service,” said an official. “We appreciate that people from all over the world are participating in this ceremony.”

But the criticism of the president’s actions appeared to be spreading through a series of angry comments via Twitter.
‘He’ll stop at Lenin’s tomb, lay wreath at Hitler’s bunker on way home,” said Twitter enthusiast.

Former President Jimmy Carter, however, sought to put the handshake in perspective, telling CNN that he believes it was “something significant.”

“I hope it will be an omen for the future,” he added.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Drew MacKenzie

Obama, Castro Handshake at Mandela Service Rivets Critics.

President Barack Obama probably didn’t plan on it becoming the newsreel highlight of the Nelson Mandela funeral trip, but his handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro on Tuesday is turning into either a controversial political move or a symbol of Mandela’s legacy, at least according to reactions on Twitter.

A video clip from the memorial service for the former South African president shows Obama and Castro exchanging the handshake and remarks at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

The United States and Cold War foe Cuba don’t have diplomatic relations and the communist country continues to imprison American Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 for reportedly helping a small village of Jews access the Internet. 

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

The symbolic handshake between Obama and Castro immediately set off a firestorm of reactions online, with some criticizing the U.S. president for even acknowledging the Cuban dictator.

Many Twitter users also commented on Obama’s posture during the handshake, accusing the president of bowing to Castro. But The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg quickly nixed that rumor.

Others saw the handshake as a nod to what Mandela would have wanted.

“Obama knew, of course, that Castro would be on stage. But refusing to shake Castro’s hand would not have been in keeping with Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation,” CNN‘s Jill Dougherty wrote. “And it was not the first handshake between American-Cuban leaders. In 2000, at the United Nations, then-President Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, its first revolutionary president, and Raul’s brother.”

After the handshake, Obama addressed Mandela’s strong belief in reconciliation in his speech.

“It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well, to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth,” he said. 

In 2009, Obama was criticized for “hobnobbing” with the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. Photographs snapped during the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago showed a smiling Obama shaking hands with Chavez and chatting.

“I think it’s very unfortunate. I don’t think President Obama really understands, perhaps out of lack of experience in international affairs, the importance of symbolism,” former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich said at the time.

In what was called a “shocking display of fealty to a foreign potentate,” Obama bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia at a 2009 Group of 20 summit meeting in London.

“The bow was an extraordinary protocol violation,” The Washington Times observed in an editorial. “Such an act is a traditional obeisance befitting a king’s subjects, not his peer. There is no precedent for U.S. presidents bowing to Saudi or any other royals.”

Obama offered King Abdullah a deep and prolonged bow from the waist when he met him at the summit.

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Alexandra Ward

Cuba’s Catholic Church Calls for Accelerated Reforms.

HAVANA — Cuba‘s Catholic Church urged the government Tuesday to move more swiftly on reforming the communist-ruled island’s Soviet-style economy.

“We cannot hope to build a prosperous country and society without prosperous citizens and without opening the doors to financial sources that generate prosperity,” Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, wrote in an article published in the church’s “Palabra Nueva” journal.

Cuba has tinkered with pro-market economic change since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

But playing off the communist regime’s “slowly, but surely” slogan, Marquez said the government needed to move more quickly to stay ahead of demographic trends that show a bulging elderly population and not enough young people to support them.

In 2030, “30 percent of the population will be more than 60 years old,” he said, calling for “the creation of conditions that spur birth and discourage emigration of young people who would be ready to work and invest their capital and know-how in Cuba, including Cuban emigres willing to return.”

“It’s a waste of time to constantly insist on the long-proven ineffectiveness of state control on all production and services,” Marquez said, insisting that “our country’s technological backwardness puts us in a difficult situation in light of our need to join the global economy.”

“Accelerating reforms and generating wealth would be the best way to stop then reverse the deterioration of our society’s two most important sectors: health and education,” Marquez said.

In the absence of a legal opposition, the Catholic Church has emerged over the past three years as the sole organization with the standing to negotiate politically with the Havana government on social and economic issues.

© AFP 2013

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