Tag Archives: Cuba

REUTER – Post Chavez: Can U.S. rebuild Latin American ties?

By Peter Hakim

MARCH 27, 2013

The funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier this month was a massive celebration of a vitriolic foe of the United States. This tribute should make Washington take a fresh look not only at its relations with Venezuela but also with all of Latin America.

Virtually every Latin American country sent a high-level delegation to show its esteem for Chavez, who, during his 14 years in office, regularly vilified the United States, disparaged its leaders and campaigned tirelessly to end the U.S. role in the region. The presidents of Latin America’s six largest nations — including the closest U.S. regional allies, Mexico, Colombia and Chile — traveled to Caracas for the burial ceremonies. Never in Latin America, as many commentators noted, has a deceased leader been given a grander memorial — not even Argentina’s adored Juan Domingo Peron back in 1974.

This extraordinary acclaim for Washington’s most virulent adversary in the Americas was probably not intended as a deliberate snub. There were other reasons that so many of Washington’s friends ended up applauding a committed antagonist of the United States.

Some leaders, concerned with politics back home, were seeking to appeal to constituencies on the left, who idolized Chavez. Some who have benefited from the financial largesse distributed by the president of oil rich-Venezuela are eager for his successor to continue that support. Still others were reluctant to stand apart or isolate themselves from their neighbors — so they became part of the crowd.

Yet the fanfare accompanying Chavez’s funeral suggests a troubling degree of indifference to the United States in Latin America — as if Washington no longer counted.

Aside from his ability to hold onto power and sustain the devotion of so many Venezuelans, Chavez’s accomplishments hardly warranted this level of attention. His autocratic rule and reckless spending merit no praise from Latin America’s democratic and fiscally responsible leaders. Make no mistake, however, the foreign leaders came mostly to praise Chavez, not just to bury him.

To be sure, after his presidency, Venezuelans are considerably less poor and unequal than when he came to power in 1999 — though many other Latin American nations did the same, or better, than Venezuela in this period. They achieved this without a huge oil windfall and without pushing the economy toward shambles and undoing the country’s democratic and civil institutions.

Chavez does, though, deserve credit for Petrocaribe, a program that supplied discounted oil (and low-interest loans to buy oil) to poor and energy-deficient countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Cuba got the largest subsidy — some $4 billion to $6 billion a year — without which the island might today be facing a humanitarian crisis. But 13 other nations, some in great need, were also assisted — and are grateful.

This is the kind of aid program that Washington should consider emulating for the region’s low-income countries.

The Chavez funeral is not the only reason for unease about Washington’s relations with Latin America. Two months ago, Cuban ruler Raul Castro, another determined U.S. adversary, was elected to head the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), a new organization that includes every nation in the Western Hemisphere — except the United States and Canada. Next year’s meeting is scheduled to be in Havana, though CELAC’s charter requires that members be governed democratically.

At the 2012 meeting of the Summit of the Americas (every country of the hemisphere except Cuba), the discussion, despite Washington’s objections, focused on two topics: drug policy andCuba. Both are sources of long-standing tension between the United States and Latin America. The assembled Latin American heads of state closed the meeting by warning Washington that, unless Cuba is included in future summits, they would no longer participate.

The problem is not that Latin America has retreated from democratic rule. Though democratic governance has deteriorated in some countries, it is still the overwhelming regional norm ‑ and getting stronger in many places.  The commitment of Latin Americans to democracy. however, now largely applies to their own countries. What they have given up on is the idea of collectively defending democratic practice in countries other than their own. Regional solidarity is now a higher priority than democracy, a reflection of the many ideological and political differences among Latin American nations.

On economic matters, developments have been more encouraging for Washington. It is true that China and Europe have made considerable inroads, diminishing U.S. economic preeminence in Latin America. But U.S. exports have more than doubled in the past 12 years, and U.S. investments have grown apace — along with considerable Latin American investments in the United States. Washington now has free-trade agreements in force with 11 of 19 Latin American countries — three in South America, six in Central America and the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Yet all is not well here, either. Latin America is now effectively (and unfortunately) divided into two economic zones. One includes all the countries that trade freely with the United States. Another seven are members or soon-to-be members of the Brazilian-led South American Market (Mercosur).

Political differences, not economic interests, are what keep the two groups apart. Prospects for an economically integrated hemisphere, once a key aspiration of most countries, have faded and seem unlikely to be revived anytime soon.

Whether Washington can remake its relationship with Latin America is in question. A sensible and humane reform of U.S. immigration legislation would remove one critical obstacle to more productive relations with many countries, as would a more flexible approach to drug-control policy.

Recent developments suggest, however, that for Washington to regain clout in regional affairs, it must it end its standoff with Cuba. U.S. policy toward Cuba sets Washington against the views of every Latin American and Caribbean government. Long-standing U.S. efforts to isolate and sanction Cuba, have, counterproductively, brought every country in Latin America to Cuba’s defense with a general admiration of Havana’s resistance to U.S. pressures.

Because this U.S. policy is viewed as so extreme, no Latin America country is willing to criticize Cuba — almost regardless of its words or actions. Chavez, with his close association with Cuba, possessed some of that immunity — with his neighbors leaving him unaccountable for his violations of democracy, human rights and decency.

His funeral made it clear that the United States has a lot of work to do to prevent that immunity from spreading.

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Economist – The Castros unveil their successor

EVER since Raúl Castro replaced his ailing brother, Fidel, as Cuba’s president in 2008, he has made clear that his overriding aim is to organise an orderly political and economic transition to ensure that the ruling Communist Party remains in power after both men die. Progress towards that goal has been painstakingly slow, and sometimes crablike. But another step was taken at the opening of a newly installed National Assembly on February 24th, when Raúl began a second presidential term. Not only did he repeat that it would be his last. He also hailed the appointment as first vice-president of Miguel Díaz- Canel, a former higher-education minister, saying this represented “a defining step in the configuration of the country’s future leadership”.

“Who’s he?” was how one Havana resident greeted the news. Mr Díaz-Canel may not be exactly a household name in Cuba but he has been tipped for the top for several years. He has stood in for Raúl on a couple of recent foreign visits. Aged 52, his elevation means that the Castros, both of whom are in their 80s, are at last passing the baton to a generation born after the 1959 revolution. (Fidel gave a short speech at the assembly, in a rare public appearance which could be read as giving his blessing to the new appointment.)

Mr Díaz-Canel is an electrical engineer who spent 15 years as a provincial party secretary before becoming a minister and, last year, vice-president of the Council of Ministers. He is unexpressive in public, but is said to be affable and accessible, with a quick wit and sharp mind. Until fairly recently he wore his hair long, another reminder of the fact that he is a child of the 1960s, not the 1930s. He is known to be a fan of the Beatles, an enthusiasm once frowned upon by the regime.

Whereas Fidel liked to surround himself with young acolytes, Raúl has long shown that he values the practical experience of provincial party officials, to whom he has devolved some powers. Another rising star, Mercedes López Acea, the Havana party secretary, was promoted to the rank of vice-president as well.

As higher-education minister Mr Díaz-Canel expanded a scheme under which Cubans taught students from Venezuela, Cuba’s chief benefactor. He forged close ties with Venezuela’s leaders, including Nicolás Maduro, the de facto president. With Mr Chávez seemingly dying of cancer, it is vital for Cuba’s leaders that Mr Maduro should succeed him and continue to provide subsidised oil.

Raúl once praised Mr Díaz-Canel for his “ideological firmness”. The new man’s private views are unclear. In the 1990s he was linked to a group of communist reformers that surrounded the then foreign minister, Roberto Robaina, who openly argued for economic liberalisation in Cuba.

Raúl Castro has allowed Cubans to buy cars and homes, to lease farmland and to set up small businesses. Last year he scrapped curbs on foreign travel. As a result, this month Yoani Sánchez, a blogger and opponent of the regime, has been able to visit Brazil—though she has faced protests organised by the Cuban Embassy in Brasília and members of Brazil’s ruling Workers’ Party.

There are signs that Raúl is running out of reformist steam. His tone in his speech to the assembly seemed at times almost resigned. “I was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba” he stressed (Mr Díaz-Canel nodded in agreement). He announced no new economic reforms. It will be Mr Díaz-Canel’s job to get to grips with the “issues of greater scope, complexity and depth” that Raúl said the government was grappling with. First among these is allowing private wholesale markets.

Various putative dauphins were raised up by Fidel only to fall from grace, accused of corruption or of excessive ambition. One of them was Mr Robaina, sacked in 1999. He now spends his days painting and running a restaurant in Miramar, an elegant district of Havana. Mr Díaz-Canel is presumably aware of the risks involved in his elevation. But this time it looks as if the chosen successor may be the one who actually succeeds.

Click here for original article.

El Colombiano – Estados Unidos promete minimizar influencia iraní en Latinoamérica

Publicado el 28 de febrero de 2013

La secretaria de Estado adjunta de Estados Unidos para Latinoamérica, Roberta Jacobson, aseguró este jueves que su país defenderá la democracia ante los “líderes populistas” del continente y minimizó la influencia que tiene Irán en los países de la región.

Jacobson se pronunció así en una audiencia ante el subcomité del Hemisferio Occidental en la Cámara de Representantes de Estados Unidos, en la que habló sobre las oportunidades y retos en Latinoamérica en el segundo mandato del presidente Barack Obama, en el que Estados Unidos tiene un nuevo titular de Exteriores, John Kerry.

“En algunos países del continente, los líderes populistas que son impacientes o incluso irrespetuosos con los procesos de la democracia están cerrando o subyugando medios independientes y buscando controlar tribunales y parlamentos”, indicó Jacobson.

“Estamos trabajando a través de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) para proteger la libertad de expresión“, aseguró. “Seguiremos pronunciándonos para defender instituciones fuertes e independientes de la democracia”.

Estados Unidos ha analizado de cerca la situación en Venezuela, donde el presidente Hugo Chávez, reelegido en los comicios de octubre, no pudo jurar su nuevo mandato (2013-2019) el pasado 10 de enero debido a sus problemas de salud, y opina que en el caso de que el mandatario quede permanentemente inhabilitado para ejercer el poder, deberá haber elecciones en el país.

Al respecto, Jacobson consideró este jueves que, ante la posibilidad de que se produzca una transición política en Venezuela“Estados Unidos tiene un papel que representar”, al defender en la OEA y en sus intercambios con los venezolanos “la necesidad de que cualquier elección sea libre, abierta y justa”.

La responsable de Estados Unidos para Latinoamérica también se refirió a la creciente actividad de Irán en el continente, ante la que el Departamento de Estado está elaborando una estrategia de respuesta que ella misma está coordinando y que entregará al Congreso en junio.

Jacobson reconoció que Irán ha firmado “muchos acuerdos diplomáticos y actividades en la región”, pero aseguró que “no parece que estén dando frutos”.

El informe que elabora Estados Unidos tendrá una buena parte clasificada, según adelantó, aunque también una porción pública que reflejará “lo que hacemos para supervisar la influencia de Irán y responder cuando se violan las sanciones”.

“Gran parte de lo que creemos que es crítico para responder a Irán es trabajar con otros países, para ver si hay información que podamos compartir”, afirmó. “No siempre es posible, pero muchos países están preocupados de no tener la información que necesitan para supervisar ellos también (las actividades iraníes)”.

El Congreso aprobó el año pasado una ley que obligaba al Gobierno de Obama a elaborar una estrategia al respecto y describir detalladamente las actividades de Irán, su Guardia Revolucionaria, sus Fuerzas Quds y el grupo libanés Hizbulá.

Según esa ley, Irán ha construido 17 centros culturales en América Latina y en la actualidad mantiene once embajadas, en comparación con seis en 2005.

El Departamento de Estado también enviará al Congreso “lo antes posible” otro plan: elacuerdo que firmaron hace un año la entonces secretaria de Estado, Hillary Clinton, y el expresidente mexicano Felipe Calderón, para permitir la explotación de los yacimientos de hidrocarburos que estén en la frontera común en el Golfo de México.

El Gobierno de Obama aún tiene dudas sobre si el acuerdo con México es un tratado, que necesitaría aprobación del Congreso, o un simple pacto que no la requiere, según indicó una fuente legislativa al diario especializado The Hill. En caso de que decida que es un tratado,  deberá ser ratificado por el Senado y la Cámara baja antes de que pueda comenzar la exploración conjunta de los yacimientos transfronterizos.

La energía es, precisamente, una de las tres áreas en las que Jacobson ve más oportunidades en el continente, junto a la educación y la defensa de la democracia y los derechos humanos, según indicó.

Destacó el “excelente trabajo” que ha hecho Colombia en la mejora de su seguridad,hasta el punto de que “en muchas ocasiones saben hacer las cosas mejor que Estados Unidos” en esa área; y consideró que la alianza con el nuevo Gobierno mexicano de Enrique Peña Nieto “ha tenido un gran comienzo” en la cooperación de seguridad.

En cuanto a Cuba, confió en que haya “cambios en el terreno político en los próximos cinco años, porque hasta ahora” sólo han “visto avances en los derechos económicos”.

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NYT – Raúl Castro says he will resign

Published: February 24, 2013

MEXICO CITY — President Raúl Castro of Cuba announced Sunday that the five-year term he has just begun will be his last, giving the Castro era an official expiration date of 2018.

The race to succeed Mr. Castro, who is 81, now has a front-runner: Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, 52, an electrical engineer and former minister of higher education, whom Mr. Castro selected as his top vice president on Sunday, making him first in the line of succession.

“It represents a definitive step in the configuration of the future leadership of the nation,” Mr. Castro told lawmakers at a conference of legislative leaders in Havana on Sunday. He added that Cuba is at a moment of “historic transcendence.”

Indeed, Mr. Castro’s speech — attended by his brother Fidel, 86, who made a rare public appearance — had the tone of an unsentimental goodbye. Just as Mr. Castro has inched the island toward free market reforms since taking over from his brother in 2006, his plan for a transition amounts to a slow fade, or, as Mr. Castro put it, the “gradual transfer” of “key roles to new generations.”

And yet, on an island where a Castro has been in charge since 1959, he also seemed intent on changing how his successors will rule. In an announcement more surprising than his retirement plan, Mr. Castro said he hoped to establish term limits and age caps for political offices, including the presidency. Some broad constitutional changes, he said, will even require a referendum.

Not that the country’s controlled socialism is on the way out, he insisted. The leaders he has elevated are all loyalists, including Mr. Díaz-Canel, who came up through the army and then served in provincial leadership before being elevated within the Communist Party. He is widely seen inside Cuba as a technocrat — a “regional czar whose power is discrete but tangible,” said Arturo López Levy, a former analyst with the Cuban government — who earned Mr. Castro’s favor not only with youth and loyalty, but also by being a good manager.

“He was a senior Communist Party official for Villa Clara and Holguin provinces, where there were important openings with foreign investment in tourism,” said Mr. López Levy. He added that Mr. Díaz-Canel often worked as an intermediary between the central government and the military, which has taken an expanded role in tourism under Raúl Castro. “In that sense,” Mr. López Levy said, “he will face the challenge and opportunity to prepare a smooth landing for a new type of civil-military relationship in the future.”

Mr. Díaz-Canel’s rise has been closely watched over the past year. He has appeared on Cuban television more often; in June 2012 he accompanied Raúl Castro to the Rio+20meeting in Brazil and led the Cuban delegation to the London Olympics in July. He has also recently played a central role in meetings with officials from Venezuela, Cuba’s most important ally, which supplies it with subsidized oil.

But even as the meeting on Sunday projected an image of complete unity, there was no guarantee that Mr. Díaz-Canel will be Cuba’s next president. Many other young leaders have been pushed out of power over the years for reasons of scandal or disloyalty, and among the rising ranks, there are other leaders in their 50s who have recently been given more significant roles. Experts say that a power struggle is likely behind the Communist Party curtain, and in front of it as well, over the final five years of Mr. Castro’s presidency.

“Much could happen between now and then, both within the government and in various sectors of Cuba’s emergent civil society,” said Ted Henken, president of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, a research group.

The choice of Mr. Díaz-Canel nonetheless signals a major change. Even with a five-year transition, Mr. Castro’s decision to move Cuba publicly toward a new leader means that the island is now a heartbeat away from being ruled by a person who did not fight in the revolution that brought the Communists to power. The Castros, after aligning themselves for decades with the fighters whom they knew as young guerrillas, appear to have accepted that Cuba will be ruled next by someone whose career developed after the cold war.

“This is the first time the younger generation has a figure who is first in line,” said Philip Peters, a veteran Cuba scholar and vice president of the Lexington Institute, which tracks relations between the United States and Cuba. In an interview from Havana, he said: “It is the first time the older generation admitted the possibility of someone in the younger generation becoming president. We’ll see.”

Randal C. Archibold contributed reporting from Tapachula, Mexico.

Reuters – Brazil wants Venezuela election if Chavez dies

By Brian Winter and Ana Flor

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA | Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:59pm EST

(Reuters) – Brazil is urging Venezuela’s government to hold elections as quickly as possible if President Hugo Chavez dies, senior officials told Reuters on Monday, a major intervention by Latin America’s regional powerhouse that could help ensure a smoother leadership transition in Caracas.

Brazilian officials have expressed their wishes directly to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the officials said on condition of anonymity. Chavez has designated Maduro as his preferred successor if he loses his battle with cancer.

“We are explicitly saying that if Chavez dies, we would like to see elections as soon as possible,” one official said. “We think that’s the best way to ensure a peaceful democratic transition, which is Brazil’s main desire.”

Chavez is in Cuba receiving cancer treatment and he has not been seen in public for a month, prompting speculation that he is near death.

Venezuela’s constitution says a new election must be held within 30 days if the president dies. Before leaving for Cuba, Chavez urged Venezuelans to back Maduro should the cancer leave him incapacitated, and Chavez’s backers and the opposition appear to be preparing behind the scenes for a possible new vote.

Yet some foreign officials in the region, and some activists in more radical Venezuelan opposition circles, have privately expressed fears that the government could bend the rules if it wants, especially if polls show Maduro might lose.

The Supreme Court’s controversial decision to postpone Chavez’s inauguration last week reinforced concerns that loopholes could be used to keep the current government in power.

Venezuela’s government said Sunday that Chavez’s health has improved somewhat, though his lung infection still requires special care.

Brazil’s stance on Venezuela is critical because it is by far Latin America’s biggest country and it enjoys growing economic and diplomatic clout in the region.

Its president, Dilma Rousseff, is a moderate leftist whose party has strongly supported Chavez over the past decade. Yet she is also perceived as neutral and democratic enough to be a credible broker in helping Venezuela chart a path forward if a political crisis erupts.

The Brazilians have also communicated their desire for quick elections via “emissaries” to main opposition leader Henrique Capriles. By clearly supporting a democratic solution now, they hope to dissuade Capriles and others from inciting civil unrest in the event Chavez dies, the officials said.

“We’re working very hard to ensure there’s peace,” the first official said.

Capriles, whom most assume would run against Maduro in an election, has so far taken a relatively subdued tone despite the political uncertainty. He said last week that Chavez’s supporters would “win” politically if there was a violent confrontation.


Brazil is keeping the United States apprised of its efforts, and is hoping to convince Washington to allow it to take the lead in managing a potential leadership transition in Venezuela. Chavez is one of the world’s most vocal anti-U.S. leaders, and the Brazilian officials said they fear that any direct U.S. intervention in Venezuelan affairs could backfire.

Venezuela’s opposition is demanding that Chavez step aside and name a caretaker president while he recovers – but those complaints have so far been ignored by governments around the region, including the Rousseff administration.

Brazil’s push for quick elections in a post-Chavez Venezuela marks another important step in its emergence as a diplomatic heavyweight and champion of democracy in Latin America. Rousseff led a strong regional backlash last year when Paraguay’s Congress impeached and removed then-President Fernando Lugo.

Under Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil also took a proactive role in trying to resolve a political crisis in Honduras following the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Previously, Brazil had been more shy about taking the lead in regional crises, preferring to emphasize the right of countries to determine their own fates – long the bedrock principle of Brazilian diplomacy.

Lula, who remains an influential power broker in the region, will travel later this month to Cuba, where some speculate he could meet with Chavez, his longtime friend.

(Editing by Todd Benson and David Brunnstrom)

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The Washington Post – Once a partner of Colombian guerrillas, Venezuela now helps in peace talks

By , Published: October 14

BOGOTA, Colombia — When peace negotiations between Colombia’s government and Marxist rebels begin this week, a country once accused of helping the guerrillas in their war against the government will be on hand: Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, has had an affinity with the insurgents.

For many Colombians, the populist firebrand is a destabilizing force who wanted to see the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, take power late in the last decade from right-wing President Alvaro Uribe. Chavez once told the Venezuelan congress that Colombia’s guerrillas were fighting for a legitimate cause, and his government was accused of trying to isolate Uribe, a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs during an eight-year term that ended in 2010.

But Uribe’s center-right successor, Juan Manuel Santos, repaired tattered relations with Venezuela and then opted to take advantage of the admiration the FARC has for Chavez. Santos named Venezuela as one of four countries to participate in negotiations that begin Monday with the rebel group in Norway before moving to Cuba, where the bulk of the talks will take place.

And it has become clear in recent weeks that Chavez and his aides — particularly Nicolas Maduro, who was foreign minister until being named vice president this past week — have helped ensure that FARC commanders feel secure about meeting with Santos’s negotiators.

“Chavez has been extremely active on the peace process, not only logistically,” said Aldo Civico, a Rutgers University conflict resolution expert who has spoken to Colombian negotiators about the talks. “My understanding is that he has been able to talk to the members of the FARC negotiation team and encourage them to stay within the dynamic of the peace talks, to engage constructively.”

Norway, a country with a long history of brokering deals in conflicted countries, and Cuba, the host of the talks in the months ahead, will serve in the role of guarantors, with representatives from those countries sitting in on negotiations.

Venezuela and Chile, whose government is considered a close ally of Colombia’s government, are known as “acompañantes” — literally, company. They are to help with logistics, provide diplomatic support and “do whatever the parties ask them to do,” said a Colombian official familiar with the talks, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Those who closely track the policies in the region said that Venezuela’s role is especially important because of the relationship Chavez and his closest associates have forged with FARC commanders during the Venezuelan leader’s 14 years in power.

“Without Venezuela, it would be very difficult to have a successful negotiation,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue policy group in Washington. “They give some guarantees of legitimacy and credibility to the process and ensure that the talks stay on track.”

Santos, as defense minister for Uribe, oversaw some of the army’s biggest blows against the FARC, including strikes that killed some top commanders.

At the same time, Colombian military and police intelligence reported that the long, porous border Colombia shares with Venezuela had become a sanctuary for FARC units — a claim that was supported by people who live in border towns, rebel deserters and documents seized by Colombia’s army in abandoned rebel camps.

The United States also asserted that Venezuela had close ties to the FARC, and in 2008 it accused three top aides to Chavez of helping the rebels traffic in cocaine and battle Uribe’s government.

But upon his inauguration as president in August 2010, Santos moved fast to reopen a dialogue with Venezuela. “His main objective was to pursue a peace process, and he knew it would be hard to achieve without Chavez’s cooperation,” Shifter said.

The Venezuelan government, which had strenuously denied the accusations against it, responded positively to Santos’s diplomatic initiatives, noted Adam Isacson, a senior analyst on Colombia for the policy group Washington Office on Latin America.

“You have a president who wants to be seen as a peacemaker and wants to unite the region and cares about that,” Isacson said of Chavez. “Whatever advantage he saw in having a relationship with the FARC is probably now gone.”

Guerrilla negotiators have recently spoken publicly of Venezuela’s role in facilitating the talks and helping with the logistics that permitted them to get to Cuba for the preliminary negotiations that took place earlier this year with Colombian government representatives.

Chavez, too, has spoken about his government’s role in the talks, saying that his hope is for the guerrillas to reintegrate into society and continue their struggle through politics. He has also named a representative who will be in Cuba, Roy Chaderton, an experienced diplomat who has served in Washington as ambassador to the Organization of American States.

“With the guarantees Colombia’s government offers, with a good debate, with good talks, with a good accord, I think that the FARC could move into a political process,” Chavez said at a news conference last month in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital.

“They asked us for help,” he said of the FARC, “and I told the president, ‘Whatever needs to be done for Colombia’s peace, I’m willing to do it.’”

Click here for original article.

La Nacion – Sao Paulo Forum commits to support Hugo Chavez re-election

Last Friday, July 06, the Sao Paulo Forum, a conference of leftist political parties and organizations from Latin America and the Caribbean, endorsed the re-election of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva  also manifested his support to Venezuelan Chief Executive.

The Sao Paulo Forum denied the legitimacy of the new Paraguayan government, led by recently sworn President Federico Franco, and denounced a new rightist counteroffensive in the region, mentioning the deposition of Manuel Zelaya in Hondura in 2009.

Besides supporting Chavez, the Forum agreeded to support Xiomara de Zelaya, candidate in the presidential elections in Honduras, and the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, who is running for re-election in 2013.

The Caracas declaration attacked the interference of the United States in the region, claimed the end of the sanctions to Cuba, and the devolution of the Malvinas islands to Argentina.

I must say, the incongruency of the Brazilian foreign policy is appalling. Brazil – correctly – supported the suspension of Paraguay from Mercorsur on the grounds of the rupture of the democratic process in that country. However, Brazil aupported the Venezuela’s membership in the same organization, forgetting the unconstitutional referendum (April 25, 1999) through which Chavez managed to come up with a new constituion and pack both the Venezuela’s national electoral council and the Congress with his own guys. Not to mention his ruling by decree (granted by the legislature in 2001), and increasing disrespect for civil liberties and human rights.

Read the original article in Spanish below.

Foro de Sao Paulo cierra con compromiso de apoyar reelección de Chávez y desconociendo a Franco

El Foro de Sao Paulo cerró el viernes en Caracas con el objetivo trazado de apoyar la reelección del presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez, quien durante el discurso de clausura de este encuentro de partidos y movimientos de izquierda dijo que ganará “por paliza” los comicios de octubre. Por su parte, la Declaración de Caracas desconoció al “gobierno de facto” presidido por Federico Franco en Paraguay, tras la reciente destitución de Fernando Lugo, y rechazó “una contraofensiva golpista” de la derecha en la región, mencionando también la deposición de Manuel Zelaya en Honduras en 2009.   (AFP)

“La batalla central de los próximos meses es la contienda electoral en Venezuela, que tiene como fecha el 7 de octubre (…) A pocos meses de los comicios, la derecha ya considera como cierta la victoria de Hugo Chávez. Por esta razón, la derecha participa en el proceso electoral, pero preparando las condiciones para desconocer el resultado”, reza la Declaración de Caracas.
“Frente a esta situación, el Foro de Sao Paulo convoca a las fuerzas progresistas y de izquierda a respaldar la democracia venezolana, y a rechazar los intentos de desestabilización de la derecha”, continúa el texto final emitido por el XVIII encuentro del Foro de Sao Paulo, creado en 1990.
Para apoyar la reelección de Chávez, que en los comicios de octubre busca encadenar 20 años en la presidencia de Venezuela, el Foro de Sao Paulo acordó realizar el 24 de julio un ‘Día de Solidaridad Mundial con la Revolución Bolivariana y el comandante Hugo Chávez’.
Ese día, las organizaciones de izquierda que forman parte del grupo realizarán “en las capitales y otras ciudades, actos, mítines, ruedas de prensa y ofrendas florales al Libertador Simón Bolívar”, según una resolución emitida también este viernes en apoyo al gobierno de Venezuela.
“Agradezco mucho al Foro de Sao Paulo su declaración de apoyo a la democracia venezolana, porque hay que recordarlo: ellos (la oposición) tienen un plan ‘b'” de desestabilización, dijo Chávez durante su discurso de cierre del encuentro.
“La oposición estaba sacando sus cuentas de que yo no podría ni caminar ni hablar, que no podría ser candidato ¡Ahora aguántenme!”, dijo el mandatario venezolano, aquejado desde 2011 por un cáncer del que no se conoce su naturaleza ni ubicación.
“Estamos obligados a ganar esa batalla y la vamos a ganar el 7 de octubre, pero la vamos a ganar por paliza, con millones de votos de diferencia”, añadió Chávez, que se medirá al ex gobernador Henrique Capriles Radonski, principal candidato opositor.
El Foro de Sao Paulo también prevé la realización de “un Twittazo mundial con Chávez” en agosto, a través de la cuenta en Twitter del presidente venezolano: @chavezcandanga, y celebrar en septiembre en Caracas un ‘Encuentro Internacional de Solidaridad Mundial de los Pueblos del Mundo con la Revolución Bolivariana Venezolana y el Comandante Hugo Chávez'”.
El ex presidente brasileño Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, que participó en la clausura del Foro a distancia mediante un video, también apoyó la candidatura de Chávez.
“Chávez, cuenta conmigo, cuenta con nosotros desde el PT (Partido de los Trabajadores, de Brasil), cuenta con la solidaridad de la izquierda, de cada demócrata y de cada latinoamericano: tu victoria será nuestra victoria”, dijo Lula, que a la vez pidió a los partidos de izquierda “unidad en la diversidad”.
Aparte del apoyo a Chávez, el Foro acordó respaldar a Xiomara de Zelaya como candidata a las elecciones a la presidencia de Honduras y al mandatario ecuatoriano, Rafael Correa, en su postulación a la reeleeción en 2013.
Durante la última jornada del encuentro, que reunió en Caracas a unos 800 delegados de partidos y organizaciones de izquierda, el grupo también pidió en una resolución a Ecuador que dé asilo político al fundador de Wikileaks, Julian Asssange, actualmente refugiado en la embajada de ese país en Londres.
Por su parte, la Declaración de Caracas desconoció al “gobierno de facto” presidido por Federico Franco en Paraguay, tras la reciente destitución de Fernando Lugo, y rechazó “una contraofensiva golpista” de la derecha en la región, mencionando también la deposición de Manuel Zelaya en Honduras en 2009.
Asimismo, el texto final atacó la injerencia de Estados Unidos en la región y el papel de los medios de comunicación, a la vez que reivindicó pedidos como el fin del bloqueo a Cuba o la devolución de las Malvinas a Argentina.
“La Declaración de Caracas (…) es como una agenda mundial, ahí está el mundo contenido. Cuando nos despidamos hoy y mañana lleguemos allá y más allá, lo (importante es) lo que vamos a hacer para avanzar en el cumplimiento de algunos objetivos de esa lucha”, reflexionó Chávez.
Entre las personalidades que acudieron al Foro destacan la premio Nóbel de la Paz, la guatemalteca Rigoberta Menchú, el líder de la izquierda radical francesa, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, y la ex senadora colombiana, Piedad Córdoba.

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