Category Archives: Latin America

Cuban Independent Libraries Need Your Help


[h/t to Friends of Cuban Libraries]

The 2008 annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) begins this week in Anaheim, California. Three members of the ALA Council, Barbara Silverman, Shixing Wen and Cristina Ramirez, have introduced a resolution condemning the persecution of Cuba’s independent library movement and calling for the release of imprisoned librarians. The resolution also takes note of the burning of confiscated library books in Cuba and demands that surviving books be returned to their lawful owners.

While support for this resolution should be unanimous among those dedicated to freedom of thought and expression, there is an organized pro-Castro faction within the ALA. This group denies the existence of censorship, library persecution and book burning in Cuba.

As is often the case the majority is in the middle and uninformed about the specifics. ALA Councilors are unaware of Cuba’s grim reality and receive much of their information from biased committees dominated by the pro-Castro faction, with results that could be expected.

But thanks to the new resolution on the ALA Council’s agenda, now is the time to change ALA policy. Ms. Silverman, Mr. Wen and Ms. Ramirez are being attacked for daring to speak the truth about Cuba. We need to let them know how much we appreciate their principled support for intellectual freedom and justice. They need our encouragement in standing up for truth and freedom.


Barbara Silverman (

Shixing Wen (

Cristina Ramirez (

You don’t need to be an ALA member, a librarian or a U.S. citizen to make your voice heard on this crucial issue.

Every message counts. Your message can be short or long, but the main thing is that you send a message today! And please express support for the principle of intellectual freedom, avoiding any language that could be regarded as “political.”

Among the points you can make in your messages are:

* The issue of library repression in Cuba is a matter of principle, not politics
* Express thanks for their defense of jailed library workers who cannot defend themselves
* The ALA has a duty to speak out against book burning wherever it takes place

Hugo’s War: Or, the War that Never Happened


What if you declared a war and your enemies did not show up?

On March 1, Colombian military forces pursued Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas over the border into neighboring Ecuador. The operation resulted in the death of FARC deputy commander Raul Reyes and sixteen other guerillas. The killing of Reyes, part of the seven-member FARC secretariat, is arguably the most damaging blow struck by President Alvaro Uribe in his five-year campaign to crush the Marxist movement which has terrorized Colombia and the region for decades.

The specifics of the attack have not been made public. However, air-power was involved and Reyes’ location inside Ecuador was determined from a satellite phone he was tricked into using. Joshua Goodman reporting for Bloomberg writes, “President Alvaro Uribe spoke to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa after the operation concluded. Correa, who has criticized cross-border incursions by Colombia’s military in the past, confirmed that combat took place on Ecuadorian soil.”

In the hours and days following the event, relations between Columbian and Ecuador deteriorated as both countries withdrew their ambassadors. Ecuador deployed 3,200 troops to the border which proceeded to capture five FARC terrorists. Yet it was the psychotic behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez which pushed this from a dispute between neighboring states to a regional war.

Chavez went off the deep end, proclaiming his solidarity with the terrorist struggle of the FARC. As the situation escalated, Chavez massed ten battalions, including tanks—approximately 9,000 troops—to the border. Uribe responded in a more measured manner, refusing to give in to Chavez’s theatrics and chest-pounding. Less than two weeks after the incident the three men shook hands. As reported in The Washington Post:

US intelligence hopes that Reyes’ death will unleash a power struggle and possible rift within Farc ranks, especially as the ageing rebel commander Manuel Marulanda is reportedly seriously ill and being cared for on an estate in Venezuela near the Colombian border.

Marulanda’s presence is believed to be a major reason that Mr Chavez moved 10,000 men and tanks to the Colombian border – to warn off Bogota from another cross-border attack.

Another senior Farc leader Ivan Rios was killed by his bodyguard on Friday, further fuelling hopes of a split in the guerrilla movement.

There are two stories related to this war that never happened. The first has to do with documents and money, a paper trail. The second has to do with Venezuelan domestic politics, the failure of the Bolivarian revolution.

In addition to killing Reyes, the raid netted three laptops. If the information contain within these computers is genuine and not a fabrication, the evidence is damning towards FARC, Chavez, and Correa. The Washington Post reports:

In the documents already discovered, the Colombians say, FARC chiefs admit to killing the sister of former President Cesar Gaviria and to planting a 2003 car bomb that killed 36 people at a club where Bogota’s upper crust gathered for squash and drinks.

Cocaine sales are discussed in other files, and a plan is floated to borrow money from Libya for the possible purchase of surface-to-air missiles, officials say. Uribe interprets several documents as indicating Chavez was planning to give the FARC $300 million.

Carlos Alberto Montaner opines in The Miami Herald:

It happens, however, that the incident between Colombia and Ecuador cannot be settled with a handshake. If Interpol determines that the three computers found in the camp of Raúl Reyes, the FARC’s second-in-command, are not a fabrication of the Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe but really belonged to the narcoterrorist comandante killed by Colombian bombs, the International Crimes Court must take up the case, investigate the events in depth and punish the guilty.

The sentiment was expressed with total authority by Diego Arria, former U.N. Security Council president and an expert in these affairs: “The fact that the president of Colombia . . . denounced the presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador as collaborators with the terrorists who are holding 700 people hostage cannot be overlooked, no matter how many handshakes or forced smiles.”

True enough. The documents found in Reyes’ computer tell of funding the FARC’s activities with Venezuelan money. No less than 300 million petrodollars.

They describe the complicity of the government of President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who assigned one of his principal ministers to be the liaison with the narcoguerrillas and offered to remove from the border any soldiers who interfered with the rebels’ work.

A missing dimension of much of the reporting has been a failure to examine what is happening inside Venezuela. Critics of Chavez note this attempt at war was conducted in hopes of increasing patriotism and the notions that the country is under attack from outside forces. For increasing numbers of Venezuelans, the failures of Chavez’s revolution are becoming apparent. Crime is increasing and Venezuela is experiencing food shortages that should be unheard of in a country with such astounding wealth. Price controls have not managed to decrease the inflation below 20%, the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Venezuelan Jewish Community Center Raided, Fidel Castro on the International “Zionist” Conspiracy


[H/t to A.L. for these two articles. I meant to post something on the Chavez piece last week and then my man hits me with this other rant written by The Bearded One going on about “Zionist control.” Slow down, A.L. You’re making the rest of us look old…]

Venezuelan government officers recently raided the Hebraica Jewish community center in Caracas resulting in widespread condemnation from Jewish community. Ostensibly on a hunt for weapons and evidence of “subversive activity,” government officials previously raided the community center in December of 2007 and tensions have remained high ever since.

The Forward’s Marc Perelman reports:

The December operation took place on the night preceding a crucial referendum on proposed constitutional reform that would have granted Chavez broad powers and the possibility to run indefinitely. The reform was rejected by a thin margin.

“It seems that the only interpretation is that this was an intimidation by the government,” Abraham Levy Benshimol, president of CAIV [Confederation of Israelite Associations of Venezuela,–e.d.], told the Forward.

Venezuela’s Jewish community numbered about 16,000 until Chavez was elected in 1998, and has since declined to around 12,000. The community comprises émigrés who began arriving in the mid-19th century from both North Africa and Eastern Europe, with the majority arriving during and after World War II. Evenly made up of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews, the community has thrived in the oil-rich country. Benshimol said that it has maintained “good relations with the Venezuelan government since the end of military dictatorship in 1958.”

CAIV’s president also said that the ties continued when Chavez came to power and initially met with CAIV leaders. What has happened since then is a long and complicated story of domestic and international power politics.

One of the first points of tension was the April 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. Michael Penfold-Becerra, a political scientist at Caracas’s institute of superior administrative studies, said that among some government officials, suspicions against Jews were fueled by the alleged support of prominent rabbi Pinchas Brenner for the authors of the short-lived coup, as well as by the perception that Israelis and Jews were active in the arms business.

The first raid, in 2004, heightened the tensions, especially since it took place early in the day when hundreds of children were on their way to school.

The tensions escalated again during the 2006 summer war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, when Chavez accused Israelis of behaving like Nazis…

Through it all, Benshimol and others have stressed that there has been no instance of physical violence against Jews in the country. And they have, on occasion, defended Chavez against accusations of antisemitism aired by such American Jewish groups as the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

But the atmosphere has worsened lately, first and foremost because of Chavez’s increasingly inflammatory talk about Israel and its supporters. A television program called “The Razor,” broadcast on a state-owned channel, has featured lengthy rants about the presence of Mossad agents allegedly in the country working to unseat the Chavez regime with the support of the United States and opposition forces in Venezuela. The host of the show has also questioned the loyalty of leading Jewish figures to their home country. Despite repeated complaints by CAIV, the authorities have taken no action.

[read the entire article]

Regarding the International Zionist Conspiracy™, Fidel Castro aka The Bearded One had this to say:

In 1917, by the Balfour Declaration, the British decided to create the State of Israel within its colonial empire, located on territory inhabited by the Palestinians who had a different religion and culture; in that part of the world, other ethnic groups coexisted for many centuries before our era, among them the Jews. Zionism became popular among the Americans, who rightly detested the Nazis, and whose financial markets were controlled by representatives of that movement. That state today is practicing the principles of apartheid; it has sophisticated nuclear weapons and it controls the most important financial centers in the United States.

Defeat for Chavez


[Looks like Venezuelan president Chavez’s latest power-grab was defeated. This post by Dara Mandle is from Contentions.]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez–who called George Bush the devil and noted that the day after the American President addressed the United Nations “it smells of sulfur still today”–has suffered a stunning defeat. Yesterday Venezuelans voted to reject a referendum that would overhaul the constitution and expedite Chavez’s plan to transform Venezuela into a socialist regime. Under Chavez’s leadership, the country has turned away from the United States, once a staunch ally.

The referendum Venezuelans voted down contained 69 proposed changes to the constitution. Such changes called for eliminating presidential term limits, increasing the authority of the President, and designating more property as communal. Not surprisingly, Chavez enjoyed large support from poorer communities, though the New York Times reports that some voting centers in lower income areas had no lines. According to the Times, “’I’m impressed by the lack of voters,’ said Ninoska González, 37, who sells cigarettes on the street. ‘This was full last year.’”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times notes that students were essential to Chavez’s opposition. The Venezuelan leader regards this opposition as “‘daddy’s little children,’ ‘fascists,’ and ‘the children of the rich,’ who he says are taking orders from the U.S. government.”

[continue reading]