Via the Pew Research Center:
Despite rocky diplomatic relations, Venezuelan public prefers U.S. to Cuba
Venezuela has had a rough year. With inflation topping 60% in May, new talk of raising the country’s incredibly low gas prices and shortages of goods ranging from coffee to toilet paper, the socialist government is reaching out to allies in an effort to alleviate the country’s pervasive economic problems. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan public has very different views about two of the nation’s most important trade partners: the United States and Cuba.
Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolás Maduro is no fan of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean Venezuelans take the same view. According to Pew Research Center’s Spring 2014 global survey, Venezuelans have generally positive attitudes concerning the U.S. At a rate of two-to-one, the Venezuelan public holds a more favorable (62%) than unfavorable (31%) view of their biggest trade partner. This represents a nine point uptick in support since 2013, when 53% shared positive feelings toward the U.S. Younger Venezuelans are especially likely to view the U.S. favorably – 66% of those ages 18-29 express a positive opinion. Still, a majority of those ages 50 and older (56%) also perceive the U.S. favorably.
The biggest disagreements about the U.S. break along ideological lines. Venezuelans who lean to the right of the political spectrum see the U.S. in an overwhelmingly positive light (84%), while only 12% have a negative opinion. Venezuela’s political left, which aligns with President Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, tends to be more critical of the U.S. (62% unfavorable v. 34% favorable). This is none too surprising given the tumultuous relationship between Maduro and the U.S. in recent months and the many years of tension between Washington and Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Chávez, who blamed the U.S. for organizing a coup against him in 2002, often stoked anti-American sentiment with colorful quips, including claims that the U.S. “invented technology to spread cancer” to South American leaders and referring to then-President George W. Bush as “the devil,” “a donkey” and “a drunkard.” Despite this, a majority of moderates (63%) see America favorably.
Meanwhile, most Venezuelans have a negative opinion of Venezuela’s political and economic ally, Cuba. The two countries have a very interdependent relationship, with Venezuela sending Cuba subsidized oil in exchange for Cuban doctors, teachers and military advisors. Yet 57% of Venezuelans give Cuba an unfavorable rating, with fully 38% saying they have a very unfavorable impression of their trade partner. Only 37% have a favorable outlook.
The most notable difference of opinion hinges on political ideology. While roughly seven-in-ten (72%) left-leaning Venezuelans view Cuba favorably, only 14% on the right share this attitude. Moderates also tend to be more disapproving of Cuba (34% favorable v. 54% unfavorable). Protestors in Caracas earlier this year, lauded by opposition groups in both Venezuela and Cuba, attributed such feelings to the perceived “Cubanization” of Venezuela, claiming that the Cuban government increasingly plays a role in Venezuelan efforts to suppress dissidents and wants to force Cuba’s strict socialist ideas onto Venezuelans.
Here are more detailed results and survey methodology.
Sit back and enjoy the irony of a black supremacist who calls white people the "devil" expressing glowing admiration for Fidel Castro, the racist leader of Cuba's white apartheid regime.
Via ACN, a state-run propaganda outlet of Cuba's Castro dictatorship:
Louis Farrakhan Reiterates Admiration for Fidel Castro
HAVANA, Cuba, Aug 26 (acn) The leader of The Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan said in Barbados that Fidel Castro made solidarity among the peoples the reason of his existence.
The leader of the US religious movement made his statement during a meeting with Barbadian activists, attended by Cuban ambassador Lissette Perez, according to the island's Foreign Ministry.
Farrakhan referred to Fidel's initiative to train doctors for Third World nations as a contribution to world supportive practice and he noted that the idea that the return of those doctors to their own communities to assist their people changed the mindset about the concept of giving assistance to those in need.
He also recalled his visits to Cuba and his meetings with Fidel, especially in 2002 when he met with Army General Raul Castro and corroborated the efforts of the Cuban people in the areas of healthcare, education and urban agriculture.
Google's recent decision to make its internet browser Chrome available to web surfers in Cuba was met with cheers and high fives by Fidel Castro's three little pigs: Three Cuban-American organizations who under the guise of seeking liberty in Cuba actually spend all their time, money, and resources lobbying for the Castro regime and calling for the removal of sanctions against the Western Hemisphere's bloodiest and most repressive regime. What the three lechoncitos fail to mention is that Google Chrome (or any web browser for that matter) is of little use in a country where the internet is either unavailable or severely censored. Providing free web browsers to Cubans is like giving reading glasses to a prisoner held in a pitch black cave.
Interactive map shows you where internet censorship is strongest
If you're reading this, you probably enjoy open internet access as a matter of course. However, other countries aren't quite so liberal. How do you know where you're truly free? IVPN's new interactive censorship map might just answer that question for you. The site lets you click on a given country to quickly learn about its tendencies to block free speech online, attack critics and shred anonymity. Not surprisingly, very authoritarian governments like China, Cuba and Iran don't score well -- they tend to insist on real names when you post, and will throw you in prison for challenging the internet status quo. Many other countries, like Russia and Venezuela, walk an awkward line between freedom and trying to crush dissent.
The map is far from perfect. There are quite a few gaps, although that's partly dictated by countries that can't or won't offer data (North Korea isn't exactly the sharing type). Also, you may scoff at the nations deemed truly free -- the info comes from 2012, before we knew about Australia's proposed anti-leak measures, American surveillance revelations or the UK's hit-and-miss porn filter. Still, the guide should make it at least a little bit easier to understand where it's safe to speak your mind.
Spain's infamously leftist courts failed miserably in their attempt to block a U.S. court judgement against Cuba's murderous Castro dictatorship. Beyond their sympathies with the Marxist dictatorship, Spanish courts no doubt have an interest in protecting the billions of dollars the country has invested in the island's repressive and brutal regime. Besides, as far as they are concerned, Cuba is still their colony and their property and if anyone is going to take billions from the Castros, it is going to be them.
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Spanish Bank Tries to Impede Judgments Against Cuban Regime
Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A., ("Banco Bilbao"), filed a motion in a Manhattan federal court seeking to block the families of various Cuban men, who were tortured and assassinated by the Castro regime, from collecting their successful "wrongful death" judgments.
Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected this effort by Banco Bilbao.
Apparently, Banco Bilbao -- one of the few European banks that still keeps a strong presence in Cuba -- felt that profit trumps justice.
They were wrong.
Read Judge Hellerstein's opinion here.
Archbishop Bruno Musarò, Apostolic Nuncio to Castrogonia, blasted the island's rulers recently, and a handful of news organizations are reporting on his comments.
Not surprisingly, the news reports thus far are only available in Italian, Spanish, and Polish. Nothing at all in English. No word from the AP or Reuters, or CNN, etc..
If the nuncio had denounced the "blockade" rather than the Castro regime, his comments would be getting a hell of a lot more attention, of course.
The nuncio's remarks were first quoted by LecceNews24 in Italy, in an article entitled: "'In Cuba you die': Salentine bishop sounds the alarm." You can find that full report HERE.
TV Marti picked up the story, and you can find their report HERE (includes video). El Mundo in Boliva also ran the story. Go HERE for that. And if you can read Polish, go HERE for that report.
The comments were made after he celebrated mass in the Italian town of Vignacastrisi. (Ha! VignaCASTRIsi: Who says God lacks a sense of humor?)
Among his observations, the following stand out:
“In Cuba you die.” (A Cuba si muore).
"In Cuba eating is a luxury."
“The Cuban people live in conditions of absolute poverty and degradation without human or civil rights. They are the victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them enslaved for fifty-six years.”
“Only freedom can give hope to the Cuban people.”
“The only hope Cubans can have for a better life is to leave their island.”
“Italians who complain about many things in Italy should know that in Cuba a physician only earns 25 euros per month and that in order to live with dignity many Cuban professionals have to work as waiters at night.”
“In Cuba everything is controlled by the government, even milk and meat. Beef is a luxury and anyone who dares to slaughter a cow in order to eat it is arrested and sent to prison.”
“After more than half a century, praise is still being heaped on this Revolution, but, in the meantime, the Cuban people don’t have proper work and don’t have a way of feeding their own children.”
“I’m grateful that the pope sent me to that island, and I hope to be there when the socialist regime comes to an end.”
Apostolic nuncios serve as the pope’s ambassadors to the world’s nations. Archbishop Musarò was appointed as nuncio to Castrogonia by Pope Benedict XVI in August 2011. Before that he had been serving as nuncio to Peru. Previous appointments have taken him to Spain, Korea, Panama, Guatemala, The Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Madagascar, The Seychelles, and several other remote locations in the so-called Third World.
Needless to say, the archbishop is supremely well-qualified to judge conditions in Castrogonia relative to conditions elsewhere around the globe.
And --needless to say -- the thugs in Havana are now going to press the Vatican for his dismissal.
Via Venezuela News & Views:
The bolivarian revolutionary army goes to war!
In a feat unseen since the first two decades of the XIX century the Venezuelan Bolivarian Chavista Army has gone on the offensive and decided to dispose of this major threat to our nation: smugglers. No expense should be spared as these people have been able to smuggle away 40% of our food without no one noticing for months of "economic war". But guided by Maduro and Fidel, the glorious revolutionary army has opened its eyes and from the twitter of the commander in chief himself we get accounts from the glorious battles fought. Next, choice tweets from Vladimir Padrino account with my most admiring appreciation.
Of course, we need to start from the field command, on top of a hill as it should. Apparently from this exquisitely chosen strategic position many smugglers path are visible and are being destroyed under the keen supervision of the fat robust generals, a wonder to all. You may appreciate the latest fashion in bullet proof jackets which I am sure were an urgent necessity on top of that hill as we can see from the very anxious facial expressions.
And what are they catching?
Continue reading HERE.
By Luzbely Escobar in Translating Cuba:
Chimeras and Frustrations
It is a little more than a week before the start of school and the youngest at home are already taking stock of what they’ve done on their vacation. They go to sleep thinking about what they’ll tell their friends in September and in their little heads they remember each outing with their families. Although parents have few options to entertain their children in the summer, they always make an effort.
The options range from five pesos to buy an ice cream cone at the corner snack bar, to the complicated and greatly desired trip to the beach. I’ve made many promises to my little ones to take them for a dip, but I still haven’t been able to keep my promise. A trip to Santa Maria or Guanabo is like the children’s Road to El Dorado during the summer season.
A trip to the beach is a chimera. The main difficultly rests in the long lines for the bus, with its riots of boys who push in front of everyone because they don’t like to wait that long. Coming home, as if it weren’t hard enough to catch the route 400, we add the drunkenness and fights that break out in front of the innocent eyes of the children. Not to mention the abundant stream of bad words and atrocities shouted with a natural mastery from one end of the bus to the other.
As an alternative to the beach, the other day we inflated a plastic pool in the basement and poured in a few buckets of water. They had a good time, after the frustration of the breakdown of the transport that would take us to Marazul—coming and going guaranteed—but in the end it left us with swimsuits packed and snacks prepared.
To go to the beach there are other variants such as the almendrones—classic American cars—that cost one convertible peso* (CUC) each but don’t guarantee the return. At one time we could take advantage of the buses that run on the tourist routes, at least for a visit, because they cost 3 CUC each coming and going and the children didn’t have to pay. However, now they’ve gone up to 5 CUC, which is too expensive for ordinary mortals.
Other options, which we have done, are going to the movies, the theater, the usual family visits and games in the park below. But that quickly bores them and they want more. They are tireless in their requests for the Aquarium, the beach, the pool, the zoo, and the Maestranza Fun Park in Old Havana. We decided we weren’t going to the last one any more. It’s too much suffering under the sun and closes at the best time, when it starts to get dark.
If we went to the Zoo twice it’s because it’s close, although it already has a super-well-known terrible reputation. We can go to the Aquarium at night, but sadly, that’s when transport in that area of Havana is more complicated than in the daytime, and so we haven’t had an opportunity to go. In short, if we add up the possible choices, there are few real possibilities of entertaining children.
There are still about ten days of vacation but I don’t think we’ll do much more. Now we’re focused on uniforms, backpacks, shoes, snacks, notebooks, pencils and everything that makes up the school package. Luckily they’ve already forgotten the chimerical holiday and have replaced it with school. We still have the task of making sure there’s no lack of teacher for the classroom, as happened in the last semester of the previous school year. That would be too much frustration.
*Translator’s note: The average monthly wage in Cuba is around 20 CUC. One CUC is about 24 Cuban pesos (about one dollar US).
Mercedes Alvaro and Dan Molinski in The Wall Street Journal:
Ecuador President Rafael Correa Seeks Law Allowing Perpetual Re-Election
Popular Leader Setting Stage for Expected Fourth Run in 2017
QUITO, Ecuador—President Rafael Correa, in speeches and televised interviews, assures followers he'd like nothing more than to step aside when his current term ends. "The easiest thing would be for me to retire in 2017 as one of the best presidents in our history, as the people refer to me," he said in a recent televised interview.
But Mr. Correa, whom opponents characterize as a semi-authoritarian leader who controls all levers of power, has other plans. Ecuador's Constitutional Court, whose judges are allied with the president, is now deliberating a proposal by the ruling Alianza Pais Party to permit indefinite re-election for every office-holder. The justices are expected in the days ahead to forward the proposal on to Congress, where Alianza Pais has a strong majority and is expected to pass the new law sometime next year.
Still popular after seven years in office, Mr. Correa, who is 51 years old, would likely win a fourth presidential election in 2017 and remain in power far into the future, analysts and opposition figures believe. Buoyed by high oil prices, Mr. Correa has funneled money into education and highways, giving him high approval ratings, while drawing sharp criticism from rights groups and press freedom advocates for trying to muzzle critics.
"The yearning of all autocrats is to stay in power for life, and that was Correa's plan from the start," said Osvaldo Hurtado, a former president of Ecuador.
Mr. Correa couldn't be reached to comment. An aide who arranges his interviews, Mariana Bravo, said he was unavailable, and Fernando Alvarado, the government's communications secretary, couldn't be reached.
In speeches, Mr. Correa has rejected accusations that he is trampling on Ecuador's democracy, arguing instead that the people shouldn't be deprived of their democratic will. Extending his presidency, he said, would thwart his foes' plans to end his so-called Citizen's Revolution, which is intended to remake this country of 16 million.
"My sincere position was always against re-election," he said in a nationwide address in May. "But after deep reflection, and well aware that sometimes our choices are between the lesser of two evils, I've decided to support this initiative."
Continue reading Ecuador’s Rafael Correa continues his quest for dictator in perpetuity
Santana in El Nuevo Herald:
"I want to make it clear that we are not using the fingerprint scanners to ration food.
"But make no mistake: We're not going to allow anyone to buy more than what is assigned to them. You got that?"
Martha Beatriz Roque continues to capture incredible images from the hellhole she inhabits.
Images that defy logic. Images that defy time and space. Images that rape one's memory. Images that rip out one's heart and consume it.
Each and every image is a demonic transverberation of the soul.
This is the neighborhood of Guanabacoa in Havana, in 2014.
Past and present converge: ancient cars navigate flooded streets. The sewers no longer work, but the ancient cars do.
The streets become rivers whenever it rains.
No people-to-people tourist encounters in this part of town, where my father once worked.
He rode the bus to Guanabacoa, and sometimes I went with him.
The streets were not flooded then, but these cars still traversing them were there, for sure.
Maybe I laid eyes on them when they were brand new?
Faded glory, present squalor: A lot of attention was lavished on this corner building when it went up, but now it crumbles.
A small handwritten sign, barely visible, warns of an imminent collapse. Stores continue to serve customers on the ground floor, and families crowd the apartments upstairs.
No one has any place to go, so they stay. Tick tock.
The past seems incredible, improbable. Who could build anything like this today?
The present is all too real: nothing but ruins.
The future is so bleak that one cannot think about it: the building will undoubtedly kill and maim those who are doomed to live, work, and shop there, or even those who walk past it.
Individual human beings don't matter.
Abstractions are all that matters: "the people," the Revolution," "socialism," "maximum leaders," "anti-imperialism," and so on......
Slogans. Hand written messages from zombie slaves and from those at death's rotting door.
The signs are so small, so hard to notice, so hard to read. What do they say?
Long live the Revolution? Socialism or death?
No. They shout: Peligro de derrumbe! (Danger of collapse!)
Or, maybe they quote the gladiators of ancient Rome: Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant.
Hail, Emperor, we who are about to die salute you!
A pontificating leftist hypocrite. Is there any other type?
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Mujica Criticizes (Embodies) Double-Standards
In a weekend interview with Spain's El Mundo, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica was asked about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela.
He defensively responded:
"There is no right to intervene in Venezuela's issues. People always ask me: What do you think of Venezuela and Cuba? But why don't they ask me about China? They don't because it is a major economic power. There is a tremendous tolerance with China, but not with Venezuela and Cuba. Why not ask me about those men from Arabia in robes and jewels? God forbid if that can be called a democracy..."
It's ironic how President Mujica feels that criticism of Venezuela's authoritarian government -- and support for its peaceful opponents -- is "intervening" in Venezuela's issues.
Yet, when Mujica led a violent, armed opposition ("Tupamaros") against Uruguay's dictatorship in the 1970s, he had no problem asking the world for sanctions -- or for Cuba's military dictatorship to "intervene" by providing weapons and training to his urban guerrillas.
Thus, Mujica shouldn't be pontificating on double standards.
However, Mujica is right about the world's immoral tolerance of China and Saudi Arabia's regimes.
History will surely not be kind to the West's China and energy policies, which have directly led to the creation of history's two most lucrative dictatorships.
But the answer is to correct the course -- and hold China and Saudi Arabia accountable for their unrelenting human rights violations and anti-democratic behavior. Not to extend such short-sighted irreverence to the Western Hemisphere, namely Cuba and Venezuela.
(We've previously written about this in The New York Times. See "Freedom First or Business First?")
Mujica knows all-too-well that the Western Hemisphere has made great strides towards democracy in the last three decades. It's a far-cry from Asia and the Middle East.
Representative democracy was enshrined as the backbone of hemispheric relations in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter ("Charter") signed by 34 (or 33.5, as Venezuela slides backwards) of the 35 countries of the Western Hemisphere.
Efforts to normalize U.S. and hemispheric relations with Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship, and to accept Venezuela's authoritarian affronts, seek to undermine these historic, democratic strides.
(We've also previously written about this in The Hill. See "Latin America Has Democracy, But Lacks Democrats.")
This inter-hemispheric battle will play out during next year's Summit of the Americas in Panama, where Castro's cohorts will seek to undermine the Charter -- which stemmed from the 2001 Quebec Summit's "democracy clause" -- by including Cuba in this gathering of democracies.
That would represent the ultimate double-standard -- and re-open the doors to Latin American dictatorships (of the left and right).
By dissident blogger and photographer, Yusnaby Perez:
The two Cubas: One for foreign tourists and the real one.
Thanks to Carlos Eire for bringing this to our attention yesterday.
I wrote something about it over at American Thinker. You can read it by clicking below
It appears Christians in Cuba did not receive the memo from pro-Castro groups here in the U.S. and news agencies like the AP that apartheid dictator Raul Castro has miraculously morphed into a sensible, moderate, and reformed dictator.
Via World Magazine:
Cuba cracks down on Christians
Cuba’s communist government has increased its oppression of religious institutions, according to a Christian watchdog group, with reports of religious liberty violations almost doubling in the last six months.
According to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), there were 170 religious freedom violations from the start of 2014 through mid-July. In 2013, there were only 180 incidents documented. This year’s violations included government authorities beating pastors and lay workers, dragging politically dissident women away from Sunday services, and enforcing arbitrary detentions, church closures, and demolitions, CSW said.
Todd Nettleton, with Voice of the Martyrs, agreed that government persecution is on the rise in Cuba.
“It does seem like the government is paying more attention to the churches and making much of a concerted effort to control religious expression in Cuba,” Nettleton said. Although the government has not given a reason for the crackdown, Nettleton suggested President Raul Castro could be more hostile to Christianity than his brother, or more aware of it. The government might also be looking at the church and sensing a need to assert control.
While the government of the once-atheist country is communist, Cuba’s constitution claims to allow religious freedom: “The State recognizes, respects, and guarantees religious liberty.” But that right, as well as others, are ignored if the government claims they conflict with communism, CSW said.
Article 62 of the Cuban constitution declares: “No recognized liberty may be exercised against the existence and aims of the socialist State and the nation’s determination to build socialism and communism.”
The Cuban Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) has authority over all religious groups in Cuba and it has a “consistently antagonistic relationship” with many of those groups, CSW notes in its report. Roughly 56 percent of Cubans identify as Christian, according to Operation World.
CSW said most of the cases of women being detained and forced to miss church were Roman Catholics and Ladies in White, a political dissident group made up of women related to political prisoners.
Churches also are often pressured and threatened by the government to expel congregants the government considers political dissidents. Churches that resist “are under constant and intrusive government surveillance,” CSW said. Roman Catholic priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre’s refusal to shun individuals the government wants to keep socially isolated led to the state installing video cameras to watch his home and church. His email accounts have also been blocked.
CSW said protestant leaders are often threatened with having their churches closed if they refuse to expel and shun certain people. Government reprisals also have included frozen bank accounts, harassment and violence.
Cuban Christians live with the daily threat that everything, including their educational opportunities and employment, could be taken away, Nettleton said. Students could be kicked out of school without cause, flunked even if they have straight A’s, or be refused the diploma they earned. They are constantly pressured to leave the church and follow the government, Nettleton said.
Since 1959, the Cuban government has planted informants within churches and religious groups to report anything critical of the state or deemed “counter-revolutionary.”