Monday, May 31, 2010

the u.s. paid money to support hugo banzer’s 1971 coup in bolivia


For nearly four decades, there’s been an open ques tion about the 1971 coup that brought dic ta tor Hugo Banzer Suárez to power in Bolivia: was the U.S. gov­ern ment involved? Thanks to newly declas si fied doc u ments, we now have an answer.

Banzer was a dic ta tor of Bolivia from 1971-8 and a demo c ra t i cally elected pres i­dent from 1997-2001. His three-​day coup in August 1971 was sig nif i cant not only for the fight ing that accom pa nied it, which left 110 dead and 600 wounded, but for the seven-​year regime that fol lowed, one of the most repres sive in Bolivia’s his tory. Under Banzer’s rule, more than 14,000 Boli vians were arrested with out a judi cial order, more than 8,000 were tortured—with elec tric ity, water, beatings—and more than 200 were exe cuted or dis ap peared. (I’m writ ing a long arti cle about the legacy of the regime for Nar ra tive Mag a zine. It will hope­fully be out by the end of the year.)

Amer i can sup port for Banzer before and after the coup was never in doubt. He had trained at the School of the Amer i cas in Panama and the Armored Cav alry School in Texas, and in the late 60s served as mil i tary attaché in Wash ing ton. In the five months after he ousted left-​wing dic ta tor Gen eral Juan José Torres, Banzer was rewarded with $50 mil lion in grants and aid from the Nixon Administration.

But while U.S. sup port for Banzer during the coup has been widely assumed among Boli vians and Latin Amer i can his to ri ans, the only proof (until now) was been a Wash ing ton Post report pub lished a week after the event, which said that U.S. Air Force Major Robert J. Lundin had advised the plot ters and lent them a long-​range radio. The report was never sub stan ti ated, how ever, and the State Depart ment denied it imme di ately, assert ing unequiv o cally that the U.S. played no part in the over throw of Torres.

A col lec tion of declas si fied doc u ments recently released* by the same State Depart ment proves that this denial was not only incor rect, but a lie: the Nixon Admin is tra tion, acting with the full knowl edge of the State Depart ment, autho­rized nearly half a mil lion dollars—”coup money,” accord ing to the ambas sador in La Paz—for the politi cians and mil i tary offi cers plot ting against Torres. The CIA handed at least some of this money over to the coup’s lead ers in the days lead ing up to Banzer’s seizure of power.

Min utes from a July 8, 1971 meet ing of the 40 Com mit tee (an executive-​branch group chaired by Henry Kissinger and tasked with over sight of covert oper a tions) included dis cus sion of a CIA pro posal to give $410,000 to a group of oppo si tion politi cians and mil i tary lead ers, money that they knew would be used to over throw Torres. (Under Sec re tary of State U. Alexis John son: “what we are actu ally orga niz ing is a coup in itself, isn’t it?”) Though the com mit tee decided to wait to hear from Ambas sador Ernest Sir a cusa (he opposed the mea sure) the plan was ulti mately approved. The same day that the coup began in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, an NSC staffer reported to Kissinger that the CIA had trans ferred money to two high-​ranking mem bers of the opposition.

The CIA pro posal had its roots in a June con ver sa tion between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, when they decided that Torres’s over tures to the Boli vian left wing had gone too far:

Kissinger: We are having a major prob lem in Bolivia, too. And—

Nixon: I got that. Con nally men tioned that. What do you want to do about that?

Kissinger: I’ve told [CIA Deputy Direc tor of Plans Thomas] Karamessines to crank up an oper a tion, post-​haste. Even the Ambas sador there, who’s been a softy, is now saying that we must start play ing with the mil i tary there or the thing is going to go down the drain.

Nixon: Yeah.

Kissinger: That’s due in on Monday.

Nixon: What does Karamessines think we need? A coup?

Kissinger: We’ll see what we can, whether—in what con text. They’re going to squeeze us out in another two months. They’ve already gotten rid of the Peace Corps, which is an asset, but now they want to get rid of USIA and mil i tary people. And I don’t know whether we can even think of a coup, but we have to find out what the lay of the land is there.

The CIA was almost cer tainly cor rect that regard less of U.S. involve ment “an attempt to oust Torres in the next few months, if not sooner, [was] inevitable.” But even though they rec og nized that sup port ing the coup was “a high risk operation,” they decided they might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb:

The U.S. Gov ern ment will be the log i cal cul prit in the minds of Boli­vians. More over, we fully expect the CIA to come under fire and accu­sa tions of CIA involve ment seem inevitable. Since the CIA has been accused reg u larly (and falsely) of innu mer able plots and activ i ties in Bolivia, one more accu sa tion should not cause exces sive public reaction.

On August 26, three days after Banzer claimed power, Kissinger and Nixon spoke on the tele phone. Kissinger briefed the Pres i dent on his recent meet ing with Viet nam POW wives and the Pres i dent told Kissinger that “the trou ble with Reagan is quite clear. He really is simplistic.” At the end of the con ver sa tion, Kissinger noted, “In Bolivia there has been a coup. It has brought on a right-​wing government.”

Nixon’s response? “What about Chile.”


*In July 2009 the State Depart ment Office of the His to rian released volume E-10 of For eign Rela tions of the United States 1968-1972, edited by Dou glas Kraft and James F. Siek meier, but with held the Bolivia chap ter until declas si fi ca tion could be com pleted. The Bolivia doc u ments were released some time between March 1 of this year and now. I believe this is the first notice of the sig nif i cance of the Bolivia documents.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The First Step of an Important Journey

Two old hands at foreign and security policy, Senator Dick Lugar and Congressman Howard Berman, have just published a piece - “Lift the Ban – Let Americans Visit Cuba” - that provides a much-needed breath of fresh air to a U.S. policy so stale that it stinks.

In addition to the policy failure, the two gentlemen point out this salient reality:

…travel restrictions…impede the right of Americans to freedom of speech, association and to travel…nothing about the Cuba situation today justifies such an infringement on our basic liberties.
We might add that to allow a situation in which an ethnic minority in the U.S. - Cuban-Americans - can travel to Cuba while most Americans cannot, is an even more egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution.

On these merits alone, the “full travel to Cuba” legislation, now working its way through both houses of Congress, should pass overwhelmingly - despite the rearguard actions of those in the Congress and elsewhere whose true motivations have been exposed in none other than The Miami Herald.

Exposed a few days ago, on the pages of that paper, were the huge sums of money being paid into the political enterprises of these Congressmen and women by those whose self-interest is in keeping the U.S. isolated from the rest of the world with regard to Cuba.

Most significantly, our isolation in our own hemisphere is becoming downright dangerous. There isn’t a leader in the region, from Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva to Canada’s Stephen Harper, who hasn’t said to President Obama that enough is enough: lift the embargo on Cuba.

While full travel for all Americans is not lifting the embargo nor normalized relations - as the U.S. has with Vietnam, for example - it is an incremental step in the right direction, as Senator Lugar and Congressman Berman intimate.

Every journey requires a first step. It’s high time America took this one.

-- Lawrence Wilkerson

Thursday, May 27, 2010


By Eva Golinger

If you come to Venezuela with glistening eyes, expecting to see the revolution of a romantic and passionate novel, don’t be disappointed when the complexities of reality burst your bubble. While revolution does hold a sense of romanticism, it’s also full of human error and the grit of everyday life in a society – a nation – undertaking the difficult and tumultuous process of total transformation.

Nothing is perfect here, in the country sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves. But everything is fascinating and intriguing, and the changes from past to present become more visible and tangible every day.

After 100 years of abandonment, as President Hugo Chavez puts it, the Venezuelan people have awoken and begun the gargantuan task of taking power and building a system of social and economic justice. But it’s easier said than done in a culture embedded with corrupt values, resulting from the nation’s vast oil wealth, combined with an overall feeling of entitlement. The bureaucracy is massive and often intimidating, as the people, including the President himself, struggle to erradicate it every day, and replace it with a more horizontal political and economic model.

From the outside, it’s easy to criticize Venezuela. Inflation is high, the economy is in a difficult place, although growing, and relations with countries such as Russia, China and Iran are often painful for foreigners to comprehend. Media portrays much of the power in the nation as concentrated in the hands of one man, Hugo Chavez, and rarely highlights the thousands of positive achievements and successes his government has obtained during the past ten years. Distortion and manipulation reign amongst international public opinion regarding human rights, freedom of expression and political views opposing those of President Chavez, and few media outlets portray a balanced vision of Venezuela today.

While it’s true that there is awful inflation in Venezuela, much of it has been caused by business owners, large-scale private distributors and producers, import-exporters and the economic elite that seek to destabilize and overthrow the Chavez administration. They sell dollars on the black market at pumped up rates and speculate and hike the prices of regular consumer products to provoke panic and desperation among the public, all with the goal of forcing Chavez’s ouster. And despite ongoing economic sabotage, the economy has still grown substantially in comparison to other nations in the region. In fact, according to the neoliberal International Monetary Fund (IMF), Venezuela is the only South American nation to forecast economic growth this year.

How do you build a socialist revolution in an oil economy? It’s not easy. The Chavez government promotes a green agenda, but at the same time, the streets of Caracas – the capital – are still littered with stinky garbage and the air is contaiminated with black smoke emissions from cars and make-shift buses that go uncontrolled and unregulated. Part of the problem is government regulation, but most of the problem is social consciousness. Revolution is impossible if the people aren’t on board.

So, the government gives out millions of free, cold-energy saving lightbulbs, to replace the over-consuming yellow ones, and programs are underway to allow a free trade-in of diesel consuming cars for new natural gas vehicles. The Chavez administration is funding solar energy exploration and research institutes, building wind energy units along the northern Caribbean coast and has implemented a major environmental conservation campaign nationwide. Part of this incredible effort resulted from a horrific six-month long drought that pushed the nation to energy and water rationing, causing countrywide blackouts that weren’t well received. Ironically, one of the world’s largest oil producers is more than 70% dependent on hydroelectric power for internal energy consumption, thanks to the governments past, which only were interested in selling the oil abroad and not using it to improve the lives of their own citizens.


The foremost achievement of the Bolivarian Revolution, as it is called in Venezuela, taking the namesake of liberator Simon Bolivar, has been the inclusion of a mass majority, previously excluded and invisible, in the nation’s politics and economic decisions. What does this mean? It means that today, millions of Venezuelans have a visible identity and role in nation-making. It means that community members – without regard to class, education or status – are actively encouraged to participate in policy decisions on local and even national matters. Community members, organized in councils, make decisions on how local resources are allocated. They decide if monies are spent on schools, roads, water systems, transportation or housing. They have oversight of spending, can determine if projects are advancing adequately, and even can determine where the workforce should come from; i.e. local workers vs. outside contractors. In essence, this is a true example of an empowered people – or how power is transferred from a “government” to the people.

For the first time in Venezuela’s history, every voice is valued, every voice has the possibility of being heard. And because of this, people actually want to participate. Community media outlets have sprung up by the hundreds, after previously being illegal and shunned by prior governments. New newspapers, magazines, radio programs and even television shows reflect a reality and color of Venezuela that formerly, the elite chose to ignore and exclude. Still, a majority of mass media remains in the hands of a powerful economic elite that uses its capacity to distort and manipulate reality and promote ongoing attempts to undermine the Chavez government. Lest we not forget the mass media’s role in the April 2002 coup d’etat that briefly ousted President Chavez from power, and a subsequent economic sabotage in December of that same year, that imposed a media blackout on information nationwide.

Despite claims by private media outlets alleging violations of freedom of expression, Venezuela remains a nation with one of the world’s most thriving free and independent press. Here, almost anything goes, even plots and plans to kill the President or bring the nation’s economy to its knees; all broadcast live on television, radio, or in print.

The contradictions of building a socialist revolution in a capitalist world are evident here every day. The same self-proclaimed revolutionary, bearing a red shirt, wants to buy your dollars on the black market at an elevated rate. You can get killed in the streets of Caracas for a Blackberry; don’t even think of whipping out an iPhone in public. Even President Chavez himself now fashions a Blackberry to keep his Twitter account up to date. Chavez has “politicized” Twitter, and turned it into a social tool. His account, the most followed in Venezuela, receives thousands of requests and messages daily for everything from jobs, to housing to complaints about bureaucracy and inefficient governance. He even set up a special team of 200 people dedicated to processing the tweets, and he himself responds to as many as he can. Ironically, Chavez has found a way to reconnect with his people in a virtual world.

Deals with Russia, China, Iran, India, European nations and even US corporations are diversifying Venezuela’s trade partners, ensuring technological transfer to aid in national development and progress, and opening up Venezuela’s oil-focused economy. Some question Chavez’s deals with certain countries or companies, but the truth is, today, Venezuela’s economy is stronger and more diverse than ever before. Satellites have been launched, automobile factories built and even the agricultural industry has been revived thanks to Chavez’s vision of foreign policy. When beforehand, relations with foreign nations were based on oil supply and dollar input, today they are founded on the principles of integration, solidarity and cooperation, and most importantly, the transfer of technology to ensure Venezuela’s development.

Revolution is not an easy task. What is happening in Venezuela is possibly one of the most socially and politically compelling and challenging experiences in history. Massive changes are taking place on every level of society – economic, political, cultural and social – and everyone is involved. There have been no national curfews, states of emergencies, killings, disappearances, persecutions, political prisoners or other forms of repression imposed under Chavez’s reign, despite the coup d’etat, economic sabotages, electoral interventions, assassination attempts and other forms of subversion and destabilization that have attempted to overthrow his government during the past ten years. This is an inclusionary revolution, whether or not everyone wants to accept that fact.

Washington’s continued efforts to undermine Venezuela’s democracy through funding opposition campaigns and actions with over $50 million USD during the past seven years, or supporting coups and assassination plots against President Chavez, while at the same time pumping up military forces in the region, have all failed; so far. But, they will continue. Venezuela – like it or not – is on an irrevocable path to revolution. The people have awoken and power is being redistributed. The task at hand now is to prevent corrupt forces within from destroying the new revolutionary model being built.

So while things may not be perfect in Venezuela, it’s time to take off the rose-colored glasses and see revolution for what it is: the trying, alluring, arduous, demanding and thrilling task of forging a just humanity. That’s the Venezuela of today.

Eva Golinger is an award-winning author and attorney. Her first book, The Chavez Code, is a best seller published in six languages and is presently being made into a feature film. Her blog is

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peru frees US 'rebel' Lori Berenson after 15 years

Ms Berenson, 40, was arrested in 1995 for her alleged role in a plot to attack the Peruvian Congress.

A military court found her guilty of collaborating with the left-wing Tupac Amaru rebel group and sentenced her to life imprisonment, later reduced to 20 years in prison.

She has always denied the charges.

The judge ordered her to stay in Peru for five years in order to serve out the remaining years of her sentence on conditional release.

The daughter of university professors, Ms Berenson broke off her studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston to travel to Central and South America.

'Kidnap plot'
During her travels, she is believed to have made contact with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, a Marxist rebel group active in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s.

Tupac Amaru guerrillas became notorious for taking more than 70 people hostage in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima in 1996 and holding them for 126 days.

Ms Berenson was arrested after she gained access to the Peruvian Congress on false journalist credentials alongside the wife of MRTA leader Nestor Cerpa.

Military prosecutors accused her of gathering information for a rebel plot to kidnap members of Congress and exchange them for imprisoned rebel leaders.

Her original life sentence was reviewed by a civil court in 2001.

She was convicted on the lesser charges of terrorist collaboration and her sentence reduced to 20 years.

In 2003, Ms Berenson married fellow prisoner Anibal Apari, who was serving 13 years for his affiliation to the same rebel group. She gave birth to their son a year ago. Mr Apari is also her lawyer.

Her parents have been fighting for her release since her arrest and have always maintained her innocence.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Wins Release on Parole

Alejandro Molina

The National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico have the great and historic pleasure of announcing that Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres, after serving 30 years in U.S. prisons for his commitment to the independence of his nation, will be released on parole in July of this year, to reside in Puerto Rico.

This historic release is due to Carlos Alberto’s maintaining his integrity and commitment throughout three decades behind bars, and to the support of the people of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican communities in the U.S., as well as those who support human rights throughout the world. This broad support was key in winning his release, and he is looking forward to expressing his gratitude in person.

For no legitimate reason, he was made to serve almost 11 years more than his compatriots who were released in 1999, when president Clinton deemed their sentences to be disproportionately lengthy. The United States stands out as the country whose political prisoners serve among the longest sentences in the world.

Two Puerto Rican political prisoners remain in U.S. custody. Oscar López Rivera, who this month will mark his 29th year in prison, is not scheduled for release until 2023; and Avelino González Claudio, who this month will be sentenced to a term not to exceed 7 years. While planning the celebration of Carlos Alberto’s release, the National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Human Rights Committee of Puerto Rico will continue to work for the release of both remaining political prisoners.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Tegucigalpa, Honduras, May 19, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visited Honduras May 15-18 to follow up on its on-site visit of August 2009 and its report Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État. The delegation was composed of IACHR Chair Felipe González, First Vice-Chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Catalina Botero, and staff of the Executive Secretariat.

The IACHR met with officials from all three branches of the State, human rights defenders, journalists, civil society representatives, and members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It also met with representatives of the United Nations system in Honduras and with ambassadors from the Stockholm Declaration Follow-Up Group (G 16). The Commission’s report on the visit will be made public in the near future.

In concluding its visit, the Commission expresses its deep concern over the continuation of human rights violations in the context of the coup d’état that took place in Honduras on June 28, 2009. Without prejudice to the progress made toward the restoration of democratic institutions, the IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression have received information about the murders of a number of persons, including journalists and human rights defenders. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur have expressed their deep concern over the absence of effective investigations that could lead to the clarification of these events. Without prejudice to the high rate of criminality that in general exists in Honduras, the IACHR believes that the complaints received could correspond to the same pattern of violence that the IACHR reported in Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d’État, published on January 20, 2010.

The IACHR also received information on the threats and acts of harassment that human rights defenders, journalists, communicators, teachers, and members of the Resistance have received. A number of teachers have been subject to threats and harassment because of their activity against the coup d’état. The Commission also received information about threats and attacks directed against journalists to keep them from continuing to do their jobs.

Since the coup d’état, the IACHR has granted precautionary measures to protect the lives and integrity of many individuals who are in a situation of risk. During the visit, the IACHR received information indicating that the inter-institutional coordination mechanism for the implementation of the precautionary measures is ineffective. It is essential that the Inter-Institutional Commission on Human Rights be provided with adequate staffing and sufficient resources so it can respond efficiently to the Commission’s precautionary measures.

Of particular concern are the acts of harassment directed against judges who participated in activities against the coup d’état. The Commission met with members of the Association of Judges for Democracy who were dismissed from their posts by the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ). Notwithstanding the formal reasons that could be argued by the Supreme Court, the reasons that motivated the process and the final decision are undoubtedly linked to participation in anti-coup demonstrations or to having expressed an opinion against the coup d’état. The inter-American human rights system has repeatedly underscored the central role of the judiciary in the functioning of a democratic system. It is unacceptable that those persons in charge of administering justice who were opposed to the democratic rupture would face accusations and dismissals for defending democracy. The IACHR urgently calls for a reversal of this situation that seriously undermines the rule of law.

The Commission was able to verify that impunity for human rights violations continues, both in terms of violations verified by the IACHR and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and those that continue to occur. The Commission was informed that only one person is being held in custody for human rights violations, only 12 have been charged, and the cases are not moving forward, among other reasons due to the lack of investigation by the various State bodies, particularly the security forces handling the investigations. The generalized impunity for human rights violations is facilitated by decisions of the CSJ that weaken the rule of law. In addition to the CSJ’s disputed role during the coup d’état, it subsequently decided, on the one hand, to dismiss charges against the members of the military accused of participating in the coup and, on the other, to fire judges and magistrates who sought to prevent the coup through democratic means.

With regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR in Spanish), it is important to emphasize the importance that such institutions have had in many countries of the region. The Commission has stated that the right to know the truth with respect to grave human rights violations, as well as the right to know the identity of those who participated in them, constitutes an obligation that every State party to the American Convention must meet, with respect both to the relatives of the victims and to society in general.

The CVR began operating only 14 days ago. It is currently in the process of issuing its own internal regulation, work plan, and methodology. It is essential that the CVR have sufficient resources, personnel, and independence to do its work effectively. It is also necessary that in defining its regulation, work plan, and methodology, it incorporate as a central focus of its work the investigation of complaints on human rights violations that occurred in the context of the coup d’état. The IACHR will closely follow the work of the CVR.

Whatever actions the Truth Commission ends up taking, these do not exempt the State from its international obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish through the judicial system those agents of the State who may have committed human rights violations.

The Commission welcomes the appointment of the advisory Minister on human rights. However, it notes that to date she has not received the resources, mandate, or structure that would make it possible to do an effective job, one that helps transform the State toward a culture that is respectful of human rights. With the current structure, it is practically impossible for the Minister to have a significant impact on the observance of human rights.

Finally, the IACHR would like to state that human rights violations particularly affect those sectors of the population that have been marginalized historically and are most vulnerable, such as children, the LGTB community, women, and indigenous and Garifuna peoples.

The IACHR visit had all the necessary facilities for the Commission to be able to carry out its mission. The IACHR also expresses its appreciation to the representatives of the State, civil society organizations, and international agencies for the information and cooperation they provided. The Commission recalls that, in accordance with the provisions established in the American Convention on Human Rights and the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, no reprisals of any kind may be taken against individuals or entities that cooperate with the Commission by providing information or testimony.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

Brazil, Turkey Engineer Breakthrough on Iran

Robert Dreyfuss
May 18, 2010

The best comment so far about the brilliant diplomatic coup engineered by Brazil, Turkey, and Iran yesterday comes from the Turkish ambassador to the United Nations, who said, in reacting to the smarmy, negative reaction from Washington:

“I would have expected a more encouraging statement. We don’t believe in sanctions, and I don’t believe anyone can challenge us, certainly not the United States. They don’t work.”

Despite the huffing and puffing from the Obama administration, there are other powers reaction positively to the dramatic development. President Sarkozy of France called it a “positive step,” adding:

“France will examine this with the Group of Six [international powers] and is ready to discuss without preconceptions all its implications for the whole of the Iran dossier.”

China, too, which had reluctantly joined the idiotic U.S. sanctions bandwagon, now seems to be backing off, and China’s foreign minister said:

“China has noted the relevant reports and expresses its welcome and appreciation for the diplomatic efforts all parties have made to positively seek an appropriate solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Before traveling to Iran, Brazil’s President Lula da Silva said that he believed that he had a 99 percent chance of a successful breakthrough in the talks with Iran, even as U.S. officials expressed extreme skepticism that anything could be accomplished. What Brazil and Turkey did is to get Iran to reaffirm the terms of the October, 2009, deal that was worked out in Geneva, by which Iran would have sent the bulk of its enriched uranium to Russia and France for reprocessing into fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Under the new accord, worked out by Brazil and Turkey, Iran will send about half of its enriched uranium to Turkey, instead. True, Iran has more enriched uranium now than it had in October, but the very fact that Iran is still ready to ship some of its fuel abroad is a sign that diplomacy can still work.

In the United States, however, reaction is sharply negative. It’s almost as if the Obama administration is more concerned that it’s hard-fought battle to get Russian and Chinese support for more (useless) sanctions on Iran is unraveling than it is about a real solution to the problem.

The Washington Post, petulant and petty in its editorial today, called “Bad Bargain,” says that the Brazil-Turkey accord will “do nothing to restrain Tehran’s nuclear program,” that it might “derail” the Obama administration’s sanctions push, and that it represents a “major diplomatic coup for the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.” In fact, it might have been a diplomatic coup for the United States, if Washington hadn’t foolishly insisted that the terms of the October deal were sacrosanct and couldn’t be altered in order to get the deal back on track, after Iran first accepted it and then rejected it. It could have been a diplomatic coup for President Obama if he’d encouraged Brazil and Turkey to go ahead, rather than having his spokesmen pooh-pooh the effort and issue ugly warnings to Brazil.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is angry over the deal, in part because Obama met personally with the Brazilian and Turkish leaders in Washington earlier this month and then sent them letters urging them to reject a deal with Iran.

The text of the 10-point plan, which you can read here, specifically says that Iran, as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has the right to enrich uranium:

“We reaffirm our commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and in accordance with the related articles of the NPT, recall the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

That, more than anything else, is driving some at the Post and the Obama administration wild. In fact, despite the existence of UN resolutions calling on Iran to suspend its enrichment program, President Obama should have long ago declared that Iran has the right to enrich, under appropriate IAEA safeguards. He hasn’t.
The Post, in its account of the deal today, calls the diplomacy by Brazil and Turkey a “revolt by smaller powers over the rights to nuclear power and prestige.” How very imperial!

Since sanctions won't work, and since military action would be a catastrophe, you’d think Obama would be thrilled to see diplomatic progress. You’d be wrong. The Post reports that, right on schedule, the United States has ready the text of a draft UN resolution calling for new sanctions on Iran.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


By Beverly Bell

May 17, 2010

“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of
the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be
donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable
seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has
committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest
the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.

In an open letter sent of May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the Executive
Director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of
the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti
“a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on
Creole seeds…, and on what is left our environment in
social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports
of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks.
They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs).

For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of
Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup Ready GMO seeds. In an
email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of
Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not GMO.

Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto’s Director of Development Initiatives, called the
news that the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved the donation “a
fabulous Easter gift” in an April
Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMO seeds, in
both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive
technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of
what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with
representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find
themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they
find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford.

The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the
fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with
Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene
bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats
caused concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then
ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so
dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective
clothing when handling them. Pesticides containing thiram must contain a
special warning label, the EPA ruled. The EPA also barred marketing of the
chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most
gardeners do not have adequately protective
Monsanto’s passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in
an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special
clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds.

Haitian social movements’ concern is not just about the dangers of the
chemicals and the possibility of future GMO imports. They claim that the
future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local
consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto’s arrival in
Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this.

“People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds.
They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves,” said farmer Jonas Deronzil
of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of

Monsanto’s history has long drawn ire from environmentalists, health
advocates, and small farmers, going back to its production of Agent Orange
during the Vietnam war. Exposure to Agent Orange has caused cancer in an
untold number of U.S. Veterans, and the Vietnamese government claims that
400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or disabled by Agent Orange, and
500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of their exposure.

Monsanto’s former motto, “Without chemicals, life itself would be
impossible,” has been replaced by “Imagine.” Its web site home page claims
it “help[s] farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We
help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce
healthier foods… while also reducing agriculture's impact on our
corporations’ record does not support the claims.

Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half
of the world’s seeds.8
company holds almost 650 seed patents, most of them for cotton, corn and
soy, and almost 30% of the share of all biotech research and development.
Monsanto came to own such a vast supply by buying major seed companies to
stifle competition, patenting genetic modifications to plant varieties, and
suing small farmers. Monsanto is also one of the leading manufacturers of

As of 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against U.S. farmers for alleged
technology contract violations or GMO patents, involving 372 farmers and 49
small agricultural businesses in 27 different states. From these, Monsanto
has won more than $21.5 million in judgments. The multinational appears to
investigate 500 farmers a year, in estimates based on Monsanto’s own
documents and media

“Farmers have been sued after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed
from someone else’s genetically engineered crop [or] when genetically
engineered seed from a previous year’s crop has sprouted, or ‘volunteered,’
in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following
year,” said Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food

In Colombia, Monsanto has received upwards of $25 million from the U.S.
government for providing Roundup Ultra in the anti-drug fumigation efforts
of Plan Colombia. Roundup Ultra is a highly concentrated version of
Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide, with additional ingredients to increase its
lethality. Colombian communities and human rights organizations have charged
that the herbicide has destroyed food crops, water sources and protected
areas, and has led to increased incidents of birth defects and cancers.

Vía Campesina, the world’s largest confederation of farmers with member
organizations in more than sixty countries, has called Monsanto one of the
“principal enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty
for all peoples.”11
They claim that as Monsanto and other multinationals control an ever larger
share of land and agriculture, they force small farmers out of their land
and jobs. They also claim that the agribusiness giants contribute to climate
change and other environmental disasters, an outgrowth of industrial

The Vía Campesina coalition launched a global campaign against Monsanto last
October 16, on International World Food Day, with protests, land
occupations, and hunger strikes in more than twenty countries. They carried
out a second global day of action against Monsanto on April 17 of this year,
in honor of Earth Day.

Non-governmental organizations in the U.S. are challenging Monsanto’s
practices, too. The Organic Consumers Association has spearheaded the
campaign “Millions Against Monsanto,” calling on the company to stop
intimidating small family farmers, stop marketing untested and unlabeled
genetically engineered foods to consumers, and stop using billions of
dollars of U.S. taypayers' money to subsidize GMO

The Center for Food Safety has led a four-year legal challenge to Monsanto
that has just made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. After successful litigation
against Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for illegal
promotion of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the court heard the Center for Food
Safety’s case on April 27. A decision on this first-ever Supreme Court case
about GMOs is now

“Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our
agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said in an interview in February. “We have the
potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and
even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is
food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural
policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow
healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth.”

*Many thanks to Moira Birss for her assistance with research and writing.*


*Beverly Bell has worked with Haitian social movements for over 30 years.
She is also author of the book Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of
Survival and Resistance. She coordinates Other Worlds,, which promotes social and economic
alternatives. She is also associate fellow of the Institute for Policy


1 Group email from Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, May 14, 2010*.*

2 Email from Elizabeth Vancil to Emmanuel Prophete, Director of Seeds at
the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, and others; released by the Haitian
Ministry of Agriculture, date unavailable.

3 Ibid.

4 Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the
Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State
University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis,

5 Jonas Deronzil’s comments are from an interview in April. He was not
specifically discussing Monsanto.

6 MSNBC, January 23, 2004. “Study Finds Link Between Agent Orange, Cancer.”
The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2008. “Last Ghost of the Vietnam War”


8* *La Vía Campesina, *“*La Vía Campesina carries out Global Day of Action
against Monsanto”, Oct. 16, 2009, ts-worldwide-rise-up-against-monsanto-gmos&catid=49:stop-transnational-corporations&am p;Itemid=76

9 Center for Food Safety, “Monsanto vs. US Farmers,” Nov. 2007.

10 Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety, “Monsanto
vs. US Farmers,” 2005.

11* *La Vía Campesina, October 16, 2009, Op. Cit.

12 La Vía Campesina, “La Vía Campesina Call to Action 17 April 2010 - Join
the International Day of Peasant Struggle,” Feb. 23, 2010,

13 Organic Consumers Association, “Taxpayers Forced to Fund Monsanto's
Poisoning of Third World,” Finland, Minnesota, **

14 Center for Food Security, “Update: CFS Fighting Monsanto in the Supreme
Court,” May 11, 2010,

Human Rights in Cuba and Honduras, 2010: The Spring of Discontent

John M. Kirk, Dalhousie University*
Emily J. Kirk, Cambridge University*

The spring of 2010 has witnessed a plethora of articles in mainstream US
media on the human rights situation in Cuba, largely surrounding three
issues-the hunger strike (and eventual death) of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, that
of Guillermo Fariñas (still alive at the time of writing), and a series of
demonstrations by opponents of the government (and family members of
prisoners) known as the Ladies in White.

The facts are clear in all cases. Zapata died on February 23 after 85 days
of a hunger strike-the first Cuban to perish in this manner in almost 40
years. The following day Fariñas started his own strike at his home, and
has been hospitalized since March 11, demanding the release of 26 allegedly
ill political prisoners. The Ladies in White are a group that was formed in
2003 to protest the imprisonment of 75 opposition figures and sentenced to
lengthy terms. Some 53 of that number remain in prison. The women have
been leading demonstrations for 7 years, marching on Sundays down Fifth
Avenue in the Miramar district of Havana. In early April, however, they
were confronted by large pro-government demonstrations, and security forces
intervened to protect them.

For three Sundays in a row these confrontations continued until Cardinal
Jaime Ortega negotiated with government officials, with the result that the
Ladies were allowed to march wherever they wanted, and without official
permission to stage a demonstration (normally required by Cuban law). What
was negotiated was a return to the status quo ante that had existed prior to
the first week of December 2009. On May 2 a dozen Women in White renewed
their traditional march. [1]

The case of Zapata received a tremendous amount of media attention, in part
because it was the first time in decades that an opponent of the Cuban
government had died during a hunger strike. He was arrested in 2003,
charged with contempt and public disorder and given a prison sentence of 3
years. Subsequent acts of defiance in prison led to further charges being
laid. He started his hunger strike on December 8, 2009, and died on
February 23, 2010. He was widely presented as a person imprisoned for his
human rights beliefs, summed up in a release by the International Republican
Institute entitled "Democracy's Heroes: Orlando Zapata Tamayo".[2]
Emotional descriptions were given of his prison conditions and the
punishments he had received. His back was "tattooed with blows," and when
he was transferred to hospital he was "skin and bones, his stomach is just a
hole," his mother noted.[3] Emotionally disturbed by the deliberate suicide
of her son, she lashed out at the treatment received, calling his death "a
premeditated murder" by the Cuban government. Her criticism of the lack of
medical care provided was highlighted in media reports, when it was clear
that just the opposite was true. In fact a video shown on Cuban television
shows her expressing gratitude to the medical staff attending him.[4]

Vocal denunciations of the abuse of human rights in Cuba were sprinkled
among the many articles dealing with Zapata. The term "prisoner of
conscience" was liberally used to describe his plight, and he was presented
as a political activist who was protesting inhuman treatment in prison. In
the media rush to show him as a person imprisoned for his political beliefs,
little attention was paid to his long criminal record, involving domestic
violence (1993), possession of a weapon and assault, including the use of a
machete to fracture the cranium of Leonardo Simón (2000), fraud (2000), and
public disorder (2002).[5] In sum, the issue of his imprisonment is somewhat
murkier than might at first appear.

Mainstream US media covered the events in great detail-with over 80 articles
published in a 3-month period. Interviews with leading dissidents in Cuba,
exile politicians, Miami groups opposed to the Cuban government, U.S.
politicians, resulted, all praising the courage and honesty of Zapata. The
opinion was given that the Cuban government was fearful that the death would
lead to massive protests, and so "an increased police presence was reported
in the streets of several Cuban cities".[6] In various press reports
mention was made of major demonstrations of grief, and concern by the
government resulting in extreme security measures being adapted.

The Obama approach to Cuba was also linked with the Zapata case, and anger
was directed to both Cuba and the president. A common impression given is
that the Obama administration has tried to pursue a more flexible approach
to Cuba, but has been met with Cuban intransigence and hostility. One
editorialist of The Washington Post used the suicide to condemn Obama´s
policy-which was seen as being too liberal: "Is the new, Castro-friendly
approach working? A good answer to that question came Tuesday, when
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old Afro-Cuban political prisoner, died
after an 83-day hunger strike".[7]

The U.S. government has recently issued outspoken condemnations of the Cuban
government's approach to human rights, with statements by Philip J. Crowley
(Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs) and even President Barack
Obama. The president condemned the "repression visited upon Las Damas de
Blanco, and the intensified harassment of those who dare to give voice to
the desires of their fellow Cubans", while noting that "Cuban authorities
continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched
fist".[8] One searches in vain, however, for any references by the
president to the clenched fist of the Honduran government and the appalling
human rights record since the removal of President Zelaya in June of 2009.
In a related matter, it is clear that US media has provided an extremely
sympathetic portrayal of the 'Ladies in White,' as can be seen from the
titles of a recent article in the Miami Herald, "United by Pain, Cuba's
Ladies in White Vow to Keep Marching," and an editorial in the Wall Street
Journal, "Women Who Brave Mobs".[9] The terminology in the latter leaves
little to the imagination, with references to the women "getting leaned on
by Havana's toughs," "Castro's goons," "the regime's desperation in
the face
of popular discontent," and the Ladies in White "walking in the face of an
increasingly dangerous mob".[10]

The attention given to the "Damas de Blanco"[11] has in many ways mirrored
that given to the cases of Zapata and, to a lesser extent, Fariñas. The
fact that they have been protesting for several years in Havana without any
significant repression (or media coverage) would indicate that the recent
extensive coverage is due to an unusual conjunctural set of circumstances.
In Miami a demonstration in favor of Cuban human rights activists was held
on March 25 in which Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and her husband
music producer Emilio, together with exile singers Willy Chirino and Olga
Guillot, while a few days later Cuban exile, the actor Andy García,
participated in a march in Los Angeles to show his support for the Damas de
It would appear that, for a variety of reasons, opposition groups to the
Cuban government decided in the spring of 2010 to ramp up their
activities-and the media jumped on the bandwagon and followed suit. It is
also clear that, as the Cuban government responded, US media became
increasingly critical in their presentation of the human rights situation.
Typical of the reaction was a pointed editorial in The Miami Herald: "In a
democracy, people can disagree. They can march to protest their government,
they can chastise their elected officials in public forums, they can walk
down the street carrying placards voicing their opinions [.] Not in Cuba.
Never in Cuba".[12]

This massive media campaign against marches taking place by an opposition
group-some of whose members have admitted to having been paid by U.S.
government officials-during a few weeks had never been seen before. Again
it must be emphasized that these weekly marches have been going on for seven
years, and without any major harassment from government officials. That
fact is ignored almost completely by the media.[13] What is also ignored in
U.S. media analysis is the recent approval by Washington of some $20 million
to promote political destabilization in Cuba, with funds being earmarked "to
provide humanitarian support to prisoners of conscience and their families.
Funds may also be used to support democratic rule of law programs that
promote, protest and defend human rights in Cuba". Other funds are
earmarked "to provide humanitarian support to families of Cuban political
prisoners". In all $20 million is to be made available.[14] This of course
follows on from five decades of U.S. government hostility after Washington
broke off diplomatic relations on January 3, 1961, maintains the "Trading
with the Enemy" act, and over the decades has supported a variety of hostile
acts (including terrorism) against Cuba.

In synthesis, the issue of the hunger strike of Orlando Zapata (which
resulted in his suicide), and the hostilities faced by the Damas de Blanco
over a three-week period in the spring of 2010 resulted in an unprecedented
barrage of media coverage in the spring of 2010. The media campaign was
ferocious, and clearly focused. Perhaps the most thoughtful response to it
came from an unexpected source-Cardenal Jaime Ortega of Havana, who
criticized the "media violence" and the "verbal war by the media in the
United States, Spain and other countries".[15] If one contrasts those facts
with events in Honduras during approximately the same time, and if one
analyzes the nature of media coverage of events there, a very different
picture emerges.
Most of those developments follow on from the circumstances surrounding the
coup d´état of June 28, 2009, when the democratically elected president,
Manuel Zelaya, was ousted. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
confirmed that several hundred arbitrary arrests and beatings of supporters
of the overthrown Zelaya government by the armed forces and police occurred.
The list of abuses was long and detailed: "killings, an arbitrary
declaration of a state of emergency, disproportionate use of force against
public demonstrations, criminalization of public protest, arbitrary
detention of thousands persons, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments,
poor detention conditions, militarization of Honduran territory, an increase
in incidents of racial discrimination, violations of women's rights, severe
and arbitrary restrictions on the right of freedom of expression, and
serious violations of political rights".[16]

In just the first hundred days after the coup, the Committee of the Families
of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) documented 4,234
violations by the de facto government, including 21 extrajudicial killings,
3,033 illegal detentions, and 818 cases of violence.[17] It is clear that
the numbers of victims was in fact much higher, but that many have not made
public their treatment at the hands of security forces out of fear of
reprisal. From June 2009 to February 2010, COFADEH documented 43
politically motivated murders. Particularly chilling is the fact that in
the spring of 2010 some 7 journalists were assassinated.[18] Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch condemned the widespread abuses,
echoing the conclusions of the Organization of American States.

Sadly, these extremely clear violations of human rights in Honduras have
been commonplace, though the media in North America have largely ignored
them. A quantitative analysis of the media attention paid to the three
issues studied here-the hunger strike of Zapata, the treatment of the ladies
in White over a 3-week period, and the killings and beating accruing in
Honduras in recent months-is telling.

Table 1: Media Coverage of Three Human Rights-Related Topics

News No. of posts regarding No. of post regarding No. of post
Agency 7 murdered journalists Cuba hunger strike on Ladies in
& human rights abuses (02/10/2010-05/6/2010) White
Honduras [20] (02/01/20-
(6/29/2009-5/6/2010)[19] 05/06/2010

CNN 2 7 7
New York Times 1 8 1
Washington Post 1 13 5
Boston Globe 1 4 2
Miami Herald 1 55 46
Total 6 86 61

As the table above indicates, there have been a large number of articles on
the hunger striker, and very little on the murdered journalists, and much
less on the widespread human rights abuses in Honduras since the overthrow
of President Zelaya. In fact, of the news agencies examined above, there are
over 14 times more posts published on the hunger striker in Cuba, than that
of the murders of journalist and human rights abuses in Honduras. As noted
earlier, it is clear that there is an abundance of material to be studied
for the latter-should the media be interested.

A qualitative analysis also indicates an unequal representation of both
issues. While the articles describe the slow death of Zapata, a man who was
charged with various federal crimes and chose to ignore medical assistance,
there has been almost no explanation of the vast and overarching abuses
suffered by the Honduran people-including dozens of murders and thousands of
arbitrary arrests and beatings.

To be sure, the severity or extent of these issues has not been accurately
portrayed in the media. Moreover, not only is information sadly lacking in
the case of Honduras, but it is also often presented in a superficial way.
Noticeably, for example three of the articles presented in these major media
outlets were identical, and simply listed Honduras among several countries
including Mexico, Colombia, Pakistan, and Nigeria as dangerous places for
journalists to work.[22] The others briefly state that UNESCO, Amnesty
International and some Honduran human rights groups are concerned about the
level of violence and abuses of human rights throughout the country,
particularly of those who oppose the government. Of all of these articles
found, only one CNN report explained in any detail the prevalence and
ferocity of violence that Hondurans have been facing since the coup of June

By contrast, the Cuban government was incessantly vilified for "letting"
Zapata die and articles were particularly emphatic about the government's
restrictions on the Damas de Blanco and the "repression" of its people.
Political and celebrity figures including President Obama, Gloria and Emilio
Estefan, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator John Kerry have also been
widely cited in denouncing the Cuban government's treatment of its people.
By contrast one sees no celebrities or politicians being cited to condemn
the dozens of assassinations at the hands of the security forces in
Honduras-sadly a case of selective indignation.

In a strongly worded statement condemning the treatment received by the
Ladies in White, and reflecting on the suicide of Orlando Zapata Tamayo,
President Obama called for "an end to the repression" in Cuba. He added
remain committed to supporting the simple desire of the Cuban people to
freely determine their future and to enjoy the rights and freedoms that
define the Americas".[23] Clearly he was not referring to the situation the
rights and freedoms in Honduras.

Can we imagine what the U.S. government would say, or do, if within a few
months 7 journalists had been assassinated in Cuba? Or if dozens of
government opponents had been murdered by the Cuban military during the same
time frame? A useful comparison of official United States position on the
human rights abuses in both countries can de derived from statements made by
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on these issues. She has
repeatedly condemned the Cuban government for the treatment of Zapata and
others, stating "They're letting these hunger strikers die. They've got 200
political prisoners who are there for trivial reasons. And so I think that
many in the world are starting to see what we have seen a long time, which
is a very intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for
the Cuban people, and I hope will begin to change and we're open to changing
with them, but I don't know that will happen before some more time goes
By contrast, directly following the Honduran coup in 2009, she refused to
refer to the political situation as such, nor condemn the violence and gross
and repeated violation of human rights in that situation.[25] Rather, she
later stated "we believe that President Lobo and his administration have
taken the steps necessary to restore democracy".[26] It is lamentable that
she has not been able to lay aside political preference in order to
criticize manifest abuses in Honduras.

On May 3, 2010 ("World Press Freedom Day") Ms. Clinton issued a noteworthy
statement noting that "Wherever independent media are under threat,
accountable governance and human freedom are undermined".[27] She
passionately defended journalists risking their lives to provide
"independent information" on government abuses, and singled out the efforts
of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, an outspoken critic of the Cuban government,
noting that President Obama had also praised her efforts. She concluded by
noting that the United States was committed to "defend freedom of expression
and the brave journalists who are persecuted for exercising it". One looks
in vain, however, for any reference by leading U.S. government officials to
the Honduran journalists who were assassinated for doing just that.
Apparently their contribution is less important. Clearly there is a double
standard at play; sadly, mainstream US media reflect that same double

On April 29, following the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the National
Lawyers Guild of the United States issued a statement that was widely
ignored by mainstream media. In fact there is apparently no analysis of its
significance in any of the leading U.S. media. It is unfortunate because it
puts in context the crux of this issue-media treatment of the suicide of one
individual in Cuba after rejecting medical assistance for weeks, versus an
ongoing process of assassination and brutality in Honduras, a traditional US
ally. The NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian closes the release in the
following way: "The National Lawyers Guild opposes infractions of human
rights anywhere, but Cuban prison officials acted properly when Zapata
decided to go on a hunger strike. We urge the media to turn its attention
to real human rights violations and deadly foreign policies in this country
and elsewhere".[28] Well said.


[1] See Will Weissert's report for AP, "Cuba Frees Backer of Dissident Group
Amid Appeal," May 11, 2010 and Mauricio Vicent, "El gobierno cubano se
compromete con la Iglesia Católica a permitir las marchas de las Damas de
Blanco," El País, May 2, 2010.

[2] The International Republican Institute, "Democracy's Heroes: Orlando
Zapata Tamayo," April 28, 2010. Found at
Accessed May 13, 2010.

[3] Juan O. Tamayo, "Jailed Cuban Activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo Dies on
Hunger Strike," The Miami Herald, February 23, 2010.

[4] In the March 1, 2010, national nightly news report on Cuban television
she was shown addressing Cuban medical personnel: "Well, thank you very
much. we have full confidence. we can see your concern and that everything
that is being done to save him". See "Orlando Zapata Tamayo, A Case of
Political Manipulation," Granma Internacional Digital, March 4, 2010. Found
Accessed May 13, 2010. Further evidence is provided in the article to show
the extraordinary lengths to which Cuban officials went-even having a kidney
ready in case his failed. His mother is seen also stating "I was able to
see the doctors who were there before I went in, and there were doctors from
CIMEQ (Center for Medical Surgical Research), the best doctors, trying to
save his life."

[5] One Cuban academic has noted that he was in jail for "breaching the
peace, 'public damage,' resistance to authority, two charges of fraud,
'public exhibitionism,' repeated charges of felonious assault, and being
illegally armed". See Michael Parenti and Alicia Jrapko, "Cuban Prisoners,
Here and There," Monthly Review, April 15. 2010. Found at See also "Campaña mediática contra Cuba. Cronología
de los hechos," La Jiribilla, April 4, 1010. Found at Accessed April 4, 2010. A detailed analysis of the
Zapata case can also be found in Salim Lamrani, "The Suicide of Orlando
Zapata Tamayo," March 18, 2010. Found at Accessed May 13, 2010. The
French academic makes a telling point, noting that in France between January
1, 2010 and February 24 a total of 22 suicides in prison, with 122 in French
prisons (2009) and 115 (2008)-without any apparent media interest.

[6] Juan O. Tamayo, "Jailed Cuban Activist.".

[7] See the editorial, "Is the Castro-friendly Cuba Policy Working?," The
Washington Post, February 26, 2010.

[8] See White House Statement on Orlando Zapata Tamayo, March 24, 2010.
Found at
rights-situation-cuba. Accessed May 13, 2010. Also see Philip J. Crowley,
"Death of Cuban Dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo," found at Accessed May 13, 2010.

[9] Juan O. Tamayo, "United by Pain, Cuba's Ladies in White Vow to Keep
Marching," Miami Herald, April 24, 2010, and the editorial "Women Who Brave
Mobs," Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2010.

[10] A very different interpretation is given by Cuban academic Enrique
Ubieta: "The Ladies in White are a movie montage. The right wing had
learned to take left-wing formulas of expression such as the Mothers of the
Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, authentic women struggling in memory of their
children and grandchildren, tortured and murdered. In Cuba there are no
tortured or assassinated prisoners. The people in prison were judged by
courts, following our laws. So, they take the wives and mothers of people
who worked to subvert the constitutional order [.] they dress them in
white--a color associated with peace and purity-they hand them some gladioli
and take them to a Catholic church, a perfect scenario for them to be seen
in Europe. And when they are ready they say "Cameras! Action!" And that's
where we see CNN, Spanish TV cameras. What you are seeing is a film that is
a fiction, while on the street away from the action are the European and US
diplomats-the producers of the film, who are the ones paying for the show".
See Fernando Arrizado, "Enrique Ubieta: 'Las Damas de Blanco son un montaje
escenográfico,'" Cubadebate, April 27, 2010. Found at
Accessed April 28, 2010. (Translation by authors).

[11] See "Cuba's 'Ladies in White' March Blocked Again," Washington Post,
April 25, 2010 and Will Weissert´s report for Associated Press of the same
day. Available at Accessed April 25, 2010.

[12] "Cuba's Brutality," The Miami Herald, March 19, 2010. The editorial
concluded: "Only a concerted effort by democratic governments-from the left
and the right-can show Raúl and Fidel Castro that their free ride of terror
is coming to an end".

[13] In a recent interview leading Cuban academic Rafael Hernández quotes
the Royal Academy of Spain dictionary to show that many of the opposition
figures who receive financial support from U.S. government officials are in
fact mercenaries. The context of U.S. enmity needs to be considered, since
Washington broke relations with revolutionary Cuba in January 1961, and has
supported a variety of policies designed to bring about "regime change" in
Cuba. See Mauricio Vicent, " Mauricio Vicent entrevista a Rafael Hernández,
director de la revista Temas," El País, April 9, 2010.

[14] See "United States Department of State. Congressional Notification.
Program: Western Hemisphere. Appropriation Category: Economic Support
Funds. Project Title: Cuba. Intended 2010 Obligation: $20,000,000". Found
at Accessed April 5, 2010.

[15] "The tragic event of the death of a prisoner as he was on a hunger
strike has resulted in a verbal war by the media in the United States, Spain
and other countries. This strong media campaign contributes to further
exacerbating the crisis. It is a form of media violence to which the Cuban
government responds in its own way". See "A Call for Dialogue: Interview
with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana". Originally published in
Palabra Nueva, journal of the archdiocese of Havana on April 19, 2010, and
subsequently translated and published in Progreso Weekly, May 4, 2010.
Found at
Accessed May 16, 2010.

[16] "Honduras: Human Rights and the Coup d'Etat". Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights. 2009. Retrieved 2 May, 2010 from

[17] Canadian Council for International Co-operation, "Honduras: Democracy
Denied. A Report from the CCIC's Americas Policy Group with recommendations
to the Government of Canada," Ottawa, April 2010, p. 16.

[18] Council on Hemispheric Affairs, "Washington's Invented Honduran
Democracy," April 22, 2010. Found at Accessed on
May 12, 2010. On April 26, 2010 Amnesty International issued a statement:
"Journalists in Honduras are at serious risk. Six journalists, all men,
have been shot dead in the last eight weeks, and numerous others have
received death threats. No one has been held to account and no action taken
to support and protect journalists". See UA: 94/10, AI Index: AMR
37/006/2010, "Honduras: Journalists Killed".

[19] See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses,
Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search
results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved
6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered
journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "murdered journalists, human rights
abuses, Honduras". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search
results for "murdered journalists, human rights abuses, Honduras". Retrieved
6 May, 2010 from

[20] See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010
from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba".
Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for
"Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search
results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Hunger Strike, Cuba". Retrieved 6
May, 2010 from

[21] See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010
from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba".
Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for
"Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See
search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from See search results for "Ladies in White, Cuba". Retrieved 6
May, 2010 from

[22] "Media Group: 17 Journalists Killed in April". The Washington Post. 28
April, 2010. Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from

[23] "White House Statement on Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the Ladies in
White," March 24, 2010. Found at
Accessed May 13, 2010.

[24] Clinton, Hillary Rodham. "US State Department - Secy. Of State Clinton:
On Nuclear Nonproliferation". Remarks on Nuclear Nonproliferation at the
University of Louisville as Part of the McConnell Center's Spring Lecture
Series. 9 April, 2010. Found at Accessed 15 May, 2010;
Weissert, Will. "Castro: Cuba Will Resist Hunger Strike 'Blackmail'".
Associated Press. 4 April, 2010.

[25] (Sheridan, Mary Beth. "U.S. Condemns Honduras Coup". The Washington
Post. 30 June, 2009. Retrieved 6 May, 2010 from

[26] Rothschild, Matthew. "Hillary Clinton's Honduran Disgrace." The
Progressive. March 5, 2010. Retrieved 7 May, 2010 from

[27] Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, "World Press Freedom Day,"
May 3, 1010. Document located at Accessed May 3,

[28] National Lawyers Guild, "NLG Urges U.S. Media to Cease
Misrepresentation of Cuba's Human Rights Record," April 29, 2010. Found at Accessed April 29, 2010.

*Emily J. Kirk will be an M.A. student in Latin American Studies at
Cambridge University in September.
* John Kirk is a professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie
University, Canada.
Both are working on a project on Cuban medical internationalism
sponsored by Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council of
Canada (SSHRC). Professor Kirk co-wrote with Michael Erisman the 2009 book
"Cuba's Medical Internationalism: Origins, Evolution and Goals" (Palgrave
Macmillan). He spent most of February and March in El Salvador and
Guatemala, accompanying the Henry Reeve Brigade in El Salvador, and working
with the Brigada Medica Cubana in Guatemala.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Foreign-Led Commission Now Governs Haiti

Sunday 16 May 2010

by: Beverly Bell, t r u t h o u t | Report

Staff Sgt. Junior Florestal gives Haitian local Sonia Catilius a drink of water at a medic station in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 18, 2010.(Photo: The U.S. Army)

On April 15, the Haitian Parliament ratified a law extending by 18 months the state of emergency that President René Préval declared after the earthquake of January 12. The Parliament also formally ceded its powers over finances and reconstruction, during the state of emergency, to a foreign-led Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH). The CIRH's mandate is to direct the post-earthquake reconstruction of Haiti through the $9.9 billion in pledges of international aid, including approving policies, projects, and budgeting. The World Bank will manage the money.

The majority of members on the CIRH are foreign. The criterion for becoming a foreign voting member is that the institution has contributed at least $100 million during two consecutive years, or has cancelled at least $200 million in debt. Others who have given less may share a seat. The Organization of American States and non-governmental organizations working in Haiti do not have a vote.

The CIRH is headed by U.N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. The only accountability or oversight measure is veto power by Préval. Few expect him to employ his veto option, both because his record is not one of challenging the international aid apparatus, and because of possible repercussions, in terms of the dollar flow, by the CIRH.

The Parliamentarians further abrogated constitutional process when they granted Préval and other elected officials the right to extend their terms in office until May 14, 2011, (five years to the day from when Préval was inaugurated) if new elections do not occur before the end of November. The constitution was approved in 1988 by a population which had just emerged from the 30-year dictatorship of 'presidents-for-life' François and Jean-Claude Duvalier, and as such contains curbs against concentration of power by the executive. The possibility of extension of Préval's term, combined with Préval's right to rule by decree through the extended state of emergency and Parliament turning its power over to the CIRH, has brought Haitians into the streets in repeated demonstrations.

Antonal Mortiné is a journalist, legal expert, and executive secretary of the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH by its French acronym). POHDH is an eight-member coalition promoting justice and peace; civil and political rights; social, economic, and cultural rights; the rights of women and children; and disability rights. In an interview, he expressed himself on Haiti's reconstruction, the role of the international community within it, and the fact that Haiti has just legally ceded its independence to a body determined in large part by levels of aid dollars given.

"Despite the difficulties,” says Mortiné, “we recognize that the earthquake offered an enormous opportunity to construct Haiti with new values. We talk about construction instead of reconstruction, because we don't need the old Haiti or the old Port-au-Prince to be reconstructed. We want a new Haiti. Unfortunately, we're not moving in that direction.

"Shortly after the earthquake, the Haitian government came up with the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment [the framework for reconstruction]. This is a technical plan which has no vision of a new Haiti. It was done without the participation or even the consultation of Haitian actors from different social sectors, from the diaspora, or even from parts of Haiti besides Port-au-Prince. It doesn't take into account that the country was constructed on a basis on inequality, lack of respect for fundamental human rights, and widespread exclusion.

"Social movements, especially the human rights sector and the POHDH, had proposed, first, that the government host a national consultation process, including people in the refugee camps. We wanted to build a consensus, with participation and vigilance by different sectors, about the life and construction of the nation after the earthquake. We also proposed, second, that there be a consultative body, including different sectors and different branches of power, to develop the construction plan. No one paid us any attention.

"On top of that, we have the international community, which didn't respond to the crisis by promoting the interests of the Haitian people. Instead, they took advantage of the situation to further entrench their own power. Since 1804, when Haiti became the first black republic, the international community has always used strategies to get their hands on Haiti. For example, we've had three military occupations in less than one century: the one by the U.S. from 1915 to 1934, the multinational force that brought Aristide back in 1994 and then stayed until 1998, and then an interim multinational force that started on February 28, 2004, and that they reorganized into MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] of that same year.

"There are examples of help that's come that's been meaningful, like solidarity from international social movements and from Haitians throughout the country. Cuba is giving health aid [through 1,600 volunteer doctors], and Guadalupe and Martinique have offered space and health facilities for people to go heal there. Other countries and peoples have come to help us, too, and we appreciate that a lot.

"But the US and Canada came militarily. Notably, 20,000 US soldiers arrived without any authorization, either through the U.N. or the OAS or CARICOM [Caribbean Community]. We didn't need that; we weren't at war. We didn't need tanks; we needed engineers, tractors, nurses, doctors, architects, and psychologists. We needed geologists who could talk about possibilities for future earthquakes. We didn't need soldiers; we needed people who could help free those who were trapped in the rubble and pull out those who had died in the rubble.

"Now they've developed the CIRH, which has moved the military occupation we had to a new level of economic and political occupation, though we already had an economic occupation with the lowering of trade barriers and the destruction to local production.

"The CIRH only gives power to the Haitian executive branch and the international community. This doesn't respond to constitutional norms; it's illegal. The constitution talks of three branches, but only one is involved in the CIRH. Only those close to the president, plus a commission of which majority power is foreign, have power. This has made Haiti a rèstavak [child slave] and opens the doors for the dictatorial powers we used to have to return. This is not the path to democracy.

"The CIRH has no accountability to anyone, especially to the parliament which voted it in.

“The only body to whom it is accountable is the World Bank, which holds and controls all the aid. This will give it the chance to have even more of a diktat than it has in the past thirty years. We have an expression that says, 'Who finances, controls.' There are no internal controls, and Parliament doesn't have to receive reports, nor does it have any oversight.

"The CIRH is only for the rich. All it takes to belong is to give $100 million in cash. It's the commercialization of the country; we've become merchandise. Haiti is just a space for others to come use their economic and political power. They're transforming a natural catastrophe into an opportunity to occupy our country, to use it as a base for addressing other problems in Caribbean basin, to invade Haiti with their products, and to put national production even more on its knees. And our government isn't resisting this at all.

"We're against the large international NGOs and governments which are taking advantage of the situation on the backs of the people – especially the people who are sleeping in the streets under huge rains and winds, who have such insecurity and vulnerability and danger, who are now at risk of another natural catastrophe with the hurricanes coming.

"We're against the extension of the executive's mandate. Since last week, there has been a lot of resistance mounting against the president, the CIRH, and the emergency law. Those mobilizations are called by organizations with no credibility with the population. Many people believe that there needs to be movement for change, but not led by those people. But tomorrow there could be a social explosion.

"We send a call to those in solidarity and social movements in all regions of the world: stand with Haiti in its struggle to defend democracy."

Regional Commission Against Impunity in Central America

By Danilo Valladares

GUATEMALA CITY, May 14, 2010 (IPS) - The countries of Central America's so-called northern triangle, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, are studying the idea of setting up an international commission against impunity – an initiative that has the support of human rights organisations.

"Impunity in Guatemala has perhaps drawn more attention, but the situation in El Salvador is similar," Benjamín Cuéllar, director of the Human Rights Institute at the Jose Simeón Cañas University (IDHUCA) of El Salvador, told IPS.

A body capable of taking on organised crime in the three countries, which have some of the highest murder rates in the world, "could be extremely useful" because many organised crime groups "function at a regional level, and have never been investigated," he said.

According to Cuellar, the idea that a commission of this kind undermines national sovereignty "is part of an outdated mentality," because what matters is to "dismantle the parallel power structures that remain firmly entrenched in the three countries and that have serious economic and social consequences."

The need for a regional body was suggested by Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela on May 3, during a visit by the U.S. official to this Central American country.

"We, the three presidents, have agreed to work together in the fight against impunity, particularly against organised crime," Colom said on that occasion.

The tasks of the new commission would include the harmonisation of laws and the passage of new ones, such as a law on asset forfeiture, which would allow the state to confiscate assets that have been used to facilitate drug trafficking or are derived from drug trafficking or organised crime, the president said.

Colom said the head of the United Nations-sponsored International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Spanish prosecutor Carlos Castresana, visited Honduran President Porfirio Lobo to discuss the issue. A similar visit to Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes is also reportedly being organised.

In response, Valenzuela praised CICIG's work and said "organised crime, lack of public safety, and drug trafficking are huge problems in our countries, and we believe we can tackle them better by means of regional cooperation."

CICIG, which began to operate in January 2008, was set up to strengthen, purge and reform the country's justice system and fight human rights violations. Among the key steps are identifying the infiltration of the corruption-riddled police, prosecution and judiciary by organised crime and dismantling illegal, clandestine armed security groups.

CICIG's support in clarifying high-profile crimes with international ramifications and in promoting essential laws and bringing about a new culture of honesty and competence in law enforcement and prosecution have raised hopes for justice in Guatemala, where according to the U.N.-sponsored body, 98 percent of all crimes go unsolved and unpunished.

The idea now is to expand the experience to El Salvador and Honduras. "A commission of this kind would be physically based in the country, which would give it the added value that we are seeking in terms of learning and of rebuilding institutions that are not working," Reina Rivera, the former head of the Honduran Centre for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH), told IPS.

"I think it's an opportunity; I don't believe in nationalist arguments that say this kind of initiative undermines the constitution or national sovereignty or weakens the public prosecutors office or the justice system," she said.

A truth commission began to operate May 4 in Honduras to clarify the events ahead of, during and after the Jun. 28, 2009 coup that overthrew then President Manuel Zelaya.

Honduran civil society, meanwhile, launched its own alternative truth commission, complaining about the limitations of the official commission set up by the Lobo administration.

Rivera said both truth commissions should express their views on the creation of a regional body to fight impunity and should recommend a model to be followed in the case of Honduras.

Achieving a functioning justice system is a pending task in this area, as indicated by the alarming crime rates.

The United Nations Development Programme Report on Human Development in Central America 2009-2010, released in October, described Central America's "northern triangle" as the most violent region in the world.

In 2008, the murder rate in Honduras was 58 per 100,000 population, followed by El Salvador (52 per 100,000) and Guatemala (48 per 100,000), compared to a global average of nine per 100,000 and a Latin American average of 25 per 100,000.

Overwhelmed police forces, overworked courts fighting to keep up with a growing backlog of cases, and severely overcrowded prisons foment impunity and a general sense of insecurity in the three countries, the study adds.

The head of the National Human Rights Movement of Guatemala, Miguel Ángel Albizures, told IPS that the initiative could work only if the countries' structural problems are tackled, such as the heavy concentration of land ownership and the need for tax reforms in order to prevent tax evasion and make sure those who earn more pay more.

UPR strike flares as Police move in

by Juan A. Hernandez |
Puerto Rico Daily Sun (May 15, 2010)

The student strike at the University of Puerto Rico went into its 24th day with renewed energy after the ratification of the indefinite strike vote by a student assembly and an attempt from the Riot Police to enter the Río Piedras campus early Friday morning.

Students guarding the gate in front of the School of Fine Arts on Gándara Avenue were startled when a little after 4 a.m. Friday a contingent of Riot Police agents cut through the locked slip bolt of the gate and tried to get inside the campus.

"I'm calling to tell you we [the student group] are at the gate at Education [Department]. They woke us up to tell us the Riot Police tried to cut the locks and chains on the gates at Fine Arts and Education. They tried to get in but left after cutting through the Fine Arts gate. I'll keep you posted," said a voicemail left at 5 a.m. by a Daily Sun campus source.

While the police squad was still working to cut through the gate's slip bolt, a group of students ran to block their entrance. The group reminded the agents "these are campus grounds, you cannot come in."

After a couple of minutes of some "light pushing and shoving" the police officers desisted and surrendered control of the gates.

"Riot Police daunts students on the gates. It's real. Pass it on!" read a text message the students circulated at 5:41 a.m. to other students outside the gates and members of the press.

Later in the morning, the Río Piedras campus was almost completely surrounded by the Police, riot squads and police cadets standing some 20 feet apart along the campus fence that extends from Ponce de León Avenue to Gándara and Barbosa Avenues. They blocked the entrance to the few pedestrian gates still open and prohibited pedestrians from going near the fence.

Luis Torres, the father of one of the demonstrating students, was manhandled by a police cadet, identified only as Rodríguez, while he was trying to pass a breakfast bag to his son through the fence. During the incident, Torres received a cut on his left eyebrow.

Police Cmdr. Miguel Mejías, from the San Juan police division, later explained the agents there had received orders to protect the university perimeter.

"We are not going to allow anything or anyone to come in," Mejías said.

Questioned about what kind of threat pedestrians or demonstrators outside the gates posed for the university, Mejías reiterated, "those are our orders."

UPR Board of Trustees Chairwoman Ygrí Rivera announced Friday the campus was closing down until July 31, but assured negotiations with the students will continue. Nevertheless, Rivera did not specify when the Board of Trustees will meet again with the Student Negotiating Committee.

In the meantime, students living in Resi-Campus (the on campus coed student residence) were given until 3 p.m. to vacate their apartments by the Office of the Dean of Students.

Many students informed they had been threatened with forceful eviction by University Police if they did not comply with the order. They were also ordered to leave their apartment keys at the lobby desk.

Despite the alleged threats, several students who declined to identify themselves assured they were not going to move out of the student residence.

Auxiliary Dean of Students José A. Nieves denied the possibility of a forceful eviction of the students who decide to stay, but did admit "we will work that out on another level."

"We will notify the [university] administration and they will take the necessary steps," said Nieves.

"There is a 30-day recess during which we cannot guarantee their safety here," he added.

More than 350 students live at Resi-Campus, of which some 30 still had not checked out as of 3 p.m. Friday. Those leaving their apartments had to carry their belongings to Gándara Avenue to where their cars, or their relatives' waited because no vehicle was allowed to enter the campus.

At mid-morning Friday, rumors started to spread about the University administration having ordered the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to shut off the water and electric services to the campus.

PRASA and PREPA spokespersons denied later having received such requests.

Students react

For Student Trustee-elect René Vargas the possibility of continuing negotiations are rapidly waning.

"This is about over [negotiations]. The strategy now seems to be starving [the students] to death," Vargas said.

"Nevertheless, they [university administrators] will have to change their strategy because the students have proved they are very resourceful. We will find a way to get them the food and water they need," Vargas added.

General Student Council president Gabriel Laborde said on his part that the sheer number of police officers surrounding the campus is evidence of the administration's "desperation" to end "a situation they themselves created."

"I urge Chancellor Ana Rosa Guadalupe to step into the shoes of a mother whose son or daughter studies here and someone is blocking them access to food and water. Or into the shoes of a mother whose child is being evicted from his or her home," said Laborde.

"How would she feel? She must ponder this very seriously before taking any action," Laborde added.

The student leader also urged First Lady Lucé Vela to step "into those same shoes."

"Step into those same shoes, think about and talk to Luis [Fortuño] about ending this situation. Allow us to take food and water to our fellow students ... don't let them be evicted from their homes," Laborde said.
Late on Friday, the San Juan Superior Court issued an injunction ordering the delivery of food and water be allowed on campus.

In the afternoon, demonstrations in front of the gates at the Ponce de León and Barbosa Avenues grew stronger with support from students' families and friends, labor unions, performing artists and media personalities and the general public.

As of press time neither UPR president José Ramón De la Torre nor Guadalupe had reacted to the demonstrations.