Circles Robinson Online

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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cuba Warns of Countdown on Iran

By Circles Robinson

Ever since the United States and Iran’s dictator Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah, were forced out of Iran, Washington has longed to return. Remember the hostage crisis that brought the superpower to its knees? So do many Republicans and Democrats.

In a period of less than six months in 1979, the final year of the Carter administration, three revolutions occurred around the world in countries that were previously under US domination. First came Iran in the Persian Gulf in February, then the Caribbean Island nation of Grenada in March, followed by Nicaragua in Central America in July.

To counteract this trend toward independence that could serve as an alternative model for other countries, Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada in 1983 to reverse that country’s progressive political and social process. He also used hundreds of millions in both covert and overt aid to mount a full-scale guerrilla war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, a job finished by George Bush Sr., who played a key role in this recovery of a previously subservient ally by 1990. The third country in the picture is Iran.

In a televised address last week, Cuban President Fidel Castro warned of the “seriousness of the threats of a military attack” on the Persian Gulf nation of 68 million inhabitants “based on an unjustified pretext that it intends to produce nuclear weapons.”

He recalled that Iran is one of the major oil suppliers of China and other nations and noted that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared that time is running out on the Middle Eastern country.

“The proclamation by the US-NATO alliance on the use of nuclear weapons against a state that they term as ‘terrorist’ is something to be concerned about,” said Fidel Castro, whose country was on the verge of being hit by a US nuclear strike during the October Missile crisis in 1962.


The Iranian revolution changed the political map of the Middle East —a region of immense strategic importance because it has almost two thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves. The US had controlled Iran’s government and US and European corporations its oil ever since the CIA-planned coup in 1953 that put the Shah in power.

During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, in which at least a million people are estimated to have died, the Reagan administration conducted the very profitable business of selling weapons to both sides, often through indirect sales. While the weapons sales to Iran were used to help fund the Nicaraguan “contras”, Washington’s real hopes were hinged on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq defeating the Iranians.

Donald Rumsfeld, the current US Defense Minister, met Saddam Hussein on December 19-20, 1983 and again in March 24, 1984; the same day the UN released a report that Iraq had used mustard and Tabun nerve gas against Iranian troops. The NY Times reported from Baghdad on March 29, 1984, that "American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq… and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name."

But things didn’t turn out the way Washington wanted. The war ended in 1988 with a United Nations mandated cease fire.

Unable to destroy Iran or force it into its fold, Washington’s eyes turned to Iraqi oil reserves and George Bush Sr. betrayed the former US ally and bombarded Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991. However, here too, the Pentagon failed, it was unable to totally defeat Iraq militarily, depose its leader or seize the oil.

The US —first under Bush Sr. and then under Clinton— then resorted to pushing through United Nations sanctions that over a decade caused more Iraqi deaths than the Gulf War through hunger, disease and other calamities.

When that didn’t work either, Bush Jr. picked up the baton, fabricated reports on weapons of mass destruction, and sent in the troops.

Nearly three years later, the Pentagon was finally successful in ousting Hussein and has taken over part of the coveted oil wells; but the situation remains extremely volatile. There is no end in sight to maintaining well over 150,000 US occupation troops in Iraq that are getting picked off one by one to the tune of over 2,230 dead and 16,420 wounded (an undisclosed number of which either died or are maimed for life). Casualties among the thousands of “contract” security personnel are also top secret. Not to mention the estimated 100,000 plus Iraqi dead.


The prolonged nature of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, the huge cost to the taxpayers, and the corruption in giving contracts to corporations with ties to the administration, has brought growing discontent in the US population, something the president has withstood since he was already been re-elected to hold office until January 2009.

With mid-term elections coming up in November 2006, history states that the party of lame duck presidents usually lose some seats. Then the incumbent party tries to regain momentum for the general elections two years later.

But the self-proclaimed “wartime president” may have a plan to maintain the Republican’s absolute majority. It begins to appear that he and his associates see short term political and long term economic gains by attacking yet another country with extensive oil reserves that refuses to submit to the empire’s mandates.

How would it all work? Fear has proven the most effective tool in US politics.

Fear of the example of Cuba has brought us nearly a half century of US blockade on the Caribbean island. Fear of Iraq blinded both the US media and the vast majority of Congress into being hoodwinked into war. Fear of the unknown enemy allowed the Bush administration to ram through the Patriot Act which greatly limits civil liberties.

Now the administration is mounting a campaign of fear of “Islamic” Iran, a country that denounces US imperialism, does business with China and Russia and dares to have friendly relations with US nemeses Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. The administration may be plotting to rally the masses around the flag, the presidency, and support yet another military intervention of the black-and-white Hollywood style of good-versus-evil.


Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its leaders have always said that they are conducting nuclear research solely for peaceful purposes.

In a recent interview with Granma newspaper, Ahmad Edrisian, the Iranian ambassador to Cuba stated:

“It is medieval to say that Iran does not have the right to carry out scientific research about nuclear energy. Or is that the countries of the Third World are forbidden from using this energy with peaceful ends for their development?

“What occurs is that the West wants to monopolize this technology and then sell it at a very high price to the underdeveloped countries,” said Edrisian.

Of the world’s 443 operating nuclear plants 383, or 86.45 percent, are in developed countries in North America (122) and Europe (174), and in Russia (31) and Japan (56).

The fact is that research to diversify electricity generation to include nuclear plants is nothing new in Iran.

It all began back in 1959 when the Shah purchased a research reactor from the US, points out the Christian Science Monitor in a January 24 article by staff writer Peter Grier.

“The Shah had big plans for a network of 23 power reactors, but the US did not consider this a danger, because he was an ally,” recalls the Monitor.

However the daily goes on to cite unidentified US officials and outside experts as saying Iran’s interest in developing nuclear power “makes no sense for a nation with 10 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”

But that doesn’t wash either. Look at the United States, a major oil producer in its own right. According to the European Nuclear Society, the US has 104 operating nuclear power plants, 23.47 percent of the world’s total.

Is Washington saying that Iran should rush to use up its non-renewable resource while the US considers it strategic to protect its own reserves, and that anything contrary is irrational and cause for suspicion?


Last week the US repeated that neither it nor its European partners want to return to the negotiating table with Iran, reported the Christian Science Monitor.

“The international community is united in mistrusting Tehran with nuclear technology,” said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “We have been very clear that the time has come for a referral of Iran to the UN Security Council.”

A formal “referral” is necessary if the Council is to impose any penalty, such as economic sanctions, the same route used as a prelude to attacking Iraq.

“It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons,” says a US Department of Energy intelligence analysis quoted by the Monitor.

The Iranian ambassador to Havana has countered by saying: “We warn that taking Iran to the Security Council will create a new crisis, this time real, instead of eliminating the artificial one created by the West.”

He notes in his interview with Granma daily that “The world must take note that the Europeans and the United States are making judgments about the ´supposed intention´ of Iran to develop nuclear activity. They make conclusions based on presumptions without any real basis.”

“Let’s not forget that the nuclear weapons that the West possess could destroy the entire world more than ten times over. Israel for example, has dozens of nuclear warheads and is a threat to regional and world peace. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has never verified or monitored this activity. Nobody says anything about it.”

Ambassador Edrisian further asks “How is it possible that those who make war, drop bombs, make thousands of nuclear arms, torture in their jails, and wiretap—that is to say, the biggest violators of human rights in the world—can try and impose their model on everyone else?”


“As the Bush administration pushes to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, many members of Congress support keeping the use of military force as an option to thwart Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” states an AP wire from January 25.

In a replay of the run-up to the Iraq invasion, “Republicans and Democrats alike say the United States should seek international economic sanctions that are harsh enough to hurt Iran, while securing assurances from Tehran’s major trading partners that they will abide by any restrictions the Security Council imposes,” reports Liz Sidoti of Associated Press (AP).

The widely distributed wire service is already using the same language that led the New York Times and Washington Post to admit long after the Iraq invasion that they had been misled by false information to stack their coverage in support of the war on Iraq.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has repeatedly claimed that the United States is committed to addressing the Iran standoff diplomatically just like her predecessor Colin Powell said with Iraq. But the reality is that arm twisting has begun to line up support for a vote of the IAEA to refer Iran to the Security Council.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that a senior US diplomat has suggested a nuclear cooperation deal between Washington and India could collapse unless New Delhi votes against Iran next month at the IAEA.

If India failed to vote against Iran, “the effect on members of the US Congress with regard to India’s civil nuclear initiative will be devastating,” the US ambassador to India, David Mulford told the Press Trust of India news agency.


Just as in the months preceding the Iraq invasion, US Senators and Representatives are following the administrations cue and are lining up to strike the cord of fear that Iran could obtain weapons of mass destruction and must be stopped sooner than later.

“It’s important to give diplomacy a try, but I don’t believe we should take any option, including military force, off the table,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Emerging Threats Subcommittee, told AP.

“If you eliminate the threat of military action, the possibility of it, then there’s no way to secure compliance,” added Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-NY., a House International Relations Committee member.

Some legislators go so far as to say that independent of the nuclear issue, a new Iranian leadership is needed. This was President Bush’s fallback option when his claim of Iraq having weapon’s of mass destruction fell through the floor.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., told AP that the United States and its allies must intensify their pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program. “But ultimately,” he said, “there must be change in the country’s leadership.”

Sen. Cornyn said Iran has become more authoritarian and autocratic. “We need to do a better job of letting pro-democracy forces in Iran know that we are supportive of their efforts of peaceful regime change.”

The Iranian ambassador to Havana responded to these arguments by saying: “The United States should not be talking about human rights or democracy when its governments financed and supported military dictatorships in Latin America and other continents.”

In addressing the accusations against his country the ambassador added, “Our president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeated that Iran is willing to receive international cooperation for peaceful nuclear development. We have nothing to fear. We can show all our plants, all our activities. There is nothing hidden, nothing confidential.”

“Iran has used everything to create and maintain a climate of trust. We hope the Europeans and the North Americans recognize our right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends, which is the right of all countries that sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” concluded the Iranian diplomat.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Breaking a Bad Law Over Cuba

By Circles Robinson

When the retired US couple Fred and Kathy Harper* left for Cuba on a two-week cycling tour they knew they were breaking a law increasingly enforced by the Bush administration, but they still thought they were doing the right thing.

“It’s not a pretty story,” the Harpers told me. “We were part of a bicycle tour out of Toronto. Upon returning from our wonderful visit to Cuba, we went through US customs from Canada and that’s where the nightmare began. We were treated as if we were Bin Laden’s lieutenants or hardened criminals.”

“We were taken into a private room and interrogated mercilessly by these huge, nazi-like soldiers in knee-high brown leather boots. They went through our stuff with a magnifying glass and seized the few gifts we had bought. We learned later that the Costa Rican airline we were traveling on from Cuba to Canada gave the passenger list to US officials.

“They finally released us after we signed a mountain of official documents. But that wasn’t the end. They have continued to badger us, threatening imprisonment and heavy fines. It’s a sad story, but we loved Cuba so much that it was worth what happened to us,” concluded the Harpers.

Why shouldn’t US citizens have the same rights as the British, French, Germans, Italians, Canadians, Australians, etc. to go biking or hiking or visit the cities and beaches in any country they are welcomed in?

Europeans and Canadians flocked in record numbers to Cuba in 2005 to enjoy the sun, beaches, its cultural Mecca and relative safety. But for law abiding US citizens, the journey can represent a serious dilemma as they find themselves thrown into a cold war everybody else thought was over.

Nonetheless, the L.A. Times recently estimated that “some 40,000 US citizens visited the off-limits island of Cuba last year."

To choose between breaking a law imposed as part of the 45-year US blockade on Cuba and cowing to the threats from the Bush administration is a hard decision for a people who pride themselves on individual freedoms.

Fran Bradley a Bucks County, Pennsylvania school teacher recently went to Cuba with 100 other volunteers from Pastors for Peace, an Interreligious community foundation that organized an effort to take bicycles, medical supplies and computer equipment to Cubans. Each year the group openly challenges the US travel ban in order to call attention to its unjust nature.

“At least we’re not alone,” Bradley told the Bucks County Courier Times. “Countries all over the world think what the US is trying to do is illegal,” he added. Bradley was referring to the annual United Nations vote that overwhelmingly condemns the US blockade of Cuba, which includes the travel restrictions on US citizens. In 2005, the vote was a record 182-4.

According to the Courier Times of Levittown, Penn., a week after he returned, Bradley “received a letter form the Treasury Department requesting information on the other members of the Pastors for Peace caravan, where they stayed and how much they spent in Cuba. He refused to answer their questions expressing his disagreement with the government.”

Bradley told the newspaper that he's still waiting to see if the Treasury Department will prosecute him. He could face 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

“I hope he doesn’t go to jail,” George School junior Owen Henry, 17, told the Courier. “But if he does [the Treasury Department’s] going to have a lot of angry high school students up in arms,” he added.

The travel ban is also imposed by Washington on Cubans invited to sporting, cultural, academic and scientific events in the United States. The Cubans are routinely denied entry visas even to attend international meetings on subjects such as medical research.

The examples abound. At the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony the late “son” and bolero singer Ibrahim Ferrer, then 77, was denied a visa to receive his award. Ferrer told the press in Havana: "I am not a terrorist. I couldn't be one. I am a musician."

Now, the Olympic and World Cup champion Cuban baseball team has been prohibited by the US government from playing in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) organized by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. As a result, the International Baseball Federation is threatening to withdraw its sanctioning of the competition, putting the WBC on the verge of collapsing less than 7 weeks before it is scheduled to begin.

*I changed the name of the Harpers to avoid them further problems for having exercised their right to travel and tell their story, another freedom jeopardized by the Patriot Act.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Plane May Aid Illegal Broadcasts to Cuba

By Circles Robinson

Most Cubans are unable to watch illegal TV broadcasts beamed at the island from the United States in a mega-million dollar attempt to paint a favorable picture of Uncle Sam and degrade the local government.

Using US government sources, a Knight Ridder Newspapers article out of Washington announced on Thursday January 5 that a new broadcast airplane will soon replace the C-130 Pennsylvania National Guard plane currently bombarding Cuba with illegal TV and Radio Marti broadcasts.

While the author, Pablo Bachelet, does not mention the type of the new aircraft he notes that the plane “has also been used to broadcast to Afghanistan and Iraq,” where the Pentagon has admitted to doctoring up the news to suit its military objectives.

Joseph O’Connell, spokesman for the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) in Washington, the US government entity that controls Radio and TV Marti, recognized that the US Congress budgeted 10 million dollars last month for the new aircraft on top of the 28 million for operating expenses.

Cuba has long cited violations of the International Telecommunications Convention that limits TV broadcasts beyond national borders and UN General Assembly Resolution 37/92 that establishes the principles for the use of satellites for direct international transmissions.

However, just as Washington ignores the annual near unanimous UN vote calling for an end to its blockade of Cuba, it continues to disregard important international accords it has signed regarding communications.

The Bush administration hopes the added broadcasting strength of the new aircraft, planned to go on line this spring, will give the station the power to overcome jamming carried out by Cuba to protect its local frequencies.

But Knight Ridder refers to critics who say the stations are a waste of US taxpayers’ money and that the Cuban government should have little difficulty jamming the new plane’s signal.

Statements in the article by TV and Radio Marti director of broadcasting operations Jorge Luis Hernandez make it clear that the goal of more potent transmissions is to give Cubans a greater opportunity to get the false information their government denies them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

World Baseball Classic Hinges on Cuba

by Circles Robinson

When the United States baseball team failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, Washington threw a tantrum, but Major League Baseball (MLB) already had an alternative up its sleeve–The World Baseball Classic- with the deck stacked in its favor.

Previously there had been some doubt in baseball circles whether the proposed tournament would become a reality, but the sponsors led by MLB fixed a date for the 16-team, 4-division contest for March, 2006.

When the US team didn’t even qualify for the semifinals at the 2005 World Cup Amateur Baseball Tournament played in Holland (it finished seventh behind Cuba, Korea, Panama, The Netherlands, Japan and Nicaragua) there was even more reason to go forward with the parallel tournament where more big leaguers would participate for the United States.

With everything designed to help the USA team win and to please the corporate sponsors, the competition was conveniently arranged in March, at a time of year (off-season for MLB) that doesn’t affect its financial interests. Another big advantage is being the only team to have all its games at home as well as the semi-finals and final.

Former Toronto Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez was chosen to lead Team USA, expected to be loaded with talent such as San Francisco's Barry Bonds, Houston's Roger Clemens, the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter and Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs.

But no, that wasn’t enough for the best team money can buy or a president obsessed with a Caribbean island.

They didn’t expect Olympic and World Cup Champions Cuba to participate because of threats of harassment from right wingers from Miami and scouts to hound its players. Fidel Castro’s surprise announcement that the island would field a team left the US government in a quandary.

"Yes, of course, we accept the challenge —said the Cuban president— count on us at the party."

Could the White House allow for the possibility of getting beat at their own game on their own turf? Hell No!


The next ploy used by the administration was ordering the Treasury Department to ban Cuba from playing because the nearly half century US blockade on the island “prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."

But the Cuban Baseball Federation one upped Bush again reminding everyone that Cuba has never played ball for money and that any proceeds would be donated to victims of Hurricane Katrina, who have suffered from US government negligence.

Even Major League Baseball and the MLB Player’s Association, event organizers, are pleading with the administration to rescind its ruling and allow Cuba to attend. Otherwise, they fear its claim that the World Baseball Classic is in fact a world class event is in jeopardy.

If the Treasury Dept. ruling is not reversed, Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member from Canada said, "it would completely scupper any bid" by the United States for future Summer or Winter Games.

"We are very disappointed with the government's decision to deny the participation of a team from Cuba in the World Baseball Classic," said Paul Archey, the senior vice president of Major League Baseball International, and Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the Major League Baseball Players Association.


"Sports should be separated from politics," U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia told Associated Press. "We've played Cuba in sport on many occasions and it's never been a problem. We've had teams go to Cuba and they've come here. So it seems kind of shortsighted that the administration would do that."

MLB reapplied to the Treasury Dept. for a license a fortnight ago so Cuba can participate. To date, silence has been the only reply.

Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, maintains that politics should be left out of this matter. He has circulated letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Treasury Dept. asking that Cuba be allowed to play.

Wayne Smith, a former head of the US Interests Section in Havana under the Carter administration, recently wrote: “not granting a license for a Cuban baseball team to participate in the World Baseball Classic planned for March was deeply disappointing but hardly a surprise.”

Smith said the decision “was in keeping with the Bush administration’s policy of trying to seal off all contact with the Caribbean island,” blocking American scholars, athletes, musicians, religious leaders etc. from visiting Cuba and visa versa with their counterparts from the island.

Edwin Zerpa, the president of the Venezuelan Baseball Federation told the press, “We hope that the United States’ government changes its position,” adding that his country could host part of the tournament if all else fails.

Puerto Rico's baseball federation has sent a letter to the International Baseball Federation declining to host any WBC games as scheduled if Cuba is banned from playing by the United States.

Even if the Bush administration gives in and offers to let the Cubans play, they could still set up roadblocks to make it difficult for the team to arrive on time for pre-tournament practice or allow the radical right of Miami to make their stay as difficult as possible.

Playing with a stacked deck even when you hold all the aces reminds me of Richard Nixon. Despite having his wartime reelection in the bag he decided to wiretap the Democrats to gain even further advantage. That all backfired for Tricky Dick a couple years later.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Nicaragua Film Provides Election Year Reflection

by Circles Robinson

A new film by Swiss director Kristina Konrad provides a long awaited 20-year retrospect of Nicaragua, its frustrated revolution, and the lives of some of those who dared to dream and risk everything for a brighter future. It comes just under a year before the November, 2006 general elections.

The 84-minute documentary, titled: "Nuestra America: Todo cambia cuando te has decidido" (Our America: Everything changes when you’ve made a decision,) was premiered in Nicaragua to packed audiences December 19-23 in Managua, Leon and Granada. Earlier in the month it won an award at the prestigious Havana Film Festival as the best film about Latin America by a director from outside the region.

Our America asks complicated questions like: Where is Nicaragua today?, Did Yesterday’s Nicaragua really exist? It provides answers from a human, feminine and internationalist perspective, avoiding rhetoric or simplistic explanations about the Sandinista Revolution (1979), the loss of political power (1990) and the situation of Nicaraguans today.

Nearly two decades after filming in war torn Nicaragua, Konrad returns with a photograph of two young women in a battalion of the Sandinista Army, hard pressed to defend the country against the “Contras” trained and armed by the US under the Reagan administration.

The director, full of her own vivid memories and questions of what happened, first finds Magaly Cabrera, today a struggling lawyer in Leon who works with indigent clients. With Magaly, she searches and finds Cecilia Rojas, now a door-to-door salesperson for Avon cosmetics.

Both live simply raising their families with economic difficulties. As they recall their past and describe their current lives, the viewers, like the director, gain valuable insight into the open wounds of a chapter in Nicaraguan history closed like a slammed door.

When asked where the revolution left its mark, Konrad said it was Nicaraguan women that benefited the most. “For the first time women could leave their traditional role.” Reflecting on their reliability and sense of responsibility she adds: “There are still many [international] organizations that work in Nicaragua and everyone says they prefer to work with the women.”

Back in the capital, Managua, Francisco Ramirez, 53, describes his experiences over 30 years as an employee at the Intercontinental Hotel, one of the only two large buildings that survived Managua’s devastating 1972 earthquake.

Ramirez worked at the hotel when the dictator Somoza was its main owner. He stayed on when the victorious young Sandinistas took over the luxury establishment as a temporary seat of government and lodging for displaced militia members. In the following decade he saw many foreign young people pass through “poorly dressed and with foul odors,” and he was still around in the 1990s after it was re-privatized, now to foreign hands. Ramirez is the prototype of the worker loyal to management. With total frankness he explains his philosophy: “Classes have to exist. There has to be rich and poor. Without the rich there would be no one to give work to the poor.”

Another interviewee is Herty Lewites, 63, then the popular Sandinista mayor of Managua. Lewites was filmed before he finished his term in early 2005. I asked Konrad for her reaction when she leaned that Lewites had challenged Daniel Ortega for the Sandinista nomination for president?

“When I interviewed Herty he was still the mayor of Managua. I heard things because people liked him. There were rumors. I have his answer to a question that I didn’t use in the film, about whether he would like to be president. He replied: ‘I believe that anyone would like to be president if the people supported them.’” The documentary allows viewers to get to know Lewites, his past as an active collaborator of the guerrilla movement fighting Somoza, his years as the Sandinista Minister of Tourism and some of his ideas on life and Nicaragua.

Enrique Fonseca, 73, an indigenous poet, is restless and insightful swinging in his hammock behind his humble rural home. Without saying it, he plays with the unpredictable Nicaraguan “gueguense” that surprises when least expected. He and others note the human costs in the war to overthrow Somoza and then to defend the country, which barely had time to breath between conflicts.

Fonseca asks the question on the minds of many young Nicaraguans, who were either virtually abandoned by their revolutionary parents who gave their all to the revolution and the monumental task of building a new country from scratch, or were born in the post-revolution period. The question “for what?” reflects a painful recognition of so much sacrifice for apparently so little.

However, the courage of the young Nicaraguans that fought to end Somoza’s rule and then defended the revolution can be summed up in one scene early on in the film while the director is still looking for the two women in her photograph.

Josefina Ulloa, 46, recalls, as if it were yesterday, the tense moments over 25 years before when she belonged to a squad of ten poorly equipped Sandinistas looking to seize weapons in the countryside in order to fight Somoza’s National Guard.

At one moment a complaining youth in her group said he was going to return home because he didn’t have a weapon. Josefina recalls that there was “no room for traitors or cowards” with so much danger facing them. She told the young man: “If its because you don’t have a weapon, take mine”, and she picked up a piece of wood and continued on.

Her nighttime mission was to enter the house of a “Juez de Mesta” –the local power of the dictatorship in the countryside- to obtain his weapon for the revolutionary cause.

Trembling inside, she busted into the house pointing her piece of wood as if it were a rifle, screaming that the house was surrounded and telling those inside not to turn on the light (which would have revealed her bluff). She then demanded the feared man turn over his pistol.

Through pure courage she accomplished her task, like so many others carried out by her generation, committed to give their all for a better future.

Things became much more complicated after losing power on February 25, 1990. The film comments that the FSLN –born as a guerrilla movement in 1961 and which governed from July 19, 1979 to April 25, 1990- has become just one more political party, hinting that it lost much of its previously held ethical capital.

In her personal reflections on the Nicaraguan revolution, Konrad noted that she had come from wealthy Switzerland: “It was my first experience in a poor country and first experience with a revolution. What most impressed me was seeing an entire country in motion. Their was hope that things would get better.” She added, “Not everything was roses, there were also a number of things that didn’t work; they had little experience. However, they struggled a lot, their was great movement and I can also remember the humor of the people. I never laughed so much than with the poor Nicaraguans in the middle of the war. And besides, everyone made poetry!”

The documentary also shows that the ideals of the revolution are still simmering on the back burner, independent of the difficult situation the country finds itself today.

For those without much knowledge about Nicaragua the film gives an ample look at the country’s recent history without sermons, one of its greatest and needed attributes. For those who hold the Central American country dear to heart, you can count on an emotional and thought provoking hour and a half.

To obtain more information on the distribution of “Our America” write…

Sunday, January 01, 2006

US Should Join Latin America's War on Poverty

Havana, January 1, 2006--The political map of Latin America continued to be redrawn in 2005 with the taking of office of Tabare Vazquez in Uruguay and the recent landslide electoral victory of indigenous leader Evo Morales in Bolivia.

The continent’s growing push for unity and determination to fight poverty and exclusion is something that should be hailed instead of rejected by the United States.

The expansion of free market policies in the region under the Clinton and Bush administrations gave US corporations their chance to provide the promised development to hundreds of millions of impoverished Latin Americans.

However, virtually all analysts agree that they failed badly, and instead of progress, the majority actually lost ground in their standard of living, access to social services, and hope for a brighter future.

The election in recent years of progressive socially minded governments in Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil, the growing popularity of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia are a direct reaction to disastrous economic and social policies. A similar result in Mexico and Chile is also on the horizon during the coming year.

Cuba has taken a totally opposite approach from the US in the face of the changes in Latin America. The island has opened the doors of its prestigious universities to thousands of scholarship students from throughout the continent and beyond, and generously provided doctors, educators and sports trainers to a host of nations both with pro and anti-Cuban governments.

The Bush administration, for its part, has fruitlessly spent tens of millions of dollars and scores of CIA operations to support candidates and governments in its pocket, whose promises of neoliberal prosperity are growingly rejected by the majority populations. The presence of US troops in several Latin American countries has also received widespread resentment.

Besides its long track record of assassination attempts and blockade to reverse the Cuban revolution, the US backed a short-lived coup in 2002 against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and most lately ran a highly funded campaign against Evo Morales out of the US embassy in La Paz.

Such a strategy has backfired, not because the private media has turned left, which it hasn’t, but instead because Latin Americans are increasingly seeing through decades of promises that Washington and its closely allied leaders have been unable to deliver on.

So why continue a failed policy? Why allow anti-US imperialism to be a magnet for electoral victories?

A much more sensible strategy –apparently out of the cards with the present administration- would be to embrace the efforts to bring modest improvements to all Latin Americans and allow the continent rich in natural resources and human potential to develop out of the dark ages.

With or without the United States, such change is already underway. It won’t be a short battle because the effects of centuries of exploitation, corruption, oppressive foreign debt, cultural penetration and consumerist influence are not easily erased.

Nonetheless, if the US continues its same course, supporting sell-out leaders and policies that only benefit a small elite, the forging of a new Latin America, the one dreamed of by liberation heroes Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti, may come sooner than thought possible only a few years ago.

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