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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Democrats, Iraq and a Cuba Card

By Circles Robinson*

The US Congress will be debating resolutions regarding the war on
Iraq this week, but President Bush made his position clear Friday:
"I'm the decision-maker!" and practically told the legislators they
can stick their non-binding resolutions wherever they please.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates played the patriotic card on Capitol
Hill warning congress members that failing to support the president's
troop build-up would "certainly embolden the enemy and our
adversaries," tantamount to treason.

That's powerful stuff for legislators worried about how they will be
seen by the voters in 2008.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
issued a joint statement saying ""While the president continues to
ignore the will of the country, Congress will not ignore this
president's failed policy."

But will they have the backbone to put an end to the senseless

The Democrats may well be in the majority but it appears very
unlikely that those truly wanting an end to the fiasco can muster the
votes to pull the plug. Bush knows that and feels confident with his
hardball politics.

That same logic worked for the president in 2004 when he was
reelected. He stood firm on Iraq while his wishy-washy opponent, John
Kerry, criticized the White House pretext for going to war, after the
Senator himself had voted for the billions to fund it.

So how can legislators wanting a withdrawal of the troops, but too
scared to vote for it, make the most of the situation? One way is to
play politics with the president and try and get something in return.

There are several pending issues -from stem cell research to the
nearly half-century blockade on Cuba- that have faced a presidential
veto or threats to them that could be attached to a war funding bill.
That's how US politics works. If you need a favor, you better be
ready to give one in return.

Let's take the Cuba blockade as an example. In the last few
legislatures a growing number of representatives, at times a
majority, have asked that all or part of the archaic policy towards
the island nation come to an end, regardless of whether the US
government approves of its political and social system.

The travel ban on US citizens; a prohibition on educational,
scientific, sports and cultural exchange; and preventing US companies
from supplying Cuba with a potential several billion dollars a year
in trade and services makes no sense.

The blockade only exists today because of a minority of wealthy and
politically powerful rightwing groups based in Miami. These, have
effectively hijacked US foreign policy for decades and even make a
thriving business out of it at the taxpayers expense.

If the Democratic Party majority doesn't have the courage to pull the
plug on the Iraq War, tagging on an amendment to end all or part of
the blockade on Cuba would be a perfect trade off to take advantage
of the administration's weaker position.

Later, when the new Iraq offensives fail, like the past ones, the
Bush government, or whatever follows it, will have to pull out anyway
or risk panic in the Baghdad Green Zone as occurred in Saigon during
the last week of April 1975.


Friday, January 26, 2007

What the Game Shows Should be Asking

By Circles Robinson*

Hugo Chavez is the most popular leader in Venezuela’s modern day history. That appears to be a problem for Washington which likes to reserve the right to select presidents abroad.

While much of the mainstream press bends over backwards to tell us the Venezuelan president is anti-US and a threat, the man most Democrats and some Republicans believe is leading the US down doomsday lane is named George W. Bush not Hugo Chavez.

Chavez was reelected in December with nearly 63 percent of the vote. He is using his overwhelming legislative majority to speed up his agenda to channel the country’s oil wealth to the general population in terms of economic and social development, something his predecessors completely ignored.

While his detractors may call him authoritarian, the charismatic leader’s tell-it-like-it-is style is very popular among many Latin Americans, tired of outright lies, empty promises and what are seen as decades, if not centuries, of governments that sold their countries down the tubes.

The Venezuelan president’s views on what he calls “a new 21st century socialism,” is ringing around the hemisphere mainly because the market driven alternative offered by the US has clearly failed. His plan would give the State a larger role in strategic economic areas and more resources for social welfare and development.

Then there is President Bush, who lost his legislative majority in November over his bungling of the Iraq war. He has specialized in tax cuts for the rich and weakened social programs for the poor. Today, more US citizens than ever are without health insurance and New Orleans stands as the administration’s blueprint for caring.

The TV news during and after Hurricane Katrina, aided by interviews in Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, has people around the globe shaking their heads dumbfounded. How can it be that the richest country on Earth treats its disaster victims with so much blatant racism and neglect?

Bearing False Witness

Hugo Chavez, a Catholic, is attacked in the corporate media for bringing a revolutionary Jesus Christ of the poor into the picture.

However, it was the US skipper, not Chavez, who forgot the ninth commandment —Thou shall not bear false witness (lie)—, when he boarded the USS Abraham Lincoln on May Day, 2003 to tell the world that his war against Iraq had ended with smashing success. “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” said the president dressed in a green flight suit.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before […] With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians […] We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated,” he said.

If this was Japan near the end of World War II, President Bush would have already taken the honorable way out and committed hari-kari.

But he hasn’t, and Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery, where many of the active duty Iraq war dead are buried, provides vivid testimony to a tragic “mistake” based on a pack of lies about WMD.

Venezuela’s Crime

Venezuela, on the other hand, isn’t at war with anybody, hasn’t threatened anyone and has increasingly friendly relations and cooperation programs with its neighbors on the continent, independent of the politics in each individual country.

Providing more affordable heating oil to thousands of US low-income homes and preferential oil deals to many Caribbean nations, could be a better way to spread justice and democracy than dropping bombs and terrorizing entire communities.

The Chavez government is currently made up of a coalition of different progressive parties that the president hopes to unite into one revolutionary party to continue the political battle against the US-backed opposition. He has also announced plans to protect consumers by nationalizing Venezuela’s electricity industry and its biggest telecommunications giant.

Wherever Hugo Chavez travels in the Americas he is met by thousands of supporters and well wishers. When George W. Bush hits the road on Air Force One, he is met by thousands of demonstrators and large scale police and military deployments to protect him.

Why the different receptions?

This is the million dollar question that US game shows like The Price is Right, and Don Francisco for Spanish speakers should be asking their guests trying to win cash or a new car.

The answers might be very revealing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cuba’s Bin Laden Gets Miami Podium

By Circles Robinson

Osama Bin Laden need not look to Arab media outlets to broadcast his reasoning for waging war on the US. The Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s sister Spanish language daily, would probably be more than willing to host his messages and maybe even pay him to boot.

Last week, the Herald gave unrepentant terrorist Orlando Bosch space to defend Luis Posada Carriles, another self-exile from Cuba the FBI once called the most dangerous terrorist on the continent. The newspaper did not say whether Bosch is being paid for his column.

The Miami Herald was immersed in another ethical scandal last fall after it admitted having paid US government agents doubling as reporters and columnists. The matter ended when Jesus Diaz, the publisher who recognized the conflict of interest, was he himself forced to resign while the dismissed “journalists” were welcomed back.

Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch are not your everyday pistol-toting gang members. They have bragged about blowing up a plane full of people, placing bombs in hotels, murdering diplomats and other juicy crimes. In her book “We placed the bomb and So What!” Venezuelan journalist Alicia Herrera allows Bosch and company the chance to volunteer their long list of deeds.

Bosch is free in Miami because the president’s father George H. Bush gave him a presidential pardon and residency in 1990 that washed over his life-long record of terrorist activities in the United States, Cuba and a host of Latin American and European nations. Logically, he believes his buddy Posada deserves the same treatment.

Posada is currently being protected by the US Immigration Service from extradition to Venezuela where he was a naturalized citizen. As a smokescreen, he faces a seven-count indictment on lying about how he “snuck” into the United States, which could actually lead to his release from custody.

Like Posada Carriles, Bosch is seen as a God in the Republic of Miami by diehard exile groups and a spider web of others reaping the benefits of hundreds of millions of US taxpayer’s dollars flowing to those who slander, lobby against and conspire to commit violent acts on neighboring Cuba.

Last Friday, a Free Posada demonstration took place in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. When a peaceful group of counter demonstrators unveiled their banner calling Posada a terrorist, they were brutally attacked by members of the angry crowd.

On numerous occasions these same groups have threatened and used violence and intimidation against anyone from business owners to jury members and journalists who oppose their hard-line stance on Cuba. That’s their brand of American democracy and they get away with it in Miami-Dade County.

According to Bosch in his Herald column, the charges against Posada for false testimony don’t compare with “the services Luis has given to this great nation during the Cold War,” which merits his being allowed to walk.

If that logic is allowed to stand, Osama Bin Laden has no reason to fear being captured. He like Posada was a close collaborator of the CIA and the US Armed Forces and he too fought communism tooth and nail. Doesn’t he deserve the right to retire in a condo on Miami Beach?

Bosch went on to give his view on the US occupation of Iraq: “When you act with justice, the dogs of hell bark and the United States should not fear this, much less the government of President George W. Bush who decided to go to war in Asia to free a people.”

The administration couldn’t have a better defender of its “war on terror.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

In Defense of ‘Cully’ Stimson over Guantanamo

By Circles Robinson

The recent “gaff” by Deputy Defense Secretary Charles ‘Cully’ Stimson, who wants prisoners at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, Cuba to be held without legal representation, was one of the most honest statements coming out of the Bush administration.

As the Pentagon gears up for a “last” attempt to pacify Iraq at cannon barrel and Defense Secretary Robert Gates considers more troops for Afghanistan, Simpson, 43, said he found it shocking that US law firms could represent penniless Guantanamo prisoners.

The outcry from US law deans and civil rights groups to Stimson’s requesting corporations "to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists and representing reputable firms," is understandable, but unfair to Cully, who was just mouthing administration policy.

Taking on the cases of some of the detainees rotting in GITMO is a NO NO for a government that doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on to justify its handling of prisoners. Stimson’s only error was to publicly voice Washington’s policy of the last five years: Jail whoever it wants for indefinite periods at clandestine sites or established offshore prisons like Guantanamo.

There, in the name of protecting democracy in the USA, the tricks of the trade of extracting confessions are practiced. See the docudrama The Road to Guantanamo to get a glimpse.

The blacklisting of law firms is consistent with the revived Joe McCarthy bullying tactics of the post 9/11 years. Instead of being forced to distance himself from his candid statements, Stimson should be receiving a bonus for having leveled with the voters that reelected Bush in 2004.

Around 400 prisoners from a host of countries still remain at the Guantanamo prison camp located on occupied Cuban territory. Calls to shut it down from US civic groups, the United Nations and human rights groups around the globe have failed to budge the Bush administration, which maintains the camp is an essential tool in its "war on terror."

In sharp contrast, two men Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, who bragged of blowing up a plane with 73 people on board, are happily in the United States. Bosch is free on the streets of Miami, while Posada is fighting an illegal entry charge and hoping to join him. Neither has ever been charged in the US for their horrendous crime.

Charles Cully Stimson deserves another chance. We know where he stands and let’s hope he continues to tell it like it is. I prefer his style to the doublespeak of those that criticize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and then vote to finance them.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Round Two for Ortega and Nicaragua

By Circles Robinson

Daniel Ortega retakes the reigns of political power in Nicaragua on January 10, pledged to moderation and reconciliation with his business, religious, political and military adversaries during the Sandinista government of 1979-1990.

At the same time, Ortega hopes to maintain old friends from his revolutionary days and count on newer ones promoting Latin American integration and cooperation. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is Daniel’s ace in the hole to help face some of the country’s biggest problems including a serious energy crisis and a shortage of dignified housing.

Ortega says he will combat poverty among the country’s poorest with a Zero Hunger Program, while his economic advisors insist on maintaining a macro-economic policy similar to that of his neoliberal predecessor Enrique Bolaños.

The new Nicaraguan government is expected to seek an agreement with the IMF during Ortega’s first months in office to guarantee stability and stay on as good of terms as possible with the United States. Nicaragua’s last accord with the IMF expired on December 12.

The Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations made governing all but impossible during Ortega’s last term in office (1985-1990), with an economic blockade and the “Contra” war.

During the election campaign managed by Ortega’s wife Rosario Murrillo, --also the spokesperson of the Sandinista National Liberation Front Party (FSLN)--, the president elect made many promises leading to widespread expectations as he is poised to take office.

The offers made included an employment boom, higher salaries for many lower-end public employees, investment credit and incentives to the different local and foreign business sectors, lower utility rates, and free education and health care for the poor as in the 1980s.

Conservative social policy on issues important to the Catholic Church, like abortion, contraception and sex education, mixed with a push for more inclusive public assistance and economic programs to combat extreme poverty appear to be the initial direction the new government will take.

Ortega will be sworn in next Wednesday at a ceremony where over a dozen heads of state are planning to attend including Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Alan Garcia (Peru), Mahmud Ahmadinejad (Iran), Leonel Fernandez (Dominican Republic), Felipe Calderon (Mexico) and all the Central American leaders. Ecuador’s President-elect Rafael Correa, who takes office five days later, is also expected.

Managua’s El Nuevo Diario newspaper reported Saturday that the United States delegation to the swearing in ceremony will be headed by Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and also include Paul Trivelli, the US ambassador for Nicaragua; John Danilovich, chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Tom Shannon, the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bush Deserves Better than Hussein

By Circles Robinson

While many of his detractors would like to see him receive the same fate as former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, I personally believe that the US president deserves a fairer trial than a kangaroo court and a lethal injection if found guilty of crimes against humanity.

There are those that will argue, and not without reason, that his direct responsibility in the killing of an estimated 100,000 Iraqis and the squandering of the lives of over 3,000 US soldiers merits the most cruel treatment that lovers of blood, guts and revenge could hope for.

Many may even hope the final moments of the man responsible for the nightmare that began in March 2003, be shown on primetime television with a rating allowing 10-year-olds to learn the lesson.

And yes, why not let him sweat it out with five minutes of commercials at a couple million dollars a crack before his lights go out.

CNN could run the following story that would be quite similar to the one they ran at 4:44 a.m. EST on Saturday December 30, 2006.

WASHINGTON, USA (CNN)— George W. Bush, the former US ruler who spent his last years after his ruthless regime relaxing under house arrest at his Crawford, Texas ranch, was put to death by lethal injection before dawn Saturday for crimes committed in a genocidal war against the people of Iraq during his 2001-2008 reign.

The execution actually took place shortly after 6 a.m. but will be rebroadcast on evening primetime television, a spokesperson for an End to US War Crimes told CNN.

“This dark page has been turned over,” the spokesperson said. “Bush is gone. Today the US is a US for US citizens and Iraq for the Iraqis… The Bush era has gone forever.”
(Watch the syringe being filled with poison to be injected into Bush’s veins)

CNN announced it will air the videotape of Bush’s last moments for several hours after the execution.

The video showed Bush, dressed in a cowboy outfit, being led into a room by three masked guards.

The broadcast only showed the execution to the point where the needle was jabbed into Bush’s vein. The audio was not heard. (Note, when you cut the sound in horror films only the best ones are actually scary.)

An eye witness, obviously not a Bush follower, said the former leader was “strangely submissive” to the process.

“He was a broken man,” he said. “He was afraid. You could see the fear of God in his face.”

The witness said that Bush carried with him a copy of the Bible and asked that it be given to “a certain person.” He did not identify that person.

In another network TV interview, the witness said Bush refused to wear a black hood over his head before execution.
(Watch the witness describe Bush’s final moments)

For those that somehow missed the execution-day coverage and will now have to wait for the pay-for-view version on HBO, stay tuned because a second chance is coming in the next few days when Bush’s father George H. will get his just deserts for his crimes in Iraq and Central America and brother Jeb will get his for supporting Miami, Florida-based terrorism against an alligator shaped Caribbean island.

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