Time for renewal in Cuba

Fidel Castro has led Cuba since the popular 1959 revolution. It’s not necessary to look further back than 2002, to find the country’s one-party communist system described as “untouchable”. When Castro came to power in 1959 there is no doubt that his politics were seen as huge improvements for the country that previous had been led by the corrupt Batista dictatorship. There are today two sides to look at Cuban politics; either it can be seen as the living proof of the triumph of socialist development, or for critics; the Castro administration is an intolerant dictatorship.

The newly held Communist Party Congress was meant to give hope to the population. The population was hoping for young blood to come into the rather old in the politics. The Cuban population will be disappointed, as the newly elected members are in their 70s and 80s. Some young people were also elected, but only for the lower positions. Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera‘s South America editor said; “There was a lot of talk about the need to rejuvenate the leadership of the Communist Party, but so far there haven’t been that many new faces.”

The Communist party’s changes include recommendations to legalise buying and selling of private property, something which has been heavily restricted since the revolution. The measures are also meant to encourage more private initiative and foreign investment, and give more autonomy to state companies and reduce state spending. The monthly food ration is likely to be gradually stopped – for those who have no need for it. The president described the food ration as an “unsupportable burden.” Still, the biggest change is the proposal that there should be a term limit for officials, including the president.

The Guardian described the promised reforms in Cuba as ‘absurd’ and ‘illusory; a desperate, ridiculous attempt to camouflage repression‘. The article gives a detailed explanation for why these promises wont ever turn to reality. On the other hand we have Julia E. Sweig, Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies and Director for Latin American Studies, saying that there is hope for Cuba. In an interview she said that even back in 1980s Raul Castro was arguing that private economic activity was not anathema to socialism and that capitalism, money, the market could actually be a tool for the country. She also said that he is the strongest advocate inside the government for taking the necessary steps in order to make Cuba a more open society.

The question remains, who to believe? The opponents or the supporters? Will there be changes in Cuba? There is no answer for this question; surely there are reasons to believe both sides. Still, one might say that broken promises will attract more attention than no promises at all…

Castro brothers, who have been in power since 1959.

Left: Older brother Fidel Castro, Right: Younger, President Raul Castro


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Can indigenous thinking solve the climate crisis?

Bolivia’s foreign minister David Choquehuanca recently stated that indigenous thinking could solve the climate crisis. This could be seen as a quite shocking argument as Bolivia was the only country showing resistance at the Cancun climate conference in early December 2010. Bolivia then claimed that the decisions had been made without consensus and that the agreement did not go far enough to prevent climate change.

Choquehuanca said; “Bolivia is not trying to wreck the climate talks. We are only trying to defend life, the future generations.”

“Our philosophy tells us that [other nations’] problems are also our problems. Development – the one implemented by western societies – has an impact in this balance. It has generated considerable imbalances between people and regions. It has created a million problems. Today we are talking of crisis, energy crisis, financial crisis, food crisis, institutional crisis, climate change: we indigenous people can contribute to solving all these crises with our values for the attainment of balance.”

Whether Indigenous people alone can resolve the environmental crisis seems rather unrealistic, but as the Guardian wrote Bolivia will establish 11 new rights concerning nature. These rights, have been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life.

The stereotypical thinking might want to condemn these thoughts straight away. It might seem too ‘green’, and maybe too idealistic. On the other hand it is important to realize that our values, which might be the United Nations’ human rights documents also have this deep idealistic character that humans should live in harmony both with each other and also with nature. As Bolivian Indigenous peoples (as well as other indigenous peoples worldwide) have existed for centuries and their values and worldview might be more rooted to their culture it is important – to welcome it, and wait and see if the new law will make a difference.

To have a closer look at Bolivia’s environmental problems, click here.

A short film, on Bolivia and Environment

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Cuba and the growing blogosphere

Article 19 – Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


“Cyberwar is not a war of bombs and bullets, but of information, communication, algorithms and bytes. It is the new form of invasion that has originated in the developed world” – Yoani Sánchez

Cuban award- winning blogger Yoani Sánchez is accused for cyberwar against her country. Havana said that her blog, Generacion Y demonises government and is a tool of neocolonial propaganda. While the Cuban government is accusing, the ‘world’ is praising: Sánchez has been named as the 60th World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press institute.

Blogger Henrik Alexandersson had a live interview with Sánchez together with other Cuban bloggers. They revealed that the regime bullies bloggers and filter the Internet. Also ‘ordinary journalists have the same problem. One of the bloggers expressed that he believes the contact between Cuba and the outside world might hold back the development of aggressiveness from the Cuban regime.

Yoani Sánchez, said “Cuban bloggers hope that the world will understand the diversity of opinions in Cuba. They need support to protect the security for bloggers and others who voice their opinions. And there should be pressure from the outside world when it comes to the regime censoring.”

The editor of the pro-government website Cubadebate (in Spanish), said that Sánchez only aim is to attack Cuba. She said: “We’re talking about a blogger in Cuba, which the United States has been waging economic and political warfare against for the past 50 years. And this is just the latest form of that warfare.”

Whether or not Sánchez’s blog is an attack on Cuba, there should be a freedom of expression – in Cuba as in other places. Sánchez herself claims that she has no secret political agenda behind her blogging – other than simply inform, and express her thoughts about the Cuban situation. In the end, ‘people everywhere have a fundamental, universal right to know.’

Sánchez on why she started her blog


Julia Myska



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Why Latin-America is turning against US

The Guardian writes that anti-Americanism is reborn in South America. How could this be?

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, there was a wave of optimism around the Latin American continent. During the elections Obama assured to promote a new era of attitudes towards Latin America. All regimes, even those critical towards US were meant to be seen as ‘equal partners‘. The Guardian writes that these promises seem to have vanished.

US influence over the region have decreased, while other important influences like China, Iran and Russia has escalated. This is representing a change in international relations, and signalising that there are other ‘buddies’ than those from US. China is Brazil’s fist trade partner. Peru is the main destination of China’s investment. Hugo Chavez said: “All of the oil that China might need to consolidate itself as a great power is here.” The improved economic relation between Iran and Latin America has also become a concern for US.

Mauricio Cárdenas writes that when Obama took part of the Summit of Americas in 2009, he made a good impression. The important aspect of equally was brought up. But he also points out, that it is time for Obama to deliver. John is in his blog promoting the same view; Obama has so far failed on focusing on the relation between US and Latin America. He concludes that Obama have to keep to his promise and advance cooperation with Latin American countries as equal partners, or else he will risk losing them as allies.

It might seem like it is now or never for Obama. He have to show that his promises toward his neighbours are more than words. As the power relations in the world as a whole are changing, and new super economies are emerging in the market, it might be a ‘good deal’ for US to maintain close ties with Latin America. With new trading partners, LA is getting stronger, and far more independent. US will not maintain its superiority no matter what. As the financial talk for global investors points out that it is ‘painfully obvious that China is now the economic superpower to watch’.


Not everyone it happy excited about Obamas visit to Brazil


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Gaddafi’s Venezuelan buddy

Libya’s president Gaddafi, opposed by the ‘world’ – supported by Venezuela. How could this be?

“Now you are seeing comments from Washington and some European nations. As President Kadafi said to me, it’s shameful, it makes you kind of sick to see the meddling of the U.S., wanting to take control,” Chaves said to Los Angeles Times, during the Egyptian battle.

Chaves has claimed that US is ready to invade Libya, but as stated by The Guardian – there is no sight an invasion is being planned. Venezuela, together with ‘neighbors’ Cuba and Nicaragua also claimed that western powers want to take control in Libya for its oil wealth. There has also been claims that US and the EU is trying to isolate Gaddafi and raise the possibility of providing military support to the opposition.

What do Gaddafi and Chaves have in common? Both are strongly anti-imperialist and anti-American. Chaves said: “I’d be a coward to condemn someone who has been my friend.”

Ulf Erlingsson’s blog looks at the relationship between Venezuela and Libya in more detail. He writes that both are oil-producing countries, which have been generous in donating money to groups and governments that are anti-American. This has been more important to them than the well being of their own people. Erlingson writes that it is not far-fetched to suspect that Gaddafi was helping the terrorist revolutionaries in Venezuela. He also writes that it could be reasonable to suspect that Gaddafi in some way encouraged Chaves’ military coup attempt in 1992. If he did, this might also be the answer to why Chaves can’t turn against Gaddafi.

I think the ‘easiest’ and maybe most common way to understand Chaves position is to assume that his and Gaddafi’s common anti-imperialist and anti-america view is to be blame. Though, this is a very simplistic view. In order to understand how Chaves can support a regime the ‘whole world’ oppress it might be necessary to look beyond their common enemy.


A live blog following the development in Libya press here.

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The unnoticed Venezuelan strike

“…we have taken the decision to put our lives at risk for the purpose of having our voices heard by the Organization of American States. Our hunger strike aims to highlight the unsustainable situation of the systematic violation of our Human Rights by the government of Hugo Chavez against those who openly disagree with their ideas and official policies.”

On January 31 a student organized strike began in Venezuela. The students demanded the Venezuelan government to allow Organization of American states’ (OAS) Secretary General to visit the country in order to evidence the deterioration of the civil and political liberties. The Secretary General can only visit the country if he gets an official invitation. Venezuelan foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said: “we reject the United States coming to involve itself in our problems.” According to Buenos Aires Herald the foreign minister stated, “they’re trying to create a false scenario, something like a virtual Egypt.”

The Latin Americanist writes that the strike has now came to an end, after reaching a compromise. It is claimed that the demonstration have led to a minor diplomatic rift between US and Venezuela, whose relation is already weak. Latin American Herald Tribune writes that the demonstrators have reached a number of agreements. An example is medical attention for some prisoners and freedom for others. According to Juan Pio Hernandez “the regime of Hugo Chavez agreed to free seven of the 27 prisoners held under false criminal charges.”

What I find most striking about this south american news is the lack of information about it. Why is this not important enough to be covered by the UK press? This demonstration also carries out another fundamental question;  is this a national affair, which should be solved solely by the Venezuelan government or is this a task for the international community?

What this demonstration shows is the lack of international interest – as well as the troubled relationship between Chavez and his population. It is a positive sign, that young people in Latin America shows concern about human right abuses. This raises hope for a brighter future for the ‘new’ generation.


Julia Myska

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Will there be ecuadorian justice?

18 years and millions of dollars have been spent on contesting the lawsuit, which now should have came to an end. The US energy giant Chevron has been fined 8.6bn dollars for the damages they have caused to civil population in Ecuador. The question raised is whether the multinational corporation will actually pay for this damage, which has lead to the death of at least 1.400 people. This case, along with similar ones raises the fundamental question of responsibility. As Chevron refuse to ‘clean up’, who will? And if the enforcement of law is not enough, then what will?

The independent writes: “But guess what? It may end up paying nothing.” The statement might seem provocative, because it carries out indifference. On the other hand one can question why it’s been taking 18 years to get this through. Crime within borders has the benefit of ‘direct’ action. How can transnational justice be this different? As the UN declaration on human environment states, it is the states responsibility to assure a healthy environment. The question this leaves us with is how a multinational corporation from the richest country of the world can refuse to take responsibility for their actions?

This story was covered broadly by the international media. Both broadsheets and tabloids were yesterday concerned with the ecuadorian struggle for justice. This, which originally should have been a story about victory was instead presented as the opposite as the fine is unlikely to be enforceable.

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