JFP 12/7: Honduras Election Turnout Claims Debunked

Just Foreign Policy News
December 7, 2009


The Real News: Honduras 62% Turnout Stat Has No Basis
The widely reported figure of 62% turnout has no basis in reality, the Real News reports. Only the Honduran organization Hagamos Democracia collected significant election data. HD was supported by the National Democratic Institute, which is funded by the US government and affiliated with the Democratic Party. HD found a 47.6 percent participation rate over its sample of 1,000 voting tables. But instead of blowing the whistle, the NDI neglected to mention this 15 percent discrepancy in their preliminary report on the election. They declared the elections to be orderly and peaceful, also making no mention of the brutal attack on peaceful protesters by security forces in downtown San Pedro Sula, an event that two NDI delegation members were witnesses to.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/07/honduran-coup-regimes-cla_n_382827.html

Feingold/McGovern/Jones: Don't Deploy More Troops Until Congress Has Voted

http://feingold.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=320378

We Need a Clean Vote Now on Afghanistan Escalation

Novel concept: Congress should debate and vote on sending more troops to Afghanistan _before_ they are deployed. And it should be a clean, up-or-down vote, not linked to flood relief for farmers or the extension of unemployment benefits.
http://www.truthout.org/1205093

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The Obama administration sent a forceful public message Sunday that US military forces could remain in Afghanistan for a long time, the New York Times reports. Defense Secretary Gates, Secretary of State Clinton and other top administration officials said any troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be slow and the US would only then be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces. "We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times," said Gen. Jones, the president's national security adviser." "We're going to be in the region for a long time." Gates said 100,000 US troops would be in Afghanistan in July 2011, and "some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time."

2) Gen. McChrystal, will implement a war strategy that is largely unchanged after a three-month-long White House review of the conflict, the Washington Post reports. Other than a decision not to double immediately the size of Afghanistan's uniformed security forces and the president's pledge to begin withdrawing forces by July 2011, a deadline that has grown less firm since he announced it, the new approach does not order McChrystal to wage the war in a fundamentally different way from what he outlined in an assessment he sent the White House in late August. The White House has shied away from labeling this phase of the war a counterinsurgency campaign. But McChrystal has left little doubt that counterinsurgency is what he intends to do.

3) Afghan President Karzai urged the US to back talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, saying there was an "urgent need" for a negotiated approach to the conflict, AFP reports. "Alone, we can't do it," Karzai told CNN. Karzai acknowledged there was no support from the US for talks with Omar.

4) President Evo Morales won a landslide victory in Bolivian elections, the Guardian reports. Based on a count of 91% of votes, the polling firm Equipos-Mori gave Morales 63% of ballots, way ahead of a crowded field of nine candidates. His Movement Toward Socialism party won control of both chambers of congress, though in the lower house it was expected to fall just short of a two-thirds majority needed for constitutional changes. Since 2005 GDP in Bolivia has jumped from $9bn to $19bn, pushing up per capita income to $1,671. The IMF expects the economy to grow 2.8% next year, stellar by regional standards [that is, by current regional standards, during the global downturn - JFP], the Guardian says.

5) Defense Secretary Gates said the US does not know where Osama bin Laden is and has not had any good intelligence on his whereabouts in "years," Reuters reports. The BBC reported earlier this week that a detainee in Pakistan claimed to have information that bin Laden was in eastern Afghanistan in January or February.

6) Nothing in the recently published e-mails of climate scientists undermines in any way the scientific consensus-which exists among scientific publications as well as scientists-that climate change is happening and humans are the cause, Scientific American reports. Recent polls have found that fewer Americans today than just two years ago believe that greenhouse gases will cause average temperatures to increase-a drop from 71 percent to 51 percent. 73 percent of Democrats accepted that greenhouse gases lead to global warming whereas only 28 percent of Republicans agreed, in a poll conducted by Harris Interactive.

7) A RAND study shows that children with parents in the military are reporting signs of emotional wear and tear from long and repeated deployments, the New York Times reports. The study found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety, and that the longer a parent had been deployed, the more likely their children were to have difficulties in school and at home.

Afghanistan
8) Afghanistan's finance minister said an estimated $10 million a day is smuggled out of Afghanistan, most of it through Kabul's international airport, the Los Angeles Times reports. Much of the hot cash ends up funding the Taliban insurgency, U.S. and Afghan officials said. If the Afghan government has done little to stop the cash smuggling, the U.S. has also not been particularly vigilant, the LAT says. "For years," said a U.S. federal investigator, "the U.S. government has failed to pay proper attention to the flow of drug money into and out of Afghanistan… the effort needs to be broader than just Afghanistan and it needs to encompass tougher measures in places like Dubai and the other city-states of the United Arab Emirates as well as key countries in Europe."

Iraq
9) The Iraqi Parliament approved a deal to allow elections to go forward in January, the New York Times reports. The deal had been approved Sunday by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders, according to government officials, so it was unlikely to collapse again.

Israel/Palestine
10) Israeli settlers widened their protests on Sunday against a construction freeze in scattered violence across the West Bank, Reuters reports. Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to reassure settlers that the building halt would have only a limited effect and reiterated a pledge to promptly resume construction in the enclaves once the 10 month suspension was over. Haaretz commentator Gideon Levy dismissed the freeze as a "masquerade" in which government and settlers were playing their allotted parts in a "swindle ... designed to appease U.S. President Barack Obama." Former cabinet minister Haim Ramon said "They aren't really freezing all construction, it's a strange kind of freeze," adding Israel must impose a permanent freeze for peace talks to resume.

Cuba
11) Cuban musicians are returning to perform in the US after a long freeze on such visits, Reuters reports. Well-known Cuban musicians are being granted visas to perform at U.S. venues in a sign that Obama's administration is quietly promoting cultural contacts. But booking a Cuban artist remains a complicated task, says promoter Bill Martinez, who organized a recent tour. State Department officials have to be begged for visas and under U.S. regulations Cuban artists are entitled to receive only transport, lodging and a per diem but not performance payments as they would anywhere else.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) No Firm Plans For A U.S. Exit In Afghanistan
Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, December 7, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/world/asia/07afghan.html

Washington - The Obama administration sent a forceful public message Sunday that American military forces could remain in Afghanistan for a long time, seeking to blunt criticism that President Obama had sent the wrong signal in his war-strategy speech last week by projecting July 2011 as the start of a withdrawal.

In a flurry of coordinated television interviews, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other top administration officials said that any troop pullout beginning in July 2011 would be slow and that the Americans would only then be starting to transfer security responsibilities to Afghan forces under Mr. Obama's new plan.

The television appearances by the senior members of Mr. Obama's war council seemed to be part of a focused and determined effort to ease concerns about the president's emphasis on setting a date for reducing America's presence in Afghanistan after more than eight years of war.

"We have strategic interests in South Asia that should not be measured in terms of finite times," said Gen. James L. Jones, the president's national security adviser, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union." "We're going to be in the region for a long time."

Echoing General Jones, Mr. Gates played down the significance of the July 2011 target date.

"There isn't a deadline," Mr. Gates said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "What we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security district by district, province by province in Afghanistan, to the Afghans."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Gates said that under the plan, 100,000 American troops would be in Afghanistan in July 2011, and "some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time."
[...]

2) McChrystal's Afghanistan Plan Stays Mainly Intact
Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, Monday, December 7, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/06/AR2009120602377.html

When he finishes testifying on Capitol Hill this week, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will return to Kabul to implement a war strategy that is largely unchanged after a three-month-long White House review of the conflict.

In interviews and congressional testimony last week, members of President Obama's national security team said the U.S. effort in Afghanistan would be more focused and limited. "A good part of the debate and the discussion," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee, revolved around ways to "narrow the mission."

But other than a decision not to double immediately the size of Afghanistan's uniformed security forces and the president's pledge to begin withdrawing forces by July 2011, a deadline that has grown less firm since he announced it - Gates said Sunday it might involve only a "handful" of troops - the new approach does not order McChrystal to wage the war in a fundamentally different way from what he outlined in an assessment he sent the White House in late August.

"Stan's mission really hasn't narrowed," said a senior Pentagon official involved with Afghanistan policy. "There won't be a radical change in the way he executes."
[...]
The White House has shied away from labeling this phase of the war a counterinsurgency campaign because of concern that it connotes nation-building - "counterinsurgency" was conspicuously absent from an administration fact sheet about the strategy issued after Obama's speech. But McChrystal has left little doubt that counterinsurgency is what he intends to do. He used the word multiple times in talking to his troops Wednesday morning in Kabul.
[...]

3) Karzai urges US to back talks with Taliban leader
AFP, Dec 6, 2009 7:30 PM
http://www.timeslive.co.za/news/world/article222363.ece

Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged the United States to back talks with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, saying there was an "urgent need" for a negotiated approach to the conflict. "Alone, we can't do it," Karzai said in an interview on CNN with Christiane Amanpour.

His comments came as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played down the prospects of negotiations with the Taliban, particularly with Mullah Omar.

Karzai acknowledged there was no support from his US partners for talks with Omar but reaffirmed his longstanding view that it would be useful to engage the Taliban leader in negotiations. "I do see an urgent need for a negotiated approach," he said.
[...]

4) Evo Morales Wins Landslide Victory in Bolivian Presidential Elections
Morales supporters celebrate in La Paz as rival candidates concede defeat
Rory Carroll and Andres Schipani, Guardian, Monday 7 December 2009 07.51 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/07/morales-presidential-victory

President Evo Morales won a landslide victory in Bolivian elections yesterday bolstering his efforts to empower the country's indigenous majority under a socialist banner.

Exit polls and an unofficial count gave the country's first indigenous president an unassailable lead, prompting rival candidates to concede and supporters to celebrate in the capital La Paz.

"This process of change has prevailed," Morales told a cheering throng from the balcony of the presidential palace. He said the result, following a tumultuous first term that wrought sweeping changes over the Andean country, was a mandate for further transformation.
[...]
Based on a count of 91% of votes, the polling firm Equipos-Mori gave Morales 63% of ballots, way ahead of a crowded field of nine candidates. His Movement Toward Socialism party won control of both chambers of congress, though in the lower house it was expected to fall just short of a two-thirds majority needed for constitutional changes.

Aymara and Quechua Indians queued from early morning to vote for the former llama herder who has nationalised key sectors of the economy, boosted social spending and clashed with the United States.

Bolivia's transformation was irreversible and redressed a historic injustice, said Fidel Surco, an indigenous leader and senate candidate for Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party.

"There is no way back, this is our time, the awakening of the indigenous people. We'll keep fighting till the end. Brother Evo Morales still has lots to do, one cannot think that four years are enough after 500 years of submission and oppression."

As well as pensions and subsidies to slums and impoverished rural highlands, the government has championed indigenous languages and traditional community justice, a "refounding" of the state cemented in a constitutional overhaul earlier this year.
[...]
Inequality and poverty remain extreme, and land redistribution has been cautious, but indigenous voters backed Morales, 50, as an agent of transformation, said Mario Galindo, an analyst with the CEBEM thinktank.

The three political parties that ruled Bolivia for decades were all but wiped out. Within hours of polling stations closing, rival candidates had accepted defeat.

Manfred Reyes, a former army captain and state governor, came second with 27%, and Samuel Doria Medina, a cement magnate, came third with 6%, according to exit polls.
[...]
Since 2005 GDP in Bolivia, one of South America's poorest countries, has jumped from $9bn to $19bn, pushing up per capita income to $1,671. Foreign currency reserves have soared thanks partly to revenue from the nationalised energy and mining sectors. The IMF expects the economy to grow 2.8% next year, stellar by regional standards.
[...]

5) Gates: No U.S. intel on bin Laden for 'years'
Defense chief: 'We'd go and get' al-Qaida leader if U.S. knew whereabouts
Reuters, Sun., Dec. 6, 2009
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34297210/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

Washington - The United States does not know where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding and has not had any good intelligence on his whereabouts in "years," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday.

Speaking in an interview to be aired on Sunday on ABC's "This Week" program, Gates also said he could not confirm reports this week that a detainee might have seen bin Laden in Afghanistan earlier this year. "We don't know for a fact where Osama bin Laden is. If we did, we'd go and get him," Gates said in excerpts released by ABC.

Asked when was the last time the United States had any good intelligence on his whereabouts, Gates said, "I think it's been years."

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported earlier this week that a detainee in Pakistan claimed to have information that bin Laden was in Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan in January or February.
[...]

6) Scientists Respond to "Climategate" E-Mail Controversy
Stolen e-mails and computer code do nothing to change average temperature trends, but they could damage climate researchers' credibility just when polls are showing public belief that greenhouse gases are warming the planet is ebbing
David Biello, Scientific American, December 4, 2009
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=scientists-respond-to-climategate-controversy

With all the "hot air" surrounding climate change discussions, none has been hotter in recent weeks than that spewed over a trove of stolen e-mails and computer code from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England. Longstanding contrarians, such as Sen. James Inhofe (R–Okla.), who famously dubbed climate change a "hoax" in a 2003 speech, has pointed to the stolen e-mails as information that overturns the scientific evidence for global warming and called on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to halt any development of regulation of greenhouse gases pending his investigation into the e-mails. And recent polls have found that fewer Americans today than just two years ago believe that greenhouse gases will cause average temperatures to increase-a drop from 71 percent to 51 percent.

Yet, Arctic sea ice continues to dwindle-as do glaciers across the globe; average temperatures have increased by 0.7 degree Celsius in the past century and the last decade is the warmest in the instrumental record; spring has sprung forward, affecting everything from flower blossoms to animal migrations; and the concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases continue to rise, reaching 387 parts per million in 2009, a rise of 30 percent since 1750.

Nor has the fundamental physics of the greenhouse effect changed: CO2 in the atmosphere continues to trap heat that would otherwise slip into space, as was established by Irish scientist John Tyndall in 1859. "There is a natural greenhouse effect, that's what keeps the planet livable," noted climate modeler Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) during a Friday conference call with reporters organized by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "Without it, we'd be 33 degrees Celsius colder than we are. That's been known for hundreds of years."

He added: "We're getting up to the point where the total amount of forcing from these greenhouse gases is equivalent to the sun brightening about one percent. That's a very big number indeed."

In fact, nothing in the stolen e-mails or computer code undermines in any way the scientific consensus-which exists among scientific publications as well as scientists-that climate change is happening and humans are the cause. "There is a robust consensus that humans are altering the atmosphere and warming the planet," said meteorologist Michael Mann of The Pennsylvania State University, who also participated in the conference call and was among the scientists whose e-mails have been leaked. "Further increases in greenhouse gases will lead to increasingly greater disruption."
[...]
And it might be that the recent polls are simply uncovering a hardening partisan divide: 73 percent of Democrats accepted that greenhouse gases lead to global warming whereas only 28 percent of Republicans agreed, in a poll conducted by Harris Interactive that matches similar findings from The Pew Research Center. A decline among Independents sharing that view of anthropogenic climate change seems to be largely driven by those who "lean Republican," according to Harris.
[...]

7) Deployments Taking Toll On Military's Children
James Dao, New York Times, December 7, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/us/07study.html

After eight years of war, children with parents in the military are reporting signs of emotional wear and tear from long and repeated deployments, a new study shows.

The study by the RAND Corporation found that children in military families were more likely to report anxiety than children in the general population. The researchers also found that the longer a parent had been deployed in the previous three years, the more likely their children were to have difficulties in school and at home.

Those difficulties included things like missing school activities, feeling that people did not understand their problems, having to take care of siblings and struggling to deal with parents returning from deployment.

The study, which was to be published Monday by the journal Pediatrics, is considered the largest on the subject, and was based on telephone interviews with nearly 1,500 children, ages 11 to 17, and their primary caregivers. It was commissioned by the National Military Family Association, a nonprofit support group.

Anita Chandra, the primary investigator, said she was surprised by the correlation between the months a parent was deployed and the problems reported by their children. "We thought the challenges of deployment would wane as the deployment went on," Ms. Chandra said in an interview.

Almost all of the families in the study, 95 percent, said a parent had deployed in the previous three years; those deployments lasted on average a total of 11 months.
[...]
[Chandra] said one potential shortcoming of the study was that its subjects were selected from applicants to a free camp sponsored by the National Military Family Association, called Operation Purple. She said it was possible that those families were not representative of the average military family.

Afghanistan
8) $10 Million Is Smuggled Out Of Afghanistan Daily, Official Says
The culprits are drug cartels and corrupt officials and businesses, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal says. U.S. and Afghan officials believe much of the cash is going to the Taliban.
Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, December 7, 2009
http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-afghanistan-cash7-2009dec07,0,6226073.story

Kabul - An estimated $10 million a day is smuggled out of Afghanistan, most of it through Kabul's international airport, rather than through secret routes over the mountains or across the desert, the country's finance minister said Sunday.

The amount of corruption, both by public officials and officials of private companies, makes him embarrassed to acknowledge while traveling that he is an Afghan, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal said.
[...]
The $10-million figure comes from a 19-day undercover study conducted by the U.S. that estimated $190 million left the airport undetected during that period, Zakhilwal and U.S. officials said. No similar study was done for the international airport in Kandahar.

Much of the hot cash ends up funding the Taliban insurgency, U.S. and Afghan officials said.
[...]
Much of the cash allegedly comes from drug cartels eager to get the money to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a leading financial hub and the main destination for flights from Kabul.The rest may be from corrupt officials, or otherwise law-abiding businesses that wish to dodge taxes, Zakhilwal said.

The daily loss deprives the cash-poor government of tax money that could be used for badly needed improvements in transportation, medical care and education,officials said.

If the Afghan government has done little to stop the cash smuggling, the U.S. has also not been particularly vigilant.

"For years," said a U.S. federal investigator who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, "the U.S. government has failed to pay proper attention to the flow of drug money into and out of Afghanistan and the pockets of the leaders of the insurgency and the Afghan government itself."

U.S. agencies have stepped up their efforts in recent months to interdict the flow of cash "but the effort needs to be broader than just Afghanistan and it needs to encompass tougher measures in places like Dubai and the other city-states of the United Arab Emirates as well as key countries in Europe," the investigator said.
[...]

Iraq
9) After Delays, Deal Set on Iraq Election Law
Marc Santora and Riyadh Mohammed, New York Times, December 7, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/world/middleeast/07iraq.html

Baghdad - Lawmakers pulled Iraq back from the brink of a constitutional crisis on Sunday night, brokering a last-minute compromise that will allow for the first national elections since 2005.

A deal on the election law has fallen apart before, underscoring the deep sectarian divide that remains in Iraq, despite a drop in violence. Fighting over the law also threatens to complicate the American withdrawal.

After months of wrangling, the Iraqi Parliament gathered just before midnight to approve a deal that had been secured only hours before in closed-door talks.

"It is a great achievement for Iraq," said Khalid al-Attiya, a deputy speaker of Parliament, shortly after the vote. The deal had been approved Sunday by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders, according to government officials, so it was unlikely to collapse again.
[...]
The deal was not very different from the original election law, which was vetoed by Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni and one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He said the law underrepresented Iraqis outside the country, who are largely Sunnis who fled the sectarian war that plunged the country into turmoil.

Essentially, the dispute centered on the allocation of seats in Parliament, with each sect angling to get as many seats as possible in the areas where it felt strongest. Because a national census that was supposed to take place earlier this year was postponed, there is no accurate count of Iraqi citizens, and each political faction was wary of being shortchanged.
[...]
It was only around 10 p.m. that the outlines of a deal became clear. Parliament would be expanded to 325 seats from 275, with 310 of those seats allotted to Iraq's 18 provinces and the remainder reserved for Iraqis living outside the country. But even after the deal had been largely agreed upon, lawmakers were still haggling over such issues as how the Christian minority would be represented.

For all the fighting, the compromise represented little change from the law passed Oct. 27 and then vetoed.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
10) Israeli settlers step up protest against freeze
Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Reuters, Sunday, December 6, 2009 2:58 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/06/AR2009120600862.html

Jerusalem - Jewish settlers widened their protests on Sunday against a construction freeze in scattered violence across the West Bank but there was little sign the protests were influencing the Israeli government.

Israeli police arrested at least two settlers accused of trying to block security officers from enforcing the limited 10-month building ban Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pitched as an attempt to resume U.S.-sponsored peace talks.

Despite the protests, including within Netanyahu's own Likud party and its right-wing coalition partners, few officials or analysts see Netanyahu abandoning the "freeze" policy, which has already been rejected by Palestinian leaders as inadequate to persuade them to end a year-old suspension of negotiations.

Netanyahu sought to reassure settlers that the building halt would have only a limited effect. Ministers have made clear that the measure announced last month was aimed at Israel's ally the United States, which had been pressing Israel to make the concession, rather than in expectation of pleasing Palestinians.
[...]
The prime minister appealed to settlers on Sunday to abide by his decision and he reiterated a pledge to promptly resume construction in the enclaves once the suspension was over. Some building is in any case allowed to continue, officials say. "This is a one time decision and it is temporary," Netanyahu told a weekly meeting of government ministers.
[...]
One vocal critic on the left, Haaretz newspaper commentator Gideon Levy, dismissed the freeze as a "masquerade" in which government and settlers were playing their allotted parts in a "swindle ... designed to appease U.S. President Barack Obama."
[...]
Despite settler protests, some analysts thought the freeze would have a minimal political impact on Netanyahu's government, citing its limited scope, and a permit for some 3,000 settler homes already under construction to continue being built.

"They aren't really freezing all construction, it's a strange kind of freeze," Haim Ramon, a former cabinet minister from the opposition Kadima party told Army Radio, adding Israel must impose a permanent freeze for peace talks to resume.

Cuba
11) Friendlier Obama tune on Cuba brings musical detente
Esteban Israel, Reuters, Friday, December 4, 2009 3:38 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/04/AR2009120403187.html

Havana - Cuban musicians are returning to perform in the United States after a long freeze on such visits, seizing the opportunity of friendlier overtures toward Havana from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Well-known Cuban musicians are being granted visas to perform at U.S. venues in a sign that Obama's administration is quietly promoting cultural contacts as part of a strategy of warmer "people to people" ties with the Communist-run island.

The more relaxed atmosphere between the Cold War era enemies is perhaps most evident in the arts, which in the past has provided a bridge between the two neighbors which have not had formal diplomatic ties for close to half a century.

Omara Portuondo, the 79-year-old diva of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club group, was invited to help host the Latin Grammy awards last month in Las Vegas, a ceremony off-limits for Cuban artists during the hardline relationship that marked the Bush administration years.

After taking office in January, Obama promised to "recast" U.S.-Cuban ties and softened some sanctions, although the 47-year U.S. trade embargo remains in place and Cuba is still on a U.S. list of "state sponsors of terrorism."

Obama's easing included lifting restrictions on family visits by Cuban Americans to the island, and has now been followed by a string of U.S. visas for cultural exchanges.
[...]
Plans to have Cuban artists such as Portuondo and folk singers Silvio Rodriguez or Pablo Milanes play in the United States were drafted as soon as Obama emerged as a presidential candidate.

Yet booking a Cuban artist remains a complicated task, says San Francisco-based promoter Bill Martinez, who organized the recent tour by Septeto Nacional. "It is difficult to book Cuban groups because of the lack of confidence from the venues, cultural centers and potential collaborating presenters. They don't believe the visas will be issued and this makes it very difficult to get commitments or confirm logistics," he said.

State Department officials have to be begged for visas and under U.S. regulations Cuban artists are entitled to receive only transport, lodging and a per diem but not performance payments as they would anywhere else. "U.S. policy continues to make this brief 'breakthrough' a rather ephemeral, shallow victory of sorts," said Martinez.
[...]

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

Tags:

Under the post-coup circumstances that exist in Honduras, most of the international community recognized the ingredients did not exist for a "fair and clean" electoral outcome that would be respected internally or internationally. The expedient acceptance of the outcome by the US, and the democrats who "monitored" the election when other respected observers declined to be in attendance, is a travesty. The United States has a long history of subverting democracy for it's own commercial purposes in Latin America. The position the US takes on this matter is an important signal to Latin America, and it currently looks as though the US' tacit acceptance of the new government is a signal that the initial honeymoon between the US and South and Central America is over even if the United State did a pretty good jobs. As Brazil's President Lula stated, "If this state of affairs is allowed to remain, democracy will be at serious risk in Latin and Central America." This instability and insecurity is the real travesty that is growing out of the post-coup/election in Honduras.

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