Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’


Ecuador socialist revolution ‘past destructive stage’

By Naomi Mapstone in Quito
Published: October 21 2010 19:16 | Last updated: October 21 2010 19:16

Rafael Correa mobbed by the public

Rafael Correa limps into a wood-panelled room in Ecuador’s presidential palace and sinks into a gold-leaf rococo chair beneath portraits of Latin American independence heroes.
Just weeks ago the US-trained economist, who has led a “citizen’s revolution” in this oil-rich Andean nation since 2006, was held hostage by police in what he says was a failed coup.
“We were all losers from September 30 – the country’s image, the image of police themselves and especially the five families who lost their loved ones and the dozens of injured,” Mr Correa says in an interview with the Financial Times.
This most paradoxical of presidents – he is a close ally of Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, the radical leftist leaders of Venezuela and Bolivia, and yet friendly enough with Washington to call Hillary Clinton “dearest” on a recent visit – rubs his knee as he recalls the moment a mob turned on him “with such brutality, such savagery”.
“They fired tear gas at me, the president! … They tried to remove my gas mask; I was choking. I had 25 stitches in my knee because I had had a knee operation the day before … They tried to break my leg and one of my advisers took the blows for me,” he recalls.
Mr Correa had gone to face down rioting police officers after they closed airports and abandoned their posts to protest against cuts to their benefits.
Instead of seeing Mr Correa broker a peace, however, Ecuadoreans watched on live television as their president fled angry officers and later taunted them from a window, ripping open his shirt and daring them to kill him.


More FT video

Even for a society accustomed to volatility – seven presidents came and went in the decade before Mr Correa’s election – the subsequent wait was tense. It took almost four hours for the military to broadcast its support for Mr Correa, and about 10 hours for elite police and military units to rescue the president amid a hail of gunfire.
Mr Correa, 47, has since blamed opposition leader Lucio Gutiérrez, who was in Brazil and denies the accusation, leftwing groups and “corrupt” union leaders. He also believes extreme rightwing US groups were involved. “We have no hard evidence [of US rightwing involvement] but we are investigating. I trust fully in [US] president [Barack] Obama – he has nothing to do with this. These groups are also against president Obama.”
Opposition figures and many analysts contest the coup theory, saying no alternative leader was ever presented and that the government is using the uprising as an excuse for a witch hunt.
Scores of police and a former army officer have since been arrested and Ecuador remains under military control, with state broadcasts interrupting television programming to promote the government’s “coup” message.
Luis Hernandez, former commander of the special forces brigade that rescued the president, told the FT the revolt was intended to overthrow the law cutting civil servants’ benefits, not the president.
“There are always those who take advantage of a chaotic situation and try to put more wood on the fire, but who would have replaced Correa? There was nobody,” he says.
Before the police protests, Mr Correa had brought a measure of political continuity to Ecuador. His government spent heavily on education, health and infrastructure, widened the tax base and delivered on election promises to enact a new constitution and close down a US military base.
However, Mr Correa’s default on $3.2bn in foreign debt and the decision to renegotiate foreign oil company contracts alienated investors, and his domination of Congress by veto drew criticism at home.
He also faced opposition within his own party over cuts to police and military benefits, and had threatened to dissolve Congress if he did not get his way. But thanks to a post-revolt surge in his approval ratings, that threat is off. Now Mr Correa is forging ahead with his “21st century socialist” revolution.
“This is a revolution and a revolution is first a process of destruction … we had to destroy the old country with its institutions made for the few,” he says. Ecuador has now passed “its first stage of destruction” and “constructive chaos”, he adds, and has rules in place to attract investment.
The government wants to double investment by 2011 with the introduction of a tax cut of 3 percentage points for businesses, down to 22 per cent.
This does not indicate a softening of Mr Correa’s stance, however. Renegotiations with foreign oil companies are “progressing well”, he says, but if they are not finished by December the contracts will be cancelled.
“That is not our desire, but companies need to understand they should be governed by the rules of the game the country puts in place,” he says.

FT.com / Americas / Politics & Policy – Ecuador socialist revolution ‘past destructive stage’

Sharevar addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterFeeds”}

The MasterFeeds

Advertisements

The Economist’s take on Venezuela’s legislative elections

The revolution checked

The opposition bounces back

AFTER five years in the wilderness, Venezuela’s opposition is back in parliament and in contention. By winning 65 seats in the 165-member, single-chamber National Assembly, in an election on September 26th, the Venezuela Unity coalition dealt a blow to the hopes of Hugo Chávez, the leftist president, of exercising indefinite hegemony. Even worse for the president and his claim to be leading a popular revolution was the fact that the overall vote of 5.4m for the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) and its communist allies, was just below that of their opponents (5.7m).

Only blatant gerrymandering of constituencies and an electoral reform that abolished proportional representation allowed Mr Chávez to keep control of the legislature. Even so, he failed to retain the two-thirds majority he had said was vital for his regime’s future. Without it, the government must negotiate appointments to key posts, such as supreme court justices and members of the electoral authority (the CNE). And it cannot pass, or amend, laws which affect constitutional rights. Particularly irksome will be the fact that it may not be able to muster the 99 deputies required to authorise Mr Chávez to rule by decree, as he has been wont to.

In his 11 years in power Mr Chávez has profited from the opposition’s mistakes, which have included an attempted coup in 2002 and an ill-judged boycott of the previous legislative election in 2005. Over that period he has won a dozen national votes (the only exception being a constitutional referendum in 2007). The opposition’s rehabilitation began with a strong showing in big cities in a regional vote two years ago. For the legislative election, its multitude of constituent groups managed to hammer out a united front. Their success increases the chance that they will unite behind a single candidate against Mr Chávez in the presidential election that is due in two years’ time.

Having campaigned as if the assembly election were a plebiscite on his rule, Mr Chavez this week said it was “not about me”. He claimed a “solid victory”, arguing that the 3.2% of the vote won by a party of moderate chavista dissidents (whom he had earlier denounced as “traitors”) should not be counted with the opposition. He promised to “end 2010 at a gallop” and to continue “building socialism”.

On paper, he has the means to press ahead. The outgoing assembly will have free rein to rewrite rules until the end of the year. Thereafter Mr Chávez will still control the courts, the armed forces, the all-important oil industry and other state bodies. If the new assembly becomes deadlocked—for example, over the appointment of new members to the CNE—he may use the supreme court to bypass it.

Will sticking to his course allow him to recover enough votes to win a third consecutive six-year term in December 2012? He will have his work cut out. He has lost ground in urban Venezuela. In some poorer districts that are traditional PSUV strongholds, it was hard to find a single chavista voter on election day. In greater Caracas, the opposition won over 860,000 votes to the PSUV’s 634,000.

Just 24 hours after the polls Mr Chávez announced a new billion-dollar fund to build houses in the capital. But the electorate has grown used to unfulfilled promises. The housing shortage has worsened every year since he took office in 1999. Crime is at record levels, the economy in recession and food prices are rising at over 40% a year. Public services such as water, electricity and health care are close to collapse in many areas.

The good news for Venezuela is that representative democracy—which Mr Chávez promised to replace with a “participatory” version—is still alive. Turnout was 66%, and there were few claims of irregularities. Although there was a delay of a few hours in announcing the results, when they came neither side challenged them. Those in the opposition who maintain that voting is a waste of time continue to mutter on the sidelines but these days fewer people are listening. Even the brazen use of government resources, voter intimidation and other dubious tactics failed to produce the result the president wanted.

Mr Chávez had called on his followers to “demolish” the opposition. Instead, it has emerged stronger than at any time in the past decade. Its next job will be to come up with a plausible presidential candidate, capable of communicating with ordinary Venezuelans. But with the country split down the middle, a pluralist parliament could promote the understanding and dialogue that Venezuela sorely needs. Whatever the president’s wishes, demolition seems to be off the agenda.

Venezuela’s legislative election: The revolution checked | The Economist

Share this|var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterBlog”}

________________________ The MasterBlog


UK’s Labour Party turns rojo, rojito 

Alek Boyd

Well, the smart money lost the bet. The election of a Conservative government, after 13 years of Labour rule, got the radicals all worked up: Ed Miliband has just been elected as Labour’s new party leader.

Before going into details, I think that this is a godsend to David Cameron and his coalition government. For Red Ed’s election simply indicates a strong veer to the left. In fact, besides belonging to Gordon Brown’s closest circle of collaborators, and being the unions candidate, he got most of Diane Abbott and Ed Balls second option votes, so it is clear that the most radical wing of the party carried him to victory. Fortunately, there’s no space for radicals in democratic societies, and so, the Labour Party, by electing Brown’s successor Ed over his graceless yet Blairite brother David, has taken the road to wilderness, a road that won’t lead them back to power. And that is excellent news.

Now the comical thing is, that most Labour talking heads are singing from Ed’s sheet about the party having lost the trust of millions of voters in the last general election -under Gordon Brown’s leadership, and yet they have thrown their lot behind Brown’s heir, instead of electing the successor of the only Labour leader that has won the party three consecutive elections. Priceless.


Alek Boyd: UK’s Labour Party turns rojo, rojito

Share this|var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterBlog”}

________________________
The MasterBlog


Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover (apart from the dolphin show, which I’ll get to shortly), but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro’s level of self-reflection. I only have limited experience with Communist autocrats (I have more experience with non-Communist autocrats) but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis (you can read about what he said toward the end of my previous post – but he said, in so many words, that he regrets asking Khruschev to nuke the U.S.).

Even more striking was something he said at lunch on the day of our first meeting. We were seated around a smallish table; Castro, his wife, Dalia, his son; Antonio; Randy Alonso, a major figure in the government-run media; and Julia Sweig, the friend I brought with me to make sure, among other things, that I didn’t say anything too stupid (Julia is a leading Latin American scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations). I initially was mainly interested in watching Fidel eat – it was a combination of digestive problems that conspired to nearly kill him, and so I thought I would do a bit of gastrointestinal Kremlinology and keep a careful eye on what he took in (for the record, he ingested small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine). But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, “He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

Julia pointed out that one effect of such a sentiment might be to create space for his brother, Raul, who is now president, to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy. Raul Castro is already loosening the state’s hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government’s hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We’ll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels).

But I digress. Toward the end of this long, relaxed lunch, Fidel proved to us that he was truly semi-retired. The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel’s calendar was open. He asked us, “Would you like to go the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. (This happened a number of times during my visit). “The dolphin show?”

“The dolphins are very intelligent animals,” Castro said.

I noted that we had a meeting scheduled for the next morning, with Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community.

“Bring her,” Fidel said.

Someone at the table mentioned that the aquarium was closed on Mondays. Fidel said, “It will be open tomorrow.”

And so it was.

Late the next morning, after collecting Adela at the synagogue, we met Fidel on the steps of the dolphin house. He kissed Dworin, not incidentally in front of the cameras (another message for Ahmadinejad, perhaps). We went together into a large, blue-lit room that faces a massive, glass-enclosed dolphin tank. Fidel explained, at length, that the Havana Aquarium’s dolphin show was the best dolphin show in the world, “completely unique,” in fact, because it is an underwater show. Three human divers enter the water, without breathing equipment, and perform intricate acrobatics with the dolphins. “Do you like dolphins?” Fidel asked me.

“I like dolphins a lot,” I said.

Fidel called over Guillermo Garcia, the director of the aquarium (every employee of the aquarium, of course, showed up for work — “voluntarily,” I was told) and told him to sit with us.

“Goldberg,” Fidel said, “ask him questions about dolphins.”

“What kind of questions?” I asked.

“You’re a journalist, ask good questions,” he said, and then interrupted himself. “He doesn’t know much about dolphins anyway,” he said, pointing to Garcia. He’s actually a nuclear physicist.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes,” Garcia said, somewhat apologetically.

“Why are you running the aquarium?” I asked.

“We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!” Fidel said, and then cracked-up laughing.

“In Cuba, we would only use nuclear power for peaceful means,” Garcia said, earnestly.

“I didn’t think I was in Iran,” I answered.

Fidel pointed to the small rug under the special swivel chair his bodyguards bring along for him.

“It’s Persian!” he said, and laughed again. Then he said, “Goldberg, ask your questions about dolphins.”

Now on the spot, I turned to Garcia and asked, “How much do the dolphins weigh?”

They weigh between 100 and 150 kilograms, he said.

“How do you train the dolphins to do what they do?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” Fidel said.

Garcia called over one of the aquarium’s veterinarians to help answer the question. Her name was Celia. A few minutes later, Antonio Castro told me her last name: Guevara.

“You’re Che’s daughter?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you’re a dolphin veterinarian?”

“I take care of all the inhabitants of the aquarium,” she said.

“Che liked animals very much,” Antonio Castro said.

It was time for the show to start. The lights dimmed, and the divers entered the water. Without describing it overly much, I will say that once again, and to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with Fidel: The aquarium in Havana puts on a fantastic dolphin show, the best I’ve ever seen, and as the father of three children, I’ve seen a lot of dolphin shows. I will also say this: I’ve never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

In the next installment, I will deal with such issues as the American embargo, the status of religion in Cuba, the plight of political dissidents, and economic reform. For now, I leave you with this image from our day at the aquarium (I’m in the low chair; Che’s daughter is behind me, with the short, blondish hair; Fidel is the guy who looks like Fidel if Fidel shopped at L.L. Bean):

fidel and goldberg.jpg

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-cuban-model-doesnt-even-work-for-us-anymore/62602/

Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’ – International – The Atlantic

Share this|var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterBlog”}

________________________
The MasterBlog


Fidel to Ahmadinejad: ‘Stop Slandering the Jews’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic
(This is Part I of a report on my recent visit to Havana. I hope to post Part II tomorrow. And I also hope to be publishing a more comprehensive article about this subject in a forthcoming print edition of The Atlantic.)
A couple of weeks ago, while I was on vacation, my cell phone rang; it was Jorge Bolanos, the head of the Cuban Interest Section (we of course don’t have diplomatic relations with Cuba) in Washington. “I have a message for you from Fidel,” he said. This made me sit up straight. “He has read your Atlantic article about Iran and Israel. He invites you to Havana on Sunday to discuss the article.” I am always eager, of course, to interact with readers of The Atlantic, so I called a friend at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia Sweig, who is a preeminent expert on Cuba and Latin America: “Road trip,” I said.

I quickly departed the People’s Republic of Martha’s Vineyard for Fidel’s more tropical socialist island paradise. Despite the self-defeating American ban on travel to Cuba, both Julia and I, as journalists and researchers, qualified for a State Department exemption. The charter flight from Miami was bursting with Cuban-Americans carrying flat-screen televisions and computers for their technologically-bereft families. Fifty minutes after take-off, we arrived at the mostly-empty Jose Marti International Airport. Fidel’s people met us on the tarmac (despite giving up his formal role as commandante en jefe after falling ill several years ago, Fidel still has many people). We were soon deposited at a “protocol house” in a government compound whose architecture reminded me of the gated communities of Boca Raton. The only other guest in this vast enclosure was the president of Guinea-Bissau.

I was aware that Castro had become preoccupied with the threat of a military confrontation in the Middle East between Iran and the U.S. (and Israel, the country he calls its Middle East “gendarme”). Since emerging from his medically induced, four-year purdah early this summer (various gastrointestinal maladies had combined to nearly kill him), the 84-year-old Castro has spoken mainly about the catastrophic threat of what he sees as an inevitable war.

I was curious to know why he saw conflict as unavoidable, and I wondered, of course, if personal experience – the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that nearly caused the annihilation of most of humanity – informed his belief that a conflict between America and Iran would escalate into nuclear war.  I was even more curious, however, to get a glimpse of the great man. Few people had seen him since he fell ill in 2006, and the state of his health has been a subject of much speculation. There were questions, too, about the role he plays now in governing Cuba; he formally handed off power to his younger brother, Raul, two years ago, but it was not clear how many strings Fidel still pulled.

The morning after our arrival in Havana, Julia and I were driven to a nearby convention center, and escorted upstairs, to a large and spare office. A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.

We shook hands, and he greeted Julia warmly; they have known each other for more than twenty years. Fidel lowered himself gently into his seat, and we began a conversation that would continue, in fits and starts, for three days. His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor. When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question – has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God? – he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.” (This is funnier if you are, like me, an ex-self-defined socialist.) At another point, he showed us a series of recent photographs taken of him, one of which portrayed him with a fierce expression. “This was how my face looked when I was angry with Khruschev,” he said. 

Castro opened our initial meeting by telling me that he read the recent Atlantic article carefully, and that it confirmed his view that Israel and America were moving precipitously and gratuitously toward confrontation with Iran. This interpretation was not surprising, of course: Castro is the grandfather of global anti-Americanism, and he has been a severe critic of Israel. His message to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, he said, was simple: Israel will only have security if it gives up its nuclear arsenal, and the rest of the world’s nuclear powers will only have security if they, too, give up their weapons. Global and simultaneous nuclear disarmament is, of course, a worthy goal, but it is not, in the short term, realistic. 

Castro’s message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.

 
He began this discussion by describing his own, first encounters with anti-Semitism, as a small boy. “I remember when I was a boy – a long time ago – when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside,” he said, “and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? `Be quiet, God is dead.’ God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, `The Jews killed God.’ They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?”

He went on, “Well, I didn’t know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a ‘Jew,’ and so for me the Jews were those birds.  These birds had big noses. I don’t even know why they were called that. That’s what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was.”

He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. “This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” The Iranian government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here’s what happened to them: Reverse selection. What’s reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.” He continued: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. “I am saying this so you can communicate it,” he answered.

Castro went on to analyze the conflict between Israel and Iran. He said he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and he added that, in his view, American sanctions and Israeli threats will not dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing nuclear weapons. “This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That’s my opinion,” he said. He then noted that, unlike Cuba, Iran is a “profoundly religious country,” and he said that religious leaders are less apt to compromise. He noted that even secular Cuba has resisted various American demands over the past 50 years.

We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro’s fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. “The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated,” he said. “Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war.” I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. “That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense,” Castro wrote at the time.

I asked him, “At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?” He answered: “After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all.”

I was surprised to hear Castro express such doubts about his own behavior in the missile crisis – and I was, I admit, also surprised to hear him express such sympathy for Jews, and for Israel’s right to exist (which he endorsed unequivocally). 

After this first meeting, I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro’s invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. “Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him,” she said. “Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he’s really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn’t expect to have. And he’s revisiting history, and revisiting his own history.”

There is a great deal more to report from this conversation, and from subsequent conversations, which I will do in posts to follow. But I will begin the next post on this subject by describing one of the stranger days I have experienced, a day which began with a simple question from Fidel: “Would you like to go to the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-to-ahmadinejad-stop-slandering-the-jews/62566/

Copyright © 2010 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved
Fidel to Ahmadinejad: ‘Stop Slandering the Jews’ – International – The Atlantic



Print Edition
Photo by: AP [file]
PA bans Hamas clerics from preaching
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH29/08/2010
Police raid two mosques near Hebron, stopping sermons.
Palestinian Authority security personnel used force to prevent two prominent Hamas figures from delivering sermons during Friday prayers, triggering clashes with worshipers.

The violence erupted after dozens of PA policemen raided two mosques in the Hebron area where Hamas legislators Nayef Rajoub and Muhammad Abu Jhaisheh were supposed to deliver the Friday khutba (sermon).

The clashes prompted the PA to close down the mosques, forcing enraged worshipers to search for alternative prayer sites.

Rajoub, who was minister for Wakf affairs in the Hamas-led unity government with Fatah more than three years ago, said that policemen in plain clothes approached him soon after he entered a mosque in his home village of Dura and warned him not to deliver the sermon.

“When I asked them for a written order, they assaulted me,” he said. “When some of the people inside the mosque tried to intervene, the policemen also beat them, and arrested some of them.”

Rajoub, who was released from an Israeli prison on June 20 after serving a 50-month sentence, accused the PA of waging a “war against mosques and Islam in collusion with Israel.”

Rajoub said that he has been serving as a preacher for nearly 30 years. He added that despite the ban, he would continue to lead Friday prayers and deliver sermons.

“Jewish settlers are torching mosques, the Israeli army is demolishing mosques and the Palestinian Authority is expelling preachers,” he said.

Nayef Rajoub is the brother of Jibril Rajoub, a former PA security commander and one of the prominent leaders of Fatah in the West Bank, who was one of the first to conduct security coordination with Israel. The former security commander is known for his ruthless crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.

The second incident took place in the village of Idna, also in the Hebron area.

Eyewitnesses said that Palestinian security agents stopped Abu Jhaisheh shortly after he entered a mosque and demanded that he refrain from delivering the sermon.

Last week, Hamas accused the PA of “waging war on Islam and Allah” by arresting and firing hundreds of preachers and imams, closing down mosques and Islamic religious centers and imposing restrictions on religious figures suspected of being affiliated with Hamas.



Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank, confirmed that his men had entered the mosques to prevent Rajoub and Abu Jhaisheh from addressing worshipers.

“These mosques don’t belong to Hamas,” he said, denying that the police had beaten anyone.

He also denied that the two mosques had been closed down.

Damiri said that the move against the mosques was taken in light of information suggesting that Hamas was preparing to export its “coup” to the West Bank.

“They are operating on instructions from [Hamas leader] Khaled Mashaal,” he said. “They want to create chaos that would start in the mosques. Their goal is to take over the West Bank.”

Share this | var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterBlog”}

________________________
The MasterBlog



The “in your face” gruesome picture seen around the world

August 19, 2010

(Reality is unpublishable)

When El Nacional published the very gruesome picture of the Caracas morgue in response to the cynical and hysterical laughs of Andres Izarra, President of Chavez’ pet international propaganda TV station Telesur, reactions were mixed. The comments section of this blog flared up with disparate positions. Curiously, my concern when I thought about whether to publish it or not in my blog, was that some may find it offensive. But this seemed to be the minority position. A larger fraction seemed more concerned with the publication of the picture backfiring against those that oppose Hugo Chavez (I am trying to differentiate them from the “opposition”)
But El Nacional’s picture, through the missteps of the Government, some cooperation from other media, and yes, some luck, has become the “in your face” picture seen around the world, that has revealed the lack of respect of Chavez and his cohorts for the right to life and freedom of the press. In fact, even VTV reporters have already spoken against the very clear act of censorship by the Judge who banned printed media from publishing violent pictures.
Things got complicated right off the bat, when, while you could still hear Izarra’s hyenic hysterics, a woman from Hong Kong’s team got shot by a stray bullet in the World Women’s Baseball tournament being played of all places at a Caracas military fort. As even the Vice-President tried to explain away this event as unusual, most Venezuelans who live in the barrios likely stared at their TV screens wondering where does Mr. Jaua live, as both specific purpose and stray bullets are part of the daily life of poor Venezuelans, where the strength of Chavismo happens to live.
On that same day, a bus filled with 69 campers was hijacked and all of their possessions stolen, as the 20 adults accompanying and protecting them also were forced to hand out their valuables.
The Government was caught off guard by theeffects of the “in your face” picture. As the picture went around the world, newspapers reported on the injunction on El Nacional not to publish similar pictures. The whole thing may have died there, but then Tal Cual also published the picture in its front page, accompanying its Editorial. The Government then also issued an injunction against Tal Cual, using the sensitivity of children as an excuse, but it began stumbling when a Judge then prohibited all printed media from printing violent, bloody or gruesome pictures.
It is unclear who or why the Judge ordered this, but his decision is so transparently political and cynical, that his order of censorship is only temporary, it expires in four weeks, as if the sensitivity of kids will harden a week before the upcoming National Assembly elections, just when campaigning ends.
And the significant impact of the “in your face” picture was such, that it forced Hugo Chavez to speak on the problem of crime and homicides for the first time, a subject he has consistently avoided and has always failed to address.
And the improvised response has been absolutely terrible and uninspired, for a Government well known for selling any explanation for its missteps, no matter how absurd they may be.
Because once again those living in the barrios will not buy the excuse that the criminals were raised during the IVth. Republic and that it is capitalistic desires that drive crime. Because each and everyone of the inhabitants of the barrios has been in contact with the crime, the deaths and the abuses, in the absence of a Government that has now been in power for eleven years. And it is precisely their desires to lead a better life that have been hampered by crime. Thus, blaming the messenger or calling the picture mediatic pornography, is very unlikely to sell well in the areas Catia or Caricuao, or in the mountains of Mérida.
140,000 people have been murdered in Venezuela since Chavez took power in 1999. Where have you been all these years Hugo? Its clear the Dictator no longer has the magic touch or is in touch with the people.
And meanwhile the cries of “Censorship” have also been heard around the world, as Oliver Stone and Sean Penn are probably wondering why the hell they had to make a defense of free speech being present in Venezuela. Being a Hollywood star makes no one an expert on democracy in far off lands.
And even the Investigative police and the Prosecutor act harshly, showing up at El Nacional at peak time, just as the newspaper is being composed, pretending to have 100 reporters and photographers leave the newspaper, so they can retrieve the memory card with the infamous picture to determine when it was taken. In the face of that crowd, already predisposed against them, and not ready to even consider obeying the order, the cops and the prosecutors decided not to create another show and simply left. Sans card!
Thus, thanks to Izarrita’s sordid and fake laugh and the picture, the Government, for once, has not been setting the agenda for the last few days, attempting to contain the effects of the picture. This distraction follows that of Pudreval, which has been forgotten only because of the “picture”, except that crime is more important an issue than food, more so among the poor.
And when Chavez says that in 20 years there will be no crime, it brings people back to the old promise of no kids in the streets in five years, a promise made 12 long years ago, as well as the promise of eliminating corruption, as the inhabitants of the barrios see their Chavista leadership move around with expensive cars and body guards, making them immune to the crime problem.
Which goes back to a post I wrote recently. I noted that Diego Arria and Alvarez Paz, had been more effective at challenging and making the Government react than the opposition, by confronting the Government with new issues or responding directly to the absurd arguments of the Chavistas.
The picture has been a wonderful example of that. It may have been unintended, but a Government with no scruples, used to winning every argument, has trapped itself in explaining away the problem that it has never cared about. And it was not ready for it.
In your face Hugo!

The “in your face” gruesome picture seen around the world « The Devil’s Excrement

_______________________________________





%d bloggers like this: