Geopolitics

Latin American Pariah, The Cost Of Brazil's Isolationism

By turning its back on regional integration, the conservative government of Jair Bolsonaro is putting ideology above the country's long-term economic and political interests.

-Analysis-

After two decades of leading the process of Latin American integration, Brazil's absence at the recent summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) underscores a dramatic change, of course, that is costing the regional giant both politically and economically.

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North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song

👋 Hyvää huomenta!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where North Korea conducts its third weapon tests in just over two weeks, R&B singer R. Kelly is found guilty of sex trafficking, and an unearthed John Lennon tape is up for auction in Denmark. Meanwhile, we take a look at why despite being an oil- and gas-rich country, Iran has been marred by widespread blackouts in recent years.

[*Finnish]

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Cuba: Growing Internet Access Is About Money Not Freedom

People used social media to help organize the large, anti-government protests that took place on the island last July. And yet, unlike their counterparts in China, Cuban authorities are loath to prohibit access to such sites. Do the math.

-Analysis-

Mobile phones, as the former Facebook executive Antonio García Martínez writes in his blog The Pull Request, were illegal in Cuba until 2008. Even after that, it took another decade before people were allowed to connect those phones to the internet. And more recently, on July 11 — when people held large protests (organized in large part online) — Cuban authorities blocked the internet for several hours.

Overall, however, internet access is finally available in Cuba, albeit with some limitations — for two reasons. The first is the expensive. An Amnesty International report titled Cuba's Internet Paradox reveals that the connection cost, as of 2017, was $1.50 per hour, a tremendous amount for people where the average monthly wage is roughly $25.

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Cuba Is A Dictatorship, Latin American Left Doesn't Seem To Care

Sympathizers of the Cuban communist regime tend to justify Cuba's violence on protesters and present it as a victim of Western imperialism.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — There is a dictatorship in Cuba, and people have come out to protest, demanding freedom. This simple fact, with which any democratic person can sympathize, is rejected by sectors of the Left in Latin America. They have shown there is a big gap in their commitment to democracy, which must be addressed and rectified to leave no ambiguity in any political movement's commitment to civil liberties.

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CLARIN
Manuel Cuesta Morúa*

San Isidro v. Stalinism: Cuba's Eternal Obsession With Artists

Cuba's dissident artists are challenging not just the communist state's repression, but also its claim to be the socio-cultural guide for the nation.

-OpEd-

HAVANA — Joseph Stalin's famous response to Pope Pius XII's criticism of the Soviet regime was to brush aside the pontiff, asking: "How many divisions does he have?"

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Geopolitics
Marcelo Cantelmi

Raul Castro's Exit, Biden's Arrival And The Future Of Venezuela

With Trump now out of the picture, Cuba and Venezuela — both in economic shambles — are once more toying with piecemeal liberalization, Clarín's international affairs chief explains.

-Analysis-

Power and authority are not necessarily synonymous. Force is not authority, and can even indicate weakness. The philosopher Max Weber observed that dominance is only legitimate when people recognize and accept authority. In some democracies, rulers have compensated the fading of legitimacy with higher doses of authoritarianism. The pandemic has exacerbated this distortion.

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Geopolitics
Rubén Chababo*

Cuba Up To Old Tricks, A New Crackdown On Dissenting Artists

As the world is distracted by COVID-19 and regional leftists turn a blind eye, the Cuban regime relaunches its secretive practice of civil-society repression.

BUENOS AIRES — A new wave of repression has been unleashed in Cuba and, once again, its victims are the San Isidro artists' collective who have been denouncing the communist regime's arbitrary acts and power abuse for years. This comes at a time of censorship and harassment of all thinking on the island that does not fit in with what is accepted and regulated by the state bureaucracy.

A few months ago as the world was experiencing its first lockdown, news of the arrest in Havana of the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara managed to filter out of the island and reach the desks of major newspapers in Europe and Latin America.

A sustained international campaign effectively forced authorities to release him, to avoid international charges that the regime is violating fundamental human rights. However, there were many who warned that Otero's release should not be seen as a welcome turnaround in the regime's hostility to the rights of Cuban citizens. They believed that it would only be a matter of time, within days or weeks, before the regime would turn on dissident groups with the same severity and violence as before.

The government has ratcheted up its pressure.

And they were right. The government has ratcheted up its pressure on the San Isidro group whose members are now confined in an old house in Havana, and on hunger strike to press for the release of their imprisoned colleagues. The villa has been encircled by state security forces who will not let friends or family gain access to those inside.

The tragedy of political and intellectual dissidence in Cuba goes beyond such daily humiliations endured by these artists. It includes the immense loneliness of these dissidents in the face of the state's continuous bullying. In spite of the evidence and reports reaching the progressive camp in Europe and Latin America, there is a refusal to speak out and use their influential voices to break the global wall of indifference to conditions in Cuba. This dogged silence means they prefer to maintain an emotional and ideological loyalty to the Cuban revolution and to leaders who have long ceased to represent the ideals of egalitarian justice in this hemisphere.

As I write this, the San Isidro artists are still holding out against the state's agents but their strength is fading. While this siege continues, we must replicate the international solidarity that successfully got Otero Alcántara out of prison, break the omertá around Cuba and inform more people of what is happening on this island.

By firmly declaring our non-consent to this and any other oppression, we may help to finally put an end to Cuba's persecution of artistic and political dissidence.

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Geopolitics

The Latest: Cuban Protests, Jordanian Coup Arrests, Racist Reaction To England Loss

Welcome to Monday, where thousands of Cubans join rare protests against the government, Jordan arrests suspected coup organizers and it's a full-blown festa in Italy after the national soccer team's Euro win, as racists make loss even worse for England. With the Cannes Festival red carpet out, Les Echos looks at how Netflix and other platforms are helping French actors and filmmakers make their way in Hollywood.


• Thousands protest in Cuba: For the first time in decades, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in anti-government protests, expressing frustration over the ongoing economic crisis that led to a shortage of essential goods on the island. The government's handling of the coronavirus has also sparked anger, with some chanting that current President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, must step down.

• Police in Haiti arrest key suspect: A 63-year-old Haitian national and doctor, Christian Emmanuel Sanon, has been arrested in connection to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Sanon, who arrived in Haiti via private jet in June, is alleged to be a "key suspect" in having organized the murder.

• Ethiopian leader officially wins contested election: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will remain in power after his party won an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats. The results, which have been criticized by members of the international community, come after the jailing of opposition leaders throughout the campaign process and amid the Tigray conflict, where large swaths of the country were unable to vote.

• Jordanian monarchy officials sentenced over coup attempt: A Jordanian court has sentenced two officials, Bassem Awadallah, a former top aide to the royal family, and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, a minor royal, to 15 years in prison on charges of sedition and incitement. The two allegedly attempted to push former heir, Prince Hamzah, to the throne in order to undermine current leader, King Abdullah II.

• 11 killed in India lightning strike: A lightning strike at the popular Indian tourist attraction, Amer Fort, in the Rajasthan state, is responsible for the deaths of at least 11 people. The lightning hit a tower, causing a wall to collapse and bury at least 11 people. Another 11 people were rescued and remain in stable condition, as the search for other survivors continues.

• Billionaire blasts off: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, successfully launched into space, making him the first person to do so on a rocket he helped to fund. Branson's flight, which also included three other Virgin Galactic employees, comes just nine days before Jeff Bezos is set to take off into space in his own company's spacecraft.

• Wandering elephant finds its way home: One of the elephants in a herd that trekked over 500 km across China has found its way back to its home reserve. However, the rest of the herd continues to press on in what seems to be a never ending journey. The elephants became popular last month after escaping their nature reserve and beginning a long, inexplicable migration, marked by several group naps, which were conveniently captured by nearby drones.

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Geopolitics
Gabriel Salvia*

Where Is The Outrage In Latin America Over Cuba?

The island nation hasn't had a free election for more than 70 years. And yet, as millions take to the streets across the region, the Cuban regime keeps getting a pass.

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — While people in some Latin American countries are taking to the streets right now and voicing discontent with their respective governments, in Cuba, a new constitution was adopted this year that, like its predecessor, enshrines political segregation and prevents people from speaking out against the the government's political cult.

In fact, this constitution is even more menacing in its suppression of dissent. Article 4 of the new charter states that "the defense of the socialist fatherland is the greatest honor for and supreme duty of every Cuban. Betrayal of the fatherland is the gravest of crimes, and anyone committing this is liable to the severest of sanctions."

Cuba's socialist system "is irrevocable," the constitution goes on to say. "Citizens have the right to fight by any means necessary, including armed struggle if no other means are possible, against anyone seeking to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution." And with regards to political segregation, the document allows for the "separation and sidelining of a person or group of persons for social, political or cultural reasons."

Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel on Apr. 19, 2018 in Havana, Cuba. — Photo: Irene Perez/Xinhua/ZUMA

Bear in mind that in Cuba's constitutional referendum — which was held on Feb. 24 of this year and organized in such as way as to entirely favor the Yes vote sought by the regime — around 800,000 Cubans voted No to this constitution. They opposed, in other words, the express threat contained in Article 4.

All of this raises some confounding questions. Where else in Latin America would anyone accept a single ideology in their country, or the threat of "armed" confrontation should you not share those views? Where is the regional reaction to this juridical aberration and criminalization of human rights? And what does it take to prompt Latin America's indignation and to make it react to Cuba's political apartheid?

We have to fight for our freedom, but also the freedom of others.

People across Latin America are marching to boost democracy, and yet very few seem angered by the fact that the last, properly contested election in Cuba was in 1948 — 71 years ago!

Four years after that, in 1952, Fulgencio Batista imposed one-man rule on the island before the Castro brothers imposed their own dictatorship in 1959. Today, Fidel's brother Raúl, the last president, remains effectively in charge.

This is the real Cuba, with political prisoners like José Daniel Ferrer, head of the dissident UNPACU party; homosexuals like Oscar Casanellar repressed before the world's gaze for protesting peacefully; artists like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara repeatedly detained; democracy activists like Boris González Arenas, Marthadela Tamayo and dozens more forbidden from leaving the country; and journalists like the 14Ymedio correspondent Luz Escobar, or Camila Acosta of Cubanet, who are practically confined to their homes.

And there are the now decimated Ladies in White, who once marched peacefully after attending mass at the Church of Santa Rita, with their leader Berta Soler, hounded and harassed by a dozen female agents every time she leaves her home on Sunday with a placard demanding freedom.

Without widespread indignation and rejection of the Cuban regime and its exclusive ideology or expressions of solidarity with dissidents there, we cannot really expect or ask for more, or better, democracy in other regional countries.

Frankly, Latin America's political indifference to the state of Cuba is unacceptable. People demand rights from their own governments but reject the same rights for Cubans who cannot even vote in free elections. As the Czech writer Václav Havel said, we have to fight for our freedom, but also the freedom of others.​

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CLARIN
Nahuel Gallotta

Salsa, A Brand New Beat For Tango-Loving Buenos Aires

Immigrants from Venezuela, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America are making their presence felt in the Argentine capital, where more than a dozen salsotecas have opened in the past decade.

BUENOS AIRES — In London it's Elephant and Castle. New York has several, including East Harlem. And in Paris, of course, there's the Latin Quarter. Most of the large cities in the United States, Europe and even Asia have at least one Latino neighborhood.

Interestingly enough, there isn't one as such in Buenos Aires, this most European of Latin American capitals. But there are a growing number of salsotecas, salsa clubs that spring up and thrive wherever there are significant concentrations of Colombians, Peruvians and Venezuelans.

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Sources

Watch: OneShot, Guerrillero Heroico - Alberto Diaz Korda

On this day 90 years ago, one of the world's most famous revolution figures was born. OneShot commemorates Ernesto "Che" Guevara's birthday with a photo taken at the funeral for the victims of the La Coubre explosion, on March 4, 1960 — a picture that stresses the intensity of his gaze and poise and that is recognized worldwide.

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Sources

Watch: OneShot — Men Working In A Backyard

OneShot — Men working in a backyard, 2014 (©Andrea Bruce/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Geopolitics
Arlene B. Tickner

After Raúl: What A Post-Castro Cuba Could Look Like

With Castro's retirement as Cuban President, Cuba is left to face ongoing issues of the communist party — primarily the shambling economy.

It is not every day the leadership changes in Cuba. It has happened once since the 1959 revolution that brought in communism — and that was when President Raúl Castro replaced his brother Fidel as leader. That handover had also made it clear that another successor would eventually be needed. The succession process that is beginning today will soon see the replacement of the "historic generation" of revolutionary leaders in favor of their heirs.

If there are no surprises, the First Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel — with a loyal, hardworking and discreet profile — will become president, though Raúl Castro, 86, will still lead the Communist Party until 2021, which allows him to rule quietly beside his handpicked successor.

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Sources
Hector Lemieux

Santería And The Spiritual Soul Of Socialist Cuba

An Afro-Caribbean religion dating back to the days of slavery, Santería has adapted to both Catholicism and Socialism and is a major contributor to Cuba's particular cultural identity.

HAVANA — The sound of drums invades a devastated street in Centro Habana, the Havana neighborhood most affected by Hurricane Irma, which unleashed her fury on the old, patched-up Spanish palaces. The buildings are collapsing one after the other. "This is surreal," says one tourist, a first timer in Cuba. "It's like Beirut." Put another way, it seems that Yemaya — the Santería goddess of the sea and protector of seafarers — has made light of humans.

For many, Santería — the "worship of saints' and a spiritual companion, for centuries, to African slaves — is the last resort to save what's left after "el ciclón" hurled itself at the neighborhood's homes and apartments. In the living/dining/sleeping room of a crumbling shack in the Neptuno street, incantations accompany the drums. A man goes into a trance. He falls to the ground. The scene could just as well have taken place in the neighborhoods of Regla or Guanabacoa, where Santería reigns supreme over the spirits of men.

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food / travel
Vivian Urfeig

Havana Restores Heritage Sites Ahead Of 500th Anniversary

Cuba is restoring its colonial architecture in Havana and beyond, and promoting the national heritage among young Cubans, ahead of the 500th anniversary of Havana's foundation.

HAVANA — Havana is 498 years old. The emblematic Cuban capital, which fought off pirates and buccaneers for centuries and more recently battled Hurricane Irma, is now preparing a huge celebration: The 500th anniversary of its foundation by Spanish settlers on Nov. 16, 1519.

Ahead of the date, the city has begun restoring some 600 buildings and complexes in its historical district. The agency tasked with the restoration, the Havana Historian's Office (La Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de Havana), has already won prizes for two of its projects.

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Sources
Farid Kahhat

Castro, Chávez And The True Origins Of Autocracy

Did adverse conditions force such Latin American strongmen Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro to clamp down, or did they hide their authoritarian designs from the start?

LIMA — What leads a regime to take the radical path? Is it preordained, or do events radicalize governments? In Cuba and Venezuela, two governing systems mostly closely adhering to communism's core ideology, the original revolutionary leaders never actually set out to create communist states.

In 1959, when Fidel Castro led a guerrilla campaign to oust the conservative regime of Fulgencio Batista, and after his triumphal entry into Havana, Cuba's new leader clearly stated that his was not a communist revolution. In 1998, Hugo Chávez likewise told the Univisión reporter Jorge Ramos that he believed the Cuban regime was a dictatorship, and separately assured the Peruvian television presenter Jaime Bayly that he was not leading a socialist movement.

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