This piece was published at NACLA. See also Belén Fernández’s short profile of Noriega here.
On May 2, CNN executive producer Arthur Brice published what was purported to be a news article on Venezuela. Instead, Brice’s 4,300-word screed, titled “Chavez Health Problems Plunge Venezuela’s Future Into Doubt,” is little more than a platform for the bizarre theories of Roger Noriega, an ultra-rightwing lobbyist and one-time diplomat under George W. Bush, who Brice references over two dozen times throughout his article.
As a political commentator, Noriega pontificates with total brazenness. He appeared as the chief pundit in Brice’s CNN piece six months after announcing—based on what he said was the belief of Chávez’s own medical team—that the Venezuelan president was “not likely to survive more than six months.” Noriega is not fazed by facts. He promotes his fantastical claims in many major news outlets, often based on anonymous sources. Take, for example, his 2010 Foreign Policy article, “Chávez’s Secret Nuclear Program,” whose subtitle reads: “It’s not clear what Venezuela’s hiding, but it’s definitely hiding something—and the fact that Iran is involved suggests that it’s up to no good.” (State Department officials dismissed this suspicion with “scorn.”)
CNN’s interviews with Noriega and the other mostly rightwing analysts likely led to this demonstrably false claim at the beginning of Brice’s May 2 article: “Diosdado Cabello, a longtime Chavez cohort . . . amassed tremendous power in January when Chavez named him president of the National Assembly.” In fact, even El Universal, a daily Venezuelan newspaper long-aligned with the opposition, conceded in a January 5 report that Cabello was elected as the new president of the National Assembly, even if “only with the votes” of the majority United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Ewan Robertson of Venezuelanalysis.com found that 98 deputies of the pro-government bloc supported Cabello, while the 67-member opposition bloc opposed him. Such mundane electoral processes have guided much of Venezuela’s political dynamics over the past decade.
A Senate report released in October 2011 urging the US government to expand the use of social media as a foreign policy tool in Latin America offers another warning for activists seduced by the idea of technology and social media as an indispensable tool for social change.
In this past year as the world witnessed uprisings from Santiago to Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, social media has been lauded as a weapon of mass mobilization. Paul Mason, a BBC correspondent, wrote in his new book published this month Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (excerpted in the Guardian) that this new communications technology was a “crucial” contributing factor to these revolutionary times. Nobel peace laureate and Burmese human rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi pointed out in a lecture in June that this “communications revolution…not only enabled [Tunisians] to better organize and co-ordinate their movements, it kept the attention of the whole world firmly focused on them.” CNN even ran an article comparing Facebook to “democracy in action”, while Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was imprisoned in Egypt for starting a Facebook page told Wolf Blitzer that the revolution in Egypt “started on Facebook” and that he wanted to “meet Mark Zuckerberg some day and thank him personally.”
The great Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger writes from Cuba:
On my first day in Cuba, in 1967, I waited in a bus queue that was really a conga line. Ahead of me were two large, funny females resplendent in frills of blinding yellow; one of them had an especially long bongo under her arm. When the bus arrived, painted in Cuba’s colours for its inaugural service, they announced that the gringo had not long arrived from London and was therefore personally responsible for this breach in the American blockade. It was an honour I could not refuse.
The bus was a Leyland, made in Lancashire, one of 400 shipped to Cuba in defiance of Washington, which had declared war on the revolution of Fidel Castro. With the Internationale and Love Me Do played to a bongo beat – the Beatles having been “admitted to the Revolution” – we lurched through Havana’s crooked streets. Such a fond memory now accompanies me on my return to Cuba; yet looking back at what I wrote then, I find I used the word “melancholy” more than once. For all the natural warmth of Cubans, the hardship of their imposed isolation left smiles diminished and eyes averted once the music had stopped.
Beyond the nationalised American department stores – the windows empty except for electric fires from China of which Cubans had no need – and the flickering necklace of lights of an almost deserted port, there was the silhouette of an American spy ship, USS Oxford, policing Cuba’s punishment. In 1968, the revolution added its own folly by summarily banning all small businesses, including the paladares, Havana’s lively bars and restaurants. The Soviet era had begun.
“¡Elsa! ¿Cómo estás?” exclaimed Dr. Luther Castillo with a huge smile and a very warm hug. In a rare relaxing moment during a recent whirlwind visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Castillo was reunited with a family friend from his Garífuna community on the northern coast of Honduras.
Dr. Castillo, founder of the first Garífuna hospital and head of the largest international team of physicians working in Haiti, was in town to share his experiences and speak on the topic of health care as a universal right. He traveled with Dr. Juan Almendares, rector of the National University of Honduras, long-time human rights activist, and highly-respected leader of the resistance movement against the June, 2009 military coup.
According to a joint investigation for Harper’s Magazine and NBC, the infamous Guantanamo suicides – or so we were told at the time- of three detainees in June 2006, were in actuality probably murders. The new investigation reveals that the deaths of 37 year old Yemeni, Salah Ahmed al-Salami and two Saudis, Talal al-Zahrani, 22, and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, 30, most probably resulted from suffocation under conditions of harsh interrogation and torture. At the time of the event in question, the camp’s commander interpreted the deaths of these men as “an act of asymmetrical warfare”, rather than desperation.
Based on the six-month investigation, here are some of the findings that compelled Harper’s and NBC to claim that – contra to the widely accepted narrative of suicide – the evidence now points towards murder:
Hostility and Hospitality in Contemporary World Politics
This is Chomsky at his best, highlighting the exceptionalism that characterizes US political discourse, and the ideological memes that have accompanied US imperialism with few modulations over the years. The follow-up speaker Stephen Pfohl is also very good. (thanks Doug)
The following short documentary is interesting not just for its look at Cuban healthcare and education but also due to its Japanese persepective.
Japan is one of the most equal and wealthy societies with more of a collectivist persepective than Western nations and has a good healthcare system. However the panelists on the following show believe there’s much to learn from Cuba (one of the worlds poorest countries thanks to a brutal US blockade).
I’ve also included some enlightening interviews with US medical students studying in Cuba.