the UN is only admitting that it is a holy war probably because the Shia have more pull then the Sunni in the UN. that isn’t necessarily a great thing… but it explains a few things
(Anna Mahjar-Barducci)Human rights activists had high expectations for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s first official visit to Cuba last January 30. Rousseff visited Cuba just few days after the international media reported that Brazil was distancing itself from Iran over the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses. Further, just a week before her arrival to Cuba, the Brazilian government gave a visa to a Cuban opponent and blogger, Yoani Sanchez, raising hopes that Rousseff would show some support to dissidents. Many therefore thought that the Brazilian president would have taken a public stand against human rights violations perpetrated by the Castro’s dictatorship, but that turned out to be just wishful thinking.
Although Rousseff once said she “prefer[red] a million critical voices over the silence of the dictatorships,” in Cuba the Brazilian President preferred business. Rousseff refused to meet Yoani Sanchez or other Cuban dissidents, and focused in promoting bilateral trade. The Americas Society website reports that trade between the two Latin American countries increased 31% from 2010 to 2011, reaching $642 million last year. The Brazilian government is opening a $350 million credit line to Cuba to finance food purchases, and another $200 million to purchase agricultural equipment. Moreover, Brazil’s development bank, Odebrecht, is investing in the Cuban sugar industry and also helping to finance an $800 million plan to renovate the port of Mariel, hoping to transform it into one of the most important hubs in Latin America that could be of use to Cuba’s nascent oil industry. The Miami Herald‘s Cuban Colada blog stated that Cuba confirmed the presence of reserves of up to 20 billion barrels of crude oil in waters off the Gulf of Mexico; and the Brazilian oil company Petrobras is negotiating with Cuba for offshore exploration rights. Oil was evidently more attractive than human rights. Reuters sarcastically commented that Rousseff made her first visit to Cuba with capitalism on her mind.
Rousseff, who was a leftist guerrilla fighter inspired by Fidel Castro’s communist revolution, nevertheless found the time to criticize the US prison camp at Guantanamo and the US trade embargo against Cuba, but apparently felt it was not relevant to discuss the condition of dissidents in Cuba. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Cuban government relies on beatings, short-term detentions, forced exile and travel restrictions to repress virtually all forms of political dissent. In January, the Cuban dissident Wilman Villar died in custody after a 50 day hunger strike. The Buenos Aires Herald mentioned that Villar’s death created pressure on Rousseff to raise human rights issues with Cuban leaders, but that she was unlikely to do so publicly.
Reuters notes that Rousseff’s trip to Cuba was made just before a visit in Washington set for next month, and mentioned that the decision raised some eyebrows, given Brazil’s recent confrontations with the United States over trade. Brazil’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. In the last few years, in spite of the world’s crisis, Brazil’s GDP kept growing at an average rate of more than 5%. As the seventh largest economy by GDP, with a population nearing 190 million, Brazil understandably aspires to become a world power and a regional giant. The last two Brazilian presidencies, however, former President Lula da Silva’s and Rousseff’s, have coupled this legitimate aspiration to an ideological confrontation with the US.
The Americas Society website suggests that Brazil’s strategic trade and investments in the Caribbean, and elsewhere in the developing world, are part of the government’s global strategy. Matthew Taylor, a Brazil specialist at the American University’s School of International Service, commented that Rousseff’s policy is to grow Brazil’s “soft power” on the international scale to raise Brazil’s role in the world. As Taylor told the Wall Street Journal, “Brazil is taking on a bigger role in the hemisphere in terms of aid and finance.”
Brazilian commentators, however, mentioned that precisely because Brazil is becoming a raising power, it would have been better for Rousseff not to visit Cuba at this moment. The visit actually provoked strong criticism both in Brazil and worldwide. The Brazilian diplomat Marcos Azambuja wrote that if Brazil wanted to do business with Cuba, he should have sent high government officials, but that Rousseff herself should have not gone. “A [Presidential] visit to Cuba has its price to pay,” he wrote, mentioning that even if Rousseff’s intentions were only to do business, the end result is that she paid tribute to the failed policies of the Cuban regime.
(IMAGE VIA AJ)
(Portrait of the president as a young Marxist guerrilla News of the Restless) A young Dilma Rousseff, being interrogated by the Brazilian military junta in the 1970s. She looks pretty fearless and pugnacious, no? Here’s the story behind the picture, courtesy of Cubadebate:
(stonegateinstitute.org | by Anna Mahjar-Barducci)
Relations between Brazil and Iran are shaky. In an interview with the Brazilian paper Folha de Sao Paulo, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, who has worked as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top media adviser, declared that the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, is distancing herself from Iran. Javanfekr actually accused Rousseff of having ruined the relations between Iran and Brazil that former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula managed to build. “The Brazilian president has been striking against everything that Lula accomplished. She destroyed years of good relations,” Javanfekr said. In another interview with the state-run Iranian agency, IRNA, Javanfekr said: “Brazil’s new president has newly taken over the post and should be given enough time to gain a better understanding of Iran-Brazil relations and the previous administration’s efforts to strengthen ties.”
Under the Lula’s presidency, in 2010, in a deal brokered with Turkey and Brazil, Iran signed an agreement to send uranium abroad for enrichment. In the agreement, Iran announced its readiness to swap 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium for 20% enriched fuel on Turkish soil. The deal failed, however, after the U.S. rejected it. The same year, Rousseff was elected as the Brazilian President and relations between Iran and Brazil stopped being so friendly. The reason was Rousseff’s support of a U.N. investigation on human rights abuses in Iran, an initiative led by Washington. As reported by the New York Times, the decision was viewed as a shift from Lula’s previous relations with Tehran.
Al-Jazeera noted that even during the electoral campaign, Rousseff, whenever asked about Iran, would say that for her, human rights would come before business – a thought that seems to have made the Iranian government uncomfortable. In 2011, when the Iranian regime realized that the new Brazilian President would not be friendly to Iran as her predecessor had been, the Iranian ambassador in Brazil commented that Rousseff was “badly informed” about events in Iran. “Rousseff,” wrote Al-Jazeera, “who was tortured in her youth at the hands of Brazil’s dictatorship, and has risen to be Brazil’s first woman president, had given signs all along she wanted to cool off relations with Iran. Cooling? No. She now appears to be dumping a bucket of ice water on it. Freezing it.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast said that Iran attaches great significance to relations with Brazil, and dismissed the remarks on Tehran-Brasilia ties attributed to Presidential media adviser Javanfekr, saying they were misinterpreted: “Iran attaches high significance to its relations with Brazil as the largest Latin American country and an emerging global power. In line with this fact, interactions and negotiations between the two countries are following their normal trend; no change has been made to Tehran’s attitude toward its relations with Brasilia,” Mehmanparast added that “relations between Iran and Brazil have a history of more than 110 years. It seems that certain media outlets and third countries are not happy about good relations between Iran and Brazil and have desperately resorted to a media campaign.”
Brazilian media, however, that the Iranian government is indeed extremely irritated with Rousseff, and that in revenge to the new Brazilian policy the Iranian government is making the life of Brazilian businessmen difficult. The Brazilian paper Folha de Sao Paulo reported that the Iranian government put restrictions on Brazilian meat exporters. The Brazilian multinational JBS, for example, kept thousands of tons of bovine meat on hold for three weeks in an Iranian port. The paper also claims that Iranian meat importers reported that the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to customs ordering limits on the entry of Brazilian products to Iran.
After the interview released by Ahmadinejad’s adviser criticizing Rousseff, the Iranian President declared his intention to visit Brazil in the near future. The Iranian government also stressed that Ahmadinejad would come to Latin America only to meet with Rousseff and not with other leaders in neighboring countries.
The Iranian President nevertheless just came back from a tour in Latin America that brought him to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, and that intentionally did not include Brazil. Ahmadinejad, however, apparently now feels it was a mistake to neglect Brazil, the largest country in South America and one with a rising economy. The Iranian president apparently hopes once again to charm the Brazilian government, which could be an important political and economic partner. Under Lula’s presidency, in fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that among the Latin American countries, Brazil was the largest trading partner of Iran. Data also shows that in 2008, Iran’s trade with Latin America tripled to $2.9 billion.
While the Iranian government hopes to revive the lost friendship, the Brazilian government seems to hope that the Ahmadinejad’s trip to Brazil will not happen so soon. The website “Brazil Dispatch” reported that Brazilian commentators “rejoiced that Brazil had been spared the embarrassment of hosting Ahmadinejad during his recent tour of Latin America.” Political commentator Sergio Leo, writing in the newspaper Valor Economico, pointed out that Ahmadinejad’s decision not to visit Brazil during his recent Latin American trip was welcomed by the Brazilian government. Leo commented that Brazil’s relief at not being approached was exorbitant. The main issue, according to local media, was that while Rousseff seems unwilling to compromise on human rights, the Iranian government is equally unwilling to respect them. This is why for Ahmadinejad now, any rapprochement with Brazil will not be easy.
It takes a Marxist to know a Marxist and the Left
1. Will the United States government call for the overthrow of the anti-American Syrian dictatorship?
2. Will the U.S. government take strong action as Egypt moves to become a radical state and stop observing the U.S.-guaranteed peace treaty with Israel?
3. Will the U.S. government take strong action to stop helping the Fatah-Hamas government, incorporating terrorist and genocidal forces?
4. Will the U.S. government take strong action to stop the fundamental transformation of Turkey into a semi-Islamist, anti-democratic, antisemitic, anti-American regime allied with Iran and Syria?
5. Will the U.S. government reverse its policies so that once again America is a world leader that will protect its allies in Latin America (against radical regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Cuba); Central Europe and the south Caucasus (against Russia); and elsewhere?
Since the answer to all of those questions is “no,” why the Hell should Israel risk its existence on your (bad) ideas and your (worthless) promises? via rubinreports.blogspot.com
If the world is in crisis, you wouldn’t know it by watching President Obama’s spring break. Between golf, basketball and the president’s upcoming trip to Rio de Janeiro, the White House is projecting a disinterested aura of business as usual. For this administration, “tuned-out” is the new normal.
The Mideast crisis is continuing, and Hillary Rodham Clinton has been the one taking the 3 a.m. phone calls. The secretary of state has been dealing with political reform in Egypt, a military crackdown in Bahrain and the continuing civil war in Libya. However, she is hampered by a chief executive who can’t make up his mind which course of action would best secure his place in history. It’s no wonder she took the opportunity to tell CNN she had no interest in continuing in the job in a theoretical Obama second term.
For the president’s part, he did manage to squeeze in a phone call to the kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to express his “deep concern over the violence in Bahrain” and stress “the importance of a political process as the only way to peacefully address the legitimate grievances of Bahrainis.” After this exercise in talking-point leadership, Bahrain’s crackdown continued apace. Mr. Obama’s views simply don’t matter to a world that views him as weak.
The news from Japan grows direr as the nuclear crisis intensifies. The Obama administration has shown considerably less interest in responding to this disaster – actually three disasters: earthquake, tsunami and potential nuclear meltdown – than it did to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This is strange given the possibility for a monumental nuclear catastrophe and destabilizing the world’s third-largest economy, which also happens to be one of America’s best friends. A radioactive plume is set to hit the U.S. West Coast on Friday, and on Thursday President Obama said – twice – that “we do not expect harmful levels of radition to reach the U.S.”Either way, it certainly won’t pose a threat to the president, who by this weekend will be safe with his family on Brazil’s beaches.
Congress continued to debate a stopgap federal budget during the week, and on Tuesday the national debt scored a one-day $72 billion jump. Given the critical importance of the debate, it would be reasonable to expect Mr. Obama to be working hard to find a way out of the fiscal mess he largely created. The president, predictably, was nowhere to be found. Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, scored the president for his “failure to lead” on the budget issue, and Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said the president was “absent from this debate.” Vice President Joe Biden, who was supposed to be representing the White House in the congressional budget wrangle, instead took a trip to Russia.
None of this is meant to suggest Mr. Obama hasn’t been productive. He laughed it up at the Gridiron Club dinner, took a stand against schoolyard bullying and spoke on the radio about Women’s History Month. Over the weekend, he played his 61st round of golf as president and finalized his March Madness bracket picks, predictably avoiding controversy by choosing the four top seeds for the Final Four. On Monday, he attended a gathering of potential big-money donors at the St. Regis hotel that Democratic Party officials insisted was not a fundraiser. Sure, it was not a fundraiser; and the White House isn’t coming across as disconnected, weak, passive and paralyzed either.
…with more and more countries recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, what began as a seemingly empty threat to squeeze concessions from Israel has gained traction and appears increasingly likely to become a reality. A two-state solution may be around the corner, but that doesn’t mean peace will follow.
With the U.S.-led peace process looking increasingly moribund, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has begun enlisting foreign leaders in a dangerous effort to recognize a Palestinian state without Israel’s agreement. Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, began this effort earlier this year to strengthen the Palestinian negotiating position, and it is bearing more fruit than even he could have expected. Abbas, however, should be careful what he wishes for. A declaration of statehood without Israeli approval could start a war in which the Palestinians themselves would pay the highest price.
Abbas has been laying the diplomatic groundwork for a unilateral declaration of statehood for months, visiting foreign capitals and lobbying governments to extend recognition. But his efforts have gained momentum this month as a U.S. proposal for an Israeli settlement freeze has fallen apart.
JORDANA HORN, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER AND HERB KEI
After initial recognition by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay follow suit, recognize “free and independent” Palestine with 1967 borders; Israel: recognition contradicts road map; Clinton to make major statement on talks.
Following in Brazil’s footsteps from last Friday, Argentina announced on Monday it recognized a “free and independent” Palestinian state, sparking an immediate condemnation from Israel.
Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a letter that her country recognized a Palestine defined by 1967 borders, Argentine officials said. The Argentine Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement that the move was designed to help “definitively advance the negotiation process that will lead to the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Uruguay announced soon afterward that it would recognize a Palestinian state next year. “Uruguay will surely follow the same path as Argentina in 2011,” Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Conde told AFP.
Israel expressed “regret and disappointment” on Monday night at Argentina’s decision to join Brazil in recognizing an independent Palestinian state.
“Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The statement said that recognition of a Palestinian state also contradicted the road map.
“All attempts to bypass negotiations and to unilaterally determine issues in dispute will only harm the trust of the sides and their commitment to agreed upon frameworks for negotiations,” the statement read.
The American Jewish Committee called the recognition of an independent Palestinian state by Brazil and Argentina both worrisome and counterproductive.
Such actions would only “encourage the PA to unilaterally declare independence,” which would “undermine the prospect for durable peace,” according to AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“If Latin American countries truly want to support Arab- Israeli peace, they should be pressing President Abbas to return to the direct talks that were revived with US assistance three months ago, and suspended a few weeks later by Abbas,” he added.
Over 100 countries have endorsed the Palestinians’ 1988 unilateral declaration of independent statehood.
Clinton preparing major statement on peace process
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is preparing a major statement on the process this week, as talks between the US and Israel over a plan to restart negotiations have stalled.
“I will be making a very formal set of remarks,” Clinton told the American-based Arabic TV station Al Hurra during her trip to Bahrain this weekend, declining to offer details of her plans.
She is scheduled to give a keynote address at the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institution Friday night, where she will be appearing with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Clinton indicated that the US had “made progress” in continuing conversations with Israelis and Palestinians, but that the obligation remained on both sides to make the necessary compromises.
“We have been talking with both parties very substantively, and I think that the United States can play a role to help each make decisions about very difficult matters that then can be presented to the other side,” she said.
One source close to the issue said the remarks could include an announcement of a US-Israeli deal that has been in the works for weeks if it were completed on time, but he said there was a very low probability of it being worked out by the end of the week.