Saturday, March 24, 2007

White House: Freedom Flotilla Unsafe, Should Halt

Washington- Appearing at the White House with Dr. Francisco J. Hernandez, President of the Cuban-American National Foundation, President Bush reiterated his support for the Cuban exile movement and the transition to democracy in Cuba, but noted that the United States was not in a position to guarantee the safety of American citizens in or near Cuba. Dr. Hernandez stated that the "Freedom Flotilla" should stop short of Cuba, and return to Miami. President Bush offered the support of the United States Navy and United State Coast Guard in organizing the Flotilla's return to Miami, an offer which Dr. Hernandez graciously accepted.

US Ambassador to Organization of American States Relieved of Post

Ambassador J. Windus, US representative to the Organization of American States, has been relieved of his duties by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Ambassador Windus and the American delegation walked out of a meeting of the OAS, leaving an empty chair. The Permanent Council of the OAS subsequently passed a resolution supporting the rescinding of Cuban suspension from the OAS on condition of a Cuban democratic transition

Kennedy: Not Involved in Collision


The United States Navy has confirmed that the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy was not involved in a collision, and is in fact undamaged and in good operating condition. This information contradicts a rumor that appeared earlier this morning from a Cuban News Agency and from an obscure Caribbean news service.

UPDATE: The aircraft carrier pictured here is not, according the Navy sources, the John F. Kennedy. The carrier photographed is the USS Oriskany, which was sunk last year in order to create an artificial reef.

USS John F. Kennedy Involved in Collision?

An obscure Caribbean news agency has reported that the United States Navy aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, recently spared from decommissioning, has collided with a tanker during refueling operations.

A press spokesman for OPNAV denied this report in no uncertain terms. "The Kennedy has not been involved in an accident," he said. "The entire report is absurd; the JFK is operating close to base and required no refueling. No tankers are even in her area."

Buenos Aires: All Argentine Citizens in Cuba Should Evacuate or Contact Embassy

The Argentine Foreign Minister stated this morning that, in anticipation of further unrest in Cuba, all Argentine citizens in Cuba should either evacuate or seek shelter at the Argentine Embassy in Havana.

Spanish Blogger Arrested

Efforts to contact Diego Ortiz, a senior member of the international service union delegation in Cuba, have failed after he posted a message on the internet that Cuban police officers were attempting to enter his home. Posting under the name "Havana Hombre," Mr. Ortiz has been updating the outside world on the situation in Cuba since early yesterday. He was arrested last night at demonstration against the government of President Castro, but released early this morning. His passport, evidently, had been confiscated.

Clash at Sea?

The official Cuban News Agency is reporting that lead elements of the "Freedom Flotilla" were attacked and sunk by Cuban Air Force aircraft. However, a Cuban labor newspaper reported that Cuban naval forces had intercepted part of the "Freedom Flotilla", and that a collision at sea had resulted in damage to one or more vessels.

The main body of the "Freedom Flotilla" remains several hours away from Cuba.

Satellite View of Freedom Flotilla

A Pentagon spokesman provided the following photo of the "Freedom Flotilla" as it approaches Cuba.

"Freedom Flotilla" Only Hours from Cuba

The "Freedom Flotilla" continues to move slowly towards Cuba. Hundreds of ships with thousands of Cuban exiles should begin reaching Cuban waters by midday. US Coast Guard vessels are visible from the lead ships of the Flotilla, but seem to be keeping their distance. Jorge Gonzalez, putative leader of the "Move to Cuba" expressed confidence that the United States would not interfere in the landings, and that the Cuban people would welcome the return of the exiles.

Dawn Over Cuba

Havana- While essential services have in many cases broken down, Cuban security services still seem to control the city. Police, Interior Ministry forces, and elements of the Revolutionary Armed Forces patrol different parts of the city. Gangs of pro-regime toughs wandered the city until the early hours, but confronations with police and army formations have apparently dispersed even these. The night apparently saw large numbers of arrests, but the most serious violence involved an army unit which opened fire on a group of advancing demonstrators. At least a dozen are suspected dead.

Santaigo de Cuba- The situation in the city is tense. Army units reportedly refused to fire on protesters during the night, and withdrew from the city in the early morning hours. Demonstrators remain ensconced in the main city square, protesting the Raul Castro regime and demanding democratic transition. There are unconfirmed reports that Raul Castro has no control over units of the armed forces in the Santiago area.

Isolated incidents of violence have been reported elsewhere on the island. In some cases, units of the armed forces seem to have received contradictory orders, some indicating that they should prepare to defend the island from invasion, and others that they should attempt restore order.

Canadian Ambassador Expelled from Cuba

Ottawa- The Canadian government is reporting that, for unknown reasons, the government of Raul Castro has decided to expel the Canadian Ambassador to Cuba.

"Freedom Flotilla" Leaves Miami

Miami- The lead elements of the "Freedom Flotilla" have left Miami and are on their way to Cuba. The Flotilla is proceeding slowly, and if it stays together its vanguard will not arrive in Cuba until early tomorrow afternoon. The United States has still taken no official position on the Flotilla, while Cuba and other countries have condemned it as unwarranted interference in Cuban domestic affairs

Situation in Cuba Chaotic

Havana- The city remains in chaos tonight as street battles in different parts of the city have had different outcomes. In some areas groups loyal to President Castro have kept control. In others, police have used non-lethal means to disperse anti-Castro forces. Tragically, however, at least one company of soldiers appears to have opened fire on demonstrators, resulting in multiple fatalities.

In Santiago de Cuba, there are reports that soldiers refused orders from their officers to open fire on unarmed demonstrators. That city appears, at least temporarily, to be under the control of anti-Castro forces. Another rumor indicates that some units have refused re-deployment to urban areas, insisting that they will defend Cuba from external enemies but that they will not allow themselves to be used against the Cuban people.

Raul Castro's purge of the government appears still in process at this late hour, as Executive Secretary of the Council of Minister Carlos Lage Davila was arrested on charges of treason and collaboration with foreign powers less than an hour ago.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Freedom Flotilla

Miami- The situation in the harbor resembles what Dunkirk must have looked like in June, 1941. Except for the Germans, that is. A flotilla of ships is assembling and preparing for a 90 mile voyage to Cuba. It remains unclear what awaits the "Freedom Flotilla" at its destination, however. Raul Castro, brother and successor to President Fidel Castro, has been consolidating power since the death of his brother early this morning. Although there are reports of discontent on the island, it is believed that the army remains loyal. Moreover, the Exile cause has never been popular with the people of Cuba.

The US government has thus far avoided comment on the "Freedom Flotilla". The United States Navy is building up its presence in the Caribbean, having assembled three aircraft carrier battlegroups and one expeditionary battlegroup in the region. However, the United States has refused to endorse the Freedom Flotilla, and some believe that a struggle may be developing in the Bush administration over the proper response to events in Cuba and Miami.

Members of the exile community remain excited, however. Carlos Gonzales, a second generation Cuban exile, said that "I have waited all my life for an opportunity to return to my homeland. I am sure that the people of Cuba will welcome us with open arms." For its part, the Castro government has denounced the United States for "sponsoring an exile invasion" of Cuba, and has tried to link the current situation to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

Profile: Carlos Lage Davila

Although Raul Castro seems to have secured power in Cuba for the moment, the new President will be 77 years of age in June of this year. His age has sparked considerable speculation regarding the next in line of succession. Many Cuba observers have been mentioning Carlos Lage Davila, current Executive Secretary of the Council of Ministers. From CBC News:

To most of the international community, Lage is the least well known of the potential successors. But inside the country, he is the man with his finger on the key sectors, particularly energy, trade and currency. In his mid-50s, he has had what's been called a history of achievement when it comes to the case of Cuba's cash-strapped economy.

In the early 1990s, during a stint as adviser to Castro, he initiated a series of economic reforms that allowed for limited land holdings and small business initiatives.

His most recent coup was negotiating a guaranteed supply of subsidized oil from fellow leftists in Venezuela, in exchange for medicines and a small army of 2,000 Cuban doctors and health professionals to live in Venezuela for a time and treat that country's poor.

A doctor by training, a pediatrician in fact, Lage is one of those technocrats who seems to adapt quickly to other disciplines and has become Cuba's primary economic fixer. His leadership advantage, should it come to that, is that he is a good Communist who was rising on his own up the party ranks when he was spotted and advanced by Raul Castro, with whom Lage is said to be close.

US Naval Deployments Increase in Caribbean

Naval Station Mayport- In response to the ongoing crisis in Cuba, the United States Navy has increased its presence in and near the Caribbean. USS Enterprise and USS Harry Truman have been diverted to the area, as has USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship. Earlier today, the decommissioning ceremony for USS John F. Kennedy was cancelled, and the Kennedy left port in the early afternoon. The USN is reportedly assembling an air wing and a battlegroup around the aging carrier. In response to queries, a Pentagon spokesman has reiterated that the United States has no intention of carrying out aggressive action against Cuba, but that it is deeply concerned about disorder on the island and the potential for regional chaos.

Cuban Government Purge

Unconfirmed reports have emerged from several sources that President Raul Castro or someone within his government ordered the execution of dozens of officials from several different government ministries. These execution were conducted by the army, which apparently is at least under the partial control of Mr. Castro. These executions help shed light on the six hour gap between the announcement that Raul Castro would address Cuba and the actual statement.

In spite of this violence, dissident groups in Havana and elsewhere do not appear to have cancelled plans for demonstrations tonight against the Castro government.

"Moving to Cuba"

MIAMI: With over 40,000 people in attendance, the Cuba Libre celebration at Miami's Orange Bowl was brought to its feet by Jorge Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a famous "Rescue Brother" from the 1980s, declared that it was a tradition for parties in Miami to move to the hottest locale. He invited all in attendence to join him in moving to his place in Cienfuegos on Cuba's norther coast. Gonzalez declared that the brothers had a dozen small aircraft and over a 1,000 ships -- a Freedom Flotilla" -- ready to move from marinas in Florida stretching from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West. Gonzalez left the stadium in seeming triumph, with several thousand people following closely.

Breaking News: Raul Castro Assumes Power, Makes Statement

Ending hours of speculation, Acting President Raul Castro, brother of the late President Fidel Castro, has assumed power and made a statement on Cuban television.
We will protect our Revolution not only from foreign foes but from domestic. Enemies of the Revolution, enemies of Cuba, lurk even in Havana, and even in some of our government ministries. I swear to you that they will be rooted out before they can collaborate with foreigners and steal away with our independence. At this moment all of Cuba wishes to mourn; I understand this as well as anyone. But we must be strong, for the Yankees and the counter-revolutionaries sense that this is their opportunity, their chance to destroy the Revolution and render Cuba subservient once again. Have no doubt that we shall be strong.

The statement came immediately prior to a statement by the American ambassador to the Organization of American States that Raul Castro had died, only hours after the death of his brother. The United States has as of yet offered no explanation for this apparent inconsistency.

The situation in Cuba, however, remains tense. Reports indicate unrest across the country, and Cuban dissident groups are planning protests in Havana itself. President Raul Castro's statement regarding enemies within government ministries may indicate that a succession struggle developed over the course of the day.

Police and Protesters Clash in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba- Police and protesters clashed late this afternoon in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second largest city. The outcome of the clash was unclear, although crowds evident earlier in the day seem to have dispersed. Units of the regular Army reportedly moved into the city following the clashes.

Organization of American States Issues Statement

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States issued the following statement earlier today:
The OAS is saddened by the loss of President Fidel Castro, and we offer our condolences to the people of Cuba in this time of grief.

We support Cuba in this time of transition, and welcome their embrace of OAS principles.

Debate continues regarding further steps to ensure an orderly transition in Cuba.

Editorial: Fox News Anchor Brit Hume

Fox News analyst Brit Hume, reacting to recent official Cuban announcements that it is mobilizing its military forces to repel a US invasion, said that the Cuban moves are a typical communist ploy to justify continued repression of the Cuban people: "If the US military didn't exist," he said, "the Castros would have to invent it."

Conflicting Messages

Washington- Earlier today on the website of the official Cuban government news agency, an announcement indicated that Acting President Raul Castro had ordered the mobilization of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, including the call up of reservists. The intention of this call up was resistance to American aggression. However, the announcement never went out over Cuban radio or television, and was deleted from the website minutes after appearing.

Cuban blogger Havana Hombre reports that several local journalist received calls to the effect that a mobilization was taking place from an official in the Interior Ministry. The mobilization was never announced through official media sources, however. Havana Hombre suggests that their are indications of a leadership struggle within the Cuban government. Popular confusion still seems to reign in Havana.

A recent announcement on the Cuba News Agency website indicates that the Revolutionary Armed Forces have been placed on alert, but makes no mention of a mobilization.

Carter Center Offers Assistance in Democratic Transition

Atlanta- Former US President Jimmy Carter has offered his condolences for Fidel Castro but noted his regret that Castro had not provided for a democratic transition. He has offered the services of the Carter Center to help monitor free elections that he believes are necessary to legitimize the next Cuban government in the eyes of the world and its own people.

Kennedy Leaves Mayport

Florida- Multiple reports from sightseers indicate that the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, scheduled for decommissioning today, has left Mayport Naval Station. The United States Navy had no comment. Onlookers reported, however, that Kennedy did not appear to be carrying any aircraft. Carrier Air Wing 17, formerly attached to the Kennedy, has been transferred to Virginia.

Report: Cuba Government "Paralyzed"

Havana- Unconfirmed reports from within the Cuban government say that the process of succession has stalled, and that Acting President Raul Castro has been unable to assert control over the Army and the bureaucracy. One source described the government as "paralyzed" by conflict between reformers and hard-line elements. There are also some reports that political prisoners have been freed from custody. However, other sources indicate that democracy activists and suspected dissidents are being rounded up by the Interior Ministry. The offical Cuban News Agency has yet to elaborate on the delay to Acting President Raul Castro's speech to the Cuban people.

Cuban Doctors Demonstrate in Caracas


Hundreds of Cuban doctors assigned to serve the poor in Venezuela, and who claim to have found themselves oppressed, overworked, and impoverished, organized a demonstration this morning in front of the Cuban embassy. Their demands included higher pay and an end to surveillance by the Cuban secret police.

Venzuelan police dispersed the Cuban demonstration forcefully but without injury.

Unrest in Eastern Provinces?

Havana- There have been conflicting and uncomfirmed reports of unrest in Cuba's eastern provinces. Havana remains largely quiet, although the police presence in the city has obviously increased.

Decommissioning Ceremony Cancelled

The decommissioning ceremony of the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), scheduled for today at Naval Station Mayport in Duval County, Florida, was abruptly canncelled. No reason was given for the cancellation, although anonymous sources speculated that the cancellation might be connected to the death of President Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Breaking News: Raul Castro Statement Delayed

Havana- A spokesman for Cuba's Interior Ministry issued a curt message minutes ago saying that a statement by Acting Cuban President and presumptive heir Raul Castro will be delayed. The ministry official gave no reason for the delay, and answered no questios.

Havana- News from Havana remains scarce. A report from Havana based blogger Havana Hombre indicated that police have begun to clamp down on the city, erecting road blocks at major intersections and stepping up patrols. Havana Hombre also suggested that at least one dissident group is active in Havana.

CANF: Celebration at the Orange Bowl

Miami- Dr. Francisco J. Hernandez, President of the Cuban-American National Foundation, announced that a massive celebration would be held at 8pm tonight in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. "We will express our support for the freedom of our brethren in Cuba, and pray that the death of Castro allows a quick return to democracy in our mother land. We hope that this expression of support will convince the Cuban people and the governments of the Americas that democracy in Cuba is inevitable".

Zapatero Mourns Castro's Passing, Calls for Democratic Transition

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced that the people of Spain mourn the passing of President Fidel Castro, but also made a pointed call for a transition to democracy in Cuba. "We mourn the passing of a great Latin American leader," said Zapatero. "Nevertheless, the people and government of Cuba must move toward democracy. I call on Acting President Raul Castro to develop a plan, in coordination with the Organization of American States and with the assisstance, if needed, of Spain, to move toward free elections and the establishment of democratic rule in Cuba."

"The United States Will Find a Dictatorship to Dictatorship Transition Unacceptable"

Washington- At a hastily called press conference, White House spokesman Tony Snow reiterated the position of the United States on the transition to democracy in Cuba. "I hope that the Cuban successor government will move in the short term toward preparation for democratic elections, elections that will pave the way for democratic governance. The United States will find a dictatorship-to-dictatorship transition unacceptable." Mr. Snow did not elaborate on the policies that the United States would undertake in reaction to the death of President Castro.

Havana Remains Quiet

Havana- Response to the announcement of President Fidel Castro's death remains subdued in Havana. Police and Interior Ministry officials were said to be on high alert for any breakout of disturbances or demonstrations, but the city does not yet appear to have reacted to the news. Cuban blogger Havana Hombre reports that:
The surprise, if any, is not that the aging president's health is failing, but that his official spokesman has made his illness known to the outside world. The public announcement seems not to have rattled the people in the streets of the capital for the time being. It is almost as if they've been expecting this moment, and its arrival has occasioned both relief and a vague feeling of inevitability.

Exile Community Jubilant


Miami- Cuban exile groups began celebrating this morning in Miami shortly after reports of Cuban President Fidel Castro's death were confirmed by Cuba's state news agency. Traffic in Miami is at a standstill, but the crowds seem peaceful and law abiding. Police have reported only a few minor disturbances. Nevertheless, Mayor Manuel Diaz has called for calm in the city, and reportedly anticipates that the celebration could go on for several days.

Fidel Castro, 1926-2007

Fidel Castro is dead at the age of 80, after suffering a series of strokes last night at a hospital near Havana. Mr. Castro's communist dictatorship lasted years, surviving a US backed invasion, a superpower missiles crisis, a US sponsored invasion, and years of sanctions.

Revolutionary Hero, or Tyrant?

Born in 1926, Fidel Castro was the son of an immigrant landowner from Spain, who owned large estates on the eastern part of the island. As a youth, Mr. Castro attended Jesuit schools and then later enrolled in the University of Havana, where he received a law degree and later became involved in politics. A powerful and charismatic speaker, he soon emerged as a leader in the growing movement against dictator Fulgencio Batista. In 1953, a year after Batista seized power in a bloodless coup, Mr. Castro led an unsuccessful attack to seize the Moncado military barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest city. A number of his men were killed and many others captured, including himself. After being released in 1955, Mr. Castro began organizing another effort to overthrow the Batista dictatorship. This time he was more successful. By the late 1950s, he was leading a large guerrila force based in Cuba's Sierra Maest mountains. Victory finally came in January 1959, and a triumphant guerrilla army, many of them bearded and wearing fatigues, marched into Havana. After seizing power, the new Cuban government began making major changes, collectivizing farms and nationalizing banks and industries, incluing more than $1 billion of US properties. Political liberties were suspended, and critics jailed. In taking these actions, Mr. Castro finally acknowledged what had become increasingly obvious: He was a Marxist, and intended to set up a communist state in Cuba. Cuba's new leader also made sure he would keep a tight rein on power, according to Cuba expert, Thomas Patterson:

From the very beginning he has tried to keep power and authority within his own hands. It's very much his revolution in that sense, and we speak of the Castro Revolution, not the Cuban Revolution.

Mr. Castro's policies put him on a collision course with the United States. Washington broks off diplomatic relations with Havana, and imposed a trade embargo. Then, in 1961, the US armed and directed a poorly conceived invasion of Cuba, which was easily defeated at the Bay of Pigs. Another confrontation developed in 1962, when the United States discovered Soviet nuclear missiles had been installed on the island. Moscow withdrew its missiles after the US naval forces set up a blockade of the island, thereby ending the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War.

Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mr. Castro built up his armed forces to be among the most powerful in Latin America. Sometimes acting as a Soviet proxy, Mr. Castro sent his forces around the globe to support the spread of communism. Also in the 1960s and 1970s, he supported leftist guerilla movements in Latin America. At the same time, he established health care and education systems that helped put Cuba at the top of the developing world in literacy and reduced infant mortality. These programs succeeded in part because of financial support from Moscow. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba had been receiving up to $6 billion in Soviet subsidies. The disappearance of these subsidies devastated the Cuban economy, forcing the Cuban government to undertake some reforms, such as allowing limited private sector activities, legalizing the use of the dollar, and seeking foreign investment. Even these limited activities, however, were resisted by Mr. Castro.

Mr. Castro's brand of socialism proved unworkable. By the end of the 1990s, only Cubans with dollars could buy good food, medicines, and other necessities. Mr. Castro blamed the situation on the US embargo, and while many Cubans agreed with him, they also blamed communism for many of the countries economic problems. Mr. Castro never ceased his opposition to capitalism, or to the way that the world had changed in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism. At the time of his death, Mr. Castro had held power for longer than any leader in Latin America.

Breaking News: President Fidel Castro of Cuba Has Died

The offical news service of the Republic of Cuba released a statement minutes ago stating the President Fidel Castro has passed away after suffering a series of strokes during the night. Acting President Raul Castro will address the nation at 2pm, EST.

Miami: Subdued, but Expectant

Miami- The celebration has not yet begun in Miami, but the mood in the city seemed confidant as news broke of President Fidel Castro's latest health problems. The exile community has been disappointed by such reports before, as Castro's health seemed to improve after surgery in late 2006. Nevertheless, many in the exile movement believe that reports of Castro's failing health are genuine, and that the longtime Cuban leader will soon exit the political stage.

Dr. Francisco J. Hernandez, President of the Cuban-American National Foundation, a prominent exile group, said today that "Fidel Castro's death is the first step to a free Cuba. Cubans everywhere have been waiting for an end to this nightmare for 47 years. Let's hope that it will be over soon, and that the forces of freedom and democracy will prevail in Cuba". Asked about CANF's plans in the event of President Castro's death, Dr. Hernandez said "there will be a big party here in Miami, but hopefully a bigger one in Havana." Dr. Hernandez declined to respond to questions about possible connections between Cuban exile groups and pro-democracy forces within Cuba.

Breaking News: Castro Reportedly Near Death

Washington- President Fidel Castro's condition appears to be deteriorating, according to a source with the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, the organization responsible for administration of Cuba's hospital system. The source did not elaborate on the details of President Castro's condition, but elements of the report were confirmed by an anonymous source within the Bush administration.

Sources within the Cuban Ministry of Interior indicate that procedures for managing public unrest during the transition have already been put in motion. Experts on Cuba expect that Acting President Raul Castro, brother of President Fidel Castro and appointed heir, will move quickly to consolidate control over the apparatus of the Cuban government.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Breaking News: Castro Suffers Series of Strokes

Uncomfirmed reports from Havana indicate that President Fidel Castro has suffered a series of strokes and is in extremely critical condition. A Cuban government spokesman refused to confirm that President Castro had suffered any medical setbacks, but emphasized that the people of Cuba continued to have faith in their President.

Concerns over the health of President Castro increased last year when he underwent surgery for an abdominal ailment. In recent months, however, President Castro's condition had seemed to improve, slowing speculation about a succession crisis in Cuba.

UPDATE: A Cuban government spokesman has confirmed that President Castro has suffered a stroke.

Guantanamo trials boycott urged

Amnesty International has called on foreign governments not to co-operate with US military trials of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

In a report, the human rights group said other countries should refuse to provide evidence for prosecutions. The US authorities should also abandon its system of military commissions and try suspects in civil courts on the US mainland, the report said. The military trials are due to resume at Guantanamo next week.

"Military commissions are a complete travesty of justice - no more, no less," Amnesty International UK director, Kate Allen, said. "These trials threaten to cut corners in pursuit of a few convictions and add to the injustice that the Guantanamo detention facility has come to symbolise," Amnesty's Americas Program Director Susan Lee added.

Concerns

The comments come as Amnesty launched a report - Justice delayed and justice denied? - which raises concerns about the fairness of such trials and the admissibility of evidence obtained under torture. The report also highlights the limited right of appeal and the risk of so-called "enemy combatants" being returned to indefinite custody even if they are acquitted.

The US is preparing to restart the tribunals on 27 March with the scheduled arraignment of Australian detainee David Hicks, who is charged with providing material support for terrorism by fighting for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Mr Hicks, 31, is the only person charged so far under a new system of war crimes trials authorised by the US Congress.

The US has declared its intention to try 60 to 80 of the 385 foreign captives held at Guantanamo, including 14 "high-value" prisoners sent there from secret CIA prisons last year.

Argentine military warned Brazil, Chile of '76 coup

BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) -- Argentina's armed forces notified the military dictatorships of Brazil and Chile before staging the 1976 coup that toppled the government of Isabel Peron, according to recently declassified documents.

The communication was an early sign of the cooperation that would eventually become Operation Condor, in which the region's right-wing military governments worked together to hunt down and execute dissidents in hiding.

Peron was sworn in as president in 1974 after her husband, then-President Juan Domingo Peron, died in office. Peron's third wife, she had been serving as his vice president.

Lorenzo de Montmollin, the head of Argentine naval intelligence, notified Brazilian and Chilean officials of the military's plans weeks before deposing Peron, according to documents obtained by Reuters from Brazil's foreign ministry, which have been declassified but not made public.

The coup took place on March 24, 1976, ushering in a seven-year military dictatorship that kidnapped and killed as many as 30,000 dissidents.

"Montmollin, declaring that he was specifically authorized by the commander in chief of the Armed Forces to do so, outlined the main steps to be taken by the future regime," Joao Baptista Pinheiro, Brazil's ambassador to Argentina at the time, wrote in a secret telegram dated March 12, 1976.

Pinheiro also transcribed a conversation between a senior Brazilian diplomat and Montmollin in which the Argentine official said Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had been notified that a coup was being planned.

The Argentine armed forces asked that Chile abstain from recognizing the military government for a while, a request the Chilean authorities agreed to honor, Pinheiro wrote.

Montmollin justified the request by indicating that under the Argentine military regime "subversion would be wiped out, but without ostensive violent repression so as to avoid suffering an international campaign like the one that has been unleashed against Chile."

The telegrams also reveal that shortly after the coup, Pinheiro notified the Brazilian government that Argentina and Paraguay had begun cooperating to eliminate left-wing guerrillas, the first step in what would eventually become known as Operation Condor.

The military governments of Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay also took part in Operation Condor.

Peron, who went into exile in Spain a few years after the coup, is facing charges of human rights violations in Argentina. Spanish police arrested the former president, now 76, in January. She could be extradited to Argentina to respond to charges her government was linked to a right-wing death squad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Guatemala: 4 Held in Killings of Salvadoran Politicians

By MARC LACEY
Published: March 21, 2007

Four suspected drug traffickers were arrested on charges that they helped orchestrate the killings of three Salvadoran politicians and their driver in Guatemala last month. Interior Minister Carlos Vielman said the suspects, three men and a woman, had ordered corrupt police officers to kidnap the lawmakers to recover money and drugs from their car. None were found. Four police officers arrested in the case were later killed in jail. A fifth officer remains in custody and one is at large, officials said.

Warning!

This is part of a foreign policy simulation for the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. The events depicted are not actually happening.