Four days have passed since Panamanian authorities discovered undeclared military weapons hidden aboard a North Korean ship, and the painstaking process of examining the entire vessel is crawling at a snail’s pace.
The ship has five cargo holds, only one of which has been emptied as of Thursday.
“The technicians on board have told us that this cargo was loaded in a way that makes it difficult to unload,” Panamanian Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino said.
The North Korean crew had resisted the Panamanian authorities and cut the cables to the onboard cranes. Panamanian investigators brought their own cranes, but removing the containers inside the cargo holds has been an “odyssey,” Mulino said.
The ship originated in Cuba, and the Cubans have admitted to owning the military equipment, claiming it was being sent to North Korea to be repaired and returned.
But many questions remain. If the weapons were not a secret, why were they hidden under sacks of sugar? Why the did the captain attempt to commit suicide?
A public prosecutor is charging the captain and 35 North Korean crew members with illegal possession of weapons and international arms trafficking, Panamanian government spokesman Eduardo Camacho said.
North Korean officials, meanwhile, asked for Panama to release the cargo ship and let the crew go.
Panama has formally asked the United Nations for guidance on how to handle the case.
“For us, it is important to finish this operation, wait for the United Nations to come, and they will decide” how to proceed, Mulino said. “Panama is completely transparent in this; we have no experience in dealing with this type of problem.”
NSA leaker Edward Snowden was supposed to be on a flight to Havana, Cuba, today. But he didn’t show up.
A plane that was expected to fly whistleblower Edward Snowden from Moscow to Cuba has left the Russian capital apparently without him.
The flight to Havana was set to be the next step on his journey to evade US justice as he seeks asylum in Ecuador.
He was reportedly checked-in for the flight but a security source told Russian news agency Interfax that he was not on it.
The Guardian and the AP’s Max Seddon t.co reported the same news. “He ain’t here.”
1. This was all an elaborate ruse to thrown people off his tail.
2. His plans changed suddenly, because he’s been offered asylum somewhere.
3. Russia bent to US pressure, and let the feds pick him up. (I judge this highly unlikely, but hey! Miracles can happen.)
4. He decided living in Ecuador was not such a great idea, after all.
[UPDATE (11:26 UTC): Now journalists are saying they never actually saw Snowden at the Moscow airport, despite quoting several Russian sources that he indeed there. The Guardian also notes that the statement from the Hong Kong government about Snowden leaving never mentioned Russia specifically as his destination.]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tweeted that he has returned home following his cancer surgery in Cuba in December. Photos released on Friday were the first time Venezuelans had seen him in two months.
In a Tweet stamped 4:11 a.m. local time (841 GMT), Chavez announced that he had returned from his convalescence. After being re-elected in October, Chavez had not yet been home for a day of his fourth presidential term, which officially began on January 10.
“We have arrived again to the Venezuelan homeland,” Chavez wrote on Twitter. “Thank you my God!! Thank you my beloved people!! We will continue the treatment here.”
This is a google translation- try to ignore the grammar errors.
I do not wish pain or death on anybody but it may be necessary to stop the crimes and human rights violations of Hugo Chavez.
The Venezuelan leader needs to use a wheelchair to get around, after the tumor spread to the bones of the hip.
Hugo Chavez’s health is worsening. The Venezuelan president would have been forced in recent weeks to use a cane to walk and even to move in a wheelchair since suffering pains in the bones of the hip. So says the journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who regularly consults Brazilian and Venezuelan doctors in the group that serves the president.
In the absence of official information on the health of Chavez, “Runrunes” that Bocaranda publishes on its website and Twitter have become one of the most reliable sources to track disease progression of Venezuelan President.
Ten months ago, Chavez declared that he had cancer in the pelvis apparently healed. But last January 26 underwent surgery for the third time due to metastases that appeared in the liver, adrenal glands and bladder, as revealed to Dr. ABC Venezuelan José Rafael Marquina, who also receives data from the medical team that takes the case.
In the last two weeks Chavez has twice requested the National Assembly for leave of absence for more than five days to continue treatment at the clinic radiological CIMEQ of Havana, for a miracle to Christ and recognizing the severe impact that radiotherapy holds body.
In his last appearance before the Venezuelan people, on Monday April 30, before leaving for Cuba in his fifteenth trip, Chavez showed visibly deteriorated. In the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Miraflores, where he said it was the last session radiation and would soon return to Caracas had to hold with both hands to the podium to stand.
Bocaranda explains, “the latest tests done yesterday [on Wednesday] to show results returned nothing positive for the patient. First results of the medical matches was to recognize that it may continue to apply radiotherapy to the pelvis, fractured as previous radiation arm of the femur. That is the source of pain. “
Chavez admitted that he could not physically presented to Venezuelans from the morning of Friday April 27 because he was “resting” and not in a position to rally. His aggravation explains his unusual silence for five days.
Bocaranda adds: “From this week will begin receiving psychological therapy to deal with any fatality, if not the miracle that requested public last Monday. A President declined physically was not shown on TV leaving the country because it had to be assisted up or down the stairs of the plane. “
For his part, Dr. Marquina has submitted the “Runrunes” of his followers Bocaranda. The last thing you said in your twitter account is: “All the information I have provided is accurate and many of the situations we are seeing now warned before.”
Marquina also notes that: “What is a bit worrying is the number of radiotherapy sessions showing how aggressive and advanced cancer.” In his interview with ABC had already stated that Cuban doctors had committed several errors, including the of supplying steroids or stimulants to Chavez, as well as wrong with the radiation, burning the patient’s vital areas.
Cuba will listen with respect to Pope Benedict XVI during his visit next week even if he differs with island leaders, the country’s foreign minister said Friday after the pontiff described Marxism as out of step with the times.
Benedict made the comment to reporters during his long flight to Mexico, the first stop in his six-day tour. While it was in keeping with the Vatican’s position, it was an unexpectedly blunt statement to come just days before he will be on Cuban soil.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez avoided any clash over the statement.
“We consider the exchange of ideas to be useful. Our people have deep convictions developed over the course of our history,” Rodriguez said at a news conference. “Cuba will listen with all respect to his holiness.”
He added that the Cuban system “is a democratic social project, genuinely chosen, which is constantly perfecting itself.”
Benedict said it is “evident that Marxist ideology as it was conceived no longer responds to reality,” and exhorted Cubans to “find new models, with patience, and in a constructive way.”
Asked about reports of harassment and detention of dissidents on the island, Benedict said the church wants “to help in the spirit of dialogue to avoid trauma and to help bring about a just and fraternal society.”
Benedict’s comments were as bold as any his predecessor, John Paul II, made during his historic 1998 tour of Cuba. But they stopped short of directly challenging the country’s single-party political model, which has been in place for five decades. Benedict arrives Monday in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.
Robert A. Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University and former national security adviser for Latin America during the Carter administration, said Benedict’s words seemed calculated to initiate a dialogue about political change while giving the Cubans space to maneuver by underscoring the importance of gradualism.
“He placed himself on the side of freedom, but not necessarily in a manner that would put the Cuban regime on the defensive,” Pastor said. “They will not be excited by this. They won’t be happy with it. But I think they have to be realistic enough to understand that the pope could say nothing less.”
Raúl Castro, a farsighted and methodical fellow, is already making contingency plans. To the dictatorship, the 110,000 barrels of oil that Venezuela contributes daily are essential. That remarkable amount of crude can be replaced by the extractions that Repsol plans to make in Cuban waters but, according to the Spanish company’s calculations, there’s only a 17 percent probability of finding that oil, and the pocket of fuel may be just a fourth of what Havana estimates.
In any case, even if found, that oil will take about two years to arrive at the Cuban power plants to generate electricity — its main purpose — and at the international markets to acquire dollars. A commission assigned to manage those hypothetical funds has already been created. Therefore, Raúl needs to prolong for at least two years the milking of the generous Venezuelan cow.
How does he plan to do it?
First, by becoming a part — very carefully though barely visible — of the mechanism of transmission of authority that will choose Chávez’s successor.
Second, by discreetly approaching Henrique Capriles, the popular candidate of the democratic opposition, who has a very high probability of winning the Oct. 7 elections.
According to the analysis of ‘the Cubans’ (as Castro’s puppeteers are called) anyone who runs against Capriles will lose. He won’t even have the opportunity to cheat without provoking a military coup from the right, which would be catastrophic for Havana.
So, the most convenient formula for Cuba is to peacefully dissolve the unnatural marriage between the two countries, but allowing the two-year period that Raúl Castro thinks he needs so the island’s economy won’t experience the same contraction it suffered after the end of the Soviet subsidy. At that time, the misery of Cubans worsened with a 50-percent plunge in consumption, leading to thousands of cases of malnutrition that caused blindness among many people (none of them members of the ruling class, of course).
Will Raúl’s maneuvers succeed? I don’t believe so. Generally, those plans never work. Things develop otherwise because they’re subject to imponderable factors, unforeseeable decisions and events.
Who would have thought that the end of the Chávez era would begin so unexpectedly?
That’s the strange beauty of history.
When Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba next month, he will once again reinforce a strategy that the Vatican has allowed the local Catholic Church there to pursue for more than three decades: diligently avoid any political confrontation with the Castro regime, collaborate with Havana to combat the U.S.-led embargo, and support the Cuban government’s incremental economic reforms. In exchange, the Church has been able to maintain a certain amount of autonomy on the island, allowing it to rebuild its presence and position for the possible post-Castro economic boom times to come.
It is a controversial balance. Cubans in the exile community vigorously criticize the Church because they think Church leadership on the island should challenge the dictatorship. But the Vatican takes the long view. Rather than overtly push for change, the Church has come to pursue a strategy of “reconciliation.” It has inserted itself as mediator between the regime and its most daring opponents, both those imprisoned and those out in the streets. The Church is present and persistent, but it is nonpartisan. The attitude harkens back to the ostpolitik it practiced during the Cold War — in most communist countries, especially in those where Catholics were a minority, clergy hunkered down, ministered to the faithful, and survived. Today, in countries ranging from Albania and Montenegro to Romania and Ukraine, Catholic communities are thriving.
According to Vatican sources engaged with Cuba, the Church remembers its experience helping to steer a peaceful transition from communism to democracy in Poland.
The Church has a storied past on the island. Think back to Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba in 1998. The occasion marked a milestone — it was the first time a pope ever set foot on the island — but the underlying history was tragic: After taking power, Fidel Castro jailed, killed, or exiled 3,500 Catholic priests and nuns. His regime confiscated seminaries and nationalized all Catholic properties. The first Cuban cardinal, Manuel Arteaga y Betancourt, took refuge in the Argentinian embassy. From 1959 to 1992, Cuba was officially an atheist state.
Then, with the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, Castro lost his massive subsidies from Moscow. Facing near starvation and isolation, he decided to pursue John Paul II, visiting him at the Vatican in 1996 and inviting him to Cuba. By opening to the Church, Castro hoped to gain recognition and trade. The pope won approval to build a new seminary, and, in addition to offering mass in four cities, he declared, “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba.”
Newt Gingrich doesn’t just want to lay waste to his political enemies and a large part of the news media. The former House speaker and presidential hopeful wants to bomb a significant part of the planet, too.
Gingrich is on the record favoring American military intervention from North Korea to Lebanon. He recently threatened cyberwar with China and Russia. And on Monday, he called for an all-out assault to topple the Castro regime in Cuba. With such a wide range of targets, no wonder Gingrich has consistently said that the U.S. is in the middle of “World War III.” His plans for overthrowing the Iranian government? Just the beginning. In fact, if President Gingrich encounters any little green men while building his moon base (!), they had better pray to their astral maker for mercy.
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spent a five day visit to Latin America where he showed that Iran still has allies south of our border. Unfortunately, very little was covered in the U.S. news media. BBC and The Economist magazine can always be counted on to print or broadcast what some chose to ignore.
Mahmoud called on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez where he got the red carpet treatment. Then he joined Hugo in the presidential inauguration of Nicaragua’s Danny Ortega for Ortega constitutionally dubious third presidential term.
He then flew on to Cuba and Ecuador.
This was his fifth trip to the LatAm region.
The US has down played all these visit as if they never happened and says there is no concern on terrorist activity from Iran.
Funny, I wonder why the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force, the foreign terrorist arm of the IRGF, has forces in Venezuela.
Many analyst claims that HizbAllah, a close IRGF surrogate, is involved in cocaine trafficking from LatAm.
HizbAllah has been reported to have access to the Mexican Los Zetas people and drug smuggling routes to smuggle people into the U.S. As things heat up with Iran… guess what might be in store for the U.S.
For Mahmoud and his LatAm host there is surely more than political theater here.