Entries in Latin America (3)


Why Are Latin American Countries Saying Yes to Snowden?

iStockphoto(NEW YORK) -- The presidents of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have publicly expressed interest in granting asylum to former CIA analyst Edward Snowden who is wanted by the United States on charges of revealing classified government information.

On Friday WikiLeaks, the organization that publishes private, and often top secret, information from anonymous sources, announced in a post on Twitter that Snowden "applied to another six countries for asylum." The tweet came after an earlier announcement that claimed Snowden had made similar applications to 21 nations last week.

Out of a total of at least 27 asylum requests only three countries said yes. They all happen to be Latin American countries.

"We have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the American Edward Snowden to protect him from the persecution being unleashed by the world's most powerful empire,'' said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in a speech at a parade commemorating Venezuela's July 5 independence day.

"He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world," Maduro went on to say.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also said his country would receive Snowden if "circumstances permit."

"We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum, and it's clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua," Ortega said during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital Managua, according to Reuters.

On Saturday, Bolivian President Evo Morales became the latest Latin American leader to say Snowden is welcomed in his country.

Morales said his asylum announcement is a sign of protest against the U.S. and European nations because they rerouted his plane home from Moscow because of suspicion Snowden on board.

Speaking about Snowden, Morales said, "I want to tell Europeans and North Americans that as just protest, we will now give asylum to the North American pursued by his countrymen. We do not have any fear," the president said in Spanish at a public appearance on Saturday.

The plane incident changed the Latin American nations' position on Snowden, Gregory Weeks, director of Latin American studies at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte told

"Now Maduro feels he has a chance to establish himself as a leader who responds when U.S. imperialism exerts itself over the region," Weeks said. "For Maduro, the best case scenario would be if Snowden never comes. That way he can say that he is fighting the U.S. without actually having to do it."

León Krauze, a frequent contributor to ABC News/Univision and news anchor at Los Angeles' Univision station KMEX, says the Latin American presidents' announcements are "politically convenient and go with a deep rooted tradition in Latin America."

"Obviously, granting asylum for Snowden is a symbolic gesture and a way of playing on the anti-American tradition from Latin America's left," says Krauze.

"To antagonize the United States is quite useful as a political tool in Latin America in particular; it's rooted in understandable resentment and political pragmatism," Krauze went on to say. "Fidel Castro has used it for fifty-plus years, Chavez used it quite effectively, as well." Krauze said.

"Obviously the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have this ideologic coincidence of being anti-American, at least in rhetoric, and it is almost part of their mission," Krauze said.

According to WikiLeaks, asylum requests were made to a number of countries including Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, the Swiss Confederation and Venezuela.

Unless Snowden can travel to Venezuela, Bolivia or Nicaragua on a private flight that reportedly would cost upwards of $200,000, he will have to make a connection in Cuba, involving yet another Latin American country.

U.S. officials told ABC News last week they believe the Cubans want nothing to do with Snowden. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that Snowden failed to board previous flights to Cuba, when safe haven in Ecuador appeared to be an option.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Can Egypt Learn from Latin America's Revolutions?

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- On Wednesday, the Egyptian army overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, in response to nearly a week of violent protests and social unrest. Egyptian defense minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi announced that the military would temporarily suspend the constitution and prepare new parliamentary elections.

Shortly after, fireworks erupted over Cairo's Tahrir Square. Crowds cheered the military’s road map, and liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei -- a Nobel Peace Prize recipient -- called the event a new stage in the Arab Spring, the 2011 revolution that led to the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Dozens of countries throughout history have experienced military takeovers. In Latin America, the story is fairly common: There were at least 30 coup d’état attempts, 22 of them successful, in the region from 1945 to 1976. It’s a story that (despite big political, social and historical differences) can offer several valuable lessons.

Obviously, there are significant differences between what happened in Latin America during the second half of the 20th century and what happened recently in Egypt. For one thing, religion did not play as central a role in Latin America's revolutions as it has in Egypt. The Hispanic world's chief rallying cries related to social and economic issues influenced by Marxism, and, later, by the Cuban revolution. In Egypt, meanwhile, the religious element -- exemplified by some of the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s party -- is an important source of discontent that, is now pitting liberals against democrats.

Nevertheless, the army’s actions and the celebratory remarks that ensued from intellectuals like ElBaradei can be related to certain events in Latin America history.

“I think that in certain political moments, it can seem like an easy solution for a military institution to step in,” said Kirsten Weld, a Harvard professor who specializes in modern Latin American history. “But I don’t think that there are easy answers to the kinds of political divisions that you see in contemporary Egypt today, or to those that you saw in Chile in the early 1970s, or in Argentina in the mid-1970s.”

In 1973, right-wing and middle-class Chileans rejoiced at Salvador Allende’s death and the ascent to power of General Augusto Pinochet. (“This is a time of triumph and joy,” a truck-owner told the New York Times in the days following the coup.) In Argentina, in 1976, Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentinian writer, welcomed the new military junta that deposed Isabel Martínez de Perón as a “gentlemen’s government.”

Years later, most of those who had hailed military intervention recanted their words and looked back at what happened with shame. More than 3,000 people were killed or disappeared under Pinochet’s regime, and the Chilean government in 2011 acknowledged the claims of more than 40,000 victims. In Argentina, the “gentlemen’s government” kidnapped children and pregnant women, and disappeared nearly 30,000 people, according to human rights organizations.

By 1980, Borges had already realized his mistake. “I find it impossible to ignore the grave existing problems related to terrorism and repression,” Borges told La Prensa. “Nothing will prevent me from speaking about those deaths and disappearances.”

 In both cases -- and in most of the Latin American coups -- military autonomy led to human rights violations that have a cast shadow over the region’s history.

“After a coup, the army doesn’t have any accountability,” said James Green, a professor of history and Brazilian culture at Brown University. “And that’s the danger: there is no reason to think that the military won’t do terrible things in Egypt now, much like they did in Brazil and in other Latin American countries.”

Without any checks or balances in place, military juntas in Latin America usually tried to solve the country’s issues by aggressively targeting groups they considered responsible for social unrest. In places like Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Peru the military’s solutions often involved disappearances, torture and murder.

“History shows time and time again that what the military does when they are in control is far from what is in the best interest of large parts of the population,” Weld said. “If you end up being part of the segment of the population that the military feels is part of the problem, then you might be targeted for extermination.”

There is no reason to assume that this will happen in Egypt. There, the army has set forth a road map for new elections, it has named the nation's chief justice interim president, and is reportedly favoring ElBaradei, a respected intellectual, as the leader of a transitional government.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to forget that the army is ousting a democratically elected leader to supposedly promote democracy.

Morsi, who denounced the takeover as a military coup and rejected the army’s demands, was taken into custody on Wednesday, along with several of his aides.

People living in rural areas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s main electorate, have already expressed their concern over the event, and some are predicting a civil war.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Sunday, and on Wednesday hundreds were injured during protests and clashes with security forces.

As Green puts it, “You are playing with fire if you are using the military to establish a democracy.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Making a Latin America Trade Connection

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(SANTIAGO, Chile) -- President Obama continues on his dual-path trip to Latin America -- tending to coalition military force in Libya while simultaneously selling the U.S. as an excellent trade partner in the region -- with his eyes on the prize of creating more jobs in the U.S.
In Chile Monday, as he did in Brazil over the weekend, Obama discussed ways to expand the economic relationship the U.S. and Chile share, beyond the current free trade agreement that has been in effect for the last seven years.
“Under our existing trade agreement, trade between the United States and Chile has more than doubled, creating new jobs and opportunities in both our countries,” Obama said after meeting with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera.  “But I believe and President Pinera believes that there's always more we can do to expand our economic cooperation.”
Obama’s focus in Chile will be on clean energy partnerships, even as Chile has agreed not to build any nuclear power plants in the near future, and on fully implementing the free trade agreement to include protections of intellectual property, as well as eliminating 134 tariffs this year alone. 
But Obama was also wooing the region as a whole, by offering “open skies” agreements to reduce government interference in commercial air travel, promoting a Pacific rim partnership, and announcing an educational exchange program that seeks to send 100,000 U.S. students across Latin America to study -- and make sure an equal number come to the U.S.
“Today, Latin America is democratic.  Virtually all the people of Latin America have gone from living under dictatorships to living in democracies,” Obama said at an event sponsored by the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America. “We are citizens who know that ensuring that democracies deliver for our people must be the work of us all. This is our history.  This is our heritage.  We are all Americans.  Todos somos Americanos.”
Building a strong economic region, Obama said, is a mission that started under Kennedy as an ambitious plan to use massive amounts of U.S. government money to combat illiteracy, improve the productivity and use of land, wipe out disease and provide educational opportunities, all in an effort to bring stability and trade to the region.  While much of that mission has remained the same, the method needed now, Obama says, is growing commercial “equal” partnerships, not maintaining a “senior partner” versus “junior partner” government relationships.
“When Latin America is more prosperous, the United States is more prosperous,” he said.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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