WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The wife of a U.S. aid contractor jailed in Cuba has written to President Raul Castro expressing her husband’s regret for his work there and told Reuters the White House has done little to gain his release.
Judy Gross said that in the letter, which Castro read but did not respond to, she pleaded with him to free her husband Alan because their daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and he is needed at home.
The United States’ influence in its traditional “backyard” is waning and needs a boost. Washington should be forging closer ties with Latin America’s emerging powerhouse Brazil, says Johns Hopkins political scientist Riordan Roett.
Best way to do that? Send the Obamas to Brazil because Brazilians will go nuts about the U.S. First Family.
The swastika made of refried beans smeared onto the glass doors of the Arizona State Capitol this week captured the anger of Hispanics at the law authorizing local police to question anyone reasonably suspected of being in the United States illegally. The controvesial law, which critics say is a mandate for racial profiling, has galvanized the country’s largest minority that is expected to turn out in large numbers at planned rallies in more than 70 U.S. cities.
Hispanics were disappointed that President Barack Obama failed to deliver on his campaign promise to overhaul the immigration system in his first year in office. The Pew Research Center says 76 percent of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the United States are Hispanics. The Latino community sees the undocumented immigrants as contributing with their labor to the growth of the U.S. economy and deserve the right to be legal residents.
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on 35,000 armed militias on Tuesday to defend his socialist revolution with their lives if necessary as he faces a test of its popularity in elections in September.
Young militias raised assault rifles and clenched fists in the air when Chavez entered the parade area in Caracas in an open military jeep for a rally marking the anniversary of an abortive coup that ousted him briefly in 2002.
CARACAS, April 13 (Reuters) – A Venezuelan website that has
poked fun at leftist President Hugo Chavez for two years has
become a roaring success on the Internet, where its authors set
up their satirical blog to avoid censorship.
Juan Andres Ravell and Oswaldo Graziani, former television
scriptwriters, say the main aim of their blog, The Bipolar
Capybara (www.elchiguirebipolar.com/), is to make people
laugh and lighten the polarized political environment.
CARACAS, April 7 (Reuters) – Heavy downpours that have swept away two people and flooded homes in central Venezuela were hailed by President Hugo Chavez as an early start to the rainy season that may mark the end of an electricity crisis.
Chavez’s popularity has been dented since a severe drought exposed problems in the oil-exporting nation’s hydro-dependent grid and led to strict power rationing.
"The rains have officially arrived," Chavez said at a ceremony to mark a visit by Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica.
The National Weather Institute, however, said the recent rains were due to a temporary weather pattern and that the rainy season would not start for another month.
Electrical Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez said he planned to extend a 60-day electricity emergency, which allows the government to mobilize resources to deal with the crisis and ration power supplies, the state news agency ABN said.
Water levels at the OPEC member’s hydroelectric dams have dropped to critically low levels amid the worst drought in a century, which is blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The power shortages and rationing could boost opposition prospects in legislative elections in September that will be a curtain-raiser for a 2012 presidential election.
A boy bathing in a swollen river and his father who dived in to rescue him were missing after being swept away on Tuesday in the central state of Yaracuy, state governor Julio Leon said, adding that 400 homes had also been flooded.
Television images showed people wading in thigh-high water. Light rainfall cleared the skies in the capital Caracas, where forest fires have filled the air with smoke for weeks.
GURI DAM CRUCIAL
But attention was fixed on Venezuela’s largest reservoir, the Guri, where the water level was only 30 feet (9.4 metres) above one of the dam’s main turbines. Authorities have said flows from the dam would have to halt if water fell to that level. That could knock out the national grid.
Chavez, who has accused his opponents of sabotaging some power plants, said the recent rain had increased river flows in the southern state where El Guri is located and that the government’s energy- and water-rationing were working.
"We have put the brakes on the drop in the dam’s water levels; that’s why we had to apply energy-saving measures," Chavez said on Tuesday night.
Minister Rodriguez said the electrical system would not collapse and measures to save energy and increase generating capacity were "progressively" stabilizing power supplies.
"There will be no collapse. The government’s policy has been effective," he said at a news conference.
But he said the welcome rainfall was no guarantee that reservoir water levels would rise, so rationing will continue.
Venezuela depends on hydro generation for more than 70 percent of its power, and the shortages are jeopardizing its ability to emerge from recession.
The government has put in place energy-saving measures since December, and light industry and businesses have been told to slash electricity use by 20 percent or face being cut off — even as Venezuela’s economy suffers a recession that led to gross domestic product shrinking 3.3 percent last year.
A lack of investment to maintain and expand the country’s electrical system during a period of rapidly rising consumption also lies behind the power crisis. (Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, writing by Anthony Boadle, editing by Eric Beech)
Russian PM Vladimir Putin flew all the way to Venezuela for a quick 12-hour visit to boost oil and military ties with President Hugo Chavez, the loudest basher of U.S. “imperialism” in Washington’s backyard.
Besides guns, tanks, jet fighters and missiles, Chavez wants a Russian hand in developing nuclear energy to cope with chronic electricity shortages in his oil-producing country, and technology to start a space industry.
MIAMI (Reuters) – The U.S. military said on Sunday it was doing its best to get as many planes as possible into Port-au-Prince, after NGOs complained shipments of aid had not been allowed to land at the U.S.-controlled airport.
More than 30 countries have rushed relief to Haiti since Tuesday’s devastating earthquake, choking the airspace and the ramp at the small airfield and delaying the arrival of urgently needed medical and food supplies.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – It’s too soon for Americans to plan a Cuban vacation of beach, mambo and mojitos, but the U.S. travel industry is gearing up for a return to its largest Caribbean destination before Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
Tour operators held a video conference with Cuban tourism officials in Havana on Wednesday and asked them if they are ready for the “rush” of Americans if the U.S. travel ban is lifted as proposed by legislation now under consideration in the U.S. Congress.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Cuban musician barred from the United States by the Bush administration performed in Washington on Thursday and had lunch with a White House official in a new sign of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.
Singer-songwriter Carlos Varela, whose songs capture the disenchantment of young Cubans, was given a three-week visa by the Obama administration, which has sought to improve ties with Cuba’s communist government.