Sunday, July 25, 2010

East.Mkt. Sales, 24 Amazon Reviews, Mayor At B'day Bash, Hond. bk. in CA Alliance, Freed Cubans, Sudan, Immigrat. Ref. Allies, Cell Phones, Chavez

Ah, woe is me! Sat out in the heat and humidity at the Eastern Market for hours for the first time since my return from Hawaii—and it’s not like I have many hours to spare—and never sold a single book! Maybe I looked too wilted and sweaty or maybe everyone passing by was wilting too—a few stopped to chat and picked up some Peace Corps brochures, but, as for book sales, nada. That’s the first time that’s happened since I’ve tried sitting out there. Usually, at least one book is sold and then I feel vindicated. Direct selling is not my forte and I would not even try it unless absolutely necessary. But I now have a large inventory of books purchased in anticipation of several promised shared profit venues that proved overly optimistic. Also, had hoped my sales would help fund my Honduras health and education projects. So, at the moment, I’m still holding a number of large boxes of books at my home altogether containing at least 100 books. Over at Eastern Market, several people decades younger than me responded to my Peace Corps spiel with a laugh, “I’d thought about joining Peace Corps once upon a time, but now I’m too old.” Of course, if they consider themselves too old, they probably are. But they could still read my book and find out what they are missing! And at least a few copies are sold every week on, but please remind me never make a huge bulk order again.

Also, this weekend, when the temperature in DC is peaking at 100+ degrees, putting me in mind of southern Honduras, I didn’t even go out to the market to sell books. This non-stop east-coast heat wave has my short-term housemate Nancy from Kenya yearning to get back to moderate Nairobi, where she will return in early August. My kids’ suggestion that I move to Hawaii sounds more inviting than ever—no snow, no record heat, gentle ocean breezes, and light showers before dawn freshening the flowering trees, though there are occasional hurricanes and, at least on the Big Island, volcanic activity. Was unable to uplaod a photo of my family in Hawaii, but it does appear on my Facebook page.

On my book’s plus side, an e-mail message came in from a retired librarian in another state giving it somewhat exaggerated, but welcome, praise: I just finished your book…It is one of the best books I have ever read. Your story inspires me.

I also now have 24 reviews on Amazon, 22 5-star, 2 4-star. I wonder if potential readers actually look at the reviews? Also, how does Amazon organize the reviews’ listing? Not alphabetically or chronologically.

Neglected to mention that the U of Hawaii folks had given me a jar of passion fruit jam after my talk there, but I wasn’t allowed to bring it through airport security because it was considered a “jell.” I could have checked that bag, but that would have meant going through security again, making me late for my flight and cost $25 for a checked bag (Continental Airlines).

Friday evening, went to a Spanish-language poetry reading with Jose Manuel, who had come to live at my house in 1996. JM had been a librarian in Cuba who’d decided in 1995 to leave by raft—his boat included family members of Mario Chanes, the world’s longest serving political prisoner. They were intercepted by the US Coast Guard, which took them all to G’tmo, where they stayed for over a year until Pres. Clinton relented and let them come to the US. Jose, in addition to many other talents, is an accomplished poet and had five poems included in a recently published anthology, debuting that evening. Between musical interludes, each featured poet read one poem aloud to the gathered audience. To my surprise, a former lover also appeared there, someone I hadn’t seen since before I left for Peace Corps. He was wearing a white linen suit and was accompanied by a lady friend wearing stockings and nail polish (not my style). He looked much older than when I last saw him (as, indeed, is true also of me). Actually, he’s the very same guy who had predicted that I’d “be home by Christmas at the latest” from Peace Corps, part of my impetus to stay on, just to prove him wrong. I went up and shook his hand, much to his surprise, as he hadn’t noticed me,

Last night, at a friend’s birthday party, who should come by to have a bite and use the facilities but DC Mayor Adrian Fenty on a neighborhood campaign swing. He is being strongly challenged in the Sept. Democratic primary by City Council Chair Vincent Gray. I told Fenty how much I’d appreciated his office’s resolution of my longstanding tax problem with DC government, stemming from the time of my Peace Corps service. A young man in Fenty’s entourage pressed me to agree to put a Fenty sign in my front yard.

Lest this blog veer completely away from its main theme of Honduras, I am pleased to report that Honduras is back in the Central America regional political and economic fold after being expelled when Zelaya was removed, with only Nicaragua voting in contra. But Honduras has not yet been readmitted to the OAS.

Last time on this blog, I mentioned the pending release of 52 Cuban political prisoners, all considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience, that is, individuals incarcerated only for their peaceful opinions or associations. By the way, my report on the Cuban prisoner release last time had a portion missing, but you got the idea—and probably have read more ample accounts by now in the mainstream press.

Among the newly released prisoners is Normando Hernandez, a journalist whose mother has been a member of the Women in White and now lives in Miami. Normando had been hospitalized frequently during his incarceration, which originally carried a 25-year sentence. I phoned his mother to congratulate her, but had to leave my greetings on her answering machine as no one picked up. Probably she is in Madrid, welcoming her son to freedom after seven grueling years in prison. His wife and daughter were expected to be allowed to join him there. (See more items below from AFP, Agence France-Presse tying the prisoner release with the possible lifting of the US embargo against Cuba.)

Also, below, see about one of Hugo Chavez’s more bizarre performances (Washington Post).

Unfortunately, no surprise to get the following Amnesty International news about Sudan:

Sudan: Human rights defenders at risk in Sudan
The human rights situation in Sudan is critical. Armed clashes continue to escalate in southern Sudan, and the conflict in Darfur has intensified during 2010. In Sudan, human rights defenders play a crucial role, calling for human rights to be upheld and for those responsible for human rights violations to be held accountable. The National Security Act makes this role increasingly difficult. Human rights defenders in exile have the right to return home and freely practice their activities. Those who remain in Sudan need protection now.

Was heartened to read in the NYTimes that some evangelical preachers have united to support comprehensive immigration reform (“Obama Wins Unlikely Allies in Immigration”). About 15% of US-based Hispanics are evangelicals, comprising a growing segment within evangelical churches. Spokesmen for mainstream religions, Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish, have already come out in favor of immigration reform. However, any reform is unlikely to occur in this election year.

Heard an expert say in a radio interview that more people in the world have access to a cell phone than to a flush toilet. I do believe it. I’ve seen Honduran peasants with no hope of ever having a house with plumbing or electricity holding tightly onto their cell phone, providing their only communication link with family, friends, and beyond. Cell phones have a resulted in a worldwide communications revolution and some also have camera and mini-computer functions—all in a tiny portable apparatus.
Re Cuba prisoner release, from AFP, July 21, 2010

Cuba's release of all its political prisoners would improve its relations with Europe and United States, and could lead to the lifting of a US embargo, the Spanish foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Miguel Angel Moratinos welcomed as "good news" Cuban parliament chief Ricardo Alarcon's announcement to AFP on Tuesday that his "government's wish is to free all the people" not accused of murder.

The Spanish foreign minister said before parliament that such releases would yield "political consequences" for relations with the European Union and the United States, in particular a possible "lifting of the embargo" that Washington has maintained against Cuba since 1962.

In a Spain-brokered deal struck between the Catholic Church and Havana, Cuba agreed this month to free 52 of 75 detainees who had been sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of up to 28 years.

Eleven freed prisoners have already emigrated to Spain with their families. A twelfth prisoner arrived on Wednesday and another eight were expected to arrive in Madrid later on Wednesday as part of Cuba's biggest release of political prisoners in over a decade.
According to Cuban dissidents, 115 political prisoners remain in Cuba in addition to the 52 released.

In light of the releases, Moratinos urged the European Union to change its "joint position" linking dialogue with Cuba to progress on human rights. He told Spanish lawmakers that there was nothing "coincidental" in the releases and that they were the fruit of a six-year dialogue with the Cuban government.

Moratinos said he wanted to replace the EU's "joint position" on Cuba with a "cooperation accord" despite the reluctance of some countries, including Germany and France.
Last five dissidents leave Cuba
July 23, 2010

[Accessed 24 July 2010 at]

The last five of a group of recently freed Cuban dissidents left for Madrid on Thursday, the Spanish Embassy said.Jorge Luis Gonzalez, 39, Blas Giraldo Reyes, 54, Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo, 44, Jesus Mustafa, 66, and 47-year-old Antonio Diaz boarded a commercial flight that will arrive in the Spanish capital on Friday, an embassy spokesman said. Izquierdo, however, may take another flight out of Madrid for Chile, after Santiago on Monday said it would welcome him and his family.

The five dissidents completed the list of 20 who have accepted residency in Spain after Spain helped broker a deal reached on July 7 between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church to gradually free 52 detainees.
The remaining prisoners will remain in Cuba or leave for the United States. The US Interest Section in Havana on Tuesday offered refugee status to all freed dissidents and their families who wish to travel to the United States and began interviewing prospective immigrants.

The deal, the largest release of Cuban prisoners since 1998 when 300 dissidents were spared jail time following a visit by then pope John Paul II, came after dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death.
Havana wants to avoid a repeat of the death in detention of political prisoner Orlando Zapata on February 23, as it seeks closer international ties to improve its slumping economy. And Cuba's parliamentary chief Ricardo Alarcon has said the country was ready to release more detainees.

Elizardo Sanchez, the president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, a non-governmental organisation that is tolerated by the government, said a further 50 or 60 political prisoners could be freed.

Cuban dissidents said there were approximately 170 political prisoners in Cuban jails before the announced release.
Behind exhumation of Simón Bolívar is Hugo Chávez’s warped obsession
By Thor Halvorssen, Washington Post
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shortly after midnight on July 16, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reached back in time. He presided at the exhumation of the remains of Simón Bolívar -- Latin America's greatest independence hero, who helped liberate the region from Spain in the 19th century, and the object of Chávez's personal and political obsession.
The skeleton was pulled apart. Pieces were removed, such as teeth and bone fragments, for "testing." The rest was put in a new coffin with the Chávez government's seal. Chávez, who also tweeted the proceedings, gave a rambling speech in which he asked Christ to repeat his Lazarus miracle and raise the dead once more. He also apparently conversed with Bolívar's bones.

"I had some doubts," Chávez told his nation, paraphrasing the poet Pablo Neruda, "but after seeing his remains, my heart said, 'Yes, it is me.' Father, is that you, or who are you? The answer: 'It is me, but I awaken every hundred years when the people awaken.' "

By presidential decree, every television station in Venezuela showed images of Bolívar in historic paintings, then images of the skeleton, and then images of Chávez, with the national anthem blaring. The message of this macabre parody was unmistakable: Chávez is not a follower of Bolívar -- Chávez is Bolívar, reincarnated. And anyone who opposes or criticizes him is a traitor not just to Chávez but to history.

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