Sunday, November 15, 2015

Family, Paris, South Sudan, Haiti, Cuba

My daughter Stephanie had her 43rd birthday (yikes!) this month and posted a photo of herself at age one with her late brother Andrew, out at a rural property we owned and where I used to take the children on weekends. In December, we will be 21 years since we lost Andrew. And here is my youngest grandchild, Kingston, with father Jonathan and aunt Stephanie in Honolulu.

Surely, there will be repercussions from the Paris attacks on the willingness of European nations, as well as the US and Canada, to take in Syrian migrants and asylum seekers.  

Only two people survived a crash in South Sudan of an old Soviet cargo plane, a man and a stranger’s baby whom he held in his arms. [photo of similar plane] Such planes are a common form of transportation in South Sudan, which has few roads and other means of transport. I flew in them myself when I was in Sudan in 2006, sitting either on actual cargo or on benches along the sides of the aircraft. In hindsight, such a plane was not the most airworthy—likewise with the old Soviet transports being used by Cubana Airlines when I was traveling to Cuba in the 1990s. The one that took me from Santiago to Santo Domingo, on my last flight out in 1997, was certainly lacking in interior amenities, like air conditioning and intact seats.

Correction: the Peace Corps has not left Ecuador, as I had thought before. I don’t know if I had mentioned that here. It did pull out of Bolivia at the request of the president. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have given lip-service for some years now to the idea of having 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers, but never put the necessary money behind it. As a result, the numbers have hovered around 7,000 and countries asking for volunteers are not being accommodated and qualified applicants are being turned away.

Writing in the Washington Post, 11-8-2015, a deputy editorial page editor, argues that President Obama’s gentle and generous overtures to Burma, Iran, and Cuba have only allowed the dictatorial leadership of those nations to reap advantages that will actually help them consolidate their rule and maintain their positions. That’s a position that many in Congress and in the voting public also endorse.

In Haiti, international observers, led by the Organization of American States, which monitors elections across Latin America, acknowledged some voting irregularities, but has largely sanctioned the first round of voting.
But eight presidential candidates have called for an investigation into the voting that put Jovenel Moise, who is backed by President Martelly, in the lead with 32 percent of the vote. Initially, 54 candidates were vying for the presidency.  
A runoff election is scheduled for Dec. 27 between Moise and Jude Celestin, which is expected to be the final round of voting that will determine the next president of the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

Fidel Castro’s youngest son, Antonio, is quite the jet-setter, being photographed (with some difficulty) at various watering holes with his entourage and security apparatus.  His exploits are detailed in “The travels of Gulliver, Jr.” and published in the Tribuna de la Havana (Havana Tribune) weekly. Read more here:

The Double Life of Fidel Castro
 by Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, in his security service for 26 years and his personal body guard for 17, I found quite credible in its wealth of detail. Sanchez must have an excellent memory or else kept good notes, since he long had the idea of possibly writing a book about his extraordinary experiences. His co-writer was a French journalist. As a fellow writer and nitpicky former editor, I found a few glitches, a mis-translation of either Spanish or English and a French word thrown in, perhaps because the book was written originally in French or Spanish—not sure which—with the English version only published later, coming out this year just when the author suddenly died. But, at least, he got it all down on paper and managed to see his book in print. He escaped Cuba by a raft to Mexico in 2008 after he had been imprisoned for asking to retire—though probably the real reason he was jailed was that his brother and daughter were living in Miami. The book only confirms what an egomaniac Fidel was (and still is?), insisting on the most extravagant secret luxuries, including trips to a private resort island, inviting special guests, like Garcia Marquez, while keeping his subjects in degradation. We all knew the execution of General Ochoa was carried out for fake reasons, but Sanchez confirms it. Fidel even had their executions filmed, a film that Sanchez saw. It’s also not surprising to learn that Fidel intervened aggressively in Chile.

I’d heard before that Fidel had counseled Daniel Ortega not to run for election in 1990, where I was an election observer and witnessed his ignominious defeat. But the UNO parties that united then around Violeta forgot that lesson and let Ortega win more recently with only a one-third majority. Once he got his foot back in the door, he rigged things so he could continue, even though the Nicaraguan constitution presumably forbade consecutive terms, and the presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia have followed his example

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