Friday, April 17, 2015 EDITORIAL

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THE SADISTIC VILLAINY
Nab and indict sex offenders on DU campus

Much-cherished festive cheery rejoicings and traditional celebration of Navavarsha on the Bengali New Year’s Day—-hailed by all Bengali-speaking people in the country—-was sadistically tarnished by despicable one-and-a-half-hour-long diabolic incidents of sexual assault on women who screamed for help on the Dhaka University (DU) campus when some 30 to 40 devilish youths launched physical attack and sexually harassed around 20 women at the Suhrawardy Udyan gate in the capital near the Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) area around 6:00 p.m. before sunset.
Policemen were on duty nearby but none rushed to the locale of occurrence. Although the Shahbagh Police Station is located within a stone’s throw from the scene, and allegedly law enforcers were stationed some 20 yards away from the spot, they played the role of bystanders and did nothing to rescue the victim women or arrest those who launched the sexual assault.
A Chhatra Union (CU) leader, Amit Dey, who was seriously wounded in the scuffle that ensued  as he tried to rescue the victims—-they were of all ages from minor girls to young women to a middle-aged woman. One woman was begging of the culprits to give her six-year old daughter back who had been snatched from her and thrown out on the pavement, while her brother was beaten up. As Liton, Amit and Sujan, all from the CU, made frantic efforts to protect the women, the scoundrels took her clothes off, the Manav Zamin reported on 16 April. Lyton Nandi gave away his shirt to the denuded woman to cover herself. Five miscreants were caught and handed over to the police, butalas,police set them free. 
The DMP installed around 19 CCTV cameras in the Shahbagh area with three to four cameras were positioned right around the spot. But even one day after the incident, police could not even identify the culprits, let alone arrest them. However, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mohammad Asaduzzaman Miah claimed no incident of sexual assault took place on the campus on 14 April. He also claimed police did not allow any outsider in the campus area, reported The Daily Star. Miah also said the police were scrutinising footage of the CCTV cameras installed in the campus area. “It would take us some time since the recorded footage is around 48 hours long.”
Disagreeing with the DMP commissioner, witnesses gave a vivid description of the assault. Liton Nandi, president of CU’s DU unit, said a group of youths tore off almost the whole of a 25-year-old woman’s clothes in front of the Suhrawardy Udyan gate. “As soon as we rescued her, we saw several youths assault another woman in front of her husband and child. We came under attack as we tried to stop them,” he told The Daily Star. The attack left Nandi’s right arm broken.
Another activist of the party, Amit Dey, said law enforcers played the role of bystanders. “When we sought help from a few policemen standing 20 yards from the spot, they said that the area was beyond their jurisdiction,” said Dey who also came under attack by the youths and had his fingers fractured.
Fortunately Dey along with five of his fellow activists had tried to save a group of women aged between 25-30 years from the rowdy youths. “The youths were divided into three groups and each group had 10-12 of them. They rescued a 10-year-old minor girl from the spot. “Her dress was torn. I was shocked to see there were bite marks on her body. She was seriously injured,” he said. “The girl came with her elder brother and mother. Her brother was beaten by one group while another took the mother away.”
Hyperbolised as the self-styled Oxford of the East five decades back, the DU’s reputation seriously diminished as the most atrocious murders in the history of the varsity took place on 4 April 1974, when seven young men were lined up and gunned down in the internecine in-fighting of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the pro-Awami League student group. Ex-VC of the National University and professor of Political Science at the DU, Dr. Aftab Ahmed was shot dead on the campus in October 2006. The latest victim was Abhijit Roy who was stabbed to death on 27 February.
The whole list of litany of violence, murders and gun battles is quite long as goons among the so-called students continued to rule the roost. Miscreants attacked and mercilessly beat up the son and granddaughters of Ekushey Padak winner photographer Manjur Alam Beg on DU campus. In the attack, Beg’s son Imtiaz Alam Beg and his two nieces Saba Ahmed and Rubaiya Ahmed sustained injuries. The DU authorities on 7 November 2014 identified four activists of BCL to be involved in the brutal attack on a photographer and his two nieces at the DU campus. The accused are activists of the very same BCL unit in the Shaidullah Hall.
To look back, a series of rapes and incidents of sexual harassment by student cadres of BCL of the Jahangirnagar University students were reported in a popular Bangla tabloid on 17 August 1998.  A fact-finding committee later disclosed, as reported in a foremost English daily on 26 September 1998, that a total of 20 JU female students were raped on the campus and 300 were sexually assaulted by BCL members. Jasimuddin Manik of the JU unit of BCL, who celebrated a century of rapes, was on the top of the list of seven persons accused of having committed rapes.
To say the least, arrest and indictment of sex offenders on DU campus near the TSC brooks no delay.

Comment

Much-cherished festive cheery rejoicings and traditional celebration of Navavarsha on the Bengali New Year’s Day—-hailed by all Bengali-speaking people in the country—-was sadistically tarnished by despicable one-and-a-half-hour-long diabolic incidents of sexual assault on women who screamed for help on the Dhaka University (DU) campus when some 30 to 40 devilish youths launched physical attack and sexually harassed around 20 women at the Suhrawardy Udyan gate in the capital near the Teacher-Student Centre (TSC) area around 6:00 p.m. before sunset.
Policemen were on duty nearby but none rushed to the locale of occurrence. Although the Shahbagh Police Station is located within a stone’s throw from the scene, and allegedly law enforcers were stationed some 20 yards away from the spot, they played the role of bystanders and did nothing to rescue the victim women or arrest those who launched the sexual assault.
A Chhatra Union (CU) leader, Amit Dey, who was seriously wounded in the scuffle that ensued  as he tried to rescue the victims—-they were of all ages from minor girls to young women to a middle-aged woman. One woman was begging of the culprits to give her six-year old daughter back who had been snatched from her and thrown out on the pavement, while her brother was beaten up. As Liton, Amit and Sujan, all from the CU, made frantic efforts to protect the women, the scoundrels took her clothes off, the Manav Zamin reported on 16 April. Lyton Nandi gave away his shirt to the denuded woman to cover herself. Five miscreants were caught and handed over to the police, butalas,police set them free. 
The DMP installed around 19 CCTV cameras in the Shahbagh area with three to four cameras were positioned right around the spot. But even one day after the incident, police could not even identify the culprits, let alone arrest them. However, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mohammad Asaduzzaman Miah claimed no incident of sexual assault took place on the campus on 14 April. He also claimed police did not allow any outsider in the campus area, reported The Daily Star. Miah also said the police were scrutinising footage of the CCTV cameras installed in the campus area. “It would take us some time since the recorded footage is around 48 hours long.”
Disagreeing with the DMP commissioner, witnesses gave a vivid description of the assault. Liton Nandi, president of CU’s DU unit, said a group of youths tore off almost the whole of a 25-year-old woman’s clothes in front of the Suhrawardy Udyan gate. “As soon as we rescued her, we saw several youths assault another woman in front of her husband and child. We came under attack as we tried to stop them,” he told The Daily Star. The attack left Nandi’s right arm broken.
Another activist of the party, Amit Dey, said law enforcers played the role of bystanders. “When we sought help from a few policemen standing 20 yards from the spot, they said that the area was beyond their jurisdiction,” said Dey who also came under attack by the youths and had his fingers fractured.
Fortunately Dey along with five of his fellow activists had tried to save a group of women aged between 25-30 years from the rowdy youths. “The youths were divided into three groups and each group had 10-12 of them. They rescued a 10-year-old minor girl from the spot. “Her dress was torn. I was shocked to see there were bite marks on her body. She was seriously injured,” he said. “The girl came with her elder brother and mother. Her brother was beaten by one group while another took the mother away.”
Hyperbolised as the self-styled Oxford of the East five decades back, the DU’s reputation seriously diminished as the most atrocious murders in the history of the varsity took place on 4 April 1974, when seven young men were lined up and gunned down in the internecine in-fighting of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the pro-Awami League student group. Ex-VC of the National University and professor of Political Science at the DU, Dr. Aftab Ahmed was shot dead on the campus in October 2006. The latest victim was Abhijit Roy who was stabbed to death on 27 February.
The whole list of litany of violence, murders and gun battles is quite long as goons among the so-called students continued to rule the roost. Miscreants attacked and mercilessly beat up the son and granddaughters of Ekushey Padak winner photographer Manjur Alam Beg on DU campus. In the attack, Beg’s son Imtiaz Alam Beg and his two nieces Saba Ahmed and Rubaiya Ahmed sustained injuries. The DU authorities on 7 November 2014 identified four activists of BCL to be involved in the brutal attack on a photographer and his two nieces at the DU campus. The accused are activists of the very same BCL unit in the Shaidullah Hall.
To look back, a series of rapes and incidents of sexual harassment by student cadres of BCL of the Jahangirnagar University students were reported in a popular Bangla tabloid on 17 August 1998.  A fact-finding committee later disclosed, as reported in a foremost English daily on 26 September 1998, that a total of 20 JU female students were raped on the campus and 300 were sexually assaulted by BCL members. Jasimuddin Manik of the JU unit of BCL, who celebrated a century of rapes, was on the top of the list of seven persons accused of having committed rapes.
To say the least, arrest and indictment of sex offenders on DU campus near the TSC brooks no delay.


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Afghanistan-US reset their relations

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

President Ashraf Ghani and Chief executive  Abdullah of Afghanistan arrived in the United States on 22nd march  for a five-day visit which was occupied with series of meetings, lunches, and dinners with President Obama, US Secretary of State,  John Kerry,  top American diplomats, members of Congress, the news media and others.
The two presidents – Obama and Ghani – reportedly discussed security issues, economic development and US support for a reconciliation process with the Taliban and it was the two leaders’ first White House meeting since Afghanistan’s presidential elections last year.
After the departure of President Karzai,  President Ghani  sought to re-set the bilateral relations with the US  because Karzai did not show appreciation for the role of the US which put Karzai as President of the country in 2001. Rather Karzai criticized the US.

New productive relationshipy
American officials say that the main purpose of Ghani’s visit was to establish a new and productive relationship between the governments of the two countries after more than a decade of fitful ties.
In a ceremony at the Pentagon, Ghani on 23rd March paid tribute to US soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan and thanked the US for its support. Speaking in front of US soldiers and military families, Ghani acknowledged US sacrifices throughout the war in Afghanistan.
“Each one of you has left a legacy,” he said, noting that more than 2,200 Americans lost their lives and 20,000 were wounded in the conflict.
He also paid tribute to Washington’s financial commitment, saying US efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and bring schooling to three million girls had made a discernible difference to the lives of the Afghan people.
Afghanistan did “not want to be burden” in future, he said. “We do not now ask what the US can do for us... we want to say what Afghanistan will do for itself and for the world,” he added. The statement of Ghani at the Pentagon had pleased the US because it acknowledged the role of the US in Afghanistan.
Advisers to Ghani and Obama expected that they would relate easily.  Ghani is far more of a financial technocrat than a natural politician, and his professorial approach to governing is sure to seem reassuring to his American counterpart.
Before sitting down with Obama at the White House on 24th March, from Pentagon, Ghani went to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland, in a series of sessions led by Kerry and other top officials.

Delay in US troops withdrawal
Currently, there are about 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, but that number is supposed to drop to around 5,000 soon and the force is to be withdrawn completely by the end of 2015. However, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter when he visited Kabul recently raised the possibility of slowing the withdrawal of US troops in order to not put at risk the progress made in the country.
Ghani reportedly pushed hard to keep the current 10,000 American troops and thousands of private contractors in his country through, or perhaps beyond, 2016 when Obama had earlier insisted the United States’ longest war would come to an end by 2015.
Since there were no intractable differences between Ghani and Obama,  the US President finally agreed to  Ghani’s request to keep troops at close to their current levels of about 10,000 by the end of this year. The presidents have discussed the issue three times over a secure video link, and decided that the United States would maintain its current 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015.
The specific trajectory of US troop drawdown in 2016 would be established later in 2015 to enable the US troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016. It is noted that Obama leaves the White House by the end of 2016. Some legislators had also called for a slower drawdown of troop levels. Mac Thornberry, a Republican who leads the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said the decision announced was “appropriate”.
Furthermore, Ghani sought long-term commitments of money and support from the United States. The US already has spent US$65 billion building Afghanistan’s army and police forces, and billions more are projected over the next decade. The US and its allies are paying 65 per cent of Afghanistan’s budget this year.  Congress has approved more than $60bn to equip, train and sustain Afghan forces, with the Pentagon asking for a further $3.8bn in 2016.

Afghan government’s weakness
Ghani also heads a government that is more divided than that of his predecessor, and it is considered shakier. Widespread fraud during last year’s election set off a crisis that nearly turned violent, and it took Secretary of State John Kerry to personally broker a deal in which  Ghani serves as president and his electoral rival, Abdullah Abdullah, as the chief executive, a newly created position. However Ghani has reportedly sought to centralize power in his office, cutting out many ministers and other officials, especially those from Abdullah’s camp.
In theory, members of the new 25-member cabinet, plus the head of the central bank and the intelligence service, was meant to be split equally between the two camps, and it was expected to strike a balance among the country’s four major ethnic groups.  Backers of both candidates have cried foul some complaining about ethnic or regional imbalances, others about political disloyalty.  This has resulted in a weak government to decide on national issues.
But in Washington although both men have sought to put a brave public face on their uneasy partnership ­they jointly wrote an essay on Afghanistan for The Washington Post showing unity within the government.
In Afghanistan, as many as 13 people were killed on one of the country’s most important roads on 24th march when gunmen opened fire on a bus and two other vehicles. The episode is the latest in a series of attacks on the highway connecting Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar. Twelve men and a woman were killed, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
However a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the attackers were not connected to the Taliban.

Ground for peace is better
“The grounds for peace have never been better in the last 36 years,”  Ghani said, referring to decades of war that have plagued his country. “We cannot make premature announcements.”
Neighbouring Pakistan has sought to serve as an intermediary in reviving long-dormant peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban. Afghanistan appreciates Pakistan’s efforts, according to a statement from Ghani’s office.  Moreover the Taliban are now turning to China to reach a peace deal with the Afghan government.
Carter, the US defence Secretary, told Pentagon employees in a speech  that the US has a “very successful campaign in Afghanistan, but it’s not finished and it needs to be won.”
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

Comment

Barrister Harun ur Rashid

President Ashraf Ghani and Chief executive  Abdullah of Afghanistan arrived in the United States on 22nd march  for a five-day visit which was occupied with series of meetings, lunches, and dinners with President Obama, US Secretary of State,  John Kerry,  top American diplomats, members of Congress, the news media and others.
The two presidents – Obama and Ghani – reportedly discussed security issues, economic development and US support for a reconciliation process with the Taliban and it was the two leaders’ first White House meeting since Afghanistan’s presidential elections last year.
After the departure of President Karzai,  President Ghani  sought to re-set the bilateral relations with the US  because Karzai did not show appreciation for the role of the US which put Karzai as President of the country in 2001. Rather Karzai criticized the US.

New productive relationshipy
American officials say that the main purpose of Ghani’s visit was to establish a new and productive relationship between the governments of the two countries after more than a decade of fitful ties.
In a ceremony at the Pentagon, Ghani on 23rd March paid tribute to US soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan and thanked the US for its support. Speaking in front of US soldiers and military families, Ghani acknowledged US sacrifices throughout the war in Afghanistan.
“Each one of you has left a legacy,” he said, noting that more than 2,200 Americans lost their lives and 20,000 were wounded in the conflict.
He also paid tribute to Washington’s financial commitment, saying US efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and bring schooling to three million girls had made a discernible difference to the lives of the Afghan people.
Afghanistan did “not want to be burden” in future, he said. “We do not now ask what the US can do for us... we want to say what Afghanistan will do for itself and for the world,” he added. The statement of Ghani at the Pentagon had pleased the US because it acknowledged the role of the US in Afghanistan.
Advisers to Ghani and Obama expected that they would relate easily.  Ghani is far more of a financial technocrat than a natural politician, and his professorial approach to governing is sure to seem reassuring to his American counterpart.
Before sitting down with Obama at the White House on 24th March, from Pentagon, Ghani went to Camp David, the presidential retreat in the mountains of Maryland, in a series of sessions led by Kerry and other top officials.

Delay in US troops withdrawal
Currently, there are about 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, but that number is supposed to drop to around 5,000 soon and the force is to be withdrawn completely by the end of 2015. However, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter when he visited Kabul recently raised the possibility of slowing the withdrawal of US troops in order to not put at risk the progress made in the country.
Ghani reportedly pushed hard to keep the current 10,000 American troops and thousands of private contractors in his country through, or perhaps beyond, 2016 when Obama had earlier insisted the United States’ longest war would come to an end by 2015.
Since there were no intractable differences between Ghani and Obama,  the US President finally agreed to  Ghani’s request to keep troops at close to their current levels of about 10,000 by the end of this year. The presidents have discussed the issue three times over a secure video link, and decided that the United States would maintain its current 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015.
The specific trajectory of US troop drawdown in 2016 would be established later in 2015 to enable the US troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016. It is noted that Obama leaves the White House by the end of 2016. Some legislators had also called for a slower drawdown of troop levels. Mac Thornberry, a Republican who leads the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, said the decision announced was “appropriate”.
Furthermore, Ghani sought long-term commitments of money and support from the United States. The US already has spent US$65 billion building Afghanistan’s army and police forces, and billions more are projected over the next decade. The US and its allies are paying 65 per cent of Afghanistan’s budget this year.  Congress has approved more than $60bn to equip, train and sustain Afghan forces, with the Pentagon asking for a further $3.8bn in 2016.

Afghan government’s weakness
Ghani also heads a government that is more divided than that of his predecessor, and it is considered shakier. Widespread fraud during last year’s election set off a crisis that nearly turned violent, and it took Secretary of State John Kerry to personally broker a deal in which  Ghani serves as president and his electoral rival, Abdullah Abdullah, as the chief executive, a newly created position. However Ghani has reportedly sought to centralize power in his office, cutting out many ministers and other officials, especially those from Abdullah’s camp.
In theory, members of the new 25-member cabinet, plus the head of the central bank and the intelligence service, was meant to be split equally between the two camps, and it was expected to strike a balance among the country’s four major ethnic groups.  Backers of both candidates have cried foul some complaining about ethnic or regional imbalances, others about political disloyalty.  This has resulted in a weak government to decide on national issues.
But in Washington although both men have sought to put a brave public face on their uneasy partnership ­they jointly wrote an essay on Afghanistan for The Washington Post showing unity within the government.
In Afghanistan, as many as 13 people were killed on one of the country’s most important roads on 24th march when gunmen opened fire on a bus and two other vehicles. The episode is the latest in a series of attacks on the highway connecting Kabul with the southern city of Kandahar. Twelve men and a woman were killed, said Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
However a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the attackers were not connected to the Taliban.

Ground for peace is better
“The grounds for peace have never been better in the last 36 years,”  Ghani said, referring to decades of war that have plagued his country. “We cannot make premature announcements.”
Neighbouring Pakistan has sought to serve as an intermediary in reviving long-dormant peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban. Afghanistan appreciates Pakistan’s efforts, according to a statement from Ghani’s office.  Moreover the Taliban are now turning to China to reach a peace deal with the Afghan government.
Carter, the US defence Secretary, told Pentagon employees in a speech  that the US has a “very successful campaign in Afghanistan, but it’s not finished and it needs to be won.”
The writer is former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.


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 VIEW POINT

OBAMA, RAÚL CASTRO MEET AT PANAMA
Washington-Havana conciliation coming up?

Patrick Martin

Cuban President Raúl Castro and US President Barack Obama met in Panama on 11 April in the first face-to-face discussion between the leaders of the two countries in a half-century on the sidelines of the Summit of Americas. It was the first face-to-face meeting between US and Cuban presidents since 1956, before the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Mr. Obama called it a “historic meeting.”
While press reports before the summit anticipated only a brief handshake, the Obama-Castro session lasted a full hour, and likely included substantive discussion of such issues as US-Cuban trade, steps toward the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and sanctions placed on Cuba as a result of its classification as a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the US State Department.
On his way to Panama, Obama met with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica, and made comments suggesting that the lifting of the anti-terrorism sanctions was imminent.

New political, economic ties
The summit meeting is a sign of the accelerating effort by the White House and the Cuban regime to establish a new political and economic relationship between American imperialism and its former semi-colony.
The joint announcement last December 17 that the US and Cuba would reopen diplomatic relations was followed by three face-to-face meetings between mid-level officials of the State Department and Cuban Foreign Ministry, then a meeting Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, also in Panama, and finally the Obama-Castro session.
This session was preceded by successive public remarks, first by Obama, then Castro. Obama suggested that resumed US-Cuban relations might be more difficult for the government in Havana than for Washington—an indirect reference to the justified fears among the Cuban people over the prospect of subordinating their country once again to US imperialism, which for decades subjected Cuba to brutal exploitation.
“We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient,” Castro said. “We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”
Whatever the exact nature of the closed-door talks that followed, the speech made by Castro at the Summit of the Americas was a revealing expression of the turn by the bourgeois-nationalist regime in Cuba towards a rapprochement with imperialism.
US opposition barred Cuba from six previous Summits of the Americas, held every three years since 1994. Castro said that he would make up for lost time by speaking for six times the limit set for each country—eight minutes—and launched into a 50-minute speech denouncing past crimes of US imperialism against Cuba and against Latin America as a whole.

Cubans start accumulating real wealth
The Wall Street Journal wrote breathlessly (April 3) about the “real-estate revolution sweeping Cuba. More than five decades after Fidel Castro seized power here, ordinary Cubans are starting to accumulate real wealth by buying and selling their homes. Authorities are dusting off plans to develop a luxury vacation-home market for foreigners.” These include developments “built around high-end golf courses, something Fidel Castro all but banned for years after the revolution as a bourgeois pursuit.”
In his own remarks to the Summit of the Americas, Obama cited his desire to open “a new relationship with Cuba” as proof that the US government would treat the countries of Latin America as “equal partners.” He attacked the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, for allegedly jailing critics in the press, after Correa made remarks from the same podium criticizing US policy in the hemisphere.
When Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke, Obama had already left the summit to return to Washington, a snub that only underscored the determination of the US government to bring every government in the hemisphere to heel. That is the context in which the US-Cuban rapprochement is taking place.

Bid to subvert destabilise Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua
Within the hemisphere, the Obama administration has sought to subvert the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador, instigated a coup in Honduras, and conducted quieter efforts to destabilize and undermine Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and other targets. The leaders of at least 11 countries at the Summit of the Americas made public criticisms of such US efforts, only to find the supposedly anti-imperialist Cuban regime fawning over the American president.
The key section in this performance, however, came when he absolved Obama personally for past American actions. “I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this. There were 10 presidents before him and all of them owe some kind of debt except for President Obama,” Castro said. “In my opinion, Obama is an honest man,” he added. “I admire him. I think his behaviour has a lot to do with his humble background.”
Castro elaborated on the significance of his tribute to the US president: “Believe me, I have given a great deal of thought to those words. I had written them down. I removed them. But there, I said it. I am pleased that I have said this about President Obama.”
This was nothing less than a Castro stamp of approval for a US president who has waged war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, bombed Libya, backed a fascist-led coup in Ukraine and is even now aiding the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptian military junta in their war on Yemen. To say nothing of ordering drone-missile assassinations in half a dozen countries, and carrying out a military buildup directed at preparing nuclear war against Russia and China.

Promoting American business
Washington and Havana share one immediate goal: promoting American business investment on the island, which offers the prospect of profits for corporate America and personal wealth for the leading circles of the Castro regime, on the model of China and Russia, albeit on a much more modest scale.
This reality was underscored by another meeting held in conjunction with the Summit of the Americas. Cuban officials feted corporate executives at a top Panama hotel, urging them to visit the island and invest. Those attending included Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest man.
Earlier this month, five former US secretaries of agriculture sent a joint letter to Congress urging an end to the embargo of Cuba, arguing it had not brought about the removal of the Castro regime and was hurting the interests of US agribusiness.
The New York Times reported April 8 on the efforts of American corporations to prepare for the opening up of Cuba as a potential market and investment destination. Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to Cuba who now provides advice on doing business there, told the newspaper, “There isn’t a major Fortune 500 company that does not have a Cuba working group or some sign of interest because the possible reality is there will be trade and investment with Cuba.”
—WSWS

Comment

Patrick Martin

Cuban President Raúl Castro and US President Barack Obama met in Panama on 11 April in the first face-to-face discussion between the leaders of the two countries in a half-century on the sidelines of the Summit of Americas. It was the first face-to-face meeting between US and Cuban presidents since 1956, before the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Mr. Obama called it a “historic meeting.”
While press reports before the summit anticipated only a brief handshake, the Obama-Castro session lasted a full hour, and likely included substantive discussion of such issues as US-Cuban trade, steps toward the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and sanctions placed on Cuba as a result of its classification as a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the US State Department.
On his way to Panama, Obama met with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica, and made comments suggesting that the lifting of the anti-terrorism sanctions was imminent.

New political, economic ties
The summit meeting is a sign of the accelerating effort by the White House and the Cuban regime to establish a new political and economic relationship between American imperialism and its former semi-colony.
The joint announcement last December 17 that the US and Cuba would reopen diplomatic relations was followed by three face-to-face meetings between mid-level officials of the State Department and Cuban Foreign Ministry, then a meeting Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, also in Panama, and finally the Obama-Castro session.
This session was preceded by successive public remarks, first by Obama, then Castro. Obama suggested that resumed US-Cuban relations might be more difficult for the government in Havana than for Washington—an indirect reference to the justified fears among the Cuban people over the prospect of subordinating their country once again to US imperialism, which for decades subjected Cuba to brutal exploitation.
“We are willing to discuss everything, but we need to be patient, very patient,” Castro said. “We might disagree on something today on which we could agree tomorrow.”
Whatever the exact nature of the closed-door talks that followed, the speech made by Castro at the Summit of the Americas was a revealing expression of the turn by the bourgeois-nationalist regime in Cuba towards a rapprochement with imperialism.
US opposition barred Cuba from six previous Summits of the Americas, held every three years since 1994. Castro said that he would make up for lost time by speaking for six times the limit set for each country—eight minutes—and launched into a 50-minute speech denouncing past crimes of US imperialism against Cuba and against Latin America as a whole.

Cubans start accumulating real wealth
The Wall Street Journal wrote breathlessly (April 3) about the “real-estate revolution sweeping Cuba. More than five decades after Fidel Castro seized power here, ordinary Cubans are starting to accumulate real wealth by buying and selling their homes. Authorities are dusting off plans to develop a luxury vacation-home market for foreigners.” These include developments “built around high-end golf courses, something Fidel Castro all but banned for years after the revolution as a bourgeois pursuit.”
In his own remarks to the Summit of the Americas, Obama cited his desire to open “a new relationship with Cuba” as proof that the US government would treat the countries of Latin America as “equal partners.” He attacked the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, for allegedly jailing critics in the press, after Correa made remarks from the same podium criticizing US policy in the hemisphere.
When Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro spoke, Obama had already left the summit to return to Washington, a snub that only underscored the determination of the US government to bring every government in the hemisphere to heel. That is the context in which the US-Cuban rapprochement is taking place.

Bid to subvert destabilise Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua
Within the hemisphere, the Obama administration has sought to subvert the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador, instigated a coup in Honduras, and conducted quieter efforts to destabilize and undermine Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and other targets. The leaders of at least 11 countries at the Summit of the Americas made public criticisms of such US efforts, only to find the supposedly anti-imperialist Cuban regime fawning over the American president.
The key section in this performance, however, came when he absolved Obama personally for past American actions. “I apologize to him because President Obama had no responsibility for this. There were 10 presidents before him and all of them owe some kind of debt except for President Obama,” Castro said. “In my opinion, Obama is an honest man,” he added. “I admire him. I think his behaviour has a lot to do with his humble background.”
Castro elaborated on the significance of his tribute to the US president: “Believe me, I have given a great deal of thought to those words. I had written them down. I removed them. But there, I said it. I am pleased that I have said this about President Obama.”
This was nothing less than a Castro stamp of approval for a US president who has waged war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, bombed Libya, backed a fascist-led coup in Ukraine and is even now aiding the Saudi monarchy and the Egyptian military junta in their war on Yemen. To say nothing of ordering drone-missile assassinations in half a dozen countries, and carrying out a military buildup directed at preparing nuclear war against Russia and China.

Promoting American business
Washington and Havana share one immediate goal: promoting American business investment on the island, which offers the prospect of profits for corporate America and personal wealth for the leading circles of the Castro regime, on the model of China and Russia, albeit on a much more modest scale.
This reality was underscored by another meeting held in conjunction with the Summit of the Americas. Cuban officials feted corporate executives at a top Panama hotel, urging them to visit the island and invest. Those attending included Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest man.
Earlier this month, five former US secretaries of agriculture sent a joint letter to Congress urging an end to the embargo of Cuba, arguing it had not brought about the removal of the Castro regime and was hurting the interests of US agribusiness.
The New York Times reported April 8 on the efforts of American corporations to prepare for the opening up of Cuba as a potential market and investment destination. Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to Cuba who now provides advice on doing business there, told the newspaper, “There isn’t a major Fortune 500 company that does not have a Cuba working group or some sign of interest because the possible reality is there will be trade and investment with Cuba.”
—WSWS


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Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
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