Are the Cubans going to Syria?

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami posted a report on the presence of Cuban military personnel in Syria. The report says the Institute

“ has received information that General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, Head of the Cuban Armed Forces, visited Syria recently leading a group of Cuban military personnel sent by Cuba in support of Syria’s dictator Assad and Russian involvement in that country.

“The Cuban military contingent will be primarily deployed in Syria manning Russian tanks provided to Assad by the Russians. It will also operate as a military force against Isis and other opponents of the Assad regime.” http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/main.htm

The report has been picked up by a number of conservative news outlets, and Fox News secured a quote from an anonymous U.S. official who said that Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes: //http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/10/14/cuban-military-forces-deployed-to-syria-to-operate-russian-tanks-say-sources/

Note the word “may.”  A few days later there was an official Cuban response. Foreign ministry official Gerardo Penalver “categorically denies and refutes the irresponsible and unfounded information regarding the supposed presence of Cuban troops in the Syrian Arab Republic,” a government statement said.

 

“A blatant example of a chief of state’s direct involvement in an act of state terrorism”

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The United States has turned over a collection of newly classified documents on the 1976 car bomb murder of Orlando Letelier and his American colleague, Ronni Moffitt in Washington in 1976.  Letelier was a former Chilean ambassador to the United States and cabinet minister under the socialist government of Salvador Allende (1970-73); he and Moffitt worked at the Institute for Policy Studies, a left-leaning think tank. A subsequent grand jury investigation resulted in an extradition request for the head of the Pinochet regime’s security agency, Colonel Manuel Contreras and two other Chilean intelligence agents—which the regime rejected.

The new batch of documents was delivered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting with President Michelle Bachelet this past week in Santiago. As I write this, only two have been published and they confirm what most people familiar with the case already knew–that Pinochet ordered the killings.  One is a 1987 memo from then Secretary of State George Schultz to President Ronald Reagan states

“We have long known that the Chilean secret police/intelligence service was behind this brutal act, perhaps the only clear case of state-sponsored terrorism that has occurred in Washington, D.C.”  Schultz then speculates whether the U.S. government would want to indict Pinochet himself, and that his role in the assassinations and cover-up “is of the greatest seriousness and adds further impetus to the need to work toward the complete democratization of Chile.”

The other document is a State Department cable sent early in 1987, with a couple of source names deleted and mentions assertions by Contreras that Pinochet had ordered the Letelier assassination. Contreras told another senior army official that he had hidden sealed documents in several locations “in the event of his, Contreras’ death.”

More documents to follow, and the National Security Archive web site, with its lengthy file on other declassified material on the case and on Chile, is a good place to find them:

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB532-The-Letelier-Moffitt-Assassination-Papers/

Abortion and human rights in Chile

anti abortion billboard

It’s a famous image from the time of Chile’s 1973 military coup, a stark black and white photograph of prisoners sitting on bleachers in the National Stadium, where thousands were detained, interrogated, tortured and in many cases killed. It recently appeared on a billboard in Santiago, without photographer Marcelo Montecino’s permission and in a way many would find offensive.

The caption reads “ABORTION is torture, death and disappearance,” and the billboard is part of a campaign against a proposed law to allow the procedure in order to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or non-viability of the fetus.  Chile has one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, with an absolute ban on all pregnancy terminations imposed at the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1989. There have been around a dozen proposed bills to loosen this ban since 1991 and the current bill faces opposition from even from some in the ruling center-left coalition—particularly Chile’s Christian Democrats.

Amnesty International has issued a statement calling Chile’s current law draconian and saying it treats women as second-class citizens. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/09/chile-extreme-anti-abortion-law-creates-climate-of-fear-and-substandard-health-care-for-women/