Millionaires, Coups and Human Rights (La Alborada)

Posted on March 25, 2010

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Millionaires, Coups, and Human Rights
La Alborada – March 24

The new president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera, who made his fortune of a billion-and-a-half dollars through his interests in the airline LAN Chile, a TV station, and a soccer team, faces the difficult task of rebuilding his country after the earthquake. He has taken the time, however, to promise to do everything within his reach to help Cuba to “recover” democracy and to respect human rights.

One wonders whether by “recover democracy” he means as it was during the Batista dictatorship, when Cuba and the US were close friends and Cuba was a member in good standing of the OAS. As to human rights, it’s easier to know what he means: the new president was a staunch supporter of General Pinochet. He ran as the coalition candidate of a right-wing party and another even further to the right.

He will join the new president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, the self-described “anti-Chavez” who promptly after taking office granted the US four new military bases, and Porfirio Lobo, who was elected president of Honduras for the right-wing National Party in elections held under army and police repression of the opposition forces, elections that had no certified observers and that generated a turnout of less than fifty percent of the voters.

Piñera has never criticized the human rights violations during the coup government in Honduras or subsequently, and has not expressed any concerns about the level of poverty in that country, controlled by a few wealthy families. Last year, Honduras was ranked in world levels of poverty between Malawi and Madagascar, two steps below Afghanistan. Lobo comes from a wealthy agricultural family.

Martinelli was described by Reuters as “the multimillionaire owner of Panama’s largest supermarket chain Super 99…One of Panama’s richest men, with interests in a major Panamanian bank, real estate, hydroelectric energy and sugar.”

Piñera –in a country that holds the lead in economic disparity within the region of the world with the greatest economic disparity– has chosen to attack Cuba despite the fact that Cuban medical teams responded immediately after the earthquake and have made a notable difference in the areas most affected by the quake, where they still work as a matter of solidarity.

In this he follows the lead of Martinelli, who dismissed the Cuban Operation Miracle in Panama, promising to replace sometime it with something else but leaving in the lurch his blind compatriots –at least, those who are poor. Contrary to what happened in Panama, however, Piñera’s minister of health on the 13th of this month praised the Cuban team and said that Chile had asked the Cubans to send more field hospitals. It is not clear whether Chile will now refuse further help from Cuba.

Despite the current media campaign against Cuba, these three presidents represent only one trend in Latin America and the Caribbean. Presidents Lula (Brazil), Morales (Bolivia), and Mujica (recently elected in Uruguay) have defended Cuba. Venezuela and Nicaragua support Cuba; Paraguay, Ecuador, Argentina and other regional countries have declined to jump on the bandwagon orchestrated by the US and some European governments; Ecuador’s Correa said that the main issue was the US blockade of Cuba.

The US continues a policy of seeking to isolate Cuba, notwithstanding the talks that have been held and the increased cultural exchanges between the two countries. In so doing, it is betting on the three new neoliberal governments of the rich in Honduras, Panama, and Chile, and drawing a new line of division between itself and other countries.