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Potential substitutes for Cuba in Organization of American States

(Amelia Opalinska)

(Amelia Opalinska)

In a June 3 statement on the website of the US State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that “Cuba can come back into the OAS in the future if the OAS decides that its participation meets the purposes and principles of the organization, including democracy and human rights.” The announcement came the day after Clinton had departed the OAS meeting in Honduras for Egypt and 5 days after an article in the Cuban Communist Party Diario Granma had referred to the organization as a “pestilente cadáver,” terminology that might have been used more reservedly given the present condition of Fidel Castro.

Barack Obama proved more judicious in his choice of vocabulary in Cairo, where instead of referring to Hosni Mubarak as a pestilent corpse he commended him for his decades of experience. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez meanwhile categorized the OAS as merely as anachronistic organization, despite claims by Clinton that the decision to allow Cuba back in focused on the future rather than the past.

Rodríguez’s perspective had emerged at the end of the May meeting in Caracas of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) and had included the argument that the OAS was hampering the process of Latin American integration sin presencia extracontinental. Hugo Chávez would soon increase efforts at Latin American integration by announcing Ecuador’s ALBA debut before said debut was announced by Rafael Correa; as for prospects of presencia extracontinental, these increased with the announcement by the Israeli Foreign Ministry that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon would be present at the OAS meeting in Honduras.

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Bolivians do exist

Coca leaves: victims of UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

Coca leaves: victims of UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

At a restaurant in Bogotá in March, a Colombian lawyer announced that Bolivians did not exist. Evidence in support of the case was that the lawyer had never met a Bolivian, and that the concept of Bolivia had most likely been invented by Hugo Chávez to give the impression that Venezuela was not acting unilaterally in the world.

I was not able to investigate the claim at the time, as my friend and I were currently investigating members of another nationality whose existence had been periodically denied. I did ask the lawyer, however, whether he felt that Colombia was theologically entitled to Bolivian territory, at which point parallels with Palestine broke down.

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Assorted interpretations of May 25

Opponents of Hugo Chávez express opposition. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

Opponents of Hugo Chávez express opposition. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

In my parents’ living room in Buenos Aires this morning, I scanned the online version of the Argentine journal La Nación in an effort to determine the justification for the current national holiday. An article proclaiming the 199th anniversary of the Revolución de Mayo in the headline offered no further clarification of the celebration aside from the information that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would be celebrating it at the Sheraton Hotel in Iguazú National Park, and that she would prefer not to talk about recent nationalizations by Hugo Chávez of steel companies belonging to Argentine-based multinationals.

According to another article on the site, Chávez’ confiscaciones had already been talked about, and Argentine businessmen had been assured by the Kirchner administration that “no somos Chávez.” The online readership of La Nación did not appear convinced of such distinctions, however, and, of the 6,148 responses that had been registered as of 10 AM to a poll regarding whether the government would defend Argentine business interests in Venezuela, 4.47% were positive.

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Words that start with L are confusing

Libya in 1986 or Lebanon in 2006? (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

Libya in 1986 or Lebanon in 2006? (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

According to Lebanon-based researcher Franklin Lamb, the opening words of US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Beirut yesterday consisted of: “I am happy to be in Libya… I mean Lebanon… this morning!” The confusion was not reported by other media outlets but is nonetheless plausible based on the fact that both nations contain a city called Tripoli.

Lebanon-Libya mix-ups are by no means a novel occurrence. One such mix-up occurred in 2006 among a group of British tourists on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, where the information that I had just been traveling in Lebanon was met with the indignant rejoinder: “But they bombed our plane!” Following a frantic scan of mental archives, I finally determined that the plane in question was Pan Am flight 103, and that Lockerbie also started with L. Iran, however, did not—nor did the USS Vincennes, which had shot down an Iranian airliner with 290 civilians on board shortly before the Lockerbie bombing.

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Boats from Libya threaten Italian identity

Structure in Puglia region of Italy, potentially susceptible to remodeling as mosque by invading Muslims. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

Structure in Puglia region of Italy, potentially susceptible to remodeling as mosque by invading Muslims. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

On May 7, 2009, 227 migrants en route from Libya to Italy were intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea and escorted back to Tripoli by three vessels belonging to the Italian state, two from the Guardia Costiera and one from the Guardia di Finanza. In the online version of the Italian journal La Repubblica, Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni applauded the feat as “un risultato storico” in the struggle against clandestini, and a resolution to arguments between Italy and Malta over which nation should have to deal with potential asylum seekers. Maroni reasoned that, since the migrants were intercepted prior to reaching Italian shores, international law did not apply and it was not the “compito del governo italiano”—the duty of the Italian government—to evaluate requests for asylum; not addressed was why it was the compito del governo italiano to redeposit the travelers at their point of embarkation.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was quoted in La Repubblica as supporting the re-depositing based on the fact that, unlike the political left in Italy which wanted to open the doors to everyone, his government was not founded on the idea of a società multietnica but rather on the idea of receiving only those migrants who met the requirements for political asylum. No logistical details were offered on how to determine whether migrants met such requirements if they were forcibly repatriated prior to questioning; defense minister Ignazio La Russa meanwhile deflected potential accusations of xenophobia by explaining in the online version of Il Giornale that opposition to a multiethnic society did not mean that people of different ethnicities could not become Italian. According to La Russa, it was critical not to lose track of the history that made Italians “unici nel mondo”—a history of uniqueness that had included convictions during colonial periods that Libya was not opposed to a multiethnic society.

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