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Archbishop Tutu urges UN inquiry into death of Oswaldo Paya

The Southafrican Archbishop and 98 other former presidents, Ministers, ONG presidents, political leaders and important personalities signed the letter

Appeal for International Inquiry into the Death of Oswaldo PayaOswaldo Payá Sardiñas

An open letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, and Ambassadors of all Member States

12 March 2013


We urge you to support our demand for an international and independent investigation into the alleged murder of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, a world-renowned figure and recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize, who died in a car crash in Bayamo, Cuba, on July 22, 2012, together with fellow activist Harold Cepero.

In dramatic new testimony by the driver of the car, Ángel Carromero describes, in a Washington Post interview dated 6 March 2013, how their vehicle was followed, harassed and ultimately rammed from behind by a car bearing government license plates. Mr. Carromero further alleges that, following the crash, he was drugged, mistreated and coerced by Cuban authorities into making a false confession.

The new revelations corroborate the claims made by the families of the victims and other witnesses, as well as the report by Spain's ABC news agency about text messages sent contemporaneous with the incident from the mobile phones of Mr. Carromero and another passenger, Aron Modig, indicating that their car was chased and then hit, causing the crash.

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The first southern Pope

HH Francis I inherits a mess but has great opportunities. He will need to act quickly

Pope elected Francis I greets his flock

March 14.─ Even non-believers and non-Catholics should care about the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as Pope Francis. The church which he will now head matters. Its unique privileges in the secular world (such as statehood and a voice at the UN) open it to secular scrutiny. Its good works (such as orphanages and hospitals) are vital. It matters in diplomacy, especially in behind-the-scenes peacemaking. It helped destroy Soviet communism, a global evil. Its stubborn defence of religious freedom is a headache for China's rulers.

Outsiders should mind when Francis's church does harm too. Opposing the use of condoms in Africa may have made sense in theological terms (though even believers often found the stance baffling). But the result was to help HIV to spread, consigning many innocent people to needless pain and death. The church's cover-up of sexual abuse over past decades in many countries was illegal and compounded the victims' hurt. The Vatican Bank, another quirky privilege of the Holy See's special status, has failed to curb money-laundering. And, from sectarian chants at Scottish football matches to the outgoing Pope Benedict's clumsy criticisms of Islam, tensions with other religions can turn into violent strife.
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VENEZUELA: Hugo Chávez's legacy

The appeal of populist autocracy has been weakened by his death but not extinguished  Hugo Chávez prays for his health

Mar. 9.─ Back in the 1990s Latin America seemed to have turned the page on military rule and embraced democracy and free-market economics, with the sole, beleaguered exception of communist Cuba. And then along came Hugo Chávez, a bumptious Venezuelan former lieutenant-colonel who, having staged a failed military coup against a democratic government, got himself elected as president in 1998.

Mr Chávez proceeded to dominate his country for more than 14 years until his death this week from cancer. His secret was to invent a hybrid regime. He preserved the outward forms of democracy, but behind them he concentrated power in his own hands and manipulated the law to further his own ends. He bullied opponents, and encouraged the middle class to emigrate. He hollowed out the economy by mixing state socialism and populist redistribution with a residue of capitalism. And he glued it all together with the crude but potent rhetoric of Latin American nationalism. Mr Chávez claimed to be leading a "Bolivarian revolution" against the "empire" (ie, the United States). It did not seem to matter that Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan hero who liberated much of South America from Spanish colonial rule, was an Anglophile conservative.

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Venezuela Leader Chávez Dies at 58

Caracas, Mar. 6.─ Hugo Chávez, a former tank commander turned populist politician who used Venezuela's oil riches to challenge the U.S. with his fiery brand of socialism, died Tuesday from complications related to cancer. He was 58 years old.

"We have received the hardest and most tragic news," Vice President Nicolás Maduro said in a national television address, his voice breaking and fighting back tears [see video].

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The brothers Castro unveil their successor

Miguel Díaz-Canel is the new man in Cuba 

The Castros' successor Miguel Díaz-Canel Havana, Feb. 28.─ Ever since Raúl Castro replaced his ailing brother, Fidel, as Cuba's president in 2008, he has made clear that his overriding aim is to organise an orderly political and economic transition to ensure that the ruling Communist Party remains in power after both men die. Progress towards that goal has been painstakingly slow, and sometimes crablike. But another step was taken at the opening of a newly installed National Assembly on February 24th, when Raúl began a second presidential term. Not only did he repeat that it would be his last. He also hailed the appointment as first vice-president of Miguel Díaz- Canel, a former higher-education minister, saying this represented "a defining step in the configuration of the country's future leadership".

"Who's he?" was how one Havana resident greeted the news. Mr Díaz-Canel may not be exactly a household name in Cuba but he has been tipped for the top for several years. He has stood in for Raúl on a couple of recent foreign visits. Read more ...