Thursday, July 15, 2010

LPP NEWS...

BP chokes off the oil leak; now begins the wait

In this image taken from video provided by BP PLC at 22:25 CDT, 
oil flows from one of three valves of the new 75-ton cap atop the site 
of the Deepwate AP – In this image taken from video provided by BP PLC at 22:25 CDT, oil flows from one of three valves of …
NEW ORLEANS – BP finally choked off the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday — 85 days and up to 184 million gallons after the crisis unfolded — then began a tense 48 hours of watching to see whether the capped-off well would hold or blow a new leak.
To the relief of millions of people along the Gulf Coast, the big, billowing brown cloud of crude at the bottom of the sea disappeared from the underwater video feed for the first time since the disaster began in April, as BP closed the last of three openings in the 75-ton cap lowered onto the well earlier this week.
But the company stopped far short of declaring victory over the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history and one of the nation's worst environmental disasters, a catastrophe that has killed wildlife and threatened the livelihoods of fishermen, restaurateurs, and oil industry workers from Texas to Florida.
Now begins a waiting period during which engineers will monitor pressure gauges and watch for signs of leaks elsewhere in the well. The biggest risk: Pressure from the oil gushing out of the ground could fracture the well and make the leak even worse.
"For the people living on the Gulf, I'm certainly not going to guess their emotions," BP vice president Kent Wells said. "I hope they're encouraged there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. But we have to be careful. Depending on what the test shows us, we may need to open this well back up."
The news elicited joy mixed with skepticism from wary Gulf Coast residents following months of false starts, setbacks and failed attempts. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's face lit up when he heard the oil flow had stopped.
"That's great. I think a lot of prayers were answered today," he said.
President Barack Obama called it a positive sign, but cautioned: "We're still in the testing phase."
The stoppage came 85 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes after the first report April 20 of an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers. Somewhere between 94 million and 184 million gallons spilled into the Gulf, according to government estimates.
"Finally!" said Renee Brown, a school guidance counselor visiting Pensacola Beach, Fla., from London, Ky. "Honestly, I'm surprised that they haven't been able to do something sooner, though."
"I don't believe that. That's a lie. It's a (expletive) lie," said Stephon LaFrance, an oysterman in Louisiana's oil-stained Plaquemines Parish who has been out of work for weeks. "I don't believe they stopped that leak. BP's trying to make their self look good."
Wells said the oil stopped flowing into the water at 2:25 p.m. CDT after engineers gradually dialed down the amount of crude escaping through the last of three valves in the cap, an 18-foot-high metal stack of pipes and valves.
On the video feed, the violently churning cloud of oil and gas coming out of a narrow tube thinned, and tapered off. Suddenly, there were a few puffs of oil, surrounded by cloudy dispersant BP was pumping on top. Then, there was nothing.
"I am very pleased that there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, I'm really excited there's no oil going into the Gulf of Mexico," Wells said.
The cap is designed to stop oil from flowing into the sea, either by bottling it up inside the well, or capturing it and piping it to ships on the surface. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the Obama administration's point man on the disaster, said it is not yet clear which way the cap will be used. The answer could depend on the pressure readings over the next two days.
Even if it works, the cap is not a permanent fix, and not the end of the crisis by any means. BP is drilling two relief wells so it can pump mud and cement into the leaking well in hopes of plugging it permanently by mid-August. After that, the Gulf Coast faces a monumental cleanup and restoration that could take years.
BP stock, which has mainly tumbled since the spill began, closed nearly 8 percent higher on the New York Stock Exchange after the news.
Steve Shepard, Gulf Coast chairman of the Mississippi Chapter of the Sierra Club, said he was still skeptical about the news. "I think it's a little premature to say it's definitely over. They've gotten our hopes up so many times before that in my mind I don't think it's going to be over until Christmas."
Nine-year-old Lena Durden threw up her hands in jubilation when her mother told her the oil was stopped.
"God, that's wonderful," said Yvonne Durden, a Mobile-area native who now lives in Seattle and brought her daughter to the coast for a visit. "When came here so she could swim in the water and see it in case it's not here next time."
Randall Luthi, president of the Washington-based National Ocean Industries Association, a national trade group representing the offshore oil industry, said: "This is by far the best news we've heard in 86 days. You can bet that industry officials and their families are taking a big sigh here."
___
Weber reported from Houston. Associated Press Writers Shelia Byrd in Jackson, Miss., Jay Reeves in Dauphin Island, Ala., Mary Foster, Alan Sayre, Kevin McGill and Vicki Smith in New Orleans, and Matt Sedensky in Pensacola Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.

was imprisoned for expressing their ideas...

One former Cuban political prisoners COPE : " I have fear put in the body "

The Lantern of the COPE has been in study , live , Julio César Gálvez , former Cuban political prisoner journalist, who on 18 March 2003 was detained by the dictatorship Castro and sentenced to 15 years charged with violating the law of 88 that can imprison people for publishing anything critical of the government overseas.
Miguel Soria - 07/15/2010
    Juan Pablo Colmenarejo Julio César Gálvez interview in The Lantern
    Julio César Gálvez has been reported in The Lantern leading "gone fear in the body"That makes you always carry your passport at pocket in case someone asks him : "In Cuba if you will a Police calls for ID card and you do not carry , you have two options : a fine of 50 pesos or two days in jail. well accustomed put fear in the heart with all Cubans, but here the Police have no reason to stop anyone".
    What  written to be in jail ? The journalist described  in detail :One of my jobs that enabled the cogiera scheme fear was that I write about why and  Where was the money he once had in 1986 intended to repair a building that was in ruins. Prisoner say  truth : that someone was stealing and that they were not concerned that building or those living there at risk of perish".

    Therefore, for questioning a decision and tell the truth , was made a political prisoner. The country for which the Government Zapatero urges again and again to change the common EU position , without  stop violating human rights are constantly.
    S : Cope / translate LPPNEWS Front- Line

    DISSIDENTS released...

    The former Cuban prisoners released reported that Spain are in a legal limbo

    They refuse to stay with residence permit and require that they be granted political asylum

    Thursday, July 15, 2010 - 14:01 pm 
    PATRICIA MARTIN ( MADRID)

    Deported , exiled , exiles, and as  a prison without bars. So feel former Cuban prisoners released  in Spain, from Tuesday live in a hostel of a polygon industry to the outskirts of Madrid and just know what will become of them in the coming days . " We are in a legal limbo . We are not free We are refugees, " has denounced a Julio César Gálvez crowded news conference.
      Algunos de los disidentes llegados a España antes de la rueda de 
prensa que han ofrecido hoy en Madrid.
    Some of the dissidents arrived in Spain before the press conference today that have offered Madrid. EFE
    The first six prisoners freed refuse to stay in Spain with a residence permit and require granted political asylum. Recognize that this morning an official  Ministry of Interior has been in contact with them to to request such status, but know how to end the process. "This is a total and complete ignorance of what will be our lives, " Galvez complaint .
    They have been further informed that will be scattered around the peninsula to various residential centers for immigrants , a situation that does not please them . Some prefer continue their struggle together from Madrid and others want to join their U.S. families .
    Living
    Meanwhile , they have to continue living in a hostel, with baths without intimacy shared with their families because the rooms are groups , as has been reported Hernández , who suffers gastrointestinal problems and should follow a diet that does not make it easy  in the placement. If Zapatero has promised, to give us the conditions that we deserve, Hernandez reiterated .
    The dissidents are also demanding to return to Cuba, but with resignation recognize that it will be very difficult. From the outset, the Castro government will not  has forgiven the sentence , sometimes more than 20 years , which were  defendants. "If we can send us to prison again , "he José Luis García explained . "We have to ask permission to enter our house. It is a lack of respect. Cuba is home to all Cubans, " added Omar Rodriguez.
    Former prisoners also requested the release of the remaining 52 members of called Group of 75 who are still in prison, including they do not want to travel to other countries. And that they enjoy in Cuba of human rights. "Our main struggle is that he stays in Cuba, is truly free , "says Galvez.
    "The end of the road is we return to Cuba without risk of being imprisoned , and democracy. If  no, we have not won anything , "concluded Ricardo Gonzalez.
     S: elperiodico.com / simultaneous translation LPPNEWS Front - Line
    Cuban dissidents released say they do not feel free in Spain

    Cuban dissidents released from prison by the regime Castro and exiled to Spain this week said they had not yet feel free to have no paper stating that they will not return  to prison, and stressed that his release is not sufficient to  EU to soften its policy toward Cuba.

    Disidentes cubanos excarcelados dicen que no se sienten libres en 
España
    Photo: AP









    At a crowded press conference at the headquarters of the Association Madrid Press (APM ) , six of the released dissidents said  never asked permission to return to their country and demanded the release of prisoners who do not want to leave Cuba test the will to change the government of Havana.

    Accompanied by his " white ladies , " their wives , appeared Gálvez to the media along with Omar Rodriguez Hernández , Ricardo González , José Luis García Paneque and Lester Gonzalez, all journalists,  at an event organized by Reporters Without Borders ( RSF).
    For more than an hour, recounted their experiences in jail and situation in which they are in Spain , where he is expected to arrive at least a score of 52 prisoners will be released.
    At present , there are ten political prisoners released under of talks between the Castro regime and the Catholic Church Cuban , also sponsored by the Spanish Government .
    Besides expressing his uncertainty about the status of reception will be - immigrants or political refugees , all said that there will be been no change while the prisoners who have refused to come  to Spain remain in prison .
    Omar Rodriguez , jailed for taking pictures of parts of Havana , contradicted the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos , who told the Spanish Parliament this week that prisoners arriving in Spain "were free and not deported. "
    " Yes it was a deportation. We need not ask permission to return home , "he answered firmly .
    The dissenters expressed his doubts about accepting the status immigrant who has offered the Spanish Government , which would grant them a work permit and residence, or ask for political asylum , which prevent them from returning to Cuba.
    The release of prisoners and sending some to Spain is, according to  Gonzalez, a "hook" and a " mask " for the EU to soften its policy toward the island.
    In his view, are positive steps, but insufficient , so that Europe should continue to demand democratic progress in Cuba to facilitate dialogue.
    "The end of the road is to return to Cuba without risk of being released. If not, we have not won anything , "he said .
    S : Terra / translate LPPNEWS Front- Line

    LPP Top News...

    Olga Guillot (1922 - 2010)

    It is a sad day for all Cubans. This afternoon it was reported that Olga Guillot, considered one of the most famous Cuban singers alongside Celia Cruz, died of a heart attack today at the age of 87.

    Listening to the reports in the local Spanish media it's obvious that many in the Cuban exile community are deeply saddened by this loss. But, along with her musical talents, many are remembering Guillot for her politics. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says: "There will never be another Olga Guillot. Her patriotism, love for her homeland, talented voice and caring heart will be missed." And, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart remembers that "above all, Olga Guillot was a Cuban patriot." Several callers to Radio Mambi today made the same references to Guillot's patriotism.

    Guillot was intransigent when it came to Cuba, and many in Miami loved her for that. According to El Nuevo Herald, a friend said Guillot's house in Cuba was repossessed in 1960, and soon thereafter she decided to leave and she never went back.

    I've always read more about Guillot's politics than her music here in Miami. (This is the result of the coordinated anti-Castro propaganda that thrives in the local Spanish media.) When the "Peace without Borders" concert was about to take place in Cuba last year (dubbed the "Concert of Discord" by the local Spanish media), Olga Guillot was given an increased amount of airtime on TV and radio because she opposed the concert. (After the concert, a poll of Cuban-Americans showed a majority with favorable views of the concert.)

    When the concert was over, she was asked in an interview about it. Guillot said that she was not impressed by the presentations and described the whole thing as "bien pobre" (very poor or poorly done). Guillot expressed the reasons for her political intransigence: she would never return as long as "the [Castro] regime" was in power. And, when asked what she thought of Cucu Diamantes, a young Cuban-American artist who traveled to Cuba to perform at the "Peace Without Borders" concert, she replied that Diamantes "has no character, and if she does then she is 'una infiltrada' (an infiltrator or spy)... here there are many people, many people who have been against the Cuba exile community because we are against that concert."

    When asked what Guillot would do if she ever ran into any of the artists, such as Juanes or Olga Tañon, from the concert in Cuba, she replied: "Nothing. I am not going to see them as persons, or people. To me they are already strangers."

    But, despite being mostly intransigent about Cuba, Guillot was also someone who could see beyond Cuban politics. In April 2009 it was reported that Olga Guillot and Omara Portuondo (another famous Cuban artist and supporter of the Cuban government) "embraced after 48 years separated spiritually and territorially."

    The power of music can bring people together, if only for a while. Even the most intransigent.

    --- Olga Guillot, in her own words ---

    "God knows that we all want to [celebrate] in a free Cuba. But, since it will not happen, at least here [in exile] we can give each other greetings, the fraternal embrace of us all [Cubans] so we can feel alive. And we are loyal to our homeland, loyal to our traditions and to our roots because that is the only thing we should not forget.

    "When they hear us say 'la Cuba mia' [that Cuba of mine] its because that Cuba of mine was so beautiful and so different to that Cuba of ours that suffers so much. And, one of the things that makes me sad is knowing that Cuba has not been lost, but kidnapped. Our island was kidnapped.

    "I carry inside me and in my heart a map, [shaped like an alligator], I love that alligator, a beautiful alligator, I love her, Cuba, always Cuba.

    [Photo courtesy of Guije.com]

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    S: Mambi _ Watch


    More From the House Floor

    Thursday, July 15, 2010
    Statement by U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL):

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today in protest of the Castro regime's intentions to forcibly deport 52 prisoners under the guise of release.

    Historically, they have used political prisoners as pawns to extract international concessions and ease criticism. As The Washington Post pointed out in their reporting on the story, this gesture does not represent the fundamental political change.

    As more political dissidents die of hunger strikes in Cuba, we cannot allow this hollow gesture to blind us from reality on the ground. In Cuba's authoritarian dictatorship, every dollar that flows into the country props up the Castro regime. In the meantime Alan Gross of Potomac, Maryland, arrested for contributing cell phones to tiny Jewish communities, continues to sit in prison with no hope of release.

    A relationship with the United States must be earned. Banishing political dissidents from their homeland hardly meets that test. This trick is surely no solace for Gross or others in jail.

    I yield back the balance of my time.

    Click here to see video.

    Do the Cuban People Believe Fidel?

    The Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board makes an interesting observation:

    Flush with Cold War nostalgia, Fidel Castro rose from his death bed this week to make an important announcement: The U.S. is dangerously close to nuclear war with North Korea and Iran. Inspired perhaps by last week's '70s-style U.S.-Russian spy trade, the communist icon, now 83, issued that dark warning in an hour-long interview on Cuban television.

    Don't feel bad if you missed it. Few are taking Castro seriously — even Cubans seem uninterested. Though Castro clearly still has influence within Cuba's bureaucracy, his people don't seem to hang on his every word these days. Maybe it's because he's been largely absent from public view for four years, since handing the reins to his not-much-younger brother Raul. Maybe the Adidas tracksuit doesn't command the same respect as the old camouflage fatigues. More likely it's because he'd already made a doomsday proclamation last month. And it didn't pan out.

    In his regular column on June 27 in Granma, the Cuban government's official newspaper, Castro predicted nuclear war would break out between the U.S. and Iran prior to the World Cup quarterfinals — halting the tournament. The World Cup continued, and no nukes were launched. There is a lesson here for future apocalyptic prophets: When crying "doomsday," don't mention specific dates. "At any moment" is much more ominous, and generously ambiguous.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: So do the Cuban people believe Castro when he blames the U.S. and its embargo for the island's ills?

    That is, after all, the argument du jour made by opponents of U.S. policy.

    The answer is obvious: No.
    S: Capitol Hill Cubans
     

    From the Economist Intelligence Unit:
    No democratisation
    If the prisoners — who include journalists, community organisers and opposition figures — are indeed set free, this would be a major concession on the part of the Castro government. It appears to be designed for external consumption, however. It could lead to improvements in Cuba’s foreign relations, particularly with Spain and other EU nations. EU foreign ministers will take up the issue of whether to uphold their “common position” on Cuba at their next summit in September. That position requires that the EU conduct an annual assessment of the human-rights situation in Cuba. Spain has been lobbying for some time for that requirement to be dropped.
    However, the prisoner releases probably do not signal coming democratisation or any moves to provide Cubans with greater political rights. Moreover, there has been no fundamental shift in the tolerance of opposition. While discussions with Church representatives were under way in early June, the authorities rounded up and briefly detained 37 members of two dissident groups, Agenda para la Transición (Agenda for the Transition) and Unidad Liberal de la República de Cuba (the Cuban Republic’s Liberal Unity). Ostensibly this was to prevent two meetings due to take place in the house of a prominent dissident, Héctor Palacios, although the meetings proceeded any way.
    Further, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights claims there are more than 100 additional political prisoners in Cuban jails.
    [...]
    The administration of President Barack Obama has taken modest steps towards improving relations with Cuba, such as eliminating Bush-era restrictions on travel to the island by Cuban-Americans and on their remittance of funds to their relatives. However, aware that the Cuba problem cannot be solved easily or quickly, the Obama government has decided to make no additional moves on Cuba policy in the approach to the US mid-term elections in November. Nonetheless, a campaign in the US legislature to weaken economic sanctions has continued. Two bills are advancing through Congress, one to facilitate US food sales to Cuba (by eliminating the need for Cuba to pay in cash in advance) and the other to remove restrictions on travel for US citizens. Although improvement on the human-rights front would help these bills’ prospects, final passage is highly uncertain.
    [...]
    In the absence of normalisation of political and commercial ties with Washington, Cuba’s relations with Venezuela will remain an important source of support for the economy. These are based on favourable terms of trade that link Cuba’s oil imports to the supply of healthcare and education professionals to Venezuela. If Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, were to be forced out of office, there would be a risk that current arrangements might be scaled back.
    Partly reflecting this uncertainty, the Cuban authorities will continue to broaden international economic ties with other friendly countries, notably China, Brazil and Russia, which are becoming ever-more important trade partners. Restoring good relations with the EU would also help to mitigate the growing reliance on, and risks associated with, Havana’s links to Venezuela.

    S:CUBAPOLIDATA

    July 15, 2010

    NYTimes: Somebody do something

    In an almost ambiguous editorial, The New York Times on Thursday asked Washington "to join with Europe and come up with a strategy" to deal with the Cuban government.
    But it didn't offer any proposals.
    After recalling the release of 52 political prisoners ("They pledged to keep fighting for democracy in Cuba; they must not fight alone"), the editorial states that Cuba may be "holding dozens or possibly hundreds of others."
    It then credits Spain, the Catholic Church, and the Ladies in White with brokering the release.
    And ends with this statement: "We have long called for an end to the Cuban embargo that has given the Castro governments all too convenient an excuse for their failures — and ensured that the United States has little influence there.
    "The people of Cuba have been trapped in a cold war nightmare. The United States needs to join with Europe and come up with a strategy to finally end that nightmare."
    To read the entire editorial, click here.

    July 14, 2010

    It's back to the barricades for scholar who lost Party card over article on corruption

    Esteban (emd) Morales Domínguez, the expert on U.S.-Cuba relations who last month was expelled from the Communist Party for an article he wrote about corruption in high places, is restating his concerns on the Internet. (See our June 28 blog item "Party sacks a scholar...")
    In a long article in the website Kaosenlared, he begins by analyzing President Obama's strategy toward Cuba, then turns to Cuba's present situation, mentioning the vulnerability of certain Cubans to the Americans' enticements.
    After a harsh denunciation of corruption and bureaucracy, Morales criticizes the Communist Party for expelling him, a faithful revolutionary for more than 50 years. The expulsion, he writes, "sends a message to revolutionary intellectuals, to the Party's masses and the Left in general that the Party will be implacable with whoever considers that the Party made a mistake,"
    This, "in my humble opinion, has nothing to do with what should be the spirit of criticism that must prevail in a Party like ours," Morales says.
    "Lamentably, the idea seems to predominate among us that the sole objective of a debate is to convince the citizens, whatever their position, that the course of action drawn by the higher authorities at a given time is the only true revolutionary [course] and therefore any criticism or dissent arises from ideological confusion, naiveté or, worse, from antirevolutionary attitudes."
    The article, in Spanish, is too long to reproduce here in full, but here are some extended excerpts.
    Posted by Renato Perez at 12:39 PM in Dissidents, human rights, Politics
    Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
    S:Cuban Colada

    REPORT AIR DATE: July 13, 2010...

    Cuba Back in Spotlight With Release of Prisoners

    SUMMARY

    Cuba is back in the news spotlight after the release of political prisoners and a TV appearance by Fidel Castro.

    LISTEN: MP3
    GWEN IFILL: Now: Cuba releases political prisoners, and Fidel Castro reappears.
    Margaret Warner has that story.
    MARGARET WARNER: Flanked by their families, seven former Cuban political prisoners arrived in Madrid today as free men. Smiling and flashing victory signs, the dissidents are the first of 52 such prisoners that Cuba has promised to free. It will be the biggest such release in a dozen years.
    JULIO CESAR GALVEZ RODRIGUEZ, released Cuban prisoner (through translator): We are the first of a group of prisoners of conscience who have just landed on Spanish soil, after more than seven years being unfairly jailed and in captivity.
    MARGARET WARNER: The package was brokered in talks earlier this month among the Cuban government, the Catholic Church, and Spain's foreign minister.
    RICARDO GONZALEZ ALFONSO, released Cuban prisoner (through translator): Change is inevitable. In my reply to you, I don't want to end it without thanking the Spanish government for its role in this dialogue.
    MARGARET WARNER: Estimates of how many political prisoners remain there vary widely, but the Cuban Commission on Human Rights in Havana says there are 160, the fewest in half-a-century.
    The releases have created the biggest international splash of Raul Castro's four-year presidency. He took over when his brother Fidel relinquished the post following intestinal surgery.
    But, last night, Fidel Castro reemerged, with his first televised remarks in three years. He was interviewed on state-controlled Cuban television. In 75 minutes, the 83-year-old revolutionary never mentioned the prisoner release or any other domestic Cuban issue. Instead, he warned that the U.S. was increasing the danger of nuclear war with Iran.
    FIDEL CASTRO, former Cuban president (through translator): The U.S. will encounter a terrible resistance that will spread the conflicts and cannot end up any other way than nuclear.
    MARGAR Caribbean nation.
    Last year, President Obama ended restrictions on Cuban-Americans visiting relatives. And, last month, a House committee approved a bill to end the travel ban for all Americans and ease trade restrictions on U.S. exports to Cuba.

    Two more Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

    The first seven men after their arrival in Spain on 13 July  
    The dissidents are among 20 who have indicated a desire to come to Spain

    Two more Cuban dissidents have landed in Spain, a day after the first group arrived as part of the planned release of 52 political prisoners.
    Journalists Normando Hernandez and Omar Rodriguez arrived at Madrid airport, along with several family members. Two others are due on Thursday.
    Cuba agreed last week to release the 52 dissidents after the intercession of Spain and the Catholic Church.
    They were jailed in a crackdown in 2003 which triggered EU sanctions.
    Cuba came under international pressure to free them after a jailed dissident starved himself to death earlier this year to draw attention to their plight.
    The seven men who arrived on Tuesday said their exile was a "continuation of the struggle".
    They also spoke about feeling dazed by the sudden developments, with some arriving with just a few suitcases or in one case with no change of clothes.
    Lester Gonzalez told the Associated Press that he did not sleep at all.
    Being in Madrid hotel, he said, felt "like I'm in a place where I'm dreaming".
    "We have to learn to live in freedom," said Julio Cesar Galvez.
    Exact terms It is expected that about 20 dissidents in total will come to Spain.
    However, several have indicated that they are unwilling to leave Cuba.
    It is difficult to know the exact terms of the discussions between the Cuban government, the Church and the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, that led to the agreement to free the 52, says BBC Mundo correspondent Fernando Ravsberg.
    However, it is very unlikely that some of the prisoners will remain in jail for refusing to leave the country and there is little doubt among Cubans that all 52 will be freed, he says.
    Cuba has always denied that it has political prisoners, describing them as criminals paid by the US to destabilise the country.