Friday, December 23, 2011

LPP News Pipeline...Marxist Cuba going, going…

23/12 17:19 CET
Marxist Cuba going, going…
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The right to leave and then come back to their own country freely has been denied to Cubans for as long as the Caribbean island has been under one-party, Castrist rule. Now it seems they could be allowed to be away for as long as two years.
They always needed an exit permit, which was valid for just 30 days. Under a strict law, it was supposedly renewable ten times. But the authorities could refuse it without giving any explanation, and if the holder stayed out longer than 30 days he lost the right of return.
Restrictions like that drove Cubans to desperation. For many it meant exile. Some two million Cubans live abroad – in the US for the most part.
Considering reform is a new experience for many.
“Reuniting Cuban families with members outside the country would be a good change,” said a man interviewed at random in the capital. “I think, for those here who have family, children and parents in the United States, it would be good.”
An energetic, elderly woman said: “I think it is good. We should change this system, so Cubans can go wherever they want to go.”
One Havana resident insisted: “Cuban society has always been free to keep or abolish restrictions…” but it seemed a confused view of the past, given that power was centralised in the hands of a few.
But Cuba is changing now, towards more economic pragmatism, reducing the stranglehold of ideology. Recently it became legal to sell property and cars, for instance, and to take out a bank loan.
A woman customer at the bank said: “It’s very important and gives us the possibility to acquire things we don’t have the cash to pay for.”
More praise for the measure allowing people to buy credit: “It’s good for people starting from zero.
Economic liberalisation means bidding a farewell to Marxist theoretical orthodoxy. Letting people work for themselves is capitalism. Reforms like this to the archaic, economically dysfunctional Castrist state mean a new Cuba.
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Russia test-fires two new nuclear missiles

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia successfully tested on Friday its two new Bulava intercontinental missiles, which experienced several failures in the past.
The Defence Ministry said the 12-meter-long Bulava, or Mace, which Moscow aims to make the cornerstone of its nuclear arsenal, was fired from a submarine in the Arctic White Sea and hit the target, a designated polygon, on Kamchatka peninsula in Russia's far east.
"The launch was carried out from (the submarine in) submerged position in the White Sea," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted by state-run RIA news agency as saying. "Its warheads reached the polygon (target) on time."
The missiles carry dummies rather than nuclear warheads as Russia is a signatory of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which bans all nuclear explosions.
The Bulava had failed half of its previous trials, calling into question the expensive missile program. The previous launch in June from the same submarine was a success though.
A Bulava missile weighs 36.8 tonnes and can travel a distance of 8,000 km (5,000) miles carrying 6-10 nuclear warheads, which would deliver an impact of up to 100 times the atomic blast that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Analysis: What's the plan if North Korea collapses?

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea appears to be making an orderly transition after the death of leader Kim Jong-il last week, but the risk of collapse is higher than before and regional powers need to start discussing that contingency with China, diplomats and analysts say.
The problem is China refuses to contemplate any unraveling of North Korea which has nuclear ambitions and is its long-term ally. Beijing has rebuffed such overtures from the United States, Japan and South Korea.
"Secret talks with China to plan for contingencies have long been overdue," said Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in a paper this week.
"Beijing has been reluctant to engage in this kind of dialogue, although Chinese thinkers have increasingly acknowledged privately the need for such an authoritative conversation."
Yet little evidence has emerged that such talks have taken place or are being planned, despite a flurry of discussions between the four countries in the aftermath of Kim's death last Saturday.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda travels to Beijing at the weekend, but it is unlikely that China would entertain anything more than platitudes. No contingency plan can be coordinated without China's agreement, since it borders North Korea and supplies much of its food and fuel.
Christopher Hill, a former envoy to the six-party talks on North Korea nuclear disarmament, said it was difficult to raise North Korean instability scenarios with China.
"The Chinese are always skittish about these things," he said, adding that the disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks have made them especially wary of contingency planning.
Still, the transition of power in North Korea from the departed "Dear Leader," Kim Jong-il, to his son, the "Great Successor" Kim Jong-un, is going smoothly so far.
"We hope it stays that well," said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "We have not seen any unusual North Korean troop movements since the death of Kim Jong-il. That would be one indicator of a less than smooth transition."
The real worry is further down the road if a contest for power develops and piles stresses on a state that is already perilously close to economic collapse.
China, the United States and other regional powers around the peninsula may face a number of daunting scenarios if the transition goes badly over the medium term. These could include civil conflict, a mass exodus of refugees, military mutiny, lost control of the North's small nuclear arsenal or military attack.
China is however undergoing its own leadership transition in 2012 and down the line it's not impossible that there may be some changes in its steadfast refusal to work with the United States and its allies on contingency planning for North Korea.
In one Feb 22, 2010 cable by then U.S. ambassador to Seoul Kathleen Stephens, a top South Korean diplomat cited private conversations with two high-level Chinese officials who said China could live with a reunified Korea under the control of South Korea.
The then South Korean vice foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, who was also a delegate at the six-party talks, said the two Chinese officials told him privately that China "would clearly not welcome any U.S. military presence north of the Demilitarized Zone in the event of a collapse."
But the Chinese officials told him Beijing "would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a 'benign alliance' - as long as Korea was not hostile towards China."
The United States maintains 28,500 troops in South Korea and remains the Supreme Commander of unified American and South Korean troops in the event of a crisis with the North.
Chun, now the South Korean president's national security adviser, did not respond to a request for comment.
Chun also told the U.S. ambassador in that cable that China would not militarily intervene in the event of a North Korea collapse, and he expected that to happen within two to three years after the death of Kim Jong-il.
The alleged remarks from the two Chinese diplomats do not represent China's official position on North Korea. But China's ability to influence North Korea is sometimes over-estimated. In April 2009, He Yafei, then China's vice foreign minister, told a U.S. diplomat in Beijing that North Korea acted like a "spoiled child" to attract U.S. attention through steps such as firing a three-stage rocket over Japan.
The official line from Beijing, repeated during a visit by Kim Jong-il to China in May, is that the relationship remains "sealed in blood" of the allies that fought together in the Korean War.
"For China, the core imperative remains the avoidance of anything that might compromise North Korea's stability," said Sarah McDowall, an analyst at IHS Jane's.
"Occasionally, however, when North Korea commits particularly blatant provocations, this priority comes into conflict with another of China's over-riding diplomatic objectives - its desire to be seen as a responsible global player. China's behavior with regards to North Korea in recent years has been a struggle to balance these two objectives."
In another Wikileaks cable from Astana, Kazakhstan on June 8, 2009, Chinese ambassador Cheng Guoping told his U.S. counterpart Richard Hoagland that China opposes North Korea's nuclear tests and hopes for peaceful reunification of the peninsula over the long term.
Cheng said China's objectives in North Korea were to ensure their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and 'don't drive (Kim Jong-il) mad,'" Hoagland said in the cable.
John Park, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, used a medical analogy to describe the difference in the U.S. and Chinese approaches.
"The way contingency planning is framed by the U.S. is, 'Let us coordinate so that if the North Korean state does collapse we can harvest the organs, and we think they should be implanted in a unified Korea, and the more the U.S. and China coordinate on this, the more smooth and stable it will be.'
"Whereas China's view is, 'Why would you wait for until the patient dies? Why wouldn't you prevent the death of the regime.' So there the Chinese are adopting almost this preventive medicine approach."
Jia Qingguo, professor of international relations at Peking University, said prospects for political stability in North Korea were bleak and interested powers needed "to step up communications, especially now the risks of a crisis are quite high."
The loyalty of those around the "Great Successor" is difficult to ascertain, Jia said.
"Add to that all the many problems, domestic and external, confronting North Korea. In these circumstances, I think it's very difficult to say whether Kim Jong-un will be able to master the political apparatus."
Kim Jong-un, who is in his late 20s, has little experience. His father Kim Jong-il had 20 years to prepare for rule under the tutelage of his father, Kim Il-sung, the charismatic founding father of the North Korean state.
Analysts have said senior officers were replaced after young Kim was made a four-star general last year, though he had never served in the military.
Issues that need to be urgently addressed in contingency planning include how to provide aid in the face of a collapse or crisis, and how to ensure the safety of the North's nuclear materials, Jia said.
"I think from the viewpoint of China and the United States, it may be up to one of them to assume control of the nuclear weapons and avoid proliferation."
A former Japanese diplomat who dealt with North Korean issues, Hitoshi Tanaka, questioned whether any measures would be effective in the event of "internal domestic turmoil" in North Korea.
South Korea, China, Japan and the United States "are very busy collecting and exchanging information and comparing notes" about North Korea's future, but that information is "very, very limited."
"It is extremely let China work in the most constructive way, because clearly, China is the last resort in the context of helping North Korea," he said.
(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing, Paul Eckert and Warren Strobel in Washington, Linda Sieg in Tokyo and Jack Kim in Seoul; Editing by David Chance)

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Putin's time is running out: Russian protest leader

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Up to 1 million Russians are ready to take to the streets to protest against a disputed election and Vladimir Putin's "corrupt regime" is unlikely to hold on to power for more than two years, protest leader Alexei Navalny said on Friday.
Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has emerged a leading light of the disparate opposition, said the public mood had turned against Russia's paramount leader and large crowds would join a protest rally in Moscow on Saturday.
"I am absolutely sure that up to 1 million people are ready to take part in such rallies ... I see the people's mood," Navalny told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the rally against alleged fraud in an election Putin's party won on December 4.
"They stole about 1 million votes. And that's only in Moscow. I think that these people are completely dissatisfied with what happened and are ready to defend their rights, including going out on to the streets," he said by telephone.
The 35-year-old lawyer has become the voice of the opposition since protests began over the election, in which Putin's United Russia won a slim majority in the lower house.
"I don't think Putin's regime of absolute power, which prevails in this country, will last for more than two years - that's the maximum," he said.
Navalny will address Saturday's rally on Moscow's Sakharov Avenue a few days after being released from jail after serving a 15-day sentence for obstruction of justice during one of the earlier protests.
He has gained a large following, particularly among young professionals and Internet users, by using his small shareholdings in various Russian companies to expose high-level corruption and to campaign for greater transparency.
The Internet has been vital for organizing protests in the country of more than 140 million, where state television is tightly controlled and has paid little attention to the biggest opposition rallies since Putin rose to power in 1999.
Opposition leaders have said they hope at least 50,000 people will attend Saturday's rally in Moscow, which will also be addressed by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. More than 40,000 people have pledged online to show up.
"One meeting, another meeting. One day the people will go out on the street, and they will not return. There is only one scenario. We have to carry on until they meet our demands," Navalny said.
The demands include annulling the election and holding a new one, registering opposition parties, dismissing the election commission head and freeing people the protesters consider political prisoners.
Calls by some opposition leaders for another demand to be added to the list - Putin's resignation - have been resisted by some of the organizers who say the main aim of the demonstration is to demand an election rerun.
But Navalny called on Russians to unite against Putin as soon as he was freed from jail early on Wednesday and his influence has risen since the protests began.
Navalny's politics, which mix scorn for the ruling elite and rhetoric on illegal immigration, have gained traction with the middle class. But his chances of becoming a genuine threat to Putin's tightly controlled political system could depend on whether he can mobilize large numbers of protesters.
Although his popularity has fallen, Putin is still widely seen as Russia's most popular politician and is regarded as the ultimate arbiter by the clans which own swathes of the world's biggest energy producer.
Even so, Navalny has increasingly pitted himself against Putin, who is almost certain to extend his 12-year rule by returning to the presidency in an election in March.
"I don't think we need to demand the resignation of Putin. we only need to demand free elections ... The country needs a decent, legitimate president," he said.
Navalny has repeatedly said he is not afraid of reprisals for speaking out against what he has called a corrupt government, and he has warned that authorities have more to lose than protesters from a show of force.
"I think that they (the authorities) have simply realized a simple fact ... it has become more and more obvious that they would lose very quickly, lose everything, if they met us with force. These people are not stupid," he said.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, writing by Thomas Grove; editing by Timothy Heritage and Matthew Jones)
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