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Pope’s trip to Cuba a delicate balancing operation BY MIMI WHITEFIELD

SANTIAGO, Cuba — Pope Benedict XVI arrives Monday in this eastern Cuban city, where spring flowers have just started to bloom, on a mission of charity and reconciliation. But the church’s efforts to focus the trip on ushering in a “springtime” of faith are colliding with political tensions. As the Cuban church has gained space to operate more freely since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, critics say it is acting too timidly in defense of dissidents and political change on the island. However, during his flight from the Vatican to Mexico on Friday for the first leg of his two-nation tour, Benedict was unusually direct when he told reporters that “it is evident that Marxist ideology, as it was conceived, no longer responds to reality.” Asked about the pope’s remarks at a news conference on Saturday, Santiago Archbishop Dionisio Garcia Ibanez said, “First of all, Cuba and the Vatican already know this.” The Marxist model, he said, needs renovation “not only in Cuba but in other countries, too.” Cubans, Benedict told reporters on the flight, should “with patience and in a constructive fashion find new models.” The Cuban government, which sees the papal visit as a way to demonstrate to the world that it is tolerant and open to religious expression, was diplomatic about the pontiff’s remarks. “We consider the exchange of ideas to be useful,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. “Our people have deep convictions developed over the course of our history.” At a time when Catholicism in Cuba could use some shoring up — only a small percentage of baptized Catholics practice the faith regularly and Afro-Cuban religions are widespread on the island — the church appreciates the additional freedom it has to run its social programs, train priests, address the nation via state-controlled media and last year win the release of more than 100 long-term political prisoners. But it is also in a position of defending itself from charges that it has become too friendly with the Cuban government and hasn’t come out strongly enough in defense of human rights. Much of the criticism has centered on Cardinal Jaime Ortega, especially after his recent request for police assistance to remove a group of 13 dissidents who had occupied part of Our Lady of Charity


MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2012


Obama visits DMZ, warns N. Korea on launch plans BY MARK LANDLER

New York Times Service

PANMUNJOM, South Korea — U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday warned North Korea that its threats and provocations would only deepen its international isolation and jeopardize the resumption of U.S. food aid, and he called on the North to scrap its plans to launch a satellite next month. Squinting through binoculars from an observation post at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Obama got a firsthand look at North Korea which had briefly tantalized the United States just weeks ago by raising the possibility of ending the standoff over its nuclear program with a new leader in place, only to resume its usual defiant stance with the recent satellite announcement. “They need to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded,” Obama said, referring to the North Koreans at a news

ed on a long-range missile. Both men said it would breach North Korea’s obligations, since missile launchings are barred by United Nations sanctions. Despite the international condemnation, North Korea appears determined to press ahead with the satellite launching next month. On Sunday, the South Korean military said that North Korea had moved the main body of its Unha-3 rocket to the newly built launching station in Dongchang-ri, a village in northwestern North Korea. Obama expressed frustration that China, as the main patron of the North Korean government, had not done more to curb the ENN-BRADLEY SECKER/AFP-GETTY IMAGES North’s provocative behavior. He U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward North Korea said he would raise the issue of from an observation post at the Demilitarized Zone near China’s influence in a meeting on Panmunjom on the border between North and South Korea. Monday with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao. conference with South Korea’s and 50 other world leaders. Lee “In the same way that North president, Lee Myung-bak, who is also demanded that North Korea Korea needs to do something hosting a nuclear security summit “repeal” the decision to launch meeting that will include Obama the satellite, which is to be mount- • TURN TO OBAMA, 2A

In Paraguay, a forest under siege BY SIMON ROMERO

New York Times Service

FILADELFIA, Paraguay — The Chaco thorn forest, a domain with 120-degree temperatures so forbidding that Paraguayans call it their “green hell,” covers an expanse about the size of Poland. Huntergatherers still live in its vast mazes of quebracho trees. But while the Chaco forest has remained hostile to most human endeavors for centuries, and jaguars, maned wolves and swarms of biting insects still inhabit its thickets, the region’s defiance may finally be coming to an end. Huge tracts of the Chaco are being razed in a scramble into one of South America’s most remote corners by cattle ranchers from Brazil, Paraguay’s giant neighbor, and German-speaking Mennonites, descendants of colonists who arrived here nearly a

here. “One wakes with the taste of ashes and a thin film of white on the tongue,” he said. At least 1.2 million acres of the Chaco have been deforested in the last two years, according to satellite analyses by Guyra, an environmental group in Asuncion, the capital. Ranchers making way for their vast herds of cattle have cleared roughly 10 percent of the Chaco forest in the last five years, Guyra said. That is reflected in surging beef exports. “Paraguay already has the sad distinction of being a deforestation champion,” said Jose Luis Casaccia, a prosecutor PHOTOS BY NOAH FRIEDMAN-RUDOVSKY/NEW YORK TIMES SERVICE and former environment minisEnvironmental officials carry out a raid against ter, referring to the large clearing in recent decades of Atlantic an illegal team clearing land in the Chaco forest in forests in eastern Paraguay for Paraguay. Above, razed tracts of the Chaco forest. soybean farms; little more than century ago and work as farmers being burned that the sky some- 10 percent of the original forests and ranchers. times turns “twilight gray” at remain. So much land is being bull- daytime, said Lucas Bessire, a dozed and so many trees are U.S. anthropologist who works • TURN TO PARAGUAY, 2A


At the CIA, a convert to Islam leads the counterterrorism effort BY GREG MILLER

Washington Post Service

For every cloud of smoke that follows a CIA drone strike in Pakistan, dozens of smaller plumes can be traced to a gaunt figure standing in a courtyard near the center of the agency’s Langley campus in Virginia. The man with the nicotine habit is in his late 50s, with stubble on his face and the dark-suited wardrobe of an undertaker. As chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center for the past six years, he has functioned in a funereal capacity for al Qaeda. Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, may be the most consequential but least visible national security official in Washington — the principal architect of the


CIA’s drone campaign and the leader of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. In many ways, he has also been the driving force of the Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killing as a centerpiece of its counterterrorism efforts. Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam. His defenders don’t even try to make him sound likable. Instead, they emphasize his operational tal-

ents, encyclopedic understanding of the enemy and tireless work ethic. “Irascible is the nicest way I would describe him,” said a former high-ranking CIA official who supervised the counterterrorism chief. “But his range of experience and relationships have made him about as close to indispensable as you could think.” Critics are less equivocal. “He’s sandpaper” and “not at all a team player,” said a former senior U.S. military official who worked closely with the CIA. Like others, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the director of CTC — as the center is known — remains undercover. Regardless of Roger’s management style, there is consensus on at


least two adjectives that apply to his tenure: eventful and long. Since becoming chief, Roger has worked for two presidents, four CIA directors and four directors of national intelligence. In the top echelons of national security, only Robert S. Mueller III, who became FBI director shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has been in place longer. Roger’s longevity is all the more remarkable, current and former CIA officials said, because the CTC job is one of the agency’s most stressful and grueling. It involves managing thousands of employees, monitoring dozens of operations abroad and making decisions on who the agency should target in lethal strikes — all while knowing that the CTC direc-


tor will be among the first to face blame if there is another attack on U.S. soil. Most of Roger’s predecessors, including Cofer Black and Robert Grenier, lasted less than three years. There have been rumors in recent weeks that Roger will soon depart as well, perhaps to retire, although similar speculation has surfaced nearly every year since he took the job. The CIA declined to comment on Roger’s status or provide any information on him for this article. Roger declined repeated requests for an interview. The Post agreed to withhold some details, including Roger’s real name, his full cover identity and his age, at the request of agency • TURN TO CIA, 2A


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