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CONNECT THE WORLD

Iran Releases American Hiker

Aired September 14, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Iran releases American hiker, Sarah Shourd after holding her for 14 months on charges of spying. But she's leaving behind her fiance and another American locked behind these prison walls. Tonight, the role they all play as pawns in a global political game.

Going beyond borders on the day's biggest stories for you on CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Sarah Shourd's release from jail in Iran comes on the very day the United Nations throws open its doors for this year's General Assembly.

Connection?

Well, you be the judge.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Also tonight, a rare look at the terror group, Al Shabaab, in Somalia. I can guarantee you'll be surprised when you hear where their fighters are being recruited from.

Cuba's old leader makes a very un-communist decision. I'm going to tell you what he did and explore the ramifications of that.

And...

(MUSIC)

ANDERSON: An all time soul legend is taking your questions. Dionne Warwick is your Connector of the Day.

And remember to connect with the program online via Twitter. My personnel address is atbeckycnn.

Well, first up tonight, for Sarah Shourd, the last 410 days have seemed like a lifetime. Locked up in a notorious Iranian prison, there seemed little hope of release. But following an apparent change of heart by Iran, the American is finally heading home. The 32-year-old was freed on bail earlier today after a demand for a half a million dollars in bail money was settled.

Before boarding a plane to Oman, she had this praise for the Iranian president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY PRESS TV)

SARAH SHOURD, RELEASED FROM IRAN: I want to really offer my thanks to everyone in the world, all of the governments, all of the people that have been involved. And I especially particularly want to address President Ahmadinejad and all of the Iranian officials that have -- religious leaders and thank them for their humanitarian gesture. I'm just grateful and I'm very humbled by just the moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, she's now been reunited with her mother after arriving on a flight from Tehran.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is on Oman's capital of Muscat -- Nic, what can you tell us?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she arrived and touched down at the Royal Flight Airport, which is close to the interna -- the main international terminal here, getting VIP treatment, being whisked away from that airport terminal. A small gathering of journalists there to meet her, but, of course, her mother and her uncle, the people she would have been most happy to see on touching down after that two-and-a-half hour flight from Tehran.

She's been in Muscat for about the last two-and-a-half hours. Her final destination very likely will be her home in the United States. But her immediate travel plans are not exactly clear. It appears she is taking some time here to catch her breath. Obviously, the events of today have happened very fast paced, within a couple of hours of being released from that jail onto the charter flight in Tehran, two-and-a-half hours later landing here in Muscat and now just taking some time to catch up with her family, with her mother and with her uncle.

Their -- their whereabouts in Muscat are being kept, as you would understand and perhaps expect in the situation, a closely guarded secret.

But clearly, by the government here, who played a key behind the role scenes, according to a senior U.S. -- U.S. administration official. The government here in Oman playing a key role in helping secure her release from jail in Tehran -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic, is it clear who paid the bail money for her release?

ROBERTSON: No, it's not. It's not clear exactly where the money came from. But what is clear is that the Omani government has played an instrumental role in helping facilitate her release and helping facilitate the transfer of the half a million dollar bail fund. It's not clear if the money was paid when she touched down here, the money was paid before she was released from jail.

But it's Swiss diplomats in Tehran, along with United States officials, who have been obviously working at a distance. They don't have diplomatic facilities in Tehran. So Swiss diplomats in Tehran on the ground.

But behind the scenes, nobody knew about it but the Omanis playing a key role, obviously, their relationship -- their good relationship with Tehran, their good relationship with the U.S. obviously working, it appears, as -- as a sort of a middleman in all of this, if you will -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson in Muscat in Oman.

Nic, thank you for that.

ANDERSON: Well, U.S. President Obama welcomed the release of Sarah Shourd and thanked those responsible for it. But the U.S. also says that it's now time for Iran to release the two Americans left behind.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

P.J. CROWLEY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: As the president said in his statement, Iran has shown compassion in the -- in the case of Sarah Shourd. We would hope that Iran would demonstrate the same compassion with respect to -- to the other hikers. I mean they're -- they're -- the facts behind their case are identical. You know, these were three hikers, three innocent young American citizens. They crossed the border of -- Iran has had more than enough time to -- to investigate and -- and -- and understand that, you know, that there -- there are no hidden facts in this case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, Shourd is just one of a number of other high profile detainees to be released by Iran.

In May, 2009, you may remember American journalist Roxana Saberi was released after an appeals court suspended her eight year jail sentence. Now, the charges against her were reduced from espionage to possessing classified information.

Well, the French academic Clotilde Reiss was released last May after a fine was paid. Her 10 year sentence on espionage charges was commuted to a $300,000 fine.

And last October, Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari was freed on a $300,000 bail. He was later sentenced in absentia to more than 13 years and 74 lashes.

Well, all three were held in Iran's notorious Evin Prison. Take a look inside. The same jail was home to Sarah Shourd for more than a year. For much of that time, she was held in solitary confinement.

Well, in an interview following Maziar Bahari's release, he told CONNECT THE WORLD what daily life was really like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAZIAR BAHARI, JOURNALIST: There were two kinds of days. One, sometimes I was interrogated for long hours. Sometimes I was just left alone for eight or nine days. And I didn't know what was happening to me. And during three months into my -- I mean for three months during my imprisonment, my interrogator always told me that it was going to be executed next time I -- I was going to see him.

And, you know, the worst thing about solitary confinement was solitary confinement itself, the fact that I was alone in the cell and I didn't know -- I didn't know what was happening to me. I only had a copy of the Koran and a book of prayers to read. And I just had to wait for other people to make decisions for me. And I was isolated from the rest of the world. I didn't know anything about the campaign. I didn't know anything about the campaign. I didn't know anything about what my friends and colleagues and my wife Paula was doing for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Maziar Bahari speaking to me when he was -- or just after he was released back in October.

Well, pretty harsh conditions.

So why release the American hiker now?

Could Iran be trying to build up some goodwill ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, which is actually kicking off as we speak.

Well, to answer those questions, I -- I'm joined now live from Washington by Karim Sadjadpour. He's from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

If Ahmadinejad is looking to make friends in highish places, the timing of this release, coming as it does, as the U.N. kicks open its doors to world leaders, couldn't be better, surely, could it?

KARIM SADJADPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think that's right, Becky. The -- there's two issues here. One is that Sarah Shourd has some serious health concerns. Her mother mentioned that she had found a lump on her breast. And I think that explains why Sarah is being released before her two friends.

But as you mentioned, the U.N. General Assembly is going to happen next week. Ahmadinejad is going to come to New York. And he's sure to do dozens of interviews with different American media outlets. And he wants to have some capital there, to say that he's less unreasonable than people may think and to also show that he can deliver on -- on issues like this.

So I think that, certainly, the timing of this is not coincidental.

ANDERSON: Well, firstly, then, should we expect the release of the other two Americans any time soon?

SADJADPOUR: Well, hopefully. But I -- I think it if were up to President Ahmadinejad himself, he's prone to dramatic gestures. And I can imagine him wanting to take the two Americans along with him on his plane.

But unfortunately what happens with these situations in Iran is that these hostages become domestic political footballs. So Ahmadinejad's rival, even his conservative rivals, don't want to see him get credit for this.

So it's very unpredictable. And I think it's plausible that the two other hikers could be released in the coming weeks. But I think, unfortunately, it's plausible that their case could also drag on a little bit more.

ANDERSON: You allude to an internal power struggle between President Ahmadinejad on one side and the supreme leader and the Republican Guards on the other.

Just how deep is that struggle at this point?

SADJADPOUR: Well, Iran is a very opaque system. And what's happened in the aftermath of last June's presidential elections is that any remaining moderates or pragmatists were essentially purged from the system. So you now have a political color spectrum which ranges from pitch black to dark gray. And even within and among these headliners, there's a great deal of tension. There's a great deal of animosity toward President Ahmadinejad.

And I think that one thing that can be said is that whereas two decades ago or three decades ago, Iran was a country ruled by the clergy, it's increasingly a country ruled by the Revolutionary Guards. And whether the Revolutionary Guards are more beholden to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, or to the president, Ahmadinejad, is really going to determine the country's future.

But I would argue that, at the moment, Ahmadinejad is not growing stronger with time, he's growing weaker.

ANDERSON: Well, Iran has also, of course, been stung by a string of defections recently. Karim, earlier today, an Iranian diplomat based in Belgium announced he was seeking political asylum in Norway. Farzad Farhnigian (ph) said it was now time for the government to be overthrown.

It comes just days after an Iranian diplomat based in Finland announced that he could no longer support what he said was a brutal regime. Hussein Alizadeh said he was now a political dissident.

These defections, I assume, reflect a fairly widespread discontent about the Iranian regime, even among the country's officials.

In the big scheme of things, will the regime care about these guys?

SADJADPOUR: It's certainly an embarrassment for them, Becky. And what you said is absolutely right, there's tremendous internal disaffection within the Iranian regime, particularly within the Iranian Foreign Ministry. A contact I have within the Iranian Foreign Ministry estimates that 85 to 90 percent of his colleagues are more sympathetic to the opposition movement than they are to the Ahmadinejad government.

But these folks in the foreign ministry stationed abroad are in difficult circumstances, because if they do resign on principle, they then have to apply for asylum as refugees. They lose their source of livelihood and they still, oftentimes, have families to feed.

So despite the fact that there's tremendous disaffection, oftentimes, people muddle along with the status quo because their lives are -- are made too difficult by -- by coming out as political dissidents.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff.

We thank you for joining us.

Out of Washington, your expert on Iranian affairs tonight. We wait to see how President Ahmadinejad, of course, conducts himself in New York next week at the United Nations General Assembly and whether we'll see any progress on the issue of nuclear arms.

Don't go away. We've got plenty more to come, including an update on the situation in Paris, where police are investigating a bomb threat around the Eiffel Tower.

More on that after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: All right, let's get you an update now on some breaking news in France.

The Eiffel Tower and the park that surrounds it have been evacuated by police. A threat was reportedly phoned in that there is a bomb somewhere near or in the Eiffel Tower.

Let's get you straight to Paris, then, and find out what's going on there.

Jim Bittermann is on the phone for us from the bureau there.

What can you tell us -- Jim?

BITTERMANN: Becky, in fact, the police have most recently revised downward the figure of the number of people that have been evacuated. They're saying now it was more like 2,000, not 25,000, that were evacuated. But there were people evacuated from the Eiffel Tower itself and from some of the areas around there. Apartments and businesses around there were evacuated.

Now, this took place about 8:20 this evening, Paris time. It's now just about two hours after that. And the police are still in the Tower. They are still keeping people back, so they're -- that the pedestrians and tourists are not able to approach the area right underneath the Tower. They're going through the Tower with dog teams.

So far as we know, they haven't found anything. And so they've obviously taken this threat seriously in the sense that they -- they brought about this evacuation. But it's not the first time that the Eiffel Tower has been evacuated and it's the kind of place that, because of its symbolism, gets a lot of threats -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Very briefly, Jim, how many times in the past do we know threats to the Eiffel Tower?

Is this -- is this something that happens on a sort of semi-regular basis?

BITTERMANN: I would think so, yes. I think that -- that we know that there are threats against most of the monuments in Paris, you know -- I wouldn't say almost daily, but -- but probably something on that order, that, in fact, there have been -- there -- that it's a pretty easy thing to do, to pick up a telephone and say, hey, you should evacuate something and -- and there's a threat against it. And every time someone feels a little anxiety or discomfort with something the government has done or something like that, they can go ahead and do something like that.

But, clearly, they -- they took this one more seriously than most. One reason maybe that they did is that there have been some warnings here lately, in the last couple of months, and most recently, just a few days ago from the -- the intelligence -- interior intelligence office or the main intelligence officer for dealing with interior matters in France, who said that the threat level from -- from a terrorist attack is as high as it's been since 1995, when, of course, there were a series of terrorism attacks in France. And he was talking about Islamic radicals that are involved in those threats for a number of different reasons.

But in any case, those threats were obviously serious enough that tonight, when they did receive this phone call, they took it seriously.

ANDERSON: Yes. All right, Jim, well, as you find out more, of course, you will get straight back to us here at CNN.

Live pictures coming to you from Paris there, where there has been a bomb threat to the Eiffel Tower. And it seems some 2,000 people have been evacuated from the area, a number that's been certainly downgraded from the 25,000 that police were reporting earlier on.

Well, the fact that you watch us -- and thank you for that -- presumably means that you speak English, though not necessarily as your mother tongue. Well all this week, we're talking the talk when it comes to languages. Mandarin Chinese has, by far, the most native speakers and yet few expect it to become something we all try to learn. We'll take a look at the battle for linguistic dominance, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Christianity, Judaism, Islam -- they all have it, a version of the famous Tower of Babel legend. Well, this is when man's hubris led him to construct a building that would reach to heaven. As the story goes in the Book of Genesis, God was not pleased, so he talked work, he had each of the workers speak a different tongue and scattered them around the world.

Welcome back.

Of course, linguists may argue with that explanation of language has evolved, but the fact remains there are 6,800, nearly 7,000 of them spoken on the planet today.

Well, Monday, we looked at how almost half of those are dying out.

Well, today, we're going to look at two that are increasing their dominance.

We begin with the rise of Mandarin and why it can be such a struggle for some people learn it.

Just ask our very own Mr. John Vause.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): So the theory goes something like this -- China is rising so quickly, its economy growing so fast, this century belongs to the Chinese and anyone who wants to succeed, especially in business, had better start speaking their language. All well and good for these young students at an international school in Beijing, because they can easily work out the four different tones which form the basis of Mandarin, the standard Chinese widely spoken on the mainland.

HUNTER SHANG, CHINESE LANGUAGE TEACHER: Put them together, bah...

VAUSE (on camera): Yes?

SHANG: Isham (ph) bah. A second bah. The third bah and the fourth bah.

VAUSE (voice-over): If you missed that, don't worry, because the older you get, the harder it gets for most people.

JACK PERKOWSKI, CONSULTANT: I've been here since 1993.

VAUSE (on camera): How much Chinese do you speak?

PERKOWSKI: I learn one word every year. So I'm up to about 15 or 16 words.

VAUSE: You've got a long way to go.

(voice-over): For Jack Perkowski, once described as Mr. China because of his enthusiasm for doing business here, language can be outsourced.

(on camera): Now, let's (INAUDIBLE) stand here.

PERKOWSKI: Right.

VAUSE: So we have all these Chinese figures here. You've been here since 1993.

You can't read a word of this, can you?

PERKOWSKI: I can look at the pictures but I can't read the words. For me to take the time to really learn Chinese in any way that I can begin to use it, in a business sense, would just be way too long.

VAUSE (voice-over): And that's the rub -- learning Mandarin is a full-time job -- OK if you're a school kid, not so good for businessmen. And besides...

DEB FALLOWS, AUTHOR, "DREAMING IN CHINESE": I think it's very unlikely that -- that Mandarin will replace English as the world's lingua franca. There are just so many more English speakers in the world and so many fewer opportunities to learn Chinese and -- and master it.

VAUSE: Anyway, during the '80s, weren't we told to learn Japanese?

And look how that worked out.

John Vause, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Well, John, well, we want to pick up on something he mentioned in that report, the idea of Mandarin and English fighting it out for global dominance. Well, when it comes to how many people speak each, well, there's really no comparison.

Take a look at the these numbers. The folks at Espanolog (ph) track who speaks what and where. By the end of the 20th century, they estimated that 885 million people spoke Mandarin as their mother tongue. Spanish came in a distant second -- that's at 29 million, a mere tick more than English. And when you included all speakers of a language, that gap will shrink about it. Mandarin tops a billion, English cup -- English, sorry -- comes in at about half that and Spanish slipping in two thirds.

So why, then, is it presumed that English is conquering the world and could we return to the days before Babel when we all spoke in one tongue?

Well, Robert McCrum has some thoughts on that.

And he joins me in the studio tonight.

He's the author of "Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language. And here it is, how the jell became the world's language. For those who don't know what Globish is, what it is, who speaks it?

ROBERT MCCRUM, AUTHOR, "GLOBISH": Well, the whole world speaks it. It's -- it's everyone's second language. And it's -- I mean to get back to your original, it -- it's what everyone defaults to. Say if a Chinese meets a Chilean in Brazil or a -- or in Nigeria -- because there's a lot of Chinese businessmen in Africa. If -- if the Chinese were to meet in Nigeria, they would default to English. But it would be a very imperfect format (INAUDIBLE) which I am calling Globish.

ANDERSON: We see it all over the world, don't we?

I mean I...

MCCRUM: Certainly, wherever you...

ANDERSON: -- business lounges in hotels...

MCCRUM: Yes, yes. Yes.

ANDERSON: -- all over the world.

Are we talking about a version, though, of English with no native speakers or -- or one from, say, post-colonial India or Nigeria, which is really English by any other name, probably just a bit lazy, perhaps?

MCCRUM: Well, that -- I think the point is that it -- it's very imperfect but that it -- jell always has been like that. And we've -- we've -- we've been taught to take it very seriously until we get the grammar right. But actually, it's always been an imperfect tongue. The reason it does so well internationally is because it's imperfect and it can be reduced to its bare essentials in a way that Mandarin can't. So it -- it's very effective, from the point of view of somebody who's just picking it up.

ANDERSON: But you -- you didn't coin this phrase, Globish, did you?

MCCRUM: I didn't, no. I stole it.

ANDERSON: Well done, you.

MCCRUM: I stole it from -- from a Frenchman, in fact. He coined it. And he observed -- he was Michael Jean-Paul Nerriere, a delightful chap. And he discovered that a Japanese speaking to a Korean will do better in English than he would if he was speaking to us, because -- we -- we -- our language is full if idiom and nuance and all kinds of style.

ANDERSON: John showing his prowess with the language. And since he attempted to learn Mandarin, our Beijing bureau chief, and so he should.

But you -- I guess john might argue with you, when you, I know, would triumph English even in the face of a thundering red dragon or the march of the red dragon that is...

MCCRUM: But...

ANDERSON: -- China and Mandarin.

MCCRUM: -- the thing that you didn't mention is that there are 400 million Chinese learning English as we speak. I mean the Chinese middle class -- I mean I saw it when I was in Beijing. I've seen the Chinese middle class learning English. And the -- I mean never mind the spread of Mandarin, but the point is that that's what they want to acquire to do well in America, around the world, California. So it's -- it's their passport to a better life.

ANDERSON: Is there anything that would convince you that Globish, i.e. A form of English wasn't the way forward, wasn't the growth language going forward?

MCCRUM: Well, the problem is that in this -- in this area, people who make predictions about it, they're always -- almost always proved wrong. So I'm a bit nervous.

But I -- I think, at the moment, given the world economy, the global economy and the Internet and so forth, the chances are that it will be in power, so to speak, for a very long time to come.

ANDERSON: And that's what matters, I guess.

MCCRUM: It's to do with trade, it's to do with advertising, it's to do with movies, pop songs, you know, communicating. The point about the English language is it contains the idea of -- the idea of liberal values, democratic values, within -- within it. And it's kind of -- it's kind of - - so it's kind of coded with ideas of freedom, with self-expression. And that's -- that's why people -- so the Iranians, for example, they all turn to it when they want to express a country counter an opinion against the regime. They will turn to English as a way of expressing their -- their objections.

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff.

We thank you very much.

MCCRUM: And so it becomes -- it's a way of saying no.

ANDERSON: Yes. Thank you.

Well versed, your expert on the subject tonight, Robert McCrum. And his book is "Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language." Sir, we thank you for joining us.

Well, it's understandable that many languages around the world, including some of the biggies, may feel a bit threatened. Take Arabic, for instance. Tomorrow, we're going to look at why some researchers believe a push towards multilingualism in the Middle East means fewer native speakers there, and the efforts to change that.

Tonight, we'll be right back with your headlines, including an update on the situation with the bomb threat in Paris. Live pictures here of the Eiffel Tower. We'll be back after that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: You are back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. Looking at the clock, can't see it -- just about half past nine for you in London. I'm Becky Anderson.

Mass layoffs in Cuba's public service. The Communist government announces a whole new way of doing business. But can the push towards private enterprise work?

Then, a young girl's dream of escaping her small town turns into a nightmare. We speak to a victim of an elaborate human trafficking ring.

And a lady who knows how to use her voice in more ways than one. Grammy-award winner Dionne Warwick is your Connector of the Day. Hear what she is doing to help the global fight against hunger, amongst an awful lot of things.

All those stories ahead in the next 30 minutes. Let's first get you a quick check of the headlines this hour.

Two thousand people have been evacuated from the Eiffel Tower and the area that surrounds it. That was after a threat was phoned in that there's a bomb somewhere near or in the tower. Police are still there, going through it with dog teams. Authorities say the alert is being treated as routine and it's being investigated to determine whether the threat is real.

American Sarah Shourd is being reunited with her mother in Muscat in Oman. Shourd was released from a Tehran prison earlier today, where she spent more than a year. Iranian state-run media reports $500,000 bail was paid for her release. Two fellow Americans are still behind bars in Iran.

Egypt hosted the latest round of Middle East peace talks today. Palestinian and Israeli leaders sat down at the negotiating table for almost two hours, along with a US delegation. US special envoy George Mitchell says discussions on core issues have begun. Talks are set to continue in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

From propping up state-run operations to encouraging private enterprise, Cuba has announced a drastic change in the way that it does business. The Communist government will soon force many workers off state payrolls while handing out new permits for small businesses. Shasta Darlington ins in Havana with the details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Cuba says it plans to eliminate half a million state jobs over the next six months. A drastic ten percent reduction in the public workforce. But the Communist government says it also plans to expand the private sector, helping soak up some of those lost jobs.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Cuba's official labor union made the announcement in state media on Monday. But back in August, President Raul Castro had already warned that one million state jobs would be shed over five years. This latest statement makes it clear that layoffs are imminent.

Now, some Cubans we've talked to say they're worried that jobs they've long taken for granted will no longer be guaranteed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (though translator): Here they give everyone a job. When one door shuts, another opens.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): But others are hopeful they'll have more freedom to work for themselves and set their own prices, earning more than the average state wage of $20 a month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If they want to rent me a space, let them do it. I'd rather be working for myself. You have more freedom.

DARLINGTON (voice-over): The state currently controls more than 90 percent of the economy, running everything from ice cream parlors to factories. Even plumbers and birthday clowns are public workers.

And it isn't clear from this statement where jobs will be shed or which sectors will see more private enterprise.

But the government says it won't abandon workers. They say they can reassign them to needy areas, like agriculture and construction.

Castro has already launched some modest free market reforms since taking over from his brother, Fidel Castro, in 2006. He's handed unused land over to private farmers and even given barber shops to the employees.

DARLINGTON (on camera): But in this latest statement, he says hundreds of thousands of workers will move to the private sector in the next couple of years. Shasta Darlington, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: On a global scale, Communism doesn't have a very successful track record. Some countries that adopt it end up watering down the model, while others abandon it entirely. Of course, in 1989 we saw Communism come tumbling down across eastern Europe, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Some regimes were toppled by popular protest, others by violent overthrow.

Now, the events in Czechoslovakia, for example, became known as the Velvet Revolution, a reference to the bloodless transfer of power when massive street protests eventually convinced the Communist government to resign.

While in Poland, Solidarity began as a trade union, but turned into a political movement that not only challenged Communist leaders, but also talked them into holding elections in the summer of 1989. Solidarity candidates then won a landslide victory.

Romania saw the region's final revolution that year when the bloodiest Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu fled Bucharest to try to escape a violent uprising. But he was tracked down and executed, along with his wife.

Our next guest, though, says we can't really compare these eastern European regimes with Communist Cuba. So, what makes Cuba different, and why the Castro brothers are seemingly revising their economic policy now, decades after the revolution.

Wayne Smith was serving in the US embassy in Havana when Fidel Castro took power. Mr. Smith now works at the Center for International Policy and teaches at Johns Hopkins University.

I know you don't like the US policy towards the States very much. It may not matter going forward, because it seems the Castro brothers don't like Cuba policy much either at this point. Are you surprised by what you've heard?

WAYNE SMITH, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL POLICY: Well, certainly surprised. Fidel Castro first saying that the Communist economic system doesn't work even for us. And then saying that he was misquoted. What he really meant was capitalism. But that isn't what he said. He said, when asked if they would continue trying to expert the Cuban economic system said it doesn't work even for us any more. And he certainly --

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON: Yes, well, whether he meant capitalist or Communist, he's also laying off some half a million public sector workers and looking to encourage, it seems, at least, certainly the regime seemingly looking to encourage private enterprise. Why, though, do you think that Communism in Cuba is a different beast from that in other countries?

SMITH: It is, but it also has failings. It's not that it's immune by any means. They are moving to change, and I would say that Raul Castro is the right man to do it. The armed forces were heavily involved in the tourist industry, showed themselves to be good businessmen, and Raul Castro, first and foremost.

I suspect that if Raul Castro had a free hand, we would see far more sweeping changes than we've seen so far, and would see more energetic ones in the future. But here is his brother Fidel, sort of sitting on the back porch. And I'm sure that Raul is aware that Fidel is not terribly enthusiastic about the kind of changes that he would like to make. So they're going more slowly than they might otherwise.

ANDERSON: That's a hell of a slip of a tongue, isn't it? Capitalism to Communism.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: There will be people who are watching this around the world, and this is a show about joining the dots on the day's big story, and how one story resonates -- a story in one place resonates around the world, so I put it to you again that the model ideology that is Communism that is being pursued for so long in Cuba is a model that was pursued and deemed to be a failure in so many places.

Apart from, let's say, China, where to a certain extent we are seeing a kind of mixed bag of ideology there. So if you stacked Cuban Communism up against Chinese Communism in 2010, how would it compare?

SMITH: Cuban Communism would not compare favorably at all. And it's said that Raul Castro would like to move towards the sort of Communist economic model that the Chinese have. And the Chinese, after all, are doing okay. Other systems, other Communist economies have failed, but the Chinese are doing all right. They're one of the leading powers in the world right now, leading economic powers, that is.

ANDERSON: So would you expect finding, very briefly, Cuba to -- would we expect to see the demise of Communism without it being marketed that way, as it were?

SMITH: Yes. They're not going to say that they're getting rid of Communism. But certainly, as we look at the economy, they don't have much choice but to move away from it, to move towards a more independent, liberalized system.

ANDERSON: And with that, we're going to have to leave it there, sir. We've got to pay for this show with an advertising break at this point. We have enjoyed having you on. Your expert this evening. And come back and see us soon.

After the break, we are back on the Trail of Human Trafficking as we uncover prostitution rings on both sides of the Atlantic. We're going to take a look at how these victims are being forced into sexual slavery and why so many are being caught up in a web of deception. A story that's important to us, and I'm sure, one that is important to you. Stay with us.

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ANDERSON: These are the faces of a human trafficking gang jailed today for a total of more than ten years. They were caught in an undercover operation at a hotel in London, trying to sell girls as young as 14 for sex. Police investigators also claim they were, effectively, offering virgins even younger for as much as $230,000. Four people have plead guilty to conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual exploitation, with two also pleading guilty to control of prostitution for gain.

This is a story out of the UK. It's a story we are committed to covering, and tonight, we're back On the Trail of Human Trafficking for sexual exploitation.

From an undercover sting in a London hotel, we head now to the US, where Rafael Romo speaks with a victim who was smuggled from Mexico straight into an elaborate prostitution ring. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Across Mexico, young girls dream of escaping their small towns for the big cities. "Claudia," not her real name, was like that. When she was 15, she met a charming man at a party.

CLAUDIA, SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): This individual would tell me a lot about the United States and would ask me to join him to go to work at a clothes factory.

ROMO (voice-over): Claudia was smuggled into the Unites States and taken to New York. Then, she realized her boyfriend was part of a prostitution ring. He forced her into prostitution, beating her, burning her skin with lit cigarettes, and telling her he would have her parents in Mexico killed if she tried to resist or escape.

This is the first time she's spoken about her experience.

CLAUDIA (through translator): The first day I started working was very hard because I had to sleep with 20 men in rapid sequence.

ROMO (on camera): Many people associate prostitution with women walking the streets in shady areas and being picked up by johns. But Claudia says the prostitution ring she was forced to work for had a long list of clients who knew the price they had to pay, where to go, and who to call.

ROMO (voice-over): It's a well-organized and lucrative underground industry. Luis CdeBaca monitors human trafficking at the US State Department. He says there are no reliable figures on the scale of the problem, but forced prostitution from Mexico and Central America is a big part of it.

LUIS CDEBACA, AMBASSADOR, US STATE DEPARTMENT: They know that their victims are not going to go to law enforcement. They know that their victims are afraid. In fact, sometimes one of their threats is to turn people over to the immigration service.

ROMO (on camera): Claudia was 15 when she was forced to become a prostitute, but there are younger victims, as CdeBaca found out when he worked as a prosecutor.

CDEBACA: I ended up seeing cases with girls as young as 13 and women in their 40s and everything in between.

ROMO (voice-over): Ten years ago, Congress passed a law that allows victims of human trafficking to stay in the country if they testify in court against perpetrators of the crime.

DANIELLE CONNELLY, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: It allows these individuals who are victims of trafficking and go through the proper procedures to be able to show that, with evidence and so forth, to actually apply for what's called a T Non-Immigrant visa. Which, if and when approved, allows them to be here in the United States lawfully and documented.

ROMO (voice-over): Claudia has now moved to a different city in the US, where she tries to live a normal life. But she's still afraid of retribution and wants to remain anonymous.

ROMO (on camera): It takes a lot of courage to do what you're doing, come to us and talk to us and tell us what happened to you, your very painful experience. Why did you decide to do this?

CLAUDIA (through translator): The authorities need to focus on many girls that are out there and on their parents, because the parents, sometimes because of influence by their friends. Those friends cause the girls to go into prostitution.

ROMO (on camera): Several cases have been successfully prosecuted in states like New York and Georgia in prostitution rings that operate in the same way. They lure women in Mexico with promises of a good job, only to be forced into sexual slavery once here. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: We've also been following one of the world's experts on human trafficking as he crisscrosses south Asia, documenting what he's been finding there. Now, what Siddharth Kara has brought us so far has been remarkable, from kids working in India's carpet mills to the shrimp industry on Bangladesh's coast.

Siddharth also uncovered some shocking stories in Nepal. There, he found an entire social class of women practically destined from birth to be trafficked into the sex industry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIDDHARTH KARA, HUMAN TRAFFIKING EXPERT (via telephone): This is a caste-based form of trafficking for sex work. And the story that these men and women describe to me in these villages is that for as long as anyone can remember, when a Badi girl hits puberty, she's sent to sex work. There's really no other option for her.

Now, in the old days, this was just her village, for the locals. But as time passed, they would go into transit towns, border towns, the capital city, and also to India.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: You can read more about what Siddharth has found at cnn.com/connect. That's the show's website. You'll also find his earlier blogs and interviews that we've already conducted with him.

We want to know what you think. On the Trail of Human Trafficking begins at cnn.com/connect, and CONNECT THE WORLD will be right back tonight with your Connector of the Day.

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(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIONNE WAWICK, GRAMMY AWARD WINNER (singing): What the world needs now, is love sweet love.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Known for her sultry tones and emotional melodies, Dionne Warwick is one of the music world's greats.

WARWICK (singing): That there's just too little of.

ANDERSON (voice-over): With hits such as "Walk On By" and "If I Want To," Warwick's voice has captivated audiences for more than 50 years.

WARWICK (singing): I see what people do.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Born into a family of musicians, she first started her career as a backup singer on television in the 1950s.

WARWICK (singing): I think all I need.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Since then, she's released more than 55 hit singles, and has paired with the likes of Burt Bacharach, Marlene Deitrich, Barry Manilow, and more.

And off the stage, Warwick makes sure her voice is just as prominent. Since 2002, she's been a goodwill ambassador for the UN's food and agriculture organization. And this year, she's teaming up with the Hunger Project to raise awareness for World Hunger Day. Dionne Warwick is your Connector of the Day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Yes, she is. And she will play a major role in helping raise a target of over $1 million on World Hunger Day. She's holding a gala concert on January the 9th of next year, and is busy rallying her friends, many of them are household names, of course, to join her on stage. I had the chance to sit down with Dionne recently and began by asking her what made her get so passionately involved in this cause?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARWICK: I feel it's sinful that we have to even address an issue of this nature. Our world happens to be so wealthy in so many areas. And for us not to pay attention to those who do not have, when we have so much to give, just does not make sense to me. And if my little voice is able to bring attention to this particular area, then so be it.

ANDERSON: Cheryl has written to us. She says, "Do you think we're making progress in the battle against hunger, or are we losing ground? And what is the one thing that might make the biggest difference?" she asks.

WARWICK: I -- no, I don't think we are making the kind of progress that we should be making. I think just being aware of the areas and the gravity of it all, people are making $1.25 a day to survive on. Come on.

We have to be able to empower people, to let them know that they can do this. This is not a hand out, it's a hand up. You know, helping people to realize that they have the ability to bring themselves out of this themselves. Just the knowledge of how to do it is really what's missing.

ANDERSON: You've traveled the world in your career. You're from New Jersey, originally, and that's where you go home to. I guess you've seen poverty and hunger like most people couldn't imagine.

WARWICK: Imagine.

ANDERSON: And yet, there'll be people in New Jersey who suffer as well.

WARWICK: Absolutely. It's not only relegated to India or South America or Asia. It's right there in the United States as well, as well as here, in the UK. And we all have to kind of open our eyes and hearts and purses. It's the necessary evil, unfortunately. But we have to realize that we're the ones who are going to be able to do it. Those that have have to take care of those who have not.

ANDERSON: How important has music been to you over your life? Was it always important to you?

WARWICK: I come from a family of singers. Everybody in my family sings, with the exception of my brother. He didn't sing at all, but he had other things he wanted to do anyway. And I -- I could not imagine a world without music. Oh, we'd be so sad. We really would.

Music is life. It's health, it's happiness, it's smiles, it's tears, it's everything that makes us everything that makes us human beings. So, we can't do without music.

ANDERSON: Harrison asks, "Who are your greatest icons?"

WARWICK: Frank Sinatra, who I affectionately refer to as Poppy. Sammy Davis, Jr., who was and will always be one of the greatest mentors I ever had. Lena Horne, Marlene Deitrich -- both ladies my mother allowed me to call Mama. Diahann Carroll. So I have a multitude of icons that have been not only my mentors but my friends.

ANDERSON: Thinking about the issue of hunger and food, which is such a passion for you, and then listening to you when you talk about your music. What do you want to be remembered for most?

WARWICK: Being a good girl.

(LAUGHTER)

WARWICK: That's really what I want to be remembered for. Because I am. That's all I've ever been, it's all I've ever known.

ANDERSON: If there was one message, then, to the world on World Hunger Day and ahead of the concert, what would it be?

WARWICK: I would use, of course, my mantra, which is, "If you can think it, you can do it." And I believe that to be absolutely true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Dionne Warwick. What a joy. And tomorrow night, one of the most recognizable names, not just here in Britain, but around the world. Comedian, cultural commentator, sensation of the silver screen, the small screen, and the internet, Stephen Fry is your next Connector.

Do send us your questions for our Connectors of the Day. It's your part of the show. Remember to tell us where you're writing in from. You can do all of that at cnn.com/connect. You can find those we've had in the past weeks and those who are forthcoming. Tonight, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Just before we go tonight, a reminder for you to help us make some Global Connections. It's a new part of this show where we pick two countries every week and get you to find the connections between them. Now, we're already getting dozens of submissions for this week's challenge, Panama and the UAE. Go on, get your thinking caps on, if you haven't written in already. We want your personal stories as much as any other links or connections that you can think of. That address again is cnn.com/globalconnections.

Before we go this evening, it's 59 minutes past the hour. You've been letting us know your thoughts on the progress of the Middle East peace process. Let's just take you through some of the blogs that we've had in to cnn.com/connect.

Desertvoice says "I'm glad there is some hope of peace. Only courage is needed for both people to say 'we can try living together.'"

CherriH writes to us, saying, "The whole world knows the Jewish-Arab conflict will not be solved, even after the peace agreements are signed. It's a religious conflict fueled by archaic verses from religious books."

And somebody who goes by the name of 2Fish4 says, "Hillary, it won't work. Hamas will make sure of that. Once you think you're close, the rockets will start flying, and Israel will roll the tanks into Gaza. Peace gone."

Remember, you can get your voice heard at CNN. All you've got to do is head to the website, cnn.com/connect. That is it for this evening from us at CONNECT THE WORLD, at least. I'm Becky Anderson, that's your world connected this hour. "BackStory" is next, right after a very quick check of the headlines. Stay with us.

END