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Paris Terror Attacker DNA Recovered during Brussels Raid; Angry Crowds Protest against Lula Corruption; E.U. Proposes Returning Migrants to Turkey; North Korea Launches Fresh Missile Tests; Witnesses Recount Ivory Coast Attacks; Alleged ISIS Defector Says He Is American; Obama to Make Historic Visit to Cuba. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 18, 2016 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Lynda Kinkade. We begin with breaking developments in the investigation into the Paris terror
attacks. CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins me now live from London.
And, Nic, what are you learning?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The fingerprint of one of the prime suspects in the Paris terror attacks, Saleh Abdeslam,
found by authorities when they raided a building that had at least three, possibly more, ISIS or ISIS sympathizers in it.
One man was shot and killed by a sniper at the time. This was earlier in the week.
But what the authorities have now released is the information, saying that the fingerprint of Saleh Abdeslam was found in this apartment. Up until now
it had not been quite clear who the joint French and Belgian raid on this apartment that went so horribly wrong, four police officers were injured in
It was not clear who may have been in that apartment, according to the Belgian prosecutor. It is possible, he says, that this fingerprint
discovered there means possible, he says, that Saleh Abdeslam could have been in this apartment and the implication is -- because two men are still
on the run after that raid -- it is still possible that he could be one of those two men on the run.
So these are the bare facts and these are the immediate implications for authorities.
KINKADE: Nic, when it comes to the Paris attacks, of course it's believed that Abdeslam was a key player.
What do authorities know about him?
ROBERTSON: Well, that he drove attackers from Belgium to Paris, that he would have been involved in the planning of the attack, that there was a
suicide vest that wasn't used during the attack.
And the belief is that he -- that that suicide vest may have been for him because his brother was one of the gunmen and his brother had a suicide
vest on and his brother died in the attacks that killed 130 people.
So -- and following the attack, he makes a call to friends back in Belgium, gets them to come an pick him up in Paris. So a principal, key player for
whom there's an international arrest warrant that was issued right on the heels of the Paris attack for him when his name and his role became clear,
somebody with ISIS connections, somebody who is considered at this time and then as well of course armed and dangerous.
KINKADE: And Nic, we know that, during that raid in Brussels, that you mentioned obviously several police officers were shot. One person was also
shot and killed. Two people escaped. But we do know that two were taken into custody.
Do we know if they've provided any useful intelligence to authorities or if authorities have anyone else in their custody that's helping them?
ROBERTSON: The authorities have 11 people in Belgium in their custody related to the Paris terror attacks. They know that there are more people
that they want to round up.
Have these two people been talking?
It's not clear.
What we have seen since the Paris terror attack, what we have seen in Belgium, Brussels in particular, that's been on the highest terror alert,
is that authorities there are being very, very, very careful and circumspect about information that is getting out.
Indeed, Belgium authorities today are blaming French journalists for leaking the information about this fingerprint discovery in the apartment.
What we have seen in Belgium is that they do not like to give out information because they think that's going to give assistance and help to
those that are on the run and those they want to arrest. And there were other key players in that Paris terror attack who are still on the run.
The two people therefore we can surmise that the police have in their custody now from the raid earlier in the week it does seem to indicate now
that we can tell that if that fingerprint has been found, a central line of questioning that the police have to be using right now is, is that Saleh
Was he there with you and where are the other safe houses?
But of course, it's absolutely not clear if they have been given any answers. We certainly know terrorists in the past have often just tried to
sit silent and say nothing.
KINKADE: Have authorities given any information as to whether they think he could still be in Belgium?
ROBERTSON: The assessment that we've had so far is that from Belgian authorities, they felt that he couldn't go back to Syria, the reason --
ROBERTSON: -- being that he had so disgraced himself by not carrying through with his attack in Paris, by not using a suicide vest, that would
somehow disgrace him.
So the assessment has been that he hasn't left Europe. That's been the assessment. Obviously it's very hard to police the borders of Europe as we
see on a daily basis. So the reality is authorities have not, as far as we know, certainly not publicly said if they knew precisely where he was. But
that was their assessment, that he hadn't left for those reasons.
The implications of this potentially suggest that he has been literally in hiding, in Brussels, for the past four months or so since the Paris terror
One would suppose in that time he's decided that the best way of hiding is literally -- best way of avoiding capture is literally to hide and not move
around, perhaps try to change his appearance over a period of time so that it might -- may make it safer for him to move around.
But it suggests a safe house. It suggests that the authorities, when they went to raid that house, that they say that they weren't aware that they
might find gunmen there. The special forces were not involved in that raid, even though the police were armed and had flak jackets.
But it does seem to suggest at the very least that a level and degree more of information and prying on that property might have rewarded authorities
with some really key information and allowed them to take steps that might have -- that potentially could have secured arrests of everyone in that
Whether or not that would have been Saleh Abdeslam, we don't know, that's conjecture. We don't have all the details because Belgian authorities
really don't like to provide a lot of information because they believe -- and certainly there's evidence to suggest -- it is counterproductive. The
more information terrorists have, the more that can be used against the authorities.
KINKADE: That is a fair point. Nic Robertson, great to have you with us on this story from London. Thank you very much.
Now to Brazil, where hordes of people are protesting the streets as a political firestorm intensifies. Riot police are using water cannons and
tear gas to disperse the crowds in Sao Paulo. An injunction against the controversial cabinet appointment has been overturned.
Just one day after the former president was sworn in as his successor's chief of staff. A movement you see is an attempt to shield the man known
as Lula from prosecution. I want to bring in CNN's Shasta Darlington, who joins us now from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Shasta, you were at the protests last night and have been out again early this morning.
What are you seeing today and what can we expect going forward?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lynda. In fact, just a short while ago those water cannons passed right behind
where I'm standing now.
This is Avenue (INAUDIBLE), really the heart of the anti-government protest movement. And they were clearing out protesters who'd camped overnight
hoping to really keep this as their little piece of territory.
And that's because this afternoon we're expecting some pro-government marchers to take up their position. You'll see a change in the color
scheme, all of these protesters who've been out trying to get the government out of office are wearing the green and yellow of the Brazilian
flag. This afternoon, we expect to see a lot of red.
But basically things have been building over the last few days. There's a lot of anger and resentment after President Dilma Rousseff appointed former
President Lula her chief of staff, a move that critics felt was really nothing more than a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, shielding him from an
ongoing corruption investigation.
And over these next few days, we do expect to see these dueling protests and marches. And it will be important to see whether or not the anti-
government movement gains momentum or whether President Rousseff is finally able to rein things in and begin to do what she's supposed to do, which is
of course govern -- Lynda.
KINKADE: And Shasta, Lula da Silva was appointed the chief of staff. That move was blocked but he has won in an appeal. It's all quite complicated.
Can you break it down for us?
Is this a final ruling?
DARLINGTON: It is very complicated. There seems to be a new twist every day or every hour even. But our understanding is that these rulings coming
from lower judges really won't have any standing. At this point it is the cabinet, they don't have any way -- a bigger problem for Lula could come
from the supreme court under Brazilian law. Senior political members can only be held accountable and only go to trial at the supreme court.
But a judge there could step in and weigh in on whether or not he can be appointed, given the investigations closing in on him. And in fact some
legal experts say they expect that to happen in coming days. If a Supreme Court justice were to rule to file an injunction --
SHUBERT: -- that he could not take that cabinet post, that would be final. And all of this investigation would be thrown back to the lower courts. As
far as the government is concerned, they would have to still be more focused on the impeachment proceedings that could bring down the government
KINKADE: OK, Shasta Darlington, great to have you on this story. We will speak to you a little later. Thank you very much.
At this hour, leaders of the European Union are attempting to strike a deal with Turkey over the migrant crisis. They are presenting a new plan to
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels.
The proposal would send tens of thousands of migrants back to Turkey. In exchange the E.U. would offer Turkey financial aid and reopen negotiations
on Turkey's application to join the E.U. Senior international correspondent Atika Shubert joins me now on the phone from Berlin.
Atika, I understand Turkey's prime minister arrived their last night. It seems the migrant plan really hinges on what Turkey agrees to.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is all about what Turkey agrees to do and how much what the E.U. will do in
return. The deal on the table essentially is that Turkey will not only stop refugee boats from traveling to Greece but it will also take back
refugees that do manage to get to Greece.
And for every refugee it takes back, the E.U. is promising to resettle a Syrian refugee from Turkey in Europe. And in exchange, Europe says that it
would lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens coming to the E.U. under a number of conditions.
It would also give extra money if needed up to upwards of 6 billion euros in total. And then it would also reopen negotiation for E.U. membership of
Turkey, which is something that stalled years ago.
So that's the deal on the table. The question is whether or not it will actually have any impact on the ground. There's no date set for a
turnaround or a turnback time in which refugees would definitely be pushed back to Turkey.
And it's not clear at this point if the E.U. can resettle refugees in Europe quickly enough to make this deal really stick. Keep in mind that in
the last six months, the E.U. has only been able to resettle some 700 refugees. And that's from Greece and Italy, countries within the E.U.
So resettling from Turkey does seem to be a logistical challenge and the E.U. hasn't shown it can really do yet.
KINKADE: Some major concerns there about whether this proposal is even feasible. Turkey, of course, is not a European Union member, as we
mentioned, nor has it ever fully adopted the Geneva Convention on refugees.
What are the concerns about sending refugees back to Turkey?
SHUBERT: There are very serious legal concerns here, particularly from aid groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They point out,
as you say, that Turkey has not signed the refugee convention. And so what it means is a way for the E.U. to ensure that each asylum case is handled
individually. That is going to require a lot more bureaucracy and logistics than currently is in place.
So how they get around that is what aid agencies want to know. In addition to that, this deal really only addresses Syrian refugees, which do make up
the bulk of the refugees. However, there are still thousands of refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan, that are currently stranded in
What happens to Afghan refugees?
Will they be resettled?
Will they have their asylum claims processed?
It's not clear at this point. And there are still 40,000 stranded refugees in Greece. And it's not clear how their claims will be settled.
KINKADE: OK, Atika Shubert, we will talk to you as soon as this story develops throughout the day. Thank you very much.
Still to come, a new display of military might is setting off fresh concerns about the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. What's different
about the latest missiles fired by North Korea. We'll have that story just ahead.
KINKADE: Welcome back.
North Korea has conducted fresh ballistic missile tests. U.S. and South Korean officials say Pyongyang fired two missiles off the west coast of the
For more I'm joined by CNN chief U.S. security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, one of these missiles traveled about 800 kilometers.
What does that suggest about North Korea's capability to reach its enemies?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: These were medium range missiles that are known as the Rodong. North Korea as it turned out
actually fired two of them yesterday.
And when you look at the sequence of events in the last several weeks, you'll remember a couple of months ago they fired the space launch, which
is in effect an ICBM test, an intercontinental ballistic missile test, then just two weeks they had shorter-range rocket tests and now they have this
So you have North Korea, in effect, showing its range of missile capabilities here, each of them potentially with a different target in
mind. The ICBM, of course, the threat being to the U.S., the West Coast of the United States.
These medium-range missiles, in addition to being a threat to South Korea, also to Japan and in fact these missiles yesterday were fired in the
direction of Japan, landing in the Sea of Japan.
And just one more thing I would note, Lynda, that is that the missiles yesterday were launched from mobile missile launchers. That's key because
those are more difficult for U.S. surveillance satellites to spot the preparations for, because the launcher is moving around all the time.
So this is really North Korea showing to the world that it has a growing capability and in effect making a threat to a number of potential
KINKADE: And so many tests they have carried out, as you mentioned, in the last few months.
Why are they ramping up this now?
SCIUTTO: Well, this is -- as always, it seems, with North Korea, in part in response to -- the world's response to their previous provocation. So
it started earlier this year with an underground nuclear test and you had that space missile launch. And then in response to that, you had the U.N.,
China, the U.S. included, getting together on what were a relatively strong set of sanctions, a U.N. Security Council resolution, whether those
sanctions are enforced is another thing.
But that was a strong response. North Korea responds to that with another test. And then just two days ago you had the U.S. announcing its own
unilateral sanctions against North Korea, economic sanctions, and you had these missile tests yesterday.
It's a very typical cycle of provocation and response that the U.S. and the West sees from North Korea.
And of course the concern is that, as that cycle continues, does it escalate?
Do it get closer to open conflict?
And that's of course always the fear.
KINKADE: Yes. That would be a major concern. Jim Sciutto, great to have you with us. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Thank you, Lynda.
KINKADE: Well, still ahead at the INTERNATIONAL DESK, new questions are emerging about a shooting at a coastal resort in the Ivory Coast. What a
military source has revealed to CNN about the weeks leading up to the massacre.
KINKADE: Welcome back. Now to the Ivory Coast and the fallout from last Sunday's massacre at a beach resort, we're hearing now that the attack may
not have been completely unexpected. The military sources the government there was warned weeks ago about a possible attack on a coastal resort.
CNN's David McKenzie has more on this story, including eyewitness accounts of how the bloody attack unfolded.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Celine (ph) is now in mourning. But her Sunday began as a happy day at the beach.
This is the last image of Celine with her husband, Talfik (ph), before Al Qaeda terrorists struck their hotel in Grand-Bassam.
Celine (ph) was in their room when the shooting started.
"I heard bam, bam, bam," she says.
"I stood up and I went to the balcony. There were people running and shooting. They were shooting everyone. I started to panic and think,
where was my husband?"
Talfik (ph) was by the pool. The security cameras show him desperately seeking shelter behind the bar. Celine (ph) says he hid in a storeroom.
As the attacker arrives, it becomes clear that Talfik (ph) made a fatal mistake.
Officially, the gunmen killed 16 civilians, but witnesses say they murdered many more people who were swimming. Ivorian officials believe the death
toll will rise, bodies washed away in the strong currents.
MCKENZIE: Everyone we've spoken to says they were surprised the terrorists struck here. But a senior source in the Ivorian military tells us there
was prior intelligence of a possible attack.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): The source says the intel came from Moroccan security services several weeks ago.
They warned that jihadis could strike at beach resorts. But witnesses like Ezzeni (ph) say security forces took hours to arrive, allowing gunmen to
kill at will. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has released these propaganda photos, calling the killers "knights of the desert.
"That's him," says Jean (ph), not his real name because he is too afraid. Jean (ph) says the so-called knights were, in fact, barely adults, arriving
at his bar on Sunday morning in a Ford sedan.
"They asked me about cigarettes and women," he says. "They argued over which local beer to drink."
He says their faces are still stuck in his head. AQIM says they were retaliating against France and Western crusaders. But these witnesses say
they massacred mostly Muslims, just like Celine's (ph) husband, Talfik (ph).
She says he was the love of her life.
"They took me to identify his body," she says. "He was shot three times. They shot his mouth. A bullet was in his heart and in his leg. I have
seen the body of my husband." -- David McKenzie, CNN, Grand-Bassam.
KINKADE: A man detained by Kurdish forces in Iraq says he's an American who escaped from ISIS. Identified as 26-year-old Mohamad Jamal Khweis, he
says he regrets becoming involved with ISIS. Our Brian Todd has more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The moment of capture. Interrogated by Kurdish forces the man says he is American, that his father
is Palestinian and his mother is from Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where you from?
MOHAMAD JAMAL KHWEIS, ISIS FIGHTER: The United States.
TODD (voice-over): Kurdish officials say he is 26-year-old Mohamad Jamal Khweis. They say they captured him --
TODD (voice-over): -- trying to leave ISIS territory in Iraq and flee home. Kurdish TV aired an edited interview with Khweis while he was in
captivity. He said he traveled through Europe late last year to Syria then to Mosul, Iraq. Khweis said he was put in a house just for foreign
fighters, that life was hard and that the people who command ISIS aren't good Muslims.
MOHAMAD JAMAL KHWEIS: I didn't really support their ideology. And that's -- at that point, that's when I decided I needed to escape.
TODD: Analysts say he could be a gold mine for U.S. intelligence on the inner workings of the terror group.
SEAMUS HUGHES, PROGRAM ON EXTREMISM AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: What I think is most interesting about this case is how he traveled, what routes
did he take and that will give us insight of how other Americans are trying to travel in Syria and Iraq.
TODD: CNN went to see his father...
JAMAL KHWEIS, FATHER OF MOHAMAD JAMAL KHWEIS: This is wrong information. You are (ph) talking to the wrong person.
TODD: ... but the man clearly seemed upset and later told reporters this.
JAMAL KHWEIS: He is old enough. I cannot ask him where he is going, where he's coming from. He is in Iraq -- he is not. I know he is -- he will
never go there.
TODD: Khweis graduated from Edison High School in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2007.
Harrison Weinhold, a friend from high school recognizes Khweis from the driver's license. Weinhold says Mohamad Khweis was a normal teenager who
made fun of people who were religious.
TODD (on camera): What do you make of this news about friend?
HARRISON WEINHOLD, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND OF MOHAMAD JAMAL KHWEIS: It's really -- it's upsetting. It really sucks. It's something you feel for his
family. It's just not something that you would ever think would happen. He definitely wasn't the type of person. He wasn't an angry person. He
wasn't a, you know, an outcast by any means. He was just a normal guy. We did normal stuff in high school.
TODD (voice-over): Another friend who didn't want to be on camera told CNN Khweis was a friendly and goofy kid who often joked around. If Khweis was
with ISIS why would he have abandoned them on the battle field and walked into the arms of the enemy?
HUGHES: The main reason was, you know, it wasn't what they told them it was going to be. They thought it would be this great so-called caliphate
and it's just not. And they saw the infighting and the killing of other Muslims.
TODD (on camera): A primary task for U.S. law enforcement now might be to find out whether Mohamad Khweis acted alone in moving toward ISIS, who
might have recruited him?
Another big question, will be he charged with materiel support of terrorism?
Right now the FBI is not commenting on any of that -- Brian Todd, CNN, Alexandria, Virginia.
KINKADE: We'll be right back after a short break with the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Stay with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
KINKADE: Welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade. We begin with breaking news. A Belgian prosecutor says Paris attack suspect Saleh
Abdeslam could be one of the --
KINKADE: -- people who escaped from an apartment raided this week in Brussels. Authorities believe Abdeslam used the apartment as a hiding
place after the November attacks. His fingerprints and DNA were both found there.
CNN analyst Paul Cruickshank joins me on the phone from New York.
Paul, what do you make of this development?
Is it possible that this terror suspect was hiding there this entire time since the attacks?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERROR ANALYST: Yes, the bottom line is that it is possible he was hiding in this apartment all the time after the attacks,
certainly for some of the time. They found, when they went into this apartment after that shootout on Tuesday, evidence that he had been there
They found his DNA there. They found his fingerprints there. Saleh Abdeslam on the run, Paris attacker.
But when they went in, there was this firefight with these three presumed terrorists inside one of the terrorists covered the other two while they
escaped through the roof. They are now on the run in Brussels somewhere, it is thought.
And they believe it is possible that one of those two is indeed Saleh Abdeslam. But because it was such a confused situation they don't know for
sure whether he was one of the two that got away. But they believe that it's certainly possible and they are actively looking for these two right
now, actively looking for Abdeslam.
The worry is these men are armed and dangerous and could potentially launch some kind of attack in Brussels itself because they may feel that they are
now cornered and they may feel they want to go out in a blaze of glory.
The one attacker that remained in the apartment was eventually shot dead by a Belgian police sniper. He's now been identified as Mohamed Belkaid, an
Algerian radical who traveled to Syria, joined with ISIS at a certain point, came to Belgium.
And so after the Paris attacks, it is now known that Abdeslam was hanging out with ISIS operatives still, still very much part of the ISIS setup.
The worry in Europe is of course about follow-up attacks to the Paris attacks, very worrying places like the U.K., France, Germany, Belgium,
Holland, several other countries with ISIS increasingly pivoting towards international terrorism.
Nine of the Paris attackers died the night of the attack. Saleh Abdeslam, the only surviving attacker, appears to have aborted his suicide bombing
mission for whatever combination of reasons and then was picked up by two friends, who brought him to Brussels. They actually got through some
checkpoints set up along the way.
The French didn't know who they were dealing with at that point, managed to get to Brussels and then he slipped away. And the trail's really gone
cold for him in these last weeks. They did not think he was at the apartment when they went in. They weren't expecting to find anybody at
that location at all.
All they knew is that it was connected to the Paris attacks, residents of interest that they wanted to search and they surprisingly then got into
this very fierce gun battle and two men escaped.
KINKADE: So, Paul, what should we make of the Belgian counterterror intelligence and especially this I guess bungled raid?
CRUICKSHANK: I think that is not the right way to look at it. I think the right way to look at it is that Belgian and French authorities have been
working around the clock to neutralize the network behind the Paris attacks. The fact that they got hold of this address was a coup for
Belgian security services, for Belgian police. And it shows the value of all the work that they are doing.
They did not have perfect intelligence of what they were going to find at this address. But any time you get hold of information which leads you to
what appears to have been a terrorist then, that is a very big success for any counterterrorism service.
Now, of course, the regret they clearly have is that two of these men got away but they have been searching dozens and dozens and dozens of addresses
across the country. They can't go into every one of them with a massive commando presence. And so it was regrettable from their point of view that
these two people got away.
But I think it's the wrong way to look at it that this is some kind of failure. This was a success for the investigation. They are clearly
getting closer and closer and closer now to Saleh Abdeslam. His hours may now be numbered.
KINKADE: And is it possible, Paul, that he has spent those --
KINKADE: -- months since the Paris attacks in this hideout, planning another major attack?
CRUICKSHANK: Well, look what they have. They had the weapons of war. They had Kalashnikovs.
Why would they have those weapons?
Well, two possible reasons. One, in case police discovered where they were or, two, they wanted to kill again on the streets of Europe.
KINKADE: OK, Paul Cruickshank, we'll have to leave it there for now. Great to have you with us. Thank you very much.
Still to come, a U.S. president is set to visit Cuba for the first time in nearly 90 years. We'll take you to Havana, where preparations are underway
for Barack Obama's historic trip.
KINKADE: Welcome back to the INTERNATIONAL DESK.
The U.S. Postal Service has restored direct mail service to Cuba ahead of an historic presidential trip. The first mail flight left for Cuba earlier
this week with a personal letter from President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama is said to be the first U.S. president to set foot on the island in nearly 90
Our Patrick Oppmann is live in Havana and joins us now.
Patrick, obviously this is the first time we have actually seen mail delivered from the U.S. to Cuba in about 50 years. This is obviously just
the start of a new relationship.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it seems like every day, Lynda, a longstanding barrier, something Cubans thought would never change,
just vanishes, that these taboos and restrictions are slowly being dismantled. A lot more to be done, though. And of course here in Havana,
they're racing to get everything ready for President Barack Obama's visit, first time a president comes here, a U.S. president comes here in nearly 90
Of course the first time that a sitting U.S. president comes here since the Cuban Revolution. So so much symbolism in this visit, Lynda. It will be
very new for President Obama visiting this Communist-run island. But there are going to be some things that we expect President Obama will recognize.
OPPMANN (voice-over): When Barack Obama visits Cuba, some of the scenery may seem a little familiar.
No, we are not in Washington, D.C. This is Havana's El Capitolio. And just like the United States Capitol building that it closely resembles, El
Capitolio is getting a facelift. Completed in 1929 a year after the only other U.S. presidential visit to Cuba, El Capitolio is a symbol of the
island's boom years when the price of sugar was sky high.
No expense was spared. Long halls of marble, bronze elevators, a cupola even higher than Washington's.
"They made a building," she says, "with all the resources they had in order to make exceptional building."
But that --
OPPMANN (voice-over): -- luxury and grandeur fell out of favor following the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution.
OPPMANN: After taking power in 1959, Fidel Castro broke with Cuba's past. His revolution intended to create a new society with new centers of power
and buildings like the Capitolio became synonymous with the waste and corruption of old Cuba. Soon, it fell into disrepair.
OPPMANN (voice-over): Cuba's national assembly relocated to this drab convention center. At the Capitolio, water leaks through the roof and bats
took up residence inside the building. But five years ago a team of Cuban government preservationists embarked on the painstaking effort to save El
Slowly, decades of neglect were stripped away. When work began, they said, architects did not know Cuban President Raul Castro intended to move the
island's national assembly back to El Capitolio.
It's a jewel, Castro said, of the Capitolio in 2013. It's true that there was a time during the era of capitalism. That's where all the bandits met
but not any longer now that it's ours.
Architects would have to add modern conveniences like air conditioning, security systems and Internet for the lawmakers without altering the
"We have had problems we didn't expect," she says. "And in the moment, we had to search for the solution. But that makes it interesting. If not,
the Cubans say, it wouldn't be fun."
The restoration team said they were instructed to maintain the historical integrity of El Capitolio. Even the outdated seals from the defunct Cuban
Republic and the chamber where debates will be held. Although it only has a third of the seats needed for the over 600 members of the current
All the same, preservationists say, lawmakers will return here in the next few months, ensuring that Cuba's grand El Capitolio once again has a
OPPMANN: And across the street from the Capitolio building is where President Barack Obama on Tuesday will deliver a speech to the Cuban
people. It's a speech that will be carried live on Cubans' state-run television. We expect he's going to have some criticisms, some tough words
for the Cuban government.
Of course, many differences still exist between these two governments and, Lynda, that's frankly something that Cubans don't hear every day. More
history going to be made, thank you.
KINKADE: All right, Patrick Oppmann, good work, thank you very much.
And of course the IDESK is heading to Cuba. Stay tuned for Robyn Curnow anchoring live from there. That's beginning this weekend.
(INAUDIBLE) talk of waffles and pajamas, it might sound like banter at a sleepover but believe it or not this was the scene in Australia's
parliament during a marathon filibuster which stretched 30 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I fart in your general direction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colonoscopy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Foul-brained bumps on states.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) bottoms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a bit of ha-ha-ha.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) should be Belgium --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Off centers.
KINKADE (voice-over): In the Twitterverse, it was dubbed Senate sleepover as politicians debated voting reforms. This senator knew he was in for a
long night and, yes, he brought his pillows into the chamber.
That does it for us here at INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade. But don't go anywhere. "WORLD SPORT" with Alex Thomas is up next.