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Isa Soares Tonight
Americans Imprisoned In Iran Released On House Arrest; Ecuador Presidential Candidate Assassinated On Campaign Grounds; Dozens Killed In Wildfires In Hawaii; Five Americans Detained In Iran Now Under House Arrest; Mandatory Evacuation For Kupyansk In Kharkiv Region; Barbados' First Poet Laureate On Country's Painful Past; Detroit Musician Sixto Rodriguez Dead At 81. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 10, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISA SOARES, HOST, ISA SOARES TONIGHT: A very warm welcome to the show everyone, I'm Isa Soares. Tonight, a group of Americans who were wrongfully
detained in Iran for years now have been released from prison, and are under house arrest. The latest on that coming up. Then shock and sadness in
Ecuador as presidential candidates Fernando Villavicencio is assassinated.
I'll be speaking to former vice president and current presidential candidate Otto Sonnenholzner to get his reaction. Plus, a tropical paradise
that's now a living hell. We are live in Hawaii's deadly wildfires ripped across the island of Maui.
But first, this evening, details are trickling in on a deal between the U.S. and Iran, which could lead to the release of several Americans who
were wrongfully detained. We now know a total of five U.S. citizens are under house arrest in Iran. Four of them were just moved out of their
prison cells in Tehran. And they include Siamak Namazi, an American citizen who has been imprisoned in Tehran for more than seven years.
In March, he spoke exclusively to our Christian Amanpour from inside the notorious Evin Prison, to beg the Biden administration to bring him home.
Our chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour explains what we know about these American prisoners, and the long campaign, crucially, for their
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): It was a heartfelt plea heard around the world.
SIAMAK NAMAZI, IMPRISONED IN IRAN (via telephone): Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to
finally hear our cry for help and bring us home. And I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. So, this is a desperate measure -- I am
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Towns and provinces --
AMANPOUR: Siamak Namazi was Iran's longest-held American prisoner. He was arrested in 2015 while on a business trip, and then sentenced to ten years
for, quote, "collaborating with a hostile state". Namazi, a dual citizen always denied the charge. And Washington accused Iran of wrongfully
detaining him. This was the desperate appeal he made to us from inside Evin Prison in our unprecedented conversation.
NAMAZI: I think the very facts that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison, it should just tell you how dire my
situation has become by this point. I spent months caged. I spent months caged in a solitary cell, that was the size of a closet, sleeping on the
floor, being fed like a dog from under the door. And honestly, that was the least of my troubles.
AMANPOUR: Siamak's elderly father who is now 86 was lured to Iran in 2016 with a promise of seeing his son. Instead, he too, was arrested, imprisoned
for two years and then barred from leaving the country. He was finally allowed out last October to seek medical treatment abroad. He's never
stopped publicly campaigning for his son's release.
BAQUER NAMAZI, FATHER OF IMPRISONED SIAMAK NAMAZI: I will never truly be free until Siamak is here besides me. I could not be more proud of his
courage, but I don't want him to have to be brave anymore. I want him to be safe. I want him to be free. To live life he should have been living for
the past seven years. I want him to be home.
AMANPOUR: Among the other hostages released along with Namazi, a businessman Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz who have both been held for more
than five years. They say they never so much as jail walked, and they were held only as Americans to be traded on the geopolitical market. Before
their release, their families tried to rally support.
NEDA SHARGI, SISTER OF EMAD SHARGI: I know that they are desperate. That they are scared. And they feel like they've been forgotten. They have been
determined officially by the Department of State, by our Secretary of State, as having been taken, detained by the Iranians for one reason, and
that is because they are Americans.
TARA TAHBAZ, DAUGHTER OF MORAD TAHBAZ: My father is an amazing person. He is so calm, so kind, so generous, so noble. And I think just how my
siblings and I have been able to carry ourselves through this surreal nightmare is just a testament to him and my mother and everything that they
have instilled in us and who they are.
AMANPOUR: Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who advocates for some of these families, puts it bluntly.
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: And this has happened in Russian, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea. It's a pattern. It's a new hostage
diplomacy that we have to start confronting.
NAMAZI: Just do what's necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home. Thank you.
AMANPOUR (on camera): We'll get that message out, Siamak.
(voice-over): These few may finally have been released, but will they be the last American hostages taken by Tehran?
SOARES: And Christiane joins me now. And Christiane, I remember vividly that interview with Siamak Namazi, incredibly powerful, and so brave
speaking to you from inside Evin Prison. Just give us some context here. Do we know now, they're under house arrest, under what conditions, anyone been
able to speak to him critically here?
AMANPOUR: Well, yes, in that they are -- they have been met by the Swiss ambassador in Iran who acts as the diplomatic caretaker of American affairs
because the U.S. has absolutely no diplomatic relations with Iran, and they have been taken to a hotel. So, now, all five of those hostage prisoners
have been taken to a hotel under house arrest.
We understand that it includes having to wear ankle bracelets, and they will be under Iranian guards still. They are not free into their own
recognizance, they haven't been given to any foreign diplomat, they will be still under Iranian guard. And they did in fact sign that awareness and
understanding at Evin Prison when they were released.
But this, of course, is a first step. Everybody is very pleased about this, you can imagine, families, the U.S. government, others, but nobody wants to
get ahead of themselves, because it's still complex, there will be weeks of further details to be hammered out, which will have to be -- you know, some
reciprocal actions between Iran and the United States to actually then allow these five to be flown out of Iran and home.
SOARES: And like you said, the first step, an important first step, Christiane, what is Iran expecting in return?
AMANPOUR: Well, let me read this, because we also got Iranian reaction and it's quite important. We got it from the Iranian mission to the -- to the
U.N. And they say, "as part of a humanitarian cooperation agreement mediated by a third party government, Iran and the United States have
agreed to reciprocally release and pardon five prisoners.
The transfer of these prisoners out of prison marks a significant initial step in the implementation of this agreement." So, the word pardon is very
important, because no matter that they all said that they were falsely charged, falsely imprisoned, the fact that they are going to be now
pardoned means that the Iranians are now on the record saying that.
We understand certainly from this statement that Iran expects in the upcoming days, maybe weeks for five Iranians who are held in the United
States to also be released back to Iran. And then as we've reported in many different occasions, certainly we try to figure out what the bigger deal
is, and we understand that the parameters of that include Iranian funds throughout the -- Iranian funds that are frozen in South Korea, because
South Korea bought about $6 billion to $7 billion worth of energy from Iran and actually never paid them, never delivered the funds.
So, that is something that is going to be -- we understand, unfrozen. But will not go directly to the Iranian government, but apparently, and again
this all has to be confirmed, but this is what sources have told me weeks ago, going to a Qatar government arranged account. To be spent on only
goods that are humanitarian and unsanctioned goods for the good of the Iranian people who are suffering.
SOARES: Christiane with the very latest there, appreciate it, thank you very much, Christiane, and we'll have much more on this story in about 20
minutes, we'll take you to the State Department. Now, to a country in shock and on edge after an assassination condemned around the world is a brazen
attack on democracy. A presidential candidate in Ecuador was killed in a burst of gunfire while leaving a campaign rally just ten days before the
Fernando Villavicencio had pledged to crack down on organized crime and government corruption amid a surge in drug-related violence.
Ecuador's president has declared a state of emergency, but says the August 20th vote will go ahead. CNN's Rafael Romo begins our coverage, and we warn
you, his report contains some disturbing images.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Cheers for Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio as he's
ushered into a car.
But gunfire rings out at least 12 shots, as those around them dive for cover. This was a targeted attack, killing the man who once described his
country as a narco state run by a political mafia. Authorities say nine people were injured, a blood-splattered floor inside the school gymnasium
where emergency service workers treated them at the scene.
Villavicencio; an anti-corruption campaigner was targeted moments after attending this campaign event at a school in northern Quito. "We are going
to write on August 20th, the final story of the rebellion of democracy of the struggle against corruption, against the mafia that helped subjugated
our homeland for 20 years", he told the crowd.
The 59-year-old centrist was one of eight candidates in the first round of Ecuador's presidential election scheduled for August 20th. The South
American country historically relatively safe and stable, facing a deadly escalation of violence and organized crime. Seven of the eight candidates
in the election were under police protection, local media reported this week.
FERNANDO VILLAVICENCIO, ASSASSINATED ECUADORIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
ROMO: In a recent interview, Villavicencio said he had received threats to break him from drug trafficking group, Los Tornados(ph). And in a video
filmed at a rally, August 5th, he said he had been told to wear a bulletproof vest, but told the crowd, "here I am wearing a sweaty shirt,
damn it. You are my bulletproof vest, I don't need it."
Meanwhile, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso vowed the killing would not go unpunished, and announced a 60-day state of emergency.
GUILLERMO LASSO, PRESIDENT, ECUADOR (through translator): The armed forces from this moment on will mobilize and on the national territory to
guarantee the security of our citizens, the tranquility of the country, and the free and democratic elections of August 20th.
ROMO: The suspected gunman died in police custody while six people have been arrested following the assassination the prosecutor's office says.
Questions now for a shocked-changing nation days ahead of a presidential election. Rafael Romos, CNN, Atlanta.
SOARES: Well, one presidential candidate in Ecuador is demanding the government take action against the crime epidemic, saying, quote, "we are
drowning in a sea of blood and tears." Otto Sonnenholzner served as vice president from 2018 to 2020. He joins us now from Quito. Mr. Sonnenholzner,
appreciate you taking the time to speak to us this evening.
I imagine many Ecuadorians are shocked today, as are so many as you can imagine right around the world. Your reaction first to this brazen and
shocking killing of Mr. Villavicencio.
OTTO SONNENHOLZER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF ECUADOR: The whole country is sad, the whole country is in shock, but we are also demanding action. This
government still has three months in office, and there's no time to lose. I applaud the fact that the government started cooperating with the FBI in
order to find the guilty -- the people responsible behind this attempt, this assassination story.
That's good news. We were demanding international cooperation in order to get to the real planners of this assassination.
SOARES: And who would want him dead? Who would want Mr. Villavicencio dead? I know, an investigation is open here. Who could be behind this here?
SONNENHOLZER: He was normally and frequently doing investigative journalism, that's how he came into public life in Ecuador. He was a
journalist, he was always fighting powers, so to say, and he had a strong campaign against corruption. He had also received two weeks ago, threats
from organized crime here in Ecuador, and he had a big group of police protection that sadly failed yesterday.
SOARES: And Mr. Villavicencio told our sister network, CNN Espanol back in May that Ecuador had become a narco state. And what we saw after those
comments was, Mr. Villavicencio, like you're saying leading a fight against what he called a political mafia. How do you explain to our viewers right
around the world today, Otto, what is happening in Ecuador? Because he's not the first politician to be assassinated.
SONNENHOLZER: No. In this year alone, they murdered two weeks ago, one of our candidates to Congress. Two weeks ago, they also murdered a mayor of an
important city, Manta. The mayor in February, of another important city, Portoviejo, by miracle, survived an assassination attempt.
The mayor of Duran, a big city next to Guayaquil, where I am right now also survived an attack just a few months ago. So this is something we have
never seen before in Ecuador. This is something new. It has started maybe one and a half or two years ago. And it's a spiral of violence that is
completely out of control, and demands concrete government action that we are not seeing --
SOARES: Do you agree --
SONNENHOLZER: All the time --
SOARES: Do you agree with Mr. Villavicencio that Ecuador has become a narco state?
SONNENHOLZER: There's a lot of influence of drug dealers and drug traffickers in different institutions in the country. And the fight that we
have to face now is to face, to take that out with as I say with immediate decision that the government is taking too long to make.
SOARES: Different institutions in the country, you're talking about corruption here, I assume.
SONNENHOLZER: Yes, judiciary branch, even some influence in the police force, in local governments, there's a lot of influence of drug trafficking
in different areas of the -- of institution and government.
SOARES: And this, of course, you are a candidate for this presidential election that's happening August the 20th. This must be incredibly
dangerous for you, too. Have you received death threats?
SONNENHOLZER: We -- it's -- or locally, it has become something frequent, and we have the team to differentiate what threats are real and which are
not. So that's how we deal with it, we have suspended our public events for the next few days, and we are asking the election institution to postpone
the event that was -- that was planned for this Sunday.
Because the party of Villavicencio, it's time to find a replacement for him in the ticket, and we think it would be unfair if they have to be
eliminated(ph) on Sunday when they haven't solved that yet.
SOARES: And Otto, do you have police protection?
SONNENHOLZER: I have security that we have arranged privately. Police locally, is needed in the streets right now, but we have a good security
team that we have organized by ourselves.
SOARES: And like we were saying, we have, of course, elections in what? Ten days or so. Do you have faith, do you trust the electoral system?
SONNENHOLZER: There are always doubts with that, and what we're doing is we're planning a bit of control program during that, they with thousands of
people to make sure that things go as they should.
SOARES: So, what do you want to see now? Mr. Villavicencio was assassinated in front of really of all the cameras to see. What needs to
happen now to change this?
SONNENHOLZER: First, you need action. The prison system is out of control in Ecuador. The gangs are controlling crime in the streets, from the jails,
right? Then, we have failed with the gun control in the country. Gun control is completely failing every day. The guns that the criminals are
carrying in Ecuador is relatively new, it's not something we have seen before.
Six people were detained yesterday that were part of the attack against Villavicencio, they had machine guns, they had grenades, Ecuador has been
historically a very peaceful country. A contrary of -- with very low crime rates, with very low violent crime rates and murders. In year, 2020, when I
was VP, we had six assassinations every 100,000 citizens, and now it's over 30 -- 32 to be exact.
In this year alone until August, we have almost 4,000 violence deaths or assassination. This is something that is really out of control right now.
SOARES: And in spite of all of this, you're still going to go out there and you're still going to be campaigning?
SONNENHOLZER: This is my country, I was born here, I want to live here in peace, and if we do this, it's because we need to change this. If I stay
here with my arms crossed, nothing is going to change. And we need our country to change for good.
SOARES: And very briefly, here, Otto, how would -- how should we remember Mr. Villavicencio?
SONNENHOLZER: I met him as a journalist, I was a journalist myself a few years ago. I think his fight against corruption should be his legacy.
SOARES: Otto, really appreciate you taking the time to speak to us this evening. Otto Sonnenholzer, thank you very much, sir.
SONNENHOLZER: Thank you for the interview.
SOARES: Thank you. And still to come tonight, the inferno that's sweeping through a tropical paradise. We'll have an update on the deadly wildfires
in Hawaii. That's next.
SOARES: A tropical paradise that's now hell on earth. Deadly wildfires are burning out of control in Hawaii, killing at least 36 people. Most of the
fires on the Island of Maui where victims say they spread fast and without warning. Many homes, churches, businesses and even historic buildings are
now gone, as you can see on these satellite images.
U.S. President Joe Biden has now approved a disaster declaration for the state, paving the way for federal aid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I've directed that we search support to these brave firefighters and first responders and
emergency personnel working around the clock there, risking their lives. I just got off the phone before I got here for a long conversation with
Governor Josh Green this morning.
Let him know I'm going to make sure the state has everything it needs from the federal government to recover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Well, violent winds linked to Hurricane Dora are a big reason why these flames have been so hard to contain. But those winds are now going
down. CNN's Veronica Miracle has more on the emergency response there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh, look at the harbor.
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The view from above is of shock and heartbreak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we were not prepared for what we saw. And it looked like an area that had been bombed in a war.
MIRACLE: Wildfires rampaging across the Island of Maui.
DUSTIN KALEIOPU, HOUSE BURNED IN LAHAINA: Our entire street was burnt to the ground.
MIRACLE: Decimating homes and businesses.
JAMES TOKIOKA, DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & TOURISM: Local people have lost everything. They've lost their house, they've lost
their animals and it's devastating.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lahaina is on fire.
MIRACLE: The historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist and an economic hub on the island's west side, particularly affected with hundreds of
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast. People stuck in traffic trying to get out, and there are flames on both sides of the road like something
out of a horror movie.
MIRACLE: Most of the fires on Maui fueled in part by violent winds caused by Hurricane Dora, turning more than 800 miles away, those winds now
subsiding as the storm pushes away.
KENNETH HARA, ADJUTANT GENERAL, STATE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT, HAWAII: The primary focus is to save lives and to prevent human suffering, and to
mitigate great property loss.
MIRACLE: State Department crews assisting in efforts to restore communication across the islands and distribute water with military
helicopters aiding and extinguishing the fires.
HARA: Two CH-47 supporting Maui County, they flew 13 hours, did 58 drops, and about 150,000 gallons of water to assist with suppression of the fire.
MIRACLE: Recovery will be a long road ahead according to Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke.
SYLVIA LUKE, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, HAWAII: The damage to the infrastructure, it's not just buildings, I mean, these were small
businesses that invested in Maui. These were local residents, and you know, we need to figure out a way to help a lot of people in the next several
SOARES: That's Veronica Miracle reporting there. While some have made it to the island O'ahu and are now the Honolulu Convention Center. Mike
Valerio is there for us. And Mike, the images we have just showed our viewers from the Veronica Miracle report there, really truly looks
apocalyptic. Give us a sense of what you're seeing on the ground this hour?
MIKE VALERIO, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what? People who are recovering from those apocalyptic scenes, Isa, and you know, just
down, the sun is up here for the past hour and a half. It's a new day where we have travelers a couple of meters behind us who have spent the night at
this primary shelter in the central business district here in Honolulu, about 130 kilometers away from the epicenter of the disaster zone.
And we have just a handful of families who are trying to figure out their final transportation arrangements to get back to San Francisco, Los
Angeles, British Columbia, to get back to their lives after experiencing so much trauma. You know, just a couple of minutes ago, we had the opportunity
to speak to a mother of three, Julie(ph), about just the vivid indelible images that she will remember for as long as she lives. Listen to what she
told us a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was devastating to see how much damage have been done. The entire hillside on one area where a lot of houses I believe were,
was just wiped out. We saw a lot of burnt-out cars, and then the other section of town where the old historic town was just black and ruin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIO: Black and ruin. So, she was one of the several dozen, up to a 100 people who stayed in this complex overnight to finally have a moment of
solace and to get out of that inferno. She said that after dealing with the bedlam, that was Maui's central airport, and finally, coming into a shared
space with people again.
This convention center is meant to deal with natural disaster situations. She said that she was just so grateful for the kindness of Hawaiians here -
- and one more note, Isa, I thought it was so striking, you know, we've been here since midnight local time, it's now just after 8:30, and to hear
first responders who have been walking in and out of the building, saying that this place is ready for hurricanes, tropical storms, tsunami warnings.
But they don't have in their playbook wildfires like this. This was beyond the extent of the realm of possibility. And there are still this morning
coming to -- coming really, trying to grasp what they saw unfold in nearby Maui.
SOARES: Mike, appreciate it, thank you very much for that for the latest in Honolulu. And still to come tonight, after hours of tense talks, West
African leaders make a decision about Niger, and how to deal with the aftermath of the coup. We'll have the details just ahead for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You still have black people struggling with blackness, the blackness of the skin, the texture of the hair. The -- that
is still an issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Plus, I sit down with Barbados' first poet laureate to discuss the deep scars left by slavery.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. Returning to our top story this hour.
Iran confirming it's moving toward releasing five American prisoners after a deal with the United States. Four U.S. citizens have been moved out of
their prison cells in Tehran. They're now under house arrest in a hotel.
We only know the identities of three of them. A fifth American was already under house arrest. The U.S. contends all five have been wrongfully
detained. Kylie Atwood is monitoring that, she joins us.
Now Kylie, do you know the U.S. and Iran and how they say officials came to this moment and what Iran is expecting in return here?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We're beginning to learn what happened behind the scenes to secure what officials are calling
a first step in an ongoing process to get these Americans home.
We're learning from Iran that there is a plan for there to be five Iranian prisoners in the U.S. released. We don't know who those prisoners are. We
don't know when they'll be released.
But according to Iran, that is part of the deal that has been agreed to. We're also learning, according to a source familiar with these
negotiations, that there have been conversations surrounding $6 billion of Iranian fans that are currently in a restricted account in South Korea, to
move them to a separate account where they can be more easily accessible by Iran.
They would still have limitations on what Iran could use those funds for, for humanitarian purposes, for non-sanctionable trade. But there's
conversations about moving those funds as well. Those are two elements that are part of what we expect to see over the course of the next few weeks.
As there is a sequence of events that will be carried out, with the end goal for the U.S. being getting these five Americans who have been
imprisoned in Iran back home. We don't know exactly when that will happen.
But a source who's been briefed on the negotiations gave a timeframe of some time in September. It's significant to note that these Americans, many
of them have been wrongfully detained in Iran for years now.
Siamak Namazi has been wrongfully detained. He was arrested in 2015, going on almost eight years behind bars in Iran.
And the two other Americans whose identities we actually know, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, were detained in 2018 in separate instances. So they've
been there for years. As you said, the other two Americans, we don't know their identity right now.
SOARES: An important first step for these five Americans and their families. Kylie, we appreciate it, thank you.
SOARES: This just in to CNN. Prosecutors are proposing a January 2024 trial for Donald Trump in its federal election interference case. The
prosecutors say their presentation of evidence in the trial would take no longer than 4-6 weeks. The former U.S. president's team has until next week
to give its preferred start date.
His other federal case related to classified records in Florida after his presidency, the lawyer want the trial to be put off until after the
presidential election in November of next year.
Ukrainian authorities are ordering a mandatory evacuation as Russia steps up attacks on the eastern city of Kupyansk. Meantime, Poland is bolstering
its troops along the eastern border with Belarus. The defense ministry says that about 10,000 troops with some in reserve will support Poland's border
A major concern is the arrival of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus. Last week I spoke to the Polish deputy foreign minister, this is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAWEL JABLONSKI, POLISH DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: They have much larger engines (ph). They're stolen (ph). They're willing to destabilize the whole
Europe. So this is a common goal as (INAUDIBLE). We see that there might be causing -- they might be trying to cause fear on our citizens, among
citizens of in Latvia and other countries.
That they will simply be trying to present themselves as this ongoing threat. While the threat is real, we're ready to repel it. But we need to
be aware that this might be persistent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOARES: Let's get more on this, Fred Pleitgen joins me from Berlin.
Fred, when I spoke to Poland's deputy foreign minister last week, it was clear from what he said that it was a question of when rather than if.
Moving troops, of course, along the border. Explain to our viewers why Poland believes this needs to be done right now.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Poles don't want to take any chances. Your interview with the deputy minister was
extremely important and certainly shows some of those concerns, that the Poles have and they're acting on very quickly.
They believe that it's definitely in their interest and not just in Poland's interest but in NATO interest as well. That border between Poland
and Belarus has been a flashpoint, not just between those two countries but for several years now.
If you look back to 2021, there were waves of migrants that were lured essentially into Belarus and then sent to the border, helped across by
Belarusian border guards. The Poles put a stop to. That even back then you had skirmishes going on between the Poles and Belarusians.
It's really since Russia has played a larger role in Belarus that we've seen some of this taking place. All that has escalated with the war in
Ukraine. One of the interesting things that the minister was saying there was also that the Poles are extremely concerned about the security
situation in general.
With some airspace violations that they've been talking about, with Belarusian helicopters apparently violating Polish airspace, that's not a
small feat. That's a country violating NATO's airspace. Even though the Belarusians are saying that that's not true.
But it leads to a very, very tense situation. And, of course, the sort of 800-pound gorilla in the room, if you will, is Wagner. Right now from the
latest that we're hearing is that Wagner is training the Belarusian security forces on the other side of the border.
But some of that training is taking place very close to NATO territory, very close to Polish territory. We can see the Poles definitely trying to
show that they're not willing to deal with this, that they are going to take a tough stance on this, moving 10,000 troops, 4,000 of which will be
directly on the border, 6,000 in reserve.
Then, of course, you have the Russians, who, in the past, when the Poles have been beefing up their border, have called it an aggressive moves,
pouring oil on the fire as well.
It's a very tense situation. But the Poles trying to project strength on their eastern border.
SOARES: Indeed. In the meantime, Fred, in Ukraine, what more can you tell us about the mandatory evacuation in the eastern city of Kupyansk, it's in
PLEITGEN: It's in the Kharkiv oblast, in the Kharkiv district of Ukraine. I was looking at the mandatory order a little earlier today, it's about
12,000 people, 11,500-12,000 people, ordered to evacuate from the town of Kupyansk, including 600 children, by the way.
And that's simply because the fighting has gotten so close to that town. The Ukrainians are saying that the Russians have amassed a gigantic force
there. They're trying to put pressure on the Ukrainians and move back into the town of Kupyansk.
They lost it last year to the Ukrainians. They seem to want to move back in. The big thing stopping them is the Ukrainian army but also a pretty
substantial river that is on the eastern edge of that town.
But the Ukrainians are saying right now that Kupyansk is getting shelled to an extent where they don't think that people can live there safely anymore.
So they're moving the people out.
PLEITGEN: The Russians have been saying that they've made some gains there. They. Took a couple positions from the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians
for their part are saying that the Russians' attempted advances have been rebuffed.
But there is no doubt that there is extremely heavy fighting going on there. The Ukrainians believe that the reason for that is probably the
Russians trying to take some of the pressure off the southern front, where, of course, the Ukrainians are trying to move forward.
SOARES: Indeed, we've seen a lot of the movement on that front line. Fred, we appreciate it, thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen there.
The Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS has come to the decision about Niger after an emergency meeting hosted by Nigeria. It will
order its standby force to restore constitutional order, though it is unclear what that means exactly.
The regional bloc had earlier threatened potentially to use force needed if Niger's coup leaders didn't reinstate the ousted president. The military
junta ignored that ultimatum and formed its own government. Let's get more on all this and the outcome of this meeting. I want to bring in Larry
Madowo, who has developments for us.
Larry, any clarification on the standby force here?
We're talking about how soon it could be activated or is this a diplomatic pressure tactic?
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot that we still don't know about this announcement from ECOWAS, about the potential military
deployment. The standby force exists and the statutes of the Economic Community of West African States. But it doesn't mean standby in the way
They're ready to go. If you say go now, they'll go now. They don't exist in that way because you need to collect troops from the member countries, 15
member countries of ECOWAS, and then deploy them. In this case, there's 11 member countries, because Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are
suspended from ECOWAS because of military coups. Let me play for you what the chair of the ECOWAS commission said and then we will try to unpack on
the back of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OMAR AILEU TOURAY, PRESIDENT, ECOWAS: (INAUDIBLE) the committee of the chief of defense (INAUDIBLE) to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all
its elements immediately. Order the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADOWO: So that makes it sound like that deployment is imminent. But the precedent that we need to go on here is from the Gambia in 2017. It took
seven weeks to get that ECOWAS force in country.
Gambia's a small country, has a small army; Niger is a much bigger country with a much more advanced army -- U.S.-trained, battle hardened fighting
the insurgency. So my understanding here from people we've been speaking to is that this is a sign to the Niger military junta, that the military
option isn't out of the question. But they still want to explore diplomacy.
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who's the chair of the ECOWAS commission, said they're still considering balance as a last resort, that they'll be
looking at these talks to convince the men in Niger who took over power to restore the government of president Mohamed Bazoum. It's a bit confusing
but that's where we stand.
SOARES: Larry, good to see you. Thank you very much.
Still to come tonight, breaking the silence on slavery at home. Barbados' first poet laureate is calling for reparations. Her hopes for her country,
SOARES: It's been almost 200 years since the end of slavery in the British Empire. The scars are still prevalent today. Officials in Caribbean and
African nations have joined together, calling for reparations for slavery and its legacy.
I sat down with Barbados' first poet laureate, Esther Phillips, who writes of her own ancestors suffering in Barbados.
ESTHER PHILLIPS, POET LAUREATE, BARBADOS: "They say you were a wanderer, stripped, beaten, sold from one plantation to another."
SOARES (voice-over): Painful words by Esther Phillips, a reminder of the scars of history.
PHILLIPS: "Laid under the Earth almost 200 years, you've never stopped your wandering."
SOARES (voice-over): As Barbados' first poet Laureate, Phillips has made it her mission to break the silence on slavery at home.
PHILLIPS: I think they wanted to push it aside. It was just too painful, it was just too horrible.
SOARES (voice-over): Now she's calling for reparations in the hope that Barbados can self-heal.
SOARES: What has happened in Barbados civil society that's made this such a focal point or important point right now?
PHILLIPS: I think what really triggered a high level of consciousness in terms of reparations is the fact that it became a republic. I think
something shifted a little bit more in people's minds, because now you're moving further away from colonialism. You're moving more into your own
sense of identity.
SOARES: Talk to us about the scars that you still see today.
PHILLIPS: You still have Black people struggling with Blackness, the Blackness of skin, the texture of the hair, the -- that is still an issue.
And unfortunately, that has been fed down through generations.
SOARES: How then do you help these people?
What needs to happen?
Because this, we're talking centuries here and trying to undo this.
PHILLIPS: Yes, yes. So that's what I think is the point, to go beyond where history ends or history cannot go.
SOARES (voice-over): From poetry to prose, Esther now sees her work as a memorial to her ancestors, who were slaves in Barbados.
PHILLIPS: My grandmother told us, for example, about her -- she'd heard this thing about her grandmother. So that takes me three generations back.
And that's what that poem, "Wonder," is about.
SOARES: Would you mind reading -- ?
PHILLIPS: I don't mind reading it at all.
"Time opened a window and you look down the centuries, the long, winding ages have stretched on before you. And you looked and you saw how armed
with her pen, her words and her voice.
"one of your own blood has started her journey back through the years, retracing your footsteps, to write your true story, interpret your
inarticulate cries and scribe on her pages your absolute resistance, your courage to suffer the stripes on your back rather than wear the chains on
SOARES: It's incredibly raw.
How hard was that for you to write, Esther?
PHILLIPS: Extremely difficult because these are not things that are made up. These are actual truths. I'm doing the research now and it is -- when
you go into the deep diving, it is really very, very painful.
Even now in Barbados, we have -- there's something called Barbados today in history. So they look back at this old newspaper, one called "The Mercury,"
in which the enslavers would put out these ads for slaves who had run away. I mean, they were described by the scars.
SOARES: -- newspapers, this --
PHILLIPS: In the newspapers.
SOARES (voice-over): Esther grew up in Barbados next to the Drax plantation, where her grandfather labored. The plantation, which had
enslaved people for centuries, now belongs to British lawmaker, Richard Drax. Esther is a leading voice in arguing the Drax Hall plantation should
be handed over to the people of Barbados.
SOARES: Have you heard from him?
PHILLIPS: I haven't heard from them.
SOARES: And no apology from them?
PHILLIPS: He acknowledges, yes. And as he says to, quote, him , it is truly regrettable. But this is as far as he's prepared to go.
SOARES: We've heard many European leaders saying that apologies are needed, that many haven't apologized. And the talk of reparations feels
somewhat uncomfortable to many.
Why is it so hard for them to apologize?
PHILLIPS: When you consider the atrocity, the brutality, the dehumanization of other people, then I'm not surprised that they find it
difficult to apologize. If you claim that such a horrible wrong has been committed, if you admit that what you did was something which is really
beyond human imagination, then it is quite logical to ask the next thing.
What are you going to do about it?
And they think that's probably what they're struggling with.
SOARES: Our thanks to Esther Phillips for that interview.
CNN has reached out to Drax plantation about the calls for reparations. They've yet to receive a response. We will be back after this short break.
SOARES: Welcome back, everyone.
To infinity and beyond. Well, not quite; just to the edge of outer space. Just hours ago, Virgin Galactic gave its first space tourists a tantalizing
taste of weightlessness. While cruising above the Earth's surface, the three lucky passengers are an Antiguan entrepreneur and her daughter and a
former Olympian with Parkinson's disease.
The tickets are not cheap. They could spend between $250,000 and $450,000 for one trip. It hasn't stopped space fans and Virgin Galactic has already
sold 800 tickets. Galactic's cheap compared to Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, which also caters to rather wealthy customers.
SOARES: Detroit folk musician Sixto Rodriguez has died at the age of 81.
SOARES (voice-over): Originally Rodriguez was relatively unknown in his native United States. But in South Africa, he unwittingly became the voice
of the anti-apartheid struggle during the 1970s.
Rodriguez was also the subject of the 2012 Oscar winning documentary, "Searching for Sugarman." If you haven't seen it, go see it.
In an interview this is what he said, "My story isn't a rags to riches story. It's a rags to rags and I'm glad about that.
"Where other people live in an artificial world, I feel I live in the real world. And nothing," he says, "beats reality."
That does it for us for this evening. Stay right here. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is up next with Richard Quest. Have a wonderful evening, I shall
see you tomorrow.