US and Cuba in high-level talks
Relations between the US and Cuba have been frosty for decades
A senior American diplomat held high-level talks with the Cuban government during a visit to Havana earlier this month, US officials have confirmed.
It was the highest-level contact between the two sides in years.
State department official Bisa Williams held the talks with Cuba's deputy foreign minister.
The decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba remains, but there has been an easing of tension since US President Barack Obama came to power in January.
Earlier this month, Ms Williams, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, was part of a US delegation that went to Havana to discuss the possible resumption of direct postal services between the two nations.
Direct services were suspended in 1963 and currently post must go through third countries, meaning it can take several weeks to arrive.
Ms Williams stayed on in Cuba after the postal service discussions for five more days, says the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana.
US diplomats say she also held separate meetings with a number of dissidents on the island.
US President Barack Obama earlier this month extended the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.
Mr Obama has indicated he would be open to dialogue with Cuba's leaders.
But he has said that, like previous American presidents, he will only consider a full lifting of the embargo once Cuba's communist government makes significant moves such as the holding of democratic elections.
However, in a sign of thawing relations, he has eased travel restrictions for Americans wanting to visit Cuba and the two countries are holding direct talks on immigration.
Cuba's President Raul Castro has said he is prepared to negotiate with the Obama administration, providing there are no preconditions.
His brother, former President Fidel Castro, also last week praised Mr Obama for his commitment to tackling climate change.
But our correspondent says no-one is expecting any rapid breakthroughs on core issues such as ending the decades old trade embargo.
Instead both sides are looking at ways of working together on confidence building measures such as immigration and postal services and possibly anti-drug smuggling co-operation.
News of Bisa Williams extended stay suggests that this quiet diplomacy is starting to gather pace.
Source: BBC News
U.S. holds hush-hush talks with Cuba
NEW YORK (AP) | A senior American diplomat has held unannounced, high-level talks in Havana with the Cuban government, three State Department officials told the Associated Press on Tuesday, raising hopes for a thaw in long-icy relations.
The talks were the first of their kind in years between representatives of the U.S. and Cuban governments, the bitter Cold War rivals among whom trust appears to be gradually building.
Bisa Williams, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, met with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, visited an area affected by hurricanes in the western province of Pinar del Rio and toured a government agricultural facility during a six-day trip to Cuba this month, the officials told AP.
The meetings came on the heels of Sept. 17 talks on the possibility of restarting direct mail service between the countries, which has been suspended since 1963. Those discussions had been public, but neither country had previously revealed that Ms. Williams remained in Havana for five extra days.
One U.S. official described the talks as "respectful" and said they were more significant for having taken place than for any substantive breakthroughs between the two sides, which have been at odds since shortly after former Cuban leader Fidel Castro marched into Havana on New Year's Day 1959.
"We were going over ground we haven't gone over for a long time," said the official. "Each side was taking advantage of the opportunity to size each other up."
The official was not authorized to publicly discuss details of Ms. Williams' visit and spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Cuban government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed that Ms. Williams remained in Cuba and "met with host government officials and a wide range of representatives from civil society to gain a full appreciation of the political and economic situation on the ground."
Mr. Kelly said Ms. Williams followed up on ongoing U.S.-Cuba migration talks, the next round of which he said are tentatively scheduled to take place in December. One of the officials said those talks were likely to be held in Havana.
Source: The Washington Times
U.S. envoy in Cuba met with officials, citizens
Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 12:37 AM
HAVANA (Reuters) - A senior U.S. diplomat who participated in recent talks in Havana about resuming bilateral mail service with Cuba stayed around to meet with Cuban officials and other Cubans in the latest sign of thawing U.S.-Cuba relations.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in the Cuban capital said on Tuesday that Bisa Williams, acting deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, was in Cuba for several days after the September 17 meeting, holding the previously unannounced meetings.
The spokeswoman said Williams met with Cuban officials and with members of Cuba's "civil society," and went to the western province of Pinar del Rio to tour facilities there.
"The Cubans helped set things up for her," the spokeswoman said.
She would not confirm reports that Williams also met with Cuban dissidents.
U.S.-Cuban relations have begun slowly warming under U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said he wants to "recast" relations that have been hostile since a 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power and led to Cuba's transformation into a communist state.
He has lifted limits on Cuban Americans traveling and sending money to Cuba, and initiated talks with Havana on migration and mail service, the latter aimed at reinstating direct postal service between Cuba and the United States suspended since August 1963.
The two governments issued positive statements after both meetings and said more would be held in the future.
EMBARGO STILL IN PLACE
The first round of migration talks was held in New York in July, and a second round is tentatively set for December in Havana. They had been suspended since 2004 by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.
The U.S. also has suggested to Cuba that travel limits currently imposed on their respective diplomats in both countries be lifted.
In a small but symbolic gesture, Washington also turned off in July a news ticker in the window of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana that the Cuban government had viewed as an affront to its sovereignty.
Since the ticker was turned off, Cuba has mostly taken down large flags it placed in front of the interest section to block the ticker from view.
Despite the thaw, Obama has said he will maintain the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba until the Cuban government shows progress on human rights and democracy. Cuba has said it views those as strictly internal issues not subject to negotiation.
Two weeks ago, Obama signed a yearly renewal of the act that imposes the embargo, which Cuba blames for most of its economic problems.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that Cuba has long wanted normal relations with the U.S. and acknowledged that Obama had taken some positive, but small steps in the right direction.
But he said Obama has not yet done enough and he expressed concern that right-wing forces in the United States still wield great power.
"The crucial thing is that the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains intact," Rodriguez said.
(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Fuente: The Whasington Post
The Center for Strategic and International Studies — CSIS released a report “Cuba Outlook: Raúl and Beyond,” based on its Cuba Outlook panel discussion series, which began late last year; concluding the Summer of ‘09.
Nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War, Cuba remains a policy dilemma for the United States. The transition from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl, which began when Raúl assumed the responsibilities of the presidency of the Council of State on July 31, 2006, as a result of Fidel’s illness, is still ongoing after three years. Fidel remains alive—perhaps even to a point revived—but with very limited exercise of authority. Raúl has taken charge of government, but he must still contend with Fidel’s legendary presence.
Expectations of change under Raúl Castro have been largely unmet; continuity remains the key theme of his regime. Meanwhile, the election of Barack Obama in the United States has resulted in a reexamination of U.S. policy toward Cuba, including some meaningful, however limited, first steps to reach out to the regime in Havana. The U.S.-Cuba bilateral relationship is likely to remain a work in progress well into the future. This report, which outlines conclusions reached from the seven panel discussions with experts in the field, is intended as a point of reference for decisionmakers in and out of government who deal with Cuba.
Cuba concert backlash for Cucu Diamantes
Here's the main text of the email to Padrón's agent from Suzanne Lavelle, an attorney for the Union City Board of Education.
"This letter will serve to confirm Ms. DiNardo’s conversation with you on Thursday, September 24, 2009, wherein the Union City Board of Education cancelled the contract for the Cucu Diamantes’ performance at the Union City High School on September 26, 2009.
"As advised during said conversation, it is unfortunate that we must cancel the contract; however, due to your client’s recent performance at the Paz Sin Fronteras in Cuba, our community, which is comprised of approximately 85 % Cuban immigrants, became enraged at the thought of the High School supporting an artist who would perform in Cuba. The community perceived Ms. Diamantes’ performance in Cuba as support of the current political regime in Cuba. The community came together and threatened civil unrest, protests and the like at the grand opening gala if the High School went ahead with its plans to allow Ms. Diamantes to perform. Clearly, this is not the atmosphere we envisioned for the grand opening of our new High School." [Italics mine]
Amazing. Another Cuban-American city has usurped Miami's reputation for reactionary backlash. Here we got rid of the Cuba Ordinance, which prohibited local arts groups from presenting Cuban artists, years ago. Concert supporters outnumbered concert protesters on Calle Ocho two to one. The hundreds of thousands of young Cubans on the plaza in Havana weren't enraged. And there were certainly tens of thousands of Cubans avidly watching the show on TV in Miami.
Somebody should ask the New Jersey school board – did New Jerseyans protest when Springsteen sang for East Germans at the Berlin Wall? What would the Boss have done if they had?
Juanes expressed indignation and anger on his Twitter blog.
“Es sorprendente que esto pase en Nueva Jersey, estado hermano de Nueva York, donde siempre se han respetado todas las libertades propias de un individuo en un país democrático… vivimos en un país democrático, donde todas las opiniones pueden y deben coexistir,” he said.
“Eso es para los que hablan de represión y falta de libertad… y más vergüenza aún viniendo de una escuela… absurdo total. Qué tal el ejemplo de educación que quieren dejar, qué mensaje tan negativo, y eso, que estamos en USA, donde sí hay "libertad". ¡Me da risa!”
In Cuba, Radio Baraguá made a gargantuan leap of logic to blame the cancellation on the loooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnggggg arm of Emilio Estefan, head of the Miami Mafia's musical arm, and Ricardo Alarcón, head of radio chain SBS and Miami's Mega TV (whose influential talkshow host, María Elvira Salazar, literally wept with gratitude as she thanked singer Olga Tañón – on behalf of the Cuban-American community – for her performance in Havana.). Apparently blaming Union City would require too big a propaganda shift.
Source: Cuban Colada
The struggle to educate the American public about the reality of Castro's Cuba is made more difficult by the general ignorance of history by too many Americans — like those in charge of the Empire State Building in New York.
I am not talking about American history or even Cuban history — although the void of knowledge is an ever-deepening abyss — but of the history of how totalitarians around the world grabbed their power and use whatever cruel means necessary to keep it. That history is ignored or even unlearned, so we act like the massacres and the imprisonments and the overall oppression and repression never happened.
Instead, we get all wrapped up in debates about "embargoes" and how "unfair" they are. And how "cool" and "dynamic" the dictators are, and why we are willing to do business with one set of tyrants, but not another. And about how much American debt they are holding.
We forget about the Cubans and the Vietnamese and the Chinese and the other peoples around the world who have to live with our ignorance.
But we remember our anniversaries, even as we forget the blood spilled to get us to this point.
The Empire State Building this week will be turned into a memorial honoring one of history's greatest blood-curdling and blood-sucking regimes, the communists of the People's Republic of China.
The Empire State is regularly lighted up in different colors to recognize a particular historical or cultural milestone. But I doubt it ever has been used to honor a band of mass murderers like the Chinese communists. (I'd hate to see what the Empire State might have done if they had realized that Sept. 23 last week was Saudi Arabia's National Day; after all, the World Trade Center wasn't available.)
The ChiComms, who operate what probably is the largest gulag currently on the planet, do not deserve acclaim, but continued scorn for what they do their own people.
The censorship. The repression of any dissident. The absence of liberty.
Capitalism might have made many Chinese rich, but at the cost of their freedom, which is too high a price to pay.
As it celebrates the tragedy of 60 years of communist rule in China, the Empire State Building also will be honoring one of history's saddest traditions — the ignorance without which tyrants cannot survive.