Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

BROTHERS TO THE RESCUE SHOOTING

Cuban spymaster now claims Brothers to the Rescue shooting was outside Cuban airspace

Imprisoned spymaster Gerardo Hernandez has broken ranks with the Castro government, asserting that Havana's shoot-down of U.S. civilian planes happened in international airspace.


Similar stories:

  • In about-face, Cuban spy says planes were shot down over international waters
  • Wife of accused Cuban spy visits husband
  • Wife of Cuban spy visits husband in U.S. prison
  • Posada trial marked by firsts
  • Profits before principle

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Since Cuban Air Force pilots obliterated two planes ferrying four Miami men in 1996, Cuba's leaders have strongly disputed U.S. and United Nations findings that the fatal shoot-downs happened in international airspace.
Aiming to place the controversial killings in Cuban territory was a linchpin of the defense at the trial of five Cuban spies, one of whom was convicted of murder conspiracy.
But now, spymaster Gerardo Hernandez, serving a life sentence, has made a startling about-face: In a last-ditch appeal, he suddenly agrees that the Feb. 24, 1996, MiG assaults on two Brothers to the Rescue planes happened over international waters.
With that argument, Hernandez is fundamentally contradicting the stand of the regime he has sworn his loyalty to, and which has declared him a modern-day hero of the revolution.
Brothers co-founder Jose Basulto finds the move ironic. Now, he said, Hernandez ``wants to distance himself from the Cuban government -- to save himself.''
In his appeal, Hernandez, 45, contends that his trial attorney, Paul McKenna, mishandled his defense at a 2001 Miami federal trial by focusing so much on the shoot-down location.
That strategy overshadowed evidence that Hernandez purportedly did not know in advance about the deadly Cuban plot over the Florida Straits, the appeal asserts. Evidence of his advance knowledge was crucial to proving his role in the murder conspiracy. ( Read More Click Here )

I recently purchased a copy of military strategist Edward Luttwak’s The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.
Luttwak was interviewed last year at UC Berkeley in the following video.

[H/T: Zenpundit]
23 December 2010 at 0054 by Armando F. Mastrapa 3d | Permalink

The January 2011 issue of Joint Defense Quarterly has a piece on Chinese soft power in Latin America.
21 December 2010 at 1649 by Armando F. Mastrapa 3d | Permalin

 Five Political Corpses in 2011

Moisés Naím (Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) examines the similar succession processes of five countries that includes Cuba in El País via The National Interest:
Another common denominator in these five countries is the fundamental role that the armed forces play in the succession process. All of these governments depend on the military to retain their grip on power…Raúl Castro is not only Fidel’s brother but for decades he was the head of the armed forces.
[...]
Autocrats that look to extend their mandate beyond their death by leaving in power their son or brother run afoul of this adage. They are keen to ensure that their evil legacy lasts longer than one hundred years. In some cases, and to the detriment of their long-suffering societies, they will succeed. In others, the body—that is, society—will not resist the extension of the evil, that is, more of the same bit with a different leader.
S:CUBAPOLIDATA
  
Members of the Cuban dissident group Ladies in ...

Members of Cuban dissident group Ladies

Members of the Cuban dissident group Ladies in White demonstrate during their weekly march in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010. The 'Ladies in White' is an organization created by wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners.… Read more »
(AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

Cuba’s plan to shop talent may not help MLB

Cuba to free 2 more political prisoners

December 24, 2010|By the CNN Wire Staff

Cuba is releasing two more political prisoners who will be sent straight from prison to exile in Spain, the Roman Catholic Church said Friday.
The two men are not part of a group of 52 prisoners President Raul Castro pledged to free in an agreement brokered last July. Eleven of those dissidents, jailed during a government crackdown in March 2003, remain behind bars.
Miguel Angel Vidal Guadarrama and Hector Larroque Rego will be released soon, said a statement from the archbishop of Havana.

Both men's names appear on an online list of prisoners complied by the independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation based in Havana.
Vidal was sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of terrorism and Larroque received 22 years for burglary, illegal possession of weapons, piracy and attempted illegal exit from Cuba, according to the commission.
The Cuban government has often labeled jailed dissidents as "mercenaries" in the pay of foreign governments including the United States.
But Human Rights Watch has documented a systemic pattern of repression in Cuba and said in a report that the communist nation's "laws empower the state to criminalize virtually all forms of dissent."


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cuba suppresses the rate on dollar remittances

  • The decision comes at a time of financial difficulties for Havana
  • Relations with U.S. initiatives to improve after Obama
Cartel de una oficina de cambio de divisas en una calle de La HabanaPoster of a Western Union office in a street in Havana on an image of 2002.Jorge Rey / Getty Images
RTVE.es 26.12.2010 - 3:08 pmThe  Cuban government has removed the tax dollar remittances, as  which Cubans receive dollars from relatives in the States should pay 10% commission, BBC reports.
The  tax was implemented in response to U.S. sanctions to  international banks to change dollars into Cuba, making transactions more expensive on the island.
With this agreement, applicable to transactions conducted through the company Western Union,  gain the two parties, according to the British public broadcaster, which stresses that the move comes at a time when the government of the island suffers major financial and shortage of foreign exchange.

Whitening Business

The  Remittances are not as significant as in other countries in the area, although  almost half the population receives the same source reported.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, they were very restricted. However, reopening of travel and remittances driven by the current U.S. president Barack Obama has had a positive response.
  • Excitement among the Cubans to the lifting of restrictions on travel and remittances

The BBC states that the volume of money moving these agencies so far represented only 10% of remittances coming across the Florida Straits, while the the rest came through informal channels (in violation of laws U.S.), mainly through "mules", people traveling with dollars.
With the new scenario, Washington will get a higher control the movement of money Cuba.
S: OCR LPPNEWS http://www.rtve.es/ Expert translates CopyRights FrontLine Results

Thursday, December 23, 2010

US embassy cables: Cuba uses climate change summit to turn on Obama

Thursday, 07 January 2010, 18:48
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HAVANA 000011
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/PD
STATE FOR OES
EO 12958 DECL: 01/06/2020
TAGS SENV, PGOV, ECON, PREL, CU
SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE PROVIDES GOC WITH MUCH NEEDED
DISTRACTION
REF: A. HAVANA 168 ("CUBA WEIGHS IN ON CAPITALISTS CRISIS") B. HAVANA 763 (NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SESSION) C. HAVANA 736 ("HUMAN RIGHTS DAY TURNS VIOLENT")
HAVANA 00000011 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Principal Officer Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) an d (d).
Summary
  1. Fidel Castro wades into the climate change debate and blames the stasis on an old enemy. Key passages highlighted in yellow.

  2. Read related article
1. (C) SUMMARY: The Government of Cuba (GOC) used the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to distract attention from problems within Cuba and ferociously vent against the United States and, in particular, President Obama. While some elements within the GOC are legitimately concerned about the environment, the harsh and well orchestrated response was pure political posturing. Like the world financial crisis before it (ref A), climate change provides a perfect platform for the GOC to join its ALBA friends to decry capitalism and blame the West for all of the world's ills. At the heart of Cuba's complaints was not the substance of the Copenhagen Accord but rather the process, in particular the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not involved in the negotiations. Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba's mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC are actually serious about climate change. END SUMMARY.
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL BATTLE IN HUMAN HISTORY
--------------------------------------------- ---------
2. (SBU) Communist Party leader and former President Fidel Castro has mentioned or focused on the Copenhagen Conference and the role of the United States in nearly every one of his "Reflection" articles since September 2009. Previously, Fidel had only sporadically written on climate change, although he has been obsessed with President Obama since the 2008 elections. Fidel began to hint that the Copenhagen Summit would fail after an ALBA Summit held in Bolivia in mid-October and by early November, he was openly predicting failure. In a December 14 message to Venezuelan President Chavez following an ALBA summit held in Havana, Fidel wrote that Copenhagen represented "the most important political battle of human history." On December 17, Fidel quoted extensively from speeches by Chavez and Bolivian President Morales at the conference while criticizing a planned meeting between President Obama and twenty-plus countries scheduled for the following day.
3. (SBU) Following the conference, Fidel wrote three straight Reflections devoted to attacking President Obama's participation in Copenhagen. Fidel called President Obama's conference remarks "deceitful, demagogic and ambiguous." In a January 3 Reflection, Fidel claimed "the yanki president, Barack Obama, and a group of the richest states on the planet, resolved to dismantle the binding commitments of Kyoto." This is in sharp contrast to his mid-September Reflection that one of President Obama's two positive features was his concern for climate change (concern for health care was the other).
FOREIGN MINISTER ACTS OUT FIDEL'S REFLECTIONS
---------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Fidel wrote on December 19, as if he were still in charge of the country, that Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez would explain in a press conference upon his return from Copenhagen "the truth" of what happened. Like a good soldier, the otherwise calm FM Rodriguez blamed President Obama in a December 21 press conference for the "failure" of the climate conference. Rodriguez said "at the summit, there was only imperial, arrogant Obama, who does not listen, who imposes his positions and even threatens developing countries." Rodriguez accused President Obama of maintaining the same position that had prevented the United States from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Rodriguez claimed President Obama knew he was lying when he said he was confident an agreement would be reached after the President departed but before the end of the conference. In addition to President Obama, Rodriguez also targeted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown for allegedly trying to blackmail countries into accepting
HAVANA 00000011 002.2 OF 003
the Copenhagen Accord. This was only his fourth press conference since becoming Foreign Minister following one on the U.S. embargo in September 2009, the situation in Honduras in June, and a meeting with EU commissioner Luis Michel in March of that same year.
WHY SO ANGRY?
-------------
5. (SBU) At the heart of Cuba's complaints was not the substance of the Copenhagen Accord but rather the process, in particular the fact that Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia were not involved in the negotiations. The GOC has reported hourly details of how the events unfolded from President Obama's arrival and departure to the eventual departure of the Cuban delegation, highlighting Obama's short visit and meetings with "selected" countries. Rodriguez labeled the conference an "antidemocratic, exclusionary, arbitrary farce." The GOC detailed the efforts of presidents Chavez and Morales to defend ALBA's position and not accept any agreement that did not place all the responsibility on the developed nations, including repayment of a massive "climate debt" to developing nations.
IDEOLOGUES TRUMP SCIENTISTS
---------------------------
6. (C) A British diplomat told us that there are in fact moderates in the Cuban government that were interested in negotiating a productive agreement for the sake of the environment. Cuba's position was apparently still up in the air until the ALBA summit in Havana when hardliners in the government took over the issue. Our contact told us, "the moderates had nothing to offer; the hardliners had Chavez and his oil."
USEFUL DOMESTIC DISTRACTION
---------------------------
7. (SBU) Copenhagen also provided the international media with a distraction from the fruitless domestic meetings taking place at the same time within Cuba. In the midst of Fidel's and Bruno's outbursts, current President Raul Castro barely mentioned the conference in his December 20 speech to the National Assembly, and what he did say had a more diplomatic and reflective tone. Raul did not mention President Obama at any time in his speech. He lamented that the climate change conference ended without "tangible results", but focused on what Cuba was doing to improve its water supply, to encourage the planting of trees, to teach new generations about nature, and to plan for coastal dangers and vulnerabilities for the years 2050-2100. The rest of the National Assembly was a significant disappointment with the only sound bites coming from Raul Castro's own U.S. bashing regarding the December arrest of an Amcit and USINT efforts to monitor Human Rights Day activities (Ref B).
8. (C) Another common theme in Fidel's Reflections, Foreign Minister Rodriguez's press conference and the official press was the "brutality of the Danish police force against thousands of protesters and invitees," all stated without any sense of irony. One western diplomat commented that the events in Copenhagen provided the perfect diversion from the GOC's own repressive actions on Human Rights Day December 10 (Ref C).
CUBA'S SELF-INTEREST IN CLIMATE CHANGE
--------------------------------------
9. (C) Despite the circus-like treatment that Cuba's mercurial leader afforded to climate issues, many in the GOC are actually serious about climate change. An international journalist who follows environmental issues in Cuba told us that within the GOC there is much interest in climate change and a willingness to adapt and implement measures to combat the effects. This is partly due to Cuba's vulnerability to rising temperatures and sea levels, most notably the potential flooding of an area with great biodiversity on the
HAVANA 00000011 003.2 OF 003
southwest coast (Zapata Swamp). She said the GOC includes environmental considerations in all national development plans. The British diplomat told us that a month before the Copenhagen conference a group of British experts visited Cuba and had "serious" discussions with Cuban officials about exploring options for alternative energy. He said the Cubans are desperate for diversifying energy sources, but lack the necessary funding and technology.
10. (SBU) The UN Development Program has a $25.5 million program in Cuba for 2008-2012 focused on climate change and sustainable energy. Projects include supporting conservation and biodiversity, implementing sustainable agriculture, and promoting the safe management of the bays in Havana and Cienfuegos. The GOC also constructively participates in regional UN projects, including hosting UN Environment Program workshops and providing (EU-funded) technical assistance to other Caribbean countries like Haiti.
11. (C) Several U.S. environmental groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, have close relationships with Cuban officials in the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology. These NGOs provide some technical assistance, but tell us that they are not allowed to pursue their own projects but rather are limited to respond to GOC requests. In particular, any research or work related to Cuba's oil refineries and nickel plants is strictly off limits. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the area around the nickel mines in Moa, Holguin consistently reports the sickest population in Cuba. One XXXXXXXXXXXX expert told us that oil production, refining, and electricity generation facilities in Cuba are generations behind U.S. and international environmental standards. XXXXXXXXXXXX countered in response to the GOC outbursts following Copenhagen that Cuban authorities were in no position to judge due to Cuba's disastrous treatment of its land, water, air and biodiversity. Espinosa Chepe then used official Cuban statistics to support his claim.
COMMENT
-------
12. (C) Climate change is Fidel Castro's latest pet project in which poor, socialist countries are the victims and rich, capitalist countries are entirely to blame. Climate change provides Fidel the perfect opportunity to play statesman with little risk to his brother's credibility at home. FM Rodriguez' fiery remarks during his December 21 press conference were out of character and resembled past Fidel Castro speeches. Some element of the GOC may see climate change as a legitimate concern, but the view from the top is that of a political propaganda goldmine. FARRAR


Nikolas Kozloff

Nikolas Kozloff

Posted: December 23, 2010 02:05 PM

WikiLeaks, Cuba and More U.S. Cynicism on Climate Change

As more and more WikiLeaks cables become available, a portrait of the U.S. attitude toward climate change is emerging -- and it is not flattering. In a previous article, I discussed American diplomats' dismissive views toward Bolivia, a country which has done much to advance a progressive agenda on climate change. In another recently released cable, however, U.S. officials take a cynical view of Cuba. Over the past year or so, the island nation has criticized the U.S. for strong arming other countries when it comes to international climate change negotiations. Joining forces with leftist countries like Bolivia, as well as fellow island countries such as Tuvalu, Cuba has been an irritating thorn in the side of the Obama administration.
Speaking to his superiors, Jonathan Farrar of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana admitted that Cuba was vulnerable to rising temperatures and sea levels, "most notably the potential flooding of an area with great biodiversity on the southwest coast (Zapata Swamp)." Farrar, however, doesn't dwell on the Zapata matter, choosing instead to quickly change gears and paint a cynical portrait. While Cuba will be on the front line of climate change, the diplomat concedes, the small island nation is simply opportunistic and bent on scoring cheap shot propaganda victories against the U.S.

If Farrar had spent more time at Zapata, an extraordinarily bio-diverse area which the earth can ill afford to lose, then maybe he would have adopted a more sympathetic view toward Cuba's environmental struggle. The swamp is the largest and best preserved wetland in the islands of the Caribbean, yet much of Zapata could be flooded as a result of rising sea levels. The area provides habitat for unique birds that are only to be found in Cuba such as the Zapata wren, sparrow and rail. The marsh may hold up to 65 percent of Cuba's birdlife, some of which has disappeared in the rest of the country like the Cuban pygmy owl and Blue-headed pigeon. In addition, the swamp is home to 1,000 plant species as well as rare and captivating mammals like the Dwarf Hutia. Zapata is a natural wonder, including not only mangroves and wetlands but 70 kilometers of caves containing freshwater lagoons.
Yet, Zapata has not been immune from natural calamities which only stand to increase as a result of climate change. Some experts believe that hurricanes, which damage local mangroves, could be getting more intense as a result of global warming. In 2001, Hurricane Michelle hit Zapata and caused serious damage. Though that storm was certainly ominous, officials at Zapata National Park warn that things could become much worse. Specifically, they're concerned that a combination of hurricanes and drought could result in more fires. As they plow through island nations, hurricanes leave a lot of accumulated vegetation in their wake. It's all a disaster waiting to happen, since the vegetation can later dry out and become fuel for fires which spread rapidly throughout the arid marsh. Furthermore, as temperatures increase so too does the risk of further drought afflicting Zapata.
Though no doubt serious, the risk to Zapata may be dwarfed by larger problems confronting Cuba. Government officials say that drought and flooding are already being felt on the island, both of which have had an adverse effect upon the country's economy and social development. What is more, the authorities are concerned about certain tropical diseases that are sensitive to climate change, and they note a recent uptick in the incidence of rabies, leptospirosis, dengue, yellow fever and malaria.
Given the vast scale of such problems, Cuba has justifiably pursued the climate change issue from one international summit to the next. Yet, Cuba's determination yields nothing but withering scorn from U.S. officials like Farrar. Shortly after the Copenhagen conference, the diplomat wrote that Cuba "used the UN Climate Change Conference... to distract attention from problems within Cuba and ferociously vent against the United States and, in particular, President Obama."
Such diplomatic maneuvers, Farrar added caustically, were "harsh" and "pure political posturing," providing a "perfect platform" for Cuba to join its Latin American friends "to decry capitalism and blame the West for all of the world's ills." Farrar had particular contempt for Fidel Castro, a man who had taken up climate change as his latest "pet project." Within Fidel's narrative, Farrar continued sarcastically, "poor, socialist countries are the victims and rich, capitalist countries are entirely to blame."
Since WikiLeaks has only released about 1% of its stash of State Department cables, it's entirely possible we'll be reading more about climate change as it relates to international diplomacy. If Farrar's note is any indication, further cables will continue to unmask the cynical world view of U.S. diplomats who apparently regard Latin America's struggle for climate retribution as nothing more than some kind of childish game.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave, 2008) and No Rain in the Amazon: How South America's Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (Palgrave, 2010). Visit his website, www.nikolaskozloff.com

Cuba tries to ease worries about economic change

Cuba attempts to ease worries about economic overhaul, which will see growth of private sector

ap
, On Wednesday December 22, 2010, 6:12 pm EST
HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban authorities on Wednesday tried to reassure the public that a raft of economic reforms allowing for more private enterprise will not spell the end of the communist island's hallowed social protections.
The overhaul -- which includes the slashing of half a million government jobs and the legalization of 178 private activities -- is the biggest change to Cuba's economic system since the early 1990s.
Since the changes were announced this fall, President Raul Castro has taken pains to stress they're necessary to save Cuba's cash-strapped economic system -- not meant to dismantle it.
In the state-run newspaper Granma, the government underscored that workers who take up one of the newly legal private-sector jobs will continue to receive free health care and education, as do all Cuban citizens.
"The expansion of self-employment in this country doesn't presuppose the worsening of conditions," the newspaper said. It added that the self-employed -- known here as "cuentapropistas" -- will also have maternity leave and retirement coverage.
The two-page article contrasted the emerging Cuban model to the situation in much of Latin America, where -- according to statistics cited by the paper -- nearly half the population works in the informal sector, many living hand-to-mouth with little or no social safety net.
"In Cuba ... conditions and guarantees (of the self-employed) are 180 degrees from those in other Latin American countries," the newspaper said.
Currently, more than 80 percent of Cuba's work force is employed by the state. Though wages are low -- averaging about $20 a month -- the government also provides for free education and health care, and nearly free housing, transportation and basic food.
A small private sector was authorized in the early 1990s during the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, a key ally. But as the economy improved, the government reined in growth in the sector, largely freezing new authorizations for the would-be self-employed.
Under the new rules announced in October, licenses can now be granted for a vast swath of jobs -- from restaurateur to taxi driver; button maker to party planner. The government hopes the expanded private sector will absorb many of the 500,00 state workers to be laid off by next spring.
Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.

Raul Castro Clinton proposed a 'hotline' with Cuba ...

cuba-usa-red-phone-zCuba proposed to the United States creation of "a secret channel of communications" to facilitate the leaders of both countries the direct negotiation of the most delicate bilateral relations, characterized by confrontation since the triumph of Fidel Castro's revolution in January 1959. Cuba proposed  United States to create "a secret channel of communication" to  provide the leaders of both countries the direct negotiation the most sensitive issues in bilateral relations, characterized by the conflict since the triumph of the revolution of Fidel Castro,  in January 1959.

The proposal was communicated by Raul Castro to Miguel Ángel Moratinos, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his visit to Cuba in October 2009, as recorded by a cable from the Secretariat State. Moratinos said the proposal to Hillary Clinton. The American response was that Cuba should use the channels to advance existing outstanding issues, including lifting of restrictions "on their respective trips Interests Sections ", which is still" pending a concrete action by the Cuban government. "
During the voyage of holder Spanish Foreign "Raul Castro confessed his desire Moratinos establish a secret channel between the White House (and the Palace Revolucion in Havana), and suggested that presidents Moratinos Barack  Obama and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would discuss details of the channel at its next meeting, "says the report, dated 18  December 2009. "While we understand the internal difficulties  U.S., Moratinos believed Castro's comment that the release of the five Cuban spies [imprisoned in the U.S.] would allow Cuba to release all political prisoners. "
Diplomatic relations between the two countries are developed by U.S. Interests Section in Havana and Washington, officially part of the Swiss embassies in those two capital. Negotiations between the two countries on matters of mutual  interest have been numerous and often failed. Prior wire to the Secretary of State on the idea of establishing a hotline, the American legation in Havana was informed respect for the then ambassador of Spain, Manuel Cacho, a meeting with the American political adviser. That secret channel point to point, without intermediaries, would be the only means authorized by the Cuban government to make major steps toward reconciliation with the United States. "cord in a note states that" no Cacho was in the meeting between Moratinos and Raul. "Reconciling Cuba and the United States seems difficult beyond specific agreements on immigration issues, drug, travel, trade humanitarian, maritime surveillance or prosecution of offenders international.
The Interests Section of stresses in State Department report that, despite differences Spain, considered valuable to coordinate with the Madrid government issues human rights, as Spain heads a major block in the  European Union. This block supports relations with the Government Cuba at any cost. Spain, however, "pose, privately before the  Government of Cuba, human rights issues when asked what click "However, the United States complains that Spain wants to represent  throughout the European Union in its policy towards Cuba and is "attentive to reinterpret "in its favor the statements of senior officials community when they meet your criteria.
The Spanish ambassador held another meeting with an official of the U.S. mission, which asked by the operations of Spanish companies that trade with Cuba. Cacho said that Spanish companies have learned to navigate through the peculiarities of the Cuban political and economic system and are generally satisfied with their operations. In the words of [the ambassador  Spanish], knowledge of the Cuban idiosyncrasy gives advantages over their competitors. "
S: http://www.lanuevacuba.com / translate LPPNEWS

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

LPP Latest News...



Rubio Remarks at Cuba Democracy PAC

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
See video below:


Foreign Pressure Works, Pt. 2

From an interview in Spain's El Mundo with Cuban author -- and former Fidel and Raul Castro confidant -- Norberto Fuentes:

Question: At this time, the Cuban National Assembly is gathered in Havana and has introduced a series of reforms. Is the regime really trying to undertake reforms and, if so, under what conditions?

Fuentes: This has many possible readings, it can be looked at many ways. That is to say -- they are pressured, they are obligated, they have no choice, that it's a definite strategic victory for the "enemy." The point is that they are making some reforms, they will keep doing them and that they have to see them through to the last consequences.


S: Capitol Hill Cubans

Read more at the Realcubablog ...

Obama knew that Zelaya was a threat to Honduras Democracy, but wanted to please Chávez
Dec. 21 - An article in The Wall Street Journal by Mary Anastasia O'Grady about a cable release by WikiLeaks regarding Honduras and former President Manuel Zelaya:
"The last year and a half of the [President Manuel] Zelaya Administration will be, in my view, extraordinarily difficult for our bilateral relationship. His pursuit of immunity from the numerous activities of organized crime carried out in his administration will cause him to threaten the rule of law and institutional stability." —Charles Ford, U.S. ambassador to Honduras, May 15, 2008
Lots of hypotheses have been floated to explain why the Obama administration went to such extremes last year to try to force Honduras to reinstate deposed president Manuel Zelaya.
Now the release of two WikiLeaked cables from the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa strengthens one of those theories: that the U.S. knew Mr. Zelaya was a threat to democratic Honduras but had decided the country should tolerate his constitutional violations in the interest of realpolitik.
Practically speaking, Hugo Chávez was the man to please. After a decade in power, the president of Venezuela's influence around the region was notable. George W. Bush had clashed with him. Barack Obama was out to prove that they could get along, as evidenced by the warm handshake at the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain in April 2009.   Read more at the realcubablog
 
Strike two:  Connie Mack Takes Over House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Dec. 21 - Bad news for Latin American dictators: A few days after Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was named chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Connie Mack goes from being the ranking Republican to chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
“I’m truly honored to be named chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee and to continue my work on addressing the pressing issues facing the region,” said Mack. “With freedom and free markets under continuous assault by thugocrats like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers in Cuba, the United States must remain committed to countering the influence of these socialist leaders in the region. We must also work with our allies in the hemisphere to eradicate terrorist organizations like the FARC, keep a watchful eye on the dangerous ties between Russia, Iran and Venezuela, and build relationships based on our shared goals of freedom, security and prosperity.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the stances taken by her fellow Florida Republican.
Congressman Mack does not hesitate to call a dictator a dictator, or, as is his preferred term, a ‘thugocrat,’” she said. “Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa are all placing democracy under siege in Latin America, and I am happy to have Connie standing up to their tyrannical advances as chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.”
 
WikiLeaks: Back in 2005 Lula told Chávez to "stop playing with fire"
Dec. 21 - A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that Hugo Chávez's provocations against the US, was upsetting some of the other governments in South America, including the largest, Brazil.
 During a meeting between Brazilian President Lula's Chief of Staff, Jose Dirceu, and US Ambassador John Danilovich, Dirceu said that he was traveling to Caracas to deliver a message to Chávez from Lula.
"Dirceu said that he is traveling to Caracas in the next few days to meet Chavez, and is carrying a blunt message vetted by President Lula. The key points of the message are: -- "Stop playing with fire..." Chavez's provocations against the U.S. do not serve Venezuela's national interests and are an issue of concern to Brazil and his other neighbors.
Drawing on his conversations and experiences during recent travel in the U.S., Dirceu will tell Chavez that not only the USG [US government] and U.S. elites are hostile toward him -- American business executives and even the "man in the street" now view Venezuela as a problem for the U.S. Dirceu will stress to Chavez that such a tense situation with American society cannot possibly benefit him or his country.
"Focus on Venezuela's internal problems: Dirceu will tell Chavez that in the GOB's [Government of Brazil] estimation he should have his hands full dealing with his economic problems, social restiveness and development issues. Those are Venezuela's internal concerns but they affect Brazilian assessments of commercial and integration prospects and Chavez should do his homework, Dirceu said."  Read the entire cable
 
"We are not going to accept your Cuban law"
Dec. 21 - Venezuelan farm owners and workers are continuing their protest against the orders given by Hugo Chávez to seize by force 47 farms in Zulia state.
Among the signs carried by the protesters were several that read: "We are not going to accept your Cuban law" and "Stop the abuse against the workers."
Those are the smae workers that the Chávez regime claims to be "liberating" from the farm owners that are "enslaving" them.
The protesters are demanding the presence of Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Loyo and the removal of the National Guard troops sent by the Chávez regime on Sunday.
 
"I will not leave, because this has been my home for 70 years"
Dec. 20 - Jesús "Chucho" Melean, owner of El Peonío, one of the farms that Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez wants to steal, told CNN En Español that he will not leave his farm.
"I have lived here for the last 70 years and I will not leave," Melean, who is 95 years old, told CNN.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Loyo, the same one who appeared next to Chávez on Saturday wearing a pistol and a che Guevara t-shirt, threatened to send soldiers to take over Melean's farm by force.
During a meeting with his workers, Melean offered to turn the land to them but they refused. "We don't want the land and we don't want to have another boss," they said, according to a Twitter account of one of the persons who was at the meeting.
 
Chávez sends tanks and soldiers against peasants and workers protesting seizure of 43 farms
Dec. 20 - Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez sent troops and armored vehicles overnight, to militarize the zone where hundreds of Venezuelan farm workers are protesting the seizure of the farms where they work.
According to Chávez, he wants to "liberate" these farms from the rich people to give it to the workers, but the workers know that is a lie and that once they become slaves of the state, they will lose of their benefits and their rights to protest, like it happened to Cuban workers.
Protesters have hand painted signs on their cars and trucks saying "No to land stealing" and "Don't steal what is ours" and continue to guard the farms where they work.
Several workers have told Venezuelan news channel Globovision that they are willing to defend their place of work with "their own lives."
As of this morning, a tense calm remains in the area. The soldiers and armored vehicles can be seen outside the area where the protesters are, but have not forced their way inside the farms.
However, government officials told Globovision that they cannot allow these "illegal acts" to continue and that they will use force if necessary to stop the protests.
Once again, the "liberators of workers and peasants" sent their soldiers and tanks against those they claim to be "liberating."
 
Even Cuba nixed the 'sick' flick
Dec. 19 - Not even Fidel Castro believed the nice things Michael Moore said about Cuba's health-care system.
Moore's positive depiction of Cuba's cradle-to-grave health-care system in the 2007 documentary "Sicko" seemed so "mythical" that Castro and government officials decided to ban the film, according to the latest leaked US diplomatic cables.
Cuba's government "knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them," a US diplomat wrote in 2008.
The gleaming treatment center Moore visited is reserved for high-level government officials and foreign tourists -- and ordinary Cubans are banned, the cable posted on WikiLeaks said.
Moore yesterday accused the diplomat of "lies" on his Web site.  New York Post
 
Castro layoff plan has even the left furious
Dec. 19 - Paranoia is gripping Cuba as the government, which must impose massive layoffs, decides where the ax will fall.
Cuba’s draconian plan to lay off 10 percent of its workforce is running into a slew of problems – not the least of which are the growing fights over who will wind up on the street.
Cuban and foreign economists say it’s too much, too fast.
Radical leftists are branding Raúl Castro as a capitalist exploiter of workers and – in an odd alignment with Cuban dissidents – are urging workers to fight the job cuts.
One well-known historian and Communist Party member has warned of social chaos, maybe even a mass exodus, and cautioned that the layoffs may be unconstitutional.
Workers desperately trying to keep their jobs are accusing others of corruption. And some blacks and women are warning that those sectors may be hardest hit by the job cuts.
Almost no one doubts the job cuts are necessary in a country where the government pays the salaries of 85 percent of the workers – many of them in little more than make-work jobs. Castro has admitted the state payrolls are padded with more than one million surplus workers.
In his most significant reforms since he succeeded brother Fidel in 2008, Castro is laying off 500,000 workers by April and is expected to cut another 500,000 to 800,000 in three years.  Read more at the realcubablog
Judy Gross

Judy Gross

Judy Gross, whose husband Alan Gross has been detained in Cuba, pauses during an interview at her home in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010. In the year her American husband has been detained in Cuba, accused of spying for the U.S., Judy Gross has been forced to sell the family home in Maryland and move into a small apartment in Washington. Her younger daughter, distraught and crying as her father's birthday approached, crashed and totaled her car. Her older daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer.… Read more »
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
CUBA HEALTH -- December 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM EDT

Cuba Offers Poor Medical Students a Free Ride

Cuba students
On Wednesday's NewsHour, Ray Suarez wraps up his series on Cuba with a look at its medical diplomacy efforts around the world.

HAVANA, Cuba | In an old naval academy on Havana's western shore, thousands of low-income students from around the world -- including 100 from the United States -- are getting a free medical education thanks the Cuban government.
The Latin American Medical School, "ELAM" in Spanish, was conceived by former President Fidel Castro following Hurricanes George and Mitch, which devastated parts of Central America and the Caribbean in 1998. After sending 1,000 doctors to hard-hit communities, Cuba decided to offer long-term help by providing medical training to students in those countries. Soon, thousands were accepted from around the world.
Students must pass an entry test, and have at least a high-school diploma and a solid academic record. Preference is given to low-income applicants. In return for receiving a free medical education, students make a non-binding pledge to practice medicine in underserved communities.
The Cuban government foots the bill for each student -- around $10,000 to $15,000 a year -- according to the school's Vice Rector Maritza Gonzalez Bravo.
Gonzalez says hundreds of thousands of doctors are urgently needed around the world, and the goal is to increase those ranks as quickly as possible.
"In any country, regardless of its wealth, if we know that its people are in need of health services, and there are young who feel the need to change the reality in their hometowns, we open our arms to them, to train them so they can change the situations in their communities," said Gonzalez.
Some 50 U.S. students have graduated from ELAM. Those graduates must pass the same licensing exams as U.S. medical students and apply for residency programs at American hospitals. But unlike in the United States, students at ELAM spend up to a year learning Spanish, Cuban history and culture, and then dive into a curriculum that is focused on preventative health. And because many medical supplies, like advanced diagnostic equipment, are in short supply, students learn medicine the old-fashioned way: listening closely to a stethoscope, relying on their hands to feel for abnormalities.
The school, like most things in Cuba, is not without controversy. Some critics say the school is simply a propaganda tool for the Castro government. But during the NewsHour's visit, we spoke with a number of students who seemed genuinely grateful to the Cuban government and eager to help out their communities after graduation.
sol.jpgFirst-year student Anniver MaegaaI want to be," said Brown. "I won't be paying back a huge debt when I graduate, so I'll be able to work at a free clinic or volunteer in communities that need me most."
New Orleans native Tia Tucker, 28, says her training in a resource-poor country like Cuba will help her when she starts a practice in rural Louisiana. "We did a workshop in New Orleans this summer and people were psyched about what we are learning here. They said, 'Yeah, I want to live in a community where the doctor can come to my house.'"
In addition to free tuition, pretty much everything the students need at school is given to them: lab coats, shoes, text books and a bag of toiletries once a month. They also get a 100 pesos monthly stipend, about $4, which they say is enough to buy snacks and to get around the city. But students admit the conditions at the school are not luxurious.
cas.jpgCassandra Curbelo, from Miami, is one of the older students on campus at age 32. "For a lot of us who are here, versus what your typical U.S. med student looks like, we don't have a lot of perks at home," she explained. "But if you live in a building that is too hot during the summer and too cold during the winter, then you are going to understand better what your patients' lives are like."

Cuba's key tourism sector up 4 percent in 2010

Cuba's key tourism sector up in 2010, with number of visitors rising 4 percent from last year

ap
On Tuesday December 21, 2010, 7:09 pm EST
HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba says its crucial tourism sector is looking up, with the number of visitors rising 4 percent in 2010.
The official Prensa Latina news agency says some 2.5 million people visited the Caribbean island this year. That compares with about 2.4 million in 2009.
The report says authorities hope foreign visitors reach 2.7 million next year.
Tuesday's report said Canadians topped the ranks of tourists, followed by Italians, Germans and Spaniards.
The United States' nearly half-century-old trade embargo keeps most Americans from traveling to Cuba.
Tourism is among Cuba's largest sources of foreign income, and the sector is crucial to the island's faltering economy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LPP First Draft...

WikiLeaks: Cuba banned Sicko for depicting 'mythical' healthcare system

Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore's Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash
Film-maker Michael Moore at a screening of his documentary Sicko in Sacramento
A WikiLeaks cable reveals that when Michael Moore's film was shown to Cuban doctors, they were 'disturbed at the blatant 

misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba'. Photograph: Max Whittaker/Reuters
This article was taken down on Sunday 19 December 2010 pending
investigation and the following correction was published in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Tuesday 21 December 2010

  1. Sicko
  2. Production year: 2007
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 12A
  5. Runtime: 113 mins
  6. Directors: Michael Moore
  7. More on this film
Contrary to a claim made in a leaked US diplomatic cable whose contents we reported, Sicko – a documentary by film-maker Michael Moore – was not banned in Cuba. The film, which examines US healthcare through comparisons with some countries' publicly funded systems, including Cuba's, was in fact shown in film theatres throughout the island and on national TV
Cuba banned Michael Moore's 2007 documentary, Sicko, because it painted such a "mythically" favourable picture of Cuba's healthcare system that the authorities feared it could lead to a "popular backlash", according to US diplomats in Havana.(Read More Click Here)

Day 20, Saturday 18 December
Guardian
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir "stashed $9bn in UK banks".
Michael Moore's film Sicko was banned by the Cuban authorities. The US film-maker is quick to state that his film was shown in Cuba.
Julian Assange says his life is "under threat" and that the Swedish rape case against him is "a travesty".
El País
• The US state department, along with its embassies, did its utmost to stop Spanish construction company Sacyr from winning a contract to extend the Panama canal. In spite of this, the Spanish consortium won the €2.4bn bid to build a third set of locks on the canal.
New York Times
Bank of America says that WikiLeaks has fallen foul of its customer code of conduct and will not process any more payments made to the controversial website.
• Cables show that visitors from many of world's leading democracies are failing to criticise the Castro regime or meet with dissidents while on the island. A cable hints that there were economic motives behind the accommodating approach.

WikiLeaks cables detail Fidel Castro's doomed love for Obama

Dispatches chart Cuban leader's obsession with US president, from admiration to eventual sense of betrayal
Shepard Fairey's portrait of Barack Obama
 

WikiLeaks cables lay bare Fidel Castro's admiration for Barack Obama, who swept into the White House as the candidate of hope and change. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Barack and Fidel: like so many great love affairs it was doomed. But memory of the passion, or at least infatuation, lingers.
Having seen off 10 US presidents – all committed to his assassination, overthrow or isolation – Fidel Castro had more reason than most to beware the occupant of the Oval Office.(More Read Click Here)

AUSTRALIA, Canada and several European countries have stopped pressuring Cuba over human rights in the hope of winning commercial favours from Havana, according to confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
The western governments continued to pay lip service to concerns about political prisoners and censorship, but in reality were appeasing the island's communist rulers, said Jonathan Farrar, the US head of mission.(More Info Click Here)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 18:05
C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000344
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CCA
EO 12958 DECL: 06/09/2019
TAGS PREL, PGOV, CU
SUBJECT: FIDEL CASTRO IMPRESSED BY POTUS AFTER CAIRO SPEECH

Classified By: COM Jonathan Farrar for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) The Government of Cuba has offered no official reaction to President Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo. Former president Fidel Castro, however, previewed his interest in the Cairo speech in a Reflection article on June 6 that he started with "Yesterday afternoon, while I was carefully analyzing Obama's address at the Muslim university in Cairo..." (Note: Fidel's June 6 Reflection was devoted principally to linking the June 4 arrest in the United States of Kendall and Gwendolyn Meyers for espionage related charges to the June 3 OAS resolution regarding Cuba. End Note.) Fidel's subsequent Reflection on June 9 will only add to speculation from our civil society and diplomatic contacts that Fidel is obsessed with President Obama.
2. (C) Fidel's latest, lengthy (3,500 words) Reflection focused entirely on the Cairo speech, including pages worth of short excerpts from the speech itself. Fidel split the speech into two sections. Fidel mostly sympathized with POTUS - in his own way - regarding the first section, which included the fact that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, the Israel-Palestine issue, and Iran and nuclear weapons. Specifically, Fidel said, "One cannot blame the new president of the United States for the situation created in the Middle East...He takes office at an exceptionally complex time for his country and the world...It is still too early to pass judgment on his degree of commitment to the ideas he presents..." Fidel then continued his attempts to walk a thin line between a positive impression of a popular U.S. president and the idea that the evil empire will never change. For example, Fidel explained that "the current president's main difficulty lies in the fact that the principles he is advocating contradict the policy the superpower has pursued for almost seven decades...(Click Here for More details)

Cuba opens new online frontline in war of words: Castropedia

Havana's alternative to Wikipedia is intended to set the historical record straight – and it is unlikely to go down very well in the US
EcuRed
EcuRed seeks to give information from a 'decolonised' perspective, Cuba says. Photograph: --/AFP/Getty Images
Cuba today unveiled its own version of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia devoted to the "accumulation and development of knowledge".
However, some of EcuRed's 20,000 entries appear to bear a slightly partisan stamp. Not only does the site refer to the US as "the empire of our time" and "the most powerful nation of all time", it also notes that Cuba's near-neighbour has historically taken "by force territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies".
Nor does the factfile end there: "[The US] consumes 25% of the energy produced on the planet and in spite of its wealth, more than a third of its population does not have assured medical attention," it reports.
With a poetic flourish, it also makes reference to US-Cuban relations. From early on, it says, Washington gazed at the island "like those who admire a beautiful fruit that will end up falling in their hands".