Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Embattled Obama declares in speech, 'I don't quit'

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applaud as President AP – Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applaud as President Barack Obama gestures while …
WASHINGTON – Declaring "I don't quit,'" President Barack Obama fought to recharge his embattled presidency with a State of the Union vow to get jobless millions back to work and to stand on the side of Americans angry at Wall Street greed and Washington bickering. Defiant despite stinging setbacks, he said he would fight on for ambitious overhauls of health care, energy and education. "Change has not come fast enough," Obama acknowledged Wednesday night before a politician-packed House chamber and a TV audience of millions. "As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it's time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth." Obama looked to change the conversation from how his presidency is stalling — over the messy health care debate, a limping economy and the missteps that led to Christmas Day's barely averted terrorist disaster — to how he is seizing the reins. He spoke to a nation gloomy over double-digit unemployment and federal deficits soaring to a record $1.4 trillion, and to fellow Democrats dispirited about the fallen standing of a president they hoped would carry them through this fall's midterm elections. With State of the Union messages traditionally delivered at the end of January, Obama had one of the presidency's biggest platforms just a week after Republicans scored an upset takeover of a Senate seat in Massachusetts, prompting hand-wringing over his leadership. With the turnover erasing Democrats' S enate supermajority needed to pass most legislation, it also put a cloud over health care and the rest of Obama's agenda. A chief demand was for lawmakers to press forward with his prized health care overhaul, which is in severe danger in Congress. "Do not walk away from reform," he implored. "Not now. Not when we are so close." Republicans applauded the president when he entered the chamber, and even craned their necks and welcomed Michelle Obama when she took her seat. But the warm feelings of bipartisanship disappeared early. Democrats jumped to their feet and roared when Obama said he wanted to impose a new fee on banks, while Republicans sat stone-faced. Democrats stood and applauded when Obama mentioned the economic stimulus package passed last February. Republicans just stared. On national security, Obama proclaimed some success, saying that "far more" al-Qaida terrorists were killed under his watch last year in the U.S.-led global fight than in 2008. Hoping to salve growing disappointment in a key constituency, Obama said he would work with Congress "this year" to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. But in a concession to concern about the move among Republicans and on his own party's right flank, Obama neither made a commitment to suspend the practice in the interim nor issued a firm deadline for action. The president devoted about two-thirds of his speech to the economic worries foremost on Americans' minds as recession persists. "The devastation remains," he said. Obama emphasized his ideas, some new but mostly old and explained anew, for restoring job growth, taming budget deficits and changing a Washington so polarized that "every day is Election Day." These concerns are at the roots of voter emotions that once drove supporters to Obama but now are turning on him as he governs. Declaring that "I know the anxieties" of Americans' struggling to pay the bills while big banks get bailouts and bonuses, Obama prodded Congress to enact a second stimulus package "without delay," specifying it should contain a range of measures to help small businesses and funding for infrastructure projects. Also, fine tuning a plan first announced in October, Obama said he will initiate a $30 billion program to provide money to community banks at low rates, provided they agree to increase lending to small businesses. The money would come from balances left in the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund — a program "about as popular as a root canal" that Obama made of point of saying "I hated." Acknowledging frustration at the government's habit of spending more than it has, he said he would veto any bills that do not adhere to his demand for a three-year freeze on some domestic spending (while proposing a 6.2 percent, or $4 billion, increase in the popular arena of education). He announced a new, though nonbinding bipartisan deficit-reduction task force (while supporting a debt-financed jobs bill). And he said he would cut $20 billion on inefficient programs in next year's budget and "go through the budget line by line" to find more. Positioning himself as a fighter for the regular guy and a different kind of leader, he urged Congress to require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers or members of his administration and to blunt the impact of last week's Supreme Court decision allowing corporations greater flexibility in supporting or opposing candidates. "We face a deficit of trust," the president said. Even before Obama spoke, some of the new proposals, many revealed by the White House in advance, were dismissed — on the right or the left — as poorly targeted or too modest to make a difference. And one of Obama's economic point men, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was verbally pummeled by Democrats and Republicans alike over his role in the $180 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG Inc., a venting of the public's anger about Wall Street. In the Republican response to Obama's speech, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia showed no sign of his party capitulating to the president. In fact, the choice of McDonnell to represent Republicans was symbolic, meant to showcase recent GOP election victories by him and others. McDonnell reflected the anti-big government sentiment that helped lead to their wins, saying, "What government should not do is pile on more taxation, regulation, and litigation that kill jobs and hurt the middle class." In his speech, Obama hoped to rekindle the energy of his historic election. Though aides worked up until the last minute to whittle it down, it still ran to an hour and nine minutes, with applause, longer than any State of the Union since the Clinton era and surely taxed viewers' patience. Obama acknowledged "my share of the blame" for not adequately explaining his plans to the public and connecting with their everyday worries. At the same time, he offered an unapologetic defense of pursuing the same agenda on which he won. He said that includes the health care overhaul, as well as an aggressive approach to global warming (though without a plug for the controversial cap-and-trade system for emissions that he favors), sweeping changes to address the nation's millions of illegal immigrants, "serious" reform of how Wall Street is regulated and children are educated. Obama called on lawmakers to resist the temptation to substitute a smaller-bore health care solution for his far-reaching ideas, but he didn't say how. He simply said, "As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we've proposed." In a remarkable shift from past addresses, and notable for a president whose candidacy first caught fire over Iraq war opposition, foreign policy took a relative back seat. It came behind the economy and was largely devoid of new policy. And Obama made no mention of three of the toughest challenges he faced in his first year: failing to close the terrorist prison compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, failing to get Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations, and struggling with the al-Qaida havens in Pakistan that are at the core of the terrorist threat to America. The president is keeping to the tradition of taking his themes on the road. He will travel to Florida on Thursday to announce $8 billion in grants for high-speed rail development, to Maryland on Friday to a House Republican retreat, and to New Hampshire Tuesday to talks jobs. Cabinet officials were fanning out too. ___
Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Julie Pace, Phil Elliott, Jim Kuhnhenn, Robert Burns and Darlene Superville contributed to this story.

Brian Latell to discuss Cuba, Castros at World Affairs Council meeting at Kravis

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"The Castro Brothers and Cuba: What Next?" will be the topic at the World Affairs Council of the Florida Palm Beaches gathering Thursday at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.
Brian Latell, of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, will speak about Fidel and Raul Castro, and the future of their long-enduring revolution in Cuba.
Latell's presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m., following a 6 p.m. reception.
Latell's focus is on major changes in Cuba's economic system, which are occurring under Raul Castro since he replaced Fidel as president, as well as how — even though both men are elderly and Fidel is incapacitated — every important decision about Cuba's future is still made by one or both brothers.
Latell has been a Latin America and Caribbean specialist for more than four decades. During his 35 years in the CIA and the National Intelligence Council, he advised White House and other American officials and members of Congress on Latin American developments. He teaches, lectures, consults and writes, and has advised U.S. and foreign government policy-making organizations and leaders.
He is the author of After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and a newer, expanded paperback edition, After Fidel: Raul Castro and the Future of Cuba's Revolution. He is co-editor of Eye in the Sky, a history of the Corona reconnaissance satellite program (Smithsonian Press, 1998).
Admission is $35; free for members.

Haiti’s Children Adrift in World of Chaos

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
The Morin sisters: Lovely, 8, and Mariefleur, 7. More Photos >
Published: January 26, 2010
CROIX DES BOUQUETS, Haiti — Not long after 14-year-old Daphne Joseph escaped her collapsed house on the day of the earthquake, she boarded a crowded jitney with her uncle and crawled in traffic toward the capital, where her single mother sold beauty products in the Tête Boeuf marketplace. “Mama,” she said she repeated to herself. “Mama, I’m coming.”
Abandoning the slow-moving jitney, Daphne, petite and delicate, got separated from her uncle and jumped onto a motorcycle-for-hire. She arrived alone at a marketplace in ruins and ran, in her dusty purple sandals, toward a pile of debris laced with “broken people,” she said.
Growing closer, she saw her mother, lifeless. She froze, she said, eventually watching as her mother’s body was dumped in a wheelbarrow and her only parent vanished into the chaos.
“I wanted to kill myself,” Daphne said in a whisper.
Haiti’s children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares.
Two weeks after the earthquake, with the smell of death still fouling the air, children can be seen in every devastated corner resiliently kicking soccer balls, flying handmade kites, singing pop songs and ferreting out textbooks from the rubble of their schools. But as Haitian and international groups begin tending to the neediest among them, many children are clearly traumatized and at risk.
“There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude,” said Kent Page, a spokesman for Unicef.
Many children, like Daphne, bore direct witness to horror or survived destruction that killed their relatives, their schoolmates and their teachers. But even those who did not are experiencing vertigo. When the ground shifted beneath them, the landscape of their universe changed forever, and not just at home: 90 percent of schools in the capital, Port-au-Prince, are damaged or destroyed, according to Unicef.
“The children of Haiti, unless they get help, they will have lost their childhoods, their innocence,” Elisabeth Delatour Préval, Haiti’s first lady, said Tuesday, pledging to get schools running as soon as possible, a daunting challenge.
Many children are struggling to make sense of what they are experiencing. Danielle Schledy, 13, who has been living with her family in the courtyard of a destroyed primary school in Port-au-Prince, said she kept telling her parents that the earthquake was “not the end of the world.”
Then, in her soiled turquoise dress and chipped pink nail polish, she skipped over to where her mother, Margarita Dayitus, who had bloody and infected wounds covering her body, lay in misery on the ground.
“I am sad about my mom,” Danielle said.
Poor, middle-class and affluent children are all destabilized, even those who get to spend nights indoors. Marie Alice Craft, a school psychologist, said her 11-year-old daughter had been sleeping with her — in a bed at a relative’s intact house — and waking up with a start when her mother got up to use the bathroom.
“She plays, she smiles, she laughs but she doesn’t want to be alone,” Ms. Craft said, adding that “a lot of group therapy” would be needed to make the children of Haiti feel safe again.
Child-welfare organizations have focused their initial efforts on orphaned children and those who have been separated from their families. They started Tuesday to compile a registry, sending workers into the streets to collect information for a database, in which each child would be assigned a numbered file to help track their cases, said Victor Nyland of Unicef, a senior adviser for child protection and emergencies. Such a registry was used in the Indonesian province of Aceh after the 2004 tsunami to help reunite separated families.
Some children who have nobody willing to look after them will be taken to one of three orphanages in the capital where Unicef is establishing interim care centers — that process began Monday with 60 children — or to safe spaces being established by other organizations.
In this city, Daphne was one of 25 newly orphaned children in the care of a local organization called Frades, a collective that does everything from providing microloans to serving hot meals.
“I know we can’t replace their parents,” said Pierre Joseph, a psychologist there. “It’s an intimate loss. But we will do our best to help these kids have a future. We will find a way to create an orphanage for them.”
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Marie Gislaine Predélis, 12. More Photos >

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Jerry Bernard, 12. More Photos >
Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
The Edmonds brothers: Enso, 8, and Edno, 6. More Photos >
Early this week, the children, ages 4 to 14, slept huddled together for warmth under bed sheets slung over branches in a tent city on the paved grounds of a damaged school. Young adults took turns looking after them. During the day, the counselors brought them to a walled construction site strewn with rusty cans and broken glass — the only private space they could find — and tried to distract them with singing and clapping games.
Daphne smiled occasionally as she watched the younger children, but mostly she looked stunned. When she told her story, she spoke so softly that she was barely audible. She explained that after she had watched her mother’s body being carted away, she wandered Port-au-Prince in a daze. A distant relative found her and put her in a taxi back to Croix des Bouquets, where she has nothing, she said.
“He told me to be tough,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
She and her mother had lived with her uncle, but her uncle was shattered by his sister’s death — “They had to tie him up to calm him down,” Daphne said — and her uncle’s wife did not want her to stay with them. “She has always been mean to me,” Daphne said. “When I would get water, she’d tell me to use a coconut shell and not to dirty one of her glasses.”
Shortly after midday, the volunteers, who had been scraping together their own money to feed the children, gave them their first food of the day: sweet coffee and bread. Later, they fed them rice and beans. Then Mazen Haber, child protection officer with Save the Children, showed up with a large houselike tent and promised to find some mattresses, too.
Watching a dozen grown-ups struggle to erect the tent, Daphne said that adults had told her not to think about her mother. But she could still feel her presence, she said, “like a wind at my back.”
She said she was happy to be with the other children — the sisters with the wilted bows in their hairs, the tiny boys with the terror-stricken eyes — but she said she felt sorry that most had lost both parents.
“Before the earthquake, I only had but Mama,” she said.
S: New York Times

NKorea, SKorea exchange fire near disputed border

South Korean Navy patrol boats ride at anchors at a naval base in Incheon, west AP – South Korean Navy patrol boats ride at anchors at a naval base in Incheon, west of Seoul, South Korea, …
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired artillery rounds toward its disputed sea border with South Korea on Wednesday, prompting a barrage of warning shots from the South's military and raising tensions on the divided peninsula. No casualties or damage were reported, and analysts said the volley — which the North announced was part of a military drill — was likely a move by Pyongyang to highlight the need for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. North Korea fired about 30 artillery rounds into the sea from its western coast and the South immediately responded with 100 shots from a marine base on an island near the sea border, an officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said. The North said it would continue to fire rounds. He said the North's artillery fire landed in its own waters while the South fired into the air. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy. The western sea border — drawn by the American-led U.N. Command at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War — is a constant source of tension between the two Koreas, with the North insisting the line be moved farther south. Navy ships of the two Koreas fought a brief gunbattle in November that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded. They engaged in similar bloody skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. North Korea issued a statement later Wednesday saying it had fired artillery off its coast as part of an annual military drill and would continue doing so. Such drills "will go on in the same waters in the future," the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The North fired more shots later Wednesday, but South Korea didn't respond, a Defense Ministry official said, also requesting anonymity due to department policy. The exchange of fire came two days after the North designated two no-sail zones in the area, including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29. The North has sent a series of mixed signals to the South recently, combining offers of dialogue on economic cooperation with military threats, including one this month to destroy South Korea's presidential palace. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, meanwhile, angered Pyongyang by saying Seoul's military should launch a pre-emptive strike if there was a clear indication the North was preparing a nuclear attack. South Korea's Defense Ministry sent the North's military a message Wednesday expressing serious concern about the firing and saying it fostered "unnecessary tension" between the two sides. It also urged the North to retract the no-sail zones, calling them a "grave provocation" and a violation of the Korean War armistice. The war ended with a truce, but not a formal peace treaty. Separately, South Korea's point man on North Korea criticized Pyongyang for raising tension near the sea border. "This kind of North Korean attitude is quite disappointing," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told a security forum in Seoul. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said it was the first time that North Korea has fired artillery toward the sea border. The Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said the North Korean artillery shells were believed to have fallen into the no-sail zones about 1.75 miles (3 kilometers) north of the maritime border. Top South Korean presidential secretary Chung Chung-kil convened an emergency meeting of security-related officials on behalf of President Lee Myung-bak, who was making a state visit to India, according to the presidential Blue House. It said Lee was informed of the incident. Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University in South Korea, said the North's action was aimed at highlighting the need for a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War by showing that the peninsula is still a war zone. "It's applying pressure on the U.S. and South Korea," Yoo said. He said North Korea also was expressing anger over South Korea's lukewarm response to a series of recent gestures seeking dialogue. Earlier this month, North Korea called for the signing of a peace treaty and the lifting of sanctions as conditions for its return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks it quit last year. The U.S. and South Korea, however, brushed aside the North's demands, saying they can happen only after it returns to the disarmament negotiations and reports progress in denuclearization. Despite the exchange of fire, the capitals of the two Koreas were calm. North Koreans in Pyongyang wearing thick winter coats walked briskly through the streets while a female police officer directed traffic and a crowded tram passed by, according to footage shot by broadcaster APTN. The military tensions had little effect on South Korean financial markets. Seoul's benchmark stock index fell less than 1 percent, while South Korea's currency, the won, rose against the U.S. dollar. ___ Associated Press writer Yewon Kang contributed to this report.

Cuba: A catastrophe in waiting

Last Updated: 5:31 AM, January 27, 2010
Posted: 1:16 AM, January 27, 2010
Much has been written about Haiti being a failed state in the wake of its devastating earthquake. But just to its west lies another human catastrophe in the making -- Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Havana is a city of sorrow -- a once elegant and prosperous capital brought to despair by 51 years of deliberate neglect and isolation. A country that has been plundered by a succession of foreign powers, homegrown dictators and mobsters imported from America now languishes in a bizarre time warp where little has changed in more than half a century.
Its people go about their daily routines bereft of consumer goods, nutritious foods, meaningful jobs or adequate housing -- most of them born after the revolution that swept Castro to power in 1959 and now, thanks to rigid censorship, largely conditioned to accept their impoverished lot.
Fidel: Fecklessly impoverished his nation.
AFP/Getty Images
Fidel: Fecklessly impoverished his nation.

Prosperity is the last thing that comes to mind as you watch the Cuban people wearing clothing that went out of style years ago. Even shoes are washed and hung on the laundry line along with shirts and pants.
To listen to Castro's cronies -- those among the political and business elite whose loyalty is secured with perks unavailable to ordinary Cubans -- the economic situation is solely the fault of the US embargo imposed after the revolution.
More thoughtful Cubans discreetly offer a different explanation: They blame Fidel's feckless experiments with communism -- his initial seizure of $25 billion worth of private property from Cubans and the nationalization of all businesses, forcing the middle class to flee to Miami; his bizarre decision to send 300,000 Cubans out of a population of only 11 million to fight wars in Africa in the 1980s; his Cold War alliance with the Russians that left his country bankrupt and saddled with antiquated technology when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Everyone in Cuba knows the status quo can't last. But no one knows how or when it will end. The political structure, like Havana's crumbling buildings, seems to be held up by force of habit and little else.
Fidel's failing health has cast him into the shadow of public life. His brother Raul is now the man -- struggling to maintain the family's grip on power by taking two steps forward and one step back, permitting cellphones and Internet access to those few who can afford them. (But don't try logging on to that den of imperialists, Facebook -- it and many other sites are off-limits.)
"The Revolution," is invoked endlessly on TV channels that are so dull they make C-Span look frivolous. A recent segment on a morning news show devoted six minutes to the just-completed harvest of limes, praising it as "a triumph of socialist workers' cooperation."
There's no advertising in Cuba -- unless you count the pervasive propaganda on TV and painted on walls rallying the masses with Stalinist-style slogans that would make a North Korean cringe. Roadside billboards proclaim the 51st anniversary of "La Revolucion" with glamorous portraits of Che Guevara and assorted other "freedom fighters" -- all responsible in varying degrees for bringing Cuba to its knees.
Meanwhile, the average citizen of Havana goes about his mundane life, lining up at stores whose shelves are often empty, waiting in long lines for Chinese-made buses that never seem to come or trying to hitch rides in 1950s-era American cars that belch black fumes and contribute to the choking air quality that leaves the city covered in grime.
In Havana's densely populated, older sections, less than half the homes are connected to city sewers. A majority of the buildings are decayed beyond repair.
The government claims that 96 percent of Cubans own their own homes -- referring to the crowded apartments where generations of families are forced to live together. Even if that figure were true, no one seems to know who owns the outsides of their once-majestic buildings -- so no one takes responsibility for maintaining them. Many fear that, when this regime eventually collapses, a wave of exiles will return from Miami and lay claim to the properties that Castro stole from them.
Cuba is in limbo, its creaky, centralized economy sustained for now by Latin America's other delusional dictator Hugo Chavez -- who sends oil in return for Cuban doctors dispatched to Caracas.
The day of reckoning for Cuba's calamity is approaching. It will take an international effort to put this country back on its feet.
Kenneth A. Chandler is president of Chandler Regan Strategies and a former editor and publisher of The Post.
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U.S.-Cuba Relations: 1 Step Forward, 10 Steps Back, Commentary, Christina Pina, Posted: Jan 27, 2010 Review it on NewsTrust
Cuba's position towards its relations with the U.S. appears to be returning to a heightened degree of mistrust and apprehension in a reaction to having its citizens singled out for extra scrutiny under beefed-up anti-terrorism procedures.

Although the island nation has long been calling for an end to the U.S.-imposed embargo and a relaxation of travel restrictions between the island and the United States, the Cuban government's reaction to heightened security screenings for Cubans traveling to the United States seems to be a step backward from any recent warming in relations between the two countries.

Due to recent concerns about terrorist attacks — cautions that have increased since an apparent effort by a Nigerian man to blow up a passenger airline as it neared Detroit on Christmas Day — increased security measures call for additional screenings of travelers who are of Cuban descent. Cubans share the distinction of the mandatory supplementary screening with citizens of Iran and Syria. The main reasoning behind the extra screenings is based on the U.S. State Department's list of "state sponsors of terrorism." Since 1980, Cuba has been on that list, along with many Middle Eastern countries. U.S. officials consider Cuba to be a state-sponsor of terrorists because of the island nation's support for rebel groups that threaten the government of Colombia. U.S. officials also consider Cuba to be a center of "black market" transactions that often include illegal goods and take place with no official records.

The increased screening of Cubans entering the U.S. has created an uproar in the Cuban government. Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry's North American affairs office, said that the new heightened security measures against Cubans were "discriminatory and selective".

Some observers believe that the Cuban government's response to the U.S. travel restrictions could mean that negotiations between the two countries on their decades-old differences will likely fall apart.

Prior moves by the U.S. to relax restrictions on travel to and from Cuba had showed promise of future amiable relations to come. Some in the Cuban exile community in the U.S. said they believed that loosened travel restrictions between the nations could be the first steps toward peaceful resolution of their differences.

President Obama began his term with a promise of friendship to Cuba, a pledge that included relaxed travel and financial restrictions for Cuban-Americans who wished to return to the island for visits. Tourism spiked, and optimism was further renewed when discussions between the two nations dealt with topics ranging from a resumption of mail service to cooperation on disaster relief assistance and investigations into illegal narcotics.

Further talk in the U.S. Congress hinted at hopefulness for a day when U.S. travelers would face no restrictions on going to Cuba.

The recently heightened security standards applied to all Cubans entering the U.S. have started a new fire under long-simmering tensions between the countries, though.

The Cuban government's posture towards Obama also appears to have gone awry. Former President Fidel Castro, who remains a power in Cuba, initially referred Obama as "a breath of fresh air." These days Castro is stating that Obama has been hiding menacing intentions toward Latin Americans.

The situation rings familiar, with both the U.S. and Cuban governments seemingly always able to find reasons to avoid cooperation.

Christina Pina is contributing writer to Carib Press.

Swiss collector donates art collection to Cuba

HAVANA (Reuters) – A Swiss art collector has donated nine works by artists ranging from Pablo Picasso to Camille Pissarro to Cuba's National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, Cuban media reported on Tuesday. Gilbert Brownstone plans to donate a total of 120 works of art to Cuba and has dedicated the donation to five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States for their role in the 1996 shooting down of two planes piloted by anti-Castro Cuban exiles, Communist Party newspaper Granma said. Cuban officials awarded him the Medal of Friendship on Monday. "Thanks to Gilbert, we are acquiring essential names of the vanguard that were not included in our patrimony," Culture Minister Abel Prieto said. The nine works are by artists including Picasso, Pissarro, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miro, Roy Lichtenstein and Andre Masson, Granma said. Brownstone, a gallery owner and former curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, has donated through the Brownstone Foundation art works to other museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris. The five Cuban agents in U.S. prisons are known in Cuba as the "Five Heroes" and are viewed by the Cuban government as unjustly jailed. Cuba says they were trying to stop terrorist acts by infiltrating Cuban exile groups in Miami. They were convicted of various charges and imprisoned after Cuban fighter jets shot down two planes piloted by the Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue as they flew near Cuba. (Reporting by Nelson Acosta; edited by Jeff Franks and Mohammad Zargham)
Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted: January 21, 2010 06:36 PM

Che Guevara's "New Man": Another Look

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Today's guest blogger is Ivan Garcia, a freelance journalist since 1995; Ivan's blog, Desde La Habana: Ivan's File Cabinet, has recently been translated into English.
The Joke of the "New Man"
By Ivan Garcia
Translated by Regina Anavy
The formation of the New Man has always been a fruitless task. Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, its precursor, with his straw full of mate (a kind of tea that Argentinians drink from a bulb-shaped container, through a straw), was delirious in his moments of rest in the guerrilla war, on the road to Santa Clara in the last days of 1958. At that point in the war against the dictator Fulgencio Batista, the Argentinian Guevara was convinced that in the future society that would be built in Cuba, they would have to start by designing a "laboratory" man.
Che, a Maoist and radical communist, was dreaming, and he believed it would be possible, but the fun-loving Cuban people-with a tendency to idleness and informality-would need a firm hand to discipline them. According to Guevara, these Creoles, given to unending parties and festivals, playing around and disrespectful with their neighbors' women, needed a revolution, with a dose of repression and terror that would permit the construction of a Communist society.
The Argentine tried it. In the short time he was Minister and an important man in Cuban politics, besides festively pulling the trigger in the large, damp patios that served as firing fields in the San Carlos de La Cabana Fortress, he imposed "voluntary" work, moral stimulation and other formulas that the doctor from Rosario (i.e. Che) had read about in his Marxist studies.
Until he realized that fabricating men in an assembly line from a test tube who were monogamous and would not move their hips to the rhythm of drums was an impossible mission on an island of sun, drink and craziness. Che was a convinced fanatic, argumentative and with faith in proof by bullets. But his friend Fidel Castro was another specimen.
The lawyer from Biran (Fidel), in the best of cases, was a pragmatic opportunist, with an inflated ego, a narcissist who saw in guys like Che and Communist ideology the best way to draw up a plan for permanent and effective power. Guevara then marched to his own drummer, creating centers of guerrilla warfare and the formation of killing machines that would annihilate the gringos without mercy, anywhere in the world.
He died convinced, risking his hide to try to demonstrate his truths. This was around 42 years ago in Quebrada del Yuro, Bolivia. After his fall, he was converted into one of the largest marketing operations in history.
Castro, Cuban after all, knew that to modify the souls of his countrymen, who were given to Santeria and not taking things seriously, illusion was necessary. In order to dominate for 50 years, he has used, at his discretion, fear, prisons, and a pinch of cheap idealism. And above all, a false morality, excitedly imparted to him by Ernesto Guevara in the days they were in a jail cell in Mexico City, in between chess games and theoretical discussions of what the future would be for Cuba and Latin America.
Not an atom remains of the New Man that Che Guevara dreamed of. Almost all Cubans steal whatever they can at work, from a straw to a piece of paper. When someone begins a new job, he is not interested in how much his salary will be, only in how much he can steal.
A few followers remain. At appropriate moments - historic dates and anniversaries of his death - they put on their masks and at the daily work meetings or publicly, they raise their voices, put themselves on automatic pilot and even act emotional talking about Che. Excellent actors, unseen and missed by Hollywood.
And the Revolution sails on. Now, functionaries and rules try to gain time and search for hard currency. No one remembers the New Man, nor the stupidities advocated by social engineers like Che Guevara. The supposed New Men are in the lines outside the Spanish Consulate or the U.S. Special Interests Section, crazy about leaving.
They have forgotten about the world crisis. Since they were born, they have lived in a crisis and in ghost-wars against the Yankees. Many of these "new men" go out at night as transvestites, to engage in sex and drugs until dawn, and with luck, to hook up with a foreigner. Or they are dissidents, independent journalists or bloggers.
For the tired and unbelieving Cubans, the true New Men are guys like Kendry Morales or Isaac Delgado, who seized their chances, who are free to name their own price and who make a lot of money, whether it's by making home runs or dancing in public with their contagious music. To talk about the New Man is today a joke in very bad taste in Cuba.
Ivan's blog, Desde La Habana: Ivan's File Cabinet can be read here in English.
Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
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S:The Huffington Post