Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stars remake 'We are the World' for quake-hit Haiti

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Producers were putting the final touches Tuesday to a remake of "We Are The World" with stars such as Barbra Streisand, Wyclef Jean and Celine Dion lending their support for Haiti's quake victims. It was 25 years ago that Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen joined others at the famed A&M Studios in Hollywood for an all-star recording of the same song to benefit famine relief in Africa. That effort, USA for Africa, raised 63 million dollars. This time, dozens of other A-listers -- who also include Usher, Lil Wayne, Pink, Natalie Cole and the Jonas Brothers -- took to the same soundstage late Monday for an hours-long recording that dragged into the night. The aim is to raise money to help survivors of the massive January 12 quake that killed 170,000 people and devastated what was already the poorest country in the Americas. No cameras were allowed inside, but the song's producers said "We Are The World - 25 For Haiti" will air during NBC television's coverage of the opening of the Winter Olympics on February 12. More than 70 stars -- many of them hip-hop artists -- lent their voice to the effort, none of them participants in the original recording. Rapper Wyclef Jean, a Haiti native, said in a statement he was "proud to be joined by so many members of the artistic community that want to support the region and have donated their time and talents to providing an effective way for the global community to get involved with helping the Haitian population." The original tune was co-written and produced by Jackson, who died June 25 of cardiac arrest, Lionel Richie and Quincy Jones. Richie and Jones produced the new version. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis, who directed "Crash" and also co-wrote "Million Dollar Baby," filmed the session for an accompanying video. "What an unbelievable group of people who have come together to give their voices, for a cause to start the healing of a people who have experienced a devastation of such magnitude," said Richie. Among the other performers spanning a broad swath of genres and ages, from 83-year-old Tony Bennett to 15-year-old Justin Bieber, were Carlos Santana, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. "It kind of hit me that I guess this is something way more important than I could have ever imagined," rapper Lil Wayne, who is playing Bob Dylan's part from the original recording, told a news conference. The recording was timed just a day after the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards to ensure the maximum number of stars would attend. The contemporary version of the song and the video will be available to buy through online and traditional retailers. Producers say all proceeds will go "directly" to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

Updated February 02, 2010...

China Threatens Obama Over Dalai Lama Meeting

An Obama meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader would "seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-U.S. relations," China warned Tuesday.
BEIJING -- Any meeting between President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama would harm bilateral relations, China warned Tuesday while repeating Beijing's refusal to discuss Tibet's status with the spiritual leader's envoys.
An Obama meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader would "seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-U.S. relations," said Zhu Weiqun, executive deputy head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department in charge of recent talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives.
Zhu was speaking at a news conference where he said Chinese officials told the envoys that Beijing would not make any compromises on its sovereignty over the Himalayan region and that both sides' views remained "sharply divided."
The warning to Obama comes after signals from U.S. officials in recent weeks that Obama might soon meet the exiled Tibetan leader -- something Chinese officials are keen to avoid before President Hu Jintao travels to Washington, possibly in April.
Zhu said any arguments that the Dalai Lama was just a religious figure were wrong, calling the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate the "head of a separatist group."
No date for Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama has been announced, but White House spokesman Mike Hammer said last month that "the President has made clear to the Chinese government that we intend to meet with the Dalai Lama, it has been his every intention." The White House did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday night.
Bilateral relations have already been strained by the U.S. announcement Friday that it planned to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.
Beijing quickly suspended military exchanges with Washington and announced an unprecedented threat of sanctions against the U.S. companies involved in the sale.
Zhu did not give any details on what China would do if Obama meets the Dalai Lama. "We will take corresponding measures to make the relevant countries realize their mistakes."
Representatives of the United Front met over the weekend with two emissaries of the Dalai Lama for their first talks in 15 months, but Zhu said China would discuss only the future of the exiled spiritual leader -- not any greater autonomy for Tibet.
"There is no room for negotiation or concession on the part of the central government on these issues," Zhu said.
At the last talks in 2008, China rejected a proposal presented by the Dalai Lama's envoys for a way for Tibetans to achieve more autonomy under the Chinese constitution -- a key demand of the minority community.
During this latest round of talks, the envoys made no revisions or concessions to the proposal, particularly on the position that the Tibetan government-in-exile represented the interests of the Tibetan community, Zhu said.
Zhu said the Chinese government was the only legitimate representative of the Tibetan people, not the envoys sent by the Dalai Lama. He said Beijing was open to future talks but only to discuss the return of the Dalai Lama, who is 75.
"We do want to make it a channel for the Dalai Lama to redress his mistakes," Zhu said. "We do hope that in the remainder of his life, he can think well about his own future. We don't want him to end up in foreign soil."
Zhu said China arranged for the envoys to visit late communist founder Mao Zedong's former residence in Shaoshan in central Hunan province, as well as to see a region home to Miao and Tujia ethnic minorities.
China maintains that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say the region was functionally independent for much of its history.
Beijing demonizes the Dalai Lama and says he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing independence for Tibet. The Dalai Lama has maintained for decades he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion under China's rule, not independence.
Tibetan areas have been tense in recent years, with the minority community complaining about restrictions on Buddhism, government propaganda campaigns against their revered Dalai Lama, and an influx of Chinese migrants that leave Tibetans feeling marginalized. Those feelings boiled over in deadly anti-Chinese riots in 2008 that shocked Beijing's leaders.

...day by day Rrethorical?...

Monday, February 1, 2010

Los Van Van Return (Part 4)

"Los Van Van rocks downtown Miami" is the headline of today's concert review by the Miami Herald. Jordan Levin writes:

"A scene of such enthusiastic unity between a Miami exile audience and the band that, for both Cuban music fans and critics of the island's government, embodies contemporary Cuba, would have seemed impossible even a few years ago."

El Nuevo Herald (Arturo Arias Polo) also writes a very positive review of last night's concert by Los Van Van. According to both stories, the audience number inside the James L. Knight center was around 3,500 to 4,000.

Outside the Knight center, protesters with their picket signs yelled at and insulted concertgoers. No violent incidents were reported. According to the Miami Herald, the protest crowd numbered 350 to 400. But, according to Spanish news agency EFE, the crowd size was more around 200. Even stranger, is the account by Manuel Prieres, author of the Villa Granadillo blog, who reported a crowd of 2000 (?) protesters.

In response to the concert, Alina Fernandez Revuelta, "unconfirmed" daughter and critic of Fidel Castro, writes in the Miami Herald the typical critique of Los Van Van: they represent the Cuban dictatorship. But, also goes further to describe last night's concertgoers as trained animals:

"The islanders are more than used to, indeed, trained to, move our waists with the Van Van, with their hijacked or explicit lyrics, their considerable if sometimes tiresome rhythm -- as tiresome as the propaganda that these musicians back."

A review of the local Spanish television news reports (Univision and Telemundo) showed positive coverage of the protest crowd (indicating that it was a success despite predicted low numbers), and negative coverage of the concert (indicating that the show failed to sell out the Knight center). Both Spanish reports neglected to give any approximations of either crowd size.

[Photo by Miami Herald/C.W. Griffin]

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Los Van Van Return (Part 3) [Updated]

This afternoon, local Spanish radio station "La Poderosa" (WWFE 670AM) was in close contact with Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa, by phone. In these last few days, WWFE, like Radio Mambi, has given plenty of air time to Saavedra and others planning to attended today's protest of Los Van Van in downtown Miami. Saavedra reported lots of excitement as people prepared the caravan leaving from Little Havana. Yesterday, Saavedra was invited on Radio Mambi's "Mesa Redonda" (with Armando Perez-Roura) for a full hour informing listeners about the several departure locations around Miami heading towards the James L. Knight center. As I write, the protest has already begun.

Lots of rumors and misinformation have spread since Los Van Van first appeared in Miami in 1999. All of them have been essentially used to defame and denigrate the Cuban band, who happen to be immensely popular in Cuba. But, to recognize their incredible success seems to be taboo in Miami.


Many detractors of Los Van Van accuse the band of "provocation" by their presence in Miami. This argument assumes that Los Van Van represent the Cuban government, and since the City of Miami inhabits many of the victims of the Cuban government, it would be an outrage to welcome them because it would "provoke" the trauma of Cuban exiles.

This argument falls apart simply because Los Van Van (the band) do not represent the Cuban government. If they did, then their lyrics (for example) would immediately resemble the appearances of Cuban government policy or ideology. But, once one reviews their lyrics, it becomes clear that Los Van Van talk about what most other songwriters talk about: love, relationships, the larger meanings of life, etc. Whatever personal political opinions any group members might have are absent.

Also, many Cuban exile militants misrepresent the popularity of Los Van Van by suggesting that only Cuban riff-raff listen to them. These remarks not only highlight the contempt that some Cubans have for other Cubans in Miami, but also tend to highlight the cultural differences between Cubans by their wave of arrival to the U.S. (such as those that listen to Timba, and those that refuse to).

Finally, one of the reasons Los Van Van eventually came to Miami in 1999 was because of their radio popularity noticed a couple years before, and not simply to provoke.


This is probably the next most mentioned allegation against Los Van Van: their name is in honor (or recognition) of a Cuban government program that pressured Cubans to cut sugar cane in 1970 with a propaganda campaign that went: "Y de que van, van. Los diez millones van!" (Those that go, go. The ten million must go!)

According to Juan Formell, leader and founder of Los Van Van: "Our name had nothing to do with that. It was just a coincidence, a phrase that was fashionable then. Nothing more. And there’s nothing else, no other story. 'Van van' in Spanish means it will happen, it will go."

The coincidence with their name and the sugar harvest program is unfortunate because it is an event that is recalled by some in exile as forced labor. But, Formell's explanation about the band name makes more sense because it is consistent with their many years of making apolitical music.


Cuban exile militants certainly don't rest went it comes to attacking their perceived enemies. One recent lie that spread recently about Los Van Van said that band leader Juan Formell signed a 2003 letter supporting the Cuban government crackdown of dissidents that year, and the execution of three males. This letter was never signed by Formell (as he declared in a television interview last year), but the lie was repeated many times this month by Ninoska Perez-Castellon on Radio Mambi (who corrected her error this past Friday), and by other militants such as Iliana Curra, an activist linked to the Cuban Liberty Council.

One recent rumor targets Juan Formell's son, who is also a member of Los Van Van. According to this allegation, Samuel Formell was convicted of a heinous crime back in the 1980s and received an 18-year sentence, but was soon set free after the intervention of the Cuban government.

The rumor originates from an article written by a Cuban dissident named Juan Gonzalez Febles. The article mentions many details, but strangely does not provide any dates, such as what year the crime occurred, or when Formell was supposedly released. The article has spread throughout the internet, among the usual anti-Castro blogs, to a mention in a recent El Nuevo Herald article, and to a post in the Miami New Times blog. According to Jorge Casuso of the Miami New Times, this alleged crime occurred in 1984 based on anonymous sources "who were closely and personally acquainted with Formell and the victim's family."

It should be noted that rumors usually begin by supposedly "close" acquaintances, especially in Miami.

[Update: CBS4 has first video of tonight's protest]
[Update2: Video of protest and concert from Zayramo]
[Update3: Some photos by El Nuevo Herald]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Los Van Van Return (Part 2)

Yesterday, Emilio Izquierdo Jr. appeared on Radio Mambi to inform listeners about the planned protest for Sunday (Jan. 31) at the James L. Knight Center. Cuba's "Rolling Stones of Salsa," Los Van Van, are scheduled to perform that evening as they had intended a decade ago. Host Ninoska Perez-Castellon made sure to write down all the important information for the protest against the band Izquierdo described as "the most representative" music group of the Cuban government.

According to Izquierdo, who describes himself as a spokesperson for UMAP News, there will be four locations throughout Miami that will be the departure points for caravans heading to the Knight Center, with some locations providing bus transportation. As expected, the Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana is among the departure locations. The protest at the Knight Center is expected to start around 5pm. Izquierdo suggests the theme of the protest be "GOD, DEMOCRACY, AND FREEDOM FOR CUBA." And, according to a letter published yesterday by Libre Magazine, Izquierdo also suggests...

"The Cuban exile community of Miami should hold Juan Formell [leader of Los Van Van] and his delinquents prisoner inside the James L. Knight [Center], like the Castro-Chavista accomplice Manuel Zelaya [found] himself inside the Brasilian embassy in Honduras."

If you're beginning to think that this protest is starting to sound like an act of repudiation, which is ironically an act condemned by the Cuban exile community when it targets dissidents inside Cuba, then prepare to be shocked. What is being planned for Sunday is, in my opinion, an act of repudiation, as it was in 1999.


In my previous post I described the actions of the City of Miami to stop the 1999 concert of Los Van Van. The city's discriminatory actions eventually ended when they had to pay over $90,000 in a lawsuit for violating the free speech rights of the concert promoter. What I didn't describe was the reasons behind the actions of the city officials.

When the Knight Center canceled the originally scheduled concert of Los Van Van in 1999, Cuban exile militancy had prevailed. And city officials shared their sentiments. "I am so relieved," said then-City Commissioner Joe Sanchez (loser of last year's mayoral contest). "The city does not need any more controversy," he declared. Then-commissioner Tomas Regalado (now Mayor of the City of Miami) believed the concert was "a challenge to the capital of the exile community," and then-Mayor Joe Carollo described Los Van Van as "the official Communist band of Fidel Castro."* Both Regalado and Carollo at the time made sure to let Miami know how they felt as they appeared on Spanish-language radio, such as Radio Mambi.

All the comments above have resurfaced within the Cuban exile community as the concert by Los Van Van approaches. From Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart calling the leader of Los Van Van the "musical ambassador" of the Cuban government, to Ninoska Perez-Castellon saying that the concert is a "provocation" and an attempt to "penetrate" the Cuban exile community. Encouraged by these leaders of the Cuban exile community, much more radical voices on the radio have also appeared calling Los Van Van "ratas" (rats) or "agents" of the Cuban government. Others have directed their insults towards the fans of Los Van Van calling them "chusma" or riff raff. It's the same kind of language used by Radio Mambi callers more than a decade ago.


When fans of Los Van Van arrived to the Miami Arena that evening of October 9, 1999, they faced a growing crowd of protesters. At its peak, police reported the crowd size around 4,000. Militant Cuban exile groups, like Unidad Cubana, Vigilia Mambisa and the F4 Comandos, were among the protesters. Days before the protest, Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa told the Miami Herald that he planned to videotape the concert attendees.

"Miguel Saavedra ... said his group would film those attending but would not publish the pictures. The videos would be kept until the collapse of the Castro government so the successor government could identify concertgoers who were Castro sympathizers."

Entering the Miami Arena to see Los Van Van, some fans met shouting protesters. Without provoking anyone, Mario Garcia was welcomed with a shout: "Communist, male prostitute, gigolo and whore." He was not bothered though, and responded: "I have as much right to listen to Los Van Van as they have to demonstrate." Unfortunately, others met with spitting or being the target of a thrown object. Joseph Adler, artistic director of GableStage at the Biltmore Hotel, while leaving the concert was attacked by rocks and eggs. After the concert was over, city riot police escorted concert attendees as they navigated back into the streets. [Video available here]

As the return concert approaches this Sunday, militant Cuban exiles are using desperate efforts to once again denigrate the members of Los Van Van. And, as expected, lies and rumors are spreading.

*[Miami Herald, September 11, 1999, "Concert canceled for Cuban dance band" by Tyler Bridges.]

[Raw footage of the Los Van Van protest from 1999, courtesy of Telemundo51]

[Photo: Protester at Miami Arena, October 9, 1999, courtesy of Villa Granadillo blog.]

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Los Van Van Return (Part 1)

When Los Van Van, one of Cuba's most popular music groups, came to Miami in October of 1999 they met opposition from officials of the City of Miami and approximately 4,000 protesters who saw the music group as representatives of the Cuban government. A decade later, times have changed... a bit.

A recently published Miami Herald article concerning the return of Los Van Van for this Sunday forgot to mention the intense (and unlawful) opposition that promoters of the musical group faced from the City of Miami back in 1999. From the moment that city officials, like Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, discovered that Los Van Van had scheduled a performance in downtown Miami they took immediate actions to stop them. Debbie Ohanian, promoter of Los Van Van at the time, had already reached an agreement with the James L. Knight center for a September performance, but after the City of Miami intervened the venue imposed new regulations and the show was eventually canceled.

The Miami city attorney demanded Los Van Van to present additional documentation that no other city had ever requested, and the city also demanded Ohanian purchase "liability insurance to cover the venue's losses if disturbances on the night of the concert forced the Knight Center to cancel other events." One of those possible "disturbances" that the City of Miami had on their minds demanded Ohanian purchase "an additional two-million-dollar insurance policy so the city could rebuild the [James L. Knight] theater if it were blown up." This particular deal with the city was described by one the negotiatiors as "additional insurance over and above what [the City of Miami] would normally require of concert promoters."

These discriminatory measures were being imposed at the same time that Mayor Carollo was on Radio Mambi with Armando Perez-Roura expressing his opposition to the concert. As Radio Mambi callers insulted Los Van Van calling them "dogs" and "garbage," Mayor Carollo seemed undisturbed, even after a caller threatened to attack the Knight Center.

Negotiations with the City of Miami eventually broke down and Ohanian soon reached a deal that would allow Los Van Van to perform at the Miami Arena (demolished in 2008). The concert was scheduled for October 9, 1999, the same day that a Cuban exile organization would schedule a movie screening at the Knight Center, and after which they would provide shuttles to the Miami Arena for their planned protest of Los Van Van.

After the performance, the City of Miami mobilized about 50 police in riot gear to protect and escort the leaving audience from the estimated crowd of 4,000 protesters. Police grew concerned that night with some protesters who earlier threw objects at the concert-goers. Three city commissioners who observed the protest that night became upset at the show of force by the police department and vowed to not let Los Van Van (or any other Cuban music group) to perform in Miami again. One of those commissioners is now the mayor of the City of Miami (Tomas Regalado), and another was recently re-elected as a city commissioner (Willy Gort).

Willy Gort described the concert at the Miami Arena as something similar "to having a Nazi band play before Miami Beach's Jewish community." Immediately after the concert he promised to propose "a resolution to the City Commission that would force the promoter of a band who draws a massive crowd to pay for all police and other expenses instead of sending the bill to taxpayers."

Ohanian was forced to pay the City of Miami over $36,000 for security costs for the night of the concert. She sued the city the following year, and in 2004 won her lawsuit. The City of Miami had to pay back over $90,000. The judge described the discriminatory actions of the Mayor and commissioners as having "a chilling effect" on the rights of free speech.

But, with the scheduled return of Los Van Van on Sunday, it seems that the city has learned its lesson. There are no reports of opposition from the city. Unfortunately, some of the same local organizations that protested in 1999 have not changed much.

Cuba in the Obama budget

The Voice of America is going to eliminate its Croatian and Greek language broadcasts, according to the document listing program terminations and reductions in President Obama’s budget for fiscal year 2011.
But there’s not a word about TV Marti, the U.S. government station that has been on the air nearly twenty years and has no audience in Cuba. Even President Bush’s director of Radio and TV Marti, Salvador Lew, has said that TV Marti “is not seen” in Cuba. I could find no specific numbers for the Radio/TV Marti budget in the White House budget documents because it is folded into a bigger account for international broadcast operations (see here, pdf, page 1224).
Meanwhile, it appears that the President is asking Congress to provide $20 million for USAID’s Cuba democracy program next year (see here, pdf, page 70).

LPP Archive...


By Kevin Drum

(Political Animal)  CUBA....Steve Clemons thinks the Democratic frontrunners are both way too timid on Cuba policy:
I asked [Obama advisor Susan] Rice if Obama — who has been the most progressive among the three standing presidential candidates on US-Cuba policy — would at least go back to the 'status quo' during the Bush administration in 2003. Before Bush tightened up the noose on Cuban-American family travel, remittances, and other exchanges, there was quite a bit of "non-tourist" travel to Cuba — usually for educational and cultural reasons.

Rice's response was "no." She said that those kinds of openings for non-tourist travel would depend on Cuba having "fair and free elections", releasing political prisoners, adherence to human rights conventions, and the like.

....Hillary Clinton is far more restrictive of course and would maintain a Cold War-hugging stance on Cuba at least until Florida votes were counted — but at least her foreign policy adviser, Lee Feinstein, said that he'd be cool with the NY Philharmonic going to Cuba.
Read the whole thing. While even some hardcore conservatives are starting to realize that our Cuba policy is ridiculous and counterproductive, our political class remains in thrall to a small group of dead-end exiles who happen to reside in a swing state with lots of electoral votes. Where's the cigar smoker's lobby when you need them?

Caribbean communism v capitalism

With a social safety net but fewer freedoms, is life better in Cuba than in its capitalist Caribbean basin neighbours?
Cuban near Che Guevara mural
Who lives best? A Cuban walks next to a mural of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in Havana. Photograph: Rodrigo Arangua/AFP

Visiting unhappy Cuba is especially thought-provoking for anyone familiar with its unhappy neighbours. Cubans live difficult lives and have much to complain about. So do Jamaicans, Dominicans, Haitians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, and others in the Caribbean basin who live under capitalist governments. Who is worse off? Does an ordinary person live better in Cuba or in a nearby capitalist country?
Questions such as these require each of us to decide what we value in personal, social and national life. Comparing the two political and social systems also reminds us that for many people in the world, a truly fulfilling life is unattainable. In this vale of tears there must be compromises – but which are the right ones to make?
The social safety net that protects ordinary Cubans is considerably more reliable than the one protecting people in most of the rest of the region. According to United Nations statistics, five times more Guatemalan children die before their fifth birthday than Cuban children. Four times more Jamaicans than Cubans die before reaching the age of 40. A poor Cuban who becomes ill may be taken to a hospital where conditions are unsanitary, doctors are underpaid and medicine is scarce. A poor Dominican might not be taken to a hospital at all.
Cubans also have a decided advantage when it comes to security – or, to put it differently, the right to life. There are no death squads in Cuba. Rogue police units do not exist. Violent crime is rare. Cubans do not fear to walk alone at night; many in the rest of the region do.
These two sets of rights that Cubans enjoy – to a basic standard of living and to personal security – are vitally important to human happiness. Some would say the same about two kinds of rights that are denied to Cubans: the right to free speech and the right to prosper through private enterprise.
Cubans may not denounce their regime and demand a different one. Some who do so find themselves under 24-hour surveillance, are assaulted by gangs of neighbours organised by communist authorities, and run the risk of prison. In Central American countries, by contrast, laws guarantee every citizen the right to free speech. Dissidents in Guatemala, for example, are never arrested or prosecuted for their statements. The system works differently there: they are simply shot.
Perpetrators of the political killings that have drenched Central America and parts of the Caribbean in blood over the last half-century are often described in newspapers as "heavily armed men dressed in civilian clothes". Governments have proven unable to protect their citizens against these death squads, and sometimes even sponsor them. This system has allowed police forces and armies in Central America to dispose of critics more permanently than the Cuban government does, while escaping some of the opprobrium that is justly aimed at repressive regimes. Since the Castro government came to power in Cuba in 1959, political killings have totalled in the hundreds, most of them summary executions in the turbulent post-revolution period. The Central American toll is in the hundreds of thousands.
A Cuban has no right to establish an independent newspaper. Any Guatemalan does – but if the newspaper becomes too strident, its editor might be killed. A Cuban may not form a political party. Any Haitian can – but if he speaks too stridently, he will be in danger. A Haitian is also far more likely to die in an earthquake than a Cuban, not because nature is kinder to Cubans but because Cuban society is sufficiently organised to provide its citizens with the essential benefits of a coherent state.
Poor Cubans cannot dream of pulling their families up toward prosperity by starting a business and working hard. Poor Hondurans can – but social and economic realities make success unlikely. Cuba suffers from too much equality; in the rest of the region, the problem is too much inequality.
Who is more free: a person who is officially guaranteed free speech and the right to advance in society but is sick, hungry, and frightened of the police, or one who is guaranteed security, education, and basic levels of health and nutrition but must curb his conscience, knows that his life may never improve, and cannot depart to try his luck elsewhere? Which is it worse to deny people: the freedom to nourish their bodies, or the freedom to nourish their minds?
In the end, countries and political regimes should not be measured against each other, but against their potential. Few in the Caribbean basin fare well by this standard. The best hope for longtime communist Cuba and its longtime capitalist neighbours would be to learn from each other.

Catholic Church warns Cuba is on the verge of socio-economic collapse

The Roman Catholic Church warned Sunday that Cuba is on the verge of an economic collapse that can only be prevented if President Raul Castro institutes sweeping economic and social reforms.

President Raul Castro’s promises of change are still a promise
"The economic situation in Cuba has turned rather complicated with signs that it is close to free fall," the Havana Archdiocese said in the latest edition of its "Palabra Nueva" (New Word) magazine. The Church recommends less “administrative adjustments” and less “ideological re-centralization”
Castro has responded to the crisis with "utopian statements and readjustments along the lines of severe expenditure cuts that can lead to socio-economic collapse," wrote economist-priest Boris Moreno.
Moreno said that there was "no sign at all" of the changes Raul Castro, 78, promised his people after he took over from his ailing, older brother Fidel in 2006.
The economic crisis, made worse by the global economic downturn, fuels "hopelessness" that can "break the fragile social compact," Moreno wrote.
The Cuban government admitted recently it was having cash flow problems after a disappointing 1.4% economic growth last year—well shy of an expected 6.0%. The announced target of 2010 is 1.9%.
The Castro administration has launched a savings program entailing sharp cuts in social spending and priority investment in currency-generating sectors of the economy.
Palabra Nueva, instead, said the government should promote exports and small- and mid-size businesses, provide a safe environment for foreign investment, institute business reforms, and a single currency, and allow Cubans "to give their opinions without fear of reprisal."
Cuba has also suffered severely from the contraction in world tourism and the fall in nickel prices, two of the country’s main sources of income. The island has also been battered in past years by hurricanes.

Haiti And Cuba Will Continue To Report The Lowest Levels Of Broadband Subscriptions In The Caribbean

New report provides detailed analysis of the Telecommunications market

Published on February 02, 2010

by Press Office

(Companiesandmarkets.com and OfficialWire)


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Cuba remains a market to watch owing to the possible changes that a renewed relationship with the US could bring. With considerable potential and low penetration rates it is a market that would benefit from competition and closer links to other countries. Already mobile growth looks set to take off after restrictions were lifted on mobile ownership and the number of net additions each quarter continues to increase, indicating a voracious appetite for mobile services in the market. Further growth can be expected across the market. Even with upgrades to our forecasts the Cuban market has the ability to grow even faster but it is believed that affordability remains a key issue for many Cubans, holding the market back.

The Caribbean’s only other monopoly market, Bahamas, looks set to finally see privatisation take place by the end of 2009 if government plans are to go ahead. Earlier failed attempts to sell 51% of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) may have put off some potential investors and the already high penetration rate will make the market a challenge for any new entrants but the relatively wealthy population makes this an attractive prospect. Competition for the mobile market is not set to enter until two years after privatisation takes place and the prospects for growth for any new entrant are low but it is still believed there are opportunities to grow and the market will welcome new competitors.

The report has revised the forecasts for Trinidad and Tobago considerably following the release of 2008 subscriber numbers putting the penetration rate at 138%. This is the highest in the region and it is expected further growth to be minimal with a decline beginning in 2012. While there have been cases of mobile markets continuing to grow, way past 138%, bmobile is already losing subscribers and the report does not believe that the market can sustain much more growth.

With such a range of markets in the Caribbean it is hard to draw any generalisations but the overall trends for the region see decline for the majority of fixed-line markets owing to the already high penetration rates for mobile services. The mobile market is often the most competitive market and this has driven fast growth in the past. Future increases will come from offering advanced services such as mobile broadband, maintaining interest in mobile services.

The strongest growth patterns will be seen in broadband services with expectations of strong growth to be seen across the region. Haiti and Cuba will continue to report the lowest levels of broadband subscriptions as pricing and availability remain key issues.

S:Caribbean Telecommunications Report Q4 2009: