Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haiti's government struggles for control amid confusion...

A U.N. soldier from Uruguay asks for calm as a long line of women await food at an aid distribution site Wednesday in Port-au-Prince. Some Haitian officials said they would like a say in how aid is distributed.
By John Moore, Getty Images
A U.N. soldier from Uruguay asks for calm as a long line of women await food at an aid distribution site Wednesday in Port-au-Prince. Some Haitian officials said they would like a say in how aid is distributed.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — To find Haiti's lawmakers, drive to the police academy, then hunt through the rows of corrugated tin shacks sitting on cement blocks. Inside some of them, members of parliament, whose headquarters collapsed, have been meeting in special session.
Many are seething because they have had no input into how the massive influx of earthquake aid is being allocated, says delegate Steven Benoit.
"We'd like a role in controlling and helping distribute the aid," said Benoit, an opponent of President René Préval from Pétionville. "Our constituents are making demands. I'm getting five to six hundred calls a day."
Haiti's government has been decimated by the earthquake. Most official buildings — including the National Palace, collapsed. Many government officials were killed, and those who weren't were looking for missing family members or sorting through damaged property. The government has been unable to pay its remaining employees, though there was talk of salaries resuming, according to the environment minister.


"The state is bankrupt," said Jean-Robert Estimé, the son of a former president and foreign affairs minister from 1979 to 1986. "There is no customs, there is no tax collection."
American and international officials have said repeatedly that they are working with the Haitian government in making aid decisions.
Just how close those consultations are, and where the Haiti government gets input on needs, is not clear. Préval has made only a handful of public appearances since the earthquake.
The communications minister, Marie Jocelyn-Lassegue, has been giving regular news conferences from the government's makeshift headquarters near the airport. But she is sometimes unaware of developments taking place within her own government.
"Really?" she said, when a reporter referred to another minister's comment that government salaries might be resuming soon. "That's great."
The minister of environment, Jean-Marie Germain, said that he has 30 staff members working in the capital out of his normal contingent of 238 workers. The others have been sent out of Port-au-Prince.

 
"The government was not ready for this," he said.
There continue to be meetings behind closed doors, Estimé said, including one he attended at which a master plan for rebuilding Port-au-Prince was discussed involving the resettlement of 200,000 people north of the city. Benoit and other lawmakers — and regular Haitians on the street — say they know nothing of such plans.
"The government has no control," Benoit said. "The (aid agencies) are doing whatever they want. It's very chaotic."
Benoit wants lawmakers to have more input. Haitians from all walks of life, however, are skeptical of letting their own government — president, parliament, whomever — have a say in aid decisions.
"If you give it to the government, we won't get a single thing," said Marie Josephs, standing in a tent city in Cité Soleil, a slum where many residents say they still have not seen much help.
At the Energy Health Club in Pétionville, where wealthy businessmen come to exercise, computer consultant Philippe Clerie said, "Somehow you have to change the government, or at least the way the government operates," if the rebuilding is to be successful.
Corruption has been a fact of life in Haiti, he and others said.
So is bureaucracy. At Haiti's general hospital, where Haitians have taken control of the storeroom full of medicines and supplies, "We have to wait for things even though they're stacked up in the warehouse," Rob Maddox, a doctor from Louisiana, told the Associated Press. "The situation is just madness."
Six hundred metric tons of cooking oil have been sitting in a warehouse at Haiti's port for two weeks because of "paperwork," said Barry Elkin, food security director for ACDI/VOCA, an aid group that works for USAID. "We're just waiting for them to release it," he said.
In Pétionville, local officials intervened to stop a United Nations food distribution until they could have input into who gets the aid, according to Deputy Mayor Erick Louis. That prompted outrage. Demonstrators jogged through the neighborhood Wednesday, musically chanting, "They stole the rice! They stole the rice!"
"When you impose order on disorder, some people aren't happy," Louis said.

New stamps honor 4 Navy veterans

This undated handout image provided by the U.S. Postal Service shows the four AP – This undated handout image provided by the U.S. Postal Service shows the four postage stamps honoring 
WASHINGTON – From admiral to mess attendant, four sailors who distinguished themselves are being honored with new U.S. postage stamps. Ceremonies to dedicate the new 44-cent stamps were set for Thursday at the U.S. Navy Memorial. The stamps are going on sale nationwide. The new stamps feature: _Arleigh A. Burke, a top destroyer squadron commander in World War II, who later served three terms as chief of naval operations, the Navy's highest ranking officer. _John McCloy, one of the few men in the nation's history to earn two Medals of Honor — one for a rescue mission during the Boxer Rebellion in which he was wounded and the second during the 1914 Mexican Revolt for intentionally exposing his boat to draw enemy fire to identify their positions. In 1919, he was awarded the Navy Cross as commander of USS Curlew, which engaged in sweeping mines in the North Sea after World War I. _Petty Officer Doris Miller, cited as the first black American hero of World War II. At Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, he was a mess attendant on the battleship USS West Virginia. Miller helped rescue scores of shipmates wounded or trapped in wreckage, later helping move the ship's mortally wounded captain. Never trained in its operation, he manned an unattended 50-caliber machine gun to fire on Japanese aircraft until ordered to abandon the bridge as fires raged out of control. He was awarded the Navy Cross and was killed in action in 1943. _William S. Sims, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe during World War I, who was an outspoken reformer and innovator who helped shape the Navy into a modern fighting force.
Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez

Posted: February 3, 2010 02:29 PM

Why Does One Small Island Country Need Two Currencies?

2010-02-03-bucanero.jpg

He is eight years old and enormously confused. This morning his mother put 25 centavos in his hand, telling him, "Here are five pesos." He looked at the shiny surface with the shield of the Republic on one side and on the back the tall thin tower of the city of Trinidad. Although born in an economically schizophrenic country, he is still not used to the switch from Cuban pesos to their convertible relatives. At school the teacher has never talked about the issue, but to explain it would take an entire course over a whole semester. Nor do they explain much at home, as if the adults think it is normal that they mix two kinds of money in their wallets.
In Cuba there are four kinds of markets and two different types of money to pay for things in them. Every morning the housewives detail in their heads - with a minimum of fuss - a plan for which currency they will use to buy what, in which places. It's an arithmetical operation that takes a few seconds, fifteen years after the implementation of dollarization and its subsequent "ghost," the convertible peso. The conversion is done constantly and there are sellers who accept both the symbolic tokens they pay our wages in, and the others with a value 24 times greater. For a pineapple we can pay as much as 10 pesos in national money - a day's wages - or about fifty centavos in the money commonly called "chavitos." Some tourists are not aware of such complexities and acquire the queen of fruits for ten convertible pesos. That day, the trader closes his stall quickly and goes home happy for the mistake.
My son's generation does not understand what it's like to live with a single currency. I think they have a special development in the area of the brain that eventually accepts the absurd, in the neural connections that handle the unacceptable. They perform currency conversions with the ease of someone who has learned two languages since infancy and alternates them with little difficulty. Except that the learning of several languages is always enriching, but taking for normal the financial duality is to accept that there are two possible lives. One of them is flat and gray, like the national centavos, and the other - which is forbidden in all its extension to a good part of the population - seems full of colors and watermarks, like the style of the twenty convertible peso bill.
Translator's Note:
Briefly, Cuba has two currencies. Moneda nacional (national money or the Cuban peso) is the currency that wages are paid in and some goods are sold in. The convertible pesos (CUC) is the currency tourists must exchange their dollars, euros, or other currencies for. Many goods are sold, even to Cubans, only in CUCs. One CUC is worth 24 Cuban pesos. After the Revolution, possession of the U.S. dollar was outlawed in Cuba until 1993, when it was permitted. The CUC replaced the U.S. dollar in 2004. The slang name for CUCs, "chavitos," is a play on Hugo Chavez's name.
Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
S: The Huffington Post
 
Follow Yoani Sanchez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yoanisanchez


HAVANA -- Throughout the Cuban countryside are hand-painted murals featuring the famous faces of the revolution, Che and Fidel, of course, but also René, Antonio, Fernando, Gerardo and Ramón -- known here as "Los Cinco," the Cuban Five, no last names necessary.


VIDEO | A Cuban newspaper has released new pictures of Fidel Castro in the hospital, meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez turns to Cubans for help with energy crisis




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By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 3, 2010; 10:58 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez has turned to his friends in Cuba for help in tackling Venezuela's energy crisis, drawing criticism for seeking advice from the communist-led island that has struggled with its own electricity woes.
Chavez gave few details on Wednesday about what is expected of Cuba, but insisted that "it's valuable experience that's serving us well." He said that he spoke for hours Tuesday with Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdes after his arrival in Venezuela to lead the consulting team.
The decision to seek help from Cuba bewildered Venezuelans coping with the nation's power shortage.
"It's laughable that he's looking for help from Cuba," said Aixa Lopez, director of the Committee for People Affected by Power Outages, which monitors the extent of current energy shortages and rationing in Venezuela.
Chavez blames a drought for bringing the country's hydroelectric reservoirs to their lowest levels in decades, prompting a wave of planned and unplanned blackouts across the country.
Critics acknowledge the lack of rainfall, but blame Chavez's government for failing to upgrade power generation capacity even as the oil-rich country's consumption has soared.
Cuba itself has suffered a series of electricity crises since the collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major source of oil and financing. It now gets much of its imported oil from Venezuela.
The island's communist government has had some success against once-routine blackouts by upgrading generating capacity and imposing sometimes draconian energy-saving measures.
Even so, Cuban officials last summer were forced to idle some state factories while turning off the lights and air conditioners in many government office buildings, banks, retail stores and other businesses. Officials have hinted at even more strict conservation methods will be imposed throughout 2010.
Chavez has experimented with similar measures, ordering some public institutions to close at 1 p.m. and partially shutting down state-run steel and aluminum plants. Officials also are installing tens of thousands of energy-saving light bulbs imported from Cuba.
Cuba is already aiding Venezuela in a cloud-seeding effort the government hopes will ease the drought.
Valdes, who fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro to topple dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, is a former interior minister and current minister of communications. For more than a decade, he ran Cuba's Electronic Group, overseeing technology projects and skirting the U.S. trade embargo by importing tons of equipment into Cuba through third-party nations.
Lopez said the electricity crisis should be resolved by Venezuelans and not Cuba's vice president.
"I don't think that Mr. Valdez is the most suitable for the job because of what's he's done in Cuba is impose rationing," he said "He's not en expert in investment, maintenance and production."
Chavez downplayed the criticism as something he expects from his opponents, saying: "Whenever Cubans come here, the counter-revolutionary fury immediately explodes."
---
Associated Press Writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Havana. 

S: The Wahington Post

                                          


Palabra Nueva, a publication of the Cuban Catholic Church’s Havana Archdiocese, accused the government of Raúl Castro of continuing an economic policy marked with a “lack of definition” and “prevalence of ideology,” and demanded reforms of the socialist system to avoid a “socioeconomic collapse.”
“The same [GAO] reports also found significant problems in OCB’s operation, including poor management, questionable journalistic standards, biased editorials, allegations of fraud and abuse, and domestic dissemination of Marti programming that appears to be in violation of U.S. law.”
Senator Russ Feingold, in letter to President Obama dated 27JAN2010
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is urging President Obama “to eliminate funding for a radio and television broadcast to Cuba.” The senator cites a January 22, 2009 GAO report, where “less than 2 percent of respondents to telephone surveys since 2003 reported tuning in to Radio or TV Martí”. (See Broadcasting to Cuba: Actions Are Needed to Improve Strategy and Operations. GAO-09-127)
“At a time of skyrocketing budget deficits and difficult fiscal choices, we need to take a close look throughout the federal government to eliminate inefficient and wasteful spending wherever it occurs,” Feingold wrote.
S: CUBAPOLIDATA

CLINK!...

Pitcher of Cuba Libres perfect for game

 

Cuba Libre Pitcher
Cuba Libre Pitcher
Similar stories:

Miami.com

No ticket? Celebrate the Super Bowl in style with delicious at-home sips. Mix up a pitcher of Bacardi Cuba Libres for a crowd or, for a more intimate gathering, Club 50 Wheat & Mint beer cocktails like the ones out-of-towners will be drinking at exclusive bowl events.
D.I.Y.
Cuba Libre Pitcher: Fill a large pitcher halfway with ice cubes. Add 12 parts (count to 12) rum (Bacardi preferred) and 2 liters Coca-Cola. Garnish with squeezed limes; stir well. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Wheat & Mint: Muddle 15 mint leaves in a mixing glass; fill with ice. Add 1 ½ ounces gin (Old Tom preferred), the juice of 1 lime, 1 ounce simple syrup and a dash of orange bitters; Shake well. Strain into a beer glass over fresh ice, and top off with 2 ounces Tucher (unfiltered wheat beer) or Blue Moon. Garnish with an orange wheel and mint sprig.

Chavez looks to Cuba for energy needs




CARACAS, Venezuela —  President Hugo Chavez has turned to his friends in Cuba for help in tackling Venezuela’s energy crisis, drawing criticism Wednesday from opponents who say that the communist-led island is notorious for its own electricity woes.

The socialist leader announced that Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdes had arrived on Tuesday to head a Cuban team advising Venezuela on its efforts to reduce energy consumption.

He gave few details of what Valdes would do, but the announcement bewildered some.

“It’s laughable that Chavez is looking for help from Cuba,” said Aixa Lopez, director of the Committee for People Affected by Power Outages, which monitors the extent of current energy shortages and rationing in Venezuela.

Chavez blames a drought for bringing the country’s crucial hydroelectric reservoirs to their lowest levels in decades, prompting a wave of planned and unplanned blackouts across the country.

Critics acknowledge the lack of rainfall, but blame Chavez’s government for failing to upgrade power generation capacity even as the country’s consumption has soared.

Cuba itself has suffered a series of electricity crises since the collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major source of oil and financing. It now gets much of its imported oil from Venezuela.

The island’s communist government has had some success against once-routine blackouts by upgrading generating capacity and imposing sometimes draconian energy-saving measures.

Even so, Cuban officials last summer were forced to idle some state factories while turning off the lights and air conditioners in many government office buildings, banks, retail stores and other businesses. Officials have hinted even more strict conservation methods will be imposed throughout 2010.

Chavez has experimented with similar measures, ordering some public institutions to close at 1 p.m. and partially shutting down state-run steel and aluminum plants.

Officials also are installing tens of thousands of energy-saving light bulbs imported from Cuba.

Cuba is already aiding Venezuela in a cloud-seeding effort the government hopes will ease the drought.
S:NewsTelegram.com

Cuba lets self-employed artists get gov't pensions

Cuba allows independent artists to get state pensions, encouraging them to report full incomes

ap
On Wednesday February 3, 2010, 10:33 am EST
HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba said Wednesday it will begin offering pensions to self-employed artists and performers, calculating benefits based on the taxable income they declare.
The new law appears to be an attempt to encourage workers to report their full incomes -- part of increasing efforts to better account for all Cuban employees and the money they make.
Previously, independent artists were required to pay at least 7 percent tax on all income, then file a yearly tax return with additional payments, but they were not eligible for retirement benefits.
The new measure, detailed in state-run newspapers, allows self-employed musicians, writers, movie and television performers, sculptors and painters, among others, to receive a monthly government pension worth 60 percent of their reported income.
To qualify, artists must have worked for 30 years and reported taxes for at least the last five. Like all Cubans, their benefits kick in at 65 for men and 60 for women.
It was not clear how many people will be affected.
The communist government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and pays employees an average of about $20 per month. Thousands of workers in certain sectors, however, can apply to become self-employed.
The island has about 2.2 million retirees, and an increase in benefits in 2008 raised the minimum pension to the equivalent of $9.50 per month.

Do you ' re Ready for Mininhavana' s blog?...

 Tracey Eaton bio

By maninhavana
Eaton_BD
Tracey Eaton was Havana bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News from 2000 to early 2005.

 A journalist for 25 years, he has written some 5,000 articles on everything from Taliban fighters and neo-Nazis to teen-age drug runners and snakes popping out of toilets.
His Cuba blog is called Along the Malecón and contains more than 3,000 original photos.

BaracoaInterview2

Eaton travels to Cuba regularly to do freelance stories. Above, he interviews a man in Baracoa in eastern Cuba. Photo credit: Kim Ritzenthaler
Eaton is among only a few American journalists who have operated news bureaus on the island since Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
He has wide experience in Latin America and along the U.S.-Mexico border. He was metropolitan editor for the Houston Chronicle before joining Flagler College in 2007.

te jeep

Above, Eaton outside the seaside home he rented in Tarara, east of Havana. He had just replaced his Texas license plate with a Cuban plate reading PEXT for Prensa Extranjera, or Foreign Press.
Eaton has been a staff writer at seven newspapers, including the Miami Herald and the Orange County Register.  More than 2,000 of his photos have been published in newspapers where he has worked. His stories have appeared in more than 65 U.S., Canadian and Mexican newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Los Angeles Daily News.

tracey

Eaton was a Dallas Morning News correspondent in Mexico City from 1993 to 2000. Above, he poses with Mexican soldiers at a counter-narcotics exercise in Baja California, Mexico
Eaton was the field producer and writer for one among thousands, a documentary about a Cuban-American musician who returns to Cuba to rediscover his past. The film premiered on Nov. 30, 2009, and was an official selection of the Santa Fe Film Festival.
Eaton is a feature writer for CubaNews in Maryland and has contributed articles or photos to numerous publications, including Cuba Absolutely, American Rider and HOG.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and a master’s degree in journalism from Temple University. He was a Fulbright scholar in Ecuador and studied at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, in Mexico City.
He has conducted journalism workshops in Guatemala, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and has been an invited speaker at conferences in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Cuba.  He is a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, or IRE, and the National Press Photographers Association, or NPPA.

leaving Afghan

Eaton covered the fighting in Afghanistan after terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Above, he leaves Afghanistan, entering Tajikistan by ferry.
Eaton can be reached at maninhavana@yahoo.com for freelance assignments, workshops, speaking engagements and other work.

2 Responses to “Tracey Eaton bio”

rob oneal Says:
hey dude!
long time. how have you been? i’ll cut to the chase. i’ve been hired to show a millionaire and his family around havana later this month and they wanted to know if there is a nice beach around havana that may have a decent hotel nearby. i first thought east beaches, but those hotels aren’t too snazzy.
we’re going on a 140 foot yacht and docking at marina hemingway. i remember you talking about living in tarara. can you tell me what their facilities are like? can they take a big boat like that? is there a nice beach/hotel nearby? i’ve never been.
by the way, are you gonna be there for year’s this year? that’s when we’ll be there.
anyway, i hope you have a nice, WARM holiday. the weather bites in key west right now!
takce care of yourself,
rob o’neal
(the fat photog!)

CUBAN WRITERS FIRED FOR “IMPROPER USE” OF THE INTERNET


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Views: 1,902
  • Rafael Vilches Proenza
    Rafael Vilches Proenza
    The Cuban writer Rafael Vilches Proenza.
  • Writers Union Headquarters in Holguin, Cuba
    Writers Union Headquarters in Holguin, Cuba
    UNEAC Headquarters in Holguin, Cuba
  • Manuel Garcia Verdecia
    Manuel Garcia Verdecia
    Manuel Garcia Verdecia's photo from his Facebook Page 
 
Rafael Vilches Proenza

Award-winning Cuban writers Manuel Garcia Verdecia and Rafael Vilches Proenza have been fired from their jobs and expelled from the writers union for “improper conduct of intellectuals committed to the revolutionary process,” among other charges.
Both writers were sanctioned at the request of the local branch of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba in the province of Holguin, some 400 miles from the Cuban capital.
Garcia Verdecia, former vice president of the local writers union, was expelled from the organization and fired from his job. The reason: “behaving inconsistently with his functions as a leader” and “losing the trust” of the union. Vilches Proenza, also lost his job after security agents monitored his email and found he was corresponding with Cuban writers abroad.
Both writers were put through the same process used by communist regimes throughout the world, including meetings where they were encouraged to admit their “crimes” and criticize their own behavior. In fighting their dismissal, the two sanctioned writers did not assert their rights to free communication. To date, Vilches Proenza has remained silent, and Garcia Verdecia has said he was only offering intellectual critiques to strengthen the Cuban revolution.
Catching these men in their so-called counterrevolutionary acts was simplified by the fact that both depended on the writers union for their Internet access, which is both scarce and expensive on the island. The writers union operates its own cybercafé, open only to members, who pay hourly fees and must agree to abide by an ethics code. That code specifically bars visiting any web sites which might “represent a threat to socialist values.”
Until Tuesday, the writers union official site had not published anything about the case. It came to public attention, however, through Holguin poet Luis Felipe Rojas, who dared to post a report on his blog, “Crossing the Barbed Wire.”
While Cuba rejects its inclusion on the list of countries which limit freedom of the press (along with Burma, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and others), the fact that Rojas’s courage, or folly, was not matched by his sources, all of whom asked to remain anonymous, comes as no surprise to independent journalists, writers, artists and bloggers in Cuba. In recent months, the regime has extended an ever-widening net of repression against these independent voices. Their actions have ranged from terminating previously state-sanctioned email accounts, to expelling professors from the universities, to arrests and detentions, and even to kidnappings and physical assaults as a “warning” against continuing to freely speak one’s mind.
For now, it is unknown whether Garcia Verdecia and Vilches Proenza will legally appeal the punitive measures taken against them by the writers union in Holguin.

Cuba: Accord on Human Trafficking Sought With U.S.

Published: January 28, 2010
Cuba wants to negotiate an agreement with the United States to slow the trafficking of its citizens fleeing the island and hopes to tackle the issue at immigration talks in February, the foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, said Thursday. He said negotiators would meet Feb. 19 in Havana and that Cuba wanted Washington’s help in combating people smuggling, . He also said the United States had yet to respond; a spokeswoman at the United States Interests Section in Havana said that Washington had not settled on a date for the talks.