Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ex-CIA spy loyal to Fidel Castro until the end

Philip Agee, regarded as traitor by U.S. officials, died in Havana in January 2008.

Former CIA spy Philip Agee turned against the U.S. government in the 1970s, saying he didn't believe the American government should be interfering in the affairs of Latin American nations. He outed hundreds of American agents and became an outspoken critic of the CIA.
Agee traveled to Cuba frequently and eventually settled in Havana and opened a travel agency.
He appeared from time to time at press conferences and spoke out against U.S. attempts to undermine the socialist government. I shot these photos during a press conference in mid-May of 2003.
Around that time, in an article that appeared in Counterpunch, Agee wrote that:
 ...regime change, as overthrowing governments has come to be known, has been the continuing U.S. goal in Cuba since the earliest days of the revolutionary government. Programs to achieve this goal have included propaganda to denigrate the revolution, diplomatic and commercial isolation, trade embargo, terrorism and military support to counter-revolutionaries, the Bay of Pigs invasion, assassination plots against Fidel Castro and other leaders, biological and chemical warfare, and, more recently, efforts to foment an internal political opposition masquerading as an independent civil society.

LPP Archive...

Light our fire: A guide to the best places for cigar-lovers everywhere

By Nick Foulkes
Last updated at 11:18 AM on 19th December 2008

Almost nowhere has escaped the smoking ban - not even Cuba. So where can cigar-lovers go for a deliciously wicked smoke?

lips with cigar


Lake Zurich, davidoffschiff.ch

Smoking laws have been tightened even in Switzerland but the Swiss are a resourceful bunch. Not a shop but a ship, the Davidoff, is to be found floating on the lake beside Zurich. Naturally, the name of the waterborne cigar lounge is 'Smoke on the Water'. Launched in the spring of 2007, it's the perfect place for good food and a fine cigar.
Best cigar Davidoff Double R, £20
Smoking area The ship has one 'indoor' floor
Varieties of cigar 30
What kind of crowd? A regular haunt for the Swiss celebrity set - expect to see plenty of local television stars and sportsmen, none of whom you'll recognise.

Avo Lounge
Rathausgasse 9, 5000, Aarua, avo.com

Avo is a cigar brand that was actually a bar first. Avo Uvezian is a charismatic musician in a white suit and straw hat who could always find work as a double for the Man from Del Monte. He opened a restaurant and piano bar in Puerto Rico in the early eighties and used to keep his locally made cigars in a jar on top of the piano. People liked the cigars so much that he started teh Avo brand - and there are now eight varieties.
Best cigar Avo Double Corona, £10
Smoking area Indoor
Varieties of cigar 40
What kind of crowd? Expect a low-key bunch enjoying a quiet cigar with some nice food.

Avo Lounge
The Avo Lounge in Switzerland


The Grand Havana Room

301 North Canon Drive, Los Angeles,  grandhavana.com
A cigar club rather than a cigar bar, it has been a celebrity hangout since it opened in the mid-Nineties. The Grand Havana is the place to see the much-loved but endangered species: the cigar-chomping Hollywood titan. Among those who have been spotted here are Jack Nicholson (the patron saint of Hollywood cigar smokers), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, Mel Gibson, Robert De Niro, Andy Garcia, Bruce Willis and Danny De Vito. Although the cigar list boasts Partagás and Cohiba, these are not the Cuban ‘originals’ – Havanas have been illegal in the US since the Sixties.
Best cigar Partagás 150 Aniversario, £20
Smoking area Indoor, with specially engineered ventilation and filtration system to create a smokeless environment
Varieties of cigar 50
What kind of crowd? The cream of Los Angeles celebrity society, socialites and business leaders.

Club Macanudo in New York
Club Macanudo in New York

Club Macanudo

26 East 63rd Street, New York, clubmacanudo.com
Elegant and clubby, Club Macanudo may feel like a private members’ joint, but is a cigar bar that anyone can visit. Once again, the ‘Cuban’ cigars are actually produced in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, this has not dented Club Macanudo’s success as a venue – there are outposts in Washington, Miami and Jakarta.
Best cigar Partagas Don Ramon, £100
Smoking area Indoor
Varieties of cigar 130
What kind of crowd? A mix of bright young things and businessmen.

Nat Sherman

12 East 42nd Street, New York, natsherman.com
One of the world’s great cigar shops. I have yet to visit the new flagship store, but have fond memories of my visit to Nat’s in the past and I understand that this is even better. What’s more it has a boardroom for rent, – perfect for the plutocrat who cannot bear to convene a meeting without the fragrant blue smoke of a good cigar.
Best cigar Gotham Westside no 1400, £110 for a box of 25
Smoking area Indoor

Varieties of cigar 12
What kind of crowd? The secluded members-only Johnson Club Room is a boon for businessmen looking for a quiet place to relax, drink – and enjoy a good cigar.
The Davidoff Lounge
The Davidoff Lounge in China


The Davidoff Lounge, Ritz Carlton
83A Jian Guo Road, Beijing, ritzcarlton.com

Smoking is banned in Guangzhou and Jiangman. In Beijing, however, you can enjoy a new double-deluxe hangout,  with a lounge spread over three floors. There’s a small yet well-stocked shop and it even has that sine qua non of the Oriental cigar experience: the private room, four of them, each styled by a different designer. 
Best cigar Zino Platinum Crown Series Stretch cigars, £215 for a box of three
Smoking area Indoor
Varieties of cigar 30
What kind of crowd? Expect the usual hotel clientele – middle-aged businessmen, some attractive women and a scattering of visiting glitterati.


The Partagas Factory
Calle Industria 520, Havana, habanos.com

The central Havana landmark is home to one of
the world’s best cigar shops. My tip is to avoid the tourists crowding the main area and to head instead for the speakeasy-like lounge at the back of the shop. There is nothing as formal as membership – all you need  do is buy a few boxes of cigars, store them in the climate-controlled lockers and be an honoured guest forever.
Best cigar Partagás Lusitania, £200 for a box of 25
Smoking area Indoor
Varieties of cigar 33
What kind of crowd? Cigar devotees, tourists and anyone intrigued to see workers smoking giant Cohibas – despite the workplace smoking ban.


Bar and Cigar
CJ Hambros Plass 2C, Oslo, sigar.no

There’s an interesting selection of Norwegian beers, but at least the cigars are familiar in this friendly bar. The smoking ban has struck in Norway, but with a heated outdoor smoking area and helpful, informed staff, Bar And Cigar is a fine place to sample Cuba’s finest among the Northern winds.
Best cigar Montecristo ‘A’, £48
Smoking area Outdoor facility for smokers, which is heated
Varieties of cigar Ten, all Cuban
What kind of crowd? Largely a local crowd as the owner has encouraged a neighbourly feel, but they’re friendly


The Connoisseur Divan
207 River Valley Road, Singapore City, connoisseurdivan.com

With its comfortable leather sofas, it seems a shame that the only option to enjoy the finest cigars in the Divan is now in the converted humidor or in the large outdoor area, but the equatorial climate means it’s never a discomfort.
Best cigar Hoyo de Monterrey Particulares, £270 for a box of five
Smoking area Indoor air-conditioned room for smoking.
Varieties of cigar About 30, Cuban
What kind of crowd? Local artistes, dignitaries and businessmen.


La Casa del Habano
100 Wardour Street, London, lacasadelhabano.co.uk

A Cuban experience in the middle of London, which shuns the stuffy atmosphere of a cigar bar for a more Latin spirit. There is a great range of cigars on offer, and it’s the only place in the capital where you’ll find the San Cristobal range. Best of all, it has been granted a specialist smoking exemption – so you can smoke indoors, sort of. The idea is that you sample a cigar ‘with a view to purchasing’ larger amounts of it. But the downside is that you can’t eat or drink there.
Best cigar Montecristo ‘A’ vintage 1998, £39
Smoking area Indoor   
Varieties of cigar 20 brands of Habanos
What kind of crowd? A young crowd – including some famous faces.
Enlarge   La Casa Del Habano
La Casa Del Habano in London

Tobacco workers roll cigars at the Partagas Cigar Factory in 
Tobacco workers roll cigars at the Partagas Cigar Factory in Havana

Cuba looks to women for cigar sales

By Shasta Darlington, CNN
March 30, 2010 7:18 a.m. EDT
Click to play
Cuban cigars for women
  • Cuban cigar makers unveil the Julieta, a slim cigar made for women
  • Women make up less than 10 percent of cigar smokers
  • International sales of cigars fell 8 percent in 2009
  • Cuban cigars are traditionally hand-rolled in factories
Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Faced with a two-year slump in sales, Cuban cigar makers have unveiled a new weapon in the hunt for consumers: Julieta, a slim smoke made just for her.
The global recession, combined with anti-smoking laws, have put the squeeze on Cuba's hand-rolled stogies, one of the quintessential symbols of privilege.
International sales fell 8 percent in 2009 to $360 million following a 3 percent drop in 2008, according to Habanos S.A., a joint venture between Cuba and Britain's Imperial Tobacco Group.
Julieta, with its handsome gold and red bands, impressed distributors at Havana's annual cigar festival.
"I think to come up with a product that is appealing to women in terms of it's size, it's blend, it's packaging, can only be positive," said Jemma Freeman, of the UK-based Hunters & Frankau distributors.
"I think it's the right thing to do, I think there's a demographic out there hat's interested in smoking cigars, particularly women," she added as she it up.
But others, like Cigar Aficionado's James Suckling, were not optimistic."It's a bit of a girly cigar," he said puffing on the thin cigar. "I find it little bit patronizing really. I mean the women I know who smoke enjoy great cigars just like the cigars that guys smoke."
Women represent less than 10 percent of current consumers, something Habanos vice-president Manuel Garcia hopes to change.
Habanos produces 27 premium brands that can fetch more than $500 a box.
They get their start in the western province of Pinar del Rio, thanks to a combination of soil, climate, humidity and hundreds of years of tobacco-growing tradition.
"We're looking at another quality year," plantation director Maria Luisa Alvarez told CNN as she walked among the neatly planted rows of leaves.
The tobacco is then hung up in wooden drying houses that dot the lush countryside.
The cigars themselves are hand-rolled in traditional factories and converted mansions in Havana amid the clatter of tiny guillotines and the rich smell of tobacco.
Cuban stogies dominate the market for high-end cigars despite the U.S. trade embargo, which bans their sale in America.
Some U.S. consumers still manage to get their hands on the coveted merchandise, and even turned up at the recent Havana cigar festival, despite travel restrictions.
"It's been a dream come true for me to be in the land where it all happens," said a man, who declined to give his name.
"I hope in the not too far future, trade opens up and that Americans can enjoy like the rest of the world a product that they really desire," he said.
Cuban cigar makers no doubt agree, considering the United States is by far the biggest market for stogies.

Vatican knew of defrocked Miami priest's troubles in Cuba, lawsuit contends

|By Jay Weaver | The Miami Herald

The Archdiocese of Miami, along with top Vatican authorities, knew as far back as 1968 that the Rev. Ernesto Garcia-Rubio, a priest later defrocked amid child sex-abuse allegations, had a troubled past in Cuba before transferring to South Florida, lawyers representing victims claimed Monday.
The lawyers say the Vatican's role is similar to what is alleged in the scandal now unfolding in Wisconsin, where top Catholic officials are accused of failing to defrock a priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys in a long career that paralleled the Miami cleric's. Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of the Vatican office that reviewed such cases when he served as Cardinal Ratzinger.
"It was a longstanding and well-known secret that the Vatican and Archdiocese of Miami knew exactly what Ernesto Garcia-Rubio was capable of," said Aventura attorney Jessica Arbour who with lawyer Stuart Mermelstein have filed several suits against the archdiocese involving Garcia-Rubio.
Garcia-Rubio, now 73, was celebrated as the Archdiocese of Miami's "patron saint" of young Central American and Cuban refugee boys who flocked to his Our Lady of Divine Providence in Sweetwater in the 1980s. He served there from 1975-88.
In the confidential, Sept. 3, 1968, letter, Washington-based Apostolic Delegate Luigi Raimondi warned then-Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll that Garcia-Rubio "was forced to leave Cuba because of serious difficulties of a moral nature (homosexuality)." Raimondi inserted the parentheses around the word homosexuality.
To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

March 29, 2010

Agricultural exports to Cuba fall in 2009 as result of U.S. recession

By: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259  
Contact(s): Dr. Parr Rosson, 979-845-3070, prosson@tamu.edu   
COLLEGE STATION – Agricultural exports to Cuba declined by more than $180 million in 2009, down from a record $715 million in exports set in 2008, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist. The decline was a result of a number of factors, including the U.S. recession, which restricted money flowing from Cuban Americans back home, lower nickel prices, a slowdown in tourism to Cuba and restrictions on payment terms used by U.S. exporters, said Dr. Parr Rosson, AgriLife Extension economist and director of the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University.
“The lack of money being sent back home to Cuba resulted in less purchasing power and a big drop off in exports to Cuba,” he said. “As a result, the Cuban government has decided to try to revitalize production of rice and milk.”
U.S. exports to Cuba included corn, wheat, soybeans, oil, meal and frozen broilers. Texas-grown commodities exported to Cuba included cotton, wheat and broilers, according to Rosson.
“The decline is a result of a combination of factors,” Rosson said. “Weak economies across the globe and a reduction in expenditures by tourists. That decline accounted for about 15 percent compared to 2008. The collapse in world nickel prices was also a big factor. The nickel price dropped from $24 per pound in the 2007-2008 to $7 per pound earlier this year.”
Tourism accounted for a large portion of money flowing into the Cuban economy, with Canadians among the most popular to frequent the country. Approximately 933,000 out of 2.4 million tourists visiting Cuba in 2009 were Canadian.
“The beaches are a big draw during the wintertime,” Rosson said. “(From Canada) there are direct flights and all-inclusive packages at the major beach resort, Varadero.”
Agricultural commodities imported into Cuba that support the tourism industry include beef steaks, chicken and pork, Rosson said.
However, exports to Cuba could recover somewhat in the future. The country’s vegetable crops were wiped out by three hurricanes in 2008 and are struggling to recover, and U.S. payment terms have been revised, allowing U.S. exporters to be more competitive, Rosson said.
“That’s why Cuba had such a large import bill in 2008,” he said. “That, coupled with the decline of tourism and lower nickel prices means the government is having difficulty importing foods. As a result, U.S. corn, wheat and soymeal exports to Cuba were all off by at least 50 percent for the first two months of 2010 compared to 2009.”

Vea Video "Las tres caras de Silvio"...