Saturday, April 17, 2010

LPP Top News...

Hundreds of thousands in Warsaw for President Lech Kaczynski's memorial service

Hundreds of thousands of Poles have crowded into a square in central Warsaw for a memorial service honouring the victims of the Smolensk plane crash that claimed the lives of the Polish president, his wife and dozens of the nation's elite.

 

Hundreds of thousands in Warsaw for president Lech Kaczynski's 
memorial service
A sombre procession of thousands upon thousands of mourners from all over Poland made their way to Pilsudski Square Photo: AP
Hundreds of thousands in Warsaw for president Lech Kaczynski's 
memorial service
Brother of late President Kaczynski attends a national memorial service in Pilsudski Square in WarsawPhoto: AP
 
In a day of high emotion, air-raid and police sirens wailed across the city at midday for two minutes as Poles, some weeping, stood still in memory of 96 who died in the tragedy. Earlier in the day the sirens had signalled the exact time, 8:56, when the aircraft carrying president Kaczynski had crashed as it approached Smolensk airport in western Russia.
A sombre procession of thousands upon thousands of mourners from all over Poland made their way to Pilsudski Square, a place of deep symbolic significance for Poles as it was there that Pope John Paul II delivered a sermon in 1979 that inspired them to rise up against communism.
“Things like this never happen, they are impossible. It is the greatest tragedy in the history of Poland since World War II,” Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, told the assembled mourners.
“None of us can remember an incident when so many great and important people died in one tragic moment. The list of those who died comes from the whole of Poland, and that list is Polish history.”
Mr Tusk promised that those who died will always be remembered.
As the service progressed many of the relatives of the deceased sitting near a specially built stage and alter wiped tears from their eyes.
In the front row a harrowed-looking Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president’s twin brother, sat ashen faced, while beside him Marta Kaczynska, Mr and Mrs Kaczynski’s only child, struggled to contain her emotions.
Bronislaw Komorowski, who became Poland’s acting head of state after the president’s death, praised Poland’s historical foe Russia for the response of its people to the disaster.
“In these difficult times for our country we have not been alone. We are therefore grateful to the citizens of Russia who have spontaneously conveyed their compassion to Poland and the Polish people,” he said.
Polish people had travelled from all over the country to attend the service.
"We took a train this morning to say a special farewell to our president and all those who died with him. We are sad because we lost our head of state," said Zenon Kosciuk, who had travelled from the western city of Szczecin.
Another mourner, Jan Dow, standing with his daughter on his shoulders amid a sea of Polish flags at the service said he had to be there. "I am a patriot and it was my duty to be here," he explained. "What happened was a national tragedy."
A large part of the city's centre has been closed to traffic, and extra trains, trams and buses have been laid on to take hundreds of thousands of people to the service.
Along with the president, the crash killed the heads of the Polish armed services, the governor of the national bank, two ministers and a litany of household names in Poland.
The tragedy, the worst to strike the country since the end of the Second World War, triggered an outpouring of emotion that erased all political differences and united Poland in grief.
Sunday morning will see the burial of President Kaczynski and his wife in Wawel Castle, in Krakow, the resting place of Poland's royalty and national heroes.
Authorities have stressed that they expect the funeral to go ahead even though all Poland's airports have been closed by the cloud of volcanic ash. Dozens of world leaders and dignitaries, including President Obama, President Medvedev and Prince Charles, have said they will attend, and there have been fears that they may have to cancel.
The Polish government said the bodies of the president and his wife will be flown to Krakow by a turbo-prop aircraft, which is immune to the effects of the ash cloud.


The Pigeon Express

Saturday, April 17, 2010
Pursuant to the BBC news item below, it's only a matter of time before the Castro regime announces the use of pigeons as its innovative solution for Cuba's slow and restrictive internet connectivity.

Surely, this decision will be praised by foreign news bureaus in Havana, and Cuba analysts in the U.S., as further evidence of Raul Castro's commitment to "reform."

Of course, the biggest obstacle for the regime will be the need to ideologically screen the pigeons.

And the biggest consequence for the Cuban people will be an increase in prison terms for anyone that kills a pigeon for food, for there's already a serious shortage on the island.

Just a little weekend humor, of course. Or, so we hope.

According to the BBC:

Pigeon 'faster than broadband'

Winston the pigeon carries a 4GB memory stick across country

Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery - but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.

A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom. Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data. Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm's slow internet speeds.

The idea for the race came when a member of staff at Unlimited IT complained about the speed of data transmission on ADSL. He said it would be faster by carrier pigeon. "We renown ourselves on being innovative, so we decided to test that statement," Unlimited's Kevin Rolfe told the Beeld newspaper.




April 17

MonumentJan2010
If I weren't traveling to Dallas today, I'd be attending this event:
The Cuban Pilots Association invites you to the dedication of this monument at 11 AM, April 17, 2010, Kendall-Tamiami Airport.
The monument was built to honor and as a permanent tribute the ten Cuban pilots of the 2506 Brigade "Liberation Air Force", four American Central Intelligence Agency volunteer pilots and two aircraft technicians, members of the 2506 Brigade, who perished during the air strikes and landings of the ill-fated invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, on April 17, 1961.
Flight operations for the attack were coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Alabama Air National Guard. A total of seventeen B-26 fighter-bombers were used in training and designated for the eventual implementation of the planned air strikes. However, due to political considerations, last minute orders from the Kennedy Administration reduced the total flight operations to a minimal task force of eight, which compromised the operation and resulted in its failure.
The monument is a obelisk within a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, all in a field of red. To the west are the five blue and white bands of the Cuban flag. Atop the bands is a restored B-26 fighter similar to the aircraft used by the Liberation Air Force pointing towards Cuba.
The Cuban Pilots Association joins the entire Cuban exile community in remembering those martyrs, who by falling in an honorable action, left a wake of glory under the Cuban sky.
Their memory will help ensure that the exiled Cuban community, as well as its American allies, achieves and preserves the freedom for Cuba that they sought through the sacrifice of their lives.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of these pilots a few years back in Alabama, and once again had a couple of beers with some of them this week. They are in town for this event.
If you're looking for something to do today, I urge you to take a little trip to Tamiami Airport, meet some genuine Cuban and American heroes, and thank them for fighting for freedom.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Among the Marchers

When Luis Posada Carriles attended the Miami demonstration last week in solidarity with the Damas de Blanco many news outlets noticed, such as the Miami Herald, Reuters (photo above), local station WPLG Channel 10, and others.

But, BBC Mundo (Luis Fajardo) was able to interview Luis Posada briefly. In the interview Posada said: "I am strongly supporting freedom, and freedom in the United States, and over in Cuba. Soon we shall be free. Viva Cuba libre!"

In the photo above, it seems that Posada also gave an interview to U.S.-funded Radio and TV Marti. I haven't yet found that audio, but I am curious to hear it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Odds and ends

  • EFE: Like many thousands of other Cubans, dissident Martha Beatriz Roque has acquired Spanish citizenship.
  • Herald: “A Chilean executive questioned by Cuban prosecutors in a corruption case has been found dead in Havana, the latest twist in a burgeoning scandal that has snared two Fidel Castro protégés and several other Cubans.” Reuters reports a Cuban government statement on the cause of death.
  • El Nuevo Herald has compiled the long exchange between Madrid-based author Carlos Alberto Montaner and Silvio Rodriguez, the singer-songwriter who lives and works in Cuba. Some interesting nuggets in there, but the most interesting fact may be that the exchange took place at all. Granma and other Cuban media mention Montaner from time to time and always trash him – but today Granma publishes a bill of particulars, which may be a sign that the exchange is getting some attention in Cuba.
  • Cuban historian Esteban Morales takes aim at “counterrevolutionaries” in an article published by the artists and writers union – but it’s corrupt high-level officials that he has in mind. AP story in English here, Morales’ article in Spanish here.

LPP Archive...

EU lifts sanctions against Cuba

Cuba's President Raul Castro pictured 13 June
Raul Castro has introduced a series of reforms since taking office in February
The European Union has lifted sanctions imposed on Cuba in 2003 in protest at the Cuban government's imprisonment of more than 70 dissidents.
 
But EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU would continue to monitor human rights conditions in Cuba.
The sanctions' removal is largely symbolic but still a success for Raul Castro's new government, analysts say.
The decision is expected to come into formal effect on Monday.
Ms Ferrero-Waldner said the member states wanted to promote change in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of government from his ailing brother, Fidel.
"There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do... releasing prisoners, really working on human rights questions," she told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels.
"There will be a sort of review to see whether indeed something will have happened," she said.
'Unwarranted'
Several leading Cuban dissidents have criticised the decision.
In a BBC interview, Miriam Leiva - one of the founding members of the dissident group Ladies in White - said the move was unwarranted as the island's new president had not made any significant moves towards creating a more open or democratic society.
Her words were echoed by another dissident, Vladimiro Roca, who accused Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of pushing the measure forward against the will of his own people.
But the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana says Cuba will see this move as a vindication of its hardball diplomacy.

There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
EU External Relations Commissioner

The EU sanctions were suspended in 2005, but not completely removed.
The EU has been trying to re-establish a full political dialogue with Havana ever since Fidel Castro in effect stepped down due to ill health almost two years ago, our correspondent says.
But the communist authorities had insisted there could be no progress until the EU officially removed sanctions.
The decades-old US trade embargo against Cuba remains in place.
Earlier, the US state department said it hoped the EU sanctions would not be lifted because there had not been "any kind of fundamental break" with communism as practised under Fidel Castro.
'Cocktail wars'
The original sanctions imposed by the EU five years ago included a limit on high-level government visits and the participation of EU diplomats in cultural events in Cuba.
Most European embassies also invited prominent Cuban dissidents to receptions as a protest against the country's human rights record.
This triggered the so-called "cocktail wars" where Cuban officials refused to attend, our correspondent says.
Relations improved in 2005, but the measures were not completely removed.
Since Raul Castro in effect took over from his brother, Fidel, Spain in particular has pressed hard for a complete removal of the sanctions in the light of what it sees as important reforms in Cuba.
Other countries like Sweden, and in particular the Czech Republic, believe the changes are mainly cosmetic, especially in the area of human rights.
EU benefits
In practice, the EU sanctions are largely symbolic. Unlike the US embargo which has been in force since 1962, they do not amount to any restriction on trade or investment.
Moreover, in recent years, and particularly under Raul Castro, who officially became president in February, the Cuban government has diversified its international relations.
Venezuela, which supplies billions of dollars worth of oil in exchange for Cuban doctors, and China, which buys considerable amounts of Cuba's nickel, are much more important trading partners than Europe.
Cuban government sources told the BBC the decision to lift sanctions would benefit the EU more than Cuba since it showed that Brussels could have a foreign policy independent of the US, our correspondent says.
S:BBCNews

Gloria Estefan seeks Obama help for Cuba dissidents

MIAMI (Reuters) – Cuban-American pop star Gloria Estefan asked President Barack Obama to work for the freedom of jailed dissidents in Cuba during a political fundraising event that seemed certain to anger the island's communist rulers. Estefan and her musical entrepreneur husband Emilio Estefan hosted a cocktail reception at their Miami home for Obama on Thursday evening, the first of two Democratic Party fundraisers he attended during a visit to Florida. During the reception, Obama was given a letter from the mother of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died on February 23 after an 85-day hunger strike to protest prison conditions in Cuba, participants in the event said. Local media reported Obama was also given a letter from another Cuban dissident hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas, who is seeking the release of ailing political prisoners. The president also viewed photographs of mothers and wives of jailed Cuban dissidents, known as the Ladies in White, being harassed in Havana by Cuban security agents and pro-government militants, local media said. Zapata's death and the subsequent incidents involving Cuban dissidents in recent weeks have triggered international criticism of Cuban President Raul Castro's government, including a stern denunciation last month from Obama. But Castro, who took over the Cuban presidency from his ailing elder brother Fidel in 2008, has rejected the pressure for political change and for the release of dissidents, saying his government will not submit to "blackmail." Cuban authorities routinely portray internal opponents as "mercenaries" and "traitors" in the pay of the United States and describe Miami as a center of U.S.-backed "counter-revolution" and hostility against communist rule. HOPES FOR THAW HAVE FADED In her words welcoming Obama and other guests at her home, Estefan referred to an "oppressive government" in Cuba, which she called "the country where I was born, a place where hope and freedom only live in history, not in the present." The reception was closed to media, but local TV networks showed photographs of Obama viewing photographs of the Cuban dissident "Ladies in White" at the Estefan home. The speech by Estefan, whose father fought in the failed 1961 U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion against Cuba by Cuban exiles, was published on Friday by the Miami Herald. At a second Democratic fundraising event in Miami later on Thursday, Obama spoke publicly and reaffirmed U.S. support for earthquake-hit Haiti, but did not refer to Cuba in the speech. After taking office early last year, Obama said he wanted to attempt a "new beginning" to improve U.S.-Cuban ties, and he eased restrictions on Cuban-American family visits and money remittances to Cuba in a slight relaxation of the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against the island. But he also called on the Cuban leadership to reciprocate by improving human rights and political freedom. Hopes for a Havana-Washington thaw have faded however following the arrest in Cuba in December of a U.S. contractor accused of illegally distributing telecommunications equipment and jailed dissident Zapata's death in February. Some members of Miami's Cuban-American community, a traditional Republican stronghold, had criticized the Democratic fundraiser hosted by Estefan. But she parried this criticism by saying it was an opportunity to "get the ear" of the president to talk to him about the situation in Cuba. (Editing by Eric Beech)

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The End May Be Near

Cuba is at a critical turning point.

 

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Since 1959, fortunes have been lost betting on the end of the Cuban revolution. Countless books, essays, articles, statements, and resolutions have predicted the fall of Fidel Castro. These false warnings have been a source of endless frustration for those hoping for radical change in Cuba. Despite this record, it's time to raise the question again. Is the Castro regime entering its final days?
Three factors suggest Cuba is at a critical turning point. First, the economy is in its most severe crisis since the Soviet Union collapsed and stopped subsidizing Cuba in the early 1990s. Last year's fall in the price of nickel (Cuba's largest export) and in tourism, the stagnation of remittances from relatives in Miami, and recent hurricanes have paralyzed the island. Blackouts, terrible deficiencies in health care, food shortages, a housing crisis, and Cuba's suspension of debt payments to its creditors since January 2009 all point to a bleak future. Cuba now relies heavily on subsidies from Venezuela, but they're not enough. Cubans are accustomed to suffering, but their misery is reaching new lows. And it's no longer so easy to blame American imperialism. Barack Obama seems to be hugely popular with ordinary Cubans.
That explains factor No. 2: new signs of public protest. A hunger-strike movement is gathering steam after the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata, a 42-year-old activist who refused food for more than 80 days. Zapata's death dashed any chance of improving relations with the European Union, the United States—which condemned his death and called for the release of all political prisoners—and Mexico, which didn't, and whose president had planned to travel to Havana and no longer has the leeway to do so. And it inspired another dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, to launch his own hunger strike, seeking the release of other imprisoned activists. Fariñas has a rare eloquence and altruism, which are winning him a stature few dissidents have ever achieved. If his health starts to fail, events could take an unforeseeable turn.
Meanwhile, women fighting for the release of their relatives from jail, organized as the Ladies in White, are creating another new threat to the regime. For years they have marched in protest and have gone to mass every Sunday, seeking freedom for their loved ones, but suddenly their efforts have gained new momentum. Authorities can no longer prevent the marches, so they have opted, with classic Castro-Cuban skill and cynicism, to organize pro-government crowds to harass the women. Then police escort the ladies away, ostensibly to protect them from the jeering crowd. Photographs of the mob scene have circulated around the world, in the news and over the Internet.
It's not clear how widely those photos, or the news of Zapata's martyrdom and Fariñas's challenge, have circulated in Cuba itself. Cuban authoritarianism has long been able to isolate any opposition and to hold the Cuban population in a state of ignorance. Now, partly due to the tiny opening tolerated by Raúl Castro in allowing cell phones, the Internet, and calls from Miami, as well as to a small increase in visits by relatives from the U.S., thanks to Obama, Cubans may know a lot more than they used to.
That leads to factor No. 3: Fidel Castro, now 83, is ailing and has ceded day-to-day control to his brother Raúl, 78, who is no Fidel. The comandante would have freed Zapata, or executed him, but he never would have backed himself into a corner as his younger brother did. It would have been the same with Fariñas, or with the Ladies in White, especially when these protests were erupting in the midst of an economic debacle. In August 1994 Fidel showed up in a jeep at the Malecón in Havana, in the middle of a mass exodus of boat people, to quiet a boisterous crowd of protesters with the magic of his words and the implicit threat of brutal repression. Raúl Castro is not capable of such a feat. He lacks the political instincts that allowed his brother for half a century to sniff out potential adversaries even before they saw themselves as such.
The field is tinder-dry. Only a tiny spark exists. But the firefighters are exhausted. And the last hope for the Cuban revolution, residing in Caracas, could go under at any moment. This feels like an unprecedented moment in the history of Castroism. It could be just another flare-up, or a perfect storm.

Castañeda is a former foreign minister of Mexico, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Cuba says drugs, alcohol caused Chilean's death

HAVANA (Reuters) – A Chilean businessman found dead this week in Cuba following questioning in a corruption investigation died of "acute respiratory insufficiency" caused by a mixture of drugs and alcohol, the Cuban government said in a statement on Friday. The death of Roberto Baudrand, 59, whose body was found in his Havana apartment on Tuesday, prompted speculation he may have killed himself over a Cuban probe involving government agencies and companies, including a joint venture he managed, but the statement did not say whether he died by suicide or other means. It did not say how much alcohol Baudrand had consumed nor which drugs were in his system, in findings said to be based on a preliminary investigation and autopsy by Cuba's Institute of Legal Medicine. On Thursday, sources close to the case and Baudrand's family said they had been told preliminary autopsy results found he had died of a heart attack. The Chilean government has asked for a full investigation by Cuban authorities. Baudrand was manager of food firm Rio Zaza, a joint venture between the Cuban government and Chilean businessman Max Marambio, a former bodyguard for the late Chilean President Salvador Allende who became a close ally of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In its statement, the government confirmed for the first time that Rio Zaza was under investigation for "the presumed commission of irregularities and violations of laws." It said a group of Chilean executives have been implicated, but with the exception of Baudrand they had "abandoned the country" or not shown up for questioning. Baudrand had been requested to stay in Cuba until the investigation was finished, the statement said. Foreign media and dissident blogs have reported the probe was linked to the recent dismissal of longtime Cuban Civil Aviation Minister Rogelio Acevedo, but the government made no mention of him. Marambio's lawyer, Eduardo Contreras, told Reuters on Thursday he believed Baudrand died of natural causes but could not rule out suicide. "Roberto was a depressive person and had hypertension. When I traveled to Havana, he had me bring medicines several times," the lawyer said. "I saw that Robert was very nervous, very tense," Contreras added. One of Baudrand's relatives told Chilean media on Wednesday he had heart problems and likely died of a heart attack. (Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Todd Eastham)
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    Adam Fri Apr 16, 2010 07:59 am PDT Report Abuse
    Cuba is a jump board to smuggle cocaine to Florida, so the island is infested with Cocaine. Tourists get it at cheaper prices than Europe , Mexico, or USA. Corruption, promiscuity, prostitution and illegal drugs are everywhere in the puppet commie island. The War on drugs will target Cuba, because Cuba is a threat to democratic and capitalistic countries near the island.
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    teresa Fri Apr 16, 2010 08:29 am PDT Report Abuse
    dead ass
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    jose 12 hours ago Report Abuse
    How low can a dictatorship like the brothers Castro can go. The businessman didn't drink less consume drugs. Before the Castro's propaganda and only allowed press in Cuba said it was a suicide, now because of alcohol and drugs, what next? All these suicides are very suspicious, previously were relatives of Socialist and comrade of Fidel Castro president of Chile Salvador Allende, his relatives, including his daughter Taty also commited suicide in very strange circunstances. The brothers Castro are up to their ears in corruption, prostitution and money (US dollars) drug and investments schemes...now the witnesses and others involved, must be eliminated, brothers Castro ad his boys style-- Suicide or AK-47 full clip
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    manuella 17 minutes ago Report Abuse
    Take a Note, anotherone for the Castros Sisters,(they are gay) we you stop giving money to those Pigs thats the price you paid, the Little (Fabrica) was producing to much Dough and the Sister want it more and the Chilean said no and that when he get arrested and Die.....Pigs The Locas Castro Need to GoOOOOOO Manuella the Anti-Commnist and Locas Castro Hater...