Monday, May 3, 2010

Cuba visitors must have travel health insurance

A worker helps tourists, arriving from Canada, to carry their 
baggage at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Monday, May 
2, 2010. Cuba beg AP – A worker helps tourists, arriving from Canada, to carry their baggage at the Jose Marti International … 
HAVANA – Cuba has quietly begun requiring foreign tourists and Cubans who live overseas to hold travel insurance approved by island authorities, while making those who don't have coverage buy a local policy that can cost over $3 a day. The new law took effect Saturday and mandates that travelers who can't show they have authorized insurance buy a policy from state-run Cubatur before being allowed into the country. A Cubatur kiosk at Havana's airport sold 113 policies on the first day alone, Ricardo Lopez, a Cubatur office manager, said Monday. The measure was made law in February, but there had been no mention of how it would be implemented. A government spokeswoman said officials were still waiting for details Friday night, hours before the law took effect. Lopez provided a government document explaining that kiosks selling health insurance had been established in international airports across Cuba. They accept U.S. or Canadian dollars, euros, British pounds and Swiss francs — though all prices are set in Cuban convertible pesos, pegged at US$1.08. A policy covering medical expenses up to 7,000 pesos, or $7,560, costs between 2 and 3 pesos ($2.16-$3.24) a day, depending on an array of factors. Travelers 70 or older or those planning to engage in high-risk activities will have to pay an unspecified additional premium. Lopez said he had not seen a list of what kinds of insurance was approved and from which countries, but said he had been told Cuba will accept state or private insurance from any country except the United States, given Washington's 48-year trade embargo. He said all foreigners — except diplomats and those who live here while working for oversees companies — would be required to show proof of insurance. But enforcement appears spotty. Interviews with five passengers getting off a flight from Toronto on Monday found that none had been asked to show insurance. A passenger who arrived earlier from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and one who came from Mexico City on Saturday also said no one asked them to show proof of insurance. A record 2.4 million foreigners came to Cuba last year, with Canada the largest source, followed by Britain, Spain, Italy and France. Like communist Cuba, all those countries provide their citizens with health care financed totally by taxes, and often reimburse the cost of care during overseas travel. Still, Canada is recommending its citizens visiting Cuba purchase supplemental health insurance. A Canadian government travel advisory says that "your provincial plan may cover only part of the costs and will not pay the bill upfront, as required."

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Cuba attracts Russian visitors with sun, nostalgia

HAVANA (AFP) – Cuba hopes to attract some 45,000 Russian tourists this year, officials said Monday, targeting nostalgia for the communist island's long-running alliance with the former Cold War superpower. Having soared 22 percent so far this year over 2009 figures, Tourism Minister Joseph Bieber at the 30th International Tourism Fair devoted to Russian tourists said the economic crisis had caused a drop in visitors last year. Alexander Radkov, vice president of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, attended the fair highlighting the Caribbean island's wealth of beautiful white sand beaches and tropical sun, along with dozens of Russian business representatives. Havana's secret weapon for Russian tourists is nostalgia, officials said, playing off a 30-year relationship between the countries due to a once strong political and economic alliance between them. Relations deteriorated following the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, but ties have been growing back over the last five years. Tourism is Cuba's second largest economic sector after medical services, and it has a total of 47,000 rooms available in 300 tourist hotels around the island. In 2009, Cuba received 2.4 million tourists, up 3.5 percent over a year earlier.

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US Senate panel urges overhaul of broadcasts to Cuba

US Senate panel urges overhaul of broadcasts to Cuba AFP/Getty Images/File – A sign hangs on the wall at Radio and TV Marti headquarters in Miami, Florida. US government-backed radio …
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US government-backed radio and television broadcasts into Cuba reach a tiny audience there and suffer from poor editorial standards, a US Senate Committee said in a scathing report released Monday. Founded to give Cubans accurate, unbiased news programming, Radio Marti and TV Marti "have failed to make any discernable inroads into Cuban society or to influence the Cuban Government," said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The panel's report, dated April 29, notes that US government-sponsored research has found that less than two percent of Cubans listen to Radio Marti, and "claims that TV Marti has any stable viewership are suspect." The panel, led by Democratic Senator John Kerry, sharply criticized the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) that oversees both outlets has having "failed to adhere to generally accepted journalistic standards." "Both internal and external investigations have criticized OCB for broadcasting unsubstantiated reports from Cuba as legitimate news stories, for using offensive and incendiary language in news broadcasts, and for a lack of timeliness in news reporting," the committee said. And "interviews with recently arrived Cuban immigrants show that among those who were familiar with the broadcasts, only a small minority thought they were 'objective.'" The report, entitled "Cuba: Immediate Action Is Needed to Ensure the Survivability of Radio and TV Marti," calls for moving OCB to Washington and integrate it with Voice of America (VOA) to boost its standards. OCB must also "clean up its operation" by implementing editorial standards and drawing better on-air staff and managers, and "spend less money on measuring audience size and focus more on quality programming." "We have to reinvigorate people-to-people relations with Cuba and enhance our outreach to civil society," said Kerry.

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May 03, 2010

Clinton cites Yoani Sánchez as an example of a cyberjournalist harassed by the state

Excerpts from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's public statement on Monday, marking World Press Freedom Day.A (foto) free press is essential to an empowered citizenry, government accountability and responsible economic development. Wherever independent media are under threat, accountable governance and human freedom are undermined. [...]
For exercising the right to free expression, journalists and bloggers are too often targeted for harassment, intimidation, arrest, physical attack and even murder, often at the hands of unknown assailants who act with impunity.
In November 2009, President Obama applauded the efforts of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez to “empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology” and said that her blog “provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba.”
That (foto2) same month she and two fellow bloggers were forcibly detained by plain clothes security personnel while en route to a peaceful demonstration, and she and one of her companions were beaten. [...]
Governments in every region of the world apply restrictive laws and regulations and other controls on media freedom. These restrictions often extend beyond traditional print and broadcast media to new forms of electronic communications through the Internet and other new technologies. [...]
The United States is committed to working in partnership with members of the media, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and other concerned governments to defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who are persecuted for exercising it on the challenging new terrain of the 21st century.
To read the entire statement, click here.
S:Cuban Colada

LPP Breaking News & More...

The car's owner sold it for internet three weeks before the assassination attempt

Posted Tuesday, 10/5/2004 at 00: 07
The vehicle owner was intended to blow up this weekend at the Plaza Times Square in New York, recently sold it through a web page that looks like someone be "Middle East" or "Hispanic "CBS said Wednesday.
This channel, which did not identify its sources, explained that sales of Nissan Pathfinder 1993 amounted to $ 1,300 and agreed through Craigslist, one of the most popular websites in the United States to sell or exchange goods and services.
The television network CNN, quoting investigative sources, said however that the price of the vehicle was $ 1,800 and notes that the transaction, in which no papers were exchanged the car, took place in a shopping center in the state Connecticut three weeks ago.
U.S. officials have questioned the original owner and have ruled treat as a suspect in the investigation that followed the failed attempt to perpetrate it was last Saturday in the most crowded square and famous New York.
So far, no one has identified no suspects and officials today called for patience to New Yorkers and the maximum support of the citizen effort to identify those responsible, and determine if one man can be recorded in an attitude "suspicious" about vehicle shortly after it was parked in Times Square. "
In the images you see how a white man stops in the middle of the street near where he parked a vehicle loaded with propane gas canisters and petrol, watches and fireworks, among other things, removed some clothing, stored in a bag and keep walking while looking at both sides.

Man on video sought after NYC car bomb plot fails

NEW YORK – The car bomb was a crude concoction of ordinary items — fireworks, fuel and fertilizer — that authorities suspect was meant to cause maximum mayhem in the heart of Times Square. In the end, the device fizzled and the city and its residents counted themselves lucky once again: lucky that a vendor saw smoke creeping out of the car parked in one of the busiest streets in America; lucky that authorities responded quickly; and lucky that the would-be terrorists were clumsy enough to assemble a bomb that wasn't capable of exploding. But it was enough to fray nerves and set off a frenzied probe in what New York Police Department officials called the most serious car bomb plot in the city since the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, in which six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured. "Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem, to create casualties," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The hunt was on Monday for a middle-aged man who was videotaped shedding his shirt near the sport utility vehicle where the bomb was found. Authorities also wanted to talk to the owner of the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, making the morning talk show rounds Monday, warned on NBC's "Today" that the person on the tape may not become a suspect. "There are millions of people that come through Times Square," he said. "This person happened to be in a position which a camera got a good shot of him, and maybe he had something to do with it but there's a very good chance that he did not. We're exploring a lot of leads." Bloomberg also reiterated on ABC's "Good Morning America" there was no "legitimate" evidence that foreign terrorists were connected to the attack. The Pakistani Taliban appeared to claim responsibility for the car bomb in three videos that surfaced after the weekend scare, monitoring groups said. New York officials said police have no evidence to support the claims and noted that the same group had falsely taken credit for previous attacks on U.S. soil. But Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told "Today" on Monday that no suspects had been ruled out. "Right now, every lead has to be pursued," she said. "I caution against premature decisions one way or another." The New York surveillance video, made public late Sunday, shows an unidentified white man apparently in his 40s slipping down Shubert Alley and taking off his shirt, revealing another underneath. In the same clip, he's seen looking back in the direction of the smoking vehicle and furtively putting the first shirt in a bag. Police hoped to interview the tourist who took the video. The NYPD and FBI also were examining "hundreds of hours" of security videotape from around Times Square. Despite the attempt to instill fear, Times Square sprung back to life. "This is America. This is what we do," said Earl Morriss of Seattle, who was sightseeing. "Nobody is going to stop us from living our lives and doing what we want to do." Police had identified the registered owner of the dark-colored Pathfinder and were looking to interview him. The vehicle didn't have an easily visible vehicle identification number and had license plates that came from a car found in a repair shop in Connecticut. Police released a photograph of the SUV as it crossed an intersection at 6:28 p.m. Saturday. A vendor pointed out the SUV to an officer about two minutes later. The explosive device in the SUV had cheap-looking alarm clocks connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks, which were apparently intended to detonate the gas cans and set the propane afire in a chain reaction, Kelly said. It could have cut the SUV in half, produced "a significant fireball" and sprayed shrapnel and metal parts with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows. Investigators had feared that a final component placed in the cargo area — a metal rifle cabinet packed a fertilizer-like substance and rigged with wires and more fireworks — could have made the device even more devastating. Test results late Sunday showed it was indeed fertilizer, but NYPD bomb experts believe it was not a type volatile enough to explode like the ammonium nitrate grade fertilizer used in previous terror attacks, said police spokesman Paul Browne. The exact amount of fertilizer was unknown. Police estimated the cabinet weighed 200 to 250 pounds when they pulled it from the vehicle. Times Square, choked with taxis and people on one of the first summer-like days of the year, was shut down for 10 hours. Detectives took the stage at the end of some of Broadway shows to announce to theatergoers that they were looking for witnesses in a bombing attempt. "No more New York," said Crysta Salinas. The 28-year-old Houston woman was stuck waiting in a deli until 2 a.m. because part of a Marriott hotel was evacuated because of the bomb. ___ Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela and Michael Kuchwara in New York, AP Radio correspondent Julie Walker in New York, AP writers Eileen Sullivan and Pete Yost in Washington D.C., Colleen Long in North Carolina, Robert H. Reid in Kabul, and Ryan Lucas in Cairo. Eds: CORRECTS that Bloomberg spoke on two networks, sted just ABC. AP Video.

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Cuba allows dissidents to march after 3 weeks of confrontation

Associated Press
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba allowed a small group of dissidents to hold a protest march on Sunday after the country's top Roman Catholic clergyman negotiated with authorities, ending three straight weeks...
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba allowed a small group of dissidents to hold a protest march on Sunday after the country's top Roman Catholic clergyman negotiated with authorities, ending three straight weeks of ugly confrontations.
The government's decision was a victory for the Damas de Blanco — or Ladies in White — who had marched peacefully and with little fanfare down Havana's Quinta Avenida boulevard for seven years before the government suddenly forbade the protests on April 11. The group is comprised of the wives and mothers of some 75 dissidents jailed in a 2003 crackdown, as well as supporters who joined them later.
Sunday's march followed a Mass at Santa Rita de Casia Church presided over by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who told parishioners, including 13 Damas, that he had intervened with authorities to allow the women to resume their small protests.
Ortega said he assured authorities that the Damas would not try to expand their activities, but would return to their normal Sunday routine.
"I gave a sort of guarantee that they are going to do what they have always done," and no more, the cardinal told reporters.
The government's unusual decision to negotiate, he said, "is a slightly new way of acting. Before, one was answered with silence. Now, we have an answer."
Laura Pollan, the Damas' leader, said authorities have agreed to let the women march during the month of May, and will review their decision after that.
"For us, it is a little victory," Pollan said after the march. "We feel partially satisfied because we don't have to ask for permission and we are going to continue marching. But we will be most satisfied only when our relatives are freed."
No reason was given for the government's about-face, just as no reason was given for the decision to stop the protests in April.
Ortega did not say which official he had talked with, but the clergyman's intervention clearly worked.
On the past three weekends, as the women emerged from church, waiting Cuban officials told them not to march and crowds of pro-government counter-protesters surrounded them. Last weekend, the Damas stood under a large ficus tree for seven hours while the counter-protesters screamed at them.
Cuba says the counter-protests occur spontaneously due to islanders' hatred of the opposition, but little effort is made to hide coordination between state agents and the crowd.
Cuba's human rights record has been in the spotlight since the Feb. 23 death of a dissident hunger striker. In March, the Damas broke their routine of weekly protests with seven straight days of marches in various locations in Havana. Hundreds of shouting pro-government demonstrators turned out at each of the marches and security agents forcefully bundled the women into a bus when they refused to stop one of the protests.
Cuban officials denounced the sudden media attention as part of a global campaign against the island directed by Washington. The government considers the opposition, including the Damas, to be paid mercenaries and common criminals.
Ortega recently said in an April interview with a church magazine that Cuba is in a deep crisis and that its people are hungry for political and economic changes sooner rather than later.
He said Sunday the Damas' need to march was "very understandable and very human."
"These women are fighting for the freedom of their husbands and relatives," he said. "No matter their cause, I think that they are people that merit respect and special consideration."
Updated May 02, 2010___
Associated Press writer Paul Haven contributed to this report.
The Cuban Catholic Church insists on negotiating with Fariñas his abandonment to the hunger strike PDF Imprimir E-mail
Written by Stated in the field   
Monday, May 3, 2010 00:25

S: Cuba Libre Digital-Last updated on Monday, May 3, 2010 00:30

Predators of the press

Reporters Without Borders released its updated list of 40 predators of press. In Latin America repeated the names of 2009: the drug traffickers  the Cuban dictatorship, the FARC and paramilitary groups.
Photo: AP
The leader Raul Castro was described as a "predator of the press" by RSF.

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The nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) updated its list of "predators" of press freedom in the world, including this year to 40 political leaders, religious leaders,  militias and criminal organizations that "make your enemy press  preferred.
The publication of the new list May 3 this coincides with the Day International Press Freedom and the 25th anniversary of  Reporters Without Borders.
In Latin America, we repeated the same names as the year past: "the drug traffickers, the Cuban dictatorship, the FARC and groups paramilitaries, "according to RSF.
As for drug traffickers, the organization noted that Sinaloa cartels, Juarez and Gulf operating in Mexico "does not hesitate certain corrupt politicians to impose their law. "
In this war of drugs, violence and corruption, cartels have been  become one of the most dangerous continent for journalists.
RSF recalled that since 2000, 62 journalists were killed by cartels. And since 2003, ten reporters disappeared. "More than half researching issues related to  drug trafficking, "according to the organization.
In Cuba, Raúl Castro the leader was identified as a "predator press freedom. "
"With 25 (journalists) prisoners, Cuba ranks among the first  prison for journalists in the world right behind China and Iran, "  according to RSF. The situation changed with the arrival of Raul Castro power, the agency said.
And in Colombia, the FARC and the paramilitary group Aguilas Negras were targeted as a predator of the press.
In the case of the Black Eagles, RSF noted that the militia wing right, "designed to replace the Army in its fight against left-wing guerrillas, "is far from having delivered the weapons.
March again after three Sundays and having been subjected to acts of harassment
Las Damas de Blanco vuelven a desfilar por La Habana tras la 
mediación de la Iglesia ante el Gobierno de Raúl Castro
Image file progress a peaceful group of members of the Ladies in White by streets of Havana.
Published Sunday , 10.05.2002 at 19 : 16
The Ladies  White, Relatives of Cuban dissidents jailed in 2003, have returned to a peaceful march through the mediation of Catholic Church with the government of Raul Castro, as confirmed by the  Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
After three Sundays without having to go and been subjected to acts of harassment, the Ladies in White and several followers called "ladies of support"-a total of twelve women, have made his usual walk, gladioli in hand, after attending Mass  the Havana church of Santa Rita, which was officiated by himself Cardinal Ortega.