Wednesday, June 9, 2010

LPP Archive...

Cuba faces tough US choice

Emotional reuinions at Havana airport
For many, the move means more time can be spent with their loved ones

As the US eases restrictions on Cuban Americans visiting relatives back home, the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana looks at the impact this could have on a 50-year-old conflict.
Havana airport's Terminal 2 is reserved exclusively for charter flights from Miami.
Every day, noisy crowds pack around the barrier in front of the exit from the customs hall waiting for their relatives to emerge.
There are screams of excitement and tears of joy as families rush to greet their loved ones.
Under the Bush administration, Cuban Americans could return only once every three years - and with strict limits on how much they could spend or send home.
"I feel great, I've got my family with me now, it's awesome," said Miami resident Roberto Grande after hugging his mother and sisters.
"I think things are going to get better now. I think there's a big hope with the new president [Barack Obama]. He's making a lot of changes for good."
Cuba abuzz
President Obama recently said there were "no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans".
Similar arguments are now being used by those who are trying to push a bill through Congress that would lift the travel ban on all Americans visiting this Communist-run island.
If we start to communicate then people will understand us
Cuban pensioner
There were some US citizens on the same flight as Roberto Grande.
All had special treasury department licences which are usually given on humanitarian or religious grounds, or for legalised food sales.
Now Cuba is abuzz with speculation that American tourists could soon be on the way, joining the two million other holidaymakers who come here each year, mainly from Canada and Europe.
In the US, shares in the major cruise-liner operators have jumped in anticipation of a change in policy.
At present any ship that docks in Cuba cannot enter a US port for six months.
Only one smallish cruise ship, sailing out of Nassau in the Bahamas, has docked in Havana in the past year.
Some Cubans believe that American tourists could be in for a big surprise if they are allowed to come.
"If we start to communicate then people will understand us," explained Armando, a pensioner who did not want to give his surname.
"Over there they tell lies about Cuba. Newspapers there don't tell the truth. They don't want their people to come here because they might discover how it really is."
Internet woes
Another important step is the lifting of restrictions on Cuban Americans sending money home as well as what they can include in care packages.
For a country where the average salary is around $20 (£13) a month, these remittances are an important economic lifeline for thousands of people.
Cruise ship in Cuba
Just one cruise ship has docked in Cuba in the past year
President Obama is also allowing US telecommunications companies to bid for licences here, though it is unlikely the Cuban Authorities will co-operate.
But if this includes access to the internet through the US undersea fibre-optic cables, that could have a major impact.
At present the only internet available in Cuba is via satellite. It is expensive and slow.
The government here has long claimed that this is the reason why people cannot have the internet at home.
'Rubbed off the map'
The announcement from Washington comes just days before the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, which President Obama will attend.
Cuba map
He is likely to face pressure for further moves towards ending the decades-long conflict which many see as a leftover from the Cold War.
Cuba is the only country not invited to the summit, a fact that many Cubans deeply resent.
"It's as if someone took a rubber and erased us off the map. We exist, we should be invited," said retired agriculture worker Eugenio Martinez.
There are no signs, though, that the trade embargo is about to be lifted.
The Obama administration continues to insist that Cuba must first make progress towards democracy and on human rights.
Cuba's President Raul Castro has pushed through some limited social and economic reforms. But this remains a one-party state with no opposition allowed.
'Totalitarian regime'
The European Union has taken a different approach and has already removed all its sanctions and recently announced a 40m euro development aid package.
The EU argues that engaging with the Cubans on areas of common interest such as trade and the environment could open the door to future discussions on issues such as human rights.
Dissidents such as Miriam Leiva, a rights campaigner, are sceptical of the approach.
"Its very naive what they are doing," she said.
"You can't expect a totalitarian regime to change just because you come along and say I want a dialogue. It's not a dialogue, it's a monologue."
She does welcome the moves on allowing Cuban Americans visiting relatives and sending remittances home.
The announcement from Washington did not make headline news on Cuban state television, but the statement by the presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs was shown and reported, including details of the telecommunications plans.
In one of his recent editorials, former President Fidel Castro wrote that Cuba "does not fear dialogue with the United States nor do we need confrontation to exist".
President Obama has made the first move. All eyes are now on President Raul Castro to see if he can offer any reciprocal gestures to help push the process forward.

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U.N. council hits defiant Iran with new sanctions

Young boy stands behind flag as he and his mother, supporters of 
Iranian President Ahmadinejad, wait for his arrival at Tehran's Mehrabad
 Internat Reuters – A young boy stands behind a flag as he and his mother, supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, …
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on a defiant Iran on Wednesday over a nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing the means to build atom bombs. The 15-nation council passed a resolution that was the product of five months of talks between the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia. With 12 votes in favor, it received the least support of the four Iran sanctions resolutions adopted since 2006. The four Western powers had wanted much tougher measures -- some targeting Iran's energy sector -- but Beijing and Moscow succeeded in diluting the steps outlined in the 10-page resolution. "This council has risen to its responsibilities. Now Iran should choose a wiser course," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the council after the vote. Iran denies Western allegations that it is seeking nuclear weapons, insisting that its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy purposes only. The resolution calls for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to the nuclear or missile programs is suspected, as well as vigilance over transactions with any Iranian bank, including the central bank. It also expands a U.N. arms embargo against Tehran and blacklists three firms controlled by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and 15 belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The resolution also calls for setting up a cargo inspection regime similar to one in place for North Korea. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday that individual states will likely move quickly to pass their own measures that go beyond the U.N. sanctions. BLACKLIST Annexed to the draft resolution is a list of 40 companies to be added to an existing U.N. blacklist of firms whose assets around the world are to be frozen on suspicion of aiding Iran's nuclear or missile programs. The new blacklist includes only one individual, Javad Rahiqi, head of an Iranian nuclear center where uranium is processed. His assets will also be blocked and he will face an international travel ban. The focus of heated last-minute negotiations, the new blacklist that emerged on Tuesday morning contained 41 firms, including two banks. By the end of the day China had demanded the deletion of one bank, the Export Development Bank of Iran. Brazil and Turkey voted against the resolution. Their U.N. envoys said before the vote that they saw no reason for more sanctions against Tehran. Turkey and Brazil last month revived parts of a plan brokered by U.N. nuclear inspectors in October for Tehran to part with 1,200 kg (2,600 pounds) of low enriched uranium (LEU) return for special fuel rods for a medical research reactor. They said the deal bolstered the case against sanctions. But the United States, Britain, France and Germany say the deal did nothing to change Tehran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment in defiance of five Security Council resolutions. Lebanon had made clear it was unable to support the resolution because the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah is in the government. It abstained in the vote. IRAN'S PROPOSAL Iran's LEU proposal also raised concerns, Russia, France and the United States said in a note to the U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, diplomats said on Wednesday. Iran had proposed to part with no more LEU -- potential atomic bomb material if enriched to a very high purity level -- than it did under the original October deal, even though its LEU stockpile had almost doubled since then, they said. Iran had also begun refining uranium to a higher level in February. The first two Iran sanctions resolutions, adopted in 2006 and 2007, passed unanimously. The council approved a third set of sanctions in 2008 with 14 "Yes" votes and one abstention. Three rounds of punitive measures aimed at Iran's nuclear and missile industries have hit its economy hard but failed to persuade its leadership to halt its nuclear program or come to the negotiating table. Instead, Iran continues to enrich uranium at increasingly higher levels, despite occasional hints of possible military action against its nuclear sites by Israel or Washington. Iran's U.N. ambassador, Mohammad Khazaee said on Tuesday that the push for sanctions showed that some "prefer confrontation" and Iran would react in an "appropriate" way. (Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Storey)

Cuba denies its rejection rapporteur's visit, but reiterates that there is torture

Geneva, June 9 (EFE) .- Cuba's government expressed "surprise" the announcement made today by the UN special rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, that his planned visit to the island was canceled after being informed by Havana that he could not fix a date.
In a response statement issued this afternoon by the mission of Cuba to the UN in Geneva, stated that Nowak's note "no corresponds to the continuous efforts by the advance Cuban authorities to facilitate the completion of the visit and the exchanges between the two parties in a climate of confidence. "
Ensures mission in recent contacts with the experts " he reiterated the validity of the invitation and will continue working to make this possible in a mutually agreed. "
The Cuban mission also ensures, in response to Nowak, "Cuba does not need an objective assessment of the situation in the country "and that on the island "is not a single case of execution enforced disappearance or extrajudicial. "
"We recognized achievements in criminal justice  and crime prevention. Few countries can display the results Cuba in the treatment of the person concerned and their reintegration integration into society, "it added.
The UN expert expressed regret that the Government of Cuba did not possible to assess objectively the situation of torture and ill- treatment in the country by collecting information first hand of all available sources. "EFE

Meeting with the Pope on Thursday ...

Zapatero will talk at the Vatican the law of religious freedom, and Cuba crisis

Foto de la Noticia
Photo: EP

You see the same day the Pope and Berlusconi, a made a somewhat unusual for the Vatican protocol

ROME / MADRID, 9 Nov. (EUROPA PRESS / Gloria Moreno) -
The draft law prepared by the Religious Freedom Spanish government, the economic crisis and the situation in Cuba will some of the issues addressed by the Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, on Thursday will visit the Vatican, first since Benedict was elected pope.
As usual, Zapatero will meet privately with Pope, scheduled at 11.00, which will address issues " general. "It will be later in the meeting to be with Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretary for  Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, when  will discuss issues "more concrete and practical," explained a Europa Press Spanish diplomatic sources.
"Taking into account that the visit coincides with the presidency Spanish European Union (EU), one of the subjects required is to economic crisis and the measures being taken to overcoming it, "the sources detailed.
The Vatican has expressed interest in learning about measures that coordinated way are intended to carry out both within the EU as in the G20, which has emerged as the world economic forum, says  For its part a spokesman for Moncloa.
"It's very possible that, by Vatican, has interest in knowing a more detailed draft of the Religious Freedom Act Government ", although" this topic could address the meeting rather  with Bertone and Mamberti, "according to diplomatic sources.
From Moncloa law states that religious freedom is not  currently a priority for the Executive, which is focused on fight against unemployment and out of the crisis, but remember the Government's interest to adjust the current rule, which dates from 1980, "a reality "of the moment.
Bertone and Mamberti probably also discuss the preparations for the Pope made trips to Santiago Compostela and Barcelona in November this year and Madrid in the summer of  next year.
The visit will also give rise to "an exchange of views on issues of common interest, "such as education, finance  Church, the whole church-state relations, as well as issues related to Latin America, and Cuba in particular.
Spain and the Vatican, say from the Moncloa, maintain positions  "Quite coincidental" in relation to Cuba, where both are committed to maintain a "demanding dialogue" with the Cuban authorities regarding to human rights and political prisoners.
In recent weeks the Catholic Church has begun to mediate to the Castro regime in order to secure the release of political prisoners, some efforts which have resulted in recent days in the transfer of some inmates to prisons closer to where their families live.
The meeting will provide an opportunity to exchange views on the latest developments on the island. The Minister Affairs and Cooperation Miguel Angel Moratinos, to accompany Zapatero during his visit to the Vatican will have met a few hours before with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, in Paris. Mgr Mamberti, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit the island in mid- month.
According Moncloa, the Middle East after the recent episode of the attack on the fleet and humanitarian concern Holy See on the persecution of Christian minorities in some countries of the Maghreb region and will likely also on the table.
On this last point, the Spanish Government will hear Vatican concern and seek solutions. Perhaps in Spain this context refers to the role that the Alliance Civilizations can play in such conflicts.
Zapatero's visit, who will not accompany his family, part in the Spanish presidency of the European Union, so the Spanish head of government Vatican moved to the priorities set for this semester.
The details of the visit the ambassador have materialized Spain to the Vatican, Francisco Vazquez, and Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The displacement of Zapatero to the Holy See will be somewhat unusual for the Vatican protocol, since that same day President Spanish will meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The foreign dignitaries who visit the Holy See often avoid meeting the same day with the pope and the Italian Prime Minister to make clear that the sovereignty of the Vatican is different from Italy.
In this case, the initiative of the encounter between the two heads of Berlusconi left government have confirmed to Europe Press sources Embassy of Spain in Rome. The Vatican, which has been consulted this issue, understands the interests of Italian Prime Minister to be  Zapatero in the current economic context and given the proximity of a next summit of European leaders in Brussels, said spokesman Moncloa.
Zapatero and Berlusconi will use to prepare the next European Council to be held in Brussels on 17 June and was focus on "economic issue", according to the Italian Executive.
The meeting will take place at the seat of government in Rome, Palazzo  Chigi, at 1300 hours. Then, Zapatero and Berlusconi will appear together with the media.

The morning will be the second meeting with Zapatero maintains Pope, after which it held in June 2006 on the occasion of the Day  World Family Day (WYD) in Valencia. Executive sources said then that the meeting was "extremely cordial." The Pope and Zapatero spoke on the occasion of peace, family, immigration, the future of Europe and especially the situation in Africa.
The Prime Minister also held in February 2008 a meeting with the papal nuncio in Spain, Monsignor Manuel Monteiro de Castro, an act that was dubbed "the soup" on Nunciature, although it was a dinner with all dishes.

Georgia governor calls for freer U.S.-Cuba trade

HAVANA (Reuters) – Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called on Tuesday for freer trade between the United States and Cuba, saying it would help the longtime foes resolve their differences. Perdue, a Republican, said he hoped the two countries would improve relations "very soon" so they "can join the hearts of our people in what would be the best outcome for both nations." The governor spoke to reporters at the end of a three-day trip to Cuba with a Georgia trade delegation seeking business with the communist-led island. The United States has imposed a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962, but agricultural goods are exempt from the sanctions, and Perdue said relaxing trade barriers further would help everybody. "When we go back (to Georgia) what we will say is that there are opportunities for better jobs and prosperity in the United States as a result of trade with Cuba," he said. "I will give them my opinion that I believe a freer trade environment to most countries would be helpful in our diplomatic and political relationships," he said. The United States is Cuba's leading source of farm products, many of which come from Georgia, which sells poultry and other goods to the island. Its exports to Cuba totaled $42.5 million last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. WARMER RELATIONS Perdue said no trade contracts were signed during this visit, but foundations were laid in meetings with Cuban trade officials for more business in the future. The United States and Cuba have been at odds since the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, but relations have warmed slightly since President Barack Obama took office last year. Obama has eased the embargo to let Cuban Americans travel freely to their homeland and has begun talks with Cuba on migration and postal service issues. But he has based further concessions on human rights improvements and the release of political prisoners in Cuba, both of which the Cuban government considers internal matters. Perdue is the first Republican governor from the U.S. deep South to visit the island in a number of years. Even though Republicans have historically taken a tough stance against Cuba, he said "My sense is that we have had virtually no criticism for coming down here and trying to do a little trade." Most people, Perdue said, understand that international trade creates a "better potential for world peace." The most important thing he learned on the trip, Perdue said, was that "People are people. And while our countries have had our political differences, the warmth of human nature shines through." (Editing by Sandra Maler)

UN torture expert dismayed by Cuba blocking visit 

2 hours, 14 minutes ago By The Associated Press
GENEVA - The U.N.'s independent torture investigator says he is deeply disappointed by Cuba's decision to block him from visiting the country for the first time.
Manfred Nowak says the Cuban government informed him it was unable to accommodate his visit before the end of his term on Oct. 30.
Nowak said Wednesday that he had received a "clear invitation" from the government earlier this year and had hoped to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment in the communist country.
The U.N.-appointed human rights expert has made several fruitless attempts to visit the island since 2005.
Cuban Ambassador in Geneva Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez declined to comment, saying he was awaiting instructions on the matter from Havana.

  1. Reuters Pictures logo Reuters Pictures 18 hours ago
    Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue listens to reporter's questions 
during a news conference in Havana June 8, 2010. Perdue was in Cuba 
leading a trade delegation from Georgia seeking business on the 
communist-led island.
    Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue listens to reporter's questions during a news conference in Havana June 8, 2010. Perdue was in Cuba leading a trade delegation from Georgia seeking business on the communist-led island. View Photo »
  2. I'm a business guy who happen(s) to be governor, and I'm going to be a business guy after I'm governor
    Sonny Perdue Sonny Perdue SOURCE: Ventura County Star 13 hours ago

Mission to Cuba: Delegation Returns

Updated: Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010, 10:51 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 08 Jun 2010, 10:34 PM EDT
By: RUSS SPENCER/myfoxatlanta
ATLANTA - Governor Sonny Perdue and several dozen Georgia business leaders returned Tuesday from a two-day trip to Cuba. The trip was a planned in hopes of expanding trade with the communist island nation.

Georgia exported more than $40 million worth of goods to Cuba last year, an exception to the trade embargo that allows sales of food and medicines for humanitarian reasons.

The governor's feet were barely on Cuban soil when he started to get the hard sell himself.
One of the biggest obstacles to increased trade is Cuba's dire financial situation. Cuba has to pay cash in advance for everything it buys from the U.S., and cash is in short supply. So are fruits and vegetables.

Georgia's agribusiness leaders were stunned by what they saw, and didn't see, at a Cuban grocery store.