Monday, June 14, 2010



The growing pain



hugo-chavez1.jpg
Finally comes the moment of truth. The world appreciates the Venezuelan reality for what it is and not as for more than a decade have tried to present both Mr Chavez, billionaires and their propagandists. There is no place for dissimulation, or to lie. Castro-Chavez's government is the most great fraud known civilization of this time.



By Oswaldo Alvarez Paz *

Caracas, June 14 / Even the most outstanding petrochulos continent away to begin to make something that went wrong and drag some of the hardships of international criminal proceedings.  In these cases, justice is the mill of God, but late safe. Of course it also analyzes the internal consequences  are visible in each of the countries that have the protagonists.

The balance of Chavez can not be retail, unless devote whole days to swell the negative thereof. Unfortunately nothing positive to register.
We do not say by sectarianism or resentment, but by the deep conviction from monitoring the destructive work of mediocre importantizados highly inefficient, corrupt and corrupting it undermines the institutions of the Republic to impose a state Cuban socialism to the people reject. The scheme is so weakened, despite the enormous concentration of political power and so successful economic illegitimate, which can only try maintained on the basis of overt and covert repression, and physical violence and institutional specialty Cubans governing critical areas of the country.
Recent enforcement actions send messages to all sectors. The opposition leaders, Chavez dissidence, the institutional sectors of what is remaining of armed force to management bodies as instruments of justice civic performance, especially with the few media independent.
The measures against Globovision, headed by its President, William  Zuloaga Nuñez and his son, is the latest reflection of cowardice infinite who are abusing the power to increase the fear and  inhibit resistance to the regime. With these lines ratified our unconditional solidarity with them and the companies have a responsibility to lead.
But despite everything, the countdown is underway. Chavez will be defeated in September, whatever you do. Will power in 2012, or sooner if you end of losing his sanity on the road. Must combat it with firmness and caution to avoid any nonsense. The rage, anger and fatigue in existing population are greater than the fear sown by the government. This type of  regimes have always ended badly. Too bad this great Venezuelan Graterol was Manuel Santander, Graterolacho, friend and companion many days, has fallen by the wayside. No matter old pa 'Lante forever.

Former presidential candidate *, Venezuela's former MP, former Zulia state governor.
S: Cubamatinal.es

More than 20 senior Cuban officials, colonels and generals-occupy key positions in the Venezuelan Army

Imprimir
junta-colegiada-ramiro-valdes-raul-castro-z"We're the same thing," said President Raúl Castro Cuba where he reviewed the Venezuelan official his last visit to Caracas after the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), a month ago. However, your host, Hugo Chavez, corrected: "We're the same country", asserting their affinity for immortalized by Fidel Castro motto: "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome." Quote of shared identity and similarity by the two allies confirms the strong and consistent presence Cuban military and its influence on the high command of the Armed Forces of Venezuela, reported recently by Gen. Antonio Rivero Gonzalez, former director of the National Civil Defense Protection. A alliance that has accelerated in recent months: up to 20 high officers-colonels and generals, are already in the Army Cuban Venezuela, occupying key positions. The marriage of convenience between regimes is known as "the miracle dand the Viagra "by the Venezuelan analyst Elizabeth Burgos-ex wife of French writer and philosopher Regis Debrais, close friend of Fidel Castro. Burgos said that the Castro brothers have been found in Chavez "the financial support after the collapse of the USSR 'is not only one ally.
This is not the first time that the system Castro tries to capture the economic and energy resources Venezuela and convert the land of Simon Bolivar in his spearhead for continental project. "In the '60s, Fidel Castro tried three  sometimes invade the Venezuelan coast, "recalled the Iván Carratu, former director of the Institute of Defence Studies National.
What Cuba is not achieved in the sixties in Venezuela, now they are getting without hitting a shot. This time "the Army  Cuba has not invaded, in the literal sense of the word. The Chavez submission is not a result of military defeat, not  conditions exist in the world to justify such an alliance nature, "explains the analyst Manuel Felipe Sierra.
Penetration  Cuban intensified in 2007 with the reform of the Organic Law of National Armed Forces, who politicized the Venezuelan military sector and incorporates the concept of "popular militias" to defend  revolution and its maximum leader.

Officially Chavez maintains that the Cuban presence does not exceed 30,000. However, other figures Cuban officials speak of 60,000 distributed in key areas like security, intelligence, police and military advice, control registration systems IDs, passports and notaries.
Also  food imports is in the hands of Cubans, including  70,000 tons of food that has come to the Venezuelan ports. Y Maiquetia Caracas airport receives two daily flights Cubans as if they were "ghosts" by the lack of official registration.
As  the KGB or Stasi
More than ideological, the relationship between Chavez and Castro is symbiotic. Born from the needs of both schemes. "The plan to remain in power Chavez needs a structure security and intelligence cultivated for 50 years by the Soviet KGB German Stasi and with good experience in activities against the CIA.  That it is Cuba, "says Sierra.
With the provision of free 95 000 barrels of oil, Chávez will guarantee extension  fidelismo the dying. Moreover, as the low in the polls Chavez's popularity as now by the economic crisis: 66%  of Venezuelans say they are completely dissatisfied with their management, "the Venezuelan leader" will increasingly need the help of  Cubans to consolidate his totalitarian project. " A symbiosis around the "Fatherland or death." And is that Castro and Chavez and Cuba want Venezuela are the same "thing."

Friday, June 11, 2010 12:27 ABC - Spain
S: La Nueva Cuba - Cuban Frist Independent Newpaper in the Internet
SATISFIED THE CUBAN CATHOLIC CHURCH


Monday, June 14, 2010 9:11

The release of a sick political prisoners and the transfer of another 12 to   prisons in places where their families live, multiplied in Cuba releases expectations ahead of the visit this week Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

By Isabel  Sanchez / AFP

LA HABANA

Mamberti arrive on Tuesday after the first returns of a dialogue between the Communist government and the Cuban Catholic Church, which after maintain a marginal profile in a historically tense relationship took a leading role not seen in 51 years of revolution in Cuba.
Ariel Sigler, 46, a paraplegic, was licensed on Saturday  sentence of 20 years was serving since 2003 and six other defendants were relocated, accounting for 12 shipments since it began on 1 June 1 process improvements for prisoners, as agreed by Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega at a meeting on 19 May.
"We continue in a process we do not know exactly what time is regulated, but there is no doubt that the signs are seeing are still incomplete but encouraging,''he said on Sunday AFP secretary of the Episcopal Conference, José Félix Pérez.
The benefits to the prisoners also occur on the eve of the European Union (EU) review the foreign ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg relations with Cuba, the target of criticism from Washington and Brussels about human rights.
The Cuban church disclaims Mamberti journey of the fruits of their Government rules out management and act under pressure from the "enemy''but families of prisoners and opponents expect the release of Sigler, born in a hospital in Havana to his people in western province of Matanzas, is the first in a list of prisoners  sick.
"We are very hopeful that the visit of Archbishop Mamberti and Spain continue to manage the releases, the sick should  out because we are going to die,''said Laura Pollan, leader of the Damas de Blanco, relatives of prisoners, and whose husband Hector Maseda was taken from a prison in Matanzas to Havana.
Mamberti, who will preside at Cuba's Catholic Social Week 16 June 20, talks with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and is to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and found on Thursday by Pope Benedict XVI.
After his release, Sigler said improvements for prisoners due to international pressure''.'' "The government that I have no thank you all, is a political maneuver''to face meeting Monday of the EU, he added.
Spain, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the month, called on Saturday process measures as a''positive and encouraging,''but failed to 27 "unanimity''on Monday to repeal the" Common Position,''which conditions since 1996 the relationship with that block progress on rights rights and democracy on the island.
"It must be changed by interventionist and obsolete,''reaffirmed in Paris Cuban Foreign Minister on Thursday after meeting with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Sigler and relocated 12 prisoners are part of a group of 75 Opponents condemned in 2003, of which 52 are in prison now, " arrests that led to EU sanctions against Cuba, raised in 2008 per pulse of Spain.
The current criticism of Washington and Brussels, which Cuba considers a campaign to destabilize the revolution, sparked death Orlando Zapata prisoner's opposition on 23 February by a strike- 85 days-hunger and fasting that began a day after the dissident Guillermo Fariñas.
"The release of Ariel is encouraging, but there are still many''Fariñas told AFP by telephone from the hospital western city of Santa Clara, where he continues his hunger strike press for the release of at least 10 of the 25 sick prisoners.
According to the opposition, Cuba has about 200 political prisoners, but the Government says they are "mercenaries''who attacked Washington  the country's security and accused the EU of serving the interests of United States and "double standards.''

Review / Notes of a Journalist...


Diabolical maneuver



represion-en-cuba.jpg
Perhaps the strategy is Raul Castro to improve the facade of his terrible tyranny.


Angelica Mora

New York, June 13 / It's like when unscrupulous individuals painted with white lime to cover the property damage of years of negligence in the building in order to deceive the unwary.
Or when a car salesman immoral, polishes the vehicle and alter the odometer, in their eagerness to sell it and cry, without any  scruples, which is a great bargain.
Cosmetics ads Cuban regime to the Church that releasing a political prisoner sick and produced some transfer of prisoners from one place to another, only they aim at creating environment "nothing happens here, to two major events that Dictatorship want to put your face rejuvenated.
This is the meeting of the European Union (EU) planned for this Monday and arrived in Cuba by a delegation from the Vatican.
In the first, the Cuban regime wants to show that "cleaned up home.
The aim is to change the attitude of the members of the EU, who suspended negotiations last April 6 in Madrid, horrified at the death, two months earlier, the Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata, after 85 days on hunger strike, calling the freedom for political prisoners.
On Monday, the European ministers discussed the possibility of opening a  "Process of reflection on the future of relations with Cuba", as would signal a minimal gesture of openness, although this would subject to "efforts by the other party."
Hence the effort of the other party. And the presence of virtual broom Raul Castro, who is sweeping prisoners politicians under the carpet so as not to see. And still look out, smiling and grateful to appear benevolent government of Havana, personified by Raul Castro, who makes concessions for them.
And in the second event, also the "clean house" will serve to  Dictatorship to be presentable in front of the arrival of the delegation Vatican, presided by the Holy See's foreign minister, Dominique Mamberti.
However, the releases and transfers are insufficient. Show no real desire for positive changes political prisoners and are just tricks to improve the façade of the exterior.
The bell on the document release of Ariel Sigler Amaya says it all: leave "parole."
That means that the chain still attached can be collected in any time.
S: Cubamatinal.es

LPP Frist Draft...


Political Prisoner Released a Paraplegic

Monday, June 14, 2010
Here's why the Castro regime prohibits the U.N.'s Special Investigator on Torture and the International Commission on the Red Cross from entering Cuba (while welcoming foreign tourists with open arms to the regime's apartheid beach resorts).

Ariel Sigler Amaya was a 250-pound amateur boxer when arrested in 2003 for his outspoken criticism of the Castro regime as head of the Independent Alternative Option Movement (IAOM), an opposition group in the western province of Matanzas.

On Saturday, he was released from prison a 106-pound paraplegic.

The picture below speaks for itself.
Here's what Ariel had to say to Spain's EFE:

"I will not stop fighting for freedom and democracy in Cuba. I will continue fighting for the freedom of our remaining brothers in prison."

He then went on to thank "international pressure" for his liberation -- not the Castro regime, concessions, negotiations, nor rapprochement.

"International pressure."


Telling.

S: Capitol Hill Cubans


Isla Presidencial: La Balsa

12 June 2010 at 0815 in Commentary by Armando F. Mastrapa 3d


The latest episode of the irreverent and hilarious Isla Presidencial is now online.

Past episodes, here and here.
S:CUBAPOLIDATA

U.S. oil experts should help Cuba in event of a disastrous oil spill, specialist believes

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill "has really moved up-front the whole U.S.-Cuba energy issue," says Jorge Piñón, a former BP executive and now an energy researcher at Florida International University.
(jpp) With Cuba set to begin oil exploration off its northern coast sometime soon, he and other oil experts see a scenario under which the U.S. embargo would prevent American petroleum-technology companies from taking part in any disaster response, The Christian Science Monitor says in an article published Saturday.
“If an accident like Deepwater Horizon occurred in Mexican or Bahamian or any other territorial waters, all they’d have to do is pick up the phone and contact petroleum-equipment suppliers in Houston, and in a matter of hours they’d be on site,” Piñón told The Monitor.
“That’s not the case with Cuba given the embargo, so days would go by as the bureaucratic paperwork was shifted from agency to department – and in the meantime the oil would be moving towards Key West and South Beach.”
The Obama administration should exempt the petroleum equipment-and-services trade with Cuba from the embargo, Piñón believes. He recommends an executive order allowing U.S. companies to intervene in a Cuban oil disaster.
The expert recently expanded on his views in a paper he co-wrote for the Brookings Institution: "Coping with the next oil spill: Why U.S.-Cuba environmental cooperation is critical."
If oil is found and extracted off Cuban coasts, "it will take three to seven years before Cuba is a major producer," Piñón told the newspaper. "But a disaster could happen in the meantime, and we should want to be ready.”
To read the entire Monitor story, click here. For the Brookings paper, click here. Syndicated columnist Andres Oppenheimer's opinion can be accessed here.

1 prisoner is freed, 6 others are relocated

From an Associated Press news item.(fot2) Roman Catholic leaders announced Friday that Cuban authorities have agreed to free an ill political prisoner and transfer six others to jails nearer home, the latest in a rare series of concessions from a government not known for its tolerance of dissent.
The decision means freedom for Ariel Sigler, one of 75 activists, community organizers and journalists arrested in a 2003 crackdown. Sigler, who was serving a 25-year sentence for treason, was hospitalized recently for an unknown ailment.
Six other prisoners — Héctor Fernando Maceda, Juan Adolfo Fernández, Omar Moisés Ruiz, Efrén Fernández, Jesús Mustafá Felipe and Juan Carlos Herrera — will be moved to jails closer to their homes, bringing to 12 the number of imprisoned dissidents sent to new facilities this month.
The moves, announced by the office of Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega, are set to take place Saturday. They come just days before a visit to Cuba by the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.
The government had no immediate comment. In the past, it has left it to church officials to announce the concessions.
Click here for the full AP report. For a report on Sigler's return home, in the Spanish daily ABC, click here. For the announcement by Cuba's Prensa Latina, click here. [UPDATE: Sigler's condition deteriorated after his release. On Monday, his family was preparing to hospitalize him, ABC reported.]
S:Cuban Colada

LPP Archive...

Viva la shoelace revolution! CAROL THATCHER explores impoverished Cuba by bike

By Carol Thatcher
Last updated at 6:30 PM on 8th February 2010



As shortages go, it was hardly likely to bring one of the world's last communist regimes to its knees, but it might make it stumble a little.
Halfway through a cycling tour of Cuba, one of my group abruptly announced a desperate need for shoelaces. It was surely simply a matter of buying a pair. Not so. For hours we combed the streets of Havana but from every counter came the same reply: no shoelaces.
It was, in its small way, an example of how a command economy will always fail. Clearly, the Cuban Central Ministry of Footwear Fastening Production had neglected to fulfil its five-year plan.
Carol Thatcher in Havana's Revolution Square
Revolutionary road: Carol Thatcher in Havana's Revolution Square with the wrought-iron monument to Che Guevera in the background
The lace crisis makes one wonder how Cubans go about their daily lives without this most basic of items. The answer is that they make do and mend, as they do with almost every shortage in a country hobbled by an American trade embargo and the loss of its former Soviet paymasters.
Look closely at those candy-coloured American cars seen on Cuban postcards. The Pontiacs and Buicks may look as grandiose as the day they were imported in the Fifties, but they are ingeniously patched-up rust-buckets that would send British mechanics into acute shock.
The engines and most parts have been taken from other models; the bodywork is mainly Polyfilla and glue. Indeed, were B&Q ever to open a superstore in Havana, its adhesives offerings would be cleared out within 30 minutes so keen are Cubans on anything that will stick their crumbling infrastructure back together.
I decided to take a cycling tour around Cuba to enjoy a sort of twisted nostalgia. It is more than 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event precipitated by my mother Margaret Thatcher's famous meeting with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984.
I remember the words of my father, Denis: 'At the time one doesn't say that it was history in the making, but I realised that this was something pretty special.' My mother put it more simply. 'This is a man I can do business with,' she said of Gorbachev.
Since that time, things have changed. Old-fashioned communist despots, once household names, are now rather thin on the ground. If we overlook China's hybrid capitalism, there's really only the semi-retired Fidel Castro and North Korea's batty Kim Jong Il left. They're almost an endangered species.
This is not to suggest that Cuba suffers anything like the otherworldly desperation of North Korea. Far from it. Only the terminally flint-hearted visitor could fail to feel a little note of rapture. Surely this is communism with a sunny face.
The restored Spanish colonial squares in Old Havana were magnificent with their handsome stone facades, columns and arches. Jazz tinkled out of clubs and restaurants.
But venture beyond this and you will see architecture that would be instantly condemned by even the most casual of English building control officers. Only faith in Fidel and yet more glue prevent its collapse.
These two images - cheek-by-jowl perfection and rickety dereliction - are twin monuments to 51 years of failed communism. But they are also a monument to 51 years of failed American foreign policy. Fidel and his brother Raul, who took over as president in 2008, have seen ten American presidents come and go.
Margaret Thatcher's meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984
Making history: Margaret Thatcher's famous meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984
Washington has achieved the opposite of its intention. Rather than starve Cuba into submission, the unrelenting trade embargo has sustained the communist regime's grip on power. Resistance has been a matter of national pride. Cubans may have no shoelaces, but that doesn't mean they can't stand up to Washington.
It's hard to accept that at some point in the past 50 years, an American politician could not have told Fidel or Raul Castro: 'We don't approve of communism, but we are prepared to work with you.'
As I pondered the Castros' resilience, however, I had to stop myself falling under Cuba's spell. I was the daughter of the woman who helped bring down the Soviet Union. Surely I could not allow myself to be seduced by a whiff of cigar smoke and a little revolutionary solidarity.
After all, I was brought up in a household where it was never necessary to ask one's parents what this puzzling thing called 'communism' actually was. I have from the cradle onwards been instilled with a suspicion of all things Marxist. Mum not only objected to communism on ideological grounds, she also felt that an all-enveloping dictatorship sapped the human spirit, eroding endeavour and imagination.
It certainly does seem to mean shortages - and not just of shoelaces. People came up to me asking for toothpaste, as if I was a one-woman version of pedalling Boots.
So while posters of Fidel celebrating the 51st anniversary of the revolution adorn the windows of shiny new boutiques in Old Havana, Cubans haven't a hope of shopping in them.
Fidel's revolution has simply-produced a different set of haves and have-nots - rich party officials and tourists on one side, the rest of Cuba on the other. Everyone here covets a job in an international hotel. It provides a taste of how the rest of the Western world lives - and holds out the prospect of tips.
Towels are folded into intricate origami-like sculptures, with small cards attached saying: 'I do hope you enjoy your stay, with best wishes from your friendly chambermaid, Juanita.'
It worked. I found a reply from Kurt and Helga, the previous occupants of my room, profusely thanking Juanita for her handiwork. I'm not sure whether they left her any precious hard currency, though.
The girl at the hotel pool bar looked at my plastic designer watch with such a longing gaze that I handed it to her, and I gave some of my shoes to the chambermaids.
We were generally treated with deference, particularly in the capital-Sometimes, outside Havana, we were treated with less respect. 'What is your room number?' a woman barked at me one morning, more in the manner of a secret policeman than a hotel employee in charge of the breakfast buffet.
Havana cabaret star
Carnival spirit: One of Havana's glamorous cabaret stars
And there was one occasion, in Havana, when I decided to get some photos in the vast concrete expanse that is the Plaza de la Revolucion. I hoped to get a snap taken by one of my 15-strong cycling group standing by a wrought-iron image of the revolutionary hero Che Guevara.
To speed things up, I mounted my bicycle to cross the square only to be stopped by a policeman. 'You may push your bike in the square,' he explained, clearly relishing the sort of bureaucratic authority vested in minor operatives in dictatorships, 'but you are not allowed to ride it.'
With that sort of attitude, I thought, it is hard to imagine how Guevara and Castro managed to overthrow the Batista government in 1959.
Che is your constant companion on any trip to Cuba. His image is everywhere-more so than Fidel himself. Such was his presence that our tour was dubbed On Yer Bike With Che.
The iconic photograph (tilted beret, faraway gaze) of him taken in 1960 by Alberto Korda was one of the most reproduced images of the past century. In Old Havana, postcards of beaches, palm trees, rum and the sights took second billing to racks of black-and-white photos of Che smoking a cigar, or of Che standing alongside Fidel.
It would be hard to name a film star, entertainer or politician whose image has so endured, which is odd. Che may have masterminded the revolution with Castro, but he was shot dead in Bolivia in 1967. What's more, he wasn't even Cuban: he was born in Argentina.
But Cuba throws up many incongruities. As we waited at traffic lights in Havana before starting our 150-mile tour, a bendy bus drew alongside me. Momentarily, I wondered whether Mayor Boris Johnson was selling off the monsters Londoners love to hate to Castro's capital, but apparently they came from China and some former Soviet republics.
Still, Cuban commuters need all the help they can get - just getting around outside the main cities is a challenge. At one hotel I stayed at in Varadero, a beach resort 90 miles east of Havana, staff have to get up in the early hours to hitch-hike to work. There is no other way.
To the west, around Vinales, one of the most fertile tobacco growing areas, fancy tourist carriages give way to basic horse-drawn carts. They provide a pragmatic and essential mode of transport. Again, glue and a little string are probably used to hold them together.
Almost all private enterprise is forbidden. All farm produce must be sold to the government at appallingly low rates. Nevertheless, we managed to taste freshly squeezed sugarcane juice from a roadside kiosk.
Life in the countryside witnessed from our relaxed biking itinerary was unhurried and, to a Londoner, terribly quiet. Oddly, one of the things I missed most were Western advertising hoardings.
Often the only sounds would be a farmer's voice coaxing his oxen to pull a plough over his field. Roaming goats and chickens, unconstrained by fences or considerations of ownership, added a new meaning to the phrase 'free range'.
One day our group was overtaken by a young lad, lasso at the ready, chasing a bull. The animal doubled back and seemed to stalk us. Finally it was roped in and we relaxed. I like to be a strong fence away from a set of vicious horns, but this was Cuba.
We even cycled along a stretch of Cuba's main motorway, which was so devoid of traffic that onion sellers offered their produce from the fast lane, while horses and carts went the wrong way down the hard shoulder.
Aficionados say Cuban tobacco is the best in the world. The tobacco barons fleeing the revolution took their precious seeds with them, and planted and nurtured them in neighbouring Caribbean islands such as the Dominican Republic, but they failed to replicate the quality.
I knew nothing of cigars when I went to Havana beyond remembering that when Mum was Prime Minister, she bought a box of them every Christmas for her speechwriter, the playwright Ronnie Millar.
To learn more, I joined a tour of the Partagas Cigar Factory in Havana. The workers, two-thirds of whom are women, do a nine-month course to learn how to turn out 120 cigars in eight hours.
It was tobacco and sugar that made generations of Cubans hugely rich in the centuries before the revolution. It is still possible to catch a glimpse of the extravagance of prerevolutionary days, and wonder what might have been had Castro not had his way.
The Hotel Xanadu in Varadero, built in 1928 by the American Dupont dynasty as a sumptuous private mansion, has a magnificent view across the Florida Straits from the third-floor bar and terrace. It's now a place where guests can eat lobster beneath carved mahogany ceilings of considerable grandeur.
Times are considerably tougher for modern Cubans, but I saw no one who was visibly hungry. Health and education are reckoned to be good, and, walking back from a Havana jazz club in the early hours, I felt safer than I would in other Caribbean capitals or, indeed, London. I would not, however, recommend wearing high heels - the potholes are lethal.
Most Cubans we met were not reticent in the way that the fearful people of East Germany and Russia were when I visited Eastern Europe in the early Eighties. Nor were people resentful of the superior food and facilities enjoyed in tourist hotels. The vast majority were friendly and talkative.
Asking Cubans to volunteer their views on politics, however, comes with risks. Palm trees, rum cocktails and sunshine cannot disguise the chilly stranglehold communism retains on its citizens. Neighbours are still obliged to spy on each other. Voluminous Stasi-like files are kept on anyone suspected of subversion. Dissidents are imprisoned, anti-government journalists are intimidated.
People were happy to speak out in praise of their country though, or to denounce its enemies. A taxi driver said Cubans are angry that their country is repeatedly mentioned on the news as the site of a terrorist prison camp. In fact, Guantanamo Bay has been leased to Washington since 1903, but Cuba's government refuses to cash the rental cheques.
Another driver told me he hated Americans. That did not seem to be a view shared by the many good-looking and energetic young dancers at the nightclub where he dropped me. They were almost all wearing designer clothes and shoes from the United States. Admiration of things on the other side of the Florida Straits extends to other pastimes, too. Many Cubans are obsessed with baseball.
Talking to my group about the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, I said it was my view that when US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev went eyeball-to-eyeball, it was Khrushchev who blinked, thus averting nuclear war - something the world should be grateful for.
At that point a Cuban interrupted. 'It still pains us that this deal was done between Khrushchev and Kennedy over Fidel's head,' he said with some passion. 'It deprived us of a bargaining card.'
For what, I asked? 'To get the Americans out of Guantanamo Bay.'
Cubans, it seems, see history through a different prism and one must be careful. Dining in a restaurant with British people, I was indiscreet enough to indicate that I wasn't a paid-up member of Fidel's fan club. One of our group felt it necessary to apologise on my behalf to the Cubans at the next table.
Will Cuba ever ditch communism? A year ago, Barack Obama stated his intention to close Guantanamo Bay. He hasn't. One morning, as I was preparing for another day's cycling, a TV bulletin reported a strongly worded statement from Raul Castro in which he alleged that Obama's government was trying to undermine Cuba's regime.
I don't sense any rush for change in Cuba. There is little sign of a younger generation in the regime, or a Gorbachev figure pushing for reform. Obama appears to have an in-tray filled with more pressing issues, and, even if he wanted to negotiate, the powerful Cuban lobby in the United States would oppose any compromise. Obama may be the 11th president to fail to do business with Cuba.
That said, the Berlin Wall came down suddenly. The unexpected can happen; it just takes one catalyst.
Where political argument has failed to bring down communism in Cuba, designer clothes, sport and tourism just might. Or perhaps life without shoelaces will one day break the revolutionary spirit.