Sunday, August 8, 2010

LPP Latest News...

Former enemies US, Vietnam now military mates

American fighter jets prepare to take off from the USS George Washington, cruising waters about 320 kilometers (200 miles) off Vietnam's central coast AP – American fighter jets prepare to take off from the USS George Washington, cruising waters about 320 kilometers …
 ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON – Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a U.S. nuclear supercarrier cruised in waters off the Southeast Asian nation's coast — sending a message that China is not the region's only big player.
The visit comes 35 years after the Vietnam War as Washington and Hanoi are cozying up in a number of areas, from negotiating a controversial deal to share civilian nuclear fuel and technology to agreeing that China needs to work with its neighbors to resolve territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The USS George Washington's stop is officially billed as a commemoration of last month's 15th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the former foes. But the timing also reflects Washington's heightened interest in maintaining security and stability in the Asia-Pacific amid tensions following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which killed 46 sailors. North Korea has been blamed for the attack, but has vehemently denied any involvement.
Last month during an Asian security meeting in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also angered China by unexpectedly calling on the Communist powerhouse to resolve territorial claims with neighboring Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.
"The strategic implications and importance of the waters of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation is vital to both Vietnam and the United States," Capt. Ross Myers, commander of the George Washington's air wing, said aboard the ship Sunday as fighter jets thundered off the flight deck above.
"I'm certain that the Chinese government and the Chinese people are trying to protect their interests," he added when asked about China's increased aggressiveness within the area. "It is more important for Vietnam (and) its partners to establish that they have an equal right to economic prosperity and peace within the region as well."
Chinese navy ships were seen shadowing the USS George Washington at a distance over the past several days as the supercarrier made its way throught the South China Sea along Vietnam's eastern coast, U.S. Navy officials said Sunday.
China claims the entire sea and the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands over which it exercises complete sovereignty. But Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have staked claims on all or some of the territory, which straddles vital shipping lanes, important fishing grounds and is believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Clinton announced that the U.S. has a national interest in seeing the claims resolved.
"The problem is that China has now committed herself, publicly, to sovereignty of the South China Sea and to push that back, if only to the status of a claim that is not enforced, is going to be very difficult," said Arthur Waldron, an international relations specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. "So we are playing catch up, reminding the Chinese that we have not collapsed into post-great powerdom yet, and that we have other friends in the region."
Vietnam has long been vocal about the issue, protesting China's plans to bring tourists to the islands and most recently seismic studies conducted near the Paracels. Last month China also held naval drills in the South China Sea.
"Vietnam does not support containing China, but like most other ASEAN members would like to see each major power offset the other," Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy in Canberra, said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "Quite simply, these are not too subtle signals that Vietnam wants the United States to stay engaged in the region to balance China."
The formidable USS George Washington is a permanent presence in the Pacific, based in Japan. As one of the world's biggest warships, it is a floating city that can carry up to 70 aircraft, more than 5,000 sailors and aviators and about 4 million pounds (1.8 million kilograms) of bombs. It lurked Sunday about 200 miles (320 kilometers) off the central coast of Danang, Vietnam's jumping-off point for the disputed islands.
A group of high-ranking Vietnamese military officials was flown onto the carrier Sunday along with other Vietnamese government officials and the U.S. ambassador to the country.
The supercarrier came to Vietnam following four days of high-profile military exercises last month with South Korea aimed at showing solidarity following the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan navy ship. The drills enraged Pyongyang and drew repeated criticism from its Chinese ally.
A Chinese newspaper ran a front-page story last week strongly hinting that China also is not happy about reports that Vietnam and the U.S. are negotiating a civilian nuclear fuel and technology deal that could allow Vietnam to enrich uranium on its own soil.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said China had not been consulted about the talks, but he would not discuss the specifics of the enrichment provision. Congressional aides have said the agreement will likely not contain a no-enrichment pledge, which the U.S. promotes as the "gold standard" for civilian nuclear cooperation accords to ensure materials are not being used to build a nuclear weapon.
Vietnam has denied having any plans to enrich uranium on its own soil.
The aircraft carrier's visit is particularly symbolic as it cruises off the coast of central Danang, once the site of a bustling U.S. military base during the Vietnam War, which ended April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of the U.S.-backed capital of South Vietnam, reuniting the country.
Some 58,000 Americans and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese were killed during the war.
Relations have thrived since the former foes shook hands in 1995. The U.S. is Vietnam's top export market and Americans are the country's No. 1 foreign investor. Two-way trade reached $15.4 billion in 2009.
Military ties have also grown since the first U.S. warship ship visited Ho Chi Minh City in 2003, including high-level defense talks and training.
The USS John McCain destroyer will pay a port call to Vietnam later this week. The two navies are expected to have cultural exchanges along with training exercises, such as search and rescue operations.

Sunday August 8, 2010

Today in Banes : Hits martyr 's mother and Orlando Zapata Tamayo Ladies Support

The news here.   "But where is the international media accredited to Cuba covering today's events in Banes ? Conspicuous by their absence. Is that why the that Banes is so far from Havana .
S: New Wave Cuba / translate LPPNEWS Front Line 

August 07, 2010

Lee Lockwood, noted photojournalist, dies; wrote 'Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel' in 1967

Lee Lockwood, a photojournalist who documented political, military and civilian life in communist countries, died July 31, The New York Times reported. He was 78 and lived in Weston, Fla.
Book He wrote several books, including Castro's Cuba, Cuba's Fidel: An American Journalist's Inside Look at Today's Cuba in Text and Picture (Macmillan, 1967).
"Mr. Lockwood’s best-known book was the one born of his marathon interview with Mr. Castro, which unspooled over a full week in Cuba in 1965," The Times' obituary relates. "The discourse ranged over Marxism, the Cuban missile crisis, American race relations, sex, prostitution and much else.
"It was vital, Mr. Lockwood believed, that American readers be given a full portrait of a man known here as a cipher at best, a demon at worst.
"'We don’t like Castro, so we close our eyes and hold our ears,' he wrote in the book’s introduction. 'Yet if he is really our enemy, as dangerous to us as we are told he is, then we ought to know as much about him as possible.'"
To read the entire obituary, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 10:27 PM
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A Fidel-watcher comments

'It (alb) is quite interesting that the man who was game to start a nuclear showdown between the U.S. and Soviets is fretting so much about stopping one when North Korea and Iran are potential targets.
Hard to believe that's what he devoted his 12 minutes to, not to Cubans losing their factory lunches or ration cards. ¡Imagínate!'

–Ann Louise Bardach, author of Without Fidel: A Death Foretold.
Posted by Renato Perez at 07:29 PM in Books, Fidel Castro, The World
Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
S: Cuban Colada



By Frank Cosme

Lithographer. Reside in Havana.

Santos  Suarez , Havana, August 5, 2010 , ( PD) The press is the vehicle daily information par excellence. Since its invention by Gutenberg has served as a channel to know what is happening around us and also in the world. But it is the everyday reflected by the press, which  take years or centuries , reflects when the mood is more calm , the pulse of what really happened in the past.

For impartially to reflect these facts that mark the future of can happen in a nation or the world or to reconstruct the true story of a nation , we must not let pass by "Details "of these events which have led news that over time becomes history .

Today , the press Digital makes available to any citizen of the world , the immediacy of any fact that occurred in any part of this . But that immediacy often conspire with the true understanding of what has really happened, when the digital readout, the overwhelming low amount of information online, do not have time to read  all and only read what catches his attention in the opening paragraphs .

This  Speed reading is like a fax machine , according to this time  high speed , where this rushing in everyday life , especially called developed countries , does not allow the reader to repair  those details .

What has happened over recent months and weeks in Cuba and other countries , in conjunction with the release of political prisoners has much to say to the independent press Cuban and foreign media.

These can be summarized in some events began to occur in succession after the death  Orlando Zapata after a hunger strike for release  Cuban political prisoners on February 23, 2010 and multiplication of government assaults against defenseless women already known by all mankind as Damas de Blanco, peaceful protest against these injustices and the release of their imprisoned relatives , as is also known as Spring Black .

On February 24 , independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas decided to start another strike as a continuation of what has been started by  the selfless Zapata.

Only 11 days had elapsed Zapata's death when Cuba was elected to assume the presidency of the coating, the UN agency for trade and development "( ?)

The  March 25 is the attempt of Spain (read - Zapatero and Moratinos diplomat in Cuba, Pérez He ignored ) to obtain than Fariñas left the strike. There is a proposal for a plane to take him to hospital- Spain. The move was clear. In June, the meeting was Euro -camera to discuss a European common position on Cuba. The striker "declined the offer. "

Coincidence? May 20 , 98 on the anniversary of the establishment of the republic , Cardinal Cuban President meets to address the issue of prisoners politicians.

From now on "the scoop that the executive  PSOE introduced only half , it was now more evident. " Movements Roma executive (the same who once tried to enact a law to remove Christian symbols like the cross , schools Spanish ) and moves to Havana the " performer "of the executive .

To the  Apparently this " performer " who has a new type of influenza Spanish "whose virus does go off , left a bad unemployed prestigious opponents apparently infected by this " influence "  forgiveness , influenza, did not think about the debacle that was to train and promoted two requests. One , that U.S. citizens could travel to Cuba and another, to cease support for the Ladies in White other women Cuban solidarity with them. The argument was that Church-state discussions were calmer .

After  retiring this performer , Havana "was on fire "with discrepancies between opponents and caused a smoke screen over what Essentially, the release of prisoners and what freedoms they guaranteed this.

But  there is the detail, as would a deceased comedian : liberation has not been, as they thought the hostages. Two minutes before boarding  the plane that would lead to Spain , gave them to sign a "Engagement "brought by embassy officials .

When  came to this country , were sent where the devil struck three voices. To make matters worse , the preconceived plan is to spread it throughout Spain.

" Deception, betrayal and helplessness " is the title of a Spanish newspaper publisher  like so many others of that "free press Spanish , reveals the truth about this shameful move to these Cuban heroes , planned advance for these executives who claim to represent a country that still have the poise to be regarded as successful.

But  were caught on ... where the back loses its name in the door. About July 20 a statement signed by 10 of the 11 first ex-prisoners of conscience, (which these executives forgot aware that just because they have suffered imprisonment ), arrived in the peninsula , urged the European Parliament to be allowed to speak before taking any decision on the common position on Cuba.

There  something that stands in the midst of this tragedy we are involved all the Cubans here and there and totaling more than  learn the lessons he has given us our own history and our teachers. Consequently , sooner or later realize that something smells bad when you try to manipulate or apply to them elsewhere, the same methods used by our crepuscular government. They also forget these "successful summer "that the contempt and contempt for our fellow citizens is not only observed by Cubans but for the wider world, and there 's another detail that seems  forget.

S: / Baracutey Cuban / translation  LPPNEWS Front Line

" If they could install a thousand missiles ! " Fidel Castro asked U. S. Khrushchev hurl "A barrage of Mass Missile Total Nuclear

Cuban document , which published large excerpts , is  verbal process of the intervention ( of twelve hours duration) Fidel Castro against the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party 25  and January 26, 1968 . In this unpublished document, Castro too severe an analysis of the attitude of the USSR. " The  comrades must know, for starters, how the decision was taken install the missiles (...) We decided to take measures to ensure  the country's security . At that time , we joined the Soviet Union more confidence than reason. "At that time , appeared a Soviet military delegation , led by a quarterback (the Biriouzov marshal , commander of the nuclear forces ). Its mission was to propose the installation of strategic missiles. With all Comrades , we have agreed to give an immediate response without any hesitation. We demonstrate the possibility of signing a military agreement .
"Good. sent , then, a draft agreement to be published at the time appropriate in which to announce the installation of the missiles. And if there  something that I regret is not having preserved this document, because it was the most incredible void that once it had been written (...) Her document, which was nothing political was the work of bureaucrats stupid. Us who drew up in my handwriting , the agreement is then presented to the Soviet Union. We signed it , but they never returned to us . And our confidence was unlimited naive victim of all these subtleties that we were unable to conceive ...
"Gentlemen , this is incredible. All these hesitations , these ways of acting, indecisive and hesitant , lead to problems. We did not know or what it was like a missile or where such had to install it. If we had known what they were missiles and if we had raised the problem of camouflage all the material, how easy it would have been camouflage everything.
" The worst thing is that the U2 ( planes spies) flying here and they do not shoot them down or hiding the missiles.  It is so impressive that people wondered if they did a purpose, I can assure you that is completely false : it was a disaster, a total lack of foresight (...) " In this situation , had to take a different position and not the policy of lies:  We ship to Cuba defensive weapons. And off the attitude of imperialism , second or first weakness, rather than responding to Cuba had a right to appropriate weapons , chose to make concessions, stating that they were defensive . In summary , the lie , they resorted to  lie tacitly refusing the benefit of a right or a principle.
"We sent a delegation to the Union Soviet - think that this time , Aragones was Comrade Che (on August 1962) - to present our view that , if necessary, was to publish the agreement.
" Khrushchev said, No problem, but no. in October , I will send Baltic fleet and a  letter to Kennedy, 24 hours before, and the missiles are there ... The fleet Baltic ! (...) Commander Raul Castro : When we were there (in July) , we knew nothing of this issue of the size of missiles. I learned then that measured 20 meters . Knowing that, and number of troops ( Soviet military ) coming , I informed Fidel. Fidel then agreed that the only thing I would suggest to Khrushchev is: Khrushchev , there is a problem: what if the Yankees and if  Kennedy find out before it has made public the agreement? .
" Khrushchev (who was very vulgar ) said: Do not worry. A Kennedy , in other words , I'll grab the balls. If you encounter this problem, I send a message mean that you invite to the Baltic Fleet for visit to Cuba , where they found out everything before (...).
Fidel Castro : From a strategic standpoint , it was something wonderful for the socialist camp. The presence of missiles here created an extraordinary strengthening of the Soviet position . If they could install a thousand missiles! It's what I tell Biriouzov a thousand missiles. I say : Look, if this serves the interests and the defense of the entire socialist camp here we are ready to install a thousand missiles. Imagine my reaction when I said they would install 80 missiles .
"Comandante Raul Castro : First 40 , I think. land-based missiles , submarines because they would also have missiles (...).
"Comandante Fidel Castro : When the crisis erupted , quickly we were at war . Came  Khrushchev 's first letter (25 October). He said: The Soviet government has just received the President of the States USA, Kennedy , the next document, of which we enclose a copy (...) We believe that this statement is an interference surprising in matters of the Republic of Cuba, a violation of  the rules of international law. We reject the demands shameless norteamericanao government to control the sending weapons to Cuba (...).
"Given the situation that had created , we give instructions to the military representatives Soviets found in Cuba on the need to adopt the necessary measures and to state monitoring the issue. (...) " we evaluated the possibility of an attempted bombing, destruction and even to succeed , we met with representatives, the Chief of Staff (Soviet) , we propose the  questions. Then called , one by one , the officers to give  the command to have ready -to-air missiles (SAM ) as well as some strategic missiles, aviation be prepared , have everything ready; there were also tactical missiles, tactical nuclear weapons .
"I explained then that it was necessary to be alert , because of the low altitude flights , and we could not admit that we fly over the head , we should take action (...) extreme not let them fly (and we could stop it ) whereas could destroy some of these missiles. We should not leave them in their sites had to camouflage them , far from these emplazamienos e, even after a possible bombing we should have a stockpile of strategic missiles that do not destroy all (...) " We defended these missiles with affection, with an incredible love . We were fighting for the first time , almost as equals , with an enemy We had been constantly harassed and provoked , and we really felt  motivated by this new situation , with this letter full of resolution of principles and rights. We were drunk by this Special proletarian internationalist spirit , as our dreams.
"So when we imagine possibility of air attack, convinced these people (the military Soviets) to operate radars for low altitude defend against low-flying aircraft . We asked them what intended to do if they attacked. We are talking about strategic weapons of assumed tactical weapons , of course, that any use of these weapons should be ordered by the Soviet Union . Them asked about tactical weapons , if in case of invasion were willing to use tactical weapons , made me realize  was necessary, would use tactical nuclear weapons if invasion . The shots (against American aircraft ) Candelaria began near these places , every morning, the day he was shot the U2.

Letter from Fidel to Khrushchev

"It was night , and then I said: I will send a letter to Khrushchev to give courage. I was afraid that these people committed a historical mistake . There (...) to firmly maintain our position and I decided to write a letter to Nikita, then, to give courage and encourage him to not waver (Laughter ).
(The following text is about Fidel 's letter to Khrushchev on 26 October 1962 where Fidel recommends a nuclear attack in case of U.S. invasion ) " I wrote this letter with care and some unscrupulous terrible because what was going to write was particularly bold and daring, and was careful how . My opinion was that, in case of invasion , 'd be sent a massive barrage of nuclear missiles total . Shoot'em not told , but if they attack , if they invade , is a dramatic situation , as difficult to deal with that we must not waste time on stupid things, or before the enemy launched the first attack. At that time , I presented a kind of sympathy , indeed, because he was into this shit and I said : This man ( Khrushchev )  to be sad .
"At that time we did not consider the possibility that we could disappear. This is very interesting, because in reality , we were in the anteroom of the Holocaust and we we told jokes. We knew we were going to play the role of dead we were determined to accept.
"We still do not know how were the circumstances that led to the destruction of the plane ( U2). If it was the result of yesterday 's meeting ( with the State Russian General Staff ), or the decision of the officer responsible for the battery SAMs , or whether it was the shots of our own aircraft .
" As we begin to lose faith in the Soviet policy began to change our tactics. And if a when we were fighting for the planes and troops to stay, then decided that " an ally against a total withdrawal and even beyond  of capitulation , it was necessary, at least try to salvage something.
" Thus began a new phase in our relations with the Soviet Union , characterized by particular circumstances in which we were : in front us, an aggressive and arrogant enemy , an ally that is retracted , our desire to keep weapons and finally , the decision to prevent relations with this partner to degrade to the point of a break.
" Whatever mistakes committed by the Russian revolution , we sincerely believe that permeated for a long time the Soviet people with a deep spirit of solidarity. But do not know how much longer under the influence of new circumstances, can keep this spirit.  Cuba did not know any crisis until such time that started this history of the missiles.
"Cuba is opposed to the way in which addressed the problem and was in total disagreement with the manner in which ended it . True, there is the argument that Cuba is alive! But  We also live since our mothers brought the world to each of us . And they have nothing to do with missiles Soviets ! " .

( c ) Le Monde / Vincent Touze . Translated by Claudia Martinez. ( c ) Le Monde and Clarín , 1997.
S: The new Cuba - Cuban First Independent Newspaper in the Internet / translate LPPNEWS Front Line

Read his answers at the realcubablog...

Dr. Darsi ferrer has answered the questions from two other readers
Aug. 6 - Dr. Darsi Ferrer has answered the questions from two other readers of
I have posted his answers in Spanish and will translate it into English during the weekend.
 Read his answers at the realcubablog

Did the Cardenal get what he came looking for?
Aug. 6 - President Barack Obama may ease travel restrictions on Cuba, allowing more Americans to visit the island on educational and cultural trips, said a U.S. official who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the subject.
Obama first loosened travel rules on Cuba last year, making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to relatives on the Caribbean island in a bid to help “promote the freer flow of information,” according to a White House statement. The official didn’t give additional details on what the changes would be.  Read the entire article at the realcubablog

Another Canadian tourist who got duped in Cuba
Aug. 5 - Nicola Mastrangelo knows what its like to gamble in Cuba and lose.
He bet on love, a game on the communist island where the house often wins.
In his case, after betting the farm, he actually lost a house he built for his Queen of Hearts.
Fidel Castro may have banned Batista’s casinos in 1960 but there is still high risk gambling going on, especially if you decide to put money on any Cuban deal.  The deck is stacked. Read the entire article at the realcubablog

Dr. Darsi Ferrer answers questions from our readers
Aug. 5 - This morning I received the first message from Dr. Darsi Ferrer answering questions posed by our readers.
This is a translation of his message:
"Dear Jorge:
This is my answer to the questions from your readers, I hope it can satisfy their concerns.
I reiterate my desire to maintain an exchange of ideas with all those wanting to know our opinions.
Un abrazo and may God bless you, Darsi"
The first question was: Does the gradual release of all political prisoners mean a real change in the events in Cuba?
Will the government free those prisoners who refuse to leave the country, as in the case of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet?
Read Darsi's response at the realcubablog en inglés y también en español

Humberto Fontova: Castro prepares for a US bailout
Aug. 5 - “The embargo against Cuba is the stupidest law ever passed in the U.S.” (Jimmy Carter)
Yet President Jimmy Carter imposed more economic sanctions against more nations than any American president in modern history. These sanctions were against, Rhodesia, South Africa, Uruguay Paraguay, Chile, (the Shah’s) Iran and (Somoza’s) Nicaragua. President Carter was extremely selective in imposing his sanctions, let’s give him that. He was careful to punish only U.S. allies.
But hypocrisy is not our issue here. Stupidity is our issue—more specifically, the stupidity (or dishonesty) of claiming the U.S. embargoes all commerce with Cuba.
Read the entire article at the realcubablog
Dr. Darsi Ferrer will answer questions from  our readers
Aug. 4 - I am sure that many of you would like to ask questions directly to dissidents in Cuba.
Well, now it's your chance.
Dr. Darsi Ferrer, one of Cuba's best known dissidents, who was recently released from prison, will be taking questions from our readers.
Dr. Ferrer will answer back and I'll post his responses in both English and Spanish.
Please make them short! His Internet time is very limited.
I'll be sending the questions to him as I receive them, and he will be answering them as his time permit.
Please send your question to: Ask Dr. Darsi Ferrer
Si puede, haga su pregunta en español y nos evita tener que traducirla.

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What's behind Castro's speech?

Fidel Castro at the National Assembly - 7 August 2010  
Fidel Castro spoke for 10 minutes but answered questions for an hour

Cuba's former President, Fidel Castro, has continued his return to the public eye with a speech to the country's parliament. The BBC's Michael Voss was there to analyse what the "Comandante" said.
At the stroke of eleven a hush descended over the National Assembly chambers.
More than 600 deputies all appeared to be holding their breath in anticipation of Fidel Castro stepping back out onto the political stage.
Then they sprang to their feet and cheered. "Viva Fidel! Viva Fidel!", they chanted. "Long live Fidel."
The last time that Cuba's former leader addressed the assembly was in June 2006, just a month before he underwent major surgery and ceded the presidency to his younger brother, Raul Castro.

After a long period of convalescence and seclusion, Mr Castro re-emerged last month.
Since then he has given television interviews, launched his memoirs, seen a dolphin show at the National Aquarium and talked to selected groups of intellectuals and young communists.
But this was his first government act.
Nuclear warning Fidel Castro, who turns 84 next week, walked slowly but steadily towards the podium with an assistant at his side to support him.
The man who led the Cuban revolution and ruled this island for almost half a century was once again wearing his trademark olive green fatigues, but without any military insignia.
Fidel Castro outlined the ''immensely higher price'' of a war
This was not the full dress uniform of the "Comandante", the Commander-in-Chief.
He smiled and waved to the crowd as he lapped up the warmth of their applause, before launching into his speech.
Fidel had asked for this special session of the assembly so that he could discuss his repeated warnings that the United States, along with Israel, has plans to attack Iran and target North Korea.
It is a theme that has preoccupied him for several months; he has issued regular warnings that the world is about to be dragged into a nuclear war.
"They would be ordering the instant death of hundreds of millions of people and amongst them an incalculable number of their own people."

Start Quote

He has absolute confidence in Raul. He is only talking about international affairs”
End Quote Frank Fernandez Cuban MP
But instead of a vitriolic attack on his arch nemesis, the Unites States, Fidel appealed to President Barack Obama, saying that it was within his power to avert disaster.
The whole speech lasted just over 10 minutes and then, seated, he fielded questions for another hour. In his prime the bearded revolutionary had been famous for four- and five-hour tirades.
It was a short but polished performance from the lively and healthy-looking Fidel Castro, his voice stronger and more assured than at any point since re-emerging into the public eye.
At no point did he touch on domestic issues.
There was no mention of the island's struggling economy, which is the major preoccupation for the majority of Cubans these days.
He did not comment on any of his brother's policy changes, such as allowing workers to be self-employed instead of being controlled by the state or the decision to release political prisoners.
President Raul Castro was on the podium listening to the speech, the first time the two have appeared in public together since 2006. Yet the two barely acknowledged each other's presence.
At every assembly session for the past four years Fidel's desk has remained unoccupied, as if waiting, symbolically, for the return of the "Maximum Leader". Raul sits at the same place he has always had, one chair in from the head of the table.
Yet Fidel Castro did not return to his old seat, preferring to sit at the next table, beside the parliamentary head, Ricardo Alarcon.
No stripes For weeks now Havana has been rife with speculation about why this series of appearances has taken place, after a long period in seclusion.
Fidel Castro (centre-left) and his brother, President Raul Castro (second from right) - 7 August 2010  
After his speech, Fidel Castro did not return to his old seat next to his brother Raul

Ask four foreign diplomats here and you are likely to get five conflicting answers.
Is this a bid to return to power or is it simply that he is well enough to be back in the limelight once again?
By making no mention of domestic politics is he deliberately trying not to undermine his brother's authority or is his presence giving weight to hard-liners who are opposed to the changes currently underway?
Before the speech I asked the minister of culture and politburo member, Abel Prieto, how he saw Fidel Castro's return to politics.
"I think that he has always been in Cuba's political life," he told me.
"But he is absolutely not interfering in government matters. He has been very careful about that. His big battle is international affairs."
Another deputy, the internationally-acclaimed pianist Frank Fernandez agreed.
"He has absolute confidence in Raul. He is only talking about international affairs," Mr Fernandez said, adding that he thought the plain military fatigues were significant.
"There are a series of signs. He's not wearing the Comandante's stripes on his uniform. This suggests that he doesn't want any involvement in the organised politics."
Fidel Castro may have given up the presidency but he remains head of the powerful Communist Party.
Now it seems he may have found a new mission in later life - to save the world from nuclear destruction.

LPP First Draft...

Welcome to Florida Politics

Saturday, August 7, 2010
By The Miami Herald's Beth Reinhard:

Greene, Scott trip up over Cuba, coffee

I must admit to a certain perverse pleasure seeing the political outsiders of the 2010 campaign stumble over the tripwires of Florida politics.

Republican gubernatorial front-runner Rick Scott figured out this week, hopefully, that drinking a cortadito does not make you simpatico with Hispanic voters. And Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene learned the hard way that in certain quarters of Florida, visiting Cuba is akin to high treason.

"Welcome to politics in Florida,'' quipped Radio Mambi host Ninoska Pérez Castellón, during an on-air discussion of Greene's Havana adventure.

One memorable example of an only-in South Florida political gaffe came early in the 2008 presidential campaign. In a speech in Miami, Republican Mitt Romney tried to show he was down with Cuban Americans -- by using one of Fidel Castro's trademark phrases.

He never recovered.

Here's what happened to Greene: A few ex-deckhands on the real estate mogul's yacht let it slip that it docked at Havana's Hemingway Marina in 2007. Greene's initial explanation, during a televised debate in St. Petersburg, was that his visit was a humanitarian mission to the Jewish community.

Except that didn't jibe with what the deckhands described as a "vomit-caked'' party atmosphere aboard the Summerwind. So Greene changed his story. The visit to Cuba was an emergency repair stop between Honduras and the Bahamas, he said. He visited a synagogue, he said, and didn't spend a dime at any of the stores, nightclubs or hotels near the marina.

Greene is really asking voters to take a leap of faith here. (So is his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, when he explains his efforts to secure federal funds for a Miami developer who had lined his mother's pockets and now faces criminal charges.)

For non-Cuban Americans who don't understand why many exiles get so riled up about a pleasure cruise to the island, a recent Miami Herald story is required reading. Staff writer Fabiola Santiago traveled to Madrid to interview 11 freed Cuban prisoners about their years behind bars.

What they described: a hairy mound of ground pig eyes, cheek, ears, and other unidentifiable parts for dinner. Cramped cells littered with feces, roaches and rats. Little, if any, contact with family.

Remember, these ex-prisoners are journalists and political dissidents, not serial killers.

Mauricio Claver-Carone of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC -- a close Meek ally -- responded to Greene's misadventure by noting that an American development worker, Alan Gross, was arrested eight months ago just for trying to help Jews in Cuba use the Internet.

"While Greene uses Jewish humanitarian work as a cover for his wrongdoing, an American is being detained indefinitely in a Cuban prison for truly helping the Jewish community in Cuba,'' Claver-Carone said. "Greene owes the Cuban and Jewish community an immediate apology.''
He's still waiting.

Scott's fumble came in Monday's debate on the Miami-based Spanish-language television network, Univisión. He was asked how he planned to attract Hispanic voters when his $25 million ad blitz didn't include any Spanish media.

"As you know I've done business in Miami since the 1980s,'' said Scott, who said he was airing his first Spanish radio ad. "I learned how good cortaditos do taste, 'cause I like sugar. And I learned to have dinner later.''

A recent Mason-Dixon poll found Scott six points ahead of rival Bill McCollum but trailing badly among Hispanic voters. I imagine a 10 p.m. serving of arroz con pollo won't help much.

Menendez on Obama's Possible Easing of Cuba Travel

Friday, August 6, 2010
Menendez Statement on Reports of Possible Easing of Cuba Travel Restrictions

Today, US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) released the following statement on reports of possible easing of Cuba travel restrictions:

"This is not time to ease the pressure on the Castro regime -- they have made no significant concessions that should be rewarded. In the last year, a fellow American has suffered and languished in a Cuban cell for the mere fact that he promoted the free exchange of information among Cuba's repressed religious groups. To the horror of the rest of the world, the Castro regime allowed a Cuban dissident to die during his pro-democracy hunger strike. And during the past year another hunger striker has gone on life support, while the 52 political dissidents the regime said it would expelled abroad have not been freed.

Promoting travel and wide-spread remittances will give the regime a much-need infusion of dollars that will only allow the Castro brothers to extend their reign of oppression and human rights violations. Furthermore, the big corporate interests behind the push to relax the embargo couldn't care less about whether the Cuban people are free or not -- they only care about padding their profits by opening up a new market. Those who lament our dependence on foreign oil because it enriches regimes in places like Iran should not have a double standard when it comes to enriching the Castro regime, simply because Cuba offers white sand beaches 90 miles from our coast."

Message to Tyrants: Grab a Hostage, Get a Concession

In December 2009, an American, Alan Gross, was imprisoned by the Castro regime for trying to help the island's Jewish community connect to the Internet. He is still being held without charges or trial of any sort.

Meanwhile, over a month ago, the Castro regime announced that it would release 52 (out of hundreds or thousands of) political prisoners. Of these 52, 20 were taken from a prison to a plane and forcibly exiled to Spain. Meanwhile, 32 remain rotting away in prison (under abhorrent conditions), particularly those that have refused to be forcibly exiled.

What merits a unilateral concession from the U.S. at this point?

And what message does it send?
According to Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama may ease travel restrictions on Cuba, allowing more Americans to visit the island on educational and cultural trips, said a U.S. official who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the subject.

Obama first loosened travel rules on Cuba last year, making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to relatives on the Caribbean island in a bid to help "promote the freer flow of information," according to a White House statement. The official didn't give additional details on what the changes would be.

Current rules allow Americans to travel to Cuba on educational and cultural trips if they are students or employees at qualifying universities and meet a set of additional requirements, such as doing research toward a graduate degree. All Cuba travel must be approved by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Cuba Remains a State-Sponsor of Terrorism

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department released its yearly compilation of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Cuba remains on the list, along with Iran, Sudan and Syria.

First and foremost, the Administration should be commended for the appropriate inclusion of Cuba and the sanctions it implies.

Yet, how can the language below claim that "Cuba no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America," yet recognize its support for the narco-terrorist insurgency groups, FARC and ELN, in Colombia?

And what about the 30,000-50,000 Cuban personnel in Hugo Chavez's government in Venezuela?

According to the State Department's report:

The Cuban government and official media publicly condemned acts of terrorism by al-Qa'ida and affiliates, while at the same time remaining critical of the U.S. approach to combating international terrorism. Although Cuba no longer supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Government of Cuba continued to provide physical safe haven and ideological support to members of three terrorist organizations that are designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States.

The Government of Cuba has long assisted members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN), and Spain's Basque Homeland and Freedom Organization (ETA), some having arrived in Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Colombia and Spain. There was no evidence of direct financial support for terrorist organizations by Cuba in 2009, though it continued to provide safe haven to members of the FARC, ELN, and ETA, providing them with living, logistical, and medical support.

Cuba cooperated with the United States on a limited number of law enforcement matters. However, the Cuban government continued to permit U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba. These U.S. fugitives include convicted murderers as well as numerous hijackers. Cuba permitted one such fugitive, hijacker Luis Armando Peña Soltren, to voluntarily depart Cuba; Peña Soltren was arrested upon his arrival in the United States in October.

Cuba's Immigration Department refurbished the passenger inspection area at Jose Marti International Airport and provided new software and biometric readers to its Border Guards.