Saturday, August 21, 2010

LPP First Draft...

Cuba Libre? Hold Off Booking That Ticket For Now

Tourists ride in a horse-drawn carriage on a Havana street in January.
Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images Tourists ride in a horse-drawn carriage on a Havana street in January.
The Obama administration is considering easing travel restrictions to Cuba, raising the prospect of what lifting the half-century-old U.S. trade embargo against the Communist regime might mean for both countries.
Imagine American tourists bronzing on Cuban beaches and Cuban tomatoes glowing in the produce sections of U.S. supermarkets. Or Cuban baseball teams playing in American ballparks, while U.S. ballerinas twirl on a Havana stage.
Could it mean young Cuban-Americans returning to the island to invest or revisit the culture from which their families were exiled?
Critics of the embargo see great possibilities.

Gallery: U.S.-Cuba Relations

Cuba watcher Bruce M. Bagley says there could be many advantages for both countries. "There could be closer cooperation on [interdicting] drugs. More academic contacts would be great. American agriculture wants to sell more to Cuba, and the Cubans need it," says Bagley, chairman of department of international studies at the University of Miami.
He says sanctions haven't worked and that it is time to try something else.

Opposition To Sweeping Changes
The administration apparently isn't considering sweeping changes. Any substantive lifting of the trade embargo would require congressional action in any case, especially the repeal of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which extended and strengthened the sanctions.
But the changes the administration are reportedly considering now would make it possible for more Americans to travel to Cuba, including sports, cultural and educational groups, and it could expand direct flights from the U.S. to Cuba.
President Obama loosened some of the restrictions last year, when he made it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit the island and send money to their relatives there.
The administration reportedly plans to announce the next round as early as next week. The proposed changes were first reported in a story by The Miami Herald earlier this month. The White House and the State Department have declined to comment on the details.
If the administration goes ahead with the reported easing, it would basically restore contacts that were allowed under the Clinton administration, but prohibited under President George W. Bush.
But Ninoska Perez-Castellon, a director of the Miami-based Cuban Liberty Council, says now is "the worst time to lift any type of sanctions against Cuba's regime," because the Castro government has shown no real inclination to change.
Perez-Castellon says there is an economic incentive to ease some sanctions against the regime coming from foreign investors who put money into Cuba's tourist industry and were left holding the bag when the island's tourist business stagnated.

Promoting Tourism In Cuba
"There are a lot of economic interests that would like to promote the tourism industry in Cuba, which has basically failed," Perez-Castellon says. Among them, she says, are Spanish companies that put a lot of money into hotels in Cuba, but got little return from their investments.
Tourism has been a major source of revenue for Cuba, a popular destination for visitors from Canada and Europe.
Charles Suddaby, vice president for hospitality consulting at the global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield, says Cuba attracted more than 2.4 million visitors last year and seems on track to do slightly better this year.
Suddaby says a lifting of travel restrictions for U.S. tourists could generate a huge wave of interest, but he says it would probably be better to have that process take place gradually.
"There's a lot of hotel capacity down there," he says, "But it's not all of a quality that U.S. tourists might expect."
Suddaby says much of Cuba's tourist market came from cheap, all-inclusive packages, but that the government is now looking at a broader market, including sports tourism and luxury resorts.
Cubans line up to buy produce at a market in Havana in May.
  AFP/Getty Images Cubans line up to buy produce at a market in Havana in May.

Agriculture is another sector where Cuba and the U.S. could cooperate if sanctions were lifted. Cuba already buys food and agricultural products from the U.S., more than $690 million worth in 2008.
The sales were authorized by the Clinton administration in 2000, under a measure that specifies that trade can only be one-way, with Cuba buying from the U.S., and only in cash.
William Messina, an agricultural economist at the University of Florida, says Cuba's food purchases from the U.S. have dipped in the past two years, in part because countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand have offered the Cuban government better credit terms.
But Messina says further easing of restrictions could potentially stir a lot of agricultural trade between the two countries. For instance, Cuba could become a supplier of winter vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, which are currently grown mainly in Florida.
Other potential crops could be citrus and sugar for ethanol fuel.
Messina says Cuba could be a stronger market for American agriculture products, including fertilizers, pesticides and farm equipment.
All of this would be far in the future, even if the Obama administration were to make far more sweeping changes than it is currently planning. The administration has repeatedly said that it will not lift the embargo unless and until there are political and economic reforms on the island.
But Bagley says the proposed easing of sanctions is the best way "to ease the political transition in Cuba, which is inevitable, given the ages of the Castros." Bagley says that by engaging with Cuba, the U.S. could influence that transition in a positive way, rather than leaving the island with another generation of anti-American rulers.
August 19, 2010
S:npr.org
Obama's expected Cuba policy changes anger some, delight others
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The Record
STAFF WRITER
The possibility that the Obama administration could allow more Americans to travel to Cuba angers North Jersey residents who support a tough stance toward the communist regime, and delights those who believe that more contact between both nations will lead to reforms in Cuba.
Speculation that the administration is preparing to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba grew stronger this week, as several media reports quoted anonymous White House officials who spoke of the president's plans.
Some Cuban-Americans in North Jersey say that any change that would bring more U.S. dollars to Cuba would not, as some administration officials indicated, help ordinary Cubans on the island but rather benefit the regime.
"They're giving a political system that for half a century has oppressed an entire nation a lifeline," said Clara Nibot, a Bergenfield resident who emigrated from Cuba.
"It doesn't make sense that on the one hand, we send Americans overseas to die fighting for liberty, and on the other hand, we're moving toward fortifying a regime that violates human rights — just 90 miles from our shores — and shows no intention of changing."

Expanded flights?
The reports say that the change in policy could include easing rules for academic, cultural and religious groups traveling to Cuba, and expanding the number of U.S. cities that have direct flights to the island. Also, the reports say, while people living in the United States who have relatives in Cuba may send them money at present, Obama may allow all Americans to send money to institutions or human rights groups in Cuba.
It would not be the first time President Obama has changed rules concerning Cuba. Last year, he lifted restrictions imposed by former President George W. Bush on travel and remittances to Cuba by those who had relatives living on the island.
At Marazul Charters in Weehawken, an agency that handles travel to Cuba, the speculation that the administration will institute such changes brought praise.
Bob Guild, an Englewood resident and vice president of Marazul, said: "Instead of having our travel used as a foreign policy tool, the people of our country would finally be able to share ideas and experiences with the people of Cuba, a right that the rest of the world has enjoyed freely."
Sen. Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, assailed the possible change in policy. "The Castro regime allowed a Cuban dissident to die during his pro-democracy hunger strike," he said in a statement, "and during the past year, another hunger striker has gone on life support.
"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."
Opponents of the U.S.-Cuba embargo say a harsh approach toward Cuba for half a century has failed to achieve its objectives, and that it's time to try something different.
"This would undo the Bush sanctions, but the blockade, most of the travel restrictions would remain in effect," said the Rev. Lucius Walker, a Tenafly resident and founder and executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, which sends humanitarian caravans to Cuba every year.
"For 50 — not five or 15 — years, the U.S. has been arguing that the blockade will topple the 'Cuban dictator' but nothing has changed except that the humble, simple people of Cuba have been affected, have been hurting, and it just reinforces their support for their government."

The possibility that the Obama administration could allow more Americans to travel to Cuba angers North Jersey residents who support a tough stance toward the communist regime, and delights those who believe that more contact between both nations will lead to reforms in Cuba.
Sen. Bob Menendez is opposed to a possible easing of restrictions on travel to Cuba.
FILE PHOTO

Sen. Bob Menendez is opposed to a possible easing of restrictions on travel to Cuba. 
 
Speculation that the administration is preparing to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba grew stronger this week, as several media reports quoted anonymous White House officials who spoke of the president's plans.
Some Cuban-Americans in North Jersey say that any change that would bring more U.S. dollars to Cuba would not, as some administration officials indicated, help ordinary Cubans on the island but rather benefit the regime.
"They're giving a political system that for half a century has oppressed an entire nation a lifeline," said Clara Nibot, a Bergenfield resident who emigrated from Cuba.
"It doesn't make sense that on the one hand, we send Americans overseas to die fighting for liberty, and on the other hand, we're moving toward fortifying a regime that violates human rights — just 90 miles from our shores — and shows no intention of changing."
Expanded flights?
The reports say that the change in policy could include easing rules for academic, cultural and religious groups traveling to Cuba, and expanding the number of U.S. cities that have direct flights to the island. Also, the reports say, while people living in the United States who have relatives in Cuba may send them money at present, Obama may allow all Americans to send money to institutions or human rights groups in Cuba.
It would not be the first time President Obama has changed rules concerning Cuba. Last year, he lifted restrictions imposed by former President George W. Bush on travel and remittances to Cuba by those who had relatives living on the island.
At Marazul Charters in Weehawken, an agency that handles travel to Cuba, the speculation that the administration will institute such changes brought praise.
Bob Guild, an Englewood resident and vice president of Marazul, said: "Instead of having our travel used as a foreign policy tool, the people of our country would finally be able to share ideas and experiences with the people of Cuba, a right that the rest of the world has enjoyed freely."
Sen. Bob Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, assailed the possible change in policy. "The Castro regime allowed a Cuban dissident to die during his pro-democracy hunger strike," he said in a statement, "and during the past year, another hunger striker has gone on life support.
"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."
Opponents of the U.S.-Cuba embargo say a harsh approach toward Cuba for half a century has failed to achieve its objectives, and that it's time to try something different.
"This would undo the Bush sanctions, but the blockade, most of the travel restrictions would remain in effect," said the Rev. Lucius Walker, a Tenafly resident and founder and executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, which sends humanitarian caravans to Cuba every year.
"For 50 — not five or 15 — years, the U.S. has been arguing that the blockade will topple the 'Cuban dictator' but nothing has changed except that the humble, simple people of Cuba have been affected, have been hurting, and it just reinforces their support for their government."
S: NorthJersey.com

Dissidents on the island...

Almodovar and Pilar Bardem support Cuban prisoners

a clear lead with 51 000 signatures for the release of dissidents delivered to Havana

 16:00  




EP | MADRID political personalities of the Spanish culture and have topped the list with over 51,000 signatures accompanying the petition for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners , which was delivered on Friday the government of Havana.

Among this list , initiated by the mother of the late dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo , Reina Luisa Tamayo and 2,000 more in the interior of Cuba , are the film director Pedro Almodovar , singers Victor Manuel and Ana Belén , actress Pilar Bardem The Nobel Prize Herta Müller, the Italian writer Roberto Saviano or political as Jordi Pujol.

The delivery was made a group of five party activists Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID ) in the offices that the National Assembly of Popular Power in Cuba is in the Playa municipality , Havana . Officials have accepted the package but rejected the signatures on the form contained because it was the face of Zapata Tamayo.

The collection of signatures has been sponsored by the campaign, ' I accuse the Cuban government ', which declared in a statement its intention to continue to collect names to "secure the immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners and respect of human rights in the island. "

" This will be fundamental changes and reforms of the Cuban government , if any , go beyond cosmetic measures and , by contrast , involve the dismantling of the repressive state machinery , " it added.
S:laprovincia.es/ traslate results LPPNEWS FroT Line

Delivered over 51,000 signatures for the release of political prisoners


MADRID , Aug 21 ( EUROPA PRESS ) -

Political personalities of the Spanish culture and have topped the list with over 51,000 signatures accompanying the petition for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners , which was delivered on Friday the government of Havana.
Among this list , initiated by the mother of the late dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 2000 Reina Luisa Tamayo and more of the inside of Cuba , are the film director Pedro Almodovar , singers Victor Manuel and Ana Belén , actress Pilar Bardem The Nobel Prize Herta Müller, the Italian writer Roberto Saviano or political as Jordi Pujol.
The delivery was made a group of five party activists Independent and Democratic Cuba (IDC ) in the offices that the National Assembly of Popular Power in Cuba is in the municipality of Playa in Havana . Officials have accepted the package but rejected the signatures on the form contained because it was the face of Zapata Tamayo.
The collection of signatures has been sponsored by the campaign "# ozt : I accuse the Cuban government , which declared in a statement its intention to continue to collect names to "secure the immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners and respect for human rights in the island. "
" This will be fundamental changes and reforms of the Cuban government , if any , go beyond cosmetic measures and , by contrast , involve the dismantling of the repressive state machinery , " it added.
Traslate LPPNEWS results

Moratinos informed Clinton that the U.S. is ready to welcome Cuban prisoners

  • He conveys his ' satisfaction 'with the releases on the island
  • It also gives details of the negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis
AFPAFP
The U.S. Secretary of State , Hillary Clinton, on Saturday called Spanish Foreign Minister , Miguel Angel Moratinos, Who has sent his " satisfaction "with the releases of political prisoners in Cuba and his country's readiness to host, "within the regulations " , to those who want to travel to the United States , as reported by Spanish diplomats .
Clinton congratulated the minister for the development of dialogue between the Church and Cuban government is giving its "fruits "with these releases , the sources added .
In the United States is now the dissident Ariel Sigler, Who was released from prison last June with a parole is considered as the first result of dialogue between the Church and the Cuban government . Sigler is from July Miami (Florida ) , where he received medical treatment after traveling to the United States with a humanitarian visa .
Another opponent, Arturo Pérez de Alejo, one of 26 released in July and moved to Spain, hopes to travel soon to the U.S. with his wife and daughter, and which is awaiting final approval from the U.S. Embassy in Spain, as he has told .
However, Clinton has Moratinos telephoned to explain mainly the details of the first direct talks in 20 months Palestinians and Israelis maintain the September 2 in Washington.
He also thanked the "Effort and commitment " Minister in support of the peace process in the Middle East , as it did yesterday, U.S. special envoy , George Mitchell , the sources added .
Spain hoped that peace efforts will help to relaunch the process of the Union for the Mediterranean , the association that brings together the EU and its neighbors on the southern shore , so that Barcelona summit planned the third week of November will proceed " in a favorable context , " the sources pointed out .
The second summit of the UM should have been held on June 7 under the Spanish presidency of the EU, but was postponed just because the climate in the region was going through its best and the Arab countries threatened to not attend the appointment if The Israeli foreign minister , Avigdor Lieberman, Was present.
S:Elmundo.es/traslate LPPNEWS Front Line

LPP Archive...

Fidel Castro's 'spies' used supermarket trolleys as tools of trade

For three decades, an upper-middle class couple allegedly spied on America for Cuba, using the unlikeliest of tools to communicate with their handlers: supermarket trolleys.


Fidel Castro's 'spies' used supermarket trolleys as tools of trade
Fidel Castro's 'spies' used supermarket trolleys as tools of trade Photo: GETTY
 
But last week a former US State Department official and his wife were charged with spying for Fidel Castro's communist regime after an FBI sting operation that was launched with the help of a Havana cigar.
Walter Kendall Myers, scion of one of Washington's most storied families is a 72-year-old former State Department analyst who had top-secret security clearance. His mother, Elsie Alexandra Carol Grosvenor Myers, was the granddaughter of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.
His wife Gwendolyn S. Myers, 71, worked for the well-connected but now defunct Riggs Bank. Known as the CIA's favourite bank, it was also used by most foreign embassies in Washington.
The well-heeled pair were supplied with a short-wave radio to pass secret diplomatic information to their Cuban handlers, according to court documents. The indictment alleges that they spent years sending encrypted Morse code messages from their flat in Washington's expensive diplomatic quarter - just a few hundred yards from the British Embassy. More recently they are sadi to have communicated with Havana by email from internet cafés.
But their favourite way to pass information to their contacts was to swop shopping trolleys in their favourite supermarkets, the FBI claims, with Mrs Myers boasting that it was "easy enough to do".
The use of trolleys instead of more traditional "dead drop" techniques favoured by spies to send and receive messages is likely to earn the Washington couple a unique place in the annals of espionage.
Their alleged exploits spying on the State Department's Foggy Bottom headquarters have already been dubbed "Trolleygate." If the couple are confirmed as deep penetration agents of the Castro regime, it will be a deep embarrassment to America's enormously well resourced, but often incompetent intelligence agencies.
Under investigation for three years, the Myers were finally unmasked in April after an FBI undercover agent posing as a Cuban operative approached Mr Myers outside the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, near Washington's Dupont Circle.
He had been "instructed" to make contact, he said, and gave the alleged spy a cigar before congratulating him on his birthday.
In a hurried appearance in federal court on Friday, the couple pleaded not guilty to all charges. They face 35 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to act as agents of the Cuban government.
Three of their children from previous relationships who attended the court said they were "shocked", but declined further comment.
Apparently known as "Agent 202" to his Cuban handlers, Mr Myers rubbed the corner of his white moustache while flicking through his 36 page indictment. Mrs Myers, who was alternatively called "Agent 123" and "Agent E-634", sat with her back ramrod straight, but was unable to read the charges against her because she had left her glasses at home.
They were arrested at a hotel in Washington where they had already had several meetings with an FBI undercover agent.
The affidavit alleges that Cuba often "communicated with its secret agents in the US through encrypted radio messages from Cuba on shortwave radio," and that the couple had "an operable shortwave radio in their apartment of the same make used by Ana Belen Montes" - the most prominent Cuban spy to have been caught in the US.
A former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Montes was arrested in September 2001, and in 2007 pleaded guilty to 16 years of spying for Fidel Castro. She is serving a 25-year sentence.
The court was told that the Myers - both keen sailors - have $500,000 in a stock brokerage account and own a family compound in Nova Scotia, Canada. They also kept a 38 foot yacht.
The Myers are said to have told the undercover FBI source that they wanted to retire to Cuba. "Our idea is to sail home," they revealed.
During his last seven years at the State Department, Mr Myers worked as a European analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, where he viewed more than 200 intelligence reports related to Cuba. Most were classified "Secret" or "Top Secret."
He was pushed into retirement after branding the American "special relationship" with Britain as "one-sided" and a "myth." A part-time professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies at the time, he argued that Tony Blair had got "little or nothing" out of the relationship, declaring: "It has been, from the very beginning, very one-sided. There never really has been a special relationship, or at least not one we've noticed."
At an academic forum Mr Myers said he had "felt a little ashamed and a certain sadness" that Mr Blair had been treated badly. He concluded that during the Vietnam War, he added, Harold Wilson had been "a great deal more clever than Tony Blair".
The fact that a Cuban agent was allegedly able to penetrate the State Department gaining access to America's most closely guarded secrets on its enemy Fidel Castro is troubling for the FBI which is responsible for countering foreign spies.
Court documents state that Mr Myers was initially recruited during a 1978 academic trip to Cuba. The FBI says that in his diary, Mr Myers "expresses a strong affinity towards Cuba and its revolutionary goals and a negative sentiment toward 'American imperialism.'"
He is said to have noted in one excerpt: "Fidel has lifted the Cuban people out of the degrading and oppressive conditions which characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba. He is certainly one of the great political leaders of our time."
When an FBI source first approached Mr Myers, posing as a Cuban official, he said he was seeking his opinions "because of the change that is taking place in Cuba and the new administration."
The couple appears to have taken the bait and met the FBI several times in a variety of Washington hotel rooms, though they are reported to have said that they were now retired and "don't want to go back into the regular stuff."
In subsequent meetings the FBI learned that the couple had travelled secretly to Mexico to meet with Cuban contacts shortly after the DIA spy Montes was arrested in 2001. They revealed that they met regularly over the years with Cuban agents in third countries, mostly in Latin America. In 1995 they made a secret trip to Cuba, using false names, and said they had spent an evening with Cuba's then-president, Fidel Castro.
S:telegraph.co.uk