Wednesday, September 29, 2010

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Knowing How to Lose

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Responding to a tirade in The Huffington Post about Cuban-American Members of Congress, political contributions and the cancellation of today's markup, Ernesto Hernandez Bustos of Penultimos Dias pointedly notes:

"Some people don't know how to lose. If the Cuban-American Members of Congress have succeeded, it's because they do their job well, which is to defend the interests of those that elected them. As regards economic support, why doesn't the analyst mention the business lobby that is in favor of lifting sanctions? Don't they make donations?"

We'd further note that the political contributions of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Farm Bureaus and the multiple trade associations lobbying to unconditionally lift sanctions stymie those of the Cuban-American community.

And shamefully, that business lobby has only one interest in its tireless pursuit of lifting sanctions: profiting from repression.

Don't Believe the Hype

In its preview of the Congressional race in Florida's 25th District, Time gets the premise absolutely right:
One overhyped story in the 2008 election was the supposed rise of Miami's moderate Cuban-American voters. Early polls, demographic data and fundraising trends indicated the conservative Cuban politics that had long held sway in Miami's three southernmost congressional districts (the 18th, the 21st and the 25th) was on the outs -- and that Democrats might just pick one of them up. In the end, however, Barack Obama's coattails failed to reach the Magic City, and the best the Dems could do was Joe Garcia's six-point loss to incumbent GOP U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart in the 25th.

As Cuba Prepares to Drill for Oil, Fears Surface

HOUSTON — Five months after the BP oil spill, a federal moratorium still prohibits new deepwater drilling in the American waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And under longstanding federal law, drilling is also banned near the coast of Florida.
Yet next year, a Spanish company will begin drilling new wells 50 miles from the Florida Keys — in Cuba’s sovereign waters.
Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia — enough to bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for its energy needs.
The advent of drilling in Cuban waters poses risks to both the island nation and the United States.
Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in as little as three days. If the oil reached the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current that passes through the region, oil could flow up the coast to Miami and beyond.
The Cubans are far less prepared to handle a major spill than the Americans were in the BP accident. Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on short notice.
And marshaling help from American oil companies to fight a Cuban spill would be greatly complicated by the trade embargo on Cuba imposed by the United States government 48 years ago, according to industry officials. Under that embargo, American companies face severe restrictions on the business they can conduct with Cuba.
The prospect of an accident is emboldening American drilling companies, backed by some critics of the embargo, to seek permission from the United States government to participate in Cuba’s nascent industry, even if only to protect against an accident.
“This isn’t about ideology. It’s about oil spills,” said Lee Hunt, president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, a trade group that is trying to broaden bilateral contacts to promote drilling safety. “Political attitudes have to change in order to protect the gulf.”
Any opening could provide a convenient wedge for big American oil companies that have quietly lobbied Congress for years to allow them to bid for oil and natural gas deposits in waters off Cuba. Representatives of Exxon Mobil and Valero Energy attended an energy conference on Cuba in Mexico City in 2006, where they met Cuban oil officials.
Right now, Cuba’s oil industry is served almost exclusively by non-American companies. Repsol, a Spanish oil company, has contracted with an Italian operator to build a rig in China that is scheduled to begin drilling several deepwater test wells next year. Other companies, from Norway, India, Malaysia, Venezuela, Vietnam and Brazil, have taken exploration leases.
New Mexico’s governor, Bill Richardson, a Democrat who regularly visits Cuba, said Cuba’s offshore drilling plans are a “potential inroad” for loosening the embargo. During a recent humanitarian trip to Cuba, he said, he bumped into a number of American drilling contractors — “all Republicans who could eventually convince the Congress to make the embargo flexible in this area of oil spills.”
“I think you will see the administration be more forward-moving after the election,” Mr. Richardson said.
Despite several requests in the last week, Cuban officials declined to make anyone available for an interview.
Currently, the United States, Mexico and Cuba are signatories to several international protocols in which they agreed to cooperate to contain any oil spill. In practice, there is little cooperation between Washington and Havana on oil matters, although American officials did hold low-level meetings with Cuban officials after the BP blowout.
“What is needed is for international oil companies in Cuba to have full access to U.S. technology and personnel in order to prevent and/or manage a blowout,” said Jorge Piñón, a former executive of BP and Amoco. Mr. Piñón, who fled Cuba as a child and now briefs American companies on Cuban oil prospects, said the two governments must also create a plan for managing a spill.
Several American oil and oil service companies are eager to do business in Cuba, Mr. Piñón said, but they are careful not to identify themselves publicly because they want to “protect their brand image in South Florida,” where Cuban-Americans who support the embargo could boycott their gasoline stations and other products.
There are signs the Obama administration is aware of the safety issues. Shortly after the BP accident, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency that regulates the embargo, said it would make licenses available to American service companies to provide oil spill prevention and containment support.
Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a State Department spokesman, said licenses would be granted on a “application-by-application basis,” but he would not comment on the criteria.
Mr. Piñón said it appeared that an American company could apply for a license before an emergency but that a license would be issued only after an accident has occurred. “We’re jumping up and down for clarification,” he said.
One organization — Clean Caribbean & Americas, a Fort Lauderdale cooperative of several oil companies — has received licenses to send technical advisers, dispersants, containment booms and skimmers to Cuba since 2003. But it can only serve member companies Repsol and Petrobras, not the Cuban government.
Economic sanctions on Cuba have been in effect in one form or another since 1960, although the embargo has been loosened to allow the sale of agricultural goods and medicines and travel by Cuban-Americans to the island.
Mr. Hunt of the drillers’ group said that the association had sent a delegation to Cuba in late August and has held talks with government officials and Cupet, the Cuban national oil company.
He said that Cuban officials, including Tomás Benítez Hernández, the vice minister of basic industry, asked him to take a message back to the United States. “Senior officials told us they are going ahead with their deepwater drilling program, that they are utilizing every reliable non-U.S. source that they can for technology and information, but they would prefer to work directly with the United States in matters of safe drilling practices,” Mr. Hunt said.
Mr. Benítez became the acting minister last week when the minister of basic industry, the agency that oversees the oil industry, was fired for reasons that remain unclear.
Donald Van Nieuwenhuise, director of petroleum geoscience programs at the University of Houston, said that if an accident occurred in Cuban waters, Repsol or other companies could mobilize equipment from the North Sea, Brazil, Japan or China. But “a one-week delay could be disastrous,” he said, and it would be better for Havana, Washington and major oil companies to coordinate in advance.
Opponents of the Cuban regime warn that assisting the Cubans with their oil industry could help prop up Communist rule. Instead of making the drilling safer, some want to stop it altogether.
Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, is urging President Obama to recall a diplomatic note to Havana reinforcing a 1977 boundary agreement that gives Cuba jurisdiction up to 45 miles from Florida. “I am sure you agree that we cannot allow Cuba to put at risk Florida’s major business and irreplaceable environment,” he wrote in a letter to the president shortly after the BP accident.

I don't believe my eyes...

Image of the Day

(Image: A Cuban army officer waits beside a car during celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) outside the former presidential palace, now Museum of the Revolution, in Havana, Sept. 28, 2010. Reuters.)
( 9-27-10-9:35 AM)

By: Alejandro Cabrera Cruz - JOURNALIST Independent
Camagueypress . On day 19 was severely beaten in the Municipality Florida , Camagüey - by agents of crackdown Castro's on opposition and former political prisoner Joel Marín Cárdenas, for his activism for democracy and freedom of expression in Cuba. In conversation with two friends about the situation impoverished of the Cuban economy has given rise to alarming levels of unemployment announced by the regime and the continuing violations of human rights in Cuba.
A uniformed officer of the National Police and other civilian clothes so decomposed told Joel to shut his mouth. At the time he returned to answer the officer, this has dealt a blow to the chest with the butt of his gun knocking him to the floor. Then a plainclothes officer , apparently a arts expert martial picked him up and threw it repeatedly against the floor .
Amid protests from 's companions the victim and many other witnesses who were at the scene, was dragged to the headquarters of State Security , where they requested a patrol car for transportation to the police unit this city.
presented by the detainee to breathe through the blow to the chest , was taken to a clinic nearby after a recognition superficial , ordered a blood test , to which Marín Cárdenas opposed asking to make him a chest plate , which is where he was beaten , but the officers refused and handcuffed him with the intention to force him to take out the blood.
Chants of " Down with dictatorship " and " Long live human rights "by Joel caused an uproar in the polyclinic. Realizing the police that increased the number of witnesses, back dragged Joel to the patrol car to which was launched head leaving him with one leg off who beat him with cruelty to the door causing him a fracture to the ankle .
While being beaten , another officer her sprayed eyes with a spray that police use to neutralize. Even under these conditions was locked in a cell , until the next morning that , due to swelling of the leg and irritated that his eyes were he was taken to City Hospital where he plastered the leg and covered other hits that appeared in face as the deviation of the septum of the nose.
Upon returning to the station the PNR was interviewed by a colonel of the body and two lieutenant colonels of the State Security from Camaguey , which he said after hearing his statement , that they would be responsible for investigating all details and which then would report the result thereof .
Joel Marín Cárdenas told that was fasting total and would remain so until justice is done with their attackers. Joel was taken to his home in an ambulance from the Ministry of Interior, where he remains in bed with shortness of breath and chest pain , but until this point I have made no plate to diagnose the consequences of recoil in the body part.

S: New Action / simultaneous translation LPPNEWS FrontLine Results

Cuba travel bill put on hold

Published: Sept. 29, 2010 at 8:06 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A bill lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba has been put on hold by a panel of the U.S. House of Representatives, the chairman says.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee was scheduled to mark up the bill Wednesday but an analysis by The Hill indicated only 15 members were publicly committed to voting in favor of the measure.
Panel Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., needs 24 votes to get the bill out of committee and onto the House floor.
"I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves," Berman said in a statement released Tuesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated recently if Berman's committee approved the bill, it could be brought to the House floor either before or after the November midterm elections.
The measure lifts travel restrictions to Cuba on U.S. citizens and permanent residents of the United States.

Cuba poised for offshore drilling?

Experts at Mote conference think so


SARASOTA — Cuba may be poised to begin offshore drilling for oil and gas as soon as next year, according to some of those attending a tri-national conference on marine issues here.
“They will begin drilling, I think, within the next year,” said Wayne Smith, who served in the foreign service in Cuba during the Carter and Reagan administrations, and now works for the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. He is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s good for Cuba,” Smith added during an interview at a break in the conference at Mote Marine Laboratory. “Let’s hope the Cubans are more careful about their drilling practices than we were.”

The island nation about 90 miles from Florida’s tip already has oil wells on land, but offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas will be new, scientists said.
The conference, the Tri-national Initiative for Marine Science and Conservation of the Gulf of Mexico and Western Caribbean, focused not on oil drilling, but on finalizing a long-term marine mutual research and conservation plan for the United States, Mexico and Cuba.
It continues today with a program addressing ecosystem-wide conservation for animals like sharks and sea turtles, along with discussion of marine-protected areas, coral reefs, fisheries and other topics.
One session did address the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster: It was titled “BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Disaster: Lessons and Implications for Our Tri-national Work.”
In interviews with the Bradenton Herald, many of the delegates appeared to be well-acquainted with Cuba’s energy development plans, which entail leasing offshore sites to international oil companies. U.S. companies are prohibited from participating, due to a long-standing economic embargo of the Communist nation.
“It’s still in the exploratory phase, but it’s no doubt it’ll be significant,” said David Guggenheim, moderator of the conference. “It will generate badly needed revenue and energy independence.”
Guggenheim said the U.S. government had granted visas to 20 Cuban delegates attending the marine conference, which he hoped might encourage at least a conversation on how Cuba, the United States and Mexico might work together on issues of such great importance.
He said it was unusual for so many to be allowed in the United States at one time, constituting “a dramatic change at least in this regard.”
The Cuban delegation was headed by Luis Alberto Barreras Cañizo, representing the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment.
“Cuba needs to find its oil, it’s a resource Cuba needs,” he said during an interview.
Asked if the idea of oil and gas drilling off the coast of his country bothered him from an ecological point of view, Barreras replied it did not.
“The Cuban environmental framework is very progressive,” he said through an interpreter.
Jorge R. Piñon, a former president of Amoco Oil Latin America, which merged with BP, was not at the Sarasota conference, but said later in a telephone interview that Cuba had awarded 29 blocks, called concessions, to a group of about seven international oil companies.
Piñon, who is also a visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute at Miami’s Florida International University, said that a submersible oil drilling rig is going through sea trials, and is expected to arrive near Cuba at the end of the year.
“The first quarter next year, we do expect for (Spanish company) Repsol to be drilling about 22 miles north of Havana,” he said.

Cuba, Bahamas, Florida under tropical storm alert

Cuba, Bahamas, Florida under tropical storm alert AFP/Getty Images – Storm clouds are seen over the skyline as South Florida comes under a Tropical storm warning in Miami, …

MIAMI (AFP) – Parts of Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida were under a tropical storm alert Tuesday, as a tropical depression gathered strength and was likely to become Tropical Storm Nicole, forecasters said.
Currently 190 kilometers (115 miles) south of Havana, the weather system was packing winds of 55 kilometers (35 miles) per hour and heading northeast at 17 kilometers (10 miles) per hour, the US National Hurricane Center said.
"Some strengthening is forecast during the next 12 to 24 hours and the depression is expected to become a tropical storm tonight or Wednesday," the Miami-based NHC said.
Tropical storm alerts have been issued for Cuba from Matanzas eastward, the northwestern and central Bahamas and southern Florida, from Jupiter Inlet -- just north of West Palm Beach-- including the Florida Keys, it added.
"A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours," the weather service said.