Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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From The State Department

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
From today's Daily Press Briefing with Assistant Secretary of State, P.J. Crowley:

We congratulate Mr. Guillermo Farinas today as he receives the 2010 Andrei Sakharov Prize, which is awarded by the European Parliament. We congratulate Mr. Farinas not only for being selected to receive this award which is given for freedom of thought, but also for his remarkable fortitude and courage in defending freedom of expression, democracy, and human rights in Cuba. Through his actions he has clearly helped draw international attention to the plight of political prisoners in Cuba and eventually led to the release of many of them. And we stand alongside the EU in recognizing Mr. Farinas's outstanding work, and we are disappointed that he was not permitted to attend today's ceremony to receive this prize in person.

Ninety Arrests in One Day

On March 18th, 2003, over 75 Cuban pro-democracy activists were imprisoned by the Castro regime.

It only took one day.

Over seven years later,
on July 7th, 2010, the Catholic Church (on behalf of the Castro regime) announced the release of 52 of these 75 activists.

Today, 158 days after that, 40 of these 52 have been forcibly exiled to Spain, 11 remain imprisoned because they refuse to be exiled and only one has been released in Cuba.

Meanwhile, in the 24-hours leading up to International Human Rights Day, on December 10th, 2010, there were 90 reported arrests of pro-democracy activists.

Also, in one day.
How's that for "reform"?

Here are the 90:

In Guantánamo province, Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Lomber López Serules, Isael Pobeda Silva, Yordis García Founier, Rogelio Tavío López, Rosaida Ramírez Matos, Enyor Díaz Allen, Roberto González Pelegrín, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Randi Caballero Suárez, Emilio Almaguer de la Cruz, Redesmeldo Sánchez Torres, Eliecer Aranda Matos, Elisa Milagro Reinier Acosta, Roberto Pérez Alfonso, Rafael Matos Montes de Oca, Òscar Sabón Pantoja and Yanier Jombert Cisneros.

In Velazco, Holguín, Rafael Leiva Leiva, Jonal Rodríguez Ávila, Manuel Martínez León, José Peña Batista, Arisbel Rodríguez Ricardo, Josué Peña Batista, Carlos Peña Ramírez, Marlenis Leiva Leiva, Joan Blanco Suárez and Julio Pérez Zaldívar, who were reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when they were attacked by the regime's paramilitaries.

René Hierrezuelo Arafe and Guillermo Cobas Reyes (de Santiago de Cuba), who were arrested in Havana.

In Havana province, Raúl Velázquez Valdés, Lázaro González Pérez, Dolores Eliene Muñís Vásquez (Artemisa) and Enrique Mustelier Turro (Alquízar), who were detained in their homes.

In Havana, Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Rodolfo Ramírez Cardoso, Juan Carlos Castellano Zamora, Luz María Piloto Romero, Silvio Benítez Márquez, Lilvio Fernández Luis, Arnaldo Herrera Campoalegre, Hermojenes Inocencio Guerrero, Manuel Guerra Pérez, Lisbey Lora Febles, Reinier Vera, Iván Méndez Mirabal, Orelvis Grillo Castañola, Darsi Ferrer Ramírez, Yusnaimi Jorge Soca, Pedro Moisés Calderín, Rubén Pitrín Perón, Pedro Fontanar Miranda, Juan Mario Guillén, René Ramón González Bonelli, Idalberto Acuña Caraveo, David Águila Montero, Bartolo Márquez Acebo, Frank Díaz Aguirre, Carlos Manuel Pupo Rodríguez, William Prior Peña, Jorge Luis Martínez Graveran, Jorge Luis Espino Rodríguez, Carlos Raiko Pupo Morgado, Miguel Amado Reyes Fonseca, Eduardo Pérez Flores, Michel Iroy, Vladímir Calderón Frías, Nairobi Morales Rodríguez and Julio Beltrán Iglesias.

In Güanes, Pinar del Río, Yisel Cruz Montejo, Hugo Prieto Quevedo, Luis Alberto Hernández Álvarez, Yosvani Alonso Brito, Sandino Antonio Andrés Álvarez López and Julio Adonis Castro Martínez, Denis Díaz González, Nilo Justino Padrón Padrón, Osniel González Cid, Julio Adonis Castro Martínez and Antonio Andrés Álvarez de Manuel Lazo, Lázaro Caridad Porra Vilas and Ernesto Antonio Obregón.

Under house arrest in Havana, Carlos Ríos Otero, Bárbara Sendiña Recarde, Georgina Noa Montes, Marjori Moreno Noa, Vladimir Alejo Miranda, Ernesto Artiles Tosco, Juan Carlos Bous Batista and Armando Santana Cumbrado.

In San Antonio de los Baños, Juan Gilberto Hernández Molina, Irino Morales Gutiérrez, Guillermo Flores Vázquez, Sergio Julia Negrín, Lían Escobar Díaz, Omar Lorenzo Pimienta and Osmani Ramos Vega de Alquizar, Emiliano Vignote Arias, Francisco Rubalcaba Martínez, Eulice Vignote Arias and Damari Martínez Lían.

H/T Uncommon Sense

S: Capitol Hill Cubans


Castro's departure could allow younger members of the ruling elite to ascend to stronger positions. Fidel Castro has strongly hinted at a need for a generational change and his brother has also indicated that changes to the way the island is governed, especially economically, are needed. Possible eventual successors are the vice-president, Carlos Lage, 56, the foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque, 42, and Ricardo Alarcón, 70, who was Cuba's ambassador to the UN before becoming president of the national assembly. The news broke with the release of a characteristically rambling letter from Castro that was published in several different languages on Granma's website. (Click Here for More Reading )

 In Communist societies, the fall of a dictator is often marked by a public statement about the dictator's failing health that (a) doesn't make sense, and (b) is not delivered by the dictator himself. That's what we saw on Monday night, when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro issued a "letter to the people" in which he explains that he had suffered intestinal bleeding due to stress, needed an operation, and would be in bed for several weeks. The missive was coldly Orwellian in how little it said about Castro — and in how much detail it gave about those who were now "temporarily' assuming power. ( Read More Click Here )

Ever since President Fidel Castro was sidelined for what was said to be abdominal surgery last July, Cuban officials have maintained that the country's leader will return to his post. "We will again have him leading the revolution," said Foreign Minister Felipe P�rez Roque just two days ago, speaking at an outdoor rally to protest the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, according to the Communist Party daily newspaper Granma. But U.S. officials tell TIME that many in the U.S. government are now convinced that Castro, 80, has terminal cancer and will never return to power. "Certainly we have heard this, that this guy has terminal cancer," said one U.S. official.( More Read Click Here )


Cable is from COM Michael E. Parmly four years ago when Castro suffered a near-fatal intestinal rupture. Report details the illness and operations. It is the first time I see that it happened in mid-flight with no doctor aboard. Note that Parmly calls Castro "dictator" in his report.

COM = Chief of Mission at the Interests Section in Havana.

4. (C) Doctor's Statement:

"The illness began in the plane from Holguin to Havana (Note:
after a full day of July 26, 2006 activities. End note). As
this was a short flight there was no doctor aboard and they
had to land urgently once they knew of his bleeding. He was
diagnosed with diverticulitis of the colon.

7. (C) Comment: We are missing too many variables to be able
to predict accurately how many more months Fidel Castro will
live. Frankly, we don't believe anyone, including Castro
himself, can state that with certainty. However, while he is
still alive, even in a reduced capacity, his presence has a
chilling and retardant effect on Cuban society. The high
expectations for change are still out there, but are mostly
associated with the idea that the dictator has to die first
before anything substantial will happen.


Wikileaks on Cuba: Fidel Castro 'nearly died'

15 December 10 21:29 ET
Fidel Castro at Havana University (3 September 2010) Cuban leader Fidel Castro came close to death in 2006, according to the latest secret US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks.
Mr Castro almost died after suffering a perforated intestine during an internal flight, unnamed sources told US diplomats in Havana.
The illness led Mr Castro to hand power to his brother Raul, although he has since returned to public life.
The 84-year-old's health is considered a state secret in Cuba.
The Wikileaks cables, published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais, reveal the intense efforts made by US diplomats in Havana to find out the nature of Fidel Castro's illness and his chances of recovery.
The names of the sources of information reported in the cables have been redacted by Wikileaks, but some apparently knew people who were close to the Cuban leader, or had access to his medical records.
The details of what they say cannot be independently verified.
One cable, sent in March 2007 by the then-head of the US interests section in Havana, Michael Parmly, quotes a report by an unnamed doctor on the moment Mr Castro fell seriously ill in July 2006.
"The illness began on the plane from Holguin to Havana," reports the cable.
As it was a short flight there was no doctor on board and they had to land urgently once they knew of Mr Castro's bleeding. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis of the colon.
The source said Mr Castro had a perforation of the large intestine and needed surgery.
But it says he "capriciously" refused to have a colostomy, with the result that his condition deteriorated over time and he required further surgery.
"This illness is not curable and will not, in her opinion, allow him to return to leading Cuba," the report concludes.
"He won't die immediately, but he will progressively lose his faculties and become ever more debilitated until he dies."

Further leaked cables quote other sources as saying Mr Castro was terminally ill, and examine statements by his medical team and reports of specialist drugs being brought into Cuba.
But the reports of his imminent death have proved to be exaggerated.
Mr Castro has since made an apparent recovery and earlier this year returned to making speeches and appearing in public, though he has not taken back the reins of power from his brother Raul.
The Cuban leader recently praised Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, saying the leaks of thousands of diplomatic cables had brought the US "morally, to its knees".
"Julian Assange, a man who a few months ago hardly anyone in the world had heard of, is showing that the most powerful empire in history can be defied," he wrote in an article published by Cuban state media.
The US government and its intelligence agencies have been staunch enemies of Mr Castro and the communist government in Cuba for more than half a century.
So far, all their predictions of the imminent demise of communist party rule on the island have proved false.

Cuba parliament meets ahead of big party gathering

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HAVANA – Cuba's parliament convened Wednesday to discuss the government's make-or-break plans to retool the island's economy, the first — and likely last — time legislators will get a chance to discuss the changes ahead of a major Communist Party congress next year.
Cuba's 611-member National Assembly meets in full session just twice a year, and then only briefly, to approve laws and discuss national issues. The next session is due to take place next summer.
President Raul Castro was expected to address the lawmakers in one of his few yearly speeches, though it was unclear whether his remarks would come Wednesday or at the close of the session. Foreign journalists are usually granted access to the opening of the assembly, but were not invited this year, and the session was not broadcast live on state-run television.
Castro has announced plans to lay off half a million state workers, and the government is already issuing licenses for a limited number of small businesses in an effort to open the state-dominated economy to more private enterprise.
Castro has slashed some food subsidies, raised state-controlled oil and utility prices and eliminated free lunches from many government workplaces. He says the cash-strapped state simply cannot afford them any more.
Cubans make just $20 a month, but in return get free health care and education, and nearly free housing, utilities and transportation. Even so, making ends meet is extremely difficult for most people on the island.
The government has said increased productivity is the key to improving living conditions, a refrain repeated often in recent decades. Many workers in turn blame the government for the low productivity, saying many factories barely function due to bureaucracy, crippling inefficiency and a lack of spare parts.
The government has begun distributing a 32-page list of guidelines for next year's Communist Party Congress — the first such gathering since 1997. The guidelines are being discussed by Cubans in thousands of meetings at workplaces and neighborhoods around the country.
In addition to allowing more private enterprise, the government has said it wants to pay down the island's billions of dollars of foreign debt and eventually scrap an unusual dual currency system.
Parliament chief Ricardo Alarcon said Friday that this week's assembly session will allow legislators a chance to weigh in on the changes.
"We're going to talk about the economic plans. The main focus is going to be to allow the delegates to debate the guidelines," he said.
Cuba's government bristles at suggestions the national parliament serves as little more than a rubber stamp, noting that its members are elected by the island's citizens, though campaigning is prohibited and opposition candidates almost never run — let alone win seats.
The parliament, in turn, decides who will serve on the Council of State, Cuba's supreme governing body.
The country has been run by Raul Castro and his brother Fidel since 1959.
Parliament is also likely to receive a year-end report from the economy minister. Cuba's economy grew by just 1.4 percent in 2009, and the results this year are likely to be similarly discouraging.
Cuba has slashed imports due to lack of funds, and has already announced that harvests of key crops like sugar and rice were among the worst in decades. Tourism revenue has been a bright spot, holding steady despite the global economic slowdown.
Cuban economists have been warning that there are more hard times to come.
Joaquin Infanta, one of the island's main economists, told state-run Juventud Rebelde newspaper on Sunday that Cubans should prepare to tighten their belts because the economic overhaul will take time to bear fruit.
"It will have an impact in 2011 and 2012," he said. "The benefits of the changes won't be seen until 2013."