Thursday, March 31, 2011

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What Carter Should Have Said in Cuba

Thursday, March 31, 2011
By young pro-democracy activist Aramis L. Perez in Fox News:

During his visit to Cuba this week, former President Jimmy Carter packed an international media spotlight with his guayabera, affording him an opportunity to refocus the international conversation on Cuba on the efforts of the pro-freedom Resistance to achieve a democratic transition, and the injustices suffered by the people on the island at the hands of the Communist regime.

Instead, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed up the chance to stand squarely on the world stage for the Cuban people's democratic aspirations – embodied in the nonviolent action valiantly undertaken by the freedom movement despite the regime's reprisals, including beatings, imprisonment, and torture – and chose to bolster causes important to the dictatorship.
Yes, he met with some members of civil society and the Cuban Resistance. He reportedly expressed hope for the Cuban people to enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, and travel and for the enforcement of international rights standards.

But then Carter called for the release of five convicted members of the regime's "Wasp" spy network serving sentences in US prison. Ringleader Gerardo Hernandez is serving life for charges including contributing to the murders of Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales in the 1996 shootdown over international waters of civilian aircraft flown by humanitarian group Brothers to the Rescue.

Carter's position was to excuse these heinous crimes.

As an American son of Cuban exiles, and a supporter of the Cuban Resistance, I wonder what might have been had Carter chosen a more honorable course.

Picture the onetime head of state and government of the United States pausing before that roomful of world media. They wait to ask about American citizen Alan Gross, who worked to give Cuban Jews access to communications technology and was held hostage for over a year before being unjustly sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. His release has been sought by the Obama administration, Jewish groups, and the Cuban-American community, among others. They wait to hear about US economic sanctions, which Carter subsequently claimed impeded the regime from undertaking significant reform. He neglected to explain, though, exactly how the lack of business dealings between American companies and the Cuban nomenklatura prevent the regime from releasing all political prisoners, legalizing non-Communist political activity and scheduling free and fair elections, the conditions in US law for lifting those sanctions.

Then imagine him surprising all concerned by saying something like this:
"I met with a number of representatives of Cuban civil society and the pro-democracy movement today. Among them were Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, and pioneering nonviolent freedom activist; Laura Pollan and other members of the Ladies in White who have marched every Sunday for years for the release of political prisoners; Angel Moya Acosta and other former Amnesty International prisoners of conscience; Yoani Sanchez and Claudia Cadelo, award-winning bloggers, and others who overcome great obstacles to free expression. In Dr. Biscet, I see a man whose work deserves to be recognized by the Nobel Committee. As a former Peace Prize recipient, I support his nomination.
Today, I ask why citizens like these are denied a say in their country's future. I ask why they are portrayed on State television as 'Pawns of the Empire' for exercising basic rights and for using the Internet to connect with fellow citizens and friends abroad.
Cuba has been under one-party rule for 52 years. The Cuban people have been told falsely that my country and the American people wish to do them harm. Cubans know this is not the case, and for those who do not, let me assure you my fellow citizens want to see your country flourish, and for you to enjoy the same liberties and
opportunities we do.
The Cuban people deserve a government that respects their freedom, chosen through free and fair elections. I urge world leaders to join me in calling for these elections. I pledge my support, and the Carter Center's, to this enterprise which could mark the beginning of a new chapter in Cuban history written by the Cuban people themselves, free from the fear of oppression."

President Carter could have leveraged the prestige of the office he once occupied, the status enjoyed by his Center, and the international media spotlight he brought with him to Havana to offer Cuba's nonviolent freedom movement a boost that would have registered in the world's newsrooms, among policymakers, and in real world and online forums. But he did not.
S: Capitol Hill Cubans
Do you know what this is?
March 31 - No, it is not a terrorist attack. And no, it is not an explosion of an oil depot.
Believe it or not, it is a fire set up by Venezuela's Servicio Autonómico de Elaboraciones Farmacéuticas (SEFAR) to incinerate 566,590 kilos (1,227,000 pounds) of Cuban pharmaceuticals and medical products, that became obsolete due to mismanagement in its handling by the Venezuelan government..
While Cuban patients cannot find the medicines that they need and the Cuban hospitals do not have the equipment required to treat their patients, the Venezuelan government has to incinerate millions of dollars in Cuban pharmaceutical and medical products, sold by Castro & Castro Inc., because the Chávez regime is so incompetent that it cannot deliver the products in time and it cannot store them in a safe place either.
.Among the products damaged were 27,000 syringes that were moldy and unfit for human use, having been stored in an unspecified warehouse that had a leaking roof.
According to Venezuela's Comptroller General, Clodosbaldo Russián, a significant percentage of these drugs had been stored "for an average of two years and were not distributed," while others were left in the open when they should have been refrigerated.
The information was published by Venezuela's newspaper El Universal, which was able to obtain a copy of a report that Russian gave to the National Assembly.
The report also indicated problems in implementing the agreements signed in 2005 between Chávez and the Castro brothers,  for Venezuela to purchase about $ 678 million dollars in medicines and medical equipment from the Cuban government.
According to Russian's report, the Castro brothers sent their Venezuelan puppet many drugs that were not ordered and in other cases sent quantities much larger than the ones that were ordered.
Another of the problems, according to Venezuela's Comptroller General, was that many of the products that came from Cuba expired just nine months after they were shipped, instead of 18 months as it is customary.
But heck, when dealing between Mafia members nothing is customary.
On top of all the money paid to the Castro brothers, Venezuelan taxpayers had to pay an additional $650,000 dollars for the 5 month delay that the products were at Venezuelan ports and an additional $280,000 to incinerate them.
As I have always said: It is not the embargo, it is the stupid system that doesn't work!
And in the mean time, patients in Cuba will not have access to the most basic needs at Cuba's hospitals, and the regime will blame the embargo.
And Venezuelan patients will suffer the same fate as their Cuban counterparts, and Chaávez will blame the imperialists and the capitalist system. Noticias24 (Spanish)
 
What Jimmy Carter should have said in Cuba
March 31 - During his visit to Cuba this week, former President Jimmy Carter packed an international media spotlight with his guayabera, affording him an opportunity to refocus the international conversation on Cuba on the efforts of the pro-freedom Resistance to achieve a democratic transition, and the injustices suffered by the people on the island at the hands of the Communist regime.
Instead, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed up the chance to stand squarely on the world stage for the Cuban people's democratic aspirations – embodied in the nonviolent action valiantly undertaken by the freedom movement despite the regime's reprisals, including beatings, imprisonment, and torture – and chose to bolster causes important to the dictatorship.
Yes, he met with some members of civil society and the Cuban Resistance. He reportedly expressed hope for the Cuban people to enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, and travel and for the enforcement of international rights standards.
But then Carter called for the release of five convicted members of the regime's “Wasp” spy network serving sentences in US prison. Ringleader Gerardo Hernandez is serving life for charges including contributing to the murders of Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales in the 1996 shootdown over international waters of civilian aircraft flown by humanitarian group Brothers to the Rescue.
Carter's position was to excuse these heinous crimes. FoxLatino
 
Meet Hebertico, the rubber cat that was stabbed by a Castro goon at Havana's airport
March 31 - This piece originally appeared on Jose R. Alonso's Open Salon Blog: I was born in Cuba during the fall of one dictator, Fulgencio Bastista, and the rise of another, Fidel Castro. My father was a sergeant in the army of the former and an enemy of the state of the latter. Through a shuffling of paperwork that was uncommonly fast for a pre-digital age, military bureaucracy, my father’s military discharge was expedited and he retired to take over the family business. His retirement was without benefits since regimes that take over other regimes by force have a problem honoring their enemies’ retirement plans. But at least my father was able to leave alive, intact and without having to spend any time in one of Castro’s prisons for dissidents.
For some time things were okay, my father took over his father’s butcher shop, and my mother took care of me and my older sister. I took to what baby’s did best: eat, sleep and soil my diapers. Accompanying me in my crib, I had many stuffed animals, but I took a fancy to a small rubber toy cat. Later on when I could talk, I named him Hebertico. No one knows for sure why I came up with that name for my toy but it stuck.
As Castro’s grip started to tighten over the small island nation, things started to change. Neighbors started to disappear. Some went to “El Norte” a.k.a the United States. They would just up and leave. They would either go to the United States, Spain, Mexico or other Central and South American countries. Some would leave by plane, or by boats or makeshift rafts. However, others were sent to prison for crimes against the state, and still others were sent to forced labor camps or to face the firing squad. Most of these people were being turned in by neighborhood spies.
These happenings did not bother my family for some time. However, soon state rations were being imposed on everything. One of them was food. As the sole proprietor of his business, my father felt that he did not have to comply with those rules when it came to taking food to his family. Especially, since he always paid his suppliers. But the neighborhood spies ever eager to cull favors from the government, reported my dad. Soon Castro’s “soldiers”, more like armed thugs, started to come by our house, when my father was away at work, and make indirect threats to my mother. By the time I was four years old, my parents made the decision to leave the country.
Continue reading
 
Ileana Ros: Carter should have demanded freedom for 11 million Cubans, instead of 5 convicted spies
PRESS RELEASE
March 30, 2011
Ros-Lehtinen Disappointed By President Carter’s Call For The Release Of The 5 Cuban Spies & Says Former President Should Have Taken Opportunity To Demand Freedom For The 11 Million Cubans Who Live Under Dictatorial Castro Regime
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued the following statement after press reports indicated that during former President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Cuba he had called for the release of the 5 Cuban spies convicted by US courts of espionage, with one convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“It deeply disappoints me that a former US President who prides himself as a committed fighter for human rights can meet with the dictators of Havana and call for the release of 5 Cuban spies who were rightly convicted in US courts.
These spies were here to report back to the regime on the activities occurring at our military installations and one was accused of conspiring in the deaths of the innocent pilots of Brothers to the Rescue, where three US citizens and one US resident were heinously shot down over international waters.
The Castro regime represses its people and it is squarely on the side of our enemies and against our interests. President Carter should know better than to appease dictators who have no interest in bringing liberty and freedom to the Cuban people and who are only interested in lengthening their 50 plus years in power.”
 
Surprise! Jimmy "The useful idiot" Carter asks for the release of the spies and an end to the embargo
March 30 - An idiot as president, and an idiot as former president.
Jimmy Carter gave a "press conference" at Havana's Palacio de Convenciones, and called not only for an end to the embargo but also for  a release of the 5 Cuban spies currently in U.S. jails.
“We should immediately lift the embargo,” Carter said, as well as all restrictions on travel to Cuba.
The Useful Idiot also asked for the release of the 5 Cuban spies, saying that they have already spent 12 years in jail and that further incarceration is "unwarranted."
After visiting Gross at an undisclosed location this morning, Carter addressed the need for him to be released “because he is innocent of any serious threat to the Cuban people.”
No, socotroco, he is not in jail for being a threat to the Cuban people, he is in jail for being a threat to the brutal dictator in Cuba, who is scared to death of the Internet and is trying to prevent the Cuban people from having access to news of what is happening in their own country and around the world.
The only threat to the Cuban people comes from the Castro brothers, and the useful idiots like Jimmy Carter who are always finding excuses for the Castros' genocide against the Cuban people.
Carter also met with Cuba's walking corpse and "retired" dictator, who he called an "old friend."
It is hard to comprehend that this idiot was at one time president of this great country.  This leftist publication had a journalist that went to Cuba with Carter and has more about today's "press conference."
 
Carter meeting with dissidents (UPDATED)
March 30 - Yoani Sánchez is reporting via her Twitter account that she and other Cuban blogger met with Jimmy Carter this morning and that meeting finished around 10 AM EST.
Now Carter is meeting with The Ladies in White and some of the prisoners who were recently released and refused to be exiled in Spain.
Yoani said that cell phones were not allowed during their meeting with Carter.
S:The Real Cuba

Carter visits jailed American contractor in Cuba


March 30, 2011|By Shasta Darlington, CNN
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Wednesday with Alan Gross, an American contractor sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison, and urged the government to free him.
"This morning I had a chance to meet with Alan Gross, a man I believe to be innocent of any serious threat to the Cuban government or the Cuban people," Carter said during a news conference in Havana on the last day of his visit to the island. "My hope is that he also might soon be given his own freedom."



Carter leaves Cuba without jailed US contractor

HAVANA – Former President Jimmy Carter left Cuba on Wednesday without gaining the release of a U.S. government contractor jailed the past 16 months, a deflating end to what was otherwise a groundbreaking visit.
Carter spent hours talking about improving ties with brothers Raul and Fidel Castro, describing the latter as an "old friend." He met with religious leaders and members of the island's small opposition community, dined out at an atmospheric Old Havana restaurant and even sat down with family members of five Cuban agents serving long prison terms in the U.S.
But when the 86-year-old ex-president flew off in the afternoon without Alan Gross on board, it dashed the hopes of Washington officials and relatives who had hoped Carter would be able to bring the Maryland native home.
Gross, who was working on a USAID-funded democracy building program when he was arrested in December 2009, is serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted earlier this month of bringing communications equipment into Cuba illegally.
State Department officials have said privately that Cuban authorities indicated they might release Gross on humanitarian grounds following his trial and sentencing earlier this month.
But Carter said that from the very beginning, he knew Gross would not be freed during his visit.
"The Cuban officials made it very clear to me before I left my home that the freedom of Alan Gross would not be granted," he said.
Carter said that he met with Gross at an undisclosed location Wednesday morning and that the 61-year-old contractor told him he had lost 40 kilograms (88 pounds) since his arrest.
"He still seems to be in good spirits, professing his innocence," Carter added.
Carter said Gross' lawyer plans to appeal his conviction, and if that fails, "perhaps in the future an executive order might be issued to grant him a pardon, a release, on humanitarian grounds." Gross' 26-year-old daughter and elderly mother are both suffering from cancer.
Carter said he believes Gross is "innocent of any serious crime" and did not pose a serious threat to the Cuban government.
In Washington, the State Department noted Carter's effort and said it regretted that Havana did not free the contractor.
"We are disappointed that he did not come back with Mr. Gross," spokesman Mark Toner said. "We believe (Gross) should have been released long ago."
Carter sat down with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro a day after holding talks with President Raul Castro.
"We welcomed each other as old friends," Carter said of the meeting with the 84-year-old former Cuban leader. He said Castro "seems to be in good health."
On hand to see Carter off at Havana's international airport, Raul Castro said the former president spent six hours with him and about an hour with Fidel. He called the visit "good" and said progress must be made on a solution to the two nations' common problems.
"We are ready," Castro told reporters, adding that any talks with Washington must be between equals.
Carter had breakfast Wednesday with members of the opposition, including 10 dissidents recently released from prison by the Cuban government and members of the Ladies in White opposition group.
Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said Carter "wanted to express his solidarity and his recognition of the movement for civil rights and also the emerging civil society."
"Hopefully his visit will be useful even if it is just one step toward the normalization of bilateral relations between the governments of Washington and Havana," she added.
Blogger Yoani Sanchez recalled being drilled to as a child to shout insults directed at Carter, who was president at the time. Three decades later, she wrote, the man she had been raised to consider an enemy "reached out his hand to me, spoke to me, asked me a question."
Before Carter's midday news conference, hopes had risen in Washington that the former leader would bring Gross home. Last August, the 39th U.S. president and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize traveled to North Korea to secure the release of an imprisoned American, and many expected the same sort of result in Cuba.
Gross has said he was working to improve Internet communications for Cuba's tiny Jewish community. Havana considers the millions of dollars spent on such USAID-funded projects to be aimed at toppling the government.
Carter said he discussed Gross' case with Cuban officials but was visiting to talk about strained ties.
He criticized Washington's decades-old embargo against Cuba as well as a ban on American tourist travel to the island. He also called for the release of five Cuban agents serving long prison sentences in the United States, a hot-button issue in Cuba, where they are hailed as heroes for trying to infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups.
Carter played down the possibility of exchanging them for Gross, as have Cuban officials.
"I did not come here with the idea of arranging any kind of swap," Carter said. "I think the two cases ... are completely separate."
Washington and Havana have not had formal diplomatic relations since the 1960s, and the United States maintains economic and financial sanctions on the island.
U.S. officials say no thaw in relations is possible while Gross is in prison.
Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, previously visited Cuba in 2002, becoming the only former U.S. president to do so since the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
"Carter is an honest man," Raul Castro said Wednesday.
He added that of the various U.S. presidents that the Castros have seen come and go, Carter "was the one who had a better position toward Cuba."
___
Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez and Paul Haven in Havana contributed to this report.

CUBA Beverage Company® Receives Distribution Agreement from Key Distributor in the Cayman Islands

Thu Mar 31, 2:30 pm ET CUBA Herbal Energy Juice® to be distributed in Cayman Islands
San Diego, CA (PRWEB) March 31, 2011
CUBA Beverage Company® (CUBV.PK) has received a signed distribution agreement from Cayman Energy Drinks. They are one of the main distributors in the Cayman Islands and have agreed to make CUBA the primary energy drink in their portfolio. This territory is not only valuable as a great new market in the Caribbean, but will also introduce American visitors to the drink, which they will then look for back in the United States.
Cayman Energy Drinks is scheduled to receive the first shipment in June, 2011.
Over 3 years ago, CUBA Beverage Company® was one of the first companies to market with an all natural energy juice. In response to consumer demand for a healthier, better-tasting energy beverage, CUBA Herbal Energy Juice® is now replacing traditional unhealthy energy drinks in many locations in the United States and internationally.
CUBA Herbal Energy Juice® is an all natural herbal energy juice currently available in three unique flavors; Pomegranate-Cranberry, Wild Berry and Passion Fruit-Orange. CUBA Beverage Company's® products represent a healthy all-natural energy drink, with no caffeine, no taurine, no high fructose corn syrups or sugars, no preservatives and no artificial ingredients of any kind.
CUBA Herbal Energy Juice®: No monsters, no bull, just pure healthy energy!
Safe Harbor: This release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Statements contained in this release that are not historical facts may be deemed to be forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned that forward-looking statements are inherently uncertain. Actual performance and results may differ materially from that projected or suggested herein due to certain risks and uncertainties including, without limitation, ability to obtain financing and regulatory and shareholder approvals for anticipated actions.
CONTACT: Investor Relations, 866-431-CUBA (2822)
info(at)cubabev(dot)com
WEB: http://www.cubabev.com

###
Investor Relations
CUBA Beverage Company®
866-431-2822
Email Information

Cuba OKs credits for entrepreneurs, farmers

 By PETER ORSI, Associated Press Peter Orsi, Associated Press Wed Mar 30, 5:54 pm ET

HAVANA – Cuba has authorized government banks to offer credit to farmers and small business owners, a key step in a series of sweeping economic changes ushered in over the last six months, state-run media announced Wednesday.
The government has granted tens of thousands of business licenses to new entrepreneurs, and has also loosened restrictions in order to allow farmers to sell their products directly to consumers from roadside kiosks. One of the main challenges facing the new businesses is a lack of financing, making bank credits an important ingredient for success.
The program authorizes credits for purchasing farming equipment in authorized stores — rather than on the black market. It also allows for "loans to persons authorized to operate private businesses to finance working capital and investment," according to an article in the Communist Party daily Granma.
The article said the measure was approved Friday at a meeting of the Council of Ministers, presided over by President Raul Castro. It gave no details on how credits can be obtained, or what interest rate or other rules the payouts will be subject to, or what the total amount of such loans will be.
Some economists have expressed doubts that cash-strapped Cuban banks will be able to handle the loans and have urged the state to reach out to foreign investors for capital.
While the article made no mention of such a move, many entrepreneurs are receiving foreign capital infusions of a kind: seed money sent in the form of remittances from relatives overseas, most of them in the United States and Spain.
A recent decision by the Obama Administration that allows any American to send up to $2,000 a year to Cuba could make such loans even easier.
Castro has said the economic overhaul is intended to update Cuba's socialist economic model and is not a wholesale switch to capitalism.
The newly approved credit measure "supports the updating of the Cuban economic model," Granma said Wednesday.
Heeeere comes Jimmy, by Pong

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

LPP NEWS First Draft...



Raul's Smirk Says It All

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Below is a very telling picture of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, as he sees off U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the airport in Havana.

Castro is obviously very satisfied with Carter's visit.

Meanwhile, as of last night, two of the pro-democracy activists who tried to hold a protest outside the Capitol building, Eriberto Liranza Romero and Boris Rodriguez Jimenez, remain unaccounted for.

Thus, there are two more political prisoners in Cuba today than when Carter arrived on Monday.

Great job, Mr. President.


Kustom Krates

Statement from U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC

Statement from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC on President Carter's Call for the Release of the "Cuban Five":
In a press conference today from Havana, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter missed an opportunity to call for the freedom of the Cuban people from the brutal Castro dictatorship. Instead, he chose to criticize U.S. policy and call for the release of five Cuban agents ("the Cuban Five") convicted by U.S. federal juries of espionage and, in one case, conspiracy to commit murder.

In doing so, President Carter has tragically implied an equivalency between the "Cuban Five" and the case of American development worker Alan Gross, who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime for helping Cuba's Jewish community connect to the Internet -- a fundamental human right enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

President Carter's unfortunate remarks are a huge disservice to efforts for Mr. Gross's release and to the cause of human rights internationally.

New York Congressman Denounces Carter

U.S. Rep. Grimm (a former FBI Special Agent) Denounces President Carter's Cuba Trip to Visit Castro

Carter should stand-up for America and try to free captive U.S. citizen, instead of getting friendly with dictator
U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) released the following statement on former President Jimmy Carter's 3-day visit to Cuba:

"President Carter's trip to Cuba should have been an opportunity to denounce the atrocities carried out over almost of half a century of a dictatorship rule. Instead of trying to create a bond with Castro, Carter should be taking a stand for America and the spread of freedom and democracy to one of our most oppressed neighbors. He can start by calling for the release of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who is being held captive by Castro's oppressive regime, and speak out against the reprehensible acts that have gone on for far too long.

It's disheartening that Cuba has become a symbol of everything that is anti-America. What was once a beautiful country full of life and aspiration has become a deteriorated nation, isolated from its neighbors. The limits to freedom that were imposed by Fidel Castro over a half a century ago, are now carried on in full force by his brother. I stand with all Cuban-Americans, in denouncing the Castro legacy of dictatorship that continues to suppress the freedoms, health, and livelihood of the Cuban people." 
S: Capitol Hill Cubans

Jimmy Carter Starts 3-day Visit to Cuba ...


Carter visits Cuba to improve bilateral ties CCTV News ...



Former US President Jimmy Carter is in Cuba for a three-day visit.

Nuclear Plant Explosion Latest News from Japan ...



4th Nuclear Explosion in Japan, radiation, aftermath Earthquake and Tsunami

Libya and the latest news about the Libyan Vs. president Muammar Gaddafi ...



Adml Samuel Locklear, who has joint responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone, said that, according to US intelligence, Gaddafi had launched attacks on the rebel-held western city of Misurata, where four children were reportedly killed by shelling yesterday.

Libyan woman alleges rape by government troops ...



A Libyan woman has told journalists in Tripoli how she was allegedly raped by government troops.

Libya foreign minister 'defects'

Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa speaking at a press conference 
Britain says Moussa Koussa is quitting Colonel Gaddafi's regime
 
Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa is in Britain and "no longer willing" to work for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, the Foreign Office says.
He flew in from Tunisia on a non-commercial flight and was questioned for several hours by British officials.
The Foreign Office in London called on other members of the Libyan government to abandon Colonel Gaddafi.
His apparent defection comes as rebels in Libya are retreating from former strongholds along the eastern coast.
The rebels have now lost the key oil port of Ras Lanuf and the nearby town of Bin Jawad, and are also in full retreat from Brega.
In the west, the rebel-held town of Misrata is still reportedly coming under attack from pro-Gaddafi troops, reports say.
'Own free will' A British Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We can confirm that Moussa Koussa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will.
"He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.
"Moussa Koussa is one of the most senior figures in Gaddafi's government and his role was to represent the regime internationally - something that he is no longer willing to do.
"We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people."
UK intelligence officials who hope that his deep knowledge of the Libyan regime will help bring about its early end, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Humphrey Hawksley.
Mr Koussa arrived in London on what is believed to a British military plane, our correspondent adds.
A senior US administration official, speaking to AFP News agency on condition of anonymity, said: "This is a very significant defection and an indication that people around Gaddafi think the writing's on the wall."
Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced that five Libyan diplomats were being expelled from the country.
He told MPs that the five, who include the military attache, "could pose a threat" to Britain's security.
About-turn The BBC's Ben Brown in the eastern coastal town of Ajdabiya says the rebels simply cannot compete with the discipline and firepower of Col Gaddafi's forces.
BBC's Ben Brown on consequences of arming rebels
He says the current situation is a dramatic about-turn for the rebels who, over the weekend, had seized a string of towns along the coast and seemed to be making good progress with the help of coalition air strikes.
Most reports suggested the rebels had fled back to Ajdabiya, and some witnesses said civilians had begun to flee further east towards the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
Maj Gen Suleiman Mahmoud, the second-in-command for the rebels, told the BBC that rebels forces needed time, patience and help to organise themselves.
"Our problem we need help - communication, radios, we need weapons," he said, adding that the rebels had a strategy but fighters did not always obey orders.
He also said allied liaison officers were working with the rebels to organise raids.
Human Rights Watch has accused Col Gaddafi's forces of laying both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines during the current conflict after a discovery of what it said were dozens of mines on the eastern outskirts of Ajdabiya.
Covert action France and the US say they are sending envoys to Benghazi to meet the interim administration.
And an international conference on Libya in London has agreed to set up a contact group involving Arab governments to co-ordinate help for a post-Gaddafi Libya.
The US and Britain have suggested the UN resolution authorising international action in Libya could also permit the supply of weapons.
This message was reinforced by British Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament on Wednesday.
"UN [Security Council Resolution] 1973 allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, and our view is this would not necessarily rule out the provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances," he said. "We do not rule it out, but we have not taken the decision to do so."
Meanwhile, US media reports say President Barack Obama has authorised covert support for the Libyan rebels. The CIA and White House have both declined to comment on the reports.
Several thousand people have been killed and thousands wounded since the uprising against Col Gaddafi's rule began more than six weeks ago.
Updated map showing Gaddafi forces advance for 30 March
Are you in Libya? What is your experience of the unrest? You can send us your experiences using the form below.
Send your pictures and videos to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7725 100 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.
 S:http://www.bbc.co.uk

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LPP Latest News...



Libya 
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

Libya rebels flee Gadhafi assault as world debates

A Libyan rebel runs wrapped in a blanket as he has to leave with others fleeing  Ras Lanouf, 250 km east of Sirte, central Libya, Tuesday, March 29, 2 AP – A Libyan rebel runs wrapped in a blanket as he has to leave with others fleeing Ras Lanouf, 250 km east …

RAS LANOUF, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi's forces hammered rebels with tanks and rockets, turning their rapid advance into a panicked retreat in an hourslong battle Tuesday. The fighting underscored the dilemma facing the U.S. and its allies in Libya: Rebels may be unable to oust Gadhafi militarily unless already contentious international airstrikes go even further in taking out his forces.
Opposition fighters pleaded for strikes as they fled the hamlet of Bin Jawwad, where artillery shells crashed thunderously, raising plumes of smoke. No such strikes were launched during the fighting, and some rebels shouted, "Sarkozy, where are you?" — a reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the strongest supporters of using air power against Gadhafi.
World leaders meeting in London agreed that Gadhafi should step down but have yet to decide what additional pressure to put on him.
"Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We're working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters after the talks concluded.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said it "has to be made very clear to Gadhafi: His time is over." But Germany and other countries have expressed reservations about the current military intervention in Libya, let alone expanding it.
France has struck a more forceful tone. Defense Minister Gerard Longuet told France-Inter radio that Paris and London believe that the campaign "must obtain more" than the end of shooting at civilians.
The rout of the rebels Tuesday illustrated how much they rely on international air power. Only a day earlier, they had been storming westward in hopes of taking Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown and a bastion of his support in central Libya. They reached within 60 miles (100 kilometers) of the city before they were hit by the onslaught from Gadhafi's forces, driving them back east to Bin Jawwad under barrages of rocket and tank fire.
Many of the ragtag, untrained volunteers who make up the bulk of the rebel forces fled in a panicked scramble. However, some of them backed by special forces soldiers from military units that joined the rebellion took a stand in Bin Jawwad, bringing up truck-mounted rocket launchers of their own and returning fire.
The two sides traded salvos for hours, drilling Bin Jawwad's buildings with shrapnel and bullet holes. The steady drum of heavy machine gun fire and the pop of small arms could be heard above the din as people less than a mile (a kilometer) outside the village scaled mounds of dirt to watch the fighting.
But by the afternoon, rebels fled further east, their cars and trucks filling both lanes of the desert highway as they retreated to and even beyond the oil port of Ras Lanouf, roughly 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. Some loyalist forces had reached the outskirts of Ras Lanouf, where the thud of heavy weapons was heard and black smoke rose from buildings.
"If they keep shelling like this, we'll need airstrikes," said Mohammed Bujildein, a 27-year-old rebel fighter. He was gnawing on a loaf of bread in a pickup truck with a mounted anti-aircraft gun, waiting to fill up from an abandoned gas tanker truck on the eastern side of Ras Lanouf.
With international strikes, he boasted, "we'll be in Sirte tomorrow evening."
"This today is a loss, but hopefully we'll get it back," he said.
It was the second time in weeks that rebel forces have been driven back from an attempted assault on Sirte. The last time, early in the month, it nearly meant the end of their movement: They retreated hundreds of miles (kilometers) west and Gadhafi forces nearly stormed their capital, Benghazi, until the U.S. and European strikes began 10 days ago, driving Gadhafi's forces back from bloody sieges.
Even proponents of the international campaign have been wary of going further by effectively providing air cover for rebels who are now trying to go on the offensive and march through Gadhafi-controlled territory to the Libyan capital, Tripoli, to end his more than 41 years in power.
With the possibility of a prolonged military deadlock looming, 40 foreign ministers, Clinton, the heads of NATO and the U.N. and representatives from the Arab League met in London to decide how to help Libya into a post-Gadhafi future.
British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged that "the Libyan people cannot reach that future on their own. ... We are all here in one united purpose, that is to help the Libyan people in their hour of need."
Clinton said the international community must support calls for democracy sweeping Libya and its neighbors, but warned that "these goals are not easily achieved." U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said there are plenty of "non-military means at our disposal" to oust the Libyan leader.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini pushed a plan for a cease-fire, exile for Gadhafi and a framework for talks on Libya's future between tribal leaders and opposition figures. He said negotiations on securing his exit were being conducted with "absolute discretion," though he said there could be no promise of immunity for Gadhafi from international prosecution. So far, Gadhafi has shown little sign he might choose exile, vowing to fight to the end.
Cameron and Sarkozy urged Gadhafi loyalists to seize a final chance to abandon him and side with those seeking political reform — effectively pinning hopes on a palace coup.
As for the possibility of giving arms to the heavily outgunned rebels, Clinton said the U.S. has made no decision, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the subject simply did not come up at Tuesday's meeting.
Representatives of the opposition's political leadership, the Interim National Council, met Tuesday with Clinton and Hague but did not attend the main conference.
Mahmoud Shammam, a council spokesman, suggested Libyans were prepared to fight their own battle. Though the international community had a responsibility to prevent "mass genocide," he told reporters, "We are not asking for any non-Libyan to come and change the regime."
"The aspirations of the Libyan people are to be free, to live under a constitutional democratic system," Shammam said. "(We have) had enough of tyranny."
A senior Obama administration official said the U.S. would soon send an envoy to Libya to meet with rebel leaders.
Chris Stevens, former U.S. envoy to Tripoli, will travel to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in the coming days to establish better ties with groups seeking to oust the longtime Libyan leader. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning, stressed that the move doesn't constitute formal recognition of the opposition.
The international operation has decimated loyalist forces, which would risk more airstrikes if they attempted the kind of powerful counterattack they launched last month. The rebel forces, meanwhile, showed signs of being more organized despite Tuesday's losses, more effectively deploying their heavy weapons at the front.
In the more densely inhabited western half of the country, Gadhafi has largely crushed the rebellion in Tripoli and in several towns that rose up against his rule since the turmoil began Feb. 15. Other towns and cities in the west never saw an effective anti-Gadhafi uprising, suggesting his popular support there is stronger, or that tribes in those areas chose to stay neutral to see who wins the conflict.
Regime forces continued to besiege the last significant rebel holdout in the west, Libya's third-largest city, Misrata. From Misrata's outskirts, the troops pounded streets and the city's port, residents said. At least three people were killed in shelling Monday, a doctor in the city said.
The U.S. Navy reported that two of its aircraft and a guided missile destroyer attacked a number of Libyan coast guard vessels, rendering them inoperable, in the port of Misrata. It said the Libyan vessels had been "firing indiscriminately" at merchant ships. U.S. ships and submarines also unleashed 22 cruise missiles late Monday and early Tuesday at Libyan missile storage facilities in the Tripoli area. New explosions were heard in Tripoli on Tuesday night in a sign of a new barrage.
Libyan state TV reported strikes in Tripoli by "the Crusader colonial aggression" and said that "the cost of each rocket and bomb is paid for by Qatar and the Emirates" — a dig at the two Arab nations that have joined the international campaign.
In Benghazi, opposition spokeswoman Iman Bughaigis contended that the international bombardment had left Gadhafi's troops "in very bad morale and many of his defectors are leaving him."
"We understand that it is our fight," she said. The international campaign provides "a safe haven ... but to liberate our country, this is our duty and we hope to do that."
In an open letter to the international community, meanwhile, Gadhafi called for a halt to the "monstrous assault" on Libya and maintained that that the rebels were supported by the al-Qaida terrorist network, a claim the opposition denies.
"What is happening now is providing a cover for al-Qaida through airstrikes and missiles to enable al-Qaida to control North Africa and turn it into a new Afghanistan," he said.
____
Associated Press writers Ben Hubbard in Benghazi, Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tripoli, Bradley Klapper in London and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.


LPP NEWS First Draft...



Carter Not in Cuba to Free Gross

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter confirms that he is not in Cuba to free American development worker Alan Gross.
He's there to meet with the Cuban people's oppressors (the Castro brothers) and to unconditionally thaw relations with that brutal dictatorship.

UPDATE: Carter has made some time tomorrow morning to meet with a group of Cuban pro-democracy bloggers, former political prisoners and civil society activists.

From Politico:

Former President Jimmy Carter isn't in Cuba to negotiate for the release of jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross, though he is hoping that his visit will help to thaw U.S.-Cuban relations, he said Tuesday.

Carter told reporters as he toured a convent in Old Havana that he had "spoken to some officials about the case of Mr. Gross," but indicated that his goal was not to bring the State Department contractor home. "I am not here to take him out of the country," Carter said, according to Reuters's translation of his answer, which he gave in Spanish.

"I hope we will be able to contribute to better relations between the two countries," Carter said.

There is NO Private Sector in Cuba

According to the Carter Center, the former President's trip to Cuba (at the invitation of dictator Raul Castro) is to "learn about new economic policies and the upcoming Party Congress."

So here's lesson #1.

Despite a great deal of media speculation, exaggeration and misreporting -- there is no private sector in Cuba.
From the Business Dictionary:

Private Sector - Part of national economy made up of, and resources owned by, private enterprises. It includes the personal sector (households) and corporate sector (firms), and is responsible for allocating most of the resources within an economy.

Yet here are the Castro regime's General Guidelines (so-called "reforms") to be approved at the much-lauded VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party ("PCC"):

I. Economic management model

1. The socialist planning system will continue to be the principal means to direct the national economy and must in turn be transformed in its methodological and organizational aspects to accommodate new forms of management and guidance of the national economy.

2. The management model must recognize and stimulate — along with the socialist state enterprises, which are the principal form of the national economy — mixed capital enterprises, cooperatives, lessors of state-owned land in usufruct, lessors of state facilities, self-employed workers and other forms which may contribute to increasing the efficiency of social labor.
3. In the new forms of non-state management, the concentration of ownership in legal or natural entities shall not be permitted.
Now, let's review:

The Cuban people -- whether before or after the VI PCC Congress -- are not allowed to own any business (small or large). 

Thus, there are no small (private) businesses in Cuba, either.

All that Castro's Guidelines allow are "leasing" (facilities) and "licensing" (the ability to perform one of 178 specific tasks) from the state (which remains totalitarian -- owns everything).

That is not a private sector by any definition.


S:Capitol Hill Cubans
                              

According to an early March, 2011 note on the Cuban military in CIA’s The World Factbook,
“Cuba remains able to offer considerable resistance to any regional power.”
The note further adds:
Read the rest of this entry »
S:http://cubapolidata.com
Paraguay: Students who went to Cuba to become doctors have received "very poor education"
March 29 - The dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Asuncion, Paraguay, said graduates who went to study medicine in Cuba have a "very mediocre education".
There are currently 600 medical students from Paraguay studying in Havana.
"We made a very serious study, a comparison with the medical curriculum of UNA and those from Cuba. They are not prepared, they show they have the skills and knowledge of a graduate of a nursing school," said Filartiga.
The Dean also announced that - "in the future" - the UNA will not endorse the accrediting process needed to certify graduates from the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina de Cuba.
Cuban doctors, who have recently left the island, have denounced that in the last few years, the Castro brothers have opened "doctor factories," where thousand of students from Latin America and some Muslim countries go to Cuba and are able to "graduate" without completing the required courses. Noticero Digital  (Spanish)
 
Carter will meet with dissidents before leaving Cuba
March 29 - Jimmy Carter will meet n Wednesday morning with Yoani Sánchez and several of the former prisoners of conscience that were liberated recently and who have refused to leave Cuba.
The meeting will take place at Havana's Santa Isabel Hotel at 8 AM local time on Wednesday morning.
Carter and his wife will fly back to the US later on that same day.
On Tuesday afternoon, Carter will meet with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro and there is a possibility that he will also meet with his ailing brother, Fidel.
 
Prosecution witness at the Posada trial accused of torture
March 28 - A former Cuban intelligence officer testified Monday that he was arrested and tortured in 2005 by a Cuban investigator who is now a key prosecution witness in the perjury trial of an ex-CIA agent.
Roberto Hernandez Del Llano took the stand in a West Texas courtroom as a defense witness for Luis Posada Carriles, an anti-communist militant who was born in Cuba. The 83-year-old Posada is accused of lying during U.S. citizenship hearings in El Paso and of failing to disclose his alleged involvement in a series of 1997 bombings in Cuba.
Hernandez Del Llano told jurors he was trained by the KGB in Moscow and served as a major in Cuba's counter-intelligence agency, but quit in 1992 after becoming disillusioned by government corruption. He said he was approached about resuming his old duties in 2002, but he refused.
In retaliation, he said, Roberto Hernandez Caballero — an investigator for Cuba's Interior Ministry — ordered him arrested three years later and then tortured him in a Havana jail. He later fled to the U.S.
"While I was locked up, I was subjected to torture and personally beaten by this man," Hernandez Del Llano told jurors.
Hernandez Caballero testified earlier in the trial, after traveling from Cuba, about the wave of bombings at luxury hotels in Cuba and Havana's iconic La Bodeguita del Medio restaurant that killed an Italian tourist and injured about a dozen people.
Prosecutors will get their chance to cross-examine Hernandez Del Llano on Tuesday, though Hernandez Caballero will not be able to retake the stand to counter the torture allegations.
Also at issue Monday was the death of Fabio di Celmo, the 32-year-old Italian who was killed in one of the bombings when metal shards cut his throat.
Ronald Wright, a former medical examiner for Miami-Dade County, testified for the defense that di Celmo died because Cuban authorities failed to properly stop the bleeding. His testimony was intended to refute claims by a medical examiner from Cuba, Ileana Vizcaino Dime, who told jurors that di Celmo died due to loss of blood within in one minute of the explosion.
"I vehemently disagree with that," said Wright, who has performed 12,000 autopsies. He said Vizcaino Dime was "dead wrong."
Wright said the autopsy report showed signs the victim's body's reacted acutely to blood loss, indicating that he actually lived at least half an hour after sustaining the wound.
Someone could have used medical clamps or even their fingers to slow the bleeding, so di Celmo could have been taken for emergency surgery, Wright said.
On cross-examination, Wright said di Clemo "died mostly from not being treated."
"But you weren't at the scene to know that for sure, were you?" U.S. assistant attorney Timothy Reardon asked.
"He'd be alive if I was," Wright replied. Read more
 
Antunez: The regime has arrested several dissidents to prevent demonstrations during Carter's visit
March 28 - From our friends at Babalu: In a report phoned into to Babalú just moments ago, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antúnez" is reporting that in anticipation of the arrival of President Jimmy Carter, the Castro regime has launched an island-wide crackdown on members of the opposition in Cuba to prevent any public demonstrations. Antúnez says that beginning yesterday, the Castro dictatorship began to arrest and detain democracy activists all over the island that had begun to make their way to Havana to conduct a peaceful protest in front of the capitol building. In addition, several members of the opposition in Havana were brutally assaulted and arrested this morning by Castro security agents when they attempted to mount a peaceful protest in front of the capitol with signs reading "Freedom without Forced Exile for Cuba's Political Prisoners," "The Streets belong to the Cuban People," and "We Are The Resistance."
Antúnez explained that he and his wife were detained in Placetas and not allowed to make their way to Havana.
In his declaration, Antúnez is calling upon Jimmy Carter and the Carter Foundation to intercede on behalf of these detained activists and demand their immediate release and respect for their human rights and right to peacefully protest.
Below is the audio of Antúnez' declaration:    Antunez - 3-28-11(2)
S:http://www.therealcuba.com

CUBA: Preparing For Perestroika

 The Daily Reckoning | Mar. 29, 2011, 3:30 PM

Dividing Old Havana from Chinatown is Cuba’s Capitolio Nacional, a monumental edifice with a fateful past. El Capitolio was conceived during the Roaring ’20s, when the island led the world in sugar exports and the future seemed sky blue.
President Gerardo Machado dreamed of turning Cuba into the Switzerland of the Americas. He decided that his 4 million countrymen needed a domed capitol building even taller and more ornate than the one he toured in Washington. So Cuba’s Congress dutifully poured 3% of the country’s GDP into their new home. (This would be akin to the US Congress spending $420 billion for a new office today, but let’s not give them any ideas…)
It took 8,000 skilled Cuban laborers just three years to complete El Capitolio, which featured gilt ceilings, a giant diamond embedded into the pristine marble floor and the world’s third-largest indoor statue. However, the showy project couldn’t have been more poorly timed. Work completed in 1929, just as America’s stock market crashed and the Great Depression unfolded.
The Smoot-Hawley tariffs crushed Cuban sugar prices by 74%. When El Capitolio’s ribbon was cut in 1931, Cuba’s economy lay in tatters. Machado was forced out of office, and his dream building would perform congressional service for only 28 years before Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries swept into Havana and opted for more austere premises. I don’t need to recite the history from here, which you probably well know.
The winds of change are gathering in Cuba, though. Since Fidel Castro’s health nearly failed in 2006, power has passed to his younger brother, Raul Castro. Raul has quietly reshuffled more than 30 cabinet members to prepare his party and people for a sweeping economic policy overhaul – Perestroika al Cubano. Even the semi-retired Fidel seems to have glumly accepted that change is inevitable, candidly admitting to a visiting US journalist that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
The global economic crisis whacked Cuba hard. Venezuela cut back on its largesse as its own economy worsened. Tourism and remittances softened, while nickel export prices tanked. Furthermore, three severe hurricanes left a wake of destruction in 2008. Unable to service Cuba’s estimated $21 billion foreign debt, and running out of generous leftist patrons to hit up, Raul Castro has, apparently, decided he has little choice but to pry open Cuba’s economy.
Castro’s wild card is Cuba’s oil and gas reserves. The island currently produces 60,000 bbl a day. But its US-facing northern waters hold an estimated 5-20 billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. (Note: This compares with 29 billion barrels of oil reserves in the entire US.) Accessing this undersea oil requires the sophisticated drilling technology the US excels in. But as long as sanctions remain in place, the US oil majors are excluded from that bonanza. Amidst the applause of oil industry lobbyists, the dance for reengagement has begun, with both partners taking some unprecedented steps.
Raul Castro has issued a far-reaching five-year road map for Cuba’s future economic reform. The proposed changes would put Cuba on a very similar path to that taken by China in the 1980s and Vietnam in the 1990s. Here are some of the ideas: permit real estate transactions amongst Cubans, merge the two-tier currency system, close down inefficient state enterprises, decentralize state ownership, facilitate private ownership of businesses, distribute idle land to farmers, open state-owned wholesale markets and further encourage foreign investment – particularly in tourism.
In recent months, some planned reforms have already been implemented in an effort to delay Cuba’s impending insolvency. Costly subsidies on sugar and personal care products are being scaled back. The government announced plans to shed 500,000 state workers (that’s 10% of the country’s government work force in a country where 85% of workers work for the state) and guide them somehow into the private sector.
Cubans are being encouraged to grow and sell their own fruits and vegetables. The government is inviting foreign investors to develop 10 golf course estates in Cuba, with a new law allowing 99-year land leases to foreign buyers of plots in such projects. In the old days of Fidel’s revolution, such policies were unthinkable.
So what is the potential for a liberalized Cuban economy?
Just look 90 miles across the straits to Florida. A million Cuban-Americans call Miami home. Cuba has 60% of Florida’s population and 80% of its landmass, but greater natural resources and a much longer coastline, so one might conclude that the two are of comparable overall potential.
Perhaps to underscore their similarities, remember the fact that England and Spain cleanly swapped the two in 1763. Today, Florida’s economy is 12 times larger than Cuba’s. One reason is that Florida gets 20 times as many tourists as Cuba, plus an inflow of affluent retirees.
When the US government stops restricting its citizens from traveling to Cuba, the island will become an instant tourist magnet. Offering short flights, sunny beaches, cool music, “old world” architecture and cheap surgery, Cuba should have no problem drawing several million American tourists a year, as further-away destinations like Costa Rica have done.
Should reforms become comprehensive enough, agriculture seems an obvious investment play: Half the land is arable, labor is cheap and rain is plentiful. Cuba’s once-vaunted sugar industry stands in disarray, with 80% of the old mills shut down. However, today’s high sugar prices provide ample incentive to revive the sector, along with other traditional crops such as cigar tobacco.
Despite its long coastline, fisheries and aquaculture remain largely overlooked. Cuba is a world-class producer of nickel, but other mineral deposits remain underexploited. And then there’s the oil. The entire power system needs to be updated, financial services developed, retailing expanded – the opportunities seem endless.
Beyond the subsidized basics, most consumer goods have to be imported, and imports draw heavy duties. Telecom services are costly due to government monopolization and inefficiency. The list goes on. In this environment, it is tough for most Cubans to get by unless they receive remittances, tourist gratuities or tea money.
All in all, we eagerly await the implementation of Cuba’s economic reforms. As this process unfolds, Cuba could transform into one of the world’s most attractive frontier investment destinations. America has a long track record of turning bitter rivals into productive partners (a recent example being Vietnam), and re-engagement with Cuba could be one of Obama’s most notable foreign policy legacies.
Some frontier investors are not waiting for that and are already investing in Cuba. While 100% foreign ownership is permitted, most investors enter joint ventures with Cuban state enterprises, which typically contribute land, labor and sometimes capital. Over 250 such joint ventures exist, mostly for specific sectors or projects. Investments are made in foreign currency, eliminating exchange rate issues, and there are no restrictions on capital repatriation. Corporate income tax is 30% for joint ventures and 35% for wholly owned foreign companies, but tax holidays of five-seven years are available.
A few Cuba-focused investment groups have been established that non-US investors can access. Canada-listed Sherritt Group is a major player in Cuban nickel mining and, formerly, telecoms. A private investment group backed by European investors, Coral Capital has restored Havana’s historic Saratoga Hotel, which was recently ranked by Conde Nast as the 16th best hotel in the world. Coral is now planning a number of golf course, marina, housing and hotel projects, as is Leisure Canada, a Canada-listed investment vehicle.
Regards,
Douglas Clayton
for The Daily Reckoning
CUBA: Preparing for Perestroika originally appeared in the Daily Reckoning. Daily Reckoning founder Bill Bonner recently wrote articles on stagflation and the great correction.
F:http://www.businessinsider.com