Thursday, April 28, 2011

Syrian Security Forces Open Fire on Demonstrators ...

Chants and protesting continues in Syria and there have been reports that 61 people have been killed. Army forces are on the streets trying to stop any kind of Libya-like situation with Syrians.

Syria Protests: Dramatic Footage from the Street ...

Syria Protests: Dramatic Footage from the Street

Grading Reform (in Syria) and Engagement (with China)

Thursday, April 28, 2011
For years, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has been lauded internationally as a "reformer."

So how are his "reforms" coming along?

From the AP:

Falling back on the tactics that have kept his family in power for more than 40 years, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is gambling that fear — not reform — will break the popular revolt against his autocratic rule.

Al Assad's initial reaction to the uprising that began last month was to couple dry promises of reform with force to quell the discontent and keep his grip on power.

But when protests only grew, he turned to his overwhelming military power, intimidation, and terror — methods perfected by his late father, Hafez, who crushed an uprising in 1982 by shelling the town of Hama. Amnesty International has claimed that 10,000-25,000 were killed, though conflicting figures exist and the Syrian government has made no official estimate.

Meanwhile, China has been praised as a model for engagement (or "business first") with dictators.

So how is engagement influencing its human rights behavior?

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Australia's human rights dialogue with China has achieved little, with Chinese officials laughing off Australian concerns and exhaustively questioning Australia's own human rights performance, according to confidential US diplomatic cables [...]

Australian diplomats said the Chinese employed two tactics: ''First, [Assistant Foreign Minister] He and other Chinese officials would employ the 'You-don't-understand-China' laugh and dismiss Australian information as inaccurate. Second, the Chinese delegation would frequently try to run down the clock with long monologues.''

As a matter of fact, China's regime is currently undertaking one of its harshest crackdown on dissent since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

This has led The Economist to begrudgingly conclude:

"In the short term at least, these troubling developments undermine the comforting idea that economic openness necessarily leads to the political sort."

Final Grade: F on both fronts.

The Masters of Hostage Taking

This week, a Paraguayan businessman who was kidnapped by a guerrilla group, the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP, in Spanish), held hostage for 94-days and released pursuant to his family paying a ransom, declared to prosecutors how the EPP revealed their ties with Cuba and Venezuela.

According to the newspaper ABC Digital, the guerrilla leaders bragged about their experiences in Cuba and how they currently purchase weapons in Venezuela.

Predictably, they praised Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as their role models. 

For Castro and Chavez are -- after all -- the masters of hostage taking.


My work here is done.......
Charts don't lie
Washington Post Editorial: Nothing has changed in Cuba
April 25 - IT HAS NOW been five years since Raul Castro assumed control of the Cuban regime from his ailing older brother, Fidel. In that time, the younger Mr. Castro — an accurate, if strange, description for a man who will turn 80 in June — has repeatedly reflected on the economic failings of the Cuban Revolution and promised to correct them. Over the past year, in fact, Raul Castro has sounded almost apocalyptic. “Either we change course, or we sink,” he declared in December. “We have the basic duty to correct the mistakes we have made over the course of five decades of building socialism in Cuba.” Such rhetoric raised expectations that Raul would at last bring the free enterprise and political opening that Cuba so desperately needs.
But Cuba’s Communist Party congress last week, the first such meeting since 1997 and the first ever under Raul’s direction, confirmed that talk of reform in Cuba is mostly just that. Instead of liberating the economy, Raul sketched a program of limited privatization that could take “at least” five years to phase in. The most dramatic measure would authorize Cubans to buy and sell houses and cars for the first time since 1959, but Raul provided few details, except to assure Cubans that no one would be allowed to accumulate too much property. The plan calls for more licenses for small service businesses — a measure partly aimed at converting black market enterprises into taxable ones. 
Even more disappointing was the lack of political reform — or even a shake-up of the Communist hierarchy. Yes, Raul suggested choosing more non-Communists for government posts, but he offered no plan for elections or actual party competition. Instead, Raul promoted Jose Roman Machado Ventura, a longtime crony and fellow octogenarian, to the No. 2 spot in what is still the “vanguard” Communist party. Nor was there any indication that Cuba plans a conciliatory gesture toward the Obama administration, such as the release of Alan Gross, the 61-year-old U.S. aid worker recently sentenced to 15 years on trumped-up subversion charges.  Washington Post
The Real Cuba

Fidel Castro's macrobiotic diet leaked to the press
April 28 - Spanish newspaper El Mundo is reporting that there is an intensive counter-intelligence operation currently going on at Cuba's Instituto Finlay, to determine who leaked Cuban dictator's Fidel Castro's macrobiotic diet to the press.
The Spanish newspaper was the first to publish details of Castro's diet, which the Cuban regime considers a "state secret."
Here is my translation of what El Mundo is reporting today: "There is a major operation underway at Finlay Institute in Havana by the Military Counter-Intelligence (CIM) unit, as a result of information that has been leaked to El Mundo regarding diets that are designed and specially prepared there for Fidel Castro.
These diets are prepared from macrobiotic foods, apparently imported in large-scale from Italy, according to a report from a source in the Cuban capital, with the object of improving the deteriorating health of Castro, while he tries to regain his health.
The publication of this report with details on the type of food, where they come from and its preparation at the strategic Finlay Institute, which is very close to Cuba's high circles of power, has created a strong nervousness among the Cuban authorities.
According to one source, the Military Counter Intelligence unit is currently conducting a preliminary activity plan to try to stop the leaks, while at the same time implementing emergency containment methods.
There is a clear presence of militaries in the Finlay Institute, which is a way to intimidate potential informants, and try to scare others to report who leaked the documents.
In this phase, known as "harassment," the military activate networks that have been established in the workplace, to try to obtain information about those who are possibly involved. One of the practices used is the threat of layoffs of workers and professionals due to the failure to protect sensitive information.
During the operation currently taking place at the Finlay Institute, CIM officials are gathering information from computers linked to the offices where Castro's diet has been designed, in order to find the source and the means by which information was released to the world press.
The nervousness about the leak of the diet of Castro, the source of the food being used and the delicate work by the prestigious Havana's Finlay Institute has revealed that the Cuban government and the Castro family are doing everything possible to keep the dictator alive no matter what's the cost involved. El Mundo (Spanish)
Cuba's cigar industry: Smoked Out
April 28 - ONE of the reforms approved at this month’s Congress of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party was a change in the treatment of the country’s 3,000 or so state-owned enterprises. Their management will enjoy more autonomy, but they will be subjected to thorough audits. That follows a trickle of corruption scandals. The latest involves Habanos, the state cigar monopoly.
For over a decade Manuel García, Habanos’s commercial vice-president, was the public face of the Cuban cigar industry, living a jet-set life that most Cubans can only dream of. But this year Mr García was not there to greet visitors at the Havana cigar festival. Since August 2010 he has been in jail, accused of masterminding graft on a grand scale.
The cigar industry was nationalized shortly after the 1959 revolution. But it was only in the late 1980s that Cuba took control of distribution, informing foreign retailers that it would supply only one distributor per region, in return for a 50% stake in the business.
That did not prevent the small-scale peddling of black-market cigars on the streets of Havana. But in the past decade the system has faced a bigger threat from dozens of online cigar retailers operating mainly from Switzerland and the Caribbean. Many operated legitimately, but some offered improbably low prices.
Cuban investigators believe they were able to do so because Mr García and ten of his staff, who also face trial, sold genuine cigars at a fraction of their normal price to black-market distributors in the Caribbean in return for bribes. Up to 45m cigars may have been sold this way. Since handmade habanos fetch up to £40 ($65) each in shops in the St James’s district of London, the loss was considerable.
The fraud also hurt Imperial Tobacco, a British company which inherited a 50% stake in Habanos when it bought Altadis, a Franco-Spanish firm, in 2008. Imperial has made no comment on the affair. But like the government, it will hope that the new management team at Habanos preserves the lucrative monopoly in Cuba’s most famous product. The Economist
 Dr. Orlando Bosch Avila died in Miami at the age of 84
April 27 - Orlando Bosch, a prominent Cuban exile militant charged and then acquitted in the bombing of a Cuban jetliner in 1976, died in Miami Wednesday. He was 84.
His death came after a lengthy stay in the hospital where he “faced a long and painful illness,” according to a statement issued in the name of the family by anti-Castro activist Pedro Corzo who is a family friend. The cause of death was not immediately released.
Bosch was one of two exile militants – the other being Luis Posada Carriles -- who throughout the second part of the 20th century were closely identified with the long violent struggle against the Cuban regime.  The Miami Herald
John Caulfield will replace Jonathan Farrar at the US Interests Section in Havana
April 27 - John Caulfield, the veteran diplomat running the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela amid Washington's testy relations with President Hugo Chavez, has been picked to head the American diplomatic mission in Cuba, according to U.S. officials.
Caulfield will replace Jonathan Farrar, who has been named as ambassador to Nicaragua after a three-year assignment in Havana marked by complaints from some Cuban dissidents that he did not meet with them often enough and criticized them too harshly.
The U.S. officials said his replacement of Farrar was a routine reassignment for both diplomats. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment for this story.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has approved Caulfield's new assignment but not yet made it official, the officials added. The Senate, which must approve all ambassadors, is not required to endorse his posting because the mission in Cuba is not a full-fledged embassy.
He will have the title of chief of mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, established by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 after decades of no bilateral diplomatic relations. The State Department declined comment, and Caulfield could not be reached.
Caulfield, who spent much of his diplomatic career of more than 30 years in consular posts, is regarded in Washington and Venezuela as a professional and quiet diplomat who did the best he could running the embassy in Caracas in the absence of an ambassador.
He was appointed as deputy chief of mission in 2008 but has been charge d'affaires, responsible for the day-to-day management of the embassy, since Chavez expelled Ambassador Patrick Duddy in 2010 and then rejected his nominated replacement, Larry Palmer.
"Notwithstanding his attributes as a senior diplomat, his job in Caracas has been very difficult because of Chavez," said Pedro Burelli, an anti-Chavez activist in Washington.  The Miami Herald
Cuban regime adjusting 2011 economic plans. Business partners and residents fret
April 26 - Rising food and fuel prices and fears that an active hurricane season looms have Cuba tightening its belt, according to government leaders and local economists.
"Just a few months into 2011 and according to the most recent data, imports this year will cost an additional $800 million for the same amount of goods we planned to purchase, forcing us to adjust the plan approved in December," Cuban dictator Raul Castro told a Communist Party Congress last week.
The country imports between 60 percent and 70 percent of the food it consumes and 50 percent of its fuel.
High fuel prices also increase prices of most other products the island purchases abroad, and the cost of transporting them.
Rainfall has been less than 10 percent of the average over much of the country this year, which could force more food imports.
Hurricanes on average hit the Caribbean island every other year, but the last major storm was in 2008, so the country is fearing the worst this season.
All this has creditors and foreign business partners raising their eyebrows as they remember 2008, when high international food and fuel prices, hurricanes and the international financial meltdown left debts and dividends unpaid and their local bank accounts frozen.

Cuban exile groups have plan of action and support for civic activism

28.04.2011 / 19:20 h
Miami, April 28 (EFE) .- The Assembly of the Cuban resistance, which fifty umbrella organizations within and outside the Island, filed today in Miami (USA) a seven-point plan to support the "civic activism" in the streets of Cuba.
The document, presented at a news conference, titled "All are resistance "and is by its content, the first statement "Overwhelming" that the call issued after the recent Resistance VI Congress of the Communist Party leader and one of the island, told Efe Orlando Gutierrez, a member of the secretariat of the organization.
During the exposure of seven points, the Assembly made a call to civic struggle in Cuba as a way to achieve "full freedom of the Cuban people and the end of the dictatorship, "said Aramis Perez, director of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a group composed in this organization.
The plan calls for "resistance" to any attempt establish a political status quo of "tolerance totalitarianism Castro ", and supports the" national "in Cuba, initiated by the Democratic Party November 30, for the freedom of all political prisoners.
Requests also the apparent elimination of Cuban laws that criminalize the exercise of opposition political activities.
The Assembly of the Cuban resistance to calls for support Public protests on the island organized by the National Front Civic Resistance and protest against unemployment, low wages and discrimination.
It also calls for a protest campaign that would lead to painted in the "public facade" of the streets of Cuba with term "resistance" or the phrase "we are all resistance."
Finally, the plan urges the members of the Cuban "Repressive forces" to "end violence against family Cuban, "and encouraged to continue the fight" until the rights freedoms of the Cuban people are fully restored. "
This call for resistance, as the Assembly has been subscribed by 584 activists in the island located in the civic opposition "fight until the end of the dictatorship."
"The only way that Castro delivered power is usurped resistance by the people, "Gutierrez said, referring President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel, and leader exgobernante of the Cuban revolution.
Among the groups that are part of the Assembly Cuban resistance are also Plantados, Mothers and Women Antirepresión by Cuba (MAR por Cuba), Cuba Independent Democratic Eastern Democratic Alliance, Alpha 66 and Young Cubans Action.

 About nothing...

Ampliar imagen
Resists Fidel and Raul concessions trying to save what is salvageable, which is low and amend as amended, which is a lot.
The  Last week ended the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), held 13 years after the V Congress. This period was designed to address the major issues affecting society Cuban, and that the CPC leadership itself recognizes, through upgrading the existing system. The meager results obtained  indicate the need for profound changes. But what? It is very difficult to identify changes when they are considered as a concession to the "enemy" who is always behind the United States. And, of course, Fidel Castro (not positions officers since 2008) is the one who leads that position while Raul, pragmatic, trying to save what is salvageable (which is little) and amend it amendable (much).The existence of political lines unalterable dogmas derived from enveloped in a suffocating rhetoric praises of the Revolution and the glories of the PCC is very difficult to find points of agreement regarding the policies required to address the agrarian crisis that has led to Cuba to import 80% food it consumes, to boost economic activity incorporate more than a million jobs that need to be created for absorbing state workers who remain unemployed for decision  government, the restoration of infrastructure severely damaged, and the response of the energy requirements beyond the largesse of patrons revolutionary Hugo Chavez.

From Cuba...

Family Portrait


Darsi Ferrer, another victim of repression after Castro

Cuban dissident Darsi Ferrer was arrested this Thursday along with four others while on a protest peacefully in Havana.


Darsi Ferrer and his wife Yusnaimi Jorge Soca. | Archive

MHH / Latin America
As reported by the opposition Cuban Commission for Human Rights National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), Ferrer and his party claimed for a "small event" that the Government of Cuba "respect the freedom of movement of citizens within the island and go abroad to return home right, "denounced
Participated in the demonstration, as well as Ferrer, Juan opponents  Mario Rodriguez, Yusnaimi Jorge, Ricardo Aguilar and Joaquin Sarduy. They were arrested by state security forces and several hours later, his whereabouts remained unknown. Dissidents also displayed placards referring to his claim in the protest, according to the complaint of the CCDHRN. A source close to the Opponents told Efe that until now remained in detention.
The CCDHRN believes that the protest of the opposition-held detainees in a corner opposite the famous Coppelia ice cream shop, located in the neighborhood of El Vedado, "is entirely justified given that the Government  of Cuba continues to violate, shamelessly, Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right of any person to reside anywhere in the country of birth and free to leave it with the right to return when it deems convenient. "
Darsi Ferrer, 41, a medical doctor, was released in last June in Havana after 11 months in prison detention. For several months, the dissident physician has been claiming that immigration authorities have denied the island permission to leave the country with his wife and son, who planned travel to the U.S..