Thursday, July 7, 2011

LPP First Draft...


Cuban Troops in Venezuela?

Friday, July 8, 2011
From Cuba Polidata:

General Carlos Julio Peñaloza, the former chief of the Unified Command of Venezuela's Armed Forces, tweeted Sunday (July 3rd) about the arrival of Cuban troops in Port Cabello in Venezuela for the bicentennial independence celebration on Monday (July 4).

In a subsequent tweet dated July 5, the general said there are 2000 Cuban troops in the country with the excuse of participating in Monday's military parade.

Will this near battalion strength formation make a permanent presence to shore up Chavez's security if a threat materializes to his regime?

Castro Advises Chavez: Attack Women

Thursday, July 7, 2011
Castro's advice to Hugo Chavez during his month-long stay in Havana:

Attack female opponents of the regime.
From Venezuela's El Universal:

MP María Corina Machado assaulted after bicentennial parade
A mob attacked deputy María Corina Machado (Independent-Miranda state) when she left the military parade staged on Tuesday at Los Próceres promenade, southwest Caracas, to commemorate the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence.

Lieutenant Colonel (Army) Marcos Álvarez was injured as a stone hit him on the head, while Machado was hit on the face with a bottle.
Sound familiar?
From Reuters:

Cuban police haul protesting "Ladies in White" away
Cuban police grabbed members of the opposition group "Ladies in White" by their hair, dragged them into a bus and drove them away to break up a protest march on Wednesday.

The white clothes the women traditionally wear were smeared with mud as they resisted policewomen forcing them into a bus. Government protesters shouted insults at them for the second day in a row.


Small Businesses Sprout Out Of Front Yards In Cuba

Julio Cesar Hidalgo prepares pizza in the restaurant run out of his home in Havana. The  Cuban government has given out more than 300,000 new self-employment  licenses in the past eight months.
  Franklin Reyes/AP
  Julio Cesar Hidalgo prepares pizza in the restaurant run out of his home in Havana. The Cuban government has given out more than 300,000 new self-employment licenses in the past eight months.

July 6, 2011
Fidel Castro nationalized Cuba's small businesses in 1968, closing thousands of family-owned shops, down to the tiniest fruit stand. His brother Raul is starting to undo that bitter legacy, giving out more than 300,000 new self-employment licenses in the past eight months.
The entrepreneurs are now filling Havana's sidewalks and street corners; the next step may be moving them back into shops that were seized long ago.
Urban Marketplaces Popping Up
On the front patio of an elegant 1940s home in Havana's Miramar neighborhood, Cuba's new economy is on full display — it includes secondhand blouses, cheap shoes and a giant rack of pirated CDs.
Ivelis Ramos (right) was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper last year and now runs a makeshift store in Havana's Miramar neighborhood. Restrictions on privately owned businesses are beginning to relax under Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother.
Nick Miroff for NPR Ivelis Ramos (right) was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper last year and now runs a makeshift store in Havana's Miramar neighborhood. Restrictions on privately owned businesses are beginning to relax under Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's brother.
One makeshift store and its booming stereo belong to 26-year-old Ivelis Ramos, who was laid off from her state job as a bookkeeper last year.
"I didn't used to have this freedom to relax, to dance and to talk to customers," Ramos says. "Someday I'd like to have a real store of my own."
Ramos is one of several vendors along the sidewalk who have tarps and tattered patio umbrellas to shield them from the brutal tropical sun. It looks like the kind of urban marketplace common to other Latin American capitals, but not Communist-run Cuba.
The front yards and doorways of Havana's once-graceful boulevards are starting to resemble outdoor flea markets, while much of the commercial property owned by the state remains vacant or underutilized.
Government Sending Mixed Signals
"It's very important to understand that the city of Havana was there when the revolution arrived," says Miguel Coyula, an architect and urban planner in Havana. "So the revolution tried to introduce a new social model, but in the existing city. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't."
Coyula says that when the small businesses were nationalized, much of Havana's commercial space was converted to housing. Now, many homes are doubling as businesses as Cubans set up restaurants and workshops in their living rooms, or rent their yards out as retail space.
Other vendors wander through parks and neighborhoods — even hospitals and government stores — drawing complaints. The state says it will lease commercial space to the new entrepreneurs, but their businesses are so small it's not clear how they'd fill it.
Shoe repairman Rene Martinez counts out receipts showing what he pays the government to set up a stall in a vacant parking lot near a Havana supermarket. The state charges him about $1 a day, but offers little in return beyond a bare patch of asphalt outside a ruined 1950s-era diner with weeds sprouting from the roof. Some of his fellow vendors have talked about banding together and refusing to pay the daily fee. Martinez says he took home less than 30 cents the day before.
"I thought working here would help me relax, but instead I'm all agitated because of these taxes," Martinez says.
Such are the mixed signals coming from the Cuban government, which seems unsure whether to help the entrepreneurs or regulate them to death. It has limited the range of occupations that self-employed Cubans can perform legally, but it has also encouraged hiring by waiving payroll taxes for business with up to five employees.
Loans and microcredits from state banks are supposedly coming next, and little homemade fliers are starting to appear on doormats and car windshields — the first signs of advertising.

Cuba to hear jailed American Gross' appeal July 22

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba's Supreme Court has set a July 22 date to consider an appeal by U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of illegally importing communications equipment, state television said Thursday.
"The accused and his lawyer were informed of the decision this morning ... as well as U.S. authorities," said an official message that was also posted on government websites.
The appeal is Gross' final legal recourse, and after that it would be left to the Cuban government to consider whether to free him for humanitarian or political reasons.
Gross' daughter and elderly mother both have cancer, and State Department officials and his family have expressed hope that Cuba might release him on humanitarian grounds.
"We again call on the Cuban government to immediately and unconditionally release him," said Gloria Berbena, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, which Washington maintains here instead of an embassy. "We will continue to use all diplomatic channels to press for his release. He should be reunited with his family, and bring an end to his ordeal."
Gross, 61, of Montgomery County, Maryland, was working on a USAID-funded democracy-building program when he was arrested in December 2009. On March 11 he was sentenced to 15 years after being convicted of illegally importing communications equipment.
Cuba considers such programs to be aimed at undermining the government, and he was convicted under a statute outlawing "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state."
"Considerable evidence from witnesses, experts and documentation demonstrated his direct participation in a subversive project of the U.S. government to try to destroy the revolution," Thursday's official note read.
Gross has said he was working to improve Internet communications for Cuba's Jewish community, though Jewish leaders denied dealing with him.
The case has been a sticking point for relations that have largely been on ice since shortly after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, with Cuba calling Gross a spy and the U.S. saying no thaw is possible while he remains behind bars.
Cuban officials have publicly ruled out the idea of a swap for five Cuban agents sent to monitor militant anti-Castro Cuban exile groups in the United States and sentenced to lengthy prison terms there.
According to people who have been able to visit him at a military hospital in Havana, Gross, about 50 pounds overweight when he was arrested, has lost nearly 100 pounds in custody and is generally in good spirits though anxious to return home.
He has received periodic visits by U.S. diplomats on the island; by a U.S. delegation last month that included Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile and a member of Gross' Jewish congregation back in Washington, and in March by former President Jimmy Carter.
The case also sparked a congressional fight in Washington with Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, holding up $20 million in U.S. money slated for democracy programs in Cuba and suggesting they were responsible for Gross' imprisonment.
That drew the ire of Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuba-born Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She accused her Senate counterpart of failing to understand what she called "the brutal nature of the Havana tyranny."