Monday, August 15, 2011

Libyan Rebels Urge More Airstrikes ...

For more news visit

Libyan rebels try to isolate Tripoli, Gadhafi

ZAWIYA, Libya (AP) — Libya's rebels threatened to isolate Tripoli by blocking key supply routes and cutting oil pipelines on Monday after a dramatic weekend advance put them in the strongest position since the 6-month-old civil war began to attack Moammar Gadhafi's stronghold.
In Washington, the Obama administration said the U.S. was encouraged by the rebel advances and hoped they had broken a monthslong stalemate with Gadhafi's forces.
"We are closing the roads for Gadhafi so there is no way for him to bring anything to Tripoli," a rebel field commander, Jumma Dardira, told The Associated Press.
The rebels' push into the strategic city of Zawiya on Saturday brought them within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Tripoli, the closest they have ever gotten.
Also Monday, U.S. defense officials said Libyan government forces tapped into their stores of Scud missiles this weekend, firing one for the first time in this year's conflict with rebels, but hurting no one.
The missile launch was detected by U.S. forces shortly after midnight Sunday and the Scud landed in the desert about 50 miles (80 kilometers) outside Brega, said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
Rebel and regime forces have battled over the strategic port city of Brega throughout the conflict, and control has swung back and forth between the two sides.
According to the military, the Scud missile was launched from a location about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Surt, a city on the Mediterranean coast about 230 miles (370 kilometers) east of Tripoli. Noting that Scuds are not precision guided missiles, officials said they couldn't tell if Brega was the target.
Early in the conflict, NATO and U.S. forces targeted sites around the country where Gadhafi stored surface-to-surface missiles like Scuds, largely because they worried that he would use them to target areas beyond his control.
Two senior U.S. officials said it is too soon to tell whether the Scud strike was a singular incident or if it represents a new phase of fighting. Scuds have a range of up to 500 miles (800 kilometers).
After three days of fierce battles for Zawiya, a city of 200,000 on the Mediterranean coast, rebel commanders said they controlled the south and west of the city and were fighting for the refineries. Oil-rich Libya's only functioning refineries are in Zawiya.
Nuri el-Bouaisi, an oil production engineer in the city, said rebels had cut off pipelines that transport gasoline and diesel fuel to Tripoli.
"We shut down all four pipelines to Tripoli," said el-Bouaisi, whose claim could not be verified.
The rebels are also determined to cut key supply routes to Tripoli from the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Tunisia in the west and from the south, where Libya borders Chad and Niger. These are critical lifelines with NATO imposing a no-fly zone over the country.
Over the past two days, a number of rebel officials have claimed that they either cut or were close to cutting those two routes. However that could not be immediately confirmed.
In addition to gaining a foothold in Zawiya, the rebels claimed Sunday to have taken two towns near Tripoli on those key supply roads — Gharyan, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the capital and Surman, less than 10 miles west of Zawiya.
Dardira, manning a defensive position just south of Surman, said rebels were still clashing in the Sabratha area, 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Zawiya on the coast.
The rebel advance was raising fears among Tripoli residents over the prospect that fighting might soon reach the capital. Long convoys of cars carrying civilians from the capital and other cities along the coast headed south to the western mountain range, a rebel stronghold near the border with Tunisia now considered a safe haven.
"We are afraid of whatever is coming," said Mohammed Bilkheir, an accountant escaping Tripoli with his family. He said he was leaving to stay with relatives in the western mountains, fearing battles would break out in Tripoli.
Tripoli residents heading south said life was becoming increasingly difficult, with rising food prices, shortages of fuel and cash, as well as power cuts. Drivers took backroads to avoid being stopped by regime forces, they said.
Toward the end of their journey, they stopped at a desert checkpoint near the mountain range, registering their names with rebel troops before moving on. More than 150 families have made the drive south on Monday, said a rebel fighter keeping the list.
In neighboring Egypt, the head of Libyan public security and a former interior minister flew in with nine family members on a private plane in an apparent defection. Nassr al-Mabroul Abdullah entered on a tourist visa. If confirmed, it would be the latest in a string of high profile defections from Gadhafi's regime.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that Gadhafi's days are numbered," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity say there is reason to think the rebels may now have enough momentum to wrest full control of the country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the fast-moving developments.
Still rebel advances earlier out of the east of the country, which is controlled by the opposition, have been repelled before by Gadhafi's better trained, equipped and financed forces. The western and eastern rebels, separated by hundreds of miles with the middle ground held by the regime, are coordinating their efforts only loosely.
In an audio message broadcast early Monday on Libyan state TV, Gadhafi urged his supporters to dig in and fight.
He called on loyalists to take arms and battle "traitors and NATO." He said that as the number of "martyrs" increases, so does Libyan resolve. It is his first message since rebels launched their offensive toward Tripoli.
Gadhafi forces fought the rebels hard in Zawiya on Monday to try to push them back and prevent them for consolidating their gains. Col. Jumma Ibrahim, a rebel spokesman, said regime troops still controlled the eastern part of the city, including the main hospital there.
Gadhafi's troops fired dozens of artillery shells and Grad rockets, and the loud booms sounded across the city. Six shells hit in quick succession in Bir Ghanam Street, which leads from the city center to the south. One shell struck a highway overpass and another hit near a small mosque along the street.
Dead and wounded were rushed to a small clinic on the outskirts of the city. Reporters at the clinic saw at least four dead bodies and at least 20 people with serious injuries, including one man with a leg torn open by shrapnel.
Rebels consolidated positions in some parts of Zawiya, but appeared to have lost ground in others, including on Bir Ghanam Street. On Sunday, the street bustled with cars, despite the crackle of nearby gunfire. However, on Monday, dozens of men sat pressed against walls for cover. Some of the men said they were waiting to join the fight, but that there were not enough weapons and ammunition.
Pickup trucks loaded with fighters shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is Great, dashed to and from the city center. Other fighters rushed into the battle on foot, trying to hitch rides to get closer to the front lines.
On the diplomatic front, the U.N. special envoy for Libya, Abdelilah Al-Khatib, who has been trying to promote a cease-fire and political settlement of the conflict, held talks in Tunis Monday with Tunisia's prime minister and was scheduled to meet later with the foreign minister, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
Asked whether he could confirm that officials from rebel-held Benghazi and government-controlled Tripoli were in Tunis to meet Al-Khatib, Haq replied: "What I can say is that he might meet with some Libyan personalities residing in Tunisia on the sidelines of his other meetings."
Hadeel Al-Shalchi and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Bouazza Ben Bouazza in Tunis, Tunisia, Edith Lederer in New York and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Gaddafi flees Tripoli? Update:LPP Archive...

Breaking: Gaddafi flees Tripoli? Update: Two military pilots land in Malta for asylum

posted at 12:50 pm on February 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

We’ve been hearing rumors of this since last night, but nothing substantive has been reported on Moammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts.  His son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appeared on national television yesterday insisting that his father was fighting with the army and would not retreat until the “last bullet,” but the British Foreign Secretary says diplomatic sources suggest that the Libyan dictator may be looking for that bullet a long way from home:
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday he had seen some information to suggest Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi had fled the country and was on his way toVenezuela. …
Diplomats said Hague was not referring to rumors circulating in the media about Gaddafi’s whereabouts, but to separate sources for the information.
The destination makes some sense.  Both countries belong to OPEC, for instance, but the relationship between Gaddafi and Hugo Chavez is closer than that.  In September 2009, the AP reported that the two leaders had agreed to strengthen diplomatic ties to fight “imperialism” of the wealthy nations:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi signed a declaration Monday night decrying what they call attempts by powerful Western countries to equate struggles against colonialism with terrorism.
In the declaration, Venezuela and Libya “reject intentions to link the legitimate struggle of the people for liberty and self-determination” with terrorism, but also adds that they “reiterate the importance of countering terrorism in all its forms.”
Neither of the two leaders commented publicly on the document. It does not specifically name any Western country, but Gadhafi mentioned both the United States and Britain during a speech after the signing.
The New York Times reports that Gaddafi’s forces have lost control of most of the capital now, and are on the retreat:
The 40-year-rule of the Libyan strongman Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi appeared to teeter Monday as his security forces retreated to a few buildings in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, fires burned unchecked and senior government officials and diplomats announced defections. The country’s second-largest city remained under the control of rebels.
Security forces loyal to Mr. Qaddafi defended a handful of strategic locations, including the state television headquarters and the presidential palace, witnesses reported from Tripoli. Fires from the previous night’s rioting burned at many intersections, most stores were shuttered, and long lines were forming for a chance to buy bread or gas.
In a sign of growing cracks within the government, several senior officials — including the justice minister and members of the Libyan mission to the United Nations — announced their resignations. And protesters in Benghazi, the second-largest city where the revolt began and more than 200 were killed, issued a list of demands calling for a secular interim government led by the army in cooperation with a council of Libyan tribes.
Venezuela denies that Gaddafi is coming their way:
A senior source in the Venezuelan government denied on Monday reports that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was traveling to the South American oil-producing nation led by his ally President Hugo Chavez.
The Caracas government “denies such information,” the source told Reuters.
We’ll soon see.  If Gaddafi was looking for a way out of Libya, he would have few options in the region.  With popular revolts flaring up in most of the Muslim nations of north Africa and southwest Asia, he’d need to find somewhere far away for a safe haven, and Venezuela would perhaps be the only country where Gaddafi would feel safe.  And if he’s not outbound from Libya, then why hasn’t Gaddafi made his presence known on Libyan state television, leaving the impression of a power vacuum at the top at the worst possible time?
Update: The Daily Mail says Gaddafi has fled Tripoli, and his forces have lost the state television building, but he may be preparing a last stand at Sebha:
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is believed to have fled the capital Tripoli after anti-government demonstrators breached the state television building and set government property alight.
Protesters appear to have gained a foothold in Tripoli as banks and government buildings were looted while demonstrators have claimed they have taken control of the second city Benghazi. …
A source at Tripolis Mitiga Airport said he saw three planes leaving early this morning.
Gaddafi was on one, said the source. The planes were heading down south – to Sebha.

The claim was supported by at least two pro-democracy campaigners who said they had also seen the aircraft leaving.
If Gaddafi has lost Benghazi and fled Tripoli, then there isn’t much ground left for a last stand.

Update II: Has the Libyan air force begun to panic?:
Two Libyan air force jets landed in Malta on Monday and their pilots asked for political asylum amid a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Libya, a military source said. …
The source, who insisted he not be identified further, said the jet pilots — both Libyan air force colonels — had communicated from the air that they wanted political asylum. They had left from a base near Tripoli and had flown low over Libyan airspace to avoid detection, the source said.

Letter From a Cuban Rafter

Monday, August 15, 2011
A must-read from El Nuevo Herald:

Trips to Cuba and Shame
The subject of trips to Cuba has once again entered the arena, along with the debate between those who support them and those who don't. And all because Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart presented an amendment that would revert the travel regulations to what they were under the administration of President Bush.

Before continuing, I should say that I am a rafter. I arrived in Key West on a boat with 20 other people on August 18, 1994. I was 20-years old. We set foot on land 24 hours before Clinton changed the law and began sending rafters to the U.S. base in Guantanamo. Those who first came to Miami, when this exile community was established, managed to have Clinton allow their entry into a free land. Additionally, I have all of my family in Cuba with the exception of one brother who also came on a raft three years after I did. In 17 years, I have not returned to Cuba and neither has my brother. The reason is simple: the system that provoked us to throw ourselves into the sea at the risk of being eaten by sharks or to perish drowning has not changed. That system remains there; the same or worse than before. Besides, I said when I arrived that I wanted political asylum because it was impossible to live under that dictatorship. In other words, I am a political exile. With that cleared up, I will continue.

I'd like to strike a chord regarding trips to Cuba because so many that come and go are using the fable of the family. They are the ones that are actually fueling the defense of my position, so that once and for all of the trips here and back will end. They are the escape valve the dictatorship uses when it is under pressure and in danger of exploding, and the ones it utilizes to pressure democratic administrations. Obama's is about to arrive very soon.

Among those who travel you have a little bit of everything. There are real family members that every 4 or 5 years go see their families to help them and reunite, and as a parting gift they come back depressed over the situation in which they leave behind their loved ones. Then there are those who go and see their families for only a few minutes, because the rest of the trip is spent on the beaches, hotels, and with under-aged girls. They return broke and asking for government assistance without ever providing the most minimal help to their families. Those are the majority, and why not say it: they are the ones who provide the wrong image of the true Cuban reality to the world. One thing is clear; what has separated the Cuban family is the criminal dictatorship, not the United States. It is up to Cuba to open its doors completely to all Cubans inside and outside, without conditions or visas.

Enrique Padrón

Translation by Alberto de la Cruz

Obama's Regs Empower Cuba's Emperor

As today's Miami Herald (finally) reports, the Castro regime only allows carefully-vetted, politically "non-threatening," Cuban-Americans to travel to the island.
So how can these pre-approved Cuban-Americans become "ambassadors for freedom" or "foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy," as President Obama claimed in his policy rationale for unlimited travel to Cuba?
They don't -- instead, they financially and politically empower Cuba's ruling emperor (who gives the ultimate thumbs up or down).

From The Miami Herald:

Many Cubans living abroad can't return to Cuba
Havana has banned the visits of thousands of Cubans now living abroad.
Tampa teenager Melissa González wanted to visit her ailing grandfather in Cuba. But her travel agency told her that the Cuban government had turned down her request for an entry permit, without explanation.

No doubt, said her father, Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero, she was turned down because he is a former political prisoner who spent 7 ½ years in prison and has continued to blast the Cuban government since his arrival in South Florida in February.

Whatever the reason, Melissa now belongs to the little-known group of Cubans living abroad who are banned by Havana from visiting the island — anywhere from 77,000 to 300,000 — for reasons that range from illegal departures from Cuba to political activism.

Capitol Hill Cubans
Carlos Eire: Post-Castro Cuba needs a democracy, not a theocracy
August 15 - Dissidents, not cardinal, would make better leaders
Last month, USA Today published an essay by Mark Pinsky under the headline, "Could Catholic leader usher in a new Cuba?" The opinion column proposed that the best possible successor to the Castro brothers is Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino.
Such speculation, which has been sporadically offered in the past, is not only grossly disconnected from reality, but also condescending and offensive.
First and foremost, one must contend with the fact that none of the ruthless old generals who currently run Cuba would ever allow a bishop any real leadership role, even after the Castro brothers are gone from the scene. Moreover, why should anyone assume that Cardinal Ortega will foment real political change or be trusted by all segments of society? Thus far, he has done nothing to arouse such hopes.
Cardinal Ortega is no more fit to lead the Cuban people than any columnist is to suggest what will be best for post-Castro Cuba. In essence, what is offered here seems to envision another undemocratic and authoritarian transfer of power in Cuba, with Cardinal Ortega as an enlightened despot of sorts, or a Caribbean Merlin. Even worse, there are many other emerging leaders in Cuba who have already proven their commitment to genuine democratic reform: dissidents such as Oscar Elias Biscet, Martha Beatriz Roque, Guillermo Fariñas, Oswaldo Payá and countless others, all of whom risk life and limb every day for merely disagreeing with the military junta that runs our island.
Although Cardinal Ortega may seem "charming" and "amiable" to some, the cold, hard truth is that His Eminence supports the political oppression of the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that this is the reason he is "trusted" by the authorities. Last year, the cardinal showed his true colors by orchestrating the banishment from Cuba of dozens of political prisoners, and by lobbying in Brussels and Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Castro regime. Moreover, when 165 Cuban dissidents justly complained about the cardinal's behavior to Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ortega condemned them all. And at the very same time, he posted a pastoral letter on his website in which he declared that anyone who was intent on toppling the current regime should have no part in determining the future of Cuba.
In addition, the cardinal has said that "the Cuban people's primary concern is less with political liberalization than with a pressing need for economic revival." Nothing could be further from the truth or more revealing of the cardinal's ultimate loyalties. This is the "big lie" that Raul Castro and his cronies parrot incessantly, a groupthink falsehood they would love for the outside world to believe. Political liberalization and economic revival go hand in hand, not just in theory, but in practice, and most Cubans on the island are painfully aware of this fact, no matter how closely the cardinal sticks to the script handed to him by the authorities.
Finally, the op-ed portrayed the Cuban exile community as "intractable opponents of the regime, some of whom still expect to fly into Havana and take over after the Castros." This is the same vitriolic nonsense that the rulers of Castrolandia have been spewing for 52 years. We who left — and those who oppose the regime from within — are always called "intractable," "unreasonable" or worse. We are also imagined as nothing but potential dictators and exploiters, ever itching to take over Cuba and stick it to those who remained behind, including our own relatives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We who oppose the Castro regime are no more "intractable" than any American or European regarding human rights in their own countries. We are also no more unreasonable than any people who have been robbed of what was rightfully theirs, and certainly no less justified in decrying injustice.
Besides, what these critics fail to see, blinded as they seem to be by Castroite propaganda — or perhaps by the sentiment that we Cubans are inferior and undeserving of genuine justice — is that we "intractable" exiles and dissidents do not hanker for retribution or power. What drives us to oppose the Castro regime at every turn is its unending, intolerable injustice. Much like someone who has to watch loved ones tortured and raped day after day, without an end in sight, we cannot "let go" or "forget."
As long as our brethren are still enslaved, denied the most basic human rights, we have to oppose the unending wrong. And what drives us to the edge of despair, day after bitter day, is the fact that our oppressed brethren deserve a much better leader than Cardinal Ortega, or the opinions of so-called "experts" who deign to fathom what is best for Cuba.
Carlos M. N. Eire is the T. Lawrason Riggs professor of history and religious studies at Yale University. He is the author of "Waiting for Snow in Havana," which won the National Book Award in 2003. SunSentinel
Mary Anastasia O'Grady: Is Cuba Going Capitalist?
August 15 - Its economic reforms are mostly an attempt to tax black market transactions.By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY..
Who says dictators don't have a sense of humor? Cuba's Castros have an undeniably comic side, as evidenced by the regime's announcement earlier this month that it plans to provide agricultural advice to 14 Venezuelan states. It sounds like a bad joke. Would you take technical assistance from a government that has turned the chicken into an endangered species in its own country?
This raises the question of how seriously we ought to take Raúl Castro's announcement that he is about to "reform" the Cuban economy. The American press seems convinced. "Cubans Set For Big Change: Right to Buy Homes," the New York Times screamed on its front page on Aug. 2. "Now open in Cuba; Business isn't exactly booming as free enterprise expands, but the slumbering entrepreneurial spirit is starting to stir," said the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 7.
It sounds like a capitalist revolution. But is it really time to get in on the ground floor in Cuba?
History may provide some guidance. This is not the first time we have been told that the communist economy, paralyzed since 1959, is on the verge of a reversal. In 1986, as Fidel Castro convened the III Communist Party Congress, the Miami Herald reported that "dramatic changes are sweeping Cuba," including, the story said, permits to own homes. It is true that the regime officially blessed "home ownership." But those houses could not be sold, only exchanged. And Cubans never actually had legal rights to them, as became apparent when the state discovered that enterprising Cubans were making money by trading houses for profit under the table. A wave of confiscations followed. The Wall Street Journal
Cuba: The Priest, the Levite and the Good Samaritan
August 14 - For many people throughout the world Sundays are not only a day of rest but also of worship. Traditionally, Sundays are the days in which believers of Christ’s Gospel attend mass in their respective temples. In Cuba, Sundays have become just another day of violence, in which not even churches provide protection for the persecuted, due to fear of any sort of repercussion on behalf of those in power, or simply because they do not care. This report, with declarations from the Cuban dissident and human rights activist Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, should have been published a few days ago. But because his phone was blocked by the authorities of the dictatorship, it took longer than usual to record.
The Ladies in White have been victims of violence on countless occasions since they formed. In the Eastern region of the country, they have recently been victims of a ruthless operation on behalf of the dictatorship, with the sole purpose of intimidating them and impeding them from peacefully marching. On the 17th, 24th, and 31st Sundays of July as well as the 7th Sunday of August, the violence has been going overboard and numerous women, as well as children, elderly, other dissidents, and neighbors who have joined in solidarity have suffered fractures, beatings, arrests, and the list goes on and on. The most recent case, on August 7th, something happened which Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia considers to be the same situation as that narrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan of the Bible.
That Sunday, before the accustomed beating and mob repudiation attack was carried out against these women dressed in white, they all tried to assist mass in the cathedral of Santiago de Cuba. “There wasn’t a priest in the cathedral, so there was no mass held. However, a nun and a religious figure, who neither I or the women know his name, spoke some words“, tells Jose Daniel Ferrer. Upon stepping out of the temple the women noticed functionaries of the government dressed both in civilian clothes and in uniform, threatening them. Seeing this, the women went back to see the nun and the religious person and they denounced the fact that there were aggressors waiting for them. “The man responded in a foul manner, telling the ladies that they could not be there. He asked if they had been attacked, and they responded by saying that they hadn’t. He responded by telling them to get out of the temple, that he would be watching“. The women were kicked out of the cathedral. According to Ferrer, “they had barely stepped out of the temple when the man and the nun slammed the door on them, nearly shutting it on their heels“. Read more
50 years too late: Pablo Milanés urges more freedom in Cuba
August 14 - One of Communist-ruled Cuba's best-known singers, Pablo Milanes, said in quoted comments he would like to see more freedom to protest on the island as he prepared for a controversial concert this month in Miami.
Miami's Spanish language El Nuevo Herald newspaper published an interview on Sunday with the 68-year-old two-time Grammy award winner, whose melodic and evocative ballads are well known in Latin America and internationally.
Milanes' planned August 27 concert in Miami, a bastion of anti-communist Cuban exiles in the United States, has touched off a storm of discord between those who criticize him as a stooge of the communist government in Havana and many fans and supporters who defend his right to perform in Miami.
Ties between the United States and Cuba remain cool but cultural exchanges of Cuban and U.S. artists and musicians have increased as U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted people-to-people contacts through special licenses that can be granted under the longrunning U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.
Milanes, a privileged celebrity in Cuba where authorities allow him to travel and perform widely outside the island, said his Miami concert sought "peace and love" and he wanted to "hold out a hand to those who extend their hand to me".
"I'm not going to criticize anyone and I don't want to be criticized. I simply want to be heard as a man who sings his songs," he told El Nuevo Herald.
Describing himself as a "progressive, tolerant, left-wing revolutionary", Milanes made clear he believed there should more freedom of expression in Cuba, including the right to protest, and more freedom for Cubans to travel abroad.
"Every human being has the right to protest, and, what's more, has the duty to say what he thinks," he said. Read more

Singer Pablo Milanes urges more freedom in Cuba

MIAMI (Reuters) - One of Communist-ruled Cuba's best-known singers, Pablo Milanes, said in quoted comments he would like to see more freedom to protest on the island as he prepared for a controversial concert this month in Miami.
Miami's Spanish language El Nuevo Herald newspaper published an interview on Sunday with the 68-year-old two-time Grammy award winner, whose melodic and evocative ballads are well known in Latin America and internationally.
Milanes' planned August 27 concert in Miami, a bastion of anti-communist Cuban exiles in the United States, has touched off a storm of discord between those who criticize him as a stooge of the communist government in Havana and many fans and supporters who defend his right to perform in Miami.
Ties between the United States and Cuba remain cool but cultural exchanges of Cuban and U.S. artists and musicians have increased as U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted people-to-people contacts through special licenses that can be granted under the longrunning U.S. economic embargo on Cuba.
Milanes, a privileged celebrity in Cuba where authorities allow him to travel and perform widely outside the island, said his Miami concert sought "peace and love" and he wanted to "hold out a hand to those who extend their hand to me".
"I'm not going to criticize anyone and I don't want to be criticized. I simply want to be heard as a man who sings his songs," he told El Nuevo Herald.
Describing himself as a "progressive, tolerant, left-wing revolutionary", Milanes made clear he believed there should more freedom of expression in Cuba, including the right to protest, and more freedom for Cubans to travel abroad.
"Every human being has the right to protest, and, what's more, has the duty to say what he thinks," he said.
He indicated he felt economic reforms introduced by Cuban President Raul Castro, which have opened up more private enterprise, had not gone far enough to promote other freedoms.
"When one thinks of the reforms, you think they're going to come united with a series of freedoms, such as freedom of expression, but it's not happening like that," El Nuevo Herald quoted Milanes as saying. It said he gave the interview by phone from Spain, where he was performing.
The U.S. government says Cuba continues to persecute dissidents who oppose its one-party communist system.
Washington has also condemned the imprisonment by Havana of a U.S. aid contractor who brought Internet technology equipment to the island -- where such technology is strictly controlled -- while traveling there on tourist visa.
Cuba describes political dissidents as mercenaries and traitors in the pay of Washington.
Milanes said Cuba's state-controlled media suffered from "self-censorship".
He also criticized Cuban government curbs on travel to and from the island, saying those born in Cuba should be able to visit their homeland freely, while Cuban citizens should be allowed to leave if they wished "without needing a card or passing through a bureaucratic filter".
Milanes said Cuban officials discriminated against blacks in the multi-racial population, adding this had created "castes" and privileges passed on inside white families.
The singer, who in 2006 sent a letter to then ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro wishing him a speedy recovery, said he himself was persecuted in Cuba in his early 20s, when he was sent to a military work camp along with other "freethinkers". Also sent to such camps were homosexuals, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses and common criminals.
Several Cuban exile groups have asked Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Gimenez to halt Milanes' planned concert in the city, and have warned of protests, but supporters of the initiative say it could help promote reconciliation among Cubans.
(Additional reporting by Manuel Rueda, Editing by Jackie Frank)

The Real Cuba ...

LPP Latest News...

The utopia of equality breaks down at Club Havana

The elite of foreign entrepreneurs, Cuban ancestry in power and some form class foreign exchange privileged to enjoy this exclusive paradise on the coast of Havana.
The Havana Biltmore Yacht and Country Club, the Club Habana, whose is administered by the Spanish group Sol Melia is a club exclusively for diplomats, business executives and their contacts   business, as well as foreign personal capacity.
Although nothing is written, the club can access certain  privileged Cubans who have the $ 20 CUC requires cover input, although they have the right to membership, as I have "fall"  an elusive customer service operator Havana Club
For Juan Juan Almeida, a very important place "can enter also the most interesting members of a licensed wildlife and free payment. Perhaps all these characters and all there happens to the building they call "the cave of Ali Baba," said martinoticias.
Mention the Havana Club, "we're talking about other  level. Cubans who enter it have to have money, but Money! That's like being in another world, another country, a country capitalist "independent journalist considered Dania Virgin.
For all other walks of life are few workers still  kept running, which can not even go by influx of anti-social elements who drink alcoholic beverages, and  because the food offered there are minimal, said Dania.
In recreation centers increasing returns to surface stratification of society Cuban journalist Juan Gonzalez Febles defined as follows: "There is a large majority live in poverty, some reach a total misery, and there is  very small group of Cubans who have great potential, which with foreigners and corporate managers on the island are an aristocracy that offends his wealth to the vast majority of population. "martinoticias said.
"In 1959 Cuba was a country of a thriving middle class, a small aristocracy and a very small group of people who were in the extreme poverty. Now there's a majority that is contiguous to the boundaries of abject poverty and a very small minority that has it all. So that has gone a social order that was somewhat more just before 1959 than it is today, "he said.
The Havana club, he adds, is a much more exclusive club of all clubs that existed in Cuba before the Revolution, because unless those clubs were owned by Cubans, run by Cubans, and Cuban with a membership.
Now the number of Cubans who can enter this club is very small, and this sets an intolerable imbalance, says Gonzalez   Febles.
"I think the differences exist in any society," Juan Almeida Juan said, "how embarrassing is that Cuba is seen as an egalitarian society, there is the issue. "
With a registration fee of $ 1,500 per person, this huge complex west of Havana, has among its offerings:  clubhouse, restaurants, bars, piano bar, lounges Gala rooms  meetings or celebrations such as weddings, dinners, parties, shopping, house  Habano, nursery, offices, a health and beauty skating, tennis, diving center, water sports, pools, beach, etc..
August 11, 2011