Monday, May 31, 2010

"Ladies in White" say Cuba prisoner plight goes on

"Ladies in White" say Cuba prisoner plight goes on
By Jeff Franks Jeff Franks – Sun May 30, 6:20 pm ET

HAVANA (Reuters) – The Cuban government has not yet improved conditions
for political prisoners or released any as had been hoped after recent
talks between Catholic Church leaders and President Raul Castro, Cuba's
"Ladies in White" dissident group said Sunday.

Speaking to reporters after the group's traditional Sunday march
protesting the 2003 imprisonment of their loved ones, leader Laura
Pollan said they had heard nothing from the government about its plans.

"Here, nothing is known. Everything is a state secret," said Pollan,
whose husband, dissident Hector Maseda, is serving a 20-year prison

Catholic officials said Castro promised in a May 19 meeting with
Cardinal Jaime Ortega to move prisoners soon to jails closer to home or,
if they were sick, into hospitals.

According to some reports, he also signaled the possible release of an
unknown number of prisoners.

The high-level talks preceded a mid-June visit to Cuba by Vatican
Foreign Secretary Dominque Mamberti.

So far, Pollan said, the only thing certain is that no prisoners have
been moved or released.

"Everything is speculative; there is not thing concrete," she said.

The Ladies in White have staged weekly protest marches since the March
2003 arrest of 75 dissidents, many of whom are their husbands or sons
and most still behind bars.

After Sunday's march by 33 white-clad women, Pollan told them it was
important for them and their imprisoned family members, particularly
those who are ill, to remain calm while waiting for the promised changes.

"Anxiety can produce strong stress and we don't want them to get
sicker," she told the women.

At least 26 of the prisoners are said to be in ill health. Former
prisoner Guillermo Farinas has been on a hunger strike for more than
three months demanding their release.

His hunger strike followed the February 23 death of hunger striking
prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which prompted international
condemnation of Cuban human rights.

In April, the Cuban government tried to stop the women from staging
their Sunday marches and brought in pro-government counter protesters to
harass them.

But Ortega intervened, and officials allowed the marches to go on, at
least for now.

Human rights advocates say Cuba has about 190 political prisoners in
all. The Cuban government views them as mercenaries working for the
United States and other enemies.

Aid or undue influence? Cuba sends Venezuela experts to train military, work on security

Aid or undue influence? Cuba sends Venezuela experts to train military,
work on security
By Ian James (CP)

CARACAS, Venezuela — It's no longer just doctors, nurses and teachers.
Cuba now sends Venezuela troops to train its military, and computer
experts to work on its passport and identification-card systems.

Critics fear that what is portrayed by both countries as a friendship
committed to countering U.S. influence in the region is in fact growing
into far more. They see a seasoned authoritarian government helping
President Hugo Chavez to protect his power through Cuban-style controls,
in exchange for oil. The Cuban government routinely spies on dissidents
and maintains tight controls on information and travel.

Cubans are involved in Venezuelan defence and communications systems to
the point that they would know how to run both in a crisis, said Antonio
Rivero, a former brigadier general whose break with Chavez over the
issue has grabbed national attention.

"They've crossed a line," Rivero said in a May interview. "They've gone
beyond what should be permitted and what an alliance should be."

Cuban officials dismiss claims of outsized influence, saying their focus
is social programs. Chavez recently scolded a Venezuelan reporter on
live television for asking what the Cubans are doing in the military.

"Cuba helps us modestly with some things that I'm not going to detail,"
Chavez said. "Everything Cuba does for Venezuela is to strengthen the
homeland, which belongs to them as well."

But the communist government has a strong interest in securing the
status quo because Venezuela is the island's principal economic
benefactor, Rivero says.

As Cuba struggles with economic troubles, including shortages of food
and other basics, $7 billion in annual trade with Venezuela has provided
a key boost — especially more than 100,000 barrels of oil Chavez's
government sends each day in exchange for services.

Rivero, who retired early in protest and now plans to run for a seat in
the National Assembly, said Cuban officers have sat in high-level
meetings, trained snipers, gained detailed knowledge of communications
and advised the military on underground bunkers built to store and
conceal weapons.

"They know which weapons they have in Venezuela that they could count on
at any given time," he said.

Cuban advisers also have been helping with a digital radio
communications system for security forces, meaning they have sensitive
information on antenna locations and radio frequencies, Rivero said.

If Chavez were to lose elections in 2012 or be forced out of office —
like he was during a brief 2002 coup — it's even feasible the Cubans
could "become part of a guerrilla force," Rivero said. "They know where
our weapons are, they know where our command offices are, they know
where our vital areas of communications are."

Chavez has acknowledged that Cuban troops are teaching his soldiers how
to repair radios in tanks and to store ammunition, among other tasks. No
one complained years ago, he added, when Venezuela received such
technical support from the U.S. military.

Cuba and Venezuela are so unified that they are practically "one single
nation," says Chavez, who often visits his mentor Fidel Castro in Havana
and sometimes flies on a Cuban jet.

The countries plan to link up physically next year with an undersea
telecommunications cable. The Venezuelans are even getting advice from
President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela Castro, who heads Cuba's
National Sex Education Center and advocated civil unions for homosexuals
during a recent seminar in Caracas.

Some Venezuelans mockingly call it "Venecuba." When the government took
over the farm of former Venezuelan U.N. ambassador Diego Arria, he
contested the seizure by delivering his ownership documents to the Cuban
Embassy, saying the Cubans are in charge and "much more organized than
the Venezuelan regime."

"No self-respecting country can place such delicate areas of the
government as national security in the hands of officials of another
country," said Teodoro Petkoff, an opposition leader who is editor of
the newspaper Tal Cual. "President Chavez doesn't trust his own people
very much. So he wants to count on the know-how and time-tested
experience of a government that for 50 years has been carrying out a
brutal and totalitarian dictatorship."

Cuban government officials, however, say the bulk of their assistance is
in public services.

At the National Genetic Medicine Center in Guarenas, east of Caracas,
Cuban doctors and lab technicians diagnose and treat genetic illnesses.

"What we came to do is science," said Dr. Reinaldo Menendez, the Cuban
director of the centre, which also employs Venezuelans. "Our weapons...
are our minds, our work, our coats, our stethoscopes.

"We're internationalists by conviction," he added, passing photos of
Chavez and Fidel Castro on the walls.

Cuban Deputy Health Minister Joaquin Garcia Salavarria co-ordinates
missions involving more than 30,000 doctors, nurses, and other
specialists from the island. He estimated that about 95 per cent of the
approximately 40,000 Cubans in Venezuela work in medical, education,
sports and cultural programs, and that others are helping as advisers on
everything from agriculture to software for the state telephone company,

As he spoke, Garcia flipped through a file of statistics that he said
show the real impact of the Cuban presence: more than 408 million
consultations in neighbourhood health clinics since 2003. That's an
average of 14 medical visits for each of Venezuela's more than 28
million people.

Many Venezuelans are grateful for the free medical care provided by the
Cubans, and waiting rooms are often bustling. Still, polls have
repeatedly shown a large majority of Venezuelans don't want their
country to adopt a system like Cuba's.

Chavez says he's not copying Cuba's socialist system but has adopted
some practices, like creating a civilian militia to defend his
government. When he founded a fledgling national police force last year,
Chavez boasted that "we're going to compete with the Cuban police force,
which is among the best in the world."

A senior Cuban police official, Rosa Campoalegre, has been in Caracas to
help with plans for a new university for police and other security
officials. She declined a request to be interviewed.

Cuban experts have also been working on systems in public registries and
notaries. About 12 Cuban computer specialists from the University of
Computer Science in Havana have been creating software to help the
immigration agency improve passport control and computerize the
identification card system, director Dante Rivas said.

"There's nothing to hide here," Rivas said. "What they do is develop the
software, jointly with us, but we operate it exclusively. That's all.
They don't do anything else."

In Cuba, he said, the government uses a different system.

The island's computerized civil registry includes all relevant data on
its citizens, such as address, age and physical characteristics. All
Cubans must carry an identity card, and those who want to travel outside
the country must get special permission.

It's especially worrying that Cubans are involved in areas "that have to
do with control of information, people's private information," said
Rocio San Miguel, who heads a Venezuelan organization that monitors
security and defence issues.

Chavez, meanwhile, says Cuba's assistance is worth "10 times more than
the cost of the oil we send."

He has effusively thanked Cuba for helping Venezuela to revamp its
electrical system — a move ridiculed by Chavez's opponents due to Cuba's
own struggles with power outages. Chavez also credited a Cuban
cloud-seeding program with helping to bring an earlier rainy season this
year after a severe drought.

"What Cubanization?" he said. "The Cubans are helping us."

Cuba dissidents still waiting for promised changes

Posted on Monday, 05.31.10
Cuba dissidents still waiting for promised changes
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Dissidents and relatives of Cuban political prisoners said
Monday that they've seen no improvement in conditions for inmates
despite an apparent government agreement to improve life behind bars for
the island's 200 political prisoners.

The Roman Catholic Church said the government agreed to move many of
those considered "prisoners of conscience" by international human rights
groups to prisons closer to their homes, and some ailing inmates are to
be sent to hospitals for long-demanded treatment.

But interviews by The Associated Press with six dissidents, relatives
and human rights leaders show disappointment at the early results of the
reported breakthrough - which was to have gotten under way last week.

"There has been no movement whatsoever," said Elizardo Sanchez, head of
the independent Havana-based Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, which monitors treatment of dissidents and would be
among the first to hear of prison transfers.

Anxious family members said they still held out hope the government
would keep its word, but some were clearly beginning to lose patience.

"I spoke to (my husband) on Wednesday," said Lidia Lima, the wife of one
of Cuba's oldest political prisoners, 68-year-old Arnaldo Ramos. "He was
so hopeful, but now we're not so sure."

What seemed to be a landmark accord on the political prisoners came amid
growing signs that Cuba was ready to soften its stance on the
opposition, and that the church would play a leading role.

In May, authorities reversed a ban on weekly protest marches by the
Ladies in White - mostly relatives of imprisoned dissidents - after
Cardinal Jaime Ortega intervened.

Then, on May 19, Cuban President Raul Castro held a four-hour meeting
with the cardinal and another church leader. Ortega a said he saw the
encounter as a "magnificent start."

Three days later, Havana auxiliary bishop Juan de Dios Hernandez brought
news of the prisoner transfer agreement to hunger-striking dissident
Guillermo Farinas, who told AP that the transfers would start May 24.

Orlando Marquez, a Havana church official, told AP on May 23 that the
transfers would begin over the course of last week.

The church had no comment Monday on the reason for the lack of movement,
but a church official said privately the government had promised only to
start the paperwork last week and gave no specific date on when prison
transfers or releases might begin. The official spoke on condition of
anonymity due to the sensitivity surrounding the agreement.

Ramos, a Havana native, is serving an 18-year prison term at the
high-security Sancti Spiritus jail in eastern Cuba, 220 miles (350
kilometers) from his home. He is one of 75 people locked up in a
sweeping 2003 crackdown on activists, community organizers and human
rights leaders. More than 50 are still in jail.

Laura Pollan, the leader of the Damas de Blanco - or Ladies in White -
told the AP that at least 17 prisoners of the original 75 are being held
at jails outside their home province, 11 were older than 60, and 26
suffered serious health problems.

She said she was particularly concerned for four prisoners who met all
of those criteria: Ramos, Adolfo Fernandez, Jesus Mustafa and Omar Ruiz.
She said she still had faith change was coming.

"I believe in God. Hope is the last thing one loses," she said. "I am an

Pollan's husband, Hector Maseda, 65, was among those arrested in 2003
and is serving a 20-year prison sentence in the central province of
Villa Clara. He could be a candidate for improved conditions or transfer
closer to Pollan in Havana, but she said his situation hasn't changed.

The government had no immediate comment on Monday, nor has it commented
publicly on the agreement reached with the church. Cuban officials
describe the dissidents as traitors paid by Washington to undermine its
communist system. They say their human rights record is among the best
in the world.

One dissident's wife, Bertha Soler, told the AP her nerves have been
frayed by all the waiting.

"It's already been a week," she said. "I am getting a little desperate."

Her husband Angel Moya is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Sanchez, the human rights leader, said he was still hopeful the prisoner
releases would take place, because the government had clearly made a
political decision to make the concessions.

"We must wait without stress," he said. "Sooner or later it will happen,
but this is a government that will take all the time it likes."


Reporters Without Borders

( Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, an
independent journalist who works for Hablemos Press, was arrested again
by State Security officials while covering a dissident demonstration in
Havana on 25 May. Another independent journalist, Carlos Serpa Maceira,
and six other demonstrators were also arrested but, unlike Martínez,
they were quickly released.

Martínez was due to be transferred to Camagüey the day after his arrest
but his present place of detention is not known. He had been released on
14 May after being held for three weeks in Valle Grande prison on a
charge of "aggravated insult" at the time of his arrest by police on 23

Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about the health of three
journalists who have been held since the "Black Spring" crackdown of
March 2003, when they were convicted on trumped-up charges of spying.
They are Normando Hernández González (sentenced to 25 years in prison),
José Luis García Paneque (24 years) and Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta (20

What became of the humanitarian gesture that the Cuban government
promised as a result of the Catholic Church's mediation?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cuban singer has amputated arm removed again

Cuban singer has amputated arm removed again
By: ThinkSpain , Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Cuban singer who was run over by a subway train in Madrid on Monday,
Danays Bautista, has had her "left arm amputated again" today after a
laborious operation to reimplant it on Wednesday.

An obstruction was detected in one of the veins in her arm after it had
been re-attached to her body.

According to a spokesperson for the Hospital General Universitario
Gregorio Marañón, where the delicate operation took place, Bautista has
had to have the arm removed again and is "in a critical condition" in
intensive care.

The singer is "sedated and on an artificial ventilator" and has
"received a large blood transfusion" in the past few hours.

Bautista's condition continues to be "serious" according to the hospital.

The singer, who is blind, fell between two carriages of a subway train
in the Nueva Numancia station in Madrid on Monday and was run over,
losing her left arm in the accident.

Cuban surrealist Lam tops Latin American art sale

Cuban surrealist Lam tops Latin American art sale
Updated at Sat, May 29, 2010 at 12:36 | Source : Reuters

A painting blending surrealism and a Cuban form of voodoo was the top
selling work at Sotheby's Latin American art sale, setting an auction
record for artist Wifredo Lam.

"Sur Les Traces (Transformation)" fetched $1.42 million but the Thursday
night sale, which totaled $12.2 million, fell below the $13.8 million
minimum pre-sale estimate. It also failed to match Sotheby's $14.6
million Latin American auction last fall.

Auction officials downplayed the lackluster showing and highlighted the
genres drawing top dollar bids.

"The big trend that I saw was that the surrealist works did very well,
the other one was abstract art," said Sotheby's Latin American art chief
Carmen Melian.

Lam painted "Sur Les Traces" after he returned to Cuba from Paris, where
he belonged to the surrealist group led by Andre Breton.

"This work combines European elements of surrealism and of santeria,"
said Melian.

Like Haiti's voodoo, santeria mixes Roman Catholicism and West African
religious traditions. Lam's grandmother was a santeria priestess, she added.

Horsetails, horns and flames evoke santeria in a dreamlike setting where
fluid black strokes trace silhouettes of human extremities like eyes and

At $722,500, the second-best seller was "The Ordeal of Orwain," by
Mexican surrealist Leonora Carrington. The 1959 painting portrays a
Druid-like sacrifice of a legendary Welsh noble; a priestess with a
cat-like face stirs a caldron.

A 1951 untitled work by Chilean surrealist Matta was another top seller
at $692,500.

Mexican Diego Rivera's "Portrait of Gladys March" went to a North
American private collector for $662,500. March was an American
journalist who spent six months interviewing Rivera and the ghost writer
of his autobiography.

The sale lot includes her notes and manuscript, which Melian called "a
scholar's paradise," running to hundreds of pages packed in four boxes.

It also included a Rivera letter in which he describes March as a
mischievous girl who grew to be a "pretty young woman."

Rivera's 1953 "Tejedora y los Ninos", or "Weaver and Children," valued
at up to $1.3 million, failed to sell. For more than half a century it
was only known to scholars via a grainy black and white photograph
before resurfacing for sale.

Mexican cultural laws barred the work being taken abroad.

"That strongly affected the price because it really narrowed down the
public (for it) ," said Melian.

The Sotheby's sale followed Christie's two-day Latin American auction,
which sold $20.5 million and set 12 artist auction records. It sale
ranked as its best auction in two years.

Christie's top-seller was the palm-sized 1938 painting "Survivor"
painted by Frida Kahlo, Rivera's wife. It fetched $1.2 million.

Framed as a religious votive offering, it symbolizes her gratitude for
surviving a suicide attempt and features a pre-Hispanic idol, according
to Christie's. Kahlo had separated from Rivera after discovering his
affair with her sister.

The largest island in the Caribbean is finally opening its doors to investment

Viva the Cuban property revolution!

The largest island in the Caribbean is finally opening its doors to
By Laura Latham
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

For a communist country, Cuba has marketed itself pretty well over the
years. It's almost impossible to hear the island's name without thinking
of white rum, cigars, salsa, Ernest Hemingway and streets lined with
battered 1950s American cars.

It's also done a pretty good job with tourism. After decades of
isolation, the government began promoting the island's beaches and
stunning crumbling capital city, Havana, to international visitors
around 15 years ago. And despite concerns over its human rights record,
it has become one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean,
with over two million visitors each year.

The island's communist status, along with the trade restrictions imposed
by the US government since 1959, have prevented large-scale investment
by overseas companies. However, that may be about to change. One of the
first things President Obama did on taking office this year was to
signal a thaw in relations with Cuba.

Change has come to the country; private holiday homes are on sale to
foreign buyers for the first time in 50 years, Cuban exiles can now
travel freely from the US to visit their former home, and trade and
investment restrictions are expected to be reviewed. Such moves will
undoubtedly spark a rush from developers to buy up Havana's
colonial-style buildings and beautiful beachfront plots for hotels,
apartments and holiday resorts.

The first of these is already underway. British company Esencia is
building a residential golf development, The Carbonera Club, in the
Varadero region. "Cuba is a wonderful country with great cultural
significance and potential," says chief executive Andrew Macdonald. "We
didn't base our business projections on America relaxing restrictions,
but it's an important step and makes it an exciting time to be in Cuba."

It's taken Macdonald six years to get permission for the project, but he
is seeing interest from investors all over the world. Hollywood
superstar Jude Law, pictured, has reportedly fallen in love with Cuba,
and plans to buy in the new development. "Ours is the first residential
resort sanctioned by the government and offers a mix of golf, sailing
and access to the best beaches in Cuba," Macdonald says.

The project will offer around 900 apartments and villas, with design
input from Sir Terence Conran, plus a PGA golf course, hotel, spa and
marina. Apartments start at £77,500 and rise to £1.1m for villas, but
this doesn't get you the freehold. "Foreigners can only lease property
for 75 years, but I expect the law to change in time," says Macdonald,
who believes his will be the first in a wave of residential projects
should the political situation alter.

That could be a slow and difficult process, according to Ian Taylor MP,
chairman of the Cuba Initiative, a non-governmental body set up to
facilitate British investment in Cuba. "Cuba is complicated, but there
have been a lot of changes since the 1990s," he says. "It's inevitable
that tourism is one of the first areas of growth and investment."

Taylor admits there are issues with property ownership, and that the
conditions of infrastructure are poor, especially the roads and rail
network, but he says the Cuban government is keen to encourage foreign
finance and that things will improve.

"Cuba has enormous potential and will be attractive to investors if it
does open up, but you can't make any assumptions that the political
system will change. Any investment needs to be made within the context
of the Cuban government."

Cuba: Buyer's guide

* Private property ownership in Cuba is prohibited, people have the
right to swap homes but not to buy or sell.

* Non-nationals can only own designated property via non-renewable,
75-year leases. Ownership and residency issues are complex, so don't be
tempted to buy private homes.

* Cuba is in the centre of the hurricane belt and has been badly hit
several times in the past few years.

* The political situation is still uncertain, so this is not an
investment for a novice or the risk averse.

In Cuba, Baseball Scout Was A State Threat

In Cuba, Baseball Scout Was A State Threat
by NPR Staff
May 22, 2010

For spiriting players out of Cuba into the major leagues, Juan Ignacio
Hernandez Nodar spent 13 years in a Cuban prison. It wasn't until last
November that he was set free. Host Scott Simon talks to Hernández, who
endured solitary confinement and death threats and even tried to take
his own life.


Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, an American citizen who spent most of his
life in Miami, embarked on a dangerous career path in the mid-1990s. His
chosen profession landed him in a Cuban prison for 13 years. He endured
solitary confinement, death threats and a nervous breakdown. He tried to
take his own life. Wasn't until last November that he was set free.

Juan Hernandez Nodar is a baseball scout. Mr. Hernandez Nodar's crime:
signing ballplayers, including pitcher Livan Hernandez, who's now with
the Washington Nationals, and spiriting them out of Cuba for life in the
Major Leagues.

Mr. Hernandez Nodar was scouting Livan Hernandez's half-brother, the
star pitcher Orlando El Duque Hernandez, when he was arrested at a
ballgame in Cuba in 1996. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and was
finally released last year.

Juan Hernandez Nodar joins us from member station WLRN in Miami.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JUAN IGNACIO HERNANDEZ NODAR (Baseball Agent): My pleasure, sir.

SIMON: First, how are you doing?

Mr. NODAR: Well, I'm doing fine. What can I tell you? I've been here
almost six months already since I came back from Cuba, and a lot of
things have been changed for me.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, could I get you to cast back to that day, August
1996, when you were arrested?

Mr. NODAR: Yes, sir. That day I left Miami was August the 10th of '96. I
arrived in Havana around 11:00 that night. I rent a car and I drove to
my family in the town named San Nicolas. And from there, the next day we
keep traveling to all the way to Santi Espiritu. The youth tournament of
baseball was taking place that week. And next day I got arrested at noon.

When the game between the United States of America and Venezuela
finished, I got arrested. And three days later, I (unintelligible) find
out, I was arrested in the charge that I was helping the Cuban defectors
that left Cuba on the past month.

SIMON: May I ask, I mean now that you're safely out, were you?

Mr. NODAR: Were I?

SIMON: Were you guilty of that charge? I mean maybe it's an unjust law,
but were you in fact...

Mr. NODAR: Let me tell you. I don't think it's any guilty at all,
because all those players - Livan, Vladimir Nunez, Larry Rodriquez,
Osvaldo Fernandez, which are the players I took charge of them - they
left Cuba with a visa to enter the country to play tournaments. When
they were there they decide to stay. There's nothing illegal of that.
Because you decide to establish your residence over there, that's
completely legal. So I believe they wrong with me.

SIMON: Mr. Hernandez Nodar, what was it like in prison for you?

Mr. NODAR: Well, I'll be honest with you. Prison in Cuba is awful
because - let me put it to you this way. At the beginning, I was in a
cell that the capacity of that cell was 36 persons and there were 82 of
us in there. We were sleeping in the bathroom, in the floors. Every
place we could find a little spot at night, we laid down over there and

And the food over there was awful. At the beginning I lost 63 pounds in
less than four months due to not having to eat that type of thing. And
believe me, it was awful. Awful.

SIMON: You were put in solitary confinement...

Mr. NODAR: Yeah, I was put in solitary in 2000 when the United States
baseball team win the Olympics down in Sydney. I was very happy for that
and the guard in the floor that I was grabbed me and put in solitary,
because I was happy because the United States of America won the Olympics.

And I told him, hey, guy, I'm a U.S. citizen and I'm proud to be a U.S.
citizen. I'm happy for my country. In the same way every time Cuba wins,
you people get happy, I should get happy. We don't care about that. You
don't suppose to cheer because the United States wins. It's something,
you know, stupid things that if you analyze, they don't have to be like

There was a time that the prisoner warden told me, Juan, don't say
anything else because you belong to Mr. Fidel Castro. You are his
personal prisoner and nobody except him will allow you to do something.

SIMON: I gather you're in the D.R., the Dominican Republic now, right?

Mr. NODAR: Yes, sir. Since I come back, I went back to D.R., where I got
most of my family. And I opened a baseball training camp over there,
which the main thing is grab the young Dominican talents who are from 15
to 16 years old and practice them over there, feed them. We got room and
board facility where we keep them over there. We teach them the language
of English, we're giving classes, and we practice every day. We try to
get them to sign with a major league team.

And most of those kids come from the streets and from the valleys and
from the country, you know, that they decide not to go to school no more
and start playing ball, because they think playing baseball is a future
for them and their families.

SIMON: I'm assuming that perhaps only a small percentage of people at
your academy actually make it into the major leagues.

Mr. NODAR: Right now we got 22 kids.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. NODAR: And out of those 22 kids, I got three of them that baseball
teams are interested on them, which they already given them tryouts and
stuff like that. And if everything goes right, they should be signed by
the end of the month of June or at the beginning of July.

SIMON: Which raises the question: What happens to the 19 kids who aren't
signed? Are there lives better cause they were at your academy?

Mr. NODAR: Well, in the period they're in our academy, we try to keep
them there, like I said, for a year. If we don't see that the kid's
going to make it, we go straight to him and tell him, look, this is not
for you, we recommend you to go back to school. And we even help them to
go back to school.

SIMON: Are you still in a position or have any interest in helping Cuban

Mr. NODAR: All the time, sir. Any Cubans that would like to approach to
me, my hands, my heart will be open for them, and I'll be more than glad
to help them.

SIMON: Well, Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar, baseball scout, joining us
from WLRN in Miami, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. NODAR: For me it's been a pleasure, sir.

Fearful Cuba watches, waits for BP oil spill

Fearful Cuba watches, waits for BP oil spill
Fri May 28, 2010 7:01pm EDT
By Jeff Franks

HAVANA, May 28 (Reuters) - Red flags went up on beaches in western Cuban
this week, closing them briefly to swimmers amid rumors that the BP oil
spill in the U.S. part of the Gulf of Mexico was forcing sharks into
Cuban waters.

The government, through state-run press, quickly denounced the rumors as
false and the beaches were reopened, but the incident reflected fears
that the massive spill will reach Cuba and wreak havoc on an island
still relatively untouched by modernity's environmental ills.

"Cuba, like all the countries in this area, is worried about the
situation in the Gulf," said Osmani Borrego Fernandez, a director at the
Guanahacabibes National Park at Cuba's western tip.

So far, he said, there has been no evidence of the oil, but "we are alert."

A trip along Cuba's coastline is like a trip back in time where vast
stretches of palm-fringed beaches sit undeveloped and sea life abounds
in the crystalline waters.

While rampant development and overfishing have damaged coastlines and
depleted seas around the world, communist-led Cuba has been largely
preserved by its slow economic pace.

As a result, scientists and environmentalists view Cuban waters as a
place where they can see how the world's oceans were decades ago.

"Many areas along the coast, and thousands of small keys, are in rural
areas or are remote and have simply been left alone," said Dan Whittle,
senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"Ernest Hemingway set up a fish camp on Cayo Paraiso (about 90 miles
(145 km) west of Havana) in the 1940s and the area has not really
changed since then. If he were still alive, he'd still recognize it
today," he said of the U.S. writer who lived in Cuba for two decades.


Cuba's northwest coast is considered most in danger from the oil. It is
there that coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves provide major
breeding grounds for many fish and sea creatures, including endangered
migratory species like sea turtles, sharks and manatees, Whittle said.

All that is at stake if the BP oil finds its way to Cuba. It could also
damage Cuba's tourism industry, which is centered on beaches and to a
lesser degree eco-tourism.

Tourism brought in more than $2 billion to Cuba last year, or about 20
percent of Cuban's foreign exchange income.

The good news for Cuba is that the spill is still centered about 300
miles (483 km) northwest of the island and BP may finally be gaining
control over the massive leak.

Officials for the oil giant said on Friday their so-called "top kill"
solution of plugging the gusher by pumping in "drilling mud" was showing
signs of success.

But even if that happens soon, Cuban officials are concerned that the
oil already in the water could be swept south by gulf currents.

Cuba is separated from the Florida Keys by just 90 miles (145 km) of
water and despite their disparate political histories, the United States
and Cuba are inextricably linked ecologically.

Another rumor that supposedly contributed to the Cuban beach closures
this week was that lionfish, which have venomous spikes and have invaded
Cuban waters in recent years from Florida, were poisoning swimmers. The
government said that rumor also was false.

The United States and Cuba have been at odds since Fidel Castro took
power in a 1959 revolution, but they held talks last week about the oil
slick, officials said.

Cuba expert Wayne Smith at the Center for International Policy think
tank in Washington said he met with Cuban authorities this week in
Havana and that they are "fully open" to cooperation with the Americans
to stop the oil.

Standing in the way is the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against Cuba,
which prevents the use of much U.S. technology in Cuba.

At a conference this week in Washington, oil experts and
environmentalists said it was time to allow cooperation with Cuba in oil
safety practices.

"We are not talking about a transfer of technology. All we are asking is
that, if there is an accident, the Cubans can pick up the phone and call
American experts who can bring resources within 24 hours," said oil
expert Jorge Pinon.

The issue is becoming a bigger one as Spanish oil giant Repsol (REP.MC)
(REP.N) prepares to drill for oil off Cuba's ecologically rich northwest
coast perhaps later this year. It has contracted for use of an
Italian-owned drilling rig now being completed in China.

While the spill is a disaster, it might have one positive result, Smith

"It actually could help improve (U.S.-Cuba) relations if we cooperate in
the right way and we have the right attitude," he said.

Iran to Export Wagons to Cuba

Iran to Export Wagons to Cuba

TEHRAN (FNA)- A Cuban railway official announced that the country has
purchased a large cargo of railway tools and equipment from China and
Iran in a bid to recover its rail system.

Pedro Peneon Morales said that the cargo consists of 750 cargo wagons
and 200 passenger wagons from Iran and 112 locomotives from China, and
added that the last cargo is due to reach Cuba soon.

Russian Rianovosti quoted Morales as saying that the investment is
inline with the Island's attempt to recover its railway system.

The Cuban government plans to repair 6,000 kilometers (3,728 miles) of
the island's railway network and acquire new equipment for the sector,

The Cuban government periodically announces investments in the industry,
including the purchase of 100 locomotives from China in 2008 and the
acquisition of 28 more locomotives from Russia last year.

Havana spent $595 mln on rail lines and equipment in 2009, according to
official figures.

Negritude in Cuba

Negritude in Cuba
May 30, 2010
Regina Cano

Many people assume that being black is one of my daily concerns, as if
that condition condemns me to always being a victim.

Each one of us has felt discrimination at some time in their life: for
being fat, bald, homosexual, or very thin, for being left-handed or shy,
elderly or a kid, for belonging to the female sex, or for being slow or
very intelligent, for being Russian, Arab, Chinese or African. My
goodness! – the list is long.

In Cuba, where black slaves were once brought, the issue remains touchy.
The problem is that there always existed a thousand ways to humiliate,
subjugate, control and relegate, as well as to subdue and sway blacks.

Some people here treat us with paternalism, which becomes annoying. And
referring to us as "people of color," morenos (brown-skinned), prietos
(blackish) or "the darkest," they continue to mark the difference.

It's worth mentioning that interracial discrimination also subsists and
divides us. Some blacks react aggressively if you refer to them
directly as "black" (which is the "color" of our race); they look at
this as if you had intentionally "shit on their mother."*

Accepting ones blackness in an atmosphere that is discriminatory (though
generally muted), in a country that formally declares itself
non-discriminatory with regard to race, entails much practice and great
effort at being a full "human being," above everything else. It means
being aware of wanting to live this short life with whatever it brings
for each living soul, and by this I'm referring to the consciousness and
valuation of who I am from my inner self.

Therefore, among my people there are those who have already surpassed
this obstacle, while others are at different points on the map of

I have heard and seen how we as blacks coexist with this atmosphere.
I've witnessed the defenses that are created that discriminate against
the rest, such as:

- That's a black thing.

- People of our color have to help themselves.

- Black people are something else.

- (S)he's a black piolo (Uncle Tom).

- or ridiculing a white for certain things they do.

Likewise, there are discriminatory phrases toward others, such as:

- If a black person doesn't do it at the entrance, they'll do it at the

- You didn't do so badly, for a black person.

- Need makes you give birth to mulatto children.*

Or notions of self-marginalization like:

- He/she thinks like white people (so they'll do better).

- Those are white people's things.

I think that if black Cubans subjected to discrimination would see the
reality from the perspective of the observer who analyzes the pros and
cons, the origin and the consequences of what holds us down; they would
notice that what really paralyzes us is self-discrimination.

That need was created for us to compare ourselves with the others, but
it was based on the very conditions that the others imposed.

Black people, genetically and socially, possess the same conditions here
as everyone else to develop themselves. In addition, our being greater
in numbers and our strength, opinions and social incidence should not be

Pain doesn't allow us to look beyond, and the capacities possessed
allows for seeking a place within integration. Though others insist on
making us feel different but we have sufficient weapons to confront that.

I believe that discrimination against blacks in Cuba is something to
leave to the minds of those who are not black or who don't consider
themselves as such, and who suffer because the race exists.

* Referring to children born of black and white parents. Well! It seems
that having sex with blacks is done out of necessity.

How to restore hope on the island

Posted on Saturday, 05.29.10
How to restore hope on the island

Cuba today may be described as ``an impossible country'' with
unsustainable sociopolitical and economic arrangements. For Cuban
people, over half a century of living under a totalitarian regime with a
failed command economy means a legacy of economic, social, political and
civil backwardness.

``These years of prolonged and deep crisis have generated an enormous
loss of spiritual values -- egoism, mendacity, double morality, and
illegal methods of survival have proliferated to incredible levels,''
Cuban economist and dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe notes.

Unable to live from their legitimate labors, Cubans developed a survival
ethic that justifies everything. It's a way of dealing with their lives'
incoherence. Cuba's civil society has committed a sort of philosophical
and ethical suicide to escape the existential absurdity of a future
without possibilities. Cubans today do not venture to dream or hope,
except perhaps about leaving the island.

As the Castro brothers' era comes to an end, we must acknowledge these
adverse conditions. Cuba's way out of its existential distress is not
just freedom from deplorable economic conditions. Cuba's potentialities
will depend more on individual freedoms and empowerment than on a given
set of economic reforms.

Freedom from fear must be the first step for a genuine and successful
transition because it is a necessary condition to reversing political
apathy. Any reform effort that leaves civil society inarticulate fails
to recognize that no modern society can function in the best interests
of the people without an effective system of checks and balances.

A transition or succession?

That will depend on whether Cubans embrace a governing philosophy that
recognizes individual freedoms, a true transition, or a succession that
advocates the primacy of economic measures even if undertaken outside
the framework of democratic empowerment.

These alternate paths matter because the one chosen will crystallize the
post-Castro narrative for generations to come. The healing of the Cuban
nation cannot take place in a political vacuum; it cannot take place in
a totalitarian setting, and it cannot take place without the civil
liberties and political rights to practice heroic tolerance and
political wisdom.

In order to avoid political stasis or chaos in post-Castro Cuba, a new
way of perceiving the future and of behaving as a people must emerge.
For this to happen the transitioning Cuban government cannot be an
ideological extension of the Castro regime. It needs to be its antithesis.

Cuba's future will be contingent not just on economic conditions, but
also on the individual decisions of the many.

This means that changes that do not beforehand place individual freedoms
and empowerment front and center via pluralistic, free and fair
elections would condemn Cuban society to live a provisional existence of
unknown limit. This is a condition that wounds the human spirit and does
not promote the development of democratic sociopolitical values.

Political rights and civil liberties are not superfluous luxuries to be
appended to a program of economic reforms. They are essential to empower
the citizenry to correct mistakes, voice discontent and bring about
changes in leadership. Democracy requires a relationship model between
the state and its citizens that is dramatically different from the model
of a Marxist-Leninist state. Cuban Communism cannot be reformed to bring
about a genuine transition.

To awaken aspirations -- to venture to dream and hope, to escape its
daily Sisyphean tasks -- Cuban society must exorcise the mythology of
the messianic maximum leader. This cannot take place within a regime of
authoritarian continuity masquerading as a regime of change.

A successful transition in Cuba will require, perhaps above all else, a
compelling vision of hope for all Cubans; an irrefutable realization
that life can regain its potential meaning despite its tragic aspects.
In post-Castro Cuba, choices will be made and paths will be taken. Let
them be those of individual freedom and empowerment so that Cubans will
be able to always feel free.

José Azel is a senior scholar at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami and author of Mañana
in Cuba.

Going beyond politics to help Cubans now

Posted on Sunday, 05.30.10
Going beyond politics to help Cubans now

There are people you talk to who are so inspiring, so full of life, so
driven and so enthusiastic, that you feel the urge to drop everything
and run to join them. Talking to Carmen Vallejo was just like that. Only
I couldn't run to her. She lives in Cuba and I'm in New York, but we are
separated, it turns out, only by water and distance.

Carmen and her husband Rey Febles, give love, joy and support to about
200 children and youngsters with cancer. With the help of foreign
friends, Carmen and Rey throw birthday parties, celebrate Halloween,
Christmas, and produce theater and musical shows for the entertainment
of children some of whom are so sick that they have forgotten how to smile.

But soon enough they remember. Talk to Carmen for a while, or visit her
website at and you will too. I found myself
laughing with her when she told me a story of one of their youngsters,
mutilated by cancer, who one day said, ``Today I woke up with my right
foot,'' a translation of a Spanish saying that means everything is going
right. ``Of course,'' the girl went on, ``I always do. My left leg is

I heard about Carmen and Rey through Luly Duke, whose New York-based
foundation Amistad is one of the friends the Cuban couple depends on.
Duke, who is Cuban American and whose maiden name is Alcebo Fundora left
Cuba in 1960, when she was 14. In 1975 she married Anthony Drexel Duke,
of the famed Duke family that made its original fortune on tobacco. Duke
University is named for the family.

Needless to say, Luly Duke could live a life of luxury in the Hamptons,
where she has a home, and belongs to groups such as the Garden Club of
East Hamptons. But Duke has long had a humanitarian and activist streak.
Many years ago, she joined her husband's work in The Harbor for Boys and
Girls, Inc, a multiservice organization for inner-city children, which
he founded.

In 1995, after 35 years in exile, Duke returned to Cuba and her life

``I realized the people of Cuba needed help and I was in a position to
help,'' she says simply.

And for some reason, Duke makes the very complicated, very political,
very exhausting topic of Cuba sound new, simple and refreshing. Help is
needed. We can give it. Why not do it?

Why not, indeed? The needs of the Cuban people are overwhelming:
everything from toilet paper to food, coloring pencils, aspirin and

Duke has focused her funding on educational, cultural and medical needs
-- three areas, where, by the way, the Cuban government boasts of
excelling. But Duke doesn't discuss politics. To do what she does, she
has managed to earn the trust and good will of both the U.S. and the
Cuban governments and focus on her foundation's mission: to build
bridges to Cuba. She has a license from the Treasury Department and
maintains good relations with U.S. and Cuban officials.

In addition to donating more than 3,000 pounds of over-the-counter
medicines and medical supplies for Carmen and Rey's kids, Fundación
Amistad has, among other things, sent about 1,000 pounds of sports
equipment, and, with partners, more than $90,000 in medical supplies and
technical books to three medical centers in Havana.

Duke said she would like to see Carmen and Rey's work serve even more
kids in other areas of Cuba, but the foundation, like others in these
times of economic uncertainty, is hurting for funds. To keep afloat,
they need to raise $45,000 before the end of the year.

Carmen, who is deeply religious, said she and her husband started the
program after Mother Teresa visited Cuba in 1988 and asked her to take
care of children with cancer. Carmen was serving as her translator
during the visit.

She said her group is ``tolerated'' by the Cuban authorities, who don't
like the fact that she takes the children wherever they are invited, be
it the home of a foreign western ambassador or a meeting with Eusebio
Leal, Havana's historian.

``What we do is beyond politics, religion and race,'' Carmen said. ``We
just want to ease the very real pain of these kids and see them smile.''

Duke has the same approach. She has already established the bridge.
Others can walk with her or build their own.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cuban Protestors Thank Church for Mediation

Cuban Protestors Thank Church for Mediation
Wives Hoping for Release of Political Prisoners

HAVANA, Cuba, MAY 27, 2010 ( "We still have a lot of hope,"
says Laura Pollán when she speaks of the possible release of political
prisoners in Cuba. Her own husband, Héctor Maseda, is completing a
20-year sentence.

Pollán is the spokeswoman for a group of Cuban protestors -- mostly
wives and mothers of political prisoners, known as the "Ladies in White"
-- whose cause is being presented to the government through the
mediation of the Church.

They are the only public protestors known to have been permitted by
authorities since the '60s, though the Church last month was already
instrumental in protecting them from a government threat to prohibit
their Sunday marches.

After their march last Sunday, the Ladies in White affirmed their hopes
for a step by step release of political prisoners, and they thanked the
Church for its help.

"We still have a lot of hope, the conversations are moving ahead [...]
we have a lot of faith that soon, there will be good news," Pollán said.

Moving forward

The spokeswoman reported that Saturday they had a "very good three-hour
meeting" with the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino,
and one of his auxiliaries, Bishop Juan de Dios Hernández.

"They told us that soon there will be surprises," she said. "There are
discussions under way (with the government) about the issue of the
prisoners, the relocation (of prisoners) and the issue of (Guillermo)

Fariñas is a journalist who three months ago began a hunger strike in
protest at the death of a fellow dissident. He is seeking the release of
26 more political prisoners who are said to be seriously ill.

President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Ortega met last week for more than
five hours, and the cardinal advocated the release of the political
prisoners. Human rights groups calculate there are some 200 of these
prisoners in Cuba.

Fariñas told the Mexican news agency Notimex that Auxiliary Bishop
Hernández visited him in his hospital room in Santa Clara and told him
of the government decision.

Pollán affirmed, however, that the prelates reminded her that it will be
step by step. "We can't bound up the whole staircase in one leap," she
said, "we'll go step by step."

The Ladies in White spokeswoman said she was unaware of a date for the
measures Fariñas is expecting.

In process

Reiterating that the process would develop in small steps, she said that
"we cannot think like some people who have the hope that they are going
to suddenly open the gates, and everyone is going to come out all at
once. No."

Pollán added that the Ladies in White have asked for direct meetings
with the government, with the Church acting as mediator in the meetings.

"But it looks like this won't happen," she said. "It seems that they
will talk to the Church, the Church will report it to us, and we will
talk with the Church about what we agree with [and] what we keep asking."

The Ladies in White had their first meeting with Church leadership on
May 1, with the participation of Cardinal Ortega; they met again May 15
with Monsignors Ramón Suárez Polcari and José Félix Pérez; and in the
most recent meeting, Cardinal Ortega again attended.

The Automobile is Cuba's Grand Prize

The Automobile is Cuba's Grand Prize
May 28, 2010
Fernando Ravsberg

The resulting chaos has become a fertile soil for the black market.

HAVANA TIMES, May 27 – The removal of Cuban Transportation Minister
Jorge Luis Sierra was a surprise to me given that his ministry was one
of the few sectors in which one can say the country has advanced
ostensibly, both at the urban and the inter-provincial levels.

I wondered what the errors were that Sierra made, so I began looking for
information among government officials. When they told me the reason, I
found it so difficult to believe that I continued looking for additional
sources to confirm what was said.

It seems that the sin committed by the former minister was authorizing
the importation of automobiles without payment of taxes by those Cubans
who had had an old vehicle to offer in exchange and who also have enough
money to buy a new one abroad.

I was familiar with that measure and I found it an intelligent way of
renovating the nation's automotive inventory without investments on the
part of the government. However, things went beyond what was foreseen
by the transportation authorities.

Most of the automobiles bought by Cubans were deluxe: late model
Mercedes Benz, Audis and BMWs. Some artists bought vehicles valued at
more than $50,000 (USD). However, there were also State employees —with
monthly wages of $30 (USD) — who were importing $15,000 vehicles.

Immediately, all the alarms sounded and imports were suspended exactly
when those who had the least money were prepared to get new cars. The
wealthiest don't have anything to worry about; their deluxe cars already
distinguish them.

I could speak hours of anecdotes of this case and of Cuban idiosyncrasy,
but what's certain is that the problem is much greater at the roots; it
exists in the mechanisms created by the system in relation to automobiles.

Typically, for a citizen to buy a vehicle they needed permission from
the vice-president of the country. I don't know who authorizes it now
but for years it was the job of VP Carlos Lage to decide who deserved a car.

Theoretically, as has often been said, the sale of automobiles should be
oriented toward those who need one to carry out socially beneficial
labor. Authorities affirmed that the ecosystem would collapse if all
inhabitants of the planet had their own vehicle.

However, later these same authorities reward citizens with automobiles.
During the good years, cars were sold for a highly subsidized price to
outstanding workers and more recently they have been given out to
retired athletes.

In Cuba, a vehicle is the Premio Gordo (the Grand Prize). I have an
acquaintance who —due to his technical contributions during the economic
crisis of the 1990s— received a motorcycle. The following year he came
up with additional new inventions so he was awarded another motorbike;
and as he continued to stand out, in this millennium he was allowed to
buy a car, a Russian Lada.

No one asked this outstanding Cuban technician if he needed a house, a
pay raise or if he wanted to take a trip. No, he deserved a grand
incentive – and these are vehicles. Consequently, this gentleman will
have to decide between enlarging his garage and ceasing to invent things.

Absurdities and Exceptions

The absurdity is such that to prevent the rewarded from reselling their
cars to third parties, who don't "deserve" them, there exists a
guideline that prohibits these sales by owners, although this is a
regulation that Cuban law itself authorizes.

To complicate things even more, there are exceptions. Sailors, artists
or diplomats can buy automobiles whenever they can justify their income.
However, farmers are not allowed to do the same, even when they can
prove that the money they accumulated was the product of their labor.

What's more, we're not talking solely about automobiles; farmers cannot
buy trucks or tractors. I know of a case of someone who was given a
tractor when he was abroad, but Cuban authorities denied him the right
to import it onto the island.

As foreigners do have the right to buy vehicles, some Cubans will offer
them money to buy a car in the non-native's name. An islander might
invest thousands of dollars knowing that when the legal owner returns to
their country, the car can no longer be driven.

The resulting chaos has become a fertile soil for the black market,
where every year automobiles are sold by taking advantage of gaps in the
law and by bending the rules with money (discreetly putting cash in the
hands of corrupt officials).

The relationship between Cuban authorities and automotive vehicles is
strange, almost traumatic. They have transformed the automobile into
the citizen's greatest material aspiration, which someone can only
access after accumulating high merit.

President Raul Castro already eliminated some of the prohibitions that
weighed on the citizenry —access to hotels, cell phones, the Internet—
and the universe remained intact. Equally, an opening in terms of the
sale of cars would only affect the bureaucracy, the black market and

Restoring the Tampa-Cuba connection

Restoring the Tampa-Cuba connection
Updated: Friday, 28 May 2010, 7:14 AM EDT

TAMPA - There is a new push to make Tampa a gateway to Cuba, including
direct flights from here to Havana, in an effort to connect Tampa's
economical future with its historical past.

The vision is to have at least two non-stop flights each day to Havana,
totaling more than 8,000 passengers a month, and open the Port of Tampa
to shipping trade with Cuba.

"That will create jobs, and it will also help to break down some of
those old barriers that need to be broken down in a peaceful way," said
Stephen Michelini with the World Trade Center.

Backers of Cuba trade asked the Tampa City Council to visit the island
nation on a cultural and trade mission. They found a ally in
councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena.

"It's for our economic future, as well as our cultural, social, and
economic heritage," Saul-Sena said.

A hundred years ago, Florida cattle were driven across the state to
steamships in Tampa, bound for Cuba. Then came the famous Tampa cigar
factories staffed by Cuban immigrants. The rise of Fidel Castro,
however, led to the U.S. embargo that severed much of Tampa's historical
Cuban connection.

The port of Houston recently got authorization to expand its trade with
Cuba, and backers of the Tampa-Cuba connection say now is the time to
reopen trade here.

Some agricultural trade is allowed under the embargo, and backers say
Tampa needs to catch up.

The City Council voted to organize with the County Commission and the
Aviation and Port Authorities to steer Tampa back to its longtime Cuban

There are currently several bills in the United States Congress aimed at
easing the embargo, but many Cuban exiles, especially in South Florida,
are still opposed to lifting it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cuba publishes Castro pic after 7 months

Cuba publishes Castro pic after 7 months

To illustrate a story about the presentation to Fidel Castro this week
of a medal from the Ecuadorean National Assembly, the official website
Cubadebate on Wednesday used a photograph made last October during
another such ceremony.
The picture shows Ecuadorean Vice President Lenin Moreno Garcés giving
Castro a medal for sending Cuban doctors to the Manuela Espejo Mission,
which cares for the disabled in Ecuador. Others in the image are
The photograph was not published in Cuba by the national media at the
time, though it was released to the international media by the
Ecuadorean government.
In it, Castro is seen leaning to accept the medal because Moreno is
wheelchair-bound. He was shot in the back during a robbery attempt in 1998.
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.

US Is $500 Million Supermarket to Cuba

US Is $500 Million Supermarket to Cuba
Published: Thursday, 27 May 2010 | 10:00 AM ET
By: Rob Reuteman
Special to

The U.S. businesses that sold $528 million in food products to Cuba last
year range from small dairy farmers to multi- billion dollar
agribusiness corporations.

But they seem to have one thing in common: they admit to mixing a little
social messaging in with their sales.

Take the case of Ralph Kaehler, a St. Charles, Minn., cattleman who
shipped the first livestock to Cuba after the U.S. lifted its 52-year
trade embargo to allow sales of food products and medical supplies in 2000.

In 2002, news photos of Kaehler's two sons were published around the
world as they showed Fidel Castro one of their bulls, named Minnesota
Red. (See one of the images below.)

"I'd rather have my boys someday go down there and negotiate a cattle
contract than be members of a peacekeeping mission," Kaehler said.
"We've never gone to war with a trading partner."

Kaehler is outspoken on the subject of doing business with Cuba, in
sharp contrast to the rare and carefully chosen statements on the
subject from agribusiness giants like Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland.

The Cuban trade embargo remains a hotly-debated topic of the sort most
U.S. companies shy away from. You either believe that economic sanctions
should remain in effect until the Cuban dictatorship switches to
democracy or you believe that the quickest way to undermine the Cuban
government would be to flood the island with U.S. goods and citizens.

Profit hasn't been foremost on Kaehler's list of motives.

"Like my banker says, for the amount of money we've gone through in
trading with Cuba, we sure haven't kept much," he said. "We're doing it
as much for correcting policy we think is wrong as anything else. And as
farmers, we have to promote agriculture whenever we can."

Archer Daniels Midland
Seth Perlman / AP

Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland, with 2009 revenues of nearly
$70 billion, was the first U.S. company to sign a contract with Cuba
after the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000
lifted part of the trade embargo.

By some estimates, ADM now accounts for nearly half of all U.S. food
exports to Cuba. But the company doesn't publicize its Cuban trade.

Asked last week about ADM's trade with Cuba, media relations manager
Roman Blahoski responded, "We generally do not discuss market
conditions. We do not break down revenue by country or region, only by
business unit—corn processing, etc.,—so we wouldn't have any revenue
information specific to Cuba to provide."

But last year, Tony DeLio, a former vice-president of marketing and
public relations at ADM, was quoted by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "We
are always concerned when there is a lack of freedom. But as a company,
our ability to affect that, and where we can help bring about change, is
through trade."

Cargill Inc., one of the world's largest privately owned corporations,
also has been doing business with Cuba for 10 years. Since it's
privately held, Cargill is not required to file public reports on its
financial profile, but its annual sales are estimated at well over $55

Asked this week about its trade with Cuba, media relations director
David Feider responded by e-mail: "I can confirm that Cargill has sold
U.S. agricultural commodities now for a number of years—corn, dried
distillers' grains, wheat—licensed by the U.S. government under the
Trade Sanctions Reform & Export Enhancement Act of 2000 into Cuba."

"This activity is consistent with our longstanding belief that that food
is a basic right, and access to it should not be manipulated by
governments for political purposes," Feider added.

Florida International University, which annually polls Cuban-American
sentiment, identified a tipping point in 2008. For the first time less
than half of respondents, 45 percent, supported the continuing U.S.
economic embargo. Their 2004 poll showed that 66 percent wanted the
embargo to continue.

"The embargo is about the Cuban exiles who backed Batista," Kaehler
said. "It's all about old money and old power. Over 70 percent of Cuban
Americans weren't alive when the embargo was put in place. All families
in Cuba have relatives in the U.S. Just like Mexican families, they all
have someone up here making money and sending it home. Even with the
embargo and all its impeding circumstances, we're still one of Cuba's
top four trading partners."

The U.S. food products now making their way to Cuba include corn from
Iowa, cattle from Florida, millions of dozens of eggs from
Massachusetts, rice from Texas and apples from Washington state.
American coffee, shellfish, bread, wine, cigarettes and pistachios also
are exported.

More than 30 states have sent trade missions to Cuba in the past 10
years, eager to do business with an island country of 11.4 million
people that has to import 70 percent of its food.

"The more you learn about the embargo, the crazier it gets that we're
continuing it," Kaehler said. "The logic of it defies a normal mind.""*tag*&par=RSS

Dengue Risk in Santiago de Cuba

Dengue Risk in Santiago de Cuba
May 27, 2010

HAVANA TIMES, May 27 – The danger of an outbreak of a dengue epidemic
persists in Santiago de Cuba, the second most important city in the
island, due to the high indices of infestation of the Aedes aegypti
mosquito, which transmits that and other diseases, reported the local
press. The authorities have mobilized equipment to eliminate the
insect's breeding centres while urging social organizations to join in
the eradication campaign, reported IPS.

Cuba says no case yet against jailed American

Posted on Wednesday, 05.26.10
Cuba says no case yet against jailed American
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Cuba has yet to open a legal case against a U.S. government
contractor from Maryland nearly six months after he was arrested as a
suspected spy, the head of the island's high court said Wednesday.

Alan P. Gross was detained Dec. 3 at Havana's Jose Marti International
Airport and has been held without charge at the capital's high-security
Villa Marista prison ever since.

Formal charges cannot be filed in Cuba without a judicial accusation and
the opening of a court case, so it appears unlikely charges against
Gross are imminent even as he approaches a half-year in custody.

It is rare for suspects to be held for extended periods in Cuba without
charges or even a case being opened. But Supreme Court President Ruben
Remigio said Wednesday that "there still is not a case related to this
matter" and he did not know whether prosecutors were working on one.

"The courts receive cases when cases are presented," Remigio added,
speaking on the sidelines of an international legal conference in
western Havana. "When they aren't presented, we don't have a case."

The general in charge of investigations for the Interior Ministry
attended the same event but declined to comment.

Gross, a 60-year-old native of Potomac, Maryland, came to Cuba as part
of a little-known program funded by the U.S. Agency for International

President Raul Castro and the speaker of Cuba's parliament allege Gross
was distributing banned satellite communications equipment and say his
capture proves Washington is still out to topple their communist government.

The U.S. State Department has countered for months that Gross is no spy
and should be released immediately.

A Washington-based spokeswoman for his family said they had no comment
Wednesday. Gross' wife, Judy, previously said he is a veteran
development worker who was helping Cuba's Jewish community use the
Internet to communicate among themselves and with similar groups abroad.

She says her husband brought communications equipment intended for
humanitarian purposes, not for use by Cuba's small dissident community.

Satellite phones and other telecommunications materials are outlawed in
this country, where the government maintains strict control over
Internet access and the media.

Officials from the U.S. Interest Section, which Washington maintains in
Havana instead of an embassy, have been granted three consular visits to
see Gross in prison, but have been otherwise largely silent on the matter.

Cheryl Mills, chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton, raised the case in March during a meeting with Cuban Foreign
Minister Bruno Rodriguez during a U.N. conference on aid for Haiti.

Also pressing for Gross' release was Craig Kelly, deputy assistant
secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, who became the
highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba in years when he came here
for immigration talks in February.

Hotel trade group spends $305,000 lobbying in 1Q

Posted on Thursday, 05.27.10
Hotel trade group spends $305,000 lobbying in 1Q
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The American Hotel & Lodging Association spent $305,000 in
the first quarter lobbying federal officials on travel to Cuba, labor
and other issues, according to a recent disclosure report.

That's less than the $350,000 the group spent lobbying both in the same
period last year and in 2009's fourth quarter.

The trade group, which represents hotel companies, also lobbied the
federal government on family medical leave and health insurance for
small businesses in January through March.

The trade group lobbied both houses of Congress and the Departments of
Labor, Commerce and Homeland Security, according to a disclosure report
it filed April 19 with the House clerk's office.

Port of Houston expands trade with Cuba

Port of Houston expands trade with Cuba
by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News
Posted on May 24, 2010 at 6:38 PM

HOUSTON — The Port of Houston has reached an agreement to ship directly
to Cuba, opening the door for more jobs and even a thriving cruise-line

"Our dream scenario is that we would end up in the cruise business with
Cuba," said Jim Edmonds, chairman of the Port of Houston Authority. "I
think that would be a popular destination."

The partnership has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to the
Houston area, port officials said. Already the nation's largest
petrochemical complex, the Port of Houston directly and indirectly
impacts 785,000 jobs in Texas.

The U.S. Commerce Department recently – and quietly – approved a
shipping contract for a company looking to transport goods directly
between Houston and the island nation. It marks another step in the
process of the Obama administration thawing relations with the communist

A series of embargoes have strictly limited trade with Cuba since 1962.

But in 2009, U.S. trade with the island located just 90 miles off the
Florida Keys was estimated at more than $500 million.

Texas wants a bigger piece of that. Right now, the Lone Star State is a
distant second behind Louisiana in exports to Cuba.

A previous policy prohibited container cargo from being shipped to Cuba
by any state besides Florida. Moving the cargo to Florida was proving
cost-prohibitive for many companies, so port officials have been
actively lobbying Congress and the Obama administration to ease trade

Edmonds said Cuba is very interested in importing goods from Texas,
including grain, poultry, and flour. Port officials are also looking
forward to the ability to ship steel to rehabilitate the country's
crumbling infrastructure.

Still, there are critics that wonder whether the U.S. should be doing
business with a communist country.

"We trade with communist nations all the time," Edmonds said. "I look at
this as a trade opportunity, not politics."

Is Raul Castro taking risk in church talks?

Posted on Wednesday, 05.26.10
Is Raul Castro taking risk in church talks?
Raúl Castro's negotiations with the Catholic Church have sparked hope,
but recognizing the church as a mediator is uncharted territory.

Raúl Castro's talks with the Catholic Church on political prisoners have
sparked hopes, skepticism and assertions he's taking a risk by
recognizing the church as a mediator in Cuban affairs.

The meetings with Cardinal Jaime Ortega are the first time in memory the
communist government has negotiated with a national, independent
organization like the Cuban church, on an island where authorities try
to control virtually all activity.

They also represent Castro's most important political shift since
succeeding his ailing brother, Fidel, two years ago. The meetings also
have given added weight to a church that the state has kept on a short
leash throughout most of the past five decades.

Castro has promised to move some political prisoners in poor health to
hospitals, move other jailed dissidents to institutions closer to their
homes and eventually release some of Cuba's estimated 190 prisoners of


While the local church has long decried Cuba's problems, ``what is new
is the government's readiness to publicly recognize the Cuban Catholic
church as a middleman for resolving key issues,'' Havana dissident Oscar
Espinosa Chepe wrote in a column Monday.

Fidel Castro freed 3,600 political prisoners after 1978 negotiations
with exiles, and about 300 dissidents and common criminals after Pope
John Paul II's 1998 visit to Cuba. He also released a few to visitors
such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Now his brother's meetings with Ortega have raised hopes for an
improvement in Cuba's human rights record, too. But there also have been
accusations that the cardinal is being manipulated by Raúl Castro to
give a propaganda boost to what may amount to meager changes for
political prisoners.

Some analysts are also cautioning that Castro is taking a risk because
his talks with Ortega may put his government on the slippery slope of
political concessions and embolden dissidents, average Cubans and even
government officials critical of his slow pace in adopting economic reforms.

``The government is tacitly recognizing with this gesture that it will
definitively accept the risks of thinking differently,'' said Julio
Hernandez, a Miami supporter of dissident Oswaldo Payá's Christian
Liberation Movement.

``When the authorities recognize any sort of independent source of
power, they are admitting a weakness,'' said a Havana author who asked
to remain anonymous to avoid possible retaliations for his comment.

Phil Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute think tank in
suburban Washington, noted that Havana in the past has gone over the
heads of local church officials and negotiated directly with the Vatican
on issues such as permission to open new seminaries.


The Castro-Ortega talks, he added, ``mark the government accepting the
church as a part of civil society. . . . I don't particularly see any
risk [for Castro] in it, but it is opening up a new space for political
discussions on topics that were not open before.''

Brian Latell, a retired CIA Cuba expert, noted that the church-state
talks come at a time when Castro faces a crushing economic crisis as
well as a wave of international condemnation for Cuba's human rights
record. On Raúl Castro's watch, jailed dissident Orlando Zapata died
Feb. 22 after a hunger strike and there has also been a crackdown on the
Ladies in White protesters.

But Latell added that Ortega was unlikely to push too hard during the
conversations with Castro.

Espinosa Chepe, one of the 75 dissidents jailed in the 2003 roundup
known as the Black Spring but freed for health reasons, said Castro's
readiness to ease conditions for political prisoners could help improve
Cuba's relations with Washington and the European Union.

``It's clear that President Obama favors better relations with Cuba . .
. but he has been blocked by the lack of reciprocity,'' he wrote. If
some political prisoners are freed, ``that could make it easier for the
administration to take additional steps.''

In Washington, a State Department spokesperson said Monday: ``We've seen
the optimistic prognosis [for the political prisoners] and are looking
forward to seeing what concrete steps the Cuban government will take. We
have urged the Cuban government before to release its prisoners of

Cuban Bishops Meet With President Castro

Cuban Bishops Meet With President Castro

HAVANA, Cuba, MAY 25, 2010 ( In a historic meeting,
representatives of the Catholic Church in Cuba spoke with President Raul
Castro about the release of political prisoners, among other items.

The archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, gave a press
conference on Thursday in which he reported on the meeting with
President Castro, the first of its kind since Raul replaced his brother
Fidel as head of the Cuban government.

The conclusions of the Wednesday meeting, regarded as positive by the
Church leaders, point to the eventual release of political prisoners.

Cardinal Ortega y Alamino attended the meeting along with the president
of the Cuban bishops' conference, Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez of
Santiago de Cuba. President Castro was present along with Caridad Diego
Bello, head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of
the Cuban Communist Party.

At the press conference, which took place in the archbishopric of
Havana, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino "specified that this meeting cannot be
seen from a point of view of compromises, but of conversations that had
a magnificent beginning, and which must continue," reported a communiqué
on the archdiocesan Web page.

The prelate told representatives of the national press and the
international media accredited in Cuba that "matters were addressed of a
national character, such as the Ladies in White and political prisoners,
conscientious objectors (or counter-revolutionaries, as they are called
by the Cuban government), the latter seen in their totality and not just
the sick."

He added that no concrete conclusions or dates were solidified, and thus
there are no official announcements about the next steps regarding these
prisoners, but the authorities are in the process of "addressing the

The cardinal affirmed, "I can say that the subject is being treated

New paths

He noted that historically, the Catholic Church in Cuba distanced itself
because of clashes and difficulties that everyone knows about, but, on
this occasion the Wednesday meeting gave "support to the mediating
endeavor of the Church and, at the same time, recognition of the role of
the Church as interlocutor, which surmounts the old grievances to walk
on new paths."

In this regard, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino explained that the meeting was
not seen in any way in terms of a Church-State relationship as
"strategic alliance," as this phrase is of military or political

Rather, he said, the Church must act in society, starting from the value
for religious liberty guaranteed by the constitution, but never under
any type of alliance.

Hence, the prelate said, this meeting was important, as it surmounted
old concepts to enter into what is the nature more proper to the Church
and its mission in society.

He pointed out that as part of the mediating endeavor of the Church, on
two occasions, two priests, Monsignor Ramon Suarez Polcari and Monsignor
Jose Felix Perez, visited Guillermo Fariñas, who went on a hunger strike
on Feb. 26 to appeal for the release of 26 prisoners of conscience who
are ill.

They did not go to request that Fariñas discontinue his hunger strike,
the cardinal said, but that, in a more human and religious vein, he
would have more confidence in the Church's efforts -- in the sense that
some of the things he is requesting might be obtained, while recognizing
that in him there is a very respectable position in the order of his
conscience, which might be made more flexible by these dialogues, given
that a human life is at risk.

Plans for the future

Cardinal Ortega y Alamino highlighted the novelty of the conversation
held with the Cuban authorities in the most positive sense of the term,
as it "opens a new period," above all if one takes into account that the
meeting was not to talk about the problems of the Church, but to talk
about Cuba, about the present moment and about the future. "And it was
thus for more than four hours," he added.

Thus, Wednesday's conversations entered into "the framework of the usual
conciliating and mediating position of the Catholic Church, in every age
and country, aware that 'dialogue is the new name of peace,'" said the
prelate, quoting Pope Paul VI.

"Unfolded in this climate of seeking peace through dialogue was the
meeting held yesterday between the top representatives of the Cuban
Catholic Church and President Raul Castro," concluded the communiqué.

Archbishop García Ibáñez spoke further to AFP about the question of
political prisoners, noting that "we spoke about it and I believe that
on both sides there is a willingness, a desire that this be resolved and
we hope it will be."

"I believe it will be," he emphasized, noting that it will be "a process
and a process must begin with small steps and those steps will be taken."

This meeting precedes the visit to Cuba of the Vatican secretary for
relations with states, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, which is planned
for June 15-20, on the occasion of the 10th Catholic Social Week.

During his sojourn in Cuba he will meet with the authorities of Castro's
government and preside over ceremonies for the celebration of the 75th
anniversary of relations between the Holy See and that nation.

Relations between the Vatican and the Castro regime improved after John
Paul II's visit to Cuba in 1998, when he held an historic meeting with
the now former head of state, Fidel Castro.

Cuba Reports Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Outbreaks

Cuba Reports Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Outbreaks
Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010, 5:15 p.m., EDT

Cuba Reports Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease OutbreaksCuba has reported to
the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) two outbreaks of rabbit
hemorrhagic disease.

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is an extremely contagious and fatal
viral disease of domesticated and wild rabbits belonging to the
Oryctolagus cuniculus species, according to OIE. Outbreaks have been
reported at farms in Baragua and Venezuela. Both municipalities are
located in Cuba's Ciego de Avila province.

In Baragua, Cuba's ministry of agriculture reported 2345 rabbits as
susceptible, 945 cases, 945 deaths and 1,400 rabbits as destroyed. In
Venezuela, the ministry reported 140 rabbits as susceptible, 41 cases,
41 deaths and 99 destroyed.

The first confirmation of the disease occurred on May 18. The outbreaks
are still recorded as unresolved, according to OIE. Weekly follow-up
reports will be submitted.

The last outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease reported in Cuba was in
August 2005. According to OIE, the disease has always been confined to
Cuba's western provinces, but the recent occurrence has taken place in a
province in the central-eastern region of the country.

A disease emergency has been declared in the region and the neighboring
areas. A disease alert has been declared for the entire country. The use
of vaccines for protecting populations at risk is not to be precluded.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mild 3.0 Quake in Eastern Cub

Mild 3.0 Quake in Eastern Cuba
May 25, 2010

HAVANA TIMES, May 25 — An earthquake of 3.0 degrees on the Richter scale
shook several areas of Cuba's eastern region on Monday night, reported
the Network of Stations of the National Seismological Service. The
quake, the 28th registered this year in the island, did not cause
material damage in the towns where it was felt, reported IPS.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Castro in first church overtures

Castro in first church overtures
By Marc Frank

Published: May 24 2010 03:00 | Last updated: May 24 2010 03:00

Raúl Castro, Cuba's president, has suggested that the Roman Catholic
Church might play a larger role in solving the communist-run island's
ills and perhaps lead to the release of political prisoners.

Experts and diplomats judged Mr Castro's move his most significant
political act since replacing brother Fidel in early 2008.

Mr Castro held a four-hour meeting with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Bishop
Dionisio Garcia of Santiago de Cuba, the head of the Conference of
Bishops. Cardinal Ortega said the meeting was a "magnificent beginning
of an ongoing process . . . a recognition of the role of the Church as
an interlocutor, of overcoming the old grievances".

Mr Ortega and Mr Garcia said the plight of political prisoners, of which
there are about 60 according to Amnesty International, was discussed
with Mr Castro and they were optimistic about the future.

Wind Power Increase on Cuba

Wind Power Increase on Cuba
CUBA - The Gibara II wind farm in Cuba has connected up four of its six
wind turbines.

The wind farm has six wind Chinese designed Goldwind S-50 turbines, each
of which can produce 750 kilowatts.

Cuba is looking to capitalise on a potential wind power of 2000MW to
offset the import of 2,220 tonnes of petroleum into the country
according to a report on Reve. The current installed capacity is just 7.2MW.

Gibara II wind farm is situated near the lighthouse at Punta Rosa, 1.5
mile from the city of Gibara, Holguin province, 350 miles east of Havana.

Cuba has three wind farms - the largest one is Gibara I built in 2008
with 5.1MW of capacity. The other two wind farms are located in the Isle
of Youth, south-western Cuba, and in Turiguano in the central province
of Ciego de Avila.

According to a wind map that has been compiled by the Cuban authorities,
there are 32 suitable locations for the wind parks development on Cuba.

Cuba receives 100,000 tons of Russian wheat

Cuba receives 100,000 tons of Russian wheat
Published on Monday, May 24, 2010

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- A Russian ship is unloading at the Cuban city port
of Cienfuegos a wheat cargo that completes the 75 000 tons which is part
of a 100 000 donation made to Cuba.

Granma newspaper points out that this free shipments show the solidarity
of the Russian Federation to the Cuban people.

Previously, a 22 500 tons of Russian wheat donation had been made at the
beginning of 2009, and afterwards the two governments signed a
cooperation agreement in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma
in 2008 where the Russians committed to supply these 100 000.

A fourth ship is already on its way to Cuba to complete the agreement, a
example of the friendly relations between Cuba and the Russian Federation.

Cuban migrants picked up along Rickenbacker Causeway, authorities say

Cuban migrants picked up along Rickenbacker Causeway, authorities say

Miami police found 13 migrants, all in good condition
Click here to find out more!
By Jennifer Lebovich, The Miami Herald
10:39 a.m. EDT, May 24, 2010

Authorities found a group of Cuban migrants along the Rickenbacker
Causeway early Monday morning.

Someone called police just before 5:30 a.m. to report 15 people on the
south side of the causeway.

When police arrived, they found 13 migrants, some walking along the
causeway, Miami police said. All were in good condition.

Police notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who took the
migrants to the Dania Beach station to be processed, an agency
spokesperson said.

Authorities have not found a vessel.

Once it is verified that they are Cuban, the migrants will likely be
allowed to stay, a spokeswoman said.

Under the so-called wet-foot/dry-foot policy, Cubans intercepted at sea
are repatriated, while those who touch land are allowed to stay.,0,1179528.story

Cuba vows better conditions for political prisoners

Cuba vows better conditions for political prisoners
Denver Post Wire Report
Posted: 05/24/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT

HAVANA — The government has agreed to move many of the 200 political
prisoners to jails closer to their homes and will give medical attention
to ailing prisoners, a church official told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The government's decision comes a few days after a rare meeting between
President Raul Castro and two church leaders, including Cuban Cardinal
Jaime Ortega.