Sunday, October 31, 2010

Norwegian emergency aid to Haiti

Norway Post: Norwegian emergency aid to Haiti
31 October 2010 | 03:37 | FOCUS News Agency

Oslo. Norway is intensifying its cooperation with Cuban doctors in
Haiti, the Norway Post disclosed. An additional NOK 5 million (USD 850
000) has been allocated for cholera medicine and equipment.
The new agreement focuses on measures to address the outbreak of cholera
in Haiti.
Minister of the Environment an International Development Erik Solheim
commented, "I am pleased that we are increasing our cooperation with
Cuba in Haiti. The outbreaks of cholera we are now seeing demonstrate
how vulnerable the Haitian population is. By channelling support via the
Cuban doctors, we can reach out to those who are suffering."
The agreement between Cuba and Norway is a follow-up of the agreement on
health cooperation that was concluded immediately after the earthquake
in January.
For many years, Cuba has played an important role in the Haitian health
service. Today, more than 930 Cuban doctors and other health workers are
working all over the country, and more than 500 Haitian doctors have
been trained in Cuba at no cost."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Friday, 29th October 2010
From the archives: The Cuban Missile Crisis
Peter Hoskin 2:06pm

48 years ago this week, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end. Here
are the two Spectator leading articles that bookended our coverage of
those thirteen momentous days in October:

Trial of strength, The Spectator, 26 October, 1962

The West faces a grave situation. It would be absurd to think that the
showdown on Cuba is only a Soviet-American affair. Rather it is the
testing-ground of the determination of the freedom-loving peoples to
defend themselves – one selected by Russia with a view to causing as
much confusion as possible in the countries of the Atlantic Alliance and
the uncommitted States.

We notice one crucial point at once. The Russo-Cuban calculation has
failed in the most crucial zone. For one fact stands out: the almost
unanimous vote of the Organisation of American States in support of
President Kennedy's action. This is astonishing progress from the vague
pro-Castroist, or at least anti-Yanqui, sentiments of a year or two ago.
Originally the more progressive countries of Latin America had the same
illusions that are still current about Cuba among the European Left. But
they have since learned by experience – experience denied to our own
Castro-appeasers. Even without the rockets, Cuba has been a hotbed of
aggression against its neighbours. Its diplomats and agents have
organised subversion. In the most promising democracy of South America,
Venezuela, President Betancourt only the other day publicly denounced
the Cuban-directed efforts to bring down his regime in bloody destruction.

In the last analysis the legal niceties of the American action are not
the crux. If it comes to the point, the defence of our liberties, and of
peace, depends on our strength. The core of that strength is the power
of the United States. A direct threat to that power, if not firmly
rebuffed, would mean the crumbling of the sole real guarantee of freedom
and law throughout the world. Liberty has a right to self-defence.

The crash construction of missile sites in Cuba – certainly manned by
Soviet troops, in the absence of any qualified Cubans – can only be
regarded as a deliberate probing by the Soviet Union of the American
will to resist. President Kennedy had no real choice. Weakness here
would encourage Soviet expansionism in every area of the world. Our own
frontier lies in the Caribbean as well as down the Bernauerstrasse. And
it is worth saying once again that while our alliance is to defend
liberty and peace, theirs is the opposite. We did not feel in the 1940s
that our occupation of Iceland was unfair to the Nazis, even though it
too was formally a minor aggression. Still less did we suggest that
Malta should be offered to the Nazis in compensation.

We do not believe that the Russians have so far abandoned their senses
as to have the slightest notion of starting a war. If they want war, no
one can prevent their launching it: but their decision would be general
one, and not based on any particular crisis. Cuba (or Berlin) would
simply be the pretext, designed to give propaganda cover. The Russians
have it in their power to aggravate the crisis, or at least give it
every appearance of extreme danger, even without any intention of going
further. Hysteria can only encourage such Soviet misapprehensions as
remain after Kennedy's unambigious action. The West will need strong nerves.

It is on occasions like this that anti-American lunacy flourishes. Those
who assume the implausible worst on every occasion have already started
on their ululations. There is no need to deal with most of the arguments
raised. There are no more than variants on the theme George Orwell
contemptuously noted in the last war, when he wrote of having heard it
seriously asserted by 'intellectuals' that American troops were in this
country not to fight the Germans but to put down a British revolution.

Some arguments are of a more rational kind. For example, it is said that
the Soviet missles in Cuba are simply the equivalent of the American
missiles in Turkey. The differences – even apart from the fact that our
side should make some sort of mental distinction between our missiles
and those of our opponents–- are obvious. Russia's Cubas are Estonia and
the other Baltic states. South-Eastern Finland is still in Soviet hands
as the result of a war openly motivated by a desire to move Finnish
weapons – and in those days guns only! – further from Leningrad.

The bases in Turkey (and the United Kingdom) are under allied control.
The NATO alliance is a single power. And the missles on the territory of
its members are there openly, and so deterrent rather than provocative.
The clandestine Soviet build-up in Cuba is another and more sinister
matter. But there is more to it than this. The line of Western defence
in Europe stands where it does because it was at this point that
Stalinist expansionism was contained. We are now asked to accept a
further Soviet advance. But we cannot fail to remember what happened
when, exactly six years ago, democracy raised its head in Hungrary.
There was no question of American missile bases round Budapest, no
desire to go further than neutrality on the Austrian model. Yet the
Russians held even this to be against their national interest. They
crushed Hungrary's newly-won independence. And it was not suggested that
this far graver, and far less provoked, act of the USSR was a legitimate
occasion for the United States to threaten nuclear war.

It is quite clear that there has been no current of hysteria in America
forcing the President to action. On the contrary, the atmosphere was
surprisingly cool and moderate, and the President has taken urgent steps
on information of an immediate military nature, and on that alone.

The Soviet provocation was evidently based on some uncertainty in Moscow
about President Kennedy's firmness. The United States position has now
been made clear and unambiguous. With all the potential dangers in the
present situation, we may find in the long run that the air has been
cleared, and that negotiation on a world scale can at last be started on
the sound basis of mutual comprehension Determination is the best
beginning to détente.

Peace preserved, The Spectator, 2 November, 1968

The crisis is not yet over, and will not be over until the Soviet
rockets are actually removed from Cuban soil. But we may hope that this
will be accomplished, without further bad faith, in the near future. The
present favourable situation, and the warrant for optimism in future, is
due to the skill and determination of the President of the United
States. His actions have not only baffled the current threat to peace;
they have also given a clear and, we believe, unforgettable lesson on
the nature of present-day international politics to the peoples of the
world. Meanwhile, we can register our satisfaction not only that the
British Government firmly supported the Americans, but that the British
people too, in spite of the complicated nature of the crisis, and in
spite of the clouds of misleading propaganda surrounding it, aligned
themselves overwhelmingly (as the opinion polls showed) in support of
their threatened ally.

Krushchev said last year, on the occasion of Nkrumah's visit, 'Even if
all the countries of the world adopted a decision which did not accord
with the interests of the the Soviet Union and threatening its security,
the Soviet Union would not recognise such a decision and would uphold
its rights by relying on force.' Such words should be pondered. But at
least they show that the Soviet leader may not be incapable of
understanding the more moderate American view.

The rapidity of the Soviet climb-down on Cuba is simply explained. If
they had continued for a few more days to maintain their challenge,
their missiles would have been destroyed and, even more important, when
the smoke had died down it would certainly have been found that the
Castro regime was not among the survivors. By rapid retreat they have at
least secured their political toehold in the Western hemisphere.
Castro's puppet dictatorship will remain an ulcer on the body of Latin
America. But at least we can now be certain that more vigorous measures
will be taken to prevent the spread of the infection. Krushchev,
moreover, had rubbed in the puppet nature of the Cuban regime by
agreeing, without 'consulting' Castro, to United Nations handling of
events on Cuban soil.

One of the most striking lessons of the whole affair has been the view
it has given us of the quality of the Soviet leadership. No one, or at
least no one properly informed about international politics, doubted
their general intention of harming the free world and expanding their
sphere at the expense of democracies. In this sense there was nothing
new in their latest manoeuvre. But the tactics with which they attempted
to implement their long-term strategical plan were a revelation. What
was revealed was a shallow, irresponsible adventurism. President Kennedy
was right when he said, 'I call upon President Krushchev to halt and
eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world
peace and to stable relations between our two nations.' It was the low
quality, the peasant Machiavellianism, the cheap conman's and gamber's
quality of mind, which came as a surprise even to those of us who have
not credited the Russians with any great political sense in the past.

Yet the Russians, with all the inadequacy of their thinking (even from
their own point of view), are not incapable of learning a lesson Cuba
should be a striking one for them. And it is to be hoped that the
results will lead to the elimination of individual irresponsibilities in
the Kremlin, and to strengthening such elements of good sense as exist
in the minds of Mr Krushchev and the more moderate of his advisers.

We believe that anyone who read what we said last week will agree that
it is not hindsight which gives is the right to comment, and to comment
adversely, on some of the attitudes taken in the middle of the crisis by
certain periodicals and politicians in this country. International
politics does not consist in making debating points. The Russians will
grab Turkey, or anywhere else, if they can. If they can't, they won't –
regardless of how favourable a vote they might get in a school-boy
debating society.

Elsewhere in these pages note is taken of the way in which the
hysterical element in British politics have proved themselves to be
little more than apologists for totalitarian aggression and an adjunct
to the Soviet propaganda machine – an inefficient adjunct, it is true,
but it was harder for them than for us to imagine in advance that the
Russians would confess that they were liars and cheats. The believers in
this view will in future, we imagine, be treated with the contempt they
have now so unashamedly earned. But even certain commentators with
claims to good sense and integrity showed an unreal attitude to the
crisis. Even the Manchester Guardian openly urged that if the Americans
were compelled to excise the Cuban bases, we should vote against them in
the United Nations.

As for the Observer, it actually chided the Americans for hoping for the
end of the Soviet type of dicatatorship. But unless the USSR and its
allies evolve to the level of civilisation implied by political
democracy, there is a permanent threat to peace. No one in his senses
would wish to liberate the subjects of the Moscow and Peking empires by
a threat of nuclear war. But equally, it would be absurd to renounce the
hope that the better system will prevail – in the interests not only of
political humanism but of the long-term prospects of world peace.

Worst of all, Mr Gaitskell started talking about the 'doubtful legality'
of the American operation, and even gratuitously obfuscated the issue by
suggesting that the Russians would be justified in invading Turkey. This
is not the kind of invitation that a Western leader issues. As it is,
the only effect it could have had would have been to encourage the
Kremlin to imagine that an aggression against one of our NATO partners
might find the West divided, undecided and doubtfully willing to help.
Fortunately the mobilised strength of the United States, and the
resolution of the Commander-in-Chief, were facts which no amount og
waffling by impotent outsiders could possibly cancel. If Krushchev had
not climbed down, and America had attacked Cuba and overthrown the
Castro regime, both the academic and the hysterical forms of
anti-Americanism would have been strengthened by argument and catchword
respectively. But Krushchev judged rightly from his point of view that
continued provocation was not worth the bones of a single Siberian
ballistics grenadier. Meanwhile we in England, whose faith in Mr
Gaitskell as a possible alternative Prime Minister had been shaken by
his performance on the Common Market, find his present wobbling a far
more sinister disqualification.

As we suggested last week, the air may have been cleared for a real
advance towards peaceful relations. Russian cannot really support an
arms race against the United States, and it is in the Soviet interest to
settle down to a calmer international life. this rational view may again
be smothered by the irrational poison of expansionist ideology. But the
West has now made things clear enough, and it is time to think of
sitting down to a peace supper – with a long spoon.

Liquid natural gas is key to Cuba's energy plans

Liquid natural gas is key to Cuba's energy plans
By Jorge Piñón

Natural Gas (methane) is one of the world's most plentiful, cleanest,
safest, and most useful of all energy sources; and Cuba is about to
increase its role as part of the country's future energy mix.

Cuba produces today approximately 1.155 million m³ of associated
natural gas per year, an increase of 55 percent from 2005 levels of .743
million m³. Cuba's natural gas production is all associated natural gas
found within the crude oil reservoirs. The island's geology to date has
not proven to be a major source of dry, non associated natural gas

Associated natural gas production is being used as fuel for onsite power
generating plants of 400 mw total capacity owned and operated by
Energas, a joint venture between Canada's Sherritt and Cuba's Cupet and
Unión Eléctrica.

A LNG re-gasification facility to receive Venezuelan-sourced LNG is
currently being planned for the southern coast port city of Cienfuegos
by CuvenPetrol, a joint venture between Venezuela's PdVSA (51%) and
Cuba's Cupet (49%). Two 1-million-ton re-gasification trains are planned
for 2012 at a cost of over $400 million. The natural gas is destined as
fuel for that city's thermoelectric power plant, and as a feedstock
(hydrogen) for the Cienfuegos refinery and future
petrochemical/fertilizer plants.

Liquefied Natural Gas

LNG is natural gas that has been super cooled to minus 260 degrees
Fahrenheit (minus 162 degrees Celsius). At this temperature, natural gas
condenses into a liquid taking up to 600 times less space than in its
gaseous state, which makes it feasible to transport over long distances.

The chilled natural gas, now LNG, is then loaded onto specially designed
tankers where it will be kept chilled until it reaches its final
destination. The typical LNG carrier can transport about 125,000-138,000
cubic meters of LNG.

Once the tanker arrives at the regasification terminal, the LNG is
offloaded into large storage tanks, built with full-containment walls
and systems to keep the LNG cold until it is turned back into a gaseous
state and moved into pipelines which will deliver the natural gas to the
various end-users.


It is estimated that Venezuela has 176 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of
proven natural gas reserves the second largest in the Western hemisphere
behind the United States. Venezuela's PdVSA plans to build three
liquefaction trains at the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho natural gas complex
in Guiria. The project would source gas from the Plataforma Deltana and
Mariscal Sucre natural gas projects. Total investment in the three
projects could approach $20 billion, with first exports by 2013.

Atlantic Basin LNG exporters such as Trinidad and Tobago (the only
country in Latin America with liquefaction facilities), Nigeria,
Equatorial Guinea, Algeria and possibly Angola could supply Cuba with
LNG if Venezuela's supplies are not available at the time of the
completion of the Cienfuegos facility.

Cuba's neighbors, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are the only
other Caribbean countries with LNG regasification facilities.


Natural gas, as the cleanest of the fossil fuels, emits fewer harmful
pollutants, and helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon
dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury.

Smog and poor air quality is a pressing environmental challenge in Cuba
where high-sulfur (3%) crude oil and fuel oil are burned as electric
power plant and industrial fuel for the cement, nickel and steel
industries. In 2009, high-sulphur fuel oil accounted for 64 percent of
Cuba's petroleum consumption.


Cienfuegos is fast becoming Cuba's oil refining and petrochemical center.

The CuvenPetrol refinery is in the process of a $3 billion expansion
project which would double its processing capacity to 150,000 barrels
per day as well as improving the quality of its refined products production.

The Carlos Manuel de Cespedes electric power plant in Cienfuegos is
already in the middle of an upgrading and revamping project which will
allow her to burn natural gas in its 158 mw generating capacity unit
number 3.

Natural gas will provide fuel to the refinery as well as hydrogen for
the upgrading units scheduled to be completed by 2013. Natural gas will
also be used as a feedstock for a planned $1.3 billion petrochemical
complex which will include ammonia and urea producing facilities which
will provide Cuba with much needed fertilizers for its agricultural

All seems to indicate that Cuba is moving forward toward an energy
policy which embraces energy conservation, modernization of the energy
infrastructure and a balance sourcing of oil and natural gas in a way
that protects the island's environment.

Jorge Piñón is a former president of Amoco Oil Latin America who now
works as a consultant in Miami

Wife of Cuban spy visits husband in U.S. prison

Posted on Saturday, 10.30.10
Wife of Cuban spy visits husband in U.S. prison
The wife of accused Cuban spy Gerardo Hernández visited her husband in a
U.S. prison, upsetting Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The wife of convicted Cuban spy Gerardo Hernández was allowed to visit
him in his U.S. prison last month for the first time in 12 years, Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's office confirmed Friday.
Ros-Lehtinen spokesman Alex Cruz said the Republican congress member
``raised hell'' when State Department officials briefed her on the
visit, after it had taken place.
``We again raised the fact that they are treating Alan Gross and this
convicted spy as equals,'' said Cruz, referring to the U.S. government
subcontractor jailed in Havana. ``We were assured that there was no such
Cruz said the wife's visit took place in early or mid-September --
shortly after Gross's wife Judy was first allowed to visit him in
Havana, where he has been jailed without charges since Dec. 3.
Adriana Pérez visited her husband at the federal prison in Victorville,
Calif., according to the blog Cafe Fuerte, which first reported the
visit Thursday.
Hernandez, leader of the Wasp spy network rolled up by the FBI in 1999,
was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Cuba's 1996 shootdown of
two Brothers to the Rescue planes that killed four South Florida residents.
Perez had been denied U.S. visas to visit her husband for the past 12
years, and became a central part of the Cuban government's campaign to
push for the release of Hernandez and the four other jailed members of
the Wasp network.
Cuba's government has not acknowledged Perez' visit. Evidence presented
at Hernandez's trial showed she was undergoing intelligence training in
Havana at the time of his arrest so she could join him in Miami.
The timing of the Perez and Judy Gross visits to their husbands fueled
concerns by Ros-Lehtinen and relatives of the Brothers to the Rescue
victims over a possible swap -- Alan Gross for Hernández.
Alan Gross was arrested after he delivered satellite equipment to Cuba's
Jewish community. He has not been formally charged, though Cuban
officials have alleged he was involved in intelligence gathering
activities. U.S. officials deny the allegation.

Convictions curbing migrant arrivals, officials say

Posted on Saturday, 10.30.10
Convictions curbing migrant arrivals, officials say

Now that hundreds of migrant smugglers are serving prison terms, federal
officials say there has been a major drop in the number of undocumented
Cuban migrants reaching South Florida shores.

The number of Cuban migrants arriving in the United States from Cuba has
declined partly because hundreds of smugglers are now in prison as a
result of a federal crackdown, according to immigration officials.

At least 546 migrant smugglers have been criminally charged in more than
300 federal indictments in South Florida since 2006 and most of these
defendants have been convicted and are now serving prison sentences,
said Kevin Crowley of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
homeland security investigations.

``The amount of people we have put in prison plus other factors have
contributed to the decline in numbers,'' said Crowley, assistant special
agent in charge in Miami. ``There are people incarcerated right now who
cannot smuggle.''

Recent figures released by several federal agencies showed that the
number of Cubans interdicted by the Coast Guard or arriving from Mexico
was way down. The figures cover undocumented Cuban migrants, not the
estimated 20,000 annual immigrant visas issued by the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana.

The figures showed that fewer than 7,000 undocumented Cubans were
interdicted or arrived at the border during the 12-month period that
ended Sept. 30 -- a huge drop from the peak of almost 20,000 in 2007.

When the figures emerged in early October, federal officials cited a
number of factors behind the decline, including the U.S. economic
crisis, which makes it tougher for relatives to pay smugglers' fees, and
more efficient Coast Guard and Border Patrol methods.

Since 2006, the number of indictments and arrests of migrant smuggling
suspects has been rising, largely because of cases investigated by ICE
special agents, Crowley said. The cases are brought to the attention of
the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of Florida.

ICE obtained 35 indictments against 61 defendants in 2006.

Om 2007, that was followed by 60 indictments against 113 defendants.

In 2008, 125 indictments were issued against 217 defendants.

In 2009, 52 indictments were issued against 83 defendants.

So far, in 2010, there have been 56 indictments against 72 defendants,
Crowley said.

Some Cuba migrant smugglers have received stiff sentences.

In November 2008 in Fort Pierce, for example, a human smuggler was
sentenced to six life sentences plus a consecutive 32-year term for
smuggling and narcotics trafficking conspiracies that resulted in the
deaths of three foreign nationals.

In April this year, two Cuban nationals involved in a Haulover beach
vessel grounding were charged with migrant smuggling in a venture that
resulted in the landing of 15 migrants and the grounding of a
multimillion-dollar yacht.

Friday, October 29, 2010

National Museum of Contemporary Ceramics Reopened in Havana

National Museum of Contemporary Ceramics Reopened in Havana

HAVANA, Cuba, Oct 28 (acn) After five years of being closed to the
public, the National Museum of Contemporary Ceramics was reopened after
being moved from the Castillo de la Fuerza fortress to its new venue of
Casa Aguilera, in Old Havana.
Cuban News Agency

The Museum's director Alejandro G. Alonso told ACN that due to the
current characteristics of the building the collection has a new
museological conception, there are new showcases and the walls can be
used to exhibit the pieces.

Among the novelties, the director said one of the halls will be used to
display pots from La abstracción exhibition which shows the history of
ceramics since it first appeared in Cuba by the late 1940s through the
present. The pieces on display are changed every three months, said the

G. Alonso said the museum has around 750 pieces, and the collection is
constantly growing as the institution counts on a fund allocated by the
Office of the Historian of Havana which allows it to purchase more works.

It also counts on artists who donate their pieces to the museum or lend
them for exhibition.

A set of informative panels complement the praise-worthy chronological
collection that includes works by front-runners of this artistic
expression, among them Juan Miguel Rodriguez, Marta Arjona and Mirta
García Bush and by other figures of Cuban art like Amelia Pelaez, Sandu
Darie, Rene Portocarrero, Wifredo Lam and Domingo Ravenet.

Other attractions of the institution is an interactive program providing
information about the pieces available to visitors and an arrangement of
flowerpots in the central patio which has an original humorous touch.

Pieces that stand out for its imaginative and surprising artistic
solutions or for its fine techniques such as the Japanese raku ware, a
type of pottery traditionally used in tea ceremonies, make a visit to
the museum a must.

On the other hand Casa Aguilera shows a Mudejar architecture from the
17th and 18th centuries."

Layoffs Reach Cuba's Health Sector

Layoffs Reach Cuba's Health Sector

HAVANA – Layoffs scheduled by the government of Raul Castro in the state
payroll will affect the health sector, one of the pillars of the Cuban
Revolution, but officials say physicians have nothing to worry about.

"Never will a doctor be made redundant, neither a stomach expert nor a
technician," Health Minister Roberto Morales said in comments cited
Thursday by Communist Party daily Granma.

"Those who remain available ... (on) the necessary payroll will have the
possibility to work at other centers within or outside the country
through medical collaboration," Morales said Wednesday at the 10th
Congress of the Health Workers Union in Havana.

Morales said that the health payrolls must be tailored "to fit like a
suit" at each facility, following the government policy to eliminate
500,000 state employees over the coming six months.

The 350 delegates from all over the country who are attending the
congress have been discussing "the essential transformations" that are
being made in the sector, including the "reorganization, regionalization
and compression of the health services."

The agenda for the meeting includes the analysis of the "labor
reordering" as a way to avoid "waste of human resources," as well as how
to best ensure economic efficiency and service quality, Granma said.

In addition, a more rational use of resources and greater application of
the clinical method was proposed.

According to official figures, the health care union currently has more
than 500,000 members, and some 37,000 workers are providing medical
services in 69 countries. EFE

Spanish tourism stagnating

Spanish tourism stagnating

Tourism from Spain, one of Cuba's main source markets, is stagnating or
declining this year, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told Spanish travel
agents during the opening of a conference in Santiago de Cuba.

He said he expected Spanish tourism to rise again "sooner or later." The
number of Spanish visitors peaked in 2005, at 194,000.

The current stagnation follows a financial crisis and recession that hit
Spain harder than other European nations, and U.S. takeovers of two key
Spanish tourism companies, and the bankruptcy of another. The purchase
of Orizonia Corporación — one of the biggest foreign tourism providers
in Cuba and owner of the Iberojet tour operator and Iberworld charter
airline — by Washington-based private equity firm Carlyle Group took the
company out of the picture in 2006, costing Cuba some 46,000 Spanish
visitors per year. The takeover of Spain's Pullmantur Cruises by
Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, also in 2006, caused a
22,000-passenger drop in Cuban cruise tourism. Finally, the ceasing of
operations by Air Comet and the bankruptcy of its owner, Madrid-based
Grupo Marsans, in December last year caused another 20,000-visitor drop
in Cuba.

New, smaller Spanish players, such as Gemini Cruises, have picked up the
ball, Marrero said.

Cuba asks Spain to help `counter lies' in media

Posted on Friday, 10.29.10
Cuba asks Spain to help `counter lies' in media

The Cuban government, in a bold if not brazen move, has reportedly urged
the Spanish government to give $155,000 to a program designed to
``counter the daily lies'' against Havana in the European media.

The funds would go to Euskadi-Cuba, a Basque nongovernmental
organization that acknowledges its Cuba programs are ``at the request of
Cuban authorities,'' the ABC newspaper in Madrid reported.

ABC's report, which appeared on the newspaper's website on Monday,
details the case without any commentary on the Cuban request. It does
not identify the sources for the information. The Cuban government has
not commented on the report.

``It would be an outrage if the Spanish government provides money for
the Cuban propaganda machine,'' said Frank Calzón, head of the Center
for a Free Cuba based in suburban Washington.

The ABC report said the Cuban Foreign Ministry, ``officially and in
writing,'' urged the Spanish Embassy in Havana last month to ask the
Spanish Foreign Ministry to fund the program, titled Cubainformación.

The 112,000 euros for the program -- about $155,000 -- would be provided
by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development
(AECID), part of the Foreign Ministry.

Euskadi-Cuba's website describes itself as a 21-year-old ``association
for friendship and political solidarity with Cuba'' and says it offers
``unconditional support for the Cuban revolution.''

ABC reported that the organization described the program's goal in its
application for the funds as the ``creation of a network for the
information-increased awareness-mobilization and solidarity with Cuba.''

Its website says the program's goal is to ``counter the daily lies and
slanderous rumors against the [Cuban] revolution, and to bring closer
the island's realities,'' ABC added.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Transparency in Cuba, Unfortunately Absent

Transparency in Cuba, Unfortunately Absent
October 28, 2010
Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 28 — Among the worst damage suffered by Cuban society
in its conflict with the United States has been perhaps the excessive
secrecy established throughout the country as an essential civic virtue
for protecting lives and properties on the island from "enemy" assaults.

This might appear to be a simplistic excuse, but what was true was that
the bearded guerillas had to defend their gains. On March 10, 1959,
barely two months after they took power —and well before declaring
themselves socialists— Washington made its decision to eliminate Fidel

Adding to this "mystery syndrome" was the fact that the Cuban government
was in the hands of revolutionaries accustomed to conspiracy, an art in
which everything is played behind the scenes and where knowing how to
hide one's cards is the key to winning.

On a recent trip to El Salvador, I had a long and interesting
conversation with one of the members of the Under-secretariat of
Transparency. This is a new institution created by the government of
President Mauricio Funes and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation
Front (FMLN).

These former-guerilla fighters believe that the people should be
entitled to control their leaders, institutions and businesspeople, but
not only through formal hearings [as in Cuba]. Instead, they're
providing permanent and ongoing public access to information about their

The official also assured me that transparency is seen as the first
battle against corruption, with this being a preventive method of
curbing that crime. The maneuvers of the corrupt are much more
difficult when their activities are placed under public scrutiny.

How many inept officials could Cuba free itself from if a public control
mechanism were implemented over plans and outcomes? How many corrupt
individuals would be uncovered if everyone were able to find out about
these people's incomes and expenditures?

Students at the Computer University understood this quite well when in a
discussion with the president of Cuba's Parliament, Ricardo Alarcon,
they demanded that political leaders, elected representatives and
ministers periodically make themselves accountable to the people.

The 'protecting national security' argument

But what happened is just the opposite. Those in power argue that the
"empire" is constantly searching for vital information to destabilize
the country's economy and that the "media multinationals" continually
take advantage of any problem to internationally discredit the island.

I won't deny this is true; the US government does have a legion of
functionaries pursuing Cuban business activities around the world to
economically isolate Havana. Likewise, efforts are made to sabotage the
island's trade and to sanction businesspeople of third countries.

It's also necessary to recognize that some media are obsessed with the
issue of Cuba. They go to the length of fabricating completely false
and ridiculous stories, such as the supposed censorship of American
cartoons by United States TV producers.

But what is true is that much of the island's excessive secrecy is not
aimed at keeping information out of enemy hands; the hard fact is that
all the information that is already in the hands of the "imperialists"
and the foreign press could be published on the island.

How then can one explain why the case of corruption —known about
internationally— involving Cubana de Aviacion airlines hasn't been made
public in Cuba? This secret doesn't seem aimed at protecting the
nation; instead, it's being used to salvage the "reputations" of those
who were implicated.

Another case: Nine months since it happened, and despite promises of
justice pledged through the Granma newspaper, the public was never
informed of the results of an investigation into the deaths of over two
dozen patients from starvation and cold at the Havana psychiatric hospital.

I have no doubt that those who were responsible have now been judged and
sentenced, but what's troubling is that the government didn't make
itself accountable to its citizens. Moreover, the minister in charge of
that operation was merely transferred over to other responsibilities
without having to give the slightest public explanation.

The argument of protecting national security collapses before cases in
which the only people who go uninformed are ordinary Cubans on the
street. Like writer Lisandro Otero once said, "Under capitalism you
don't know what will happen to you, while under socialism you never find
out what just did."

It's understandable for a country to guard its secrets, especially when
confronted with such powerful enemies, but the "protected sector" in
Cuba seems excessive. It has reached such an extent that it could be
serving to conceal those who are corrupt, inept and irresponsible.

The Salvadoran authorities know that their policies of transparency will
expose even themselves to public scrutiny. However they believe that
"it's doubly positive, because eliminating corruption within our own
ranks will also give us greater prestige in the eyes of the people."


Juan Adolfo Fernández Saínz

Journalist and translator who, in the spring of 2003 was sentenced to 15
years in prison for exercising freedom of expression. Since last August
he resides in Spain

( The Spanish government believes that by
releasing a few political prisoners, Cuba has now made enough advances
in human rights and democracy to allow the European Union to normalize
relations with the island. Madrid couldn't be more wrong.

Although I was one of the lucky ones to be released and to arrive here
in Spain with 38 other former Cuban political prisoners, my home country
remains under the stern grip of an oppressive regime. Let me tell you
the stories of some of those brave dissidents still left behind.

Among the many victims of the 2003 crackdown on regime critics is Felix
Navarro Rodriguez, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail. I knew him for
a long time as a peaceful oppositionist with great popular roots in his
village, where he had been a high-school principal. We met again in
Canaleta prison, where I was serving a 15-year sentence for my fight for
democracy. He never even considered leaving Cuba . His daughter, Sayli
Navarro, was expelled from university as a further punishment for his

Another Castro victim is Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, an economist
sentenced to 18 years in jail. At 68 he is the oldest of all the 75
dissidents imprisoned in 2003. He has always said that he wants to die
in Cuba . His old and fragile mother is still awaiting his release.

Or consider the fate of Pedro Arguelles Moran, who is 62 and was
sentenced to 20 years for his work as an independent journalist. We were
both in Canaleta prison, but never in the same section. He suffers from
cataracts and when we met at the dining hall, always separated by iron
bars, he would recognize me first by my voice. He says no one will ever
get him out of Cuba .

Felix, Arnaldo and Pedro are three out of 12 political prisoners who
have decided to remain in Cuba . The Cuban regime says it will release
all the remaining political prisoners from the group of 75, even those
who have no intention of leaving Cuba after being freed. But so far they
all still remain in jail.

I respect the mediation of the Spanish government. Partly thanks to
Madrid 's efforts, I am free today. But the fact that a group of us are
now in Spain when a couple of months ago we were in prison, does not
mean that the Cuban dictatorship has fundamentally changed.

We were unjustly jailed and arbitrarily condemned in a sham trial with
no real access to defense counsel. (I saw my lawyer only once for five
minutes just before the hearing.) We were given very harsh sentences—on
average almost 20 years—for our peaceful and civic opposition. Searches
of our homes produced no weapons, and nothing we wrote contained any
incitement to violence.

We were kept under inhuman conditions, in overcrowded cells that we had
to share with common criminals. We were locked away far from our
families—in my case 777 kilometers from Havana—which, given the
difficulties of transportation in Cuba, imposed an additional, cruel
punishment on my loved ones.

Spain wants to normalize relations with Cuba because Havana
quasi-banished us, with no documentation recognizing that we had been
set free, when we should have never been sent to prison in the first
place. Even if all political prisoners had been freed in Cuba and given
the opportunity to decide their own fate and to continue their struggle
in Cuba for democracy and for human rights, it would have been merely a
first step. It would have been an indispensable but not sufficient
condition to determine that Cuba has started its transition toward

Until the Castro regime repeals all its laws violating human rights,
allows multi-party elections, free trade unions and independent media,
and lets Cubans participate fully in our economy and travel freely, any
attempt to normalize relations with Cuba would be premature.

By giving the Sakharov Prize last Thursday to Cuban dissident Guillermo
Farinas, who has spent 11 years in jail as a political prisoner, the
European Parliament has made a clear statement that the struggle for
freedom in Cuba is far from over. What should be on the negotiating
table is not a token group of political prisoners, but a real prospect
for a democratic Cuba .

Mr. Saínz is a journalist and translator who, in the spring of 2003 was
sentenced to 15 years in prison for exercising freedom of expression.
Since last August he resides in Spain.

Philharmonic Renews Effort to Visit Cuba

Philharmonic Renews Effort to Visit Cuba
Published: October 27, 2010

The New York Philharmonic canceled a trip to Havana last year because
the United States government refused to allow its wealthy patrons to go
along, saying they would essentially be tourists. That violates
sanctions banning most travel to Cuba.

So the Philharmonic quietly resubmitted its application, this time
adding a children's concert and Kidzone beforehand and stating that the
patrons would be involved in the activities, officials at the orchestra
and in Washington said in recent interviews.

The latest application was submitted in July, but the Treasury
Department — which issues licenses for travel to Cuba with guidance from
the State Department — has taken no action. The Philharmonic had hoped
to go in early February, when it has a hole in its schedule.

But Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president and executive director, said
that with only several months to plan, a February visit appears
unlikely. He expressed some frustration with the delay. In September the
orchestra had to cancel a trip to the Republic of Georgia as part of its
current European tour when the Georgian government withdrew the invitation.

"It is close to the wire," Mr. Mehta said last week, just before the
orchestra left on the tour. "I have a feeling February is not going to
happen because I don't think we'll get the approval from Washington in

A senior Obama administration official said that — as opposed to the
original request — the new application was "more compliant" with
licensing rules, which allow Americans to visit Cuba for cultural and
educational reasons. "We are trying to be supportive," said the official
— who lacked authorization to speak publicly and so commented on
condition of anonymity — "because the performance is consistent with our
broader strategy of increasing people-to-people exchanges with Cuba. But
it is not a done deal."

The administration wants to increase opportunities for Americans to
travel to Cuba as a way of encouraging contact among people in the two
countries while stopping short of ending the long embargo.

While the Philharmonic has sought to visit Cuba for more than a year, it
is now falling behind other New York cultural institutions making their
way there. American Ballet Theater and a contingent of dancers from the
New York City Ballet are appearing at the International Ballet Festival
of Havana, which starts this week. Jazz at Lincoln Center sent its
in-house orchestra this month. The Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz
Orchestra will visit in December.

The Philharmonic insisted that it bring its patrons, who would pay for
the orchestra's visit. Mr. Mehta said orchestra officials asked
themselves how the patrons could fit within Treasury Department
guidelines for who may travel to Cuba. "We said: 'Well, education. We
need people to run the Kidzone,' " he recounted.

The Kidzone, which would be outdoors, would have stations to try out
instruments and compose music, among other activities. Mr. Mehta said
the patrons would help with seating, maintain lines at the education
stations, write on whiteboards and serve as hosts. "The people who go on
this trip will have a crash course in what's going to happen," he said.
"It's not very difficult."

The proposal creates the prospect of the orchestra's well-heeled
supporters, more used to Wall Street offices and Park Avenue co-ops,
holding little Cuban hands and shepherding children about. Philharmonic
officials said about 100 patrons would go along, as part of a 285-member

"It's crowd control, being pleasant, encouragement," Mr. Mehta said.
"It's really representing the New York Philharmonic."

The orchestra has received some support in Washington for the Cuba
excursion. Senator Byron L. Dorgan, the North Dakota Democrat who has
helped introduce a bill to lift the travel ban on Cuba, spoke on the
Senate floor in late September in favor of the trip. He noted that the
Philharmonic had traveled to other sensitive spots in recent years and
to the Soviet Union during the cold war.

"This makes no sense to me, to decide that the way we are going to
conduct diplomacy is to prevent our Philharmonic orchestra from playing
in Havana, Cuba, given the fact they have played in the capital of North
Korea, in Russia, in Vietnam and more," he said.

In an interview Senator Dorgan said he had spoken to the secretary of
state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the treasury secretary, Timothy F.
Geithner, within the past six weeks, and both were "generally positive"
about the Philharmonic's request.

"Deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy the application has not yet been
approved," Senator Dorgan said. "I have been repeatedly on the phone
pushing and also frustrated that it has not yet been done. I don't know
what has been holding it up."

Mark Landler contributed reporting from Washington.

Cuban farmers fret over pace of reform

Cuban farmers fret over pace of reform
By Stabroek staff

HAVANA, (Reuters) – Despite steps to expand private farming, Cuba is
contracting food supplies for 2011 much as it has for decades, showing
the limits of reforms and dimming prospects for big increases in
output, farmers said this week.

While President Raul Castro's government is paying more for food and
allowing farmers to sell non-contracted items directly to Cubans, the
state still has a monopoly over the purchase and sale of about 70
percent of the farmers' output, they said.

Communist authorities have decided what crops to grow and livestock to
raise and been the sole provider of supplies to private farmers since
most land was nationalized in the 1960s.

They purchase and distribute most of the country's food through
contracts obliging farmers to sell to the state.

Castro's reforms have allowed more local decision-making about which
contracted foods can be grown in given areas and more freedom to sell
some fruits and vegetables. But, said one farmer, "We still are not free
from the regulations that hold us back."

"I think they are worried there will be chaos in production and
distribution if they let farmers do as they please," he said, like
others asking that his name not be used.

Farmers had hoped the reforms would allow them to freely sell more of
their produce, which would encourage more output, but they said they
had only a little more flexibility.

"The state is contracting for 21 products in 2011, which is a little
better than this year when they contracted for everything but leafy
vegetables," another farmer said in a telephone interview from the

The contracted items include most of the staples of the Cuban diet,
ranging from rice, beans, corn, root vegetables, onions and garlic to
some types of bananas, citrus fruit, tomatoes, beef, pork and dairy

"The government is obliged to buy up … what it contracts, and then it
can purchase more if both parties agree, or we are free to sell what is
left to whomever, but only in our local municipality," the farmer said
of the 2011 plans.

Castro has made rescuing agriculture from a decades-old crisis a
priority since taking over for his brother Fidel in 2008, but has yet
to significantly loosen the state's monopoly in favor of market forces.

Cuba's food production fell 7.5 percent in the first half of the year
despite the reforms, and even as the cash-strapped country cut food
"The contracting system should be reduced to the indispensable so that
most production can be sold on the basis of supply and demand," local
agriculture expert Armando Nova wrote in Temas Magazine, the most
outspoken government sponsored publication, earlier this year.

Cuban Opposition Needs New Tactics, Some Dissidents Say

Cuban Opposition Needs New Tactics, Some Dissidents Say

HAVANA – The Cuban opposition should view President Raul Castro's
decision to free dozens of political prisoners and liberalize the
economy as a chance to promote greater citizen involvement in the
political process, a dissident group said Wednesday.

Calling itself the Foundation for Participative Change, the organization
is advocating "tactical adjustments" in the face of Castro's ongoing
talks with the Cuban Catholic hierarchy and his modest attempts to
revitalize the island's trouble economy.

Though the government has not changed its strategy, its latest steps
make it possible to speak of an "inflection point" in Cuban politics,
according to the foundation.

The group aims to convince elements of "independent civil society" to
reassert their "civic role" and engage with the government on the
changes coming to Cuba, foundation president Francisco Chaviano told a
press conference in Havana.

Dissidents should try to exert "influence as much as possible, from
constructive and measured stances, in the popular space of the
government's official policy," Chaviano said.

In terms of specific policies, the foundation wants more opportunity for
small business and the end of the Communist Party's political monopoly.

As part of its mission, the foundation plans to gauge public opinion by
way of surveys and share the findings with officials as a way of
"presenting the other view of the country's situation," Chaviano said.

The foundation comprises members of various existing opposition groups,
including Agenda for the Transition, the National Civil Rights Council
and the Liberal Party. EFE

The Musical Return To Cuba His Father Couldn't Make

The Musical Return To Cuba His Father Couldn't Make
02:03 pm
October 27, 2010
by Felix Contreras

When Cuban-born jazz arranger Chico O'Farrill died in 2001, his one
great lament was not being able to return to the island of his birth,
according to his son, pianist/bandleader Arturo O'Farrill. The younger
O'Farrill will close the musical and familial circle next month when he
takes the New York-based orchestra his father created to Cuba.

The week-long visit will be filled with performances, instruction and
musical diplomacy. The Afro Latin Jazz Alliance, the non-profit
organization that maintains the Chico O'Farrill Afro Latin Jazz
Orchestra, announced the trip in a news release on Monday.

The performance highlight will be a gig at the Havana International Jazz
Festival, curated by Cuban pianist/composer Chucho Valdes.

"It's been a dream of mine to take Chico's music back to Cuba," Arturo
O'Farrill told me by phone this morning. "It's a chance to really
connect, in a greater way than anyone else, Cuba with one of its
greatest musical heroes — and also connect the idea that Afro-Cuban
music and jazz are not separate musical forms."

The emotional highlight will no doubt be the opportunity to hear Chico's
music finally performed in Cuba by, in essence, his own orchestra. "This
is a spiritual, artistic and familial quest: My mother, my sister and my
sons are coming to help give my father's soul some peace by reconnecting
him to homeland," O'Farrill says. Arturo O'Farrill has been to Cuba in
2002, but not with the ALJO.

When Chico (whose given first name is also Arturo) arrived in the U.S.
in the 1940s, he went right to the row of jazz clubs along 52nd street
and to the Latin dance palace right around the corner on Broadway, the
Palladium Ballroom. He quickly found work writing big band charts for
Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie and countless others.

It was his work with the orchestras of Machito and Dizzy Gillespie that
secured him a place in the pantheon of Latin jazz pioneers. His
Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite for Machito's band and The Manteca Suite for Dizzy
Gillespie were extended works that sound as innovative today as they
were in the early and mid-1950s.

Just two weeks ago, the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra under the
direction of Wynton Marsalis also made a trip to Cuba during which it
gave concerts and workshops, and sat in on jam sessions. But the
upcoming trip by the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra has a deeper musical and
emotional resonance, considering the O'Farrills' family history in Cuba
and the presence of other musicians in the band with cultural and
familial connections to the island nation.

In fact, Chucho Valdes, in his role as Artistic Director of the Havana
International Jazz Festival, has dedicated the entire festival to Chico
O'Farrill and is coordinating a big final concert called Fathers and
Sons: From Havana to New York And Back. A third generation of O'Farrill
musicians will perform on that gig: Arturo's sons Zachary (19) and Adam

Do you wish you could tag along for the trip? No worries. Documentary
film director Diane Sylvester will be going along to make Oye Cuba! A
Journey Home, about the music and the tears.

Four House GOP figures who could be crucial to foreign policy

Four House GOP figures who could be crucial to foreign policy
Josh Rogin
Thursday, October 28, 2010

These four races could affect foreign policy debate

Congress may not be in charge of making foreign policy, but it sure can
influence its implementation. Since taking office in January 2009,
members of Congress - drawn primarily but not exclusively from the ranks
of the GOP - have slowed the Obama administration's efforts to advance
its strategy for dealing with Russia, Syria, Israel, Cuba and a host of
other countries. And the midterm elections won't be making things any
easier for President Obama.

Republican lawmakers stand to play a huge role in debates next year
about the promised July 2011 drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, whether
to maintain or increase U.S. foreign assistance packages, and how
strongly to press countries such as Russia and China to implement new
sanctions against Iran.

If current poll results hold, Republicans will make significant gains in
the Senate and probably will take the House, elevating a set of
lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama's efforts to
execute his foreign policy agenda.

Here's a list of four GOP figures in the House who could be crucial
actors on the foreign policy stage when the dust settles after Tuesday's

Eric Cantor

The Virginia congressman, who is the House minority whip, could become
majority leader in a GOP-controlled House if Minority Leader John A.
Boehner (Ohio) is elected speaker. Cantor, who is particularly active in
foreign-policy issues involving Iran and Israel, could see his role
expand significantly if he is given the power to set the House floor agenda.

That could spell trouble for the administration's foreign operations
budget, which funds the State Department and sets levels for U.S.
non-military assistance around the world. Republicans are threatening to
withhold aid to countries they think aren't wholly supportive of the
United States, and Cantor told the Jewish Telegraph Agency recently that
the president's proposed budget might have to be rejected outright if
Republicans take power - after separating out U.S. aid for Israel.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

If Republicans take the House, Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) is poised to take
over the House Foreign Affairs Committee and could drastically alter the
administration's agenda. For example, she is likely to scuttle the drive
to ease sanctions and travel restrictions on Cuba, which Chairman Howard
L. Berman (D-Calif.) supports. Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, is
an active member of the Cuban American lobby.

Her ascendancy could also spell doom for Berman's bill on foreign-aid
reform. She argues often for more vetting of foreign aid in the hope of
finding cuts, and she has also introduced legislation to cut U.S.
funding for the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.

A vocal critic of what she considers the Obama team's cool approach to
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ros-Lehtinen could also use
the committee as a sounding board for those who want changes in the
administration's approach to Middle East peace. "She's no Dick Lugar,"
said one House aide, referring to her temperate Senate counterpart.
"You'll probably see a lot of contentious hearings."

Kay Granger

Although not certain, it's likely that Granger (Tex.) would take over
the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee for State
Department and foreign operations if the GOP wins the House. That would
give her a large role in writing significant sections of the State
Department's funding bill. Although she supported the legislation put
forth this year by Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), she criticized the
increases for the foreign-ops budget. She's a strong supporter of a
balanced budget amendment, which doesn't bode well for foreign-aid funding.

Granger also serves on the defense subcommittee, placing her at the
intersection of the debate over how to balance the national security
budget and shift resources from defense to diplomacy and development.

Ed Royce

Royce (Calif.) is symbolic of GOP House members who are active in
foreign policy. He could become chairman again of the House Foreign
Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade subcommittee, where his
staff could hold hearings on the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and
any other region sensitive to the administration's national security goals.

New process for relatives of green card holders

Posted on Thursday, 10.28.10
New process for relatives of green card holders

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba on Wednesday unveiled a change in
the way it handles applications for U.S. entry by some relatives of U.S.
green card holders, and said it will not affect the time involved in
processing the cases.

The change affects only spouses or minor children of U.S. residents, now
processed under the Cuban Family Reunification Program (CFRP), the
mission said. They will be processed as regular immigrant visa
applicants beginning Jan. 1.

It will not affect all other categories of applications currently being
processed under the CFRP, said a spokesperson for the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana.

The CFRP was established in 2007 to reduce the long delays that many
Cubans were experiencing in securing visas to enter the United States.
Under the program, Cubans cleared for entry did not have to wait on the
island for their immigrant visas, and were instead ``paroled'' into the
United States and waited there for their green cards.

CFRP was open to the spouses and minor children of Cuban green card
holders as well as three other categories of applicants, such as the
sibling and adult children of Cuban exiles who are U.S. citizens.

The U.S. mission in Havana said the change in the application process
for spouses and minor children, who receive F2A visas, was due to a
decrease in the worldwide demand in that visa category.

Beginning Jan. 1, the mission said, F2A applicants ``will be processed
as immigrant visa applicants and will receive Legal Permanent Resident
(LPR) status upon entry to the United States.''

``This procedural change should not impact visa processing time,'' the
announcement added.

All CFRP F2A appointments scheduled for on or before Dec. 31 will be
handled in Havana, the statement said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New seminary opening

Cuba: new seminary opening
Posted: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 11:05 pm

A new seminary is beiing opened in Cuba next month. The new National
Seminary located some 30 miles outside of Havana, will be the first new
religious construction in Cuba in more than 50 years. A delegation from
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) will travel
to Cuba November 3-6, to attend the celebrations.
The delegation will be led by subcommittee member Archbishop Thomas G.
Wenski of Miami, and will also include Father Andrew Small, OMI,
National Collections Office director for the Church Latin America,
Thomas Quigley, counselor to the subcommittee, and local clergy from the
Archdiocese of Miami.
In addition to the inauguration of the seminary, the group will visit
parishes and missions in Havana supported by the Collection for the
Church in Latin America. The collection is taken up each year in
dioceses across the United States. It supports pastoral projects
throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The collection has supported
projects all over Cuba, including the construction of the new seminary.
The delegation will also visit the Diocese of Pinar del Rio.

Signs of change in Cuba as U.S. tunes out

Signs of change in Cuba as U.S. tunes out
By David Ariosto, CNN
October 26, 2010 -- Updated 0906 GMT (1706 HKT)

* Cuba is making economic reforms and releasing political prisoners
* But it may not be enough to fix relations with the U.S.
* Washington is focused on upcoming elections with could see the balance
of power shift
* The continued detention in Cuba of an alleged U.S. spy is another obstacle

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A young Cuban man slouched against his city's
famous sea wall, enjoying fall's cool breeze and thinking about the
world little more than 90 miles north.

"A lot of people died in that sea trying to make it to the other side,"
Yoandri Perez, 20, said, while resting along the Malecon, a concrete
partition and six-lane highway that holds back the Florida straits from
the Cuban capital.

"It's very difficult here. The economy is bad and now they're cutting
jobs," he said, enjoying the seasonal shift of cooler weather and rough
seas. "But at least the Malecon is a place where we can come to relax."

More than 1,300 miles north, another possible shift is under way. In
Washington, as midterm campaigning is peaking, powerbrokers are
discussing the effects of a possible change in the balance of power in

One thing that isn't being discussed: Cuba.

"People on the Hill are just not focused on Cuba," said Sarah Stephens
of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a Washington-based group
that advocates an end to the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo.

"Right now they have the votes [to end the travel ban], but after
November it's a whole new ball game."

And President Barack Obama, who pledged "a new beginning" in relations
with Cuba, has made few changes since loosening Treasury restrictions in

"We already initiated some significant changes around remittances and
family travel. But before we take further steps, I think we want to see
that in fact the Castro regime is serious about a different approach,"
the U.S. president said last week.

Obama said he was interested in more openings with Cuba, but the Castro
government must first do some shifting of its own.

Last year, the president made a similar pledge.

"What we're looking for is some signal that there are going to be
changes in how Cuba operates that assures that political prisoners are
released, that people can speak their minds freely ... and do the things
that people throughout the hemisphere can do and take for granted," he
said during a 2009 interview with CNN en Espanol.

The island has since released dozens of political prisoners and
announced massive public sector layoffs to pave the way for free market
enterprise intended to create new jobs for its former state workers.

"What we're now left with is a president on the hook," said Phil Peters
of the Washington-based Lexington Institute. "He said if there were
positive developments he would respond, and now we're seeing the release
of political prisoners and some pretty significant economic changes."

Senior U.S. officials and congressional sources told CNN the White House
had been considering further relaxing regulations, but had been
persuaded to hold off until after the November midterm elections.

Republicans are expected to pick up seats in both the House and Senate,
leaving the White House with the possibility of facing a Congress more
opposed to changing U.S.-Cuba policy.

"The political costs of getting these [changes] out are higher," said
one congressional source, suggesting the administration might now trim
the package that was being fashioned over the summer. "The question is
how much stomach at the White House is there to take that hit?"

Peters said that with the U.S. still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and
still reeling from a global financial crisis, "Cuba is not a high priority."

"But I think the White House will respond because Obama's word is on the
line," Peters added.

In September, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accused Obama of
failing to keep his promise, saying that far from easing regulations,
the U.S. administration had tightened the enforcement of trade restrictions.

"The president has fallen far short of the expectations created by his
speeches," Rodriguez said in the Havana news conference, stressing the
reach of U.S. sanctions on international business and Cuban trade.

"The true impact of the embargo is not just a bilateral impact," said
John Kavulich of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "It isn't
Cuba's inability to access U.S. markets, it's Cuba's inability to access
foreign exchange and the U.S. ability to manipulate private companies
and some governments in their relationship with Cuba."

Despite the U.S. trade embargo, which Cuba calls "a blockade," the
United States is the island's leading source of food and agriculture.

In 2000, the U.S. allowed American farmers to sell food and farm
products directly to Cuba. A bill passed eight years earlier permits the
shipping of medical supplies although red-tape has often slowed the
delivery of goods.

While the White House cannot lift sanctions without congressional
approval, some analysts believe the real obstacle to improved relations
is Alan Gross, an American jailed in Cuba on suspicion of spying.

Gross, 60, had been working for a USAID subcontractor called Development
Alternatives Incorporated (DAI) when he was arrested at Havana's
international airport on December 3, 2009.

His continued imprisonment -- although he has not been charged --
prompted one of the highest-level diplomatic exchanges between the two
countries in recent years.

During the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month, U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela spoke with Cuban Foreign Minister
Rodriguez in a meeting intended to "encourage the release" of Gross.

Cuba is one of a handful of places -- including Iran and Myanmar --
where the U.S. funds what it calls democracy-building initiatives
without the host country's permission.

USAID -- the U.S. Agency for International Development -- came under
intense scrutiny in 2006 and 2008 as a result of reports by the U.S.
Government Accountability Office that identified potential misuse of
U.S. grant money to promote Cuban democracy.

DAI, where Gross was working, does not receive those grants but is a
USAID subcontractor engaged in Cuba to "strengthen civil society in
support of just and democratic governance," according to a statement
from the company's president and chief executive Jim Boomgard.

Gross' continued imprisonment and the potential fallout from the
upcoming U.S. election may already have cooled what had once appeared to
be a warming of relations.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Dan Lothian contributed to this report

Millions suffer torture in jails

Millions suffer torture in jails
October 27, 2010 - 10:34AM

Torture remains prevalent around the world and millions of jail inmates
suffer inhuman treatment, a UN specialist says.

Manfred Novak, UN special rapporteur on torture, on Tuesday said he had
visited 18 countries in the past year and only in one -- Denmark -- was
no case of torture reported.

"Torture is practiced in most countries of the world," he told a news
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"There are about 10 million prisoners around the world.

"I would say the clear majority of these prisoners have been subjected
to inhuman and degrading treatment, but there are many more millions of
persons in police custody who are treated in a worse manner."

Novak said the torture was part of a "global crisis" in justice.

"There are not enough legal safeguards ... preventing torture, that
means there is not enough political will," said Novak, adding the United
States has a special duty to put pressure on Iraq to end torture in prisons.

Novak said the visits he had carried out accounted for about 10 per cent
of the UN member states.

"I think it is a representative sample -- it is a very very sad picture
that I am painting," he said.

Egypt, Algeria, Zimbabwe and Cuba refused to allowed visits by the
expert, he said. He did not name the other countries he visited."

From somebody to nobody

Posted on Wednesday, 10.27.10

From somebody to nobody

Granted, Miguel Angel Moratinos has been summarily relieved from his
duties as Spain's foreign minister. Tearful as he may be about losing
his job in Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's
Cabinet shuffle intended to spur economic recovery, Moratinos is a lucky

He's still a member of parliament. He did not have to stand before
colleagues reading a belittling confession accusing himself of
ungratefulness, disloyalty, selfishness and ideological deviationism. He
has a passport and can travel, may be invited to join a corporate board
or teach at a prestigious university. His friends don't have to deny
they know him, and his name won't be stricken from Spain's history books.

The same can't be said for former Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina of
Cuba, or even for his successor Felipe Pérez-Roque. Both have vanished
from public life and have become virtual nonpersons.

Moratinos spent a lot of effort -- much of it in vain -- in the last six
years trying to burnish the Castro regime's public image and to reassert
Spain's leadership within the European Union on Cuba policy. Until the
collapse of European communism, Madrid's views about Cuba were accepted
with nary a dissent by European countries. That ended when Czechs,
Slovaks, Poles, Hungarians, et al joined the European Union and offered
more credible insights on Cuba, based on their experience with communist
rule. Even so, Moratinos argued for ending the European Union's ``Common
Policy'' in support of democratic political reform and respect for human
rights in Cuba.

For Havana, last week was not very good. Not only was Moratinos fired on
the eve of another European meeting to consider Cuba policy, but the
European parliament also announced its award of the prestigious Sahkarov
Prize to Guillermo Fariñas. A political prisoner in Cuba, Fariñas gained
international attention with a 140-day hunger strike early this year,
which led to some prisoner releases. Previous Sakharov Prize winners
include South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fariñas is not the first Cuban dissident to be so honored. Oswaldo Payá,
the Cuban Christian Liberation Movement leader who dared to present
thousands of petitions asking for a plebiscite to Cuba's parliament,
received it in Strasbourg in 2002. The Ladies in White, a group of women
-- mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, of political prisoners who gather
and peacefully march to Sunday mass -- were awarded the prize in 2005.
The Cuban government turned down their request to be permitted to travel
abroad to receive the award.

Moratinos' last favor to Fidel and Raúl Castro was to pretend that he
had had something to do with the release of prisoners, whom according to
statements from Madrid, were being ``allowed'' to travel to Spain. In
reality, those released were exiled, together with their relatives,
including young children whose passports are clearly stamped: ``Return

Ah, but imagine for a moment: What if Moratinos had been born in Pinar
del Rio, served as Castro's foreign minister and been dismissed like
Robaina? Robaina, too, was the darling of the European left and a
revolutionary. One day, Robertico was schmoozing with heads of state;
the next day, he was nothing. Sent away to work on a farm in the
provinces, a nonperson, his name never to be mentioned again in a Cuban
newspaper, radio or TV program.

Robaina's experience is not unique. Pérez-Roque, hand-picked by Fidel
Castro to take over after Robaina, was similarly dismissed. Other
Cubans, poets, writers, ministers and military officers have gone
through the same Castro ritual, all hoping that, if they repented, their
families could stay in the house the government gave them, their wives
wouldn't be fired from their jobs, their children wouldn't be expelled
from the university or, in the case of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, would not be
taken before the execution wall. The promise to Ochoa was not kept.

Perhaps Moratinos would take notice: European democracies treat their
foreign ministers -- and citizens -- with a lot more respect than Cuba.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba based
in Arlington, Va.

NYU gets the papers of Philip Agee, renegade CIA agent


NYU gets the papers of Philip Agee, renegade CIA agent
jeff stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NYU library acquires the papers of Philip Agee, renegade spy

The private papers of Philip Agee, the disaffected CIA operative whose
unauthorized publication of agency secrets 35 years ago was arguably
more damaging than anything WikiLeaks has produced, have been obtained
by New York University, which plans to make them public next spring.

Agee, who worked undercover in Latin America from 1960 to 1968 and died
in Cuba nearly three years ago, once said he resigned because the values
of his Catholic upbringing clashed with his CIA assignments to destroy
movements that aimed to overthrow U.S.-backed military regimes. CIA
defenders said he was on the verge of being fired.

Agee's first book, "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," published in 1975,
included a 22-page appendix with the real names of about 250 undercover
agency operatives and accused a handful of Latin American heads of state
of being CIA assets. The CIA's classified in-house journal, Studies in
Intelligence, called it "a severe body blow" to the agency.

Two subsequent books by Agee and Louis Wolf revealed the names of about
2,000 more alleged CIA operatives in Western Europe and Africa.

After the release of "Inside the Company," Congress passed legislation
making it a crime to intentionally publish the names of undercover CIA

In contrast to Agee, WikiLeaks withheld the names of hundreds of
informants from the nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents it released over
the weekend, according to news reports. And its previous surfacing of
Afghan war documents, which an Army specialist is suspected of leaking,
did not reveal "any sensitive intelligence sources and methods,"
according to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Agee may have started out as an independent whistleblower, but according
to retired KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, the ex-operative offered CIA
documents to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City in 1973. Suspecting a
ruse, the KGB turned him down, Kalugin said. Agee denied that he worked
for the Russians, but he openly enlisted Cuba's help in his campaign to
neutralize CIA operations against leftists and trade unions in Latin

NYU's Tamiment Library, which acquired Agee's papers from his widow,
Giselle Roberge Agee, made no mention of the renegade agent's KGB and
Cuban intelligence connections in its Monday news release.

But it did maintain that "for the rest of his life Agee was a target of
CIA assassination threats."

In response to a query, Michael Nash, the library's associate curator,
said, "This information came from the Agee book 'On the Run,' and it is
supported by some CIA documents that Agee received as a result of a
Freedom of Information Act request."

A CIA spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed
the allegation as "not only wrong, but ludicrous."

NYU said the acquisition of the Agee collection will be celebrated with
a Nov. 9 reception, but the papers will not be available until April.

They include "legal records, correspondence with left-wing activists,
mainly in Latin America, and others opposed to CIA practices and covert
operations; papers relating to his life as an exile living and working
in Cuba, Western and Eastern Europe; lecture notes, photographs, and
posters," the library said.

"Mrs. Agee donated the collection to Tamiment because we have an
international reputation as a repository documenting the history of left
politics and the movement for progressive social change," Nash said in
the library's statement.

U.N. resolution again condemns U.S. embargo on Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 10.27.10
U.N. resolution again condemns U.S. embargo on Cuba

The United Nations' General Assembly on Wednesday approved a resolution
condemning the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, for the 19th straight year
and again by an overwhelming majority.

The resolution was endorsed by 187 of the U.N.'s 192 member nations. The
United States and Israel voted against it, and the tiny nations of
Marshall Islands, Palau and Micronesia abstained.

It urges Washington to end its nearly half-century-old embargo on the
communist-ruled island -- Cuba calls it a ``blockade'' -- but U.S.
governments have paid no heed to the previous 18 votes.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, speaking before the vote,
criticized President Barack Obama for maintaining the embargo despite
his preelection promise of a ``fresh start'' in bilateral relations.

``It is clear that the United States has no intention whatsoever to
eliminate the blockade,'' he said. ``The U.S. policy against Cuba has no
ethical or legal basis, no credibility or support.''

In reply, Ronald D. Godard, a senior official with the U.S. mission to
the United Nations, said his country had the sovereign right to decide
its commercial policies toward any country.

US man jailed in Cuba can call home more often

Posted on Tuesday, 10.26.10
US man jailed in Cuba can call home more often
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The wife of a Maryland man jailed in Cuba as an accused
spy said Tuesday that she and her husband have been able to talk on the
telephone more regularly after she wrote an August letter to Cuban
President Raul Castro, but that her husband's health is "not great."

Judy Gross wrote to Castro seeking the release of her husband Alan
Gross, who was arrested at the Havana airport in December 2009. At the
time, Alan Gross was working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development.

In her letter to Castro, which was first reported over the weekend, Judy
Gross said her husband never meant the Cuban government any harm. She
also told Castro that the couple's 26-year-old daughter has been
diagnosed with breast cancer and that the family needed him "more now
than ever before."

"We had very limited contact up until our daughter's cancer diagnosis;
now we are permitted to speak on the phone somewhat more regularly," she
wrote in response to questions from The Associated Press.

Gross said the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which represents
the Cuban government, confirmed that Castro had read the letter. A call
to the Cuban Interests Section from The Associated Press rang unanswered

Gross also said her husband has now lost nearly 90 pounds since his
arrest. At the time of her August letter, she wrote that he had lost
more than 80 pounds. She said his "physical and mental health are not

"He is extremely agitated and anxious, and is having trouble relaxing
and staying calm," she wrote.

Judy Gross said the U.S. State Department has been "very responsive" but
that she has not heard from the White House and has "no idea what, if
anything, they are doing to get Alan home."

U.S. diplomats have insisted Gross was doing nothing wrong. Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for Gross' release in June, saying
that his continued detention was harming U.S.-Cuba relations.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Obama's Castroite Allies

Obama's Castroite Allies
Posted By Humberto Fontova On October 26, 2010 @ 12:00 am In FrontPage

After starring in [1] public service announcements for the Obama
administration, Mexican-American labor activist Dolores Huestra is now
starring [2] in public service announcements for Fidel Castro's regime.
Senora Huestra is co-founder of United Farm Workers of American and a
member of Democratic Socialist of America. Huestra's credentials
apparently not only qualify her to be a spokesperson for the U.S., but
also for the regime that once aspired to attack our country with nuclear
weapons, because the U.S. was "the great enemy of mankind."

The release of the "Cuban Five," for whom Huerta campaigns in her Castro
infomercial, has become the Cuban dictator's top propaganda goal — next
to having the so-called Cuban Embargo [3] dropped. Naturally, U.S.
celebrities [4] have flocked to the cause like flies.

Below please review a few items omitted from Huerta's Castroite video:

On September 14, 1998, the FBI uncovered a Castro spy ring in Miami and
arrested ten of them. Four others managed to scoot back to Cuba. The
arrested and convicted spies became known as the "Wasp Network," or "The
Cuban Five" in Castroite parlance. According to the FBI's affidavit, the
convicted Castro-agents who Dolores Huerta champions in the public
service announcement, were engaged in, among other acts:

• Gathering intelligence against the Boca Chica Air Naval Station in Key
West, the McDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and the headquarters of the
U.S. Southern Command in Homestead, Florida.

• Compiling the names, home addresses, and medical files of the U.S.
Southern Command's top officers and that of hundreds of officers
stationed at Boca Chica.

• Infiltrating the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command.

• Sending letter bombs to Cuban-Americans.

• Spying on McDill Air Force Base, the U.S. Armed Forces' worldwide
headquarters for fighting "low-intensity" conflicts.

• Locating entry points into Florida for smuggling explosives.

These Castro agents also infiltrated the Cuban-exile group Brothers to
the Rescue, who flew unarmed planes to rescue Cuban rafters in the
Florida Straits, also known as the "Cemetery without Crosses." Estimates
of the number of Cubans who met horrible deaths in the Cemetery without
Crosses, run from 50-85,000. Brothers to the Rescue risked their lives
almost daily — flying over the straits, alerting and guiding the Coast
Guard to any balseros, and saving thousands of these desperate people
from joining their forsaken compatriots. It's worth mention here that
prior to the Cuban Revolution, the island country took in more
immigrants per-capita than the U.S., including the Ellis Island years.

By February of 1996, Brothers to The Rescue had flown 1,800 of these
humanitarian missions and helped rescue 4,200 men, women, and children.
That same month, however, the Cuban Five passed the flight plan for one
of the Brothers' humanitarian flights over the Cemetery without Crosses
to Castro.

With this info in hand, Cuba's top guns sprang to action. They jumped
into their MIGs, took off, and valiantly blasted apart (in international
air space) the lumbering and utterly defenseless Cessnas. Four members
of the humanitarian flights were thus murdered in cold blood.

Three of these men were U.S. citizens, the other, a legal U.S. resident.
Among the murdered was Armando Alejandre Jr., who came to the U.S. at
age ten in 1960. His first order of business upon reaching the age of 18
was fulfilling his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. His next was
joining the United States Marine Corps and volunteering for service in
Vietnam. He returned with several decorations. As a member of Brothers
to the Rescue, Alejandre often dropped flowers over the sea, in memory
of the thousands that the Brothers had been unable to rescue in time. A
man with a weapon or with both hands free to fight has always palsied
Castro with fright. So, Castro waited for an occasion when Armando
Alejandre Jr. and his Brothers were carrying flowers to make his move.

The premeditated atrocity against Alejandre and the Brothers is what
added the "manslaughter" and "conspiracy to commit murder" charges (on
top of the ones listed above, 26 charges total) against Dolores Huerta's
propaganda assignment from Fidel Castro.

Along with wailing against the "U.S. Embargo" and clamoring for the
release of its terrorists in U.S. jails, note that the Castro regime
also vents its spleen against a Frontpage contributor [5] who seems to
seriously get on its nerves. "David Horowitz and Jamie Glazov at
Frontpage Magazine, animators of a conservative tabloid of calumny and
rumor, have opened their doors for Humberto Fontova's most scandalous
libels against our Revolution," declared Castro's propaganda ministry.
We will continue to expose the truth about this cruel dictatorship until
Castro and his American apologists are put to shame.

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] starring in:

[2] now starring:

[3] Cuban Embargo:

[4] U.S. celebrities:

[5] against a Frontpage contributor:"

Cash-strapped Cuba to increase tax income

Cash-strapped Cuba to increase tax income
By Nelson Acosta, Reuters

HAVANA - Cuba has set income tax rates at 25 to 50 percent for its soon
to be expanded private sector, with the biggest earners paying the most
taxes, according to official decrees published Monday.

The rates will range from nothing for those making 5,000 pesos -
equivalent to $225 - or less a year to 50 percent for those in the
highest bracket, which is more than 50,000 pesos, or $2,252.

The new tax rates came out in the Official Gazette as the government
prepares to cut 500,000 workers from state payrolls and issue 250,000
new licenses for self-employment to create new jobs in President Raul
Castro's biggest economic reform so far.

Those making more than 5,000 pesos will have to pay taxes, starting at a
rate of 25 percent and rising from there as income increases.

The cash-strapped government is looking to the self-employed to increase
tax revenues to help pay for expensive social programs such as free
health care and education.

Last week the government, in a story in Communist Party newspaper
Granma, warned that tax scofflaws "will feel the weight of the law
imposed upon them by those mandated to enforce it, the National Tax Office."

The gazette, where the government publishes in thick legalese its new
laws and decrees, is not usually a hot seller, but Monday in Havana
people could be seen lining up at newsstands to buy copies, then quickly
leafing through them on the street.


Many Cubans have expressed interest in opening their own businesses,
with the hope of earning more than the country's $20 a month average salary.

Currently, about 85 percent of the country's labor force of more than 5
million works for the state. Castro, who took over from his ailing older
brother Fidel Castro in 2008, wants to trim that number and cut costs.

As of the end of 2009, there were only 143,000 licensed self-employed,
although thousands more worked for themselves illegally.

Reaction on the street to the thick decrees, which came out in two
separate editions of the gazette, was mixed.

Antonio Soria, a shoemaker working for the state, said he intends to
start his own business and views it as a chance to help both himself and
the state.

"As a private shoemaker I can retire and have financial support for the
future," he said.

"This is a way to contribute to the state's income. Remember that health
care and education are free and now that we have the chance to have
small businesses, we have to help the country."

Transport worker Ibrahim Fernandez said he supports the private sector
expansion, but worried taxes will be too high to encourage small businesses.

"From what I've been able to understand, the topic of the licenses has a
defect, which is that they are overcharging taxes. Very expensive, the
taxes," he said.

In last week's Granma story, the government outlined a new tax code it
said was friendlier to small businesses because while it requires new
taxes, it also allows bigger tax deductions.

For the first time since Cuba nationalized small businesses in 1968, the
self-employed will be able to legally hire workers.

The regulations issued on Monday said they would have to pay a labor tax
amounting to 25 percent of the average salary for their work.