Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fidel Castro Welcomes Evo Morales with Full Honors

Saturday, December 31, 2005

HAVANA (EFE) – Cuba’s Fidel Castro ordered full state honors Friday for the visit of Bolivian President-elect Evo Morales, who chose the Communist-ruled island as the destination of his first trip abroad after a resounding win in the Dec. 18 election.

Morales traveled to Havana with a delegation of some 60 people to meet with Castro, who was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs of the Cuban airliner that brought the Bolivian to Havana.

In brief statements to the press, the leftist who will become Bolivia’s first Indian president when he is sworn in on Jan. 22, said his visit translates into “a joy, an emotion, a friendship with the Cuban people.”

Morales, who made the trip on Castro’s invitation, had visited the island several times in the past, most recently in April, when he was operated on for a knee he injured playing soccer.

The Bolivian president-elect’s “friendly visit” was confirmed in an official communiqué the Cuban government released Thursday.

“Evo Morales’ presence honors and pleases our people, and constitutes an important stimulus that strengthens the bonds of friendship and cooperation between the government of Cuba and the next government of Bolivia,” the statement said.

It also said that in the course of the visit, Morales and his delegation would hold working sessions with Castro and other Cuban officials.

At campaign rallies, Morales referred to both Castro and Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez, as brothers in the struggle against U.S. “imperialism.” He also devoted plenty of rhetoric to excoriating the policies of the Bush aministration.

Morales will be spending barely a day in Cuba, as he plans to return home Saturday in time to celebrate the New Year’s holiday in Orinoca, the small Andean village where he was born.

The president-elect, who garnered nearly 54 percent of the vote on Dec. 18 amid the highest turnout in a decade, will be out of Bolivia for much of the time between now and his Jan. 22 inauguration. Morales is to meet in Madrid on Jan. 4 with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero before traveling to Paris for bilateral talks, and then on to Brussels for a get-acquainted session with officials of the European Union.

He is scheduled to arrive in South Africa on Jan. 7, and his agenda there includes an encounter with the country’s first post-apartheid leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.

After spending Jan. 10-12 in China, Morales will head back to Bolivia via Brazil, where he will meet with Presi-dent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who – like the Bolivian – grew up in dire poverty and has little in the way of formal education.

Morales’ team has drawn up an eclectic guest list for his Jan. 22 inauguration, including 130 heads of state and government, 180 leaders of social-action groups, and notables such as Argentine soccer icon Diego Maradona, literary lions Gabriel García Márquez, José Saramago and Nobel peace laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Rigoberta Menchú.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Venezuela Proposes Hosting Part of World Baseball Classic

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports

Dec. 28, 2005

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela is proposing that part of next year's World Baseball Classic be played in this baseball-crazed South American nation rather than Puerto Rico so that Cuba is not excluded from the tournament.

Officials said Wednesday that Venezuela would offer to host several games, which would open the way for communist-led Cuba to participate in the first World Cup-style baseball tournament. Cuba is banned from playing on U.S. soil.

"We hope that the United States' government changes its position, but if not, we propose that Group C play in Caracas," said Edwin Zerpa, president of the government-run Venezuelan Baseball Federation. "We don't approve of Cuba's exclusion."

Only the teams in Group C -- Olympic champion Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands and Panama -- would be invited to play in Venezuela, and the final would be played in Canada, Zerpa told the Associated Press.

The World Baseball Classic will include 16 teams and run March 3-20 in the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Venezuela, which plans to field hitters such as MLB all-stars Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins and Bobby Abreu of the Philadelphia Phillies, is considered among the top teams for the tournament.

Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins and Freddy Garcia of the White Sox are likely to pitch for Venezuela, which will be managed by New York Yankees third-base coach Luis Sojo.

Venezuela will be playing in the first round in Florida, with Australia, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2004-2005, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Now, the United States Has Extended its Dishonesty to Sport-rigging...

VHeadline.com commentarist Arthur Shaw writes: The vile hatred of the White House dictatorship under George W. Bush and of the Miami Mafia, which now stretches to and indiscriminately attacks all sides of Cuba, including the playing of baseball.

Read Complete Article
Not About Cuba, But Important Enough

Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 23, 2005; Page A04

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Read Complete Article
Editorial: Keeping Cuba Out of Classic is Un-American

Delaware County Times, Pennsyvalnia

12/26/2005

Imagine a time when the bully on the block claimed it was his ball and bat and kept some neighborhood kid he didn’t like off the ballfield. And imagine that bully used his influence to pick on the Jewish kid, the black kid, the Latino or even the white Catholic school kid.

Read Complete Article

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

An Excellent Wayne Smith Article About the WBC Fiascogate

Cuban Team Celebrates at Camden Yards, Baltimore


Wayne Smith has written an excellent article about the very stupid decision of the US government barring Cuba from the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Read Baltimore Sun Article

Monday, December 26, 2005

Opinion: Isolating Cuba Has Been a U.S. Policy Failure

December 26, 2005

MiamiHerald.com

In 2004, President Bush convened a commission to hasten the end of Fidel Castro's government and speed a transition to democracy. This effort boomeranged, and news that the commission has reconvened and plans a second report for 2006 should alarm us all.

The commission proposed and the president agreed to drastically cut back on travel to Cuba by Cuban Americans living in the United States. The rationale? Foes of Castro allege that families spend money that ends up in the hands of the Cuban state. In fact, Cuban families who depend on visits and financial support from their kin in America suffered directly, and Cuba's government replaced lost dollars with support from Venezuela and China.

Worse, the Cuban government uses the transition report -- which also suggests radical changes in Cuba's popular health and education systems -- in billboards and town meetings to rally the broader Cuban public against the United States. As Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega said to me recently, ``The transition document envisions another revolution in Cuba. That's not the right idea for the Cuban future.''

The U.S. policy of isolating Cuba, economically and diplomatically, has failed for five decades to change the Cuban system.

Rather than rerunning a process to tighten a failed policy further, the Bush administration should advocate for Cuba what it wants for the rest of the world -- free travel, free trade and engagement with the American people.

SARAH STEPHENS, Center for International Policy, Washington, D.C.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

US Boycott of Cubans in Baseball Criticized



Panama, Dec 25 (Prensa Latina) The Pan American Baseball Confederation (COPABE) criticized the decision of US to stop the participation of Cuba in the World Baseball Classic Championship in 2006.

Eduardo de Bello, COPABE President, rejected Washington"s measure and said that once more, politics is in the middle of sports interests.

De Bello assured Cuba has the right to play, because of its condition of Olympic and World Champion, and reminded that Havana permits US players to play in Cuba.

Puerto Rico, one of the hosts of the event, said it was thinking of retiring from competition, in solidarity with Cuba.

The event is sponsored by the Major League Baseball Organization (MLB) with support of the International Baseball Federation (IBF).

Players like Panamanian Carlos Lee, slugger of the Milwaukee Brewers, were in favour of the attendance of Cuba to the event.

The Cuban Federation proposed organizers that incomes obtained by the World Champion in the event, were destined to the affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The Office for Foreign Actives Control (OFAC) in US informed a few days ago that the participation of Cuban players was rejected, because every participant would have incomes in the event.

This was immediately criticized by different personalities, Olympic Committee leaders, MLB representatives and nearly 80 US congressmen.

Cuba would compete in Group C, with the teams of Panama, Holland and Puerto Rico, one of the hosts.

Cuba has got the World Champion title 27 times, and has become Olympic Champion three times, in the four times it has competed in the Olympic Games.
Cuba Has New Reasons to Celebrate


Havana, Dec 25 (Prensa Latina) Cubans begin to celebrate as of Sunday the 47th anniversary of the Revolution, with new reasons including higher incomes and employment facilities, as a sign of a rising economy despite the US blockade.

Since early morning, recreation activities for all tastes and ages, including 450 artists and musical groups, will be carried out in the area surrounding the Jose Marti Revolution Square, in Havana.

An increase in the Gross Domestic Product, 11.8 percent in 2005, is also a bright indicator meaning progress in services, mainly in the public health field, with doctors from the Island collaborating with more than 60 nations.

Tourism has bright prospects, too, as this past year the country received 2.3 million foreign visitors.

Minimum wages, pensions and social security payments were increased this year, benefiting more than five million people.

There are also new initiatives under test to develop the electric power system, which are based in saving and efficiency, a revolution that will mark year 2006.

The Island moved forward despite the battings of three hurricanes and the worst drought in the last one hundred years.

It was a period of impressive results vis a vis the dangers of an increasingly hostile US policy and even higher oil prices.

Meanwhile, the victory in the UN, with 182 votes for a Cuba-proposed resolution against the US blockade, is another reason inspiring Cubans to celebrate.

It meant the most categorical international rejection of these stepped-up unilateral measures imposed by the US.

Also in 2005, at least 5,000 intellectuals from around the world, including eight Nobel Prizewinners, declared themselves to be against Washington attempts to condemn Havana in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Surveys show that the triumph of Evo Morales in Bolivia and recent achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela also encourage Cubans as they see other rays of hope in the South.

The New Year will also mean challenges in consolidating the economic upward trend and several social projects.

It will be another year of struggle for just causes, including the release of The Five anti-terrorist Cuban fighters held in US prisons.
Cuba Hikes 2006 Budget 32 percent

By Marc Frank

REUTERS

7:34 a.m. December 25, 2005

HAVANA – The Cuban parliament late Friday approved a 33.3 billion peso budget for 2006, a huge 32 percent increase over this year's spending of 25.3 billion pesos and evidence that authorities are confident a 15-year crisis is over.

"Our public finances are in good health despite the genocidal imperialist blockade, hurricanes and drought and higher oil prices," Finance Minister Georgina Barreiro said on introducing the budget.

Barreiro said next year's budget deficit would be 3.4 percent of the gross domestic product, based on expected revenues of 31.5 billion pesos, a 35 percent increase over 2005, when the deficit came in at 4.2 percent of GDP.

Cuba officially pegs the peso as equivalent to 92 U.S. cents, but at domestic state exchanges it is currently valued at less than 5 cents.

The peso budget includes a hidden and often more important dollar budget, according to government sources.

The government reported an 11.8 percent increase in the GDP this year and forecast a 10 percent increase in 2006, based on a local formula yet to be accepted by any international organization.

The formula includes the estimated market value of free social services and subsidized goods and services to Cubans and massive medical and other services exported mainly to Venezuela.

Cuba's economy fell 35 percent when the Soviet Union collapsed, depriving it of massive subsidies and markets and resulting in shortages of food, energy, transportation and capital.

Since then, the import-dependent Caribbean island has moved away from sugar as its main export, with tourism, medical services, nickel, family remittances and pharmaceuticals now accounting for most of its foreign exchange earnings.

Cuba began bartering medical and other services for Venezuelan oil this year, and the South American country also began paying Cuba hundreds of million of dollars for additional medical and other services.

China is supplying the country with hundreds of millions of dollars of soft trade and development credits.

Communist Cuba's economy is more than 90 percent in state hands.

The government raised wages and pensions more than 25 percent this year, adding 4.2 billion pesos to spending, then absorbed the liquidity by buying Chinese appliances for dollars and selling them at cost for pesos using the domestic exchange rate, keeping inflation under 5 percent, according to the U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean.

"With $400 million in appliances you can absorb 8 billion pesos," a Cuban economist pointed out.

Barreiro said increased spending was largely earmarked for defense, social services, wages and pensions, emergency reserves and a doubling of investments to 6.4 billion pesos.

Barreiro said increased revenues would come with economic growth, more efficiency, higher utility rates and the sale of more appliances and food to the population.
A Decision that Alienates All


By LINDA ROBERTSON

lrobertson@MiamiHerald.com

Posted on Sun, Dec. 25, 2005

Among the most enchanting places to visit in Havana is Latin American Stadium, where you can watch the fast, flamboyant style of Cuban baseball, or Parque Central, where groups of grizzled experts gather daily to debate -- with equal flamboyance -- the news of the sport, whether it's about the local Industriales or the New York Yankees.

Football has become America's game, but in Cuba, baseball is still the national pastime. Baseball is part of Cuban culture and a key to Cuban pride.

Why would the U.S. government, which professes empathy with the oppressed Cuban people, snub its nose at them?

Once again, the U.S. government has made a clumsy, petty decision that only alienates Cubans, baffles the rest of the world and delights Fidel Castro.

This time, it has nothing to do with immigration or trade. This time our fearless leaders are telling the Cubans they can't play ball.

The U.S. Treasury Department, at the urging of Cuban-American congressmen, has denied a request by Major League Baseball to allow Cuba to send its team to the inaugural World Baseball Classic, to be played March 3-20 in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Tokyo. Cuba's bid for a license was turned down because making money in the tournament would violate the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

MLB and at least 100 members of Congress have asked the Treasury Department to reconsider. San Juan has threatened to withdraw as a host. But don't expect U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart to back down. He is trying to help organize Cuban exile pros to represent a ''free Cuba,'' even though it's against the rules to form a team without a national federation.

Diaz-Balart also tried to equate the ban to the former one against apartheid South Africa, which is quite a reach. The U.S. is more racist than Cuba is under Castro.

Mixing politics and sports is nothing new, but it rarely turns out well, as a chastened Adolph Hitler found out in 1936.

And turning athletes into political pawns always backfires. The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games caused bitterness, not reform.

The U.S. looks foolish excluding the world-renowned Cuban baseball team after allowing Cuba's soccer team to play in the Gold Cup here last summer. In 1999,
Cuba played against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards and in Havana. In 1996, Cuba competed in the Atlanta Olympics.

Why, for 43 years, has the U.S. clung to an ineffective embargo? Once again, we're giving Castro a priceless propaganda platform. He can portray his small island as
a victim of the bullying U.S.

The irony is that Castro might not have sent his team, not only because of the risk of defections but because they probably wouldn't win. Now, instead of Castro looking cowardly, he can say the U.S. is intimidated by the Big Red Machine.

In many other countries -- or U.S. cities for that matter -- Castro's image as an underdog is reinforced.

It's a painful issue here in Miami. But if emotions can be put aside for a moment, it is clear that the baseball-loving people of Cuba are again paying for the crimes of Castro, the old pitcher who has his nemesis flailing at air.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Is Marta Beatriz Roque Promoting a US Invasion of Cuba?

In an article published by Digital Granma International two days ago, and authored by Jean-Guy Allard, she was quoted as follow:

"If it takes a Yankee invasion to topple the Cuban government, that’s fine with me," declared Marta Beatriz Roque, the organizer of the so-called "Assembly to Promote the Civil Society" that took place in Havana last May, in a recorded conversation screened Wednesday, December 21, on the Cuban Television "Roundtable."

If this quotation is true, maybe there is some truth to the allegations by Cuba's government that the so-called dissidents are being financed by the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Say it ain't so, Marta!

Read complete article
Castro Calls Bush 'fool' for Shutting Out Cuba


Fidel Castro said Friday that the Bush administration was wrong to prohibit Cuba from sending a team to next year's World Baseball Classic.

"He is very much a fool," the Cuban president said of Bush. "He doesn't know who the Cuban baseball players are, or that they are Olympic and world champions. If he knew, he would know something about this country's government."

Read the complete article

Friday, December 23, 2005

LET CUBA PLAY BASEBALL!

Puerto Rico Will Not Host WBC if Cuba is Not Allowed to Participate


The following paragraph is from article in the New York Times:


Israel Roldan, the president of the Amateur Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico, was quoted yesterday in the newspaper Primera Hora that he had sent a letter to the International Baseball Federation saying that Puerto Rico was renouncing its decision to be a tournament host because Cuba was being excluded "for reasons not regarding sports or Olympic spirit."

Let Cuba Play! Reverse OFAC's ruling.
Cuba Offers to Play Baseball for Katrina Victims


Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:41 PM ET

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Thursday it would donate its revenues from a world baseball tournament to Hurricane Katrina victims if the Bush administration reverses a controversial decision to bar Cuba's participation.

"The Cuban baseball federation, in an effort to find options, would be ready for the money corresponding to its participation in the classic to go to the victims of Hurricane Katrina left homeless in New Orleans," the federation said in a letter to U.S. Major League Baseball sent a week ago and released on Thursday.

The United States denied Major League Baseball a license that would allow Cuba to play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March on the grounds Cuba would reap the 1 percent of tournament revenues due each participant and 5 percent if it won.

Cuba on Thursday labeled the Bush administration's position as "shameful" and "absurd" and "having nothing to do with sports."

The decision also brought protests from the U.S. Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, numerous politicians and others.

Puerto Rico's baseball federation announced on Thursday it would not host games if the Cubans were not allowed to participate.

The World Baseball Classic is an 18-day, 16-team World Cup-style tournament scheduled to begin on March 3 that will bring together some of the world's best baseball players on teams representing their home countries.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, an ideological foe of the United States for more than 40 years, had given the go-ahead for his Communist nation to participate.

But Cuba would have needed a special license from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

The Treasury Department refused to grant the license.

"Generally speaking, the Cuba embargo prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest," Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in a written statement.

The tournament starts in Tokyo and ends in San Diego and many of the games will be played in the United States, which has been a magnet for the defection of a host of Cuba's best players seeking multimillion-dollar big-league contracts.

Despite the drain of talent, Cuba won the gold medal for baseball at the 1992, 1996 and 2004 Olympics, falling to the United States in the finals at the 2000 Games.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cuba Claims 11.8 Percent Economic Growth


By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writer

Thu Dec 22, 4:33 PM ET

HAVANA - Cuba announced Thursday it had turned a corner in its recovery from severe financial crisis, reporting 11.8 percent growth in 2005 using its own method for calculating gross domestic product.

Addressing the communist nation's lawmakers as President Fidel Castro looked on, Economics Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said the Caribbean nation had fully recovered from the 1990s, when austerity measures were adopted to survive the economic crisis caused by the Soviet Union's collapse.

"This could be considered the highest in revolutionary history," Rodriguez said of the growth figure, referring to the 47-year-long administration of Castro, who came to power with the Jan. 1, 1959, triumph of the Cuban revolution.

The economics minister also projected economic growth of 10 percent for 2006.

Rodriguez said the biggest income earners for Cuba this year were tourism, nickel, and the exportation of services — especially doctors and other medical workers hired by other countries such as Venezuela to provide free care to poor people.

Cuba's methodology for calculating economic growth, adopted in recent years, takes into account the country's vast social safety net and subsidized services.

That differing methodology makes Cuba's growth figures difficult to compare with that of other countries, prompting the United Nation's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean to omit the island's numbers from its report for this year.

Castro defended the 2005 growth estimate, saying "no one should think that we are giving false numbers here."

Using the same formula last year, Cuba said its economy grew by 5 percent in 2004. The U.N. commission, using traditional criteria for calculating GDP, said Cuba's economy grew 3 percent last year.

The Cuban government has been forced to diversify its economy since the loss of Soviet aid and trade in the early 1990s, when it was almost wholly dependent on sugar exports and barter trade with its former ideological allies.

Tourism in recent years overtook sugar as the island's top source of income.

Prompted by falling sugar prices and inefficiency in cane production, Cuba has
restructured its once all-important sugar industry, shutting down scores of mills and retraining former sugar workers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Cuba Launches Verbal Assault on Top US Diplomat

Tue Dec 20, 2005 9:51 PM ET

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba launched a blistering verbal attack on the top U.S. diplomat in Havana on Tuesday and on dissidents it accused him of organizing to overthrow the government.

A daily state-run television talk show dedicated its 90- minute broadcast to accusing U.S. mission chief Michael Parmly, who arrived in the country in September, of being the new point man for the Bush administration's declared goal of ousting President Fidel Castro from power.

"Michael Parmly has quickly begun to carry out his job as the ruthless guardian and springboard of the anti-Cuba Bush policy, having frequent contacts with his mercenaries, guiding them, supplying them and exhibiting them to the press," program moderator Randy Alonso said.

The United States and Cuba, bitter foes since President Fidel Castro led a revolution to power in 1959, do not have diplomatic relations but maintain lower-level Interests Sections in each others capitals.

The Cuban government labels all opponents as charlatans in the employ of the United States and on Tuesday various official journalists accused them of receiving support from a foreign power, a crime under Cuban law.

Parmly succeeded James Cason, now U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, whose confrontational style and open support for dissidents was given as the reason for the imprisonment of 75 dissidents two year ago on charges of working with Washington to overthrow the government.

The show, called the round table, features local journalists and officials presenting the government's positions on various topics. It will also dedicate Wednesday's broadcast to Parmly and the dissidents.

On Tuesday, four journalists took turns detailing Parmly's and other U.S. diplomats' meetings with dissidents and in some cases the computers, televisions, copy machines, cameras and other items given to specific individuals.

"They are the same pig with different suits" said journalist Arlene Rodriguez of Cason and Parmly, the latter considered by other diplomats as far more diplomatic than the former.

"The pig is Bush's policy and they are the suits," she said.

The journalists also criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's decision this week to form an inter-agency group to recommend measures to tighten the
four-decades-old trade embargo and increase aid to dissidents in order to speed a transition to democracy in Cuba.

Lazaro Barrero, editor of the Communist Party daily, Granma, charged talk of transition was a cover for "using mercenaries to provoke a situation justifying invasion and occupation of the country."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Top Cuban Energy Official Invites U.S. Executives to Meet in Mexico


WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- In a letter to U.S. energy company
executives, Fidel Rivero Prieto, President of Cuba Petroleo, told his counterparts from the U.S. energy sector that Cuba " ... would be very pleased to do business together ... " and invited them to meet with him and his Cuban colleagues at the U.S.-Cuba Energy Summit scheduled for February 2-4, 2006, in Mexico City.

Citing the need for " ... investments by additional foreign companies," Rivero wrote that the meeting in Mexico " ... will permit us to provide the information that is most useful to your company ... and we will have the opportunity to learn about your products and services. In this way," Rivero wrote, "both of us will be prepared to discuss real business opportunities as soon as that is possible."

This historic U.S.-Cuba Energy Summit is being organized by Alamar Associates (http://www.alamarcuba.com) which has organized five previous Cancun Business Summits which have brought more than 500 U.S. executives together with their Cuban counterparts.

The Energy Summit is being sponsored by the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association
(http://www.uscuba.org) along with Caterpillar, Port of Corpus Christi, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, Valero Energy Corporation, Lafayette Economic Development Authority, National Foreign Trade Council, and USA*Engage.

The Summit, which had been originally scheduled for Cancun in December, was changed due to the hurricane damage and now will be held at the Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel in Mexico City, February 2-4, 2006.

"With Spain, China, Canada, Norway, and India signing agreements to explore in Cuban waters less than 100 miles from our shores in the Gulf, it is time for U.S. firms to understand what is going on and what the future business potential might be," said Kirby Jones, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association, "and this event offers U.S. executives the opportunity to do just that face-to-face with their Cuban counterparts."

Cuba will send to the Summit in Mexico a high level delegation led by Fidel Rivero Prieto, President of CubaPetroleo, and will include officials and specialists from the Cuban Ministry of Basic Industries, Union Electrica, and Ministries of Foreign Trade, Foreign Investment, and Foreign Relations.

"I am looking forward to meeting one-on-one with this distinguished group of Cuban officials and specialists to discuss the real business potential for Southwestern United States. Cuba with its recent discoveries offers our business community another option for oil and gas exploration and discovery," said Ruben Bonilla, Chairman of the Port Authority of Corpus Christi.

The Summit agenda will include presentations and Q & A sessions with all the Cuban specialists; each company will have a private one-on-one meeting arranged with Cuban counterparts; experts will discuss the current laws and prospects for change; and presentations will be made by energy companies already doing business in Cuba.

"Nobody wants to be left out and the potential of business in this new market for Louisiana companies is significant. This meeting will allow companies from our state to meet Cuban counterparts and get in on the ground floor," said Mike Olivier, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

The full text of the letter and complete information about the U.S.-Cuba Energy Summit can be found on its web site at http://www.uscubasummit.org.

PRESS ADVISORY: All plenary sessions are open to the media. For press
interested in covering this event, please contact Alamar Associates at 202/
530-5234 for details.

CONTACT: Kirby Jones of Alamar Associates, +1-202-530-5234



SOURCE Alamar Associates

Web Site: http://www.alamarcuba.com http://www.uscuba.org

http://www.uscubasummit.org


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Issuers of news releases and not PR Newswire are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Terms and conditions, including restrictions on redistribution, apply. Copyright © 1996-2005 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved. A United Business Media company.
Ueberroth Wants Cuba in Baseball Classic

www.sunherald.com
Posted on Mon, Dec. 19, 2005


RONALD BLUM
Associated Press

NEW YORK - U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth called on the Bush administration to reverse its decision to keep Cuba out of next year's World Baseball Classic.

Ueberroth, a former baseball commissioner and head of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said last week's decision by the Treasury Department to deny Cuba a permit to play in the 16-team event will damage American efforts to host the Olympics in the future. Olympic host countries must guarantee all nations can participate.

"It is important to any future bid city from the United States that this be reversed," Ueberroth said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It's disappointing. This will impact IOC members negatively. This may be the only example of a country prohibiting competition on an international scale."

When Ueberroth headed the 1984 Olympics, he worked with the Reagan administration to ensure that Cuba would be allowed to participate.

"It was a difficult discussion and difficult negotiating," Ueberroth said.

Cuba ultimately chose to join a boycott of the Los Angeles Games but did send athletes to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where it won nine gold medals and 25 medals in all.

Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said last week that generally speaking, "the Cuba embargo prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."

Baseball officials hope a revised plan will gain approval. For instance, when Cuba came to the United States this year for the CONCACAF World Cup, no payments were made directly to the Cubans. One soccer official said some money was given to Cuba by the Caribbean Football Union, which is based in Trinidad and Tobago.
COMMENTARY: Bush Must Let Cuba Play Baseball in Inaugural World Baseball Classic

http://www.huntingtonnews.net


Dec. 19, 2005

By Rene A. Henry

Seattle, WA (Special to HNN) - The Bush Administration committed yet another serious diplomatic mistake last week when it barred Cuba from competing in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Usually the State Department is responsible for embarrassing U.S. citizens worldwide; this time it is the Treasury Department.

Using sports – or art, music and culture – to retaliate where diplomats fail is unconscionable. President George W. Bush must listen to Philosopher George Santayana who warned that if we do not remember the past, we will be condemned to relive it.

In 1980, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler told President Carter to boycott the Olympic Games that summer in Moscow and the Soviets would leave Afghanistan.

Hearts were ripped out of our athletes and this country established the worst possible precedent in global sports. The Soviets boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the U.S. has replaced them in Afghanistan.

Cuba is one of the classic’s 16 invited nations and is scheduled to play Panama on March 8, 2006 in San Juan. Puerto Rico and The Netherlands compete in the same pool and the two top teams advance to Orlando. The event runs from March 3 to March 20.

Baseball became an Olympic sport in 1992 in Atlanta and the Cubans have won three of the four gold medals. Since World Cup competition began in 1938, Cuba has won 25 times, including 12 of the last 13. Its national team has even held its own against Major League Baseball. In 1999, thanks to President Clinton, Cuba played two exhibition games against the Baltimore Orioles, splitting the series.

Olympic officials dropped baseball and softball from competition and this action by our government could doom any possible reinstatement. President Bush must overrule the decision of Treasury Secretary John W. Snow. Otherwise U.S. international sports relations will further suffer irreparable harm. Chances are that other competing teams from the Caribbean and Central America – Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panama – may retaliate and not participate.

This would only be the beginning. U.S. cities can forget about bidding to host future summer and winter Olympic Games as well as international and world class events. The votes will not be there for the U.S. The same is true for U.S. individuals on track to leadership positions in the all powerful international sports federations. Following the 1980 Moscow boycott, many Americans were passed over. And many of our officials were ignored to judge and referee important international competitions. Now, the U.S. government has again insulted the world of sports.

The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have their own Olympic committees whose athletes regularly compete throughout the region. Governments and people from all Central American and Caribbean countries support Cuba and disagree with U.S. policy.

What if invitations were no longer forthcoming to the athletes in our territories?The current policy could prevent any of our territories from hosting major regional events. How would the White House have reacted in 1991 when Cuba hosted the Pan American Games if President Fidel Castro didn’t allow the U.S. team to participate?

Early in his career Castro was a promising young pitcher. It is said that the Washington Senators nearly signed him to a major league contract. How world history would have changed if Castro threw real baseballs "inside the Beltway."

Politics has no place in international sport. We especially don’t need interference from Washington politicians. It is time to let the games begin!

------------------------------

Rene A. Henry is an author and public relations counselor who has spent more than 25 years of his professional career in international sports. A native of Charleston,
W.Va. and former sports information director at West Virginia University, he is a fellow of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

Cuban Photos Gallery
Cuba Cutting `World Class' Trail in Biotech Research

Well-funded government labs enable Castro's cash-starved nation to produce high-quality vaccines and medications for a global market

By Gary Marx, Tribune foreign correspondent

Published December 18, 2005

HAVANA -- On the outskirts of Havana sits a cluster of drab buildings that are part of an effort to propel Cuba to the forefront of biotechnology even as its population struggles with blackouts, shortages and crumbling infrastructure.

Known as the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, or CIGB, the institute is one of 52 government facilities dedicated to human, animal and agricultural research that have recorded a string of successes.

Using more than $1 billion in state funding, Cuban scientists have produced a hepatitis B vaccine sold in more than 30 countries and streptokinase, a potent enzyme that dissolves blood clots and improves the survival rate of heart attack victims. The country also makes recombinant interferon that strengthens the immune system of cancer patients, and a meningitis B vaccine.

In the pipeline are products ranging from an injection that closes ulcers and improves circulation in diabetics to vaccines against cholera and hepatitis C, according to Cuban officials.

"We've been very impressed by the biotech industry in Cuba," said Anne Walsh, vice president for communications at GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. "It's world class."

Despite Cuba's success in the laboratory, some experts question whether a poor country should be spending scarce resources on research. The production of milk, beef and other foods has fallen even as its scientists embark on years-long efforts to produce genetically modified rice, corn and other crops that are disease resistant.

Criticism from Florida

"Thinking big in the context of widespread needs and shortages is irresponsible," said Damian Fernandez, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University.

There also is a question of whether Cuba is using its biotech industry to develop biological weapons. The U.S. State Department leveled the bioweapons charge against Cuba in 2002 but in August softened its stance and said the evidence was inconclusive.

But even the suggestion that Cuban scientists may be involved in a weapons program infuriates Carlos Borroto, CIGB's deputy director.

"Our biotech [industry] is so public, so transparent," he said. "The people who are working here, you could [threaten to] kill them and they would not produce a bioweapon."

Borroto and other officials said the island's biotechnology sector already has played an important role in improving health care in Cuba while also providing low-cost vaccines and other medicines to developing countries.

The industry is slowly becoming an important revenue source for this cash-starved nation, earning an estimated $300 million a year, officials say.

"We have some advantage because our products are the same quality as the rest of the world, and most of the time they are cheaper," said Sergio Perez Talavera, sales manager in Asia for Herber Biotec SA, CIGB's commercial branch.

Cuba's biotechnology industry started from scratch more than two decades ago after visiting American scientists met with Cuban President Fidel Castro and told him about the potential benefits of interferon in cancer treatment.

The nation's first biotechnology laboratory opened in 1981 with six researchers, and the government poured money into the sector even after Cuba's economy took a nosedive following the collapse of the Soviet Union, then the island's main benefactor.

Today, thousands of scientists work in what is known as the Polo Cientifico, a series of facilities that include the Finlay Institute, developer of the meningitis B vaccine, and the National Center for Bioreagents, a huge plant whose leading product is the hepatitis B vaccine.

Cuba's crown jewel

The crown jewel of Cuba's biotech industry is CIGB, a collection of manufacturing facilities, greenhouses and research laboratories.

This month CIGB played host to Havana's annual biotechnology conference, drawing 250 experts from Germany, Mexico and three dozen other nations to discuss ways to improve agricultural production.

Among the Cuban scientists presenting their research at the conference was Rolando Moran, who has spent more than a decade trying to genetically modify the sweet potato to resist the weevil larva, a ravenous pest.

Moran said his work is still in the experimental stage but hopes it can someday increase crop yields. He praised the government for supporting his research but said funds are tight.

Jose de la Fuente, a former top CIGB scientist who is an Oklahoma State University professor, said the growth of Cuba's biotech industry is threatened by another problem: the intrusion of politics into science.

He said many top Cuban researchers studied and worked in Europe, Japan and the United States but authorities are increasingly preventing Cuban researchers from traveling abroad if they do not support Castro's one-party system.

"This does not create a good atmosphere for good science," said de la Fuente, who left Cuba in 1999 after losing his job at CIGB.

Even under optimal conditions, it would be tough for impoverished Cuba to compete in the global arena against the pharmaceutical heavyweights.

Yet, while Western pharmaceutical companies focus mostly on producing drugs for North America, Europe and other wealthy regions, Cuba's efforts have centered on developing vaccines and other products for internal use and for export to the Third World.

"The U.S. companies are not that interested in tackling diseases that are not blockbusters," said Francois Arcand, director general of the Spanish company ERA Biotech. "Cuba is in a different world. They are doing a niche strategy. They are going where there is less resistance."

Cuba's biomedical industry also has formed partnerships in India, China and other nations, which like Cuba are developing medicines for far less than it would cost to purchase the same products abroad.

But Perez, the CIGB sales representative, said Cuba is looking increasingly toward breaking into Europe and other lucrative markets.

The effort will be costly and difficult, despite Cuba's biomedical advances.

"A good patented product can surpass the sales of all our products combined, and this is our main target," Perez said. "This is a very, very hard task."

----------
gmarx@tribune.com

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let the Cubans Play

Friday, December 16, 2005

www.bergen.com

The Treasury Department - in effect, the Bush administration - has refused to allow a Cuban team to enter the United States to play in the first World Baseball Classic this spring.

U.S. major league baseball and its players union, the sponsors of the event, envision the Classic as a World Cup-style tournament, played every four years and featuring the world's best national teams and best players. More than 177 major leaguers are expected to participate.

The reason for the ban on a Cuban team is the four-decades-old embargo, tightened by the Bush administration to prohibit most commercial transactions, on Fidel Castro's regime. Treasury should reconsider and the organizers say they will appeal.

The 16-team tournament will be played in the United States, Japan and Puerto Rico, where Cuba is scheduled to play its first two rounds. The tournament has excited baseball fans, not only because of the fascinating match-ups - China vs. Japan, the U.S. vs. everybody else - but what it will do for the sport internationally.

To the rest of the world, the ban makes the United States look mean, petty and small-minded.

Let the Cubans play.

- Scripps Howard News Service
MLB Undeterred in Bid to Include Cuba

Officials to 'exhaust all avenues' before denying WBC chance

12/16/2005 5:45 PM ET

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

Major League Baseball will continue its pursuit of having Cuba participate in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March despite an adverse ruling this week by the U.S. Treasury Department, MLB's top official in charge of the tournament said on Friday. "Right now, we're trying to get our arms around the decision and address those concerns," said Paul Archey, MLB's vice president of international business
operations. "At some point, we'll apply for another license and address the concerns that [the Treasury Dept.] expressed."

Archey said that though time is getting short before the start of the tournament, which runs from March 3-20 in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan, MLB intends to "exhaust all avenues to have Cuba participate" before taking an alternate route.

If Cuba can't participate, either Nicaragua or Colombia would replace Cuba in Pool C, which also includes Puerto Rico, Panama and the Netherlands. Cuba's first game is scheduled against Panama on March 8 in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

"There are other plans already in motion," Archey said. "But we won't even look at that until we exhaust all avenues to have Cuba participate."

Two teams will reach the second round, and those games will also be played in Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the U.S. The only instance in which Cuba would have to travel to the U.S. mainland would be for the semifinals and finals, which are in San Diego's PETCO Park on March 18-20.

The Treasury Dept. ostensibly rejected a license for Cuba to participate because the long-standing economic embargo of that island nation "prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest," a spokesman for that department told the New York Times in Friday's editions.

But any financial remuneration gained by the Cubans from the tournament would be only to support the growth of baseball and the organizations that support baseball in that country.

By stipulation of the agreement reached between MLB, the MLB Players Association and International Baseball Federation (IBAF), the IBAF and participating national baseball federations will receive 52 percent of the tournament's profits, with shares divided and distributed to each federation based on their performance in the tournament.

A minimum of 50 percent of the profits distributed to those federations must be devoted to grassroots baseball development in their respective countries. The remaining 48 percent of profits must be divided among the professional organizations involved in conducting the tournament.

In the weeks ahead, MLB will work with various departments of the government, including the State Dept., before re-filing the license.
"I'm not really sure why [the Treasury Dept.] is making these objections," Archey said. "That's what we're trying to get our arms around."

Cuba is the last of the 16 countries and territories that had yet to officially accept an invitation extended this past June by World Baseball Classic, Inc. Japan accepted its bid after agreement came from the Nippon Baseball Players Association on Sept. 16.

Recent statements made earlier this month by Cuban president Fidel Castro seemed to indicate that Cuba would participate. "We will participate and demonstrate that we know what to do in baseball," Castro told Panamanian reporters visiting Havana, which will host next summer's Americas Olympic Qualifying event in which the U.S. is scheduled to participate.

Cuba is the preeminent baseball power on the international scene and the winner of three of the four Olympic gold medals since baseball became a medal sport in 1992. It was the winner of the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the 2004 IBAF World Cup in the Netherlands. The Cubans have won the latter tournament 25 times since its inception in 1938. The IBAF World Cup is now played on a bi-annual basis, and Cuba has won 12 of the past 13 gold medals dating back to 1976 (South Korea won in 1982).

Cuba has never competed against MLB players at the international tournament level. The closest it came was splitting a pair of exhibition games against the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, losing in Havana and winning at Camden Yards.

For that single game in Baltimore, the Clinton administration allowed Cuba to play in the U.S., but no financial consideration was offered to the Cubans, Orioles owner Peter Angelos told the New York Times.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com.

The Associated Press contributed.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
U.S. Error vs. Cuba


Letters
Published: Dec 16, 2005 12:30 AM
Modified: Dec 16, 2005 04:16 AM

Judging by a Dec. 15 item, the U.S. government has highlighted the ridiculousness of its embargo on Cuba by barring the Cuban national team from playing in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Shouldn't America's Pastime bring the Americas together?

I think it is time we be proactive and seek reconciliation with Cuba, rather than our current policy of "wait until Castro dies and hope for something better."

What message are we sending to the Cuban people? They share our continent, our history, our roots and our blood.

Play ball!

Sean Higgins

Raleigh
Yet Another Reason to Strike Down Cuba Embargo

Saturday, December 17, 2005

http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

The U.S. Treasury Department provided further evidence Friday that it is time for the United States to end its embargo against Cuba.

Citing regulations that should have been repealed decades ago, the department ruled that Cuban athletes cannot participate in the first World Baseball Classic -- or at least that part of the classic that is held in this country.

The tournament, to be patterned after World Cup soccer, is to included 16 teams, one of them Cuban. The games are to be played in the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Baseball is immensely popular in Cuba. A Cuban national team undoubtedly would be a strong international competitor.

But, the Treasury Department said, "the Cuba embargo prohibits entering into contracts in which Cuba or Cuban nationals have an interest."

Ridiculous.

The embargo serves no purpose.

It has not toppled Fidel Castro, and will not do so in the future.

It has not gained support from other nations, and will not do so in the future.

It has not isolated Cuba from the rest of the world; other nations have normal relations with Cuba.

As we noted on this page Thursday, there are compelling economic reasons for the United States to end its failed embargo.

The baseball tournament shows there are cultural reasons, too.
IOC Member Says Bush Administration's Decision to Ban Cuba From Baseball Tournament Bad for U.S.

By RONALD BLUM AP Baseball Writer

The Associated Press

NEW YORK Dec 16, 2005 — The Bush administration has blocked Cuba from playing in next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic. Now future U.S. Olympic bids may be in trouble as a result.

"It's for baseball to decide, but if they don't make a stand on something like that, then they will have big problems down the road," said Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member from Canada, said Thursday.

The U.S. Treasury Department denied a request by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for a permit to allow Cuba to send a team.

If not reversed, Pound said "it would completely scupper any bid" by the United States for the Summer or Winter Games.

Baseball officials said they had asked lawyers at Morgan Lewis & Bockius to attempt to have the Bush administration reverse the decision by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which by law must issue permits for certain transactions with Fidel Castro's communist country.

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said any fallout in the IOC was hard to predict because the USOC hasn't decided when it will make its next bid. But he also added: "Certainly it's important for any country that's bidding for the Games to be able to represent with confidence that athletes and coaches from around the world will be able to come to their country."
Cuba and U.S. Wheat Associates Sign Historic Agreement

USAgNet - 12/16/2005

Taking an historic and welcome step toward further normalization of grain trade between Cuba and the U.S., this morning Cuba's food buying agency committed to purchase half a million tons of U.S. wheat in the next calendar year.

Representatives from U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry's export market development organization, arrived in Cuba on Monday morning and were greeted warmly by the leadership of Alimport, the Cuban government's official food importers.

By Tuesday, the two groups agreed to cement deepening trade relations with a formal Letter of Intent.

In a moving ceremony held this morning in Havana, they signed the letter, spelling out the terms of the pledge.

"Recognizing the quality of the U.S. wheat and related products, as well as the professional performance of American wheat growers and processors, Alimport hereby undertakes to purchase 500,000 metric tons of wheat from American exporters in 2006," the letter states.
The purchases are subject to competitive pricing, delivery and other applicable terms.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Barrio Cuba: la responsabilidad madura de Humberto Solás

La Habana, 13 dic.- Barrio Cuba, la más reciente película del legendario realizador cubano Humberto Solás, arrancó lágrimas, aplausos del publico y unánime atracción de crítica en su sonado estreno habanero.

La cinta expresa "una constante" en la mayoritaria y altruista filmografía que se ha presentado a concurso en esta edición del Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano: la preocupación o más bien la responsabilidad de los realizadores por la suerte de su país.

Así aconteció con el Bruno Torres de El último rayo de sol; el Roman Chalbaud de El Caracazo; el chileno Victor Gómez de, Miguel, la humanidad de un mito, o la adaptación cinematográfica del libro de Jorge Franco, Rosario Tijeras.

La caída del campo socialista y la Unión Soviética en el período 1989-1991 entristeció en Cuba a un cineasta llamado Humberto Solás.

Como hombre inteligente, tenía todo el arsenal de conocimientos para calibrar el impacto que esa debacle tendría en la situación económica y de bienestar de sus compatriotas.

Al no disponer de otro "recurso del método" para ayudar a paliar la situación, acrecentada por el recrudecimiento del bloqueo de más de 40 años de Estados Unidos a Cuba, Humberto se dedicó a escribir desde esa fecha todo lo que veía, comprobaba, escuchaba y sentía.

Si un hombre puede compararse con un sismógrafo, ese fue Solás en aquellas circunstancias dramáticas.

El mismo introdujo reformas en su vida de artista y ser humano: si antes, en el orden personal, gastaba más, ahora lo hacía menos, y si durante un largo tiempo abogó por un cine de gran factura, ahora promulgó y lideró lo que dió en llamar "cine pobre". Fue su "venganza" contra las carencias materiales.

El reportero de Prensa Latina, su compañero en las aulas universitarias junto al editor Nelson Rodríguez (Memorias del subdesarrollo, Lucía) lo encontró feliz hace dos años en el I Festival del Cine Pobre que encabezó en la oriental ciudad cubana de Gibara.

Estaba eufórico, con muchas ganas de hacer cosas, entusiasmado con la técnica digital y el cine de bajos recursos; se hizo rodear de veteranos directores, operadores y actores amigos, como un jefe que planifica una batalla...artística.

Entonces llegó Barrio Cuba, magnífico fresco de su patria en estos tiempos en los cuales se recrudece el cerco imperialista con la ley Helms-Burton y las nuevas medidas del presidente George W. Bush que dividen a la familia cubana y tratan de ahogar por hambre a la Revolución.

Barrio Cuba llegó en un momento adecuado, cuando en América Latina estallan movimientos indígenas en México, Ecuador y Perú, en Venezuela se produce la Revolución Bolivariana liderada por Hugo Chávez y en Argentina la protesta de Néstor Kirchner al FMI.

Humberto Solás fue combatiente de la lucha clandestina contra la tiranía de Fulgencio Batista, y esa responsabilidad nunca lo ha abandonado hasta hoy.

-¿Qué piensa de esa etapa suya Humberto Solás, cuando era una especie de niño mimado del cine cubano, a esta otra de Barrio Cuba?.

-Antes me decían "discípulo de Visconti", "el príncipe", cosas así. Empiezo ahora a no deberle nada a nadie. Barrio Cuba la hice sin ningún referente. El tema lo sugería todo.

Esta cinta me sorprende en una etapa en la que estaba decepcionado con el cine después del fin de la guerra fría, cuando se generaron dos proyectos cinematográficos: el capitalista y el socialista.

Caí en cuenta de que un precepto de la nouvelle vague, el de "cierta irreflexión formal" estaba sobre el tapete.

-¿Cómo pudo dar un giro tan enorme a su anterior manera de hacer cine.
-Fui un cineasta privilegiado que trabajó con muchos recursos -y eso que soy cubano y tercermundista- y después de la caída del campo socialista me pasé 10 años sin hacer cine, como otros realizadores de mi generación.

Mayoritariamente los años 90 se corresponideron con obras de gente más joven.

Con Miel para Ochún descubrí el cine pobre y me agradó la idea de dar batalla desde esa circunstancia. Inicié el Festival de Cine Pobre en Gibara, que va por su segunda edición y se dieron otros pasos.

-¿Qué le reportó Barrio Cuba?.

-Tenía el proyecto y llamé a destacados intérpretes -creo que jamás se reunieron tantos de importancia en una cinta cubana- y a operadores.

No pidieron un centavo, trabajaron por amor al cine y por amistad. Eso me llenó de alegría porque se trataba de mi película más personal y parece que se dieron cuenta. Tomé el asunto con placer, algo similar al cumplimiento de un deber.

-¿Algún tropiezo?.

-Con el cuento que titulé Adela, protagonizado por Aurora Basnuevo, una excelente actriz cubana a quien le debemos mucho por la forma en que nos ha hecho reír durante tantos años.

Ese relato se salía del engranaje de las otras historias, quizás por ser el más dramático, el más trágico, pues tenía que ver con la muerte y la pérdida de la lucidez.

-Por primera vez trabajó con niños...

-Si. Eso representó una dificultad porque no encajaba en mis experiencias pero me asesoré. Considero que la película tiene una gran unicidad en la actuación.

-¿Le queda algo por decir...?

-Miel para Ochún y Barrio Cuba forman parte de una trilogía dedicada al pueblo cubano. Queda la tercera parte. (PL).
United States Should Lift Embargo Against Cuba

Thursday December 15, 2005

© 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc

The United States' restrictive policies on Cuba are out of date, self-defeating and harmful to the economies of Maine and the nation.
The decades-old embargo limiting U.S.-Cuban trade should be lifted -- even if Fidel Castro is still in power.

The sanctions, after all, accomplish nothing except to cause economic hardship for two nations. And because other countries, including Canada, are not honoring the embargo, the restriction's impact is minimal.

Yes, Castro is a dictator, whose communist regime is notorious for its human-rights violations and abuses, including harassing, detaining and even imprisoning people for political reasons. He is, by any measure, a bad guy who needed to go long ago.

But these concerns should not be reasons that businesses -- employers -- in Maine and across the United States should be prevented from selling as much as possible to Cubans.

The island nation, after all, is rife with potential. As proof, look at how a Maine trade delegation now in Havana has fared despite the federal limits placed on what can be sold to Cuba

Gov. John E. Baldacci, who spent Sunday and Monday in Cuba as part of the trade group, has signed a trade agreement with Cuban officials calling for them to buy $20 million worth of agricultural products from Maine companies -- including dairy cows, seed potatoes, apples, eggs, frozen fish, sardines, wood products and other goods -- over the next two years.

The agreement expanded on and finalized a preliminary, $10 million export agreement signed last year by Robert W. Spear, then Maine's agriculture commissioner, and by the head of Cuba's state-run, food-import agency. It makes Maine the 37th state that is selling millions of dollars in agricultural products to Cuba.

The successful trade mission, during which Baldacci and members of his staff met with and discussed agricultural issues with Castro, has generated greater sales commitments than the combined total of the three previous trade missions that Mainers have taken.

Baldacci, along with other state officials and business people from Maine, traveled to France in October, Germany and Italy in 2004 and Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2003. Maine businesses generated $5.2 million in sales from the France trip, $1.2 million from the Germany-Italy trip and $7.5 million from the trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Clearly, Cuba is a potentially lucrative market and trading partner.
We understand why the U.S. government broke diplomatic relations and ordered a trade and travel with Cuba in 1959, when Castro became premier, (he assumed the title of president in 1976.)

And it made sense when Congress passed a law in 2000 allowing American food and medicine to be sold to communist Cuba on a cash-only basis -- to be paid in full before the items leave American ports.
But today, the embargo's only demonstrable effect is to unnecessarily hinder economic -- and cultural -- interaction between the United States and Cuba. (Cuban products, including its famous cigars, still cannot be brought into this country.)

We agree with Baldacci, the sixth U.S. governor to travel to Cuba, that Maine should be a leader in the effort to expand trade with the island only 90 miles from Key West, Fla.

"We're working within the existing framework, trying to show other states the ability to trade with Cuba, and gain from Maine leadership," Baldacci said. "We hope to demonstrate how important this is."

This plan makes sense.

The federal government should take a close look at a trade-and-travel embargo against Cuba that made sense in 1959 -- and for many years after.

What was once a fitting political and strategic response to a communist dictator does little today except hurt the people and economies of the United States and Cuba.
Filmmaker Humberto Solas Talks about "Barrio Cuba": A declaration of love

Andres D. Abreu - cultura@granma.cip.cu


Tired of a certain stereotype of Havana, Humberto Solas decided to film Gente de pueblo —Ordinary People— which turned into Barrio Cuba —Cuba Neighborhood.

According to Solas, the foreign and superficial treatment of Havana on film started before Win Wenders came to Cuba, but it was his movie The Buena Vista Social Club that consolidated this image. An image generally reduced to the seaside Malecon, the dancing black woman, and many 1950s American cars, plus a chaotic, irrevocable and Manichean vision of Havana.

Such a rediscovery of Havana did not offer a real or complete picture. Now, Solas puts forth another image of Havana; more intense, mysterious and full of cultural diversity. “I submerged myself —Solas says— in this complex Havana that I love. The movie is also about its people, a non-judgmental, affectionate look at the characters that represent the majority of Cubans, those experiencing extremely difficult times in a country that has resisted 45 years of confrontation and blockade by the US.”

“No simplification or neo-tourism; the moviegoer is taken directly to the drama of the people and their unbreakable spirit of struggle. I achieved this by using everyday people that everyone can identify with because they are out there doing what they have to do to make ends meet, like all of us.”

Was there a prewritten script or did the stories come as the director delved into the neighborhood?

“In the 1990s, I wrote several stories as an outlet for my creativity. The stories told in the movie are from these. When I discovered that with digital technology I could make ‘low budget’ movies, I filmed Miel para Ochun. This experience allowed a veteran like me to make a comeback into the world of cinema. With this impetus and the new ideas of young filmmakers, I created the International Low-Budget Film Festival of Gibara in the eastern Cuban province of Holguin.

“It was during this time that I decided to make a trilogy and that the second film would be based on the stories I wrote in the 1990s. I picked five stories to include in a project that I called Gente de pueblo. I kept four of these and changed the name of the movie for marketing reasons. The Spanish representatives that helped in the production thought that the name of Cuba should be in the title. I liked the name Barrio Cuba because this country is like one big neighborhood where everyone is living the same experiences, where we are all equal and equitable even in poverty.”

The movie began to be filmed with a camera borrowed from a friend of actor Jorge Perogurria, the soul of this film. Then the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) got involved. After filming, the movie spent a few months in a drawer until a co-producer materialized and postproduction was started.

What are you most happy about after this long voyage and all your hard work as a filmmaker?“The reaction of the public, it was just as I had hoped. People feel that they are well represented and not stereotyped in this movie that is a declaration of love towards them.”

Taken from Granma Daily

Monday, December 12, 2005

Maine Governor Latest to Sign Cuba Trade Deal

By Marc Frank Sun Dec 11,10:19 PM ET

HAVANA (Reuters) - Maine Gov. John Baldacci, the third U.S. governor to travel to Cuba this year in search of trade, won a deal on Sunday to sell $20 million in farm goods to the country's state-run food import agency.

"We appreciate our trade with Cuba. It is good for our farmers and good for our state," Baldacci said, after signing a series of documents with Cuba's Alimport.

The governor of Nebraska visited Cuba in November and the governor of Louisiana in March, each walking away with similar agreements and meeting with President Fidel Castro.

Baldacci, a Democrat, is in Cuba with a delegation of businessmen, farmers and state officials. He arrived on Sunday and was expected to see Castro before departing on Monday, while other delegates may stay longer to negotiate contracts.

Food sales to Cuba on a cash basis only were approved by Congress in 2000 as an exception to the U.S. trade embargo enforced against Castro's leftist government since 1962.

In those five years, Cuba has grown to become the 26th largest market for U.S. agricultural exports, from 225th.

Alimport Chairman Pedro Alvarez said in a recent interview that the United States was Cuba's biggest food supplier, selling cereals, grains, poultry and other products.

The Bush administration, a fierce Castro critic with strong political ties to Cuban-Americans in Florida, has tried to hamper sales by tightening regulations and denying visas to Cuban agriculture inspectors.

U.S. farm groups strongly support the trade, as do many national and state-level politicians who are pushing for a further relaxation of U.S. sanctions.

Alvarez said on Sunday that food purchases from the United states amounted to $493 million so far this year, including shipping and other costs, compared with $474 million in 2004.

Cuba had already signed agreements to purchase Maine seed-potatoes and apples this year, but Alvarez said the deals had not materialized because the United States denied visas to his inspectors to visit Maine.

"We have to work with the congress and the administration on licensing and visas," Baldacci said, adding it would be a "step by step" process to further improve relations with the communist-run country.
Cuba Documents Case Against US

Analysis

Rickey Singh

Sunday, December 11, 2005

www.jamaicaobserver.com

"NO US citizen has ever been killed or injured, no facility, large or small, in that vast and rich territory has suffered the slightest material damage as a consequence of any action originated from Cuba..."

With that opening stance begins a chronicle of reported cases of terrorism and other acts of aggression directed at Cuba from the United States of America, as documented in a just-released book, Cuba, the Untold History. Chockful of details and photographs, including victims of the bombing by CIA-linked Cuban emigres of a Cubana aircraft in October 1976 that wasted the lives of all 73 passengers and crew members on board, the book was officially released in the Caribbean last week to coincide with the second Caricom-Cuba Summit in three years on Friday in Barbados.

In the section titled, in bold headline, Terrorism in Barbados, of this latest official publication in the fierce propaganda war between the USA and Cuba - dating back to March 1960 - there is a most interesting quotation:

"The CIA taught us everything - how to use explosives to kill, to make bombs. they trained us in acts of sabotage."It is attributed to Luis Posado Carriles in an interview with The New York Times published on July 12, 1998.

Posada has been identified as one of the masterminds of the Cubana bombing tragedy off Barbados in 1976. He is currently in protective custody in Texas on the strange charge of "illegal entry" into the USA, and not for terrorist activities.

There continues to be growing demands from Cuba, Caricom and Venezuela (of which he is a naturalised citizen), as one of the perpetrators of that horrific Cubana disaster.

Cuba, the Untold History, would most likely be countered by disinformation agencies and organs within the USA, including the network of anti-Castro organisations of the Cuban exile community.

The publication concludes with the following publishers note: "The terrorist activities covered in this book are only a sample of what the Cuban people have suffered for over four decades. During this period, 3478 people have died as a result of these activities, while a further 2099 have been injured or disabled. Damage to the Cuban economy is calculated to be US$121 billion..."

Caricom leaders, who were presented with copies of the book and also visited the monument dedicated by Barbados to the 73 victims of the Cubana bombing tragedy, included Prime Minister P J Patterson.

He was making his final appearance at such a summit ahead of demiting office next year as leader of the People's National Party and head of government.

President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana was also part of the wreath-laying ceremony in memory of the 53 Cubans, 11 Guyanese and five North Korean victims of the Cubana bombing tragedy. At the time of writing, the official Communique on the one-day summit was not ready for release. But it was expected to include a firm reaffirmation of Caricom's solidarity and friendship with the government and people of Cuba.

For, in the face of the unprecedented punitive, inhumane 43-year-old trade, economic and financial embargo by the world's sole superpower against that small Caribbean nation, Cuba has never wavered in sharing its limited resources to assist nations in our subregion of the Third World, ever since the dawn of its revolution.

President Castro is fully aware that while he could depend on Caricom's unswerving support for an end to the US blockade against Cuba, this grouping of 15 countries, including currently inactive Haiti, are also quite mindful, and realistically so, of maintaining good relations with any administration in Washington - without compromising their integrity and sovereignty.

In last Wednesday's Observer, I had reported on the spread of Cuba's programme of assistance to Caricom states over the past 32 years since diplomatic relations were established with the Cuban government.

But characteristic of the guiding leadership perspective of the legendary 79-year-old Castro, Cuba prefers to speak, officially, more about its gratitude to Caricom for its commendable role in helping to bring it out of the United States-influenced diplomatic isolation, than its various packages of aid.

It was in marking the 30th anniversary of Caricom's diplomatic initiative of December 8, 1972, that resulted in the first Cuba-Caricom Summit in Havana three years ago. Continuation of the process climaxed last Friday in Barbados as another milestone in friendship consolidation between Caricom and Cuba.

In 2005, as it has been for some 42 years, Cuba's seat in the Organisation of American States (OAS) remains vacant. Its government has determined that its return would be dependent on the termination of the economic, trade and financial embargo imposed by the USA which had initially led the campaign for its expulsion from that hemispheric body.
To the deep disappointment of successive US administrations, Cuba has broken the back of the diplomatic isolation to which it had been subjected for many years in this hemisphere.

This achievement came in the face of enormous pressures from Washington against hemispheric nations, including a startling unilateral geograhical redefinition by Washington of the Caribbean under Ronald Reagan's presidency to exclude Cuba from what in reality constitutes the Greater Caribbean.

Today George W Bush's administration continues to strongly resist Cuba's involvement in the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the realisation of which remains problematic with emerging schisms that include influential states like Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina.

Cuba, the Untold History marks a new chapter in a most disturbing, painful war involving two very unequal combatants in this hemisphere.
It is more than high time to bring closure to this war and all countries committed to peace, security and orderly development in this hemisphere should help to achieve it. This is a massive challenge, further complicated by the escalating tension in US-Venezuela relations.
Female Socialist Leads Chile's Presidential Race

http://www.theglobeandmail.com

By LOUISE EGAN

Monday, December 12, 2005 Page A12

Reuters News Agency LOS ANDES, CHILE -- In Los Andes, a small farming town in central Chile, voters going to the polls yesterday said they are proud a woman was leading the presidential race, but that they cast their votes for ideas, not gender.

Socialist Michelle Bachelet, a candidate for the ruling centre-left coalition that has governed Chile for the past 15 years, led presidential elections, but not by enough votes to avoid a runoff against a right-wing rival in January when she could become the country's first woman president.

With 82 per cent of the votes counted, Ms. Bachelet had 45.8 per cent and opposition candidate Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire from the moderate wing of Chile's conservatives, was second with 25.7 per cent.

Joaquin Lavin, another candidate from Chile's divided conservatives who have been out of power since Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship ended in 1990, ceded the election and said he would back Mr. Pinera in the second round.

"As a woman, a worker and a mom, I feel happy and hopefully Doctor Bachelet will win and show everyone we women are also capable," said Placeria Cuevas, 54, a grape picker in Los Andes, a quiet town at the foot of the mountains about 70 kilometres north of Santiago.

Women are a majority of voters in this conservative Catholic country of 16 million where divorce was not legalized until 2004.

Marta Lagos, head of the MORI polling firm, said a broad majority of the votes for Ms. Bachelet will come from women, adding that that even leftist Chilean men are "machista," referring to the Latin American term for male chauvinism.

She said she would be watching numbers carefully for signs that men were voting for far-left candidate Tomas Hirsch to the detriment of Ms. Bachelet.

A poll earlier this year showed 73 per cent of women aged 21 to 25 supported Ms. Bachelet.

"I'm not voting for Michelle just because she's a woman but also because she fought against the military government to recover democracy in this country," said Vania Alfaro, 34, a bank teller, one of 8,400 women voting in a school in Los Andes's main polling station.

If victorious, Ms. Bachelet would be the fourth elected woman president in Latin America after Nicaragua's Violeta Chamorro, Panama's Mireya Moscoso, and Guyana's Janet Jagan.

A political prisoner in Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship who went on to become defence minister, Ms. Bachelet's strongest opponents are Mr. Pinera, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mr. Lavin, a former Santiago mayor.

More women registered to vote this year in Chile because there was a strong female candidate, said Juan Ignacio Garcia, director of the government Electoral Service. "There is no doubt they will have an influence. Women are the key to the electoral system," he told El Mercurio newspaper.

A medical doctor, the 54-year-old Ms. Bachelet has not shied away from emphasizing her role as a separated, working mother of three to appeal to female voters.

"She has that feminine touch: intuition, the emotional sensitive, maternal aspect," said Lily Marchant, a nurse who supports Ms. Bachelet's proposed pension reforms.

But her liberal social ideas were a turnoff for preschool teacher Lily Acevedo, who yearned for a conservative leader. "The fact that she's a woman doesn't affect my decision. I don't agree with the left, it's time for a change."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

From the heart of Cuba, a love song for the Crescent City

Jazz currents swirl through the music of New Orleans and Havana

By David Cázares
Havana Bureau
Posted December 11 2005

HAVANA· -- The troubling images of New Orleans left in chaos and pain by Katrina astounded people around the world, but it broke hearts here. Centuries of commerce, migration, history and music bind these two cities, and musicians at this year's international jazz festival gave props to the Crescent City in their common language.

Two of Cuba's most prolific composers and internationally acclaimed bandleaders composed musical tributes to New Orleans and its people. Flautist Jose Luis Cortés of NG La Banda and jazz pianist Chucho Valdés want musicians and residents of New Orleans to know Cubans are with them as they rebuild.

Cortés, a black Cuban whose music blends a streetwise sensibility with jazzy sophistication, was particularly saddened that so many black people in New Orleans were among those most affected. "In New Orleans, there are black people," Cortés said. "In Cuba there are black people. Blacks came from Africa. We're all from the same place."

Cortés also wanted to reach out to his fellow musicians in New Orleans, who share his love of a treasured art form. "New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz," he said.

"I want to look for the currents of jazz that are within the music of New Orleans as much as they are in the music of Cuba."

The bandleader's composition, which he hopes to perform soon in a country accessible to musicians from both nations, is written for symphonic orchestra and his big band. Intended as an inspirational work, it fuses classical music with Afro-Cuban dance music and Yoruban chants.

The piece will be an expression of solidarity with the musicians there "and above all with the black community," Cortés said.

New Orleans is beloved in Cuba because of the cultural, historical and musical roots it shares with the island. Founded by Canadians working for France, New Orleans became a city under Spanish rule in 1762, and the first governor of Louisiana reported to the captain-general of Cuba. The Spanish gave New Orleans its structure and rebuilt the city after fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed most of it. Even in the fabled "French Quarter," Spanish architecture predominates.

New Orleans had a profound cultural relationship with the port city of Havana, ties that continued well into the 20th century, said Ned Sublette, author of the book Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. The island's habanera rhythm appears in the music of New Orleans in the first half of the 19th century and is the "Spanish tinge" that New Orleans jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton said was essential to the genre, Sublette said.

It is only fitting, Sublette said, that today's Cuban musicians would feel an affinity for New Orleans and its people. "New Orleans was the first important music city in North America," said Sublette, owner of New-York based Qbadisc, which specializes in music from the island. "The city that gave birth to jazz was in a constant, open circuit with Havana, and jazz was heard in Havana from early on."

Like New Orleans, Havana has played an important role in the development of jazz. Musicians in Cuba and the United States have long collaborated, particularly since the golden age of Cuban music in the 1940s and '50s.

After Katrina, many Cuban musicians dedicated their concerts to New Orleans. "New Orleans is part of the Caribbean community and like Cuba, the city has a strong African culture. I can't forget that New Orleans is a port city and that sounds travel," said Dr. Michael White, a clarinetist in the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. "It's a beautiful thing that Cubans are honoring New Orleans' musical heritage."

One of the most ambitious signs of support came from pianist Valdés, who helped close Havana's 22nd annual international jazz festival with a work that honored New Orleans.

Performing with Cuba's National Symphony Orchestra, the Cuban National Choir and his quartet, Valdés delivered a spectacular concert that fused the blues, classical music, gospel, Yoruban chants and straight-ahead jazz. In the tribute A Song to God, the composer's sister, Mayra Caridad Valdés, sang an ode to the music of New Orleans, "so beautiful and lovely," and to its people: "How many sad stories must be forgotten," she sang.

Valdés told the audience at the Teatro Mella that his work was a song of love, of peace and humanity. "This is a tribute to New Orleans, its history, the place where ragtime and the blues were born -- a tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, to Wynton Marsalis," he said. "It's for the musicians."

Staff writer Eliseo Cardona contributed to this report.

David Cázares can be reached at:
dpcazares01@yahoo.com.

www.sun-sentinel.com

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cuba to Play in World Baseball Classic

By ANNE-MARIE GARCIA

HAVANA (AP) - Cuba will participate in the upcoming World Baseball Classic in the U.S., a top sports official said Friday, confirming earlier remarks by President Fidel Castro.

Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez, president of the island's Olympic Committee, dispelled confusion surrounding whether Cuba would attend the inaugural, 16-nation tournament in March.

"With respect to the World Classic, I adhere to the words of Fidel on the two occasions he spoke about (the event)," Fernandez told journalists, declining further comment.

A Panamian newspaper reported earlier this month that Castro said Cuba would play in the inaugural, 16-nation tournament in March. Before that, during a televised speech in Havana, the Cuban leader gave some the impression he was confirming Cuba's participation but he never referred to the World Baseball Classic by name.

Cuba is slated to be in Group C with Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico, with games to be played at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium. It was not clear which Cuban players would comprise the island's team.

http://slam.canoe.ca
Cuba, Caricom Reject US Embargo

www.chinaview.cn

2005-12-10 10:26:40

HAVANA, Dec. 9 (Xinhuanet) -- The Caribbean Community (Caricom) and Cuba agreed to deepen cooperation and rejected the decades-old U.S. embargo on Cuba, Cuban leader Fidel Castro said here on Friday after attending the second Caribbean Community-Cuba Summit in Bridgetown, capital of Barbados.

In a statement issued after he returned here from the meeting, Castro said Cuba and Caricom "renewed our promise to increase the scope of our production and our cooperation in business and economy."

Castro also said: "We promised to redouble our efforts to implement the Cuba-Caricom Accord for Economic and Commercial Cooperation" adopted at the summit.

The parties to the agreement recognized the importance of international commerce for the Caribbean's sustainable development and rejected "unilateral actions" by the United States and the European Union.

"We reiterate our commitment to the sacred principles in the United Nations' Charter: multilateralism and the fundamental principles of international law, including respect for the sovereignty, states' equality before the law, and non-intervention... in other states' internal affairs," said a statement issued by the Caribbean Community and Cuba.

The document called for an immediate lifting of the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba which has lasted for nearly 50 years.

The document also said the two sides are against terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations" and called on all countries to complete the processing of all alleged terrorists.

It also requested the United States to extradite Luiz Posada Carriles, who is the principal suspect in an attack against a Cuban airliner which killed 73 people in December 1976. Previous such requests have gone unanswered by the United States.
UN Casts Record Vote Against US Embargo on Cuba

November 10, 2005

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Nearly every country in the U.N. General Assembly told the United States on Tuesday to lift its four-decade old economic embargo against Cuba in a record vote of 182 to 4 with 1 abstention.

The vote, held for the 14th consecutive year, was on a resolution calling for Washington to lift the U.S. trade, financial and travel embargo, particularly its provisions on penalizing foreign firms.

Voting "no" were the United States, Israel, Palau and the Marshall Islands. Micronesia abstained and El Salvador, Iraq, Nicaragua and Morocco did not vote.

Last year the vote was 179 to 4, with several countries not voting at all.

Cuba has been under a U.S. embargo since President Fidel Castro defeated a CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

Friends of the United States, including Canada, Japan, Australia voted "yes," although the European Union also strongly criticized Cuba's human rights record.

The measure is nonbinding and has had no impact on the United States, with the Bush administration having tightened restrictions against Cuba, including penalties against U.S. and foreign firms, visits from Cuban Americans, licensed travel and remittances to families.

But the resolution has given Cuba a morale boost, especially from South American and Caribbean nations and Mexico, which each year speaks in favor of the resolution.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque highlighted regulations tightening the use by Americans of Cuban products abroad, presumably smoking a Cuban cigar or drinking rum.

"In terms of insanity, this draconian prohibition should go into the annals of the Guinness Book of Records," he said.

The United States for the first time downplayed the debate. Its envoy, Ronald Godard, used a procedure allowing him to make a short speech from his seat.

"If the people of Cuba are jobless, hungry or lack medical care, as Castro admits, it is because of his economic mismanagement, not the embargo," Godard said.

He said Cuba's claims of being barred from importing food and medicine is baseless because the United States since 1992 had licensed over $1.1 billion in medical related goods and $5 billion in agricultural commodities in the past five years.

Nevertheless, U.S. agricultural exporters have complained that tougher payment procedures and letters of credit before shipments can leave U.S. ports have harmed their business.

Perez Roque said the U.S. government in 2004, imposed fines on 316 citizens for breaching provisions of the embargo and the number rose to 537 by October 12, 2005.

In 2004, he said a total of 77 companies, banks and private groups were fined for breaking the embargo. Some 11 of them were foreign companies or subsidiaries of U.S. firm in Mexico, Canada, Panama, Italy, Britain Uruguay and the Bahamas. Others were dissuaded from doing business with Cuba, including shipping companies and deep-sea oil drilling firms.

The U.S. action that had the most repercussion in 2004 was a $100 million fine the Federal Reserve imposed on the Swiss bank UBS for transferring new dollar bills to Cuba.

"Never before, as in the last 18 months, was the blockade enforced with so much viciousness and brutality," Perez Roque said.

Godard, however, said Cuba knew what to do. "Fidel Castro knows what it will take to end the embargo -- reforms that will benefit the Cuban people.

And he said the trade embargo "is a bilateral issue and should not come before the General Assembly."

Britain's envoy, Paul Johnston, agreed but slammed Cuba's human rights record, which he said continued to deteriorate and undermined medical and education achievements.

(Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Havana)
Judge Denies Bail for Two Cuban Exiles in Illegal Weapons Case

By Curt Anderson

The Associated Press

Posted December 9 2005, 5:09 PM EST

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A federal judge rejected a second attempt by two Cuban exiles to win release on bail before their trial on illegal weapons and other charges, ruling Friday that they were too dangerous to be free because of the deadly military nature of the weapons.

The machine guns, grenades, grenade launcher, detonation devices and thousands of rounds of ammunition seized in the case amounted to ``everything you need to carry out a bloodbath,'' said Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Hummel.

``These guns are offensive weapons under the law,'' Hummel said.

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn sided with prosecutors, upholding another judge's ruling denying bail for Santiago Alvarez, 64, and 63-year-old Osvaldo Mitat.

They are charged in a seven-count grand jury indictment with illegal possession of machine guns and other weapons -- some with serial numbers erased -- that were allegedly stored at an apartment complex near Fort Lauderdale owned by Alvarez.

``These weapons have no utilitarian purpose other than to harm others,'' Cohn said. Alvarez is a wealthy businessman who came to the United States in 1959 and is a benefactor to Luis Posada Carriles, accused by Cuba and Venezuela of masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner and of staging bombings in Havana in 1997 and 1998.

Posada, a former CIA operative, was arrested in Miami in May and is being held in El Paso, Texas, awaiting an immigration judge's ruling on whether he will be deported. Although Alvarez and Mitat, an employee of Alvarez's, are committed foes of Cuban President Fidel Castro, it's unclear what they intended to do with the weapons. They were arrested in November after Alvarez allegedly told a third man -- who turned out to be a U.S. government informant -- to drive the weapons from
Lauderhill to Mitat in Miami so that authorities would not discover them.

Prosecutors also say that Mitat told a Miami police detective after his arrest that he would exact revenge on the informant if they ever returned to Cuba, presumably after some future anti-Castro rebellion. Defense lawyers say they will contest the truthfulness of that informant.

Attorneys for Alvarez and Mitat repeatedly said that the weapons were never intended for use in the United States. They portrayed both men as U.S. patriots and prominent symbols of the decades-long struggle by Cuban exiles to topple Castro.

``These aren't criminals. These are two honorable men,'' said Kendall Coffey, one of Alvarez's lawyer and a former U.S. attorney in Miami. ``These men will be acquitted at trial.''

The lawyers also said that more than 5,000 people in Miami's Cuban-American community attended a prayer service for the two men Thursday night. About 30 family and friends attended Friday's hearing to show support.

Both men will plead not guilty at a formal arraignment Tuesday in Miami, their attorneys said. If convicted on all counts, prosecutors say they could each face more than 27 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.