Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Angá Díaz: "Echu Mingua"

www.newsday.com

Pop Music

Leading percussionist goes to the crossroads

Ed Morales

February 5, 2006

Latin music begins with the drum. It sings, dances, composes, improvises and tells the story of the song. Many of our favorite tunes are melodies transposed from the murmurs of a talking drum. But only a few drummers are allowed to "lead" the band - names such as Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaría. This month, in its now annual parade of releases, the World Circuit/ Nonesuch team who brought you the Buena Vista Social Club presents the Europe-based Cuban percussionist Angá Díaz.

Díaz's new album is called "Echu Mingua," after the Yoruban god Elegguá, often thought of as the guardian of the crossroads, sometimes the trickster. He's the one who haunted Robert Johnson's dreams, made Thelonius Monk get up from his piano and spin slowly in place. Díaz calls "Echu Mingua" a "religious service" of sorts, and it serves the purpose of guarding the crossroads between Cuban son, rumba, jazz, hip-hop and maybe even what Izzy Sanabria once called "salsa."

A gifted conga player, Díaz has an impressive track record: He began with the legendary Afro-Cuban jazz band Irakere; put in time with jazz experimentalists Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove; anchored Juan de Marcos' Afro-Cuban All Stars; and made a singular impression on bassist Orlando "Cachaíto" López's 2001 solo effort, one of the best Buena Vista spin-off albums. Díaz's presence contributed greatly to that album's forward-looking avant-garde edge.

"Echu Mingua" has a similar, live- in-the-studio feel to "Cachaíto." The resulting music is decidedly "Freeform" (the name of a hip-hop-inflected jam session), with several stops and starts in rhythm, style and influence. Tracks such as the flamenco-tango inspired "Ode Mar- tima" seem better suited for experimental dance than salsa, and "Conga Carnaval" sounds like Los Van Van partying on a Brazilian tour.

Some of the album's best moments are the jazz meditations. Monk's "'Round Midnight" becomes a chamber piece featuring conga, upright bass and strings; Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" is retrofitted for the 21st century. "Gandinga," a retake on the Afro-Cuban All Stars "Gandinga, Mondongo y Sandunga" - which is itself an update on Jerry González and the Fort Apache band's version of Monk's "Evidence" - feels fresh and original.

Díaz's roster of collaborators include African expatriates Baba Sissoko (vocals, percussion), Magic Malik Mezzadri (flute), Toumani Diabate (kora, a West African harp) and DJ Dee Nasty. This ensemble is most tangible in the Mali-Cuba fusion of "Tumé Tumé." But Díaz enlists strong Cuban players as well, most impressively pianists Roberto Fonseca, David Alfaro and the late Rubén González.

It may be that on first listen, "Echu Mingua" is all over the place. But that's only because Díaz is standing at a crossroads, trying to let so many varied strands of rhythmic tradition flow through his masterful hands. Sometimes you need to lose focus so you can hear the drums sing.

Crucial sonidos

Puerto Rican percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo's recent appearance with flamenco singer Miguel Poveda and guitarist Juan Gómez "Chicuelo" at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall was in some ways more satisfying than the Bebo and Cigala's bolero-flamenco fusion. Poveda and Chicuelo were in top form and amazingly, Hidalgo mimicked the castanets and the cajón on his conga drums ... Ricky Martin plays Radio City Music Hall (212-307-7171) Monday. ... Ana Gabriel plays the Theater at MSG (212-307-7171) Friday..

E-mail Ed Morales at sonidoslatinos@nyc.rr.com

Chicken has become the top U-S product exported to Cuba

www.wreg.com

NEW YORK

Arkansas companies are involved in selling food to Cuba.

A trade embargo is in effect with the communist nation, but food sales are allowed.

Chicken has become the top U-S product exported to the Caribbean island nation. That's according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York.

And that trade in chicken benefits companies like Arkansas' Tyson, which sells some of its goods to traders who resell it to Cuba.

Chicken sales to Cuba were worth 60 (m) million dollars in 2005.

Meanwhile, U-S rice sales to Cuba declined 39 percent from the year before. The trade group says that's probably because Cuba can receive better financing from China and Vietnam, which are both communist countries.

Stuttgart-based Riceland Foods said its rice sales to Cuba are down. The company says its last sale to Cuba was in November.

Cuba Makes First Cut Towards WBC Team


By Circles Robinson

Feb. 28 (CNA) Cuba will field a team loaded with talent that mixes veteran players with young prospects in the World Baseball Classic, which begins with the Asian teams playing March 3 in Japan and concludes in San Diego on March 20.

The island's preliminary roster of 60 players was reduced Monday to 35, announced Carlos Rodriguez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, on The Round Table TV and radio program.

The cut came after Cuba completed a three game sweep last week of the Nicaraguan national team 8-2, 9-3 and 13-0 and the millions of passionate fans could get a glimpse at the preparedness of their team.

By Thursday March 2, Cuba must present its final 30-man team that plays its first WBC game on March 8 against Panama in Puerto Rico, followed by Holland on the 9th and Group C favorite Puerto Rico on the 10th.

The average age of the players making the first cut is 28.

The 16 pitchers competing to make the final team include six left-handers: Adiel Palma, Norberto Gonzalez, Yosvani Perez, Yulieski Gonzalez, Maikel Folch and Yosvani Fonseca.

The right-handers are Pedro Luis Lazo, Vicyohandri Odelin, Yadel Marti, Jonder Martinez, Ormari Romero, Luis Miguel Rodriguez, Luis Borroto, Yunieski Maya, Yadier Pedroso and Deinys Suarez.

The catchers are Ariel Pestano, Roger Machado, Eriel Sanchez and Vladimir Garcia.

The eight infielders, led by Eduardo Paret, Michel Enriquez and Yulieski Gourriel, also include Juan Carlos Moreno, Rudy Reyes, Yorelvis Charles, Joan Carlos Pedroso and Ariel Borrero.

The preliminary team includes seven outfielders: Frederich Cepeda, Osmani Urrutia, Carlos Tabares, Alexei Ramirez, Yoandry Garlobo, Leslie Anderson and Yoennis Cespedes.

Manager Higinio Velez and head coach Benito Comacho told the nationwide TV audience that the players on the Olympic and World Cup champion Cuban team are highly motivated and in excellent shape for the tough competition promised in the World Baseball Classic.

The final 30-man Cuban team is scheduled to play tune-up games against Havana's popular Industriales team on Friday and Saturday.

Cuba, More Trade Despite Blockade

Havana, Feb 27 (Prensa Latina) Foreign trade, of special importance to Cuba since colonial times, has growing importance today due to the reinforcement of the US economic blockade.

The damage caused by that coercive measure to the country just in 2004 and 2005 exceeded a billion dollar.

In 2005, the country increased foreign trade 23 percent, a reversal of the situation in the 90s, triggered by Cuba´s loss of its traditional partners when socialist countries in the Soviet Union and Europe disappeared.

Cuba´s main trade partners now are Venezuela and China, followed by Spain and Canada.

This weekend at Expocuba, Cuban Foreign Affair Minister Raul de la Nuez also highlighted the increased trade with the region.

The Island´s total trade with Latin America and the Caribbean has grown from 50 percent to 72 percent.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Courting Cuba: New trade trip planned

WOWT.com - Omaha, Nebraska

Feb. 27, 2006

The state of Nebraska will send a third trade delegation to Cuba to sell agricultural commodities to the communist nation.

Governor Dave Heineman said Monday that Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach will lead a delegation on the April 17-20 trip.

The trip follows two visits in August and November, when nearly $30 million in Nebraska dry edible beans, wheat and soybean meal were sold to communist-run island's food import company, Alimport.

Heineman went on the first two trips.

"Based on recent conversations with Cuban officials, I believe Nebraska has a wonderful opportunity to build on the trading relationship that has already benefited farmers and ranchers across our great state," Heineman said.

Cuba has been under an American trade embargo for more than four decades, but a law passed by Congress in 2000 allows American food to be sold directly to the island on a cash basis.

Agricultural producers prepared to sell products in the Cuban market can contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at (800) 831-0550, and request more details about participating in the trade mission.

"Unlike most trade missions, the Cubans come to these meetings prepared to actively negotiate sales," Ibach said. "Relationships are less important to them than knowing that the people they are negotiating with can see a business deal through to delivery."

For the past four years, Cuba has contracted to buy more than $1.4 billion in U.S. farm goods, including shipping and hefty bank fees to send payments through third nations, according to Alimport's top official, Pedro Alvarez.

The great northern beans shipped to Cuba as part of the first Nebraska trade mission were the first from the United States since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

Heineman said his decision to stay home this time was not to avoid potential criticism for dealing with the communist nation just before the May 9 gubernatorial primary.

"I just don't want it to be viewed in the political context," he said. "This is all about a long-term relationship."

Heineman is vying for the GOP nomination with Rep. Tom Osborne and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Aasin Pena's Blog: A brief History of Cuba

www.progressiveu.org

Aasin Pena – Sat, 02/25/2006 – 10:35pm

I’m writing this blog because of some recent heated debate about Cuba under Castro’s rule with Cuban exiles. Let it be known now that I support the current state of Cuba. I am tired of reading the same old lies that Cuban exiles and their supporters tell to make Castro look like such a bad guy. So I’m going to try and clear somethings up. This is basically a quick history lesson about Cuba and them my views on the matter.

Ever since 1959, Cuba has been shunned in the United States as a communist nation that abuses it’s people and allows no differing views. This is what the average American thinks of when they hear the word Cuba. For anyone who has ever bothered to do even a little research into the subject they see how wrong such a viewpoint is.

Let us look at Cuba as far back as 1898. This was when Cuba had finally gained independence from Spain for good. The celebrations were short lived however, since most of the fighting and the victories were done by US soldiers. It became clear soon afterward that the US wished to control Cuba in one way or another. This wasn’t something that had just plopped into their heads though. The US had been planning this as far back as 1823. In a later between Nugh Helson and John Quincy Adams, it was decided that if Cuba were to ever break off from the Spanish Empire, then the annexation of the island was a top priority. Indeed the island widely known for it’s abundant sugar was something to be desired. Time sometimes never change as the Americans began beginning to bring their way of life to Cuba and it was decided that elections were to be held for the people to decide whether or not they wanted to be annexed. The Cubans made the point clear. Election results showed that a huge majority of Cubans wished to remain free from any form of rule other than their own. The Americans, upset with the outcome, then came up withthe idea of the Platt Amendment. This amendment basically gave the USA the right to intervene whenever they felt their “interests” were in jeopardy. These interests being the sugar plantations, the coaling and naval stations, and let us not forget Guantanamo Bay.

After Tomas Estrada, Cuba’s president, came into power, there were already signs of political unrest. So of course, the USA was called to keep the current administration in power. This kept going on with each passing president. Each seeming more corrupt than the previous. So let us turn to the most widely known and despised leader before 1959. His name was Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar. He had been a very popular leader when he ruled over Cuba in the early 1940s, but then all that changed when he performed a coup that ousted the current president. Not that it mattered really. Batista had been manipulating events behind the scenes since the 1930s. As opponents to the coup emerged, repression was put into place. This was not taken lightly by a young Fidel Castro. He set up an attack on the Moncada barracks but was easily defeated. He was captured and sentence to fifteen years in prison along with his brother Raul. He along with his brother were soon freed and fled into exile to Mexico. There they continued to plan for the defeat of Batista and eventually when back to Cuba on the ship Granma. They were discovered and attacked quite easily, and they became scattered. They didn’t give up though, and so guerilla warfare began. They attack barracks, police stations, anything that had to do with the military. Let the myth end right now that Castro’s guerilla forces ever killed civilians intentionally. In fact, they were very friendly to the natives and soon were enlisting local peasants. This didn’t fit well with Batista, who decided that the military could use any means necessary to get rid of the guerillas.

This included targeting peasants who were suspected of siding with the rebels. The military usually just killed everyone though. This provided even more men for the guerillas as growing discontent continued. They became so powerful that they were eventually taking over cities. From Santiago to Pinar del Rio. Eventually they reached their destination of Havana. With little resistance Havana was taken. Sadly Batista was not captured and fled to the Dominican Republic with family and friends to his fellow friend and dictator, Trujillo.

With Batista out of the picture, Castro brought forth his ideas. Ideas that Cubans had been fighting for decades to obtain. Castro ended segregation once and for all.

Now rich white Cubans would be treated the same as blacks and mestizos. An interesting story I would like to mention as a side note. Pancho, one of Che Guevara’s bodyguards, had gone into a very popular hangout for the wealthy. As soon as he arrived, he was asked to leave by of all people a fellow revolutionary When Pancho told Che and comrades what had happened, they took their rifles, stormed the place and kicked everyone out The revolution had no use for racist ideology.

Castro also brought along universal health care and free housing. Cubans were having it better off than most of Latin America at the time. The revolution thrived in the early years. Still though, the USA looked warily as Castro began to side more with the people, than with US corporations. Another issue was the fact that the revolution had begun to grab the attention of the Soviet Union. Castro didn’t mind the ttention.

Another myth that must end is the idea that the embargo was all of Castro’s fault. This is just another lie the Cuban Exiles like to make up. It had nothing to do with the fact that Castro nationalized just about everything (even if this were the reason, was it such a bad idea?). They were opposed to the revolution because according to them, “ Communists and other extreme radicals appear to have penetrated the Castro government. If Castro takes over, they will probably participate in the government.” The USA was to have none of this going on so close to Florida. Who would be surprised that the CIA began to plot the overthrow of Castro soon after the revolution’s victory? They had no problem doing such things in Guatemala, Chile, and the Philippines. So with that, the US embargo was put into place. They used other measures as well. They funded Cuban exiles in the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bombing of the Belgium Freighter in a Cuban port which killed over 100 people and wounded about 300, and let us not forget the bombing of an airplane killing all of Cuba’s ping pong team. These exiles would use any sort of terrorism to get the job done. These are just a few of the many acts of terrorism performed by the US government to get rid of Castro. Not only that, but the embargo has caused Cuba to lose about 30 billion dollars. So much money that could have gone to the suffering people of Cuba lost. Such doings show that when US interests are at stake, they don’t care who suffers.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba had to look for new ways to provide for themselves. It must be said that Cuba was like a child and the USSR it’s father.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Cuba had to grow up very fast. It did too Many people predicted that the Cuban people would oust Castro, but they stood by the man. This shows that they have never faltered in their support for him and the revolution. So when exiles go and say that they never rebelled because of fear, ask them this. Why were they never afraid when Machado, Batista, and the horrible Spanish Empire ruled over them? You will soon see that they have no legit answer.

Today Cuba is not so well known for it’s sugar. Most money Cuba makes comes from the tourism industry. The money made from this business goes directly to the people. It may be true that they have crummy homes and may sometimes be lacking in medicine, but think of this. No other nation in Latin America offers this to their people. Also think about how Cuba, this third world country, has somehow been able to have a healthcare system that is actually better than the United States? I ain’t making this up people. Cuba really does have a better system. Childbirth mortality rates are lower than in the United States alone. Imagine how much better Cuba would be if the US ended the embargo. I would venture to say that it’s days of being a third world country would be over quite quickly.

So after reading this, go off and show support to Cuba. A country that continues to defy the odds and has reached goals even industrialized nations have yet to achieve. Don’t believe the lies told to you by the US government and Cuban Exiles. Go out and grab a book. The book I am currently reading is a good one. It covers much more and shows how “oppressed” the Cuban people really are.

Hasta La Victoria Parasiempre - Che Guevara
Patria o Muerte -Fidel Castro

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My reply, as posted in Aasin's blog:

In general terms, I think you wrote a good post for your blog. But there are a couple of facts that you got wrong.

1. You said : "Let us look at Cuba as far back as 1898. This was when Cuba had finally gained independence from Spain for good. The celebrations were short lived however, since most of the fighting and the victories were done by US soldiers."

That is incorrect. The North-American imperialists intervened in 1998 because the Mambises were on the verge of victory against Spain, and Cuba was ready to slip away from their sphere of influence. The American soldiers won very few battles because it was a short lived involvement. The intervention had the sole purposse of preventing Cuba from becoming a truly independent nation. During the Neo-Republic (1902-1958) Cuba was, for all practical purposses a colony of the United States. Only on January 1, 1959 Cuba truly became an independent nation. Now, Cubans govern Cuba, instead of the American ambassador, when Batista was their supported puppet.

2. It was Cuba's fencing team, not a ping pong team, that perished in the 1976 Cubana de Aviacion bombing.That act was carried out by Cuban CIA opperative Luis Posida Carriles, who is George W. Bush's favorite terrorist. He is sitting in jail now in El Paso, Texas, for entering the country illegally, and not because the goverment may charge him with the crime of terrorism.

The current U.S. government is very hypocritical when talking about terrorism: CIA trained terrorists, like Posada Carriles, that's good. Fanatical muslim terrorists, that's bad.

Jorge Gonzalez
http://cubajournal.blogspot.com
Jorge Gonzalez (not verified) – Sun, 02/26/2006 – 12:48pm

Cubans Train for WBC


Varios integrantes de la preselección cubana entrenan antes de enfrentarse al equipo de Nicaragua. (EFE)

Photo courtesy of Ultima Hora, Puerto Rico

Visit HitBoricua.com

HitBoricua.com

PRIMERA HORA - PUERTO RICO: Agradecidos por el gesto de solidaridad


PRIMERA HORA > ACCION DEPORTIVA


jueves, 23 de febrero de 2006

Benjamín Morales Meléndez
Enviado especial PRIMERA HORA

Cuba reconoce que su presencia en suelo boricua se debe a una intensa batalla ante el Gobierno de Estados Unidos. (Enviado especial / David Villafañe)

LA HABANA, Cuba.- Desde que se desató la polémica por la negativa del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos a permitir la participación de Cuba en el Clásico Mundial de Béisbol, los directivos de la pelota cubana nunca dudaron de que se haría justicia, pues siempre contaron con que Puerto Rico defendería la integridad del deporte por sobre todas las cosas.

Y así ocurrió. Cuba recibió el permiso de jugar a partir del próximo 7 de marzo en San Juan.

Los cubanos reconocen que su presencia en suelo boricua se debe a una intensa batalla que se inició por la idiosincrasia boricua de que el deporte no se mezcla con la política.

"Tenemos que agradecer a (Israel) Roldán, presidente de la Federación de Béisbol de Puerto Rico, y a la prensa de Puerto Rico por ser los iniciadores, cuando hablaron de la renuncia a la sede del Clásico, para que el buen derecho de Cuba a participar en el evento fuera ejecutado", dijo a PRIMERA HORA el vicepresidente de Cuba y presidente del Comité Olímpico Cubano, José Ramón Fernández.

"Nos alegró ver con cuánta dignidad los hombres y mujeres del deporte en Puerto Rico reclamaron sus derechos sin interferencias a ser sede de ese torneo", sostuvo Fernández.

Un poco de trasfondo

El Departamento del Tesoro emitió una sorpresiva decisión mediante la cual prohibió la participación de Cuba en el Clásico por entender que violaba las disposiciones del embargo económico aplicado a la isla. Según el Tesoro, Cuba devengaría dinero estadounidense por su participación en el evento, lo que violaba las disposiciones del bloqueo.

La acción del Gobierno estadounidense provocó una reacción airada entre la comunidad deportiva boricua, que la vio como un atentado contra la soberanía deportiva nacional y las disposiciones de la Carta Olímpica. Ante ese escenario, Roldán envió una carta a la Federación Internacional de Béisbol (IBAF) en la que anunciaba su intención de renunciar a la sede del Clásico si Estados Unidos mantenía su decisión. Una determinación que contó con el respaldo de la comunidad olímpica boricua y que desató una ola de críticas al veto del permiso a nivel internacional que desembocó en una advertencia explícita del presidente del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI), Jacques Rogge, de que la posibilidad de montar unos Juegos Olímpicos en Estados Unidos se reducirían considerablemente en el futuro por su política migratoria con Cuba y otros países.

Luego que Cuba decidió donar su dinero a las víctimas del huracán Katrina y que Major League Baseball (MLB) reformuló su solicitud de permiso de entrada, el Departamento del Tesoro revocó su decisión y permitió a los cubanos jugar.

Los jugadores dan las gracias

En Cuba sostienen que nada de lo ocurrido se hubiese logrado sin el paso valiente de Puerto Rico y, hasta los propios jugadores del equipo cubano que participará en el Clásico lo entienden así, por lo que retribuirán a los puertorriqueños de la mejor manera que lo saben hacer, jugando buen béisbol."Queremos dar las gracias a Puerto Rico por defender nuestro derecho a jugar. Gracias a esa lucha estaremos en el Clásico", dijo el jardinero corto Eduardo Paret, quien fue el capitán de la novena cubana en la pasada Copa Mundial en Holanda en la cual los cubanos ganaron el oro.

El estelar antesalista Yulieski Gourriel, estrella indudable del combinado cubano, concurre en un 100 por ciento con las palabras de Paret.

"A Puerto Rico quiero decirle que el equipo va a brindarle un gran espectáculo. No los vamos a defraudar y vamos a darlo todo en el terreno para agradecer la lucha que dieron por nosotros", afirmó. "A los puertorriqueños que sepan que vamos a jugar duro para ellos y porque vamos a traer la medalla de la dignidad, que es la primera que nos exigen en Cuba y la que vamos a buscar", agregó Gourriel.

¿Y las visas, dónde están?

El extraordinario esfuerzo logró el permiso de jugar, lo cual fue considerado una proeza por el vicepresidente Fernández.

El ciclo, sin embargo, todavía está inconcluso, pues ayer venció el plazo negociado para otorgar el visado y las autoridades cubanas no informaron de ningún movimiento.

El director de Prensa de MLB, Pat Courtney, indicó ayer que se firmó un acuerdo entre el Gobierno estadounidense y los organizadores del Clásico que, al parecer, allana el camino para que el visado sea aprobado sin contratiempos.

"Ya se firmó un acuerdo con el Gobierno el pasado viernes y una de las cosas que pusimos claro fue que la participación del equipo de Cuba fuera garantizada", manifestó Courtney.

Ante este panorama sólo queda cruzar los dedos y esperar por las visas, pues la gran batalla ya se libró y se ganó.

(Lester Jiménez colaboró con esta nota en Puerto Rico.)

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My thanks to our PuertoRican brothers for fighting so hard to make sure that Cuba was a participant in the World Baseball Classic. May the best team win! (JG)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Contreras' heart with Cubans at Classic


A seven-year veteran of Cuba's national team, Jose Contreras compiled a 117-50 career record in Cuban League play. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

World Baseball Classic/Clásico Mundial de Béisbol

Friday, February 24, 2006 10:37:00 AM

White Sox righty expects a good showing from his country
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- White Sox starter Jose Contreras resides comfortably in the present as a millionaire, a star, a World Series champion and baseball hero here in this country.

He'll also occasionally, sometimes daily, dip into his past in another land. It's a journey to a yesteryear that saw him dominate every hitter and rise to fame on his way to becoming one of Cuba's most popular athletes. The path included poverty, several soul-searching decisions, and the eventual defection to the United States in 2002.

Contreras' past and present are coming together again and he knows it. When Cuba takes the field in the first round of the World Baseball Classic next month in Puerto Rico, Contreras' heart will be with them.

His body will be a thousand of miles away, still in White Sox camp.

"If Cuba wins, it is expected. If they lose, there will be a lot of explaining because baseball is the top sport and if you don't win, it's a problem," Contreras said. "The pressure is going to be double for Cuba. You have the government watching and you are playing against the best players in the world. This will be the best competition Cuba has ever played against."

Contreras knows of what he speaks. A seven-year veteran of Cuba's national team, Contreras compiled a 117-50 career record with a 2.82 ERA in Cuban League play. In the 1999 Pan American Games, 2000 Olympics and '01 World Cup, he went 7-0 with a 0.59 ERA and allowed only 36 hits in 66 innings pitched while striking out 66. Fidel Castro nicknamed him "The Titan of Bronze."

As a team, Cuba won the gold medal for baseball in the Olympic Games in 1992, 1996 and 2004. In 2000, the team lost in the final to the United States. Contreras said he made about $20 a month as the star of the team.

"I want Cuba to win [the World Baseball Classic]," Contreras said. "I know some people associate the worst things in the world with Cuba but I support the baseball team, the players and my friends, not the government. I would love to talk to them, but I am not allowed.

"If they see me and talk to me, they will be punished," he continued. "Imagine if I could play with the Cuban team? They don't let me. The government is mad at me and I don't want to be political. I play and they put me together with Fidel as a supporter of the government. I'm Cuban and I love my country and the people, but I can't play with them because of politics."

Unlike other Latin American countries, Cuba does not allow its players to leave the country to play professionally in the Major Leagues. For Cuban players, defection is the only way to play in the big leagues since Castro took over power in 1959. Current Cuban players are not allowed to associate with defected players.

The selection process for the Cuban national team is an in-depth process, Contreras said.

"The invited are young players who are followers of the revolution and have a clean background. If you have relatives who live in other places in the world, it will be really difficult to be taken out of Cuba on that team," Contreras said. "For example, if you have an uncle who lives in Miami, it's going to be real hard for you to leave the country. They worry that you will stay there."

Contreras grew up in the rural area of Las Martinas, outside of Havana, and was a believer in Castro's communist government. He admits to not having the best things in life, but he had his family and friends and that was enough. Baseball was not his way out of poverty. It was a way of life.

Television and free-speech newspapers were unheard of. The Internet? Nobody has the Internet. Information, all information, was limited -- which at the time was fine for Contreras.

"I lived 32 years in Cuba, eight years traveling with the team, and I came to the United States five times and I never stayed," Contreras said. "For me Cuba was the best. All I heard before was about the "Imperialist Yankee" and how bad the government is in this country, and you grow up believing Cuba is the best. Fidel is the best. The U.S. is the worst.

"Think of a horse, we in Cuba have blinders on the side of our face and do not see everything on the side. In front of us, we do not see everything because there is another wall in front of us keeping us from seeing it all."

The U.S. Government originally refused to give Cuba a license to participate in the World Baseball Classic because of financial concerns, but the issue was eventually resolved. Cuba will play Panama on March 8 in their first game of the World Classic, and Contreras expects a good showing from his country. He also expects opposing players to be surprised by the behavior of the Cuban team.

He believes the fear of the unknown off the field will be apparent.

"On the team, there are probably 10 players who work like spies. They see you doing something that is suspicious, and they go tell on you," Contreras said. "Players [from other teams] will talk on the field. I know that, but you can't talk anywhere else. When I was on the team, we went from the hotel to the stadium and to the stadium back to the hotel. People see you talking to people, you will be in trouble. I know some players are going to ask the Cubans to go eat or go get a beer. The Cuban players will be scared. They will run away because of the fear. That's how it is in Cuba."

On the field could be a different story. Michel Enriquez and Osmani Urrutia are expected to anchor the offense. Outfielder Yoennis Cespedes, along with infielders Joan Pedroso and Leslie Anderson, are also expected to star for the team. Pitchers like 35-year-old left-hander Adiel Palma and 38-year-old Ormari Romero will anchor the staff.

Recognize the names? Most don't.

"They are a little bit of a mystery because of the uncertainty of who they are going to bring," United States manager Buck Martinez said. "We hear that the roster that they have submitted has an average age of 24. That's a pretty young roster. It's kind of surprising, but everybody expects that they will have a very representative team."

"Everybody knows the quality of players from Cuba," Contreras said. "All of the championships we won -- you have to be one of the best in the whole country to be one of the 25 who are coming."

How many of the Cuban players will make an attempt at defecting? It's a question not even Contreras knows the answer to. He does not want to guess. His wife and two daughters joined him in 2004 after reaching Florida via speedboat. Contreras' family was denied permission to leave the country by the Cuban government.

"I don't criticize the players in Cuba and I don't blame them," Contreras said. "It is such a personal decision that I don't think anybody knows until you do go through it and walk by our sides.

"Some say they know Cuba or have been to Havana, stayed in the nicest hotels and walked around. That's not Cuba. Walk in our shoes. Eat what we eat and get on those crowded buses and live in the homes like we do. Try to spend money and have people not accept it because you are Cuban. I have more money than I dreamed of, but my family cannot spend it in Cuba. You come as a tourist, yes, they will take your money and show you a good time. You live there and have money, they shut doors on you.

"Don't tell me what it is like to be in Cuba or play for the team if you have not done it because you don't know."

The world will get a peek next month.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com.

February 24: The Rebirth of Cuba’s Independence Aspirations


Períodico26.cu

On February 24, 1895, Cuban revolutionaries, after the failed emancipation effort of 1868 against the Spanish colonial powers, attempted a new uprising. It was Sunday and the date coincided with the start of carnival celebrations.

In a letter sent by Juan Gualberto Gomez to Cuba's Independence Hero Jose Marti —who, at the time, was in exile in the United States— he said "We accept the new change," in clear reference to the approval by the leaders on the island of the new date established to start the uprising.

Notwithstanding, the uprising did not take place at the same time and with same impetus throughout the island. Complicating the matter was the Spanish government that had been warned and organized a raid against the revolutionaries.

Havana´s commander Julio Sanguily was taken prisoner, while Juan Gualberto Gomez could not carry through with his uprising due to a lack of material and human resources. In the province of La Villas, the operation did not produce the expected results and in Camaguey nothing happened at all.

Despite these setbacks, February 24 marks the beginning of a new epoch in the history of Cuba, as rebels in the eastern part of the island, responding to the call, launched a successful uprising rebellion, known today as the Cry of Baire, in honor of the little town where the rebellion started.

Although the autonomous opposition movement had tried to thwart the insurrection, they were unable to put out the flame of revolutionary determination. Jose Marti's committed and patient work in the preparation of the war had not been in vain; weeks later the war began to gain momentum until the whole country became a battlefield.

With the incorporation of other leaders such as Antonio Maceo, Maximo Gomez, and Jose Marti himself, the rebels' confidence grew to such an extent that an uneasy Spain appointed Arsenio Martinez Campos, an experienced and ruthless military professional, as Captain General of the island in a failed move to prevent the consolidation and expansion of the war.

Cuba Defeats Nicaragua 8-3 in WBC Tune-up

By Circles Robinson

Períodico26.cu

Cuba and Nicaragua were locked in a closely fought baseball game Thursday evening until the seventh inning when the explosive Cuban offensive scored four times to take a decisive 8-3 lead.

The two teams played the first of a three game tune-up series in Havana; Cuba in preparation for the World Baseball Classic (March 3-20) and Nicaragua for the Central American Games March 3-16).

Vicyonhandri Odelin started for the Cubans but had trouble keeping his pitches down and was knocked out of the box with back to back doubles in the third inning.

Yadel Marti came on in spectacular fashion, and although he gave up a hit that allowed Nicaragua to go ahead 3-2, he then retired the next 10 batters, setting the stage for the island’s hitters to break through with the go ahead run in the sixth and the icing in the seventh.

A solo homerun by Alexei Ramirez in the fourth against Nicaraguan starting pitcher Aristides Sevilla had tied the score.

Sevilla, who went 5.1 innings, was applauded for his effort by the Cuban fans when he was replaced by Julio Raudez, after Cuba went ahead 4-3 on a single by Ariel Borrero and a double by Ariel Pestano.

Raudez got out of the sixth without further damage, however, in the seventh, the Cuban team pounded him for four runs led by doubles by Michel Enriquez, Rudy Reyes and Joan Carlos Pedroso.

Yadier Pedroso pitched the final two scoreless innings for Cuba to preserve the victory.

The play of the game came in the second inning when Nicaragua’s third baseman Jorge Luis Avellan fielded a blazing one-hopper by Eduardo Paret that looked like extra bases. Avellan touched third and threw hard to first for a double play.

In all, the Cuban team pounded out 13 hits to Nicaragua’s seven. The three game series continues on Friday and Saturday. Thursday’s game was televised on both Cuban and Nicaraguan TV.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Cuba Honors 45th INDER Anniversary


Photo: José Tito Meriño

Havana, Feb 23 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) celebrated its 45th anniversary as main promoter of sports, whose practice is a right for all Cubans.

Council of State Vice Minister and Cuban Olympic Committee President Jose Ramon Fernandez made an address on Thursday to extol sports achievements since the Revolution´s triumph in 1959.

Those results were achieved "despite many aggressions and the over 45-year rigid blockade preventing us from buying the materials and instruments our athletes need to train," asserted Fernandez.

He criticized the US for denying visas to Cubans to participate in international events, its attempts to steal athletes, and "the policy of hostility" Washington applies on Havana in all sectors.

The COC leader recalled that INDER was founded to develop sports as a true right of the people, free and for all citizens irrespective of their age, sex or religion.

Fernandez also referred to the 52 gold medals, 45 silver and 41 bronze (138 medals) Cuba has won between the Rome 1960 Olympics and Athens 2004, the world´s largest number of medals per inhabitant.

"Only a socialist revolution led by President Fidel Castro can attain and put in practice a sports movement like that of Cuba," he maintained.

Communist Party Political Board member Esteban Lazo, INDER President Cristian Jimenez, outstanding athletes, and baseball players currently in tryouts for the World Baseball Classic attended the activity to celebrate the historic date.

Betancourt's daring dash from Cuba into Mariners' lineup not yet complete


Seattle Mariners infielder Yuniesky Betancourt prepares to throw during a drill at baseball spring training, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2006, in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Yuniesky's Stats

SeattlePI.com

Thursday, February 23, 2006 · Last updated 6:43 p.m. PT

By GREGG BELL
AP SPORTS WRITER

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners manager Mike Hargrove mentions Yuniesky Betancourt as one of a handful of Seattle players he wants to see steal more bases this season.

"A large part of it is a willingness to take risk," Hargrove said Thursday.

No one - not the Mariners, not Betancourt's beloved mother and grandmother in Via Clara, Cuba, and absolutely not the Cuban government - needs to talk to Betancourt about his willingness to take risk.

It's been 27 months since the then-21-year-old joined nine countrymen aboard a smuggler's motor boat at 2 a.m. for a trip three months in the making. He left with only the clothes he was wearing and without telling his family he might never return to Cuba.

Over four days of rough seas, the boat maneuvered away from pursuing Cuban police. Away from a life of stifling limitations and unfilled potential. And, most painfully, away from mother Maura and grandmother Maria, who raised and loved Betancourt - now the Mariners' most dazzling shortstop since Omar Vizquel.

The boat was forced to spend one night on a small island to wait out rough Caribbean seas. Finally, it reached Cancun, Mexico. Meanwhile, Cuban authorities in Via Clara had told Maura and Maria that Yuniesky was dead.

"For me, it was very difficult. I try to put it out of my mind," Betancourt said last week through an interpreter.

After his daring dash, the former second baseman for his hometown team in the Cuban major league spent all of 2004 shuttling between two temporary homes in Mexico, with a March detour to a tryout in Los Angeles.

"I can't imagine what he went through," Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre said of his infield partner. The veteran Puerto Rican has become one of Betancourt's Mariners mentors.

After playing a handful of games in the Mexican Winter League, Betancourt got approval to live and play in the U.S.

The Mariners, who had been impressed with Betancourt's defense, his speed and his .523 batting average for Cuba at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, signed him in January 2005 to a $3.65 million, four-year, major league contract.

He began last season at Double-A San Antonio. The Mariners were unsure whether to keep him a second baseman or make him a shortstop or perhaps even an outfielder.

By July, four months into his only U.S. baseball season, Betancourt had arrived in Seattle. His first game was at second base. But he soon became an invigorating, often astounding shortstop, a refreshing hope within another, otherwise hopeless Mariners season. He made diving, darting, acrobatic plays, ones not seen in Seattle since Vizquel last played shortstop for the team in 1993.

Now the Mariners and new hitting coach Jeff Pentland are refining Betancourt. They are working on improving his .256 batting average of last season. They are trying to get him to hit more ground balls and line drives to the opposite field.

But, as Pentland said, "defense is his number one priority. Offensively, it will come. He is an impressive young man. And he is a tremendous talent."

When asked what he likes most about being a major league player, Betancourt said with a laugh, "Everything."

He loves the rapport he has with the team's Latin players. Loves impromptu Latin dancing and card games in the middle of the clubhouse. And he loves getting cash per diems for food on top of his salary - even though players eat most of their meals in the clubhouse.

"Honestly, this is where I wanted to be my entire life," he said through interpreter Gillian Hagamen of the Mariners' public relations department.

"It feels good to be me right now."

Still, his dash from Cuba is not yet complete, not while his mother and grandmother are still there. (Betancourt also remains in contact with his father, but his mother and grandmother primarily raised him.)

He talks to them "about every other day" on the telephone. He is supporting them financially. He has ensured they have Internet access so they follow him when they can.

Betancourt is working through the U.S. Treasury Department, which enforces sanctions against foreign governments, to get letters of permission for the Cuban government to issue visas for Maura and Maria's safe passage to this country. The process could take years.

"I would like to see them," he said softly. For now, he can only dream of a reunion.

Seattle PI Article: February 24, 2005

FBI Interrogators in Cuba Opposed Aggressive Tactics


The Washington Post

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 24, 2006; Page A16

FBI officials who were interrogating terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002 and 2003 strenuously objected to aggressive techniques the military was using and believed they could be illegal, according to FBI memos released yesterday.

The agents wrote in memos and e-mails that they were at odds with interrogators working for a Defense Intelligence Agency human-intelligence group and with guidance from senior Pentagon officials. The agents also repeatedly expressed their concerns to the senior military officer at the base, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, and said that the less aggressive FBI-approved methods were more effective.

"Although MGEN Miller acknowledged positive aspects of this approach, it was apparent that he favored DHS's interrogation methods, despite FBI assertions that such methods could easily result in the elicitation of unreliable and legally inadmissible information," one FBI agent wrote to senior FBI officials in May 2003, referring to the Defense Humint Service. Miller later traveled to Iraq and oversaw all detention operations there.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the memos in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, first released versions of them in December 2004. But the memos released yesterday included previously blacked-out statements and detailed discussions of the FBI's concerns.

"Now we can say that the documents show conclusively that abuse and torture at Guantanamo was not the result of rogue elements but was the consequence of policies deliberately adopted by senior military and Pentagon officials," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer.

Air Force Lt. Col. John Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, said a series of investigations and reviews have shown that Defense Department officials never encouraged or condoned abuse. "No matter how hard some may try to manipulate documents and information to support their myth, the facts tell a different story," Skinner said. "Guantanamo remains a safe, humane and professional detention operation."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved an expanded list of interrogation tactics in December 2002 for use on an important suspect. Rumsfeld later rescinded the list. A military investigation into allegations of abuse at Guantanamo Bay found that the cumulative effect of the detainee's treatment was abusive but not illegal.

One FBI agent wrote in an e-mail that he observed two military interrogators "showing a detainee homosexual porn movies and using a strobe light" in an interrogation room adjoining one he was using, adding that he had also heard of detainees being wrapped in Israeli flags. Detainees have complained of similar treatment.

The FBI documents also show that FBI officials declined to get involved in investigating abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in January 2004, days after officials learned there was photographic evidence of abuse and several months before it became public.

"First, the matter truly is outside our mission and would squander resources," wrote an FBI official on Jan. 22, 2004. "Second, we need to maintain good will and relations with those operating the prison. Our involvement in the investigation of the alleged abuse might harm our liaison."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dorgan and Johnson Say State Department Refuses Effort to Help ND Farmers Gain Greater Access to Cuba Marketplace

Farm & Ranch Guide

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 5:22 PM CST

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson met with top State Department officials in the Senator's Washington office today to urge the agency to approve a visa for a top agriculture official from Cuba who is interested in brokering a deal to purchase North Dakota farm products.

Dorgan said the State Department officials refused to agree to grant a visa to Pedro Alvarez, Chairman of Cuba's food import company Alimport, so that he could travel to North Dakota and other states interested in selling their agriculture products to Cuba. The officials said the visa would violate the Administration's policy toward Cuba.

Dorgan said that instead of having a serious discussion about how to help American farmers sell to the Cuban market, State Department officials only gave "more rhetoric about an outdated foreign policy toward Cuba. There is no valid reason to withhold food from the Cuban people, and to deny American farmers the business that would come from facilitating agriculture sales to Cuba."

"North Dakota producers had a big win earlier this year when we brokered a trade deal with Cuba. We're just going to have to keep fighting for additional agreements like that despite the hurdles the State Department is putting in the way," Johnson said.

Dorgan said the State Department officials told him they would consider granting a visa to lower-level Cuban officials. Dorgan said, "that would be better than nothing, but I will not let up on challenging the Administration on this Byzantine policy that relies on using food as a weapon in the name of democracy. It's outdated, ineffective, and overall absurd."

Cuban Salaries are more than Meet the Eye

Periodico 26.cu

By Angel Rodriguez Alvarez -AIN Special Report-

The circulation of two national currencies with different values in Cuba has become a topic of debate among the people. The issue has brought about some confusion especially when the average salary of a worker is 400 Cuban Pesos; the equivalent of 16.60 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC), the island's hard currency valued at 8 percent more than the US dollar.

From a mathematical point of view, the conversion is correct. Nonetheless, it does not take into account the quantity of goods and services that this worker can obtain with his salary.

Each month, every Cuban citizen and his family members are sold a quota of basic products in Cuban pesos at a lower price than the cost of production. This difference between the price and the cost of production is the state subsidy.

Nonetheless, the inability of this offer to satisfy all a family's needs for foodstuffs ad toiletries impedes many consumers from seeing the advantage of the initiative.

The same happens with other services and products which are accessible to Cuban citizens for free or through payment in Cuban pesos, even when the government must pay part of the cost using foreign exchange. Here are some clear examples:

A 4-member family that consumes 200 kW per month pays 44 Cuban pesos while the cost of production of that energy is about 30 US dollars.

The Cuban government guarantees a quota of liquefied gas to the same family during the year for only 140 Cuban pesos, while the real cost of production is over 90 dollars.

Although the installation of a telephone represents between 40 and 50 dollars per client, plus a similar figure to keep the service along 12 months, Cuban citizens can talk on the phone for 3,600 minutes during the year and they will only pay a total of 135 Cuban pesos.

Those examples are the most illustrative ones but they are not unique.

If we are going to calculate the salary in CUC or in dollars, then we have to take into account that Cuba maintains free healthcare and education for all. While the prices of medical equipment and supplies continue to increase around the world, Cuba develops an efficient network of hospitals and policlinics and boosts hi-tech medicine.

Cuba also boasts of around 700,000 university graduates and half a million Cuban students who are currently going to university free of charge.

Meanwhile, the cost of an education in many universities around the world is estimated between 200,000 and 250,000 dollars.

Cubans have also been relieved from the property taxes which represent a heavy burden for the family economy in other countries. Thanks to the Urban Reform law approved by the Cuban government after the triumph of the Revolution, 85% of Cubans own their homes.

In any other country, someone with a salary of 16.60 dollars per month would be under the line of extreme poverty and would be facing starvation as millions do around the world.

Though Cubans are still a long way from satisfying all their material needs, the island shows outstanding indicators in the fields of healthcare, education, employment, culture and social security.

This brief review on today's Cuban economy illustrates that salary figures are not always the most appropriate indicator to determine the level and quality of life.

Cuba Breaks Tourist Room Record

Prensa Latina

Havana, Feb 23 (Prensa Latina) Cuba broke the record of foreign tourists accommodated in a day when reporting 65,280 travelers in pleasure facilities, according to an official note issued by the Tourism Ministry (MINTUR).

Released Wednesday by the MINTUR website, the report adds this number was last broken on March 25, 2005 with 64,956 people lodged in Cuban hotels.

MINTUR emphasizes that despite the thorny international situation, affectations caused by natural disasters, plus the intensification of measures against the island, as part of US aggressive policy, results are encouraging.

The note recalls that 2.32 million tourists visited Cuba in 2005, representing a 13.2 percent growth.

FL: Huge Lead for Nelson in New Poll

February 23, 2006

See Poll Results

Even though I do not appreciate his votes in favor of the embargo or the travel ban, I have switched from writing in NOTA (None of the Above) in the Nov general election, to being a reluctant supporter.

He is much better than Katherine Harris.

'Viva Cuba' Is a Tale of Humanity, Not Politics

The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Feb. 05, 2006

After struggling to film Viva Cuba, Cuban director Juan Carlos Cremata is basking in the glow of international recognition, including an award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

BY VANESSA ARRINGTON
Associated Press

HAVANA - Cuban film director Juan Carlos Cremata's new movie is about a young girl who runs away from home because her mother plans to leave Fidel Castro's Cuba and she doesn't want to go.

But Viva Cuba isn't a political film -- it's a human one.

''It's not that the girl wants to stay in Cuba because of the revolution,'' Cremata told the Associated Press in a recent interview. She wants to stay, he said, because Cuba ``is where her friends are, where her school is, and above all, where her beloved grandmother is buried.''

Depoliticizing the subject of Cuban exiles is about as easy as taking the fruit out of an apple pie, but judging from the international reaction, Cremata has succeeded in moving beyond nationalism to reach a universal audience.

INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM

The film has swept awards in countries as politically and culturally varied as Guatemala, Germany, Taiwan and France, including the Grand Prix Ecrans Juniors from a panel of child judges at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

But the film failed to grab a nomination for a foreign-language Academy Award in the most anti-Castro country of all -- the United States.

Cremata loves his country, but does not consider himself a communist. He took great care to avoid all political references in the film.

It is never made clear what country the girl, who appears to be about 12, is supposed to move to. Her mother, separated from her father, simply spends much of her time on the phone with ''a foreigner'' complaining about everyday problems on the island. When young Malu overhears her making plans to leave, she runs away with her best friend, Jorge, heading to the remote eastern tip of Cuba, where her father works at a lighthouse.

The movie chronicles the pair's adventures as they flee authorities across the island, from fancy beach resorts to provincial towns to the rural mountains. They sing, they fight, they get lost, they make up. They finally arrive at the lighthouse, but once there they realize they have nowhere else to run.

Cuban migration is in the director's face daily: He lives near the American mission in Havana and sees his countrymen lining up every morning hoping to get U.S. visas.

But the issue is a global one for Cremata, who has lived in cities across the world, including New York for a year on a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

''The predicament of whether to leave or not to leave is not an exclusively Cuban problem,'' he said. ``It exists all over the world.''

A RETURN TO CUBA

Cremata, 44, chose his own country, returning to Cuba after his 1996 stint in the United States.

''It was this year, living in the center of New York, with lots of money and everything, that I realized all I wanted was to return to Cuba and make Cuban films,'' he said.

The director's first full-length film was Nada, or Nothing, a 2001 comedy that also revolves around the issue of emigration. The movie is the first in a trilogy, but Cremata is still looking for funding for the next two installations: Nadie, (Nobody) and Nunca, (Never).

On the Sly, Mission Accomplished: Folks Get Materials Into Cuba

The Jewish Exponent, Philadelphia, PA

- Jordana M. Jacobs

Lying. Smuggling. Even contemplating bribery. There's no telling to what extent some will go to help others. The 42 participants on Congregation Adath Jeshurun's recent trip to Cuba learned this lesson firsthand when they tried to complete their mission to the ostracized island nation.

Full Article

Ham-handed with Cuba

The Fort Morgan Times

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 5:30:34 PM MST

The first rule in U.S.-Latin American relations is also the first rule of medicine: "First do no harm."

It would be splendid if we could enhance the reputation of the United States in a part of the world where its image is one of a meddling neighbor bent on imposing its will on others. But it should at least, whenever possible, avoid worsening its image by acting like the proverbial bull in the china shop and playing into the hands of those who like to portray los Americanos as imperialists.

Full Article

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Si México No Aplica Su Ley, Abdicará La Independencia

Granma International

La Habana, 22 de Febrero de 2006

• Denuncian intelectuales y activistas mexicanos obsecuencia de las máximas autoridades de su país ante aplicación extraterritorial de la Helms-Burton yanki

Pedro de la Hoz
pedro.hg@granma.cip.cu

Cuando los Estados Unidos, con su habitual prepotencia, adoptó en 1996 la aberración jurídica conocida como ley Helms-Burton, México, como varios otros países, aprobó una legislación para impedir que dicha norma, por su injerencismo y extraterritorialidad, tuviera efectos domésticos.

Diez años después, ante la expulsión de los ciudadanos cubanos del hotel Sheraton María Isabel, el Gobierno mexicano ha rehusado hasta el momento aplicar la ley antídoto, que comprende sanciones a quienes la desobedezcan, denunciaron anoche destacados intelectuales y activistas sociales de ese país de visita en la capital cubana.

Invitados a participar en el panel Intelectuales por la soberanía y contra el imperio, que tuvo lugar en la Tribuna Antimperialista José Martí, criticaron lo que consideran una actitud obsecuente y servil de las máximas autoridades de esa nación frente a la política agresiva de la administración Bush no solo contra Cuba sino contra el propio pueblo mexicano.

El ex diplomático Gustavo Iruegas, de vasta experiencia en ese campo, fue contundente al decir: "Si México no aplica su ley, abdicará la independencia".

Más de 400 intelectuales y dirigentes sociales de ese país, a los que se adhirieron personalidades de otros países latinoamericanos, entregaron la semana pasada a la Cancillería una carta en la que califican de indignante la falta de respuesta del Gobierno del presidente Vicente Fox ante el desalojo de los cubanos, resaltan la clara violación de la soberanía nacional explícita en la aplicación de la Helms-Burton y exigen al gabinete que proteste enérgicamente ante Washington por medio de una nota diplomática, en defensa de la dignidad y el decoro nacionales.

Estados Unidos se ha propuesto utilizar a México como plataforma de sustentación de su empeño por socavar al Estado cubano. El periodista uruguayo Carlos Fazio, columnista del diario mexicano La Jornada, citó como antecedentes la cancelación por el propio Sheraton de un negocio con entidades turísticas de la Isla a fines de 1992, y la ruptura de un contrato de neumáticos con Cuba por parte de la rama local de la Good Year en 1993, en ambos casos amedrentados por la Ley Torricelli, entonces recién aprobada.

También remarcó el intento yanki por instrumentar desde México canales de apoyo logístico a los mercenarios al servicio de la Oficina de Intereses de EE.UU. en La Habana.

Para los panelistas, el caso Sheraton fue un capítulo más del desprecio de los gobernantes norteamericanos hacia los nacionales de la tierra de Juárez. El antropólogo Gilberto López y Rivas, uno de los fundadores de la red de redes En Defensa de la Humanidad, señaló que el imperio emplea como carne de cañón a los migrantes y sus hijos en sus guerras actuales. Sólo en Iraq se han contabilizado más de 200 bajas mortales entre militares yankis de origen mexicano.

Iruegas se refirió a la monstruosidad legal y moral que implica la existencia del muro que EE.UU. levanta en su frontera sur y Fazio alertó sobre la perspectiva de convertir a México y Centroamérica en un bantustán a consecuencia de la política migratoria del Norte.

"Defender la dignidad de Cuba es defender la propia dignidad de México", expresó el activista social Martín Hernández, de filiación cristiana y discípulo de las doctrinas de los obispos Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Sergio Méndez Arceo. "El ejemplo de Cuba nos persigue, nos apura y nos exige en nuestras luchas", afirmó.

De esa entrañable solidaridad de su pueblo hacia Cuba fue portador también Miguel Álvarez, del Servicio y Asesoría para la Paz (SERAPAZ), quien recalcó cómo la construcción de alternativas sociales contra el imperialismo y el neoliberalismo pasa en México inevitablemente por un replanteo de las nociones de dignidad y soberanía y de las relaciones con Estados Unidos.

Two New Brigades in Cuba In 2006

www.mpa.gr

WEDNESDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2006

Thessaloniki, 22 February 2006 (17:45 UTC+2)

Almost half a century after the Cuban Revolution, activists from around the world continue to flood to the “red island” to support the revolution of Castro, Guevara and his comrades offering volunteer work.

They make up the so-called “Brigades”, the missions of volunteers comprising of young men and women who believe in building the “socialist Cuba” as envisioned by its leader Fidel Castro. The volunteer missions work both in Havana and rural areas in Cuba helping mainly with sugarcane harvest. The activists also work as field hands, help in painting schools or in the restoration of student dorms etc. They maintain that through this contribution they come closer to the people of Cuba sharing with them their experiences and becoming familiar with their customs and traditions.

Brigades come to Cuba from many countries and Greece is one of them. In May and July young people from Greece will participate in two European missions and are scheduled to stay and work in special campsites in Cuba for three weeks. They will also have the opportunity to attend political debates, come into contact with movements and organizations, and participate in cultural activities and social work.

Cuba supports the work of the brigades, told to ANA-MPA Cuban ambassador to Athens Hermes Herrera who pointed out that the Cuban Institute of Friendship Among the Peoples (Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos) coordinates activities at global level while the Greek-Cuban Associations in Thessaloniki and Athens are responsible for the volunteer work coming from Greece. The brigades have an open agenda. Their content is political, cultural, ecological and will always be characterized by volunteer work in different fields, he stressed.

Asked to comment on the likelihood of a visit by Cuban President Fidel Castro to Greece, after the invitation extended to him to visit the monastic community of Mount Athos, Mr. Herrera responded that it is hard to say because he does not travel often. He said that he can confirm that the Cuban President has been invited and that he would like to come close to the Greek reality.

The Communist Boogaboo

www.News4Jax.com

Davis Says State Capitol Under GOP Is Like Castro's Cuba

POSTED: 7:54 pm EST February 21, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis compared the way Republicans run Florida to the way Fidel Castro runs Cuba as the state party rallied supporters Tuesday for the upcoming election.

State workers are afraid of retribution if they say what they really think about how the state is run, said Davis, a congressman from Tampa.

"I had a state worker put his arm around my shoulder, he looked around the room to make sure nobody was looking at him, and said 'Jim, I'm for you.' What kind of country is that? I've had the same conversations with other people -- in Havana," Davis said at the Florida Democratic Party's unity luncheon.

Later, he added, "There are people I run into every time I'm here (in Tallahassee) who are afraid to express criticism of their own government and to have their voice heard. That is not Democracy. That is not a healthy environment."

The Republican Party of Florida criticized the comment.

"It's entirely irresponsible and unbelievable that someone who pretends to be a serious candidate for statewide office would compare Florida to a communist regime," said Andy Palmer, the state party's executive director. "The fact that the state continues to grow by over 400,000 people a year is evidence that this is a great place to live."

Sen. Bill Nelson, the party's only statewide elected official, criticized the way Republicans have used their leadership in Washington and Tallahassee.

"This is a dog-eat-dog two party state where the other party has figured out how to cut all the corners in order to just completely run over the minority party. It is time for us to change that," said Nelson, who will likely face Republican U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris as he seeks a second term this year.

Nelson said that the public is hungry for professionalism and courtesy.

"For this democratic constitutional government to work, you've got to have an ability to get along, to reach out and build consensus in order to govern a country that is as broad and is as diverse as our country is," Nelson said.

State Sen. Rod Smith, who is the other major Democrat running for governor, criticized Republican policies on education, Medicaid, stem cell research and more.

"We are going to have a unified Democratic Party in the fall because it means so much. There is a difference in our parties," Smith said. "The poor, the sick and ... the families of this state need our help."

The luncheon raised $100,000 for the Florida Democratic Party. Nelson and party Chairman Karen Thurman suggested the idea as a way of showing their top candidates standing together for the good of the party.

Republican Gov. Jeb Bush can't seek re-election because of term limits. Republicans hoping to replace him include Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.

Gallagher issued a statement about Davis' remarks after reading them.

"Anyone who understands the true nature of Fidel Castro's brutality would know better than to make the remarks Jim Davis made today," he said. "Fidel Castro is a murderer, responsible for the imprisonment, torture and execution of thousands of his own people, and thousands of Cuban-Americans across Florida have suffered greatly due to his brutal dictatorship."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mel Martinez

Mel Martinez, U.S. senator from the sate of Florida, in an article published today by the Spain Herald, said that the current European Union policy of critical dialogue with Cuba, begun at Spain's request, "can be considered a failure."

And what, may I ask, does the senator call the current U.S. foreign policy toward Cuba, which is anchored on the 45 year old embargo against the Cuban people: a success?

I think the senator probably has had way too much picadillo lately.

The fact of the matter is that the emabargo, backed by the senator and the Three Musketeers of Miami-Dade, does not have any support on our planet.

Do the numbers 182-4 mean anything to the senator?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Castro invites pope to Cuba

Ansa, Italy

The move follows Benedict's call for island to 'open' heart

(ANSA) - Havana, February 21 - Cuban President Fidel Castro has invited Pope Benedict XVI to visit the Caribbean island, a source at the Cuban bishops' conference told Ansa .

Castro issued the invitation during a meeting on Friday with Cardinal Raffaele Martino, who spent two days in Cuba as part of a regional tour to present the Catholic Church's new 'Compendium' on social teaching .

News of the invitation follows last week's call by Benedict for the Communist nation to "open its heart" to God and the world. That call came in a message to the head of the Cuban bishops conference, which was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first meeting of bishops allowed following the Cuban revolution .

Cardinal Martino, who heads the Vatican's Justice and Peace department, was in Cuba primarily for the celebrations marking the anniversary of what was a milestone for the country's Catholic Church .

Benedict's predecessor, the globe-trotting John Paul II, made the first ever papal visit to Cuba in 1998. Although Castro granted some rights to the Church around the time of John Paul's 1998 visit, observers say little progress has been made since then .

However, in a sign of respect, Castro declared three days of official mourning when the Polish pontiff died last April .

In his message to Cuban bishops last week, Benedict made no direct reference to Castro .

But he said that the process of rapprochement with the world must begin with "opening the heart and mind to matters concerning God" and accepting the "different ways of thinking of others." Vatican observers said this was a hint that the Castro government should give Catholics on the island more freedom. Religious freedom was also on the agenda during Martino's talks with the Cuban leader .

Benedict also called on the international community to do its share, urging it to "open to Cuba." The administration of US President George W. Bush lists Cuba as one of the "outposts of tyranny" but the country has diplomatic relations with 160 nations .

Relations with the European Union were strained last year after authorities in Havana jailed several Cuban journalists accused of portraying dissidents in a favourable light. A group of European parliamentarians was also expelled after it emerged they were planning to attend a meeting of opponents of the Castro regime .

New Evidence of Paleolithic Art in Cuba


Havana, Feb 20 (AIN) Cuban scientists have discovered new evidence of Paleolithic art in the central Cuban province of Cienfuegos.

Several tools made from limestone were found by researchers at a site located near the mouths of the Damuji and Anaya Rivers, in the municipality of Rodas.

The different implements date back some 7,000 years and are similar to those previously found at the Mayari site, in the eastern province of Holguin.

The large number of tools, around 20, and the size of the middens, suggest that aboriginal settlements in the Rodas —an area rich in fauna, forests and caves— were stable.

In addition to the tools, rock art was found in several caves, some of which served as astronomic observation sites, noted Marcos Evelio Rodriguez, part of the research team.

Time to move on from Cold War policy in Cuba

Dawgnet News, Butler University


By Dan Fair
Dawgnet Staff Writer
Monday, February 20, 2006, 00:00 EST

Opinion Section

If any one current policy epitomizes the hypocrisy that has been U.S. foreign policy in the last couple centuries, it is the continued trade embargo on Cuba. President John F. Kennedy established the embargo in 1960 in an attempt to oust Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Since its inception, the policy has proved to be a failure, yet it still lives on.

This continued policy towards Cuba is flawed in several ways.

First, the policy simply doesn’t achieve its objective. It’s been 45 years since the policy was implemented, and we still haven’t rid Cuba of Fidel, despite the best efforts of exploding cigars and the like. It has done nothing in Cuba but contribute to poverty and anti-American support for Fidel. It has hurt civilians substantially more than Fidel’s power.

Also, it demonstrates a massive hypocritical approach to foreign policy only too characteristic of the U.S. Communist China is one of our biggest trading partners.

We’ve even reestablished diplomatic and economic relations with communist Vietnam. So why do we continue to ban trade and travel to Cuba? The reason is because Cuba is communist. Get it now?

Some also argue that the U.S. is still upset with Cuba for stealing some American-owned resorts and hotbeds for oil. This just shows another level of hypocrisy from a country that stole everything west of the Atlantic, not to mention that in Vietnam, killing nearly 60,000 Marines should probably be considered worse than stealing a couple of beach resorts.

The policy also wastes time and money. The U.S. currently has surveillance cameras and undercover agents at Cuban airports to spot U.S. citizens breaking the law and spending money in Cuba. The maximum fine for these treacherous committers of treason is upwards toward $80,000. Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous for visiting a country, communist or not?

Lifting this archaic policy in Cuba benefits everyone. First, both economies could benefit from trade, particularly in agriculture. Obviously, whatever detriment our embargo has had on Cuba, it has not affected Fidel’s power. If Fidel is going to be in power, we might as well trade with Cuba and benefit from them while, more importantly, improving the economy and standard of living of Cuban civilians.

Trading with Cuba could also pull them away from trading partners that are less than supportive of Westerners, like Syria. Ideally, travel and trade with Cuba could instill some sense of democracy amongst the civilians and cause changes to their policies. Unlikely, but possible.

Opponents to lifting the ban say that human rights priorities must come first, and that we should not lift the ban until the gross human rights violations in Cuba stop. I could not agree more that human rights should come first on the list of priorities in Cuba. In 45 years of this policy, however, there has been little to no gain in human rights objectives. Boosting their economy could improve the standard of living and allow civilians to press for more rights. It’s extremely hard to fight for rights when you’re struggling just to get by.

The current policy in Cuba is outdated and a Cold War relic that is a sad reminder and one of the many places where the Cold War was not so cold and of a time when the world held its breath with the fear of nuclear war. As time evolves and world powers shift, so must policy. We won the Cold War, and we’re the only superpower left (for the moment). It’s time for us to move on.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cuban Catcher Augurs Tough Classic

Prensa Latina

Havana, Feb 18 (Prensa Latina) Cuban catcher Ariel Pestano asserted that the World Baseball Classic in March will be tough, because it will gather the best players of the world.

Pestano, aged 32 and Villa Clara´s short-stop in the Cuban championship, was lead batter in Athens 2004.

He asserted that Cuba does not have anything to lose in that tournament, but a lot to win.

"They say our baseball is inferior, thus we have nothing to lose," said the catcher, who was chosen most outstanding Cuban sportsman in team sports two years ago.

Cuba winks at `back-door travelers' from U.S.

www.sun-sentinel.com

By Rosemary McClure
Los Angeles Times
Posted February 19 2006

The Cuban government cooperates with backdoor travelers; customs officials generally do not stamp the passports of Americans when they enter. "All travelers are legal as far as we're concerned," said Miguel Alejandro Figueras, a Cuban tourism official.

U.S. sanctions limiting travel to Cuba have waxed and waned in the last four decades. Travel loosened during the Clinton administration; it has tightened during the Bush administration.

Backdoor travelers risk penalties ranging from a warning letter to $65,000 fines.

But many backdoor travelers say free travel is their constitutional right. "Making it difficult for us to visit doesn't help the Cuban people. It just makes life harder for them," said a Chicago businessman who loves Cuba and visits frequently, sometimes illegally. "I think tougher restrictions have more to do with the politics of Florida than anything else," he said, speculating that President Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are influenced by the Cuban exile community in Miami.

Backdoor travelers usually play down the hazards, but the U.S. government managed to ferret out about 500 of them between January and October last year.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Mexico City Government May Issue More Sanctions Against Sheraton Hotel

Various government agencies have threatened the hotel with sanctions after it expelled a Cuban delegation earlier this month

BY JONATHAN ROEDER/THE HERALD MEXICO

El Universal, Mexico City

February 15, 2006

Mexico City authorities said on Tuesday that the Hotel María Isabel Sheraton violated nine different laws when it expelled a delegation of Cuban officials that was meeting with U.S. energy executives earlier this month.

Top city officials said they may be readying their own sanctions against the hotel, which was pressured by the U.S. Treasury Department to comply with U.S. law.

The city is now the latest government body - along with the foreign relations and tourism secretariats, the Consumer Protection Agency and the local precinct - to move against the hotel. The Sheraton has been accused of violating city codes and anti-discrimination laws that prohibit barring clients on the basis of nationality, and imposing U.S. law on Mexican soil.

"From our point of view the application of extraterritorial laws that result in discrimination against certain individuals is inadmissible," said Mexico City Undersecretary Ricardo Ruiz, referring to the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act that was used to pressure the Sheraton.

Capital Mayor Alejandro Encinas said the city could fine or even close the hotel, but he did not specify what the city´s action would be.

The hotel has been in hot water since the incident on Feb. 3. The Treasury Department sent a letter to the hotel management stating that as a U.S. subsidiary, it was prohibited from providing services to Cuban nationals.

POLITICAL FIRESTORM

The action has raised a political firestorm, and has been cited by politicians of all stripes here as an example of U.S. disregard for Mexican sovereignty. Diplomatic tensions were already high following months of exchanges between Mexican and U.S. authorities over border security and ongoing drug-related violence.

However, the most controversial response to the Cubans´ expulsion has been that of the Cuauhtémoc precinct, which has begun proceedings to close the hotel down until it fixes a list of code violations, including insufficient parking spaces, 3,000 square meters of unauthorized construction, a lack of emergency exits and no menus in Braille. The hotel has for the moment avoided closure by filing a judicial injunction.

The local efforts have been applauded by those who accuse President Vicente Fox´s administration of doing too little to demonstrate Mexico´s displeasure with the U.S. government actions.

In a recent interview, Cuauhtémoc precinct head Virginia Jaramillo, who is directing the efforts to shut the hotel down until it fixes the city code violations, said Fox´s performance following the incident was "lamentable."

"The first thing his government should do is defend our nation´s sovereignty," she added.

´CONJURED UP´

Some business leaders think Jaramillo has gone too far in her attempt to close down the hotel, however.

Gonzalo Brockman García, head of the Mexico City Hoteliers Association, said the hotel should be fined for breaking anti-discrimination laws. But he said the efforts to shut the hotel down "have nothing to do" with the Sheraton´s ejection of the Cubans.

He added that the precinct "conjured up" the charges against the hotel.

Felipe Calderón, presidential candidate for Fox´s National Action Party (PAN), last week accused Jaramillo of scaring off potential investors.

Jaramillo responded to the criticism by saying drug-related violence and lawlessness is hurting investment, not her precinct´s actions.

She added the inspections were carried out after three complaints regarding the hotel´s operation were filed immediately following the incident.

She said one of the complaints was from the city government, but she was unable to disclose who filed the other two.

Under city law, precinct authorities are obligated to inspect local businesses after receiving complaints. Eventually, the hotel could face fines of more than US$500,000 from the various agencies for expelling the Cuban officials. None of the fines have been formally approved yet.

Fabiola Cancion of EL UNIVERSAL contributed to this report.

Cuban ballplayers ready for WBC opportunity

Friday, Feb. 17, 2006

Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) - Cuba started training this week for next month's inaugural World Baseball Classic and says it is anxious to show its power hitting and defense.

"We're all enthusiastic, crazy to reach that moment when we will step out on the field in Puerto Rico and show off our quality," captain Eduardo Paret said on Friday during the only training session opened to the news media before the March tournament.

For Paret, a power pitcher, "discipline, a sure defense, and powerful batters who can adapt to major league-style pitchers" will be Cuba's strong points.

Cuba will take 14 pitchers, including five or six left-handers, training coach Benito Camacho said.

Veteran pitcher Pedro Luis Lazo will serve as a closer, he added.

Starting Monday, Cuba will play against local teams, such as the Havana-based Industriales. Possible friendly matches with countries including Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela are still awaiting confirmation, Camacho said.

Cuba submitted a provisional 60-player roster on Friday, making its participation official.

The roster does not include any major leaguers.

Among the stars are third baseman Michel Enriquez, who hit .450 in the island's national series; outfielder Omani Urrutia, who hit .447; and 21-year-old slugging third baseman Yulieski Gourriel.

The final 30-man roster must be submitted by March 3, five days before its first game, against Panama in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The provisional rosters for the other 15 teams were submitted Jan. 18.

The U.S. Treasury Department originally denied Major League Baseball's application for Cuba to play its scheduled first-round games in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Later rounds are to be played on the U.S. mainland. The application was finally granted when Cuba agreed to donate profits it receives to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The license is required under 45-year-old American sanctions against Cuba aimed at preventing Fidel Castro's government from receiving U.S. currency.

Cuba is grouped with the Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico in the first round.

Cuba's provisional roster announced

02/17/2006 4:12 PM ET

MLB

The Cuban Baseball Federation, whose agreement to participate in the World Baseball Classic was made official, submitted the following 60-man Provisional Roster to World Baseball Classic, Inc., it was announced today.

Provisional Rosters allow for participating Federations to list up to 60 players from which final 30-man rosters will be selected. Each Federation must submit its final roster, including a minimum of 13 pitchers and three catchers, no later than five days before its first scheduled game. With its first game (vs. Panama) scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (local time) at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 8th, Cuba's 30-man roster is due on March 3rd.

Provisional Rosters for the other 15 teams participating in the World Baseball Classic were announced on January 18, 2006.

The Cuban Provisional Roster is as follows:

LAST NAME FIRST NAME POSITION TEAM
Anderson Stephes Leslie 1B Camaguey
Banos Chacon Vladimir RHP Pinar del Rio
Bermudez Martinez Ubisney RHP Las Tunas
Betancourt Chacon Danny RHP Santiago de Cuba
Bicet Labrada Alberto RHP Santiago de Cuba
Borrero Alfonso Ariel 1B Villa Clara
Borroto Jauregui Yorbis SS Ciego de Avila
Borroto Jimenez Luis RHP Villa Clara
Carrillo Carvajal Robelio LHP Villa Clara
Cepeda Cruz Frederich OF Sancti Spiritus
Cespedes Milanes Yoennis OF Granma
Chapelli Jimenez Loidel 1B Camaguey
Charles Martinez Yorelvis 2B Ciego de Avila
Despaigne Rodriguez Alfredo OF Granma
Enrique Tamayo Michel 3B Isla de la Juventud
Folch Vera Maikel RHP Ciego de Avila
Fonseca Garcia Yosvani LHP Matanzas
Garcia Fiss Valery RHP Ciego de Avila
Garcia Martinez Vladimir C Isla de la Juventud
Garcia Sanchez Jose RHP La Habana
Garlobo Romay Yoandy OF Matanzas
Gonzalez Ledesma Yulieski LHP La Habana
Gonzalez Miranda Norberto LHP Cienfuegos
Gourriel Castillo Yulieski 3B Sancti Spiritus
Hurtado Pimentel Rehutilio OF Santiago de Cuba
La Rosa Aguila Yulexis C Villa Clara
Lazo Iglesias Pedro Luis RHP Pinar del Rio
Linares Izquierdo Juan Carlos OF La Habana
Machado Morales Roger C Ciego de Avila
Marti Carrillo Yadel RHP Industriales
Martinez Martinez Jonder RHP La Habana
Maya Mendiluza Yunieski RHP Pinar del Rio
Miranda Agramonte Danny 1B Ciego de Avila
Mora Sanchez Alien RHP Ciego de Avila
Moreno Perez Juan Carlos SS Isla de la Juventud
Navas Gonzalez Luis Miguel SS Santiago de Cuba
Odelin Saname Vicyohandri RHP Camaguey
Olivera Amaro Hector 2B Santiago de Cuba
Palma Lopez Adiel LHP Cienfuegos
Paret Perez Eduardo SS Villa Clara
Pedroso Brooks Joan Carlos 1B Las Tunas
Pedroso Gonzalez Yadiel RHP La Habana
Perez Guillen Serguei OF Industriales
Perez Ruiz Yosvany LHP Cienfuegos
Pestano Valdez Ariel C Villa Clara
Ramirez Rodriguez Alexei OF Pinar del Rio
Reyes Erice Rudy 2B Industriales
Rodriguez Ricardo Luis M. RHP Holguin
Romero Turcas Ormari RHP Santiago de Cuba
Sanchez Leon Eriel C Sancti Spiritus
Santos Martinez Vismay 3B Guantanamo
Soto Delis Israel RHP Isla de la Juventud
Soto La O Alberto RHP Granma
Suarez Burquez Amaury 3B Las Tunas
Suarez Laguardia Dennis RHP Industriales
Tabares Padilla Carlos A. OF Industriales
Urgelles Cobas Yoandry OF Industriales
Urrutia Ramirez Osmany OF Las Tunas
Viciedo Perez Dayan OF Villa Clara
Zamora Farre Andy OF Villa Clara

THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC

The World Baseball Classic, a 16-team tournament sanctioned by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), will run from March 3* - 20. The inaugural event will feature many of the best players in the world competing for their home countries and territories for the first time ever. The 16 teams invited to participate have been divided into four pools of four teams for the first round of play. The four Round 1 pools will be play in a round robin format at venues in Japan (Tokyo Dome - Tokyo), Puerto Rico (Hiram Bithorn Stadium - San Juan) and the United States (Chase Field - Phoenix, Arizona; Scottsdale Stadium - Scottsdale, Arizona; The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex - Orlando, Florida). Round 2 will feature two pools of four teams in a round robin format and is scheduled to be played in San Juan, Puerto Rico (Hiram Bithorn Stadium) and Anaheim, California (Angel Stadium). The Semi-Finals and Final will be played at PETCO Park in San Diego, California on March 18 and 20, respectively.

The World Baseball Classic will feature a bracket-style format with the 16 teams competing in four groups: Pool A - China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea; Pool B - Canada, Mexico, South Africa and United States; Pool C - Cuba, Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico; Pool D - Australia, Dominican Republic, Italy and Venezuela. World Baseball Classic, Inc. is a company created at the direction of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to operate the World Baseball Classic tournament. The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International BAseball Federation (IBAF), is supported by MLB, the MLBPA, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), their respective players associations and other leagues and players from around the world.

*Tournament begins at 11:30 AM (local time) in Tokyo, Japan on Friday, March 3.

Latin American Political Realities, Cuba, and US Politics Today

by Ike Nahem

February 15, 2006

Znet


The political truth we face today is that there has never been-since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959-a greater possibility to change the dynamic of US-Cuban relations and force an end, or at least a major weakening and destabilization, of Washington's economic war against Cuba. Why is this?

First, for nearly a decade we have seen a rise in mass political radicalization, popular resistance, and class, indigenous people's, and national liberation struggles in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean which has politically shattered the so-called "Washington Consensus." The high point of this has been the unfolding Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Today, in the Western Hemisphere, indeed the world, it is Washington's anti-Cuba policy, not revolutionary Cuba, that is isolated.

In "our America," to use the phrase of Jose Marti, anti-imperialist (not, as the big-business media puts it, "anti-American") consciousness has become generalized. Since the late 1990s popular uprisings have regularly thrown out pro-imperialist, "neo-liberal" governments in, for example Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador by extra-parliamentary means, or put in power through parliamentary elections-in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Panama -- new governments which claim to be progressive and anti "neo-liberal," -- appeal to popular demands, and are under pressure to meet the expectations of working people.

Secondly, US imperialism, currently led by the Bush gang -- but with, -- and we should never forget this, virtually 100% bipartisan support in the US Congress from both the Democratic and Republican parties -- while united in their hostility to Cuba, Venezuela, and the popular struggles I have described, has been notably unable to launch an effective political counter-offensive to the mass upsurge in Latin America in general, or against Cuba and Venezuela in particular.

Time and time again Washington has sent its top guns -- Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Cheney, and Bush himself most recently last month at the Mar del Plata Summit fiasco for Washington in Argentina-to convince, pressure, or intimidate Latin America governments, all of whom are capitalist governments that are far from revolutionary and without the slightest socialist inclinations, to line up in an anti-Cuba, anti-Venezuela campaign-and they have repeatedly failed. Even their biggest lackeys, such as the Alvaro Uribe regime in Colombia and the Alejandro Toledo regime in Peru, have said no thank you. And Uribe has even recently signed treaties with Venezuela deepening economic ties while posing in smiling photo-ops with Hugo Chavez.

This is a stunning development. Just three decades ago, in response to the Cuban Revolution, Washington was able to mobilize the governments and reactionary forces in Latin America and foist upon the peoples a generation of bloody tyrannies -- from the 1964 military coup in Brazil and the 1965 US invasion of the Dominican Republic; the 1967 murder of Che Guevara in Bolivia and the subsequent eradication of the guerrilla movements; to the establishments of military dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay in the 1970s.

The tide began to turn with the 1979 triumphs of the Grenadian and Nicaraguan Revolutions and the unleashing of mass revolutionary armed struggles in El Salvador and Guatemala against US-backed military dictatorships in those countries. These historic developments in the Americas followed the US defeat in Vietnam in 1975 and the successful defeat by Cuban troops that same year of the South Africa invasion-covertly backed by Washington under the supervision of Henry Kissinger -- of newly independent Angola.

In the 1980s, under mass pressure and protest, the hollowed-out military regimes from Chile to Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil began to crack, democratic concessions were made, and political space opened up. Weak capitalist parliamentary systems were institutionalized with cautious US support.

In contrast to today's reality, two decades ago, in the face of rising revolutionary struggle in Central America, Washington was able to launch a massive counter-offensive with the dirty contra war in Nicaragua and the arming, training, and propping up of the death-squad/army "democratic" government in El Salvador. But even then we could see the limitations of Washington's actions, which were covert (at least they tried to keep it secret) in Nicaragua. The arming and "training" of the Salvadoran army took place without the direct use in combat of US troops. Washington's Central American war of the 1980s faced growing opposition and public protest in the US population, which was the framework for big divisions in Washington which exploded in the so-called Iran-contra scandal.

For a number of reasons, which I will not analyze in detail, the Nicaraguan Revolution -- following the military defeat, at great cost, of the U.S.-manufactured contras, stalled, eroded, and collapsed culminating in an electoral defeat in 1989. In El Salvador an intractable military and political standoff became the reality, a ceasefire was negotiated, right-wing death squads were deactivated, and the FMLN gained the political space to be able to engage in regular elections.

Washington's ability to prevent a revolutionary consolidation out of the 1980s upsurge in Central America laid the basis for the "lost decade" of the 1990s, the so-called neo-liberal interlude.

The 1990s seemed heaven-sent for Washington and the European powers: Cuba was in the throes of the Special Period, on its back economically, and apparently isolated and alone. They were putting the champagne on ice in Washington and Miami. Castro-hating imperialist mouthpieces like Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer wrote the book Castro's Final Hour.

The Neoliberal Decade

After the Sandinista defeat in Nicaragua, and the collapse of the unpopular regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe calling themselves socialist and communist, many leftists became demoralized and politically disoriented. In the face of a relentless imperialist triumphalism, quite a few leftist intellectuals such as Jorge Castañeda in Mexico and Teodor Petkoff in Venezuela collapsed politically and deserted to the neo-liberal creed.

We saw in the 1990s an orgy of neo-liberal policies implemented across the Hemisphere from Mexico to Argentina: IMF-imposed austerity, privatization and the selling off of national patrimony, wage slashes, the gutting of pensions, massive unemployment, and the devastation of already pitiful public health and education systems. With the working-class leadership demoralized, disorientated, and divided, resistance to this neo-liberal assault was initially weak. But the dialectics of history is now taking its revenge on the seemingly all-powerful imperialists and the Latin American oligarchies and capitalist classes.

While it lasted it was an orgy of looting and pillage that in its brazen boldness has few parallels in modern history, but it has all come crashing down.

Perhaps we can already give a tentative lifespan to it: From the February 1989 el caracazo, the working-class and popular upsurge in the Venezuelan capital city of Caracas, which was a protest against gas-price hikes and other austerity measures demanded by the IMF and implemented by the social democratic regime of Carlos Andres Perez in Venezuela, to its burial in December 2001 in the cities of Argentina when massive protests ousted the pro-imperialist neo-liberal regime of Fernando de la Rua. Within this time frame, I believe history will record that the key event and turning point was the election of Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela on December 6, 1998.

A Mass Movement in the US is Possible Today

Today, we can and must think boldly in terms of building a mass movement in the streets and in the working-class, Black, and Latino communities, and on the campuses and high schools against Washington's anti-Cuba and anti-Venezuelan campaign and policies and in solidarity with the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions.

Building a mass movement inside the United States can be an important, even decisive, factor in the unfolding revolutionary transformations in Latin America and the coming political confrontations with Washington --which will be very dangerous and be at the center of world politics.

Vast Military Power, Glaring Political Weakness

While I have argued that Washington and the European imperialist powers are much weaker politically, we can also say they are in much greater financial, commercial, economic, and therefore political conflict with each other since the end of the Cold War.

Therefore, in my opinion, it is much harder in the current conjuncture for US imperialism to directly invade Cuba and Venezuela, a point presidents Castro and Chavez have recently been stressing in speech after speech.

Nevertheless, Washington continues planning and plotting every day and every minute, with permanent covert action programs in play, probing and provoking for any opening to pounce.

But it is also true that Washington can hardly sit back with folded arms and watch the Cuban Revolution grow stronger, more economically proficient, and more politically attractive every day. We can only imagine -- especially since it is almost never reported in the US big-business press-the political impact of the over 1400 Cuban doctors, mostly women, who are in Pakistan today, a central US ally in the so-called "war against terror," who are literally saving thousands of lives, treating wounds, and delivering babies. Or the huge impact of the truly amazing Operation Milagro (Miracle), a joint project of Cuba and Venezuela in this Hemisphere, where thousands of people from all over the southern continent and the Caribbean who had been blind solely due to social conditions and lack of money to gain access to medical care have been operated on successfully and had their eyesight restored. You can hardly read about it in the US media but it is a huge story in Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Washington can not sit back and watch a social revolution unfold in Venezuela, with working people in political dominance, a Bolivarian beacon of light and hope, joining revolutionary Cuba, for the oppressed and exploited majority in our America. Such a force and example will also definitely be attractive to working people and youth-Latino, Black, and white-in the United States and Canada, where the working class is also facing worsening economic and social conditions.

World politics is increasingly marked and shaped today by a fundamental contradiction between the massive reach and scale of US military firepower, with its hundreds of military bases on other countries land, and the glaring political weakness of Washington, deepened under the current Bush Administration, which puts definite limits on US military aggression. The most recent annual Pentagon budget came in at $455 billion. That figure was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress, and likely represents more money that the rest of the world's military spending combined.

Cuba, Venezuela, and Iraq

The kind of movement we can build today has different dynamics from the protest movement against the US-British invasion of Iraq. Opposition to the Iraq war is growing in US public opinion for all kinds of reasons. These include reactionary ones, pushed by various liberal and conservative politicians, who argue that Washington is "bogged down" in Iraq making it harder to attack, say, Iran or Korea or Cuba or Venezuela, or to "win" the "war on terror." It is very hard politically to identify with or even to politically identify or define the so-called Iraqi resistance -- which has yet to issue any coherent political program or programmatic documents. In addition to military actions targeting US troops by relatively trained forces that at least originated in the previous Ba'athist regime bequeathed by the government led by Saddam Hussein, there are gratuitously brutal and atrocious "actions," usually via persons trained and organized to be "suicide bombers" who kill themselves in the course of causing carnage in venues such as mosques (with Shiite congregations) targeting civilians for death and maiming, or who behead civilian and other hostages with images distributed for television and Internet transmission.

All the so-called resistance organizations that are currently engaged in armed actions against the US armed forces inside Iraq and the Iraqi army Washington is seriously engaged in training, are based almost exclusively in areas with populations that are predominantly Sunni in their Islamic identification and common continuity of ritual and denomination. Washington's increasingly difficult perspective -- which they are far from giving up on-is to "Iraqize" the war and forge an Iraqi neo-colonial army, consolidating a bulwark for a pro-Washington regime in a stable entity that they hope can continue to be called Iraq. Each "democratic" advance claimed by Washington-heralded by an electoral process supervised by Washington-is actually undermining the continuity and viability of the historic Iraqi neo-colonial state.

The fact that no amount of pro-"resistance" boosterism can dismiss is that the large majority of citizens of the Iraqi state, as presently constituted, that is, the Arabs who have a Shiite Islamic identification and the historically oppressed Kurdish nationality which is nominally "Sunni" but not Arab, no doubt hates, chafes under, and often fights the US-British invaders, but it also tolerates them for now, seeing the imperialist occupation as a temporary, lesser evil to the perceived return of a murderously repressive Ba'athist regime. It is a highly contradictory and explosive situation, but there is no imminent prospect at this moment for the political and military withdrawal of US troops; both US big-business political parties oppose it, the UN and the European imperialist powers are collaborating closely with the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government it sponsors, and the Kurdish and Shiite majority tolerate it. Of course this can rapidly change.

The so-called Iraqi resistance makes no political appeal to Shiite or Kurdish workers and populations, let alone to the US working people, unlike say the Vietnamese revolutionaries fighting the US invasion and genocidal war. They have no resonance in world, or-comparable to say Nasserism in the 1950s and early 60s or the Palestine Liberation Organization in the late 1960s and 1970s -- even in Middle East or Arab world politics.

Venezuela and Cuba, by contrast, are powerfully attractive forces to radicalizing youth and workers around the world, including in the United States. Furthermore, Cuba and Venezuela have highly capable political leaderships and politically conscious fighting peoples that know how to counter imperialist campaigns, carry out a battle of ideas, and effectively defend and promote their political perspectives and revolutionary internationalist principles.

In addition to being against US policy and intervention, as in the Iraq war, you can easily be for the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions as you learn the truth about them -- which is our job. And the field is essentially wide open for us.

Over the course of 2005 we saw: 1) the breakthrough in the case of the Cuban 5 when the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta panel ordered a retrial, throwing out the original convictions, which is now tied up with Justice Department appeals to the full appeals court; 2) the wide publicity given to the scandalous case of Luis Posada Carriles which has thrust the history -- which has not stopped -- of U.S.-based terrorism against Cuba; 3) the offer by the Cuban government to send over 1500 doctors, nurses, and specialist to the worst hit communities in Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina, rejected by the Bush Administration, was widely reported and favorably received; 4) similarly, Venezuela's actual initial deliveries, through it's CITGO oil company, of discounted home heating fuel to working-class communities in, so far, Boston and New York City, have also been widely reported and favorably received. Another general factor to be understood in the favorable conditions to build a mass movement in the United States around these questions is the growing weight of immigrant workers from Latin America, Central America, and the Caribbean in the US working class and US labor movement.

Divisions in Washington Over Latin America Policy

The potential to force a positive change in US-Cuba relations can only succeed if we link our movement to the rising popular upsurge in Latin America, to the examples of Cuba and Venezuela. Further we have to understand fully and not be tricked or overwhelmed by the political maneuvering and intrigues in official Washington, in the Bush White House, and Capitol Hill. We should have no illusions in the politicians of the Republican and Democratic parties.

We should understand that there is barely a single elected official (you can count them on one hand) that is not openly for "regime change" in Cuba and Venezuela. Remember that not a single Washington representative or Senator voted against the $455 billion war budget. Not one!

Nevertheless the Washington politicians are acutely aware of the debacle of the Bush Administration's Latin American, Cuba, and Venezuela policies, and although they all agree on the ends and goals, they are perfectly capable of angry differences over tactics, political tone, and means. Note Iraq, where Democratic and Republican politicians, who all basically agree that the Iraq war should and must go on, are nevertheless ripping themselves to shreds over it. The elected officials are perfectly conscious of the trends and patterns of the rising class struggles in Latin America and Washington's political isolation.

As Bush grows weaker politically and therefore is a less effective and reliable representative of the imperialist ruling class, we can expect to see all kinds of tactical divergences over US foreign policy in Latin America, Cuba, and Venezuela where liberals and conservatives come forward to say, "I will succeed where Bush has failed to deal with Castro and Chavez. I will be more effective."

Some, as we have often seen, may even argue for "easing" the sanctions against Cuba, even "ending" the enforcement of travel restrictions as the way to bring "regime change" to Cuba. Fine, let them argue with each other. We can only turn these tactical divergences for them into political openings for the solidarity movement if we stay independent and build a mass movement.

Right now Washington's policies are in chaos and derailment in Latin America. I thought this was most deliciously expressed by a recent New York Times editorial following the debacle for the Bush team at the Mar del Plata, Argentina Summit in November 2004. The Times editors moaned about how "a loudmouthed opportunist like the President of Venezuela stole the show from the President of the United States." They wrung their hands in great frustration over the prospect of three more years with Bush at the helm.

Well maybe Bush won't last for three more long years if he continues to melt down politically even before the next and coming financial and economic shocks and downturns. Not to speak of current and looming scandals, 2006 election pressures, and so on. But whether the ruling class dumps Bush or sticks with him to the end, whichever party controls Congress in 2006 and whoever becomes President in 2008 will find that the current explosive Latin American political realities will have only become more explosive and more revolutionary. [On December 18 the anti-imperialist fighter Evo Morales was elected President of Bolivia with over 54% of the vote.]

It is up to us to build a mass movement that makes them pay the highest possible price for continuing their current policies against Cuba and Venezuela. That forces them against their will and interests to back off and lay the basis for our contribution to bringing revolutionary change to the United States, which is the only guarantee not just normalized, but fraternal relations based on solidarity and working-class internationalism between the people of the United States and Cuba, the people of the United States and Venezuela, and the people of the United States and the people of Latin America.

Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Ike Nahem is a coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York, a member of the National Network on Cuba. Nahem is an Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman, a division of the Teamsters Union. These are his personal opinions.