Friday, March 31, 2006

Luis Posada Carriles “a danger to the national security of the United States,” states Office of Immigration and Customs

Granma International

Havana. March 31, 2006

MIAMI (U.S.A.), March 30 (EFE)—The United States is maintaining terrorist Luis Posada Carriles in jail because his release would represent a danger “to both the community and the national security of the United States,” according to an official document.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security explained to Posada Carriles in a letter – to which EFE had access today – the reasons for keeping him in custody in its detention center in El Paso, Texas.

“Because of your long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed, your release from detention would pose a danger to both the community and the national security of the United States,” the ICE noted in the letter.

Last week, that same government agency informed the media that the extremist, accused of terrorism by Cuba and Venezuela, would continue to be detained, without specifying any reasons, and confirmed that it would continue to seek a third country for his deportation.

Eduardo Soto, Posada Carriles’s lawyer, told EFE today it must be proven that his client is a “threat to the population of the United States.”

Soto is to file a lawsuit in a Texas federal court for his client’s release.

In the letter, the ICE says that Posada Carriles has a history of participation in criminal activities and of associating with individuals involved in that type of situation.

He is also accused of “participating in violent actions that indicate contempt for public security and has a propensity to be associated with activities that represent a risk for the national security of the United States.”

The ICE added that public information and “his own statements link him to the planning and coordination” of a series of bomb attacks on restaurants and hotels in Cuba.

Likewise, it says that Posada Carriles, a native of Cuba with Venezuelan citizenship, was tried in Panama for crimes against the national security of that country, and was sentenced to prison, and that he escaped from a Venezuelan jail after an acquittal of charges against him was overturned in an appeal.

“Your expertise in assuming false identities, your disregard of U.S. immigration laws, your history of escape and the presence of your pending extradition request demonstrate that you pose a significant risk of fleeing if released from custody,” the ICE letter said, according to an AFP cable likewise published on March 31.

“Further, you have shown a cavalier attitude toward the impact your actions have had on the safety and well-being of persons and property,” the AFP quotes the letter as saying.

Trial of two Cuban-American academics on charges of being unregistered Cuba agents delayed until 2007

Pravda

The trial of Carlos Alvarez, 61, and Elsa Alvarez, 55, had been set to begin in May. But U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore said at a status hearing Thursday that he would postpone the trial until January 2007.

One key reason for the delay is that defense attorneys are challenging whether the FBI lawfully obtained warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to eavesdrop on the pair. Prosecutors said it will take months for federal officials to produce the information about those thousands of intercepts being sought by the couple's lawyers.

The defense lawyers are also appealing a previous decision to keep the couple in detention prior to trial. Moore said he was concerned that the lengthy trial delay could keep them jailed "for longer than they would otherwise serve if they were ever convicted." No date has been set for Moore to hear that appeal.

The Alvarezes, both longtime employees at Florida International University, have pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register as required as agents of a foreign government. Prosecutors have said they spied for Castro for years on Miami's Cuban-American exile community, reports AP.

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My comment: The Salem witch hunts and the Inquisition are not dead. They are alive and well, and their new headquarters is Washington, D.C. The 21st century directors are George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cuban Victims to US: Cease Hypocrisy

Havana, Mar 30 (Prensa Latina) Cuban victims of terrorism called on the US government on Thursday to put an end to impunity and hypocrisy in the case of Luis Posada Carriles.

In a joint statement released during the launching of the website: www.familiesforjustice.net, the Committee of Families of Victims of the Blowing-up of a Cuban plane off Barbados demanded justice from the White House.

Terrorist Posada Carriles was the mastermind of the mid-air blast of the Cuban plane in October 1976. All 73 innocent people onboard were killed.

For that crime, Posada Carriles is wanted by Venezuelan justice after his escape from a Venezuelan prison in 1985.

The statement recalls that the criminal, considered the Bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere, has been held in an immigration center after he reappeared in Miami a year ago.

We have seen how the US government treats Posada Carriles as an immigration case and protects him, despite being completely aware that he is an international terrorist, the text adds.

The tragic thing is that, as long as there is impunity, other families can also suffer our plight and become victims of this murderer, the statement denounces.

The website offers detailed information on the most notorious terrorists of this hemisphere and the victims of their criminal actions.

What politicians [or wanabe’s] is the Miami ultra right funding?

Below are the names of U.S. politicians [or wanabe’s] that are receiving funds from the extremists of the Miami ultra right.

Source: Federal Election Commission, Washington, D.C.
1/30/2006


The data, separated by commas, is as follow:

Name of the politician, office sought, amount received, and date.

John J Barrow, U.S. House Georgia District 12, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
John J Barrow, U.S. House Georgia District 12, $1000.00, 12/19/2005
Bill Nelson, U.S. Senate from Florida, $1000.00, 09/30/2005
Bill Nelson, U.S. Senate from Florida, $3000.00, 12/19/2005
Bob Etheridge, U.S. House North Carolina District 2, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
Bob Ney, U.S. House Ohio District 18, $1000.00, 11/04/2005
Henry Bonilla, U.S. House Texas District 23, $160.00, 07/08/2005
G.K Butterfield, U.S. House North Carolina District 1, $1000.00, 11/04/2005
G.K Butterfield, U.S. House North Carolina District 1, $3000.00, 11/30/2005
John Campbell, U.S. House California District 48, $1000.00, 09/06/2005
Ben Chandler, U.S. House Kentucky District 6, $2000.00, 06/31/2005
Chet Edwards, U.S. House Texas District 17, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
Eliot Engel, U.S. House New York District 17, $1000.00, 09/27/2005
John Ensign, U.S. Senate from Nevada, $3000.00, 10/20/2005
Mike Fitzpatrick, U.S. House Pennsylvania District 8, $1000.00, 11/04/2005
Virginia Fox, U.S. House North Carolina District 5, 1000.00, 12/13/2005
Trent Franks, U.S. House Arizona District 2, $1000.00, 09/06/2005
Alcee Hastings, U.S. House Florida District 23, $1000.00, 12/13/2005
Brian Higgins, U.S. House New York District 27, $1000.00, 12/19/2005
Bob Inglis, U.S. House South Carolina District 4, $1000.00, 07/21/2005
John Salazar, U.S. House Colorado District 3, $4000.00, 12/16/2005
Kendrick Meek, U.S. House Florida District 17, $1000.00, 11/30/2005
Randy Kuhl, U.S. House New York District 29, $1000.00, 11/04/2005
Steven LaTourette, U.S. House Ohio District 14, $1000.00, 12/13/2005
Lee Terry, U.S. House Nebraska District 2, $1000.00, 11/14/2005
Lesley Miller, U.S. House Florida District 11, $1000.00, 09/30/2005
Jim Marshall, U.S. House, Georgia District 3, $1,000.00, 09/23/2005
Thaddeus McCotter, U.S. House Michigan District 11, $1000.00, 12/28/2005
Cathy McMorris, U.S. House Washington District 5, $1000.00, 07/21/2005
Cathy McMorris, U.S. House Washington District 5, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
Charlie Melancon Jr, U.S. House Louisiana District 3, $1000.00, 07/21/2005
Charlie Melancon Jr, U.S. House Louisiana District 3, $1000.00, 12/19/2005
Bob Menendez, U.S. House New Jersey District 13, $1000.00, 09/13/2005
Solomon Ortiz, U.S. House Texas District 27, $1000.00, 07/21/2005
Solomon Ortiz, U.S. House Texas District 27, $1000.00, 11/30/2005
Frank Pallone, U.S. House New Jersey District 6, $1000.00, $2000.00, 07/21/2005
Tom Price, U.S. House Georgia District 6, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
Dennis Rehberg, U.S. House Montana District 1, $2500, 09/06/2005
Dave Reichert, U.S. House Washington District 5, $1000.00, 12/13/2005
Adam Schiff, U.S. House California District 29, $1000.00, 11/30/2005
Jean Schmidt, U.S. House Ohio District 2, $1000.00, 11/14/2005
Schultz Debbie Wasserman, U.S. House Florida District 20, $4000.00, 10/17/2005
Joe Schwarz, U.S. House Michigan District 7, $1000.00, 07/21/2005
Joe Schwarz, U.S. House Michigan District 7, $1000.00, 11/14/2005
Brad Sherman, U.S. House California District 27, $1000.00, 09/23/2005
John M Shimkus, U.S. House Illinois District 19, $1000.00, 12/13/2005
Michael E Sodrel, U.S. House Indiana District 9, $1000.00, 11/14/2005
Ted Poe, U.S. House Texas District 2, $2000.00, 07/21/2005
David Wu, U.S. House Oregon District 1, $1000.00, 09/27/2005

Cuban embargo should be an easy out

The Georgetown Voice

Editorial

March 30, 2006

Baseball and politics, like all good things, are even more interesting together. The recently concluded World Baseball Classic slid into politics when the United States made a fuss about allowing the Cuban national team to participate in the games. With the underdog Cubans claiming the runner-up spot in last week’s championship, a spotlight has now been placed on what may well be America’s silliest and most contradictory foreign policy: our continuing trade and travel restrictions on Cuba.

Since Fidel Castro and his communist regime came to power, and especially since the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. has restricted commerce with Cuba. Today, it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to travel to Cuba without a special permit, and most monetary transactions fall under an embargo.

Thus, when Major League Baseball, the organizer of the WBC, invited Cuba to participate in the spirit of international good will, the Treasury Department refused, since if the Cubans won, they would receive prize money. When the Cubans agreed to relinquish all rights to the prize money, the U.S. capitulated. The United States made good on the promise to withhold prize money, even with Castro now (in what is undeniably a political maneuver) promising the money to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

This example of U.S. stubbornness in the face of a chance to improve the Cuban-American relationship stands alongside numerous others: families separated by the travel ban, aid workers and missionaries barred from assisting the economically ravaged Cuban people and numerous blocked or slowed opportunities for productive trade between the two countries.

The logic behind the embargo is that any engagement with Cuba supports the Cuban regime; by withholding this support we weaken the regime. In fact, the only people being hurt are Cubans, who suffer from food shortages and a per capita GDP of $3,000.

See how well this policy has worked for the last 43 years: Castro remains popular due to his brave stance against “American imperialism” and he is free to visit human rights abuses upon his helpless citizens, such as constant surveillance of is citizenry and the arrest of political dissidents. And with brazen hypocrisy, the U.S. signs trade agreements with China, arguably both a worse violator of human rights and larger security threat. Meanwhile, China is developing a strong relationship with the Cubans, setting up a client state in our own backyard as trade between the two countries grows dramatically.

The right policy is to get Americans, American money and food to Cuba. The fruits of an economically and politically free society will become the seeds of Castro’s collapse. Cuba could very well become a friendly country, instead of a supporter of the blatantly anti-U.S. Venezuela and the ominously growing world power of China.

Though many Americans favor, at the very least, more trade with Cuba, this policy has not come to pass. Hard-line Cuban exiles control a large voting bloc in the crucial swing-state of Florida, causing presidents of both parties to pander their way toward policy. Hopefully, as the Cuban exile bloc begins to age out of power, or a President with the integrity to stand up for smart policy is elected, we will see renewed relations with Cuba. For the Cuban embargo, it should be 43 years of strikes and you’re out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

An excellent interview of Wayne Smith at Walter Lippmann's website

Interview of Wayne Smith

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Note: In my opinion, Wayne Smith would make an excellent Ambassador to Cuba when George Bush's failed Cuba policy (i.e. the emargo) hits the dust, and the White House is occupied again by someone that will follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Carter.

Catholic church in Cuba strives to reestablish the faith

National Catholic Reporter

Special Report -- Cuba

Issue Date: March 31, 2006

By DAVID EINHORN
Havana

Even in the worst of times, Maritza Sánchez never stopped attending church. José Luis Torres, raised in a secular family and in schools that deemed religion counterrevolutionary, didn’t even start attending until times had changed. Today both are helping the Catholic church work its way back into Cuba’s public consciousness, Sánchez as director of the aid group Cáritas and Torres as coordinator of youth programs in Havana.

Once one of Cuba’s seminal institutions -- even President Fidel Castro attended Jesuit high schools -- the Catholic church suffered three decades of repression and reprisal following the socialist revolution in 1959. Most churches stayed open, but anyone who openly declared religious faith was prohibited from certain studies or careers. More than 400 Catholic schools were closed and confiscated.

After having long maintained that churches were fronts for subversive political activity, the government reversed course in 1992, amending the constitution to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist. Religious liberties further expanded following a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

Cuba today, however, is still no bastion of religious liberty. The government delays immigration and residence permits for priests, denies the church access to the Internet, and still prohibits religious schools. The U.S. State Department charged in 2005 that worshipers across the religious spectrum are still subject to state surveillance, although Catholic church officials maintain that direct repression and reprisals have all but disappeared.

The church remains cautious in dealing with the authorities out of concern that policies to allow more religious freedom could just as easily be reversed. The focus instead is on religious belief as a personal responsibility that transcends the institutional status of the church.

“We cannot alter the life process of a country in order to aggressively impose faith,” said Bishop Juan de Dios Hernández Ruiz, auxiliary bishop of Havana. “The church’s strategy is not so much to regain ground lost over time, but to humbly put forth what we are convinced of: that faith is an indispensable ingredient for good.”

The number of people identifying themselves as Catholics has declined over many years to less than half the Cuban population. At the Our Lady of Carmen Parish in central Havana, for example, Fr. Teodoro Becerril estimates weekly attendance at 2,000 worshipers -- which seems considerable until he notes that the number was 7,000 in 1958, the year the 70-year-old priest took up his post.

Aside from problems with the government, reasons for the decline include the growth of Protestant denominations and the numerous exoduses from the island. One high-ranking church official noted that the fear that persists in the public mind about declaring faith is as much an obstacle today as the actual consequences of doing so.

“We are emerging from a period when the transmission of faith from generation to generation was cut,” said Becerril. “The situation has improved, but people are still cautious. They want to see where this train is going to stop before they commit themselves.”

After a boom following the constitutional change and papal visit, church attendance has leveled off. Of the indicators used to measure church participation in Cuba’s largest archdiocese of Havana, only the number of baptisms exceeds numbers in a comparable U.S. diocese. And though Havana’s 34,000 baptisms in 2004 represented a sizable number, Becerril noted the special circumstances.

“Most people who bring their children for baptism are not practicing Catholics. They say to me, ‘I don’t want what happened to me to happen to my child.’ They want to be ready if there is another period of repression.”

The problem is that only 10 percent of baptized Catholics in Cuba are believed to attend Mass regularly, and, as the priest added, “the older they get, the less they participate.” The number of confirmations bears him out: only 740 in all of Havana in 2004, this in an archdiocese of 85 parishes spanning three provinces with a population of over 3 million. The city’s 413 Catholic marriages in 2004 was the lowest since 1993.

Becerril said keeping the faith is difficult because “the average young person today wants to leave the country. In Cuba, if you don’t accept the career offered you by the state, you have no future. Some say they might go to the United States. So they are in a position of choosing to participate in a future that is uncertain.”

Torres, 31, coordinator of archdiocese youth programs for the past seven years, agreed that the church can expect stops and starts in the years ahead. As much as three-fourths of the population has never known any government other than the current regime.

“In Cuba today, religion is still something relatively new. So despite its long history, the church in a sense is just starting out.” Torres said he first came to church as a young adult, out of curiosity.

Torres runs youth programs such as an interparish soccer league that has 23 teams and 200 participants. Most are not Catholics, however, so the church treads softly. “The league enables us to open a dialogue with young people about virtues and values. But we don’t pray at the games because they take place in public and we don’t want to have any problems,” Torres said.

Outreach beyond traditional religious boundaries to address social issues also is no easy task in Cuba. With an annual budget of only $400,000, Cáritas provides social services through a parish-level network of volunteers. But unlike the situation in other countries, Cáritas in Cuba is prohibited from importing goods, is required to make all purchases at exorbitant retail prices, and is restricted to accepting donations from state-approved funding sources.

“What I can tell you is that we are tolerated,” explained Sánchez, 49, director of Cáritas since it opened in 1991. “It is difficult to develop any programs that involve collaboration between the church and government. The problem is the ideology that no one can be the protagonist in these matters except the state.”

Despite the ubiquitous role of the state in Cuban life, other factors affect the Catholic church in this diverse nation of 12 million people. The church must address issues confronting societies across the globe, such as materialism, the breakdown of families, and changes in cultural values fueled by mass media.

“It is a mistake to think that just because we are an island we are somehow separated from worldwide trends,” said Bishop Hernández. “Some trends might get here a little later than other places, but they get here.”

David Einhorn is a freelance writer based in Washington.
New Cuba bishop speaks out

Juan de Dios Hernández Ruiz became the auxiliary bishop of Havana Jan. 14. The 57-year-old Jesuit priest is a native of Holguín in eastern Cuba. “I love this country and I love Jesus Christ and the church,” he said. “These are the three loves that define my life.” Below are excerpts from an interview with the bishop just days after he took office.

“It is impossible to explain the Catholic church in Cuba or anywhere else from anything other than the perspective of faith. It’s true that its temples and its social and educational institutions allow for its visible manifestation. But faith as a culture transcends institutional elements, and the more profound reality of the church can only be experienced through that tool. Faith is the only way to access and fully comprehend the mystery -- that is to say, the spirituality -- that is the church.

“At any given moment, a religious institution anywhere might find itself facing direct or indirect forms of repression. But when faith is culture, even in Cuba, which has faced enormous problems in holding onto its enormous reserve of Christianity, faith endures despite all of these difficulties.

“Without a doubt, religious freedom was directly and sometimes violently infringed upon for many years in Cuba. There were times when it was very difficult for people to attend church. Thank God, there are fewer such problems today: Direct challenges by state institutions to the very right to religion have all but disappeared. We are free to publicly express our faith, and every diocese today has some kind of newsletter or magazine. This is what gives us hope that times are indeed changing.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cuba slaps back at Canadian bank

The Toronto Star

Diplomat upset U.S. rules apply to Scotiabank

Cuban account closed on `question of principle'

Mar. 28, 2006. 01:00 AM

OAKLAND ROSS
FEATURE WRITER

Just who is in charge of Canada's bankers?

That's what Gisela Garcia Rivera wants to know, and she may not be alone.

Garcia Rivera is Cuba's ambassador in Jamaica, and last Friday she angrily closed all her government's accounts at a branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia in the Jamaican capital, ending a business relationship that had lasted a decade or more.

"It's a question of principle above all," the ambassador said in a telephone interview with the Toronto Star yesterday. "Evidently, Scotiabank is not a reliable bank for us."

Garcia Rivera was protesting a recent decision by the bank that appeared to put compliance with domestic U.S. laws ahead of customer service in Jamaica — or anywhere else in the world — at least if the customer in question happens to be a card-carrying representative of the government of Cuba.

"It's an injustice," she said. "They are applying an extra-territorial law that makes no sense."

The Cuban diplomat was referring to a letter dated March 7 from Barrington Chisholm, manager of the Scotiabank branch on Knutsford Blvd. in Kingston, in which Chisholm said his bank is no longer willing to handle U.S. dollar accounts for the Cubans or to carry out international financial transactions on their behalf.

"The decision came from head office," Chisholm said in an interview yesterday.

Frank Switzer, a Scotiabank spokesman in Toronto, told the Star the company's new restrictions involving its dealings with Cuba apply not only in Jamaica but anywhere the bank does business.

"Theoretically, this would apply to any of our branches," he said.

In his letter to the Cubans, Chisholm explained that the measure was being taken "to comply with the dictates of the `US Patriot Act' relating to US dollars transactions" — but he appears to have got hold of the wrong American law.

Passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2001, immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act seeks to bolster America's response to terrorist threats on many fronts, but it has little if anything to do with Cuba.

Switzer conceded yesterday that the 2001 anti-terrorist law was possibly not the appropriate statute to use in restricting business dealings with the island.

He said it might have been better to refer to a raft of other U.S. laws, going back decades, that bar or impede commerce between the United States and the Caribbean island, ruled since 1959 by Fidel Castro.

"All that stuff," he said.

But Switzer defended what he described as an across-the-board refusal to conduct U.S. dollar transactions or to handle U.S. dollar accounts for Cuban government agencies.

"Any transaction involving U.S. dollars has to be settled in the U.S.," he said, "so you have to be mindful of U.S. law."

He said the bank's policy is directed not only at Cuba but at any country affected by U.S. economic sanctions.

In a subsequent email, he identified those countries as Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Myanmar.

"Generally, Cuba and Iran have the most exhaustive restrictions," he said.

Scotiabank's determination to follow U.S. trade laws even outside U.S. territory does not appear to be shared by other Canadian banks.

Laureano Cardoso, the Cuban consul-general in Toronto, said yesterday the consulate does its banking with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, mainly because the CIBC has a branch located nearby.

"We don't have rules to be with one bank or another," he said. "We haven't had any problems."

The Cuban consulate in Montreal maintains its account with the National Bank of Canada, he said, and also reports no recent difficulties.

Myrna Drew-Lytle, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association, said she knows of no common position adopted by Canadian financial institutions regarding U.S. sanctions against Cuba.

"These would be business decisions made by each bank based on their own legal advice," she said.

Andrew Hannan, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa, said the federal government is not yet prepared to make an official comment on the dispute in Jamaica between Scotiabank and the Cuban Embassy.

"We are aware of the situation and are looking into it," he said.

Monday, March 27, 2006

FEMA blew it again!

On my weekly visit to my local library, I picked up a copy of La Prensa, a so-called free periodiquito that bills itself as “El Periódico Hipano de la Florida.” A more apt description would be the “Yellow Pages for Hispanic Lawyers.”

In page 44, I found a FEMA recovery alert written in Spanish. FEMA continues to commit the same mistakes, in either writing ‘good Spanish’ or translating English to Spanish.

It talks about vivienda temporera. I am assuming that they were talking about temporary housing. The temporera word appears twice in the document.

Nowhere in the Oxford English/Spanish Dictionary the word 'temporera' appears. Proper use of the Spanish language, according to Oxford, would be: temporal, provisional, temporario, provisorio, pasajero, eventual, provisorio, depending on the context of where it is used.

FEMA has already demonstrated that it does not know how to respond to a natural disaster of the magnitude of Katrina. They continue to demonstrate that they do not understand the proper usage of good Spanish, or how to write a correct English to Spanish translation.

Gourriel, Garlobo and Marti selected to 2006 WBC All-Tournament Team

(Selected by media panel)

Catcher: Tomoya Satozaki, Japan (.409, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

First base: Seung Yeop Lee, Korea (.333, 5 HRs, 10 RBI)

Second base: Yulieski Gourriel, Cuba (.303, 2 HRs, 6 RBI)

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, United States (.450, .522 OBP)

Third base: Adrian Beltre, Dominican Republic (.300, 4 HRs, 9 RBI)

Outfield: Ken Griffey Jr., United States (.524, 3 HRs, 10 RBI)

Outfield: Jong Beom Lee, Korea (.400, 6 2B, 10 H)

Outfield: Ichiro Suzuki, Japan (.364, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB)

Designated hitter: Yoandry Garlobo, Cuba (.480, 1 HR, 4 RBI)

Pitcher: Yadel Marti, Cuba (1-0, 12.2 scoreless innings, 2 SVs, 11 K)

Pitcher: Daisuke Matsuzaka,* Japan (3-0, 1.38 ERA, 10 K)

Pitcher: Chan Ho Park, Korea (10 scoreless IP, 3 SVs, 8 K)

* Matsuzaka was named tournament MVP.

Americans travel to Cuba for Hemingway project

www.cbc.ca

Last Updated Sun, 26 Mar 2006 16:57:42 EST

CBC Arts

A group of Americans are headed to Cuba to help its government preserve the documents and the fishing boat of author Ernest Hemingway.

Dana Hewson, a boat preservationist from Connecticut, is joining a group from the Boston-based Hemingway Preservation Foundation on Sunday as they travel to the author's estate in Cuba, Finca Vigia.

"This is all about us offering guidance and resources to help them," Hewson told the Connecticut-based newspaper The Day.

"I'm really excited," he said. "Professionally, this is a really fascinating project for me."

Hewson will examine the Pilar, the 40-foot (12.9-metre) boat that Hemingway used while he lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960. The American author, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, died in 1961.

The vessel, a Wheeler Playmate, is said to be in a place where Hemingway created some of his greatest works, including The Old Man and the Sea.

It is stored under a metal roof on a former tennis court on the estate, about 20 kilometres from Havana.

Hemingway bought the boat in 1934 from a shipyard in Brooklyn, N.Y. He left it in his will to his boatman, who gave it to the Cuban government.

The group is also working to preserve Hemingway’s home and thousands of drafts, manuscripts, letters, photographs and books stored there. He bought the house with proceeds from For Whom the Bell Tolls, which sold 500,000 copies in the first five months after being published.

The U.S. National Trust for Historic Preservation placed it on its 2005 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places even though it is not in the United States

The National Trust teamed up with the Hemingway Foundation in 2005 and persuaded the Bush administration to allow a team to go to Cuba to help with conservation efforts already underway by the Cuban government.

There are fears warm, humid conditions will eventually damage the papers, which include the never-published epilogue of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway's other novels include The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have Not and Farewell to Arms.

WBC Cuban Manager, Higinio Velez, artifact sent to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Items from World Baseball Classic Arrive in Cooperstown

National Baseball Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum collected several artifacts from the inaugural World Baseball Classic, including more than a dozen items from the semi-finals and finals at PETCO Park in San Diego.

Ichiro Suzuki, member of the champion Japan Team, has once again generously donated to the Museum. Ichiro's batting helmet worn during the World Baseball Classic, will join several artifacts from his All-Star career already in Cooperstown. When Ichiro established a new single-season hits record in 2004, he donated the bat he used to collect the record-setting hit, his sunglasses, batting gloves, and spikes.

The Japanese team defeated Cuba, 10-6 on Monday [3/20/2006], winning the first-ever World Baseball Classic, which featured teams from 16 different countries over 17 days of competition. The tournament is scheduled to be played again in 2009.

Other items collected from the winning Japanese team include the spikes worn by Japan manager Saduharu Oh, the jersey worn by World Baseball Classic Most Valuable Player Daisuke Matsuzaka, the cap worn by Nobuhiko Matsunaka, the warm-up jersey worn by Koji Uehara prior to his semi-final start, and a sign made by a Japanese native and San Diego resident in the shape of the Japan flag with the words “Miracle Night” in English and “Do our best” in Japanese.

In addition, the Museum accepted the jersey from Cuban manager Higino Velez, signed by his team, as well as several items from previous rounds of the Classic, including: From the Dominican Republic, a bat used by Adrian Beltre, the cap worn in his semifinal start by Bartolo Colon, and a Dominican Republic flag waved at the semifinal by a San Diego resident and D.R. native. From Korea, the bat used by 1B Seung Yeop Lee, who led all WBC participants with five home runs, a cap worn by right fielder Jin Young Lee, whose defense was key to their success, and a pair of “KOREA” thundersticks distributed at PETCO Park in San Diego.

Additional Items from the WBC headed to Cooperstown: the first pitched ball in WBC play (by Chinese Taipei), March 3, at TokyoDome in Japan; the rosin bag from the pitchers’ mound on March 10 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when Sergio Martis threw a seven-inning no-hitter against Panama; and a commemorative home plate from the opening round of Pool B games in Scottsdale, Arizona, signed by the four managers of pool participants USA, Canada, Mexico and South Africa.

The artifacts will go on display in the Cooperstown Museum in a new exhibit dedicated to the World Baseball Classic, to be opened in mid-May.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The embargo is foolish and outdated

www.chapelhillnews.com

Published: Mar 25, 2006

University of North Carolina students get rare glimpse of Cuba

By JEREMY BORDEN, CORRESPONDENT

CHAPEL HILL -- For many, the place exists only in Hollywood movies: old Chevys and charming shops, screeching trumpets and tropical breezes.

For the few Americans who get to go there, Havana, Cuba, can be an enchanting place with a warm and gracious people. Even though it is only 90 miles from Key West, however, the island nation may as well be on the other side of the world due to U.S. travel and trade restrictions, known as the embargo. The Cold War holdover persists even as the United States pursues relations with China and other communist countries.

But every spring a group of UNC students trades dorm life for a chance to bring a few of those stories back to North Carolina.

Due to Bush administration restrictions that took effect in 2004, such college programs now have a higher bar to meet. They must be at least 10 weeks long, among other requirements, and established programs get preference.

As a result, UNC is one of the few American schools to offer a program in Havana. American University in Washington, D.C., and Sarah Lawrence College in New York are the others. Once in Havana, students travel independently, brush up on their Spanish, and become immersed -- through classes and living -- in the enigma of Cuba.

Then they come back and tell stories.

They talk about the waterfront, or el malecon, and about Celina -- the woman who makes piping hot pizza and sends it down from her fourth-story apartment window on a pulley. They talk about the music and vibrancy of the Cuban people.

But there's another side: Students describe the poverty they saw, run-down buildings and people who will say only in private what they think about Fidel Castro, the communist dictator since 1959.

Still, many said there is more good than bad.

"Cuba has things with their system that we certainly don't have," said Cody Rifkin, a first-year law student at UNC who went on the program as an undergraduate in 2004.

"The universal health care, free education through college, any professional school as well ... In the U.S., yes we have free press and a lot of freedoms that the Cubans don't, but at what cost?" Rifkin said.

"There's a give and take in any political system. That's the way I look at Cuba."

Louis Perez, a UNC history professor, jumpstarted UNC's study abroad program, using his contacts from research on 20th century Cuban history to get the ball rolling.

"The policies and politics of this government is a function of the larger environment which it exists," Perez said. "Cubans have lived almost 50 years (near) a country whose government's explicit purpose is to overthrow the Cuban government."

Still, the Bush administration and others point to a government that quashes political dissent and tightly controls all information. Fair elections have not taken place in Cuba since Castro's rise, and, in public, Cubans keep their politics to themselves in fear they might be persecuted.

Amnesty International, in a March 2005 report, told of 75 Cubans imprisoned for political reasons. The Cuban government has charged them with crimes, such as "publishing articles or giving interviews, in U.S.-funded or other media, said to be critical of economic, social or human rights matters in Cuba," among other offenses, according to the report.

Richard Cole, the recently retired dean of UNC's journalism school, took about a dozen groups of students to Havana during spring breaks in the 1990s. He's seen firsthand Castro's ruthlessness.

"You don't criticize the goals of the party," Cole said. "(Castro) controls the army, he has ... enforcers, there are people in each neighborhood who listen to what's going on and if someone is critical of Castro they report it."

But Cole places part of the blame on the embargo.

"I think the embargo's crazy," he said. "If we would drop the embargo, plane-loads of blue-haired ladies from Minnesota would go visit. The embargo, in my opinion, is what's keeping Castro in power," because it keeps Cubans mired in poverty and the U.S. as the reason, Cole said.

Former students of UNC's study abroad program in Cuba come back thinking along the same lines -- that the embargo is foolish and outdated.

"People think Cubans are clamoring at the gates to get out, and no one wants to be there," said Sarah Hench, who went in 2004. "That's absolutely untrue."

But she said that while the program gave her insight into some of the bigger issues, it was the small things she remembers most.

Her lasting image of Cuba: The blocks and blocks of people lined up for cheap ice cream in downtown Havana. It wasn't what she expected from Castro's harshly portrayed regime.

"They make a lot of social activities really affordable for lots of people. At the Coppelia - the ice cream is five scoops of ice cream for 28 cents."

"I learned so much while I was there, it was definitely one of the best decisions I've made."

-- An e-mail from Cuba --

Following is an e-mail from Matt Saldana, a UNC senior who arrived in Cuba on Jan. 24.

UNC has us set up at a really nice resedencia, in a beautiful part of town, El Vedado. We're walking distance from the University, the malecon (waterfront), and the Copellia ice cream palace (where everyone in Havana comes to wait in long lines and eat really cheap ice cream). We're just a short taxi ride (in a '50s Chevy, for less than fifty cents) to Habana Vieja, the gorgeous old part of town.

We've been received very well -- everyone on the street wants to know where we're from, and some fellow Cuban students have already befriended us and taken us to baseball games, traditional dance performances, and parties in their kitchens. We feel very welcomed, and almost at home in our neighborhood. We are in Cuba during a time of increased political tension -- there was an Anti-Imperialist March of 1.4 million the day we arrived -- but I have never felt unsafe or unwanted here. Cubans can distinguish, better than almost anyone else I've met, the politics and people of our country.

It would be nice to assimilate as much as possible. I've already been mistaken for being Spanish -- the last step, I suppose, is to be mistaken for a Cuban. We're a very small group of American students studying in the country, though, and we may have to remain content as a novelty. Either way, we've already made some lasting connections, and hope to continue doing so throughout the semester. We've benefited a lot from the UNC program having already been established. Some of our friends here are the same as the ones the last group made. We've only been here one week, so we have a lot to learn. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of the country.

-- end of e-mail --

Scientists Say Cranium May Be a Missing Link

Los Angeles Times

From Times Wire Reports

2:00 AM PST, March 26, 2006

Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern humans.

The hominid cranium was found in two pieces and believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old, said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.

Archeologists found the early human cranium five weeks ago in the Afar region, Sileshi said.

Growing number of exiles choose Cuba to rest in peace

Below are excerpts from a 'human interest' story publsihed in The Miami Herald.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Posted on Sat, Mar. 25, 2006

CUBAN COMMUNITY

It costs more and takes longer, but more Cubans are fulfilling their wish to return to the island -- even after death.

BY YUDY PINEIRO
ypineiro@MiamiHerald.com

Magalis Hernandez hadn't seen her son since he left Cuba for Miami seven years ago.

The 27-year-old, Michael Sanchez, finally returned last month -- in a coffin.

Miami relatives and friends of Sanchez paid $6,500 to return him to his mom in Ciego de Avila after he died in a January car accident near his Tennessee home.

''Thanks to them, I have him here next to me -- even though he is gone,'' Hernandez said.

Sanchez is one of a growing number of exiled Cubans who returned home after death.

''That's where they grew up. That's their heritage,'' said Evelyn Vargas, a licensed funeral director who handles out-of-country shipments for Florida Funeral Home in Miami. ``They wanted to go back to their country, and I guess they never made it.''

Funeral directors say the number of shipments has doubled in the past year or so as domestic funeral costs rise, more people realize tightened remittances and other restrictions do not apply -- and older generations of Cuban exiles continue to die.

''It's a shame they have to go back that way,'' Vargas said.

There are no records on how many bodies are shipped annually to Cuba, according to the office of Vital Statistics for Florida, the Cuban Interests Section, and the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees the trade embargo with Cuba.

But Florida Funeral Home -- one of a dozen licensed by the Treasury Department to make the shipments to Cuba -- sent nearly 80 last year, up from 25 in 2004. National Funeral Homes Group, another local operator, sent about 240 last year.

The average cost, excluding airfare and storage of the body: $2,795 for a body; $2,000 for ashes.

Price to ship anywhere else out of the country, plane ticket and all: about $2,500.

COMPLEX PROCESS

The process is time-consuming, as well: Shipping remains to Cuba takes up to a month, compared to three days for other countries.

Thw requests go through the U.S. government's Cuban Interests Section.

Eight documents, including a letter certifying that the person did not have a contagious disease, must be filled out in Spanish and English and approved.

''Cuba won't take anybody with tuberculosis, or another contagious disease,'' said Rafaiy Alkhalifa, owner of National Funeral Homes Group, which shipped Sanchez to Cuba.

He said he is seeing a rapid rise in the number of ship-outs to other countries, as well, in part because burying a loved one locally costs even more.

The fees for a wake, coffin and cemetery space in the United States easily can soar past $6,000.

Many countries have public cemeteries where people bury relatives for free, Alkhalifa said. Buying a cemetery plot ``is very much an American thing.''

Alkhalifa said he prepares about 120 funerals a month at his three funeral homes and ships about a third to foreign lands -- twice as many as he did two years ago.

BURIED NEAR FAMILY

He said some of the Cubans he ships out have few relatives in the United States. Hispanic customs also contribute to the high figures.

''Hispanics like to be buried near family,'' he said. ``What you have is closure.''

Daniel Tapanes, 30, of Miami, said his father had been thinking a lot about home in the weeks before he passed away in a Boston hospital on Feb. 3. So he wanted to send him back.

''My dad always told me that he didn't care. He said I shouldn't spend the money,'' said Tapanes, who spent $6,000 on the shipping. ``But I think he'll like it there.''

Julio Tapanes, 65, went home to his sister and brother in Matanzas on March 14.

As for the deceased Michael Sanchez, Miami cousin Elbya Hernandez said his case was a bit different. They sent him because his mother ``was desperate to see her son again.''

Sanchez arrived at Clavel funeral home in Ciego De Avila on Feb. 17, 44 days after dying.

He was buried that weekend at Santa Catalina Cemetery near his grandparents in the family mausoleum.

In keeping with tradition, the family will dig up the body after it has decayed, place the bones in a container, and slide it to the back to make room for the next relative.

Magalis Hernandez plans to visit her son's grave regularly, a 40-minute bike ride.

''He always used to tell me to keep the faith, that the day would come that we would see each other again,'' she said in tears.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mexican Government Fines Sheraton Hotel

Washington Post

By IOAN GRILLO
The Associated Press
Friday, March 24, 2006; 10:55 PM

MEXICO CITY -- A U.S.-owned hotel that expelled Cuban guests under pressure from the Treasury Department must pay $112,000 in fines for violating Mexican commerce law, the Mexican government said Friday.

The Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel, located at Mexico City's Angel of Independence monument, kicked out 16 Cuban officials attending a Feb. 2 meeting with U.S. oil executives after receiving a warning from the Treasury Department that it was in danger of violating a four-decade trade embargo against the regime of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said the hotel violated national commerce laws, which bar companies from discriminating against customers because of their nationality.

Officials at the New York-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc, which owns the hotel, did not return calls placed after hours on Friday.

The February expulsion provoked an angry response from officials in Havana and Mexican lawmakers who said the United States was interfering in other countries' domestic affairs.

In February, the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents hundreds of U.S. businesses, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary John Snow urging the department not to continue putting companies in such a difficult position.

The Treasury Department responded saying that it was not considering any changes in its enforcement activities.

The trade embargo against Cuba began in 1963 when Cuba was added to a list of countries covered by the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act. The law prohibits U.S. citizens and U.S. companies from doing business with countries on the list, although Congress has since made exceptions for cash sales of food and other agricultural products to Cuba.

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

Note: the Mexican law that the Sheraton Hotel violated is the National Act to Protect Trade and Investment from Foreign Norms that Contravene International Law, passed October 1996 to face the Helms-Burton extraterritorial law.

Dirty game against Cuba announced in Miami

Granma International

Havana, March 24, 2006

• Attempt to ignore Cuba’s decision to donate earnings that legitimately should go to our country to victims of Hurricane Katrina

IN its on-line edition last night (Thursday) and its printed edition today, the U.S. newspaper El Nuevo Herald published an insidious article titled "U.S. and Cuba clash over World Classic earnings," which, citing a so-called spokesman for baseball’s Major Leagues, attempts to ignore Cuba’s decision to donate to the victims of Hurricane Katrina earnings that legitimately should go to our country for having won second place in the tournament, which would not be handed over to Cuba by virtue of the criminal and shameful laws of the blockade.

As our people and public opinion know, our baseball players’ noble gesture of solidarity in handing over the Classic prize money to those affected by Katrina was not a new decision announced by President Fidel Castro on Tuesday when he welcomed home our glorious baseball team. On December 14, the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) sent a communiqué to the organizers of the World Classic stating that, in the face of the U.S. Treasury Department’s refusal to authorize Cuba’s presence in the event using the argument that our country could not receive earnings because it would go against the irrational Plan Bush for Cuba, it had been decided to donate any earnings corresponding to Cuba to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The letter from the Cuban Baseball Federation stated: "It is not the money that OFAC puts forward as the reason for our interest in competing. We are the federation of a poor but dignified country. Our only purpose is to cooperate so that baseball continues to develop and so that in the near future it will be re- included in the Olympic Program. We have never competed for money.

"With the intention of providing options, the Cuban Baseball Federation would be willing for any money that belongs to it from participating in the Classic to go to:

"— Victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans."

Although we are aware of the intentions and interests behind the Miami newspaper, we do not know the level of representation of Mr. Patrick Courtney, the self-titled spokesman for the Major Leagues, whom we know had no participation in the intense and serious negotiations that the Cuban Baseball Federation sustained in recent months with the organizers of the World Classic, and which finally facilitated our team’s successful participation in the extremely challenging sports event.

In a letter sent December 16 to the FCB, Mr. Paul Archey, vice president of the Major Leagues and the event’s main organizer, said, "We appreciate your offer to allocate any earnings generated by the Cuban Baseball Federation’s participation in the World Classic to the benefit of victims of Hurricane Katrina." He also stated that, based on Cuba’s proposal, a new application would be made to the State Department for a license allowing our national team’s presence in the tournament.

In late January of 2006, the U.S. government saw itself obliged to authorize Cuba’s participation in the Classic in face of the convincing proposal for a solution presented by the Cuban Baseball Federation and the broad international reaction against the cynical goal of excluding our nation from the event.

That is when the complicated preparatory process to guarantee the presence of our baseball players in the Classic was rapidly initiated, a process that included the signing of agreements between the Cuban Baseball Federation, the players and the event’s organizers.

On February 15, in a letter addressed to the Cuban Baseball Federation’s president, Mr. Paul Archey, vice president of the Major Leagues, stated: "Responding to the additional points that you have raised with us with respect to the Federation’s concerns around your participation in World Baseball Classic, we have sought the counsel of the United States State Department. After consultations held with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the State Department has authorized us to make the following commitments in a collateral letter with a mandatory effect:

— Within a period of 120 days after the tournament’s conclusion, the WBCI will send all the participating federations a balance of account of the disposition of any cash prizes and any non-assigned net income. Said account balance will include documents certifying that the WBCI has donated all of those funds to internationally-known charity organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Katrina Fund."

To whom do the non-assigned funds correspond if not to the Cuban Federation, prevented from having access to them because of the absurd and criminal blockade? What do the State Department and the Classic’s organizers have to say about this agreement approved with the Cuban Federation? Who is lying?

While this new, anti-Cuba dirty game is being carried out from Miami, the victims of Hurricane Katrina continue to suffer government neglect and the disastrous consequences of being displaced in other states throughout the country.

Cuba reiterates its solidarity with them and its disposition to give them the prize money legitimately won on the playing field by our athletes, radiating courage, discipline and respect for the Puerto Rican and U.S. American publics who cheered them on in the stadiums. The Cuban team’s visit to the areas where the Major League organization is building housing for Katrina’s victims reflected the sense of solidarity and the humane magnanimity of our ballplayers and their support for the Cuban Baseball Federation’s decision.

The manipulators and the faint-hearted might choose to ignore Cuba’s honorable gesture; but not the peoples.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Baseball: WBC hero Ichiro marks Mariners return with 3 hits+

www.tmcnet.com

[March 24, 2006]

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)

PEORIA, Arizona, March 24_(Kyodo) _ Fresh from helping Japan clinch the inaugural World Baseball Classic, outfielder Ichiro Suzuki marked his Seattle Mariners return with a 3-for-3 showing in the 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in a preseason exhibition game Thursday.

Suzuki, who was the driving force behind Team Japan's success at the WBC, singled to left in his first visit to the plate and added two more hits, including an RBI single to center, while catcher and compatriot Kenji Jojima went 1-for-3. "I'd be happy for the regular season to start right now," said Suzuki, who hit .364 in the Classic with one home run, five RBIs, seven runs and four stolen bases.

Suzuki said he did not have any regrets about choosing to miss a month of regular camp to participate in the Classic and was at a loss to describe how the feeling of joy after Japan conquered the world.

"I was able to perform in so many great games that I can't say there was a negative part of the experience," he was quoted as saying on the Mariners' website.

"In my entire baseball career, it was the greatest moment. The first World Baseball Classic of all time and Japan won...I can't express my feelings about that."

Elsewhere, Akinori Otsuka, who closed out Japan's victory over Cuba in the WBC final, pitched a scoreless ninth inning allowing two hits while striking out two in the Texas Rangers' 5-4 defeat to the Chicago White Sox.

Hideo Nomo started for the White Sox and pitched two innings, giving up a run on a homer to Kevin Mench and two other singles.

Outfielder Tadahito Iguchi, who opted out of the WBC, batted second in the lineup for the first time this spring and went 1-for-5.

In Tampa, Florida, Hideki Matsui went 2-for-3, cracking his third spring homer and registering an RBI single in the New York Yankees' 8-1 win over the Houston Astros.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cuban Retirees Condemn Bush's Plan to Takeover Cuba

www.ain.cubaweb.cu

Participants at rally held at Havana's José Martí Anti-imperialist Plaza, in back 138 Cuban flags

Havana, March 23 (ACN) Cuban retirees and pensioners joined growing national clamor against the Bush administration's so-called Plan to Assist a Free Cuba, during a demonstration held Wednesday at Havana's Jose Marti Anti-imperialist Plaza.

A pronouncement was read asking, "Who is supporting the US president in his quest to dismantle one of the most prized conquests of the revolution like the social security in our country, where no one is left unprotected?" Antonio Leon del Monte read the document, approved as a special resolution during the recently concluded Second Conference on Social Security, in the presence of Esteban Lazo and Juan Carlos Robinson, both members of the Communist Party's political bureau.

During the event, Lazo and Robinson presented Social Security Awards to the Social Workers Program, and to the research project on the psychosocial study of disabled persons and the social and clinical-genetic psycho-pedagogical study on mentally handicapped people in Cuba.

Members of Communist Party Political Bureau Alfredo Cartaya (in blue shirt) and Esteban Lazo on his right (in white shirt)Labor and Social Security Minister Alfredo Morales said that the most recent raise in pensions and salaries cost more than 4.26 billion pesos and came during a year when Cuba was financially stressed by damage caused by a hurricanes, high oil prices and the more than 45-year economic, financial and commercial blockade by the US.

Minister Morales pointed out that during this same period the Bush administration reduced funding for social programs in the US and abandoned the people of New Orleans leaving them to the mercy of hurricane Katrina. This, despite having received several warnings of the potential danger of hurricane flooding.

Ministers and vice ministers from eight countries and experts on international bodies were on hand for the event along with 400 delegates who had attended the Second Conference on Social Security, where improvements in the quality of life, physical and mental health, and better services were discussed.

Copyright ©2004 National News Agency CUBA (AIN) All Rights Reserved

Buena Vista singer Pio Leyva dies in Cuba


today.reuters.com

Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:37 AM ET7

HAVANA (Reuters) - Pio Leyva, a singer and composer in the Buena Vista Social Club band of veteran Cuban musicians, died on Thursday of a heart attack. He was 88.

Leyva, who won a bongo contest at the age of six and made his singing debut in 1932, had suffered a stroke on Sunday and died early Thursday morning in hospital, his daughter Rosalia said.

The colorful improviser of traditional Cuban "son" music was the latest of the famed band's stars to pass away.

Its oldest member, guitarist Compay Segundo, and pianist Ruben Gonzalez died in 2003, aged 95 and 84. Singer Ibrahim Ferrer died last year at the age of 78.

The largely forgotten musicians saw their careers suddenly relaunched when they recorded a jam session with guitarist Ry Cooder in 1996 that became the award-winning Buena Vista Social Club album.

The recording rekindled world interest in traditional Cuban music. Buena Vista was the name of a seniors-only social club in a western Havana neighborhood.

The touching story of their late-life rise to international fame was told in the Oscar-nominated documentary of the same name by German director Wim Wenders.

Leyva, born in 1917 in Moron in central Cuba, had a deep, country voice and was well known by the 1950s for singing in the bands of Cuban greats Benny More and Bebo Valdez.

"Music was his life. He almost sang yesterday," daughter Rosalia said at his wake on Thursday.

Is Cuba Really a Small Country?

www.periodico26.cu

By Alexis Schlachter

The Republic of Cuba covers an area of 109,722 Km2 according to the Geographical Encyclopedia of Cuba. Is it a small country?

Yes, it is. But the word small is always relative to the context where it is used.

If the Caribbean island's overall surface area is compared to that of some of its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere such as the United States (9,529,063 km 2)—which is the world's fourth largest country-- and Mexico (1,958,201 km 2), Cuba is, undoubtedly, a small nation. It would fit 86 times into the former and nearly 18 into the latter.

Cuba would seem infinitely smaller if one compared it to Russia (17,075,400 km 2), which is the world's largest nation. The island's territory is proportionately 155 times smaller than that Euro-Asian giant. And the list could go on with other huge countries such as China, Brazil, and so on.

Nevertheless, Cuba still cannot be considered either a very small or tiny nation amongst all the other countries of the Earth. There are 89 other nations that occupy a smaller area than the Caribbean island.

Cuba's area exceeds that of 17 independent nations in the Americas, 28 in Europe, 17 in Asia, 16 in Africa, and 11 in Australia and Oceania. In other words, Cuba is larger than most European and Australasian nations. It is also larger than half of the countries in the Americas and over a third of Asian and African states.

The readers may wonder why Cuba has traditionally been referred to as a small—almost tiny— country.

From a historical point of view, Cuba has been compared with larger nations. During colonial times, Spain dominated almost all the central, southern, and a very extensive part of the northern region of the Americas, nearly 12 million square kilometers. Spain also had lands in Asia and Africa, whose overall surface amounted to five times the area of the metropolis itself.

Under such circumstances, it is understandable that Cuba was considered small. That view was held uncritically by many for centuries.

On the other hand, the island's national history has been linked to the United States because of their geographical proximity and politics which led the US Army's intervention in the war of independence that they were waging in 1998 against the Spanish colonial power.

With Spain's defeat, the US turned the island into a neo-colony until 1959, when the Cuban Revolution came to power. Since then, successive US administrations have exerted aggressive policies against Cuba marked by an economic blockade and many terrorist actions aimed at overthrowing its political system

Cuba is a small country in area compared to the world's largest nations. Yet it is still bigger than eighty nine other independent states, thereby placing it in the middle of the world rankings. Did you ever think about that?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cuba donates field hospitals to quake-hit Pakistan

www.hindustantimes.com

Indo-Asian News Service

Islamabad, March 22, 2006|15:08 IST

Cuba has donated more than 30 mobile field hospitals established in Pakistan after last October's earthquake that killed an estimated 75,000 people, a senior official said on Wednesday.

"Two more field-medical facilities run by the Cuban paramedics have been donated to the government of Pakistan-administered Kashmir," Col Muhammad Usman clarified.

Cuba's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla signed an agreement in Muzaffarabad, the region's capital, to formally hand over the field hospitals.

The first group of 2,463 Cuban medical personnel arrived in Pakistan a week after the October 8 quake that wounded more than 100,000 people and left an estimated 3.5 million people without shelter.

"Cuban hospitals treated more than 130,000 patients and performed 12,000 surgeries during their stay in Pakistan," Usman stated.

Further, as many as 14 critically wounded patients from the quake-hit areas were transferred to Cuba for treatment, local officials at the Cuban field hospitals in the North-West Frontier Province district of Mansehra said.

Some members of the Cuban medical team have already returned while the remaining are likely to leave for home during the next few days.

Meanwhile, the US medical team also announced Tuesday it would wind up its relief operation with 1,200 personnel in Pakistani Kashmir by March 31.

Cuba Takes Care of Elders

Havana, Mar 21 (Prensa Latina) Employment, retirement and health care for a happy old age are issues of the 2nd Congress on Social Security taking place as of Tuesday at Havana´s Conference Center.

Increased life expectancy in Cuba until 77 years old and birthrate reduction have caused a graying of the population on a national level.

Last year, Cuba raised workers´ salaries, social security benefits and public assistance, benefiting over 5 million people, as well as minimum wages from 100 to 225 pesos monthly, benefiting more than 1,600,000 people.

The island´s social security covers one hundred percent of its population and these increases are carried out by the Cuban government, in spite of the almost 50 years of US economic, commercial and financial blockade.

Among these actions are priority care and insertion into society of people with disabilities but able to work.

Fidel Receives Cuban National Baseball Team


Photo Credit: Granma International

Cuba to give WBC prize money to Katrina victims

today.reuters.com

Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:49 PM ET7

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba gave its baseball team a hero's welcome on Tuesday and said the runner-up prize money from the World Baseball Classic would go to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.

Even though they lost 10-6 to Japan in the final of the WBC in San Diego on Monday, the amateur Cuban players were received as champions for getting so far in a tournament organized by professional baseball.

Cheering school children and workers lined streets waving Cuban flags and shouting "Viva Cuba!" as the players rode into Havana in a motorcade of open Soviet-era military jeeps.

President Fidel Castro relished the moment as a triumph over his bitter enemy, the U.S. government, which had tried to prevent Communist Cuba from playing in the 16-nation tourney, citing four-decade-old sanctions against Havana.

The Bush administration reversed that decision under pressure from the baseball world and after Cuba vowed not to take home any prize money. As runner-up, Cuba is entitled to 7 percent of the net revenue of the tournament.

"Whatever we get will be used there for the martyrs of Katrina, be it one million (dollars), two, three or four," Castro said in a speech.

"The money will go there without any doubt and with great satisfaction, because it will heighten the moral of our athletes."

Castro, 79, spoke at a welcoming ceremony for the team at an indoor stadium packed with young athletes where speakers hailed the "champions" for upholding "revolutionary sport."

The players were praised for returning home and not deserting to the Major Leagues, lured by big money.

Baseball, brought to Cuba by American sailors in the 19th century, is a national passion on the Caribbean island.

Despite desertions of top players to the Major Leagues, Cuba has dominated Olympic baseball in recent years. But the World Baseball Classic, organized by the Major Leagues, was a chance to measure up to professional baseball.

The reigning Olympic champions almost didn't make the event after Washington initially denied a Major League Baseball request for a license for Cuba to play in the United States.

But even the U.S. government set aside politics for a moment and praised the homecoming Cuban team.

An electronic billboard that usually flashes criticism of Cuba's one-party state from the front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana congratulated the players for their sterling effort in the baseball tournament.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Castro holds massive homecoming for Cuban baseball team

sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Posted: Tuesday Mar 21, 2006 11:02 PM

HAVANA (AP) - Cubans lined the streets by the thousands Tuesday to welcome their national baseball team home, waving flags, roaring cheers and clutching flowers. Despite Cuba's loss to Japan in the final, even Fidel Castro was in a jovial mood.

"There was almost an electrical crisis in this country with all the television sets turned on,'' the 79-year-old leader joked in his address to the several thousand fans assembled for the homecoming.

The day after Japan beat Cuba 10-6 to win the inaugural World Baseball Classic, players' wives, children and other relatives greeted them with hugs and kisses on the tarmac as their flight arrived Tuesday from San Diego.

"We'll be back,'' promised Yadel Marti, who was honored as the tournament's best pitcher, despite playing for a team with no major league players.

Looking somewhat sad, teammate Frederich Cepeda said, "those of us in baseball don't like to lose. Victory was so close, but we didn't achieve it.''

The players then embarked on a ride through Havana's streets in a convoy of olive green military Jeeps. With wailing police sirens, thousands of school children, workers and other baseball fans cheered as they streamed by.

At the homecoming celebration, Castro personally greeted each player, giving each a commemorative wooden bat manufactured in their team's honor. The players, in turn, returned to Castro the huge Cuban flag he entrusted to them before their departure, as well as two baseballs signed by all team members.

Castro said he had personally watched every single game they played, and "enjoyed, along with millions of citizens, of your feats over there.''

The communist leader celebrated their participation in the Classic as "a victory against the unfair exclusion'' of the team. It initially appeared that tightened U.S. restrictions would prevent Cuba from playing.

It took an appeal by Major League Baseball and a promise by Cuba that any winnings would go to Hurricane Katrina relief to change the U.S. government's mind.

But even bigger than winning the right to participate was that there were no defections as some had predicted early on, said Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba's National Institute of Sports.

"There is no doubt that the most important victory was the return to the homeland of every member of the delegation,'' Iglesias said.

This Caribbean island was consumed by the World Classic in recent days. Hundreds of fans gathered Monday night at Havana's Parque Central to watch the final game in San Diego on a giant television screen.

It's party time in Havana, Tokyo

Wed March 22, 2006

www.edmontonsun.com

By AP

HAVANA -- Fidel Castro's government announced a massive homecoming celebration yesterday for Cuba's baseball heroes, who lost the World Baseball Classic final 10-6 to Japan.

"With Their Boots On!" the Communist Party daily Granma exclaimed on a front page that included only coverage of the game and the planned welcome for the team yesterday afternoon.

"Welcome, Worthy Ballplayers" read another front page headline.

The players will be greeted at the airport, then taken on a swing around the edges of the capital before eventually arriving at the giant sports complex known as Sports City.

There, they will be feted in a ceremony attended by the players' families, top athletes, students, university leaders and possibly Castro. Although it was not announced whether Castro would attend, he has expressed great interest in the team's performance and his presence was considered likely.

"Cuba has overcome the best players in the world," said fan Jorge Perez at Parque Central.

Another, Rainoldi Cuba, added, "They did so much, we could not have asked for more."

In Tokyo, Japanese fans sang We are the Champions yesterday after Japan beat Cuba on Monday.

"This is history," said Kiyotaka Itai, a 41-year-old trainee acupuncturist at a sports bar in central Tokyo.

"Who knows what's going to happen in the future, but at least we in Japan got this very special day."

Tuesday's victory was especially sweet for Japan. Japan has traditionally struggled against the Cubans in international play.

Fans gathered in sports bars across the country on Monday, which was Vernal Equinox Day, a national holiday. The game was broadcast live.

Television ratings were expected to exceed those earned for the semifinal matchup with South Korea broadcast on Sunday in Japan.

The ratings for that game averaged 36.2% in the Tokyo area, according to a Kyodo News report.

That figure is the highest among all television programs aired this year, Kyodo quoted ratings service Video Research Ltd. as saying.

The results mark a rise in interest in baseball after dismal showings in ratings for professional baseball game broadcasts last year, Kyodo said.

World Classic enriched by inclusion of Cuba

March 21, 2006, 11:27PM

ON BASEBALL

By JOSE DE JESUS ORTIZ
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

SAN DIEGO - As Juana Hernandez walked through the gates at Petco Park on Monday night, she immediately began to dance to the Caribbean beats of her youth. Shaking her hips and rotating her shoulders in step with conga drums, she was hardly bothered by the band member wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

Hernandez, a legal secretary in San Diego, fled Cuba at 16 because of the legacy left behind by men like Guevara. She refers to Fidel Castro as a tyrant, and her commitment to America's free-market spirit was on display even while she waved a miniature Cuban flag.

Her long black blouse had a picture of a $100 bill on the chest, putting Benjamin Franklin right in the center. The logo at the bottom of her blouse was a collage of dollar bills. America is in her heart; Cuba is in her soul. And the World Baseball Classic had her dancing with a smile on her face along with countrymen from the opposite end of Castro's base.

If it had been up to the State Department, Cuba never would have participated in the WBC or had the chance to show its mettle against the best baseball players in the world.

Thanks to the diligent lobbying effort of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players association head Don Fehr and the Puerto Rican Federation's promise to bail out as a first- and second-round host if Cuba wasn't included in the WBC, Cuba ultimately was allowed to participate.

A vision at work

Baseball, not politics, won out. Selig and Fehr deserve tremendous credit for their vision and commitment to expand baseball throughout the world. Even while losing to Japan in the finals on Monday, Cuba showed it definitely belongs among the world's elite baseball teams.

Selig's WBC had folks talking about baseball at a time when March Madness has the supreme hold on America's attention. The ratings in America weren't off the chart, but check out the ratings in Japan and Latin America.

You should have tried searching for a hat, jersey or T-shirt with a Cuban logo on Monday at Petco Park. If you didn't pick one up by the first inning, you were out of luck.

The Miami mafia — as Castro's opponents in Miami are sometimes called — has bullied America into believing there is no support for Castro's island in the United States. The WBC proved otherwise. We refuse to lift our embargo against Cuba yet don't mind doing business with communist China, which, by the way, the State Department never complained about playing in the WBC.

Latinos showed up in droves in Puerto Rico and San Diego to support their Cuban brothers. Soccer still reigns throughout Latin America, but baseball is second in the region as a whole and No. 1 in places such as the Dominican Republic, Vene-
zuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Even Mexico, thanks in large part to the legacy of Fernando Valenzuela, has embraced baseball. Mexico's victory over Team USA last week will go a long way toward further cementing baseball's place with our neighbors to the south.

Heck, Cuba's march to the finals of the WBC also will help baseball grow throughout Latin America.

"First of all, they didn't even want to put (Cuba) in the tournament. But they did, because without them it wasn't a tournament," said Jose Reyes, a disabled Mexican construction worker who was raised in San Diego. "They proved they're good, man, you know? That's why they're here. I go for them.

"I'm Mexican. I go for Mexico. They didn't make it, but they dropped the giant (the U.S.). Maybe next time we're going to be here against Cuba or somebody that's better than them. You know what I'm saying?"

I hear you, hermano.

Pride runs deep

Michael Farinas was a baby when his mother, Lucia, fled Cuba and brought him to San Diego. It has been decades since they left Cuba, but he still refused to disclose his mother's maiden name on Monday.

With family still in Cuba, there remains fear of reprisal from Castro's regime. Nonetheless, Farinas bleeds Cuban red and had no qualms about supporting Castro's amateurs.

"First of all, the main important thing is us living in San Diego get an opportunity to see our fellow Cubans playing here," he said. "A lot of us left a long time ago. For us to see this here is beautiful.

"Cuba has no professional players on the team, and we're underdogs. And we want to do it all. We want it. We did it."

Baseball is America's pastime, but Selig and Fehr are smart enough to know there's passion and money for the sport throughout Latin America.

In case there were any doubts, Selig should have seen Hernandez shuffle her way through Petco Park while toting a Cuban flag and wearing a blouse with the Benjamins.

jesus.ortiz@chron.com

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cuba Makes Big Statement Despite Loss

Yahoo! News

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

Tue Mar 21, 4:58 AM ET

SAN DIEGO - Cuba still has plenty of reason to celebrate.

The Cubans surprised a lot of people just by reaching the World Baseball Classic final, even though losses in international competition are rare for the communist Caribbean nation. And after all, they almost weren't allowed to participate because of the country's touchy political relationship with the United States.

So while Japan won Monday night's championship game 10-6, the fact that Cuba made it so far showed fans back home that this team — which has lost top stars to defection in recent years — could compete against rosters loaded with major leaguers.

The Cubans advanced through the 16-team tournament when the talented teams from the Dominican Republic and United States, both filled with All-Stars, could not. Cuba made it farther than three of
New York Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner's superstar multimillionaires: Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

"Reaching the gold medal game wasn't a gift from anyone," Cuban manager Higinio Velez said. "Cuba was even included in the toughest group, the group of death."

It was quite a tournament for Cuba, which has reached 37 straight title games in major international events and won 22 of its last 25 games.

But the Cubans, who consider themselves amateurs despite their star status on the streets of Havana, couldn't add the inaugural Classic to a long list of accolades that includes last year's World Cup title, the 2004 Olympic gold medal and the championship of the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo.

Moments after their defeat, with the Japanese celebrating in the middle of the diamond, Cuba's players made their way out of the dugout to congratulate their opponent — a respectful gesture common in international play.

"I think this Classic is historic because it demonstrated that not only the players from the paid major leagues can carry the supremacy. We've demonstrated that what matters is sacrifice, human values and the effort you give on the field," Cuban outfielder Frederich Cepeda said. "This is a well-deserved second place. We're not satisfied, but we're happy with our performance."

It was such an honor for them to take part that Cuban officials have hinted they would like to be considered as a host for the next WBC three years from now.

Cuba's Yadel Marti and Carlos Tabares posed on either side of Ichiro Suzuki for a postgame photo.

"It was a great tournament," Marti said. "It's good for Cuba. We have to be happy."

As the game wore on Monday night, Cuba staged a final rally in the eighth. Cepeda delivered a two-run homer off Japan reliever Shunsuke Watanabe to pull the Cubans to 6-5, and their spirited fans — many draped in the country's flag and clanging cowbells — who had packed Petco Park kept chanting "Cuba! Cuba!"

"In history, Cuba has always been a really strong team," said Japanese reliever Akinori Otsuka of the
Texas Rangers. "I realize how strong the baseball system is in Cuba. Probably everybody knows about Cuba."

But Japan and its effective small-ball style exposed every weakness on a Cuban pitching staff that had been near perfect in its previous seven WBC games. Cuba's deep staff looked hittable again, two days after Marti and Pedro Lazo shut down the Dominicans in the semifinals.

The pitchers, and all of Cuba's players for that matter, sacrificed their stardom to participate in this special event even if it was in a more limited role than they might have liked. Most members of the pitching staff are starters back home, accustomed to working deep into games.

In Havana's central park, where hundreds watched the game on giant screens, the mood was quiet and somber after the loss.

"Cuban baseball, Olympic and world champion, was always questioned because it didn't face professionals. And look, they reached the Classic final," said Jorge Perez, a construction worker in the city.

Cepeda might have said it best when he described what this run meant in his country.

"If we could win, that would be the greatest victory that would have been expected in Cuban baseball," he said. "The world has been waiting for this day playing against the major leaguers."

And Cuba made the most of it.

Japanese down Cuba to capture World Baseball Classic crown

Yahoo! News

Tue Mar 21, 3:19 AM ET

SAN DIEGO, United States (AFP) - Japan's greatest-ever baseball squad captured global supremacy in its beloved national pastime, defeating Cuba 10-6 here in the World Baseball Classic championship game.

Scoring four times in the final inning, the Japanese team beat the Communist dynasty's amateur dynasty for only the fifth time in 38 games to capture the crown in the first global event with Major League Baseball talent.

"This is probably the biggest moment of my baseball career. This event has decided the true world champions and we have won," Japan star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki said. "I'm unbelievably happy. It's amazing,"

The title game featured only two major leaguers - Suzuki of Seattle and Japan pitcher Akinori Otsuka of Texas - but both had a key role in the outcome and Ichiro was even ready to sacrifice the club season for a triumph.

"I didn't even think about the upcoming season. I didn't care if I would get injured in this game," Suzuki said. "That's how much I wanted to win this game. That's how driven we were for this championship."

Suzuki singled in a run in the ninth to put Japan ahead 7-5, Hitoshi Tamura added a two-run single and Nobuhiko Matsunaka scored on a sacrifice fly.

Otsuka, who pitched Japan out of a jam in the eighth, gave up a run before striking out Yulieski Gourriel to end the game and spark a joyful celebration in which Japan players tossed manager Sadaharu Oh into the air and caught him.

"I thought I would never get a chance to manage a team like this," Oh said.

Winning pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, a 25-year-old Seibu Lions right-hander, was named the Classic's Most Valuable Player, finishing the tournament 3-0 after striking out five and allowing only one run in the first four innings.

"I'm excited I had a chance to play on the best team ever," Matsuzaka said. "With the world championship on the line, I was really proud I did a good job."

Matsuzaka had struck out seven in 8 1/3 innings in a 6-3 victory at the 2004 Olympics in the most recent prior Cuba-Japan meeting.

"This brings a lot of responsibility and a lot of pride," Matsuzaka said. "We wanted to show our baseball is at a top level. This makes us very happy."

Classic batting leaders Japan, which escaped the second round only because Mexico upset the United States, pounded Cuban pitching for six runs on seven hits in the first five innings then fought off a late Cuban rally.

"Our team doesn't give up," Cuban manager Higinio Velez said. "Our team continued to fight with courage but it was very difficult."

Cuba had pulled within 6-5 on Frederich Cepeda's two-run homer in the eighth inning off left-handed reliever Soichi Fujita.

Cepeda and Osmani Urrutia each drove in a run for Cuba in the sixth to start the comeback but Cuba failed to score in the seventh despite two Japan errors, a wasted golden opportunity that proved costly.

The Cubans, no worse than second in any global event since 1951, proved they could compete with the best US clubs had to offer, ousting major leaguer-laden teams from Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.

"What Cuba has shown is not only can we play up to par with major leaguers, but our character," Cuban outfielder Frederich Cepeda said. "We don't get paid. We do this with sacrifice, human courage, value and sportsmanship.

"Cuba has shown the world that we have our heart in baseball, that we want to play in every single tournament."

Cuban talent lost in the defections of major league pitchers Orlando Hernandez, Livan Hernandez and Jose Contreras was sorely missed against Japan.

With the bases loaded in the first inning, Tamura was hit by a pitch and Michihiro Ogasawara walked to force in runs. Toshiaki Imae followed with a single up the middle to give Japan a 4-0 lead.

Eduardo Paret smacked the fourth pitch from Matsuzaka for a first-inning homer but Tamara singled in a run in the fifth and Matsunaka scored on a pair of sacrifices to give Japan a 6-1 lead.

Japan and Cuba: Both are Winners

Japan was the better team last night. It deserved to win the World Baseball Classic crown. The pitching by Matsuzaka was impressive. And one of my favorite baseball players -- Ichiro -- played like he always does, giving 100% to his team. No other player in Major League history has ever had 200 hits or more in five consecutive years. Watch out Pete Rose, here comes Ichiro.

But Cuba also won. It has demonstrated to the world that it can play with the 'best of the best' major leaguers and win. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela can atest to that.

The Cuban people have to be very proud of their team. They play for the love of the sport and the love of their country.

Way to go Cuba!

I can't wait till 2009.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Baseball-Crazy Cuba Hopes to Clinch World Title Against Japan

March 20, 2006

ABC News

Cubans Rejoice in Showing the World Their Batting Might in First-Ever World Baseball Classic

By MARC FRANK

HAVANA, Cuba, March 20, 2006 — Cubans put their troubles aside over the weekend as they celebrated their semifinal victory over the Dominican Republic at the first World Baseball Classic.

The collective euphoria continues as Cuba takes on Japan tonight in the finals, a contest they never thought they could play in, much less win.

Baseball is Cuba's passion, and the national team is a source of collective pride on this Caribbean island of 11 million people who often feel belittled, misunderstood and victimized by the outside world.

Months ago, the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that Cuba, the undisputed champion of amateur baseball, could not participate in the first World Baseball Classic because the prize money would violate the U.S. trade embargo.

The Bush administration reversed its decision only after the World Baseball Federation threatened to boycott the games and President Fidel Castro offered to donate all proceeds to Hurricane Katrina victims.

That set the stage for the Cuban team to compete against the world's best teams for the first time since the 1959 revolution put an end to professional sports on the island.

Covering All Bases

Early Saturday evening, Havana's streets were deserted and the usually packed buses were empty. Homes and bars rocked in near hysteria as the Cuban team pulled ahead in the seventh inning and then held off a Dominican lineup of major league stars to win the game, 3-1.

"It was bedlam. Horns began blaring and the celebrating was so loud I couldn't hear the announcer's final words," said Carlos Barnes, a retired government functionary in Cuba's third-largest city, Holguin.

The country basked in the victory and is getting ready to start all over again tonight as Team Cuba takes on Japan at San Diego's PETCO Park.

Victory in Reaching the Finals

Whatever the outcome of tonight's championship game, the WBC has already brought joy to this Communist-run country that has suffered hard economic times since the Soviet Union collapsed and the United States imposed sanctions.

"After the last pitch, everyone poured into the street to celebrate," said 27-year-old Eduardo Machin in a telephone interview from eastern Santiago de Cuba, the Caribbean island's second-largest city. "People I never saw before hugged me or shook my hand," he said.

"All of a sudden no one was thinking of their everyday problems and sorrows, of making ends meet, finding transportation, or of loved ones who have emigrated," Machin added. "We were living moments of pure joy."

Cuban athletes, though national idols, are treated as state employees and are expected to play for love of the sport, not glory or money.

Some of the country's best baseball players, such as Jose Contreras and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, have found their way to the United States and the Major Leagues despite government obstacles. Their careers are followed with pride by fans on the island, even though the state-run media never mention their names after "defecting."

Major League Myth

Reaching the WBC final is a triumph for Cuba. Even though the national team has won three out of four Olympic gold medals in baseball, 25 of the 28 World Cups, and nine of 12 Intercontinental Cups, it was speculated that the Cubans would be no match for the professionals who add power to most of the other 15 teams in the WBC.

The "hot corner," a traditional meeting place for hundreds of baseball fans in Havana's Central Park, was filled Sunday with ecstatic men debating what would happen tonight.

"For 60 years, the Americans have said we are very good amateurs, but no match for the Major Leagues," said a young man in the crowd.

"There has been the myth that they are invincible. Well, the myth has finally been put to rest with our wins against Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic," he said, with those around him nodding their heads.

Meanwhile, a big party is being planned in the capital for the team's triumphant return, no matter the outcome.

And Cuba's best-known baseball fan, Fidel Castro, who reportedly has watched all the games, plans to welcome the team home and share in the glory.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said, "If they win there will be even more joy, but if not, our people think they have done their very best and proved the quality of amateur sports in our country."

Japan's Ace: Daisuke Matsuzaka


Daisuke Matsuzaka #18 of Japan pitches against Cuba in a baseball preliminary game, at the Baseball Centre in the Helliniko Olympic Complex in Athens on 17/08/2004

Photo Credit: www.athens2004.com

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Vamos Amor

Vamos hoy a desafiar amaneceres,
Para recibir al sol allá en las flores,
Vamos hoy que la mañana trae amores,
Para mí, como soy, y para ti, tal como eres.

Vamos hoy a caminar sin padeceres,
Olvidándonos del alma y de su mito,
Vamos hoy que el amor será infinito,
Para mí, como soy, y para ti, tal como eres.

Vamos amor, floréceme temprano,
Se tu la suerte debocar mi olvido,
Se tu el camino para ser, yo desafío de amanecer,
Entre las manos de un amor prohibido.

Vamos amor, desnúdate de dudas,
Tú dame un beso, más calor, y crece,
De madrugada, para ser, celo del sol y amanecer,
Allá en la flor que nacerá cuando te bese.

Vamos hoy a desafiar amaneceres,
Cuerpo a cuerpo, sin ocultar el nombre,
Bajo soy, a pesar que el sol se asombre,
De verme así, como soy, y verte a ti, tal como eres.

Vamos amor, floréceme temprano,
Se tu la suerte debocar mi olvido,
Se tu el camino para ser, yo desafío de amanecer,
Entre las manos de un amor prohibido.

Vamos amor, desnúdate de dudas,
Tú dame un beso, más calor, y crece,
De madrugada, para ser, celo del sol y amanecer,
Allá en la flor que nacerá cuando te bese.

Allá en la flor que nacerá cuando te bese.

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

The above lyrics are from "Vamos Amore" of the CD "Animo Gente Mía" by Los Novos, a very talented duo from Cienfuegos, Cuba.

They publish their songs under the Ahí-Namá Music label .

The following paragraph is from the CD:

Los Novo is the result of a 15-year creative collaboration between two brothers, Pedro and Roberto Novo who are recognized poet singer-sogwriters. The two are also founders of El Movimeinto de la Nueva Trova (The New Ballad Movement) in the central region of Cienfuegos,Cuba, and are members of UNEAC (Union Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos). They have particiapted in numerous events, festivals and tours both national and international.

If you are a lover of good Cuban music, this CD is a 'must add' to your collection.