Saturday, March 31, 2007

CANDELA! Yoandry Urgellés and Alexander Malleta on fire in Cuba's XLVI National Baseball Series Playoffs


Yoandry Urgellés stats:

Game #1: two hits in two at bats, one double, two runs scored and one batted in.

Game #2: two hits in four at bats, one home run, one run scored and two batted in.

Game #3: four hits in five at bats, one double, four runs scored and four batted in.

Alexander Mayeta stats:

Game #1: two hits in five at bats, one double, one run scored and two batted in.

Game #2: two hits in four at bats, one home run, one run scored and one batted in.

Game #3: three hits in four at bats, one home run, one run scored and three batted in.

My thanks to Sigfredo Barros for his -- as usual -- excellent reporting from the pages of Granma.

The Industriales are now 2-1 in the quaterfinals and need one more victory to advance to the semi-finals.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Cuba denounces U.S. annexationist plan in Geneva

Granma International

Havana. March 30, 2007

GENEVA, March 29.— Before a full session of the UN Human Rights Council, Cuba denounced the accelerated application by the United States of the so-called Bush Plan for the island’s annexation.

According to PL, Rodolfo Reyes, the Cuban delegate, affirmed that the plan represented an intensification of the policy of hostility, aggression and blockade developed by the present U.S. administration.

He noted that it is an aggressive program aimed at destroying the constitutional order supported by the Cuban people and restoring the regime of neo-colonial control imposed on Cuba in 1902.

The idea is to accelerate what they call regime change on the island, and their strategic tasks include the recruitment, organization and funding of mercenaries for their anti-Cuban policy, he added.

Reyes also referred to the promotion of political and diplomatic campaigns against Cuba in various international forums as part of that U.S. plan, including the Human Rights Council itself.

The United States is funding and compromising supposedly non-governmental organizations to this end, like Liberal International and Central Democrat International, hired to accredit Miami terrorist mafia mercenaries in the Council, Reyes stressed.

(Translated by Granma International)

Guayabero: Another Buena Vista Social Club member dead


Vivir Latino

Music has lost another member of the legendary Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club. Faustino Oramas, El Guayabero, died on Tuesday at the age of 95 at a hospital in Holguin, Cuba:

Acting President Raul Castro, who was temporarily handed power in July after 80-year-old Cuban leader Fidel Castro underwent emergency stomach surgery, sent a floral tribute, the state news agency AIN said.

Often called the king of double-entendres, Oramas composed "Candela" -- one of the most rhythmically charged tracks on the 1997 Buena Vista CD.

El Guayabero is the fifth member of Buena Vista to die in the past 4 years; others who have left us are Compay Segundo, Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer and Pio Leyva.

How capitalist scum make a fast buck with Cuban baseball players

CNN Money

MLB awaits Cuba's reliever for Castro

Fortune's Tim Arango asks, What will the end of Castro's regime mean for Major League Baseball?

By Tim Arango, Fortune writer
March 30 2007: 10:09 AM EDT

NEW YORK (Fortune Magazine) -- The two shortstops, the two hombres who share a position and a homeland, were scooping up ground balls on a back field at the Seattle Mariners' training camp in Peoria, Ariz., one morning last month, taking turns gliding to the ball and firing to first base. The efficient spectacle that is a Major League Baseball batting practice session buzzed around them, balls zipping point to point: pitcher to batter, batter to outfield, fielder to first baseman.

The upstart and the elder statesman, Yuniesky Betancourt and Rey Ordóñez, fled communist Cuba a decade apart for the chance to offer their labors to the highest bidder. Ordóñez, back in 1993, hopped into an idling red Cadillac outside a dormitory in Buffalo, where the Cuban national team was playing in a tournament, and was whisked to the free market. Betancourt, in 2003, left Cuba in a 28-foot Baja speedboat bound for the Florida Keys, a journey that should have taken four to six hours but lasted four days because of an unplanned stopover at a Bahamian beach to evade the U.S. Coast Guard. He was left with a satellite phone and told to wait for another boat. The only thing to eat was coconuts.

"I was really scared in the middle of the sea, and everything was pitch black, and I remember not knowing if I would ever make it," Betancourt, flanked by his interpreter, third-base coach Carlos Garcia, said in front of his locker in the Mariners' clubhouse after the morning workout. "I just wanted to get out of the boat and get on land."

Betancourt will tell his story in a federal courthouse in Key West, where his and Ordóñez's former agent is on trial for allegedly smuggling baseball players out of Cuba. The agent, Gustavo "Gus" Dominguez, is a Cuban American who in the 1990s fled Fidel Castro's regime - a shadowy line of work that involved trailing the Cuban national team to international tournaments and plying young ballplayers with promises of riches.

Barring a last-minute plea deal, Dominguez will go on trial on 52 counts of alien smuggling and other immigration violations. The maximum penalty would be decades in prison - ten years per person illegally brought to the U.S. - but it's more likely that Dominguez, the first baseball agent to be charged with alien smuggling, would face three to five years if found guilty, says a source close to the case. Three others charged in the case, including Betancourt's boat driver, have already pleaded guilty.
Immigrant entrepreneurs ignite economy

The United States' policy towards Cuban migrants holds that any Cuban who reaches America's shores is given asylum, but those intercepted at sea are repatriated - a policy known as "wet foot/dry foot." The policy has created an underground recruiting opportunity for Dominguez and others. Now, as Castro lies ill, the case spotlights a hot- button issue for baseball: the explosive potential of Cuban talent if it were unleashed on the major leagues.

Consider: In 2006, 159 players born in the Dominican Republic, a country with a population of 9.2 million, appeared in major league games. Cuba, with a population of 11.4 million, is just as baseball crazy and has a much more sophisticated structure to groom young players - a relic of the days when the Soviet Union helped fund programs to produce worldclass athletes. Yet only nine Cuban-born players appeared in big-league games last year.

"Interest in Cuba for playing Major League Baseball has never been higher," says Joe Kehoskie, an agent who has represented about 15 Cuban defectors. He believes there could be 25 to 50 players in Cuba ready to step into the big leagues on short notice. with the average MLB salary at $2.7 million per season, he figures "there could be up to half a billion dollars worth of Cuban players right now. An open Cuba would change the face of Major League Baseball in three to five years."

But ballplayers don't have an excess of time. "Cuban ballplayers are desperate to get out of Cuba," says Roberto González Echevarría, a Yale professor and author of The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball. "The passage of time is much more poignant for ballplayers. If Dominguez wants to help them get out, I'm in favor of it."
Blowing the whistle on illegals

Fittingly, the government's investigation into Dominguez began near a ballpark. On Sept. 22, 2005, the Chicago White Sox lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4--1. Ysbel Medinasantos, a former truck driver who made his money in real estate and drug trafficking in Florida, had planned to attend the game as the guest of an unnamed White Sox player. He never made it to the ballpark. Instead he was arrested by a DEA agent near the Embassy suites in downtown Chicago and shipped back to Pensacola, Fla., to answer drug charges. During his interrogation he offered prosecutors a chip: information on Dominguez in exchange for leniency on the drug charges. He now sits in the Federal Detention Center in Miami waiting to testify that he organized the smuggling operations at the behest of Dominguez.

According to prosecution documents, Medina-Santos received two wire transfers of $50,000 each from an account at Commercial Capital Bank in the name of Henry Blanco, the Venezuelan-born backup catcher for the Chicago Cubs and a client of Dominguez's firm. Prosecutors believe that the money was funneled through Blanco's account without his knowledge and used to pay for Betancourt's boat ride. (Betancourt's journey is not part of the criminal charges, but the prosecution plans to introduce it to demonstrate prior bad acts.) Another $125,000 was allegedly funneled through Blanco's account to fund the two operations that are the subject of the indictment. One, in July of 2004, was intercepted by the Coast Guard. The second, the following month, succeeded in smuggling five Cuban ballplayers to the Florida Keys. Two of them are currently toiling in the minor leagues, for the Atlanta Braves and Arizona Diamondbacks. (None of the players are in legal trouble themselves.)

When a Cuban ballplayer decides to defect, he must deal with two sets of arbitrary rules: The U.S. wet foot/dry foot policy and Major League Baseball's regulations on the signing of foreign players. Like the immigration policy, MLB's stance toward Cubans is sui generis: Any Cuban player who comes to the U.S. is deemed a resident and placed in the amateur draft. All other foreign players are free agents, which means they can sign with the highest bidder.

For this reason, agents representing Cuban defectors try to shuffle them off to third countries, such as Mexico or Costa Rica, to gain residency there and apply for free-agent status. Betancourt, prosecutors believe, was supplied with a fraudulent Mexican passport by Dominguez and driven to Tijuana, where he boarded a plane for Mexico City. He was busted with the fake passport and spent three weeks in a Mexican jail before being released. He eventually made his way back to the U.S. and to free agency.

The alleged smuggling operations do not appear to have been good business for Dominguez. soon after returning to the U.S., Betancourt had a new agent, and Dominguez, according to a source, never "got a dime" from the shortstop's $3.65 million contract with the Mariners. In August 2005 the agent filed a grievance with the Major League Baseball players Association seeking money from Betancourt. He has sued two other players that he allegedly helped flee Cuba.

Dominguez, who is described as a family man and has a son and daughter who attend college together, declined to be interviewed. his Encino, Calif., agency, Total Sports International, is still in business, and Dominguez made the rounds of spring training camps this year.

In a statement, Dominguez's attorney, Susan Dmitrovsky, said: "Gus Dominguez is a hard-working, law-abiding citizen who has diligently made opportunities available for young men to showcase their baseball talent. The United States is and must remain a vanguard for those seeking freedom and democracy. Mr. Dominguez has done his part to advance that American heritage through lawful means."

Dominguez fell into the baseball representation business in 1991. The Cuban national team was staying the night in Miami on its way back to Havana after playing in an exhibition series in Millington, Tenn. René Arocha, a left-handed pitcher, never made the flight, becoming the first Cuban player to defect to the U.S. - a story chronicled by the writers Steve Fainaru and Ray Sanchez in their book The Duke of Havana. As the story goes, a Miami radio executive who knew Arocha referred him to Dominguez, who at that time owned a marketing business. After failing to persuade the Beverly Hills Sports Council - which represented the Cuban-American slugger Jose Canseco - to sign Arocha as a client, Dominguez took on the job himself.

Dominguez, depending on whom one asks, is either a fighter for freedom, shuttling the oppressed from their homeland to get fair market value for their skills, or, as the prosecution will argue, simply a man looking to make a buck. He has his backers in the baseball community. "It's a heck of an issue because you have guys that want to play baseball and follow their dreams," says Oneri Fleita, a Cuban American who is the director of player development for the Chicago Cubs. "They get on rafts and risk their life. That's what our country is about, living the dream."

As for Betancourt, he says of Dominguez: "I don't know what his business was, but I really appreciate what he did for me. He took me off the island."

As the new season gets under way, Betancourt will try to improve his deficient .310 on-base percentage - the statistic du jour for measuring a player's offensive prowess. This week he'll take a break and fly to Key West to give his testimony. And depending on what happens there, the man who took him off the island could see his own freedom imperiled.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mr. Confrontation says 'phooey' to the American people.

Last November the voters delivered a stern rebuke to Bush on Iraq. They said enough is enough, and turned both houses of congress to the Democrats. The people's congressional representatives have taken the initiative. The House with a 218-212 margin and the Senate with a similar 51-47 vote have said that we want a timetable to withdraw our troops from Iraq, and bring to an end a war that was based on lies.

Mr.Confrontation threatens a veto. Just ignore his threats and send the ultimate bill to his desk.

A recent nationwide telephone poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reported that 59 percent of those who responded said they wanted their lawmakers to vote in favor of a timetable for withdrawal.

Congress has to exercise its authority of the power of the purse. Fund only an orderly withdrawal.

Gov. Heineman Hosts Successful Trade Mission to Cuba

Southwest Nebraska News

Article Posted: 03/29/2007 6:01:32 AM

(Lincoln, Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman today announced that Nebraska agricultural representatives signed contracts during the state’s latest trade mission to Cuba to fulfill the $30 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) secured last spring.

“This was another successful trip for Nebraska ag producers,” Gov. Heineman said. “Our discussions during the past two days resulted in contracts that will fulfill the $30 million agreement signed last spring.

“This trip was also a turning point for our state. Our diligence in pursuing an export relationship with Cuba, our efforts to fulfill the agreements we’ve signed with Alimport, and the work of Nebraska producers to provide high quality agricultural products has been rewarded. Not only have we sold $60 million worth of ag products to Cuba in under two years, but we have established a strong relationship with Cuban officials as a reliable business partner.”

Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy led a delegation last year resulting in a $30 million agreement for Cuba to purchase Nebraska food products. MOUs are agreements to purchase goods, but are not actual sales contracts. The focus of this trip was on helping Nebraska businesses negotiate contracts with Alimport, the Cuban import authority, in order to fulfill the MOU.

Nebraska businesses signed contracts for $8.9 million prior to the trip. Upon the delegation’s arrival in Cuba they learned of a $5.5 million contract had been secured with wheat producers that includes a stipulation that the wheat come from Nebraska.

Contracts totaling approximately $16 million were signed during the trip for 75,000 tons of Nebraska wheat and approximately $300,000 worth of Nebraska pork products. Negotiations for other contracts were continuing when the Governor departed Cuba today.

Gov. Heineman said, “The results of this trip are evidence of the continuing and expanding export relationship we’ve created with Cuban officials. Now that we’ve established our state as a reliable trading partner, there will be opportunities for Nebraska companies to negotiate directly with Alimport.”

Ag Director Greg Ibach said, “We have worked hard to establish Nebraska as a reliable provider of ag products, and the opportunity for companies to negotiate sales without the requirement of a formal agreement will be important in expanding our export relationship.”

In addition to several negotiation sessions with Alimport officials, Gov. Heineman and members of the delegation toured a Cuban port, local bakery and market, in addition to meeting with Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, and Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Representatives of Nebraska’s beef, pork, wheat, corn, soybean, and dry bean industries participated in the trade mission. This was the Governor’s third trip to Cuba and the fifth international trade mission of his administration.

Castro Criticizes U.S. Biofuel Policies

Westfall Weekly News

March 29, 2007

By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA - Fidel Castro lashes out against U.S. biofuel plans in an op-ed piece published Thursday, a sign Cuba‘s 80-year-old leader may be taking a more active role in public affairs after months sidelined by a still undisclosed illness.

President Bush ‘s support for using crops to produce ethanol for cars could deplete food stocks in developing nations, the article in the Communist Party daily Granma asserts.

"This isn‘t an exaggerated number; it is actually cautious," says the article distributed by e-mail early Thursday to international correspondents by foreign ministry officials.

It was unclear what the message means in terms of Castro‘s future role in domestic affairs.

Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul, the 75-year-old defense minister, on July 31 after announcing he had undergone intestinal surgery. He has not appeared in public since.

Castro‘s condition and his exact ailment are a state secret but he is widely believed to suffer from diverticular disease, which causes a weakening in the walls of the colon.

In his Thursday article, Fidel Castro quotes extensively from a Washington-datelined story by The Associated Press reporting on a meeting Monday between Bush and U.S. automakers and their comments about using corn to create ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The Cuban leader notes that Cuba has also experimented with extracting ethanol from sugarcane.

"Apply this recipe to the countries of the Third World and you will see how many people among the hungry masses of our planet will no longer consume corn," the article said. "Or even worse: by offering financing to poor countries to produce ethanol from corn or any other kind of food no tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change."

Fidel Castro on Biofuels (Spanish text)

Reflexiones del Comandante en Jefe

Condenados a muerte prematura por hambre y sed más de 3 mil millones de personas en el mundo

No se trata de una cifra exagerada; es más bien cautelosa. En eso he meditado bastante después de la reunión del presidente Bush con los fabricantes norteamericanos de automóviles.

La idea siniestra de convertir los alimentos en combustible quedó definitivamente establecida como línea económica de la política exterior de Estados Unidos el pasado lunes 26 de marzo.

Un cable de la AP, agencia de información norteamericana que llega a todos los rincones del mundo, dice textualmente:

"WASHINGTON, 26 de marzo (AP). El presidente George W. Bush elogió el lunes los beneficios de los automóviles que funcionan con etanol y biodiesel, durante una reunión con fabricantes de vehículos, en la que buscó dar impulso a sus planes de combustibles alternativos.

"Bush dijo que un compromiso de los líderes de la industria automotriz nacional para duplicar su producción de vehículos a combustible alternativo ayudaría a que los automovilistas abandonen los motores que funcionan con gasolina y reduzcan la dependencia del país respecto del petróleo de importación.

"‘Este es un gran avance tecnológico para el país’, dijo Bush tras inspeccionar tres vehículos a combustible alternativo. Si la nación quiere reducir el consumo de gasolina, el consumidor debe estar en posibilidad de tomar una decisión racional.

"El Presidente instó al Congreso a avanzar rápido en una legislación que el gobierno propuso recientemente para ordenar el uso de 132 000 millones de litros (35 000 millones de galones) de combustibles alternativos para el 2017 y para imponer estándares más exigentes de ahorro de combustible en los automóviles.

"Bush se reunió con el presidente de consejo y director general de General Motors Corp, Rich Wagoner; el director general de Ford Motor Co., Alan Mulally y el director general del grupo Chrysler de Daimler Chrysler AG, Tom LaSorda.

"Los participantes en el encuentro discutieron medidas para apoyar la producción de vehículos a combustible alternativo, intentos para desarrollar el etanol a partir de fuentes como el césped o el serrín, y una propuesta para reducir en un 20% el consumo de gasolina en 10 años.

"Las discusiones se realizaron en un momento en que han subido los precios de la gasolina. El estudio más reciente de la organización Lundberg Survey señaló que el precio promedio nacional de la gasolina ha subido 6 centavos por galón (3,78 litros) en las últimas dos semanas, a 2,61 dólares."

Pienso que reducir y además reciclar todos los motores que consumen electricidad y combustible es una necesidad elemental y urgente de toda la humanidad. La tragedia no consiste en reducir esos gastos de energía, sino en la idea de convertir los alimentos en combustible.

Hoy se conoce con toda precisión que una tonelada de maíz sólo puede producir 413 litros de etanol como promedio, de acuerdo con densidades, lo que equivale a 109 galones.

El precio promedio del maíz en los puertos de Estados Unidos se eleva a 167 dólares la tonelada. Se requieren por tanto 320 millones de toneladas de maíz para producir 35 000 millones de galones de etanol.

Según datos de la FAO, la cosecha de maíz de Estados Unidos en el año 2005 se elevó a 280,2 millones de toneladas.

Aunque el Presidente hable de producir combustible a partir de césped o virutas de madera, cualquiera comprende que son frases carentes en absoluto de realismo. Entiéndase bien: ¡35 000 millones de galones significan un 35 seguido de nueve ceros!

Vendrán después bellos ejemplos de lo que en la productividad por hombre y por hectárea alcanzan los experimentados y bien organizados agricultores de Estados Unidos: el maíz convertido en etanol; los residuos de ese maíz convertidos en alimento animal con 26% de proteína; el excremento del ganado utilizado como materia prima para la producción de gas. Desde luego, esto es después de cuantiosas inversiones al alcance sólo de las empresas más poderosas, en las que todo se tiene que mover sobre la base de consumo de electricidad y combustible. Aplíquese esta receta a los países del Tercer Mundo y verán cuántas personas dejarán de consumir maíz entre las masas hambrientas de nuestro planeta. O algo peor: présteseles financiamiento a los países pobres para producir etanol del maíz o de cualquier otro tipo de alimento y no quedará un árbol para defender la humanidad del cambio climático.

Otros países del mundo rico tienen programado usar no sólo maíz, sino también trigo, semillas de girasol, de colza y otros alimentos para dedicarlos a la producción de combustible. Para los europeos, por ejemplo, sería negocio importar toda la soya del mundo a fin de reducir el gasto en combustible de sus automóviles y alimentar a sus animales con los residuos de esa leguminosa, especialmente rica en todos los tipos de aminoácidos esenciales.

En Cuba, los alcoholes se producían como subproducto de la industria azucarera, después de hacerle tres extracciones de azúcar al jugo de caña. El cambio de clima está afectando ya nuestra producción azucarera. Grandes sequías se vienen alternando con lluvias récord, que apenas permiten producir azúcar durante cien días con rendimientos adecuados en los meses de nuestro muy moderado invierno de modo que falta azúcar por tonelada de caña o falta caña por hectárea debido a las prolongadas sequías en los meses de siembra y cultivo.

En Venezuela, tengo entendido que usarían el alcohol no para exportar, sino para mejorar la calidad medioambiental de su propio combustible. Por ello, independientemente de la excelente tecnología brasileña para producir alcohol, en Cuba el empleo de tal tecnología para la producción directa de alcohol a partir del jugo de caña no constituye más que un sueño o un desvarío de los que se ilusionan con esa idea. En nuestro país, las tierras dedicadas a la producción directa de alcohol pueden ser mucho más útiles en la producción de alimentos para el pueblo y en la protección del medio ambiente.

Todos los países del mundo, ricos y pobres, sin excepción alguna, podrían ahorrarse millones de millones de dólares en inversión y combustible simplemente cambiando todos los bombillos incandescentes por bombillos fluorescentes, algo que Cuba ha llevado a cabo en todos los hogares del país. Eso significaría un respiro para resistir el cambio climático sin matar de hambre a las masas pobres del mundo.

Como puede observarse, no uso adjetivos para calificar al sistema y a los dueños del mundo. Esa tarea la saben hacer excelentemente bien los expertos en información y los hombres de ciencias socioeconómicas y políticas honestos que en el mundo abundan y que constantemente hurgan en el presente y el porvenir de nuestra especie. Basta una computadora y el creciente número de redes de Internet.

Hoy conocemos por primera vez una economía realmente globalizada y una potencia dominante en el terreno económico, político y militar, que en nada se parece a la Roma de los emperadores.

Algunos se preguntarán por qué hablo de hambre y sed. Respondo: no se trata de la otra cara de una moneda, sino de varias caras de otra pieza, como pueden ser un dado con seis caras, o un poliedro con muchas más caras.

Acudo en este caso a una agencia oficial de noticias, fundada en 1945 y generalmente bien informada sobre los problemas económicos y sociales del mundo: la TELAM. Textualmente, dijo:

"Cerca de 2 mil millones de personas habitarán dentro de apenas 18 años en países y regiones donde el agua sea un recuerdo lejano. Dos tercios de la población mundial podrían vivir en lugares donde esa escasez produzca tensiones sociales y económicas de tal magnitud que podrían llevar a los pueblos a guerras por el preciado ‘oro azul’.

"Durante los últimos 100 años, el uso del agua ha aumentado a un ritmo más de dos veces superior a la tasa de crecimiento de la población.

"Según las estadísticas del Consejo Mundial del Agua (WWC, por sus siglas en inglés), se estima que para el 2015 el número de habitantes afectados por esta grave situación se eleve a 3 500 millones de personas.

"La Organización de Naciones Unidas celebró el 23 de marzo el Día Mundial del Agua, llamando a enfrentar desde ese mismo día la escasez mundial del agua bajo la coordinación de la Organización de Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO), con el objetivo de destacar la creciente importancia de la falta de agua a nivel mundial y la necesidad de una mayor integración y cooperación que permitan garantizar una gestión sostenida y eficiente de los recursos hídricos.

"Muchas regiones del planeta sufren una escasez severa de agua, viviendo con menos de 500 metros cúbicos por persona por año. Cada vez son más las regiones que padecen la falta crónica del vital elemento.

"Principales consecuencias de la escasez de agua son la insuficiente cantidad de ese precioso líquido para la producción de alimentos, la imposibilidad de desarrollo industrial, urbano y turístico y problemas de salud."

Hasta aquí el cable de TELAM.

Dejo de mencionar en este caso otros importantes hechos, como los hielos que se derriten en Groenlandia y en la Antártica, los daños en la capa de ozono y la creciente cantidad de mercurio en muchas especies de peces de consumo habitual.

Hay otros temas que pueden abordarse, pero simplemente pretendo con estas líneas hacer un comentario sobre la reunión del presidente Bush con los ejecutivos principales de compañías automotrices norteamericanas.

Marzo 28 del 2007

Fidel Castro

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cuba says U.S. rules limiting food trade

The Washington Post

By Esteban Israel
Reuters
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; 2:35 PM

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba signed up to import more U.S. food products this week but said payment procedures introduced by the Bush administration in 2005 were hindering trade and forcing it to make deals with other countries.

Cuba has been importing food like rice and chicken from the United States since 2000, when cash-only food sales were permitted as a exception to the U.S. trade embargo, turning Cuba's ideological foe into its top foreign supplier.

Cuba's food import agency, Alimport, this week signed new contracts worth $60 million with a delegation from the U.S. state of Nebraska, to import mainly wheat, pork and soy beans.

Yet Alimport head Pedro Alvarez said procedural rules imposed in 2005 made the United States an unreliable supplier and had driven Cuba to look to other countries.

"We've been obliged to divert several hundreds of millions of dollars," Alvarez told reporters after the new contracts were signed late on Tuesday.

He said rules, including a stipulation that Cuba must pay before cargo ships leave U.S. ports rather than before unloading in Havana, were an obstacle to increasing food imports.

"The North American companies, which are efficient, are in many cases unreliable for us, because you don't know when a shipment is going to be held up," he said.

In six years, Cuba has become the 34th largest market for U.S. agricultural exports out of 227 countries, importing $340 million of U.S. food products in 2006.

U.S. food producers want to further expand this market, situated just 90 miles from Florida, but are limited by the payment rules as well as the wider trade embargo.

Alvarez said that if the U.S. embargo were lifted -- seen as extremely unlikely under George W. Bush's presidency -- bilateral trade in goods and service could total as much as $21 billion in just five years.

"Despite the challenges between our countries, we hope to increase the number of Nebraskan products sold here," said Gov. Dave Heineman, heading the delegation in Havana and on his third visit to the communist-run island, despite being from Bush's Republican party.

In total, Cuba will import $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion worth of food this year from various countries, Alvarez said.

Cuba -- which has to pay for its U.S. imports in a third currency, making the deals more expensive, and cover the return journeys of empty ships -- can import food more simply from countries like Brazil and Argentina. In other goods, its main trading partners are Venezuela, China and Vietnam.

In April, a food trade delegation is expected in Cuba from Idaho state led by Gov. Butch Otter, also a Republican.

Cuba, China sign trade, economic cooperation agreement

People's Daily Online

UPDATED: 11:12, March 28, 2007

Cuba and China wrapped up their 19th Inter-governmental Commission meeting on Tuesday in the Cuban capital, with an agreement signed on furthering bilateral trade and technological cooperation.

The two-day session, attended by delegations from both countries, reviewed bilateral trade and economic relations during 2006 and adopted cooperation plans for 2007, Cuban News Agency reported.

Under their agreement, in 2007, Cuba will supply sugar to China while China will continue its technical assistance to Cuba's agricultural sector.

In addition, both countries will also carry out economic and technical collaboration on oil and food.

Cuban Interior Minister Ricardo Cabrisas said that China is the Caribbean nation's second largest trade partner only after Venezuela, with a trade volume of 2 billion U.S. dollars a year.

Source: Xinhua

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nebraska Governor favors normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations

Granma

La Habana, martes 27 de marzo de 2007

Gobernador de Nebraska favorece normalizar relaciones EEUU-Cuba

Al concretar su tercer viaje a Cuba, el político estadounidense expresó satisfacción y optimismo por la próxima firma de dos acuerdos comerciales -que calificó de muy significativos- con directivos de la Empresa Cubana Importadora de Alimentos (ALIMPORT)

El gobernador del estado norteamericano de Nebraska, Dave Heineman, se pronunció en La Habana por la normalización de las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Cuba para facilitar un comercio bilateral mutuamente ventajoso.

Al concretar su tercer viaje a Cuba, el político estadounidense expresó satisfacción y optimismo por la próxima firma de dos acuerdos comerciales -que calificó de muy significativos- con directivos de la Empresa Cubana Importadora de Alimentos (ALIMPORT).

Una ceremonia prevista para este martes en el capitalino hotel PALCO propiciará la firma de un entendimiento con el que Heineman dará continuidad al impulso del comercio en el sector agropecuario, tal como hizo mediante acuerdos rubricados en 2005 y 2006.

El gobernador aseguró que para los agricultores y granjeros de Nebraska reviste particular importancia la sociedad "mutuamente ventajosa" establecida con las autoridades cubanas, aunque deploró las limitaciones impuestas por el bloqueo económico estadounidense.

"Vamos a seguir adelante con nuestro propósito de comercializar con Cuba, expresamos nuestra gratitud por esa relación y continuaremos expandiéndola en el futuro", subrayó Heineman, quien es acompañado por 30 empresarios de su Estado.

Situado en el centro del país norteño, ese Estado sobresale por su producción de frijoles, chícharos, trigo, soya, maíz y otros granos cuyo comercio prevé incrementar con la contraparte cubana, según indicó el político.

En declaraciones a su llegada a La Habana, Heineman consideró alentador que frijoles y demás granos de Nebraska puedan ser exportados a la isla caribeña, a pesar del cerco económico recrudecido por Washington en los últimos años.

Debido al bloqueo, Cuba está obligada a pagar al contado y por adelantado la mercancía que compre a cualquier empresa norteamericana.

Sin alterar la esencia de su política de asfixia económica, el Congreso de aquel país sancionó en 2001 una ley que autorizó el comercio unidireccional, con ventas en efectivo, de alimentos y un número reducido de productos norteamericanos a la isla antillana.

"Tenemos la oportunidad para expandir esa relación", insistió al expresar orgullo por ser el gobernador estadounidense que más veces ha viajado a Cuba.

La segunda visita de Heineman a esta nación se concretó a finales de 2006, en ocasión de celebrarse la Feria Internacional de La Habana, la mayor bolsa comercial del país que sirvió de marco para la firma de acuerdos entre Nebraska y ALIMPORT.

En aquella ocasión, en que viajó también el secretario estatal de Agricultura, Gregori Ibach, se suscribió un contrato y varias cartas de intención para la compra cubana de trigo, frijoles, otros granos y leche en polvo, según datos oficiales de ALIMPORT.

Integrantes de la delegación estadounidense confirmaron a Prensa Latina que los contratos comerciales anteriores entre Nebraska y Cuba rondan los 60 millones de dólares para la adquisición por el país caribeño de frijol, maíz, trigo, soya, pavo y carne de cerdo.

Cuba trade embargo is no longer useful

The Decatur Daily

March 27, 2007

EDITORIAL

While the United States has prohibited trade with Cuba for the past 45 years, our country is still the top supplier of food and agricultural products to the tiny, poverty-stricken island-nation.

Since 2001, Cuba has paid more than $1.5 billion for American food and agricultural products including chicken, rice, beans, wheat, soft drinks, candy bars, dairy cows and condiments. The embargo, initially a Cold War statement in protest of Fidel Castro’s dictatorial government, no longer makes sense.

With Mr. Castro in ill health and the embargo no longer fully enforced, the U.S. government would be wise to open up trade with — as well as legitimate travel to and from — Cuba.

It could be beneficial to poor Cubans as well as American farmers. It would also be a first step toward friendlier relations with our Southern neighbor.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cuban baseball playoffs to start tomorrow

The playoffs of the XLVI Cuban Baseball National Series will start on Tuesday.

The eight teams are: Pinar del Rio, Industriales, Sancti Spiritus, Habana, Villa Clara, Las Tunas, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba.

Final Standings

Delaware sends trade mission to Cuba

WMDT Channel 47, Delaware

Delaware is looking to start trading with Cuba.

March 26, 2007

AP

In 2001 the federal government made it legal to sell medical supplies and agricultural goods to the Cubans.

Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse says a trade mission two weeks ago by his department found a big market for one of the state's poultry industry.

Scuse says apples, soybeans and wheat are some other products that could be making their way from the first state to Havana ports in the very near future.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Ileana: Respeta, con mi familia no te metas

The Kansas City Star

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dozens protest Cuba travel restrictions

By Elias E. Lopez

McClatchy Newspapers

(MCT)

MIAMI - A small crowd of mostly Cuban exiles gathered on a sidewalk Saturday to express frustration with the Bush administration's restrictions on traveling to the communist island to visit family.

The protest is part of a stepped-up effort to ease the restrictions after federal lawmakers in Washington filed legislation that would allow Cuban-Americans to visit the island at will and lift a general Cuba travel ban for all American citizens.

"It's crazy and it's criminal," said Manuel Rey, 51, who has an uncle and cousins in Havana. "It's an erroneous policy that makes no sense."

On Jan. 25, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., submitted a bill that would lift the general travel ban. Six days later, Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., and Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., filed legislation to permit Cuban Americans to visit Cuba anytime they want.

The restrictions, adopted in 2004, have been credited by the administration with keeping badly needed hard currency out of the hands of Fidel Castro's regime.

But on Saturday demonstrators carried signs and chanted slogans against the rules that limit family visits to once every three years, with no humanitarian exceptions for family emergencies. The measures also do not include aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins on the list that qualifies as family.

One of the groups involved in organizing Saturday's demonstration, the Association of Christian Women in Defense of the Family, said in a statement last week that "now, more than ever, is the time to act" because Congress is considering bills to ease travel restrictions.

"It's very cruel; I have my father in Cuba. He's 92. I wish I could visit him more," said Rosa Reyes, 69, president of the association, during the protest staged near the offices of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. - a staunch supporter of the restrictions.

Another demonstrator held up a bullhorn and led the crowd chanting: "Ileana respeta, con mi familia no te metas!" - "Ileana respect, don't mess with my family."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement last week urging Congress to pass legislation that would end Cuba travel restrictions. The statement said Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' committee on international policy, praised lawmakers seeking an end to the restrictions. Wenski spent many years working in Miami-Dade.

"No one should be prevented from visiting a dying relative or attending a loved one's funeral simply for having traveled to Cuba once in the previous three years," Wenski said in the statement.

---

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Miami Herald staff writer Alfonso Chardy contributed to this report

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cuba's Number One Pitcher

Idaho Governor heads trade mission to Cuba

Idaho Business News

Idaho approved to export to Cuba

Otter plans trade mission in April for no-longer-embargoed goods

POSTED: 17:02 MDT Wednesday, March 21, 2007

by Lora Volkert

Idaho has received a license to export agricultural goods, wood products and medical supplies to Cuba, according to Jon Hanian, spokesman for Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter plans to lead a trade mission to Cuba April 9-14 with 34 businesspeople and state officials.

When asked which Cuban government officials the trade delegation would meet with since Cuba’s government may be in transition, Hanian said, “That’s a very sensitive issue with the Cubans right now. We’re going to meet with current government officials. I’m assuming that is Fidel Castro and El Presidenté.”

The U.S. has imposed a trade embargo against Cuba since the early 1960s. Last week plans for a trade mission might have been preliminary, Hanian said, but since then Idaho has received an export license from the federal government. The license allows Idaho to export only agricultural, wood and medical products; all other products are restricted.

Idaho could gain trade partnerships for producers of seed, beef, pork, beans, dairy products, bandages and generic drugs, Hanian said. Much of the trip will be about establishing good will, he said. Idaho medical supply companies plan to donate some medical supplies as a humanitarian gesture.

This is Otter’s fourth trip to Cuba, Hanian said. The previous three times were as a member of Congress.

“This governor is not a novice at winning friends and influencing people abroad,” Hanian said, noting the trade relationships Otter opened up for Simplot Co. and as lieutenant governor. “He brought back armloads of contracts.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cuba travel bill gains two more co-sponsors

S 271, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2007, introduced by Senator Enzi on March 1 has gained two more co-sponsors, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Senator Patti Muray of Wahington. That state has the distinct honor of having both Senators as co-sponsor of S 271. Way to go Evergreen State! Where are the Beavers of Oregon State?

Current list of co-sponsors of S 271

Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 3/1/2007
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 3/1/2007
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 3/19/2007
Sen Craig, Larry E. [ID] - 3/1/2007
Sen Dorgan, Byron L. [ND] - 3/1/2007
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 3/20/2007
Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 3/1/2007
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 3/1/2007
Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] - 3/1/2007
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 3/1/2007
Sen Inouye, Daniel K. [HI] - 3/13/2007
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 3/1/2007
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] - 3/22/2007
Sen Thomas, Craig [WY] - 3/2/2007

If your Senator is in the list, I urge you to send him/her a thank you note.

Cuba sees economy growing 10 percent in 2007

Reuters

Thu Mar 22, 2007 3:09PM EDT

HAVANA, March 22 (Reuters) - Cuba expects its economic growth to slip down a gear this year to around 10 percent but remain among the strongest in the region, a senior government official said on Thursday.

Cuba, which reported growth of 12.5 percent in 2006, is feeling a pinch in its vital tourist industry this year, due in part to a warm European winter and cheaper destinations elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Cuban tour operators have played down any impact on tourism from Fidel Castro's health problems.

"I think that this year the economy will have a growth rate of not less than 10 percent. But certainly, very strong growth," Osvaldo Martinez, the head of parliament's economic commission, told Reuters.

"To sustain growth of 12.5 percent is extremely difficult. Growth of 10 percent would very likely be once more the highest in Latin America, so there is nothing to worry about," he said, after a conference on the United Nations' World Water Day.

Communist-run Cuba calculates its economic growth rate using a unique method that adds in free education, medical care and other social services provided by the state.

Under that methodology, economic growth has revved up to three times its pace at the start of the decade when the country was pulling out of the slump triggered by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, its former benefactor.

Foreign exchange earnings have nearly doubled over the last two years, thanks mainly to the export of medical and other services to ally Venezuela and soaring nickel prices.

Yet Cuba still relies heavily on tourism, which brought in $2.4 billion last year.

The number of tourists arriving in January and February dropped 7 percent and 13 percent respectively from a year earlier, according to preliminary official figures. That was after visitor levels declined around 4 percent in 2006.

Cancellations due to fears of possible political turmoil after Castro handed over power to his brother, Raul Castro, in July following emergency intestinal surgery have been minimal, according to tour operators.

Martinez said Castro's health continued to improve.

"He's recovering normally and satisfactorily," he said, but declined to confirm speculation that the iconic 80-year-old revolutionary could soon reappear in public.

US Bishops call for end to ban on travel to Cuba

Independent Catholic News

WASHINGTON - 23 March 2007

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress to pass legislation that would end travel restrictions to Cuba and encourage more contact between Cuban and American citizens.

In a letter sent to Rep Charles B Rangel of New York, Bishop Thomas G Wenski of Orlando, Florida, chairman of the US Bishops' Committee on International Policy, commended Rep Rangel, Rep Jeff Flake of Arizona and other lawmakers for sponsoring HR 654, a bill that would allow travel between the US and Cuba.

"The USCCB has for many years consistently called for relaxing the sanctions against Cuba," Bishop Wenski said. "These policies have largely failed to achieve greater freedom, democracy and respect for human life. At the same time, our nation's counterproductive policies have unnecessarily alienated many in the hemisphere who should be our friends and allies, and brought needless hardship on the Cuban people. It continues to be our position that the goals of improving the lives of the Cuban people and encouraging democracy in Cuba will best be advanced through more rather than less contact between the Cuban and American people."

Bishop Wenski described the travel restrictions on Cubans living in the US as particularly objectionable.

"No one should be prevented from visiting a dying relative or attending a loved one's funeral simply for having travelled to Cuba once in the previous three years," he said. "It is an inhumane policy that does no honour to our country. These most recent restrictions have increasingly made more difficult and onerous the legitimate travel of academics, journalists, religious leaders and other U.S. citizens to the island."

Source: USCCB

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gov. Heineman Previews Upcoming Trade Mission to Cuba

Southwest Nebraska News

Article Posted: 03/22/2007 7:53:36 AM

(Lincoln, Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman will lead a trade mission to Cuba, departing Sunday, March 25 and returning Wednesday, March 28.

“We have had excellent feedback from Nebraska companies and producers during previous trade missions and the fact that we have so many ag groups returning is a signal to me that the Cuban market has proved fruitful for our producers,” Gov. Heineman said.

Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy led a trade delegation last year resulting in the signing of a $30 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to purchase Nebraska food products. MOUs are agreements to purchase goods, but are not actual sales contracts. The focus of this trade mission will be helping Nebraska businesses negotiate contracts with Alimport, the Cuban import authority, in order to fulfill the MOU.

Another MOU for $30 million was signed during a trade visit lead by the Governor in 2005. Sales contracts to fulfill that MOU were executed over the remainder of the year.

The Governor will lead meetings with Chairman and CEO Pedro Alvarez, and is also expected to meet the leader of Cuba’s National Assembly. Members of the delegation will have an opportunity to tour the country’s food processing and distribution network.

Most participants on this trade mission will be exploring opportunities to build on their current presence in the Cuban market. Representatives of Nebraska’s dry bean, pork and soybean co-op and commodity groups are among those who’ve negotiated contracts during previous trips and will be returning as part of this visit.

Other members of the delegation include Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Richard Baier, director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

With a total of 31 representatives, this is the largest Nebraska delegation to travel to Cuba. The group includes representatives from Nebraska companies, commodity organizations and commodity transport companies, as well as national ag and local media.

U.S. law allows for the sale of food, agricultural commodities and medical supplies to Cuba. This will be the Governor’s third visit to Cuba and the fifth international trade mission of his administration.

Cuba: Minister Announces Increase in Oil Drilling

Escambray

March 22, 2007

Cuba will substantially increase the number of its oil wells on land, in coastal areas and in deep waters in its exclusive zone in the Gulf of Mexico, said Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia on Tuesday.

Garcia made the announcement at the Second Earth Sciences Convention - Geosciences 2007, taking place at the Havana Convention Center with the participation of 700 national and foreign specialists.

The official said the proven perspectives for finding new deposits is one of the reasons for stepping-up the operational capacity of the Cuban oil company CUBAPETROLEO. Negotiating joint risk exploration contracts with important international oil companies is also expected.

Garcia said that today it is impossible to conceive of a serious and responsible discussion about the future of oil and gas in the world without incorporating into the analysis concern for the potential reserves to be used rationally.

"This will give time for humanity to develop known alternative energy sources and discover new ones", she said.

The minister noted that Cuba has greatly advanced in its knowledge of its national geology. She added that expansion of the nickel industry and the obtaining of greater value-added products are being actively sought.

Cuba has the world’s third largest nickel and cobalt reserves and is among the leaders in production of those metals.

Cubans dust off Hemingway's Havana home


Cuban women working with a restoration crew took a break outside the house-turned-museum where American author Ernest Hemingway lived from 1939 to 1960. (REUTERS/2005 file photo)

The Boston Globe

By Catherine Bremer, Reuters | March 22, 2007

HAVANA -- Cuba has dusted off Ernest Hemingway's books, records, and stag heads, cleaned out his pool and weeded his dogs' graves, hoping to attract more visitors to his cherished hilltop home overlooking Havana.

Yet the restoration of the American writer's retreat and its contents -- including mildewed rum bottles, a pickled bat in a jar, and the typewriter he used to write "The Old Man and the Sea" -- could take the cash-strapped communist island two more years to complete, officials say.

"It's a process that requires dedication and time. I predict (a finish date) perhaps at the end of 2009," said Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of Finca Vigia, the Spanish Colonial house-turned-museum where Hemingway lived from 1939 to 1960.

Hemingway's widow, Mary Welsh, turned the property over to the Cuban government after the writer committed suicide in 1961, and much of it remains as Hemingway left it.

Work to renovate the termite-ravaged house and fix the effects of years of humidity on its contents was begun in 2005, when the US National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the estate on a list of endangered sites.

The trust has sent restoration specialists to Cuba but, slowing up the project, the decades-old US trade embargo has barred it and other heritage groups from sending funds or materials.

"The US government doesn't want to," Alfonso said, after announcing a series of celebrations planned for April to mark the 45th anniversary of Finca Vigia, now repainted its original cream color, being opened to the public.

The restoration, including work on "Pilar," the 40-foot fishing boat Hemingway used to fish marlin and track German submarines, is seen costing at least $1 million.

A peek through the windows of the airy house, whose name means "Lookout Farm," conjures up a forgotten world where 1950s writers and film stars sipped rum cocktails to the sound of scratchy Glenn Miller records.

The Nobel Prize-winning writer entertained a host of glamorous friends here, including actress Ava Gardner, who famously swam naked in his cavernous tree-shaded pool. He also befriended locals, creating a bond that has endured in spite of the bitter divide between Cuba and the United States.

Hemingway left for the United States around 1960 and was devastated when the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 meant he could not return.

The house, where he also kept 60 cats, is cluttered with books, stuffed animal trophies, and family photos. A radio and record player are back in working order, and the bathroom wall is marked with scribbles where he recorded his weight. On his desk is a rubber stamp he liked to mark letters with before returning them unopened. It reads: "I never write letters. Ernest Hemingway.

Let us turn our outrage into action

Progreso Weekly

Collect signatures in support of HR 757 eliminating Cuban family travel restrictions

WORKING TOGETHER WE CAN ELIMINATE THE CRUEL MEASURES AGAINST THE CUBAN FAMILY

By Alvaro F. Fernandez


Click here to see the Cuban American Commission for Family Rights ad.

Click to print the petition form and help us with our signature drive.

There are moments we have to turn talk and outrage into action. This is one of those moments.

Today's Progreso Weekly contains an ad which appeared yesterday (Wednesday, March 21) in Miami's El Nuevo Herald urging all who abhor the cruel measures which limit family travel to Cuba to once every three years, to cut out the paper-sized coupon and get signatures and addresses from at least 20 family members, friends, co-workers, whoever is willing to sign the petition form. Better yet, we implore you to make several copies of the form and distribute them among those same cooperative friends or family members and ask them to each gather the 20 signatures. A month from now, with enough people doing their part, we hope to have collected thousands. And if things work out as we think they should, we will let you know so that you may join us in delivering the thousands of signatures to Washington, DC, in a show of support for Congressional bill HR 757, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Illinois). This bill, if passed, would put an end to the restrictions on family travel to Cuba.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Brouhaha in Havana

Provocations by either side are counter productive and will inflame passion

JG: Below is an AP Photo. I was not there, so I do not know what happened. Up to this point The Ladies in White have conducted their march on Sundays near Saint Rita, a church on Fifth Avenue in the Miramar district. Their marches were peaceful and no one impeded them.

It appears to me, from what I can see in the photograph, that there are five Ladies in White in the foreground, and maybe three or four more in the background.

This time they were not doing what they usually do in a peaceful manner. The AP report fails to mention where they were conducting their protest this time, other than saying it was in a “trafficked neighborhood.” Were they trying to provoke a violent reaction on the part of the population that supports the Cuban government?

If the the Ladies in White want to shout Freedom! the Cubans that do not agree with their message have the same right to shout Long Live Fidel! Freedom of expression is a two-way street.

It appears to me that this time the Ladies in White engaged in provocative behavior. When passions are inflamed and people start shouting slogans, things can get out of hand very quickly.

The Cuban government has claimed that the opposition inside the island has always been directed and financed by the United States government. On one occasion one of the so-called dissidents by the name of Martha Beatriz Roque expressed that she would like to see an invasion of Cuba by U.S. Marines. Martha, we all know who you are working for, and it is definitely not the Cuban people. If you say that in any neighborhood in Cuba, you are lucky if you get out of that neighborhood alive.

The U.S. government has no right to stick their nose into the internal affairs of the Cuban people. The inhabitants of that island have chosen a different system, which is their sovereign right, because of all the exploitation and corruption in Cuba before January 1, 1959.

Cubans may make mistakes, but at least now Cubans rule the island.


AP: Cuban government supporters, above, chant pro-revolutionary slogans as a group of political prisoners' wives known as Ladies in White, left, that were marching in protest try to get away in Havana.

March 20, 2007, 7:00PM, The Houston Chronicle

Cuba supporters break up prison protest

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ Associated Press Writer
2007 The Associated Press

HAVANA — Government supporters broke up a public protest Tuesday by prisoners' wives who intermittently shouted "Freedom! Freedom!" as they marched through a neighborhood in the capital to mark the crackdown that put their loved ones behind bars.

More than 40 government supporters shouted down the smaller "Ladies in White" group with cries of "Long Live Fidel!" in a reference to ailing leader Fidel Castro. There were no physical confrontations between the two groups, and it was not immediately known if there were any arrests.

"We are people who have to defend our revolution, our streets," said government supporter Esperanza Gomez, explaining the counter-demonstration.

Complete Article

Con Fidel nunca se sabe


El País, España

Gabriel García Márquez visita a Castro en La Habana y asegura haber encontrado a su amigo más activo y recuperado

MAURICIO VICENT - La Habana - 15/03/2007

Se confirma: Fidel Castro está cada vez mejor, y en la medida en que su recuperación avanza, vuelve a la carga con la obsesividad y omnipresencia que le caracterizan. El mandatario comunista, que en agosto cumplirá 81 años, compagina sus ejercicios de rehabilitación -varias horas diarias- con una actividad "política" que empieza a desmelenarse: llama constantemente a ministros y dirigentes, pide datos y aclaraciones, recibe a sus colaboradores cercanos entre caminatas al aire libre, sigue por televisión las noticias de la actualidad internacional y, sobre todo, está en contacto telefónico permanente con su par venezolano, Hugo Chávez.

Castro ya tiene ánimos y tiempo para compartir relajadamente con algunos amigos íntimos, como el premio Nobel Gabriel García Márquez, que ha pasado unos días en Cuba huyendo de los fastos organizados por su 80 cumpleaños. El lunes, a media mañana, el escritor colombiano visitó a su amigo convaleciente en el lugar donde se recupera, y allí caminó con él hasta cansarse. "Uff, kilómetros, diría yo", comenta Gabo con su proverbial discreción caribeña, indiscreta y exagerada.

El novelista siempre ha guardado con celo los avatares de su amistad con el líder cubano, y mucho más desde que el comandante hubo de ser operado de urgencia, el 27 de julio de 2006, y salió de la escena política. En su último viaje a la isla, hace tres meses, García Márquez no pudo verlo debido a su frágil estado de salud, pero habló con él por teléfono y quedaron en encontrarse por estas fechas.

Arrancarle un detalle a Gabo es casi tan difícil como frenar a Castro en su hiperactividad, si bien confirma que su amigo se crece no por días sino por horas y sigue desmesurado; detallista, de buen humor, hablando con pasión de sus temas preferidos, el cambio climático que pone en peligro a la humanidad o la nueva hora política de América Latina. "Sólo te digo que es el mismo Fidel de siempre", resume, aliviado porque haya sido el propio Castro el que diera noticia de su encuentro: "Así no se me escapa".

Ayer mismo, el diario oficial Granma lo hacía público al transcribir íntegramente la conversación telefónica sostenida el martes por Castro, Hugo Chávez y el presidente haitiano, René Préval, en el transcurso de la visita que el mandatario venezolano realizó a Haití como parte de su contragira a la del presidente Bush por América Latina. En un momento de la charla, Castro le dice a Chávez que "la lucha que está librando" por la unidad latinoamericana frente a Washington es de suma importancia, y se congratula por su iniciativa de incorporar a Haití al ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas), a la que ya pertenecen Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba y Nicaragua.

"Es una página inédita en la historia lo que está ocurriendo en estos momentos ", le dice Castro, muy en su papel -quizás su nuevo papel- de símbolo y referente regional. Es un criterio bastante aceptado en La Habana que aunque Castro logre recuperarse del todo no volverá de nuevo al día a día de la política nacional, sino que ejercerá el mando de otro modo. "Quizás como consejero y orientador de las estrategias generales, y especialmente concentrado en impulsar, con la ayuda de Chávez, su sueño de una integración latinoamericana de espíritu bolivariano y revolucionario", dice un antiguo compañero de armas.

Las últimas declaraciones de los dirigentes cubanos confirman la "recuperación acelerada" de Castro, pero también que en adelante el mandatario se dejará cuidar más. Junto a la noticia de la conversación telefónica de Castro y Chávez, ayer Granma publicaba la noticia de una visita del presidente interino, Raúl Castro, a unos almacenes refrigerados para garantizar la conservación de alimentos. ¿Un símbolo de los nuevos tiempos? Para algunos sería una buena variante, pero, como dice García Márquez, "Fidel es una fuerza de la naturaleza y con él nunca se sabe".

Chiquita Banana goes to bed with Colombian terrorists

MATT APUZZO | AP | March 19, 2007 05:32 PM EST

WASHINGTON — Banana company Chiquita Brands International admitted in federal court Monday that for years it paid Colombian terrorists to protect its most profitable banana-growing operation.

The company pleaded guilty to one count of doing business with a terrorist organization. The plea is part of a deal with prosecutors that calls for a $25 million fine and does not identity the several senior executives who approved the illegal protection payments.

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JG: Gee, I wonder if King "W" will send the CEO to Guantanamo. Naw, he will probably invite him for lunch.

Castro could be back in power soon, Bolivian leader says

The Kansas City Star

Posted on Tue, Mar. 20, 2007

By Ray Sanchez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

(MCT)

HAVANA - Bolivian President Evo Morales has added his voice to a chorus of speculative references to Fidel Castro's future, hinting that the ailing Cuban leader could return to power within weeks.

Speaking at a meeting of potato farmers in Cochabamba on Sunday, Morales said Castro could make his return during an April 28 summit in Havana to commemorate the third anniversary of the alternative trade bloc known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

"It will be the opportunity to see the return of Fidel Castro to the presidency of Cuba," Morales was quoted as saying in published reports.

For the first time since Castro announced July 31 that he had undergone emergency surgery and was passing authority to his younger brother, defense minister Raul Castro, the senior Castro's supporters both here and abroad appear to be setting the stage for his eventual return to the presidency.

"This is the second coming," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington, D.C., think tank. "There are certainly a series of optimistic statements coming out. It wouldn't be coming in this kind of full blush of information. People would be reluctant to be caught up in any kind of hoax."

On Thursday, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon predicted that Castro would be in "great shape" to run for president of the Council of State in the next election. "I'd nominate him," Alarcon said.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais, also on Thursday, quoted Castro's longtime friend, Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as saying that he and Castro had walked "kilometers" and discussed climate change and Latin American politics. "All I will say is that it is the same old Fidel," the paper quoted Garcia Marquez as saying.

On March 12, appearing in Paris, Cuba's foreign minister, Felipe Perez Roque, said Castro's health was improving and that he was increasingly getting back to work. "We consult him about different matters," Perez Roque said. "He gives us direction."

Cuba watchers said the comments appear to indicate a return to power by the 80-year-old leader who has ruled the island nation for 47 years.

"Now the question is, of course, will he have to undergo a long period of rehabilitation," Birns said. "His workload will be minimal. This is probably more of a symbolic return than an actual return."

Birns said a part-time return by Castro could aid in the transition.

"What will be good about this is that it's going to help prepare the second tier of leadership," he said. "There's been a problem which everyone has recognized that at the age of 75 Raul doesn't provide that substantial a rock upon which to build this church."

However, Wayne Smith, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana from 1979 to 1982, said he visited Cuba two months ago and that none of the government officials he met expected Castro to resume the presidency.

"This in effect was the best of all worlds for Cuba, this gradual transition," he said. "Raul Castro was governing smoothly. Everyone accepted that Castro was still there as a reassuring figure in the background. There comes a point at which you have to ask, `How much longer can this go on?' Raul Castro is the president but he isn't the president."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lourdes Gourriel: Sancti Spíritus has what it takes to be National Baseball Champions


Lourdes Gourriel
Photo: Alex Castro

In an interview by Raúl Arce of Juventud Rebelde, Lourdes Gourriel, one of Cuba's best players ever and father of Yuliesky Gourriel, who proudly represented the island nation in the first World Baseball Classic a year ago, said that Sancti Spíritus, the team that he manages, has what it takes to be crowned National Champion in the XLVI Cuban National Baseball Series.

Yesterday, the Industriales, became the fourth team to qualify for the post season playoffs this year. Four teams remain to be chosen.

Portugal Green Party Delegation in Cuba

Periodico 26

Deisy Francis Mexidor

Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, head of the International Relations Department of the Cuban Communist Party, met Friday in Havana with an official delegation of the Green Party of Portugal, which has been visiting the island since March 9.

Maria Manuela Cunha, Jose Miguel Goncalves and Rogerio Cassona, National Executive Committee members of the Green Party, founded in 1982, praised the advances and benefits of the Energy Revolution taking place in Cuba.

Deeply moved by their first trip to the island, the visitors also noted the measures that Cuba is implementing to preserve the environment, which they witnessed first hand during trips to Las Terrazas, Pinar del Rio and the Zapata Swamp in Matanzas.

Cunha said the delegation exchanged points of view with people from a rural community and at a home in Pinar del Rio. There they also saw the low-energy appliances that the Cuban government has made available to families.

The Portuguese politicians made note of investments made by the government for scientific research and social organization and saw the high degree of citizen participation achieved.

The Green Party leaders were also informed on the damage caused by the nearly half century blockade imposed by the US against Cuba.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

XLVI Cuban National Baseball Series: Three teams advance to the playoffs

Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Río and Sancti Spíritus have advanced to the post-season playoffs. Eight games remain to be played to end the regular season.

Current Standings

Mexican Lawmaker Favors Ties with Cuba

Havana, Mar 16 (Prensa Latina) Higinio Martinez, a lawmaker for the state of Mexico, said Friday that he favored rapprochement between his country´s government and Cuba´s, and called to back the island nation at international forums.

Martinez, who is the president of the Political Coordination Board of the 54th Legislature of the State of Mexico, noted the need to foster relations with Cuba, adding that lawmakers will work from within the House of Deputies.

The Mexican legislator´s statements came after meeting with Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, president of the People´s Power National Assembly (Cuban Parliament), at Havana´s Hotel Nacional.

We will lobby at the Senate, speak with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (opposition) and with very important political interlocutors with whom we have relations in Mexico to propitiate a reencounter between Cuba and our country, said Martinez.

He added that the government of President Felipe Calderon must take an honorable and independent stance on Cuba at the Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The lawmaker criticized the previous government of President Vicente Fox, who yielded to US pressure to condemn Cuba for alleged violations of individual guarantees.

"If Felipe Calderon wants to improve relations, he cannot vote against Cuba, because there is no reason to take that stance," Martinez stressed.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Two bills: one win-win and one reactionary

Two days ago, two bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate that we can say are not directly related to Cuba. They deal with the energy issue in the United States.

But they are indirectly related to Cuba, since they mention the island.

The first one is S 875, introduced by U.S. Senators Dorgan(D-SD) and Craig(R-ID.) Section 303 of the bill says the following:

(1) IN GENERAL.--The Secretary of the Treasury shall, authorize under a general license the travel-related transactions listed in section 515.560(c) of title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, for travel to, from or within Cuba in connection with exploration for and the extraction of hydrocarbon resources in any part of a foreign maritime Exclusive Economic Zone that is contiguous to the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone.

(2) PERSONS AUTHORIZED.--Persons authorized to travel to Cuba under this section include full-time employees, executives, agents, and consultants of oil and gas producers, distributors, and shippers.

What this bill does, among many other important things, is lift the U.S. economic embargo in the area of oil exploration in Cuba's maritime Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ). It is a win-win bill. It benefits the people of the United States and the people of Cuba.

China, India, Canada, Norway, Venezuela and Spain are currently exploring for oil deposits in Cuba's EEZ.

Of course the extremist and reactionary crowds of South Florida are not happy about Section 303, and therefore they sent their favorite water-carrier to do their hate-filled work.

Senator Martinez (R-FL) introduced S 876 a bill to "exclude from admission to the United States aliens who have made investments contributing to the enhancement of the ability of Cuba to develop its petroleum resources."

This bill will go nowhere, since the Republican Party no longer controls Congress, but it will make the gusanos of Miami very happy. Most likely they will call it "a great victory" and proceed to dance on the streets of Calle Ocho.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bush: scared of Freedom to Travel to Cuba

Now that the Democrats control both houses of Congress, several bills have been introduced that would repeal the travel ban to Cuba.

Most notable are HR 757 and HR654 in the House and S 721 in the Senate. They are all deserving of being enacted into law.

My only objection to HR654 is the condescending and insulting title. Two previous Cuba bills, the infamous Helms-Burton Act and the Torricelli Act also had silly names. It was a waste of time to pass those two Acts, because U.S. laws DO NOT HAVE EXTRATERRITORIALITY. The whole world has laughed and repudiated those Acts. And aren’t we happy that both Helms and Torricelli are gone from the U.S. Senate?

But only Cuban-Americans have been told by the current occupant of the White House that their uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins are not part of their family. This is a bigger insult than the silly name of HR 654. Congress must right that wrong by passing HR757 first to totally repudiate the hypocrisy of a president that calls himself a family values man.

Enacting HR 757, HR 654 and S271 would correct the wrong that has been pushed down our throats. The Pursuit of Happiness includes Freedom to Travel. Bush is scared silly that if Americans travel to the island they might like some of the accomplishments of that society since January 1, 1959.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

115th Anniversary of the founding by José Martí of the newspaper Patria


Today, 115 years ago, José Martí founded the newspaper Patria.

On its first issue The Apostle wrote that “This newspaper is born based on the will and the resources of independent Cubans and Puerto Ricans of New York, to contribute, without haste and rest, to organize the free men of Cuba and Puerto Rico.”

JG: Cuba achieved its true independence on January 1, 1959, having had to fight two empires. One day Puerto Rico will also stop being a US colony.

Source: Juventud Rebelde

Venezuela, Cuba create USD 1 billion fund for Haiti

El Universal

Caracas, Wednesday March 14, 2007

MARIA LILIBETH DA CORTE

Cuba and Venezuela created a USD 1 billion fund "to help Haiti," with resources devoted to purchase equipment, build dwellings and provide assistance to the Cuban doctors to be deployed in Haiti, said the Venezuelan People's Power Ministry of Communication and Information (Minci) on its website.

In a joint news conference with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Haitian President Rene Preval announced that they initialed a number of cooperation agreements during a tripartite meeting with Cuban State Council Vice-President Esteban Lazo, including the instrument creating the USD 1 billion fund.

"In short time, with Cuban help and cooperation, integral healthcare will be provided in all Haitian communities. Further, we have a group of Haitians taking medicine studies in Cuba. They are to replace Cuban doctors. Besides, Venezuela has provided USD 20 million in humanitarian aid to help shore up this cooperation initiative in the healthcare area," Preval explained.

Castro on the phone

The meeting, held in the National Palace, the Haitian Government headquarters, was joined by Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, who called Chávez, Preval and Lazo four times to take part in the ceremony sealing the tripartite agreement, DPA reported.

"President Castro took part in the meeting by phone to consolidate a great space for trilateral cooperation among Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti," Chávez declared before departing from Haiti around midnight, thus putting an end to his tour of several Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The three governments entered into an agreement under which Venezuela undertook to install four electric powerhouses with an overall capacity of 100 megawatts in Port-au-Prince, Cap Haitien and Gonaives, Preval said.

Besides the USD 1 billion fund, President Hugo Chávez officially announced that Venezuelan state-run Economic and Social Development Bank (Bandes) would create a USD 20 million to finance development projects in Haiti. Furthermore, the Venezuelan ruler announced disbursement of USD 57 million to overhaul Haitian airports, as well as a new deal under which Venezuela is to provide 7,000 bpd of crude oil to the island, besides the 7,000 bpd Venezuela provides to Haiti under Petrocaribe.

Meanwhile, Cuba pledged to send new medical staff to provide healthcare assistance to the remotest Haitian communities. Further, Cuba offered to grant scholarships to 800 Haitians taking medicine studies in Havana.

Nothing personal

President Chávez seized the opportunity to clarify he has nothing personal against his US counterpart George W. Bush.

"This is not about Chávez versus Bush or Bush versus Chávez. If this were a personal matter, he would be knocked down long time ago. You know this is not a personal issue."

"He (Bush) embodies the imperialist model of colonial domination. We represent, and I am saying this humbly, yet with much dignity, the Bolivarian project of liberation of our peoples," Chávez highlighted.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez R.
msuarez@eluniversal.com

Cuba: Fidel Castro Calls Chavez, Preval

Escambray

Havana, Mar 14 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Fidel Castro spoke on the telephone with Venezuelan Statesman Hugo Chavez and Haiti's Rene Preval, to whom he ratified the island's support for his people, Granma newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Cuban Revolution's leader also praised Chavez for having visited in a brief time several regional countries, "overcoming risks and fatigue", while he termed brilliant the speeches by the South America head of State.

When Chavez asked him about his health, Fidel Castro responded "well, I am very good", and emphasized he was informed on everything related to his Latin American and Caribbean tour.

The conversation took place while Chavez met with Preval and Cuba's Council of State Vice President Esteban Lazo, also visiting Haiti, and other top officials from the three governments.

Talking with Fidel Castro on the presence of the island's physicians in Haiti, the Cuban statesman assured Chavez that it could count on that force.

About this issue, the Venezuelan head of State said he could carry out a program similar to the "Frente Miranda", with the aim of building houses, with water and electricity.

Preval told the Cuban president he was happy with the visit of Hugo Chavez, and compared his mass welcome to a Revolution.

Fidel Castro, who termed the day as a day of brotherhood, said that Haitians are hard-working and true fighters for the people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cuba-China trade hits $1.8 Billion in 2006

Business Week

March 13, 2007, 1:34PM EST

The Associated Press

HAVANA

Trade between Cuba and China ballooned to US$1.8 billion (euro1.4 billion) last year, double that of 2005, Beijing's ambassador to the island said.

China's exports of buses, locomotives and farm equipment and supplies to Cuba in 2006 helped account for the sharp increase over the previous year, Zhao Rongxian said in a story posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Cuban government's business weekly Opciones. He did not provide specific numbers for Chinese-Cuban trade in 2005.

An official Cuban report last year said trade between the two countries was about US$775,000 (euro590,000) during the 12-month period ending in October 2005. It was unclear if the US$1.8 billion (euro1.4 billion) figure corresponded to the same 12 months in 2006.

"We are both socialist countries, we have a lot in common and magnificent relations of cooperation in all areas," the ambassador said.

Cuba sent nickel, sugar and medicine, as well as biotechnological products to China. Chinese tourists also visited Cuba in record numbers and now average more than 10,000 a year, the ambassador said.

For decades, China did not trade with Cuba because of the island's economic dependence on Moscow, then a rival of Beijing.

But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Venezuela -- with its generous oil exports at favorable prices -- has emerged as the island's top commercial partner, while trade from China has steadily increased.

Cuba's official trade figures are difficult to verify because the government includes social services not counted in U.N.-standard measures of economic output.

Government officials reported last month that trade with Venezuela topped US$2.6 billion (euro1.97 billion) in 2006.

Are gay rights groups anti freedom of speech?

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the statement of General Pace.

In an interview yesterday with the Chicago Tribune the general expressed his personal beliefs.

The article quoted the general as follow:

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

The general has a right to express his beliefs. Out of the woodwork came a myriad of gay rights "businesses" with their holier than thou attitude to condemn the general. They are acting like Nazi storm troopers.

I say to those gay groups: GET A LIFE! Freedom of Speech is a two way street. You are a very small minority and have no right to try to deny others their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.

Message to Bush

"Bush has no moral authority to dictate what we should do; we are an independent and sovereign state and in our land we do what we Cubans want."

Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Relations, speaking today in Paris

Testamento político de José Antonio Echeverría

Juventud Rebelde

Por: José Antonio Echeverría

13 de marzo de 2007 00:00:00 GMT

Que nuestra sangre señale el camino de la libertad

Hoy, 13 de marzo de 1957, día en que se honra a los que han consagrado sus vidas a la digna profesión de Arquitecto para la que me preparo, a las tres y veinte minutos de la tarde participaré en una acción en la que el Directorio Revolucionario ha empeñado todo su esfuerzo junto con otros grupos que también luchan por la libertad.

Esta acción envuelve grandes riesgos para todos nosotros y lo sabemos. No desconozco el peligro. No lo busco. Pero tampoco lo rehuyo. Trato sencillamente de cumplir con mi deber.

Nuestro compromiso con el pueblo de Cuba quedó fijado en la Carta de México que unió a la juventud en una conducta y una actuación. Pero las circunstancias necesarias para que la parte estudiantil realizara el papel a ella asignado no se dieron oportunamente, obligándonos a aplazar el cumplimiento de nuestro compromiso. Creemos que ha llegado el momento de cumplirlo. Confiamos en que la pureza de nuestras intenciones nos atraiga el favor de Dios para lograr el imperio de la justicia en nuestra Patria.

Si caemos, que nuestra sangre señale el camino de la libertad, porque tenga o no nuestra acción el éxito que esperamos, la conmoción que originará nos hará adelantar en la senda del triunfo.

Pero es la acción del Pueblo la que será decisiva para alcanzarlo; por eso este manifiesto, que pudiera llegar a ser un testamento, exhorta al pueblo de Cuba a la resistencia cívica, al retraimiento de cuanto pueda significar un apoyo a la dictadura que nos oprime, y a la ayuda eficaz de los que están sobre las armas por libertarlo. Para ello es preciso mantener viva la fe en la lucha revolucionaria aunque perezcamos todos sus líderes, ya que nunca faltarán hombres decididos y capaces que ocupen nuestros puestos, pues, como dijera el Apóstol, cuando no hubiera hombres se levantarían las piedras para luchar por la libertad de nuestra Patria.

A nuestros compañeros los estudiantes de toda Cuba, les pedimos que se organicen, ya que ellos constituyen la vanguardia de nuestra lucha, y a las Fuerzas Armadas que recuerden que su misión es defender a la Patria, no someter hermanos, y que su puesto es el del Ejército Mambí, que peleaba «Por la Libertad de Cuba», como terminan todos sus escritos.

¡Viva Cuba Libre!

Raul Castro warns of "high cost" against invading Cuba

People's Daily Online

UPDATED: 11:27, March 13, 2007

Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro on Monday warned against an invasion of his country, saying the price paid by invaders would be high.

"If anyone attacks us, we're ready to pay any price necessary, but the price paid by the invaders of our country would be much higher," said the 75 year-old during a speech to troops participating in a military exercises in the western Pinar del Rio province.

Raul, who has been the Caribbean country's defence minister since 1959, called the Cuban revolution "unbeatable."

The exercises are to help the country improve the preparedness of its armed forces, he said, adding that Cuba is training its military for the presence of an enemy politically committed to the destruction of the revolution. The Island nation is less than 200 km from the east coast of the United States.

Referring to Fidel Castro's health, Raul said the leader is "recovering steadily" and that his recovery is satisfactory. Raul assumed control of the government on July 31 when Fidel Castro, 80, underwent intestinal surgery forcing him to cede power.

Meanwhile, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque confirmed the news, saying Fidel is improving and getting back to work.

Roque, who was in Paris for a UNESCO meeting, said Castro's steady recovery was bound to disappoint the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

"It's not good news for Bush, nor for the government of the United States," Roque said. "But it's the truth that Fidel is recuperating, is doing physical exercise and is much stronger."

Source: Xinhua

Cuba says it wants normal U.S. relations

United Press International

Published: March 12, 2007 at 7:18 PM

HAVANA, March 12 (UPI) -- Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said Monday he would like "normal and respectful relations with the United States," EFE news agency reported.

During his visit to Paris, Perez Roque -- who was in France for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement -- said he is prepared to hold bilateral talks anytime the United States is ready.

Cuban President Fidel Castro fell ill earlier this year and appointed his brother Raul interim leader of the communist island. Since assuming control in July, Raul Castro has also suggested he was open to talks with the United States.

In Memoriam: Jose Antonio Echeverría

Today, Cuba commemorates the 50th anniversary of the attack to the presidential palace where the tyrant Fulgencio Batista ruled the island. The group of courageous revolutionaries were almost successful in executing the Yankee puppet.

Jose Antonio Echevarría, president of the Federación Estudiantil Universitaria, gave his life during this valiant effort by university students and the general population.

The Cuban nation owes them an eternal debt of gratitude. One year and nine months later Cuba would become a truly free nation.

Eternal glory to Jose Antonio and the martyrs of March 13.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Next Big Health Care Battle

The New York Times

EDITORIAL

Published: March 12, 2007

At a time when the nation is pondering how to provide medical coverage to some 47 million uninsured Americans, it is logical and right to start with the country’s nine million uninsured children. The Bush administration, unfortunately, is going in exactly the opposite direction.

In a shortsighted effort to save money and promote its free-market philosophy, it has proposed reducing the federal contribution to a highly successful children’s health insurance program operated by the states. Democratic leaders in Congress are planning to respond with bold, and necessary, proposals to cover a large chunk of the nine million uninsured children — at a cost that could reach $50 billion to $60 billion over five years.

That price tag might seem staggering when health care costs are already spiraling out of control, but less so when one considers that the administration is pouring $200 billion a year into a losing war in Iraq. Just eliminating the large overpayments granted to private health plans that participate in Medicare would save $65 billion over five years. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll a majority of Americans believe that the federal government should guarantee health insurance to all Americans, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to finance it.

The issue is coming to a head because the highly successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-Chip, is up for reauthorization. The program is a joint federal-state effort to cover children whose family income is too high to qualify for Medicaid — the primary federal-state program to cover the poor — but too low to pay for private coverage.

States vary widely in how they handle S-Chip. Many programs cover children in families earning well above the federal poverty level, and sometimes coverage is provided for parents or other adults. Now the Bush administration wants to focus primarily on children from families earning no more than twice the poverty level, or $41,300 for a family of four, while reducing the federal matching rate for everyone else. (A typical family policy can easily cost more than $10,000 a year.) The states would have to take up the slack or watch an estimated 400,000 children — some predict many more than that — fall off the rolls.

What Americans want and what the country needs is to protect more — not fewer — children. Congressional Democrats propose to do that using both S-Chip and the far larger Medicaid program. Some six million of the nine million uninsured children are actually eligible for one program or the other but are not enrolled, because their families either do not know they are eligible or are discouraged by a complicated bureaucratic process. All efforts should be made to enroll them.

The administration prefers to rely on tax subsidies to encourage more people to buy their own health insurance and is encouraging states to redirect federal funds they already receive for health care to subsidize health insurance for the poor. Medicaid and S-Chip have been remarkably effective in reducing the number of uninsured children while the number of uninsured adults keeps increasing. That is a success worth building on, not diminishing.