Monday, April 30, 2007

Cuba gears up for May Day parade with Castro's attendance uncertain

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: April 30, 2007

HAVANA: Communist Cuba geared up Monday for its traditional May Day march featuring hundreds of thousands of workers, but an appearance by recovering leader Fidel Castro at the event was uncertain.

The 80-year-old Castro for decades has attended the annual May Day march, but there was no official word whether the leader would be well enough to make it on Tuesday.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma declared that marchers at the Tuesday event in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution will be "united and strong with the revolution and the party, with Fidel and Raul" Castro.

Smaller marches will be held simultaneously in other cities around the island, with the government expecting several million of the nation's 11 million people to participate.

Marchers also will protest the recent decision to free on bond anti-communist militant Luis Posada Carriles pending his trial on U.S. immigration charges. Havana accuses the Cuban-born Posada of orchestrating a 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people — a charge he denies.

Castro has not appeared in public in the nine months since announcing he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and temporarily ceded his functions to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister.

The elder Castro has appeared only occasionally in government photographs and videos, appearing stronger and more robust in more recent images.

He met separately in recent weeks with Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and a top Chinese Communist Party leader and has penned three editorials.

Cuban officials have given increasingly upbeat reports about Castro's health, but have declined to speculate about whether he will appear Tuesday.

Some Castro loyalists remained hopeful.

"I pray that he appears," said retiree Manuel Otero. "It would be satisfying to know that he has overcome (his illness) and is with us in the struggle."

"The whole world misses him," said public works employee Rose Elena Perez.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New U.S. motion in El Paso

Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde, in an article titled "The United States tries to silence Posada Carriles," has reported that U.S. prosecutors presented this past Friday a new court motion which tries to exclude "all types of evidence, testimony, questions or arguments" regarding the relationship of Luis Posada Carriles and the CIA.

The document, signed by U.S. prosecutors John W. Van Lonkhuyzen and Paul Ahern, of the Division of National Security of the Justice Department, afirms that the relationship of the terrorist and the CIA "is at the point of ending in 1976."

The motion also presents a declassified document, supposedly signed by Luis Posada Carriles on February 13, 1976, where he promises not to divulge any secrets related to the inteligency agency.

The Fatherland transcends one person

When Jose Marti was cut down in Dos Rios by a Spanish bullet, the dreams of Cubans did not die. Those dreams and ideas served as the seed for a more potent brand of Cuban nationalism. The Cuban nation had to face and come to grips with a more robust opponent from the brutal North, who wanted a Cuba that was subservient to their greedy economic interests, and Cubans watched throughout the neo-colonial period of 1898-1958 as they became the new masters.

The corrupt brand of "democracy" imported and imposed by the new rulers did not last very long, a mere sixty years. But the dream was kept alive. The brutality of the Batista regime, who was nothing but a puppet of yankee imperialism, came to an abrupt end on January 1st 1959, when Cuba finally became a truly free and independent nation.

Imperialists do not desire a free nation. And so, they contracted with mercenary "freedom fighters," like the gang who could not shoot straight at the Bay of Pigs, and Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. They carried out all the dirty tricks of the empire, but they failed too.

A when the current leader of the Cuban nation joins The Apostle in the immortal pages of Cuban history, a new wave of equally good leaders will take the helm of the island. The dream will not die.

Castro Is Back 'In Charge' of Cuba After Surgery, Chavez Says

CNBC

By Reuters | 29 Apr 2007 | 03:49 PM ET

Cuban President Fidel Castro is back "in charge" after undergoing intestinal surgery in July, his friend and protege Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday.

An intestinal ailment has kept the communist leader out of the public eye for the past nine months, sparking speculation about whether he will return to power, which he ceded temporarily to his brother Raul on July 31.

"He is charge, he is in charge, he is doing a lot of thinking," Chavez said in a speech at a summit of the ALBA group, which promotes co-operation between Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Chavez is in frequent contact with Castro, from whom he said he had just received a long letter including reflections on Argentine-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and the Chinese economy. Castro took power in 1959.

The Venezuelan president said Castro was well enough to be not only closely monitoring the ALBA summit but was also running affairs behind the scenes.

"He is in charge, the great helmsman of ALBA is Fidel," he said.

Chavez said earlier this month that Castro, 80, had informally resumed "a good part" of his governing duties.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he is sure Castro will attend a May Day parade in Havana, but Chavez said he did not know whether his mentor would be there.

"I think Evo and Fidel have a plan so secret that even I do not know," he said, triggering a wave of laughter.

Economics minister: Cuba hopes to return to single currency

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: April 28, 2007

HAVANA: The economics minister said Saturday that Cuba hopes to return to a single currency, a departure from the current two-currency system that makes many consumer goods unattainable for most Cubans.

Communist Cuba's dual economy emerged more than 15 years ago after the country lost most of its preferential trade and aid with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"We have been advancing toward monetary unification," Economics Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez told reporters during a briefing on the Cuban economy. "That's the path." He did not provide specifics.

Today, the regular Cuban peso is what Cubans use for virtually all government services — including utilities, transportation, and a monthly food ration — and it is the only currency accepted at popular farmers markets.

But the convertible Cuban peso, which is tied to foreign currencies, is the only money accepted for electronics, packaged food, and other consumer goods at most government-run stores. Cuban government workers, who earn on average about US$15 (€11) a month, cannot afford most of the items available in convertible Cuban pesos at the foreign-currency stores, which are high priced even by American or European standards.
Today in Business

Those who shop at the stores are mostly foreigners or the estimated 57 percent of Cubans who receive cash remittances from family living outside the country.

Until 2 1/2 years ago, the U.S. dollar also circulated one-to-one alongside the convertible Cuban peso.

The Central Bank later "revalued" the convertible peso so it trades at one to US$1.08 (€.79). That exchange does not take into account a surcharge of about 10 percent to change U.S. dollars for the convertible pesos.

Cuba's danzon is 'medicine' for older dancers who hope its rhythms live on

The Vancouver Sun, Canada

Andrea Rodriguez, Canadian Press
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2007

HAVANA (AP) - Luisa Herrera donned her very best dress, a long, black shiny number, for the genteel Cuban dance known as the danzon. She completed her outfit with an elegant hand fan to cool her 60-year-old skin, her hair gathered high atop her head.

Not to be outdone, her dance partner, septuagenarian Felipe Vasquez, wore a resplendent guayabera dress shirt over his dark pants and spit-shined shoes.

"Dancing this rhythm requires you to look your best, as beautiful as possible," Herrera said as she prepared herself for last month's International Danzon Festival in Havana, bringing together dance couples from Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and other countries.

A blend of European and African rhythms, Cuba's national dance lives on more than a century after its birth, especially among older couples such as Herrera and Vasquez.

Danzon is a "medicine" for such older couples, said Cuban music expert Luis Hernandez, who referred to the vitality and agility the dancers demonstrate, showing off decades of experience in every step and turn.

The tropical ballroom dance originated in the northern coastal city of Matanzas in 1879. The couple dances close - but not too close - with heads held high, posture erect, adopting a courteous and distinguished air as the man leads the woman in small, co-ordinated steps.

"It is an expressive dance," said Luis Terry, who with dance partner Angela Arocha attended the dance festival, held at a social centre that was once an elegant Havana mansion. "It isn't practised as much now, but in the past it was good for courting."

During the first years of the 20th century, many families prohibited their young daughters and sons from practising danzon, because there was "touching" - one hand lightly placed in the other's hand, the other on a shoulder or waist.

Compared to today's more risque styles, danzon seems almost quaint, old-fashioned, which worries older enthusiasts who want the dance to live on with future generations and in other countries.

"The genre fascinates me. I love it," said dancer Gilda Ramirez de Velazco, who learned a slightly different style of danzon in her native Mexico, where danzon remains popular. "I couldn't miss this."

In an attempt to attract younger dancers, the danzon festival featured special events for teenagers and children.

"If the new generations don't embrace it as their own, the tradition will die," said Hernandez. "It has to be kept current. Danzon in its essence is elegant. But if you have to, you can dance it wearing jeans."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cuba says it has lifted a ban on U.S. long-grain rice

San Diego Union Tribune

By Will Weissert
ASSOCIATED PRESS

7:10 p.m. April 27, 2007

HAVANA – Cuba has lifted a ban on imports of U.S. long-grain rice that it put in place last year because of fears about genetic contamination.

Raul Sanchez, director of the U.S. division of the island's food import company Alimport, said Friday the ban was lifted earlier this month and that in recent weeks Cuba has imported 30,000 tons of long-grain U.S. rice and expects to import 10,000 more soon.

A U.S. announcement in August that American long-grain rice samples had tested positive for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not approved for consumption prompted Japan to suspend its U.S. rice imports. Cuba imposed a ban of its own after conducting independent testing, Sanchez said.

Sanchez, who spoke during a meeting with U.S. medical company representatives, did not provide details about the exact date and why Cuba had lifted the ban, suggesting only that U.S. long-grain rice no longer appeared to be a problem.

Washington's 45-year-old embargo against communist Cuba chokes off most trade between the two countries but U.S. companies can sell medicine and medical supplies directly to the country under the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act. A law approved in 2000 authorized cash-only payments for U.S. food and agricultural products.

Sanchez said that so far this year Cuba has spent $196.8 million on American food and agricultural products after spending $578.8 million in all of 2006. Cuba includes shipping and other logistical costs when divulging the total amount paid for U.S. goods.

Addressing representatives from Mercury Medical, a Florida medical supply company visiting Cuba to display equipment, Sanchez said that since 2001, Cuba has spent $2.2 billion on American food and farm products, but nearly $340 million of that went to shipping alone.

The New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, attempting to estimate the amount Cuba spent on U.S. imports without taking into account logistical costs, reported the island bought about $340 million in American food and agricultural products last year.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Austria charges bank after Cuban accounts cancelled

Reuters

Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:41AM EDT

VIENNA, April 27 (Reuters) - Austria is charging BAWAG, being taken over by U.S. investor Cerberus Capital [CBS.UL], with violating European Union rules after the bank cancelled the accounts of around 100 Cubans, foreign minister Ursula Plassnik said late on Thursday.

BAWAG, Austria's fifth-largest bank, told around 100 Cuban clients earlier this month that it had to cancel their accounts because U.S. sanctions against Cuba meant Cerberus could not buy BAWAG if it kept them as clients.

Plassnik told Austria's parliament late last evening that BAWAG had violated EU rules against implementing the U.S. Cuban sanctions on European soil, and that she had therefore launched proceedings against BAWAG.

"U.S. law is not applicable in Austria. We are not the 51st of the United States," Plassnik said. "Neither the EU nor the U.N. have implemented a general economic or contact embargo against Iran or Cuba."

"We have started the necessary steps to launch administrative proceedings (against BAWAG)," Plassnik said.

Plassnik mentioned Iran in referrence to U.S. objections against Austrian oil and gas group OMV's (OMVV.VI: Quote, Profile, Research plans to produce gas in the Islamic state.

A spokesman for Plassnik added on Friday that the ministry had requested BAWAG to explain its decision to cancel the accounts and that it would make a decision about whether to fine the bank after reviewing BAWAG's reply.

BAWAG reiterated on Friday that it regretted the measures but had no choice but to implement them due to its new owner. It said the cancellations did not violate EU rules.

The European Commission in 1996 decreed that U.S. sanctions against Cuba known as the Helms-Burton Act, which ban U.S. companies from dealing with the socialist Carribean state, must not be applied in the EU.

BAWAG executives can be fined as much as 73,000 euros for violating the EU regulation.

U.S. private equity fund Cerberus, whose Chairman is former U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, agreed to buy BAWAG for 3.2 billion euros last year from BAWAG's current owner, Austrian trade union federation OeGB.

The deal is expected to close in mid-May, BAWAG Chief Executive Ewald Nowotny said this week.

The Champions


Santiago de Cuba Avispas

XLVI Champions


Skipper Antonio Pacheco with trophy


Granma Photos, 4-27-2007

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cuba should reject baseball relationship until Bush is gone and the embargo is lifted.

The New York Times recently published an interesting article about a possible major league baseball relationship with Cuba.

It is pure speculation and pie-in-the-sky dream. As long as the U.S. has in the White House a president that gives refuge to a well known terrorist, and as long as his administration continues its strong support and expansion of the genocidal Cuba embargo, the regime in Havana should say NO, Thank You.

Bush doesn’t want anything that is good for Cuba.

The best Cuban baseball players play in Cuba. Let’s continue with the current status quo until Bush is gone.

Venezuela, Cuba ask U.N. to investigate Posada's release

KGBT 4, Harlingen, Texas

UNITED NATIONS - Venezuela and Cuba have asked a U-N committee to investigate the release of a Cuban militant who's wanted in Venezuela on charges of plotting a 1976 airliner bombing that killed 73 people.
Seventy-nine-year-old Luis Posada Carriles was released from a New Mexico jail last week after posting bail.

He's awaiting a trial in El Paso on charges of lying to U-S immigration authorities.

In a statement, Venezuela and Cuba said the release -- quote -- "constitutes a clear violation of the Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the U-S of protecting a terrorist instead of handing him over to be tried. Venezuela made an extradition request to the U-S in 2005.

Venezuelan authorities accuse Posada, a militant opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, of plotting the 1976 bombing of the Cubana Airlines jet while living in the Venezuela.

Posada has denied involvement.

He's been jailed in the United States since May 2005, when he admitted sneaking into the country illegally from Mexico.

Santiago de Cuba crowned as the new Cuban baseball champion


Santiago Campeón Fireworks

The game ended a minute ago, and the Avispas defeated the Industriales by a score of 8 to 2. The Industriales were the reigning monarchs.

Although they took the lead early by scoring their two runs on the first inning, poor pitching doomed the Industriales.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bad numbers for our deceiver-in-chief

A new MSNBC poll came out today with very bad numbers for our deceiver-in-chief.

The poll shows that 56 percent say they agree more with the Democrats in Congress who want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus the 37 percent who say they agree with Bush that there shouldn't be a deadline.

What's more, 55 percent believe that victory in Iraq isn't possible. And 49 percent say the situation in Iraq has gotten worse in the last three months since Bush announced his so-called troop surge. Thirty-seven percent say the situation has stayed about the same, and just 12 percent think it has improved.

He continues to be -- like LBJ before him in Vietnam -- in a state of denial.

IMPEACH!

BAWAG Admits Its Mistake

Playfuls.com

08:20 PM, April 23rd 2007

By Jack Thorpe

Austria's BAWAG bank admitted in a statement released Monday that it made a mistake when the accounts held by approximately 100 Cuban customers were cancelled.

"Some mistakes have been made, for which I apologize," Ewald Nowotny, the general director of BAWAG, said.

In December 2006 BAWAG, which is the fourth-largest bank in Austria, was bought by US-based Cerberus Capital Management for 3.2 billion euros and it is believed that following the US policy against Cuba BAWAG cancelled all accounts of its Cuban customers last week. The termination of the accounts was done "in anticipation of the reorganization of business relations in individual fields" following the take-over by Cerberus, Nowotny added. Nowotny denied the allegations saying the decision had been the management's alone, and had not been a reaction to pressure exerted by the new owners.

These actions triggered massive criticism from across the political spectrum in Austria and the bank’s management reassured that at the time of decision Cerberus was not officially in charge and the steps taken had been an effect of "the interaction of several legal spheres in an increasingly globalized world.

It is a known fact that the United States have been enforcing sanctions against Havana for almost 50 years now by the so-called Helm-Burton Act. This act prohibits American companies and their subsidiaries to have business relations with Cubans and it's speculated that business relations with customers from Iran, North Korea and several African countries will be severed as well.

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Cuba protests Austrian bank's decision to stop serving Cuban customers

The Associated Press

Published: April 25, 2007

VIENNA, Austria: Cuba on Wednesday protested the decision by an Austrian bank recently bought by a U.S. consortium to stop serving Cuban customers.

"For us, this action is unacceptable," Norma Goicochea Estenoz, Cuba's ambassador to Austria, told reporters at the Cuban Embassy.

BAWAG P.S.K., linked to the collapsed U.S. commodities broker Refco, was bought in December by a consortium headed by New York-based private equity company Cerberus Capital Management. Since U.S. law prohibits not only American businesses but also their subsidiaries abroad from conducting any commerce with Cuban nationals, the bank said earlier this month it had terminated its relationship with its Cuban customers.

The consortium won a bid to buy BAWAG in mid-December. EU regulators cleared the sale at the end of February and the takeover is expected to be completed next month.

Goicochea Estenoz, speaking in Spanish through a translator, said the embassy had been in touch with several Austrian ministries and the speaker of parliament and had been told that the matter would be looked into.

The ambassador said BAWAG's director general, Ewald Nowotny, had asked to meet with her. Earlier this week, Austrian media quoted Nowotny as saying that the bank had made some mistakes in dealing with the issue.

A BAWAG spokesman said late last week that the bank wanted to seek special authorization from U.S. authorities to resume serving Cuban nationals.

Goicochea Estenoz was accompanied at the news conference by Lissethe Grana, whose brother has been affected by the decision. Grana said BAWAG told her brother to close his account by April 20, declined to give him an extension and also asked him to pay part of a fee.

"This is an insult," said Grana, a travel agent who holds both Austrian and Cuban citizenship and who said she has lived in Austria for almost 13 years.

Goicochea Estenoz said she was not aware of other banks in Europe taking such measures against Cuban clients.

"Yes, BAWAG is making history ... it hurts us," she said.

Delaware business makes export agreement with Cuba

WMDT 47 ABC, Delaware

DOVER, Del. (AP) -

A Delaware poultry business has signed an agreement with Cuba to ship its products there.

Mountaire Farms will begin shipping containers of chicken to the country in May.

The company's president, John Wise, says he worked with Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse. He said it was a challenge that required negotiating and building relationships with Cuban officials.

He said Cuba is a natural customer since it has 11 (m) million people living nearby.

Scuse said a March trip to Cuba was very helpful to find other avenues for exporting Delaware goods to the country. 38 other states export goods to Cuba.

Estadio Latinoamericano


Latinoamericano, the most famous park in Cuban Baseball, was inaugurated October 26, 1946 with the first game of the Cuban professional season between Almendares and Cienfuegos, two of the most popular clubs at this time. The stadium was first given the name “Gran Stadium de la Habana”.

Located just a few kilometers from the main part of the capital at la calle 23 o Rampa, the stadium was known by the city inhabitants as the Giant at Cerro (a neighborhood in Havana).

Latinoamericano assumed its actual name in 1961, the same year in which the Amateur Baseball Championship began.

The stadium was first built with a capacity of 30,500 spectators. Since its recent renovations, capacity has been increased to 55,000.

The field of play, which measures 325’ from home plate to right and left field and 400’ to center field, has been the site of World Baseball Championships in 1952, 1971, 1973 and 1984, and the Intercontinental Cups in 1979, 1985,1995 and 2002, as well as the Pan American Games in 1991, the Central American Games in 1982 and the Caribbean Series in 1949, 1953 and 1957.

One of the greatest occurrences ever to take place at Latinoamericano Stadium was a game featuring the Baltimore Orioles from the Major League Baseball USA. Prior to this, professionals from Mexico, Japan and Venezuela, among others, took part in various games at the stadium.

The Baseball sanctuary of the island is the home to the Industriales, champions of the most recent Baseball Championship, who share the stadium with the Metropolitanos, also a veteran team that plays in the capital city.

More beautiful El Malecon pictures


Photo courtesy of Jose Gomez

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CIA spooks change their minds on Fidel Castro’s health

Reuters

U.S. intelligence sees Castro recovering

24 Apr 2007 21:11:37 GMT

By David Morgan


WASHINGTON, April 24 (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies, which appeared to be on a death watch for Cuban leader Fidel Castro a few months ago, now believe his health is rebounding and cannot rule out a full return to power, officials said on Tuesday.

May Day celebrations in Havana next week could show just how well the 80-year-old communist leader is recovering from emergency stomach surgery, if Castro appears in public for an annual May 1 parade near his presidential palace, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Castro handed over power temporarily to his brother, Raul Castro, last summer and has since been seen only in videotaped footage and in photographs.

"It would be a definite indication that his health is substantially improved if the doctors were willing to allow him to do that," a senior intelligence official said.

But U.S. intelligence has a poor record on Cuba dating to the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs invasion by U.S.-trained exiles in 1961, which the CIA believed would spark an uprising against Castro that never happened.

Castro's health, like his whereabouts and personal life, are secrets in Cuba and no details of his medical crisis have leaked outside his inner circle.

For the moment, U.S. intelligence suggests that Castro's health is still a serious concern but that he has rebounded enough to meet visiting dignitaries, intervene in state affairs and author columns on key issues.

"You could make the point that he already has returned in some form," another U.S. official said.

U.S. officials including intelligence chief Mike McConnell have cast 2007 as the end of Castro-dominated rule in Cuba. But officials now say Castro could remain a decision-maker on major issues including foreign policy.

"It won't be a consolidated succession to Raul so long as Fidel's health holds out," the senior official said.

A full recovery appears unlikely, according to intelligence analysts who believe Castro has a disease of the large intestine called diverticulitis, complicated by Parkinson's disease. Some intelligence reports say Castro could also have the inflammatory condition known as Crohn's disease.

"He probably has rebounded. Whether that means he's ever going to experience a full recovery would be speculating," the senior official said.

"It certainly is possible. One can't rule it out. And it's the same thing with retaking power. I think it's unlikely at this point, but we can't entirely rule it out," he added.

The senior official said U.S. analysts initially suspected Castro had either cancer or diverticulitis but drifted toward the bleaker diagnosis as months passed without a public appearance.

Former U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte said in a December interview that Castro was near death.

Now U.S. officials believe he had a botched operation for diverticulitis and follow-up surgery in November. But they have still not ruled out cancer.

Castro's apparent rebound became clearer to U.S. officials with images taken during his hour-long meeting with Chinese officials last week in which he had gained weight.

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JG: This report is kind of funny. The spooks have "invented" a new ailment for Fidel: they call it Crohn's disease. We now know that Negroponte did not know much last December.

It seems to me that the CIA has a very large disease of their own. It is called we-don't-know-shit-about-Cuba.

Another defeat for the Miami hard-liners

Time

A Setback for the Castro Deathwatch

Monday, Apr. 23, 2007

By TIM PADGETT/MIAMI

The new photographs must inspire almost supernatural dread among Miami's Cuban exiles. There was Fidel Castro, out of his sickbed sturdily receiving Chinese diplomats in Havana. The pictures were printed in the communist government's mouthpiece, Granma — complete with indications that he was back in control and that any economic and administrative reforms his brother Raul may have been planning are now on indefinite hold. Once again, Fidel Castro has become the undead antagonist of Miami's Cuban exiles, who must now feel as though their lives have become a chapter of Dracula, with no stake available to end the vampire's curse. "This novel has too many false endings," says Rafael Lima, a University of Miami communications professor and the son of an exile once imprisoned by Castro.

But could Fidel's protracted exit actually be a good thing? It may give the second generation of exiles a chance to strategize a more effective transitional role on the island once Fidel passes from the scene. The older generation is exhausted and despondent with the long wait for Castro's departure. Meanwhile, the younger generation is beginning to see the impracticality of its parents' obsessions — their insistence on utter non-engagement with communist Cuba as well as their assumption that as soon as Fidel dies they can hop into speedboats and reclaim the homes, businesses and lives they lost to Castro's 1959 revolution.

One gauge of the waning influence of the hardline exiles may be found in a new Florida International University poll out this month. According to the survey, a majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami, more than 55%, favor unrestricted travel to Cuba — a stunning increase. The trend flies in the face of the Bush Administration's recent tightening of those travel restrictions, which are designed to please the once politically powerful hard-line exile bloc that helped the President win Florida in 2000. And that has raised expectations that travel to and at least limited trade with the island will start up again after Bush leaves office in 2009, as will more diplomatic engagement with both the government and Cuba's pro-democracy dissidents.

The shift in the exile community has many causes. One is political weariness among the older generation. Says Lima, "A collective sense of fatigue and hopelessness has begun to set in among many here." Increasingly, expatriate Cubans are coming to realize that even after Fidel dies, his brother Raul, 75, will still rule the country; and, furthermore, for many impoverished Cubans on the island, the only thing less popular than Fidel himself are the hard-line Miami exiles, whom they blame in large part for U.S. policies like the 45-year-old trade embargo against the country.

But rather than indicating a triumph for Castro, the moderates insist that a new Cuban-American direction would instead reflect a more mature sense of how to deal with him and his regime, especially since Castro has long used the embargo as a scapegoat for his own economic disasters. "The Cuban-American community has not always been known for its tolerance of dissenting opinions," says Lima, "and that intolerance has always played into Fidel's hands."

The limits of such hardline views were evident in January when exile leaders announced plans to hold a party in Miami's Orange Bowl when Fidel does die — complete with salsa bands, commemorative T-shirts and confetti-splashed global TV coverage. They were responding partly to comments by left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an ardent Fidel amigo, that Fidel might not have long to live. But analysts now agree that that "health alert" was likely a Havana ruse — that Chavez and Fidel simply wanted to see how Miami would react to such remarks. When the macabre Orange Bowl idea provoked international condemnation, Fidel popped up on video giving Chavez abrazos, looking frail but heartier than he had after his operation in July 2006.

That's part and parcel of how politicized Castro's health has become on both sides of the Florida Straits. Not to mention dangerous for your computer: lately a spam e-mail with the subject "Castro Is Dead" has infected thousands of operating systems with a virus. It adds just one more insult to injury for Cuban-Americans whose vampire just won't die.

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JG: I propose renaming the "Castro is Dead virus" as the comemierdas virus.

Cuba: May Day against Terrorism

Escambray

Havana, Apr 23 (Prensa Latina) Cuban workers are preparing for a May 1st day of marches against terrorism and in rejection of the US decision to free the international terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

The acts for the International Worker's Day will boost the Cuban people's fight against injustice and impunity, CTC National Council said.

Workers and all people will participate en masse in the marches and demand Posada Carriles be judged.

"What happened with this criminal is an insult to the people of the island and other countries that have been his victims and it is embarrassing for the US people", the Central Workers Union of Cuba (CTC) general secretary Salvador Valdes reported to Granma newspaper.

How can one believe George W. Bush's lessons on a "war against terrorism", while he gives gives shelter and supports a guilty terrorist, he pointed out.

Industriales: Their backs against the wall


Maikel Castellanos

In the key fifth game of the finals playoffs of the XLVI Cuban Baseball Series, the Avispas of Santiago de Cuba won by the score of 6-4. They now lead the best-of-seven finals, three games to one, and with one more victory they will be crowned as the new Cuban champs.

In yesterday’s game, a triple with the bases loaded by third baseman Maikel Castellanos effectively put the game away. Today is a travel day, and the series resumes tomorrow at the Guillermón Moncada stadium in Santiago de Cuba. Both Granma and Juventud Rebelde will carry the play-by-play live on the Internet.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jose Raul Capablanca


In my opinion, the above set of stamps, issued by Cuba in 1951, is the MOST BEAUTIFUL EVER, and it is certainly my favorite, even if I don't have it. It commemorates the 30th anniversary of Capablanca becoming the World Chess Champion.

Hypocrisy: Thy Name Is Bush

Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel

COMMENTARY:

by Robert Parry


George W. Bush likes to present the “war on terror” as a clear-cut moral crusade in which evildoers who kill innocent civilians must be brought harshly to justice, along with the leaders of countries that harbor terrorists. There are no grays, only blacks and whites.

But evenhanded justice is not the true core principle of the Bush Doctrine. The real consistency is hypocrisy: violence which Bush favors – no matter how wanton the slaughter of innocents – is justifiable, while violence that goes against Bush’s interests – even an insurgency against a foreign military occupation – must be punished without remorse as “terrorism.”

In other words, if Bush hates the perpetrators, they are locked up indefinitely without charge and, at his discretion, can be subjected to “alternative interrogation techniques,” what most of the world considers torture. The rule of law is out the window. Wild West hangin' justice is in. Even the ancient fair trial right of habeas corpus is discarded.

However, when the killers of civilians are on Bush’s side, they get the full panoply of legal protections – and every benefit of the doubt. Under this Bush double standard, therefore, right-wing Cuban terrorists Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, though implicated in a string of murderous attacks on civilians, get the see-no-evil treatment.

On April 19, the 79-year-old Posada was released on bail from federal custody for an immigration violation and allowed to fly to Miami where he will live at home while his case winds its way through the U.S. courts. Bosch, too, has been allowed to live out his golden years in south Florida with the help and protection of the Bush family.

But the evidence in U.S. government files is overwhelming that Posada and Bosch were the architects of the 1976 mid-air bombing of a civilian Cubana airliner, killing 73 people, including young members of the Cuban national fencing team.

Since the conspiracy was hatched in Caracas, Venezuela, where Posada worked as a Venezuelan intelligence officer, the Venezuelan government has sought Posada’s extradition. However, when a Posada friend testified at Posada’s immigration hearing that Venezuela practices torture, Bush administration lawyers let the unverified claim go unchallenged, leading the judge to forbid Posada’s deportation there.

So, the Bush administration, which has subjected its own terrorism suspects to such practices as painful stress positions and simulated drowning by “water-boarding,” wasn’t willing to take the chance that Posada might be abused in Venezuela, even though there was no real evidence that he would be.

Justifying Terrorism

The Bush administration also took no note a year ago when Bosch publicly justified the 1976 mid-air bombing. The stunning TV interview of Bosch by reporter Juan Manuel Cao on Miami’s Channel 41 was cited in articles on the Internet by José Pertierra, a lawyer for the Venezuelan government. But Bosch’s comments caused him no further difficulty. [For Pertierra’s story, see Counterpunch, April 11, 2006]

“Did you down that plane in 1976?” Cao asked Bosch.

“If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself,” Bosch answered, “and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.”

But when Cao asked Bosch to comment on the civilians who died when the plane crashed off the coast of Barbados, Bosch responded, “In a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.”

“But don’t you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?” Cao asked.

“Who was on board that plane?” Bosch responded. “Four members of the Communist Party, five North Koreans, five Guyanese.” [Officials tallies actually put the Guyanese dead at 11.]

Bosch added, “Four members of the Communist Party, chico! Who was there? Our enemies…”

“And the fencers?” Cao asked about Cuba’s amateur fencing team that had just won gold, silver and bronze medals at a youth fencing competition in Caracas. “The young people on board?”

Bosch replied, “I was in Caracas. I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. … She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant.

“We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.” [The comment about Santo Domingo was an apparent reference to a strategy meeting by a right-wing terrorist organization, CORU, which took place in the Dominican Republic in 1976.]

“If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn’t you think it difficult?” Cao asked.

“No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba,” Bosch answered.

In an article about Bosch’s remarks, lawyer Pertierra said the answers “give us a glimpse into the mind of the kind of terrorist that the United States government harbors and protects in Miami; terrorists that for the last 47 years have waged a bloody and ruthless war against the Cuban people.”

CIA Files

Beyond Bosch’s incriminating statements, the evidence of his and Posada’s guilt is overwhelming. Declassified U.S. documents show that soon after the Cubana Airlines plane was blown out of the sky on Oct. 6, 1976, the CIA, then under the direction of George H.W. Bush, identified Posada and Bosch as the masterminds of the bombing.

But in fall 1976, Bush’s boss, President Gerald Ford, was in a tight election battle with Democrat Jimmy Carter and the Ford administration wanted to keep intelligence scandals out of the newspapers. So Bush and other officials kept the lid on the investigations. [For details, see advertisement of Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Still, inside the U.S. government, the facts were known. According to a secret CIA cable dated Oct. 14, 1976, intelligence sources in Venezuela relayed information about the Cubana Airlines bombing that tied in anti-communist Cuban extremists Bosch, who had been visiting Venezuela, and Posada, who then served as a senior officer in Venezuela’s intelligence agency, DISIP.

The Oct. 14 cable said Bosch arrived in Venezuela in late September 1976 under the protection of Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a close Washington ally who assigned his intelligence adviser Orlando Garcia “to protect and assist Bosch during his stay in Venezuela.”

On his arrival, Bosch was met by Garcia and Posada, according to the report. Later, a fundraising dinner was held in Bosch’s honor during which Bosch requested cash from the Venezuelan government in exchange for assurances that Cuban exiles wouldn’t demonstrate during Andres Perez’s planned trip to the United Nations.

“A few days following the fund-raising dinner, Posada was overheard to say that, ‘we are going to hit a Cuban airplane,’ and that ‘Orlando has the details,’” the CIA report said.

“Following the 6 October Cubana Airline crash off the coast of Barbados, Bosch, Garcia and Posada agreed that it would be best for Bosch to leave Venezuela. Therefore, on 9 October, Posada and Garcia escorted Bosch to the Colombian border, where he crossed into Colombian territory.”

The CIA report was sent to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, as well as to the FBI and other U.S. intelligence agencies, according to markings on the cable.

In South America, police began rounding up suspects. Two Cuban exiles, Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, who got off the Cubana plane in Barbados, confessed that they had planted the bomb. They named Bosch and Posada as the architects of the attack.

A search of Posada’s apartment in Venezuela turned up Cubana Airlines timetables and other incriminating documents.

Posada and Bosch were charged in Venezuela for the Cubana Airlines bombing, but the men denied the accusations. The case soon became a political tug-of-war, since the suspects were in possession of sensitive Venezuelan government secrets that could embarrass President Andres Perez.

Lost Interest

After the Reagan-Bush administration took power in Washington in 1981, the momentum for fully unraveling the mysteries of anti-communist terrorist plots dissipated. The Cold War trumped any concern about right-wing terrorism.

In 1985, Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison, reportedly with the help of Cuban exiles. In his autobiography, Posada thanked Miami-based Cuban activist Jorge Mas Canosa for providing the $25,000 that was used to bribe guards who allowed Posada to walk out of prison.

Another Cuban exile who aided Posada was former CIA officer Felix Rodriguez, who was close to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and who was overseeing secret supply shipments to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, a pet project of President Ronald Reagan.

After fleeing Venezuela, Posada joined Rodriguez in Central America and was assigned the job of paymaster for pilots in the White House-run contra-supply operation. When one of the contra-supply planes was shot down inside Nicaragua in October 1986, Posada was responsible for alerting U.S. officials to the crisis and then shutting down the operation’s safe houses in El Salvador.

Even after the exposure of Posada’s role in the contra-supply operation, the U.S. government made no effort to bring the accused terrorist to justice.

By the late 1980s, Orlando Bosch also was out of Venezuela’s jails and back in Miami. But Bosch, who had been implicated in about 30 violent attacks, was facing possible deportation by U.S. officials who warned that Washington couldn’t credibly lecture other countries about terrorism while protecting a terrorist like Bosch.

But Bosch got lucky. Jeb Bush, then an aspiring Florida politician, led a lobbying drive to prevent the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from expelling Bosch. In 1990, the lobbying paid dividends when Jeb's dad, President George H.W. Bush, blocked proceedings against Bosch, letting the unapologetic terrorist stay in the United States.

In 1992, also during George H.W. Bush’s presidency, the FBI interviewed Posada about the Iran-Contra scandal for 6 ½ hours at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras.

Posada filled in some blanks about the role of Bush’s vice presidential office in the secret contra operation. According to a 31-page summary of the FBI interview, Posada said Bush’s national security adviser, Donald Gregg, was in frequent contact with Felix Rodriguez.

“Posada … recalls that Rodriguez was always calling Gregg,” the FBI summary said. “Posada knows this because he’s the one who paid Rodriguez’ phone bill.” After the interview, the FBI agents let Posada walk out of the embassy to freedom. [For details, see advertisement of Parry’s Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.]

More Attacks

Posada soon returned to his anti-Castro plotting.

In 1994, Posada set out to kill Castro during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Posada and five cohorts reached Cartagena, but the plan flopped when security cordons prevented the would-be assassins from getting a clean shot at Castro, according to a Miami Herald account. [Miami Herald, June 7, 1998]

The Herald also described Posada’s role in a lethal 1997 bombing campaign against popular hotels and restaurants inside Cuba that killed an Italian tourist. The story cited documentary evidence that Posada arranged payments to conspirators from accounts in the United States.

“This afternoon you will receive via Western Union four transfers of $800 each … from New Jersey,” said one fax signed by SOLO, a Posada alias.

Posada landed back in jail in 2000 after Cuban intelligence uncovered a plot to assassinate Castro by planting a bomb at a meeting the Cuban leader planned with university students in Panama.

Panamanian authorities arrested Posada and other alleged co-conspirators in November 2000. In April 2004, they were sentenced to eight or nine years in prison for endangering public safety.

Four months after the sentencing, however, lame-duck Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso – who lives in Key Biscayne, Florida, and has close ties to the Cuban-American community and to George W. Bush’s administration – pardoned the convicts.

Despite press reports saying Moscoso had been in contact with U.S. officials about the pardons, the State Department denied that it pressured Moscoso to release the Cuban exiles. After the pardons and just two months before Election 2004, three of Posada’s co-conspirators – Guillermo Novo Sampol, Pedro Remon and Gaspar Jimenez – arrived in Miami to a hero’s welcome, flashing victory signs at their supporters.

While the terrorists celebrated, U.S. authorities watched the men – also implicated in bombings in New York, New Jersey and Florida – alight on U.S. soil. As Washington Post writer Marcela Sanchez noted in a September 2004 article about the Panamanian pardons, “there is something terribly wrong when the United States, after Sept. 11 (2001), fails to condemn the pardoning of terrorists and instead allows them to walk free on U.S. streets.” [Washington Post, Sept. 3, 2004]

Posada Arrives

Posada reportedly sneaked into the United States in early 2005 and his presence was an open secret in Miami for weeks before U.S. authorities did anything. The New York Times summed up Bush’s dilemma if Posada decided to seek U.S. asylum.

“A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists,” the Times wrote. “But to turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money for President Bush and his brother, Jeb.” [NYT, May 9, 2005]

Only after Posada called a news conference to announce his presence was the Bush administration shamed into arresting him. But even then, the administration balked at sending Posada back to Venezuela where the government of Hugo Chavez – unlike some of its predecessors – was eager to prosecute.

At a U.S. immigration hearing in 2005, Posada’s defense attorney called as a witness a Posada friend who alleged that Venezuela’s government practices torture. Bush administration lawyers didn’t challenge the claim, leading the immigration judge to bar Posada’s deportation to Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez accused the Bush administration of applying “a cynical double standard” in the “war on terror.”

“The United States presents itself as a leader against terrorism, invades countries, restricts the civil rights of Americans in order to fight terrorism, but when it is about its own terrorists, it denies that they be tried,” Alvarez said.

As for the claim that Venezuela practices torture, Alvarez said, “There isn’t a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela.” Alvarez added that the claim was particularly ironic given widespread press accounts that the Bush administration has abused prisoners at the U.S. military base in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Posada-Bosch cases point to one unavoidable and unpleasant conclusion: that the Bush family regards terrorism – defined as killing civilians for a political reason – as justified or at least tolerable in cases when their interests match those of the terrorists.

Terrorism is only a moral evil to the Bushes when the violence against civilians clashes with the Bush family’s interests.

This blatant hypocrisy often has been aided and abetted by the U.S. news media, which intuitively understands the double standard and acts accordingly. The U.S. press corps downplays or ignores cases in which terrorism has connections to U.S. government officials – and especially to the Bush family.

Final Conclusion

The Posada-Bosch cases point to one unavoidable and unpleasant conclusion: that the Bush family regards terrorism – defined as killing civilians for a political reason – as justified or at least tolerable in cases when their interests match those of the terrorists.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.' This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.

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Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on April 23, 2007.

USA: The Cowboy State

The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution referred to the right of a militia to hold arms when the militia was the new country's early form of self-defense. The United States is not the Wild West anymore; yet by insisting on the gun as a symbol of individual rights, we confirm the world's caricature of America as a violent cowboy state.

Julia Sweig
Friendly Fire, Losing Friends and Making Enemies in the Anti-American Century
Public Affairs, New York, 2006

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JG: As long as the economic elites that run our country continue to insist on their right to make a fast buck at pawn shops, many more Virginia Tech massacres will occur.

La Opinión Editorial on Luis Posada Carriles (Spanish Text)

La Opinión, Los Angeles, California

Domingo, 22 de abril de 2007

La excarcelación de Luis Posada Carriles envía un mensaje contradictorio sobre la seriedad con que se toma la lucha contra el terrorismo. La libertad bajo fianza otorgada por un tribunal al militante anticastrista es una derrota en los tribunales de la Administración Bush que buscaba mantenerlo en prisión.

El terrorismo puede ser definido parcialmente por sus métodos de buscar un impacto político a través de la muerte de inocentes. Las metas pueden ser muy variadas y loables a los ojos de los simpatizantes. Sin embargo, el maquiavelismo de un fin que justifica los medios agrupa a todos los terroristas por igual.

Carriles indudablemente cae en esta categoría por sus actividades contra el régimen de Castro desarrolladas a lo largo de décadas. Él utilizó la violencia en numerosas ocasiones, incluso en el derribamiento de un avión de pasajeros de Cubana de Aviación con 73 personas a bordo en 1976.

Está claro que todavía hay cargos pendientes en su contra y una orden de deportación, aunque no hay país a la vista dispuesto a recibirlo. La imagen de su liberación, junto con su historial de espionaje para la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA), da una peligrosa impresión de selectividad de nuestro gobierno ante los actos terroristas y sus autores.

New refinery to turn long-time importer Cuba into oil exporter

Zee News

Havana, April 23: A modernized oil refinery is set to go on line in December, official media reported Sunday, in a shift due to turn imports-dependent Cuba into an oil exporter.

Overhauled with capital from a joint Venezuelan-Cuban company, the Cienfuegos refinery in south-central Cuba will meet the Caribbean country's own demands, and earmark 9,000 barrels of gasoline a day for export, Venezuela's communications and information ministry said in a release circulated here.

Vice President Carlos Lage confirmed the facility was set to start operations in December, the Juventud Rebelde newspaper reported Sunday. [Report in Spanish]

Lage said the refinery would process 65,000 barrels per day of petroleum by late this year or early 2008, the paper said.

In addition to its new processing potential, the Americas' only communist government also is betting big that black gold from its waters could once and for all eliminate the perpetual Achilles' heel of the local economy: energy.

Cuban authorities in late March said Havana was optimistic it could soon see a breakthrough in exploiting major oil reserves.

That could mark a sea change that would see the cash-strapped regime become a flush energy exporter, with ample funding to perpetuate itself.

"We are sure. We are convinced" that major oil reserves lie in the Gulf of Mexico just north of the island, Basic Industry Minister Yadira Garcia told reporters at the Geosciences Conference 2007 in Havana.

At the moment, Cuba gets cut-rate oil from Venezuela, its closest international ally and most important economic partner.

But depending on the relationship with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez leaves the Cuban economy vulnerable to any change in that arrangement.

Yet "2008 is going to be very promising insofar as undersea seismic studies and drilling in areas of our economic zone," Garcia said at the time.

Next year, she added, "the drilling phase in the blocs we are working with Repsol" will start.

The Spanish multinational is just one of the firms elbowing in, along with Norsk Hydro, Canada's Sherrit, Malaysia's Petronas and India's Videsh.

Cuba has divided its exclusive zone into 59 blocs for exploration and production, 16 of which are contracted out. Repsol has six, Sherrit and Petronas have four each, while Videsh has two.

Eight more are under negotiation -- four with Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA and another four with an Asian country which Cuba has not disclosed. The other 35 are still up for grabs.

Repsol in 2005 was the first to break ground in the area, but the company determined the crude it discovered was not commercially exploitable at that time.

Repsol brought in partners in Videsh and Norsk Hydro to share the risk and to benefit from Norsk's technology, in order to keep exploring in its six blocs.

While US lawmakers opposed to Cuba's communist regime have warned drilling in waters between Cuba and US shores could present potential environmental concerns, some US multinationals are irked that the US economic embargo is keeping them from getting in on this potential gold rush.

Bureau Report

Controversial Michael Moore Flick "Sicko" Will Compare U.S. Health Care with Cuba's

AlterNet

By Don Hazen

Posted April 23, 2007.


Moore's new film, debuting in Cannes this May, tackles the failures of the U.S. health care system, and includes a segment where 9/11 rescue workers visit Cuba for treatment they couldn't get in America.

To state that controversy and Michael Moore go hand and hand is to utter the obvious, and Moore's latest film Sicko will clearly be no exception.

Sicko, which will be premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is a comic broadside against the state of American health care, including the mental health system. The film targets drug companies and the HMOS in the richest country in the world -- where the most money is spent on health care, but where the U.S. ranks 21st in life expectancy among the 30 most developed nations, obviously in part due to the fact that 47 million people are without health insurance.

The timing of Moore's film is propitious. Twenty-two percent of Americans say that health care is the most pressing issue in America. Health care will clearly be a major issue in the upcoming presidential campaign, as the problems with America's health care system have mushroomed during the Bush administration. For example, between 2001 and 2005 the number of people without health insurance rose 16.6 percent. The average health insurance premiums for a family of four are $10,880, which exceeds the annual gross income of $10,712 for a full-time, minimum-wage worker. In addition, the lack of insurance causes 18,000 excess deaths a year while people without health insurance have 25 percent higher mortality rates. Fifty-nine percent of uninsured people with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes skip medicine or go without care.

Complete Story

Despite hardships, Cubans live longer

Leading the Charge

2007/4

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer Sun Apr 22, 4:56 PM ET

HAVANA - "Fidel: 80 More Years," proclaim the good wishes still hanging on storefront and balcony banners months after Cubans celebrated their leader‘s 80th birthday. Fidel Castro may be ailing, but he‘s a living example of something Cubans take pride in — an average life expectancy roughly similar to that of the United States.

"Sometimes you have all you want to eat and sometimes you don‘t," said Raquel Naring, a 70-year-old retired gas station attendant. "But there aren‘t elderly people sleeping on the street like other places."

Cuba‘s average life expectancy is 77.08 years — second in Latin America after Puerto Rico and more than 11 years above the world average, according to the 2007 CIA World Fact Book.

Most Cubans live rent-free, and food, electricity and transportation are heavily subsidized. But the island can still be a tough place to grow old.

But most prescription drugs and visits to the doctor are free and physicians encourage preventive care.

Tache lived in New York for six straight summers starting in 1945, paying $8 a month for a furnished apartment at 116th Street and Broadway. An English teacher, he retired 30 years ago.

A relaxed lifestyle, which prizes time spent with family over careers, helps keep Cubans healthy, Tache said.

The government runs residence halls for seniors with no family to care for them, though space is severely limited. Community groups make sure older people look after one another.

Shortly after 8 a.m. every weekday, Gil leads two dozen elderly women through 40 minutes of calisthenics on the windowless, water-damaged ground floor of a state-owned building adorned with photos of Castro and his brother, Raul.

One of Fidel Castro‘s personal physicians, Dr. Eugenio Selman, in 2003 helped launch the "120 Years Club," an organization of more than 5,000 seniors — many 100 or older — from several countries including the United States. They hope to reach the 120-year mark through healthy diet, exercise and a positive outlook.

Selman has not spoken publicly since Castro fell ill, but had previously suggested the president could live to 120. Whether Castro is a member of the club is unclear.

Gerardo de la Llera, who still practices medicine at 77, is the club‘s vice president. He said the oldest member was a 122-year-old woman who lives in the eastern Cuban province of Granma, but he did not know her name or exact birthrate. Cuba has a history of claiming very old citizens whose ages have not been authenticated.

The government says it wants Cuba to become the world leader in life expectancy, vying with the 82-year average for Japan and Singapore.

Cuba's growing economy a springboard to global partnerships diversity

Jamaica Gleaner

Published: Sunday | April 22, 2007

By David Jessop

Quietly and with great care, Cuba has been enlarging the economic space within which it operates.

It has been doing so in a manner that will enable it in the not-so-distant future to globally diversify its relationships and have the ability to finance the further development of its social programmes.

If it can achieve this it will have succeeded in resisting pressure from Europe, the United States and others for political and economic change and have options available to it to enhance the material well-being of the Cuban people.

This may surprise those who rely on newspaper reporting, who doubt the veracity of Cuban statistics or who regard the Cuban political system as being illegitimate.

However, what is becoming apparent is that the complex survival strategy developed after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is now resulting in rapid economic growth and is providing the strength and stability necessary to change relationships.

As noted in this column before, Cuba has experienced steady economic progress since 2003.

Cuba's recorded economic growth in 2006 was 12.5 per cent and it is forecasting that this will continue at slightly lower levels for the next two to three years.

GROWTH ON PAR WITH CHINA

While this figure reflects a local formula, a deduction of three to four per cent brings it into line with standard international calculations of GDP but still leaves it on a par with figures for China or Argentina.

Statistics produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggest that Cuba's tight economic controls are working, and that it has inflation in check and is addressing eighty per cent of its medium and long-term commercial debt.

It is receiving long-term finance from China and to a lesser extent Russia and Venezuela.

Another indicator of success is that it has become highly selective about inviting in external investors. Its focus has shifted to new priorities and the need to encourage companies with special expertise or technology in areas such as oil exploration, power generation, and transport infrastructure.

It is also now well advanced in developing external investments that will cause its economy to become more service-sector oriented. In this respect, of likely long-term importance are joint ventures that have been established in China, India and in other populous regions for the manufacture of sophisticated Cuban biotechnological and IT products.

What this suggests is that the island is effectively globalising its economic relations and achieving significant room for manoeuvre without requiring the involvement of either Europe or the U.S.

UNIFIED CUBAN GOVERNMENT

Oddly, such relative success may now be of some value to the U.S. and Europe. For a short period after President Castro underwent surgery, there was a wholly unrealistic anticipation about the imminent collapse of the Cuban system. Since then it has been recognized in private at least that the stability provided by a unified Cuban Government managing a positive economy is as much in the interests of the US and others as that of the Cuban people.

What this seems to suggest that - short of some hard to forecast natural disaster, an unwanted US military adventure arising from a Cuban American created incident, or internal dissent about the eventual succession after President Castro - Europe and perhaps in time the US are coming slowly to recognize that they have no option other than to engage in a dialogue based on equity and respect.

The first signs of this and an implicit recognition that European and by extension US policy on Cuba has failed, occurred on April 2 when Cuba's Foreign Minister, Felipe Perez Roque, met with the Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Speaking about Spain's role as "a privileged negotiator" within the EU, Cuba's Foreign Minister said that the visit "is a clear sign of 'rectification' - a Cuban term for recognition of past errors; "of a change in direction, of needed openings: clear evidence of the Spanish government's genuine interest in dialogue with the Cuban government based on mutual respect and equality."

SPAIN'S INTEREST

The visit demonstrated a complete reversal of the EU's previously common approach with Cuba offering, without Spanish conditions, twice-yearly talks on human rights; the future signing of a new reciprocal agreement on the protection and promotion of investments; the convening of a conference to encourage closer cultural cooperation; the lifting of its veto on inter-governmental cooperation and the launch of negotiations covering the refinancing of Cuba's debt to Spain.

While Europe remains split on Cuba, Spain's willingness to engage on this basis suggests that a similar improvement in relations may occur with those EU nations that accept Cuba's right to choose its own direction.

How Cuba is achieving this should be an object lesson to the rest of the Caribbean about the purpose of sovereignty and its exercise.

Cuba has turned its external difficulties to its advantage. The U.S. Embargo, the stalemate in its relations with the US and Europe; its economic ties to the world's most rapidly developing economies, and its adherence to its principles have all been built on it sense of historic identity.

Last year in Havana I was reminded by a Cuban Minister that the starting point for understanding Cuba is that its revolutionary process is in the 1890s in its wars of independence and the fierce sense of nationalism and a pride in the defense of sovereignty that this engendered.

EDUCATED SOCIETY

The revolution of the 1960s, he suggested, built on this cultural force by creating a national focus on long term social and moral objectives and a belief that participatory democracy and collegiate decision making were more important than parliamentary democracy or the individual.

It also demonstrated the importance of a caring and responsive leadership and the need for reform to be undertaken on a gradual and measurable basis.

As a consequence, Cuba has, he argued, a highly educated and thoughtful society that will not compromise on basic principles but is able to respond pragmatically in a Cuban way when internal and external change is required.

No one should doubt that many in Cuba want more materially and at least some of the related freedoms that go with aspects of the market.

However, many of the young in particular are for the most part not inclined toward achieving this at the expense of the island's independence, or the emergence of gross social inequity or instability.

History may well show that the failure to focus on any of the real issues that provide continuity and political legitimacy in Cuba will be why 'western' policies are have failed to obtain traction or leverage and why gradual economic success and a desire for stability may now enable Cuba to pursue engagement on its own terms.

David Jessop is director of the Caribbean Council.
Email: david.jessop@caribbean-council.org

Sunday, April 22, 2007

An open email to my congressman

Sir:

The hypocrisy of the Bush administration has no limits. On Friday, all the credibility of George W. Bush was forever destroyed, when his Department of Justice, headed by a faithful crony, failed to charge Luis Posada Carriles as a terrorist under the Patriot Act, and instead freed him on bail.

In effect, the President is saying: “He may be a terrorist, but he is OUR terrorist!”

Eternal shame on George W Bush and his gang!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Beautiful El Malecón at night

If you want to see one of the most beautiful pictures of Havana's El Malecon at night, then you should visit Steven's Cuba Blog. Try it and enjoy the scenery.

And, some of the stories are very interesting too!

Cuba issues postage stamp for Humboldt 7 and FEU

Cuba's newspaper Juventud Rebelde has reported that the nation has issued a postage stamp to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the massacre at Humboldt 7, as well as the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Federation of University Students.

Under the orders of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, a group of his henchmen took the lives of José Machado Rodríguez, Juan Pedro Carbó Serviá, Fructuoso Rodríguez Pérez y Joe Westbrook Rosales, who sought refuge in the building at Humboldt 7, after the events of March 13.

Fidel receives Chinese official



Cuban President Fidel Castro received yesterday Wu Guanzheng, Politburo member, who carried a letter from Chinese President, Hu Jintao, to his Cuban counterpart.

Reuters Report

Cuba fumes over US release of accused bomber


Cubans hold portraits of those Cuban dead in the plane attacked by anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles, during a demonstration in front of the US Interest Section building in Havana

Gulf Times, Qatar

Published: Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 08:22 AM Doha Time

HAVANA: The release from US custody of an anti-Castro exile blamed for the downing of a Cuban airliner 30 years ago has fanned angry anti-American sentiment in Cuba.

“Down with Imperialism. We demand justice. Long live Fidel,” chanted several hundred students at a protest outside the US diplomatic mission on Havana’s waterfront on Thursday.

The youths, carrying photos of the 73 passengers and crew who died in the plane bombing off Barbados in 1976, called for the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela to stand trial.

The 79-year-old former CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) operative accused of plotting the mid-air bombing from Caracas was freed on bail from a US prison in New Mexico pending trial on immigration charges.

“This is the most unjust thing the US has done since the war in Iraq,” said art instructor Aliesky Perez.

Caridad Rodriguez, lining up at Havana’s Coppelia ice-cream parlour, said: “It’s not right that Posada Carriles is walking free. He killed many people and should pay for it.”

Cuba’s communist authorities call the veteran Cuban exile the “bin Laden of Latin America” and say he was behind a wave of bomb blasts in Havana hotels in 1997 and plots to kill ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Castro, who has not appeared in public since emergency surgery more than eight months ago, accused Washington of harbouring his nemesis in a editorial column last week that criticised US hypocrisy in the war on terror.

Carriles, a Cuban-born Venezuelan national, was freed on bail totaling $350,000 and must remain under house arrest at his wife’s Miami home until his May 11 trial for immigration fraud.

Cuba says US authorities are protecting Posada Carriles by prosecuting him on immigration charges and not terrorism.

The president of Cuba’s National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, said US authorities were reluctant to put Posada Carriles on trial because of his past ties to US intelligence services.

“Why don’t they try him for terrorism? Because a trial against Posada Carriles would be a trial against Bush Jr and above all against his father, who headed the CIA when Posada Carriles committed his worst crimes,” he said, referring to US President George W Bush and former president George H W Bush. – Reuters

Friday, April 20, 2007

The scum is free in Miami

Tecumseh’s Curse and the Death of President Bush


Tecumseh’s Curse
by Ken Kalb

There was a deep mystical tradition among the Shawnee Indians of the Ohio valley, embodied in the teachings and practices of a sage called "the Prophet," emboldened by his brother, the great Chief Tecumseh. Tecumseh felt that all Indians were one people, and insisted that only with the consent of all — could land rightly be ceded by or purchased from an individual tribe. For several years, he successfully journeyed from tribe to tribe, working with Indians of all sections to secure their cooperation in this great work of unification. Tecumseh was a daring visionary -- a powerful orator, remarkable military chief, successful negotiator, and enthusiastic leader. Indeed, the flame of hatred for the white man burned in his heart, and he swore eternal vengeance against the white race for decimating his proud nation.

When the United States refused to recognize Tecumseh’s unification principle, he bound together the Native Americans of the Old Northwest, the South, and the Eastern Mississippi Valley as a military force to defend Native American rights to the land. His plan failed with the defeat of his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Although history reports the battle of Tippecanoe a draw, it nevertheless broke the power of the Shawnee, and became known historically as marking the collapse of the Native American military movement.

Legend transmits that after the historic battle of Tippecanoe, Tecumseh released prisoners with a prophetic message for General William Henry Harrison -- a prophecy that has come to be known as -- "Tecumseh's Curse."

"'Harrison will win next year to be the Great Chief….... He will die in his office….. I who caused the Sun to darken and Red Men to give up firewater tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every Great Chief chosen every 20 years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people."

Indeed, in 1841, President William Henry Harrison died of Pneumonia, and for 140 years -- every President elected every 20 years died in office -- except for President Ronald Reagan who survived a close assassination attempt. (Reagan, however, did develop Alzheimer’s, and was the only President to use the timing advice of an astrologer for all public appearances!). Is this just coincidence or the curse from the collective wrath of millions of Native Americans? As George Bush heads toward the completion of his first term, many wonder if he will be the next victim of Tecumseh’s prophetic curse.

Presidential Death Stars

For thousands of years astrologers of antiquity have made a connection between the twenty-year Jupiter-Saturn cycle and major socio-cultural-political events. Jupiter and Saturn are the two most distant planets visible to the naked eye. The ancients regarded Saturn, the boundary between our solar system and the universe -- the "Great Chronocrator" -- a cosmic clock timing significant periods in human history. When faster moving Jupiter crosses over Saturn every 19.8 years, a new cycle begins oftentimes marked by cataclysmic events.

Since 1840, this conjunction has coincided with the Zero-year Presidential elections. When the contraction (Saturn) and expansion (Jupiter) urge merge, there is a certain wringing out of the karmic towel in human affairs. Jupiter rules politicians, Saturn rules death, and the apex of the political archetype is indeed the President. For 120 years until 1960 when the cycle was marginally broken, this conjunction occurred only in Earth signs. Only the 1960 conjunction occurred in an Air sign, and many astrologers attribute President Reagan's assassination escape to this elemental position. But In 2000, the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction returned once again to an Earth sign! Does this portend an incipient visit to the other side by President Bush? Later, we will examine his chart.

Astrologers fall into two camps on which chart to use for the birth of America. One chart shows Scorpio Rising. Scorpio, co-ruled by Pluto and Mars, rules aggression, death, the atomic age, physical health, secrecy, and intensity. Sound familiar? Chart ruler Mars, god of war, sits in the Eighth house of death in America’s chart forming an afflicted square to Neptune which also forms a hard aspect to the Midheaven -- point of national destiny. Though Jupiter and Saturn indeed conjoined in Earth sign Taurus in 2000, the eighth harmonic, the astrological trigger of the chart, won’t be squeezed again until 2005-2006. And the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction is not a precisely timed indicator, occurring every 19.8 years with the deaths averaging every 21 years.

Another popular time-tested chart is the so-called "Gemini-rising" chart, which I used successfully in my book "The Grand Catharsis" to predict many events, including the Persian Gulf War. Famed astrologer Evangeline Adams also used this chart to forecast the US entry into World War II. This chart finds Aquarius — co-ruled by Saturn and Uranus -- on the Midheaven, which signifies the Presidency. The eighth house signifies death, and Capricorn sits on the eighth cusp, making Saturn the ruler of death. Both charts present moderate evidence for this Presidential Death cycle.

Then again, perhaps the Juju of the Native American curse is well beyond the realm of Western astrology.

For the Record

Since Tecumseh's prophetic curse, here are the Presidents every 20 years and the Vice-presidents who inherited the Presidency:

1. 1840, William Henry Harrison
Died April 6, 1841 of pneumonia.
Vice President John Tyler

2. 1860, Abraham Lincoln
Assassinated April 14, 1865
Succeeded by Vice President Andrew Johnson

3. 1880, James Abram Garfield
Assassinated July 2, 1881
Succeeded by Vice President Chester Alan Arthur

4. 1900, William McKinley
Assassinated September, 6 1901
Succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt

5. 1920, Warren Gamaliel Harding
Died August 2, 1923 from food poisoning
Succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge

6. 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Died April 12, 1945, stroke, medical records missing
Succeeded by Vice President Harry Truman

7. 1960, John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Assassinated November 22, 1963
Succeeded by Vice President Lydon Baines Johnson

8. 1980, Ronald Wilson Reagan
Assassination attempt on March 30, 1981
Succeeded by his Vice President George Bush by election.

9. 2000 George W. Bush?

Against All Odds

From Washington through Clinton, there have been 47 Presidential elections during which nine Vice Presidents inherited the Presidency -- about 18 percent. And, there have actually been 53 inaugurations, lowering the natural baseline odds of death in office to about 15 percent. For zero years, however, with seven out of a possible eight dying (and the eighth being Reagan), the odds of reoccurrence rise to a meteoric 87.5%.

Bush’s Chart

Examining Bush’s chart always makes me smile as it is the chart of a true "charmer." You may view it in the Chart Gallery on the Lucky Star website at: http://www.luckystarz.com. Transiting Jupiter in Leo has just crossed Bush’s ascendant and will spend most the next six months conjoining his stellium of Leo planets, while sextiling his stellium of Libra planets. President Bush should continue to enjoy popularity and continue to get his way for awhile. However, in about a year, Saturn conjuncts Bush’s Sun at 13 degrees of Cancer! Does Lord of Karma Saturn invoke the Spirit of Chief Tecumseh once again? Time will tell.

Ken Kalb is an author, publisher, and astrologer with over 800 published articles and 4 books. He is the director of Lucky Star Astrological Services. In the last 6 years, he has been the vortex of the global LightShift 2000 peace initiative, bringing millions together in Spirit for quantum global meditations to raise planetary consciousness. The August 11, 1999 Total Solar Eclipse, 1/1/2000, May 3-28 World Illumination Days, and 1/1/2001 Millennium meditations are among the largest spiritual convergences in history. The LightShift 2000 website is www.lightshift.com and Lucky Star is www.luckystarz.com . Email Ken at dolfunman@aol.com

Looks like he is more dead than alive


This picture by Wilfredo Lee of the Associated Press shows a dead man walking.

Cuba Slams Posada Release in US


Havana, Apr 20 (Prensa Latina) Cuba condemned on Friday the release of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles and accused the US government of ignoring the world clamor against this decision, termed an insult to victims of his crimes.

In a declaration, the island's government states US President George W.Bush's administration as the only responsible party for this act in favor of Posada Carriles, a shameless, cruel and despicable man.

The full responsibility for the release of the terrorist and its consequences fall on the US government and, very particularly, on that country s president, states the document.

The text notes that with "that cruel and despicable act the US seeks to buy the terrorist s silence on his crimes at the service of the CIA," especially when Bush senior was its General Director.

With this decision, denounces the testimony, the US government has ignored the clamor raised throughout the world, even within that nation s territory, against impunity and the political manipulation of this action.

This action is an insult to the Cuban people and those that lost 73 of their children in the abominable 1976 explosion in mid air of a Cubana de Aviacion airplane off the coast of Barbados, states the Declaration.

This decision, points out the article, is also an affront to the US people, and vigorously denies the alleged "war against terrorism" declared by President George W. Bush's government.

The release of the terrorist, underlines the document, has been organized by the White House as compensation so Posada Carriles does not spread what he knows on innumerable secrets of his long period as agent of US special services.

Declaration of the Revolutionary Government of Cuba (Spanish Text)

Granma English Version

20 de abril del 2007

Cuba condena la desvergonzada decisión de poner en libertad al terrorista Luis Posada Carriles y señala al gobierno de los Estados Unidos como el único responsable de este acto cruel e infame que busca comprar el silencio del terrorista sobre sus crímenes al servicio de la CIA, especialmente en la época en que Bush padre fue su Director General.

Con esta decisión, el gobierno norteamericano ha ignorado el clamor levantado en todo el mundo, incluso dentro del territorio de los Estados Unidos, contra la impunidad y la manipulación política que este acto entraña.

Esta decisión es un insulto al pueblo cubano y a los pueblos que perdieron a 73 de sus hijos en el abominable atentado de 1976 con el derribo, frente a las costas de Barbados, de un avión civil de Cubana de Aviación.

Esta decisión es un insulto al propio pueblo de los Estados Unidos, y es un rotundo mentís a la supuesta "guerra contra el terrorismo" declarada por el gobierno del Presidente George W. Bush.

Al gobierno de los Estados Unidos le habría bastado con certificar el carácter terrorista de Luis Posada Carriles para impedir su liberación, y de conformidad con la Sección 412 de la Ley Patriota de los Estados Unidos, haber reconocido que "su liberación amenaza la seguridad nacional de los Estados Unidos o la seguridad de la comunidad o de cualquier persona".

El gobierno de los Estados Unidos también habría podido aplicar las regulaciones que le permiten al Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas retener a un extranjero no admisible en el territorio norteamericano y sujeto a la deportación. Para ello habría bastado que las autoridades norteamericanas hubiesen determinado que Posada Carriles es un riesgo para la comunidad o que liberarlo entrañaría el riesgo de que se fugara.

¿Por qué el gobierno de los Estados Unidos permitió que el terrorista ingresara impunemente en el territorio norteamericano a pesar de los llamados de alerta formulados por el Presidente Fidel Castro?

¿Por qué el gobierno norteamericano lo protegió durante los meses que permaneció ilegalmente en su territorio?

¿Por qué, teniendo todos los elementos para ello, se limitó, el pasado 11 de enero, a acusarlo de delitos de menor cuantía, de carácter eminentemente migratorio y no de lo que realmente es: un asesino?

¿Por qué se le libera, cuando la propia Jueza Kathleen Cardone, en su dictamen del día 6 de abril que ordenó la excarcelación del terrorista reconoció que se le acusa "de haber estado involucrado en, o de estar asociado con algunos de los hechos más infames del Siglo Veinte? Algunos de estos hechos incluyen la invasión de la Bahía de Cochinos, el escándalo Irán-Contras, el derribo del vuelo 455 de Cubana de Aviación, las bombas de 1997 en centros turísticos de La Habana y, según algunos teóricos de la conspiración, en el asesinato del Presidente John F. Kennedy".

¿Por qué ahora el Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas del Departamento de Seguridad Interna de los Estados Unidos no utiliza los mecanismos que tiene a su disposición para mantener en prisión al terrorista, con el indudable argumento, ya utilizado por la Fiscalía General de los Estados Unidos en fecha tan cercana como el pasado 19 de marzo de que, de ser liberado, se corre el riesgo de que se fugue?

¿Por qué el gobierno de los Estados Unidos ha hecho caso omiso de la solicitud de extradición presentada, con todos los requisitos de rigor, por el gobierno de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela?

¿Cómo es posible que se libere hoy al más notorio terrorista que jamás ha existido en este hemisferio y permanezcan en cruel prisión cinco jóvenes cubanos cuyo único delito ha sido el de luchar contra el terrorismo?

Para Cuba, la respuesta es clara. La liberación del terrorista ha sido gestada por la Casa Blanca como compensación para que Posada Carriles no divulgue lo que sabe, para que no hable de los innumerables secretos que guarda sobre su prolongado periodo como agente de los servicios especiales norteamericanos, en que actuó en la Operación Cóndor, y en la guerra sucia contra Cuba, contra Nicaragua y contra otros pueblos del mundo.

La plena responsabilidad por la liberación del terrorista y por las consecuencias que de ella deriven, recae directamente sobre el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y, muy particularmente, sobre el Presidente de ese país.

Incluso ahora, después de su liberación, el gobierno de los Estados Unidos tiene toda la información y los mecanismos legales para volverlo a arrestar. Falta solo tener la voluntad política para luchar en serio contra el terrorismo y recordar que, según el Presidente Bush, si usted da refugio a un terrorista, si apoya a un terrorista, si alimenta a un terrorista, usted será tan culpable como los terroristas".

La Habana, 19 de abril del 2007