Friday, February 29, 2008

Protestant leaders call for end to US economic embargo on Cuba

Ecumenical News International

29 February 2008 | 08-0185 |

Geneva (ENI). Protestant church leaders from the Caribbean and North America have called on the United States to lift its economic embargo against Cuba in the interest of justice and right relationships.

Castro’s Resignation Provides Opportunity to Change Policy of Isolation and Estrangement

Hawaii Reporter

BiPartisan Senate Group Urges New U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

By U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, 2/28/2008 12:50:24 PM


WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) today joined 23 Republican and Democratic Senators in signing a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to seize on the resignation of Fidel Castro to make a reassessment of U.S. policy toward Cuba. A copy of the Feb. 28 letter appears below:

The Honorable Condoleeza Rice Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

On Tuesday, February 19, Fidel Castro resigned after serving as Cuba’s leader for nearly 50 years. This welcome and historic event provides the United States with an important opportunity to reflect upon and reconsider U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Our current policy of isolation and estrangement has failed. New laws that tightened sanctions in 1992 and 1996 have had no effect. The administration's 2004 sanctions and its comprehensive plan to bring about transition in Cuba have failed in their objective. The absence of Fidel Castro for 20 months has not led to a change in the system.

Instead, our current policy deprives the United States of influence in Cuba, including the opportunity to promote principles that advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. By restricting the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba, we limit contact and communication on the part of families, civil society, and government. Likewise, by restricting the ability of our farmers, ranchers, and businesses to trade with Cuba, the United States has made itself irrelevant in Cuba’s growing economy, allowing Cuba to build economic partnerships elsewhere.

There is no magic U.S. policy that will transform Cuba. But with Cuba facing a period of change, we have a new opportunity to seize. Our policy based on sanctions, passivity, and waiting should end. We need a new approach that defends human rights, is confident about the value of American engagement with Cubans, builds new economic bridges between America and Cuba, and seeks every possible avenue of increasing American influence.

We urge you to take a fresh look at our policy toward Cuba. We should seize upon Castro’s long-awaited and welcome departure to chart a new course that favors hope and engagement over isolation and estrangement.

Respectfully,

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

HawaiiReporter.com reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com

McCain targeted in anti-war ad, '1,000 years in Iraq'

Thursday, February 28, 2008

VIVA OBAMA 2008

Cuba Signs Human Rights Treaties

February 28, 2008, 1:55 p.m.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Cuba has signed two international human rights treaties committing the government to promote civil, political and economic rights.

Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The covenants Cuba signed Thursday at U.N. headquarters were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1966 and develop the ideas in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cuba is a signatory of that declaration.

From our 'Head Stuck in the Sand' Department

Bush rejects idea of negotiating with Raul Castro

Thu Feb 28, 2008 12:08pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday rejected the idea of encouraging Cuba to open up democratically by sitting down for talks with new Cuban President Raul Castro.

More...

Vendió Cuba más de 400 millones de dólares de Habanos en 2007

Radio Habana Cuba

La Habana, 28 feb (RHC) La corporación Habanos S.A. logró ventas por 402 millones de dólares al cierre de 2007, lo cual reafirma su posición de líder mundial en el mercado de puros Premium (hechos a mano).

En la inauguración del Seminario Internacional del X Festival del Habano, en el habanero Palacio de las Convenciones, Manuel García, vicepresidente comercial de esa firma, dijo a la prensa que esos resultados se traducen en 8 por ciento de crecimiento en la cuota del mercado mundial.

Mencionó entre las regiones de exportación más importantes para la empresa a Europa, con casi 60 por ciento del total; América Latina y el Caribe, Medio Oriente y Asia, y entre los países más destacados citó a España, Francia, Alemania, Líbano y Suiza.

Añadió que también se consolida una red de distribución nacional con 133 Casas del HaBano establecidas en mercados domésticos como los llamados Duty Free, convertidos en tiendas y puntos de referencia de venta al detalle, y que para 2008 está prevista la apertura de otros 37 establecimientos similares.

Juan Girón, subdirector de marketing de Habanos S.A., se refirió a los atractivos de este festival, al cual asisten más de 1.500 delegados de 75 países, y mencionó entre ellos a las vitolas de Epicuro Especial de Hoyo de Monterrey y el Mágnum 50 de H. Upmann.

Se refirió, asimismo, a la presentación en tubos de aluminio de la Serie de Partagás D número cuatro, Serie P número dos, el Bolívar Royal Coronas, el Punch Punch y el Cohíba Siglo I, las cuales contarán con una nueva imagen.

Habanos S.A. distribuye sus puros bajo 27 marcas tabacaleras cubanas en todo el orbe, entre las que destacan Cohíba, Montecristi, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey y H.Upmann.

Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba





Source:
45e Anniversaire du Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba

GOP’s Congressman Rohrabacher defends terrorist Luis Posada Carriles

The Miami Herald

Posted on Mon, Feb. 25, 2008

Serious legal questions loom for Posada

BY JAY WEAVER
jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro Cuban militant, celebrated his 80th birthday this month at an undisclosed location in Miami, but many serious legal and political questions about his alleged crimes as a younger man still loom as large as ever.

In New Jersey, Posada is the ''target'' of a federal grand jury investigation into the series of 1997 tourist-site bombings in Havana, his attorney Arturo Hernandez confirmed to The Miami Herald. Posada has long denied any involvement in the bombings.

In Washington, Posada's alleged role in the bombing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people is being revisited by a Democratic lawmaker from Massachusetts who plans to hold congressional hearings on the matter in the spring.

And Posada's immigration status remains an issue with the Justice Deparment, which is pressing its appeal of a Texas judge's decision to dismiss an indictment that charged the Cuban with lying about his 2005 entry into the United States.

Indeed, everyone seems to have something to say about the former CIA-trained explosives expert who remains a freedom fighter in the minds of some and an international terrorist in the eyes of others.

Posada isn't talking to the media, but his attorney says the octogenarian is an innocent man in poor health who wants to spend the rest of his life in Miami among family, friends and exiles.

Perhaps Posada's most serious legal challenge is in Newark, N.J., where a federal grand jury, now in its third year, is weighing whether to indict Posada on conspiracy charges for the killing of an Italian tourist in a 1997 hotel bombing in Havana.

Justice officials won't comment, but they have a fax and other documents showing that Posada allegedly coordinated $3,200 in wire transfers from Cuban exiles in New Jersey to co-conspirators in Central America for the bombing campaign. Also, FBI agents have questioned jailed bombing recruits in Cuba and key witnesses in the United States and Central America familiar with Posada's alleged mission to disrupt the Cuban tourism industry.

One potential witness -- a notable writer who coauthored a 1998 New York Times series on Posada's history of violent activities against former Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- said she received grand jury subpoenas but has not testified before the New Jersey panel.

The series was based on her six-hour interview, most of it tape-recorded, with Posada in which he admitted to masterminding the Havana tourist-site bombings.

''They do not need me,'' author Ann Louise Bardach said.

Miami lawyer Thomas Julin, who represents Bardach for The New York Times, declined to comment and specifically refused to discuss whether Bardach had turned over her subpoenaed decade-old tapes of the Posada interview.

Julin told The Miami Herald that the tape matter was ''still unresolved,'' without elaborating.

It's unclear, however, whether the next person to occupy the White House in 2009 will continue to pursue the politically sensitive case against Posada.

At least one member of Congress -- Rep. William Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat -- is more than willing to enter the political fray.

But Delahunt's interest has nothing to do with the 1997 bombings. He's interested in Posada's alleged role in the bombing of a 1976 Cuban airliner that killed 73 people, including members of the Cuban national fencing team.

Posada was acquitted by a Venezuelan military tribunal. While awaiting a retrial by a civil court in Venezuela, Posada escaped from prison in 1985.

Delahunt, who declared Posada ''a notorious terrorist'' at a congressional hearing in November 2007, accuses the Bush administration of a double standard because it has refused to designate Posada as a terrorist.

Delahunt, annoyed by the government's lack of response to Venezuela's extradition request to try Posada, has drafted a resolution calling on the administration to urge the United Nations to create an ad hoc tribunal to prosecute him. He also plans to hold more public hearings on Capitol Hill.

''You cannot talk about a war on terror while Posada is still running around [South] Florida,'' said Caleb Rossiter, one of Delahunt's top aides.

But Posada has supporters in Washington, mainly Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California.

In defending Posada, Rohrabacher points out that a 1977 taped interview by a New York-based journalist reveals that he never admitted to planting the airliner bomb.

In a Jan. 30 letter to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, Rohrabacher said testimony by journalist Blake Fleetwood in connection with his 1977 taped interview of Posada and fellow anti-Castro militant Orlando Bosch in a Venezuelan prison was inconsistent with the reporter's own tapes.

At the November congressional hearing, Fleetwood testified that Posada talked about his history as a CIA operative, setting up a detective agency in Venezuela and conspiring with Bosch on numerous violent campaigns against the Castro government -- including the airline bombing.

Rohrabacher, in his letter, accused the journalist of implying that Posada admitted to a ''personal involvement in the bombing.'' After the congressman reviewed a transcript of the taped prison interview, he said it revealed that Posada ``actually denied any involvement when asked several times about the downing of the airliner.''

Fleetwood, a former New York Times reporter who had written a major piece on the Posada-Bosch interview for another publication three decades ago, said Rohrabacher has distorted his statements.

In an e-mail to The Miami Herald, Fleetwood wrote: ``There is no doubt in my mind, from what Posada told me during my interview, that Posada was deeply involved in the conspiracy that culminated in the planting of the bomb and the deaths of 73 innocent civilians.''

Hernandez, Posada's attorney, denied that his client was involved in any way. He described Posada as a patriot who fought on the right side during the Cold War, volunteered in the Bay of Pigs invasion, served in the U.S. Army and devoted his life to toppling Castro.

He dismisses the allegations of Posada being a terrorist to political hyperbole.

''There are political agendas that have been propagating a view of Posada that's not supported by the facts,'' he said. ``Since they don't have anyone else, they have to use Posada as a poster boy that there's hypocrisy at the highest levels of government.

``He's not a terrorist. He's never been a terrorist.''

---

JG: If you believe that Luis Posada Carriles is not a terrorist, then you probably also believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

Chinese leaders congratulate Cuba's new leader

People's Daily Online

February 27, 2008, 19:55

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday jointly sent a congratulatory message to Raul Castro for his election as president of Cuba.

In the message, Hu and Wen said they believe that under the leadership of President Raul and the Cuban government, the Cuban people will make new achievements in safeguarding state sovereignty and national dignity, as well as in the great course of Cuban socialist revolution and construction.

Hu and Wen said since China and Cuba established diplomatic relations 48 years ago, the bilateral relations have been witnessing consolidation and development day by day. The mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries has made numerous significant achievements and the two peoples have forged a friendship like brothers.

It has been proved that the friendly relation between China and Cuba is in accordance with the basic interests of the two peoples and is beneficial to maintaining world peace and boosting common development, said the Chinese leaders in the message.

They noted that China would like to continue to make efforts with Cuba to consolidate and deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields and to foster the good fellowship between the two peoples.

Raul Castro was elected on Sunday as president of Cuba during a legislative session of the Cuban National Assembly of People's Power.

Source: Xinhua

Fidel won, so lift the embargo

Father Raymond J. De Souza, National Post

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2008

Excerpts:

It would be absurd if the one thing to outlast Fidel was the American economic embargo, implemented in 1962 in an attempt to bring reform and regime change to Cuba. Forty-six years later, it is still in place. Fidel won, Cuba lost; the embargo helped the former and punished the latter. The retirement of Fidel is an opportune time to lift the embargo and to permit the "two Cubas" to enjoy full commerce with each other. The wealth and investing power of the Cuban exiles [in South Florida], to say nothing of other Americans, would do more for Cuban living standards, open communications and free travel than any other policy.

The embargo has manifestly failed: Its primary effect has been to punish those who it is allegedly intended to help.

Forty-nine years of Fidel has come to a belated end. So too should 46 years of embargo.

Complete Story

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Paul to Bernanke: You are debasing our currency

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Remember Vietnam and the ever increasing optimistic statements of LBJ, McNamara and Nixon? Light at the end of the tunnel? We are going to bomb them back into the Stone Age! Remember that one?

U.S. Senator Barack Obama is completely correct in saying that “"John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq."

The war in Iraq has become a huge profit-making venture of the military-industrial complex which Eisenhower warned us about.

More than three years after “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED,” Bush and McCain want to give the American people more of the same: Never-ending no bid contracts for their buddies.

Bring the troops home now! Let’s go after Osama Bin Laden, and he is definitely not hiding in Iraq. We went into Iraq because of their oil.

National Petition to End Sweatshops and Slavery in the Fields

WHEREAS, there is an ongoing human rights crisis in Florida's fields, including:

* poverty wages, rooted in an antiquated piece-rate pay system that hasn’t changed significantly in nearly 30 years;

* long hours without overtime pay when work is available, unemployment and transience when it is not;

* physical abuse and wage fraud by crewleaders, supervisors, and growers;

* damage to body and soul from back-breaking labor, with no employment benefits such as sick days, paid leave, health insurance, or pensions;

* retaliation against workers who protest or organize to alleviate these inhuman conditions;

* and, most shamefully, modern-day slavery, with six successful federal prosecutions of farm labor operations for servitude in Florida over the past decade, and a seventh just initiated, involving well over 1,000 workers and more than a dozen farm employers;

WHEREAS, by leveraging their high-volume purchasing power to extract the lowest prices possible, Burger King and other food industry leaders profit from and play an active role in creating the miserable conditions in Florida’s fields;

WHEREAS, Burger King and other food industry leaders have not only refused to join Yum! Brands and McDonald's in working with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve farm labor conditions, but have actually sought to reverse gains made by workers in agreements with those corporations;

WHEREAS, private equity firms including Goldman Sachs, Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and others, which are principal shareholders in Burger King and other food industry leaders, have made significant investments in the restaurant industry over the past decade, and have ignored calls by farmworkers and consumers for farm labor reform, while continuing to draw billions of dollars in private profits from their investments;

THEREFORE, I add my name and voice to those of countless consumers calling upon Burger King and other food industry leaders to immediately join with the CIW in efforts to end exploitation in the fields and modern-day slavery in the 21st century. I am also prepared to stop patronizing Burger King now, and other food industry leaders in the future, should they fail to do so.

Specifically, I call on Burger King and other food industry leaders to:

1. Pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes and ensure that the increase is passed on to tomato pickers in the form of increased wages; and

2. Work with the CIW to establish and enforce a human rights-based code of conduct, including zero tolerance for forced labor, to ensure fair and safe working conditions.

Sign Petition

When you lie down with dogs...

Capitol Hill Blue

February 27, 2008 - 9:15am

By DOUG THOMPSON

When John McCain decided to embrace the rabid right wing of the Republican party, he also left the door open for the racists, bigots, homophobes and hate-mongers who dominate the so-called conservative movement.

That decision rose up and bit him in the ass Tuesday.

In an obvious lapse of judgment, taste and common sense, someone in the McCain campaign allowed hate-filled radio Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham to precede the presumptive GOP nominee on stage during a campaign stop in that city.

Cunningham is a typical right-wing blowhard whose screaming fanaticism can make Rush Limbaugh look moderate. He sneeringly refers to the broadcast networks as the “Clinton Broadcasting System,” (CBS), “Nobody But Clinton,” (NBC) and “Always Bill Clinton” (ABC) and made sure everyone in the crowd knew Barack Obama’s middle name is “Hussein,” calling the Democratic frontrunner “Barack Hussein Obama” three times.

---

JG: Out where I live I had to confront two supposedly Democratic Party ladies, who were using Republican attack lines. One raged against "Oprama" and the other was forwarding the famous and untrue "Obama is a Muslim" email.

Here is one comment from the Blogosphere:

Submitted by Janet on February 27, 2008 - 10:14am.

This guy Cunningham is a complete pig who shouldn't be allowed on the air, the worst kind of bigot that incites ignorant people with grade school educations and shotguns in their living rooms. It's disgusting idiocy like this that incites some nutcase to shoot the target of the hate. Why would anyone want to listen to his radio show unless they love to hate. He should be charged with hate crimes.

With friends like this McCain doesn't need enemies. And the fact that MCain is pandering to this type of hatemonger - the right wingnut Conservative.

George W. Bush’s legacy: the dollar in free fall

According to Bloomberg, the dollar reached yesterday a very bad financial position: It now takes $1.50 to purchase a Euro, the European Union unit of currency.

It was also reported that “the dollar weakened against 15 of the 16 most-active currencies. It reached a 23-year low against the New Zealand dollar and fell the most against South Africa's rand as investors bought higher-yielding currencies. The dollar also slumped to 98 Canadian cents from 99.72 Canadian cents.”

In 1970 the dollar was a strong currency that had acquisitive power. Ill advised and disastrous foreign adventures in Vietnam and Iraq, never ending fiscal deficits, and corruption in Washington D.C. have destroyed our currency. It was brought to you by our two great capitalist political parties.

As I See It: Lift embargo to uplift Cuba post-Castro

Kansas City Star

OPINION

Posted on Tue, Feb. 26, 2008 10:15 PM

By Cory Thompson

It would be too easy to jump on the anti-Communist bandwagon and criticize Fidel Castro. I’d rather talk about how it all became possible.

Few seem to remember how bad things were for most Cuban people prior to Castro’s 1959 overthrow of the Batista government. Havana was run by the American Mafia. And the corrupt dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was getting his cut of the money rolling in from the casinos, prostitution and liquor. Havana was one big party town where the money flowed and the movies played it up to be wonderful.

Outside of the city, however, most Cubans lived in terrible poverty, working like peasants for landowners who cared little for them and made no effort to provide education or health care. Their basic human needs were mostly ignored by the Cuban aristocrats and by American colonialists.

Batista could have done something to help those people. Why didn’t he?

The Cuban aristocrats could have built some schools or clinics. Why didn’t they?

Those good American tycoons could have lent a hand. Why didn’t they?

The U.S. government that later would defile Castro could have helped. Why not?

Since nobody did very much, Castro easily took over. The real bogeyman was the conditions that made communism possible. Castro made a lot of terrible mistakes, but the national education system and universal health care are not among them. Cuba now has a lower infant mortality rate than we do.

It may have been impossible for Czarist Russia and perhaps a pre-Castro Cuba to make the giant leap directly to democracy. I’m sure Castro knows that communism does not work in the long term after witnessing its fall in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Even communist-controlled China is rapidly going the way of Hong Kong.

Historians may someday look back and regard communism a necessary first step to democracy for countries with downtrodden populations.

There are many thousands of educated people in Cuba today, including doctors, teachers and engineers who if not for Castro would have lived and died in poverty and ignorance. Cuban aristocrats can never go back and resume business as usual because the Cuban people know better and will not allow it.

It was some time after Castro’s victory before we recognized communist China as a legitimate country. Now they keep our stores filled with cheap merchandise and help fund our foreign wars, so we can’t embargo those guys.

Raul Castro has expressed interest in starting a few pockets of capitalism like China. Let’s give him a boost and lift the embargo; it never toppled Castro. It only caused suffering for the Cuban people. There is no better medicine for the disease of communism than a small dose of prosperity for the common man.

Cory Thompson is a retired railroad manager. He lives in Tonganoxie, Kan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

it's time for a new approach to Cuba

Letter to the Editor, Minneapolis-St Paul StarTribune

February 25, 2008 - 4:52 PM

Although growing up in south Minneapolis after emigrating from Cuba in 1960 had some decidedly surreal aspects -- the lack of plantains and black beans, the cold and the fact that more people spoke Norwegian than Spanish chief among them -- my family nonetheless enjoyed a good degree of tolerance from our neighbors as to our culture and our language. Our neighbors and schools respected our Cuban cultural traditions.

The news of Fidel Castro's resignation finally signals the coming of a new era within Cuba. I believe that change will come slowly, especially until "El Presidente" is no longer able to voice his opinions. Cubans are generally respectful of elders and of authority. To the dismay of many American presidents, the Cuban people have steadfastly stood with Fidel even during the harshest of economic times.

This country's Cuban policy has only bolstered resentment and distrust of the United States. What we need in this country is a change in regime; not in Cuba, but domestically. We need to change the way we view Cuba. We need to be more tolerant and respectful of Cuba's history and underpinnings. A new administration -- Republican or Democratic -- will have opportunities to influence Cuba's direction and potential freedoms.

First, jettison the embargo: A mistake in the '60s, it has only served to steel Cuban resolve and eliminate the positives that American influence and prosperity could provide to the island.

Next, stop the nasty rhetoric. A better way to influence a return to greater civil liberties is through diplomacy and respect, not through belligerence and disdain.

During this election year, I encourage you to press all candidates for federal office to take a more measured, respectful and tolerant approach toward Cuba. It's well beyond the tolerant, Minnesota Nice that my family enjoyed in this cold climate. It's the right path toward a more fruitful and mutually advantageous relationship with a people yearning to truly live free.

JOE NUNEZ, WEST ST. PAUL

Bush "defeats" Castro

Vatican Secretary of State: Cuba blockade is an oppression of its people


During the Magisterial Conference at the Aula Magna of the University of Havana

Cuba’s daily newspaper Granma reports on a meeting by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, held yesterday at the Aula Magna of the University of Havana.

By Deisy Francis Mexidor
Francis_Mexidor@granma.cip.cu

Ten years ago, when the Pope visited the country, he said that restrictive economic measures, imposed from outside the country against Cuba were unjust and ethically unacceptable.

Yesterday, His Eminence, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, expressed: “The Holly See confirms exactly the words of John Paul II” and he added also that the measures imposed by the White House, almost five decades ago against the Antillean nation, is an oppression of the Cuban people” and “a violation of its independence.”

He expressed that the Vatican “makes attempts to drive the United States to eliminate this blockade.”

Complete article in Spanish.

Monday, February 25, 2008

PhotoShop Masters

You may disagree with their ultra-right-wing ideology, but you have to recognize that the gusanos at Miami's Babalu Blog are masters at using PhotoShop.

It is their daily attempt at trying to achieve mental sanity.

Children Make their Case


Burger King continues to stall. They are ready to send millions of dollars in profits to their Goldman Sachs investors, but can not come up with an extra penny per pound for the farmworkers who pick the tomatoes that go into their Whoppers.

Shame on you Burger King!

Cuba's new leader promises change to make Cuba stronger

www.chinaview.cn

2008-02-25 20:28:50

HAVANA, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's newly-elected President Raul Castro said Sunday that he would bring about changes in the country to make its government more efficient and economy stronger.

In his first address as president to Cuba's legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (ANPP), Raul said the country needs "a smaller number of central administration bodies and a better distribution of their functions."

"We have to make our government more efficient," he said in the speech after being unanimously elected by Cuban lawmakers to succeed his elder brother Fidel as the country's leader.

He also said the government will focus on satisfying citizens' basic needs "both spiritual and material, starting by boosting sustained economic growth."

Local media said the new leader also indicated that he was reviewing the possibility of a gradual reevaluation of the Cuban peso and some "small restrictions" on Cuba's economic system could be removed in the coming weeks.

Raul also pledged to loosen control over some social activities.

"We must not fear disagreement in a society like ours, in which due to its very essence there are no antagonistic contradictions because there are no social classes that create such things," he said.

Raul has headed Cuba's caretaker government for 19 months, after Fidel needed emergency intestinal surgery and provisionally ceded power in July 2006.

Fidel announced on Feb. 19 that he would retire as Cuba's leader, after nearly 50 years in power. However, the 81-year-old retired leader pledged to continue communicating his thoughts to the Cuban people through media articles.

Despite the promises of change, Raul emphasized that he would take on the legacy of his elder brother and consult him on "decisions of fundamental importance for the nation's future, including defense, foreign policy and socio-economic development."

"Fidel is irreplaceable and the people will continue his work even when he is not physically here, because his ideas will always be present," Raul said.

He said he would be on guard against any U.S. "meddling" in Cuba's internal affairs, after several U.S. presidential candidates cried for change in Cuba days ago.

Raul, who served as Cuba's defense minister before the election, also found himself a successor, Julio Casas Reguiero, who previously served as first vice minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and No. 2 in the Defense Ministry.

Apart from the new president and defense minister, Cuba also embraces a new Council of State, a 31-strong body that will make the most important decisions in Cuba in the next five years.

Declaration from the Miami Directorate for the Liberation of Cuba

To all Freedom Fighters and Commandos who have tirelessly worked for the restoration of Democracy in Cuba:

The hour is at hand. The coffin which contains the body of the tyrant who brought Communism to our island has left Cuba an hour ago, we are informed by reliable CIA sources.

Let us all go to McDonald’s to celebrate! We will be welcomed as liberators in the island!

The grandson of our never forgotten and beloved leader, General Fulgencio Batista, will issue a statement at 12 noon today at Fox News before he departs for Havana.

Annexation or Death!

European Union: Constructive engament towards Cuba

-- European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel: "The European Commission stands ready to continue working with the Cuban Government, in coordination with our European Union partners, to improve and deepen cooperation issues of common interest such as the environment and climate change. The objectives of this process remain those of the EU's Common Position and are consistent with the EU's policy of constructive engagement towards Cuba."

Source: Reuters

USA Engage calls for “new playbook” for Cuba policy

USA Engage

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Written by Jennifer Cummings, The Fratelli Group, Tel: (202) 822-9491

Business coalition says Cuba a “natural market,” calls sanctions a “flat out” failure

Today, USA*Engage director Jake Colvin released the following statement in response to the announcement that Raul Castro has been nominated to be the new president of Cuba

“For nearly 50 years, the U.S. has been too hung up on Fidel Castro to allow for any realistic assessment of our policies. Now that Fidel is no longer at the helm, it is time to get over the Cold War and get serious about an approach to Cuba that aligns our policies with our interests.

“Our Cold War strategy of isolating Cuba has failed to evolve and is at odds with America’s political and economic engagement of countries like Vietnam and China. Americans are incredible ambassadors of freedom and opportunity to the world. U.S. policies should facilitate contact with the Cuban people instead of prohibiting it at every turn.

“Unilateral sanctions rarely achieve their objectives. In the case of Cuba, sanctions have flat out failed for close to 50 years. They divert resources from fighting terrorism, hurt American businesses, and separate the American and Cuban people. Cuba is a natural market for American companies, and the business community wants to see change.

“While Washington is officially resigned to take a wait-and-see approach, today’s announcement should prompt a dispassionate look at how to treat Cuba in the post-Fidel era. Instead of maintaining this outdated Cold War facade, the president and his potential successors should give serious thought to a new playbook for Cuba policy.”

USA*Engage (www.usaengage.org) is a business coalition working to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org), USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policy-makers, opinion-leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy world wide.

Video: Raul Castro Formally Chosen As Cuban Leader

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Message to Condi: butt out!

They still don’t get it. Now that Raul Castro is the President of Cuba in accordance with Cuban laws and its constitutional process, the whining in Washington D.C. continues.

Gawd, they sound like a broken record.

For the record, here is what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to say today:

Cubans have a right "to choose their leaders in democratic elections" and urged the government "to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change by releasing all political prisoners, respecting human rights, and creating a clear pathway towards free and fair elections."

Condi, Cubans could care less what you and Bush have to say. You guys are irrelevant to the Cuban nation. The people will continue doing what they believe is best for their country and those policies, you can make a sure bet, will not be “made in USA.”

Raul Castro Becomes Cuba's Leader

43 minutes ago

HAVANA — Nearly 50 years of rule by Fidel Castro ended in Cuba on Sunday as parliament chose his brother Raul to replace him — a transition that leaves the island's communist system unshaken.

Raul Castro new President of Cuba

February 24, 2008

Cuba’s daily newspaper Granma, official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, in its online edition, just announced that Raul Castro was elected to be President of the Council of State. The vote was conducted by the newly elected members of the National Assembly of People’s Power which met today in Havana.

Report in Spanish.

Raul Castro's Speech (in English)

Cuba's Council of State

Cuba's supreme governing authority is elected by the 614 members of the National Assembly.

The Council of State is composed of:

President
First Vice-President
Five additional Vice-Presidents
Secreatary
23 additional members

The president of the Council of State is, at the same time, the head of state and head of government.

The National Assembly will meet today at 10:00 a.m. to elect the successor to Fidel Castro Ruz.

The first “democratic election” that the United States imposed on Cuba.

Between the year 1898 and 1902, Cuba was under military occupation by the United States government after it intervened, without invitation from the Cuban people, in the War of Independence against Spain.

Because the occupying power had to guarantee that the results were favorable to the United States, in the case of the municipal “elections” a law was decreed by the military governor which was very restrictive. Only those Cubans who were above the age of 21 could vote, they had to be able to read and write, and they had to own assets or personal property worth no less than $250.00, a huge amount at that time. This restriction eliminated the right to vote for the great majority of black Cubans, and hundreds of thousands of poor whites. Women could not vote in this “election” held by the occupying power, even though women were 359,423 of the total population.

Under these restrictions in the municipal elections of June 16, 1900, out of a total population of 1,572,797, only 150,648 were able to register to vote, and only 110,816 actually voted, or 7% of the total population of the island. There is no point in repeating the scandalous pressures that interventor Leonard Wood applied to have his favorites elected.

Source: Jorge Lezcano Perez writing in Granma

Tragic Past and a Glimmer of Hope over the Horizon

Alberto N. Jones
February 23, 2008

On February 18, 2008, Fidel Castro announced to the world, that he would not seek nor accept the nomination to be re-elected as President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers and Commander-in-Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces at the upcoming elections on February 24, the same day Cuba’s war of independence began in 1895.

Thousands of predictions from Cubanologists , Academics, Centers for Cuban Studies, renowned Think Tanks, Tarot Readers, Homeland Security and the US Southern Command sophisticated contingency plans for dealing with the widespread uprising in Cuba, civil strife, hundreds of executions, mass sea exodus and a huge tent city to share lodging space with the Taliban in Guantanamo Bay Cuba, never materialized. Why?

By ignoring Cuba’s complex and violent history since the tragic arrival of Christopher Columbus to these shores, causing the mass extermination of it’s native community in less than twenty years, which was replaced by millions of Africans slaves who were viciously repressed, their family and religious beliefs abolished and their females mercilessly raped by their masters, with an irrefutable, monstrous complicity of the Catholic Church, making this action difficult to rationalize up to this day.

United States voracious interest in owning Cuba goes back to 1848, when President James Polk offered Spain 100 million dollars in a failed effort to purchase that island, which was followed by numerous attempts by US southern slave owners to annex Cuba by arming mercenaries and repeatedly invading that country.

Tired of being colonized, the Cuban people waged a thirty year war of independence against Spain, whose outcome was thwarted by the mysterious explosion of the USS Maine, the unjustifiable Spanish-American war, the Treaty of Paris, the Platt Amendment, forced land leases for US Naval Bases, creation of puppet governments, absolute control of lands, industry, financial and political institutions, massive corruption, murders and loss of national sovereignty, are an integral part of Cuba’s history.

On February 17, 1959, exerting it’s national sovereignty, Cuba enacted the Land Reform Law, which confiscated hundreds of thousands of ill-gotten acres of agricultural lands in the hands of corrupt politicians, land barons, foreign enterprises and all sorts of crooks, while hundreds of thousands of landless peasants wandered from farm to farm in search of a meager subsistence job, when they were suddenly granted ownership of the plot they farmed.

Subsequent decrees such as the Urban Reform Law which confiscated thousands of apartment buildings and homes, transferring ownership to their renters, a 50% reduction in the cost of pharmaceutical, electrical and telephone bills in the hands of United States transnational, followed by the refusal of Esso, Texaco and Shell refineries to process discount crude oil that Cuba had purchased in the Soviet Union, led to their confiscation and a twenty years, national bonds repayment offer, that was rejected by instructions from the US State Department.

An escalating tit-for-tat continued with the US cutting-off all purchases of Cuban sugar quota and freezing its assets in US banks, was followed by Cuba confiscating all national and foreign enterprises on its soil. Then came the breaking-off of relations, the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, terrorists attacks, embargo, bioterrorism and a bitter forty nine years of political confrontation.

History cannot be denied or re-written. Contrary to what many have been made to believe, these factors have played a pivotal role in framing the Cuban society nationalism, which have enabled them to withstand a stifling forty seven year old embargo, a never-ending state of siege, a bizarre and deranged behavior by an occasional US President, coupled with years of the Cuban government mismanagement, chronic poverty, lack of basic supplies, crumbling infrastructure, poor living conditions and crude suppression of many civil and human rights.

It is therefore imperative, that all peace loving people around the world, reject imperial statements like those coming from President George W. Bush in Africa or Presidential candidate John Mc Cain immature and silly wish of Castro’s death and work hard towards building bridges of trust, understanding and friendship.

That’s why, there is such an enormous sense of optimism, expectation and hope on both sides of the Florida straits, that the new harmonious political wind that is flowing in our direction, may lead to a rational, logic, non-interfering and respectful relations among our countries, for the benefit of all of our peoples.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

US farm sales to Cuba surge: At highest level since 2000

Jamaica Gleaner

published: Saturday | February 23, 2008

Sales of American farm goods to Cuba surged in 2007 to their highest annual total in the seven years since the communist-run nation began buying the products in 2001, a US trade group said Friday.

Cuba bought US$437.5 million (€297.2 million currently) in US food and other agricultural goods in 2007, making the island America's 37th largest trading partner last year, the New York-based US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council said in a regular report.

Direct sales of US farm goods to Cuba lagged over the two previous years, to US$340.4 million (€258 million) in 2006 and US$350.2 million (€296 million) in 2005, said the council, which tracks trade between the two countries.

US$600 million in goods

The Cuban government reported last month it bought US$600 million (€407.7 million) in goods from US companies in 2007, including costs for transportation, banking and other related charges.

The US council counts only the price of the goods.

Washington's nearly 50-year-old embargo prohibits almost all US trade with the island. But a US law passed in 2000 allows American companies to sell food and agricultural products directly to Cuba on a cash basis.

Cuban authorities initially refused to buy any American goods under the law, complaining about the cash-only restriction. But they changed course after a hurricane struck the island in late 2001 and bought goods to replace depleted food reserves.

- AP

Space Invaders

Would you want one of the Keating Five to serve as next President of the United States?

That is the question that many Americans will have to ask themselves when they cast their votes in November 2008.

John McCain was one the members of the infamous Keating Five in 1989’s most prominent scandal. He was accused of corruption. He does not bring anything of value to the office that he seeks. He lacks integrity and would continue the disastrous failed policies of George W. Bush. He wants to be in Iraq for 100 years. He would continue the Cuba embargo. He is a hater, not a doer or achiever. He is a person not worthy of trust.

Think well before you vote. I believe that the American electorate wants a total break with the failed policies of George W. Bush. Let us not continue the nightmare. Vote for CHANGE!

Flame Fractals offer a feast for the eyes

ZD Net

Do not miss these beautiful fractals pictures. Absolutely stunning!

The end of Bush's 'haves' and 'have mores'?

National Post, Canada

Obama's America looks a lot like Canada

Diane Francis, Financial Post

Published: Saturday, February 23, 2008

This U.S. election represents a major inflection point for that country as well as for Canada and the world.

Obama will crush Hillary and then McCain in the fall, a new comprehensive poll shows.

Why? Because America is not working like it used to and has deteriorated in the past generation into more have-nots than haves. This is not news, but now the have-nots, and other disenchanted voters, are turning out in record numbers to vote.

This week's poll shows Obama with a 14-point edge over Clinton, 52% to 38%, after being in a statistical tie last month. In a head-to-head matchup, Obama beats McCain 47% to 40%.

Obama is uniting those left behind by the Republicans and other social Darwinists who have exclusively looked after -- to quote President George Bush -- the "haves" and "have mores." Enormous tax cuts go to rich people, while the rest are given a stern lecture by the Republicans about the benefits of hard work and the American dream, which, by the way, is mostly unobtainable if you were born a member of a minority or if you cannot stay healthy or are uneducated.

Republicans have created budget deficits with their tax cuts for plutocrats, CEOs, Wall Street hedge fund pirates, lawyer ambulance chasers, overpaid doctors and insurance companies. (Their combined profits last year were nearly what provinces spend on providing health care to 32 million Canadians).

Tax cuts to rich people are regressive and don't help people who don't make much money or pay little, if any, taxes. They are an instrument of class division.

The point is, if Bush policies worked for the majority, McCain would be ahead. Instead, there is a large, and growing, "third-world country" inside the United States that consists of unhealthy, damaged and disenfranchised people victimized by lousy education in poor neighbourhoods, little or no medical care or war injuries that are not compensated for properly. African-Americans have been damaged for centuries and there is no help for America's "downstairs" -- the millions of illegals, exploited as nannies, delivery "boys" or orange and avocado pickers -- who cater to America's wealthy "upstairs" elite.

Is it any wonder that African-Americans and Mexican-hispanics vote solidly Democrat and will opt for Obama in dizzying numbers? They represent two out of every 10 voters. Many of these have never bothered to vote, but Obama is getting virtually all of the 15% voting in primaries who are "first-time" voters.

Obama also connects with prosperous voters concerned about what I call the "Brazilling" of America -- the reduction of the middle class and the increase in poverty.

Here are Obama's initiatives, which are common policy in Canada and other developed nations:

-Americans will have the same health-care benefits as its politicians;

-Poor American children should enjoy the same quality of public education as well-off children; and

-The United States will pull out of Iraq and work on multi-lateral efforts to restore peace around the world. President Obama will expect Canada, Europe and others to pony up much more to help create global police forces.

dfrancis@nationalpost.com

A Critical Look at the Future of Cuba, Part II

Alberto N. Jones
February 14, 2008

The advent of the Revolution on January 1, 1959, signaled to the world, the birth of a process in Cuba that would be different than everything we had seen before; a process that would restore the country’s dignity, its independence and sovereignty by eradicating all vestiges of political corruption, bribes, prostitution, drugs, looting of public funds, gambling, ignorance, segregation, and by depriving all foreign governments of their self assign right to decide and impose upon the country their national interests.

Expropriating all large foreign and national corporations in the country, sent a clear message to all, especially to those who played a pivotal role in corrupting the country’s political system since the early 1900.

In May 1959, the first Land Reform was enacted, decapitating all land barons owning hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land and similar amounts in reserve while hundreds of thousands of hungry, landless peasants only way of survival was wandering from one farm to another, working as farm hands and living in constant fear of eviction by the military at the behest of the rich; turned out to be the most applauded and widely supported measures introduced so far by the Revolutionary government.

In 1963 and without any advance notice, the government enacted the second land reform, expropriating all farms larger than 165 acres. This decision sent a chilling effect across the farming community, since many wondered if there would be a third or even a fourth land reform in the making. Simultaneously with the massive literacy campaign and an intense follow-up course, thousands of sons and daughters of these farmers acquired the equivalent of a 6th grade, which opened the door to many technical courses usually in neighboring towns with their lights, glitter and amenities, enticing many of them not to return to their homes in the mountains, beginning a steady exodus from the countryside to this day.

This drastic reorganization of the agricultural system, led to the formation of Peoples Cooperatives, where adjoining farmers pooled their land resources, worked collectively and shared in the profit/loss. A serious attempt was made to replace the prevailing hut-type thatched houses with decent cinder block homes.

Some time later, many of these cooperatives that had achieved substantial increase in their production output, were incorporated into large land holdings of the government and turned into Peoples Farm, which had a huge amount of farm machinery, transportation equipment, an agricultural air fleet, dams, irrigation systems, hundreds of employees and a large bureaucracy that was charged with transforming the Cuban agriculture into the most technically advanced in Latin America.

With the arrival of thousands of technicians, engineers, nutritionists, veterinarians, biologists and all sorts of researchers on the field, Cuba underwent its greatest agriculture technological transformation in its entire history. New breed of cattle were created, greater yield of beef and milk were achieved, new feed and more nutritious grass were introduced, a huge army of animal health personnel was in place wiping out traditional animal plague, food inspection was at its peak and a novel veterinarian/agronomist border defense team was consolidated.

A number of world-class agriculture and animal research centers were created, thousands of dairy farms were fully mechanized, artificial insemination achieved the highest level in our region exporting high quality semen worldwide and the poultry industry which was conceived to produce 60 million eggs per year, reached the unparallel amount of 1600 million eggs.

Hundreds of dams and irrigation systems were built, millions of hardwood, ornamental and fruit trees were planted and the first signs of environmental protection began to emerge.

In 1968, what many still considers as a fatal mistake, all corner stores, mom and pop small business were accused of dealing in black market, illegal enrichment and confiscated. The lack of such vital, wide reaching services has had a devastating impact on the lives of people in every community in the country to this day.

Ironically, it was during this same period (1965-70) that the country began graduating large number of professionals in all fields of knowledge, that this misguided, confiscation policy dictated, that all managerial positions in these huge enterprises should be in the hands of bureaucrats and political operatives, most of whom had no technical/professional background, leading inexorably to serious, multi-billion dollar mistakes, disenchantment and professional demoralization. Orders were not reasoned, they were imposed!

These tragic decisions led to a steady decrease in all production levels in the country, which in turn, severely impacted the import/export index, creating a marked reduction in the availability of all raw materials and products. This vicious cycle increased exponentially the artificial value of most items, setting in motion a corrupting effect in every institution that have since plagued and threatened to devour the entire nation.

Attempting to correct these problems, instead of controlling the distribution of goods through a standard purchase/sale procedure, goods began to trickle down from Ministries to Provincial, Regional, Local and administrative units, which was rife with loopholes, non-tracking mechanisms and poor administrative controls, enabling things to get lost, traded illegally or stolen by an explosion of administrative crooks. Confronting this newly formed brotherhood in crime, carried a heavy price for many.

A naturally engrained disdain for money at the highest echelon of government, where money was seen as the culprit of all human weakness, selfishness and with a powerful ability to corrupt, may have been the basis for not questioning or reversing this failed mechanism, which was further expanded by the great give-away season, in which home mortgage, sport entry, public phones, funerals and other services suddenly became free of charge.

Millions of unspent money in the pocket of the population, diminished availability of products and services, quickly led to a work discipline breakdown and a marked increase vagrancy.

This national anti-economic growth policy, combined with and endless generosity and pride in helping others, propelled Cuba to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in countries less fortunate, while many of Cuba’s infrastructure was in shamble, social needs, human requirements, economical development and industrial base, went unmet.

Although the land mass of all of the islands visited are less than ½ of Cuba, their natural resources, except for energy rich Trinidad and Tobago, are far less than 1/5 of Cuba’s, their average human technical and professional development compared with Cuba has to be measured in microns, yet, their GNP, their satisfaction index, the quality of their public and private services, are incredibly more efficient than Cuba.

A stark contradiction can be seen in taxis used in those islands, that are 40 years newer than those high-risk, hazardous, air polluting “Almendrones” on Cuba’s streets and highways, requiring each, hundreds of hours in wasted, repetitious maintenance, just to keep them dragging on.

It is inconceivable, that the homes of those students that are being trained for free in Cuba and others in their community, as a rule of thumb, have far better living condition and are better equipped, than those of their educators in Cuba.

It is impossible to explain, that professionals from all of these islands, who studied and graduated in Cuba, have an incomparable higher standard of living than their Cuban counterparts.

How can we explain, that neither the graduates of these countries or their governments, knowing the tremendous economic challenges that Cuba is facing, have offered to send surplus products in their countries, badly needed educational supplies or personal goods for thousands of national and foreign students and their educators in Cuba?

Or can it be, that Cuba is too proud to accept help from any of the sources mentioned above or others, which could unquestionably improve the quality of their education, quality of life and improve their environment.

For the past forty five years, the stoic Cuban people have endured every possible form of dangers, hardship and sufferings. Recent rumblings, complaints and questioning of some policies, is a positive outcry for help, to rightfully improve their lot and that of their children, that cannot be ignored.
Only by substantially increasing all wages, restoring management authority, demystifying the artificial value attached to scarce products and services, by supplanting the occasional availability of goods by a constant flow/surplus and by replacing the unmanageable centralized administration of small, corner stores, mom and pop business, either by creating co-op or family ownership, which can generate billions for the local government coming from occupational licenses, rent, utilities, insurance, tax and payment of their own health and educational insurance, with which, all of the housing, infrastructure and social development which remains on hold supposedly for lack of resources, can be put in motion immediately, restoring and reviving all communities in the nation.

For those unfamiliar with the Cuban people natural attributes and their endless capabilities to accomplish what others may deem impossible, by looking at the enormous challenge they are facing, may seem to be a daunting proposition. These are the type of challenges that characterized two previous generations.

For those unfamiliar with the Cuban people natural attributes and their endless capabilities to accomplish what others may deem impossible looking at the enormous challenge they are now facing, these are no different than the crucial, life threatening challenges two previous generations confronted and succeeded.

Debating who made which mistake, pointing fingers or highlighting who did not care or did not listen, will be a subject of profound debate at the right time and place.

The present generation and Cubans of all generations wherever they may be, have to answer this call for doing the impossible, by unleashing all of their ingenuity, resources, pride and love of country, to help Cuba regain years of misguided policies and to help Cuba occupy its rightful place among nations.

To be continued with final considerations.

Brazil's ruling party asks the U.S. to lift Cuba blockade

BRASILIA, 22 de febrero.— Valter Pomar, Secreary of International Relations of the Workers Party (PT), of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said that the United States should lift the blockade against Cuba.

The leader of the PT said that "The United States must suspend the blockade against Cuba... because it is Washington who is impeding the improvement of relations between those two countries."

Acording to ANSA, Pomar underlined that Brazil has "an important role to play against the North American pressures, in order for Cuba to overcome its structural weaknesses, like for example, in the energy area."

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, explained during his visit to Cuba this past January, that Brazil's Petrobras will invest close to a billion dollars in the exploration for oil in the Gulf of Mexico and in the construction of a lubricants factory in the island.

Source: Granma

A Critical Look at the Future of Cuba

Alberto N. Jones
December, 2007

On November 17th 2005, President Fidel Castro pronounced a dramatic speech at the University of Havana, in which he pointed out that the Revolution could not be defeated from abroad, but the people in Cuba could, if measures were not implemented to correct failures, shortcomings and corruption that had encroached into the process and became part of many of the government apparatus. He further said Revolution is precisely that, the ability to “Change Everything that must be changed”.

Shortly after, he suffered a severe intestinal ailment that led him to relinquish his post and transfer authority to his brother Army General Raul Castro. During the 26 of July commemoration in Bayamo this year, Raul reiterated his frustration with widespread apathy, administrative mismanagement and hinted to the need of opening a profound dialogue among the population, to search for and find structural solutions for these entrenched problems.

Propelled by a plethora of news, rumors and speculations following these important developments, I embarked on a visit through the Caribbean that lead me to Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Antigua. Previously, I had visited Jamaica, Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago. It was my hope, that the empirical observation and analysis of the different experiences and approach used by these countries to solve many of their social problems that are common to our nations with a shared cultural, historical and geographical background, could help me decipher the origins, root cause and corrective measures, for many of the intractable, irritating and woeful lack of material goods, that have plagued the Cuban society for decades.

With a partial exception of those territories under the jurisdiction of the United States, the first and most striking example of what Cuba stands for hits you like a tidal wave when you ask the average person on the street, in a market, restaurant or driving a taxi, what he/she thinks about Cuba and if they know of any Cuban working in their country.

Then suddenly, it becomes difficult to change the subject, as you are bombarded with expressions of gratitude for having tens of Cuban doctors working in remote regions of their country, where for the first time in their lives, peasants are having access to a physician, or for those physicians staffing public hospitals in towns and villages, who brought with them specialized diagnostic or treatments procedures that were previously unknown in their country, which may have prolonged or saved the lives of their loved ones.

Similar sentiments are expressed for those assisting in the development of agricultural projects, water purification systems, road building, construction, restoring industrial capabilities, sports trainers or by learning to save energy under the guidance of young social workers.

Still, teaching the locals to read and write, restoring the eye sight of thousands and training their children as physicians, nurses, educators or computer science and a myriad of other educational skills free of charge in Cuba, seems to have created the greatest sense of respect and gratitude in the general population.

But knowing at the same time, that this incredible human endeavor is not afforded only to people and countries with whom Cuba has a respectful and friendly relation, confers upon it, an even greater significance. When an earthquake devastated Peru in the 70‘s, Cuba had no diplomatic relations with that country yet, hundreds of healthcare professionals offered their expertise, while hundreds of construction workers built roads, hospitals and schools.

When hurricane Mitch nearly wiped Honduras off the map, Cuba had no diplomatic relations with that country, still hundreds of Cuban healthcare personnel were sent to help and are still there, many years after.

Recently, Pakistan was ravished by a monstrous earthquake that killed and wounded tens of thousands of its citizens. Hundreds of Cuban healthcare professionals who came to their assistance were greeted by the most hostile geographical environment they had ever seen, with freezing temperature and a near insurmountable language barrier, only to excel and earn the respect and gratitude of that nation.

In the year 2004 and with the financial support of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, Cuba started a massive eye surgery project throughout the Caribbean and Latin America known as Operation Miracle. So far, over 900,000 people have had their eye sight restored, of a goal of millions through 2016.

Among the thousands of Bolivian citizens who have benefited from this project is Andres Teran, a retired sub-officer with the Bolivian Army who was blind, living in abject poverty and hiding a horrendous personal history. While acting under the instruction of Felix Rodriguez, a Cuban-American CIA operative in charge of hunting down guerilla leader Ernesto Che Guevara, who was ambushed, wounded in battle, captured and held prisoner in a school in la Higuera, Bolivia, where Teran was ordered to murder him in cold blood, by riddling his body with bullets.

These examples, which are less than the tip of the iceberg of Cuba’s 45 plus years of giving, helping everyone in need, irrespective of their geographical location, race, religion, ethnicity, political or social orientation, would pre-suppose coming from a wealthy country, in which, all of its people basic needs were addressed.

For decades, the Cuban people endured all sorts of unsatisfied material and social needs, while they found solace in their enormous sense of giving, volunteering for the most difficult tasks, the furthest assignment from home and even the riskiest of chores. In so doing, many suffered physical harm or paid the ultimate price. A diploma, a certificate, a medal or a public acknowledgement, was all that was expected. Money or any other personal material reward was out of the question.

Those were the beautiful, honest, idealistic and altruistic years of 60 and 70s, full of Revolutionary fervor, when milk crates and bread bags were left before dawn in front of the grocery store and no one dared to touch it.

Those were the years when the first 2100 university students from across the country receiving scholarships, moved into three, twenty story apartment buildings with no locks on the doors or closets…. and nothing ever got lost.

Those were the years when most professors at the University would hand out their exams, ask if there was any question that was not clear, would leave students by themselves, return three hours after at the end of the allotted time, pick up all exams, knowing, that no one had dared to cheat.

Those were the years when passengers at all bus stops, asked for the last in line, would not enter through the back door, but if they felt compelled to do so, they would kindly ask those on board to pass on their coin and drop it into the collection bin.

Those were the days, when every administrator having to distribute an insufficient amount of a given item among his workers, had to be prepared for a heated discussion among workers, trying to determine those who needed it most.

That was then. Further on, I will speculate a bit and give my own assessment of how we got to where we are today.

To be continued…..

Friday, February 22, 2008

Indicted GOP Congressman is the co-chairman of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Arizona leadership team.

Read about it here.

GWB to Cuba: Brother can you spare some change?

George W. Bush and the GOP have tried everything regarding Cuba. Like the proverbial ‘Polly Wants a Cracker’ parrots, he now constantly repeats his two favorite words regarding Cuba: transition and change.

How interesting! When I was 14 years old and Fidel was battling Batista’s 20,000 man army, I do not remember Dwight Eisenhower and the GOP asking for change and a transition to democracy. They were operating on the principle that Fulgencio may be an S.O.B., but he is our S.O.B.

While the Yankees were looting Cuba’s natural resources, no one in Washington, D.C. said a pip. When the powerful American oil companies rejected the Cuban government's request that oil coming from the now defunct Soviet Union be processed and refined, the whining started in Washington D.C. When the Agrarian Reform was enacted, they realized that Cuba now had a government, that for the first time in its history, was truly working for the best interests of the Cuban people.

How dare they? Our capitalist’s corporations will not be able to make any more money in Cuba, they said.

That is all they care about. To them the words ‘social responsibility’ are dirty words.

Fidel Castro says change U.S. policy not Cuba

Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:18am EST

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) - Three days after stepping down as Cuban leader, Fidel Castro was back in the fray on Friday calling on the United States to change its longtime policy of sanctions toward Cuba.

"'Change, change, change!'" they cried in chorus. I agree, 'change!' but in the United States," he wrote.

Complete Story

Fidel Castro Will Always Lead Cuba, Locals Say

The Washington Post

Still, Residents Express Hope of Change Ahead

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 22, 2008; Page A16


HAVANA, Feb. 21 -- Fidel Castro last delivered one of his signature marathon speeches more than 19 months ago. His words on that scorching summer day in July 2006 were the last he uttered in public before slipping into what has become one of modern history's most secretive convalescences.

But for José Pablo García, it is as if "El Comandante," as so many here call Castro, never left.

"He's always going to be our president," García, 65, a mechanic, said Thursday while waiting for his wife on a central Havana park bench. "It can't be any other way."

García expressed a common sentiment in this gracefully decaying capital city. It doesn't matter to him that Castro resigned the presidency in a pre-dawn Web posting two days ago. He couldn't care less that a new president -- most likely Castro's younger brother, Raúl, who was named interim president 19 months ago -- will be selected Sunday when the National Assembly meets. García, who remembers being full of hope when Castro led a rebel army to victory in 1959, can't see Cuba truly being led by anyone else as long as Fidel lives.

"There's no one to compare with him -- he is the man of the century," Leticia Vázquez, 50, a retired Interior Ministry worker, said as her teenage daughter nodded her head next to her outside the Havana International Book Fair. "For me, he's a god."

Across town, in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, Teresa, 40, a fruit vendor in Old Havana, was still talking about the future of Castro's presidency. "Even though the president decided to resign the other day, he's still going to continue being the president."

The streets around Teresa were as tranquil as on any other sultry winter day in Havana. Children chased each other through the shaded downtown parks, dozens of young people in tank tops waited patiently for seats at the Coppelia ice cream shop, and elderly women tilted umbrellas against the afternoon sun at crowded bus stops.

For years, analysts and exiles had predicted that there would be unrest if Castro ever ceded power, but none of that has materialized. For many Cubans, convinced that Castro will remain all-powerful, his decision has been greeted with a collective "Ho-hum."

Cubans are usually reluctant to criticize Castro for fear of repercussions in a country where political dissidents have been jailed for years. Several Cubans interviewed Thursday said, on condition of anonymity, that they were glad to see Castro give up his formal leadership post.

But Castro's biggest critics tend to be the most adamant that he will not relinquish control.

"We can't keep living this way, but nothing's going to change as long as Fidel breathes," a 20-something man said. "It's absurd. Everything is controlled. I can't do the work I want to do. They block Internet. The police are always snooping."

Castro has seemed to help along the notion that he is not entirely departing the scene. Even in his resignation letter, he wrote: "I am not saying farewell to you. I want only to be a soldier in the battle of ideas."

Castro's face is everywhere these days, even though since his illness he has been seen only in videos that show him looking frail. It was once an oddity of Havana that, despite Castro's dominance of politics and culture, his image appeared on only a few of the countless propaganda-filled billboards that line the capital's streets. The face of Castro's dashing, revolutionary partner Ernesto "Che" Guevara, elevated after death to mythical status, appeared much more frequently.

But in the past few months, Castro's bearded image has been placed on more billboards than many here can remember ever seeing. Larger than life, he appears on a billboard swinging a baseball bat in green fatigues. In another, he strikes a heroic pose next to a Cuban flag.

Castro's most ardent followers, and there are millions here, have long been able to separate the man from his policies. In one breath they will praise him, and in the next complain vigorously about his policies, especially his restrictions on foreign travel and ownership of private businesses.

Yaima, a 22-year-old art gallery worker, launched into effusive praise of the only president she has ever known, calling Castro "a historic president."

"There will never be another to compare with him," she said.

But seconds later, she added, "We have to have change."

Yaima earns the equivalent of less than $20 a month working in the state-run gallery. She is paid in Cuban pesos. But people who buy the art she sells use a second form of currency, Cuban convertible pesos, or as everyone here derisively calls them, "kooks." Kooks -- primarily used by tourists, foreigners living in Cuba and Cubans who receive remittances from abroad -- have far more buying power than Cuban pesos. Most of the city's finest restaurants and stores take only kooks.

"Now we're working for nothing," Yaima said.

Vázquez, the retired government worker, said she has encountered the same complaints. She has heard people griping about ration books for food purchases and rotting houses.

"But look at Indochina or Thailand," she said. "They've got it worse."

Vázquez said she had never been to either of those places. She had only read about them. She said that in her 50 years, in fact, she had never left this island.

"Oh no," she said. "I could never have afforded it."

A Washington Post special correspondent in Havana contributed to this report.

Treat Cuba Like China

Post Global at Newsweek

Kin-ming Liu

Hong Kong

Former Washington-based columnist for The Hong Kong Standard, The New York Sun, and Insight on the News, an online weekly published by The Washington Times.

With Castro gone, Cuba will not become America's 51st state. Washington, however, should try to achieve that, perhaps by lifting the trade embargo and extending a free trade agreement to Havana.

Economic liberalization will bring political liberation -- as we're constantly being told that it would be the case for China. Therefore, the U.S. has been trading with the Asian communist state as if there's no tomorrow, achieving a record trade deficit of US$256 billion in 2007. However, we're also told, this formula doesn't apply to Cuba, another communist state.

If denying trade with Cuba is the way to press for positive changes on the island state, then denying trade with China should also be the way to press for positive changes in the mainland state. If trading with China is the way to open up the communist giant, then trading with Cuba should be the way to open up the small communist state.

Well, the China Exception somehow creeps in again, doesn't it?

Intellectual honesty and policy consistency demands the lifting of the embargo against Cuba. After all, the embargo has failed to bring the downfall of Castro for decades. It's time to try something different. If free trade with Cuba could bring progress to the people there, it may strengthen the case in China where free trade has, so far, failed to bring any magic.

Fidel Castro has resigned from a position he was never elected to in the first place. Unfortunately, its poison might outlast the beast itself. The U.S. must try harder to help the people in Cuba. Lift the embargo -- let the Cubans make dollars instead of relying on Hugo Chávez more.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Obama, Clinton discuss Cuba in tonight's debate

On Cuba, Obama said he thinks the United States' policy with the country has been a "failure."

When asked if she would meet with the person who takes over for Fidel Castro, who resigned this week, Clinton said she would not do so "until there was evidence that change was happening."

Obama said he would meet with the future leader of Cuba without preconditions, but added, "Sen. Clinton is right that there has to be preparation."

Source: CNN

History Continues to Repeat Itself

Alberto N. Jones
February 14, 2008

It seems humans never cease to do the same things expecting different results. One year after the triumph of the Revolution, Cuba signed a large crude oil contract at substantial discount with the Soviet Union, which would be refined at the country’s three oil refineries.

The US State Department instructed the management of ESSO and TEXACO refineries, not to process Soviet crude. A stand-off ensued between both companies and the Cuban government, who gave them an ultimatum to reflect on their decision, which would expire with the arrival of the first tanker.

Esso, Texaco and Shell stood by their position. Cuba confiscated all three companies and offered to compensate them at their declared face value with National Bonds and interest at the end of twenty years. Again, Esso and Texaco were instructed to refuse compensation. Shell agreed, and like all other foreign investors (except the US) confiscated in Cuba, were paid in full many years after.

This escalating tit-for-tat continued with the US cutting-off purchases of Cuba’s sugar quota to the US in 1961, which was at the time its main source of income and Cuba retaliated by confiscating all national and foreign enterprises. Then came the US breaking-off of relations with Cuba, the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis, terrorists attacks, embargo, political confrontation and forty seven years of senseless animosities, painful confrontation and a mutually damaging lack of contacts.

Are we witnessing in recent actions taken by EXXON against the government of Venezuela , a carbon copy of the disastrous decision taken by the US State Department, Esso, Texaco and Shell, half a century ago?

N.Y. Congressman Serrano comments on the retirement of Fidel Castro

The New York Times

Today’s news that Fidel Castro has retired from leading his nation proves yet again that this important figure defies the attempts of his critics to paint him simply as a power-hungry authoritarian. Instead, it proves that Castro sees clearly the long-term interests of the Cuban people and recognizes that they are best served by a carefully planned transition. Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation. In taking this action, Castro is ensuring that the changes he brought about will live on and grow.

I would like to congratulate both Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for this smooth transition of power. It is much to their credit that the much-predicted turmoil following Castro’s exit from direct control of the state did not happen. It proves that there is a broad base of support for the Cuban system on the island. It also proves that despite constant criticisms, Castro’s revolution was not merely a series of military events in Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but instead a process that continues to evolve in Cuba today.

As always, I want to take the opportunity to call on the Bush administration to change its backward and counterproductive policy of blockading and isolating the Cuban people. In a moment like this, it is wise to remember that the stated goal of the Bush administration and anti-Castro hardliners has been to push Fidel Castro from power. At times it seemed as though it was a personal grudge against Castro, remade into foreign policy. But now that he has voluntarily stepped aside and relinquished power, I wonder what twisted new rationale they will create to continue their failed policies. It is long past time to end the charade and begin dialogue and engagement with Cuba.

Our two peoples are so much alike, with so many shared linkages, it is particularly sad to see us continue to dwell on false and invented divisions. I deeply hope that the new leadership in Cuba can find a new opportunity for dialogue when a new administration comes to power in the United States in January 2009. It is time to recognize that Castro was a great leader for his people — and move toward engagement with his successor. It is time to put the past struggles behind us and move forward together.

Español: HAY QUE DERROTAR A LINCOLN, MARIO E ILEANA

Profile: Cuba's Carlos Lage


BBC

Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 12:01 GMT

Cuba's de facto prime minister, Vice-President Carlos Lage, is tipped by some to play a greater political role after Fidel Castro's retirement.

Looking more like a bank manager than the right-hand man of a communist revolutionary leader, he has gradually become Cuba's face abroad, standing in for the ailing "Comandante" at Latin American summits and other foreign forums.

A doctor who worked his way up to the heights of Cuba's Communist Party and government, he has been described as a model child of the revolution.

He is also credited with doing much to rescue the economy in the 1990s after the collapse of Cuba's main economic partner, the USSR.

And for the Cuban revolution's enemies, the quiet 56-year-old may be seen as someone they can do business with, simply because he is not a Castro.

Doctor and manager

Born in Havana on 15 October 1951, Carlos Lage Davila trained as a paediatrician and spent time in Ethiopia as part of a Cuban medical contingent.

A leader of both the Federation of University Students and the Young Communist Union, he joined the Communist Party in 1976 and entered its Central Committee in 1980.

He accompanied Fidel Castro on foreign visits in the 1980s and early 1990s and was entrusted with drafting reforms to restructure the centralised economy.

Latterly, as secretary of the Council of Ministers, he has effectively run the government, making him prime minister in all but name.

"I think the Cuban public tends to see him as a very efficient operator," says Antoni Kapcia, a professor at the UK's Nottingham University who has been researching Cuban politics for more than 30 years.

"Above all, people remember him as the man who oversaw economic reforms."

A more recent success was negotiating the oil-for-doctors deal with Venezuela.

Brian Latell, a former head of the CIA's Cuba division and author of After Fidel: Raul Castro And the Future of Cuba's Revolution, agrees he might make an effective leader.

"As in whatever few other strange places that continue to describe themselves as communist, the new Cuban brand will be pragmatic and flexible," he notes.

Foreign appeal

Neither flamboyant nor given to long speeches, Carlos Lage is so different from the charismatic Fidel Castro "that he is almost welcome", says Mr Kapcia.

Mr Latell observes that popularity, in any case, is hardly a prerequisite for Cuban leaders.

"Certainly Fidel was, for a time, and still with many," he says.

"But all the others, [Fidel Castro's brother] Raul included, do not operate on the basis of personal popularity."

Outside Cuba, at least within Latin America, Mr Lage is said to enjoy much respect as a diplomat.

"He is seen as a very urbane, mild-mannered, sophisticated politician who gets on well with people," Mr Kapcia says.

The fact he is not Fidel or Raul Castro means he could be acceptable to the US should Washington initiate low-level talks, he suggests.

Anti-Castro exiles view him as someone who has "generally stayed outside the repression mechanisms", according to Andro Nodarse Leon of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation.

"He is more of a party guy than a state police guy - unlike those whose hands are tainted with blood," says Mr Leon, who grew up in Havana in the 1980s.

Exiles who would never talk to the Castro brothers, he believes, might speak to someone like Mr Lage if they thought it could lead to an end to communist rule.

'Logical choice'

Yet, as Mr Kapcia points out, Carlos Lage is very much the Castro brothers' man.

"He is seen by the Cuban leadership as a safe pair of hands in terms of keeping the basics of the system together but making the necessary reforms," he says.

"He is also quite broadminded and quite willing to adapt, and the nature of the Cuban system is that it does adapt remarkably well.

"So if you are going to move from the historic generation, then he is absolutely a logical choice."

For Brian Latell, the chief measure of Mr Lage's success may simply be "the fact that he has survived for many years in very high office without alienating either Castro brother - quite an accomplishment".

GWB’s Arrogance

Have we ever had a President of the United States more arrogant than the current occupant of the White House?

I say that he tops them all.

He holds a news conference and thinks that just because he utters his favorite word “transition,” the Cuban people are going to roll over like an obedient puppy and install the Miami crowd back into power in Havana.

It ain’t gonna happen Dubya!

Vatican Secretary Of State arrives in Cuba


Cuba’s daily newspaper Granma has reported that His Eminence, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of Sate of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has arrived in Cuba for an official and pastoral visit.

He arrived at Jose Marti International Airport and was received by Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s Foreign Minister, and by Cuba’s Cardinal, Jaime Ortega and by Luigi Bonazzi, Papal Nuncio.

The visit commemorates the tenth anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II, and is in response to an invitation from the Cuban government and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba.