Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Bush Legacy

Driven by a painful mix of layoffs and rising food and fuel prices, the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s.

Source: New York Times

Obama calls for Cesar Chavez holiday


Today is the birthday of Cesar Chavez. U.S. Senator Barack Obama issued a call for establishing a national holiday honoring his memory.

He is what he said:

As farmworkers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago. And we should honor him for what he's taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation.

That's why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez's birthday a national holiday. It's time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union.

Castro's scientist son highlights South Africa-Cuba biotech potential


Professor Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart

www.engineeringnews.co.za

By: Christy van der Merwe

Published: 31 Mar 08 - 18:09

Nuclear physicist and State scientific advisor to Cuba, professor Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, visited South Africa to extend science and technology collaboration between the two countries from biotechnology to nanotechnology and energy technology.

In a lecture at the Department of Science and Technology on Monday, Castro Diaz-Balart, son of the former Cuban president, highlighted the importance of the biotech industry in Cuba and how it has become one of the significant generators of income for the country.

South Africa's Science and Technology Minister Mosibudi Mangena expressed admiration for Cuba's biotech advancement, which, he said, had allowed its people access to affordable healthcare. Cuba had also advanced biomedical applications of nuclear technology, and assisted innovation of new biotech products for health and farming.

Full Story

Pinar del Rio Sweeps Industriales

The Pinar del Rio team is the first team to advance to the semifinals of the XLVII Cuban National Baseball Series after defeating the Blue Lions, the country's premier baseball team. It was to be expected. The Industriales had very weak performance all year long.

The score of the concluding third games was 5-4.

Pinar del Rio will face the winner of the quarter finals between the Vaqueros of La Habana and the Gallos of Sancti Spiritus, who are currently tied 1-1 in their encounters.

Cuba has won 127 Olympic berths

www.chinaview.cn

2008-03-31 08:44:58

Special report: 2008 Olympic Games

HAVANA, March 30
(Xinhua) -- Cuba now has 127 athletes qualified for the Olympic Games slated for August 8 to 24 in China's capital Beijing, following cyclist Yoanka Gonzalez's Saturday qualification, the Sunday edition of Cuba's Juventud Rebelde newspaper said.

Gonzalez won the berth during Manchester's cycling World Cup against the wind and against the odds, as many critics had said she was not on top form.

Another Cuban, Lisandra Guerra, had also won an Olympic ticket thanks to a seventh place in the Cup's speed trials. The Cuban Olympic Committee is targeting a total of 150 Olympic places.

The following 15 sports have already earned their Olympic tickets: athletics with 34 athletes, baseball with 24 sportsmen, women's volleyball with 12 competitors, wrestling with 10, rowing with nine, boxing with nine, weightlifting with six, diving with five, judo with five, cycling with five, sports shooting with three, taekwondo with three, canoeing with two and one each for archery and pentathlon.

Cuban competitors still have a chance to win more places in the following events: women's basketball, table tennis, boxing, judo and fencing.

Cuba Allows Citizens to Stay in Hotels

3/31/2008

By WILL WEISSERT

HAVANA (AP) — New President Raul Castro's government has lifted a ban on Cubans staying at hotels previously reserved for foreigners, ending another restriction that had been especially irksome to citizens.

Employees at the Nacional, Valencia and Santa Isabel Hotels in Havana said Ministry of Tourism officials told them Cubans were allowed to stay in hotels across the island as of midnight on Monday. Like other guests, they will be charged in hard currency worth 24 times the Cuban pesos state employees are paid in.

"They have informed us that with a national ID card, anyone can stay here," an employee at the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Old Havana said Monday. Non-guests who are Cuban nationals will also be allowed to pay for other hotel services, including gyms, said the employee, who asked for anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to foreign reporters.

Some hotels scheduled morning meetings with staff members to discuss the changes. and officials said new rules will also allow Cubans to rent cars at state-run agencies for the first time.

On Friday, Cuba authorized its citizens to obtain mobile phones, which only foreigners and key officials in the Communist Government were previously allowed to have. A resolution signed by the Interior Commerce Ministry on March 21 also authorized the sale of computers, microwaves and DVD players, items which had only been sold to companies and foreigners.

Many Cubans are too poor to benefit the lifting of restrictions. The government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and the average monthly state salary is a little less than $20.

But much of the population has access to convertible pesos, either through jobs in tourism or with foreign firms or cash sent by relatives living in the United States. They will suddenly have a host of new ways to spend their money.

Official restrictions that banned all Cubans — even those who could afford it — from enjoying beach resorts and luxury hotels have been an especially sore point for many on the island since the government began encouraging foreign tourism en masse in the early 1990s. Critics of the government have branded the bans "tourism apartheid."

Tourism generates more than $2 billion annually in Cuba.

Since taking power from his ailing, 81-year-old brother Fidel on Feb. 24, Raul Castro, 76, has pledged to make improving everyday life for Cubans a top priority and undo "excessive restrictions" on society and the economy.

(This version CORRECTS the name of one hotel to "Santa Isabel" instead of "Maria Isabel")

Good and short video about Cuba’s wildlife


I missed the TV show on Sunday, but click here to watch the short PBS’s video.

It will be rebroadcast today. Here is the info:

Nature

Cuba: Wild Island of the Caribbean

"Cuba: Wild Island of the Caribbean."

Monday, March 31, 2:00 PM
WEDU - Channel 3

Nature

Cuba: Wild Island of the Caribbean

"Cuba: Wild Island of the Caribbean."

Monday, March 31, 2:00 PM
WEDU-HDTV [D]

Want to be uninformed and wrong about Cuba?

Then the answer has to be ‘Read Babalu Blog.’

Here is what Val Prieto, the esteemed publisher of Babalu Blog, said on December 12 2006:

Been getting quite a bit of traffic via searches with "castro death" and "is castro dead" and "castro death rumors" the past couple of days so I thought I'd go ahead and clear that whole mess up right now.

Barring any unforeseen actions such as, say, breathing, for all intents and purposes, fidel castro is dead. And, should the case be that he is, in fact, still breathing, chances are that it's only a "little" breathing or a clever rendition of the act of breathing and not real breathing in the real breathing scientific term of real breathing. There have been, however, unconfirmed reports of fidel castro actually breathing, but all have come with the caveat "he is breathing, but he's certainly not inhaling."

Thus, since fidel castro is not inhaling we can only come to two conclusions: he is either dead or he is, in fact, Bill Clinton. That latter notion is under investigation as not only are "both" men known for not inhaling, but for a particular fondness for long Cuban cigars, which are not necessarily meant for inhaling.

--- end quote ---

The truth and the facts are:

1) Fidel Castro is not dead. He continues to breath and continues to write. Basing your reports in ‘wishful thinking’ and unsubstantiated rumors is not very good for the prestige of any blog.

2) Not capitalizing the name of the former president of Cuba is going to bring down the Cuban Revolution? It makes Mr. Prieto look rather childish.

3) Better luck next time with your reports and predictions.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Impressive Record for Yuliesky González


Yulieski González
Photo: Radio Coco

Yuliesky González, the stellar southpaw of the Cuban baseball team La Habana, which is also known as Los Vaqueros, or the Cowboys, established a new record this year in the XLVII National Baseball Series: he had 15 consecutive victories, with no defeats.

It could be a long time before that record is broken.

Good job cousin González!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

McCain is wrong!

Internet reports say that U.S. Senator John McCain has launched a TV ad which says that he is the "the American president Americans have been waiting for."

I have yet to hear one person say to me “I want a continuation of the policies of George W. Bush.” McCain would continue those failures.

McCain and Clinton would continue our failed Iraq and Cuba policies.

We want cambio (change) in Washington D.C.!

OBAMA 08

Industriales with their backs against the wall

In an excellent report by Sigfredo Barros, Director of Granma, we learn that the Industriales Blue Lions were defeated a second time by the Pativerdes of Pinar del Rio by the score of 6-5 in the quarter finals of Cuba's XLVII National Baseball Series. The Green Tide only has to win one more game to advance to the semifinals of the Western region.

Gleijeses: Cuba is a pearl in the history of Africa

www.cubaheadlines.com

Excerpts:

Piero is an obstinate researcher who needs official documents of all involved in that epoch to defend “the exploits of this small island, because in a world with so much hostility and lies against Cuba one cannot count only on interviews because they would say that you were narrating falsehoods”.

The Italian, Professor Piero Gleijeses, of John Hopkins University in Washington, did not stop after publishing his masterly book Conflicting Missions, Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, instead he continued researching to write a bigger work because, “there is no other country in modern history that has maintained an altruistic and brave foreign policy for as long as Revolutionary Cuba”.

Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba said recently that the book Conflicting Missions is “an exceptional work where the rigor of a historical treatise is combined with the passion of an adventure novel, where hundreds of thousands of Cuban play the main character”.

George Bush’s ‘Free Cuba” aide resigns.

March 28, 2008, 11:53PM

White House aide quits over money allegation

Lawyer stepped down in probe of apparent misuse of USAID funds


By JAMES GERSTENZANG
Los Angeles Times


WASHINGTON — For the second time in four weeks, a mid-level White House aide has resigned under a cloud, this time for allegedly misusing money provided to a previous employer by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Friday that Felipe Sixto, who began work at the White House in July as associate director of the office of intergovernmental affairs, had resigned March 20. Three weeks earlier he had been promoted to special assistant to the president, two levels beneath the top staff post.

Stanzel said Sixto, a lawyer, stepped down in connection with an alleged conflict of interest in which he was implicated while he was chief of staff at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a Free Cuba. The center describes itself as an independent organization that promotes human rights and democracy in Cuba.

Full Story

---

JG: Is this guy another one of Shrub's buddies from Miami?

Getting the fox to guard the hen house

The New York Times tells us this morning that White House to Seek New Fed Power to Keep Markets Stable.

What a joke! The Bush White House would never seek to protect the average American. It has a corporatist mentality and you can be sure that their phony new proposed regulations will seek to make it easier for diehard capitalists to stick their hands into your pockets to grab as much money as they possibly can.

Let us not forget that to a hyper capitalist of the American variety, their top three commandments are:

1) Thou shall make money by any means necessary, legal or otherwise.
2) The end justifies the means.
3) Greed is good!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Havana Cola


Check out the original article at Havana Journal, another good blog about Cuba.

Attention: North Carolina

Hey,

I'm supporting Barack Obama, and I just wanted to make sure you'll be eligible to vote for him in the North Carolina primary.

Anyone who wants to vote in the North Carolina Democratic primary on May 6th must be registered as a Democrat or unaffiliated by April 11th.

Check out a video of Barack in North Carolina, find out how to register and get started now:

http://my.barackobama.com/NCvote

I hope you'll make sure to register as a Democrat or unaffiliated before the deadline -- and join me in supporting Barack!

Thanks

McCain's Free Housing

Comedy Central : Cuba Journal reader says I am a Commie Bastard

One of my admirers from Miami recently visited the Cuba Journal post titled: Demand of Cubans who reside in the exterior to say that I am a 'Commie Bastard.' He did not use any profanities or obscene language, so his comment was published.

What an honor!

Cuba May Consider Civil Unions

A report published in Wikio by Box Turtle Bulletin states:

Timothy Kincaid
March 27th, 2008

The BBC reports that Mariela Castro, the daughter of new president Raul Castro, is pushing the government to adopt protections for gay people.

The proposed legislation would recognise same-sex unions, along with inheritance rights. It would also give transsexuals the right to free sex-change operations and allow them to switch the gender on their ID cards, with or without surgery.

There are limits: adoption is not included in the bill and neither is the word marriage.

Cuba allows unrestricted cellular phone service

Fri Mar 28, 2008 9:39am EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba announced on Friday that it will allow Cubans the unrestricted use of mobile telephones for the first time in the latest step by new President Raul Castro to improve access to consumer goods.

The Cuban telecommunications monopoly ETECSA said it would begin mobile phone service for the general public in the next few days.

"ETECSA is able to offer mobile phone service to the public," it said in a statement published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Complete article.

Pinar del Rio massacres Industriales

Radio Coco reports that the second day of the XLVII Cuban National Baseball Series Playoffs brought an array of interesting events, which included the knockout of the Industriales Blue Lions team by the “Green Tsunami” of Pinar del Rio, with a score of 24-0, a record for that phase. It was the 237th victory for Olympian Pedro Luis Lazo, the Big Papi of Pinar del Rio’s pitching staff.

Rain suspended for a second day the encounter between Santiago de Cuba and Las Tunas. At night, a hit by Bernal and relief pitching by Ángel Peña, gave the victory to The Roosters of Sancti Spiritus in the longest extra inning of the playoffs.

Ciego de Avila evened the series against Villa Clara based on good pitching.

Fidel and Cuba: One year and 103 days ago

One year and one hundred and three days ago, here is what the excellent intelligence service of the United States was saying:

Castro Near Death, U.S. Intelligence Chief Says

--- Begin Report ---

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 15, 2006; Page A23

Cuban President Fidel Castro is very ill and close to death, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said yesterday.

"Everything we see indicates it will not be much longer . . . months, not years," Negroponte told a meeting of Washington Post editors and reporters.

--- End of report ---

Message to Negroponte: Tienes mierda all over your face!

Cuba ‘freeze’ thawing

People's Weekly World Newspaper

Author: W. T. Whitney Jr.

03/27/08 15:48

Do 50 years of U.S. intransigence toward Cuba mean we are stuck in a political ice age on the issue, immune from change, or is that era already ending?

President George Bush seems blind to trickles of change that are starting to appear. At a media spectacular held March 8 to castigate Cuba’s jailing of 75 government opponents five years ago, Bush declared, referring to the recent naming of a new Cuban president, “So far, all Cuba has done is replace one dictator with another.”

In fact, most of those jailed in 2003 had violated Cuban laws barring acceptance of foreign payments for domestic political activities.

Influential former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) suggested this month that U.S. policymakers need not wait for signals from Cuba to start ending the trade embargo and easing relations with the island nation. Hamilton said he “opts for engagement” now so as to “end one of the Cold War’s last lingering conflicts.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) last month demanded that Congress pass legislation ending “this flawed policy.” She called for “election of a president who will work with the Congress” on Cuba, and for re-establishment of a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

In a forthright statement March 11 before the United Nations Council on Human Rights, Jean Ziegler, head of the UN World Food Office, praised Cuba’s assurance of food security for its citizens and said that “the unnecessary costs and inconveniences” impeding Cuban food imports must be ended. In addition, Ziegler said, “Cuba must be assured free access to export markets.”

On March 8, the European Union’s Development Commissioner, Louis Michel of Belgium, became the first high-level European Union official to visit Cuba since the EU imposed sanctions five years ago in response to the imprisonment of so-called dissidents. The sanctions relate primarily to diplomatic contacts and aid projects. Suspended in 2005, they are subject to periodic reviews. Pressure is building for the EU to end the sanctions at its June ministerial meeting.

As he left Cuba, Michel told reporters, “The EU must find ways to unblock this situation and do politics.” He and Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque signed a joint communiqué emphasizing “sovereign equality [and] non-interference in internal affairs.” It identified the sanctions as “the main obstacle” to harmonious Cuba-EU relations.

But President Bush thought otherwise.

On March 8, he applauded eight Eastern European nations for being in the forefront of “the struggle for human liberty in Cuba.” Countries like France, Spain, Portugal and Italy who are seeking to restore full relations with Cuba, are somehow acting against the Cuban people, Bush suggested. “When a new day finally dawns for Cubans, they will remember the few brave nations that stood with them, and the many that did not,” he proclaimed.

But France, on behalf of the countries targeted by Bush, protested against their exclusion from meetings with Eastern European diplomats arranged by the U.S. State Department. The Spanish paper Publico reported that the purpose of the meetings, presided over by Cuban-born U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, was to press the Eastern European countries to back continuing EU anti-Cuban sanctions.

The atmosphere in Cuba suggests readiness for new developments. EU Commissioner Michel found “the spirit, the open-mindedness and the atmosphere of [his] talks” there hinted at “improvement in the dialogue process.”

In the same vein, famous Cuban crime novelist Leonardo Padura recorded signs of what he sees as new openness.

Writing for Inter Press Service, Padura pointed to the televised broadcast of a mass celebrated in Havana’s Cathedral Square last month, It followed a visit by the Vatican secretary of state, who was the first high-level representative of a foreign state received by Cuba’s new president, Raul Castro.

Padura also reminded readers of a significant development recently at the UN headquarters in New York. There, the Cuban foreign minister fulfilled government promises by signing two important UN treaties, one on economic, social and cultural rights and the other on civil and political rights.

Foreign Minister Perez Roque announced March 13, after meeting in Havana with his Mexican counterpart, that he would visit Mexico soon to deliver an invitation for Mexican President Calderon to visit the island. Mexican-Cuban relations have been frosty for several years.

atwhit @roadrunner.com

First Caribbean Dance Biennial in Cuba

Havana, Mar 27 (Prensa Latina) The First Caribbean Contemporary Dance Biennial will open its doors to dancers, choreographers and experts from 10 countries of the region, to happen from March 27 until April 1.

The event groups representatives of Haiti, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad y Tobago, Martinique, Dominican Republic, Panama, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba as host country.

The jury, led by Ramiro Guerra (1999 National Dance Prize), will choose most outstanding dancers and organizations and the winners will make a tour by South America during third and fourth quarter of this year.

The scheduled program includes an exchange among participants and directors of festivals, like Panorama de Danza Company, from Rio de Janeiro; Jovenes coreografos de Caracas (Company of Young Choreographers from Caracas) and Internacional de Danza de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires International Dance Company)

Red Suramericana de Danza (South American Network of Dance Company) will also session, integrated by professionals of that manifestation in Latin America.

Danza Nacional de Cuba (National Dance of Cuba) will premiere the work "El peso de una isla" in the closing ceremony, and the company of Santiago Alfonso will show "Conga" dance again, to close with an spectacular ending.

The encounter, sponsored by National Council of Scenic Arts, Association Cultures France and French embassy to Cuba, has among its objectives to get closer the creators of this artistic manifestation in the region.

First Caribbean Contemporary Dance Biennial will take place in parallel with the 13th International Festival of Dance in Urban Landscapes Old Havana, City in Movement, organized by Retazos Company, directed by choreographer and Chilean dancer Isabel Bustos.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trova festival in Santiago de Cuba

Granma International

Havana. March 27, 2008

BY RAFAEL LAM —Special for Granma International—

SANTIAGO DE CUBA is the birthplace of Cuba’s trova music movement, a tradition that goes back to medieval singers who would wander from party to party, town to town, singing in plazas, parks, caves and homes. For this reason, every March, the Pepe Sánchez International Trova Festival is organized in Santiago, taking into account that the 19th is the birthday of the man for whom the event is named, which later became Trova Day. This year, the 125th anniversary of the first recorded bolero is being commemorated: "Tristeza," by Pepe Sánchez.

There is no need to convene singer-songwriters for the festival in Santiago; they are in the street, in parks, plazas and peñas (cultural clubs). It is not at all staged; it is something that is part of everyday life in this city of trova traditions, of serenades and jam sessions.

The organizing committee’s president is Eliades Ochoa, a trova musician who used to play for tips in Santiago de Cuba’s bars.

"This city holds a lot of memories for me; this is where I met many of the old guard trova musicians. It really makes me happy to see Céspedes Park full of people for the festival’s opening, and how the Casa de la Trova gets packed to overflowing."

The International Trova Festival is considered to be Cuba’s oldest. This year, its 46th edition, featured visitors from Mexico, Spain and Japan. Artists came from Havana and other provinces, including the Compay Segundo Group, Mongo Rives and his Sucu Sucu, and Marta Campos.

During the festival, amazing trova musicians and groups and wonderful presentations can be enjoyed, real characters, like Makoto Sasaki from Japan, who improvised with the Valera Miranda Group.

"I’ve been coming to Cuba for eight years to train in son improvisation and sing with a Japanese group that performs Cuban music. I’ve been on stage with Oscar D’Leon, Adalberto Alvarez and Oscar Fukuoka. It is not easy to come from so far; life is very expensive in Japan, but in Santiago they welcome me very warmly."

Leidis Torres, director of the Miguel Matamoros Music Center, tells us how the Festival is not confined to institutions; it goes out into the streets, parks, plazas and neighborhoods of Santiago, to workplaces, universities, conservatories, and even prisons. "The spaces are many: Casa de la Trova, Aguilera Plaza, the Madrigalista Choir venue, Cine Cuba, Trocha y Carretera del Morro, Balcón de Velásquez, Salón de los Grandes, Casa de la Música, Patio de los Abuelos, Patio de Artex, La Trovita del Castillo, Ateneo Cultural and Sala Dolores."

The opening gala takes place in Céspedes Park with the best-known representatives of trova. This time, they were: Canto a la Dama con Cuerdas, Orquesta de Guitarras, Garzón y su Ronda Lírica, Dúo Los Cubanitos, Xiomara Vidal, Leonardo Borges, Dúo Cohíba, Ballet Santiago, Melodías Cubanas, Trío Erosay, Mi Nuevo Son, Son Diamante and Orfeón Santiago.

Within the context of the Festival, the Compay Segundo Mausoleum was inaugurated, on the Route of the Trova Musician in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery. His remains were placed permanently in this monument, designed by architect Fernando López (winner of the 2003 Architecture Prize). The work consists of a single block of marble from Bayamo, with a funeral niche containing sand from the beach of Siboney. Compay’s emblematic guitar and hat are depicted in bas relief, with 95 flowers and the phrase "The flowers of life."

There was also the theoretical event, hosted by the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. Papers were presented by Tony Pinelli, Roberto Temble, María Lorena, Oscar Montoto and Lino Betancourt.

At the Cine Cuba movie theater, documentaries related to trova and son were screened: Son para un sonero (dedicated to Adalberto Álvarez), Cuba, ritmo y movimiento, El Bárbaro del ritmo, Cuando Sindo visitó a Emiliano Blez, and Todo el mundo es música (directed by Patricia Ferreira of TV Española and coordinated by Gonzalo González, an EGREM specialist). Todo el mundo es música is a mini-series dedicated to Latin American countries, depicting the everyday musical life of various cities.

Another documentary shown was Francisco Repilado 1907-2003 Compay Segundo, by TV Española reporter Manuel Ovalle Alvarez, who interviewed Compay before he died, and put together different interviews of prominent individuals who knew the trova musician. "I’m a war correspondent; I don’t agree with war. That is why I come to record Cuban musicians, because music triumphs over war."

The Festival’s most important event consisted of a tour of the cemetery lane called Route of the Trova Musician, where many of the now-deceased greats of trova lie: Pepe Sánchez, Miguel Matamoros, Ramoncito Ivonet, Emiliano Blez, Pepe Bandera, Eulalio Limonta, Pablo Armiñán, Angel Almenares, Félix B. Caignet, Ramón Márquez Zayas and Virgilio Palais. The expert Lino Betancourt leads the tour. "At night, all of the trova musicians gather on the Route to tell stories and play old songs."

The Santiago municipal government of People’s Power sponsored a tour, together with vice president Jaime Codorniu and José Rios of the Provincial Gastronomy Enterprise. The city has a sizeable budget for cultural recreation; it has remodeled its Plaza de la Juventud, a gigantic dance floor, the Casinoteca, the Salón del Son, the Sala Polivalente, bars, Baconao Park and other centers.

This year, trova’s golden age – which came after the end of the Spanish-Cuban-U.S. War is being commemorated. During that time, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, and student groups were organized, and then sextets, septets and ensembles. Trova became interrelated with and fomented all types of son formats, with brilliant trova musicians like Sindo, Rosendo, Ballagas, Villalón, and Corona, the duos Sindo and Guarionex, and Lorenzo Hierrezuelo and Compay Segundo; in the trio Miguel Matamoros, Siro and Cueto; in the quartets El Patria and Hatuey, and in Carlos Puebla’s. There was also the Pepe Sánchez Quintet and the Ñico Saquito; the Oriental Sextet and Septeto Habanero, the Occidente and the Nacional.

Santiago de Cuba is full of traditions; in a time of war, the fast life, media manipulation and electronic stridence, people still sing in the streets here and serenade under the windows of friends and lovers.

"Trova will never die in Santiago, neither will son," Eliades Ochoa told me during the closing event.

---

JG: I love trova and son. I wish I could be there to visit that event. Thank you "Operation Peter Pan" for screwing me.

Does anybody knows this place?


That is the question posed at CUBAMANIAKS forum.

Supposedly, it is a photo from Cuba.

I have no idea. Does any Cuba Journal reader know?

English Web Page for Cuba's XLVII National Baseball Series Playoffs

Radio Coco, the best Havana radio station for Cuban Baseball, has activated their English Page for the start of the XLVII National Baseball Series Playoffs.

The eight teams in this year's playoffs are:

1. Industriales
2. Pinar del Rio
3. La Habana
4. Sancti Spiritus
5. Villa Clara
6. Ciego de Avila
7. Santiago de Cuba
8. Las Tunas

In the Quarter Finals it is 1 vs 2, 3 vs 4, 5 vs 6 and 7 vs 8.

Fidel Castro: Bush in Heavens (II)

Solvision

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guantanamo, Mar 25 (Solvision) Fidel Castro said US President George W. Bush "might think that God will give him a prize for speeding along the day of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgement, after which he will seat him at His right, in the place of honour."

The Cuban leader made his statement in the second part of an article entitled "Bush in Heavens," published by the Cuban media.

"Then perhaps he will abandon the odious gestures that accompany his speeches, so that he can dwell under the same roof as those souls of the human beings he exterminated with his war against terrorism, the great majority of them being small children, teenagers and young people, women and the elderly, all those who should never be held to blame," Fidel Castro wrote.

The Old Testament, he added, speaks of archangels who were transformed into the enemies of God by their ambition and who were sent to Hell. It is difficult to lose the idea that in Bush"s head, there lurk the genes of some of those archangels.

Solvision issues below the full text of Fidel Castro's reflections:

Reflection by Comrade Fidel

BUSH IN HEAVENS (II)


Tuesday March 18th marked the fifth anniversary of the arrests of more than 70 quislings, the ringleaders of imperialism's fifth column in Cuba who, paid by the U.S. government, violate the laws of the land and share the opinion that this dark corner of the world should be swept off the map. On this date, a Department of State spokesperson described the event as the "Black Spring", a term having racist overtones.

We could call it "White Spring". Darkness does not exist in space, only in the mind.

What a huge difference between the methods used by the government of the United States and those used by Cuba! Not one of the mercenaries was tortured or deprived of lawyer or trial, even if it was of a summary nature, provided by the law in the case of danger of aggression; they have the right to receive visits, access to family facilities as well as the other legal prerogatives of all prisoners; and if at any time their health seriously requires it, they are released without the demands of imperialism and its allies having absolutely anything to do with it.

We urge the United States to do with its prison population as we have done here in Cuba. The Revolution demands respect for sovereignty, not pardon.

On Wednesday March 19th, as we commemorate five years of the stupid war unleashed in Iraq, Bush grabs hold of any Bin Laden declaration, either fictitious or real, even though in the case of the latter no date is supplied as to when it was made, nor are they able to assure us that it was his voice.

They shall investigate it, so they promise. Nobody ever took so much advantage of such materials to shape the opinions of the citizens of the United States and of many other countries in the world that have similar cultures and beliefs, in order to justify the brutal and genocidal wars that are so needed by imperialism.

He keeps on uttering and repeating, time after time, certain selected words and phrases. The people and institutions referred to, without exception, find themselves obliged to respond, whether the declarations are true or not. Just observe how, year after year, from day one, Bush keeps on milking the events of September 11th.

From the Bucharest conference, Bush will move on to that of NATO, and from there he will pole vault over to Croatia, which had disputes with Serbia, and whose President was tried and convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Kosovo affair. Did he really die a natural death in prison? What kind of peace will be attained from such odd twists and turns?

Hans Blix from Sweden, who headed the UN team of inspectors, who diligently searched for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and who shares many of the ideas and lies of the empire's sinister philosophy, wrote the following on the occasion of the fifth anniversary: "The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a tragedy - for Iraq, for the US, for the UN, for truth and human dignity.

They could not succeed in eliminating WMDs because they did not exist. Nor could they succeed in the declared aim to eliminate al-Qaida operators, because they were not in Iraq. They came later, attracted by the occupants."

The Association of Muslim Ulemas, the supreme religious Sunnite authority in Iraq, made the following statement on the occasion of the fifth anniversary: "The occupier has entered our lands by force and he is not going to leave unless we use force.

Any call made by politicians who acquiesce to working under the umbrella of occupation ought to be considered an invitation to surrender and capitulation. The occupation forces have turned Iraq into the world's most dangerous zone. The era of occupation will soon end."

United States Vice-President Dick Cheney, without recovering from his exhausting meeting in Afghanistan with Karzai, had conversations yesterday, on Friday, and today, on Saturday, with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in order to get his cooperation and that of OPEP for oil supplies and pay with devaluated dollars. In truth, there can be no war without oil, or oil without war.

On the Latin American scene, the Ecuadorian high command declared that the bombs used in the attack on Raúl Reyes" camp were GBU-2/B Paveways, weighing more than 500 pounds, and with exact targeting precision thanks to advanced technology. There were 10 such bombs and they left craters 2.80 metres in diameter and 1.80 metres deep.

In Western Europe, Sarkozy, whose honeymoon with the French electorate finished a few days ago, was impatiently awaiting McCain and his entourage of pro-Israeli Republican senators. McCain urged him to join the NATO mechanisms, defended the Iraq War and forcefully lambasted China.

Meanwhile, Hillary and Obama are bleeding from attacks by the right, the left and the centre. This is the perfect insane asylum. The candidates for the presidency of the United States are discussing sure war vs. probable war.

Today, on Easter, we also get Bush's radio broadcast. What is he thinking? A message which, brief as it is, only needs a few paragraphs or phrases to be quoted in order to catch its drift:

"This is the most important holiday in the Christian faith. And during this special and holy time each year, millions of Americans pause to remember a sacrifice that transcended the grave and redeemed the world.

"Easter beckons us homeward. This [...] is an occasion to reflect on the things that matter most in life: the love of family, the laughter of friends, and the peace that comes from being in the place you call home..."

"America is blessed with the world's greatest military, made up of men and women who fulfil their responsibilities…"

"On Easter, we remember especially those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. These […] have lived out the words of the Gospel: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"…"

"Each year, millions of Americans take time to feed the hungry and clothe the needy and care for the widow and the orphan…millions across the world remember the gift that took away death"s sting and opened the door to eternal life…"

"Thank you for listening."

Bush might think that God will give him a prize for speeding along the day of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgement, after which he will seat him at His right, in the place of honour.

Then perhaps he will abandon the odious gestures that accompany his speeches, so that he can dwell under the same roof as those souls of the human beings he exterminated with his war against terrorism, the great majority of them being small children, teenagers and young people, women and the elderly, all those who should never be held to blame.

The Old Testament speaks of archangels who were transformed into the enemies of God by their ambition and who were sent to Hell. It is difficult to lose the idea that in Bush"s head, there lurk the genes of some of those archangels.

Today is Saturday. It is a slow day for political news. Reporters are resting.

Fidel Castro Ruz

March 22, 2008

5:19 p.m.

Source: Prensa Latina

Florida Apologizes For Its Historic Role In Slavery

March 27, 2008

By CAROL E. LEE
LEDGER TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

TALLAHASSEE - Following an emotional accounting of its enslavement of blacks, Florida became the six state in the nation Wednesday to apologize for its role in slavery.

A Capitol historian read aloud in the House and Senate chambers a 15-minute summary of Florida's slavery-era laws and the ways the state's elected leaders at the time perpetuated the mistreatment of blacks.

Legislators then approved, by voice vote, a resolution expressing "profound regret" for "this shameful history in the state's history."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What Fidel Said and UPI's Report

El martes 18 de marzo se cumplió el quinto aniversario del arresto de más de 70 vendepatrias, cabecillas de la quintacolumna del imperialismo en Cuba que, pagados por el gobierno de Estados Unidos, violan las leyes del país y comparten la tesis de que este oscuro rincón del mundo debe ser barrido del mapa. Con motivo de la fecha, un vocero del Departamento de Estado calificó el hecho como "primavera negra", un término de connotación racista. Podríamos llamarla "primavera blanca". La oscuridad no existe en el espacio sino en las mentes. ¡Qué enorme diferencia entre los métodos del gobierno de Estados Unidos y los de Cuba! Ninguno de los mercenarios fue torturado ni privado de abogado o juicio, aunque este fuese de carácter sumario, previsto en las leyes si existe peligro de agresión; tienen derecho a visitas, acceso al pabellón familiar y demás prerrogativas legales como todos los reclusos, y si en algún momento la salud lo demanda seriamente, son puestos en libertad sin que las exigencias del imperialismo y sus aliados determinen absolutamente nada. Los exhortamos a que hagan con la población penal de Estados Unidos lo mismo que Cuba. La Revolución exige respeto a la soberanía y no el perdón.

Fidel Castro Ruz
Marzo 22 de 2008
5 y 19 p.m.



Fidel Castro defends crackdown

Published: March 25, 2008 at 9:07 PM

HAVANA, March 25 (UPI) -- Former Cuban President Fidel Castro has defended the communist country's crackdown on dissidents five years ago.

Castro said the dissidents arrested in 2003 were working for the U.S. government to undermine his authority.

The ailing Castro, who as ceded control of the country to his brother Raul, also alluded that Cuba's treatment was much more humane than that of terror suspects held by the United States, Granma newspaper reported Tuesday.

This week marks the five-year anniversary of Cuba's crackdown on critics of Cuba's leadership. Seventy-five people were placed in prison.

Since then, 16 have been released and four sent into exile in Spain.

The remaining 55 dissident are still in custody, according to human rights groups.

Un mensaje abierto a Yoanis Sanchez de Generacion Y Blog

Espero que no se deje influenciar o recibir malos consejos de los imperialistas en Washington D.C. o Miami. Los gusanos que residen en esa ciudad del sur de la Florida la estan utilizando a usted para sembrar cizaña en el pueblo Cubano.

Es imperativo que Cuba siga defendiendo su soberania e independencia nacional.

Cuba para los Cubanos que viven dentro de la isla!

Que jamas vuelva el Capitalismo del Batistato a mi Patria!

A vicious attack on the poor in Florida

Caribbean American Children Foundation
P. O. Box 353593, Palm Coast, FL 32135
Phone (386)446-2444 Fax (386)446-2403 e-mail cacf2@aol.com
Alberto N. Jones DVM
President


TO ALL OUR FRIENDS;

On March 18th, Representative Eddy Gonzalez (R-Hialeah) work shopped HB 685 before the Committee on Health Quality in Tallahassee, Florida, hoping to sneak into law, the most vicious, monstrous and devastating attack on poor women, children, elderly, migrants and all others living in underserved communities in our state.

Motivated by a sick, corrosive anti-Cuba sentiment that have devoured his soul and left him incapable to strike back at that country, Representative Eddy Gonzalez is now attempting to vent his anger upon those who need us most.

During a Congressional Black Caucus visit to the Latin America School of Medical Sciences in Havana, Cuba in the year 2000, US Congressman Benny Thompson (D-Miss) asked the Cuban government, if this institution would admit poor and minority students from the US. Some time later, the Cuban government responded with an offer of 500 full scholarships. To date, this project have produced 9 physicians who are in different residencies in the United States, while over 100 students remain enrolled at this center of higher education.

The only social commitment to access these scholarships are, that upon graduation, they must be willing to serve for five years in any financially depressed community in this country.

In contrast, HB 685 reads, “Our students should not be contributing to, nor legitimizing Castro’s apartheid healthcare system, which gives high government officials and hard currency-paying foreigners state-of-the-art care, at the expense of ordinary citizens who are relegated to sub par, archaic, and quite frankly, abusive conditions.” “Those who turn a blind eye to such basic human and civil rights abuses do not possess the basic judgment and character required for the ethical practice of medicine in Florida.”

HB 685 will prohibit US residents or citizens who received their degrees through Fidel Castro’s Scholarship from practicing medicine in Florida”, end of quote.

Should anyone be allowed to put their political bias above the health, welfare, pain and suffering of others, they have failed to help?

Please write and/or speak-up to stop this barbaric proposal. Let’s encourage our students to excel by sending them postcards and/or material support.

Thank You Very Much!

Progressives for Obama

The Nation

Posted March 24, 2008

By Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Danny Glover & Barbara Ehrenreich


All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country. We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grassroots participation, drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama's very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle-down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.

As progressives, we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that has failed so far to deliver peace, healthcare, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.

Complete Article

ProgressivesForObama.com

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cuba cuts red tape in prescription drug sales

Tue Mar 25, 2008 4:57pm EDT

By Rosa Tania Valdes

HAVANA, March 25 (Reuters) - Cuba has lifted a rule that forced people to pick up prescription drugs from a pharmacy assigned by the state, adding to steps by President Raul Castro to cut excessive regulation in the Communist country.

Public health sources said on Tuesday that Cubans can now buy prescription drugs at any pharmacy.

Until now, they had to fill prescriptions at a single pharmacy attached to hospitals or local clinics, a bureaucratic measure introduced during a severe crisis in the 1990s when resources were scarce due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"People used to have to go to our pharmacy and if there wasn't the right medicine or it would take a while to make, they would have to come back even if they lived far away," said Maribel, a Havana doctor. "Now they can go wherever without getting new prescriptions or having to travel long distances."

The restriction was unpopular and Raul Castro has set about eliminating some of the "excessive regulations" governing all aspects of Cuban society since he took office as president last month.

"There were lots of complaints. The authorities want people to be happy," said a Havana pharmacy manager, who did not want to be named because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter.

Raul Castro took over as president on Feb. 24, ending 49 years of rule by his elder brother Fidel Castro, who has failed to fully recover from intestinal surgery that sidelined him in July 2006.

"In the next few weeks, we shall start removing the most simple excessive regulations and prohibitions," Raul Castro said in his first speech as president.

Next week, computers, DVD players and other electronic equipment will go on sale for the general public for the first time since the energy crisis of the 1990s. Until now, only companies could purchase them.

Last week, the government began opening stores where farmers for the first time can buy some supplies without waiting for the state to assign them.

And local sources say Cubans may soon be allowed to buy cell phones and stay in tourist hotels where they have been barred for decades.

(Editing by Kieran Murray)

From Cuba: Fidel Slew the Monroe Doctrine!

Counter Punch

March 21, 2008

From DC: Viva the Monroe Doctrine!

By SAUL LANDAU


Very few celebrate the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. Most of the world recognizes Bush's compulsion to mass violence as an act of pre-medieval arrogance and ignorance. Like Vietnam and Korea before it, the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences have sapped imperial resources at home.

Far from dead, however, the empire's axioms rein supreme in US politics. The Monroe Doctrine continues to provide guidance to policy makers. This 1823 statement of chutzpah, viewing European interference in Latin America "as dangerous to our peace and safety," came long before Washington could enforce it. The US vitiated the Doctrine's other clause -- US out of Europe--when it entered World Wars I and II.

By the 1890s, and through the 20th Century, Washington dictated policy to the Hemisphere. No longer! Compare Latin American relations today to its bondage 50 years when Washington called all the shots. Latin American nations wouldn't dare vote against US interests in the OAS or UN, or disagree with US economic policy. The CIA removed by a violent coup reform minded Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954.

In 1959, under Fidel Castro's leadership, the Cuban Revolution forged long term resistance. In retaliation, the United States launched an exile invasion at the Bay of Pigs, instituted assassination and terrorism as official policies and enacted an embargo, while maintaining a US naval and now torture base on Cuban territory. All this, plus imposed diplomatic isolation and possibly chemical and biological warfare, didn't deprive Fidel of a meal or a conjugal opportunity. It hurt Cubans, but failed to raise even a small welt on the Comandante's back. Officials in Washington still tell you -- off the record -- restoration of relations with Cuba must wait until Fidel gets properly punished.

While Cuba averted US destabilization, the CIA ensured no other "upstarts" would challenge its hegemony. They ousted Brazilian President Joao Goulart in 1964, helped destabilize Chilean President Salvador Allende's regime for a coup in 1973, and waged a 10 year long covert war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. US troops prevented noncompliance in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and in Haiti in the 1990s. Independent minded Presidents Omar Torrijos of Panama and Jaime Roldos of Ecuador died mysterious deaths in 1981 airplane crashes. No cause has yet been determined for the "accidents."

In 2008, noncompliance has become widespread. Washington had to rely on Alvaro Uribe's dubious regime in Colombia as a "model" and a platform state to do its bidding. In 2008, such "obedience" costs US taxpayers some $600 billion to buy that loyalty. (Anastasia Moloney 15 Feb 2007 World Politics Review) Uribe presides over a kleptocracy that routinely violates human rights. Labeled a democracy by the three monkeys at the State Department, Colombia's government continues to encourage its super rich to not pay taxes; a place where poverty and injustice coincide with violence and corruption. These very material reasons stand behind the Colombian government's inability to stifle an insurgency--a cruel and cynical one--that has endured for more than four decades.

During that period, Colombia's government has not stifled an insurgency that has gained a bad reputation even with revolutionaries for its narco-trafficking and kidnapping policies. Indeed, the FARC and other insurgent group still control an estimated 20 percent of Colombia's territory.

Desperate to show hemispheric clout after suffering setbacks in the Middle East and electoral reverses for its candidates in Latin America, Washington--in the name of the war on terror -- provided intelligence to Colombia to target the position of FARC guerrillas in Ecuadorian territory. On March 1, Colombia's military, with US tactical, logistic and weapons support, attacked a guerrilla camp inside Ecuador and assassinated Raúl Reyes, FARC's international spokesman and some 16 other guerrillas.

Not wanting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to claim prestige for having helped free captives kidnapped by the Colombian rebels, Washington surreptitiously encouraged this extraterritorial operation. Ecuadorian Defense Minister Sandoval more than implied that when he said the Colombians dropped explosives "that are normally known as smart bombs which the US has." Sandoval explained that to locate the target, FARC leader Reyes' "equipment was used that Latin American armed forces do not possess." Troops and aircraft moved in to assassinate FARC guerrillas.

As war clouds gathered over Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, the Latin Americans settled the dispute themselves, without US or OAS intervention when they met under the auspices of left leaning Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Uribe apologized to Ecuador and swore never to repeat such aggression. Behind the scenes, US officials tried unsuccessfully to pressure certain governments at the summit to condemn the victims.

Latin American governments viewed US efforts to provoke violence using Colombia as its agent as threatening their fragile sovereignty. Indeed, citizens of most Latin American countries would have mocked their President had they backed Colombian aggression in the name of fighting terror.

By late 1986, US failure to provide a sensible policy for Latin American and the Caribbean for so many decades -- unless one includes looting as sensible--led leaders of the region to create the 18 member Rio Group (meeting in Rio de Janeiro). Although it excluded Cuba, it also barred the US from membership. It became a kind of alternative to the OAS and reflected the first stages of collective disillusionment with US policy in the region.

Latin Americans can celebrate their quiet emancipation from The Monroe Doctrine, which remains axiomatic in official Washington circles as its coincidence with reality diminishes.

Whom to credit for sidelining this seemingly eternal Doctrine? Ironically, Fidel Castro, has played a lead role in making the Doctrine -- well, so last century. As Washington officials condescendingly predicted ­and waited expectantly ­Castro's death, they failed to see the terminal illness in their own policies.

Neither the political class nor the media have acknowledged the new reality. They continue to ridicule the policy dragon slayer as he sits in his hospital suite in Havana writing analytical essays. Four of his ideological sons run Latin American governments: Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Fidel's ideological cousins govern Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. And, all of them won free and fair elections ­more than Bush can say. More cousins or even closer relatives might soon emerge victorious in Paraguay, El Salvador and Peru.

The left should celebrate cautiously. The US has risen before from imperial ashes, as it did after defeat in Vietnam. And Cuban socialist achievements in health, education and social welfare, notwithstanding, stand second to the example of Fidel's Guinness World Record status as King of disobedience to empire.

Without his defiance, would Security Council members Chile and Mexico have dared challenge the United States during the 2003 Iraq War resolution? Would Brazil and Chile have casually switched major trade partners from the United States to China?

One additional reason for declining US influence relates to the fall of the dollar. Latin American countries export coffee and cocoa, but receive approximately the same price as they did 50 years ago, when, as Fidel Castro noted, "the dollar had a few dozen times the purchasing power it has today. Simple trade, increasingly unequal, is crushing the economies of many Latin American countries." (Cuban News Agency March 8, 2008)

Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador show how citizens could elect governments to represent their interests, rather than those of "free traders." As Cuba struggles to adjust its order to meet popular grievances ranging from more freedom to buy to greater liberty to speak, its government benefits from the fact that the United States arrogantly imported Fidel's enemies. These Miami-based exiles cause problems in the United States. They have governed the "autonomous republic of Miami" for decades. Men in their 70s continue to "train" in the Everglades with guns or continue to proclaim as did Miami radio screamer Armando Perez Roura that "the only way to overthrow the Communist tyranny is through arms."

Some older members of Perez Roura and his listeners' generation still dream of returning, reclaiming their wealth, power and prestige on the island. They invoke the good old days, when the Monroe Doctrine meant Batista and the Mafia, that brutal security blanket that made them happy.

The "good old days" in Cuba like the Monroe Doctrine have died. In Miami, younger generations of Cubans and other Latin Americans populate the city, making the old guard seems stale and stifling, just as when it ruled Cuba. As the 50th anniversary of Cuba's revolution approaches, in some nine months, a few Miamians will acknowledge the importance of the event that helped bury the Monroe Doctrine and allowed Latin Americans to forge a more independent path in the 21st Century.

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies Fellow. Read his Counterpunch Press book A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. See his WE DON'T PLAY GOLF HERE on DVD through roundworldproductions@gmail.com

Cuba condemns campaign to undermine Beijing Olympics

• Statement from the revolutionary government

EVER since the International Olympic Committee agreed in 2001 to make Beijing the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, the government and people of the People’s Republic of China have assumed the event’s organization with an unsurpassed sporting spirit and great responsibility, sparing no resources or efforts. They have accepted many suggestions and adopted decisions aimed at guaranteeing optimal conditions for the visit by participants in the Games. The decision to award the venue to the People’s Republic of China constituted recognition of its unquestionable prestige, the level it has attained in sports, and its work to benefit the international sports movement.

The Cuban government condemns with all vigor the attempts to organize a crusade to cause this noble effort to fail, with hidden political motives. This campaign is also aggression against the international Olympic movement. At the same time, Cuba expresses its recognition of and total support for the efforts of the People’s Republic of China to guarantee the success of the Olympic Games.

A malicious media campaign has been fostered, seconded by actions aimed at undermining international confidence in the Chinese government’s ability to keep its promises. In addition to that, there are the recent events related to separatism in Tibet that led to deaths and incalculable material losses. It is evident that these disturbances have been induced and promoted from outside the country. For Cuba, the role played by the so-called Radio Free Asia has been revealing; it is the main mouthpiece of the current anti-China media campaign, and its sponsors are the same who defend those inciting separatism within China.

The acts of aggression against 19 Chinese embassies and consulates in 16 countries are an extremely serious violation of the spirit and letter of the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations.

The Cuban government expresses its firm opposition to any attempt to meddle in China’s internal affairs, or to attack its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Likewise, it urges international public opinion and the sports community to defend the noble ideas that inspire the Olympic spirit.

Havana, March 22, 2008

Translated by Granma International

Sign the ‘Step Up or Step Down’ Petition to Gang of 66 Leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Click here to sign petition.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Amanda Norris interviews the publisher of Cuba Journal

Amanda Norris is a graduate journalism student at the University of South Florida. She recently interviewed the publisher of Cuba Journal.

Norris: What is your name, age and occupation?

JG: Jorge R. Gonzalez, 64 years old, retired (in 2006,) worked for twenty one years as a computer programmer/analyst. I have also worked, more recently, as a professional translator.

Norris: Were you born in Cuba, or here in the U.S.? If in Cuba, when did you come to the U.S.and why?

JG: I was born in Havana, Cuba in 1944. I was sent to the United States, unaccompanied by my parents, as part of what some call a joint CIA/Catholic Church Hierarchy operation called 'Peter Pan.' It is claimed by some that this "operation" was financed and directed by the United States government as part of their plan to destabilize the triumphant Cuban Revolution of January 1st., 1959. As a 17 year old, my coming to the U.S. was thought as being part of an adventure. When I left, family members at the airport said to me: "Don't worry, you will be back within a year." It has now been 46 years, and I am still waiting. I am not thankful to 'Peter Pan.' I was one of its victims.

Norris: Do you have any family in Cuba? Do you visit?

JG: Yes, I still have family in Cuba. I have a brother, who is an Electrical Engineer, who works for ETECSA, the successor to the Cuban Telephone Company (owned by an American company, ITT) which was nationalized by the Revolutionary Government. He recently completed his 50th anniversary as a telephone industry worker. I also have two nephews, who have six children among them.

I have not visited Cuba since I left. I was going to visit in March of this year, but since I refuse to ask permission from OFAC to visit the island where I was born, I decided to postpone my visit until U.S. Senator Barack Obama sits at the oval office on January 20, 2009. He has promised to lift the travel restrictions which our current President imposed in 2004. If the Repugs win, I plan to engage in civil disobedience and travel to Cuba through a third country. I am seriously considering moving to Canada if the GOP wins, and if warmonger John McCain continues the failed Cuba policies of George W. Bush.

In respect to my family in Cuba I want to bring to your attention that the so-called "family values" President, does not consider my nephews as part of my family. What an an irony and what a human rights injustice. George W. Bush is totally beholden to Miami Cubans ultra-right-wingers, who put him in office via electoral fraud in Florida in the year 2000, with a little help from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Norris: If you're old enough, do you remember life before the revolution?

JG: I have very good memories of Cuba. My father sacrificed very much to send me to a good school, the La Salle Christian Brothers of Vedado, which was one of the best schools in Havana. But I also have very sad memories: traveling through the countryside and seeing the poverty stricken campesinos with their children with distended bellies. That is no longer seen in today's Cuba, due to the policies and accomplishments of the Cuban government.

Norris: If you could use one word to describe Fidel Castro, what would it be?

JG: I would have to use three words: TRUE CUBAN PATRIOT.

Norris: If you could describe Cuba's government under Fidel Castro in one sentence, what would you say?

JG: A government that is totally devoted to satisfying the needs and aspirations of the Cuban people and to the defense of Cuba's national independence and sovereignty.

Norris: On February 7, 1962, the U.S. imposed an embargo against Cuba. Do you believe this embargo was appropriate at the time? Do you believe it is appropriate today?

JG: I was very young in 1962, only 18 years old, and did not have the political consciousness that I have today. The U.S. was engaged in a cold war with the defunct Soviet Union. Kennedy probably thought that he was doing the right thing, but all he accomplished was to send Fidel into the arms of the Soviet Union. The embargo is a failure and should be lifted by our next president. The embargo has united all Cuban nationalists inside and outside the island. Even the so-called dissidents oppose it. 184 nations at the United Nations have condemned it.

Norris: Do you believe Raul Castro will greatly alter the government that his brother created in Cuba?

JG: He has already done some very good alterations during the last two months. I greatly admire both Fidel and Raul. The people inside Cuba love them very much. This is something that most of the American press refuses to see. Raul is very pragmatic and a very competent administrator. Carlos Lage is a very good Vice-President, with very good ideas for Cuba's future. I am optimistic. The Cuban people support their native brand of Socialism and will seek to make it better and improve it. Batista Capitalism will not return to Cuba. Cuba will continue with its chosen path.

Norris: How did you feel when you heard that Fidel Castro announced in February that he would be resigning as president?

JG: I felt that it was the right decision, and that at 81, he needed to rest and take care of his health. He was a masterful conductor to a peaceful succession within the framework of the Cuban Socialist Constitution.

Norris: Do you believe Raul Castro would be in power today if a popular vote was held, rather than a vote by Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular?

JG: I doubt very much that Cuba will ever have American-style 'money democracy' elections again. But in a purely hypothetical election of that type, yes, Raul would win such an election. Every country has an inherent right to determine what kind of elections they have. Cuba's future and destiny will be determined inside the island, and not in Washington, D.C. or in Miami.

Our Fearless Decider-in-Chief


FREE THE CUBAN FIVE


Cuban Five billboard on Hollywood Blvd.
(photo: Juventud Rebelde, Feb. 2, 2008)

Cuban doctors treat 70 percent of Guyana Population

Cubanow.- The opening of a new diagnostic center in Guyana has further boosted the work in that nation of Cuban medical professionals, who have assisted over 70 percent of the Guyanese population.

Guyana´s Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran praised the work of Cuban doctors, who are offering their free services in remote areas in that country.

In the community of Enterprise, Dr. Ramsaran bid farewell to two of the 15 Cuban doctors who started the Integral Health Program in Guyana two years ago. He also welcomed the six Guyanese medical students, in their final year of studies at the Havana based Latin American School of Medicine. The students will spend their last year working under Cuban physicians in Guyanese communities.

Rody Cervantes Silva, head of the Cuban medical mission, explained via Internet that the 122 Cubans serving throughout Guyana have to date attended more than 385,000 doctor's visits and saved an estimated 200 lives.

The work of the Cuban medical staff has also had an impact on the infant mortality rate, which has dropped from 60 per thousand live births to 28, according to the Guyana authorities.

The first Integral Diagnostic Center, donated by Cuba, began operating last October in the community of Diamond. Besides the opening of the Leonora center, two more are slated to open later this year in the cities of Suddie and Mahaicony.

These centers provide ultrasound, endoscope, electrocardiogram, a clinical laboratory, ophthalmologic, dentistry and surgery services, allowing patients to receive specialized medial attention.

Cervantes Silva also noted that 3,891 Guyanese have had their sight restored as part of the Operation Miracle (Vision Now) eye surgery program sponsored by Cuba and Venezuela. As part of that collaboration, a modern ophthalmologic center is scheduled to open this year.

March 21, 2008

Steve Clemons - Open Up Exchange and Travel With Cuba

Israel 'Cachao' López

Telegraph.co.uk

Israel "Cachao" López, who died on Saturday aged 89, was probably the most influential Cuban musician of his generation, on the island or in exile: a virtuoso on the double bass, a composer and renowned band leader, he will perhaps be remembered most as creator of the mambo and the man who launched Cuba's first descargas, or jam sessions, which would eventually spawn the Buena Vista Social Club and other all-star albums and concerts.

López composed the title track to the Buena Vista album produced by Ry Cooder. López spent half his life in America (he left Cuba to seek work as a musician rather than fleeing for political reasons), but it was only in the 1990s, when the Cuban-American Hollywood star Andy García took up his cause, that he gained worldwide recognition and his back catalogue sold out.

He continued to play until shortly before he died, appearing in London to a standing ovation at the Barbican in April last year, and at New York's Carnegie Hall a few months earlier.

López was an innovator who started as a classical bassist, absorbed the influences of Cuban folk and popular music, incorporated the Afro beats natural to black Cubans and mixed in a healthy dose of jazz. His unique style, often plucking his bass strings outwards rather than sideways and deftly alternating with the bow, became the backbone of his music.

One fellow bassist described his technique as "kum-ba-ba, kum-ba-ba," a pluck followed by two taps of the bow to create a rhythm and melody at the same time. After he toured America in the early 1960s, his riffs had an influence on American rhythm-and-blues bands and he was described by one music historian as "arguably the most important bassist in 20th-century popular music."

Israel López was born in Havana on September 14 1918, in the same house where Cuba's revered poet José Martí, "the father of Cuban Independence", had been born. He recalled having to vacate his home on Calle Paula, as a child, every January 28, Martí's birthday, while busloads of schoolchildren arrived on field trips from all over Cuba to see the house.

First nicknamed Cachao because that was his musician grandfather's surname, he started out as a classical bassist, taught by his mother and father, who both played and taught the instrument. "Our house was a wreck," he once said in an interview. "There were instruments everywhere and people playing all the time."

At the age of 12 he began performing with the new Havana Philharmonic, co-founded by his cellist brother Orestes, standing on a wooden crate to reach the upper neck of his full-size contrabass (double bass).

He was still a teenager in the late 1930s, when he joined one of Cuba's most popular danzón orchestras, Arcaño y sus Maravillas (Arcaño and his Marvels), led by flautist Antonio Arcaño, playing at Havana dances and weddings.

Bored by the traditional minuet-like danzóns, a European colonial import, Cachao and Orestes began speeding up the beat, creating what Cubans at the time called el nuevo ritmo, or the new rhythm, later to be dubbed mambo, an African word relating to black Cubans' pre-slavery religion and vaguely translatable as "conversation with the Gods."

The word was first used in relation to modern Cuban music and dance in el danzón Mambo, a tune composed by Cachao and Orestes López in 1938. (After Cachao left Cuba in 1962, while Orestes stayed behind, Castro's censors deleted Cachao's credit from that and other compositions.)

The new rhythm was, at the time, too fast to dance to, however, and never really caught on. It was more than a decade later that the mambo craze swept America and Europe, after RCA released a record by another Cuban, Dámaso Pérez Prado, entitled Que Rico el Mambo! (How Tasty the Mambo), later known in as Mambo Jambo.

As a result, Pérez Prado was often credited with "inventing" the mambo. The López brothers were always gracious, admitting that their music might never have become a worldwide phenomenon without the success of Pérez Prado, "the King of Mambo."

Apart from pioneering the mambo, Cachao, in 1957, was the first to gather a group of musicians, not from any particular band, to jam in front of microphones in what he called descargas ("off-loadings"), or jam sessions. They were done for fun but their improvisations revolutionised music in Cuba and ultimately far beyond.

After leaving the island in 1962, Cachao lived first in Spain, then in Las Vegas, later in New York and, in his latter years, among the large Cuban-American population of Miami. He said he had never planned to "flee" Cuba but merely set out for a series of "gigs" in Spain and at the throbbing Palladium nightclub in New York; then decided not to go home after Castro snubbed democracy.

He did have to "flee" Las Vegas, however, admitting that he was a compulsive gambler who found himself too often in the pawnshop. He credited his wife with getting him over the problem and saving his career and life.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he appeared all over New York City, playing with such Latin bandleaders as Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente. When he moved to Miami in the late 1970s, however, he found himself playing only in local clubs, at weddings or quinceañeras, the traditional Latin American 15th birthday parties for girls.

In Miami in 1989 Cachao ran into the young Cuban actor Andy García, whom he had known since the boy was five. García's father had been a lawyer near Havana known as "El Alcalde" (the Mayor) for whom Cachao had written a song; he had also conducted a Bach requiem in his memory on his death.

García junior wanted to use Cachao's music for a movie he was producing, The Lost City, a film which was eventually released only in 2006. In the meantime, however, García produced a 1993 documentary, Cachao … Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos (Like His Rhythm There Is No Other), which put the bassist on the world music map.

In tandem with the film, García sponsored two Cachao albums, the first of which won the musician a Grammy. A further Grammy followed in 2004 for the album Ahora Si! (Now, Yes!) and Cachao was given a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Israel Cachao López died after complications from kidney failure. His wife Ester died in 2004. He is survived by a daughter, María Elena López.

Cuba's Casamayor stops unbeaten Katsidis

CABAZON, California (AFP) — Cuba's Joel Casamayor stopped previously unbeaten Australian Michael Katsidis 30 seconds into the 10th round here Saturday to win an interim world lightweight championship title.

Southpaw Casamayor knocked down the Aussie twice in the first round and flattened him again early in the 10th round. Seconds later, referee Jon Schorle halted the fight.

Casamayor, who owns the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization interim lightweight titles, improved to 36-3 with one drawn after his 22nd stoppage inside the distance. Katsidis fell to 23-1.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

50th Anniversary of the Peace Symbol


Today, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Symbol. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had a Peace Department rather than was then called the War Department when the United States was founded. It was renamed the Defense Department (a.k.a. the Pentagon,) for the consumption of the gullible masses.

Demand of Cubans who reside in the exterior

WE DEMAND:

The lifting of the inhuman an cruel blockade, which for almost fifty years, has been imposed against the Cuban people by the government of the United States, of the interventionist Bush Plan, as well as the derogation of the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The elimination of any restriction which impedes those Cubans residing in the United States from freely visiting their native country, in order to maintain ties with their families in Cuba.

The cessation of all terrorist actions which are launched from United States territory against Cuba.

The immediate liberation of our five brothers unjustly kidnapped in United States jails.

The definitive elimination of the sanctions imposed by the European Union on June 2003 against Cuba and the interventionist Common Position. We support efforts leading to the cessation of the European Union’s policies of double moral and double standards against Cuba in the area of Human Rights, and for it to assume an independent stance from that carried out by the United States, which ought to respect the sovereignty and independence of Cuba, which are the necessary basis for the development of normal relations.

We, Cubans who reside in the exterior, inspired by the thoughts of José Martí and the historical legacy of the struggles of the Cuban people, promise to continue to offer our modest contributions for the defense of the Fatherland and the Revolution.

LONG LIVE CUBA!

Havana, March 21, 2008

Derivatives: How capitalists engage in financial speculation

New York Times Article

It is a very long article, but one that is worth reading, to get an understanding of how the never ending greed of Capitalism works.

Excerpt: "Derivatives can limit the damage from financial miscues and uncertainty, greasing the wheels of commerce. Used unwisely — when greed [JG: Capitalism's First Commandment] and the urge to gamble with borrowed money overtake sensible risk-taking — derivatives can become Wall Street’s version of nitroglycerin.

JG: It is very clear that Alan Greenspan is partly to blame for the current financial meltdown that Wall Street is going through.

Here are a couple more excerpts:

By the beginning of this decade, according to Mr. Frank and Mr. Blinder, Mr. Greenspan resisted suggestions that the Fed use its powers to regulate the mortgage market or to crack down on practices like providing loans to borrowers with little, if any, documentation.

“Greenspan specifically refused to act,” Mr. Frank says. “He had the authority, but he didn’t use it.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Clinton’s sleaze continues

The tag team of Bill and Hillary Clinton continue their dirty campaign tactics. This time, according to a CBS News report, the former president questioned the patriotism of U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

It is very apparent that they are desperate, because the Democratic Party nomination is slipping away from them. Even a former supporter, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, has abandoned them.

Here are some excerpts:

A new controversy flared up in the Democratic presidential race Saturday over remarks by former President Bill Clinton whom Barack Obama's campaign accused of using divisive tactics and unfairly trying to question the Illinois senator's patriotism.

Retired Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, a co-chair of Obama's campaign, said he was astonished and disappointed by recent comments the former president made while speculating about a general election between Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Republican John McCain.

Standing next to Obama on stage at a campaign rally in southern Oregon, the retired Air Force chief of staff repeated Bill Clinton's comments aloud to a silent audience.

The former president told a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

Obama recaptures edge over Clinton says Gallup

USA Today

By: Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence

Gallup reports: Barack Obama has quickly made up the deficit he faced with Hillary Clinton earlier this week, with the latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking update on Democratic presidential nomination preferences showing 48% of Democratic voters favoring Obama and 45% Clinton.

Obama fell behind Clinton on March 14 and stayed there until today. "Obama's campaign clearly suffered in recent days from negative press, mostly centering around his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright," wrote Gallup analyst Jeff Jones. "But Obama has now edged back ahead of Clinton due to a strong showing for him in Friday night's polling, perhaps in response to the endorsement he received from well-respected New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson."


The Gallup tracking poll is based on interviews with 1,264 Democratic or Democrat-leaning voters March 19-21. Its margin of error is +/-3 percentage points.

More...

Cuba : Transitions without End

Global Research, Canada

Centre for Research on Globalization

by Dr. Frederic Clairmont

March 21, 2008

The victory of the Revolution is a rampart that ensures that never again will Cuba become the most sordid brothel our planet has ever known linked to a criminal gambling and drug infested inferno of the colonial occupiers."
Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara, 1 May 1959.

Invariably, after every speaking engagement on Latin America, the question was raised about Cuba’s fate after the exit of the Comandante from the political stage. The question was not malicious although among my listeners there were those who believed, or prayed for, that the departure of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, born (1926) in the former province of Oriente on his father’s farm, Manacas, marks the terminal point of the socialist revolution. Throughout the ages and by the very nature of our existence it is part of our normal being to ask that basic question: from whence have we come and whither are we are going? There are many that have personalized one of the most momentous historical metamorphoses of all times.

Fidel Castro and the Revolution that he incubated and flung into battle with such resounding surprises and successes for more than a half a century cannot be abstracted from the role of the masses as the energizing dynamic of change.

The personalization of leaders as the drive wheel of change is erroneous as it assumes that the makers of history are exclusively the leaders of social and political movements. Such a muddled perception is the incarnation of the Fuhrerprinzip of Nazism that sweeps aside the seminal role of ordinary peoples that battle to defend the Revolution and build on it. It deliberately eviscerates the world of labour: workers, farmers, professionals, the men and women that comprise the armed forces. In short, it ignores the creators of wealth as the engine of change.

History is about numbers and very big numbers that dramatically erupt onto the political stage at certain nodal points in response to the contradictions of our time stemming from irrepressible convulsions . The revolutionary that is Fidel Castro is thus inseparable from the masses that catapulted him into the fires of national struggle from the Moncada Barracks to the liberation of Havana, in much the same way as Gandhi and Mandela in their freedom struggles; and no less so Lenin and the October Revolution.

Thomas Carlyle enriched our understanding of this duality when he wrote in his classic depiction of the French Revolution:

"Hunger and nakedness and nightmare oppression lying heavy on twenty-five million: this, not the wounded vanities or contradicted philosophies of philosophical advocates, rich shopkeepers, rural nobles, was the prime mover in the French Revolution; as the like will be in all such revolutions, in all countries."

The penetrating insight of Marx with its sublime message of hope and struggle as humanity faces up to the exigencies of smashing the inherited mould of capitalism, a system of class power, privilege, profit and exploitation, illumines the compulsive sweep of revolutionary change.

"History does nothing; it possesses no immense wealth, fights no battles. It is rather man, real living man who does everything, who grapples with everything and who fights."

As a teacher and writer (and Spanish speaker) I tracked the Revolution’s trajectory spanning more than half a century. I was never a member of any political body nor was I ever enamored by the phony cult of objectivity. In those decades, I talked to its peoples from all walks of life. I met its leadership. I participated in its seminars and conferences. It was in those years of agony and ecstasy that I witnessed the unending twists and turns of its ascendancy. In those years, I also encountered the hate-filled émigrés, who had chosen the path of counter-revolution, dishonor and mendacity, ensconced in Miami and elsewhere.

To grasp the nature of the transition – and that is the crucial word of this lecture - that has reshaped the nation’s psyche it is well to recall that the Revolution was generated as a reaction against the exploitation and sheer cruelty perpetrated by the US occupation and its domesticated political Quislings that reigned through the instrumentalities of unadulterated state terrorism since the consummation of the conquest in 1898. Listen well to the Comandante’s words framed on the eve of the freedom upsurge . Its relevance to the new transition is all too obvious.

"Some have insisted that the only way out for Cuba was to guarantee private investments. That, we are told, would solve the whole problem. But foreign capitalists had these guarantees in Cuba for fifty years , and similar guarantees in practically every other country of the American continent. Did these guarantees solve the pressing problems confronting its peoples? Did they solve the problem of mass unemployment, education, public health? Indeed, what did they solve in all these fifty years? Joblessness straddling more than one third of the labour force, poverty, hunger and chronic malnutrition…"

I recall on one of our walks on the Malecon with my friend the late Renato Constantino, a celebrated Philipino resistance fighter, philosopher and writer pointing his hand to the waters of the bay in the direction of Florida and saying: " Over there, just a couple of kilometers away. I believe it’s around 90 kms. There is the super-colonial Goliath , that has flung everything against this bastion of a socialist David and what we’ve seen is that the power of the imperio has been clubbed. Why? You know the answer. What Voltaire said about God applies no less so to Cuba: If Cuba did not exist we would have had to invent it." What Renato was saying was that the White Man’s world of the imperio cannot coexist with Cuba; and hence, in their view, it must be destroyed. It is toxic and contagious.

Its sheer capacity to survive and strike back owed nothing to a world of miracles and Shamans. What Bush, his acolytes and predecessors mean by transition is something quite different from the meaning emblazoned in the theory and praxis of the Revolution? It reminds me of the words of Ho Chi Minh formulated after the breakdown of the Fountainbleau negotiations in 1946. " Words have different meaning for different people. If you spit in the face of the colonialists they will always call it rain."

We cannot speak of the multi-faceted transitions in Cuba without studying the grim transition of imperialism. They are inter-related. American capitalism has leapt into the big transition, that of recession, galloping fast towards the Big Depression. The credit seizures and foreclosures are gobbling up jobs and earnings at an alarming tempo. Panic stricken stock markets are plummeting with many major financial institutions going bust. The industrial capacity of US capitalism has withered. What remains of its colossal industrial heritage, a legacy mainly of the decades 1865-1914, is being swiftly offshored. Detroit, the once proud citadel of industrial might is now a wasteland. Its financial structures are wobbly, shackled with uncontrollable debt: household, corporate and government that continues to burgeon exponentially. Americans and foreigners have lost confidence in the greenback that is swiftly ceasing to be a store of value.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hammered the point when he said: "the dollar is nothing but a worthless piece of paper." A contention that few will contest. Its claim to be the world’s reserve currency is a fairy tale. Credit flows are drying up . Banks are dumping their assets into collapsing markets. Defaults and bankruptcies are soaring. In sum, US financial capitalism is in the throes of an implosion. Uncle Sam is an enfeebled mendicant living off borrowed time and borrowed money. But not for long can this game continue.

The empire has over 700 military overseas bases in over 130 countries but its effective power is shrinking day by day. This then is the big contrast with Cuba’s transition. Its growth in real terms has steadily topped 6%over the last six years. The brutalizing years of the Special Period have largely been vanquished. The economic and spiritual revolutions in Cuba are nothing short of mind-boggling that bear no comparison with any Latin American countries. Let there be no illusion. Cuba is a Third World nation. It still is a poor country. The wages of its labour force are still abysmally low. The exploitation of man by man has vanished. Of pivotal importance, however, is that it has now achieved full employment, a reality once regarded as the unattainable Nirvana. Illiteracy, malnutrition and mendicancy have ceased to exist. Its life expectancy is almost on a par with Japan and Sweden, as against 56 in Batista’s neo-colony. Its infant mortality rate is on a par with Canada and has already outstripped that of the United States. These are the transitions that the media masters of the corporate gulag chose to eliminate from their specious references on transitions.

I well remember the Revolution’s formative years when the white-skinned medical personnel bolted the country boasting that medicine is dead and the only thing that will take its place is Voodoo. In their imbecilic gasp of triumph they had forgotten to say that their political cronies had plundered the nation’s Treasury and dispatched its pickings to the land of the ex-colonial master. Cuba now has around 90,000 students spanning the entire range of medical care. This nation which, according to its unbending liquidators, has abolished ‘human rights’ has set its goal of becoming the paramount medical science citadel in the world.

There are now over 12,000 students in ELAM: La Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina, one of the world’s top educational establishments. Over the next decade it will be graduating with Venezuela more than 100,000 Latin American and Caribbean doctors within the integration framework of ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Together with Venezuela, Operation Miracle was launched designed to restore vision to no fewer than 6 million in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

These astounding numbers would have been inconceivable without a socialist order and the discipline and sacrifices that moved in tandem with it. Tens of thousands of Cuban medical and non-medical personnel are working in 27 countries under difficult physical conditions. In his visit to Cuba in 2007, in which he decorated the 140 medical personnel, General Pervez Musharaf ( a fervent ally of the empire) was not indulging in hyperbole when he noted:

"Yours was one of the greatest acts of solidarity that humanity has ever known. We thank President Castro and the Cuban people. You came thousands of miles away, in the depth of one of the most severest winters, to heal and save the lives of thousands of our people stricken by that appalling natural disaster. You even brought your own medical equipment and medicines. There is not a single village in our country that has not heard of your heroic deeds and sacrifices. These awards are a modest token to express our gratitude. You gave everything but took nothing in exchange except our love. The word thanks , you will understand, is too small a tribute to convey the immensity of our debt and feeling towards you."

The systematic state terrorist onslaughts against Cuba pre-date 1962 that marked the start of the official embargo that has endured with no respite for almost half a century .Attempts to quarantine Cuba have failed. Year after year in the UN General Assembly just two countries, the United States ( plus its two Pacific island protectorates) and Israel voted for the embargo’s perpetuation. Its cumulative cost according to foreign minister Roque approaches $100bn. And yet, notwithstanding the permanent war including several aborted attempts at assassination of the president, Cuba has lurched forward prodigiously , not only in its dispensation of education and medical aid to countries on many continents, but as a fraternal catalyst in the liberation struggle. No country in the world has given as much to Africa as Cuba has done and continues to do. A gift sealed with the blood of its peoples.

Nelson Mandela touched on one of the energizing roles of Cuba when he spelt out in his homage to the Comandante during his visit to South Africa following the liquidation of the Apartheid regime.

"We and all the peoples of the Free World are honored to have you here. And by the Free World we refer to the peoples whose blood has been shed profusely to liquidate imperialism. Consider South Africa as your land. We shall not forget the decisive role you played militarily in destroying the South African army. You came thousands of miles to participate in the freedom struggle with us. You fought nobly, unstintingly and shed your blood to ensure our freedom. Without you our freedom would not have been consummated."

Obviously such views were in contrast to the architects of Cuba’s annihilation. These avalanches of death-dealing hatred had nothing to do with the familiar claptrap that the island of socialism had repudiated all the vestiges of human rights and democracy. The heights of vulgarity scaled by the practitioners of exterminism were exhibited by General Alexander Haig, one of President’s Reagan’s henchmen, when he fulminated in a meeting of the National Security Council : "You just give me the word and I’ll turn that fucking little island into a parking lot." If this is not an exhortation to the Holocaust then words have no meaning. The mass exterminism propounded by Haig was not galvanized because of the apprehensions of the upshot of another Bay of Pigs.

It was because even at that time Cuba had made yet another dramatic transition: it had become militarily invulnerable. This was matched by the decline of the imperio and its military over-reach that exposed its soft underbelly. To this was added an event of the greatest importance , the alliance with Venezuela concretized in the words of Chavez:

"An attack against Cuba will be countered by an immediate cut-off of oil. More important is that it will lead to a flow of blood including the blood of Bolivarian patriots since revolutionary Cuba and Venezuela are blended in the war against imperialism. It will be an horrendous war if the imbeciles that rule the imperio are so dumb as to unleash it. And I need hardly say that it will be a devastating counterpunch that overspills the confines of Cuba." For the first time in the history of the Americas a black man was calling the shots.

In yet another of his preachments on Cuba’s transition, Bush excoriated Barack Obama for declaring that if he’s elected he would talk to everyone. In a regime in which the very mention of dialogue is anathema Bush flatly pontificated that "there can be no dialogue with the Castro tyrant that has brought nothing but disaster and poverty to his people and eliminating all traces of human dignity and freedom." This is quite a mouthful from a man that continues to prattle endlessly about human dignity when in his own backyard the American prison population stands at 2.3 million with no signs of tapering off. According to the Pew Report it now has 750 prisoners per 100,000 as against 79 per 100,000 in Switzerland. One in 15 African Americans are behind bars, as against I in 75 for Hispanics and 1 in 106 for whites.

Is Bush oblivious to the crimes against humanity in the war that he has waged against Iraq in which more than one million Iraqis have been killed and wounded? In addition, their factories, farms, homes and infrastructure have been smashed. The cost of that war has moved from billions to trillions of dollars seen from the American side of the balance sheet. The numbers are misleading in that they do not include the costs to the people of Iraq. Indeed, the policies of US exterminism was neatly encapsulated in the pithy comment of the British dramatist and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter " You either do as I say or I’ll kick your ass in." Because of its refusal to have its ass kicked in Cuba has been condemned to the chopping block. To be sure there are no presidents since 1945 that are not indictable on war crimes charges.

Bush launched one more of his transitions when his administration created a Cuba Transition Coordinator bossed by Cleb McCarry, former ambassador to Afghanistan. On 10 July 2006, a report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba demanded immediate action "to ensure the failure of the Castro’s regime succession strategy."

There was nothing new in this verbose report. It was framed as an ultimatum that bluntly stated that the land and industrial and financial sectors must be denationalized. The Roman Church and its prerogatives must be fully restored including its extensive land holdings and the end of the separation of Church and State.. It was a blueprint for the return of the neo-colonial occupation from 1898-1959. Noteworthy is that its goals could be succinctly summarized in an utterance made more than 50 years ago by an American oilman at the peak of the oil bonanza in Venezuela.

"Here in Venezuela you have the right to do what you like with your capital. This right is dearer to me than all the political rights in the world."

The Economist, that militant mouthpiece of Big Capital (it’s owned by the Pearson Trust) hollers for US intervention to halt the nationalist and socialist offensives gathering speed in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. "To put it bluntly , Latin America needs more Lula da Silvas [and his version of neo-liberalism] and fewer Chavez’s and Morales’s. This is where the United States could help." The imperial masters , however,do not require such morsels of advice because it is central to the applied logic of state terrorism.

As we have seen, institutional changes have been a permanent trait of the Revolution and the current debates and their implementation do not mark a qualitative change in their direction. It is but yet another phase of the greatest importance given the immense strides and complexity of the national economy. Cuba today is a power house of modern science and technology embracing bio-technology, electronics, engineering, information technology, the chemical and petrochemical industries, mining, the iron and steel industry, etc. To that inventory we should simply say that Cuba stands at the summit of world educational attainment.

The debate on the new transition In Cuba has reached a frenzied pace and straddles the problem of optimizing capital and labour resources. No holes are barred in these debates on the extent of administrative incompetence and corruption, and the theft of national assets. The current projects call for a massive overhaul of the bureaucracy whose swollen numbers are a deterrent to the nation’s productive advance.

These changes now underway demand a decentralization of economic decision making slated to boost productivity. The changes will require an overhaul of wholesale and retail price structures, wage payments and incentive payments, subsidies and the prevailing rationing system The latter was never designed to be a permanent fixture of a socialist order. These changes call for, as President Raul Castro stated in his 26 July 2007 policy statement, for the elimination of a host of prohibitions and red tape. Illustrative is the case of the dairy industry and specifically milk distribution. There are no overall directives engulfing the entire economy. Experimentation is proceeding on a piecemeal basis in various municipalities and then gradually extended. In the case of milk distribution this has resulted in savings of over $40 million and in addition huge savings in fuel costs.

This is how Fidel puts it in his Reflections of 16 January. "We do not intend to give anything to those who could be producing but do not produce, or who produce very little. We shall reward the merits of those who work with their hands and their minds." The question is obviously open: to what extent will these transitions, that cut deeply into the flesh of Cuba’s socialism, engender enhanced inequalities in a society whose egalitarianism is legendary.? Our query will soon be answered by unfolding events.

There are well-intentioned critics who propagate that Cuba should embrace the free market magic and its propertied social relations from whence it follows that the Chinese model is appropriate. One recalls Deng Xiaoping’s epic outburst. "To be rich is glorious" Deng’s ideas and their reverberations have been discussed in depth for several years in Cuba. But let us be realistic. What is Deng’s rallying cry other than a resounding clamour for the restoration of capitalism? A visit to China’s cities and countryside and the monstrous inequalities between them and within them is amply confirmatory of the workings of the system. Its millionaires have become billionaires. China and Cuba belong to two opposed universes. China’s level of inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, is similar to that of American capitalism.

The capitalist reality of the islands of Hong Kong and Macao owned and dominated politically by a cabal of at most a dozen mega capitalist families that are entrenched through marriage, extended family connections and their daily economic wheelings and dealings would suggest that the Cuban leadership and its people will not be following this road. Thus the relevance of the Chinese capitalist model to Cuba smacks of total irrealism.

Our lectures on transitions both within imperialism and Cuba are taking place not in an abstract world but in a world where capitalism - and American capitalism in particular – is traversing one of the most cataclysmic upheavals since the Great Depression of the l930s. The resultant of this tragedy is beyond the scope of these lectures.

But what I believe will be the most important conditioner of the future direction of socialism in Cuba are the ethical foundations on which it reposes. This is enshrined in what I conceive to be one of the most penetrating manifestos in Cuban history. It is the definition of the Revolution so masterly articulated on 1 May 2000 by the Comandante that merits quotation at length.

"The Revolution is the sense of the historic moment; it is to change all that must changed; it is equality and freedom in their plenitude; it means that we must be treated, and to treat others, as human beings; it is to emancipate ourselves by our own powers; it is to challenge the powerful dominant forces within the nation and abroad; it is to defend our values at whatever price and sacrifice; it is modesty, disinterestedness , altruism, solidarity and heroism; it means not having recourse to lies or thrashing ethical principles; it is the deep conviction that there is no force in the world capable of crushing the power of truth and ideas. Revolution is unity; it is independence; it is to fight for the materialization of our dreams for Cuba and the world; it is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism."

Frederic F. Clairmont is a prominent Canadian academic who for many years was a permanent senior economics affairs officer at the United Nations Economics Commission for Africa and the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

He taught at the University of Kings College and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. His classic work is The Rise and Fall of Economic Liberalism and his latest book is: Cuba and Venezuela: The Nemeses of Imperialism published by Citizens International in Penang, Malaysia. He is a a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique and The Economic and Political Weekly.

Frederic Clairmont is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research Articles by Frederic Clairmont