Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unity, Firmness, Victory

Miércoles, 30 de Abril del 2008 / 13:45:01 /

Cubans mark May Day on Thursday with huge celebrations and parades throughout the island under the Slogan “Unity, Firmness and Victory,” which underscores the full support by the Cuban people to their Socialist Revolution and its leadership, Fidel Castro and Raul Castro.

Havana’s Jose Marti Revolution Square is ready for central celebrations in the capital city with the participation of half a million people, who will stage a march organized by labor organizations, work centers and municipalities.

Leading the march will be the workers and students from the Havana-based Information Technologies University, followed by over 20, 000 construction workers, plus many other labor entities and enterprises, as well as neighbors of different Havana municipalities; the march will be closed by 40, 000 youths who are currently involved in the most recent social programs implemented by the Cuban Revolution.

In recent statements to reporters, the General Secretary of the Cuban Workers Federation, Salvador Valdes Mesa, called on workers to participate in the celebrations along with their families at the Revolution Square, which is ready to welcome the huge representation of the Cuban people.

May Day celebrations will run parallel in all Cuban provinces, where the people have been gearing up to the historic date for the past weeks. Enthusiasm about what has been achieved by Cubans over the past 50 years of Revolution and about the prospects ahead mark preparations for rallies and marches throughout the country.

After the triumph of the Revolution, Cuban workers celebrated May Day in 1959 for the first time. Major scenarios of that celebration were the cities of Camaguey, Santiago de Cuba and Havana, where the people were addressed by Revolution commanders Camilo Cienfuegos, Ernesto Che Guevara and Raul Castro.

Some May Day-related events in Cuba

In 1890, Cuba joined May Day celebrations in homage to the Chicago Martyrs and in meeting an accord reached by the Congress of the Socialist International, held 1889 in Paris. The Havana Workers Guild organized a march, with some 3,000 participants, on the city’s major streets.

In 1919, during a rally at the Havana-based Payret cinema, Cuban workers expressed their solidarity with the October Revolution and with the struggle waged by European workers.

In 1925, Over 4,000 Cuban workers, bearing red flags, marched along the members of the Havana Communist Organization. Cuban leader Julio Antonio Mella gave a speech in which he termed then Cuban president and dictator Gerardo Machado, as “tropical Mussolini.”

In 1961, Cuba inaugurated the international short-wave radio station Radio Havana Cuba, in an effort to counter the information blockade against the Revolution. The radio station has broadcast in seven languages all these years in an effort to take the Cuban message and solidarity with different peoples of the world.

In 1964, Fidel spoke at the main rally at the Jose Marti Revolution Square where he stressed: “we will defend this flag, this sky, thisland at any price.”

In 1980, an impressing people’s demonstration took place at the Revolution Square, where local and Latin American personalities gave speeches. Fidel Castro closed the rally by reaffirming the position of the Cuban people against the US economic blockade of Cuba, against the American naval base in the Cuban territory of Guantanamo and against US spy flights over national territory. That same May Day, the Cuban media informed about a mobilization of Cuban troops in the face of military exercises by the United States.

In the 1990´s, May Day celebrations took place amidst a very complex economic and political situation marked by the stiffening of the US economic blockade and the disappearance of the Socialist Camp and the Soviet Union.

Representatives of other nations join Cuban May Day Celebrations

Over 1, 100 unionists, parliamentarians, politicians and member of social and progressive movements from all continents confirmed their participation in May Day Celebrations in Cuba. Most of the visitors come from Europe and the Americas and they bring a message of support to the Cuban Revolution.

Unionists from Panama, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, who will be present at the celebrations, recently visited the Cuban Workers Federation building where they expressed their gratefulness to the Cuban people for their resistance against the cruel US economic blockade and for having preserved the example of Socialism in the world.

While workers and their unions take to the streets in other countries to claim for better working conditions and to protest capitalist and neo-liberal policies, Cuban workers celebrate as they openly voice their support of their Socialist Revolution, the only social and political project that has guaranteed the workers´ legitimate rights.

By Luis Chirino /ACN

TV Martí executive convicted

April 30, 2008

El Duende, a commentator of La Radio Miami reports that Cuban born José M. Miranda, a former executive of TV Marti, a propaganda television station of the United States government, was convicted by a Federal court in Miami of embezzling $112,000 from the funds of that TV station, which nobody sees in Cuba. He was sentenced to 27 months in jail. In addition, he will have to pay an $8,000 fine for having demanded under-the-table payments from a video productions company which sold products to TV Marti.

El Duende reports that TV Martí is under the control of extreme right elements in Miami.

JG: The funding of TV Martí comes from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers. It has been denounced as a corruption laden enterprise of the Miami Mafia.

U.S. Federal Court Press Release: Miranda's Indictment

A record 1 million tourists arrive in Cuba in first quarter

Granma International

Havana. April 30, 2008

ONE million tourists visited Cuba in the first quarter of 2008, and did so in record time, 22 days earlier than in 2007, officials announced at a celebration on Tuesday at the Compay Segundo Salon in the Hotel Nacional.

María Elena López, deputy minister of tourism, explained that at the close of the first quarter in 2008, the number of arriving tourists had increased by 15% compared to the same period in 2007.

López praised the thousands of Cuban workers who are raising the standards of the country’s tourist project, which enjoys stability in the regional market, and which has seen over two million tourists annually for four consecutive years.

The tourism industry in Cuba stands out for the international fairs that are organized annually, and more than 1,000 participants from other countries have registered for this year’s edition, dedicated to culture/tourism integration. The country of honor is Italy.

At the event celebrating the record 1 million, the choir Entrevoces, conducted by Digna Guerra, performed emblematic Cuban numbers like "Chan-Chan," by Compay Segundo and "De qué manera quererte," by Luis Ríos.

Translated by Granma International

More from Hillary ‘Low-Road’ Clinton in Indiana

Hillary is running out of money. She is desperate. So she sends one of her proxy groups to continue her scorched earth hate attacks on Senator Obama.

The name of the 527 group is the American Leadership Project. They are producing “independent” ads against the senator from Illinois in the Hoosier state.

The American Leadership Project operates under the IRS tax code “527″ often referred to as ’stealth non-profits’ because they can raise funds and pay for advertising outside the regulations required by the Federal Election Commission. (Source: Raw Story.)

Would you buy a used car from Hillary? It looks to me like we now have the Democratic Party equivalent of Tricky Dickey.

Cuba Denounces US Radio, TV Aggression


United Nations, Apr 29 (Prensa Latina) Cuba denounced the sustained US radio and TV aggression on Tuesday, and highlighted the recent support of the World Radiocommunication Conference.

The conference, held in Geneva in November, concluded that broadcasting to Cuba from US aircraft is in violation of the Radiocommunication Regulations, said Ileana Nunez, Cuban ambassador to the UN.

Speaking during the UN Information Committee debate, the Cuban diplomat explained that every week, US-based networks broadcast 1,889 hours of programs to the Island through 30 medium and short waves, FM and TV channels.

They generate 228-253 hours of programs daily, which have nothing to do with balanced, objective information, said Nunez.

She recalled that for fiscal year 2007, the US Congress approved a budget of $36.10 million to fund actions against Cuba, "showing complete disregard for regulations ruling international relations."

She added that 14 of the 19 networks broadcasting anti-Cuban subversive programs aim their signals directly at the Island, including three owned by the US Government itself (Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti).

She denounced that some of these networks belong or serve organizations linked to well-known US-based terrorist elements who act against Cuba with total consent of US authorities.

New Name for Cuba’s Indigenous Groups

Juventud Rebelde

A new explanatory text on the first 6000 years of human development on the island joins the debate about the new name of Cuba’s indigenous groups

By: Flor de Paz

2008-04-29 | 15:25:24 EST

The history of Cuba began at least six millennia ago —or perhaps earlier— when navigators on boats moved by oars arrived on the island from the north or the south of the American continent.

At that time, Cuba probably received the first human beings that would step on its lands. The exploration of new areas looking for other sources of natural resources promoted migration, as happened in all the history of human development.

Scattered material evidence stands as testimony of these early forages, including human and animal remains and some tools. Interpreting them and shedding light on this longer historical stage is the aim of archaeologists engaged in the study of this period of early Cuban history.

This science does not focus only on tangible matter, like that contained in a bone or stone fragment, but also looks at the biological and social entity to which that matter belonged. What’s more, it probes into the process of formation and development of those first communities.

The findings of such research will soon be available to the public, which is meant to be the prime recipient of any scientific advance but is oftentimes kept from them due, among other things, the complex and highly specialized language used to describe them, undecipherable to the most enlightened non-expert receiver.

Such it is the case of the names used to classify the first inhabitants of the island. The diversity of names, only “translatable” by specialists, stands in the way of their understanding. To solve that difficulty, and to also transmit to society the new advances in this discipline in Cuba, researchers with the Cuban Institute of Anthropology are proposing a new periodization and nomenclature for the local indigenous groups.

“The idea is to have a classification that is based on historical stages and not on economic activities, or social or ethnological aspects,” said Ulises González Herrera, head of the Institute’s archaeology department and one of those behind the proposal.

“We have defined two stages: the society of pre-tribal appropriators and that of tribal producers. In the first one we put early human (more than three thousand years before the present, B.P.), middle human (around three thousand five hundred years B.P. until the 16th century of our era) and late human (around two thousand years B.P. until the 16th century of our era). The second stage, which covers only one period, extends from about 1,500 years B.P. until the first colonial centuries.

González explained that the proposal for a new periodization and nomenclature for Cuba’s indigenous people takes into consideration three factors: the philosophical (historical materialist) concept of Socio-Economic Formation, the similarities between the human groups that lived during the two periods, and archaeological records.

“We base ourselves on the social organization, an indicator that describes the essential development of these societies at a given moment,” he added.

According to González, there are community property relations in both periods; but they established the property over the area they live in, in the society of tribal producers. “This determined that social relations were very different in one and the other. The most confusing and less studied period is that of trans-culturation, where the two community societies merged. That’s the image that chroniclers see when they come to Cuba and the Antilles.”

Names generating identity

The study of a science implies classifications, and these must be understandable for the general public, especially when they are related to historical knowledge, due to their social incidence and the fact that they generate identity. Consequently, they are not simply names.

“The denominations that are used at the moment are dissimilar. The non-specialized receiver ignores which indigenous people are classified as Siboney, White Guayabo, Proto-archaic or Archaic. The excess of names results in shunning of the subject,” said José Jiménez Santander, director of the Museum of Natural History of Santiago de Cuba, another of the participants in the new nomenclature project.

“It is not a matter of criticizing the authors that established those classifications; they did what was right then. However, science advances and the concepts change. Our objective is to try to reach a national consensus so that we all use the same nomenclature, thus facilitating understanding on this subject. We have passed on this proposal to all institutions related to archeology in our country,” he stated.

Dr. Enrique Alonso Alonso, researcher of the Cuban Institute of Anthropology and one of the main promoters of the new project, thinks that “it is also important to organize a new denomination because booklets gathering information on excavations, theoretical discussions and written history are based on different classifications.

“I think that all scientists are ready to use a new denomination and that the Cuban society needs this agreement to be established among us,” Alonso said.

First Part of Cuba’s History

To explain how life was for the first inhabitants of Cuba is the most important. “There are many errors in the understanding of this part of our history,” added Alonso.

“It is necessary that people understand the role played by those populations, who inhabited the island for thousands of years before the Spanish conquest, in the development of our nation. From Columbus’ arrival to the Americas till now, a little more than 600 years have passed.”

“We want to promote a step forward in this sense and, in addition, to point out what is not totally proven, for researchers to be focused on solving still-existing problems and questions.

“We have written a version of the history of Cuba’s indigenous people, which has been organized according to the new classification. It covers the first 6,000 years of human presence in the island and explains how the life of the indigenous people who lived in pre-tribal and tribal appropriators societies.

“We talk about their economy, social organization, habits and relations with nature. Our idea is for this to become a reference manual for all teachers, not a textbook,” Alonso said.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Castro Policy Needs Revamp, Say Florida's Young Cuban-Americans

Bloomberg

Updated: New York, Apr 29 14:02

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- As Joe Garcia digs into tamal en cazuela, a pork-cornmeal stew, at a restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, he rails against the almost five- decade U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and the politicians who promote it.

``We have a policy that is stuck in time and place, and we're not achieving any of our goals,'' says the 44-year-old Cuban-American Democrat who is trying to unseat Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, 46, a staunch embargo supporter.

While Fidel Castro and his brother Raul age in Havana, so do many stalwarts in Miami's Cuban community who have pressed successive U.S. administrations to starve Castro's regime. Now, as Raul, Cuba's new president, allows people to own cell phones and signals he may relax a ban on foreign travel, some younger Cuban-Americans are pushing to ease America's policy toward the island nation.

Garcia is banking that enough people share his frustration to help him beat the incumbent. So does Raul Martinez, 59, also a Cuban-American Democrat, who is challenging Mario's brother, Lincoln, 53, a U.S. representative for another Miami district. The Diaz-Balarts are from a well-known anti-Castro family.

Political observers are watching the contests, the first since Fidel, 81, yielded power to Raul, 76, for evidence of a change in political sentiment.

Hard-Line Commitment

Older Cubans who came to the U.S. in the early 1960s after the Castro revolution are mostly committed to a hard-line policy. Meanwhile, the number of younger Cuban-Americans who vote more on economic issues is growing.

That may signal a shift away from a reliable Republican bloc in Florida, where, in the hotly contested 2000 election, overwhelming support for George W. Bush by the Cuban community helped him win the state and the presidency.

In a focus group of 18-to-40-year-old Cuban-Americans before Florida's January primary, no one raised Cuba when asked their top 10 issues of importance, says Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen & Associates, the public-opinion research and consulting firm that conducted the session. Asked if they care about the Cuba issue, one respondent replied, ``Only for the sake of my grandmother.''

Even some of the older émigrés now are calling for new tactics.

`Maintain Control'

``Raul doesn't have the same ability to maintain control over the system as Fidel Castro had,'' says Francisco Hernandez, the 71-year-old head of the Cuban American National Foundation, an advocacy group in Miami. ``Things are going to change. We should somehow help those changes to take place.''

Ending economic isolation is already on the agenda of Carlos Saladrigas, a 59-year-old Cuban-American businessman who co-chairs the Cuba Study Group. The Washington-based organization aims to make small loans to entrepreneurs in Cuba.

``We're the ideal and natural market for Cuban goods,'' he says. ``There's nothing more logical than that.''

Vicki Huddleston, the former chief American diplomat in Havana, says the U.S. could have ``considerably more influence inside Cuba if we could stimulate change there.'' One way, she says, is to permit American Internet companies to operate on the island.

In 2000 U.S. lawmakers eased the trade embargo and allowed the export of agricultural and medical goods to Cuba. Shipments rose to $447 million last year, from $341 million in 2006, according to U.S. trade data.

Lift Restrictions

Garcia says he doesn't advocate completely abandoning the embargo because too many people still support it. Instead he emphasizes domestic concerns and wants to lift restrictions Bush imposed in 2004 on travel to Cuba and sending money there.

Liudmila Ruiz, a 33-year-old receptionist at a local beauty salon, is the kind of voter Garcia seeks. She was studying medicine in Cuba when the U.S. visa lottery enabled her to immigrate to Florida in 2000. She laments she can't afford to buy a house and doesn't have health insurance.

``You care about Cuba,'' she says. ``But you care about stuff here more.''

When Fidel handed over power to Raul, Bush said he wouldn't talk to a ``tyrant.'' The State Department urged the Cuban government ``to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change'' and then later dismissed Raul's efforts to loosen restrictions. ``The situation has not changed from today to 10 years ago, to 20 years ago,'' spokesman Sean McCormack said April 18.

Status Quo

Many older Cuban-Americans -- and even some younger advocates who echo their grandparents' views -- hail such fortitude. Others see it as a sign that Bush, worried a change might provoke a refugee crisis, prefers the status quo.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said it's time for a shift in policy and is open to talking with Raul. His rival, Hillary Clinton, and Republican presidential nominee John McCain have both said they won't meet with him.

Maritza Aldir, 23, who lives in Miami Beach and works as a sales coordinator at a television station, says the younger generation is ``tired'' of the conflict the embargo has caused in the Cuban-American community.

She's active with Raices de Esperanza, or ``Roots of Hope,'' a group of 15-to-35-year-olds that doesn't take a stand on U.S.-Cuba policy while trying to find ways to communicate with and support young people there.

``My friends here in Miami, what we really want is to just engage with the people of Cuba and just learn from each other,'' she says.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janine Zacharia in Miami at jzacharia@bloomberg.net

New book about Havana in the sixteenth century


Havana and the Atlantic in the Sixteenth Century
(Hardcover)
by Alejandro de la Fuente (Author)


Book Description

Havana in the 1550s was a small coastal village with a very limited population that was vulnerable to attack. By 1610, however, under Spanish rule it had become one of the best-fortified port cities in the world and an Atlantic center of shipping, commerce, and shipbuilding. Using all available local Cuban sources, including parish registries and notary, town council, and treasury records, Alejandro de la Fuente provides the first examination of the transformation of Havana into a vibrant Atlantic port city and the fastest-growing urban center in the Americas in the late sixteenth century.

De la Fuente argues that Havana was much more than a port servicing the Spanish imperial powers. Analyzing how slaves, soldiers, merchants, householders, and transient sailors and workers participated socially, economically, and institutionally in the city, he shows how local ambitions took advantage of the imperial design and how, in the process, Havana was turned into a Caribbean trading center with a distinctly Mediterranean flavor. By situating Havana within the slavery and economic systems of the colonial Atlantic, de la Fuente also contributes to the growing focus on port cities as contexts for understanding the early development of global networks for economic and cultural exchange.

About the Author

Alejandro de la Fuente is associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is author of A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba (from the University of North Carolina Press).

Available from Amazon.com on May 12, 2008. Free shipping.

CIW delivers petitions to Burger King

March 29, 2008

Yesterdy, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers delivered its petitions to Burger King, reported Laura Wides-Munos, of the Associated Press, according to the local newspaper The Ledger.

On Monday a Florida newspaper reported that a top Burger King official used his young daughter's e-mail address to spread misinformation about the farmworker group.

The petition was delivered at the giant's fast food headquarters in Miami, Florida. It contained 80,000 signatures from 50 states and 42 countries.

"We want Burger King to come to the discussion table and enter into an agreement with the coalition," said Gerardo Reyes, a farmworker and member of the group, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. "We are making the same demands we have made of the rest of the fast-food industry."

Reyes said the petitions were a precursor to a boycott. The coalition waged a successful boycott against Taco Bell owner Yum Brands several years ago.

Both McDonald's and Yum Brands have agreed to a deal with the coalition in which the companies pay growers a penny more per pound for the tomatoes they buy. The growers pass on the money to their workers. The deal also calls on the companies to work with the coalition to establish a code of conduct for their suppliers.

Burger King refuses to agree to pay the extra penny per pound to tomato pickers.

---

JG: Do not wait for the boycott. Burger King is a bad and greedy corporation. Do not patronize their restaurants. Since last November, when I participated, together with 2,000 more people, on the historic march on Burger King's headquarters in Miami, I have not visited a BK restaurant. Lets hit them where it hurts: their bottom line.

Panamanian President Arrives in Cuba on Tuesday for Official Visit

HAVANA, Cuba, April 29 (acn) Panamanian President Martin Torrijos Espino arrives on Tuesday morning in Havana for an official visit at the invitation of the President of the Cuban Councils of State and Ministers, Raul Castro Ruz.

According to a note published by Granma and Juventud Rebelde newspapers, the visiting delegation also includes First Vice President and Foreign Minister, Samuel Lewis Navarro; the Minister of Trade and Industries, Carmen Gisela Vergara and other high-ranking Panamanian officials.

This new visit of the Panamanian leader to the Caribbean nation is part of both countries’ efforts to continue strengthening the existing bilateral political, trade and cooperation ties.

During his stay in Cuba, Torrijos will host official talks with his Cuban counterpart.

Cuba and Bolivia Sign Three Cooperation Accords

HAVANA, Cuba, April 28 (acn) Cuba and Bolivia signed three agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation, in Havana on Monday.

The host Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and his Bolivian counterpart David Choquehuanca subscribed two agreements, one on the serving of judicial sentences and a second accord on the protection and recovery of cultural and patrimonial assets.

A third agreement on cooperation in the fields of sports and physical education was signed by the president of Cuba’s National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) Christian Jimenez, and Saul Chavez Orozco, ambassador of Bolivia in Havana.

At the official talks held earlier in the Foreign Ministry, Perez Roque said that Cuba supports the government of Evo Morales and the social and democratic changes underway in Bolivia; and rejects the dividing attempts within the country as well as the foreign interference and conspiracies against the Andean nation.

Choquehuanca Cespedes for his part said that Bolivia has made the decision to get back its dignity and sovereignty along with its natural resources and its strategic enterprises formerly in the hands of trans- national companies.

Also on Monday, the Bolivian visitor laid a wreath at the monument to Jose Marti, Cuba’s National Hero, in Havana’s Revolution Square.

The Bolivian government official and his delegation came to Cuba amidst particular tensions in their country following destabilizing and secessionist plans aimed against the country’s current constitutional order and territorial integrity.

U.S. government terrorism against Cuba

April 29th, 2008

I have translated a few key paragraphs of Raul Castro’s speech before the VI Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba:

Our enemies fomented dozens of bands of insurgents which brought mourning to our people; they assassinated young literacy teachers and peasants; they launched piratical attacks; they sabotaged the principal sectors of the economy and developed hundreds of assassination attempts against our leaders, especially against the Chief of our Revolution.

It would be ingenuous and irresponsible to renounce to the dissuasive effect of the death penalty against the true mercenary terrorists who are at the service of the empire, because it would put in danger the life and security of our people.

In all these years, there have been 713 terrorist acts against Cuba, 56 of them since 1990, organized and financed from American territory, with a toll of 3,478 deaths and 2,099 injured.

VI Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (En Español)



VI Plenary Session - Central Committe

Granma

April 29th, 2008

Celebrado el VI Pleno del Comité Central del Partido

Si se ha trabajado fuerte en estos últimos meses, habrá que hacerlo mucho más en los que están por delante


Afirmó Raúl al hacer las conclusiones del VI Pleno del Comité Central del PCC. Transmitió la propuesta del Buró Político de celebrar el VI Congreso del Partido en los meses finales del próximo año. Llamó a afianzar el papel del Partido en la sociedad y reforzar la institucionalidad en el país. Informó la decisión de designar a José R. Fernández Álvarez, Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros, para atender el sector educacional. Elegidos miembros del Buró Político los compañeros Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Salvador Valdés Mesa y el general de cuerpo de ejército Álvaro López Miera.

Presidido por el Segundo Secretario del Partido, compañero Raúl Castro Ruz, este 28 de abril se efectuó el VI Pleno del Comité Central, el cual analizó temas relacionados con el funcionamiento de la organización, entre otros referidos al desarrollo del país y el complejo panorama internacional.

Poco antes de finalizar la reunión, Raúl informó que el Buró Político consideraba necesario llevar a cabo el VI Congreso del Partido. Señaló que en la reunión efectuada esa misma mañana, se valoró proponer al Comité Central realizarlo a finales del segundo semestre del año próximo, aunque la convocatoria oficial se dará a conocer en el momento oportuno.

PERFECCIONAR LA LABOR DEL PARTIDO. REFORZAR LA INSTITUCIONALIDAD

El Segundo Secretario del Partido ratificó que resulta necesario y decisivo contar con instituciones fuertes. Insistió en la idea de que mientras mayores sean las dificultades, más orden y disciplina se requieren, y para ello es vital reforzar la institucionalidad.


ELEGIDOS COMO MIEMBROS DEL BURÓ POLÍTICO LOS COMPAÑEROS COMANDANTE DE LA REVOLUCIÓN RAMIRO VALDÉS MENÉNDEZ, SALVADOR VALDÉS MESA Y EL GENERAL DE CUERPO DE EJÉRCITO ÁLVARO LÓPEZ MIERA.

Dijo que el Partido debe continuar perfeccionando su labor y autoridad ante las masas y afirmó que hoy se ha dado un paso importante en esa dirección, y en la de afianzar su papel como vanguardia organizada de la nación cubana, que lo situará en mejores condiciones para enfrentar los retos del futuro y, como ha expresado el compañero Fidel, para asegurar la continuidad de la Revolución cuando ya no estén sus dirigentes históricos.

Raúl informó su decisión de designar al compañero José Ramón Fernández Álvarez, Vicepresidente del Consejo de Ministros, para atender, controlar y coordinar la labor de los ministerios de Educación y Educación Superior, además del INDER, así como las actividades vinculadas a la educación que desarrollan otros organismos de la Administración Central del Estado, incluyendo los centros de enseñanza y universidades militares. Tras resaltar sus cualidades y buenos resultados, expresó: "Deseamos que surjan muchos inspirados en su ejemplo".

Puntualizó que la producción de alimentos constituye una tarea principal para los dirigentes del Partido, pues se trata de un asunto de seguridad nacional, que en particular exige de los primeros secretarios de municipios y provincias brindar el máximo apoyo y controlar, no por papeles y reuniones, sino en el terreno, hablando directamente con los encargados de producir, la puesta en práctica de las medidas que han comenzado a aplicarse en la agricultura.

DECISIÓN DE CONMUTAR LA PENA DE MUERTE A UN GRUPO DE SANCIONADOS

En sus conclusiones, el compañero Raúl informó acerca de la decisión adoptada esa misma mañana por el Consejo de Estado, de conmutar la pena de muerte a un grupo de sancionados, a quienes en su lugar corresponde la de privación perpetua de libertad, excepto los que cometieron el hecho delictivo antes de establecerse esta sanción en nuestro Código Penal, que les sería aplicable la de 30 años de prisión.

Recordó que desde el año 2000 se ha aplicado la política de no ejecutar ninguna sanción de este tipo, la que solo fue interrumpida en abril del 2003 para frenar en seco la oleada de más de 30 intentos y planes de secuestro de aviones y barcos, alentados por la política de los Estados Unidos, recién iniciada la guerra en Iraq.
Raúl hizo énfasis en que la decisión adoptada es un acto soberano no motivado por presiones, en consonancia con la conducta humanitaria y ética de la Revolución, animada por el espíritu de justicia y no de venganza, conociendo además que el compañero Fidel es favorable a eliminar, cuando existan las condiciones propicias, la pena de muerte por cualquier tipo de delito y se opone a los métodos extrajudiciales que algunos países conocidos practican impúdicamente.

Aclaró que este acuerdo del Consejo de Estado no significa la supresión de la pena capital del Código Penal cubano, pues en las actuales circunstancias no podemos desarmarnos frente a un imperio que no cesa de acosarnos y agredirnos.

ELEGIDOS TRES NUEVOS MIEMBROS DEL BURÓ POLÍTICO Y LOS INTEGRANTES DE SU COMISIÓN

El compañero Raúl alertó que ante la realidad actual y perspectiva, hay que trabajar unidos por seguir adelante con el mismo espíritu de lucha y firmeza de estos casi 50 años de Revolución.

Señaló que los acuerdos adoptados dan fin a la etapa de provisionalidad iniciada el 31 de julio del 2006 con la Proclama del Comandante en Jefe, hasta el mensaje en que nos expresó su propósito de ser solo un soldado de las ideas, vísperas del 24 de febrero del presente año, periodo en que se trabajó colegiadamente sobre la base de la delegación de funciones que él realizó.

En correspondencia con las facultades que le otorgan los Estatutos, el VI Pleno eligió como miembros del Buró Político a los compañeros Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Salvador Valdés Mesa y general de cuerpo de ejército Álvaro López Miera.

Igualmente fue aprobada la propuesta del Buró Político de constituir la Comisión de dicho órgano, que con un número reducido de sus integrantes haga más operativo y funcional el proceso de toma de decisiones que requieran un rápido tratamiento y al mismo tiempo permita una evaluación colectiva. Esta quedó integrada por los compañeros Raúl Castro Ruz, José Ramón Machado Ventura, Juan Almeida Bosque, Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, Carlos Lage Dávila, Esteban Lazo Hernández y Julio Casas Regueiro, quienes coinciden con el Presidente, el Primer Vicepresidente y los vicepresidentes del Consejo de Estado.

PERFECCIONADA LA COMISIÓN DE CUADROS DEL COMITÉ CENTRAL Y CREADAS SIETE COMISIONES PERMANENTES

El Pleno ratificó la propuesta del Buró Político de perfeccionar la Comisión de Cuadros del Comité Central del Partido, como instrumento para fortalecer el control de este sobre la aplicación de la política en tan decisivo frente.

Además, en correspondencia con lo establecido en los Estatutos, el Pleno acordó crear siete comisiones permanentes subordinadas al Buró Político, atendidas operativamente por el Secretariado del Comité Central y presididas en todos los casos por uno de sus secretarios, estas son: Ideológica y cultura, Económica, Agroalimentaria, Para el estudio de la sustitución de importaciones e incremento de las exportaciones, Educación, ciencia y deportes, Salud y Relaciones internacionales.

Su contenido de trabajo estará dirigido al análisis de los asuntos más importantes dentro de la temática asignada. También podrán hacer sugerencias, recomendaciones y propuestas que les sean expresamente solicitadas por la dirección del Partido.
Raúl finalizó sus conclusiones con palabras que resumen la voluntad de avanzar y confianza en el futuro:

"Si se ha trabajado fuerte en estos últimos meses, habrá que hacerlo mucho más en los que están por delante. Confío que cada cual sabrá hacerlo desde la responsabilidad o tarea que tenga, con la entrega, sabiduría y fidelidad que exige el momento que vivimos."

Discurso de Raul Castro

Cuba to convene first Communist Party congress since 1997

By ANITA SNOW – 5 hours ago

HAVANA
(AP) — President Raul Castro announced Monday that Cuba will convene its first Communist Party congress since 1997 — a gathering that could chart the island's political future long after he and his older brother Fidel are gone.

Castro also said the government within weeks will commute death sentences for several inmates. The prisoners are likely to include two Central Americans sentenced for planting bombs, one of which killed an Italian tourist, in Havana tourist locales a decade ago. Capital punishment will remain on the books in Cuba.

The congress — planned for next year — follows a series of minor social changes the younger Castro has decreed during his first two months in power to make life easier and less restrictive for ordinary Cubans.

"We have worked hard in these past few months, and will have to do so even more," Raul Castro said during a Central Committee gathering aired on state television. He said the nation's leadership must prepare for "when the historic generations are no longer around."

Fidel Castro, 81, has not been seen in public since July 2006, when he first fell ill and relinquished interim powers to the 76-year-old Raul. He stepped down as president in February, but officially remains head of the party as its first secretary.

His post could be awarded to someone else at the congress, scheduled for the second half of 2009. An exact date has not been set.

The congress also likely will replace some members of the party's select 24-member Politburo and the larger policy-making Central Committee it heads.

Castro, who wore a white tropical dress shirt, said the commutation of the death sentences was a gesture of good will, but he did not say how many prisoners would be affected.

Castro said most cases being studied involved common crimes. But he said the government also was reviewing the death sentences of Ernesto Cruz Leon and Otto Rene Rodriguez Llerena, arrested in 1997 after allegedly planting a series of bombs.

"We have not made this decision under pressure but as a sovereign act as a consequence of the humanitarian and ethical conduct that has always characterized the Cuban revolution," Castro said, adding that Cuban policies have "always been motivated by a sprit of justice but not revenge."

The Communist Party is the only one Cuba legally recognizes, and is virtually indistinguishable from the government, with all of the same major players.

The party congress in 1997 set general policy for five years but made no major changes in Cuba's political course, instead dedicating much of its debate to demanding greater efficiency from state farms and factories as Cuba struggled to spark its moribund economy.

That was a drastic change from the fourth party congress in 1991, when Cuba was still recovering from the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

That meeting helped open the way for modest economic and political reforms, including the direct election of parliament, a rapprochement with churches and creation of small-scale private businesses.

Much of the Communist Party's leadership consists of men and women who were children — or not yet born — when Castro's revolutionaries toppled a dictator and marched into Havana in January 1959.

Granma International article (In English)

Monday, April 28, 2008

John McCain: 100 years in Iraq: "that would be fine with me"

Remember that when you vote in November

Another politician says no to reforming our failed Cuba policies

www.minnpost.com

Mon, Apr 28 2008 2:49 pm

Pawlenty vetoes legislative call for ending Cuba trade, travel restrictions

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has vetoed the Legislature's resolution urging the president and Congress to end Cuban trade and travel restrictions. Many legislators figured the nonbinding resolution was a nice way to support state farmers and business people who'd like to see some economic opportunities with a nearby nation.

When we mentioned the possibility of a veto last Wednesday, there didn't seem to be a great chance it would happen. The governor's press people didn't even call back when I inquired.

But the Friday veto does put the governor in line with Sen. John McCain's position on Cuba: Support the embargo as a way to deny the Cuban government resources to continue its repression of the Cuban people.

Pawlenty called the resolution "inappropriate," the Associated Press reported, quoting from Pawlenty's veto letter: "It is unfortunate that the Legislature passed a bill that completely contradicts a long history of U.S. policy against a totalitarian nation." — Joe Kimball

---

JG: Another reactionary politician with his head buried deep in the sand.

South Africa Welcomes Cuban Doctors

IPS News

By Stephanie Nieuwoudt

CAPE TOWN, Apr 28 (IPS)
- For more than a decade, Cuban doctors have filled part of a gap left by South African doctors who in large numbers leave the country looking for better salaries and employment opportunities.

According to Fidel Radebe, director of communications for South Africa’s department of health, there are currently 134 Cuban doctors in the country working under a government-to-government agreement between Cuba and South Africa.

The first Cuban doctors who came to the country under this agreement arrived in 1996 -- two years after the African National Congress (ANC) came to power.

Socialist Cuba was a firm supporter of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and the ANC and other leftwing movements in South Africa always had a natural affinity for Cuba’s stated struggle against "neo imperialism."

More...

Fidel Castro Delegate to CDR Congress

Havana, Apr 27 (Prensa Latina) The historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, and President Raul Castro were elected direct delegates to the seventh Congress of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the country's largest network of neighborhood block associations.

The decision was made Saturday during the first provincial assembly in Cienfuegos, as the previous step to the Congress this year, according to Juventud Rebelde daily.

CDR National Coordinator Juan Jose Rabilero said the preparations for the meeting show how its over 8 million members are raising awareness on their role to defend the Revolution.

The participants at the assembly praised the role of the CDR affiliates in fighting corruption and irregularities, and in surveillance tasks.

Mexican sailors on Cuban soil, with a fraternal message


The Cuauhtémoc enters Havana Bay

Granma International

Havana. April 28, 2008

By Katia Siberia García —Granma daily—

THE Mexican navy has reached Havana’s shores and, by lowering its training ship anchor, reaffirmed the friendship bewteen the two countries. The message of brotherhood traveled this time aboard the Cuauhtémoc, where the spirit of future navy officers is developed and which is making its third trip to Cuba.

Its 266 crew members, under the command of Captain Mario Carbajal Ramírez, were welcomed in an official ceremony at the Cruiseship Terminal within the Port of Havana, by Rear Admiral Luis González Navarro, chief deputy of the Revolutionary War Navy, who emphasized the opportunity provided by the visit to strengthen the warm relations between the countries. Also in attendance was Gabriel Jiménez Remus, Mexican ambassador in Cuba.

The ship’s voyage will continue through next November 23 across a variety of the world’s regions, as recounted by Capitan Ramirez. The ship’s commander described the visit as very pleasant and invited Cubans to visit the Cuauhtémoc, which will be open April 27-28 until 6:00 p.m.

A group of Mexican sailors had a cordial visit with Admiral Pedro Pérez Betancourt, head of the Revolutionary War Navy at the Revolutionary Armed Forces Ministry’s Foreign Relations Department. Pérez Betancourt expressed Cuba’s love for Mexico to the visitors.

During a meeting with the Havana Provincial Assembly of People’s Power, the visitors were awarded a plaque commemorating the 485th anniversary of the city. Jorge Luis de La Rosa Hilario, the assembly’s vice president, gave an overview of the country and accepted the Mexican ship’s coat of arms as a symbol of the effort undertaken by that vessel.

Yesterday afternoon floral wreaths were placed at the Havana monuments to Benito Juárez and José Martí.

The Cuauhtémoc will remain in Havana Bay through April 29. The trade winds will then fill its sails and its crew will once again be sloughing the seas.

Translated by Granma International

For Democratic Senate nominee: Steve Novick

By The Oregonian

Saturday April 26, 2008, 4:19 PM

Gordon Smith draws a sheaf of determined challengers, but the race calls for a bold new direction

Oregon Democrats have long coveted the seat of Sen. Gordon Smith, the only Republican currently holding statewide office. They consider him vulnerable because of the way he has supported the policies of an unpopular president while managing to rile many in his party. And in a year in which Democrats are expected to gain ground in Congress, they just may be right.

We think the candidate they should send to face Smith is, in some ways, the unlikeliest one of all: Steve Novick, an Ivy League lawyer who stands 4'-9" and has a hook instead of a left hand.

This choice is unorthodox not just because of Novick's remarkable personal characteristics and history, but because the Democratic Party establishment is supporting another solid candidate, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley. Merkley launched his campaign after other prominent Oregon Democrats decided not to undertake the rigors and risks of a race against a well-heeled incumbent.

Merkley is an accomplished, decent and dignified politician. He has presided over a refreshingly productive legislative session -- one-and-a-half of them, in fact -- and has a compelling resume and personal story as the son of a southern Oregon mill worker and the first in his family to attend college.

Merkley and Novick are joined in the primary by Candy Neville, a bright and passionate woman from Eugene. She is drawing attention with her anti-war platform, yet is less prepared to be a senator than either of her two major rivals.

Also on the Democratic primary ballot are David Loera, Roger Obrist and perennial candidate Pavel Goberman, none of whom has mounted a serious campaign. On the Republican side, Smith is being challenged by fringe candidate Gordon Leitch.

Novick declared his intention to run against Smith early on, but Merkley, thanks to his party organization's support, became the automatic front-runner when he entered the race. Yet Novick has gained national attention as Merkley's campaign has stumbled. Novick clearly is a smart campaigner and has an untypical but convincing record of productive achievement.

Leading the team of lawyers working on the federal government's case against Occidental Petroleum in the matter of Love Canal, Novick won a settlement that saved American taxpayers some $129 million in cleanup and relocation costs. He helped unite a fractious caucus in the Oregon Senate at a time when Democrats were a badly outnumbered minority.

He exposed some fuzzy thinking by the Oregon Lottery Commission in setting its formulas for paying retailers who hosted lottery games, achieving administrative gains although his side's victory in appeals court was later overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court. Novick managed campaigns that defeated such measures as 2000's Measure 91, which would have had a dramatic, destructive impact on the state's budget, thanks to its unresolved technical and legal questions.

Merkley has been everything Oregonians could want in a House speaker. Even his opponents harbor him little ill-will, crediting him with restoring a measure of civility to a divided chamber. But watching this campaign, Democrats may want to take a sharper course.

Novick is an unusual man with an unusual resume -- characteristics that some suggest aren't suited to the U.S. Senate. But we think his passion, his intellect and his personal style give him an intriguing combination of qualities that most senators don't possess.

We think Novick represents a bold choice for Democrats who seek to dislodge a veteran incumbent. He has the potential to press Smith as he has done Merkley. And, should he pull off what would be a major electoral upset and go to Washington as the new junior senator from Oregon, he has the potential to make Oregonians proud.

Qatari Diar invest $70 millions in Cuba

www.ameinfo.com

April 28, 2008

Qatari Diar have signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Republic of Cuba for a $70m investment to develop an exclusive 5 star resort in Cuba.

The Memorandum of Agreement was signed by Ahmed Al-Mazroei, Deputy Chief Executive of Qatari Diar and Marta Lomas, Minister for International Investment, Republic of Cuba at Qatari Diar's Lusail headquarters.

The investment at Cayo Largo will develop an exclusive 5-star resort, consisting of a 200 bedroom hotel and 60 deluxe villas. Cayo Largo Resort is located on an island, twenty five minutes by aircraft off the Cuban mainland. The hotel will also have world class facilities including a spa and fitness centre and conference facilities.

The $70m investment is a joint venture with Gran Caribe, a Cuban company 100% owned by the Cuban Ministry of Tourism. Three further sites have been identified in Cuba for future developments.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ahmed Al-Mazroei, Deputy Chief Executive of Qatari Diar said, 'Qatari Diar are delighted to have signed this Memorandum of Agreement. We believe that this project highlights the strong relationship between our two countries and we look forward to working with Gran Caribe on the development. This is another example of Qatari Diar's focus of creating long term sustainable projects.'

In keeping with Qatari Diar's tradition of creating sustainable, community-enhancing projects, the building of the resort will generate hundreds of jobs during the construction phase while enhancing Cuba's tourism infrastructure and desirability as a tourist destination. The resort will boast the highest standards of quality of luxury and will reflect the traditions and customs of the local culture. The resort will also help cater to the needs of the Cuban business and tourism sectors, and will serve as an attractive venue for the growing number of people expected to travel to the country in the near future.

Marta Lomas, Minister for International Investment, Republic of Cuba added, 'This is the beginning of a partnership that will continue to strengthen the relationship between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Cuba and our two leaders.'

Marcelo V. Montenegro, Qatari Diar's Country Manager for Cuba added that 'Cuba is a fantastic country to visit. These investments will continue to develop Cuba's tourism infrastructure. We look forward to completing the development and working on the three additional sites.'

Cuba gives raises to retirees, court employees; says more salary increases on way

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press

Published: April 27, 2008

HAVANA: Cuba's government on Sunday announced sizable raises for retirees and court employees, and promised future pay hikes for other government workers, saying the increases would target lower-income islanders in a bid to reduce inequalities.

The pay increases — which will affect almost one in five Cubans — were the first since 2005 and the first since Raul Castro replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president. Since taking office in February, he has done away with some of Cuba's most-despised restrictions on daily life, bolstering his popularity and sparking rumors that more changes are coming.

Beginning in May, more than 2.1 million retirees will receive pension increases of just under US$2 (€1.28) a month, raising minimum monthly pensions to US$9.50 (€6), according to a notice published in the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

Elderly Cubans who already collect larger retirement checks will see their benefits increase to US$19 (€12), the statement said.

More than 9,000 court employees will get raises worth US$10 (€6.40), with judges and prosecutors receiving monthly increases roughly double that. The sector's median monthly salary will increase to about US$27 (€17), according to the statement.

While such increases are tiny by international standards, they will go a long way in a country where the government controls more than 90 percent of the economy and most people live rent-free. The communist system also provides free education and health care and a ration program for basic food needs.

Still, most Cubans find it virtually impossible to live on government salaries, and retirees are an especially vulnerable.

"It's something, at least. A little more money to get more food every month," said Maria Sotorongo, a 78-year-old widow who said she spent much of her life as a housewife and therefore doesn't collect a full pension.

"But it's not enough," she added. "Many people will keep complaining because they need more."

The government statement Sunday said it was raising salaries, "starting with those that were the lowest in the fair effort to reduce social inequalities and ensure that every citizen can live on his work and pension."

Castro has said publicly that state salaries are not enough to live on and his government has suggested it will do away with wage limits and rework the official salary system, creating incentives to work by allowing government employees to earn as much as they can.

That has fueled speculation of widespread government wage increases. Sunday's statement said more raises would come in time, but added that the government could not yet afford to pay all state employees more.

"Currently, it is not possible to apply salary increases to all labor sectors, given that the country does not have the necessary resources at the moment," it said. "The salary increases will apply by sector and priority, always following a rigorous evaluation of the economic and financial conditions."

The raises in pensions will cost the government more than US$38 million (€24 million) annually, while increases in court salaries will cost about US$658,000 (€422,000) per year.

Since succeeding his 81-year-old brother to become Cuba's first new president in nearly five decades, Raul Castro has dropped unpopular restrictions that kept Cubans from staying at luxury hotels and renting cars. He has authorized Cubans to own cell phones and computers and buy DVD players and coveted kitchen appliances for the first time.

The changes have sparked rampant rumors that more changes are coming, including an easing of restrictions on travel outside of Cuba and a strengthening of the peso against the dollar.

"There are rumors but little has come out officially," said a frail retiree who only gave his name as Alejandro and said he supplements his pension by selling newspapers in Havana's historic district. "The (increase) in pensions is positive. Maybe more things will come."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Is Clinton a modern day Kerensky?

The lessons of history are something that historians and political analysts are always poring over. Something that they all might agree on is the fact that when a nation’s people want change, there is no stopping them.

A case in point is John Reed’s classic “Ten days that shook the world.” The Russians were being bled by World War I. After the upheavals of 1905 and March 1917, Prime Minister Kerensky told the masses that he was a revolutionary and that he would be their instrument of change. But behind the people’s back he instituted policies that favored the bourgeoisie. He continued to dawdle on the war. People lost faith in him.

Is history repeating itself again today? Hillary Clinton is trying to convince blue collar Americans that she is their savior. But she continues to accept large sums of money from lobbyists, PAC’s and special interests groups. Today the war in Iraq is not getting any better, despite the protestations by Bush and Petraeus. Hillary voted to authorize the war. She is not believable on that issue.

This year, Americans want change from the disastrous policies of George W. Bush, a president who 68% of USA’s masses reject.

The American people will get their change. With ballots and not bullets!

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WSJ: Clinton Foundation Secrets

St. Augustine Group Helps Environmental Hero in Cuba

Fitst Coast News

4/27/2008 4:42:33 PM

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL -- A woman in Cuba is Living Green with help from the First Coast.

Irania Martinez won a Hero Award from CNN for her work in her hometown of Guantanamo, Cuba.

She turned a toxic dumpsite into a garden.

Her daughter died from leukemia. Doctors in Cuba believe toxic waste had a role in her daughter's death.

Her friends in St. Augustine nominated Martinez for the Hero Award, and to their surprise, she won.

"I was very touched that they work in this heat with flies and fleas," said Kristy Weeks with the St. Augustine Baracoa Friendship Association. "They do it from their hearts to clean up their earth."

But CNN couldn't give Martinez the cash award due to the embargo between the U.S. and Cuba.

That's when Martinez' friends stepped in.

They've been raising the money on their own.

And Sunday night at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, the Panache Hair Salon is hosting a "Green Fashion Show" to raise money for Martinez to allow her to continue cultivating her dream.

CNN told First Coast News it donated the prize money to UNICEF.

Created: 4/26/2008 9:07:16 AM
Updated: 4/26/2008 12:33:34 PM
Edited by Gary Detman, Nightside EP

Mel Martinez: Still Dreaming!

Published: Sunday, April 27, 2008

Martinez: Keep Embargo

Florida Senator Still Agrees with Bush's Strict Sanctions

By KIRSTEN B. MITCHELL

WASHINGTON BUREAU


WASHINGTON | Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, 46 years removed from Sagua la Grande, a port city on Cuba's northern coast, remains an adamant supporter of the Bush administration's hard-nosed policy toward his homeland.

More...

ETECSA reports 7,400 new accounts

Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde reports that monopoly telco Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) has said that 7,400 new mobile accounts have been opened since 14 April, when Cubans were allowed to take up the service for the first time. Previously, handsets were offered only to foreigners and government officials, although many others already had cell phones through contracts signed for them by foreigners. According to ETECSA spokesman Maximo Lafuente Vazquez, about 300,000 cellular lines already existed on the island before President Raul Castro's new government lifted the restriction on service, and the government's aim is to have 1.6 million subscribers within five years. A service contract costs the equivalent of USD120 to activate — six months’ wages on the average state salary.

Source: TeleGeorgrapy

Hundreds of Guests to Cuban May Day

Havana, Apr 27 (Prensa Latina) The Revolution's Plaza, in Havana, other provinces, and the special Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) municipality will host 1,230 guests from 56 countries that will participate in a parade on the International Workers' Day.

CTC (Cuban Workers' Central Union) National Secretary's office member Raymundo Navarro told Granma daily the guests, who are leaders of unions, social and progressive movements, and organizations of solidarity with Cuba, represent 129 organizations of all continents.

They will fulfill a program to visit working centers and other interesting places, including attendance to the cultural gala scheduled for Tuesday night at eight, at the Astral Theater, the daily said.

Most guests, who will also participate in the special morning rallies to be held on Wednesday, April 30 in the working groups, will attend on May 2 the International Meeting of Solidarity at Havana's Conference Center, summoned by the CTC.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

U.S. to Face Cuba at RFK In Qualifier

By Steven Goff

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, April 26, 2008; Page E03

The U.S. men's national soccer team will play Cuba in a 2010 World Cup qualifier at RFK Stadium this fall, provided both sides win their second-round series in June.

More...

Anatoly Karpov: I brought these chess sets for Fidel and Raul

Cuban News Agency

Havana, April 24 (acn) Former Chess World Champ Anatoly Karpov announced, during a press conference here, that he presented Cuban President Raul Castro and Revolution leader Fidel Castro with two chess boards since he knew that Cuban leaders like chess.

“I know that Cuban leaders are fans of chess and therefore I brought this gift for Fidel and Raul, which we make in Russia and that bear my name,” said Karpov. He said that both chess boards were made following the design of those used during the 1966 Havana Olympics.

Karpov said he was very impressed with the popularity of chess in Cuba and the enthusiasm of the people during the simultaneous matches he attended in Cuba, first in central Santa Clara city (2004), and last Monday at the Havana-based IT university.

Karpov also extended his appreciation to Cuba for the treatment given to the victims of the Chernobil nuclear accident, an issue he said that he follows closely in his condition of president of the victims´ commission.

Friday, April 25, 2008

US Nancy Pelosi: Blockade of Cuba Should be Lifted

Escambray

April 25, 2008

Havana (ACN) - The speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said the US economic blockade of Cuba “has failed and should be lifted.”

The US congresswoman made her statements in an interview with CNN on Friday as she answered questions on different Latin American issues.

Pelosi recalled that she has been advocating for a change of Washington’s policy towards Cuba for some time now, which include the lifting of travel restrictions to Cuba, family remittances, trade exchange, among others relevant to the US economic blockade on the Caribbean archipelago, and which would allow for the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The over-45-year US economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba has translated into over-89-billion-dollar losses. The unilateral measure, which was reinforced by the George W. Bush administration in a failed attempt to topple the Cuban Revolution, has been overwhelmingly condemned by UN member nations over the past years.

Contact your Florida State Senator. Ask him/her to vote NO on Senate Bill 1310

There is an effort taking place in the Florida legislature to increase state regulation of agencies selling trips to Cuba -- for families and other legally licensed travelers. The measure has already passed the Florida House, introduced by Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican, and is now headed for the Florida Senate, where it is sponsored by Senator Carey Baker, a Eustis Republican.

''This bill is presented as an anti-terrorism bill, but what it does is stop travel from Miami and Cuba,'' Armando García, president of Miami-based Marazul Charters Travel, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

For more detailed information and analysis of the bill, see the interview below of Francisco Aruca of Marazul Charters, Inc., and director of Radio Progreso Alternativa, done by Alvaro Fernandez of ProgresoWeekly.

The action we are suggesting you take:

Immediately contact your State Senator
to oppose Senate Bill 1310


To learn who your State Senator is, follow this link:

Find your Florida State Senator

SB 1310: A sinister monstrosity against travel to Cuba

Álvaro Fernandez interviews Francisco Aruca


Álvaro Fernandez: There is a little-known bill before the Florida legislature that could have enormous consequences on travel to Cuba, particularly on family visits. We decided to talk with Francisco Aruca, who on several occasions has delved into the subject in his radio program. Aruca, who is this bill aimed at?

Francisco Aruca: Strictly speaking, it's directed against the travel agencies that do business with countries on the State Department's list of terrorist countries. In reality, it is aimed at Cuba, and will affect all the agencies in Florida that provide travel to Cuba, with a particular impact on the family-related travel of Cubans in the United States. If it passes, the law will establish two types of businesses that offer travel to Cuba (I'm going to refer only to Cuba, which is the bill's real target): Agencies that provide only travel service to Cuba, and agencies that, in addition to providing travel, furnish other services, such as the shipment of packages, shipment of family assistance, and others. The bill does not establish differences in terms of size, volume of sales or kind of travel services; for example, between a company that charters planes and another that only sells tickets directly to the public.

Fernandez: What are the principal measures contemplated against the travel agencies?

Aruca: There are several, and I'll refer only to the most important ones. First, the agencies will have to register with the Consumer Affairs Department of the State of Florida, which would enforce the law. The registration charge is $2,500 and the agency operator must provide practically all existing information about the company and its internal activities and about the companies and institutions with which it maintains relations in order to offer its services. It is important to emphasize that this bill, by being enforced by this department, will be under the influence of the extremist right-wing Cuban-American groups in Miami, who are the architects of this project. Second, the agencies have to leave a deposit with the Consumer Affairs Department, in the form of a bond payable to that department. The agencies that only offer travel services must post a $100,000 bond each. Those that provide services other than travel must post a $250,000 bond each.

Fernandez: Regardless of the size of the company?

Aruca: Yes, sir, regardless of the company's volume of business. Of course, I assure you that -- merely because of this requirement -- more than 70 percent of the existing travel agencies, all of them operated under licenses granted by the U.S. Treasury Department, will quit the industry, because they do not have the resources to make a deposit that big. But the picture gets even worse. That deposit can be used by the state agency to pay for the expenses of any investigation that may be made into the travel agency; likewise, it can be used to pay any fine imposed to the agency. It's like adding insult to injury. They can investigate and penalize you and everything must be paid for from the money held by the Consumer Affairs Department. With that kind of operation, it remains to be seen if the companies that issue bonds to cover requirements such as these will be interested in participating under these conditions. And if they do, at what cost.

Finally, the worst risk consists of the possible violations and sanctions contemplated by the bill. It establishes that any violation of any federal or state law or regulation that attempts to limit trade relations and "transactions" with Cuba will be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per violation, no matter how insignificant the violation, and could become a crime defined as third-degree felony. As you can imagine, the cost and risk of operating like that are immense, particularly when you realize that this bill was written with political objectives in mind and that its application will be under the influence of those who designed it. And all this against companies that are already being regulated and closely supervised by the federal Treasury Department.

Fernandez: What do you think is the objective of all this?

Aruca: This is complex. Let me point out the most important consequences:

1. The first objective is to put out of business a large number of companies that provide services to Cuba, even before the law can be applied to them. The cost and the dangers are so great that many of them will close their doors before they can be exposed to them. This way, the bill's designers hope to reduce travel to Cuba. The truth is that they could paralyze the travel-to-Cuba industry in Miami.

2. Everyone who knows about this business knows that the Cubans will continue to go visit their relatives, but that travel would become more expensive and more complicated. For example, even if direct flights to Cuba continue, they would become more expensive because the agencies could hardly deal with the added costs and risks without having to raise the prices. Many travelers will end up going through third countries, a procedure that's more uncomfortable, more expensive and with less protection in terms of the quality of service they'll receive.

3. As in previous occasions, this happens months before an important election. Back in summer of 2004, the federal government imposed the cruel regulations that limit family travel to once every three years. All these aggressive measures hand the political extremists of Miami -- on a silver platter -- the type of argument with which they mobilize their followers during the election periods. In the November elections, for the first time ever, the three Republican Congresspeople from Miami will face serious opposition from challengers who have a chance to defeat them. This is a way to create a favorable campaign environment for the re-election of the three federal Congresspeople, courtesy of the Cuban Republican lawmakers in the state Legislature.

Don't forget that the three Democratic candidates share a common opposition to the cruel measures of 2004 and therefore will benefit (in a thousand different ways) from the support of those who want to normalize their family travel. With this bill, the Florida lawmakers can paralyze this industry and encourage the radicals and fanatics.

Fernandez: It's incredible that -- with everything that's at issue -- this bill is almost unknown in Miami. Explain to us what has happened.

Aruca: The bill was drafted secretly, and the media took a long time to bring it to the attention of the public. And the few times they have reported about it, the information they have presented has been incomplete and even distorted. Note that Republican legislator David Rivera introduced the bill in the Florida House on Jan. 23 -- three months ago. It wasn't until April 5 that an article appeared in Spanish, alerting us for the first time.

An article in English appeared the following day, which almost misinformed because it only told about the $2,500 registration fee. In the past three months, the bill passed through all the House committees without opposition. The same was happening in the Senate, up until Wednesday, April 16, when, for the first time, a delegation of travel industry experts and their legal advisers went to Tallahassee to testify.

They were very successful. The presentation made by the group's spokesman, Eddie Levy, made an impact precisely because the legislators were not expecting the group and the Legislature had not heard serious arguments, such as those voiced at that time. For that reason, they did not vote on the bill that day, as planned, and the vote was postponed for this week. One result is that [the bill's promoters] lost the secrecy that protected them in the Legislature. The fight is about to begin, through different means.

Fernandez: What do you expect for the future?

Aruca: That's hard to predict. If the bill passes, we'll go to the courts to fight it, of that you can be sure. There are many and very good legal arguments, including the fact that, with this bill, Florida encroaches on federal jurisdiction, which, as I told you, already regulates this industry. With the commotion we created in the [state] Senate, there is a chance that the process will be delayed farther than [the bill's proponents] wished. What is clear is that their intentions are evil, and if they get what they want, the consequences (as usual) will be paid by the Cubans who wish to travel to visit their families. The struggle against this really begins now and I'm sure that we'll pursue it through different avenues, including the courts. Let's be optimistic as we fight on. If the necessary conditions are created, this attempt could be more costly for these people than they anticipated.

Source: Latin America Working Group


Mavis Anderson
Claire Rodriguez
Latin America Working Group
www.lawg.org

Canadian has visited Cuba 140 times

Granma International

• Marc Fryma is a Canadian businessman who considers Cuba his second home, since he has visited the island on more than 140 occasions.

"My first trip was in 1992. I was attracted by advertising about beautiful beaches and content people and wanted to visit to see whether it was true," Fryma told the press. He works as sales director for a number of companies.

He has traveled to many countries in the Americas and Europe, but none, he said, has enchanted him the way Cuba has.

"I like the people here, very kind, everybody laughs. This is a safe country, you can walk the streets even at night, it’s like one big family," he emphasized.

Fryma pointed out that one of the figures he holds most dear is Cuban-Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara. He was very impressed when he visited the memorial to the revolutionary in the central province of Villa Clara.

"I talk a lot about Cuba with friends and travel agents. On one occasion, I brought 150 people with me. I knew they would like the culture and the climate," he said.

He said that the beach resort of Varadero, located on the coast of the northwestern province of Matanzas, was his favorite place and that he plans to visit Santiago de Cuba (in the east) and Pinar del Río, the westernmost of Cuba’s provinces.

Experts within the so-called "smokeless industry" currently consider Cuba to be among prime destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Canadians represent the island’s largest market. (PL)

48% of voters say Clinton running dirty campaign

Poll: Obama, Clinton running tight race in Indiana poll

The Associated Press
AP News

Apr 24, 2008 19:04 EST

THE RACE: The presidential race for Democrats in Indiana.

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THE NUMBERS

Barack Obama, 48 percent

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 47 percent

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OF INTEREST:

A similar poll conducted March 31-April 2 found 49 percent support for Clinton, with Obama's support at 46 percent. The new poll asked which candidate had run the more negative campaign, with 48 percent saying Clinton, 23 percent Obama and 21 percent equal.

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The WSBT-South Bend Tribune poll was conducted by telephone April 23-24 by Research 2000. It included interviews with 400 voters who expect to vote in the May 6 Democratic primary. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Source: AP News

The incredible statistics of the Avispas steamroller

Sigfrado Barros, in his usual excellent report for Cuban daily Granma, gave some very interesting statistics for the Santiago de Cuba Avispas, who retained their crown as champions of Cuban baseball in the 47th National Baseball Series. Because of their incredible heavy hitting, they have been dubbed La Aplanadora, or the steamroller.

In the playoffs, the team had a batting average of .369, scoring 134 runs and connecting 170 hits in 13 games, which averages out to 10.3 and 13 respectively Fielding average was .980, committing less than one error per game. They only allowed five earned runs.

I believe the champions will have a long reign, unless the Industriales Blue Lions wake up from their lethargy.

Republicans Prepare New US Election Fraud

Washington, Apr 15 (Prensa Latina) The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School has found that 25 percent of adult African-Americans, 15 percent of adults earning below $35,000 annually, and 18 percent of seniors over 65 do not possess government-issued photo IDs necessary to vote.

Steven Rosenfeld, fellow at Alternet.org, says in his new book "Loser Take All," edited by Mark Crispin Miller (Ig Publishing, 2008), that since the 2004 election, activist lawyers with ties to the Republican Party and its presidential campaigns, Republican legislators, and even the Supreme Court -- in a largely unnoticed ruling in 2006 -- have been aggressively regulating most aspects of the voting process.

Collectively, these efforts are undoing the gains of the civil rights era that brought voting rights to minorities and the poor, groups that tend to support Democrats.

In addition, notes Rosenfeld, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which for decades had fought to ensure that all eligible citizens could vote, now encourages states to take steps in the opposite direction. Political appointees who advocate for stringent requirements before ballots are cast and votes are counted have driven much of the DOJ's Voting Section's recent agenda.

As a result, the Department has pushed states to purge voter lists, and to adopt newly restrictive voter ID and provisional ballot laws.

In addition, during most of George W. Bush's tenure, the DOJ has stopped enforcing federal laws designed to aid registration, such as the requirement that state welfare offices offer public aid recipients the opportunity to register to vote.

Two states with Republican-majority legislatures -- Florida and Ohio --, notorious for their contested vote results in the 2000 and 2004 elections, made voter registration drives more difficult by raising penalties for errors on registration forms. In Ohio, where ACORN was registering approximately 5,000 new voters per week, those efforts were suspended during the litigation, meaning an estimated 30,000 people were not given the opportunity to register.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told the House Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2007 that, "The Voting Section did not file any cases on behalf of African-American voters during a five-year period between 2001 and 2006," adding that, "no cases have been brought on behalf of Native American voters for the entire administration."

Looking toward the 2008 election, it appears the purges -- as well as the new voter ID laws, restrictions on registration drives and stricter rules for counting provisional ballots -- could be a new and legal way to accomplish a longstanding GOP electoral tactic: thinning the ranks of likely Democratic voters.

Rosenfeld recalls that in numerous elections dating back to the 1960s, the Republican Party has tried to challenge new voter registrations to accomplish this goal, although since 1981 federal courts have blocked some of those efforts as illegal electioneering.

Among the intimidating tactics are warning signs posted near the polls, or radio ads targeted to minority listeners containing dire threats of prison terms for people who are not properly registered -- messages that seem designed to put minority voters on the defensive.

Analysts like Rosenfeld now ask themselves if the history of vote suppression tactics will repeat itself during the 2008 presidential election.

While the Democrats are not saints when it comes to voter suppression -- recall how John Kerry's supporters disqualified signatories to Ralph Nader's presidential petitions in 2004 -- they do not have the same kind of vote suppression apparatus in place as the Republicans do.

Finally, the tactics that can be implemented well before the voting begins -- stricter voter ID laws, voter purges, registration drive curbs, tougher provisional ballot laws and easing rule for voter challenges -- are already underway in several states.

Venezuela Solidarity Symposium

Marc Becker
marc@yachana.org
April 23, 2008

Leading academic scholars and grassroots activists gathered at historic Howard University in Washington, DC, from April 18-20 for the national symposium “What’s Up With Venezuela: Participatory Democracy or Democracy as Usual?” The meeting provided an opportunity for 200 solidarity activists from across the United States to study the revolutionary changes sweeping through Venezuela.

In 1998, Venezuelans elected Hugo Chavez as a left-populist president to lead the country. Since then, he has worked toward regional integration and against US domination of Latin America. This has placed Venezuela on a collision course with the US. “Chavez is threatening,” political scientist Steve Ellner argued, “because he shows that there are viable alternatives to neoliberalism.” In a region that seems to produce its share of bad news, Venezuela is an example of hopeful and positive change.

A principal theme that ran throughout the symposium was that the Bolivarian Revolution (so named after Venezuela’s independence leader Simon Bolivar) is not a movement built around one person. James Early, Director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution, said “Chavez is not the revolution, but a conduit for it.” Supreme Court justice Fernando Vegas explained institutional divisions of power in Venezuela to make his point that Chavez is not a dictator and does not control everything in the country.

Instead of emphasizing Chavez’s role, most of the presenters stressed the importance of constructing a participatory and protagonist democracy to build new relations between the government and popular organizations. “Democracy is not just formal institutions,” labor leader Gonzalo Gomez with the National Union of Workers (UNT) said, “but also the mobilization of people.” Venezuela Solidarity Network organizer James Jordan argued that participatory democracy begins with organizing at the grassroots level.

While the presenters defended Chavez, they did not give him their uncritical and unqualified support. Gomez argued that much of the positive progress that has been made in Venezuela is not due to Chavez’s leadership, but from dedicated activists pushing him in a leftward direction.

Jorge Guerrero, Venezuelan Consul in New Orleans, explained the growing role of communal councils that are leading toward self government. In the future, Guerrero predicated, they would not need mayors because people will solve their own problems. Julio Chavez, the mayor of Torres, Venezuela, said that he was one of those working to realize that goal. “How can they accuse of us being authoritarian and centralist,” Chavez asked, “when we are giving power to the people?”

The communal councils are only one example of the many fundamental transformations in Venezuela. Antonio Gonzalez from the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) noted that Venezuela’s wedding of multi-party, participatory elections with a socialistic redistributive process is rather unique. Not only has this led to success for the Bolivarian Revolution, but hopefully it will also make it much more difficult for the United States to justify an invasion of the country.

Although there have been significant advances, there are still numerous bureaucrats from previous governments who are still in positions of power. Perhaps more dangerous are political opportunists who paint themselves as Chavistas (supporters of President Hugo Chavez), but are not ideologically committed to the Bolivarian Revolution. Increasingly, however, career diplomats and government bureaucrats are being replaced by movement activists who are committed to pushing the country toward socialism.

In addition, institutional interests can also place a break on revolutionary change. The Venezuelan Embassy’s Labor Attaché Marcos García emphasized that leftward pressure comes from people (workers) rather than institutions (labor unions) that too often become bogged down in bureaucratic concerns. Social movements are important so that the government does not sell out a revolutionary and socialist project. Gonzalo Gomez called these social movements the “motor of the revolution.”

Clara Herrera from Venezuela’s Central University observed that Chavez is just the tip of the iceberg of changes sweeping through the country as people become increasingly energized through grassroots popular movements. Omar Sierra and Jorge Guerrero from the Boston and New Orleans consulates discussed the roles of Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in the Bolivarian Revolution. Sierra said that changes in Venezuela are not the will of only one man, but the result of 500 years of Indigenous struggle.

Guerrero presented Chavez as a tool that embodies the hopes and aspirations of historically oppressed and excluded peoples to build a new protagonist and participatory system. Imperialists are opposed to the Venezuelan government because it has allied with the downtrodden.

This extends to international policies, as Venezuela has significantly expanded its diplomatic relations with Africa and the Caribbean. For example, students from Mali are studying textile manufacturing in Venezuela so that they can help their country gain value from cotton production rather than exporting the raw materials. These are not vertical relationships of domination, but horizontal ones built around ideas of solidarity.

Economists Adina Mercedes Bastidas and Mark Weisbrot presented data that illustrates dramatic recent economic growth in Venezuela. Chavez’s economic priorities have led to notable increases in health care, education, and employment. Weisbrot responded to an essay that Francisco Rodríguez published in Foreign Affairs that maintained that the poor have been hurt by Chavez’s policies. In a detailed analysis on the Center for Economic and Policy Research website , Weisbrot shows how Rodríguez cherry-picked his data to reach misleading conclusions. In fact, poverty has dropped in half. Some of the current economic problems, such as a high inflation rate, are the result of long-term structural problems that cannot be turned around overnight.

Miguel Rodríguez, Vice-Minister for the Environment, discussed the challenges of attempting to improve standards of living while still preserving the environment. Venezuela is energy rich, and seeks to develop a sustainable economy. Although as a petroleum exporter gasoline is cheap, the government has emphasized public transit and produces most of its electricity from hydroelectric dams. Furthermore, the government emphasizes conservation as a way to meet peoples’ needs. “Socialism of the twenty-first century has to be ecological,” Rodríguez said, “and it also has to be materially possible.”

The US government and mainstream media, both in Venezuela and internationally, have engaged in a relentless disinformation campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution. Steve Ellner said that the hostility has little to do with Chavez’s style, but rather his economic and social policies. In Venezuela, the intransigent opposition to Chavez is based on conservative support for neoliberal policies that advocate shifting resources from the poor and marginalized and back towards the wealthy and privileged elite classes.

During the 1980s, Venezuelan governments engaged in blatant censorship of the media. Today, that does not happen, and there are more press freedoms than at any other point in the country’s history. The press remains overwhelmingly in private hands, owned by a wealthy elite deeply antagonistic to Chavez’s socialist project.

Mark Weisbrot gave Francisco Rodríguez’s essay in Foreign Affairs as one example of the constant barrage of misinformation. Without a popular media, Gonzalo Gomez said, a participatory and protagonistic democracy will not be possible. This does not happen automatically, but we need to get people accustomed to using these tools. The Venezuelan government has facilitated a move in this direction by creating spaces for community radio. “If the press is less anti-Chavez,” Olivia Burlingame Goumbri from the Venezuela Information Office contended, “it is because of growing popular support for Chavez.”

Journalist and sociologist Greg Wilpert explained how Venezuela has one of the most safe and secure voting systems in the world. Perceptions of fraud or a politicized electoral council are not based in fact. Wilpert positioned himself as a free speech advocate, and argued that the media is too important to be held in private hands that respond to corporate interests. Rather, public accountability is important to democratize the means of communication.

Attorney Eva Golinger explained how the attacks on Venezuela increased dramatically in 2005 when Condoleezza Rice was elevated to Secretary of State in the United States. The United States creates and funds a right-wing opposition in Venezuela through institutions such as the National Endowment for Democracy.

Venezuelan lawyer José Pertierrra pointed to the hypocrisy in US attempts to classify Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. While there is no evidence that Venezuela sponsors or engages in terrorism, the US military is in the midst of its own torture scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. More blatant is the case of Luis Posada Carrilles who blew up a Cuban airliner with a toothpaste bomb in 1976 as it left Venezuela. Not only was Posada Carrilles a CIA operative, he also currently lives freely in the US. Refusals to extradite him to Venezuela means that the US supports terrorism.

The symposium ended with a Lobby Day, with participants taking what they learned to Congressional Representatives on Capitol Hill.

The Venezuela Solidarity Network sponsored the symposium. The purpose of VSN is to increase communication among groups that oppose US intervention in Venezuela, support the right of the Venezuela people to self-determination, and support the Bolivarian revolution.

Marc Becker is a Latin American historian and a member of Community Action on Latin America (CALA), in Madison, Wisconsin.

Photos from the symposium are available at:
Venezuela Symposium