Sunday, November 30, 2008

Russian leader Medvedev praises Fidel Castro

11-30-2008 3:45 p.m.

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's president paid tribute to Fidel Castro Sunday after a meeting with the Cuban revolutionary icon.

Dmitry Medvedev said his conversation with Castro Friday was "extremely interesting" and suggested the world should draw on the experience of such long-standing political figures when trying to tackle today's problems.

Medvedev spoke in a video recording that was made on his plane as he returned from Cuba and posted on the Kremlin Web site.

Medvedev referred to the 82-year-old former president as "Cuban leader Fidel Castro" even though his younger brother Raul is now president. Medvedev also met extensively with Raul Castro.

Medvedev, 43, visited Cuba, Venzuela, Peru and Brazil in a trip designed to boost Russia's influence in Latin America.

Medvedev's Latin America tour was partly a response to U.S. moves in eastern Europe, where Russia sees its security threatened by U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in former Soviet satellite states.

Medvedev said earlier that he and Raul Castro, 77, had discussed economic and "military-technical cooperation" — apparently arms sales — "as well as security and regional cooperation."

The Soviet Union was Cuba's chief source of aid and trade until it disintegrated in 1991 and Cuba's relations with the Russian Federation soured. Russia is now also looking to spend money on projects such as oil exploration in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico and in a Venezuelan effort to refurbish a Soviet-era refinery in the port city of Cienfuegos.

Lord Hurd: Our man in Havana


The former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd says no one with a sense of curiosity will regret a trip to Cuba.

By Lord Hurd

Last Updated: 4:05PM GMT 28 Nov 2008

www.telegraph.co.uk

The beautiful corniche that separates the city of Havana from the Atlantic is called the Malecón. Florida is only 90 miles away, but because of politics the ocean is empty. The Malecón is thronged in the evening light and the early hours of darkness. Young couples stroll or lean romantically over the balustrade. Larger groups congregate, their talk punctuated by bursts of music. This might be a Mediterranean evening. To the west lie the modern hotels and suburbs where diplomats and Communist functionaries dwell, to the east Old Havana and the fortresses of imperial Spain.

The day before we boarded our Virgin Atlantic flight, Fidel Castro decided to step down after 50 years as Cuba’s President and Commander in Chief. But there was no buzz of excitement or uncertainty along the Malecón or the streets of Old Havana. El Jefe had been ill for 18 months, out of action apart from his long but unexciting articles in Granma, the Communist newspaper.

Over the next 10 days, my wife and I talked to about 20 Cubans, including several not normally in touch with tourists. They were not scared to talk about the country’s difficulties, and the need for change. They laughed at some of the restrictions on their lives, some the results of the American blockade, others of their Government’s bizarre restrictions. There was no tendency either to abuse or praise Castro and his colleagues; they were taken for granted. So was the likely transition of power to his brother Raoul, who over time might make pragmatic changes towards freer enterprise without transforming the regime. Those who listened surreptitiously to the BBC or managed to watch CNN in a hotel, welcomed the fact that in the United States President-Elect Obama has said he would talk to the President of Cuba without preconditions.

But Judy and I had not come to talk politics; it did not matter to us that there was little politics to talk. Havana was full of tourists, all taking their daily dose of history and culture. In the excellent National Gallery, there is a print of British Red Coats being rowed across the harbour to capture the city in 1762. We gave it back to Spain a few months later, in return for Florida. If we had hung on to it, would Cuba have become like Canada or Jamaica?

After their defeat the Spaniards built La Cabaña, a large fortress dominating the harbour entrance, to make sure that we could not come again. Each evening, a troop of soldiers in colonial uniform load a cannon in front of a crowd of several hundred and at nine o’clock fire a noisy blast over the city. This tradition, invented for the tourists, is very popular.

It was from La Cabaña that in the last days of 1958 Che Guevara gained control of Havana. Batista, the dictator, fled and Castro arrived to take charge from his guerrilla campaign in the east of the island. I was working in New York at the time and remember making a (small) bet that Castro would not last a year.

The cult of Che is more emphatic throughout Cuba even than the cult of Fidel. He was the hero of many events and demonstrations in 1968, that year of revolutionary noise and failure. His sayings, heroic and banal, appear on billboards at the entrance and in the public places of most towns in Cuba, taking the place of commercial advertising, which is forbidden. Batista’s armoured train, which Che ambushed in the decisive final battle of the war, remains as a museum in Santa Clara, alongside the bulldozer with which he clinched the attack.

On the edge of the same town stands a large statue of Che in front of an arena designed for revolutionary celebrations. In the mausoleum below lies, not the stately tomb of a hero, but a small box in which are collected bits and pieces of his body. These were gathered years after his death from the remote village of Bolivia where he was executed after an unsuccessful skirmish with government troops. Che had not been a success as an administrator in the early days of Castro’s rule. He went off to foment other revolutions, all unsuccessful, and so create a legend out of failure.

It is sensible to read oneself into Cuba before arrival. Everyone talks of Hemingway, and the bar where he drank daiquiris is crowded with tourists. I re-read The Old Man and the Sea, a great story of human persistence but hardly related to Havana, off whose shores the struggle with the great fish takes place.

Graham Greene wrote Our Man in Havana a year before Castro’s arrival. His picture of life in Havana is an agreeable caricature. It is built round the famous joke about secret weapons hidden in the mountains of Cuba… which suddenly stopped being a joke when Khruschev brought the world close to war over exactly such weapons in 1962.

The Old City exceeds expectations because of its size, elegance and decrepitude. It is as if the borough of Kensington and Chelsea had been built with arcades rather than porticoes, and was now falling down street by street. Many of the houses are empty, their façades eaten away by the sea wind. Others contain a small unadvertised shop, or a little restaurant in one corner, or a family squatting under a large marble staircase among Corinthian pillars, as in some decayed palazzo in Naples.

Some skilful restoration is taking place, thanks to the power and persistence of Professor Eusebio, whose government organisation owns hotels and other tourist facilities and is allowed to keep most of the proceeds for conservation. In Cuba, individuals are not allowed to buy or sell their state-owned houses; these have to be exchanged, though the Government may not notice if some money passes hands to even out differences of value. I hope that somehow, sometime, a Cuban government will devise a middle way between seeing the heart of their capital collapse in ruin and allowing an abrupt onrush of foreign ownership which would modernise it into ugliness.

Thanks to the organisation of Abercrombie & Kent and the imaginative guidance of Gareth Jenkins and Hilda Barrio, each of our days in Cuba had a separate character. In Havana, we enjoyed a concert of classical jazz directed by the famous pianist Cucho Valdés. We visited Trinidad on the south coast, even more beautiful and dilapidated than Havana. We spent a night at the Moka Hotel in a new community La Terrazza, formed up in the hills from villages where once coffee plantations flourished. This concept of a simple Swiss-style hotel just over an hour from Havana, from which many different excursions are possible, might well take hold. In the early morning, while Judy rode in the hills, I swam in a pool of the San Juan river and wrote in the shade beside it.

Visitors will find themselves circling the dark pit of the Cuban currency problem. They will deal exclusively in convertible pesos, easily bought for pounds or euros in hotels or banks. But most Cubans are paid in the Cuban peso, worth about one twenty-fifth of the tourist equivalent. If the Cuban works on a state farm or factory, his family will receive free health and free education, both of high standard, together with a basic food ration; but his pay in the Cuban peso will be miserable. His chances of achieving a decent standard of living will depend on being able to break somehow into the world of the convertible peso which dominates all tourist activity. Hence, the enormous importance of tips and of a flourishing black market. A socialist and a capitalist system rub unhappily against each other. The divisive strains of this system are obvious.

Having been told that it would be acceptable in return for a few convertible pesos, we stopped at random beside a wayside small holding and asked for permission to photograph. The mother of the family cheerfully made coffee, a mouthful for each of us in tin mugs. She and her family lived at tight quarters in what could only be called a hovel, but a hovel which contained a Chinese fridge, a television set, a video player and a telephone. Outside her bare-chested husband in broad hat supervised half a dozen pigs and twice as many chickens. He proudly showed us a simple new house being built alongside the hovel, into which they will move next year. He works on the nearby farm co-operative, but somehow must have broken into the free market by selling pigs and eggs and in the spring mangoes from the tree which dominated his smallholding.

Cuban food gets a poor press, but unfairly. The hotels produce large menus and a show of European cooking; but it is best to keep close to what Cubans themselves produce well – pork, lobster, shrimps, fish of all kinds. Our best meal contained all the above, gathered around a bottomless bowl of black bean soup, and served with plentiful rum and large cigars.

In the cities the growing number of state-owned restaurants compete with a handful of small private establishments called paradars. The competition is unfair because the paradars cannot advertise and are hemmed in with restrictions. We found one horrible paradar, which resembled an 18th-century English inn such as Fielding or Smollett might have visited; a half-shaven waiter produced, with much delay, tough pork and an anonymous bottle. But on successive days outside different towns we ate deliciously by the seashore in tiny family establishments which might have been in Greece or Italy, except that they were half the size.

About two hours east of Havana, a long thin spit of land pokes into the Atlantic, lined with big hotels and a golf course. Varadero is different from the rest of Cuba. It was born from the appetite of mafia-type bosses from the United States in the Thirties and Fifties for more liquor and gambling than they could find at home. It is of no cultural interest, except to those who relish in the Casa Dupont an exact example of that period. But the beaches are clean and the sea a memorable green and blue. A peaceful day or two at Veradero fits well as a pause in a strenuous tourist programme.

Back finally to Havana, and a final drive along the Malecón with music blaring in an open Buick built in 1956. You need to prepare a visit with care to taste the different sides of Cuban life. But it is not like anywhere else, and no one with a sense of curiosity will regret a Cuban sojourn.

GETTING THERE

Abercrombie & Kent (0845 618 2211; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers trips to Cuba from £2,595 per person based on a nine-day itinerary similar to Lord Hurd’s journey, including Havana, Pinar del Rio Province and Trinidad. The price includes accommodation, flights, private guide services, transfers and certain meals.

Jazz lets loose in Havana


Havana Times

November 29, 2008

HAVANA TIMES, Nov 28.- When the first notes of the 11th Jojazz Festival sounded Thursday night at Havana’s Mella Theater the temperature began to rise and people began taking off their sweaters.

Opening night started off with some of Cuba’s top musicians backing Bobby Carcasses, the man to which this year’s event is dedicated. The showman and promoter of young talent scatted, danced, played trumpet and conducted the first song of the Jazz Band group, led by Joaquin Betancourt.

The flute of Maraca was one of the big treats of the evening, combining perfectly with Pancho Terry and his chequere percussion instrument to get emotions flowing and bodies moving.

After the intermission we enjoyed the interpretations of three Jojazz prizewinners from other years: Camila Cortina (composition 2007) who showed she continues to exceed herself and surprise, Rembert Duarte, a young pianist and trumpet player that won an award for composition from Spain’s Society of Authors 2004 and in both the 2006 and 2007 Jojazz competitions for young musicians and composers, and lastly the Aires de Concierto Quartet (special mention at Jojazz 2007) who closed the segment of past years’ revelations with two clarinets, a base and percussion.

Since its founding, Jojazz has been the proving ground for numerous breakout artists, including pianists like Alejandro Vargas and Harold Lopez-Nusa, who had the opportunity to record their first discs thanks to the contest.

Bobby Carcasses was back on stage to close out the evening. He reminded us of one of the marvels of this festival, the coming together of young students and musicians with the top jazz artists on an island where one gets the impression that it rains music.

Jojazz continues through Sunday November 30th.

For America's New Kennedy, A Détente With the Castros

Newsweek

By Mac Margolis

Published Nov 29, 2008

From the magazine issue dated Dec 8, 2008

Barack Obama's inauguration is still nearly two months away, but you can already hear the thawing sound over the Florida Strait. Latin America experts anticipate that Obama will quickly make good on his campaign promise to "immediately" revoke the restrictions imposed by George W. Bush in 2004 that severely limit Cuban-American travel and remittances home. Obama has also vowed to shut the Guantánamo Bay prison, long a gringo thumb in the eye to Cubans (and all Latin Americans).

Such moves would be a diplomatic milestone and could herald the end of a stale ideological feud. They'd also buoy Washington's poor image in Latin America at a time when foreign powers are cozying up to the hemisphere. China's Hu Jintao recently toured several Latin American states to strengthen trade relations. Moscow dispatched warships to the Caribbean for joint naval exercises with Venezuela (already a prized customer of Russian arms) and is exploring investment opportunities in the region. Both are making inroads with certain left-wing governments that have cast Bush as a bête noire. While Obama's diplomacy won't completely tilt the global scales Washington's way, it could turn the last page on the Cold War and "be of tremendous symbolic value," says Shannon O'Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations. "This would take the wind out of the sails of a lot of anti-American rhetoric in the region."

A rapprochement would also reflect a big change in U.S. domestic politics. The deeply anti-Castro Cuban-American lobby has held sway over official Cuba policy for decades, and has acted as an important voting bloc in the swing state of Florida. But Cubans are now a minority among the state's Hispanics, and polls show that younger Cubans are far less rigid about the U.S.'s Cuba policy than their parents and grandparents are. In November, Obama lost the Cuban-American vote, but he fared just fine with younger Cuban voters, and won the Hispanic vote and Florida overall.

So will the Cuban-Americans' dwindling power allow Obama to push Congress to lift the trade embargo against Havana? Unlikely, says Daniel Erikson, a Cuba expert at the Inter-American Dialogue. He notes that Congress's six Cuban-Americans wield considerable clout, and that 25 percent of U.S. lawmakers took money from the Florida Cubans—60 percent of which went to Democrats. Obama has also vowed to keep the embargo as a bargaining chip to press Cuba for greater civil liberties. An even bigger obstacle, says former senior U.S. diplomat Donna Hrinak, is that "Obama has so many fires to put out, Cuba is not going to be anywhere near the top of the agenda." But the fact that a Latin American state is on Washington's radar is already an improvement.

Vegueros defeat Avispas 12-3 in the inaugural game of the XLVIII Cuban National Baseball Series


Juventud Rebelde Report (In Spanish)

Box Score (BaseballDeCuba.com)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Russian President Met with Fidel Castro before Concluding his Visit to Cuba

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov 29 (ACN) The President of the Russian Federation Dimitri Anatolievich Medvedev met with Fidel Castro before concluding his working visit to Cuba on Friday. He described as very interesting his meeting with the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution.

In statements to reporters before leaving Cuba from the Juan Gualberto Gomez International Airport in the locality of Varadero, Medvedev said he was very pleased and happy with his visit and with the meetings he held with Cuban authorities; such talks served to outline upcoming joint work by both countries, he said.

Dimitri Medvedev said that a new bilateral accord will be waiting for President Raul Castro when he visits Russia.

The Russian Head of State, accompanied by President Raul Castro, laid a wreath at the Mausoleum of the Soviet Internationalist Soldiers in Havana, on Friday morning and later he met with Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro. In the afternoon, Medvedev visited Varadero tourist center, in central Matanzas province from where he departed for Russia.

Present at the Juan Gualberto Gomez International Airport were Cuba’s First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura; the president of the Matanzas Provincial Peoples Assembly Nilo Diaz Fundora and other local authorities.

November 27: Presidents of Russia and Cuba Pay Homage to Jose Marti

Raul Castro attends Cuba's first Catholic beatification


Deacon Miguel Angel Ortiz gives a bible translated into several languages to Cuba's President Raul Castro during the beatification ceremony of the first Cuban citizen, nineteenth-century priest Jose Olallo in Camaguey November 29, 2008. Reuters Photo: Enrique De La Osa

Sat Nov 29, 2008 1:40pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro attended a ceremony for the country's first religious beatification on Saturday in another sign of warming relations between the Communist-ruled island and the Catholic Church.

Dressed in a dark suit, Castro sat in the first row at the mass conducted with a Vatican envoy for Father Jose Olallo, the first Cuban to receive such honors on the island in its more than 500 years of Catholic history.

After Fidel Castro came to power in an armed revolution in 1959, Cuba expelled priests and Catholics faced decades of official atheism. Ties improved after Cuba guaranteed religious freedom in 1992 and Pope John Paul II visited six years later.

Cuban state-run television showed several thousand people packed into a plaza in Camaguey, around 330 miles from Havana, for the ceremony for Olallo, who worked with cholera sufferers and died in 1889.

Raul Castro took over governing Cuba in 2006 when his brother fell ill. He was made president in February and has since begun introducing reforms, such as allowing Cubans for the first time to buy cell phones and computers.

Catholic beatification is the third of the four steps to sainthood. In a rare move, the state-run newspaper Granma dedicated the front page of its Friday edition to Olallo's recognition by the Church.

In 2007, the Pope beatified another priest born in Cuba, but he was raised and died in Spain.

The Vatican said in February Pope Benedict would like to visit Cuba at the invitation of Raul Castro and his ailing brother. The Pontiff's top aide was the first foreign official to meet Raul Castro when he become president.

(Reporting by Patrick Markey in Havana, editing by Vicki Alle

Thursday, November 27, 2008

European Union to donate up to 30 million euros to Cuba in '09

11/26/2008

By WILL WEISSERT

HAVANA (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday agreed to donate up to 30 million euros ($38.7 million) to Cuba next year for hurricane relief and improvements in food production.

Stefano Manservisi, head of the European Commission's Directorate General for Development, said EU members would send 25 million to 30 million euros ($28.7 million to $32.2 million) to Cuba next year. Much of it would go to repairing homes, power grids and highways ravaged by Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma, which hit this summer and fall and combined to do more than $10 billion in damage.

"We are not here as a donor, we are here as a partner, as a friend," said Manservisi, who signed an accord with Ricardo Guerrero, Cuba's vice minister of foreign investment.

The new funds also will help Cuba bolster environmental protection, biotechnology, disaster preparedness and food production, which suffered severe damage in the storms.

More...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cuba's Raul Castro open to meet Obama: report


Wed Nov 26, 2008 1:07pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro is open to meeting U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on neutral ground to try to resolve the island's four-decade-old feud with Washington, according to an interview with a U.S. magazine.

The interview for The Nation was conducted by U.S. actor Sean Penn, who traveled to Havana after meeting Cuban ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and before Obama won the U.S. presidential election on November 4.

"You asked if I would accept to meet with (Obama) in Washington. I would have to think about it. I would discuss it with all my comrades in the leadership," Castro tells Penn in the interview for a December 15 issue published on its website.

"Personally, I think it would not be fair that I be the first to visit, because it is always the Latin American presidents who go to the United States first. But it would also be unfair to expect the president of the United States to come to Cuba. We should meet in a neutral place."

Obama has said he will reverse the Bush administration's policies that restricted Cuban Americans visiting Cuba and sending cash to their families there. He is willing to talk to Castro but would keep the 46-year-old trade embargo as leverage to influence democratic changes in the one-party state.

"Perhaps we could meet at Guantanamo," Castro says, referring to the bay where the U.S. maintains a naval base, which Cuba considers a violation of its sovereignty.

"We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift ... we could send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantanamo Bay."

(Reporting by Patrick Markey, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Russian nuclear cruiser arrives in La Guaira, Venezuela


The BBC reports that "Russian warships, led by the nuclear cruiser Peter the Great, are in the Caribbean Sea for the first time since the end of the Cold War to begin manoeuvres with the Venezuelan navy."

The exercises coincide with a visit to Caracas by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, who is due in Venezuela on Wednesday, and are illustration of how close military ties between the two countries have grown in recent years.

Ex-Bush aide charged with theft from Cuba group

The Associated Press

11/25/2008 2:00 p.m.

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former aide to President Bush has been charged with theft from a government-funded center that promotes democracy in Cuba.

The single count of theft of $5,000 or more from a federally aided program was filed in U.S. District Court here last Thursday against Felipe E. Sixto, who resigned on March 28 from his job as special assistant to President George W. Bush for intergovernmental affairs.

The charge was filed as a criminal information, which means Sixto waived his right to have a grand jury decide if the government has enough evidence to charge him and usually also means the defendant intends to plead guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Mr. Sixto is a former employee of the Center for a Free Cuba. The group is headquartered in Miami and is headed by Frank Calzon. The organization has received more than two million dollars in the past.

Excellent view from a Cuba Coco-Taxi

Applause, and thanks to the folks at 360 Cities for the excellent panoramic view of a street in Havana, which was taken from one of Cuba’s Coco Taxis.

You will need Adobe Flash Player 9 installed in your computer to enjoy the scenery.

Operation Miracle: Cuba's Gift to the World

Caribbean Net News

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN): Almost half a million poor people from 28 Caribbean and Latin American nations have benefited from Operation Miracle, a highly successful programme started by Cuba that provides free surgery to low income patients.

Cuban Public Health Ministry official, Elia Rosa Lemus, presented a report at a recent parliamentary hearing, in which she revealed that a total of 485,476 patients have been operated on, including 290,000 Venezuelans. In her review of the programme, she stressed that Operation Miracle, created by Cuba and supported by Venezuela, has turned into a giant humanitarian campaign.

Lemus noted that one in every 87 Venezuelans has already been treated, as well as one in every 213 Bolivians and one in every 60 citizens from Antigua and Barbuda.

The legislators heard about the progress of Operation Miracle as part of the agreements under the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which promotes solidarity and mutually beneficial social and economic development.

The initial eye operations took place exclusively at Cuban hospitals, but with the objective of extending the program, similar surgical facilities have been set up in other nations, always under the supervision of Cuban medical personnel.

Today, 13 ophthalmologic centers are in service in Venezuela, and similar facilities are providing services in Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Bolivia.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cuba’s Birth Rate Increased in 2008

Periodico 26

By Osvaldo Rodríguez Martínez

HAVANA, Cuba, Nov 23, (ACN) The sustained increase of the live-birth indicator reported in Cuba from January through October of 2008, compared to last year, is good news and it could turn the demographic course of the country.

Preliminary information published by the National Statistics Office (ONE) reveals that the number of live births surpassed the figure reported in 2007 by 7, 996 children, standing for 8,8 percent on the birth rate; such an indicator is only comparable to the rate reported in 2005.

All Cuban provinces saw their birth rates increase; though the phenomenon is more significant in the eastern territories of Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila, Granma and Holguin, while lower indicators were reported in western Havana City, Pinar del Rio and Cienfuegos.

The statistics were compiled from figures collected in health centers and other data contributed by the Statistics Department of the Public Health Ministry, plus estimates made by ONE of births that took place out of health institutions.

The ONE report says that such a growing trend could continue this year up to June 2009. Any prediction will be difficult to make later, since the birth rate will be affected by the impact by recent weather phenomena on many Cuban families.

By the end of 2007, Cuba reported a total population of 11, 296, 790 inhabitants, with a balanced number for both sexes, according to the ONE website www.one.cu.

The figure will lightly increase to later keep steady and even fall due to the low birth rate, which prevailed particularly in 2006 and 2007.

Cuba a Model for Infant Health Care

Why Can Cuba Do It?

Will the third plan work?

Since September, the government has announced three different plans to “bail out just about everybody.”

Here is what the NYT had to say:

“The [third] plan, emerging after a harrowing week in the financial markets, is the government’s third effort in three months to contain the deepening economic crisis and may presage other multibillion-dollar financial rescues.”

There seems to be total panic in the Bush administration right now. It is their baby. They created the current mess with their “anything-goes” Capitalism and their de-regulation of the financial markets.

Another crisis, another guarantee

Bush, Paulson and Bernanke are giving the taxpayer the royal f**k without KY jelly.

California's Proposition 8 and Florida's Amendment 2 are attacks on all minorities

"The entire purpose behind the constitutional principle of equal protection would be subverted if the constitutional protection of unpopular minorities were subject to simple majority rule," read a brief by black, Asian and Hispanic groups challenging [Calidornia's Proposition 8] ban. "This case is not simply about gay and lesbian equality."

Constitutions are documents which protect people's rights, not take them away.

The GOP continues to use their "Three G's" (God, Guns, Gays) to undermine constitutional protections which every civilized country has.

If you try to demonize one minority group, what minority group will be safe from the attacks of the hate crowd?

Reuter's Report

Caribbean Unification. A Non-deferrable Reality

Alberto N Jones
November 24, 2008

An unprecedented event that most in the world never dreamt to see in their lifetime, took place on November 4th, 2008, when Barack Obama was overwhelmingly elected President of the United States of America, ending the opprobrious inferiority complex that slavery, segregation and racism have tirelessly tried to imprint in our psychic.

As important as this transcendental decision may be, it comes at the height of the United States most complex financial, health, housing, unemployment, educational and other social crisis, just as society dominant classes are throwing in the gauntlet, incapable of conceiving any corrective measures that may stop and reverse the downward financial spiral that threatens to end the US leading position in the world.

For this simple reason, president elect Barack Obama is reaching out and hoping to enlist every capable, willing and able individual in the United States and around the world, who is willing to assist him in this monumental task. As sons and daughters of a proud African ancestry, irrespective of our social, political or religious differing views, we are morally obliged to sup port and help him succeed in every way we can.

No one in his/her right mind, could have anticipated the enormous social evolution the world have experienced in the past and present century. Similarly, within the Caribbean islands, the crucial unification efforts described in a newspaper article “OECS economic and political union with Trinidad and Tobago to be discussed in St. Kitts on Thursday“, SKNVibes, 10/23/08, opens a unique window of opportunity, as we learn from our past mistakes and failed efforts in that direction.

Today, our leaders are more mature, better prepared and have a clearer vision of the future, after removing most of the outside tactics intended to keep us divided and weak.

The massive trail of destruction that this year’s hurricane season have wreaked upon our islands, the world financial crisis affecting every nation, our weak monoculture agriculture industry and tourist dependent economies, constitutes a wake-up call for all of us, to engage in urgent talks among nations of our region, designed to implement corrective measures that may ensure a positive job creation growth, the wellbeing of our people and the implementation of human protective measures for the next hurricane season and beyond.

Cuba’s development prior to the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, was presented to the world as a model of capitalism and free market, which was based upon 350 years of slavery, which was supplanted in the 1900’s with a massive influx of immigrants from the English Speaking Caribbean Islands, Haiti, the Canary Islands and China.

At that time, the bulk of the Cuban economy was dependent on the sugar industry, coffee and cocoa plantation in the hands of Caribbean migrants in eastern Cuba, while Tobacco and citrus plantation in western Cuba and cattle grazing in the center of the island, was primarily in the hands of emigrants from the Canary Islands.

This historical fact which have been kept intentionally out of our history books, would reflect the heat-stifling, back-breaking, segregated, lack of health, education and perennially indebted miserable life imposed upon the Caribbean migrant community, forced to live in shacks without electricity, running water or sewer, as they generated billions of dollars for native sugar barons and US transnational.

Even though Cuba have contributed more humanitarian assistance to Haiti than any other country in the world, have provided substantial health, education and development assistance to many English speaking Caribbean islands, to tens of third world countries in every continent and its epic military involvement in Africa determined that Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are independent nations that wiped out the brutal Apartheid policies from the face of the earth, Cuba is still capable and willing to do more for those less fortunate.

Cuba’s close political and commercial ties with China, Argentina, Ukraine, Brazil, India, Russia, Canada and others, could provide our region with a powerful opening to millions of people in these countries, desirous of our high quality, tasty tropical produce and tourist attractions.

Santiago de Cuba is the Cuban city with the strongest Caribbean cultural heritage , which will be hosting the next CARICOM Summit in the month of December. This venue could provide the ideal environment to begin a profound discussion, approval and the creation of a large Inter-Caribbean Development Enterprise, charged with the expansion of individual island agricultural production, transport goods to Santiago de Cuba for reception, consolidation, processing, marketing and export to virgin markets across the globe. Tourist promotion and multi-destiny tours to these island countries, could further add to their financial stability.

The creation of this Caribbean consortium could expand the region technical and economical collaboration, create a unified marketing strategy and establish migratory agreements by which, tens of thousands of migrant workers from the region, could relocate to and=2 0create large agricultural enterprises on hundreds of thousands of untilled acreage in Cuba or work on others with limited work force, creating wealth and earning their personal income to support their families in their country of origin.

The time have come, for our governments to work diligently, with courage and overcome lingering artificial colonial borders, that have served only to divide, conquer and foster prejudice among our peoples.

Yankee Imperialists still persist in trying to export Made-In-USA “Democracy” to Cuba

JG: Who invited them and who gave them the right to stick their noses into the affairs of another country?

Most of the $45 million dollars stays in Miami, and goes into the pockets of the ultra right wingers.

Of course, the AP report does not say what I am saying, but if you want to read it click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brookings Institution report calls for a near-total reversal of U.S.-Cuba policies

The New York Times

By MARK LANDLER

Published: November 23, 2008

WASHINGTON — With the election of Barack Obama, the United States has a fresh chance to reinvigorate its relations with Latin America, according to a new report that recommends Washington overhaul its drug policies at home and pursue a rapprochement with Cuba.

The report, compiled by prominent former policy-makers from the United States and Latin America and scheduled for release on Monday by the Brookings Institution, called on the new administration to put Latin America at the center of its foreign policy radar screen.

Among the most striking recommendations is a near-total reversal in policy toward Cuba. The report advocates lifting all restrictions on travel by Americans, promoting more contacts with Cuban diplomats and taking Cuba off the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“This may make the over-40 generation of Cuban-Americans in Miami jump-up-and-down mad, but there is a whole generation of Cuban-Americans who want to change this relationship,” said Thomas R. Pickering, a longtime diplomat and former under secretary of state.

More...

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JG: I am Cuban-American, over 40 and I do not live in Miami, thank God. I would be jumping up and down with happiness if the recommendations of the Brookings Institution are implemented by our president elect.

Russia to invest in Cuba's oil and nickel industries

Press TV

Sun, 23 Nov 2008 02:09:55 GMT

Russia has announced plans to invest in Cuba's oil and nickel industries, ahead of President Dmitry Medvedev's upcoming visit to the Island.

Moscow is considering a number of deals, which require certain Russian firms to explore Cuba's coastal waters for offshore oil in the Gulf of Mexico, Russia's Ambassador to Havana Mikhail Kamynin said Saturday, AFP reported.

Cuba is already in talks with firms from Spain, Norway, India, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Venezuela and Brazil to explore prospects of offshore drilling.

Should Moscow and Havana ink the deals, Russian firms would be responsible for developing crude oil and oil derivative storage facilities as well as modernizing the Island's oil pipelines, Kamynin said.

The planned deals include one between Russia's NorNickel and Cubaniquel to build a plant in Holguin province.

In October, Cuban officials said the Island's crude reserves were almost twice what they had predicted to be, claiming that the Caribbean nation had a crude reserve of 21 billion barrels.

The Russian president, who embarked on his Latin American tour on Saturday, is expected to arrive in Havana on Thursday, after making stops in Peru, Brazil and Venezuela.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Two players removed from the Industriales baseball team

Cuba’s daily Granma reported today in page 14 of their printed edition that two players of the Industriales baseball team were removed from the roster.

The athletes, Yadel Martí Carrillo and Yasser Gómez Soto have been sanctioned because they committed grave acts of indiscipline. No further details were given.

The article also listed all the members of the Industriales team for the XLVIII National Baseball Series which will start on November 29.

Catchers: Alden Mesa, Jokel Gil, Alejandro Regueira, Frank Morejón.

Infielders: Alexander Malleta, Rudy Reyes, Raiko Olivares, Roberto Ramírez, Leugim Barroso, Juan Torriente.

Outfileders: Yoandry Urgellés, Carlos Tabares, Serguei Pérez, Eliu Torres.

Pitchers: Ian Rendón, Arley Sánchez, Frank Montieh, Maicel Díaz, Odrisamer Despaigne, Yadiel Torres, Reinier Roll, Deinis Suárez, Ebris Martinez, Ramón Cairoz, Rigoberto Arrebato, César López (rookie), Rodolfo Fernández.

Manager: Germán Mesa

Russian truckmaker Kamaz considers setting up an assembly line in Cuba


11/21/2008 - RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, November 21 (RIA Novosti) - Kamaz is considering setting up an assembly line to produce 500 trucks annually in Cuba, Russia's largest truck maker said Friday.

"To further develop the automobile business in Cuba and strengthen Kamaz's place on the country's market, we and the Cuban side are considering the possibility of establishing a trade and service company to sell, service and repair Kamaz trucks, as well as an assembly facility with a production capacity of 500 trucks a year," Kamaz said in a press release.

Over 200 Kamaz trucks have been delivered to Cuba in 2008 as part of a Russian loan to the country.

Kamaz, based in the Volga Republic of Tatarstan, produces more than 30 models of trucks, as well as trailers, buses, tractors and spare parts. It also manufactures engines, power units, and components.

The company has assembly facilities in Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Ukraine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wisconsin concert to provide aid for sister city in Cuba

The Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba will conduct a concert and dance in Milwaukee on Friday to raise money for humanitarian aid for the region of Milwaukee's sister city in Cuba.

The event will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. at the United Community Center, 1028 S. 9th St., and will feature Cuban and Latin American music and musicians, including the newly formed group RUMBRAVA made up of Afro-Caribbean percussionist Luis Diaz, cellist Ana Ruth Bermudez, and Mrs. Fun pianist Connie Grauer and drummer Kim Zick. Tony Baez will perform Latin American folk songs, and Fuego Musical, a Milwaukee salsa group, will also play. A donation of $10 is suggested.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Wisconsin Medical Project, a Madison-based humanitarian organization that has an export and travel license to send medical supplies and medical equipment to the province of Camaguey, said Art Heitzer of the coalition.

Advance tickets for the fund-raiser are available through the coalition, 633 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 1410, (414) 273-1040; cubawi friends@mindspring.com; www.wicuba.org; and Peace Action Wisconsin, 1001 E. Keefe Ave., (414) 964-5158.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Will Obama open up to Cuba?

“The 1972 Nixon visit to China was the first step in formally normalizing relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. It also marked the first time a U.S. president had visited the PRC, who at that time considered the U.S. one of its biggest enemies,” states Wikepedia.

I personally did not like Richard Nixon. But one of the great accomplishments of his administration was the “opening up” to China.

Will the first four years of an Obama administration give us a repeat performance of an enlightened U.S. foreign policy toward our Caribbean neighbor? Only time will bring us the answer.

Obama certainly does not owe anything to the Cuban ultra right wingers of South Florida. His margin of victory in Miami-Dade County was an impressive 58%. In Broward and Palm Bach Counties it was even higher, 67% and 61.5% respectively. Fourteen Florida counties turned the Sunshine State blue.

Obama is an extremely intelligent politician. He knows about the October 29 vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations. 185 nations voted yes on the Cuban resolution which demanded “the necessity of putting an end to the economic and financial blockade which the United Sates has imposed on Cuba.” Can Obama continue to defy the world, like ten of his predecessors did?

When even the Wall Street Journal has called for an end to the embargo, you know that it is a failed policy which has not even achieved the smallest one of its objectives. No one likes a bully. That is why Cuba has a lot of supporters in the world.

It is time for a new Good Neighbor Policy of the XXI Century. That policy must be based on mutual respect. Let us hope and be audacious: that one day the US and Cuba will sit at the negotiating table and resolve their differences peacefully.

Naomi Klein: The bailout is a huge criminal enterprise

The American taxpayer is being taken to the cleaners! In September, one the main criminals in this very profitable scheme went before Congress and told them: “The sky is falling down! Give me $700 billion dollars.”

Now, Paulson and Bernanke are telling the American people: “We are not going to tell you to whom are we giving this money.”

What we are witnessing is a huge criminal enterprise which is looting our economy and the Treasury Department of the United States. Same methods which Batista used in Cuba before he fled. This gang will be fleeing on January 20, 2008.

Watch Klein’s 12 minute video. An added bonus: she is cute.

New chip on the block


Intel Core i7 (Wikipedia)

China, Cuba hold landmark summit


Hu Jintao (C) accompanied by Raul Castro (L)
receives military honours


11-19-2008 5:00 a.m.

HAVANA (AFP) — China's President Hu Jintao on Wednesday was to wrap up a landmark visit to Cuba where he brought millions of dollars in aid and promises of closer trade ties.

The Chinese leader brought 4.5 tonnes of humanitarian aid for victims of three hurricanes that battered Cuba this year, which was handed over late Monday after Hu's arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport.

Receiving the gift, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation Rodrigo Malmierca said Cuba "deeply appreciates the visit of President Hu Jintao, at the exact moment the country is struggling to recover and continue its development."

It was China's third donation to assist Cuba in its recovery from hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma, which caused 10 billion dollars worth of damages in the space of two months. Hurricane aid from the Chinese government and businesses has totalled more than 2.5 million dollars.

China also extended Cuba a 70-million-dollar loan to repair damaged hospitals and another 10 million for social projects, as part of the second tranche of a 350-million-dollar line of credit approved in 2004.

On Tuesday Hu accompanied President Raul Castro on a visit to a school for Chinese students, where the Cuban leader sang a refrain from a Chinese song praising late Communist Party Leader Mao Zedong.

"I learned to be a student like you, young like you and will remain so all my life," Castro told Hu and 300 Chinese students in the town of Tarara, east of Havana.

During his 36-hour visit -- his first to Cuba since 2004 -- Hu planned to oversee the signing of various cooperation deals.

Hu also visited convalescing former president Fidel Castro, 82.

The Chinese leader held a "long conversation" with the former Cuban leader and described finding Castro "very recovered," according to the Chinese official Xinhua news agency. The two appeared in a picture published on the website.

Fidel Castro has met with several foreign leaders in recent months, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Hu arrived in Havana late Monday after attending the world economic crisis summit in Washington and making a stopover in Costa Rica, where he launched free-trade talks and a string of cooperation deals.

His Latin America tour also includes an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru. It comes as China expands its diplomacy and investment around the world, eyeing natural resources and developing markets for manufactured goods and even weapons.

Chinese exports to Latin America grew 52 percent in the first nine months of 2008 to 111.5 billion dollars, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

China was Cuba's second business partner, after Venezuela, in 2007 with 2.7 billion dollars of combined trade, and one of its main creditors.

The two countries have remained close for decades, their Marxist Socialist past a driving force in relations, and they have increased ties since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

China offered key support to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro when Cuba fell into dire economic straits after the former Soviet Union collapse, forging a divide which Russia has recently sought to reduce.

Current deals include Chinese oil prospecting and extraction in Cuba -- onshore and offshore -- and two Cuban eye hospitals in China and a third under construction.

Since Raul Castro officially assumed power in February, taking over from his ailing older brother Fidel, analysts have suggested he is moving toward China's market economy model.

The authorities however still underline support for Cuba's state controlled economy.

Raul Castro recently sought foreign investment for the prospecting and exploitation of gold, silver, zinc and copper deposits.

China already invests in nickel, Cuba's main export, and hydrocarbons on the island, which produces the equivalent of 80,000 barrels of oil and gas per day.

The two countries both have Communist-led governments, but vastly different styles of governments.

China embraced market reforms to become a world economic powerhouse, while Cuba's economy remains under state control.

Hu's visit comes less than two weeks before the arrival of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in another Russian bid to fortify relations with outspoken US adversaries in Latin America on the back of a trip to Venezuela.

Xinhua Backgrounder: The Republic of Cuba

Cuba remembers today the 120th anniversary of the birth of José Raúl Capablanca


World Chess Champion, 1921-1927

Raul Castro and Hu Jintao hold talks


The presidents of the People's Republic of China, Hu Jintao, and the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro Ruz, held talks yesterday afternoon at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana.

The meeting reaffirmed the excellent state of relations between the two countries and the long and strong bonds of friendship which exist between the two Socialist countries, and the desire to strengthen those bonds even more in the future.

Also present during the talks were José R. Machado Ventura, First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers; Carlos Lage Dávila, Vice President of the Coucil of Ministers; Felipe Pérez Roque, Foreign Minister of Cuba and Carlos Miguel Pereira, Cuba's Ambassador to China.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fidel meets with Hu Jintao

Hu Jintao pays tribute to the memory of José Martí


Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, laid today a wreath at the foot of the monument to Cuban Hero, José Martí, located in the historical Plaza of the Revolution.

He was accompanied by the First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, José Ramón Machado Ventura, among others.

Is Judicial Watch an organization made up of GOP hacks?

In a story reminiscent of the dark days of McCarthyism, the group has issued a statement today that says the following:

"Not only did Greg Craig defend the worst of the worst of the Clinton scandals but he also defended the violent government raid that delivered Elián González back to Castro's Cuba. In fact, we believe that Greg was working with communist Cuban government during the Elián affair. Greg Craig is the wrong lawyer to serve as White House Counsel in the Obama White House.”

Some Republican groups can never bring themselves to admitting that they were soundly defeated in the November presidential election. Judicial Watch should get a life!

Greg Craig did a great job in defending the interests of the father of Elián González. The young boy lives today in an island where he is loved and admired and is accompanied by his real family.

I applaud Greg Craig for his stand.

Hu Jintao arrives in Cuba


The president of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao, arrived last night at Cuba’s International Jose Marti Airport.

He was received by José Ramón Machado Ventura, first Vice President of the Councils of Sate and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba. Also present was Felipe Perez Roque, Cuba’s Foreign Minister and other government officials of the Caribbean island and the Asian nation.

He declared that he wanted Cubans to reach new advances in the construction of Socialism and reminded everyone that Cuba was the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic relations with China.

He received a wreath of flowers from Cuban Pioneers and watched a performance of the Dance of the Lion by the Cuban students of Wushu School.

Presidente Hu will meet Cuban president Raul Castro Ruz during his state visit. This is Hu Jintao’s third visit to Cuba. The first two were in 1997 and 2004.

A dozen bilateral agreements were signed, which strengthen the fraternal bonds between the two Socialist countries.

Granma’s report, in Spanish.

AFP: China's Hu to boost ties in Cuba visit

Monday, November 17, 2008

China’s President arrives in Cuba today


Due to an invitation issued by General of the Army, Raul Castro Ruz, president of the councils of state and ministers, Hu Jintao, the president of the People's Republic of China arrives in the island today for an official state visit.

The visit is an expression of the excellent bonds of friendship which exist between the people of China and Cuba.

Source: Granma

Hu Jintao's Biography (In Spanish)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

US agricultural exports to Cuba hit record

HAVANA (AP) — A U.S.-Cuba trade group says the island has spent a record $536 million for American agriculture goods through the third quarter, already surpassing all annual amounts since 2001.

The U.S. Trade and Economic Council says that most of the growth is because of price increases, and not quantities. The council released the figures Friday.

Washington's nearly 50-year-old trade embargo prohibits nearly all trade between both countries, but Cuba has been allowed to buy U.S. food and agricultural products with cash payments since 2000. Cuba began taking advantage of the loophole in the American trade sanctions after a hurricane ravaged parts of the island in November 2001.

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JG: I am sure that our new president will do the right thing. It is time to start a new chapter in U.S.-Cuba relations, one that is based on mutual respect.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cuba prepara su Festival de Cine Latinoamericano pese a los huracanes

11/15/2008 9:10 a.m.

LA HABANA (AFP) — El Festival de Cine de La Habana se propone celebrar sus 30 años con una fiesta de 500 películas del 2 al 12 de diciembre, aunque con menos recursos que en ediciones anteriores por las grandes pérdidas que dejaron tres ciclones que azotaron Cuba.

De un total de 1.360 cintas presentadas al Comité Organizador, 503 fueron seleccionadas y se proyectarán durante este 30 Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, de las cuales 114 estarán en competencia por los premios Coral.

Las presentaciones especiales serán plato fuerte, pues incluyen las dos películas de Steven Soderbergh sobre Ernesto 'Che' Guevara; 'La fiebre', una cinta británica de Carlos Gabriel Nero y que será presentada por su productora Vanessa Redgrave; y 'Titón, de La Habana a Guantanamera, 1928-1996', un documental de la cubana Mirtha Ibarra, viuda de Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Titón).

El concurso de largometrajes de ficción, género mas seguido por los cinéfilos, tiene 20 filmes, encabezados por cinco argentinos, cuatro mexicanos y tres brasileños, uno de los cuales, 'Línea de pase', tiene la importante dirección de Walter Salles ('Estación Central' y 'Diarios de motocicleta').

También participan en esta categoría tres filmes cubanos, entre ellos 'Kangamba' sobre la guerra en Angola, dos de Chile e igual número de Venezuela, y uno peruano.

Buscarán premios Corales igualmente 19 cortos, 22 filmes en el apartado de ópera prima, 29 documentales y 24 obras en animación de las mismas naciones, así como de Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador y Puerto Rico.

"Tendremos algunas limitaciones este año en cuanto a los horarios de algunas salas, disponibilidad de gasolina y otros recursos por los daños de los huracanes", explicó Ivan Giroud, director del Festival, quien descarta, no obstante, una baja sensible en la tradicional multitudinaria asistencia a las salas.

Los huracanes Gustav, Ike y Paloma azotaron Cuba en solo dos meses con daños cercanos a los 10.000 millones de dólares, según el presidente de la isla, Raúl Castro.

Tal es el golpe, que el presidente del Festival, Alfredo Guevara, decidió aceptar la iniciativa de la cineasta argentina Liliana Mazure de "No llegar al Festival con las Manos Vacías".

Guevara también lanzó un llamado 'SOS Amistad' a cineastas estadounidenses, para hacer un encuentro de acercamiento en el marco del Festival, aprovechando las circunstancias políticas que crea la victoria del presidente electo, Barak Obama.

'Puentes y más Puentes' será un "acercamiento desprejuiciado" para "conocer, comprender, dialogar, enriquecer la experiencia creativa y la de los entornos, los retos, los proyectos, las realizaciones sin predominio de presiones o ideologías", añadió.

El Festival entregará Premios Corales de honor a los realizadores Jorge Sanjinés (Bolivia), Miguel Littin (Chile) y Paul Leduc (México), quienes estarán en La Habana, así como al brasileño Nelson Pereira, en ausencia.

También serán homenajeados personalmente el realizador brasileño Eduardo Countinho, de quien se proyectarán cinco filmes, y el británico Mike Leigh, con 10 películas.

Además se hará un homenaje "a los estudios Argentina Sono Films, uno de los más antiguos de ese país y de América Latina", dijo Giroud, al recordar que la firma nació en 1933 como resultado de la filmación de '¡Tango!', una cinta que por primera vez incorporó tangos a la trama.

Entre las muestras previstas están la de Cine Experimental norteamericano (1960-70), Cine Fantástico y de Horror latinoamericano, historia de la música cubana, cine latino en Estados Unidos, cine ruso, africano, alemán, canadiense, español, francés, italiano y nórdico.

Fight the H8


Join the Impact!

Join the Impact

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cuba passes the two million visitors mark for 2008 this Friday

Granma International

Today, November 14 and for the fifth year in succession, Cuba is set to pass the two million mark with respect to foreign visitors, according to the Ministry of Tourism, in a statement which highlights the fact that on this occasion, that significant figure has been reached at a much earlier date than in previous years.

That figures places Cuba as the top destination in the Caribbean and reaffirms acknowledgement on the part of those who visit the island of the friendliness and delights of Cuba and its people, as well as the culture, history, health care, nature, security, hospitality and warmth.

This figure has even greater significance in a year in which the country has been hit by three intense hurricanes which severely tested Cuba’s organizational ability and its response in the face of such situations to guarantee the safety of all its citizens and visitors. In a short period of time, the country managed to reopen all the tourist resorts that had been affected.

Tourism in Cuba this year has seen an accumulated growth of 10.7% compared with the same period last year, adds the Ministry statement.

The arrival of two million visitors to the island also coincides with the start of the 2008-2009 winter season, and Cuba is making more rooms available, with greater levels of comfort, guaranteed supplies and the same friendly treatment as always.

Destination Cuba maintains the challenge of continuing to improve quality standards, to prioritize diversification of the tourist product, continue working on culture-tourism integration, and to demonstrate to the world the potential of a destination that also combines nature, cities noted for their heritage, cultural and historical values and a population that is always hospitable.

The Ministry of Tourism expresses its confidence that Cuba will have received more than 2.34 million visitors by the end of 2008. (Lilliam Riera)

Translated by Granma International

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JG: Uncle Sam: put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Cuba’s XLVIII National Baseball Series starts November 29

Cuba’s National Baseball Series will start on November 29th with a game between Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Rio, at the Guillermón Moncada Stadium.

Groups have been eliminated. There will be two zones: Occidental (Pinar del Río, Isla de la Juventud, La Habana, Industriales, Metropolitanos, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spíritus) and Oriental (Villa Clara, Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín, Granma, Santiago de Cuba y Guantánamo.) The top four finishers in each zone will advance to the quarter finals.

The quarter finals will be seven games. The winner has to be victorious in four games to advance to the next phase.

The games will take place only in the principal stadiums of the first phase.

The schedule game time will be 8:00 p.m. daily and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Mondays will be a rest day.

The Mizuno 150 will be the official baseball used.

Six games against each team, for a total of 90 games in the National Series.

There will be no selective tournament at the end of the National Series.

The final will be between the best team from the Occidental zone against the best team of the Oriental Zone.

Sources: Radio Coco and Jit Online

Cuba Admitted To Rio Group

(RTTNews) - Communist Cuba has become a full-fledged member of the Rio Group--the only political grouping for the region of Latin American and Caribbean countries--media reports said.

A Mexican Foreign Ministry official announced Thursday at a meeting of the body's foreign ministers in Zacatecas, central Mexico, attended by Cuba's Vice Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno, that Cuba has joined the Rio Group as a member with full rights.

Moreno confirmed that Cuba would join the 22 member-states of the Rio Group, created in 1986, and said that his government would shortly release a statement.

At the group's 27th meeting in Mexico, the members took into account "expressions of interest from Cuba" and a positive evaluation of dialogue, consultations and political agreement. The group's current president sought ways to reduce the impact of the world financial crisis on the bloc.

Samuel Lewis, Panama's foreign minister, said Cuba's entry reinforces the Rio Group at a time when the international dynamic requires regional approaches that can count on the support of everyone.

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11-14-2008 10:00 a.m.

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba is celebrating its entry into the Rio Group of Latin American nations as an example of futile U.S. efforts to isolate the island nation.

Cuba became a full Rio Group member at a foreign ministers meeting this week in Zacatecas, Mexico. Now it says it will work to get other Caribbean nations to join.

Cuba thanked the member countries for their support in an editorial published Friday in the Communist Party daily Granma.

The United States has tried to isolate and undermine Cuba's communist government since the early 1960s and maintains strict trade and travel restrictions against the island. But this policy also isolates the United States, which was one of only three countries to vote against a U.N. General Assembly resolution condeming the embargo last month.

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11-14-2008

Granma International

Cuba joins Rio Group

• Foreign ministers meeting in Zacatecas agree to consider Cuba as a full member

THE 27th Ministerial Meeting of the Permanent Mechanism for Consultation and Political Coordination (Río Group) has taken place in Zacatecas, Mexico, during which the foreign ministers agreed in a communiqué that they will consider Cuba a full member of the group from today.

According to that document, the members are convinced that the inclusion of Cuba "…will be a central element in strengthening the Río Group and will enrich its diverse and plural nature and project its pronouncements with renewed authority."

That refers to the natural inclusion of Cuba in a mechanism that genuinely belongs to Latin America and the Caribbean, with no extra-regional presence, and constitutes another symbol of changes taking place on the continent and the failure of the U.S. policy – now a solitary one – of isolating Cuba.

Over the last few years and at diverse events, numerous member countries of the Río Group have reiterated their willingness for Cuba to join the group.

They insisted on the idea that Cuba’s membership was required and necessary in order to compensate for its absence during earlier times, and thus completing the Group – as a Latin American and Caribbean organization – in its inclusive and representative projection throughout the region.

The Río Group was founded in December 1986, derived from the Accountancy Group and Support Group, related to the search for peace in Central America. It has held 20 summits and has opened up it membership on four occasions to all of the Latin American and the majority of the Caribbean nations, with the exception of Cuba.

Translated by Granma International

Cuba trade worth $32 million to Virginia farmers

Associated Press, 11.14.08, 08:25 AM EST

In just six years, trade between Cuba and Virginia farmers has grown from less than $1 million to more than $32 million.

And Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Todd P. Haymore is hoping for even more growth.

He recently returned from the Havana International Trade Fair in Cuba, where he and others pushed Virginia's apples, soybeans, poultry, wood and other products.

Virginia is among the top five states exporting to Cuba.

A nearly 50-year-old trade embargo prevents U.S. tourists from visiting Cuba and prohibits nearly all trade. But a law passed by Congress in 2000 allows the Cuban government to buy U.S. food and agricultural products with direct cash payments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hedge funds: part of the problem

George Soros, Phillip Falcone and Kenneth Griffin are part of the problem, not part of the solution. They are hedge funds managers, which have been, up to this point, largely unregulated by both Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington, D.C.

Anything-goes capitalism has practically looted and bankrupted the country, while Democratic and Republican leaders looked the other way.

As long as these kinds of people are allowed to get away and avoid criminal prosecution, this country will continue to unravel economically and socially.

Today, Henry Waxman, conducted hearings in his U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. What a joke of a name for a committee. Imagine! Capitalists trying to reform their gangs! It is like inviting foxes to guard hen houses!

Excerpts from Bloomberg:

Hedge-fund managers have had unimaginable success and, while being virtually unregulated. Many enjoy special tax breaks, said Waxman. Today's witnesses, he said, earned on average more than $1 billion last year, profits they were able in many cases to treat as capital gains rather than as ordinary income, which is taxed at a higher rate.

``That means at least some portions of their earnings could be taxed at rates as low as 15 percent,'' Waxman said. ``That's a lower tax rate than many school teachers, firefighters, or plumbers pay.''

What Soros, Falcone and Griffin are saying is: “Screw Joe the Plumber, Jane the Teacher and Dick the Firefighter.” The hedge funds manager's symbol is a tube of KY jelly.

Miami Cuban Exiles


Fighting for the $45 Million of "Bring Democracy to Cuba"

New cover for 'Con Cuba nel cuore'


Con Cuba nel cuore

Mis mejores saludos para mi gran amigo Stefano en Italia.

The Cuba Embargo: a highly lucrative business for the U.S. government

Everybody and their sisters know that in hyper-capitalist USA everything is a business.

The first commandment of the capitalist religion/cult is “Thou shall make money by any means necessary.”

This type of mentality makes it possible for all kind of frauds and scams to proliferate in the North American continent.

The Cuba embargo is a case in point. It is a highly profitable business for the Bush thugs at the “Office of Foreign Assets Control” or OFAC. It is an arm of the Treasury Department of the U.S. government.

They have been raking in money and profits at an unprecedented rate level. It puts Wall Street’s famous securitized mortgages to shame.

Here are some examples of the Federal loot:

Myers Industries, one of the largest manufacturers of plastic, rubber and metal products for industry, has agreed to pay a fine of $16,250, according to OFAC’s most recent report, the first of the 2009 fiscal year that began in October.

The firm –based in Akron, Ohio – voluntarily reported the case to the OFAC and admitted that in 2004, one of its foreign subsidiaries sold products to Cuba or to persons related to the island without the necessary license.

Another firm, Priceline.com - an online flight and hotel reservations company – paid $12,250 in fines, while the Intercultural Studies Center in Amherst, Massachusetts handed over $15,000.

Last year, another Internet travel agency, Trevolicity, paid one of the highest fines ever ($182,750) for violating the blockade, while this year Spirit Airlines had to part with $100,000.

It is estimated that during the 2008 fiscal year, the fines imposed by OFAC for infringing the laws of the economic war waged on the Caribbean nation by the U.S. for almost 50 years were in excess of $2 million.

Source: Granma

Cuban Films: Vampiros en La Habana


Hartford Courant

November 13, 2008

Real Art Ways celebrates Cuba this and next week with a series of six films.

• "Viva Cuba!" is about two kids who make friends, one poor and socialist, the other rich. The 2005 film is 78 minutes.

• "Vampires in Havana," Juan Padrón's 1985 animated film, tells the story of American and Eastern European vampires and a potion that lets them live in sunlight. It is 80 minutes.

• "The Sugar Curtain" is Camila Guzmán Urzúa's autobiographical story about the "Golden Years" of the Cuban Revolution. The 2005 film is 90 minutes.

• "El Benny!" tells the life story of Benny Moré, one of Cuba's greatest musicians. Jorge Luis Sánchez's 2006 film is 132 minutes.

• "Los Zafiros: Music From the Edge of Time" is about another music group, as told by Manuel Galbán and Miguel Cancio, the two surviving members of Los Zafiros. Lorenzo DeStefano's 2004 film is 79 minutes.

• "Fuera de Liga" is a documentary about Industriales, a great Cuban baseball team. The 2006 film is 68 minutes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Medvedev: Russia to boost economic, political ties with Cuba

www.chinaview.cn

2008-11-11 21:58:24

MOSCOW, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that Moscow will advance economic cooperation and political ties with Cuba.

"We've overcome the pause that appeared in our relations in the past decade and today our contacts are intensive and friendly," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Medvedev as saying during a meeting with visiting Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.

Medvedev hailed cooperation between Russia and Cuba in the world arena, saying Cuba has been and remains one of Russia's "key partners in Latin America."

Medvedev accepted an invitation from the Cuban leadership for an official visit to the Caribbean country and Cuban leader Raul Castro is expected to visit Russia next year, Itar-Tass said.

Earlier Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called military cooperation an important component of a Russian-Cuban partnership, but Roque said "no documents concerning military cooperation will be signed" during his stay in Moscow.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has pledged to reinforce Russia's global status, including its presence in such countries as Cuba amid rows with the United States over Washington's plans to deploy anti-ballistic missile components in Central Europe.

Roque rejected the possibility of resuming Russia's military presence in Cuba but vowed to boost energy cooperation and economic ties.

Editor: Yao

Godbye and Good Riddance

Highly recommended reading.

Bailout everybody!

American capitalism is crashing and burning. That is what you get when people live beyond their means, which are based on ever increasing levels of debt.

First, Paulson told us that toxic mortgages were the problem, and if we did not give his Treasury Department $700 billion dollars in taxpayer money, the system would come to a halt. Today, he changed his tune; the problems are not toxic mortgages, but rather “credit-card loans, student loans, and auto loans.”

General Motors and Ford are asking for a taxpayer bailout, since they claim that they will be running out of liquidity by the end of the year. Do not give them any more taxpayer money. CONFISCATE AND NATIONALIZE THEM 100%. Do not bailout the GM chairman. He is making $16 million dollars while he burns the company to the ground.

Frankly, I do not have any confidence in Paulson, Bernanke, Greenspan, Volcker and all the other “capitalist financiers.” They created the problems that the markets are facing today.

As a country, we are FUBAR! My prayers and best wishes go to president elect Barack Obama.

Criminal prosecutions are in order for all the capitalists who created this mess.

Guantánamo prison, lair of torturers, must be shut down after January 20, 2009

It used to be that the United States was admired and/or respected around the world. NOT ANY MORE!

After the accession to the presidency of George W. Bush by appointment rather than by election, we have seen the prestige of the U.S. torn in tatters by the actions of the worst president in the history of this nation.

President elect Barack Obama can put an end to those dark eight years of mismanagement, corruption, incompetence and criminality, and start traveling a new road of justice, fairness and respect for human rights.

GITMO PRISON MUST BE CLOSED!

88 Keys in Cuba





Al Jazeera

Filmmaker: Elizabeth Jones

Since Fidel Castro's Communist revolution six decades ago, Cuba has been on the frontline of an international power struggle.

Crippled by a punitive trade embargo imposed by the United States in 1962 the Caribbean island was supported by the USSR.

But when the Soviet Union collapsed economic aid dried up.

Since then life has been hard for this outpost of communism to keep its people fed and watered.

One thing that has helped sustain Cubans over the years is their love of music and the Russians helped establish a music education system which continues today.

But not without some difficulty. The US trade embargo, coupled with a hot and humid climate, spells disaster for musical instruments, especially the piano, many of which are slowly dying.

It is a serious problem that one visitor took to heart.

Elizabeth Jones' film 88 Keys in Cuba examines how Irishman Ciaran Ryan was inspired to come to the rescue of the island’s pianos with money raised by the music community back home.

Association of Caribbean States wants end to trade embargo against Cuba

Wednesday November 12 2008

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, (CMC) – The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) said it remains hopeful that the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States will lead to the lifting of the decades-old trade and economic embargo against Cuba.

Speaking at a news conference, ACS Secretary-General Luis Fernando Andrade Falla noted that Obama had already expressed the need for “a change of approach” but said the Trinidad-based regional organisation would have to wait and see how the new US administration actually deals with Cuba.

“With the new government ... a new administration, which has given some ideas of changing the policies toward Cuba, we hope that in that process of change would be a lifting of the embargo,” he told reporters.

He said the embargo, which was imposed on the island after former president Fidel Castro came to power more than four decades ago, remained a priority concern for the association.

He said the ACS, which comprises 25 member states and 11 associates within the English, French, Dutch and Spanish speaking Caribbean, intends to raise the issue at various fora.

Falla also described as a “political manipulation” Cuba’s human rights record, adding “you have to put into perspective the case of Cuba is a unique case in which it is in a state of war against the US.

“They don’t allow US citizens to go to Cuba. Is that a human right? They are not able to visit Cuba. You have different points of view, so that’s manipulating depending on who is against who, but in terms of the international law, as a member of the region, most of the countries are against the embargo. We have to voice against this position.”

Falla said Cuba, which was completely isolated between 1994 and 1995, has the most advanced education system.

Russia Urges Obama to Lift Cuba Embargo, Respect World Opinion

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lost Lake, Oregon - Mount Hood National Forest


Lost Lake

European Union praises Cuba's disaster response as effective

www.chinaview.cn

2008-11-11 08:39:04

BRUSSELS, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel praised on Monday Cuba's response to Hurricane Paloma that struck the island at the weekend as "effective."

"The 2008 hurricane season is one of the worst Cuba has faced for many years. But the country has a highly effective disaster response system and thanks to this, many lives have certainly been saved," a press release from the EU's executive commission quoted Michel as saying.

"Good early warning, evacuation procedures and shelter networks make a huge difference, but when such powerful storms hit, damage to infrastructure, homes and crops is inevitable," he added.

He pledged that the commission would be ready "to provide further emergency support if needed, to help tackle any suffering resulting from Hurricane Paloma, in solidarity with the people of Cuba, who have been hit severely by three hurricanes in three months."

Hurricane Paloma hit Cuba as a category four storm at the very end of the hurricane season, which saw the devastating Hurricanes Gustav and Ike this summer.

The Cuban authorities evacuated more than 1 million people before Paloma struck the island.

The commission, through its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), is currently funding five relief projects in Cuba from a 2-million-euro allocation that was provided following Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Michel has also tasked a technical mission to visit Cuba next week to analyze existing needs and the identification of possible further commission support, the press release said.

Disaster preparedness is just one of the areas being considered for joint-action between Cuba and the European Commission since the relaunch of bilateral cooperation in October.

Editor: Sally

A victory for all

I have never seen a presidential election like the one I witnessed last Tuesday. I remember the LBJ/Goldwater contest in 64. This was better. A margin of victory of more than eight million popular votes. 365 votes in the Electoral College. A margin of 52.6% of the popular vote for the incoming president. A mandate of historical proportions!

The enthusiasm for U.S. Senator Barack Obama was evident everywhere. He inspired confidence and exuded honesty. The repudiation of the policies of Bush and the GOP was total. Racial divides were demolished.

I was particularly happy with the victories of Allan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas along the I-4 corridor. Ultra right wing Cuban Americans in South Florida will no longer be able to determine the fate of a presidential election.

I am equally proud of the 67% of Hispanics who, together with more than 95% African Americans, put Obama in the White House. A triumph for progressives everywhere.

The challenges facing the country are huge. Let us all unite behind our new president.