Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cuba to issue set of stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

Tomorrow, New Year’s Day 2009, Cuba Correos will issue a set of stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, reports Juventud Rebelde.

The new stamps will enrich the historical, postal and philatelic patrimony of the country, and will combine images from the past and from the present to demonstrate the historic continuity of the revolutionary process.

The stamps were designed by Ricardo Monnar and José Antonio Medina.

The historical coverage encompasses Liberation Day in 1959 to current programs like the Battle of Ideas, including known figures like Che, the creation of the organizations of the state, the accomplishments of the Revolution, as well as anniversaries which will be celebrated in 2009.

The set has two different formats of 24 stamps each and two souvenir sheets for a total of 50 stamps. The face value is 15 centavos for the stamps and one peso for the souvenir sheets and they will be denominated in the national currency.

The dumb question of the Babalusians

The Babalusians are extremely upset. They did not like today’s editorial from the Los Angeles Times, (see excerpts.)

They have not learned anything over the last fifty years. And so, they keep asking the same dumb question over and over again: “If the US policy of isolation has achieved nothing to help bring freedom to the Cuban people, what has the European Union and United Nations policy of engagement achieved to bring freedom to the Cuban people?”

Babalusians: When will you learn that Cuba achieved freedom, liberty and independence on January 1st, 1959? Your problem is that the type of “freedom” that you would like for Cuba is one ‘Made In USA.’ It is not going to happen!

BTW, Babalusians, your English grammar is as faulty as your politically dumb question. Replace what with a why! And replace achieved with failed!

Cuban Five appeal goes to the U.S. Supreme Court

People's Weekly World

WASHINGTON: The appeal of the Cuban Five, the anti-terrorist fighters held as political prisoners in the United States, is to be brought before the Supreme Court before January 30, according to one of their defense lawyers.

René González, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González have been imprisoned since September 12, 1998 for infiltrating counterrevolutionary organizations in Florida to prevent acts of terrorism against Cuba, Prensa Latina reports.

In an interview with the National Committee to Free the Five, attorney Richard Klugh said that the appeal will ask for all of their sentences to be reviewed, following the decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to deny a change of venue, incorrect conduct by prosecutors and the improper and discriminatory jury selection.

In Klugh’s opinion, the venue is one of the main aspects that need to be reviewed, in line with U.S. law itself and in any legal system.

"If you have a judge or jury who is likely to be influenced by local passions and pressure, what you have is a mob rule and you don’t have justice in any sense," he said, referring to the original trial of the Five in Miami.

Klugh noted that, in relation to this appeal, the defense has the assistance of attorney Thomas Goldstein from the legal firm Akin Gump, a lawyer of vast experience in Supreme Court cases.

Compay Segundo, Conjunto Hatuey de Cuba, 1938


A very young Compay Segundo!

50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

I was fourteen years old on December 31, 1958. My family had some friends who were close to the Batista regime. It is my belief that they had told my parents about what was going to happen that night and the following day, so they sent me to visit my godmother and a very dear cousin in a housing development near Havana Airport.

I and some other kids went hunting for frogs in the wild undeveloped areas of the neighborhood, armed with BB rifles. It was a good night; we got more than fifty.

After eating the traditional 12 grapes we went to sleep. The following morning, New Year’s Day, 1959, the news spread like wild fire. “Batista se fué.” Batista had run away and left the country.

Everybody was dancing on the streets and they were extremely happy. The long nightmare was over. The hated dictator had been defeated and had left the island.

We turned on the news channel and learned that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara had captured Santa Clara, Cuba’s third largest city, on the previous day, after derailing an armored train which Batista had sent in a last and futile attempt to defeat the rebels.

I and some other kids sang “Batista no tiene madre, porque lo parió una mona! Aeh! Aeh! Aeh! La Chambelona!” This time we did not have to hide to sing it.

I went back to my parent’s home and everyone in my neighborhood was very happy. Schools were closed. Everything was shut down, because Fidel had called a general strike to prevent the assumption of power by the person who Batista had appointed as his successor. He was quickly arrested by the revolutionary forces.

The next seven days were like a huge party all over the island. I went to town and started a collection of shiny bullets obtained from the friendly and smiling barbudos.

Fidel entered Havana on January 8th, 1959. Everyone was on the streets cheering the person who had brought freedom and liberty to the Cuban people.

The rebel column traveled through 23rd Street on their way to Campo Columbia, the place where Batista had killed democracy in Cuba with his coup d’etat on March 10, 1952. I waved as he went by 23 Street and 24th Avenue, a block from my house.

Fidel would speak that night from the now renamed Ciudad Libertad. We watched on TV. White doves were released and one of them landed peacefully on the shoulder of the Maximum Leader of the Revolution. A sign from heaven, many said.

Gracias Fidel! That sign would sprout all over the grateful island over the days that followed.

Cuba was finally free, but not the kind of freedom that the Americanos wanted. Over the next fifty years they would try everything in their arsenal to turn back the clock in Cuba. They failed miserably.

It may be a cliché, but it proved to be true: “El pueblo unido, jamás sera vencido.” The people united will never be defeated.

Today, I say fifty times: GRACIAS FIDEL! And my eternal thanks to all of those who shed their blood to make Cuba a truly free and independent nation, without any foreign domination or control.

Zionist massacre in Gaza: 380 dead, 1,800 wounded

What is the world community of nations waiting for to intervene and put an end to the Israeli Zionist massacre in the Gaza strip?

The top leadership of Israel needs to be hauled before an international court and tried as criminals. Israel is today emulating the Nazi hordes of the Third Reich. They should be expelled from the United Nations and all other international bodies.

Shame on the Bush administration for encouraging and supporting the carnage.

Fifty years of failures in our Cuba policies is too long

December 31, 2008

A new approach to Cuba

Excerpts from a Los Angeles Times Editorial:

Fifty years of failure is too long. The incoming Obama administration should move quickly to embark on a rapprochement with Cuba and bring an end to punitive policies, especially the economic embargo. The United Nations condemns it, the European Union is trading with Cuba, and Latin America is urging the United States to allow Cuba back into the fold. This policy change will take time and political will, but it is in our national interest and, ultimately, in Cuba's.

The United States' Cuba policy has long been determined by exiles who fled the revolution and settled into a powerful political bloc in Florida. But in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama won Florida without the support of Cuban American hard-liners, freeing himself from restraints that encumbered his Democratic and Republican predecessors.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The reintegration of Cuba into the Latin America community of nations

IPS News

CUBA-LATAM: From Isolation to Reinsertion

By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Dec 30 (IPS) - Cuba’s reintegration into Latin America means that the government of Raúl Castro will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Revolution in a wholly different regional context than the one that prevailed in the 1960s, when this Caribbean island nation was marginalised by practically all of Latin America.

In this sense, 2008 has been a very productive year for Cuban diplomacy, and the string of successes are expected to continue in 2009, with several Latin American heads of state visiting Havana, including Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Argentine President Cristina Fernández in January, followed by their Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet in February, and Mexican leader Felipe Calderón on a date to be decided.

Raúl Castro’s choice of Venezuela and Brazil as the destinations of his first official trips as Cuban president, following his appointment in February 2008, is an indication that he is steering his administration down the path of Latin American and Caribbean integration, while continuing with a foreign policy focused on relations with China and Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union.

In Brazil, Cuba was officially admitted as a full member of the Rio Group -- a political discussion and coordination forum involving 21 countries of the region--, which convened an extraordinary meeting during the first Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development, held Dec. 16-17 in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia.

Cuba’s admission to the Rio Group and the fact that it was invited to participate in the first regional summit held without U.S. involvement, where it also secured a condemnation of Washington’s nearly five-decade trade embargo on Cuba, strengthens the Cuban government’s stance against a possible reinstatement into the Organisation of American State (OAS).

For some analysts, the next step towards achieving complete regional integration would require dismantling the OAS, which excludes Cuba. "The OAS must be replaced by a Latin American organisation that is free from any intervention from the Pan-American imperial power," Ximena de la Barra, a Chilean independent consultant and researcher, commented to IPS.

On Jan. 31, 1962, the OAS’s Eight Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, passed a resolution excluding Cuba from the Inter-American system due to the island nation’s Marxist-Leninist government and its alignment with the Communist bloc.

The decision was passed with the supporting votes of 14 countries, one negative vote (Cuba), and six abstentions (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico). Following the suspension from the Washington-based OAS, all the governments of the region, with the sole exception of Mexico, broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba.

According to former Cuban diplomat Carlos Lechuga, Washington secured the votes in favour of excluding Cuba "through pressure and extortion," violating both the OAS and United Nations charters. "It was a victory obtained at a high cost, and it further discredited the OAS," Lechuga says in an article analysing the issue.

"For much of these past 50 years we’ve been cornered, but we’ve put up a strong defence," Raúl Castro said during his recent visit to Brazil, in reference to the period of international isolation that began in 1962, as the Cuban Revolution also became a reference point for any leftist movement that chose to take up arms.

Although Cuban authorities deny having played a role as "exporters of revolution" --because, they say, "revolutions are forged by the people" -- they have recognised that during the 1960s and 1970s they supported and encouraged armed revolutionary movements that emerged in several countries to fight against their national "oligarchies" and the United States’ "imperial policy" in the region.

"The only place where we didn’t support revolutionary efforts was in Mexico. In all the other countries, without exception, we supported such movements," admitted Fidel Castro in July1998 at a Havana meeting of economists, when the now ailing leader was still president.

In his opinion, the region had the necessary objective conditions to bring about a revolutionary process, but "the subjective conditions failed."

More recently, in his book "Peace in Colombia" the Cuban leader said that "as for supplying weapons to revolutionaries, we considered whether or not the government of the country in question had an aggressive position towards Cuba. It would depend on how far the struggle in that country had advanced."

According to researchers, the worst moment in Cuba’s relations with other governments of the region was during the 1962-1975 period. In 1975, the OAS amended a 1964 resolution that forced its member states to suspend diplomatic, trade and consular relations with Cuba.

"The amendment of that decision created conditions that paved the way for a gradual normalisation of ties with the island for the governments of the region, with the sole exception of El Salvador," Cuban researcher and academic Luis Suárez writes in a yet unpublished article provided to IPS.

Humanitarian concerns and the successive votes against Cuba in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights -- which Cuba viewed as participating in the United States’ policy of aggression -- caused diplomatic tension and clashes with several Latin American countries throughout the 1990s.

The biggest row occurred with Mexico, during the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-2006). But Fox’s successor, Felipe Calderón, ironed out the differences, and diplomatic relations between the two countries are now strong, with both presidents planning official visits for 2009.

Today, Cuba maintains ties with all the countries of Latin America, with the exception of El Salvador and Costa Rica, with which it has only restored consular relations. In addition, at this year’s U.N. General Assembly, Cuba obtained the highest favourable vote in 17 years (185 countries in favour, and three against) in its call for the elimination of the U.S. embargo.

Since the 1990s, Cuba strengthened its cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in the fields of health and education, through literacy programmes, specialised medical assistance, and free training for health professionals.

In 2005, the first 1,612 doctors graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine, which opened in 1999 with the enrolment of students from Central America and now has students from 27 countries. These new professionals took an oath to go back to their countries of origin and serve the medical profession with a non-commercial spirit.

Such programmes are especially popular among poor sectors in Latin America, and are highly valued by some governments, who see them as a key contribution to integration and development, in particular in the lowest-income nations.

Moreover, in the 1990s Fidel Castro began to speak out against taking up arms to achieve revolutionary goals. "Not even atomic weapons could dampen the hopes of the people; but it is clear to us now that at this moment in time, under the current circumstances, armed struggle is not the most promising way," he said in 1993.

"Take it from someone who, as you all well know, was involved in an armed struggle and backed armed revolutionary movements, and who does not regret it," Fidel Castro said that year in Havana in the closing statement at the meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum, where Latin American leftist movements came together to coordinate actions.

Fidel Castro stepped down from power in 2006 due to poor health, at the age of 82. In February 2007 he retired from the presidency, and the single-chamber parliament elected his younger brother Raúl to take over. However, he is still first secretary of the governing Communist Party.

Cuban youth to reenact Caravan of Liberty


The victorious Caravan of Liberty which was led by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro in 1959, when the Cuban Revolution triumphed, will be reenacted on January 2-8.

FIFTY caravan members selected from each province are to follow the route taken by members of the Rebel Army from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, which consolidated the defeat of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship.

The caravan members will be chosen from among Pioneers (schoolchildren), members of the Federation of Intermediate Education Students and the Federation of University Students; outstanding youth, teachers, doctors, artists, athletes, scientists, internationalists, campesinos; members of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution, and officers and soldiers from the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

Each province will select the members of this Caravan — which includes prominent figures and national Heroes of Labor — with an outstanding trajectory in their respective provinces. The caravan will reenact the one led by Fidel from January 2 to 8 of 1959, and will culminate in a giant rally at the former Columbia Military Base, now the Ciudad Escolar Libertad educational complex.

The caravan members will participate in official events in each province , visit historical sites, combatants and relatives of the Revolution’s martyrs, among other activities.

The Caravan of Liberty, which is taking place on the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary victory, departs from Santiago de Cuba on January 2 at 8 a.m. and is scheduled to reach Ciudad Libertad on January 8. It will move on to Pinar del Rio on the 17th, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1959 visit by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro.

Translated by Granma International

A non-event: two Cuban baseball players leave island to chase Yankee dollars

A couple of news sources in the Internet have reported that two Cuban baseball players, Yadel Marti and Yasser Gomez have left the island as "defectors" (i.e. chasers of the almighty U.S. dollar.)

I did not follow Gomez's career. He is just an average player. Yadel Marti has been in a downhill spiral since his appearance at the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. He performed poorly with his team, the Industriales, who have lost the last two Cuban baseball championships. Yadel had a mediocre performance during those two years.

If an Alexei Bell, Rolando Meriño, Alexander Malleta, Osmani Urrutia, Yoandry Urgelles or Yosvany Peraza had “defected” that would have been real news.

The real good Cuban baseball players stay in the island and play for their country’s fans.

Commerce Secretary is entitled to his opinion but HE IS 100% WRONG!

Is this the last diatribe of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez against the land that saw him being born? Is there any limit to his servitude toward his Yankee masters?

This apátrida has no shame in what he is willing to say or do in exchange for a few gold coins.

In just 21 days Gutierrez will be history and his infamous "Commission for a Free Cuba" will end up where it belongs: in the dustbin of history.

Rememember, Carlitos: Cuba became free on January First, 1959.

You will have to have some Maalox on the 50th anniversary of that date.

Fidel en Ciudad Libertad - Enero del 1959


Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro speaks to supporters at the Batista military base "Columbia" now known as Ciudad Libertad, January, 1959. (AP)

Time Magazine Article

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cuba will not accept pre-conditions for talks with U.S.

Only 22 days remain for the misgovernment of George W. Bush to end. Those of us who would like to see changes in our failed policies toward Cuba are hoping that more pragmatic leaders – Barack Obama in the U.S. and Raul Castro in Cuba – will lead to a burial of the bitterness of the last 50 years.

Cuba today is exporting doctors and ‘Operation Miracle’ ophthalmology hospitals. Gone are the days of trying to “export” the Cuban Revolution.

But a very vociferous right wing minority remains among the ruling capitalist class in the United States. Already, some are trying to torpedo future talks with Cuba.

You want to talk? End Yankee arrogance and don’t even think of setting pre-conditions. Cuba will not accept them. Trade between both countries would be very beneficial to all.

BTW, get rid of the silly idea that U.S. tourism is going to bring an end to the Cuban Revolution.

Fidel's Hideout in the Sierra Maestra


Fidel Castro's hideout in the Sierra Maestra
was never discovered

Monday, 29 December 2008 - 09:56 GMT

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Sierra Maestra, Cuba

[JG: Two very good videos in original article. Don't miss them.]

Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba 50 years ago after mounting one of the most successful guerrilla campaigns in history.

Operating out of the Sierra Maestra, a densely forested mountain range on the eastern tip of Cuba, his lightly armed rebel fighters defeated a US-equipped standing army complete with aircraft, tanks and artillery.

Yet the revolution was almost stillborn. The initial crossing by Fidel and his fighters from Mexico in 1956 aboard the boat Granma went horribly wrong and just 12 of the original rebels survived an early ambush.

Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, along with the legendary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, took refuge in the mountains.

From this remote, rugged terrain they forged a new fighting force which in a little over two years had toppled the dictator Fulgencio Batista, who flew into exile on 1 January 1959.

Eliecer Tejeda was one of their early recruits. At the age of 19 he had left his father's farm at the base of the mountains to join the rebels' forces.

"Batista's troops were harassing all the young people here. I was beaten by the troops so decided to go underground and join the guerrillas," he says.

Fidel's former headquarters, La Comandancia de La Plata, is now designated a national monument.

Today there is a paved road which takes you most of the way up into the mountains. But the final 3km (1.9 miles) of steep narrow trails can only be covered on foot or by mule.

A fit 71-year-old, Eliecer Tejeda agreed to accompany me on the mule ride up the steep muddy path strewn with rocks.

It was a journey he had made many times in his youth.

Eliecer had been one of Fidel's messengers. His role was to guide people in and out of the camp and to take messages and orders to supporters in the towns. He also helped organise the supply of food and weapons.

Fidel Castro's 26 July movement had a strong urban base and could also count on the support of other anti-Batista groups, one of the critical factors in the revolution's success.

Trap door

The camp itself is spread out, each hut hidden beneath the trees so that Batista's spotter planes could not find them.

There are still 16 thatched, wooden huts which have been meticulously restored and preserved.

One of the most substantial buildings is the cookhouse. Eliecer told me that they only lit the fire to cook at night so that the smoke could not be detected from afar.

He grimaced when I asked him what the food had been like.

"It was pretty bad at the beginning," he said. "We didn't have access to supplies then and had to live mainly on roots and vegetables."

Fidel Castro's headquarters is built into a steep slope overlooking a stream. The hut is divided into two rooms, his bed in one, the other with a dining table and desk and bookshelves.

There is also a fridge complete with a bullet hole in the side. There was no electricity up here, the fridge ran on kerosene and was used as much for medicines as food. They had heaved it up from a nearby town in the valley.

There is a trap door in the floor, an escape hatch through which Fidel could flee into the forest if needed.

The hideout was never discovered, though. Remoteness and camouflage helped. But Eliecer Tejeda believes that another key factor was that the guerrillas had the full support of the local population.

They were never betrayed.

"The guerrillas treated everyone well. Unlike Batista's soldiers they never abused the peasants or their women. There was even a camp hospital which Fidel would let the local people use. It was the same with captured troops, we were ordered to treat them well too," he says.

'Ideological weapon'

As well as being a charismatic leader and military strategist, Fidel Castro was also a master of propaganda.

The rebels built a press hut in the mountains where they produced a newspaper called El Cubano Libre, the Free Cuban.

There was a radio station, Radio Rebelde, broadcasting from inside the camp. One of the highlights was live performances by a local peasant band called the Quinteto Rebelde or Rebel Quintet.

The Quintet were all brothers, sons of a local farmer who had let Fidel build his headquarters on his land.

Three of the brothers are still alive and have brought new members into the band.

When we met they were all dressed in their olive green guerrilla fatigues, though they never took part in the fighting.

"We wanted Fidel to give us guns but he said that ours was an ideological weapon," band leader Eugenio Medina explained.

"We were so excited we thought that ideology was the name of some new type of gun. Only later did we realise he meant we were there to cheer up the guerrillas and demoralise the army."

The band still performs on special occasions. From the front garden of Eugenio Medina's modest home in the valley, the Quinteto Rebelde sang me one of the songs they had written, aimed at Batista's troops:

You'd better show respect to Che Guevara

Don't go looking for problems with Fidel

Think before you start messing with Raul

The rebels are difficult to catch


Fifty years have passed and, much like the revolution, the old band plays on with many of its original members still defiantly singing their rebel songs.

Cuba embargo didn't work

Staunton News Leader - Virginia

December 29, 2008

With the U.S. economy struggling and our trade deficit widening, the country needs to find new places to peddle our goods and services. For a key untapped country, the Obama administration needs to look no farther than our belabored neighbor 90 miles south of Florida.

The United States has had an economic embargo against Cuba for the past 50 years. With the Castros still in power, it is difficult to argue that the embargo has served its purpose or been the least bit effective over the past half century. The only thing the embargo has done is create an isolationist state in a post Cold War world whose leader now hangs out with our other Western Hemisphere antagonist, Venezuela.

After 50 years, it is time to take another look at the embargo and the travel restrictions that came along with it and see if they still make sense in this new world order. As the Obama administration looks to repair the United States' standing around the world, an olive branch to Cuba would be a good place to start.

President Clinton started the process by easing travel restrictions and opening the door to exporting agricultural goods and medicine to Cuba.

The embargo was looked at as late as this summer when two hurricanes criss-crossed the island, wreaking havoc throughout the country. They destroyed 500,000 homes and about a third of the nation's crops. The Bush administration offered direct aid to the Cuban people for the first time in the history of the embargo. The Cuban government rejected the offer of aid, but it was a start.

Despite being the longest lasting embargo in modern history, it is a porous one. In 2007, the United States was the sixth-largest exporter to Cuba and was its largest supplier of food. If we really meant business with one of the last bastions of communism, we certainly wouldn't be sending the country food. But, fortunately, this has become a compassionate embargo, and it is compassion that should continue to break down the barrier.

The Obama administration needs to have a foreign policy focused on making new friends instead of punishing old enemies with tired, worn out and failed policies of the past. It's time to say hello to our neighbors again and find a new market for our cars, electronics and tourism industry.

Opinions expressed in this feature represent the majority opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, consisting of: Roger Watson, president and publisher; David Fritz, executive editor; Cindy Corell, community conversations editor; and Jim McCloskey, editorial cartoonist.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cuban Youth Salute the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution with new website

Cuba's Joven Club de Computación y Electrónica recently debuted a new website to salute and commmemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution against U.S. supported puppet Fulgencio Batista.

The pages are in Spanish.

Sitio Web de la Juventud Cubana en saludo al triunfo de Nuestra Rvolución Socialista: http://aniversario50.cubava.cu/

Cuba blasts Israel for Gaza massacre

Press TV

Cuba has condemned Israel's bloody raid of Gaza, which has left hundreds dead or injured, describing the Zionist attacks as 'genocidal'.

The Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde released a government statement on Sunday, in which the Caribbean Island had urged international players to help bring immediate end to the massacre of innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

"Cuba voices its firmest condemnation of this genocidal act by the Israel, and urges the international community to condemn this massacre and mobilize to demand an immediate end to these attacks on the Palestinian civilian population," the statement said.

Israeli warplane in what have been described as attacking Hamas's positions in Gaza have heavily pounded the strip during the previous two days leaving at least 300 killed hundreds wounded.

------

JG: The warmongering Israeli Zionists are uncivilized barbarians. Up to this point they have massacred 300 Palestinians. This act of aggression deserves the condemnation of the civilized world! SHAME ON ISRAEL!

Al Jazeera: Israel's failure to learn

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New book on Fidel Castro to be presented at the Havana Reading History Festival


Radio Habana-Cuba

Havana, Dec 22 (RHC) 'Así es Fidel', a personal description of Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro, written by Cuban journalist Luis Baez, will open the Reading History Festival from December 22 to 27 at the Cuba Pavilion in Havana and at several venues around the country.

The book is made up of anecdotes and testimonies from sports people, journalists, intellectuals plus ordinary men and women who have had contact with the leader of the Cuban Revolution. It is the latest in a long list of books written by the author.

The Reading History festival is a joint initiative of the Young Communist League, the Cuban Book Institute and the Ministry of Culture and is aimed at encouraging reading on Cuban history.

The event will feature new titles by various publishing houses accompanied by a program that includes music and film screenings, among other artistic expressions.

The presentation will take place on Tuesday of the book "50 canciones en años de Revolución" (50 revolutionary songs), a compilation of by editor Radames Giro from the Jose Marti Publishing House.

Also available will be a textbook on Ernesto Che Guevara. All titles will be available at the 18th Havana Book Fair, slated for February 12, 2009.

Obama's Cuba Opportunity: Experts to Hold News Media Call on the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Market Watch

Last update: 4:14 p.m. EST Dec. 22, 2008

WASHINGTON, Dec 22, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and other leading experts on US-Cuba policy will hold a media conference call, hosted by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, commenting on the prospects for significant changes in US policy under the incoming Obama administration and on recent developments in Cuba and the region
.
This call, for reporters only, will take place at 10:30am, Tuesday, December 23, 2008. The dial-in instructions are:

* US/Canada Dial-in #: 888-411-0878

* Int'l/Local Dial-In #: 706-634-2342

Conference ID #: 79338748

The call will be moderated by Sarah Stephens. Participants will make brief statements and then take questions from journalists.

Participants on the call will include:

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), who visited Cuba in 2007, is a member of the House Democratic Leadership and a founding Member of the Cuba Working Group.

Steven Clemons directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, which aims to promote a new American internationalism that combines a tough-minded realism about America's interests in the world with a pragmatic idealism about the kind of world order best suited to America's democratic way of life.

Peter Kornbluh directs the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive ( www.nsarchive.org), a public interest research center located at George Washington University (Washington, DC).

William M. LeoGrande is the Dean of the American University School of Public Affairs and a specialist in Latin American politics and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America. (www.american.edu/faculty/leogrande).

Kornbluh and LeoGrande are the authors of the forthcoming article in Cigar Aficionado Magazine, "Talking With Castro," scheduled for publication in January 2009.

Carlos A. Saladrigas is vice chairman of Premier American Bank in Miami and the cochairman of the Cuba Study Group (www.cubastudygroup.org). On December 10, 2008, the Cuba Study Group released a white paper titled: "Lifting Restrictions on Travel and Remittances to Cuba: A Case for Unilateral Action," calling on the U.S. government to lift all restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba for all Americans.

Sarah Stephens is the executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Ms. Stephens led six delegations to Cuba in 2008, and she is the co-editor of the forthcoming report, "9 Ways for US to Talk to Cuba and for Cuba to Talk to US."

SOURCE: Center for Democracy in the Americas

for Center for Democracy in the Americas
David Dreyer, 202-986-9802

Video: Admiral Chabanenko visits Cuba



US Rice Industry Sees More Open Trade With Cuba Under Obama

news.alibaba.com

Updated: 23 Dec 2008 10:02:26 GMT

CHICAGO --The U.S. rice industry is hoping President-elect Barack Obama's campaign mantra of change will apply to the country's relations with Cuba, which analysts say could become a key customer if the U.S. would allow it.

Although the U.S. eased trade sanctions against Cuba at the end of the Clinton administration, there are still enough restrictions to limit sales to the island neighbor.

"The best case in our view would be to remove the restrictions regarding trade and economic relations and travel and all that, and just kind of open it up," said Reece Langley vice president of government affairs for the USA Rice Federation, which represents rice producers, millers and merchants. "Whether that's going to happen, I think that's a long shot, at least initially."

But Langley and others say there's plenty of reasons for the rice industry to be optimistic about change coming to Cuba.

"The main thing is, I believe that things will open up for travelers, people going between the U.S. and Cuba," said Milo Hamilton, co-founder of firstgrain.com.

He thinks that could happen very soon after Obama takes office. Such a move would be seen as a benchmark signaling improved relations and freer trade with the nation.

Cuba is a big rice consumer and natural customer of U.S. rice given its proximity, analysts said.

"From what we can tell, they're using about 1 million tons per year, and we think can supply them 350,000 to maybe 500,000 metric tons of that, if things were completely opened up," Langley said. "Maybe not even completely opened up."

Trade with Cuba picked up in 2001, following passage of the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, and rice sales slowly built up to a high of 177,000 metric tons in 2004, Langley said. The Bush administration tightened restrictions in 2005, however, and sales dropped. There were 60,000 metric tons sold to Cuba in 2007, and Langley estimates only 12,000 to 15,000 through October of this year.

The U.S. government's changes in 2005 have prevented Cuba from purchasing U.S. rice via credit.

"You basically had to have payment of cash in advance, which meant payment had to be sent before the shipment ever left the U.S.," Langley said.

That has prompted Cuba to get loans from foreign countries in order to buy U.S. rice, said Bill Nelson, a grain analyst with Doane Advisory Services. Easing this restriction and granting Cuba credit would facilitate more sales, analysts said.

"If you're going to sell, you might as well just sell it," Nelson said. "There are certainly issues with Cuba we all know about."

Langley added that another potential change, allowing for direct banking, would cut down on transaction time and costs because payments to U.S. companies that do sell rice to Cuba wouldn't have to be made to a third-party bank.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says on its Web site that in 2006 Cuba was the 33rd largest market for U.S. agricultural exports.

Reform in U.S. policy toward Cuba already has support in Congress, Langley said. He said there have been multiple instances in which legislation to relax the restrictions has been included in appropriation bills, only to be removed from conference committees at the insistence of the White House.

He also noted Obama "won Florida without really having committed on anything to the Cuban population down there, that hopefully he has some flexibility to push this agenda.

"I think you'll see a pretty large coalition, a diverse coalition of groups working on this issue going forward," Langley said.

Cuba is considered a natural consumer of U.S. rice because of its proximity to the U.S. and its key rice-producing regions. That allows it to purchase much smaller amounts than it could from key U.S. competitors, such as Vietnam and Thailand, and operate hand-to-mouth, worry less about getting it shipped and storing it, analysts said.

"It becomes the difference between buying huge amounts at Wal-Mart versus going over to Stop & Go," Hamilton said. "That's our edge."

He also noted, however, that Cuba is still "a price-conscious buyer" and that with cheaper Asian prices and historically low freight rates, the nation still might have a greater incentive to look elsewhere.

But easing of trade restrictions would help U.S. rice, analysts said. A Chicago Board of Trade rice trader said prices would "really take off."

Nelson said easing of rice sales to Cuba could lead to a couple million hundredweight in additional sales.

"On the margin, when you're talking 20-25 million hundredweight in ending stocks, you're talking about 5%-10% of the ending stocks. That's significant," Nelson said.

-By Ian Berry, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-341-5778; ian.berry@dowjones.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Manuel E. Yepe: U.S. press continues their discredited attacks against the Cuban Revolution


José Martí

Daily News - Sri Lanka's National Newspaper

Lifting the prohibitions

Manuel E. Yepe

Havana, (Prensa Latina) If the Western press had paid as much attention to the changes occurring in Cuba since 1959 to date as they are about the current changes, readers around the world - and in particular, those from the United States - would understand the characteristics of the Cuban revolution and understand what is happening.

That was the private opinion of a foreign journalist who is enjoying himself referring to the current changes in Cuba which he would not have had space for in his paper previously.

The current surge of information on changes in Cuba seems the result of a combination of factors.

In the first place, there are the intentions of the mass media against the Cuban revolution - which originate in Washington and has lasted almost half a century.

It tries to exploit in its favour the assumption to the Cuban presidency by Raul Castro in place of the historical leader of the revolution, Fidel Castro, to express certain alleged errors in Cuba’s revolutionary process which could lend some credibility to their discredited attacks in the future.

Search

The Cuban revolution of today began in 1959. It has been characterised by a constant search for new forms and innovative mechanisms of social mobilisation.

The basic purpose of these is modelling a new type of society, one more human and just, in an independent and free homeland.

During the duration of this development, the revolution has often had to correct its conduct to dodge enemy attacks or when it has not served strategic requirements, whatever the reason.

More than once, a process of correcting mistakes and incorrect tendencies has been conducted.

It has been done so in a completely natural manner, as a revolutionary feature, if it is a real one. José Martí, was Cuba’s national hero and the main organiser of the independence struggles of the Cubans against the Spanish colonial empire during its most crucial moments.

Martí defended the idea that “Politics is the art of inventing a resource for each new resource of the enemy and turning those setbacks into a future; of adapting to the present moment avoiding that the adaptation is a sacrifice, or the whittling down of the ideal followed; of not stepping back to take impulse; of falling on the enemy before it has its armies in order or its battle prepared”.

Cuban revolutionaries of today, beginning with Fidel and Raul Castro are proud of being followers of Marti and putting of his ideas into practice.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the European socialist countries, Cuba’s confronted the crisis of the 90s the strategy of a “special period”.

This led to the introduction of a number of policies which significantly altered many factors of its development strategy.

Partners

The abrupt collapse of foreign exchange with what had been certain trade partners in East Europe compelled the revolution’s leadership to introduce solutions it would not have previously under different circumstances.

Foreign tourism, which was seen as an important source of income only after sufficient advances in other sectors, and which required confronting with greater security the social dangers involved with that “smokeless industry”, had to be speeded-up to obtain convertible currency in the short term. Capital investment which barely stimulated were inevitable or highly convenient and certain, was promoted more actively for the same reasons.

To alleviate the hard currency deficit it became necessary to boost income to the country through remittances by Cubans abroad to their families on the Island.

For this reason, special stores were opened to sell merchandise in convertible currency which was not included among the state-subsidised articles guaranteed to the population through rationing.

This systematic distribution guaranteed that basic foods for survival could be maintained through sales in the shops selling in convertible currency.

It was clear to the revolution’s leadership that relying on these market solutions as emergency mechanisms to obtain the necessary capital for survival led to serious risks in terms of their political and social costs.

It was obvious that these would lead to the introduction of unprecedented income differences in the population.

These had to be confronted with measures which would become unpopular and which would require later rectification or adjustment. But there was no other choice.

The prohibition of access by Cubans to foreign tourist hotels, the limitations on Cubans on having cell phones and others which have recently been lifted - as well as some that are still in effect - have been guided by the goal of reducing the impact that these privileges had in a society based on equality and solidarity, in moments of serious danger for the nation.

Appliances

The temporary suspension of the free sale of certain imported electrical appliances flowed from the need, first of all, to create the electrical energy required for their use.

When the moment arrived for removing or rectifying any of these regulations, they are changed with no further ado except for those that affect the security of the nation or the welfare of the Cuban people.

All the world press information on the changes in Cuba is welcome. As is well-known, revolution is synonymous with change and the Cuban revolutionary process will undoubtedly continue producing constant changes as it has done since 1959 without ever losing direction.(PL)

(The writer is an attorney, political scientist, retired diplomat and former Director General of Prensa Latina. Currently teaches at the Raul Roa Higher Institute for Foreign Relations, operated by the Cuban Foreign Ministry, MINREX.)

New Cuban coins to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution


Juventud Rebelde

Presentan monedas por los 50 años de la Revolución

Por: Aracelys Bedevia

Correo: digital@jrebelde.cip.cu
20 de diciembre de 2008 00:29:59 GMT

El historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana, Eusebio Leal, resaltó el valor de las dos piezas, que integran una colección sobre grandes momentos de la historia revolucionaria

Dos monedas conmemorativas por el 50 Aniversario de la Revolución Cubana fueron presentadas ayer por el Doctor Eusebio Leal Spengler, historiador de Ciudad de La Habana, en el antiguo Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (hoy Museo de la Ciudad).

Leal resaltó el valor incalculable de estas piezas que marcan medio siglo de nuestra historia revolucionaria y «donde está dicho todo». Una lleva los perfiles del diálogo de dos líderes y hermanos, Fidel y Raúl, mientras que la otra resume las acuñaciones realizadas por la Casa de la Moneda de Cuba para celebrar aniversarios anteriores.

El historiador elogió la calidad del diseño y excelente factura de las monedas y se refirió a la serie emitida después del triunfo revolucionario, la cual fue presentada también y puesta en circulación.

Se trata de una colección acuñada en oro, plata, cobre y níquel, que resume importantes momentos de la Revolución e incluye seis monedas que aluden al tema de la victoria.

Liaena Hernandez, Cuba's youngest deputy in The National Assembly of People's Power


BBC

Monday, 22 December 2008 - 10:23 GMT

By Michael Voss
BBC News, Havana

Meeting Cuba's youngest politician

As Cuba prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fidel Castro's revolution on 1 January, most of those in power are the same people who fought alongside him half a century ago.

Fidel's brother Raul Castro, 77, is now president and he chose 78-year-old Machado Ventura as his number two.

But there is a new generation of communists waiting in the wings.

The majority of deputies elected to the national assembly, or parliament, earlier this year were born after the revolution.

The youngest, Liaena Hernandez, is just 18 years old. A petite young woman with long black hair and an engaging smile, she has been a political activist since her early teens.

We first met during a coffee break at the last national assembly meeting.

"Having young Cubans in parliament shows that the revolution continues. It isn't just something from our history," she told me. Ms Hernandez comes from Guantanamo province at the eastern end of the island.

Her father is in the army and she has just completed her voluntary military service as a border guard in an all-female unit along the controversial US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

She was born just as Cuba's main benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed.

What followed was called the special period, a time of hunger and hardship. The United States also tightened the trade embargo believing it would hasten the collapse of communism.

This is the Cuba that Ms Hernandez grew up in.

Kissing babies

"I was born with the revolution. I've never known capitalism," she said. "My earliest memories are of socialism, the special period and the US blockade.

"As a family we couldn't have all the things we would have liked. For years I had to wear the same pair of shoes to school, we just had to keep mending them.

"But at least I had free health care and education. And as a nation, everyone was willing to work together to get by and move forward."

Ms Hernandez invited the BBC to visit her on a constituency visit.

She represents Manuel Tames, a small rural community nestled in the foothills of the Guantanamo's Sierra Cristal mountains.

There is little traffic on its dusty streets apart from horses and the occasional tractor.

At the heart of the town is an ageing sugar mill with its giant smokestack chimney. There is also a recently renovated health centre with nurses and beds to spare.

But solving constituency needs is not the primary role of Cuban deputies.

"Our most important mission is to explain to the people the politics of the state so that they understand what is going on," she explained as we arrived.

Some two dozen constituents had gathered to greet us outside of the municipal offices.

Like all good politicians, Ms Hernandez moved comfortably amongst them, kissing babies, joking and chatting with young and old.

Better roads and housing are amongst their concerns, but food appears the number one priority.

Raul Castro has started to hand over unproductive state owned land to private farmers and co-operatives in a bid to boost production and cut food imports.

Farmers in Tames are waiting expectantly for the scheme to take off.

"Today is a different period from that of the revolution. There were some things which were needed then which are not so good now, because the context has changes," she said.

"We need to keep perfecting our economic system, that's where the country is going."

'Perfeccionamento'

The government's priority is to try and make the state-run system work more efficiently, rather than opening up to a free market, like the Chinese have done.

You hear the word "perfeccionamento" - perfecting the system - used a lot by officials.

There are also no signs of any political reforms. Opposition parties are not allowed.

The national assembly only meets twice a year, a few days of committee sessions followed by a single day's sitting. Critics call it a rubber stamp parliament. The next session is scheduled for 27 December.

Candidates are also selected in advance. In the elections in January there were 614 people standing for the same number of seats.

You do not have to be a member of the Communist Party to stand, but it does help.

Ms Hernandez, though, believes that the system has served Cuba well.

"History has taught us that the Communist Party is the road that Cuba needs to follow.

"We don't need to copy other countries' systems. We are satisfied with our own and we are going to keep perfecting it."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Two homeruns by DH Yorkis La Rosa extend Villa Clara’s victories to 14 in a row


The current champion of the Cuban National Baseball Series, the Santiago de Cuba Avispas played last night against the Naranjas of Villa Clara, reports Prensa Latina.

Two homeruns by designated hitter Yorkis La Rosa against Olympian Norge Luis Vera won the game for the Naranjeros by the score of 5-3.

The record for most consecutive wins is 18 during the 1982-83 baseball season, and is held by Villla Clara.

30 Days

In just one month, starting today, America’s nightmare of the last eight years will end. The misgovernment of George W. “Decider-In-Chief” Bush and Dick “I-Am-The-Law” Cheney will be over.

They both have consistently violated the constitution of the United States, which they both were sworn, under oath, to uphold.

They illegally invaded a county which was not at war with the United States, using the false pretenses that said country possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. It was a lie. For that lie, 4,000+ Americans have paid with their lives.

They both put into action and approved torture methods, which they euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” These are crimes against humanity. Bush and Cheney deserve to be tried by an International Tribunal.

They both have bankrupted, fiscally and morally, what it used to be a great country.

In my country of birth, they used to have a very popular dicharacho. It is very appropriate for the American people to hurl it to this evil pair: “¡Llévatelos, viento de agua!” (Sweep them away, rainy weather!)

On January 20, 2009, at noon time, I will say: Good Bye and Good Riddance!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bill Richardson: The Anti-Gutierrez?

The Havana Note

December 15, 2008

Excerpts:

Gov. Richardson will be replacing Carlos Gutierrez as Commerce Secretary. As the highest-ranking Cuban American in the Bush administration, he's been the great defender of the embargo at home and around the world. He even lobbied European ministers, unsuccessfully, to stop the EU from ending their remaining sanctions against the island nation that now exports doctors, not revolution. Secretary Gutierrez also co-chairs the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, a creation of the Bush administration that coincided with the administration's tightening of the Cuban-American travel restrictions that, in turn, heralded the end of the unified Cuban-American voting bloc in South Florida.

In fact it is thanks to the over-reach of Secretary Gutierrez that Gov. Richardson will be able to go to Havana knowing that domestic politics - not to mention U.S. national interests - are on his side: Obama won Florida with only 35% of the Cuban American vote and a [recent] poll says that 55% of Cuban Americans in South Florida want an end to the embargo completely.

Gov. Richardson will certainly benefit from the mission, should he in fact be offered it. In Congress, he led the House Hispanic Caucus and worked hard to bring the Latino community into the Obama camp. So look for an early negotiated trade with Cuba around the "Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot" policy that allows Cubans and only Cubans who elude the Coast guard or Border Patrol and set foot on American soil get fast-tracked to citizenship. No other ethnic group gets that treatment, and it's a thorn in the side of the Latino community that both Richardson and Obama can reap a lot of capital from plucking.

Welcome back to Washington, Mr. Secretary.

------

JG: Governor Bill Richardson will be a great improvement over the current Secretary of Commerce. I wish him great success.

Pinar del Rio and Villa Clara lead Cuba’s XLVIII National Baseball Series

In the Occidental League the Vegueros of Pinar del Rio have sole possession of first place with 10 wins and seven losses. The Industriales are one game behind with eight wins and seven losses.

The big stars of the XLVIII National Baseball Series are the Naranjas of Villa Clara, which is the only unbeaten team in the Oriental League. They have 13 straight victories, with no defeats. Ciego de Avila is two and a half games behind them with 12 wins and four losses.

Current Standings

Friday, December 19, 2008

Letter to the Editor: The U.S. government does not own the Caribbean Sea

Cay Compass - Cayman Island's National Newspaper

The US government does not own the Caribbean Sea nor do they own Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, so therefore, the Russian warships are free to go where they are welcome.

Why do we make the Yankees feel that they own this region and its people?

Have the Russians ever invaded any country in this region?

Have the Russians ever ousted any govt of this region? Which country invaded Grenada in October 1983 and murdered innocent people?

Who assassinated President Salvador Allende of Chile? How many times did the US use their war ships to invaded Haiti?

Two Russian warships are going to Cuba and staying for five days – the USA is controlling 100 square kilometres at Guantanamo for more than 100 years and is refusing to leave even though they are no longer welcomed by the government of Cuba.

Wake up Caribbean people. Let the sun embrace you; do not let the North American gorilla keep you in darkness.

Anthony Wiggins

Former 'Center For a Free Cuba' employee pleads guilty to theft

By JESSE J. HOLLAND

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Bush White House aide [and former employee of the Center for a Free Cuba] pleaded guilty Friday to stealing nearly $600,000 from a government-funded center that promotes democracy in Cuba.

The Center for a Free Cuba describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

USAID gives the center millions of dollars a year for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave radios and laptops. A spokesman said the center received an allegation in mid-January about the possible misuse of funds and alerted officials within a few days.

Complete story

------

JG: USAID has distributed up to 45 million dollars to organizations which are supposed to bring "democracy" to Cuba. Now we know where some of that money goes: into the pockets of Cuban-American Republicans who want to "liberate" Cuba.

If you tell me that Sixto is a Democrat who voted for Obama, I would be very surprised.

More photos of Admiral Chabanenko arriving in Havana




By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - A Russian warship sailed into Havana Bay on Friday for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as Russia flexed its muscles close to the United States and showed off its warming relations with former Cold War ally Cuba.

The dark gray, anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Chabanenko fired its guns in salute as it sailed in from the Straits of Florida just 90 miles from the U.S. coast and was greeted with cannon fire from an old Spanish fort at the mouth of the bay.

Fishermen and tourists looked on from the waterfront as the Chabanenko, its sailors lined up on the deck, sailed through the narrow bay entrance.

After tugboats eased the ship into a dock opposite historic Old Havana, a Cuban military band welcomed it with martial music.

The destroyer, which is set to stay in Havana for five days, took part in recent joint exercises with the Venezuelan navy and stopped in at former ally Nicaragua before sailing to Cuba. It is accompanied by two supply ships.

The Chabanenko's visit comes amid renewed diplomatic and economic relations between Cuba and Russia, which is increasing its presence in the Western Hemisphere amid rising tensions with Washington.

Some analysts believe Russia is signaling its unhappiness with U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe and support for former Soviet republic Georgia in its recent conflict with Russia.

In public statements, U.S. officials have placed little importance on the Russian naval visit to Latin America.

Russia was communist-run Cuba's biggest benefactor before their alliance abruptly ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a significant military presence in Cuba and Soviet warships were a common sight in Havana Bay.

Soviet missiles placed on the island sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis with the United States in 1962, a tense showdown that almost brought the two superpowers to war but ended with the Soviets withdrawing the weapons and the U.S. agreeing never to invade Cuba.

A series of Russian officials have come to Cuba in recent months, including President Dmitry Medvedev who stopped in Havana on November 28 after visiting Venezuela, Brazil and Peru.

He described Russian-Cuban relations as "especially intense" after talks with Cuban President Raul Castro and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

Russian Navy Destroyer Arrives in Havana Harbor


Destroyer Admiral Chabanenko

HAVANA (AFP) — A group of Russian warships arrived in Cuba on Friday, the first such visit to the Soviet-era ally since the end of the Cold War, an AFP journalist reported.

Welcoming shots were fired from the colonial fortress, San Carlos de la Cabaña, followed by a ceremony with music, presided over by officers of the Cuban navy. (BBC)

Part of a tour of Latin America, the five-day visit close to US waters is seen as a response to Washington's own moves in areas Russia deems within its sphere of influence, including in the Black Sea.

The usual arrogance of Bush’s State Department kills prisoner exchange between Cuba and the U.S.

Cuban President Raul Castro had stated yesterday in an exchange with American journalists in Brazil that “those prisoners that you talk about -- they (the United States) want them released? Let them tell us, we'll send them over there with families and all. Let them return our five heroes. It is a gesture from both sides."

The US State Department rejected the proposal shortly afterward.

I am not surprised by this turn of events. The Nazi-like hatred of Bush toward Cuba is a well documented fact.

Crimson Tide falls 7-5 in third baseball game against Cuba

December 19, 2008

A baseball team of the Cuban Institute of Sports defeated the University of Alabama baseball squad by the score of 7-5. The report by the Tuscaloosa News did not say what the outcome of the previous two games was.

The game was played at Havana’s legendary Estadio Latinoamericano.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cuban President Raul Castro arrives in Brasilia for Official Visit


Brasilia, Dec 18 (PL) - Cuban President Raul Castro began on Thursday an official visit to Brazil after attending the 1st Latin American and Caribbean Summit held in the Brazilian seaside resort of Costa do Sauipe.

The Cuban leader arrived in Brasilia last night and he is expected to hold official talks with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva later today.

Raul Castro flew into the Brazilian capital from Salvador de Bahia, where he attended a rally together with President Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Manuel Zelaya (Honduras).

The presence of the island state's delegation in the Latin American and Caribbean Summit marked Cuba's entry to the Group of Rio, regarded as a historic deed.

Raul Castro also addressed the Southern Common Market Summit as a special guest.

Lula visited Cuba last October, in the aftermath of the passage of three devastating hurricanes.


Lula recibió a presidente Raúl Castro


BRASILIA, 18 de diciembre (PL).— El presidente brasileño, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, recibió hoy a su homólogo cubano, Raúl Castro, quien inició una visita oficial a esta nación suramericana.

En el Palacio de Planalto, Lula, el canciller Celso Amorin y el jefe de la diplomacia del país antillano, Felipe Pérez Roque, esperaron a Raúl Castro, tras recibir los honores militares frente a la Plaza de los Tres Poderes.

Ambos mandatarios se abrazaron y luego saludaron a un grupo de niños con banderas de las dos naciones e intercambiaron palabras con los menores.

Con posterioridad, Lula y Raúl Castro sostuvieron conversaciones oficiales en el Palacio de Planalto.

El presidente cubano llegó en la madrugada a esta capital luego de participar en la Cumbre de América Latina y el Caribe en el balneario de Costa de Sauípe.


Lula recebe Raúl Castro em Brasília com honras de Estado

Brasília, 18 dez (EFE).- O presidente de Cuba, Raúl Castro, foi recebido hoje com honras de Estado pelo presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, no início da primeira visita oficial do líder cubano ao Brasil.

Raúl Castro chegou ao Palácio do Planalto pouco antes das 12h e passou em revista um batalhão dos Dragões da Independência, guarda de honra da Presidência brasileira.

Lula esperou Raúl Castro no alto da rampa do palácio, onde os dois presidentes ouviram os hinos cubano e brasileiro, em meio a salvas de tiros de canhão.

Depois, os dois governantes posaram para os fotógrafos e Raúl Castro comentou a Lula que fariam "como os políticos da União Européia, que se dão as mãos e sorriem (diante da imprensa), mas não têm as relações fraternas" como a dos dois.

A cerimônia durou cerca de 15 minutos e incluiu uma saudação dos dois presidentes a um grupo de crianças de escolas públicas que estavam com bandeiras do Brasil e de Cuba, com os quais posaram para algumas fotos.

Em seguida, iniciaram uma reunião de trabalho, na qual Lula e Raúl Castro devem discutir assuntos de interesse comum, centrados especialmente na economia e no comércio.

Depois. Lula oferecerá um almoço em honra ao presidente cubano no Palácio do Itamaraty, sede do Ministério das Relações Exteriores, que será o último ato oficial da visita de Raúl Castro.

Também com esse almoço, terminarão as atividades da primeira viagem de Raúl Castro ao exterior desde que assumiu o poder, em fevereiro, em lugar do irmão Fidel.

O Raúl Castro chegou no sábado passado a Caracas e, entre segunda-feira e quarta-feira, participou das cúpulas do Mercosul, do Grupo do Rio, e da América Latina e do Caribe, que aconteceram na Costa do Sauípe (Bahia).

A volta de Raúl Castro a Havana está prevista para hoje mesmo, após este deixar Brasília. (EFE)

Latin America leaders tell United States to end Cuba blockade

The Washington Post

By Raymond Colitt
Reuters
Wednesday, December 17, 2008; 8:41 PM

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) - Latin American leaders called on President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday to lift the 46-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba as soon as he takes office.

The leaders of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations said the unilateral enforcement of sanctions was "unacceptable" and said Washington must comply with U.N. resolutions condemning the embargo imposed against Cuba at the height of the Cold War in 1962.

More...

-----

JG: This report from the Washington Post has errors of fact. The declaration issued at the end of the Bahia Summit, does not mention President-elect Barack Obama. It mentions the Government of the United States of America, which is solely responsible for the blockade of Cuba.

Bahía Declaration

SPECIAL DECLARATION IN REGARDS TO THE NECESSITY OF PUTTING AN END TO THE ECONOMIC, COMMERCIAL, AND FINACIAL BLOCKADE IMPOSSED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST CUBA, INCLUDING THE APPLICATION OF THE SO-CALLED HELMS-BURTON ACT.

The Chiefs of State and Governments of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, meeting at Salvador, Bahía, Brazil, during the occasion of the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean for Integration and Development.

CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in regards to the necessity of putting an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba, and the expressions against it that have been approved at numerous international meetings.

WE AFFIRM that in the defense of free trade and the practical transparency of international commerce, it is unacceptable to apply unilateral coercive measure which affect the well being of people and obstruct integration processes.

WE REJECT in the most energetic form the application of laws and measures which are contrary to international law, like the Helms-Burton Act, and we exhort the government of the United States of America to put an end to its application.

WE ASK the government of the United States of America to comply with that which is stated in 17 successive resolutions approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, and that it put an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade which it maintains against Cuba.

WE SOLICIT in particular from the government of the United States that, with an immediate character, it stop the measures implemented during the course of the last five years with the objective of strengthening and deepening the impact of their policies in regards to the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cuba Journal inaugurates ‘Players of El Béisbol Cubano’ hosted by Google’s Picasa Web Albums

Today is the official debut date of public photos of various Cuban baseball players. It will be updated as often as possible when public photos become available.

By clicking on each photo, you can enlarge the photo. Put your cursor over the photo to read the accompanying caption.

This is a cooperative effort. Feel free to send additional photos to our email address, if you wish to contribute. Include name of player, when it was taken, if possible. A short caption can also be included.

Link: Players of El Béisbol Cubano

Latin American leaders back Cuba, hope for change in US ties

December 17, 2008 - 1:30 p.m.

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AFP) — Latin American leaders wrapped up a two-day summit Wednesday with a demand the United States end its 46-year-old embargo on Cuba, and expressing hopes strained US ties will change under incoming president Barack Obama.

Presidents and top officials from 33 countries covering virtually all of Latin America and the Caribbean -- including Cuban President Raul Castro on his first foreign tour abroad -- were keen to turn the page on their experience with US President George W. Bush's administration.

The two-day summit in the northeastern Brazilian resort of Costa do Sauipe flew high its assertion of independence from the United States right from the start on Tuesday.

The leaders issued a special statement demanding an end to the US economic sanctions imposed on Cuba since 1962.

The Rio Group -- a policy-coordinating bloc covering most of the region -- also welcomed Cuba as its newest member, delivering a pointed challenge to Washington's bid to isolate Havana.

Castro, making his first appearance at a multilateral forum outside Cuba since taking over from his brother Fidel more than two years ago, thanked his counterparts for that and their support against the "illegal and unjust" US embargo.

He reiterated his willingness to hold talks with Obama, but only on condition the sanctions be lifted and the two talk to each other as equals.

Obama, who takes power on January 20, said during his campaign that while he was ready to meet Cuba's leaders, the embargo would stay.

Bolivian President Evo Morales urged the leaders at the summit to give Washington an ultimatum: lift the embargo on Cuba or risk having its ambassadors kicked out of the region.

"If the new United States government doesn't lift the economic blockade, we should expel its ambassadors," said Morales, one of a growing number of leftwing leaders taking Latin America out of the US orbit.

But the summit's host, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, distanced himself from Morales's call, even though he reaffirmed his opposition to the US embargo.

"Prudence and political diplomacy" was needed until Obama was formally made US president so the region can "see what he proposes for Latin America, what treatment he will give Cuba," he told a post-summit news conference with other leaders including Morales at his side.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Cuba's main ally and a frequent critic of Washington, said Tuesday he believed "a new era is starting" in the region, one free of US influence.

He added Wednesday: "Full independence has not come about because we have never been as united as we are now. Maybe now is the true moment for full integration."

Both Morales and Chavez in September kicked out the US ambassadors to their countries, accusing them of siding with the opposition and fomenting unrest.

Latin America's ambitions to assert its independence from the United States could also be seen in efforts to establish joint institutions.

Unasur, a South American bloc counting 12 of the biggest nations, on Tuesday agreed to set up a regional defense council to act as a forum for confronting common threats and to clear the air during moments of tension between members.

And Mexican President Felipe Calderon said many Latin American leaders wanted to formalize their regional summits within a mooted organization which would not include the United States.

If realized, that body would effectively rival the existing Organization of American States, which has seats for US and Canadian representatives.

Barack Obama: Time Magazine's Person of the Year

The dawn of a new era: the beginning of the work to establish a Latin America and Caribbean Union

The summit meetings which took place in Brazil during the last two days are transcendental and historical. The political and economic integration of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean is of monumental importance.

The nations to the south of the Rio Grande no longer will accept the dictates of a declining empire.

Cuba will occupy the place that it richly deserves among the sister republics of our continent. The Organization of American States, which has always served the interests of American imperialism, is DEAD.

Lula da Silva Warns of World Crisis Effects on Latin America and the Caribbean

HAVANA, Cuba, Dec 16 (ACN) Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, warned Latin American and Caribbean countries of the possible impact by the world financial crisis on the region if necessary measures, such as integration actions, are not taken on time.

Lula da Silva made the statement as he opened First Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development in the Costa do Sauípe resort, in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The meeting brought together heads of state from more than 30 countries.

Lula said the social progress reached by the nations in the area over the past few years “are being threatened by the irresponsibility of adventurers who have taken the world economy to the edge of abyss, under the pleasing eye of governments and international institutions, which have always sought to become the guardians of our countries,” AFP reported.

Without the sponsorship of extra-regional powers, the heads of state will analyze the serious and common problems pending on the region, such as the world financial crises, trade, food prices, climate change and natural disasters.

The international media has reported that according to the final draft-statement of the Summit that closes tomorrow, solidarity and cooperation principles are some of the main points of the regional meeting of Bahia.

The presidents are also expected to insist on the need to bring countries closer to fight the global crises and reach common positions in relation to international law, the necessity of special treatment for the most vulnerable economies and the rejection of unilateral and hostile measures, such as the US economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.

Reports from the international media highlight that neither Canada nor the United States were invited to Brazil’s meeting, as it only summoned the government leaders of countries to the South of the Bravo River down to the Patagonia, in a gesture of independence and political maturity.

Attending the summit are the presidents of 33 countries of the region, including Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Granada, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica.

There are also representatives from Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vicente, Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cuba joins Rio Group, embargo blasted

12/16/2008 7:15 p.m.

COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — Latin American leaders used Cuba's entry into the Rio Group to call on President-elect Barack Obama to end the U.S. embargo of the Caribbean island.

At a summit of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations, Cuba was formally introduced Tuesday into the Rio Group. The group was formed in 1986 to help end armed conflict in Central America.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says he hopes Obama will end the embargo. He says it no longer makes political or economic sense.

Cuban leader Raul Castro thanked his fellow Latin American leaders and reminisced about the Cuban revolution during a 20-minute speech. He says Cuba's entry into the group indicates a new, more independent era for Latin America is dawning.

Cuba’s Castro at Summit a Snub to U.S. Dominance, Chavez Says

By Joshua Goodman

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Cuba’s participation in a summit of regional leaders in Brazil signals that the United States no longer dominates the region.

Chavez, speaking to reporters today, noted that the U.S. wasn’t invited to the Latin American and Caribbean Summit on Integration and Development.

“Cuba is returning to the place where it always should have been,” he said, adding that the region should adopt a common voice in negotiations with President-elect Barack Obama.

More...

Cuba Relations: The U.S. is the aggressor country. The U.S. government is the one that has to change its ways

Raul Castro demands US 'concessions'

Raul Castro, the Cuban president, has told Al Jazeera that the US must make concessions first if the two countries are ever to restore diplomatic ties severed for more than 40 years.

Castro, in Brazil for a two-day Latin American summit, said the "era of unilateral concessions was over", and insisted that Cuba had only ever defended itself against the US.

"We have never hurt the United States, we have only defended ourselves. We are the ones who have been hurt so we are not the ones who have to make a gesture. Let them do it," he said on Monday.

Castro, 77, is on his first foreign tour since taking over as Cuban leader from his brother Fidel in February.

The Cuban leader said he was in "no hurry" to mend diplomatic relations with the US, which were severed in 1961, following the overthrow of the US-backed government by Fidel Castro's revolutionary movement.

The US imposed a series of economic sanctions in 1962 that has been reinforced by successive presidents.

"More than 70 per cent of Cubans were born under the blockade which has been in place for almost 50 years," Castro said.

"I'm 77-years-old but I feel good and young. In other words if this doesn't get resolved now, we'll wait another 50 years."

Obama talks

Castro also said the Cuban government was ready to hold talks with Barack Obama, the US president-elect, after he takes office on January 20.

"We are impulsive like the Brazilians but over the years we have also learned to be patient. So we are not desperate. In other words if Mr Obama wants to talk, we will talk and if he doesn't, we don't."

Obama said during his successful presidential campaign that he was prepared to consider holding talks with nations perceived to be hostile to the US, such as Cuba.

The Cuban leader had flown into the northeastern city of Salvador de Bahia, where he was met by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, before being escorted to a nearby seaside resort where the summit is set to take place.

The gathering of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations is set to focus on regional integration and development amid the deepening effects of a worldwide economic crisis.

Castro had arrived from Venezuela, where he had held talks with close ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader.

Source: Al Jazeera

Juan De Marcos González to hit the road on a 35-city U.S. concert tour, starting in February

Juan de Marcos González y Afro-Cuban All Stars

December 16, 12:31 PM

by Ian Malinow, Latin Music Examiner

Juan De Marcos González, the Sierra Maestra leader and a key figure in Cuban music today, announced earlier this week that the group will kick off a 35-city-plus U.S. concert tour in mid-February 2009, starting in Tacoma, Washington and wrapping it all up in April in Miami.

On the tour, De Marcos - also known for his work with Buena Vista Social Club - will team up with his Afro-Cuban All-Stars band and other special guests, including Ignacio Herrera (pianist and ex-musical director of Cubanísimo); Calixto Oviedo (drummer, performed with NG La Banda); Yaure Muniz; Igort Rivas and Miguel Valdés (trumpeters, members of the Buena Vista Social Club); and Alberto Martínez (trombonist, member of the original line up of Buena Vista Social Club).

De Marcos’ newest CD/DVD is titled “Absolutely Live,” and it includes footage of a concert at Tokyo's Zepp, and of a previously unreleased show recorded at Hague's North Sea Jazz Festival.

As a bandleader and producer, De Marcos is widely known for following the son tradition while blending the big band style with an upbeat, more modern sound.

U.S. tour dates:

02/17/2009, Tacoma, WA, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts
02/18/2009, Olympia, WA, Washington Center for the Performing Arts
02/19/2009, Longview, WA Rose Theatre
02/20/2009, Eugene, OR, Hult Center for Performing Arts
02/22/2009, Arcata, CA, Arcata Theater
02/24/2009, Chico, CA, Cal State University/Chico
02/25/2009, Berkeley, CA, UC / Berkeley
02/26/2009, Berkeley, CA, UC / Berkeley
02/26/2009, Davis, CA, UC/Davis
02/27/2009, Cerritos, CA, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
02/28/2009, Santa Barbara, CA, UC / Santa Barbara
03/02/2009, Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona
03/03/2009, Mesa, AZ, Mesa Center for the Performing Arts
03/06/2009, Austin, TX, Paramount Theatre
03/07/2009, Dallas, TX, Titas
03/10/2009, Iowa City, IA, West High School
03/13/2009, Madison, WI, Overture Center for the Arts
03/14/2009, Grand Rapids, MN, Myles Reif Performing Arts Center
03/15/2009, Minneapolis, MN, Orchestra Hall
03/18/2009, Urbana, IL, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
03/20/2009, University, IL, Governers State University - Center
03/21/2009, Toledo, OH, Valentine Theatre
03/22/2009, Cincinnati, OH, Aronoff Center / Procter & Gamble
03/24/2009, Oxford, OH, Miami University - Hall Auditorium
03/26/2009, Trenton, NJ, War Memorial Patriots Theatre
03/27/2009, Greenvale, NY, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts
03/28/2009, New York, NY, Town Hall Theatre
03/29/2009, New Bedford, MA, Zeiterion Theatre
03/31/2009, North Bethesda, MD, The Music Center at Strathmore
04/01/2009, Charlottesville, VA, Paramount Theatre
04/02/2009, Hampton, VA, American Theatre
04/03/2009, Greensboro, NC, Carolina Theatre
04/04/2009, Atlanta, GA, Variety Playhouse
04/07/2009, Ft. Pierce, FL, Sunrise Theatre
04/08/2009, Ft. Pierce, FL, Sunrise Theatre
04/08/2009, West Palm Beach, FL, Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Arts
04/09/2009, Tampa FL, Ferguson Hall
04/11/2009, Miami, FL, Knight Concert Hall

Buena Vista Social Club Artists

Raul Castro arrives in Brazil to Attend Regional Summit

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, Dec 15 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, to attend the first Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean (CALC) on Integration and Development, headquartered at Costa do Sauipe Resort.

"A warm greeting to Brazilian people, a greeting to all Brazil", expressed Raul Castro when he went out of the plane at 16:30 local time.

The Cuban leader and the delegation accompanying him were welcomed by the Head of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil Ruy Kasaes, and the ambassadors of both countries before their respective governments, Pedro Nuñez Mosquera, Cuba and Bernardo Pericas, Brazil.

The first CALC Summit will debate the serious common problems, current financial crisis, commerce, food prices, climatic change and natural disasters, without the protection of extra regional powers.

Raul Castro arrived from Caracas, where he had a two-day official visit, in which Cuba and Venezuela ratified agreements that include more than a hundred development projects and 36 new programs, valued at an equivalent of two billion dollars.