Thursday, April 30, 2009

Non-hail to the chief's first 100 days



October 13, 2009, update: Obama has been a great disappointment on the Cuba issue. He is following the failed policies of Bill Clinton. I no longer support him, and unless he changes his Cuba policies, I will not vote for him in 2012, if he runs again. I do not support and I condemn his continuation of the genocidal Cuba blockade/embargo.

General McCaffrey Lays It Out - End the Cuba Embargo

Speaking before the US House of Representatives' Comittee on Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, General Barry McCaffrey, former commander, US Southern Command, called on the US to do three things:

1. Lift the embargo and let all US citizens travel to the island; 2. Formalize coordination on law enforcement efforts to stem narcotics and human trafficking; 3. End opposition to Cuban participation in regional intergovernmental fora, such as the Organization of American States.

General McCaffrey said that though he welcomes President Obama's initiatives so far on Cuba policy, he believes it is time for more "dramatic and sudden" initiatives toward Cuba.

General McCaffrey's comments come two weeks after he joined twelve other retired senior military officers to urge President Obama to embrace efforts to end the travel ban to Cuba and engage the Cuban government on important, shared regional security issues.

The importance of the General's call to end the embargo is hard to understate. The momentum is building to decisively shift US policy toward Cuba - away from fifty years of failure. President Obama's openness to exploring talks has moved the debate forward and Congress is picking it up and running with it.

Source: The Havana Note

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

U.S. and Cuba must begin new chapter

Politico

By REP. BARBARA LEE | 4/27/09 4:22 AM EDT

By any objective standard, our current policy toward Cuba just hasn’t worked. It was clear to me when I first traveled to Cuba in the mid-1970s as a congressional staffer, and it is even clearer to me now, more than three decades later.

In the intervening years, I have visited Cuba as part of many different delegations and have met with myriad government officials, health care practitioners, artists, musicians, educators and a wide array of dissident groups on several occasions and in a variety of capacities.

I led a congressional delegation to Cuba earlier this month, buoyed by the hope that with President Barack Obama in the White House, we were presented with a great new opportunity to rethink U.S. foreign policy with our nearest Caribbean neighbor. The purpose of this visit was to determine if the climate and the will exist in Cuba to forge a new direction.

After a series of meetings with high-ranking Cuban officials, including President Raul Castro and his brother, former President Fidel Castro, I am convinced that the Cubans do want dialogue. They do want to talk, and they do want normal relations with the United States of America. And I believe that it’s in the United States’ best interest to work to move our countries forward.

While Obama’s decision this week to end restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans with family still in Cuba is a step in the right direction, I look forward to working with the administration to move toward a better relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.

Since my days as a congressional staffer, I have worked to normalize relations between our two countries. I know that there are many issues that must be put on the table, among them the status of Afro-Cubans, political prisoners and human rights. I also understand Cuba has differences with the U.S. as well. Only through engaging in discussion and dialogue on these very important issues will progress be made.

I recognize that much work must be done before the U.S. and Cuba will be able to put aside the differences of our past. This certainly will not be easy. However, the purpose of this particular visit was not to put to rest 50 years of differences, but to determine as members of Congress the impact of our foreign policy and if it needs to change.

The U.S. is alone in enforcing a unilateral trade embargo with a nation of 11 million people 90 miles off our shores. Our Government Accountability Office issued a report last year that found our embargo is ineffective because we have no support from the international community and that the enforcement of trade and travel restrictions on American citizens is a dangerous distraction for our government on the homeland security front.

As noted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our unilateral embargo sequesters “the United States from its allies while denying U.S. companies access to markets in which third-country firms can do business easily.”

Every other nation in the Western Hemisphere has normal diplomatic relations with Cuba, as do most European nations. This leaves the United States isolated from the global community.

We must reengage and begin a new chapter in the history of bilateral relations with both the Cuban government and the Cuban people.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Raul Castro repeats U.S. talks offer

Wed Apr 29, 2009 10:49am EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro repeated on Wednesday an offer to discuss "everything" with the United States to try to improve relations, but said Cuba did not have to make any "gestures" to its long-time enemy.

"We have reiterated that we are willing to talk about everything with the United States, in equality of conditions, but not to negotiate our sovereignty, nor our political and social system, the right to self-determination, nor our internal affairs," he said in a speech to a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.

"Cuba has not imposed sanctions against the United States ... and therefore it is not Cuba that has to make gestures," he said.

Complete Story

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JG: Raul is 100% correct. Cuba does not have to change a thing. It is the U.S. government that has been the aggressor country during the last 50 years. The U.S. government is the one that has to modify its aggressive and arrogant behavior. Cuba will not return to the corrupt capitalism of the 1950's and the rigged undemocratic elections of Fulgencio Batista. Keep the bad Cubans in Miami.

Why the US still hates Cuba

Znet

April 29, 2009

By Federico Fuentes

At the centre of the Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago over April 17-19, was the only country from the hemisphere not present - Cuba.

Speaking at the opening session, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega noted that while a large majority of the heads of states of the Americas were present, "there are two major absentees".

The first was "Cuba, whose crime has been to fight for its independence, for the sovereignty of the peoples; lending solidarity, without conditions, to our peoples, and for that it is being sanctioned, for that it is being punished, for that it is being excluded."

The second was the nation of Puerto Rico, which continues to be an official colony of the United States - denied independence.

In 1962, Cuba was expelled from the Organisation of American States for having openly declared the nature of its revolution to be socialist - based on the ideology of "Marxism-Leninism".

Despite its exclusion, Cuba's presence was felt at the summit.

In his April 4 column, "Why is Cuba being excluded?", former Cuban president Fidel Castro explained that Ortega "gave me a large number of paragraphs that are being debated about the final declaration of the upcoming Port of Spain Summit".

Arguing that there were "a great number of inadmissible concepts", he said that the summit would be a "litmus test for the peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America".

Cuban President Raul Castro attended the Bolivarian Alternatives for Our Americas (ALBA) Summit in Cumana, Venezuela, over April 16-17, in which the anti-imperialist bloc sought to "prepare its artillery".

The ALBA countries (Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras and Dominica) issued a public document declaring their opposition to the draft declaration of the Summit of the Americas.

Part of the reason was the exclusion of Cuba and the refusal of the US to lift its nearly five decade-long economic blockade.

At the summit, Latin American president after president denounced the US blockade and called for Cuba's inclusion in the summit. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed the next summit be held in Havana.

Others raised the need for an Organisation of Latin American and Caribbean States, including Cuba but not the US or Canada.

The March decisions by the Costa Rican and El Salvadoran government to renew diplomatic ties with Cuba left the US as the only country in the Americas without official ties with Cuba's socialist government. This is a long way from previous decades, when only a handful of regional governments kept links and the OAS backed US anti-Cuba policy.

In light of this hemispheric shift, the Obama administration recently moved to lift travel restrictions to Cuba for Cubans living in the US. It also eased restrictions on remittances from Cuban immigrants in the US sent home.

However, Obama remains firm on keeping the US blockade, despite speculation of more changes to come.

On April 20, the Washington Post reported Obama as saying: "The policy that we're had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to."

This is because, Obama said, "The Cuban people are not free".

But, as Shamus Cooke noted in PEJ News that same day, the "purpose of the embargo is not to pressure Cuba into being more democratic: this lie can be easily refuted by the numerous dictators the U.S. has supported in the hemisphere, not to mention dictators the U.S. is currently propping up all over the Middle East and elsewhere".

The real cause of continued US hostility is that "Cuba remains a solid source of pride" for the continent.

Cuba achieved impressive social gains, including an extensive and completely free education system and a lower infant mortality rate than the US. It has achieved these gains despite the US blockade and the economic crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

The US government and its apologists accuse Cuba of a lack of democracy.

Cuba's system is not perfect. However, not only is access to housing, jobs, education and health care (guaranteed in Cuba) pre-requisites for democratic participation, Cuba's political system is based on "people's power". Cuban citizens are able to exercise significant control over the system - including the right to recall elected officials.

"Where is there more democracy, in the United States or in Cuba?", Chavez said. "Who has the democracy meter? I have no doubt that there is more democracy in Cuba than in the United States."

Speaking at the ALBA summit, Bolivian President Evo Morales said, "The US has no right or authority to speak of democracy, because they are the ones that foster coups". He said Cuba exercised a democracy, in which million-dollar electoral campaigns don't exist

Cuba's crime is the political and economic independence won through the revolution.

Cooke said: "Defeating the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion [in 1961] while remaining fiercely independent in a region dominated by U.S. corporations and past government interventions has made Cuba an inspiration to millions of Latin Americans. This profound break from U.S. dominance - in its 'own backyard' no less - is not so easily forgiven.

"There is also a deeper reason for not removing the embargo. The foundation of the Cuban economy is arranged in such a way that it threatens the most basic philosophic principle shared by the two-party system: the market economy (capitalism)."

Cooke said that "the current crisis of world capitalism is again posing the question: is there another way to organize society?"

OPINION: Cuba and Venezuela are not enemies

Author: Jarvis Tyner

People's Weekly World Newspaper, 04/28/09 14:12

The Obama administration did the right thing when they ordered the closing of the Guantanemo torture prison, and restored the right of US Cubans to travel and send remittances to their relatives on the island nation.

To those who think Obama is not making important and even historic changes or who contend he’s only slightly different than Bush, you’re not paying attention.

However, the ultra right (Bush’s old base) is paying close attention and they are having a fit over what President Obama is doing.

The president’s recent effort at the 5th Summit of the Americas to extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to all the states in the hemisphere and especially to improve relations with Cuba and Venezuela is causing the Republican right no end of grief.

When Obama shook hands with Hugo Chavez and accepted the classic Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage, Newt Gingrich could hardly contain his anger alleging the president was “bolstering the enemies of America”.

I think that is like charging the president with treason. The same goes for the administration’s lowering the tensions and reaching for a more reasonable policy towards Cuba.

These changes should not be feared or condemned - they should be celebrated. Today, Mr. Gingrich, who thinks he is presidential timber, is way out of step with the US people.

For nearly 50 years our government has been trying to destroy socialist Cuba. It’s a great thing that they have failed. Ending the embargo and normalizing relations between Cuba and the US is to the benefit of both peoples and long overdue.

Over the years, the Cuban people have shown that despite many hardships caused by the embargo, they remain steadfast in their support for their socialist homeland. The Bay of Pigs invasion was supposed to militarily defeat Cuba in a matter of days. It did not. The many assassination plots against Fidel Castro failed. US ships were posed to attack Cuban during the missile crisis but a diplomatic solution was found. The collapse of Soviet aid to Cuba was thought by many people including on the left to mean the collapse of the Cuban socialism. This did not happen.

The many acts of terrorism against the Cubans and foreign tourists were attempts to destroy Cuba’s tourist industry. They failed. The Helms/Burton bill was supposed to isolate Cuba and create economic chaos and collapse - it did not

Thus, the resiliency and commitment to its brand of socialism by Cubans has made it possible for them to overcome incredible obstacles.

President Obama’s call for a “new beginning” to ease tensions and begin dialogue with Cuban leaders is a big change from the past and can open up a new era of constructive and mutually beneficial relations.

Today most Americans agree that it is time to end the hostility and disruption of Cuba and normalize relations.

The American people are ready for change. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll showed that nearly two-thirds favor allowing travel to Cuba and 70 percent want normal diplomatic ties.

Most importantly, Cuban Americans have also grown weary of the intense right-wing, anti communist hysteria that’s been directed at them for a half a century.

A recent Bendixen Poll shows a dramatic shift in the attitudes of Cuban Americans. According to the poll, in 2003 53 percent of Cuban Americans supported the travel ban to Cuba. 41 percent opposed it. Today 67 percent oppose the ban and 29 percent are in favor of it. That’s a big shift. In 2003 61 percent of Cuban Americans supported the embargo against Cuba and only 26 percent opposed it. Today 43 percent oppose the embargo and 42 percent still support it - a dramatic 16-19 point shift away from supporting the blockade. Among 18-49 year old Cuban Americans, only 33 percent support the blockade while 54 percent are now opposed. A whopping 76 percent are for lifting the travel ban while only 22 percent want it to continue.

Obama received 47 percent of the Cuban American vote in Florida last November. Today 67 percent have a favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of his presidency. Even a stanch Republican conservative like Sen. Dick Lugar is for ending the blockade and for trade with Cuba. There are also businesspeople across the country that are pushing for the opening of normal trade relations. There are hundreds of US trade unionists who have traveled to Cuba and have been pushing their unions to open up relations with Cuban trade unions and support the release of the Cuban 5 whose only crime was to blow the whistle on terrorist plots being hatched from US shores against the island

Newt Gingrich is 100 percent wrong: Hugo Chavez is not an enemy of America. Under the guise of that thinking the Bush administration launched an illegal effort to finance the overthrow of Chavez. The coup failed when a million people took to the streets in defense of their democracy and independence. The fact Chavez had been elected by the people in fair elections didn’t matter to the Bush administration, they despised his democratic, socialist and humane policies. They could not live with his use of nationalized Venezuelan oil to help low-income people in the US and elsewhere survive harsh winters.

This is no small matter. Our government went to war in Iraq over oil. They are threatening war with Iran over oil. They support the suppression of Palestinian people by the Israeli ruling class because they are located in the heart the most oil rich region of the world.

Our whole economy is negatively affected by the manipulation and out and out thievery of the oil monopolies and their record profits. Yet Hugo Chavez is the enemy? He is the president of a country that is providing CITGO discounted oil to poor folks, retirees, blacks and Latinos and Native American Indian people so that they can survive our harsh winters and he is the “enemy of America”? That’s outrageous.

The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Program will provide and estimated 112 million gallons of fuel this winter to be distributed to more than 224,000 household and 250 social service providers in 23 US states this year. I doubt those people support Gingrich’s view on Hugo Chavez. I say with so-called “enemies” like Hugo Chavez who needs friends?

I think we need friendship between the US , Cuba and Venezuela. They have a right to pick whatever social economic system they wish, including socialism.

Hands off Venezuela! The travel ban should be lifted and the Cuban 5 should be released. End the Blockade against Cuba and establish normal diplomatic and trade relations with our neighbor and natural trading partner just 90 miles away.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Send Michelle to Havana


To: White House

Polls show most Americans want normal relations with Cuba. But dramatic steps are needed to break through 50 years of Cold-War hostility. President Barack Obama has made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island and help their families, but more must be done if the two countries are to renew diplomatic ties.

Personal contact is needed. Changing a few regulations isn't enough. Reading a stack of briefing papers isn't enough. Someone from the White House needs to go to Cuba. And Michelle Obama would be an ideal emissary.

The First Lady’s visit would be historic and bold. It would capture the world’s attention. It would be another step in restoring America’s image abroad.

Please sign this petition if you believe that Michelle Obama ought to visit Cuba.

Steinbrenner's Scam


Capitalist greed has no boundaries or limits. George Steinbrenner, the multi-billionare capitalist owner of the New York Yankees wanted to charge his fans $2,500.00 for a seat behind home plate. The results: a lot of empty seats. Fanatical capitalists like Steinbrenner's have no shame when they try to stick their hands into people's pockets.

Watching our future slip away

Alberto N Jones
April 28, 2009

The stunning support expressed for Cuba by thirty three heads of state gathered in Trinidad and Tobago during the V Summit of the Americas, 4/17-19/09, demanding an immediate end of the infamous, fifty years failed, crippling embargo imposed upon Cuba, became the last nail in the embargo coffin.

An intelligent, open minded and visionary President Barack Obama, whose background, life experiences and sense of justice, made it easy for him to grasp the magnitude of the United States regional isolation, precipitating an urgent decision to introduce an 180 degree change in such harmful policy.

This dramatic development have lead politicians, business people, educators, clergy, agriculture, industrial, health and other sectors across the US, into a feverish race to position their communities for a mutually beneficial engagement with Cuba.

Paradoxically, states such as Iowa, North Dakota, Vermont, Texas and others with far less cultural and historical connections with Cuba, are leading this drive and taking a clear advantage over our state fossilized, south Florida self-destructive politics.

By staying on the sidelines, pretending nothing is happening and pursuing a proven failed policy, Volusia, Flagler and other counties in Northeast/Central Florida are seriously compromising their economic stability, ignoring a potential source for solving our minority youth educational/behavioral crisis, the uninsured health calamity, an intractable drug addition or a pervasive lack of criminal justice re-education process, which have created an endless revolving door.

Only the courage and vision of our local and regional leaders, may enable them to take the unavoidable steps, that will insure the future and wellbeing of our peoples.

US farmers, ranchers push for greater Cuba access

The Jamestown Sun

By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

NEW ORLEANS

The farm lobby is using President Barack Obama's easing of some travel restrictions to Cuba as an opportunity to push for increased sales of rice, meat, vegetables and other goods to the island nation.

Congress cleared the way for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural commodities in 2000. But groups such as the USA Rice Federation say a 2005 interpretation of the law by an arm of the Treasury Department, requiring payment before goods were shipped, severely restricted sales.

"More and more in Congress feel the Cuba (trade) policy has served its time and it's time for new and better ways to deal with" it, said Jamie Warshaw, federation chairman and a rice mill operator in Lake Charles, La.

At least 15 senators have joined agricultural groups in calling for greater trade with Cuba, including Montana Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He plans to introduce legislation to make it easier for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business with Cuba.

Cuba was the top U.S. rice export market before the 1962 embargo. The industry believes if restrictions were eased, the island market could reach 400,000 metric tons a year or better for rice growers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Missouri and Mississippi.

If realized, Cuba could become the United States' No. 2 rice export market, well behind Mexico but firmly ahead of Venezuela. It also could mean business for Gulf ports, such as New Orleans, which once counted Cuba as a leading trade partner.

It's unclear, however, how Cuba would react.

The Department of Agriculture said in a March 2008 report that officials with the Cuban agency handling U.S. food imports are "somewhat apprehensive about allowing the United States to provide a significantly larger proportion of Cuba's food import requirements."

Richard Fontenot, a rice grower near Ville Platte in south Louisiana, said freer trade would give U.S. rice producers a "definite advantage" over competitors in Thailand or Vietnam.

In March, the Office of Foreign Assets Control said it did not plan to revisit the Bush administration's interpretation of the 2000 Cuba-trade law.

Before the ruling, Cuban buyers would begin payment of goods once they were shipped from U.S. port, routing the payments through third-party banks. There were no reports of buyers taking possession of shipments before completing payments, the 15 senators told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a March letter.

The senators said that practice worked well and have asked Geithner to change the Bush interpretation, which they believe could allow agricultural sales to Cuba at more robust levels.

Rice exports to Cuba fell from about 176,630 metric tons in 2004 to less than 13,000 metric tons in 2008, the federation said.

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba averaged more than $350 million a year between 2004 and 2006 before hitting $691 million last year. Parr Rosson, a Texas A&M University agricultural economist and director of its Center for North American Studies, attributes the spike in dollar value in part to factors such as the hurricanes that devastated Cuba in 2008 and the lower value of the U.S. dollar.

For the first two months of 2009, agriculture sale to Cuba were about $6 million lower than in the same period in 2008. Flynn Adcock, the center's international program coordinator, said it's difficult to say whether this year's sales will top last year's, given the global economic woes, but said it's possible to at least near last year's levels.

Rosson said sales for agricultural commodities and goods to Cuba - meat, rice, Northern-produced peas, corn, soybeans and dairy products, among them - could top $1 billion, if restrictions were relaxed.

Even with the Bush policy change, the United States remained Cuba's most important food and agricultural product supplier, accounting for more than a quarter of such imports, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A more open market would likely give U.S. rice exporters an advantage over competitors such as Vietnam. Mostly that's because Cuba is near major shipment locations such as south Louisiana, cutting shipping costs and time to market.

Roger Johnson, former North Dakota agriculture commissioner who said he has visited Cuba eight times, said the trade embargo has been a "disastrous policy" that no longer makes sense.

"We ought to be selling more food. We ought to be removing the barriers to selling food," said Johnson, now head of the National Farmers Union.

But he also said he understands diplomacy and the need for give-and-take, from Cuba, too.

While some farm groups want trade normalized, they acknowledge that isn't likely to happen soon.

"It's going to be a slow process," Warshaw said.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Luis Tiant: "Fifty years we've been with an embargo. It don't work"

El Tiante

N.Y. Daily News Article

Peace at hand?

U.S. Plans Informal Meetings With Cuba

The New York Times

By GINGER THOMPSON

Published: April 26, 2009

WASHINGTON — Seizing the momentum from recent meetings with Latin American leaders, the Obama administration is quietly pushing forward with efforts to reopen channels of communication with Cuba, according to White House and State Department officials.

The officials said informal meetings were being planned between the State Department and Cuban diplomats in the United States to determine whether the two governments could open formal talks on a variety of issues, including migration, drug trafficking and other regional security matters.

And the administration is also looking for ways to open channels for more cultural and academic exchanges between Cuba and the United States, the officials said.

The next steps, said a senior administration official, would be meant to “test the waters,” to see whether the United States and Cuba could develop a “serious, civil, open relationship.”

After saying the United States was “ready to talk about a series of issues,” the official added, “This thing with Cuba is going to take a lot of time, and it may not work.”

Officials who discussed the plans did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the efforts.

The details and scope of the administration’s outreach to Cuba are still being worked out, they said. But their comments indicated a departure from the White House’s previous position that it would not make further moves toward engagement until the Castro government reciprocated President Obama’s lifting of restrictions on Cuban-Americans who wished to travel to Cuba or send money to relatives on the island.

Mr. Obama has faced mounting pressure from Latin America and from his supporters in this country to do more to reverse the United States’ 47-year-old trade embargo against the Castro dictatorship. Cuba has become the litmus test by which many Latin American nations measure the United States’ commitment to improving relations with the region.

Polls suggest that there is increasing support among Cuban-Americans for ending the United States’ policy of isolation toward Cuba. And proposals have been made in both houses of Congress that would lift restrictions on travel to Cuba for all Americans.

In an interview, a State Department official described the pressure building for a new policy toward Cuba as a “steamroller” and said that the administration was “trying to drive it, rather than get run over by it.”

The official said any overtures toward Cuba would be made cautiously, allowing Mr. Obama to walk a fine line between those who want to end the embargo and those who see any engagement with Cuba as making concessions to a dictatorship. The official said that the administration also wanted to be careful to make it clear that its openness to engagement with Cuba did not mean the United States would turn a blind eye to the Cuban government’s poor record on human rights.

Experts on Cuba said there were good reasons for Mr. Obama’s caution. Among them is that the president has a full legislative agenda and does not want opposition by anti-Castro conservatives to interfere with more pressing concerns. The experts added that it was almost impossible to predict Havana’s next move and that the Cuban government had a history of shutting the door each time there was any serious move toward improving relations. Indeed, after the recent Latin American summit meeting, Fidel Castro said that Mr. Obama had misinterpreted comments by President Raúl Castro, his brother, that “everything” would be up for discussion.

Carl E. Meacham, who is a senior foreign policy adviser to Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and who wrote a report critical of the United States’ embargo, said: “We in Washington have to focus on our own objectives, and not on events in Havana. What we’re doing is threatening to President Castro, and there will be reaction. But we have to keep moving forward.”

The Obama administration has indicated that it would like the Cuban government to stop charging fees on remittances sent to the island, open Cuba to American telecommunications companies and release all political prisoners.

But another State Department official, echoing Mr. Meacham, said the United States would not delay its own efforts while waiting for Havana to make such moves.

“I don’t think we want to paint a big red line in the sand to preclude any conversations,” the official said. “We need to begin having conversations.”

Voice of America Report

Excerpts:

The State Department says U.S. diplomats are holding talks with officials of Cuba's diplomatic mission in Washington on possible follow-up measures to steps President Barack Obama took earlier this month to ease restrictions on the island nation. The Obama administration says it wants to see an easing of political conditions by the Havana government.

The State Department says its top official for Latin America met with the head of Cuba's diplomatic interests section in Washington on Monday for the second time in as many weeks for exploratory talks on prospects for improving the historically-chilly U.S. Cuban relationship.

JG: I look with optimism toward the future. It is time to restore friendship!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chavez talks and Fidel reflects

Cuban daily Granma reports today about the declarations made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, when he inaugurated yesterday a synthetic wood factory in the state of Carabobo.

The Cuban newspaper related that the Venezuelan head of state "affirmed that the principal theme discussed at the Fifth Summit of the America's was the blockade of the United States against Cuba."

"In different tones, but like a great orchestra, all the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean demanded that the savage blockade against the Cuban people be eliminated," declared compañero Hugo Chavez, who has always stood shoulder to shoulder with the his brothers in Cuba in combating the dark designs of American imperialism.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have a better president in the White House right now, but we must not forget that Obama is a captive of the capitalist elites who would like to see Cuba crushed and to restore to power in Havana the Fulgencio Batista remnants who now reside ignominiously in Miami.

When Obama talks about "freedom and liberty" for Cuba, he is talking about a return to the dog-eat-dog capitalism of the deposed Cuban dictator. Obama has not learned yet that Cubans support their government, even it has imperfections and makes occasional mistakes. No government is perfect. But where the Cuban government has achieved perfection is in developing a system that helps Cubans rather than having the exploitative state that existed before 1959.

In a separate Reflection of Comrade Fidel, the Cuban leader talks about an article published in the Washington Post by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, where she relates her father's opposition to prohibiting travel to Cuba for Americans.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Four Communiques

Below are the four historical communiques issued by Cuban leader Fidel Castro after the United States C.I.A. landed mercenary Cuban exiles on the shores of the Bay of Pigs.

Communiqué Number 1

April 17, 1961

Communiqué to the Cuban people that Commander in Chief Fidel Castro issued regarding the course of the action at Bay of Pigs.

Troops disembarking by sea and air are attacking several locations of Cuban territory to the South of Las Villas province, supported by planes and warships.

The glorious soldiers of the Rebel Army and the National Revolutionary Militia have engaged in combat with the enemy at all landing points.

They are fighting in defense of the sacred Homeland and the Revolution against the mercenary attack organized by the imperialist government of the United States.

Our forces are already marching onward, confident of their victory.

Our people mobilize thus ensuring our slogans of defending the Homeland and maintaining production.

Onward Cubans! Let us reply with iron and fire to the barbarians who despise us and want to us to return to slavery. They have come to take away from us the land the Revolution distributed to individual small farmers and members of farm cooperatives; we are fighting to defend the land of campesinos and members of cooperatives. They have come to take away the factories from the hands of the people; to take away the sugar mills and the mines from the hands of the people. They have come to take away from our children the schools the Revolution opened up everywhere; we are, therefore, fighting to defend the schools of our childhood and peasants. They have come here to take away the dignity the Revolution has given back to black men and women; we fight to preserve for all that supreme dignity essential to human beings. They have come to take away from our workers their new jobs; we fight for a liberated Cuba with employment for every working man and woman. They have come to destroy the Homeland and we defend the Homeland.

Onward Cubans, everybody to their work and combat posts!

Onward Cubans, this Revolution is invincible and its enemies would have to come up against it and against the heroic people that defend the Revolution!

Now that so many Cubans are giving their lives in combat let us shout with more firmness and determination than ever

LONG LIVE A FREE CUBA! HOMELAND OR DEATH! WE SHALL OVERCOME!

Fidel Castro Ruz

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Communiqué Number 2

Communiqué to the Cuban people that Commander in Chief Fidel Castro issued regarding the course of the action at Bay of Pigs.

The revolutionary government informs that the armed forces continue to heroically fight the enemy forces in the zones to the southwest of the province of Las Villas, where a mercenary landing with imperialist support has occurred. In the coming hours details will be made available on the successes of the Rebel Army, Revolutionary Air Force and the Revolutionary Militia in defending our sacred sovereignty, homeland and Revolution.

Fidel Castro Ruz
Commander in Chief
Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government

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Communiqué Number 3

Communiqué to the Cuban people that Commander in Chief Fidel Castro issued regarding the course of the action at Bay of Pigs.

The United States role in the aggression against Cuba was dramatically proven this morning when our anti-aircraft batteries shot down a plane piloted by a US citizen that had bombed the civilian population and our infantry troops in the area of the Australia Sugar Mill.

The US pilot, whose body was recovered by the revolutionary forces, was named LEO FRANCIS BERLISS. The following identification was found: Pilot’s license 08323-IM with an expiration date of December 24, 1962; Social Security Card No. 014-07-6921; a vehicle registration with the address 100 Nassau St., Boston 14, Mass. The address of the pilot is listed as 48 Beacon Street, Boston. His height is 5 feet six inches.

Documents regarding the aggressive flight mission against our country were also found on the clothing of the US pilot.

This is one of four enemy military planes downed this morning and of a total of nine since the mercenary attack began on the Zapata Peninsula. The total defeat of the invasion is only a matter of hours.

Chief of Staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces

------

Communiqué Number 4

April 19, 1961

Communiqué to the Cuban people that Commander in Chief Fidel Castro issued regarding the course of the action at Bay of Pigs.

Troops of the Rebel Army and the Revolutionary National Militia had taken by assault the last positions the invading mercenary forces had occupied in Cuban territory.

Playa Giron, the last point held by the mercenaries, fell at 5:30 p.m.

The Revolution has triumphed, although paying a high price in the valuable lives of the revolutionary combatants that attacked the invaders relentlessly, destroying, in less than 72 hours, the army organized over many months by the imperialist government of the United States.

The enemy has suffered a resounding defeat. A portion of the mercenaries tried to flee by boarding their landing vessels, which were then sunk by the Rebel Air Force. The rest of the mercenary forces, after suffering numerous losses and wounded, completely disbanded in a swampy region where there was no escape.

Large quantities of arms made in the USA were found, including several heavy Sherman tanks. A full inventory of the weaponry is still pending.

In the coming hours the Revolutionary Government will provide the population with a complete report on the events that occurred.

Fidel Castro Ruz
Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
April 19, 1961

Source: Periodico 26

Coming soon: Linux based ARM netbooks for $200

Pint-sized laptops that won't have Intel chips or a Microsoft Windows PC operating system.

As many as 10 ARM-based netbook models could hit the market this year, according to ARM, which declined to identify specific manufacturers.

ARM is based in the United Kingdom.

Prices will be as low as $200 and the promise of anywhere, anytime computing on PCs small enough to slip into a purse.

The operating system will be Linux.

Complete Reuters article.

Remembering the 1960's VW Bug

A truly affordable People's Car.

Will India's Nano become the successor?

Most in U.S. favor diplomatic ties to Cuba

Published: April 24, 2009 at 10:06 AM

PRINCETON, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- U.S. residents continue to support re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, with 60 percent favoring the idea, a Gallup Poll indicated Friday.

The new findings continue a trend since 1999 of majority support among Americans for renewing ties with Havana, the pollsters said. U.S. President Barack Obama recently relaxed some travel restrictions to the country and gave U.S. telecommunications companies the right to pursue business there.

The poll also indicated that 51 percent favored ending the trade embargo against Cuba, consistent with Gallup findings since 1999 that has seen support for the move hovering between 48 and 51 percent.

Respondents to the poll also strongly favored ending restrictions on travel to Cuba with 64 percent saying they were in favor.

Looking at political affiliations, majorities of Democrats and liberals supported re-establishing diplomatic relations and ending the trade embargo, while Republicans and conservatives tended to be far less supportive, the pollsters said.

Gallup said it interviewed 1,051 adults between April 20-21 for the poll, which carried a 3 percentage-point margin of error.

A great blog about good Cuban music

If you like good Cuban music, then you owe it to yourself to visit "Fidel's Eye Glasses."

Go to my blog list and click on the URL.

It has an excellent collection of Cuban music.

Bravo!

Do the right thing: get rid of the embargo

Business Week

April 22, 2009, 8:06PM EST

How Obama Can Get Cuba Open for Business

President Obama can increase trade with Cuba without convincing Congress to lift the embargo

By Steve LeVine

As President Barack Obama seeks to ease tensions with Cuba, he risks a standoff with Congress over Washington's 47-year-old trade embargo on the island. While the White House on Apr. 13 made some travel easier and said U.S. telecom companies may invest in Cuba, Obama could do much more if he wants. The notion that the embargo makes trade with Cuba impossible "is a fallacy," says Jake Colvin, an analyst at the National Foreign Trade Council, a lobbying group for U.S. exporters. In fact, the President can authorize nearly any U.S. company to operate in Cuba.

Obama, of course, would face strong opposition from conservatives and some Cuban Americans if he loosens trade too much without reciprocal steps from Havana. Yet Cuba buys a lot of American goods already: $710 million in grain, fruit, poultry, and other products last year. And it would likely buy far more if it could. "An opening with the U.S. fits into Castro's economic calculus," says Julia E. Sweig, a Cuba expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A big stumbling block to doing business in Cuba is credit. American banks are barred from financing trade with Cuba, so Havana must pay cash for U.S. imports. A good start, Colvin says, would be simply to let companies give Cuba 90 days to pay for goods rather than requiring cash up front. Later, Obama might let American banks get involved, though the embargo specifically bars financing trade in certain products, says Anya Landau French, a researcher at the Lexington Institute, a think tank.

Obama could also let Cuba sell products in the U.S. to earn money to buy more American goods. And he might take the Apr. 13 measures further. The White House said it would allow more frequent money transfers and travel to the island—but only by Cuban Americans. Even with the embargo, Obama could allow anyone to visit for cultural and humanitarian purposes, though not tourism, French says, adding: "There's no reason the U.S. should be restricting its own people's travel."

In many industries, U.S. companies will be playing catch-up. Europeans, Canadians, and others have long been in Cuba. Nonetheless, American business is excited about the possibilities. Caterpillar (CAT), for instance, is hoping to export its bulldozers, road graders, and other construction vehicles to the island. "Cuba doesn't need to rebuild its infrastructure. It needs to build an infrastructure," says Bill Lane, Cat's top lobbyist. "There will be demand for almost every product Caterpillar produces."

LeVine is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Serpents

The serpents of death and destruction against the unsuspecting and innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were set loose from Pandora's box by Harry S. Truman on June 6th and 9th, 1945. Did it mark the beginning of the end for the species known as Homo Sapient? On those two days, 'Thinking Man' became a truly evil person. He called the monsters unleashed on the rest of humanity 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man.'

Today, those serpents of hate continue to rear their ugly heads in our imperiled and doomed planet. On the twenty first century, death and destruction are on the march again. It is a performance presented every day by the proponents of freedom, democracy, Zionism and capitalist markets. Greed is their fuel. Every six seconds – according to the United Nations – a child dies of hunger, while the new Merchants of the Temple continue to amass their billions so they can build bigger, better and “smarter” weapons.

We saw the serpents return again on September 11, 2001. The evil brigade aimed this time for those who started humanity on the path of this modern day nuclear crusade in 1945. It is the continuation of what was started on those two fateful days fifty four years ago. It is only a matter of time before the forces of death and destruction lay their hands on a now grown 'Little Boy' and raze some our major cities. The chickens would come home to roost.

It is not too late. Thinking Man must return to thinking instead of hating. It must unite to help against the forces who are slowly cooking and destroying Mother Earth. It must abandon never ending greed. It must come together to ban and destroy all nuclear weapons before we destroy ourselves.

The Miami Herald still does not get it

The Miami Herald came out today with a new editorial where they continue to show their myopic non-understanding of the Cuba issue.

They express their opinion that the Cuban government should “consult those individuals who have been harmed the most over the years.”

Guess who they have in mind? If you answered the 'Miami Cuban Exiles' you are correct.

The great majority of the gusanos in Miami hate Cuba. Most of them are remnants of the Fulgencio Batista government. Prominent examples are the three Cuban-American U.S. Representatives from Miami Dade.

If the Miami Herald truly thinks that Cuba is going to talk to these three and their fellow travelers, they must be smoking some very potent Maui Wawi from free and democratic Colombia!

The Cuban government would have to be incredibly stupid to want to talk to a bunch of ultra right wing fascists.

They also continue to refer to the five individuals who the Cuban government sent to infiltrate terrorist organizations in Miami as “criminals” which were convicted in a “fair and open judicial process.”

Fair? That was the biggest joke of the MH editorial.

Most of the opinions that I have read about that farce of a trial agree that the process can be best equated with a Catholic Church Inquisition trial during the dark middle ages. It was a kangaroo trial, and they know it. There is no justice in Miami courts, because they are staffed by professional Cuba haters.

My Father's Stand on Cuba Travel

The Washington Post

By Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"The present travel restrictions are inconsistent with traditional American liberties," the then-U.S. attorney general argued in a behind-the-scenes debate over the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. I hope that this will soon be the position advanced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as the Obama administration ponders its next step on Cuba -- which should be to move beyond allowing only Cuban Americans to travel freely to the island and to address the rights of all Americans, most of whom are still not free to go.

In fact, this position was put forth by the attorney general in 1963, my father, Robert Kennedy. The history of his efforts to end prosecutions of U.S. citizens who challenged the travel ban, and to rescind those restrictions altogether, supports including travel-for-all as part of the "new beginning with Cuba" that President Obama commendably announced at the Summit of the Americas last weekend.

In December 1963, the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute four members of the Student Committee for Travel to Cuba who had led a group of 59 college-age Americans on a trip to Havana. My father opposed those prosecutions, as well as the travel ban itself. The prohibition only enticed more students to defy the ban, he believed, and more were likely to travel to Cuba over the coming Christmas vacation.

"There are realistically only two courses open to us in these circumstances," he wrote in a Dec. 12, 1963, confidential memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Rusk: "First, to make every effort to curtail trips to Cuba; two, to withdraw the existing regulation prohibiting such trips. The first is unlikely to meet the problem and I favor the second."

My father's principal argument for lifting the ban was simply that restricting Americans' right to travel went against the freedoms that he had sworn to protect as attorney general. Lifting the ban, he argued, would be "more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and Communist controls on such travel."

Despite its clarity, my father's position did not carry the day. Instead, the Johnson White House sided with the arguments put forth by the State Department: "relaxation would appear as a softening of our policy toward Cuba"; our travel controls "are part of a joint effort by the U.S. and other American Republics to isolate Cuba"; and "a relaxation of U.S. restrictions would make it very difficult for us to urge Latin American governments to prevent their nationals from going to Cuba."

Forty-six years later, however, none of these arguments remains a relevant justification for a punitive policy that violates the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to freely travel abroad. The original rationale for the ban -- to ensure the United States did not appear hypocritical when it pressured Latin American nations to block their youth from flocking to Cuba -- has long been relegated to the dustbin of history. Since the mid-1970s, when the Organization of American States voted to lift multilateral trade sanctions against Cuba, most Latin Americans have been free to travel to the island -- and many have. In recent months, the presidents of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, among other leaders, have paid high-profile visits to Havana to meet with Raúl and Fidel Castro -- making very public statements to their countrymen, and to Washington, that there is nothing wrong with going to Cuba.

Those same leaders are making a joint effort to engage the Castro regime and reintegrate the island into the Western Hemisphere. As Obama learned at last weekend's summit, the Latin American leaders have adopted a coordinated message on Cuba: This is the time to normalize relations with Havana and take Cuba off the hemispheric agenda for good. By continuing to try to isolate Cuba, they essentially told Obama, Washington has succeeded only in isolating itself.

Much as there is no longer an international constituency that wants the United States to maintain a hard line on Cuba, there is no longer a domestic constituency. CNN polling this month found that 64 percent of U.S. citizens support free travel to Cuba and that 71 percent believe that Washington should fully restore diplomatic relations. More important for the president's political calculations, 67 percent of Cuban Americans in the Miami area favor lifting restrictions on travel to Cuba for all U.S. citizens, according to a Bendixen and Associates poll released this week.

Obama's declaration last weekend -- "There are critical steps we can take toward a new day" in U.S.-Cuban relations -- and his decision to rescind all restrictions on Cuban American travel could become momentous steps toward ending five decades of hostility in Washington's approach to Havana. The next step should be a White House endorsement of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act recently introduced in Congress and a presidential initiative to restore the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba.

The goal is not only the advancement of democracy in Cuba, but, as Robert Kennedy believed, a policy consistent with the sanctity of traditional liberties and the values of a free society -- our own.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend served as lieutenant governor of Maryland from 1995 to 2003. The documents cited above can be read on the Web site of the National Security Archive, http://www.nsarchive.org.

----------

JG: The United States Congress must step up to the plate and pass H.R. 874 and S. 428, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, to allow ALL AMERICANS to travel freely to Cuba. The steps announced by Obama at the Summit of the America's are only directed to Cuban-Americans. He should abandon his timidity and act boldly and ensure that every American can travel to Cuba. We do not need a nanny government telling us where we can go and not go to.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seeming mixed signals from Cuba's Castro brothers

April 22, 2009 - 4:25 p.m.

By WILL WEISSERT

HAVANA (AP) — Raul Castro seems ready to discuss improving relations with Washington. Brother Fidel is clearly uncomfortable with the idea.

Do the mixed messages from Cuba's current and former presidents reflect the communist leadership's resistance to moving too quickly? Or are they a ploy for leverage ahead of any talks?

As the White House ponders its next move, the question of who calls the shots in Cuba is less clear than ever.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the delicate situation in comments to Congress on Wednesday, saying the Obama administration needs to be ready to engage with Cuba, even though its government "is one that is very difficult to move."

Noting Fidel "contradicted" his brother in an essay published earlier Wednesday, she said, "I think you can see there is beginning to be a debate."

Some Cuban dissidents put a more negative spin on the brothers' messages.

"Raul Castro says one thing and Fidel comes out in subsequent days and says the opposite," said Miriam Leiva, founder of a Havana-based support group for the wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners. "It's no way to run a government."

Fidel, 82, clearly sought to diminish expectations of a thaw in Cuba-U.S. relations with his latest column, which asserted that President Barack Obama "misinterpreted" Raul's seemingly conciliatory statements last week.

At issue was Raul's declaration that his government is ready to discuss "everything, everything, everything" with U.S. negotiators, including human rights and freedom of the press in Cuba and the 205 dissidents its government is accused of jailing.

Obama responded warmly at the Summit of the Americas, saying perhaps the U.S. is ready for a new beginning with Cuba. But he also said that as a sign of good will, Cuban authorities should release political prisoners and reduce a 10 percent tax on the U.S. dollars that Cuban-Americans send to support relatives on the island.

That angered Fidel, who called Obama's analysis of Cuban policy "superficial" and said the U.S. leader had no right to suggest even small concessions.

Obama "without a doubt misinterpreted Raul's declarations," Fidel wrote, without explaining exactly what he supposedly misunderstood.

Fidel defended the government's right to tax dollars received by Cubans, a levy that he says is spent on social needs like food, medicine and other goods.

Fidel did not directly contradict Raul, and he defended his brother's comments, saying they showed "courage and confidence."

Still, the Castro brothers have clearly adopted different tones, if not policy positions. That could mean there is a division within Cuba's collective communist leadership over whether detente is moving too fast. Or the leaders could be trying to create an appearance of friction that keeps Cuba in the news and may become a bargaining chip in any negotiations with the U.S.

"It's a game of political strategy," said Elizardo Sanchez, the island's leading rights activist and head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Sanchez praised Obama's decision to lift U.S. restrictions on money and travel to Cuba by people with family on the island. "Now is the time for pragmatic steps like those the United States has taken because the Cuban government has done nothing," he said.

Fidel has been publishing his "reflections" nearly every day, and will likely continue, but Raul isn't likely to respond. The 77-year-old has been president since Fidel formally stepped down due to illness last year, but he does not write commentaries and rarely even gives speeches or addresses the media.

This raises questions about who is really in charge.

"Here, Fidel has always made the final decisions," Leiva said. "He is provoking and impeding, creating a confrontation between the two countries because that's what Cuba uses to justify its repressive policies."

Leiva's husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, was a state-trained economist who became a dissident and was among 75 political opposition leaders arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of conspiring with Washington to undermine the communist system. He has since been freed on medical parole, one of 21 prisoners from the group now out of prison.

Raul suggested last year that Cuba would be willing to free more political prisoners in a swap for five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States. So in some ways it didn't break new ground for him to offer last week to trade "all" such prisoners and send them and their families to America in exchange for the five Cubans convicted of espinoage.

Even Fidel defended the idea in his latest essay, writing that "no one should feel astonished that Raul spoke about pardoning those who were convicted in March 2003 and about sending them all to the United States, should that country be willing to release the five Cuban anti-terrorism heroes."

Still, some Cubans were irritated Wednesday by Fidel's insistence that Obama misinterpreted the Cuban president's sentiments.

"These are contradictions that go against the people. They go against working people, suffering people," said Wilfredo O'Farril, a 59-year-old construction worker.

"I'm not afraid to say it. We are a people without a future," he said, adding that Fidel "first says one thing, then says another. We've been this way for 50 years."

A.G. Holder: Invetigate Torture



MoveOn.org is set to launch an aggressive new ad campaign calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the use of torture during the Bush administration and even raising the specter of targeting former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cuban-American Florida Senate President Alex Diaz de la Portilla wants to make it harder for you to exercise your right to vote.

The GOP in Florida is at it again in their never ending efforts to disenfranchise Florida voters.

Senate Bill 956 was ramrodded through the legislature with only six minutes of discussion.

Leon County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho describes Florida Senate Bill 956 as “a shameless partisan bill that erects unnecessary barricades for the sole purpose of making it harder for voters to vote.”

I bet that Diaz de la Portilla is one of those GOP comecandelas who is constantly talking about the lack of democracy in Cuba.

Both Latinos and African-Americans voted heavily for Obama in November.

I bet Alex Diaz de la Portilla finds that “undemocratic.”

Fidel Castro: Obama 'misinterpreted' Raul's words


Yahoo! News

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer

HAVANA – Fidel Castro says President Barack Obama "misinterpreted" his brother Raul's remarks regarding the United States and bristled at the suggestion that Cuba should free political prisoners or cut taxes on remittances from abroad as a goodwill gesture to the U.S.

Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation last week that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw in nearly a half-century of chilly relations. The speculation began when the Cuban president said leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss "everything," including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners on the island.

Obama responded at the Summit of the Americas by saying Washington seeks a new beginning with Cuba, but he also said Sunday that Cuba should release some political prisoners and reduce official taxes on remittances sent to the island from the U.S.

That appeared to enrage Fidel Castro, 82, who wrote in an essay posted on a government Web site that Obama "without a doubt misinterpreted Raul's declarations."

The former president appeared to be throwing a dose of cold water on growing expectations for improved bilateral relations — suggesting Obama had no right to dare suggest that Cuba make even small concessions. He also seemed to suggest too much was being made of Raul's comments about discussing "everything" with U.S. authorities.

"Affirming that the president of Cuba is ready to discuss any topic with the president of the United States expresses that he's not afraid to broach any subject," Fidel Castro wrote of his 77-year-old brother, who succeeded him as president 14 months ago.

"It's a sign of bravery and confidence in the principles of the revolution," he said, referring to the rebel uprising that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista and brought the Castros to power on New Year's Day 1959.

"Nobody should assume that he was talking about pardoning those sentenced in March 2003 and sending all of them to the United States, if the country were willing to liberate the five Cuban anti-terrorist heroes," Castro wrote.

He was referring to 75 leading political opposition leaders who were rounded up and imprisoned six years ago. Some 54 of them remain behind bars, though Raul Castro suggested last year that Cuba would be willing to liberate some political prisoners if U.S. authorities would free five Cuban spies.

Castro compared the prisoners arrested in 2003 to exiles who attacked the island's southern coast during the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and said they were "at the service of a foreign power that threatens and blockades our country," referring to charges they conspired with Washington to destabilize the communist system.

The ex-president had previously expressed his admiration for Obama, but this time Castro blasted the new U.S. president for showing signs of "superficiality."

He also defended Cuba's right to levy a 10 percent fee on every U.S. dollar sent to relatives on the island by Cuban-Americans, saying if the money arriving from abroad "is in dollars, all the more reason we should do it because it is the currency of the country that blockades us."

All top Cuban leaders routinely call the 47-year-old trade embargo against this country a blockade.

"Not all Cubans have family members overseas that send remittances," Castro said, adding that Cuba uses the revenue from fees on exchanging dollars to provide free health care, education and subsidized food to all of its population.

------

JG: Fidel is 100% correct. Being willing to sit down and talk and negotiate about "everything" does not mean that Raul would be ready to give away the whole store. He will defend Cuba's sovereignty like his brother has very ably done during the last 50 years. Otherwise the Cuban Revolution would have been in vain.

I still believe that having Obama in the White House is much better than having Dubbya. On non Cuba issues, specially the social issues, he is a great improvement and a big progressive step forward for the American people, but we also must not forget that Obama is a 100% capitalist leader, and capitalists hate Socialism because it is a better system in helping us people get trough our lives on this earth.

Having said that, I am sure that some Miami gusano will come to Cuba Journal with their perennial question of "If you love Socialism so much, why don't you go back to Cuba?" And I would have to repeat my perennial answer that "I am not ready to let capitalists confiscate my retirement pension." I worked very hard for it and it belongs to me. The fact that I can not enjoy my retirement pension in any country of my choosing is one more proof of the ABSOLUTE HATRED that capitalists have for Socialism, specially the criollo variety of my Caribbean motherland.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AFP: Obama built up and then nocked down improved US-Cuba relations

President Barack Obama can be at times a very stubborn and arrogant person. He clearly demonstrated it with his statements at the Fifth Summit of the Americas recently concluded in Trinidad-Tobago.

His performance there left much to be desired. Just saying that the Cuba policies of the United have not achieved their desired outcome (i.e. the overthrow of Cuba's Socialist government) is not enough. He is not committed to rectifying the mistakes of past U.S. presidents. It appears right now that he wants to continue those mistakes.

It is the U.S. government that has been the aggressor with the continuation of its genocidal embargo. Admit that the embargo is a stupidity and a failed policy? No, he wants to continue it!

Maybe the U.S. Congress should take a leadership position and step up to the plate, since Obama apparently is not up to the task of reforming our failed Cuba policies.

He is not offering us change we can believe in regarding Cuba policies.

AFP report: Hopes dim for US-Cuba thaw.

Two idiots named Helms and Burton

"Another provision of the [Cuba embargo] is the Helms-Burton Act (passed by two of the more idiotic people ever to serve in Congress) which seeks to ban companies who do business in Cuba from doing business in the United States. Aside from being a fairly arrogant law (imposing our laws on companies from outside the country) it is only partly enforced because there are humanitarian exceptions and most companies are able to work through this loophole."

Source: The Moderate Voice

Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama goes back to dictates and impositions

The Fifth Summit of the Americas started very well with a serious statement from President Barack Obama about “a new beginning with Cuba.”

However, in a press conference at the end of the summit he went back to his old self of wanting to impose dictates on the Cuban people from far away Washington, D.C. He is bound to fail like his ten predecessors.

Here is the report from the Trinidad and Tobago Express titled
“... wants real change in Cuba.”

United States President Barack Obama says that his country's longstanding trade embargo against the Caribbean's only communist state, Cuba, "hasn't worked the way we want it to".
Nonetheless, Obama stood firm on his administration's position that any lifting of the embargo would not occur until Cuba embraces more western democratic principles, such as free elections and the release of political prisoners.

Obama did so during a news conference at the Hilton Trinidad hotel in St Ann's yesterday, after he attended a Fifth Summit of the Americas retreat for all the 34 Heads of State hosted by Prime Minister Patrick Manning at the nearby Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's.

Asked about his support for an end to the trade embargo against Cuba while he was contesting a seat in the US Senate in 2004, Obama said, "Is it while - I was running for Senate. There you go. Look, what I said and what I think my entire administration has acknowledged is, is that the policy that we've had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free. And that's our lodestone, our North Star, when it comes to our policy in Cuba."


We have all heard the old saying about “wanting to have your cake and eat it too.” That seems to me what Barack Obama wants to do.

He wants to keep the embargo and at the same time wants to send Verizon, ATT, and other capitalist telecoms to lay out infrastructure in Cuba. Hold it a second sir, you can't do that because the embargo prohibits you from doing that.

When Obama says “the Cuban people are not free” he is insulting the Cuban people.

What he fails to mention is that the “freedom” that he wants for Cuba is “capitalist freedom” the one that is based on furthering the money interests of United States corporate capitalism.

The “elections” that he wants for Cuba are “money elections” where the guy with the most money always wins.

I do not think that the Cuban people want that. They have chosen Socialism.

If Obama continues to support the embargo, which is a failed policy, according to his own words and those of his Secretary of State, then nothing much will change.

Alliance of Baptists urges end to Cuba travel ban

Associated Baptist Press

By Bob Allen

Monday, April 20, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ABP) -- The Alliance of Baptists applauded President Obama for loosening restrictions on American's travel to Cuba and called for more reform during the progressive group's April 17-19 convocation in Charlotte, N.C.

After experiencing hindered access to Cuba under the previous administration, the Alliance welcomed the president's April 13 order relaxing restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans with family members in Cuba to travel to the communist nation and send money to relatives. The group said Obama's move was "an important first step toward creating a rational and effective policy toward Cuba."

The Alliance called on Obama to ease travel restrictions further and to continue a thorough review of United State policy toward Cuba, including a nearly half-century old trade embargo "and its destructive impact on both countries."

The Cuba statement called on Alliance members to lobby their representatives and senators to pass legislation allowing all Americans to visit Cuba.

A Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act now before Congress would prohibit any president from regulating or prohibiting travel to or from Cuba by U.S. citizens or legal residents except in time of war, armed hostilities or imminent danger to health or safety of U.S. citizens.

A bipartisan bill, H.R. 874 has 124 co-sponsors in the House and awaits a hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The companion Senate bill is S. 428.

Lula confident Obama will further ease Cuba embargo

Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:23am EDT

BRASILIA, April 20 (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday he believed U.S. President Barack Obama would further dismantle a 47-year-old trade embargo against Communist Cuba.

"I know there are cultural and political problems. It's not easy to overcome conservative sectors in each country, but I think Obama will tend to advance and understand there is no more need for an embargo against Cuba," the former union leader said on his weekly radio address.

Complete story.

Prime Minister Manning: Cuba must be re-integrated into the Inter-American system

Monday, April 20, 2009

Statement by Prime Mister Patrick Manning of Trinidad-Tobago as reported by Trinidad and Tobago Express.

Reintegration of Cuba in the Inter-American System

Several presidents and prime ministers called for an end to the exclusion of the Cuba from the Summit process and the inter-american system. There was a clear consensus that the reintegration of Cuba in the inter-american relations is an essential step toward the building of a more cohesive and integrated Americas. The very open and conciliatory stance of President Obama and other leaders at the summit has heightened optimism for the full engagement of Cuba in hemispheric affairs in the not too distant future. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to the day when Cuba is fully embraced into the folds of the inter-american family.

U.S. barbarians at work: 266 instances of waterboarding

Memo: Two al Qaeda leaders waterboarded 266 times

JG: No one in the United States is defending the leaders of Al Qaeda. They need to brought to justice for the horrors of 9/11. But the Bush administration descended to their level and brought immense shame to our country. They need to be prosecuted. When George W. Bush said in public "We do not torture" he was clearly lying. He should be the first one criminally charged.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA interrogators used waterboarding at least 266 times on two top al Qaeda suspects, according to a Bush-era Justice Department memo released by the Obama administration.

The controversial technique that simulates drowning -- and which President Obama calls torture -- was used at least 83 times in August 2002 on suspected al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, according to the memo.

Interrogators also waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in March 2003. Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Obama released the memo Thursday, saying that "exceptional circumstances surround these memos and require their release."

The memo, dated May 30, 2005, was from then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury to John Rizzo, who was acting general counsel for the CIA.

It paints a different picture from the one described by former CIA officer John Kiriakou. In a December 2007 interview with CNN, Kiriakou said Zubaydah had been waterboarded for "about 30 seconds, 35 seconds" and agreed to cooperate with interrogators the following day.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Michael Hayden, who directed the CIA from 2006 to 2009, was asked about the number of times Mohammed was waterboarded.

Hayden denounced the release of the memos and did not comment on the number, saying it was his understanding that the frequency of waterboarding was among the operational details that had not been declassified.

The 2005 memo refers to a letter that had contained the numbers as well. Part of the reference to the letter was redacted in the released memo.

Waterboarding is among the interrogation tactics that Obama has prohibited through an executive order.

The CIA also has admitted waterboarding Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the first person charged in the United States for the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Obama said last week he felt comfortable releasing the classified memos because the Bush administration acknowledged using some of the practices associated with the memos, and the interrogation techniques were widely reported and have since been banned.

"Withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time," Obama said in a statement. "This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States."

The president applauded the work of the U.S. intelligence community and said no one who "carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice" would be prosecuted.

Compay Segundo and Pio Leyva: La Juma de Ayer



Compay Segundo live at L'Olympia in Paris, France.
Directed by Patrick Savey; 1999.

Trio Matamoros: Son de la Loma

The Trio Matamoros, about 1930,
left: Rafael Cueto;
centre: Miguel Matamoros,
right: Siro Rodríguez



The Trio Matamoros were one of the most popular Cuban trova groups. Formed in 1925 by Miguel Matamoros (Santiago de Cuba, 8 May 1894 – 15 April 1971; guitar), Rafael Cueto (Santiago de Cuba, 14 March 1900 – 7 August 1991; guitar) and Siro Rodriguez (Santiago de Cuba, 9 December 1899 – 29 March 1981; maracas and claves). All three were singers and composers.

The Trio Matamoros played boleros and son. They toured all Latin America and Europe and recorded in New York. In 1940 Guillermo Portabales performed with the trio. Matamoros expanded the trio into a conjunto for a trip to Mexico and hired the young Beny Moré as singer from 1945 to 1947. They recorded many 78rpm records and LPs; some of their output is available on CDs. The group were renowned for the harmaony of their voices, and the quality of the lyrics.

Matamoros was one of the greatest composers of the Cuban son; his first hit was El que siembra su maiz (literally, he who sows his corn). Lágrimas negras (Black tears) and Mamá, son de la loma / y cantan en llano (Ma, they're from the hill, and they sing on the plain, meaning, they're from Oriente and they sing in Havana). The group, whose members stayed together for 35 years, disbanded in 1960.

U.S. needs to ease up on Cuba

Arizona State University Web Devil

By: Andrew Rowen

Published On: Monday, April 20, 2009

If you’ve ever wondered why it is that we can’t legally purchase Cuban cigars or even travel to Cuba’s waters, you will surely be disheartened to learn that the U.S. is alone in such restrictions. Fortunately, the U.S. and Cuba may be set to change their old stances of opposition with their new administrations.

There was a flurry of overtures between the U.S. and Cuba during last week’s “Summit of the Americas” held in Trinidad and Tobago. Much to the delight of the Organization of the Americas’ leaders, President Barack Obama made the first steps to open relations with Cuba by announcing his repeal of the restrictions made under both presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, granting Cuban-American families travel access and the ability to send money and gifts to non-governmental persons of Cuba.

Moreover, Obama’s declaration that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba” was returned with unusually bright response by Cuban President Raúl Castro: “We are willing to discuss everything: human rights, freedom of press, political prisoners, everything, everything, everything…”

Such words mark a different tone in a historically strained relationship between these neighboring nations. Cuba, currently home to more than 11 million people, was originally ceded to the U.S. from Spain in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, but quickly gained full independence in 1902. Once a prosperous nation with a strong middle class and a per capita GDP approximately equal to Italy’s, Cuba’s present-day wages (about $5 a week per person) and ’50s old-world conditions are testament to its time-capsule status of a Cold War era.

Cuba’s present-day plight was crystallized by the romantic 1958 Castro-and-Guevara-led communist revolution and subsequent alignment with the USSR. Under Castro’s political control, Cuba nationalized its industries and press, imprisoned dissidents and executed thousands — causing decades of a mass civilian exodus.

I’ve personally worked with a man whose family’s lucrative sugar business was seized by the communists and exiled to the U.S. Such accounts built the platform of our U.S. policies toward Cuba, such as JFK’s 1962 ordered embargo, which officially solidified our hard-line position against Castro’s regime. Now, nearly 50 years later, the U.S.-Cuban policies have remained unchanged in large part by a small yet powerful lobby in Florida.

Though a recent CNN poll found that 71 percent of Americans support re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, there’s still significant opposition from groups such as the Cuban American National Foundation. They believe it’s up to Cuba to change, not the U.S., and that conciliation on our country’s part would only strengthen the totalitarian regime.

These “tough love” approaches have proven ineffective and stubbornly isolated Cuba from the political, economic and social changes needed to liberalize the communist nation. Though the original intent of our trade embargo was understandable, our failed policies since have left us with nearly zero political leverage in Cuban matters. The U.N. General Assembly voted in 2002 to end the U.S. trade embargo by a whopping 173 to three vote, yet we still cling to Cold-War diplomacy, effectively ignoring the plight of the Cuban people.

The United States and Cuba should thaw their Cold War chill and begin to develop in the warmth of tomorrow’s promise. The generational gap between old and new has widened, opening a time rife with opportunity for political action.

It’s my hope that soon I can smoke a “habano” in celebration of a new day in Cuba.

Andrew is a construction major. He can be reached at andrew.rowen@asu.edu.

Fidel Castro say U.S. embargo against Cuba must go

Mon Apr 20, 2009 7:51am BST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said on Sunday the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba must go, but he was mum on his brother Raul Castro's recent offer to talk with Washington about "everything," including political prisoners and human rights.

Castro's comments in his latest column in Cuba's state-run media were his first about the just-completed Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. Latin American leaders there pushed U.S. President Barack Obama to end the Cold War trade ban imposed against Cuba in 1962.

Castro praised Obama for being "very intelligent," but said he was "abrupt and evasive" when he answered questions about the embargo in a closing news conference on Sunday.

"I want to remind him of a basic ethical principal related to Cuba: any injustice, any crime in whatever time has no excuse to go on. The cruel blockade (embargo) against the Cuban people costs lives, costs suffering," he said.

Complete Article

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hopeful Signs

The Fifth Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad-Tobago started and ended with positive and hopeful signs.

For the first time ever, the United States government has declared that our Cuba policies have amounted to failure. Those words came from our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Our peoples demanded that 50 years of continued enmity between Cuba and the U.S. should come to a halt. We have the opportunity and the duty to do it now.

We have visionary and pragmatic new leaders in both the United States and Cuba. We should not let this event pass us by.

Let us shake hands and dare to dream of a new beginning and a future filled with cooperation and not confrontation.

Ignoring History have cost us Fifty precious years of our lives.

Alberto N Jones
April 18, 2009

In an ironic twist of history, the V Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago will come to a successful or irrelevant closure on Sunday, April 19th, the same day, forty eight years ago when the United States suffered its most resounding political, moral and military defeat in the swamps of the Bay of Pigs.

Prior to this trans formative milestone, the United States political/military thinking was formulated around a self-proclaimed invincibility, which emerged from the three months military skirmish in Santiago de Cuba, euphemistically known around the world as the Spanish-American War in 1898.

This tragic event, effectively deprived the Cuban people of the fruits of their long and hard fought struggle for independence and sovereignty, which began with the uprising of Chief Hatuey and Guarina in the 1490‘s. Thousands of Cuba’s best sons and daughters were deported, imprisoned, wounded, maimed or killed on behalf of this goal.

Tens of slave uprisings across the island attempting to free themselves from their inhumane captivity, were put down with unspeakable brutality. The infamous Ladder Conspiracy earned its name from two parallel logs with other horizontally spaced logs upon which slaves accused of plotting to escape or recaptured run-away slaves were tied to and beaten into a pulp or killed with blows from another log, reminiscent to a primitive baseball bat.

On October 10th 1868, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes a wealthy sugar baron, who later became the father of the Cuban nation, freed his slaves and encouraged them to join the war of independence, which they did in droves, contributing the bulk of the casualties during the next 10 years vicious war, which ended in an armistice. This tragic outcome was salvaged by another son of Africa, General Antonio Maceo who opposed this decision with his heroic Protest of Baragua and his commitment to continue the struggle to its last consequence.

The final war of independence was re-started in 1895 under the leadership of Jose Marti, the greatest Cuban political leader in its history. By 1898 victory was within reach of the Cuban Army, when alleging protection of life and property, the USS Maine entered the port of Havana where it later exploded under questionable circumstances, laying the groundwork for the United States to unleash the Spanish-American war, which defeated in three months, an exhausted Spanish occupying forces.

This simple, unsolicited, unilateral decision by the United States, de railed 400 years of struggle for Cuba’s independence, when they denied the Cuban Army the right to be present at the Spanish Army surrendering ceremony or at the subsequent peace talks in Paris. The dismantling of a fully integrated Army of Independence, replacing it with an all white police force and with a Rural Guard where blacks could not rise above the rank of lieutenant, opened deep and bitter wounds between the US and Cuba.

By emasculating Cuba sovereignty with the Platt Amendment, forceful occupation of prime lands for naval bases, engulfing thousands of acres of fertile agriculture lands for pennies, taking over every important industry, utilities, commerce, banking, perpetuating illiteracy, segregation, corruption, political violence etc., they sowed the seeds of discord that have survived to this day.

These and other social ills were compounded with the brutal assault on the “democratically” elected, corrupt presidency of Carlos Prio Socarras in 1952, which lead the Generation of the Century headed by Fidel Castro, to accuse General Batista before the Supreme Court for overthrowing the government and later leading a failed insurrection, imprisonment, emigration, return with an 82 man strong invading forces in 1956, which defeated Batista’s powerful, US backed military machine on January 1, 1959.

Attempting to correct years of abuse, corruption, a worldwide image of Cuba being a playground for the rich, famous and the mafia, the new government clamped down hard and confiscated most ill gotten wealth of these individuals, irritating the US government, unleashing a tit for tat and the breaking-off of diplomatic relations.

The infamous Bay of Pigs, is nothing more than a traumatic abortion of an ill-conceived, well funded, abundantly equipped, vertically CIA managed 2000 man-strong mercenary force, charged with overthrowing the newly formed, poorly equipped Cuban army.

Having failed to take into account these irrefutable historical facts, have left a legacy of distrust, billions of dollars in misguided projects and unnecessary destruction, wounded and dead.

And today, as a highly educated, visionary, courageous president of the United States is working tirelessly to reverse decades of absurd, confrontational, hate spewing, retrograde policies that have created millions of enemies around the world, many continue to undermine every idea, policy or bridge building effort the White House may develop.

Let us join hands and stave off those backward forces that revel in wars, death and destruction. Let’s express in a clear, strong, unison voice, enough is enough!

If for millions of people around the world, April 19, 1961 is remembered as the Day of Infamy, it is incumbent upon us to transform this day in the year 2009, into the Day of Rediscovering America, Goodness, Brotherhood, Love and Hope.