Wednesday, July 31, 2013

New horror stories were revealed today by The Guardian about how the U.S. government is conducting a massive surveilance program on peaceful and law abiding U.S. citizens

Link to The Guardian Article

Here are some key points in the article:

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Analysts [at the National Security Agency] can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's Internet activity.

A slide entitled "plug-ins" in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes "every email address seen in a session by both username and domain", "every phone number seen in a session (e.g. address book entries or signature block)" and user activity – "the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc".

Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media.

The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large. One NSA report from 2007 estimated that there were 850bn "call events" collected and stored in the NSA databases, and close to 150bn internet records. Each day, the document says, 1-2bn records were added.

JG: Big Brother is alive and well and residing in the National Security Agency with an approving nod from Barack Obama in the White House. Is Big Ears saying "I don't care if you have to violate the Constitution's clause against unreasonable searches and seizures. JUST DO IT!" 


Barack Obama Is Keeping Allan Gross in a Cuban Jail. Why?

POTUS #44 is too arrogant to admit that his administration blundered badly when he sent Mr. Gross to brazenly violate Cuba's national security and sovereignty. Do you remember when Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Gary Powers in a U-2  over the skies of the Soviet Union? They also whined when he was shot down.

Obama insults the intelligence of the peoples of our planet when he tries to convince us that Mr. Gross only went to Cuba to have a cafe con leche and attend services at a synagogue.

Mr. Gross was and is a typical covert agent of the Yankee imperialists, who violated important Cuban laws. If you believe the tall tales that he was merely a “contractor,” you are a big fool. The CIA has always used mercenaries for hire, since they are totally amoral.

If Mr. Obama wants to bring  Allan Gross home all he has do is sit down with Cuba to negotiate (as equals) a prisoner exchange. Mr. Gross for the Cuban Five.


But Mr. Obama is afraid that if he does that he will stop receiving the monetary contributions of the Miami fascists. IT'S THE MONEY STUPID!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sanctions against Cuba: the private CASH COW machine of Barack H. Obama

Cuba Criticizes US Embargo Fine for AmEx, Bank

Associated Press
Cuba is objecting to the U.S. government's recent sanctions against companies for violating the 51-year-old economic and financial embargo against the island.

A Foreign Ministry statement notes last week's settlement in which American Express Co. agreed to pay $5.2 million because of more than 14,000 tickets it issued for travel between Cuba and other countries.

It also says Intesa SanPaolo paid a fine of nearly $3 million on June 28 after the U.S. Treasury Department determined that the Italian bank had processed 53 financial transfers involving Cuba between 2004 and 2008.

The Foreign Ministry accuses Washington of repeatedly "making absurd concessions" to the Cuban exile lobby.

The statement was published Tuesday in Communist Party newspaper Granma. (ABC NEWS)

JG: Does the cash make it possible for Barack H. Obama to pay for all his foreign junkets?

Barack H. Obama, like Bill Clinton in 1996, continues to be in bed with the prostitutes of the Miami fascists. Cash is the only thing that matters.

Allowing "people-to-people" trips to Cuba is just a fig leave. Does he get commissions from that too?

 

 

The Cuban Cargo Caper


Monday, July 29, 2013

Capitalism: Dog Eat Dog


Every day, when you you open the pages of a United States newspaper you read about another capitalist corporation or Wall Street scammer who is indicted for stealing millions of dollars from the people of the United States.

Financial crime is a very large and lucrative business in capitalist USA.

The first commandment of every capitalist is “make money, legally or illegally.” Money is the only God that capitalists have. On Sundays they pretend that they are Christians and go to church. What hypocrisy!

The selling of illegal drugs is a huge business in capitalist USA. The profits are stratospheric. These capitalist millionaires and billionaires have to live in gated and walled fortresses, because another capitalist criminal is going to come after their ill gotten gains.

Dog eat dog!

My Tweet message to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart


 
Why are you and your fascists hiding the language that you added to HR2786? Giving the people THE MUSHROOM TREATMENT?


Why is the U.S. Congress hiding the language that was added by Cuban-American fascist, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, to H.R.2786, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for fiscal 2014

Why?

Do you really want to know why?

Because the U.S. Congress, which only has a 12% approval rating from the American people, is giving the public:

The Mushroom Treatment:

Keep them in the dark and feed them

BULLSHIT!

Fidel Castro Accuses Cuba Foes Of Lying About Arms On North Korea-Bound Boat

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro presents to Fidel Castro a painting that was done by the late Hugo Chavez while he was recuperating in Cuba

In a published letter over the weekend, former President Fidel Castro said Cuba's enemies were out to smear the island nation by mischaracterizing the Cuban armaments seized at the Panama Canal on a boat bound for North Korea.

In a letter dated July 26, Castro alluded to allegations that Cuba may have violated U.N. sanctions against the Asian nation, calling them an attempt to defame his country.

"In recent days there was an attempt to slander our Revolution, trying to portray (President Raul Castro) as tricking the United Nations and other heads of state," Castro wrote.

Addressed to foreign leaders who attended Friday's celebration marking the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, the letter also reaffirmed Cuba's stated opposition to nuclear weapons.

The Panamanian government on July 16 announced the discovery of missiles and other military equipment on the North Korean-flagged freighter Chong Chon Gang, underneath a shipment of sugar.

Cuba said they were aging defensive weaponry including surface-to-air missile systems, fighter jets and engines that were being sent to North Korea for repairs.

State-run website Cubadebate said Castro gave the letter to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at a meeting between the two men Friday.

Cubadebate published photographs this weekend of Maduro and Castro, who wore a white warm-up jacket over a plaid collared shirt.

Castro was forced to step aside by a near-fatal intestinal condition in 2006 in favor of his younger brother Raul, and is rarely seen in public these days.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press. (Fox News Latino)

Cuban National Ballet co-founder Fernando Alonso dies at 98

Cuba's Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso and ex-husband Fernando Alonso, receive flowers from ballet students at the headquarters of Cuba's National Ballet in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010. 
(Franklin Reyes/Associated Press)

Cuban state media say that Fernando Alonso, co-founder of Cuba's National Ballet, has died. He was 98.

Alonso was the ex-husband of world-renowned ballerina and fellow National Ballet co-founder Alicia Alonso.

State TV announced his passing Saturday without specifying a cause of death. It says he left an "indelible mark on Cuban culture."

Fernando Alonso began his career in 1935, and in 1937 travelled with his brother and Alicia Alonso to the United States. In 1940, he and Alicia joined the American Ballet Theatre, where they remained for eight years.

They returned to Havana in 1948 and were part of a group called the Ballet Alicia Alonso. It later became the National Ballet.

In 1975, after divorcing Alicia, Alonso took charge of the ballet of the city of Camaguey.

Source: The Canadian Press





Fidel: "I Have Lived to Fight."

Fidel Castro, the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, sends letter to the chiefs of state who attended the act for the 60th anniversary of the Moncada barracks attack.

Link to Letter

When Granma International publishes the English translation, I will include a link on this line.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nit Picking Negativism

Poor Yankee imperialists! They still still can not accept, 60 years after the Moncada attack, that the Cuban revolution was succesful. GET OVER IT GUYS, and get on with your lives. Your puppets no longer rule Cuba.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Press Release from Cuban Americans for Engagement

The Executive Committee of CAFE, Cuban Americans for Engagement, would like to express our severe dismay over the recent language introduced by representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to the House Financial Services Appropriations Bill for the fiscal year 2014 that would reverse important advancements in U.S.-Cuba relations.

The language contained in sections 124 and 125 of the bill, which was passed by the full committee on Wednesday, would adversely affect two major policy changes of the Obama administration that have brought about improvements in the relations between the citizens of both nations over the past four years.

Section 124 would effectively dismantle the "people-to-people" licensing program, allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba for educational purposes, by defunding the program. These licenses have allowed U.S. citizens to legally visit Cuba and experience the island first-hand, ending their reliance on the skewed portrayals of Cuban reality by either the U.S. government or the corporate-controlled media.

These visits have also allowed Cuban citizens to interact with average U.S. citizens and to discover that most people in the U.S. desire normal relations with their Cuban neighbors. These educational exchanges have served to reinforce the similarities of both peoples and to express our shared interests.

The provisions in section 125 are particularly disturbing because they negatively affect thousands of Diaz-Balart's own constituents and their families in Cuba by requiring OFAC to monitor and report details on Cuban American travel to Cuba and on all remittances carried to Cuba, whether by Cuban Americans or others.

These remittances that have been taken to Cuba in the past years have helped to bolster the nascent mixed economy and allow Cubans on the island to start and maintain small businesses. Without these much needed investments Cubans wouldn't be able to participate in this new paradigm. The regulations imposed by this legislation would require a costly and intrusive monitoring system and would ultimately lead to diminished monetary support for the limited, yet increasing, free enterprise that is now possible in Cuba and less humanitarian and other donations to Cuba's religious NGOs.

It is extremely hypocritical and downright un-American of Diaz-Balart and the Republican controlled Appropriations committee to discourage Cuban Americans from taking advantage of the economic reforms taking place in Cuba. These are the same public figures that decry the communist, authoritarian government's control over the economy. These remittances have been the lifeblood of recent reforms in Cuba and Diaz-Balart's shortsighted and malicious attempt to curtail such funds is an affront to the American way of life.

CAFE will join others in fighting to keep this hateful language from ever making it to the president's desk and we hope that Diaz-Balart's mean-spirited tactics will be met with negative results at the polls on Election Day in November of 2014. Diaz-Balart's attempt to control the American citizenry's right to travel and sabotage his own constituent's efforts to contribute to the welfare of their extended communities in Cuba is a disgusting act of political posturing that shouldn't be accepted by any sector of the American government or society.

CAFE advocates an end to the unconstitutional restrictions on travel to Cuba imposed by the U.S. Congress and exhorts the U.S. State Department to at least, in the mean time, establish a single general license to cover all currently permissible categories of travel to Cuba. We also support the unlimited investment by Cuban Americans in Cuba and the end to the embargo that prohibits individuals and companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction from most trade and economic transactions with the island.

https://cafeporcuba.squarespace.com/news/press-release-of-cafes-denouncement-of-mario-diaz-balarts-attempt-to-dismantle-people-

CAFE Executive Committee

------

JG: Cuba Journal recommends to its readers to contact their U.S. House Representative and urge them to VOTE NO on this bad bill if it contains the language introduced by Representative Mario Diaz-Balart.

I just finished contacting my representative, Congressman Daniel Webster.

If Cuba Does Not Start Paying its Baseball Players Better Salaries...

... it will end up with zero baseball players. Ideology can not be deposited in a bank account.

Phillies reach deal with Cuban prospect  Gonzalez


Team yet to confirm six-year, $60 million arrangement with right-hander

By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com | 7/26/2013 10:52 P.M. ET

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is going to Philadelphia.

On Friday, the right-handed pitching prospect from Cuba agreed to a six-year deal worth close to $60 million with the Phillies, according to an industry source. The Phillies have not yet confirmed the deal.

Of that, $48 million is guaranteed, with an $11 million option for 2019.

Gonzalez is expected to get a few starts in the Minor Leagues but is close to Major League-ready and could join the team by the end of the season.

Several teams, including the Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins and Yankees, expressed serious interest in the right-hander, and almost every club had representatives at his two showcases last month in Tijuana, Mexico. Scouts have been watching him throw bullpen sessions in Mexico since April.

Because he is at least 23 years old and has played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league, Gonzalez was not subject to the new international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It has already been quite a journey for the 26-year-old.

Gonzalez fled Cuba earlier this year, landed in El Salvador and worked out for a month in Mexico City before making his way to Tijuana. He had been throwing full bullpen sessions in front of scouts twice each week for the past few months and took the mound for the Tijuana Toros twice.

Representatives for the 6-foot-3 Gonzalez submitted paperwork to the United States Department of the Treasury for the purposes of unblocking him in February and began petitioning MLB for free agency a month later. Gonzalez filed a copy of his residency card from Mexico -- the final step to becoming a free agent -- to the Commissioner's Office at the end of May and was cleared by the U.S. government to enter into an agreement with a Major League club July 15.

The hard-throwing right-hander has a fastball in the mid-90s, a changeup, forkball and curveball. He made a splash on the international scene at the 2010 University Baseball Championships in Tokyo, and he also shined at the Baseball World Cup in '09 and '11. He was suspended from Cuba's national team for most of the past two seasons for trying to leave the island.

He threw his fastball in the mid-90s during his two showcases in Tijuana and touched 97 mph.

------

JG: I do not blame Miguel Alfredo for being a dollar chaser. He is truly one of the outstanding great pitchers of Cuba. No wonder that Cuba lost recently five games in a row against USA university baseball players.

Will the last Cuban baseball player please turn the light off when you leave!

I spent $100 in gasoline driving to Durham, NC, to see Team Cuba. It was a huge disappointment!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Highly Recomended: Bohemia: Aniversario 60 del Moncada

http://www.bohemia.cu/moncada-60-aniversario/portada.html

Link to Raul Castro's speech today during the 60th anniversary of the Moncada barracks attack

The speech is in Spanish. The video is at the end of the web page.

Link:
http://www.juventudrebelde.cu/cuba/2013-07-26/raul-castro-esta-seguira-siendo-una-revolucion-de-los-jovenes-fotos/


In Spanish: Detroit Declares Bankruptcy! Wasn't Cuba the Failed Model?

Ciudad de Detroit se declara en quiebra: ¿no era Cuba el modelo fracasado?

Photo: Latin America, the Caribbean and Cuba, together at the act in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Moncada barracks atttack (From: Cubadebate)

Acto por el Aniversario 60 del Asalto al Cuartel Moncada. 
Foto: Ismael Francisco/ Cubadebate

Link to the article (in Spanish) 

Cuba Commemorates July 26 with Regional Leaders



Santiago de Cuba, Jul 26 (Prensa Latina) Cuba celebrates the National Rebellion Day with the attendance of Heads of State and Government from Latin America and the Caribbean in the 60th anniversary of the assault to the Moncada Barracks, then headed by Fidel Castro. The most Caribbean of the Cuban provincial capitals is renovated to receive the Presidents and other visitors.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arrived Thursday, with members of his Cabinet, leaders of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party of Venezuela, and leaders from other political organizations supporting the Bolivarian process.

Maduro regarded the insurrection on July 26, 1953 as a milestone, and said that Fidel Castro, after 60 years, is "keeping his headlight."

Other regional leaders, such as Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, are also attending and participating.

The Moncada, now a school city for children, will be the host for the central activity for the ephemerides, headed by Cuban President Raul Castro, who will accompany the visitors in a tour by the museum reminding the assault, and the Cemetery of Santa Ifigenia, where the remains of National Hero Jose Marti are resting.

Modificado el ( viernes, 26 de julio de 2013 )

Glorious 60

Moncada Barracks - 1953

The Moncada Barracks of Batista 
have been converted into School City 26 of July

Cuba and its citizens throughout the world celebrate today the 60th anniversary of the attack to the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba on July 26, 1953, under the leadership of a young Fidel Castro.

The Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who had always received very strong military support from the U.S. goverment to the north, did not know that the 26th marked the beginning of the end for his corrupt capitalist regime. Final victory would dawn on January 1, 1959. The tyrant's supporters would then flee to Miami, Florida, where they live today in ignominy in that cesspool of a city. Criminals run Miami. They learned that from Batista.

Eternal glory and honor to the many martyrs who fell on that day, so that Cuba could be free. They will never be forgotten and they live forever in the glorious pages of Cuban history.

Cubans now run the island and control their own destiny. Greedy and corrupt capitalist ideologies have been booted out from their little paradise. For those who do not know Cuban history, when Christopher Columbus set foot on Cuban soil for the first time, he exclaimed: “This is the most beautiful land that man has ever seen.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

USA hands Cuba its fifth defeat in a row

I was there and saw this debacle (for Cuba). Report when I return home.

Update: Thursday, July 25, 2013, 11:157 a.m.:

Hurricane Carlos hit Team Cuba's national baseball team with intensity five winds. The outstanding young pitcher from North Carolina State pitched six and two thirds outstanding innings and struck out eleven criollos. Cuba did not have a chance.

Cuba scored three runs in their eighth inning, but it was too little, too late. In the first seven innings, they only connect two hits.

Good pitching will always beat poor hitting. Defensively, Cuba did not play very well.

The final score: USA 5, Cuba 3.

I enjoyed my little two day trip to Durham, North Carolina. Nice town with a great baseball stadium.

CNT: Team USA completes sweep of Cuba (inludes link to box-score)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Venezuela ends conversations with USA after the interventionist statements of Samantha Power

CARACAS.— El presidente venezolano, Nicolás Maduro, exigió respeto por parte del gobierno de Estados Unidos tras las recientes declaraciones injerencistas de Samantha Power, nominada de la Casa Blanca como embajadora ante la ONU.

Ante ello, Maduro ratificó que daba "por terminadas todas las conversaciones iniciadas en Guatemala con John Kerry", el secretario de Estado norteamericano.

JG: What can you expect from the new feminazi that Obama has sent to the United Nations?

Applause for President Nicolas Maduro! 

Press statement released by the Cuban delegation to the round of migration talks with the United States

ON July 17, 2013, the migration talks were resumed between the delegations of the United States and Cuba which were headed by Edward Alex Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States and Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Head of the United States Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba respectively.

The meeting took place in a climate of respect. A review was made of the evolution of the migration accords in force between the two countries and the main results of the individual and joint actions undertaken by the Parties to cope with illegal migration and alien smuggling.

As an expression of its commitment to combat these phenomena, the Cuban delegation announced the ratification by the Government of Cuba of the Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which are both supplementary instruments of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Likewise, it reiterated that alien smuggling could not be eradicated nor a legal, safe and orderly migration between the two countries could be achieved as long as the wet foot/dry foot policy and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourage illegal migration and irregular entries of Cuban citizens into the United States, remain in force.

The Cuban delegation also provided information of interest about the updating of Cuba’s migration procedures and the process to implement them.

The Cuban delegation reiterated its willingness to maintain these exchanges in the future, given their importance to both countries.


Washington, July 17, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

USA wins baseball series as it defeats Cuba 1-0

The most incompetent performance by a Cuban National Selection ever. Get rid of the bum who wears the MANAGER uniform!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What to do when a baseball team does not win? FIRE THE MANAGER!

I am an agnostic. I do not believe in miracles. The chances that Cuba is going to win the current series against U.S. university baseball players is ZERO. Victor Mesa is overrated and over-hyped. FIRE HIM WHEN HE RETURNS TO THE ISLAND.

Tuesday, July 23: USA vs Cuba at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park


Cuba Journal does not receive any income by displaying this free advertising
from the Durham Bulls. I just love baseball.

Another Cuban living inside the island who wants to receive a quick welfare check from the USA

Here is what the L.A. Times is reporting:

DODGERS NOTES

Dodgers' Yasiel Puig sued for $12 million by man imprisoned in Cuba

Miguel Angel Corbacho Daudinot alleges that Puig knowingly made false statements that resulted in his receiving a seven-year prison sentence. Puig's lawyer is filing an 'aggressive' response.

Link to the article

Is Cuba entering a very bad road, with too many people who do not want to work for a living? The so-called balseros are a perfect example!

Game 2: USA defeats Cuba 3-2 in ten innings

S.F. Chronicle: US goes 10 innings to beat Cuba, 3-2

Juventud Rebelde: Otra vez la misma piedra

Victor Mesa: Defector 'not that great of a pitcher'

Great photos from Cubadebate

What the Yankee imperialists call defectors, I call $$$$$$ Chasers.

As I update this post, (Saturday, 9:15 a.m.) usabaseball.com has not made available the box-score yet.

Update: Sat, Jul 20, 3:20 p.m.: Boxscore

Friday, July 19, 2013

Are Americans becoming a super-race of snooping busy-bodies?

Do they do it to supplement their sex orgasms?

NO! It is that their lives are totally devoid of any meaning!

Some of them turn to alcohol, some turn to drugs, but being super-voyeurs probably tops any other reason. 


USA defeats Cuba 2-1 in eleven innings of game 1

BoxScore

ESPN: U.S. tops Cuba in exhibition

Prensa Latina: Estados Unidos ataca primero en tope beisbolero contra Cuba

USA plays Cuba again tonight at 8:05 p.m. in Werner Field, Omaha, Nebraska.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two Fascists Cuba-Haters Are Having a Nervous Breakdown in the U.S. Senate

The worst two of the certified Cuba haters in the U.S. Senate, right-wingers Robert Menendez and fake Cuban exile Marco 'Mierda' Rubio are having a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN over obsolete weapons found in a North Korean ship which was kidnapped on orders of gangster Barack Obama.

What will these three assholes think up next?

Click here if you are interested in reading the published SHIT.

Menendez should pay another visit to his teenage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. That should calm him down. If not, try some Chamomile tea.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

USA-Cuba Baseball: Tomorrow, Thursday, 8:05 p.m. @ Principal Park, Des Moines, Iowa.

I contacted USAbaseball.com by email to find out if anyone was going to provide a game-day play-by-play report, but I have not received a response.

Monday, July 15, 2013

As US-Cuba relations appear to thaw, diplomats find more freedom to move within each country

  • Article by: CHRISTINE ARMARIO , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 15, 2013 - 2:50 PM 
http://www.startribune.com/politics/national/215547261.html

MIAMI — For decades, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have faced strict limits on their travel within the Cold War enemy countries.

Cuban diplomats at the United Nations in New York cannot go 25 miles beyond Columbus Circle in Manhattan or past the Beltway loop circling Washington without the permission of the U.S. State Department.

U.S. Interests Section workers, meanwhile, must submit detailed itineraries to Cuban officials if they want to travel outside Havana.

Recently, however, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have been increasingly, and more easily, stepping outside the once nearly insurmountable fences.

On the island, U.S. officials privately say they've had an easier time obtaining permission to travel outside the allowed perimeter.

And last week, two consuls from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington made a discreet visit to Miami. There they met with U.S. companies that offer charter flights to the island and small groups of Cuban exiles to talk about the easing of regulations allowing Cubans to travel and other reforms.

Earlier this year, the chief of the Cuban Interests Section delivered the keynote address at a University of Georgia law school conference on the economic embargo against Cuba. Two other Cuban officials went to Tampa in March to attend an event promoting engagement between the U.S. and Cuba.

"In the past, they have not had much luck," said Wayne Smith, a former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and one of the hosts of the Tampa conference, titled, "Rapprochement with Cuba: Good for Tampa, Good for Florida, Good for America."


"The State Department usually said no," Smith said. "But in this case, it was, 'Yes.' And I would say a somewhat different tone. A more positive one."

The travel is part of a larger, slow-moving thaw between the two countries and comes as both prepare for a sit-down talk on migration issues on Wednesday.

Cuba and the U.S. held talks last month on resuming direct mail service. A U.S. federal judge allowed a Cuban intelligence agent to return to the island in May. And Cuba recently decided to let an American doctor examine jailed U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross.

Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at American University, described the moves as "cautious steps."

"If the overall purpose is to find out whether the Cubans are interested in a serious relationship, I think we'll soon find the answer is yes," he said. "And then it will be better to proceed to some larger issues as well."

The U.S. and Cuba do not have embassies in each other's countries; diplomatic relations between the Soviet-era foes deteriorated after the 1959 communist revolution. But since 1977, both countries have operated Interests Sections under the legal protection of the Swiss embassies.


In the thick of the Cold War, both countries put restrictions on how far diplomats could move outside their respective capitals.

"I think there was a fear of espionage, so therefore, you want to keep your diplomats from traveling so widely that it's hard to follow what they may be up to," Pastor said.

Whether that concern exists now depends on who you ask.

"They are not a military rival to the U.S.," Pastor said. "They are not about to spring a surprise attack on the United States. There's no real military reason for them to do the spying."

The island is still on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. In 2001, five Cuban intelligence agents were convicted of spying on exile groups, politicians and U.S. military installations in South Florida. Four of those men remain in U.S. prisons.

Havana denies any links to terrorism and contends its inclusion on the list is a political vendetta. In Cuba, the spies are celebrated as heroes.

The State Department was aware of the Cuban diplomats' travel to Miami, according to a State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The department declined to provide any further details.

A telephone at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington rang busy. Cuban government officials often don't respond immediately to requests for comment from foreign journalists.

Those who met with the diplomats said their visit was focused on practical matters such as passport renewals. Tessie Aral, the president of ABC Charters, said she was part of a meeting that brought together travel agencies that offer trips to Cuba.

"It's always helpful to meet with officials of either government that can explain to us how we can better help our customers," Aral said.

But the Cuban diplomats' travel has also been almost exclusively to speak with groups that favor engagement with the island. In at least two of the meetings in Miami, the diplomats spoke about the desire for greater travel and exchange between Cuba and the U.S.

In a video posted online by an anti-embargo group in Miami, Consul General Llanio Gonzalez Perez told a group of about 20 people how Cuban-Americans might one day be able to invest and retire on the island. He said an increasing number of Cubans in the U.S. are traveling back and even trying to repatriate.

"Today many people have the possibility to come and go, practically living in both places," he said.

The meeting was held in a room with curtains covering the door and windows. On one wall was a picture of former Cuban President Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shaking hands, along with a small portrait of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. Gonzalez was dressed in a peach-colored, short-sleeved shirt and black slacks.

Tony Zamora, a Bay of Pigs veteran who met with Gonzalez and a second Cuban diplomat, said they discussed a letter signed by more than 200 Cuban-Americans criticizing the Obama administration's decision to keep Cuba on the terrorism sponsors list.

"They also talked, of course, about the possibility that one day they could have a consulate in Miami," Zamora said.

Such talk is a noticeable shift from just 12 months ago, when anyone who left the island was considered a permanent emigre, said Arturo Lopez Levy, a Cuban economist and analyst who lectures at the University of Denver.

"The visit by Consul Llanio Gonzalez is also important because a visit to Ohio or a visit to Seattle doesn't attract so much public attention like a visit to Miami," Levy said.

Indeed, the diplomats' visits to Tampa and Georgia generated little reaction.
In contrast, pro-embargo, hard-line members of the Cuban-American community in Miami began speaking out as soon as the video of the Miami-based consuls' chat was posted online.

Ninoska Perez Castellon aired clips from Gonzalez's talk with the Alianza Martiana on her radio show.

"I think it's really shameful that the State Department would grant them the permission to come to Miami," she said. "A lot of people were really upset about this."

By that time, however, the diplomats had already left.
_
Associated Press writers Peter Orsi in Havana and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

------

JG: Call me cheap if you want, but I will not give the Cuban government $170.00 for a "visa" to visit the place where I was born. That is a huge scam, very similar to the daily capitalist scams in the USA.

Cuba is becoming another typical tourist trap. Orlando-Havana round trip flights are vastly OVERPRICED because two or three capitalist companies have a monopoly on those trips. Travel to Cuba does not provide good value for my money. I pass.