Thursday, January 31, 2008

Voting for the revolution

Al-Ahram Weekly

31 January - 6 February

As Cubans went to the polls, Washington-backed "dissidents" continued to plot against the power of the people, writes Faiza Rady

Struggling with strong winds and torrential rains that affected the island's central and western provinces, Cubans went to the polls on 20 January to elect 614 representatives to Cuba's National Assembly -- the country's central legislature -- and 1,201 more to the Provincial Assemblies of Peoples' Power.

Still recuperating from intestinal surgery last year, Cuban President Fidel Castro cast his two ballots from his home in the Havana neighbourhood of Plaza de la Revolucion. In a written address to the citizens of his district, Fidel mocked prevailing weather conditions in a veiled allusion to graver challenges: "Cold winds from the north, accompanied by drizzle and rain in the western part of the country, pretend to conspire against our elections."

Harsh weather and banter aside, conspiracy against Cuba does indeed come from the island's northern neighbour, the United States. Before the elections, President of the Cuban Assembly Ricardo Alarcon warned of the US threat, affirming that Washington spends considerable time and much money to divide the Cuban people and overthrow their government. Alarcon was referring to the Bush administration's recent admission that they pour more money into prosecuting US companies that break the blockade on the island, as well as US citizens visiting Cuba, than on their much-touted war against terror and drug traffickers. Close to 50 years on, US plans to subvert the Cuban Revolution remain operative, said Alarcon. "This is why it is so necessary that revolutionaries stay united and also fight their own deficiencies and errors," he added.

Bush administration efforts to divide and rule went into high gear before the elections. Tagging along, the US media largely ignored the elections, dismissing their results as a foregone conclusion. Official US government statements labelled the elections as a "sham of democracy", contending that communist Cuba's single-party system excludes political plurality. Nevertheless, elections in Cuba represent people's power as opposed to party power, the Cubans argue, because the Communist Party of Cuba isn't an electoral party. It cannot nominate candidates or be involved in any other stage of the electoral process. "The party's role is one of guidance, supervision and guarantor of participatory democracy," explains Alarcon.

What's more, there is no multi-million dollar campaigning, or corporate behind-the-scene business deals with candidates, vote buying, political mudslinging, or exclusion of workers and the poor in the process. Every citizen has the right to run for office without Communist Party nomination or backing. Instead, the Cuban people directly choose their candidates for municipal office -- the requirement for nomination being that the candidate receives more than 50 per cent of her or his district's vote. Democratic in terms of majority power sharing, elections quotas reflect the grassroots representation of mass organisations, i.e. women's groups, trade unions, peasants, students, the youth, soldiers, intellectuals, health workers, artists, senior citizens and homemakers. Compared with liberal democracies, a telling feature of more equitable power sharing in Cuba is shown in the gender composition of its candidates for the National Assembly, 42 per cent of which are women.

Prior to the elections, US-bankrolled Cuban "dissidents" were hard at work telling voters to submit blank ballots in protest at the elections, which they described as "a parody of democracy". Most people ignored their call. While 8.1 million Cubans -- representing 96 per cent of eligible voters -- duly completed their ballots, only 3.73 per cent heeded the dissidents' call to submit empty forms. High voter turnout showed "overwhelming support for the country, revolution and socialism", reported the Cuban daily Granma.

Cuban minister of justice and president of the National Electoral Commission, Maria Esther Reus, reported that a 91 per cent majority supported the "united vote". An innovation in the electoral process, the united vote requires voters to check a single box supporting candidates of their region. Should voters disapprove of any of the candidates, they can simply eliminate them by crossing individual boxes next to the candidates' names. The united vote aims to simplify the electoral process and reduce vote-counting irregularities.

Election fraud is practically non- existent in Cuba. Poll inspection is open to all citizens, who are allowed to freely enter any poll of their choice. In addition, 192,000 workers staffed and supervised 38,000 polling stations across the country. Following the 20 January elections, Cuba's provincial and national assemblies will elect leaders within 45 days. Provincial delegates elect a president and vice president, while national delegates elect the state president, vice president and secretary, as well as members of the Council of State, its president, vice presidents and secretary. In last week's election Fidel was re-elected to his National Assembly seat, representing Santiago province, which makes him eligible for re-election as the country's president in the upcoming 24 February elections.

For the Western media, the focus of the election was whether the National Assembly would re-elect Fidel as state president and chairman of the Council of State, given his still precarious health. Renewed speculations about Fidel's retirement from politics leading to the fall of communism and Cuba's return to the US fold resurfaced. Cubans disagree. "Fidel is our untouchable revolutionary leader and we love him for it and wish him a long life. But while he is mortal like everybody else, when he dies communism will survive in Cuba," says Vladimir Gonzàles Quesada, political attaché at the Cuban Embassy in Cairo.

"Contrary to Bush administration claims, Fidel isn't a dictator running his own private fief. We have strong socialist institutions and a young leadership that will carry on the struggle. If nothing else, the electoral process shows that Cuba is a grassroots democracy built on power-sharing and people's power," Quesada added.

Congressmen and Congresswomen who scored well on the Cuba issue scorecard of the Latin American Working Group

The following Congressmen and Congresswomen have scored very well in the Cuba issue scorecard released today by the Latin American Working Group:

Thomas Allen, Brian Bird, Tammy Baldwin, Xavier Becerra, Howard Berman, Marion Berry, Sanford Bishop, Timothy Bishop, Earl Blumenauer, Leonard Boswell, Rick Boucher, Robert Brady, Lois Capps, Michael Capuano, Julia Carson, Donna Christensen, William Clay, Stephen Cohen, John Conyers, Jerry Costello, Elijah Cummings, Danny Davis, Lincoln Davis, Susan Davis, Peter DeFazio, Dianna DeGette, William Delahunt, Rosa DeLauro, Mike Doyle, Keith Ellison, Jo Ann Emerson, Bob Etheridge, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Jeff Flake, Charles Gonzalez, Bart Gordon, Raul Grijalva, Jane Harman, Maurice Hinchey, Michael Honda, Steve Israel, Jesse Jackson, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Timothy Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, Dale Kildee, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Ron Kind, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, Nita Lowey, Stephen Lynch, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Matheson, Doris Matsui, Betty McCollum, Jim McDermott, James McGovern, Michael McNulty, Gregory Meeks, Michael Michaud, George Miller, Dennis Moore, Gwen Moore, James Moran, Jerry Moran, Jerold Nadler, Eleanor Holmes Norton, James Oberstar, John Olver, Ed Pastor, Ron Paul, Colin Peterson, Earl Pomeroy, David Price, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby Rush, Linda Sanchez, Janice Schakowsky, Allison Schwartz, Jose Serrano, Adam Smith, Vic Snyder, Hilda Solis, Pete Stark, John Tanner, Ellen Tauscher, Mike Thompson, John Tierney, Edolphus, Towns, Tom Udall, Nydia Velazquez, Tim Walz, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, Anthony Weiner, Peter Welch, Lynn Woolsey.

But of course, every group has its ‘black sheep’ and the 110th Congress is not any different. The LAWG has not bestowed that label on anyone. It is a title that I, Jorge Gonzalez, am placing on the following Representatives, because they consistently vote and lead those who are anti-Cuba: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Albio Sires, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, James Clyburn, David Wu. There are more, but I am only going to list the top seven leaders of the anti-Cuba crowd. If you truly want to reform our failed Cuba policies of the last 49 years, do not vote to re-elect any of those seven.

The delusions of the American Enterprise Institute

Recently, the influential neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI) held a conference on Cuba. The major anti-Cuba fanatics of the extreme right wing participated.

The usual delusions and wishful thinking were the order of the day.

Example: "We know that what the Cuban people want is not just political rights, or not just economic right. They want freedom."

But here are the responses of people who really know what they are talking about:

Wayne Smith, director of the Cuba programme at the Centre for International Policy (CIP) and former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, said that those at the conference who believed that the Cuban regime was on its last legs were as deluded as their AEI sponsors were about the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"Look, Cubans want change, but I don't see any move whatsoever to overthrow the government," he said.

Smith says a Cuban government led by Raul Castro is likely to be much more open and flexible than it was under his brother Fidel. He says the United States should promote reform by seeking to diplomatically engage the Cuban government and by putting an end to the embargo, which he believes has hurt the Cuban people more than it has the government.

Human rights groups also strongly criticise U.S. trade and travel restrictions as being counterproductive. Human Rights Watch says the U.S. embargo has imposed "indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people", while Amnesty International says it has harmed "the weakest and most vulnerable members of the population".

Ask Al Gore to endorse Barack Obama

Please write a polite letter and request that Al Gore endorse Barack Obama for President of the US.

Click here ---> Write Letter to Al

Capitalist greed is shoking health care in the U.S.

The United States has the highest cost of any industrialized nation when delivering health care to its citizens. Why? Elementary, my dear Watson. It is just the typical greed of the capitalist’s elites who run our country. To them, profits at any cost are the paramount thing. They could care less about your health.

Mention the words social responsibility, and they run and scatter like when you turn on a flash light on cockroaches.

I guess that having to pay $6,000 per year per person for health care is part of the “American Dream.”

Cuba to modernize railway network

Press TV

Thu, 31 Jan 2008 12:28:11

Cuba plans to modernize its rundown railway system by investing 500 million dollars in Chinese locomotives and Iranian rolling stock.

Transport Minister Jorge Luis Sierra said Cuba will buy 100 locomotives from China, and 550 freight cars and 200 passenger coaches from Iran, a Cuban newspaper reported which was carried by Reuters.

"We are determined to change the image of delays and inefficiency that the railway system has in our country," said the minister.

He added that the new rolling stock would arrive in 2009 and 2010.

Improving public transport is one of the top items on the agenda for acting President Raul Castro, who took over the running of the Cuban government from Cuban leader Fidel Castro 18 months ago.

Cuba has spent more than $1 billion over the last three years to overhaul its transport system. Hundreds of imported Chinese buses have improved services between Cuban cities.

Bush's 'War on Terror' Doesn't Include Anti-Castro Terrorists


By Charles Davis, IPS News. Posted January 30, 2008.

The Bush administration has ignored its own rhetoric when it comes to anti-Cuban terrorists operating from Florida.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush outlined the basis for the so-called "war on terror", arguing "if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist."

But many analysts say the Bush administration has ignored its own rhetoric when it comes to anti-Cuban terrorists operating from the shores of south Florida.

According to critics, the U.S. government's moral authority to wage a war on terrorism is severely undercut by the seeming double standard with which it treats terrorist acts directed against the Cuban government as opposed to Islamic terrorism. Though the Bush administration has long maintained that there is no such thing as a "good terrorist," experts on U.S. foreign policy say that the treatment some of the most notorious Cuban-American terrorists have received from the administration appears to undermine Bush's stated position.

Perhaps the most infamous Cuban-American to be implicated in acts of terror is Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative who is widely believed to have masterminded the 1976 bombing in Venezuela of a civilian Cubana airliner that killed 73 people -- the first act of terrorism targeting a commercial flight committed in the Western Hemisphere. Though he was arrested for the crime in Venezuela and spent nine years imprisoned there, he successfully broke out of prison in 1985 and now lives free, along with alleged coconspirator Orlando Bosch, in Miami, Florida.

In addition to the bombing of the Cuban airliner -- a crime for which Venezuela is still seeking his extradition -- Posada has been tied to a spate of bombings in the mid-1990s that targeted the fledgling Cuban tourism industry. In a rare interview with The New York Times in 1998, Posada openly spoke of having planned the bombings, one of which killed an Italian tourist.

"It is sad that someone is dead, but we can't stop,'' he told the Times, arguing that the bombing was a legitimate act aimed at undermining a totalitarian regime. ''That Italian was sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time.''

In the same interview, Posada readily admitted his intention to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. "It is the only way to create an uprising there," he said.

In 2000, just two years later, Posada and three co-conspirators were arrested in Panama with more than 30 pounds of C-4 explosives trying to do just that as Castro addressed students at the University of Panama. All were pardoned in 2004 in the final days of outgoing right-wing president Mireya Moscoso, a close U.S. ally.

"Posada will truly go down in history as a member of the pantheon of the top 10 most prolific terrorists of our time," said Peter Kornbluh, an expert on U.S. policy toward Cuba at the National Security Archives.

"That's precisely why [his freedom in Miami] is a challenge to U.S. credibility in its sincerity in the war on terrorism," Kornbluh told IPS.

It was Cuban counter-intelligence operatives who had infiltrated exile militant groups in New Jersey and Florida that led to the uncovering of the 2000 assassination plot in Panama, says Kornbluh.

Cuban efforts to spy on exile groups in the United States have been a source of tension between the two countries. In 1998, five Cuban operatives -- Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González -- were arrested in Miami, Florida for allegedly spying on the United States.

But according to the Cuban government and critics of U.S. policy toward Cuba, the five operatives were engaged in the type of activity that should be encouraged by the United States as it engages in its own fight against terrorism.

At an event last week, Leonard Weinglass, an attorney for the agents -- who are better known as the "Cuban Five" -- argued that the tough treatment given his clients exposed hypocrisy in the so-called "war on terror". Speaking at the New America Foundation, a centrist Washington think tank, he sought to contrast the treatment of his clients with that of Luis Posada Carriles and other well-known Cuban-American militants.

"The comparison of the cases is incredible," said Weinglass. While Posada has publicly admitted to engaging in acts of terrorism, Weinglass argued, his clients simply sought to monitor the activities of Cuban-American exile groups that have been linked to previous acts of violence in Cuba -- acts the Cuban government felt U.S. authorities were not doing enough to prevent.

But in June 2001, all five were convicted by a jury in a U.S. federal court in Miami on charges ranging from the use of false names to conspiring to commit espionage and murder. They are currently serving maximum security prison terms ranging from 15 years to two consecutive life sentences.

In 2005, that decision was reversed on appeal by a three-judge panel from the 11th district federal court. Attorneys for the Cuban Five argued that it was impossible for the men to have received a fair trial in the city of Miami, home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.

According to Weinglass, jurors in the original case were forced to pass by camouflaged men calling for the death of the Cuban Five as they walked to their cars, making a fair trial impossible.

"They issued a unanimous judgment saying this case presents a 'perfect storm' of prejudice, and they reversed every conviction," noted Weinglass.

But that ruling was immediately appealed by the Bush administration and overturned just three months later, though Weinglass has pledged to take the case to the Supreme Court.

It was also in 2005 that the Bush administration made the decision to prosecute Luis Posada Carriles for illegal entry into the United States -- several months after he had already publicly returned to Miami -- rather than for any past acts of terrorism.

Observers of the two cases point to the strong influence of Cuban-Americans in the state of Florida as a leading reason for the decision not to prosecute Posada as a terrorist under the PATRIOT Act, while punishing the Cuban Five -- who were never found in possession of any classified information -- to the harshest extent of the law.

Though the trend, particularly amongst younger generations, may be toward some form of engagement with Cuba, analysts say no one gets far in Florida politics unless they back a hardline stance against the Castro government.

In November, a committee led by Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Bill Delahunt investigated the relatively lax treatment given to Posada compared to the Cuban Five. The case prompted Delahunt to question whether the Bush administration is turning a blind eye to terrorists who happen to share the U.S. government's political objectives.

"If we wish to claim the mantle of moral authority that sets us apart among the family of nations, America cannot have two rules for terrorists," he said.


Also by Al Davis:
POLITICS-US: Cuba Policy Remains in Far-Right Hands


JG: George W.Bush is in power because of the massive electoral fraud engineered by his right wing Cuban buddies in Miami. His double standard regarding terrorism is one more clear example of what he has always been most interested in: advancing his fascist ideology. He is without a doubt the worst U.S. president ever. And on top of that, we have a person that hardly knows how to construct a grammatically correct sentence in English.

Don't despair America! Only 354 days for this nightmare to end!

Castro Attacks Bush's State of the Union

January 30, 2008

By WILL WEISSERT – 18 hours ago

HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro called President Bush's State of the Union address a new low point in "demagoguery, lies and total lack of ethics" in a commentary published Wednesday.

The ailing 81-year-old leader wrote that "Bush tells us more with his external expressions than with the words written by his advisers," but added that "for a population that knows how to read, write and think, nobody can offer a more elegant criticism of the empire than Bush himself."

Castro and top Cuban officials routinely refer to the United States as "the empire."

In Wednesday's essay, called "The Antithesis of Ethics" and published on the front pages of government newspapers, Castro said Bush's latest speech was worse than earlier State of the Union addresses: "the worst for its demagoguery, lies and total lack of ethics."

Quoting extensively from Monday's address, Castro accused the Bush administration of running up U.S. debt and said Washington's wars have increased military spending worldwide by 60 percent.

Castro wrote that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan "was the same thing that the U.S.S.R wanted to do, occupy the country with its powerful armed forces that were ultimately defeated when they ran into its customs, religion and cultural differences."

He said Bush used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, and that "no one in the world doubts the objective was to occupy (Iraq's) oil installations and has cost that country's people hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions displaced from their homes."

Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing a series of emergency intestinal surgeries and stepping aside as president in favor of his younger brother Raul in July 2006. He is recovering from an undisclosed illness

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cuba-Mexico for Better Bilateral Relations

Havana, Jan 30 (acn) Fernando Remirez de Estenoz, member of Cuba’s Communist Party Secretariat, met Tuesday with Mexican legislators attending the Second International Conference on World Equilibrium underway in Havana.

“For us the relationship with Cuba is of great importance. We had a period where ties were affected by mistakes by our government, but we always held our friendship high and didn’t let the diplomatic situation damage anything or anyone,” said Yeidckol Polevnsky Gurwitz, vice president of the Senate leadership, who heads the group visiting Cuba.

The parliamentarians presented the book “Marti en Mexico. Recuerdos de una epoca” in Havana on Tuesday, reports Granma newspaper.

The book, written by Alfonso Herrera Franyutti, recalls the arrival of the Cuban national hero to Mexico and his political and literary activities there.

The Mexican delegation sent its greetings to President Fidel Castro, calling him the leading disciple of Jose Marti, whose values sustain the accomplishments of the Cuban revolution.

Brazil makes inroads in Cuba, inks E&P agreements

Penn Energy

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 30 -- Brazil's state-owned Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) has signed agreements with Cuba's Compania Cubana de Petroleo (Cupet) for cooperation in oil and gas exploration and production, research and development, and human resource cooperation. Studies also will be undertaken for agreements concerning facilities maintenance. The agreements give Brazil a foot in Cuba's energy door that Venezuela has, until recently, partially blocked.

Petrobras, which has expertise in deepwater exploration and production, said the agreement "foresees the assessment of the offshore blocks in the Cuban sector of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as technical and economic analyses for the construction of a lubricant factory in Havana."

Cuba hopes its exploration in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico will result in discoveries enabling the country to become self-sufficient in oil production. The US Geological Survey says Cuba's GOM areas could contain 4.6-9.3 billion bbl of crude and 9.8-21.8 tcf of gas (OGJ, Jan. 21, 2008, p. 41).

Brazil also extended Brazilian credit to Cuba for food, medicine, and hotel and road construction.

Brazil's official Agencia Estado news agency said the agreements coincide with political transition in Cuba a year and a half after Cuban President Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother Raul due to health problems.

Agencia Estado said the aid program has a long-term strategy: Brazil sees Cuba as a growing market and a transshipment point in a "privileged location" near Florida, and it wants to be in a positive position "when trade opens up as part of Fidel's succession process."

Raul Castro Tops Fidel in Cuba Election

By WILL WEISSERT – 4 hours ago

HAVANA (AP) — Acting President Raul Castro — not his older brother Fidel — was the top vote-getter in Cuban parliamentary elections, according to official results Wednesday.

Bespectacled, camera shy and far less charismatic than Cuba's ailing long-time leader, the 76-year-old Raul received 99.4 percent of votes cast in the family's base of Santiago in eastern Cuba — a percentage point more than Fidel got.

Both brothers easily won re-election to the legislature known as the National Assembly of Popular Power, as did all of the 614 candidates presented to the island's 8.4 million voters on Jan. 20.

The unopposed candidates needed to get at least half the votes cast in their districts and none came close to losing. The lowest figure — 73 percent — went to Barbaro Osmani Lago, from the western province of Pinar del Rio.

Officials said that 95 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, though about 4.5 percent of those turned in blank or invalid ballots. While voting is not mandatory, failing to do so can draw unwanted attention from pro-government neighborhood watch organizations.

There was only one choice for each office and organized campaigning was forbidden. While membership in the Communist Party was not required, only party loyalists achieve leadership positions.

While far less prominent globally than his brother, Raul has long been popular in eastern Cuba, playing up his rural roots and down-home sense of humor. Some Cubans consider him more pragmatic than his visionary brother.

Raul, who is also defense minister, bested his brother in the 2005 parliamentary vote too, getting 99.75 percent compared to Fidel's 99.01.

The younger Castro has been governing Cuba since his brother underwent emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 and provisionally ceded power.

Despite his illness, the elder Castro remains head of the Council of State, Cuba's supreme governing body. The new parliament convenes Feb. 24 and will choose a new council from its members. Fidel has not said whether he wants to remain head of state or retire.

In an essay published Wednesday, the elder Castro said that U.S. President George W. Bush reached a low point in "demagoguery, lies and total lack of ethics" in Monday's State of the Union address.

"For a population that knows how to read, write and think, nobody can offer a more elegant criticism of the empire than Bush himself," Castro wrote, using a term Cuban officials often use for the United States.

Castro wrote that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan "was the same thing that the U.S.S.R wanted to do, occupy the country with its powerful armed forces that were ultimately defeated when they ran into its customs, religion and cultural differences."

He also said Bush used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as an excuse to invade Iraq, and that "no one in the world doubts the objective was to occupy (Iraq's) oil installations and has cost that country's people hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions displaced from their homes."

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders reports

"It was really stunning – the likes of which I have never seen in my life. I've long been interested in workers issues. But when we talk about the race to the bottom here in the United States I would say that Immokalee, Florida is the bottom. I think those are workers who are more ruthlessly exploited and treated with more contempt than any group of workers that I've ever seen and I suspect exist in the US.

What I observed is… I was out at 5:30 in the morning, where tomato pickers from all over the community assemble at several locations, primarily in a large parking lot. School buses come by to pick them up and take them to different growers' tomato fields. Some are selected and some are not. So, for a start, when you line up at 5:30 in the morning, you don't know if you're going to make a nickel during that day. You're standing there, and someone is pointing, ‘you, you, you… but not you….' and you can see people dejected, because by 8:30 the buses are out and if you're not selected you're not gonna work. So these are desperate people then who have just discovered that that day they're not gonna earn a penny.

Then you get on the bus and depending on which farm you're going to it will be longer or shorter, but perhaps you're going a half hour away…. You're getting to the field at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning, and you don't go to work right away. You're getting paid piecemeal. The pay is very, very low to begin with, but you're getting paid piecemeal. You can't pick until the sun comes out and dries the tomatoes. So we got photographs of workers just hanging around the bus waiting for the tomatoes to dry and that might be an hour, hour and a half. Now it's not only that this is your time, it is in a sense the contempt that you are so disposable, that we can get you out here just to sit around doing nothing while you're waiting for the tomatoes to dry….

Then you go out and you're picking tomatoes and you make on average about 45 cents for a 32 pound bucket of tomatoes – about a penny and a half per pound. That is not a lot of money. My understanding is that at the end of the year these are workers that will make 10,000, 12,000, 14,000 a year, working a very, very difficult job, under a very hot sun. After you do this job for a number of years your knees go out because you're bending over all of the time. Obviously there are no benefits that go with the job. I went over to the health center to see what was going on…. I met with these workers, and talked to them – they just don't go to the doctor. Some of them are able to take their children to the doctor, they have no real access to healthcare.

In terms of their living conditions, I visited trailers… and these trailers were old, decrepit trailers where you had 8 to 10 people living in the trailer. In the morning to get to the bathroom, sink, or stove, you gotta wait in line to do it, because there are a lot of people in front of you. And they're paying in some cases $50 per person, per week! You got that? So, the landlord who owns this old trailer is getting $2000 a month. And what someone there told me – I don't know if it's true or not – they buy these old trailers for about $2000 so they get their money back at the end of one month.

The days I was there – it was raining, when it rains you don't pick. The next day it rained mid-day so you had half a day of picking. Then, an amazing coincidence – when I was there the US Attorney announced an indictment on slavery charges. So we have seen now – I don't remember exactly the number – of different indictments that have been made against different individuals for slavery… which means that some of these people are being held in captivity, in some cases in chains. I think in the last instances, a couple of workers literally forcibly busted out of truck in which they were held against their will. So, the norm there is a disaster, and the extreme is slavery. And this is taking place in the United States of America in the year 2008.

Now some people might say, ‘Well, I don't pick tomatoes why do I have to worry about it?' And the answer is that so long as these types of abysmal working conditions exist in the US, they create a culture which leads us to the race to the bottom… which says that any worker can be subject to arbitrary actions on the part of an employer. Just create a very, very strong anti-worker culture, which is part of the destruction of the middle class, the increase in poverty, the lack of respect for working people in this country.

Now the good news is there is a very wonderful group called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who have managed to put pressure on large buyers of tomatoes, i.e., fast food chains like Yum! which owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and McDonald's, to pay an additional penny a pound. And if you understand that if someone is making a penny and a half a pound, and they get an additional penny, that's a very significant increase. Burger King has been resistant, and there is now pressure being put on Burger King and other companies. And I would hope that as Americans, we all do everything we can, to demand that companies pay these workers a living wage and end this horrendous exploitation.

The Tomato Growers Exchange seems to be playing a very reactionary role. They are claiming that this additional penny a pound is in violation of antitrust law… I myself think that the issue – if you look at the amount of money that is being asked to be contributed by McDonald's, Burger King, and so forth – it is nothing. Very, very small number. I don't think the money is the issue. I think truthfully, in my gut, the issue is a question of a balance of power. It is a feeling right now that you have workers who are absolutely helpless, the feeling that if they achieve some victories, they may have more confidence in themselves and more of an ability to stand up for their rights.

So, imagine, just put yourself in their place. You don't know whether you're gonna work or not, there are no guarantees that you are – I may pick you, I may not – if you come there, if I pick you, you're gonna wait around for an hour and a half. What does that do to you as a human being? But these are desperate people who need the work, so to my mind it was an eye-opening experience, and I hope that as a nation we can end that kind of exploitation.

The very good news – what was positive about my visit down there was – we did a press conference, and the reporters went to Burger King, and Burger King came forth with what appeared to be a conciliatory response. Now whether it is just talk or not, we can't tell. But we want to pursue that. And certainly what we released when I was down there was a letter that was written by Senator Kennedy, Sen. Durbin, Sen. Brown and myself. And Sen. Kenne
Blogger: Cuba Journal - Create Postdy has been very clear in telling me that he is prepared to do hearings on this issue. And I think that's terribly important, not only in exposing the exploitation, but trying to explain to the American people how slavery can take place in the United States in the year 2008."

Source: The Nation

Take Action: Don't let Burger King have it their way

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner heads to Cuba

Jan. 29, 2008, 9:53AM

By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson is making another trip to Cuba next month to push the state's farm products.

Johnson says it will be his seventh trip in the past seven years pitching the state's commodities. He said the state has sold about $30 million worth of peas and lentils to Cuba since 2001. But he said a deal he helped broker last year that would have sent 100 tons of seed potatoes to Cuba has languished.

Complete Story

Monday, January 28, 2008

New magazine about Cuban Baseball debuts

Yasel Porto, reporting from Cuba’s Radio Coco, has announced that a new official magazine within the Cuban National Baseball Series will be published monthly during the duration of the games.


Entidad: Instituto Nacional de Deportes, Educación Física y Recreación.
Director: Tony Díaz Susavilla
Periodistas: José Luis Salmerón, Sigfredo Barros, Raúl Arce, Jorge Alfonso, Rafael Roffes, Jesús Suárez Valmaña, Damián D´Averhoff y Yasel Porto.

Recordando a Jose Marti en el 155 aniversario de su nacimiento

El culto a Martí

Eusebio Leal Spengler

Venerada por todo cubano que se precie de serlo, la figura de José Martí es recordada hoy —28 de enero— en el aniversario 155 de su natalicio.

A lo largo del siglo, los historiadores y maestros de esta isla han cultivado con intensidad eso que, sin vergüenza ni sonrojo, podemos llamar «el culto a Martí». No mediaba en ello el deseo egoísta de llamar la atención hacia lo nuestro como algo diferente, único, pero lo cierto es que nuestro Apóstol tenía cualidades excepcionales dentro del grupo de hombres de pensamiento en el continente americano.

Si intentáramos un breve recuento de esa pléyade de libertadores, repararíamos inmediatamente en José de San Martín (1778-1850). El prócer argentino termina su carrera política en lo que se ha llamado «el abrazo de Guayaquil». Justo allá, en la mitad del mundo, se percata de que Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) había llegado primero, no solo con su accionar militar y político, sino también con las ideas. Como escribe Martí en Tres Héroes: «Pero en el Perú estaba Bolívar, y San Martín le cede la gloria».

Junto a las semblanzas de Bolívar y San Martín, ese precioso texto, publicado en el primer número de La Edad de Oro, incluye el panegírico del sacerdote mexicano Miguel Hidalgo (1753-1811), sobre quien el Maestro escribe: «Él les avisaba a los jefes españoles que si los vencía en la batalla que iba a darles los recibiría en su casa como amigos. ¡Eso es ser grande! Se atrevió a ser magnánimo, sin miedo a que lo abandonase la soldadesca, que quería que fuese cruel».

Fueron apenas cuatro números de dicha revista que, transformada en un libro clásico, nos sobrecoge en su afán de transmitir al lector infantil la necesidad de cultivar los valores humanos: «El niño, desde que puede pensar, debe pensar en todo lo que ve, debe padecer por todos los que no pueden vivir con honradez, debe trabajar porque puedan ser honrados todos los hombres, y debe ser un hombre honrado».

Las semblanzas martianas de los grandes hombres recuerdan aquellas magistralmente relatadas por el griego Plutarco en Vidas paralelas. Así, cuando Martí describe a fray Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566), se lo imagina transfigurado y lívido para exaltarlo como símbolo de la clemencia y la compasión: «No se puede ver un lirio sin pensar en el Padre Las Casas, porque con la bondad se le fue poniendo de lirio el color, y dicen que era hermoso verlo escribir, con su túnica blanca, sentado en su sillón de tachuelas, peleando con la pluma de ave porque no escribía de prisa. Y otras veces se levantaba del sillón, como si le quemase: se apretaba las sienes con las dos manos, andaba a pasos grandes por la celda, y parecía como si tuviera un gran dolor. Era que estaba escribiendo, en su libro famoso de la Destrucción de las indias, los horrores que vio en las Américas cuando vino de España la gente a la conquista. Se le encendían los ojos, y se volvía a sentar, de codos en la mesa, con la cara llena de lágrimas. Así pasó la vida, defendiendo a los indios».

Un indio sabio era Benito Juárez (1806-1872), continuador de los ideales del Padre Hidalgo. Siendo presidente de México, debió peregrinar a bordo de una caravana para evitar caer en manos de las huestes francesas. De sus múltiples frases célebres, recordamos el último de los postulados del Manifiesto a la Nación, del 15 de julio de 1867, con motivo del triunfo de la República sobre el invasor extranjero: «Que el pueblo y el gobierno respeten los derechos de todos. Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz».

Cada uno de los próceres reconocidos tiene su título propio: El Libertador (Bolívar), el Benemérito de las Américas (Juárez), el Protector de los Pueblos Libres... Con este último sobrenombre pasó a la historia el uruguayo José Gervasio Artigas (1764-1850). La marcha que realizara en 1812 desde el sur hasta el norte, conocida como el «Éxodo del pueblo oriental», es solo comparable a la del pueblo hebreo guiado por Moisés.

De esta forma, llegamos hasta el propio José Martí... Cuando hablo sobre él, me refiero al hombre, porque siempre le veré así. Gran error sería empezar a reunir oro y a tallar cornucopias para, una vez más, con una aureola de santo colocarle en el altar. Sus virtudes serían entonces inimitables.

«Era grande y vario su talento», escribió Enrique Collazo, quien durante un tiempo no le quiso mucho. Y es que Martí asombraba. Durante la primera juventud había alcanzado un dominio sorprendente de la realidad mundial: viajaba por los clásicos del pensamiento desde Grecia y Roma hasta hurgar en los pueblos más antiguos, cultos y ancestrales de los países del Oriente. Tenía el don de expresarse en la lengua materna y en otras. Es decir, habló y se preparó para interpretar los idiomas determinantes en el mundo de su tiempo.

El conocimiento del alemán le permitió sostener un diálogo con el capitán del «Nordland» y tocar el corazón de aquel duro marino germano... Lo revela la página escrita ante las costas orientales de Cuba en el diario De Cabo Haitiano a Dos Ríos, correspondiente a la noche del 11 de abril de 1895: «Salimos a las 11. Pasamos rozando a Maisí, y vemos la farola. Yo en el puente. A las 7 y media, oscuridad. Movimiento a bordo. Capitán conmovido. Bajan el bote...»

Al dominar varios idiomas, también pudo hablar con el francés que él y los cubanos de su tiempo consideraron el genio supremo de los derechos civiles: Víctor Hugo. Le impresiona sobremanera el poderoso cronista de los acontecimientos acaecidos en la Francia posterior a la gran revolución de 1789 y su eco en 1848.

Martí resumiría, en sí, el espíritu y la obra de aquellos cubanos como el presbítero José Agustín Caballero, José Antonio Saco, Domingo del Monte... y el Padre Varela, cuyos restos reposan en el cenotafio de mármol en el Aula Magna de la Universidad de La Habana, fundada hace exactamente 280 años.

Cuba ha sido pródiga en mujeres y hombres de talento, dotados del don de la elocuencia. Un país donde la palabra viva ha tenido un significado preponderante, esencial e insustituible. Podemos editar centenares de libros y periódicos, pero es necesaria la palabra para llegar al corazón del pueblo cubano. Pero además de ser orador y un lector insaciable, Martí era un artista, que, además, sabía reconocer el talento de los otros.

Quiso colocar en su sitio a Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, a quien la vorágine del nacimiento de la nación había sorprendido lejos de Cuba. Reconoció los méritos del soneto lírico Al partir, escrito por esa poeta camagüeyana en el instante doloroso de su partida, y que niños y niñas debieran recitar en las escuelas.

Y ante la incomprensión de muchos de sus contemporáneos por la figura de José María Heredia, nos dice que supo sembrar en nuestra alma la pasión patria y el amor infinito a la solitaria y peregrina estrella de Cuba. De vida breve, murió el «Cantor del Niágara» en México, donde no solo se le recuerda como hombre de letras e insigne poeta, sino también como legislador del Estado, juez de la Corte, fundador del Colegio Superior Universitario.

No nos asombra que Martí, quien también apenas vivió unos pocos años en su Patria, incomprendido y desolado refiriera —aludiéndose así mismo— que los padres de Heredia habían alentado la vocación del joven por la poesía, mientras que a otros los colmaron de regaños.

¡Cuántas veces le habrán halado la oreja en el patio de la casa! Cuánto le habrán dolido a Martí en el corazón aquellas tantas veces repetidas palabras en las cartas de su madre admirable: «mientras tú no puedas alejarte de todo lo que sea política y periodismo, no tendrás un día de tranquilidad (...)» o «yo creo, hijo, que mientras tú no sueltes los papeles de los periódicos, tu suerte no variará (...)».

Pero tales cosas debió soportarlas desde el amor que siempre profesó a sus buenos y generosos progenitores, quienes le amaban infinitamente.

Fechada en Montecristi, el 25 de marzo de 1895, a doña Leonor estuvo dirigida esta misiva, la mayor que ha inspirado el amor filial:

«Madre mía:

»Hoy, 25 de marzo, en vísperas de un largo viaje, estoy pensando en Ud. Yo sin cesar pienso en Ud., Ud. se duele, en la cólera de su amor, del sacrificio de mi vida; y ¿por qué nací de Ud. con una vida que ama el sacrificio? Palabras, no puedo. El deber de un hombre está allí donde es más útil. Pero conmigo va siempre, en mi creciente y necesaria agonía, el recuerdo de mi madre (...)»

Él sabía lo que significaría ese viaje. Son evidentes ciertas intuiciones que percibimos en sus cartas y documentos, así como su infinita preocupación sobre lo que iba a encontrar aquí, luego del comienzo de la lucha, dado que el país estaba en ebullición. Tenía un tiempo limitado para hacer su aporte fundamental: si salía bien, se coronaría toda una vida.

Aborda Martí el drama fundamental del proceso revolucionario cubano, y enfrenta con franqueza, grandeza moral y humildad de espíritu aquella disputa pueril que lo amenaza. No entra a la historia con un dedo levantado, lo cual es pecado mortal para los que no han vivido un determinado momento. Pone en su lugar a Céspedes y a Agramonte, y los abraza para siempre, pero no vacila en elogiar la Asamblea Constituyente de Guáimaro y de considerarla el nacimiento de la utopía democrática del pueblo cubano. Y cuando decimos utopía, nos referimos a un proyecto grandioso. ¡Pobre del que no la tenga!

Los patriotas debieron optar entre una Cuba próspera, rica en apariencias, o una empobrecida, pero que alcanzase el privilegio extraordinario de la libertad. Martí creyó que el pueblo cubano estaba preparado para alcanzarla y sostenerla. La vida lo ha demostrado.

Hay una escuela de miserables y pequeños corifeos de la antigua Cuba que dicen que esta nación, con ilusiones y sueños superiores a sus posibilidades, es inviable. Ellos han sido privados de la virilidad de nacimiento y perdieron lo más importante para vivir en las circunstancias difíciles en que la naturaleza, el destino o la providencia divina... situaron a este pueblo en el centro del Mediterráneo americano.

Hay que entender que Martí no era una mansa paloma, ni andaba desvanecido por las esquinas, oliendo flores... Era de ideas fijas, obsesivo en lo que debía buscar, persistente... Sufría decepciones porque quería conquistar espíritus y todo el mundo no es conquistable.

Amando la belleza, renunció a ella... Queriendo los libros hermosos —y no los más baratos, que se deshojan tras dejar el conocimiento en el corazón y la memoria—, solamente pudo tener aquellos cuyas páginas llenó de notas escritas apresuradas en los márgenes... Amando a las mujeres —como ellas deben amar a los hombres: con pasión—, y siendo él mismo un gran amador, debió renunciar dolorosamente y casarse con la novia etérea y distante... Por eso, el anillo de hierro, con el nombre de Cuba, es el símbolo de su extraño y excepcional matrimonio.

Se equivocan los que tratan de irrumpir en su vida privada. Para comprender la intensidad de esta tragedia bastaría hojear el Cuaderno de bodas. Para mí, después de haberlo leído, la mujer que le arrancó el alma fue aquella junto a la cual no pudo permanecer definitivamente. A ella escribió el poema «Carmen»:

El infeliz que la manera ignore

De alzarse bien y caminar con brío,

De una virgen celeste se enamore

Y arda en su pecho el esplendor del mío.

Beso, trabajo, entre sus brazos sueño

Su hogar alzado por mi mano; envidio

Su fuerza a Dios, y, vivo en él, desdeño

El torpe amor de Tíbulo y de Ovidio.

Es tan bella mi Carmen, es tan bella,

Que si el cielo la atmósfera vacía

Dejase de su luz, dice una estrella

Que en el alma de Carmen la hallaría.

Y se acerca lo humano a lo divino

Con semejanza tal cuando me besa,

Que en brazos de un espacio me reclino

Que en los confines de otro mundo cesa...

Años después, la viuda pondría el hijo al cuidado del General en Jefe, Máximo Gómez. El joven no fue ni un miserable ni un cobarde, y aquellos que lo han acusado de tal, han ofendido gravemente a Martí, ultrajando la memoria de Ismaelillo e introduciéndose en una vida que no les pertenece.

Es difícil también hablar del padre de Martí, de don Mariano. Cuántas veces en las barriadas de La Habana Vieja, sus amigos le habrán dicho: «¿Por qué no estás con nosotros? Tú, que tienes experiencia militar, que has sido sargento y artillero, que estuviste en las fortalezas de La Habana, que te desempeñas como celador¼ ¿Por qué no eres voluntario?

¿Por qué no te alistas en los batallones de don Julián de Zulueta o de don Ramón Herrera? Pero don Mariano no perteneció al cuerpo de voluntarios. Prefirió la pobreza, la humildad de la existencia precaria.

Martí piensa en él, rememorando la conversación sostenida en un sitio solitario del hogar. Por eso, está seguro de que al padre no le extrañaría verle luchar por su patria. Y lo quiso con locura y con ternura, tanto como a sus hermanas, a pesar de quebrantos o incomprensiones.

Libros como Ese sol del mundo moral de Cintio Vitier, esencial para el conocimiento de la obra martiana y de la génesis de la Revolución; Destinatario: José Martí, las cartas reunidas con paciencia y amor por Luis García Pascual, nos permiten acercarnos al Martí Hombre, el mismo que perfiló en su obra homónima Gonzalo de Quesada y Miranda.

Este último contribuyó a la exégesis martiana que —desde diferentes perspectivas— abordaron Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Juan Marinello, Jorge Mañach, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Rafael Esténger¼ por citar algunos nombres, a los que se unirían después Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Rafael Cepeda, Hortensia Pichardo y Roberto Fernández Retamar, entre otros.

El legado infinito de Martí yace en su copiosa correspondencia, en su oratoria, en su obra periodística, en su labor como conspirador revolucionario... Todo ello revela su capacidad para convencer, para persuadir, para unir..., sobreviviendo a las flechas envenenadas de los envidiosos y mediocres, porque hay quienes admiran, pero con rabia.

Él logró hacer un periódico de un sinnúmero de periódicos; un partido, de otras tantas facciones y banderas; una voz, de incontables voces... para convertirse en el líder indiscutible de la nación cubana. De ahí que un obrero y un maestro de los pobres le llamasen Apóstol; se lo decían con la misma humildad y reconocimiento con que —años atrás— otros habían identificado a El Libertador.

Cuba ha tenido muchos héroes a lo largo de la historia. Cinco están presos en Estados Unidos, y su austeridad, así como la elocuencia y el rigor de sus alegatos, se constituyen en documento político con que se nutre el acervo de este nuevo siglo que comienza para los revolucionarios del mundo.

Pero Cuba tiene un solo Apóstol. Aquí no hay doce, ni cuatro ni seis; hay uno. Porque él no vivió en francachelas ni en disipaciones, sino con la sobriedad de los apóstoles. Porque tenía ese carisma que, según los griegos, era capaz de encender un fuego inextinguible en los corazones y en la conciencia de los demás.

Si hubo un regreso a la guerra en 1895 fue por él, porque logró pasar por encima de las diferencias, de las pequeñeces, y —aun— sobre las irreconciliables barreras que se habían levantado entre los más grandes y entrañables compañeros, luego de ocurrir la dispersión sin alcanzar la victoria.

Al llegar a Cuba encontró la amarga realidad que aparece retratada en el Diario durante la conversación nocturna sostenida en el campamento, pues, en el ejército que debían fundar, no se habían enraizado ni acatado del todo las necesarias jerarquías. Aquella noche se percató, con amargura, de dicha situación, y trató de apaciguar y de poner las cosas en su lugar.

A su muerte, a la que asistió como a nupcias indispensables, acude con el dolor y el sentimiento de que los compañeros pudiesen considerar que ese no era su lugar. El destino lo colocó en el camino: ante un barranco, el cañón del río... Cuando contemplamos la llanura en que se consumió su calvario, parados en la orilla y ante el tropel de las aguas crecidas de mayo, imaginamos el vado...

Mi verso crecerá: bajo la yerba, / yo también creceré (...), dijo una vez. Y creció el verso porque la poesía no era solamente la rima mecánica, sino el soplo vital que la anima y la inspiración que la promueve.

Es por eso que, al pensar en las cuartillas y cuadernos dejados por él en manos de Gonzalo de Quesada y Aróstegui, pidiéndole que depurase lo que pudiese ser hojarasca de aquello que tenía mérito real, me esté yo refiriendo a su poesía que alienta y sostiene, que levanta y da coraje, que hace mirar al futuro, que nos obliga a dejar a un lado todo lo que nos aparta... y nos coloca allí donde el deber nos llama.

Cuando un agnóstico me pregunta: « ¿Es que Martí habló o profetizó de todo?» Le digo que desconocen la integridad e inmensidad de su obra moral. Y cuando hacemos de lo histórico una reducción mecánica, omitimos el logro principal, el mayor, el más relevante de la Revolución cubana: su obra moral.

Como ha afirmado Cintio Vitier, Martí no ha dejado ni un solo cabo suelto en la historia de Cuba. Trató de dar solución a grandes enigmas y complejidades de su tiempo y del futuro. Su pensamiento nos ha llevado a perseguir como ideal la unidad continental, proyecto que se mantiene latente en nuestros días.

El pensamiento martiano es el sustento de la profecía y del triunfo de la Revolución cubana. Si nosotros estamos hoy aquí es porque Fidel, con su generosidad y sentido abarcador, se dio cuenta de que el Apóstol encarnaba el sentido intelectual y el valor ético de la cultura y nación cubanas.

Esa es la fuerza salvadora, de ahí que en el alma de los cubanos encuentre cobijo ese culto legítimo a un hombre que no solo fue de su tiempo, sino de todos los tiempos; no solo de Cuba, sino del mundo entero: José Martí.

Source: Granma

McCain: The War Candidate

John McCain said recently: "There's going to be other wars. ... I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars."

This war monger would bring the American people more conflict and more death and more suffering. To those who profit from war (Haliburton, Blackwater, etc.) he is their preferred candidate. The status quo, the corporate elites and the political establishment are all backing him. They will not be sending their kids to fight McCain's future wars, but they will be profiting from those wars. Wake up America! McCain will make George W. Bush look like a cub scout.

The man who got in bed with Jesse Helms

It was very sad to have seen the sorry performance of Bill Clinton in South Carolina. At a time when the nation needs a person who will unite the country in order to counteract the divisions of the politics of fear and smear of the GOP, he chose to become a rabid attack dog.

It is unpresidential and demeans the office he once occupied. But then, what can you expect from the man who got in bed with a racist senator and signed into law the infamous Helms-Burton Act.

Alarcon: Cuba Shows Stability, Harmony

Madrid, Jan 27 (Prensa Latina) Cuba Parliament President, Ricardo Alarcon, said his country has shown evidences of stability and institutional harmony, and criticized those who "try not to see the Revolution has a strong popular support".

In an interview with Spanish newspaper Publico, Alarcon stressed the Cuban Revolution´s continuity, and said President Fidel Castro "has entered history as a winner a long time ago".

Fidel Castro is an extraordinary person, with outstanding merits, but the revolutionary process is beyond him, Alarcon noted.

The National Assembly presidente also referred to Cuba First Vice President Raul Castro, and said Raul and Fidel are two personalities with different styles, but no difference in thought.

Alarcon recalled that when Fidel Castro got sick, US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said "we are not going to accept Raul Castro," but they both have been forced to accept him."

"There was a risk," noted Alarcon, "because some people in Washington wanted to invade Cuba.

But we are still here, proving our stability and institutional harmony, he added.

Alarcon also praised the characteristics and benefits of the Cuban electoral system, and rejected the idea that democracy belongs only to political parties and not to the people.

According to Alarcon, Western democracy has two main problems: the way a candidate is launched and the people´s access to voting.

We are not candidates in Cuba. You have to be appointed by other people, and have the approval of a group of persons. That is the main requisite.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Endorses Obama: A President Like My Father

The New York Times

A President Like My Father


Published: January 27, 2008

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The hypocrisy of preacher Huckabee

They are coming out of the ground like the perennial ground hogs of early spring. No, I am not talking about Punxsutawney Phil, but about the GOP presidential candidates during their religious pilgrimages to visit the famous but unvictorious Versailles Commandos of Calle Ocho in Miami.

Preacher Huckabee is the latest one. Let’s listen to his last sermon:

“The sad thing is that Raul is not going to be much better than his brother Fidel. And especially, if you look at Raul’s personal involvement in the shooting down of the aircraft operated by ‘Brothers to the Rescue,’ Huckabee said. That was sheer murder, I personally would like to see Raul Castro indicted for that murder. I think that to shoot down a civilian aircraft, that was unarmed, over international waters is an act of not just aggression, its an act of murder. And we shouldn’t be all that happy if Raul becomes the new dictator.”

Like a twenty first century Pharisee, preacher Huckabee beats his chest and tears at his vestments. Like his commander in chief, George W. Bush, he proclaims that there are bad murderers, but very conveniently omits and fails to mention to his audience the deeds of the “good” murderer, Luis Posada Carriles, who is responsible for the death of seventy three civilians aboard a Cubana de Aviacion jetliner off the coast of Barbados in 1976.

This hypocritical preacher fails to tell his world audience that this “good” murderer has received sanctuary and protection from the government of George W. Bush, and walks freely the streets of Miami. To the GOP there are bad terrorists and murderers (Osama bin Laden) and there are “good” terrorists and murderers (Luis Posada Carriles.)

Preacher, your slip is showing. You are as phony as a $3.00 bill.

McCain continues to pander to the Miami right-wingers

The Los Angeles Times reports that “McCain, in a joint appearance with [U.S. Senator Mel] Martinez, revealed to a well-heeled, predominantly Cuban American crowd that his commitment to ending communist rule in their native country includes a personal element.”

“There’s a person I want you to help me find when Cuba is free, and that’s that Cuban that came to the prison camps of North Vietnam and tortured and killed my friends. We’ll get him and bring him to justice, too.”

My question is as follow: if it is true that Cubans tortured people in Vietnam, why hasn’t the senator asked his good buddy in the White House to have the U.S. intelligence services try to find that person. The obvious answer is that probably that person only exists in the feeble mind of the senator. He is just pandering to the Miami extremists.

Sorry senator, but I doubt very much that the Cuban people are seeking to bring to the island the kind of “freedom” that you want.


Birds of the same feather

(CNN) — If Hillary Clinton and John McCain become their party's presidential nominees, the general election race is likely to be a love-fest.

At least according to Bill Clinton.

"She and John McCain are very close," Clinton said.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Rudy to Calle Ocho Freedom Fighters: “I promise you that these maracas will be returned to you in a free Havana.”

Cuba to buy Montana peas, lentils


Jan 25 2008 8:25AM

Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Cuba plans to buy Montana peas and lentils, in a deal totaling nearly $8 million.

Officials say the agreement announced this week will ship nearly 15,000 tons of peas and lentils to Cuba, where trade restrictions pose numerous roadblocks for U.S. farmers seeking business. Eight Montana farmers and ranchers visited Cuba in November.

Peas and lentils are in a category known as pulse crops, which are one of the fastest-growing segments in Montana agriculture.

Information from: Billings Gazette,

Thursday, January 24, 2008


For the Florida Presidential Preference Primary on Tuesday, January 29, 2008.

Democratic Party: Barack Obama

Republican Party: Ron Paul

State Constitutional Amendment: NO

An open email to the Council on Foreign Relations

From: Jorge Gonzalez
Subject: CFR report

Your State Sponsors: Cuba report, updated January 23, 2008, (
breadcrumb=%2Fissue%2F135%2Fterrorism) relies way too much on information provided to you by the State Department and other U.S. government agencies and spokespersons, like the totally discredited John Bolton.

Just because the U.S. government says something, it does not mean that it is necessarily true. Example: Iraq has WMD's. It has been proven that it was false, and in fact it was a bold faced lie used by the American government to launch a preemptive attack against that country. The real reason is that we wanted their oil. The story about WMD's and about "bringing democracy to Iraq" was for the consumption of the gullible sheep in this country.

When it comes to Cuba the U.S. government, lies, lies and never stops lying. The capitalist government of the United States hates Cuba because the Cuban people have chosen the socialist path and because the U.S. puppet, General Fulgencio Batista, no longer is in power in the island. The American Mafia had to leave the island, and the ultra fascists now reside in Miami.

Cuba is now free and truly independent and sovereign, and that is what capitalist U.S. will never accept.

Jorge Gonzalez

Republicrats economic stimulus plan benefits businesses

The Washington Post has just reported that the main beneficiaries of the so-called economic stimulus plan being proposed by Bush and a compliant Democratic Congress will be businesses as opposed to individuals.

$70 billion dollars will end up in the pockets of businesses. Increases in unemployment benefits or food stamps, which would have benefited the working class, have been dropped from the plan.

This is a typical capitalist “plan”: reward businesses and screw the workers.

¡CUBA! - A Voyage through This Island's Art and History, from 1868 to Today

Collective, Havana Salon de Mai Mural, 1967, Oil on canvas, 501 x 1083 cm., (6 panels), Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Photo Rodolfo Martínez.

MONTREAL.- Organized and presented by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from January 31 to June 8, 2008, ¡Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today, which brings together some 400 works of art, will be the first exhibition to showcase the art of this Caribbean island, which Christopher Columbus described as “the most beautiful land eyes have ever seen.” Thanks to the involvement of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Fototeca de Cuba, and the collaboration of many collectors and museums in the United States, including the MoMA, this exhibition will draw a broad panorama of Cuban art and history. This lively and well-conceived multidisciplinary exhibition will bring together about one hundred paintings, including a huge collective mural produced in 1967 by many artists, two hundred photographs and documents, approximately one hundred works on paper (in particular two collections of pre- and post-1959-Revolution posters), some two hundred photographs and documents, installations and videos, in addition to music and film excerpts.

Exhibition Summary - This ambitious exhibition will feature the art of Cuba, an island that has witnessed the twentieth-century’s principal historical events (decolonization, the search for a national identity, wars of independence and the Revolution, the building of political utopias and ideological clashes). Located at the crossroads of Old Europe and the New World, Cuba is a rich cultural terrain: its music and literature are well known outside of the country, but the same cannot be said of its visual arts.

The exhibition is divided into five sections: Depicting Cuba: Finding Ways to Express a Nation (1868-1927); Arte Nuevo: The Avant-garde and the Re-creation of Identity (1927-1938); Cubanness: Affirming a Cuban Style (1938-1959); Within the Revolution, Everything, Against the Revolution, Nothing (1959-1979); The Revolution and Me: The Individual Within History (1980-2007).

The exhibition’s historical narrative will be told through a selection of significant photographs: from those that have never been shown to the iconic, these pictures will illustrate the chronology of events as recorded by remarkable photographers. Within this account will be images illustrating the major chapters in the history of Cuban art, from the nineteenth-century’s wars of independence through to the uncertainties of the future. Throughout the twentieth century, artists engaged in international discourses sought to define a national identity, Cubanidad. Intermingling a re-examination of its colonialist past and openness to the avant-garde, Cuban artists created a profoundly original art of synthesis (Baroque and academic legacies, Spanish and African roots, Catholic and traditional spirituality). Central to the century and the exhibition, with the presentation of twenty paintings, the landmark work of Wifredo Lam will embody this synthesis.

At times a vehicle for collective political action and at times a personal expression vis-à-vis history, Cuban art deals with matters pertaining to a sense of place and the role of the artist in society, issues that outstanding contemporary artists continue to explore in relevant ways.

The Curators - The exhibition is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (MMFA) in collaboration with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) and the Fototeca de Cuba, Havana. Nathalie Bondil, director of the MMFA, is the general curator of the exhibition, in collaboration with Moraima Clavijo Colom, director of the MNBA, and Lourdes Socarrás, director of the Fototeca de Cuba. The curatorial committee also includes Hortensia Montero Méndez, curator of Cuban art, MNBA; Luz Merino Acosta, technical director, MNBA; Rufino del Valle, curator, Fototeca de Cuba; Iliana Cepero, associate curator, MNBA; Stéphane Aquin, curator of contemporary art, MMFA; and the team of curators of the MNBA.

The Catalogue - Under the general editorship of Nathalie Bondil, a 370-page catalogue will be produced by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Publishing Department. This book, which will include some 450 colour illustrations, is the first publication covering the whole history of Cuban art. It will provide essays by Cuban and international specialists on various aspects of the subject and some 140 biographical notes. It will be published in separate French, English and Spanish editions.

Sponsors - In Montreal, the exhibition is presented by Sun Life Financial, in collaboration with METRO.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts wishes to thank Cubana and media partners La Presse and The Gazette. Its gratitude also extends to Quebec’s Ministère de la Culture et des Communications for its ongoing support.

The Museum would like to thank the Volunteer Association of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for its invaluable support. It would also like to thank all its Friends and the many corporations, foundations and people who support its mission.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ International Exhibition Programme receives financial support from the Exhibition Fund of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Foundation and the Paul G. Desmarais Fund.

Cuba's All Star Baseball Game February 3

Cuban News Agency

Havana, Jan 23 (acn) Santiago de Cuba was chosen to host this year's all-star baseball game on February 3 for being 2007 league champions, having a newly remodeled stadium and for leading the league this season with 30 wins.

The announcement came from the presidency of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) at a press conference on Tuesday at Havana's Sports City.

Despite having won the national baseball title seven times (1980, 1989, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007), this will be the first time that Santiago hosts the annual baseball classic, reported Granma newspaper.

The game between the top players of the Eastern and Western Divisions of the Cuban baseball league will take place on Sunday afternoon February 3, after an Athlete of the Year official awards ceremony. The all-star squads will be announced at a later date.

On Saturday February 2, at the same time, the traditional throwing and batting contests will take place followed by the veteran's game whose rosters were also announced by INDER.

Western Division Veteran's Team:

Catchers: Juan Castro, Pedro Medina and Juan Manrique; Infield: Agustin Marquetti, Antonio Muñoz, Antonio Scull, Rey Vicente Anglada, Lazaro Vargas, Antonio "Tony" Gonzalez, Rodolfo Puente, Urbano Gonzalez, Juan Padilla, Alexander Ramos y Pedro José Rodriguez; Outfielders: Luis Giraldo Casanova, Lourdes Gourriel, Armando Capiró, Wilfredo Sanchez, Rigoberto Rosique, Fernando Sánchez, Jose Estrada y Javier Mendez; Pitchers: Jorge Luis Valdes, Julio Romero, Jesus Guerra, Lazaro Valle, Omar Ajete, Gaspar "Curro" Perez, Rolando Macias y Lazaro de la Torre. Manager: Pedro Chavez. Coaches: Juan "Coco" Gomez and Arnaldo Raxach. Trainers: Juan Suarez e Ismael Salgado. INDER representative: Pedro Almenares.

Eastern Division Veteran's Team:

Catchers: Alberto Martinez, Roger Machado y Ramon Echeverría; Infielders: Felipe Sarduy, Orestes Kindelan, Antonio Pacheco, Gabriel Pierre, Agustín Arias, Pedro Jova, Luis Ulacia, Agustin Lescaille, Osvaldo Oliva y Andres Telemaco; Outfielders: Víctor Mesa, Ermidelio Urrutia, Víctor Bejerano, Jorge Garcia, Miguel Cuevas y Silvio Montejo; Pitchers: Braudilio Vinent, Roberto Valdes, Omar Carrero, Jose Luis Aleman, Juan Perez Perez, Gregorio Perez, Oscar Romero, Aquino Abreu, Osvaldo Duvergel, Felix Núñez, Modesto Verdura y Rafael Castillo. Manager: Manuel Miyar. Coaches: Miguel Giró and Antonio "Titi" Sánchez. Entrenadores: Pedro Perez y Renato Puertas. INDER representative: Pedro García Lupiañez.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Raul Martinez to run against Lincoln Díaz-Balart

Former Hialeah Mayor: Opponent Nervous, 'Should Be'

POSTED: 10:24 am EST January 22, 2008
UPDATED: 9:24 pm EST January 22, 2008

HIALEAH, Fla. -- Former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez declared his candidacy Tuesday to take on U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, an eight-term incumbent in the House of Representatives.

"The opponent is clearly very nervous, and he should be," said Martinez in his announcement speech. "In a moment of desperation two weeks ago, he started with a barrage of attacks on me personally and, to a certain degree, to the people of Hialeah that have voted for me four times after 1993."

For decades, there has been a powerful Republican voting bloc of three GOP incumbents who represented the Cuban-American community in Miami and rarely have they faced opposition. But Martinez, the colorful and controversial former Democratic mayor of Hialeah, could present a formidable challenge, political analysts said.

"Raul Martinez presents the first substantial challenge since Diaz-Balart was elected," said Michael Putney, Local 10's senior political reporter.

Putney added that the battle would take place in a district where cultural ties are just as important as party affiliation.

"Martinez has a strong following of Hialeah residents," said Putney. "They think he did a good job running the city."

Martinez, a Cuban emigrant like Diaz-Balart, was mayor of Hialeah for 25 years. The fifth largest city in Florida, it is 90 percent Hispanic and has a large Cuban population. Diaz-Balart has been a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993.

Putney said Martinez's checkered past will be an issue that Diaz-Balart capitalizes on. In the late 1980s, federal prosecutors opened a corruption investigation of Martinez's dealings with developers.

"He was never convicted in two subsequent trials," said Putney. "But his ethical record will be a cornerstone for Diaz-Balart."

Putney also pointed out that support among Cuban exiles for a hard-line approach is weakening. GOP strategists said the policies remain popular, but Martinez's support for lifting travel restrictions may garner him support from a younger generation of U.S. residents of Cuban descent who are restricted from seeing family members or helping them financially.

"Support for the embargo among exiles is definitely weakening," said Putney. "Polls by FIU of the Cuban community show that a majority of Cuban-Americans are in favor of loosening travel restrictions."

Voters will decide the outcome in the November election.

Cuba bans marine turtle hunt

Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:40am EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has banned the hunting of marine turtles endangered in the Caribbean by the illegal trade in shells used to make combs, an official said on Tuesday.

The decision was applauded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a lifeline to all turtle species hatching on beaches throughout the Caribbean, but above all the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.

The ban took effect this weekend, said the Cuban Fisheries Ministry's director of regulations, Elisa Garcia. She said it would remain in effect "until it is scientifically proven that the species is recovering."

"This far-sighted decision represents an outstanding outcome for Cuba, for the wider Caribbean and for conservation," said the WWF species program director, Dr. Susan Lieberman.

For many years, Cuba had a legal fishery quota of 500 hawksbills a year to keep up its export of turtle shells, but has finally acted on the pleas of conservationists.

Two fishing communities that still hunted turtles, Nuevitas in Camaguey province and Cocodrilo on the Isle of Youth, will get funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to find alternative sources of income and modernize their fishing fleets.

Fishermen will be retrained and engaged in the protection of turtles and their nests, the WWF said in a statement.

The turtles are threatened by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats, egg collection, entanglement in fishing gear, as well as climate change and pollution. But the main threat comes from the continuing illegal trade in tortoise shells.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle, editing by Todd Eastham)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

McCain courts the Miami right-wingers

Presidential candidate John McCain went to Miami to court the Cuban ultra-right wingers of that southern Florida city.

Internet news reports state that “McCain courted the influential Cuban vote in Miami, stressing that he would not lift the U.S.'s decades-old Cuba embargo and noting that some U.S. prisoners-of-war in Vietnam, though not him, were tortured by Castro's agents.”

The Miami extremists are backing the senator from Arizona. One more reason to vote Democrat in November.

Letter to Burger King's CEO

Four days ago, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Richard Durbin and Sherrod Brown wrote a letter to Burger King's CEO, John Chidsey, supporting the just demands of the Florida tomato pickers.

I urge you to read the letter and support the Campaign for Fair Food of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Letter to Burger King's CEO. (Adobe PDF Reader needed)

US Remains Cuba's Top Food Supplier

By WILL WEISSERT – January 21, 2008, 11:00 p.m.

HAVANA (AP) — The United States remained Cuba's main supplier of food and farm products in 2007, selling the communist-run island more than $600 million in agricultural exports despite its trade embargo, a top official said Monday.

Cuba imported roughly the same amount of agricultural products as it did in 2006, but rising production and transportation costs forced it to spend $30 million more than the $570 million it paid two years ago for the same goods, said Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Cuba's food import company Alimport.

Alvarez's comments came during a joint news conference with California Secretary of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, who is in Cuba on a trade mission and is hoping America's largest food-producing state can one day sell as much as $180 million in agricultural products to the island. It was the state's first agricultural mission to Cuba.

U.S. companies in 35 states ship roughly 1,600 types of agricultural products to Cuba, Alvarez said, declining to specify which state is its top supplier, or which product its top import. U.S. wheat, chicken and soy are big sellers, he added.

Kawamura was accompanied by owners of some top California agricultural firms, who are negotiating private contracts directly with Cuban authorities. He also planned to meet with government officials and tour state-run farms.

Agricultural secretaries from 19 states have visited Cuba, although Kawamura is the first from California to do so.

"The door's already been opened. There's plenty of business being done here," he said. "Some of us arguably might be late getting here, but we're here."

Yoruba gods protect Fidel Castro - priest

Mon 21 Jan 2008, 20:24 GMT

HAVANA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Yoruba gods protect ailing Fidel Castro from witchcraft and want to see him continue leading Cuba, the first priest of the Santeria religion to be elected to parliament said on Monday.

"Olodumare says he is the one that should be there and so he is untouchable," said Antonio Castaneda, a babalawo (priest) in the religion slaves brought to colonial Cuba from Nigeria.

Hurricanes may batter Cuba this year, but Castro's health will not break, according to the orishas (deities), he said.

The 614-seat National Assembly elected on Sunday must approve Cuba's top leadership at its first session on Feb. 24, when Cubans will learn whether Castro will retire as head of state.

Castro, 81, has not appeared in public since stomach surgery for an undisclosed illness forced him to hand over power temporarily to his brother almost 18 month ago.

Santeria followers have believed their gods were on Fidel Castro's side ever since a white dove landed on his shoulder during a victory speech in Havana after his 1959 revolution.

Castaneda, who played the sax at Havana's famed Tropicana cabaret for 30 years, never joined Cuba's Communist Party, but considers himself a "revolutionary." He praised Cuba's social safety net despite widespread economic hardships Cubans face.

He said 60 percent of Cubans believe in Santeria and he can give them a voice in the National Assembly. Castaneda won a seat as president of the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, which is close to the government.

The orishas augur a good year for Cuba, the babalawo said. "If Cuba marches ahead, so too does the Comandante," he said. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Eric Beech)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama takes Bill Clinton to task


Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 06:42 GMT

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has accused former president Bill Clinton of making false statements about him.

Mr Obama said Mr Clinton had taken his support for his wife, Hillary - Mr Obama's main rival for the nomination - to a level that was "troubling".

Mr Obama said his campaign team would have to directly confront the former president in the future.

Read more.

California Agricultural Trade Mission to Cuba

California Farmer

January 21, 2008

Compiled By Staff

California Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura will be leading an agricultural trade delegation to Cuba, January 21 – 24, 2008, to market California agricultural products to the Cuban government, creating future sales opportunities for California exporters.

"Cuba represents a good potential future market for California agriculture and is one that will directly benefit California companies," says Secretary Kawamura, "Our experience has been that consumers, in every country we have visited, want access to California products."

Secretary Kawamura is leading a delegation comprised of California agricultural leaders, who were selected based upon their commitment to international trade and their ability to meet the demands of the Cuban market. This initial trade mission will lay the foundation for future trips, where California companies interested in selling agricultural products to Cuba can participate.

Cuba imports an estimated $180 million worth of agricultural products that could be supplied by California farmers and ranchers. This trade mission will leverage agricultural business opportunities to increase California's share of exports to the nation. In 2006, California exported an estimated $735,000 in agricultural products to Cuba.

Current company participants include:
1.) Calavo Growers
2.) California Farm Bureau Federation
3.) Centers for International Trade Development
4.) Constellation Brands
5.) Hilmar Cheese
6.) Irrigation West
7.) Limoneira
8.) Mariani Nut Company
9.) The Nunes Company
10.) Pandol Brothers
11.) Sierra Orchards
12.) Valley Fig Growers

While in Cuba, the delegation is scheduled to have the following meetings with Cuban trade and government officials:

Monday, January 21: Havana
• Delegation meeting with Pedro Alvarez, Chairman and CEO of Alimport, Cuban agricultural import entity.
• Visits to retail outlets.

Tuesday, January 22: Havana
• Meeting with Alimport purchase managers.
• Meeting with CIMEX (Cuban trading company) to discuss retail sales structure.
• Meeting with Ministry of Foreign Trade.
• Meeting with Ministry of Foreign Relations.

Wednesday, January 23: Havana
• Meeting and briefing with the Ministry of Agriculture.
• Meeting with Alimport purchase managers.

Thursday, January 24: Havana
• Morning departure to Miami.

State departments of agriculture are authorized to be licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control, to engage in travel-related transactions involving Cuba. Agricultural trade with Cuba was authorized on October 28, 2000 when President Bush signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. Since this time, Cuba has imported more than $1.8 billion in agricultural products. The California Department of Food and Agriculture received a license in December 2007 to conduct an agricultural trade mission.

Fidel Castro Votes and Sends Message to Cubans

Havana, Jan 20 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Fidel Castro voted for a united homeland in the Sunday general elections, and sent a message to Cubans.

A member of the polling station number 1, constituency 13, where the statesman"s registered to vote, went to the place where he is recovering to receive his vote.

"I have already fulfilled my duty with my homeland, and I did not get wet. I voted for a united vote with conscience. Let's show the world our conscience and culture," wrote the island head of State in the text read in front of those present in the polling station.

The Cubans must elect 614 deputies for the Parliament and 1,201 delegates for the Provincial Assemblies of the People"s Power.

The new Parliament, whose constituent session will be February 24, will elect 31 members of the Council of State, top state representation, whose will choose among them the president and first vice president, as well as five vice presidents and the secretary of that body.

Legislators will also vote for a president, vice president and secretary of the National Assembly, and appoint the members of the 10 permanent commissions of that forum.

Meanwhile, the 14 Provincial Assemblies of the People"s Power will elect president, vice president and secretary in their constituent meetings.


Fidel Castro's Message:

To Fellow Citizens of the West: Cold winds from the North, accompanied by drizzle and rain, in the western region of the country, pretend to conspire against our elections.

I have already fulfilled my duty, but I didn't get wet. I had the privilege that a member of the Electoral Board of my polling station visited me, the same as others in my case.

I chose the united vote as a matter of conscience.

In spite of the weather, already at 08:15 in the morning, I was informed that over 25 percent of those registered had voted.

We will show the world our conscience and our culture in the Western zone of the country, each one choosing the most adequate hour and adequately protecting themselves to vote before six this afternoon.

¡Patria o Muerte!


Fidel Castro Ruz

January 20, 2008 9.00 a.m

Friday, January 18, 2008

AP Interview: Cuba: No Talks With Bush

Jorge Alberto Bolanos Suarez, the new head of the Cuban interest section, gestures during an interview with The Associated Press, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008, at Cuban Interests Section in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By MATTHEW LEE – January 17, 22008, 8:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cuba is not interested in improving relations with the United States while President Bush is in office and will wait for a change in U.S. leadership before extending anew an offer for dialogue, Cuba's top diplomat in the U.S. said Thursday.

As the island nation heads into weekend parliamentary elections that undoubtedly will extend the ailing Fidel Castro's grip on power, Havana is looking to America's vote in November to decide whether it wants to talk to Washington, said Jorge Alberto Bolanos Suarez, head of the Cuban Interest Section in Washington.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he said Cuban offers for dialogue with the United States made by Castro's brother, Raul, after he took day-to-day control of the government in 2006 were not intended for the Bush administration, which staunchly supports the nearly 46-year-old U.S. economic embargo of Cuba that was designed to choke off funds to the Castro government in an effort to force a change in the communist system there.

"When Raul spoke about it he was not referring to the present administration," Bolanos said. "He was speaking clearly that after the U.S. elections, the new (U.S.) government should take a position with regard to Cuba.

"That is the time when Cuba would be ready to dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, without the arrogance that has always colored the U.S. position," he said in Spanish. "I'm not concerned what the current State Department says because we are waiting for what the next one has to say about Cuba."

Soon after emergency intestinal surgery forced Castro in July 2006 to cede power to a provisional government headed by his brother, Raul Castro reached out for dialogue with the U.S. government as long as Cuba's sovereignty was respected. He repeated the offer in December 2006 in a sign he had consolidated his leadership during Fidel's absence.

Many longtime Cuba watchers consider Raul the more pragmatic of the Castros, and likely to communicate better with Washington. At the time of the offers, the State Department brushed them off, saying Castro should open a dialogue with his people, end the one-party communist political system and hold free and fair elections.

Bolanos' comments on Thursday appeared to indicate that Havana is digging in its heels, refusing all but cursory contact with the United States until Bush, who has pursued strong anti-Castro policies for his seven years as president so far, is gone in January 2009.

Prospects for significant changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba no matter who takes over the White House from Bush, however, are uncertain.

Meanwhile, Bolanos said the 81-year-old Castro, who has not been seen in public since ceding power to Raul, might not be healthy enough to campaign for Sunday's elections in Cuba, but he is strong enough to work for the Cuban people.

"He has always won the seat, he has always gotten the highest (proportion) of votes of the population. I think this election will not be different," Bolanos said.

He disputed persistent U.S. charges that Cuban elections fall far short of democratic standards.

"There is nothing which Cuba does, nothing which Cuba says that is considered positive by the United States," Bolanos said. "This is not something strange or extraordinary that they don't consider it positive the way and means of how we elect our candidates."

Cubans are electing representatives to the country's legislature, or National Assembly, from a slate of candidates nominated earlier by municipal councils.

Cuba's government has not given details about Castro's illness or where he is being treated, but has released photos and video every few months, meant to confirm he is on the mend.

The latest of those was released Wednesday when government television broadcast images of a frail but upbeat Castro meeting Brazil's visiting President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a day earlier.

The first video of Castro in three months showed him sitting and listening intently with a finger pressed to his forehead, then later standing and speaking, waving a finger for emphasis. "I have felt very good, very good," he says in the only audible comment in the 60 seconds of footage.

But in an essay published by state news media Wednesday, Castro said he is not yet healthy enough to address Cuba's people in person and can't campaign. "I am not physically able to speak directly to the citizens of the municipality where I was nominated for our elections," he wrote.

Bolanos said he had spoken by phone with Castro last month when he was in Havana and that "he was in good form."

"He is following medical advice and is abiding by them," the envoy said. "We are not as concerned about that as some are here in the United States. He is writing and working and handling the strategies of the government."


JG: This is the right decision. Talking to Bush would be a waste of time. Let's wait. He only has 367 days left in office.