Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Delahunt, Flake & Cuba Working Group Call For Lifting Travel Ban - Legislation -- HR 874 -- Allows All Americans the Freedom to Travel to Cuba


For Immediate Release:
March 30, 2009

Further Information:
Mark Forest/Rory Sheehan - 202-225-3111

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the co-chairs of the bipartisan House Cuba Working Group, will be joined by Cuban-American leaders and other Representatives in a press conference at 11:00 AM on Thursday April 2 in Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The participants will discuss HR 874, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which now has over 120 co-sponsors, and will urge its passage by the Congress. The legislation would end the current ban on travel by Americans to Cuba. At present the US government allows Americans to travel almost anywhere in the world - except Cuba.

“During his election campaign, now-President Barack Obama pledged to allow unrestricted travel by Cuban-Americans,” said Delahunt. “He can do this by executive order, with no action needed in Congress. But for average Americans to exercise their right to travel to Cuba, Congress needs to change the law, and that’s what HR 874 would do. Thursday’s event will highlight the reasons why this bill is critical to the freedom of both Americans and Cubans.”

WHO: Representatives Bill Delahunt & Jeff Flake, other Cuba
Working Group Members, & Cuban-American Leaders

Room 2255 of the Rayburn House Office Building:

WHEN: Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.

SUBJECT: HR 874, The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act


The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Press Conference

Senators Byron Dorgan, Mike Enzi and Christopher Dodd discuss the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act at a press conference held March 31, 2009. Senator Enzi is a staunch advocate for the free exchange of ideas and has sponsored the Act for seven years in a row. He hopes it passes this year.

Companion Bill to S. 428 gathers the support of 121 U.S. Representatives

H.R. 874 is the companion bill to S. 428. They both share the same name "The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act." Both bills would allow ALL AMERICANS to travel freely to Cuba.

H.R. 874, as of today, has the support of 121 U.S. Representatives: Here is the list of the supporters:

Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Baird, Brian [WA-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Berry, Marion [AR-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Biggert, Judy [IL-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Blumenauer, Earl [OR-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Boozman, John [AR-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Brown, Henry E., Jr. [SC-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] - 3/30/2009
Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Chaffetz, Jason [UT-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11] - 3/30/2009
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cooper, Jim [TN-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] - 3/30/2009
Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] - 3/30/2009
Rep Courtney, Joe [CT-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Davis, Lincoln [TN-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep DeLauro, Rosa L. [CT-3] - 2/4/2009
Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] - 3/30/2009
Rep Doyle, Michael F. [PA-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Edwards, Donna F. [MD-4] - 2/4/2009
Rep Ehlers, Vernon J. [MI-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep Emerson, Jo Ann [MO-8] - 2/4/2009
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Etheridge, Bob [NC-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] - 2/4/2009
Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] - 3/30/2009
Rep Flake, Jeff [AZ-6] - 2/4/2009
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. [TX-20] - 3/30/2009
Rep Gordon, Bart [TN-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Harman, Jane [CA-36] - 3/30/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 3/30/2009
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Israel, Steve [NY-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Henry C. "Hank," Jr. [GA-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Johnson, Timothy V. [IL-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kagen, Steve [WI-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kilpatrick, Carolyn C. [MI-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kilroy, Mary Jo [OH-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Larsen, Rick [WA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Larson, John B. [CT-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lofgren, Zoe [CA-16] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lowey, Nita M. [NY-18] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lummis, Cynthia M. [WY] - 3/30/2009
Rep Lynch, Stephen F. [MA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 3/30/2009
Rep Markey, Edward J. [MA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Matheson, Jim [UT-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] - 3/30/2009
Rep McCarthy, Carolyn [NY-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] - 2/4/2009
Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Michaud, Michael H. [ME-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Miller, George [CA-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Mollohan, Alan B. [WV-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moore, Dennis [KS-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moran, James P. [VA-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Moran, Jerry [KS-1] - 2/4/2009
Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Neal, Richard E. [MA-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] - 3/30/2009
Rep Oberstar, James L. [MN-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ortiz, Solomon P. [TX-27] - 3/30/2009
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Paul, Ron [TX-14] - 2/4/2009
Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Peterson, Collin C. [MN-7] - 3/30/2009
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Polis, Jared [CO-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Price, David E. [NC-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ross, Mike [AR-4] - 3/30/2009
Rep Ryan, Tim [OH-17] - 3/30/2009
Rep Sanchez, Loretta [CA-47] - 3/30/2009
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Serrano, Jose E. [NY-16] - 3/30/2009
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28] - 3/30/2009
Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] - 3/30/2009
Rep Snyder, Vic [AR-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tanner, John S. [TN-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tauscher, Ellen O. [CA-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Thompson, Mike [CA-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Towns, Edolphus [NY-10] - 3/30/2009
Rep Van Hollen, Chris [MD-8] - 3/30/2009
Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. [NY-12] - 3/30/2009
Rep Walz, Timothy J. [MN-1] - 3/30/2009
Rep Waters, Maxine [CA-35] - 3/30/2009
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] - 3/30/2009
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 3/30/2009
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] - 3/30/2009
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] - 3/30/2009
Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3] - 3/30/2009

Call you representative in the House and ask him/her to add their name to the list, and become a co-sponsor.

Lawmakers push to open travel to Cuba

By JIM ABRAMS – 22 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Associated Press) — It's time for Congress to end the restrictions that for more than half a century have prevented most Americans from visiting Cuba, a bipartisan group of senators said Tuesday.

The lawmakers, at a news conference where they were joined by trade and human rights groups, also made clear that their proposal to allow travel should be a first step toward breaking down economic and trade barriers between the two countries.

The travel embargo, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is a "failed policy that has failed for 50 years."

Lawmakers, backed by business and farm groups seeing new opportunities in Cuba, have been trying for years to chip away at the trade and travel bans imposed after Castro took power in Havana in 1959. They have made little headway because of strong political resistance led by Florida's influential Cuban-American community.

But the situation has changed in the past year with an ailing Fidel Castro turning political control over to his brother Raul and the election of President Barack Obama, who like other Democratic presidents is more open to increasing nonpolitical contacts with the Cuban people.

The Obama administration, while steering clear of the more controversial issue of ending the trade embargo, this month backed changes making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit and send remittances to their relatives on the island. It's also thought the administration could take other steps, such as revising rules that have impeded farm and medical sales to Cuba, before a summit of Latin American countries in Trinidad next month.

The Dorgan bill — co-sponsored by Richard Lugar, top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee; Mike Enzi, ranking Republican on the Health Committee; and Banking Committee chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. — would prevent the president from stopping travel to Cuba except in cases of war, imminent danger to public health or threats to the physical safety of U.S. travelers.

Reps. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have an identical bill in the House with 120 co-sponsors.

Dorgan said there are sufficient votes in both chambers to pass the legislation, although there is certain to be lively opposition. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the son of Cuban immigrants, slowed confirmation of several administration officials and passage of a major spending bill because that bill contained the changes in rules on Cuban-American travel.

Cuban-born Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said he would continue to oppose the legislation. "This is the time to support pro-democracy activists in Cuba, not provide the Castro regime with a resource windfall."

Supporters stressed that Cuba is the only country in the world to which the United States bans travel: there are a few exceptions, such as for journalists or humanitarian visits. They said open travel would make Cubans more favorable to American people and ideas. "I think it will make a huge impact. It will change Cuba," said Enzi, R-Wyo.

The list of groups supporting the bill, including the American Farm Bureau, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and associations representing rice, wheat and dairy industries, was indicative of the broader goals of opening up Cuba.

American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman said tightly controlled food sales to Cuba, initiated by the Clinton administration, could grow from the current $400 million a year to more than $1 billion with eased restrictions.

Ending the travel ban, said the Chamber of Commerce's Myron Brilliant, "is an important first step. We also want to see an end to the trade embargo."

Dodd said that while there is support for lifting the travel ban, it was too early to talk about ending the trade embargo. "That's a step too far at this juncture."

The legislation is S. 428 and H.R. 874.

On the Net:

* Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov

Banda Bassoti: Que Linda es Cuba

Oye tu que dices que mi patria no es tan linda.
Oye tu que dices que lo nuestro no es tan bello.

Yo te invito a que busques por el mundo,
otro cielo tan azul como mi cielo,
una luna tan brillante como aquella,
que se pierde en la dulzura de la caña.

Un Fidel que vibra en las montañas,
un rubì, cinco franjas y una estrella.

Cuba que linda es Cuba,
quien la defiende la quiere más,
Cuba que linda es Cuba,
ahora que es libre la quiero más,
cuba que linda es Cuba
ahora sin Yanquis la quiero más.

Venimos a defender la Revolucion Cubana,
venimos a defender la Revolucion Cubana,
porque sea la primera de la lucha Americana,
porque sea la primera de la lucha Americana.

Cuba Si, Cuba Si, Cuba Si, Yanqui No,
Cuba Si, Cuba si, Cuba si, Yanqui No.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Lift the ban on Cuba travel

Washington - The US Chamber of Commerce Tuesday threw its weight behind a bill being introduced in the US Senate which would eliminate the ban on most US travel to the Caribbean island. The bill [S. 428], which has strong momentum in both parties, is seen as a first step towards reexamining the overall restrictions on US trade with the communist island.

"The US embargo on Cuba is a 50-year failure, and lifting the ban on travel is a good first step toward a more rational policy," said Myron Brilliant, a top official in the business group.

He said the policies have made "a martyr out of a tyrant" and actually helped support the regime because it has allowed Cuban leaders to blame their economic misery on the US, and not on what he called "Marxist mismanagement."

American Farm Bureau Federation: Remove the Ban on Travel to Cuba

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2009 – American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman joined congressional members today on Capitol Hill to advocate the removal of travel restrictions to Cuba. Stallman spoke in support of S. 428, which opens Cuba to travel by U.S. citizens and gives the U.S. president authority to restrict travel to Cuba only in times of war or imminent danger.

“This legislation is an important step in easing trade restrictions on Cuba,” Stallman said. “Allowing unrestricted travel to Cuba will increase U.S. agricultural sales and boost tourism.”

U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba have been on average $400 million annually since 2000, with top commodity sales including poultry, wheat, soybeans, rice and dairy. With passage of S. 428, the American Farm Bureau Federation expects sales to increase.

Complete Story

S. 428 gets the support of two more U.S. senators for a total of 20 co-sponsors

S. 428 "The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act" which would allow travel to Cuba for ALL AMERICANS, has obtained two new co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). This important bill now has 20 co-sponsors.

It is time to call U.S. Senate hearings on this bill.


Dominica calls for U.S. to lift Cuba embargo

Dominica News Online

BY Dominica Correspondent

Originally published: March 31, 2009 09:31:00 AM

Dominica will continue to appeal for the United States to lift its trade embargo on Cuba.

The remark has come from Minister of Foreign Affairs Vince Henderson following a recent statement by Vice President of the United States Joe Biden that his country has no plans to lift its trade embargo on Cuba. Henderson said Dominica has made consistent calls at the United Nations level to lift the embargo, and remains committed to that call. “Dominica’s position along with Caricom is very clear. Caricom has consistently held that position and we in Dominica, we remain with Caricom on that position,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said. He also stated that the issue is, however, a matter for the U.S. government to deal with.


JG: Message to Joe Biden: The United States is totally isolated on the Cuba embargo issue. However, if you want to continue banging your head against a wall, go ahead and do it, Joe.

Joe Biden's mistake number two on the Cuba issue

Why are American politicians so dumb and so out of touch with reality when it comes to the Cuba issue? Or is it that they can never give up their eternal arrogance?

Vice President Joe Biden has done it again! The government of Cuba has let it be known that they will not accept any preconditions in talks and/or dialogue with their counterparts in the United States government.

Joe Biden yesterday declared in a visit to Costa Rica that "Washington expects a "firm commitment" that Cuba is moving towards democracy and respect for human rights before lifting the US embargo on the island," reported AFP.

Joe Biden has self appointed himself the new Master of the Universe! What a fool!

I am sure that Cuba will reject his latest pronouncement and will repudiate his attempt to stick his nose in the internal affairs of the Cuban people.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cuba Should Be Readmitted to Regional Groups, Insulza Says

By Joshua Goodman

March 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Organization of American States should take steps to readmit Cuba, 47 years after it was banned from the organization, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said.

Insulza, in an interview in Medellin, Colombia, said the 1962 OAS resolution that banned Cuba from the Washington-based assembly because of its links to communism, China and the Soviet Union no longer makes sense.

“One of the countries has disappeared and the other is buying a lot of U.S. Treasuries,” Insulza said at the Inter- American Development Bank’s annual meeting. “Please, if they’re going to be excluded, let’s come up with some better criteria.”

Insulza’s comments come as U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing to travel next month to Trinidad and Tobago for the fifth Summit of the Americas, where regional leaders are expected to reiterate their call for him to end the U.S.’s trade embargo against the communist island.

El Salvador, Costa Rica

Cuba is the only Latin American and the Caribbean nation excluded from proceedings at the 35 member-nation OAS. The U.S. is the only country in the hemisphere that doesn’t have full diplomatic relations with the country. El Salvador and Costa Rica’s reestablished ties this month with Cuba, the only country in the region that isn’t a democracy.

Insulza said Cuba’s readmission into the OAS should come after serious study and dialogue. Its return would likely follow its entry into other hemispheric organizations like the IDB and the Pan American Health Organization, he said.

“Cuba’s fundamental problem is the U.S. embargo, not whether or not it belongs to specific organizations like the OAS,” said Insulza, adding that he didn’t expect the issue to dominate discussions at the April 17-19 Summit of the Americas.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joshua Goodman in Rio de Janeiro at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

Tenth Biennial Havana

More on the letter to Barack Obama by right-wing Congresspersons

My friend Alberto Jones talks in his post (see it after this one) about a letter that was sent by Congresspersons to President Barack Obama on Friday.

That was news to me, as neither Goggle nor Yahoo! covered it on their digests of relevant Cuba news. So I started digging a little more and found that the premier mouthpiece of the Miami gusanos, The Miami Herald, reported in Spanish about the letter in question.

It looks like a "Who is Who" of right-wing Congresspersons have formed a new "committee" to "liberate" Cuba, now that G.W.B. is no longer in the White House. Here is the composition of this new committee which they have named "Parliamentary Committee Pro-Democracy in Cuba." Of course, they do not tell us that this so-called committee is in favor of bringing "Miami and New Jersey Democracy" (even dead people vote there) to what they call the communist infested island.

Gimme a tympani! Ta-rat-tat-tat-tat-ta-tat! Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the Parliamentary Committee Pro-Democracy in Cuba. Co-Chairs: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana "La Loba Feroz" Ros-Lehtinen, all from Miami-Dade County, Florida. Members at-large: Debbie "Dubbya" Wasserman-Schultz and Kendrick Meek (also from Miami-Dade), Albio Sires, Robert Andrews, Frank Pallone (all from corruption-ridden New Jersey and all of them very prominent water carriers for the eminence of right wing Democratic Senators, The Honorable Robert Menendez, understudy to the most corrupt U.S. Senator that New Jersey has ever had: Robert Torricelli).

Gee, they forgot to invite Bill Nelson. He is not going to be a happy camper when he hears that they did not invite him.

This Illustrious Committee has declared in the pages of the gusanos rag sheet that they "reject unilateral concessions to Cuba." They also claim that allowing Cuban-Americans to stay for an indefinite time visit with their relatives in the island is going to benefit the regime in Havana. I cried when I saw that they were not willing to lead a new invasion force to "liberate" Cuba.

If you want to laugh more than I have already laughed, then click here to read the Spanish article.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot?

Alberto N. Jones
March 30, 2009

Last Friday, in a near celebratory atmosphere, US Congressman Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, Ros-Lethinen, Wasserman, Meeks, Sires and a few others, read during a press conference, a hate letter sent to President Barack Obama, demanding he severely curtail the time allowed to Cuban-Americans legally visiting their families in Cuba.

On Saturday, as Vice-President Joe Biden traveled through Latin America, and in a language reminiscent to the cold war era, he expressed a resounding NO, to any attempt of lifting the unilateral, fossilized, 50 year old embargo imposed upon Cuba.

And today, as President Barack Obama outlined his last effort to instill some oxygen into a severely ill US auto industry and attempt to salvage tens of thousands of jobs in the midst of our economical crisis , I am forced to reflect on news coming out of Cuba in which, they are ordering 10,000 buses from China, 1000 from the Ukraine, thousands of cars and heavy construction equipment from Korea, Japan, Italy and others.

Are these public servants thinking and actions in tune with the reality of the average American family needs, hopes and expectations?

Cuba comes on top at World Track Cycling Championships

Cuba's Yumari Gonzalez Valdivieso celebrates after winning the Women's Scratch race at the World Track Cycling Championships at Pruszkow, near Warsaw, Poland, Friday, March 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

What Lula said yesterday in his CNN interview in regards to Cuba

Brazil President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said he did not speak with Obama about the "absurd" trade embargo the United States imposed on Cuba in 1962.

"The only thing that I believe as a citizen, as the president of my country is that there is no reason -- not from a sociological viewpoint, a military viewpoint, a political viewpoint, an electoral viewpoint, and much less from an economic viewpoint -- to maintain such a blockade," he said.

But Lula da Silva said Obama "should make a gesture" toward Cuba as a first step toward normalizing relations with the communist island.

CNN Report

Amnesty International critical of Cuba’s exclusion from the Summit of the Americas

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Monday, March 30 2009

AMNESTY International in a public statement said the exclusion of Cuba from the Fifth Summit of the Americas is not helpful in achieving improved respect for human rights in Cuba.

Heads of State and Government of all countries in the Americas, except for Cuba, will gather for the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, April 17 to 19. They will discuss some of the most serious challenges facing the region and advance a regional agenda for the promotion of human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability.

The absence of Cuba, the only country to be excluded, Amnesty International said will diminish attempts to find regional solutions to regional problems.

“The battle of ideologies in the context of the Cold War that led to the exclusion of Cuba in 1962 from the Organisation of American States no longer prevails. While all Latin American and Caribbean nations have slowly bridged their differences with Cuba, the US government maintains a policy of isolation that has reached its limits, has not achieved its stated objectives and is impeding Cuba’s growth and development. The USA is now the only country in the Americas not to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba.” the organisation noted.

Amnesty International urged the US government to lift the nearly five-decade long economic and trade embargo against Cuba “as it is detrimental to the fulfilment of the economic and social rights of the Cuban people.

“It obstructs and constrains efforts by the Cuban government to purchase essential medicines, medical equipment and supplies, food and agricultural products, construction materials and access to new technologies. The embargo also denies Cuban-Americans their right to travel freely to their country of origin. The embargo has been overwhelmingly rejected by the United Nations General Assembly for the past seventeen years,” the organisation said.

“Although the US administration has recently eased remittances and travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans, and has allowed US companies more flexibility in selling food and medicine to Cuba, these measures are limited to the end of the current fiscal year.”

Fidel Castro criticizes Biden for embargo support

Sun Mar 29, 2009 11:13pm EDT

HAVANA (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday for saying that the United States will not lift its 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba.

Castro, in a column published on the Internet, said it was "fun to see how the guts of the empire (U.S.) churn, filled with problems and insurmountable contradictions with the people of Latin America."

Biden told reporters during a political summit in Chile on Saturday a "transition" is needed in U.S. policy toward the communist-ruled island, but replied in the negative when asked if the embargo would be ended.

He said he and President Barack Obama "think that Cuban people should determine their own fate and they should be able to live in freedom and with some prospect of economic prosperity."

The 82-year-old Castro, who resigned as Cuba's president last year but still has behind-the-scenes influence, said Biden's comments were a "pity" because all Latin American countries view the embargo as a "burden of the past."

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Alan Elsner)

If Cuba embargo eases, Florida would gain

St. Petersburg Times

By David Adams, Times Latin America Correspondent

In Print: Monday, March 30, 2009

Back in the days before the Kennedy administration slapped an economic embargo on Cuba, Tampa shipping agent A.R. Savage & Son was at the forefront of a lucrative trade with the island. The Tampa area was a major supplier of cattle, and ships brought tobacco for the local cigar industry. There was even a twice-weekly passenger ferry service.

In February 1962, the embargo brought all that to a halt.

Now, 47 years later, many Florida businesses wonder if another major change is in the offing.

Several bills working their way through Congress would make travel and trade easier. In the past, bills like these ran into strong White House resistance and died, but the Obama administration appears more flexible.

"This represents a huge opportunity for our state in these difficult times," said Arthur Savage, president of A.R. Savage & Son. "It's needed now more than ever."

Across the state, companies are dusting off their Cuba business plans, from cruise lines to paint suppliers, wondering what the future of trade with Cuba might look like.

• • •

Look no further than Splash Tropical Drinks, Florida's pioneer in the new Cuba market. Owner Richard Waltzer, 40, took advantage of a crack in the embargo seven years ago to start selling his juice and daiquiri concentrates — made with Florida citrus — for Cuba's tourist industry.

Under a 2000 law, the United States lifted trade restrictions on food, agriculture and some medical supplies. From $1.3 million in 1992, exports to Cuba rose to $718 million last year, just a taste of what full commercial relations might mean.

Waltzer's multimillion-dollar business with Cuba has grown at a 20 percent rate annually since he began. He added four jobs at his Fort Lauderdale firm just to handle Cuba.

Rancher John Parke Wright of Naples has helped arrange the sale to Cuba of 1,100 head of cattle, worth $3 million, including some from Florida. Last year, he brokered the shipment of 2,500 "straws" of Brahma bull semen to be shipped from Texas to boost the quality of the cattle on the island.

If the embargo were lifted, that kind of agricultural trade would grow significantly, concluded a 2007 government report by the International Trade Commission. Experts at the University of Florida calculated that Cuba's agricultural trade could be worth more than $1.7 billion.

Ultimately, the United States could provide more than half of Cuba's agricultural, fish and forest products, the report found, including fresh fruits and vegetables (an estimated $65 million annually); milk powder ($41 million); processed foods ($34 million); wheat ($33 million); and dry beans ($22 million).

Most of the existing Cuba trade consists of Midwest grains shipped from ports in Houston and New Orleans. Arthur Savage & Sons in Tampa handled 18 shipments last year. It has also shipped phosphate-based animal feed supplements produced by Florida companies, loaded at the Port of Tampa and Port Manatee.

"Cuba is a place you can do business," Jay Brickman, vice president of Jacksonville shipping company Crowley Maritime, told a Cuba Trade Expo in Miami last week, praising Cuba's increasingly modern port facilities.

The trade expo was the first time Miami has staged a major gathering of U.S. companies dealing with Cuba, a hot-button issue in the past for exiles. As a sign of the times, the meeting attracted only a handful of protesters.

"Normally we wouldn't care so much about trade with Cuba," said conference organizer Jonathan Bedard. "But in this rough economic climate it's worth thinking about how many more American jobs there might be if we open it up."

• • •

Even without the embargo, it is unlikely Cuba would be transformed overnight into a capitalist economy.

"Cuba is not a heroine in a romantic novel waiting to be ravaged by American businesses," said Robert Muse, a Washington attorney and legal expert on Cuba issues.

Still, Cuba's 11 million population makes it the largest market in the Caribbean and therefore an attractive opportunity for investment if the embargo ended.

If Cuba is serious about raising its food and energy production, the opportunities will surely be there, according to William Messina, a Cuba agriculture expert at the University of Florida. There would be strong demand for Florida farm equipment, as well as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides as Cuba rebuilds its feeble agribusiness sector.

"That could all be supplied relatively easily," he said.

Another major beneficiary would be the travel and cruise industry. Florida would stand to benefit as Americans flocked to the island, by plane and ship. Between 550,000 and 1 million U.S. citizens would visit Cuba annually, the International Trade Commission estimated.

Cruise lines have long salivated at the idea of putting Cuba on their itineraries. "Right now the cruise lines hate Cuba because they have to sail around it," said John McAuliff, director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development in New York, who supports lifting the embargo.

Perhaps the biggest immediate postembargo impact would be in container cargo as Cuban-American exiles flock to major outlets such as Home Depot, Office Depot and Costco, to ship goods not available in Cuba to their relatives.

If Cuba lifted restrictions on private enterprise, a move it has hesitated to make for fear of losing economic control, there could be a flourishing of small stores, selling domestic appliances, computer goods, dry foods, car parts and beauty products, suggests Jorge Pinon, a former oil executive and energy fellow at the University of Miami.

"The nickel and dime business is going to be humongous," he said.

The Port of Tampa would gain if Cuba became a hub for large ships coming through the Panama Canal, said port director Richard Wainio. Currently those ships must travel to New York to unload, and Tampa and central Florida end up receiving most container cargo by rail.

"If those shipments can be broken up and placed on smaller vessels, that would be huge for Tampa," said Wainio, noting that Port Ybor, a modern, $20 million facility, is virtually unused.

In the 1950s, Savage says, Cuba was his company's largest customer. "Those days would return very quickly once the embargo changes," he said. "I expect it will represent the largest challenge that I will see in my working life."

David Adams can be reached at dadams@sptimes.com.

S. 428: "The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act" now has 18 co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate

3/31/2009 Update: The bill has 20 co-sponsors now.


Sen Barrasso, John [WY] - 2/23/2009
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] - 3/2/2009
Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] - 3/11/2009
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 3/10/2009
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 3/10/2009
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] - 3/17/2009
Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] - 2/12/2009
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] - 3/2/2009
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] - 2/12/2009
Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 3/3/2009
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 2/26/2009
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 3/2/2009
Sen Johnson, Tim [SD] - 3/6/2009
Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] - 3/6/2009
Sen Lugar, Richard G. [IN] - 2/12/2009
Sen Reed, Jack [RI] - 3/12/2009
Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] - 3/12/2009
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 2/25/2009

Write to the U.S. Senator for your state and tell him/her: "If I can travel to China and Vietnam, I should be able to visit our neighbors who are only 90 miles from our shores. Listen to the American people; do not listen to the three ultra right wing Representatives from Miami-Dade County, Florida, but above all, do not listen to U.S. Senators Menendez, Nelson and Martinez."

Letter to the editor: Change Cuba Policy

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 30, 2009

I can visit China, North Korea , Vietnam, Iraq, but I cannot visit Cuba 90 miles away. It seems that three South Florida lawmakers of Cuban descent are deciding the policy of the United States toward travel to Cuba. They are deluding themselves into believing anything will change when the old man dies. After living in South Florida for 44 years, I'm sorry I haven't been able to see that country and share the heritage of my Cuban-American neighbors. Our country's policy toward Cuba has not worked and has only hurt the people of Cuba.

Jim Barteld, Pompano Beach

Cuba policy developments tomorrow?

March 30, 2009

Shailagh Murray and Karen Deyoung report today from the pages of the Washington Post that “at a Capitol Hill news conference scheduled for tomorrow, a wide array of senators and interest groups -- including Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.); Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.); Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and Human Rights Watch -- will rally around a potentially historic bill to lift the travel ban.”

The article itself had what I thought was a very wishy-washy title: “Momentum grows for relaxing U.S. policy on Cuba.” What is wrong with calling a spade a spade? A more apt title would have been “It is time to CHANGE our totally failed U.S. Cuba Policy.”

Of course, you can expect the reactionary right-wing of the Democratic Party, led by Robert Menendez (New Jersey) and Bill Nelson (Florida) to actively oppose and try to derail any so-called “relaxation” of our Cuba policies. These two senators, who have always sided and supported the three fascist Congressmen and woman from Miami-Dade County, Florida, are professional “Cuba Haters.” If it was up to me, I would strip them of any leadership positions in the Democratic caucus, and name them as co-chairs of a new congressional committee to buy new paper clips for their fellow senators and representatives.

And let us not forget Mel Martinez, the very able water carrier for Menendez and Nelson. He will be there too trying to derail any Cuba policy reforms.

After the totally idiotic statement yesterday in Chile, from the Vice President of the United States, where he effectively said “I will continue with my head stuck in the sand and I will continue to support the Cuba embargo” you can surmise that the executive branch of our government will give us FAKE CHANGE in our failed Cuba policies.

It is time for Congress to step up to the plate and pass H.R. 188 “The Cuba Reconciliation Act” which lifts the Cuba embargo, and H.R. 874 and S. 428 “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act” which would allow travel to Cuba for ALL AMERICANS.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Nicolas Guillén: TENGO

Cuando me veo y toco
yo, Juan sin Nada no más ayer,
y hoy Juan con Todo,
y hoy con todo,
vuelvo los ojos, miro,
me veo y toco
y me pregunto cómo ha podido ser.

Tengo, vamos a ver,
tengo el gusto de andar por mi país,
dueño de cuanto hay en él,
'mirando bien de cerca lo que antes
no tuve ni podía tener.
Zafra puedo decir,
monte puedo decir,
ciudad puedo decir,
ejercito decir,
ya míos para siempre y tuyos, nuestros,
y un ancho resplandor
de rayo, estrella, flor.

Tengo, vamos a ver,
tengo el gusto de ir
yo, campesino, obrero, gente simple,
tengo el gusto de ir
(es un ejemplo)
a un banco y hablar con el administrador, no en inglés,
no en señor,
sino decirle compañero come se dice en español.

Tengo, vamos a ver,
que siendo un negro
nadie me puede deterner
a la puerta de un dancing o de un bar.
O bien en la carpeta de un hotel
gritarme que no hay pieza,
una mínima pieza y no una pieza colossal,
una pequeña pieza donde yo pueda descansar.

Tengo, vamos a ver,
que no hay guardia rural
que me agarre y me encierre en un cuartel,
ni me arranque y me arroje de mi tierra
al medio del camino real.

Tengo que como tengo la tierra tengo el mar,
no country, no jailáif,
no tennis y no yacht,
sino de playa en playa y ola en ola,
gigante azul abierto democrático:
en fin, el mar.

Tengo, vamos a ver,
que ya aprendí a leer,
a contar,
tengo que ya aprendí a escribir
y a pensar
y a reir.
Tengo que ya tengo
donde trabajar
y ganar
lo que me tengo que comer.
Tengo, vamos a ver,
tengo lo que tenía que tener,

U.S.-Cuba policy: Time to end deceitful travel controls


By Wayne S. Smith

March 29, 2009

President Carter lifted all Cuba travel controls in 1977. From then until 1982, Americans were free to travel to Cuba and to spend money in the process.

That should have been the end of it. But then enter the Reagan administration, which on April 19, 1982, re-imposed restrictions on travel to Cuba. Except for special categories of people with licenses, no one would be allowed to spend money in Cuba. This limited travel as effectively as an outright ban.

Why these new sanctions? Because, said the Reagan administration, of increasing Cuban arms shipments to Central America, and because Cuba refused to negotiate our concerns over its aggressive actions there.

But both charges were outright misrepresentations.

I was at the time the chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. In December of 1981, the Cubans informed me that they were halting all arms shipments, and hoped this could open the way to negotiations in Central America and a dialogue with the United States.

I reported this to the State Department and asked if we had any credible evidence to the contrary, i.e., of continuing shipments. If not, it seemed to me we should respond positively, that we should be open to a dialogue.

In March, the Department acknowledged that we did not have the hard evidence of continuing shipments, but said that there would be no response. In other words, we were not interested in a dialogue.

And though the administration continued to talk of "increasing Cuban arms support," I saw intelligence reports which confirmed drastic reductions, as the Cubans had said.

Our position in Central America, then, was based on outright misrepresentations — and so was the Reagan administration's re-imposition of travel controls in 1982.

It was not Cuba that was refusing to negotiate in Central America; it was the Reagan administration, and it continued to refuse all through the years.

And the deceit continued under the George W. Bush administration. On June 16, 2004, for example, it severely restricted academic travel to Cuba. And it did so because it said: "academic institutions regularly abuse [the] license category and engage in a form of tourism."

But it could never point to a single abuse, as it was required to do under the Administrative Procedures Act. These new limitations, then, were in fact in violation of the law.

We look to President Obama and the Congress to bring an end to this shameful history of violating the constitutional rights of American citizens with measures that are based on lies and that are themselves outside the law. The Treasury Department's action on March 11 to increase Cuban-American travel should be but the first step.

President Obama has the authority immediately to rescind the various executive orders signed by Bush in 2004 on which the restrictions on academic and educational travel, and the travel of Cuban-American families, are based.

And he can support bills now before the House and Senate to allow all Americans to travel freely to Cuba, as they have a constitutional right to do.

Wayne S. Smith is a Senior Fellow of the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.

Biden is wrong

Biden says U.S. does not plan to lift Cuba embargo

Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:33pm EDT

VINA DEL MAR, Chile (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday the United States would not lift the country's embargo on Cuba.

"No," Biden told reporters at a meeting in Chile when asked if the United States planned to lift the embargo.

"We think that Cuban people should determine their own fate and they should be able to live in freedom and have some prospect of economic prosperity," he added.

Several South American defense ministers this month urged President Barack Obama to lift the embargo on Cuba, saying such a move was crucial to improve U.S. ties with the region.

"Obama and I made it clear during our campaign that we thought there's a need for transition in our policy toward Cuba," Biden added.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation last month to ease restrictions on trade with Cuba and family travel to the island.

Supporters hoped the congressional action would be a first step toward reviewing and possibly reversing the decades-old U.S. policy of shunning Cuba.

Obama has made clear he favors relaxing limits on family travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba, although he has said the U.S. trade embargo should stay in place to press for democratic reforms.

(Reporting by Reese Ewing, Simon Gardner and Adrian Croft; editing by Mohammad Zargham)


JG: Will Obama continue the failed policies of his ten predecessors in regards to U.S.-Cuba policies? It appears that way, if Biden represents his views. This is definitely NOT 'Change we can believe in.'

Apparently Joe Biden has not learned the lessons of history.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Miami Christian Women Call for Caravan against All Cuba Travel Restrictions

HAVANA, Cuba, March 26 (ACN) The association of Christian women, in defense of the family, and other organizations that make up the Florida-based Alianza Martiana organization, have made a call to carry out a car caravan in protest against all travel restrictions to Cuba. The caravan will take place on March 29.

Earlier this month, the U.S Treasury Department put an end to Cuba travel restrictions imposed by the Bush administration in the year 2004, however, measures that limit trips to Cuba issued before that year are still in place.

We can't allow any restrictions to our right to travel to Cuba, says the call quoted by Florida-based Areito magazine.

We have to stay firm in our claim for President Obama to keep his vow made during the presidential campaign to lift all family travel restrictions to Cuba, it says.

The Areito report quotes the call as noting that not only Cuban American residents have the right to travel to Cuba but also all U.S citizens do.

Beware of Miami gusanos who post anti-Cuba comments using my name

World Focus published a fair article about the reality of Cuba today. They talk about the good and the bad. Cuban's today are not starving, like during the 'special period' which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Socialist Block.

Apparently, a Miami Gusano published a negative comment [#1] about those "starving" Cubans. My response was comment #3.

The Gusanos in Miami are LEFT ZEROS; they represent nothing or anybody inside the island. That is the reason they hide behind anonymity and try to despretigiar the land which saw them being born.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wanted: 3 Cuban Bowman Chrome BB Cards

Sneak Peek: 2009 Bowman World Baseball Classic Rising Stars cards

JG: I want the Gourriel, Chapman and Enriquez cards, but remember, I do not have the kind of money that Felipe Sixto had when he was trying to bring "democracy" to Cuba. Since these cards will have a short print, they probably will not be cheap!

March 18, 2009, 2:16 pm

Topps announced on Wednesday the inclusion of 20 World Baseball Classic Rising Stars cards that will be included in 2009 Bowman when it arrives in early May.

Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish will be one player many collectors focus on as it’s the first card of Darvish released by an American company and he has a good possibility of pitching in the Major Leagues in the future. He has several Japanese cards produced highlighting his Japanese pro career.

All 20 cards can be found on Base, Chrome, Refractor, X-Fractor, Blue Refractor, Gold Refractor, Orange Refractor, Red Refractor and SuperFractor technologies. The checklist is below:

Yu Darvish, Japan P

Phillippe Aumont, Canada P

Concepcion Rodriguez, Panama OF

Michel Enriquez, Cuba 3B

Yulieski Gurriel, Cuba 3B

Shinnosuke Abe, Japan C

Gift Ngoepe, S. Africa OF

Dylan Lindsa, S. Africa P

Nick Weglarz, Canada OF

Mitch Dening, Australia OF

Justin Erasmus, S. Africa P

Aroldis Chapman, Cuba P

Alex Liddi, Italy 3B

Alexander Smit, Netherlands P

Juan Carlos Sulbaran, Netherlands P

Cheng-Min Peng, Taipei OF

Chenhao Li, China P

Tao Bu, China P

Gregory Halman, Netherlands OF

Fu-Te Ni, Taipei P

Dulce María Loynaz: Al Almendares

"Cuentos del Almendares"

Al Almendares

Este río de nombre musical
llega a mi corazón por un camino
de arterias tibias y temblor de diástoles...

Él no tiene horizontes de Amazonas
ni misterio de Nilos, pero acaso
ninguno lo mejore el cielo limpio
ni la finura de su pie y su talle.

Suelto en la tierra azul ... Con las estrellas
Pastando en los potreros de la Noche...
¡Qué verde luz de los cocuyos hiende
y qué ondular de los cañaverales!

O bajo el sol pulposo de las siestas,
amodorrado entre los juncos gráciles,
se lame los jacintos de la orilla
y se cuaja en el almíbares de oro...
¡Un vuelo de sinsontes encendidos
le traza el dulce nombre de Almendares!

Su color, entre pálido y moreno:
-- Color de mujeres tropicales... --
Su rumbo entre ligero y entre lánguido...
Rumbo de libre pájaro en el aire.

Le bebe al campo el sol de la madrugada,
le ciñe a la ciudad brazo de amante.


Born in Cuba in 1902, Loynaz established her reputation as a poet in the first half of the 20th century. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, she retreated to her house, vowing to never write poetry again and refusing to leave the island of her birth. Like a Cuban Emily Dickinson, she lived out the -remainder of her life in seclusion. In 1992, she received the Cervantes Prize, the most prestigious writing award in the Spanish language. She died in 1997. A Woman in Her Garden presents a bilingual selection of work from all phases of her career. Judith Kerman is professor of humanities at Saginaw Valley State College in Michigan. Her books of poetry include Mothering and The Jacoba Poems.

More details

A Woman in Her Garden: Selected Poems of Dulce Maria Loynaz
By Dulce María Loynaz, Judith Kerman
Translated by Judith Kerman
Published by White Pine Press, 2002
ISBN 1893996557, 9781893996557
192 pages

Report to Cuba's National Assembly of People's Power

March 27, 2009

Cuba's daily Juventud Rebelde reported today that a report will be presented to the National Assembly of People's Power, the top legislative body in the country. The study deals with the material shortages in the island and the lack of response by the authorities to reported problems.

The report emphasizes that some of the factors that delay the answers to citizen's complaints are the lack of sensibility and the non-investigations of the problems that are presented to the relevant authorities. The answers that are given to the citizens lack any fundamentals, are too technical, show little professionalism and take a long time.

Article in Spanish


JG: This shows very clearly that problems inside the island are not swept under the rug. Someone must be held accountable for the lack of response to citizens complaints.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

U.S. Representative Jerry Moran Introduces Legislation to Ease Agricultural Trade Restrictions with Cuba

Press Release

Bill Removes Barriers for Present and Future Sales of U.S. Products

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Jerry Moran this week introduced legislation to improve the ability of U.S. agriculture producers to market their products to Cuba. H.R. 1737, the Agricultural Export Facilitation Act of 2009, removes barriers to present and future sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) of 2000.

"With the current economy placing new hardships on our producers, this is an opportune time to encourage the United States to change its trade policies toward Cuba," Moran said. "Cuba is an important market for U.S. agriculture, as well as for manufacturers and distributors of food products. But the actions of our own government have created a climate of uncertainty and have inhibited the sale of agricultural goods. Our unreliable and uncertain trade policies are sending the signal to Cuba that it is easier to purchase its products elsewhere. We are only hurting ourselves."

"It's no secret that for American farmers to succeed we need to export more of our commodities and trade reform with Cuba is long overdue," said Steve Baccus, a grain farmer from Ottawa County, Kan., who serves as president of Kansas Farm Bureau. "Knocking down trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba will help feed hungry people in Cuba and help the bottom lines of many struggling U.S. farm families."

The passage of TSREEA in 2000 allowed for the export of agriculture products to Cuba for the first time in 38 years. In 2005, however, a change by the Treasury Department to the cash payment in advance rule caused payments for agriculture exports to be made before ships leave U.S. ports rather than upon delivery, making it more difficult for American farmers to sell their products to Cuba. H.R. 1737 clarifies that a seller of a product receives payment at the time a Cuban purchaser takes physical possession of that product.

"We appreciate Congressman Moran's dedication to easing trade and travel restrictions with Cuba," said Jerry McReynolds, a wheat producer from Woodston, Kan., and the first vice president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. "It is extremely important that we are able to trade with our close neighbors, and we look forward to working with Congressman Moran and other supporters to ensure that this issue progresses this year."

For U.S. agricultural representatives engaging in sales and transport-related activities with Cuba, this legislation will eliminate delays and denials for obtaining licenses to travel to Cuba. It will also allow Cuban officials to obtain visas for meetings with prospective U.S. exporters and for conducting sanitary and phytosanitary inspections of U.S. agriculture facilities. Finally, H.R. 1737 permits direct payments between Cuban and U.S. financial institutions. This change will permit U.S. exporters to receive payments within hours instead of days and will eliminate an unnecessary transaction fee.

Moran's legislation comes three weeks after U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stated he would avoid making policy changes as directed by H.R. 1105, the FY 2009 omnibus appropriations bill. In a letter to Senators Robert Menendez and Bill Nelson, Sec. Geithner stated: "Treasury believes that this change will likely have no influence on current financing rules."

"I was disappointed to hear Sec. Geithner's recent comments," Moran said. "I had hoped this administration would abandon the failed policies of past administrations in regard to trade with Cuba. It is clear to me that Congress must speak directly on the issue if change in policy is to be accomplished."

This month, Moran joined members of the Cuba Working Group in sending a letter to Sec. Geithner to request a meeting to discuss U.S. trade policies. Moran is a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee.

The following Members have signed onto H.R. 1737 as original sponsors:

Charles W. Boustany, Jr. (LA-07)

John Boozman (AR-03)

Henry E. Brown, Jr. (SC-01)

Michael K. Conaway (TX-11)

Marion Berry (AR-01)

Lincoln Davis (TN-04)

William D. Delahunt (MA-10)

Donna F. Edwards (MD-04)

Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08)

Jeff Flake (AZ-06)

James P. McGovern (MA-03)

Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)

Ron Paul (TX-14)

Mike Ross (AR-04)

Vic Snyder (AR-02)

Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02)

Timothy J. Walz (MN-01)


Cigars & Cuba: 50 Years of History

The scenic Viñales Valley, part of Cuba's Vuelta Abajo, where much fine tobacco is cultivated.

Cigar Aficionado

Premium hand-rolled cigars, the pride of the island, have seen ups and downs since the revolution, but still remain the world's benchmark smokes

Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009

By James Suckling

Click here to read the full story.


Beware of counterfeit Cohibas sold in Florida.

A Genuine Cohiba

A counterfeit Cohiba sold in Florida

This is the first fake band Cigar Aficionado has seen that was on a Cohiba Siglo VI. It has two obvious font problems. The brand name is of smaller type than the original, and the scripted "Habana, Cuba" is darker than it should be. There's also a slim line of white between the rows of white dots and the brand name, which shouldn't be there. The gold luster of the real band hasn't been replicated properly, either, perhaps proving that the Cuban cigar industry chose well when redesigning the band on perhaps their most famous brand.

Cuba loosens spending rule for state companies

Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:46pm EDT

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Raul Castro has loosened controls on how state companies spend foreign currency in the first sign a recent cabinet shake-up heralds changes in the running of the economy, businessmen and economists said.

The Cuban and foreign sources said authorities have ended a regulation requiring the Central Bank to approve all state company expenditures of more than $10,000. Analysts said the move would mean less bureaucracy and central control.

The regulation now lifted had slowed the day-to-day operations of state businesses and hurt production, but in the end had done little to effectively control state spending on the island, the sources said. They asked not to be named due to government restrictions on talking with foreign journalists.

Complete Story

Texas farm exports to Cuba nearly double

The Dallas Morning News

11:19 AM CDT on Thursday, March 26, 2009

By JIM LANDERS / The Dallas Morning News


Texas farm exports to Cuba have nearly doubled in the last year in line with Cuba’s appetite for American agriculture, but that trend may falter along with the slumping global economy.

C. Parr Rosson III, a Texas A&M professor and agriculture economist, said Texas farmers sent $85 million to $90 million of wheat, corn, soybeans and frozen chickens to Cuba last year as U.S. farm exports to Cuba surged from $430 million in 2007 to $715 million.

Tourists visiting Cuba accounted for much of the demand for U.S. farm goods and provided the foreign exchange needed to buy such goods, Rosson said.

With recession spreading around the world, however, Cuba’s tourism industry might tail off this year.

“Cuba is a significant market for Texas, and it can grow in the future,” Rosson said.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The return of depression era shanty towns: trying to survive in failing U.S. capitalism

An encampment of tents under an overpass in Fresno. (Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Read New York Times article.

More than half a million persons have visited the Playa Girón Museum

Cuba Debate

Havana, March 25, (AIN) More than half a million persons have visited the Museo de Girón, in the municipality of Ciénaga de Zapata, Matanzas Province, 33 years after its inauguration.

In public declarations published in Granma newspaper, Bárbara Sierra, director of that institution, said that among the many personalities that were received who they specially remember with special pleasure is that of the leader of the Cuban Revolution on April 11th of 1996.

This memorial is dedicated to the battle of the Cuban people against the mercenary invasion of the U.S. Government in April 1961.

It displays the martyrs who fell during that battle and items of historical value like the captain bars and logo of Luis Alfonso Silva Tablada, a Cuban pilot who died in combat during the events.

Also the uniform with projectiles impacts which was worn when Eduardo García Delgado died, who wrote with his blood the name of Fidel; and the white shoes of young girl Nemesia Rodríguez, which were destroyed during the bombardments of the yankee air planes.

These and other testimonial evidences attract the attention of Cuban and foreigners who daily visit the installation, which is currently celebrating the upcoming 48th anniversary of the Playa Girón victory.

The program includes a tribute to the light combat infantry, the first force to answer the mercenary attack.

Cuba Rescues Guayabita del Pinar Tree

Guayabita Review

Guayabita Website

Adalys Pilar Rodriguez Mireles

Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Mar 25 (Prensa Latina) The Guayabita del Pinar tree, endemic of West Cuba, survives in mountain reserves and plots designed to preserve the raw material for an old, exclusive liquor.

Experts from Hermanos Saiz University developed a project to try and rescue the Psidium Salutare which the locals venerate but its tree population is in progressive decline.

The tree was abundant in grasslands but development of rural areas and intensive forest expansion displaced it to inaccessible areas. Controlled growth helps boost survival and genetically improve the near eight-feet-tall tree. Its fruit is the main component for Guayabita del Pinar, one of the smallest national liquor factories. It was built in the 20th century in Vueltas, Pinar del Rio, whose people discovered its powers.

The spirit, produced by soaking the tiny fruit, favorite of local tobacco growers to mitigate cold and dampness in the plantations, is put to age in old cedar barrels.

In time, it became a tradition to toast at festivities and on special occasions with Guayabita del Pinar, winner of numerous national and international awards and a symbol of Cuba.

How Felipe Sixto spent the $600,000 that he stole

Here's how Felipe Sixto says he spent the money he stole, according to court documents. Note the $10,200 piano, the $5,000 for artwork, and $16,000 for travel and lodging.

Read the complete story at Along the Malecon

Samurai Japan receives heroes' welcome

2009 WBC Trophy

The Japan Times

Thursday, March 26, 2009


NARITA, Chiba Pref. (Kyodo) Japan returned home to a heroes' welcome Wednesday after successfully defending its World Baseball Classic title.

The team was greeted with loud cheers from around 1,200 fans as Japan manager Tatsunori Hara led his team through a packed arrivals lobby at Narita airport.

"We are able to come back to Japan as the No. 1 team in the world. We battled to the best of our ability," Hara told a press conference.

"We showed Japan's strength through tenacity and mental toughness, especially in the final against South Korea. The players are able to come home with their heads held high. I am extremely proud to be manager of the world's No. 1 team," added the Yomiuri Giants skipper.

Japan knocked out the United States in the semifinals before going on to beat Asian rival and Beijing Olympic champion South Korea 5-3 in 10 innings in Monday's final in Los Angeles.

Millions of people across Japan tuned in to watch the final live on television while Prime Minister Taro Aso hailed the team's efforts, saying, "We have reaffirmed the fundamental power of our country through this tournament."

Japan beat Cuba in San Diego to win the inaugural WBC in 2006.

Cuba retains top spot at the IBAF world rankings

The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) has released the new World Baseball Rankings after the Japanese win in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The rankings and points are as follow:

1-Cuba 1072.18 points.

2-South Korea 939.82.

3-Japan 891.

4-United States 859.32.

5-Taipei of China 471.82.

6-Holland 382.57.

7-México 280.25.

8-Canada 280.19.

9-Australia 214.11.

10-Puerto Rico 211.14.

11-Venezuela 210.68.

12-Panamá 206.32.

13-Italy 150.88.

14-China 125.00.

15-Nicaragua 123.50.

16-Dominican Republic 105.68.

17-Spain 69.50.

18-Brasil 41.50.

19-South Africa 37.93.

20-Germany 36.32.

Source: Granma

South African goverment to award its top honour to Fidel Castro

06:28 AEST Thu Mar 26 2009

South Africa will bestow the nation's highest honour for foreign nationals to former Cuban president Fidel Castro, the presidency announced on Wednesday.

Castro will be granted the Order of Companions of O.R. Tambo in Gold, which the government says is awarded for friendship shown to South Africa.

"It is therefore an order of peace, co-operation and active expression of solidarity and support," the award's website says.

Castro, 82, has been recovering from gastrointestinal surgery in July 2006 and has not been seen in public since. He turned the reins of government over to his brother, Raul.

Last year South Africa awarded Castro its highest humanitarian honour, the Ubuntu award, for his contributions to "humankind beyond boundaries."

Castro was a key supporter of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The O. R. Tambo prize is named after Oliver Tambo, who was leader of the African National Congress in exile during apartheid. He died in April 1993.

Source: news.ninemsn.com.au

2009 WBC All-Tournament Team


(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

MVP: Daisuke Matzusaka, Japan

Pitcher: Hisashi Iwakuma, Japan

Pitcher: Jung Keun Bong, Korea

Outfield: Norichika Aoki, Japan

Outfield: Frederich Cepeda, Cuba

Outfield: Yoennis Cespedes, Cuba

First Base: Tae Kyun Kim, Korea

Second Base: Jose Lopez, Venezuela

Third Base: Bum Ho Lee, Korea

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, USA

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico

Designated Hitter: Hyun Soo Kim, Korea

Source: MLB and Granma

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cuba set for first big U.S. art exhibit since 1980s

Padraig Tarrant's piece "Castrobama" in display at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, is part of the "Chelsea Visits Havana" exhibit. (Photo: Galeano / AP)

Tue Mar 24, 2009 7:30pm EDT

By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - U.S. artists are preparing for the first big group exhibition of American art in Cuba since the 1980s in what they hope is a harbinger of better relations between the two countries.

The work of more than 30 artists representing New York City's Chelsea district will be displayed March 28 through May 17 at Havana's Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in an exhibit called "Chelsea Visits Havana."

U.S. curator Alberto Magnan said on Tuesday the exposition's purpose was to give Cubans a chance to see American art, little of which has made its way to the Communist-run island during the past 50 years of hostilities between the United States and Cuba.

"Art has always been a bridge to culture, and if this is any sign of things to come, it's a great first step," said Magnan, a Cuban-American and Chelsea art gallery owner.

The pieces range from a painting of what could be Cuban refugees boating into Miami to an elaborate work that includes television sets and a transmitter that will beam out a video of an apocalyptic city of the future.

Some of it, such as a red cutout with the profiles of U.S. President Barack Obama and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, makes overt reference to U.S.-Cuba relations.

Magnan and wife Dara Metz are curating the exhibit along with the Havana museum's Abelardo Maena, who said the last group exhibit of U.S. artists in Cuba took place in 1986.

One of the visiting artists, Jade Townsend, said that just as Cubans would get to see American art, he and his colleagues had gotten to view Cuban art in the context of Cuba's culture and socialist political system.

"There's a certain freedom we don't have and there's a certain freedom they don't have," he said.

Cuban artists do not have the same "commercial drive behind their work, which facilitates a different way of working, and that's sort of incredible," he said.

Cuba and the United States were close allies until a 1959 revolution put Fidel Castro in power and led to the 1962 imposition of a U.S. trade embargo aimed at toppling Cuba's Communist-run government.

U.S.-Cuba hostilities increased during the Bush administration, which toughened the embargo, but Obama has taken office with the promise of improving relations between the countries separated only by the Straits of Florida.

Planning for the exhibit began while President George W. Bush was in office, but Obama's promise of change had given added significance to the event, said artist Doug Young.

"I think it's the first stitch in a fabric that will grow to be a big banner of freedom for everybody," he said.

(Editing by Jim Loney)


NY Art Exhibit Takes Chelsea to Havana

Chelsea artists, galleries are being featured in an exhibit in Havana. The organizers hope this is a step toward improving relations between the United States and Cuba. (March 23)


Latin America Herald Tribune

U.S. Art Exhibit Opened in Cuba with Hopes of Building Bridges

HAVANA – The “Chelsea Visits Havana” exhibition was inaugurated Saturday in the Cuban capital as the first big display of U.S. art on the island attended by artists from that country in more than 50 years, according to the organizers, who are hoping the project will build bridges between creative people from the two countries.

Works by 33 U.S. artists from 28 of the hundreds of galleries in New York’s Chelsea district comprise the exhibition that has been in the making for 2 1/2 years with the backing of United States and Cuban authorities, Alberto Magnan, curator of the exhibit, told Efe.

Magnan, who is also the organizer of the project together with his wife Dara Metz, said that the whole idea came from the problems Cuban artists have had when trying to show their work in the United States.

“Many Cuban artists that I wanted to show in the United States couldn’t go because they were denied visas. I wanted a big artistic exchange between Cuba and the United States and sometimes it was hard to do that,” the Cuban-American Magnan, who left the island when he was only 10 years old, said.

His solution was to present his exhibition project to the Havana Fine Arts Museum, which gave him the go-ahead, as did U.S. authorities at a time when George W. Bush was still president.

It was strange, the Americans had no problem with that and they liked the idea, so we could as an intermediary bring the two sides together and go to the galleries, which were enthusiastic about showing the works here,” he said.

The economic embargo that the United States has imposed on the island for almost half a century was no obstacle against art crossing the Straits of Florida.

“Since this is art, it doesn’t need a license from the Treasury Department, because art is excluded from the embargo. I need a license but the artworks don’t,” Magnan said, adding that all the works were sent here directly without going through third countries.

On display from now until May 17 at the Fine Arts Museum are works by artists like Tony Ousler, Jack Pierson, Edward Brutynsky, Jules de Balincourt, Tim Rollins and Marina Abramovic. Fifteen of the artists exhibiting plan to visit Havana.

Photos, videos, installations and paintings make up part of an exhibition in which can be found a rocket command table from the time of the missile crisis full of cigarettes, because, Magnan said, the operator “never had any work to do.”

Beside it stands a Mount Rushmore with the presidents of the United States and Barack Obama sculpted in telephone directories.

There is even a painting by Balincourt with rappers navigating a boat past a city that suggests a connection with Cubans who left the island on rafts.

Despite the air of normality surrounding the exhibition and the fact that over the years a number of U.S. artists have mounted individual exhibits on the island, to find a complete exhibition brought from the country to the north one has to go back to 1986.

At that time, several artists sent their works to the island that were exhibited in a show called “Outside of the Embargo,” although the artists themselves did not go to Cuba.

That’s why Magnan says that the “last big exhibition” with the presence of American artists in Cuba was back in the 1950s.

Asked why, if the embargo wasn’t an obstacle, so much time had to pass for such an exhibition to be staged, the curator said: “I don’t know, maybe they didn’t think they could do it.”

With the first step taken and the hopes for change in bilateral relations raised by Barack Obama entering the White House, Magnan sees viability and continuity in the experience.

“I’d like to continue with this project as the first step towards the United States and Cuba talking together, to an artistic dialogue,” he said in commenting on the possibility of exchanges of artwork, exhibits in the two countries, and even an art show at the Chelsea Art Museum.”

Magnan said that it’s “very possible” and that there are some people who are “very enthusiastic” about the idea.

Colección Habanos 2008

Sublimes Extra de Cohiba es la vitola seleccionada por Habanos, S.A. para la Colección Habanos de 2008. Esta especialidad se presenta en estuches con forma de libro y la edición de este año supone el octavo volumen de la Serie.

Este estuche contará con 20 Sublimes Extra, vitola de calibre grueso (Cepo 54 y de largo 184 mm) que la convierten en una vitola especialmente diseñada para ser recordada como uno de las más brillantes de la marca. Los elementos distintivos de esta vitola son: excelente longitud, calibre grueso, ligada bien balanceada, tiro de excelencia, refinado aroma y el tradicional sabor de Cohiba.

* La Colección Habanos de 2008 dedicada a la marca Cohiba. La vitola seleccionada es Sublimes Extra.

* La colección Habanos es un producto exclusivo para Las Casas del Habano.

Las hojas que se usan en la confección de Cohiba son la ”selección de la selección” y proceden de las zonas tabacaleras de la región de Vuelta Abajo. Cohiba tiene una característica que la destaca por encima de las demás marcas de Habanos. Dos de sus hojas para tripa, el seco y el ligero, experimentan una tercera fermentación en barriles lo cual añade un mayor refinamiento a la ligada.

La producción limitada a sólo 1000 estuches, elaborados por artesanos cubanos, lo convierte en un producto muy demandado para aquellos que buscan la exclusividad y estará disponible en los próximos meses en Las Casas del Habano de todo el mundo.

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Luis Posada Carriles appeal

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press

Published: March 23, 2009

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Supreme Court has turned down Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles' attempt to have immigration fraud charges thrown out because the government used trickery and deceit to build a case against him.

The justices, in an order Monday, are letting stand a ruling by the federal appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana, that the 81-year-old anti-Castro militant should stand trial on charges that he lied to federal authorities in his 2005 bid to become a U.S. citizen.

Earlier, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in El Paso, Texas, dismissed the criminal charges because the government used the pretext of a naturalization interview to build the case against Posada.

The Cuban-born citizen of Venezuela is wanted in the South American country on charges that he orchestrated the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Posada was arrested in the United States on a civil immigration violation in May 2005 after sneaking into the country from Mexico about two months earlier. Posada, a former CIA operative and U.S. Army officer, has claimed that he was brought across the border into Texas by a smuggler, but federal authorities have alleged that he sailed from Mexico to Florida.

Venezuela wants to extradite Posada from the United States so that he can stand trial for the airliner bombing.


JG: This idiocy of charging the most notorious Cuban terrorist who lives freely in Miami with only violations of immigration laws is a huge joke and a smoke screen. The truth of the matter is that both former President Bush and current President Obama continue to protect and give refuge to this well known Miami terrorist.

Charge Posada Carriles with being a terrorist. Put him on trial for murdering 73 Cuban civilians in a Cubana de Aviacion airliner in 1976.

Stop the hypocrisy!

President Chavez calls for Cuba to be included in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for the inclusion of Cuba in the Fifth Summit of the Americas, and urged US President Barack Obama to lift his country's 47-year-old trade embargo on the communist nation.

"If we all are friends of Cuba, we cannot continue accepting impositions from the North American empire," said Chavez on Sunday during his weekly television and radio programme, Hello President.

Source: Trinidad and Tobago Express

Florida's Sarasota Yacht Club aspires to compete in Cuba

Jay Meyer, left, with Bill Chastain, wants to take up to 100 boats to Cuba for a regatta in June.


Sarasota Herald Tribune

By Toni Whitt

Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 6:52 a.m.

SARASOTA - Now that President Barack Obama has taken office, a group of sailing enthusiasts are hoping to reopen routes from Florida to Cuba through competitive sailing events.

Jay Meyer, a member of Sarasota Yacht Club's sailing team, has applied with the federal government for permission to compete in a sailing regatta off Cuba's coast -- something he last did 15 years ago, before the United States prohibited virtually all travel to the island nation.

While travel to Cuba is still heavily regulated, Meyer is hoping the new administration will allow him to take as many as 100 sailboats, yachts, powerboats and their crews to Cuba for a 15-mile race in June.

At least one expert in global trade relations believes Meyer might have a shot at it this year.

This month, the Obama administration relaxed some travel restrictions, allowing relatives to visit their family members in Cuba once a year, rather than once every three years, and expanding the definition of family members to include cousins, aunts and uncles.

Because the sailors would not be visiting relatives, they must apply for a specific license from the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which permits travel for competitive events under strict guidelines.

Cuba's sailing team and its Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba initiated the request after inviting the Sarasota Yacht Club to participate in an offshore race near Havana. It would restore a 70-year-old international tradition.

Several members of the Sarasota Yacht Club are hoping that if they can get the permit, their effort might reopen Cuba for regular regattas.

Don Payzant, the fleet captain for the Yacht Club, said Cuba and sailing clubs from the west coast of Florida regularly raced until Fidel Castro's coup in 1959. There were still occasional races in the ensuing years.

Cindy Clifton, who organizes regattas for the yacht club, said her husband has been to Cuba for racing events a dozen times. He made friends there whom he has not seen in years.

The Sarasota Sailing Squadron organized an 84-boat race to Cuba in 1994. Clifton said the group organized another regatta during President George W. Bush's first term in office, but their permits were rescinded days before the race.

"Nobody I know has gone to Cuba since 2002," Clifton said.

Sailors formerly had little trouble going to Cuba so long as they brought along their own provisions, did not pay docking fees and did not spend money in Cuba.

But in February 2004, as part of his Homeland Security initiatives, President Bush signed a presidential proclamation declaring that U.S. boats could be boarded and seized if federal agents believed the operators were going to Cuba, citing the terrorist threat posed by that country.

In June 2004, federal indictments were issued against two Florida regatta organizers who were charged with violating the federal "Trading With the Enemy Act."

Peter Goldsmith of the Key West Sailing Club, and Michele Geslin, a Key West sailmaker, were charged for promoting their regatta on the Internet and collecting fees from participants, without Treasury Department approval. While their race began and ended in Florida, U.S. sailboats that participated made two planned stopovers in Cuba.

In the end, the pair were fined $11,000 each and have been denied export privileges, such as organizing a regatta which apparently falls into that category, for three years.

"Clearly anybody at this point who want to travel to Cuba for any reason, wants to make sure they get the appropriate permits to travel," said Lawrence Friedman, a partner in the Chicago-based global trade law firm Barnes, Richardson & Colburn.

Friedman said it could be easier to get permits to travel to Cuba under the current administration given the changes already approved.

"It's not a slam dunk for them, but the fact that they are going through the process, it's an organized sporting event and they are being careful to avoid contributing to the Cuban economy, there is a chance," Friedman said.

"There is a history of making exceptions for actual competitions and opening trade through sports."

Meyer said he sees an opportunity to bring back "spirited competitions" in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

Friedman said a sporting event has worked before to thaw relations.

Next: 2009 Baseball World Cup

The 2009 Baseball World Cup is set to be held in 7 countries in Europe from September 9 to the 26th with 22 teams from around the world participating.

Phase 1 will involve 20 teams in 5 countries, and Phase 2 will involve 16 teams in 2 countries. Then the final medal phase will be held in Rome, Italy.

The host countries for Phase 1 are: Spain (Barcelona), Germany (Regensburg), Sweden (Sundbyberg), Czech Republic (Prague) and Russia (Moscow).

Phase 2 will be played in Italy and the Netherlands, involving the cities of Parma, Rimini, Bologna for Pool Italy and Haarlem, Rotterdam, Amsterdam for Pool Netherlands.

Here are the 24 teams which will participate in the initial Phase 1:

Venue: Prague

Australia, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Mexico.

Venue: Barcelona

Cuba, South Africa, Spain, Puerto Rico.

Venue: Sundbyberg

Canada, South Korea, Sweden, Netherland Antilles.

Venue: Moscow

Great Britain, Japan, Russia, Nicaragua.

Venue: Regensberg

Germany, China, United States, Venezuela

For more info visit Wikipedia.