Sunday, January 31, 2010

William Hague's Cuba trip raises new questions on Lord Ashcroft's Tory role

William Hague's Cuba trip raises new questions on Lord Ashcroft's Tory role

Calls to clarify Lord Ashcroft's position after revelation that he
provided flights for William Hague's visit to Havana last year, and then
accompanied him to top-level meetings

It was a scene that Graham Greene would surely have enjoyed: our men in
Havana, a billionaire peer and a top Tory politician, sipping drinks on
a 150ft yacht in the Hemingway marina before holding talks with a
communist regime.

But the decision of William Hague to allow Lord Ashcroft to provide
flights for and then accompany him on an official foreign visit to Cuba
has prompted calls for the Tories to clarify the role of the party's
biggest-ever donor, whose donations are still subject to an official
investigation. The disclosure raises new questions about Ashcroft's role
and his close relationship with Hague. It follows previous disclosures
in the Observer that Ashcroft accompanied Hague to key meetings in
Washington in November.

Last night Labour and the Lib Dems expressed surprise that Ashcroft, who
has extensive business interests in the surrounding Caribbean and no
official frontbench role in the party, is now Hague's right-hand man,
attending meetings with foreign powerbrokers as the Tories prepare for

Last night Chris Bryant, a Foreign Office minister, questioned the
Tories' decision to meet only Cuban government officials, a move he said
breached the spirit of European rules, which state that such visits
should not take place until and unless until there is a freedom to meet
opponents of the regime.

Chris Bryant, the minister for Europe, said Hague's meeting with
official government figures was a "slap in the face" for opponents of
the regime. "It seems William Hague held talks with the Cuban government
but completely ignored the opposition in Cuba. It has been an accepted
principle across Europe, enshrined in the EU common position, that we
would only make high-level ­visits to Cuba if we were free to visit
whomever we want. Hague's actions have been a real slap in the face for
those who are campaigning for a more open Cuba.

"Every time he is asked, Hague is remarkably vague about Lord Ashcroft's
tax status. Yet he seems to have not just used his plane, but travelled
with him on countless occasions and stayed on his luxury yacht. What on
earth is Ashcroft doing attending Hague's overseas meetings with foreign

Lord Oakeshott, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, said Hague should have
declared his stay on Ashcroft's yacht.

"Hague is covering up Lord Ashcroft's lavish hospitality by not
declaring he's stayed on his yacht for the price of a hotel room. It's
like Hague claiming that he does not have to declare his flights on a
private jet because he has handed over the fare of a Ryanair ticket."

Hague's three-day Cuban visit began on 15 March 2009 when he flew with
Ashcroft into Havana, courtesy of a private jet from Flying Lion Ltd, a
company controlled by the Belize-based billionaire. Hague has flown with
the company on at least 10 previous occasions.

The relationship between the two men is very close, according to Tory
insiders. Ashcroft was the Conservative party's main financial backer
during Hague's four years as leader from 1997 to 2001, and he was
nominated by Hague for a peerage. He now runs Conservative party
strategy in marginal seats, and sits in on meetings in his capacity as
the party's deputy chairman.

While in Havana, they met Panama's then foreign minister, Samuel Lewis
Navarro. According to Panamanian news reports from three years ago,
Ashcroft and Navarro were co-directors of Panama Holdings Subsidiary
Inc. Together, the group met with Cuba's foreign minister Bruno
Rodríguez Parrilla for a three-hour lunch in the capital. That evening,
Hague and Ashcroft retired to one of Ashcroft's two "mega-yachts".

The British embassy in Havana was surprised to receive a telephone call
from Hague in which he announced he was in the country and suggested a
meeting with the ambassador, Dianna Melrose.

"It was unusual, to say the least. We get very few visiting dignitaries
here because of Foreign Office rules," said one embassy official. "They
came over for a meeting and talked openly about their meetings with
Cuban government officials. Then they went back to Ashcroft's yacht."

Hague has visited the region before, courtesy of Ashcroft's company. He
stayed in accommodation provided by Navarro on a visit to Panama in
2007. It was then that Hague also visited Belize, the tax haven where
Ashcroft's business has been based for nearly 30 years, as well as the
Turks and Caicos Islands, where Ashcroft's bank has interests.

Ashcroft has repeatedly refused to clarify his tax status in Britain.
His company, Bearwood Corporate Services, is at the centre of an
Electoral Commission investigation into whether millions of pounds given
to the Tories were in breach of electoral law, following allegations
that the company was not "carrying on business" in Britain.

According to Hague's spokesman, he paid Ashcroft for his two-night stay
in his yacht at a rate equivalent to two nights' stay in a top hotel,
but declined to say how much he had paid or his method of payment. In
his entry to the register of members' interests, Hague declared the
flights from Flying Lion, but added: "I covered the cost of my

One former parliamentary official last night said Hague's decision not
to actually register his stay on the yacht was outside the spirit of the
rules. Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards
in Public Life, said: "The key point is whether he entered an obligation
when he stayed on the yacht. I think his decision not to mention it is
outside the spirit of the rules," he said.

Hague's spokesman last night defended his decision to hold talks with a
Cuban minister with Ashcroft. "We are not confined as the opposition by
such a protocol and actual EU governments vary greatly in how they
interpret it. The purpose of Mr Hague's visit to Cuba was to engage with
Cuba's leaders and assess the effectiveness of EU policy towards Cuba.
His view is that the communist regime in Havana may find a degree of
opening up to their country by Europe and the USA a greater challenge
than the sanctions imposed in recent times."

A spokesman for Ashcroft declined to comment on his relationship with
Hague or Navarro but said that the peer had no investments in Cuba, and
had no plans to invest in Cuba in the future.

William Hague's Cuba trip raises new questions on Lord Ashcroft's Tory
role | Politics | The Observer (31 January 2010)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Being Poor and White Is Not the Same as Being Poor and Black in Cuba

"Being Poor and White Is Not the Same as Being Poor and Black" in Cuba
Patricia Grogg interviews University of Havana researcher ESTEBAN MORALES
Credit:Patricia Grogg/IPS

HAVANA, Jan 29, 2010 (IPS) - The elimination of racism remains
unfinished business in Cuba today. "We have to admit that the problem
exists, determine its impact on the social model that we defend, and
tackle it in depth," says Esteban Morales, an Afro-Cuban economist,
political scientist and author of numerous articles and essays on the

As a researcher at the University of Havana's Centre for the Study of
the Hemisphere and the United States (CEHSEU), Morales could also be
considered an expert on U.S. affairs.

While he openly admits to the persistence of racism in Cuba, he takes
issue with a statement recently issued by a group of 60 African-American
artists and intellectuals accusing the Cuban government of Raúl Castro
of persecuting and harassing black citizens based on the colour of their

As far as Morales is concerned, accusations like these reflect a lack of
awareness of the reality on the ground in Cuba, and "are trumped up as
part of the same campaigns that U.S. governments have always waged
against the Cuban revolution.

"We talk about racism and say that we need to perfect guarantees of
civil and democratic rights, but not only for blacks in Cuba - for
society as whole. This is a struggle in which our allies include the
country's highest political leadership," he says in this interview with IPS.

Q: Why has the Cuban revolution's social model not succeeded in
eliminating the disadvantages faced by the black population?

A: Despite the radical nature of the process that got underway in 1959,
the country's social policies failed to take skin colour into account.
In terms of social policy, after the triumph of the revolution, all poor
people were treated equally, without differentiating between whites and
blacks. But this was something that needed to be done, because the
colour of one's skin in Cuba is a significant variable in social

White people came to Cuba by their own free will, as colonisers, with
goals that they very often achieved. Black people were brought here by
force and turned into slaves. These are very different starting points
that cannot be forgotten or ignored, and that continue to have an impact

Despite the fact that everyone's living standards improved and black
Cubans achieved a more favourable position over the last half century,
the profound differences did not disappear entirely. During the special
period [the economic crisis of the 1990s, following the collapse of the
East European socialist bloc], we realised that those who were hit
hardest by the crisis were in fact black Cubans, who had fewer
possibilities of forging a livelihood.

Even in Cuba today, being poor and white is not the same as being poor
and black.

Q: And yet the Cuban government declared in 1962 that the problem of
racism had been overcome.

A: That was a mistake, caused by idealism and wilfulness, and the
pressures of political circumstances in those years. From that time on,
there was a long period of silence on the subject, since talking about
racial differences was seen as playing into the hands of the enemy.
Anyone who insisted on bringing up the subject was considered racist and

The issue of racism re-emerged during the special period, and with the
kind of virulence you would expect from a problem that was supposed to
have been solved, but actually wasn't.

Q: On more than one occasion you have said that in this country, people
are educated "to be white." Do you think it would be fair to view this
kind of contradiction as a form of "institutionalised" racism?

A: It is a certain kind of institutionalised racism, but not as a result
of specific directives, or a conscious decision. It is more a result of
flaws and errors in the educational process, in the teaching of history,
in the racial representations in our books. It is a result of failing to
address in the schools, in depth, the consequences of slavery, which are
still felt today.

The problem is not with the institution of education, but rather with
aspects and problems of social life, with dysfunctionalities and
imperfections in our society. In Cuba there is still a lack of racial
awareness. For whites, it isn't important , because they have always
been in power. But blacks need racial awareness in order to fight
against racism and fight for their place in society.

Racial discrimination is a phenomenon that persists in people's minds,
in the family, in personal relationships, sometimes in institutionalised
groups, and this is something that cannot be easily resolved.

Q: How would you propose to solve these shortcomings in the field of

A: The only way to remedy this is through strict vigilance to guarantee
equal opportunities for all in employment, and especially in the new
economy - in other words, in tourism and joint ventures with foreign
capital - as well as in education, along with major cultural work.

Education should really not be biased towards any colour, but what is
happening in practice is that our schoolchildren are being educated, for
the most part, to think that it is better to be white and that it is a
disadvantage to be black.

We have to deal with the problems of a Western bias in our education,
and expand the teaching of history to include Africa, Asia and the
Middle East, while addressing racial representation in our books. We
have to take the discussion of racial discrimination into the schools,
so that when kids go out into the streets and hear a racist remark, they
will have a basis for challenging it.

Q: What do you propose in social terms?

A: "We are all equal" was also a demagogic slogan of republicanism.
Equality is the goal, the aspiration, while inequality and difference
are what we stumble over every day.

We have to start by recognising the inequalities that exist in our
society, despite all of the efforts that have been made to eliminate
them, leading almost to the brink of egalitarianism. They are a legacy,
but at the same time, they are a phenomenon that can be reproduced as a
result of the dysfunctionalities of our social model, which needs to be

It is only by understanding these differences in depth and working on
them that we can achieve genuine equality.

Q: Do you think a specific policy for the black population is needed?

A: In Cuba there is a certain kind of affirmative action policy,
although we don't call it that. After researching in depth the situation
of families, the problems affecting children, the disabled, different
social groups, we were led in practice to adopt affirmative action
measures, because this is how we were able to reach the people who have
historically been the least privileged and the most vulnerable.

There are phenomena that need to be remedied and this can only be done
by addressing them separately, such as housing, employment, health. In
all of these efforts, it is essential to take skin colour into account.
The more research that is done, the more obvious it becomes that blacks
are at the bottom, people of mixed-race backgrounds are generally in the
middle, and whites are at the top.

Q: Why isn't there more in-depth discussion, including coverage in the
Cuban media, about this widely recognised issue?

A: There is growing debate at the intellectual and community levels, and
in cultural centres, but it also needs to reach government bodies, and
the country's political, social and grassroots organisations. This is
what we are calling for, because more than 60 percent of Cuba's
population of 11.2 million people is not white [but instead either black
or of mixed race] according to our studies.

Q: Do you think it should form part of the political agenda as well?

A: Of course. The fact that President Raúl Castro referred to the issue
in his Dec. 20 address to parliament seems to imply that it could be on
the agenda of the upcoming 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.
And if it isn't, I think it should be.

In addition, there are two commissions studying different facets of the
problem: one at the National Library and another at the Union of Cuban
Artists and Writers (UNEAC). There should also be a commission to
address this issue in parliament [National Assembly].

If the National Assembly specifically addresses the questions of
religion, women or youth, then why not the issue of race? I believe it
is of equal importance, but it has been dealt with less than any other.

Q: Is there a danger that this discussion could be cut short out of fear
that it could create internal divisions or be manipulated to be used
against the revolution?

A: On the contrary, what is actually being used in the campaigns of our
enemies is the fact that it has taken us so long to address the issue,
and failing to discuss it is what could actually divide us.

What hurts us politically, from the point of view of our image abroad
and inside the country, is the fact that our official discourse is out
of sync with reality, because up until very recently we claimed that
there were no racially related problems in Cuba. (END)

Q&A: "Being Poor and White Is Not the Same as Being Poor and Black" in
Cuba - IPS (29 January 2010)

Oil industry shows interest in warming up ties to Cuba

Oil industry shows interest in warming up ties to Cuba
By Johannes Werner, Guest Columnist
In Print: Sunday, January 31, 2010

What with full patdowns for Cuba travelers at U.S. airports, continued
Bush-era regime-change programs, and Havana arresting a USAID
subcontractor, it's Ice Age 3 in U.S.-Cuba relations.

But a very powerful player is beginning to increase the heat: Big Oil.

Very quietly, Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska,
inserted oil exemption wording into a Senate bill last year — and now an
oil industry association has gone on the record to say it prompted the move.

The bill (S 1517) mainly deals with increased federal oil revenue
sharing for Gulf of Mexico states. It includes a section toward the end
that would allow U.S. citizens and residents to "engage in any
transaction necessary" for oil and gas exploration and extraction in
Cuba — "notwithstanding any other provision of law." For that purpose,
the bill would amend the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement
Act of 2000, allowing oil industry employees to travel to Cuba without
having to apply for a specific license with the Treasury Department.

The bill is pending before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources. With senators such as Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and George
LeMieux, R-Fla., determined to defend the embargo tooth and claw, the
bill is facing a tough fight. Even so, the bill is remarkable because it
embodies the first Cuba-related move on Capitol Hill by the U.S. oil

Platts Oilgram News reported that the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers
Association encouraged Landrieu to insert the two Cuba sections. A vice
president of Halliburton, who heads the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers
Association's government affairs, told Platts the trade organization is
very interested to "address current Cuba policy."

These are remarkable words. The industry has come out of the Cuba closet.

• • •

Yes, cash crunch is the topic du jour in Cuba — but at the same time,
business opportunities are opening up for astute and long term-minded
players. Thanks to the trade and integration agreement between eight
primarily left-populist Caribbean and Latin American countries, Cuba is
becoming a springboard to other markets, and a handful of Asian and
European companies are taking the plunge.

Cuban-Venezuelan teams recently have installed more than 300 generators
made by Germany's MTU Onsite Energy in Venezuela, for instance. Even
more interesting is the case of Spanish generator manufacturer Guascor
SA, which set up a joint venture in Cuba last year. Generación Caribe
(Gecar) — 70 percent controlled by a subsidiary of state utility Unión
Nacional Eléctrica — maintains Guascor generators installed by Cuban
engineers in third countries.

What Guascor and MTU are piggybacking on is this: Cuba is exporting its
"energy revolution," and with it hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of equipment. In an effort to help the South American country get rid of
rolling blackouts, the island has recently supplied partner Venezuela
with 43 small diesel power plants (each consisting of multiple
generators), and Cuba is in the process of providing 30 more over the
next two months.

Cuba addressed its problem with rolling blackouts in the early 2000s as
its aging electrical system began to break down. Fidel Castro resisted
spending billions on thermoelectric power plans, choosing to save time
and money with a decentralized system of thousands of diesel and
fuel-oil generators scattered around the island. Within a matter of a
few months, the blackouts disappeared.

Cuba is now propagating its distributed power generation concept as a
model for fellow ALBA member countries and other developing nations.
Beyond Venezuela, Cuba already provided seven mini-power plants to
Nicaragua, and one 60-mw power plant to Haiti. Cuban electric
engineering teams are also working in Ecuador and Equatorial Guinea in

Competitors Hyundai and MAN B&W likely will become more proactive as the
Cuban model gets replicated by more developing nations. But one name
will be missing from that business opportunity: Caterpillar Corp.

• • •

Crisis also means opportunity: The earthquake in Haiti is helping thaw
some ice between the United States and Cuba.

As a starter, on the night of the earthquake, Castro wrote in a column
that Cuba was willing to "cooperate with any other state." Cuba, which
has 400 doctors deployed in Haiti, is allowing U.S. relief planes to
overfly its territory.

And here is how State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet
answered the question of an Italian correspondent whether it is
"possible to imagine" U.S.-Cuban cooperation over Haiti:

"Absolutely. This is an effort that goes beyond politics. We're
interested in addressing the dire humanitarian needs on the spot right
now. I can't speak to precisely the level of resources that the Cuban
government is bringing into Haiti, but to the extent they are there, we
are certainly going to talk and collaborate and work to see that people
are helped there. I know the Cubans have given us specific authorization
already to be using Guantanamo as a staging point coming into Haiti.
That's a sign of the close cooperation we're doing to put politics aside
and address the humanitarian needs here."

Meanwhile, a Reagan administration assistant defense secretary is
dreaming of the ideal disaster response combination: U.S. helicopters
and Cuban doctors.

"We should stop and think that Cuba right next door has some of the best
doctors in the world," says Lawrence Korb, now an analyst at the Center
for American Progress in Washington. "We should see about flying them in."

Norway is showing another option. On Jan. 25, the Norwegian ambassador
in Havana handed the Cuban government a check for 5 million kroner
($880,000) to support the Cuban medical effort in Haiti. This is not
only a big compliment to the Cubans, but it makes a lot of financial
sense because the small Scandinavian country would have to spend tens of
millions of dollars to have the same positive impact on Haiti if it were
to go alone.

Food for thought.

Johannes Werner is editor of Cuba Trade & Investment News, a monthly
newsletter, and Cuba Standard, a Web site featuring real-time news about
the Cuban economy. He can be reached at

Oil industry shows interest in warming up ties to Cuba - St. Petersburg
Times (30 January 2010)

Imprisoned pastor's appeal for freedom is denied

Imprisoned pastor's appeal for freedom is denied
Saturday, 30 January 2010, 11:41 (EST)

A Cuban Evangelical Pastor has been denied the right to appeal his
six-year prison sentence by the Supreme Tribunal in Havana.

Pastor Omar Gude Perez, a leader in a fast growing network of
independent churches called the 'Apostolic Reformation', was convicted
of "falsification of documents" after trumped up charges were made
against him during a summary trial last July.

In a statement to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Pastor Gude
Perez's wife said the court's decision confirmed her belief that her
husband's arrest and imprisonment in May 2008 was orchestrated at the
highest levels of government.

Pastor Gude Perez was initially charged with Human Trafficking, but a
local court threw out the charges ten months later, citing a total lack
of evidence. The latest charge was brought against him a full year after
his initial detention. The prosecution's petition also accused the
pastor of "counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes."

Another key pastor in the Apostolic Reformation network is currently
contesting government efforts to evict him from his home and confiscate
his property. Pastor Mario Alvarez has appealed to the Supreme Tribunal
to prevent what he believes is the illegal confiscation of his home. At
least thirty other church leaders from the same network were arrested
and detained in various parts of the country during 2009, and several
report that the authorities were threatening to confiscate their homes.

Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive said: "We are extremely
disappointed to learn of the Supreme Tribunal's decision to refuse
Pastor Gude Perez's right of appeal. The number of church leaders
arrested recently clearly indicates a government policy to crack down on
this independent religious group. We urgently call for the immediate
release of Pastor Perez and strongly urge the Cuban government to stop
legal harassment of the leadership of the Apostolic Reformation."

Cuba - imprisoned pastor's appeal for freedom is denied (30 January 2010)

Iran, Cuba seek expanded economic co-op

Iran, Cuba seek expanded economic co-op
Tehran Times Economic Desk

TEHRAN – The Iranian industry and mines minister met the Cuban deputy
foreign affairs minister in Tehran and called for all-out strengthening
of bilateral relations.

The Mehr News Agency reported that Ali-Akbar Mehrabian highlighted the
long-lasting relations between the two states and called for mutual
investment in the two countries' industry and mines sectors.

Mehrabian pointed to the unique position of Cuba among Latin American
countries, and said that through increasing mutual cooperation the
people of the two countries will benefit from it.

Marcos Rodriguez noted the enhanced political relations between Havana
and Tehran, adding that the ties have utmost importance for the leaders
of the two countries.

He said that Cuba is determined to increase its economic, industrial and
trade relations to the same level of its political ties with Iran.

Rodriguez further noted the negative impact of the global economic
crisis on his country, and called on Iran for further investment in Cuba
for manufacturing products that could be in turn exported to Latin
American countries

tehran times : Iran, Cuba seek expanded economic co-op (30 January 2010)

Unleash the Googles on Cuba

Unleash the Googles on Cuba
January 29, 2010
by Liz Harper

U.S.-Cuba dynamics continue to follow the traditional script of mixed
signals. The romance is there; the trust is not.

Shortly after U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bisa Williams
returned from extended talks in Havana, the Cuban regime seized Alan
Gross, a U.S. subcontractor for a U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) democracy program in Cuba.

Another kicker came on Thursday when the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno
Rodríguez, told reporters that immigration talks in Havana were
scheduled for February 19.

Part of the Cuban agenda presented to the government of the United
States is a proposal for a new immigration agreement and solidifying
cooperation in the fight against people trafficking," Rodríguez is
translated as saying in English by Reuters. Let's hope that Cuba's
wishes to exchange Gross for the Cuban Five will remain a non-starter.

The imprisonment of Mr. Gross (or "Harold," as he was first named to me
in early December) serves as a good reminder of the criminals-in-office
we are dealing with in Havana. And also a reminder of our ill-conceived,
yet well-intended, Cuba policies and programs.

Why didn't we complain louder about Gross' continued detention? For one,
the man and his family did not sign a privacy waiver with the State
Department, and without that waiver the U.S. Department of State and
U.S. embassies and consulates abroad cannot release information on an
individual—even when it hurts our national interests.

In this context, the calls in and out of government for overhauling our
policies have only gotten louder.

What Cuba programs could—and should—be on the chopping block? Some
USAID-funded groups, such as the one Alan Gross worked for, are also
saying they are running out of money. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

Senator Russ Feingold (WI) this week proposed axing Radio/TV Marti,
which has been around for more than a decade.

Why fund programs, such as the one that Alan Gross worked for, when we
do not see clearly positive results? They just make us feel good that
we're trying to fix how horrible it is in Cuba, as one diplomat told me.

Are these our only tools to affect change in Cuba?

"Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting
different results," as Albert Einstein once said.

The timing couldn't seem better for a total rethink—a re-examination of
our paradigm on Cuba—since Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has
initiated the State Department's very first Quadrennial Diplomacy and
Development Review. USAID will also be under the microscope.

The bottom line is that, to date, the Cubans are defining the terms of
how we talk. We can turn the policy paradigm to what works for our own

At the DC watercooler the pop talk is still "end the trade embargo" and
"allow travel for all U.S. citizens," even after the beating of blogger
Yoani Sanchez and Alan Gross' imprisonment. This is not satisfying.

Jake Colvin, Vice President of Global Trade Issues at the National
Foreign Trade Council, says "removing sanctions and travel restrictions
on Cuba could create tens of thousands of new jobs in the U.S. tourism
sector and generate anywhere from $300 million to nearly $1 billion
annually, in addition to agriculture and food sales."

Colvin is on the money with the removal of trade sanctions. But we can't
do it overnight. Further loosening on U.S. technology would be step in
the right direction.

With Google vs. China underway, I'm feeling quite bullish about the
influence that American private enterprise can have on another country.
This is not a new phenomenon. But we wouldn't know with Cuba since both
the U.S. and Cuban governments have blockades on information access and
trade. We will not affect Cuba's restrictions the way we're going about
it now.

"Google is already causing the Chinese government to liberalize their
censorship policy, allowing more access to 'controversial' information
to Chinese people," says Dan Abrams, president of MassLight Inc, which
consults for the Defense Department among others.

With the rising prominence and expansion of the Cuban blogosphere, Cuba
is an opportunity for U.S. policymakers. Unfortunately, Secretary
Clinton didn't note this in her recent Internet freedom speech.

Granted, there are many more barricades to the Internet, computers and
software in Cuba than in China. Still, the Internet/Google example in
China, as it develops, could very well be a paradigm for Cuba and the
influence of the American private sector. Unfortunately, our current
trade restrictions prevent them from exploring this opportunity.

"Ending the ban on travel by U.S. citizens—or better yet, removing all
trade and travel restrictions—would be much more effective than
tinkering with U.S. telecom sanctions. There's something to be said for
the low-tech approach," Colvin points out.

His points are solid. What has resulted from Obama's move to lift
restrictions on U.S. telecom companies? Nothing yet. Maybe we need to
move more aggressively in other trade matters?

I'm not saying that dropping trade sanctions on telecommunications and
technology firms will topple the regime, or that Cubans can order
millions of iPads. They cannot afford them.

And, even if they did, it would be equivalent to giving someone a car
with no gas. For now. The technology sector moves faster than any
government can keep up with. And this could be one way to nurture the
capitalist spirit in Cuba.

"Some entrepreneurial company will figure out a way to make some small
inroads into imports or exports, then another, and newer technologies
will be introduced. It's not an overnight prescription but it will have
a significant impact over time," says Abrams.

If our goal is to improve unadulterated access to information in Cuba as
a way to promote political freedoms, why does the U.S. government
believe it can do it by paying its own staffers—or subcontractors, like
Alan Gross—to do it? Note: Cubans do not trust the U.S. government.

We're fooling ourselves to think the U.S. government is going to
influence the Cuban government or people through our existing means.
This is a waste of time and money. Let's try public diplomacy through
private enterprise.

*Liz Harper is an contributing blogger based in
Washington DC. To reach a blogger, send an email to:
Tags:: Alan Gross, Bruno Rodríguez, Google, Radio/TV Marti, Secretary
Hillary Rodham, Senator Russ Feingold, U.S.-Cuba relations

Unleash the Googles on Cuba (29 January 2010)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cuba's Latest Whopper

January 27, 2010
Cuba's Latest Whopper
By Humberto Fontova

The U.S. Defense Dept. "caused the Haiti earthquake with electromagnetic
shock-wave bombs," reports the Castro regime. "Iran is Next."

Intrepid bloggers at Babalu Blog discovered the stunning revelation
above in an exclusive article on a website run by the Castro regime
titled Verdades de Cuba (Cuban Truths). Russian intelligence, we learn
upon reading, recently arrived at the determination and vouchsafed it
(apparently exclusively) to their vital Cuban allies.

It seems that the Russian Northern Fleet -- in particular its flagship,
the Peter the Great -- has been closely monitoring U.S. Navy hanky-panky
in the Caribbean for two years now. "Lately the U.S. has made tremendous
advances in their Earthquake weapons," report the Russians via the
Cubans. U.S. satellites allow for the aiming and concentration of these
powerful radio frequencies, which harness the natural interaction of
forces between the ionosphere and the earth's fault lines.

An ultra-secret unit within the U.S. Defense Department codenamed
Project HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is the
central culprit, we learn, and has diversified its line of lethal radio
frequencies to produce floods, droughts, and hurricanes, along with
earthquakes -- of which the Haitian is in fact only the latest.

Only last month, Project HAARP unleashed a demo earthquake near Eureka,
California that registered 6.5 on the Richter scale. And the May 2008
earthquake that shook Szechuan China and registered 7.8 was also the
handiwork of the U.S.'s Project HAARP.

Long suspicious of the U.S. Caribbean fleet, the Russians were tipped
off when Lieut. Gen. Ken Keen of the U.S. Southern Command was deployed
to Haiti before the earthquake. This proved that the Yankees well knew
the devastation they'd unleash and so wanted to invade Haiti "firstest
with the mostest," as the saying goes in U.S. Army lingo. These U.S.
"boots on the ground" under the camouflage of "earthquake relief" will
soon replace the U.N. peacekeepers completely and nail down the
long-planned Yankee colonization of Haiti.

The Russians aren't quite sure whether this is the last demo quake. Some
Project HAARP-induced hurricanes and tsunamis may also be in the offing.
But they're convinced that once the tests satisfy the Yankee military
cabal with their powers of electromagnetic sonic destruction, Iran is in
for it. The U.S.-created Haiti quake will appear a trifle in comparison
to the U.S.-created Iran quake.

So who could possibly believe this, you ask? Actually, in light of his
record in this regard, I'd say Castro has good reason for optimism. To wit:

He's convinced many of the "enlightened" worldwide that:

A: the U.S. maintains a strangulating commercial and aid embargo against

When in fact: For almost a decade, the U.S. has been Cuba's largest food
supplier and among her top ten trade partners. Just last year the U.S.
racked up $708,000 in sales to Cuba. Plus, for a decade, the U.S. has
been Cuba's main donor of humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.

B. His regime provides all Cubans (and many in the third world) with
free and exquisite health care.

When in fact: As befits a nation with a higher per-capita income than
half of Europe, pre-Castro Cuba's infant mortality rate was the
13th-lowest in the world (lower than in Germany, France, Japan, and
Israel, among many other first-world nations). Today, it ranks 40th from
the top, with most of the nations behind Cuba in 1958 now far ahead.
This current infant-mortality rate, by the way, is also kept
artificially low by an abortion rate of 0.71, the hemisphere's highest
(and hovering among the world's top five for the past two decades),
which "terminates" any pregnancy that even hints at trouble. Cuba's
suicide rate is also currently the hemisphere's highest, triple its rate
during the unspeakable Batista era. More tellingly, according to a
report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, more than
75% of "doctors" with Cuban "medical degrees" flunk the exam given by
the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates for licensing
in the U.S. Most Cuba-certified doctors even flunk the Educational
Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates exam for certification as
"physician assistants," making them unfit even as nurses.

C.) pre-Castro Cuba was a sniveling U.S. plantation.

When in fact: Of Cuba's 161 sugar mills in 1958, only forty were
U.S.-owned. And United Fruit owned only a third of these. And according
to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 1958, U.S. investments in Cuba
accounted for only 13 percent of Cuba's GNP. And all through the '40s
and mid-'50s, more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans in Cuba.

D.) Che Guevara was a cunning and valiant guerrilla fighter.

When in fact: During the Bay of Pigs, Che's only wound came from
shooting himself in the chin with his own pistol. Four years later in
the Congo, while planning a military campaign against crack mercenaries
commanded by a professional soldier who helped defeat Rommel in North
Africa, Che confidently allied himself with "soldiers" who used chicken
feathers for helmets and stood in the open waving at attacking aircraft
because a "muganga" (witch doctor) had assured them that the magic water
he sprinkled over them would make .50 caliber bullets bounce harmlessly
off their bodies. During his Bolivian "guerrilla" campaign, Che split
his forces, whereupon they got hopelessly lost and bumbled around,
half-starved, half-clothed, and half-shod, without any contact with each
other for six months before being wiped out. They didn't even have WWII
vintage walkie-talkies to communicate and seemed incapable of applying a
compass reading to a map. They spent much of the time walking in circles
and were usually within a mile of each other. During this blundering,
they often engaged in ferocious firefights against each other. Then,
when cornered, Che dropped his fully loaded weapon and whimpered, "Don't
shoot! I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"

So again, I'd say Castro has room for optimism. "Hey," he's probably
thinking, "millions swallowed all the lettered items above? Who's to say
they wont swallow the U.S.-made earthquake?"

American Thinker: Cuba's Latest Whopper (27 January 2010)

Detained contractor still under investigation in Cuba

Detained contractor still under investigation in Cuba
Thu Jan 28, 11:58 AM
By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - A U.S. contractor accused by Cuba of distributing
illegal communications equipment remains under investigation, and his
alleged actions would be considered a "serious crime" anywhere in the
world, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Thursday.

Whether Rodriguez signaled that Cuba will deal harshly with the man
identified in media reports as 60-year-old Alan Gross was not clear, but
the case has endangered modest efforts by President Barack Obama to
improve long-hostile U.S.-Cuba relations.

"In any place in the world, what has been attributed to what you call
the American contractor would be a serious crime," Rodriguez told
reporters after a ceremonial event in Havana.

He said Gross has not been officially charged, but continues to be
"under investigation." Cuba has previously accused Gross of working for
U.S. "secret services."

Gross has been detained since early December when Cuba grabbed him on
grounds he had given satellite communications gear to government opponents.

His employer, Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc., has said he
was setting up an Internet system for a "non-dissident religious
organization" under a U.S.-funded program promoting democracy in Cuba.

Under Cuban law, Gross could face several years in jail if tried and

The detention has prompted calls in Washington for Obama to take a hard
line with the Cuban government and put an end for now to what has been a
slight thaw in relations.

Obama has slightly eased the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against
Cuba and initiated talks on migration and reinstatement of postal
service. But he has said further progress depends on improvement on
human rights in Cuba.

In Havana, the government has recently stepped up criticism of Obama and
used the contractor case to say he has not changed U.S. policy aimed at
subverting the government.

"The government of the United States has not renounced the destruction
of the Cuban revolution. It has not renounced trying to change the
social and political regime of our country," Rodriguez said.

U.S. officials in Havana have said little about the case, but were
permitted to visit Gross at least once.

It is not known if there are behind-the-scenes negotiations taking
place, but Rodriguez repeated what President Raul Castro has said before
-- that Cuba is open to exchanging prisoners to gain the release of five
Cuban agents jailed in the United States for their roles in the 1996
shootdown of two U.S. private planes piloted by anti-Castro Cuban exiles.

Rodriguez said on Wednesday that Cuba and U.S. officials will meet in
February for a second round of talks on migration issues. On Thursday,
he said the talks will take place February 19 in Havana.

(Editing by Jeff Franks and Philip Barbara)

Detained contractor still under investigation in Cuba - Yahoo! Canada
News (28 January 2010)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A catastrophe in waiting

Cuba: A catastrophe in waiting
Last Updated: 8:02 AM, January 27, 2010

Much has been written about Haiti being a failed state in the wake of
its devastating earthquake. But just to its west lies another human
catastrophe in the making -- Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Havana is a city of sorrow -- a once elegant and prosperous capital
brought to despair by 51 years of deliberate neglect and isolation. A
country that has been plundered by a succession of foreign powers,
homegrown dictators and mobsters imported from America now languishes in
a bizarre time warp where little has changed in more than half a century.

Its people go about their daily routines bereft of consumer goods,
nutritious foods, meaningful jobs or adequate housing -- most of them
born after the revolution that swept Castro to power in 1959 and now,
thanks to rigid censorship, largely conditioned to accept their
impoverished lot.

Prosperity is the last thing that comes to mind as you watch the Cuban
people wearing clothing that went out of style years ago. Even shoes are
washed and hung on the laundry line along with shirts and pants.

To listen to Castro's cronies -- those among the political and business
elite whose loyalty is secured with perks unavailable to ordinary Cubans
-- the economic situation is solely the fault of the US embargo imposed
after the revolution.

More thoughtful Cubans discreetly offer a different explanation: They
blame Fidel's feckless experiments with communism -- his initial seizure
of $25 billion worth of private property from Cubans and the
nationalization of all businesses, forcing the middle class to flee to
Miami; his bizarre decision to send 300,000 Cubans out of a population
of only 11 million to fight wars in Africa in the 1980s; his Cold War
alliance with the Russians that left his country bankrupt and saddled
with antiquated technology when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Everyone in Cuba knows the status quo can't last. But no one knows how
or when it will end. The political structure, like Havana's crumbling
buildings, seems to be held up by force of habit and little else.

Fidel's failing health has cast him into the shadow of public life. His
brother Raul is now the man -- struggling to maintain the family's grip
on power by taking two steps forward and one step back, permitting
cellphones and Internet access to those few who can afford them. (But
don't try logging on to that den of imperialists, Facebook -- it and
many other sites are off-limits.)

"The Revolution," is invoked endlessly on TV channels that are so dull
they make C-Span look frivolous. A recent segment on a morning news show
devoted six minutes to the just-completed harvest of limes, praising it
as "a triumph of socialist workers' cooperation."

There's no advertising in Cuba -- unless you count the pervasive
propaganda on TV and painted on walls rallying the masses with
Stalinist-style slogans that would make a North Korean cringe. Roadside
billboards proclaim the 51st anniversary of "La Revolucion" with
glamorous portraits of Che Guevara and assorted other "freedom fighters"
-- all responsible in varying degrees for bringing Cuba to its knees.

Meanwhile, the average citizen of Havana goes about his mundane life,
lining up at stores whose shelves are often empty, waiting in long lines
for Chinese-made buses that never seem to come or trying to hitch rides
in 1950s-era American cars that belch black fumes and contribute to the
choking air quality that leaves the city covered in grime.

In Havana's densely populated, older sections, less than half the homes
are connected to city sewers. A majority of the buildings are decayed
beyond repair.

The government claims that 96 percent of Cubans own their own homes --
referring to the crowded apartments where generations of families are
forced to live together. Even if that figure were true, no one seems to
know who owns the outsides of their once-majestic buildings -- so no one
takes responsibility for maintaining them. Many fear that, when this
regime eventually collapses, a wave of exiles will return from Miami and
lay claim to the properties that Castro stole from them.

Cuba is in limbo, its creaky, centralized economy sustained for now by
Latin America's other delusional dictator Hugo Chavez -- who sends oil
in return for Cuban doctors dispatched to Caracas.

The day of reckoning for Cuba's calamity is approaching. It will take an
international effort to put this country back on its feet.

Kenneth A. Chandler is president of Chandler Regan Strategies and a
former editor and publisher of The Post.

Cuba: A catastrophe in waiting - (27 January 2010)

Stop Harassing Human Rights Defender and Family

Cuba: Stop Harassing Human Rights Defender and Family
27 Jan 2010 15:54:00 GMT
Source: Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC) - The Cuban government should immediately cease its
harassment of the blind human rights defender Juan Carlos González
Leiva, a leader of the Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, and his
family, Human Rights Watch said today.
In recent weeks, Cuban authorities have repeatedly threatened to force
González Leiva and his wife and fellow rights defender Tania Maceda
Guerra to leave Havana and move elsewhere on the island. The authorities
have pressed for the move under a draconian law that restricts freedom
of movement.
"The harassment of González Leiva offers further proof that the Raul
Castro government is willing to do everything within its power to
prevent human rights monitoring, including forcibly displacing the
monitors themselves," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at
Human Rights Watch.
González Leiva and Maceda Guerra have lived in Havana since May 2007,
when they were granted permission to live with and care for a blind
friend. Under a law known as Decree 217, all Cuban citizens from outside
of Havana must obtain government permission before moving to the capital.
In November 2009, the government denied the couple's application to
renew their temporary residence status in Havana, where they are still
living with their blind friend. González Leiva said housing authorities
told him the refusal came at the orders of state security officers.
Since that time, security officers have repeatedly visited their home,
calling them "counterrevolutionaries" and "traitors," and warning that
they will be forcibly sent back to their native province, Ciego de
Avila, if they do not leave Havana voluntarily. As a result, they have
not left their apartment in a week.
González Leiva and Maceda Guerra have also been the victims of death
threats and public acts of repudiation. Over the past several months,
the email account of their organization has been hacked into and
terminated, their movements monitored, and their family members
threatened, González Leiva told Human Rights Watch.
"The international community needs to send a clear message to the Cuban
government that such attacks on human rights defenders are completely
unacceptable," Vivanco said.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch - "New Castro, Same Cuba:
Political Prisoners in the Post-Fidel Era" - found that Raul Castro has
kept Cuba's repressive machinery fully active, quashing virtually all
forms of political dissent. The report documents the government's
continued use of Decree 217 to restrict the freedom of movement of
journalists, human rights defenders, and other members of civil society
who criticize the government.

Reuters AlertNet - Cuba: Stop Harassing Human Rights Defender and Family
(27 January 2010)

Cuba, U.S. set for migration talks next month

Cuba, U.S. set for migration talks next month
Nelson Acosta
Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:37pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban and U.S. negotiators will meet in February for
a second round of talks on migration issues since the discussions were
renewed last summer, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on

Barack Obama | Cuba

He said no date was set for the meeting, which had been scheduled for
December in Havana but was postponed for undisclosed reasons.

The United States has said since December that the talks would be reset
for February, but Cuba remained silent about it until now.

Officials from the two countries met in New York in July, reviving talks
last held in 2003 before they were canceled

under President George W. Bush.

The U.S. State Department described the renewal of negotiations then as
part of U.S. President Barack Obama's desire to pursue a more
constructive relationship with Cuba, after five decades of hostility.

The discussions cover agreements from the mid-1990s aimed at preventing
an exodus of Cuban refugees to the United States such as the 1980 Mariel
boatlift and a 1994 wave of boat people.

The United States agreed to repatriate Cuban migrants intercepted at
sea, while Cuba said it would clamp down on illegal immigration.

The United States has pushed for access to a deepwater port so it can
safely return migrants and to ensure that U.S. diplomats can track the
welfare of those sent back.

Cuba wants Washington to abandon its immigration policy that gives
preferential treatment to Cubans who reach U.S. shores. It says the
so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy encourages Cubans to abandon their
homeland for the United States.


U.S.-Cuba relations have improved slightly under Obama, but hit a rough
patch after Cuba detained a U.S. contractor last month on charges he
brought illegal satellite communications equipment to Cuban dissidents.

Rodriguez, who spoke at a Havana conference for Cuban who live abroad
but back the Cuban government, repeated complaints that U.S. policy
remains essentially unchanged under Obama.

"Obama has not used the prerogatives the president of the United States
has to make practical changes in relations with Cuba," he said.

Cuban officials have pointed to the detained contractor as proof that
under Obama, the U.S. continues to try to subvert the Cuban government.

Obama eased the embargo last year by allowing Cuban Americans to travel
freely to Cuba and send unlimited amounts of money to relatives there,
and initiated talks on re-establishing direct postal service between the
two countries. A first round of discussions was held in Havana in September.

But he has said the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against the island
will remain in place until Cuba releases political prisoners and
improves human rights.

Cuba, U.S. set for migration talks next month | Reuters (27 January 2010)

HRW calls on Cuba to end harassment

HRW calls on Cuba to end harassment
Published: Jan. 27, 2010 at 3:49 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Cuban authorities should end their alleged
harassment of blind human rights defender Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva,
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

In a release issued from Washington, HRW accused Cuba of repeatedly
threatening to force Gonzalez Leiva, his wife and fellow rights defender
Tania Maceda Guerra to leave Havana and move elsewhere on the island
under the provisions of a "draconian" law that restricts freedom of

"The harassment of Gonzalez Leiva offers further proof that the Raul
Castro government is willing to do everything within its power to
prevent human rights monitoring, including forcibly displacing the
monitors themselves," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at
Human Rights Watch.

HRW said that because of his blindness, Gonzalez Leiva has been able to
live in Havana since 2007 under a law known as Decree 217, in which
Cubans from outside Havana must obtain government permission before
moving to the capital. But in November the government denied his
application to renew his temporary residence status.

Vivanco said the government has called Gonzalez Leiva, a leader of the
Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, a "counterrevolutionary" and a
"traitor," and has warned he will be forcibly sent back to his native

HRW calls on Cuba to end harassment - (27 January 2010)

Support for U.S. programs that help Cuba running on empty

Posted on Tuesday, 01.26.10
Support for U.S. programs that help Cuba running on empty
The money helps support dissidents, independent journalists and other
peaceful civil society groups.

The U.S. government's Cuba democracy programs are all but paralyzed,
facing political, safety and bureaucratic hurdles that critics and
backers agree could end up halting their more aggressive features.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which doles out
much of the money, has not requested new funding proposals since March,
and groups that run the programs complain they have little money left.

Powerful Democrats in Congress are vowing to block the more
``provocative'' programs, and the Obama administration is hinting it may
halt a key part of the programs that Cuba brands as ``subversive.''

``If this continues in the same way, the whole pro-democracy program is
going to be dead,'' said Frank Calzon, whose Center for a Free Cuba in
suburban Washington stopped receiving U.S. funds last year.

Launched during the Clinton administration, the Cuba Democracy
Assistance program was expanded under President George W. Bush and
Congress in 2008 approved $40 million for the two-year period that ends
Sept. 30.

The money goes to non-government organizations and private firms that in
turn support dissidents, independent journalists and other peaceful
civil society groups and deliver items like books, shortwave radios,
computers satellite TV receivers and cellphones.

Some of program's current problems are bureaucratic, several
knowledgeable persons told El Nuevo Herald. Most requested anonymity and
declined to comment on the U.S. funds their organizations receive,
because of the political sensitivity of the issue.

USAID has been leaderless for the past year, they all agreed. Rajiv
Shah, President Barack Obama's pick to head the agency, was sworn in
just this month. Elaine Grigsby, its veteran head of Cuba programs,
moved to another post last year. And her replacement was quickly
reassigned to Pakistan.


``Given its sensitive and political nature, the Cuba program needs . . .
most importantly, high level support to push the bureaucracy,'' said a
former Bush administration official. But the bureaucrats' ``default is
to do as little as possible until they know what the White House and the
political leadership want.''

USAID's notice requesting new proposals for Cuba programs, initially
expected in March, still has not been issued, said the head of a
nonprofit that receives U.S. funds.

``We're going to have to basically pack up and close,'' said Frank
Hernandez Trujillo of the Miami-based Grupo de Apoyo a la Disidencia
when the last of his USAID money runs out March 31. The group received
$6 million since 2005, he said.

And at the State Department, which also handles some of the Cuba funds,
Obama appointee Arturo Valenzuela was not sworn in as deputy secretary
for Western Hemisphere Affairs until November.

The paralysis in the pro-democracy programs, said supporters, comes at a
time when Cubans are expressing increasing frustration with the economy
and political controls.

``This is the worst possible time for the funds to be frozen, because
the civil society movement in Cuba is giving clear signals it is
awake,'' said Orlando Gutierrez of the Cuban Democratic Directorate in

Cuban authorities threw the programs into further turmoil Dec. 4, when
they arrested USAID subcontractor Alan Gross in Havana. Gross, who
remains jail, had been reportedly helping Jewish groups on the island
gain ``unfiltered'' access to the Internet.


Gross' arrest highlighted the more aggressive and risky aspects of the
U.S. programs -- the Cuban government makes it a crime to receive U.S.
assistance and tightly controls communications equipment -- and sparked
speculation that Havana will keep him in prison until Washington puts a
stop to at least some of the programs.

The arrest already led USAID and the State Department to clamp down on
such travel by U.S. contractors and subcontractors, one of the key ways
in which goods have been slipped into the island in recent years.

On Dec. 28, the State Department's Cuba desk sent out an e-mail ``to
re-emphasize our recommendation to temporarily defer travel to the
island until further notice,'' according to a copy obtained by El Nuevo
Herald. The e-mail, said recipients, amounted to a stop-travel order.

Florida Republican Sen. George LeMieux said he met with Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton and Rajiv Shah last month and won their promise to
move quickly on the stalled Cuba funds.

Support for U.S. programs that help Cuba running on empty - Americas - (27 January 2010)

Almost 300,000 Cubans abroad visited island in '09

Posted on Wednesday, 01.27.10
Almost 300,000 Cubans abroad visited island in '09
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Nearly 300,000 Cubans living abroad visited their homeland
last year, the island's foreign minister said Wednesday, but he insisted
a loosening of travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans coming to the
island was "insufficient."

It was unclear if the 2009 figure was a record since the government
rarely releases complete figures on the number of Cubans living overseas
and the frequency of their visits. But Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez
said about 296,000 Cubans living abroad came back last year compared to
just 37,000 in 1994.

He did not say how many came from the United States, but the
overwhelming majority of islanders overseas live in the U.S., mostly in
southern Florida and New Jersey. There are other sizable Cuban
communities in Spain, Mexico and Argentina.

In April, President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on Cubans living in
the United States who want to travel or send money to the island. The
move erased limits imposed by the administration of former President
George W. Bush, but has been dismissed by Cuban officials as inadequate.

Rodriguez said Washington has sought to turn Cubans who choose to leave
the island into "refugees who have fled in search of liberty."

Cuba's government offers no statistics on how many of its citizens have
left the island since Fidel Castro toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on
New Year's Day 1959, though experts put the number at as many as 1.5
million - more than 13 percent of today's entire Cuban population of
about 11.2 million.

Under a 1994 agreement with the Cuban government designed to stop mass
illegal immigration, the United States offers 20,000 visas to Cuban
immigrants per year. Tens of thousands more flee the island secretly
each year, and nearly all who reach U.S. soil are allowed to stay.

But even moving away from Cuba legally is not easy. Cubans wanting to
emigrate must obtain official permission from the communist government
to leave, a special passport and, often, a string of additional visas -
as well as having to meet the requirements for the destination country.

Once outside, immigrants face strict Cuban government rules on how long
they have to wait before they can visit the island anew, and how long
they can stay.

The foreign minister's comments kicked off a three-day immigration forum
featuring 450 Cubans who live overseas, including 200 from the United
States. Those invited were considered supportive of the single-party
communist system.

"This is a positive event," said Delia Zurdo, a Miami resident. "I've
lived there for 42 years, but I miss my country and I want to help
defend it, and defend it until I die."

Almost 300,000 Cubans abroad visited island in '09 - World AP - (27 January 2010)

Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana

Posted on Wednesday, 01.27.10
Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana

The president of the Cuban American National Foundation and a director
of the Cuban Liberty Council ridiculed a three-day conference that opens
Wednesday in Havana and has drawn about 450 Cuban expatriates from
around the world, including several from South Florida.

``It doesn't have any importance whatsoever,'' said Francisco ``Pepe''
Hernández, president of the Cuban American National Foundation. ``The
guys going down there have a right to their own opinion and good riddance.''

Added Ninoska Pérez-Castellón, a director of the Cuban Liberty Council:
``It's more of the same. The emigres are just those 450 authorized to
return to Cuba and who are supporters of the Cuban government.''

The reactions were the first by leaders of traditional Cuban exile
community organizations on the conference in Havana.

Those attending the event generally portray themselves as either neutral
in the struggle between exiles and the Havana regime or who sympathize
with Cuban government goals or seek reconciliation between exiles and
the regime.

Several participants from South Florida were called for a response, but
they could not be reached because they were either enroute to Havana or
already there. Those travelers include Max Lesnik and Francisco Aruca,
two longtime proponents of improved U.S.-Cuba relations who also
advocate a rapprochement with Cuba.

Lesnik heads a radio program called Radio Miami and hosts an Internet
website by the same name. On the website, Lesnik describes his radio
service as an alternative to other Spanish-language media which -- in
his view -- ``do not offer . . . accurate, impartial or objective
information about developments in the Americas, Cuba and the world.''

Aruca is also a radio host and owner of Marazul Charters, which operates
a charter airline service for trips to Cuba.

The Cuban government periodically hosts emigre conferences. The last one
took place in 2004, the year then-President George W. Bush imposed
travel and money remittance restrictions on exiles. The limits have
since been lifted by President Barack Obama.

A Cuban government statement on the conference said the goal is to
continue the ``frank and direct'' exchange of views between Cuban
officials and Cuban emigres. The statement, from deputy Cuban foreign
minister Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, also contained a passage that drew
derision from Pérez-Castellón and Hernández.

It said: ``We can affirm today with absolute certainty that there are no
profound problems between Cuba and the majority of its emigres.''

Hernández laughed when a reporter read the sentence to him.

``I only wish that were true,'' he said. ``Unfortunately, that is not
the case. It would be true if the Cuban government would give the Cuban
people the rights they deserve. But I would say that tremendous
differences remain between the Cuban regime and the Cuban-American

The conference opens Wednesday at the Palace of Conventions in Havana
and ends Friday. It is titled ``Meeting of Cubans Residing Abroad Who
Oppose the Blockade and Defend National Sovereignty.''

Blockade is the word used in Cuba to describe the U.S. trade embargo on
the island.

Two prominent Cuban exile leaders dismiss conference in Havana - Cuba - (27 January 2010)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Norway to support Cuban doctors working in Haiti

Norway to support Cuban doctors working in Haiti
HAVANA, Jan 24, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --

Norway has committed itself to supporting Cuba's medical relief work in
Haiti, where a 7.3-magnitude earthquake has claimed more than 100,000
lives, a local daily reported on Sunday.

Juventud Rebelde reported that the governments of Cuba and Norway signed
an agreement on Friday, under which Norway will donate 5 million crowns
(around 885,000 U.S. dollars) to fund the mission of Cuban doctors in Haiti. (25 January 2010)

Russia to ship wheat to Cuba, Bangladesh

Russia to ship wheat to Cuba, Bangladesh
Monday January 25, 2010 02:10:14 AM GMT
* State trader starts sales from intervention stocks
* 100,000 T in aid to Cuba between Feb and summer
* Up to 300,000 T to Bangladesh, time unknown
* Plans to sell intervention stocks in 2 years
By Aleksandras Budrys

MOSCOW, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Russia's new state grain trader will ship
wheat to Cuba and Bangladesh in the first of several deals to offload
large state stocks with minimum impact on world grain prices, the head
of the company said on Monday. United Grain Company Chief Executive
Sergei Levin said his firm planned to ship 100,000 tonnes of
fourth-grade milling wheat to Cuba as humanitarian aid between February
and summer. The grain will come from the government's intervention stocks.

UGC also plans to ship up to 300,000 tonnes of the same type of wheat to
Bangladesh under an inter-governmental agreement that will act as a
blueprint for similar deals with other nations over the next two years,
before commercial trade begins.

Levin said no dates were set for the Bangladeshi cargoes.

"One of the targets of selling the intervention stocks is to minimise
the negative impact from sales of substantial volumes of grain to the
world market, and not to damage Russian grain exporters by lowering
prices drastically," Levin said.

"The mechanism of sales under inter-governmental agreements implies that
the grain bypasses standard commercial turnover. Currently, we are
studying the possibility of such sales with some countries," he told a
news briefing.

Russia, one of the world's largest wheat exporters, has nearly 10
million tonnes of grain in its intervention stocks and intends to keep
buying cereals until the end of January.

Levin said UGC intended to ship grain from its stocks at zero profit,
selling it at the same prices at which it had bought the cereal at
purchase intervention tenders.

UGC, formed last year, expected to sell about 4 million tonnes of grain
from state stocks in 2010, Levin told Reuters in an interview on Dec.
23. On Monday, he said volumes could differ as 4 million tonnes was a
"target" figure.


First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who oversees Russia's
agricultural sector, said in December that volumes of grain shipments
with some countries on a tied-loan basis had been determined and could
start within days.

Levin declined to identify more recipients of Russian grain on this
basis, through which Russia effectively provides a loan in the form of
grain that can be repaid at the equivalent cash value at a later date.

The Agriculture Ministry said last September that the possibility of
shipments on this basis to Egypt, Russia's biggest wheat export market,
had been examined.

Levin said UGC had postponed the launch of sales of its maize stocks,
which total 156,000 tonnes, until the end of this week or the beginning
of next week, as it expected more potential buyers to emerge.

He said UGC intended to keep selling stocks mainly on the basis of
inter-government agreements over the next two years, before starting to
trade grain on a commercial basis.

"Taking into account the volume of grain in the intervention stocks, the
priority of UGC will be selling this grain, rather than starting
commercial sales," Levin said.

UGC's priority investment plans, he said, included developing the
capacity of its Novorossiisk terminal on the Black Sea, building another
deep-water terminal on the same coastline and a terminal in Russia's Far

He said UGC was also studying the possibility of developing Russia's
Baltic Sea ports to facilitate exports from the country's Central Black
Soil region.

Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union (RGU), told the
same briefing his union was lobbying for a 50 percent cut in rail fees
for all grains shipped to the country's far east for a period of 10
years, to stimulate exports.

Currently, a discount fee has to be set every year and is applied only
to shipments longer than 1,100 km (690 miles). (Editing by Sue Thomas)
Russia to ship wheat to Cuba, Bangladesh-UPDATE 2 06:25 Hours ago (25
January 2010)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A new development of Vietnam-Cuba financial cooperation program

A new development of Vietnam-Cuba financial cooperation program
(22/01/2010 10:58)

Standing Deputy Finance Minister Nguyen Cong Nghiep signed cooperation
Implementing cooperation agreements between the Ministry of Finance of
the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Ministry of Finance and Price
of the Republic of Cuba, from January 16th, 2010 to January 20th, 2010,
the delegation of Ministry of Finance of Vietnam led by the Standing
Deputy Minister Nguyen Cong Nghiep paid a working visit to the Ministry
of Finance of Cuba. The participants included the representatives from
the State Budget, Department of Industrial Administration, Ministerial
Office, Legal Department, Department of International Cooperation.

The Cuban Minister of Finance, Deputy Minister and the Directors of
units under the Ministry of Finance of Cuba including the State Budget
Department, Treasury Department, Policy Department, The Budgetary
Appraisal Department, Budget Appraisal Department, Program and Budget
Evaluation Department, Price Policy Department, Department of
International Cooperation participated in the meeting.

In the spirit of friendly cooperation, the Ministry of Finance of
Vietnam delegation discussed with the Ministry of Finance of Cuba about
budgetary and fiscal policy that Vietnam has implemented so as to
maintain marcroeconomic stability, sustainable economic growth, ensure
social security in the context of world-wide economic crisis in 2009 and
some financial and budgetary orientations in 2010.

The Ministry of Finance of Cuba appreciated the timely and effective
implementation of financial and budgetary solutions of the Government of
Vietnam that minimize negative impacts of the world-wide financial and
economic crisis in 2009. At the same time, the Cuban side discussed
about the overview of the state financial management, presented some
challenges that Cuba has been facing and expects to learn about the
Vietnamese experience in external financial and budgetary management
policy, exchange rate management policy and believes that the experience
in state financial management Vietnam will help Cuba determine the
appropriate direction in the process of economic transformation.

Under the program framework also, the leaders of both ministries has
seriously evaluated the implementation of cooperative activities of the
both sides in 2009 and agreed to set out various measures so as to
promote cooperation activities of the two ministries in 2010.In the
spirit of positive cooperation, the both sides agreed to sign a
cooperation program between the Ministries of Finance of Vietnam and
Cuba in 2010, of which exchanging experience in state financial
management and plan to set up Vietnamese financial consultant group to
provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance of Cuba.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of the cooperation program of the two
ministries, the Finance Minister of Cuba expressed his sincere thanks
for the precious assistance that the Finance Ministry of Vietnam has
provided to the Finance Ministry of Cuba and said that the working
program of the Ministry of Finance of Vietnam delegation this time has
created a breakthrough in financial cooperation among the two countries
and it is also an important factor contributing to build up inherent
solidarity among the two countries. /.

Modern Planetarium in Old Havana Opens

Modern Planetarium in Old Havana Opens
Written by Prensa Latina
Friday, 22 January 2010 13:58

Havana.- The first and modern Cuban planetarium opened its doors to the
public in the Havana historical center, with a projector able to capture
6,500 stars and a space theater with 65 seats. Their official opening
was last December 21, coinciding with the International Year of the

Located in the Plaza Vieja (Old Square), the planetarium will be able to
be visited from tomorrow's first hours until the afternoon.

The installation has telescopes, an astronomical library of on-line
graphics, interactive games and a qualified personnel of astronomers
that will operate the teams.

It also consists of four plants in which the rooms of the universe, the
stellar one and thegalactical , the space technique room, one dedicated
to the cosmic landscape and the balcony of the solar system, will be

The planetarium is added to the scientific patrimony of the Old Havana,
of which are part the House Alejandro of Humboldt, the National Museum
of Natural History and that of History of the Sciences Carlos J. Finlay.

Modern Planetarium in Old Havana Opens (22 January 2010)

Modern Cuba has little to boast about save for its glorious past

Modern Cuba has little to boast about save for its glorious past
Posted Sunday, January 24 2010 at 11:39

Returning to Cuba for the first time in 30 years, I was shocked to see
how little it has changed. The crumbling buildings, the shabby public
places, the half-empty shop shelves ... they all remain the same — as
does the love of rhumba, rum and laughter that so many Cubans share.
There is one key difference, however, between the Cuba of 1980 and the
Cuba of 2010.

Then, working-class Havana residents were staging passionate and
seemingly spontaneous demonstrations in support of the revolution and
against the "gusanos" (worms) who were fleeing the island in a chaotic
flotilla known as the Mariel Boatlift.

Angered and embarrassed that 10,000 Cubans had stormed the Peruvian
embassy in a quest for sanctuary, Fidel Castro told opponents of his
regime that they were all free to leave as long as they could arrange
transport to Miami. And some 125,000 Cubans did set sail in 1980 from
the port of Mariel in yachts and motor boats piloted by emigres living
in Florida.

"Revolution is a voluntary act!" Castro declared that spring in a speech
I covered for a New York newspaper. Crowds of Cubans trucked into the
torrid Plaza de la Revolucion responded with whoops and pumped fists.
"Fidel seguro, dale los yanquis duro!" they chanted — "Fidel, for sure,
hit the Yankees hard!"

No one present in the Plaza that day could doubt that many poor Cubans
felt great pride in a revolution that had, if nothing else, restored
their self-respect. The Cuba of that era also remained a beacon of
inspiration for millions of Africans, Asians and Latin Americans who
shared the view that European colonialism and US imperialism had stolen
their dignity as well as their resources.

Enthusiasm for the revolution — both inside and outside Cuba —has all
but vanished in 2010.

Cuba does retain friendly ties with Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and almost
every other black African country. Presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Yoweri
Museveni both visited Cuba last month, while Kenyan Foreign Minister
Moses Wetangula held talks there a year ago. Each of the visitors
thanked their hosts for having admitted hundreds of East Africans to
Cuban universities and for having sent medical workers and teachers to
East Africa.

Today, however, no African government is striving to emulate what many
had once admired as "the Cuban model."

Its exhaustion is as obvious now as was the revolutionary energy of 30
years ago.

Propaganda posters extolling socialism and denouncing the US trade
embargo can still be seen on Havana's streets and along rural roads all
over the country. But hardly anyone with whom I spoke during a two-week
visit seemed content with the present state of affairs or hopeful about
the future. Hints are all that could be given in a society that punishes
independent expression.

Apathy and cynicism were especially palpable on New Year's Day, which in
earlier times was an occasion for mass celebrations of the January 1,
1959, "Triumph of the Revolution." On this 51st anniversary, only a
couple of thousand Cubans gathered in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion —
once the site of spirited speeches by Castro, who officially stepped
down as president in 2006. Fidel's successor and brother, 78-year-old
Raul, gave no commemorative address at all on the first day of 2010.

In truth, Cuba today has little to boast about.

Officials continue to argue that the revolution makes health care and
education much more widely available than in neighbouring non-socialist
nations like Jamaica and Haiti. Claims of universal access to quality
medical care cannot be adequately assessed in just two weeks, but more
immediately visible services, such as maintenance of state-owned
housing, appear to be non-existent.

What will happen to Cuba when the Castro brothers pass from the scene?
No one knows. But it does seem unlikely that the Cuban people would ever
compromise the national dignity that the revolution has instilled. It's
that sense of hard-won self-esteem that leads many Cubans to say they
prefer to live under socialism "in spite of everything."

The East African - Modern Cuba has little to boast about save for its
glorious past (24 January 2010)

Latam leftists to meet on new regional currency

Latam leftists to meet on new regional currency

CARACAS — Venezuela and leftist allies will meet Monday in Caracas to
fine tune a new regional currency to break the "dependency on the (US)
dollar," President Hugo Chavez said Saturday.

"On Monday... we'll have a very important meeting of economy ministers
from ALBA to further shape an extraordinary project" on a currency that
will "break the dependency on the dollar, its economic and financial
colonialism," Chavez told a political rally.

The new currency, named the Sucre after Jose Antonio de Sucre, who
fought for independence from Spain alongside Venezuelan hero Simon
Bolivar in the early 19th century, is expected to be rolled out early
this year in a non-paper form.

The currency for regional trade was agreed to in an October meeting of ALBA.

That move echoes the European Union's introduction of the euro
precursor, the ECU, an account unit designed to tie down stable exchange
rates between member states before the national currencies were scrapped.

ALBA was founded in 2004 by Venezuela and Cuba as a counterweight to the
Free Trade Area of the Americas that the United States and several Latin
American nations were proposing at the time.

ALBA's member states are Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua,
Honduras, Dominica, Saint Vincent and Antigua and Barbuda.

AFP: Latam leftists to meet on new regional currency (24 January 2010)

Che Guevara’s History: First Time as Tragedy, Second Time as Greeting Cards

Che Guevara's History: First Time as Tragedy, Second Time as Greeting Cards
by Nick Gillespie

How resilient is the ghost of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine-born
Marxist revolutionary who ably assisted the Castro brothers' sadly
successful mission to turn Cuba into an island hellhole? His legend
survives even a lackluster, long-winded biopic released in 2008 and now
just out on DVD.

More important, Che's legend survives the facts of his own life. Born in
1928 and gunned down in 1967 by drunken Bolivian soldiers, Che rarely
missed an opportunity to make life miserable for those who opposed him.
During the fight against the Batista regime, Che ordered the summary
executions of dozens of real and suspected enemies, becoming the very
thing he said revolutionaries must be: a "cold-blooded killing machine."
As a leader in post-Revolution Cuba, Che became known as the "butcher of
La Cabaña" prison, where he oversaw hundreds of murders of political
prisoners and "counter-revolutionaries."

When he became the effective czar of the Cuban economy and attempted to
create a "new man and woman," or workers fueled by revolutionary ideals
rather than conventional workplace incentives, his plans failed
catastrophically and helped make Cuba the economic basket case it
remains to this day. Along the way, Che did more than his share to help
ban rock and jazz music as "imperialist" forms of expression. Such
actions mark Che less as the youthful idealist portrayed in the
acclaimed film version of his own Motorcycle Diaries and more as a
repressive, murderous thug, a Caribbean version of the Taliban.

By the mid-1960s, Che left Cuba to export armed revolution to Africa and
South America, all without success. If his violent death at 39 secured
his romantic martyrdom to a cause that now thankfully flourishes only in
Cuba and North Korea, it is his iconic, beret-bedecked image from a 1960
photo that persists everywhere in popular culture, from Mike Tyson's
torso (the boxer sports a tattoo of Mao along with Che) to beer and
booze labels to belt buckles to the T-shirts worn around the world.
Despite Che's pronounced contempt for rock music, Carlos Santana wore a
Che T-shirt during a performance at the 2005 Academy Awards ceremony.
Other invocations of the Che image, such as the image above from a
greeting card line that features a dog as Che, suggest unconscious (or
at least unknowing) parody.

Increasingly, one hopes, Che's image is becoming openly mocked as the
ugly reality of his life outlasts the shiny revolutionary veneer. As
Alvaro Vargas Llosa reported five years ago, young Argentines have taken
to sporting shirts emblazoned with the putdown, "I have a Che T-Shirt
and I don't know why." The Australian band The Clap sings of the "Che
Guevara T-Shirt Wearer" who has "no idea" of who he is. The Cuban punk
band, Porno para Ricardo, which has been arrested for "social
dangerousness," openly declaims the Castro regime and its heroes such as

Karl Marx, of all people, once remarked that history repeats itself, the
first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Marx argued that
history was the key to understanding the real world, and history is
certainly no friend to Che Guevara. If his younger admirers study the
historical Che–the one reputed to have declared "I feel my nostrils
dilate savoring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood of the
enemy"–they will understand that Che's original influence was indeed
tragic, not just for Cubans but for many others as well. And they just
might skip the farce phase, out of deference to the many victims of the
butcher of La Cabaña.

Watch's 10-minute documentary, Killer Chic: Hollywood's Sick
Love Affair With Che Guevara, by clicking below.

Che Guevara's History: First Time as Tragedy, Second Time as Greeting
Cards - Big Government (24 January 2010)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hold Off on Booking Those Cuba Flights...

Hold Off on Booking Those Cuba Flights...
Friday January 22, 2010

... because top Cuban officials recently dumped a big bucket of "dis"
over the head of President Barack Obama, who had been widely seen as
open to easing the U.S. travel ban on Cuba.

The Associated Press reported that during the recent climate summit in
Copenhagen, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez spent an hour and a
half attacking Obama.

"At this summit, there was only imperial, arrogant Obama, who does not
listen, who imposes his positions and even threatens developing
countries," said Rodriguez, who also accused Obama of lying.

In a newspaper column, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro termed Obama's speech
in Copenhagen "deceitful, demagogic and full of ambiguities."

So, nothing much has really changed in U.S.-Cuban relations, and it's
hard to see how much will as long as Cuban leaders find it convenient to
attack the U.S. president in such undiplomatic terms. Obama has seemed
to want to avoid the Red-baiting language of the past, but apparently
the message from Cuba remains, "Yankee, Stay Home."

Hold Off on Booking Those Cuba Flights... (22 January 2010)

U.S. offers Cuba medical supplies for Haiti

Posted on Saturday, 01.23.10
U.S. offers Cuba medical supplies for Haiti

The U.S. government has offered medical supplies to Cuban doctors in
earthquake-devastated Haiti, but the Cubans have not yet formally agreed
to accept the aid, the State Department said Friday.

The Cubans were reported to be running out of supplies at the three
hospitals in Port-au-Prince where they have been treating hundreds of
patients a day and performing surgeries almost around the clock.

``We have offered medical supplies, but the Cubans have not formally
agreed to such assistance, nor have any materials been provided as
yet,'' said Charles Luoma-Overstreet, spokesman for Western Hemisphere
Affairs at the State Department.

``We will continue to identify areas where our cooperation [with Cuba]
can support the overall relief effort in Haiti,'' added Luoma-Overstreet
in an e-mail from Washington.

Cuba already had some 340 medical personnel in Haiti when the quake
leveled much of Port-au-Prince last week, killing tens of thousands and
leaving many more with broken bones and crushed limbs.

It later sent in a 60-person emergency crew and 10 tons of supplies.

The Irish Times newspaper reported Tuesday that some of the Cuban
medical teams had run out of anesthetics and were performing amputations
on aware patients.

Cuba is allowing U.S. medical evacuation flights from the Guantánamo
Naval base to Miami to overfly the island, saving up to 90 minutes of
flying time.

U.S. offers Cuba medical supplies for Haiti - Haiti - Help and Healing - (23 January 2010)

Foreign Investors in Cuba Are Paid With Meal Vouchers

Foreign Investors in Cuba Are Paid With Meal Vouchers

Every night in the cabaret of a luxury hotel a European businessman goes
from table to table making an unusual request. He approaches the guests
and asks that when their bill comes, they let him pay it with the
colored vouchers that he has in his pocket. In exchange, they will give
him the amount in convertible pesos, which he can then turn into dollars
or Euros which he can take far away. This man is a victim of the
financial Corralito* that prevents many foreign investors from taking
their earnings out of the country. So that they don't utterly despair,
the Cuban authorities allow them to consume the length and breadth of
the Island, paying with pieces of paper lacking any real worth.

Today the frozen funds drama touches many businessmen who, after the
1995 passage of the Foreign Investment Law, were ready to invest in our
economy. They enjoyed the privilege of running a company, completely
forbidden to those of us born here. They came to be a new business class
in a country where the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 had confiscated
even the chairs of the shoeshine boys. The huge profits they were
managing to extract turned them into very attractive targets for the
hustlers, rental house landlords, and members of State Security. Many of
them were seen in the most expensive restaurants, choosing appetizing
dishes while accompanied by very young women. Others, the minority, gave
additional gifts to their employees to compensate them for their low
salaries in Cuban pesos paid by the State, through which the foreign
companies contracted for their labor.

These representatives of a "corporate scouting party" were prepared to
lose a little capital provided they could--starting now--be established
in a place that one day would be like a pie cut into slices. However,
those on the Island who signed contracts and drank the champagne with
them, after an agreement, considered them just a necessary and
provisional evil, a diversion that would be eradicated as soon as the
Special Period ended. After all the guarantees promised a few months
ago, they have learned that the coffers are empty, while hearing the
repeated, "we cannot pay you." Suddenly, these businessmen have begun to
feel the impotence and the scream--half stuck in the throat--that we
Cubans are burdened with every day. Still, they are so much less
unprotected than we are, against the depredation of the State; a
passport from another place allows them to get on a plane and forget

Translator's note: El Corralito was the common name given to the
Argentine government's freezing of bank accounts, and most strictly U.S.
dollar deposits, between December 2001 and December 2002, when the
nation was in a financial crisis. The word comes from the word "corral"
which has the same meaning in Spanish and English.

Yoani Sanchez: Foreign Investors in Cuba Are Paid With Meal Vouchers (23
January 2010)