Friday, February 12, 2010

Moderate quake hits eastern Cuba

Posted on Friday, 02.12.10
Moderate quake hits eastern Cuba

HAVANA -- A magnitude-5.4 earthquake hit eastern Cuba early Friday,
rattling nerves but causing no reported injuries or damage.

The temblor hit just after 7 a.m. Friday, centered about 35 miles (55
kilometers) southeast of Baracoa, near the easternmost tip of the
island, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That is just 160 miles
(255 kilometers) from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where a Jan. 12 quake
destroyed much of the city and killed countless thousands.

"Yes we felt it. We felt it strong," said Maira Legra, whose son runs a
home offering lodging to tourists in the colonial beach-side city of
Baracoa. "There was no problem. I was in bed because it was early, but I
didn't get up."

Moderate quake hits eastern Cuba - Cuba - (12 February 2010)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Envoy Sees Bright Future for Church in Cuba

Envoy Sees Bright Future for Church in Cuba

Notes Climate of Increasing Openness

ROME, FEB. 10, 2010 ( There is hope that Cuba will become
continuously more open to a free practice of religion, according to the
nation's ambassador to the Holy See.

Eduardo Delgado Bermúdez told ZENIT the Castro government is willing to
go forward with a growing number of concrete signs of openness, just as
Benedict XVI is encouraging.

The Holy Father called for this openness in a December address upon
receiving Delgado Bermúdez's credentials as the new Cuban envoy.

The envoy recalled to ZENIT that religious liberty is protected in the
constitution. He further affirmed: "You ask me: will the Pope's hope be
realized? I can say, categorically, yes, that the government of Cuba --
and I said this in my address [to the Pope], which was not personal, it
was an address that I gave in the name of the Cuban government and was
approved by the Cuban government -- is willing to continue forward as
His Holiness expressed it."

One of those concrete signs of openness might be a greater Church
presence in the media.

On recent visits to the island, both the Pope's secretary of state,
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the president of the Pontifical Council
for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Celli, urged this greater

According to Delgado Bermúdez: "Access of the Catholic Church to the
press has happened exactly as happened with the declaration of Christmas
as a holiday, or as innumerable religious processions have been
authorized within the law. Before there were very few in Cuba; now they
have increased considerably.

"And at present the bishops have access to the national media, an access
that the government offered them because the media, in Cuba, is state
owned. I can tell you that on this there have been talks between the
authorities of the local Church and the Cuban government, and facilities
will continue to be given to increase this access. This is positive."

Better communication

In general, the envoy declared, Holy See-Cuban relations are
increasingly positive. This year, formal relations will have existed for
75 years.

Delgado Bermúdez proposed that "today all subjects can be discussed
between the Church in Cuba and the authorities in an atmosphere of
respect, of positive, constructive communication, that is, at present
there is no topic that could be a reason for confrontation. For me, this
is the most important achievement."

Other signs of bettering relations, according to the ambassador, are the
steps taken for a seminary in Havana.

"I believe that it is significant that some buildings that were in the
power of the authorities for different reasons have been returned to the
Church and others are in the process of being restored," he continued.

"We have many points in common with the Church," Delgado Bermúdez said.
"The Church can play a positive role.

"The Church's help has been very important too when there have been
natural catastrophes, cyclones; the Church has given important help,
speedy and effective. I think this must be added to the best results."

[Silvia Gattas contributed to this report]

ZENIT - Envoy Sees Bright Future for Church in Cuba (11 February 2010)

U.S. food exports to Cuba fell 26 percent in 2009

U.S. food exports to Cuba fell 26 percent in 2009
Friday February 12, 2010 04:32:00 PM GMT

* Drop due to Cuba's economic troubles
* Unlikely that sales will increase this year
By Esteban Israel

WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - U.S. food and agricultural exports to
Cuba plunged 26 percent to $528 million in 2009 as the cash-strapped
island scrambled to reduce its huge import bill, a New York-based trade
group said on Wednesday.

The severe drop, from $710 million in 2008, broke a long trend of rising
sales since the U.S. government authorized agriculture exports to the
Communist-run island in 2000 in a break in the longstanding U.S. trade
embargo against Cuba.

"The decrease has nothing to do with U.S. law, regulation, or pricing.
It's simply a consequence of Cuba being in troubling commercial and
economic times," said John Kavulich, senior advisor at the U.S.-Cuba
Trade and Economic Council.

He said there "nothing to indicate" that 2010 exports would be any
better than 2009.

Cuba has seen its foreign income severely reduced by the global
recession, which cut revenues from nickel exports and tourism, the
island's biggest money earners.

Major hurricanes that swept the island in 2008 further drained its

President Raul Castro has taken several steps aimed at producing more
food locally to reduce the need for imports.

Cuba imports about 70 percent of its food because of its inability to
grow what it needs.

The $710 million value for 2008 exports was partly due to an increase in
commodity prices, the trade council said.

Strict U.S. regulations require Cuba to pay cash in advance to U.S.
producers, with no credit available.

In recent years the island has turned to friendlier governments offering
flexible long-term financing, such as Brazil, China and Vietnam.

"They are turning to suppliers who don't mind waiting for their money,"
Kavulich said.

Venezuela is Cuba's top-political ally and number one trading partner.
The U.S. comes fifth.

Still, U.S. exports to Cuba in 2009 made the island the 36th biggest
market for American agricultural products, the council said.

Cuba imports from the U.S. last year included, among other things,
frozen chickens, corn, wheat and soybeans. (Reporting by Esteban Israel;
editing by Jeff Franks)

U.S. food exports to Cuba fell 26 percent in 2009 18:49 Hours ago (11
February 2010)

Cuba sharply reduces US food imports amid hardship

Posted on Wednesday, 02.10.10
Cuba sharply reduces US food imports amid hardship
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Cuba has slashed food and agriculture imports from the United
States - its largest food supplier despite decades of sour relations -
as the communist government tightens its belt in the face of a crippling
economic malaise.

Imports fell 26 percent in 2009 to $528 million, after peaking at $710
million the year before, according to a report Wednesday by the New
York-based U.S.-Cuba Economic Trade Council, which provides nonpartisan
commercial and economic information about the island and claims to have
no position on policy.

"The decrease has nothing to do with U.S. regulations, U.S. law or U.S.
policy," said John Kavulich, a senior policy analyst at the council. "It
is a function of Cuba not having the resources."

Kavulich said Cuba has increasingly turned to other countries like
Vietnam that will sell it lower-quality food and not ask for payment for
as long as two years.

Despite the half-century feud across the Straits of Florida, the United
States is the largest seller of food to Cuba: Food and agriculture
products have been exempted from the 48-year embargo since 2000.

Cuba waited more than a year after that to start importing U.S. food -
angered by a provision requiring it to pay cash upfront before delivery.

But a hurricane in late 2001 hurt food production and gave it little
choice. Today, Cubans getting food from monthly ration books eat chicken
from Arkansas and wheat from Nebraska. Upscale markets stock everything
from Kellogg's cereal to Heinz ketchup to Oreo cookies - though the
prices are exorbitant.

Imports from other major trading partners such as Venezuela, China and
Spain are also down. Rodrigo Malmierca, the minister of foreign trade,
said in November that trade during the first three quarters of 2009 was
off 36 percent.

Cuba's economy has recently been hit by a triple-whammy of bad news:
Three major hurricanes did more than $10 billion in damage in 2008, the
global economic crisis dampened tourism profits and a drop in
commodities prices hurt nickel sales for much of 2009.

President Raul Castro has tried to offset falling imports by increasing
domestic agriculture production, turning over tens of thousands of
hectares (acres) of fallow land to small farmers.

He has warned repeatedly that the government can no longer afford to
spend so much subsidizing life on the island, and that Cubans must work
harder and take more responsibility for their economic well-being.

The government controls well over 90 percent of the economy and heavily
subsidizes all aspects of life while paying an average salary of about
$20 a month. Cubans get free health care and education, and usually pay
next-to-nothing for housing and utilities.

Havana has taken baby-steps toward changing that system, eliminating
some staples from the ration book, dropping free lunches for workers at
some state enterprises and trimming health and education spending.

Cuba sharply reduces US food imports amid hardship - World AP - (11 February 2010)

Europe might take another step back

Posted on Thursday, 02.11.10
Europe might take another step back

Until June 30, Spain holds the presidency of the European Union. Madrid
has always taken the lead on Cuba, and so it has been since the
Socialists won the 2004 election. Under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,
Spain prodded the EU to lift sanctions imposed after the Black Spring of
2003. By March 2009, the EU had normalized relations with Havana.

After the Popular Party eked out the Socialists in 1996, Spain moved the
EU to adopt the Common Position, laying out the objective of encouraging
Cuba to launch a democratic transition, respect human rights and open
the economy while rejecting ``coercive measures.''

Instead, the CP offers Havana incentives to mend its ways. Now Madrid
hopes to persuade the EU to eliminate or dilute the Common Position.

Europeans may be Venus to the American Mars, but democracy and human
rights lie at Europe's core. The EU takes the Universal Declarations
literally: Human rights are ours no matter what our politics.

Rescinding the Common Position won't be easy. All EU members must agree
to it, and there's resistance from Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and
the Czech Republic. Last November German Chancellor Angela Merkel told
Zapatero that the CP's fate was entirely in Cuba's hands. It'd be lifted
only if Havana showed meaningful progress.

Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has been the strongest
advocate for shelving the Common Position. Yet, he recently told
parliament that Madrid would ``confine itself to open a debate'' in the
European Union, a far cry from the promise to lift the CP during his
trip to Cuba last October. A few weeks later Zapatero told Der Spiegel
that he favored ``an exigent dialogue'' with Havana. Some Spanish
officials, moreover, don't like the idea of tying up Spain's EU
presidency with the CP. Cuba is not exactly a top EU priority.

Cuba, nonetheless, struts around with an illusory sense of
self-importance. Foreign ministry officials repeatedly say that
negotiations with the European Union depend on ``the elimination of the
interventionist and unilateral Common Position.'' Reality check: Cuba
needs the EU, not the other way around.

Havana has generally conducted an efficacious foreign policy. Its
relations with countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the
Caribbean are normal if not outright friendly. Last year, for example,
Cuba sailed through its review in the U.N. Human Rights Council, thanks,
in part, to the goodwill earned in the developing world.

To be sure, U.S. policy has also helped Havana insofar as the embargo
musters wider international censure than the regime's ingrained
violations of human rights.

Even so, Cuba is at a foreign-policy crossroads. Its cries of ``national
sovereignty'' won't play well with the European Union. Would Cuban
leaders accept a weakened Common Position? Unlikely. If the EU discards
the CP, the next logical step would be an economic-cooperation
agreement. Only all such EU agreements carry a democratic clause. In
1996, Brussels offered one and Havana sent the EU emissary packing.

In contrast, Vietnam accepted the democratic clause, taking in stride
the occasional reprove on human rights and even making some changes.
Hanoi also signed and ratified the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, which Cuba signed two years ago with no date in sight for
ratification. Why the difference? Decades ago Vietnam put the economy
and living standards at the center. Ordinary Vietnamese have greatly
benefited while economic interests, not ideological crusades, guide
foreign policy.

Cuba can't or won't do the same. Unlike Vietnam, Cuba offers little in
terms of trade and investment. With Obama changing the tone and some
substance of U.S. policy, railing against ``imperialism'' doesn't carry
the same punch. Calling Obama an ``imperial and arrogant liar'' as Cuban
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez did late last year may win plaudits in
Caracas but not in too many other quarters.

Cuban leaders themselves are, of course, the problem. Neither sticks nor
carrots works with them. If Spain fails to have the CP lifted or if it
succeeds and Havana again turns down European economic cooperation, then
they win once more. Screaming from the barricades is what they do best
no matter how dearly it costs the Cuban people in freedom and treasure.

Marifeli Pérez-Stable is a professor at Florida International University
and Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

Europe might take another step back - Other Views - (11
February 2010)

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart won't seek reelection

Posted on Thursday, 02.11.10
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart won't seek reelection

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a passionate defender and architect of
legislation to strengthen the U.S. embargo against Cuba, announced
Thursday he won't seek reelection to Congress.

The Miami Republican made the announcement at a news conference at
Florida International University.

Diaz-Balart indicated last summer that he was interested in leaving the
House, where he has served since 1992, saying he was ``seriously
considering'' a request from Gov. Charlie Crist that he consider being
appointed -- temporarily -- to the Senate.

Within minutes of Lincoln Diaz-Balart's announcement, his brother, Mario
Diaz-Balart, launched a campaign to succeed him in the more
Republican-leaning congressional district.

Mario Diaz-Balart called it a ``natural move,'' noting that he has
represented -- at the state and federal level -- several of the
communities in the district.

That move will open up Mario Diaz-Balart's seat. There's no clear front
runner for that seat, but state Reps. David Rivera and Anitere Flores
are running for a state Senate seat that is almost fully contained in
the congressional district.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart won't seek reelection - Afternoon Update - (11 February 2010)

Cuban Health Care: Doctors without Band-aids

Cuban Health Care: Doctors without Band-aids
By Ruby Weldon | Location: Cuba | 01/18/09

We had read and heard so much about Cuba's health system – one of the
greatest successes of 'the Revolution' – and all of it good. More
doctors per capita than even most western nations, health clinics in
every neighbourhood, town, small village, health care free for all, and
a world-renowned pharmaceutical industry.

On our first trip to Cuba, one of our friends was around seven months'
pregnant. She'd been told her baby was breech, and would have to be
delivered by Caesarean section. For her and her family, which included
some medical practitioners, this was not just bad, but frightening news.

"The hospitals in Cuba do not have proper equipment," they told me. "You
cannot count on things being clean. The material they use to stitch
people up is often old, and falls apart. They often do not have the
right drugs. They re-use disposable needles." Their list of concerns was

I agreed to examine the woman in the presence of her husband. By my
palpation, the baby was indeed breech, but it seemed mobile, and small
enough to turn. I asked her if her obstetrician had suggested she do any
exercises to help the baby turn to a head-down position. "No, he just
says I will have to have a Caesarean section."

I showed her the exercises, and was pleased to hear that at her next
visit to the obstetrician he found that the baby had turned, and was now
head down. She said that when she told him about the exercises he
expressed surprise. He wanted to know who had told her about this, and
what exactly she had done.

Before we left Cuba the family asked me to send some suture material,
sterile gloves and needles and medications to prevent hemorrhage to
them. These were the things they were concerned would not be available
when the woman went, in labour, to the hospital. I sent the package, and
they received it with no difficulty, and in time for the birth.

I was interested to talk with Cuban women about their childbirth
experiences, and heard many stories. I was surprised by the number of
women I talked to that had been delivered by Caesarean section – clearly
the majority. They were all happy to show me their scars. All of them
were vertical, from pubis to navel – the old 'classical' incision that
is no longer used in the western world, primarily because once a woman's
uterus has been cut in this way, she is at such risk in further
deliveries that repeat Caesarean sections are the rule.

Apparently this is not the rule in Cuba. Women with vertical incisions
do go on to have vaginal births. It would be interesting to know what
the rate of uterine rupture is in these deliveries. Perhaps the Cubans
know something we don't, or perhaps they are more willing to take these

Just as disturbing as the vertical incisions these women had were the
frequent signs of poor healing. Many of the scars were very wide and
looked, even after many years, poorly healed. Several women spoke of
having to go back to the hospital because their wounds had re-opened
and/or become infected. Many had taken months to recover from their
surgeries, and needed mothers, sisters, aunties and friends to look
after their babies for them.

But most disturbing to me of all was how little Cuban women knew about
their bodies, about health and care in pregnancy, and about labour and
delivery. According to them, care during pregnancy consisted of being
weighed, measured and given an ultra-sound – at every visit! All of them
had had blood tests done, although most of them didn't know what they
were for. (In fact, from discussions I had with a Cuban geneticist, I
learned that Cuba tests pregnant women for most of the same parameters,
including the risk of genetic disorders, that we do.)

Women went into labour and birth with a 'knowledge' based on stories
they'd been told by other women – often dreadful stories. They were
fearful and distrusting. Of those who'd had Caesarean sections, not one
of them knew the reason why. All of them just said "because they told me
my baby was in trouble."

There was little education about breast-feeding, and little overt
support for it. I was saddened to see the number of women who were
bottle-feeding their babies. And I was amazed, given Castro's hostility
to western capitalism, to see that Nestles appeared to have the corner
on the formula market in Cuba.

Although Cuban women do get a full year's paid maternity leave when they
have a baby, many of them go back to work within the first few months.
It's the only way to make ends even begin to meet. The baby is either
left with a mother or sister, or placed in an 'infant circle,' which
used to be provided as a service by the government, but which now must
be paid for.

All this aside, the Cuban government does provide one maternity service
that makes a lot of sense. This is the system of 'casas de mujeres,' or
women's (maternity) homes, which are in every city and town in Cuba.
Women who live at distance from hospital (no Cuban babies are
intentionally delivered at home), or women who have a problem pregnancy
that requires observation, are given beds in these homes. They are also
given meals, and they can enjoy, if not the comfort of their families,
at least the company of other women.

The 'casas de mujeres' are staffed by nurses who are able to monitor the
womens' health, and take the women to hospital as and when needed. This
may be one of the most important things that Cuba does to achieve its
very low infant mortality rates – the lowest in South America and lower
even than the rate in Canada – a very impressive achievement.

On our last visit to Cuba we met a fellow from Finland who had a truly
awful throat infection. He had been to an international health clinic
and been seen by a Cuban doctor. He'd been given a prescription for
strong antibiotics, and a nurse had administered the first shot.
Although he was a big and pretty tough-looking guy, he said the shot was
extremely painful – a burning sensation that lasted long after the
needle was withdrawn.

I looked at the medication. It was an antibiotic that's meant to be
given intravenously, not intra-muscularly. I offered to give him the
rest of his injections, but warned him that regardless of the technique
of the puncturist, the shots were going to hurt.

I gave him five or six more shots. The clinic had provided him with
enough disposable needles and syringes for each one. As a medical
practitioner, I was concerned about safe disposal of the needles. We
were all staying in a casa particular where one of the family members
was a doctor. I asked her if she could help with the disposal of the
needles. She said sure, I could just give them to her.

When I gave the used needles to her, she turned around and tossed them
into an open waste basket in the corner of the room. The same room she
shared with a couple of small children who, like most Cuban kids, were
playing on the floor not a few feet from the waste basket. I wondered
how needles were disposed of in Cuban hospitals and clinics... .

We frequently saw people with nasty open wounds and sores in Cuba. On a
couple of occasions I asked the people if they'd been to a clinic to
have the wound cleaned and dressed. The answer was either "yes, but they
had no ointment and no bandages" or "no, they have nothing there."

On one occasion we were helping a group of carpenters with a community
building project and one of the fellows managed to give himself a very
deep gash to his finger. It looked like it was almost to the bone, and
the last joint of his finger was bent at a sickening angle from the rest
of it. I suggested he go to the local hospital to have it cleaned and
sutured. He went, but came back with it looking just about the same. He
reported that they had looked at it and washed it, but that they had no
suture materials, no ointment, and no bandages available.

As we carry an antibiotic and antibacterial ointment with us, I asked
him to come back to our room, where I would at least apply some of this,
and cover the wound with a bandage. After applying a liberal glob of
ointment to the wound, I used some gauze and a well-wrapped couple of
band-aids to pull the finger-tip into alignment with the rest of his finger.

We saw him several days later. He ran over to show us his finger. It was
healing very well. The cut was closed, and the finger was straight. I
gave him another couple of band-aids to keep the finger protected as he
worked. Wherever we went in that town from then on we were greeted with
big smiles and hand-shakes. The story of the miraculous healing of the
carpenter's finger had spread by Cuban 'telephone' – the fastest
communication system in the world.

On another occasion we were walking near a pharmacy. A young man
approached us and asked if we would give him the money to pay for a
prescription he'd been given. In return, he offered to get us a
prescription for anything we wanted. We asked him if he couldn't get his
prescription for free. "No, nothing is 'free' here in Cuba. It doesn't
cost much, but anyway I don't have the money."

As it turned out, the drug he needed didn't cost much at all, by our
standards. But on his salary, $8 or $9 a month, even $2 was too much. We
bought him the prescription.

We also always brought vitamins – especially vitamins C and B – for our
Cuban friends when we came, as well as pain medications and specific
remedies for colds, rheumatism, arthritis and varicose veins. And
antibacterial and antibiotic ointments for cuts and wounds, creams for
skin disorders. None of these things were easily available, or cheap
enough for Cubans to buy.

At one of our bed and breakfast places, the woman's daughter had
insulin-dependent diabetes. She had great difficulty controlling her
diabetes not because she couldn't get the insulin – it was available.
The problem was that the diabetes centre in central Havana, although it
had the testing kits needed to determine one's blood-sugar level, almost
never had any testing strips. The kits are useless without the strips.

So for the woman's daughter, as for other diabetics in the country,
treatment of diabetes is based on guess-work. What do I think my
blood-sugar level is? How much insulin do I think I need? This is a
dangerous way to treat diabetes. And diabetes rates are reportedly high
in Cuba, likely due to the low protein and high carbohydrate nature of
the Cuban's limited diet.

On our last trip to Cuba we were told about Fidel's arrangement with
Bolivia. Bolivians come to Cuba for eye surgery. Once it's done, they
stay at one of the all-inclusive resort hotels to recover for a few
days, or a week. The same hotels that are off-limits to Cubans.

We asked a few Cubans what they thought about the 'free' health care and
hotel stays for Bolivians. They all expressed pride in Cuba's modern –
and obviously superior – health care system, and in Cuba's generosity in
providing this service 'free' to Bolivians. Only a couple of them seemed
aware that the Cuban government was in fact being paid.

The Cuban government also has an arrangement with the Venezuelan
government – doctors for oil. Cuban doctors, having received their
education courtesy of the state, must pay it back by going to Venezuela
for two years – or more – to work. This often results in the separation
of families – mothers and fathers leaving husbands, wives, babies and
children behind in Cuba as they go off to Venezuela for their tour of duty.

The Cuban doctor in Venezuela does get paid for his or her work – and
very well by Cuban standards: around $50 a month. For their families,
this is a tremendous benefit. The doctors can also, while they're in
Venezuela, buy all sorts of things that are simply not available in
Cuba: electronics, kitchen appliances and utensils, clothes, shoes,
cosmetics, jewelry – and food, glorious food.

But regardless of the perqs, the Cuban doctor is indentured to the
state. When he or she is 'invited' to go to Venezuela, it's an
invitation that can hardly be refused. We met several doctors who had
gone to Venezuela for more than one two-year stint. One of them had been
away from their family for six years. The doctor was estranged from his
wife, and hardly knew his own children, nor they him.

On our first trip I happened across a Cuban obsterician/gynecologist in
a cafe in Havana. We started off talking about the cockatoo in a cage in
the corner. It wasn't long before we were talking about maternity care
in Cuba, his work in the hospital in Havana, and his family – his wife
and two young girls. It was a pleasant chat. When it was time to part,
he took my hand and said: "Please, I am wondering if you could give me
some money. I do not get paid much for my work – not enough to support
my family. Please, if you could help."

On a subsequent trip I had the good fortune to meet and share a meal
with another Cuban obstetrician/gynecologist. We had a wide-ranging
discussion, during which it became clear that although he had been
fairly well trained, his knowledge was limited by the fact that he had
had very limited access to modern obstetrical or gynecological texts. At
the end of our conversation, the doctor said: "I do not ask you for
money. I ask you for information. Please, if you can send me
information. Here it is so difficult to get."

The doctor was unable to get any obstetrical or gynecological journals,
and was permitted only one hour a week of internet access – and even
that was restricted. He therefore had almost no way of keeping current
with advances in his field, or of getting information about specific
disorders, problems or issues he was encountering.

Although he was a bright and engaging fellow, I came to the conclusion
that his education and training was so limited that he was really at
what we would consider a novice level – a suitable assistant or
apprentice to someone with more training and experience, but not someone
who was equipped to manage complex cases on his own. But he is, of
course, doing just this.

If you go to Cuba, take as many vitamins and medications with you as you
can. In particular, take Vitamins C, B, and E and children's vitamins
with iron; cold and flu remedies, throat lozenges and cough syrups; pain
medications like Tylenol and Ibuprofen; specific pain relief for
rheumatism and arthritis; antibiotic and antibacterial ointments;
sterile gauze and band-aids. Tooth brushes, toothpaste and dental floss,
razors and razor blades, tampons and minipads, soap and shampoo are also
much appreciated items. And if anyone asks you to purchase their
prescription for them, as the Nike ad says: 'just do it!'

Cuban Health Care: Doctors without Band-aids | Matador

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New bishop of Cuba: 'Hers is a theology of hope'

New bishop of Cuba: 'Hers is a theology of hope'
Marites N. Sison
staff writer
Feb 9, 2010
Paul Feheley

In a service described as "full of life and energy," The Rev. Griselda
Delgado del Carpio, 55, was consecrated on Feb. 7 as the new co-adjutor
Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

The pews at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Havana were packed as about
400 people – busloads from parishes where Bishop Delgado had served as
priest – gathered for the four-hour service. Archbishop Fred Hiltz,
primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Presiding Bishop Katharine
Jefferts Schori, primate of The Episcopal Church, and Archbishop John
Holder, the new primate of the Church of the Province of the West
Indies, celebrated the Eucharist as members of the Metropolitan Council
of Cuba. (The Council has overseen the Cuban church since it separated
from The Episcopal Church in 1967 because of difficult relations between
the governments of Cuba and the United States.)

Archbishop Hiltz, chief celebrant and chief consecrator in his capacity
as Council chair, presided over parts of the Eucharist in Spanish.
Archbishop Hiltz isn't fluent in Spanish, but "he worked very diligently
on it in events leading up to the service," said Archdeacon Paul
Feheley, the primate's principal secretary. "He spoke slowly and people
had the printed text in front of them. I think there was a very deep
appreciation of his willingness to try." Archbishop Hiltz' sermon was,
however, delivered in English and Bishop Jefferts Schori, who speaks
Spanish, acted as translator.

In his sermon, Archbishop Hiltz expressed confidence in Bishop Delgado's
leadership. He recalled that when the Council asked Bishop Delgado if
she would accept the appointment, she had replied, "I live for the
witness of the Church in Cuba." He said that "as she has poured her
heart and soul into her parish ministry, so we believe she will serve
the diocese with deep love…She will encourage and support all of you in
your ministries, lay and ordained. She will call you to prayer and to
good works…"

Bishop Delgado was appointed by the Council after two special electoral
synods held last year failed to elect a successor to Bishop Miguel
Tamayo Zaldivar, who is retiring as interim bishop. She was chosen from
a pool of candidates who were asked by the Council to submit written
responses to a series of questions.

In her submission, Bishop Delgado spoke of the Spirit of God "blowing
its fresh air" to renew Cuban vocation and witness to the Gospel, said
Archbishop Hiltz. "Hers is a theology of hope grounded in the context of
the church local," he said. "She speaks of the rebuilding of temples
throughout Cuba – the restoration of churches and the growing of
congregations through worship and service – through reading biblical
texts, celebrating the Eucharist, sharing in prayer for the community
and for the world, and then sharing food, providing clothing, and
distributing medicines as any and all have need."

Bishop Delgado's consecration ceremony was steeped in symbolism. Her
daughters Griselda and Marcela, and son, Lautaro, vested her with
liturgical garments imbued with deep meaning. The stole had come all the
way from Bishop Delgado's native Bolivia, which she had left at the
height of military coups in the early '80s; the cope, mitre and pectoral
cross were gifts from the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal
Church of the U.S. The Canadian gift was given in memory of Gail
Virginia (Gini) Pollesel, wife of Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general
secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, who was killed in a car
accident on Dec. 27. The couple had visited the church in Cuba on many
occasions, in Archdeacon Pollesel's capacity as Council representative
to the diocese's annual synod.

The collection, which came from the service as well as contributions
from parishes, was offered to Haiti, which is still reeling from a
devastating earthquake that hit the capital, Port-au-Prince and
neighbouring suburbs, on Jan. 12. Council members saw this gesture of
solidarity as "evidence of Communion," said Archdeacon Feheley.

As she received the mitre, Archbishop Hiltz reminded Bishop Delgado that
as servant leader, "the bishop is called to care for all the Churches."
He described a bishop's ministry as one that brings "great joy" and
"great pain." Joy comes when the church gathers "in times of celebration
and new beginnings," and pain comes when there is "dissension and
conflict among the faithful," he said. The challenge is "to address it,
and to declare that we belong ultimately not to one party or another,
but to Christ."

Archbishop Hiltz quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams who
said that one should be able to see in the bishop "the Christ who
gathers the people, speaking words of welcome, forgiveness, healing, and

A bishop must also have a commitment "to cherish diversity within
unity," he added. "It is reflected in our willingness to come to the
table respecting the range of theological perspectives our Anglican
tradition has the capacity to embrace." It is also reflected "in the
generosity of spirit and substance for relief in emergencies of a
catastrophic nature such as we have seen in Haiti in recent weeks and in
long-term commitments to the repair of the world through the Millennium
Development Goals," he said.

A graduate of Cuba's Seminario Evangelico de Teologia, Bishop Delgado
was ordained a priest in 1990. She worked at the parishes of San Juan
Evangelista, Coliseo, San Felipe Diacono, Limonar, Santa Maria Virgen,
and the missions at Cuatro Esquinas and Guachinango.

Anglican Journal: New bishop of Cuba: 'Hers is a theology of hope' (10
February 2010)

In Cuba, license plates tag drivers, not the car

In Cuba, license plates tag drivers, not the car
By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press Writer Will Weissert, Associated
Press Writer – 4 mins ago

HAVANA – It's Cuba's twist on "you are what you drive": Here, you are
your license plate.

A rainbow of colors and an alphabet soup of codes tell the discerning
eye how important you are in the egalitarian revolution as you whiz by —
your nationality, what you do for a living and often how high you rank
at work.

"The kind of car you drive says something," says Norberto Leon, a
retiree who collects pocket change for watching parked cars. "The
license plate, it says more."

Cuba's painstaking color-coding of license plates — a system copied from
the former Soviet Union — is one way authorities have kept tabs on
people and their vehicles for decades.

The government owns most cars. They have blue plates with letters and
numbers that indicate when and where the vehicle can operate and whether
the driver can use it for personal as well as professional reasons.

Inspectors wait along highways out of town and other high-traffic areas,
stopping official cars to check their route sheets and to make sure they
aren't being used for a jaunt to the beach.

Executives at government-run firms — who get caramel-colored plates —
have more leeway. But even they may only be allowed to use their cars to
get to and from work.

"It's a form of control," said Weichel Guera, a National Office of
Statistics chauffeur who is assigned a government sedan that he can use
only to ferry top officials during business hours. He and his Lada spend
most of their time parked outside the statistics building.

In the Soviet Union, Cuba's benefactor in many regards, all plates were
black and white, and the first two letters specified the province where
the vehicle was registered. The third letter denoted either state or
private ownership.

The Soviets also assigned numbers for embassy license plates based on a
country's recognition of the Bolshevik Revolution: Plates for Britain —
the first to accept the czar's ouster — are still 001.

In Cuba, the first letter in the license plate indicates which of 14
provinces the car hails from, such as "H" for Havana. The letter "K"
means the car is privately owned — either by a person or by a foreign firm.

Military vehicles have mint-green, rear-only plates; olive-green plates
are for vehicles issued by the Ministry of the Interior, including Fidel
Castro's fleet of armored Mercedes 280s, which were built between 1982
and 1984.

Black plates are for foreign diplomats, who don't have to adhere to
traffic laws. White-plated vehicles of Cuban government ministers or
heads of state organizations also drive as if they have diplomatic
immunity — though technically they don't.

The last three digits on diplomatic plates often denote the professional
rank of the driver. So, if you're stuck behind a gray Mercedes with
black license plate 179-004, that means the fourth most-important
officer from the Russian embassy is likely behind the wheel.

"Everyone's supposed to be equal under socialism, but when a late-model
sedan with black license plates roars down Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue)
in Havana, the driver is saying, 'Look out, I'm a big shot,'" said
Tracey Eaton, a U.S. journalist once posted in Havana who now writes the
blog "Along the Malecon."

For years, officials' cars were Iron-Curtain imports, as Cubans were
encouraged to drive Ladas or other boxy, smelly and slow models. Now
many official sedans are imported from China or bought from Havana's
Peugeot, Fiat and Mercedes dealerships, adding diversity to the
white-plated fleet.

Rental cars get maroon plates. Foreign journalists, religious leaders
and Cubans working for overseas firms have neon-orange ones.

Red "provisional" plates allow vehicles to circulate while authorities
sort out just what color tag they should get.

Most of the half-century-old American roadsters that create a moving
museum along the island's potholed streets have yellow license plates,
meaning they are vehicles owned by ordinary Cubans.

The holdovers from Detroit's chrome-and-tail-fin era are still prominent
on the roads because Cubans with non-VIP jobs can buy and sell only cars
manufactured before the Castros took power in 1959. Buying newer
vehicles requires government permission — including justifying how you
can afford a car when the communist state controls well over 90 percent
of the economy and pays employees an average of about $20 a month.

"It's normal," insisted Leonardo Rodriguez, 49, whose faded, baby-blue
1957 Buick Special has yellow plates and a front grill wide enough for a
family of five to picnic atop.

"Maybe it's confusing for a foreigner, but for us it's not."

In Cuba, license plates tag drivers, not the car - Yahoo! News (10
February 2010)

Cuba To Purchase 40,000 MT Rice From Vietnam

Cuba To Purchase 40,000 MT Rice From Vietnam
Published on 10th February, 2010 16:11:00

According to reports in the local Vietnamese media, Cuba will buy
400,000 MT of rice this year from Vietnam through its regular purchases
with deferred payment, which is a drop of almost 11 % from last year.
Vietnam Northern Food Corp, or Vinafood 1, will sell the grain with
payment deferred for 1-� years; Deputy Chairman Pham Van Bay of the
Vietnam Food Association (VFA) was quoted as saying by Thoi Bao Kinh Te
Saigon Online newspaper.

Hanoi-based Vinafood 1, the country's second-largest rice exporter after
Vinafood 2, has been assigned by the government to supply rice to Cuba
under annual deals. Vietnam accounts for most of Cuba's annual rice imports.

Commodities Buzz: Cuba To Purchase 40,000 MT Rice From Vietnam (10
February 2010)

U.S.-Cuba rapprochement? Not anytime soon

U.S.-Cuba rapprochement? Not anytime soon
Posted By Josh Rogin Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - 6:33 PM Share

At last week's Senate Intelligence committee hearing, top officials
acknowledged that President Obama's campaign promise to drastically
alter U.S. policy toward Cuba is meeting some significant roadblocks.

"Cuba has demonstrated few signs of wanting a closer relationship with
the United States," DNI Adm. Dennis Blair said in his prepared remarks.
"President Raúl Castro fears that rapid or significant economic change
would undermine regime control and weaken the revolution, and his
government shows no signs of easing his repression of political dissidents."

Despite some cooperation during the Haiti crisis, the State Department
sees few signs that the Cuban government is genuinely interested in
repairing relations, despite an encouraging start. Last April, the Obama
administration made a series of small changes to America's Cuba policy,
some related to family travel and remittances. The two sides held
migration talks in July and discussed mail service in September. In
October, Bisa Williams, then a deputy assistant secretary of state,
traveled to Havana to hold talks on resuming direct mail service between
the two countries.

But since the Williams visit, there hasn't been much good news to
report, and Williams has moved on to be nominated for U.S. ambassador to

"Well, if you look at Cuba from November until now you'll see that
they've had more of a strident tone and series of actions," a State
Department official working on the issue told The Cable. "There were
some improvements in terms of our ability to operate in Cuba and our
interest section in Cuba ... we hope that the Cuban government will take
positive measures of its own to improve the conditions for the Cuban
people -- and there we haven't seen very much."

Advocates of engagement with the Castro regime criticize an
administration policy they see as being based on "conditionality,"
waiting for the Cubans to respond to American overtures before taking
further steps. That strategy is not likely to produce progress, they
argue. But the official said the U.S. approach is not based on
conditionality at all.

"What we said was that we hoped that there would be positive measures
undertaken not because of what we were doing but because of the need to
improve conditions, period. We've not said that if we do this, then
you'll do that."

The official did mention some measures the Cuban government could take
that would be viewed as positive signs by the U.S. side, such as
lowering charges on remittances and increasing respect for religious
freedom among Cuban citizens. But those are "suggestions" not
"conditionalities," the official insisted.

The bottom line is that the Obama team hasn't seen any real steps by the
Cuban government in response to the steps they've already taken and no
further steps by the U.S. side are planned right now. Talks between the
governments have stopped and planned talks on migration have yet to be

Obama had also promised to reform the Cold War-era sanctions regime, but
when asked why there is no drive to alter the underlying laws,
administration officials point back to Congress, where a bipartisan
group of lawmakers stands poised to obstruct any such effort.

Some of them, like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and New Jersey Sen.
Robert Mendendez, hail from areas with strong anti-Castro populations.
Other opponents of lifting sanctions, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman,
I-CT, have more ideological reasons.

The Obama team doesn't see anyone, however, willing to overcome such
opposition and push hard for repealing sanctions. "The reality is that
this administration is very much based on setting priorities and making
sure they're going after the right priorities," the official said.
"They're pretty busy, so taking on another issue like this where there
is not a clear drive on the Hill, is a pretty substantial undertaking."

So the Cuba issue continues to be managed, but not radically rethought
inside the administration. Day-to-day operations are run through the
State Department's Cuba desk, which sits under the assistant secretary
for Western hemisphere affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, and the deputy
assistant secretary who manages Cuba issues, Julissa Reynoso.

Higher-level policy decisions are overseen by the senior director for
the Western hemisphere at the National Security Council, Dan Rastrepo.
When it comes to sanctions, Adam Szubin, the director for the Office of
Foreign Assets Control at Treasury, is a key figure. The deputy
assistant secretary for Western hemisphere affairs at the Pentagon is
Frank Mora, and he handles defense-related issues.

Overall, the Obama team is still looking for ways to make incremental
changes in the U.S. approach to Cuba, probably without the direct
involvement or cooperation of the Cuban regime.
"The fact that we don't have anything to announce doesn't mean that
everything has ground to a halt," the official said. "On the contrary,
we are continuing to look for ways to advance our interests where it's
going to be important to U.S. citizens. Again, our hope is that the
Cuban government will respond to the needs of their own population."

U.S.-Cuba rapprochement? Not anytime soon | The Cable (10 February 2010)

Cuba's sweet 15 endures in crisis

Cuba's sweet 15 endures in crisis
By Shasta Darlington, CNN
February 9, 2010 -- Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT)

* In Cuba, a girl's 15th birthday is a sacred, expensive rite of passage
* Party often includes photo shoots and balls
* Parents start saving at the birth of a daughter for the celebration
* Even the economic downturn has eroded enthusiasm for the tradition

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A gaggle of photographers, relatives and fashion
advisors traipse after Yuniesky Collazo as she twirls for the camera in
a rented pink ball gown in one of Havana's picturesque plazas.

She is celebrating her quinceanera, or 15th birthday, a sacred rite of
passage in Cuba and much of Latin America.

"I'm so emotional, you can imagine," she gushes as she steps into a
horse-drawn carriage for the next shoot. "It's the most important moment
of my life."

The elaborate festivities are also a drain on family finances, often
costing more than a year's salary.

Yuniesky's parents say they opened a bank account as soon as she was
born and have been saving ever since for this day.

"It was a big sacrifice," she admits. "They had to work hard to give
this to me.

In Cuba, a girl's sweet 15 often starts with a photo and video shoot
showing her transformation from teenage princess to a young adult.

If her family can afford it, she dons traditional dresses, lace gloves,
parasols and tiaras - and poses in front of colonial churches or in the
back of 1950s convertible cars.

And then she sheds most of those clothes for more risque portraits that
might make some parents squirm. Some romp in the waves in a bikini while
others don thigh-high boots and black leather.
Video: Cubans go all out for sweet 15

And for the better off families, the big day ends with a dress ball more
elaborate than a wedding.

"Parents, especially mothers, enjoy this day," says wardrobe assistant
Daisy Gonzalez. "They make sacrifices. They want the best for their
girls. One dress isn't enough, they want three or four or more."

A running joke explains it like this: In Cuba, you'll get married
numerous times. But you only turn 15 once.

A blow-out quinceanera can set parents back $2,000, a fortune in a
country where salaries average $20 a month.

The global economic crisis has taken its toll on Cuba. But it hasn't
dampened enthusiasm for this beloved coming-of-age.

"All girls have this dream, to celebrate their 15th," says proud father
Roman Gonzalez. "Whether they're poor or rich, they will celebrate it."

Photographer Enrique says his business hasn't been affected. Many
families have been saving for years, and others receive money from
relatives living abroad, he says.

"No matter what, parents are going to do it," he says. "One way or
another, there's always a helping hand."

That wasn't always the case. During Cuba's worst financial crisis in the
1990s, known as the "Special Period", not only did parents scale back
celebrations, many stopped having kids.

But Yuniesky's parents say even during those dark days, they managed to
set a little money aside every month for their only daughter's sweet 15.

Cuba's sweet 15 endures in crisis - (10 February 2010)

Cuba slow to ease its grip on shopkeepers

Cuba slow to ease its grip on shopkeepers
By Marc Frank in Camagüey
Published: February 10 2010 02:00

Three years after Cuba's Rebel Youth newspaper published "The Big Old
Swindle" - a scathing series calling for reform of a state-managed
retail sector beset by poor management, corruption and abysmal service -
debate is still raging over liberalisation. The authorities have yet to act.

Rumours abound in Havana that the state will soon cede control over its
thousands of barber shops, cafeterias, bakeries and domestic appliance
and car repair businesses, opting to regulate and tax rather than
administer, along the lines of the Chinese or Vietnamese model.

Yet the state appears to be doing the opposite, remodelling and opening
numerous restaurants, shops and other retail outlets in city after city.

Raúl Castro, president, has insisted that Cuba's Soviet-style command
economy needs fixing. He has hinted that ways must be found to reform
the retail sector since taking over from his ailing brother, Fidel
Castro, two years ago.

"State companies must be efficient and so must have resources to be so.
The rest should adapt to more adequate forms of property given the
resources available," stated a report by the economy ministry last year
soon after Mr Castro replaced the minister and his top deputies.

Mr Castro has been short on specifics. However, commentators, economists
and analysts propose raising the small number of family businesses and
allowing employees to form co-operatives like those long established in

There is apparently fierce resistance within the ruling Communist party,
especially in the provinces.

"Cuba is not Havana," a provincial-level party official in eastern Cuba
quipped when asked to square the new government-run retail outlets with
the idea that the state should get out of the sector.

Pressed, he conceded that the state did not need to run some services,
such as every barber shop. But he opposed letting go of larger
establishments, such as car repair shops.

"Most cars and trucks in this country are owned by the state," he said.

A mid-level party cadre who administered eateries in the eastern city of
Santiago de Cuba insisted the retail sector's poor performance was not
systemic but subjective. Fixing it was just a matter of improving party
discipline, she said.

Cuba's second city has opened more restaurants, bars, stores and other
establishments during the past year than any other.

The administrator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the
province's new party leader, Lazaro Exposito Canto, had improved the
sector. "Since his arrival the retail sector has been completely turned
round. It is a matter of caring about the people and being demanding
with subordinates," she said.

The debate has spilled into the pages of Granma, the Communist party
daily, which has carried letters to the editor for and against reform.
"We have to shake off the stereotype developed over many years that
private property is always evil," González de la Cruz wrote in a recent

"Property, state or private, is valid when it serves a social purpose,"
he said.

The opposing view was best expressed in Granma by Guerra González,
another correspondent.

"The solution of creating new owners and co-operatives and making
current employees into supposed collective owners [in the retail sector]
will only lead to uncontrolled free competition and capitalism," he
wrote, adding, "this would represent not only an economic step backward
but a political, social and ideological one".

For the first time since all retail activity - right down to shoe-shine
boys - was nationalised in the "revolutionary offensive" of 1968,
licences are being handed out to food vendors in the interior who have
played cat-and-mouse with police in city streets for decades, saving
residents a long walk to state markets.

But that appears to be part of reform already under way in the
agriculture sector, where decision-making and food distribution has been
decentralised and state lands leased to more than 100,000 farmers.

Authorities, in an apparent concession to popular frustration, are also
granting family farms and cooperatives permission to sell a part of what
they produce directly using kiosks and horse and bicycle-drawn carts.
But not a single state-run retail outlet has been handed over to
employees as a co-operative, let alone privatised. / UK - Cuba slow to ease its grip on shopkeepers (10 February 2010)

U.S. broadcasts to Cuba get stronger

Posted on Wednesday, 02.10.10
U.S. broadcasts to Cuba get stronger
AP Hispanic Affairs Writer

MIAMI -- The U.S. government's official broadcasts to Cuba and the
government-funded Voice of America are for the first time regularly
sharing resources - a move officials hope will enhance both services and
which could blunt longtime criticism of the Cuban broadcasts.

Some also question whether the move signals the beginning of the end for
the controversial U.S. Office of Cuban Broadcasting.

Last week, the office's TV and Radio Marti services opened their studios
to VOA's Spanish division to jointly produce a regular half-hour radio
show. "A Fondo" or "In Depth" provides news and analysis from around the
hemisphere. It was developed in part to target Venezuela, where
President Hugo Chavez has cracked down on opposition and independent
media and frequently criticizes U.S. foreign policy.

"I am looking into this issue to ensure that this is an effort to
maximize resources to expand U.S. coverage in the region and not a back
door to reducing U.S. broadcasts to Cuba," U.S Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
R-Miami, told The Associated Press.

"If this reduces the capability of Radio and TV Marti, it would be
another concession to the Cuban regime who fears the uncensored
information these broadcasts offer," added the legislator, a
Cuban-American and champion of the decades-old U.S. embargo of Cuba.

Miami-based Radio and TV Marti, the government's only foreign broadcasts
based outside of Washington, have for years endured charges that the
virulent, anti-communist tone of some of their programs was ineffective.
Critics - particularly those who oppose Washington's Cuba policies -
also question whether anyone on the island even watches the more
expensive TV Marti. The Cuban government generally blocks it.

The association between the VOA and the Martis could help the latter's
reputation, said Nicholas Cull, a University of Southern California
professor who has studied the government's foreign broadcasts.

"My feeling is that Marti has had a checkered history, and that anything
that can pull its output into line with the high journalistic standards
of VOA would be for the good," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the Martis' most ardent critics,
had a more cynical take.

"I think they realize they're on borrowed time with the Cuba project, so
I think they're trying to merge it in as much as they can with Voice of
America," he said.

Alberto Mascaro, a Miami native and former Office of Cuban Broadcasting
executive, recently took the helm of VOA's Spanish-language service in
Washington. He says the cooperation is not about politics but about the
best use of resources.

"Miami being a gateway city, it's a place where we can glean information
and guests that in Washington just may not be as accessible. It's a
whole additional talent pool," said Mascaro, who hopes to serve as a
bridge between the two broadcasts.

VOA has news stringers south of the U.S. border but no longer has any
bureaus there - making the Miami studios all the more important as
Washington seeks to counter increasing criticism from Chavez, Bolivian
President Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega.

Over the last year, the Marti studios have occasionally produced other
shows for VOA and served as a training hub for its journalists from
across the region. In recent weeks, VOA has also relied on Marti's Miami
studios for much of its broadcasting to Haiti, using local
Creole-speaking reporters from the area's large Haitian-American community.

Still, the change comes as the Office of Cuban Broadcasting faces budget
cuts. Last year it was forced to lay off more than 20 staffers. While
the larger VOA's 2011 budget request of $206.8 million is up slightly
over previous years, Cuban broadcasting's request of $29.2 million is
down about $4 million from 2007.

Mascaro insists both organizations adhere to the same standards and
serve important but distinct missions. Marti provides a counterbalance
to Cuba's tightly controlled, pro-government media.

"It's not trying to provide a pro-Castro perspective. They already get
that - and only that," he said. VOA's job is to offer a broader spectrum
of balanced news about the U.S. and the world, with politically and
culturally relevant information for each region.

The two services differ on the technical side as well. Because the Cuba
broadcasts are not welcome by the country's government, the U.S. must
beam them directly into the island via shortwave, AM broadcasts and
satellite. While VOA's broadcasts also use shortwave and satellite, and
now with "Al Fondo," some AM, they rely more heavily on local affiliates.

Yet that may change, too. VOA's Spanish-language radio is carried by
only a handful of affiliates in Venezuela, and its TV service by even
fewer. Given Chavez's recent decision to take the opposition cable and
satellite Radio Caracas Television International off the air, it could
soon lose even those platforms. And that would make it all the more
dependent on the same modes of transmission the Martis rely on.

U.S. broadcasts to Cuba get stronger - Cuba - (10
February 2010)

Cuban hunger striker's condition reportedly worse

Posted on Wednesday, 02.10.10
Cuban hunger striker's condition reportedly worse
The mother of a Cuban political prisoner on a hunger strike said her
son's condition has worsened and that he has lost considerable weight.

A Cuban political prisoner who has been on a hunger strike since
December is ``worsening slowly'' despite a hospital's decision to feed
him through intravenous tubes, relatives and others said Tuesday.

Orlando Zapata is ``skin and bones, his stomach is just a hole'' and he
has bedsores on his legs, said his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo. He has
lost so much weight that nurses were not able to get the IV lines into
his arms and are using veins on his neck instead.

``They are feeding him through the IVs because he continues to refuse to
eat on his own, but his situation continues worsening slowly,'' said
human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz in a telephone
interview from Havana.


Zapata, 42, has been refusing to eat and drinking water only
occasionally since December to protest the brutal conditions at his Kilo
7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey, according to his mother.
Prison guards beat him at least three times in the days before he
launched the hunger strike, his mother said, and his back was ``tattooed
with blows'' by the time he was transferred recently to the Amalia
Simony hospital in Camagüey.

``The authorities tell us that he is stable, within the parameters of
his grave condition,'' she told El Nuevo Herald in a phone interview,
adding that on Tuesday she was given permission to visit him every day
for several hours. She had last seen him on Saturday.

``I will continue in this struggle until the seas dry up,'' she declared
to supporters in Miami. ``I hold the Cuban government and the organs of
State Security responsible if anything happens to my son, or to one of
the brothers who is supporting us.''


Zapata, a plumber and bricklayer and member of the Alternative
Republican Movement National Civic Resistance Committee, was arrested in
2003 amid a harsh crackdown on dissidents, known as Cuba's Black Spring,
that sentenced 75 government critics to long prison terms.

He was initially charged with contempt, public disorder and
``disobedience,'' and sentenced to three years.

But he was later convicted of other acts of defiance while in prison and
now stands sentenced to a total of 36 years.

Amnesty International declared him a ``prisoner of conscience'' in 2003.

Zapata's case has sparked several street protests by government critics,
including some in Camagüey last week during which police detained some
35 people for periods ranging from hours to several days.

Some of the detainees complained they were beaten during the round ups,
and others used their cell phones to take photographs inside their
crowded holding cells.

The photos were later sent to supporters abroad.

Cuban hunger striker's condition reportedly worse - Cuba - (10 February 2010)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cuba's public "privatization" debate

Cuba's public "privatization" debate

Cuba's Communist Party newspaper has been publishing unusually frank
criticisms of Cuban socialism.
By Nick Miroff
Published: February 9, 2010 06:29 ET

HAVANA, Cuba — Something unusual has been stirring lately in the pages
of Granma, this country's largest newspaper and the official mouthpiece
of the Cuban Communist Party.

Lacking commercial advertising and printed entirely in red and black
ink, Granma typically carries eight tabloid-style pages devoted to
fawning coverage of Cuba's top officials and the latest iniquities of
Yankee imperialism. Its primary function is to promote the Cuban
government, rather than cover it, offering an Orwellian chronicle of
life on the island as a never-ending series of socialist triumphs.

But in recent months, Granma has become an unlikely forum for a debate
that seems to portend much-expected reforms to Cuba's state-run economy.

A flurry of op-ed columns have appeared lately in the paper's "letters
to the editor" section, staking out positions for and against something
Cubans are calling "privatization" — small-scale liberalization measures
that might allow more entrepreneurship and private business. At its
roots, it is an argument over how to revive Cuba's anemic economy, which
was already woefully inefficient and unproductive before the global
recession hit.

Most surprising, at least for the pages of Granma, is that many of the
editorials contain rather frank criticisms of Cuba's economic ills,
which include petty corruption, the widespread theft of state goods and
a low-wage system that pushes Cubans into black-market activity to make
ends meet.

"What would it mean for the State to eliminate the ongoing farce of
state-owned property?" asked one letter, signed by D. Gonzalez de la
Cruz. Pilfering is so rife at state-run businesses that they're already
being privatized, he argued.

"In our current situation, privatization is already happening" Gonzalez
wrote. "Only instead of a rational and well-thought-out process, it's
chaotic and perverse. What kind of social benefits do we get from
state-run business and restaurants where the State pays the bills but
the profits — obtained fraudulently and illegally — go into the pockets
of the those who prey off the people and the State?"

The letters in Granma appear to be part of a broader re-examination of
Cuban socialism called for in speeches by President Raul Castro, raising
hopes and expectations among Cubans who struggle with constant shortages
and a system that officially bans most forms of private commerce. Of
course, the debates are bound by certain unspoken parameters, and do not
contain calls for free-market capitalism nor any direct political
criticism of Cuba's leaders.

Rather, they are framed as a discussion about the best way to save Cuban
socialism and its vaunted social safety net from an underachieving
economy choked by excessive centralization and bureaucracy.

"I'm concerned about the future of my country, and it worries me that
some still blindly believe that the old economic model we have is
perfect," wrote J. Gonzalez Fernandez in another Granma editorial,
saying that he is a 28-year-old whose views are shared by "almost all
young people."


"We can't keep living in the past. We have to think about the present
and future of our country," he wrote, adding that he believed
"adjusting" socialism was needed to ensure its survival.

What's not clear is when economic reforms may be enacted, nor how
extensive they may be. With frustrations running high, many insist
changes can't wait. Even Cuba's Catholic Church weighed in last week,
publishing an editorial written by priest and economist P. Boris Moreno,
who warned of "socioeconomic collapse" if reforms aren't made.

And yet, if "privatization" is being floated in Granma and other
official newspapers, does it indicate some package of liberalization
measures have already been decided upon by the Castro government?

"I think these are changes that almost everyone supports, including many
Communist Party militants, but I don't know when they may occur" said
dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who said he has been followed
the debates "with great interest."

"Raul Castro raised a lot of expectations, and people are growing
frustrated he hasn't done anything," he said.

Since Raul Castro officially took over Cuba's presidency from his elder
brother in 2008, his government has enacted modest reforms to Cuba's
agricultural sector, putting unproductive state land in the hands of
private farmers and cooperatives. But many services and small businesses
— from watch repair to fast-food restaurants to bakeries — remain in
state hands.

And not everyone seems eager for that to change, as other editorials
appearing in Granma have urged "not to give capitalism an inch."

"Now is not the time to create the conditions for the reintroduction of
clever and treacherous capitalism into our homeland," wrote J.L. Valdes
Carrasco, exhorting readers to work harder, produce more food, and
"place absolute trust in the leaders of the Revolution," while calling
on young people to "lead in the decisive stage of the Revolution," the
term used on the island to refer to the Castros' socialist system.

One interesting feature of the Granma debates is that many of those who
have submitted letters for and against economic reforms try to bolster
their arguments by borrowing quotes from Fidel Castro's speeches.
Gonzalez, the 28-year-old, cited Castro's words from a 2000 May Day
speech in making his case: "Revolution is everything that should be

That partisans on both sides would quote Castro may be a preview of the
political debates likely to ensue once he, Raul, and their generation of
Cuban leaders is gone, and younger Cubans are left to sort out the
island's problems.

Granma | Cuba newspaper | Privatization (9 February 2010)

Cuban community grows with refugees

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010
Cuban community grows with refugees
By: Perla Trevizo

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Ediee Perez, who immigrated from Cuba in 1959 and has been helping other
refugees since 2005, hands Jose Noa Roque the keys to his new house in

For more than 10 years, Jose Noa fought for human rights in Cuba, an
activity that didn't sit well with the Cuban government.

So the only way to live in peace was to leave his island home, he said.

In 2005, he sought political asylum in the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and
recently arrived with his wife and daughter in Chattanooga, the latest
Cuban refugee family to make the Scenic City its new home.

"We felt happy and relieved when we touched American soil," Mr. Noa, 43,
said in Spanish.

"You feel happy because you are free," added his wife Sandra Acosta in
Spanish, sitting in their Southside apartment.

Working through the bureaucratic process to be allowed to leave Cuba
took almost five years: three years to secure their first interview with
the U.S government; another before their second interview when they were
approved to come to America, and finally, another year to get a flight
from Cuba.

"It's really bad because they tell you that you are going to leave but
they don't say when. Meanwhile the Cuban government knows you are
leaving," Ms. Acosta said.

During the last 10 years, the number of Cuban families settling in
Chattanooga has grown significantly, according to other Cubans. And that
number is expected to continue to grow.

Last year, 13 Cuban refugees resettled here with the help of Bridge
Refugee Services, a local agency that helps resettle refugees from
around the world. So far, six Cubans refugees have arrived this year,
with 21 others are expected to come by the end of the year.

Ediee cqPerez, an interpreter who works with Bridge resettling Spanish
speakers, primarily Cubans, estimates there are between 35 and 40 Cuban
families in the Chattanooga area.

With the exception of a few who have moved to other states where they
have relatives, most of them have decided to stay in Chattanooga, said
Marina Peshterianu, office manager for Bridge.

"As years pass, I think more and more Cubans choose to come to the U.S.
and try to rebuild their lives, not based on where they have relatives
but where they will find jobs," Mrs. Peshterianu said.


* There are 3,657 people born in Cuba now living in Tennessee.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey


* 2004: 2,980

* 2005: 6,360

* 2006: 3,143

* 2007: 2,922

* 2008: 4,177

Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and
Migration, Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System.

Other Cuban arrivals in Chattanooga have been long-term U.S. residents
who have moved from states such as Florida or New Jersey, where 80
percent of the foreign-born Cuban population lives, according to U.S.
census data.

The story of Cuban immigrants has been a very Florida-specific story and
continues to remain a very Floridaspecific story," said Michelle
Mittelstadt, director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based
Migration Policy Institute.

There are close to 1 million Cubans in the United States and more than
700,000 live in Florida, according to the Census American Community
Survey of 2008.

But immigration is a network phenomenon, Ms. Mittelstadt said.

"As immigrants start moving beyond their traditional destinations and
you have small numbers of them move to new locations, they spread the
word back to their relatives and friends and associates, basically
talking about the life they are living in a new community and the
opportunities they have, whether it is economically or educationally,"
Ms. Mittelstadt added.

Haydee Perez-Parra moved to the Chattanooga area in 1998 from New York
City to study at Southern Adventist University.

"I started with my undergraduate (degree) at Southern," said the
38-year-old clinical therapist. "I didn't think I was going to stay here
but then I finished my master's and met my husband at school."

"Being a Cuban myself, I see it as a perfect place to introduce someone
from another country into the American culture because Southerners are
very friendly," she added.

After she moved to the area, her parents, siblings, friends and even her
brothers-in-laws followed.

"I really promote the area," she said.

For Jose Noa and Sandra Acosta, the most important thing is for them to
find jobs and be able to rebuild their lives, the couple said. It
doesn't matter where.

"I wouldn't move to Miami — despite the large Cuban community — because
there's a lot of unemployment," Ms. Acosta said. "If I'm coming to the
United States to be able to work and change my life so my daughter can
have an opportunity, what am I going to do in Miami?"

But if they can't find employment here, they say they are willing to
move to wherever they need to.

Chattanooga Times Free Press | Cuban community grows with refugees (9
February 2010)

A Cuban Political Prisoner Nears Death, Is the World Watching?

A Cuban Political Prisoner Nears Death, Is the World Watching?

Today's guest post is from the blog, Crossing the Barbed Wire, by Luis
Felipe Rojas, a free and independent writer, journalist and poet from
the town of San German in Holguin, Cuba.

They Are Killing Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Black Cuban

The old saying that a lie always returns as a banner against the one who
told it came to pass, and this time not in favor of the current Cuban

The hoax that the revolutionary state of Fidel Castro ended racist
practices falls apart before the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban
political prisoner of the renowned Group of 75, arrested during the
Black Spring of 2003, in the days when the world's attention was
distracted by the American invasion of Iraq. Zapata was condemned to 25
years, and during the seven years he has been imprisoned he has been
summarily tried on several occasions so that with the time added he is
now sentenced to 47 years.

Now the authorities, acting together and in collusion with the courts
and the attorney general of the republic, have handed down a new
sentence that leaves him at 25 years again, but without credit for the
seven he has already served. This, among other reasons, is why today he
is on a hunger strike and is at the point of death in a room in the
Amalia Simoni Hospital in Camaguey.

But ... who is Zapata? Why has he been subjected to such torture? Why
should his punishment be so long?

Zapata Tamayo is a black Cuban and a front-line opponent of the Castro
dictatorship -- clear enough reasons for him to be punished. He is a
member of the illegal Alternative Republican Movement whose work focused
on taking to the streets and explaining person-to-person about the
atrocities of the Cuban military regime against its people. But for the
Cuban government, all black people, supposedly, ought to pay homage to
Fidel Castro, "the liberator of the black race, and the good master who
came to free us blacks." And that was exactly the lesson that Zapata did
not want to accept.

Since his incarceration he has led strong protests, which, although
peaceful, were intolerable to the prison authorities, and for this he
has suffered beatings, humiliation, prolonged solitary confinements, and
has since been subject to the maximum prison severity in his first phase.

Before being transferred on December 3, 2009 from the Holguin provincial
prison to another special regimen in the Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey he
was subjected to a huge beating. He told his mother during a brief visit
weeks after the punishment that they handcuffed him and beat him to
bring him down; they struck him with an iron bar on the knee where the
imprint is still visible. During the transfer he was stripped of his
cold-weather clothes, food, water purifying implements and other
utensils. Then they threw him in a punishment cell where he was kept
without food until he had to be taken urgently to the nearest hospital
where he was barely breathing.

On several occasions when they beat him, the guards yelled "black!" as
if it they were spitting out an insult. They want to bring him down, but
he is still standing proud of the color of his skin - he said- and firm
in his ideas about true justice, freedom, and respect for the right of
all Cubans to live a different life.

Yoani Sanchez: A Cuban Political Prisoner Nears Death, Is the World
Watching? (9 February 2010)

Cuba releases all dissidents arrested last week

Cuba releases all dissidents arrested last week

HAVANA — Cuba has released the last five of a group of 35 dissidents it
arrested last week for demonstrating on behalf of a conscientious
objector, a Cuban human rights group said.

"The last three dissidents that were jailed since Wednesday were freed
on Sunday" and another two were released Friday and Saturday, Committee
for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) director Elizardo
Sanchez told AFP.

Cuban police arrested and jailed 35 political dissidents in the eastern
city of Camaguey, when they were marching in support of Orlando Zapata,
whom Amnesty International has declared a prisoner of conscience. He has
been in prison since 2003.

The protesters were briefly jailed, then 30 were released.

The demonstrators were protesting "the cruel and inhuman treatment" of
Zapata. The CCDHRN said it was concerned over Zapata's health, and
called for his unconditional release.

In its January annual report, the group said that there are 201
political prisoners in Cuba.

Authorities on the communist island insist there are no political
prisoners, but rather US-financed "mercenaries" jailed for threatening
Cuban national security.

AFP: Cuba releases all dissidents arrested last week (9 February 2010)

Cuba to buy 11 pct less Vietnam rice in 2010

Cuba to buy 11 pct less Vietnam rice in 2010-report
Published: 08 Feb 2010 20:56:37 PST

HANOI, Feb 9 - Cuba will buy 400,000 tonnes of rice this year from
Vietnam through its regular purchases with deferred payment, a drop of
11 percent from 2009, a Vietnamese state-run newspaper reported.

Vietnam Northern Food Corp, or Vinafood 1, will sell the grain with
payment deferred for 1-½ years, Deputy Chairman Pham Van Bay of the
Vietnam Food Association (VFA) was quoted as saying by Thoi Bao Kinh Te
Saigon Online newspaper (

Last year Cuba imported 449,950 tonnes of Vietnamese rice, worth $191
million. That was 7.6 percent of Vietnam's total rice exports last year,
the food association's data showed, without giving comparative figures
for 2008.

Hanoi-based Vinafood 1, the country's second-largest rice exporter after
Vinafood 2, has been assigned by the government to supply rice to Cuba
under annual deals. Vietnam accounts for most of Cuba's annual rice imports.

Vietnam pledged to help Cuba boost rice production in a cooperation deal
signed by the two Communist allies during a visit last September by
Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.

The government has asked Vinafood 1, Vinafood 2 and the Vietnam Food
Association to pursue high-volume contracts this year in order to boost
exports of the grain.

Bay said in the report that Vietnam, the world's second-biggest rice
exporter after Thailand, was expected to ship around 6 million tonnes of
the grain this year, similar to last year.

Demand would come from Africa, the Philippines, Iraq, India and
Indonesia, Bay said, without detailing volumes.

"If India and Indonesia buy rice, our exports will be promising," Bay
said, adding that the two were likely to be in the market from the
second half of the year.

He said Vietnam had an estimated 7.5 million tonnes of rice available
for exports in 2010, including a record stock of 1 million tonnes
carried over from last year.

The total included an estimated 3 million tonnes to be harvested from
the current winter-spring crop, 2.5 million tonnes from the
summer-autumn and third crops later in the year, as well as 1 million
tonnes from Cambodia, Bay said.

Rice export contracts signed as of Jan. 31 totalled 2.37 million tonnes,
18 percent down from the same period last year, Bay said.

The food association oversees day-to-day rice production and exports
from Vietnam, while the Agriculture Ministry is in charge of production
and proposes the exportable quantity to be approved by the government.

Cuba to buy 11 pct less Vietnam rice in 2010-report (9 February 2010)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cuba launches radical five-year agriculture plan

Cuba launches radical five-year agriculture plan
Published Date: 08 February 2010
By Marc Frank

CUBA has launched an ambitious project to surround urban areas with
thousands of small farms in an effort to reverse the country's long
agricultural decline and ease its chronic economic woes.
The five-year plan calls for growing fruit and vegetables and raising
livestock in four-mile-wide rings around 150 of Cuba's cities and towns,
with the exception of the capital, Havana.

The island's Communist authorities hope such suburban farming will make
food cheaper and more abundant, cut transportation costs, be less
reliant on machinery and encourage urban dwellers to leave bureaucratic
jobs for more productive labour.

But the government will continue to hold a monopoly on most aspects of
food production and distribution, including its control of most of the land.

The pilot programme for the project is being conducted in the central
city of Camaguey.

Cuba launches radical five-year agriculture plan - The Scotsman (8
February 2010)

Chavez's (Cuban) Electric Personality

Chavez's (Cuban) Electric Personality
by Gustavo Coronel

The deteriorating Venezuelan social and political situation is turning
into an open national crisis that could accelerate Hugo Chavez's ouster
from the presidency.

One of the sectors on the brink of total collapse is electricity, due to
lack of the required investments during the last ten years. Although oil
is plentiful in the country, the required thermo-electric plants that
should have complemented the supply of hydroelectricity were not built,
while the maintenance of existing ones was sorely neglected.

Faced with a growing crisis, Chavez has turned to the failed regime of
the Castros' Cuba for advice.

Chavez has dismissed the cooperation of expert Venezuelan technicians
because they are ideologically opposed to his regime. Instead of
bringing the best of advisers and the most modern alternatives, he
decided to call in Ramiro Valdes, a man who is no electricity expert and
is much better known as a master of political repression during his
years as Cuban Minister of the Interior.

The 76 year-old Ramiro Valdes arrived in Venezuela a few days ago. He
bears the title of "Commander of the Cuban Revolution" since he is the
only Cuban who was with the Castro brothers in the attack to the Moncada
Barracks, in the landing of the Granma in Cuban soil and in the Sierra
Maestra. During the 1960's and 1970's Valdes was Minister of the
Interior and presided over the imprisonment, torture or deaths of some
70,000 Cuban dissenters. After being displaced from the ministry he
reinvented himself as a technocrat, in charge of an industrial group of
electronics. As such he has been recently readmitted into the power
circles, this time as one of the three vice-presidents of the Cuban
Cabinet, not to be confused with the vice-presidency of Cuba.

The presence of Valdes in Venezuela is the latest and probably one of
the greatest blunders Chavez has committed. The Cuban brings no added
value to the solution of the Venezuelan electricity crisis. His presence
in a position of high responsibility increases the indignation felt by
Venezuelans about the role played by Cubans in internal Venezuelan
matters. He is seen as a symbol of the Cuban invasion of Venezuela made
possible by Chavez's treason.

Cuba has nothing to offer Venezuela in the way of electrical technical
expertise. In fact, the Cuban electricity sector depends almost
exclusively on Venezuelan prodigality in the supply of highly subsidized
liquid fuels. Cuban electricity generation is very inefficient, with
very high costs and technical losses. Just as an example, Chile employs
3,200 people in the electricity sector but sells twice as much
electricity than Cuba that employs 34,000 people.

Cuban electrical shortages are as frequent as those being currently
experienced by Venezuela. Perhaps Chavez was thinking of this when he
explained the presence of Mr. Valdes by saying that Cuba had "a lot of
experience in electrical crises". That they have. But not in any way
that Venezuela can profit from.

Gustavo Coronel is a petroleum geologist, author and public policy
expert, who was elected to the Venezuelan Congress in 1998 before it was
dissolved in 1999 following the election of Hugo Chavez as president.
Coronel is currently designated as an "enemy" of the Chavez regime.
Chavez's (Cuban) Electric Personality - HUMAN EVENTS (8 February 2010)

SA students living in bad conditions in Cuba

SA students living in bad conditions in Cuba
08 February 2010 - 13:21
By Jacaranda 94.2 Newsteam

The Christian Democratic Party says government must improve living
conditions of SA students in Cuba.

Government must intervene to improve the living conditions of South
African students studying in Cuba, says the Christian Democratic Party.

South Africa has a constitutional duty towards its citizens abroad as we
already saw with the damages the government now had to pay to a South
African farmer as a result of South Africa's neglect to properly protect
his assets in Zimbabwe," party leader Theunis Botha said in a statement.

The South African students in Cuba are from poor families, and are fully
dependent on the government to protect their interests, he said.

Apparently, friendship with Cuba is more important than the interests of
the students who have to live in these appalling conditions, he added.

"We realise that President Jacob Zuma's antics and the up-coming world
cup tournament has resulted in the South African authorities now having
their hands full, but we, however, again call on government to intervene."

Botha said his party understood that the problems were caused by the
South African government being in arrears with paying their share of the
tuition fees.

"According to reports the Cuban economy is on very shaky ground, and
South Africa cannot expect that country to be a full time Santa Claus,"
he said.

SA students living in bad conditions in Cuba - News - Jacaranda 94.2 (8
February 2010)

Health students pleads to gov't from communist Cuba

Health students pleads to gov't from communist Cuba
Monday, 08 February 2010 12:43

The 50 Solomon Islands medical students currently studying in Cuba are
pleading for assistance.

The students in a letter to Solomon Star said they have not received any
allowance since June last year.

"We the 50 Medical Students are very concerned about our situation in
which our Allowances were not paid on time and are still yet to be
received," they said.

They said the situation is affecting them badly as six weeks of academic
classes for 2010 has already started.

"The three responsible authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Ministry of Education
and Human Resources have to reconsider the time period of six months
late payments to cater for a new semester and pay us completely."

"Furthermore when our money reaches us, it is normally very late and
study materials and stationeries were never purchased during the course

They said that they were also concerned with the fact that a huge
deduction has been imposed on their allowances.

"The Government pays us in US Currency which has to be converted to Euro
Currency and later when it reaches us in Cuba we have to convert it to
the Cuban Moneda Nacional and at the end, heavy deductions have been made.

"We kindly ask the responsible authorities to respond to our issues
positively," the students said.

They said they want the Cuban scholarship award to be included in the
Ministry Of Education System so that their allowances are paid on time
rather than depending on Funds from Iran and Portugal.

"We have been raising our issues through relevant Government officials
during their visits and we know that promises are not good to bank upon.

"We feel that two years of patience is enough and we want responsible
authorities to listen to the plight.

"We heard of the US$100 000 dollars for 75 Solomon Islands Cuban Medical
Students but we sincerely request the Government to solve our two
semester outstanding allowances promptly.

"We are running out of patience and cannot believe visiting leaders who
always made unworthy promises or sometimes excuses such as problems with
Bank transfers and embargos imposed against Cuba.

"We ask our Parents and Guardians to help us with our situation. Few
Government representatives who have visited us have experienced and know
exactly what we have stated.

"We understand the Economic Crisis that our country went through however
we want our outstanding allowances dealt with accordingly with on funds
that were secured for it."

Health students pleads to gov't from communist Cuba (8 February 2010)