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Daily Archives: January 19, 2006

Couple denies spying for Cuba

Couple denies spying for Cuba

MIAMI, Florida (AP) — A college professor and his administrator wife pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that they secretly acted as agents for Cuba’s communist government.Carlos Alvarez, 61, and Elsa Alvarez, 55, entered the pleas during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate John O’Sullivan.They are accused of using their positions at Florida International as a cover to spy for Cuba for nearly 30 years. They could get up to 10 years in if convicted of failing to register as agents of a foreign power.Carlos Alvarez is a psychology professor, and Elsa Alvarez coordinates a social work program at the Miami .An indictment unsealed January 9 alleges that the couple spied on Cuban-American exile groups and provided information and political analysis of interest to Cuba and Fidel Castro. There are no allegations that they obtained any classified or sensitive U.S. government information.Steve Chaykin and Jane Moscowitz, attorneys for the couple, said they will appeal another judge’s ruling that their clients be kept in detention until trial because they are a risk to flee to Cuba.“We think they are inappropriately being detained,” Chaykin said.No date has been set for the trial or a bail hearing. Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.  

Cuba begins to prepare for post-Castro era

Cuba begins to prepare for post-Castro eraThu Jan 19, 2006 1:26 PM ETBy Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s leadership has begun to prepare for the day when is no longer around, amid concern the island’s communist system could implode in a political void.For the first time, government officials are discussing in public a formerly taboo issue — what will happen when Castro leaves the scene through death or incapacitation?Castro, who will be 80 this year, opened the debate on Cuba’s future himself in a November 17 speech at Havana , where he lashed out at profiteering, corruption and waste threatening the “revolution” he began 47 years ago.“This country can self-destruct, this revolution can destroy itself,” if mistakes are not corrected, he warned.How can Cuba preserve socialism “when those who were the forerunners, the veterans, start disappearing and making room for new generations of leaders?” he asked the students.Under Cuba’s constitution, the Cuban leader’s younger brother , who is defense minister, first vice-president and second secretary of the ruling Communist Party, is first in line to succeed.But many Cubans doubt he has the charisma or the ambition to replace his brother, who has concentrated power in his own hands for nearly half a century.Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, the most prominent of a new generation of young leaders groomed by Castro, opened up the debate on Cuba’s future in the National Assembly on December 23 when he spoke of “a void that no one can fill.”“The debate is now public for first time,” said Manuel Cuesta Morua, who heads the moderate opposition group Arco Progresista.“People can speak a bit louder about the demise of Castro, because Felipe has mentioned it publicly,” he said.In a well-scripted event, Castro ceded the closing speech at the National Assembly to his 39-year-old protege who spoke from the seat usually occupied by his brother Raul, who was absent.TRANSFER OF POWER“Fidel is trying to transfer power to the next generation instead of the old guard revolutionaries,” said a European ambassador.“The question is will the Cuban population support a successor? The government knows that the people are very dissatisfied,” the diplomat said.Keenly aware of increased U.S. efforts to undermine a succession and ensure Cuba becomes a capitalist democracy, Castro has turned to a younger generation of Cubans to clean house.In October, he sent teams of young social workers and students to operate pumps at gas stations and stop rampant theft of gasoline for sale on the black market.Western diplomats said the anti-corruption drive and other steps against “nouveau riche” Cubans had echoes of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in forty years ago.Since 2003 Cuba has tightened control over state finances and curbed private initiative, moves apparently aimed shoring up the communist state ahead of any change.Cubans have endured dilapidated , poor public and economic hardship since the collapse of Soviet communism plunged the Caribbean island into crisis in 1991.Castro has flung himself into the mammoth task of overhauling Cuba’s obsolete electrical system, promising to end long power outages that fueled discontent last summer.Cuba raised state salaries and pensions last year, but a big gap remains between meager peso wages paid by the state and hard currency incomes earned from black market activities and cash remittances from relatives in the United States.  

CUBA 2005 IAPA Report


Cuban journalism is going through a painfully precarious time, worn down after 46 years of state control of the media, a violent escalation of repression against independent opinions and imprisoned journalists, and the authorities’ complete indifference to the people’s demands for information.

The situation of two years ago of repression unleashed with a broad deployment of and summary trials has not ended, and is currently intensifying.

The current picture could not be bleaker. As this report was being finished, Víctor Rolando Arroyo, 56, is languishing in the prisoners’ ward in the provincial of Holguín in the eastern end of the island after a 23-day hunger strike. Arroyo, who was sentenced to 26 years in during the wave of repression in the spring of 2003, decided on the hunger strike to protest mistreatment by his jailers, and he has refused medical treatment despite the serious deterioration of his . After several days in the provincial hospital of Guantánamo he was transferred October 3 to Holguín. His relatives, who have traveled from Pinar del Rio in the far west, have limited access to him.

Cuban authorities have not complied with the recognized international agreements concerning the treatment of prisoners of conscience on hunger strikes.

In Villaclara province, the oldest imprisoned journalist, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, 62, who was sentenced to 20 years, has been 13 months without family visitors or conjugal visits. From January until a few days ago, he was subjected to a “special increased regimen,” suffering all kinds of humiliation, as reprisals for his writings taken out of the jail and for the actions of his wife, Laura Pollán, leader of the civic movement known as Ladies in White. Police authorities warned Pollán at the beginning of this year that her husband would suffer the consequences if she did not give up her public protests demanding the freedom of prisoners of conscience.

The number of imprisoned journalists increased this period to 26 with the arrest of Oscar Mario González, who has been detained since July 22 without being formally charged, and Albert Santiago Du Boucher, tried and sentenced summarily to a year in jail on August 9 for participating in a routine investigation of a street disturbance.

González, of the Decoro Work Group, was detained near his house because it was assumed that he would attend an anti-government protest in front of the French Embassy in Havana that morning. The authorities have now informed him that he will be charged with violation of the Law for the Protection of Cuban Independence and the Cuban (Law 88), of 1999, which was used to sentence dissidents and journalists in 2003.

On August 9, reporter Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero, of Nueva Prensa Cubana on the Island of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), was sentenced to seven months of probation on charges of “resistance to order and civil disobedience.” Gutiérrez was arrested by three State Security agents on July 14 when she was preparing to travel to Havana. She was held in a cell for seven hours during the police interrogation.

After releasing six journalists of the so-called Group of 75 under special release for humanitarian reasons last year, the government has stopped granting this benefit. Special release for health reasons is a clause supported by Decree Law 62 of 1987 which provides for serving out the term under house arrest, but it does not grant amnesty or suppression of the criminal punishment.

Two of the journalists who benefited from the special release program, Raúl Rivero and Manuel Vázquez Portal, were able to get permission to emigrate from the Cuban government. Rivero, a vice president of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information traveled to with his family in April. Vázquez Portal went to the United States in June.

The others granted special release—Jorge Olivera, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Carmelo Díaz Fernández and Edel José Garcia—have been denied permission to leave. The danger of returning to jail if the government decides hangs over them.

Others who left Cuba along with Rivero and Vázquez Portal are María Elena Rodríguez, Claudia Márquez, Miguel Saludes and Jesús Álvarez Castillo, who went to the United States, and Diolexys Rodriguez Hurtado, Belkys Rodríguez Bravo, Isabel Rey Rodríguez and Marvin Hernández Monzón, to .

Most of those who remain in prison with sentences ranging from three to 27 years are still under a severe regimen, hundreds of miles from their homes and families. There are frequent reports of humiliation, terrible food, lack of drinking water, overcrowding in the cells and placement with highly dangerous common criminals.

A dozen of the prisoners suffer from chronic diseases or ailments acquired in prison. The most alarming cases of ailing journalists in prison without the appropriate hygienic conditions are the following.

–José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, 46, Boniato Prison, Santiago de Cuba. In September he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, in addition to the hypertension and circulatory ailments that he already had. –Normando Hernández González, 36, was returned to Kilo 5 ½ prison in Pinar del Río after six months of hospitalization for changes in his tuberculosis test (Koch bacillus), intestinal malabsorption syndrome and stomach ulcers.–Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, 39, Kilo 7 Prison, Camagüey, cardiomyopathy and hypertension, polyneuritis, skin conditions (vitiligo), nervous disorders and the loss of 30 pounds. He was returned to prison at the beginning of June after being hospitalized from March to May. On May 23, while in the prisoners’ ward of Amalia Simoni hospital in Camagüey he was hit, dragged across the floor by guards and threatened with having a new case against him opened for “disrespect for the figure of .” He was hit at the end of September, which brought protests from fellow prisoners.–Adolfo Fernández Saínz, 57, Provincial Prison of Holguín, prostatic hypertrophy, hypertension, chronic conjunctivitis, pulmonary emphysema, hiatal hernia and kidney cysts. –José Luis García Paneque, 40, of the National Prisoners Hospital of Combinado del Este prison in Havana, intestinal malabsorption syndrome and acute depression. He has lost more than 70 pounds since being imprisoned.–Mario Enrique Mayo, 41, Kilo 7 Prison, Camagüey: hypertension, pulmonary emphysema, gastritis and prostate problems. He has been transferred to different prisons four times in less than three years and repeatedly hospitalized. In July he staged a hunger strike that seriously weakened his health.–Pedro Argüelles Morán 57, Nieves Morejón Prison, Sancti Spiritus: pulmonary emphysema, generalized arthritis and cataracts in both eyes which have left him almost blind.–Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, 61, National Prisoners Hospital of Combinado del Este prison in Havana, hypertension, fatty liver, cervical osteoarthritis, sacrolumbalgia and depression.–Ricardo González Alfonso, 55, National Prisoners Hospital in Combinado del Este, Havana. He had a gall bladder operation in January; abdominal granuloma, a congenital heart murmur.–Alfredo Pulido López, 45, Kilo 7 Prison, Camagüey: chronic bronchitis, occipital neuralgia, hemorrhoids and hypertension.–Omar Ruiz Hernández, 58, Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Ávila: hypertension and widening of the aorta.–Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo, 40, Guanajay Prison, Havana: acute pulmonary emphysema and digestive disorders.

In the public arena cases of police harassment, reprisals, intimidation with home evictions, temporary detentions and hounding by paramilitary mobs instigated and protected by the police themselves are more and more frequent. The revival of the so-called repudiation meetings (an old method of repression) is the new police method of intimidation in the face of popular discontent.

Dr. Florencio Cruz, a member of Línea Sur Press agency, was detained for eight hours in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos on August 8. Medicine and money sent from the United States were confiscated. Carlos Ríos, a journalist of Havana Press agency was detained overnight in Havana on August 22 to force him to give up his professional work.

On September 16, Guillermo Fariñas, who worked with Cubanacán Press agency in Santa Clara, was insulted and beaten in the presence of police officers by a group of pro-government demonstrators when he left a police station.

At the end of March the home of Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who lives in Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos, was painted all over by citizens who said they were members of the Communist Party of Cuba. Arévalo continues working for Línea Sur Press agency after serving a six-year jail term for disrespect to Fidel Castro. His efforts to emigrate were blocked when the United States and France refused to give him political asylum, presumably because of his previous ties to the Cuban Interior Ministry.

At the beginning of August, the married couple journalists Luis Guerra Juvier and Aurora del Toro of the Nueva Prensa Cubana agency, were evicted from their home in Camagüey by orders of government officials. The eviction order was based on alleged “counterrevolutionary activities” of the two journalists.

In Las Tunas in the middle of August, Héctor Riverón González of the Libertad agency was summoned by State Security agents to warn him that if he did not take a job he would be arrested and charged under law 88 for his news work.

Throughout the country there are 30 active reporters who work irregularly, supported by agencies, radio stations and publications abroad, such as Cubanet, Nueva Prensa Cubana, Carta de Cuba, Radio Martí, Encuentro en la Red, and other Web sites and local stations in Miami

In the government press, official media outlets devoted a great deal of space to promote the inauguration of channel Telesur on July 24 as a way to “free the media plantation” and to help create an awareness of integration. Cuba is one of five countries sponsoring the television channel, but the government will not even allow the Cuban audience to have access to all its programs. Cubans can only see a one-hour selection of fragments and programs, chosen by official experts in the same way as it is done through program exchange agreements signed with CNN and other foreign television channels.

The strategic alliance of the Cuban media with the official Venezuelan press continues at full speed. After launching the “dual nationality” magazine Patria Grande in February, and Cuba signed news cooperation agreement to strengthen links between the Cuban agency Prensa Latina and the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias (ABN). Under the agreement, signed March 23, Cuban journalists will assist in the restructuring and reactivation of ABN and will give advice “on the presentation of news, professional training of Venezuelan staff and instruction in new technologies.

On World Press Freedom Day May 3, the government-sponsored Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) held a meeting in Havana about “the kidnapped truth.” It analyzed “the historic moment in Latin America and especially Venezuela” and, paradoxically, emphasized that “information is the peoples’ right.”

The alleged anti-terrorist campaign that the Cuban state media say they support in their 548 publications and more than 270 Web pages, is highly questionable when its Web sites published in reaction to the attacks in London in July an article that said: “The attacks in London are the of the just anger of those who are martyred. The docile people have decided to stop being docile.” (Lisandro Otero: “The response of the suffering.” La Jiribilla, Week 2-8 of July, 2005.)

The Cuban government has not skimped on threats against foreign correspondents accredited in Havana. It has blamed some for jointing the “electronic war” that tries to present an image of chaos and economic crisis in Cuba.

At the beginning of July, cameramen and reporters, including representatives of CNN, who were covering the “repudiation meetings” at the homes of peaceful opposition figures, were berated and even pushed by angry demonstrators. The police did not intervene. Days later, in a speech for the July 26 anniversary of the revolution, Fidel Castro himself warned against “some foreign correspondent or another in Havana” who has been carried away, consciously or unconsciously, by “the current of provocation and deceit” against Cuba.

Castro also blamed the U.S. government and exiles in Miami for taking advantage of the alleged facilities offered by the Cuban authorities for many international agencies and media companies to have correspondents living and working on the island. He said he regretted that “some really do it in full complicity with the U.S. Interests Section to misinform and deceive the world about the reality of Cuba.”

HRW 2006 Report Cuba


Cuba remains a Latin American anomaly: an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. , now in his forty-seventh year in power, shows no willingness to consider even minor reforms. Instead, his government continues to enforce political conformity using criminal prosecutions, long- and short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance, house arrests, restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment. The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.Legal and Institutional Failings  Cuba’s legal and institutional structures are at the root of rights violations. Although in theory the different branches of government have separate and defined areas of authority, in practice the executive retains clear control over all levers of power. The courts, which lack independence, undermine the right to fair trial by severely restricting the right to a defense.   Cuba’s Criminal Code provides the legal basis for repression of dissent. Laws criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols are used to restrict of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The government also imprisons or orders the surveillance of individuals who have committed no act, relying upon provisions that penalize “dangerousness” (estado peligroso) and allow for “official warning” (advertencia oficial).   Political Imprisonment  In early July 2005 the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a respected local human rights group, issued a list of 306 prisoners who it said were incarcerated for political reasons. The list included the names of thirteen peaceful dissidents who had been and detained in the first half of 2005, of whom eleven were being held on charges of “dangerousness.”   Of seventy-five political dissidents, independent journalists, and human rights advocates who were summarily tried in April 2003, sixty-one remain imprisoned. Serving sentences that average nearly twenty years, the incarcerated dissidents endure poor conditions and punitive treatment in . Although several of them suffer from serious health problems, the Cuban government had not, as of November 2005, granted any of them humanitarian release from .   On July 13, 2005, protestors commemorated the deadly 1994 sinking of a tugboat that was packed with people seeking to flee Cuba. The protestors marched to the Malecón, along Havana’s coastline, and threw flowers into the sea. More than two dozen people were arrested. Less that two weeks later, on July 22, another thirty people were arrested during a rally in front of the French Embassy in Havana. While the majority of those arrested during the two demonstrations have since been released, at least ten of them remain incarcerated at this writing.   Travel Restrictions and Family Separations  The Cuban government forbids the country’s citizens from leaving or returning to Cuba without first obtaining official permission, which is often denied. Unauthorized travel can result in criminal . The government also frequently bars citizens engaged in authorized travel from taking their children with them overseas, essentially holding the children hostage to guarantee the parents’ return. Given the widespread fear of forced family separation, these travel restrictions provide the Cuban government with a powerful tool for punishing defectors and silencing critics.   Freedom of Assembly  Freedom of assembly is severely restricted in Cuba, and political dissidents are generally prohibited from meeting in large groups. In late May 2005, however, nearly two hundred dissidents attended a rare mass meeting in Havana. Its organizers deemed the meeting a success, even though some prominent dissidents refused to take part in it because of disagreements over strategy and positions. While barring some foreign observers from attending, police allowed the two-day event to take place without major hindrance. The participants passed a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.   Prison Conditions  Prisoners are generally kept in poor and abusive conditions, often in overcrowded cells. They typically lose weight during incarceration, and some receive inadequate medical care. Some also endure physical and sexual abuse, typically by other inmates with the acquiescence of guards.   Political prisoners who denounce poor conditions of imprisonment or who otherwise fail to observe prison rules are frequently punished by long periods in punitive isolation cells, restrictions on visits, or denial of medical treatment. Some political prisoners carried out long hunger strikes to protest abusive conditions and mistreatment by guards.   Death Penalty  Under Cuban law the death penalty exists for a broad range of crimes. Because Cuba does not release information regarding its use of the penalty, it is difficult to ascertain the frequency with which it is employed. As far as is known, however, no executions have been carried out since April 2003.   Human Rights Defenders  Refusing to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity, the government denies legal status to local human rights groups. Individuals who belong to these groups face systematic harassment, with the government putting up obstacles to impede them from documenting human rights conditions. In addition, international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are barred from sending fact-finding missions to Cuba. It remains one of the few countries in the world to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons.   Key International Actors  At its sixty-first session in April, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights voted twenty-one to seventeen (with fifteen abstentions) to adopt a blandly-worded resolution on the situation of human rights in Cuba. The resolution, put forward by the United States and co-sponsored by the European Union, simply extended for another year the mandate of the U.N. expert on Cuba. The Cuban government continues to bar the U.N. expert from visiting the country, even though her 2005 report on Cuba’s human rights conditions was inexplicably and unjustifiably mild.   The U.S. economic on Cuba, in effect for more than four decades, continues to impose indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people and to block travel to the island. An exception to the that allows food sales to Cuba on a cash-only basis, however, has led to substantial trade between the two countries. Indeed, in November 2005, the head of Cuba’s food importing agency confirmed that the U.S. was Cuba’s biggest food supplier. That same month the U.N. General Assembly voted to urge the U.S. to end the .   In an effort to deprive the Cuban government of funding, the U.S. government enacted new restrictions on family-related travel to Cuba in June 2004. Under these rules, individuals are allowed to visit relatives in Cuba only once every three years, and only if the relatives fit the government’s narrow definition of family—a definition that excludes aunts, uncles, cousins, and other next-of-kin who are often integral members of Cuban families. Justified as a means of promoting freedom in Cuba, the new travel policies undermine the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban Americans, and inflict profound harm on Cuban families.   Countries within the E.U. continue to disagree regarding the best approach toward Cuba. In January 2005, the E.U. decided temporarily to suspend the diplomatic sanctions that it had adopted in the wake of the Cuban government’s 2003 crackdown against dissidents, and in June it extended the sanctions’ suspension for another year. Dissidents criticized the E.U.’s revised position, which had advocated, and which the Czech Republic, most notably, had resisted.   Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), a group of wives and mothers of imprisoned dissidents, were among three winners of the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for 2005. The prize is granted annually by the European Parliament in recognition of a recipient’s work in protecting human rights, promoting democracy and international cooperation, and upholding the rule of law. As of this writing, it was not clear whether the Cuban government would allow representatives of Ladies in White to travel to France in December 2005 to receive the prize.   Relations between Cuba and the Czech Republic continue to be strained. In May 2005, Cuba summarily expelled Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg, who was visiting Havana to attend the dissidents’ two-day meeting. On October 28, on the eighty-seventh anniversary of the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia, the Cuban authorities banned a reception that the Czech Embassy was planning to hold in Havana, calling it a “counter-revolutionary action.” The Cubans were reportedly angered by the embassy’s decision to invite representatives of Ladies in White to attend the function.   Venezuela remains Cuba’s closest ally in Latin America. President Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez enjoy warm relations, and Venezuela provides Cuba with oil subsidies and other forms of assistance.  

Chavez wants to weaken judiciary, rights group says

Posted on Thu, Jan. 19, 2006

HUMAN RIGHTSChávez wants to weaken judiciary, rights group saysA group accused Venezuelan Hugo Chávez of trying to undermine the country’s judiciary and limit press , partly due to a lack of economic growth.BY RICHARD JACOBSENAssociated Press

MEXICO CITY – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who says he is leading a socialist revolution for the poor in his country, has teamed with allies in Congress to undermine the country’s judiciary and limit press freedoms, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.In its annual report on the global rights situation, the organization said Latin America nations — from Haiti to Argentina — were still plagued by abuses ranging from overcrowded prisons to torture and widespread impunity.There is growing discontent over the lack of economic growth and opportunities in the region, which has led some to turn away from democracy, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said.”That’s one way to understand the Chávez phenomenon,” Roth said. WASHINGTON’S ROLEBut Roth was also critical of Washington’s role in Latin America, saying it was polarizing the region. He noted officials in President George W. Bush’s administration were treating ’s president-elect Evo Morales as if he were another Chávez, without waiting to see how Morales governs.”That’s not a helpful approach,” Roth said.The New York-based rights group expressed concern in its annual report over the state of ’s democratic institutions, citing a ”packing” of the country’s Supreme Court with Chávez allies in December 2004, which it called ”a severe blow” to the independence of the nation’s judiciary.Venezuelan legislators ”have also enacted legislation that seriously threatens press freedoms and freedom of ,” the rights report said.Chávez, first elected in 1998and up for re-election in December, insists he supports democracy. At loggerheads with Washington, he remains popular at home amid high oil prices that have funded his social programs and helped bring economic growth of 9.4 percent last year.While raising concern over developments in Venezuela, the rights group’s report said Colombia’s internal conflict — pitting government forces, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries — is responsible for creating the region’s most serious human rights and humanitarian situation, the report said.It noted in the last three years, more than three million people, as much as 5 percent of Colombia’s population, have been forcibly displaced because of the fighting. The guerrillas and paramilitaries are responsible for the bulk of Colombia’s abuses, the report said.

CUBAN GOVERNMENTThe report called Cuba “a Latin American anomaly: an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent.”It said ’s government enforces political conformity through a range of measures including criminal prosecutions, mob harassment and politically motivated job dismissals.”The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law,” the report said.Mexico’s criminal justice system, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by abuses, and law-enforcement officials often do not investigate and prosecute human rights violators, the report said.”President Vicente Fox has repeatedly promised to address these problems and has taken important steps toward doing so — establishing a special prosecutor’s office to investigate past abuses and proposing justice reforms designed to prevent future ones,” it said.“Unfortunately, neither initiative has lived up to its potential.”  

Castro announces electrical overhaul

Castro announces electrical overhaulCuba’s said his nation will replace five large power plants with smaller, regional plants to reduce the number and length of blackouts.BY ANITA SNOWAssociated Press

HAVANA – announced a long-awaited renovation of Cuba’s energy system to combat blackouts that have afflicted the island nation for two summers running.In a Tuesday night speech published the next day in state newspapers, Castro said Cuba would decentralize its power system, gradually replacing five massive thermoelectric plants with smaller, regional plants supplemented by solar and wind power.In the wake of technical problems at the huge plants that have caused severe blackouts across the island beginning in 2004, ”new ideas about the development of a more efficient and secure national electrical system have been put into practice,” Castro said in a speech of more than two hours.The president also said Cuba had ordered more than 4,000 diesel and oil generators, with more than 3,000 already delivered.Generators have been installed to maintain power during emergencies at critical sites such as hospitals, schools, meteorological stations and hotels, Castro said.Blackouts occur in Cuba year-round, but they increase during the hot summer months when electricity use spikes.Problems in the electrical grid are compounded in the late summer and fall when hurricanes batter the island with high winds and heavy rainfall, causing additional damage to the antiquated infrastructure and often knocking out power in some regions for days.Last summer, Cubans sweltered during frequent blackouts that kept them from operating fans and water pumps during heat topping 90 degrees.In many homes, milk and other refrigerated soured, and power surges damaged refrigerators, televisions and other appliances difficult to replace on meager Cuban salaries.Castro has promised Cubans since early 2005 that a major overhaul of the electrical grid was being planned.The plan also calls for replacing old electrical cables tying the national energy system together, and governmental studies on ways to make better use of solar and wind energy, Castro said.The president detailed the proposal in a speech given to electrical workers and Communist Party faithful in the western province of Pinar del Río.  

FIU prof, wife plead not guilty in Cuba spy case

FIU prof, wife plead not guilty in Cuba spy case By VANESSA

January 19, 2006, 11:08 AM EST

MIAMI — Florida International professor and his wife, whom prosecutors accused of secretly passing information to the Cuban government, both pleaded not guilty in federal court on Thursday.

Carlos Alvarez, 61, and Elsa Alvarez, 55, were charged Jan. 9 with informing Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence about the activities of Cuban exile groups in Miami that are opposed to ’s regime.

Attorney Steven Chaykin, who represents Carlos Alvarez, said the couple plans to fight a federal magistrate’s order that they be held in solitary confinement until their trial.

“Quite frankly, I think there’s been an evisceration of the presumption of innocence in this case. They are being detained because of the high profile nature of the charges,” Chaykin said.

No date has been set for the trial or a bail hearing

Carlos Alvarez is a psychology professor at FIU and Elsa Alvarez coordinates a social work program at the Miami . Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,0,3065685.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines  

Castros Cuba steps up persecution

Castros Cuba steps up Number: 5803     Date: January By Johanna Thomas-Corr

A prominent blind Christian activist in Cuba has endured severe harassment in the last week, a organisation has said. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, who was imprisoned in 2002 for protesting against abuses, says he believes that the harassment is a bid to make him leave the country when he completes his four-year sentence on March 12. Juan Carlos’ treatment by Cuban authorities is the latest incident of violations under ’s regime.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a human rights organisation, has said that Juan Carlos – who has spent the last two years of his sentence under house arrest — claims the government has denied him basic amenities. In a letter written on January 14, Juan Carlos wrote: “They [the Cuban authorities] prevent me from leaving my house, and I am without , drinking water and electricity. We are suffocating from the heat. On occasion, they randomly restore my telephone, but most of the time I remain unable to make contact with the outside world.”

He has also said that crowds gather around his house chanting pro-government slogans and playing loud music at all hours of the day. “These people shout threats at us, saying that they are going to enter the house with military tanks, that they are going to burn all of us up, and that we are anti-social persons at the service of imperialism, among other things.” Juan Carlos was in March 2002 after organising a protest in a at the mistreatment of a who had been beaten up by the Cuban . He and nine other protestors were badly beaten and then arrested by Cuban security forces. Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director, said: “The Cuban authorities’ mistreatment of this courageous human rights activist should outrage the international community. He has already suffered years of mistreatment in and as his sentence nears an end, he is being severely harassed in a bid to make him leave the country.”

CSW last week reported that at least three Protestant churches had been forcibly closed down in Cuba. The closures follow legislation affecting house churches which was announced last year. The new legislation, Directive 43 and Resolution 46, was announced in April in the wake of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, and required all house churches to register with the authorities.

Church leaders expressed their concern at the time that the registration process was so complicated as to be practically impossible. Many say that this was actually an attempt to shut down the house church movement across the island. It is possible that additional churches have also met with a similar fate but because of security concerns regarding communication in Cuba, aid agencies say this has been impossible to verify.

However, the country’s democracy movement has recently rebounded, with numerous protests against the power of Castro’s Communist regime, and what seems to be a new wave of repression of religious on the horizon. There have been planned meetings of independent civil society groups to address the government system in Cuba that has jailed so many.  

La salud, toda una fuente de divisas para Cuba

La , toda una fuente de divisas para Cuba Jueves, 19 enero 2006IBLNEWS, AGENCIAS

Un informe del ministerio de salud de Cuba anuncia que la industria de biotecnología, exportación de vacunas y suministro de servicios de salud a otros países se convertirá próximamente en la principal fuente de divisas para ese país. Las exportaciones médicas, sostiene el informe, están próximas a superar los US$1.800 millones generados anualmente por la industria turística, hasta ahora el principal generador de moneda extranjera para esa nación. Pruebas clínicas exitosas en varios países han establecido ya a Cuba como un líder mundial en investigación y tratamiento de cáncer. El año pasado, el presupuesto de salud de Cuba se vio fortalecido por un aumento en las exportaciones de biotecnología, que se duplicaron para alcanzar US$300 millones. Si obtenemos acceso al mercado de Occidente, entonces este sector de alta tecnología podría convertirse en el motor de toda la economía cubana Rolando Pérez, Centro de Inmunología Molecular El país también recibe honorarios de pacientes extranjeros y por la exportación de otros productos medicinales así como de equipo y máquinas de diagnóstico. También en 2005, una planta de biotecnología en la modalidad de riesgo compartido fue abierta en , con Cuba suministrando la tecnología de tratamiento de cáncer.

Este año, Cuba apunta a Occidente. La firma alemana de biotecnología, Oncoscience, está llevando a cabo pruebas clínicas del medicamento contra el cáncer TheraCIM h_R3. Y se espera que la firma estadounidense Cancervax comience pruebas sobre otro tratamiento cubano contra el cáncer, luego de que Washington aceptara hacer una excepción al aplicado a las relaciones económicas con Cuba. “Si obtenemos acceso al mercado de Occidente, entonces este sector de alta tecnología podría convertirse en el motor de toda la economía cubana”, sostuvo el doctor Rolando Pérez, científico en el Centro de Inmunología Molecular (CIM).

Motor de crecimiento

En Cuba hay un doctor por cada 170 habitantes. Desde que tomó el poder en 1959, el cubano ha tratado de crear una potencia médica global. Pero fue solo luego del colapso en 1991 de su patrocinador financiero, la Unión Soviética, que el sector salud fue visto como una fuente potencial de ingreso. En la década de 1990 Cuba fue el primer país en desarrollar y vender una vacuna para la meningitis B, lo que disparó el volumen de las exportaciones. Luego hubo un auge en las exportaciones de su vacuna contra la hepatitis B, actualmente enviada a 30 países incluyendo a China, India, Rusia, Rusia, Pakistán y varias naciones latinoamericanas.

Fuga de cerebros

Los médicos cubanos atendieron a damnificados por el terremoto de Pakistán. Uno de los problemas que podría enfrentar esta industria es la tentación del personal calificado a emigrar a otros países. “Sabemos que los científicos en están muy bien pagados. Yo recibo sólo 665 pesos (menos de US$40) al mes”, observa Pérez. Pero agrega que están altamente motivados “no solo por el dinero y el lucro comercial, pero por un compromiso de salvar vidas”. Y sostiene que ninguno de ellos se ha asilado en Estados Unidos.

Médicos en ultramar

El doctor Pérez es optimista frente al impacto de la cubana en la economía. En cambio, muchos profesionales cubanos de la salud participan en misiones humanitarias en el extranjero. En la actualidad hay 25.000 doctores cubanos en misión en 68 países. Equipos médicos cubanos atendieron a las víctimas del tsunami en el este de Asia y del terremoto en Pakistán. Adicionalmente, el año pasado 1.800 doctores de 47 países en desarrollo se graduaron en Cuba. Bajo un acuerdo reciente, el gobierno de Castro ha enviado 14.000 profesionales de la salud para atender a habitantes de barrios pobres en , a cambio de recortes en el precio del petróleo exportado a Cuba.

Escasez doméstica

Fidel Castro ha buscado fortalecer el sector de salud y biotecnología. No obstante, en Cuba, donde la gente está acostumbrada a un sistema de salud universal y gratuito, la enorme salida de doctores al extranjero ha llevado a quejas. De acuerdo a la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS), Cuba provee un doctor por cada 170 residentes, más que en Estados Unidos, donde la proporción es de 1 a 188. En estos días, sin embargo, los cubanos tienen menos médicos atendiéndolos, y a veces tienen que hacer fila para obtener cuidado médico. Más aún, ciertos pabellones de algunos hospitales han sido reservados para acomodar un influjo de pacientes de operaciones oftalmológicas provenientes del extranjero. Esto ocurre luego del lanzamiento en septiembre pasado de la “Operación Milagro”, que busca devolverle la vista a los 6 millones de pobres en América Latina y el Caribe que se estima sufren de cataratas y otras enfermedades debilitantes de la vista.  

Cuba reestructura y descentraliza su sistema energetico

Posted on Wed, Jan. 18, 2006

Cuba reestructura y descentraliza su sistema energético


LA HABANA – Cuba inició una transformación de su sistema energético mediante la descentralización de los equipos electrógenos, la ampliación del uso del gas acompañante del petróleo y el desarrollo de productores eólicos y solares con vistas a prescindir de las caras y gigantes centrales actuales.Considerado uno de los sectores más vulnerables de la isla, se busca ahora pasar a un esquema, más racional y seguro, expresó el al inaugurar los primeros equipos de esta “era” en la provincia de Pinar del Río, al occidente de la isla, en la noche del martes.“Las serias dificultades enfrentadas”, reconoció el mandatario, tanto por la ineficiencia de las viejas termoeléctricas muchas de ellas fueron compradas en Europa del Este hace décadas, como por las afectaciones de grandes huracanes, propiciaron poner en práctica “nuevas concepciones”.Entre las medidas ya tomadas enumeradas por Castro figuró la instalación de los equipos en diferentes zonas y la colocación de 205 generadores nuevos con capacidad de 253.500 kilovatios/hora, rehabilitación de redes de distribución por donde se perdía la electricidad y la eliminación de los bajos voltajes.También un paulatino mayor uso del gas acompañante en la extracción petrolera para fabricar energía que ya está aportando otros 235.000 kilovatios/hora, así como cambios de cables y postes.Paralelamente, comentó el mandatario, se eligió la energía eólica y solar, apropiada por las características isleñas, para fuentes alternativas y se dieron los primeros estudios en esta dirección.“Por otra parte, el país ha contratado un total de 4.158 grupos electrógenos de emergencia, que representa un potencial a instalar de 771.881 kilovatios” más, comentó el presidente.A la fecha arribaron ya 3.003 de estas maquinarias.La casi media docena de actuales termoeléctricas, plantas enormes y costosas, tienen una potencia instalada de 2.940.000 kilovatios y la mayoría de ellas superan 25 años; cada vez que alguna de ellas tiene una avería o requiere de mantenimiento varias provincias se quedan sin luz.“Este sistema será sustituido paulatinamente”, manifestó el mandatario.Agregó que el programa por tiempo indefinido prevé la sustitución del gas licuado o keroseno de los hogares cubanos para mayo del 2006 y su reemplazo por electricidad: “un combustible noble, seguro y sano”.“Para esa fecha (mayo) habremos alcanzado la capacidad de generar un millón de kilovatios/hora en los grupos energéticos coordinados, equivalente a 3,3 termoeléctricas como “Antonio Guiteras (de las más grandes del país), cuyo costo total sería de 1.700 millones de dólares en inversión y no menos de seis años para construirlas”, comentó.Según Castro el nuevo esquema, para el cual también se impulsó desde hace meses una masiva campaña de control de consumo entre la población incluyendo cambios de bombillos por otros menos gastadores y equipos viejos en los hogares, le ahorrará a la nación 1.000 millones de dólares al año.  

La propiedad "privada", sus derechos y la socializacion de la pobreza

La propiedad “privada”, sus derechos y la socialización de la pobrezaAlexander Guerrero E.

  Jueves, 19 de enero de 2006

El socialismo avanza con mismo ritmo que se expande la pobreza, el común denominador de ese proceso político lo constituye el debilitamiento de los derechos de propiedad, conculcando eso derechos, la propiedad pierde su sentido social y su condición natural: crear riqueza, o lo que es lo mismo, sin derechos de propiedad reales y efectivos, solo es posible puede crear pobreza, es lo que hemos estado presenciando en estos siete anos de revolución y es lo que nos muestra la historia reciente de los diversos tipo de comunismo-socialismo experimentados. El resultado neto inmediato es una sociedad que se torna mas igualitaria al compás del proceso de socialización de la pobreza; es decir, los mecanismos de igualdad del socialismo reprimen los incentivos para el ascenso y movilidad social, al venezolano el les recomienda – y sus políticas logran el cometido de sus palabras- que aspirar a ser rico es contrarrevolucionario, y que la mejor manera de comprender la revolución es aceptando estoicamente el ser pobre.   Una muestra patética de esta progresión empobrecedora de la revolución lo encontramos en la propaganda oficial que remite las culpas por el cierre o colapso del viaducto, a una voluntad divina y por lo tanto aceptable, una versión remodelada del cristianismo marxista con el cual la revolución cultural busca la redención del pobre ahora no en la tierra sino en el limbo de la revolución. La lógica “revolucionaria” de esta tragedia se pueden encontrar en el hecho de que el cierre definitivo del viaducto de un plumazo empobrece cientos de miles de venezolanos que solo les queda el mar para buscar sus sustento, y el aislamiento de otros tantos millones de venezolanos que ven su standard de vida caer al tener que presenciar impotente las consecuencias económicas y sociales negativas  que destruyen su calidad de vida. La ampliación del espectro de pobreza, proceso que trepa con velocidad por la estructura de ingresos, que agrega como pobres a diferentes sectores de las clases medias cuyo ingreso familiar se nivela por abajo a los sectores de menores recursos, trae consigo una curiosa  relación socioeconómica, en cierto modo, postulado por la revolución del Presidente, que se expresa en una sociedad con mayores niveles de igualdad; es decir, se alcanza el paroxismo socialista conocido de una sociedad de iguales que tiende a ser mas pobre que una sociedad naturalmente desigual, donde la propios mecanismos de ubicación social desigual conforman los incentivos para el progreso y la búsqueda de la riqueza individual y familiar. Al respecto, la evidencia empírica universal es colosal en demostrar que la igualdad se construye sobre mayores niveles de pobreza, por estos lados Cuba, y en la Europa socialista nos muestran como una sociedad de iguales es históricamente viable. El ataque violento a la propiedad inmobiliaria de estos días post-colapso del viaducto, dirigido por altos funcionarios públicos nos muestra otro ejemplo de unos mecanismos activado para empobrecer. Las invasiones, dirigidas o no por el gobierno pero ciertamente ejecutadas sin que un marco jurídico y las autoridades de gobierno respondas ante los ciudadanos por el cuido de sus vidas y propiedad coadyuva la creación de un mercado inmobiliario especulativo con precios en caída, por debilitamiento de esos derechos. Vale destacar que ese proceso de invasiones y expropiaciones se conduce desde los propios inicios de la actual administración de gobierno. Esa políticamente institucionalizada e , conforma el marco de empobrecimiento de sectores sociales que con su trabajo han adquirido viviendas para disfrute familiar y/o como parte de su ahorro por vivir en una sociedad inflacionaria. Esa violencia conlleva en lo económico a un proceso de expropiación y empobrecimiento. Del mismo modo que la doble tragedia de Vargas en el 2000; la del impacto de la naturaleza y la de la pésima gestión de gobierno para resolver problemas primarios causados por el deslave; el cierre del viaducto traerá inmensas perdidas a los ciudadanos y empresas de la gente, por los elevados costos por cierre, mudanza, trasporte, desmovilización de la fuerza de trabajo, y mala gestión de gobierno para resolver esa vicisitud creada por la ineficiencia crónica de la gerencia publica. Mientras tanto el gobierno flotando literalmente en una súbita riqueza financiera, represada en el BCV y en las propias cuentas del Tesoro, ataca los mecanismos de protección de los derechos de propiedad vulnerando en consecuencia la maquinaria de producir riqueza que conlleva un régimen de propiedad privada, los órganos reguladores de políticas publicas, la represión de precios,  y cobro de impuestos y otras instituciones  interventoras del Estado en la economía, crean un entorno económico incierto y costoso y en ocasiones de terror, desmonta los mecanismos naturales del ahorro e inversión de la gente. En conjunto, tanto la debilidad de un marco jurídico que no protege derechos de propiedad, que permite un ritmo de violencia políticamente institucionalizada en invasiones,  confiscaciones y en amenazas a la propiedad privada directas por parte de del propio Presidente, de ministros y funcionarios públicos, así como leyes, decretos y políticas publicas que mutilan el régimen de derechos de propiedad por regulación de precios, control de cambio e intervención del gobierno en la economía para sustituir a la gente y empresas de su propio dominio económico, conllevan rápidamente hacia un entorno de empobrecimiento generalizado similar al que sobreviven os cubanos. Ese creciente empobrecimiento ocurre a la sombra de un Estado rico, cuya riqueza parece acumularse sobre el empobrecimiento de la gente y la descapitalización y pérdida de capacidad productiva de la gente y sus empresas. 

(*): Economista, PhD (London)  

Washington acepta reunirse con exiliados

Posted on Wed, Jan. 18, 2006

Washington acepta reunirse con exiliados


La dramática protesta del activista Ramón Saúl Sánchez consiguió anoche emplazar sus reclamos en territorio firme, cuando la Casa Blanca accedió oficialmente a reunirse con líderes de la comunidad exiliada para discutir la política migratoria hacia Cuba.Aunque al cierre de esta edición Sánchez no había decidido suspender la huelga de hambre que por 11 días mantuvo en vilo a figuras políticas, guías espirituales y cientos de simpatizantes, el anuncio de Washington desbrozó el camino para cerrar un capítulo de particular sensibilidad en el Miami cubano.”La administración ha contactado a representantes de la comunidad cubanoamericana para expresarles nuestro interés de escuchar y entender sus preocupaciones sobre la política migratoria hacia Cuba”, dijo Blair Jones, portavoz de la Casa Blanca.Jones agregó que funcionarios estadounidenses acordaron reunirse con los representantes designados de la comunidad cubana, y fijarán una fecha para el encuentro “tan pronto como sea posible”.La noticia produjo una explosión de júbilo entre decenas de personas agrupadas anoche junto a la carpa donde se hallaba Sánchez, tendido en una cama de y bajo permanente escrutinio de personal médico.”Me alegra tremendamente esta comunicación, pero esperamos que algún funcionario de la administración [de George W. Bush] nos lo confirme”, expresó el del Movimiento Democracia en medio de exclamaciones de ¡Viva Cuba libre! y ¡!. “Si se confirma, pondré fin de inmediato a la huelga de hambre”.El activista dijo que prefería una notificación por escrito para levantar su protesta, enclavada junto al Monumento a la Brigada 2506 en la Calle Ocho.Sánchez, de 51 años, entró en ayuno al mediodía del sábado 7 de enero en protesta por la detención de 15 en el viejo Puente de las Siete Millas en los Cayos. El grupo fue repatriado con el argumento de las autoridades federales de que el puente “no tenía conexión con el territorio estadounidense”.”Lo que pretendemos es hacer más humana la política de pies secos, pies mojados”, insistió Sánchez.Entre los manifestantes que respaldaron desde el comienzo la protesta de Sánchez figuraron familiares de los balseros repatriados.El compromiso de Washington emergió luego que guías espirituales, congresistas y abogados de inmigración gestionaran una solución viable para evitar un trágico desenlace del caso.El gobernador de la Florida, Jeb Bush, y Monseñor Agustín Román, Obispo Auxiliar de Miami, impulsaron negociaciones ante la Casa Blanca desde el pasado fin de semana. Ayer en un encuentro con los periodistas antes de una gira latinoamericana, el gobernador Bush había adelantado que “representantes de la comunidad cubana serán recibidos por funcionarios de la administración para discutir la política de pies secos, pies mojados”.Sin , las señales provenientes de Washington resultaron ambivalentes para los partidarios de Sánchez, luego de que en un intercambio matutino con la prensa, el portavoz Scott McClellan reiteró que “la política es bien clara respecto a los inmigrantes cubanos”.Ayer la Comisión de Miami-Dade le dio un espaldarazo a Sánchez al anunciar un proyecto de resolución que pide al gobierno federal una revisión urgente de la política de “pies secos, pies mojados”.  

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