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Daily Archives: January 29, 2006

Cuba Launches New TV Channel

Cuba Launches New TV Channel

Havana, Jan 29 (Prensa Latina) People from Havana and Havana provincebenefit from the opening of Habana television station, the fifth channel inCuban television. The opening coincided with ceremonies to pay homage toCuban National Hero Jose Marti.People will be able to watch the station shows on channel 27, Monday throughFriday from 16:00 hours, and Saturdays and Sundays from 18:00 hours, localtime, to 12:00 midnight.The first broadcast was broadcast on Saturday, at the studio frm wheretelevision signal was aired for the first time on the island on October 24,1950.This station, with an informative and cultural profile, is included in thecountry’s efforts to raise the intellectual and educational level of allCubans, who are involved in an important battle of ideas, as they call agroup of social plans in the , , sports, and culture sectors.An image of Jose Marti identifies the lobby of the renovated stationheadquarters.Esteban Lazo, a leading Cuban Communist Party official, referred tochallenges the station will need to overcome to become the favorite of thecapital’s tv viewers, who also have the possibility to choose among fourother options.He also spoke about the way the national television should reflect thecountry’s values, ethics, morality, honesty, responsibility, solidarity,brotherhood, and commitment.The most outstanding shows of the new television station are the Hola Habana(Hello Havana) news and information hour, tv serials, a program for movies,cartoons, and other shows for children.



Boat, Believed From Cuba, Still Missing

Boat, Believed From Cuba, Still MissingPOSTED: 9:25 am EST January 28, 2006UPDATED: 10:07 am EST January 28, 2006

MIAMI — Authorities called off the search for a homemade boat carrying 15 people that disappeared amid fog and ocean swells off the Florida Keys.Both and Coast Guard officials said they believed the boat was from Cuba.Authorities suspended their search Friday after failing to find debris from the vessel or the missing passengers in the three-day search.A Customs and Border Protection Black Hawk helicopter crew first spotted the wooden craft on a routine flight shortly before dusk Wednesday about 46 miles off the U.S. coast.Officials covered more than 1,400 square miles using two C-130 propeller planes and a Coast Guard cutter.

U.S. Suspends License Of Local Cuba Travel Agency

U.S. Suspends License Of Local Cuba AgencyPOSTED: 9:53 am EST January 28, 2006UPDATED: 10:15 am EST January 28, 2006

MIAMI — A South Florida travel agency has become the target of a U.S. crackdown on travel to Cuba.The U.S. treasury department has closed down and suspended the license of La Estrella de Cuba, which is one of the biggest Cuba travel agencies in the country, NBC 6 reported.The Bush administration tightened travel restrictions to the island in 2004, arguing that travel to Cuba benefits the communist regime financially.Authorities in Washington are now enforcing the restrictions more aggressively.Critics of the crackdown say it could prompt to cut off direct flights from the U.S., NBC 6 reported.

Cuba’s mystique luring tourists

Posted on Sun, Jan. 29, 2006

Cuba’s mystique luring tourists industry growing despite U.S. sanctionsBy Rosemary McClureLos Angeles Times

HAVANA – The Rev. John Bakas walked the crowded cobblestone streets of OldHavana, dined on spicy red and rice at an outdoor cafe and led vesperservices at a Greek Orthodox Church near Havana Bay. Several members of hiscongregation, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles, joined himon the November trip, his third to Cuba.At the same time, Kim Zimmerman, a Los Angeles pediatrician on her firsttrip to Cuba, was visiting the capital with a group of care workerson a tour designed by Global Exchange, a San Francisco human-rightsorganization. She watched young dancers in colorful folk costumes swirlacross a makeshift dance floor at a for children with Downsyndrome, then joined them for a few moments, earning hugs and broad smilesfrom the troupe.Bakas and Zimmerman were among an estimated 40,000 U.S. residents whovisited the off-limits island last year. Despite tough new sanctions fromthe Bush administration, about 2 million tourists traveled to Cuba in 2005.Most were from and Europe, but U.S. citizens came, too.Some, such as Bakas and Zimmerman, visited legally on authorized tours, butmany did not, defying U.S. regulations by flying to Havana from Canada,Jamaica, the Bahamas or Mexico.Regardless of how they arrive, most tourists are drawn by Cuba’s legendarymystique. It is an intoxicating destination for travelers, a place of finerum and cigars; sugary-white Caribbean beaches; attractive, friendly people;unbelievable ’50s kitsch; potent music and dance; and a wealth of untouchedSpanish Colonial architecture.Once a U.S. playground, Cuba has been forbidden fruit for its giant neighborto the north since the U.S. trade embargo began more than four decades ago.For some, that makes it all the more inviting.When I visited in November – journalists are allowed to travel to Cuba – Iinterviewed tourists who were there legally and some who traveled therewithout U.S. permission.“I think everyone who really wants to go (to Cuba) finds a way to getthere,” said a Los Angeles woman who visited Havana last summer, enteringby way of Mexico.The Havana of long ago isn’t hard to find. I needed only to step outsideJose Marti International to vault backward in time. Old Studebakers,DeSotos and Oldsmobiles were everywhere, their horns honking and black smokebelching. In town, the 75-year-old Nacional, onetime host to notablessuch as Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra, overlooked the blue waters ofthe Straits of Florida in serene elegance. And down along the 7.5-mileseafront boulevard – the Malecon – couples embraced or strolled arm-in-arm.That night, when I heard a conga drum and the words, “Babalu, babalu,babalu,” I really sensed I’d entered a time warp. Desi Arnaz wasn’t here,but the Tropicana was, still entertaining guests on its stage under thestars just as it has since 1939. Six platforms from rooftop to aisle werefull of swirling dancers in gauzy costumes, many parading hats that couldhave doubled as hotel chandeliers. Men toked on fat cigars, couples mixedrum-and-cola drinks at their tables and guests swayed to the steamy rhythmsof the music.As my week in Cuba unfolded, I explored Havana on foot and by pedicab,horse-drawn carriage and taxi. The city swept by in indelible images: livechickens being hawked by habaneros; front-stoop musicians jamming for theirneighbors; young ballerinas practicing pirouettes in a storefront studio;newlyweds smiling broadly as they rolled down the Malecon atop a gleaming ’52Chevy convertible.I found the people of Havana to be good-humored, sharing jokes and storiesabout life in a Communist regime. “Havana has 2 million people,” one mantold me, “and 1 million .”There’s speculation about life after Castro, who has been in power sinceDwight D. Eisenhower was president. “When the dog is dead,” a habanero toldme, “there is no rabies.”Like most tourists, I stayed in Old Havana, La Habana Vieja, the historicalcore. It was founded in 1514 – more than 50 years before St. Augustine,Fla., the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States.Old Havana is a warren of narrow cobblestone avenues lined with Baroquebuildings that have changed little since the 17th and 18th centuries. Thestreet life is vibrant, the surroundings impressive. One of my first stopswas the fifth-floor room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Ernest Hemingwayworked on his 1940 novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”My self-guided walking tour took me to Plaza de Armas, the city’s oldestsquare, a beautifully landscaped park where booksellers barter with touristsand residents. I walked a few hundred yards farther to Castillo de la RealFuerza, the oldest stone fort in the Americas, and listened as a guideexplained an archaeological dig and restoration project under way.Restoration – I heard the word often in La Habana Vieja. During the lastdecade, charming hotels, cafes and shops have emerged from the disheveledruins of once-beautiful mansions.Neglected for more than four decades, Havana is rife with imperfections:Sewage runs in the streets; water pipes won’t work; abandoned structures,some converted into slum housing, collapse overnight.When ’s rebel army won in 1959, life changed irreversibly forthe Cuban people; it changed again in 1990 when the Soviet Union departed,taking its financial subsidies with it.Cubans have little cash – incomes range from about $10 to $18 a month – andsupplies are hard to come by. A ration system allows each person eight eggs,6 pounds of rice, 3 pounds of beans and 2 pounds of sugar monthly. ButCubans have universal health care and an effective education system.Despite the economic hardships, residents have a contagious energy andenthusiasm. They savor life, are warm to visitors and are passionate abouttheir homeland.After Havana, I went west, away from the heavy pollution and crowdedstreets. Cuba, about the size of Pennsylvania, unfurled a land of mountains,beaches and vast farmlands.A multilane autopista took me into Pinar del Rio province, past tobaccoplantations, verdant grasslands and farmers tilling ocher-colored fieldswith teams of oxen.The highway itself offered entertainment: Billboards bore revolutionarysayings and advice; hawkers stood at the side of the road selling cheese,grilled chickens and live turkeys; huge groups of hitchhikers hid from thetropical heat under overpasses.About three hours outside Havana, I reached Valle de Vinales, where oddlyshaped mounds of limestone tower over a patchwork quilt of farms. Thescenery was striking, but more interesting were the people, many of themguajiros, Cuban peasant farmers. I stopped to talk to several; all weregracious, talking about their fields and crops.I saw few tourists on the road. Although Cuba’s industry is one ofthe fastest-growing in the world, most visitors see only the country’s beachresorts or Havana.Varadero, about 100 miles east of Havana, draws many Canadians and Europeansto its surfside hotels, which stretch along a sandy isthmus facing theStraits of Florida. It’s a magnet for budget travelers. Canadians canpurchase a weeklong, all-inclusive vacation for $700, including airfare.More than 600,000 arrived last year.Cuba continues to expand facilities, planning new resorts andencouraging foreign investment in hopes of luring more Canadian, Europeanand Latin American tourists. But the big plum is just next door.“The highest spenders are Americans,” said Miguel Alejandro Figueras, aCuban tourism official. “We want them to come. We think they want to come.”He’s hopeful that change is on the horizon. If it is, will Cuba be ready?“The first million American tourists will be no problem. But give us noticefor the second million.”

U-S envoy says Cuba message board will stay put

U-S envoy says Cuba message board will stay put

HAVANA The electronic message board on the U-S diplomatic offices in Havana is staying put, over the objections of ’s government.The U-S mission irked Castro last week when it installed the sign which carries a running text of news and messages. It includes excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cuba has signed on.Castro has denounced the board’s messages as “provocations.” Earlier in the week, he launched a massive protest march, then started a mysterious construction project directly in front of the offices.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

ALA convention shocker: Keynote speaker Codrescu slams Cuba policy scandal

ALA convention shocker: Keynote speaker Codrescu slams Cuba policy scandalSAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, January 22, 2006 (Andrei Codrescu) – Here are excerptsfrom Andrei Codrescu’s electrifying keynote speech, “The Make It or Break ItCentury,” presented at the ALA’s Midwinter 2006 conference:

Thank you for – once again – giving me the opportunity and pleasure toaddress some of my favorite people. I feel that you and I, writers andlibrarians, along with publishers and booksellers, are keeping the flame ofliteracy flickering in these pixilated times…..

I was born in a place [Romania] where people were forbidden to read most ofwhat we consider the fundamental books of Western civilization. Not onlywere we forbidden to read authors like James Joyce, but being found inpossession of a book such as George Orwell’s “1984″ could lend one in for years. My good luck was to meet Dr. Martin in my adolescence. Dr. Martinwas a retired professor who had collected and kept in his modest three roomapartment the best of inter-war Romanian literature….. Also among histreasures were translations of Sigmund Freud, Robert Musil, Klebnikov,George Orwell, and Paul Claudel….. Dr. Martin’s library could have earnedhim years of hard labor. In addition to owning them, he lent them to us,young high- writers, who absorbed them thirstily and read them deeplybecause we knew what risks our older friend – and ourselves – were taking.Those books influenced me profoundly because they were essential to myintellectual development. I became a writer because I read forbidden books.Books forbidden by an authoritarian government are the only reason I am now standing before you.

I knew about the American Library Association for a long time…. The ALAfight for the to read, against censorship and the Patriot Act hasbeen one of its magnificent accomplishments. Another has been the promotionof and intellectual freedom worldwide. To quote from the ALApolicy manual, “freedom of is an inalienable human right,necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance to oppression, crucialto the cause of justice, and further, that the principles of freedom ofexpression should be applied to libraries and librarians throughout theworld.”

Given these crystal-clear positions, it was with a great deal of dismay thatI learned that the American Library Association has taken no action tocondemn the imprisonment of librarians, the banning of books, the repressionof expression and the torture of dissidents only 90 miles away from ourshores, in Cuba. In March 1998, two residents of Las Tunas, Ramón Colás andBerta Mexidor, opened a private library in their home, dedicated to offering Cubans books not officially available. The Félix Library was the first of a network of private libraries that were established by volunteers in Cuba to bring light to the oppressive darkness of Castro’s state. 103 libraries and 182,000 registered patrons were affiliated with the expanding Independent Libraries Project by the end of 2002. From the very beginning of their existence, the private librarians were subjected to threats, harassment, evictions, arrests, police raids, and the seizure of book collections, books that disappeared so quickly they could have only been burned….. Since then, those “individuals” have been subject to brutal imprisonment and their books have been disappeared. The ALA councilors have remained silent on the issue to this day. Am Ihallucinating? Is this the same American Library Association that standsagainst censorship and for freedom of expression everywhere? There are somepeople like the civil liberties columnist Nat Hentoff, and Robert Kent,founder of Friends of Cuban Libraries, who have accused the ALA leadershipof a cover-up. I hope not. This organization cannot logically… act againstprovision215 of the Patriot Act and approve of ’s order 88, which deniesall the rights we cherish.

I went to Cuba in 1997, just before a papal visit later that year, and I wasappalled by the lack of books. I was reminded of my poor, sad Romania in the1950′s, a dismal prison where for body and mind were nearly inexistent.Cubans were literally starving physically and intellectually. Lookingthrough the desultory pages of the Communist Party’s official paper, Granma,reminded me also of the pathetic simulacra of phony writing that stained thepages of Romania’s official papers during the years of the dictatorship….Cuba today is the Romania of my growing up and I only hope for the sake ofthe Cubans that a hundred thousand Dr. Martins are ready to rise to take theplace of those who had been and tortured by the Cuban regime. Ialso hope that, in keeping with its tradition and charter of defending thefreedom to read and freedom of expression, the American Library Associationwill immediately pass a resolution condemning the Castro regime for flagrantviolations of basic human rights. To not do so is self-defeating and wipesout any credibility the ALA might have in fighting the much milderprovisions of the Patriot Act. Not to speak of the fact that it’s mucheasier to fight for freedom to read in a country where every book isavailable, while it is much more difficult to make meaningful a statement ina place where books are an enemy of the state…..

ALA Cuba Policy Criticised In Midwinter Conference Keynote Speech

29 January 2006ALA Cuba Policy Criticised In Midwinter Conference Keynote SpeechWe have received a report from the Friends of Cuban Libraries organisation, that a speaker at the ALA Midwinter Conference sharply criticised the ALA policy on Cuba.

There has been no report on this so far in the media section of the ALA web site, although there are reports on other activities, so we quote from the Friends of Cuban Libraries statement below.

January 22 marked “High Noon” in San Antonio as a long-simmering scandal within the American Library Association publicly exploded. The keynote speaker at the ALA’s midwinter conference in Texas, author and radio commentator Andrei Codrescu, delighted cheering rank-and-file ALA members by delivering a surprise speech denouncing ALA policy on Cuba. As stunned ALA Michael Gorman listened in disbelief, keynoter Codrescu, who escaped from Romania in his youth, ripped into ALA leaders for failing to defend the people in Cuba being persecuted for opening a network of uncensored libraries. “Am I hallucinating?” Codrescu asked the audience. “Is this the same American Library Association that stands against censorship and for of everywhere?” Codrescu continued: “Cuba today is the Romania of my growing up.”

Extended excerpts from Codrescu’s speech can be read in theRecent News section of the Friends of Cuban Libraries website:(

Coast Guard Searches For Migrant Vessel Missing Off Keys

Coast Guard Searches For Migrant Vessel Missing Off KeysHomemade Boat Was Carrying 15 MigrantsPOSTED: 10:46 am EST January 27, 2006

MIAMI — Authorities on Thursday searched for a homemade boat carrying 15 migrants that disappeared Wednesday night amid fog and ocean swells off the Florida Keys.A and Border Patrol Black Hawk helicopter on a routine flyover spotted the rustic wooden craft shortly before dusk Wednesday about 46 miles off the coast. The small vessel had no engine and appeared to be taking on water, said Customs Spokesman Zachary Mann.Mann said the Black Hawk crew was forced to return to its base in Homestead around 7 p.m. due to poor weather. When another aircraft from Jacksonville arrived shortly afterward, it could no longer find the roughly 15-foot boat.“These people weren’t trying to get away. They were just drifting in the water,” Mann said. “You have a situation where you are 46 miles off shore. The sun goes down, there’s no light. Something that small can be easily lost when there’s no marker on it.”Mann identified the missing people as Cuban in a press release but later said he could not confirm the nationality.“The likelihood that they are Cuban is great because they’re in the Florida straights between Florida and Cuba,” he said.Customs and the Coast Guard officials continued the search throughout the night to no avail and returned Thursday, searching more than 1,400 square miles, Mann said. He said it was unclear whether the group could have survived overnight on the open sea amid roughly 4-foot swells. Overnight temperatures in the area were in the high 60s for the air and low 70s for the water, according to the National Weather Service.“It’s extremely unfortunate, and an extremely sad situation for anyone associated — the rescuers and family and friends,” Mann said. “This goes to show the dangers associated with attempting to enter the country illegally and taking your life into your hands in this dangerous matter. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.”Coast Guard Lt. Commander Chris O’Neil said searchers had not found any debris indicating that the vessel sank, and no decision had been taken as to how long to continue the search.“We keep searching until we’re confident that we would have found what we were looking for within the search area if it were there,” he said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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