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Archive for January 14, 2008

Over 50 hospitalised after Havana ammonia leak

Monday 14th January, 2008

Over 50 hospitalised after Havana ammonia leak
IANS Monday 14th January, 2008

More than 50 people have been hospitalised and nearly 5,000 people
evacuated after an ammonia gas leakage here, officials have said.

The incident occurred Sunday when about three tonnes of ammonia leaked
from a meat processing plant in the Berroa free trade zone on the
outskirts of Cuban capital Havana, said Bienvenido Rafoso, the head of
the Cuban Fire fighter Corps, 's EFE new agency reported Monday.

'The situation has been brought under control and there is no danger for
public now,' he said.

'We received a call around 6 a.m. local time and the entire Civil
Defence system was activated immediately,' Rafoso said.

He said that experts were conducting an investigation to determine the
cause of the leak of the potentially deadly gas, which formed a toxic
cloud and forced authorities to evacuate 'between 4,000 and 5,000
people' from the Alamar neighbourhood, one of Havana's most heavily
populated zones.

At least 50 people were hospitalised for skin irritation and respiratory
effects, the official said, adding that all of them were out of danger.

U.S. Praises Cuban Opposition’s Call for Democracy in Cuba

24 April 2007
U.S. Praises Cuban Opposition's Call for Democracy in Cuba

Jailing of Cuban draws global condemnation
By Eric Green
Staff Writer

Washington — The United States has praised a statement from
representatives of the Cuban opposition movement calling for peaceful
democratic change in Cuba.

In its statement, released April 16 in Spanish, members of most of
Cuba's leading opposition groups said they were united in their call for
Cuba to change peacefully from communist rule to democracy, ,
social justice and for all the Cuban people.

The statement added that the task of achieving democratic change in
Cuban society is up to "Cubans and only Cubans."

The Bush administration's Cuba transition coordinator, Caleb McCarry,
told USINFO April 20 that the statement is an "important message to the
Cuban people and the outside world from Cuba's peaceful democratic

The United States, said McCarry, "supports the right of the Cuban people
to define a democratic future for their country."

McCarry oversees day-to-day operations of the U.S. Commission for
Assistance to a Free Cuba. The commission, co-chaired by Secretary of
State Condoleezza and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, was
created in 2003 to ensure that the U.S. government is prepared to assist
Cuba's peaceful transition to democracy. (See related article.)

Michael Parmly, chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana, added that U.S. policy "has been to give the Cuban people the
lead in deciding their country's future." Parmly told USINFO that the
statement from the opposition Cuban group, dubbed "United for Freedom,"
represents the "views of many Cubans who have been advocating for human
rights and democratic change for a long time."

The Cuban opposition's statement also urged the release of all political
prisoners from Cuban prisons who have been "imprisoned unjustly for
defending, promoting, and peacefully exercising universally recognized
human rights."

More than 20 members of Cuba's opposition movement have signed the

Signatories include prominent leaders Oswaldo Payá of the
Christian Liberation Movement; Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission
for Human Rights and National Reconciliation; Martha Beatriz Roque and
Rene Gomez Manzano of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society; and members
of the Ladies in White () opposition movement, which
consists of wives and other close female relatives of imprisoned Cuban
dissidents. Among its many honors, this last group was named one of the
three winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize for the promotion of freedom of
thought. (See related article.)


The United States has joined two global press freedom advocacy groups in
condemning a four-year sentence given to Cuban independent
journalist Oscar Sánchez Madan after a one-day trial April 13.

Cuban authorities Sánchez, a reporter for the Miami-based news
Web site CubaNet, that same day at his home in the province of Matanzas
for being a "pre-criminal social danger." The Cuban regime is said
often to use the vague charge to jail its critics, even if no crime has
been committed.

Robert Blau, a political and economic counselor at the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana, said the United States "associates" itself with the
criticism given by the press groups of Sánchez's arrest.

Blau told USINFO that Sánchez was "an just doing
his job. We note that Sanchez's reporting frequently covered issues
such as human rights abuses and economic mismanagement in Matanzas

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Sánchez "was even denied
the right to an attorney, so his conviction was entirely arbitrary."
The group said the press freedom situation in Cuba has not improved
since Raúl Castro was named Cuba's acting on July 31, 2006.

Joel Simon, executive director for the New York-based Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ), said "it is outrageous that Cuba has once
again thrown a journalist in jail after a summary trial on a trumped up
charge. We call on Cuban authorities to release Sánchez immediately, as
well as the other 24 independent journalists unjustly imprisoned on the
island today."

The 25 journalists in Cuban prisons make Cuba the world's second leading
jailer of journalists after , said the CPJ. Cuba imprisoned 22 of
those journalists in a March 2003 crackdown on press freedom in Cuba
that has been dubbed "Black Spring." (See related article.)

The State Department said in a human rights report released April 5 that
Cuba had at least 283 political prisoners and detainees at the end of 2006.

The section of the human rights report dealing with Cuba is available on
the State Department Web site.

More information about the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is
available on the commission's Web site.

The statements by Reporters Without Borders and CPJ are available on the
groups' Web sites.

Cuban Doctors Expected in Cunene Province

Cuban Doctors Expected in Cunene Province

Released : Monday, January 14, 2008 6:10 AM

Ondjiva, Jan 14, 2008 (Angola Press Agency/All Africa Global Media via
COMTEX) — At least 20 new physicians from Cuba with different
specialities, are expected this year in southern Cunene province,
announced Saturday the provincial director, Eduardo Eduardo Haihumba.

Speaking to journalists, Eduardo Haihumba, noted that the increase of
doctors will be beneficial, as it will add the number of qualified staff
for better and efficient medical assistance.

"The Cuban team, comprising orthopaedists, nutritionists, surgeons,
anaesthesias, intensive care and general clinic, will be distributed
throughout Ondjiva city's health centres with 15 doctors, and the
remaining five will be transferred to Namacunde municipality", the
source added.

Asked on the possible date for their arrival, the health official
assured that this would occur as soon as a team from the Health
Ministry, inspects the working conditions and means in the province.

To Eduardo Haihumba, with the operation of Cuban doctors the clinical
staff of the sector will increase from 49 to 69.

Where the candidates stand on the Cuban embargo

Where the candidates stand on the Cuban
January 13, 2008

The United States has embargoed trade with Cuba for nearly half a
century to deprive its communist government of resources and force
democratic reforms. The embargo includes restrictions on American
to Cuba, which Bush has toughened. He also has restricted the
amount of money, known as "remittances," Americans can send to family
members on the island.

None of the leading Democrats would try to "normalize" the relationship
— or establish usual diplomatic channels — between the United States and

Clinton wants to maintain the embargo and restrictions until Cuba
becomes a democracy.

Edwards has not addressed specifics of Cuba policy.

Obama proposes easing restrictions on travel and remittances so
Cuban-Americans can visit their families and send money.,0,6880360.story?track=rss

Brazil’s Lula, Cuba to Sign Deep-Water Oil Exploration Accords

Brazil's Lula, Cuba to Sign Deep-Water Oil Exploration Accords

By Romina Nicaretta and Andre Soliani

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
plans to sign agreements with Cuba during his visit this week to help
the island-nation begin deep-water oil exploration.

“I will sign several accords in Cuba,'' Lula said during his weekly
interview on Brazilian radio today. “Brazil is interested in helping
Cuba discover whether they have oil in deep waters, as the country is
very close to the Mexican Gulf.''

Lula is traveling to Cuba for a second time since taking office in 2003
as Brazil seeks to boost and trade with the Caribbean island,
whose annual economic growth has exceeded 6 percent in each of the last
three years.

Higher growth rates have led to a surge in imports into Cuba, which
almost tripled to $8.92 billion between 2002 and 2006, according to the
Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry. Cuba's trade deficit widened to
$6.35 billion in 2006 from $1.49 billion in 2002.

Brazilian exports to Cuba increased almost fivefold in the same period,
reaching $343.8 million in 2006, the Brazilian Trade Ministry said, or
about 0.2 percent of Brazil's total exports. Brazil's main exports to
Cuba are electrical equipment, sugar, candy and meat products.

Brazil also plans to help Cuba build roads and a lubricant plant, Lula
said. Lula plans to offer more than $500 million in financing to Cuba,
Valor Economico reported today, without saying where it got the information.

The Brazilian president, who calls himself a personal friend of Cuban
leader , is scheduled to arrive in Cuba today and leave

To contact the reporters on this story: Romina Nicaretta in Sao Paulo at
[email protected] ; Andre Soliani in Cuba at at
[email protected]
Last Updated: January 14, 2008 09:53 EST

Brazil to offer Cuba $1 bln credit on Lula trip

Brazil to offer Cuba $1 bln credit on Lula trip
Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:53am EST

HAVANA, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
will offer Cuba $1 billion in credit for , road building, nickel
mining and other development projects when he visits Havana later on
Monday, Brazilian diplomats said.

Brazil also will offer to cooperate in oil exploration in the Gulf of
Mexico and in building a lubricants plant, though risk and
contracts are still being negotiated by Brazilian state oil company
Petrobras (PBR.N: Quote, Profile, Research) (PETR4.SA: Quote, Profile,
Research), they said.

"Brazil wants to be engaged in Cuba and has economic, trade and
technological resources to offer at a time when Cuba seeks to
modernize," said a Brazilian foreign ministry official.

"They need new friends and they want us here," he said.

It was uncertain whether Lula would meet with ailing Cuban leader Fidel
Castro during his 24-hour visit to Cuba following Monday's presidential
inauguration in Guatemala.

"It won't be confirmed until it happens," a Brazilian diplomat said. "It
will happen if Fidel feels up to it."

Castro has not appeared in public since he underwent stomach surgery in
July 2006 that forced him to hand over power to his brother Raul.

Cuba's ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma said Lula, who is being
accompanied by four cabinet ministers and the head of Petrobras, Jose
Sergio Gabrielli, will meet with acting president .

Brazil will double credit lines for Cuban food purchases to $200 million
and offer credit lines worth $600 million to build roads in Cuba, $70
million for a nickel plant and more for specific projects in
biotechnology and other sectors, the Brazilian official said.

Credit for the export of goods and services through Brazilian companies
is available as long as Cuba can provide collateral, he said. "We hope
to see the commitment of significant private and state investment in
Cuba," he said.

The two countries will sign an umbrella agreement that will include
Brazilian commitment to look at exploration in Cuba's deep-sea Gulf of
Mexico waters where six foreign oil companies are looking for oil
reserves, the official said.

Under that agreement, Petrobras will Cuban personnel and offer aid
in refining and research.

Brazil, one of the world's largest producers of ethanol from sugar cane,
has for years sought to sell its technology to Cuba, but this will not
be on the agenda during Lula's visit.

Last year, Castro criticized the use of food crops to produce biofuels
saying it would increase hunger in the world.

Castro has only been seen in videos and photographs since he fell sick
in July 2006, but he has received foreign leaders, mostly Cuba's main
ally Venezuelan President Hugo , who visited him in mid-December.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Kristin Roberts)

36 Cuban migrants land on Key Biscayne

36 Cuban migrants land on Key Biscayne
Posted on Mon, Jan. 14, 2008
[email protected]

A group of 36 Cuban migrants landed on Key Biscayne early Monday
morning, according to an official at U.S. Border Patrol.

The migrants told agents they left Matanzas, Cuba, on Sunday. The group
of 30 men and six women landed on Key Biscayne about 5 a.m. Monday.

They were all in good shape. One of the women, who is pregnant, was
taken to the as a precaution.

The migrants were being processed by Border Patrol.

16 migrants rescued from sandbar repatriated

16 migrants rescued from sandbar repatriated
Posted on Mon, Jan. 14, 2008
[email protected]

Authorities have repatriated 16 of 17 Cubans abandoned by smugglers on a
sandbar off Key Biscayne on New Year's Day, the U.S. Coast Guard said

Twelve Cubans swam ashore that morning — but one man, Feisy
Rafael-Miranda, 28, was swept away and drowned.

At least three of the repatriated migrants are dissidents with Democracy
Movement, said Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the organization in Miami-Dade.

He criticized immigration authorities for not considering the dissidents
for asylum. He said that during interviews aboard the Coast Guard cutter
Reliance docked in Key West, they were not allowed to show
identification that showed their status.

''This is another proof that the process of interviewing people aboard
the cutters is defective. It lacks minimal due process,'' Sanchez said.

The group of 30 migrants — including six children — were left on the
sandbar some 50 to 100 feet from shore.

The 12 who made it to land swam across a channel through a treacherous
current. Several of the now-repatriated men reached shore but swam back
to help women and children struggling on the sandbar.

Coast Guard and Miami-Dade fire-rescue boats saved the remaining 17
people. They were taken aboard the Reliance and interviewed by
investigators probing Rafael-Miranda's death, as well as immigration
officers considering them for asylum.

One man was not returned to Cuba and will be given another interview,
Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Dana Ward said.

The smuggling case and death are being investigated by U.S. Immigration
and Enforcement, along with Miami-Dade homicide detectives.

A fishing boat captain found Rafael-Miranda's body four days after the
incident near Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay.

Under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, Cubans who arrive on American soil
are generally allowed to stay while those interdicted at sea are usually
sent back to the island country.

Families despair for 40 missing at sea

Families despair for 40 missing at sea
Relatives are distraught about the fate of 40 loved ones, including 12
children, whose boat disappeared after leaving Cuba for South Florida in
late November.
Posted on Mon, Jan. 14, 2008
[email protected]

It was still dark that early morning in late November when about 40
people, including 12 children, crowded aboard a sport fishing boat that
had traveled from Florida to pick them up along Cuba's northern coast.

The sky was clear — but the sea was a little choppy.

The Cubans, all of them from towns in Matanzas province, expected a
smooth crossing, the same trip their husbands, brothers, sisters and
other relatives had taken to get to South Florida, some as recently as
last year.

As they headed out to sea after 3 a.m., some used a phone their captain,
known only as El Grifo — The Spigot — handed them to call their loved
ones in Miami and Hialeah. In a matter of hours, they expected to be
together again.

They never arrived.

What happened to the people aboard the 32-foot Wellcraft vessel built
for nine — not 40 — remains a mystery. If it's confirmed the vessel
capsized and those aboard drowned, the tragedy would be one of the worst
since Cuban government boats in 1994 rammed and sank the 13 de Marzo
tugboat with a load of fleeing migrants — an episode that left 41 dead.

The U.S. Coast Guard has listed the group of 40 as missing and suspects
this case is another smuggling operation, one of a growing number since
an ailing ceded power to his younger brother Raúl in July 2006.

Cuban exile groups estimate thousands have died at sea since Castro rose
to power in 1959. More than 220 Cuban migrants — including the 40 —
are believed lost or killed at sea since January 2001, according to the
U.S. Coast Guard.


Coast Guard officials, frustrated by escalating smuggling operations and
tragedies at sea, have called on the exile community to speak up against
such dangerous journeys. Packed boats are a lucrative business for
smugglers, who charge up to $10,000 a person upon delivery.

If El Grifo was a smuggler, he stood to gain $400,000 on that one trip.

The news of the boat's disappearance was too much for Regla Jimenez, 55,
who died in Matanzas on Christmas Day. Jimenez, whose two sons are
already in South Florida, suffered a stroke after learning that her
grandchildren — including a 1-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy — and
two daughters-in-law were on the missing boat.

Although relatives contacted by The Miami Herald in Cuba and South
Florida insist they learned at the last minute of the trip and that they
knew nothing of a smuggling operation, the Coast Guard says the
relatives waited too long — almost two weeks — to report the missing
boat, a potentially fatal mistake.

''After 12 days, the search area would have been huge, anywhere from
Cuba to North Carolina.'' Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil said.

The Miami Herald tracked down 11 relatives — one as far away as Houston
– from eight families of the missing to glean what may have happened.
They identified 22 of the 40 on the perilous trip. Here are their

Luis Bazán, 40, was preparing a cargo load at Miami International
on Nov. 23 when his cellphone rang at 11 a.m. It was his wife
Yusmari Rosales, 27, calling from aboard the boat, which was idling
south of Cay Sal in the southernmost Bahamas.

She was ecstatic, telling Bazán that their children, Yalon, 2, and
Yaseel, 8, were with her. Many people were seasick, she told him, but
otherwise all was well.

''She was excited, crazy with emotion because she was soon to arrive and
be free in this great country,'' Bazán said last week.

El Grifo was waiting for nightfall to make the dash north in the dark to
improve his chances of evading the Coast Guard.

The weather forecast called for generally clear skies, with a
possibility of showers. A cold front was coming from the north. Seas
were one to two feet from the Florida Keys out 60 nautical miles to the

Rosales promised Bazán she would call again at 4 p.m.

She never did.


Ariel Cabrera, a truck driver whose brother Reniel and sister-in-law
Idania were on the boat, figures word got out in Matanzas that El Grifo,
a fisherman, was coming to pick up his family and might have room on the
boat for others.

Cabrera's sister Aranelis, who lives in the town of Perico, said that on
the eve of the voyage, Reniel mentioned that he was going to visit
friends in Cárdenas, near where the 40 Cubans were picked up and a
common departure point for and smugglers.

When Jorge Pino, 42, kissed his wife Dania González goodbye she thought
nothing of it. He told her he was heading to Camagüey, some 260 miles
southeast of Matanzas, to visit relatives and that he'd be back soon.
But, in fact, he was planning to join his brother Raidel Pino in Hialeah.

Brothers Lazaro and Osmany Martínez said they didn't know their wives
and year-old babies were en route from Matanzas until relatives called
from Cuba to ask about them.

Osmany, 31, a barber in South Miami-Dade, arrived in December 2006 and
had been trying to get visas for his wife Miretsy Gomez, 27, and
1-year-old daughter, Diosanay Martínez.

''They must have organized themselves down there to be on the boat,''
said Lázaro, 33, a groundskeeper at a gated community in South
Miami-Dade. His wife Yamiris Zuñiga, 26, worked odd jobs in Cuba and
cared for their 1-year-old son Marlon Challaane.

Now the brothers have lost their wives, children — and their mother,
who died on Christmas Day.

Most of the Florida relatives of the 40 said family members left Cuba
because conditions have not changed under Raúl Castro.

''There will never be change,'' said Danny Daniel, 27, whose wife,
Mayelín Mendoza, 33, and 4-year-old son, Danny, are missing.

On Dec. 6, the Coast Guard began to get calls — from Bazán and others.

At first, the calls sounded more resigned than anxious — callers
expected to be told that their relatives had been caught at sea and
would be returned to Cuba, as is usual under the U.S. wet foot/dry foot
policy that applies solely to Cubans. Had the Cubans reached U.S.
shores, they would have been able to stay — unlike other migrants from
the Caribbean and elsewhere who face deportation.

The Coast Guard followed procedure and gave relatives a phone number to
call the congressional liaison assigned to help exiles locate family
members interdicted at sea.

By the afternoon, when the families' names didn't show up on
interdiction lists, the Coast Guard put out a call to check for a vessel
or debris and launched a plane to search the area — 12 days after El
Grifo's boat had left Cuba.

Bazán was so ''despondent'' that Coast Guard officials who talked to him
in December thought he was ''suicidal.'' He says he was confined to a
psychiatric ward for three days.

Desperate, he chartered a plane to search the Cay Sal area on Dec. 12,
hoping to find his family somewhere in the Florida Straits.

On Friday, Bazán broke down in inconsolable tears when he played a video
of his son Yalon and the plane's search of the Cay Sal area.

''My life without my children is over,'' Bazán said repeatedly.


Relatives of the 40 cling to the hope that their loved ones may be in
detention in Cuba, or perhaps had arrived in Mexico or the Bahamas and
landed behind bars. U.S. officials, however, have come up empty-handed.

''We have reached out to both Mexico and the Bahamas, and nothing's
turned up,'' said Ana Carbonell, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lincoln
Diaz-Balart, R-Miami.

Cuban officials have insisted to the Coast Guard that they, too, have no
information on the 40.

Mario Galbán, a Miami-Dade machinist whose brother Jorge, 44, was on the
boat with his wife Yusimi Carvajal, 37, and two children, Jorge, 19, and
Julia, 10, said he suspects smugglers were involved.

''I have no details, but that money crossed hands or was promised it
probably was,'' said Galbán.

Cuba y Brasil buscan explotar petróleo en conjunto

Publicado el lunes 14 de enero del 2008

Cuba y Brasil buscan explotar petróleo en conjunto
The Associated Press

El Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva llegará en la noche del lunes a
Cuba para firmar "sustanciosos" acuerdos, incluyendo algunos en el
sector petrolero que le permitirán a la estatal Petrobras tener pozos
operativos en dos años aquí, dijeron fuentes oficiales.

Los convenios "serán sustanciosos" y "van a incrementar mucho el
intercambio", dijo a la AP en entrevista telefónica el primer secretario
de la Embajada de Brasil en la isla, Luis Marfil.

Habrá firmas en temas de , educación y desarrollo, pero también
viajarán funcionarios de Petrobras a cerrar tratos, comentó el diplomáticos.

Una fuente de la cancillería brasileña confirmó en Brasil que al menos
100 millones de dólares en acuerdos se destinarán a alimentos. El diario
Valor Económico informó que el total de recursos asciende a 800 millones
de dólares.

La brasileña Agencia Estado informó que el financiamiento a Cuba será
por 500 millones de dólares y que estarán destinados a los sectores
alimentación, farmacéutico y proyectos de infraestructura.

Fabio Rocha, un vocero de la gira de Lula, dijo a la AP que uno de los
acuerdos será para que, en común, ambos Estados exporten una vacuna
contra la meningitis -desarrollada de manera binacional- a terceros países.

Agregó que con Petrobras se rubricará un convenio marco que entre otras
cosas contempla la instalación en Cuba de una fábrica de lubricantes y
un cronograma por el cual la misma comenzará a producir en unos dos años.

Paralelamente, se pactará la prospección de crudo de bloques en el Golfo
de México (la parte cubana) que usan tecnologías de aguas profundas.

En este sentido la idea de la petrolera brasileña es firmar con las
autoridades isleñas y con otras compañías que trabajan ya en esa área
para exploración conjunta, dijo el vocero.

Según Rocha, Petrobras espera tener en Cuba pozos operacionales en un
horizonte "de dos años".

Cuba genera el 47% del combustible que consume y en 2007 su producción
de petróleo y gas llegó a los cuatro millones de toneladas. El resto de
su demanda lo cubre mediante un acuerdo con .

Desde hace algunos años, la isla comenzó a explotar su aguas someras y
las costas mediante su empresa Cupet y socios extranjeros, pero su crudo
es del llamado "pesado" por su carga de azufre de poca calidad.

Las firmas foráneas invirtieron en el periodo 1991-2006 unos 1.500
millones de dólares y desde el 2003 el Estado cubano comenzó a
reinvertir en exploración y producción a través de Cupet.

En cuanto al Golfo de México, la nueva apuesta cubana, se trata de una
superficie de 112.000 Kilómetros cuadrados, divididos en 59 bloques en
licitación de los cuales hay algunos ya contratados por las firmas
Repsol (España), Sherrit (Canadá), Videsh (India) y Petronas (Malasia).

Lula, que llega de Guatemala, donde participó de la toma de posesión del
presidente Alvaro Colom, suscribirá los acuerdos el martes y se reunirá
con el presidente interino Raúl Castro, confirmó el diario oficial Granma.


El corresponsal Tales Azzoni de AP en Brasil colaboró con la información.

El capital político de Chávez en Cuba

Publicado el lunes 14 de enero del 2008

El capital político de Chávez en Cuba

La IV cumbre de la alianza PETROCARIBE, el pasado diciembre, puso de
manifiesto que el venezolano Hugo Chávez ha dejado de ser el
benefactor desinteresado de Cuba y podría estar creando las condiciones
para influir como actor político en el futuro de la isla.

La renovación de la abandonada refinería de Cienfuegos demuestra que el
gobierno de la isla se ha puesto en función de la estrategia petrolera
del mandatario venezolano, de la misma manera en que durante la era
soviética plegó su economía a las prioridades del Consejo de Ayuda Mutua
Económica (CAME).

Es cierto que la refinería traerá beneficios económicos a la isla, pero
responde sobre todo a los intereses geopolíticos de Chávez, empeñado en
retirar 6 de esas plantas procesadoras de crudo de y en
reubicarlas en el Caribe. Carente de una estrategia económica propia y
eficaz, el régimen castrista vuelve a convertir a Cuba en un país
dependiente del benefactor de turno.

A pesar de la derrota en el referendo de diciembre, que limita la
permanencia de Chávez en el poder hasta el 2013, Cuba sigue apostando al
apuntalamiento que le brinda el petróleo venezolano. Al poner todas las
fichas en Chávez, se posterga todavía más lo que debería ser la
prioridad de un país pobre: la búsqueda de fuentes energéticas
alternativas y sostenibles.

Cuba ha anunciado la existencia de reservas marinas de petróleo en su
territorio, pero la calidad del crudo y sus posibilidades de extracción
siguen siendo una interrogante. La mejor carta para la isla, sin dudas,
es la producción de etanol a partir de la caña, tras la debacle de una
industria azucarera cuya producción actual no alcanza ni para abastecer
al país del dulce.

La producción de etanol formó parte de los convenios suscritos entre
Cuba y antes de que emprendiera su diatriba
contra ese combustible. En marzo del 2007 acordaron construir 11 plantas
de etanol, pero en el país sudamericano, el menos necesitado de una
fuente energética alternativa a corto plazo.

La dependencia del petróleo venezolano tendrá también un costo político.
Tanto el régimen cubano como Chávez saben que con los actuales precios
del crudo, la suma de toda la ayuda profesional cubana a Venezuela en el
último quinquenio no amortiza el gasto de los regalos de oro negro a la
isla. Y en la política, como en la vida cotidiana, el que paga manda.

La fanfarria que rodeó la última visita a Cuba del mandatario venezolano
debe haber alentado sus ambiciones políticas internacionales.

A pesar de ser el invitado y no el anfitrión de la cumbre, Chávez
acaparó los primeros lugares en la prensa oficial cubana durante
PETROCARIBE; a su lado, el presidente interino Raúl Castro parecía un
segundón de poca monta. En Santiago de Cuba, decenas de miles de
personas recibieron al venezolano agitando banderitas al paso de su
caravana en los 13 kilómetros de recorrido inicial, en una eufórica
acogida que no se veía en la isla desde la desaparición de los
“hermanos socialistas''.

Yla clase gobernante cubana ha comenzado a dar otras sintomáticas
muestras de servilismo. Ni siquiera durante la era soviética vimos un
episodio tan vergonzoso como el que protagonizó el canciller Felipe
Pérez Roque el pasado octubre cuando afirmó que Cuba estaba dispuesta a
''renunciar a su soberanía y su bandera'' para integrar el bloque
latinoamericano por el que aboga Chávez.

El propio mandatario venezolano aseguró recientemente que Cuba y
Venezuela son ''una sola nación y un solo gobierno''. Si asumimos que
esa retórica tiene algunas bases reales, cabe preguntarse, ¿quién será
el verdadero gobernante de Cuba?

Es Chávez, y no Raúl, el verdadero heredero político de Fidel Castro. El
venezolano es 22 años más joven que Raúl; mientras que la envejecida y
desgastada élite cubana se ha quedado desprovista de ideología y de
proyecto social, Chávez enarbola una alternativa, su difuso proyecto de
''socialismo del siglo XXI'', cuya propia existencia es un tácito
reconocimiento al fracaso del modelo socialista que se implantó en Cuba
y un intento de superarlo.

¿Permanecerá Chávez pasivo tras la previsible desaparición física de su
maestro Fidel Castro? Lo dudo. Creo que buscará presionar para la
realización de algunas reformas económicas que permitan la permanencia
del régimen y satisfagan a la vez sus intereses geopolíticos. Como
demostraron la cumbre PETROCARIBE y la última sesión del parlamento
cubano, a diferencia de Chávez Raúl Castro tiene poco que decir y mucho
menos que ofrecer.

Desaparición de 40 cubanos abruma a sus familias

Publicado el lunes 14 de enero del 2008

Desaparición de 40 cubanos abruma a sus familias
The Miami Herald

Todavía estaba oscuro aquella madrugada a fines de noviembre cuando 40
personas, entre ellas 12 niños, abordaron una embarcación de pesca
deportiva que había salido de la Florida para recogerlos en la costa
norte de Cuba.

El cielo estaba claro pero el mar un poco picado.

Los cubanos, todos de distintos lugares de la provincia de Matanzas,
esperaban un viaje sin contratiempos, el mismo viaje que sus familiares,
cónyuges, hermanos, hermanas y otros habían hecho para llegar al sur de
la Florida, algunos tan recientemente como el año anterior.

Mientras se dirigían hacia mar abierto después de las 3 a.m., algunos
usaron un teléfono que su capitán –conocido sólo como El Grifo– les
había dado para llamar a sus familiares en Miami y Hialeah. Esperaban
reunirse en cuestión de horas.

Pero nunca llegaron.

Lo que les sucedió a los pasajeros del yate Wellcraft de 32 pies de
eslora, con capacidad para nueve pasajeros –no cuarenta– sigue siendo
un misterio. Si se confirma que el barco naufragó y que sus ocupantes se
ahogaron, la tragedia podría ser una de las peores desde que
embarcaciones del gobierno cubano se lanzaron contra el remolcador 13 de
Marzo en 1994, hundiéndolo con un saldo de 41 muertos.

El Servicio Guardacostas considera desaparecidos a los 40 náufragos y
sospecha que el caso es otra operación de contrabando humano, una de un
número cada vez mayor desde que cedió el poder a su hermano
Raúl en julio del 2006.

Grupos de exiliados cubanos calculan que miles han muerto en el mar
desde que Castro tomó el poder en 1959. Se cree que más de 220
inmigrantes cubanos –entre ellos los 40 de marras– han muerto en el
mar desde enero del 2001.

Oficiales del Guardacostas, frustrados por el aumento de las operaciones
de contrabando y las tragedias en el mar, han pedido a la comunidad de
exiliados que se pronuncien contra estos peligrosos viajes. Los barcos
abarrotados de inmigrantes son un negocio lucrativo para los
contrabandistas, que cobran hasta $10,000 por persona.

Si El Grifo era un contrabandista, se preparaba a ganar $400,000 en ese

La noticia de la desaparición del barco fue mucho para Regla Jiménez, de
55 años, que murió en Matanzas el Día de Navidad. Jiménez, cuyos dos
hijos ya estaban en el sur de la Florida, sufrió un infarto al enterarse
que sus nietos –una niña y un niño, ambos de un año– y dos nueras
habían desaparecido.

Aunque los familiares contactados por The Miami Herald en Cuba y el sur
de la Florida insisten en que se enteraron del viaje a última hora y no
sabían nada de una operación de contrabando, los Guardacostas dice que
los familiares esperaron mucho –casi dos semanas– en reportar la
desaparición, un error potencialmente fatal.

''Después de 12 días el área de búsqueda habría sido demasiado grande,
cualquier punto entre Cuba y Carolina del Norte'', dijo el portavoz del
Servicio Guardacostas, teniente de navío Chris O'Neal.

The Miami Herald encontró a 11 familiares –uno en Houston– de ocho de
las familias de los desaparecidos para tener idea de qué pudo haber
sucedido. Identificaron a 22 de los 40 en el peligroso viaje. Esto es lo
que recuerdan:

Luis Bazán, de 40 años, estaba preparando la carga de un avión en el
Internacional de Miami el 23 de noviembre cuando su móvil
sonó a las 11 a.m. Era su esposa, Yusmari Rosales, de 27 años, que lo
llamaba desde la embarcación, que estaba al sur de Cay Sal, en la parte
más al sur de las Bahamas.

Rosales, que hablaba emocionada, le dijo a Bazán que sus hijos, Yalon,
de 2 años, y Yaseel, de 8, estaban con ella. Muchos de los otros
pasajeros estaban mareados, le dijo, pero por lo demás todo estaba bien.

''Estaba muy nerviosa, loca de emoción porque dentro de poco llegaría y
disfrutaría de la en este gran país'', dijo Bazán la semana pasada.

El Grifo estaba esperando que cayera la noche para tomar rumbo norte en
la oscuridad y tratar de evitar al Servicio Guardacostas.

El pronóstico del tiempo era de cielos despejados con posibilidad de
algunos chubascos. Un frente frío se aproximaba desde el norte. El mar
tenía olas de uno a dos pies 60 millas al sur de los Cayos.

Rosales le prometió a Bazán que lo llamaría de nuevo a las 4 p.m.

La llamada nunca llegó.

Ariel Cabrera, un camionero que tenía en la embarcación a su hermano,
Reniel, y a su cuñada, Idania, dijo que en Matanzas se supo que El
Grifo, un pescador, iba a recoger a su familia y podría tener espacio
para otras personas.

La hermana de Cabrera, Aranelis, que vive en el poblado de Perico, dijo
que la víspera del viaje Reniel mencionó que iba a visitar a unos amigos
en Cárdenas, cerca de donde 40 cubanos habían sido recogidos y un lugar
común de salida de y contrabandistas.

Cuando Jorge Pino, de 42 años, se despidió con un beso de su esposa
Dania González, ella no pensó en nada de eso. Pino le dijo que iba a
Camagüey, a unas 260 millas de Matanzas, para visitar a unos familiares
y que regresaría pronto. Sin , en realidad lo que tenía pensado
era reunirse con su hermano Raidel Pino en Hialeah.

Los hermanos Lázaro y Osmany Martínez dijeron que no sabían que sus
esposas e hijos pequeños se dirigían a Matanzas hasta que familiares
llamaron de Cuba para preguntar por ellas.

Osmany, de 31 años y barbero en el sur de Miami-Dade, llegó a Estados
Unidos en diciembre del 2006 y desde entonces ha estado tratando de
conseguir visas para su esposa Miretsy Gómez, de 27 años, y para su hija
de 1 año, Diosanay Martínez.

''Deben haberse organizado allá'', dijo Lázaro, de 33 años, jardinero de
una comunidad exclusiva del sur del condado. Su esposa Yamiris Zúñiga,
de 26 años, trabajaba en empleos irregulares en Cuba y cuidaba al hijo
de ambos, Marlon Challaane, de 1 año.

Ambos hermanos han perdido a sus esposas, sus hijos y su madre, que
murió el Día de Navidad.

La mayoría de los familiares de las 40 personas en La Florida dijeron
que los miembros de la familia salieron de la isla porque las
condiciones no han cambiado bajo Raúl Castro.

''Nunca habrá cambio'', dijo Danny Daniel, de 27 años, cuya esposa,
Mayelín Mendoza, de 33 años, y el hijo de 4 años, Danny, están también

El 6 de diciembre el Servicio Guardacostas empezó a recibir llamadas de
Bazán y de otros.

Al principio las llamadas eran de más resignación que ansiedad:
esperaban que les dijeran que sus familiares habían sido interceptados y
devueltos a la isla, como es habitual cuando los interceptan en el mar.
Si los cubanos hubieran tocado territorio estadounidense, es muy
probable que se hubiesen podido quedar, a diferencia de otros los que
vienen del Caribe y otros países.

El Servicio Guardacostas siguió el procedimiento habitual y dio a los
familiares un teléfono para que llamaran a un enlace en Congreso
designado para ayudar a los exiliados a localizar a sus familiares
perdidos en el mar.

Esa misma tarde, cuando los nombres de las familias no se mencionaron en
las listas de desaparecidos, el Servicio Guardacostas ordenó la búsqueda
de una embarcación, o sus restos, y despachó a un avión para sobrevolar
la zona. Esto fue 12 días después que El Grifo salió de Cuba.

Bazán estaba tan ''preocupado'' por lo sucedido que oficiales del
Servicio Guardacostas que hablaron con él en diciembre pensaron que
tenía ''ideas suicidas''. Después estuvo tres días ingresado en una sala

Desesperado, alquiló un avión para buscar el área de Cayo Sal el 12 de
diciembre, con la esperanza de hallar a su familia en algún lugar del
Estrecho de la Florida.

El viernes pasado Bazán estalló en llanto cuando puso un video de su
hijo y la búsqueda del avión sobre Cayo Sal.

''Mi vida sin mis hijos se acabó'', repitió Bazán una y otra vez.

Los familiares de los 40 se aferran a la esperanza de que sus seres
queridos tal vez estén detenidos en Cuba, o quizás llegaron a México o a
las Bahamas y terminaron encarcelados. Sin embargo, las autoridades
estadounidenses han saben nada de su destino.

''Hemos investigado tanto en México como en las Bahamas y no hemos
detectado nada'', dijo Ana Carbonell, jefa de despacho del representante
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, republicano por Miami.

Por su parte, funcionarios cubanos han insistido al Servicio
Guardacostas que tampoco tienen información sobre los 40 desaparecidos.

Mario Galbán, maquinista de Miami-Dade cuyo hermano Jorge, de 44 años,
estaba en el yate con su esposa Yusimi Carvajal, de 37 años, y dos
hijos, Jorge, de 19, y Julia, de 10, dijo que sospecha en la salida
participaron contrabandistas.

''No tengo detalles, pero creo que el dinero pasó de una mano a otra, o
se prometió y nunca se entregó'', dijo Galbán.

[email protected]

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