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Daily Archives: March 21, 2008

The Pharmaceutical Market: Cuba – 2007 Update

March 19, 2008 10:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time

The Pharmaceutical Market: Cuba – 2007 Update a Targeted Report Enabling You to Keep Up to Date With Market Developments for a Year

DUBLIN, Ireland–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Research and Markets ( has announced the addition of The Pharmaceutical Market: Cuba – 2007 Update from Espicom Business Intelligence to their offering.

These in-depth pharmaceutical market reports are ideal for executives wanting to understand the key drivers in pharmaceutical markets and have access to a wealth of statistical data. Each report opens with an outlook section that provides analysis of the market, 5-year market forecasts, national data projections, market outlook and key developments such as regulation, pricing/reimbursement, intellectual property, facilities and government policy. The report also provides extensive background information, population trends, health status, health expenditure, organisation & administration, services, medical personnel, healthcare development, market access information, trade data for raw materials and finished products and essential industry contacts. Included with the report are 3 free quarterly updated outlook reports, enabling you to keep up to date with market developments for a year.Content Outline:

1.Introduction2.Background3.Population4.Health Status5.Health Expenditure6.Organisation & Administration7.Hospital Services8.Out-Patient Care9.Medical Personnel10.Pharmaceutical Market Environment11.Pharmaceutical Market12.Directory

Cuba is one of the world's last unreconstructed communist countries. Ruled since the 1950s by Dr , Cuba has attempted none of the economic reforms implemented in Eastern Europe or even . Despite this, the country has a reputation for the quality of its health services and health indicators, and has an impressive pharmaceutical/biotechnology research sector. This reputation is deserved in part, but conceals an ageing healthcare system in dire need of restructuring and modernising, none of which can be achieved without greatly increased funding.

During the Cold War, Cuba was a major Soviet ally, and the market remained largely closed to the West. During the 1990s, however, many countries in the West established links with Cuba. The USA, virtually alone, maintains its against Cuba. This is starting to hurt US healthcare firms, as companies based in Asia, and Western Europe have the high-tech market to themselves. The international healthcare industry is taking an increasing interest in Cuba, which in turn has made efforts to integrate into the global marketplace in an attempt to attract new funding for its healthcare system.

Since its realignment under the consortium QUIMEFA in 2001, domestic pharmaceutical production has kept growing, with increasing biotechnology export opportunities not only in developing countries but also in Europe and other developed countries. Cuba maintains a list of essential (CBM), with 827 in 2005, of which 521 are domestically produced. There is no commercial advertising in Cuba, instead advertising has an educational purpose. Cuba affords some level of pharmaceutical patent protection, although less than international norms. Since 2001, FARMACUBA has acted as importer, exporter and distributor for QUIMEFA.Companies Mentioned:

- Adalberto Pessant- CIDEM- CIGB (Heber Biotec)- CIM (CIMAB)- Eron- Instituto FINLAY- MEDSOL- Reynaldo Gutierrez- Roberto Escudero Diaz- 8 de Marzo- CancerVax- Genesis Medical Technologies- GlaxoSmithKline

For more information visit

Cuba Denies Religious Rights To Prisoners, Report Claims

Cuba Denies Religious Rights To Prisoners, Report ClaimsTuesday, 18 March 2008By BosNewsLife News CenterReligious rights have not improved under , new report suggests.

HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)– Religious rights of prisoners of conscience are "systematically violated in Cuban prisons," despite a transfer of power on the Communist-run island, according to a new report released Tuesday, March 18, by a major Christian group.

In its report Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) concludes that authorities "regularly deny political prisoners the right to religious literature including Bibles" and, "The right to meet with a pastor or priest or to meet together with other prisoners for religious study, prayer or worship."

CSW released its findings on the fifth anniversary of a massive government crackdown on dissidents, now referred to by activists as 'Cuba's Black Spring.'

Some 75 members of Cuban civil society, Christian human right defenders, independent librarians, pro-democracy activists and independent journalists, were detained, subjected to summary trials, and handed down lengthy prison sentences.


CSW told BosNewsLife that its report is partly based on eight months of interviews with families of prisoners and former detainees. The report also highlights individual cases, including that of Christian Alfredo Rodolfo Domínguez Batista who is serving a fourteen-year sentence in the Holguín Provincial Prison on charges that include "harming the independence of the Cuban state or its territorial integrity" in the interest of a foreign state.

Domínguez Batista's wife was quoted as saying that his Bible and all religious materials were confiscated in the summer of 2007 and have yet to be returned. "He has also had to repeatedly request access to a priest, a right which has only been granted every four to six months and most recently was denied outright," CSW said.

Another " of conscience, Normando Hernández González has been denied the right to pastoral visits altogether," according to the CSW report. "The interviews indicate that similar abuses take place on a regular basis in high security prisons across the island, suggesting that it is state policy aiming to psychologically break down political prisoners," CSW said.

"The practice of denying the basic religious rights of prisoners of conscience is in direct contravention of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which specifies that the religious rights of all prisoners must be protected."


CSW Advocacy Director Tina Lambert told BosNewsLife in s statement that although her group believes the prisoners are innocent and should be released immediately, "In the interim we call on the Cuban authorities to ensure that all prison authorities are trained in and are implementing the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners."

Lambert stressed it is "unacceptable that Cuban authorities should seek to use the religious beliefs of these men and women to attempt to manipulate them in such a cynical way." The CSW report comes less than a month after Cuban leader 's nearly five decades of rule ended when Cuba's National Assembly chose his younger brother Raul to be the country's new .

There have been some hopes among Western observers that the could spark a beginning of "democratic change" in the country. However in his address to the National Assembly, the 76-year-old Raul Castro proposed that "we consult Fidel" on important decisions. The 614 members of the legislative body passed that motion unanimously.

Fidel Castro, who oversaw the detentions five years ago, has consistently denied the existence of dissidents, describing them instead as "mercenaries of the United States" trying to harm his Socialist revolution. He has described reports of human rights abuses as Western propaganda.(With BosNewsLife Research).

Cuba to make computers, microwaves, other goods available to consumers

Saturday, March 15, 2008 – Page updated at 12:00 AM

Cuba to make computers, microwaves, other goods available to consumersBy Pablo Bachelet and Wilfredo Cancio IslaMcClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Opening a crack in Cuba's closely controlled communist , the Cuban government reportedly will soon allow ordinary Cubans an unrestricted possibility to purchase items such as computers and microwave ovens.

The move is viewed as part of the long-awaited reforms promised by Raul Castro, who has criticized the island's "excess of prohibitions and regulations" when he took over Cuba's presidency from his brother Fidel on Feb. 24.

A government memo obtained by the Reuters news agency showed that restrictions on the sale of goods such as computers, DVD players and microwave ovens will be lifted.

Computers were reserved for foreigners and companies and Cubans with special government permission to buy them. access remains tightly restricted to foreigners and specially designated Cubans. Permission for travelers to import some electronic goods such as DVD players was approved last May.

But on Friday the Communist Party newspaper Granma published an editorial trying to tamp down expectations, saying bolder reforms would have to wait until productivity improved.

The memo issued to all government stores said the open sale of consumer goods will have a staggered rollout: DVD and video players, microwave ovens and computers would be sold to all comers immediately, as well as electric pressure cookers and cookers, electric bicycles and car alarms.

Energy-hungry items like air conditioners and water heaters will have to wait until April of next year. Kitchen stoves, ovens and toasters will have to wait even more, until 2010, due to tight supplies.

Certain kinds of TV sets, which before were only available in hard-currency stores, would be sold more widely, according to Reuters and other published reports.

The memo cites an easing of the island's energy crunch as a reason for allowing the sale of more consumer products. The goods will initially be available in three government-owned stores in Havana.

Granma's editorial also hinted that Cubans would be given greater access to hotels. Signed by Lazaro Barredo, a member of the National Assembly, it lumped access together with consumer goods as part of a set of prohibitions that most Cubans despise.

But with the average Cuban making only $15 a month, a $1,000 computer or $100 weekend getaway at the beach is beyond the reach of most family budgets.

Echoing Castro's cautious style, Granma's editorial sought to manage expectations by warning that a salary boost would not occur anytime soon.


It's one thing to tackle "certain restrictions" like Cubans' access to tourist hotels, Barredo wrote, and quite another to do away with Cuba's dual-currency system. Most salaries are in pesos, but prices for many goods are pegged to "hard pesos" known as CUCs and equal to 25 pesos.

The dual-currency system gives much stronger purchasing power to those who have access to hard currencies. Low salaries are one of the most frequently cited criticisms in Cuba.

"It is no doubt essential to improve services, consumption, to have products and resources," Barredo wrote. "These won't fall from the sky, they arise from work and from a higher salary for the person who produces more."

Cuba allows purchase of agricultural equipment by private farmers

Cuba allows purchase of agricultural equipment by private farmers11:14 | 18/ 03/ 2008

MEXICO City, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Cuba has lifted a ban on private farmers buying agricultural equipment in a sign that new Cuban is seeking to stimulate production, Mexican mass media reported on Tuesday.

The sale of machinery, fertilizer and mechanical appliances was previously strictly controlled by the state. From now on, private farmers will be able to buy equipment with the freely convertible currency they receive from selling agricultural produce to the state at fixed prices.

The move may save communist Cuba hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars which are usually spent on food imports. In 2007, Cuba purchased food imports worth $2 billion.

The new Cuban leader also said agriculture was a priority for the country's economic development.

There are more than 250,000 farms and 1,100 private cooperatives in Cuba. They farm a third of the country's agricultural land.

Raul Castro became president of Cuba after announced on February 19 that he would step down as Cuba's president due to problems. Castro, 81, remains the head of the Communist Party.

Shortly after his election, Raul Castro said he was willing to introduce moderate economic reforms in Cuba, but insisted that he would not deviate from the path of socialism. On Friday he vowed to ease restrictions on the sale of electronic equipment, including DVDs, computers, TVs and cookers.

Transvestites and Crossdressers Key Workers Against AIDS

CUBA: Transvestites and Crossdressers Key Workers Against By Dalia Acosta

PINAR DEL RIO, Cuba, Mar 17 (IPS) – Activism against AIDS is uniting a group of transvestites and crossdressers in western Cuba in a project that is going beyond peer and making inroads into the world of culture.

"The time has come to take us seriously. We are in a position to demand our place in society, to contribute to AIDS prevention through our art, and to be respected for our abilities and knowledge," a Cuban transvestite, whose artistic name is that of Mexican actress and singer Ninel Conde, told IPS.

"I never felt so sure of myself as I do now. When I used to dress in male clothes, I would always hang my head. Since I put on a pair of high heels, I have felt proud of being who I am. I began to be happy with myself, and I walk down the street with my head high," she said.

A volunteer worker at the state Provincial Centre for Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and /AIDS at Pinar del Río, 162 kilometres from Havana, Ninel Conde won one of the prizes at Transarte, a cultural festival that concluded with a performance at the city's main theatre.

Fourteen crossdressers and transvestites took part in the Mar. 10 gala, along with some of the best-known singers in Pinar del Río, with a panel of judges made up of personalities from the world of culture.

At the event, tribute was paid to three of the first men in this town in western Cuba who dared to dress as women in public.

The message of AIDS prevention, with strong emphasis on the impact of HIV, the AIDS virus, on the community of men who have sex with men, reached the nearly 500 people who filled the Teatro Milanés, an emblem of national culture, built in 1837.

"We have shared the message with all the wide variety in the world of men who have sex with other men. This kind of artistic performance, which tries to educate people about the ethics of responsible sexuality, and also elevate aesthetic levels, is both important and timely," said poet Nelson Simón, from Pinar del Río.

Simón, considered one of the greatest national figures of homoerotic poetry, said that "the gay world continues to lack places to socialise," even though Cuba is a country "mature enough to learn to live with all kinds of different options."

The issue becomes particularly important in the context of the national campaign against AIDS. By late 2007, the number of HIV-positive people diagnosed in the country amounted to 9,039, of whom 81 percent were male.

Out of these men, 86.1 percent said they had sex with other men, according to Public Ministry sources.

The situation is unique in the province of Pinar del Río, where only 68.7 percent of HIV-positive men say they have sex with other men. Nationwide statistics show that 14.3 percent of HIV-positive men define themselves as heterosexual, compared to 31.3 percent in this Cuban province.

Given this situation, "we'll have to start to talk more about masculinity and take actions aimed not only at men who have sex with other men but at the heterosexual population, too," Geidy Díaz, an expert at the provincial AIDS prevention centre, told IPS.

Since the first Transarte festival last year, 18 crossdressers and transvestites from Pinar del Río have graduated from training workshops as health promoters. This year's Transarte courses included hairdressing, modelling, corporal , development of social skills and civic education.

According to Díaz, the community of men who have sex with men in Pinar del Río is motivated toward AIDS prevention by its close association to the transvestite world. "They (transvestites) are ideal teachers in peer education for this group. They join in most of the community activities we carry out, and have a representative on the expert advisory council," she said.

As part of the project, the provincial centre has helped to find courses and jobs for transvestites who, in many cases, leave the educational system and labour market because of social rejection. Lack of education and the impossibility of working dressed as women leads them to prostitution, and quite often, AIDS.

The local initiative is part of an integrated strategy for addressing the needs of transvestites, transsexual and transgender people, promoted nationwide since late 2005 by the National Centre for Sex Education (CENESEX) with the involvement of a wide range of other state bodies.

Another group of transsexuals and transvestites, working with CENESEX on AIDS prevention tasks in several provinces, played an unprecedented role in this country in January, when they acted as recording secretaries and gave presentations and testimonies at the Fourth Cuban Congress of Sex Education, Orientation and Therapy.

"It was a high point for me. I felt as though the stage had become smaller than when I danced at the filming of the Cuban film 'La Bella de la Alhambra' (Enrique Pineda, 1989). But I was the one who had grown larger," a crossdresser from Pinar del Río with the stage name Siarah Morel told IPS.

A dancer and a graduate in artistic direction, Morel received tribute at the first Transarte festival, and has been a local legend ever since she first appeared, at age 18, dressed as a woman on top of a carnival float representing the fishing industry, in 1976. "I never thought I would appear in the city theatre as I really am," Morel said.

Simón, the poet, said that holding Transarte in a cultural institution like the Teatro Milanés "brings into the centre of the city what for a long time has been relegated to the margins."

A space for participation is being opened up "in a country which must become, and is increasingly becoming, an inclusive rather than an exclusive society," he told IPS. (END/2008)

Chinese buses bring welcome change to Cuba

Chinese buses bring welcome change to CubaThu Mar 13, 2008 7:03pm EDTBy Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) – Change is coming to Cuba, on Chinese wheels.

And Cubans, long accustomed to waiting for hours on curb sides for a creaking "guagua" (), like what they see.

Deficient , one of the most pressing problems inherited by Cuba's new , , has taken a great leap forward over the last year thanks to thousands of buses imported from .

It is the most noticeable change to life in Cuba since Raul Castro took over as caretaker when his brother fell ill and stepped aside in July 2006.

The transfer of power was completed last month when Raul Castro was formally named president, raising hopes among some Cubans that the improvements he has overseen in might be spread to housing and other social services.

The lines at Havana bus stops are now much shorter with new buses running 10 or 15 minutes apart, and the sight of Cubans racing desperately to catch a lone bus already packed with passengers is less frequent.

"This is improvement, compared to the apocalypse we were living through," said state employee Jose, 51, amazed to see two buses arriving simultaneously.

Flashy articulated buses have replaced the notoriously uncomfortable "camels" or humped-back buses Cuba resorted to when the loss of Soviet aid took the communist island nation to the brink of collapse in the 1990s.

Cuba started buying buses from Zhengzhou Yutong Group Co. in 2005 when its economy recovered with the help of , and stepped up the pace last year by ordering another 5,348 buses worth $370 million, becoming the company's largest foreign client.

Yutong buses, with air conditioning and TV screens, now connect Cuban towns in rural areas where the more usual form of transport has been standing in the back of open trucks or crammed into privately-run vintage Chevrolet trucks.

For years, Cuba relied on second-hand buses brought from European cities, and Cubans were accustomed to taking buses still showing destination signs such as Rotterdam Zentrum or Milano Centrale. It also bought buses from Quebec, with flashing lights on signs in French.

The more dilapidated buses coughing up clouds of black smoke on Cubans streets are most often 20 to 30-year-old vehicles made in Soviet-bloc countries on their last legs.


When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost billions of dollars in subsidies provided mainly through cheap oil supplies bartered for sugar exports.

As the economy plummeted and public transport came to a halt for lack of fuel, vintage American cars revved up their motors and went to work as private taxis that were allowed by the government to fill the void.

Detroit's best, from sporty Buicks to elegant Cadillacs and De Sotos half a century old, have plied the streets of Cuba ever since picking up passengers.

The drivers of private jitney cabs were a favorite target for Fidel Castro, who accused them of being selfish capitalists charging hefty fares compared to highly-subsidized public bus services. But competition has arrived from China.

"Now there are more guaguas, theses guys who have made fortunes will have to lower their fares. That's what works well, the law of supply and demand," said Jose Perez, waiting for a bus with a heavy bag of tools on his arm.

Perez, 58 and a member of the ruling Communist Party, said the better bus services were due to the economic recovery that kicked in after Venezuela started supplying Cuba with generously-financed oil in 2000, now up to 92,000 barrels a day.

And he thinks the Chinese buses are just the start.

Perez believes more changes are on the way to improve living standards. He for one would like the right to stay at one of the hotels where he works fixing air conditioners.

While no one expects Raul Castro to follow China's path to free-market capitalism under communist control, he has encouraged open debate on the failing of Cuba's socialist system, from decrepit housing to low wages.

"Things are changing. I can now say what I think at work, and I get home in just 30 minutes," said Miguel, 28, an accountant who added that he did not miss Fidel Castro's long speeches interrupting baseball games on television.

(Editing by Anthony Boadle and Kieran Murray)

Why Cuba’s new Castro is loosening up

Why Cuba's new Castro is loosening upPosted: Thursday, March 13, 2008 12:47 PMFiled Under: Havana, CubaBy Mary Murray, NBC News Producer

On Thursday, Cuba authorized the unrestricted sale of computers, DVD and video players and other appliances in a move that's being seen as an effort by Cuba's new leader, , to appease some of the grumbling by residents of the island.

Cuban consumers have complained for years that there is not much here to buy.

The sale in government-run stores of most electrical appliances and electronics have been carefully controlled for years – in many cases restricting their sale to foreigners and Cuba's diplomatic community.

That hasn't meant, of course, that people didn't get their hands on electronic goods. Almost anything here can be bought – mostly at exorbitant prices – on Cuba's flourishing black market.

This move continues a trend Raul Castro began implementing nine months ago, when he was still acting as Cuba's "temporary" leader for his brother Fidel. He eased regulations in June 2007 that permit imports of car parts, some electrical appliances and desktop computers destined for family members on the island. Basically this was an invitation to Miami and the rest of the Cuban diaspora to help out relatives still on the island.

At the time the government said it was studying the repeal of prohibitions on items such as microwaves and freezers.

People, though, continued to complain, demanding the right to buy locally and at fair prices.

Thursday's measures list computers, video and DVD players, 19-inch and 24-inch television sets, electric pressure cookers and cookers, electric bicycles, car alarms and microwaves as items that Cubans will now be allowed to buy.

While some people here will rejoice in the changes, you have to remember that most working people earn the equivalent of about $25 a month and can barely make ends meet. All retail is run by the government and averages a 240 percent markup as legislated by Cuban law.

Brand Cuba

Brand CubaBy MICHAEL CASEYMarch 11, 2008; Page A21

As brings his reign in Cuba to a long overdue end, we are left to ponder how a leader with such a dismal economic record could retain power for a half-century.

There is merit to many of the standard explanations for Castro's longevity — both those of his critics, who cite political repression, and those of his fans, who believe the Cuban majority was won over by advances in and literacy. There is also some merit in the arguments blaming Washington, either for its self-defeating trade or for not being tough enough.[Brand Cuba]

But these only tell part of the story. Instead, if we view Castro's political machine through the apolitical prism of the market, we can attribute its durability to a concept that's alien to his socialist rhetoric, and deeply rooted in the American capitalist system he claims to despise: branding. Castro's political "success" is a case study in managing the global information .

The Cuban Revolution is and always has been a brand. Its face has changed over time — from the "barbudo" rebels of the Sierra Maestra to Che Guevara's piercing stare, from Cuba's graying salsa legends to its globe-trotting medics — but incredibly, its essence has survived.

Marketing gurus tell us that a successful brand functions as a store of values. It encapsulates a pool of attractive ideas that satisfy customers' desire for meaning. To encourage loyalty to a brand, they say, the marketer must cultivate a sense of belonging and personal identification with the individual.

For many within a core constituency of left-leaning, relatively well-educated people both inside and outside Cuba, Castro's "revolution" achieved precisely this. To this niche market, Cuba evokes a set of magical buzz words long-favored by the radical left: "resistance," "social justice," "struggle." It represents an idealized, selfless counterpoint to ruthless, greedy capitalism. It is the alternative to brand U.S.A.

This is, of course, a constructed "Cuba," one with little relation to the real Cuba, with its dysfunctional, increasingly inequitable social and economic structure. But savvy brand managers are rarely hindered by a divergence from reality. Has the availability of perfectly safe, free tap water stopped marketers from touting the life-giving powers of their bottled alternatives?

Castro has long been blessed with a great ability to manipulate information and images in the interest of self-promotion. During a pivotal 1957 interview with New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews, he had his men move around in the trees to create the illusion of a bigger rebel force. Five decades later, the art had not deserted him. After his intestinal illness was first revealed in July 2006, the delayed, staggered release of photos of the convalescing Cuban leader in an Adidas tracksuit seemed designed to give his archenemies enough rope to hang themselves. Many Miami Cuban bloggers prematurely pronounced Castro dead and denounced the first images as fakes.

In the early 1960s, Castro was forever trailed by a clique of talented photographers — including Alberto Korda, who took the most famous photo of Che Guevara. Preferring Life magazine's documentary style over the bleak genre of Soviet socialist realism, they portrayed the bearded Cuban leader in a humanistic light, and gave his revolution a vibrant, hopeful and distinctly American aesthetic.

Later, when CIA-backed Bolivian soldiers killed Guevara in 1967 — converting the Argentine-born revolutionary into a martyr-hero for Paris and Berkeley radicals — Castro wrapped himself in the image of his former comrade-in-arms, which conveniently helped him cover up Cuba's very un-revolutionary submission to Soviet dominance. The Cuban government actively promoted Korda's iconic image, which the country's poster artists soon gave a Pop Art makeover. The now-ubiquitous Che brand was born.

Years later, in the 1990s, branding helped hide the wealth divide and graft in Cuba that arose out of the post-Soviet dual-currency system. Decrepit Havana was marketed as a giant museum, a revolution frozen in time — complete with rusted '50s Chevys and octogenarian musicians. Later, with the rise of the anti-globalization movement, Che was re-resurrected in a pitch to younger tourists, one that came with Cuban-made calendars, watches, postcards and all manner of trinkets bearing Korda's image.

Now Cuba's brand centers on health care. Its free hospitals are depicted as alternatives to an unfair, inefficient U.S. system, while its foreign-posted doctors put a face on the country's projected spirit of humanitarianism.

Some 200 of these medics turned up at last October's 40th anniversary of Che's execution in La Higuera, . They demonstrated how the Cuban revolution's brand has been simultaneously altered and preserved through a period of sweeping transformation on the island and in the world outside it.

These doctors — members of a 30,000-strong foreign medical corps, whose work gives Havana access to badly-needed goods like Venezuelan oil — are unwittingly contributing to a mounting problem back home. Their absence exacerbates staffing constraints in Cuba's once well-regarded hospitals, now stretched by the demands of an aging population. Nonetheless, in the long string of speeches at La Higuera, Cuban, Venezuelan and Bolivian officials feted the physicians as model revolutionaries — guerrillas with stethoscopes in place of rifles. And in case the branding tie-in wasn't clear, each medic was dressed in a white lab coat opened to reveal a red or blue Che T-shirt.

Mr. Casey is Dow Jones Newswires bureau chief in Buenos Aires, and author of "Che's Afterlife," a forthcoming book to be published by Vintage on Alberto Korda's famous image of Che Guevara.

Write to Michael Casey at [email protected]

Gloria Estefan: Cuba won’t be free until Fidel dead

Gloria Estefan: Cuba won't be free until Fidel deadBy Herald wire servicesWednesday, March 12, 2008 – Updated 9d 7h ago

Fidel may be gone, but not much will change until he's really, really gone, said Latin superstar Gloria Estefan, who believes Castro must croak before her native Cuba can be free.

"There is still a Castro in there," Estefan told the Track. "And I think the status quo will not change until (Fidel) moves to the great beyond."

Estefan, the daughter of Cuban exiles – her dad was a political after Castro's revolution – believes that Cuba's new , Raul Castro, "is a more open-minded guy" than his brother.Click to learn more…

"He lives a more capitalistic lifestyle," she said. "And he has been somewhat more open with the press and allowing the students to speak up. But the reality is that he won't do much until Fidel is gone."

Estefan, who is returning to the stage Memorial Day weekend to open the MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods, has a new album "90 Millas" that is a tribute to her native Cuba and its music.

"The music is one of the beautiful things that has survived the Castro regime," she said. "I have played for audiences all over the world but I've never played for a Cuban audience. For (husband) Emilio and me, the music is the one tie to our homeland."

The Latin pop star said she is looking forward to returning to the stage - she hasn't toured in four years – and to christening the 4,000-seat theater at the Connecticut casino's new MGM Grand .

The new venue is more than double the size of the current 1,400-seat Fox Theatre and allows Foxwoods to compete for bigger acts with nearby Mohegan Sun, which boasts a 10,000-seat arena.

"I'm excited," Estefan said. "I haven't seen my fans in a while and to perform in a new state-of-the-art theater with great acoustics and in intimate setting is going to be fun."

The multiple Grammy winner said she has lots of fans in the area – dating back to the days when she opened for the New Kids on the Block at the old Boston Garden.

A fixture in her adopted hometown of Miami, Gloria will north to Boston a couple of weeks before her Foxwoods gig to give the closing keynote address to more than 3,000 women at the Simmons of Management's annual Leadership Conference.

"They want to hear about my experiences, the difficulties and what I've learned along the way," she said. "Especially being an immigrant – which is discussed so much these days – and having success and living the American dream."

Bush pays tribute to women of Myanmar, Cuba, Belarus

Bush pays tribute to women of Myanmar, Cuba, Belarus

Mar 10, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — US George W. Bush on Monday paid tribute to women who have defied the governments of Belarus, Cuba and Myanmar, promising US help as they "stand up for the of their people."

He honored the wife of jailed Belarus opposition leader Alexander Kozulin, Irina, who died of cancer last month, aged 48; ailing Cuban Marta Beatríz Roque Cabello; and Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Americans are inspired by the examples of these women," Bush said. "We will continue to support their work, and the work of women across the world who stand up for the freedom of their people."

The US president's remarks came during a White House ceremony marking Women's History Month.

Bush charged that the refusal of the Belarus government — which he has called the last dicatorship in Europe — to release Alexander Kozulin to be with his wife on her death bed was "the definition of brutality."

"And the United States calls upon that government to release Alexander Kazulin immediately, just like they ought to release every other political in Belarus," said the US president.

Turning to Cuba, Bush praised Marta Beatríz Roque Cabello, saying she had survived 's "dungeons" and that she "knows that freedom is not going to come to Cuba by trading one oppressive Castro regime for another" — a refered to Castro's handover of power to his brother Raul.

"And today I have a message for the people of Cuba: Viene el día de su . Your day of freedom is coming. And until that day, the United States will stand with all the dissidents working together to bring freedom to Cuba, including a brave woman named Marta Beatríz Roque Cabello," said Bush.

The US president also hailed Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition to the Myanmar ruling junta's "dangerously flawed constitution" and noted that she has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

"Aung San Suu Kyi has said to the American people: 'Please use your liberty to promote ours.' We're doing all we can, and we will continue to do so until the tide of freedom reaches the Burmese shores, and frees this good, strong woman," said Bush.

Dutch trade mission begins visit to Cuba

Dutch trade mission begins visit to CubaPublished: Monday 10 March 2008 11:11 UTCLast updated: Tuesday 11 March 2008 12:08 UTC

The Hague – A group of Dutch entrepreneurs has begun a trade mission to Cuba. Representatives from more than 20 companies are taking part in the mission, making it the largest Dutch economic delegation ever to visit Havana.

The names of the companies making the journey are being kept secret, chiefly to avoid sanctions by the United States, which still imposes a trade against Cuba. However, Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports that representatives from the Rabobank and three Rotterdam-based shipping companies are among the delegation.

NGOs such as CNV (the National Federation of Christian Trade Unions in the Netherlands) and Pax Christi have been urging Dutch companies to begin cooperating with the Cuban government once a number of conditions have been met. These include the improvement of Cuban workers' rights and a discussion of the position of the country's trades union leaders and dissidents.

On Saturday, European Commissioner Louis Michel said that the European Union must begin a dialogue with Cuba, one that could lead to the normalisation of relations between the two.

Freedom in Cuba remains elusive

in Cuba remains elusivePOSTED: March 16, 2008

Much like the Soviet Union when old, hard-line Stalinists began to die off, Cuba may be poised for reform.

But not just yet, as new Cuban made clear recently.

Castro succeeded to the presidency because of his brother Fidel's age (81) and infirmities. But in assuming the office, Raul Castro assured Cubans that he will continue to rule as his brother and others of Fidel's revolutionary generation wish.

That strategy was reinforced when Raul Castro named another revolutionary, 77-year-old Ramon Machado, to fill the No. 2 spot in Cuban government.

U.S. leaders said, when announced plans to step down, that they expected little or no change in our nation's policy toward Cuba. That, they explained, is because they foresee little or no change in Cuban regime policies.

The next milestone will be Fidel Castro's death, of course. That may result in some liberalization within Cuba, as was the case in the Soviet Union when Joseph Stalin died.

But until the cadre of hard-core communists, still represented in great numbers in Cuba, passes from the scene, don't expect much true reform.

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