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Archive for March 26, 2008

Cuba’s economic czar promises to rebuild storm-ravaged homes in Baracoa

Cuba's economic czar promises to rebuild storm-ravaged homes in Baracoa
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:43 AM EDT, March 25, 2008
Havana, Cuba

The man behind the Cuban toured the eastern coastal city of
Baracoa yesterday, promising funds to rebuild dozens of homes destroyed
by 16-foot waves.

Carlos Lage, who was passed up for the country's No. 2 political job
last month, said the state would help rebuild the 47 homes destroyed
last week by an onslaught of giant waves, the state press reported
Tuesday. In addition, nearly 200 damaged homes would be repaired.

Giant swells from a boreal storm battered Baracoa, located 560 miles
east of Cuba's capital, last Wednesday and Thursday, destroying parts of
the seaside promenade and resulting in the evacuation of about 1,000
people. No deaths were reported.

The storm, which originated in the Atlantic north of Cuba, destroyed a
day care center, a farmers market, a park and some local government
offices. About 1,000 families were left without electricity during the
20-hour storm.

Lage, who did not say how much would be spent on the recovery effrort,
said Baracoa's picturesque seaside malecon would be repaired and
strengthened against future storms.

Lage, joined by local officials, toured the damaged buildings and met
with families who lost their homes.

Local authorities said it was the worst natural disaster to strike the
area in 50 years.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/cuba/sfl-0325havanadaily,0,1473106.column?track=rss

Cuban Woman 15 Days Living in San José Airport Terminal

Cuban Woman 15 Days Living in San José Terminal

Tom Hanks portrayed an eastern immigrant who finds himself stranded in
JFK airport, and must take up temporary residence there in the 2004
movie "the Terminal". However, for Yuderci Abralantes García, living in
the Juan Santamaría (San José) international airport is no movie role,
but real life.

The Cuban has taken to living in the airport terminal for fear
of reprisals if she returns to Cuba.

Clutching a bible and sleeping under a thin blanket, the blond woman has
been living in the terminal for the last fifteen days after fleeing Cuba
and seeking refuge in Costa Rica.

Yuderci travelled on TACA from La Habana to San José and has become the
responsibility of the until Costa Rican immigration officials
make a determination on the case.

The Cubana told Marcelino Rivera of the Spanish daily Diario Extra that
she came to Costa Rica to seek refuge as the situation in Cuba is very
difficult. "This is a free country, with liberty of and where
people have an opportunity to better themselves", said Yuderci.

The woman has become the attention of passengers coming and going
through the terminal, as the sight of someone living and sleeping in the
airport temrinal is not a common occurrence in Costa Rica.

The 30 year old woman said she has been treated well while she waits for
immigration officials to give her a reply to her request for refugee status.

Although she is not in detention, she woman cannot leave the terminal,
sleeping on the cold floor of the terminal, while employees of TACA
airlines keep a constant eye on her and is escorted to the bathrooms and
areas.

The head of the policía de Migración (immigration ), Francisco
Castaing, said that some months back the immigration service decided it
could not take charge of foreigners like Yuderci who make it to Costa
Rica seeking asylum, the responsibility falling on the airlines to
maintain the person in custody and provising basic necessities, like food.

Castaing said the decision was based on economics that the immigration
service does not have the resources to house every such person at the
aiport detention centre.

"There was a time when the 'coyote' networks took advantage of the
situation. As soon as a foreigner arrived, there would be a lawyer
waiting for them who immediately filed an appeal. It became a serious
problem", said Castaing.

"If I am told that I have to return to Cuba it will be the saddest day
in my life", said Yuderci, adding that she prefers to suffer the
conditions and is confident that Costa Rican authorities will grant her
a stay.

http://insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2008/march/25/nac03.htm

Cuba suspends licenses of 14 foreign firms

CUBA
Cuba suspends licenses of 14 foreign firms

In a probe of dealings with agencies that have ties to the Cuban
, the Cuban government suspended the licenses of 14 foreign companies.
Posted on Tue, Mar. 25, 2008
BY WILFREDO CANCIO ISLA
El Nuevo Herald

The Cuban government has suspended the business licenses of 14 foreign
firms for alleged illegal activities tied to state agencies controlled
by GAESA, the powerful commercial consortium of the Cuban Armed Forces.

According to sources within the Ministry for Foreign Commerce and the
Cuban Chamber of Commerce, the foreign commercial representatives were
notified of the cancellation of their business licenses March 17 and 18,
following an internal investigation that questioned alleged
irregularities in the agreements established between the Tecnotex
company and retail chain TRD Caribe, both under the administration of GAESA.

'There was an `explosion' at Tecnotex for shady relations with foreign
businessmen,'' said an employee of the foreign commerce ministry who
requested anonymity. “More than just friendships were proven to exist;
there were some shady dealings.''

The commerce ministry employee added that, ''the decision came from the
highest level,'' with instructions to act “quickly and energetically.''

Although a complete list of the foreign firms that have had their
licenses revoked has not been made available, an individual employed by
the Cuban Chamber of Commerce told El Nuevo Herald that two Italian
companies, Agridea and Bella SRL, have been blacklisted.

Both companies provided merchandise to Tecnotex and TRD Caribe, among
other government-controlled retailers.

The commercial representative for Bella SRL is Italian entrepreneur
Humberto Bella, known to have broad relations among the commercial and
financial sectors of Cuba.

Besides revoking the business licenses of foreign commercial companies,
several employees and administrators of Tecnotex and TRD Caribe have
been sanctioned, apparently on charges of corruption and trafficking in
stolen merchandise.

Tecnotex is the main import-export company of the Cuban Armed Forces
commercial sector and is led by Col. René Rojas Rodríguez. It has
offices in , where most of its business is conducted in the
acquisition of replacement parts and accessories for automobiles,
construction material, home electronics and computers.

TRD Caribe is a retail chain that consists of more than 400 locations
offering items in cash throughout Cuba; and boasts annual profits that
exceed U.S. $100 million.

The Cuban army's GAESA, or Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A.
(Entrepreneurial Administration Group), is the corporate umbrella that
covers a dozen national businesses. Since February it has been led by
Major Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, the son-in-law of Raúl
Castro. He is known for his career in Cuban finance.

Rodríguez assumed the leadership of GAESA after his predecessor, the
Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro, 72, was named to replace Raúl Castro's as
head of the Cuban army.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/468956.html

Twelve Cubans in wooden boat land in Honduras

Twelve Cubans in wooden boat land in Honduras
Posted on Tue, Mar. 25, 2008

TEGUCIGALPA –
(AP) — Twelve Cubans landed on a remote Honduran island after spending
almost two weeks adrift in the Caribbean aboard a makeshift wooden boat,
Honduran officials said Tuesday.

The Cubans set out March 12 from the Cuban city of Manzanillo, heading
for the United States aboard a boat equipped with two tiny outboard
motors, armed forces spokesman Ramiro Archaga said. They landed Sunday
on the Cisne Islands, 600 miles north of the Honduran capital.

Soldiers stationed on the island are providing the Cubans with ,
water and medical treatment until they can be turned over to immigration
authorities on the mainland later this week, Archaga said.

At least 71 Cubans have landed on Honduran shores in similar
circumstances this year. Cubans often are allowed to stay in Honduras,
but many instead pay smugglers as much as $25,000 to take them to the
United States, said German Espinal, the country's immigration director.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/cuba/story/469725.html

Turkey to send contractors to Cuba

Cicek: Turkey to send contractors to Cuba
The New Anatolian / Ankara
26 March 2008

Turkish State Minister & Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said Tuesday
Turkey may send a team of contractors to Cuba this year.

"Turkey attaches particular importance to Cuba as a part of its strategy
to open to Latin America and Caribbeans," Cicek told participants of the
Eighth Term Meeting of Turkish-Cuban Joint Economic Committee (JEC) in
capital Ankara.

Cicek welcomed the rise in trade volume between Turkey and Cuba to 34
billion USD in 2007, and said there are many cooperation opportunities
between the two countries.

"However, we have to speed up bureaucratic procedures and diversify
projects," he told.

On the other hand, Marta Lomas Morales, Cuban Minister for Foreign
Investments and Economic Cooperation, said 41 of 234 foreign companies
operated in industry and agriculture in Cuba last year.

Morales said 54 percent of those companies were of Spanish, Canadian and
Italian origin.

A loan of 10 million euros lent by Turkey to Cuba through Eximbank was
used in renovation of dams, and irrigation and electricity works,
Morales said.

Morales said there was no problem in repayment of the loan, and said she
believes there is political will in both countries to sign a contract
for another tranche of loan worth 15 million euros.

http://www.thenewanatolian.com/tna-31772.html

Tourism conceals Cuba’s dire problems

Tourism conceals Cuba's dire problems

By Mike Williams
Cox International Correspondent
Published on: 03/23/08

Havana, Cuba —- Less than two decades after its imploded with
the collapse of its Communist sponsor, the Soviet Union, Cuba has
rebuilt itself as a Caribbean vacation magnet that now draws more than 2
million visitors annually.

But while the $2 billion Cuba now earns annually from tourism has helped
rescue its moribund economy, experts say the Communist island faces a
daunting list of problems that leave it vulnerable.

Cuba's new , , who took over the island's top post
in February after his brother, Fidel, retired due to illness, must
somehow reverse low productivity and wages, stop endemic pilfering,
unravel currency problems that are creating income inequalities and spur
farmers to grow enough food to feed the island's 11 million residents.

"It's a stagnant society," said Javier Corrales, a political scientist
at Amherst College. "Cuba is poorer now than it was before the
revolution in the late 1950s, and most economic indicators have not
reached the levels of the late 1980s before the collapse of the Soviet
Union."

That said, Cuba has made a remarkable recovery since the "Special
Period" in the early 1990s when the island lost an estimated $6 billion
in yearly Soviet subsidies and scarcity plagued the Cuban people.

responded by turning to tourism. Slowly Cuba stumbled out
of the crisis, its economy stabilizing if not exactly prospering.

Despite the controversy, most American scholars agree the Cuban economy
is growing.

In addition to $2 billion in tourism earnings, the island has been
buoyed by high prices for nickel, earning another $2 billion there,
along with $400 million from sales of its world-famous cigars.

But other indicators are worrisome to outside economists. Cuban
residents depend on an estimated $800 million to $1 billion a year in
remittances from relatives abroad, primarily in the United States, while
the Cuban state appears to be replacing its old Soviet sponsor with a
generous new patron, .

That country's socialist president, Hugo , sells 100,000 barrels
of oil to Cuba a day at $27 a barrel, providing a $2 billion annual
windfall for the Cubans, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an economist at the
of Pittsburgh. Cuba repays Venezuela by sending about 30,000
medical and social workers to provide services to Chavez's impoverished
supporters.

Apparently hedging his bets, Raul Castro has inked trade deals with
, Iran and Brazil, opening new lines of credit worth billions.

But even as Cuba has signed new deals with foreign countries, it has cut
back on partnerships with foreign firms. Some foreign companies have
complained bitterly about rules governing the hiring and payment of
workers and other red tape.

Cuban officials say they are reducing partnerships with smaller foreign
companies to concentrate on big players in essential sectors, primarily
deals with firms from , China, India, Brazil and Venezuela to
exploit Cuba's nickel and offshore petroleum.

But even as it makes progress in these sectors, Cuba is hobbled by its
inability to feed itself. With its farm system beset by inefficiency and
poor incentives, Cuba last year imported $1.6 billion in food.

To address this problem, in recent months Raul Castro has settled
long-standing debts between the state and Cuban farmers, raised prices
for milk and beef, increased farm worker pay and exhorted growers to
plant more.

But even as he pushes these reforms, he's still dealing with the fallout
from a 2005 decision to drastically cut back the island's once-vital
sugar industry because of low world prices. Dozens of mills were
shuttered and about 150,000 sugar workers were thrown out of work.

While the Cubans claim they have been retrained and that national
unemployment is less than 2 percent, outside economists think the
numbers are two to three times higher.

Meanwhile, Cuba is experiencing a "brain drain," with skilled
professionals leaving the island if they can, or giving up jobs as
engineers or physicians making $15 a month to work in tourism, where
they can earn far more.

The scramble by Cubans to work in tourism highlights yet another
problem, Cuba's dual-currency system. Most Cubans are paid in regular
pesos, while those who work in tourism have access to the convertible
pesos tourists are required to use. The convertible pesos are worth 25
times more than regular pesos, creating huge income disparities and
smoldering resentments among the populace.

"Raul knows the dual currency needs to be eliminated," said Paolo
Spadoni, an economist at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. "The
income inequality is a big problem."

Yet another headache is pilfering and black market activity.

While all Cubans get free food rations from the state each month, the
handouts typically only last a week to 10 days. It's not surprising that
many people steal from their workplace and sell the items on the black
market, a practice so common that state-run companies reportedly factor
15 percent into their budgets to cover the losses.

"It's a real drag on the Cuban economy," Spadoni said. "It comes back to
the crucial issue of incentives. They have to address this, but so far
all they've done is call for more discipline, which won't solve the
problem."

FOREIGN PARTNERS

Tourism is Cuba's top industry, earning some $2 billion last year for
the Communist island. Many foreign firms have partnered with the Cuban
state in the sector, typically deals in which these companies manage
hotels. Among the top foreign tourism companies active in Cuba:

> SPAIN: NH Hotels, Sol Hotels

> : Accor Hotels

> JAMAICA: Super Clubs

http://www.ajc.com/search/content/business/stories/2008/03/23/cubaecon0323.html

Suspension Of Jean Ziegler’s UN Nomination Urged

Suspension Of Jean Ziegler's UN Nomination Urged
Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 12:14 pm
Press Release: UN Watch

Activists Urge Swiss to Suspend Tomorrow's UN Nomination of
Khaddafi Ally Pending Independent Inquiry

Geneva, March 25, 2008 — One day before the UN Human Rights Council
votes to elect its 18 expert advisors, an activist for Darfur victims, a
former political from Cuba, the former deputy prime minister of
Sweden, and 's leading human rights advocate have joined to urge
Swiss Pascal Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey to
suspend their nomination of Jean Ziegler, 1989 co-founder of the
"Muammar Khaddadi Human Rights Prize," pending an independent and
impartial inquiry into his record. (See full text of appeal below.)
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Under the direction of Mrs. Calmy-Rey, who has close political ties with
Ziegler, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has been engaged in an intense
campaign of UN vote-trading in order to elect the former socialist
politician from Geneva in tomorrow's vote. A glossy Swiss campaign
brochure, sent to capitals around the world, describes Ziegler as a
highly qualified champion of human rights.

However, Ziegler's qualifications for the UN human rights post are
challenged by activists Angel De Fana, a former political prisoner who
spent 20 years in a Cuban jail, Gibreil Hamid, who heads the Darfur
Peace and Development Center and often testifies for Darfur victims
before the UN Human Rights Council, former Swediish deputy prime
minister Per Ahlmark, and McGill law professor Irwin Cotler,
a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister who served as
counsel to political prisoners Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov.

Supported by an international coalition of more than 20 non-governmental
organizations, the activists point to Ziegler's long record of support
for serial human rights violators including Libya's Khaddafi, Fidel
Castro of Cuba, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Ethiopian strongman
Colonel Mengistu.

In 1962, 's threw Angel De Fana in jail for being a
member of a pro-democracy group named after José Martí, the Cuban writer
and national hero. ''We had to hide to assemble,'' said De Fana, who
languished in from 1962 to 1983, adding that he and fellow
prisoners had to endure years of forced labor. "I was forced to cut
stone in a quarry."

However, as UN expert on the right to , Ziegler recently visited
Cuba and hailed the Castro regime as a model government, and refused to
meet with dissidents.

In the past five days, the Swiss president and foreign minister have
also been flooded with hundreds of email appeals from around the world
urging the suspension of the Ziegler nomination.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization, published
a new video last week together with extensive documentation on Ziegler's
questionable record, and urged NGO activists to take action through a
campaign on its website.

* * * * * * *

Appeal to Swiss President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey

Re: Jean Ziegler's Nomination to UN Human Rights Council

Dear President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey,

We urge you to withdraw your government's nomination of Jean Ziegler to
the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the election for which
is scheduled on March 26, 2008.

If elected, Mr. Ziegler would occupy one of the only three seats
allotted to Western countries. The official criteria for the position
are expertise in human rights, high moral standing, independence and
impartiality. An analysis of Mr. Ziegler's record raises serious
questions as to his satisfaction of these requirements. Concerns include:

• Mr. Ziegler's abuse of his current UN Mandate. As UN special
rapporteur on the right to food for the past seven years, Mr. Ziegler
ignored many of the world's most starving populations, instead focusing
attention on his personal political agenda. As documented in the UN
Watch report "Blind to Burundi," during 2000 to 2004, Mr. Ziegler
systematically failed to speak out for numerous food emergencies, in
Burundi, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

• Mr. Zieger's support for serial violators of human rights. In 1986,
Mr. Ziegler served as advisor to Ethiopian dictator Colonel Mengistu on
a constitution instituting one-party rule. In 2002 he praised the
Zimbabwean dictator, saying, "Mugabe has history and morality with him."
He paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim Il-Sung in North Korea.
Mr. Ziegler is also a long-time supporter of Cuban dictator Fidel
Castro, whose regime Mr. Ziegler hailed during an official visit in
October, while he refused to meet Cuban dissidents. Also this year,
during an interview in Lebanon, Mr. Ziegler said, "I refuse to describe
Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It is a national resistance
movement. I can understand Hezbollah when they kidnap soldiers…"

• Mr. Ziegler's involvement with Libyan propaganda. In 1989, shortly
after Libyan agents blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Mr.
Ziegler went to Libya to co-found the "Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights
Prize," and served as its Geneva spokesman. The prize has since been
awarded to anti-Western dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
It has also been awarded to notorious racists and anti-Semites such as
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Malaysian prime
minister Mahathir Muhammad. Bizarrely, although he once boasted of it,
Mr. Ziegler now denies any involvement with the prize. All of this was
documented in a front-page story in your country's leading newspaper.
(M. Haefliger, "Ziegler's Libyen Connection," Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June
25, 2006.)

• Mr. Ziegler's support for Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. In 1996, Mr.
Ziegler publicly defended Roger Garaudy, a French Stalinist whose book
The Founding Myths of Modern Israel denies the Holocaust. "All your work
as a writer and philosopher," Mr. Ziegler wrote on April 1, 1996,
"attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering honesty of
your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of our time."
In 2002, Mr. Garaudy was awarded the Khaddafi Prize–the same year that
Mr. Ziegler received it as well.

Many of the world's leading authorities have objected to Mr. Ziegler's
practices. In 2005, both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and High
Commissioner Louise Arbour publicly denounced Mr. Ziegler for having
compared Israeli soldiers to concentration camp guards. He is the only
UN expert to have been so reprimanded. Seventy U.S. congressmen wrote to
the UN, citing Mr. Ziegler for anti-Semitism, while the Canadian
government filed an official protest.

In April 2006, an international coalition of 15 non-governmental
organizations, including victims of Cuban and Libyan abuses, protested
Mr. Ziegler's nomination as a UN expert, citing his disturbing record.
Similarly, many scholars have questioned Mr. Ziegler's academic
credentials. For example, when he was made professor at the University
of Geneva, eminent historian Herbert Luthy returned his honorary
doctorate in protest.

We note that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nominated Mr. Ziegler for
the same post in 2004, but that he failed to win election.

In order to protect the credibility of the world's highest
intergovernmental human rights body–with which Switzerland is heavily
involved–we urge you to withdraw this nomination. At a minimum, it
should be suspended pending the results of an independent and impartial
inquiry into Mr. Ziegler's record.

Thank you.

Professor Irwin Cotler, M.P.
Human Rights Advocate
Member of Canadian Parliament & Opposition Critic on Human Rights
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General
Canada

Gibreil Hamid
Darfur Survivor
President, Darfur Peace and Development Center
Switzerland

Per Ahlmark
Former Peputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Sweden

Angel De Fana
Ex-political prisoner
Director of political prisoners' organization
Plantados Hasta la y la Democracia
USA

Additional Signatories: more than 20 non-governmental organizations:
http://blog.unwatch.org/?p=130

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0803/S00215.htm

Padre niño enfermo protesta colocando un cartel

21 de marzo de 2008

Padre niño enfermo protesta colocando un cartel

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, 21 de marzo, Yoel Espinosa Medrano, Cubanacán Press,
www.cubanet.org – El padre del niño enfermo Ángel Miguel Peñate Abreu,
colocó un cartel en su de Cárdenas, el pasado 18 de marzo, para
lograr la transportación de su hijo hasta un en la ciudad de
Matanzas.

"Trece litros de gasolina son más importantes, que la vida de un niño",
decía, el cartel de un metro cuadrado, con letras grandes, puesto en la
pared frontal del domicilio ubicado en Callejón 26-A entre Chapotín y
Andreones, Reparto Versalles, del municipio matancero. Miguel Ángel
Peñate Gómez, progenitor del niño, acotó a este , que esa le
resultó la manera de protestar más práctica, para exigir el apoyo
gubernamental en el trasladó de su hijo menor, hasta el hospital
pediátrico de la capital provincial de provincia Matanzas.

Agregó Peñate que su niño de 16 meses, quien padece de una Gastrectomía
y una Esofagoctomía, requiere ser atendido mensualmente, en Matanzas, a
46 Km. de su localidad y señaló que el director de Pública
Municipal, le expresó que existe un taxi para estos casos, pero no
cuentan con el combustible necesario.

"Mi situación económica no me permite alquilar un taxi en divisas
convertibles y cada vez que busco apoyo en los funcionarios del gobierno
o el partido de Cárdenas, estos me "pelotean", por eso antes que se me
muera mi hijo, yo puse el cartel", argumentó el desesperado padre.

http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y08/mar08/21noticia1.html

Over Internet, Cuban youths offer rare insights

OF MIAMI
Over , Cuban youths offer rare insights
From Havana, the young men and women tell of a rift between the older
generation that leads the island's regime and an increasingly frustrated
younger generation.
Posted on Mon, Mar. 24, 2008
BY ALFONSO CHARDY
[email protected]

The young men and women sitting around a living room somewhere in Havana
laughed and talked as if they were guests at a party.

But what they were telling their counterparts in South Florida was
serious business. They railed against ''tyranny,'' the persistent
''repression,'' the potential for a ''social explosion,'' rumors of a
new exodus and their annoyance that the media is not recognizing
the efforts of younger dissidents.

Witnessed by reporters in Miami, via Internet video phone, the Havana
living-room chat with five University of Miami students opened a window
into a little-known dimension of post-Fidel Castro Cuba. Last week's
exchange occurred as Cuban officials and Cuban émigrés friendly to the
regime met on the island to discuss easing rules restricting .

MOVEMENT BREWING? To some Cuba experts, the unvarnished assessments
offered by the young men and women in the Havana living room reflect
embryonic unrest — perhaps sparked by Raúl Castro himself when last
year he encouraged debate about the problems of the Cuban revolution.

''There may be a cause and effect here, with Raúl's encouragement of
open discussion in the island,'' said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst
on Cuba and Latin America and now senior research associate at the
University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies,
which organized the Havana living-room chat.

Latell added that while Cuban youths are becoming more outspoken, their
complaints may not amount to a movement.

''I don't see anything organized, yet,'' Latell said. “But there may
well already be an incipient youth unrest.''

One example was an episode in November at the de Oriente
campus in Santiago when an unusual student protest allegedly occurred
following a report of a female student's rape in September.

According to accounts from groups reporting information
from independent journalists in Cuba, a group of angry students
prevented the university rector from leaving her office when they
concluded she was not interested in improving security and other
conditions at the campus.

To the young men and women in the Havana living room last week, Cuba's
young people represent the tip of the spear for change — one that may
strike peacefully or violently.

Organizers said the location of the living room and the Cubans, ages 18
to 25, could not be identified in order to protect them from Cuban
government reprisals.

UM students addressed the Havana youths via a telephone call linked to
the live video image projected on a large screen.

One of the first topics was what kind of change Cuban youths want.

''We, the youths of Cuba, want change,'' said one of the young men,
adding that ''structural, political change'' was necessary.

He said the problem is generational — aging people in power and
powerless youths in the urban centers. “The gerontocracy is in power
and on the other side is youth, each time more powerful.''

The young man went on to say that the generational conflict will
“shatter the regime, and this has us very hopeful.''

A 25-year-old man jumped in to explain that the current generation of
Cuban youths could not identify with the older people in power because
experiences were different.

''Our generation was formed after the fall of the Berlin wall and after
the transition to democracy in eastern Europe,'' he said. “So we have
not shared the hard struggle of those in power, who fought against
[former Cuban Fulgencio] Batista, who fought against a tyranny
which in the end led to another tyranny.''

He went on to say that perhaps the greatest threat to the Cuban
government is not a potential U.S. invasion, as Havana officials often
claim, but angry youths.

''There is a generational conflict which also includes a political
conflict,'' he said. “Thus, the generation today does not feel
committed to the same ideals of the Cuban revolution or anything of the
sort. They are hollow words.''

In answer to a question on whether Cuban youths will wait for change or
take action, the Havana group laughed nervously. Then one young man
said: “Well, in Cuba it is not logical for that to happen, but it could
happen some day in the same way as in or Burma.''

He added: “Young people here are tired that their rights are violated,
that their right to life is crushed and they may no longer accept it and
there could be a social explosion.''

The conversation took an unexpected turn when Vanessa López, 21, of the
UM group, asked why groups mostly feature older people.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Several in the Havana group quickly rejected that notion, but
acknowledged that there is a perception that only older people are
dissidents because the media focus on longtime leaders.

He cited an example.

''On March 10, a group of young people went to lay a floral wreath at
the grave of a fallen brother,'' the young man said. “We were arrested
and taken to a unit. There we saw one of the legendary leaders of
the opposition, [Jorge García Pérez, known as] Antúnez, and the media
only spoke about Antúnez. But they did not mention the five young people
who were there, too.''

One of the women identified herself as a member of a gay rights group
and spoke of discrimination against homosexuals.

''Our work is aimed at defending the homosexual, discriminated against
both by the authorities as by society itself,'' she said.

Andy Gómez, the UM assistant provost who moderated the discussion, said
the Havana youths were a mixture of students and former students
expelled from schools for being dissidents. At least two were women.

The UM students were members of CAUSA: Students United for a Free Cuba,
a group linked to a broader Cuban exile advocacy organization known as
Raices de Esperanza or Roots of Hope.

Toward the end of the conversation, one young man commented on the
recent defection of Cuban soccer players, noting rumors in Havana of a
possible new rafter exodus similar to the one in 1994 that brought
37,191 to South Florida.

''If there is a small opening toward the shore, not one Cuban will
remain in Cuba,'' he predicted.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami_dade/story/467701.html

Jóvenes disidentes: El futuro de una Cuba liberal

Jóvenes disidentes: El futuro de una Cuba liberal

Me alegré mucho de leer una nota en El Nuevo Herald sobre los jóvenes
disidentes cubanos. El grupo al que hace referencia el artículo es el
mismo que conocí en agosto pasado cuando visité la isla. Esto lo sé por
cuanto me mantengo en contacto con uno de los integrantes de la
Coalición Juvenil Martiana, que son los que participaron en este
intercambio por video conferencia del que habla la noticia.

Una de las cosas que más me entusiasmó de este grupo es su vocación
liberal. No son simplemente disidentes, sino que son muy claros en que
quieren una Cuba libre, tanto política como económicamente. Son jóvenes
muy valientes que le han perdido el miedo a la gerontocracia
castrista.Ellos merecen todo el apoyo en la búsqueda de tan ansiado
objetivo: una Cuba libre.

http://www.libremente.org/?p=614

Human rights figures oppose Swiss nominee

figures oppose Swiss nominee
Published: 03/26/2008

Human rights activists are urging Switzerland to drop its nominee to a
U.N. council because he praised a Holocaust denier.

Swiss officials in recent weeks have campaigned for Jean Ziegler to fill
one of 18 "expert" posts on the U.N. Human Rights Council.

A letter coordinated by U.N. Watch, a United Nations monitor, outlines
Ziegler's past support for notorious dictators, including Cuba's Fidel
Castro, Ethiopia's Haile Mengistu, Libya's Moammar Ghadafy, Zimbabwe's
Robert Mugabe and North Korea's Kim Il-Sung.

In 1996, Ziegler praised French Holocaust denier Roger Gaurady as "one
of the leading thinkers of our time."

Among those signing the letter are Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian
foreign minister; Per Ahlmark, the former deputy Swedish prime minister;
leaders of Darfur and Cuban activist groups; and representatives of some
20 nongovernmental organizations. According to U.N. Watch, Ziegler has
ties to the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey.

Ziegler is currently the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to .
In that capacity in 2005, he compared Israeli soldiers to Nazi guards,
earning a rare reprimand from top U.N. officials.

The council votes Wednesday on the posts.

http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/breaking/107721.html

Human Rights Activists Urge Swiss to Suspend Tomorrow’s UN Nomination of Khaddafi Ally Pending Independent Inquiry

Human Rights Activists Urge Swiss to Suspend Tomorrow's UN Nomination of
Khaddafi Ally Pending Independent Inquiry

Jean Ziegler Supported Robert Mugabe and , Co-Founded
"Muammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize"

Geneva, March 25, 2008 — One day before the UN Human Rights Council
votes to elect its 18 expert advisors, an activist for Darfur victims, a
former from Cuba, the former deputy prime minister of
Sweden, and Canada's leading human rights advocate have joined to urge
Swiss Pascal Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey to
suspend their nomination of Jean Ziegler, 1989 co-founder of the
"Muammar Khaddadi Human Rights Prize," pending an independent and
impartial inquiry into his record. (See full text of appeal below.)

Under the direction of Mrs. Calmy-Rey, who has close political ties
with Ziegler, the Swiss Foreign Ministry has been engaged in an intense
campaign of UN vote-trading in order to elect the former socialist
politician from Geneva in tomorrow's vote. A glossy Swiss campaign
brochure, sent to capitals around the world, describes Ziegler as a
highly qualified champion of human rights.

However, Ziegler's qualifications for the UN human rights post are
challenged by activists Angel De Fana, a former political who
spent 20 years in a Cuban jail, Gibreil Hamid, who heads the Darfur
Peace and Development Center and often testifies for Darfur victims
before the UN Human Rights Council, former Swediish deputy prime
minister Per Ahlmark, and McGill law professor Irwin Cotler,
a Canadian parliamentarian and former justice minister who served as
counsel to political prisoners Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov.

Supported by an international coalition of more than 20
non-governmental organizations, the activists point to Ziegler's long
record of support for serial human rights violators including Libya's
Khaddafi, Fidel Castro of Cuba, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and Ethiopian
strongman Colonel Mengistu.

In 1962, Fidel Castro's police threw Angel De Fana in jail for
being a member of a pro-democracy group named after José Martí, the
Cuban writer and national hero. ''We had to hide to assemble,'' said De
Fana, who languished in prison from 1962 to 1983, adding that he and
fellow prisoners had to endure years of forced labor. "I was forced to
cut stone in a quarry."

However, as UN expert on the right to , Ziegler recently
visited Cuba and hailed the Castro regime as a model government, and
refused to meet with dissidents.

In the past five days, the Swiss president and foreign minister
have also been flooded with hundreds of email appeals from around the
world urging the suspension of the Ziegler nomination.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization,
published a new video last week together with extensive documentation on
Ziegler's questionable record, and urged NGO activists to take action
through a campaign on its website.

* * * * * * *

Appeal to Swiss President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey
Re: Jean Ziegler's Nomination to UN Human Rights Council

Dear President Couchepin and Foreign Minister Calmy-Rey,

We urge you to withdraw your government's nomination of Jean
Ziegler to the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, the election
for which is scheduled on March 26, 2008.

If elected, Mr. Ziegler would occupy one of the only three seats
allotted to Western countries. The official criteria for the position
are expertise in human rights, high moral standing, independence and
impartiality. An analysis of Mr. Ziegler's record raises serious
questions as to his satisfaction of these requirements. Concerns include:

• Mr. Ziegler's abuse of his current UN Mandate. As UN special
rapporteur on the right to food for the past seven years, Mr. Ziegler
ignored many of the world's most starving populations, instead focusing
attention on his personal political agenda. As documented in the UN
Watch report "Blind to Burundi," during 2000 to 2004, Mr. Ziegler
systematically failed to speak out for numerous food emergencies, in
Burundi, the Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

• Mr. Zieger's support for serial violators of human rights. In
1986, Mr. Ziegler served as advisor to Ethiopian Colonel
Mengistu on a constitution instituting one-party rule. In 2002 he
praised the Zimbabwean dictator, saying, "Mugabe has history and
morality with him." He paid visits to Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Kim
Il-Sung in North Korea. Mr. Ziegler is also a long-time supporter of
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whose regime Mr. Ziegler hailed during an
official visit in October, while he refused to meet Cuban dissidents.
Also this year, during an interview in Lebanon, Mr. Ziegler said, "I
refuse to describe Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. It is a
national resistance movement. I can understand Hezbollah when they
kidnap soldiers…"

• Mr. Ziegler's involvement with Libyan propaganda. In 1989,
shortly after Libyan agents blew up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,
Mr. Ziegler went to Libya to co-found the "Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights
Prize," and served as its Geneva spokesman. The prize has since been
awarded to anti-Western dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo .
It has also been awarded to notorious racists and anti-Semites such as
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Malaysian prime
minister Mahathir Muhammad. Bizarrely, although he once boasted of it,
Mr. Ziegler now denies any involvement with the prize. All of this was
documented in a front-page story in your country's leading newspaper.
(M. Haefliger, "Ziegler's Libyen Connection," Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June
25, 2006.)

• Mr. Ziegler's support for Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy. In
1996, Mr. Ziegler publicly defended Roger Garaudy, a French Stalinist
whose book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel denies the Holocaust.
"All your work as a writer and philosopher," Mr. Ziegler wrote on April
1, 1996, "attests to the rigor of your analysis and the unwavering
honesty of your intentions. It makes you one of the leading thinkers of
our time." In 2002, Mr. Garaudy was awarded the Khaddafi Prize—the same
year that Mr. Ziegler received it as well.

Many of the world's leading authorities have objected to Mr.
Ziegler's practices. In 2005, both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and
High Commissioner Louise Arbour publicly denounced Mr. Ziegler for
having compared Israeli soldiers to concentration camp guards. He is the
only UN expert to have been so reprimanded. Seventy U.S. congressmen
wrote to the UN, citing Mr. Ziegler for anti-Semitism, while the
Canadian government filed an official protest.

In April 2006, an international coalition of 15 non-governmental
organizations, including victims of Cuban and Libyan abuses, protested
Mr. Ziegler's nomination as a UN expert, citing his disturbing record.
Similarly, many scholars have questioned Mr. Ziegler's academic
credentials. For example, when he was made professor at the University
of Geneva, eminent historian Herbert Luthy returned his honorary
doctorate in protest.

We note that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nominated Mr. Ziegler
for the same post in 2004, but that he failed to win election.

In order to protect the credibility of the world's highest
intergovernmental human rights body—with which Switzerland is heavily
involved—we urge you to withdraw this nomination. At a minimum, it
should be suspended pending the results of an independent and impartial
inquiry into Mr. Ziegler's record.

Thank you.

Professor Irwin Cotler, M.P.
Human Rights Advocate
Member of Canadian Parliament & Opposition Critic on Human Rights
Former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General
Canada

Gibreil Hamid
Darfur Survivor
President, Darfur Peace and Development Center
Switzerland

Per Ahlmark
Former Peputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Sweden

Angel De Fana
Ex-political prisoner
Director of political prisoners' organization
Plantados Hasta la y la Democracia
USA

Additional Signatories: more than 20 non-governmental organizations
– click here for expanded list.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993
to monitor UN compliance with the
principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental
Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative
Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an
Associate NGO to the UN Department
of Public Information.

http://www.unwatch.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=bdKKISNqEmG&b=1316871&ct=5135167

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