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Archive for March 28, 2008

TPAO To Explore Natural Gas In Cuba

TPAO To Explore Natural Gas In Cuba
Published: 3/26/2008

ANKARA – Turkish Energy & Natural Resources Minister Hilmi Guler said
Tuesday Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) can cooperate with Cuba in
oil and natural gas exploration as it does in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and
Libya.

"TPAO is eager to join natural gas and oil exploration tenders in
, Colombia, Mexico and Ecuador," Guler told reporters after
meeting Marta Lomas Morales, the Cuban minister of foreign investments
and economic cooperation, in capital Ankara.

Guler said the corporation will also carry out researches in Cuba. "We
may cooperate with Cuba in oil and natural gas exploration," he told.

"Turkey will set up a technical team to deal with joint energy projects
with Cuba and it will visit Cuba in coming days," he also said.

On the other hand, Morales said Turkey has a developed energy system,
and two countries have agreed to carry out joint oil and natural gas
explorations and some other joint energy projects.

(BRC)

http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=222310&s=&i=&t=TPAO_To_Explore_Natural_Gas_In_Cuba

La censura cubana no cambia

La censura cubana no cambia
Viernes 28 de marzo de 2008 | Publicado en la Edición impresa

Hay un viejo refrán español que aconseja no cantar victoria antes de la
gloria y que bien puede aplicarse a Cuba y a las modestas expectativas
que había despertado su nuevo gobierno, que encabeza Raúl Castro. Pues
bien, no conviene apresurarse porque esta semana, en lo que fue
denunciado como un nuevo acto de censura, se bloqueó el acceso de los
cubanos a la página Generación, de la joven cubana Yoani Sánchez, que
criticaba el sistema desde su . Lo mismo ocurrió con otros dos blogs
de cubanos en el sitio de en un servidor de .

Por supuesto que ya era un milagro que Sánchez, la única que
escribe desde Cuba sin ocultarse detrás de un seudónimo, utilizando su
nombre y apellido verdaderos, pudiera seguir describiendo las penurias
de todo tipo en su país, por todas las lógicas complicaciones que
significa comunicarse a través de Internet en la isla: acceso casi
imposible; muy caros y limitadísimos accesos públicos; innumerables
filtros; boicot electrónico, y los "hackers" desde dentro de Cuba. No
obstante, la joven había logrado hasta 1,2 millones de visitas en
febrero último.

La "primavera" de Yoani llegó a su fin esta semana con un acto de
censura que le dio la razón cuando criticó al nuevo líder cubano, Raúl
Castro, por sus vagas promesas de cambio y las mínimas medidas adoptadas
para mejorar el nivel de vida de los cubanos. Sin , el símbolo en
que se han transformado Yoani Sánchez y los otros bloggers, que
encontraron en Internet una herramienta de expresión todavía no regulada
totalmente, se corresponde con la actitud de otros jóvenes cubanos que
cada vez más se manifiestan con bastante y críticamente sobre
los aspectos más duros del régimen: la constante represión, la
posibilidad de una explosión social, los rumores de un nuevo éxodo de
balseros o su disgusto porque la prensa oficialista no reconoce la lucha
de los disidentes.

Para muchos especialistas en historia y política cubana, esta juventud
puede ser la verdadera punta de lanza de un cambio, que todavía no se
sabe si será pacífico o violento. Esos muchachos y muchachas no pueden
identificarse con las viejas consignas de los políticos todavía en el
poder; han crecido y se han formado incluso después de la caída del Muro
de Berlín, por lo cual la dura lucha de los que se enfrentaron con el
dictador Batista a mediados del siglo XX para ellos significa poco
porque están viviendo su propio tiempo de dictadura.

La ausencia de como máximo líder de la revolución cubana y
la natural e irremediable decadencia de su ideología son los anticipos
de una Cuba que muy lentamente comienza a reclamar otro tipo de vida y,
como es lógico, han de ser los más jóvenes los que lideren este cambio.

http://www.lanacion.com.ar/opinion/nota.asp?nota_id=999282

Vargas Llosa critica a Venezuela y Cuba que "rechazan democracia"

Vargas Llosa critica a y Cuba que "rechazan democracia"
1 hora, 11 minutos

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – El escritor peruano Mario Vargas Llosa reiteró el
jueves sus críticas a los gobiernos de Cuba y Venezuela al señalar que
"rechazan la democracia" y aseguró que Argentina está cerca del
populismo, en un seminario en Rosario (300 kilómetros al norte de Buenos
Aires).

En el marco de un encuentro internacional organizado por la Fundación
, el autor de 'La Catedral' dijo que el perfil político de
América latina reconoce dos posturas actualmente.

Vargas Llosa explicó que en la mayoría de los países de la región reinan
"ideas políticas con un común denominador que son el respeto a la
legalidad y a la libertad", pero advirtió de que existen gobiernos que
"rechazan a la democracia como son los casos de países como Cuba y
Venezuela".

El escritor destacó los cambios operados en la izquierda en el
continente y subrayó que después de mucho tiempo "respeta los principios
democráticos y acepta a la economía de mercados".

Consultado sobre Argentina, el escritor respondió que tiene un gobierno
de "centro-izquierda muy cercano al populismo" pero que defiende y está
dentro "de la legalidad democrática".

Vargas Llosa se encuentra en Argentina participando en el seminario 'Los
desafíos de América latina, entre las falencias institucionales y
oportunidades de desarrollo', que se desarrolla jueves y viernes.

El encuentro contará además con la presencia de ex gobernantes como el
español José María Aznar, el mexicano Vicente Fox, los uruguayos Julio
María Sanguinetti y Luis Alberto Lacalle, además del ex secretario para
Asuntos Latinoamericanos de Roger Noriega, entre otros.

http://espanol.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/080328/entretenimiento/argentina_per___literatura_2

Cuban observers say new President is moving in the right direction

Cuban observers say new is moving in the right direction
Wednesday, 26 March 2008

One month after took over the leadership of Cuba observers
say they have already begun seeing some changes.

Mr. Castro has begun to lift some of the many restrictions on daily life
as he tries to meet popular demand for better living conditions.

In the first month since he took over as President, Raul Castro's
government has allowed people to buy computers, DVD players and other
appliances including air conditioners and toasters.

The country's first new leader in half a century has also launched a
restructuring of agriculture to reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks and
boost production.

Frank Morah, a Cuba expert at the National War College in Washington
said meeting the or nutritional needs of the population is number
one on Raul Castro's list of priorities.

Mr. Castro is now allowing private farmers and cooperatives more leeway
to buy tools, seeds and fertilizer.

A local communist party militant who spoke on condition of anonymity
said Raul Castro's style is completely different from his brothers.

But even as he begins to make modest reforms, Mr. Castro has not
announced them in the national communist newspaper, Granma, or on state
television.

Officials insist that Mr. Castro will strive to improve living
conditions without adopting the commercial socialism of but some
observers believe he will have little choice in the long run.

Cuban born economist Carmelo Messalago said the President's initial
steps are in the right direction, but he believes they fall short of
tackling the problem of excessive state control of the which is
the major obstacle to increased production.

http://www.radiojamaica.com/content/view/6685/88/

Cuba: Blocking Bloggers

Cuba: Blocking Bloggers
Cuba Published by Janine Mendes-Franco March 28th, 2008 Share This
Tags: block, bloggers, Cuba.

Want to get the Cuban blogosphere talking? Block access to a popular
. Ever since Cuban authorities did just that to several
less-than-supportive Havana-based blogs earlier this week, the blogging
diaspora have come out in full support of Cuban bloggers – especially
Yoani Sanchez and her popular Generacion Y blog, which, according to
this post, seems to be the principal target.
GY 2

El Diario de la Resistencia II and Cuba File quote from the Reuters story:

Sanchez, whose critical Generacion Y blog received 1.2 million hits
in February, said Cubans can no longer visit her Web page
(http://www.desdecuba.com/generaciony/) and two other home-grown
bloggers on the Web site on a server in .

All they can see is a "error downloading" message.

The Cuban Triangle, however, in touch with friends in Cuba, reports that
"the site was blocked, then 'a slow access' was permitted." But this
"slow access" does nothing to change the opinion of El Cafe Cubano, who
compares 's regime to apartheid:

While the media and some bloggers are praising raulita like he's
some sort of saint or the catalyst for . He's using the Chinese
model FOLKS! Wow computers are available now, but no one can afford them
and as you can see the is restricted.

Blog for Cuba adds:

What will Cubans do with all those new computers? One thing for
sure, they won't be reading Cuban blogs that voice dissent. Raul the
reformer, remains Raul the Oppressor.

Blue Star Chronicles is not at all surprised, but admits to being a
little confused:

Don't the progressives (aka communist) of our country just love the
current Cuban form of government. I keep hearing how superior it is to
ours. I keep hearing how they have a better medical care system, etc. Of
course, the people who say that are almost exclusively well-to-do latte
liberals who don't have to live under the confines of a petty .
I've not seen a one of them actually move there.

Tim Worstall echoes his sentiment in this post, while TonyTeri.com
acknowledges that "it takes extreme guts for her (Sanchez) to write
about what she does. She actually has to roam about Cuba blogging from
hotels and other areas with Internet access usually reserved for
foreigners." Underscoring this point is 1Click2Cuba:

Blogging in Cuba can get you in a heap of trouble (translation:
jail), but that threat hasn't stopped hundreds of bloggers on the island
determined to get their messages out. Lately, Cuban bloggers have taken
to dressing like tourists, feigning accents and secretly using
internet lines (native Cubans aren't allowed inside hotels).
Once inside the hotel, Yoani Sanchez has to write fast. Not only because
she fears getting caught, but because online access is prohibitively
expensive. An hour online costs about $6, the equivalent of half of what
the average Cuban make in a month. Independent bloggers like Sanchez
have to build their sites on servers outside Cuba, and they have more
readers outside Cuba than inside.

Readership in fact extends to other Caribbean territories and Child of
the Revolution notices that "the attempt to effectively shut down the
sometimes critical blog has received wide coverage in the international
media, in outlets as diverse as The Sun Sentinel and the Left-leaning
London daily, The Guardian."

Jefferson Lives posts a thoughtful perspective on the situation, saying:

I have always found it fascinating that each country can have its
own laws regarding something that is supposed to be the World Wide Web.
Understandably it is tough to regulate something on a global scale.
However, valuable information and potential freedoms are being violated
repeatedly by restricting freedom of the press and freedom to post on a
global scale. This begs this question, in an arena without borders, is
Cuba violating essential rights for citizens in the US by restricting
this website for all to see, or just their citizens?

…while Uncommon Sense asks:

Looking for an easy way to stick it to the Cuban dictatorship?
Visit Generación Y, the most popular Cuba-based blog.

http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/03/28/cuba-blocking-bloggers/

Cuba anuncia que levanta la restricción a la telefonía móvil

Cuba anuncia que levanta la restricción a la telefonía móvil
Viernes 28 de Marzo, 2008 1:54 GMT147

LA HABANA (Reuters) – Cuba anunció el viernes que permitirá sin
restricciones el uso de la telefonía móvil para los ciudadanos del país,
en una de las medidas más recientes del nuevo , Raúl Castro.

La utilización legal de teléfonos móviles estaba exclusivamente
reservada hasta ahora para los extranjeros y para los funcionarios
gubernamentales.

" está en condiciones de ofrecer a la población el servicio de
telefonía que se ofrecerá mediante contrato personal en la
modalidad de prepago", dijo el viernes Granma, el diario del gobernante
Partido Comunista.*.

http://www.invertia.reuters.es/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2008-03-28T125433Z_01_SAN846425_RTRIDST_0_OESTP-CUBA-REFORMAS-TELEFONIA.XML

El gobierno autoriza el acceso a la telefonía celular

Comunicación
El gobierno autoriza el acceso a la telefonía

Agencias

viernes 28 de marzo de 2008 12:23:00

AFP/ La Habana. El gobierno autorizó a todos los cubanos la contratación
de teléfonos celulares, aunque su pago será en divisas, en una medida
que, según se informó oficialmente este viernes, tiene como objetivo el
desarrollo de la "conectividad" y nuevos servicios.

Hasta el presente, la telefonía celular estaba reservada a extranjeros o
funcionarios locales de organismos oficiales, cuyas empresas sufragaban
los gastos.

Algunos cubanos también habían adquirido teléfonos móviles a nombre de
un extranjero amigo.

Una comunicación de la Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S. A.
(), publicada este viernes en el diario oficialista Granma señala
que "a partir del proceso inversionista actual, ETECSA está en
condiciones de ofrecer a la población el servicio de telefonía celular".

El mismo "se formalizará mediante contrato personal en la modalidad de
prepago", precisó.

"En los próximos días se informará a la población los procedimientos
para los cambios de titularidad de los ciudadanos cubanos que hasta la
fecha lo han adquirido por vía indirecta y el inicio de los nuevos
contratos a las personas naturales cubanas interesadas", añadió la
información.

http://www.cubaencuentro.com/es/encuentro-en-la-red/cuba/noticias/el-gobierno-autoriza-el-acceso-a-la-telefonia-celular/(gnews)/1206703380

In Cuba, next restriction to be lifted: Cellphone service

In Cuba, next restriction to be lifted: Cellphone service
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:47 AM EDT, March 28, 2008
Havana, Cuba

Ordinary Cubans will be allowed to buy service for the first
time, Cuba's phone company announced Friday.

The announcement, which came in a six-paragraph company statement
published in the state press, was the latest in a string of modest
changes introduced since took formally took over the
presidency last month from ailing brother Fidel.

There were few details but the statement said that within days it
would inform the public about changes in cell phone ownership and
service contracts.

Until now, Cubans were able to acquire cell phone service only through
foreigners.

The communist island introduced cell phone service in 1991.

Cell phone service would involve prepaid cards and be paid for in hard
currency, the statement said.

The statement did not specify when the change would be implemented but
said that credits and technology obtained from other countries would
improve phone service for all Cubans in the coming years.

Since Raul Castro temporarily took over the country after his older
brother's emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, Cubans have been
anticipating the lifting of many of the restrictions that circumscribe
their daily lives.

One change announced this week was that computers and other consumer
electronics would soon go on sale to the general public.

Many Cubans have expressed hopes that the near-worthless pesos they get
on their government paychecks will increase in value, that their
pensions and salaries will increase, and that they will be allowed to
abroad without government permission.

Many also talk about getting unlimited access, although it is
too costly for most, and regaining access to hotels now restricted to
foreigners.

Until now, the communist government's campaign for egalitarianism
limited access to luxuries such as cell phones and private cars.

"I could use a cell phone," said Rodrigo Junco, 58, when informed about
the change in cell phone ownership. "Whether I can afford one is a
different story. But any change at this point is welcome."

The government provides free , and care as well
as ration cards that help cover the costs of basic food. While few
Cubans want to part with those benefits, many hope the new government
will bring about changes to allow for small quality-of-life improvements.

Nearly 80 percent of Cubans work for the government and the average
monthly state salary is about $20. Government economists estimate at
least 60 percent of Cubans have access to dollars, euros and other
foreign currency because of jobs in , with foreign companies, or
through funds sent by relatives abroad.

more in /news/local/cuba

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/cuba/sfl-0328havanadaily,0,3832405.column

Raul Castro’s Cuba changing the rules

's Cuba changing the rules

Thursday, March 27th 2008, 4:00 AM

Change, that powerful concept that has propelled Sen. Barack Obama to
the top in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is also
working its magic 90 miles south of Florida.

On the island of Cuba – as in the U.S. – people are eagerly awaiting
change. One month after Raul Castro became , Cubans are looking
forward to the reforms that government officials have been talking about
for the last few months.

"A process of change has begun on the island, and Cubans have embraced
it," said Mariana Gastón, a Cuban-born Brooklyn teacher who just
returned from Havana.

Change is immediately noticeable in the famously stale Cuban press.
Encouraged by Raul Castro's call for more criticism and open discussion,
the main newspaper in the country, Granma, has been covering for the
first time stories on corruption, theft, waste and inadequacies in the
centralized .

The Cuban people also have paid heed to Castro's call, and there is a
great deal of debate among intellectuals, students and workers. Problems
with the supply, to and inequalities caused by the
"dollarization" of the economy have all been topics of debate.

Many of the reforms have been reported as if they were already in force,
but most have not been implemented yet. It is expected that they will
happen soon.

"They [the Cuban government] are giving careful consideration to changes
and reforms," said Álvaro Fernández, president of the Cuban American
Commission for Family Rights in Miami.

Fernández and Gastón were part of a group of 129 Cubans from 40
countries who traveled to Havana on March 19 for a three-day meeting
with government representatives.

Many attendees thought Cuba would announce at the meeting the end of
travel restrictions for Cubans on the island and for those living abroad
wishing to visit their homeland. It did not happen.

"Nothing really new was announced," Fernández added. "I think that there
is still a back and forth in regards to what reforms can and should be
implemented."

That is not surprising. As long as the failed 50-year U.S. trade
and travel ban remain in place, reforms will happen slowly and
cautiously. President Bush's recent hardening of positions – and his
refusal to consider a dialogue with Havana – does nothing to speed up
change.

Yet, some reforms – even the promise of them – already are affecting the
lives of Cubans.

The authorization to some farmers to buy their own supplies and
equipment goes along with Castro's emphasis on increasing food
production – and should be put in place soon. But much more is expected.

In a speech last July 26, Castro announced structural reforms, mainly in
agriculture. They could include turning over land to the peasants who
farm it.

, a longtime nightmare for the population, has seen
some improvement with the arrival of Chinese-made buses. Also, it has
been reported that Cubans will be permitted to stay in hotels.

Already Cubans can buy computers and other appliances, one of the things
people had said they wanted.

The normalization of relations with Mexico and the recent visit of a
very high-ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Bertoni, are also signs of
a new opening.

Skeptics in Washington and Miami will keep dismissing the significance
of changes in Cuba. But the Cuban people and anyone who knows anything
about their country realize their importance.

"The Cuban people are not looking back," Gastón said. "They are looking
only to the future."

[email protected]

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2008/03/27/2008-03-27_raul_castros_cuba_changing_the_rules.html?ref=rss

Cuba Allows Residents To Receive 1st Microwaves

Cuba Allows Residents To Receive 1st Microwaves
HAVANA (CBS4) ? An appliance that is taken for granted in just about
every home in America could soon be coming to thousands of kitchens in Cuba.

It's the microwave oven.

"In the past, only people with money had them; poor people couldn't have
one. The only way was by paying in installments and you had to have a
good salary in order to pay. Not any more. Now the revolution gave us
one to test and if it works out, they'll give one to whomever wants
one," said 91-yer old Ana Magdalena Melian who had never seen a
microwave oven until one came to her kitchen courtesy of the Cuban
communist government.

About 3,000 households in Las Guasimas, a village just southeast of the
Cuban capital of Havana, got microwaves in late December as part of a
state-run pilot program.

Over a three month period, families were asked how they used the ovens,
if the Chinese made microwaves were reliable and how much electricity
they used.

The microwaves were such a hit that Cuba's supreme governing body, the
Council of State, is considering offering them to families across the
island on credit that could be paid back over a long period of time.

Similar credit programs have for decades allowed Cubans to slowly pay
off subsidized color television sets, pressure cookers, air conditioners
and refrigerators.

The microwave ovens are symbolic of a new hope for Cuba's future – many
are hoping the appliances and the pilot program that brought them to Las
Guasimas mean new 's government is ready to do away
with longstanding restrictions on some consumer goods.

"What I feel is what the whole town feels. We are very happy. We're
living a new experience and the results are satisfying," said Marisa
Gutierrez, a 49-year-old housewife.

According to an official-sounding but undated memo leaked to foreign
reporters this month, the new government already has approved
unrestricted sales of microwaves, computers, DVD players and television
sets of various sizes, as well electric bicycles and car alarms – though
none of those items have yet appeared on the shelves of state-run
department or appliance stores. The leaked memo seemed to suggest the
island's improved power grid was partly the reason for the decision to
allow greater access to consumer goods which run on electricity.

Venezuelan President Hugo has provided his close friend and
socialist alley with a number of generous oil subsidies and
other aid to help Cuba improve its creaky power grid. Also, credits from
have provided the island's government the cash to buy consumer
goods made there.

Since officially succeeding his brother Fidel on February 24, the
76-year-old Raul Castro has pledged to make improving Cubans' everyday
quality of life a top priority.

The 'leaked' memo directs that computers, microwaves and other items be
sold in top department stores that charge in Cuban Convertible Pesos,
worth 24 times as much as the regular Cuban peso, which state employees
are paid in. Under such a system, most Cubans wouldn't be able to afford
the new appliances they would suddenly be allowed to buy. The government
estimates 60 percent of the island's population has access to
Convertible Pesos, dollars or other foreign currency thanks to jobs in
, with foreign firms or relatives living in the United States.
The average monthly salary in Cuba is about 17 US dollars.

http://cbs4.com/local/cuba.microwaves.oven.2.685973.html

Cuba and China should be told: Respect human rights

Cuba and should be told: Respect
Published on Thursday, March 27, 2008

By Sir Ronald Sanders

At a recent conference that I attended, a minister of one of the newly
elected Caribbean governments expressed concern about human rights
violations in Cuba.

Even though the conference was subject to "Chatham House rules" – that
is, nothing said at the conference could be attributed to any of the
speakers – I was surprised that the minister made the statement. It was
the first time in my decades of involvement in matters related to the
Caribbean that I had heard any serving government minister, except
Jamaica's Edward Seaga (whose government broke diplomatic relations with
Cuba in October 1981) express disquiet about any aspect of the Cuban
government's human rights record.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business
executive and former Caribbean
diplomat who publishes widely
on small states in the global
community. Reponses to:
[email protected]
Greater importance has been placed by many Caribbean governments on the
assistance that they have been given by Cuba particularly scholarships
for their students and doctors and nurses for their hospitals.

It will be interesting to see if the remarks of the minister are
actually repeated publicly. If they are, it would mark a sea change in
relations with the Cuban government; a change that the Cuban government
would dislike but which is overdue.

Cuba is not a normal country. The decades-old trade by the US
government and the enormous amount of money that it spends on pumping
anti-government propaganda into Cuba as well as financing political
activity, make Cuba abnormal. In this context, the paranoia of the Cuban
government with regard to dissent is understandable.

But, however, understandable the paranoia is, repressing dissent should
not be acceptable.

People all over the world should have the right to express their
disagreement with government policies including through marches and
demonstrations. It is up to governments to learn how to manage dissent;
not to try to stifle it by suffocating human and civil rights.

To the extent that there is a discernible and common Caribbean society,
it is one that has been fashioned in resistance to slavery, indentured
labour, exploitation and denial of political rights. There is no
Caribbean country that did not experience authoritarianism and none that
did not see succeeding generations rise up against it.

In most Caribbean countries, governments have to manage dissent; in some
cases they even have to manage the desire for separation as in the case
of Tobago from Trinidad, Barbuda from Antigua and Nevis from St Kitts.

The notion that any Caribbean government could stamp out religious
affiliation, political opposition or break away factions by trampling on
civil and human rights would be anathema to most Caribbean societies.
Governments that try it would not survive very long – has been
too hard achieved for Caribbean societies to permit its erosion.

So, if other Caribbean governments have to uphold human and civil rights
in this way, why shouldn't the Cuban government? And, why should
Caribbean governments accept the requirement to respect human and civil
rights themselves but not require it of the Cuban government?

A similar situation now exists in relation to the Peoples Republic of
China which has diplomatic relation with all but five Caribbean
countries that now tie themselves to Taiwan.

The world's media has been replete with coverage of Chinese security
forces brutally putting down rioting in Tibet. The Tibetans see
themselves as different from the Chinese culturally and spiritually, and
they deeply resent absorption by China. In this sense, the claims they
make are no different from claims made in the Caribbean by Tobagonians
in relation to Trinidad, Barbudans in relation to Antigua, or Nevisians
in relation to St Kitts.

Many want full separation from China, but the spiritual leader of Tibet,
the Dali Lama, has said that he is willing to concede independence for
Tibet and control of its foreign policy and defence in exchange for more
autonomy and religious freedom.

The desire for autonomy exists despite the fact that the Chinese
government poured money into infrastructural development in Tibet where
the grew by 14% last year, 2% higher than China's 12% national
average. And, while there has been an influx of Han Chinese, Tibetans
have benefited economically. The fact is that the Tibetans place greater
value on spiritual freedom and greater autonomy than on Chinese
cultivated economic improvement.

In the Caribbean, governments came to terms with giving greater autonomy
to parts of their states that wanted to secede. Thus, Tobago has its own
local government with a high level of autonomy as does Barbuda, and the
government of Nevis actually forms part of the administration of the
federal state of St Kitts-Nevis. There is always tension in these
relationships but they are resolved by negotiation, not by suppression.

Against this history of tolerance, respect for human and civil rights,
and the willingness to enshrine in constitutions the right to autonomy
of homogenous groups, Caribbean countries should be telling China in
clear terms that its policy of repression in Tibet is wrong.

At the moment, the biggest fear that China has is a boycott of the
Olympic Games that are scheduled to start at eight minutes past eight in
the evening of eighth day of the eighth month of 2008.

It is most unlikely that Caribbean governments would threaten a boycott
of the games as have the leaders of some countries, such as 's
Nicolas Sarkozy.

Governments of small Caribbean countries would not wish to incur the
wrath of China which is now a significant aid donor to many of them.
And, that position is understandable particularly as not even the George
W Bush administration of the US has even hinted at a boycott of the
games, notwithstanding the curious claim of 's Hugo
, that the US is promoting in Tibet and is trying to
"sabotage" the Olympics.

Not indulging in ineffectual grandstanding with Cuba and China over
their human and civil rights issues is one thing, but telling the two
governments, as friends, that they should respect human and civil rights
including dissent, is the least that governments of freedom-loving
Caribbean countries should do. After all Caribbean governments would be
asking these governments to do nothing more than establish and uphold
standards that they are expected to follow themselves.

http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/news-6835–6-6–.html

Will Cuba follow China’s path?

Will Cuba follow 's path?
By ZHANG QUANYI
Column: Global Survey
Published: March 27, 2008

SHANGHAI, China, Cuba's National Assembly smoothly transferred the
country's presidency from Fidel Castro to his brother last
month. Although the succession was within the Castro family, the world
in general acclaimed this power transfer, hoping it would give Cuba a
new face to the world.

Former Fidel Castro controlled the Caribbean island for 49
years. He was both a revolutionary and a symbol of nationalism to his
country. In 1959 he overthrew the regime of General Fulgencio Batista,
though the regime's collapse can be attributed as much to internal decay
as to the challenge of Castro's revolutionary movement.

The Cuban government later progressively dissolved the capitalist
system, establishing a centrally planned , which largely resulted
in Cuba's present difficult situation.

Cuba was largely dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse, and
isolated from international markets dominated by the United States. The
United States has embargoed the country since the 1960s, and extended
its policy in 1996 to penalize foreign companies that deal with Cuba.

Cuba's economy is now in a state of bankruptcy. Wages are inadequate,
and transportation are in crisis and the and
systems — once the pride and joy of the revolution — have deteriorated
badly. There are insufficient supplies of , medicine and basic
industrial products. High unemployment has destabilized the country
economically and politically.

Cuba's current situation bears some resemblance to China's circumstances
in 1978, when China called for renovations in its static planned
collective economic system. From 1966-1976 China had endured the
Cultural Revolution, when all private commercial activities were banned
and the tightly controlled planned economy brought the people as well as
the economy to the brink of collapse.

Therefore, when the "capitalist roader" Deng Xiaoping came to power and
initiated his open-door policy, the Chinese people acclaimed him and
anticipated his reforms with great enthusiasm. Deng had been sacked by
Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China, because of
his capitalistic ideas.

Deng did not disappoint his people much. He successfully guided China
onto the track of reform, tried by various means to abolish Mao Zedong's
personality cult, suspended the ideology of class struggle, and
gradually introducing a market economy to China. In addition he adopted
flexible policies to take advantage of foreign direct investment,
setting up several special economic zones in China's coastal areas,
which set the example for other areas to follow in the process of
modernization.

Deng's pragmatism has born great fruit. Since he began the reforms,
China's economy has experienced a consistent rise. Gross domestic
product reached US$3.43 trillion in 2007, according to the National
Bureau of Statistics, making it the third largest economy in the world
after the United States and Japan.

China is also the third largest exporting country after the United
States and Germany. The country's foreign currency reserves are the
highest in the world, surpassing US$1.4 trillion. China appears to have
shifted from a primarily agricultural country to an industrial one.

China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and will host the
Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.
It can be said that China has become a member of world society.

Furthermore, China has established healthier relationships with other
countries, especially the big Western powers, and has become active in
world affairs. It has been positively involved in international efforts
to handle issues in Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Over a period of 30
years, China has become a stakeholder and a member of international society.

Facing an economic situation similar to that of China 30 years ago, will
Raul Castro, like Deng Xiaoping, become a Cuban reformer? Will Cuba
follow China's path in opening its door to the outside world? And will
international society respond positively to possible reforms in Cuba?

Raul Castro has sent some signals that he may partly loosen controls on
the economy. For example, he plans to allow some Western luxury products
into Cuban markets, such as sunglasses, videos and cameras. However,
Castro's vision for modernization is not identical with Deng's, and
Cuba's background is not the same as China's.

First, Raul Castro has persistently supported and implemented Fidel
Castro's policies. He was an general and defense minister for 49
years, hence, a de facto policy-maker. Having been so close to his
brother in the inner power circle, Raul Castro would not risk
accusations of abandoning his principles or tarnishing his family's
history and glory. Even if he does initiate some reforms, he will not go
so far as Deng, who had been ousted by the central leadership.

Secondly, the influence of the first generation of leaders in the Cuban
republic is still intact. Fidel Castro is still alive, as are other
senior leaders. Aging officials and other leftists will not allow Raul
to alter Cuba's Constitution or fundamentally change the socialist
system. For example, 75-year-old former Interior Minister Ramiro Valdes
has been a strong supporter of Fidel since 1953, when the Cuban
revolution began. He does not agree with Raul on matter of reform.

It can therefore be presumed that Raul Castro will not go so far in
carrying out reforms in Cuba. He is already 77 years old. He may take
some small steps to stabilize his power and make his mark on the
presidency, but that is all. In his address to the National Assembly,
Raul Castro proposed that Fidel should be consulted on important decisions.

Thirdly, the situation faced by Cuba is different from China's in some
ways. China's open-door policy benefited from the geopolitics of the
Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union were
competing for hegemony. Accordingly China and the United States, as well
as other Western countries, could cooperate economically regardless of
ideological differences.

After 1978, China was able to take advantage of the geopolitical
situation and attract large amounts of foreign direct investment,
especially from Japan, the United States and Western Europe. This
investment played a significant role in boosting China's economy in a
short time.

Cuba does not have the same advantage. Even if the new president wants
to reform, the supportive environment is lacking; the Cold War is over.
If the Soviet Union still existed, Western countries — particularly the
United States — might want to be first to assist Cuba economically.

However, in the foreseeable future, Cuba will only reluctantly distance
itself from socialism, taking a few aggressive steps to open to the
outside world. Unless Cuba resolutely declares that it is giving up
socialism, Western states, especially the United States, will not easily
abandon their hostile policies toward Cuba. They will merely continue
their containment strategy toward the island nation.

Therefore the assessment of Fidel Castro's daughter, Alina Fernandez –
who lives in the United States and has long opposed her father's regime
– may be correct. She told CNN just after her uncle took over the
presidency, "I think that the government will remain mostly the same,
but I think they are going to bring on different faces that they need,"
she said.

The face of Cuba itself is unlikely to change significantly for awhile.

(Zhang Quanyi is an associate professor at the Zhejiang Wanli
in Ningbo, China, and a Ph.D. candidate at Shanghai International
Studies University, studying policy making and collective identity. His
research interests focus on conflict management and identity
construction. He can be contacted at [email protected] ©Copyright
Zhang Quanyi.)

http://www.upiasiaonline.com/Politics/2008/03/27/will_cuba_follow_chinas_path/7469/

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