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Daily Archives: November 28, 2009

Spinning with the new sounds of Havana

Spinning with the new sounds of HavanaBy Teo Kermeliotis, for CNNNovember 26, 2009 — Updated 1623 GMT (0023 HKT)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS* Young Cuban musicians are stepping from the shadow of Buena Vista Social Club* They create a new sound, mixing traditional Latin rhythms with hip hop and funk DJ Gilles Peterson presents the best contemporary Cuban music talent

London, England (CNN) — "It's soul, man!" pronounces Gilles Peterson, his face lighting up as he takes a sip into his chilled mojito. "Cuban music is from the heart, it's free, there are less rules somehow," the DJ extraordinaire tells CNN about the endless energy of the island's music.

It's been 13 years since Ry Cooder and a group of outstanding elderly musicians took the world by storm with "Buena Vista Social Club," a global album hit which helped put Cuba on the world music scene.

Now, stepping from the shadow of Buena Vista, a generation of ambitious young Cubans is daringly crossing diverse musical territories, creating a fresh sound which fuses traditional Latin rhythms with hip hop and funk grooves.

"Some years ago a few American rappers like Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu and the Roots went to Cuba and sowed the seeds for the underground hip hop scene and now it's alive," says Peterson, whose latest project showcases Cuba's contemporary musical effervescence — from latin, afro jazz and fusion to hip hop, funk, reggaeton and pop.Cuban music is from the heart, it's free, there are less rules somehow–Gilles Peterson

In "Havana Cultura," Peterson introduces to the world the likes of honey-voiced Danay — "an absolutely superstar" according to the influential DJ — and Ogguere, an energetic hip hop duo which blends original Cuban rhythms with funk, rumba and rap.

These 21st-century Cuban musicians can delve into traditional music forms with the same ease as they burst into vigorous rap lines. They make up for the lack of access in technological means with an unsurpassed passion and determination to communicate their art.

"The life of an artist in Cuba is a sacrifice," Danay told CNN. "We have to use a lot of raw material and recycle it again and again because many times the right conditions don't exist.

"There are many talented street artists who have to walk a much longer road in order to write music and express themselves. But you can do it if you work hard and if there's love for the art."

In tune with Havana's unique spirit, this fledging music movement works best when performed live. On stage, the energy of the grooves and the breadth of fresh talent stimulates all senses.

"When we perform our music we are passionate and sentimental," says Ogguere's Edrey after a ferocious live performance in east London. "Cuban art is conscious, it's hard, beautiful and lively. There is a lot of energy and feeling."

A lack of funds and equipment cannot contain the scene's enthusiasm. As the movement develops the musicians are becoming more ambitious.

"We want people to identify themselves with what we do — regardless of whether is salsa, hip hop or funky, all that mix of rhythms is our way of making people enjoy what we do. We want them to learn a new philosophy of life based on giving love, feeling happy and celebrate," says Ulises, also of Ogguere.

Influenced by the likes of James Brown, Fela Kuti and the Roots, Ogguere say they rely on their friends across the world to get their hands on foreign music since Cuban radio would play mainly salsa and reggaeton.

"These young Cuban musicians need help. Most of them don't have and this is quite radical, but they survive because they are so hungry for information," says Peterson.

"In Europe people are a little bit more lazy, a bit more cynical, but these were the most disciplined musicians I've ever worked with, they wanted to take their opportunity."

Spinning with the new sounds of Havana – (26 November 2009)

Cubans fear hard times ahead, impatient for change

Cubans fear hard times ahead, impatient for changePublished on Saturday, November 28, 2009By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) — Cubans are bracing for hard times in 2010 as slashes imports and cuts government spending to get Cuba out of crisis — and they are growing impatient with the slow pace of economic reform.

Hurricanes, the global recession, US sanctions and the inability of the communist-run island's command to maneuver have put an end to recovery from the 1990s crisis that followed the Soviet Union's demise.

Local economists agree there will be little if any growth this year for the first time in more than a decade as Cuba battles a cash crunch that has forced it to stop paying bills and freeze bank accounts of some foreign companies in Cuba.

Castro, trying to balance books overflowing with red ink, has reduced imports this year by a third, or some $5 billion, and cut local budgets and energy consumption.

Cuba is dependent on imports, including and fuel, of which about 70 percent of what it consumes comes from abroad.

The communist government gets moral and economic support from Venezuelan President Hugo and other leftist leaders in Latin America, as well as , but Cuba's income from and exports of nickel, petroleum derivatives, cigars and shellfish has fallen sharply this year.

The austerity moves were necessary after Cuba's trade deficit soared 65 percent and its current account, which measures the inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, went from a $500 million surplus in 2007 to an estimated shortfall of nearly $2 billion last year, said the economists, who requested anonymity due to restrictions on talking to foreign media.

Castro's budget-cutting will put the current account into the black this year and "he intends to keep it that way in 2010," said one economist, indicating the belt-tightening will not end soon.

Castro, who took over as president from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, makes no bones about dismantling the paternalistic economic and social model he inherited.

"Let's not deceive ourselves," he told the National Assembly a year ago. "If there is no pressure, if the people do not need to work in order to cover their necessities, and if we continue to give things for free here and there, we shall lose our voice calling people to work."

Castro, who served as defense minister for decades, in March replaced most of the economic cabinet he inherited, filling key posts with former and active military officers.

He has implemented reforms in , wage structures and some other areas but the changes have so far been small and reached few of the island's 11 million people.

Cubans say that if Castro wants to do away with things like their monthly food ration and free workplace lunches, he will need to give them some way to raise incomes that now average less than $20 a month.

There has been speculation he would take measures such as allowing small businesses to operate and putting some of the retail sector in the hands of semi-private cooperatives but, so far, nothing like that has materialized.

Recent grassroots discussions conducted by the ruling Communist Party revealed growing impatience with the government's inability to propose concrete alternatives and get its own house in order, participants said.

"I realize the food ration has to go but first we have to know how they plan to do it and what will come after," said Pedro, a Havana pensioner.

"I agree with the changes Raul has made so far but it seems to me there are a lot more things that need fixing," Renaldo, a Communist Party activist who helped organize the discussions in central Cuba, said in a telephone interview.

People involved in the meetings said the state bureaucracy came under withering fire.

While farmers applauded Castro's decentralization of the sector, higher prices for their produce and grants of fallow state land to 100,000 new tillers, they questioned the government's continued stranglehold on the supplies they need and the sale of their products.

"Farmers have never wanted the state to give them anything. What we want is that they sell us what we need to work and produce," Evelio, a farmer in central Cuba, said in a telephone interview.

Factory workers complained Castro is urging them to produce more but that the state system is not providing the needed supplies.

"I cannot plan anything because it depends on what they give me, on planning above," said Carlos, a factory worker. "And there the problems continue."

Caribbean Net News: Cubans fear hard times ahead, impatient for change (28 November 2009)

Same old Cuba: Tyranny pervades

Same old Cuba: Tyranny pervadesSaturday, November 28, 2009

No one should be surprised that 's July 2006 assumption of power from his ill brother has yet to free the Cuban people from heinous repression by their island nation's Communist regime.

Thus, the U.S. must not use this regime "change" — a distinction without a difference — as a reason to further "engage" Cuba.

The unchanged plight of the Cuban people is made clear by the new Human Rights Watch report, "New Castro, Same Cuba." Raul Castro has shown he cares as little for and civil liberties as his brother Fidel always has, making unwise any additional Obama administration moves toward more normal relations with Cuba.

Under Raul, the Castro regime continues to use vague "dangerousness" charges to persecute Cubans whose advocacy of fundamental freedoms threatens the government's power. The 132-page report documents more than 40 cases of the Cuban state suppressing dissent through imprisonment imposed by kangaroo courts, denial of work and brutality toward political prisoners.

Raul Castro can have better relations with America — but only if he ends his tyranny. Not until Cuba proves it respects fundamental freedoms should the U.S. stance ease further. Otherwise, the U.S. will only strengthen the Castros' iron hand.

Same old Cuba: Tyranny pervades – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (28 November 2009)

Cuban migrants went undetected for hours at Turkey Point

Posted on Friday, 11.27.09Cuban migrants went undetected for hours at Turkey PointMore than 30 Cubans were dropped off close to the `heavily guarded' Turkey Point nuclear power plant and remained undetected until they called for help hours later.BY JOHN DORSCHNER AND ANDRES [email protected]

More than 30 Cubans, dropped off by a smugglers' speedboat, spent up to eight hours on the off-limits grounds of the Turkey Point nuclear power plant on Thanksgiving Day, then called the plant's nuclear control room to say they were by the cooling canals.

A spokesman for Florida Power & Light said Friday that the group was six miles from the reactors, and the power plant in southern Miami-Dade County “was not affected in any way.''

But the utility, which boasts of tight security in the area, did not address why its security personnel apparently did not become aware of the Cubans' presence on Turkey Point for up to eight hours.

Information about the incident was revealed by a report that FPL filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which stated that at 1:28 p.m. Thursday the control room “received a call from an individual stating that he was a member of a group of Cuban nationals that had landed in the Turkey Point cooling canals.''

FPL has call boxes in the area for use by maintenance workers, a company spokesman said, but it's not clear whether the Cuban used one to call the control room.

Nuclear power plants were directed to sharpen security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. FPL maintains round-the-clock security teams immediately around the Turkey Point plant buildings, which are also protected by several layers of fencing.

The buildings are surrounded by miles of twisting, mangrove-lined canals where hot water discharged from the plant cools as it circulates.

FPL spokesman Michael Waldron said there was no security breach since the Cuban group was nowhere near any of the plant's heavily secured buildings. He did not say how far into the surrounding natural areas the heavy security extends.

“I can tell you that FPL maintains a very strong security program that is regularly evaluated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission,'' Waldron wrote in an e-mail.

“As you know, there are many sensitive aspects of our security program that we cannot discuss in the newspaper, however, these individuals were over six miles from the plant in an environmental area and did not come anywhere near the heavily protected facility.''

According to immigration authorities, the Cubans were dropped off by two smugglers' in a speedboat around 6 a.m. More than seven hours later, the control room learned they were in the cooling canals and called plant security, “who located and assumed control over the Cuban nationals without incident,'' according to the NRC filing.

FPL security called Miami-Dade for assistance. arrived at 2:25 p.m. and called federal immigration agents, who took the Cubans into custody. The Cubans told agents they were picked up east of Havana by two men in a 30-foot, triple-engine speedboat.

The Cubans were detained 100 feet from the spot where they were dropped, said U.S. and Border Protection spokeswoman Elee Erice. Typically, Cubans detained after reaching U.S. shores are processed and released.

The precise number in the group could not be determined. The NRC put the number at 33, but a Miami-Dade police report had it at 34. The group included four children.

Security at the plant has been managed by Wackenhut, but FPL did not respond to an e-mailed question asking whether the company still does. FPL also did not say who, if anyone, is responsible for safeguarding the canal system.

Earlier this year, FPL paid the NRC a $130,000 fine after an investigation found that six Wackenhut guards slept or acted as lookouts for napping guards while on the job. One guard was “sleeping while on duty at a post in a vital area of the reactor,'' the NRC said.

In 2005, FPL officials told reporters how they had beefed up security at the plant to guard against terrorist incursions. A small private armed with automatic weapons patrols the grounds, while bulletproof towers occupy strategic positions to scan the perimeter or lay down crossfire. The plant is ringed with barricades to stop vehicles and fencing to snare intruders.

Cuban migrants went undetected for hours at Turkey Point – South Florida - (27 November 2009)

Port of Palm Beach hopes to revive trade with Cuba

Port of Palm Beach hopes to revive trade with CubaBy Paul QuinlanPalm Beach Post Staff WriterUpdated: 9:26 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, 2009

RIVIERA BEACH — In the 1950s, before came to power, goods bound to and from Cuba poured through the Port of Palm Beach, where the West India Fruit and Steamship Co. carried as many as 10,000 loaded railcars to the small Caribbean nation every year.

But that business soon vanished when the U.S. sought to banish trade with Cuba in 1960 after Fidel Castro's revolution. By June the following year, the West Indian Fruit and Steamship Co. had put its six freighters and automobile ferries up for sale after 40 years in business.

Today, nearly half a century later, the Port of Palm Beach has struggled trying to reestablish its long-lost dominance over the U.S.-Cuba trade route, despite hopes that the Obama administration could further loosen or end the .

"We were once the largest trading partner," said Executive Director Manny Almira, whose family fled the island when he was 10 years old. "Why can't we be that again?"

Hamstrung in efforts to obtain U.S. and Cuban permission to to the island and meet with trade officials, port leaders find themselves waiting in a long, growing, unmoving line of companies trying to do business with Cuba.

Almira landed a three-month license to travel from the U.S. but could not obtain the more elusive Cuban visa in time to attend a trade show in Havana this month. Both governments are said to be swamped with applications from those interested in traveling there.

Sixty-eight U.S. companies did attend the Havana International Fair 2009, although many more — like Port of Palm Beach officials — tried and failed to obtain travel permits, said Jay Brickman, a vice at Crowley Maritime Corp.

Last year, American companies sold $700 million worth of to Cuba under embargo exemptions that apply to humanitarian and agricultural goods, making the U.S. the island's top food supplier and fifth-largest trading partner in 2008.

Crowley Maritime does a regular freight business with the island, exporting mostly bulk shipments of grains and to Cuba through Port Everglades. The company's relationship took more than 20 years to establish, said Brickman, who began traveling to the island on behalf of Crowley in 1978 before they finally began trading in 2001.

Brickman, who now goes back and forth regularly, said Cubans officials are inundated with applications and have adopted the sort of standoffish attitude that one might expect of a girl who has come to realize she's the prettiest one at the dance.

"It was a question of, 'who are all these people, and where have they been all my life,'" Brickman said.

Cuba is in no hurry to expand its imports, as the global economic slowdown has caused the nation's biggest economic drivers — nickel exports, foreign remittances and — to fall.

What's more, expanding trade with the U.S. has taken a back seat to doing more business with such countries as , Iran, , Brazil and Canada, Brickman said.

"Five or six years ago, it used to be the top of their priority list," Brickman said. "I don't think that's the case anymore."

The U.S. posture toward Cuba has changed dramatically as support of the embargo has wavered among younger generations of Cubans. Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez, of Havana, called the trade restrictions "clumsy and anachronistic" in a recent post that also said: "I am struck, however, that on market shelves the labels and the four packs reveal what the anti-imperialist rhetoric hides: much of what we eat says, 'Made in USA.' "

The Obama administration this year rolled back restrictions and opened lines of communication previously closed.

But bullish capitalists who once expected the eventual end of the embargo would suddenly lead McDonald's restaurants and Home Depots to pop up on Cuban street corners say another alternative is more likely: The embargo falls without any significant political changes in Cuba.

"It's something we never focused on in the past, but frankly, it's a much more realistic analysis," said Bruce Jay Colan, chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

If that happened, uncertainty over the stability and predictability of Cuban law and government would temper investment, Colan said.

Miami's would likely remain the primary U.S. gateway for passengers bound for Cuba, Colan said. A chamber report notes that in May 1959, there were 102 scheduled weekly flights between Miami and Havana — almost double the number that came and went from all other U.S. cities combined.

Almira hopes that same precedent applies to shipping from the Port of Palm Beach.

He is reapplying for a U.S. license to travel to Cuba, with the hope of securing a visa from Cuban officials soon afterward. When the door opens, he said he wants the port to be ready.

"It's sooner than ever before, in my opinion."

Port of Palm Beach hopes to revive trade with Cuba (27 November 2009)

Sesión anual del Parlamento estará marcada por crisis

Publicado el sábado, 11.28.09Sesión anual del Parlamento estará marcada por crisisBy Agence PresseLA HABANA

El Parlamento cubano celebrará el 19 de diciembre la sesión final anual en la que aprobará las medidas que ejecutará el gobierno de Raúl Castro en el 2010 a fin de enfrentar la crisis económica que afecta a la isla, informaron medios cubanos.

Los medios publicaron la convocatoria a la reunión hecha por el de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular (ANPP, parlamento), Ricardo Alarcón, y dirigida a los 614 diputados del legislativo, que sesiona ordinariamente dos veces al año.

En la sesión, el también diputado Raúl Castro revisará con los parlamentarios los informes que presentan los ministros y, tras un análisis de la situación del país, dirigirá un discurso.

Los diputados sancionarán el plan económico y el presupuesto del Estado para el 2010.

La situación económica de la isla estuvo marcada este año por el impacto de la crisis internacional y el lastre de problemas internos de ineficiencia productiva, que contrajo la meta de crecimiento económico de 6 por ciento a 1.7 por ciento para el cierre del 2009.

En la sesión anterior, realizada el 1 agosto, Raúl Castro anunció un ajuste basado en el ahorro, el aumento de la producción y eficiencia laboral, sustitución de importaciones, y la reducción de gastos o “racionalidad'' económica incluso en los emblemáticos sectores de la y la educación.

En esa reunión, también se aprobó la creación de la Controlaría General de Cuba, un organismo que busca enfrentar la corrupción y los delitos económicos, en un país con un gigantesco mercado negro surtido con robos al Estado.

El gobernante Raúl Castro destacó entonces que su gobierno trabajaba en la elaboración de los planes para el 2010 con dos líneas fundamentales: “planificar la balanza de pagos sin déficit y hasta con una reserva'' para imprevistos y “dar prioridad absoluta al crecimiento de las producciones y servicios que aportan ingresos en divisas''.

Sesión anual del Parlamento estará marcada por crisis – Cuba – (28 November 2009)

Las nuevas maniobras de Cuba

Las nuevas maniobras de CubaLa Habana desafía a Obama con los mayores ejercicios militares desde hace cinco años – Raúl Castro dice que la "confrontación con el imperio continúa"

MAURICIO VICENT – La Habana – 28/11/2009

Cuba es desde el jueves un gigantesco teatro de operaciones militares. Bastión 2009 es el nombre del juego de guerra, en el que participan centenares de tanques, equipos de artillería reactiva, cañones, aviones y barcos, además de cientos de miles de cubanos entre militares, reservistas y milicianos. Son las maniobras de mayor envergadura desde 2004, y eso pese a que la tensión entre La Habana y Washington se ha reducido notablemente con la Administración de Barack Obama. El Gobierno de Raúl Castro ha justificado la realización de Bastión en que la "confrontación entre Cuba y el imperio" se mantiene y porque "es necesario prepararse" para la eventualidad de una invasión.

Ni la crisis cubana ni la mano tendida de han frenado la iniciativa

Éste es el quinto ejercicio militar Bastión que se realiza desde el año 1980. Aquellas primeras maniobras se realizaron coincidiendo con la llegada al poder del republicano Ronald Reagan, con quien las tensiones cubano-norteamericanas se dispararon. La ex URSS aún existía cuando se repitieron las maniobras en 1983 y en 1986 (también con Reagan en el poder), y las últimas se realizaron en 2004, con George W. Bush en la Casa Blanca.

Éste es el primer Bastión que se efectúa con un demócrata, justo cuando Obama acaba de decir que su país "no tiene intención de usar la fuerza militar en Cuba" y se ha pronunciado a favor de una "diplomacia directa y sin condiciones". Sin , las autoridades cubanas no parecen dispuestas a fiarse de su viejo enemigo. "La confrontación entre ambos países puede hacerse más aguda, y tal situación cambiar en una semana, un mes o un año", aseguró a la televisión el segundo jefe del Estado Mayor de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, general de División Leonardo Andollo. El militar insistió en que las maniobras son "defensivas" y parten de la estrategia de que "la mejor manera de ganar una guerra es evitándola".

La crisis, que galopa sobre Cuba y amenaza hasta con una quiebra financiera, no ha impedido el ejercicio militar. Por activa y por pasiva se asegura que las maniobras se realizan "con austeridad, pero con eficacia".

En los ejercicios Bastión anteriores se había partido de la hipótesis de una invasión norteamericana como el desencadenante de la guerra. En esta ocasión, el teatro de operaciones comienza "desde una situación de tiempo de paz", en el que, según Andollo, se prevé "el aumento de la actividad subversiva del enemigo, encaminada a provocar desorden social e ingobernabilidad, aprovechando para ello la situación que se ha creado (…) como consecuencia de la crisis financiera y económica mundial". Estos disturbios internos serían el preludio de la famosa intervención. La estrategia para impedirlo es la llamada "guerra de todo el pueblo". Se espera que cuatro millones de personas participen en las maniobras.

[Un grupo de 33 refugiados cubanos (29 adultos y cuatro niños) ha llegado en una embarcación hasta el canal de enfriamiento de de la central nuclear de Turkey Point, en Miami, informa Efe. Los cubanos desembarcaron en una zona que se suponía protegida. El servicio migratorio se ha hecho cargo de ellos, y las autoridades investigan el fallo en el control de seguridad de la central].

Las nuevas maniobras de Cuba · ELPAÍ (28 November 2009)

Moratinos espera "acercar posiciones" hoy en la reunión de la troika comunitaria con Cuba

Moratinos espera "acercar posiciones" hoy en la reunión de la troika comunitaria con CubaEuropa Press

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores y Cooperación, Miguel Angel Moratinos, acudirá hoy sábado a la reunión de la troika comunitaria que se celebra en Bruselas con la voluntad de "acercar posiciones" entre la y Cuba, según informaron a Europa Press fuentes diplomáticas. Seguir leyendo el arículo

A la cita acudirán el ministro cubano de Relaciones Exteriores, Bruno Rodríguez, el comisario europeo de Desarrollo y Ayuda Humanitaria, Karel De Gucht, y el secretario de Estado de Asuntos Exteriores de Suecia, Frank Belfrage, cuyo país ejerce la presidencia de turno del Consejo Europeo.

En el encuentro no está previsto abordar la posibilidad de que la UE elimine la Posición Común sobre la isla, dado que este asunto tendrían que discutirlo los 27 Estados miembros. Sin , no se descarta que La Habana lo ponga encima de la mesa, dado que se trata de una vieja reivindicación que pone como condición para mejorar las relaciones con la UE, según las mismas fuentes.

Cuba argumenta que la Posición Común supone una imposición unilateral por parte de los Veintisiete, además de una discriminación con respecto a otros países con los que la UE tiene relaciones y a los que no pone las mismas condiciones.

Desde el Departamento que dirige Miguel Angel Moratinos se destaca que esta cuarta reunión del diálogo político entre la UE y Cuba es "resultado del modelo auspiciado" por España, que a partir de la visita de Moratinos a La Habana en 2007 estableció un diálogo "crítico" con las autoridades de la isla, que incluye los .

La reunión de la troika estaba inicialmente prevista para finales del pasado mes de septiembre durante la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas en Nueva York pero tuvo que posponerse. Se trata también de la primera bajo presidencia sueca y se produce sólo unas semanas después de que el comisario De Gucht viajara a La Habana para entrevistarse con las autoridades de la isla. La cita se iniciará a las 11.30 horas en la sede de la Comisión Europea y está previsto que dure una hora.

"La Comisión Europea espera continuar su compromiso constructivo con las autoridades cubanas en esta reunión previa a la futura presidencia española de la UE", señaló el portavoz del comisario de Desarrollo y Ayuda Humanitaria, John Clancy.


La delegación cubana, por su parte, pretende seguir adelante con el proceso de diálogo abierto con la UE de cara a una "normalización" total de las relaciones en el futuro, según fuentes diplomáticas cubanas consultadas por Europa Press.

Las mismas fuentes señalaron que la cooperación entre ambas partes funciona "satisfactoriamente" y, por lo tanto, que este aspecto formará parte de la agenda de la reunión. Además, se abordarán otros temas internacionales y multilaterales de interés común, como la lucha contra el cambio climático.

Moratinos espera "acercar posiciones" hoy en la reunión de la troika comunitaria con Cuba – Yahoo! Noticias (28 November 2009)


"EN MOMENTOS EN QUE HAY UNA DISTENCIÓN CLARA Y EVIDENTE EN EL GOBIERNO NORTEAMERICANO, EL GOBIERNO DE CUBA DECIDE HACER MANIOBRAS MILITARES"… MANUEL CUESTA MORÚA EN ENTREVISTA A MISCELÁNEAS DE CUBA2009-11-27.Redacción de Misceláneas de Cuba( El prominente opositor socialdemócrata Manuel Cuesta Morúa (foto), concedió en el día de hoy una entrevista a Misceláneas de Cuba, Revista de Asignaturas Cubanas.

Durante la misma, el Portavoz del Partido Arco Progresista, analiza la situación sociopolítica en la isla, la crisis económica, las posibles fisuras en la nomenclatura del régimen, el trabajo del Arco Progresista con miras a su programado Congreso, así como hace una valoración del panorama y opositor, entre otros temas.

Cuesta Morúa fue entrevistado por Alexis Gainza, Director de Misceláneas de Cuba y Osvaldo Alfonso, Analista Político, y la entrevista puede ser escuchada aquí:


State, business leaders take trip to Cuba

State, business leaders take trip to CubaNov 27, 2009 (The Macon Telegraph – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)

The first time Tony Sellier went to Cuba he was 15.

He was leaving his home in at his parents insistence and flying to a new life in America. The plane stopped at the Havana , and the powers that be wouldn't let him or his four siblings get off the plane.

He watched from a window as Cubans boarded, filling every empty seat. Men with machine guns took their luggage, their necklaces, "everything they owned," Sellier remembers.

Once the plane touched down in Miami, the Cubans kissed the ground. Sellier, who would eventually become a pilot, marry a girl from Crawford County and become a state representative here in Middle Georgia, "realized that these people had given up everything they owned for the that we have in America."

Sellier, R-Fort Valley, went back to Cuba this month as part of a delegation of Georgia politicians and businessmen who there occasionally with the Georgia Department of .

Even Sellier's brief experience nearly 50 years ago was enough to back up a sentiment visitors often take away from the island country: Cuba is frozen in time.

"The airport is absolutely identical (to 1960)," Sellier said. "It was like a flashback … the color was even the same. It was the same picture that I had in my mind."

Georgia does quite a bit of business with Cuba, and is poised to do more if U.S. economic sanctions against the communist country are eventually lifted, as many believe will occur in the near future. Already Pilgrim's Pride, which has three plants in Georgia, furnishes 47 percent of the country's poultry, Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Terry Coleman said.

Federal sanctions allow the sale of agricultural products. The U.S. Treasury Department approves licenses allowing people to travel to Cuba, despite general restrictions on Americans visiting there.

Georgia took a group of about 15 people there for an annual trade show this month, carrying samples of Georgia peanuts and pecans.

Coleman, Sellier, former state Rep. Robert Ray and Duke Lane, of Peach County's Lane Packing Co., were part of the group. Coleman said the state only paid the way for Department of Agriculture employees, with legislators and business people covering their own costs.

Lane said his company's pecans were a hit as he met with high-ranking officials in the Cuban government. He said the people down there aren't familiar with pecans and peaches, which need a bit colder weather to flourish.

But Lane said he expects that to change within his lifetime as economic policies change, more markets are opened and the Cuban people find themselves with more disposable income instead of depending on government rations.

"We're shipping pecans left and right to ." Lane said. "We'd like to be doing business (in Cuba)."

Like Sellier, Lane found Cuba to be frozen in time. Cars from the 1950s are common. Cab drivers, who work for the communist government, are "tickled to death" to get $20 a day, he said. Farming is often done by wooden plow, powered by hand and oxen.

"My, oh my, what a tractor factory could do down there," Lane said.

Coleman said his department wants to market Georgia peanut butter in Cuba, as well as vegetables. The country's poverty, though, makes it difficult.

"When it gets better, we'll stand a real chance to sell a lot more product," Coleman said.

Sellier, who speaks fluent Spanish, said the Cuban people he met love America. But the government owns everything, buildings and decades-old equipment are decaying, people buy groceries with government issued ration cards and the government tracks how much they get, he said.

Sellier said he'd like to see various U.S. blockades against Cuba lifted. He called Fidel and 's regime "basically toothless" now and said the Cuban people are "ready to make peace with Americans."

"My position," Sellier said, "is we ought to do business with them."

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.

RBC Wealth Management (28 November 2009)

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