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Daily Archives: March 4, 2010

Subdued Response to Cuban Dissident’s Death

LATIN AMERICA: Subdued Response to Cuban Dissident's DeathBy Humberto Márquez

CARACAS, Mar 3, 2010 (IPS) – The deafening silence of Latin American governments has fallen like another shovelful of earth on the grave of Cuban dissident Orlando , a bricklayer who died Feb. 23 after nearly three months on hunger strike in on the Caribbean island.

"Human rights problems exist all over the world," said Marco Aurelio García, foreign affairs adviser to leftwing Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who said for his part that he "deeply regretted that a person should let himself die by hunger strike, which was something I did when I was a trade unionist but would not do again."

Only 's rightwing President-elect Sebastián Piñera issued a statement harshly condemning the circumstances surrounding the death of Zapata, who he said "gave his life to defend democracy and in Cuba."

Studiedly neutral statements were made in other countries, like that of Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who said "we regret the death of this gentleman (Zapata) as we will always regret the death of any human being. But I would rather not comment on the concrete issue of the prisoners held in Cuba."

The United States and the European Union condemned Zapata's death and called for the immediate release of 200 persons regarded by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, a dissident group in Cuba, as prisoners of conscience, or political prisoners, a classification systematically denied by the government in Havana.

The regional political agenda has been busy, packed with meetings between presidents for different reasons, such as the earthquake in Chile or the swearing-in of the new Uruguayan President José Mujica, after a summit held February in Mexico that approved the creation of a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that includes Cuba but expressly excludes and the United States.

The region "kept silence as if to avoid embarrassing Cuba and President Raúl Castro when he had just announced this OAS-style (Organisation of American States) group without Canada and the United States," María Teresa Romero, a professor of International Studies at the Central of Venezuela, told IPS.

"This is nothing new; it's the strategy of assimilation and pacification as opposed to isolationism, that Latin America and the Caribbean have followed before in relation to Havana, thinking that a more permissive approach and co-opting Cuba will be a more effective means of guiding it along the path to democracy," Romero added.

Tomás Bilbao, a member of the Cuba Study Group in Washington, founded in 2000 to monitor policies on Cuba, said that the silence about Zapata reflects "the double-think of the leftwing leaders who predominate in the region, who believe that criticising Cuba means backing the White House."

Cuban historian Rafael Rojas, who lives in Mexico, said the Havana government "made a fine calculation of the reactions likely to arise from the United States and the European Union, in contrast with the very few words they expected from Latin America."

These views support statements by Zapata's family members and human rights organisations like Amnesty International, who claim the government "let him die" by denying him recognition as a political , treating him harshly and punishing him in prison, and providing medical care only when it was already too late.

During a visit by the Brazilian president to Havana, the day after Zapata died Raúl Castro told Brazilian journalists in Lula's entourage that he regretted Zapata's demise, adding "no one is tortured, no one has been tortured, there was no execution. That sort of thing happens in Guantánamo," referring to the U.S. naval base in eastern Cuba where prisoners of war have been held for years.

Former president , who also met with Lula, wrote: "Lula has known for many years that in our country, nobody was every tortured, no adversary's assassination was ever ordered, and the people have never been lied to."

Venezuelan political scientist Carlos Raúl Hernández told IPS that "the behaviours adopted in response to Zapata's hunger strike and death illustrate the struggle between the political stances represented by the two Castro brothers who lead Cuba."

According to Hernández, "Raúl would probably like to advance towards more openness, at first on the economic front, as has happened in and Vietnam, but Fidel may have persuaded him of the dilemma between giving, or not giving, signs of weakness or retreat, by Cuba of all countries, right now when the revolution has made strides in Latin America."

Hernández was alluding to Cuba sympathisers along with their socialist discourse who have attained positions of power, particularly Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

Other governments may have kept mum to avoid further inflaming the conflict between supporters of Raúl and Fidel Castro's political lines, opting instead for a strategy of pacification, he said.

"The hardening of Havana's political line means that Fidel Castro – who gave up the presidency for health reasons – has recovered power in Cuba, with the support of Venezuela," which has cooperation and trade agreements with the island amounting to billions of dollars, in Hernández's view.

In July 2011, Venezuela will host the next Latin America and Caribbean Summit, which could see the inauguration of the new community of nations.

"But what will this non-OAS community be like? Without a democratic charter, without a convention on human rights and bodies to enforce them?" Simón Alberto Consalvi wondered. A former Venezuelan foreign minister, he was one of the architects of the Contadora Group working for peace in Central America in the 1980s.

The original Contadora Group created in 1983, made up of Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, soon grew to a total of eight democratic states, and gave rise to the Rio Group, the region's main policy-sharing body that has expanded until the admission of Cuba last year, and now forms the basis of the new regional community of states.

Romero said "it appears, in fact, that the Rio Group is the model some people prefer for the new community of nations, as it is more informal and lacks the commitments and institutional basis of the OAS."

President Chávez has no such doubts, and recently repeated that "the OAS is no longer of any use, one day it will disappear," while the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean should create a joint mechanism "based on transparent relations founded on respect for the sovereignty of each country and on non-interference with internal affairs."

Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962, and has repeatedly said it has no interest in rejoining the inter-American organisation, even though the hemispheric body voted in 2009 to revoke Cuba's suspension. (END)

LATIN AMERICA: Subdued Response to Cuban Dissident's Death – IPS (3 March 2010)

Media group urges Cuba to free jailed journalists

Media group urges Cuba to free jailed journalistsBy PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer Paul Haven, Associated Press Writer – Thu Mar 4, 11:48 am ET

HAVANA – A media watchdog group called on Cuba to release jailed independent journalists — or at least improve their conditions — and said Thursday it would hold the government responsible for the of an opposition reporter staging a hunger strike.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said Cuba, an island of just 11.4 million, has 22 reporters in its jails — putting it behind only and Iran on the global list.

"Cuban journalists have paid an extremely high price for exercising their right to of expression," Carlos Lauria, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas, said in a statement. "These sentences are cruel and vengeful."

Cuba considers dissidents mercenaries of Washington who take money to try and destabilize the country's communist government, and it routinely dismisses groups like CPJ as agents of the U.S. government.

Many members of the small community of independent journalists in Havana use Internet service provided by the U.S. Interests Section, which Washington maintains in Cuba instead of an embassy. The journalists say it is the only way they can file in a country where access to the Web is prohibitively expensive and tightly controlled. Cuba says it is evidence they are stooges.

Independent Guillermo Farinas has been refusing and water for more than a week to protest the Feb. 23 death of another hunger striking , Orlando Tamayo. Farinas is also demanding the release of 33 political prisoners who are in poor health.

The 48-year-old lost consciousness and was hospitalized on Wednesday, but released a short time later after doctors told him they could do nothing for him if he refused to eat.

"He remains firm in his hunger strike," Farinas' mother, Alicia Hernandez, told The Associated Press by telephone Thursday, from the family home in the central city of Santa Clara.

CPJ said conditions in Cuban jails are poor and the cells unhygienic, leading to illnesses and exacerbating existing conditions.

"We call on (Raul) Castro to free all the jailed reporters immediately and without condition, and to guarantee freedom of expression and information to all Cuban citizens," the journalist group said.

Media group urges Cuba to free jailed journalists – Yahoo! News (4 March 2010)

Funds To Support Democracy In Cuba Not Spent

Mar 4, 2010 1:38 pm US/EasternFunds To Support Democracy In Cuba Not SpentWASHINGTON DC (CBS4) ?

In the last two years, Congress has approved $40 million to support pro-democracy efforts in Cuba. But to date not a single penny of the fund has been spent.

Now Cuban-Americans and those working to support political opposition in Cuba want to know why.

The government says it's taking its time to review program oversight and efficiency. Critics note that the Obama administration has yet to ask potential grantees for proposals to spend that money.

The Cuba program has long been criticized for wasting resources and for not requiring competitive bidding. Still, supporters say the recent death of one political and the hospitalization of another make the aid more crucial than ever.

Funds To Support Democracy In Cuba Not Spent – (4 March 2010)

Despite reforms, food production struggle in Cuba’s capital, worsening shortages

Despite reforms, production struggle in Cuba's capital, worsening shortages4:54 p.m. EST, March 3, 2010

HAVANA (AP) — Production of fruits and vegetables in Cuba's capital and surrounding farmlands is 40 percent lower than expected so far this year, as the island's agricultural sector continues to founder despite a series of reforms.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma said Havana province, which includes the city of the same name, fell short of its targets through the end of February largely because of government ineptitude.

It reported that authorities failed to provide farmers with seeds in a timely manner and said fertilizer and other nutrients to bolster crops were also slow in coming.

The result was less food for sale at heavily subsidized state farmer's markets.

"The frequently semi-empty stalls at the markets are signs of these failures and the difference between what is produced in the countryside and what is sold," the newspaper said.

Shortages of all kinds of basics, from lettuce to potatoes to peanuts, are common in Cuba, though some items have lately been even more difficult to find than usual.

has made improving food production and slashing expensive imports a top priority since taking power from his brother Fidel — first temporarily, then permanently — in 2006.

The government shifted much of the control of government-run farms from Agricultural Ministry officials in Havana to local farming boards in hopes of boosting productivity. It also put far more idle state land into the hands of private farmers.

Still, the government continues to provide seeds, fertilizer, gasoline and other supplies to farms and buys up nearly all of what they produce. Problems at any point in the supply chain can cause lengthy delays and hurt production.

Despite reforms, food production struggle in Cuba's capital, worsening shortages – South Florida (4 March 2010),0,5879216.story?track=rss

New Book Explores the Truth About Cuba and the Castro Dictartorship from a Social and Political Perspective

New Book Explores the Truth About Cuba and the Castro Dictartorship from a Social and Political Perspective

The general public in America has always had a fascination with Cuba – from cigars to Castro – and Gonzalo Fernández's new book, "Cuba's Primer - Castro's Earring " provides an in depth knowledge for the country's historical background from independence wars and Spanish American war over Cuba to current conditions on the Island.

Raleigh, NC, March 03, 2010 –(– In addition to the American general public, the book also serves to help fill the gap for the estimated more than 200,000 second and third generation Cuban Americans of the history and stories of their homeland.

"This group of Cuban Americans, many who speak English as their first language, would benefit from my book which provides a structured narrative and details historical events they have likely heard from their parents and grandparents," Fernandez.

Fernandez explains how 's current poor helps continue to fuel interest in the country and its political future.

Praise for "Cuba's Primer – Castro's Earring Economy:"

"This should be mandatory reading for Cuban-Americans that don't have all the facts. Also, a must read for our kids."

"Fernandez writes in an easy to follow style, interspersing historical events with personal anecdotes. It is interesting to note how he has objectively placed himself within the various settings, while still understanding the 'big picture' as Cuba was changing from a capitalist dictatorship to a socialist one. For those young, urban Cuban Americans, this book will fill in many gaps as to what their parents told them and what they fail to understand as to why the situation went so tragically wrong!"

New Book Explores the Truth About Cuba and the Castro Dictartorship from a Social and Political Perspective – (4 March 2010)

Honeymoon cancelled

Cuba and the United StatesHoneymoon cancelledA familiar mistrust descendsMar 4th 2010 | HAVANA

THE Cubans who hawk second-hand books from makeshift stalls in Havana's Plaza de Armas were thrilled when Barack Obama was elected. Could millions of American tourists be far behind, they wondered. Word went out that the vendors were in the market for pre-revolutionary American paraphernalia such as Life magazines and Coca-Cola signs or newspapers from the Spanish-American War. But hopes that Mr Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, would end a 50-year freeze in relations between their countries have proved wildly premature.

Mr Obama began with some gestures. Last April his administration lifted curbs on visits and remittances by Cuban-Americans imposed by George Bush. It also said that it would allow American firms to provide telecoms services to Cuba. It quietly switched off an electronic ticker-tape on the wall of the United States' in Havana which had relayed news (propaganda, complained the Cubans, who erected a barricade to obscure it). The administration also restarted talks on practical issues, such as migration, that had been halted under Mr Bush.

The latest round of talks took place in late February. They were overshadowed by familiar rows. The American officials demanded the release of Alan , who was working under contract to USAID and was in Havana in December. His family says he was helping Jewish groups in Cuba set up satellite-based internet connections; Cuba accuses him of spying. The American delegation also met a group of dissidents. That prompted a furious statement from Cuba's foreign ministry that the visitors were less interested in improving relations than in "promoting subversion to overthrow the Cuban revolution".

Four days after the talks Orlando , an imprisoned dissident, died in custody in a Havana after an 85-day hunger strike in protest at his treatment in jail. That prompted an outcry from international human-rights groups. Hundreds of police prevented all but a few dissidents from attending his funeral in his home town in eastern Cuba.

Mr Zapata, a bricklayer from a poor family, was arrested in 2003 during a crackdown against Cuba's small opposition movement. Not among the better-known dissidents, he was initially sentenced to three years for "disrespecting authority", increased to 25 after he took part in protests. Mr Castro said that he regretted Mr Zapata's death. The government insisted he was a common criminal. Certainly his death has embarrassed Mr Castro, as well as Brazil's , Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was visiting Cuba at the time but refused to condemn it.

However disgruntled they are with the everyday failures of the communist government, few Cubans dare brave the harassment meted out to active opponents. Those in the United States who argue that the American economic embargo merely serves to shore up the Castro regime hoped that Mr Obama's team would agree with them. But it has become clear that the administration is not prepared to do battle with supporters of the embargo in Congress. Attempts to lift the ban on Americans travelling to the island have bogged down. "We made a big initial effort, but got nothing back" from the Cuban government, a State Department official said. Mr Castro has been emphatic that Cuba's communist system is not up for negotiation with the United States.

In December a in Miami resentenced to long prison terms two of five Cuban agents arrested in 1998 for spying on anti-Castro Cuban-Americans. In January the administration included Cuba as one of just 14 countries on a terrorist watch list under which passengers must undergo extra screening before flying.

That provoked a diplomatic protest from Cuba, and the first government-organised anti-American rallies across the island since illness forced to step down as president in 2006. When Raúl Castro announced Mr Gross's arrest he said it proved that the Obama administration was out to topple the government and was no different from its predecessors. The honeymoon is over before it began.

Cuba and the United States: Honeymoon cancelled | The Economist (4 March 2010)

Fidel Castro Is Back in Charge

Is Back in ChargeBy Arian Campo-Flores | Newsweek Web ExclusiveMar 4, 2010

When Raúl Castro became of Cuba in 2006, he raised hopes, at home and abroad, that he would usher in a new era of reform. His brother, El Comandante Fidel, was struck with some sort of intestinal illness and rendered incapable of governing. So in stepped Raúl with promises to undertake "structural" change in the country. He distributed parcels of idle land to farmers. He encouraged young people, many of whom feel restive about their country's system, to "fearlessly debate" the country's problems. He decreed that Cubans could finally buy cell phones and computers, and could stay at hotels that had previously been off-limits to them. When it came to relations with the United States, he said last April, "We are prepared to discuss everything—, freedom of the press, political prisoners—everything, everything, everything."SUBSCRIBE Click Here to subscribe to NEWSWEEK and save up to 85% >>

But over the past year, some prominent Cuba analysts say, Fidel has steadily reasserted his authority and applied the brakes to these efforts. Despite his convalescence far from public view, Fidel is once again the arbiter on all critical matters facing the state, says Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst and now a senior research associate at the of Miami. "I think Fidel decided that Raúl was going too far, that Raúl was playing with fire," he says. As evidence, Latell points to recent shuffling of the leadership ranks that he considers an affront to Raúl and to Fidel's backsliding commentary in more than 100 "Reflections" he has published in the Cuban press during the past year. Any hope of warmer relations with the U.S. has been dashed, says Latell. "I don't see any progress possible in the foreseeable future."

It seemed at first like Fidel had relinquished control when his intestinal disease laid him up three and a half years ago. "He was gravely ill" between the summer of 2006 and the spring of 2007, says Andy Gomez of the University of Miami. He stopped showing up in public, stopped running government meetings, and appeared to yield the reins to Raúl. Yet in the past year, "there's no question that Fidel's condition has improved," says Gomez. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reported that Fidel was "exceptionally well" after visiting him in Havana last month. Since Fidel's condition remains a state secret, analysts can only read tea leaves. But other indicators suggest he is back, and he's not pleased.

On the domestic front, Cuba observers say, Fidel has blocked the fundamental economic reforms necessary to lift the country out of its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "It's pretty clear that Raúl Castro is much more open to economic liberalization than Fidel Castro," says Philip Peters, a Cuba specialist at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. As Latell describes in his book After Fidel,Raúl pushed for market reforms in the 1990s and was impressed with the Chinese economic model. Now that he is ostensibly in power, though, he has been unable to deliver the same changes—more opportunities for private enterprise, an elimination of the dual-currency system (which involves regular pesos for routine purchases and dollar-pegged "convertible pesos" for imported goods)—that he is thought to want for his country and that many Cubans had hoped for. The regime's recent crackdown on dissidents, activists, and bloggers also bears Fidel's fingerprints, says Latell. After Raúl's very public commitments to reform, it's unlikely he would willingly retreat so much back to the vision Fidel was known to hold.

Fidel has also ensured that tensions with the U.S. remain high. Only days after Raúl asserted that "everything" was on the negotiating table, Fidel wrote in a "Reflection" that his brother had been "misinterpreted." He then offered this clarification: "When the President of Cuba said he was ready to discuss any topic with the U.S. president, he meant he was not afraid of addressing any issue. That shows his courage and confidence in the principles of the Revolution." (This was widely interpreted, including in Foggy Bottom, as a reprimand.) Then in December, the Cuban government an American contractor, Alan , who was delivering communications equipment to Jewish groups on the island. He's being held without charges—an act that seems designed to provoke the United States. "We have seen this MO many times," says Carlos Saladrigas, co-chairman of the Cuba Study Group, which advocates greater American engagement with the island. "The U.S.A. softens, Cuba hardens. It seems to be a repeat of Fidel's playbook." Fidel unleashed the Mariel boatlift just as Jimmy Carter was trying to engage Cuba, and he shot down unarmed airplanes belonging to an anti-Castro group in Miami just as Bill Clinton was trying the same.

Fidel—who relinquished his titles as head of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, but remains leader of the Communist Party—still has taken no additional government post since his return fitness. But he has made leadership changes that some analysts suspect are aimed at preserving his vision of the revolution. Key among them is the promotion of Ramiro Valdés, a former Interior minister regarded as a diehard Fidel loyalist and a brutal enforcer. Despite a history of strained relations with Raúl, Valdés is now effectively the No. 3 man in the regime after the Castro brothers. "That was a Fidel appointment," says Gomez. Valdés "is Fidel's eyes and ears on a daily basis within the inner circle."

The Comandante won't be around forever, of course. However improved his , it can't be that great, considering his continued seclusion. But as long as Fidel is calling the shots, the Cuban will remain unproductive, the youth will remain restive, and relations with the U.S. will remain at an impasse. "Nothing is going to happen while Fidel is alive," says Gomez. Which leaves everyone, on and off the island, pretty much where they were three and a half years ago: waiting for Fidel to die.

Fidel Castro Is Back in Charge of Cuba – (4 March 2010)

C&W sets Cuba record straight

C&W sets Cuba record straightBy Mary Lennighan, Total TelecomThursday 04 March 2010

Telecoms operator says media reports about its ambitions in Cuba went too far; reductions in activation charges drive mobile growth in country.

Cable & Wireless is interested in Cuba's telecoms market, but is not as close to brokering a deal as U.K. press reports suggested at the weekend.

A spokesperson for Cable & Wireless explained to Total Telecom that the company is in the running for a subsea cable deal linking Cuba with Jamaica, but it is not – as the Sunday Times suggested – close to agreeing a deal.

The spokesman also disputed the assumption made by a number of media outlets that Cable & Wireless is actively seeking to acquire a stake in state-run Cuban telecoms incumbent Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, known as .

While signing on the dotted line for the cable link would be a good stepping stone to working with the Cuban government to serve the country's telecoms market, talk of buying into Etecsa went too far, he said.

As its stands, Telecom Italia holds a 27% stake in Etecsa, although it is reportedly looking to sell.

The latest figures from the Italian incumbent show that Cuba was home to 1.11 million landlines, including public phones, at the end of September 2009, having added just 200 new connections in nine months. customers numbered 27,100 at the same date, up from 25,800 at the start of the year.

However, growth in the mobile space has been more impressive, although far from explosive, in recent months.

There were close to 546,000 mobile customers in Cuba as of 30 September, up 65% from just 331,700 at the end of 2008; the market is 94% prepaid.

According to Telecom Italia, growth stemmed from reductions in activation charges in December 2008 and again in May 2009.C&W sets Cuba record straight (4 March 2010)

Truth about the travel ban

Posted on Thursday, 03.04.10Truth about the banBY MAURICIO

Every day there seems to be a new effort to lift U.S. sanctions toward Cuba, in particular the “travel ban.'' The latest is a bill by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson, of Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, supposedly aimed at increasing agricultural sales to the Castro regime. But its most dramatic provision would end the “travel ban.''

Tragically, the Peterson-Moran bill was introduced on the same day that 42-year-old Cuban pro-democracy leader and Amnesty International “'' Orlando Tamayo died after an almost three-months'-long hunger strike protesting the brutal beatings, abuses and conditions he endured.

While supporters of loosening the travel ban make bold predictions and philosophical arguments, few stick to the facts. Consider:

• There is no ban on travel to Cuba — only a ban on taking an exotic vacation there. The Department of Treasury's responsibility, under the trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA), is to prohibit or regulate commercial “transactions'' related to travel, not travel per se.

Travel to Cuba is authorized for a variety of reasons, ranging from academic, religious and family visits to visits in support of civil society. Tens of thousands of Americans legally travel to Cuba for these purposes every year.

is the main source of income for the Castro regime. Cuba's tourism industry is operated and owned by the Cuban military, the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR).

A November-December 2009 article in the U.S. 's Military Review magazine titled, Revolutionary management, makes the point that Cuba's “Revolutionary Armed Forces transformed itself to one of the most entrepreneurial, corporate conglomerates in the Americas.''

Cuba is one of the world's last remaining totalitarian, command-control economies, alongside North Korea.

Just as the U.S. Congress recently approved sanctions on Iran's petroleum-refining capability, which is that country's foremost source of income, the United States has long imposed sanctions against tourism transactions in Cuba to prevent an exponential increase in funds for the Castro regime's repressive machinery.

Last November's military exercises by the MINFAR in Cuba were financed by the hard currency of Canadian and European tourists. The real purpose of those exercises wasn't, as the Cuban government stated, to prepare against an “ever-looming'' U.S. invasion, but, rather, to remind Cubans of the government's ability to crush its domestic opponents.

It would be much more forthright to label legislation to lift restrictions on tourism to Cuba as the Cuban Armed Forces Stimulus Act.

• We constantly hear the argument that tourism transactions are permitted with other state-sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran, Sudan and Syria, so why not with Cuba? While undoubtedly rich in culture, Tehran, Khartoum and Damascus are not appealing tourism destinations or easily accessible to Americans.

Cuba, with its sunny beaches and proximity, is an appealing vacation destination for American tourists, but so, too, are many other Caribbean islands with democratic governments. Last year, more U.S. tourists visited Jamaica than the African continent or the Middle East. Should U. S. policy beggar friendly democratic neighbors to court an unfriendly repressive neighbor?

• Current U.S. policy toward Cuba has not failed. In order to label a policy as a failure, there needs to be evidence of the success, or likely success, of alternatives.

The fact is that almost two decades of Canadian and European tourism to Cuba has not eased the Castro regime's repression, improved its respect for basic or helped Cuba's civil society gain any democratic space.

Even supporters of lifting tourism sanctions concede this. At a CATO Institute forum in December, U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, recognized that “there are no guarantees that this will bring democracy to Cuba.''

What lifting restrictions on travel will guarantee is that the Cuban military will double its income. To spend on what? Guns to rein in civil dissent? Technology to further censor Cubans' access to the ? Intelligence assets to support anti-American activities?

The question to be answered by Peterson, Moran, Flake and other supporters of lifting sanctions is: Do they trust the Cuban military with an exponential rise in income?

The answer leads to only one fact, with real consequences:

For Cubans, the consequence of lifting restrictions on U.S. tourism is more repression; for the United States, it's having financed that repression.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and editor of

Truth about the travel ban – Other Views – (4 March 2010)

Havana food production fails to meet expectations

Posted on Wednesday, 03.03.10Havana production fails to meet expectationsThe Associated Press

HAVANA — Production of fruits and vegetables in Cuba's capital and surrounding farmlands is 40 percent lower than expected so far this year, as the island's agricultural sector continues to founder despite a series of reforms.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma said Havana province, which includes the city of the same name, fell short of its targets through the end of February largely because of government ineptitude.

It reported that authorities failed to provide farmers with seeds in a timely manner and said fertilizer and other nutrients to bolster crops were also slow in coming.

The result was less food for sale at heavily subsidized state farmer's markets.

"The frequently semi-empty stalls at the markets are signs of these failures and the difference between what is produced in the countryside and what is sold," the newspaper said.

Shortages of all kinds of basics, from lettuce to potatoes to peanuts, are common in Cuba, though some items have lately been even more difficult to find than usual.

has made improving food production and slashing expensive imports a top priority since taking power from his brother Fidel – first temporarily, then permanently – in 2006.

The government shifted much of the control of government-run farms from Agricultural Ministry officials in Havana to local farming boards in hopes of boosting productivity. It also put far more idle state land into the hands of private farmers.

Still, the government continues to provide seeds, fertilizer, gasoline and other supplies to farms and buys up nearly all of what they produce. Problems at any point in the supply chain can cause lengthy delays and hurt production.

Havana food production fails to meet expectations – Americas AP – (3 March 2010)

Aid groups vexed by US hold on $40M in Cuba funds

Posted on Thursday, 03.04.10Aid groups vexed by US hold on $40M in Cuba fundsBy LAURA WIDES-MUNOZAP Hispanic Affairs Writer

MIAMI — Cuban-Americans and others working to support political opposition in Cuba are demanding to know why the U.S. has yet to disburse $40 million allocated over the past two years for pro-democracy efforts on the communist island.

Congress approved about $20 million in both the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, mostly through the U.S. Agency for International Development, but the agency hasn't asked U.S.-based pro-democracy groups to submit proposals for how they would spend the money.

Nine Republican congressional representatives, including Florida's three Cuban-American representatives, have accused the Obama administration of trying to appease the Cuban government in part by freezing the funds.

The government said it is taking its time to review the program to ensure stronger oversight and efficiency. For years the Cuba aid program has been criticized for failing to get money and other resources directly to those on the island and for not requiring competitive bidding.

Supporters of the program say the Feb. 23 hunger-strike death of one imprisoned and the recent hospitalization of another show that aid is more crucial than ever.

Frank Hernandez, executive director of the Miami-based Democracy Support Group, which has received more than $12.5 million over the past decade to aid dissidents in Cuba, said his small organization only has enough money to continue operating for a few more months.

"It's unfortunate because the situation with the prisoners is worse than ever," Hernandez said. "People will say they don't need food because they're on a hunger strike, but their families need food. Their children need food, and not all of them are on a hunger strike."

Political dissidents in Cuba, and sometimes their relatives, are often denied work authorization.

Last week, Orlando Tamayo, listed by Amnesty International as a Cuban , died following a prolonged hunger strike. Zapata's death prompted an international outcry and renewed scrutiny of in the island. On Wednesday, another hunger-striking , independent journalist Guillermo Farinas, was hospitalized after he lost consciousness.

Ricardo Zuniga, deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Cuban Affairs, said the review is standard.

"It's not unusual to have a careful look, not when you want to make sure the programs adhere with the overall policy direction of the new administration," Zuniga said, adding the administration wants to ensure the assistance reaches people in Cuba. It also plans to end the process of repeatedly extending contracts without competitive bids.

USAID's Cuba programs began under the Clinton administration and received an all-time high of about $30 million in 2008, which some groups are still spending as part of a two-year contract.

Hernandez and others maintain that getting aid into Cuba is extremely difficult given the island's geographic isolation and Cuban government control of employment and nearly all domestic media. They also point to risks involved in using less-experienced organizations to bring aid into Cuba. Cuban officials have been holding a Maryland-based U.S. contractor since December, whom they accuse of being a spy. The man's family says he is development worker who was distributing communications equipment to Cuban Jewish groups.

Dan Erikson, author of "The Cuba Wars: , the United States, and the Next Revolution," said ' detention has complicated U.S. policy toward the island, including the USAID program.

"No one wants to create a situation in which U.S. grantees are in jeopardy in Cuba as they carry out their programs," he said.

Zuniga acknowledged the administration has cautioned aid groups about to the island since the arrest.

"We're just asking them to weigh the risk," he said. "We haven't told them they can't go. We've just said to be very aware of the circumstances."

But the federal programs are no longer the only way to get assistance into Cuba. Last year, Barack Obama lifted restrictions on travel to the island by Cuban-Americans and increased the amount of money they can bring to relatives there.

Still, Hernandez and others say the government funded assistance is essential because much of it is directed toward dissidents and to those seeking to strengthen independent society.

Aid groups vexed by US hold on $40M in Cuba funds – Florida AP – (4 March 2010)

El dolor de una madre

Publicado el jueves, 03.04.10El dolor de una madre“Los cuerpos de los mártires son el altar más hermoso de lahonra''.CF,HVM José MartíBy MIRIAM LEIVA

La televisión cubana transmitió filmaciones de la policía políticatomadas secretamente durante conversaciones de Reyna Tamayo, madre deOrlando , con médicos que atendían a su hijo al final de su vida,cuyos rostros no se mostraron. Ella agradecía la atención de esosmédicos, algo que haría cualquier persona educada y ansiosa de quesalvaran a su hijo. Pusieron declaraciones de varios médicos; unomanifestó que al cabo de 45 días de “ayuno'' el organismo de unapersona está muy dañado. Demuestra que los médicos recibieron a Orlandomuy tarde para salvar su vida. Estuvo 85 días en huelga de hambre. Lollevaron al Hermanos Almejeiras, horas antes de fallecer, desdeel Combinado del Este en La Habana, para hacer la propaganda de que eraatendido en uno de los mejores hospitales. Lo habían destruidofísicamente en las prisiones durante 7 años. Al pretender desprestigiara Reyna, las autoridades evidencian su crueldad e irrespeto a una madre,a una mujer cubana.

La televisión mostró a Reyna en un auto de la Seguridad del Estado, comoprueba de la atención que le dieron a ella. Represión dieron, porque suhijo estaba secuestrado por la policía política en las cárceles y loshospitales. Ella fue reprimida e insultada permanentemente durante susreclamos de justicia y trato como ser humano a su hijo. Sólo leentregaron el cadáver cuando tenía que sepultarlo. Hasta ese momentoReyna y Orlando fueron sus prisioneros y tenían que transportarse comole exigieran. Querían imponer un entierro inmediato, lo que Reyna nopermitió, porque lo menos que podía hacer, era velar a su hijo en suhumildísimo hogar. El sepelio estuvo rodeado por un fuerte operativopoliciaco y muchas personas fueron apresadas para que no asistieran.Reyna continúa asediada por la policía política.

El gobierno no encuentra justificación ante el pueblo de Cuba. Secomenta por todo el país su vileza al pretender denostar a Reyna Tamayo.Las madres cubanas todas sufrimos igual, no puede haber preferenciasideológicas ni manipulación política para administrar los sentimientosdesde el totalitarismo.

Periodista independiente cubana.

MIRIAM LEIVA: El dolor de una madre – Opinión – (4March 2010)

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