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Daily Archives: March 20, 2010

Cuban Arrests Of Women Relatives Shows Hardening On Rights Issue

Cuban Arrests Of Women Relatives Shows Hardening On Rights IssuePublished on March 19, 2010by News NetworkSTRASBOURG, FRANCE

Cuba's detention of 30 women relatives of political prisoners showed no sign of an early resolution as European Parliament Jerzy Buzek issued a sharp condemnation of Havana's actions aimed at crushing dissent.

Washington condemned the move and, earlier this month, European Parliament voted to demand release of all political prisoners after Orlando Tamayo died Feb. 23, succumbing following an 83-day hunger strike.

Cuba's defiant response focused attention on the fact that, apart from the United States and Europe, the issues in the country found no response in Central and South America, analysts said.

The women relatives of the prisoners were seized during protests in Havana. A further crisis was brewing over the possible fate of journalist Guillermo Farinas, who went on hunger strike three weeks ago as a protest against the death of Zapata. Farinas is reported to be very weak because of the fast.

Farinas has said he hopes his fast will lead to the release of 26 dissident prisoners who are in need of medical treatment but the government reacted with a further hardening of its stance.The 26 are part of a group of at least 50 dissident prisoners who are still

in .

The women's protest march was organized by the Women In White movement and led by Zapata's mother.

More than 300 supporters of the Cuban government taunted the women and disrupted the protest. Female officers intervened, only to arrest the Women In White protesters.

Cuba's defiance has much to do with the Latin American silence on the issue of political prisoners in the country, analysts said.

Aside from unquestioning supporters of Cuba, such as Venezuelan President Hugo , the moderate leaders in Latin American ranks also have chosen to remain silent. Latin American leaders have shied away from criticism of Cuba lest they be branded as supporters of Washington, analysts said.

The Cuban government reinforces the argument, by frequently calling the dissidents paid stooges of Washington and common criminals.

Human rights activists' attempts to get Latin American leaders involved also have gone unheeded. In the latest episode, officials close to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the president had received a letter from the imprisoned dissidents but hadn't read it.

The five-page letter, signed 50 Cuban dissidents, urged Lula to intercede with Cuban leader to review their sentences, Brazilian media reported.

Lula has said in published comments he disagrees with any recourse to hunger strike to seek improved conditions for human rights in Cuba.



When I first returned to the United States in 1982, after living for a year and a half in Cuba, I was eager to share with my colleagues the extent to which racism and class divisions were still a glaring reality in ´Revolutionary Cuba´. However, no one wanted to listen then.I had visited Cuba for the first time in 1976, when I travelled there with a group of Jamaicans interested in the legal and penal system. As it turned out, we never got even a glimpse of the system, but it was a great opportunity to get a first hand view of other aspects of Cuban society. One of the first things that made an impression on me was the way in which white and mulato Cubans stared at a couple in our group, composed of a very beautiful part Chinese, part Indian and part African girl and a very handsome, very black gentleman.As I stayed longer in Cuba, I was very disappointed to find that attitudes towards race and ethnicity were similar to those in the English speaking Caribbean in the 1950`s. I soon realized that the reason that the "interracial couple" from the Jamaican legal group had been stared at so much was that their relationship violated the norms of´ blanqueamiento´- literally whitening. It was expected that a girl with the characteristics which I described above, would yearn to ´whiten´ herself, or more precisely her progeny, by finding a lighter hued as opposed to a more Negroid sexual partner.White Cubans on the island prided themselves on having eradicated racism. However, racism to them meant legalized segregation, lynching and other manifestations of the ideology of white supremacy in pre- Civil Rights United States. The fact that there was no longer legalized discrimination in public places was touted to mean that there was no longer racism. I soon realized that Cuba was not really a socialist state anyway; that is, one based on true Marxist Leninist principles. But even if we are to accept that the government was really based on these principles, no serious attempt had been made to root out the true ideological bases of racial injustice.As an anthropologist, I base my conclusions on techniques of participant observation, which simply means immersing oneself to the greatest degree possible into the society and learning about attitudes, behaviors and practices from the inside. As a woman of mixed racial descent, who is fluent in Spanish, I was in a unique position to capture the ideas and beliefs, i.e. the ideology, of Cubans of all different racial classifications. According to popular perceptions, Cubans are usually divided into the following phenotypical groups:• prieto, which means very black;• negro, which means black;• mulato, which means more or less half black , half white;• moreno, which is a little lighter than mulato, with whiter features;• jabao, which means with light skin but negroid features;• indio, which means that one appears to be like an Amerindian, but is actually a light skinned mulato or darker white;• trigueno, which is almost the same as moreno or indio, but literally means wheat colored;• blanco, which means white in appearance• rubio, which is blond.It is important to emphasize that these categories are not carved in stone. They often overlap, and different individuals will consider the same person to belong to a different category. Also, as the aim of the racial hierarchy in Cuba, and in most of the Hispanic Caribbean and Latin America, is for everyone to gradually whiten themselves or ´mejorar la raza´- literally improve the race – persons will be ascribed a ´higher´ position in the racial hierarchy if the observer likes them or wants to ingratiate him or herself to the observed individual.During my first trip to Cuba, I also observed that those of similar phenotype tended to date each other, almost without exception. That is, a mulato claro would be seen with a mulata clara, a rubio with a rubia, a prieto with a prieta, etc. I found this strange, expecting that, in a society moving towards color blindness, one would not find people sticking to their own precise category in their choice of a partner. When someone of a darker complexion did go out with someone lighter, they were generally considered to have really 'improved' themselves (adelantar la raza- to improve the race).I was also disappointed to see that there were absolutely no contemporary books on blacks in Cuba, or under the topic of Afro Cuba in the bookstores. The exception was books by Fernando Ortiz, a pre-Revolutionary ethnologist and folklorist. Whites claimed that there were virtually no blacks in higher government positions because blacks had not really participated in the Revolution. I determined that I would find an opportunity to return to Cuba and to really assess the situation methodically.As luck would have it, my home in Kingston, Jamaica, was right next to the Cuban embassy, so I went there often. When I told them excitedly that I wanted to study blacks in Cuba, I was told that I should go to Oriente, the Eastern part of the country, as that was where all of the blacks were. I would come to learn that this was an of the white Cuban tendency to claim that all blacks were descendants of Jamaican and other West Indian immigrants to Oriente. When I would protest that the Spanish had lots of slaves and that all of the blacks could not possibly be descendants of the West Indian immigrants, known derogatorily as pichones (literally blackbirds), I was told that all of the ones who had come as slaves had intermarried, as the Spanish were so much less racist than the British. White Cubans expressed sympathy for the Jamaicans who were under the British, who did not mix with them, supposedly, and so the black population there was not able to dilute itself and move up the racial hierarchy. I returned to Cuba on several occasions between 1976 and 1981, when I returned to pursue a Master´s degree in Public .It did not take me long to realize that ´culture´ in Cuba was European culture. This perception was not only a result of a history of European colonialization and slavery, but was also a reflection of the tenets of Marxism Leninism, as promoted under the Cuban so- called socialist system. The text by Constantinov, used in all educational institutions on the island, and called Fundamentos de Marxismo Leninismo (Fundamentals of Marxism Leninism), supported a Darwinist view of social evolution, under which societies progressed from primitive communism, through feudalism and capitalism, and on to socialism and communism. The problem with this approach, as far as perpetuating erroneous views of human history, is that it places all of African traditional societies at the lower rungs of evolution and the European societies near the top.Part of the reason for the Eurocentric concept of culture which is so pervasive in Cuba is that the Cuban Revolution occurred in 1959, and has remained relatively isolated from world intellectual currents since then. Only information that the government wants to enter the island does so. So all of the changes in mentality and practice that occurred in the United States, Brazil and throughout the region, during the 1960s until the present, have only recently filtered into the island and into the cultural framework of inhabitants. Despite the indisputable limitations of the Black Power movement in the United States, and the more recent growth of a similar phenomenon in Brazil and in other parts of Latin America, the transformation of Eurocentric views of history, culture and aesthetics has been invaluable in successfully attacking manifestations of cultural imperialism. Black began to be seen as something beautiful and not something that needed to be diluted in order to be acceptable. Numerous studies revealed the richness of African culture and the important contributions of African history to world culture and social development. Yet in Cuba, when manifestations of this new consciousness timidly emerged, they were brutally repressed, despite current government claims that concepts of negritude -a movement with roots in the Francophone world, which promoted black civilization and culture – were encouraged. As I continued to live and study in Cuba, I desperately struggled to cling to the belief that those party members who were blatantly racist were exceptions to the rule. I wanted to believe that the suffocating white superiority that transcended all parts of the society was only a vestige of the past. But then I began to see how this institutional racism was being reproduced in revolutionary Cuba. I became familiar with the Ley de la Peligrosidad (Dangerousness Law), which was used to dissuade Cubans from interacting with foreigners, but which disproportionately affected darker skinned Cubans. This law allowed Cuban to harass, arrest and even imprison anyone whom they deemed to be a potential or actual delinquent, without any specific charges being placed. Under this law, young blacks, both male and female, are still routinely questioned if they are seen around foreigners, and a general perception is created that all who are involved in the black market and other ´criminal´ activities are black. Black women seen with foreigners are automatically assumed to be ´jineteras´, or prostitutes, whereas white women who associate with foreigners are usually left alone.Although I was treated much better than darker skinned Cubans, I was still not considered white, so I did feel discrimination. When I would attempt to enter places reserved for tourists, I would always be questioned and had to make sure that I always had my foreign passport handy. At I was considered a 'mulata para salir,' loosely translated as a mulata good enough to go out with publicly which, of course, implies that there are some mulatas good enough to be intimate with but not to go out with publicly. I had short hair at the time that I would sometimes wear curly and sometimes straight. Fellow students, both white and mulato, would encourage me to always wear my hair straight, as I had ´pelo bueno´ (good hair) and so I should not reduce my status by wearing styles more associated with black phenotypes.Although there are some blacks and mulatos in administrative and director positions, most ´bosses´ are white. A friend of mine in Santiago de Cuba did an informal survey to determine in how many situations blacks were in charge of white and other workers. In 1995, just by observing activities around his majority black city in Oriente province, he could find none. Those in the Cuban government who respond to complaints – from African Americans and others – that blacks are in a subservient position on the island, point to the fact that there are several institutes dedicated to the study of Afro-Cuban folklore. They fail to mention that, as of 1997, whites headed virtually all such places.White Cubans, and those who defend their interests, also argue that most of the police who harass black Cubans are themselves black. I have not seen proof of this, but even if it is true, it is still no different from the fact that the police used to repress blacks in racist South Africa were overwhelmingly black. We all know how oppressed people are often used by their bosses to oppress their own. In the Cuban case, this is why the police are often recruited from amongst ´palestinos´ (a derogatory term for those who have immigrated to Havana from Oriente), so that they feel less affinity to the black Habaneros and thus have fewer qualms about harassing them. The term palestinos (Palestinians) is used to designate the residents of Oriente, who are seen as fleeing adverse economic and social conditions there to take refuge in the more developed capital.In the last decade, more and more tourists have gone to Cuba, not only to enjoy tropical beaches and cabarets, but to explore Afro-Cuban culture. This is laudable, as the cabarets were other places in which racism was blatant. It is amazing how Americans, both black and white, who are so critical of phenomena like blackface when it is found in the United States, do not criticize it when they see it at Tropicana (the most prestigious Havana cabaret). When I expressed my dismay in 1981, I was told that it was not racist, just an example of Cuban culture. This is just what white Southerners in the U.S. said when they were criticized in the 1950´s and 1960´s for segregationist practices.As the tourists are now quite interested in the black population and its cultural expressions, blacks have become quite in fashion. Police no longer harass people sporting dreadlocks as much, and foreigners are not steered away from aspects of black Cuban culture like rumba and Santeria, to the extent that they were when I lived there. Darker skinned women are not harassed for consorting with foreigners to the same extent but, as with so much else in Cuba, the policy changes from day to day. One day, state security can be seen finding girls and boys for tourists´ sexual pleasure, some of them very young; a few weeks later there will be a crackdown on jineterismo and offenders will be systematically rounded up.When I was living there and the dollar was prohibited for all Cubans, some santeros –traditional practitioners of African religion – charged foreigners only in dollars. The practice led me to question whether or not the African deities were only concerned with the welfare of those who had divisas (foreign exchange). One of the great contradictions of the Cuban system is that all Cubans are by no means equal. Those who are in superior positions in the party and government have more privileges.At the time when I was living and travelling to Cuba (during the 70s, 80s and 90s), only those Cubans who were high up in the party could enter the diplotiendas – diplomatic stores- and abroad. Now, there is a complicated system through which Cubans can travel if they are sponsored. This involves considerable expense and paying fees, but at least it gives ordinary Cubans a chance to see the outside world. As more and more Cubans take advantage of this, so do more and more black and brown Cubans. I have not yet had a chance to study the extent to which these new possibilities have altered the system by which mostly white Cubans sent remittances to their families back home, thus increasing their purchasing power and standard of living. I suspect, however, that the fact that more non-whites are travelling and sending money and coming back with increased financial resources may have somewhat increased their social status. I have been motivated to write this article by the words of a black Cuban supporter of the Revolution, Esteban Morales . The latter, in a statement refuting what an influential group of sixty African Americans were saying about the government´s failure to protect the civil rights of blacks on the island, claimed that many blacks lived in inferior situations because they did not know how to transform their situation. ´No saben como aprovecharse de las oportunidades que la Revolucion les ha dado´ (They don't know how to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Revolution). My position is that the blacks are perfectly able to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to them. I know too many very well educated blacks, particularly those who studied languages and other careers connected to the sector, who have been unemployed for years. It is a well known fact that the best jobs, in fact almost all of the jobs in the tourist sector, are reserved for whites. When I was visiting the island frequently in the 90´s, the argument was that white Cubans had to limit the amount of non-whites in the tourist sector because the Spaniards and other Europeans did not like to see them. I would argue quite the contrary, that it is white Cubans who do not want to see them.

While apologists for the Revolution claim that most black Cubans support the Revolution, during my years of contact with the society, I have not found that they do to a lesser or greater extent than other Cubans. As in all systems, those who stand to gain from the system, support it. Those who continue to live in dilapidated homes, who suffer from discrimination in jobs and , who form the majority in the prisons, who are noticeably absent from local television and are the brunt of most jokes, obviously expected more from the Revolution. Of course, when they begin to protest they are told that things are much worse in the United States and, if they complain, they are playing into the hands of U.S. imperialism. Apologists for those in power point to Juan Almeida, the only black who has maintained an elevated position in government, as proof that blacks in Cuba have power. However, these same individuals say that Colin Powell, former Secretary of State in the United States, and Barack Obama, both African American, are just "puppets." Why is it that the proponents of the Revolution see the latter as mere figureheads, while Almeida is seen as being so powerful? Although Almeida is usually trotted out to receive foreign dignitaries from black countries, I would suggest that he has very little real power. In this regard, Cuba is essentially not much different than Brazil – not all the poor are black, but virtually all of the rich are white.In Cuba, as I have implied above, racism and discrimination are linked to lynching and dogs being set on peaceful demonstrators. The fact that blacks are the brunt of most jokes is not considered racism. The fact that most white Cuban men cringe at the thought that a white woman might have sexual relations with a non-white man is not considered racism. The fact that the participation of blacks in world history, and more particularly in Cuban history, is left out of text books is not considered racism. The fact that African phenotype (like kinky hair, broad nose and big lips) is largely regarded with contempt, is not considered racism. The fact that the most deteriorated residential areas are where the majority of blacks live, is not considered racism. The fact that Fidel always refers to his Spanish father and never to his light skinned mulata mother, is not considered racism.Those who take exception to the petition by the African Americans to which I referred above, claim that the Revolutionary government cannot be accused of racism as it helped defeat apartheid and colonialism in Southern Africa, sent doctors and other professionals to work in underdeveloped nations and has allowed students from many black countries to study free of charge on the Isle of Youth.It is not clear whether or not the present Cuban government provided assistance to liberation movements and governments in Africa for purely altruistic reasons, or because of geo-political considerations. Helping to train cadres in these countries has done much to secure support for the Cuban revolution in international fora like the United Nations. Just because doctors and other professionals go to work in black countries does not mean that they do not have racist ideas. Many of those who went abroad, either as military personnel or as professionals, and with whom I spoke in Cuba, expressed great resentment that they had to go there. Albeit, many of the professionals did not object, as they received consumer goods, like cars and electrical appliances, and often improved housing, when they returned.Some assert that Armando Hart Dávalos, who was Minister of Culture for far too long, is not racist and Eurocentric because he allowed black musicians to travel and even live abroad and to return when they liked, in contrast with earlier policies that made it impossible for those to leave to come back. First of all, the main reason that he allowed musicians, not only black ones, to go in and out is that the government has been very embarrassed by the number of 'cultural workers' who have defected while away on foreign trips. Secondly, his cultural policies have always been very Eurocentric. There is no comparison between the way that the Conjunto Folkorico, which is largely but not exclusively Afro Cuban in orientation, has historically been treated, and the way that the Ballet Nacional has been nurtured. The Director of the National Ballet, Alicia Alonso, was criticized some years ago for not having any dark- skinned dancers in her group. She apparently reluctantly relented.In conclusion, Cuba is not the only racist country in Latin America. The kinds of manifestations of white superiority that are discussed here are by no means exclusive to Cuba. We could be talking about Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic or Colombia. But Cuba is the only country in this hemisphere which has had a successful revolution that has claimed to be dedicated to eradicating social and economic injustices and inequality.I will never forget when I presented a paper on Racism as a Public Health problem in the Americas, at a conference on Social Sciences and Medicine in Caracas in 1995 and I was interrupted after only 5 mins. of the 20 mins. allotted and reprimanded. I was told by the outraged chair of the conference that racism was only a reality in the United States. It was unknown in Latin America. As I talked about subjects like the ways in which white elites abandoned their mixed race offspring, who often grew up resentful and disenfranchised, the cheeks of the almost exclusively white male participants grew crimson. The exact same kind of reaction is occurring now, at the end of 2009, when a brave group of African American intellectuals dare to protest manifestations of racism, epitomized by the unjust arrest and detention of a mulato activist on the island. In a response by black Cuban intellectuals, identified with the government, we are told that these Americans have no right to comment on race relations on the island because the United States is the most racist country in the world, and Obama only became president by denying his ´blackness´. The fact that African Americans live in a racist society is no reason why they cannot criticize racism in other countries, just as members of this group of intellectuals have always done at home. As I emphasized throughout this article, we expect more from a Revolutionary process than from societies that are unabashedly capitalist. The fact that unconditional defenders of the Revolution fall back on the old tired accusation that those who criticize anything about Cuba, even in a spirit of constructive criticism, are agents of imperialism, is lamentable.

Cuban farmers press for reform

Cuban farmers press for reformWeb posted at: 3/20/2010 3:4:12Source ::: Reuters

HAVANA: Cuban farmers are pressing for greater autonomy to produce and sell their crops, blaming government inefficiency for Cuba's falling output despite agricultural reforms introduced by Raul Castro.

In meetings around the country, they have complained that the communist government is not providing the inputs they need and has failed in its basic role of getting their produce to market, according to meeting participants and media reports.

Their pleas, which are being aired at meetings of the National Association of Small Farmers, are significant because they seek to move away from government control of agriculture, which has been one of the pillars of Cuban communism.

At issue are regulations guaranteeing the state's near monopoly of the distribution system through its long-standing practice of contracting for 75 percent of what farmers produce in exchange for supplying fuel, pesticides, fertilizer and other supplies otherwise not available.

The farmers say the state often fails to deliver inputs when they need them and undercuts production by not picking up and distributing crops in a timely fashion, which leaves their produce rotting in fields and warehouses.

The latter has become such a problem that Cuba's state-run press recently reported that farmers basically want the state to get out of the way.

"Participants raised the need to do away with the system of distribution - and allow co-operatives to bring their products directly to market," the National Information Agency wrote about a meeting of Havana province farmers attended by Cuba's First Vice President Jose Machado Ventura.

Castro has made food security his signature issue since taking over from his older brother two years ago.

Cuba is in the throes of a financial crisis in part because its inefficient agricultural production forces it to spend heavily to import two-thirds of its food.

Castro has raised prices the state pays for produce, leased state lands to farmers, decentralized decision making and allowed some farmers to sell a small part of their produce directly to consumers at fixed prices.

The reforms last year spurred production of bumper crops of tomatoes, garlic and other items, but the state could not deal with the abundance and failed to get all the produce to market, resulting in the loss of tons of fruits and vegetables.

Letter to Lula da Silva: "Cuba no longer a symbol, no longer a taboo"

Saturday, March 20th 2010 – 04:05 UTC

Letter to Lula da Silva: "Cuba no longer a symbol, no longer a taboo"

Brazil and the community of Latin American countries are the only ones with the ability to influence the Cuban government's position on human rights and media freedom, says a letter addressed to Brazilian president Lula da Silva by Reporters Without Borders.

Pte. Lula da Silva with former Pte. Pte. Lula da Silva with former Pte. Fidel Castro

Cuban Orlando Zapata Tamayo death after 80 days of hunger strike "must have personally affected you as a former government opponent who was a victim of Brazil's military dictatorship" points out the letter.

"Latin America, which has embarked on the road of unity and regional integration, used to suffer from dictatorships and repression. The Latin American democracies cannot continue to watch this situation drag on in Cuba without reacting. On this sad seventh anniversary of the "Black Spring," Cuba is no longer a symbol. Cuba is no longer a taboo", writes Jean Francois Julliard, the organization's Secretary General.

Mr. Luiz Inácio Lula da SilvaPresident of the Federative Republic of BrazilPlanalto Palace, Brasília, D.F.

Dear Mr. President,

Appeals were addressed to you by Cuban dissidents following imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo's tragic death on 23 February. You were in Havana when Zapata died after more than 80 days on hunger strike. Some people accused you of taking too long to express your regrets at Zapata's demise. Your comments nonetheless gave rise to hopes that you could act as a mediator with the Cuban authorities on the question of prisoners of conscience, as shown by the letter from a new Orlando Zapata Committee that the Brazilian embassy in Havana received on 9 March.

Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends press freedom worldwide, supports this initiative and urges you to act on it, despite your reluctance. Brazil and the community of Latin American countries are the only ones with the ability to influence the Cuban government's position on human rights and media freedom. Zapata's death personally affected you as a former government opponent who was a victim of Brazil's military dictatorship.

At the same time, you said you wanted to respect a key principle of Brazilian diplomacy, which is to abstain from any direct interference in another country's internal affairs. But in what way could reminding the Cuban authorities of fundamental and universal principles – such as the right to express one's views freely, the right to and the right not to be because of what one says or writes – be regarded as targeted and discriminatory interference?

In the course of a dialogue with , the current holder of the 's rotating presidency, the Cuban authorities subscribed to these principles by signing two United Nations conventions on civil and political rights. But it now refuses to ratify them. Why?

Like us, you rightly condemned the extremely grave human rights violations in Honduras after the June 2009 coup d'état. Brazil even allowed its embassy to be a refuge for the democratically-elected president who was overthrown by force. The Honduran de facto authorities accused you of interference but all you did was take a stand against injustice.

Must it be otherwise for Cuba, where 200 people are in solely because they think differently from their leaders? They include 25 journalists, bloggers and intellectuals who are serving long sentences just because they wanted to report the news without being controlled by the government. One of them is our own correspondent, Ricardo González Alfonso, who was given a 20-year jail sentence during the March 2003 "Black Spring." How could your government, which defends freedom of and access to information for its own citizens, ignore this appeal?

We are aware that Cuba has long been a symbol in Latin America. The 1959 revolution overthrew a dictatorship. For the past 50 years, Cuba has been subjected to an absurd that is unfair for the population but useful to the government. During a recent visit to Haiti, which owes a lot to the Brazilian presence, we were able to see the real effectiveness of the Cuban medical brigades – a source of national pride - in the assistance they were giving to the victims of the earthquake.

But none of this absolves the Cuban government of the fate it inflicts on its opponents. It does not excuse the brutal treatment and humiliation of journalists, activists, trade unionists and their families. It does not justify the fact that Cubans are unable to access the Internet freely or abroad without permission. But anyone pointing out this other Cuban reality is unfortunately exposed to hate propaganda from those who think they are protecting Cuba's honour but are in fact just defending a regime that that has run out of arguments.

The future of Cuba and its institutions is a matter for Cubans, but Cuba's human rights violations concern the international community and the conscience of the world, as they do in any country where these rights are flouted. To be respected, the Cuban government must be respectable. That is the meaning of the resolution that was adopted by the European Parliament on 11 March, in an almost unanimous vote involving all of it political currents.

The need to act is urgent. The journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández has begun a hunger strike in Zapata's memory to press for the release of prisoners of conscience. We urge him to stop but he says he is ready to die. Other dissidents will do the same in the absence of any effort by the Cuban authorities and if the silence from Cuba's brother countries in Latin America continues.

How does the Cuban government respond to the distress of these people? By persisting in its efforts to smear their reputation. Latin America, which has embarked on the road of unity and regional integration, used to suffer from dictatorships and repression. The Latin American democracies cannot continue to watch this situation drag on in Cuba without reacting. On this sad seventh anniversary of the "Black Spring," Cuba is no longer a symbol. Cuba is no longer a taboo.

I thank you in advance for your reply, which I undertake to publish, with your agreement.

Respectfully,Jean-François JulliardReporters Without Borders secretary-general

China to increase cooperation projects with Cuba

to increase cooperation projects with CubaPublished on Saturday, March 20, 2010

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) — Liu Yuqin, Chinese ambassador to Cuba, said in Havana that his country will increase the number of projects in the Caribbean nation as part of the bilateral cooperation.

Yuqin and Orlando Hernández, deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and (MINCEX), signed the certificate attesting to completion in the archipelago of five major projects, reported Prensa Latina news agency.

These were implemented through non-interest government loans and grant funds awarded for this island by China.

These works are the construction of small hydropower plants in the provinces of Granma and Holguin, supplies for the sector, and the second phase of technical assistance for aquaculture development.

Also the third and final phase of the cooperation project for the teaching of Chinese in Cuba, with the presence of teachers from the Asian country.

In this regard it was announced that Confucius Institute temporary headquarters were opened, through which they will continue the promotion of culture and training in that language on the island.

We'll have more projects to do from now on, said the Chinese diplomatic to the press after signing the documents.

She reiterated her willingness to work to further deepen the existing cooperation between the two peoples and countries.

She also thanked the efforts of workers and technicians which made possible the fulfilment of these goals, which are highly significant gestures of the friendship relations, she said.

The MINCEX first deputy stressed that the works were developed in strategic sectors for Cuba, like education, renewable energy and agriculture, many of them in priority areas and sites.

They are an example of solidarity, cooperation and brotherhood from China to Cuba, he underscored.

Las Damas de Blanco vuelven a las calles

Posted on Saturday, 03.20.10Las vuelven a las callesBy ALFOSO [email protected]

Por quinto día consecutivo, con el doble de participantes de la jornada anterior, las Damas de Blanco marcharon por La Habana exigiendo la de esposos e hijos detenidos durante una redada masiva contra opositores conocida como la Primavera Negra del 2003.

"Cada día que salimos y hacemos la marcha por nuestros familiares detenidos es una victoria'', manifestó Laura Pollán, líder del movimiento de las Damas de Blanco, convertido en un poderoso símbolo de oposición que ha generado admiración internacional.

"En cinco días de estar saliendo y estar siendo hostigadas y atacadas, hemos podido lograr nuestro objetivo, que nuestros presos sepan que los estamos apoyando'', dijo Pollán desde su casa en La Habana. "Por esto, nos sentimos satisfechas''.

Pollán habló con El Nuevo Herald por teléfono luego de terminar la marcha realizada desde la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, en Centro Habana, hasta su casa en La Habana Vieja.

Por segundo día, las Damas de Blanco lograron realizar su marcha sin sufrir la oficial. Pero fueron seguidas y acosadas por un grupo de unas 100 personas vestidas

de civil que Pollán describió como miembros del Ministerio del Interior. A diferencia del jueves, en que sumaron 30, el viernes participaron en la demostración 60 mujeres.

Pollán dijo que los hostigadores no eran espontáneos, sino que seguían instrucciones de uno o más dirigentes que a veces coreaban: "Uno, dos tres, ¡ahora!'', como señal para comenzar a lanzar insultos o iniciar una ronda de gritos contra las manifestantes.

"Era algo organizado, montado'', explicó Pollán.

Las marchas de las Damas de Blanco conmemoran el séptimo aniversario de la Primavera Negra, un operativo de la Seguridad del Estado dirigido principalmente contra periodistas independientes y activistas de . En aquel momento, fueron encarcelados 75 opositores, de los cuales 53 permanecen en prisión.

Las turbas opositoras han salido al paso de las Damas de Blanco todos los días. La marcha del miércoles fue interrumpida violentamente cuando las mujeres fueron subidas a la fuerza y con violencia en autobuses por policías y agentes de la Seguridad del Estado vestidos de civil y de uniforme. El comportamiento de las autoridades provocó una ola de críticas y condenas internacionales.

El viernes, dijo Pollán, la que las siguió irrumpió en la iglesia. Pero adentro de la iglesia sus integrantes dejaron de gritar y se quedaron de pie frente a los bancos donde ellas estaban sentadas.

El párroco, dijo Pollán, invitó a todos a sentarse, pero el grupo pro gubernamental ignoró la invitación y se quedó de pie mirándolas "con ojos desafiantes''

"Fue algo muy desagradable. Me sentí muy mal dentro de la iglesia, viendo ese desafío'', dijo Pollán. "Me pregunto: ¿para qué traen esas turbas a hacer estos actos de repudio?"

Pollán dijo que aunque el grupo que las hostigó el viernes era similar al de los de días anteriores, parecía más pequeño.

"Hubo menos gentes, me pareció'', dijo.

Según una información colgada en el Penúltimos días, de España, un grupo de blogueros y otros simpatizantes se sumaron a la marcha.

El gobierno cubano ha dicho que las protestas contra las Damas de Blanco son expresiones espontáneas de sus partidarios.

Pero Pollán dijo que la turba del viernes llegó y partió en autobuses y que respondía a lo que parecían directrices.

Añadió que el sábado tendrán otro evento que comenzará en su casa. no quiso adelantar detalles.

5.6 magnitude quake strikes Cuba

5.6 magnitude quake strikes CubaReuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Guantanamo, Cuba, on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The quake was centered 27 miles southwest of Guantanamo and had a depth of 14 miles, the USGS said.

The United States has a naval base at Guantanamo Bay that includes a 188 detainees. There was no immediate word on damages.

Damas de Blanco: A Week of Protest in Cuba

":" A Week of Protest in CubaSaturday, March 20th, 2010 @ 17:03 UTCby Susannah Vila

To the extent that the Castro brothers are, as for Cuba writes, "afraid of women wearing white," it's due to more than just the uniform color of their outfits or their weekly marches through Old Havana.

The Damas de Blanco (Ladies wearing White) protests come on the heels of a flutter of international condemnation incited by the hunger striker Orlando Tamayo's death last month. An official resolution was passed in the European Parliament, and a petition calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners that was posted to a blog less than a week ago has already been signed by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Meanwhile, yet another hunger striker is hospitalized in Havana after refusing asylum.

Wednesday's crackdown by Cuban was the first in two years on the political group, which is made up of the daughters, wives and mothers of imprisoned political dissidents. They're commemorating the seventh anniversary of 2003's "Black Spring," in which 75 dissidents were , by marching every day in the Cuban capital. In the most violent of the reactions to these protests, the women were reportedly attacked by a mob of pro-government Cubans and forced onto a by authorities.

We are protesting peacefully and we are not going to get on the bus of a government that has kept our family members in for seven years…

said the group leader, Laura Pollán, just before she was forced off the street and onto the bus. Repeating Islands quotes an AFP report, saying:

As police were taking the women away, Margarita Rodríguez, a housewife in a crowd of some 300 pro-government demonstrators, shouted: 'Board them by force, it's what they deserve. This is a provocation.'

This was the least of the slurs directed at the Ladies in White by the Castro supporters who flanked the marchers and pushed them towards the bus. In reaction to the violent antagonism among Cubans of different political viewpoints, Yoani Sanchez writes:

I shudder to imagine a Cuba where physical – and legal – attacks against people, for their political affiliation or ideological leanings, continue. What a sad country we will have if the authorities continue to consider it normal to 'teach a good lesson' to anyone who contradicts the official viewpoint. To me, a society that passively stands by as peaceful women with gladioli in their hands are bullied, as happened yesterday, is quite sick.

At Havana Times, Yusimi Rodriguez recounts turning a corner in Old Havana and realizing that this was not your everyday "Damas" march:

Coming down the street was a group of approximately twenty women dressed in civilian clothing and chanting slogans. Around them flocked several reporters filming and taking pictures. I suppose these were mainly or entirely foreign reporters.

At first I didn't know what was happening until somebody told me it was about the Ladies in White. But none of the women I saw were wearing white, nor could I understand the first slogans they chanted. But suddenly, at the closest spot I could reach, they began to shout, 'Whoever doesn't jump is a Yankee'…The women in the demonstration itself did indeed jump. One even ran forward jumping with her two feet at the same time. Finally that group went by and I was able to see —for the first time since I'd heard of them— the Ladies in White: a group of between fifteen and twenty women dressed in white. They all proceeded in silence and carried gladiola flowers. Around them were several uniformed police.

Rodriguez also notes the marked organization of the anti-government protesters:

I find it striking that these community women, who are not police or agents, have been able to become organized so well and interrupt the Ladies in White so quickly. Could it be that they all come from the same neighborhood? How did they find out about the march? Was it publicized? I was also surprised they were only women. Undoubtedly it would have looked very bad if men had faced up to the Ladies, especially if it was true that there was some pushing and shoving in the heat of moment, as someone said. Between women it's something else, there are more equal conditions. Both sides were made up only of women: those from the community and the Ladies in White (who, by the way, are also Cuban women and therefore part of the broader Cuban community).

"One thing is clear these manifestations against the ladies in white at clearly organized by the regime," writes Julio de la Yncera in a comment at Havana Times.

On Wednesday night, Cuban television aired a round table discussion about implicating international meddlers in the domestic unrest. In this case, the government may be more on target than it would like: as bloggers and other online activists are showing, anger over abuses within (and without) the island is swelling, and more people are watching to see what will happen next.

La OEA preocupada por la situación de Fariñas

Publicado el sábado, 03.20.10La OEA preocupada por la situación de FariñasPor EFEWASHINGTON

La Comisión Interamericana de (CIDH) dijo que está preocupada por la situación del periodista Guillermo Fariñas que inició el 24 de febrero una huelga de hambre en protesta por la muerte en prisión del Orlando Tamayo.

Un comunicado del organismo autónomo de la OEA informó hoy que hace una semana pidió información sobre Fariñas en una carta enviada al Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba.

"Vencido el plazo de cinco días establecido por la CIDH, no se ha recibido respuesta'', agregó.

Fariñas inició la huelga para exigir la liberación de 26 presos políticos que padecen problemas de .

El comunicado añadió que ha solicitado en reiteradas ocasiones al Estado de Cuba la liberación inmediata e incondicional de las víctimas del Caso Número 12,476, que afecta a disidentes políticos privados de desde el 2003.

La CIDH recomendó a Cuba anular las condenas contra estas personas por haberse basado en leyes que imponen "restricciones ilegítimas a sus derechos humanos''.

También exhortó al Gobierno de Cuba a ordenar la liberación "inmediata e incondicional'' de todas las víctimas del Caso 12.476 y a adecuar sus normas procesales a los estándares internacionales del debido proceso, indicó el comunicado.

Asimismo, reiteró que las restricciones a los derechos políticos, a la libertad de expresión, la falta de elecciones y la falta de independencia del poder judicial, configuran en Cuba "una situación permanente de trasgresión de los derechos fundamentales de sus habitantes''.

"La CIDH insta al Estado a realizar las reformas necesarias conforme a sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos'', indicó el comunicado.

Cuba suspende exención arancelaria a sus miles de colaboradores

Publicado el 03-20-2010Cuba suspende exención arancelaria a sus miles de colaboradoresLA HABANA (AFP)

Cuba suspendió la exención arancelaria a las decenas de miles colaboradores y funcionarios que mantiene en varios países, excepto por "menajes de casa", al terminar una misión de más de dos años, informó este jueves el ministerio de Finanzas.

"Por las importaciones como pasajeros o mediante envío por carga que realicen los colaboradores que cumplen misión internacionalista u oficial en cualquier parte del mundo, pagarán el arancel correspondiente según lo establecido en la legislación vigente", dijo una resolución publicada en la Gaceta Oficial.

En cambio, se mantendrá la exención del pago "por la importación de los menajes de casa al finalizar la misión encomendada por un período superior a dos años", que incluyen lencería y una cocina, por ejemplo, pero no televisores ni equipos de audio.

Cuba mantiene 41.000 colaboradores en y otros países, 38.000 de ellos en el sector de la , los que se beneficiaban con el envío de ropa, zapatos, electrodomésticos y otros artículos que no se pueden adquirir en Cuba o son mucho mas caros.

Por ser cubanos residentes en la isla, esos colaboradores o funcionarios pagarán esos impuestos en pesos cubanos, cuya cotización es de 25 por dólar.

Reportan interferidas líneas telefónicas en Cuba

19 Mar 2010Reportan interferidas líneas telefónicas en Cuba. Con Ciro Gómez Leyva

Existen problemas para establecer comunicación a los teléfonos celulares en Cuba, hasta el momento sólo se sabe que diversas líneas están interferidas por lo que las llamadas no logran entrar, informó Lourdes Murguía.

En el espacio de Ciro Gómez Leyva, Murguía, indicó que se ha tratado de establecer comunicación con el periodista cubano, Carlos Serpa, pero hasta el momento no se ha logrado ya que todo el tiempo indica que el número está ocupado.

De igual forma se intentó llamar a dos de las integrantes del movimiento "", pero tampoco se pudo.

Un intento más fue hacia la sede de las Damas de Blanco en donde se informó que ellos tampoco podían hacer comunicación con otras personas que se encuentran en esta marcha.

Sin , la vocera de Guillermo Fariñas, Lizette Zamora, indicó a la producción de "Fórmula de la Tarde", que varios teléfonos celulares estaban interferidos, provocando que no pudieran entrar las llamadas.

También enfatizó en que cuando ellos desean hacer llamadas de Cuba a cualquier otro punto, entra una operadora para indicarles que no se pueden hacer llamadas de ese teléfono .

Sismo de magnitud 5,6 se sintió en Cuba

Sismo de magnitud 5,6 se sintió en Cuba

02:20 PM Washington.- Un sismo de magnitud 5,6 se sintió el sábado cerca de Guantánamo, Cuba, dijo el Servicio Geológico de (USGS).

El epicentro del temblor se ubicó a unos 43 kilómetros al sudoeste de Guantánamo y tuvo una profundidad de 22 kilómetros, precisó el USGS, informó Reuters.

Aseguran las autoridades que no hubo daños materiales ni víctimas qe lamentar.,_20A3618651.shtml

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