Bell Tolls For CubaPosted 03/25/2010 08:07 PM ET
Tyranny: The death of a dissident on a hunger strike last month is still sending shock waves to Cuba's regime. Cuba's global support is falling away — and President Obama's surprise slam at Havana is one of many.
It may be the end of the Cuban regime, but something changed when Orlando Tamayo Zapata, a political prisoner, died in a hunger strike last month. Tamayo, a construction worker, was arrested in the 2003 "Black Spring" wave of arrests against 75 democracy activists, drawing a sentence of 25 years. His hunger strike called attention to the plight of Cuba's political prisoners.
When the Castro regime let him die, they assumed that his demise was the end of it and he'd be forgotten, same as all the others.
But it didn't happen that way. Inside Cuba, other dissidents began hunger strikes. The Castroites also beat up dissident wives known as Ladies in White, who marched to protest the arrests of the 75.
There are signs that the regime is running scared since the death, but the biggest impact seems to be coming from abroad.
Outgoing President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica unexpectedly lashed out first against Tamayo's death. Brazil's center-right opposition, in the heat of a coming election, blasted Brazil's outgoing president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, for backslapping with the Castro brothers in Havana the day the dissident died. Opposition politicians in Spain and Argentina also criticized their own governments for aiding the regime. And in Spain, a poll by Elcano Royal Institute released Thursday showed that 72% of Spaniards believe there's not enough international human rights pressure on Cuba.
Another blow came Monday, when Chilean President Sebastian Pinera declared: "My government will do whatever it can to re-establish democracy in Cuba."
Even more striking, Chile's opposition socialist parties condemned for the first time Cuba's treatment of its political prisoners. In the past, the socialists had always looked the other way.
Now the cultural establishment is stepping up: Prominent entertainers like actor Andy Garcia, singer Gloria Estefan, actress Maria Conchita Alonso and others are leading rallies and showing films that are critical of the Castro regime.
Chilean novelist Isabel Allende appealed for the release of the political prisoners. In Spain, film director Pedro Almodovar and novelist Mario Vargas Llosa wrote an open letter to Castro called "I accuse the Cuban government."
In light of this, President Obama's added voice to growing global calls for human rights in Cuba is powerful, even if it's just following the crowd. It means that the international apologists on the left who've justified Castro over the years are growing scarce, leaving Castro's regime isolated — and perhaps answerable for its crimes.
Cuba Open to US Hotel ManagementMarch 26, 2010By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, March 26 — The Cuban government puts "no restrictions for foreign hotel chains, including from the United States, from administering a hotel" on the island, said tourism minister Manuel Marrero on Thursday.
The official made the statement to the press in Cancun, Mexico where he is attending a gathering of representatives from the US and Cuban tourist industries.
Currently, the half century US economic blockade on Cuba forbids US companies from investing on the island.
Likewise, ordinary US citizens are prohibited by their government from visiting Cuba without special US Treasury Dept. permission. Bills to lift the travel ban are presently in committee in both chambers of Congress.
Cuba faces major sugar decline – by Nampa/Reuters
HAVANA – Cuba may open sugar production to foreign investors for the first time since the 1959 revolution as it seeks to reverse the once proud industry's relentless decline, business sources said this week.Talks between investors and the government have come and gone with little result for years, but what is shaping up as perhaps the island's worst harvest in a century has increased interest in bringing foreign partners, the sources said.
Their money and management know-how could help revive a sugar industry that has collapsed from neglect and the decapitalization of mills and plantations, local experts and foreign traders said.
President Raul Castro, who took over from ailing brother Fidel Castro two years ago, is trying to right communist Cuba's cash-strapped economy by increasing exports and cutting imports.Sugar, once the driver of Cuba's economy, now accounts for less than 5 percent of Cuba's foreign earnings, but prices have been driven up by ethanol demand, so Cuba is turning to it once again.A Cuban source with knowledge of the sugar industry said the government has been seriously exploring foreign participation for several months.'The executive Committee of the Council of Ministers approved plans to pursue talks last November, and again this year to sign administrative agreements,' the source said.
Foreign banking and other business sources confirmed talks were advancing toward agreements that would have investors jointly administer several mills and share in the production for a limited number of years.Similar agreements already exist in the citrus industry, where Panama-based Israeli investors jointly operate juice plants with the government.
Cuba was once the world's biggest sugar exporter with raw output reaching 8.1 million tonnes in 1989, but the industry went into decline after Cuba's top ally for 30 years, the former Soviet Union, collapsed in 1991.With the harvest scheduled to end by May, Cuba is in danger of reaching its lowest output since 1908, when 1.2 million tonnes of sugar were produced.
Cuba eyes foreign investment to halt sugar declinePublished on Friday, March 26, 2010By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) — Cuba may open sugar production to foreign investors for the first time since the 1959 revolution as it seeks to reverse the once proud industry's relentless decline, business sources said this week.
Talks between investors and the government have come and gone with little result for years, but what is shaping up as perhaps the island's worst harvest in a century has increased interest in bringing foreign partners, the sources said.
Cuban peasants weed a sugar cane field in Alquizar, near Havana. AFP PHOTOTheir money and management know-how could help revive a sugar industry that has collapsed from neglect and the decapitalization of mills and plantations, local experts and foreign traders said.
Sugar, once the driver of Cuba's economy, now accounts for less than 5 percent of Cuba's foreign earnings, but prices have been driven up by ethanol demand, so Cuba is turning to it once again.
A Cuban source with knowledge of the sugar industry said the government has been seriously exploring foreign participation for several months.
"The executive Committee of the Council of Ministers approved plans to pursue talks last November, and again this year to sign administrative agreements," the source said.
Foreign banking and other business sources confirmed talks were advancing toward agreements that would have investors jointly administer several mills and share in the production for a limited number of years.
The sources would not name the various companies involved or provide further details.
Similar agreements already exist in the citrus industry, where Panama-based Israeli investors jointly operate juice plants with the government.
Theoretically, the state-run sugar industry has been open to direct investment since 1995, but in practice there has been little interest on the government's part except in a few joint ventures making sugar derivatives such as alcohol and parts used in sugar processing, the sources said.
A big obstacle is the US Helms-Burton law, which penalizes investment in properties expropriated from US owners and contains a yet-to-be implemented chapter allowing Cuban-Americans to sue investors who "traffic" in their expropriated properties.
All but eight of Cuba's mills were built before the revolution and therefore nationalized, and most plantations are lands expropriated by the government after Fidel Castro took power in 1959.
Foreign investors are forbidden by law to own land in Cuba, and do not need to own anything for the proposed sugar ventures, said a local economist.
"There is little need for investors to own land. In fact, it is in their interest to simply administer mills, provide farmers with technology packets and process the cane," he said.
Cuba was once the world's biggest sugar exporter with raw output reaching 8.1 million tonnes in 1989, but the industry went into decline after Cuba's top ally for 30 years, the former Soviet Union, collapsed in 1991.
The Soviet Union paid padded prices for Cuban sugar to boost the island's economy, so its demise hit Cuba and the sugar industry hard.
Cuba shut down and dismantled 71 of 156 mills in 2003 and relegated 60 percent of sugar plantation land to other uses.
More mills have closed since then, with just 44 mills open this season. Another 20 have been maintained in working condition for future use.
Only 1.7 million acres (700,000 hectares) of the over 5 million acres (2 million hectares) once controlled by Cuba's Sugar Ministry are currently dedicated to sugar cane.
Cuba planned to produce 1.3 million tonnes of raw sugar this season, but milling problems and low yields have resulted in a shortfall of more than 100,000 tonnes to date.
With the harvest scheduled to end by May, Cuba is in danger of reaching its lowest output since 1908, when 1.2 million tonnes of sugar were produced.
Cuba overcomes oenological challengePublished: 26/03/2010 at 12:00 AM
Today, I would like to introduce you to another unlikely wine. It's from Cuba this time. The last time I was in Cuba was almost 12 years ago. At that time, I was served with a bottle of wine which had a Cuban label on it. But as my local drinking companion told me, these were actually Italian grapes, and even the label had been printed somewhere else.
Now you can go to Cuba and drink real local wines. Two wineries, one from Spain, the other from Italy, have actually planted grapes and, in a joint venture with the government, are producing genuine Cuban wine.
The 2002 Castillo del Wajay is a tempranillo, made by Bodegas del Caribe, the Spanish venture. Tempranillo, the star grape of the Rioja in Spain, goes by the name of Ull de Liebre in Catalonia and Cencibel in la Mancha. It is a fragrant grape that is ripe early, and can stand a bit of sun, thus making it safer in warm climates.
The grapes are still young and I can imagine that wines of more recent vintage are better. But the 2002 had aged well, the wine was perfectly drinkable, European style rather than New World, and at 13 percent not too high in alcohol.
I drank it with a friend from a human rights organisation from Cambodia, a man who usually favours reds and is used to the direct charm of Australian or Argentinian wines. We enjoyed it – it was dry, discreetly fruity, with a medium long finish and it definitely reminded me of old-style Spanish wines.
The second company, the Italian Bodegas San Cristobal, is using merlot. Both companies have planted chardonnay and pinot grigio as well as cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo.
The two companies agreed that Cuba is a real oenological challenge, but say that they both carefully studied the soil and climate and that they found plenty of people in the island ready to learn and work hard.
"They knew nothing about wine and vinification," said one Spanish specialist. "They are learning that to handle a vineyard and make good wine is the work not of one day, or one year but a dedication of an entire life."
No less than 19 types of grapes were initially planted and tested. The Castillo del Wajay (a municipality in Cuba) is made entirely of grapes grown in the island. The goal is to plant several hundred hectares in El Wajay, Batabano and Banao.
What I like is the idea of extending wine not only to tourists but to the Cubans themselves. The Cuban friends I have all seem to enjoy a good bottle.
"We don't want to just produce wine, we want to promote the culture that goes with wine, not only in Cuba but in the Caribbean, and for that we need quality," said Daniel Vuelta Fernandez, the president of the Bodegas del Caribe (and in Spain of the group Palacio de Arganza).
"If the Caribbean is so generous with fruits, why should it not be equally generous with grapes and wine. The crucial step is to cultivate them well, in view of making the best possible wine."
I'll be curious how much the Cuban government taxes its own wine. I'm not sure we shall ever see Cuban wine on the shelves of shops in Thailand. At least not in the near future.
People who knew Thailand some 20 years ago are amazed how the wine culture is taking root in this country, despite super-high taxes, despite official disapprobation, and that goes for all colours of shirts. So there is hope for Cuba. It could even make for a gentler and kinder communist party.
Wave of Protests Signal Frustration Inside CubaBrian Wagner | Miami 26 March 2010
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Miami to protest a recent crackdown in Cuba against dissident groups on the island. Cuban-Americans say there is a rising tide of resentment against the Cuban regime and the failure of promised reforms.
People dressed all in white filled the streets of the Miami neighborhood known as Little Havana for the march late Thursday. Many carried Cuban flags and chanted messages calling for freedom in Cuba.
Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan helped organize the event and led marchers in the singing of the national anthems of Cuba and the United States. Near the close of the march, Estefan said they had received word that a dissident group was also marching in Havana. "At this moment they are receiving violence again. They are joined with us here," she said.
News reports from Havana said Thursday that Cuban police dragged away several protesters from the opposition group known as ladies in white (Las Damas de Blanco). The group includes many spouses and other relatives of dissidents jailed in Cuba. They have held several marches this week to demand the release of loved ones and mark the seventh anniversary of a major crackdown called "black spring."
Supporters of pro-democracy groups say other recent protests have taken place in Havana and in the countryside, suggesting that frustration at the government is on the rise.
University of Miami professor Andy Gomez says it is partly due to President Raul Castro's failure to deliver on his promises to improve the quality of life for many Cubans. "The level of frustration has continued to increase and yet at the same time, they are going through the worst economic crisis since the special period when they lost their subsidies from the Soviet Union," he said.
Pro-democracy groups also have received a new boost from Afro-Cuban leaders, who traditionally were seen as a strong supporter of Communist policies. That image was shaken last month when black dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died, after an 85-day hunger strike in prison.
Orlando Gutierrez leads the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate. "Here we have a working class black man from eastern Cuba who was peacefully advocating change. They imprison him and then, when he goes on a hunger strike, they deny him water for 18 days. They kill him, and people know that," said Gutierrez.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Zapata Tamayo's death and the harassment of protesters was deeply disturbing, and he called for the release of political prisoners.
In Cuba, President Castro expressed regret for the death, but the incident sparked another wave of marches to protest the conditions of jailed dissidents.
Gutierrez says if marches continue in Cuba, the movement is likely to generate even more supporters. "Cuba's pro-democacy movement, the ladies in white, they're going into the streets, they are talking to people, they are carrying out protests throughout Cuba. People are seeing these guys are the option, they are the alternative," he said.
University of Miami's Andy Gomez says that frustration is also on the rise among Cuba's large youth population, especially university students concerned about their future in Cuba. But he says Cuba's government has a history of quelling dissent before too long.
"The question I ask myself is up to what point is the government going to allow this to continue, because it can get out of hand very quickly," he said.
Pro-democracy advocates say the United States could consider new measures as well, in an effort to push the Communist nation toward greater respect for human rights.
Margarita AlarconHavana-based Media AnalystPosted: March 26, 2010 02:28 PM
Painting the Town Boricua Red, White and Blue
Havana is under fire. This week alone the city is hosting two very significant cultural events: the schooner Amistad docking in Matanzas on Monday and later on by the end of the week in the capitol and the arrival of one of the most influential Latin music groups of the decade: Calle 13.
For the English speaking public and for those who don't subscribed to the urban rhythms of the blend of Hip Hop and reggaeton together with sounds from the Andes and rumba, Calle 13 probably doesn't mean anything other than noisy ruckus coming from the slums anywhere from East Harlem to the South Side of Chicago. But Calle 13 is from Puerto Rico and for Cuba that means the other wing of the same bird.
Taking their name from the street where they grew up in San Juan, Rene Perez and Eduardo Cabra are the front men of a group made up of over 20 musicians whose musical talents have garnered them 12 Grammy awards after only three albums.
Their songs are a blend of Latino Hip Hop woven together with blends of other musical genres that spawn from the heads of Eduardo (Visitante) and René (Residente) spiced up with the rhythmic talents of the multiple percussionists who have already admitted much of their inspiration stems from this other island in the Caribbean.
They are reminiscent of the Young Lords in the very essence of their beings. Their lyrics speak to social injustice and the undue cruelties that they as Puerto Ricans have seen in their homeland. Querido F.B.I. a song telling the infamous tale of the murder of independence fighter and machetero leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios at the hands of federal agents in 2005 is one very clear cut example of their stance.
"We take from all the places where we've been; this fuels our body of work and is the end result of the songs I rap," said René (Residente) during a massive gathering at Casa de las Americas in Havana. "With this mix of music's we push the envelop and help introduce our listeners to new rhythms, musical styles and aspects of the cultures that surround and nurture us all."
When asked about the continent and where it's headed Rene has no doubts: "Latin America is growing for the better, all of it, Central America, South America, its all growing stronger more united. We can feel it."
Tonight Lola Rodriguez de Tió will resonate to the four winds when thousands of young and not so young gather to hear the young voices of Puerto Rico together with young Cuban artists performing live by the water front. The two winged bird will fly, Puerto Rico and Cuba, as one.
Follow Margarita Alarcon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Maggichu
Posted on Friday, 03.26.10LITTLE HAVANA | GLORIA ESTEFAN'S PROTEST
Tens of thousands join Gloria Estefan in march for Cuban protesters
In solidarity with the Ladies in White, tens of thousands of people joined Gloria Estefan in an emotionally charged march in Miami.Tens of thousands march for Ladies in WhiteGloria Estefan and a huge crowd dressed in white filled Calle Ocho to show solidarity with the "Ladies in White", human rights protesters in Cuba who have been attacked by government agents. Tens of thousands marched Thursday, March 25, 2010 in Miami to call for liberty in Cuba.Miami Herald StaffBY LUISA YANEZ, JOSE CASSOLA, JENNIFER LEBOVICH AND FABIOLA [email protected]
Tens of thousands of Cuban exiles wearing white, and carrying gladioluses and flags marched for blocks along Calle Ocho with singer Gloria Estefan in support of Cuba's Damas de Blanco, Ladies in White, the peaceful dissidents who last week were attacked by government security forces in Havana.
In an unprecedented turn of events, the Ladies in White marched at the same time along Havana's famous seawall, stopping in front of the Hotel Nacional to release a dozen doves.
They were soon hassled by a mob that chanted: “Fidel! Fidel!''
In Miami, the throng of marchers, which included different generations of exiles and other Latin Americans, also chanted “¡Libertad!'' and displayed placards with photographs of jailed dissidents and the Ladies in White. “Obama, yes, we have a dream, too,'' one sign said.
It was a rare show of unity in a community often divided over how to bring democracy to Cuba, and Estefan, whose appeal crosses several generations of Cubans, seems to have emerged as its strong new voice.
“Thank you, Miami,'' Estefan said as she took the podium. “This shows we're one people. We are the people that love and defend freedom.''
Then, Estefan got word on her cellphone about the events in Havana.
“At this moment, the Ladies in White are marching and are receiving violence again,'' Estefan said. “Ladies in White, we walk with you.''
The singer also delivered from the stage news reports of another violent act against a dissident in Cuba, later confirmed by El Nuevo Herald. A mob of civilians organized by state security tried to break into the home of dissident Luis Miguel Sigler in a Matanzas town — just as the Miami march got under way.
Estefan, however, ended the hourlong march with a message of peace.
“Peace, love and freedom in the world,'' she said. “¡Viva Cuba Libre! ¡Viva los Estado Unidos! May God bless this great nation that has allowed us to do this.''
The Cuban-American star had called on South Floridians to join her in protest of the treatment received by the women in Cuba. They were violently confronted during a march in Havana to mark the anniversary of the 2003 jailing of 75 dissidents, many of them independent journalists and poets. One of the dissidents, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died after a hunger strike.
Tens of thousands heeded Estefan's call in South Florida .
The crowd included television personalities, exile group leaders, and revered stars including singers Olga Guillot, Willy Chirino and Pitbull.
Said Miami native Pitbull on the size of the crowd: “Just shows the pride and love, how people really want change,'' he said.
“We're the only voice Cuba has, the only ones who can speak out.
“This is the moment in which history begins to change,'' said singer Amaury Gutiérrez, who came to Miami six years ago.
Gloria Estefan's famous husband, Emilio Estefan, agreed.
“We truly are in a new era and it's the young generation with blooming technology in an age of camera phones and Twitter,'' he said. “There is no escaping the truth anymore. We have finally reached a turning point for Cuba, Miami, the movement. This is a turning point in history.''
People flocked to Little Havana shortly after police closed Southwest Eighth Street from 22nd to 27th avenues on Thursday afternoon.
Couples holding hands, seniors bused in from suburban communities, parents with small children and others dressed in white walked down Calle Ocho, as vendors sold flags and beads, ice cream and other treats. Some held flowers and others took seats on the curb.
“We're trying to voice what we can from this side of the water,'' said Omar Pinate, 36, an Army sergeant stationed in Atlanta and in Miami on vacation. He was dressed in white pants, a white button-down and a white cap. “Unity. Every little bit helps.''
Uniformed and plain clothes police officers were posted throughout the Eighth Street corridor, but there no reports of incidents.
“That's typically what we do when there are marches of this magnitude,'' said Miami police spokeswoman Kenia Reyes.
Unlike early exile demonstrations, which relied solely on Cuban radio to get the word out, the Internet's social media teemed with news of Estefan's call for a show support on behalf of Las Damas de Blanco.
Colombian singer Juanes, who organized a controversial concert in Havana last September, didn't show up (he was reportedly in London). But he sent many messages of support via Twitter: “CUBA, USA, COLOMBIA, VENEZUELA libertad a los presos politicos, intercambio humanitario, libertad a los secuestrados!! libertad!'' (freedom for political prisoners, humanitarian exchange, freedom to the kidnapped!! freedom).
“..estoy con ustedes Damas de Blanco . . . '' another Tweet said. “I am with you Ladies in White.''
Colombian singer Shakira e-mailed to media a message of support to the Ladies in White.
Many Cuban Americans all over the country posted videos of the women being dragged and beaten and made their support known through their Facebook status and Twitter postings.
In New York, playwright and actress Carmen Pelaez created a Facebook site for the Damas, uploaded a photograph wearing a white T-shirt in support of them, and posted Thursday that she “wishes she was in Miami to walk with the thousands that will walk in support of LAS DAMAS DE BLANCO.''
Pelaez took a quote from Orlando Zapata Tamayo's mother, a Dama de Blanco, and made it her Facebook status:
` “They dragged me, I am all bruised. They beat me. They called me a n—–. They will know this mother's pain. When I get to my home town of Banes in my home province of Holguín they will have to bury me with my son. But my people will remember me. They will remember me. . . . The Castro brothers cannot be forgiven. They cannot be forgiven.'' No wonder Fidel is afraid.'
In Boston, former Mayor Manny Diaz, who is teaching at Harvard's Institute of Politics, led a group of students on a march through Harvard Square in support of Las Damas de Blanco and the march in Miami.
In West Miami, a solidarity rally by residents who couldn't make it to Little Havana but wanted to show their support, marched in front of City Hall. They remained silent for 15 minutes in prayer for a free Cuba.
“It's very overwhelming to see this number of people dressed in white holding flowers all standing for one worthy cause,'' Nancy Ortega said. “It was so emotional.''
Events like Thursday's and the Juanes concert are small steps in pushing toward democracy in Cuba, said medical student Susana Bejar, 24, who attended the march.
“It's important to show solidarity with them and the human rights movement,'' said Bejar, who was born in Puerto Rico. Her family is Cuban and she still has relatives on the island. “It's important to show Cubans we don't just care about what happened 50 years ago. . . . It's important to keep on building relationships, have direct mail. As the two communities become more integrated, that'll be the way to a new and better Cuba.''
As for the involvement of the Estefans, she said: “Anything they touch in Miami is gold. They're Cuban royalty.''
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Juan Tamayo contributed to this report.
Posted on Friday, 03.26.10
More repression in CubaOUR OPINION: Cubans' pent-up frustration met with violence
President Obama's condemnation of repression in Cuba is a welcome if somewhat belated acknowledgement of the campaign of “intensified harassment'' that the Castro-run government is directing at Cubans who dare to demand freedom and engage in nonviolent protests.
Such campaigns are business as usual for Cuba's rulers. Fidel Castro's regime is characterized by repression designed to stifle any form of independent activity. At other times, Castro has seized on the pretext of “intervention'' from other countries, real or imagined, to tighten the screws on his own people.
The “black spring'' of March 2003, when some 75 dissidents were rounded up and thrown in prison for years, was his petulant reaction to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
What is unusual about the current wave of repression is that it responds to a completely spontaneous outburst of pent-up frustration inside the country. More and more Cubans are just plain fed up.
The death of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo one month ago was the most dramatic example of this, but the courage of the Ladies in White who repeatedly dare to confront Castro's baton-wielding goons may represent a greater threat in Castro's eyes. Their example tugs at the conscience of their countrymen and inspires respect and admiration.
The repression should spur other governments to join with President Obama to demand the immediate, unconditional release of political prisoners in Cuba. Castro's police state is a consistent and unapologetic violator of human rights, abetted in its behavior by all those who turn a blind eye to its crimes.
The death or Orlando Zapata prompted the European Union to suspend efforts to improve relations with Cuba. Its member countries should go further to demand that the Cuban people be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Posted on Friday, 03.26.10
In Havana, `Ladies' march, feel wrathTens of thousands march for Ladies in WhiteGloria Estefan and a huge crowd dressed in white filled Calle Ocho to show solidarity with the "Ladies in White", human rights protesters in Cuba who have been attacked by government agents. Tens of thousands marched Thursday, March 25, 2010 in Miami to call for liberty in Cuba.Miami Herald StaffBY JUAN O. [email protected]
Cuba's Ladies in White, marching to the famed Malecón in Havana at the same time as the masses in Miami, were harassed without violence by a mob of pro-government civilians, participants said.
Another group of the activists was reported to have marched in Matanzas, east of Havana, and a dissident charged that government supporters armed with sticks and steel bars attacked his home at the same time.
“We wanted to be on the streets simultaneously with all those [Miami] people who identify with our pain, and show that in a not too-distant day we will all be together,'' said Berta Soler Fernandez, a Havana member of the Ladies in White.
The women activists, all relatives of jailed dissidents, marched carrying flowers and Cuban flags to the Malecón near the Hotel Nacional and released a flock of white doves, Soler added.
A small group of pro-government university students harassed the women with chants of “Viva Fidel!,'' and a larger group of security agents and civilians joined the counter-demonstration later but there was no violence, she reported.
The government supporters followed them to the home of Laura Pollán, the group's spokeswoman, and shouted revolutionary slogans for about 20 minutes before dispersing, Soler added.
Publicado el viernes, 03.26.10Didisencia cubana: Internet es clave para el cambio en la islaPor JORGE SAINZThe Associated Press
MADRID — Algunos dirigentes de la disidencia cubana consideraron el viernes que Internet y las nuevas tecnologías se han convertido en un aliado imprescindible para difundir su mensaje, como ha ocurrido tras la muerte de Orlanda Zapata, y pidieron a los gobiernos europeos que faciliten conexiones gratuitas y accesibles en sus respectivas embajadas en La Habana.
"La revolución de las nuevas tecnologías ha venido a marcar el final de la revolución cubana", dijo el periodista cubano Pablo Díaz, del opositor Diario de Cuba. "Internet ayuda a proteger a quienes están en la isla y sensibiliza a la vez a quienes están fuera".
Díaz participó junto a otras figuras destacadas de la oposición cubana, tanto en el exilio como dentro de la isla, en el seminario "Europa en solidaridad con Cuba", organizado por la fundación del ex presidente polaco Lech Walesa en colaboración con algunos diputados españoles y europeos en Madrid.
Díaz afirmó que ni siquiera la enfermedad de Fidel Castro ha tenido tanto impacto en la isla como las nuevas tecnologías y definió a la red como "una bestia" que el gobierno cubano no puede domar.
"El ocaso del castrismo se ha precipitado debido al Internet 2.0. y a los archivos compartidos", añadió.
El periodista cubano Raúl Rivero, residente en España, solicitó más apoyo tecnológico a las embajadas y misiones diplomáticas. Recordó como algunos disidentes se organizaron a través de Internet, con ayuda del exilio en Miami, para retransmitir en directo el funeral de Zapata, fallecido en febrero tras una prolongada huelga de hambre.
"Aquello era algo impensable. El desarrollo tecnológico es muy duro para la dictadura", afirmó Rivero en referencia a las autoridades de la isla.
Rivero subrayó el papel que los blogueros, encabezados por Yoani Sánchez, están realizando al contar al mundo lo que pasa en Cuba. Los organizadores del seminario tenían previsto comunicarse con Sánchez vía telefónica, pero no fue posible.
El cubano Antonio Guedes, quien también vive en Madrid y representa a la Unión Liberal de Cuba, enfatizó la importancia de Internet, pero sobre todo de las emisoras de radio de onda corta, para que los cubanos accedan a más información, ya que, precisó, es muy complicado disponer de un computador dentro de la isla.
Guedes insistió en que las embajadas europeas deben abrir sus puertas de par en par a la disidencia y ofrecer conexiones de banda ancha.
"Cada vez más cubanos denuncian lo que ocurre en el país", añadió Guedes. "Algunos de ellos ni siquiera se consideran disidentes, pero el gobierno hace un gran esfuerzo para catalogarlos como opositores políticos y perseguirlos".
Desde Cuba, los activistas Jorge Olivera y Miriam Leiva intervinieron por vía telefónica en el foro y denunciaron una "ola represiva" del gobierno de Raúl Castro tras el fallecimiento de Zapata.
Olivera mostró su confianza en Europa para que trabaje en la liberación de los 200 presos políticos que, dijo, "mueren lentamente en las cárceles infrahumanas del castrismo".
En la misma línea, Leiva demandó la implicación de los parlamentos europeos y también latinoamericanos para que exijan la liberación de los presos de conciencia.
"La sociedad cubana está inmersa en la crisis política, económica y social más grave de nuestra historia, sin que nuestro gobierno haya anunciado cambios ni avances democráticos", aseguró Leiva.
El diputado español del conservador Partido Popular Teófilo de Luis, uno de los coordinadores del encuentro, dijo que trabajará desde el parlamento para atender las demandas de la oposición en Cuba.
En la reunión, la disidencia celebró la dura resolución de condena a Cuba aprobada por el parlamento europeo en Estrasburgo después del fallecimiento de Zapata.
De igual forma, manifestaron su rechazo a que Europa modifique, tal y como reclama el gobierno español, la llamada Posición Común de la UE, que condiciona las relaciones plenas entre Bruselas y La Habana a cambios en el sistema comunista de la isla.
El sábado se espera la intervención de Walesa, quien dará a conocer la experiencia vivida en Polonia en la transición de un sistema comunista.
Publicado el viernes, 03.26.10
Miami alza su voz por CubaMarcha en apoyo a las Damas en BlancoDejando a un lado cualquier diferencia politica y generacional, miles de personas de distintas nacionalidades se unieron en la Calle Ocho para demostrar el apoyo de Miami a las Damas de Blanco y su rechazo a los actos de represión contra la oposición interna en Cuba.Por JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ
Dejando a un lado cualquier diferencia política y generacional, miles de personas de distintas nacionalidades se unieron en la Calle Ocho para demostrar el apoyo de Miami a las Damas de Blanco y su rechazo a los actos de represión contra la oposición interna en Cuba.
La marcha fue convocada por la cantante cubanoamericana Gloria Estefan, luego de una violenta represión la semana pasada contra el grupo de esposas y madres de prisioneros políticos en la isla a manos de agentes de la Seguridad del Estado y una turba gubernamental en La Habana.
"Esto comprueba que somos un pueblo que lo une el amor a la libertad. Hemos enviado un mensaje al mundo'', declaró la cantante frente a una multitud que, vestida de blanco y con gladiolos en las manos, se unió en un solo grito de libertad.
La movilización en la Pequeña Habana comenzó alrededor de las 6 p.m. en la avenida 27 y terminó en la 22, justo al pie de un escenario en el que se reunieron distintas personalidades del mundo del espectáculo, la vida pública y el exilio cubano.
Una emocionada Estefan calificó la movilización como un gesto de esperanza, libertad y espíritu de solidaridad con todos los oprimidos en Cuba.
"Queremos que sean libres como nosotros. A todas las Damas de Blanco les decimos: estamos con ustedes. A todos los encarcelados: estamos con ustedes'', sentenció Estefan, quien denunció en la actividad que las Damas de Blanco habían sido nuevamente hostigadas con actos de repudio.
El evento atrajo a miles de exiliados recién llegados a tierras de libertad, como la cubana Ramona Pérez Regidor, de 59 años, quien recordó que durante su niñez visitó a su padre en la cárcel de Boniato, quien había sido arrestado por "atentar'' contra el estado cubano.
"Marché con las Damas de Blanco muchas veces, desde la Iglesia de Santa Rita'', puntualizó la mujer.
Igualmente lo hizo Gisel Mena, de 33 años, quien vino de Cuba en una balsa en 1994.
"Me la he pasado llorando desde ayer. Hoy pude [a diferencia de lo que pasa en Cuba] tomar fotos sin que ningún guardia se me acercara. Soy libre, mi familia en Cuba necesita lo mismo''.
En el encuentro se multiplicaron las imágenes de las Damas de Blanco, banderas de países latinoamericanos y letreros con lemas como "Mujeres por la libertad de Cuba'', ''Zapata vive entre nosotros'' y "Que Dios proteja a las Damas de la Libertad''.
Las Damas de Blanco salen a las calles desde hace siete años luego de la llamada Primavera Negra, la ola represiva que envió a prisión a 75 disidentes en el 2003.
"Este es un momento histórico, especial para todos aquellos que defendemos la integridad de las personas y el respeto a las ideas'', comentó Andrés Ramírez, un residente colombiano que se sumó a la actividad callejera.
El evento estuvo repleto de artistas de la talla de Willy Chirino y su esposa Lisette, el cantautor Luis Fonsi, Albita y el grupo Pimpinela. También respondieron al llamado personalidades de la política local, como el alcalde de Miami Tomás Regalado y el candidato al Senado federal Marco Rubio.
"Estoy aquí para mostrar mi solidaridad. Me alegra mucho ver a tanta gente. Han pasado muchos años y nuestros problemas no son nada sencillos. Este es un régimen represivo como ningún otro'', declaró Rubio.
En la misma línea de solidaridad se sumó el gobernador del estado de la Florida Charlie Crist, quien agradeció al matrimonio Estefan sus esfuerzos por atraer la atención mundial frente a la violación de los derechos humanos en Cuba.
La situación en la isla durante las últimas semanas se agravado a tal punto que el presidente Barack Obama condenó la falta de libertad, y expresó el miércoles que La Habana había usado un puño cerrado contra quienes se atreven a expresar sus deseos.
En esa misma línea de rechazo y condena se expresó la cantante Olga Guillot, presente en la actividad.
"Que sea este el principio del fin y que nuestros pasos se escuchen en Cuba. ¡Qué viva Cuba! ¡Qué viva la libertad! ¡Somos miles porque los cubanos siempre responden!''
La cantautora colombiana Shakira también respaldó a Estefan y al colectivo femenino en la isla, en un comunicado de prensa en Bogotá.
"Hoy me uno a la convocatoria realizada por Gloria Estefan en apoyo a las Damas de Blanco, verdaderas heroínas de nuestro tiempo, estandartes de la valentía femenina y víctimas de la represión y la violación de los derechos humanos en Cuba'', señaló Shakira.
Mientras el actor cubanoamericano Andy García organiza para el próximo domingo 28 de marzo, una marcha simbólica en solidaridad con las víctimas de la represión en Cuba.
* La reportera de The Miami Herald Andrea Torres contribuyó con esta información.