Cuba’s booming private restaurants cause "bread crisis"
Cuba's booming private restaurants cause "bread crisis"English.news.cn 2011-03-22 14:17:48
HAVANA, March 21 (Xinhua) — Cuba's rapidly growing number of small private restaurants has forced the government to reorganize private bread production, a state-run daily necessity in Cuba, Cuban daily Granma said Monday.
"The discrepancy between bread supply and demand in the country is exacerbated by the growing demand from private food processors who have acquired self-employment licenses in recent months," the newspaper said.
Bread in Cuba is sold only in state-run stores, and the supply is now considered "insufficient" to meet the demand of the Cubans, as demands from an increasing number of private restaurants and fast food outlets are making the "bread crisis" worse.
From March 1 to date, Cuban authorities estimated that in Havana alone, up to 9,779 people have opened private restaurants and cafes.
"Clearly the only solution is to increase the production to meet all requirements," the newspaper said, adding the bread supply on the island is still "complex."
Every Cuban has the right to acquire one loaf of bread per day at a subsidized price through a food rationing program, but in recent years the government has also opened up establishments where bread is sold freely in Cuban pesos, together with shops and candy stores that sell goods and food in foreign currencies.
Cuba's state-owned bread company Cadena Cubana del Pan reported an increase in daily bread production from 25 tons in 2010 to 33 tons, while the demand this year is expected to grow by 52 percent.
The new production plan is "insufficient," and to meet the growing demand it is necessary to "rescue" the capability of the bakeries to make their own bread, the company's director Gloria Rodriguez said.
The Cuban authorities said they will make sure all measures are taken to meet the growing demand for bread.
Cuban leader Raul Castro recently announced that the ruling Communist Party will hold its first congress since 1997 in the second half of April, and the reform of Cuba's economic model will be the central theme of the congress. The Cuban government currently controls 85 percent of the island's economy.
Cuba to release last two prisoners of its "Black Spring"
Cuba to release last two prisoners of its "Black Spring"Mar 22, 2011, 17:40 GMT
Havana – Cuban authorities are to release the last two dissidents who remained in prison out a group of 75 arrested in the so-called 'Black Spring' of March 2003, the Roman Catholic Church in Cuba said Tuesday.
Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer, regarded as political prisoners by Amnesty International, refuse to leave Cuba once they are released. They were both serving 25-year prison sentences after being convicted of being 'mercenaries' in the service of the United States.
The Archdiocese of Havana also announced the release of 11 other prisoners who are to travel to Spain once they leave prison. Five of these are on a list of political prisoners drafted by the dissident umbrella organization Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) and were serving 4-30 year prison sentences for crimes like 'terrorism,' 'contempt' or 'disobedience.'
In July, Cuban bishops and the government of Cuban President Raul Castro finalized a deal for the release of 52 prisoners of the group of 75 imprisoned in 2003 who remained behind bars at the time. Of these, 40 have already travelled to Spain with their families, while 12 rejected exile but were also released.
The Black Spring arrests prompted a wave of international criticism on communist Cuba and led the European Union to call off cooperation with the island, which was only officially relaunched in 2008.
In light of the Roman Catholic mediation effort, scores of other prisoners have also travelled to Spain with their families after being released in recent months.
According to the Archdiocese of Havana, so far 114 prisoners have accepted the proposal to leave prison and travel to Spain since July.
The CCDHRN says there are around 50 political prisoners left in Cuba, about a quarter of the number in January 2010.
The Cuban government denies holding any political prisoners, insisting that they have all been tried and convicted of common crimes.
11 Cuban political prisoners to be freed
11 Cuban political prisoners to be freedPublished March 22, 2011EFE
Havana – Cuba's Catholic Church announced Tuesday the coming release and exile to Spain of 11 political prisoners, including Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, president and co-founder of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy.
None of the 11 set to be released is part of the "Group of 75" dissidents rounded up and jailed in March 2003, two of whom remain behind bars.
Amnesty International recently demanded the freeing of Nestor Rodriguez, arrested in December 2010, calling him a "prisoner of conscience" who was locked up for exercising his freedom of expression.
The other prisoners whose release was announced this Tuesday are Juan Carlos Vazquez, Bodanis Zulueta, Jose Antonio Sardiñas, Antonio Garcia, Arnaldo Marquez, Eduardo Diaz, Erick Caballero, Alberto Santiago Dobochet, Jose Manuel de La Rosa and Roberto Lopez.
Only five of the 11, including Nestor Rodriguez, appear on the list of political prisoners kept by the opposition Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
Most of the crimes of this group are related to terrorist acts, contempt for authority and illegal attempts to leave the country.
The Archdiocese of Havana said in its note that with the release of these prisoners, a total of 114 have now accepted the offer to leave prison on condition that they go to Spain.
The Cuban government promised last year to free all 52 Group of 75 prisoners still in custody at the time, a commitment made as part of its dialogue with the Catholic Church that was supported by the Spanish government.
Cuban authorities later extended the liberation process to include another kind of prisoner, those sentenced for crimes against state security, many of whom are not acknowledged by the internal opposition to be active dissidents.
Of the prisoners who accepted the condition of exile to Spain, 40 were part of the Group of 75.
Those of this group who have waited the longest to be set free were Group of 75 members who refused exile as a condition for leaving jail, 10 of whom have now been released and remain in Cuba on parole.
Cuba says prominent blogger part of US ‘cyber-war’
Cuba says prominent blogger part of US 'cyber-war'March 23, 2011 – 2:05AM
Cuba on Monday accused prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez of taking part in a "cyber-war" launched by the United States and aimed at destabilizing the communist government.
The accusations came in a documentary series aired on state TV in which an engineer from the information ministry and pro-government bloggers accuse Washington of targeting the country through "cyber-dissident" proxies.
"There exists on the island a new kind of counterrevolution composed of bloggers… These cyber-mercenaries constitute a new instrument to create internal conflicts," the documentary said.Advertisement: Story continues below
Sanchez, 35, an internationally-known blogger and dissident who writes on the site "Generation Y" has long traded barbs with a regime that accuses her of serving foreign agendas.
In a blog video in response to the latest charges, Sanchez and five other opponents accuse the government of "demonizing" the internet after revolutions led by online activists brought down longstanding regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.
"It is nervous because social networks like Twitter and Facebook can play the same role in Cuba they did in Egypt and Tunisia," it said. The video can be viewed at www.desdecuba.com/generationy.
Last month Cuba hailed the laying of a new undersea fiber-optic cable to Venezuela, which it said would allow the country to surmount a decades-old US embargo that had forced it to rely on more expensive satellite connections.
But dissidents have said the government keeps a tight grip on information and communications to stifle dissent.
Earlier on Monday, US President Barack Obama urged Havana to take "meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of the Cuban people" during a Latin America visit overshadowed by the popular uprisings in the Middle East.
The documentary series, entitled "Cuba's Reasons," is being aired following the conviction this month of a US State Department contractor on subversion charges, which further strained relations between the longtime foes.
American Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly committing "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state" in a verdict Washington has called "an injustice."
He was working under contract for the US State Department when he was arrested in late 2009 for distributing cell phones and computers to members of the island's struggling Jewish community.
Church: Cuba to release last dissidents from ’03
Posted on Tuesday, 03.22.11
Church: Cuba to release last dissidents from '03By PAUL HAVENAssociated Press
HAVANA — The Roman Catholic Church said Tuesday that the Cuban government will release the last two political prisoners held since a 2003 crackdown on dissent, a landmark announcement that came the same day Fidel Castro said he had stepped down as head of the island's Communist Party.
The decision will clear Cuban jails of the last of 75 prominent intellectuals, opposition leaders and activists whose imprisonment on charges including treason has long soured relations with the outside world.
The last two men to be released are Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer, activists who had each been sentenced to 25 years in jail.
"I am very content and nervous at the same time," said Bertha Soler, a leader of the Ladies in White opposition group and the wife of recently freed prisoner Angel Moya. The Ladies – wives and mothers of the 2003 prisoners – have been marching peacefully each Sunday since the arrests.
Soler said the women would continue to protest, despite the fact that their loved ones are now out of jail.
"It is very important that we fight, not only for the freedom of the 75, but also for other prisoners," she said.
Cuba has been releasing the men gradually under an agreement President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega reached in July. Officials here complain the government has received little credit in Washington and European capitals for the releases, which come as President Raul Castro has overhauled the economy and legalized a limited amount of private enterprise.
Most of the dissidents have accepted a deal to fly into exile in Spain, along with their families. But the releases bogged down in recent months because a dozen refused to leave their homeland.
Finally the government began to let them go, too, allowing them to return to their homes.
Navarro and Ferrer are the last inmates considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, though human rights activists contend there are others in jail for political reasons.
Many of them do not qualify for the designation of prisoner of conscience because they were sentenced for violent – but politically motivated – acts, like hijacking and assault.
Cuba's communist government has freed dozens of such inmates – more than 60 in all – even though that wasn't part of the agreement with the church. In addition to Navarro and Ferrer, the church announced that the government would free 11 other prisoners who had accepted a deal to fly into exile in Spain, along with their families.
Three of the 11 are on a list of people in prison for politically motivated crimes that is maintained by Elizardo Sanchez, an independent human rights activist on the island. Sanchez's list, which a few years ago had more than 300 names on it, is down to about 50 now.
But that includes a number of people in jail for murder, terrorism and other serious crimes who are not recognized as political prisoners by prominent international rights organizations.
Sanchez said the release of Navarro and Ferrer is a watershed moment but does not tell the whole story about repression on the island.
"When they arrive in their homes, it will be the end of the process for this group," he told The Associated Press. "But there will be new political prisoners because the government continues to criminalize civil rights, and nothing will change that."
Sanchez said he had sent a list of names of new candidates for the "prisoner of conscience" designation to Amnesty International, but has not heard back on whether they will be formally recognized.
Despite the agreement, the government considers all the dissidents to be common criminals. It has been highlighting their links to Washington in a series of television programs in recent weeks, complete with grainy footage of them meeting with U.S. diplomats on the island.
Cuba contends opposition members are financed by Washington, which it says aims to use their activities to destabilize the government.
Tuesday's announcement came hours after revolutionary icon Fidel Castro revealed that he had stepped down five years ago as Communist Party chief, the last official post he was believed to hold. The elder Castro, 84, was forced by illness to turn the presidency over to his brother Raul in 2006.Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.
Cuba’s Castro: I quit as party chief 5 years ago
Posted on Tuesday, 03.22.11
Cuba's Castro: I quit as party chief 5 years agoBy PAUL HAVENAssociated Press
HAVANA — Fidel Castro said Tuesday he resigned five years ago from all his official positions, including head of Cuba's Communist Party, a pre-eminent job in the island's political pantheon that he was thought to still hold.
It was the first time the 84-year-old revolutionary icon has said he no longer heads the Communist Party, which he has led since its creation in 1965. The Communist Party website still lists him as first secretary, with his brother President Raul Castro listed as second secretary.
The declaration raised questions about just how much power Fidel Castro has been wielding behind the scenes – with or without a formal post – and to what extent Raul Castro has had true freedom to make his own decisions.
Castro wrote in an opinion piece that when he got sick in 2006, "I resigned without hesitation from my state and political positions, including first secretary of the party … and I never tried to exercise those roles again."
He said that even when his health began to improve, he stayed out of state and party affairs "even though everyone, affectionately, continued to refer to me by the same titles."
Castro's comments come just weeks ahead of a crucial Communist Party Congress, in which it was widely expected that a new party leader would be picked – presumably his brother. The Congress also is tasked with endorsing a series of major economic changes Raul Castro has enacted since taking over the presidency, including opening the island up to limited private enterprise.
"I think it's significant, because if nothing else it's Fidel Castro sending a clear message that his brother is in charge of the country," said Tomas Bilbao, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Cuba Study Group, which supports increasing economic and academic exchanges with the island. "He's setting the ground ahead of the party congress for there to be a smooth transition."
The elder Castro stepped down in 2006 due to a serious illness that almost killed him. In an official proclamation released on July 31, 2006, Fidel Castro provisionally delegated most of his official duties to his brother – including the presidency and head of the party.
In February 2008 he announced he was officially stepping down as president, and Raul Castro was formally picked to succeed him by the country's parliament a few days later. But no reference was made to Fidel leaving his party post, and Cuban officials and ordinary people have referred to him as the party leader ever since.
While the government historically has focused on the day-to-day running of the country, the party is tasked with guiding the Cuban people on their path to communism. In practice, no major policy can be passed without the party first agreeing.
The opinion piece, which was published on the state-run Cubadebate website overnight and in newspapers Tuesday morning, caught many people by surprise.
"It's incredible. Nobody can believe it," said Magaly Delgado, a 72-year-old Havana retiree who was clutching a copy of Granma, the Communist Party daily. "I always thought he was still in charge. … He never said he had resigned."
The Cuban government had no immediate comment on the bizarre revelation, which raises fundamental questions about assumptions that have been made about how Cuba has been led since Raul Castro took over.
Many were slow to acknowledge at first that Raul Castro held any power at all and doubted that the quiet and unassuming younger brother could step out from the shadow of his larger-than-life older sibling. In those initial days, Raul said he would make decisions in consultation with Fidel, though he has not repeated that in recent years.
Doubters – including many in the Cuban-American exile community – pointed to Fidel's leadership of the party as evidence the arrangement was just for show, despite the fact the elder Castro has since revealed that his 2006 illness put him on the brink of death.
If Fidel's statement Tuesday is taken at face value, it would suggest that his brother has been flying solo since he took over in 2006, at least officially.
Castro's traditional foes in the exile community reacted with bewilderment.
"It shows the absolute lack of transparency because for the last five years everyone in Cuba, everyone in the world, thought he was the head of the Communist Party, so it shows how absolutely closed and totalitarian and personal that dictatorship is," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the Washington-based U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. "At the end of the day, only he knew he wasn't in power."
Despite the drama of the announcement, it is not clear what importance it has on an island ruled by the force of Fidel Castro's personality for many decades.
In the opinion piece, Fidel indicates that, with or without formal titles, he will always be an intellectual force in the revolution, a refrain he has uttered several times in recent years.
"I remain and will remain as I have promised: a soldier of ideas, as long as I can think and breathe," he writes.
While nobody was expecting Fidel Castro's announcement to come the way it did – as a fait accompli thrown into a long opinion piece that otherwise focuses on criticism of President Barack Obama – speculation has been rampant that he would soon step down.
If the 79-year-old Raul Castro moves up to the top spot, it will give the Cuban leaders a chance to pick someone without their famous last name to hold the No. 2 position, potentially tapping a would-be successor after 52 years of uninterrupted rule since they ousted Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
In interviews and public appearances in recent months, Fidel Castro has intimated that he no longer has much say in party business. When he met with Cuban students in November, one asked for his thoughts on the upcoming Congress.
Castro politely brushed the question aside, telling the students he was not meeting with them in his capacity as party chief.
By way of explanation, he added: "I got sick and I did what I had to do: delegate my duties. I cannot do something if I am not in a condition to dedicate all my time to it."Associated Press writers Laura Wides in Miami, Florida, and Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this report.
Remittances and Cuba
Posted on Tuesday, 03.22.11
Remittances and CubaBY SERGIO BENDIXEN AND DONALD TERRY
For the past decade, we have been working together in more than 30 countries on the issue of remittances. Those funds — typically $100, $200 or $300 each month — have become a virtual "river of gold," adding up to more than $300 billion a year to developing countries, more than all foreign aid and foreign investment combined. Remittances are now widely recognized as key contributors to social and economic development in many poor countries.
But, not yet in Cuba.
Relatives abroad send money to family members quietly, through " mulas" for fear of being charged with aiding the Castro regime, while recipients take care in using the funds to avoid being labeled "capitalists."
All this could change dramatically over the next few months — indeed, the process may have already begun. In January, as a gesture signaling efforts to improve relations with Cuba, President Obama relaxed the restrictions on remittances to the island for the second time in his administration.
The trend toward greater flexibility represents a historic opportunity for Cuba and its people. Cubans living abroad have already been sending home hundreds of millions of dollars a year, mostly from the United States, despite previous U.S. government policies restricting the flow of remittances to Cuba. Family matters.
As in other countries around the world, remittances represent a lifeline for families who depend on this money to cover basic daily needs or to provide a "cushion" for emergencies, including hurricanes or other natural disasters.
At this point in time in Cuba, where the government has announced that almost one million people are to be shifted from the government payroll by the end of March, these remittances could also facilitate the inevitable wrenching transition to the private sector. Experience over the past decade, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, has shown that person-to-person transfers are often used to fund small business investments.
Cuba is no different: Limited research has shown that more than a third of Cuban recipients would like to invest a portion of their remittances in some form of business enterprise. Remittances to Cuba are already providing important support to the incipient growth of the micro and small enterprise sector, the most likely source of employment for a growing number of Cubans.
Next month's Cuban Communist Party Congress provides a historic opportunity for the Castro government to acknowledge the new U.S. remittance policy, and match it with a gesture of its own, to the benefit of the Cuban remittance recipients. Today, remittance delivery in Cuba occurs within a closed and controlled space. According to the Inter-American Dialogue, in 2009, Cuba had the lowest number of remittance service providers in Latin American, and the cost to remit was the highest. According to Cuban regulations, U.S. dollars sent to Cuba can only be paid out at limited locations, where they are further burdened with heavy foreign exchange taxes. This policy discourages the sending of money and stifles formal remittance channels, resulting in the rise of costly and insecure transfer methods.
As many countries in the Western Hemisphere have come to recognize, governments play a key role in fostering secure and efficient remittance delivery. In Cuba, the first steps toward enabling a policy framework for transparent and accessible remittance transfers could include the elimination of disproportionate taxes on small foreign exchange transactions and the encouragement of alternative payment networks throughout the country. Equally important would be a change in government policy to affirmatively encourage the investment of remittances, free of any restrictions.
A commitment from the Cuban government to allow all remittances to enter the Cuban economy freely, unburdened by taxes or other cumbersome regulations, could result in remittances reaching $2 billion to Cuba in the coming years. Relatives abroad would be more likely to send larger amounts if their money could be used to start businesses, meeting the Cuban people's immediate needs and also contributing to the economic development of the communities where they live.
It could also positively change the relationship of Cuba to its diaspora. The time for the Castro government to act is now.
Sergio Bendixen is the founding partner of Bendixen and Amandi International, a public policy, opinion research, and communications consulting firm in Miami. Donald Terry, former general manager at the InterAmerican Development Bank, teaches at Boston University Law School and consults with the World Bank in Africa.
Obama urges ‘meaningful actions’ from Cuba on rights
Obama urges 'meaningful actions' from Cuba on rightsAFPMon Mar 21, 7:00 pm ET
SANTIAGO (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Monday urged Cuba to extend greater freedoms to its citizens, in a sweeping speech on Latin America delivered in Santiago, Chile.
"Cuban authorities must take meaningful actions to respect the basic rights of the Cuban people — not because the United States insists on it, but because the people of Cuba deserve it," Obama said in an address here on the second leg of a Latin America tour.
Obama said the United States had taken measures to improved the long strained relations between Havana and Washington, including relaxing some decades-old economic sanctions.
"We've made it possible for Cuban-Americans to visit and support their families in Cuba. We're allowing Americans to send remittances that bring some economic hope for people across Cuba, as well as more independence from Cuban authorities," he said.
"Going forward, we'll continue to seek ways to increase the independence of the Cuban people, who are entitled to the same freedom and liberty as everyone else in this hemisphere," said Obama during the second stop of Latin America swing that started in Brazil and is to wrap up this week with a stop in El Salvador.[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]
The speech comes with US-Cuba relations under strain after the trial and conviction this month of a US State Department contractor on subversion charges.
American Alan Gross was sentenced to 15 years in prison on the communist island for allegedly committing "acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state."
He was working under contract for the US State Department when he was arrested in late 2009 for distributing cell phones and computers to members of the island's struggling Jewish community, a verdict that Washington has decried as "an injustice."
Meanwhile, Havana is in the process of releasing the last few of a group of 75 political prisoners detained in a vast 2003 crackdown on political prisoners, in a deal reached with the help of the Spanish government and the representatives from the Catholic Church here.
Cuban spy claims innocence in downing of plane
Posted on Tuesday, 03.22.11
Cuban spy claims innocence in downing of planeBy CURT ANDERSONAP Legal Affairs Writer
MIAMI — In a new appeal, a convicted Cuban spy insists he is innocent of any role in shooting down exile planes that dropped pro-democracy leaflets in 1996 on the communist island and helped rescue migrants in the ocean.
"I came to Florida in service to my country, unarmed, to contribute to end violence against my people and therefore to save lives," Gerardo Hernandez, 45, said in a sworn statement filed in Miami federal court. "That I would be charged with a conspiracy to murder was the furthest thing from my thinking and reality."
Hernandez is one of the so-called Cuban Five, convicted in 2001 of spying in the U.S. He is also the only one serving a life sentence for a murder conspiracy conviction arising from the Brothers to the Rescue planes that were shot down by Cuban fighter jets, which killed four men.
Attorneys for Hernandez are asking U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard to throw out his conviction and sentence, based in part on his new claims filed Monday.
In the documents, Hernandez contends he was never told that he could have been tried separate from the others on the murder conspiracy charge. If he had, Hernandez said he would have testified in his own defense that he was innocent, something he did not do in the spy trial.
Attorney Richard Klugh said Hernandez could not testify in the spy trial because he would have had to admit on the stand that he was a Cuban agent and could not call his co-defendants as witnesses.
"He clearly had no involvement in the shootdown in 1996," Klugh said. "Clearly there was a clamor for someone to take responsibility for it, but Gerardo Hernandez is not responsible."
The Miami U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment.
Hernandez said in the affidavit he was unaware of any Cuban plan to shoot down the exile planes. Instead, he said he was involved in a plan labeled "Operation Venecia" to call international attention to their purported violations of Cuban sovereignty.
"The idea that Cuba would elaborate a plan to confront those planes on international waters was to me, and still is, absurd and irrational," Hernandez said in the affidavit.
In one new wrinkle, Hernandez also said that he was replaced for several months by an agent known as "A-4" or "Miguel," who took possession of a computer disk the spies used to decode messages from Havana. That's significant because Hernandez said he did not have the disk when he supposedly sent a message warning that no Cuban agents should fly on the exile planes from Feb. 24-27 in 1996.
The Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down Feb. 24.
His affidavit also contends U.S. prosecutors portrayed a commendation he received and a promotion as linked to the downing of the planes. In fact, Hernandez said, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain along with dozens of others strictly based on length of service.
Hernandez has lost several other appeals, while three of the Cuban Five had their sentences reduced in 2009 because they never obtained top secret U.S. information – despite efforts to do so – from military installations such as the Miami-based Southern Command and Key West's Boca Chica Naval Air Station. The five are hailed as heroes in Cuba.
Cerco joven a Damas de Blanco
Cerco joven a Damas de BlancoPor Dalia Acosta
LA HABANA, 21 mar (IPS) – La respuesta oficial a los reclamos en Cuba de las Damas de Blanco cobró un nuevo matiz en los últimos días con las movilizaciones de estudiantes universitarios, que impidieron los actos de recordación por el aniversario del arresto de 75 disidentes en 2003.
Cientos de alumnos de varias facultades de la Universidad de La Habana fueron liberados de la obligatoriedad de asistir a clases, el viernes y el sábado pasado, y convocados a participar en sendos "actos de repudio" contra las Damas de Blanco y otros disidentes que pretendían manifestarse por la liberación de los presos políticos.
Como resultado, los disidentes no pudieron salir del local donde se reunían y marchar, como habían previsto, hasta dos iglesias habaneras.
"No sólo se trata de la juventud sino de la juventud universitaria, considerada históricamente como importante vanguardia de los movimientos políticos más revolucionarios en Cuba", comentó a IPS Mercedes Rodríguez, una profesora jubilada de 62 años.
Los llamados "actos de repudio", que se han sucedido desde el año pasado contra las Damas de Blanco, como se les llama al grupo de mujeres que demandan la libertad de sus esposos y familiares encarcelados, han estado protagonizados en no pocos casos por personas que asumen actitudes marginales e, incluso, han llegado a la violencia.
Ahora, aunque no faltó un momento de tensión cuando los disidentes intentaron salir a la calle, las concentraciones estuvieron mejor organizadas que en ocasiones anteriores, matizadas por la frescura juvenil y ambientadas con canciones de Silvio Rodríguez, uno de los trovadores nacionales más conocidos dentro y fuera de Cuba.
Sin embargo, para Elizardo Sánchez, presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional, la situación es la misma sean estudiantes universitarias u otros grupos sociales, si en ambos casos responden a convocatorias de las autoridades. "No importa quién es el movilizado, sino el que moviliza", señaló a IPS.
Sánchez consideró que, en cualquier caso, hay que rechazar la utilización por parte del gobierno de "unos ciudadanos para aterrorizar a otros ciudadanos".
El método, que data de los "actos de repudio" contra quienes solicitaban la salida del país cuando el éxodo masivo por el puerto de El Mariel en 1980, ha servido como alternativa a las represiones protagonizadas por tropas antimotines en no pocas naciones. En la lógica oficial, la respuesta no viene de la policía sino de seguidores del gobierno.
Aunque aún se hace el balance de los últimos días, Sánchez aseguró que "decenas de mujeres y hombres fueron detenidos y más de 20 sufrieron arresto domiciliario extrajudicial durante por lo menos dos días", al no permitírseles salir de la casa de Laura Pollán, portavoz de las Damas de Blanco.
Por su parte, Berta Soler, también portavoz del grupo, confirmó a IPS que, a diferencia de las marchas previstas para viernes y sábado, 36 mujeres pudieron ir el domingo 20 a misa en la iglesia católica de Santa Rita y realizar su habitual caminata por la Quinta Avenida, importante arteria de La Habana.
"Hicimos nuestro recorrido como siempre, sin ser interrumpidas, pero vigiladas de cerca por la policía política", aseguró Soler.
En medio de un proceso de liberaciones de presos políticos con la mediación de la Iglesia Católica, Pollán había anunciado el domingo 13 la intención de celebrar el octavo aniversario de la llamada "Primavera Negra" con una marcha por cada uno de los integrantes del grupo de los 75 que, para el viernes 18, quedaran aún en prisión.
Dos días antes, una nota del Arzobispado de La Habana anunció que se había "dispuesto la excarcelación" de Ricardo Librado Linares, con lo que sumaron 50 los miembros del grupo liberados, de los 52 que quedaban en prisión cuando a mediados del pasado año se informó del acuerdo entre el gobierno y la Iglesia Católica.
Más de 100 prisioneros han sido puestos en libertad desde entonces, algunos de los cuales cumplían penas por actos violentos, y en su mayoría han aceptado la opción del exilio en España. De los 75 arrestados en 2003, algunos se negaron a salir del país como es el caso de los dos que aún permanecen en prisión: José Daniel Ferrer y Félix Navarro.
Declarados prisioneros de conciencia por la organización humanitaria Amnistía Internacional, los 75 fueron detenidos entre el 18 y el 20 de marzo de 2003, en medio de fuertes tensiones en la isla, matizadas por la doctrina de la "guerra preventiva" del entonces presidente estadounidense George W. Bush (2001-2009).
En coincidencia con el comienzo de una ola de secuestros de naves por parte de personas deseosas de emigrar, el gobierno cubano acusó en esa oportunidad a la Oficina de Intereses de Estados Unidos en La Habana de promover la subversión y usar a disidentes para crear las condiciones que justificarían una agresión militar a Cuba, como la emprendida contra Iraq.
La "jugada", según la versión oficial cubana, era provocar un éxodo masivo de personas hacia Estados Unidos, condición contemplada dentro de la denominada Ley Helms-Burton, promulgada en 1996 durante el gobierno de Bill Clinton (1993-2001), como motivo para una ocupación militar de la isla.
Durante los procesos judiciales fueron presentados como agentes del gobierno media docena de personas que decían ser periodistas independientes y opositores y que, en principio, habían sido contados entre los detenidos. Otros agentes podrían haber permanecido dentro del grupo de los 75, según el blog de Yohandry.
Yohandry, seudónimo de un periodista o grupo de personas muy cercanas a la dirección cubana, aseguró que "más de 40 de estos 'disidentes' eran agentes de la Seguridad Cubana, los cuales se encargaron de mostrar pruebas contundentes de la injerencia de Estados Unidos en los asuntos internos de la isla".
"Fuentes consultadas en La Habana aseguraron que en los próximos días pudieran quedar en libertad los dos mercenarios que aún permanecen en prisión, y que forman parte del grupo de los 75", añadió el texto publicado en el blog y recordó que ninguno de los sancionados en 2003 cumplió su condena en prisión.
"Nosotras nada sabemos. Nunca nos enteramos antes de la comunicación oficial que pasa a través del Arzobispado", dijo Soler a IPS
Proyecto penalizaría a los inversionistas petroleros en Cuba
Publicado el martes, 03.22.11
Proyecto penalizaría a los inversionistas petroleros en CubaBy JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ
La congresista republicana por la Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, dijo este lunes que presentará nuevamente un proyecto de ley que negaría visas estadounidenses e impondría sanciones a inversionistas y compañías que participen en operaciones de perforación petrolera en Cuba.
El proyecto conocido como Acta de protección de arrecifes de coral caribeños no logró ser aprobada la primera vez que fue presentada en el Congreso en el 2007.
“No podemos decirle a una compañía extranjera que no haga negocios con Cuba, pero sí podemos decirle que si lo hacen habrá penalidades en Estados Unidos'', indicó Ros-Lehtinen, quien estaba acompañada del representante republicano de la Florida, David Rivera.
Ros-Lehtinen, presidenta de la Comisión de Asuntos Exteriores de la Cámara, hizo el anuncio en horas de la tarde tras reunirse a puertas cerradas con el contralmirante William D. Baumgartner, comandante del Servicio Guardacostas para el sureste de Estados Unidos. La cita se realizó en las oficinas centrales de esta entidad, en el downtown Miami.
En el encuentro se analizó el impacto de un derrame de crudo y el alcance de proyectos del rubro que se desarrollan frente a las costas cubanas. También se discutió sobre el grado de seguridad que tiene una torre de perforación que está construyendo China para el uso de Cuba en aguas profundas. Según los especialistas, la torre es una de las más sofisticadas y precisas de la industria.
Varias empresas internacionales han expresado interés y tienen adelantados proyectos de estudio e inversión de crudo frente a las costas cubanas. Uno de estas empresas es el gigante petrolero español Repsol, que tiene un contrato para excavar en agosto el primero de varios pozos exploratorios. Cuba desarrolla una política de explotación de sus hidrocarburos en un área de unos 112,000 km. cuadrados del Golfo de México.
Argumentando los riesgos que representaría un vertido de petróleo masivo para las costas estadounidenses, como la explosión de la plataforma Deepwater Horizon, el 20 de abril del 2010, Ros-Lehtinen subrayó que negociar con Cuba “es tratar con un régimen que está maltratando a su gente''.
“Muchas personas creen que sería bueno para Estados Unidos estar en el negocio con estas compañías o con Cuba porque de esa manera podríamos prevenir algún desastre'', indicó Ros-Lehtinen. “Pero creo, al igual que muchos de mis colegas en el Congreso, que eso sería una política equivocada''.
Especialistas de la industria petrolera sugieren que las autoridades cubanas no sólo podrían estar mal preparadas para un derrame sino que catástrofes como la del Deepwater serán cada vez más difíciles de mitigar y requerirán un mayor grado de cooperación internacional. Debido al embargo comercial, Estados Unidos y Cuba no tienen un acuerdo para emergencias de esta naturaleza.
En la conferencia, Rivera también subrayó que no se trata de discutir si Cuba puede ordenar proyectos de explotación petrolífera en sus aguas, sino cuándo van a realizarse estos programas. El objetivo, según Rivera, es “prevenir'' que se realicen estos proyectos en nombre de la seguridad y la libertad del pueblo cubano.
“Esta administración [del presidente Barack Obama] debe hacer todo lo posible para obstaculizar cualquier esfuerzo de explotación'', dijo Rivera.
El disidente Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina será desterrado a España
El disidente Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina será desterrado a EspañaDDC – AgenciasLa Habana 22-03-2011 – 5:47 pm.
También, otros diez presos, entre los que se encuentran el periodista independiente Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet y el abogado opositor José Manuel de la Rosa.
La Iglesia Católica anunció hoy la próxima excarcelación y traslado a España de once presos, entre los que se encuentra el disidente Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, presidente y cofundador del Movimiento Cubano Jóvenes por la Democracia, detenido desde diciembre de 2010.
Las autoridades cubanas tenían previsto, precisamente este martes, llevar a juicio a Rodríguez Lobaina en Baracoa, Guantánamo, bajo cargos de "atentado y lesiones", por incidentes ocurridos durante un violento "acto de repudio" convocado por el régimen frente a su casa.
Amnistía Internacional declaró al opositor "prisionero de conciencia", dijo que fue "encarcelado sólo por ejercer su derecho a la libertad de expresión" y exigió su liberación.
No está claro si el juicio se llevará a cabo de todas formas.
El disidente realizó una huelga de hambre de 24 días para protestar por su situación y, según sus familiares, sufre problemas en los riñones porque los carceleros le negaron el agua durante varios días como represalia.
Junto a Rodríguez Lobaina serán excarcelados y enviados a España Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, un periodista independiente que cumplía cuatro años de prisión desde 2009 por "desacato", y el abogado disidente José Manuel de la Rosa Pérez, sentenciado a cinco años en 2008 también por "desacato y desobediencia", dos figuras que suele utilizar el régimen para encarcelar disidentes.
En la lista anunciada por el Arzobispado de La Habana aparecen, asimismo, Juan Carlos Vázquez, Bodanis Zulueta, José Antonio Sardiñas, Antonio García, Arnaldo Márquez, Eduardo Díaz, Erick Caballero, y Roberto López, reportó EFE.
De acuerdo con los datos de la opositora Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN), Juan Carlos Vázquez García cumplía una sanción de 30 años desde 1997 por terrorismo, espionaje, falsificación de documentos públicos e intento de salida ilegal del país. Bodanis Zulueta Ramos cumplía la misma condena desde 2003 por terrorismo.
El Arzobispado dijo en su nota que con estos son 114 los prisioneros que "han aceptado la propuesta de salir de la prisión y trasladarse a España".
El Gobierno se comprometió el año pasado a excarcelar a todos los presos del Grupo de los 75 que permanecían en prisión (52 en aquel momento) en el marco de un diálogo con la Iglesia Católica que fue apoyado por el Gobierno de España.
Las autoridades cubanas extendieron luego las excarcelaciones a otro tipo de presos sentenciados por delitos contra la seguridad del Estado, aunque a muchos de ellos la oposición interna no les reconoce como disidentes.
De los presos que fueron enviados al exilio, 41 formaban parte del Grupo de los 75 condenados durante la oleada represiva de 2003. Once miembros de ese grupo se negaron a aceptar el destierro.