Friday, January 30, 2009


Well, it's no longer speculation, the BBC has confirmed that Raul is on his 5th liver, oh wait, no, they just confirmed that he's drinking again...

All I can say is, "drink up!"...his liver might be saying otherwise, but I have a feeling Raul will ignore it.

Castro en Moscú: cena con cerdo y vodka
Redacción BBC Mundo
Se prevé que las conversaciones formales entre ambos líderes se lleven a cabo este viernes.
El presidente de Cuba, Raúl Castro, y su homólogo ruso Dmitry Medvedev, reafirmaron los lazos diplomáticos entre sus respectivos países durante una cena tradicional de cerdo.
Castro se encuentra en Moscú en lo que constituye la primera vista que realiza un líder cubano desde el fin de la Guerra Fría.
Medvedev y Castro bebieron vodka y degustaron salo -grasa de cerdo salado- en una cabaña de cazadores en el oeste de Moscú.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being Spanish, it's all the Rage these Days

At least temporarily, Spain has solved its low population growth rate problem (.096 in 2008). As previously posted, Spain has passed legislation allowing the children and grandchildren of Spaniards forced into exile between 1936 and 1955 to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Well, the grandchildren's law has already taken affect and the Spanish Consulate has received over 20,000 applications. So far, 40 Cubans have received citizenship and the rest of these applications should be processed by June.

Alvaro Kirkpatrick, the Spanish Adjunct Consul, says that they "expect some 150,000 new Spaniards through the end of 2010" and they expect some 300,000-400,000 applications.

However, no word yet on why nearly half a million Cubans would like to leave the Communist Island Paradise...guess "resisting" isn't the accomplishment they were looking for, good try though Raul.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Havana, with Love

Raul Castro will arrive in Moscow tomorrow to start his week-long visit. This will be his second trip abroad as Cuba's President.

Raul is scheduled to meet with Medvedev on Thursday, informally (think Vodka shots ala-Yeltsin), and then meet again on Friday for official talks as they, or at least Raul, recover from what will likely be quite the massive hangover.

Last week, it was announced that Russia was evaluating the possibility of giving Cuba a $20 million loan, to be spent on Russian goods. I'm sure Raul will do everything he can to nail it down.

It's hard to tell if the increased ties with Russia are just a sign of the times or if they have increased because Raul is now in command. Raul has more of an affinity towards Russia than Fidel ever had.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Weekend at Bernie's...

What to make of this?...Could she be lying? Could she have met a double? Could he simply still be alive?...time will tell.

However, her report of Fidel thinking Obama is sincere does clash with what Chavez has been would be odd for Fidel and Chavez to clash in that way.

Well, my guess is that if Fidel is alive, he is not too present mentally and, as I've repeatedly stated, he has been dead politically for over 2 years now.

Fidel Castro looks well, Argentine president says
Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirschner met for 30 minutes Wednesday with Cuba's Fidel Castro, debunking rumors that the aging former dictator was on his deathbed.
''I thought he looked very well,'' Fernández told the Argentine government news agency Telam.
She said Castro watched Tuesday's presidential inauguration ceremony and said he thought Barack Obama was a ''sincere man'' with ``good ideas.''
Rumors began to swirl last week that Castro was gravely ill. Cuba-watchers noted that Castro, 82, had stopped writing his regular newspaper columns and that no videos or pictures had been released of him for months.
''He thinks Obama is sincere in what he is saying and doing,'' she said.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The More Things Change...

The more they stay the same.

According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights, Cuba has 207 political prisoners. In July of 2006, when Raul was left in charge, Cuba had 316 political prisoners, according to the same group, headed by Elizardo Sanchez. This is a drop of over 34%. We might be tempted to assume that this means that Raul is warm and cuddly compared to his brother.

However, we must look at the short-term incarcerations that Cuba has been implementing since Raul took charge. In 2007, at least 325 (according to the CCPDH)people were arrested and released in a few hours, a few days at most. This kind of catch-and-release policy is used to scare people back into line.

The numbers for 2008 and more startling. The Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs of Cuba reported that from Jan-Nov 2008, there have been 1,107 arbitrary arrests, 139 instances of arbitrary house arrest, 72 activists tried for political activism, and 58 deaths in prison resulting from beatings or negligence.

The decrease in the number of political prisoners is an illusion. Simply because repression in Cuba has changed in appearance, that doesn't mean it's gone. The only difference is that this form of repression lets Raul look a lot better internationally and it may or may not be more effective in controlling political dissent, that is something that remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moneda Dura

It's come to my attention that I haven't mentioned Moneda Dura on this blog...a Cuban band that I have been completely obsessed with of late. This song, Hablame de Amor, is (in my humble opinion) one of the best on their cd "Alma sin Bolsillos." But I recommend just about every song on the CD. But here's my fave!

What Global Recession?

Yesterday it was reported that Venezuela donated $30.4 million to fund social projects in Cuba. These social projects will be in Cienfuegos, where Venezuela has already invested a great deal of money in the refurbishment of the Cienfuegos oil refinery.

So, this donation doesn't come completely out of the blue, however it is somewhat unprecedented considering the plummeting price of oil.

It has been reported that Venezuela's 2009 budget was based on the price of oil maintaining itself above $60 per barrel. Now that the price is below $40 per barrel, one has to wonder from where Chavez will get this money.

Well, an idealist might wonder. The fact is that the Venezuelan people will simply have to do with less as Chavez continues to bail out the failing Revolutionary government. In order to have any sort of political credibility for his "Socialism of the 21st Century," Chavez simply cannot allow the Cuban economy to sink (sink any further than it already has, that is).

So, even though Chavez cannot meet his own people's needs, he will continue giving the Cuban government billions of dollars worth of aid. After all, this $30 million is nothing compared to the billions worth of oil subsidies and credit that he extends to the Communist government.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thanks, but we had Already Figured it Out

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday it is unlikely that ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro will ever appear in public again.

"That Fidel in his uniform who walked the streets and towns late at night, hugging the people, won't return," Chavez said during his Sunday television and radio program. "That will remain in memories."

He did not discuss the 82-year-old Castro's current medical condition or say why he thought Castro would not return to the public stage.

Chavez has continued to meet occasionally with his friend Castro in private since the former Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery about 2 1/2 years ago. Castro was last seen in public on July 26, 2006, at a celebration in eastern Cuba.

Since then, Cuban authorities have periodically released photos and videos of Castro meeting with Chavez and other foreign leaders.

Fidel has ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro, but continues to write essays published in official Cuban media.

Chavez, who says he is steering Venezuela toward socialism, fondly recalled the last time he and Castro appeared in public together during a trip to Argentina in July 2006.

"He walked to the door of the plane and we hugged. My God. I didn't think it would be the last time."

"Fidel will live forever, beyond the physical life," Chavez said Sunday.

Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has forged strong ties with Cuba. Venezuela ships 190,000 barrels of crude oil a day to the communist-led island at preferential rates while Cuba has sent thousands of doctors and sports trainers to Venezuela.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Assessment of the 50 Years

Over the past month there have been a series of assessments of the past 50 years of the Cuban Revolution.

Today on this anniversary, I would like to give my own.

I do not think the Revolution, throughout it's 50 years of existence, has merrited very many words for this day. I can sum its failures and successes in only a few words:

Healthcare, education, indoctrination, political prisoners, repression, lack of freedom...that list word association game is endless.

To sum the Revolution's 50 years, I'd simply say that they improved the lives of a small minority of people, but at a significant cost (in lives, standard of living, family, money, and much else) to the vast majority.

If given a second chance, with the benefit of hindsight, I'm sure the Cuban people would not choose this path.

There, that's your splendid 50.

May there not be another.