Thursday, April 30, 2009

Anybody There?

2008 was the third consecutive year of population decline in Cuba.

ONE reported that 37,000 Cubans emigrated. They recorded 10,000 births and 86,000 deaths (a record since 1963, when ONE started these reports).

By the year 2020, ONE expects Cuba's population to be 25,000 less than it was in 2008. I don't quite know how they reach that figure, since it seems like in just one year Cuba might have 25,000 people less than they did in 2008. Maybe they'll just start counting the tourists.

According to CEPAL, Cuba is the only country in the region that has a negative growth's just another one of the successes of the Revolution.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

With a Rebel Yell, He Cries "More, More, More"

At the inauguration of today's meeting of the Countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, Raul Castro responded to Obama's recent Cuba comments.

He considers the lifting of restrictions on trips and remittances to be positive, but that they will have a minimal reach. In other words, he wants more concessions from the U.S.

Raul also stated that he will not be giving any concessions: "Cuba has not imposed any sanctions against the U.S. or against its citizens...Cuba is not the one that needs to make gestures."

Restating what he had said during the ALBA conference, Raul said, "We have reiterated that we are willing to talk with the U.S. government, in conditions of equality, but not to negotiate our sovereignty or our political or social systems, our right to self determination, or our internal affairs."

Reading between the lines, we know he means, you can talk about anything, but we will not do anything that we think will jeopardize our system.

To me, this is no different than what he had said during the ALBA meeting, although what he had said was interpretted very differently in the press.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lage Rumors

Today some rumors have surfaced that Carlos Lage has hanged himself.

I have no idea if they are true, but it's being reported that the Venezuelan paper "El Nuevo Pais" (they have no website) printed that it heard rumors that Lage killed himself last night.

Washington sources are saying there is no truth to these rumors.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Su balsa no se hundió

After a couple weeks of speculation, it's hitting the internet that Gorki is in Mexico. Yes, Gorki has left the island. It's being reported that he is in Xalapa.

I wish him luck and hope that he will enjoy real freedom of speech, something which he long fought for in Cuba, and use it to continue denouncing the regime and the life he was forced to lead, the life his friends and bandmates must still endure.

La batalla sigue, espero que no se olvide.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Raul Actually Said...

It does not sound like he's willing to discuss human rights and political prisoners. It sounds more like he is complaining that the U.S. will bring them up as topics of conversation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

But I Thought You Didn't Have Political Prisoners?!

Raul Castro yesterday: "I'm confirming it here today: If they want the freedom of those political prisoners, who include some confessed terrorists, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who were tried and sentenced . . . free our prisoners and we'll send them to you with their families and whatever they want -- those so-called dissidents and patriots.''

Ummm...Raul: here in the U.S. we have a little something called separation of powers, you might not have heard of it, but basically it's 3 branches of government and the Executive can't do whatever it wants, or rather, whatever you want.


PS--I'm sooo glad you're willing to talk about anything at all, even those political prisoners you always said you didn't have. But, just so we're clear, I know you know talk is cheap and I expect you to make no real changes. Freedom of the press before a free market (or some semblance there of)? Quite doubtful. It's all a rouse to get the U.S. to the negotiating table and extract more concessions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Administration's Changes:

Office of the Press Secrectary___________________________________________________________For Immediate Release April 13, 2009

Today, the Obama administration announced a series of changes in U.S. policy to reach out to the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their country’s future. In taking these steps to help bridge the gap among divided Cuban families and promote the freer flow of information and humanitarian items to the Cuban people, President Obama is working to fulfill the goals he identified both during his presidential campaign and since taking office.

All who embrace core democratic values long for a Cuba that respects basic human, political and economic rights of all its citizens. President Obama believes these measures will help make that goal a reality.

Cuban American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. Accordingly, President Obama will direct the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to support the Cuban people’s desire for freedom and self-determination by lifting all restrictions on family visits and remittances as well as taking steps that will facilitate greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of information and humanitarian resources directly to the Cuban people. The President is also calling on the Cuban government to reduce the charges it levies on cash remittances sent to the island so family members can be assured they are receiving the support sent to them.

Specifically, the President has directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:

Lift all restrictions on transactions related to the travel of family members to Cuba.
Remove restrictions on remittances to family members in Cuba.
Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
Add certain humanitarian items to the list of items eligible for export through licensing exceptions.

Supporting the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their future and that of their country is in the national interest of the United States. The Obama administration is taking steps to promote greater contact between separated family members in the United States and Cuba and increase the flow of remittances and information to the Cuban people.

Lift All Restrictions on Family Visits to Cuba
We will lift all restrictions on family visits to Cuba by authorizing such transactions by a general license, which will strengthen contacts and promote American good will. We will ensure the positive reach of this effort by:

Defining family members who may be visited to be persons within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) and to allow individuals who share a common dwelling as a family with an authorized traveler to accompany them;
Removing limitations on the frequency of visits;
Removing limitations on the duration of a visit;
Authorizing expenditure amounts that are the same as non-family travel; and
Removing the 44-pound limitation on accompanied baggage.

Remove Restrictions on Remittances
We will remove restrictions on remittances to a person’s family member in Cuba to increase Cubans’ access to resources to help create opportunities for them by:

Authorizing remittances to individuals within three degrees of family relationship (e.g., second cousins) provided that no remittances shall be authorized to currently prohibited members of the Government of Cuba or currently prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party;
Removing limits on frequency of remittances;
Removing limits on the amount of remittances;
Authorizing travelers to carry up to $3,000 in remittances; and
Establishing general license for banks and other depository institutions to forward remittances.
Authorize Greater Telecommunications Links with Cuba
We will authorize greater telecommunications links with Cuba to advance people-to-people interaction at no cost to the U.S. government. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba.
Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba's telecommunications service providers.
License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.
Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.

Revise Gift Parcel Regulations
We will expand the scope of humanitarian donations eligible for export through license exceptions by:

Restoring clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, and soap-making equipment to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
Restoring items normally exchanged as gifts by individuals in "usual and reasonable" quantities to the list of items eligible to be included in gift parcel donations;
Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donors to include any individual;
Expanding the scope of eligible gift parcel donees to include individuals other than Cuban Communist Party officials or Cuban government officials already prohibited from receiving gift parcels, or charitable, educational or religious organizations not administered or controlled by the Cuban government; and
Increasing the value limit on non-food items to $800.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Excuse me, can you please bend over a little more?

My frustration over the visit of the 6 members of the Congressional Black Caucus has slowly been growing and this morning I'll admit that I lost it when I read that Useful Idiot Rush (D-IL) says that he is endeared to Raul for his sense of humor, oh, and his "basic human qualities." (How basic are we getting here? Like, he breaths, has 2 arms and 2 legs)

How nice! I'm so glad he was won over by the charming personality of a murderous dictator...I hear Hitler was pretty cool himself, wonder what the CBC members would have thought of him!

Now, it wasn't bad enough that they met with Raul, which could be justifiable--he is Cuba's President and if you want dialogue, well I guess you just have to talk with him, fine. However, they also met with Fidel, the convalescent ranting buffoon that finds it way too inconvenient to die and rid the world of his endless rantings now published in Granma almost daily.

Why they would find it necessary to meet with this decrepit old sociopath who begged Khrushchev to obliterate the U.S. during the missile crises, saying it was alright if Cuba was destroyed in the process, is beyond me. Unless of course they are truly Communists. No Congressman can claim ignorance of the hundreds of political prisoners currently in Cuba's jails, nor can they say they know nothing of the thousands of executions ordered under Fidel's watch.

These brothers are ruthless murderers and these US Congressmen bow before their feet.

What has probably been the most frustrating thing of all is that these Congressmen (and the US should be ashamed that its representatives would do such a thing) met with the families of the Cinco Heroes and have said they will consider lobbying Michelle Obama to see if they can get the Cuban spies released from prison.

Unlike the hundreds of prisoners of conscience currently rotting in Cuba's jails (not to mention the tens of thousands that have been imprisoned or executed), these spies had fair trials. They were even able to file appeals and the original verdicts were upheld. And yet these Congressmen are going to fight for them to be released?!

Mind you, they can't be bothered with asking the Cuban government to release its hundreds of prisoners of conscience, let alone ask to be taken to see those rotting behind bars after being summarily tried and imprisoned.

They didn't meet with any dissidents or other members of the opposition. They didn't meet with Las Damas de Blanco, they haven't met with the relatives of Cuba's political prisoners that are in the US, and they haven't met with former political prisoners that currently live in the US...I'm sure at least one lives in one of the districts of these seven Congressmen.

Maybe if they had done any of these things, their meetings with the murderous pair would have been somewhat tolerable, but without exhibiting any display against the human rights violations in Cuba, without any display advocating for democracy, the Congressmen are just Lenin's useful idiots, allowing themselves to serve as marionettes for the dictatorship.

In Today's Granma

In today's Granma, there were some eloquent words...Can you guess who said them?

"Y, claro, se encuentra uno una república organizada como está, colonizada por completo, atrasada por completo, y enderezar esto lleva tiempo, arreglar esto correctamente lleva tiempo, porque todo está no solo atravesado sino enredado; porque es el enredo de años y de siglos y cuando usted arregla por aquí se le desarregla por allá, y tiene que ir arreglándolo todo sin desarreglar nada, y a veces la menor medida crea inconvenientes."

One could think it was Raul, trying to explain to people the predicament that he is in, asking them to be patient, basically blaming it all on the last 4+ decades of his brother's rule.

But, then one would have to guess again because it is really the big brother himself, in 1959.


Changes in the Opposition Too

Martha Beatriz Roque has stepped down from her position in the organization Agenda for the Transition, citing health concerns. She will continue on as a member of the organization.

For more information, see excerpts of a CubaEncuentro article below:

Martha Beatriz Roque renuncia a su cargo en la Agenda para la Transición
'Es la salud, que no me acompaña, la que me obliga a dar este paso', dijo la líder opositora.
Redacción CE 06/04/2009

La opositora Martha Beatriz Roque renunció a su cargo en el secretariado pro tempore de la organización Agenda para la Transición, de la que forman parte varios líderes de la disidencia interna.

"Es la salud, que no me acompaña, la que me obliga a dar este paso", dijo Roque en una nota de prensa fechada el domingo y difundida este lunes.

"Agradezco a algunos hermanos que desde meses atrás, preocupados por mis dolencias, que cada día se hacen más visibles, han solicitado de un país de la Unión Europea que tramite con el gobierno la posibilidad de salir a recibir asistencia médica, aunque sin respuesta", añadió.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fidel does it too!

Fidel Castro meets with 3 visiting US lawmakers
By WILL WEISSERT – 32 minutes ago

HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro met Tuesday with three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the former Cuban president's first known meeting with American officials since he fell ill in July 2006.

A spokesman at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana confirmed that Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, and two other lawmakers met with the ailing, 82-year-old Castro. He did not have further details nor could he provide the names of the other American leaders who attended the meeting.

Lee led a delegation of six Democratic representatives who left Havana Tuesday after a five-day trip designed to encourage dialogue between the United States and Cuba, amid much speculation long-chilly relations may improve.

Raul Meets with Members of Congressional Black Caucus

I wonder if they will be meeting with Biscet?...

Here's a disturbing article from Granma:

Sostiene Raúl encuentro con miembros del Caucus Negro del Congreso de los Estados Unidos

El General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, sostuvo la tarde de este lunes un encuentro con miembros del Caucus Negro del Congreso de los Estados Unidos, quienes realizan una visita a Cuba desde el pasado viernes.

Asistieron los representantes federales demócratas Bárbara Lee, del estado de California y presidenta del Caucus Negro, Melvin Luther Watt (California), Bobby Rush (Illinois), Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio), Emanuel Cleaver II (Missouri) y Laura Richardson (California); participaron también Patrice Willoughby, asistente ejecutiva del Caucus Negro, y Eulada Watt, esposa del congresista Melvin Luther Watt.

En el amplio intercambio de criterios se abordaron diversos temas, con énfasis en la posible futura evolución de las relaciones bilaterales y los vínculos económicos, luego de la llegada al poder de una nueva Administración norteamericana.

Al respecto, Raúl ratificó la posición cubana, expuesta de forma diáfana en varias intervenciones públicas y coincidente con los principios mantenidos de manera invariable por nuestro país durante 50 años: la disposición a dialogar sobre cualquier asunto, teniendo como únicas premisas la igualdad soberana de los Estados y el absoluto respeto a la independencia nacional y al derecho inalienable de cada pueblo a la autodeterminación.

Estuvieron presentes los miembros del Buró Político Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, y Pedro Sáez Montejo, Primer Secretario del Comité Provincial del Partido en Ciudad de La Habana; el Canciller Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Dagoberto Rodríguez Barrera, viceministro de Relaciones Exteriores, y Jorge Bolaños Suárez, jefe de la Sección de Intereses de Cuba en los Estados Unidos.

Some People just Have no Sense of Humor

This is the first I hear or this, but it's pretty some.

Officials doomed by jokes about Castros
The New York Times on Sunday cast new light on the dismissal March 2 of Cuban officials Carlos Lage, Felipe Pérez Roque and Fernando Remírez de Estenoz. "The men were involved socially with a man named Conrado Hernández (in undated photo), who was surreptitiously recording their conversations during regular parties at his ranch in Matanzas," The Times reported, citing two unidentified Cuban functionaries. "Some of those recorded conversations [...] included acerbic criticism and off-color jokes about various government leaders, including Fidel and Raúl Castro," The Times said.

Hernández, a Cuban with good business connections who represented the Basque-owned Society for Industrial Promotion and Reconversion (SPRI), was arrested on Feb. 14 as he prepared to leave Havana for Spain with his wife. His wife was released but he reportedly remains in detention.

On March 6, Raúl Castro summoned his top 20 officials to explain the dismissals, The Times said. "In broad details, he described the evidence against the men and played certain sections of the recordings for those gathered."

The Bilbao newspaper El Correo reported Sunday that a four-man delegation from the Basque government has arrived in Havana to inquire about Hernández's legal status and to find a replacement for him as a business liaison.

---Renato Pérez Pizarro.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More from Monday

Once the majority of Cubans are labeled "anti-Cuba," does that make the ones doing the labeling anti-Cuban?

Participants in art show branded as `dissidents'


In a swift reaction Tuesday to a daring call for freedom by participants in a public performance art show in Havana, the Cuban government branded the speakers ''dissidents'' and ``individuals at the service of the propagandistic anti-Cuban machinery.''

The reaction came via a statement from the 10th Havana Biennial's Organizing Committee, which charged that those who took the opportunity of a minute at a podium to protest the lack of freedoms on the island had ''taken advantage'' of artist Tania Bruguera's Monday performance.

But Bruguera, who staged the most daring performance art show the city has seen in decades, sees herself only as conceptual performance artist.

''I'm fine. I don't want to create unnecessary mythology,'' she said Tuesday from her home in Havana, a day after the stunning images of Cubans clamoring for freedom were posted on YouTube, generating thousands of hits and Internet commentary.

''What I was doing,'' she said, ``was giving my space to others.''

The biennial is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. Bruguera said her performance was on the approved schedule.

Bruguera set up a podium in front of an ochre curtain with a microphone at the Wifredo Lam Center, an official art-exhibition space. Two actors clad in the military fatigues of the Ministry of the Interior, the agency charged with spying on Cubans' activities, flanked the podium and tended to a white dove.

When Bruguera invited people from the standing-room-only audience to come to the microphone and, for a minute, say whatever they wanted, Cubans and foreign visitors protested the lack of freedom of expression on the island.

As some spoke, the white dove was placed on their shoulders by the actors -- a mocking reference to a historic Jan. 8, 1959, victory speech by Fidel Castro during which a similar bird landed on his shoulder, a sign many people viewed as divine recognition.

The dove wasn't the only mockery of Castro.

A man in a black hood strode to the microphone, lifted the hood just a little to reveal a scraggly white beard and, mimicking the voice of Castro, said, ``I think this should be prohibited.''

He was booed, but to every call for more freedoms, the audience responded with applause and shouts of ''Bravo!'' The commotion could be heard from the street, as speakers were set up outside the Lam Center to broadcast the art performance, and passersby flocked inside to see the performance and cheer.

Bruguera, whose late father was a high-ranking Cuban official, said she had no idea how the audience -- a mix of Cubans, foreign visitors and artists, curators and collectors from the international artistic community -- was going to react to her offer of a microphone.

''People went up, but they could have done nothing, and the performance would have been the vacuum,'' Bruguera said. ``I never thought that so many people were going to go up like that, that people were going to speak out like they did. I don't know the people who spoke.''

She added: ``In reality, it was out of my hands, which I think is fine.''

Bruguera said the performance ended when Bruguera thanked the participants -- not when a technician dismantled the audio system, as a news outlet reported.

''It was dismantled because it was over. There was another performance scheduled after mine,'' she said.

The Havana performance was one in a series of works Bruguera has titled El susurro de Tatlin (Tatlin's Whisper) after Russian artist and architect Vladimir Tatlin, famous for his attempts to build a monstrously tall building.

In January, as part of that series, Bruguera staged another titillating performance at the Tate Modern in London.

Mounted police rode into the museum and confronted perplexedmuseum-goers, riding around them, back and forth, and using the horses to corral and control movement. Bruguera stood, observing, in the crowd.

''People were reaching all sorts of conclusions, that there was a bomb scare,'' said Bruguera, who holds a tenure-track position at the University of Chicago and a U.S. work visa she obtained before cultural exchanges were curtailed during the George W. Bush years.

Bruguera also staged a disconcerting performance last December during Art Basel Miami Beach at the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO).

Basel VIPs were brought at random into a room filled with historic images of dead people and then interrogated by a museum guard about ``why so many people want to assassinate President Barrack Obama.''

She staged that work because she found it unusual that people were having such a conversation.
''I'm an uncomfortable artist wherever I go,'' Bruguera said. ``I'm an artist who tries to do the impossible. That's my work, and that's how I conduct my personal life.''