Nowhere in the coverage did I see mention of the labor ministry’s plan to create a new salary policy. The goal was to link pay to output, and to “guarantee” that workers “may live from their work.” The policy was to have been delivered last June.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In light of the upcoming National Assembly elections, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor newsletter asked Francisco Hernandez of the Cuban American National Foundation, Professor Bill LeoGrande of
- AFP reports (in Spanish, here) that
’s Sunday constitutional referendum includes a provision on regional integration. Article 153 says the government can enter into agreements and treaties to promote “integration, confederation, and union of Venezuela Latin Americaand the Caribbeanwith the object of configuring a grat bloc of regional political, economic, and social power.” AP’s coverage of the referendum and the political mood is here. A statement on the referendum from Relial, a network of liberal groups in Latin America, is here, with a long bill of particulars.
- Under a deal that still has to be approved by a judge, Rafael Izquierdo of Cabaiguan will get sole custody of his daughter, on condition that he remain in the United States for two and a half years, and the foster family will have visitation rights. The Herald’s report here.
- “The more, the merrier,” says Mitt Romney when it comes to Cuban immigration. In his interview with the Tampa Tribune, he seems to have dodged a question about the wet foot-dry foot policy. He says he relies on advice from Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of whom support Senator McCain. Rui Ferreira followed up on that; Mario says it isn’t so, and Ileana says she talks to lots of candidates.
- The Spanish foreign ministry’s
Latin Americachief is making the rounds in Miami, and made a good impression on Consenso Cubano.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Oswaldo Paya announced the formation of a new group with more than 300 members, the Citizen Committee for Reconciliation and Dialogue, which seeks a national dialogue to address a long series of grievances concerning the lack of political and economic liberties and poor social and economic conditions. The document that announced the initiative (in English and Spanish here, via Uncommon Sense) is vintage Paya: it contains no rancor, proclaims all Cubans to be brothers, rejects the communist definition of the Cuban nation, confides in the value of dialogue, explicitly includes Cubans living abroad and recognizes their place in the Cuban nation. It also rejects foreign interference with a passage that seems to push back against both
“It is up to Cubans and only Cubans to define and decide the future of
“This is why we do not accept foreign laws that pretend to decide on the present or design the future of
A women’s group called FLAMUR presented petitions to the Cuban National Assembly calling for the end of
And a student group held a press conference to claim that it has collected 5,000 signatures on a petition calling for the re-establishment of independent and Catholic universities (AP report in English here, Spanish here). If the goal of 10,000 signatures can be reached, this petition too can be presented to the National Assembly under a itizen initiative provision in the Cuban constitution that allows citizens to propose changes in statutes.
These initiatives have a common characteristic that brought lots of criticism to the Varela Project from hard-liners in
(Update: At Babalu, an examination of these initiatives, and readers chime in.)
I’m adding a Spanish-language blog to the list at right, El Archivo de Connie. It’s a treasure, full of materials from the “cultural and university life of
Monday, November 26, 2007
In the past year it has exposed the dysfunction in many Cuban state enterprises and serious problems in delivery of dental care. Yesterday’s paper contained an opinion piece that criticized the “overwhelming unanimity” in Cuba’s National Assembly, citing the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to chide the legislature for the scarcity of debates where opposing views are voiced.
It also contained a long article on Cuba’s unemployment figures that showed what a stroll through just about any Cuban neighborhood reveals: that many more youths are unemployed than official figures admit, or as the article put it, “the figures are never a reflection of reality.” The article (in English, here) explained how undercounting occurs; it revealed that in the province of Granma, social workers counted about 18 times more unemployed than official figures show; and it pointed out that programs to bring youths and others into the workforce are not always successful because in many cases the economy is not generating enough new jobs, or the right kind of jobs, to give opportunities to graduates. In light of this article, it will be interesting to see how government ministers treat the employment issue when they give their annual accounting to the National Assembly next month.
It will be even more interesting to see if Cuban economic policy confronts this problem.
The Economist, for example, reports that
ment could opt for an opening that would affect Cubans more directly, by easing the restrictions on their own economic initiative. The agriculture sector is a prime candidate, frequently mentioned in the discussion of the recent economic debate.
Another job-generating possibility involves
[Photo from Palabra Nueva]
and Spain still trying to schedule their next human rights talks; meanwhile, Cuba describes some of its human rights advocacy. Spain
- At 200 and counting, a list of blogs about
- At the Havana Note, Gail Reed looks at the weekend movies in
’s tv guide and sees that 17 of 21 come from the empire. Cuba ’s Catholic Church is collecting donations and distributing aid to storm victims in eastern Cuba . Cuba
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Update: A November 22 order from the Council of State has fixed December 2 as the day for candidates to be nominated for the January elections. This process will tell if Fidel Castro will continue as Cuba's chief of state (President of the Council of State), or move into another role. Members of the Council of State must first be elected to the National Assembly.
La Jornada reports that
On the agenda: more foreign investment; an agriculture opening including creation of a market for farm inputs (now provided by a single state provider) and efforts to liberate productive forces through measures that are “socialist or compatible with socialism,” according to Ramiro Valdes; efforts at import substitution; decentralization, more autonomy, and worker incentive pay in state enterprises (following the perfeccionamiento empresarial process); strengthened administrative and accounting controls applied to workers and managers; and a “special emphasis” on cutting bureaucracy.
If that’s the case, it sounds like the initial steps might include market-based moves in agriculture accompanied by a greater emphasis on improving the state sector. And if this is the entire agenda, at least in a first phase, then this is a sign of a government intent on tackling economic problems but not in crisis mode, and definitely at its own pace.
- According to Hugo Chavez, the Cienfuegos oil refinery is about to start production after completion of a joint Cuban-Venezuelan refurbishment project. The refinery, built with Soviet aid and technology, has been idle since the early 1990’s when the
- Will they run? El Nuevo covers two websites urging Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez to challenge the Diaz-Balarts.
- Rui Ferreira hears that
’s annual December film festival will include “The Lives of Others,” the 2006 film about Stasi internal spying and persecution in the former Havana . East Germany
- And in the
Sun, a review of “Soy Cuba” (1964), a Soviet-Cuban collaboration that the reviewer aptly calls “antique agitprop,” now on DVD. New York
- An affectionate profile of Versailles, where the Fidel death watch continues, and the death itself will, apparently, be bad for business.
Monday, November 19, 2007
- Osvaldo Mitat and Santiago Alvarez plead guilty to obstruction of justice after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Luis Posada Carriles. AP report here.
- In Diario las
, Jorge Sanguinetty makes a proposal: the Americas should “create a real crisis” for Castro by offering to negotiate the lifting of the United States embargo in exchange for a lifting of the “internal embargo,” the economic restrictions the Cuban government imposes on its own citizens. U.S.
- An icon of the special period,
’s camellos, are headed for retirement, the Chicago Tribune reports. Cuba
The next step in
The UN Human Rights Council, successor to the UN Human Rights Commission where the United States and Cuba fought their annual springtime battle, adopted new rules last week whereby it will now look at all countries’ human rights records, and it eliminated the special rapporteur for Cuba.
This result has political importance to the governments that engaged in the debate. But it remains the case that if you want independent, thorough reporting on human rights in
Meanwhile, Spain and Cuba prepare for a second round of bilateral talks on human rights questions.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
There has been lots of coverage – none in English, that I can find – about an event that took place in
He published the play in 1968 and won an award for it from the Cuban writers’ union (UNEAC), but as soon as the play opened, it was censored because it was interpreted as being too critical. As this summary of Arrufat’s career notes (it precedes a recent interview of him on the
It is based on a play be the same name by Aeschylus, involving a conflict between two brothers, both nephews of Creon, the king of
Drawing on my very slim knowledge of literature, I can say that this story line – especially the play Antigone and adaptations of it – has been a vehicle for exploring the conflict between the individual and the state, and in Antigone’s case, the decision of a strong and defiant woman to obey a higher imperative than the one set forth by her uncle the king.
There’s plenty of commentary out there about the revival of Arrufat’s play and what it means for the Cuban cultural sector, for censorship, etc. Juventud Rebelde’s review says that the play is about a conflict between “individual ambitions and collective interests,” and that the performance “settles an old debt.”
What I want to know is, what is it about his version of Seven Against Thebes that was so incendiary back then, and viewed as so critical of the system?
[Photo from Juventud Rebelde]
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
- The Bush Administration went to court on Monday in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, seeking to reverse the dismissal of immigration fraud charges against him last May (described here). Courtesy of the Herald, the 64-page appeal filed by the government is here (pdf).
- You learn something new every day: the UN has a Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. He just spent ten days in Cuba, studied the food situation, and saw an “immediate, dramatic, total” need to increase farm productivity. According to Reuters’ paraphrase of his comments, he says changes may be coming within months to “increase the scope of private cooperatives at the expense of state farms.” He also visited two prisons, but to look into the food situation, not human rights.
- A Miami Herald editorial calls for changes in
policy to allow greater contact with U.S. in the interest of promoting change in Cuba . The editorial cites Eastern Europeans such as Havel and Walesa, whom President Bush praises for their assessment of the human rights situation in Cuba , but who favor different policies. Cuba
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
In the Cuban market,
It may be, as is speculated in the Reuters story, that
I’ll speculate that there may be another factor at work. Cuban officials had high hopes that, following the opening of agricultural sales, Congress would chip away at other parts of the embargo, with the
My guess is that
(Photo of Escambray mountains.)
Monday, November 5, 2007
There is no doubt that large numbers of Cubans would like to come to the
Substantial numbers of Cubans have been coming ever since, about 20,000 per year with normal immigrant visas, as provided in those accords. The point of those accords was to open the door to legal migration and discourage illegal migration.
However, many still come without visas. In 2006, according to government data cited in media reports, 11,487 crossed the Mexican border, 2,861 were intercepted at sea, and 4,825 reached
It could be, as the paper claims, that
The reason this is not being treated as a crisis – by the Administration, by Cuban American leaders, by
- More reactions to the Bush speech on Cuba: four organizations from the “moderate opposition” give it a thumbs down; so does dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe; Carlos Alberto Montaner said it puts Bush on the “ethical” side of the issue, in English here and in Spanish here, with critical comments by Charlie Bravo.
- Speaking of the speech, here’s how the U.S. Interests Section’s electronic signboard described it: “In his speech addressing the Cuban people, President Bush said: If Cuba is to enter a new era, it must find a way to reconcile and pardon those who have been part of the system but do not have blood on their hands. The President reiterated tht Cubans have the future of their country in their hands.”
- An IPS report describes the religious and community charitable work of an evangelical church in
’s La Lisa neighborhood. Havana
- From Miami New Times, an account of a recent exhibit of the art of Luis Posada Carriles and José Dionisio Suarez.
Friday, November 2, 2007
- Detentions in Centro Habana, apparently over the wearing of rubber bracelets with the word “cambio” on them. Human rights monitor Elizardo Sanchez is unsure of the number of detentions, according to AP, while some estimates say 70 were detained. The bracelets, the Herald reports, are part of a “Miami-based initiative.” Uncommon Sense has a roundup, here.
- Also from AP: the Cuban election process is now moving from the municipal level toward nomination of candidates for the national legislature. No word on whether Fidel Castro will be on the ballot; we’ll know by next spring. If he foregoes a seat in the National Assembly, he would effectively be resigning from executive office, because the Council of State is drawn from National Assembly members.
- Why it pays to read El Nuevo Herald very closely: a literary soiree with poetry readings and more, sponsored by Alpha 66 and at the offices of Alpha 66, right on Calle Ocho. It starts in about two hours, sorry for the late notice. (H/T: Los Miquis de Miami)
- Rudy’s problem in Little Havana: the memory of who he put behind bars when he was a federal prosecutor in the southern district of Manhattan, such as Eduardo Arocena of Omega 7. Armengol explains how this redounds to Romney’s benefit.
Did you know that the White House has been infiltrated by Cuban intelligence?
That’s the assessment of Christopher Simmons, a Defense Intelligence Agency counterintelligence officer who appeared at the Heritage Foundation last week.
Simmons said that confessed spy Ana Montes, the former top DIA Cuba analyst, was not an anomaly. “Ana Montes was not the only senior
If you don’t believe me, I don’t blame you. You can watch it here, it begins around . (And no, he did not include the State Department in that list.)
The entire program, which examines the Cuban threat to
Simmons is joined in the Heritage program by State Department official Robert Blau, who describes the “reconfigured” threat that
But Simmons is the most interesting, an extreme exception among counterintelligence officers, who tend to avoid public discussions. In addition to the Heritage appearance and another on
Simmons says that
His latest column appeared in yesterday’s Herald, and focused on
In that column, he mentioned a controversy from the summer of 2003, where it was alleged that private Los Angeles-based satellite broadcasts to
This is a new interpretation. When the allegations arose in 2003, the State Department called in Cuban diplomats, asked for an explanation, and eventually received one.
Two months later, the Deputy Secretary of State testified about the jamming, to the same effect:
SEN. BILL NELSON: You were talking to Senator Brownback about the jamming. There was a report that the Cuban government was jamming broadcasts into
MR. ARMITAGE: We approached the government of
There’s a lot to comment upon here; I hope readers do, and I certainly will in the future.