Friday, December 21, 2007
- If you ever doubted what $90 oil does for
’s foreign policy, or for Venezuelan and Cuban public diplomacy initiatives in the Venezuela Caribbean, read this Reuters article on the reopening of the refinery and the Petrocaribe summit taking place in Cienfuegos now. Cuba
- An interesting Herald report on the recent custody case involving the daughter of Rafael Izquierdo of Cabaiguan and the
foster family. The State of Coral Gables ’s actions were directed by the staffs of the former and current governors. Nothing wrong with that, considering that the Department of Children and Families works for the governor, but it may explain why the state’s actions were so unusual: it asked the court to strip custody from the father even as he was declared a fit parent, and it waited three months before contacting the father to tell him that his parental status was going to be at issue. Florida
- From the Latin America Working Group, a useful scorecard and fact sheet on presidential candidates’ positions on
. If you like the embargo and the family sanctions and all that, you’ll have to look at the scoring system upside-down, but the info is solid. Cuba
- On the road at Christmas, Charlie Bravo writes about
, where Cuban Americans can go to be with their Moms. Italy
- Here’s the correct link for the English version of the terrific blog Generacion Y. Someone out there is doing a great favor by translating Yoani’s work.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The old building occupied a full block, and it was an eyesore of 1950’s architecture surrounded by colonial-era buildings. It posed a big challenge for the restoration effort of the area, led by the city’s historian, Eusebio Leal. He and his team spent a long time considering whether to tear it down or rehabilitate it.
They opted for a solution where they gutted the building, preserved its skeleton, and rebuilt. And considering that the site is where the
Is Cuban Miami becoming more moderate politically?
If you want to argue the affirmative, you can cite data from this poll or anecdotes from stories such as this one from the Sarasota Herald Tribune (sub. req’d), citing pro-engagement sentiments among Cuban Americans of different generations.
If you want to argue the negative, you can cite the fact that
And what does the interesting case of Carlos Otero tell us?
Otero, a famous television personality in
If you roam the Spanish-language blogs, you’ll see that his defection sparked all kinds of questions. Why was he allowed to travel to
I don’t know Mr. Otero, I don’t know his work, and I don’t know the answer to those questions.
But what is clear is that these questions, and a comical recent call for a boycott of Channel 41 and a competing station that show too many ex-officials of the Cuban government, were cast aside completely by Channel 41.
That station’s management made a quick business judgment regarding their audience.
Clearly, they calculated that what matters to their audience is that Otero is a good entertainer. And that the audience will not hold his life and work in
That is a market response to the Cuban American audience that would not have occurred, I think, even a generation ago. It focuses on an audience of more recent immigrants that don’t reject everything about
It’s not a predictor of political change, but I think it does mark a difference.
And Mr. Otero, welcome to
Oswaldo Paya delivered petitions to the National Assembly calling for adoption of laws to give amnesty to political prisoners and to allow Cubans to travel abroad freely and to return home. Reportedly, he delivered the petitions with 25,000 signatures, more than the 10,000 required to put a bill initiated by citizens on the legislative agenda. (More detailed report in Spanish here.) But it’s pointed out that he may not have followed the somewhat onerous requirement of certifying that the signers are registered voters, which would allow the petitions to be dismissed on procedural grounds (see Los Miquis, here).
Regardless, he made his point.
Responding to a Congressional request, the Government Accountability Office has done another report on
The report finds an emphasis on
“DHS’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP)…has increased intensive, “secondary” inspections of passengers arriving from
When it comes to Treasury enforcement of embargo violations, GAO found the following:
“Our analysis of OFAC data shows that from 2000 through 2006, the agency collected fines totaling about $8.1 million for 8,170 violations of the
“The unilateral nature of the embargo and a lack of multilateral cooperation hamper
The feds also complain about other challenges that seem to be explained by Cuban Americans’ love for their own relatives in
“Agency officials said that divided public opinion about the embargo has contributed to widespread, small-scale violations of restrictions on family travel and remittances and to an environment in which some individuals can profit from illegal activities… Also, financial services technologies, such as stored-value cards and online money transfer services, and widespread money laundering in southern
In the end, GAO could not determine how the Administration’s 2004 family sanctions and other tightened sanctions have affected
“The impact of tighter restrictions implemented in 2004 and 2005 on travel, cash remittances, and gifts to
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
- Two items from the Herald: Congress is set to approve $45 million for Cuba democracy programs, and an English version of yesterday’s article on fugitive Joanne Chesimard.
- It is announced that the
refinery, revamped with Venezuelan aid, is good to go. Cienfuegos
- Stuck on the Palmetto hangs it up. A great
blog, occasionally about Miami . Very sorry to see them go. Cuba
- Tired of politics? In Connie’s blog, and with illustrations by her own hand, “Letras en Guines 1965,” an essay of photos and illustrations about the “trabajo productivo” on the farm in 1965 by students of the Escuela de Letras y Arte.
Cuba announced last week that it will sign two UN agreements by May of next year – the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Fidel Castro differed from the government’s “political decision” to sign these pacts because of provisions on labor unions and education. Here are a few excerpts from them:
- “Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.”
- “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.”
- “Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence…Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own…No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”
- “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
- “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized.”
- “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
- “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the [civil and political] rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights…”
- “The States Parties to the present [economic, social, and cultural] Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”
- “The States to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular:
Fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind…”
- “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
Monday, December 17, 2007
Fidel Castro sent another message to the Mesa Redonda television program (text here), in which he gave his views on how the
“My fundamental duty is not to hold on to positions, much less to block the way of younger people, but rather to bring experiences and ideas whose modest value come from the exceptional era in which I lived.”
To my knowledge, this is the first time Fidel has addressed his future role. As President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers, and head of the Communist Party, he has options. He seems to be hinting at an advisory, non-executive role, such as returning as a member of the Council of State – a decision he would have to make after the new National Assembly is seated next March – but not as its President.
A friend sent me this document, “Record of Paramilitary Action Against the Castro Government in Cuba” (pdf, 4.5 mb), a declassified CIA study of the
“…experience indicates that political restrictions upon military measures may result in destroying the effectiveness of such efforts. The end result is political embarrassment coupled with military failure and loss of prestige in the world. If political considerations are such as to prohibit the application of those military steps required to achieve the objective, then such military operations should not be undertaken.”
The final 18 pages of the paper are a Sep- tember 1961 article from Fortune magazine about the foreign policy context of the time and how President Kennedy and his people acted in this
The idea was to conceal the American role in supporting the operation – one of many decisions that produced a complete, tragic, and costly fiasco.
[Photos: a billboard near the invasion beach that proclaims victory over “Yanqui” forces, and one of many monuments to fallen soldiers on the road leading to the beach.]
fell short of its 2007 plan for housing construction and repair, an official announced, and in part she blamed the embargo. Cuba announces a five-year, $2 billion plan for investment in transportation, including more acquisitions of Chinese buses. Cuba
- In El Nuevo Herald, a story on American fugitive Joanne Chesimard’s life in
- Here’s an unusual and enterprising case of immigration fraud. A
woman is charged with nine counts of bigamy – a Cuban American and a legal permanent resident, she married nine extra men so they could stay in the Miami and acquire legal status, and she charged them for it. United States
Friday, December 14, 2007
Granma published a note from Castro to Randy Alonso, moderator of the Mesa Redonda television program. Castro requests that Randy broadcast a statement he made in 2001 in which Castro explained why
The section on labor union rights would provide “a pretext for imperialism to try to divide and fragment workers, create artificial unions, and reduce their political and social power and influence,” Castro said in 2001. A section on education would “open the doors to the privatization of teaching, which in the past allowed painful differences and irritating privileges and injustices, including racial discrimination.” (AFP Spanish story here.)
Castro asked that the text of his 2001 statement be titled, “History will tell who is right.”
Maybe history will also tell us who is in charge.
● A call for national dialogue and reconciliation in
● Two men plead guilty to obstruction of justice in
● Rescued from extinction: the fishing bats of Sancti Spiritus. As the Spanish version of this same article explains, these bats glide near the surface of the water and catch fish, just like eagles I guess. Qué clase de país!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Two opposition leaders, Martha Beatriz Roque and Jose Luis Garcia (known as Antunez) issued a call for the Cuban opposition to unite and change tactics. (Pdf of statement here, via Penultimos Dias.)
Opposition unity has long been an elusive goal because of genuine and natural disagreements about policies and tactics, personal and political rivalries, suspicions, and disputes relating to connections with
Regarding tactics, the statement almost implies that the opposition has not connected with the public. It calls on each member of the opposition to do so now, one-on-one, to “win the street” and later “come out united.” The idea is to avoid repression and to open “many more contacts with the people.” The plan is for each member of the opposition to talk to three Cubans each day, people not a part of their family or circle of friends, and to explain three things. First, how the government violates each article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the need for political prisoners to be released. Second the need to engage in “non-cooperation” with the government. Third, “to make known the difficult economic, social, and political situation that the country is living and its ‘irreversible’ condition inside the totalitarian system, hence a change is indispensable.”
’s Catholic Bishops issue their Christmas message (see front page of this site) and expressed hope for “necessary changes that may improve and transform national life,” in the face of “difficulties that are oppressive and have lasted too long.” “It is necessary to give space for personal initiative and creativity,” they added. Cuba
Cancun, a murder apparently related to smuggling of Cubans. The Cuban-American victim was about to talk to authorities about the murder of his brother, also in Cancun, three months ago.
- In a Herald op-ed, the son of Jorge Mas Canosa examines his father’s legacy, and draws some lessons.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A group of independent journalists in
At the top of the page is an editorial that comments on a videoconference that First Lady Laura Bush held last week with several independent librarians who gathered at the U.S. Interests Section. The editorial “deplores” the exclusion of some of the leaders of the independent library movement from that event and implies that the
- More on the Mexican complaints about human smuggling: an op-ed by Miguel Cossio in El Nuevo Herald says
is abandoning its tradition of granting asylum and “has yielded to the blackmail of the Castro dictatorship.” And Armengol, unimpressed, reports on a Radio Mambi call for a boycott of Mexican products. Mexico
- At Penultimos Dias, a call from
for dissidents to change their modus operandi. Los Angeles
- Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee, as their supporters in this Herald story tell it, would push for indictments of Fidel and Raul Castro in connection with the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The surprising aspect of Human Rights Day in
The foreign ministry called a press conference shortly before the demonstration itself to announce that Cuba will sign – sometime before May 2008 – UN human rights conventions, including the one on civil and political rights. Many stories filed from
The demonstration, led by dissident Darsi Ferrer and involving about a dozen people, proceeded quietly – at first – in a square in Vedado. According to multiple press reports, it was broken up by a mob, apparently directed by plainclothes officials, after the demonstrators marched a few blocks away from the square.
Ferrer was told the day before to appear at the local military headquarters on the morning of the demonstration. Reportedly, others who intended to join the demonstration were detained before they could go. A number of the demonstrators themselves were detained by police. (AP’s coverage here.)
Was this overkill because that is what they do automatically, or did the government expect that far more than a few dozen might have shown up for the demonstration?
- From the LA Times, more on Governor Huckabee’s new position on Cuba: he apparently committed to allow Title III of the Helms-Burton law to go into effect. That would allow Cuban Americans to file lawsuits in
courts against foreign investors in U.S. if their investments touch their expropriated properties in Cuba . It has been waived by Presidents Clinton and Bush every six months since the law was passed, so it has never gone into effect. Cuba
- Here’s the English transcript of the Republican candidates’ debate on Univision on Sunday night.
- New oil fields have been discovered in
, Prensa Latina reports (English) – but doesn’t say where. They are still to be evaluated to determine their impact on reserves. Cuba
- A survey by Latin Business Chronicle (subscription required) puts Cuba in last place (and Chile in first) in a regional technology survey that measures phone, PC, wireless, Internet, and broadband penetration.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee used to oppose the
The agriculture move was not hard to foresee. Farm production is clearly one of Raul Castro’s priorities; in his 26th of July speech, he lamented that too much good land is idle, and he called for expansion of the practices that work well within Cuban agriculture. That could only mean greater reliance on
So when Reuters correspondent Marc Frank visited farmers in
We’ll see how widespread this practice becomes. Potentially, it would have three positive effects: increased food supply, downward pressure on food prices, and higher income for the private farmers and cooperatives.
Another Reuters report told of a meeting last Wednesday where the Finance Ministry told foreign companies that as of January 1, they must keep records of hard currency payments they make to their Cuban workers, and the workers will have to pay income tax on them. I understand that a formal regulation is to follow.
For more than a decade, it has been an open secret in
These payments are the obvious reason why Cubans overwhelmingly prefer to work in tourism and the foreign business sector.
Faced with this widespread and illegal practice,
As a result, a worker who earns $200 per month from a foreign company will have to pay the same tax as a Cuban entrepreneur who earns the same amount as an artisan, taxi driver, or home-based bed-and-breakfast operator.
The workers now subject to income taxation probably don’t see this as progress, and one can hardly blame them. Unless their employers increase their pay, these first-time taxpayers will see their income decrease.
From an economic policy perspective, the government has legitimized hard currency payments that put one sector of the workforce at an income level far higher than the average Cuban worker. The message is that it’s ok for some workers to be paid more than others, and the way to address equity concerns is not to stamp out the higher incomes, but to tax and redistribute some of it.
This particular move, if it plays out as described in the initial reports, will not stimulate the economy – but if foreign investment expands in the coming years, the result will be a larger share of the workforce earning hard currency incomes.
What is more interesting is the philosophy behind it, and it will be interesting to see if it appears in other moves in the months ahead.
- The rural women’s group that has petitioned for an end to
’s dual-currency system issued an appeal for support, naming 34 prominent women in Cuba media and civic affairs, asking why they have not raised their voices. Miami
- After mass in
yesterday, the Damas de Blanco dispensed with their usual march along a few blocks of Quinta Avenida and instead marched to the National Assembly. They received support from some visiting Europeans. (Update: Ten Spanish women were detained and will be deported for joining the demonstration; Reuters report here.) Havana
- From Ariel
in El Nuevo Herald, a column on some Cubans’ fear of change, and a suggestion on what to do about it. Hidalgo
Friday, December 7, 2007
(Photo via Google images.)
- More on the arrests at the Santiago church: those arrested were all released, the government apologized to the local bishop, and human rights monitor Elizardo Sanchez sees the action as premeditated and designed to discourage participation in activities that will mark Human Rights Day next week. La Jornada’s coverage here, AP’s here. And Granma, in case anyone was wondering, makes clear that it doesn’t like the foreign media’s coverage of recent opposition activities; this essay is a good example of the way Cuban officials and media use
policy to attempt to discredit political opponents in the eyes of their domestic audience. U.S.
- An op-ed on U.S. policy co-authored by Bill Ratliff of the Independent Institute and dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe.
- Yoani Sanchez’ blog, I just discovered, has a (partial) version in English, check it out here (click on "Version al ingles" beneath the first paragraph).
Thursday, December 6, 2007
- At Cubanet, an independent journalist’s review of the once-censored Seven Against
(discussed here), which played in Thebes from October 20 to November 11. Excerpt: “It’s not about mysteries, but rather about communion – and communication – between the dialogues on stage and some keys to our reality, ‘recreated’ by the author in the actors’ voices, always tense and expectant in that besieged city that reminds us of our own, and of this island that has deported so many Polynices and still guards against an enemy army that doesn’t arrive.” Havana
- A New York Times account of the restoration of Old Havana. Mine, from 2001, is here (pdf, 19 pages).
- A new blog in Spanish, Cambio de Epoca, written by Jose Antonio Blanco and hosted at CubaEncuentro.
State security agents entered the grounds of a
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
There was press coverage of remarks on
Asked about the difference in policies toward
Gutierrez’ full remarks on
While searching, I did run across his recent talk to students from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, where his message on human rights amounted to a single sentence: “We have a good human rights dialogue with
“Some governments suppress the entrepreneurial spirit and flow of information to their citizens, even by suppression. We’ve seen it around the world and nearby in
“With them and others, we believe we – and all nations – have an obligation to raise the issues of human rights. We have a good human rights dialogue with
- IPS: from
, some ideas on how to improve agriculture. Cuba is convening an academic conference to study the role and history of Freemasonry in Latin America, and wants to open a study center on the subject. Will Cuban Masons participate? Cuba
- The custody settlement reached last week by Rafael Izquierdo of Cabaiguan and his daughter’s foster family was approved by the judge and is now final.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
What may be more surprising is that the U.S. government also has high estimates for
There are two recent reports about
And then there’s a somewhat breathless report from the University of Miami that, “quietly and behind the scenes,” European banks are “resuscitating a near-bankrupt Castro regime.” (Yes, “near-bankrupt.”) They are doing so through “lucrative high-interest loans to the Cuban government” that are lucrative for the banks but not, one supposes, very “resuscitating” to
- When Trinidad Jimenez,
’s top diplomat for Spain Latin America, went to to meet a range of Cuban American groups, it’s reported that she got an earful about the Cuban opposition, and which of its members are and are not genuine. Coverage at Mambi Watch. Miami
- Elizardo Sanchez: 35 members of the opposition arrested in the past 11 days, seven remain in jail. AP coverage here (English), Reuters Spanish here.
- Castro’s nomination for a National Assembly seat means that reforms will be blocked, dissidents say. Martha Beatriz Roque: “We have seen that on one hand his brother Raul says one thing, Fidel says another, they contradict each other, one doesn’t know who is governing here.”
Monday, December 3, 2007
● We’re all familiar with stories about refugees from Cuba, but some go to Cuba too, because Cuba works with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle refugees in need. This story from UNHCR tells about the hundreds of “lost boys” of
● Jesús Gracia Aldaz,
Yesterday’s Venezuelan election taught me a few things: that the opposition is not to be counted out; that Chavez is capable of overreaching to the extent that some of his own people would oppose him; that Venezuela’s institutions, or at least the electoral authorities, retain some independence; that Chavez himself is capable of conceding defeat. Where he goes from here, with several years left in his presidential term, is not clear. Even less so what this setback means for