Friday, October 31, 2008
True to form, it wasn’t a cliffhanger. For the 17th year in a row, the UN General Assembly approved the resolution urging the
184 voted “yes” last year, and Cuban media report that
The Los Angeles Times editorialized on the vote and the “blunt instrument” of the embargo. If this vote prompts a new Administration to take a fresh look at
- The Voice of America: “Democratic Support Growing Among Cuban-American Voters.” The Herald looks at high-dollar contributions to the Miami House races, and reports that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee “has spent $1.1 million against the Diaz-Balarts.”
- A new blog, “In the Americas,” from the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, Admiral James Stavridis.
- Comcast offers a 79-cent/minute rate for phone calls to
, but apparently only for customers who sign up for a certain combination of services. That’s exorbitant compared to rates to other countries, but from what I know, it’s a bargain compared to other rates to Cuba . AT&T starts at 92 cents per minute, the Herald reports. A more skeptical view is found here. Cuba
- The President of Brazil is in
, reportedly to sign a deal to allow Petrobras to explore for oil in Cuban waters, and to advance cooperation in soy farming. Cuba
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Today the UN General Assembly will vote on a resolution (text here, pdf) that urges the
There are lots of reasons, depending on your point of view, not to pay attention to this event. It’s a top priority of Cuban diplomacy. The debate will feature Cuban assertions about the embargo’s damages to the Cuban economy ($3.77 billion in 2007) that can’t be verified, and that ignore the cost to
On top of all that, the resolution has been presented, debated, and voted upon 16 times before, every year since 1992. The score so far:
If there has been any drama in this, it has been the slow movement of
So if the vote today brings the score to 17-0, it will not exactly break new ground, but it will remind us of a few things.
Second, while many governments agree with
Third, if a new U.S. Administration decides that it wants to work more closely with allies and other countries on the
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
- The Sun-Sentinel reports on the post-hurricane crackdown on black market activity involving food. More here from AP, and from Cubanet, from
. Santa Clara
- The UN’s World Food Program announced a $5.7 million program to provide food, storage facilities, and cooking equipment to areas hit by the hurricanes. About one in six Cubans, 1.78 million people, will be served.
- Cuban Colada notes a Russian newspaper story that gives one Russian analyst’s explanation for
’s decision to help Russia with air defense. Cuba
- Encuentro is asking Cubans to write their advice to the next American president. Three letters have been published so far, from Dagoberto Valdes (editor of Convivencia) and opposition figures Manuel Cuesta Morua and Martha Beatriz Roque. Valdes (indirectly) and Cuesta (very directly) oppose current
sanctions. Roque limits herself to advising a new U.S. president to take U.S. Latin Americaseriously.
El Nuevo Herald has a report on Cuban migration to the
From October 2007 to May 2008, the number of Cubans entering via land borders (last year, 90 percent came from
El Nuevo links to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security here.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Here’s an excerpt, with emphasis added, from the Bush Administration’s 2004
“A secondary mortgage market affords two principal advantages. First, it lowers the cost of mortgage finance by allowing credit risk and interest rate risk to be separated and borne by those best able to bear it. Second, it levels the cost of finance by connecting local housing markets to international capital markets so that borrowers have access to the lowest cost funds, not just those available locally. As mentioned above, a credit enhancement for lenders in a secondary mortgage market would provide them a liquid source of funding by permitting lenders and investors to easily sell and buy bundles of mortgage loans without regard for the underlying credit risk. Establishing a secondary mortgage market would require a governmental entity, similar to Ginnie Mae, to underwrite a security instrument backed by mortgage loans and guarantied against loss from credit risk that could trade in international capital markets.
- Miami New Times reporter Francisco Alvarado predicts that both
and Mario Diaz-Balart will lose their seats – you can take the prediction or leave it, but the article is a good, detailed look at the campaign. Lincoln
- Cuban American National Foundation Chairman Jorge Mas Santos, writing in the Washington Post, on the keys to winning the Cuban American vote. One key: repealing President Bush’s 2004 regulations that added restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel to
- A Russian military delegation is due in
this week, and Reuters reports from Havana that assistance in air defense will be on the agenda. Moscow
- Fidel Castro on “Economic Illiteracy.”
’s El Universal looks at the difference between Venezuela ’s economic reations with Brazil , and Cuba ’s. Venezuela ’s president plas a visit to Brazil in January. Cuba
Friday, October 24, 2008
Holguin’s Catholic bishop, Emilio Aranguren, says, “As everything is centralized in state organizations, people wait for things to be given to them…they note that the pace is very slow in relation to…the amount of things that have to be done.”
In advance of the UN General Assembly debate on the Cuban resolution opposing the
At first glance, it consists mostly of brief statements from member states explaining that they have no embargo against
Even with election day ten days away, people are speculating about the impact of an Obama win, and in the case of two professors cited here, they’re speculating about the impact on
Here’s a very original take from an American professor, Jose Buscaglia, who says of an Obama victory, “Nothing could be more threatening to the long-held views of the Cuban ‘comandantes’ and generals, as well as to the institutions they have carefully developed over the last half century to keep their country under the tightest control.”
And from Havana, a specialist in
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Silvia Wilhelm, one of the Americans smeared by Lt. Col. Chris Simmons, has made a strong statement in response.
In it, she notes that during the program, host Oscar Haza asked Simmons if he was aware that Wilhelm is married to a high-ranking military officer. “I did not know that,” Simmons replied. This was a truly absurd moment – Haza was apparently referring to the former commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Charles E. Wilhelm (Ret.), who is not, and never has been married to Silvia. Although as Silvia points out, a different Charles Wilhelm, a physician, is indeed her husband.
But don’t be deterred, Lt. Col. Simmons...a quick Google search – which seems to be what Haza relied upon for his revelation – reveals that General Wilhelm has traveled to Cuba!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
What do sugar and ethanol, golf course development, and deep-water oil exploration have in common?
They are all on the list of possible foreign investment projects in
Sugar projects are slow too. The reason may be that even though Cuban government policy is to encourage foreign investment generally, and not to exclude ethanol development, Fidel Castro has voiced reservations about using food crops to produce fuel. So I speculate that that is the reason for the slow going. At any rate, last week there was yet another statement, this one from the sugar minister, about
When it comes to offshore oil, it’s slow going too.
The Cuba-Mexico migration accord did not go over well in
The two governments didn’t mince words in blaming the
The Herald’s blog has a good summary of the accord’s provisions here.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The White House held another videoconference last week, this time with several of the Damas de Blanco in
The White House issued a brief statement. Secretary Gutierrez was on Radio Marti (story and audio here). He said the conversation was “unforgettable,” covering the situation in
Neither the Radio Marti story nor the White House statement mentioned that the Cuban women asked that the Bush Administration suspend its sanctions “that affect the sending of direct aid,” as El Nuevo Herald paraphrased the words of Laura Pollan, who participated in the videoconference. In response, according to Pollan, “They stated that they were going to analyze it [the request]. Hopefully, the penury and suffering would be less that way…We explained to Mrs. Bush that there is widespread desperation.” El Nuevo’s story didn’t make clear whether Pollan was asking for the suspension of the Administration’s family sanctions, or something broader. A brief English summary is here.
Good for these women for raising this issue with Mrs. Bush, who is probably the only person in
One can’t say the same for our Secretary of Commerce, who has been on these videoconferences before, and has heard the same kind of request, before the hurricanes. Still, he said last month, “What we are hearing from Cubans in
The impact of Ike and Gustav in
Once again, the question arises: If we praise the dissidents as future leaders of
Finally, a note about Radio Marti. From the story and audio on the Marti website, one would never know that the Damas de Blanco discussed
[White House photo.]
- Foreign Minister Perez Roque on the Cuba-Mexico migration agreement, and the prospect of returning Cubans who “try to use
to get to the Mexico .” United States
- AP has an interesting account of a
man whose boat was stolen by alien smugglers. He tracked its movement by GPS (to western Florida , then to Cuba ’s Isla Mujeres) and recovered it with the help pf Mexican police. Mexico
- A new Russian Orthodox church was consecrated in
; it’s on the Avenida del Puerto, facing the bay. BBC coverage here. Havana
- “When I am president, we are going to pressure the Cuban government to free their people.” --Senator McCain in Miami last Friday.
- Miami New Times’ blog on reporters’ conflicting readings of the Cuban American vote this year.
- Tracey Eaton’s photos and description of a
curiosity: the Interior Ministry’s museum on Havana Fifth Avenuein . Miramar
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
ance of Lt. Col. Chris Simmons on
In his latest appearance, Simmons continued in his smear-artist mode. He accused three Americans of being Cuban agents, but offered no evidence, or he referred to evidence (“a transcript,” a “recently acquired confession”) that he is unable to present in public. He stuck with his practice of saying that there’s nothing unfair about his accusations, and if the accused don’t like it they can take him to court. The idea seems to be that Simmons has such authority that his statements are beyond question.
That, at any rate, is how the host Oscar Haza sees it. One again, Haza didn’t interview Simmons as much as he gently guided him through a presentation. Simmons spoke at times from prepared notes. When Haza asked a question, it was big, fat, belt-high, and right in the middle of the plate.
In previous appearances, Simmons has pointed out that he speaks for himself, and that he is a retired Army officer now serving in the reserves.
To the audience last week, it probably seemed that Simmons was speaking for the
At the end of the program, Simmons promised to return to name more names.
Alejandro Armengol wrote a sharp column in the Nuevo Herald about Simmons’ appearances. It’s not kind to Simmons and its conclusions about
What seems to be missing is any explanation of how
I have seen no explanation since in the press, and there is some commentary chiding the Bush Administration for carrying out “a negotiated exchange of one set of words for another,” without
If the list was used in this case as a political bargaining chip that moves us a step closer to containing North Korean nuclear development, then three cheers for President Bush.
But then let’s stop pretending the list is based strictly on evidence, insulated from political or other considerations. If that were the case, in our hemisphere,
During a visit to
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
After many fits and starts,
The text has not been released.
It’s clear that
From press reports, we learn that
The agreement also provides that the two countries will share intelligence.
- The Herald profiles candidates in Miami House races: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and challenger Annette Taddeo, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and challenger Raul Martinez, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and challenger Joe Garcia. The Herald’s endorsements: Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Martinez.
- AP: Consumers are facing limits in the amount of produce they are allowed to buy at farmers markets in
, “ensuring there's enough – barely – to go around.” Havana
- Via Cubaencuentro, a Channel 41 (Miami) report that remittances to Cuba are up in the wake of the hurricanes, even as U.S. economic troubles have caused a drop in remittances to other Latin American countries.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The United States beat Cuba 6-1 in soccer in a World Cup qualifying match on Saturday night. Before the game, two Cuban players left their
Thursday, October 9, 2008
- Reuters reports on the shrinking supply of fresh produce across
; EFE on conditions in Pinar del Rio, and Juventud Rebelde on Isla de la Juventud. Cuba
Last week I wrote about Coast Guard data that show a 25 percent decline in interceptions of Cuban migrants at sea between fiscal years 2007 and 2008. A reader points out that the number of Cubans crossing the Mexico-U.S. border also declined during the same period, from about 11,000 to 5,784 in the first eleven months of fiscal 2008 (see coverage on the Herald’s blog here).
The same reader argues that a trend toward lower illegal migration seems to be afoot, and points out a possible cause: the initiation of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. The program is explained here and a Q&A (pdf) is here.
This program, special for Cubans as the name implies, makes family reunification immigration easier, where someone in the
The program was instituted last February. All 12,000 petitioners who had filed papers for relatives in
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Lt. Col. Chris Simmons returns to Oscar Haza’s
[Update: I did not see the program, but it is covered in El Nuevo Herald and at Cubapolidata. El Nuevo reports that Simmons claimed to have proof for his new acusations but did not present them on the program. That would be par for the course for this smear artist, and if Oscar Haza didn’t press him for details, that would be par for the course too.]
In Bayamo, there’s an experiment under way where goods and services normally provided in hard currency are available for Cuban pesos, AP reports. The effect is to make the purchases, which are now out of reach for most Cubans, affordable.
The article cites local officials saying the initiative is local.
But it doesn’t say what hypothesis the experiment is testing. Maybe this one: if the pesos’s purchasing power is boosted as much as it is in Bayamo today, how much commerce is generated, and how much does the government have to spend to subsidize it?
The answer to that question would be useful to central bankers thinking of strengthening the peso’s value or ending the dual currency system altogether – a step that Raul Castro recently placed at least five years in the future.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
A terrific story about the sandlot baseball that Hemingway organized for his sons and the neighborhood kids at his Finca Vigia home, from The New York Times. [Photo from the Times.]
[The story says Patrick Hemingway doesn't speak in public about his father, but in the comments section, Tracey Eaton links to an article he wrote where he quoted Patrick Hemingway.]
“The fact that even allies of the
That quote comes from an interesting paper by the
“Islamic investors have demonstrated confidence in Raúl’s vision of a
But in case you were wondering, it is “not likely that a substantial segment of the island’s population will convert to Islam in the near future.”
- El Nuevo Herald reports (English here) that, according to numerous sources in
, Cuban advisors are training “guerrillas” at a secret camp in Venezuela . The headline brought me back to the Cold War when I imagined that the “guerrillas” were being trained to take over another country. The story is actually about military training for pro-Chavez Venezuelans so they can acquire “asymmetrical warfare” skills to resist a coup attempt or Venezuela invasion. That would fit with Cuba’s “war of all the people” military doctrine, which says that United States certainly has the power to invade, but we’ll make it another Vietnam, and you will regret it if you do. U.S.
- A Royal Navy ship visits Havana, highlighting UK-Cuba cooperation in drug interdiction.
- Cuba vs. the United States in soccer, at
’s RFK Stadium Saturday night. The game is part of pre-qualifying round for next year’s World Cup. Washington
- Before the White Sox were eliminated from the playoffs, the Sun Sentinel’s Ray Sanchez visited the Mom of Alexei Ramirez, the Sox’s rookie second baseman, in Pinar del
Rio, and wrote this story.
Friday, October 3, 2008
- According to this press report, Senator Menendez of
urged the President of Cyprus not to open an embassy in New Jersey . The Havana has more accredited diplomats in United States than any other country; the article doesn’t say whether the President asked the Senator about that. Havana
- Not so fast: EFE reports that Cuba’s ambassador in Madrid says Cuba accepted the EU proposal for a political dialogue, but “first it’s necessary to discuss and agree upon the bases on which this political dialogue can occur,” and he pointed out the need for the talks to be between “equals, respecting the independence of the states, the principle of non-interference…” etc.
- The Center for Democracy in the
has a report (pdf) on a September 18-21 trip to evaluate hurricane damage and recovery efforts, and also a video of an interview with Orlando Marquez, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Havana and Palabra Nueva editor, commenting on Caritas’ disaster relief role. Americas
- After denying visas to two Prensa Latina reporters to return from
to the UN bureau, where they have worked since 2005, the State Department reversed course and granted the visas. Cuba
- Another story from the British media about potential golf course development: there’s “a frisson of excitement about Cuba,” “a country which is still, in theory, Marxist,” talk of investment by Sir Terence Conran, and a project involving “villas and apartments” and a “a boutique hotel, spa and an 18 hole championship golf course.”
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The law requires that travel agencies that book travel to
In his order, United States District Judge Alan Gold wrote:
“I note that the Travel Act Amendments – which include extraordinary expensive registration and bonding requirements, exorbitant fines and a felony conviction for those who fail to comply with the law – constitute little more than an attempt to impose economic sanctions on travel to designated foreign governments, particularly the
[Photo: Cubans waiting to recive travelers from a
The story of the three fugitives from American justice who are in Cuban custody – Carlos, Luis, and Jose Benitez, three brothers from
But their current predicament is more interesting still. They are said to be in Cuban custody for immigration violations. (Sort of a mirror image of Posada Carriles’ former predicament, but let’s not get into that.) Why were they detained – because they committed a fragrant violation of Cuban law, or was it because the
Since the brothers have so much family outside
The next chapter in this story could be that the three brothers are loaded on a plane with
That’s the bottom line in a paper on Cuba’s recent hurricane damages (pdf) by William A. Messina, Jr., Frederick S. Royce and Thomas H. Spreen, three scholars from the
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
In this article published by the Brookings Institution, Paul Hare, the
Americans may not like the description of the
Ambassador Hare writes in detail about the period before the 2003 crackdown, and surmises that Fidel Castro had reached three strategic decisions before March 2003. First, “no more liberalization of the economy” as Venezuela’s economic support came into play; second, to “decimate the Varela petition activists,” who accounted for more than half of the 75 arrested; and third, to “forestall U.S. Congressional moves to lift the embargo.” He continues:
“[Fidel Castro] has always seen hostility of the
And the article includes a fact I had not heard before – during the 2002 coup attempt in
While we’re on the subject of