An American Catholic Archbishop who serves as Archbishop for the Military Services, Timothy Broglio, visited the U.S. Naval Base at
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
An American Catholic Archbishop who serves as Archbishop for the Military Services, Timothy Broglio, visited the U.S. Naval Base at
The coup in
Nonetheless, I understand that people don’t like Hugo Chavez and his style of governance, and that recent events in
I understand that Chavez and his allies in other countries have figured out that the way to advance an authoritarian agenda is not head-on, but rather to get elected legitimately and start eroding democratic institutions and violating democratic norms from the inside. I understand that using referenda to end constitutional limits on presidential re-election, or on term limits, is a big part of this agenda. (Although
What I don’t understand is how the Honduran military’s resolution of this situation – putting troops in the streets, seizing broadcast media, grabbing the President in his pajamas and putting him on a plane to
- Another story on the Lage-Perez Roque video, in English from IPS, and the Herald translates Sunday's article in El Pais.
- A new law permits Cubans to work two jobs, and permits students to work part-time. EFE coverage in English here, Granma’s announcement here.
- Radio Marti: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says the Honduran military “respected the constitution” in removing President Zelaya from power. The Martinoticias website also reports on the Obama Administration’s rejection of the coup, Cuban dissidents’ criticism of it, and Senator Mel Martinez' statement that any interruption of the constitutional order is unacceptable.
- Bill Ratliff of the Independent Institute and the Hoover Institute calls for the end of the embargo.
- This looks to be a pretty accurate and complete chronology of U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Monday, June 29, 2009
They were making a movie.
Two movies, actually, one three hours long and one six hours long, covering the demise of Lage, Perez Roque, party international relations chief Fernando Remirez, Otto Rivero, an official who was responsible for the Fidel initiative called the “Battle of Ideas,” and Carlos Valenciaga, a member of the Council of State and private secretary to Fidel Castro.
The movies haven’t been released, but they were covered in Spanish-language newspapers, whose
Among the many details in the video, according to the reports:
- Two key figures, both now under arrest, are Conrado Hernandez, a Cuban national who represented Basque businesses in
, hosted Lage and Perez Roque at his Cuba farm where their talks were recorded, and admits on tape that he had worked with Spanish intelligence; and Raul Castellanos Lage, a physician and cousin of Carlos Lage. Matanzas
- Castellanos is captured on tape saying it would have been “a service to la patria” if Vice President Machado Ventura had been allowed to die when he was treated for heart problems.
- Raul Castro confronted Lage, Perez Roque, Rivero, and Remirez with accusations at a March 2 Political Bureau meeting, portions of which are included in the video. Twenty members are present, but only Raul questions the four. He asks about favors given to Hernandez; Lage ordered that a river be diverted at Hernandez’ farm, and Perez Roque gave him a diplomatic passport.
- On February 23, 2008, the day before the National Assembly formally elected Raul Castro president and Machado Ventura first vice president, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party met to make the nominations. All in attendance, including Lage, were told to keep the nominations secret. Lage went from the meeting to a party on the rooftop terrace of the Ambos Mundos hotel, which was ostensibly to celebrate the wedding of Castellanos to the woman with whom he had been living for a decade, but in reality was to celebrate Lage’s nomination to the post of first vice president. A disappointed Lage broke the secret to those in attendance. Later he used a relief pitcher’s metaphor when he told Valenciaga by phone, “They didn’t hand me the ball.” Raul Castro described the scene, saying that what was to be a party “changed to an atmosphere of mourning.” Perez Roque was furious, and vowed to oppose Machado’s nomination in the National Assembly the next day, which he did not do.
- Conrado Hernandez left the party and informed Spanish contacts of the Machado nomination. The result is that
knew of Machado’s selection before the National Assembly received the nomination or acted on it. Madrid
- In September 2006, Carlos Valenciaga held a raucous birthday party in the same Council of State building where Fidel Castro was living through the worst of his illness, “between life and death,” according to Raul.
A viewer told El Pais that the video has two objectives: to expose espionage, and to demonstrate that the accused “were disloyal, permitted abuses, and nurtured ambitions of power.” The government and party seem to be betting that viewers will absorb that message and agree with the removal of Lage, Perez Roque, and Remirez, rather than identify with the disappointment that these elites of
is condemning the coup in Cuba and says that its ambassador in Honduras was “beaten” by Honduran soldiers. The ambassador, along with those of Tegucigalpa and Venezuela , was reportedly with the Honduran foreign minister when soldiers “broke into the place where they were” and detained them. Prensa Latina story in English here. “The place where they were” was later identified by Fidel Castro as the foreign minister’s home. The New York Times covers the coup here, and the region’s unanimous rejection of it here. Nicaragua
- Reuters reports on the low penetration of phone and Internet service in
, based on new data released by Cuba ’s statistics office. Cuba
- A report on ties between Spanish and Cuban universities from Granma International.
- AFP: the Colombian singer Juanes says he wants to do a public concert in Havana.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
“If they swear in Micheletti, or Peleletti or Gafetti or Goriletti, we will overthrow him.”
– Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, June 28, referring to Roberto Micheletti, who was indeed sworn in as President of Honduras after military forces seized President Zelaya and put him on a plane to
Friday, June 26, 2009
The Bush Administration never used the term “regime change” with regard to Cuba, but its intentions (“transition,” “hasten the end of the dictatorship,” etc.) were always clear enough. President Bush’s beefed-up sanctions backed up those intentions, but his maintenance of longstanding U.S. immigration policy toward Cubans went in the opposite direction, and was one of several factors that made me believe that his intentions were more rhetorical than real.
The reason is simple: our exceptional immigration policy toward Cubans tells them that if they want to come to the
The details of this policy, including the federal benefits, are explained in an excellent report (pdf) published last month by the Congressional Research Service. It gathers lots of useful data; for example, in fiscal year 2008, 49,500 Cubans became legal permanent residents, 4,100 were admitted as refugees after being processed at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, 11,278 were admitted after appearing without a U.S. visa at a port of entry (Laredo, Texas for the vast majority), 3,351 were apprehended by the Border Patrol, mostly in coastal areas, and 2,199 were interdicted at sea.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
- Herald: Another day, another set of indictments for $100 million in Medicare fraud, another set of suspects that has fled to
. Cuba may extend the period of applications for citizenship under its “ley de nietos” for another year, according to this article in Spanish from Europa Press. Under that law, children and grandchildren of Spanish emigrants are applying for citizenship, and in Spain and some other Latin American countries, demand is high. In Cuba ’s consulate in Spain , 325 applications are being received by appointment every day, a pace that will continue through the end of next year. Presumably, Cubans who hold Spanish passports will be able to use those passports to travel to the Havana without getting a visa, since United States is under the visa waiver program. Another benefit, when these new Spanish citizens reach retirement age, is a monthly stipend under Spain ’s program of “pensiones asistenciales.” Spain
announces that it has developed a new variety of plantain plant that grows no taller than two meters and will better survive hurricanes; the first harvest is expected in July. Cuba
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
- EFE: a new report says
’s population is stagnant and will decrease by 100,000 by 2025. Cuba
as a potential IT outsourcing powerhouse. Cuba
- From London Metropolitan University, a new issue of the International Journal of Cuban Studies, including an interview with Britain’s current ambassador to Cuba, sketches of Cuba from a former ambassador, and a 1963 essay on the socialist revolution and the roots of Cuban nationalism.
- The distribution of idle farmland in
province “is not going well,” Granma reports. About 5,000 applications for land have been approved, more than 7,000 are in process, and 4.6 percent of applications have been denied so far. Matanzas
- Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon says an exchange of jailed dissidents for the Cuban Five should be possible because the dissidents “committed the same offense as the five compañeros, being agents [of the
], albeit to do different things.” United States ’s La Vanguardia visits Spain ’s Calle G, Avenida de los Presidentes, where 20-somethings hang out en masse on weekend nights, and the scene “begins around and stretches toward dawn.” Havana
- The Herald’s Cuban Colada translates excerpts of an article in ABC (Madrid) on the goings-on at the
farm of Conrado Hernandez. Hernandez, reportedly in detention, is a Cuban who worked for Basque businesses in Matanzas and reportedly hosted Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque for some relaxed weekend get-togethers – with microphones. Cuba
Monday, June 22, 2009
The grim news about
In El Pais, a foreign business executive says things “are worse than ever,” and he hasn’t been able to transfer dollars from his Cuban bank account since January. A diplomat tells the paper that some foreign businesses have started to limit supplies to their Cuban operations because they can’t repatriate their earnings.
A bright spot: South Africa is negotiating the forgiveness of Cuba’s bilateral debt, a Cuban minister announced, while a visiting South African cabinet minister thanks Cuba for the medical education nearly 300 South Africans are receiving in Cuba, and for the work of “302 Cuban specialists” in housing and other projects in South Africa.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Orbitz CEO Barney Harford thinks Americans should be able to travel to
Harford makes his argument in this article where he notes:
“In 1971 the U.S. State Department lifted the ban on travel to
One might add that the Nixon Administration’s moves were taken because they were seen to be in our national interest, and they weren’t conditioned on changes in communist
At any rate, Harford is taking some heat for his position, and because (God forbid) he would make money if increased travel to
And National Review’s Jay Nordlinger weighed in too, pointing out with good reason that Cubans too deserve the right to travel as they wish. Even as he asks, “Why would anyone want to visit a state that no inhabitant is allowed to leave?,” Nordlinger recognizes that there’s another side to the argument. It was voiced at times the venerable founder of his magazine, William F. Buckley, who himself visited
Buckley wasn’t alone among conservatives. President Nixon, architect of the
Anyway, welcome to the club, Barney. If you want to sign his petition, go here.
- Sources tell Reuters that an offshore oil drilling platform has been found and will soon be on its way to
. Drilling could therefore be only months away. This platform follows the exploratory drilling by Cuba ’s Repsol in 2004, with apparently promising results. Spain
- The Herald: the State Department “is looking to confirm dates” for migration talks. In
, National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon gives an interview to AP and says that Cuba wants to talk about more than migration. Cuba
- More on the Wednesday TV Marti hearing: links to witnesses’ statements are here.
- Journalist Kirk Nielsen, veteran of past
spy trials, looks ahead to that of the Myers. Cuba
- The State Department’s annual report on human trafficking, another of the reports where Congress requires the Executive to pass judgment on the rest of the world, has been issued. Judge the section on Cuba for yourself. It says that
views “ Cuba attempts to engage officials on trafficking issues as politically motivated.” U.S.
- The New York Times profiles Gwendolyn and Kendall Myers.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
- The EU Council reviewed
Europe’s policy toward and decided that “political dialogue with Cuba should be pursued and deepened on a comprehensive, equal and result-oriented basis,” with “high priority to the principles of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The resolution is here (pdf), AFP coverage here, and Radio Marti covers the story via two dissidents with differing opinions (story here, with audio link). Cuba
- What to do with the
naval base? Drake Bennett discusses some long-range ideas in the Boston Globe. Guantanamo
- Along the Malecon cites Lonely Planet’s description of
Trinidad, “a kind of Varadero in reverse” because there’s so much contact between visitors and locals. About 300 families rent rooms in their homes to visitors.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Before rounding up the economic news from
I didn’t quite get the same message from Barredo’s essay. The (run-on) sentence that caught Xinhua’s eye was as follows: “These days numerous tense analyses are taking place throughout the government apparatus that will carry forward inevitable readjustments and that will not be impossible to overcome if, along with the incentive of citizen mobilization, businesses accomplish an in-depth review of their inventories, we know what reserves we can count on so as to work with what we have for the rest of the year and thus avoid imports, and all budgeted activities are aware that in every workplace we should fight against wasteful tendencies.”
To me, that’s not exactly a call for reform, much less an “announcement.” It sounds more as if Barredo is exhorting everyone to work harder and setting the stage for belt-tightening. “One of the things that the difficult economic situation most demands is that we confront that spendthrift mentality,” Barredo said in the same essay. His other essays in recent weeks have driven home the same message.
If the Chinese know something we don’t know, so much the better. But so far, as the effects of the world economic crisis continue to pile up in
So what about the economic news?
- Reuters, June 14: “Cuban factories are closing down and production is being cut at other workplaces as the international financial crisis weighs on the import-dependent
Caribbeanisland, the official media said on Sunday.” This article is based on a long Juventud Rebelde article that details closings and slowdowns in ’s industrial sector. Cuba
- AFP, June 10: Power is being cut, use of air conditioning is being limited, and rations of some basic staples are being cut by a third or more.
- EFE, June 12: The budgets of regional government entities and some economic sectors are being cut by six percent.
- La Jornada, June 10:
, a net importer of oil, has turned to selling some of its domestic production to address a hard currency cash crunch. The oil would otherwise be used to generate electricity, presumably to avoid blackouts. Cuba
- Reuters, June 9:
is seeking new terms on its foreign debt, seeking to roll some over and to restructure other bonds. Cuba
- Reuters, June 1: Cuts are everywhere: in urban bus service, in intercity train service, in lunches provided in workplaces, in the economy ministry’s 2009 economic growth forecast for Cuba (cut from six percent to less than three percent), and in imports of meat from U.S. producers.
- Reuters, May 26:
’s 2009 foreign exchange income could drop by about one fourth, about $1 billion, due mainly to lower nickel prices and declining tourism income. Cuba
- Finally, there were the reports last month that the salary reform initiated more than one year ago and intended to give every Cuban worker a flexible pay scale that rewards productivity, is moving very, very slowly toward implementation. Articles from Reuters here and La Jornada here, and the
articles that broke the story are here and here. Bohemia
And in the agriculture sector, where sound steps have been underway since last year to distribute idle lands and increase private farming, the Cuban media is reporting problems.
This article in Juventud Rebalde reported last month that farmers are doing their part, vastly increasing tomato production, but hundreds of tons of tomatoes from the recent harvest rotted due to lack of transport by the state agency that is supposed to collect the crop and bring it to processing centers. One cooperative is suing that agency for 146,343 pesos for 2,610 quintales of tomatoes (a quintal is a 100-pound unit of measure).
On June 7, Juventud Rebelde reported that an experiment will begin August 1 in two provinces – the city and
Where does this leave things? Well, if there’s an optimistic reading, it’s not the one in Xinhua that seems to add pro-reform tendencies to articles in Granma. It would be that Raul Castro is starting with agriculture and will get to other sectors when agriculture is done. He certainly has identified agriculture as a priority.
A more realistic reading, I think, would be that not even the pressure of a global economic slump has shaken the Cuban government from a very deliberate approach to economic reform.
As I have written before, I think the moves in agriculture are interesting not because they create free-market agriculture on our terms – as if we ourselves had free-market agriculture! – but because they are expanding the reach of private farming in
- Reuters: The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to take the case of the Cuban Five.
- Physician Hilda Molina, who broke with the system 15 years ago and has sought permission to travel to
to visit her family there, finally got permission and traveled last weekend. She told La Nacion that 15 days ago when her mother was hospitalized, she wrote another letter to the Council of State and pledged that if permitted to leave, she would return. AP coverage here. Argentina
- Two additions to the blogroll at right, both in Spanish: the return of Herejias y Caipirinhas by former El Nuevo Herald reporter Rui Ferreira, BBC correspondent Fernando Ravsberg’s Cartas desde Cuba.
- Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez returns to baseball, signing a contract to pitch in a Texas Rangers Triple-A team.
- The Luis Posada Carriles trial is delayed until next February; Herald story here.
- Fernando Ravsberg of the BBC’s Spanish service (which would do such a service if it were to translate his “Cartas desde
” blog into English) writes about those Cubans who have hard currency income – some with enough to send money to help family abroad. Cuba
- In the Washington Post, Peter Carlson looks back at an imaginative episode in American diplomacy, when President Eisenhower wanted a game-changer in U.S.-Soviet relations and invited Nikita Khrushchev for a September 1959 visit.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
- A new nugget in the Myers case: the judge’s order (pdf) denying bail to the couple indicates that in 1996 and 1997, the FBI intercepted messages from
referring to these agents by their code names, 202 and 634. Only later, apparently, did the FBI establish their identities. (See pages 7 and 8.) Cuba
- The Cuban American community of
– who knew? – is gearing up to do more travel to Phoenix, Arizona to visit family, the Arizona Republic reports. From the anecdotes I have heard, the relaxation in regulations that occurred earlier this year – permitting family visits annually instead of every three years – has spurred an increase in travel, and it’s anyone’s guess how volume will be affected when the Obama Administration’s April policy decision is finally implemented, allowing Cuban Americans to travel without restriction. Cuba
- In this interview in El Pais, OAS Secretary General Insulza looks back at the repeal of the “archaic” 1962 resolution that suspended
. He says he doesn’t believe that “one resolution is capable of producing immediate changes in Cuba ,” but it “contributes to creating a different atmosphere on the island.” He is not worried about Cuba Congressional threats to the OAS’ funding. U.S.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Two Americans are arrested and charged with spying for
I’m reminded of other big espionage cases and the responses that followed from the
Like when it was discovered in 1985 that the Soviets had placed listening devices throughout the U.S. Embassy building in Moscow while it was under construction – “It’s nothing but an eight-story microphone plugged into the Politburo,” Congressman Dick Armey said – or that in 1987 the Soviets had compromised a U.S. Marine guard at our embassy in Moscow. The Reagan Administration of course responded by breaking off diplomatic relations, President Clinton restored them, only to break them off again when it was discovered that the Russians had bugged a conference room in the State Department.
Or when the
And more recently, there was the case of the Chinese presidential airplane, a Boeing 767 that had been refitted in the
CORRECTION: The espionage stories above are all true, as the links will show. The parts about the governments’ responses, I made those up.
In fact, President Reagan was under pressure to put relations with
But Reagan and Shultz would not accede to a Senate resolution calling for the Secretary to postpone his
Cuban espionage against the
So is the fact that
Either it’s in our interest to ensure that migration from
Declining to engage with
Friday, June 5, 2009
“…this rotten institution”
- Fidel Castro, May 8
“…this sham of an organization”
- Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, June 3
“Bury the pestilent cadaver.”
- Granma, May 29
“The OAS is a putrid embarrassment.”
- Central Bank President Francisco Soberon has resigned. His replacement is Ernesto Medina, head of the Banco Financiero Internacional. Soberon managed a monetary policy that kept the
peso’s value relatively stable, about 20-25 to the dollar, ever since it spiked to about 150 to the dollar in the early 1990’s. The announcement of his resignation said he resigned at is own initiative and had worked “with loyalty and honesty,” as did “the majority of the ministers who were replaced last March.” Reuters story here. La Jornada discusses the change in light of the current liquidity crisis here. Cuba
- Reuters: National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, leader of
’s delegation in previous rounds of migration talks, says the two sides are “in contact” and adjusting their calendars to prepare for a new round. Cuba
allocates $70 million to lay the undersea fiber optic cable to Venezuela . Cuba
- They outfitted a foam raft and headed for the
and reached…the shore by the U.S. Interests Section in United States . AP has a story and photos. Havana
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The first thing to note about the OAS action in Honduras regarding Cuba is that it is exactly what Secretary General Insulza suggested at the Trinidad summit in April. The 1962 resolution was repealed, and the issue of
Hence the resolution, approved by consensus, was crafted to allow all to claim victory.
The Obama Administration sees the “practices, purposes, and principles” clause as a clear reference to the OAS Democratic Charter, and believes the hemisphere’s democratic principles were defended. Until recently, says the National Security Council Latin America chief Dan Restrepo, OAS members “would have supported a three-line resolution lifting the 1962 resolution and allowing
Other OAS members note that the 1962 resolution was repealed unconditionally. “Today the Cold War has ended,” Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya said. With
What happens now?
The answer may be: Not much.
In the same interview cited above, Secretary General Insulza said, “If you ask me whether
AFP Spanish reports that at the OAS meeting, a U.S. delegate complained that no English version of the resolution was available 11 hours after it was approved, leading the Honduran foreign minister to plead for patience and to note, “There are some who have waited 47 years.”
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Here's the text of the OAS resolution adopted today:
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
RECOGNIZING the shared interest in the full participation of all the member states;
GUIDED by the purposes and principles of the Organization of American States embodied in the Charter of the Organization and its other fundamental instruments related to security, democracy, self determination, non-intervention, human rights, and development;
CONSIDERING the open-mindedness that characterized the dialogue of the heads of state and government at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and that in that same spirit the member states wish to establish a revitalized and ample framework of cooperation in hemispheric relations; and
BEARING IN MIND that pursuant to Article 54 of the OAS Charter, the General Assembly is the supreme organ of the Organization,
1. That Resolution VI, adopted on
2. That the participation of the
Ok, it’s an unfair headline. Very unfair.
President Obama has been in office four months, the challenges he inherited at home and abroad are huge, and he hasn’t had time to put his mark on every aspect of every policy he inherited from Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Bush.
But there will come a time when an absence of decisions will turn inherited policies into Obama policies.
The case of
Last week it came to light that Microsoft blocked the use of its chat program by users in
If anyone can explain why it would be a bad thing for Cubans to use this program, I’m all ears.
Treasury’s action certainly doesn’t fit the Obama Administration’s expressed desire to encourage more communication with and within
[Update: from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a request for Treasury to explain (pdf).]
At the OAS General Assembly, they debated the
AFP Spanish reports that a majority supported a measure to revoke the 1962 resolution that suspended
[Update: AP reports that the 1962 resolution has been repealed.]
- Cuba Travel Services of Long Beach, California, announces that it will resume non-stop Los Angeles-to-Havana flights June 30.
- Penultimos Dias: the Cuban state enterprise Cubalse, which provides services to diplomatic missions and other foreigners resident in
, has been dissolved. Cuba
- Tracey Eaton profiles Yoani Sanchez in CubaNews (via Penultimos Dias).
- El Nuevo Herald raises doubts as to whether the Cuban Communist Party will hold a congress toward the end of this year, noting that the customary preparations don’t seem to be under way.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The only thing that’s clear about the OAS and
Nonetheless, the OAS General Assembly is about to plow ahead and debate two issues: the repeal of the 1962 resolution that suspended
AP reports that as of last night, there was no consensus among the member states, which is important because while the decision could be made by a two-thirds vote, the organization operates almost exclusively by consensus. That effectively gives each member state a veto. In this case – if proponents of
It would be interesting if the member states were debating a different proposition. Arturo Lopez Levy of the
“Likewise, the Cuban government should reevaluate its attitude toward the OAS from a 21st century perspective. Just as it has done with the Pan-American Health Organization in the last four decades,
Sounds like a way to avoid a train wreck in the making.
’s Chamber of Commerce looks at the economic impact on the city of an end to the Miami embargo. “ Cuba cannot afford to sit back and let other communities prepare,” is chairman says. Miami
- Penultimos Dias: Etecsa has dropped the cell phone activation fee from 60 convertible pesos to 40.
- Attorneys for the “Cuban Five” are petitioning for the case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court; their petition is here and the Justice Department’s argument in opposition is here (pdf).
- Bored with
? Check out this blog on North Korea. Cuba
Monday, June 1, 2009
Secretary of State Clinton said she is “very pleased” by the news, noting that the Administration has “made more progress [in U.S.-Cuba relations] in four months than has been made in a number of years” (which isn’t saying much). She went on: “Greater connections can lead to a better, freer future for the Cuban people. These talks are in the interest of the
The talks will give the new Administration a chance to make and present its own assessment of the migration accords. The Bush Administration complained regularly that
These talks won’t solve all the differences between
A statement of mine on talks with