Friday, July 31, 2009

Odds and ends

  • In the Huffington Post, blogger Yoani Sanchez argues that Cuba should remove the sea of flags flying in front of the U.S. Interests Section, now that the electronic signboard is down.

  • Coming soon: a new agency to fight corruption in Cuba; Reuters coverage here.

Party Congress postponed

Granma reports today on Wednesday’s meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The economy was a main topic of discussion; the economy minister revised Cuba’s 2009 growth forecast downward to 1.7 percent, and said that among the economic policy priorities is “the search for novel formulas that can liberate productive forces.”

Ideas, anyone?

The Communist Party Congress that was planned for this year was “postponed,” the article says. It can’t be just “one more event,” Raul Castro said, and it will be held when preparations are done. The article noted: “He [Raul] indicated that it is most probable that, because of the laws of life, it will be the last one headed by the historical generation of leaders of the Revolution.”

Reuters coverage here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senate bill would allow Cuba oil exploration

This post has been re-written to correct a bone-headed error. I originally said the bill does not contain the word “Cuba,” but in fact it does, twice. Its final section provides for travel to Cuba by oil industry personnel. Lesson: legislative language is dull, but you have to read it all. I regret the error.

A bill introduced July 24, S. 1517, contains a provision to allow American companies to participate in Cuba’s offshore oil exploration.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska doesn’t mention the provision in her press release or her website’s statement on energy issues.

The bill was was co-sponsored by Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. It encourages offshore oil development in U.S. waters. Its Section 6 also allows Americans to explore for oil, extract oil, and sell equipment for those activities in “any portion of any foreign exclusive economic zone that is contiguous to the exclusive economic zone of the United States.”

Which means “drill, baby, drill” – in Cuba.

On another front, Russia is interested in oil exploration in Cuba, although as Reuters points out, the coverage in Cuban media doesn’t quite say that Russia has signed leases to explore in specific areas off Cuba’s coast.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“New thinking about property”

Three years ago, Juventud Rebelde published a series of articles on problems of Cuban state enterprises that serve consumers, such as cafeterias and repair shops. The articles showed how customers are cheated and how many businesses have no functioning supply system, leading workers to improvise solutions. A synopsis is here.

Now commentator Ariel Terrero is on television saying that many of these businesses are “impossible…for the state to administer directly.” (Reuters coverage here). He seems to suggest turning them into cooperatives, following the model already in use on farms and the urban gardens called organoponicos:

“The leasing of state lands, which in the end is the placing of state property in the hands of producers, could be applied in other sectors, for example food services, retail trade, and other areas where really it is impossible, given the diversity and breadth, for the state to administer directly.”

Why not give it a try?

Fan mail from Cubanet

Jose Hugo Fernandez, a writer for Cubanet, really didn’t like a recent paper of mine (pdf) on Raul Castro’s economic policy, and published his comments on Cubanet. He focused on a short section of the paper where I recount some of the Cuban state media’s coverage of economic problems. Readers will make up their own minds, but I’ll point out that I didn’t discuss the role of the Cuban media, much less conclude that “instead of covering up problems, its articles and reporting are exposing the country’s real difficulties,” as Mr. Fernandez says. Some of his criticisms are directed at phrases in quotation marks that I didn’t write. One phrase I used is “state media,” which I think is self-explanatory.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Odds and ends

  • BBC Spanish: The United States has turned down the visa request of Tomas Ramos, who just completed an 18-year prison sentence in Cuba. Reportedly, he went to Cuba in 1989 on a mission to destroy hotel communications towers and to try to organize a coup. Ramos says he worked for the CIA; his code name was “Dumbo” and his handler was Frank Sturgis. Cubaencuentro consulted dissident sources in Havana who said that visas were denied to others during the Bush Administration for “violent opposition activity.”

  • This letter (pdf) sent to President Obama last week urges changes in U.S. regulations to open up academic contacts – and it also calls on the Cuban government to allow its citizens to travel here on academic exchanges when they are invited to do so.

  • Cuban Colada: Russia is providing $150 million in credits for purchase of construction and farm machinery.

Last word on the ticker (Updated)

Depending on your point of view, the scrolling electronic signboard that the U.S. Interests Section in Havana turned on in 2006 was a vital source of information for the Cuban people, or it was an ineffective attempt to disseminate opinion and information, or it was a silly use of a diplomatic building.

The State Department acknowledged yesterday that it was turned off in June, which means at least three and a half weeks ago. (See the State Department spokesman’s comments here.)

Until yesterday when the news broke in the Financial Times, no one outside Cuba knew. More important, during that time there’s no indication that any Cuban batted an eye – there’s no report from any dissident, not a single story on Cubanet or elsewhere from Cuba’s independent journalists, nothing from any Cuban blogger.

There’s more reaction in Miami-Dade than in all of Cuba. Pull the plug on TV Marti, and I’ll bet the same thing happens.

[Update: Radio Marti reports that “independent communicators” in Cuba – bloggers and others – applaud the demise of the signboard on the U.S. Interests Section; story here with link to audio.]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Everybody wants in (Updated)

The mayor of New Orleans wants direct flights from his city to Cuba.

In Florida, county officials are lobbying for the same for Key West International Airport, and Tampa officials are just back from a trip to Havana where they promoted trade and called for normalized relations, which they believe would benefit Tampa’s port.

And in Colorado, they are promoting increased farm exports to Cuba, undaunted (or maybe supported – the article doesn’t say) by the 3,701 Cuban Americans living in the Centennial State.

[Update: The Houston airport wants in too, and the governor of Arkansas is on his way to Cuba to promote trade.]

Lights out (Updated)

It seems that the famous electronic signboard at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has been turned off. [Update: The State Department explains why, here.]

Recent visitors to Havana haven’t seen it turned on, this link on the Interests Section’s site hasn’t been updated since March and has disappeared from the site’s main page, and now Marc Frank reports in the Financial Times that the signboard has been turned off with no announcement.

The signboard, a Bush initiative, started operating in 2006, streaming political messages and some that seemed nothing more than taunts, such as this one from March 2006:

Miami public schools adopted a new menu to attract more children to school breakfast. Eggs, sausages, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, milk, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, and cookies are some of the choices. The federal government pays for the breakfast of all children in Miami public schools.”

In time, that type of message was dropped and the signboard carried news headlines only.

A 2007 State Department report said that few Cubans saw the signboard, thanks to a sea of flags the Cuban government put up in front of the building, and that it had “lowered post morale.”

The signboard was one of many Bush Administration initiatives that served more to rally supporters in the United States than to have real impact in Cuba. If that’s the standard President Obama is applying, he can go much further.

[Thanks to Along the Malecon for the close-up photo above.]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's up to us

Raul Castro, at today’s 26th of July speech in Holguin:

“The land is there, the Cubans are here, we’ll see if we work or not, if we produce or not, if we keep our word or not, it’s not a question of shouting ‘Fatherland or death, down with imperialism, the blockade hurts us’ – and the land is there, waiting for our sweat.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Clear as mud

From a question-and-answer session that President Obama held yesterday, a question from the Herald's Lesley Clark and the President's answer:

Q: Mr. President…you’ve made some changes in the Cuba policy, and I wanted to know if and when you’d be – there’s rumors about – that you’d be making announcement on changes in purposeful travel - academic, religious. [Question on Haiti follows]

THE PRESIDENT: […] With respect to Cuba, we have already had government-to-government conversations around a narrow set of issues. Our hope is, is that if we’re seeing progress on those issues, then they can begin to broaden in the ways that you discussed. We’re not there yet, and as I’ve said before, we think it’s important to see progress on issues of political liberalization, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, release of political prisoners, in order for there to be the full possibility of normalization between our two countries. We’re taking it step by step seeing if, as we change some of the old approaches that we’ve been taking, we are seeing some movement on the Cuban government’s side. And I don't think it’s going to be happening overnight. I think it’s something that will be a work in progress.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weekends at Conrado's

Maria Elvira Live, the MegaTV program in Miami, has been airing photos of the gatherings at the Matanzas farm of Conrado Hernandez, that included Carlos Lage, Felipe Perez Roque, Fernando Remirez, and others.

Nothing remarkable about the party – beer, wine, rum, dominos, and relaxation – and I’m not sure the photos add to anyone’s understanding of the firings of these officials. But pictures are worth a thousand words.

Maria Elvira’s website has none of this material, but there’s video here with more pictures, discussion at Penultimos Dias here, and an article and photo gallery from El Pais here.

Background on the whole business is here. Thanks to Penultimos Dias for the photo above.

Odds and ends

  • The Royal Ballet of London made headlines for its performances in Havana and because several of its members came down with swine flu. But I liked this piece by NBC’s Mary Murray about the Cuban symphony orchestra players who learned the score to the ballet Manon, rehearsed four times with the British conductor, opened the boarded-up orchestra pit in the Gran Teatro, squeezed 70 musicians into it, and pulled it off with flying colors.

  • The EU’s foreign relations chief arrives in Havana today and wants to “deepen the political dialogue” with Cuba on “issues of common interest,” including human rights.

  • “Transformations in higher education” are in store for the coming school year, Juventud Rebelde reports, including higher admissions standards and “political-ideological work.” “In the university, the profesor or student who is not revolutionary, does not fit in its classrooms,” the Minister of Higher Education says.

  • El Pais reports in detail on the murders of two Spanish priests; one committed in conjunction with a robbery, the other perpetrated by the priest’s “sentimental partner.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At Treasury, the sound of crickets chirping

On March 11, President Obama signed into law an appropriations bill containing a provision that permits Americans who travel to Cuba to promote agricultural sales to do so under “general license,” i.e. without seeking permission in advance from the government.

On April 13, President Obama announced that Cuban Americans would be able to travel to Cuba to visit their families and send remittances without restriction.

The same day, he announced that the government would permit three types of telecommunications transactions with Cuba, including roaming agreements so that if Cuba were to agree, Americans would be able to use their cell phones in Cuba.

None of these policies have gone into effect because the Treasury Department has not issued the necessary regulations.

Foreign exchange crunch continues [Updated]

An economy ministry report forecasts that Cuba’s imports will fall 22 percent and exports about 12 percent in 2009, Reuters reports. The same report cuts the overall growth forecast from 6 percent to 2.5 percent for 2009.

On the bright side, AFP reports on a 2.7 percent increase in tourist arrivals in the first half of the year.

And on the not-so-bright side, as far as exporters to Cuba are concerned, is that payments for seven months of exports are in a “black hole” in Cuban banks – frozen accounts that could add up to $1 billion, according to La Jornada.

Update on the “black hole:” Reuters, citing business sources, says the government has unfrozen some accounts containing payments to foreign businesses – on the condition that the businesses continue to do business with Cuba.

Santa Maria del Rosario

Monday, July 20, 2009

Odds and ends

  • EFE: An EU official is on her way to Cuba with an offer of 37 million Euros in aid. Projects are likely to focus on post-hurricane reconstruction, agriculture, and the environment.

  • In a long interview with the newspaper El Nuevo Diario, former Sandinista comandante (and now Nicaraguan ambassador to Peru) Tomas Borge looks back, 30 years after the Sandinistas took over, and thinks about advice that Fidel Castro gave and that the Sandinistas didn’t take.

  • Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, trying to make a comeback, is released by the Texas Rangers organization after a month in Triple A.

The Obama policy -- straws in the wind

Is President Obama really changing Cuba policy? You figure it out; here are some recent straws in the wind.

  • The Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reports that U.S. and Cuban troops have conducted small joint exercises at and around the Guantanamo base. The latest took place last week, on both sides of the fenceline, involving firefighting and medical assistance. The exercises have been taking place for “more than a decade,” Rosenberg reports. What is new is that the Obama Administration, unlike its predecessors, released information about them.

  • Last week’s migration talks represented the resumption of twice-yearly conversations on that topic that the Bush Administration had suspended. A Voice of America editorial (“Engaging with Cuba”) seems to indicate that talks on other subjects would be possible. It cites “the U.S. interest in pursuing constructive discussions with Havana to advance U.S. interests on issues of mutual concern.”

  • This one, like the Microsoft Instant Messenger case discussed here, could be a case of a new Administration carrying out actions initiated by its predecessor. Treasury issued an announcement (pdf) last week that it had fined Philips Electronics of North America $128,750 for “an employee’s travel to Cuba in connection with the sale of medical equipment by a foreign affiliate.” President Obama has made it clear that he wants to maintain the embargo, but cracking down on the sale of medical equipment seems pretty extreme. This report says the equipment was made by a Brazil subsidiary, but I have seen no report that indicates exactly what was sold to Cuba. In his Spanish-language blog, Fernando Ravsberg of the BBC argues that the action sends a peculiar political message, and notes that “not even two countries at war sabotage the functioning of public medical services.”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Odds and ends

  • President Obama, like Presidents Clinton and Bush did every six months, writes a perfunctory letter to continue the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton law. That’s the provision that would allow Cuban Americans to file lawsuits in U.S. courts against investors in Cuba when those investors’ businesses involve properties they held in Cuba.

  • Reuters: Brazil’s Petrobras has done seismic work in the oil exploration bloc it has leased in Cuba, and is mulling next steps.

  • Madrid’s ABC reports that exporters from Valencia are experiencing one-year delays in collecting payment from Cuba, and are calling for a line of credit to be established to hold them over until Cuba pays.

  • AP and El Pais on the Royal Ballet of London’s performances in Havana.

Church statement on murder investigatoins

A statement released yesterday by the Havana Archdiocese says that Cuban authorities have suspects in custody in the murders of two Havana priests, Mariano Arroyo Merino last Monday and Eduardo de la Fuente last February. According to the statement, both suspects have confessed. Also: “The Church is in a position to espress firmly its rejection of any attempt to link one case with the other,” or any implication that the crimes have a political or religious dimension. The statement follows:


En nombre del Cardenal Jaime Ortega, Arzobispo de La Habana, puedo comunicar lo siguiente:

1- En la mañana de hoy, las autoridades del Gobierno han informado a la Iglesia sobre el proceso investigativo desarrollado, y que aún no ha concluido, en relación con el asesinato del sacerdote español Mariano Arroyo Merino, perpetrado en las primeras horas del lunes 13 de julio pasado.

2- Las investigaciones realizadas por los peritos policiales han permitido la localización y captura del presunto responsable de este execrable crimen y sus posibles cómplices. Además de las pruebas vinculantes, las autoridades policiales cuentan ya con la confesión del mencionado responsable.

3- Las autoridades también nos han confirmado que el proceso investigativo en relación con el asesinato del padre Eduardo de la Fuente, acontecido el pasado febrero, continúa. Sobre este crimen al menos una persona detenida ha confesado su culpabilidad y responsabilidad.

4- La Iglesia es consciente del estupor, la inquietud y las preguntas que se hacen muchos fieles católicos ante hechos tan inusuales como estos. Sabe también de los sentimientos similares que circulan en nuestra población, así como del impacto que todo ello ha tenido en los medios de comunicación acreditados en Cuba y sus consecuencias internacionales, de modo particular en España y en la Iglesia española, tan cercana y solidaria en todo momento. La Iglesia está en condiciones de expresar firmemente su rechazo a cualquier intento de vincular un caso con otro, o a darle un matiz religioso o político ajeno totalmente a la realidad del hecho criminal en sí mismo.

5- Ante crímenes como los referidos que han involucrado a dos sacerdotes, algo nada común en nuestro país, y que sin dudas afectan de modo extraordinario la vida eclesial, elevamos nuestra oración al Señor por las víctimas, sus familiares, y por la vida de la Iglesia en Cuba y en España. Oramos también para que hechos tan inhumanos no se repitan en nuestra patria.

6- Por último, como cristianos, no podemos dejar de elevar una súplica a Dios para que propicie el arrepentimiento de los criminales y manifieste Su misericordia con quienes obraron de modo tan inmisericorde.

Orlando Márquez Hidalgo

La Habana, 16 de julio de 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

No more Snow in Havana

AP has named a new Havana bureau chief, Paul Haven. The bureau’s original chief, Anita Snow, is on her way to a Harvard fellowship.

Snow opened and managed that bilingual print/broadcast bureau and survived a fire in the office and all the vagaries of working in Cuba, all the while using a keen eye to produce coverage of breaking news, plus features and analysis.

She did a series of articles in 2007 that described her month-long experience eating solely on 350 pesos, a typical Cuban income. (That series reminded me of a friend’s wish that some of the more credulous visitors to Cuba would undergo a “Live Like a Cuban” program, living on pesos, waiting in lines, carrying buckets of water up the stairs, etc.)

I also liked this long piece (pdf) from last December that used the Malecon as a prism to look at Cuba on the 50th anniversary of the socialist revolution. It’s “a system that may be softening at the edges but appears determined to crush any threat to its grip on power, lest it crumble like its one-time godfather, the Soviet Union,” she assessed.

Thanks, Anita.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A good day in New York

Sounds like the two delegations in New York had a day of practical discussions about the migration accords, and the Herald reports that the Cuban side invited the Americans to come to Havana in December for another round.

These talks represent the resumption of twice-yearly consultations provided for in the accords themselves, and suspended by the Bush Administration. Which is a good thing, but amazingly they got the market’s attention and in part drove a surge in cruise ship stock prices. Go figure.

Cuba’s statement is here, the State Department’s is here, and Cuban Colada translated parts of Cuba’s statement.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Migration talks resuming (Updated)

The State Department announces that migration talks with Cuba are to take place today in New York, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelly on the U.S. side. The Herald reports that Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez will lead the Cuban delegation.

Update: Both sides gave positive assessments afterward; Reuters coverage here, the Herald’s here.

Odds and ends

  • A Spanish priest, Mariano Arroyo Merino, was murdered in his church in Regla, where he had served since 2004, the Havana Archdiocese announced (see statement on this website). Reuters coverage here. This is the second killing of a Spanish priest in Cuba in five months. The Spanish-language press has more details on the crime; see this article from ANSA.

  • The New York Times speculated last week that pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s age may be 26, not 21. Baseball America says that speculation is without foundation. Meanwhile, Granma took note of the “deserter Aroldis Chapman” in an article slamming would-be agent Jaime Torres, but it now appears that he has signed with a different agent.

  • The Treasury Department yesterday issued a new list (pdf) of the companies licensed to charter planes for Cuba travel, sell tickets on those planes, and send remittances to people in Cuba.

Monday, July 13, 2009

From the archives

Here are three scanned photos I bought from a Havana bookseller who had lots of photos from newspaper and news agency archives.

This one, with Fidel Castro and former Nicaraguan defense minister Humberto Ortega, is undated; it has a Juventud Rebelde stamp on the back and says they are at 26th of July celebrations in Holguin.

This crowd picture has a stamp on the back from Bohemia magazine, dated May 1959, and the caption, “All races, all creeds, all ages lent color to the great welcome given to the leader Fidel Castro.”

This one is dated December 24, 1948, and has this caption on the back: “An aspect of the reception give in Santa Clara to the ex-President of the Republic, General Fulgencio Batista, now senator for the province of Las Villas, where he appears surrounded by a group of friends at the entrance to the city.”

Friday, July 10, 2009

Brazil financing Mariel port development

For years, there has been talk of a plan to move the more industrial activities in Havana Bay to the nearby port of Mariel. About two years ago there was talk that Dubai Ports World was going to do a huge renovation/expansion of Mariel, but apparently that hasn’t panned out.

Now, Reuters is reporting that the government of Brazil has approved the first $110 million in financing for the project, to be “led by a Brazilian company.” A Brazilian minister just concluded a visit to Cuba, and La Jornada reports that there was also agreement to form a pharmaceutical joint venture to produce medicines under Cuban patents.

Odds and ends

  • The New York Philharmonic is sending representatives to Havana today to discuss possible performances in the fall, the New York Times reports. AP says the U.S. government has already approved the tour.

  • Tracey Eaton writes about the Hermanos Amejeiras hospital, the imposing building on the Malecon, and digs up Fidel Castro’s speech at its 1982 inauguration.

  • Cuba is withdrawing 143 sports and literacy workers from Honduras after they were accused of “indoctrination” activities, according to Prensa Latina, while Cuba’s medical personnel in Honduras will remain.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

TV Marti funds cut

TV Marti, the U.S. government station that by all lights has more employees in Miami-Dade than viewers in Cuba, may have its days numbered. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 17-13 today to terminate the station when it approved an amendment offered today by Senator Byron Dorgan. The amendment cut $15 million from the combined budget of Radio and TV Marti.

It was nearly a party-line vote, with spendthrift Democrats voting to cut the money, and fiscal conservative Republicans voting to keep on spending it.

I listened to the debate on the webcast, and one senator argued that while the TV Marti signal may not get through, at least we’re sending the Cuban people a message that we are trying to communicate with them.

Washington Post story here.

2,848 more private taxis

It won’t solve all Cuba’s problems, but it’s positive news: Granma reports that the number of licensed private taxis increased from 3,486 to 6,334 nationwide, with 1,280 license applications in process. This follows the issuance of new regulations last January, covered here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


If you sift through the economic policy record of Raul Castro in the past three years, you see a tough diagnosis of problems, significant moves in agriculture, and partial actions at best in other areas. A long discussion of this is here (pdf) , and as always comments are welcome.

No diplomacy, no problem

Rep. Burton of Indiana files a straightforward amendment to the State Department funding bill to bar any spending “to carry out official or unofficial contact with officials or representatives of the Cuban Government.”

If for nothing else – and there’s plenty else – those contacts are used to get Cuban visas for U.S. diplomats, including those who serve in the big U.S. consulate in Havana, which would mean that the staff would gradually reduce to zero, meaning no visas for Cubans to come to the United States as visitors or as immigrants. On the flip side, it would do the same for the Cuban consulate in Washington, which would mean no visas for Cuban Americans’ family visits.

The effect of the amendment would probably be to close the U.S. Interests Section. Legally and practically, it’s impossible to have a diplomatic mission that refuses all contact with the host government.

The idea may not be as popular in Miami-Dade as the Congressman thinks, but he does know how to make a point.

Odds and ends

  • Secretary of State Clinton gave an interview yesterday to Venezuela’s Globovision, speaking mainly about Honduras and other topics. In one question about Cuba, she expressed a desire “to see fundamental changes in the Cuban regime.” The State Department transcript is here, and Globovision’s in Spanish is here.

  • The White House announces that former Congressional candidate and Miami-Dade Democratic Party chair Joe Garcia is going to the Department of Energy.

  • Orioles announcer Gary Thorne writes in the Bangor Daily News about Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman and Oriole Danys Baez, in whose footsteps he is following.


“We not only need a ‘reset’ button between the American and Russian government, but we need a fresh start between our societies – more dialogue, more listening, more cooperation in confronting common challenges. For history teaches us that real progress – whether it’s economic or social or political – doesn’t come from the top-down, it typically comes from the bottom-up. It comes from people, it comes from the grassroots – it comes from you.”

– President Obama, at a “civil society summit” in Moscow yesterday

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

78,113 land grants

Agriculture is the one area of the economy that is undergoing significant change under the Raul Castro government, if for no other reason than that the state is busy unloading parcels of the 1.7 million hectares of idle land into the hands of private farmers and cooperatives. They are getting land grants of ten years for individuals, 25 years for cooperatives. I wrote a little about this here, and will have more shortly.

An article in Trabajadores now whines that the foreign media have engaged in negative reporting on this subject (but so has Granma) and to set the record straight, discloses that 41 percent of this idle land have been handed out to 78,113 applicants since last September.

Well, whatever it takes to get the information out.

This is good news that seems to answer the reasonable questions that were posed at the beginning of this process, such as whether significant numbers of Cubans would be interested, and whether they can gather the equipment and other means necessary to work the land. The answer apparently is that they’ve got it covered.

It will be interesting to see the impact on 2009 farm production. The recently released data on 2008 production – the year of three hurricanes – showed declines in most crops.

Reuters coverage here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Odds and ends

  • In the post below on the visit of American Archbishop Timothy Broglio to Guantanamo and Santiago, I implied that he had made a pastoral visit to Guantanamo then departed directly from the base to visit those places. The Herald reports that he went to the base, flew to “another Caribbean country,” then flew to Havana.

  • The Herald covers an organization that delivers humanitarian aid to Cuba and refuses to seek U.S. government licenses for it – and helpfully gives the address where donations are being accepted: 530 Northeast 167th Street in North Miami Beach.

  • The Yankees may try to sign Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, age 21 or maybe 26 according to the New York Times. A would-be agent says of Chapman: “If he polishes up his changeup and tightens up his slider, he can be a young Randy Johnson.”

Centro Asturiano... the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Odds and ends

  • From a simpler time: A friend sent this article (pdf) from the New York Times, March 16, 1971, the day President Nixon unilaterally lifted restrictions on American travel to China. “It is the President’s policy to carefully examine further steps we may take for broader contact between Red Chinese and Americans,” said White House press secretary Ron Ziegler.

  • Reuters: Rising import costs, including a $252 million increase in spending on food imports from the United States alone, drives Cuba’s trade deficit up 65 percent.

  • Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman of Holguin, who reportedly has a 100-mph fastball, left the Cuban team in Rotterdam and wants to shoot for the major leagues.

  • Reuters’ Esteban Israel on reggaeton in Cuba and official concern about its “excessive popularity.”