Friday, January 29, 2010
Cuba's foreign ministry held a conference this week with more than 450 Cubans who live abroad. I haven’t seen reporting on the exchanges at the conference – from reports so far it looks like officials delivering their message to a supportive audience – but some news has come out of it.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said that 296,000 Cuban émigrés visited
Rodriguez announced that a
He also mentione the case of Alan Gross, the USAID contractor detained by Cuba last month, noting that he remains under investigation (Reuters).
If anyone knows of substantive exchanges that took place on Cuban immigration policy or anything else, I’m all ears.
- Looking for ways to save money, Senator Feingold proposes eliminating broadcasts to Cuba.
- Representative Jeff Flake differs with last week’s Washington Post editorial on
travel restrictions. U.S.
- Juventud Rebelde: free music downloads until February 25 at the new website of EGREM, the Cuban music recording and production company.
- AFP Spanish on the Internet in
, with a story about a Cuban who used his position as the IT guy in a state enterprise to sell black-market Internet access. He earned $500 per month until he got caught. Cuba
- Diario de Cuba: Cuban ballplayers will play a benefit for
relief February 6 at the Haiti . Universityof Miami
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Via Babalu, here’s a statement from Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart opposing the Obama Administration’s decision to allow “the Castro regime representatives ‘Van Van’ to perform in the United States” starting with concerts this week in Key West and Miami. He also called the band the “group of musicians known as ‘Van Van.’”
Personally, I prefer the orchestra known as
Mambi Watch has more on
To boost job creation, President Obama announced a National Export Initiative to boost American exports during last night's State of the Union address. He says he won’t settle for second place when it comes to revamping our economy.
That’s good, because preliminary data from last year are showing that the
The President seems serious, even mentioning the
He is unlikely to drop the
So here’s a more modest idea. Since President Obama made special mention of American farmers, and since farm income was down by one third last year, why not change American policy to expand agricultural exports to
To do this, he could take a few steps – and protectionists can relax, since none involve opening the
But our exports suffer from self-imposed restrictions.
And American companies are not permitted to extend credit to
These are all policies that, to date, President Obama has preserved even though he says he wants to “recast” our relations with
He has also preserved President Bush’s travel restrictions, with the exception of allowing Cuban Americans to travel to
If President Obama were to end travel restrictions, American travelers – religious and civic groups, sports teams, universities, and even tourists – would create a flow of information and ideas between our countries and correct a mistaken foreign policy that pretends to extend American influence while building a wall between our peoples.
An open travel policy would affect agriculture too: the revenues from American travelers will lead to increased purchases of our farm products.
Together, these measures would make the
About one third of those imports come from
That translates to half-billion dollar boost in American farm exports.
Is that what you’re looking for, Mr. President?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
- Reuters: An American art collector donates more than 100 works to
’s Bellas Artes museum, including some by Picasso, Miro, and Pissarro. The donor, Gilbert Brownstone, went whole hog, dedicating the donation to Los Cinco and receiving a decoration from the Council of State. Granma story here. Cuba
- Mambi Watch says everyone, including yours truly, jumped the gun last week when outlandish reports were appearing in Latin American media about the cause of the
- A Tampa business group returns from
, urges Cuba medical schools to build links with Cuban counterparts, and wants approval for Tapa-Havana flights. Florida
- And here’s an account of the visit to
of softball players from Cuba , age 55-80. Massachusetts
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
With Bush policies cruising ahead on auto-pilot, the Obama Administration is forcing Sourceforge, an American provider of open-source software, to block access to Cubans.
Supporters and opponents of
If the Cuban government wants to obtain open-source software, it will find a way to obtain it.
The effect of this sanction, which blocks Cuban IP addresses in Cuba, is to hurt the Cuban individual who arranges to have Internet access, stays up until 3:00 a.m. when Cuba’s bandwidth is not so jammed and downloads are faster, and tries to get software from a U.S. site.
Similar Treasury follies discussed here.
signs an agreement with the Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation to collaborate on restoration of Hemingway’s house in Cuba . Cuba
- Herald: The USAID Cuba program, at an impasse.
will donate 100,000 tons of wheat to Russia . Cuba
- Yoani Sanchez says that one foreign business that had its account frozen is being paid in convertible peso vouchers, which it is redeeming as best it can. In English at the Huffington Post.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Los Van Van, the very popular Cuban band, is starting its
When the band last toured the
Call me a crazy optimist, but I’ll bet that this time, those who use the occasion to express their opposition to the Cuban government will do so peacefully.
A completely unscientific sampling of news clips and commentary on the 1999 saga is here (pdf). The Herald’s excellent Saturday story looks at Miami politics then and now. It’s here, with ticket information.
(Photo from salsatimba.fr)
Fidel Castro publishes an article where he complains about the presence of so many American troops in Haiti – they have “occupied the territory of Haiti,” he says – and asks why “neither the United Nations nor the United States government have offered an explanation of these troop movements to world public opinion.” AP coverage here, Spanish text here.
That’s demagoguery, it’s par for the course, and it has been echoed by Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales.
In the article, Fidel also seems to respond to
Until now, he says, “our modest aircraft resources and the important human resources that
This small part of the
The Obama Administration set aside political considerations and offered to cooperate with
- Baylor’s baseball team is in
to carry out humanitarian projects and hold some baseball clinics. The team won’t play any games, this article says, because NCAA rules won’t allow it. Cuba
- More on Cuban doctors from NPR.
- Along the Malecon reports on the run-up to the Posada Carriles trial; the judge threw out a defense pre-trial motion to dismiss one perjury charge. With links to various documents from the proceeding.
Friday, January 22, 2010
State Department spokesman Mark Toner, in this interview with CBS radio: “We, the
[Update: “We have offered medical supplies, but the Cubans have not formally agreed to such assistance, nor have any materials been provided as yet,” a State Department spokesman tells the Herald.
And a reader poll on El Nuevo’s front page asks, “Do you believe the
[Update: A Voice of America editorial on
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Cuban Colada followed up on the story on Radio Reloj’s website that I noted yesterday – the one that says that the
“Science fiction,” a Russian navy spokesman says. Three Russian media sources tracked the story to comments made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Venezuelan television, based on his conversation with a few Russian sailors.
I like reading Mauricio Claver-Carone’s blog because it’s link-free, so you never have to click through to read about any of the people or content he refers to. Mauricio tells you everything you need to know.
At any rate, he’s upset that some “advocates” want to use the
I agree with Mauricio. In my view, the only reason for the
One example would be if the
But Mauricio seems to go further, saying that “U.S.-Cuba relations should be about the Cuban people and the abuses, injustices and deprivations that they are subject to -- in other words,
Does that mean that the
- Yoani Sanchez explains “The making of Generation Y,” or how to start a blog in
– original at Penultimos Dias, Ted Henken’s translation here. Cuba
- Cuban Colada:
’s President-elect has been flexible with regard to Chile . Cuba
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
’s top independent human rights monitor reports that the Cuban government is using more intimidation and harassment, and less long-term detention, against political opponents. The number of political prisoners dropped from 208 in mid-2009 to 201 now. Cuba
- Magnitude 5.9 earthquakes shook
and the Haiti Cayman Islandstoday, with some vague press reports indicating that the latter one was felt in . The U.S. Geological Survey’s map of the past week’s many quakes in the region is here. Cuba
- “Russians Affirm that U.S. Caused Haiti Earthquake:” Cuba’s Radio Reloj runs a story on its website from a news service in Ecuador, claiming that Russia’s navy is linking Haiti’s earthquake and others to “shock wave bombs” developed by the U.S. Navy. This poorly written story refers to “these reports” and “the report” but doesn’t cite anything. It would be interesting to know if any such statement or report from the Russian military really exists. Sounds like
’s old disinformation department, and its network, are still in business. Moscow
travel industry and Cuban officials will meet at a March conference in Cancun, just announced. U.S.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
More news coverage is mentioning the Cuban doctors in
- Marti Noticias: In a
press conference, Silvio Benitez announces that his opposition Liberal Party will field 20 candidates at the local level in this year’s elections. (The story links to audio.) The goal, he says, is “to get to the place from which the law can be changed peacefully.” One candidate in a district with about 1,100 voters says he is running on local issues – bad housing, bad roads, etc. Havana
, a call to end the embargo and help the local economy. Galveston, Texas
- As Luis Posada Carriles’ February 5 trial date approaches, Tracey Eaton reports on the prosecution’s successful motions to keep many trial documents from public view.
Monday, January 18, 2010
After Cuba allowed the use of its airspace for medical evacuation flights from the Guantanamo naval base to Miami, Secretary Clinton said, “We very much appreciate the Cubans opening their air space for medical evacuation and emergency flights, and we would welcome any other actions that the Cuban Government could take in furtherance of the international rescue and recovery mission in Haiti.”
Here’s a simple, practical suggestion from Gary Maybarduk, formerly the political counselor in the U.S. Interests Section in
I wonder if there would also be some benefit in cooperation on logistics. The aid effort is being hampered by the limited capacity of
The French and others are upset about aid flights that have been turned away.
Certainly there are capable airports in eastern
And some related items:
- CNN reports on a hospital where Cuban and other doctors are working; video here. Fidel Castro’s latest reflection contains an excerpt from a report from the Cuban medical mission in
, and it mentions the hospital that CNN filmed. A Cuban news agency report, summarized in English here, has more details. Haiti
- An effort was announced in
“to airlift possibly thousands of Haitian children left orphaned in the aftermath of Tuesday's horrific earthquake,” according to this Herald article. The idea is based on the Peter Pan operation that brought more than 14,000 Cuban children to the Miami under the Catholic Church’s auspices in the early 1960’s – but those children were not orphans, they were sent by their parents. This is a compassionate idea, but it’s not clear that anyone has considered that United States ’s battered government would have to approve adoptions. As is pointed out here in the LA Times, the process is quite long. More here from the Sun-Sentinel. Haiti
- In El Nuevo Herald, experts discuss the geology and history of eastern
and the possibilities of major earthquakes there. The U.S. Geological Survey has tons of information on earthquakes worldwide, including this note on a 2008 earthquake centered in the Cuba Caribbeanbetween and Jamaica . Also, not for the faint of heart, there’s this map of all the world’s quakes in the past seven days. Cuba (see depiction of the fault along Cuba's southern coast near Santiago)
- Granma publishes a health ministry note confirming the death of 26 patients in a psychiatric hospital in
during the recent cold snap and pointing to negligence on the part of hospital authorities. An investigative commission has been set up, the note says, and those responsible will end up in court. AP story here. Havana
- Here’s a story of a Unitarian Universalist Church group that was turned away from Cuba in late December, despite having made many trips there before.
- Alejandro Armengol notes at Cuaderno de Cuba that there’s a private gymnasium in
too, and he wrote about it in 2006. My earlier post here. Santiago
summarizes (pdf, nine pages) a conference it held last November: “Engaging Cuba: Policy Options for the Wilson Center , United States Europe, and the Western Hemisphere.”
Friday, January 15, 2010
I’m done with the comments on this blog, sorry to say.
I posted an item this week on Cuban doctors in
I could set up a system of moderating comments, where I read and screen them before they are posted, but I am not interested in being a gatekeeper. So I have thought about all this and decided that this is a party that I no longer want to host, and I’m shutting the comments section down.
What I regret is that some comments have contributed interesting information, questions, and arguments about the topics I discussed, and about some that I didn’t. Readers can continue to send me feedback by e-mail (in my profile); I’ll read them all, I’ll answer them as I can, and I’ll make use of good questions and comments and suggestions.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
- El Mundo reports on the result of
’s easing of its visa requirements: a huge increase in the number of Cubans (and others) in Ecuador . Ecuador
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies in
is holding a forum on January 22: “Opportunities for Improving U.S.-Cuba Engagement on Health Policy.” Description here (pdf). Washington
- In response to the Obama Administration’s decision to subject travelers from Cuba to extra security measures upon arrival in the United States – part of the U.S. government’s response to the underwear bomber – Cuba’s foreign ministry issued a rebuttal to Washington’s “state sponsor of terrorism” designation.
- Speaking of extra security measures to protect us from state sponsors of terror, I wonder if Homeland Security is changing its treatment of Cubans who arrive without visas on
beaches or Florida border crossings. Or is this just about airports and aviation security? Texas
- Tom Garofalo of the New America Foundation looks at the choice the
government has made in U.S. : unleashing the USAID bureaucracy rather than unleashing American civil society. He references his experience working with Caritas Cubana. Cuba
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
If there’s one small hopeful note in
To the subject of this blog, these include Cuban medical missions with 344 doctors and paramedics that have, according to news reports, set up field hospitals and started attending to victims. Cuban authorities have announced that 30 more doctors, including orthopedists and blood transfusion specialists, are on the way.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
…and I took a risk.”
That’s how Omar Francisco Rico Granados summed up his decision to use his own money and sweat to fix up a building’s second-floor apartments in the hope that he would get permission to set up a gym and charge admission in the unused space downstairs.
His gamble paid off.
Rico, once of the Cuban national soccer team, now runs the Gimnasio Sol y Cuba in Old Havana, a few steps southwest of the Plaza Vieja.
The building, according to a plaque outside, was a Masonic lodge from 1809 to 1869.
The ground floor space was full of discarded junk, the upstairs had ten apartments. Rico, proud and talkative, says he invested 34,000 pesos to fix up the apartments, beginning in 2008 and finishing last March.
I didn’t go up to see the apartments, but from downstairs you see repaired floor joists and a new pvc sewer line that he installed. In his project file, there’s a letter signed by the ten families upstairs supporting his proposal to use the downstairs as a community gym.
The rest of his file shows the results of his bureaucratic odyssey. The local government liked his project at first, then turned against it. But he went also to the
He opened the gym last September. He’s got a sound system, home-made weightlifting equipment, wooden crates for step aerobics classes, and three instructors whom he pays. Kids and retirees enter free; 100 pesos a month gets you unlimited use of the gym, 60 pesos a month gets you in for a daily 90-minute slot.
Rico pays about 250 pesos per month in tax, and uses the rest to pay expenses and recoup his investment.
He wants more exercise equipment, and the big item on his to-do list is the carpentry, ironwork, and glass to fix the front façade according to his plan (see photo).
Rico doesn’t own the property outright, and he realizes that as the restoration of Old
That prospect doesn’t seem to bother him, and one imagines he would land on his feet even if that did come to pass.
[A story of another gym in Centro Habana is here.]
A friend passed along this article (pdf) from Platts news service about an energy bill pending in the Senate that contains a
What caught my eye was something I hadn’t seen reported before – that Repsol, the leading company in the consortium that drilled for oil in Cuban territorial waters in 2004 and is expected to drill again, is in the midst of negotiations with
Monday, January 11, 2010
In his end-of year speech to
Raul recognized “expectations and honest concerns expressed by deputies [legislators] and citizens with regard to the pace and depth of the changes that we have to introduce into the functioning of the economy” and justified his slow pace as a hedge against the risk of “improvisation and haste.” He even pulled out a quote from Jose Marti: “What has to last a long time has to be made slowly.”
So what’s the next step?
A hint may have been provided by economy minister Marino Murillo in his December 21 speech to the legislature. His ministry and others are studying employment policy, he noted, then he said this: “Experiments have been initiated and others are being worked on to lighten the state’s burden in the provision of some services.”
There’s no date there, and certainly no detail, but that sounds like the kind of language that officials have used in the past to explain the expansion of self-employment – a realization on the government’s part that it doesn’t need to provide every single service in the economy, and some can be left to the private sector.
I find that Cubans are speculating that the government’s next step in economic policy will be to convert dysfunctional state enterprises – small ones such as restaurants, cafeterias, and repair shops – into urban cooperatives. The Cuban media long ago documented the problems in these businesses, many of which are functioning only because the workers take matters into their own hands (see articles in Juventud Rebelde in 2006, discussed here).
The speculation has been fueled by citizens’ suggestions that have appeared in the letters-to-the-editor section of Granma.
Here’s one from last November from J.R. Cuesta Tapia, an engineer and party member writing from
In the following week’s issue, there’s a supportive response from H. Palacios Alvarez, a doctor and “militant of the glorious Communist Party of Cuba.” He recalls how he went out to the streets to support the state’s takeover of small businesses in 1968. He now confesses that he “didn’t imagine, amid that revolutionary fervor, the burden that it would be for the state to take over control of that economic activity.” He agrees with Cuesta that the state should regulate rather than control small-scale food service operations, and he urges the state to create wholesale supply outlets for the self-employed who provide these services. That, he says, will allow providers to make a profit, it will keep prices low, and it will reduce theft of state resources.
The government would not have to break new ideological ground to put these ideas into practice. Self-employment, while limited, is already a reality in every neighborhood in
So the people are calling for it, their calls are being published, and the government is hinting vaguely. We’ll see where it goes.
- Sports Illustrated: Aroldis Chapman has a five-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds, to be announced today. And another Cuban southpaw, Noel Arguelles, was signed by
. Kansas City
- Uncommon Sense on the passing of Gloria Amaya, the mother of two political prisoners. Her sons, Ariel and Guido, were let out of jail to attend her wake, but not at the same time.
- The New York Times’ Jon Pareles reviews a Charanga Habanera performance last Friday night.
- Juventud Rebelde: Vice President Machado Ventura attends a Communist youth meeting in
and reaffirmed the leadership’s confidence in the younger generation’s ability to take over. Cienfuegos
- The New York Times Magazine has a long look at the Republican Senate primary race in
between Governor Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio. Florida
- Ted Henken discovers a Facebook group that calls for elimination of
’s tarjeta blanca exit permit, which Cubans must obtain from their government to travel abroad. Cuba