Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Odds and ends

Lots of catching up to do:

  • In Florida’s Pinellas County, there’s a rash of thefts of high-speed boats, and police suspect alien smugglers are behind it. There’s lots of interesting detail in this Tampa Tribune report.

  • An independent journalist reports that Cuban authorities have moved some political prisoners arrested in 2003 to prisons closer to their homes. Many of the 75 jailed that year were sent to faraway prisons (Oscar Espinosa Chepe of Havana, for example, was orijinally incarcerated in Guantanamo), compounding the punishment and extending it to family members whose visits were made very difficult.

  • Cuba’s tourism ministry says the island now has 46,000 hotel rooms, nearly quadruple the amount available in 1990. One third are in Varadero and one fourth in Havana.

  • Challenger Raul Martinez leads Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart by two points in a new Roll Call poll, and the same poll has Senators McCain and Obama tied in that district.

  • Dissident leader Martha Beatriz Roque has filed a complaint in Cuban courts, charging that the government acted against Cuba’s constitution by disseminating in Cuban media information that Cuban intelligence agencies had collected about her. (AP story here.) Randy Alonso, of Mesa Redonda fame, is criminally liable, she says. It’s interesting that she is advancing her agenda by working through the government’s own institutions, in this case the judicial system. The Varela Project petition drive, another opposition initiative, was criticized (unwisely, I think) for that very reason.

  • The Los Angeles Times reports on relations between Russia and Cuba, and consequent worries inside the U.S. government. Judging from the blind quotes in the article, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus view on the exact course the relationship will take.

  • Reuters: Cuba, apparently squeezed for hard currency, notified two foreign governments last month that it would skip scheduled debt payments. A Japanese newspaper, cited by Reuters, says Cuba is in arrears on payments to Japan, and Japanese businesses as a result will no longer have accessed to government-backed insurance for their Cuba deals.

  • Luis Posada Carriles is back in the news. Honduras’ President says the U.S. ambassador asked him to “give him [Posada] a visa” in January 2006. And an appeals court ruled last month that Posada will have to stand trial after all for immigration fraud; LA Times coverage here, court decision here (pdf) (h/t Mambi Watch).

  • The Denver Business Journal reports on the Colorado company, Platt River Associates, accused of an embargo violation. The alleged crime is that after the company sold software to the Spanish oil company Repsol, it provided training to a Repsol employee, and the training session was in violation of the law because the employee brought seismic data from Cuba, and that data was used in the training session. That’s the company’s lawyer’s version.

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