Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Odds and ends

  • Cuban central bank chief Ernesto Medina announced an eight percent devaluation of the Cuban convertible peso, returning it to par with the U.S. dollar (Prensa Latina, Reuters) and making Cuban tourism more competitive and remittances more powerful. The ten percent surcharge on exchanges of dollar cash for Cuban currency remains; Cuba continues to describe this surcharge as a response to U.S. financial sanctions.

  • Our friend Mauricio doesn’t like to see USAID’s covert action programs described as “covert” action because, after all, they are announced here in bid solicitations and other documents. True. Also true that they are attempted to be carried out covertly in Cuba. So we should call them “semi-covert,” which is more accurate but makes them appear even dumber.

  • Local authorities come across one tremendo santero in Clearfield, Utah, with a few human skulls in the shed out back.

  • Oscar Elias Biscet, just released from prison, is named “the most important opposition figure in Cuba” in El Nuevo Herald while a columnist calls for a Havana boulevard to be named after him. He addressed a Miami audience by video link (see three-minute video excerpt in the El Nuevo story) and called the Cuban government’s ideology “anti-U.S. anti-semitic, and anti-black.” “I demand the immediate resignation of Fidel Castro, Raul, and their acolytes,” he said.

  • The Directorio’s Orlando Gutierrez writes in the Herald about an “extensive civil-resistance movement” in Cuba today, and notes “mass demonstrations” on Cuban streets as antecedents – 31 years ago at the Peruvian Embassy, 17 years ago on the Malecon, and in 2006 in Madruga.

  • An August 2006 Wikileaked cable from the UN Mission in Geneva covers the beginnings of the new UN Human Rights Council. On Havana’s role: “Cuba, not surprisingly, continues to play the spoiler, looking to eliminate country mandates (at least the one focused on Cuba) and to blame the U.S. and EU for anything it opposes.”

  • The Herald’s Juan Tamayo reports on smuggling and installation of satellite communications equipment that has nothing to do with the U.S. government.

  • Some time ago I noted this August 2006 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas that reflected U.S. government thinking at the time, that Fidel’s illness spelled “transition” in Havana. Here’s another from that period: September 1, 2006, from the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, on discussions with the administration of President Oscar Arias. The State Department did not like suggestions that Washington shake things up by dropping the embargo or returning the Guantanamo naval base and called them “unhelpful.”

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