Sunday, November 23, 2008

Castro legacy hangs on strange alliance

November 22, 2008

In January of 2009 -- on New Year's Day, to be precise -- it will have been half a century since the brave and bearded ones entered Havana and chased Fulgencio Batista and his cronies (carrying much of the Cuban treasury with them) off the island. Now the chief of the bearded ones is a doddering and trembling figure, who one assumes can only be hanging on in order to be physically present for the 50th birthday of his "revolution." It's of some interest to notice that one of the ways in which he whiles away the time is the self-indulgence of religion, most especially the improbable religion of Russian Orthodoxy.

Ever since the upheaval in his own intestines that eventually forced him to cede power to his not-much-younger brother, Raul, Fidel Castro has been seeking (and easily enough finding) an audience for his views in the Cuban press. Indeed, now that he can no longer mount the podium and deliver an off-the-cuff and uninterruptable six-hour speech, there are two state-controlled newspapers that don't have to compete for the right to carry his regular column. Pick up a copy of the Communist Party's daily Granma (once described by radical Argentine journalist Jacobo Timerman as "a degradation of the act of reading") or of the Communist youth paper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth), and in either organ you can read the moribund musings of the maximum leader.

These pieces normally consist of standard diatribes about this and that, but occasionally something is said that sparks interest among a resigned readership. Such an instance occurred on my visit to the island last month. Castro decided to publish a paean to Russian Orthodoxy, to devote a state subsidy to it, and to receive one of its envoys. I quote from the column, headed "Reflections of Fidel" and titled "The Russian Orthodox Church," which was "syndicated," if that's the word, on Oct. 21. This church, wrote Castro, "is a spiritual force. In the critical moments of Russian history it played an important role. When the Great Russian War began after the treacherous Nazi attack, Stalin turned to it in support of the workers and peasants that the October Revolution made owners of the factories and the land."

These sentences contain some points of real interest. It is certainly true, for example, that the Orthodox Church "played a major role at critical times in the history of Russia." It provided the clerical guarantee of serfdom and czarism, for example, and its demented anti-Semitism gave rise to the fabrication of the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," which had a ghastly effect well beyond the frontiers of Russia itself. That's partly why the Bolsheviks sought to break the church's power and why the church replied in kind by supporting the bloodthirsty White Russian counterrevolution. But Castro openly prefers Stalin to Lenin, which may be why he refers to the Nazi assault on the USSR as "treacherous." He is quite right to do so, of course, but it does involve the awkward admission that Stalin and Hitler were linked by a formal military alliance against democracy until 1941 and that Stalin was more loyal to the pact than the "treacherous" Hitler was. And yes, of course the Orthodox Church backed Stalin, just as he subsidized the Orthodox Church after 1941. But these are chapters of shame in the history of Russia and even in the history of communism and Christianity. Why would Castro single out the darkest moments for his praise?

It gets worse. As Castro writes in the same column, concerning the visit of a Russian Orthodox archbishop named Vladimir Gundjaev to Cuba, "I suggested building a Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in the capital of Cuba as a monument to Cuban-Russian friendship. During the construction, earth was brought from the place where the remains were laid to rest of the Soviet soldiers who perished in our country during the tens of years they rendered services here." How extraordinary! He writes as if the Soviet (or, interchangeably, Russian) soldiers had fallen in combat in Cuba, and as if the Soviet Communist regime had sanctified their deaths -- of old age or venereal disease or suicide, since there never was any war -- as a sort of Christian martyrdom.

I have been in Cuba many times in the past decades, but this was the first visit where I heard party members say openly that they couldn't even guess what the old buzzard was thinking. At one lunch involving figures from the ministry of culture, I heard a woman say: "What kind of way is this to waste money? We build a cathedral for a religion to which no Cuban belongs?" As if to prove that she was not being sectarian, she added without looking over her shoulder: "A friend of mine asked me this morning: 'What next? A subsidy for the Amish?"'

All these are good questions, but I believe they have an easy answer. Fidel Castro has devoted the last 50 years to two causes: first, his own enshrinement as an immortal icon, and second, the unbending allegiance of Cuba to the Moscow line. Now, black-cowled Orthodox "metropolitans" line up to shake his hand, and the Putin-Medvedev regime brandishes its missile threats against the young Obama as Nikita Khrushchev once did against the young Kennedy. The ideology of Moscow doesn't much matter as long as it is anti-American, and the Russian Orthodox Church has been Putin's most devoted and reliable ally in his re-creation of an old-style Russian imperialism. If you want to see how far things have gone, take a look at the photograph of President Dmitry Medvedev's inauguration, as he kisses the holy icon held by the clerical chief. Putin and Medvedev have made it clear that they want to reinstate Cuba's role in the hemisphere, if only as a bore and nuisance for as long as its military dictatorship can be made to last. Castro's apparent deathbed conversion to a religion with no Cuban adherents is the seal on this gruesome pact. How very appropriate.

New York Times Syndicate

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cuba trade worth $32 million to Virginia farmers

Friday November 14, 2008

Virginia farmers reap $32 million worth of trade with Cuba, commissioner
groundwork for more

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- In just six years, trade between Cuba and Virginia farmers has grown from less than $1 million to more than $32 million. And Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Todd P. Haymore is hoping for even more growth. He recently returned from the Havana International Trade Fair in Cuba, where he and others pushed Virginia's apples, soybeans, poultry, wood and other products. Virginia is among the top five states exporting to Cuba. A nearly 50-year-old trade embargo prevents U.S. tourists from visiting Cuba and prohibits nearly all trade. But a law passed by Congress in 2000 allows the Cuban government to buy U.S. food and agricultural products with direct cash payments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cuba replaces foreign investment minister Lomas

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba replaced its foreign investment minister Wednesday in a high-profile Cabinet change, but did not explain the move.

A statement read during the communist island's nightly newscast said the Communist Party's Politburo "decided to liberate" Marta Lomas from the position. It did not give a reason, and it was not clear if she will take on a new governmental role.

She will be replaced by former U.N. Ambassador Rodrigo Malmierca, whom the statement praised as an experienced diplomat and leader.

The 24-member Politburo is headed by Fidel Castro, 82 years old and ailing, who stepped down from the presidency in February in favor of his younger brother Raul.

Havana's communist government controls well over 90 percent of the economy, but the island created joint business ventures with foreign enterprises and began encouraging foreign tourism en masse in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union crippled its economy.

As foreign investment minister, Lomas helped negotiate contracts with trade delegations from foreign governments and foreign business leaders.

Six films on Cuba

Six Films On Cuba At Real Art Ways

"Vampiros En La Habana"

"Vampiros En La Habana" (HANDOUT / November 11, 2008)

Real Art Ways celebrates Cuba this and next week with a series of six films.

• "Viva Cuba!" is about two kids who make friends, one poor and socialist, the other rich. The 2005 film is 78 minutes.

• "Vampires in Havana," Juan Padrón's 1985 animated film, tells the story of American and Eastern European vampires and a potion that lets them live in sunlight. It is 80 minutes.

• "The Sugar Curtain" is Camila Guzmán Urzúa's autobiographical story about the "Golden Years" of the Cuban Revolution. The 2005 film is 90 minutes.

• "El Benny!" tells the life story of Benny Moré, one of Cuba's greatest musicians. Jorge Luis Sánchez's 2006 film is 132 minutes.

• "Los Zafiros: Music From the Edge of Time" is about another music group, as told by Manuel Galbán and Miguel Cancio, the two surviving members of Los Zafiros. Lorenzo DeStefano's 2004 film is 79 minutes.

• "Fuera de Liga" is a documentary about Industriales, a great Cuban baseball team. The 2006 film is 68 minutes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cuba sobrevive a un tercer huracán

El Gobierno temía mayores daños en una economía devastada por los ciclones

MAURICIO VICENT - La Habana - 10/11/2008

Cuba se salvó milagrosamente del huracán Paloma. El peligroso ciclón, de categoría tres cuando el sábado entró a la isla por la costa sur de Camagüey, se convirtió en una tormenta de baja intensidad a las pocas horas de azotar la región oriental del país.

Cuba se salvó milagrosamente del huracán Paloma. El peligroso ciclón, de categoría tres cuando el sábado entró a la isla por la costa sur de Camagüey, se convirtió en una tormenta de baja intensidad a las pocas horas de azotar la región oriental del país. Pese a ello, provocó daños de consideración e inundaciones en poblaciones cercanas a la costa, sobre todo en la localidad de Santa Cruz del Sur, donde el mar penetró más de un kilómetro y medio y destruyó cientos de casas. El golpe es menor del esperado y limitado a unos pocos municipios, pero se suma a la catástrofe provocada hace dos meses por los ciclones Ike y Gustav, que dejaron pérdidas valoradas en más de 8.600 millones de dólares (unos 6.700 millones de euros), aproximadamente el 17% del PIB de la isla.

La llegada del huracán Paloma provocó pánico en Cuba, cuando el país apenas comienza a recuperarse de la destrucción de los huracanes que arrasaron la isla en agosto y septiembre, que han puesto a la frágil economía cubana contra la pared. En 10 días, 63.000 casas se derrumbaron totalmente, otras 380.000 sufrieron graves daños y unas 200.000 personas quedaron sin techo. La red de distribución eléctrica fue duramente golpeada, hasta el extremo que todavía hoy no se ha restablecido al 100%. En la agricultura, la pérdida del 30% de los cultivos se ha traducido en un grave desabastecimiento: la comercialización de vegetales y viandas cayó en un 80% en septiembre.

Al principio, las autoridades temieron que el Paloma fuera la puntilla y devastara viviendas, infraestructuras y cosechas que resistieron el paso de Ike, o que se habían empezado a rehabilitar en las últimas semanas en la zona oriental.

Sólo en Camagüey, el Ike destruyó en septiembre 10.000 viviendas y afectó a otras 100.000, cerca del 40% del fondo habitacional de la provincia. En muchos lugares todavía la ayuda del Gobierno no ha llegado, o no ha llegado a todos, y miles de personas siguen albergadas en instalaciones provisionales. Las necesidades son inmensas y los recursos muy limitados.

Tres potentes huracanes en poco más de dos meses hubieran sido demasiado. Felizmente, Paloma no fue otro ciclón devastador a escala nacional, como se temía, aunque en el sur de Camagüey sí provocó importantes daños. Donde más, en el poblado de pescadores de Santa Cruz del Sur, donde impactó de lleno el ojo del huracán el sábado por la noche y se tragó cientos de viviendas. Hace justamente 76 años, el 9 de noviembre de 1932, este pueblo despareció del mapa tras el paso de un huracán de categoría cinco, la máxima en la escala Saffir-Simpson. Murieron 3.000 personas, en la peor tragedia registrada en Cuba en este tipo de catástrofes.

El oriente de Cuba se salvó de la pesadilla gracias a las condiciones meteorológicas, y específicamente a la llegada de un frente frío que desintegró el ciclón a las pocas horas de tocar tierra. De cualquier modo, la defensa civil cubana evacuó a cientos de miles de personas, que ayer comenzaron a regresar a casa. Por delante queda ahora un duro invierno. La escasez, y las verdaderas consecuencias del Ike y el Gustav, recién comienzan.

Tres tempestades

30 de agosto. Gustav. Arrasó la isla de la Juventud y Pinar del Río. Provocó daños en más de 150.000 viviendas.

8-10 septiembre. Ike. Entró por la costa de Holguín. Causó siete muertos y daños en más de 300.000 hogares.

9 de noviembre. Paloma. Se ha cebado con Camagüey. No dejó grandes pérdidas.

Nueva imagen de Fidel Castro en la red

(Noticiascadadía/Agencias).- La fotografía de Castro, de 82 años, fue tomada el 20 de octubre durante el encuentro sostenido entre Castro y Gundajaev, quien visitó La Habana para inaugurar una Catedral Ortodoxa en el casco histórico.

Los medios oficiales cubanos informaron ampliamente de la estancia del líder religioso en Cuba y mostraron fotografías de su encuentro con el actual mandatario, Raúl Castro, pero evitaron publicar la imagen del encuentro con Fidel Castro.

La fotografía constituye la más reciente imagen del convaleciente dictador después de que los medios cubanos divulgaran fotos de su entrevista con el presidente brasileño, Lula da Silva, a finales de enero.

Foto: Nueva foto de Fidel Castro en la red

El historiador cubano Emilio Ichikawa fue el primero en colgar la foto en su blog la tarde del lunes.

"En realidad fui afortunado de que un lector me alertara sobre la existencia de la fotografía'', relató Ichikawa, columnista de las páginas de El Nuevo Herald.

La imagen muestra a Castro más delgado que en ocasiones anteriores y sosteniéndose del brazo del visitante ruso.

Gundajaev calificó de "acontecimiento histórico'' la apertura del primer templo de la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rusa en La Habana y aseguró que abrirá "una nueva página en las relaciones'' entre Cuba y Rusia.

"Cuatro años atrás, con el apoyo del Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro, pusimos la primera piedra [de la Catedral de Nuestra Santa Señora de Kazan] y pasados cuatro años ya está construido'', declaró el metropolita de Smolenks y Kaliningrado.

Con sus cinco cúpulas doradas en forma de bulbo coronadas por la Santa Cruz, la Catedral es un edificio blanco que ocupa un área de 1.200 metros cuadrados frente al mar, y la obra más compleja ejecutada en la Habana Vieja por la Oficina de su Historiador, Eusebio Leal.


(AGI) - Rome, 12 Nov. - The former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, has reappeared in public on October 20th, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Russian-Orthodox cathedral in Havana. The leader was photographed together with the 'nr. 2' of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kiril Gundajaev and the picture has been put on the Church's official website. In the image Fidel appears weakened and again in tracksuit. Gundajaev was also received by President Raul Castro. The photo, the most recent one of Fidel after the one in which he appears with the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, in January, was published on Tuesday by 'El nuevo Herald' in Miami.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Body of South American youth mutilated near Guantanamo

by Humberto Fontova

Monday 5 May 2008

Body of South American youth mutilated near Guantanamo! U.S. Officials rebuff inquiries! Bereaved family of young idealist demand answers!

Havana is 500 miles from Guantanamo so "near" is a relative term. And U.S. officials haven't been grilled on the matter. But everything in the above headline is true. Nonetheless, allow me to apologize to the Bolivian family of the victim for my flim-flammery as an intro. If I 'd started this column with what this family strongly suspects: that the mutilation and possible death of their daughter in Cuba was the handiwork of Cuba's Stalinist regime, no major media organ � it goes without saying � would deign to report the crime, as they've ignored Castroite crimes for half a century.

Hence my mountebankish intro in the hope (undoubtedly vain) that the MSM's 50 year old tradition might suffer a brief hiccup. Bolivian newspaper La Razon reports that the body of Beatriz Porco, a 22 year old Bolivian who won a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba two years ago, was returned to her family on April 2nd , minus several internal organs, including the girl's brain, kidneys, lungs, and uterus.

Interestingly, the article reports that the family had been warned of such practices in Cuba. "The day before her corpse arrived," says the victim's sister, Sofia Porco, "we met with Cuba's Ambassador to Bolivia, Rafael Dausa, and my father specifically asked him if such a thing was likely. The ambassador assured us that her body would be returned to us absolutely intact."

As is usually the case with Cuban "ambassadors," Dausa has been identified by Cuban defectors as a high-ranking DGI (Directorio General de Inteligencia, Cuba's KGB and STASI trained secret police) officer. Sofia Porco adds that her families' suspicions were aroused when they asked for an autopsy on her sister and the Cuban doctors (who infest Bolivia due to Castro's much-heralded "Doctor Diplomacy" ) were adamant that the autopsy be conducted in Bolivia's El Alto clinic, which is run and staffed exclusively by Cuban medical personnel.

Instead the family dug in their heels and managed to have it conducted at Hospital de Clinicas in the town of Curahuara de Carabgas by Bolivian doctors, where the discovery was made that among other horrors, her sister's skull contained only toilet paper. Sofia adds that the town's major offered to help her family investigate the matter until Dausa threatened him. Sofia's uncle also reports that their family was threatened with reprisals by Cuban officials (who walk tall in Bolivia thanks to Evo Morales) if they dared report the incident to the media.

Bolivia's La Razon also reports that this isn't the first time Bolivians have been subject to such Cuban practices. On October 21, 2002 the family of Miguel Bastos, another Bolivian studying medicine in Havana, got a phone call from Cuban officials reporting that Miguel had died in Cuba of an accident. When his body was delivered to Bolivia, an autopsy revealed that 18 internal organs had been extracted. Miguel's mother promptly requested the organs, a record of his Cuban autopsy and the police report on his accidental death.

The Bastos family is still waiting. Miguel's girlfriend who accompanied him in Havana reported that, in fact, three days prior to his death, Miguel had been threatened by Cuban police because he'd been complaining of conditions and requesting to be sent back home.

Actually, there's nothing novel about this Cuban revolutionary attitude towards Bolivians. In his own diaries, for instance, Che Guevara sneered at rural Bolivians as "little animals." Guinea Pigs, might be a more specific Cuban definition for them nowadays. The article in La Razon reports that Cuban embassy personnel responded to the Bolivian queries quite succinctly: "we have behaved in strict accordance with Cuba's internal policies." And they may have a point.

Here's court records from a suit in the 11th Judicial Circuit court, Miami-Dade County by Katy Fuller, who's father was murdered in 1960 by "Cuba's Elvis!" (Dan Rather on Fidel Castro) for resisting the theft of his farm. From The Estate of Robert Otis Fuller vs The Republic of Cuba filed May 5th 2002: "Agents of the Castro Government acting under orders of the Castro Government, led Bobby Fuller to a firing squad where he was shot and killed after being tortured by having his blood drained from his body. Thereafter, his body was thrown into an unmarked mass grave in an unknown location."

Here's another lawsuit against �One Helluva Guy!� (Ted Turner on Fidel Castro) by the family of U.S. citizen Howard Anderson who resisted the theft of his filling stations and Jeep dealership by Castro's gunmen in 1960: Anderson v. Republic of Cuba, No. 01-28628 (Miami-Dade Cir. April 13, 2003). "In one final session of torture, Castro's agents drained Howard Anderson's body of blood before sending him to his death at the firing squad." "Death to the American!" screamed Howard Anderson's Communist prosecutor at his farce of a trial on April 17, 1961. "The prosecutor was a madman!" says a Swiss diplomat who witnessed the trial, "leaping on tables, shrieking, pointing, as Mr. Anderson simply glared back."

Two days after his "trial," Howard Anderson's refused a blindfold � to glare at his executioners. Medically he was probably in shock at the time from the blood-draining. "FUEGO!!" The bullets shattered Howard Anderson's body at dawn on April 19th, 1961. "Castro is very selfless and moral" reports his friend Oliver Stone. On April 7, 1967 The Organization of American States Human Rights Commission issued a detailed report on the Cuban regime's version of recycling:

On May 27 1966 from six in the morning to nightfall political prisoners were executed continuously by firing squad in Havana's La Cabana prison. One hundred and sixty-six men were executed that day and each had 5 pints of blood extracted prior to being shot. Extracting this amount of blood often produces cerebral anemia and unconsciousness so that many had to be carried to the execution wall on stretchers. The corpses were then transported by truck to a mass grave in a cemetery outside the city of Marianao. On 13th street in Havana's Vedado district Soviet medical personnel have established a blood bank where this blood is transported and stored. This blood is sold at fifty U.S. dollars per pint to the Republic of North Viet Nam.

The removal and sale of organs from the Chinese regime's execution victims is a well-reported story by now. So in defense of the mainstream media and their pet "Cuba Experts," these have indeed been insistent that the "pragmatic" Raul Castro is keen on implanting the "Chinese model" in Cuba.

Humberto Fontova is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit