Monday, February 23, 2009

Sen. Lugar says US must rethink Cuba embargo


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. policy of shunning communist Cuba by imposing a strict trade embargo has failed to prod the island nation toward democracy and should be re-evaluated, according to the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We must recognize the ineffectiveness of our current policy and deal with the Cuban regime in a way that enhances U.S. interests," wrote Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a report dated Monday.
The report lends new weight to a bipartisan view in Congress that Raul Castro's rise to power has opened a window for U.S.-Cuban relations. President Barack Obama has promised a fresh look at the U.S. policy. He says he would be open to meeting with Castro, who took over as Cuba's president for his ailing brother, Fidel. Obama also supports easing limitations on the number of visits and the amount of money sent to Cuba by family members in the U.S.
But like his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has said he believes the embargo provides important leverage with the country's leaders. Lugar's suggestion that the U.S. rethink that position was included in an assessment of U.S.-Cuban relations written by his senior staffer, Carl Meacham, who traveled to Cuba in January. The report was scheduled to be distributed this week among Lugar's Senate colleagues. While the report stops short of calling an end to the ban, it offers a harsh assessment of U.S. policies. It charges that the existing embargo provides the Cuban government a convenient "scapegoat" for the nation's economic difficulties, ignores recent political developments and keeps the U.S. from gaining a "broader understanding of events on the island." "By directing policy toward an unlikely scenario of a short-term democratic transition on the island and rejecting most tools of diplomatic engagement, the U.S. is left as a powerless bystander, watching events unfold at a distance," the report states. Ending the embargo would require an act of Congress because lawmakers wrote key parts of the restrictions into law in 1992 and 1996. The 1996 law, passed shortly after Cuban fighter jets shot down two planes operated by a Miami-based anti-Castro group, bars the United States from normalizing relations with Cuba as long as Fidel or Raul Castro is involved in the Cuban government. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a law allowing the sale of agricultural goods and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian reasons. Since then, agricultural sales to Cuba have risen from almost nothing to more than $440 million last year. The report points out that Obama could engage Cuba on this and other issues, such as drug interdiction, migration and terrorism.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cuba: Interview with Blogger Miriam Celaya

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 @ 20:22 UTC
by Claudia Cadelo

ExcerptMiriam Celaya is a Cuban blogger, whose blog Sin Evasión [es] is celebrating its one year anniversary. She started writing under the pseudonym "Eva González," but six months later she decided to use her real name. In this interview with Claudia Cadelo, she talks about how she started blogging, the decision to leave her pseudonym behind, and about her participation in the recent blogger gatherings on the island.

Miriam Celaya is a Cuban blogger, whose blog Sin Evasión [es] is celebrating its one year anniversary. With an art history degree, she worked nearly two decades at the Department of Archaeology at the Science Academies. In addition, she has been a literature and spanish languages professor, where during this time, she became familiar with the use of computers. However, the institute did not have an internet connection. It wasn't until her time working with the digital magazines “Consenso” and “Con Todos” did she learn about the use of the online medium. Soon with the help of other Cuban bloggers, namely Yoani Sánchez of Generación Y [es], she started her own blog under a pseudonym “Eva”. However, that soon changed when she decided to use her own name to publish her blog. Here is an interview with Celaya about her start in the world of blogs, why she chose to leave her pseudonym behind, and her participation in the blogger gatherings.

Claudia Cadelo: How would you define the type of relationships that you have with your blog?

Miriam Celaya: I don't define it. I don't like to categorize things that are dear to me. I prefer to say that my blog is the space where my character and my habitual tendency to provide opinions can be combined with the possibility of freely expressing myself beyond the limited boundaries of interpersonal relationships, within the reality of this country. My blog has allowed me to start relationships with many people, the majority Cubans like me, but also of other nationalities, all of which are very close to me and very needed. It has allowed me to practice tolerance, a skill that - I admit- was very hard for me years ago and something which I had been working on. I also got to know myself better. It was like a second birth for me, and I only hope that the blog will allow to grow as a human being.

CC: You started your blog with a pseudonym, but later you stopped using it. Could you talk about the reasons why you started to blog anonymously?

MC: Some people thought that I hid my identity out of fear of repression. That is not true. In reality, paradoxically, here it is more dangerous to remain “anonymous” by trying to hide. In this semi-clandestine state, one is more prone to blackmail. I was aware that the police knew my real face and could guess that I was scared… My identity was evident: in the magazine Con Todos (and before with Consenso) I published indistinguishably as Miriam Celaya, as T. Avellaneda, as Lucía Morera and as Eva González, and the four had the same writing style. However, I had my own personal reasons to use the mask of Eva, which is the pseudonym that I always preferred: my father, who died in October 2007, was fearful for me because he suspected that I was involved in “something dangerous” and that I also was fearful of possible retaliation against members of my family. In any case, no one can take Eva away from me.

CC: What were the events that led to you showing yourself with your real name? When was it?

MC: As I mentioned, the death of my father and the end of the, let's say, “grace period” that I gave to others, who are very important to me and that always gave some resistance to my intentions to show my face. It is always difficult to convince others about your reasons, especially if those “others” love you and worry about you. I think it was a time of maturity with the circumstances, I publicly discovered myself at the right moment. That was in the summer of 2008, when I was already blogging six months incognito.

CC: Now that you have experienced blogging both anonymously and under your real name, could you tell me about the positive and negative aspects of each and what differences have noticed between the two? Do you feel like you made the right decision?

MC: I feel and know that I made the right decision. I don't have a doubt, especially because it was a completely personal choice and one is responsible for one's own actions, right? I assume all of the consequences for what I write and for the way that I write. The negative aspect of posting anonymously is that it takes away credibility in the eyes of the readers. They understand your reasons and even justify them, but some could wonder that in the distance, whether one is exaggerating the truth hidden behid the pseudonym, avoiding that the opinions and the events can be authentic or verifiable. I truly felt happy with the reaction of the readers upon learning my identity, they encouraged me a lot, connections were made with them, and I gained confidence in myself. However, I don't regret having used my pseudonym during that time: Eva González is a real part of me, even though it was not the name given to me when I was born, October 9, 1959. In an anthropological perspective, Eva was (is) something like a rite of passage.

CC: You are participating in the blogger gatherings, which is how we met. Could you tell us how you feel being a part of that group and in general about your thoughts regarding this phenomenon?

MC: I think it is an extraordinary event, even though of its modest proportions and because of all the difficulties for the blogosphere from Cuba. The gatherings have allowed us to grow closer together and unite the will for the search of independent, civic spaces for dialogue. Up until now, we had been unconnected. The blogosphere also allows us to be something that had been banned: to be citizens, and our gatherings become the forum where people from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, and lines of thinking, can come together, and we profess respect for one another and we encourage this strong feeling, which is inner freedom, and is something that they can't take away. Without a doubt, I am a part of “this”.

CC: Everyone that is part of a journalistic and creative activity like yours, who leaves behind anonymity and publishes their opinions publicly, must have personal and social goals. What are they? Which goals have you accomplished and which ones are close to be accomplished?

MC: I wouldn't say that I am a journalist, even thought I do express my opinions publicly. My personal goals are to contribute any way that I can to the encouragement of dialogue, to search for pluralistic and common spaces, and to push for a different Cuba with which we all dream and need. I don't accept the opinion of some readers who thank me for what I do “for Cuba”: in reality, I only follow my personal convictions and I don't take on the role of Messiah or Joan of Arc. I am not a leader, nor do I follow leaders. Through the blog, I tried to connect myself with many interesting and capable people, people like you and me, who are around, on the streets, who surround you and who you didn't even know existed, and who have the same wishes as you.

Cuba: Interview with Blogger Reinaldo Escobar

Monday, February 16th, 2009 @ 16:12 UTC
by Claudia Cadelo

ExcerptCuban blogger Reinaldo Escobar is one of the few bloggers that has worked professionally as a journalist with official Cuban media. Now he is an independent journalist and runs the portal Desde Cuba, which is also where his blog Desde Aquí is hosted. He is also very active in the Cuban blogosphere and is part of the team that will launch the project Cuban Voices. In this interview, Claudia Cadelo asks about his start with blogging and his thoughts on a blogosphere that is often polarized.

Cuban blogger Reinaldo Escobar was born in 1947 in Camagüey, and graduated with a degree in journalism from Havana University in 1971. He is one of the few bloggers that has worked professionally as a journalist: first in the magazine “Cuba” up until 1987. Here during this work, he was able to travel and visit practically all of the Cuban municipalities where he wrote about many different topics. He later joined the staff of the newspaper “Juventud Rebelde,” (Rebel Youth) where he was later expelled in December of 1988 for what he calls writing with “youthful rebellion.”
Photo by Cuban photographer Claudio Fuentes and used with permission

Now he is an independent journalist and celebrates his firing from the newspaper, together with his wife, Yoani Sánchez of Generación Y [es], whom he met in 1993. From here in 2004, he became editor of the magazine “Consenso” which eventually became the portal Desde Cuba [es], which is is also where his blog Desde Aquí [es] is hosted. He is also very active in the Cuban blogosphere and will be on the jury for the blogging contest called “A Virtual Island [es],” gives presentations during the blogger gatherings, and is part of the team that is preparing to launch the project “Cuban Voices [es],” where to date, 8 bloggers will have their blogs hosted and which will be inaugurated soon. For Escobar, blogging allows him to write about those topics that come to mind, but where he cannot find a space in official Cuban media. Here is a short interview about his interest with blogging.

Claudia Cadelo: How did you start with blogging?

Reinaldo Escobar: In 1994, I touched a computer for the first time, so I arrived late to using technology. Thanks to Yoani Sánchez, author of the blog Generación Y [es], my partner for the past 15 years, she introduced me to this new form of expressing ideas called a blog. She taught me and motivated me, and she still pushes me when I don't write in my blog for more than one week.

CC: What do you see is the value in blogs?

RE: I think one finds an elevated level of freedoms in blogs, and people can aspire to it when they wants to express themselves. Whether or not it is journalism, will be a discussion for the future. It is like the debate whether or not acupuncture is medicine, whether or not chess is a sport, or whether or not yoga is a religion. These phenomena emerge and acquire their own identity, independent of definitions and labels given to them.

CC: What are your thoughts on a blogosphere that is often polarized?

RE: Now, I have chosen moderation, which is not synonymous with cowardice or conservatism. Sometimes, I write incendiary words and I have the urge to insult and discredit, especially with those who insult and discredit others as if it were their job, most of them are opportunist and.. . (see, it does not take much to fall into temptation), but I contain myself. Even though I prefer not to belong to any political organization, I believe that I have a commitment, a citizen's obligation to my country and its future. I enjoy the characteristic (for some it is a defect, and for others a virtue) of not remaining quiet when I sense that it is necessary to say something. I am that person that tells the passerby that their shoe is untied, that signals a driver when he or she drives with their lights on during daytime. Whey should I remain silent when I have the feeling that my children's future is in danger? I don't feel like a hero or anything else. I chose the risks of responsibility, before brave imprudence or indifferent comfort.

La Universidad Católica San Vicente Mártir llega a Cuba

7 de Junio del 2008 @ 22:55:00.
José Ángel Crespo Flor


Dos profesoras valencianas viajan a La Habana para ofrecer un máster en Bioética. Pese a su corta vida ya se puede asegurar que la Universidad Católica de Valencia 'San Vicente Mártir' goza de todas las garantías que uno pudiera exigir. Se trata -su nombre ya lo indica- de una universidad pero donde además de profundizar en el saber intelectual, se marcan unas pautas totalmente cristianas de ahí la característica principal de este centro educativo que cada vez cuenta con más alumnos.El cardenal arzobispo de Valencia monseñor Agustín Garcia-Gasco Vicente ha sido el impulsor de esta universidad de ahí que los logros que ha tenido sean fruto de un enorme trabajo de su equipo directivo pero también de la tenacidad y esfuerzo mostrados por el purpurado desde que esta Universidad comenzó a dar sus primeros pasos.La noticia que nos ocupa, el viaje de dos profesoras de esta institución católica a La Habana para ofrecer un máster de Bioética, viene a corroborar lo que estamos diciendo: la implantación de esta Universidad no tanto en Valencia sino allende nuestras fronteras. Es pues un momento importante el que atraviesa este centro en el que se han puesto tantas expectativas y es momento de sentir orgullo por lo que representa esta Institución y por el cometido que puede hacer por el bien de la sociedad valenciana y de todos los que a ella acuden.Particularmente nos agrada el viaje de estas dos profesoras de la UCV a La Habana porque aquí, en El Canyamelar -concretamente en la parroquia Nuestra Señora del Rosario- se venera desde hace unos años una réplica de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patrona de todos los cubanos. Precisamente este gesto, que lo llevó a término el entonces obispo de Holguín y hoy obispo emérito mons. Héctor Luis Peña, ha servido para que aquí se haya gestado una Asociación que, entre sus cometidos tiene el de ayudar en las carencias a Cuba y el de celebrar todos los 8 de septiembre la Fiesta en honor a la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

Dos profesoras de la Universidad Católica de Valencia "San Vicente Mártir" (UCV) han participado hoy en La Habana en el acto de entrega de los títulos a la promoción del primer Máster Oficial de Bioética que se imparte en Cuba, según han indicado hoy a la agencia AVAN fuentes de la UCV, que han asegurado que es "la primera vez en 50 años que una universidad católica otorga un título en este país". La promoción que ha recibido su título está integrada por 24 alumnos, mientras que la segunda promoción que iniciará el próximo máster estará compuesta por una treintena de jóvenes, entre ellos, médicos, enfermeros, juristas, veterinarios y biólogos. Las profesoras María José Torres, coordinadora del Master Oficial en Bioética de la UCV, y Gloria Casanova viajaron ayer desde Valencia por vía aérea hacia Cuba donde han asistido hoy, igualmente, a la apertura del primer Centro de Bioética de La Habana que llevará el nombre de "Juan Pablo II". El centro, dirigido por dos médicos cubanos, tendrá como fines principales la investigación y formación continua.Igualmente, Casanova y Torres impartirán contenidos del II Master Oficial en Bioética que comenzará en los próximos días en las diócesis cubanas de Santa Clara, Placetas y Sancti Spiritus, sedes del máster que dirige el misionero valenciano Blas Silvestre.La Universidad Católica de Valencia ³San Vicente Mártir", a través del Instituto de Ciencias de la Vida, que dirige el médico Justo Aznar, inició en 2007 en Cuba el máster en Bioética para profesionales de los ámbitos sanitario y jurídico.El programa ofrece entre sus contenidos los principales aspectos de la bioética fundamental y clínica, así como la investigación. De igual modo, el máster, que incluye un trabajo de investigación final, cuenta con un claustro de profesores formado por varios médicos, psicólogos y juristas tanto cubanos como europeos.Además, los alumnos cubanos pueden completar y reforzar su formación a través de la plataforma digital de la Universidad Católica de Valencia, UCVNet, para la enseñanza "on line", con la ampliación de apuntes y tutorías virtuales, han añadido.De igual forma, la Universidad Católica de Valencia cuenta, además, con un Observatorio de Bioética, fundado en 2006 por el Instituto de la Vida de la UCV, integrado por medio centenar de expertos pertenecientes a la UCV así como a otras universidades, entre ellas, de Navarra, Madrid, Vitoria y Alicante y de Valencia, y por profesionales vinculados a otras instituciones públicas o privadas.El Observatorio dispone de una página web con documentos y foros sobre la investigación y avances médicos para evaluar y tratar diferentes cuestiones desde la ética como la clonación humana, la eutanasia, la experimentación con embriones o las células madre. Las direcciones habilitadas en internet son y, el Observatorio proporciona a los profesionales y personas interesadas en estas materias asesoramiento y formación continuada "que les permita evaluar, consensuar y tratar los problemas relacionados con la bioética", han añadido fuentes de la UCV

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Castro vincula el futuro de Cuba al 'sí' en el referéndum venezolano

"Será una decisión que influirá en el resto del planeta",
asegura el ex presidente cubano
EUROPA PRESS / ELPAÍ - Madrid - 15 de Febrero del 2009

El ex presidente cubano, Fidel Castro, ha indicado en la última de sus Reflexiones, recogida en el diario digital Cuba Debate, que el futuro de Cuba es "inseparable" de la aprobación de la enmienda constitucional que hoy se somete a referéndum en Venezuela para la reelección indefinida de sus cargos públicos. "Nuestro futuro [el de los cubanos] es inseparable de (...) la aprobación de la enmienda constitucional", ha indicado Castro, que también añade que "no existe otra alternativa que la victoria". "El destino de los pueblos de Nuestra América", asegura el ex dirigente cubano, "dependerá mucho de esa victoria y será un hecho que influirá en el resto del planeta". Asimismo, recuerda en su artículo la XIV Cumbre del Movimiento de Países No Alineados (MNOAL) celebrada en 2006, durante la que Castro se encontraba "muy grave pero a la vez muy consciente de lo que ocurría". En ella, mantuvo, según asegura, una conversación con Hugo Chávez en la que éste le exclamó: "Fidel, dime cuánto petróleo necesita Cuba para vencer el bloqueo yanqui".

Castro Says Cuba’s Future Depends on Venezuela Referendum

By Jose Orozco

Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The future of Cuba depends on the results of tomorrow’s Venezuelan referendum on whether to eliminate term limits for elected officials, former Cuban president Fidel Castro said. “Our future is inseparable from what happens next Sunday, the day of the referendum on the constitutional amendment,” Castro wrote in an editorial published on the Cuba Debate Web site. “There is no alternative but victory.” Communist Cuba receives about 90,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day in exchange for services from thousands of Cuban professionals, including doctors, agricultural specialists and athletic trainers that Castro has sent to live in Venezuela since their agreement started in 2000. Venezuela’s constitution limits presidents to two six-year terms. President Hugo Chavez, a Castro ally who has been in office for 10 years and whose current term expires in 2013, is holding the vote so he can run in the 2012 election. Venezuelans narrowly defeated a constitutional amendment in 2007 that would have lifted the term limit for the president only. Castro, who led the Cuban revolution and overthrew U.S. ally Fulgencio Batista in 1959, has remained out of public view since 2006 after undergoing surgery for an intestinal ailment. He officially passed the presidency of Cuba to his younger brother, Raul, early last year. The U.S. has maintained a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962, when Castro expropriated the land of U.S. citizens and companies. Cuban leaders blame the embargo for the Caribbean nation’s economic and social problems.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jose Orozco in Caracas at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Software libre! Cuba develops own free Linux called 'Nova'

Eric Lai

February 12, 2009 (Computerworld) Cuba released its own distribution of the free Linux operating system this week, as the communist island seeks to wean its citizens and institutions from what it says is insecure, capitalist-produced Microsoft Corp. software, according to a report. The Reuters news service reported Wednesday that the new version is called Nova, and was introduced at a technical conference in Havana. Based on a Linux variant called Gentoo that is popular with highly technical users, Nova has been in development since 2007, according to the Associated Press, after Free Software guru Richard Stallman visited the island and persuaded government officials to move off Windows.

Microsoft software, such as Windows, is widely used in Cuba, though much of it is pirated, according to Reuters. About 20% of the computers in Cuba, where PC sales to the public only began last year, run Linux, Hector Rodriguez, dean of the School of Free Software at Cuba's University of Information Sciences, told Reuters. "I would like to think that in five years our country will have more than 50% migrated [to Linux]," he said.

A three-minute video demonstrating Nova Baire, the Cuban Linux's name in Spanish, is available on YouTube. It is based on Gentoo, a Linux variant introduced in 2002 and run by a foundation in New Mexico. It is a source-based distribution, meaning that the Gentoo operating system is downloaded and compiled on each individual computer. That can offer performance benefits for enthusiasts, though it may be complicated for less technical users. According to, a Web site devoted to Linux enthusiasts, Gentoo was the third most popular Linux version in 2002, behind Mandrake (now called Mandriva) and Red Hat. Last year, it ranked 18th among readers. Donnie Berkholz, a developer and head of public relations at Gentoo Foundation Inc., confirmed that Nova is based on Gentoo Linux, though he said the Cuban variant is being developed independently without the U.S.-based foundation's help. Ironically, Gentoo's creator, Daniel Robbins, went to work for Microsoft's Linux lab for eight months in 2005 after resigning from the Gentoo organization. Robbins later left, reportedly "frustrated" because he "wasn't able to work at my full level of technical ability."

Cuba chose Linux generally because it is free, its source code is accessible and it is less vulnerable to malware, Rodriguez said. "Private software can have black holes and malicious codes that one doesn't know about," Rodriguez told Reuters. "That doesn't happen with free software." Microsoft did not immediately return an e-mailed request for comment. Rodriguez also said that free software better suits Cuba's politics. Some government ministries and the Cuban university system have already switched to Linux. But some government-owned companies have grumbled about incompatibility with their own custom applications, Rodriguez said. Cuba is one of several countries, generally communist or developing nations, whose governments are backing the use of Linux or open-source software as an alternative to expensive proprietary software.

The Venezuelan government, for example, has been moving its ministries to dump Windows for Linux and open-source software, and is reportedly making and selling its own "Bolivarian Computers" running Linux to the general public. China has for several years had its own government-supported version of Linux called Red Flag that is supported by U.S. vendors, including Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. In 2007, Nigeria chose Mandriva Linux over Windows for 17,000 Intel Classmate PCs aimed at elementary school students.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cuba se apunta al 'software' libre

El gobierno de la isla lanza Nova, su propia distribución de Linux, con la que quiere erradicar Windows de los ordenadores de la isla

REUTERS - La Habana - 12 de Febrero del 2009

Cuba ha anunciado el lanzamiento de su propia distribución del sistema operativo Linux. El programa, que se llama Nova, ha sido desvelado durante un congreso tecnológico que se está celebrando estos días en la Habana y tiene como objetivo terminar con la hegemonía que Windows mantiene en la mayoría de los ordenadores personales de la isla. El gobierno cubano ve el uso del sistema operativo de la estadounidense Microsoft como una amenaza potencial ya que, en su opinión, las agencias de seguridad de su gran enemigo tienen acceso al código fuente del programa, lo que pondría en peligro la seguridad informática del país. Además, el embargo comercial que sufre Cuba por parte del gobierno de Estados Unidos impide a sus habitantes acceder a copias legales del software de Microsoft, así como a las actualizaciones. En la actualidad, según el decano de la Facultad de Software Libre de la Universidad de las Ciencias Informáticas de Cuba, Héctor Rodríguez, alrededor del 20% de los ordenadores del país utilizan como sistema operativo alguna distribución de Linux. Sin embargo, existe cierta resistencia al cambio en muchas de las administraciones públicas del país, que recelan de que Linux sea 100% compatible con sus propias aplicaciones, según ha revelado el propio Rodríguez, quien ha indicado que en estamentos universitarios ya ha comenzado la migración al nuevo sistema operativo. El decano espera que en cinco años, la mitad de los ordenadores de la isla estén equipados con Nova. Rodríguez justifica la necesidad de la migración en que el software privativo (aquél cuyo código fuente sólo lo conoce la empresa propietaria) "puede contener agujeros negros y código malicioso que el usuario desconoce, algo que no ocurre con el software libre".

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bill would drop travel restrictions to Cuba

By Alexia Campbell

South Florida Sun Sentinel, February 10, 2009

While most of the nation focused on the stimulus bill winding through Congress, nine representatives introduced a bill calling for an end to the 46-year-old ban on travel to Cuba.
The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4 would allow American citizens unrestricted travel to Cuba for the first time since 1963. The bill by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and eight co-sponsors would also lift limits on travel by Cuban exiles living in the United States. The president would not be able to regulate travel to the island unless an armed conflict or armed danger arises. The bill has gone too far, said Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation. Cuban exiles should visit their families whenever they want, but tourists shouldn't spend money in resorts that Cubans are barred from. "It's improper and should not be allowed until the Cuban government makes some reforms," he said.

That's not the case for Jose Lopez, president of the Broward County Latin Chamber of Commerce and a staunch supporter of the trade embargo. "It's a betrayal and it's not going to resolve anything," said Lopez, who left Cuba in 1961. Tourism dollars spent in Cuba will inject more oxygen into the dying Castro regime, he said. Lopez also thinks Cuban exiles who want to return to the island whenever they please are abusing their refugee privilege. Many expect President Barack Obama to back a change in the policy. As a candidate for the presidency, Obama spoke in favor of reducing restrictions on remittances and travel to the island. Co-sponsors to the bill include representatives Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Ron Paul, R- Texas.

Alexia Campbell can be reached at or 954-356-4513.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Mystifying Life and Many Deaths of Cuba's Talisman

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 7, 2009; A08

On the front page of Cuba's state newspaper Granma last week, the lone star on the Cuban flag had mysteriously faded away in an old black-and-white photograph announcing a celebration of patriot José Martí. Copies quickly sold out as rumors flew across the island. What did it mean? Was it a portent? Had the inevitable finally happened? As it turned out, Fidel Castro was not dead. Just as he has not been dead for more than 50 years, ever since the United Press reported that he had been killed by government soldiers on Dec. 2, 1956, hours after returning to Cuba to wage guerrilla war. The missing star? Apparently a printing error.

But over the past two years, the subject of Castro's health has become an obsession among Cubans and Cuba watchers, and the fever peaked last month as word circulated that he was on his deathbed, which turned out not to be true. In fact, he was apparently up late Wednesday night, blogging about President Obama. Castro informed Obama that previous U.S. governments had pursued policies of criminal aggression, not that he was blaming Obama.
"On the contrary," Castro posted, "being born of a Kenyan Muslim father and a white American Christian deserves special merit in the context of U.S. society and I am the first to recognize that." The speculation about his continued viability is fueled by the fact that Castro, 82, has not been seen in public since the summer of 2006, when he underwent what is believed to have been intestinal surgery. The whereabouts and medical condition of the reformed cigar smoker are state secrets, even though he formally transferred power to his younger brother Raúl last year. "The fixation about the health of Fidel is without parallel," said Daniel P. Erikson, an analyst at the policy group Inter-American Dialogue and author of a new book, "The Cuba Wars," whose first chapter is titled "Die Another Day."

"The death speculation, the death obsession, about Castro is varsity league; nothing else is close," said Erikson, adding that interest in North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who disappeared from public view for months after reportedly suffering a stroke last summer, pales in comparison. "And this could go on for a very long time, for clearly Fidel is getting good health care, and it is, after all, Fidel Castro we're talking about. He does not give up easily."
Some Cuba experts say that the long, slow fade of Castro, rather than being a disaster for the communist government of Cuba, might serve to preserve the power of the ruling elite by easing the transition -- first from Fidel to Raúl, then from Raúl to a younger generation.
"It is as if Fidel has turned an actual crisis -- his inevitable death -- into another opportunity," said David Scott Palmer, a Cuba scholar and professor at Boston University, who says that Castro, in his essays, blogs and "reflections," is preparing the country for his final exit. "Little by little, Cuba gets used to the idea of life without Fidel. . . . He seems to be skillfully managing his own departure." Palmer and his colleagues stress that no one can predict what will happen when Castro dies. It is the same lack of information that has made it impossible to know much about Castro's health -- which leaves Cuba watchers with only the faintest clues to work with. So they peer at official photographs released by the government after state visits and parse his blog entries, looking for signs of gathering frailty or renewed vitality.

"For so long, for half a century, the stability of Cuba has depended on Fidel to manage the country's affairs. And his government doesn't want to break the spell. He is the talisman," the protective charm, Erikson said. And though many Cuban exiles will party in the streets of Miami on the day of his death, what happens on the island is the great unknown. Being wrong about Castro's health is almost a tradition among U.S. officials. In 2005, CIA analysts concluded that Castro was suffering from Parkinson's disease. A few days later, Castro gave a five-hour speech to a group of Havana University students and said he never felt better. In 2006, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said Castro was knocking on death's door. "Everything we see indicates it will not be much longer. . . . Months, not years," Negroponte said at a meeting of Washington Post editors and reporters. Journalists have also had a tough time predicting the end. One of the most dedicated Cuba watchers, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer, foresaw a relatively rapid conclusion in his book "Castro's Final Hour." The book was published in 1992. Writing about the recent rumors of Castro's imminent death, the Chicago Tribune in an editorial got the mood right with the headline: "Castro is dying, again."

In a commentary published Sunday about the latest rumors, Manny Garcia, a senior editor at the Miami Herald, wrote that "Fidel Castro is the journalistic equivalent of a kidney stone -- a constant pain who never seems to go away, and you pray that he passes, soon." Last month, based on the rumors, the Herald sent reporters to cover Castro's death, again. Though he has not been seen in public, Castro does meet with visiting world leaders. He has been shown at undisclosed locations in photographs released by the government. Is he in a hospital room? A house? A government office? In November, he was pictured with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Castro, as is his custom now, was wearing his zippered track suit. He looked okay. But then the photographs stopped. Castro did not attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the revolution in Santiago on New Year's Day. Instead, he penned a very short note congratulating the Cuban people for their heroism. Then silence.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is a close ally and frequent flier to Cuba, appeared to be saying something significant when he told his radio and television show audience last month: "We know that the Fidel who used to walk down streets and through towns at dawn, looking like a warrior, wearing his uniform and embracing his people, will not return." Instead, the Cuban leader "will remain in our memories." On Jan. 21, Castro met with Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Afterward, Raúl Castro accompanied her to the Havana airport, where he told reporters, "Now you know that Fidel is fine." He said his brother spends days "exercising, thinking and reading a lot, advising me, helping me." A few days later, a photograph was released showing Fidel Castro greeting Fernández de Kirchner. He is standing and wearing his Adidas track suit. Fernández de Kirchner told reporters that she and Castro spoke for an hour, that he seemed healthy and that they talked politics.

Later, Chávez admitted that, "sure, there are once again some rumors that Fidel died" but that his Cuban ally was still "alive and kicking." So it seems. Because then Castro himself wrote one of his essays, explaining that he has been rereading all of his articles and other materials, reminiscing. "I have had the rare privilege to follow events for such a long time," he wrote. "I get information and think quietly about events. "I don't expect to enjoy that privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term ends," he wrote. "I feel fine, but insist that no one should feel bound by my reflections, my state of health, or even my death."

Castro's Death: A 'Herald' Waiting Game/Headache

By Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher
February 04, 2009 1:00 PM ET

NEW YORK: Is The Miami Herald just waiting for Fidel Castro to die? Well, according to at least one top editor, the ongoing waiting game has become a true, well, deathwatch. "At Miami Herald Media Company, Fidel Castro is the journalistic equivalent of a kidney stone -- a constant pain who never seems to go away, and you pray that he passes, soon," Manny Garcia, the paper's senior editor/news, writes in an online column today about the 82-year-old Cuban leader. "Castro is part of our collective newsroom psyche, even outside One Herald Plaza. You could be on an African safari when Fidel dies and you gotta come home. Publisher's orders."Adds Garcia in the blog posting, "Everywhere I travel, I take 'the Cuba plan,' a three-ring binder with every possible scenario for when Fidel dies. Calling-tree diagrams. Bank accounts. Satellite phones. Fixers. Fast boats."And Garcia is not alone. Editor Anders Gyllenhaal admits the plans are in place and bigger than for any other death-in-waiting: "There is no other story like this. What happened in Cuba, in many ways, built Miami."Gyllenhaal declined to offer too many specifics for the plan, other than to say a special section is likely and possibly an extra edition: "depending on when the news comes out." One of the reasons for such in-depth preparation, in addition to Castro's prominence locally, is the fact that the story will come out of a country that is difficult to cover. "We are not able to be in Cuba, so trying to cover that country - to move in and out - is a big part of it."Two former Herald editors also acknowledged to E&P the significance of the Castro preparation.Tom Fiedler, who edited the paper from 2001 to 2007, and now serves as dean of the college of communication at Boston University, said, "we had plans for Castro's death going back to the 90s. It was truly exhaustive, maybe more detailed than the Pentagon's plan to invade Iraq. We made sure we had laptops on the ground in Cuba that we could get to and people there who agreed to help us -- journalists and non-journalists."Martin Baron, currently editor of the Boston Globe who ran the Herald newsroom in 2000 and part of 2001, said, "sitting on my desk was a prototype of what the pages would look like, even a headline that said 'Castro Dies' or something to that effect."He adds: "It was clearly going to be a death beyond all other deaths in the way we covered it."Also involved is El Nuevo Herald, the paper's Spanish-language sister, which circulates in Cuba.Garcia notes in his column: "You've gotta understand that the Cadaver-in-Chief is our story and biggest challenge. The Cuban government will not give us a journalist's visa to report from there, claiming we are the exile's lapdogs, which is garbage. Meanwhile, some exiles call us Granma North."Probably not too surprising. Most newspapers who have a major figure in their news sphere who is, well, getting older, likely make contingency plans for such events. A few years ago, The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen, the closest daily paper to evangelist Billy Graham's hometown, revealed it had a 20-page special section ready to go when he passed on.Of course, Castro's impact is probably a bit more severe, given Miami's proximity to Cuba and its local Cuban-American community."We sit in meetings, long meetings, going over possible stories." Garcia writes. "Phrasing. Tone. Length. We got at least five different versions of Fidel's obit, pegged to the time of day or night he dies. We built a Web page for the big day -- dubbed the `Holy (bleep)' page."

Joe Strupp ( is a senior editor at E&P.

Transición Social en Cuba

Por Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Ciudad de La Habana, 2 de febrero de 2009.

Algunos cubanólogos no quieren aceptar que desde hace muchos años, en Cuba se vive una transición social. Muy lenta, pero visible en muchos sectores o actividades de la sociedad. Los ejemplos sobran, pero la religión -de forma general- es una de las más significativas, pues se hace palpable en las iglesias y en particular en la católica.Desde 1960 comenzó la confrontación entre el gobierno y los representantes de esta iglesia, cuando en el mes de agosto la Conferencia Episcopal Cubana hizo pública una Carta Pastoral, denunciando la desviación hacia el marxismo de la recién inaugurada Revolución. En aquel entonces Monseñor Eduardo Boza Masvidal era el Obispo Auxiliar de La Habana.La “contundente” respuesta del régimen recién estrenado, no se hizo esperar. De unos 700 clérigos que había en el país, se redujeron a 200. Para lo cual, deportaron sacerdotes y monjas extranjeros y cubanos. El 17 de setiembre de 1961, después de haber detenido a un grupo de ellos, entre los que se encontraba Monseñor Agustín Román, los expulsaron del país, en el buque Covadonga, con destino a España.La iglesia comenzó todo un período de decadencia. Los “revolucionarios” no podían profesar ninguna religión. Llegó al extremo de plasmarse en la Constitución. Historias hay muchas, pero la realidad fue que quedaron vacíos los templos. La gente lo pensaba dos veces antes de asistir a misa, porque manchaba su expediente y lo hacía persona no confiable para ocupar diferentes puestos de trabajo. Ciertamente, cuando se escriba la verdadera historia de este país, llevará más de un capítulo lo referido a la fe religiosa.La visita a Cuba del Papa Juan Pablo II dio un giro bastante grande al comportamiento social para exteriorizar su deseo de estar en presencia de Dios. El poder totalitario tuvo que también hacer lo suyo, les permitió a los militantes del Partido Comunista, profesar cualquier religión. Al principio la gente fue muy cautelosa, pero poco a poco se fue perdiendo el miedo. Ese miedo que tiene el cubano inyectado en sus venas, y que lo limita a hacer esto y lo otro, sin siquiera tenérselo que decir.Sin embargo, la alta jerarquía católica no quiere enfrentarse al gobierno, no solo dentro del país, pero también los que están en Roma. Prueba de ello fue que durante la visita del Cardenal Bertone a Cuba (Secretario de Estado del Vaticano), numerosos disidentes le solicitaron entrevistas y él no accedió a ninguna, ni tan siquiera contestó las cartas que se le enviaron.Esta política les ha permitido algunas limosnas del régimen, por ejemplo les concedieron la posibilidad de efectuar misas en algunas prisiones el pasado 25 de diciembre. El propio Cardenal Jaime Ortega y Alamino ofició ese día. ¡Hay que alegrarse de ello por los presos!Ya se ven algunas procesiones el día de la Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, Patrona de Cuba y de otros santos muy populares en el pueblo, a la que asisten bastantes fieles, no solo practicantes católicos, sino también personas que usan el sincretismo con religiones africanas y convierten a los santos en deidades de sus cultos.Todos estos son cambios sociales, son pequeños pasos que ha estado dando la sociedad abriéndose caminos. Un ejemplo reciente puede constatarse en la Iglesia de San Juan Bosco, sita en la calle Santa Catalina y Goss, en la barriada de Santos Suárez, del municipio de 10 de Octubre, Ciudad de La Habana. El día 31 de enero se celebró la fiesta de su santo patrono y ofició la misa, su Eminencia Monseñor Luigi Bonazzi, nuncio apostólico en Cuba.San Juan Bosco se caracterizó durante su vida, entre otras cosas, por su vinculación a los jóvenes y a los niños. El trabajo de la catequesis de la iglesia, permite contar unos 150 niños (cifra aproximada) en diferentes grupos. Además asisten allí a las celebraciones litúrgicas, un gran número de jóvenes, los que integran una comunidad que conjuntamente con la acción de fe, practica otros ejercicios y actividades culturales y sociales, de las que está tan necesitada la juventud cubana.A pesar de que, dentro de la población, San Juan Bosco no es un santo tan popular, como lo es la Virgen María, en su condición de: la Caridad del Cobre, las Mercedes, Regla; o el propio San Lázaro, el templo estaba totalmente lleno, en una noche invernal. La misa duró más de una hora y nadie se movió de su puesto. Incluso al final, el párroco de la Iglesia, padre Narciso, (español de Zamora), invitó a los fieles a dirigirse al patio lateral, que iba a ser inaugurado por la ocasión. Fueron muy pocos los que decidieron marcharse, a pesar del intenso frío el patio se vio lleno y el Nuncio Apostólico, agasajado.Esto es una variación total del panorama eclesiástico de hace 10 años atrás, que ratifica la acepción de transición: “Acción y efecto de pasar de un modo de ser o estar a otro distinto”.
Publicado por Martha Beatriz Info en 9:10:00 AM

Cuba to keep Internet limits after fiber optic cable

February 7, 2008
Agence France Press

HAVANA (AFP) — Cuba will continue to limit Internet access even after a fiber optic cable linking the island with Venezuela comes online in 2010, a top official said.
The new cable is 1,550 kilometers (960 miles) long and will dramatically increase the island's level of connectivity, according to officials. "We believe that the most responsible policy is to privilege collective access" to the Internet, said Boris Moreno, deputy minister of computer science and communication. Nevertheless, there is a desire for "larger number of citizens to have Internet access," technical and economic conditions allowing, Moreno told the daily Juventud Rebelde. But he warned that the new fiber optic cable "will not necessarily decrease the price the country pays for connection to international networks." Because of the US trade embargo, Cuba connects to the Internet via satellite. The government says the limited bandwidth forces them to "prioritize" Internet access for "social use" purposes, with universities, companies and research centers prioritized.

The US embargo bans Cuban access to underwater Internet cables, the closest of which runs from Miami to Cancun, Mexico, a mere 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Havana. Dissidents say the government's true goal is to control access to information. Moreno said Cuba, with a population of around 11.4 million, has 1.4 million Internet users, and that by the end of 2008 there were 630,000 computers, a 23 percent increase over 2007. In July, the head of the US interest section in Havana, Michael Parmly, said that Washington would allow US companies to connect Cuba to their underwater cables. "The only thing that is missing is for the Cuban government to lift its restrictions, loose its fear and begin to trust its own people," he said.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spain issues Cuba's first "grandchildren" passport

Fri Feb 6, 2009

By Esteban Israel

HAVANA (Reuters) - Spain issued on Thursday the first of a projected 200,000 passports for Cubans who qualify for Spanish citizenship under the country's "historical memory" law. The first recipient, 38-year-old cardiologist Norberto Luis Diaz, said he already had his bags packed for a flight on Sunday to Spain, retracing in reverse the journey his grandfather made when he emigrated to Cuba in 1916. "It's the most important day of my life. I am happy," he said upon receiving his purple-colored passport in the office of Spain's consul general.

The Law of Historical Memory makes grandchildren of Spanish immigrants eligible for citizenship, and Spain has estimated 1 million people around the world, including 200,000 Cubans, could apply. There are special provisions for descendants of exiles who had to flee the country and renounce their citizenship due to the Spanish civil war. The Spanish consulate in Havana has received more than 25,000 applications since the law took effect on December 29. A Spanish passport will allow Cubans to emigrate legally to Spain or, if they stay in Cuba, make it easier for them to travel abroad. "This passport will allow them to travel, but our evaluation is that this in no way signifies an exodus of Cubans," Consul General Pablo Barrios told reporters. Cuba, battered by economic crisis for more than 15 years, could have the second highest number of people qualifying for Spanish citizenship, following only Argentina. Diplomats at the Havana consulate did not know if other "historic memory" passports already have been issued in other countries.

While a smiling Diaz received his passport, dozens of other Cubans waited in line outside the consulate to make their applications. Some arrived from the farthest corners of the island, including Reymundo Puentes, who came from Puerto Padre, more than 435 miles east of Havana. "I have always had the desire to know my ancestors' roots. If they have given us this opportunity -- OK, it's good," said the 58-year-old evangelical preacher. An estimated 1 million Spaniards emigrated to Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century, including the father of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro. "I don't feel like I'm going to a strange country. I return to my ancestors," said the cardiologist Diaz, who said he has a work offer waiting for him in the Spanish city of Valencia. "Long live Spain," he shouted.

(Reporting by Esteban Israel; editing by Jeff Franks and Cynthia Osterman)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bruzón Wins Cuba's National Chess Championship

Grand Master (GM) Lázaro Bruzón won Cuba's National Chess Championship for the fourth time, an event attended by the island nation's top ten players. After the ninth and last round, Bruzón equalized with GM Neuris Delgado and FIDE Masters Lelys Martínez (Santiago de Cuba) and Yusnel Bacallao, all of whom had scored 5.5 points. However, as Bruzón was the only undefeated player, he benefited from the tiebreak system. That way, Bruzón repeated his performance in previous championships in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Delgado, Martínez and Bacallao finished second, third and fourth, respectively, with a score of 5.5 points. They were followed by GM Yuniesky Quesada, Fidel Corrales and Holden Hernández, with 4.5 points. The national championship is the toughest chess tournament held in Cuba, as participants have an average ELO score of 2,529 points and has a FIDE category of XII. (ACN)