Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spanish tourism stagnating

A popular tourist street on the Habana Vieja - "Old Havana".
Tourism from Spain, one of Cuba’s main source markets, is stagnating or declining this year, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero told Spanish travel agents during the opening of a conference in Santiago de Cuba.

He said he expected Spanish tourism to rise again “sooner or later.” The number of Spanish visitors peaked in 2005, at 194,000.

The current stagnation follows a financial crisis and recession that hit Spain harder than other European nations, and U.S. takeovers of two key Spanish tourism companies, and the bankruptcy of another. The purchase of Orizonia Corporación — one of the biggest foreign tourism providers in Cuba and owner of the Iberojet tour operator and Iberworld charter airline — by Washington-based private equity firm Carlyle Group took the company out of the picture in 2006, costing Cuba some 46,000 Spanish visitors per year.

The takeover of Spain’s Pullmantur Cruises by Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises, also in 2006, caused a 22,000-passenger drop in Cuban cruise tourism. Finally, the ceasing of operations by Air Comet and the bankruptcy of its owner, Madrid-based Grupo Marsans, in December last year caused another 20,000-visitor drop in Cuba.

New, smaller Spanish players, such as Gemini Cruises, have picked up the ball, Marrero said.

From: Cuba Standard

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  • Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    The change in Cuba is halfway

    Due to its revolutionary and radical political slogans, Cuba is actually a fairly conservative at least in the classic sense of the term. Things tend to change slowly, if you change something, and many Cubans have had the same jobs, neighbors and, of course, political leaders throughout his life. Therefore recent political events are shaking the inhabitants of the island and have created a strange sense of insecurity.

    The Cuban government has announced it will lay off 500. 000 state employees during the next six months as part of a massive operation cuts elsewhere would have provoked street protests. Later another 500 will be dismissed. 000 workers or more, as the government of Raul Castro wants to reduce payroll by 20 percent by the state and redirect the labor to more productive activities like agriculture and construction.

    The Government is also cutting social services, arguing that some of the rights enjoyed by Cubans from birth (such as education and free health care to subsidized electricity) can not continue to sustain the current economic performance . Even the ration card, one of the pillars of Cuban socialism, is shrinking and there are rumors that point to their total elimination.

    As if those cuts were not disturbing enough already, Fidel Castro has returned to public life in recent months, scaring the Cubans with apocalyptic visions of a nuclear war and warning that U.S. tensions with Iran have put the world on the path of atomic destruction.

    The communist government has tried to calm the anxieties of the Cubans with promises like “no one will be abandoned.” Many people eagerly await instructions from the government on new employment opportunities and small business licenses, and official information does not end materialize. Instead, the news spend hours reading the essays of Fidel Castro on world affairs or the excerpts that he selected the book “The Wars of Obama” by Bob Woodward.

    “There has been much talk and rumors, but nothing concrete. We are still waiting, “said Alberto Ruiz, an employee of a state restaurant has heard that the premises could be converted into a worker cooperative. Ruiz says he’s eager to know more, but like most people are in a situation of uncertainty, knowing that the country’s economy will suffer but changes without knowing how the crisis can be transformed in new opportunities.

    The government has said it will grant 250. 000 new licenses for freelancers in the coming months, allowing Cubans to work for themselves as carpenters, accountants and birthday clowns, among other professions. But the basic information on these licenses, especially relating to taxes, has not yet been published, which has on tenterhooks for many potential entrepreneurs.

    The growing impatience has surfaced even in the pages of the Communist Party newspaper, Granma. “Lack of what has begun to do with great interest to the country and some important details to be added in addition to phones, places and other bodies to which can go, because our people is not ready for these new phases and must instruct him, including me, “said a recent letter to the editor signed by H. M.

    From:  University 5

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  • Sunday, October 24, 2010

    American held in Cuba expresses regret to Raul Castro

    Alan Gross with his wife Judy
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The wife of a U.S. aid contractor jailed in Cuba has written to President Raul Castro expressing her husband's regret for his work there and told Reuters the White House has done little to gain his release.

    Judy Gross said that in the letter, which Castro read but did not respond to, she pleaded with him to free her husband Alan because their daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and he is needed at home.

    Alan Gross, 61, who worked for a Washington-area company contracted under a U.S. Agency for International Development program to promote democracy in Cuba, was arrested at the Havana airport on December 3 and has been held on suspicion of espionage and subversion.

    In an interview this weekend, his wife denied he was a spy and said he went to Cuba five times last year to help Havana's Jewish community gain Internet access to Jews worldwide.

    Cuban officials say Gross committed "serious crimes" by giving restricted satellite communications equipment to local dissidents, but no legal charges have been filed.

    His detention has stalled efforts by Washington to improve ties with the communist-led island.

    Judy Gross criticized the White House for not doing enough to seek release of her husband, whom she called a "pawn" caught up in a decades-old ideological feud between the United States and Cuba. She said she has heard nothing from President Barack Obama.

    The White House said on Sunday it shared her "concern and frustration with the continued unwarranted detention of her husband."

    "Administration officials have repeatedly made clear to Cuban authorities that Alan Gross should be released immediately to be able to rejoin his wife and family -- and we will continue to do so," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.

    In an August 4 letter to Castro, she wrote, "I recognize today that the Cuban government may not like the type of work that Alan was doing in Cuba."

    "But I want you to know that Alan loves the people of Cuba, and he only wanted to help them. He never intended them, or your government, any harm," she said.

    "To the extent his work may have offended you or your government, he and I are genuinely remorseful," she wrote.

    She told Castro her family needed Gross home since his 26-year-old daughter, whose name she asked not be used, was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

    The only response came at a meeting this month with Jorge Alberto Bolanos, head of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, who offered mother and daughter visas to visit Gross in Cuba. He said President Castro had read her letter.

    Cuba allowed Judy Gross to visit her husband in late July at Havana's Finlay Military Hospital where he shares a cell with two Cubans. They met during the day for three days in an improvised visiting room.

    "He looked like walking death," she said of her first sight of her burly 6-foot husband, who in almost 11 months of detention has lost 86 pounds.

    "His pants and shirt were too big. It was a shock."

    Gross was dragging his right foot due to a disk problem that will need surgery, suffers from arthritis, has gout and developed an ulcer from the stress and diet, she said.

    "For a long time they kept the lights on all night. The heat was unbearable," she said. Following complaints by U.S. diplomats, his cell now has air conditioning and a television set on which he watches lots of baseball.

    But she returned home to news of her daughter's illness and when it was passed on to her husband, he was devastated.

    "He felt totally impotent, unable to do anything for a daughter in need. He feels like a caged lion. He cannot relax. He feels he has to get out of there," said his wife.

    She has met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and praised U.S. State Department efforts on her husband's behalf.

    But Judy Gross expressed disappointment with Obama for failing to weigh in, even though her husband spent five weeks campaigning in rural Virginia for Obama's election.

    "Not a call, not even an email," she said. Alan Gross's 88-year-old mother Evelyn wrote to Obama and got no response.

    While the Cuban government has not stated its conditions for releasing Gross, a source close to the case said it likely wants Washington to end its Cuba aid programs, which Cuban leaders view as attempts to subvert the communist government.

    "I think they want a recognition that their sovereignty was violated. They see USAID's 'Cuban Democratization Program' as intended to undermine their authority, and one would expect they want that policy changed," the source said.

    Meanwhile, the Cubans are holding Gross hostage as an example of a foreigner who broke their laws, his wife said.

    "If Alan thought something was going to happen to him in Cuba, he would not have done this. I feel he was not clearly told the risks," she said.

    By Anthony Boadle

    From: BestGrowthStock

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  • Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Cuba unveils new tax code for small business

    Will Cubans start to work for real?
    Cuba unveiled on Friday a new tax code it said was friendlier for small business, signaling authorities are serious about building a larger private sector within the state-dominated economy.

    The new system, outlined in the Communist Party daily Granma, greatly increases tax deductions, but also adds taxes and comes with a warning of stiffer enforcement of tax collection.

    It replaces a rudimentary tax code in place since 1994 when some self-employment was first authorized but then squeezed by severe regulation.

    The tax redesign comes as the government has begun slashing 500,000 workers from state payrolls and preparing to issue 250,000 self-employment licenses to create new jobs in President Raul Castro's biggest reform since taking office in 2008.

    He promised economic change when he replaced ailing older brother Fidel Castro and is pushing to boost productivity to help the Caribbean island's troubled economy.

    There were just 143,000 self-employed in 2009, according to official figures.

    The new tax system enables the self-employed to deduct up to 40 percent from income for the cost of supplies, compared to just 10 percent under the old one.

    Formerly, small businesses simply paid a graduated income tax. Now they will also have to pay a 10 percent sales tax and 25 percent social security tax, but both are deductible at the end of the year.

    Castro's reform permits the self-employed, for the first time, to hire workers. They will have to pay a 25 percent social security tax for each employee, which will also be deductible, and an undefined labor tax.

    The Granma story made clear that despite the development of a larger private sector, the government's socialist philosophy remains in place and the labor tax is a way of enforcing it.

    "This tax is regulatory in character to avoid concentrations of wealth and indiscriminate use of labor," Granma said.

    "The more labor hired the more severe the tax," it said, without providing details.

    The Granma story warned that those who are illegally self-employed must obtain a license and said tax scofflaws would face legal action.

    "Those who continue working on their own without papers, or do not pay the required taxes, will feel the weight of the law imposed upon them by those mandated to enforce it, the National Tax Office," it said.

    Cuba expert Phil Peters at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia said the new code is an attempt to simplify taxes for small businesses and make sure those taxes are paid.

    "My bet is that the sector will grow substantially, but only time will tell how big a tax burden this will be and how many entrepreneurs will be able to live with it," he told Reuters.

    The government, which took power in put in a 1959 revolution headed by Fidel Castro, controls about 90 percent of the Cuban economy.

    Most small businesses remained in private hands until 1968 when they were all nationalized, down to the shoe shine shops.

    The reforms, announced last month, turn back the clock to some degree on the sweeping nationalization.

    Along with being able to hire employees, the self-employed will for the first time be able to do business with the state, open bank accounts, receive credits and rent space.

    The goal of these changes, Granma said in a story last month, was to "distance ourselves from those conceptions that condemned self-employment almost to extinction and stigmatized those who decided to join it, legally, in the 1990's."

    At present, more than 85 percent of the Cuban labor force, or over 5 million people, works for the state, many in unproductive jobs. The government has said it ultimately plans to cut a total of one million state workers, or 20 percent, from state payrolls.

    Along with private sector development, many state-owned retail operations will be converted to employee-run cooperatives and leasing arrangements the government said.

    From: Tcob1

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  • Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Cuban dissident wins Sakharov prize

    Guillermo farinas during his 135-day hunger strike earlier this year
    The European parliament has awarded its prestigious Sakharov human rights prize to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, parliamentary sources told AFP.

    "The Sakharov winner is Guillermo Farinas," a source said on condition of anonymity.

    The 48-year-old journalist and psychologist has often used hunger strikes, putting his own health at risk, as a means of protest to achieve greater freedoms in the Communist island of Cuba.

    Farinas is the third Cuban to receive the prize, after Oswaldo Paya in 2002 and the Ladies in White group of women whose husbands are jailed in Cuba, which received the award in 2005.

    European parliament president Jerzy Buzek will officially announce Farinas as the winner of the Sakharov Prize later on Thursday. The award will be presented to the winner on December 15.

    The 22nd Sakharov Prize, named after late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, comes with a cash award of E50,000 ($A70,932).

    Ethiopian opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa and Israeli rights group Breaking the Silence had also been on the shortlist for this year's award.

    The decision to give this year's award to Farinas came four days before European Union foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss the 27-nation bloc's relations with Cuba.

    Spain's Socialist government wants the EU to normalise relations with Cuba, a position opposed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, former communist bloc countries.

    The EU's "common position" at present is to insist that Cuba make progress on human rights and democracy before ties are normalised.

    Farinas held a 135-day hunger strike earlier this year that left him near death but compelled the Cuban government to agree to release 52 political prisoners.

    Another fast between 1995 and 1997 brought attention to his allegations of corruption at the hospital where he worked.

    He also carried out a six-month hunger strike in 2006, but that time he failed to force the government to allow freer access to the Internet.

    From: World News Australia

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  • Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Cuba's Catholic Media Multiply, But Change Is Slow

    Alternatives to Castro's "personal" diary "Granma" are growing quickly on the island
    HAVANA, Oct 17, 2010 (IPS) - In the context of ongoing conciliation between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church, the communications media of the latter are growing quickly on this Caribbean island where the press remains under strict state control.

    All told, there are dozens of small publications -- some with regular editions, others sporadic -- coming from parishes and different groups. Forty-six bulletins and magazines, 12 websites and seven e-mail newsletters currently reach more than a quarter million people, directly or indirectly, according to estimates by Catholic Church sources.

    "In this context, Havana is notable for its two magazines with highest circulation: Palabra Nueva (New Word), the official magazine of the Havana archdiocese, and Espacio Laical (Secular Space), of the Lay Council," said Gustavo Andújar, vice-president of Signis, the World Catholic Association for Communication.

    Andújar spoke with IPS about the role of the religious media in Cuba.

    Q: The progress that the Catholic media have made in the communications media -- is it a result of improved relations between the Catholic Church and the government, or is it just pushing ahead, breaking a new path?

    A: In my understanding, it has gone ahead on its own. The magazines began to multiply in the hardest years of the Special Period, in the 1990s. [The economic crisis that began in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union, which had been Cuba's main source of aid and leading trade partner.] I think it was also a reaction of the Catholic Church to the disconcerting and desperate situation the population was experiencing.

    The publications brought a word of hope, of support, because the Church that had been so absent from the public spaces had plenty to say. And not necessarily a word of protest, opposition or alternative views, but rather a different word that was at the same time one of consensus and coming together.

    Q: What role has the Catholic layperson played in the growth of this space for communications?

    A: In fact it has been a fundamentally secular effort. With strong support from the hierarchy, priests, bishops, but the ones who have carried it forward are laypeople -- many without professional training in communications. That gap is being filled by classes and seminars. Furthermore, most are volunteers.

    Q: What are the biggest challenges laypeople like yourself face in this field?

    A: The first challenge is professionalism, to do things increasingly better. But the biggest is to maintain this genuine dialogue that can only be achieved from the religious identity itself, expressed clearly and calmly. There has been growing understanding that our publications do not represent a problem, that they are not competition for or threatening anyone.

    But we have a limited reach, and we would like to extend to the whole world, for the Cuban media to disseminate in a normal way the religious events that are news. Events of the Church that are widely broadcast internationally are usually ignored by the press in our country.

    Q: What is it that makes the experience of the Cuban Catholic laypersons different in this sphere?

    A: The Church in Cuba was very small for a long time, with very few resources and very limited possibilities. Those difficult years created a path of very intense commitment to the Church. In the 1960s, our country was left with just 200 priests and 300 nuns for seven or eight million inhabitants.

    In that reality, the laypeople have served a very important function, accepted to a great degree by the Church hierarchy. That has left a mark on us in comparison to other Latin American churches. Ours is very participative, very united. In addition, we have learned to expand the spaces over objective obstacles.

    Q: Do many of those obstacles still exist?

    A: Often there are more self-imposed obstacles than those that really exist, and part of our responsibility is to push back that wall a little. But we also have to keep in mind that 40 years of structural atheism are not erased with one stroke of the pen. Changing some articles in the Constitution does not change the mentality of hundreds of officials who were trained and developed all their work with the idea that the Church was something alien and dangerous, something related with the enemy. [The 1992 constitutional reform established, among other things, that Cuba is a secular state.]

    It would be ingenuous to think that, just because the highest levels of government have expressed an effort and willingness to dialogue, things will automatically change. There are many mid-level officials who impose a thousand problems, they are afraid to talk to anyone who represents the Church.

    But my experience in the field of culture, with which I have had ties all these years through my responsibilities at the Archbishopric, is often one of opening doors and collaboration. Dialogue is possible -- still difficult in some sectors, but the barriers are beginning to crumble under their own weight.

    Q: Are you as optimistic about the dialogue begun in May 2010 by President Raúl Castro and the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega?

    A: Good things always come out of dialogues of this nature. In this case there has already been a humanitarian outcome, which was the release of prisoners. Openness and exchange have to do with a climate in which there is no room for suspicion, fear or doubt. As we get to know each other better, the prejudices fall away.

    Q: Nevertheless, some critical stances on certain issues that appear in Catholic publications tend to be confused with expressions of political opposition.

    A: The Church is not a political alternative or an opposition party. Its very nature prevents it from entering the partisan fray. The Church is the mother of all, and has no political color or programme. But it does have a gaze, a critical view about reality from the ethical perspective, which is an inalienable part of its mission.

    It defends the person and criticizes anything that restricts a person's full dignity. It does so with due prudence, which does not mean inhibiting itself from doing what should be done at a given moment. When the Church criticizes something, it does not do so in a tendentious way from the political point of view.

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  • Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Autumn of the Driveler

    No-one can take this guy serious anymore...
    Some world leaders mature as they head into the sunset: Jimmy Carter often makes more sense in his eighties than he did as president nearly four decades ago. Others spare the world their midnight thoughts, not always voluntarily. Ronald Reagan succumbed to Alzheimers; Ariel Sharon is still animate, albeit effectively dead to the world. Alas, Fidel Castro just broke an arm and a kneecap when he tripped on that fateful concrete step six years ago. Would that he had bitten off his tongue and thus spared his erstwhile admirers, myself included, the sound of this once great revolutionary plunging into kookdom. 

    If President Raúl Castro wants to defend Cuba’s record on human rights, all he needs to do point to the fact that his brother has not been deposed from his formal position as First Secretary of the Communist Party, and carted off to an isolation ward in the Casa de Dementes, Havana’s psychiatric hospital. Instead he has unstinted access to the state radio and the newspaper Granma.

    In both of these media Castro, now 84, has spouted a steady stream of drivel. 

    Memorable among these forays intonutdom was his outburst of conspiracism on the sixth anniversary of the Trade Center/Pentagon attacks with the whole slab of nonsense read out by a Cuban television presenter.
    Castro claimed that the Pentagon was hit by a rocket, not a plane, because no traces were found of its passengers. "Only a projectile could have created the geometrically round orifice created by the alleged airplane," according to Fidel. "We were deceived as well as the rest of the planet's inhabitants." All nonsense of course. There were remains of the passengers on the plane that hit the Pentagon, in the form of teeth and other bits traced through DNA. Hundreds of people saw the plane -- people who know the difference between a plane and a cruise missile. The wreckage of the plane was hauled out from the site.

    It’s logical that maximum leaders like Castro are conspiracists by disposition. Since they are control freaks, the random and the accidental are alien to their frame of reference. If it happened, it happened for a reason. And if a bad thing happened, it was very probably a conspiracy. 

    More recently, in early August of this year Castro touted to his audience in Cuba and across the world his sympathy with one of the standard mantras of nutdom, which is the belief that the world is run by the Bilderberg Club.

    The 84-year-old former Cuban president published an article on August 18, spread across three of the eight pages of the Communist Party newspaper Granma, quoting in extenso from the Lithuanian-born writer Daniel Estulin’s 'The Secrets of the Bilderberg Club,' (2006) alleging the Bilderbergers control everything, which must mean that they pack a lot in to the three-day session the Club holds each year as its sole public activity. Of course they probably skype each other a lot too and rot out their brains plotting and planning on their cell phones. 

    Followers of the Alex Jones (Radio ) Show, a sanctuary of conspiracism, no doubt remember Estulin’s claim in 2007 that he had "received information from sources inside the U.S. intelligence community which suggests that people from the highest levels of the U.S. government are considering an assassination attempt against Congressman Ron Paul because they are threatened by his burgeoning popularity.” The bits of Estulin’s book reverently quoted by Castro, who called Estulin honest and well informed, retread some of the doctrines of Lyndon LaRouche, one of the most lurid conspiracists in political history, (though I do have affectionate memories of LaRouche’s claim in 1984 in a ad running on the CBS network that former vice president Walter Mondale, then running against Ronald Reagan for the Oval Office, was an “agent of influence” of the Soviet Intelligence services. At the time LaRouchies were in close contact with the Reagan White House.)

    On the evidence of his quotes from Estulin, Castro is much taken by Estulin’s view that members of the Marxist Frankfurt School such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who fled to the US from the Nazis before World War Two, had been recruited by the Rockefellers to popularize rock music to "control the masses" by seducing them from the fight for civil rights and social justice. According to Estulin, reverently quoted by Castro, 'The man charged with ensuring that the Americans liked the Beatles was Walter Lippmann himself.' 

    So Fidel Castro believes that the Beatles were invented by the Rockefellers, and that Walter Lippmann, the pundit who drafted President Wilson’s Fourteen Points in 1918, crowned his literary/political career in 1968 by sending John Lennon the lyrics for “Revolution”, with its demobilizing message: “You say you want a revolution /Well, you know /We all want to change the world /… But when you talk about destruction /Don't you know that you can count me out.” (In fact I seem to remember that Lennon actually wrote the song as an answer to my friends Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, who as members of New Left Review and the Fourth International had suggested to Lennon that the Beatles pony up some dough to finance the revolutionary cause.) 

    And now Castro’s latest outing into political asininity has been to give an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, of the Atlantic, allowing the man Castro cordially describes as “a great journalist” to cite Castro as saying that the Cuban economic model has been a disaster. 

    Goldberg is an appalling journalist, whose most notable achievement was to run an enormous piece in the New Yorker in the run-up to the attack on Iraq in 2003, which was one of the most effective exercises in disinformation designed to stoke up the Congress and public opinion in favor of the war. The piece was billed as containing disclosures of "Saddam Hussein's possible ties to al Qaeda."

    This was at a moment when the FBI and CIA had just shot down the war party's claim of a meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the 9/11 attacks. Goldberg saved the day for the Bush crowd. At the core of his rambling, 16,000-word article was an interview in the Kurdish-held Iraqi town of Sulaimaniya with Mohammed Mansour Shahab, who offered the eager Goldberg a wealth of detail about his activities as a link between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqis, shuttling arms and other equipment.

    The piece was gratefully seized upon by the Administration as proof of The Link. The coup de grâce to Goldberg's credibility came on February 9, 2003 in the London Observer, administered by Jason Burke, its chief reporter. Burke visited the same prison in Sulaimaniya, talked to Shahab and established beyond doubt that Goldberg's great source is a clumsy liar, not even knowing the physical appearance of Kandahar, whither he had claimed to have journeyed to deal with bin Laden; and confecting his fantasies in the hope of a shorter prison sentence. Needless to say, Burke’s demolition was not picked up in the U.S. press, nor has the New Yorker ever apologized for Goldberg’s story, certainly as pernicious as anything offered by Judy Miller in the New York Times.

    Since Castro has been sounding tremendous alarums about a possible attack on Iran, it’s bizarre to find him lofting Goldberg, a former member of the Israeli Defense Force, to the journalistic pantheon and taking pains to paint his fellow 9/11 conspiracist, president Ahmadinejad of Iran, as an anti-Semite. 

    Some on the left see Castro’s deprecating remarks about the failure of the Cuban economic model as part of a tactical maneuver to help his brother institute the “reforms” that will see somewhere between half a million and million Cubans lose their jobs. I see it as a spectacularly foolish misjudgement by Castro, who told Goldberg "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore” and later said he was misinterpreted and that he meant the exact opposite, which is obvious nonsense.

    Then Castro took Goldberg to – of all disgusting things – a dolphin exhibition. Lock the old fool up I say, free the dolphins and turn the exhibition into a theme park for all the CIA’s efforts to kill Castro, including booby-trapping a coral reef. The ironies of history: the CIA failed, and here’s Castro taking up the task, methodically assassinating his reputation, week after week. 


    From:  CounterPunch

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  • Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Lincoln Center Sponsors Jazz for Castro-Stalinism

    30 years ago the Jazz was still "an instrument of the U.S. imperialism" in Castro's Cuba, together with other "capitalist" music genres. In the picture, the Jazz Band Sagua from the 1920s, one of the first Cuban Jazz Bands
    Multi-Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis, who serves as artistic director for jazz at the Lincoln Center, also serves as an official "United Nations Messenger of Peace."  On Martin Luther King Day 2006, Mr Marsalis addressed Tulane University, quoting Dr King's words and hailing his deeds. "Dr. King's actions made his dream our reality," Marsalis beamed.

    In 2004 The Lincoln Center, with Wynton Marsalis as top act, held a concert titled the "Celebration of Human Rights and Social Justice."

    Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra spent all of last week as a grateful guest of a Stalinist/Apartheid regime that murdered more political prisoners in its first three years in power than Hitler's murdered in its first six and that  jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin. Among these victims were the longest-suffering black political prisoners in modern history. Within walking distance of where Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center jazz luminaries hob-knobbed with Castro officials at Havana's Teatro Mella,  black political prisoners were being tortured for the crime of publicly quoting the works of Marin Luther King and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Among these prisoners is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, an Amnesty international prisoner of conscience who was awarded (obviously in absentia) The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush in 2008.

    Many Cuban blacks suffered longer incarceration in Castro's dungeons and torture chambers than Nelson Mandela suffered in South Africa's. In fact, they qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history. Eusebio Penalver, Ignacio Cuesta Valle, Antonio Lopez Munoz, Ricardo Valdes Cancio and many other Cuban blacks suffered almost 30 years in Castro's prisons. These men were bloodied in their fight against the Lincoln Center's partners but remained unbowed for almost 30 years in its dungeons.   Castro's KGB-trained torturers called these black prisoners "plantados" -- defiant ones, unbreakable ones.  

    "Stalin tortured," wrote Arthur Koestler, "not to force you to reveal a fact, but to force you to collude in a fiction."

    "The worst part of Communism," wrote Solzhenitsyn, "is being forced to live a lie."

    These Cuban blacks refused to collude in this lie. They spit in the face of Wynton Marsalis' hosts.  They scorned any "re-education" by the Lincoln Center's Stalinist partners.  They knew it was they who desperately needed it. They refused to wear the uniform of common criminals. They knew it was Marsalis' hosts who should don them. Charles Rangel, Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Jeremiah Wright and the Congressional Black Caucus  all toast the Stalinist torturer, and the Lincoln Center seems delighted with his partnership, but many of the Blacks cursed by fate to live under Fidel Castro stood tall, proud and defiant against his regime's  tortures.

    Shortly before the former Cuban political prisoner's death in 2006, this writer had the honor of interviewing Eusebio Penalver. "For months I was naked in a 6 x 4 foot cell," Eusebio recalled. "That's 4 feet high, so you couldn't stand. But I felt a great freedom inside myself. I refused to commit spiritual suicide."  Sr Penalver served several months of this 30 year sentence naked in a "punishment cell" barely big enough to stand in, where he languished naked and in complete darkness.

    "N**ger!" taunted his jailers between tortures. "We pulled you down from the trees and cut off your tail!" "Castro's apologists, those who excuse or downplay his crimes," said Mr Penalver.  "These people be they ignorant, stupid, mendacious whatever--they are accomplices in the bloody tyrant's crimes, accomplices in the most brutal and murderous regime in the hemisphere."

    But have you ever heard of Eusebio Penalver or any of the other black Cuban heroes?   Ever see a CNN interview with them? Ever see any of them on "60 Minutes"? Ever read about them in The New York Times? The Washington Post?  Ever hear them on NPR during Black History Month? Ever seen anything on them on the History Channel or A&E? Ever hear the NAACP or Congressional Black Caucus mention him?

    Why do I bother asking?  They were victims of the Left's premier pin-up boys, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. 'Nuff said.

    Only six months before the Castroites invited Wynton Marsalis, they murdered Black human rights activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo. This black Cuban had endured an 83-day hunger strike seeking (vainly, as usual) to alert the world to the Castro regime's cowardly Stalinism and racism. Then in February of this year a series of savage beatings by his Communist jailers finished him off.  Naturally the MSM was no more revelatory of his death than they'd been of his jailing or hunger strike.

    Samizdats smuggled out of Cuba by eye-witnesses report that while gleefully kicking and bludgeoning Tamayo, his Castroite jailers yelled: "Worthless Ni**er!"

    Today the prison population in Stalinist/Apartheid Cuba is 80% black while only 9% of the ruling Stalinist party is black. Many of a certain age well remember many of Wynton Marsalis' musical colleagues mounting a campaign called "Artists United Against Apartheid," aimed at boycotting South Africa, reviling any musicians who played there, and showcasing the human rights abuses suffered by South African Blacks.

    Should we hold our breath for the same bunch to organize, "Artists United Against Castro-Stalinism?" 

    To top it all, for this heart-warming "Cultural Exchange" the Lincoln Center partnered with Castro's Secret Police. Leftists, kindly stifle the shrieks of "Mc Carthyism  at American Thinker!" and instead read the following :

    Here's the Wall Street Journal's report on this "Cultural Exchange" with Stalinist Cuba: "(Wynton Marsalis') invitation came under the auspices of the Cuban Institute of Music, an agency of the Cuban Ministry of Culture."

    Now here's what Cuban Intelligence defector Jesus Perez-Mendes,  during a de-briefing in 1983,  disclosed to the FBI  about the Cuban Ministry of Culture: "the Circulo de Cultura Cubana (Cuban Ministry of Culture) is controlled by the Cuban DGI (Castro's KGB -trained Directorio General de Intelligencia.)  

    By Humberto Fontova

    From: American Thinker

    Check this video for more information about Castro's regime:

    Cuba: Winds of Change, Part 1

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  • Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Cuba frees 17th journalist jailed in Black Spring

    New York, October 12, 2010 -- Cuban journalist Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, left, was freed from prison on Friday and exiled to Spain as part of a July agreement between the Havana government and the Catholic Church. Seventeen journalists jailed in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown have now been freed and exiled as part of the agreement. "I feel as if I was born again, trying to get used to cell phones, personal computers and emails, all things that were barely known in Cuba before I was jailed," Fuentes told CPJ in a telephone interview.

    Fuentes said that he never wanted to leave Cuba, but seven years of incarceration made it too hard to stay. "It was a difficult decision, but even more difficult was to turn down the offer and remain in jail," he explained.

    Fuentes, a freelance reporter originally based in the city of Artemisa, began serving a 26-year prison term in March 2003. He arrived in Madrid shortly after noon on Friday, accompanied by ten members of his family.

    In July, the Catholic Church brokered an agreement with Cuban authorities to release 52 political prisoners who were arrested seven years ago, during a massive government crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism. Spanish government officials also participated in the talks.

    All 17 of the reporters released so far have been immediately flown to Spain. (One has since relocated to Chile.)

    Three journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown remain in jail, along with another journalist imprisoned at a later time, CPJ research shows. The first three--including CPJ awardee Héctor Maseda--have already expressed their desire to stay in Cuba upon release, the reporters' families told CPJ.

    A story published in September by the Madrid-based daily El País quoted Spanish officials as saying that imprisoned reporters who want to stay in Cuba upon release will be freed through a parole program. The Cuban government has not confirmed the existence of such a program.

    Below is a capsule report on Fuentes' case from CPJ's annual census of jailed journalists, conducted in December 2009.

    Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, freelance
    Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

    Fuentes, an economist by training, began working for the Cuban independent press in 1991. On March 19, 2003, he was arrested after a raid on his home in the city of Artemisa. The next month, the freelance reporter was convicted of violating Article 91 of the Cuban penal code, which imposes harsh penalties for acting against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." A judge in western Havana province handed him a 26-year prison sentence.

    The 60-year-old journalist was being held at the maximum-security Guanajay Prison, his wife, Loyda Valdés González, told CPJ. Valdés González, who is allowed to visit her husband only once every 45 days, said conditions at Guanajay were better than those at other prisons where he had been held. Due to his severe back problems, the reporter did not share a cell with other prisoners. Valdés González said her husband suffered from chronic gastritis that caused him to lose significant amounts of weight.

    Valdés González told CPJ that in December 2007, her husband presented an appeal to Cuba's Supreme Tribunal Court. Because Cuban authorities denied Fuentes access to a lawyer, he did so without benefit of counsel. After two years, the court had still not responded to him, Valdés González told CPJ.

    From: CPJ

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  • Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Failed socialism: Cubans know it, will Obama, too?

    It takes only 51 years to realize
    It's taken 51 years, but the Castro regime has finally figured out what the rest of the world has already learned and what Americans need to be reminded of — that private enterprise creates wealth far better than government ever could.

    Cuba's president since 2006, Raúl Castro, recently announced his government will be laying off 500,000 people, one-tenth of the country's work force.

    Meanwhile, the Cuban government has opened up hundreds of jobs to self-employment, announced that small businesses can obtain bank loans and hire employees, and decided foreign investors now can purchase Cuban real estate.

    Cuba still has a long way to go before it has the kind of free market economy the United States has — well, sort of still has. Cubans now can create a business repairing mattresses but still can't sell them. They can operate beauty parlors and barber shops, but only as long as they have three chairs or fewer. And of course, the country has not had a leader with a name other than "Castro" since 1959.

    It's unknown if this opening will forestall Cuban communism's inevitable demise or, like Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika before it, speed it up.

    But even the Castro regime can't ignore this: The Revolution is over. The country that was once the world's biggest exporter of coffee can't even satisfy domestic demand. All of Cuba's historical benefactors have rejected communism. Raúl's brother, the dictator Fidel, even told The Atlantic, "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore."

    One would hope that folks in Washington would heed that message. The truth is that the Cuban model has never worked at all — not in Cuba, not anywhere. That's why Cuban-Americans in Florida and elsewhere long ago fled their country for the opportunities and freedoms they enjoy here.

    And yet with all of the historical evidence to the contrary, this present U.S. administration seems unable to resist the temptation to dip its toe time and again into the quicksand of state control. Taxpayers have watched their government bail out huge corporations at taxpayer expense, nationalize part of the banking and automotive industries, and gain control of part of the nation's health-care system.

    The United States continues to have the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world, along with myriad deductions designed to entice private employers to do the government's bidding.

    In the midst of the longest economic downturn in recent memory, the Obama administration continues to try to spend our way to prosperity, as if our children and grandchildren will never have to pay the price for our recklessness.

    Any U.S. political leader with the guts to cut the work force by 10 percent would get my vote immediately, so in that sense, bravo Raúl.

    At the same time, let's not forget that he was at Fidel's side during his long reign over Cuba, when Cubans' personal, political and property rights were violated as a matter of state policy. The long-awaited transformation of Cuba may have begun, but it probably will have to be completed by someone not named Castro.

    Regardless of who is in charge, the island Americans have long watched so warily as a potential launching pad could soon be a vacation spot or, for some Cuban-Americans, a place to reunite with families not seen for many years.

    Someday Cubans may enjoy the prosperity that comes when the government allows the free market to work.
    Let's hope Americans do as well.

    From: Sun Sentinel

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  • Friday, October 8, 2010

    Guevara shouldn't be revered

    Criminals and murderers like Guevara shouldn't be revered
    On Oct. 9, people around the world and students on this campus will recognize the anniversary of Che Guevara’s death. People honor him on a regular basis by wearing a cool looking shirt with his face on it. If you do not know who he is, you have certainly seen this T-shirt (probably on this campus). In today’s world, Che is idolized. Yet, Che Guevara was an international terrorist and mass murderer much along the lines of Lenin, Stalin and Mao. He maintained an inhuman campaign to impose communism on Latin American countries. He trained and motivated Fidel Castro’s firing squads who were responsible for the execution of thousands of men, women and children.

    We do not glorify and idolize murderers like Stalin because we know about their evil deeds. Che’s life is more ambiguous — he is praised as a hero and his cult of violence is largely ignored. This is a man who is quoted as saying, “I’d like to confess, at that moment, I discovered that I really like killing.” Does he still seem like such a great hero who should be praised, who should be an icon for students, who should have his face printed on shirts all over America? Maybe we should use the anniversary of Che’s death to learn the truth about this vicious murderer.

    From: The Daily Collegian 

    To read:

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  • Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Cuba Offers Release, Exile to Select Political Prisoners

    Óscar Elías Biscet was sentenced to 25 years for "disorderly conduct" and "counter-revolutionary activities" in 2002. Still in prison, he refuses to leave the country
    According to leading human rights activists, Cuba's government has offered early release to about a dozen inmates so long as they go into exile. The islanders must chose between prison and their homeland. If such a deal is in fact realized, it would be the government's second major release of political prisoners this year. While the Cuban government's motives for implementing such actions are still uncertain, it might be viewed as an attempt to mend relations with the United States.

    In recent days, agents from the Ministry of the Interior visited the inmates and proposed the conditions of their possible freedom, said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

     This past July, Cuban president Raul Castro agreed to the release of 52 political prisoners, including community organizers, human rights activists, agitators, and journalists who have defied state regulation on local papers. This historical event was supported by officials from the Cuban Roman Catholic Church and Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, archbishop of Havana, who supported the deal in favor of better conditions for prisoners of conscience. Since July, 39 prisoners have been released and sent to Spain with their families, with the exception of one who was exiled to Chile. With the remaining few awaiting tentative release, this could mean that all 75 of the top activists imprisoned during the "Black Spring," a period of government crackdown on organized disobedience in March 2003, would be freed.

    Cuba's Roman Catholic cardinal, Jaime Ortega, reports that at least five of the prisoners who were given release under the July agreement are reluctant to leave. This may possibly harm the prospect of future releases. However, if all 52 are finally freed, the only other prisoner that will remain unreleased is a lawyer named Rolando Jimenez Pozada. He is considered to be a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International after he was arrested in 2003 for dissidence, disrespect for the law, and unveiling government secrets.

    While the number of political prisoners unacknowledged by the Cuban government is always up for debate, Sanchez released a list of about 105 other names. Only about 40 of them, though, could be defined as nonviolent political prisoners, while others have been charged with more violent crimes, such as hijacking and murder. Sanchez's list includes the name of three men: Francisco Reyes Rodriguez, Lazaro Avila Sierra, and Leudia Arce Romero. They are serving life sentences for hijacking a plane from Cuba's Isla de la Juventud in 2003. The one exception to the list was Pavel Hernandez, who was sentenced to six years in jail for attempting to flee the island illegally.

    At least five of the 12 prisoners to be newly released are reluctant to accept the offer if it is finalized. According to a founder of the Ladies in White group, the prisoners say they refuse to be forced to move to Spain as a condition of the agreement, but that some say they will accept release solely for reasons related to their age and health. Hector Maseda, who will serve his full 20 years, has decided that he will remain on the island. His wife, Pollan, reports that many sectors of the internal opposition are charging the Cuban authorities with manipulating what is supposed to be a better situation for the prisoners and their families by granting their release only if they leave to Spain.

    Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the Women in White, told reporters, "The government is applying psychological pressure to those remaining in prison because they want to see them out of the country." Her husband, Angel Moya, is staying to serve his 20-year sentence.

    Of the group of five prisoners who plan to turn down the release under such conditions, three men are suffering from critical health issues. Among them is Pedro Arguelles Moran, who has arthrosis, advanced cataracts, and circulatory problems. The advanced age of some of the inmates is also a critical issue. Ramos, who at the age of 68 is the oldest of the group of 52 being released, is anxious to be freed but is worried about being forced to travel to Spain because he and his wife are too old, his wife told reporters. The remaining prisoners want to be released, but without the condition of having to leave Cuba. This includes Oscar Elias Biscet, who in absence received the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2007, and is still serving his 25-year sentence. In a telephone conversation from Biscet's house in Havana, Biscet's wife told reporters, "My husband has suffered many pains and health complications, but he is holding his ground. He is a man of his word." The government's refusal to release the prisoners who wish to stay on the island has caused their families much pain and anxiety.

    Elizardo Sanchez told reporters that the release will allegedly take place during the first weeks of October. He has also added that there may be yet another release of a larger group of prisoners, but only under the condition that they leave Cuba. Therefore, the issue of potential future releases also depends on the European Union Council, who should meet this month to discuss the issue. However, this may not be a definitive priority for the EU in terms of global scope, says Joaquin Roy, director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami, told reporters

    By Gabriela Lorido

    From: The Heights

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  • Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Why Do Progressives Defend Communists and Terrorists?

    As incredible as it may seem, the giant labor federation, the AFL-CIO, used to be run by a staunch anti-communist. George Meany had his disagreements with conservatives on domestic issues but he mostly agreed with them on foreign policy. Indeed, Meany was so anti-communist that he was dubbed a “right-winger” by liberals in the media. He criticized détente with the Soviet Union. He didn’t like communists and refused to allow them into his coalitions.

    All of this changed over time. When the AFL-CIO staged a “Solidarity Day” rally in 1981, in order to protest President Ronald Reagan’s domestic policies, then-AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland refused to tell communists they were not welcome. 

    When John Sweeney, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, became president of the AFL-CIO, the communists and their fellow travelers were officially welcomed in. He hired veterans of the Venceremos Brigades such as Karen Nussbaum and Karen Ackerman. These were the groups of radical young people who had gone to Communist Cuba for indoctrination sessions back in the 1970s. Some went for training in guerrilla warfare. The trips were arranged by Bernardine Dohrn of the terrorist Weather Underground. 

    As we noted in a recent column, Nussbaum, executive director of Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is in charge of getting the unemployed to the ballot box on November 2 in order to prevent a conservative takeover of the U.S. Congress. Nussbaum, who served under Sweeney at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has refused to talk about her time in Cuba and the media won’t ask her any questions about it. 

    Ackerman, AFL-CIO political director since 2003, is also close-mouthed about her Cuba trip. 

    In this day and age, with the liberal media so willing to act as megaphones for the Obama Administration and left-wing labor leaders, it is not “news” that Ackerman, in charge of overall strategy and the spending of millions of dollars on behalf of liberal candidates, once went to Cuba for indoctrination. Nor is it “news” that the AFL-CIO, now under President Richard Trumpka, has joined a “One Nation Working Together” coalition staging a Saturday rally with the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and other openly communist and socialist groups. 

    Consider Thursday’s Washington Post story about the “liberal” and “left-leaning” groups planning the October 2 march in Washington, D.C. Reporter Krissah Thompson says the coalition includes “environmentalists, antiwar activists, church and civil rights groups, union organizers and gay rights coalitions…” Nothing is said about the fact that the “One Nation Working Together” official list of “endorsing organizations” includes the CPUSA, best known for receiving Soviet funding and direction during the Cold War. But the CPUSA is not the only far-left group on the list. All that a reporter has to do is read it. But to report the facts would mean that organizers of the rally, led by a veteran Democratic Party operative, might have to be asked embarrassing questions. So the facts are ignored.

    The liberal media bias and dishonesty aside, the change reflects how the progressive movement has capitulated to the forces of the anti-American left, in order to swell their ranks. It is a terrible development that is ominous for the future of the United States because of the hold that the progressives now have on the White House and Congress. It makes sensational reports of a few extremists in the conservative-oriented Tea Party movement look silly by comparison. 

    We noted in our recent column that the “peace director” of the “One Nation Working Together” rally ran an organization that defends accused Army traitor Bradley Manning. He talks openly about inviting communists to the rally. It doesn’t bother him in the least. 

    Unfortunately, this is the continuation of a trend we have seen since Barack Obama became President and hired communist Van Jones. After Trevor Loudon broke the story about Jones’ communist background and Glenn Beck of Fox News raised a ruckus, Jones left the administration, only to return to the group in Washington, D.C. where he had previously worked—the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress. This revolving door proves that the modern-day progressive movement is willing to work with communists and tolerate their destructive ideology. It is a tragic turnaround from the days when liberal Democrats shared the anti-communism that characterized U.S. foreign policy. 

    These communists are people who have always put the interests of foreign countries, most of them totalitarian in nature, ahead of the United States. They may not have the Soviet Union to depend on anymore, but they continue to get inspiration and guidance from Cuba. They represent an alien philosophy that has cost the lives of 100 million people through failed socialist schemes, violence, terrorism, and murder. As former FBI informant Larry Grathwohl has testified, the Weather Underground itself had plans to “re-educate” 100 million Americans and eliminate the 25 million who couldn’t be converted to communism. 

    To cite another example of this troublesome trend, consider that a so-called “progressive” media outlet called “Truthout” is circulating a column on women active in politics that glorifies convicted terrorists Lolita Lebron, Marilyn Buck, and Aafia Siddiqui. These women are called “political prisoners.”

    The piece by someone named Linda Ford explains, “Lebron and Buck were anti-white supremacy/anti-imperialist activists from the 1950s-80s. Lebron, who was a Puerto Rican nationalist, died on August 1 at the age of 90. From the 60s through the 80s, in a serious, comprehensive and all-encompassing attempt at revolution, women participated in groups that favored radical action—even armed resistance—against what they saw as an oppressive American state.”

    “In March of 1954,” Ford acknowledges, “Lebron wanted to dramatically tell the world that Puerto Rico was ‘a U.S. colony.’ Shouting ‘Viva Puerto Rico Libre!’ she led a small group which opened fire in the House of Representatives, firing 30 shots and wounding five Congressmen.”

    Ford assures us that Lebron claims she only shot at the ceiling, not intending to hurt anyone. She was pardoned by President Carter and returned to her “activism.” 

    As for Buck, she “was an activist in the intense, politically charged atmosphere of the 60s and 70s, part of the huge movement challenging the American system: the capitalist state and white supremacy.”

    In fact, Buck was involved with the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army (BLA) and served decades in prison, “where she wrote prize-winning poetry and analytic articles on the psychology of female repression,” Ford tells us. She was in prison for her involvement in multiple terrorist incidents, including bombings, murders and helping a BLA member named Joanne Chesimard escape from prison to Cuba.
    Ford goes on, “Stewart and Siddiqui, who were also arguably victims of white supremacy and imperialism, have both felt the enormous consequences of the anti-‘terrorist’/anti-Muslim era, beginning with the 9/11 bombings.”

    Aafia Siddiqui, known as “Lady Al Qaeda,” was sentenced to 86 years in prison for trying to kill American soldiers and was implicated in other terrorist plots. But Linda Ford questions the evidence and cites claims by “human rights groups” that “she is not an extremist.” 

    Stewart is terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart, now serving 10 years in prison for providing illegal support to a client, terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. But Ford casts doubt on these charges as well, saying that “Stewart thinks she was being made an example to deter other lawyers, male or female, from defending ‘controversial figures and causes.’”

    These claims would be laughable were the issue of terrorism not so serious. How have we come to the point in the United States where a progressive media outlet, bankrolled by liberal foundations, would run such garbage?

    But the “Truthout” site not only runs columns defending and praising terrorists. It distributes columns by such liberals as Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne. 

    A statement on the website boasts the names of dozens of leading “progressives” and says that “We value and support Truthout in its efforts to promote democracy, social justice, accountability and peace. Truthout is an invaluable source of independent news and commentary, and provides a powerful voice for the progressive movement.”

    The names and signers include Bernie Lunzer, President of The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America; Michael Winship, President of the Writers Guild of America, East; Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting; Carol D. Rothman, Secretary-Treasurer, The Newspaper Guild-CWA; and Mike Elk, labor writer for In These Times and The Huffington Post.

    It is tragic but telling that the cause of “social democracy, social justice, accountability and peace” apparently justifies publishing not only a defense of terrorism but a glorification of terrorists who have served or are serving prison time. 

    But this is what the progressive movement has become. It is shocking and dangerous.

    By Cliff Kincaid

    From: NewsWithViews

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  • Saturday, October 2, 2010

    30 years later, revisiting the Mariel boatlift

    Escaping from Castro's "paradise"
    Miami’s Merle Frank never expected what followed after she asked President Jimmy Carter in 1980 how he could help her city with the mass of Cubans arriving on the Mariel boatlift.

    “We’ll continue to provide an open heart and open arms,” Carter told Frank, then-head of the Miami League of Women Voters, during a League conference in Washington.

    Fidel Castro took Carter at his widely reported word. Six days later, on May 11, Mariel set the one-day record for arrivals and newly freed criminals began boarding the boats.

    No U.S. president, before or since, has tried as hard as Carter to establish normal relations with Castro. And none have been burned as badly.

    The boatlift officially ended Sept. 26, 1980, when Cuban soldiers ordered the last 150 boats in Mariel to leave the port west of Havana, without passengers.

    By that time, 125,000 Cubans had landed in Key West, Carter had secured his image as indecisive and Castro was boasting of another blow to the “empire.”

    “Unfortunately, a democracy is at a disadvantage when a totalitarian regime decides to do something like this,” said Robert Pastor, the Carter White House’s point man on Cuba.

    Carter already faced other crises when the Mariel boatlift erupted in April 1980 — the aftermath of the failed Iran hostage rescue raid and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

    There were gasoline lines across America, Sen. Ted Kennedy was challenging Carter in the Democratic Party primaries and GOP presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan was gaining ground.

    The key factor in the Mariel crisis, Pastor said, was the early on decision that Washington could not halt the boatlift without harsh measures that could endanger lives at sea.

    “The truth is, once it was determined the only way we could stop the flow was to risk loss of life — and that was too high a price — we were never able to take control of events and after that we were just reacting,” he said.

    But the problems went well beyond that decision, David W. Engstrom wrote in his 1997 book about Mariel, “Presidential Decision Making Adrift.”

    The Carter administration initially considered the crisis a problem between Cuba and Peru, whose embassy in Havana was jammed with 10,000 asylum seekers, Engstrom wrote.

    Then it waffled between trying to ensure the safety of the Cuban migrants and trying to avoid encouraging even more migration, he argued.

    While the State Department was warning that the boatlift amounted to migrant smuggling and telling exiles that they were only helping Castro, the Coast Guard was urging exile boaters to carry enough life vests and file sailing plans.

    Not until May 14 did Carter personally attend a meeting on the crisis, and no single federal agency was put in charge from the start, according to Engstrom.

    “Governments were fighting with each other — Federal against state against county against city, and the decisions changed day by day,” recalled Sergio Piñon, then a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator.

    Then Carter made his May 5 comment during the question-and-answer period after a speech to the LWV, opening the floodgates to the Mariel exodus.
    “At the time, we all looked at each other and basically agreed that he didn’t offer any specifics,” recalled Frank, a real estate agent. “But Castro must have said, ‘Oh, great. What an opportunity for us.’ ”

    Carter later said he was misunderstood, and May 14 ordered the Coast Guard to stop all Cuba-bound boats. By the end of June, the flow of arrivals had slowed to a trickle, but the problems continued.

    It took two months for the administration to decide to treat the arrivals as asylum seekers rather than refugees, to avoid setting a precedent that foreigners arriving by boat would be considered refugees.

    State Department officials meanwhile argued that the boatlift was largely a domestic issue, while other U.S. departments wanted the State Department or the White House to take the lead.

    “This was a unique emergency that was half foreign policy and half domestic policy, and involved a whole bunch of people who were not accustomed to working together,” said Pastor, now a professor at American University in Washington.

    Carter initially refused direct negotiations with Castro, but later sent to Havana Pastor, then Latin America director at the White House’s National Security Council, and Peter Tarnoff, executive secretary at the State Department.

    Mariel “was totally mishandled,” Engstrom quoted Stuart Eizenstat, Carter’s chief domestic policy adviser, as saying.

    In the end, the boatlift helped spike what was the most determined effort by any U.S. president in half a century to resolve U.S.-Cuba hostilities.

    “We should attempt to achieve normalization of our relations with Cuba,” Carter wrote in a secret Presidential Directive — in essence an order to his administration to work toward that goal — soon after he entered the White House.

    He lifted all restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, including tourism, and exchanged diplomatic missions known as Interests Sections in Havana and Washington.

    Carter negotiated a 1977 agreement that delineated territorial waters and fishing rights, and agreed to take more than 3,000 former political prisoners released by Castro.

    But he failed to persuade Cuba to pull its troops out of Angola — one of Carter’s key goals — and the last Cuban soldier did not leave Africa until 1991.

    An analysis of the Mariel crisis carried out by the Reagan administration concluded that Mariel “destroyed any prospect of improved bilateral relations under President Carter.”

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