Monday, January 31, 2011

Whole Lotta Stupidity—Jimmy Page Visits Cuba, Honors Che Guevara

Following in the footsteps of (among many other flower-children) Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Jimmy Buffet, and Carole King (who in 2002 serenaded Fidel Castro with a personal “You’ve Got a Friend”) guitar legend Jimmy Page made the pilgrimage to Fidel Castro’s fiefdom this week.

To Led Zeppelin’s former guitarist the visit probably seemed, not only fitting, but long overdue. Cuba was, after all, the first nation ruled by bearded long-hairs. Jean Paul Sartre, after all, hailed Cuba’s Stalinist rulers as “les Enfants au Pouvoir” (the children in power). Fidel Castro, after all, spoke at Harvard in 1959 on the same bill as pioneer beatnik Allen Ginsberg.

Remove the wispy beard and beret from the (late, thanks to Fidel Castro) revolutionary icon on those posters and t-shirts and you’ve got Jim Morrison of The Doors. Remove the cowboy hat from the (late, thanks to Fidel Castro) Revolutionary icon Camilo Cienfuegos and you’ve got Grateful Dead’s Gerry Garcia. Circa 1959, Raul Castro with his blond shoulder-length locks was a ringer for Joe Walsh circa Hotel California. These Cuban Stalinists were on the cutting edge of fashion. They pre-empted the Haight Ashbury look by a decade.

Castro’s captive (literally!) media, reports that Jimmy Page’s visit: “included tours of historic sites, and purchases of souvenirs such as the famous photograph of Che Guevara.”

In an interview with the BBC last year, Oscar and Cannes-winner Benicio del Toro explained the painstaking intellectual exertion that inspired his Che-mania: “I hear of this guy, and he’s got a cool name, Che Guevara! Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics! So I came across a picture of Che, smiling, in fatigues, I thought, ‘Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!’”

In all likelihood, similar intellectual toil inspired Jimmy Page’s recent souvenir shopping spree in Havana.

For his role as Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh’s movie Che, Benicio del Toro was recently honored by the peace-loving crowd in Hollywood and Cannes. For headlining their Concert for Peace. Jimmy Page was recently honored with the “Global Peace Award from the United Nations’ Pathway to Peace organization.

“We reject any peaceful approach! “declared the souvenir icon of the Concert for Peace’s honoree “Violence is inevitable! To establish Socialism rivers of blood must flow! If the nuclear missiles had remained (in Cuba) we would have fired them against the heart of the U.S. including New York City. The victory of socialism is well worth millions of atomic victims!”

“Hatred is the central element of our struggle!” raved this icon of flower-children. “Hatred that is intransigent….Hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him violent and cold- blooded killing machine… My nostrils dilate while savoring the acrid odor of gunpowder and blood. Crazy with fury I will stain my rifle red while slaughtering any surrendered enemy that falls in my hands! We must keep our hatred alive and fan it to paroxysm!”

In fact, Jimmy Page should know that many Cuban youths “tuned-in and turned-on” to (smuggled) Led Zeppelin music in the 60’s and 70’s. But rather than meet with his Cuban fans, Jimmy was hosted by apparatchiks of the Stalinist regime that jailed and brutalized them en masse.

In a famous speech in 1961 Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates” commanded the KGB –mentored Guevara. “Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service.”

Cuban “roquero” of the time Charlie Bravo recalls the process: “When Castro’s goons caught me with a Led Zeppelin record, they led me to a Stairway alright—but at bayonet-point and this stairway hardly led to Heaven, instead it led down into a dark jail cell.”

On the orders of Jimmy Page’s smiling hosts, Charlie was joined by tens of thousands of Cuban youths. A few years earlier the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 60’s, found an extremely eager acolyte in Che Guevara. By the mid 60’s the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle—long hair, blue jeans, etc.–or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” in bold letters above the gate and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were quite similar.

Today the world’s largest image of Jimmy Page’s souvenir icon adorns Cuba’s headquarters for Cuba’s KGB-trained secret police, a gang of Communist sadists who jailed and tortured at a rate higher than Stalin’s own KGB and GRU—and many of their victims were guilty of nothing worse than listening to music by Jimmy Page.

by Humberto Fontova 

From: Big Hollywood

To read:

Exposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him

  • Go to Home Page
  • Friday, January 28, 2011

    Cuban Catholic magazine says no reason to fear "new rich"

    HAVANA – The magazine of the Cuban Catholic Church believes that the creation of wealth and the rise of a “new rich” class as a result of economic reforms being promoted on the communist-ruled island should be accepted by society without fear, though it does represent a “challenge.”

    The Web site Palabra Nueva published Friday an article by its editor, Orlando Marquez, which under the title “Without Fear of Riches” reflects on some possible consequences of expanding private employment and replacing egalitarianism with an equality of opportunities.

    “The creation of wealth and the coming of the ‘new rich’ could bring the challenge of a different ethical and legal order, but widespread poverty is no less of a challenge or danger to our society,” Marquez says.

    Society will be more secure when citizens achieve a standard of living consonant with their abilities and ambitions, while doing no harm to others, he says.

    “To procure a wealthier country with honesty and transparency is a necessity in this world. If the conditions and resources are there, aspiring to anything less is a sign of pitiful mediocrity,” the article says.

    “We might see some Cubans who are richer and others who are poorer, at least until the waters reach their level. And what a paradox, the difference could be diminished by socializing wealth by means of a tax policy that makes those who have the most contribute to those with the least,” it says.

    The adjective “rich” in Cuba has taken on an “unmerited negative significance,” according to Orlando Marquez, who says that “evil is neither in wealth nor in poverty but in the way we live with these realities and in the honesty and goodness of our lives, whether rich or poor.”

    The director of Palabra Nueva appears convinced that the “inevitable and difficult” adjustments being undertaken in Cuba could take the country on a better road, and warns that in the future even more reforms may be required.

    “Maybe we will need new rules or further updating of the economic model, and it is very probable that we will also need a new, modernized political class driven by a healthy national pride, observing a just rule of law and without fear of wealth,” the article says.

    The Raul Castro government has undertaken a plan of adjustments designed to “modernize the socialist economic model” in order to overcome the crisis that has afflicted the island for decades.

    The most important measures consist of expanding private employment, the elimination of 500,000 jobs in the public sector this year, and the elimination of “unnecessary” subsidies, among others. EFE

    From: Latin American Herald Tribune

  • Go to Home Page
  • Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Cuban dissident who staged hunger strike detained

    Guillermo Farinas.
    Guillermo Farinas, a Cuban dissident who gained international renown after staging a long hunger strike last year, was detained Wednesday while trying to block the eviction of a woman from a home in the central city of Santa Clara, his mother said.

    Farinas and other opposition leaders were taken into custody as they tried to prevent authorities from carrying out the eviction orders, his mother Alicia Hernandez told The Associated Press. The woman was apparently living in the home without proper authorization.

    "He was arrested by the police, along with a group of people," Hernandez said.

    An independent Cuban human rights leader, Elizardo Sanchez, said more than 12 people were detained in the roundup.

    Opposition figures are frequently detained by authorities, often to be released within hours or a few days.

    Hernandez said she had not been able to speak to her son by phone, but had sent him a coat and some medicine through a relative. She said she had no idea when he or the others would be released.

    There was no immediate reaction or confirmation from the Cuban government. Authorities rarely comment on the dissidents, except to say that they consider all to be common criminals and mercenaries paid by Washington to make trouble.

    Farinas, 49, staged a 134-day hunger strike last year to draw attention to the plight of activists, social critics and opposition leaders in Cuban jails. He was awarded the European Parliament's annual human rights prize, but Cuban authorities refused to grant him permission to travel to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award.

    Farinas has held more than 20 hunger strikes in the past 15 years, and has been jailed repeatedly for dissident activities on charges including disrespecting authority, public disorder and assault against a suspected undercover government informant.

    Cuba is in the midst of releasing many of the 52 jailed dissidents whose cause Farinas championed, following a deal with the Roman Catholic Church. Just 11 remain behind bars, and church officials say they are optimistic the government will soon make good on a promise to release them.


    From: Northern Star

  • Go to Home Page
  • Monday, January 24, 2011

    Mafias Get Involved in Administering The Sectors of The Cuban State

    Corruption in Cuba is “widespread” and sections of the state are administered by “mafias”, according to diplomatic cables from the U.S. mission in Havana, released by WikiLeaks and published in the newspaper El Pais in Spain on Saturday. According to the cables, corrupt practices included “bribery”, “misuse of state resources,” accounting tricks and “illegal commissions charged by officials in exchange for concessions and an amount is deposited in accounts opened in your name or that of people brought in foreign banks. “

    “There are state facilities that are managed, in fact, mafias (in sectors such as tourism and construction) as anywhere in the world, a one million dollars is (for the Cuban commission) 100,000 dollars in bank “, the reports said.

    The newspaper added that according to these corrupt leaders cables are not aware of the revolutionary leadership, but officials “pragmatists have a space within a rigid communist system.” Information submitted to the State Department for the U.S. Interest Section in Cuba states that where the state controls more than 90% of the economy, theft and corruption, to feed the black market “is a survival mechanism, due to low wages.

    “The authorities tolerate the corruption of survival to some extent, but when they know detours act with severity,” the report added.

    They note that many of the potentially most profitable jobs are usually assigned by bribing the official who decides and that the police “are famous for taking bribes.” Raul Castro’s government carried out a crackdown on corruption and theft of resources to the state and created a powerful Comptroller General.

    From: CoffeToday

    To read:

    Corruption in Cuba: Castro and Beyond

  • Go to Home Page
  • Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Yoani Sánchez meets Julia Styles

    The net equals People 2 People Power and it brought together two women who might otherwise have never heard of each other.

    One of them is Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.

    In 2008, “On a recent morning”, she “took a deep breath and gathered her nerve for an undercover mission: posting an Internet chronicle about life in Fidel Castro’s Cuba,” p2pnet quoted the Wall Street Journal as saying, going on:

    “To get around Cuba’s restrictions on Web access, the waif-like 32-year-old posed as a tourist to slip into an Internet cafe in one of the city’s luxury hotels, which normally bar Cubans. Dressed in gray surf shorts, T-shirt and lime-green espadrilles, she strode toward a guard at the hotel’s threshold and flashed a wide smile. The guard, a towering man with a shaved head, stepped aside.

    ” I think I’m able to do this because I look so harmless,’ says Ms. Sánchez, who says she is sometimes mistaken for a teenager. Once inside the cafe, she attached a flash memory drive to the hotel computer and, in quick, intense movements, uploaded her material. Time matters: The $3 she paid for a half-hour is nearly a week’s wage for many Cubans.”

    Named by Time as one of the top 100 most influential people, she was awarded the Ortega and Gasset prize for digital journalism, one of Spain`s top journalism awards, said the Havana Journal, going on:

    “Spanish newspaper El Pais, which awards the prize annually, said Sanchez won it for her ’shrewdness’ in overcoming hurdles to freedom of expression in Cuba, her ‘vivacious’ style and her drive to join the ‘global space of citizen journalism’.”

    The other is American actress Julia Stiles of the The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy (among others) fame.

    “The snack bar on 13th between F and G — that afternoon on December — is full of security agents and admirers”, writes Yoani in her Generation Y blog, continuing:

    The first are the ones who follow this restless blogger, like a tragicomic troupe that dances around my body, my house; the second pursued the radiant face of the actress Julia Stiles, with her laugh from the full-color big screen. Enormous confusion, when they watched the girl who plays the role of Nicky Parsons sitting at the same table with the author of Generation Y, and chatting affectionately. But yes, the famous New Yorker reads my virtual diary, is interested in scratching below the surface of the picture postcard images that export our reality. She barely wanted to talk about herself, although I wanted to know more about her professional life, or even stoop to ask for an autograph.

    Julia and I are of that generation of American and Cubans who have been separated and faced with the rhetoric far from our own desires. Descendants of the Montagues and Capulets who tried to pass on to us their grudges and hatreds. But looking objectively, they didn’t manage it, and the result has been quite the opposite. Close, but separated, similar and yet set at odds, like many young people from here and from there we are tired of this outdated “cold war” and its consequences in our lives. So the meeting with Julia had the character of a reconciliation, as if in the middle of combat two opponents approach each other and begin feel each other out, to embrace.

    No one in the cafeteria heard the noise of arms being tossed aside, not even those who were there to watch us saw how we dismantled the walls separating us. In the end, the smiling girl from the movies and the girl from Havana who should have been the “New Man” hugged each other and said, “See you later.” Each went to her own side, returned to her life, in front of the cameras or in front of the keyboard, in the Big Apple or in a Yugoslav-model building.

    “But since that afternoon, whenever I hear the television seething against our neighbors to the north, I recall Julia, and it is a kind of therapy to remember her laugh and the little armistice we managed that da”, adds Yoani on Generation Y.

    From: P2P

  • Go to Home Page
  • Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Movie confronts Cuba's human rights record

    There was a time, thankfully long, long ago, when Fidel Castro was the rage.

    On Nov. 16, 1961, while speaking at the University of Washington's centennial convocation, President Kennedy was greeted by student protesters waving signs that read, "No more sugar trust invasions" and "Fair play for Cuba" (for a detailed account of Kennedy's Seattle speech, see Greg Lange's 1999 HistoryLink essay). It was the era of decolonization and CIA covert ops. In 1959 Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was deposed by a 30-something revolutionary with a utopian vision.

    It was Edenic, at least for the first couple of weeks.

    In his 2010 memoir,  Hitch-22, former lefty Christopher Hitchens tracks his growing disillusionment with the Cuban experiment after participating in a work camp for young revolutionaries and witnessing the Castro regime's posturing during the 1968 Prague Spring. Fast forward a few decades and Cuba is a Batista redux. Human rights abuses are fixed in amber.

    With promising democratic revolutions taking place (think Tunisia), it might be useful to revisit the human rights record of our imprisoned neighbors to the south. On Friday, Jan. 21, the University of Washington presents the Northwest premiere of "Oscar's Cuba," a documentary about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who made the mistake of flagging Cuban human rights abuses and was rewarded with a 25-year prison sentence. Director Jordan Allott will introduce the film followed by a panel discussion. Admission is free.

    By Pete Jackson

    The Oscar's Cuba documentary "sneak peek"

    If you go: "Oscar's Cuba," Friday Jan. 21, 2011 6:30 pm Kane Hall 210. Hosted by the UW Center for Human Rights. Sponsored by the Give2Cuba Project of the Seattle International Foundation, in cooperation with the Seattle Latino Film Festival, the UW's Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program, and the UW'S Simpson Center for the Humanities.

    From: Crosscut Tout

  • Go to Home Page
  • Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    The prison that calls itself a country

    Number of prisons per province in Cuba. In total, about 550.
    In December, when the European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Cuban independent journalist and longtime protester of the Castros' repression of thought, Guillermo Farinas, the Cuban dictatorship, as is done by the rulers of China, barred him from leaving the country to accept the award.

    In his acceptance speech by video, Farinas, characteristically forthright, said: "In the minds of Cuba's current rulers, we Cuban citizens are just like the slaves from whom I am descended, kidnapped in Africa and brought to the Americas by force. For me or any other ordinary citizen to be able to travel abroad, I need a Carta de Libertad, that is a Freedom Card, just as the slaves did, only today it is called a Carta Blanca, a White Card."

    His reference to the "white" card should also be a reminder of the long-imbedded racial discrimination against black Cubans by the Castro Revolution. In December 2009, I reported on the "Statement of Conscience by African-Americans" the month before by 60 prominent black Americans, including Cornel West, condemning the partnership of Jim Crow with the Cuban regime.

    I have seen no further mention of that long-delayed protest from the actual signers of the declaration of conscience, and from hardly anyone else. Is this a self-imposed gag rule? I welcome any information about this strange silence, including from the Congressional Black Caucus.

    Guillermo Farinas would have welcomed, I expect, some support from those prominent black Americans, and others of us. He thanked the European Parliament "for not abandoning the Cuban people in these more than 50 years of the struggle for democracy."

    But he has been abandoned – despite his hunger strikes against the imprisonment of independent Cuban librarians, among other dissenters – by the American Library Association, which has yet to demand the release of these, among the other Castros' prisoners of conscience.

    As Farinas delivered his acceptance speech, an empty chair draped in a Cuban flag was placed on the European Parliament stage.

    Amnesty International has not abandoned him or any of the other Cubans treated like ungrateful slaves. Last summer, it called world attention to the harassment of Reina Luisa Tamayo, "who takes to the streets each Sunday with a small group of relatives to honor her son Orlando Zapta Tamayo who died Feb. 23 after refusing food and water for months."

    Imprisoned since 2003 for "disrespecting authority," among other charges, Tamayo "became the first Cuban opposition leader in nearly 40 years to die after a hunger strike – an incident decried by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and European leaders" (Associated Press, Aug. 17, 2010, and

    Reina Luisa Tamayo told Amnesty "that pro-government mobs surrounded her house in the eastern Cuban city of Banes on Sunday and prevented her, her family and friends from marching and attending Roman Catholic Mass. She said Cuban security forces kept other women who planned to march from leaving their homes."

    Previously, a typical Castro regime warning was delivered to this besieged mother, as reported by Amnesty International: "On Aug. 8, a mob blocked (Tamayo's) path and beat relatives and friends who were marching – while police nearby failed to act. She said six loudspeakers has been installed near her house, used to shout insults against her and the Ladies in White, a Havana support group for wives and mother of political prisoners."

    Has Secretary of State Clinton informed President Obama of the ruthless subjugation of liberty-starved Cubans that led to Guillermo Farinas receiving the Sakharov Prize? Does he care that in 2005 this human-rights prize was awarded to the Ladies in White in Cuba and – dig this – in 2002 to dissenter Oswaldo Paya?

    A leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and several times nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Paya founded the still-continuing Varela Project aimed at establishing by referendum such scandalous heresies as freedom of press and religion and free elections. The only time I met the still-idolized-by-many Che Guevara (at the Cuban Mission to the United Nations), he professed to understand no English and was accompanied by a translator. As I asked him if he could conceive there ever being free elections in Cuba. Guevara, not waiting for the translator, broke into derisive laughter.

    Last year, the Latin American Democratic Bridge Network awarded its first Prize for Democratic Openness to the doggedly surviving Varela Project (, May 20, 2010, reported again on CNA, Jan. 12, 2011). Because such freedom warriors as Oswaldo Paya do not give up, resistance is rising in Castroland.

    The most accurate reports on Cuba come from Mary Anastasia O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal. On Dec. 27, she told those of us who care: "A new generation of angry, young Cubans now vents on blogs and through music, mocking the old man and his ruthless little brother. On Nov. 28, in the city of Santa Clara, hundreds of students launched a spontaneous protest when they were denied access to a televised soccer match they had paid to watch.

    "What began as a demand for refunds soon turned to shouts of 'freedom,' 'down with Fidel' and 'down with socialism.'" These seeds may yet bring revolutionary liberty to Cubans. O'Grady provides more of the context:

    Michael Moore notwithstanding, she writes that "Food, water, transportation, access to health care, electricity, soap and toilet paper are all hard to come by. ... The government tries to put the lid on through repression. But in private, among Cubans there are no limits to the derision of the brothers Castro."

    On Nov. 28, 2007, Laura Bush held a video conference with members of the independent library movement with whom she expressed solidarity (Friends of Cuban Libraries). Your turn, Michelle Obama. President Obama has eased travel restrictions to – and the sending of money to Cubans – with restrictions, while calling for the return of freedom to Cubans. What will happen to any of these American travelers if they demand to see any prisoners of conscience?

    Nat Hentoff

    From: WorldNetDaily

    Trapped in Castro's gulag and lived to tell about it – check out Armando Valladares' story of 20 years under dictator's thumb: "Against All Hope"

  • Go to Home Page
  • Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Cuban Communist Party Official Admits Persecution Of Protestant Group

    Caridad Diego Bello
    UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has released a video in which a Cuban Communist Party official openly confirms a government strategy to target churches affiliated with the fast growing Apostolic Movement, a protestant network.

    The short film, recorded clandestinely early in 2010 and smuggled out of the country, shows Caridad Diego Bello, the head of the Religious Affairs Office of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, explaining the government’s strategy to crackdown on the Apostolic Movement.

    “For years, church leaders of all denominations have complained of difficulties with Diego, particularly in receiving permission to repair old church buildings or build new facilities,” said a spokesperson for CSW. “This is the first time, however, that video evidence has been published, showing Diego publicly admitting that the government is working to eradicate the Apostolic Movement.”

    In the video, Diego states “…we are taking measures and will continue to take measures, the hands of our authorities will not waver, and I don’t do this in a manner of warning but rather to inform, so that the illegalities that groups like these are committing can be countered in every province and in every territory… there are some would-be leaders of these type of organizations that have had been relocated from their homes, that have lost their temple. There are people that visit us that will no longer be able to enter the country again, there are people that have been fined for facilitating the violation of immigration status by foreigners in Cuba, we have confiscated literature because it has not entered the country via the appropriate channels, but rather under the table.”

    Churches affiliated with the Apostolic Movement have documented consistent religious liberty violations over the past few years, including numerous cases of arbitrary detention of church leaders and the destruction of church buildings. CSW has also released a second video showing the site of the demolition of one of the largest churches linked to the Apostolic Movement in Santiago de Cuba.

    CSW’s Director of Advocacy, Andrew Johnston said, “Religious leaders of all denominations told CSW earlier this year that the Apostolic Movement has been singled out for intense persecution. This video is confirmation, from the very mouth of the top official in charge of religious affairs in the country that the government is working to stamp out the group. Just a few months ago, leaders of the Apostolic Movement publicly asked that the government enact legislation on religious activity. We join with them in calling on the government to cease immediately its harassment of these churches and to establish a clear legal framework for all religious groups to operate in the country.”

    For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

    CSW is the UK’s leading human rights advocacy organization specializing in religious freedom, working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promoting religious liberty for all. 

    Notes to Editors

    1. Transcripts of the videos are available from the CSW Press Office. Both videos can be viewed on the CSW You Tube channel at:

    2. Religious groups and associations in Cuba are not regulated by any government body, but instead come under the authority of the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, headed by Caridad Diego Bello.

    3. The Apostolic Coalition represents religious groups associated with the Apostolic Movement. The movement is a non-denominational, Charismatic, Protestant network of church groups which are outside of the traditionally recognized Christian denominations in Cuba. CSW has documented intense government persecution of church leaders linked to the network over the past three years. More information is available in our annual report on religious freedom in Cuba, available in Spanish and in English at
    Pastor Omar Gude Perez with his wife before his arrest

    4. Pastor Omar Gude Perez, one of the main leaders of the movement, is currently serving a six-year and seven-month sentence on what CSW believes to be false charges. Pastor Bernardo de Quesada, another key leader in the group, was a victim of arbitrary detention on numerous occasions over the past year. Pastor Alain Toledano, the leader of the destroyed church in Santiago de Cuba, reported that in March, members of the Communist Party and agents of the National Police surrounded his family home threatening to evict them and to confiscate all their goods.

    5. Bibles and Christian literature are legally only allowed to be imported via the Cuban Council of Churches, an umbrella group which represents a relatively small minority of Protestant churches. Leaders of all denominations have complained to CSW that this results in severe shortages of religious materials and that they often have no option but to bring them in through other, unofficial channels.

    By Dan Wooding

    From: Continental News

  • Go to Home Page
  • Friday, January 14, 2011

    Obama eases Cuba visa, remittance and travel curbs

    President Barack Obama on Friday eased restrictions on visas, remittances and travel under the US embargo on Cuba, seeking to weaken the long grip on power of the communist Havana government. The move will expand religious and educational travel between the United States and Cuba, allow any airport to offer charter flights to the country and restore cultural initiatives suspended by the previous Bush administration.

    "These measures will increase people-to-people contact, support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people and help promote their independence from Cuban authorities," the White House said in a statement.

    "The president believes these actions, combined with the continuation of the embargo, are important steps in reaching the widely shared goal of a Cuba that respects the basic rights of all its citizens.

    "These steps build upon the president's April 2009 actions to help reunite divided Cuban families; to facilitate greater telecommunications with the Cuban people; and to increase humanitarian flows to Cuba."

    Obama's move means that religious organizations will be able to sponsor travel to Cuba under license and will allow higher educational institutions to send students to Cuba and restore licenses of educational exchanges.

    Staff and students will also be allowed to attend conferences, seminars and workshops in Cuba and there will be more scope for journalists to travel to Cuba, according to the White House.

    In another move, Obama will restore a license allowing any American to send remittances of up to 500 dollars per quarter to people in Cuba are not part of their families, as long as they are not senior Cuban government or Communist Party officials.

    Obama also ordered that all US international airports will be able to provide charters to and from Cuba.

    Currently, only New York, Miami and Los Angeles airports have that privilege.

    The US embargo on Cuba was partially imposed in 1960, just after Fidel Castro staged his revolution, became law in 1962 and is now the biggest remaining hangover from the Cold War. The United States bans trade with and most travel to Cuba.

    But Obama has the power, under legislation passed in 2000, to regulate 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba.

    He used his presidential authority in 2009 to reverse the Bush administration's tightened restrictions on immediate family travel and allowed Cuban Americans to send remittances to relatives.

    But he cannot lift the embargo on Cuba unless the move is authorized by Congress, an unlikely prospect.

    In a first reaction, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, born in Miami to Cuba American parents who fled Castro's revolution, condemned the decision to ease restrictions.

    "I strongly oppose any new changes that weaken US policy towards Cuba. I was opposed to the changes that have already been made by this administration and I oppose these new changes," Rubio said.

    "I believe that what does need to change are the Cuban regime's repressive policies towards the independent press and labor unions, its imprisonment of political prisoners and constant harassment of citizens with dissenting views, and its refusal to allow free multi-party elections.

    "It is unthinkable that the administration would enable the enrichment of a Cuban regime that routinely violates the basic human rights and dignity of its people."

    Source: Hindustan Times

    Reaction to easing travel to Cuba mixed

  • Go to Home Page
  • Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    The Spineless American Library Association

    In April 2003, the security police of Fidel Castro arrested and imprisoned 75 journalists, members of opposition parties and owners of independent libraries. The charge: "crimes against national sovereignty." The librarians had been making available to Cubans books that were banned in the state's libraries for containing "terrorist" material. Among them were a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (a document for all human beings).

    During the one-day trial, Castro's judges ordered that all printed volumes confiscated during the raids of the libraries be burned. I obtained copies of those incendiary court rulings that then, and now, characterize the Cuban "revolution." Immediately, Amnesty International designated all the 75 inmates "prisoners of conscience." There continues to be more of them — some, as always, in dire need of medical attention they have yet to receive.

    At first, I had expected immediate protests about the caged independent librarians from the American Library Association. The core credo of this largest national library association in the world has been "the freedom to read" — for everyone everywhere.

    Why should you care? Because banning books and imprisoning librarians mean banning literature, ideas — thought — and critically wounding freedoms that should be as essential as oxygen to citizens and a society.

    In the many columns I've written since about the abandoned Cuban librarians, I've cited the ALA's refusal to demand the release of these librarians. In June 2003, for one of many examples, Michael Dowling, then director of the ALA's International Relations Office, said: "There has been no definitive evidence that books are banned and librarians harassed." There had been international press on the raids.

    As my documented stories on these and future imprisonments went on, I was targeted by the director of Cuba's National Library, Eliades Acosta: "What does Mr. Hentoff know of the real Cuba?"

    My public reply: "I know that if I were a Cuban, I'd be in prison."

    Polish and Latvian library associations did call for the release of the prisoners of conscience. But in 2005, the state library association of Cuba stingingly replied to the Latvian protest resolution: "it is too late ... to attempt to trick the world in this manner."

    The ALA, annoyed by the continued criticism, occasionally expressed "deep concern" about the allegations but declined to mention the silenced freedom-to-read librarians in Castroland.

    Also, in 1995, as a longtime admirer of Ray Bradbury, including his classic novel of censorship by fire, Fahrenheit 451, I sent him some of my columns and the burning Castro court rulings that Bradbury's novel had prophesied. Publicly, Bradbury then said:
    I plead with Castro and his government to take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people.

    No comment from Fidel or the ALA. Last year, on May 19, the Mario Chanes de Armas Independent Library was raided by Cuban State Security police, who confiscated 360 books I do not know the whereabouts of the director of that purified library, who had telephoned this news under the regime of Raul Castro.

    But, in yet another appeal to the ALA on March 11 last year, the American-based Friends of Cuban Libraries sent a letter to then-president of the ALA Camila Alire, "asking for your urgent and compassionate aid in saving the life of a fellow library worker, Guillermo Farinas (director of the Dr. Roberto Avalos library).

    "Mr. Farinas has refused to consume food or fluids since he began a hunger strike" at his home in Santa Clara for the release of 26 Cuban prisoners in poor health, including "Ricardo Gonzalez, the director of the Jorge Manach Library, and Ariel Sigler Amaya, who was condemned to a long prison term for, among other alleged crimes, gathering books for a library collection." Both have been named prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

    As for this hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas, he "is growing weaker, and Cuba's official newspaper Granma has indicated that the government will make no effort to save his life after his health declines to the point of unconsciousness."

    Therefore, "on an urgent basis, we ask you to please contact the Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations, Mr. Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, to request that efforts be made to save the life of Guillermo Farinas. The e-mail address of the Foreign Ministry is:"

    The Parliament of the European Union recently passed a resolution expressing concern for Mr. Farinas: "We hope the American Library Association will rapidly join the worldwide effort to help in saving his life."

    This plea for the life of Guillermo Farinas was ignored by the American Library Association.

    Next week: What happened to the acute discomfort of the Castro government and the American Library Association after — on Oct. 1, 2010, the BBC reported: "The European Parliament has awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. In July, Mr. Farinas, 48, ended a hunger strike after Cuba's communist government announced it was freeing 52 political prisoners." (But the EU and Farinas are aware that more remain in the Castros' prisons and that the raids on independent libraries continue.)

    The prize is named after the late, brave Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. Those who nominated Farinas called him "a beacon of hope for dozens of journalists and activists who are currently in prison."

    And the prizewinner dedicated the human-rights award to the people of Cuba. He said they struggle for "an end to the dictatorship."

    The people of Cuba should be reminded that on April 26, 2005, Canek Sanchez Guevara — the grandson of the murderous Che Guevara, still a hero to Fidelists around the world and in the United States — spoke in Stockholm of "the obsession (in Cuba) with surveillance, control, repression, etc. And freedom is something entirely different."

    The American Library Association should invite Che Guevara's grandson to address one of its conferences to enlighten its governing council on how to end its obsession with ignoring the persistently persecuted Cuban independent librarians.

    by Nat Hentoff  

    From: Cato Institute

  • Go to Home Page
  • Saturday, January 8, 2011

    Cables spotlight health system woes in Cuba

    Doctor's workplace in one of the Cuban hospitals.
    In one Cuban hospital, patients had to bring their own light bulbs. In another, the staff used "a primitive manual vacuum" on a woman who had miscarried. In others, Cuban patients pay bribes to obtain better treatment.

    Those and other observations by an unidentified nurse assigned to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana were included in a dispatch sent by the mission in January 2008 and made public last month by WikiLeaks.

    Titled "Cuban health care: Aqui Nada es Facil" — nothing here is easy — the cable offers a withering assessment by the nurse, officially a Foreign Service Health Practitioner, or FSHP, who already had lived in Cuba for 21/2 years.

    The Cuban government still boasts of its vast public health system, though the system suffered deeply after Soviet subsidies ended in 1991. It also blames most of the system's problems on the U.S. embargo. Though U.S. medical sales to Cuba are legal, the process can be cumbersome and Havana can sometimes find better prices elsewhere.

    The U.S. cable is not an in-depth assessment of Cuba's health system. Rather, it's a string of anecdotes gathered by the FSHP from Cubans such as "manicurists, masseuses, hair stylists, chauffeurs, musicians, artists, yoga teachers, tailors, as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer patients, physicians, and foreign medical students."

    At one OB-GYN hospital, the dispatch reported, the staff "used a primitive manual vacuum to aspirate" the womb of a Cuban woman who had a miscarriage "without any anesthesia or pain medicine. She was offered no . . . follow up appointments."

    A 6-year old-boy with bone cancer could only be visited at a hospital by his parents for "limited hours," the cable added.

    Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation get "little in the way of symptom or side-effects care . . . that is critically important in being able to continue treatments, let alone provide comfort to an already emotionally distraught victim," the dispatch noted.

    "Cancer patients are not provided with, nor can they find locally, simple medications such as Aspirin, Tylenol, skin lotions, vitamins, etc.," it added.

    HIV-positive Cubans have only one facility, the Instituto Pedro Kouri in Havana, that can provide specialty care and medications, the cable noted. Because of transportation problems and costs, some patients from the provinces may be seen only once per year.

    Kouri institute patients can wait months for an appointment, "but can often move ahead in line by offering a gift," the dispatch added. "We are told five Cuban convertible pesos (approximately USD 5.40) can get one an x-ray."

    Although the practice was reportedly discontinued, some HIV-positive patients had the letters "SIDA" (AIDS) stamped on their national ID cards, making it hard for them to find good jobs or pursue university studies, according to the cable.

    The cable acknowledged that medical institutions reserved for Cuba's ruling elites and foreigners who pay in hard currencies "are hygienically qualified, and have a wide array of diagnostic equipment with a full complement of laboratories, well-stocked pharmacies, and private patient suites with cable television and bathrooms."

    Hospitals and clinics used by average Cubans don't come close, the dispatch added, providing details on the FSHP's visits to four Havana hospitals:

    At the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, part of which is reserved for foreign patients and was featured in the Michael Moore documentary "Sicko," a "gift" of about $22 to the hospital administrator helps average Cubans obtain better treatment there. The exterior of the Ramon Gonzalez Coro OB-GYN hospital was "dilapidated and crumbling" and its Newborn Intensive Care Unit was "using a very old infant 'Bird' respirator/ventilator _ the model used in the U.S. in the 1970s."

    During a visit to the Calixto Garcia Hospital, which serves only Cubans, the U.S. nurse "was struck by the shabbiness of the facility . . . and the lack of everything (medical supplies, privacy, professional care staff). To the FSHP it was reminiscent of a scene from some of the poorest countries in the world."

    At the Salvador Allende Hospital, the emergency room appeared "very orderly, clean and organized." But the rest of the facility was "in shambles" and guards by the entrance "smelled of alcohol."

    "Patients had to bring their own light bulbs if they wanted light in their rooms. The switch plates and knobs had been stolen from most of the rooms so one had to connect bare wires to get electricity," the dispatch reported.

  • Go to Home Page
  • Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Construction, telecommunications ministers replaced in Cuban Cabinet reshuffle

    Ramiro Valdes (left) will have more time to control everything.
    Cuba announced a reshuffle of its Cabinet on Thursday, relieving the minister in charge of construction for undisclosed "errors" and stripping a powerful vice president of a secondary role he held as head of the Telecommunications Ministry.

    Fidel Figueroa was being replaced as head of the Construction Ministry for "errors committed in his job," according to an official government statement read out on the state-controlled television news. His replacement was Rene Mesa Villafana, who since 2007 was head of the institution that controls Cuba's water supply.

    The statement also said Ramiro Valdes, 78, would step down as head of the Telecommunications Ministry.

    Far from a demotion, the statement said the move was being made to give Valdes more time to oversee the leadership of both his old ministry and the Construction Ministry.

    Valdes is a former leader of the rebels who brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 and an ex-interior minister, and is also considered to be extremely close to Fidel's brother, Raul, who is now the president.

    Valdes has also had a key role in building relations between Cuba and its most important ally, Venezuela. In addition to being a Cabinet vice president he has been a vice president of the communist country's supreme governing body, the Council of State, since December 2009.

    The moves were the latest in a series of Cabinet changes carried out in recent months as cash-strapped Cuba tries to revamp its economy, firing half a million state workers and opening up new opportunities for self-employment.

    In September, the island's government announced the removal of the minister of oil and mining in a sternly worded statement that cited her "deficiencies" and "weak manner."

    The island's health minister was replaced in July, a month after the transportation minister was fired for professional mistakes and the head of the Sugar Ministry was ousted after admitting incompetence.


    From: The Kansas City Star

  • Go to Home Page