Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

Cuba – French minister must not ignore freedom of information during Cuba visit

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has sent a letter about freedom of information in Cuba to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who is about to make the first official visit to the Caribbean island by a member of the French government since 1983.

Cuba’s violations of freedom of information must not be ignored during this visit. Improvement in relations between the European Union and Cuba must not be at the expense of Cuba’s journalists and bloggers.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Ministry of Foreign Affairs 37 Quai d’Orsay 75351 Paris

Paris, 10 April 2014

Dear Foreign Minister,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the plight of professional and non-professional journalists in Cuba.

All independent media, both traditional and online, are censored in Cuba, which is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in our 2014 press freedom index. Even defending the right to information is obstructed by President ... Read More

Sending Ideas to Cuba

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
National Review

BY MIKE GONZALEZ

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50 years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959. That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans could access. This “Cuban Twitter” was a ray of hope that should be celebrated.

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul. The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline “US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest.” This week the U.S. Senate got in on the ... Read More

Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY RON NIXON

A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was an attempt to promote open communications among citizens on the island nation, not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

Appearing before both the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees, Rajiv Shah, U.S.A.I.D.’s administrator, told members that the program was similar to others that the agency has financed in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,” he said.

Dr. Shah said he did not know who had created the Cuban program, as it was conceived before his appointment as administrator. He insisted, however, that “there was no covert activity that took place.”

But Senator Patrick ... Read More

Alan Gross, U.S. contractor held in Cuba, goes on hunger strike

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY KAREN DEYOUNG

Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years, began a hunger strike last week to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and U.S. governments, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal,” Gross said in a telephoned statement to his legal team.

As he has many times before, Gross called on President Obama to become personally involved in efforts to free him from “inhumane treatment” in a Cuban prison.

Gross was arrested in 2009 for distributing Internet and other communications materials in Cuba under a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the Cuban ... Read More

The buzz in Cuba

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

The Obama administration’s recently exposed program to provide a text-messaging service for ordinary citizens in Cuba is a commendable effort to break the Castro government’s information monopoly. We hope they don’t quit trying. Critics of the program like Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called it “dumb, dumb, dumb” as soon as the Associated Press published a report last week on the short-lived Twitter-like program that ran out of funding in 2012. What would be really dumb, though, is to sit back silently and do nothing while Cuba’s 11 million people are kept from hearing or reading any information except what bears the government’s stamp of approval.

Keep in mind that among the most successful programs of the Cold War were those like Radio Free Europe and communications support for groups like Solidarity in Poland that gave citizens of Soviet bloc countries vital information they could not get elsewhere.

These programs managed to foil ... Read More

USAID Defends ‘Cuban Twitter’ Program

| April 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

Former and current U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officials are defending the agency’s controversial social media program in Cuba as a legitimate tool for promoting freedom of expression in the communist country.

The Associated Press reported last week that USAID oversaw the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” known as ZunZuneo—slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

The program was designed to facilitate “non-controversial” conversations before eventually organizing “smart mobs” against the government, according to documents quoted by the Associated Press.

The social media platform gained more than 40,000 subscribers between 2010 and 2012 before running out of funding.

The report raised an outcry from some lawmakers who said they were not briefed on the social networking program.

However, both former and current USAID officials say the program was not covert. Lawmakers had the opportunity to receive briefings on the program, which was reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Jose Cardenas, former USAID acting assistant administrator for Latin ... Read More

EDITORIAL: A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

EDITORIAL

Human Rights Watch’s 2014 annual report paints a somber picture of political life in Cuba. “The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights,” the report notes. “The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information, severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet.”

It is worse than scandalous that Cuba’s 11 million people are still trapped under these conditions some 55 years after Fidel and Raul Castro came to power on a promise of national liberation. Yet a recent story in the U.S. press and comments by certain U.S. politicians about it imply that Americans should be terribly upset about the Obama administration’s efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.

We refer to ... Read More

US Secretly Created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Stir Unrest

| April 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY DESMOND BUTLER

In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official, flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a social media project aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company’s ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn’t work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple interviews with ... Read More

Cuba’s past raises skepticism about new foreign investment law

| April 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY DANIEL TROTTA

Cuba has declared itself open for business with a new foreign investment law but faces deep skepticism given a history that includes jailing foreign executives and attempting to seize greater control of businesses once they prove successful.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a law on Saturday that embraces foreign capital as crucial to Cuba’s development, while disappointing those who had hoped for even more changes, such as allowing foreign ventures to hire Cuban labor freely instead of through the government.

Cut off from U.S. investment by Washington’s comprehensive trade embargo, Cuba says it needs $2 billion to $2.5 billion a year in foreign direct investment (FDI) to help reach its target of 7 percent growth a year. Economists estimate current FDI at a few hundred million, and the economy is expected to grow just 2.2 percent this year.

The new law, which will take effect within 90 days, is most notable for cutting the tax on profits in ... Read More

Skepticism as Cuba OKs law to lure foreign investors

| April 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
USA TODAY

BY ALAN GOMEZ

A new law approved by the Cuban National Assembly on Saturday designed to lure more foreign investment to the island nation has many wondering what it will mean.

The new law has Cuba observers wondering whether it will energize the country’s struggling economy, whether it represents a step from the county’s centrally planned economy to a more capitalist one, and whether the success of foreign companies there will prompt American businesses to push for a change in the U.S embargo on the Communist country.

For some, the question is far simpler.

“Would you put your money in Cuba?” says Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. “It’s a system that’s not transparent, there’s no legal system that protects foreign investment.”

“They can change the law,” he adds, “but they have to change the system for people to jump in and invest.”

That skepticism is ... Read More

BERMAN: Russia pivots toward Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

| March 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

BY ILLAN BERMAN

With all eyes on Ukraine, where Russia’s neo-imperial efforts have raised the specter of a new Cold War between Moscow and the West, another alarming facet of the Kremlin’s contemporary foreign policy has gone largely unnoticed; namely, its growing military presence in, and strategic designs on, the Western Hemisphere.

On Feb. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu formally announced his government’s plan to expand its overseas military presence. Russia, Mr. Shoigu outlined, intends to establish new military bases in eight foreign countries. The candidates include five Asian nations and three Latin American ones: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Negotiations are underway to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites there for Russian long-range aircraft.

Just one day later, in a throwback to Cold War military cooperation between the Soviet Union and client state Cuba, a Russian warship docked in Havana. As of yet, neither Moscow nor Havana has issued a formal explanation as to why the Viktor Leonov, a Meridian-class intelligence vessel, ... Read More

Protesting in Venezuela, With Antipathy Toward Cuba’s Government

| March 26th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY VICTORIA BURNETT & WILLIAM NEUMAN

Enraged as they are by their nation’s leaders, many of the protesters who have spilled onto Venezuela’s streets have their eyes fixed on another government altogether, one they resent perhaps just as bitterly as their own: Cuba’s.

The Cuban government and its president, Raúl Castro, they contend, have leeched off Venezuela’s oil wealth, grafted Cuba’s rigid brand of socialism onto their country and helped choreograph a broad crackdown on dissent.

Their rancor is echoed by the Cuban opposition, which has thrown itself behind the Venezuelan protesters’ cause with gusto, sharing photos and videos of protests and police abuse on Twitter, urging Venezuelans to resist and even rapping an apology for what they call Cuba’s meddling.

The fixation with the influence of Cuba in Venezuela’s affairs reflects how meshed the two countries’ economic and political realities remain a ... Read More

Can the Chavistas Save Venezuela from Cuba?

| March 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Real Clear World-01

Just as upstart Venezuelan university students stepped out ahead of the opposition establishment a month ago to launch street protests against crime and food shortages, now a new type of independent-minded Chavistas could meet them half way to save their country.

These groups do not agree on much, but rebellious students and loyal followers of the late Hugo Chavez — including many in the military — must share a profound disgust for the destructive path chosen by Nicolas Maduro and his Cuban handlers. That is not much common ground, but for a polarized country on the brink of civil war and economic meltdown, it may have to do.

Who are these new protagonists? The university student movement is the one sector that Chavez’s advisers feared most, because idealistic youth do not respond to the same inducements or threats as jaded politicians. For years, politicians who have been content to compete in elections the regime ... Read More

CNN entrevista al periodista que asegura que los cubanos dirigen a los colectivos en Venezuela

| March 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Noticiero Digital

En la entrevista, Delgado ahonda en la naturaleza y métodos del control que Cuba ejerce sobre estos grupos autodenominados eufemísticamente “colectivos”, pero que según su investigación, en realidad están integrados por “delincuentes y guerrilleros urbanos dispuestos a pelear por la revolución, con armas”.

También habla Delgado de la organización de los “colectivos” dentro de un “Secretariado” al estilo de las FARC, y del rechazo que despiertan en ciertos sectores de la Fuerza Armada venezolana.

La entrevista fue emitida sin editar, y en una primera parte. La segunda parte será emitida hoy jueves 20 de marzo, a las 5pm, en el espacio “Encuentro” de Camilo Egaña en CNN en Español.

A continuación el video de la primera parte de la entrevista a Antonio María Delgado.

Click here for ... Read More

Castro’s ‘Children’ Run Away from Home

| March 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Real Clear World-01

BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER

Officially, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the candidate of the FMLN, won the recent presidential election in El Salvador. So declared the country’s Electoral Supreme Court in the face of challenges from the ARENA party. The difference between the two parties barely exceeded 6,000 votes. An incredible minutia, when almost 3 million people voted. ARENA asked for a recount of all the ballots, but a recount was not granted. The law was not on its side. Norman Quijano had to settle for a moral victory.

Nobody expected a result of that nature, especially because the FMLN beat him by more than 10 percentage points in the first round. It seems that today’s cruel slaughterhouse in Venezuela reminded the Salvadorans that revolutionary radicalism can end up in a bloodbath.

Now, Sánchez Cerén, communist and former guerrilla, faces a bitter dilemma. Beginning in June, when he officially assumes the presidency, will he devote ... Read More

U.N. Releases Report on Cuba-North Korea Illegal Weapons Trafficking

| March 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Capitol Hill Cubans The U.N.’s Panel of Experts (“Panel”) has released its official report on North Korea’s illegal trafficking of weapons, in conjunction with Cuba’s Castro regime.

In July 2013, a North Korean flagged vessel, Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted carrying weaponry from Cuba hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.

According to the report, such weapons trafficking remains “one of [North Korea's] most profitable revenue sources.”

The report also documents North Korea’s efforts to sell weaponry to Iran, Somalia, Eritrea, Myanmar and other countries of concern.

In the case of Cuba, it’s the first time a nation in the Western Hemisphere is found in blatant violation of U.N. sanctions.

Moreover, the report notes similar Cuba trafficking patterns by other North Korean ships in the recent past.

Here are some notable excerpts from the report:

- The Panel concluded in its incident report submitted to the Committee that both the shipment itself and the transaction between Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were sanctions ... Read More

Cuba Transition Project: Cuba Investors Beware

| March 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Focus on Cuba

Since the 2006 announcement by the Cuban government that octogenarian Fidel Castro had transferred power to his brother Raul, there has been increasing speculation regarding political and economic changes in Cuba. More recently, some potential investors seem to have bought the narrative that the Cuban government has embarked on a process of genuine political and economic reforms. But investors beware.

In its 2014 “Index of Economic Freedom” report, the Heritage Foundation ranks Cuba as one of the world’s least free economies with a score of 28.7 compared to a world average of 60.3, and an average of 84.1 for the free economies of the world. Cuba’s economic milieu continues to deteriorate in terms of most of the factors considered in the Heritage Foundation methodology such as trade freedom, fiscal freedom, monetary freedom, and particularly freedom from corruption.

One implication for enterprises seeking to do business with Cuba is that this legacy manifests ... Read More

After a year without Chávez, is Venezuela unraveling?

| March 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

BY CARL MEACHAM

This week, amidst political turmoil that has gripped the country and left more than a dozen dead and hundreds more injured and detained, Venezuela commemorated the passing of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez was best known for his “Bolivarian Revolution,” through which he pursued aggressive, state-centered approaches to alleviate the social, political, and economic challenges facing Venezuela. And by some metrics he was successful – between 2004 and 2012, the country’s poverty rate halved, and literacy and access to healthcare increased substantially.

But Chávez also left behind a country deeply divided along political and socioeconomic lines, one suffering from skyrocketing crime and violence and bogged down by economic instability. Is his successor, Nicolás Maduro, now reaping the seeds of discontent sown by Chavismo?

Certainly, under Maduro the grim reality of rising crime has only worsened – though not for a lack of official policies aimed at reversing it. In his first year, Maduro dispersed thousands ... Read More

Just how do Americans see Cuba?

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Los Angeles Times

BY ROBYN WAPNER

The Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council released a poll last month that has been touted by many as marking an unprecedented shift in support for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Media outlets, including the L.A. Times, jumped on the bandwagon, citing the poll as evidence that Americans are now eager for engagement. But a closer look shows that many of the most consequential results of the poll are based on push-polling tactics.

Push polling is the craft of designing survey questions to shape and influence the results. In this case, several questions in the Atlantic Council Cuba poll appear to “push” respondents toward assuming a position against current U.S. policy.

Nothing about U.S. relations with Cuba is simple. The many facets of our estrangement span such a spectrum of interests and time that few have a clear understanding of the intricate web of current policy.

For example, despite the ... Read More

Cuba Manipulating Health Care Statistics

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY DANIEL WISER

Cuba’s socialist regime continues to engage in widespread manipulation of its health care statistics to enhance its legitimacy abroad, experts say.

The issue of Cuba’s health care record came up again recently after Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) visited the island in January, telling reporters afterward that Cuba is a “poor country” but “their public health system is quite remarkable.” He said Cuba has a lower child mortality rate than the United States and a higher life expectancy.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) contested Harkin’s claims in an impassioned floor speech last week.

“I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived, and, therefore, don’t count against the mortality rate,” he said.

Dr. Rodolfo Stusser, former adviser to the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, said in an email that the ministry has contrived ... Read More

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