Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

U.S. Chamber Cozies Up to Cuba for ‘Potemkin Village Tour by the Castros’

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
PJ Media

BY BRIDGET JOHNSON

Cuban-American lawmakers are criticizing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for leading a “shameful” trip to Cuba this week to, in the words of the business lobby, “develop a better understanding of the country’s current economic environment and the state of its private sector.”

“Since I was last in Cuba 15 years ago, a reform program has reportedly taken 600,000 workers from government payrolls and allowed the number of self-employed entrepreneurs in the country to triple to more than 450,000,” Chamber president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said last week. “This trip will provide us with a first-hand look at changes in Cuba’s economic policies and whether or not they are affecting the ability to do business there.”

Steve Van Andel, chairman of the U.S. Chamber’s Board of Directors and of Alticor Corporation, and Marcel Smits, CFO of the Cargill Corporation, are traveling with Donohue as part of the Chamber delegation ... Read More

Iranian MPs Leave Tehran for Tour of Latin America

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
FARS News Agency TEHRAN (FNA)- A delegation of Iranian parliament members headed to Ecuador’s capital on Monday to meet the country’s parliament speaker among other high-ranking officials on the first leg of their bi-nation tour which will also take them to Colombia.

The Iran-Ecuador parliamentary friendship group presided by Hamid Reza Fouladgar left Tehran for Quito Monday morning.

The MPs are scheduled to meet high-ranking Ecuadorian officials, including the parliament speaker.

After their visit to Quito, the lawmakers will travel to Colombia on a two-day visit.

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujeri said Tehran lays emphasis on the deepening of relations with Latin nations, and called for holding a joint meeting of the parliamentary foreign policy commissions of ALBA members.

“Iran favors holding a joint meeting of the foreign policy commissions of the parliaments of ALBA members in Bolivia,” Boroujerdi said in a meeting with ALBA ambassadors to ... Read More

U.S. criticizes Cuba over blocking dissident website

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States criticized Cuban censorship on Thursday after Cubans were blocked from an independent website that is challenging the state monopoly on news on the island.

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez started publishing 14ymedio.com on Wednesday, but would-be readers were redirected to another site that is highly critical of her, reflecting the official line.

Sanchez’s site remained blocked to the small minority of Cubans with internet access on Thursday, though it was accessible outside Cuba.

The U.S. State Department stopped short of directly blaming Cuba, referring instead to media reports that the government blocked the site, but it took advantage of the incident to denounce Cuban censorship.

“The Cuban government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free flow of information to, from, and within the island,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“Cubans deserve the right to freely express themselves ... Read More

Cuban Dissident Starts Website, Which Is Promptly Hacked

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

JOSE DE CORDOBA

Cuba’s state-run Communist media got a bit of unwelcome competition on Wednesday from the island’s best-known dissident blogger.

Yoani Sánchez, who has some 608,000 Twitter followers—nearly 10 times the official Granma newspaper and five times President Raúl Castro—introduced Cuba’s first independent, general-interest website. Ms. Sánchez, 38 years old, said the newspaper had no ideological agenda and was committed to defending “truth, liberty and human rights.”

But the project, called “14ymedio,” was promptly hacked after it went live on Wednesday morning, redirecting viewers inside Cuba to a website critical of Ms. Sánchez. The cyberattack didn’t affect off-island viewers.

“Bad strategy of the Cuban government to redirect our new web 14ymedio.com,” Ms. Sánchez tweeted. “From #Cuba there is nothing as attractive as what is prohibited.”

Cuba’s government didn’t comment on the new website, nor did Granma, which is named after the yacht that brought former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to the island from Mexico ... Read More

Fidel Castro lived like a king in Cuba, book claims

| May 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
The Guardian UK

Former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez writes that leader ran country like a cross between medieval overlord and Louis XV

By Kim Willsher

Fidel Castro lived like a king with his own private yacht, a luxury Caribbean island getaway complete with dolphins and a turtle farm, and travelled with two personal blood donors, a new book claims.

In La Vie Cachée de Fidel Castro (Fidel Castro’s Hidden Life), former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sánchez, a member of Castro’s elite inner circle, says the Cuban leader ran the country as his personal fiefdom like a cross between a medieval overlord and Louis XV.

Sánchez, who was part of Castro’s praetorian guard for 17 years, describes a charismatic and intelligent but manipulative, cold-blooded, egocentric Castro prone to foot-stamping temper tantrums. He claims the vast majority of Cubans were unaware their leader enjoyed a lifestyle beyond the dreams of many Cubans and at odds with the sacrifices he demanded of them.

“Contrary ... Read More

Disidentes cubanos expresan consternación por carta de personalidades

| May 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
DIARIO DE CUBA

Carta a Obama: La oposición interna cuestiona que no aborde los derechos humanos en la Isla.

Berta Soler, líder de las Damas de Blanco

“Si el Gobierno estadounidense levanta las restricciones o las suaviza, le dará oxígeno al Gobierno cubano para fortalecer y equipar su maquinaria represiva contra el pueblo de Cuba y los activistas de derechos humanos”.

“Dar oxígeno al Gobierno cubano sería dar la espalda al pueblo de Cuba. Este país no es de ocio ni de recreo, este es un pueblo que está hundido en el hambre y la necesidad por culpa de un Gobierno totalitario. Una mejoría de las relaciones bilaterales o una autorización de comercio entre Estados Unidos y Cuba va a beneficiar al Gobierno cubano, no al pueblo. Los cuentapropistas no se van a beneficiar en nada porque en Cuba lo que existe es un monopolio del Estado”.

“Con respecto al embargo, la posición de las Damas de ... Read More

Cuban Dissidents: ‘There seems to be obliviousness on how things work here’

| May 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
DIARIO DE CUBA

Letter to Obama: The domestic opposition questions why Obama does not address human rights abuses in Cuba

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White

“If the U.S. government lifted restrictions or softens them, it will give oxygen to the Cuban government to strengthen its repressive machinery against the people of Cuba and human rights activists.”

“Giving oxygen to the Cuban government would mean that the U.S. is turning its back on the Cuban people. This country is plunged into hunger and need because of a totalitarian government. An improvement of bilateral relations or authorization of trade between the U.S. and Cuba will benefit the Cuban government, not the Cuban people. Self-employed people would not benefit either, because in Cuba there is a state monopoly.”

“With regard to the embargo, the position of the Ladies in White is that it should be strengthened. No oxygen to the Cuban government, no diplomatic overtures, because this ... Read More

Cuba Mobile Email Experiment Causes Chaos

| May 19th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

On an island where most people have no Internet access, the arrival of mobile phone email service was embraced with joy.

Tens of thousands of Cubans began emailing like crazy in March — for days, until the service started to fail, taking much of Cuba’s already shaky voice and text-messaging mobile service down with it

The island’s aging cellphone towers became swamped by the new flood of email traffic, creating havoc for anyone trying to use the system. Users had to make eight or nine attempts to successfully send an email. Even voice calls by non-subscribers’ began to drop mid-conversation. Callers sounded like they were phoning from the bottom of the sea. Ordinary text messages arrived days late, or not at all.

Since then, the state telecom monopoly Etecsa has issued a rare apology and the troubles have eased. But problems with the service, dubbed Nauta, offer ... Read More

New arrest in case of money laundering to Cuba

| May 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

Jay Weaver and Juan O. Tamayo

A Miami man has been arrested in an unprecedented money-laundering case that alleges some part of $238 million gained from Medicare fraud was secretly pumped into the Cuban banking system.Eduardo Perez de Morales, 26, was arrested by FBI agents Monday on one charge of conspiring with his fugitive brother, Jorge Emilio Perez de Morales, who owned an offshore remittance company, Caribbean Transfers.

The company is suspected of bankrolling a Florida check-cashing business that prosecutors say cashed checks for Medicare fraud offenders and transferred the dirty dollars through Canada to Cuba.

Jorge Emilio Perez de Morales, who owns a seaside home in Havana, is wanted by the FBI and was last reported to be living in Cuba. Charged in 2012, he also could be in the Dominican Republic, Mexico or Spain, authorities said.

The revised indictment now charging his brother alleges that as much as $238 million in stolen ... Read More

The Last Communist City

| May 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
City Journal

By MICHAEL J. TOTTEN

Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 science-fiction film Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, takes place in Los Angeles, circa 2154. The wealthy have moved into an orbiting luxury satellite—the Elysium of the title—while the wretched majority of humans remain in squalor on Earth. The film works passably as an allegory for its director’s native South Africa, where racial apartheid was enforced for nearly 50 years, but it’s a rather cartoonish vision of the American future. Some critics panned the film for pushing a socialist message. Elysium’s dystopian world, however, is a near-perfect metaphor for an actually existing socialist nation just 90 miles from Florida.

I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba—not because I’m nostalgic for a botched utopian fantasy but because I wanted to experience Communism firsthand. When I finally got my chance several months ago, I was startled to discover how much the Cuban reality lines up with Blomkamp’s dystopia. In Cuba, ... Read More

U.S. academics say Cuban reforms not going well

| May 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Juan O. Tamayo

Cuban government efforts to open its doors to more private enterprise cut state payrolls and lure foreign investors face a string of restrictions and complications, several U.S. academics said during a seminar Saturday in Coral Gables.

The island’s communist government “has a love-hate relationship with the private sector,” said Mario Gonzalez-Corzo, a Cuban-born professor at the City University of New York.

Ruler Raúl Castro has been allowing more private economic activities in hopes of jump-starting a Soviet-style economy since he succeeded brother Fidel Castro, temporarily in 2006 and then officially in 2008.

But while up to 485,000 Cubans are reported to be licensed to work in low value-added jobs such as tailors and seamstresses, there are many constraints, Gonzalez-Corzo told the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS).

An “onerous tax system” piles “taxes upon taxes upon taxes” that make it difficult for the new micro-enterprises and ... Read More

Raul Castro’s reforms fail to end Cuba’s chronic shortages

| May 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

May 9 (Reuters) – In a land where the potato is scarce, black marketeers peddle tubers in hushed tones, like drug dealers on a big city street corner. A months-long reduction in the beer supply has made Cubans cranky. Worse still, some lovers have struggled to find condoms.

Despite market-oriented reforms enacted by President Raul Castro, the communist-run country still encounters chronic shortages.

Some reforms have led to a boom in food production, but other measures such as reducing imports and cracking down on the black market may be aggravating the shortfalls.

Shortages are inevitable in a Soviet-style, command economy, and in Cuba’s case it has been made worse by the comprehensive U.S. trade embargo imposed in the early years after the 1959 revolution.

Many Cubans have come to consider shortages normal, providing both a source of frustration and humor. Shoppers routinely swap tips on where to find the basic and the obscure. Others trudge ... Read More

Raul Castro’s reforms fail to end Cuba’s chronic shortages

| May 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

May 9 (Reuters) – In a land where the potato is scarce, black marketeers peddle tubers in hushed tones, like drug dealers on a big city street corner. A months-long reduction in the beer supply has made Cubans cranky. Worse still, some lovers have struggled to find condoms.

Despite market-oriented reforms enacted by President Raul Castro, the communist-run country still encounters chronic shortages.

Some reforms have led to a boom in food production, but other measures such as reducing imports and cracking down on the black market may be aggravating the shortfalls.

Shortages are inevitable in a Soviet-style, command economy, and in Cuba’s case it has been made worse by the comprehensive U.S. trade embargo imposed in the early years after the 1959 revolution.

Many Cubans have come to consider shortages normal, providing both a source of frustration and humor. Shoppers routinely swap tips on where to find the basic and the obscure. Others trudge ... Read More

Costa Rica’s foreign minister accuses Russia of helping militarize Nicaragua

| May 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
Tico Times

Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo, who leaves office this week, expressed concern that Nicaragua is building up its military with the help of Russia. However, he said he is optimistic about pending cases before the International Court of Justice at The Hague concerning border conflicts with Costa Rica’s northern neighbor.

“Russia is facilitating armaments for Nicaragua, [including] ships, and they have discussed the purchase of aircraft and other types of armaments. I fear trouble,” Castillo said in an interview with the daily La Nación, published Sunday.

According to Castillo, San José’s problems with Managua aren’t limited to border disputes, and “Nicaragua is arming itself and entering a relationship with Russia of military dependence.”

Russia “announced the desire to have bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, with the euphemistic name of ‘bases for refueling and resupplying’ for its ships. But we know it’s not just about that,” Castillo said.

Castillo will be replaced in ... Read More

A Dutch Guerillera: The Foreign Face of FARC’s Civil War

| May 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Spiegel Online

By Jonathan Stock

Until recently, there had long been only two possible fates awaiting Tanja Nijmeijer: a grave in the Colombian jungle or a cell in an American maximum-security prison. Nijmeijer has never had any doubts as to which option she would prefer. “I will die in the jungle,” she says.

Nijmeijer is wanted by Interpol for three cases of kidnapping, the use of a firearm during a violent crime and supporting a terrorist organization.

On this afternoon, she arrives a few minutes late to our agreed meeting place, a large hotel in the Cuban capital of Havana. Behind the tinted windows of the hotel lobby, we see her walking up the driveway. Her back is bent and she walks slowly, accompanied by a bodyguard from the Colombian guerilla group FARC, of which she is a member. Perhaps his job is to protect her, or perhaps it is to make sure that she ... Read More

Canadian parliament member warns Cuba investors

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Juan O. Tamayo jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A senior Canadian parliament member has taken a punch at Cuba’s new foreign investment law, saying that one of his constituents has been jailed on the island since 2011 without trial and has been offered leniency if he pays questionable debts.“The international financial community should ponder long and hard the investment blandishments of Cuban ministers, diplomats and trade officials,” said Peter Kent, chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee.

“Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes” of those officials, Kent added, going on to detail the case of his constituent, Cy Tokmakjian, one of several foreign businessmen jailed in Cuba on what they say are fraudulent corruption charges.

Tokmakjian, 73, a Canadian citizen of Lebanese descent, is president of Tokmakjian Group, at one point the second largest Canadian firm operating in Cuba. He has been jailed since Sept. 10, 2011 for investigation by Interior Ministry officials.

Kent described ... Read More

Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

By Peter Kent

If word out of Havana is to believed — relayed aggressively in recent weeks by Cuban diplomats and trade emissaries to major investors in financial centers around the world — a new day of investment opportunities is dawning in the cash-strapped communist state.

The sales pitch is driven by a set of new laws passed last month by the Cuban National Assembly.

The legislation provides for steep tax cuts and tax exemptions. There are a range of new guarantees of investment security.

In short, Cuba is open for business and safe for foreign investors.

Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes of the Cuban trade officials and diplomats. One example, of many:

Since September 10, 2011 a Canadian citizen, Cy Tokmakjian, President and CEO of the Tokmakjian Group of Companies, has been detained by Cuban authorities.

He is one of dozens of Cuban and foreign business executives scooped by anti-corruption investigators of the Cuban ... Read More

Cuba’s Raul Castro receives Russian foreign minister

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Cuban President Raul Castro and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday in Havana to review bilateral relations, Cuba’s official media said.

The two men “noted with satisfaction the excellent state of their bilateral relations, in constant development and with a promising future,” state news agency AIN said.

The Cuban president and the Russian foreign minister also exchanged opinions on current international affairs.

The meeting took place after Lavrov had official talks Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez as part of a tour of Latin America, with Cuba as its first stop.

The tour will also take him to Nicaragua, Peru and Chile.

Speaking at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Lavrov spoke of the “brotherhood” existing between Havana and Moscow, and expressed gratitude for the island’s understanding and “stout” support of Russia with regard to the crisis in Ukraine.

Besides the meetings with Cuban dignitaries, his agenda in Havana also includes a review of the bilateral ... Read More

Easter No. 3 for a Prisoner of Castro

| April 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

Bearing witness to Cuba’s political persecution costs Sonia Garro her freedom.

BY MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Christians the world over celebrated the resurrection of their savior on Sunday with worship services and family gatherings. Thirty-eight-year-old Sonia Garro shares the faith too, but she spent the holiday in a Cuban dungeon as a prisoner of conscience, just as she has for the past two years.

Ms. Garro is a member of the Christian dissident group Ladies in White, started in Havana in 2003 by sisters, wives and mothers of political prisoners to peacefully protest the unjust incarceration of their loved ones. It has since expanded to other parts of the country and added many recruits. The group’s growing popularity has worried the Castros, and they have responded with increasing brutality.

Cuba’s military government wants us to believe that the Brothers Fidel and Raul Castro are “reforming.” To buy that line you have to pretend that Ms. ... Read More

What’s been the fallout from the ‘Cuban Twitter’ revelations?

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Inter-American Dialogue

Q: The U.S. Agency for International Development created and operated “ZunZuneo,” a communications network similar to Twitter that had the aim of destabilizing the Cuban government, the Associated Press reported on April 3. USAID responded by saying the purpose of the program was “to create a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves, period,” while the White House denied that it was a covert program. How much of an impact will the revelations have on U.S.-Cuban relations? What does the controversy mean for bilateral issues such as the imprisonment in Cuba of former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross? Are social media programs such as these a good use of USAID funding and the U.S. government’s resources?

A: Roger Noriega, managing director of Vision Americas LLC, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs: “Most conversations about U.S. policy toward Cuba involve ... Read More

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