Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cuba, Venezuela: Top Latin Economies in 2005

As we reach a very interesting House vote on CAFTA, we are being told all sorts of lies: that labor and environmental conditions in Central America are not a concern (when censored reports show otherwise), that CAFTA is really about helping Central America, that this exchange is really "free" (when movement of people is excluded, as now are the crucial sugar and textile markets.

But I like focussing on the big questions. What happened to Latin America in the last 25 years that caused such widespread failure? ie. Does capitalism"work?" And are alternatives out there. Can Cuba and Venezuela actually be showing us the future, both economically and politically?

Yes indeed, Cuba and Venezuela (and China...) appear to be far ahead of their peers as far as their projected 2005 economic grownth. Fidel Castro has just reported that Cuba expects to hit 9 percent this year, and Venezuela is at 8%. Meanwhile NAFTA beneficiary Mexico is happy with their 4%, after 2 years at 1%.

Cuba has been helped by an increase in the price of Nickel, strong tourism, bilateral agreements and increased hard currency reserves since taking the dollar out of everyday use. Recent offshore oil finds have increased expectations even higher. In recent months The Government has increased the minimum wage and the pay of teachers and social workers... and even given away free rice cookers to everyone who wants one;) It seems Mr. Bush's attempts to strangle the economy further have failed.

Of course the island still faces many struggles, as Castro and Granma have been stressing lately - particularly since the devastating hurricane Dennis that sliced through the island a few weeks ago, causing blackouts. However Castro claimed that hundreds of millions in investments are being made now that will double the current electrical capacity of the country.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 158
Peter Kornbluh
Posted - June 29, 2005

Washington D.C. June 29, 2005 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sought to lift the ban on U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba in December 1963, according to declassified records posted today by the National Security Archive. In a December 12, 1963, memorandum to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Kennedy urged a quick decision "to withdraw the existing regulation prohibiting such trips."

Kennedy's memo, written less than a month after his brother's assassination in Dallas, communicated his position that the travel ban imposed by the Kennedy administration was a violation of American freedoms and impractical in terms of law enforcement. Among his "principal arguments" for removing the restrictions on travel to Cuba was that freedom to travel "is more consistent with our views as a free society and would contrast with such things as the Berlin Wall and Communist controls on such travel."

His memo prompted what senior National Security Council officials described as "an in-house fight to permit non-subversive Americans to travel to Cuba." Several State Department officials supported Kennedy's position that "the present travel restrictions are inconsistent with traditional American liberties," and that "it would be extremely difficult to enforce the present prohibitions on travel to Cuba without resorting to mass indictments." But in a December 13, 1963 meeting at the State Department, with no representatives present from the Attorney General's office, Undersecretary of State George Ball ruled out any relaxation of regulations on travel to Cuba.

A principal argument, as national security advisor McGeorge Bundy informed President Johnson in a subsequent memorandum on "Student Travel to Cuba" was that "a relaxation of U.S. restrictions would make it very difficult for us to urge Latin American governments to prevent their nationals from going to Cuba-where many would receive subversive training."

Instead of announcing a legalization of travel to Cuba, as the Attorney General had proposed, in late December the State Department issued a warning stating that "persons who may consider engaging in such travel should be on notice that if they do so, their passports will be withdrawn and they may be subject to criminal prosecution." The ban on travel was maintained until President Jimmy Carter lifted it in 1977; but restrictions were re-imposed during the Reagan administration and have been tightened further under the current administration.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cuba Blames U.S. for No Olympic Baseball

Chicago Tribune
Associated Press Writer

July 8, 2005, 11:42 AM CDT

HAVANA -- Cuba blamed the major leagues Friday for the sport being dropped from the 2012 Olympics.

Cuba has won three of the four gold medals since baseball was first played at the Olympics -- in 1992, 1996 and 2004. The United States won the gold in 2000, with Cuba getting the silver.

"Those who bear most of the blame are the owners of the professional leagues who refuse to free up their ballplayers to compete," Cuban Baseball Federation president Carlos Rodriguez told The Associated Press.

"It's a shame because this decision will disappoint millions of young people who practice and love this sport," Rodriguez added.

Softball also was dropped from the program for the London Games during a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Singapore. This was the first time the IOC eliminated any sports from the Summer Games in 69 years.

Rodriguez said Cuba would continue to make baseball a key part of its sports program because "it is the national sport, it is part of our culture."

Alexander Mayeta, the first baseman for Havana's Industriales team, called the decision to drop baseball "hard and unjust." He added that for a Cuban player, "the greatest pride is to be an Olympic champion."

"My dream has been to play in the Olympic finals," added Mayeta, who had 14 homers and hit .330 last season. "I'm going to train even harder, do everything possible to make sure Cuba gets to the 2008 Games. That gold medal is more important than ever. We cannot lose it."