Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cuba Debates its Future at Thousands of Local Meetings

Raul Castro, at the July 26th rally in Cienfuegos, where he criticized the island's economic problems and called for "structural reforms."

There have been a rash of articles in recent days waking up to the reality that Cubans are taking up the challenge of Raul Castro to "debate fearlessley" about issues related to "structural change." Probably the best piece is in Spanish, from El Pais. Mark Frank from Rueters, who wrote the piece below, also wrote somethingspecifically tied to changes in the agricultural sector, which has already begun.

Hard liners in Washington and Miami will never accept the results of these kinds of participatory processes because they occur within the system. Only change imposed from outside will meet their satisfaction. I beleive soe modest (to US eyes) economic changes will indeed come out of this process, however the more touchy political changes will wait until the US drops its aggressive attempts at regime change under the guise of some "transition." This will occur as a result of negotiation with the next democratic Administration. The timing and everything about this process, tells me this moment has been well planned and thought out.

Raul Castro launches Cuba-wide debate on future
Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:48pm EDT - Rueters
At workplaces and in neighborhoods across Cuba, people are complaining about the state of their country in a national debate on economic reform opened by acting President Raul Castro.

After years of economic crisis, Cubans are being asked to propose fixes in group discussions after Castro acknowledged in a keynote speech on July 26 that wages are too low and agriculture needs structural reforms to feed the country.

"People were expressing themselves like never before about all the problems in their lives," a Communist Party member said after attending a meeting. "Raul is raising everyone's expectations, so he better have some solutions."

Common complaints range from low wages, which average about $15 a month, and poor services to restrictions on killing your own cow, buying cars and booking rooms in hotels reserved for tourists.

"When the meeting started, nobody wanted to speak, but we were told to speak out frankly about the issues raised by Raul, and everything that affects us," said Lariza, who sells coffee to her fellow workers to supplement her salary.

Since "temporarily" taking charge of the Cuban government and the Communist Party from his ailing 81-year-old brother Fidel Castro a year ago, Raul Castro has repeatedly called for more debate and constructive criticism.

He also demanded studies from experts on reform proposals to raise productivity, including on the state's ownership of the economy, which exceeds 90 percent.

But it is not yet clear how far he plans to take reforms, and Fidel Castro pushed similar initiatives in the past.

"Grass-roots debate is not new in Cuba. There was a similar debate led by Fidel in the late 1980s and again in the mid-1990s," said Rafael Hernandez, editor of "Temas" (Issues), a magazine that for a decade has encouraged limited discussion of controversial issues from race relations to market economics.

The last issue focused on transitions in the former Soviet Union, China and other countries, and featured intellectuals, youth leaders and Cuban officials, many of whom said state control of the economy was not a prerequisite for socialism.

"What's new is that Fidel is less active and others need to build a new consensus as people are not responding to current policy," Hernandez said. "Cubans interpret Raul's call for structural change to mean deep changes in the model, not just a cosmetic change."

Continue reading the whole thing


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Radical Gives Bolivia Some Stability

As the United States continues to call Hugo Chavez a threat to regional stability, what they are really referring to is the election of like-minded bretheren like Evo Morales in Bolivia. But we know the truth is the US is not concerned about stability - as this NY Times article shows - it is concerned about the success of a model that successfully expropriated the profits of multinational oil companies for the benefit of the people.

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Sept. 14 — Evening newscasts speak of a country on the verge of balkanization. La Paz and Sucre dispute which city should be the capital. Santa Cruz, in the east, clamors for autonomy. The governor of the province encompassing this bustling city in the Andes has called on President Evo Morales to resign.

But Mr. Morales, the first Indian to govern Bolivia since the Spanish conquest almost five centuries ago, knows a thing or two about unrest, having organized protests for years as the leader of the country’s cocaleros, or coca cultivators, who fiercely resist American efforts to eradicate their crops.
For all the worries that Mr. Morales’s radicalism would create economic and political turmoil in Bolivia, the reality of his tenure is that the country is relatively stable. Social divisions and poverty remain entrenched, but Mr. Morales has surprised many, including some in the business community, with his staying power.

When asked about Bolivia’s problems, he replies with an economist’s precision. “One of the most ferocious debates in my cabinet is whether we should spend part of our foreign currency reserves,” he said, explaining how these reserves had more than doubled since he took office in January 2006, to about $4 billion. In a nod to economic orthodoxy, Mr. Morales said, “I don’t want to for now.”

Bolivia remains South America’s poorest country, with about 60 percent of the population of 9.1 million mired in poverty, making such debates crucial. Yet the results of one of Mr. Morales’s policies in particular — the nationalization of the petroleum industry last year — has surprised even skeptics.

Feared as a radical move, the nationalization was in effect a renegotiation of terms with foreign energy companies that have stayed in Bolivia, attracted by the country’s bountiful natural gas reserves. Revenue from oil and natural gas climbed to 13.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from 5 percent in 2004, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

That increase has placed Bolivia on its most enviable economic footing in years, with growth of about 4 percent expected this year. Economists also note that coca is lifting Bolivia’s economy, with traffic climbing to neighboring Brazil.

In a touch of irony, the urban upper classes, many of whose members remain explicitly critical of Mr. Morales, are benefiting from the newfound stability and economic vibrancy. With a cocalero in power, cocalero activists no longer shut down the main highway from Santa Cruz, enabling the province’s exports to reach important markets. Similarly, parts of the southern area of La Paz are prospering as builders rush to meet demand for comfortable apartment buildings. Here in Cochabamba, a new $6 million Cineplex, which seems plucked from suburban California, illustrates how investors are pouring money into new projects.
For now, Mr. Morales, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, seems at ease after attaining the highest approval ratings of any president in recent memory. He shoos away advisers and bodyguards, preferring to conduct the interview alone. He jokes about efforts to improve his swing in frontón, a sport similar to racquetball that is beloved by Bolivians.

“We’re creating another way of doing government, but it has not been easy,” Mr. Morales said in halting and carefully enunciated Spanish as the sun rose above Cochabamba. “The challenges seem to arise every day.”
Whole thing


Friday, September 14, 2007

Cuba, the Internet and Reporters without Borders

I have written before about this bogus internet report the US funded group Reporters Without Borders put out last year. I noted how, despite its obvious anti-Cuba slant, the report was notable because it contradicted the group's own previous statements (that the internet was "heavily censored"). The report concluded that Cuba allowed mostly unfettered access to Web sites, even those considered "subversive." Still the report needed a good smack down, which it (belatedly) receives here by the food folks at Global Research - a Canadian research center. Enjoy

By Salim Lamrani
Global Research, September 10, 2007

(I snipped out the beginning section of this report, which described the way that Reporters Without Borders intentionally mis-translated and twisted the words of Cuba Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes. That is small potatoes compared to the larger issues RSF is invovled in. They should be made to change their name, as not to libel the heroic groups Doctors Without Borders.)

The RSF “report” about the Internet in Cuba
In regards to the Internet in Cuba, “Reporters without Borders pointed out that Cuba’s delay on the matter of the Internet is a consequence, above all, of the wish of the government to control the circulation of information in its territory. With less then two Internet users per every 100 inhabitants, Cuba is among some of the most backwards countries on the matter of the Internet. It is by far the worst in Latin America – Costa Rica is 13 times better—and is at the level of Uganda or Sri Lanka” [9].

These claims of RSF aren’t derived from a meticulous and comparative study of Internet development throughout the world. No, it only deals with an arbitrary allegation which is not based on any research and which is completely disconnected from reality. No international organization has ever given such figures. Once again, RSF is content with rehashing the U.S. propaganda against the Caribbean archipelago.

A different reality
In Cuba close to 2 million children and adolescents have daily access to the Internet in their schools, all equipped with a computer classroom provided with the latest generation of materials. In Cuba, 146 schools exist in distant regions of the country at which only one student attends and all have a computer laboratory. There are also free community computer clubs in every municipality, used by thousands of people. One mere, ordinary question: if the Cuban government wishes “to control the circulation of information in its territory”, why would it spend several millions of dollars to universalize the access to computers and the Internet? [10].

RSF carefully minimizes the main constraint to development of the Internet in Cuba, which are the ruthless economic sanctions that the United States has imposed on the country’s population since 1960. Cuba couldn’t connect to the Internet until 1996 since before a clause from the economic blockade impeded having access to the international network controlled by the United States. But the Cuban access is conditional because of the Torricelli law, which stipulates that each megabit bought from a U.S. business, needs to have previous approval from the Department of the Treasury. All violators are subject to extremely harsh sanctions. Furthermore, it must be remembered that more than 80 percent of Internet traffic passes through U.S. servers [11].

On the other hand, the United States denies Cuba the use of its fiber optic submarine cable which surrounds the archipelago. Thus, the island is obliged to connect via satellite, which reduces the speed of communication and quadruples the price. For a small country from the Third World, isolated for close to half a century, the effects are not negligible. In the same way, Cuba is obliged to procure new technologies through third countries because of the economic sanctions, which substantially increases their price. Nor can it be forgotten that the United States produces close to 60% of the software of the world and that Microsoft controls the operating systems of 90% of the computers on the planet [12].

RSF deliberately censors this reality. How could it be otherwise with an organization financed by Washington through a CIA front group—the National Endowment for Democracy? Can one expect anything different from an entity that receives tens of thousands of dollars from the Cuban extreme right such as, for example, “ Center for a Free Cuba”, directed by Frank Calzón, the same former director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a terrorist organization responsible for numerous attacks against Cuba? [13]

RSF never has denounced the fact that Washington uses the Internet to inflict sanctions which can carry ten years of jail for its own citizens who commit the unpardonable crime of traveling to Cuba and who buy their ticket on the Internet. Several travel agencies who offer tourist packages to Cuba saw their Internet sites blocked in the United States. RSF never has been moved by such an attack on freedom of expression and never has condemned the economic sanctions against Cuba [14].

RSF’s other “objective report” about the Internet
On October 19, 2006, RSF published a “report” about the Internet in Cuba which “shows that the authorities deliberately impede access to the Internet.” Here the organization, which tries to be objective and apolitical, also doesn’t explain why the only country about which it issues a “report” – which stands out for its flimsiness—is Cuba. But the most interesting thing is that this same tendentious report, peppered with contradictions and manifest falsehoods, recognizes at the end that it is possible in Cuba to have “access to practically all the information sites,,, el Nuevo Herald (a daily newspaper from Miami [controlled by the extreme Batista right]) and includes the sites of the dissidents of the anti-Castro regime [15].

The report adds: “Tests carried out by Reporters without Borders show that the majority of the sites of the Cuban opposition, as well as those international human rights organizations are accessible by means of ‘international’ service. In China, by means of key words filters were installed on the Net, which makes it impossible, for example, to download pages which contain ‘subversive’ key words. The organization could ascertain, testing a series of prohibited terms in cybercafes, that this type of system is not installed in Cuba”. Nonetheless, RSF, doesn’t explain why it carries out such an obsessive campaign about the supposed censorship of the Internet in Cuba. [16]

The report is also full of crude accusations. “In Cuba, they can be sentenced for twenty years in prison for some ‘counterrevolutionary’ articles published on foreign sites and to five years for connecting to the Internet illegally”. RSF multiplies the lies: “The political dissidents and independent journalists in general aren’t authorized to go to the cybercafés”. Any person who has visited a cybercafé in Cuba absolutely knows that this is false. They don’t ask either name of address, only payment for the time that one spends on the Internet. [17]

RSF continues with the same tone and admits at the U.S. Interests Section (SINA) in Havana offers valuable help to the famous dissidents: “Many of them utilize, consequently, the twenty computers that are put at their disposal at the SINA […]. But a single visit to the premises of the American diplomacy is enough to be considered as an ‘enemy of the revolution.’” For RSF, the “American diplomacy” doesn’t welcome the opposition in order to subvert the established order and to overthrow the government. Only a disinterested and altruistic hand is offered to them. Washington is only defending democracy. Additionally, its activities throughout the word and the actions of Washington in Afghanistan and Iraq are irrefutable proof of that. [18]

In any country of the world, assiduously visiting the diplomats of a foreign power—that, in this specific case publicly stated on July 10, 2006, that it gave itself 18 months to overthrow the government—with the confessed objective of breaking the constitutional order is a synonym for treason and invites the most severe sanctions. In Cuba, the legendary “independent journalists” go each week to the offices of the SINA not to practice the job of press professionals but to conspire. Those individuals are not encouraged by great feelings in favor of freedom and democracy. The generous payments which Washington offers are their principal sources of motivation. Even now, the Cuban authorities have shown themselves to be a little indulgent. It would not be astonishing if in the future they decide to severely apply the law as was the case in March 2003 [19].

About this matter, RSF continues misleading public opinion and makes it believe that the persons arrested and sentenced to severe punishment in 2003 for conspiracy and for acting as agents of a foreign power are only “independent journalists.” It cites 24 when in reality only one is really a journalist (Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez). Additionally, these people were sentenced only for receiving financing from an enemy country and in no case for a speech that was contrary to the official line. To be persuaded of this, it’s enough to read the virulent statements against the revolutionary government that the famous dissidents make each week in the international press, without being bothered by the law. [20]

“The black holes of the Net”, according to RSF
On November 16, 2005, RSF published “its list of 15 enemies of the Internet,” on which were Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Myanmar, China, North Korean, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunis, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. Of course, Robert Menard’s organization didn’t indicate in any way the criteria he used for his selection [21].

A year after, in 2006, a new list with 13 countries was published in which Libya no longer appeared. The 2005 report, nonetheless, was overwhelming: “Unfortunately, in one country that doesn’t tolerate any independent press, it might have been overwhelming that the Net will develop without obstacles. Thus, the sites of the dissident Libyans in exile are systematically blocked by means of filters installed by the power. More seriously, the authorities now harshly attack dissident cybernauts.”[22]

The 2006 report is the opposite of that of 2005. “After one mission in the country, Reporters without Borders could affirm that the Libyan Internet no longer was censured”, affirmed the organization, without any other explanation and without publishing another report. What happened in one year in order that RSF radically changes its opinion with regards to Libya? Perhaps Moamer Kadhafi has become a great democrat? Or simply normalized his relations with Washington and now forms part of the Bush administration’s allies? Will it now be the reason it can receive good marks on behalf of RSF? [23]

Thus, the classification of RSF isn’t more then a farce. The work of the Parisian organization don’t have anything to do with freedom of the press but that it is above all an ideological war at the services of its landlords who are the United States, among others.

The report of OpenNet Iniciative
The “OpenNet Initative,” sponsored by the very conservative universities Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and Toronto, function as an observatory of freedom of expression on the Internet. According to this group, 13% of the cybernauts of the world are not free to navigate on the Net. In other words, 146 million people. The “OpenNet Initiative” established a list of 9 repressive countries that limit Internet access and repress cybernauts. It includes China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Iran Uzbekistan, Tunis, Vietnam and Yemen. Cuba isn’t on the list [24].

The foundation later established a list of 22 other countries where different degrees of control exist, among which are found the United Kingdom at the rank of 16, France at 17, Canada at 18, United States at 19 and Cuba only at 20[25].

Even more interesting, the “OpenNet Initiative” details the obstacles imposed on Internet access. For example, the United Kingdom filters some contents, according to the British government, to remove the spread of child pornography. With regards to France, the administration filters “without any legal ruling” the contents of the extreme right. For Canada, control and filters exist at colleges and public libraries. Finally, for Cuba, it is only the cost of the connection for individuals that is “prohibitive” [26].

The foundation doesn’t point out any instance of control or filters imposed by the Cuban state. It emphasizes “on the other hand Cubans have complete access to the national Intranet. Preliminary tests indicate that very few web sites are blocked.” The only blocked Internet site is, according to “OpenNet Initiative”, that of the terrorist organization in Florida, “Brothers to the Rescue”. Therefore, the main reason for Internet access restrictions is none other than the U.S. government itself which imposes sanctions on the country and impedes the technological development of the nation [27]

RSF continues with its propaganda war against Cuba and tries to deceive public opinion about the reality of this isolated island. It remains faithful to the bellicose agenda of the Bush administration against the Cuban people since Washington knows how to reward its servants.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cuba's Young Rebels (Juventud Rebelde) Redefine Cuban Press

Most good intentioned Americans probably think there is no possibility that a brutily critical and honest article about the failings of the Cuban system could appear in the Cuban mass press. They have not been paying attention this past year to the erstwhile #2 newspaper Juventud Rebelde. Just check the title of the latest missive (part 1) surveying the peculiarities of Cuban commercial life:

Maintaining Momentum: The Challenge of Follow-through in Cuban Society (I)
"It’s easier to unravel the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle than to discover how to maintain quality and enthusiasm around initiatives that we undertake," said Havana resident Raymundo González. She took part in an opinion poll carried out by Juventud Rebelde with some 200 Havana residents.

This lack of perseverance is an evil that still doesn't seem still to have a cure, and that frequently filters down into the core of Cuban society.

Coming up with a diagnosis of this "illness" turned out to be a challenge worthy of Dr. House; in fact, one of the interviewees preferred to talk about what Cubans are able to do consistently, because otherwise he’d be talking for hours about programs that peter out and fail.

The French-built cross country train ceased being the best example of rail transport
The French train was one of the examples mentioned. The special service debuted in 2001; assuring riders their money back should the train arrive late at its destination —crossing the country between Havana and Santiago de Cuba— in addition to offering comfort.

"With this new option, for a few years we felt relief from the troublesome delays of the other trains, the rank odors of their bathrooms and the sorry condition of the cars... but like saying goes, 'happiness in a poor person´s house doesn’t last long,' said Raúl Álvarez, of the municipality of San Miguel del Padron.

The lateness of the trains began to become more frequent. After five years of service, they have stopped being the model of railroad travel that they used to be – and the money-back guarantee has been eliminated.

Raysa Vega, from Havana Province, noted that another of the offenses were local taco stands throughout Havana, where the celebrated Mexican tortillas were offered. They once appeared on several main streets in the capital city, but now there isn’t a single stand.

Yuselys Silveira, from Havana’s Playa neighborhood, recalled a phrase that always comes to her mind: "Let’s see how long that lasts." She has been disappointed time and again with repairs made to buildings to which the country has made significant investments in their rehabilitation, only to find problems resurfacing within a short time....

The whole thing continues like that. If there is any such withering criticism in any US mass newspaper please show me. Here is another JR classic from October 2006 explaining why Cubans sometimes are compelled to swindle their work place. I'm sure most Americans are unfamiliar with the notion....

Oh, and yes, Cubans love the show House apparently....

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Miami Newspaper Allows Cuban Terrorist to Write Editorial

Orlando Bosch, when asked about a plan he blew up with 77 innocents inside said, "We were at war with Castro, and in war, everything is valid.”

Notorious Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch was given a platform in the "respectable" Diario Las Américas - a rag that can be found in all Latin American airport sand Mariott hotels. Bosch should not need an introduction as he is the Western Hemisphere's Bin Laden - known for being arrested for shooting a bazooka at a Polish freighter, for bragging about downing an airplane killing 77 and for killing a Chilean diplomat on the streets of Washington DC.

Like Posada, Bosch is a free man - pardoned by Bush's dad for his handiwork. His presence shows how the CIA runs America. For el Diaro to print the words of a cold hearted killer like Bosch is sickening. His career puts Posada Carriles to shame...

Write them and tell them they are an affront to American values and should pack up and go back to Cuba.

Diario Las Américas
Por la Libertad, la Cultura y la Solidaridad Hemisférica

2900 N.W. 39 St.
Miami, FL 33142
Estados Unidos

Central Teléfónica: 305-633-3341
No. de fascímil: 305-635-7668