Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 14 • April 15-30, 2006
Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. Items in this issue are based on reports from PRIMA News Agency, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Maiali, Lux Info Press, RIA Novosti, Vostok-Media, Gazeta.ru, Le Monde, NTV, APK-Inform, Lenta.RU, Interfax, Abdala Press, Charter-97, IRNA, Iran.Ru, REGNUM, Associated Press, RBK-Ukraine, “Belorussky Partizan.”
Independent Library Opened on the Isle of Pines
Nueva Gerona, Isla de Pinos. An independent library has been opened recently in Nueva Gerona, the administrative center of the Isle of Pines (Pinos). The new library is called the January 28 Library and is located at House #103, 22nd Street in the municipality of Sierra de Caballo, in Nueva Gerona. It has 252 books on history, economics, politics and literature.
Its director, Noel DelaPhena Rivera said, “We have committed ourselves to ensure uncensored reading for people living on the Isle of Pines, taking into account the demand for alternative information to which all of us on this big island have no access.”
Talking by phone to LuxInfo Press, Carlos Alberto Oyarce, coordinator of the Miami-based Independent Library Project in exile, said that there are now 152 independent libraries on the Cuban archipelago, including 18 in Pinar del Rio, 21 in Havana City, 8 in Havana province, 7 in Matanzas, 5 in Cienfuegos, 24 inVilla Clara, 4 in Santi Spiritu, 3 in Ciego de Avila, 12 in Camaguey, 9 in Las Tunas, 9 in Holguin, 12 in Santiago de Cuba, 4 in Granma, 4 in Guantanamo, 12 on the Isle of Pines.
Anti-Government Graffiti Appear in Santiago de Cuba
Havana. Anti-government graffiti saying “Down with Fidel” and “Down with the Dictatorship” appeared in Santiago de Cuba. Independent journalist Guillermo Espinosa Rodríguez said he saw the graffiti on March 29 on San Pío Street. He said the authorities immediately tried to remove the graffiti. But the messages got “even clearer” after the cleansing. Espinosa Rodríguez said several dissidents were subsequently arrested on suspicion of being the authors of the graffiti.
Advisor to Dissident Movement Found Innocent
Havana. Independent journalist Julio Aleaga Pesant, who is an advisor to the Cuban Liberal Movement, was found not guilty of lascivious behavior. He had been held since March 31 by the national police at a station in the capital’s Vedado district. According to Aleaga Pesant’s wife, police came to their home, seized a computer and documents, and took her husband to the station. The charge of lewdness was brought against Aleaga Pesant by a model accusing him of placing her photo on a web site, although what was on the photo was not made clear. When the prosecutor was unable to prove the charge, the judge dropped the case.
Journalist Threatened with Arrest under Law 88
Havana. Ana Leonor Díaz Chamizo director of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro independent news agency, was detained by police on March 25 and taken to a police station in the municipality of Cerro in Havana. Police threatened to apply Law 88, which defines “enemies” of Cuban independence. “They warned me not to continue writing,” she said afterwards. According to the journalist, they threatened reprisals against her family. Díaz Chamizo worked for the official Prensa Latina news agency in Washington and New York before quiting in 2000 to become an independent journalist.
Dissident Accused of Being Responsible for Anti-Government Graffiti
Havana. Dissident Miguel Ángel López Herrera has been detained by State Security agents in Guantánamo and accused of being the author of anti-government graffiti which appeared on the walls of the state library in 2005. Marielis Castro, a delegate of the dissident November 30 Frank País Democratic Party, said López Herrera was questioned by officer Juan González, who told him that “revolutionary people” were indignant about seeing graffiti calling for the release of political prisoners. According to the same source, López Herrera lost his post as a professor of computer sciences because of the graffiti incident.
Dissident under House Arrest in Mazanillo
Havana. Alberto Moreno Fonseca, president of the Farm Workers Party (POC), says State Security is keeping him prisoner in his home in the municipality of Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, where the dissident party is based. Moreno Fonseca said he was detained on April 3 at the railway station as he was awaiting a train to Havana and threatened with jail under the Danger to Society Law because he was unemployed. “It was they who had me thrown out from my job,” he said. Moreno Fonseca, 56, said he was now not allowed to leave his home on Mercedes Street.
Independent Journalist Roberto Santana Rodríguez Summoned by Police
Havana. Independent journalist Roberto Santana Rodríguez was summoned by State Security officials for questioning. They told him this was his last chance to give up independent journalism or face a prison term. It is the second time in less than two months that Santana Rodríguez, 38, has been threatened under Law 88 which, among other things, makes contacts with foreign governments a punishable offence. Before becoming an independent journalist in 2004, Santana Rodríguez was a chess teacher, but he lost his job because of his political views.
More than 100 Demonstrate Outside Dissident’s Home
Ciego de Avila. More than one hundred people gathered outside the home of Apolinar Borroto, 63, and shouted pro-government slogans. Borroto is president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights in the municipality of Jatibonico in Sancti Spíritus province. Independent journalist Luís Esteban Espinosa said the pro-government group was led by Silvia Pérez Castañeda, president of the local Revolutionary Defense committee, in shouts of “Down with Imperialism,” “Terrorist,” and “Mercenary!” Borroto’s home was also the site of an anti-government demonstration on the third anniversary of the arrest and sentencing of 75 dissidents.
True Face of Cuba
Pinar del Rio. Rafael Ferro Salas, Abdala Press. Cuban prisons remain full of political prisoners and repression against dissidents, opponents of the regime, independent journalists and correspondents is increasing as indicated by recent detentions and threats carried out by the State Security against members of the opposition on the eve of the third anniversary of the March 2003 wave of repression.
In the municipality of Consolación del Sur in Pinar del Rio province, the house of Felipe Gil Sanjudo, a correspondent of Abdala Press agency, was visited by two State Security agents and the chief of the local police branch. They threatened to jail Sanjudo if he participated in the events commemorating the anniversary. They also told him they wouldn’t allow him to travel to the city of Pinar del Rio.
“Surely, they knew I was going to participate in an event organized by FLAMUR (Federation of Latin American Rural Women) to be held in Pinar del Rio. They prohibited me from leaving my home so I wouldn’t be at the meeting. I couldn’t go, but the activity happened and that’s enough for me to feel satisfied,” Sanjudo said.
In the same city of Pinar del Rio, Abigail Ortega Beltrán, director of the Polo Montañez independent library, was visited at his home by an official known as Beune. “The official came to my house on the day of the function and threatened to jail me if he found out I was at the meeting,” Ortega said by phone. “I told him I would go and that’s what I did. Now I don’t know what his reaction will be. What mattered to me was to be present there. There’s no reason to jail me for doing that, it’s my human right. It’s good that these things happening to us dissidents in Cuba are being made known to the world.”
Despite detentions and threats, the majority of the opposition parties and organizations on the island carried out the commemoration meetings around March 18, 2003, the day that Cuban political police carried out a crackdown against dissidents, opponents, and independent journalists. After days of detentions and searches of the homes of those involved, seventy-five persons were tried in court and sentenced to long prison terms.
Since then, on March 18, the opposition parties and organizations commemorate the date, facing harassment from the political police. The police forces deploy the so-called rapid response brigades made up of collaborators with the system who provide support during crackdowns against dissidents. Some opponents of the regime have been physically attacked by these mobs.
In the eastern part of the island, in the town of San Luis in Santiago de Cuba province, Maura Isset and her husband were assaulted in their own home. The attackers verbally insulted their victims for belonging to the dissident movement. Isset is affiliated with the Federation of Latin American Rural Women (FLAMUR).
Three years after March 18, 2003, the prisoners continue to be incarcerated in inhuman conditions of overcrowding, while in the street the struggle between the regime and its adversaries has been going on. This is the true face of Cuba.
Dissidents Forbidden to Travel to the Cuban Capital
Havana. Two dissidents from Santiago de Cuba were stopped by police and told they were in the capital illegally since they did not have documents authorizing their visit. Ángel Leonardo Mora Baltasar and Jordanis Camacho Marcel told the police that they were in the city to visit relatives. “My sister is going to be operated on,” Mora Baltasar explained, while Camacho said he was going to visit a relative he had not seen for a long time. “That’s not the way it works,” a police officer replied. “You have to carry a transit document signed by the municipality where you live in order to come to Havana from Santiago de Cuba.” Mora Baltazar and Camacho are members of the dissident National Council for Transition to Democracy.
President of Association for the Deaf Arrested
Ciego de Avila. Yoandy Quintana Sarría, president of the Independent Association of the Deaf, said he had been forcefully arrested by the police. Quintana Sarría, 22, who is deaf himself, said he was fined 500 pesos --- a little more than the monthly average salary in Cuba --- and threatened with a 4-year prison term. He did not say under which charges he was fined or threatened. The arrest occurred on April 6 and was carried out by officers of the National Revolutionary Police, who were in a police cruiser. Quintana Sarría said they also confiscated two bicycle tires he owned.
Police Arrest Dissident and Search His Home
Havana. A dozen policemen visited one night the home of Alberto Michel Martínez Llerena, an activist of the November 30 Frank País Democratic Party, and spent an hour searching the house where he lived with his parents. Also residing in the home are his sister, Raiza Martínez Llerena, who is party secretary, and her husband, Raivel Sánchez Calvo, also an activist of the party. One of the police officers told Martinez’s parents that he was suspected of a car theft. The police seized various agricultural implements used by his father, who cultivates a small plot of land.
Dissident Sentenced to One Year for Resistance
Havana. Alexander Hernández Rico, member of the Neo-Catholic Party of Cuba, has been sentenced to a year of forced labor for the crime of resistance. Another dissident, Miguel Alvarado Marrero, said Hernández Rico was arrested after a fellow bus passenger reported he was making anti-government remarks during a bus ride. Hernández Rico was also fined 30 pesos. He will serve his sentence in the Inocencio correctional institution in the small town of Carretera de Camacho, the municipality of Batabanó, Havana province.
Man Loses Job as Elevator Operator Because of His Political Views
Matanzas. The government’s housing authority refused to employ Rafael Moreno Rodríguez as an elevator operator when it learned he was a political dissident. Moreno, 41, showed up to start work as an elevator operator in the building in which he lives only to be told by the dministration that a hire contract he had signed was no longer in force. He was told he didn’t meet government requirements for the job. “It was obviously a political move since I don’t share the official ideology,” Moreno said. Moreno is a delegate of the Alternative Option Independent Movement in the municipality of Matanzas.
Prison Officials Try to “Reeducate” Independent Journalist
Ciego de Ávila. Imprisoned independent journalist Normando Hernández González said he was thrown down a flight of stairs by the “reeducator” of the Kilo 5 prison, where he’s serving a 25-year sentence. Hernández González told the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights in a telephone call that his “reeducator,” Reinier Armenteros Pulgarón, twisted his arm, threw him down the stairs, and dragged him to solitary confinement when he refused to accept reeducation. He said he shouted “Down with the tyranny of Fidel Castro” and “Long live human rights” as he was being dragged to the cell. The prisoner’s wife, Yaraí Reyes Marín, said the incident took place on March 28 and that her husband was held in solitary confinement for seven hours.
Political Prisoner Fears Conjugal Visits Being Taped
Camaguey. Political prisoner René Montes de Oca Martija says possibly there are hidden microphones and tape recorders recording conjugal visits by his wife to the Cerámica Roja prison where he’s being held. In a note smuggled out of the prison, he said that a confidential source told him that his wife, Esther Germán Valdés, had requested an appointment for her next visit but was told space was unavailable on the requested day. “The source confirmed that this was a pretext to gain time to install the microphones,” Montes de Oca Martija said. “This is a violation of my privacy and an act against human dignity.” Montes de Oca is general secretary of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party.
Wife and Sister of Jailed Journalist Strip Searched
Ciego de Avila. Lidia Lores and her sister-in-law, Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente, said they were forced to completely disrobe and undergo a body search before being permitted to visit Lores’s imprisoned husband, independent journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente. The incident took place on March 29 at the Guayabo prison on the Isle of Pines, where the journalist is serving a 20-year sentence meted out in 2003. Prieto Llorente’s wife has urged the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights to report that she and her husband’s sister had been subjected to body searches. “I’m prepared to endure this humiliation and many others that they’re capable of influcting in an attempt to prevent me from seeing my brother,” Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente stressed.
Prisoner Put in Solitary Confinement Because of His Wife Illness
Camaguey. Political prisoner Orencio Rafael Guerra Ramírez was placed in solitary confinement after demanding medical attention for his wife, who lost consciousness after falling ill during a visit to the Cerámica Roja prison, according to a note smuggled out of the prison by fellow prisonser René Montes de Oca Martija, the general secretary of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party.
The incident occurred on April 9. When Guerra Ramírez failed to revive his wife, Quirenia Padrón Pérez, he asked State Security agents to take her to the prison’s infirmary or to a hospital. When arrangements were made to move her to a hospital, the prisoner was told that the only available means of transportation was a cart pulled by a pair of oxen that was used to haul garbage from the prison. Guerra Ramírez started to shout anti-government slogans and was taken to a solitary confinement cell. Hours later his wife was taken to the Amalia Simoni hospital but the type of transportation used is not reported.
Independent Librarian Harassed by Police
Pinar del Rio. Abigail Ortega Beltrán was detained by the Cuban political police on the main street of this city and was taken to the provincial police’s station for interrogation. Ortega, who runs the independent Polo Montañez library, said that after he was freed, “They interrogated me for two hours and threatened me for my status as an independent librarian. They told me that if I meet with people who oppose the government, they would put me on trial and I could go to prison. I told them I wasn’t committing any crime by meeting with whomever I wanted inside my home. They paid no attention to my protest and drew up a caution certificate.”
Previously, Ortega’s home had been surrounded by members of the so-called rapid response brigades. While meeting a group of librarians in his house, where his library is located, Beltrán said “We heard people shouting at my doorstep and decided to go out to see what was going on. They were verbally assaulting us, calling us ‘worms’ and ‘counterrevolutionaries.’ They had no right to say those things to us. We’re peaceful and don’t bother anyone. The Independent Libraries Project is healthy.”
Ortega Beltrán’s house was also visited by two police officers who identified themselves as Lázaro and Beune. They searched the house and confiscated books and documents belonging to the independent librarian. “They told me the justification for the search was that the books I had were subversive propaganda and they were going to close the library. That means that without any kind of order or law they threatened to throw me out of my house, since the library is my own house, it’s something absurd,” Ortega held. The Independent Libraries Project is considered illegal in Cuba and its members are threatened and persecuted by the authorities on the island
Day of Socialist Revolution
April 17 is a big holiday in Cuba, the Day of Socialist Revolution. On April 17, 1961 an invasion force of 1,500 Cuban emigrants, trained by the U.S. to overthrow the Castro regime, was roundly defeated. It was the day Fidel Castro announced that Cuba was taking the path of socialism.
Undercover Agent Manuel David Orrio Reappears on the Internet
Havana. Manuel David Orrio, whose testimony in 2003 helped sentence fellow independent journalists to prison terms, has been seen in public and his writings now appear on a web site. Orrio, a State Security agent who had posed as a journalist for 12 years, was spotted by an independent journalist in a car in Havana. His writings have appeared on www.insurgente.org, a site supporting and defending the Cuban government. Orrio was the key witness in a trial in April of 2003 against 27 journalists who were among the 75 dissidents arrested a month earlier and charged with crimes against the state.
Two Policemen Go on Trial for Extortion and Bribe-Taking
Matanzas. Two officers from the police patrol service were placed on trial on corruption charges after it became known to the department for police personnel security that they had received a bribe from a man carrying onions to Havana. The two, Ivan Romero Roque and Pedro Elian, could be sentenced to 8 to 20 years in prison.
Patrolling their allotted beat in police car No. 320, the two officers halted a truck going to Havana with a load of onion. The truck driver did not have a required permit from the municipal authorities of Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos province. The two police officers are alleged to have taken a bribe from the driver to let him proceed further.
How the department for police personnel security learned about the incident remains unclear, however it immediately ordered the police offenders arrested. Their trial was held on April 17. Police officer Romero pled not guilty, while officer Elian admitted his guilt and said the charges were valid.
Customs Officials Extort Bribes from Visiting Cuban Exiles
Havana. Cubans living abroad are being subjected to extortion by customs officers when they arrive at Havana’s international airport. The customs officers normally resort to two tricks to extort money. A customs official rummages through a passenger’s luggage until he spots some questionable items. Then he says in a sweet voice, “Won’t you have something for us?” It is said their fee is $40 at the very least. The second way is more subtle. An inspector winks at a new arrival, approaches him and says he is ready to turn the blind eye on some breach of rules, like say, excessive luggage, should the traveler pay him $200. If the passenger is not willing to cooperate, the inspector might call a policeman and repeat the customs check for prohibited items.
Despite frequent complaints of Cuban exiles visiting the island and the Cuban government’s ongoing campaigns to eradicate corruption, the extortion continues.
47 Years Ago Fidel Castro Visited the U.S.
On April 15 forty-seven years ago, the Republic of Cuba’s new prime minister, Fidel Castro, came to the United States on an 11-day goodwill visit. He charmed Americans, saying that Cuba supported a mutual defense treaty and promising to keep the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo. There was much applause when he publicly denied the Communist leanings of the new Cuban leadership.
Mikhail Kalashnikov to Visit Cuba Soon
The legendary Russian designer of the assault rifle bearing his name, Mikhail Kalashnikov, is planning to visit Cuba. “I will soon travel to Cuba to have a look at some arms factories there,” he said at a Saturday briefing for journalists at the central office of Russia’s main arms export company, Rosoboronexport. The briefing focused on the illicit practice of some countries to manufacture Kalashnikov rifles under expired licenses. The designer said it would be his first visit to Cuba. CEO Dmitry Shugayev of Rosoboronexport pointed out that Kalashnikov’s trip to Cuba did not imply resumption of arms manufacturing in this country.
Czech Diplomat Leaves Cuba after Being Accused of Espionage
Czech diplomat Stanislav Kazecky, accused by the Cuban authorities of spying for the United States, has left Havana. On Saturday, April 15, he boarded an Air France flight to Paris and from there went to Prague. On April 14, the head of the Cuban Foreign Ministry said that the Czech embassy’s secretary for political affairs “performs intelligence work and subversive tasks” for the United States, and gave Kazecky 72 hours to leave the country. According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Kazecky was constantly trying to photograph military installations and circulate printed materials among Cuban dissidents. Official Prague does not deny the latter part of the accusations, saying that is their way to help Cuban democracy movement and Castro’s opponents. Early this week, the Czech government said that because of numerous human rights violations in Cuba they would refuse to extend the visa to one of the Cuban diplomats in Prague.
Belarus Pledges Economic Assistance to Cuba
Belarusan Prime Minister Sergei Sidorski has pledged economic assistance to Cuba during his official visit to Cuba. “We have always supported Cuba’s independent course and will continue to do so. We will render assistance to Cuba’s economy,” Sidorski emphasized and thanked Cuba for its solidarity with Belarus on various issues of international relations.
The Belarusan government delegation comprised representatives of all key ministries and businesses of the country. During the three-day trip, Sidorski said, “We discussed deals in the areas of transport and machinery, including truck deliveries. Belarus will send a hundred MAZ buses to Havana, the twin city of Minsk, as a gesture of help,” the visiting prime minister added. The Belarusan side also discussed the possibility of supplying potash fertilizers to Cuba. In addition,. “We have agreed that Cuba will send 100,000 tons of raw cane sugar to Belarus for processing and re-delivery to the island,” Sidorsky said. Speaking of his six-hour encounter with the Cuban leader, Sidorski said “this man has an absolute political charisma.” One of Fidel Castro’s great achievements, the Belarusan prime minister noted, is the fact that throughout 40 years under his leadership Cuba “has been living no worse than other Latin American countries despite the toughest U.S. blockade against the island.”
Iran Gives Cuba 200 Million Euro Credit
On April 24 in Tehran, Iran and Cuba signed a Memorandum of Understanding on economic cooperation in various fields at the end of the Iran-Cuba joint 11th Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission, according to IRNA. Based on the document, the Iran Exports Promotion Bank will increase its credit to Cuba to 200 million euro, from its current 20 million euros. The Cuban side will use the allocated credit for buying 500 passenger and cargo train wagons, refrigerators, low usage light bulbs, and other commodities. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Roberto Ricardo Morero, Cuba’s deputy transportation and communications minister and co-chairman of the Commission, said additional areas had not been completely finalized, among them a future increase in export promotion credit to 500 million euros.
Havana,Tehran Strenghten Relations
Tehran, Iran. Iran-Cuba relations have “brotherly, cordial and deepening relations,” President Mamoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated during a meeting with Cuban Minister of State Ricardo Cabrisas on Tuesday at the end of his visit to Tehran, reported IRNA, citing the presidential news service. The president stressed that Tehran was ready to render all possible support to Havana. Ahmadinejad praised results of the Iran-Cuba Joint 11th Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Commission which had concluded recently in Tehran and he expressed commitment to expanding bilateral cooperation, particularly in trade, economy, industry, science, technology, medicine, and culture, according to IRNA. Cabrisas, for his part, emphasized Iran’s right to acquire civilian nuclear technology and welcomed Tehran’s recent success in this field. He also said Havana was keen to cement its friendly ties with Tehran.
Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela to Sign a “People’s Trade Accord” to Counter Agreements
between U.S., Colombia and Peru
Bolivia, La Pas. The leaders of Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela plan to sign a “People’s Trade Treaty” designed to counter agreements on a free-trade area reached earlier by the U.S., Colombia, and Peru. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said the leaders of Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela are expected to sign the treaty on April 29 in Cuba. The parties to the treaty would be able to trade certain goods free from customs tariffs, the Associated Press reports. On April 20, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the country’s intention to withdraw from the Andean Community in protest of member countries (Colombia, Peru) signing free-trade bilateral agreements with the United States that he insists “contravene fundamental principles” of the organization. On April 23, Caracas officially notified the leadership of the Andean trade bloc about its intention to pull out from it, noting that it could take about five years to withdraw.
The Andean Community is a trade and economic integration organization founded in 1969 to encourage economic development and facilitate participation in the world economy of some Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador.
Moscow Patriarchate Disapproves of U.S. Economic Blockade against Cuba
Moscow, Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church considers the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba unjust. “We certainly disapprove of the economic blockade against Cuba. We also consider it is not right for the U.S. to maintain its naval base in Cuba,” stated Bishop Mark of Yegoriyevsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign relations department. Fielding questions at a briefing for journalists in Moscow on Thursday, he said that Cuba-related issues are frequently dealt with bias, by taking into account the stand of Cuba’s powerful neighbor. We consider that the situation in Cuba should be taken without prejudice,” Father Mark pointed out.
Belspetsvneshtekhnika’s Director Dies in Cuba
The Belarusan opposition web site Belorussky Partizan reports the death of Anatoly Kolesnikov, head of Belspetsvneshtekhnika company, during his visit to Cuba as a member of the Belarusan government delegation led by Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky. It was specially arranged that Sidorsky’s plane be returned to Belarus on Sunday several hours later than scheduled.
The Belarusan authorities did everything possible to hush up the delegation member’s death. Journalists from the news agencies Interfax and BELTA accompanying the delegation to Cuba were ordered not to reveal knowledge of the death. The high-ranking official was buried without ceremony on Monday soon upon the plane’s arrival Sunday night. There were no obituaries in the media nor functions in memory of the well-known official.
According to a Cuban official source, Kolesnikov fell to his death from a fourth-floor balcony. No details of the tragic incident have been given, however according to sources it seems to have been an accident. Feeling pain in his chest, he went out to the balcony, lost consciousness and fell from the balcony of his hotel room. The silence of Belarusan authorities is probably explained by their desire to conceal the participation of the chief of a weapons trading company in the government delegation. There are two leading weapons exporters in Belarus, Beltekheksport and Belspetsvneshtekhnika. The former is specializing in arms sales and the latter is dealing with the repair and technical maintenance of armament and military hardware, the export of spare parts and components, and other military-purpose equipment.
Cuba, Venezuela to Refurbish Oil Refinery
Buenos Aires. Cuba and Venezuela have signed an $800-million contract to refurbish an oil refinery, according to the Argentine mass media. The refinery, built by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, is located in the central city of Cienfuegos. Under the agreement, the Venezuelan state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), will pay the total cost of refurbishment. The contract says that Cuba will hold 51 percent of the new joint venture, to be called PDV-CUPET SA, with Venezuela holding the remaining 49 percent. The rehabilitated Soviet-era refinery could open in 2007 and would initially process up to 70,000 barrels of crude daily. Last year, Cuba-Venezuela trade amounted to $2.5 billion. According to estimates of the Venezuelan Ministry of Economy, this figure is projected to grow by $1 billion in 2006.
Cuba’s Sugar Industry to Get Foreign Investment
Cuba is seeking direct foreign investment in the sugar industry for the first time since1959. Cuba is giving the green light to foreign investment in the industry. At least three companies, all with long-term business experience in Cuba, have made proposals to invest. “We are given the green light at the highest level to discuss milling and cultivation,” a potential investor said.
According to official sources, Cuba is interested in setting up joint ventures to produce sugar, syrup, ethanol, alcohol, and other derivatives. The Cuban sugar industry had been the world’s biggest exporter of raw sugar before the Soviet Union collapse. Cuba shut down and dismantled 71 of 156 mills in 2003 when raw sugar prices dropped. But sugar prices have more than tripled since 2003 as high oil prices have led to increased interest in sugar-based ethanol as an alternative fuel for motorized vehicles. “Prices are very high now so both the government and investors have a big incentive,” Cuban economic analysts say. Cuba plans to boost output of raw sugar beginning in 2006 by increasing acreage and use of fertilizer and herbicides, purchasing new equipment and refurbishing some 30 mills.
Ban on Transportation of Pigs Increases Price of Pork
Camaguey. A government ban on the transportation of pigs has increased the price of pork in eastern Cuba. The ban was imposed in an attempt to stop the sale of pork the provincial capital’s private markets. The shortage of pork has immediately caused the price to reach a record 25 pesos a pound. Pork is not available at government stores, where it is covered by a ration book.
Authorities Demolish Stands of Independent Traders
Ciego de Avila. Municipal authorities destroyed the stands used by independent traders of farm products. The only products to be allowed sold are those from cooperative farms that pay taxes to the government. Independent sellers will be allowed to offer their products only on two Sundays a month at fairs organized by local authorities
Cuba Launches Program with Sherritt to Increase Nickel and Cobalt Production
Cuba has launched a joint program with Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp. to increase its nickel and cobalt output to 49,000 tons annually, according to Sherritt. The project is now in the “construction phase.” At present, the expanded production program at the Moa mining facility in the eastern province of Holguin is being finalized, Cuban Granma daily reported. The project that was officially announced in Havana in March this year by Fidel Castro and Sherritt president Ian Delaney will cost $450 million in investment.
Crackdown on Street Vendors Continues
Havana. Authorities are cracking down on street vendors in the capital in the hope of eradicating them before September’s summit here of the Non-Aligned Movement, according to a police officer involved in the activities. The crackdown is most evident in Old Havana and other areas of the capital frequently visited by foreign tourists. A policeman who detained three blind vendors near the Gran Cinema told them their sales were illegal and the government couldn’t afford to have such activities taking place during the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Minsk Tractor Works to Send 150 Tractors to Cuba This Year
Minsk, Belarus. Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) plans to export to Cuba some 150 tractors this year. According to BelaPAN news agency, a contract for the supply of 100 MTZ tractors was handed over to the Cuban side on April 21-22. The contract is expected to be signed within the next week. In 2005, Belarus sent to Cuba 101 MTZ tractors worth over $810,000. During the first quarter year 2006, Belarus shipped to Cuba 51 tractors worth over $420,000.
Youth Wanted to Throw Stones at Police Chief but Broke Glass Instead
Camaguey. A young man who was arrested after breaking the windows of a government dollar store in Sibanicú said he had been carrying the stones to throw at a district police chief and only broke the glass when he couldn’t find the officer.
Ignacio Caselles Pérez, 18, who, according to locals, has psychological problems, stoned the windows of the “El Pueblo” dollar store on the night of April 11. He was arrested the same day after having been identified by an eyewitness.
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