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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 17 • June 1-15, 2006


Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. This issue of Cuba Chronicle is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Reporters Sans Frontieres, Martí Noticias, AMI-TASS, Reporter-Noviy Kanal, Kazakhstan Today, Gazeta.KZ,  RBK, Rosbalt, BBC, Lenta.ru.

OPPOSITION

31/05/2006
Ladies in White in Brussels

In a letter sent to an international conference in Brussels, the Cuban dissident movement known as the Ladies in White, the winner of the 2005 Sakharov Prize, stated that the Cuban government has stepped up repression and is staging “actos de repudio” against the group of mothers, wives and sisters of Cuban political prisoners and reported serious health problems and worsening conditions for prisoners of conscience. The Sakharov Prize is the European Union’s top human rights award.

A co-founder of the movement, Blanca Reyes, came to Brussels and read the letter to a conference held by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba (ICDC), called in order to review the relations between the EU and Havana and to evaluate the common policy adopted by the European community toward Cuba. Blanca Reyes now lives in Spain together with her husband, the poet and journalist Raúl Rivero, who was freed on medical parole in November 2004. Rivero had been sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003 as part of the group of 75 dissidents arrested during “Black Spring.”

02/06/2006
Guillermo Fariñas Undergoes Emergency Operation

Santa Clara. Cuban independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, who has been on a dry hunger strike since January 31, had to undergo an emergency operation this afternoon around        three o’clock. “Doctors performed urgent surgery to drain excess fluid from his chest. One thousand milliliters of fluid was removed from Guillermo’s lung,” Alicia Hérnandez, mother of the independent journalist, said to the Cuba Miami News Bridge. “He is back in the intensive care unit, connected to the artificial respirator. He is somewhat conscious but doctors say the next eight hours are critical,” she added.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, presently on parole due to health reasons, has been on a dry hunger strike for more than four months to press the Cuban government to allow him free access to the Internet from his home.

08/06/2006
Guillermo Fariñas’ Condition Critical, Sources Say

Guillermo Fariñas, who has been on a dry hunger strike past January, is in critical but stable condition, according to well-informed sources. He is being sustained by an intravenous drip at the Arnaldo Milián hospital in the city of Santa Clara.  His mother Alicia Hernández, a qualified medical nurse, told the Associated Press that Fariñas is in intensive care, and that his blood pressure, pulse and heart beat are normal for his current state. Farinas, a 43-year-old psychologist and director of Cubanacán Press independent news agency in Santa Clara, is demanding that the Cuban government allow unrestricted access to the Internet for all people who are engaged in the gathering and dissemination of information independently from the official mass media.

POLITICAL REPRESSION

31/05/2006
Independent Journalist Arrested While Covering Police Operation, Placed in Solitary Confinement

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has voiced outrage at the arrest of independent journalist Armando Betancourt while covering the eviction of squatters in the city of Camagüey on May 23 and his placement in solitary confinement by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) since.

“We strongly condemn his arbitrary arrest and solitary confinement,” the press freedom organization said in its press release. “If the Camagüey police were acting within the law when evicting a group of illegal squatters, why did it bother them that a reporter covered the operation? By arresting an unwanted witness, the authorities are highlighting their determination to censor news and information. Betancourt must be freed at once.”

Armando, who reports for the Miami-based Nueva Prensa Cubana news website, went to cover the eviction of families squatting at a dump in Camagüey on May 23 and began to question some of the people present, who were protesting against the heavy-handed police operation.

Dissident Ernesto Corrina said the police approached Betancourt and asked him to identify himself. When he said he was an independent journalist, he was immediately arrested and taken in a truck to a police station on Avellaneda Street. From there he was transferred to the premises of the PNR’s 3rd detachment in Camagüey on May 29. Neither his parents nor his wife have been allowed to see him and his present situation is unknown.

The police said he was charged with “disturbing the peace.” According to Corrina, other people present at the eviction were also arrested. The police told Betancourt’s family they would be able to visit him if he was still being held at the 3rd detachment. But the police refused to let the family bring him clean clothes.

A Reporters Without Borders source said Betancourt had been hit many times by the police and was badly bruised, and this was why he was being kept in isolation.

POLITICAL PRISONERS

01/06/2006 –
IAPA Calls for Release of 25 Jailed Journalists in Cuba

The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) has reiterated its demand for the release of 25 journalists imprisoned in Cuba and denounced their deplorable detention conditions. The group stated that the majority are in extremely poor health and suffer from serious health problems, physical and psychological traumas caused by maltreatment, poor and inadequate food, and lack of medical attention.

Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press, also reiterated the group’s demand for the release of Armando Betancourt, an independent journalist arrested for covering the evictions of several families from their homes in the city of Camagüey. He said that the Communist regime has been punishing Betancourt for telling the truth about the situation in Cuba, where the mass media is in the tight grip of the government and the independent press is heavily censored or repressed.

IAPA also expressed its solidarity with independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas and has drawn the world’s attention to the state of his health. Fariñas, a 43-year-old psychologist and the director of the independent Cubanacán Press news agency, began a dry hunger strike last January 31 to press the Cuban government to allow unrestricted access to the Internet. He continues to refuse both food and water and is being fed with an IV drip in a hospital in Santa Clara. IAPA holds the Cuban government responsible for the fate of Guillermo Fariñas. On May 31, he expressed his wish to be taken home from the provincial hospital in Santa Clara in central Cuba. This is his twentieth hunger strike since 1995.

07/06/2006
Committee to Protect Journalists Concerned about Deteriorating Health of Cuban Independent Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has expressed concern over the worsening health of two independent Cuban journalists. In a press release, CPJ says that Guillermo Fariñas has been in critical condition since he was operated on in a hospital in Santa Clara to remove fluid from his left lung. Fariñas went on hunger strike at the end of January to protest the government’s policy of depriving Cubans of access to the Internet.

CPJ is also worried about José Luis García Paneque, whose health has worsened since his transfer from Havana’s Combinado del Este prison to Las Mangas prison in Granma province. García Paneque, director of Libertad independent news agency, is suffering from intestinal problems and internal bleeding. He has been repeatedly mistreated by common criminals. CPJ states that it holds the Cuban government responsible for the condition of both prisoners of conscience and urges it to ensure the proper medical care of all imprisoned journalists.

08/06/2006
Political Prisoner Condemns Conditions in Jail

Ciego de Avila. Political prisoner Virgilio Mantilla Arango is condemning as unacceptable conditions at the Kilo 9 jail in the province of Camagüey, where he is serving a seven-year term. In a telephone conversation with members of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights on May 30, he said that protests were staged by inmates after being forced to eat rotten minced meat for 20 days running. He said that many prisoners were suffering from bed-bug bites and many cells had damaged and leaking drainage pipes. Prior to his arrest and conviction, Mantilla was national secretary of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights responsible for helping political prisoners.

REFUGEES

30/05/2006
Twelve Cuban Rafters Reach Puerto Rico

Twelve Cuban migrants, including three women, eight men and a girl aged 12, have reached the Island of Mona west off Puerto Rico, according to police sources. Mona is an island of the archipelago of Puerto Rico and a territory of the United States of America in the Caribbean. The Cuban boat people were spotted by the Monitoring Corps of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment after they had reached the uninhabited island, located between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Local authorities reported the incident to the U.S. Border Patrol who took the illegal migrants to the main island. Under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, Cubans who touch U.S. soil are allowed to stay in the United States, while those intercepted at sea are returned to Cuba. The U.S. government does not encourage illegal migration and instead calls for “safe, legal” migration.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

31/05/2006
Cuban Eye Surgery Program Causes Problems in Jamaica

A Jamaican ophthalmologist has urged his government to immediately suspend the so-called Miracle Operation program launched by the Cuban government because more and more Jamaicans suffering from post-surgical complications resulting from the program’s free-of-charge treatment for serious eye problems in Cuba.

Dr. Albert Lue, head of the ophthalmology department at Kingston Public Hospital, has requested a review of the program after the follow-up of 60 patients who have recently undergone eye surgery in Cuba. Of the 60 persons, three have now completely lost their sight, while 14 are suffering serious corneal damage.

Dr. Lue said it was necessary to make a thorough assessment of the program and its future prospects given the alarming number of patients reported with complications, the Jamaican ophthalmologist said. According to Jamaica’s Health Ministry, over 2,000 Jamaicans have so far received eye treatment in Cuba.

31/05/2006
Governor of Florida Signs Bill Barring Scholars from Traveling to Cuba

Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida has signed a state bill that forbids public universities and state-run institutions of higher learning to finance or to seek funds for academic activities involving travels to Cuba. The Travel to Terrorist States Act prohibits colleges and universities to use either state or non-state funds for organizing trips to terrorist states such as Cuba.

The bill was authored by Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera after the arrest last January of two professors from Miami on charges of espionage for the Cuban government. They had organized student trips to Cuba.

Critics of the law, including the American Association of University Professors, emphasize that the United States should change U.S.-Cuba bilateral relations, encourage joint research programs with Cuba, and open borders are vital for establishing a dialogue. They believe the law would impede academic research that might enhance the security of the United States.

02/06/2006
Bolivian Medics Call General Strike to Protest Cuban Volunteers

Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Bolivian doctors held nationwide strikes and other actions of protest on Thursday to protest against the presence of some 700 Cuban doctors in Bolivia as a Cuban gesture of good will. Cuban doctors came to Bolivia to provide free medical help to the needy and poor. In return, the Bolivian government gives them food, lodging, and covers their transport expenses.

Representatives of the Bolivian Medical Association say the government should have employed Bolivian doctors, among whom some 10,000 are jobless. They do not oppose foreign aid, but are against the government policy of keeping Cuban doctors who, in contrast to medical professionals from other countries, have not been certified locally and therefore do not meet legal requirements for exercising the profession.

After becoming Latin America’s first indigenous president in January of this year, Evo Morales aligned himself with Venezuela and Cuba and began to receive assistance from Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

05/06/2006
Kazakhstan, Cuba to Sign Trade-Economic Deal Soon

Astana, Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan and Cuba will sign an agreement on trade and economic cooperation in the near future, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Daniel Akhmetov announced at a meeting with Cuban Ambassador Teresita Capote Camacho. Kazakhinform reported the announcement, citing the premier’ press service.

During the meeting, the sides discussed issues related to enhancement of relations between Cuba and Kazakhstan and exchanged views on prospects of cooperation in the public health sphere. At the end of the meeting, Teresita Capote Camacho noted the friendly relations existing between the two countries. “Cuba is grateful to the countries of the former Soviet Union, including Kazakhstan, that have helped it during the period of economic blockade,” she added.

06/06/2006
Evgeny Evtushenko Pays Visit to Cuba’s Foreign Ministry

Russia’s renowned poet Evgeny Evtushenko has been received at the Cuban Foreign Ministry by Deputy Foreign Minister Eumelio Caballero. The Cuban official thanked the poet for his affinity for Cuba, the Cuban Embassy’s press service said. They talked about the need to further develop relations forged by the countries through long years and to revitalize contacts between Cuba’s and Russia’s cultural communities, an essential aspect for any bilateral relations.

Evgeny Evtushenko, 72, is a poet, prose writer, and film director. He has been to all parts of the world and written verse about every country he visited. His poem I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba) came out of his several trips to the island. In 1964, a film was made based on it. Evtushenko is an honorary member of the Spanish and American Academies of Arts and Letters. He teaches at Queens College, New York. His works have been translated into 72 languages.

07/06/2006
Venezuela, Cuba Sign Oil Technology Agreement

Intevep, the research unit of state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, has signed an oil technology agreement with Cuba’s Ceinpet petroleum research center. The deal is meant to increase Cuban oil production, improve the quality of its fuels, and optimize its refineries. Venezuela currently ships 98,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba under preferential payment terms, and plans to revamp Cuba’s Cienfuegos oil refinery.

08/06/2006
Ukraine: Activists of Che Guevara Youth Group Picket U.S. Embassy

Kiev, Ukraine. Activists of the Che Guevara Youth Group, the Association of Veteran Soldiers Who Fought in Cuba, and Ukrainian-Cuban Friendship Association picketed the U.S. Embassy in Kiev.

Young protesters were demanding the release of the Cuban Five convicted in the United States. They said these Cubans had helped prevent about 170 terrorist acts on the territory of Cuba, and their conviction was wrongful.

Eventually, they succeeded in having their petition passed to an embassy’s special window. After the picket, the protesters marched to the Cuban Embassy. This unauthorized march of solidarity with Cuba was organized on their own initiative. Ukraine’s law enforcement did not interfere.
 

07/06/2006
OAS Adopts Human Rights Declaration

The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) has adopted the Declaration of Santo Domingo to boost the use of information and communication technologies and to promote human rights, including the right of freedom of expression, access to uncensored political debate and the free exchange of ideas through all forms of mass communication, including the Internet.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has called for strengthening OAS relations with Cuba. I hope we could make a step forward in unfreezing relations with Cuba, Insulza said. He added, however, this process could not yet lead to accepting Cuba into the fold of the OAS.

The Peruvian representative has urged OAS to take measures against the ongoing interventionist policy by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez.

11/06/2006
Castro: Al-Zarqawi Killing a ‘Barbarity’

Havana. Fidel Castro called the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a “barbarity” and said those responsible for killing the man the U.S. government calls “terrorist No. 1 in Iraq” should be put on trial. Even ancient Romans gave the convicted the right for defense in court, the Cuban leader explained. The United States acted as “judge and jury” against the leader of the al-Qaeda in Iraq, Castro held. They are practically drunk with happiness,” he declared.

12/06/2006
Dissidents in Cuba Not Happy with EU Decision

Members of the peaceful opposition in Cuba are disappointed with the European Union decision to continue the dialogue with the Cuban communist regime for another year. While the EU Commission expressed its concern about human rights violations in Cuba, it postponed the renewal of diplomatic sanctions against the regime in Havana until June 2007 to keep diplomatic dialogue going.

Oppositionist Oswaldo Payá told EFE news agency he was surprised and disappointed as it was the first EU declaration lacking direct and open demand to release all political prisoners in Cuba. Another oppositionist Vladimir Roca said it was exactly what he had expected from the EU because Cubans, in his opinion, couldn’t rely on the EU in their struggle to establish democracy and respect for human rights on the island.

Oppositionist Marta Beatriz Roque stated the position taken by the EU community of twenty-five member countries was not contributing to the cause of democracy and human rights in Cuba.

13/06/2006
Moratinos Defends EU Policy towards Cuba

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos claims that the positive EU strategy towards Cuba has brought results, defending the EU foreign ministers decision not to reinstate the diplomatic sanctions against Cuba for another year. But he also clearly expressed EU dissatisfaction with the human rights situation on the island.

After the meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg, Moratinos said that Spanish policy towards Cuba, which tries to maintain the dialogue both with the regime in Havana and with all sectors of Cuban society, enjoyed the support of his EU colleagues. Political imprisonment in Cuba is on the rise, with 330 known cases of imprisonment without charges or trial since 2005. The ministers themselves condemned dozens of cases of violence and intimidation against the dissidents.

13/06/2006
Human Rights Activists in Spain Refute Moratinos

Members of the Cuba Democracia Ya! organization, made up of Cuban exiles residing in Spain, refuted reports that the communist regime of Fidel Castro had freed two political prisoners last year, and described the Spanish government policy as irresponsible. The group of Spanish and Cuban activists was responding to the statement of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. In his words, the strategy of dialogue with Cuba has proved to be positive since it helped free two political prisoners last year. Cuba Democracia Ya! accused the minister of lying as there was not a single prisoner released on parole since July 2005. The number of prisoners in Cuba has risen, it stated.

13/06/2006
Cuban Authorities Cut Power to U.S. Diplomatic Mission

The Cuban authorities have cut power to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, AFP reports.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday that electricity supply to the mission was cut on June 5. He emphasized that the U.S. Interests Section was the only building in the downtown Havana neighborhood that is without power, and that other houses nearby had no electricity problems.

As of Monday morning, June 12, according to McCormack, the Cuban authorities had not restored electricity supply to the U.S. facility despite official appeals from the mission. “The mission has to use power from its own generators,” the State Department spokesman added, saying that the water flow to the building was also periodically reduced. Spokesman McCormack held the power and water cutoffs were probably due to U.S. diplomats’ efforts to carry out educational work among Cubans.

“By resorting to such measures, the Castro regime is trying to prevent us from telling Cubans about human rights. But this tactics will take it nowhere,” McCormack underlined. Despite water and electricity supply problems, the mission is functioning as usual, he said. Spokesman McCormack said there were no plans for the United States to respond in kind for the power and water cut with action against the Cuban mission Washington.

13/06/2006
Cuba Denies U.S. Accusations

Cuban officials have categorically dismissed U.S. charges that there have been premeditated electricity and water supply cuts at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, blaming a faulty electric circuit in the neighborhood around the U.S. mission for the power outage.

In a statement released today, the Cuban government said that heavy rains in recent weeks had damaged the underground electrical line in the neighborhood around the mission, and added that electricity supply to the building was restored yesterday. The Cuban authorities indicated the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana consumes as much electricity per month as 200 Cuban families do. Despite existing restrictions on fuel use, the U.S. mission has been given 53,700 liters of diesel fuel since the beginning of this year, the statement noted.

The Cuban authorities blamed Washington for seeking a pretext to disrupt the development of trade contacts between the two countries. Fidel Castro has repeatedly tried to break through the limited diplomatic relations which currently exist between the two countries, the statement concluded.

According to U.S. officials in Havana, there has been no electricity in the mission building since June 5.

ECONOMICS

31/05/2006
Lack of Transport Hurts Agro-Cooperatives

Las Tunas. The lack of transportation is dealing a heavy blow to the 135 agricultural cooperatives in Las Tunas, according to the head of the National Association of Small Farmers in Las Tunas province.

Mario Menendez said the shortage of trucks and tractors has hindered production and distribution of the produce. He claimed that only 38 of the 135 co-ops have tractors, and not all of them are in working order, while only 28 co-ops have a truck, not all running. Co-op members complain the government’s agency in charge of collecting their produce is often late in picking it up, also the result of transportation problems, and then does not want to pay for the resulting spoilage of the produce.

31/05/2006
Arrests of Street Vendors

Camagüey. Police and inspectors of the Price Control Agency carried out a raid around the municipal bus station and arrested 23 street vendors in the area. The vendors said police arrived suddenly and rounded them up. They were all taken to the 1st police station and fined 500 Cuban pesos each. According to them, police confiscated their merchandise and issued writs of warning.
The next day many of the vendors returned to their posts. “What can we do? It’s either this or we starve to death,” one of them said.

02/06/2006
Street Vendor Arrested and Fined

Ciego de Avila. Police and inspectors in Ciego de Avila detained a street vendor, Hugo Armando Murillo. They fined him and seized all his merchandise. Murillo said he had lost 60 packs of plastic hooks, 25 plastic hangers and 30 Cuban pesos in cash he had on him at that moment. He was also fined 250 pesos, an average monthly salary (the equivalent of approximately $10).  According to the victim of the raid, the police did not mention the seized cash in their report, but he decided not to complain, feeling lucky to be fined just 250 pesos instead of the usual 1,500.

SOCIAL ISSUES

01/06/2006
Urologists Are Scarce in Havana

Havana. Six hospitals serving the most densely populated districts of the capital have only ten urologists among them. These hospitals provide medical help to about half of Havana’s two million inhabitants, not to count patients from Havana province. At a Communist Party meeting, a health ministry official suggested to set up a joint urology service to accommodate the needs of the six hospitals and made a list of 40 candidates for this job. A hospital chief studied the list. After crossing off the dead and those who had left the island, there were only ten names left on the list.

The situation in other hospitals is no better. At the once prestigious Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital, the waiting list for surgery is up to one year. There are complaints about negligent surgery.

07/06/2006
Food Rations Delayed in Camagüey

Camagüey. Residents of the village of La Gloria, 30 miles from the central city of Camagüey  province, are complaining they have still not received their monthly food rations as of June 3. It was expected the food would be stocked in the first days of the month.

The food ration card allows each villager to buy 5 pounds of rice, a half pound of dried beans, a half pound of cooking oil, sugar, and salt. Speaking on the radio, a local official in charge of food distribution at a state-run food outlet in Camagüey said they had no means to protect food supplies from the onslaught of heavy rain and urged the locals to provide such means.  Food distribution is frequently disrupted in the rainy season in Cuba.

09/06/2006
Torrential Rains Cause Damage in Parts of Cuba Recently Hit by Long Drought

Havana. After a long spell of searing drought, heavy rains hit different parts of Cuba causing severe damage to the island’s economy. Floods in central and eastern Cuba killed one man, damaged and destroyed houses, and forcing authorities to evacuate 1,500 people from the affected areas.

The massive rainfall replenished the drought-induced losses of freshwater in water basins in eastern Cuba. But some water basins became swollen from heavy rains and threaten to submerge nearby settlements.
As more stormy weather is forecast, Civic Defense Units are getting ready to evacuate people from the areas likely to be hit by flash floods. At the same time, Cuban authorities are estimating the scope of material damage brought by the disaster.

June 1 marks the beginning of the tropical cyclone activity in Cuba. Meteorologists predict at least one hurricane might slam the island. It could bring heavy rain in many parts of the country. Two weeks ago, the Cuban capital was severely hit by a two-hour downpour. Several districts in Havana became inundated, and many houses, office buildings and communications wrecked. According to official estimates, seven people were killed as a result of flooding.

OTHER NEWS

01/06/2006
Police Chase “Anti-Government” Dog

Ciego de Avila. Police and other pro-government types looked like characters in a Keystone Cops scene in the town of Ceballos when they chased a dog that had painted anti-government slogans on it through the city’s streets, said eye witnesses. The stray dog, whose coat read “Down with Communism” and “Down with Castro,” bolted through the streets making the job of the forces of law and order much harder. The graffiti on the dog comes after a spread of anti-government graffiti in Ceballos since approximately May 20, say the locals. The graffiti are more usually painted on walls in crowded public places.

01/06/2006
Cubans Drive Cars Worthy to Belong to American Millionaire’s Collection

Fidel Castro is resolute to change the motor-image of the nation island. The cars on Cuba’s roads are a living museum of antique cars. Deluxe Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Plymouths and Chevrolet sedans made in the 1940s and 1950s still hit the streets in Havana. In the United States, such vintage cars usually belong only to a millionaire’s collection. Besides American models, there are also a lot of Soviet-era cars, including the especially popular Volgas.

There are some 60,000 privately-owned vintage cars still in use in Cuba. They run as private taxis and carry the lion’s share of Cuban public transport passengers. The old cars pollute like crazy. So, Castro has vowed to buy for his people 8,000 brand new Chinese buses and trucks.

12/06/2006
Tropical Storm Alberto Brings Torrential Rain to Cuba

Tropical storm Alberto brought torrential rain to Cuba with as much as 50 cm of rainfall in 24 hours in the western parts of the country. State TV showed pictures of extensive flooding, with one resident of the Isle of Youth saying he has not seen water levels so high in 30 years.

Alberto is the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is expected to reach Florida Monday or Tuesday, but is considered unlikely to strengthen significantly. Last year’s record-breaking hurricane season saw the region hit by 28 tropical storms, 15 of which went on to become hurricanes.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned that activity this season will also be above normal, though it is not expected to reach last year’s devastating heights. Alberto formed off the western coast of Cuba. According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the maximum wind speed during the storm was 70km/h. The BBC correspondent in Cuba, Stephen Gibbs, said TV images suggest the Isle of Youth is worst affected, with most streets flooded.

Exceptionally heavy rain has also been falling in tobacco-growing areas of western Cuba. Local farmers have been trying to protect the crop, particularly those leaves which have already been stored in drying-out sheds.

08/06/2006
Jailbreak Attempt in Camagüey

Camagüey. Two inmates in the Ceromica Roja prison in the province of Camagüey attempted to escape on the night of May 30. The two fugitives, aged 23 and 34, were apprehended. One, Rafael Infante Medina, also known as The Midget, got caught up in the high voltage fence surrounding the prison grounds and suffered burns and wounds that sent him to the Amelia Simoni hospital in Camagüey. There was no word from authorities about his condition.
The other escapee, Emilio Milanos Batista, nicknamed Tuna, was apprehended and beaten up by prison guards, among them prison security chief Ernesto Ondarza, and a shift supervisor named Sardicas.

12/06/2006
52 Dead in Traffic Accidents in Havana in Four Months

Havana. In the first four months of the year, 52 died and 251 were hurt in 1,101 traffic accidents in the city of Havana. Many of the dead were cyclists who hitch rides behind buses and motorcycle riders who don’t wear helmets required by law. The helmets, many complain, are costly and sold only for hard currency. Other factors cited for the rise in road accidents were poor knowledge of traffic rules, ignoring traffic lights, excessive speed and drunk driving. Havana residents also point to the poor state of the streets in the capital as a contributory factor. Overall, there were 34,000 deaths and 310,000 injuries from road accidents between 1976 and 2000 in Cuba.
 
 


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The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. Items are reproduced with permission and attribution from other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at prima@prima-news.ru or to idee@idee.org.