Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 19, July 1-31, 2006
Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. The items in this issue are based on reports from PRIMA-News, ARMS-TASS, BBC, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Cuba Miami, Iran.Ru, ITAR-TASS, Kommersant, Martí Noticias, Puente Informativo Reuters, Telegraf.by, and VOA.
Situation in Cuba Is about to Deteriorate, Dissidents Warn
The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation has warned the international community about the possible deterioration of the situation in Cuba with regard to political, civil and economic rights. In its mid-year report released in Havana, the Commission on Human Rights headed by Elizardo Sánchez regarded as meaningless the drop in the number of political prisoners on the island, from 333 to 316. The report said the reduction indicated nothing except the fact that forms of repression have changed in response to negative public opinion over political imprisonment.
Cuban Authorities Warn Dissidents
Ricardo Alarcon, the head of Cuba’s National Assembly, has advised dissidents not to accept money from a new U.S. fund to promote political change on the island. He called the U.S. plan a “politically delirious provocation,” and said anyone who accepted its funding would face consequences. “Imagine that someone in the U.S. were to be supported, trained, equipped and advised by a foreign government. That in itself would be a crime. It would be a serious crime in the U.S., punished with far more years in prison than here in Cuba,” Alarcon stressed.
The U.S. plan to create an $80 million “Democracy Fund” drew a mixed reaction among Cuban dissidents. Several believe the new funding could serve as a pretext for the Cuban authorities to step up crackdown against dissidents. “I appreciate the solidarity. . . but I think that this plan is counterproductive,” dissident journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe commented. But Vladimiro Roca, a former political prisoner, welcomed the creation of the U.S. fund to help boost political change in Cuba. “The plan is good,” he said. “We need materials, equipment, clothes, everything.”
Cuban Dissidents’ Response to CAFC Report
Cuban oppositionists have made public their views on the report of the U.S. presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba presented in Washington on July 10. The document reaffirms the U.S. commitment to assist the people of Cuba and the interim government in their movement toward freedom and representative democracy and away from the communist totalitarian dictatorship of Fidel Castro.
Lady in White representative Miriam Leiva said that the U.S. government should not meddle in Cuba’s internal affairs, while her husband Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a journalist and former political prisoner, calls the American report irrelevant.
On the other hand, opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque, asserted that the U.S. has the right to come forward with such a document and has thanked everyone who would like to help Cuban dissidents. Another opposition leader, Vladimiro Roca, said that the U.S. has the right to have its own plans concerning a transition to democracy in Cuba. In his view, these views are positive, doesn’t consider them interference in the island’s affairs, and is grateful to Washington for its solidarity with the people of Cuba fighting for democracy.
Cuban Independent Journalists Honored at the U.S. Congress
Twenty people took part on July 12 in a vigil at the main entrance to the U.S. Congress to honor Cuban independent journalists. The function was organized by the office of Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the Domino Network.
The press-release circulated on behalf of the Florida lawmaker draws special attention to the fate of journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, who has been on hunger strike since January 31 demanding free access to the Internet. It also notes that more than 20 journalists are now serving prison terms in Cuba, including those, like Normando Hernández González and José Luis García Paneque, who have serious and worsening health problems because of bad prison conditions.
These and other journalists are fighting to ensure that the people of Cuba have unlimited and free access to information, the press-release says.
Government Puts Pressure on Foreigners to Restrict Internet Access
Havana. Several foreigners living in Havana have complained that State Security police have pressured them not to allow Cuban acquaintances to use their Internet access. Internet access is severely restricted in Cuba, but is available freely to foreigners, albeit at exorbitant prices. Foreign residents sometimes allow their Cuban friends, in many cases political dissidents, to log on to the net. Foreign residents who allowed independent journalist Tania Díaz Castro and government opponent Vladimiro Roca Antúnez to use their connections to the Internet said they were summoned by State Security police, who put pressure on them not to allow the Cubans, whom they labeled “counter-revolutionary,” to log on from their accounts.
Police Presence on the Rise in Pinar del Rio Province
Pinar del Rio. An increase in police activity has led residents of Pinar del Rio province to conclude that operation “Containment” has reached the province, said Felipe Gil, a local journalist. Gil cited the frequency with which police stop and search passers-by as evidence that the previously announced government campaign was on. “Anyone walking down the street is subject to search and seizure,”Gil said. “I saw police stop a little old lady who was carrying three bottles of honey. They confiscated the honey on charges of hoarding and fined her. It did not matter to the police that her honey was only for a sick relative.”
Black List for Human Rights Abusers in Cuba
The U.S. government Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba is proposing to set up a special database of human rights abusers in order to refuse visas to those who took part in dissident trials during the 2003 crackdown and acts of repudiation. The Commission also calls for the denial of a legal status in the United States for functionaries of the Fidel Castro regime whose actions are deemed detrimental to American interests. An alternative approach should be advanced toward those in the regime who support democratic change. “They need to know that they and their families will have a future in a free Cuba and only Castro’s henchmen who need to fear justice,” the Commission report says.
Man Arrested for Anti-Castro Tattoo
Havana. Angel Enrique Fernandez Rivero, 41, was arrested on July 9, after an Interior Ministry official noticed a tattoo on his arm that read “Down with Fidel!” Fernandez’s girlfriend said they had dropped into a cafeteria after a day at the beach. There a young man who identified himself as an Interior Ministry official called for a police car and had Fernandez arrested.
German Bundestag Supports Political Prisoners in Cuba
German parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution binding the government in Berlin to stand up for unconditional release of political prisoners in Cuba. The document adopted by 481 votes in favor to 48 against commits the government to take measures — unilaterally or with other European countries — to induce the Castro regime to improve the human rights situation.
The resolution demands that the Cuban regime refrain from capital punishment and respect freedom of press and expression. It calls on the German government to press the communist regime in Cuba to lift travel restrictions imposed on oppositionist Osvaldo Payá and members of the Ladies in White group.
Wife of Political Prisoner Fears for His Life
Ciego de Avila. The wife of political prisoner José Luis García Paneque, one of the 75 dissidents arrested in 2003 and sentenced to long prison terms, reports her husband is in danger of being killed by common criminals. Yamilé Llanes, a lawyer, told the Cuban Human Rights Foundation that her husband is afraid of falling asleep for fear of being attacked again by common prisoners at the instigation of State Security agents. She said he has repeatedly been attacked and beaten by such prisoners. Llanes said her husband had been in good health when he was first imprisoned, but has since lost 80 pounds.
Garcia Paneque is serving a 24-year sentence at Las Mangas prison in Granma province.
Political Prisoner Seeks Shelter in Solitary Confinement Cell
Ciego de Avila. Political prisoner Virgilio Mantilla Arango has accepted solitary confinement because of threats from common criminals. Mantilla Arango told the Cuban Human Rights Foundation he has been in solitary confinement since putting on a T-shirt that carried the words, “Down with Fidel!” He said he wore the T-shirt to protest ill treatment in the prison. Mantilla Arango, 35, was imprisoned in 2002 for protesting the way the government treats independent journalists. Since his arrest he has been punched and threatened with a knife in prison.
European Organizations Call for Release of Cuban Political Prisoners
The organization Cuba Futuro and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights have concluded that the human rights situation in Cuba is rapidly deteriorating. After their recent visit to the island, Cuba Futuro’s chairman Jan Ter Laak and the acting director of the Helsinki Federation Aaron Rhodes urged the Communist regime of Fidel Castro to release political prisoners held in Cuban jails.
The incarceration of over 300 prisoners of conscience and their harsh conditions of confinement are a flagrant violation of human rights, the European rights advocates told a press conference in Vienna. They stressed that Cuba’s current membership in the new U.N. Human Rights Council should compel it to abide by its pledges. They said the Castro regime should also publish and promote on the island the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Inmate Hung Himself after 17 Years in Custody
Havana. An inmate at the Guamajal prison, Villa Clara province, hung himself after serving 17 years of his 29-year term. Luis Enrique Martínez was found dead in cell #8. Yaumara Reyes Mesa, a local activist of the Liberal Party of Cuba, says that it is the fifth suicide incident this year. According to her, maltreatment of inmates in this prison is the main cause of the suicide.
Oscar Elías Biscet to Start Fasting for Respect of Human Rights
Cuban political prisoner Oscar Elías Biscet will start a fast on July 13 to press the Communist regime in Cuba to join, honor, and observe all international agreements on human rights. The announcement was made by the Lawton Human Rights Foundation, which is headed by the dissident. According to the Havana-based group, Biscet will go on a liquid-only diet and read the Bible during the first week of his protest.
Dr. Biscet was arrested along with 74 other oppositionists in the March 2003 crackdown on dissent and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Prison Inmates Complain of Isolation
Holguin. Inmates at the provincial prison in Holguin, in eastern Cuba say they are kept isolated from their families, with mail being intercepted and phone calls impeded. According to political prisoner Randy Cabrera Mayor, incoming letters seldom get through and the outgoing mail less so. There is only one phone to serve a prison population of about one thousand inmates, who are limited to five-minute calls once a month when they are allowed. Herrera said fights often break out around the phone among the frustrated inmates.
Niece of the Cuban Revolutionary Leader Fights Homophobia
As director of the government-funded National Center for Sex Education based in Havana, Fidel Castro’s 43-year-old niece Mariela Castro promoted a soap opera that scandalized many Cubans in March of this year by depicting bisexuality in a sympathetic manner. The controversial TV series portrayed, among other story lines, the life of a construction worker who leaves his wife and children for the man next door. Now Castro’s niece is pushing for passage of a law that would give transsexuals free sex-change operations and hormonal therapy in addition to granting them new identification documents with their changed gender. The draft bill was presented to parliament last year. According to Mariela Castro, it was well-received and is expected to come up for a vote in December.
Communist Party of Cuba Gets Executive Committee
The Communist Party of Cuba has set up a 12-member Executive Committee comprised of top government leaders, including Fidel Castro. “The Committee has come to existence when it is most needed,” Raul Castro, the president’s brother and Minister of Defense said. The declared purpose of the Committee is to strengthen the defense potential of the country subjected to the threats from Washington. The U.S. State Department is expected to announce soon a package of measures to support the democratic movement in Cuba and to ask for millions of dollars to be allocated for financing these measures.
Cuban Athlete Defects in Puerto Rico
A Cuban volleyball player, Dulce María Téllez, left her team on July 2 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she was playing in the Pan-American Women’s Volleyball Cup. The 22-year-old center blocker is seeking political asylum in this U.S. territory, said Carlos Beltran, president of the Puerto Rican Volleyball Federation. According to Marte, there have been other incidents of defection of Cuban sportsmen last year in Puerto Rico and Mexico City during the Centrobasket Tournament and the Pan-American Volleyball Cup.
Two Men Arrested for Assisting Escape from the Island
Havana. Two men who worked as drivers for the Cuban telephone company ETECSA were arrested on June 24 and charged with human trafficking. They were taken to a State Security detention facility on Villa Marista. Carlos Damián Prieto and Edmundo López Frometa had been driving a group of passengers in the direction of Santa Cruz del Norte. According to the police, the passengers intended to leave the island by sea.
Twenty-Two Cuban Rafters Reach Honduras
A group of twenty-two Cubans reached the shores of Honduras on two makeshift rafts. They suffered serious sunburn and dehydration, but are now recovering, Honduras’ Immigration Department official Carmen Peña told AP. The rafters were moved to Puerto Cortés where they asked for political asylum, said Carlos Sánchez from the General Directorate of Population and Migration Policy.
This year, 332 Cubans have illegally reached Honduras on rafts and boats, compared to 177 in 2005. Soon after arrival, the Cubans usually leave Honduras to make their way to the United States. Honduran authorities are negotiating with the Communist regime in Cuba to halt the illegal flow of Cubans to this Central American country.
No More Cuban Migrants, Says Honduras
The Honduran government announced it would no longer let Cuban migrants enter its territory following the intake of more than 600 undocumented Cubans in the past 18 months. The decision stems from the suspicion that there is an organized smuggling ring, German Espinal, Honduran director general of international migration, told Associated Press. According to Espinal, undocumented people from Cuba arrive in Honduras after a stopover in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica or Columbia, using Honduras as a way to get to the United States. They pay human smugglers an average of $18,000 per person.
Repatriation of Cubans Seeking Refuge in Honduras Doubtful
Ramón Custodio, U.N. National Commissioner of Human Rights for Honduras, does not believe the governments of Honduras and Cuba will strike a deal on the repatriation of Cubans seeking refuge in this country. This would be a violation by Honduras of its international commitments under the U.N. Refugee Convention signed by Honduras in 1992, Custudio said. The Convention bans signatory states to enter into a bilateral, informal agreement concerning refugees.
The ratification of the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol makes it impossible to deport people who, like Cubans, have reasons to fear persecution in their native country. Custodio said that any involuntary repatriated person can complain to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which can sanction Honduras for breach of international legal norms.
Honduran director general of international migration Germán Espinal announced earlier this week that over 300 Cubans have illegally landed in Honduras throughout this year.
Cuban Doctors on Official Mission to Bolivia Seek Political Asylum
Thirty Cuban doctors on an official mission to Bolivia are seeking political asylum in neighboring countries. In a gesture of assistance to a friendly state, Cuba dispatched 1,700 medical workers last month to Bolivia to provide free health services to the poor and needy. The Bolivian government is paying the cost of food, lodging, and transportation for the doctors sent by Havana. However, for many Cubans, this medical mission appeared to be a chance to ask for political asylum. They are being helped in their efforts by Cuban exiles who had fled the island in earlier waves.
“History is not made by traitors,” commented Cuba’s ambassador to La Paz Rafael Dausá, speaking on local television. “In my country people can use all freedoms of the world,” he said, noting that the Cuban government is running health and education aid programs for the benefit of other countries. He claimed that there were only two or three cases of desertion.
Havel Assures Cuban Dissidents of His Support
The Czech writer and ex-president Vaclav Havel said “he was trying to encourage dissidents in Cuba.” Havel, himself a former dissident and now a founder of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, made this statement in Prague after meeting Cuban-born U.S. film star Andy García. García came to the Czech Republic to promote his first directorial feature, “The Lost City,” at the Karlovy Vary international film festival.
Europe Seeks Ways to Provide Cubans with Internet Access
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel said the European Commission was exploring ways it can make Internet access available to all Cubans but complained of the shortage of funds to do that. He also mentioned difficulties they face because the Cuban sole national Internet service provider has been blocking several servers. When asked by EU parliamentarian José Ribeiro e Castro from Portugal whether the European Commission delegation in Havana has full access to the Internet, Michel said their mission was also experiencing access problems with some servers blocked by Cuba’s provider.
Changes Are Coming, Head of U.S. Interests Section Says
Head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana Michael Parmly said on July 4 changes are imminent in Cuba. Speaking at a U.S. Independence Day reception held in his Havana residence, Parmly said the discord between Cuba and his country was unnatural and ephemoral. He predicted that soon tyranny would no longer be an obstacle for the natural rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.
European Parliament Blacklists Cuba as Enemy of Freedom
The European Parliament has criticized companies that are assisting regimes in censoring the Internet, including in Cuba and other repressive countries, and listed the Communist regime on the island as an enemy of freedom of expression. The EU resolution also mentions China, Belarus, Burma, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and nine other countries as notorious censors of the Internet. The resolution says Telecom Italia, which is a shareholder of the Cuban firm responsible for Internet access, is cooperating with the regime in blocking websites. The resolution has called on EU member states to establish a voluntary code of conduct binding their companies not to be involved in repressing the Internet. The resolution has also urged the European Union to take into account the need for unhindered Internet access by the citizens of recipient countries when considering EU assistance programs.
America to Toughen Embargo against Cuba
The report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba (CAFC) submitted to the U.S. President recommends toughening the embargo against Cuba and its enforcement and offering substantial assistance to the opposition forces of the island nation, including through a specially created fund for transition. The document, which leaked to the press on Thursday, recommends that the Bush administration set up the Cuba Fund for a Democratic Future to strengthen the democratic opposition to the government of Fidel Castro, reports ITAR-TASS. Funding should amount to $80 million over two years. The Commission also recommended consistent yearly funding of $20 million to support opponents of the current regime thereafter until “the dictatorship ceases to exist.”
At the same time, the Commission reports, there are clear signs the regime is using money provided by the Chavez government in Venezuela to reactivate its networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments.
The CAFC was formed by U.S. President George W. Bush to “hasten the demise of Castro’s tyranny.” It is currently co-chaired by State Secretary Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, who was born in Cuba. In its first report in 2003, the Commission devised a comprehensive strategy to help the Cuban people move rapidly toward democracy. In 2005, in line with the CAFC recommendations, the U.S. State Department created a post of Cuba Transition Coordinator.
Bush Agrees to Spend $80 Million for Democracy in Cub
U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday the Administration plans to spend $80 million over two years following the demise of Fidel Castro to ensure a transition to democracy in Cuba. According to Agece France Press, Bush has approved recommendations of the Presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by State Secretary Condoleeza Rice and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. These include a stage-by-stage plan for Cuba to move to democracy that the U.S. authorities wish to be established on the island after Fidel Castro is gone. “'The report demonstrates that we are actively working for change in Cuba, not simply waiting for change,” Bush said in the statement.
It is expected that part of the “democratic fund” will be used to break the Castro’s regime censorship and expand Cubans’ access to independent information including through satellite communication and the Internet. The Commission also recommends that the U.S. government begin to provide wide-scale humanitarian assistance to Cuba in the first two weeks after Castro’s death and also sending judges, police and legal experts to help with free general elections.
The authors of the report believe the recommended actions could lead to a democratic Cuba within 180 days after Castro’s death.
Cuban Authorities Charge U.S. Planning to Overthrow Regime
The plan for a “democracy fund” approved by the U.S. president is aimed at toppling the island’s legitimate government, Cuban authorities charged in a statement reported by Argentina’s state news. The decision of the Bush administration to allocate $80 million for “breaking the information blockade in Cuba” implies the ousting of the legitimate Cuban government and violates international law, the statement said. The decision violates Cuba’s sovereignty and independence and is mainly aimed at financing counterrevolutionary groups in Cuba, the document reads.
Spain’s Socialist Government Betrays Cuba
Jorge Moragas, Foreign Relations Secretary of Spain’s opposition Popular Party (PP), accused the Spanish government of becoming a voluntary hostage to the Communist regime of Fidel Castro.
At a conference called “Europe and Stolen Freedom: The Case Study of Cuba,” Moragas, whose party lost power in March 2004 elections, praised Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar, who, he said, is working not only for the benefit of the Cuban people but for the sake of creating a positive image of the EU for future generations of Cubans. He said the Czech Republic has been the only country in the European Union to hold a firm stand on the human rights situation on the island.
Cuba’s Debt to Former Soviet Union May Be Settled Next Fall
Moscow. A source in the Russian government said on Wednesday that Cuba’s $20 billion debt to the former Soviet Union, inherited by Russia, may be settled in the fall of this year. According to the source, efforts are currently underway to restructure the debt. The problem, he added, is likely to be solved during Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov’s visit to Cuba scheduled for mid-September.
Russia Starts Delivery of Defense Products to Cuba
Nizhny Tagil, Russia. Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport is to begin delivery of defense products to Cuba, Igor Sevastyanov, head of the company’s delegation at the Arms Expo 2006 in Nizhny Tagil, told a press conference. He refused to elaborate, but stressed that after a prolonged freeze in the Russian-Cuban cooperation in this field the situation was now changing for the better. As a result of a visit in May to Cuba by a Rosoboronexport delegation, visited Cuba, the Cuban hardware import and export company Techimport signed a number of agreements on military-technical cooperation between the two countries, according to official sources. The sides also sealed a contract the details of which have not been revealed.
Chilean Senate Denounces Ideological Repression in Cuba
The Chilean Senate has adopted a resolution calling on President Michelle Bachelet to pressure the Communist regime in Cuba to abandon its policy of incarcerating people for ideological reasons.
The resolution approved by 19-2 votes with seven abstentions urges the authorities of the island to free all those who have been jailed because of their disagreement with the Fidel Castro regime. It states that in spite of conditional release in 2004 and 2005 of 22 political prisoners, mainly on medical grounds, there were new arrests and imprisonment of critics of the Cuban government. The dissidents are serving sentences that average 20 years, and are suffering from maltreatment and deplorable jail conditions, the resolution of the Chilean Senate says.
U.S. Committed to Support Change in Cuba, Reaffirms McCarry
The Bush administration is committed to helping Cubans who “want to democratically elect their leaders,” said Cuba Transition Coordinator Caleb McCarry of the U.S. State Department in Miami, Florida. He made this statement at a press briefing on the release of the second report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, emphasizing that the United States will assist a transition process to bring about the fall of Fidel Castro’s communist regime.
He said no help would be given to a government on the island seeking to preserve dictatorship disguised by mock economic reforms. By this statement, McCarry has ruled out a possibility that the U.S. government would establish relations with Raúl Castro’s regime should he succeed his elder brother Fidel Castro.
Basque People’s Party Doesn’t Want to Deal with Cuban Regime
Deputies of the People’s Party in the Basque Congress have introduced a draft resolution, urging the regional government to denounce a cooperation agreement with the Cuban judiciary because it serves the dictatorial regime. “The Communist regime of Fidel Castro curtails [fundamental] freedoms, sentences people to death, and denies Cubans judicial guarantees and proper legal procedure,” stated the party’s General Secretary, Carmelo Barrio.
Belarusian Defense Minister Maltsev Leaves for Cuba on Official Visit
Belarusian Defense Minister Colonel-General Leonid Maltsev is on his way to Cuba on an official visit. The visit is taking place at the invitation of his Cuban counterpart, the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The program includes discussions with the Cuban leadership on possibilities for bilateral military cooperation. The visit will run July 18 to 20.
There were reports earlier this year that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was going to pay a visit to Cuba in 2006. In March, the Cuban leader congratulated President Lukashenko on re-election calling it a “charming and impressive win” and a victory of the Belarusian people. During Lukashenko’s first visit to Cuba in 2000, Belarus and Cuba signed a friendship and cooperation treaty between the two countries. The agreement includes a provision for maintaining closer ties in political, economic, military, social, and humanitarian spheres.
Fidel Castro Arrives in Argentina to Attend Mercosur Summit
Córdoba, Argentina. Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrived on July 20 in Córdoba, Argentina’s second largest city, to join a summit of MERCOSUR, the South American trade bloc. The arrival of Castro, who turns 80 on August 13, was cloaked in secrecy up until he landed in Córdoba. Fidel Castro last visited Argentina in 2003 to attend the inauguration of Nestor Kirchner. Cuba participates in the summit as an observer. The Mercosur members and Cuba are expected to sign an agreement on trade and economic cooperation that, among other things, will eliminate tariffs and boost complementary trade. In 2005, Cuba-Mercosur trade reached U.S. $400 million. At the end of the summit, the leader of the Cuban Revolution is expected to visit a museum dedicated to Che Guevara in the town of Alta Gracia, 40 km of Cordoba. Castro and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez will likely attend a vast rally to be held by public organizations and leftist political parties at the central stadium in Cordoba.
Permits to Rent Out Rooms to Foreigners Might be Stopped
Havana. A session of People’s Power deputies that addressed alleged problems in the renting out of rooms to foreigners by some Cubans ended up in a debate on terminating permits for such a business purpose altogether. Critics say this measure will not change anything as the number of Cubans engaged in this business is very small because of the so-called “fair” rental tax and the red tape needed to gain permits.
Havana, Corpus Christi Renew Trade Relationship
Authorities of the U.S. port of Corpus Christi, Texas, and the Cuban food import company Alimport have renewed their contract to keep shipping American food to Cuba. The agreement to maintain the trade relationship was signed in Havana. The American delegation included U.S. Representative Solomon Ortiz, a Texas Democrat. Ruben Bonilla, chairman of the Corpus Christi Port Commission, also came to the Cuban capital for the signing. In 2001, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution allowing American food and other agricultural products to be sold directly to Cuba but only on a cash basis. Later, Bush Administration established the obligation for Cuba to pay cash in advance for its acquisitions before ships leave U.S. ports.
Cuba Opens Up Its Market for Iranian Cars
Iran’s Ambassador to Cuba, Ahmad Edrisian, met with Cuban Transportation Minister Carlos Manuel on July 19 in Havana, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry Information and Press Bureau. The two sides discussed the current state of trade and economic cooperation between Iran and Cuba and emphasized the need for its further development. The Cuban minister briefed the Iranian ambassador on the Havana International Transportation Exhibition to be held on September 27-30. He invited Iranian companies to participate in the event. He emphasized that there is a good market in Cuba for various types of vehicles manufactured in Iran and the Iranian firms’ presence at the fair would pave the path for further cooperation.
Venezuela Ships Cuba 90,000 Barrels of Oil a Day
According to U.S. estimates, Venezuela is shipping 90,000 barrels of oil a day to Cuba under preferential terms allowing it to re-sell some of the oil at a profit of $2 million a day. In return, Cuba has sent nearly 50,000 specialists, including 30,000 doctors, to Venezuela. The medical mission allows the Venezuelan government to improve social services in the poorest regions.
Police Search Homes in Batabanó
Havana. In the last three weeks of June, the Cuban economic police had been particularly busy at Batabanó, a small southern port in Havana province, raiding houses in search of traces of private economic activity considered illegal by the government.
Among their targets was local farmer Reinaldo Rodríguez, suspected of illegally selling rice and dry beans, and Rubén Rey, who was allegedly engaged in illegal storage and trade of seafood. The raid was the second for Rey. Retired army officer Sadiel Blanco said his house was searched because somebody tipped the cops he was selling rum and foodstuffs, but no incriminating evidence against him was found.
Juan Laureiro Reyes was detained by the police on a charge of stealing 30 refrigerators from a warehouse he worked at as night watchman. After several days in custody, he was released as the search of his house provided no evidence of his complicity in the robbery. Reyes said he had shared a cell with two managers of the warehouse, and that they were still under investigation.
The police raided Andrés González’ home to find proof that he was building a makeshift boat to flee the island together with Gloria Torres. Gloria Torres is said to have been repeatedly detained for illegally selling foodstuffs.
New Dengue Fever Wave Hits Havana
More than 600 new cases of dengue fever were recorded in the Havana municipalities of El Cerro, Centro Habana, and Arroyo Naranjo, said an employee of the Public Health department who wished to remain anonymous. Authorities have been meeting with physicians and nurses to appraise the situation and have ordered a clean up campaign in Old Havana, presumably to eliminate breeding areas for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the vector for the disease. The last outbreak of dengue in the Cuban capital was in January 2002. A clean up campaign then picked up more than a million square meters of debris and trash that had accumulated in city streets.
Former Leader of Los Van Van Group Dies in Emigration
The legendary Cuban musician and singer Israel Kantor, whose real name was Israel Sardiñas, died at home in Miami of brain cancer. The singer, who in his youth was known as the leader of the group Los Van Van (Coming, Coming), was 57. In 1983, during his tour to Mexico, Kantor decided not to return to Cuba. He sought political asylum and obtained his freedom. His last concerts in Miami were held at Las Máscaras Theater.
Andy Garcia Wishes “Rapid Transformation” in Cuba
Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia called for “a rapid transformation” in Cuba, when he presented his first film “The Lost City” as director at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. “I do not agitate as part of any movement, but I can say that the Cuban people are suffering and that the sooner a transition will come, the sooner they will be free,” Garcia said.
Garcia emigrated from Cuba with his parents in the early 1960s. The film, based on a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, tells the story of a night club manager who flees his country after Castro’s seizure of power. Garcia was awarded the festival’s Crystal Globe.
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