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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 20, August 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. Cuba Chronicle is based on reports from: PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Martí Noticias,   Polit.Ru, LentaCom.Ru, Deutsche Welle, Reuters, Gazeta.Ru, MIGnews.com, Radio Liberty, NTV, RIA Novosti, PRIME-TASS, Ekspert-center, Russian News Service, Channel Seven (Israel), Trend, AMI News–Ukraine, Interfax, Associated Press, Gazeta, Lenta.Ru, CBS News, Voice of Russia,  CNS, Blagovest-info, JesusChrist.Ru, Segodnya.ru.

GOVERNMENT

01/08/2006
Peter Watkins: “We Continue to Work for the Day When Cuba Is Free”

Commenting on Fidel Castro’s hospitalization, White House press spokesman Peter Watkins said “We are monitoring the situation. We are not going to speculate as to Castro’s health but we continue to work for the day when Cuba is free.”

01/08/2006
German Press on the Transfer of Power in Cuba

The decision of the ailing Cuban leader to delegate powers to his brother Raul has been in the spotlight of today’s German newspapers. Munich’s Abendzeitung points out that Raul Castro is a hardliner and radical communist as far as domestic policy is concerned, even more radical than his elder brother. But, the newspaper adds, he lacks the charisma that helped Fidel retain power the past decades. The paper adds further that Raul Castro, Cuba’s defense minister until Castro’s illness, has nothing in common with the formidable figure of the Father of the Nation. He detests giving interviews and does not enjoy popular adoration. It’s doubtful, it says, that this man would be able to hold together the government, the army, and party machinery with the same grip as Fidel has done. On the other hand, he may be the right leader for Cuba now as the only one who has urged the United States to normalize relations with the Cuban government.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes, “What is playing out in the innermost circle of power in Cuba these days is as withdrawn from the world’s perception as it is from Cubans themselves. That makes the Caribbean island’s dictatorship equal with the long fallen Soviet Union as well as Kim’s spectral dominance in North Korea. It is significant that the great ‘comandante en jefe’ himself looked ahead in case he is unable to stay in office. It seems as if his brother Raul is meant to secure the transition to a collective of ideologically stable communists, whose goal will be nothing other than holding on to power for as long as possible.”

Offenburger Tagesblatt concluded that without such fierce pressure from the superpower, including boycotts, conspiracies, and assassinations, the Cuban experiment could hardly have survived for so long. The heroic struggle of the Island’s David against the Dollar-Rich Goliath has been a source of inspiration for the aging revolutionary as well as of solidarity and affection of the majority of his people. That, in spite of all ups and downs, provided Castro with an opportunity to carry on with the system which has gone bankrupt in the whole world, but is still alive in the microcosm called Cuba.

01/08/200
U.S. Has No Plans to Reach Out to Cuba after Power Transfer to Raul Castro

The United States has no plans for a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations after the handover of power to Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, said the White House. The day before, Cuba’s television read the text of a statement by Fidel Castro, announcing he was handing over power temporarily to his brother Raul, Cuba’s defense minister, because of his health “breaking down.”

02/08/2006
Castro Says His Health Is Stable

Cuban state television read on Tuesday Fidel Castro’s statement in which the Cuban president said his health was stable and that he was in good spirits following surgery.  “I can say it is a stable condition. I am in perfectly good spirits,” he said. Castro’s words were aired by a TV presenter. Castro did not appear on the screen. According to some sources, staff of the hospital where the ailing Cuban president underwent surgery is not allowed to leave the premises.

02/08/2006
Fidel Castro Instructs How to Rule the Country

After successful surgery performed on Monday, Fidel Castro was recovering so well that on Tuesday he received his closest associates to advise on how to rule the country, according to a statement by Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon on state-run radio and television. Alarcon called celebrations taking place in Miami’s Cuban exile community after Fidel’s major surgery and his ceding of power to his brother premature. He said the exiles underestimated the will and character of el Comandante who will fight to the very end and “his final moment is still very far away.” His statement broke a nearly 24-hour public silence following Fidel’s health crisis.

02/08/2006
Castro Declares His Health a State Secret

From now on, the state of Fidel Castro’s health is a state secret, according to his own words read several hours before by a national television presenter.
“In the Cuban situation, based on plans of the U.S. empire, my health becomes a secret of state that cannot be divulged constantly. My fellow countrymen should know this. I can say that it is a stable situation, but a real evolution of my health takes time. . . . All I can say is that the situation will remain stable for several days before a verdict can be reached,” Castro stated.

02/08/2006
Miami Hopes for Change

The transfer of power in Cuba, even if limited and temporal, has become a cause for celebration for Cuban exiles residing in the United States. Opponents of Fidel Castro hope that sooner or later his death would lead to the fall the communist regime and they may return home.

In Miami, home to some 650,000 Cuban-American exiles, people filled the streets to celebrate what in their opinion was the good news. Greeting winds of change in Cuba, local newspapers, both English- and Spanish-language, suggested various scenarios of further developments on the island.  “The time has come, we are longing for him to step down. But there is a fly in the ointment – he is leaving on his own terms, not the terms that might have been imposed by the Cuban exile community,” said Miami resident Alberto Jimenez. “It’s been 47 years of Fidel’s rule, nearly half a century of dictatorship on the island. This problem has no solution unless it is willed by the Cuban people,” said another Miami’s Cuban.

Meanwhile, some people are skeptical about the imminent change of the Cuban regime, remembering previous recurring rumors of Castro’s demise.

03/08/2006
Deathly Silence Prevails in Havana

Three days after being handed the reins of power by Cuba’s ailing 79-year-old leader, his 75-year-old brother Raul has yet to appear in public. According to the U.S. daily newspaper The Miami Herald, Raul Castro Jr, the defense minister-turned-president, is mobilizing his loyal army generals to be on the alert. The Cuban exile community in the United State has called on the Cuban armed forces to seize power.

Although lacking Fidel’s personal appeal, Raul Castro has considerable management qualities according to The Miami Herald. The armed forces that he controls is one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere despite the drop-off of Soviet financing. The armed forces control a good share of Cuba’s most lucrative spheres of the economy, including tourism.

03/08/2006
Journalists Denied Entry to Cuba on Tourist Visas

Cuban authorities are barring foreign journalists from entering the country on tourist visas, reports Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio station, citing Mexico’s television.  Several journalists who arrived in Cuba to report on the transfer of power on the island have been sent back home on commercial flights.

The International Media Center in Havana explained that Cuba requires foreign journalists to obtain special documents before the arriving and forbids people entering the country on tourist visas to carry out journalistic activity. According to official estimates, over 150 foreign journalists have applied this week to Cuban authorities for accreditation.

03/08/2006
“Great Leader” of the DPRK Wishes Castro Speedy Recovery

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sent a get-well note to Fidel Castro on August 2. “I sincerely wish you a speedy recovery so that you can excellently continue to carry out the Cuban revolution and the great mandate given to you by the people of Cuba,” Kim said in his telegram.

03/08/2006
Next Cuban Leader Should Be Female, Says Catholic Dissident

Puebla, Mexico. Castro’s successor should be younger, between 30 and 40, and should live in Cuba, not in Miami, Mexico or Madrid, and he should be a woman,” said Catholic dissident Jose Prats Sariol, who escaped from Cuba in 2003.
“The younger generation is not poisoned by hatred of the West and this dream of socialist revolution,” she said in an interview to Catholic News Service (CNS). “They are very pragmatic, they want an open society that will enable a modern Cuba to face two challenges, one economic and the other psychological.”

In her opinion, decades of economic hardship created among Cubans a very romantic, rosy perception of life outside Cuba. “Many think that the world outside Cuba is one big, wonderful supermarket where you can buy anything you want and don’t have to pay.”Only a female leader can remedy the situation in Cuba where family values fundamental to a Catholic society have ceased to exist.

Prats said that although she is already 61, Martha Beatriz Roque (pictured above) would be a worthy candidate to lead Cuba. Prats is optimistic about the church’s role during Cuba’s potential transition as even now the church has been doing a lot to alleviate the misery of many Cubans through its charity organizations such as Caritas International.

03/08/2006
Human Rights Defenders Expect No Improvement with Raul Castro Coming to Power

The provisional handover of power in Cuba from the Communist leader Fidel Castro to his younger brother Raul does not signal any change in the human rights situation, according to the International Society for Human Rights (IGFM), based in Frankfurt-am-Maine, Germany.

As is known, the 79-year-old Fidel Castro, who has ruled Cuba since 1959, has announced ceding powers to his brother, Raul. The Cuban Constitution designates Raul Castro, 75, as Fidel’s successor and empowers him to replace Fidel Castro in all the posts that he holds, reports RIA-Novosti.

In a statement circulated by the evangelical news service Idea, IGFM states that Raul Castro is “even more of a Communist” than Fidel. The immediate future looks “very uncertain” and depends on the amount of support the military would give Raul Castro should he be able to hold on to power. IGFM closely monitors and reports on the situation of human rights and religious freedom in Cuba.

03/08/2006
Cuban-American Exiles Protest the Transfer of Power to Raul Castro

Cuban-American exile organizations have urged the Cuban armed forces to prevent the transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his younger brother, Raul. According to EFE, this appeal was issued by the Cuban-American National Foundation, the most influential dissident group in exile. Cuban-American exiles are urging senior officers on the island to seize power and form a transition civil-military government in order, they say, to put an end to the Cuban national tragedy, which is a half-century dictatorship of the Castro brothers. Asked whether this is an appeal to uprising, Foundation Chairman Jorge Mas Santos called this scenario an alternative development. Santos said Fidel’s illness has caused a split among the Cuban leadership. He drew attention to the fact that Raul Castro had not appeared in public since taking power.

04/08/2006
Cuba Readies Its Troops

The government of Cuba has launched a campaign to boost its national defense. On August 3, the front pages of all national newspapers in Cuba focused on the need to strengthen its defense and modernize the army and weaponry. Mass meetings are being held all over the country in support of the Cuban government and Raul Castro, the 75-year-old defense minister, to whom his brother Fidel Castro provisionally delegated all of his ruling powers on Monday before undergoing intestinal surgery.

According to the Cuban press, the shock work system has been introduced at defense plants, while local Committees for the Defense of the Revolution enhanced their night patrols in towns and villages and army reservists were ready for the call up. Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) are neighborhood watch committees. They are the government’s pervasive oversight arm, existing on every apartment block and in every agricultural cooperative and factory in Cuba.

Although no newspaper has used the word “mobilization,” preparations “for the defense” are underway. They became more noticeable after Cuban American exile organizations in Miami urged their fellow countrymen and the Cuban army to “rise up now” and create a “transition military and civil government without Castro.”
Havana publicly voiced its concern about a U.S. military attack and the threat from exile organizations after a statement made on Wednesday by White House spokesperson Tony Snow that the United States “has no plans to reach out” to the acting president of Cuba. “The fact that you have an autocrat handing power off to his brother does not mark an end to autocracy,” Snow said. The U.S. State Department also responded negatively to the transfer of power to Raul. The Cuban government considers Washington’s position to be a threat and does not conceal its plans to strengthen national defense. All these U.S. statements and documents mean there will be war when Fidel is no more, said Cuban Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon, commenting the U.S. stand on Cuba’s national television.

REFUGEES

02/08/2006
U.S. Urges Cubans Not Attempt to Migrate

The White House cautioned Cubans against any mass exodus and Cuban-American exiles against returning to Cuba. “Under these circumstances it’s vital to encourage people to stay where they are. This is not a time for people to try to be getting in the water and going either way,” White House press secretary Tony Snow stated. According to him, Cuba is a closed society, and it’s difficult to assess what the situation in Cuba is after Fidel Castro’s illness and the handover of power to his brother, Raul. The U.S. authorities fear that Castro’s demise could provoke a mass migration of Cuban exiles from Florida to Cuba to return to their homeland or pick up family members. However, no such tendencies are noticeable so far.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

02/08/2006
U.S. Commerce Chief: No Threat, Ready to Help Cuba

Washington, DC. The United States poses no threat to Cuba and is prepared to offer it economic help, said U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who was born in Cuba. The Cuban people must make a choice between economic and political freedoms and political repression and economic problems, he said. Speaking at a press conference on immigration policy, Gutierrez added that the United States stands ready to help Cuba with food and medicine, developing the Cuban economy, and holding free and fair elections.  The commerce chief also warned against exerting pressure on the Cuban people.

03/08/2006
Azeri President Ratifies Azeri-Cuban Cooperation Agreement

Baku, Azerbaijan. Azeri President Ilham Aliev signed an order to ratify a cooperation agreement between the foreign ministries of Azerbaijan and Cuba. According to Trend news agency, the agreement was signed on May 25, 2006 in Baku. The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan was instructed to ensure  implementation of the agreement.

02/08/2006
EU Wishes “Quick Recovery” to Fidel Castro and Cuban Democracy

Brussels. The European Union “wishes that President Fidel Castro and Cuban democracy have a quick recovery,” EU spokesman Pietro Petrucci said today. At the same time, he dismissed rumors that the European Union was trying to review its policy on Cuba or establish contacts with Fidel’s designated successor Raul Castro.

03/08/2006
U.S. Senator Urges to Restart Television Transmission to Cuba

U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking him to deploy all appropriate assets to allow U.S. television transmissions into Cuba to immediately restart. Stressing the importance of breaking “the regime’s information blockade,” Martinez encouraged Secretary Rumsfeld to facilitate TV Marti broadcasts into Cuba via Commando Solo, a special operations aircraft, reports RIA Novosti. TV Marti programs are produced especially for Cubans. At present, however, they have been suspended for lack of ground transmitters capable of relaying television signals to Cuba.

03/08/2006
U.S. to Give $80 million to Cuban Opposition

The White House and Congress prepared draft legislation that would allocate $80 million over  two years aimed at fostering democratic change in Cuba, reports Associated Press. Half of that sum would be paid immediately after passing the law. Those eligible for the money would include political prisoners, non-governmental organizations, workers’ rights organizations, independent libraries, journalists, doctors and economists who disagree with the Castro regime.

“The message will be, ‘The United States stands with you! Be ready to assert your independence,’”said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.  The recovery or deterioration in Fidel Castro’s health will not affect the U.S. decision to support the Cuban opposition, officials said.

Meanwhile, fearing that Castro’s illness could lead to a large-scale migration, the Bush administration cautioned Cubans against any mass exodus, and Cuban-American exiles against returning to Cuba. “Stay where you are,” urged White House press secretary Tony Snow. He also added that the United States would try to find an orderly and safe way for people to make transit between two places in case of necessity.

According to Cmdr. Jeff Carter, the U.S. Coast Guard has long had a plan, called Operation Vigilant Sentry, to deal with mass migrations from Cuba. But the plan has not been activated so far. However, after the news of Castro’s illness, additional ships, aircraft and personnel have been moved to the Florida coast.

03/08/2006
Fidel Castro’s Possible Demise Will Be the Best News for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

The following is commentary by Bridget Jones from National Review On-Line:

The death of the lynchpin of Latin American Communism will probably be the best news for Hugo Chavez. Because, as much as the Venezuelan ruler spouts adulation for the Cuban social model and figureheads such as Che Guevara and Castro, they are the old revolution. Cuba is an isolated Communist island . . . from which citizens risk life and limb to escape. Chavez sees this as old Communism, and he is the future. He is the Bolivarian revolutionary learning from his Communist forefathers’ mistakes and thinking beyond even his own Venezuela. He is quashing opposition, press, and even clergy with such slick spin to successfully delude outsiders into believing that he is a humanitarian who has perfected socialism — not the power-ravenous megalomaniac [that he is]. Chavez fantasizes about being the larger-than-life leader who can unite even the most stubborn and independent Latin American countries into the United States of Hugo. [. . .]

Castro’s death will signal Chavez’s rise to the top of the ideological heap, something he’s been working on for a while. . . . Chavez will become a drama queen like none other on the passing of Castro, mourning and wailing and hailing the dictator like a deity. But he will quickly assume his place at the helm of global Marxists, telling all who will listen that the crown has been passed on to him by the Cuban Commie legend. His power will grow in lockstep with his ego. And unfortunately, many may not be able to swim away from Hugo’s regime . . . so readily.”


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The Review of Cuban 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, Review of Cuban Events, Prima-News at prima@prima-news.ru or to idee@idee.org.