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Cuba Chronicle of Events
No. 37 • June 1-30, 2007


Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based in Washington, D.C. This edition is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Martí Noticias, Directorio Democrático Cubano, RadicalParty.org, SvobodaNews.ru, RIA Novosit, Telegraph, Radio Liberty, BBC News, Gazeta.Ru, and AFP.

OPPOSITION

31/05/2007
Dissidents Have Varied Reaction to Spain-Cuba Meetings

Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa told EFE agency that he viewed the Spain-Cuba human rights talks were as important because they demonstrated the willingness to open a new space for dialogue. The Cuban and Spanish delegations met on May 29 and 30 in Havana to analyze the human rights situation on the island, including both individual and collective rights. The process is a positive step that seeks to solve all conflicts, both inside and outside Cuba, through dialogue, Morúa added.

Another dissident, Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz said the meetings were not significant. He was more skeptical about the results of the talks because of the lack of goodwill on the part of Cuba’s totalitarian regime.  He added that this negotiating maneuver would allow the Castro regime to gain time, once again, by sending deceiving messages and making pledges it has no intention to fulfill, he added. He noted that the Cuban government did not release some political prisoners in these days to help Spain persuade the EU to change its policy on Cuba.

22/06/2007
Opposition Group Issues Invitation to Join Discussion Forum on Cuba’s Future

The Pro-Dialogue and Reconciliation Coordination, a coalition of moderate Cuban dissident groups coordinated by Fernando Sánchez, has called on other dissidents and citizens to join a discussion forum on Cuba’s future to which the coalition intends to invite the Cuban communist government.  He proposed that the forum discuss the following documents: History Will Absolve Me by Fidel Castro; “The Homeland Belongs to All” by the Cuban Dissidence Task Group; the Varela Project by the Christian Liberation Movement; and “Cuban National Reconciliation” prepared by the Task Force on Memory, Truth and Justice of Florida International University.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of the Progressive Arc, a dissident group with social democratic leanings, said in Havana that, with the opposition today being far from united, the organizers of the forum were fully aware of the likely negative response from other opposition groups.  Cuestra Morúa stated that while Cubans now have found themselves sunk in totalitarian rule, there is still a possibility for dialogue and consensus from all the different proposals, he added.

29/05/2007
Payá Urges Spanish Leftists to Promote Human Rights in Cuba

The founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, issued a dramatic appeal to members of the Spanish Left, urging them to go beyond ideological slogans and lend active support to a campaign for human rights in Cuba. In an article published in the Madrid daily ABC, Payá responded to the Spanish Parliament’s vote in which the Socialists and Communists rejected a motion calling for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.

Payá cited the declaration “United for Liberty” as a concrete demonstration of the peaceful pro-democracy Cuban opposition’s wish for greater unity and solidarity to achieve democracy, sovereignty, reconciliation, and freedom. All dictators, including Franco, used to call opposition to their rule an instrument in the hands of foreign states, he writes, and that dictatorships cannot be left or right, only dictatorships. In this sense, Cuba is no exception, since it suppresses both the left and right, namely all those supporting freedom and human rights in Cuba.

06/06/2007
Cuba’s Leading Dissidents Thank Bush for Demanding Release of Political Prisoners

Leading Cuban dissidents said they were grateful to U.S. President George W. Bush for his call for the immediate and unconditional release of political prisoners on the island made on June 5 at a pro-democracy conference in Prague. In Havana, economist Martha Beatriz Roque said that such international support is what Cuban dissidents need most of all today. Dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe told Agence France Presse agreed and encouraged other presidents to join Bush in his demand. Manuel Cuesta Morúa, leader of the left-oriented Progressive Arc, praised Bush for his words and said that the Cuban opposition was squeezed between the Cuban government’s resistance to democratize the country and the U.S. policy of isolation toward Cuba. Miriam Leiva from Ladies in White also expressed appreciation for Bush’s demand voiced on June 5.

29/06/2007
New Opposition Organization Founded

Ranchuelo, Cuba. Twenty-one peaceful opposition activists in Havana founded a new group on June 24 called the Miguel Valdés Tamayo Popular Movement for Human Rights. The group held its founding meeting in Guanabacoa municipality.  The group elected a governing body that includes Vladimir Alejo Miranda (chairman); Rita María Montes de Oca Chirino (general secretary); Pablo Hurtado Padilla (officer for press and culture); Richard Almaguer Pérez (officer for human rights); Aida Valdés Díaz (treasurer). For 90 minutes, the meeting was threatened by 15 plainclothes police officers standing in the street next to two state security motorcycles.

POLITICAL REPRESSION

26/06/2007
Group Speaks About Torture in Cuba

The Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba held a conference to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Its executive Director Frank Calzón stated that it was impossible to raise the issue of torture in Cuba because of the totalitarian nature of the regime and that others outside the island have ignored the issue.

29/06/2007
FLAMUR Members Detained

Pinar del Río, Cuba. Political police in this province arrested several members of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR), including Río Minerva Pérez, a FLAMUR representative in the province, her deputy Carmen Salas, and Dayami Piñera.

Minerva Pérez, 51, said, “We were at a coach terminal, ready to go to Havana. We intended to deliver to Cuba’s National Assembly a petition with signatures backing the campaign dubbed “With the Same Coin.” The campaign demands all Cuban establishments sell goods and services to Cubans in a single currency, the peso, in which the government pays wages to its citizens.”

There are two currencies in use in Cuba, the peso, sometimes called the “national peso,” and the so-called convertible peso, or CUC, which is used by foreigners. Describing the incident, Dayami Piñera said that “before arresting us, they searched us and confiscated a bag with 350 petition signatures. . . . FLAMUR is a civic feminist group. What we do is just helping needy people. The crime we are accused of by the authorities is our being an independent organization.”

POLITICAL PRISONERS

05/06/2007
George W. Bush: Washington to Give Its Support for Dissidents Worldwide

U.S. President George W. Bush called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of dissidents in Cuba, Belarus, Myanmar and Vietnam in an address to an international conference in Prague that assembled dissidents from around the world. “The democratic dissidents of today are the democratic leaders of tomorrow,” Bush said. He promised that Washington would launch new steps to strengthen its support for dissidents worldwide.

21/06/2007
CPJ Reports That Health of Jailed Journalists in Cuba Deteriorates

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that the health of eight Cuban journalists who have been unjustly imprisoned since 2003 has worsened. Their health problems have been caused by poor prison conditions and inadequate medical attention, the New York-based rights group states in a press release, citing relatives of the jailed independent journalists.

The Committee gives a brief review of the cases of José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, Omar Ruiz Hernández, José García Paneque, Víctor Rolando Arroyo, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, and Normando Hernández González. They were among 75 Cuban dissidents, intellectuals, independent journalists, and human rights activists arrested and jailed in a massive crackdown in 2003 dubbed the Black Spring.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

The Episcopate in Havana will host the Thirty-First General Conference of the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM). Over 70 delegates will gather at Casa San Juan María Vianney to take part in the event. CELAM meets twice a year. At this meeting, the church body will elect a new governing body, reports Cuba’s online magazine Espacio Laical. This is the first time that Cuba will host such an event.
 
REFUGEES

26/05/2007
Cuban Volleyball Athletes Hold Press Conference in Rome

The Transnational Radical Party and the Italian Radicals (Radicali Italiani) hosted a press conference in Rome for two Cuban volleyball players seeking political asylum in Italy. Raidel Poey and Yasser Portuondo, two members of the Cuban national volleyball team, escaped during the tune-up games in Bulgaria in preparation for the World Volleyball League 2007. After managing to cross into Italy, they applied for political asylum in this country.

14/06/2007
Two Cuban Soccer Players Defect during Trip to the USA

Following in the steps of boxers and volleyball players, two players from the Cuban national team defected before a match against Honduras in the United States during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Cuban forward Lester More went missing at the team’s last stop in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso did not return from a shopping trip in Houston, reports Reuters. After the match against Honduras, Cuban coach Raul Gonzales cryptically told reporters, “They went for the gold. I hope they don’t end up with thorns.”  News that more had defected leaked on June 12, but, unlike the Cuban coach, a spokesman for the CONCACAF refused to comment.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

06/06/2007
Havel Criticizes EU for Cautious Stand on Communist Cuba

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel said at a recent international conference of pro-democracy activists in Prague the European Union has repeatedly applied a strange diplomatic caution toward the communist Cuba. For example, EU countries do not invite Cuban dissidents to the celebrations of national holidays at their embassies in Havana. Havel said that the conference should tell the EU it opposes its appeasement stand on Cuba as the wrong path to follow. He noted that those who promote human rights in Cuba attach particular importance to public support for dissidents in totalitarian Cuba.

07/06/2007
EU Should Boost Support for Cuban Dissidents

During a hearing at the European Parliament on the efficiency of the EU Common Position toward Cuba’s communist regime, a European Parliament commission unanimously agreed that the EU should more strongly demonstrate its support for a peaceful transition to democracy on the island.

MEP Peter Statsny, a Conservative from Slovakia who hosted the hearing, said the EU policy was inadequate and called for more specific and effective measures towards Cuba. The hearing was held ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on June 18 to review the policy on Cuba. Members of the European Parliament and the Cuban opposition participated in the debate. José Ribeiro e Castro, a Conservative lawmaker from Portugal, suggested that the EU should renew the sanctions introduced in 2003 after 75 Cuban intellectuals and dissidents were arrested and jailed by the Cuban communist regime.

08/06/2007
MEP Marco Cappato Calls for EU Mechanism to Support Cuban Dissidents

Italian MEP Marco Cappato has called on the European Union to launch a mechanism to
support Cuban dissidents and to state explicitly the EU will start no dialogue with Havana’s communist regime until it meets the key precondition that all Cuban political prisoners be released.

Mr. Cappato, human rights coordinator of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe in the European Parliament (ALDE), made this statement on the eve of Brussels’ vote on a new “general strategy” on Cuba that suggests scrapping diplomatic sanctions against Cuba imposed  after the regime’s severe crackdown on dissidents in spring 2003. The Italian MEP believes the new strategy would undermine fundamental principles of the EU if it would not specifically demand that Cuba respect human rights. He proposed that the new strategy should include a plan to support dissidents through dissemination among Cubans of documents and projects of the pro-democracy opposition and demanding the release of all political prisoners.

13/06/2007
Chavez Makes a Lightning Visit to Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba for a brief visit on June 12 at the invitation of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The leaders of the two socialist countries talked for six hours. Cuban state television called the meeting a “working visit” and said Chavez and Castro described the meeting as “emotional.”

Chavez’s trip is his sixth to Cuba since Castro underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006 and temporarily delegated his duties as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Commander in Chief, and President of the Council of State to his younger brother Raul Castro.

Chavez’s trip came five days after Bolivian President Evo Morales, another close Castro ally in Latin America, made a sudden unannounced visit to Cuba. Morales said after the meeting that Castro had made significant progress in his recovery. Chavez has frequently said this as well. Cuban authorities make no mention of when the ailing leader could return to power.

15/06/2007
Teheran Offers $216 Million in Loan to Cuba

The Iran-Cuba Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission has completed its work in Havana by signing an agreement to give Havana a credit of $216 million. According to Argentine media familiar with the situation, Cuba and Iran have signed several agreements to expand bilateral cooperation in various fields. The Iranian delegation, led by Mines and Industries Minister Alireza Tahmasebi, met with Cuba’s acting President Raul Castro. Cuba and Iran restored diplomatic relations in 1979 after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

21/06/2007
Freedom House Denounces UN Rights Body’s Decision

The international human rights organization Freedom House condemned the decision by the UN Human Rights Council not to retain mandates of the Special Rapporteurs for Belarus and Cuba, reports Radio Liberty.

“The decision by members of the Council to eliminate their own ability to closely monitor the human rights situation in Belarus and Cuba --- two of the most repressive regimes in the world --- is unfathomable,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. Dropping Belarus and Cuba from a black list of countries with poor rights records would be a major blow to the Council’s ability to monitor systematic abuses of political rights and civil liberties in specific countries, she said.

The UN Human Rights Council agreed to remove Belarus and Cuba from the black list of states warranting sustained scrutiny on June 18 and also decided to eliminate special rapporteurs for these countries.

22/06/2007
Havana Rejects Talks with EU Until Sanctions Dropped

Cuba’s Foreign ministry has rejected calls from the European Union to resume a political dialogue and said talks could only take place when the EU lifts diplomatic sanctions imposed on the Cuban government in 2003, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published in the Communist Party daily Granma.

“If the European Union wants some kind of dialogue with Cuba, it should definitively eliminate sanctions,” the ministry said. It is up to the European Union to make up for the mistakes it has committed with Cuba, it noted. “But there's no rush: we have all the time in the world,” the statement said. The European Union imposed sanctions against Cuba in June 2003 after the arrest of counterrevolutionary charges of 75 dissidents and journalists in a crackdown.

22/06/2007
EU Wants UN Mandates of Special Rapporteurs for Belarus and Cuba Retained

Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, expressed the bloc’s dissatisfaction over the decision by the UN Human Rights Council eliminate existing mandates of Special Rapporteurs for Belarus and Cuba. Despite these objections, the EU nevertheless decided to join the final resolution in order to reach a compromise, the statement issued on behalf of the EU stated.

The European Union was satisfied that all thematic mandates and most of the country mandates of the UNHRC’s predecessor had been retained, but the removal of mandates of Special Rapporteurs for Belarus and Cuba were a grave cause for concern. On June 18, Belarus and Cuba were dropped from the Council’s list of countries warranting close scrutiny of the human rights situation and ended the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs working in those countries. The Council justified its decision in part on the fact the special rapporteurs had worked in the countries for over six years.

In the last 12 months, the EU had actively negotiated and urged UNHRC members to strengthen the Council as the primary UN body charged with ensuring human rights.

27/06/2007
Montaner Predicts Imminent Demise of the Castro Regime

Writer Carlos Alberto Montaner, leader of the Cuban Liberal Union in exile, said in Madrid that the Castro regime would soon collapse and be replaced by a capitalist system, and described the policy of the present Spanish government toward Cuba as reprehensible. Speaking at the Fórum Europa media lunch, the Cuban intellectual ruled out the idea of a civil war breaking out in Cuba and expressed his readiness to build up the Liberal Party on the island after the end of Castroism. Referring to the strategy of the Spanish Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Montaner to deal with Cuba, he said Spain was simply obliging the Cuban dictatorship.

28/06/2007
Bush Reiterates His Wish for Cuba to Become Free

U.S. President George W. Bush said once again that “it is in our interests that Cuba become free” and stressed that there was “only one non-democracy in our neighborhood.” Speaking about terrorism at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, the president said that the Cuban people deserved to live in a free society. President Bush said that on the day Fidel Castro dies, the United States would appeal to the world to promote democracy in Cuba as the alternative to the totalitarian form of government they have been living with on the island. He further stated that he would favor democracy over stability on the island if faced with a choice.

27/06/2007
CIA Reveals Details of Its Plot to Kill Fidel Castro

In the early 1960s, the CIA planned to pay $150,000 to the mafia to try to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The details of a plot, reports AFP, are recorded in CIA documents made public by the agency on June 26. Declassified files contain a document dated 1973 that details the plot to kill the Cuban leader.

The document shows that in 1960, CIA officials, without disclosing their affiliation to the agency, approached mobster Johnny Roselli to take part in a plot against Castro. They told Roselli that several American business firms were suffering heavy financial losses in Cuba as a result of Castro’s action and they were willing to pay $150,000 for his assassination. “It was to be made clear to Roselli that the United States government was not, and should not, become aware of this operation,” the document said.

After being offered a contract to kill Castro, Roselli contacted another notorious gangster known as Sam Gold, Al Capone’s successor in Chicago. CIA officials who maintained contact with Roselli and Gold advised them against using firearms and explosives and recommended using a potent pill that could be placed into Castro’s food or drink, say declassified documents. Juan Orta, a corrupt Cuban official who had connections with the local mafia, was to carry out the poisoning.

According to CIA declassified documents, Roselli supplied six pills of high lethal content to Orta. But after several abortive attempts, Orta fell under suspicion of Castro’s State Security and demanded “out” of the operation. Being on the verge of exposure, Orta passed the poison to another man from Castro’s inner circle. But the man, whose name is not disclosed, also failed to do the job. After several weeks of reported unsuccessful attempts, Roselli and Gold got in touch with undercover CIA agents and said they were out of the assignment. Neither of the men involved in the effort to kill Castro was ever paid out of the agency funds, the CIA stressed.

The newly declassified CIA papers also detail assassination attempts against Congo independence leader Patrice Lumumba, as well as Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo.

ECONOMICS

05/06/2007
Bank of the Former Socialist Camp Sues Cuba

The International Investment Bank (IIB) has filed suit against Cuba over its debt of more than €80 million ($107 million), reports Kommersant Moscow daily. The bank’s largest shareholder is Russia. This is the first time the bank has gone to court against one of its shareholders. According to the bank’s board chairman, Andrei Serebryakov, this measure will allow to “clear the bank’s balance of old assets that have long ceased to bring payments.” The bank also intends to get a credit rating to attract cheaper loans.

Cuba is the only member that has not settled its debt to the bank. Cuba also has a $300 million debt to the International Bank for Economic Cooperation (IBEC).

Russia says settling the debts could open the way for forming an international development bank around the IIB and IBEC to work in Central and Eastern Europe.

The International Investment Bank was founded in 1970 by the member states of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) to carry out investment projects on the territory of the former socialist world. The other members of the bank are Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Cuba, Vietnam and Mongolia. The Russian share in the bank is 58%.

Cuba’s outstanding debt to Russia inherited from the former Soviet Union, which Cuba refuses to accept, is around $20 billion. In September 2006, Russia provided Cuba with a $355 million line of credit to be used to finance the delivery of Russian goods and services to the island nation.

OTHER NEWS

19/06/2007
Raul Castro’s Wife Dies in Cuba

The wife of Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother who has been temporarily running the country, died in Cuba after a long illness. Vilma Espin was 77. Espin was one of the most powerful women in Cuba. She actively participated in the Cuban revolutionary struggle in the 1950s that toppled Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship.

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