Cuba Chronicle of Events
No. 38 • July 1-31, 2007
Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Moscow in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe 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, Vengria.com, Gazeta.ru, PRIME-TASS, ITAR-TASS, ITAR-TASS-Sportcom..
Ladies in White Urge European Parliament to Maintain Firm Policy toward Cuba
The Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners, has sent a letter to the European Parliament, asking that it not to let economic interests prevail in shaping a policy toward Cuba’s communist regime. The letter states that the new policy of engagement with the communist government in Cuba by some countries has yielded no positive results in the human rights situation, whereas the European Union’s firm stance in 2003 when 75 dissidents and intellectuals were arrested in the Black Spring crackdown provided huge moral support and, the women stated, most probably restrained the totalitarian regime from committing further acts of abuse.
Cuban Dissidents Call on the EU to Resume Sanctions against Cuba
Cuban dissidents Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés and Blanca Reyes also called on the European Union to resume diplomatic sanctions against Cuba’s military regime since the policy of dialogue has obviously failed to bring about any positive changes in Cuba. During a forum held ahead of a hearing at the European Parliament to review the EU policy toward Cuba, Valdés and Reyes secured support of MEPs from several political factions who have denounced Spain’s strategy of engagement toward Cuba’s communist regime.
Valdés, a dissident arrested in a massive crackdown in spring 2003 and currently living in exile in Sweden, has urged the European Union to stop having normal relations with Cuba because, he stressed, it legitimizes the dictatorship. Blanca Reyes, wife of Cuban author and dissident Raúl Rivero, said with certainty the policy of dialogue has not ended repression against dissident groups such as the Ladies in White movement of female relatives of the Cuban political prisoners awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament in 2005.
Rights Abuses Persist in Cuba
The Cuban government persists in the systematic and institutional violation of all civil, political and economic rights listed in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, states the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. The Commission stated in its bi-annual report that the overall human rights situation remained clearly unfavorable under acting President Raul Castro.
Freedom of expression and association, freedom of information, media freedom, and the right to form trade unions and political organizations continue to be suppressed and are considered criminal acts under a draconian penal code, the report stressed. Although there was a minor drop-off in the number of political prisoners in the first half of 2007, from 283 to 246, this number still is still the highest per capita in the world.
Ladies in White Thank Chile’s Senate for Support
The Ladies in White, the group of wives and mothers of Cuban political prisoners that received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize in 2005, thanked Chile’s Senate for adopting a resolution denouncing the existence of political prisoners in Cuba and dismissing Cuba’s allegations of interference in internal affairs. In a letter to Senate President Eduardo Frei circulated on July 4, the group writes “Your solidarity gives strength to Cuban political prisoners and their families.” The letter stated that Chile’s Senate had bolstered the confidence of Cuban prisoners of conscience and peaceful activists that their efforts and sufferings are not in vain and increased their hopes that they will soon be free and live in a democratic Cuba.
Guillermo Fariñas Donates Prize Money to Political Prisoners
Havana, Cuba. Cuban independent journalist and former prisoner of conscience Guillermo Fariñas, who was awarded the Human Rights Prize by the German City of Weimar in 2006, stated that he would donate the monetary part of the award (equaling $1,500 USD) to Cuban political prisoners.
In October 2002, Fariñas, director of the Cubanacan Press Agency, was sentenced to 7 years and 10 months in prison. Having served 14 months, Fariñas was granted an early release because of poor health undermined by frequent hunger strikes. In January 2006, he launched a hunger strike lasting ten months demanding Cubans’ free access to the internet, bringing to international attention the regime’s tight control over information. As a result of his hunger strikes, Fariñas suffers from mitral insufficiency and chronic polyneuritis.
At an official ceremony held at the German Embassy in Havana on July 19, Counselor Michael Klepsch gave Fariñas the award. Last year, Fariñas was prevented by the government from traveling to Weimar to attend the awards ceremony, as was his mother, who was also invited. The grounds given by the government was that Fariñas was still too ill from his hunger strike.
Cuban Opposition Sees No Progress in Human Rights under Raul
EFE News Service reports that, one year after Raul Castro took over in Cuba, Cuban dissidents it interviewed “don’t see much change” in the human rights situation on the island and continue to call for the release of political prisoners.
Manuel Cuesta Morúa from the Progressive Arc, a dissident group with social democratic leanings, said the government has shown some tendency to ease its repressive tactics against the opposition but continues to arrest people for political reasons. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas from the Christian Liberation Movement, said that there has been no progress in advancing human rights and there is still the need to press the government to free political prisoners. Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello from the Assembly to Promote Civil Society said there were no noticeable reasons for even short-time optimism. Vladimiro Roca, reports EFE, shared her opinion, saying Raul Castro has failed to show any signs of pragmatism that had been expected of him.
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello Comments on Raul Castro’s Speech
Cuban leading dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello criticized Raul Castro’s speech on July 26 and called on the Cuban leader to publicly concede that the government has failed. Roque, leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, said in a press release “the government needed to be brave enough to tell the country that the communist system is a failure.”
Speaking at Cuba’s national day celebrations on July 26, Raul Castro, who took over as president after Fidel Castro’s stomach surgery, indicated his intention to change everything which has to be changed while warning that there would not be immediate or spectacular results.
Opposition Activist of Russian Origin Deported
Havana, Cuba. Cuba’s immigration authorities have deported peaceful opposition activist Elena Veselova to Russia, according to her daughter Diana Aguilar Veselova.
The woman was notified of the deportation order on July 16 when a government official brought her from the Isle of Youth to Havana.
Elena Veselova, 41, had been living on the Isle of Youth for more than 20 years. Prior to her deportation, she was chair of the Pinero Democratic Action group and a member of the collegial leadership of the Pinero Autonomous Party (Partido Autónomo Pinero – PAP), an opposition group that wants autonomy for the Isle of Youth within a new Cuba.
Pending deportation, Elena was held at the headquarters of Cuba’s immigration agency in Havana, prevented from saying goodbye to her two daughters, Diana and Dora Lidia, aged 22 and 17 respectively. In breach of the established rules, Cuban authorities made her pay 1,723 convertible pesos for an air ticket. To get the money, her daughter Dora Lidia, who lives on the Isle of Youth, had to sell almost all domestic appliances available at their home.
Vladimiro Roca, a spokesman for the opposition alliance Todos Unidos, called the deportation politically motivated and a clear human rights violation. “Elena was even denied protection from her embassy, which, it is assumed, is in Cuba to protect and defend Russian citizens living on the island,” said the chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Cuba.
Fidel Castro Punishes Families of Defecting Boxers
The families and friends of five Cuban boxers who deserted their team during this year’s Pan-American Games have been punished within Cuba as a result of the group defection. Ahmet Oner, who heads the German promotional agency Arena Box Promotions that signed up the Cuban boxers, said that family members and friends of Odlanier Solís, Yuriokis Gamboa, Yan Barthelemy, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and Erislandy Lara have been temporarily jailed. Houses and cars given to the Olympic champions for their prior achievements were confiscated.
Solís, Gamboa, and Barthelemy refused to comment on the developments back home for fear of triggering further reprisals against their loved ones. The three abandoned their team during a tournament in Caracas while in preparation for the Pan-American Games. Lara and Rigondeaux disappeared during the Games in Rio.
Oner denied rumors that Solis, Gamboa, and Barthelemy had helped their teammates escape (“Rigondeaux and Lara have defected by themselves,” he asserted) and laughed off stories that Fidel Castro was planning an attack on Arena. He said, “I cannot understand why our athletes, their families and friends are threatened and persecuted just because they fight for us. The guys just want to do what they do best: boxing and earning money for themselves and their families. We are giving them the chance to do so. How can that be considered a crime? It’s harassment like this that makes Cuba a state without the rule of law. Freedom and human rights should be respected all over the world including Cuba.”
Culture Won’t Improve Poor Conditions in Cuban Jails
Cuban opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello said that Cuban prisoners do not need culture, as regime musician and songwriter Silvio Rodríguez claims, but better living conditions. Speaking in parliament, Rodríguez, a deputy, said culture was vital for rehabilitation of prisoners, and announced an initiative to bring music to prisons.
A dissident and ex-political prisoner, Roque Cabello argued that culture and sport would not enable those who live in the world’s harshest prison system to solve their problems. It’s far more important to release political prisoners who committed no crime and are unfairly subjected to poor prison conditions, Roque Cabello stressed in an official statement.
Reporters Without Borders Urge Cuban Regime to Free Jailed Journalists
Reporters Without Borders has called on the Cuban government to release all imprisoned independent journalists on medical grounds. In a press release issued on July 5, the press freedom organization voiced concern about the health of Cuba’s imprisoned journalists, and said the gesture they were waiting for from the authorities is not political but humanitarian.
RSF reviewed of the cases and worsened health problems of Normando Hernández, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Fabio Prieto, José Ubaldo Izquierdo, Víctor Rolando Arroyo, José Luis García Paneque, Pablo Pacheco, and Iván Hernández Carrillo. Cuba’s prisons are currently holding 25 dissident journalists, 20 of whom were arrested during the “Black Spring” in 2003. After China, Cuba is the world’s second biggest jailer of independent journalists.
Cuban Pro-Democracy Activist Freed After Completing Two-Year Term
Cuban opposition leader René Montes de Oca Martija was released on July 12 after completing a two-year prison term for attending a protest commemorating the victims of the 13th of March tugboat massacre, reported dissident sources in Cuba.
Montes de Oca Martija, head of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba affiliated with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, was convicted on a charge of “public disorder.” The dissident was beaten and arrested along with fifteen other pro-democracy activists in Havana by agents of the Castro communist regime on July 13, 2005. They were participating in a commemoration of the deaths of 41 people, including 10 children, who drowned on that day in 1994 after Cuban government vessels sank the tugboat on which they were attempting to flee the island.
IAPA Holds Raul Castro’s Government Responsible for Lives of Independent Journalists
The Executive Committee of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) charged the government of Raul Castro with “endangering the lives” of nine of the 28 independent journalists held behind bars in Cuba. The IAPA said the journalists “are denied even the most basic health care despite their serious medical conditions.” The Association demanded the release of all imprisoned Cuban journalists.
The IAPA voiced the demands at the Hemispheric Conference on the Judiciary, the Press, and Impunity held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on July 21 and 22 and attended by more than 200 people, including Supreme Court justices, academics and journalists. IAPA delegates highlighted the most recent such case in Cuba as that of journalist Armando Betancourt Reina, who on July 7 was sentenced to 15 months in prison after a trial that had been postponed several times due to a lack of formal charges. Betancourt, a member of the news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, was arrested in May 2006 after going to a neighborhood where residents were protesting a forceful eviction by authorities in the province of Camagüey.
Political Prisoner Jorge Alberto Liriano Threatened
The prison authorities in Kilo 7 prison in the province of Camagüey have threatened to apply Law 88 on political prisoner Jorge Alberto Liriano should he continue to let people know about cases of police abuse in the jail. This is reported by Joel Espinosa Medrano.
Cuba Seems Destined to Live under Harsh Dictatorship of Raul Castro
Cubans could soon face more difficult times and a harsher military dictatorship now that power has passed to Raul Castro, whose forty seven years as Minister of Defense have made him a hardened politician, according to an analysis by a professor at the University of Miami. In an article in the Harvard International Review, Cuban American Jaime Suchlicki, director of Miami University’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, writes that Raul Castro should not be compared to Gorbachev or even Deng Xiaoping. He argues that the transformation of the island into a democratic society will be difficult given increased military control.
Today, the island nation does not have a viable economy of its own, the Cuban peso has depreciated considerably, there is a huge budget deficit and a large and burdensome foreign debt. Only petroleum from Venezuela, tourism, nickel, and remittances from Cuban Americans are keeping the economy afloat, the article reads. Suchlicki writes that Cuba’s major challenges are a weak internal market and a severe rationing system. The monthly ration allows each Cuban to buy the following amounts of food: 0.75 pounds of beef, 0.50 pounds of sausage, 1 pound of chicken, 0.4 pints of oil, and 3 pounds of bananas per person.
Removing the military from the economy and decommissioning soldiers will be a major challenge, given high unemployment and lack of training for civilian positions. Suchlicki says the military will also be affected by social conflicts that may emerge in a post-Castro period. Cuba’s political history has made Cubans believe in the legitimacy of violence to effect political changes, perhaps leading to political vendettas over differences about how to restructure society.
Cuba Accuses U.S. of Violating Migration Agreements
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry has accused the United States of breaking bilateral migration agreements signed in 1994, namely in failing to live up to the previously agreed upon quota of 20,000 persons set for legal emigration from Cuba to the United States. A ministry statement asserted that between October 1, 2006 and June 30, 2007, the United States had issued only 11,000 exit visas to Cubans and it was unlikely it would meet the annual target in the two months left, the ministry said. Cuban authorities are accusing Washington of deliberately under-filling the quota in order to encourage greater illegal emigration.
Every year, approximately 2,000 Cubans brave at least 130 km of open sea, attempting to reach Florida, using every imaginable means from wooden planks to makeshift boats made out of 1950s cars. Under the 1994 agreement, the Cuban government agreed to a quota of 20,000 legal immigrants each year if the U.S. agreed to return any Cubans attempting to flee the island who are intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard are returned to Cuba. However, under U.S. policy, any Cuban who reaches U.S. shores is given asylum.
U.S. Says Cuba Obstructing Consular Work in Havana
In an official statement, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana accused the Fidel Castro regime of “imposing roadblocks” that are impeding its ability to issue exit visas for Cubans, including the denial of visas to U.S. diplomatic staff to work in Cuba, blocking import of materials and supplies required for issuing visas, and preventing the hiring of Cuban citizens to fill 47 vacancies.
Cuba earlier accused the United States of failing to comply with the 1994 migration accords under which Washington has agreed to issue 20,000 visas a year to Cubans seeking to leave the island. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana said the constraints imposed by Cuba’s communist regime were in violation of the 1994 bilateral accords that oblige the two governments to provide the entry and hiring of personnel needed for consular work.
The American side admitted it might not meet the quota of 20,000 visas for Cuban émigrés this year because of unreasonable constraints placed by Cuba that make visa processing impossible. Washington has called on the Cuban regime to honor its obligations and allow the Interests Section to treat Cuban refugees with respect.
10,000 U.S. Visas Issued for Cubans, Says McCormack
The United States may not meet the agreed upon annual target of 20,000 due to “roadblocks that had been put in place” by the Cuban government, said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. McCormack said that 28 shipping containers with supplies and materials necessary for processing visas at the U.S. Interests Section were still waiting for release at José Martí International Airport in Havana. The Cuban government also has been denying visas for U.S. technical personnel needed to improve visa facilities at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
Castro Blames Boxers’ Defections on ‘American Money’
Fidel Castro said American money was at the root of disappearance of two Cuban boxers at the Pan-American Games in Brazil. Castro said the boxers “were simply knocked down with a blow straight to the chin, paid up with U.S. bills,” reported AP. He added the boxers left the games to accept lucrative deals from international promoters, “a mafia that uses refined psychological methods and many millions of dollars” to “select, buy up and promote Cuban boxers in the international sports competitions.”
Fidel Skips Revolution Day Festivities for the First Time in Decades
For the first time since 1959, Cubans marked Revolution Day — the communist government’s national holiday — without Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Acting President Raul Castro inspected the parade, filling in for his ailing brother.
The 80-year-old Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his brother on July 31 last year and has not appeared in public since then. Raul said his brother’s illness had been a “hard blow” but he stressed that his brother was recovering well. About 100,000 people gathered on the main square in the city of Camagüey to attend the annual Revolution Day parade. Almost everyone waved a Cuban flag and many wore official red T-shirts.
“These have been difficult months but the outcome has been diametrically opposed to the hopes of our enemies, who dreamt that chaos would be unleashed and Cuban socialism would end in collapse,” he said. He said that “Fidel is still in our hearts and we will continue to follow his ideas.”
In 2006, Fidel Castro, as he had done for decades, delivered an hours-long speech to mark Revolution Day. But five days later, it was announced that he was to undergo intestinal surgery and he temporarily handed over control of the country to his brother Raul. Since then there has been no indication of when Fidel Castro will resume his duties as president. He has voiced opinions on world affairs in a series of editorials published by the Cuban press but he has not been seen in public. He has appeared only in photographs and videos taken in hospitals.
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
Female Episcopal Bishop a First for Cuba, Latin America, and the Caribbean
The Reverend Nerva Cot Aguilera, the first female bishop of the Episcopal Church in Cuba, Latin America, and the Caribbean, was consecrated on June 10 in Havana. The ceremony took place at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in the Cuban capital. Cot Aguilera, 68, studied theology to work as a missionary in 1957, and in 1986 as one of the first three Episcopal women priests on the island. Also consecrated on Sunday was presbyter Ulises Mario Aguiera Prendes, who has been working in southeastern Cuba. The Reverend Miguel Eduardo Tamayo Zaldívar, Cuba’s interim bishop, described the designation as a historic act.
Cuba’s Catholic Church Confronts New Challenge
The Catholic Church in Cuba is pushing forward with implementation of a “Great Continental Mission,” a unified pastoral effort endorsed by the Latin American Bishops’ Conference (CELAM) held this week in Havana.
Religious syncretism and a high degree of ignorance of the Word of Jesus Christ make the Church’s mission on the island challenging, Monsignor Emilio Aranguren, the 56-year-old bishop of Holguín, told Agence France Presse. Aranguren, the newly-elected president of CELAM’s finance committee, said implementing the continental mission was a novelty for the Church in Cuba. Existing under the socialist regime, it has evangelized in a social and political situation totally different from the rest of the continent. Contacts between CELAM and government officials on these matters are quite formal, added the Bishop of Holguín, but the Church officially appeals for more openness, particularly regarding chaplains’ visits to prisoners and assistance and support to prisoners’ families.
Two Cuban Women Plead to CELAM for Help
The mother of Cuban neurosurgeon Hilda Molina has asked Latin American bishops attending the meeting of CELAM to intercede with the Castro government to allow her daughter to leave the island and at last be reunited with her family in Buenos Aires after 13 years of failed efforts. Hilda Morejón Serantes, 88, asked the bishops to accede to her “last wish and will” in a letter that circulated in the Cuban capital. She is the mother of Dr. Hilda Molina, 64, a prominent Cuban neurosurgeon, who has been repeatedly denied an exit visa to Argentina where her son Roberto Quiñones lives with his wife and two children. Last year, the elderly mother was injured in a domestic incident and decided to seek a passport on her own to travel to Argentina for medical treatment, planning to return to Cuba. However, the Fidel Castro regime still has not given her a passport.
Defecting Cuban Athletes to Perform in Germany
Two Cuban boxers who defected during the Pan-American Games in Brazil have signed five-year contracts with German promoters. Guillermo Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic and world champion in the bantamweight class (up to 54 kg), and Erislandy Lara, an amateur welterweight (69 kg) world champion, will now fight for Arena TV in Germany, following in the footsteps of the three other Cuban boxing stars, Olympic champions Yan Barthelemy, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Odlanier Solis, who defected in January this year during a trip to practice for the Pan-American Games. Arena TV boss Ahmet Oner said they were now trying to secure visas for the boxers, who, he asserted, will have a big future in professional boxing.
More Defections Around Pan American Games
Rafael Dacosta Capote, a 19-year-old Cuban handball player, 19, disappeared from the Pan American village several days ago, according to the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo and France Presse Agence. Earlier in July, Joel Romero, winner of the recent World Freestyle Wrestling Championship, abandoned his team in Leipzig, Germany, to seek asylum.
In addition, Cuban gymnastics coach Lázaro Lamelas Ramírez left the Pan-American village in Rio on the night of July 17 and his current whereabouts are unknown, suggesting that he has defected, reported EFE and AFP. The 33-year-old Lamelas, who won gold, platinum and bronze medals for Cuba at the Pan-American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1995, and Winnipeg, Canada, in 1999, was the head coach of the Cuban men’s national gymnastics team in Rio.
Folha de Sao Paulo reports that at least 80 Cuban athletes have sought asylum in other countries since 1991.
Cuban Athletes Rushed Away From Pan-American Games
The Cuban delegation has made a hurried departure from the Pan-American Games in Brazil, apparently for fear of possible mass defections. The delegation was rushed at short notice to Rio de Janeiro’s airport well before the closing ceremony on Sunday, leaving the men’s volleyball team no time to collect their bronze medals. The order to return home followed the defection of four Cuban athletes and one coach earlier in the tournament who have sought asylum in Brazil.
The Pan-American Games, which take place every four years, are one of the biggest sporting events in the Americas, and Cuba has once again been among the main contenders. As the Games were drawing to a close in Rio de Janeiro, Cuba was in second place behind the United States in the table of medals. It is not clear why there was such a hasty departure, but Cuba’s ailing leader Fidel Castro has made clear his irritation over earlier defections. “Betrayal for money is one of the favorite weapons of the United States to destroy Cuba’s resistance,” he said.
At the 1999 Pan-American Games in Canada 13 Cuban athletes defected.
Cuban Delegation in Budapest
Huber Matos, a former Castro ally and guerilla commander, arrived in Budapest as the head of a delegation representing the Cuban-American movement for democracy and peace. Seeking to gain international support, the delegation presented a report on the situation in Cuba which is now at its crucial point: while Fidel Castro’s younger brother Raul is readying himself to take his place, the civil opposition is growing on the island. Huber Matos said Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, could make a substantial contribution toward generating international solidarity.
Hungary’s Institute for Democratic Transformation is now organizing a meeting with parties’ representatives to discuss aid for the Cuban democratic movement. The assistance could be provided in various ways, including medicine, books, clothing, and campaigns for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.
Mexican, Cuban Parliamentarians Meet in Havana
Mexican senators and members of Cuba’s National Assembly met in Havana on July 5 to start their working session to normalize bilateral relations. Twenty three Mexican lawmakers arrived in Havana to participate in the 9th Cuba-Mexico Interparliamentary Meeting. According to Mexico’s sources, the agenda includes Cuba’s 500 million dollar debt to Mexico’s National Foreign Trade Bank (BANCOMEXT).
Bush Suspends Chapter III of the Cuban Democratic Solidarity Act
U.S. President George W. Bush has extended for another six months a measure banning lawsuits by Americans whose property in Cuba was expropriated by Fidel Castro’s government. In a letter to the Senate, Bush said his action “is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.” Under Chapter III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, known as the Helms-Burton Act, U.S. citizens may sue any individual, business or investor using property seized in Cuba on or after January 1, 1959. However, since the bill was passed in 1996, the White House has been continually suspending provisions enabling private law suits.
Raul Castro Offers Civilized Dialogue with the Next U.S. President
Cuba’s interim leader Raul Castro said he’s willing to start dialogue with a new U.S. president to improve relations between the two countries, according to AFP. The next U.S. administration would have to “decide whether it maintains the absurd, illegal, and failed policy toward Cuba, or accepts the olive branch we extended,” Raul Castro said at a Revolution Day ceremony in Camagüey attended by 100,000 people. “If the next U.S. government puts arrogance aside and decides to talk in a civilized fashion, that is welcome,” he added.
It is Raul Castro’s third call for negotiations with the United States since he assumed control of the country after Fidel Castro’s illness. Last December, Raul offered to negotiate with the United States to put an end to the decades-old enmity between the nations that broke diplomatic relations in 1961.
U.S. Says Cuba Needed Dialogue with Its Own People
The United States dismissed Raul Castro’s offer for talks to improve relations between Havana and Washington and said Cuba needed to start dialogue with its own people, reports AFP. “The only real dialogue he needs is with the Cuban people,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told the press.
“If the Cuban people were able to express the opinion on the question of whether or not they would like to freely choose their leaders, the answer would probably be yes,” he said. We look forward to the day when the Cuban people do have the opportunity to have that free and open dialogue, he added. “The dialogue needs to happen in Cuba,” McCormack stressed.
Cuba Wishes to Join OPEC
Speaking at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Cuba intended to seek membership in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Chavez claimed that the Cuban leader Fidel Castro expressed this intention to him. Chavez stated that there had been a huge oil discovery in the area of the Gulf of Mexico in waters controlled by Cuba.
According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Cuba’s proved oil reserves don’t exceed 259 million bbl (2006), while oil reserves in Venezuela are estimated at 75.27 billion bbl (2006), and in Russia at 74.4 billion bbl (2005). Venezuela sells more than 98,000 barrels of oil to Cuba at preferential prices. Cuba currently produces 72,000 barrels of oil a day and consumes 204,000 barrels a day. There are no available statistics on Cuba’s oil import and export.
OPEC was founded in 1960. OPEC members include Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Indonesia, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Equador, Gabon, and Angola. The current OPEC members control over 60% of the world’s oil reserves and its key goal is to control world oil prices.
Venezuela to Begin Search for Oil off Cuba
Venezuelan state oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) will search for light oil in Cuba’s special economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico starting August 1 in partnership with the Cuban company CUPET. An agreement to bolster the countries’ energy cooperation was signed earlier this year by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage. PDVSA stated that the start of exploration in Cuba signals deepening of “brotherly, revolutionary ties between the two countries,” reports ITAR-TASS.
PDVSA is the sixth foreign company to have received Cuba’s permit for prospecting off Cuba. The offshore exploration effort will cover a 10,000- square- kilometer area. PDVSA experts expect to confirm the presence of light crude oil in Cuban waters.
Cases of Tuberculosis Reported in Cuban Jail
A group of Cuban dissidents are reporting cases of tuberculosis in Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey, reports AFP. By her own admission, chief medical officer Dr. Yulia Gutiérrez said that 60 percent of the inmates there carry Koch’s Bacillus, causing tuberculosis, according to Cuban opposition activist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello said in a statement. Prisoners held at Kilo 7 were informed that after a medical inspection in June prison authorities had taken some preventive medical measures. Dr. Gutiérrez advised inmates to immediately ask for medical attention should they start coughing up blood, but the prisoners said obtaining such attention was nearly impossible in the Camagüey prison.
Castro Sued for the Death of U.S. Pilot
An American woman has sued Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Sherry Sullivan accuses the Cuban government of causing the death of her father Geoffrey Francis Sullivan, a pilot who disappeared during a flight over Cuba in 1963. The pilot’s daughter contends that Fidel Castro and his brother Raul are liable for damages arising from the prolonged imprisonment and eventual death of Sullivan after he was shot down and captured in Cuba. In 1996, U.S. Congress passed a bill which allows its citizens to file lawsuits in U.S. state courts against the Cuban government for causing “wrongful deaths.” Since then several wrongful death claims have been made against the Cuban regime, most of them satisfied.
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