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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 56 • June 16-30, 2008


Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency (Russia) in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (U.S.A). This edition is based on reports from PRIMA-News, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Martí Noticias, Directorio Democrático Cubano, RBC, The Guardian, RIA Novosti, Radio Liberty, Rosbalt, PRIME-TASS, Associated Press, Reuters.

OPPOSITION

15/06/2008 –
The
Ladies in White Favor Maintaining EU Sanctions Against Cuba

Berta Soler, a representative of the Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of Cuban political prisoners, expressed support for keeping in place European Union sanctions imposed against the Cuban government in 2003 and suspended in 2005. She told the EFE agency in Havana on June 15 that there was no sense engaging the Cuban government in dialogue. “We have been calling for the release of our men for five years, but the Cuban rulers do not listen to us,” Soler said. Lifting the sanctions means that the EU is drawing closer to the Castro regime, but European political advances will be of no benefit to the political prisoners.

The Ladies in White organizes peaceful protests for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners. In 2005, the group won the Sakharov Prize for human rights awarded annually by the EU.

18/06/2008 – Dissident Who Wanted to Talk to Uruguayan President Has Telephone Cut


Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who had had expressed the desire to meet with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez during his visit to the Cuban capital, reported that his own telephone was disconnected on June 17 a few hours before the Uruguayan president’s arrival.
Payá Sardiñas wrote in a June 13 letter from the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación) to Vázquez that those who do not maintain the official line of the Castro regime have their freedoms of speech and association suppressed. The authorities tolerate the opposition, the dissident wrote, but subject it to persecution and exclusion from civic life. Payá Sardiñas invited Tabaré Vázquez to visit his home at Calle Peñón 122 in the El Cerro district of Havana to discuss the realities of life for the Cuban people.

25/06/2008 – Opposition Members Threatened with Death


Raúl Borges, a member of the Cuban opposition, reported that he and his son Ernesto Borges, who is in prison, have received death threats from a former member of the political police.

29/06/2008 – Political Police Suppress Demonstration for Release of Political Prisoners


A group trying to hold a peaceful demonstration for the release of Cuban political prisoners on Havana’s Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolución) on the morning of June 27 were detained and beaten by the police. The demonstrators, mainly dissidents from the Villa Clara province, were taken back to their places of residence after being released by the police. The independent journalist Yuniesky García López  told Radio Martí that he was severely beaten after he began shouting “Down with Fidel! Down
with Communism!”

POLITICAL REPRESSION

18/06/2008 – Police Beat Student Leader in Havana


Cuban student leader Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina was taken into custody and severely beaten by police at a police station in Havana. Lobaina reported the beating to Radio Martí on June 15.

27/06/08 – Independent Journalist Banned from Living in Capital


Independent journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira has appealed to international human rights organizations over his being forbidden to live in the Cuban capital. A ban was issued on June 10 in Resolution No. 500-08 of the Assembly of People’s Power of the municipality of Old Havana.
Serpa Maceira stressed that the authorities — solely for political reasons — have denied him a basic right to freely choose his place of residence within his own country. According to Serpa Maceira, he is defenseless and can be arrested at any moment and charged with insubordination or being a danger to society and sent to Isla de Pinos, where he is formally registered to live.

POLITICAL PRISONERS

18/06/2008 – Prisoner Severely Beaten in Kilo 7 Prison


Criminal prisoner Manuel Pedroso Socarrás was severely beaten at the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey province, reports Martí Noticias, citing Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares, an activist with the Pedro Luis Boitel Society of Political Prisoners. According to him, prison guards stopped the prisoner as he tried to deliver a Father’s Day greeting to a political prisoner, Normando Hernandez. Lieutenant Juan Sanchez Vazconcelos intercepted the note and beat him with a club, fracturing his skull, breaking his nose, and cutting his mouth. After that, he was placed in an isolation cell, where other guards continued to beat him.

12/06/2008 – Cuban Political Prisoner in Danger of Losing Sight


Librado Linares García, one of the Group of 75 political prisoners arrested in the spring of 2003, stated in a telephone conversation from prison that he is concerned about the progressive lose of sight in one eye and the insufficient medical treatment that he is receiving in prison.

GOVERNMENT

23/06/2008 – Fidel Castro Denies Communist Party Schism


Fidel Castro has denied rumors of a schism in the Cuban communist party. In comments on the former president’s official website, he says that the party is not at all dissatisfied with the policies of his brother Raúl. Castro formally resigned his office in February of this year, handing the reigns of power to his brother.

28/06/2008 – Fidel Castro Now an Independent Journalist Bucking the Government Line


Agenda for Transition leader Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello said that Fidel Castro, by rejecting as “hypocrisy” the overture of the European Union to lift sanctions in three articles published on the internet, has become an independent journalist, since he is not following the line of the government. The government asked to have the sanctions lifted. Roque noted sarcastically that Fidel Castro has become a blogger now, but he is obviously not writing for the Cuban people since they have no access to the Internet and cannot read his words. Roque was the only woman in the group of 75 dissidents arrested in March 2003; she was released in 2005 on medical parole.
Her fellow leader of the opposition alliance Agenda for Transition, Vladimiro Roca, went further by stating that the language of the three articles published by Fidel Castro on the Internet about the EU’s lifting of sanctions against Cuba fomented hatred.
Another dissident, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, told AFP in an interview that the government is entering into a dialogueue while Fidel speaks for that part of the ruling class that has no need for it. Meanwhile, Cuesta Morúa added, the authorities are doing a political juggling act to show that there is no schism in the Cuban leadership.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

26/06/2008 – Catholic Church in Cuba Objects to Government’s Support of Gay Rights


The Roman Catholic Church in Cuba expressed its objections on June 23 to growing support for the rights of homosexuals and transsexuals by the communist government after a conference was held recently on combating homophobia and a law was passed allowing sex change operations.

An editorial in the Diocese of Havana’s monthly magazine states, “Respect for the homosexual, yes. Propaganda for homosexuality, no.”  The editorial, signed by the magazine’s editor Orlando Marquez, refers specifically to the conference held on May 17 by the Cuban Center for Sexual Education titled International Day against Homophobia. The Center’s director, Mariela Castro, is Cuban President Raúl Castro’s daughter and has long campaigned for greater tolerance of sexual differences. In June, the Center released information that the Ministry of Health has approved a law to allow state-financed sex-change operations for 28 people. The National Assembly or parliament is studying the proposal to give unisex couples the same rights as married couples.

REFUGEES

14/06/2008 – Illegal Cuban Immigrants Seized in Mexico

An armed group of seven masked men overwhelmed seven migration employees in an attack on a bus carrying 37 illegal immigrants from Cuba and Latin American countries on its way to a place of temporary internment in the state of Chiapas on Saturday, June 14. Among those seized in the attack were thirty-three Cubans who had been seized by Mexican naval forces on a ship in territorial waters and four citizens of Latin American countries who were arrested in Cancun for working illegally. Mexican officials suggest that the attack was carried out by an international criminal group that engages in the smuggling of illegal immigrants.

17/06/2008 – Cuban Floridians Urge Governor to Veto Bill Complicating Travel to Cuba


More than 100 Cuban families and their travel agents appealed to Florida Governor Charlie Crist on June 11 to veto a bill imposing further limitations on companies that organize trips to Cuba. The bill, introduced by two members of the Florida legislature, would make tour companies working with Cuba pay an annual registration fee of $2500 and a bond of $300,000. The tour firms complain that this would make travel to the island impossible for families of modest means. The protest leaders were unable to meet with the governor himself  and instead were received by Crist’s legislative affairs director, Towson Fraser. The author of the bill, David Rivera, called the tour companies “Castro’s travel agents” and suggested they complain to the Cuban government if they are unhappy that the cost of traveling to Cuba rises by several times.

29/06/2008 – Protest against Abuses of Cuban Refugees in the Bahamas


Vigilia Mambisa, a U.S. organization of Cuban emigrants, held a demonstration on Saturday, June 28, in front of the Bahamian consulate in Miami to protest the mistreatment of 25 Cubans at the immigrant holding center in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, the previous Wednesday, June 25. According to a press release from the organizations, administrators at the immigration center beat the Cubans and took medicine and food away from them, and Alberto Díaz Mas, a minor, was publicly humiliated by center workers. Vigilia Mambisa (Mambi Vigil) takes its name from the name from the term used for Cuban rebels fighting for independence.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

13/06/2008 – Russia Thanked for Its Support of Cuban Spies in the U.S.


Cuba is grateful to Russia for its support in the struggle to free five Cubans imprisoned in the United States convicted of espionage, stated its ambassador to Russia, Jorge Martí Martinez, at a Moscow celebration of the 80th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto “Che” Guevara on June 13. Just over a year ago, the Russian State Duma approved an appeal to the U.S. Congress to intercede with the courts to attain a reconsideration of the Cubans’ 2001 sentences. “The Russian State Duma was one of the few parliaments in the world that passed a resolution for their release,” the ambassador acknowledged.

17/06/2008 – European Union, Divided over Cuba Policy, Delays Vote on Sanctions


EU foreign ministers, gathered on Monday, June 16, in Luxembourg, postponed the decision on the sanctions until Thursday, June 19. Diplomatic sources in Brussels say that the majority of EU countries favor lifting the sanctions, but no consensus was reached. The sanctions were imposed in 2003, after mass arrests of dissidents in Cuba, and suspended in 2005. 

The Czech Republic, Sweden, and Italy made it known that their countries’ positions were that the lifting of European Union diplomatic sanctions against the Cuban government should be conditioned on the improvement of the human rights situation on the island. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg stated that Raúl Castro must make a move toward freeing imprisoned opposition members and observing human rights before his country will approve the lifting of the sanctions. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said that Brussels initiated a dialogueue last year, but Havana showed no interest in holding a conversation on democracy and human rights. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini maintained that the EU should not think about lifting the sanctions until Cuba releases its political prisoners.

17/06/2008 – The Uruguayan President Will Not Meet with Cuban Dissidents

Uruguayan Foreign Minister Gonzalo Fernández said on June 12 in an interview with the Uruguayan newspaper El País that President Tabaré Vázquez will not meet with members of the Cuban opposition during his visit to the island. Fernández told the Montevideo newspaper that the visit is being made at the invitation of the Cuban government. He said it was unlikely that any other representative of the Uruguayan government would make contact with the dissidents.

The Cuban dissident group Agenda for Transition (Agenda para la Transición) asked Vázquez to meet with dissidents during his visit to Havana, June 17-21.
Well-known Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian National Movement, made a similar request of the Uruguayan president. In n interview with El País, Payá said that President Vázquez should remember that Cuba is not only a government, but also a society with a whole range of opinions and positions.

20/06/2008 – European Union Lifts “Sanctions” Against Cuba


The European Union has lifted sanctions against Cuba. The decision was announced on Thursday, June 20, after a meeting of the foreign ministers of that organization. Although the decision is symbolic — the sanctions had been suspended since 2005 and did not block trade or investment — the action is meant to send a message to both Havana and Washington.

EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner explained that the measures approved by Brussels were meant to “encourage” authorities on the island to continue movement toward reform. She also noted that radical improvement in relations between the EU and Cuba is possible only with a significant improvement in the human rights situation in Cuba, especially the freeing of political prisoners.

Washington expressed regret at the decision. A State Department representative had warned previously that Europe’s lifting of its limited sanctions would help give the “dictatorial regime . . . the appearance of legitimacy.” The U.S. spokesman called the changes made after Raúl Castro became head of state in February of this year cosmetic.

Madrid was the main lobbyist for lifting the sanctions and used their suspension to engage in high-level talks with the Cuban government. It traditionally maintains relatively close relations with Havana. The main opponent of the move was Prague. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg noted that Brussels will make an annual evaluation of human rights conditions in Cuba, adding that the sanctions might be reinstated if conditions there worsen.

20/06/2008 – Lifting EU Sanctions Elates Totalitarian Regime, Dissidents and Émigrés Say


The large Cuban immigrant community in Spain has organized protests against the EU decision to lift diplomatic sanctions imposed five years ago against Cuba. “Betrayal” was a mild expression used by the Cuban democrats to describe the move. The sanctions were imposed in reaction to the arrest and sentencing of 75 dissidents to more than 1,600 years’ imprisonment. Today, 55 of the prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated from the group, while the rest were freed under international pressure due to health considerations.

In Havana, Marta Beatriz Roque, leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba and one of the spokesmen for the opposition alliance Agenda for Transition, stated that the European Union’s decision elated the totalitarian regime and untied its hands to crack down on dissent.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the most active proponent of the lifting of the sanctions, said that Spain is defending the idea of democracy and freedom for Cuba and the Cubans and is engaged in a fruitful dialogue with Cuba. Spain will continue to work so that the Cubans can evolve, the Spanish minister promised.

Human rights activists consider the reforms instituted by Raúl Castro, the ostensible reason for lifting the sanctions, as purely cosmetic and say that Spain bears heavy responsibility for helping the Havana regime stay afloat. Well-known Spanish political scientist Cesar Vidal told Radio Liberty, “Who believes 80-year-old Castro and his circle can be re-educated as democrats?”, calling the assertion by the Spanish minister demagoguery. Vidal said that forces in power in Spain imagine themselves as mentors to the marginal regimes of Latin America, including Raul Castro’s Cuba, Evo Morales’s Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and they are trying to convince Europe of their ability to influence the regimes and “civilize” them.

20/06/2008 – Former Estonian Prime Minister Ashamed of EU and His Own Country


Former prime minister of Estonia Mart Laar sharply criticized the European Union and his own government for approving the lifting of sanctions against communist Cuba. “The EU has decided to . . . acknowledge the ‘liberal reforms’ that have been undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro. That news could have been expected, but it is still offensive to read. It is hard to believe that people with sober minds can seriously speak of liberalization coming to Cuba,” Laar writes on his official blog. “Yes, the Cubans now have the right to enter hotels for foreigners, and now they can own computers — but now, as before, only the communist nomenklatura has money for it. Free use of the internet remains forbidden, not to mention other freedoms. And thats called liberalization?” Laar writes. Instead, Europe should have listened to the voices of those who “stand for democracy in Cuba” while deciding the issue of lifting the sanctions.

 
“Although the EU also decided that the issue of conditions in Cuba will be examined again in a year, it cannot be believed, unfortunately, that, if political prisoners are still rotting in the prisons and the internet will still be inaccessible to Cubans, Europe will find the courage in itself to restore the sanctions. That decision requires a consensus and, of course, there will be at least one country in Europe that will try to block it. But the decision to lift the sanctions required a consensus as well. Therefore, I am ashamed not only of Europe, but of my country too,” the veteran Estonian politician concluded.

25/06/2008 – It’s Official: European Union Lifts Sanctions Against Cuba


The EU officially approved the removal of diplomatic sanctions against Cuba in order to aid the “development of democracy on the island.” The Council of Europe gave final approval to the decision on Monday, June 23, at a session in Luxembourg. A political agreement to end the sanctions was reached by the foreign ministers of the EU countries at a summit in Brussels on June 17. “We see encouraging signs in Cuba and I think that we should show the population in Cuba that we are ready to work with them,” said EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who added that the EU wants to show its support for the changes that have taken place in Cuba since Raúl Castro took the reins from his brother Fidel. However, the EU may reconsider its decision in a year, if human rights abuses continue.

28/06/2008 –
U.S. Congress Approves Bill on Travel to Cuba


The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a bill on June 25 to ease restrictions on travel by Cuban-Americans to the island. If the House of Representatives and Senate pass the bill, Americans of Cuban heritage will be able to visit their relatives on the island once a year, not once every three years as now. The law also extends the definition of “close relative” so that Cuban-Americans can visit their uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins.
The law also makes U.S. exports to the island of medicines and food easier.

13/06/2008 – Russia Thanked for Its Support of Cuban Spies in the U.S.


Cuba is grateful to Russia for its support in the struggle to free five Cubans imprisoned in the United States convicted of espionage, stated its ambassador to Russia, Jorge Martí Martinez, at a Moscow celebration of the 80th anniversary of the birth of Ernesto “Che” Guevara on June 13. Just over a year ago, the Russian State Duma approved an appeal to the U.S. Congress to intercede with the courts to attain a reconsideration of the Cubans’ 2001 sentences. “The Russian State Duma was one of the few parliaments in the world that passed a resolution for their release,” the ambassador acknowledged.

17/06/2008 – European Union, Divided over Cuba Policy, Delays Vote on Sanctions


EU foreign ministers, gathered on Monday, June 16, in Luxembourg, postponed the decision on the sanctions until Thursday, June 19. Diplomatic sources in Brussels say that the majority of EU countries favor lifting the sanctions, but no consensus was reached. The sanctions were imposed in 2003, after mass arrests of dissidents in Cuba, and suspended in 2005.

The Czech Republic, Sweden, and Italy made it known that their countries’ positions were that the lifting of European Union diplomatic sanctions against the Cuban government should be conditioned on the improvement of the human rights situation on the island. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg stated that Raúl Castro must make a move toward freeing imprisoned opposition members and observing human rights before his country will approve the lifting of the sanctions. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, said that Brussels initiated a dialogueue last year, but Havana showed no interest in holding a conversation on democracy and human rights. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini maintained that the EU should not think about lifting the sanctions until Cuba releases its political prisoners.

17/06/2008 – The Uruguayan President Will Not Meet with Cuban Dissidents


Uruguayan Foreign Minister Gonzalo Fernández said on June 12 in an interview with the Uruguayan newspaper El País that President Tabaré Vázquez will not meet with members of the Cuban opposition during his visit to the island. Fernández told the Montevideo newspaper that the visit is being made at the invitation of the Cuban government. He said it was unlikely that any other representative of the Uruguayan government would make contact with the dissidents.

The Cuban dissident group Agenda for Transition (Agenda para la Transición) asked Vázquez to meet with dissidents during his visit to Havana, June 17-21.
Well-known Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian National Movement, made a similar request of the Uruguayan president. In n interview with El País, Payá said that President Vázquez should remember that Cuba is not only a government, but also a society with a whole range of opinions and positions.

20/06/2008 – European Union Lifts “Sanctions” against Cuba


The European Union has lifted sanctions against Cuba. The decision was announced on Thursday, June 20, after a meeting of the foreign ministers of that organization. Although the decision is symbolic — the sanctions had been suspended since 2005 and did not block trade or investment — the action is meant to send a message to both Havana and Washington.

EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner explained that the measures approved by Brussels were meant to “encourage” authorities on the island to continue movement toward reform. She also noted that radical improvement in relations between the EU and Cuba is possible only with a significant improvement in the human rights situation in Cuba, especially the freeing of political prisoners. 

Washington expressed regret at the decision. A State Department representative had warned previously that Europe’s lifting of its limited sanctions would help give the “dictatorial regime . . . the appearance of legitimacy.” The U.S. spokesman called the changes made after Raúl Castro became head of state in February of this year cosmetic.

Madrid was the main lobbyist for lifting the sanctions and used their suspension to engage in high-level talks with the Cuban government. It traditionally maintains relatively close relations with Havana. The main opponent of the move was Prague. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg noted that Brussels will make an annual evaluation of human rights conditions in Cuba, adding that the sanctions might be reinstated if conditions there worsen.

20/06/2008 – Lifting EU Sanctions Elates Totalitarian Regime, Dissidents and Émigrés Say


The large Cuban immigrant community in Spain has organized protests against the EU decision to lift diplomatic sanctions imposed five years ago against Cuba. “Betrayal” was a mild expression used by the Cuban democrats to describe the move. The sanctions were imposed in reaction to the arrest and sentencing of 75 dissidents to more than 1,600 years’ imprisonment. Today, 55 of the prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated from the group, while the rest were freed under international pressure due to health considerations.

In Havana, Marta Beatriz Roque, leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba and one of the spokesmen for the opposition alliance Agenda for Transition, stated that the European Union’s decision elated the totalitarian regime and untied its hands to crack down on dissent.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the most active proponent of the lifting of the sanctions, said that Spain is defending the idea of democracy and freedom for Cuba and the Cubans and is engaged in a fruitful dialogue with Cuba. Spain will continue to work so that the Cubans can evolve, the Spanish minister promised.

Human rights activists consider the reforms instituted by Raúl Castro, the ostensible reason for lifting the sanctions, as purely cosmetic and say that Spain bears heavy responsibility for helping the Havana regime stay afloat. Well-known Spanish political scientist Cesar Vidal told Radio Liberty, “Who believes 80-year-old Castro and his circle can be re-educated as democrats?”, calling the assertion by the Spanish minister demagoguery. Vidal said that forces in power in Spain imagine themselves as mentors to the marginal regimes of Latin America, including Raul Castro’s Cuba, Evo Morales’s Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and they are trying to convince Europe of their ability to influence the regimes and “civilize” them.

20/06/2008 – Former Estonian Prime Minister Ashamed of EU and His Own Country


Former prime minister of Estonia Mart Laar sharply criticized the European Union and his own government for approving the lifting of sanctions against communist Cuba. “The EU has decided to . . . acknowledge the ‘liberal reforms’ that have been undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro. That news could have been expected, but it is still offensive to read. It is hard to believe that people with sober minds can seriously speak of liberalization coming to Cuba,” Laar writes on his official blog. “Yes, the Cubans now have the right to enter hotels for foreigners, and now they can own computers — but now, as before, only the communist nomenklatura has money for it. Free use of the internet remains forbidden, not to mention other freedoms. And thats called liberalization?” Laar writes. Instead, Europe should have listened to the voices of those who “stand for democracy in Cuba” while deciding the issue of lifting the sanctions.

 
“Although the EU also decided that the issue of conditions in Cuba will be examined again in a year, it cannot be believed, unfortunately, that, if political prisoners are still rotting in the prisons and the internet will still be inaccessible to Cubans, Europe will find the courage in itself to restore the sanctions. That decision requires a consensus and, of course, there will be at least one country in Europe that will try to block it. But the decision to lift the sanctions required a consensus as well. Therefore, I am ashamed not only of Europe, but of my country too,” the veteran Estonian politician concluded.

25/06/2008 – It’s Official: European Union Lifts Sanctions Against Cuba


The EU officially approved the removal of diplomatic sanctions against Cuba in order to aid the “development of democracy on the island.” The Council of Europe gave final approval to the decision on Monday, June 23, at a session in Luxembourg. A political agreement to end the sanctions was reached by the foreign ministers of the EU countries at a summit in Brussels on June 17. “We see encouraging signs in Cuba and I think that we should show the population in Cuba that we are ready to work with them,” said EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who added that the EU wants to show its support for the changes that have taken place in Cuba since Raúl Castro took the reins from his brother Fidel. However, the EU may reconsider its decision in a year, if human rights abuses continue.

28/06/2008 –
U.S. Congress Approves Bill on Travel to Cuba


The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a bill on June 25 to ease restrictions on travel by Cuban-Americans to the island. If the House of Representatives and Senate pass the bill, Americans of Cuban heritage will be able to visit their relatives on the island once a year, not once every three years as now. The law also extends the definition of “close relative” so that Cuban-Americans can visit their uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and cousins. The law also makes U.S. exports to the island of medicines and food easier.

THE ECONOMY

23/06/2008 – Hugo Chavez Wants Cuba Accepted in OPEC


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stated that he will cooperate on the accession of Cuba to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. According to Chavez, Cuba has significant unexplored oil fields. Petroleos de Venezuela, the state oil and natural gas company, and Cuba Petroleo have already begun drilling on the shelf of the Gulf of Mexico off the shore of Cuba, Chavez told a press conference on June 17.

The Venezuelan president noted that he discussed energy cooperation and cooperation in the oil sector in detail with Fidel and Raúl Castro during his visit to Havana in mid-June. As a result of their joint work, the oil refinery at Cienfuegos, built by Soviet specialists, has been restored. It is the largest refinery in the Caribbean Basin, Chavez said. Venezuela is a founding member of OPEC and is the fifth-largest exporter of oil in the world. It is currently supplying Cuba with 100,000 barrels of oil a day on preferential terms.

29/06/2008 –
Belarus
Will Supply Cuba with City Buses

The upper house of the Belarusian National Assembly has approved an interstate agreement to supply 100 MAZ city buses to Cuba. The total cost of the deal is 11.95 million Euros. Under the agreement, Belarusbank will provide Cuba with 9.4 million Euros in credit for a term of five years. The buses will be delivered in five lots. Belarus will receive 15 percent of the full cost of the order in advance. Each lot will be insured.

The draft resolution on the delivery of the MAZ buses was discussed in 2006 when Belarusan Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky visited Cuba. A preliminary agreement was also reached on refining Cuban sugar cane in Belarus and shipping the sugar back to Cuba. The supply of potassium fertilizer to Cuba was also discuss.

SOCIAL ISSUES

13/06/2008 –
Bonuses
for Good Work Introduced in Cuba

Cuban authorities have scrapped the equal pay system and will introduce bonuses for meeting or exceeding preset goals, reports the Guardian, citing the Cuban government newspaper Granma.

According to Cuban Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security Carlos Mateu, the new system is already in operation in many state enterprises and will be introduced in the rest of them by August. Mateu emphasized in Granma that equalized pay is ineffective. For meeting the plan, the bonus will be 5 percent of the salary. Individual compensation will be paid for exceeding the plan and managers will receive a bonus of up to 30 percent of their salaries for the effective organization of labor. Pay rates will correspond to the nature of the work, Mateu said.

Raúl Castro, the new president,  signed the order eliminating official limitations on the size of salaries on April 10. He reportedly sees the low efficiency of the economy and low standard of living as the main problems of the country. He is studying Chinese and Vietnamese experiences of economic reforms without changing the political order.

26/06/2008 – First Cuban Gay Pride Parade Cancelled after Organizers Arrested


The first Cuban gay pride parade, scheduled for June 25, was unexpectedly cancelled minutes before it was to begin. The unofficial march was not authorized by the Cuban National Center for Sexual Education, headed by Mariel Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro. Activist Mario Jose Delgado said that the organizers, who planned to present the Ministry of Justice with a letter detailing their demands, were taken into custody on Tuesday, June 24. “The chairman of the Cuban League against AIDS and the chairman of the Reinaldo Arenas LGBT Foundation were arrested,” Delgado said. “They were supposed to be here with written demands and now, without them, we cannot hold our action.” Delgado said that he had no details about their arrests.

26/06/2008 – Most Cubans Dont Have a Computer or Telephone

According to a government report released in Havana, the majority of Cubans are still waiting for telephones, and less than 5 percent of citizens have a computer. The National Statistics Office reported telecommunications data for 2007. Out of 11.2 million inhabitants, there are 1,241,000 telephone lines, of which 910,000 are home telephones and the rest go to government agencies. There are just 330,000 cellular telephones and only 4.5 computers for every 100 inhabitants, with most located in government offices, health facilities and educational institutions.

Two months ago, President Raúl Castro legalized the sale of computers and cellular phones, which are priced beyond the reach of the majority of Cubans. Previously, Cubans obtained computers mainly on the black market and cellular phones from foreigners. The account claims that more than 10 percent of the population has access to the internet but this is referring to the government internet. There is no data about access to the worldwide web.

The number of telephone lines and computers has doubled since 2002. There is no data on cellular phones from then. For comparison, Cuba’s neighbor Mexico has 108 million inhabitants, 20 million telephone lines, and 50 million cellular phone users. According to the World Bank, Mexico had 13.6 computers and 17.5 Internet users for every 100 inhabitants in 2006.

OTHER NEWS

18/06/2008 – Cuba Hands Suspect in Sex Crime Over to the United States


An American citizen taken into custody in Havana on May 7 for possession of child pornography and sexual acts with an underage American citizen has been repatriated to the United States. The Martí Noticias website reported on June 13, citing a Cuban Foreign Ministry press release. The Cuban government decided to hand American Leonard B. Auerbach over to authorities of his own country because the crimes he is accused of are considered grave in the U.S. and Cuban authorities are also aggressively combating them. Although the countries do not have full diplomatic relations or an extradition treaty, they cooperate in combating some crimes.

•   •   •

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