Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cubans speak out IN CUBA!!!

From miamiherald.com:

Artist's work lets Cubans speak out in Havana for freedom

A Havana art show erupted into a protest of the islanders' lack of freedoms and can be seen on YouTube.

A packed performance art show at the 10th Havana Biennial, a prestigious international festival, turned into a clamor of ''Libertad!'' as Cubans and others took to a podium to protest the lack of freedom of expression on the island.

Read the full article here.

Watch the video here!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Art in Cuba

From wsj.com:


This weekend, the art world is descending on Cuba for the 10th Havana Biennial to see new works from hundreds of young artists that are on display in the city's museums, crumbling colonial forts and baroque churches. Many art insiders will also make a stop at a space that's not on the biennial's roster: the living room of Sandra Ceballos.

Click here for the whole story.

This article illustrates the independent spaces that are being forged throughout Cuba that are neither pro nor anti government.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How will Cuba's youth deal with the island's aging population?

From newsday.com:

Cuba hikes retirement age by 5 years, pinching pockets as senior population swells

Faced with an aging population and a life expectancy of 77.3 years, nearly the same as the U.S., Cuba's government has raised the retirement threshold by five years, to 60 for women and 65 for men, delaying the second jobs many have counted on to make ends meet in their old age.
The overhaul, to be fully phased in by 2015, means Cuba's retirement age will exceed Latin America's average of 59 for women and 62 for men, according to Carmelo Mesa-Lago, an expert on the Cuban economy at the University of Pittsburgh.

The island's population is aging faster than the rest of the region — some 17 percent will be 60 or older by 2010, compared with 9 percent across Latin America today, according to U.N. data. A quarter of Cubans will top 60 by 2025, a point the rest of the region won't reach until 2050.

As Cuba's work force shrinks, the ratio of workers to retirees has narrowed from seven-to-one in 1970 to three-to-one today. Had the country not raised its retirement age, the ratio would have been two-to-one by 2025, the government said.
Click here for the whole story.

In an environment that already makes it hard to get by (let alone support a family), it's alarming that this is happening considerig the Cuban system makes it so that te burden of dealing with the growing older generation will necessarily be placed squarely and exclusively on the shoulders of Cuba's youth.

What will this mean for Cuba's youth? Will they be able to find a way to support this generation, or will Cuban retirees be forced to get by with less? Could this be an issue that drives people to demand more change?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Political Police Deploy Toxic Substance against Activists

A Press Release from The Cuban Democratic Directorate

Fasting Activists Condemn Violence; Support Spreads among Cubans

Placetas. March 25, 2009. Cuban Democratic Directorate. The home of former political prisoner and leading opposition activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, better known as “Antúnez,” was attacked in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday March 25th by State Security agents. Antúnez and several other activists staying with him have been engaged in a protest involving weeks-long hunger strikes and fasts since February 17th.

“At around 2:30 in the morning, we were awoken by fasting activists Carlos Michael Morales, Diosiris Santana Pérez and Ernesto Mederos Arrozarena who alerted us that State Security officers were releasing gas inside the home. Iris and I were in a room in the back of the home. When we went to the living room, I smelled a strong odor of gas and felt myself become short of breath. When Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera tried to communicate with Santa Claran activist Idania Yánez Contreras, we spotted the Chief of the Confrontation Unit Idel, better known as “Railroad Spike,” training a flashlight on Iris through the blinds and carrying a strange device in his other hand shaped like a spray bottle. Activist Ernesto Mederos Arrozarena relates that he felt how they sprayed through the window to release the gas,” stated Antúnez in a telephone statement to the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

According to Antúnez, this is not the only repressive measure being taken against the protestors. Later the same morning, the exterior surfaces of the home were defaced with obscene phrases painted on in tar and on signs.

“We hold the high command of State Security here in Villa Clara responsible for these attempts on our lives and physical wellbeing. Remember that here among us activists there are people who suffer from heart conditions, as in my case, people who suffer from serious respiratory problems, and they are making attempts on our lives,” stated Antúnez.

The activist also pointed out that Héctor de la Fe Freire, Chief of Confrontation for State Security in Villa Clara province is in charge of the operation against his home, and that he was sent from Havana to repress the opposition movement in Central Cuba.

On February 25th, the hunger strikers decided to shift to a liquid fast and to continue their protest. During the past week, State Security has maintained a perimeter around the home, blocking any attempt by supporters to visit and offer solidarity.

Numerous opposition activists and Cubans not associated with the opposition movement have been detained as a result, including Ciro Díaz, who plays guitar in the underground punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, and photographer Claudio Fuentes on March 23.

The strike, begun on February 17 2009, demands of the Havana government that inhumane treatment end against prisoner Mario Pérez Aguilera, held at Santa Clara Provincial Prison; that Cuban citizen Caridad García Pérez be permitted to repair her home using her own means; and that the texts of the international human rights agreements signed by the Cuban government in February 2008, which the Cuban people do not know about, be published in Cuba. Joining Antúnez in this protest are fellow activists Iris Pérez Aguilera and Diosiris Santana Pérez.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Circo Javier Diaz Penedo, frontman for "La Babosa Azul" and guitar player for "Porno Para Ricardo" was arrested yesterday...

Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo, frontman de la Babosa Azul y guitarrista de Porno Para Ricardo acaba de ser detenido en Placetas junto al fotógrafo Claudio Fuentes Madan, cuando se solidarizaban con el presidente del Presidio Politico Cubano "Pedro Luis Boitel", y el disidente Jorge Luis García Pérez, más conocido como Antúnez.

Clikce here for the full story.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why do some Cuban Americans politicize sports?

Growing up as a Cuban American, I always had a profound appreciation of baseball. My dad and two of his uncles played professionally, and my brother is currently playing college baseball.

Baseball has always represented something uniquely special to me — something that most Cubans carry in their blood.

I am a proud American citizen with Cuban parents, and whenever I see the Cuban national baseball team I can’t help but pull for them. It's my ancestry — regardless of the political situation on the island. I am able to separate sports and politics and see these Cuban players as athletes, not as puppets of the Castro regime.

Whenever I hear extreme conservative Cubans say they wouldn’t want Cuba to win in the World Baseball Classic or the Olympics, I can’t help but question the politicization of sports. Why would you want someone who is oppressed to not succeed? A win would not be a victory
for Castro. Rather, we should look at it as a victory for all Cubans around the world — because face it: we know how good Cuba is at baseball.

I view these athletes playing on the Cuban baseball team as individuals trying to enhance their way of life and help their families, given the horrible living conditions under the Castro regime, coupled with the horrendous 50-year-old policy of the U.S. embargo, I can't help but support them.

The U.S. went to play in China in the Olympics (a country with human rights abuses and lack of freedom of speech). So what’s the big deal? I never heard any complaints from Cuban Americans in Miami.

Next time the Houston Rockets play in Miami, the Cuban American community should boycott those games because Yao Ming is playing for them!

Similarly, they should boycott the World Baseball Classic because Venezuela is playing. When is this going to stop?

I mean, who was not pulling for Dayron Robles the Cuban hurdler in the Olympics? I was! It is in our blood to support our fellow Cubans on the island. We should not adopt this us-versus-them mentality. Some Cuban Americans behave like fanatics.

Do not forget Liván Hernández, El Duque, Rey Ordoñez, Ariel Prieto, Alexei Ramírez, José Contreras, Yunel Escobar and Yuniel Betancourt. All of these individuals defected while on the Cuban national team and have played in the Major leagues. I am sure the Cuban American community in Miami is fully supportive of these players. Actions speak louder than words. Viva Cuba Libre!

Cuba 2.0...Raices Presentation now on Video!

It's here! 

The video of the Raices presentation from the conference Cuba 2.0 is now available. Watch Root Romy Portuondo Remior represent Raices in Mexico City, discussing RDE's use of the Internet and Social Networking to mobilize it's network. 

Courtesy of Ernesto Lozano...

Click here for Part 1 of the videos!

Click here for Part 2 of the videos!

Cick here for Q&A Part 1 (this is where it gets good!)

Click here for Q&A Part 2 (RDE becomes a star!)

Please visit www.cubadesdelademocracia.blogspot.com for the videos of all the panelists. 

Demonstration on the Anniversary of the Black Cuban Spring by Las Damas de Blanco

An article by Carlos Serpa Maceira on the Demonstration by Las Damas de Blanco...

Foto reportaje de violenta represión contra las Damas de Blanco.

La Habana , 20 de marzo .- Las Damas de Blanco , esposas y familiares de presos políticos cubanos , protagonizaron ayer una insólita protesta frente al Tribunal Supremo Popular (TSP) , que provoco una fuerte replica verbal del partidarios del régimen comunista , confirmo ocularmente este periodista quien dio cobertura noticiosa al hecho .

Click here for the full article and more photos. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Report: Russia may base bombers in Cuba

History repeating itself right before our eyes:

Russia has once again showed it has renewed interest in establishing political, economic, and military ties with Cuba, as it did a half-century ago.

To me, this goes to show that we (the U.S.) have no time to waste. If we are to reach out to the island, to help Cubans who are suffering so greatly, we have to act now; or else we risk losing this opportunity to help.

I'm not saying that Russia helping Cuba is bad. On the contrary, Cuba needs all the help it can get. What is bad is Russia helping Cuba while the U.S. just sits idly by. This will foment support for Russia (again, not a bad thing in and of itself) and at the same time foment disdain for the U.S. and damage every Cuban's hopes for a free Cuba.

After all, if Russia can muster up the wherewithal to support an island half-way around the world while the U.S. continues to ignore this island merely 90 miles away, what do you think would happen? What sentiments do you think Cubans would have towards the US?

Read the full article from the Associated Press on MSNBC.com

Friday, March 13, 2009

Raices - The new face of Cuba...an article in reference to the conference "Cuba 2.0"

From Cubalseros:

Cuba: Estrenado Rostro

Por: Roger Vilar para Cubalsero

Romy Portuondo, el nuevo rostro que Cuba estrenó hoy en México, es parte del Movimiento Raíces, www.raicesdeesperanza.org, que utilizando los medios de Internet ha denunciado los atropellos a ciudadanos que ocurren en Cuba, por ejemplo, estoy viendo, mientras escribo, ahora, rigth now, el video de Luis Esteban Espinosa, periodista independiente cubano, que denuncia que unos policías lo golpearon por su actividad informativa, muestra a unas personas que lo espían, pero, acto seguido, empieza a hablar de su vida cotidiana, de sus amigos, enseña su humilde casa, porque, señores. ¡¡¡la vida cotidiana también existe en Cuba!!!. Y continúa, Luis Esteban, hablando de sus vecinos; luego de la persecución de que es objeto por parte de Seguridad del Estado, pero de manera fresca, propia de sus 20 años, que nada tiene que ver con el lenguaje anquilosado y grandilocuente de décadas atrás.

Click here for the whole blog post

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cuba 2.0 Pictures and Article!

Pictures of Roots in Action at the Cuba 2.0 conference in Mexico City - see post below for link to more pictures!

Article in CubaEncuentro.com...
La Fundación Konrad Adenauer presenta el Congreso 'Cuba 2.0'

La Fundación Konrad Adenauer invita al Congreso "Cuba 2.0" que se realizará los días 12 y 13 de marzo en la Casa Lamm (Avenida Álvaro Obregón 99, Col. Roma).

Programa del Congreso

-9:30 Inauguración: Jasper Eitze (Fundación Konrad Adenauer), Marcelino miyares (VP Acción Política ODCA) y Oscar Visiedo (Instituto de Estudios Cubanos).
-9:45 Panel "Tecnología, conocimiento y sociedad", con videomensaje de Juan A. Blanco (Instituto de Estudios Cubanos); Daniel Pimienta (FUNDREDES) y Enzo Molinos (INEE) e Hiram Henríquez (WebbMedia Group).
-11:30 Panel "Las tecnologías de la información y su impacto social y económico", con Eduardo Salvadó (Consultor Internacional), Luis A. Cobo (OPS/OMS, Perú), Freddy Balsera (Balsera Communications) y Claudia Benassini (ITESM, Campus Edo. de México).
-14:30 Panel "Blogosfera y periodismo digital", con Álvaro Fernández (Progreso Semanal), Germán Díaz (Cuba Nuestra), Michel Suárez (CUBAENCUENTRO.com), Wilfredo Cancio (
El Nuevo Herald) y videomensaje de Yoani Sánchez (desde Cuba).
-17:00 Panel "Generación 2.0: Una nueva cultura de comunicación", con Katrin Hansing (Centro de Estudios Cubanos, Florida International University), Pablo Díaz (CUBAENCUENTRO.com), Vanessa López (IECCA, Universidad de Miami) y Romy Portuondo (Raíces de Esperanza).

Raices on the Move: Cuba 2.0 conference in Mexico (Day 1)

Raices de Esperanza was a featured participant in the international conference, "Cuba 2.0" hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The conference examined the different roles the Internet and web-based communications play in relations with Cuba. The conference is currently being held in Mexico City. Today was the first day which included all of the panelist presentations. Raices was highly praised for its unique method of social mobilization through the new media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and - you guessed it - Blogger!

Tomorrow will consist of a round table discussion between all of the panelists. More updates to come!

Pictures and article soon to follow, but in the mean time...

Pictures: www.cubadesdelademocracia.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cubans applaud rollback of travel rules

From MSNBC.com, the Associated Press reports that Obama is taking a small but significant step forward in easing travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans that still have family members in Cuba. They will now be allowed to travel to Cuba once every year, stay for an unlimited period of time, and spend much more money than under the Bush administration.

Click here for the full story.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pérez Roque and Lage's resignation letters

From The New York Times' blog, The Lede:
(with links to Granma's site for Lage and Pérez Roque's letters)

As for the cabinet shake-up, Reuters reported on Thursday:

Two former senior Cuban government ministers — Felipe Pérez Roque and Carlos Lage — resigned from their other jobs in the government and the ruling Communist Party, bowing out of political life with letters saying they had committed errors.

The letters of resignation, addressed to “Compañero Raúl Castro Ruz,” were published in the state newspaper Granma; both are available in English translation on Granma’s Web site. The two letters of self-criticism closely echo each other in tone and language.

According to Granma.cu, Mr. Lage’s letter states:

I acknowledge the errors I have committed and I assume full responsibility for them. I believe that the analysis carried out in the recent meeting of the Political Bureau was both just and profound.

Mr. Pérez Roque’s letter says:

I fully acknowledge that I have committed errors, which were extensively analyzed during the aforementioned meeting. I assume full responsibility for those errors.

As Reuters notes, both men “had been seen as emerging leaders,” and both were dismissed from their most important posts on Monday by Raúl Castro, as he brought eight new ministers into the government.
Click here for the whole story.

Youngest of the 75 back in prison

From Bloomberg:
Sick Cuban Writer Gonzales Is Back in Raul Castro’s Fetid Jail
By Jeremy Gerard

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- One year after Cuban President Raul Castro promised “more openness” in dealing with dissidents, journalist and poet Normando Hernandez Gonzalez has been taken from a hospital ward back to the prison where he has been held since 2003.
Click here for the whole story.

Cuba book gets Newberry Honor distinction

From the American Library Association:

2009 Medal Winner: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, illus. by Dave McKean (HarperCollins)

Honor Books:

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, illus. by David Small (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt)
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law (Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group in partnership with Walden Media)
  • After Tupac & D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson (G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

From The Miami Herald:

Cuban influence in Venezuela spreading

The 40,000 Cubans now working in Venezuela have a hand in all kinds of sectors -- including security for President Hugo Chávez.

El Nuevo Herald

Cuban influence in Venezuela is growing beyond politics in a broad range of areas, from agriculture and commerce to energy and education -- and even presidential security.


Cuban influence has quietly broadened to include less visible sectors, though critically more strategic and political in scope.

Sources within the Venezuelan military say Cuban military experts control several security circles that protect President Hugo Chávez and have penetrated strategic areas of the armed forces and the central government, including the situation room in Miraflores, Venezuela's presidential palace.

Click here for the whole story.

With a headline like this, how could you NOT be curious?

From The Miami Herald:

Gloria Estefan: singer or spy?

"Maybe I made the decision [to do it]. What better cover than going around as a singer, talking to presidents, talking to kings, close to all the people they wanted access to? So, who knows? You don't know.''
Click here for the whole story.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Herald hypocrisy?

From The Miami Herald:

New Miami Herald section for Cuba's Critical Voices

Starting Monday, March 2, The Miami Herald's online Cuba page will display a special Dissident Voices section that will contain reports from non-government sources on the island.

The reports will cover a broad range of developments in Cuba, from cultural events to detentions of dissidents to high food prices, housing collapses and street crime.

They are gathered by Cubanet, a Miami-based organization designed to help independent journalists disseminate their reports abroad, and are translated into English by the International Media Center at Florida International University.

Click here for the story.

Seriously, Miami Herald? Really? After all the huffing and puffing about journalists "moonlighting" for the government-funded Radio and TV Martí, you're giving regular space to articles gathered by Cubanet? In effect, that gives an editorial position and "gatekeeper" power to the staff of a USAID-funded organization.

I'm not entering into a debate about the integrity of Cubanet. I read stories on Cubanet all the time. But The Herald has a lot of gall making this move after damaging the careers of so many journalists who did work for a group not too unlike Cubanet — and now the Herald is somehow alright with partnering with a group that gets the federal money even more directly?


From MLB.com:

Cubans ease transition for each other

Contreras and Ramirez help assimilate fellow countryman Viciedo

"We feel more comfortable because Alexei had me and Dayan has both," said Jose Contreras (center), of Alexei Ramirez (left) and Dayan Viciedo (right). (AP)

Photo and caption from MLB.com
Click here for the whole story.

2008 Human Rights Report: Cuba

From the U.S. Department of State:

Click here for the full Cuba report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yoani Sánchez on Cuban government "restructuring"

From The Huffington Post:
Cuba's Top Leadership Changes? Just Fidgeting on Mount Olympus
Yoani Sánchez

Posted March 3, 2009 | 06:55 PM (EST)

Yesterday, with my lunch half eaten, a friend called to ask if I had seen the 1:00 pm news. No, I never chew while watching this type of program, it's fatal to the digestion. Mixing red beans with the announcement of the changes in the Council of State and Ministers, would have resulted in a mortar of incalculable consequences. Even so, it bothered me to have missed the news and to find out--in bits and pieces--the changes that happened up there.

Key quote: "Calling the new chancellor Bruno instead of Felipe has little influence on the degree of hopelessness."

Click here for the whole piece.

Fidel Castro honored for tech leadership

From ACN:
Fidel Castro Awarded Computer Club Prize

HAVANA, Cuba, Feb 12(acn) The historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, was awarded Thursday by the Computer Youth Club in Havana, for being the father of this movement in Cuba. Fidel was also given a painting as a present.

Also awarded the prize were Cuban president, Raul Castro, for his confidence in Cuban youth and to the Minister of Informatics and Communications, Ramiro Valdés, for his constant work for the development of this program.

Click here for the whole story.

So the question is: Which award is more hilariously ironic?
  • The award for being the "father of the computer movement" that went to Fidel Castro, who imposed censorship on the Cuban people for so many decades?
  • The award for "confidence in Cuban youth" that went to Raul Castro, who just oversaw the restructuring of Cuban government that removed a number of the youngest Cuban Cabinet members and other young leaders from their positions.

An evolutionary's big news

From AFP:
Gloria Estefan announces final tour

MIAMI (AFP) — Cuban-American pop diva Gloria Estefan said Monday that an upcoming tour of Latin American will be her last.

Click here for the whole story.

Pop and Latin music superstar Gloria Estefan, a longtime proponent of Cuban freedom, shows off her "Evolution" shirt at a Raíces de Eperanza conference.

Bob Menendez and the embargo on Cuba

Yesterday, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., spoke about the realities of life in Cuba and provisions — which are part of an unrelated $410 billion spending bill — that would dramatically ease restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba.

According to Menendez, the provisions were practically hidden in the bill (the rest of which is mostly unrelated to foreign policy), not allowing for debate of an important issue before significantly altering U.S.-Cuba policy.

Also, from The Washington Post:
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has placed a "hold" that blocks votes on confirming Harvard University physicist John Holdren, who is in line to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco, Obama's nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to sources who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, Menendez is using the holds as leverage to get Senate leaders' attention for a matter related to Cuba rather than questioning the nominees' credentials.

(Click here for the rest of the article)
So the question is: Regardless of your feelings about U.S.-Cuba policy (the embargo, travel restrictions, etc.) — is this the way to go about changing the way we deal with Cuba? Does it bother you at all that dramatic change would come on such a divisive issue without allowing much, if any, time for legislators and the public to discuss the specifics of these provisions?

Monday, March 2, 2009

From the Associated Press:
Who's in and who's out in Cuba government shakeup
Diseminada por El Nuevo Herald:

Sustituyen a Lage y Pérez Roque en amplia reforma del régimen cubano


El mandatario cubano, Raúl Castro, decidió este lunes sustituir como secretario del Consejo de Ministros al vicepresidente Carlos Lage, así como al canciller Felipe Pérez Roque, en una profunda reestructuración del gobierno anunciada este lunes en una nota oficial.

Haga click aquí para el resto del artículo.
From The Miami Herald:

Cuban government undergoes massive restructuring


In a surprise move, Cuban broadcasters on Monday announced a government restructuring of some of its top officials, including Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque.

Click here for the whole story.

Raíces "Action through Auction" event draws diverse crowd, big names

Raíces de Esperanza and the University of Miami's CAUSA: Students United for a Free Cuba hosted a fundraiser at Cuba Ocho gallery on Saturday, March 29. The event served as a launch for the upcoming GenerAcción conference and brought in money that will help cover the costs of putting it on.

The Bacardi-sponsored "Action through Auction" brought Raíces more than $3,000. Among the donated items sold in the silent auction were six "CAMBIO" paintings by artist Carlos Navarro.

Among those in attendance were musician Arturo Sandoval, restaurateur Felipe Valls, and City of Miami District 3 Commissioner Joe Sánchez.

The fundraiser was a great success and an indication that the GenerAcción: Generation in Action conference in April will be a great event.

UM CAUSA members greeted attendees at Cuba Ocho gallery.

Members of Raíces de Esperanza's management team take a moment out from a busy night for a photo.

Generation ñ reporter Melissa Hernández gets an interview with Latin jazz legend Arturo Sandoval, who made an appearance to show his support of Raíces de Esperanza.

Cuban music great Arturo Sandoval, Cuba Ocho gallery owner Roberto Ramos, and Miami restaurateur Felipe Valls (Versailles, La Carreta, etc.) joined Raíces' student and young professional networks to celebrate and contribute to the Roots mission.
From Reuters India:

Cubans indulge baseball mania at Havana's "Hot Corner"

Mon Mar 2, 2009 5:41am IST
By Jeff Franks

Every day, all day, dozens of baseball fans, mostly men, gather in the tree-shaded park in central Havana to talk about their beloved "pelota," as baseball is called here, in animated conversations that usually appear more heated than they are.

The verbal jousting may be about the worth of a particular player or a comparison of the participants' favorite teams, or whether Cuba can win the World Baseball Classic this month.

Click here for the whole story.

From the Associated Press:

Analysis: Cuba waiting and watching Obama

HAVANA (AP) — Amid two wars and an economic crisis, Cuba policy hardly ranks at the top of President Barack Obama's long agenda.

But circumstances are pressuring Obama to make a move on Cuba soon — or miss an opportunity to advance his pledge to restore America's leadership in the world and in its own hemisphere.

Click here for the whole story.

Below, I've listed a few portions of the story, along with questions that arose in my mind when I read them. As the resident journalist, I think this is an interesting case study in semantics and their effect on news coverage.

Conversations with Cuban officials here suggest that unless the Obama administration signals its intentions quickly and clearly, it will disappoint not only Cuba, but also many Latin American leaders watching for signs that the U.S. is ready to chart a dramatic new course in the region.

Disappoint Cuba? Ready to chart a new coure? At what point is the Cuban government disappointing the U.S.? The human rights community? It's own people? There are currently exceptions to embargo law and the U.S. does do trade with Cuba - albeit limited and heavily regulated. Isn't that more concession than the Cuban regime has ever made? Who are journalists to make value judgments about who is disappointing — or who needs to satisfy — whom?
Again during the Clinton years, Cuba's downing of two civilian planes sent towards Cuba by an anti-Castro group in Florida arrested possibilities for progress in 1996.
"Sent towards Cuba"? Really? The planes were sent into international waters. Since when do we describe planes' paths by what they ae heading "towards" beyond their destination? When I'm on flights from Miami to Atlanta I never tell people I'm headed towards New York. And why not mention the planes' humanitarian mission? It certainly seems relevant given that we're talking about their being shot down.


Dave Sandoval on the NYC rally for change in Cuba

Guest blogger Dave Sandoval, frontman for the band delexilio, gives us his account of yesterday's rally outside the Cuban mission to the UN in New York City.

As I drove past 37th street and Lexington Ave, I lowered the windows, blasting Cuban music*, holding out my fist with my CAMBIO bracelet, and as I drove by honking the horn, I was met with triumphant cheers from some NY and NJ Cubans.

It was a rally in New York City, in front of the Cuban Mission to the UN. Cubans of all ages -- kids, teens, adults, and los viejitos — all together to call for change in Cuba. Legendary jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera made an appearance, and he played his clarinet for the crowd. I shook his hand and told him how his music has been an inspiration to me personally. I was proud to see everyone in NYC, where there isn’t always such a strong Cuban community, come together and brave the 35-degree weather for something we believe in.

We were met with a peaceful counter-protest across the street, where people held up signs calling for “Freeing the Cuban 5” and defending the Cuban revolution. After spending some time on the “Change in Cuba” side, I went over to the other side of the street, to listen to their viewpoints. I spoke to them peacefully and let them get to know me — and let them see that I wasn’t a right-wing extremist, or on the US government payroll (as some believe that all Cuban-Americans are!).

But I let them know that I was just making my voice heard for one thing: peaceful, democratic change in Cuba. Hopefully we were able to spread the message a bit.

*P18 - A Cuban alternative band based in Paris. Check them out here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tampa rep wants U.S.-Cuba charter flights out of TPA

From Tampa Bay Online:

Castor Calls For U.S.-Cuba Charter Flights From TIA

Published: February 27, 2009

TAMPA - Tampa International Airport could become the fourth U.S. airport to serve U.S.-Cuba charter flights under a request by U.S. Rep Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

Click here for the whole story.

Some refugees involved in fraud

From The St. Petersburg Times:

Feds: Cuban exiles made millions in false Medicare claims, then left

By David Adams, Times Latin America Correspondent
In Print: Sunday, March 1, 2009

Instead, federal agents say Moreno's wealth was the product of a perplexing criminal phenomenon sweeping South Florida: multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud perpetrated by Cuban-American exiles.

Even more troubling, many jump bail and flee the country rather than face trial. Often they end up right back in Cuba, out of reach of U.S. law enforcement.

Key quote: "People who leave Cuba are brought up on a culture of stealing from the state and generally getting away with it," said Uva de Aragón, a director at Florida International University's Cuban Research Institute. "They want to come here, but don't have much means when they get here, so when they see a chance to make some easy money they might grab it."

Click here for the whole story.

Listen LIVE: Cuba rally in NYC

CLICK HERE to listen to the rally and discussion live on Cuba Companioni's Blog Talk Radio show.

Click here for more info on the rally.