Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Café con timba: New freebie from Bustelo

From PR Newswire:

Rowland Coffee Roaster's Gourmet Espresso Brand, Cafe Bustelo, and Sony Masterworks Brew New Deal Serving Cuban Music Group Tiempo Libre On a Million Cans of Coffee

NEW YORK, April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time in its 80 year history, Rowland Coffee Roaster's Cafe Bustelo brand, is changing its can design to feature the Miami-based, two-time Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre on a million cans of coffee while offering a free down-load from the band's new CD, Bach in Havana, their first recording to be released by Sony Masterworks on May 5th. The cans will be in stores across the country starting in late April-May.
Click here for the whole release.

Click here for Java Cabana, home of Bustelo, Pilón, and more.

Click here for the Java Cabana page where you can hear sample Tiempo Libre's CD and download one track for free.

Click here for Tiempo Libre's official site.
The new Café Bustelo can. A million of these will come with a free download of Tiempo Libre's new album.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Greener Grass" now on YouTube

As I mentioned in a previous post, YouTube has begin to allow the posting of some full-length movies (by the studios that own them) with ads. In a recent post, I mentioned "90 Millas" had been posted to YouTube.

Well, now PBS has added a Cuba entry of its own: Greener Grass. It's a documentary piece about Cuban baseball. I haven't seen this yet, but I'm going to get started now.
Check the movie out here and get back to us with your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

Mizzou CAUSA... echando Raíces

The University of Missouri-Columbia's Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association (CAUSA) recently screened a documentary on that campus. Check out the coverage below:
From The Maneater (The University of Missouri's campus newspaper):

CAUSA raises awareness with 'East of Havana'

The documentary follows the lives of three rappers in the Cuban slums.

Published April 27, 2009

For some, Cuba is more than their place of birth.

"My country is the air I breathe," said Mikki in the film "East of Havana."

"East of Havana," screened by the Cuban American Undergraduate Students Association, follows the life of three young rappers, Soandry, Magyori and Mikki, who lead the revolutionary hip-hop movement in Cuba. Despite the conditions in the Cuban slum in which they live, Mikki maintains a fierce sense of patriotism.

Many of the rappers initially got into the movement because of the rush and the mental freedom it provides in the stifling atmosphere in a country with heavy censorship. For Soandry, Magyori and Mikki, rapping represents the fight to make things better.

CAUSA received the rights to screen the film due to its affiliation with Raíces de Esperanza (Roots of Hope), a network of campus groups united in the fight for a free and democratic Cuba. Student groups affiliated with this organization helped to promote this film when it was first released.
Click here for the whole story.

Why not move Cuban small businesses toward some semblance of legitimacy?

From CubaNet:

Allana la policía bancos de videos

LA HABANA, Cuba, 27 de abril (Aini Martín Valero, Agencia Libre Asociada / – La policía del municipio Guanabacoa allanó algunas casas donde funcionaban bancos de alquiler de videos, el pasado 23 de abril, con el propósito de acabar –según dijeron- con la piratería de películas clandestinas.

Varios inmuebles del barrio Santa Fe fueron registrados minuciosamente, mientras los autos patrulleros y miembros del Departamento Técnico de Investigación (DTI) rodeaban una manzana completa de la localidad. Los agentes decomisaron más de mil DVD’s que contenían películas, variedades, musicales, y programas de opinión.

También cargaron con cuatro equipos reproductores y tres computadoras. Según los vecinos del barrio, algunos mensajeros, junto a los propietarios de cinco viviendas, fueron detenidos y conducidos a la estación de policía de Guanabacoa. Hasta el momento se desconoce qué ha pasado con ellos.
Click here for the original link.

This is, to me, one of the more interesting issues in the Cuban black market. On the one hand, you can't help but applaud the enterprising nature of Cubans on the island. And, really, who is it hurting on an island where many (if not most or all) of the movies are banned anyway and couldn't be legally sold even if Cubans could afford them at market prices.

On the other hand, isn't piracy piracy no matter which way you slice it? I mean, is it really "wrong" of Cuban officials to crack down on piracy? Aren't there certain principles regarding intellectual property that make this sort of business, in a very cold way of observing them, morally wrong?

I think this is the sort of thing where Cuban ingenuity and Cuban-American access/freedom should be coming together. I, for one, don't care what the Cuban regime's rules are so long as disregarding them doesn't result in chaotic and self-defeating lawlessness. Why not work with people in Cuba to establish connections with DVD distributors on the outside? Why not seek official permission from the major studios (or whomever grants these rights) to distribute movies on the island — for a nominal fee that even Cuban entrepreneurs could afford?

Encouraging piracy and theft of intellectual property can't be our answer, but we also shouldn't just be content to see Cubans resign themselves to the salaries the regime is generous enough to give them.

I can't say I know where to start with this. I just think it's insane to combat oppression with disregard for the rule of law. Instead, we should be moving Cuban civil society toward something better: adherence to their own, just laws.

Thoughts? Anybody out there know people in high places who could grant Cubans the rights to copy and distribute movies?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Diplomacy" with dictators

Just a few days ago, there was a frenzy of interest surrounding Cuba as it seemed that relations between the U.S. and Cuba were going to "thaw". This was after Obama eliminated family travel restrictions to the Island and Raul responded by saying they were open to talking about "everything" with the U.S.

It seems Obama’s new approach to diplomacy of “sitting at the table” with everyone is not as easy as he thought.

An AP article reports today that Fidel Castro said that Obama “misinterpreted” his younger brother. According to AP’s Will Weissert, “The former president appeared to be throwing a dose of cold water on growing expectations for improved bilateral relations - suggesting Obama had no right to dare suggest that Cuba make even small concessions.”

I guess it’s all about learning the hard way for Obama, and listening to others with experience who warn about getting warm and fuzzy with authoritarian rulers. You can’t negotiate with the Cuban dictators because they abide by no rules, since they haven’t been elected to their positions or have a state of law that governs their country and their international relations.

Read the whole article here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cuban American Carlos Pascual will rep U.S. in Mexico

From Reuters:

Mexico OKs U.S. ambassador set to aid in drug war

Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:40pm EDT
MEXICO CITY, April 20 (Reuters) - Mexico's government has approved Washington's choice as U.S. ambassador of a Cuban American security expert, as the United States steps up efforts to contain escalating drug violence along its southern border.

Carlos Pascual, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a senior director on the White House's National Security Council staff, was proposed by President Barack Obama in March.
An expert in conflict management, Pascual was born in Cuba and has urged closer U.S. ties with Latin America. Obama was feted by regional leaders at the three-day Summit of the Americas that ended in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday.
Click here for the whole story

Saturday, April 18, 2009

90 Millas on YouTube

YouTube recently added sections that have full-length movies and TV shows... and it's legal.

Some people say this is YouTube selling out to corporate interests. I say that if there's a place on the Internet where I can watch ALF episodes any time I want, I might need a life and better taste in television, but at least I no longer have to pay for the DVD box set.

Anyway, why is this relevant to Cuba?

Because, being the Cuba nut that I am, I ran a YouTube Movies search for "Cuba" and found that you can now watch the movie "90 Millas" on YouTube for free... start to finish... all in out video, not broken up in to a million parts.

I'll be honest: I have not seen this movie. I have heard good things, and that's why I was excited to see it was there. Copies of these sorts of films are harder to come by when Maracas doesn't have a Columbia, Missouri location... yet.

Anyway, if you're interested in seeing the movie, you can do so here.

And it's embedded below for your convenience in case you'd rather watch it on this page (which I don't recommend. Go full screen for this as it's almost two hours long). Here's hoping more movies about Cuba end up on this site so they can spread virally.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Action... then negotiation

Commentary: Obama should ask Cuba to lift restrictions
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) -- As President Barack Obama fulfills his campaign promises to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba, a unilateral move that seems to presage a further relaxation of tensions between the United States and Cuba, he should ask for reciprocal actions by the Castro regime.
Click here for the full story.

This is a great read... it is a new way of thinking about what exactly to negotiate with the Cuban government.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leverage? Change? Unlikely.

From The Washington Post:

Addled by Fidel

By Eugene Robinson

"... People, we have no leverage in Cuba. If we had any, we'd have managed to move the Cuban government an inch or two toward democratic reform in the past five decades. ..."
Click here for the full story.

I used to think the embargo was an unarguably stupid policy. After all, it's been almost 50 years since it was first implemented, and it has had a very minimal positive impact (if any). It has given Castro a scapegoat with which to blame Cuba's relatively poor economic periods.

Recently however, after reading articles in the news, talking with friends, many who have lived on the island, I started to re-evaluate my hardline stance on ending the embargo. After all, the term "leverage" has been thrown around by Obama almost as much as "change." I started thinking maybe there was some merit to keeping the embargo, especially given Obama's recent policy changes, which included lifting travel restrictions for Cuban Americans with family on the island, allowing for US citizens to help pay the cost of owning and operating a cell phone, and removing restrictions on trade for US telecom companies. Maybe he could somehow leverage the embargo with the Cuban government to get them to release political prisoners, or maybe allow freedom of speech (and thought...)?

But after reading this article, I'm again wondering if we are really just fooling ourselves into another 50 years of inaction.

Recently, Castro has been quoted as saying that we (the US) should lift the embargo... but I don't think that's what he actually wants. He's bluffing. He's calling us out. Because he surmises that Obama isn't going to do it. Because if Obama lifted the embargo, the ball would be in Cuba's court. The onus would be on the Castro brothers. What's holding Cuba back know? Certainly wouldn't be America, los imperialistos. I feel like I'm starting to just rewrite the article... go read it for yourself.

And don't hold back... share your thoughts!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From The Washington Post:

Obama Lifts Broad Set Of Sanctions Against Cuba

Barriers for U.S. Relatives And Telecoms Struck Down

Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 14, 2009; Page A01

White House officials said the decision to lift travel and spending restrictions on Americans with family on the island will provide new support for the opponents of Raúl and Fidel Castro's government. And they said lifting the ban on U.S. telecommunications companies reaching out to the island will flood Cuba with information while providing new opportunities for businesses.
Click here for the whole story.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Things Obama and others should think about in the push to end the embargo

From Foreign Policy:
Think Again: Engaging Cuba
By Nestor Carbonell
Posted April 2009

Why dealing with the Castro regime is a fool's errand.

“It’s Time for the U.S. to Reach out and Engage the Castro Regime.”
Watch out! Before embarking on any attempt at rapprochement with the Castro regime, U.S. President Barack Obama would be wise to review his predecessors' experiences.
Key Quote:
“The Embargo Allows the Regime to Blame the U.S. for Cuba’s Problems.”
Who cares? The Castros have never needed help in coming up with reasons to blame Yankee imperialism or the CIA for any criticism or discontent on the island. Dissidents are constantly being accused of serving the enemy (the United States). Even Spain -- a staunch Castro supporter -- was recently lashed by the ailing ruler for helping the "genocide empire" with its anti-Cuba policy.
Click here for the whole piece.

Abuse of prison reporter brought to light by fellow inmate

From CUBANET via The Miami Herald:

Independent journalist said placed in solitary confinement


CAMAGUEY, Cuba, April 9 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra, – Imprisoned independent journalist Jorge Alberto Liriano Linares was placed in solitary confinement at the Cerámica Roja prison and beaten by guards, according to a telephone call made Wednesday by common prisoner Lázaro Molina. Molina said the guards had seized writings made by Liriano Linares of injustices occurring in the prison. Molina made the remarks to Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIPRESS), one of the independent new agencies in Cuba. Liriano Linares has continued to smuggle his news reports out of the prison.

Cuba travel photo essay

From Foreign Policy:
Photo Essay: So You Want to Visit Cuba?

By Andrew Polk

As the United States eases travel restrictions, Cubans are ready to cash in.

Andy García's keynote address at Raíces' GenerAcción conference

On April 3, 2009, actor, director, producer, musician, and de facto cultural ambassador Andy García delivered the keynote address of Raíces de Esperanza's 6th annual Cuba conference, titled "GenerAcciónRDE: Generation in Action".

The video, which was shot by a member of FIU's Free Cuba Foundation (a Raíces affiliate organization), is embedded below. It is in several parts, but we've made a playlist, so if you start it, it should transition automatically from part 1 through 12 (a large chunk of the subsequent Q&A session is included.

More video from the UMCC is on the way, so stay tuned...

Click here for coverage of the keynote address from The Miami Hurricane.
(Photo by Hurricane staff)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The New York Times on Raúl's government shakeup

From The New York Times:

In Cuba, Change Means More of the Same, With Control at the Top

Published: April 5, 2009

HAVANA — When President Raúl Castro of Cuba began one of the biggest government shakeups in decades early last month, he explained the move simply as an attempt to streamline the government.

Conrado Hernández surreptitiously recorded conversations with two Cuban officials during parties at his ranch in Matanzas.

But the firing of a half-dozen top functionaries — including the surprising firing of two internationally prominent ministers — showed that under Mr. Castro, politics and decision-making are likely to remain as centralized and tightly controlled as they were under his brother, Fidel.

Key Quote: “Politics here is a sport whose spectators are all blind,” said a man as he swept up litter along the seaside Malecón and who, like most people interviewed, did not want to be quoted by name. “Everyone knows things are happening. No one is sure what. So you stop trying to watch.”
Click here for the whole story.