Monday, February 25, 2008

The end of the Cuban Revolution

The end of the Cuban Revolution
published: Sunday | February 24, 2008
Martin Henry, Contributor

Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution is dead - but not buried yet. But long
before the birth of the revolution, astute observers of socialism saw
that the system was inherently unstable and destined to collapse. When
the Russian Revolution was only five years old, Austrian economist
Ludwig von Mises, in 1922, published a master-piece on the weak-nesses
of socialism as an economic and political system.

It is not likely that the young Fidel and his friends, mastering their
Marx, would have read von Mises' Socialism: An Economic and Sociological
Analysis, or Hayek, or the other serious critics of socialism. Or if
they had, they would have dismissed them out of hand as bourgeois
reactionaries worthy of execution by firing squad, the favoured
communist means of dispatching enemies. The Cuban Communist Party has
subsequently dispatched many that way, including heroes of the revolution.

The Cuban Revolution has survived the predicted collapse of Soviet
communism and the Soviet state and its Eastern European satellites and
of communism in much of the rest of the word. It will not survive - for
long - the departure of the 'Old Man'. That's what they call Fidel in Cuba.

Journalists jailed

Ironically, on the very day that Castro announced that he would not
aspire to nor accept the posts of president of the Council of State and
commander-in-chief of the armed forces, only hours before on this
historic Tuesday, this newspaper carried the story, "IAPA renews call
for release of jailed Cuban journalists". The story listed 25
journalists "who remain behind bars for working as independent reporters."

Jamaica, which has one of the freest media in the hemisphere, has had an
ups-and-downs relationship with Castro's Cuba during our nearly 46 years
of Independence, three years short of Castro's rule. On the whole, we
have had more principled relations than the belligerent United States,
which has singled out Cuba for the most unrelenting opposition. The USA
established cordial relations with communist Vietnam in which 50,000 US
servicemen died in a lost anti-communism war, but not with Cuba.
Communist China enjoys Most Favoured Nation status, while nine US
presidents have maintained a trade embargo against Cuba.

Cuba has been generous to Jamaica, although the prosperity which the
revolution promised never materialised, a socialist situation which can
be and has been conveniently explained away by the US embargo. We have
had gifts of schools, micro dams, medical personnel, teachers, and, most
recently, free eye care, which went far better for visually impaired
Jamaicans whose own free government did not help them than a reflexively
critical media would have us believe. At a certain point in time, many
Jamaicans felt that Fidel Castro was an influential threat to our own
cherished democratic freedoms and took appropriate action.

Cuba was a critical and sacrificial player in the liberation struggles
of Southern Africa, terminating in the fall of apartheid in South Africa
and the rise of Nelson Mandela, who with Fidel Castro, is a monumental
figure of the 20th century and of world history. Cuban armed forces,
with disproportionately black combatants, pushed back the South African
Defence Force, the best in sub-Saharan Africa, in a series of historic
engagements in Angola in the 1980s. In my column of April 15, 2004,
"Cuba and the end of apartheid", I noted: "For 137 days in 1987/88 the
internationalist forces of Cuba, fighting alongside the MPLA, engaged
the South African Defence Force in Southern Angola and finally drove its
troops back into Namibia which was under South African occupation."

At his inauguration, Nelson Mandela reserved a bear hug for Fidel Castro
and reportedly told him, "We owe this day to you."

In a 1991 visit to Cuba, Mandela told the Cuban people on the
anniversary of their revolution, July 26: "That impressive defeat of the
racist army ... gave Angola the possibility of enjoying peace and
consolidating its sovereignty. It gave the people of Namibia their
independence, demoralised the white racist regime of Pretoria and
inspired the anti-apartheid forces inside South Africa. Without the
defeat inflicted at Cuito Cuanavale, our organisations never would have
been legalised."

Profound tribute

When he concluded, Fidel Castro observed that Mandela's remarks
constituted "the greatest and most profound tribute ever paid to our
internationalist combatants."

In 1998, on his second visit to South Africa, Castro received a
"tumultuous welcome". One reporter said: "As Castro entered the
parliamentary chamber, African National Congress leaders jumped to their
feet, clapping and chanting, 'Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!' His speech was
interrupted with applause on 33 occasions. Black South Africans remember
him as a firm ally of the African National Congress who backed the fight
against apartheid and helped win their freedom.

Cuba eradicated illiteracy just a few years after Castro came to power
and has one of the best health-care systems in the developing world. But
I couldn't help noticing that the deep class and race divides of Cuban
society had remained impervious to communist intervention and were very
visible in a 2003 visit. And so was roaring street commerce in US
dollars. Cuba manufactures its own US coins but gets dollar bills
through remittances and third-party trade. Soon after that visit, the
Castro regime sought to shut down the incursions of capitalism by
restricting entrepreneurial activity.

But hundreds of Cubans died seeking to flee their socialist paradise,
some killed by the state, others perishing at sea. Hundreds have
languished in jail. Dozens have been imprisoned and executed as enemies
of the state just for wanting and agitating for freedom. The Soviet
Union lasted just over 80 years, Eastern European communist states a
little over 50. The Cuban Revolution approaches 50 years. The Old Man, a
giant of history, is gone. The revolution he built on the sands of
socialism is bound to follow him sooner than later, swept away by winds
of change.

Martin Henry is a communications consultant.

Cuba after Fidel: what next?

Published on Workers' Liberty (
Cuba after Fidel: what next?
Created 22 Feb 2008 - 12:45pm

The Chinese road?

Samuel Farber, Cuban "Third Camp" Marxist and author of The Origins of
the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered, was interviewed about the book in US
socialist journal Against the Current (November 2006) [1]. Here we
reprint an extract with his predictions for Cuba without Castro.

More on this site about Cuba [2].

There are many indications of Raúl Castro's outright support for China's
direction. Visiting Shanghai in April 2005, Raúl said: There are people
who are worried about the Chinese model — I'm not; China today proves
another world is possible.

I find this comment obscene, in appropriating the slogan from Seattle
and the global justice movement to promote the Chinese model. But it's
more than statements alone: there's the role of the Cuban army, Raúl's
stronghold, as a big player in joint enterprises, including the tourism

You have a number of army officers who are businessmen in uniform,
deeply involved in transactions with international capitalism through
the Cuban armed forces. The military has also been involved in what they
call "enterprise improvement" [perfeccionamiento empresarial], i.e.
organizational efficiency, the kind of economic experimentation that
would be consistent with the Chinese model.

Raúl of course will not move a finger so long as Fidel is active. The
question will be what kind of forces will exist in Cuba both for and
against this kind of direction. I believe those forces exist in embryo.
So the whole relation with Washington and Miami will be entangled with
the emergence of that kind of "party."

The existing small enterprise sector in Cuba has been sharply reduced
since the concessions of the 1990s. It was never that important; at one
point there were up to 150,000 people licensed to operate very small
independent enterprises (e.g. beauty parlors, small family restaurants,
the so-called "paladares"), but now fewer.

I see it [the impetus toward authoritarian capitalism] coming from
people in the army and outside civilians who are engaged in
joint-venture capitalism. It's interesting here to contrast what Raul
Castro said in Shanghai in April 2005 (cited above) with an interview
with Fidel Castro by Ignacio Ramonet, Spanish-born editor of Le Monde
Diplomatique. When the topic of China came up, Fidel's answer was pure

Politically of course Fidel wasn't about to openly criticize China, but
he certainly didn't praise it. So within the Cuban regime there's
clearly this difference over the Chinese model. But in pointing to
tendencies, one can't predict events that will be brought about by a
combination of internal and external forces.

There will be people in the apparatus who will resist these changes,
people who are called "Talibanes" (i.e. ideological fundamentalists)
such as Felipe Perez Roque, the foreign minister, who was essentially
Fidel Castro's chief of staff and became foreign minister when the
previous one got into trouble. He's young, in his forties.

But I must caution that there are elements of speculation in all these

No solidarity with the regime!

Dan Jakopovich, editor of Novi Plamen [3] (a left-wing magazine on the
territory of ex-Yugoslavia), on Cuba today:

It would be sad to succumb to capitalist propaganda which characterizes
today's Cuba in chiaroscuro technique, where great progress has
nonetheless been made since the fall of the odious dictatorship of
Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Free healthcare, free education (but
completely state controlled), a successful literacy program, a high
degree of ecological protection, interesting (although very limited)
experiments with participation by the population in decision-making at
the local level (in a broad authoritarian context, of course) – are all

Moreover, solidarity is a natural reaction of people who know something
about decades of countless forms of sabotage and terrorism, the
continuing comprehensive blockade/embargo of the US, hundreds of
assassination attempts on Castro etc., etc.

Solidarity with the Cuban people is fully justified – but not with the
Cuban regime. Cuba is enslaved in a system of a one-party dictatorship,
a political and economic monopoly of a small minority – of the
party-state apparatus. Castro greatly consolidated his power through the
execution of thousands of political opponents, court-martials, and
brutal prisons (in which many were held without trials), as well as the
suppression of free unions (which also included the killing of union
organisers) and the suffocation of any type of workers' democracy.
Workers are still supposed to remain silent if they do not agree.

It is less well known that there were still labor concentration camps in
Cuba during the late 1960s for "social deviants" (an Orwellian term)
which included, for example, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses! Like
other non-governmental organisations, associations for homosexual rights
still lack the right to public assembly.

It should also not be forgotten that the Cuban bureaucracy rode the
coattails of the monstrous Soviet Union to the very end. Such a regime,
naturally, could not and cannot be excessively interested in the idea of
democratic socialism and social self-management.

Even today, according to the Human Rights Watch, the regime insures the
obedience of the population through criminal prosecutions, long- and
short-term detentions, mob harassment, police warnings, surveillance,
house arrests, travel restrictions, and politically-motivated dismissals
from employment. The end result is that Cubans are systematically denied
basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy,
movement, and due process of law."

The Cuban regime has criminalized "enemy propaganda", the spreading of
"unauthorized news" and the "defamation of patriotic symbols." Today
Cuba's prisons/torture chambers (Cuba is one of the few countries that
does not permit the Red Cross to inspect) hold dissidents without
charges, solely because they have been denounced as dangerous for state
security. The death penalty has still not been abolished. People are not
permitted to leave and enter the country without official state
permission. Parents are frequently not allowed to take their children
with them on trips out of the country, a measure intended to prevent
them from emigrating.

The victory of bureaucracy and the state marks the death to the
prospects of a new society based on freedom and equality. Authentic
libertarian democratic socialism must be based upon respect for the
broadest human rights and democratic freedoms, for direct economic,
political and social democracy (actual self-management), which also
implies a pluralism of perspectives on the future (as opposed to
party-state paternalism).

Until Cuba achieves this, it will remain – unfortunately – only another
unsuccessful attempt at overcoming capital-relations, an attempt which
drowned in a swamp of violent, authoritarian bureaucratism.

In Cuba, Hopes for a New Capitalist Season

In Cuba, Hopes for a New Capitalist Season
Castro Resignation Could Open a Path For Small Businesses

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 24, 2008; A15

COJIMAR, Cuba, Feb. 23 -- Idalberto Estrada really wanted to make a sale.

He slashed a slender blade through the barklike brown skin of a yuca
root, a staple of the meager Cuban diet. A woman with brightly dyed red
hair leaned in skeptically, examining the root's white flesh beneath
Estrada's sidewalk umbrella in this Havana suburb.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Estrada, 37, said, smiling hopefully.

The woman handed over a faded peso, and Estrada sighed with relief,
knowing he was closer to breaking even for the day. In a country where
more than 97 percent of adults work for the government and most private
businesses are illegal, Estrada is an entrepreneur, opting for the risks
and rewards of a tiny business over working for the state.

Estrada's experience as a mini-capitalist in this socialist nation was
made possible by a mid-1990s reform that legalized about 150 types of
micro-businesses and was pushed for by Fidel Castro's brother, Raúl.
Fidel, 81, announced his retirement Tuesday after half a century of
dominance, and Raúl, 76, is expected to be named president when the
National Assembly meets Sunday.

Estrada and the 100,000 to 150,000 other self-employed Cubans provide a
glimpse of what the future might look like here, and help explain some
of the low-intensity excitement about the possibility of historic
change. Estrada sometimes earns three or four times what he made before
quitting the Cuban navy six years ago, when his pay was the equivalent
of $17 a month. He still struggles to make ends meet, but he is much
better off than the overwhelming majority of his neighbors who live in
rotting homes with spotty plumbing and have to feed themselves on state
salaries as low as $11 a month.

Raúl, who has been interim president in the 19 months since Fidel
underwent multiple intestinal surgeries, has stoked hopes of even more
dramatic change by hinting for months about "structural and conceptual"
shifts in Cuba's economy. Economists and many islanders see much in
Raúl's track record to suggest that he may expand private business
opportunities and perhaps even restore some of the vaunted mid-1990s
reforms that his all-powerful brother dismantled.

"I see it as a great possibility that Raúl will make changes to Cuba's
economy," Óscar Espinosa Chepe, a former Cuban government economist and
diplomat who was imprisoned in a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, said in
an interview. "He is much more pragmatic than his brother."

For all the expectations of a Raúl Castro presidency, there is still a
hint of suspense in the capital of Havana. Cubans, who love political
gossip, have speculated since Tuesday about possible alternative
scenarios, including the appointment of a puppet president from the
Council of State, the selection of Vice President Carlos Lage instead of
Raúl or a theatrically staged demand by the National Assembly for Fidel
to reverse his decision and make a triumphant return to the presidency.
But even in the unlikely event that Raúl is not named president, he
would still be expected to play a huge role in shaping Cuba's economy.

Raúlpushed to make some self-employment legal in the mid-1990s as Cuba's
economy was staggering and its populace starving after the Soviet Union
collapsed. Besides allowing produce vendors, the government also began
granting licenses for guesthouses, mechanic shops and small restaurants,
known as paladares.

But the biggest change Fidel let his brother talk him into was allowing
more tourism. About 270,000 tourists went to Cuba in 1989. By 2006, that
figure had jumped to 2.2 million, with nearly one in four tourists
coming from Canada, according to the Cuban government. Once a bargain,
Havana is now one of the most expensive cities to visit in Latin
America, with rooms at more than half a dozen top hotels going for $200
to $600 a night.

The influx of foreign money from tourism and joint ventures in mining,
tobacco and citrus stabilized Cuba's economy in the late 1990s and early
2000s. (The Cuban government keeps up to 30 percent of profits.) And
that's when Fidel Castro's government began taking back some of the
business liberties it had granted.

The longtime leader complained about "inequalities" that self-employment
was creating and railed against a "new rich class" that was paid by
tourists in U.S. dollars that had much more buying power than the Cuban
peso. In 2004, his government stopped granting self-employment licenses
for 40 types of businesses. Among those who could no longer work for
themselves were masseuses, magicians and clowns. Other businesses
remained technically legal but were effectively closed because licenses
weren't renewed.

The number of self-employed Cubans plummeted from 200,000 in the
mid-1990s to 100,000 now, according to Antonio Jorge, a recently retired
Florida International University economics professor who was a top
finance official in the first two years of Fidel's reign. The Cuban
government says 150,000 people are self-employed.

There was also a major crackdown on paladares, the small restaurants
that were thriving because their owners were preparing meals that were
far superior to the drab offerings in most state-run restaurants. In the
late 1990s, it was estimated that Havana had more than 1,000 paladares;
some of their owners were achieving worldwide fame. Now, there may be
fewer than 100, said a Cuban government economist who spoke on condition
of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

Privately, another Cuban official justified many of the closings, saying
paladares were shut down for sanitation violations. But the Cuban
government economist said the majority were forced out of business by
the state, which then clandestinely became the real owner of several
successful paladares that pretend to be privately owned. Other paladares
stayed in business by bribing government officials.

"They want to get rid of us all," said a paladar owner who asked that
his name not be revealed.

Raúl Castro hasn't focused on Cuban restaurants in his public speeches,
but he speaks frequently about the farmers who supply them. Jorge and
the government economist each predicted that Ra¿l might begin deeding
farmland to campesinos, or poor farmers. During a speech last July, Raúl
-- who is known for his wry, biting humor -- said he'd admired the
marabú growing on the roadsides. Marabú is a thorny bush that spreads
across untilled fields. The message was clear: Cuba's
government-controlled farmers were not doing their job well. Currently,
half of Cuba's arable land is not cultivated, but many here believe
private ownership of some farmland would free farmers to produce more in
a country that imports 80 percent of its food.

Estrada, the Cojimar produce vendor, often buys his squash and yuca from
José Francisco Anaya León, a 58-year-old Cuban. Unlike Estrada, Anaya
León is not self-employed. He farms government land, then sells three
squash at very low prices to the government for every one he sells to
vendors such as Estrada at a higher price.

Anaya León may have a guaranteed buyer for most of his crop, but he
doesn't make enough to live decently. Estrada said he has no guaranteed
buyers, but he flipped a cabbage in his hand and smiled anyway.

"Everybody in the world would want this, to be independent," he said.
"Human beings are ambitious."

Cuban exiles trapped in emotional limbo

Cuban exiles trapped in emotional limbo
Is Castro dead or alive? Will there be change in Cuba? Now, an FIU
professor has given a name to the emotional seesaw that plagues many
Miami exiles -- unresolved mourning.
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

At the Ferdinand Funeral Home and Crematory in Little Havana, family
after family gathers at the exile community's oldest parlor to pay their
respects to abuelo or abuela. The refrain is often one of regret: Fidel
Castro outlived their loved one.

For those Cubans left behind facing their own mortality, the yearning
for change on the island continues, and so does the toll of 49 years of
waiting for closure.

Now, Florida International University professor Eugenio Rothe has
identified a name for the unique psychological condition of so many
South Florida exiles: ``unresolved mourning.''

It's a term first coined by psychologist Sigmund Freud who used it to
describe someone who cannot come to grips with the death of a loved one.

Rothe, who has spent years studying the exile psyche, makes the case
that unresolved mourning is precisely the malaise faced by exiles who
live in a city where any news about Castro brings a flurry of hope that
he will die -- and they will regain a lost life.

Last week's bombshell about Castro's retirement was just the kind of
news Rothe suggests reopens wounds so many Cubans fight to bury.

Many members of what is now called ''the historic exile'' -- those
forced to leave in the 1960s as adults -- felt a wave of melancholy, as
they were reminded all over again of their loss and heartaches. It's all
part of the emotional bungee cord that snaps exiles throughout South
Florida at the hint of news about Castro and Cuba.

''For those older exiles, Cuba is like a dead person who somehow remains
half alive, like a zombie, because they have never completed their
mourning process of disconnecting and forming new bonds,'' said Rothe,
who will teach at FIU's new College of Medicine and has published
several articles and studies on the mental health of Cuban refugees.

Many exiles -- ''emotionally injured'' when their lives were derailed by
Castro's rise to power -- reside within this emotional limbo, said
Rothe, co-author of a paper on exile nostalgia which will soon be
published in the Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies. ''In Miami,
there is a constant reactivation of old wounds as exiles are bombarded
with major news events related to the island or Castro so they can never
completely let go,'' said Rothe, the son of Cuban exiles.

It was 12 years ago Sunday, for example, that the Cuban government shot
down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four local fliers. No
one has been brought to justice, though U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have called for a federal government
indictment of Raúl Castro, who as defense minister authorized the shooting.

In 2000, there was the bitter and drawn out battle between exiles and
Castro to keep Elián González with his Miami relatives. The boy, whose
mother drowned at sea attempting to escape Cuba, eventually was returned
to his father in Cuba.

And most recently, in June 2006, the announcement that an ailing Castro
was temporarily handing power to his brother Raúl, who Sunday is
expected to be named Cuba's next leader by the National Assembly.

All these events, Rothe said, have impacted the historic exiles'
recovery from the loss they experienced decades ago.

Rothe said that even the typical mourning process -- denial, anger,
bargaining, depression and acceptance -- is different for Cubans in
South Florida than it is for other Cubans because they are so
geographically close to their homeland.

''They have a relationship with Cuba that is never allowed to die,''
said Rothe, who added that exiles with feelings of unresolved mourning
are destined for disappointment.

''At first they enjoy the bittersweet feel of the nostalgia, but then
they are reminded that the past will never be again. Depression sets in
when they realize what they yearned for can never be again,'' Rothe
said. ``The old Cuba they knew is gone.''

The angst of unresolved mourning over Cuba, Rothe said, can be passed on
from generation to generation.

Beba Sosa, daughter of beloved Cuban senator Emilio Ochoa -- until last
year the last remaining signer of Cuba's historic 1940 constitution --
says during days like these, her father, who lived to be 99, is often on
her mind. ''He wanted to go back until the last minute of his life,''
she said.

``He would tell me that he knew he was too old to hold a political post,
but that he would like to offer advice to others.''

Near the end of his life, Sosa said: ``He hated that he would not live
to see the changes.''

For Raúl Martinez, the former mayor of Hialeah who is running for the
congressional seat now held by Lincoln Diaz-Balart, news of Castro's
resignation was bittersweet.

He immediately thought of his father, Chin, a staunch anti-Castro
fighter who died a year ago last week at 82.

Martinez watched his father readjust his life.

''My father came to Miami in April of 1960 thinking by that December
he'd be back home to roast his Nochebuena pork,'' Martinez said. ``He
like many older exiles didn't get to go back and see the old country

For some Cubans, even death provides no escape from the circle of
unresolved mourning.

Fernando Caballero, owner of Ferdinand Funeral Home on Calle Ocho in
Little Havana, says he hears the same request from Cubans preparing a
loved one's burial.

''A family member will usually ask at some point if the body can be
taken back to Cuba -- once Fidel falls,'' Caballero said. ``With the
proper paperwork, the answer from us has always been yes. We'll help
take them back.''

Miami Herald staffer David Quinones contributed to this report.

Facts about Cuba's one-party political system

Facts about Cuba's one-party political system
Published: Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cuba's National Assembly is widely expected to name Raul Castro as head
of state on Sunday following Fidel Castro's announcement on Tuesday that
he is retiring. The following is an outline of Cuba's one-party
communist system.

* Cuba is a one-party socialist republic, in which political power is
vested solely in the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). The political system
is enshrined in the Cuban Constitution approved by a national referendum
in 1976. Another referendum in 2002 made socialism "irrevocable."

* The PCC was founded in 1965 by merging various parties and
revolutionary groups under Fidel Castro's leadership. All other
political parties were banned.

* Until Tuesday, Fidel Castro held the three top political leadership
posts on the island: head of state (as president of the Council of
State), head of government (as president of Council of Ministers) and
first secretary of the party. He has stepped down as president but
retains the party post.

* The National Assembly is the Cuban legislature with 614 delegates who
are elected every five years. Half of them emerge from municipal and
provincial assemblies called People's Power (Poder Popular). Delegates
are not required to be members of the party but most are.

* At its first session every five years, the National Assembly approves
a slate of 31 members of the Council of State, the highest executive
body headed by the president, a first vice president and five
second-tier vice presidents.

* On Sunday, the National Assembly is expected to confirm Fidel Castro's
brother, Raul Castro, as Cuba's new head of state following the ailing
leader's announcement he is retiring.

* Cuban society is organized into "mass organizations" of workers,
students, women and farmers. The biggest is a network of neighborhood
block committees, known as the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution, whose stated task is to mobilize political support for the
government and defend the political system against crime and
"counter-revolution." Critics say they facilitate political control over
the population.

Facts about Cuba's Communist party

Facts about Cuba's Communist party
Sun Feb 24, 2008 1:15am EST

(Reuters) - Fidel Castro retired as Cuba's head of state this week after
49 years in power, but he retains a powerful position at the head of the
ruling Communist Party.

Here are some facts about the party:

* The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has 820,000 card-carrying members, out
of a total population of 11 million on the island. The party was founded
in 1965, merging various revolutionary groups under Castro's leadership.
All other political parties were banned.

* All top level government and military officials are party members, as
are most lower-level functionaries, and leaders of labor and other mass
organizations. The Cuban Constitution adopted in 1976 states that the
PCC is the "highest directing force" of the Cuban state and society.

* Fidel Castro has held the post of first secretary and Raul Castro has
been second secretary since the party's founding.

* A party congress is held every five years to elect the Central
Committee -- currently 134 members -- and set general policy guidelines.
However, the last congress was held more than 10 years ago in 1997.
Party insiders say a congress may take place during the next 12 months.

* The Central Committee elects from its members a 25-member Political
Bureau responsible for day-to-day decisions, and a 12-member secretariat
that carries out those decisions.

* The party's youth organization, the Union of Young Communists, has
around 600,000 members.

(Reporting by Marc Frank in Havana, Editing by Michael Christie and
Frances Kerry)

From Socialist Paradise to Ethanol Republic?

February 22, 2008, 3:09 pm
Cuba: From Socialist Paradise to Ethanol Republic?
Posted by Keith Johnson
Venderemos! (Wikipedia)

In the wake of El Comandante's decision to turn Cuba over to his brother
Raul, speculation over the island's future has been rife, including
here. But the idea that post-Castro Cuba, free of the U.S. embargo and
Cold War posturing, could revive its battered sugar industry and someday
become a major ethanol exporter has a few Environmental Capital readers

Perhaps Cuba will decide that it prefers its self-sufficient
economy and sustainable agriculture model and not turn its farmland into
a gas station for the U.S. And maybe the real best case scenario
actually involves the U.S. learning to get by with using a heck of a lot
less energy [Anne Morgan]

Cuba has an enormous opportunity to resist that [ethanol] model and
focus on fostering its own economy, creating jobs and small businesses
through sustainable development of its home-grown talent and resources.
Not become like its neighboring islands, which remain poor and
underdeveloped because their leaders chose subservience to multinational
globalization over sustainable development [Vivian D.]

Just a couple of problems with that, suggests Antonio Gayoso, another of
the academics at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.
Cuba is presently neither self-sufficient nor sustainable. According to
Cuban government figures, it imports about 85% of its food. The collapse
of the country's sugar industry has left huge swaths of cropland overrun
by a type of Caribbean kudzu.

The good news, such as it is, is that Cuba should be spared the
food-versus-fuel debate that wracks other developing countries, and
which is putting a crimp (for better or for worse) in biofuel
development from Latin America to Southeast Asia. In Cuba, Mr. Gayoso
says, ethanol means food:

[C]lose to 2 million hectares of land could be used in the future
for an integrated sugar industry: one that could produce sugar, ethanol,
paper, cattle feed, and other products without competing for foodstuff
cropland, provided that a return to earlier productivity levels are
achieved… thus permitting a higher capacity to import foodstuff that
Cuba cannot produce for ecological reasons.

Cuba oil production dropping, expert says

Cuba oil production dropping, expert says
Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:11pm GMT

MIAMI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Cuba's oil production, which peaked at 65,000
barrels per day in 2003, has fallen to 51,300 bpd due to declining
output from the country's primary oil field, a Miami-based energy expert
said on Friday.

Jorge Pinon, a former oil company executive and now energy fellow at the
University of Miami, said the Varadero field, east of Havana, has been
depleted by years of pumping.

"Varadero field was discovered in the 1970s. This is a very old oilfield
and that field is going through its natural decline," Pinon said at
conference on Cuba at Florida International University.

Pinon said Sherritt International (S.TO: Quote, Profile, Research), a
Canadian joint venture partner with Cubapetroleo (Cupet), is planning to
use enhanced recovery methods to squeeze more oil from Varadero.

The 51,300 bpd average includes oil and liquids produced from natural
gas processing, he said. The latter accounts for 1,200 to 1,500 bpd, he

He said the cost of producing oil in Cuba is about $1.77 a barrel.

Pinon said Cuba consumes about 145,000 bpd, with 90,000 of that imported
from Venezuela.

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by David Gregorio)

Tourism 'golden era' ends in Cuba

February 21, 2008
Tourism 'golden era' ends in Cuba
Travellers interested in visiting Cuba are being advised to go now
before an invasion of American tourists begins
Tom Chesshyre

Tour operators believe that the US travel embargo of Cuba could be
lifted in the wake of this week's announcement that Fidel Castro is
stepping down - ending a "golden era" of tourism to the Caribbean island.

Companies say that Castro's departure is likely to combine with a more
open approach to the island after November's presidential elections.
This could bring an end to the US travel ban. The embargo has been in
place since Castro took charge in an armed revolution 49 years ago and
introduced communism. The effect has been to keep mainstream
Westernisation out of the country.

But this week each of the main Amertican presidential contenders -
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain - said that they would
consider a softer approach towards Cuba, but only if political prisoners
were released.

Obama said that the US "must be prepared to begin taking steps to
normalise relations and to ease the embargo of the past five decades".
Related Links

News of Castro's departure on Tuesday had an immediate effect on tour
operators, with people booking trips to see the country before it
changes. "It's been mad," said John Faithfull, of Trips Worldwide, a
Cuba specialist. Bookings with the company have risen by a third since
Castro's last public appearance 19 months ago.

"It looks likely that the embargo will be reviewed and relaxed under a
new US president. It's not a question of that happening immediately, but
it could happen in a year or two," he said. "When the embargo is over,
I'm not sure where Cuba will find the beds to accommodate its new guests." reported that searches for Cuba have increased
eight-fold this year compared with last, with 43,984 enquiries. This
week it was attracting as many as 900 website hits a day.

A spate of new five-star hotel openings, some in former colonial
mansions, is already attracting more upmarket tourists. The Saratoga in
Havana, the capital, the Iberostar Grand Hotel in Trinidad, and Royal
Hideaway in Ensenachos have been especially popular.

Vesella Baleva, product manager for Cuba at Cox & Kings, said: "The end
of the embargo would make it touristy. There's a charm now as it's not
crowded with Americans. These are the golden years."

Virgin Atlantic began flying to Cuba in 2005 and holiday bookings
increased by a fifth last year. Cheapest fortnight packages cost as
little as £871 from Cosmos Holidays.

'Surrounded by Water' illustrates the hopes and fears of isolated Cubans

Mixed feelings on the horizon
'Surrounded by Water' illustrates the hopes and fears of isolated Cubans
By Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent / February 24, 2008

An endless sea made up of thousands of small fish hooks rendered in
felt-tip pen looms in Yoan Capote's drawing "Isla (Diptico-estudio para
unos cuadros)", the art work given center stage in "Surrounded by Water:
Expressions of Freedom and Isolation in Contemporary Cuban Art," at
Boston University Art Gallery.

Surrounded by Water: Expressions of Freedom and Isolation in
Contemporary Cuban Art

At: Boston University Art Gallery, 855 Commonwealth Ave., through April
6. 617-353-3329.
more stories like this

The image, at once lulling and barbed, sums up the mixed feelings
inhabitants of an isolated island nation might have toward the ocean. It
fills the gaze; it provides food and jobs; it's a wall, but also a
bridge to what lies beyond. This captivating drawing is a study for a
larger piece, in which Capote mounted actual fishhooks on a wood panel.
That would be a sight to see.

A study feels a bit like a cheat. That uneasy feeling of the
not-quite-realized plagues "Surrounded by Water," which was curated by
Natania Remba, a master's degree candidate in art history at BU. These
works of art are often striking; they were made by a range of artists,
from established to emerging. But it's a smallish exhibit, with work by
about 15 artists. Remba makes a sturdy effort, but the giant topic of
water as a metaphor in Cuban art could go much deeper. "Surrounded by
Water" just skims the surface.

Water pervades any island culture. It's intrinsic to the economy and
political relationships, to religion and mythology. In Cuba's case, the
water literally creates a boundary between Cuban society and the outside
world, one that has been reinforced by the isolationist policies of
Fidel Castro, who resigned last week after nearly 50 years as Cuba's
president. Manuel Piña's moving black-and-white photo from the "Aguas
baldias (Waters of the Waste Land)" series, depicts a young man leaping
from the sea wall toward the water. His body surges forward, but Piña
captures him at the moment before his foot leaves the wall. He's still
tied to his native soil.

For Piña, the sea offers freedom. Luis Cruz Azaceta plunges his
"Swimmer" into threatening waters. The tense mixed-media painting sets a
lone man making his way along a ribbon of orange through heaving,
spinning abstracted waves. His work evokes the unsanctioned passage
between Cuba and the US.

The archetypal story of that crossing, that of Elián González, plays out
in "Le edad de oro (The Golden Age)," a telling video triptych by José
Ángel Toirac, Meira Marrero Díaz, and Patricia Clark. US news clips of
the boy's story run on one video; Cuban news clips on another, spelling
out what a political pawn Elián became. The middle video follows a
gentler route, matching images of Elián with pages from a 19th-century
children's book by José Marti, a leader of Cuba's independence movement.
That video celebrates children's innocence and their agency.

Ernesto Pujol's ink drawing "Cuba y Jamaica" refers to his family's
emigration to Puerto Rico. He maps the Cuban archipelago, then draws a
grid of sharks over the map, suggesting danger not just in the water,
but in the fraught political and economic relationships that Cuba has
with its neighbors.

A line from a 1943 poem by Virgilio Piñera provides the title for Sandra
Ramos's powerful print, "La maldita circunstancia del agua por todas
partes (The Accursed Circumstance of Water All Around)." The artist
depicts her own body in the shape of Cuba, then appends the face of
Alice in Wonderland from a 19th-century engraving, suggesting reverie
and a dream world, slyly referring to the alleged socialist utopia
brought on by the Cuban revolution. She's pinned there by palm trees,
which could also serve as propellers that might lift her away.

Some of the art is just about beauty. Photographer Tomás Sánchez makes
gorgeous landscape paintings that dwell on water as a mystical force. In
"Orilla," we look over shimmering water into a forest, only to glimpse a
veil of mist glowing through the trees.

José Bedia makes work that embraces the complex stew of Cuban culture.
In the circular canvas "Amar duele y vivir sin tu amor no se puede (Love
Hurts and Living Without Yours is Impossible)," he evokes immigration
and emigration, the mix of cultures in Cuba. A statue of a Yoruba deity
runs up the middle, and paddlers navigate canoes up paths of running
water along each side.

Several artists use water to make other political points: Rocío García's
untitled acrylic-on-paper work flouts the tradition of the male gaze on
the female nude by focusing on an attractive nude man, who dangles his
hand in a pool; a shark hovers just below the surface. I assumed the
work had homoerotic content (and perhaps it does, although García is a
woman), but in her catalog essay, Remba declares this image is fraught
with feminist imagery: "The shark symbolizes danger in the ocean of pain
encountered by women attempting to defy patriarchal definitions of

Here in the US, that sort of symbolism feels like a throwback to the
1980s. In Cuba, feminism has been slow growing; the University of Havana
only instituted a women's studies program in 2005. Perhaps that lag is
due to Cuban culture; perhaps it has to do with Cuba's isolationism.

Much of the art here addresses the gulf between Cuba and its neighbors,
and not only by delving into it as a subject. There is not much of a
local market for art in Cuba; if artists want to sell their work, they
have to reach beyond their borders. The international market for Cuban
art took off in the mid 1990s, after Fidel Castro legalized the dollar
and opened Cuba to tourism.

The duo of Los Carpinteros, Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto
Rodríguez Sanchéz has shot to acclaim internationally. They remain in
Cuba, making art that is slyly critical of the socialist establishment;
their work comically comments upon the dearth of artistic materials
available in Cuba. Here, their "Sandalia" is a pair of cast-rubber
flip-flops etched with maps of Havana. Ironically, the artists use cheap
material to make high-priced sculptures of throwaway sandals.

The water theme entices, but it can be used to touch on just about any
themes that arise in Cuban art. Does "Sandalia" really belong here? Are
sandals a water image? If Remba had narrowed her vision to fit her
space, her exhibit would satisfy. As it is, it merely teases.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Castro rejects idea of major political change on eve of Cuba's leadership change

Castro rejects idea of major political change on eve of Cuba's
leadership change
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

(AP) -- Fidel Castro on Saturday rejected the idea of major political
change after Cuba's parliament chooses a new president -- his final
published comments as the nation's longtime leader.

The article on the front page of the Communist Party Granma was one of a
flurry of recent columns and announcements from Castro, who is retiring
after 49 years as head of Cuba.

Writing under his new title, ''Comrade Fidel,'' the 81-year-old Castro
scoffed at suggestions in news reports that his retirement, announced
Tuesday, would lead to political changes aided by Cuban exiles in the
United States.

''The reality is otherwise,'' Castro wrote. He quoted approvingly from
other articles that said his retirement showed the failure of U.S.
officials to affect Cuba's political transition.

Castro said he would now lay his pen aside until lawmakers decide Sunday
on his replacement as president of the island's supreme governing
authority, the Council of State. Castro's 76-year-old brother Raul, the
defense minister, is his constitutionally designated successor as first
vice president, and is widely expected to be named president.

The younger Castro has headed Cuba's caretaker government for 19 months,
since Fidel announced he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery and
was provisionally ceding his powers.

In a separate report, Granma said ''all the conditions have been
created'' for Sunday's meeting of the 614-member parliament, whose
members were elected on Jan. 20. Renewed every five years, the
parliament known as the National Assembly is charged at its first
gathering with selecting a new 31-member Council of State headed by the

Fidel Castro has held the position of president since the current
government structure was created in 1976. For 18 years before that, he
was prime minister -- a post that no longer exists.

He will remain the head of the Communist Party and a member of the
National Assembly, to which he was re-elected to last month.

In a similar column on Friday, Castro wrote that preparations for the
parliament meeting ''left me exhausted,'' and that he did not regret the
decision to resign.

''I slept better than ever,'' he wrote. ``My conscience was clear and I
promised myself a vacation.''

In the eastern Cuba district that Fidel Castro represents as a lawmaker,
residents on Saturday debated who should replace him.

''Fidel is the greatest for us, but the most important thing now is that
he rests and takes good care of himself,'' said 72-year-old retiree Juan
Alvarez. ''I think that he made an intelligent decision -- like all the
decisions he made'' since launching Cuba's revolution in the mid-1950s.

Alvarez said he was willing to accept whoever is chosen by the National
Assembly, ``and if it is Raul, well, that would be correct.''

Sitting with him in a park in the town of El Cobre, on the outskirts of
Santiago, was 70-year-old Javier Solano, who noted that Raul Castro was
no longer young, either.

''It would be good to look for a young replacement, like Fidel himself
said in one of his writings, so that Cuba can show the world it is not
like they say, that here there is only Fidel and Raul,'' said Solano.
``There is a whole nation as well behind them.''


Associated Press Writer Anne-Marie Garcia contributed to this report
from Santiago, Cuba.

Lawyers still pursuing Cuban property cases

Lawyers still pursuing Cuban property cases
It's not as extensive as in years past, but several South Florida firms
continue to pursue Cuba-related legal work, hoping the investment one
day will pay off.
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

George Harper remembers sponsoring the first Post-Castro Cuba conference
for the Florida Bar Association in 1992. Like many, he expected
democracy would come quickly to Cuba after the fall of the Soviet Union.

''I still have the brochure,'' he said, laughing, last week.

Nearly sixteen years later and with the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba
still in place, local lawyers like Harper still maintain a steady flow
of clients whom they advise on issues related to doing business in Cuba.
Some offer consulting on the 1996 Helms-Burton legislation, especially
to European and Latin American companies.

Helms-Burton not only establishes strict conditions that must be met
before the embargo can be lifted but also has a provision that allows
U.S. citizens and companies to sue foreigners ''trafficking'' in
confiscated Cuban properties for damages in U.S. federal courts.

That means some foreign companies are particularly wary of which Cuban
properties they should view as investment targets and often want legal

Most in South Florida's legal community described Fidel Castro's
announcement last week that he would not seek reelection as president of
the Council of State as just another moment in series of moments for
those who have waited so long for the country to fully open to American

But even without that opening, there is business for law firms.

Each new development always generates interest, and more inquiries for
law firms such as the Miami office of Akerman Senterfitt, said lawyer
Augusto Maxwell.

''Every time there's a headline, there are calls to try to get an
understanding of what the embargo is about, how it might change and what
we think about it,'' he said.

Still, the legal business regarding Cuba has waned from a decade ago,
said John Kavulich, a senior policy advisor to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council in New York.

''There were firms in the mid- and late '90s that did have Cuba practice
groups, but as Cuba reversed course on many of its commercial and
economic changes, the ability of lawyers to make a living based upon
preparing companies, and doing legal work'' dried up, he said.

The most lucrative legal work these days seems to be in filing paperwork
to register U.S. trademarks in Cuba, which firms all across the country
do, Kavulich said. Other lawyers work with the U.S. food and
agricultural companies on the limited business that is allowed by U.S. law.

''It's not a growth industry as it was from 1995 to maybe 2002,'' he said.

Nevertheless, there are Miami lawyers who have managed to keep their
Cuba practices growing.

Nicolás Gutiérrez, for example, says he has hundreds of clients who are
ready -- but waiting for the day when they can begin the legal process
of reclaiming their commercial property or businesses lost after the
1959 revolution.

During the 1960s, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission certified the
claims of nearly 6,000 American citizens and companies that lost
property in Cuba after the revolution. But Cuban-Americans aren't
covered under that process and will need to press their claims with a
future Cuban government.


At Akerman Senterfitt in Miami, lawyers such as Maxwell and his
colleague Pedro Freyre say they have a ''significant number'' of clients
they assist by providing information on embargo regulations. That
includes European companies that don't want to run afoul of Helms-Burton.

The lawyers also work on matters related to exceptions to the embargo
such as U.S. exports of food, agricultural products and pharmaceuticals
to the island for humanitarian reasons. Spending in Cuba by certain
groups, including academics, clerics, journalists, some on cultural
exchanges and Cuban-Americans visiting relatives, also is permitted as
an embargo exemption.

The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, commonly called
OFAC, enforces more than 20 economic and trade sanction programs for
countries around the world but its main focus has been Cuba.

''I would say the bulk [of the firm's Cuba work] is OFAC-related,''
Maxwell said. ``What we're beginning to grow now is two things: American
businesses who are interested in understanding what the law is, and
exile Cubans who are interested in understanding what rights they might
have for properties in Cuba.''

Antonio Zamora, who is of counsel at the Miami office of Squires Sanders
& Dempsey, said most people who called last week wanted to speculate
about what shifting the Cuban presidency would mean.

In the last couple of years, said Harper, companies have become
accustomed to the ''false starts'' in an opening toward Cuba. He pointed
to what he called the calm and blasé reaction to last week's news as
proof that many recognize it is still business as usual in Cuba.

Harper, managing partner at Harper Meyer, focuses mostly on
inter-American law. He estimates about a third of his client load now is
directly related to Cuban work.

But, ''when you talk about all different clients we have, everything
from fast-food operations to transportation [companies], they're all
going to be interested in Cuba,'' he said.

One day, added Gutiérrez of the Miami firm Borgoynoni & Gutiérrez, the
embargo will be lifted, and the Cuban-related work -- now just a
sub-speciality in his corporate and government practice -- will explode.


In recent times he has watched a generation of exiles, including his
father, pass away. Many of his clients are now coming in to sign
affidavits, legal descriptions of property they say they owned in Cuba
with instructions who they would like to leave it to when they die -- in
case they do not survive until the embargo is lifted.

And Gutiérrez, like many other South Florida lawyers, continues to wait
for the day when he will be able to represent clients in Cuban courts.

''Somewhere between when my two young kids are in high school or I
retire, it has to happen,'' he said.

Mimi Whitefield, a Miami Herald business editor, contributed to this story.

Keeping the flame alive

Keeping the flame alive
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

Maggie Alejandre Khuly's brother was one of four South Floridians shot
down in Brothers to the Rescue planes 12 years ago today. Carlos Costa,
Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales will be
commemorated in a 1 p.m. mass at St. Agatha Catholic Church, 1111 SW
107th Ave., Miami.

Q. Has the painful memory of the shoot-down diminished?

A. Every year, the pain is refreshed. You begin planning the
commemoration activities to bring alive the memory of these four men for
those who don't remember them as we family members do. You also tend to
remember past anniversaries and to worry. Will their photo be in the
paper? Will there be media coverage? We want their photos shown because
they are the focus, not us.

Q. What stands out about this year's anniversary?

A. This anniversary is different because Fidel Castro stepped down as
head of state last week. So what we have been hearing, that he has
head-of-state immunity, is no longer true. From what we've seen these 12
years, there is no political will on the part of the U.S. government to
indict Castro. Now this impediment has been removed. These were four
Americans who were murdered. The U.S. government will have to come up
with a different reason for why the indictment is not possible. Another
difference is that the documentary Shoot Down has been playing in area
theaters for five weeks.

Q. 'Shoot Down' was made by your daughter, Cristina. What is its impact?

A. It makes very clear in a linear way the events that led to the
shoot-down. And it reinforces that the government of Cuba is responsible
for the murders of these four men. It's good that the documentary is in
English. It's important as a portrayal of an egregious violation of
human rights. Every single one of us, as part of the human community,
should take an interest in it. It happened to our families, and we don't
want it to happen to any other American family ever.

Q. Have the families gained justice for the victims?

A. We have received a measure of justice. I would start with the formal
condemnations by United Nations and Organization of American States
commissions of human rights; and the civil lawsuit by which the
government of Cuba was found guilty of premeditated murder in the
shoot-down of two unarmed, civilian planes flying a humanitarian
search-and-rescue mission over international waters of the Florida
Straits. That's what people see in the documentary.

We also have the conviction of Gerardo Hernández [one of five Cuban
spies convicted in 2001] for conspiracy to murder in the shoot-down; and
the pending indictments for the Cuban Air Force officer who gave the
order and the two pilots who fired the missiles.

Q. What comes next?

A. We would like additional indictments. We believe there is enough
evidence available to indict other Cuban officers, all the way from
Fidel and Raúl Castro to the air controllers who guided the planes to
find their targets. There were a lot of people involved.

Even though we are focused on our family members, we won't be finished
until there is justice for other victims of the Cuban government, such
as the victims of the attack on the 13 de Marzo tugboat. The families
are looking forward to the day that we, through our foundations funded
by the civil lawsuit [that awarded $93 million in damages], can help
people in Cuba with schools and libraries built in the memory of Carlos,
Armando, Mario and Pablo.

Editorial Board member Susana Barciela prepared this report.

Señales de humo desde La Habana

Publicado el sábado 23 de febrero del 2008

Señales de humo desde La Habana

Me encuentro en Bogotá escribiendo un libro sobre Colombia. El proyecto
es apasionante. Me desplazo de un lado a otro a velocidad vertiginosa
con Gonzalo Guillén, corresponsal de El Nuevo Herald en este país,
alguien que desde su celular se comunica al instante con toda la
sociedad política colombiana. Es opositor por vocación y su espíritu
crítico casi es en él un vicio de carácter. Periodista de raza, no se
calla la boca. Y como a muchos no les gusta lo que dice, y aquí las
cosas no son fáciles, nos trasladamos en un SUV de las Naciones Unidas
con cristales blindados y dos guardaespaldas.

Diariamente hago varias entrevistas, y aunque siempre la primera
pregunta es sobre si el presidente Alvaro Uribe podrá lograr una
victoria militar contra las FARC, siempre el corazón me traiciona, el
político que hay en mí desbanca al periodista y acabo hablando sobre el
problema de Cuba.

Desde aquí no se ven las cosas de la isla como en Miami. Por primera vez
me he cuestionado si el embargo es un tema de política interior
norteamericana que nada tiene que ver con Cuba, un arma de negociación o
un circo. También, de qué nos sirven nuestros odios, que como me dijo
ayer en un almuerzo en el restaurant Matiz el joven empresario Mauricio
González, de la firma de consultores T Mega, ``son más peligrosos que
una piraña en un bidé''.

A principios de esta semana fui a visitar al ex presidente Andrés
Pastrana, me recibió afectuoso y sonriente, pero encima de la enorme
mesa de conferencias, como al descuido, había un montón de fotos
enmarcadas, y encima de todas resaltaba una suya enorme junto a Fidel
Castro vestido de uniforme militar de gala. Lo tomé como un claro
mensaje de que sabía perfectamente quién era la persona que lo iba a
entrevistar. Pero no le acusé recibo de su agudeza y en un ambiente
distendido y franco, comencé a escuchar anécdotas sobre una reciente
visita suya a La Habana con su hija. No me habló de Fidel ni de Raúl,
sólo mencionó sus entrevistas con Carlos Lage, Felipe Pérez Roque y
Ricardo Alarcón. En el acto aproveché la coyuntura y le dije:

--Presidente Pastrana, hay algo que no es una opinión política, sino una
ecuación matemática. Las soluciones al problema de Cuba son una invasión
norteamericana a la isla, que sería funesta; un golpe de Estado militar
cruento, que prolongaría un poder dictatorial hasta el fin de los
siglos; una sublevación popular donde podría correr la sangre a
raudales; y la última opción, que es la que sirve a los intereses del
pueblo de Cuba, sería establecer un diálogo entre los cubanos de las dos
orillas para lograr una reconciliación nacional.

--Siempre he sido partidario --me dijo sonriente-- de resolver los
problemas políticos sin violencias, con conversaciones, a través de un

No lo dejé respirar y le recité de carretilla:

--La lucha por la paz de Colombia ha tenido para usted un alto costo
político. No hay quien le discuta su gran prestigio mundial de amante de
la paz, ¿se ha puesto a pensar por un segundo cuál sería el legado que
dejaría usted a la historia de Cuba y de América Latina si lograra
encaminar conversaciones entre La Habana y Miami?

Se recostó en su mullido butacón y pensó durante algunos segundos.

--Habría que estudiar eso a fondo, pero podría ser --dijo--. Hay unas
reuniones de ex presidentes, ex ministros de relaciones exteriores y
otras figuras de gran peso a nivel mundial, a esto se le llama
Interaction Council. Creo que allí podríamos plantear esa inquietud y
comenzar a trabajar para obtener objetivos.

Me despedí con respeto y quedamos en vernos en unos días, pues salía de

Otro que me ha impresionado mucho es Alvaro Leyva Durán, uno de los
personajes más interesantes de Colombia, miembro del Partido
Conservador, católico militante, ex ministro de Ingeniería y Minas,
experto en pacificación de conflictos y el hombre que ha sido durante
años el contacto del gobierno colombiano con las FARC. Tiene estatura
presidencial. Atardeciendo y en un salón de la Universidad Sergio
Arboleda, me dijo:

--Pronto va a haber grandes cambios en Cuba. A Raúl no le gustan los
micrófonos ni tiene proyectos de dominio continental. Si los Estados
Unidos y ustedes desaprovechan la oportunidad de abrir alguna puerta con
Raúl cuando desaparezca su hermano, cometen una estupidez. Estoy
optimista con respecto a una apertura próxima en Cuba.

Pienso igual que Alvaro Durán. Que el pueblo cubano pueda ser capaz de
expresar sus puntos de vista, aun dentro de los enjutos parámetros que
les marca el sistema, y la última liberación de presos de conciencia son
señales de humo que se elevan al cielo desde La Habana. Ahora el
objetivo nuestro consiste en descifrarlas.

Glance at Cuba's Council of State

Glance at Cuba's Council of State
By The Associated Press

Powers of Cuba's governing Council of State:

_Represents National Assembly, or parliament, between regular sessions.

_Proposes legislation and dictates new laws by decree when parliament
not in session; interprets existing laws when necessary.

_Calls special parliament sessions and sets dates for legislative
elections, usually once every five years.

_Decrees general mobilization of population if country threatened; can
declare war in event of aggression if parliament cannot meet because of
urgency or security concerns.

_May reshuffle Cabinet between regular parliament sessions.

_Suspends Cabinet decrees and local parliament decrees it considers out
of line with constitution or existing laws or have negative effect on
local or national interests.

_Bestows medals and honorific titles, names commissions, ratifies
treaties, grants pardons, accepts or rejects diplomatic representatives
from other countries, designates and removes Cuban diplomats.


Publicado el sábado 23 de febrero del 2008


PRESOS/El gobierno español no sabe cuándo se producirá la liberación de
tres presos políticos cubanos anunciada la semana pasada al mismo tiempo
que la de otros cuatro que viajaron a España el domingo, indicó ayer la

El ministro español de Asuntos Exteriores, Miguel Angel Moratinos,
anunció hace una semana la liberación de siete disidentes presos desde
el 2003, cuatro de los cuales llegaron el domingo a Madrid.

Desde entonces, ni las autoridades cubanas ni las españolas han
informado sobre estos prisioneros, que podrían ser periodistas, pero
cuyas identidades no fueron divulgadas.

''No tenemos información, la información debe venir de las autoridades
cubanas'', declaró ayer una fuente diplomática española.

Fuentes cercanas a la disidencia cubana en España dijeron que los tres
prisioneros podrían ser los periodistas Alfredo Pulido, Normando
Hernández y Jorge Luis García Paneque. Ayer, las mismas fuentes
estimaban que el mal estado de salud de estos disidentes podría ser la
causa del retraso de su liberación.

Los cuatro prisioneros liberados y enviados a España son el sindicalista
Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, el disidente Omar Pernet Hernández y los
periodistas José Gabriel Ramón Castillo y Alejandro González Raga.

Según las organizaciones de defensa de derechos humanos en Cuba, a
finales del 2007 había al menos 234 presos políticos en la isla.

PROFUGO/Las autoridades dominicanas detuvieron en Santo Domingo a un
cubano-estadounidense al que la Justicia de los Estados Unidos buscaba
desde hace cerca de cuatro años, tras haber violado la libertad
condicional que le fue impuesta por un tribunal de Florida.

La Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas (DNCD) informó ayer en una
nota del arresto de Mario César Díaz, aunque no precisa por qué hechos
estaba en situación de libertad condicional.

El hombre fue capturado el jueves por la tarde por miembros del
departamento de Investigaciones Especiales de la DNCD para ser enviado a
Florida, donde la Corte de Distrito de ese estado dictó una orden de
arresto internacional contra él el 18 de mayo de 2004.

El prófugo, quien también se identificaba como Mario Díaz y residía en
la urbanización Arroyo Hondo III, en Santo Domingo, fue arrestado cuando
se dirigía a su casa en un vehículo todoterreno que le fue intervenido
junto con varios documentos.

CHINA/La renuncia de Fidel Castro no afectará al desarrollo de las
relaciones chino-cubanas, indicó Xu Shicheng, investigador del Instituto
de Estudios Latinoamericanos de la Academia de Ciencias Sociales de
China experto en las relaciones entre ambos países.

''China y Cuba han establecido lazos de amistad y cooperación en
diferentes aspectos que atraviesan la mejor etapa de la historia y creo
que se verán fortalecidas en el futuro'', declaró el académico a la
agencia oficial Xinhua.

China es el segundo mayor socio comercial de Cuba, con intercambios por
$2,278 millones en el 2007, con un crecimiento anual del 27.1 por ciento.

Centenares de alumnos chinos estudian actualmente en Cuba y la isla ha
colaborado también con China en los sectores farmacéutico y
oftalmológico, destacó el experto chino

Twenty four Cuban refugees land in Key West

Twenty four Cuban refugees land in Key West
Posted on Sat, Feb. 23, 2008

Twenty four Cuban refugees landed in Key West on Saturday morning, the
first rafters to reach the United States soil since Fidel Castro
announced Tuesday he would cede presidential powers.

The group guided their 16-foot, homemade boat to Key West's Smathers
Beach after navigating through Caribbean waters for more than 26 hours,
according to Key West police spokeswoman Christie Phillips.

Phillips said the boat, equipped with a Mercedes diesel engine, departed
from an area east of Havana carrying 20 men and four women.

''They were pretty dehydrated, but all in good condition,'' she said.

All the refugees, including a pregnant woman, were on shore when Key
West police arrived after being alerted to the landing at 6:30 a.m.
Police said the group was given food and water before being taken by
Border Patrol officials three hours later.

Also Saturday, four Cuban migrants were repatriated to Bahia de Cabanas,
Cuba. They were part of a group of 33 intercepted by the Coast Guard
nine miles south of Dry Tortugas on Feb. 9. The other 29 were
repatriated last week.

Black youths hungry for change

Black youths hungry for change
Subjected to random stops by police and hindered by a lack of
opportunities, Cuba's restless young blacks fear that whatever change
may come will not be enough.
Posted on Sat, Feb. 23, 2008

Two Cuban men walk down a busy street in Old Havana, joking as they wind
their way through the thick scrum of tourists and the cascade of salsa
music spilling out of bars.

Their laughter quickly stops as a portly police officer stops them and
asks for their identification. The men flip out their wallets and say
nothing as the cop studies their ID cards.

''That's Cuba,'' says Liván, 25, who has deep chocolate skin and short
dreads. ``That's what it means to be a black man here. They don't need a
reason to stop you.''

These are perhaps the most restless of Cuba's restless youth: young
black men who live under a system that tells them they are equal but in
a daily reality that often says otherwise.

''There's one word to sum this up,'' said Liván, referring to the random
stops. ``It's bull----.''

As they walk away, their friend Franco breaks into a song that is part
rumba, part rap, with Liván beat-boxing behind, about the constant
stops, the endless rules, and the lack of opportunities.

Neither believes Fidel Castro's official departure that was announced
Tuesday will bring change soon. Both have come to the same conclusion:
They will probably leave when they get a chance.

''I love my country, don't get me wrong -- I really love it, because it
has both good and bad things,'' Liván said. ``But I just don't think
anything is going to change.''

About 2.5 million of Cuba's 11 million people turned adult after the
start of a grueling economic crisis in 1990, according to Foreign
Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. An estimated 60 percent of the total are
Afro-Cubans. And youths have taken part in a recent series of
demonstrations with varying degrees of anti-government overtones.

For Liván and Franco, whatever change comes after Castro may not be
enough. These artist-musicians want more than today's Cuba can give them.

Last year, Castro's brother and designated successor, Raúl, called on
the youth to debate issues ''fearlessly,'' and signs of a more open
discussion have emerged, as seen by the contentious exchange between a
university student and National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón in a
recent videotaped meeting.

The young student has become an instant icon for the island's restless

''I believe that kid should pass into history,'' said Franco, 22. ``He's
a peasant, someone with no family in the United States, part of the
revolutionary youth -- he was the only one who could have done that
without being thrown in jail.''

Though Franco doesn't believe the dramatic exchange means transformation
is on the horizon -- at least not enough for him -- he says it's
important ``that he did it and I'm glad someone had the courage to stand
up and say the things that all the Cuban people are thinking.''

Liván and Franco both work government jobs, but have their small side
businesses, selling art to tourists or to Cubans able to pay. They dream
of a life playing music, a fusion of the sounds that define their lives:
the salsa and rumba they grew up with, and the U.S. rap and funk they
have come to love.

And they want to play in a place where they can say whatever they choose
without worrying about the consequences.

Liván is the louder, more kinetic of the two. Music constantly plays out
the small earphones running up from a mp3 player tucked under his
T-shirt, and he often talks over it, breaking into a little shimmy as he

Franco is more subtle, with small braids pulled back in a ponytail. He
is a painter who creates commercial paintings that sell but make him
feel that he's sold out. ''That's not me, and it would shame me for you
to see them,'' he said.

He also doesn't like to talk too long about the problems in Cuba. ''It
makes me feel like I'm sinking,'' he said.

They live in one of Havana's outlying neighborhoods, a leafy area full
of modest houses and low-rise apartment buildings.

The gap between older Cubans and the change-hungry youth plays out at
meals at Liván's wood dining table, as he and his 63-year-old mother
debate the revolution's more than 50 years of history.

''I think things have gotten better here because I know what it was like
before,'' said his mother. ``I know how people suffered under capitalism.''

She describes a pre-revolutionary time when poor Cubans died because
they couldn't buy medicine, and gently dismisses her son's impatience
with the present as the luxury of a generation that doesn't know better.

''I don't like it when you tell me I can't understand because I wasn't
there then, Mamá,'' he said. ``That was your time, and this is mine.''

His mother said that some evolution should occur, starting with the
travel restrictions. If Cubans, she argued, only knew more about what it
was like to struggle in places off the island, more would want to stay.

Fidel Castro did good things for Cuba, Liván replied, ''but he should
have resigned a while ago.'' He concedes that now some change could
come, but waiting for it seems unfathomable. ''Life is passing me by,''
he said.

He and Franco move through the world of Cuba's underground rap,
listening to groups such as Los Aldeanos -- musica contestaria, or
anti-establishment -- that can't make it onto the government controlled
radio stations.

''Why do you stop me to ask me what I'm doing and who I am?'' one
Aldeanos song demands. 'My name isn't `Psst, hey show me your ID' ''

''They say there aren't class differences, but there is classism, and
they say there is no racism but there is racism,'' said Liván. ``This
music talks about that.''

Many of their favorite rappers play at a smoky, dark club in the Vedado
neighborhood where on a recent night women rappers in metallic heels and
skinny jeans mingled with hip-hop artists visiting from Spain and Chile.

The rapper Anderson, the night's main act, often performs songs by Los
Aldeanos. Taking the stage in front of the mostly black audience, he
unleashed a relentless rant on Cuban life in a high-pitched voice.

Three large, stiff men walked into the club, looked around and then
arranged themselves in the far back corner, the one place with a view of
every part of the room. Anderson abruptly ended the show. ''Well,'' he
said. ``That's all.''

Instead, a DJ played Tupac and the Fugees, and the audience danced on
while the suspected security agents looked on.

''Things like that,'' Liván said of Anderson's blunted performance,
``They crush my heart.''

The name of The Miami Herald correspondent who wrote this dispatch, as
well as the surnames of the Cubans interviewed, were withheld because
the reporter lacked Cuban government permission to work on the island.

Cubans Hope for More Self-Employment

Cubans Hope for More Self-Employment
Feb 22, 2008 3:20 AM (1 day ago) By WILL WEISSERT, AP

HAVANA (Map, News) - Juan Bautista Gonzalez's living room was already
crowded with customers when still more shuffled in, clutching gold
necklaces with broken clasps and bent rhinestone earrings. He knew he
would be skipping lunch again.

"If someone comes with a job, I'll do it. No matter what time it is,"
said Gonzalez, who gave up a government mechanic's job four years ago
and now earns more fixing his neighbors' jewelry for $1.25 per repair.
"Work more, earn more."

Gonzalez is among the 150,000 or so Cubans - a meager 3 percent of the
work force - who are allowed to be self-employed.

The communist government firmly controls more than 90 percent of Cuba's
economy. But as provisional president, Raul Castro has raised
expectations for tiny pockets of private initiative. With the
resignation of Fidel Castro, Cubans are hoping for an even greater
loosening of the economy. The easiest such reform might be to allow more
people to work for themselves.

But to understand the economic issues facing Raul, who will likely be
named president on Sunday, one has to consider the degree to which Cuba
controls private enterprise with licensing, taxes and enforcement, not
to mention an onerous approval process.

To be self-employed in Cuba means a lot of hard work and patience.

"There are good months and bad," said Gonzalez, 54, pulling a pair of
pliers from his battered worktable and straightening a silver ring.
"It's worth it. Not working, that's not worth it."

They are tutors, tire repairmen, taxi drivers and dozens of other
professionals who are licensed by the Labor Ministry and forced to pay
stiff taxes - $19.20 per month - slightly more than an average state salary.

Owners of small family restaurants, musicians and artists who earn money
abroad, and small farmers who sell excess produce above government
quotas are also among those lawfully allowed to earn their own money.
Far more Cubans work without approval in the underground economy in a
country where most people need a second income to make ends meet.

Raul Castro has criticized government inefficiencies and encouraged
debate about Cuba's economic future. Now many believe he could open
sectors of agriculture, retail and services to private entrepreneurs or
cooperatives, though there is little expectation he will privatize major
sectors such as energy, utilities, sugar or mining.

"He is the man of change. If anyone has experience with it, it's him,"
said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained economist who became a
dissident anti-communist.

Others aren't convinced.

Ronaldo, a cobbler who receives a monthly government salary of $23 to
fix shoes, is allowed to keep any money he makes above his government
quota. But he has to pay $0.80 a day to rent his small workshop under
the stairs of an Old Havana apartment building.

"One goes, and there's another brother. Nothing will change," said
Ronaldo, who wouldn't give his last name, fearing he would be harassed
by authorities if he is seen as a complainer.

Cuba already has some experience with liberalizing its economy. When the
Soviet Bloc collapsed, taking away subsidies that represented as much as
a fourth of Cuba's gross domestic product, the government allowed some
self-employment. It reopened farmers markets based on supply and demand
and encouraged foreign tourism and investment.

As Defense Minister, Raul Castro was at the forefront of that economic
overhaul. His soldiers tended farms while their superiors oversaw
significant enterprises in electronics, cigar production and tourism.

From the start of the Cuban revolution in 1959, "Raul Castro is the one
who organized the country, and he's the one who saved the economy at the
start of the 1990s," said Chepe, the dissident economist.

The number of self-employed Cubans had climbed to nearly 210,000 by
January 1996, creating new economic divisions in Cuban society and deep
feelings of envy and resentment among those stuck with tiny state salaries.

Fidel Castro eventually denounced the "new rich class" and rolled back
some of the reforms. A 2004 decree forbade new licenses for 40 forms of
self-employment - including auto body repairmen, masseuses, stonemasons
and children's party clowns - reducing the number to the 118 professions
tolerated today.

Self-employment rates plummeted, but Cuba found new economic saviors:
high nickel prices, extensive borrowing from China and nearly 100,000
barrels of subsidized oil a day from Venezuela.

Havana's warm relationship with China and Venezuela has made the need
for major economic reform in Cuba less urgent, said William Trumbull,
director of West Virginia University's division of Economics and Finance.

"In China, after (Mao Zedong's) death, everyone, from the top down, was
so thoroughly disillusioned with the failed economics of socialism and
all the repression that they were ready for and committed to change,"
said Trumbull, who has run study-abroad programs to both Cuba and China.
"I am not sure those sorts of conditions exist in Cuba today."

But Evis, another cobbler, said Cuba's economy may need reform to stay

"The revolution gives you a good education, but you can't have educated
people there on the street without jobs," said the 44-year-old, who like
his colleague didn't want his last name used.

Evis is trained as a mechanic, barber, electrician and musician but said
he can make the most money repairing shoes because it allows some autonomy.

"It's miserable," he said. "But it could be worse."

The battle of ideas is all that's left for Castro

The battle of ideas is all that's left for Castro


Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) once noted, "There are two levers for
moving men--interest and fear." This must have been the exact sentiment
of the man who used these two levers in giving direction to people and
creating history. Which lever was it that moved aging Cuban leader Fidel
Castro from within when he decided to step down on Tuesday?

The 81-year-old revolutionary explained why he would not seek another
term as president of the Council of State: "My first duty was to prepare
our people both politically and psychologically for my absence."
Castro's decision was necessitated by his own advancing years and
failing health, which even his power could do nothing about.

In the mid-20th century, Cuba was a semi-colony with its mainstay
industries, especially the sugar industry, under U.S. control. As an
angry young lawyer, Castro led a failed armed rebellion. He went into
exile in Mexico, where he met Ernesto "Che" Guevara, another hero of the
Cuban Revolution.

Castro re-entered Cuba in 1956 with 81 fellow revolutionaries aboard an
old yacht. Since overthrowing the Fulgencio Batista regime in 1959,
Castro has led the nation for nearly half a century, much to the dudgeon
of the United States.

In a country with no freedom of the press nor an opposition party, the
"retirement" of its charismatic leader is a very rare occurrence.

By carelessly ceding control, the leader could well find himself at the
mercy of his political foes and dissidents. Holding on to his position
is the only way to protect his present interest and keep any future fear
at bay. However, many leaders have been dealt fatal blows from history
and fell from power because such "internal levers" did not function.

Napoleon was said to be always on his guard against attempts on his
life, and never allowed anyone to give him a shave. In a sense, he
himself was being moved by fear. But his luck eventually ran out. He was
exiled, and was in his coffin when he passed through the Arc de
Triomphe, which he had commissioned for construction.

Leaders in positions of extraordinary power are extraordinarily lonely.
Anything can cause them to distrust their aides and even their blood

Castro is fortunate, in that he is resigning in favor of his younger
brother, Raul. As for his own future, he told his people, "My only wish
is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas." He must have judged
this to be the only way to live his final years in peace, having fully
scrutinized his "fear and interest."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 21(IHT/Asahi: February 22,2008)

Fidel Castro Relieved To Be Stepping Down

Fidel Castro Relieved To Be Stepping Down
Associated Press
1:49 PM EST, February 22, 2008

Fidel Castro said Friday that he's relieved to be stepping down as
Cuba's president, complaining that the process of selecting Cuba's next
government "had left me exhausted."

After nearly a half-century in power, Castro announced Tuesday that he
wouldn't accept another term when parliament selects a new government on

"The night before, I slept better than ever," Castro wrote in a
newspaper column. "My conscience was clear and I promised myself a

The ailing 81-year-old said Tuesday that he's not well enough to
continue as president. Most expect his brother Raul, five years younger,
to step into the presidency on Sunday. Raul Castro has been acting
president since his brother fell ill in July 2006.

Fidel Castro said he had planned on taking a break from his newspaper
columns for at least 10 days, but decided: "I didn't have the right to
keep silent for so long."

The column published Friday in both major government-controlled
newspapers focused on the United States, with Castro poking fun at U.S.
presidential candidates. He said word of his retirement forced them to
talk about Cuba.

"I enjoyed observing the embarrassing position of all the presidential
candidates in the United States," he wrote. "One by one, they could be
seen forced to proclaim their immediate demands to Cuba so as not to
alienate a single voter."

He criticized demands by the candidates and by President Bush for
political change on the island.

"'Change, change, change!' they shouted in unison. I agree. 'Change!'
But in the United States," he wrote. "Cuba changed a while ago and will
continue on its dialectical course."

He added of Bush: "'Annexation, annexation, annexation!' the adversary
responds. That's what he thinks, deep inside, when he talks about change."

Castro asked press authorities not to run the column on page one, and
the column was printed on page four of both newspapers. That's in
contrast to the front-page play given to Castro's earlier columns
written before his resignation.

He titled the column "Reflections of Companion Fidel," rather than
"Reflections of the Commander in Chief," which he had used earlier.
State Web sites that ran the column changed the logo as well, replacing
an image of Castro in olive-green fatigues with one of the leader
half-smiling, his hand thrust high in a wave.

Castro remains head of the Communist Party, the only political faction
tolerated in Cuba.,0,7954353.story

Cuba's revolution not worth price

Cuba's revolution not worth price
Posted on Sun, Feb. 24, 2008

MEXICO CITY -- Now that Mexico is officially describing Cuba's newly
retired President Fidel Castro as an ''outstanding figure,'' the
Brazilian president calls him a ''mythical'' leader and the world media
are doing verbal pirouettes to avoid calling him a dictator, it's a good
time to take a dispassionate look at Castro's record.

Will he be remembered as a well-meaning strongman who raised health and
education standards? Or will he go down in history as a selfish tyrant
who clung to power for half a century and left his country poorer than ever?

A joke I heard on the streets of Havana in the late 1980s said that the
Cuban revolution's three biggest achievements were health, education and
national sovereignty, and its three biggest failures were breakfast,
lunch and dinner.

Maybe so. But the Castro government's list of shortcomings has grown
substantially since.

For fairness' sake, let's not dwell on reports that the Cuban government
considers unfair, such as Forbes magazine's estimate that Fidel Castro
has a $900 million fortune, or the New Jersey-based Cuban Archive
''Truth and Memory'' report, which says it has documented 4,073 Castro
regime executions and 3,001 ''extra-judicial'' killings since 1959.

And let's set aside for a moment the undisputable fact that Castro has
been -- by any dictionary's definition -- a dictator, and that nearly 20
percent of the island's population has left the country since he took power.

If we just look at the Cuban government's favorite ranking, the 2008
United Nations Human Development Index, which ranks countries around the
world with special emphasis on their health and education standards,
Cuba ranks sixth in Latin America, behind Argentina, Chile, Uruguay,
Costa Rica and the Bahamas.


When it comes to some specific health and education figures, Cuba does
very well: it has a 99.8 percent adult literacy rate and a 77.7-year
life expectancy. That amounts to the best adult literacy rate in the
region, and the third best life expectancy rate, after Costa Rica and Chile.

But then, Cuba was already one of the most advanced Latin American
countries before Castro's 1959 revolution.

According to the U.N. 1957 Statistical Yearbook, Cuba's 32 per 1,000
infant mortality rate that year was the lowest in Latin America, and
Cuba ranked fourth in the region -- behind Argentina, Chile and Costa
Rica -- in literacy rates. Cuba also ranked third among Latin American
countries with the highest daily caloric consumption rates, U.N. figures

Granted, Cuba was a de facto dictatorship when Castro took power, highly
dependent on the United States.

But nearly five decades later, Cuba expressly prohibits opposition
political parties and independent media, and there is a huge economic
dependence on Venezuela's foreign aid and nearly $1 billion a year in
remittances from Cubans exiles.

On top of it, Cubans earn an average of only $12 a month (the generous
$6,000-a-year U.N. figure includes government subsidies for food and
healthcare), there is an economic apartheid system on the island that
doesn't allow Cubans to enter hotels or restaurants frequented by
tourists and people can go to prison for reading foreign newspapers that
are deemed ``enemy propaganda.''

Even the Cuba-friendly 2008 U.N. Human Development Index places Cuba
among the world's most backward countries in cellular telephone and
Internet use.

Cuba has an average of 12 cellphone users per 1,000 inhabitants,
compared with Haiti's 48, Mexico's 460, and Argentina's 570.

As for Internet access, Cuba has 17 Internet users per 1,000
inhabitants, compared with Honduras' 36, Haiti's 70, Argentina's 177 and
Mexico's 181.


My opinion: Castro admirers say that Cuba's shortcomings are due to the
U.S. economic embargo. While I'm no fan of the U.S. embargo, I don't buy
that. All dictatorships justify their actions citing domestic or foreign
threats, and Cuba is no exception.

To his credit, Castro took pride in improving the good health and
education standards he inherited, but at the cost of imposing a
dictatorship that cost thousands of lives, separated millions of
families, made the country poorer and ended up leaving it more
economically dependent than before.

In the end, the key question may not be whether the Castro revolution
was justified, but whether it was worth the price paid by the Cuban
people. It clearly wasn't.