07 November 2006

The National Bank of Canada

Evidently, The National Bank of Canada serves as the intermidiary for foreigner nationals trading with Cubans. So, to keep US$ out of Cuban hands, OFAC is leaning on The National Bank of Canada.

But notice that there are no first hand public accounts of OFAC's correspondance with the Nat'l Bank. We hear it all second hand. To control negative publicity, these things are customarily handled behind the scenes.

From the WSJ.com,

Embassies Try EurosAs U.S. Restricts UseOf Dollars in Cuba

ReutersNovember 7, 2006; Page A6

HAVANA -- Stepped-up enforcement of U.S. sanctions on doing business in dollars with Cuba is forcing governments to change how they finance embassies in Havana, diplomats said. The practice of wiring money to U.S. banks and sending U.S. bank checks to be cashed by Havana embassies has become more difficult due to the tightening of rules under the Bush administration, they said.


Foreign governments were sent scrambling in September when state-run Banco Metropolitano, the only Cuban bank that accepts checks from American banks, informed clients its traditional intermediary, the National Bank of Canada, would no longer process checks without an attached U.S. license that was no more than two years old.

When embassies tried to confirm or renew their licenses they found it couldn't be done. Businessmen said wiring dollars into Cuba was impossible as all transfers were eventually cleared through the U.S.


21 September 2006

Vice Admiral Stavridis, the ELN, and what to do about Cuba

 This may be a glass-half-full reading on my part, but I detect in the U.S. military command (the ‘geo’ in the geopolitical aspect of US policy on Cuba) a preference for modus vivendi relationship with Cuba, one in which a Chinese-style Cuban Communist party can continue to govern as long as they don’t harbor terrorists.

That may not lead to Most Favored Nation trading status, as China enjoys, but it would give the Communists some leverage, leverage they didn’t have with Fidel in power.

Clearly, the US Generals are worried about a Cuba that openly harbors terrorists, as they’re saying we need to be open to reviewing the policy. And they're not talking about smelling sulfur in Habana.

The Cubans, for their part, are putting intense pressure on the political wing of the ‘geopolitical’ equation. The (remotely) legitimate reason the Cubans are on the List of Nations Sponsoring Terrorists is that in the past they have supported the Basque Separatists and the ELN in Columbia.

We’ve seen within the last year the Basque renounce violence, although there may be one nut still loose. And in October, Cuba will host a peace talk in which ELN offers to surrender.

First, VICE ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS (USN) before the Senate,


Stavridis. Oh yes. I've said it twice now. That will be the last time.
The concern that is there in that command, the SOUTHCOM, with Chavez, with the changes in Castro. Certainly, Castro, right now we don't know for sure what's going to happen to him. We know a little bit about his brother, about as much as you need to know. What is your feeling, anything you'd like to say in an opening hearing, as to how you see in the event of Castro's stepping aside?


Thank you, Senator.  
Certainly, is front and center on the windshield for any commander at U.S. Southern Command. And, if confirmed, it will be at the center of my sight picture.  I think, like all of us, I'm very hopeful of a peaceful transition to a democratic regime in . I have to say, I'm not optimistic of that happening in the immediate future.  The basic signals we seem to get from today are that, if Fidel Castro were to step aside or pass on, his brother, Raul, would probably take the reins of power there. And I think, in the end, very little would change under that scenario.  Cuban economy is extremely rocky. At this moment, it's propped up in large measure by oil subsidies from Venezuela. And, as a result of all of those factors, we experience about 8,000 migrants a year coming here to our shores from .  I think, as well,

And now from his written testimony:

The Commander of U. S. Southern Command, General Craddock, has stated that he does not view as a military threat to the United States and that policies and laws regarding need to be reviewed ``stem to stern`` in order to determine if they make sense. General Craddock questioned whether the continuing ban on U.S./Cuban military-tomilitary contacts should remain in effect.


Question: What is your opinion about the need for and pros and cons of military-tomilitary contact with ?

Answer: I believe General Craddock was referring to the fact that we now live in a multi-polar, globalized world in which it would be prudent for the U.S. to re-examine our engagement policies throughout the world. Generally, military-to-military engagement is valuable; however, any engagement must be consistent with U.S. Government law and policy. Currently, the only authorized military-to-military contacts in are minimal administrative conversations surrounding the military facility at Guantanamo Bay. If confirmed, I will assess the specific situation regarding military engagement with


Question: What is your view of the need for review and potentially, revision of U. S. policies regarding ?

Answer: I believe the U.S. policy toward , like all policy, should be periodically reviewed and reassessed to ensure it is relevant to the changing environment. When adjustments to policy are recommended, we should feel free to openly debate both the pros and cons of any given proposal for change.

The story on the ELN from wsj.com:
Colombia Rebel Group Signals Intent To Discuss Amnesty


September 20, 2006 10:58 a.m.

BOGOTA (AP)--The military chief of Colombia's second-largest guerrilla group said Wednesday that the group will raise the issue of a general amnesty during exploratory talks with the government next month.

"The solution to the humanitarian drama, to resolve the problems of the internally displaced and an amnesty for political prisoners, social and trade union leaders, would be well-received, would be the best guarantee of peace," the rebel leader, known as Antonio Garcia, said in an interview with Caracol radio.

Talks between the government and the National Liberation Army are scheduled to start at the beginning of October in Cuba.

20 September 2006

Non-Aligned Movement calls on U.S. to vacate Guantanamo

It’s great to see the Non-Aligned movement demand that the USG vacate and abandon Guantanamo, lock, stock, and barrel.

From paragraph 185,

[The Heads of State or Government] also urged the Government of the United States to return the territory now occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuban sovereignty,…

We shouldn’t be there.

And our surrendering the enclave would score some badly needed points both against those who would call us Neo-Colonialists and against our mortal enemies in the Middle-East.

But, to be honest, I was afraid that the Cuban government was backing off that demand, finding that their interests in discouraging illegal exits were well served when the US picks up Cubans at sea and brings them to the compound. It’s good to see they’re not selling their souls on that one.

Beyond that, the Movement supports Cuba’s call for an end to the Embargo, importantly noticing that the USG is tightening the screws:

They expressed deep concern over the widening of the extra-territorial nature of the embargo against Cuba and rejected the reinforcement of the measures adopted by the US government, aimed at tightening the embargo, as well as all other recent measures carried-out by the Government of the United States against the people of Cuba.

Regardless of what our calculations are on whether the Embargo serves the interest of the existing governments, the Cuban government has consistently requested that the US end the Embargo.

Here, they do so again with the full support of one hundred or so other nations:


05 September 2006

Pullmantur Tour and Cruise Operators to drop Cuba Operation

This Pullmantur story illustrates

(1) that businesses subject to the long arm of the U.S. Economic Embargo comply with US regulators well before the U.S. Treasury department gets involved and

(2) that we learn about fact of Pullmatur's compliance only because the financial newswires report on significantly sized acquisitions, not on the impact to Cuba.

From the WSJ.com:

Miami-based Royal Caribbean plans to operate Pullmantur as an independent brand, alongside its Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity brands. However, as a result of the acquisition, Pullmantur will have to drop its Cuba operations, to comply with U.S. economic restrictions.

24 August 2006

J. Patrick Maher

J. Patrick Maher is the U.S. official in charge of subverting the Cuban government and making sure that they don't threaten our security:

"Such efforts are critical today, as policy-makers have increasingly focused on the challenges that Cuba and Venezuela pose to American foreign policy," a statement from Negroponte's office said.

I think assigning spy master has more to do with changing the Cuban government into one that is more comfortable for Americans. In the words of State department spokesmen Casey,

"What we want is a transition from the current dictatorship to a democratic government," Casey said. "And we certainly don't think that a transition from Fidel to Raul Castro fits that bill."

Unicef Official on the Performance of Cuban Doctors

Khalida Ahmad of Unicef, who witnessed Cuban teams working in the Pakistan emergency, agrees: "They treat patients like people, not just cases. Everyone I spoke to from the affected areas was so grateful. They felt they could always go to the Cuban doctors to ask a question, despite language difficulties."


16 August 2006

Cuban Oil

A short summary of the state of Cuban oil:

With Soviet help, it discovered the Varadero Oil Field in 1971. This reservoir, within 5 miles of Cuba's northern coast, today yields about 40% of Cuba's total production - roughly 75,000 barrels a day of poor-quality, heavy, sour crude.

In July 2004, however, the Spanish oil company Repsol-YPF (REP), in partnership with Cuba's state oil company, CUPET, identified five fields it classified as "high-quality" in the deep water of the Florida Straits, 20 miles northeast of Havana.

Seven months later, a report by the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed it: The North Cuba Basin held a substantial quantity of oil - 4.6 billion to 9.3 billion barrels of crude and 9.8 trillion to 21.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Cuba wasted no time, dividing the 74,000 square mile area into 59 exploration blocks, and then welcoming foreign oil conglomerates with offers of production-sharing agreements.

Oil companies from China and Canada, already prospecting for oil along Cuba's coast, began talks with Cuban energy officials about investments in deep-water operations.

Then, in May, Spain's Repsol-YPF announced it was partnering with India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY) and Norsk Hydro ASA (NHY) of Norway to explore for oil and gas in six of the 59 deep-water blocks along Cuba's maritime border with the U.S. Sherritt International Corp. (S.T), the Canadian oil company, has acquired exploration rights in four of the deep-sea blocks.

From the WSJ.com

Will Cuba's Offshore Oil Find Break US Trade Embargo?

July 29, 2006 12:33 p.m.

By Todd Lewan


01 August 2006

Cuban Health Care


The BBC reports that a British select committee traveled to Cuba in 2001 to evaluate the medical system and returned with a favorable report.

Now they think Tony Blair should get over himself and take note of Cuba's system.

But if they traveled today, they would surely find the system under tremendous stress.  The government is exporting much of it to jump start a high value economy.

And the report doesn't tell us for what years these numbers are, but they are interesting:

If you want quick proof of how well all this works, consider Cuba's health indicators.

Its life expectancy and infant mortality rates are pretty much the same as the USA's. Its doctor-to-patient ratios stand comparison to any country in Western Europe.

Its annual total health spend per head, however, comes in at $251; just over a tenth of the UK's.

Netherlands Caribbean Bank

It looks like OFAC (an office within the Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Division of the US Treasury Department) is going to play hardball with the Netherland’s ING Groep, a massive banking, insurance, & financial services business evidently raking-in over 80 billion.

One of their subsidiaries, Netherlands Caribbean Bank, is jointly owned by the Cuban government (25%).

Ordinarily, Treasury likes to handle these sort of things diplomatically, a phone call, a letter, if necessary.

But on Friday (28 July 2006) OFAC put Netherlands Caribbean Bank on the notorious list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.

You don’t want your name anywhere near that nasty list.


So, it’ll be interesting to follow this story since it appears that ING was either kept in the dark or blew-off OFAC.

In any event, being that the Netherlands Caribbean Bank is only bringing in 25 to 50 million, I’m guessing that ING drops them like a hot potato.

(Evidently, the Bank is involved in supplying Cubans with ice crème paraphernalia, god forbid!


24 July 2006

Mercosur's Numbers

It's interesting (but frustrating) to follow American reporting on Chavez' efforts to organize new (or steer existing) blocs away from American-style "free trade," because the press here often fails to distill the specific differences. Mostly, reporters spend their precious space repeating that Chavez dounces the US approach.

Anyway, here are the size differences from Dow Jones,

The addition of Venezuela gives Mercosur a combined market of 250 million people and a combined output of $1 trillion in goods and services annually, said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during Friday's summit. The other members are Paraguay and Uruguay.

NAFTA, combining the markets of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has 450 million consumers and a combined gross product of about $14 trillion.


21 July 2006

The status of Cuba's main industries

Tourism. Now the economy's largest source of revenue, tourists—primarily from Canada and the European Union—bring some $2.1 billion into the country.

Remittances. Academic sources estimate remittances total between $600 million and $1 billion a year, most coming from families in the United States.

Nickel. Cuba has the third-largest nickel reserves in the world. Nickel is currently the country's biggest export, bringing in roughly $800 million in

Sugar. Sugar was long the primary industry in Cuba, but production has plummeted due to outdated factory equipment. In 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, while the harvest in 2004 was only 2.3 million tons.

Foreign investments. Cuba receives hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investments from Venezuela (some $900 million in 2004), Spain ($700 million), and China ($340 million).

Which I got from the following link, a short, solid summary of US/Cuba international relations:


10 July 2006

Cuban Cubans on the Embargo

The Associated Press reports that dissidents within Cuba think the recommendations on how to enforce the embargo are counterproductive:

"I really appreciate the solidarity of the United States government and people, but I think that this report is counterproductive," said dissident journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe. "It supports the government's hard-line sector to justify repression."

"I don't doubt the report's good intentions, but it just adds kindling to the fire," said longtime activist Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission on Human Right

From the WSJ,

UPDATE: US Panel Urges $80M Spending To Speed Cuba Change

July 10, 2006 5:32 p.m.

presidential commission on Monday urged Washington to spend $80 million to help nongovernment groups hasten a transition to democracy in Cuba, but some dissidents here said the move would do them more harm than good.

The recommendations by the Presidential Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba come just as Fidel Castro's Cuban government is moving to strengthen its leadership and institutions to ensure the status quo.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the commission's report during a Washington news conference that international journalists in Havana followed by teleconference.

Rice said the report's recommendations "reflect America's resolve to stand with Cuba's brave opposition leaders: men and women who speak for those Cubans who are forced into fearful silence but who remain free in their hearts and in their minds.

"We are increasing our determination to break the regime's information blockade," Rice said. "And we are offering support for the efforts of Cubans to prepare for the day when they will recover their sovereignty and can select a government of their choosing through free and fair multiparty elections."

The $80 million in new funds, to be spent over two years, is to include $31 million to support independent civil society on the island, $10 million for scholarships in the U.S. and other countries, $24 million to "break the Castro regime's information blockade" and expand access to independent information including through the Internet and $15 million to support international efforts at strengthening civil society and in transition planning.

But some dissidents worried that the Cuban government could use the new funding as a pretext to harass or even arrest opposition leaders on the island. Communist officials accused 75 opponents rounded up in 2003 of being on the U.S. government payrolls. Both the dissidents and Washington denied the allegation.

"I really appreciate the solidarity of the United States government and people, but I think that this report is counterproductive," said dissident journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe. "It supports the government's hard-line sector to justify repression."

"I don't doubt the report's good intentions, but it just adds kindling to the fire," said longtime activist Elizardo Sanchez of the Cuban Commission on Human Right

07 July 2006

Cuban Prisoners of Conscience

DOW JONES NEWSWIRESJuly 5, 2006 1:50 p.m.HAVANA (AP)--More than 300 prisoners of conscience are still held in Cuba despite a slight drop in the number of such inmates during the first half of 2006, a veteran rights group said Wednesday. The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a
regular update that it had 316 documented political prisoners, down from 333 at the end of 2005. The new count reflects both new prisoners and people freed over the past six months. Commission head Elizardo Sanchez wrote in the report that the net drop of 17 inmates was "statistically irrelevant" and didn't indicate an improvement in human rights in Cuba. "Unless a miracle occurs, the international community should prepare itself, at least over the short term, to keep receiving only bad news when it comes to civil, political and economic rights in Cuba," the report said. Cuba's communist government denies holding prisoners of conscience, characterizing them as common criminals. A lesser-known Cuban rights group released its own list of political prisoners in recent days, saying it had documented 346 cases. Because there are no public records available about the prisoners, rights activists count on family members and others to bring cases to their attention. The Havana-based, non-governmental Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation for years has released its report every six months, confirming information about individual cases through inmates' families.

Let’s take the high number: 346, i.e. according to a “ lesser-known Cuban rights group.”--tough to check that source, eh?--there are 350 documented cases of people incarcerated in Cuba for their political views.

Never mind that the Cuban government disputes any claim that they’re jailing people for registering dissent, for we all know that’s not true--although the real question is What are the conditions that make it possible for the Cuban government to crack down on dissent?

But since we’re not comfortable with where that question leads us, let’s set it aside too.We know that the best and highest number the US Congress could come up with in 1995 was 700, which they got from Amnesty International and in turn the number on which Congress based Helms-Burton. Now, I’ll defer to the number crunchers, but I think that’s a drop.

My point is that Communists have trapped us in a numbers game. And right now, all they need to do is to stay near the number of persons that America illegally detains. If they’re under it, so much the better.

Moreover, when one puts that 350 number in context with the 3,000 or so acts of resistances that the Administration’s boy Christopher Sabatini swore under oath to Congress happened in Cuba last year, another point emerges: The Cuban government is achieving its control in other ways besides fear.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s obviously not sufficient to say fear alone.

27 June 2006

Christopher Sabatini

I don't think the administration wants to hear much more of this testimony from Christopher Sabatini (senior director, Policy, Council of The Americas/Americas Society). From CQ:

Even in Cuba (the one non-electoral democracy in the region) democracy activists
registered over 3,000 examples of civic resistance to the Castro regime last

One might conclude that there’s too much resistance to contain, although that’s not the context he puts it in.

Or, on the other hand, the authoritarian regime may be letting off steam, lightening up.

Without talking to the Cubans who acted in resistance, we don’t know. And what fool would believe the cronies now?

USAID statement to the Senate

Anti-Castro Americans will take comfort in hearing that the administration continues to believe that the embargo is the path to a peaceful transition to democracy. From CQ:

President Bush, again on May 20, 2006, reaffirmed U.S. government support to the
Cuban people to help promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.
The Castro regime continues to deny Cuban citizens the most fundamental human
rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to organize
independent labor unions and political parties, freedom of religion, and other
freedoms contained in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. Amnesty
International, in its May 2006 Annual Report, cites the Castro regime`s
harassment and intimidation of Cuban human rights activists, especially through
violent attacks by the government`s ``rapid-response brigades,`` in collusion
with members of State security. Similarly, Freedom House lists Cuba among the
eight most repressive regimes with failing scores in political rights and civil

The USAID Cuba program works closely with the Department
of State`s Cuba Transition Coordinator and the Bureau for Western Hemisphere
Affairs to help strengthen Cuba`s independent civil society by increasing the
flow of accurate information on democracy, human rights, and free enterprise to,
from, and within Cuba. Since 1996, USAID has granted more than $48 million to
U.S. universities and nongovernmental organizations to build solidarity with
Cuba`s human rights activists, give voice to Cuba`s independent journalists,
defend the rights of Cuban workers, strengthen independent Cuban nongovernmental
organizations, and help the Cuban people plan for a transition to democracy.

So how many chickens, tomatoes, beans and rice can 48 million buy in Cuba?

Adolfo Franco of USAID

Adolfo Franco, Assistant Administrator Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. Agency for International Development, admits that USAID is being used, not just to aid the suffering, but to subvert governments, a task that should be left to the CIA.

We need to be able to point to one agency, such as USAID, that does good for the sake of doing good, not for the sake of advancing our property claims. From CQ:

We at USAID believe that our work is critical to meeting the aforementioned
challenges and consolidating democratic gains in the hemisphere. Some of the
complex challenges ahead are surfacing in Bolivia, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua,
Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.

Paula J. Dobriansky of the State department

As if to confirm the commie’s charge that the “independent librarians” in Cuba are in fact in the service of the US Gov’t, Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. Department of State, says on CQ

We have procured and shipped thousands of democracy, human rights, and free
enterprise books and pamphlets to support Cuba`s growing independent library

The main problem with this policy is that it compromises the integrity of the Castro’s critics.

It’s one thing if Cubans, without compensation and under the cover of darkness, distribute literature critical of their government, as American revolutionaries did.

But it’s quite another to do so for pay from a foreign agent. And unfortunately, in 2006 Cuba, that line is too hard to find. Too many Cubans are on the take, begging for a hard currency.

23 June 2006

"Bolivia protest over Cuba medics"

From the BBC,

Over 1,000 doctors are reported to have been dispatched by Cuba to provide health services in Bolivia, along with several thousand in Venezuela.

Cuba has reportedly equipped some 20 Bolivian hospitals and is behind Operation Miracle, a drive to operate on the eyes of 14,000 Bolivians with cataracts.

06 May 2006

Cuban aid to Bolivia

According to AP, Bolivia now receives the following aid from Cuba:

700 doctors on extended contracts to provide free medical care to Bolivians.

Equipment and staff for 20 rural hospitals and six centers that provide free eye surgery.

140 experts, 30,000 television sets and materials for literacy program.

Scholarships for 5,000 Bolivians to study in Cuba.