11 December 2007

"Cuba Deports 8 Spaniards for Joining Demonstration"

"They told us they were coming for us later to expel us," the spokeswoman for the group, Barcelona city councilor Francina Vila, told reporters.
The foreign women, who traveled to Cuba on tourist visas, carried banners that said "democracy" and "freedom."

Reuters story

I say the Spaniards got off light.

The one theme I read throughout the Island’s history is that the population wants to govern itself. So let them.

Indeed, I find it mind-boggling that any reasonably well educated non-Cuban, including Cuban-Americans, could think that their empathy for those Cubans on the island (against whom an injustice may very well have been served) entitles the foreigners to agitate on the island itself.

From Hatuey through today, I doubt that any population on the face of the earth has sacrificed more than Cubans for a longer period to enjoy right to self-determination.

But even if you (as a foreigner) want to privilege the facts of an individual alive today (e.g. by making an Human Rights case against the Cuban government) over all that the Cuban nation has sacrificed for the cause of self-determination, your making a spectacle of yourself is only going to play into the hands of the Fidelistas.

It is very much in their interest to force a debate (on and off the island) about sovereignty by throwing you in jail for the rest of your life.

And IF the international community takes notice, the Fidelistas would be happy to trot-out the historical record.

Dumb. Really dumb. But another good example of how Fidelista foes play into hands of the Fidelistas themselves.

09 December 2007

Cuba owes Mexico 500 Million

Mexico gives the Cuban government a chance to lift their credit rating:

Mexican Envoy: Mexico, Cuba To Re-Negotiate Debt

November 28, 2007 8:35 p.m.

HAVANA (AP)--Mexico's new ambassador to Cuba said Wednesday that his country will re-negotiate $500 million in debt that the communist-run island owes Mexico to improve strained relations between the nations.

Ambassador Gabriel Jimenez said both sides will meet several times next month and hope to reach a debt settlement plan by the end of the year, marking the first public acknowledgment of talks on the issue.

"I'm very optimistic," said Jimenez, who became ambassador in September. "I arrived at an absolutely fragile moment in Mexican relations with Cuba, and little by little, we're expressing the wishes of both governments to begin to get to know one another again."

Jimenez, a friend of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, said he has reassured his government that Havana has every intention of paying off its debt in time.

"Cuba wants to meet its obligations," he told reporters.

Debt discussions are likely to lead to bilateral talks on other thorny issues, including illegal immigration and human rights, as both sides are "now getting serious" about reconciliation, Jimenez said.

The following recording cannot help Mexico's status among those in Latin America who think that they get pushed around by the U.S.:


Cuba released a recording of Fox urging Fidel Castro to leave a summit to avoid confronting U.S. President George W. Bush later that year, embarrassing the Mexican leader. In 2004, the two nations temporarily withdrew their ambassadors.

and I'm truly not sure whose interest is best served by returning Cubans, but since Cubans can enter the US from Mexico I doubt many of them stick around in Mexico.

Calderon, a member of Fox's conservative National Action Party who took office in 2006, since said he wants to improve relations with Cuba.

Mexico would like to sign an immigration accord that might help repatriate Cuban migrants detained in Mexico or while trying to reach it, Jimenez said.


Tourism to Cuba Down (2007 through June)

November 27, 2007 2:39 p.m.

HAVANA (AP)--Cuba's economy should grow by 10% in 2007, the third straight year of double-digit expansion, despite slips in the tourism sector, according to Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez....

Aided by high prices for the copper, nickel and cobalt its mines produce, the island's government reported economic growth of 12.5% in 2006 and 11% in 2005.

Tourism is the chief source of revenue, but the number of overseas visitors declined through June of this year as compared with 2006 - a year that saw a slight slip from the 2.2 million visitors in 2005.

JBS SA (JBSS3.BR), Brazilian Beef

It looks like JBS has a meatpacking facility in Cuba and yet does business in the United States:

SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)--This week's deal between Brazilian beef company JBS SA (JBSS3.BR) and Italy's Cremonini affectively gives Brazil's top beef company a physical market presence everywhere but southeast Asia and the Middle East.

JBS, owner of Brazil's leading beef company, the Friboi Group, announced on Thursday that it had entered into a joint venture with Italian beef company Cremonini to acquire a 50% stake in Inalca, a beef producer wholly owned by Cremonini at the time.

The cost of the transaction was put at 225 million euros. It now gives JBS distribution in meat-packing facilities in Africa, Cuba, Europe and Russia, not to mention facilities already acquired by JBS in Australia, Argentina and the U.S.

If I understand the Economic Embargo, JBS will have to shed the Cuba facility or forego its access to US markets.

On the other hand, they sound pretty big. And the Bush cowards are only known for picking on little guys.

25 October 2007

Frank Calzon

One of the reasons the United States Government has such a pigheaded policy toward Cuba is that it pays attention to Frank Calzon.

Here he is testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July :

4) Raul Castro intends to consolidate his power. He wants to minimize the destabilizing impact of his brother`s death. He has implemented restrictions on foreign journalists and has increased repression. But Havana needs an immediate influx of dollars to prevent an even greater economic crisis, and to ensure that reforms are unnecessary and won`t have to be made. Whenever internal pressure has built in the past, the government cracks down and makes a few concessions. After pressure eases, it delivers a backhanded slap.

Wrong. Raul Castro is in the process of transferring power from his brother to the Cuban Communist Party, now, while the USG is bogged down in Iraq.

And he does not want to embarrass his trading partners in Europe; hence, he has reduced the number of dissidents (beggars, as my Cuban Cuban friend says) in prison by 20%.

That’s importantly NOT consolidating power; that’s transferring it.

The question is Will someone other than Raul or Fidel run for President of the Council of State in May (i.e. Will Raul complete the sucession sooner or later)?

In any event, if he succeeds, he’ll earn a place in World History in his own right.

Our not understanding the significance and character of these events means that we pick unsuccessful strategies. (See US/Cuba relations for the last 50 years.)

For his part, and virtually by his own admission, Mr Calzon is little more than the Washington lobbyist version of the Welfare Queen. Here he is admitting that he receives 1 Million dollars per year from US taxpayers:

...and for the last ten years I`ve been the executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

During the current fiscal year the Center for a Free Cuba has received from USAID $l, 081,164 and from the National Endowment for Democracy $21,472.84.

USAID? wow, that’s taking food right out of the mouth a starving kid.

And why? So that we can change the way another population organizes itself? unbelievable.

12 September 2007

National Australia Bank takes hit from OFAC

The National Australia Bank informed OFAC that in transactions involving at least one Cuban national, the bank transfered money through New York City.

In response, the agency slapped the golden swimmers from down under with a 100,000 dollar fine, 10% of what OFAC claims they could have hit them with.

It’d be nice to get some details on this. But surely someone in the bank’s IT department must have had a re-routing headache, providing the bank still wants to do business with Cubans, which seems like a fair question for the bank’s PR people.

I trust Australia has some laws against discriminating on the basis of Nationality and, if even re-routing the Cubans costs them some money, the bank could find itself between a rock and hard place. Time being money, sort of thing, or so they tell me.

But, for OFAC, the spectacle gives them a chance to put all banks on notice that data flowing across the United States is subject to their jurisdiction. And there’s a whole lot of money transfered through New York City, in a minute.

Compliance officers, you’ve been warned.


(say, is there an election in Florida soon?)

10 September 2007

U.S. Director of National Intelligence indicates Cuba's priority

Under questioning from Senator Lieberman, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell revealed Cuba’s priority level in the counter-terrorism effort:

Mission managers engage in strategic planning and collection management against our hardest targets. Today, we have mission managers for North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence.

I provide below more context for his remarks. But I can't remember in either Bush or Clinton's administration an intelligence director placing Cuba among our greatest international security concerns.

In the recent past, US officials would talk about Cuba as though she were a problem in the hemisphere but one for other nations (or markets). An irritant for us, not a priority.

And with Hillary Clinton saying US policy toward the island won't change, I don't see the political advantage. Inflating Cuba’s significance to comfort CANF is not necessary. So there’s something to be taken seriously here.

As you’ll see, information sharing among agencies is now the order of the day (which has to be a concern for those of us who like to salsa with the Commies).

Nonetheless, the administration has clearly accepted the damning charge that 9/11 could have been prevented if only the agencies had worked together

(or, better yet, had not ignored FBI agent Coleen Rowly. They certainly don’t want to hear these facts again,


But what’s done is done. And with the leader of Hezbullah, that fat ugly guy who attracts a crowd, publicly thanking Chavez and (to a lesser extent) Cuba for the Lebanese fighters’s success against Israel, I cannot blame McConnell. He’s gotta tough job to do.

But I sense that we are at an historically significant crossroad, as if there’s another curtain about to fall, although I’m not sure whose.

There’s still a lot of room under the Embargo for the Executive put up barriers against all things Cuban (let alone aggressively enforce the ones that are articulated).

For things to get worse for everybody, all we’d need to see is a few black & white surveillance photographs of Hezbullah in Havana.

On the other hand, for the things to get better, this moment would be a good time for the U.S. to throw a face-saving gesture at the Cuban Government, one such as declaring the Embargo a total failure (not exactly a stretch) and therefore repealing it, which in turn could empower the Cuban people and set their imaginations in motion.

It’s worth the risk, unless of course you’re okay with a Hezbullah terrorist with a Cuban passport heading to the US in a go-boat.

From Congressional Quarterly :


Admiral McConnell, go ahead.


Sir, Senator Warner was secretary of the Navy when I was briefing him as a young lieutenant. So thank you, sir.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Collins and members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before the committee and provide a status of our efforts to confront terrorism to the nation.

I also appreciate the opportunity to describe the implementation of the reforms mandated by the Congress and the president since 9/11 and, as has been mentioned, six years ago tomorrow.

My biggest concern, as mentioned by Senator Collins, is going back to September 10th thinking by many in our country. As stated in our July national intelligence estimate, the level of focus and commitment may wane in time. The threat is real and we must remain vigilant.

As noted in July, my office released the national intelligence estimate, the intelligence community's most authoritative judgment on a particular subject, and this was the terrorist threat to the United States homeland.

And our key judgments, an unclassed version of which has been mentioned here and is posted on our Web site, for the period of the three-year period of the estimate, we assess that our nation faces and will continue to face a persistent and evolving threat mainly from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, and most especially Al Qaida.

The terrorist threat without question is real. I will share with you today, how we in the intelligence community are working to counter these threats. I also have submitted a more comprehensive overview in my statement for the record and I ask that it be submitted to the record.


Without objection.


To confront today's threats, we have made many changes in the way we conduct intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomatic and defensive activities.

Our greatest progress can be concentrated, I believe, in four areas: first, by improving our organizational structures to meet the new threats of this century; next, by fostering greater information sharing to provide the right information to the right people at the right time, largely driven by this committee; strengthening our intelligence analysis; and fourth, implementing the necessary reforms that allow us to build a dynamic intelligence enterprise that promotes diversity to gain insight and to sustain a competitive advantage against those we are seeing as adversaries.

First, let me touch on the structural improvements in the intelligence community.

One of our challenges was integrating foreign and domestic intelligence -- that is foreign intelligence collected inside the United States. We are ensuring that we collect the right information to most accurately and objectively reflect the threat inside the U.S. We are better able to do this with the establishment of the FBI's National Security Branch, NSB.

The NSB integrates the FBI's counterterrorism, counterintelligence, weapons of mass destruction and intelligence programs, allowing for a coordinated focus on collecting foreign intelligence within the United States.


And, of course, as mentioned, the NCTC, the National Counterterrorism Center, uses all that information with foreign- collected information to provide a more comprehensive picture.

Second, with regard to our structure, creation of the National Clandestine Service at CIA to guide all clandestine human operations across the community with the most effective leadership allows for better oversight and coordination we did not have before.

Thirdly, we are working to dismantle stovepipes -- the stovepipe mentality inside the intelligence community. This mindset is where an agency can produce and limit within its walls vital national intelligence.

One way we promote greater collaboration is by using cross- community mission managers to identify intelligence priorities, gaps and requirements. Mission managers engage in strategic planning and collection management against our hardest targets. Today, we have mission managers for North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela, counterterrorism, counterproliferation and counterintelligence.

Finally, with the support of this committee, we have established the program manager for information-sharing environment to enhance our sharing of terrorism information not only among federal, but also among state, local, tribal governments as well as the private sector.

Let me turn now more specifically to information-sharing.

Our efforts to improve information-sharing mechanisms are of special significance, given that the failure to do so contributed to our inability or our failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

In our July national intelligence estimate, we assess that Al Qaida is planning to attack the homeland, is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction and significant economic shocks.


And, of course, as mentioned by the chairman, the intent is to create fear among our population.

To counter this, we must depend not only on the 16 agencies of the intelligence community, but also on the eyes and ears of our state and local partners across the country. And more than depending on them, we must be willing to share threat information and work with them to protect our nation.

We believe that state and local partners can no longer be treated only as first responders, but also as the first lines of prevention. In the past six years, the program manager for information-sharing has led the charge to transform our policies, processes, procedures and, most importantly, workforce -- or workplace cultures to reinforce sharing terrorist information as the rule, not the exception.

I have also made improved information-sharing a centerpiece of the DNI's strategic plan in going forward.

Although of the effort to implement the information-sharing environment is well under way, it is essential that the implementation activities take place within a broader strategic context of enhancing our nation's ability to combat terrorism.

The ultimate goal is not simply information-sharing for the sake of sharing, The objective is to improve our national capacity to protect our nation from future attack. We are working very hard to do just that.

Let me now turn to analysis.

09 September 2007

Will the Revolutionary Army Permit Exiles to Hold Office in a Post-Castro Government?

Not if history is any kind of teacher, specifically not if the RAF has learned the lessons of 1901, when the Americans took control of the Cuban government.

Consider this denouncement of appointments originating in Washington DC from The [Cuban] Society of Veterans of Independence:

“Only those having influence with Secretary Alger through Washington connections are able to secure appointments, and there are some of those who were not in Cuba during the War.” The practice “will eventually lead to trouble. Those who defended the country deserve recognition and will tire of consistently being ignored.”

by 'trouble,' the writer predicts Fidel Castro.

But shoot, even the American governors on the island were trying to tell Washington to cool it. Among others, Major Booker:

“the most difficult matter is to harmonize several factions on the island” He continues, “A large proportion of the better educated Cubans refugeed in various lands during the rebellion; many of these self-appointed, perhaps, were agents of members of the so-called Cuban junta. Most of these have returned, and are eager for recognition. As they speak English they have more readily found employment and appointment at the hands of United States officers. The fact that they have been recognized, which I do not pretend was ill-advised, has created friction between them and the Cuban soldier.”

Louis A. Perez, Jr. Cuba between Empires 1878-1902, page 296.

03 September 2007

Vote for Barak Obama

U.S. policy toward Cuba is a casket full of laws, regulations, and executive orders, not just the set of code sections entitled the Economic Embargo.

But to evaluate the politics, we can simplify the subject by thinking of US policy in terms

(1) of the Government’s stated attempts to subvert the existing Cuban government using methods we would not tolerate were they directed at us, including belligerent violations of Cuba’s sovereign rights, and

(2) of our refusal to do business with what we perceive as a brutal tyrant, a regime that’s gone beyond the pale, or both.

For historical reasons, Americans have no business subverting (nor any moral authority to subvert) the Cuban government. Period.

And quite apart from the damage this hostile aspect does to our critical efforts to coordinate international responses to transnational terrorism, the price we pay for the hearts and minds of the Cuban people is going up, too, because we are finally making enemies of our patient neighbors on the island.

Sentiment on the island toward Americans has clearly changed since the 90’s when many Cubans wanted nothing more than to be politically hegemonized by Americans.

Now, after we flouted Cuban pleas to ignore the chimera of Fidel Castro and jump through the foreign-investment window, and, after they witnessed us destroy the Iraqi government in service of our energy industry and our Chicken-hawk's attempt at global domination, skepticism toward US government could not be higher.

It’s as though, with these two strokes, we vindicated every ugly thing the Fidelistas had said about us. The chip on the shoulder toward the “yankee” is now approaching pre-Revolution size.

And a typical Cuban’s attitude toward Americans is profoundly conflicted, drawn to us, yes, but quick to regurgitate that Americans come from a “land of liars.” (Right, he said it in English.)

So much for Republican foreign policy.

But as a democracy, America should always reserve the right to refuse to do business with brutal tyrants that threaten our national security, including the stability of our markets.

And that refusal could include restricting travel, although with Cuba I think as Obama does that travel restrictions are brain-dead because there is no better way than foreign intercourse to remind Cubans that there are other ways to govern themselves.

The problem here, though, is that the international jury, so to speak, is out on whether Fidel Castro rises to the level of a brutal tyrant. He does not in my judgment, certainly not as one who sufficiently threatens US national security.

In fact, the USG has not even been able to persuade Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain --all of whom depend on the stability of the US--that Fidel is such a threat, either.

So one must ask what the evidence is because these nations, supposedly our strongest allies, have each enacted counter legislation (or have interpreted existing ones) to block the USG from sanctioning US subsidiaries for doing business with Cubans.

To be sure, it is not as though these (and other) allies are stepping out of our way as we enforce that particular extraterritorial section of the Economic Embargo to cope with the mighty Cuban threat to our existence.

Quite the contrary, our allies are increasingly sanctioning foreign US subsidiaries for not doing business with Cubans.

Clearly, if only to get our subsidiaries out from under this catch 22, it’s time to review the evidence that the Cuban government poses a significant threat to the security of the USA.

But that is not Obama’s position. He accepts that Cuba is a national security threat and argues that through trade, specifically through tourism and remittances, we can subvert the government.

Obviously, I don’t think that goal should be our purpose, not as long our nation isn’t frightened of Fidel.

In the absence of a threat to our national security, then, it is for the Cuban people to dissolve their government, not Americans.

And so far, we haven’t heard a peep out of Cuban Cubans, which is all the more reason to exchange ideas with them about good governance.

Traveling to Cuba is best way you can do that.

So for whatever reason, Vote for Barak Obama.

02 July 2007

Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran

I'm a little surprised at how gingerly Iran has been entering into an alliance with Cuba and Venezuela. Given their complimentary networks and natural resources, their significant material needs (housing, etc), and their shared animosity toward the Bushes, these are modest commitments.

From the AP's Iran Plans To Join Cuba-Venezuela Trade Deal As Honorary Member:

Hosseini said Iran and Venezuela would sign some 20 memorandums of understanding during Chavez's visit, but he did not provide further details.

Iran's state-run television said the two countries would sign agreements on the construction of a 7,000-unit housing project and an artisan school, both in Venezuela.

Iran has partnered with Venezuela on several industrial projects in the South American nation, including the production of cars, tractors and plastic goods, the television added.

I'm guessing that the fledgling allies are trying not provoke NeoCon wrath. But it's only a matter of time before Belarus, Syria, China and all her clients chime in.

Such an alliance is not good for those hoping to expand individual liberties abroad, FOX news, etc..

But those advocates have no one to blame but Condi Rice. She's the architect of the Administration's refusal to distinguish between nationalist terrorism and transnational Sunni terrorism, the real enemy.

27 February 2007

New U.S. Policy toward Cuba: Play Dumb

From the Congressional Quarterly, Representative Serrano questions Bush’s man before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.

The 2/16/07 hearing was on the U.S. Visit Border Security Program

Mochny’s incompetence is chilling:

See, this may not fit here, but I've been for a while trying to figure out how a known terrorist by the name of Luis Posada Carriles was wanted both in Venezuela and in Cuba for different acts, including blowing up a plane carrying the Cuban Olympic fencing team in the 1970s, showed up in Florida, gave interviews to the local press saying, if he could do it again, he would do it again.

He's never been deported. He's being held on immigration charges for illegal entry into the country. And while we tell the world that we are in a war on terrorism, this man sits there because we won't deport him back to Venezuela, which was his last citizenship and the place where he escaped from jail.

Was US-VISIT, first of all, to your knowledge, in place when he entered the country recently? And secondly, what role did you play, or what role would you have been charged with playing, in looking after a situation like this?

I don't know if we were in place. I don't know when he came into the country. We began operations at 115 airports on January 5th of 2004. So if he came in before that time, then he would have come in without having gone through the finger scan process.

Well, I believe he came in after that, that he was smuggled into the country. But have you heard of this case, incidentally?

I can't say that I have. I mean, I had not heard of that, but I can look into it.

Well, maybe that's one of the problems that we have before us, folks who are involved in monitoring who enters the country. And your agency -- and I'm not giving you a hard time -- your agency wouldn't know that there's an ongoing controversy over a guy who is not an alleged terrorist. I mean, five, six, seven countries in Latin America know that he is a terrorist.

He was in prison for it and escaped from prison. He was in another prison in Panama, and he was let go on the last day of the former president's tenure as president, and he showed up illegally in the country, and he says he'll do it again if he has to. In his late 70s, and I suspect we're going to hold him and not deport him. And I just thought you would know something about it. Is there a possibility you could get back to the committee?

And then at a recent state department press conference, where ordinarily Bush’s band never misses a beat :

A man who represents three Cuban boxers says that they have been denied entry to the United States. They apparently applied for visas from Colombia. And they were -- according to their representative, they were denied visas because they don't have a permanent residence. The reason they don't have a permanent residence is that they defected from Cuba, so it's kind of a catch-22.
Do you have anything on this? Is this true? Were these men denied visas? Are you reviewing the case?

You know, I think I had some stuff in here earlier. But I can't seem to find it.
My guess here is that this new Play Dumb policy is in preparation for Bush’s upcoming visit to Left leaning Latin America.

At least, I certainly hope the Director in charge of US visit has access to information on how and when known terrorists cross our borders!

23 February 2007

Cuba does not renew journalists's visas

Although I think Julia Sweig is one of the smartest American talking-heads on Cuba, I think she has it wrong here. from wsj.com:

The Tribune quoted Mr. Marx as saying the Cuban government said it had revoked his visa because he had been on the island too long, and didn't give any examples of stories to which they objected.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Cuban government often exhibits a contradictory pattern of opening up in one area and battening down in another. "It's like, 'Just in case someone is getting too excited that we might have process of reform, we'll take a whack at the foreign press to show who we are -- a closed society,' " she said.

The Cuban government takes (and has taken) a consistent and predictable stand on who shall control representations of their society.

And the Cuban government is well within its rights to do so.

It’s not about Cuba “battening down” or “taking a whack,” anymore than it is when K-Mart files a lawsuit against someone infringing on their corporate identity. As with K-Mart, Cuba is protecting her identity.

And she will continue to do so.

Is there an internal security interest served in doing so? Absolutely.

But Cuba not only takes control over representations where they perceive a security threat, as this story details, but also where the government perceives commercial interests at stake, profits or, as the socialists might say, surplus value.

February 23, 2007; Page A5

MEXICO CITY -- The Cuban government refused to renew the visas of at least two resident foreign journalists, dimming hopes it will move forward with reforms as Fidel Castro fades from power.

The refusals were "part of a political tightening in the expectation that when Fidel dies they will have total control and there won't be any opposition or resistance," said Jaime Suchlicki, an expert on Cuba at the University of Miami.

Mr. Castro, 80 years old, handed power over to his brother, longtime Defense Minister Raúl Castro, 75, on a provisional basis after undergoing surgery in July. Since then, many analysts have speculated that the younger Castro, who is believed to be more pragmatic than his brother, would experiment with reforms and fresh thinking.

Since the younger Castro assumed power, there have been some signals of a domestic thaw. In one speech, Raúl Castro urged university students to question authority. On another occasion, intellectuals took the unprecedented action of demanding an apology from the government for seeming to bring back a hard-line official who had been involved in censuring writers decades ago. The younger Castro also has called for negotiations with the U.S. to resolve the differences between the two countries.

While Raúl Castro has sounded like a moderate, Ramiro Valdez, a hard-line former interior minister who is information and technology minister, has been cracking down on the use of parabolic antennas used by Cubans to pick up television signals from the U.S. He also defended the restrictions Cuba places on its citizens to access the Internet.

Cuba recently announced regulations that it would require correspondents to renew permits every 30 days, enabling the government to keep a tighter leash on journalists.

Gary Marx, who has been based in Havana for the Chicago Tribune since 2002, and Cesar Gonzalez Calero, a reporter for the Mexico City daily El Universal, were told this week by Cuban officials that their visas wouldn't be renewed and they could no longer report from the island, according to the Chicago Tribune and El Universal.

The Chicago Tribune said a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel will continue to staff the Tribune Co. bureau in Havana, and the Cuban government had told Mr. Marx that the government would welcome an application from a new Chicago Tribune correspondent.

The Tribune quoted Mr. Marx as saying the Cuban government said it had revoked his visa because he had been on the island too long, and didn't give any examples of stories to which they objected.

Julia Sweig, a Cuba specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Cuban government often exhibits a contradictory pattern of opening up in one area and battening down in another. "It's like, 'Just in case someone is getting too excited that we might have process of reform, we'll take a whack at the foreign press to show who we are -- a closed society,' " she said.

16 February 2007

Fiber for Cuba

The key word here is actually China. From wsj.com:

Cuba-To-Venezuela Fiber-Optic Line To Expand Cuban Web Access

February 15, 2007 7:29 p.m.

HAVANA (AP)--A new undersea fiber-optic cable from Cuba to Venezuela should be finished within two years, a Venezuelan communications official said Thursday, dramatically expanding Cuba's Internet and telephone capacity.

Julio Duran, president of state-run Telecom Venezuela, told The Associated Press that the deal signed in late January calls for a line with a capacity of 160 gigabytes per second.

That's well over 1,000 times the capacity of Cuba's current satellite-based Internet link, which was listed as 65 megabytes per second on upload and 124 megabytes a second on download by Cuban Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes.

It will break through what Cuban officials describe as choking restrictions imposed by the U.S. embargo on Cuba, which they blame for blocking possible connections with existing privately owned fiber-optic lines in the region.

"It's a very important project, not only for Venezuela and Cuba, it's for all Latin American countries," Duran said during an interview at an informatics convention in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The project was part of a series of agreements signed late last month as Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez moved toward firmer political and economic ties with his Cuban ally.

Duran declined to give a possible cost for the 1,552-kilometer link, saying it was still under study. But he said officials were speaking with companies from China and Europe for fiber-optic line or other assistance.

He said contracts could be signed by the end of April and the project itself should be finished in "less than two years."

Interconnect points should allow other countries in the Caribbean or Central America to hook up as well.

Duran, whose company is partnering with a Cuban state enterprise, said cable "is going to bring Venezuela a lot of benefits" by making communications with Cuba easier.

"We already have benefited from the health, education and cultural support of the Cuban people," he said, referring to some 20,000 Cuban workers carrying out medical, education and other projects in the South American nation.

Cuba has one of the region's lowest rates of Internet usage. Officials say that is because the current bandwidth restrictions and U.S. threats against foreign suppliers of technology to Cuba force them to give priority to schools, researchers and essential businesses. Critics have accused the government of restricting Internet access to limit Cubans' exposure to criticism or information from abroad.

Duran also said that Venezuela's decision to nationalize the country's main telecommunications company, Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, or CANTV, might eventually lead to a merger with his own company.

CANTV focuses services along the heavily populated coastal regions while Telecom Venezuela has aimed at expanding service to more rural regions. "We're complementary companies," he said. "We can work in parallel and then be merged later on."

Venezuela's government this week signed a deal to buy the CANTV stake owned by U.S.-based Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ).

A beachhead in Cuba gives the Chinese better proximity to U.S. nodes.

15 February 2007

Cuba reports 12.5% GDP growth in 2006

But they calculating growth somehow including social services.

from wsj.com,

Rodriguez acknowledged that the communist government's method of counting output "has an influence" on the high rate of growth. Cuba includes social services not counted in U.N.-standard measures of economic output.

But he said that difference "is not the only thing that determines those rates of growth." He said that if social services and commerce were dropped from the count, Cuba still would have shown 9.5% growth last year.

It claimed growth of 11.8% in 2004.

Cuba was aided last year by high prices for nickel and cobalt and by a continuing flow of tourists.

Rodriguez put the number of tourists for 2006 at 2.22 million - a slight drop from the 2.3 million Cuba reported for 2005 to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

Mexico to thaw relations with Cuba

From the WSJ.com, it appears that in retaliation for the U.S. border fence, Mexico is going to warm things up with Cuba:

... Espinosa said the government will work with diverse sectors of U.S. society to fight a planned 700 miles (1,100 kilometers) of fencing to be built along on the U.S.-Mexico border. Calderon, a conservative who took office in December, has opposed the proposed border fence.

"Mexico has a border with the Caribbean and it is a top priority to relaunch dialogue and political understanding," Patricia Espinosa said in a speech before the Senate on Tuesday. "With Cuba, we have had diplomatic contacts with the aim of promoting a rapprochement."

06 February 2007

PetroVietnam Eyes Cuba

It looks like the Vietnamese are getting a cut of the oil action in Cuba.

From the DowJones newswires :

"We got one onshore block, and they offered the data for review. So
after the review, depending upon the economics, we'll go for direct
negotiations," the official said.

But he said it is difficult to get exploration agreements with other African countries such as Libya and Sudan, due to a lack of regulatory structure.

"It is a very complicated story. We have the data, we submitted a proposal to Libya, but we haven't heard from them," Truong said.

PetroVietnam's deep-water exploration contract offshore Cuba is likely to be signed in middle of this year.

It is still unclear how much estimated reserves there are in the exploration block assigned to PetroVietnam, but the official said the geology is promising.

"It's an exploration contract, and we still have to see how much we discover," he said. Cuba produces about 80,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

The country, in an effort to exploit its offshore reserves, divided its offshore area into 59 exploration blocks in 2000. Of this, about 20 blocks have been leased to international companies including Spain's Repsol YPF S.A. (REP), Norway's Norsk Hydro ASA (NHY.OS) and India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY).

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the North Cuba Basin could contain about 4.6 billion barrels of crude in proven reserves, with a high-end potential of 9.3 billion barrels.

It is estimated that output in this area alone could bump up Cuba's daily production to 300,000 barrels.