[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: June 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Babalu Turns Two

Today is Babalu Blog's two-year anniversary, and I would be remiss if I didn't send an official 26th Parallel "HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY" to my blogfather.

Gracias Val for your hard work and dedication.

Not a Takeover

Check out my post over at Cuban-American Pundits.

Thanks Songuacassal!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Cuban Spanglish

Recent posts at Babalu and Cuban-American Pundits have talked about the interesting way in which many Cubans pronounce and spell English words, i.e. Cubanisms.

I'd like to throw in my two centavos worth.

I don't see a problem with the mispronunciations and misspellings, it's a natural evolution of immigrants' language skills. Any language should be learned properly, of course, but it has to start somewhere. It's preferable that they butcher the English language than not attempt to speak or absorb any of it whatsoever.

Besides, what would Miami be like if you didn't hear phrases such as:

"tengo que ir a Pobli a comprar esprái porque ya no queda en el frigidaire".

Translation: I have to go to Publix (Florida supermarket chain) to buy some Sprite because there's no more in the refrigerator.

If you're not familiar with Cubanisms, I highly recommend The Official Spanglish Dictionary, authored by Bill Cruz and Bill Teck, published back in 1998. The book was quite popular in the late 90s during the height of the Generation Ñ days. It has over 300 words and phrases, most of which will have you ROTFL, guaranteed or your money back.

As an added bonus, the authors acknowledge none other than Babalu's Val Prieto!

Dedicated to F.C.R.

Down below is a poem in Spanish dedicated to fidel, courtesy of NetForCuba.org. It was written by Ricardo Ayestaran in Montevideo, Uruguay.

I was initially going to translate it to English, but decided to leave it in its original Spanish because there is no way that any translation could duplicate the meaning of the words contained in the poem. It is titled "Prophecy" and it deals with the moment that fidel dies and the aftermath.

Dedicado a F.C.R.


Cuando el tiempo se esfume en un segundo,
como el sueño que acunado entre las sierras,
se anegó de puños yertos, vil cosecha,
enrejando la esperanza en mar profundo.

Cuando el aire escape de tu boca,
con el tiempo poderoso derrotando,
tus mentiras descompuestas de tirano,
tus decrépitas arengas, viejas, rotas.

Cuando rompa la luz en Santa Clara,
y puntual tu muerte cierta descerraje,
la condena inexorable de la historia,

en las calles destrozadas de La Habana,
danzará la esperanza en albo traje,
y cantará la libertad tu fin sin gloria.

Ricardo Ayestarán
Montevideo, junio de 2005

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Long Road

I took a quick but looooooong road trip this weekend all the way up to Panama City Beach for my brother's wedding. I drove about 1300 miles between Friday morning and today, finally getting back home about an hour ago. I don't want to see the highway again for quite a while.

I don't know how professional truck drivers can endure endless hours and miles on the road. Of course, they probably don't have to deal with a 3-year-old in the car and a wife back home who is almost ready to have a baby! Fortunately, my wife's been doing OK the past couple of weeks, which enabled me to go to my brother's wedding. It was a beautiful ceremony on the beach as the sun was going down.

Thanks to Val for linking my "Soft Track to fidel" post on Babalu, I noticed it right before leaving town.

This week will be pretty eventful here at the offices of 26th Parallel. I hope to get a few posts in before my wife undergoes a C-section on Thursday to deliver our second daughter. After that, quite a few sleepless nights I'm sure!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Soft Track to fidel

Another interesting column in today's Miami Herald, this one by Marifeli Perez-Stable, vice-president for democratic governance at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington DC. According to their website, the Dialogue members are "united by their commitment to democratic principles, free and vigorous discussion, and regional economic cooperation."

In her column, Perez-Stable's believes that the European Union's has a superior handling of policy towards Cuba. However, as I will try to point out, Ms. Perez-Stable is full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and is neither here nor there when it comes to presenting a solution.

Perez-Stable writes:
My preference is the EU path. Since 1996, a so-called Common Position has marked EU policy toward the Cuban regime: no economic cooperation agreement until Havana takes meaningful steps on human rights. When 75 nonviolent opponents were summarily tried and sentenced to long prison terms in 2003, the EU imposed sanctions that boomeranged.

No economic cooperation? Is she getting the EU confused with the US? The sanctions were imposed because Cuba took meaningful steps BACKWARDS awaw from human rights! They broke the so-called "Common Position".

She continues:
As the EU reduced the level of official contacts and invited dissidents to national-holiday parties, Castro cut off all contacts with European embassies. For 18 months, EU diplomats talked to one another and twiddled their thumbs. At Spain's behest, the Common Position was reinstated. Fourteen of the 75 (dissidents) had been freed, and EU representatives have since scheduled regular meetings with the opposition. On May 20, the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society met openly near Havana without interference. Two EU deputies and four Polish journalists were, however, expelled to prevent their attendance.

Where do I begin here?! EU diplomats, while twiddling their thumbs, invited dissidents to national holiday parties in order to establish valuable contacts with the ones that will decide the future of Cuba.

Fourteen dissidents were freed? Yipeeee!! Where are the other 61? And she fails to mention that some of those fourteen released were banished from Cuba.

To even imply that the release of a relative handful of dissidents justified the lifting of the sanctions is beyond absurd to me. You gotta love how she relegates the expulsion of European delegates from the Assembly to a "however" statement at the end of the paragraph.

Marifeli goes on:
At the end of June, the Common Position will be reaffirmed. Its only logic is to maintain an open window (editor's comment: read "capitulation and constructive dialogue") to Cuba -- government officials, civil society and the opposition -- and, thus, be there already when the time comes. The EU has a better knowledge of Cuban society than the United States. That is no small benefit of engagement. Nobody today has any illusions of anything substantive happening while the comandante can still rant. At the same time, the EU will not hesitate to defend human rights. In April, the EU co-sponsored the U.S.-initiated resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Commission condemning Cuba's deplorable record.

The U.S. initiated resolution backed by the EU? I thought the EU knew better than the U.S. Actually, she should had specified "Eastern Europeans have a greater knowledge". They lived through communism just 2 decades ago. Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, led the Eastern European lobby to keep the EU sanctions in place and is a stauch supporter of the US policy.

In the 1990s, U.S. policy had two tracks: the embargo and people-to-people contacts. Since 2001, U.S. agricultural producers have carried on hefty, cash-only sales to Cuba. All else is rather somber, particularly regarding travel and remittances. Restrictions in June 2004 constitute an onerous emotional burden on Cuban Americans and their families. While all travel should be legal, that of Cuban Americans should be most of all. Whatever material benefits the regime might reap, nurturing family bonds is priceless.

The so-called soft track -- really, the one Castro fears most -- worked relatively well until Feb. 24, 1996, when the Cuban Air Force struck down two Brothers to the Rescue planes. The four pilots' unjustifiable homicide forced President Clinton to sign into law the harshest version of Helms-Burton, aka Helms-Castro. In 2002, President Bush gave a speech on May 20, Cuban Independence Day, that seemed to suggest a new approach. He said: ``If Cuba's government takes all the necessary steps to ensure that the 2003 elections are certifiably free and fair and if Cuba also begins to adopt meaningful market-based reforms, then -- and only then -- I will work with the U.S. Congress to ease the ban on trade and travel.'' (emphasis mine)

If and if. Then and only then. Those are the key words, Ms. Perez-Stable. None of those ifs have taken place yet.

One can argue about the harshness of the travel restrictions, and I would be inclined to agree to some of it. However, I have to ask Ms. Perez-Stable this: if the so-called soft track was working, how come fidel decides to strike down the Brothers' planes? Was it because there was a scheduled opposition meeting that weekend that he wanted to disrupt? Or was it because of his hatred for the U.S.? Let's not even bring up the sinking of the 13 de marzo tugboat back in 1994.

You see, no amount of person-to-person dialogue, no amount of travel, can eclipse what castro and his regime thinks of the U.S., and sadly enough, of his own people.

Elections for Popular Power, a proto-legislature, are held on a regular basis. What if Washington and the EU had together pressured Havana to allow international observers? Castro would surely have given a frenzied No. The ball, though, would have been on his court, and that's what the United States should strive for but rarely does.

Isn't the purpose of the sanctions and embargo precisely to pressure Havana? The ball's been in fidel's court for quite a while now. Besides, everyone knows those elections are a farce.

She concludes:
Miami is slowly changing. Up to 40 percent of Cuban Americans oppose the embargo or lean in that direction. Though more than half of the community, Cubans who arrived after 1980 -- especially in the past 15 years -- do not yet vote in sufficient numbers but will eventually. Forget Castro. Eleven million Cubans deserve a better policy now. Picking up where Bush left off in 2002 is a start.

Forgetting castro would be nice to do, but impossible since he calls the shots. I agree that Cuba deserves a better policy. A policy that demands immediate reforms and holds castro responsible. A policy that does not negotiate with castro, but works with the dissidents to promote change from within.

That's what President Bush had in mind in 2002. With all due respect, I think Perez-Stable is confused.

Read the entire column here.

Posts at Cuban-American Pundits

The Cuban-American Pundits site esta encendido. It's on fire!

Go over to the Cuban-American Pundits site to check out 2 great posts.

First, Jim DeFede responds to Conductor Fishfan, who in turn responds back. The issue is the piece DeFede wrote about his interview with Cuban castro mouthpiece Ricardo Alarcon, which I posted on previously.

And here's a post about the proposed Constitutional amendment banning flag burning. It has generated quite a buzz, make sure to check out the comments posted.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Canadian Tourist Nightmare in Cuba

We read lots of stories about Canadian and Europeans tourists having a wonderful time in Cuba, while the average Cuban stuggles to get by each day.

But here's an example of a good time in the fun n' sun of Cuba gone awry. In today's El Nuevo Herald, Wilfredo Cancio Isla describes the nightmare experienced by a native Cuban and Canadian citizen on a trip to Cuba back in February. The translated article follows:
Trip of Canadian Ends in a Nightmare

A vacation to Cuba ended up as a traumatic experience for Canadian citizen Onelia ' ' Nely' ' Ross, who's still looking for explanations following her five days of arrest in a jail on the island. The Canadian government has requested through the International Trade Canada (ITC) , its exterior affairs department, an explanation from Havana on what occurred, after Ross made denounced the physical abuses she suffered during her detention.

' ' They were five days of terror'', related Ross in interview with El Nuevo Herald. `` Suddenly I saw myself struck and humiliated in jail, and felt the same fear when I left Cuba for the first time''. The woman of 48 years of age, wife of a Canadian diplomat and resident of Ottawa since 1978, decided to accompany a pair of Cuban friends in a a tourist visit to Holguín province, in eastern Cuba. The three flew on a Cubana de Aviation flight from Montreal to Holguín on the 6th of February and everything seemed set for a splendid stay, far from the inclement Canadian winter.

But after the landing in the Holguín airport, Ross saw her escapade to the tropics turn into a cruel nightmare. The Cuban authorities told her that she was trying to enter the country illegally and that she had to return immediately to Canada. ' ' It was absurd'', remembered Ross. "I visited the Cuban embassy in Ottawa on the 3rd of February to qualify my Cuban passport, and to qualify it, and the consul, Carmen E. Peterssen, treated me like always, she made me a receipt for the payment of $160 and everything was ready to go."

But the immigration employees in Holguín considered that there was an error in the date printed in the passport, and then denied her access to the rest of Cuban territory. In the middle of a confrontation that resulted, four officials came in and removed Ross from the room by force. ' ' I began to shout so that the other foreigners would realize what was occurring', she said.
They started to strike me and two uniformed women began to treat in a vulgar fashion. I then threw myself on the floor in order to defend myself."

Ross was not allowed to drink water or use the restroom for five hours. At 11 p.m. she was transferred by airplane to Havana to be processed. Ross was imprisoned for five days before being able to leave the island. The $500 that she took for vacation were retained by officials, and she also had pay for all ' ' services received' ': $16 daily for the jail stay, $12 for the food that she never ate, and $42 for round trip transportation to the airport.

Thanks to her accompanying Cuban friends who called the Canadian Embassy in Havana, consul Nathalie Garon visited her in the prison. Ross finally returned to Ottawa on the 10th of February. Garon declined to speak on the case and transfered questions from El Nuevo Herald to the ITC public affairs office. ' 'The Canadian government presented Mrs. Ross' complaints of physical mistreatment to the Cuban government by means of a diplomatic note", said ITC spokesperson Cloé Rodrigue. The employee declined to disclose the exact date and content of the note, or if she had received a response. The Cuban embassy in Ottawa did not respond to El Nuevo Herald's messages.

Mexican citizen Eva Badillo, resident of Campeche, was in the jail at the same time as Ross, and described her experience: ''Two hours after I entered the jail, Nely arrived with bruises in her arms and legs". Badillo was being detained for suspicions of false marriage with a Cuban citizen.

Badillo attributes her release to Ross, who passed along the information to the Mexican embassy after visiting Garon. ' ' I am still recovering from this traumá', expressed Ross, who directs an accounting firm in Ottawa. `` I did not emigrate for political reasons nor never have been in politics outside Cuba; all this is part of the abuses that exist there to extort Cuban expatriates.

Ross is a graduate of Economy and Humanities in the University of Ottawa. This was her third trip to Cuba since 1978, the previous two visits were for family reasons.

"One feels violated in so many ways'', expressed Ross during the interview in Miami. `` I want the world to find out about the robberies and the beatings, starting with the many Canadians that see Cuba as a paradise".

Canada is the leading tourist market in Cuba, with 250.000 visitors per year and regular flights from 15 Canadian cities with seven destinations on the island.
It's unfortunate that Ross had to go through what she did, but it was a hard lesson learned about the cruel injustice which is Cuba today. I hope her experiences and message resonates with Cuba-loving Canadians.

The original article in Spanish can be found here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Recommended Reading

Some recommended reading courtesy of our fellow Cuban-American bloggers:

- Val at Babalu talks about the group of infiltrators who crashed a Black Tie gala at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington DC.

- Juan at Paxety Pages describes the happy tale of one of the "truckonauts' arrival in the U.S.

- Conductor Fishfan at Cuban-American Pundits has a link to a wonderful article written by a Vanderbilt University professor who recently visited Cuba. It recounts the Cuban professor's observations of his visit to Havana, his first time back to his hometown since 1961. He also tries to predict the future course of Cuba. It is fairly long but it is well worth the time to read.

Monday, June 20, 2005

DeFede Interviews Alarcon

The Herald's Jim DeFede continued his series of Cuba columns with his latest piece yesterday in which he interviewed Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon. It's worth a read, even for you Herald and DeFede haters out there.

I was expecting DeFede to lob lots of softballs at Alarcon, mixed in with a few batting practice fastballs. Instead, DeFede managed to throw him a steady diet of breaking balls, although he failed to put him away with any 95 mph fastballs.

Let's take a look at Jim's interview scorecard, provided to you by the 26th Parallel sports wire:

- Question about Cuba harboring suspected terrorists? Check.
DeFede threw a hanging breaking ball when asked by Alarcon to name one example of a terrorist in Cuba, he answered back with Joanne Chesimard. A fugitive, yes. A terrorist...not quite Jim. He tried to make up by mentioning the ETA and Colombian terrorists, to which Alarcon made a vague reply.

- 1994 13 de marzo Tugboat Sinking? Check.
Alarcon insisted that it was an accident, but one that has been overplayed in Miami. I'll leave this one alone...it's too obvious.

- Brothers to the Rescue takedowns? Check.
See above.

- The 75 dissidents? Check.
Here, Alarcon decides to respond by belittling the First Amendment. Even a third-grader could nail him on that one. More on this later. ''First have the U.S. get off of our shoulders,'' Alarcon said sternly. Have the United States abandon its policy of provocation against Cuba, which is part and parcel of their aim to dominate Cuba. That's the real issue.'' Pobrecito Ricardito. Poor little Ricky.

- Suggesting that Cuba uses the U.S. as an excuse for its failed policies? Check.
''Lift the embargo. Lift the excuse. Let's do this: Lift the embargo for one year, and let's see what happens. One year without this excuse,'' Alarcon added. I have spent much of my life denouncing it. What shall I do with no more embargo? Well, I will write my memoirs. . ."

- Cuba cutting back on economic reforms instituted in the early 1990s? Check.

- Venezuela bolstering Cuba's economy with its oil. Check.
''No, no, no,'' Alarcon said. ``You see that's an example of American perception.''

Ok...enough with the baseball metaphors.

Basically, DeFede asked some good questions, questions that I would expect an American journalist to ask someone from the castro regime. Alarcon was put on the defensive several times, and failed to directly answer some questions. However, DeFede failed to put him away once he had Alarcon on the ropes. Insisting that it's Cuba who must start to make reforms to match the rest of the free world, not wait for the U.S. to change its policy towards Cuba, would have been a start.

DeFede could've also asked about all the money and goods flowing into the island, yet still pay peanuts to its workers. He also could've asked why tourists get preferential treatment while ordinary Cubans aren't allowed to access the best medical facilities.

I'd like to close by quoting the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Comprende Ricardito?

Taste of Freedom Not Enough

The Sun-Sentinel's Vanessa Bauza wrote an article yesterday on Cubans who managed to leave Cuba, but returned to the island after a short time in the United States.

It's a different twist to the stories you normally hear about: Cubans literally dying to come to the U.S. and making a decent life here. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. Being homesick without family is too tough for some to handle. Working hard for a living is something that Cubans just aren't used to...check out this quote from the article:

"People here [in Cuba] think that in the United States planes fly overhead throwing dollars out the window," he said. "They don't know you have to work 16 hours a day for your money while they're here playing dominoes."

It would be easy for me to sit here and criticize that comment, but I have to remember that today's Cubans are brought up in a totally different system, one where hard work is not rewarded, therefore not necessary.

Read the entire story here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day

Just a quick post to wish all the dads out there a Happy Father's Day.

Despite the sacrifices and hard work, it is truly a blessing to be a father. It is the greatest gift anyone could have.

Feliz Dia de los Padres!

UPDATE: I just finished reading George Moneo's Father's Day essay on his site The Universal Spectator. Without giving away too much of it, it is a wonderful but bittersweet ode to fatherhood that will make you both smile and cry. Thanks George for sharing your story with us.

Check it out here.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Raices de Esperanza

Posted by Hello

This is the group I was talking about in this post earlier today. It is Spanish for Roots of Hope, and its mission is to "establish a plan of action for the youth's role in a pluralistic and democratic transition in Cuba". The organization is made up of members of nine student organizations which include the following:

Boston College Cuban American Student Association
Florida International University Free Cuba Foundation
Florida State University Cuban American Student Association
Georgetown University Cuban American Student Association
Harvard University Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association
Princeton University Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association
University of Florida Cuban American Student Association
University of Miami Jóvenes por una Cuba Libre
University of Pennsylvania Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association

Please visit their website, congratulate them for their fine work, and show them some support and brotherhood. They deserve it.

Cuba Summit Cancelled

Courtesy of NetForCuba.org:




For Immediate Release

June 14, 2005


Although we don't know if it was the intense pressure from the
Cuban-American alumni community or due to the approaching hurricane,
we applaud the cancellation of the National Summit on Cuba at
Spring Hill College.

The summit originally planned to have approximately 100 guests
attending, but was only able to host about 40 visitors. They met in a
lounge of the Riverview Plaza, the hotel where summit speakers and
organizers were staying. We will attempt to approach the President of
Spring Hill, Fr. George Lucey, S.J., Archbishop of Mobile Oscar
Lipscomp and Fr. Christopher Viscardi, S.J. to educate them on the fact
that the Castro regime is a repressive regime.

"It is naive for anyone to believe that by engaging in a dialogue with
Castro's supporters in the United States that they, in turn, will
convince Castro to become a nice dictator after more than 46 years of
oppressing the Cuban people." said Arthur Estopinan, class of 1987 and
Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. "The lifting of the
Cuban embargo and the easing of the U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba
represents millions of dollars for the folks who participated in the Cuban
Summit in Mobile, AL. They are willing to look the other way and ignore
Castro's despicable dictatorship for a quick buck".

All of the members hosting the conference were Castro apologists who
want to economically benefit from the misery and suffering from Castro's
inhumane conditions towards the Cuban people.

In addition, Eddy Acevedo, class of 2005 and Staff Assistant to
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said, “ It is our job now to
educate the administration of Spring Hill College on the realities that
are going on in Cuba and the injustices in the country.”
I'm sure the approach of Tropical Storm Arlene had a lot to do with the poor attendance, but hey...looks like the weather gods got it right!

Wonder what happened to "Canoe Man"?

The Future Is In Good Hands

The fate of our future is in the young people's hands. When it comes to the journey for freedom in Cuba, that future is in good hands.

I just read an e-mail from Val at Babalu alerting me of his post about a group of undergraduate students at Princeton University who started an organization called the Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association, or CAUSA, whose main mission is to bring about peaceful and democratic change to Cuba.
Please take a look at Val's post here. It makes me proud to see the committment these young men and women have in a free Cuba. Also, visit Raices de Esperanza, an umbrella network of young Cuban-Americans, South/Central Americans, and Americans also committed to a better Cuban future.

I'll be posting more about this later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Why The U.S. Should Not Do Business with Cuba

The keyboard was still warm from my previous post when I read this e-mail from NetForCuba.org. It is an editorial letter to the Mobile (AL) Register from former U.S. Ambassador Dennis Hays. It is excellent and is required reading for anyone who is even remotely interested in US-Cuba relations.

Mr. Hays was invited, then disinvited, to the National Summit on Cuba held in Mobile last weekend. The summit was basically a two-day event filled with rah-rah "let's reestablish commercial relations with Cuba" speeches.

I received a copy of the agenda for the summit, and Mr. Hays' talk was squeezed in between "The Politics of the Pro-Embargo Lobby" and "The Origins of the Miami Mafia".

OK, that was a joke, but it's amazing to me that the summit organizers would invite Mr. Hays in an apparent attempt to balance the agenda a bit, then show extreme disrespect to a distinguished individual and dump him.

Too bad, because the Mobile attendees would have learned something. Something valuable.

I present to you, in its entirety, Mr. Hays' editorial.
From Everything Alabama:

What Mobile needs to consider about cultivating business with Cuba
Sunday, June 12, 2005

By DENNIS HAYS Special to the Register

As a former U.S. ambassador, I was invited -- and then, last week, "disinvited" -- to the National Summit on Cuba, held in Mobile, where I was to speak in defense of the president's Cuba policy.

Indeed, I would have been the only speaker at the two-day summit who unequivocally supports President Bush's policy. As such, I think my remarks are worth disseminating in spite of the regrettable fact that my invitation was withdrawn by summit organizers.

Here are excerpts from what I had planned to say, beginning with the suggestion that the group start by seeking some areas of agreement before moving on to our differences:

I am confident that all of us here look forward to the day when Cuba is again a free, independent nation that protects the rights of its citizens and allows individuals to achieve their full potential under a free enterprise economic system.

And is there anyone here who doesn't agree with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross and every other human-rights organization that Cuba under Castro remains a failed state, a repressive dictatorship that fears the free expression of ideas and stifles all forms of individual initiative?

If we can agree on these two points, we can move on to the real question: What can we as Americans do to help our neighbors reassert control over their own destiny?

To set the stage, it is important to understand the current situation in Cuba and how Fidel Castro has managed to stay in power all these years. Early on, Castro figured out that if you control the economic life of the individual, you can more easily control the political life of society.

Thus, the regime as a matter of deliberate policy goes to great lengths to monopolize all aspects of daily life. There can be no private enterprise, no small businesses, no independent labor unions, no professional associations, no rule of law, and no real private property. There can only be the state.

A Cuban who runs afoul of the government can be denied employment, housing, education for his or her children, even food under the ration card. This explains why Cuba persists along its disastrous economic path: The security of the regime is more important than the well-being of its citizens.

Well-intentioned attempts to work with the regime to promote reform are always doomed to failure because it is not in the regime's interest to reform. It is in its interest to maintain power.

In recent months, Castro again has ordered any and all forms of individual activity to be choked back. This is logical from his perspective. Business executives who say they are doing business in Cuba to help the Cuban people may sincerely believe this is so, but are only fooling themselves.

Mobile once had a strong and vibrant relationship with Cuba, and I believe that this can one day be re-established. But wouldn't it be better for Mobile to develop links with a prosperous democracy rather than a bankrupt dictatorship?

Wouldn't it be better to engage Cuban partners who own their own businesses, make their own decisions, can hire and fire based on economic reasons? I strongly urge you to look at the experience of others in Cuba. Ask the Canadians, Chileans, South Africans, French or anyone else about what they have found.

This is easy to do: Just look for the very long line of supplicants trying to get repaid some small portion of what they are owed by Cuba. The facts are undeniable. Cuba owes billions of dollars to dozens of nations, and has defaulted on just about every loan it has been given over the past 40 years.

Forget politics for a moment. Cuba is one of the two or three worst places in the world to do business. You would do as well going to Zimbabwe or North Korea. Reuters news service reported last week that "Western embassies report increasing complaints from their nationals whose businesses were liquidated without any guarantee they would be compensated." The manager of a European firm that is pulling out after 10 years stated, "They always tried to get the most money, machinery and knowledge they could out of us while giving little in return. They owe us millions."

Yes, some of you do make money selling agricultural products in Cuba. If so, you should be thankful that U.S. law requires the Cubans to pay cash up front for these purchases. But even here we see disturbing trends. The Cubans are increasingly restricting future sales to companies that commit to making public statements opposing the embargo. Think about this: A foreign, hostile state is actually ordering Americans to oppose U.S. law and policy in order to be given business. Am I the only one who finds this outrageous?

What does it say when an elected official is proud to display a photo taken with Castro but has no time to meet a recently released political prisoner? So do we just wait until Castro dies? No. There is much we can and should be doing.

President Bush has spoken eloquently about the need for democracy and free enterprise to return to Cuba. This can best be done by denying the regime unearned resources -- which are used to support the secret police -- while simultaneously working to empower those Cubans who struggle against terrible odds to breathe free.

The regime knows it must keep its monopoly over all aspects of daily life, and we know we must help those Cubans in Cuba who ache for something better.

We can help them as we helped freedom lovers in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, South Africa, Serbia and elsewhere: by standing with them, not with their oppressors, by working to help Cubans create their own small businesses, by aiding free farmers to have control over what they plant and the prices they charge.

We can reach out to the churches, nascent professional groups and labor unions, human rights activists, the independent libraries, and average citizens -- everyone, in fact, who is not part of the current regime.

The citizens of Mobile can play a significant role here. I am confident that once the true picture is seen, Mobilians will choose to partner with those working toward the free and prosperous Cuba of the future, not those seeking to preserve the morally and economically bankrupt Cuba of today.

© 2005 The Mobile Register
© 2005 al.com All Rights Reserved.

Read the article online here.

US - Cuba Trade

For those of you who still wonder how effective the embargo is, here's an interesting article in today El Nuevo Herald which talks about the decline in US-Cuba trade. I have taken the freedom to translate parts of the article from its original Spanish. Focus on the dollar amounts that are mentioned. Bold text is editor's emphasis.

After four years of growth, the agricultural product sales from the United States to Cuba are experiencing a remarkable decline in 2005. According to data from the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council (USTEC), between January and April of this year trade between American companies and the government of the island has fallen 25 percent as opposed to the same period in 2004. The commercial activity in the first fourth month period of last year reached $173,6 million, whereas this year it is $131,4 million for the same four-month period.

The most noticeable reductions took place last March and April ($79 million), right after the Office of Control of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury implemented new measures on the payments of Cuban state company Alimport to North American banks. In both months of 2004, agricultural shipments to Cuba reached $115,7 million. The past February, OFAC issued an order indicating that all shipments to Cuba had to be paid in advance, and in cash, before the merchandise left the port where it was loaded. Until that moment, Alimport paid the suitable amount with the American company after the shipment arrived at the Cuban ports.

Makes sense so far, it's obvious Cuba would rather pay later (or never), rather than now. Still, we're talking about well over $100 million dollars in four months. It's obvious Cuba has money. However, those friendly with doing business, such as USTEC, with Cuba have other thoughts.

But the main advisor of USTEC, John S. Kavulich, considered that this decreasing curve is influenced mainly by a political decision of Cuba. ' ' the decrease in the purchases is not a result of the changes in the mode of payment decreed by OFAC and the Department of Commerce, but instead corresponds with the efforts of the government of Cuba to pressure the companies and North American organizations, the members of the Congress and mass media, to lobby in its favor and to obtain changes in the laws and the policy of Washington towards Havana, Kavulich said in conversation with El Nuevo Herald.

OK, sure. But what about other countries? How about Venezuela?

This decrease in bilateral trade takes place as Cuba announced that it will buy $412 million in foods and goods to Venezuela as part of the subscribed agreements of cooperation with Caracas. According to a published report by the "Official Gazette of Cuba", the Venezuelan products will be exempt of taxes and customs tarrifs and ' ' will have a preferential treatment in the ecomonic development policy' of the island.

Bingo. There you have it. Don't complain about having to pay up front to the US when you can get freebies from Huguito. But there's more.

In a summit on Cuba celebrated during the weekend in Mobile, Alabama, the president of Alimport, Pedro Alvarez, informed via teleconference that his government counts with about $1.4 billion to acquire foods in the international market with competitive prices. ' The price of the egg, for example, is very low, but Alimport is not buying, said Kavulich. `The Cuban government does not have sufficient money to buy in Venezuela, but it does not need it either, because there it receives "regalias" (Ed. loosely translated to gifts or favors in return).

I'm assuming the regalias pertains to the oil. The article goes on to mention that delegates from Alimport are currently in Vermont to negotiate the acquisition of 100 calves, to a price of $2,000 a head. It ends with a mention of the $1 billion in trade between the US and Cuba since 2001.

Are you still convinced that there's a real embargo, or blockade as Cuba calls it?
I'm sure Juan Paxety up in Jacksonville is shaking his head violently left and right as we speak.

Suburban "Warfare" in Broward County

Now for some news of local interest, courtesy of the Herald:



So much for love thy neighbor.

In the latest road spat between Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, the town has given permission for a couple to close off Hancock Road in front of their house every Sunday this summer for an old-fashioned block party complete with watermelon and roasted wieners.

Here's why: That will force more than 1,000 churchgoers at Abundant Living Ministries to use other roads to get to get to the church, which is in Pembroke Pines on the Southwest Ranches border.

Homeowners in Southwest Ranches say they are tired of the church traffic interfering with their rural lifestyle (Ed. if you want a rural lifestyle, don't except to find it in South Florida).

Horseback riders now avoid the road on Sundays, said Rachel Greene, who has lived at Hancock Road and Mustang Trail since 1974.

''I can't get out of my driveway,'' said Greene, who owns a tree nursery with her husband Bill. ``Children are afraid to get out in the street and play.''

Church officials say they just want to use public roads to get to their building, while Pines officials say this is another attempt by Ranches to close off public streets in an effort to cut themselves off from their bigger neighbor.

''There would be bedlam if cities just decided, as this city has, for no reason, or next to no good reason, to close roads on one another,'' City Commissioner Angelo Castillo said. ``It sounds like they want public dollars for their roads but don't want to share the roads with the public.''

Last year, officials from the church, Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines talked about a possible solution: building a bridge directly from the church to Sheridan Street so churchgoers wouldn't have to wind through Ranches. But they have been squabbling about who should pay for the $200,000 project.

In an effort to speed up negotiations, Ranches residents decided to close the road on Sundays.

The town gave the Greenes the go-ahead last week to close 300 feet of Hancock between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. every Sunday. They started this past weekend through September.

''They wanted relief from traffic and speeding on their street,'' Ranches Councilman Donald Maines said. ``Move it to another street for awhile.''

The Greenes paid $383 for liability insurance -- a cost they will have to pay every couple of weeks -- and are collecting donations to help foot the bill. The Sunshine Ranches Homeowners Association executive board will likely agree to chip in some money.

This past weekend, residents used RVs and orange cones to block off the road. Neighbors enjoyed doughnuts, baked beans and grilled burgers at a ''good old-fashioned countrified block party,'' said Susan Winn, homeowner association president.

Churchgoers can still get to Abundant Living Ministries. Rather than take the most direct route, they now have to loop around.

''It's just an inconvenience,'' said Rev. Ken Albin of Abundant Living Ministries. ``It's just harassment. Our people are going to find a way to go to church.''

Church members say they want to be good neighbors but they think they should be able to use public roads.

''Is a public road only designated to be used for certain people in certain homes or is it to be used by all people?'' asked Butch Stark, church member and Ranches resident. ``I understand remaining rural but I also don't believe you should start shutting down roads and make it harder for everybody in other communities. We are not an island unto ourselves.''

For the Sun-Sentinel's take, click here.

I found this story absolutely ridiculous and a prime example of how selfish people can be. Southwest Ranches city officials are the villians in this story.
1) they can't agree with their neighboring city Pembroke Pines to build a bridge that would ease the traffic to the church, and
2) they encourage and support the blocking off of a public right of way.

The residents who are throwing the "block party" aren't blame-free either.

Although I find myself doing a lot of "cheerleading" for South Florida, this is one case where I have to admit we have a problem. Too many of us here want to wall ourselves off from other people and communities, mainly because of a perception of superiority. Anyone who has been to this part of South Florida can attest that this is NOT a rural area. Sure there may be ranches with horses and such in Southwest Ranches, but is it embedded in the rapidly sprawling 'burbs of Broward County, and as such should work with the surrounding communities to arrive at a reasonable solution, not wall themselves off from the rest of the area.

Yeah I know, I'm too much of an idealist.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Dia de la Bandera

Today June 14th, is Flag Day. My fellow Cuban-American bloggers have already posted on this here and here, and I would be remiss if I didn't join in the honoring of the flag of the best country on Earth.

Thank you Old Glory, for everything you stand for and represent.

DeFede Acknowledges Dissidents

For all you Miami Herald fans out there (excluding the birds, of course), check out Jim DeFede's latest column on Cuba.

I must give credit where credit is due. DeFede did a decent job with the column. Much of the column focused on the dissonance within the Cuban dissident community, which is a recurring theme in my postings. At least he mentioned the dissidents, and even managed to interview someone other than Oswaldo Paya. Here's an excerpt:

All the (Cuban) government institutions today are controlled by the Communist Party, we can not work with them, we are striving instead to develop organizations independent of the state,'' said Rene Gomez Manzano, one of the three organizers of the Assembly (to Promote Civil Society), along with (Martha Beatriz) Roque and Felix Bonne Carcasses. ``We want to develop independent libraries, an independent press and independent drug stores. We want these things to be closer to the people.

''We are not against national reconciliation,'' Gomez Manzano said. ``But it is the regime that exerts totalitarian control of the state and it is the regime which puts people in jail for speaking their minds and therefore it is for the regime to come forward and ask for dialogue with the people, and not for the dissidents to do so.''

It would have been nice to see DeFede mention the wide support the Assembly received outside of Cuba, especially in South Florida. But something is something. Perhaps that will be the topic of another column.

Monday, June 13, 2005

United in Purpose

Recent posts at Babalu and Cuban American Pundit, and the comments that followed, focused on unity - or lack thereof - within the Cuban community, both on the island and in exile.

As a proud product of Cuban culture, one of the biggest flaws which Cubans AS A GROUP seem to exhibit is a lack of a united voice - something which is ironic considering our reputation in the U.S. as monolithic and unwavering. Cuban-Americans all over the world, and I would imagine most in Cuba, want one thing - to see fidel castro and his regime disappear. That much is clear. How we accomplish this is a different story. We have some conservative "hard-liners" accusing moderates and liberals as "dialogueros" and "comunistas". We have some moderates and libs calling hard-liners "intolerant" and "fascist". Too bad, because the vast majority of these people have a common cause and purpose which, if channeled properly, can make a difference. That's why I am particularly amazed and proud of this phenomenom known as blogging, so perfectly illustrated by the range of comments on display at the above-mentioned blogs. People with diverging opinions on specific topics, but agreeing on the main goal, and reaching out to thousands of people all over the world.

There's no shame in having this weakness, after all we are humans. Other cultures exhibit flaws which can be analyzed ad nauseum. What separates thriving, successful cultures from those that languish in oppression and misery is the ability to look past differences and embrace and promote a common cause.

A few months I was watching "A Mano Limpia", a Miami Spanish-language evening talk show, in which acclaimed Cuban journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner said that Cubans as individuals have made great accomplishments in business, the sciences, and the arts; but as a collective have not displayed the necessary maturity to achieve greatness as a nation. Considering what Cuba is today, I couldn't agree more with Montaner. This is in contrast to the United States, where people of different ethnic groups, with all their strengths and weaknesses, have overcome their differences in order to foster and promote a fair and strong democracy.

The reasons are many and highly debatable. Perhaps Cubans have gone through too much hurt and suffering to allow others who think differently to have their way. Perhaps it is part of our nature to "resolver" - we can find a way and manage on our own without anyone else helping us. Perhaps it is our stubborn streak which we inherited from our Iberian ancestors. Or maybe we overestimate our power and influence, after all, 2 million Cubans can't compare with several million Jews, for example.

If change is to come about in Cuba, it will have to have contributions from all facets of Cuban society. Cubans on the island must play the leading role. Cuban-Americans, with their financial and entrepeneureal savvy combined with democratic sensibilities and technological know-how, must play an important role as well. This includes this phenomenom known as blogging, as so perfectly illustrated by the range of comments on display at the above-mentioned blogs.

For this to happen and for fidel to disappear, we must be willing to "bury the hatchet", as Cuban American Pundit poster Songuacassal said, and become united in purpose.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Firery Felines

From the wacky Sunday news files, courtesy of Reuters:

Cats use fax as toilet, spark house fire.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Two kittens picked the wrong place to relieve themselves when they urinated on a fax machine, sparking a fire that extensively damaged their Japanese owner's house.

Investigators in the western city of Kobe have concluded that the fire in January was caused by a spark generated when the urine soaked the machine's electrical printing mechanism.
The fire damaged the kitchen and living room before it was put out by the house's owner, who was treated for mild smoke inhalation, said Masahito Oyabu, a fireman at the Nagata fire station in central Kobe.
The kittens quickly ran to safety, he added.

"If you have a cat, or a dog for that matter, be careful where they urinate," Oyabu said. "Especially keep them away from electrical appliances and wires."

Ever heard of kitty litter? Better yet, take them outside.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mel Martinez and Guantanamo

Florida Senator Mel Martinez announced to a group of newspaper editors in Key West yesterday that the Bush administration should consider closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo and Carol Rosenberg report.

Martinez said:
''It's become an icon for bad news, for bad stories. And at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio: How much do you get out of having that facility there? Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it? Or can this be done some other way a little better?''

Martinez also said: ``It's not very American, by the way, to be holding people indefinitely. Now they're like POWs, and the conflict is still ongoing, and typically you wouldn't release POWs until the end of the conflict.''

Perhaps it is a bit surprising that Martinez, known as a stauch supporter of the Bush administration, would speak out in criticism against such a high profile issue. I'm sure many Democrats and anti-Bushies will jump on this story and relish that one of Bush's closest allies in the Senate has openly questioned one of his policies. To those people I say, "so what?".

President Bush himself has stated that the administration has been "looking at all alternatives". I don't think closing the prison camp right now is the best idea. What will happen to the 500 or so prisoners? Do we trust their home countries to prosecute them, or will they be allowed to run free and possibly plot more acts of terrorism against the U.S.?

I agree that the prison camp status has been too stagnant. Let's come up with a better system to deal with the prisoners. Use the legal process and go over the prisoners' cases to determine where they belong. However, let's not just close the camp and let these people free, as people such as Jimmy Carter have suggested.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Truth About the United States

Earlier today while visiting Babalu, I ran across this post which talks about Cuba hosting a "Culture and Development Congress", with attendees including none other than fidel lover numero uno Danny Glover.

I followed the link to a Cuban news site called ahora.cu from the eastern city of Holguin. I browsed through the site, scanned several propaganda-filled articles, then ran into an opinion piece titled "The Truth About the United States" which was dated, ironically enough, May 20th.

The piece centers on an article by the same title which Jose Marti published in New York in 1894 . It is quite critical of the United States, which is not entirely surprising considering that Marti was fighting for Cuba's independence from a colonial power, Spain, and saw the United States as another colonial threat to the region.

What is somewhat surprising (remember, this is Cuba we're talking about) is that the writer of the opinion piece decided that the article, written over a century ago, would still have relevance today. Assuming that what Marti wrote was fairly accurate, it is reasonable to assume that the United States has matured as a republic in the last 111 years. Just goes to show how deep some are willing to dig in order to find something negative about the United States.

A paragraph from the article which I find noteworthy:
"At that time, his (Marti) idea of what kind of republic he wanted for his homeland was a mature one; it should be free of the stains of colonialism that offends and scorns, and of the vices of imperialism that denigrate and crush."

It's pretty safe to say that Marti would be crushed at what Cuba has become, and what it is today, 111 years later.

Democratic Governments Must Govern Democratically

Sounds like a logical concept, right?

Well...Miami Herald editorial columnist Robert Steinback had some comments about democracies and capitalism in a column published in yesterday's Miami Herald.

Here's one excerpt:

''We must insist that leaders who are elected democratically have a responsibility to govern democratically,'' (Condoleeza) Rice said, an obvious reference to Venezuela's populist, anti-capitalist president, Hugo Chávez, whose flirtations with Cuban dictator (f)idel (c)astro have irritated the Bush administration for years.

What Rice and President Bush can't, or won't, grasp is that democracy alone won't address basic quality-of-life concerns of real people -- particularly when the corporate decision-makers who really run the prevailing economies remain beyond the reach of the popular vote. Democracy without a parallel commitment to economic justice is a useless tool -- like a band saw without a blade.

Steinback goes on to write:
Failure to address the needs and dissatisfactions of the greater population is what undermines democracies. It's why 14 democratically elected Western Hemisphere governments have been toppled just since 1989 -- while the nations of Western Europe, which have utilized a more socialized and labor friendly version of capitalism, have enjoyed relative political stability since World War II.

Read the entire column here.

The staff at 26th Parallel decided to send Steinback an e-mail regarding his column.

Mr. Steinback,

As another resident of Robertovia (perhaps not your version, but a "Robert" nevertheless), I'd like to comment on a few of your points.

First of all, I agree with your general opinion that capitalist economies must be accompanied by institutions which guarantee fairness for all.

It's obvious that some capitalist democracies in Latin America have not succeeded because of a lack of balance and fairness. However, we can't throw the baby out with the bath water. History has shown that the most successful and prosperous countries are capitalist, democratic countries. Sure, there are elements of socialism in many prosperous European countries, but they all work under a democratic and capitalist framework where free enterprise is encouraged, not repressed as in countries such as Cuba.

Thus, I think Condoleeza Rice is right in insisting that Latin American countries have a responsibility to govern democratically. This extends to all sectors of society. Capitalism may not be perfect, after all it is a human concept. But coupled with a democratic, fair government, it's the best we got.

I'd like to finish with a quote from Willi Schlamm which I saw on the Internet the other day and is quite appropriate...

"The problem with socialism is socialism; the problem with capitalism is capitalists."

Thanks to George of Universal Spectator for the Schlamm quote.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

OAS Meeting Wraps Up

And it looks like the Herald's Andres Oppenheimer was right. Here's what he said in his column last Sunday.

"My educated guess: The OAS meeting is not likely to accept the U.S. proposal that (OAS Secretary General) Insulza be assigned to single-handedly draft a plan of action, nor that civil society groups be given a top-level, formal status within the OAS. Furthermore, the final declaration will include some language reflecting Latin America's fears of U.S. meddling in their internal affairs.

But the OAS meeting is likely to take up the U.S. ideas in general, and ask member countries to devise a program to implement them over the next few months, in effect pushing the discussion to a later stage. So, as usually happens in these meetings, everybody will be able to claim victory."

Here is today's Miami Herald article which describes the compromise agreement.

Meanwhile...Bolivia is in chaos following the resignation of its president Carlos Mesa.

Thanks For Your Suggestion Mr. Carter...

Rain and the Marlins

It's been a pretty soggy last couple of weeks here in the "Sunshine State". The official 26th Parallel weather station has recorded rain in 12 of the last 15 days, not counting the rain that fell this morning.

Being the sports fan that I am, I went back and determined how the Florida Marlins have been doing during that same 2 week period. The answer: they've lost 11 out of their last 13 games.

I hope for the Marlins' sake that their isn't a connection between the rain and their losing streak, because the forecast for the next few days doesn't look good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Valiant Effort

I'm still trying to get over the disappointment of the Miami Heat's loss in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. That's the way sports is, there is a winner and a loser and nothing in between. One can say the Heat deserved a better fate, but you have to play with what you got.

Simply stated, Detroit played better when they had to. I don't think there's any shame in losing to the defending champs, especially taking them to the limit. Still, to have a lead late in Game 7 in your home court and coming up short in the end is a bitter pill to swallow for Heat fans, and of course a thousand times more for the Heat players and staff.

Now that the bitterness has somewhat subsided, I can truly say that I am proud of the Heat for their effort despite the setbacks they suffered in the series. I am proud of guys like Dwyane Wade and Shaq who played through painful injuries that would sideline the average person for weeks, showing extraordinary character and courage.

I am proud of the professional manner in which the Heat conducted themselves before, during, and after the games. It's a pleasure to hear Dwyane Wade give interviews in which he humbly deflects personal credit for the team's success and instead credits the entire team. Shaq, despite his celebrity larger-than-life reputation, showed true grit and team spirit throughout the season.

And lastly, but just as importantly, I am proud of how the Heat conduct themselves OFF the court. People like Alonzo Mourning who generously give back to the community. And people like Shaquille O'Neal, who understand that there's more to life than basketball, as little Brandon of Brandon's Puppy so eloquently illustrates in this post.

We'll be back next year!

Monday, June 06, 2005

More OAS and Posada Stuff

Juan over at Paxety Pages has a story and opinion on the OAS meeting in Ft. Lauderdale.

Henry Gomez has published a letter he wrote to the Miami Herald's Jim DeFede, who is currently in Cuba asking people about Luis Posada Carriles. Here's what they told DeFede.

Make sure you check out Henry's website El Tren Blindado. It is full of good stuff, featuring the story on the armored train of Santa Clara.

Finally, here's a translation of a letter from Cuban dissidents Félix Bonne Carcassés, Rene Gómez Manzano, and Martha Beatriz Roque which was delivered to Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, before the start of the general assembly:

Havana, 2nd of June 2005.

Mr. Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States

Your Excellency:

Allow us to greet the meeting that will be carried out in Florida, and congratulations for your designation in such a high position. We are honored to be able to refer to our dear homeland through these means.

This past 20th of May, some of us who aspire to take Cuba towards democracy met in Havana for the Assembly To Promote Civil Society. This unprecedented event needs international solidarity so that it does not become just an isolated event. Because of this, we would like to solicit that the member countries of this prestigious organization pronounce themselves in favor of democracy in Cuba and show their endorsement with those of us, who through this coalition, have fought peacefully for the freedom of our country. We must construct the conditions so that our nation can be united with those countries that form the O.A.S. It is a difficult task that needs much support.

The Executive Secretariate of the Assembly To Promote Civil Society in Cuba thanks in advance those who decide to voice our solicitation at such an outstanding meeting.

Felix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, René de Jesus Go'mez Manzano and Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Sunday, June 05, 2005

OAS Meeting in South Florida

South Florida - Ft. Lauderdale to be exact - is preparing for the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly which begins today and lasts through Tuesday. The Miami Herald has several good articles on the meeting which are linked below.

In a previous post, I included a news brief from a Wall Street Journal article which blasted the OAS for not supporting Cuban dissidents and being ambivalent on Cuba in general. With the meeting taking place in South Florida, some foreign dignitaries are taking advantage of the venue to issue a draft declaration. You can read it here.

And below is an article about the declaration from the Herald (emphasis mine):

At a UM seminar, leaders urged the OAS to explore a role in Cuba's transition to democracy and to be vigilant about human rights abuses.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLESjcharles@herald.com
More than two dozen foreign dignitaries Saturday joined a call in South Florida for the Organization of American States to make Cuba's transition to democracy one of its top priorities.
The University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies took advantage of the OAS' annual General Assembly, being held in Fort Lauderdale today through Tuesday, to organize a seminar on how the 34-hemispheric bloc can play a constructive role in Cuba's future.
''It is high time [the OAS] addresses the issue of Cuba and Cubans,'' said Martin Palous, the Czech Republic's ambassador to Washington. ``If anything can come out of this general assembly . . . it is [that] Cuba is part of the American discussion. It would be a tremendous boost for Cuban freedom fighters.''

A dozen Latin American and European leaders have already signed a three-page declaration on Cuba passed around at the seminar and urging the OAS to ``consider how it can play a constructive role in helping a future Cuban democratic transition government rejoin the hemispheric family of democracies and rebuild its political, legal, economic system.''
In addition, the resolution urged the OAS' Inter-American Human Rights Commission to remain vigilant on Cuba's human rights situation and help its people. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chaired the opening session, said the document is a positive step in the Cuban people's fight to end decades of suffering under Fidel Castro's rule.

``It's progress to have them sign a paper that acknowledges there are problems in Cuba and acknowledges they all have to work to get to the goal of freedom and democracies.''
Other participants included former presidents Luis Alberto Lacalle of Uruguay, Luis Alberto Monge of Costa Rica, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Eduardo Frei of Chile.
Also in today's Herald is Andres Oppenheimer's weekly column in which he asks whether the OAS will step up for once and take a solid stance on human rights violations.

Many Latin American countries talk about how the US has interfered with their interests, but say little, if anything, when it comes to human rights violations in neighbor countries such as Cuba.

Now is the opportunity to either take a stand and put the pressure on Cuba and other violators, or continue blaming the US and lose credibility in the eyes of the democratic world.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Mr. Mom and the CASS

Mr. Mom is the role I'll be playing at least part-time for the next several days or weeks. My wife has been placed on bed rest until she's ready to deliver the baby, which hopefully won't be for at least 2 weeks. Thankfully, mom and baby are doing fine, we're just trying to hold off the delivery as long as we can.

Working, taking care of household chores, and looking after a rambunctious 3-year-old is not an easy task. Mind you, I'm no slouch around the house, but I know I'm not as efficient or patient with tasks as my wife is. I admire the strength that mothers have to be able to juggle 3 or 4 different things at the same time (I guess it's called multitasking). These are times when I truly appreciate the great support system I call the CASS (Cuban American Support System). Sometimes this is taken for granted, but definitely not now.

For those not familiar, the CASS works as sort of a rotating system of visits where relatives help out with chores or bring dinner. Usually one relative stays at the house (my mother-in-law in this case), the other abuelos come one night, other relatives the next night, and so on. Of course, the rotating system sometimes doesn't quite work the way it should and you end up with 20 people in the house at the same time. That's OK, it's the company and the help that's appreciated. It's times like these when families come closer together and relationships are strengthened.

As I mentioned in a previous post, blogging will probably not be as frequent as usual, but that's OK. There's another "support system" out there which I will unofficially call the Cuban American Blog Network. Val, George, Songuacassal, Juan, Amanda and Brandon, and others that I'm sure I've missed will keep us informed of the latest in Cuba and other Cuba-related things.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

More "I Told You So's"?

Trying to squeeze out a few posts while everything on the home front is stable for the time being...

A post on Babalu the other day mentioned the fact that some Western-based small and medium-sized businesses are leaving Cuba because of the increasingly unfriendly business environment there. Nothing really surprised me or caught my eye right away as we've heard many a story about fidel 's regime controlling every facet of life in Cuba. Reading back through it again, however, a line from the story jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

"President Fidel Castro's government, bolstered by growing economic ties to Venezuela and China, is cutting back the autonomy granted to state-run companies to do business in the 1990s and restoring central control over trade and finance."

Read that last line again..."restoring central control over trade and finance. " Notice the article probably doesn't have much of a right-leaning bias since they refer to fidel as President.

If business with Venezuela and China can create this type of environment in Cuba, imagine what open trade with the U.S. would do.

This one is hard for the anti-embargo folks to refute.

Sporadic Blogging

My wife, who is eight months pregnant and due at the end of the month, began to experience contractions yesterday. She hasn't started dilating yet, but after 2 trips to the maternity ER and one trip to the doctor in the past 24 hours or so, she's home under medication to stop contractions. Basically this means that if she gets more contractions while under the medication, we'll have to go to the hospital for the C-section delivery. This could happen any day or any moment.

Due to this, there will likely be sporadic postings here at 26th Parallel. Until regular posting can resume (don't ask me when), please visit the "favorite sites" linked at the right-hand column (that is...if you're not already visiting here from those sites!).