[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: May 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Get In Line, Mr. President

fidel castro is back in the news, admonishing President Bush for letting people in developing nations go hungry (say what you want about the bearded one, but the guy does have a sense of humor, doesn't he?), as well as boldly stating that "ideas are not killed" even after his passing.

The money quote, however, was the headline to the below article.

(CBS4) HAVANA "President Bush is waiting for me to die."

That's the word from Cuban President Fidel Castro in a statement published Tuesday on the front page of the Communist Party daily Granma.

In his essay, the 80-year-old Cuban leader stated Bush has also "ordered" Castro" to be deprived of life", but didn't offer any details.

While current law prohibits the U.S. government from ordering the assassination of foreign leaders, recently declassified documents show that the CIA made numerous attempts to kill Castro in the early years after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

"Ideas are not killed," Castro wrote.

Castro then went on to criticize the Bush administration for spending money on weaponry while people in developing nations go hungry.

Tuesday's statement was the latest in a series of essays by Castro, who has not been seen in public since becoming ill more than ten months ago.


News to fidel: the line waiting for you to die is already snaking around all of Miami-Dade County, parts of Broward County, as well as other parts of the country and free world.

As they say in Little Havana, ponte en cola.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Introspection is a Good Thing

(Cross-posted from Babalu).

This post is about Ana Menendez's latest column dealing with Cuban exiles. This is your warning.

Why devote a full post in Babalu Blog to someone whose writings have proven to stand against most things we hold close to our hearts? Why give even more attention to her?

Stick with me, my answer is forthcoming.

The reaction to Ana Menendez's exile-bashing column 9 days ago has been swift and full of indignation, including the great counter piece delivered by Mercedes Soler a week ago. Ana's words were personal, and she's paid for it.

This reaction apparently got to our esteemed columnist, and she replied today with a follow up column that is as full of the "Ana as usual" as it is with surprising and revealing introspection.

The column's title "Exiles' 'Pain' (note the quotation marks around pain) Must Include Room for Dissent" and the opening paragraph offer the typical Ana Menendez fare:

We Cubans are infamous for our public displays of suffering, our flamboyant airing of grievances that other cultures have learned to keep private.

It's a trait that has always bothered me, partly because it is has become a symbol for much that others find distasteful in us and partly because it has allowed too many otherwise brave and intelligent people to wallow in corrosive victimhood.

Never mind that other cultures are also outspoken in their suffering. That doesn't make them - or us - inferior. Unfortunately, Ana is ashamed of the negative aspects that define not only Cubans, but all human beings.

After that, the column begins to peel away at some of the layers surrounding Menendez, and you know what? The end result is something that we all have experienced and can learn from.

After the intro, Ana delves into her family's past: their expulsion from Cuba and the "pain" they experienced. It then veers into a discussion about the Port of Miami Tunnel deal involving a French company which does business with Cuba (she writes about an attempted phone conversation with Miami radio host Ninoska Perez Castellon in which Ninoska proceeded to hang up on her. Perhaps not the polite thing to do, but our rights of free speech and expression include the right to get upset and be angered. I'm sure Ana and other liberals would understand).

After the detour, Ana gets back on track and closes the column by relating to us a recent conversation and dinner with her parents.

Later that day, I was supposed to have dinner with my parents when I got called back into the office. Before I made it back, my father made an offhand comment about the column that, without his realizing it, wounded me. At the office, I briefly considered canceling dinner. Instead, I drove back to my parents' house.

My parents and I sometimes clash on important issues. We have lived vastly different histories. Now and then, we hurt one another. But if I can't sit down and have a meal with those I disagree with, I have no right to ask anyone else to do the same.

Let's admit it, we all have experienced exactly what Ana described in that last section. Who among us hasn't rebelled against our parents, against authority? Of course, most of us outgrow that phase, but at the heart of this is a struggle that Ana appears to carry with her in every exile-bashing column she's penned: the conflict between her liberal-enlightened views and her parents' pain. For the first time, Ana reveals her weakness, a conflict between two powerful forces: her views and the legitimate feelings of her parents.

What can we take out of this? Indeed, there is room for dissent, as long as it's done respectfully and with good intentions. That's the problem, however. Too much dissent, on BOTH sides, is delivered and displayed with such lack of respect that the issues become drowned out by needless posturing.

What can Ana Menendez and those who share her ideology take from this? That there is also room for vigorous debate and even indignation from those whom you offend with your choice of words. They indeed have the right to express themselves freely - thank God - but we also have the right to react accordingly and within the law.

Most importantly, what I hope Ana can take out of this experience is a new-found sensibility towards those she disagrees with. After all, if she can understand her own parents' pain, then why not the pain and feelings of the majority of Cuban exiles who have lived one too many bad experiences? The same pain and suffering that Ana's parents - our parents - shielded from us second-generation Cuban-Americans.

Read Ana Menendez's column in its entirety below the fold at Babalu.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Basic Arithmetic

Some mornings, opening the op-ed section of the Miami Herald isn't such a bad experience. Today is one of those days that keeps me subscribed to the Herald, if only by a thread.

Emmy-winning journalist and El Nuevo Herald contributing writer Mercedes Soler gives us a great response to Ana Menendez's slime job of a column last week.

For those of you who might be thinking, "of course, Soler's just another one of them (hard-liners)", consider that Soler has hardly been known as an activist for the Cuban cause, let alone an evil hard-liner. Quite simply, Soler shares with us her dignified yet pointed response to someone whose disdain for her traditional roots is becoming more and more obvious with every word she writes. Soler is standing up for her roots and respects those who came before her and have been around the block a few more times than she has. Menendez could learn a lot from Mercedes Soler, but I doubt she will.

Okay, enough gum-bumping on my part. Here's Soler's column in its entirety:
The Exile Debate: Add and Multiply, Never Divide

I do not consider myself a reactionary person. Nor do I allow myself to be carried away by what society considers politically correct. I try to analyze beyond frivolities before I take a position. I am not interested in attacking persons or groups. I prefer to adhere to the motto of José López-Neira, a 90-year-old reader who writes to me daily and signs off saying: ``Add and multiply; never divide.''

I consider that my 20 years in journalism give me the authority to speak about the responsibility required by the right to free expression. I defend the free press, a fundamental pillar of democracy. Opposing, controversial and dissenting opinions must have a place in any open society. But cannibalism long ago ceased to be tolerated in a civil state.

In a recent column, my colleague Ana Menendez offends the Cuban-exile community. She trivializes the suffering, sacrifice and struggle represented by our 48 years in exile; she stains the memory of the 41,700 people who, according to The Cuba Archive, lost their lives because of the Castro government, plus the other thousands of men and women who have served and continue to serve prison sentences for demanding the freedom of expression she so frivolously squanders. She also embraces the communist rhetoric when she addresses us as the Cuban Mafia.

She orders us to swallow our pain. All this she does in English. Because if her parents hadn't been exiles, she probably would not have been born in the United States and would better understand her forefathers' history.

It is not my place to reply in the name of the exile community, the community of my parents and hers. Instead, I do so in the name of our own generation, the one in which she obligatorily was born or reared, kept away from her ancestral land because those old people -- the ones she today calls tired, dispossessed and reduced to pathetic acts of self-parody -- once were brave enough to leap into the void, abandon their loved ones and start a new life without money or knowledge of a new language.

Those same old-timers, in the most tragic of cases, even sent their children to Miami by themselves, in Operation Pedro Pan, just so their children could have -- like she now has -- the opportunity of thinking freely.

For those who prefer not to delve deeply into the meaning of the word exile, which not even remotely approaches the word immigrant, we Cubans here are an easy target of ridicule. Not a day goes by that I don't hear another Hispanic fake a Cuban accent and mockingly spout an ''oye, chico, qué volá,'' [''Hey, man, what's happening''] to conceal rivalry behind solidarity. Everybody wants to unseat a winner.

The fact is that the Cuban community, most of it, has come to the United States to integrate into its educational, labor and political processes. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, we Cuban-Americans represent almost 4 percent of the 45 million Hispanics in this country. Yet, our average annual income is higher than that of Anglos, and more than 50 percent of the wealthy Hispanics in this great nation are Cubans.

Our influence is palpable in the media, science, the arts, finance, Congress, the Senate, the country. And all this was forged in fewer than 50 years, under adverse conditions. We could have achieved more in a democratic Cuba.

Throughout the years, I have read with admiration, even devotion, the writings of many English-language columnists. Anna Quindlen of Newsweek speaks to my condition as a woman. Ana Veciana-Suarez touches my heart as a mother. Dave Barry puts me in touch with the girl inside me.

Leonard Pitts is my conscience in the face of racial injustice. And when Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize winner, deals with the negative aspects of the African-American community, he does not engage in mockery or vituperation. He broaches it with brotherly concern.

To criticize the nostalgia of the generation of Agustín Tamargo, Guillermo Cabrera Infante and so many others who live or died clinging to the idea of a democratic and sovereign Cuba is an act of cruelty. It is not a question of agreeing or disagreeing with those who want to boycott something that offends them, but to acknowledge that they have a right to do so here, knowing that in Cuba that act would land them in jail. To criticize those who are not brave enough to face off multinational corporations is simplistic. The exile community has defied Benetton, CNN, the Melia hotel chain and many others.

For someone named Menendez and someone named Soler to come to blows over this is fratricidal. A bitter postscript to another May 20 -- Cuban Independence Day -- in exile.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Somewhat Random Thought For The Day

Here it is:

It is the so-called hard-liners that often have a clear vision of the facts and aren't afraid to take a stand, however popular or unpopular it might be. In other words, hard-liners are just as capable of using reason, rational logic and common sense to arrive at decisions as moderates who are usually lauded as the "reasonable ones" in any idealogical debate.



Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Immigration and Assimilation

As with most Americans these days, I've been thinking about immigration lately. However, not in the way you might think.

Mainly, I've been thinking about the generations of American immigrants throughout this nation's history that have assimilated, sooner or later, to American culture. Hispanics get a bad rap for being slow or even unwilling to assimilate, according to some Americans, especially those on the far-right.

"Learn the language". "Speak English or leave". We've heard them all before, and while it's only a minority of Americans who think this way, I've never quite understood what the big deal is. I mean, everybody knows that eventually we forget to speak the mother tongue and become monolingual just like most Americans, right?

There's my problem right there. I assume that everyone lives in a community like Miami where being different is the norm, where assimilation mixes with immigration. The end result is a conglomeration of the assimilated and non-assimilated, of the third-generation Cuban-American teen who can't speak Spanish and the elderly Cuban immigrant who can't speak English. In the middle of these extremes is a rather unique beast in the United States, the bi-cultural and bilingual American which in Miami is as common as a traffic jam on I-95.

However, as Carrie from Bilingual in the Boonies points out, being a first-generation, bi-cultural and bilingual American shouldn't be taken for granted. In Carrie's case, being far from Miami (Tennessee to be exact) makes those traits stand out. Her recollection of comments she's heard are eerily familiar to ones that I've heard during my days living outside of Miami, including the time I lived about 3 hours east of her down I-40 in the ridges hugging the Smoky Mountains.

This statement by Carrie says it all:
What I walk around with is the true belief that I have a responsibility to be a great example of immigration, assimilation, acculturation, humanity and the cherished American Dream.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Religion in Cuba Today

The Palm Beach Post published an article this past weekend on the revival of religion in Cuba, namely the Christian denominations as well as Santeria.

I won't dispute the article's claim that the number of people attending church services are up, or that the regime has taken a less heavy-handed approach to religious institutions. Still, you have the not too long ago case of the government banning religious services held in private homes, as well as the subtle ways in which religion is used to discriminate.

Remember, it wasn't too long ago that Cuba was still officially an atheist state.

I have heard personal accounts of discrimination based on religion existing to this day, especially towards Seventh Day Adventists. It's not the outward, obvious discrimination that everyone can see, but more subtle and ultimately damaging, such as being passed over for more "lucrative" career tracks simply because of your beliefs. A 1987 U.S. Department of State bulletin described Seventh-Day Adventists as being considered a counterrevolutionary sect in Cuba.

As we all know, change in Cuba doesn't come fast or easy.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Post-Cuba Nostalgia Thoughts

Another Cuba Nostalgia came and went this past weekend. As usual, it was another fun event and I was very fortunate to have been able to spend time at the Babalu Blog booth yesterday and Saturday. Meeting and talking to the booth visitors is always a great experience.

The excitement and good ole fashioned fun people were having at CN was palpable. Three and even four generations of Cuban Americans together with smiles on their faces was a common sight. You felt as if you were in some sort of combination high school/college/family reunion mixed in with a fraternity or something of that nature. I know that description falls short of what it was like, but essentially one felt a part of something personal, bigger and more important there.

The sight of parents taking their kids by the booth and explaining what Babalu Blog and other C-A blogs are about was heartwarming. Even better were teenagers and 20-something kids coming by and dropping a donation for one of the "Miami Mafia" t-shirts while wearing a Cuba-themed shirt of their own. So much for waning nostalgia, huh?

As always, it was an immense pleasure to once again see old blogger friends and meet new ones. It was an honor, as always, to share the same booth and share stories with those individuals. I won't mention any names, because I know I'll forget one or two and I don't want to exclude anyone. So for those of you reading this who shook my hand, kissed my cheek and chatted with me for a few minutes, it was a pleasure to be in your presence.

Last, and certainly not last, I want to acknowledge the readers of this blog. As I was reminded often over the weekend, you're not large in number, but you're loyal. I don't do this as often as I should, so hear it goes:

To all my readers: A sincere and heartfelt Gracias and Thank You!


Sunday, May 20, 2007

American Criminals in Cuba

Kesher Talk links to an IHT article about American fugitives who are sheltered by the Cuban regime.

(via Tatyana)

(Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Choosing Sides

When it comes to Cuba, it should be easy to decide who to side with. You have fidel the murderous dictator and his cronies, and you have those who desire freedom for Cubans.

Easy choice, right? It should be, but it isn't. There are those whose anti-Americanism is so rampant to the point of actually rooting for the bearded one simply because he hates the United States and everything it stands for. There are also those who actually believe in the socialist model and think that "free" education and health care are more important than ones freedom and human rights.

Those people are pretty much helpless. But now it gets tricky. There's another group that gives the impression that they're on the side of freedom and democracy, yet continue to prove otherwise.

In this group is the government of Spain, the motherland to most Cubans and Cuban-Americans. Henry Gomez, a.k.a Conductor, has launched the debut Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty (BUCL) campaign which shines a bright spotlight on Spain's chokehold on Cuban business and tourism. This business and tourism that Spain willingly gives to Cuba does little more than line the pockets of fidel castro and his gang of bandits, while the average Cuban suffers from a measly salary, no freedom and no future. By doing business with the castros, Spain is choosing the wrong side.

Why is singling out Spain so important when other countries do business with Cuba as well?

It is Spain that colonized Cuba for centuries.

It is Spain that speaks the same language and shares so many cultural ties with Cuba.

It is Spain that is the birthplace of millions of Cubans' ancestors and the launching point for so many who emigrated to Cuba, including my own ancestors.

It is Spain that should understand the hardships of enduring a dictatorship.

It is Spain who has catapulted into modern Europe through belief in democracy.

Therefore, it is Spain that should be leading the way for change in Cuba.

Instead, Spain enables the Cuban regime by giving them their business instead of demanding immediate basic human rights.

I am proud to be a sponsor for this BUCL campaign. At the same time, it hurts because I know Spain can do better. Spain SHOULD do better.

I urge all of you reading this to ask Spain to stop doing business with Cuba and demand that the regime begin releasing political prisoners and instituting basic human rights for all Cubans.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Was Going to Ignore Her

But I just couldn't help it.

Thanks Ana Menendez for yet another slime job. Here's a letter I just finished whipping off to her:
Your disrespect for traditional Cuban-American exiles continues to reach new heights.
Your column today was the latest in the series of slaps in the face to many...no, most in the Cuban-American community. Disagreeing is one thing, but when you use terms such as "Miami Cuban Mafia" and "right-wing lunatics" and to describe members of the community, you not only discredit yourself but also those who respectfully and intelligently disagree with the mainstream Cuban-American community.
Of course, your track record suggests that you probably don't mind discrediting yourself so long as you can take shots at a group of people you harbor a deep disrespect for.
Funny how a leftist agent provacateur such as Edmundo Garcia gets a free pass as a "well-informed" and intelligent person in your mind. Perhaps that's because you agree with him more than not. Or is it because he's a poor, helpless and powerless (with a microphone and free airwaves, mind you) person swimming against the stream of loud-mouthed, dumb "right-wing lunatics"?
Funny how you always trot out the war-horse cliche that the traditional Cuban-American exile community is old and dying, and that the days of nostalgia are "waning".
Why is it funny?
First, take a look at the faces in the pictures of last July's "castro could be dead" celebrations. I see a lot of young faces. You? Second, the Cuba Nostalgia convention is this weekend. Third, ever heard of Raices de Esperanza? If not, google it.
In closing, when a true transition to democracy takes place in Cuba, it's those that today are the most critical of Fidel Castro and his brutal regime that will take the first steps to ensure that Cuba gets back on its feet. Meanwhile, cynics such as yourself will only be able to watch from the sidelines and become even less relevant to Cuba's future.
26th Parallel

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Youthful Activism

From the Herald series The Cuba Puzzle (gotta give the Herald credit for a good series so far) comes this from Diane Cabrera of Raices de Esperanza:
Exiles Are Fighting For The Same Thing

Miami-born Diane Cabrera visited Cuba as a teenager, but what she knows about her heritage she learned from her parents -- Mariel refugees who arrived in Florida in 1980. Today, Cabrera, 24, is among a younger breed of Cuban-American activists in Miami-Dade working to bring about change on the island, where their parents were born. ''I grew up in a very Cuban home,'' she said, but she said her political fervor was not ignited until she went away to college at Georgetown University in Washington.

''All of a sudden, I was a minority and I began to feel proud to be Cuban,'' she said. She hung a 1950s-vintage travel poster of Cuba in her dorm room, she said. The poster is still with her, now hanging in the office of Directorio Democratico, which fights for human rights and democracy in Cuba. She is a spokeswoman for the group.

She also is administrator of Raices de Esperanza, or Roots of Hope, a network of young Cubans.

Cabrera doesn't like to be classified as a hard-liner or a moderate in her fight. ''I think, ultimately, all exiles are fighting for the same thing: a free Cuba,'' she said.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Mikey's Trip To Cuba

C'mon Mikey. Face up to it like a man.

If you have nothing to hide, then why don't you let Bush investigate.

Filmmaker Michael Moore has asked the Bush administration to call off an investigation of his trip to Cuba to get treatment for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers for a segment in his upcoming health-care expose, "Sicko."

Moore, who made the hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" assailing President Bush's handling of Sept. 11, said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Friday that the White House may have opened the investigation for political reasons.

"For five and a half years, the Bush administration has ignored and neglected the heroes of the 9/11 community," Moore said in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. "These heroic first responders have been left to fend for themselves, without coverage and without care.

"I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me - I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help, but until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide."

The health-care industry Moore skewers in "Sicko" was a major contributor to Bush's 2004 re-election campaign and to Republican candidates over the last four years, Moore wrote.

"I can understand why that industry's main recipient of its contributions - President Bush - would want to harass, intimidate and potentially prevent this film from having its widest possible audience," Moore wrote.

Treasury officials did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment on Moore's letter to Paulson.

The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control notified Moore in a letter dated May 2 that it was conducting a civil investigation for possible violations of the U.S. trade embargo restricting travel to Cuba.

Moore questioned the timing of the investigation, noting that "Sicko" premieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts in U.S. theaters June 19. The Bush administration knew of his plans to travel to Cuba since last October, said Moore, who went there in March with about 10 ailing workers involved in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center ruins.

OFAC's letter to Moore noted that he had applied in October 2006 for permission as a full-time journalist to travel to Cuba, but that the agency had not made any determination on his request.

The agency gave Moore 20 business days to provide details on his Cuba trip and the names of those who accompanied him.

The investigation has given master promoter Moore another jolt of publicity just before the release of one of his films. "Fahrenheit 9/11" premiered at Cannes in 2004 amid a public quarrel between Moore and the Walt Disney Co., which refused to let subsidiary Miramax release the film because of its political content.

Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein ended up releasing the film on their own and later left to form the Weinstein Co., which is releasing "Sicko."

"Fahrenheit 9/11" won the top prize at Cannes and went on to become the top-grossing documentary ever with $119 million.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Miriam Leiva Speaks Out

From today's Herald:
Daily Life In Cuba Is Really Very Hard

Miriam Leiva did not set out to become a Cuban dissident.

She was a senior official at the Foreign Ministry and in the 1990s was asked to choose: her job or her husband, critical economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe. She chose her marriage.

''My life changed completely. I used to travel and work very hard,'' she said. Afterward, ``I had to stay in my little apartment with almost nothing to do. People are afraid to get in touch with me, so I lost a lot of friends.''

Now an independent journalist, Leiva catapulted into the the dissident movement when her husband was among those arrested in a 2003 crackdown and she helped found Ladies in White, a group of female relatives of jailed dissidents pushing for release.

When Fidel Castro got sick, many Cubans were expecting change. Yet the grind continues, she said.

''Daily life in Cuba is really very hard,'' she said. ``Cuban people used to be very happy, always laughing or joking or singing, and that has been lost. You see the faces tense, and people who are not so old look old.''

``It's true that in Cuba education and public health are free, but, you know, the price you have to pay for that is so high.''

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cuba Healthcare : You Get What You Pay

That disgusting picture above is from a Cuban hospital. It's part of the "vaunted Cuban healthcare system" so many loonies around the world constantly rave about when talking about Cuba.

As sad as this is for the Cuban people to have to put up with, I often show that picture as an example of the farce that the free healthcare in Cuba really is. Of course, free is subjective. The Cuban people pay for it with their measly salaries.

Defenders of castro might come back with: "Some U.S. hospitals are just as bad." If so, I'd like to see one. Otherwise, forget it. There's no excuse for a state-run hospital to look like a pig pen.

And we won't get into the lack of bedding and medicine in Cuban hospitals. It's BYO materials if you're Cuban and you're going to the hospital.

For some other posts I've written on this very subject:
- here
- here
- here

Remember the mantra: at least the healthcare is free, at least the healthcare is free....

The Real Cuba has many more pictures of Cuban hospitals that everyone should see. Just make sure you haven't just finished eating when doing so.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Reaction to Posada's Release

Reaction to Luis Posada Carriles' release after a Texas judge dismissed the government's case against him is sure to be hot and heavy.

My reaction to this is somewhat mixed. I'm happy that the U.S. decided to handle Posada without caving in to pressure from some to extradite him to Cuba or Venezuela. The judge made the call, and her ruling should be accept by everyone. Some will like it, some won't. As my older relatives use to say,

"Dis ees a free contri".

My personal feeling on Posada is that he is, at very best, a shady character. At worst? Well, you know, the "t" word we commonly use towards certain Middle East fanatics. Of course, he's never been convicted of terrorist charges, so I won't fall into the trap that many normally law-respecting individuals have fallen into by demanding Posada's head without due process.

In the end, I'm quite ambivalent. Honestly, I don't care whether he's guilty or not.

That may sound a bit harsh, but think of it this way: looking at the big picture, Posada represents the past, the days when the FBI and CIA actively sought castro's assassination. We don't live in that era any longer. Posada's case means absolutely nothing in the fight against castro and for Cuba's freedom.

If some people want to mix Posada with TODAY'S struggle, then fine. But I don't think a 79-year-old individual with a riddled past is something that our community should rally around or treat as a victory against castro. Nothing is further from the truth.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Decent Law-Abiding Cuban Americans

I was going to post on Max Lesnik's daughter's upcoming film "Man of Two Havanas" and its portrayal of mainstream Cuban-Americans as hard-line extremists, but work and other things got in the way.

Well, I'm fortunate, as all of us are, that Val blogged about this earlier today. His sentiments and mine are practically identical.

Read it here. It's on the money.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Tax Debate in Florida

Quite the battle going on up in Tallahassee concerning the propery tax-reduction plans floating around.

The more I think of it, the more I like Marco Rubio's "get rid of all property tax" idea for homesteaders. I realize his plan would increase sales tax by 2.5 cents, but the impact of the extra tax is quite minimal, even for lower-income people. Essential items such as food are already tax exempt, so the taxes would only apply to things such as an extra cellphone or Ipod.

Better yet, lower-income folks would be that much closer to being able to afford buying a home, which is a huge upward step for anyone looking to move up the economic ladder.

Quite simply, the alternative proposals by the state Senate and Gov. Crist just don't go far enough. Yes, they cut property taxes a bit, but not enough. As I said before, if they don't take out the whole chunk, it's not enough. The Senate wants to roll back taxes all the way back to 2005/2006 levels. Are they kidding? Might as well leave it as is!

People are concerned about local government services being cut if property taxes are eliminated. I'd like to think that it's primarily government fat that will be cut off and placed on the barbeque instead. The concept of local governments operating under a budget, just like you and I, is a novel concept but one we should demand. One only has to look at our local governments which are floating in money from the soaring property taxes of the last 2 years. Has anyone really noticed a positive difference in government services? Me neither.

Demanding that government uses their (OUR) money wisely, that it be spent responsibly, only makes sense to me. Putting that extra money in OUR hands makes even more sense.

Rubio's plan is way too brave and bold to pass. Politicians don't have the spines to pass something as ballsy as Rubio's cut all property tax plan. Besides, Rubio's plan would hand it over to voters who would ultimately decide what happens to the property tax. Like I said, the more I think of it, the more I like it.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Pope and Change in Cuba

Cross-posted from Babalu:

I had a bit of a hard time sleeping last night, and as is usually the case when you toss and turn in bed, many thoughts start streaming through my head. Among those was this one I'm about to share.

The date: January 25, 1998. An air of hope prevailed across Cuba as Pope John Paul II concluded his 5-day pilgrimage to Cuba. The final Mass in Havana promised to be a statement for freedom for many Cubans who have never experienced such a thing. Although John Paul II had spoken out against the U.S. embargo and the more negative influences of capitalism, the pontiff also criticized the lack of human rights and religious oppression in Cuba. There was no doubt that the Pope would not back down from the influence of the castro regime.

The Plaza de la Revolución was packed. A huge image of Jesus stared across the plaza at the permanent and even larger image of Che Guevara. A contradiction if there ever was one. Of course, we all know that Cuba is one huge contradiction, so the fact that the regime would allow for a temporary display of faith amidst the prevailing atheism wasn't totally unexpected. The "shock value" of such a display was nevertheless startling and couldn't help but instill a ray of hope in even the most cynical person. How could Cubans miss the significance of the Pope's message, of the magnitude of the event itself? Was this the catalyst to change?

Many Cuban-Americans were skeptical, despite the positive messages. Time has proven that the skeptics were dead-on.

Whenever the debate about the embargo, travel restrictions and dialogue flares up, I can't help but think about the Pope's trip to Cuba 9 years ago. To me, it's a representation of the stranglehold castro and the regime has had on the Cuban people for 48 years. I sincerely believe that many anti-embargo and pro-dialogue advocates have nothing but the best intentions at heart. Pope John Paul II is a classic example. However, I would have to think that even these people, upon introspection, have to conclude that very little can be done unless change occurs from within Cuba. If the Pope couldn't inspire massive change, who or what can? Can we expect money-hungry politicians to do so? Can sitting down in a table across from the wardens of the prison known as Cuba in an attempt to reason and compromise do so?

Those of you reading this who think that the solution is to dialogue with the regime; that opening up to Cuba instead of steadfastly demanding change is the answer: take the time to think about this. I certainly have, and the conclusion I arrive at is always the same one:

Support those in Cuba who want change. Support people such as the Ladies In White described in the previous post. Most of all, do not expect an increase in dollars flowing into Cuba to be the answer. If the Pope couldn't do it, if diplomats can't, then who's going to think that a flood of tourists with dollars to spend will?

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Campaign Against Spanish Oppression

Welcome to Bloggers United for Cuba Liberty readers!

As you probably know by now, Bloggers United for Cuba Liberty's debut campaign deals with Spain. More specifically, it deals with Spain's inability, or lack of interest, in promoting freedom in Cuba. Instead of working with dissidents to foster change, Spain continues to do business with the castro regime, not to mention send floods of tourists to the ex-Spanish colony.

I must admit that this is not as easy one for me to swallow. As the case with most Cuban-Americans, we have strong cultural and ethnic ties with Spain. I have always admired Spanish culture and have thoroughly enjoyed my two visits to Spain. Nevertheless, Spanish foreign policy under the Zapatero Administration has been nothing but a huge letdown for me. I long for the days when Popular Party (right-wing) President Jose Maria Aznar ran the show in Spain; days when Spain stood up against tyranny and defended freedom-loving people worldwide.

I am proud to be a sponsor for BUCL's campaign and will continue to raise awareness on this issue.

Most Cuban bloggers have dealt with this issue at one time or another, and this blog is no exception. Read the following for background on the Spain/Cuba issue:

- Zapatero No Help to Cubans

- Spain Sells Military Equipment to Venezuela

- From 2005, Spain's Moratinos Says Dialogue with Cuba Must Continue

- From 2007, Spain's Moratinos Insists Dialogue with Cuba Must Continue

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Joe Good For You

Good morning news for you coffee or café drinkers out there:

This study shows that drinking coffee may decrease chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes and some forms of cancer!

Go ahead, have that extra colada or three. Come to think of it, maybe there IS some truth to the Cuban longevity issue.

It must be all that café.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking coffee can help ward off type 2 diabetes and may even help prevent certain cancers, according to panelists discussing the benefits -- and risks -- of the beverage at a scientific meeting.

"We're coming from a situation where coffee had a very negative health image," Dr. Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health, who has conducted studies on coffee consumption and diabetes, told Reuters Health. Nevertheless, he added, "it's not like we're promoting coffee as the new health food and asking people who don't like coffee to drink coffee for their health."

Van Dam participated in a "controversy session" on coffee at the Experimental Biology 2007 meeting underway in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lenore Arab of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA also took part, presenting results of a review of nearly 400 studies investigating coffee consumption and cancer risk.

There's evidence, Arab noted, that the beverage may protect against certain types of colon cancer, as well as rectal and liver cancer, possibly by reducing the amount of cholesterol, bile acid and natural sterol secretion in the colon, speeding up the passage of stool through the colon (and thus cutting exposure of the lining of the intestine to potential carcinogens in food), and via other mechanisms as well.

However, Arab did find evidence that coffee may increase the risk of leukemia and stomach cancer, with the case for leukemia being strongest.

The findings suggest that people who may be vulnerable to these risks -- for example pregnant women and children -- should limit coffee consumption, van Dam noted in an interview.

He and his colleagues are now conducting a clinical trial to get a clearer picture of the diabetes-preventing effects of coffee, which were first reported in 2002. Since then, he noted, there have been more than 20 studies on the topic.

Van Dam and his team are also looking for which of the "hundreds to thousands" of components of coffee might be responsible for these effects. It's probably not caffeine, he noted, given that decaf and caffeinated coffee have similar effects on reducing diabetes risk.

His top candidate, van Dam says, is chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant that slows the absorption of glucose in the intestines.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cubans Arrive On Key Biscayne

Just saw this over at Castro Death Watch about 13 Cuban refugees that made it to shore.

What was my first thought upon reading this? You would think happiness over them making it dry land, right?


It was, how long until someone complains about unfair treatment of Cubans vs immigrants from other countries?

My question was answered as soon as I hit the link to here.

Cynicism bites me in the butt once again.


Losing Streak

Our Miami Heat aren't the only ones suffering from a recent bad streak.

Looks like our friends at Al-Qaeda have had a rough go of it recently as well.

First, the capture of over 100 suspected Al-Qaeda members plotting a terrorist act on an oil field in Saudi Arabia.

Now, word that the Al-Qaeda head honcho in Iraq might be dead.

This losing streak I can live with.

Ahhh, that war on terror rears it's ugly head once again.


May Day, May Day

That expression of imminent danger and peril couldn't be more appropriate considering the importance of this day in socialist/communist circles. Just ask the Venezuelans who are fleeing their country in droves.

I don't know about you, but I usually work even harder on May 1st than on most other days.

BTW, fifo was a no-sho today in Havana.

Big surprise there, right?