Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hawaii Photo Posted*, Cuba Prisoner Release, Raul & Fidel at Odds?, Mexican Cartels in Honduras, Cuban Cardinal in DC

Wasn’t able to do it on the same day as my trip narrative, but finally succeeded in posting the photo from Hawaii, showing how much my son Jon looks like his cousin, visiting there at the same time I was. Check it out! (* See previous “older post.”)

Spent last weekend in a two-day meeting of volunteer country specialists for Amnesty International-USA, since I am Caribbean regional action network coordinator. In AI-USA, since we do not work directly on cases of Cuban political prisoners and other civil liberties matters because we might be linked to the US government, we are now focusing on bills in Congress to reduce or eliminate the embargo against Cuba, which, I believe, has become a Cuban government scapegoat for everything going wrong now in Cuba. Of course, even if the embargo is removed or relaxed, the Cuban people may not be informed of such a development, since the regime strictly controls all media and ordinary people cannot access the Internet. For example, they do not know about the ongoing prisoner release. So far, ten prisoners have refused release if they will be forced into exile.

Meanwhile, Alan Gross, a 60-year-old American arrested for delivering electronic equipment to Jewish groups on the island, has been in prison for more than six months and is reported to have lost 80 lbs. It appears that the Cuban government is holding him to make a deal with five Cubans being held by the US government for spying.

The following is from a Cuban friend living in this country, who just returned from a visit to his homeland recently. There, he spoke privately with friends still in high government positions, leading him these observations, which may explain why neither Fidel nor Raul spoke at the July anniversary of the Moncada uprising, usually the biggest event on the Cuban calendar: Raul Castro is restricted in his capacity to adopt new policies and to put his cadres in key positions to implement them because of resistance to his policies by his elder brother’s supporters. This abnormal situation persists because Fidel Castro is a megalomaniac, and while agreeing that his brother should succeed him at his death or when he becomes mentally incapacitated, he insists, as long as this does not occur, on continuing to make the final decisions about all the principal matters that affect Cuba.

In order to ensure his capacity to do this, Fidel retains about him, as a counterweight to his brother’s followers, representatives that he continues to use as a parallel administration to run the country and keep him informed of everything that is going on so that he can countermand it if he disagrees.

Of course, this is no way to run a railroad, much less a country. But this is the way that his brother has agreed to try to run the country as long as Fidel is alive and Raul knows that he must keep that agreement in order to be allowed to run the country as he sees fit once his brother is gone. The worst difficulty of all facing Raul Castro when his brother finally dies and he finally inherits total power will be that he cannot be expected to live for very long since he is already nearly eighty years old and is said not to enjoy good health. This will give him very little time to carry out all the intended reforms that he wants to carry out to ensure the survival of the present Cuban totalitarian regime. So every additional day that Fidel Castro lives means his brother will have one less day without interference to try to fix the mess he will inherit.

Mexican drug cartels bring violence with them in move to Central America, William Booth, Wash. Post, July 27, 2010

In Honduras, where a military coup last year toppled the president, Mexican cartels have established command-and-control centers to orchestrate cocaine shipments by sea and air along the still-wild Caribbean coast, often with the help of local authorities, according to DEA and U.N. officials. Ten anti-narcotics officers were caught smuggling 142 kilos of cocaine last July. In December, Honduras's drug czar, Gen. Julián Arístides González, was killed after trying to shut down clandestine landing strips allegedly operated by Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

[Excerpt regarding Normando Hernandez, whose Miami-based mother I know—not sure why he has to stay in Spain]

In exile, different type of survival begins
fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com, July 24, 2010

Normando Hernández was reunited with his mother, Blanca Rosa González, who flew in from Miami. But that joy will be short-lived. González must return to the United States -- and Hernández and his wife, Yarai Reyes, and 8-year-old daughter Daniela have to stay in Spain. The family remains at the hostel in an industrial sector of Madrid.

Daniela, who wrote moving poetry in Cuba about her jailed father, is showing signs of stress and sadness. "She has been through so much emotional trauma that we've had to have her see a psychologist," Hernández said. "First with her father in prison, then leaving Cuba at a moment's notice, and now all of this and the uncertainty"…

Hernández, 40, also has serious health problems. He is pencil-thin and gravely ill from malnutrition. His nose and Adam's apple are visibly deformed. He can eat only baby food, and even that gives him horrible cramps, yet so far he's only had one perfunctory medical examination.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/24/1745610_p2/in-exile-different-type-of-survival.html#ixzz0uucsCgY5
Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega will travel to Washington to receive an award -- and possibly talk with U.S. officials

By JUAN O. TAMAYO,jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega is making a second visit to Washington, this time to accept an award and give a speech at the annual conference of the Knights of Columbus. But Ortega, who engaged in unprecedented talks with Cuban leader Raúl Castro, also is trying to meet with U.S. government officials and trade and business groups based in the capital, Cuba analysts said. During Ortega's previous visit to Washington, he informed U.S. officials about the status of the talks that led to a promise to free 52 political prisoners.

A Knights of Columbus statement said the Catholic organization would award Ortega its highest award, the Gaudium et Spes Award, during a dinner Tuesday. The Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus runs from Tuesday to Thursday.
Cuba analysts, who asked for anonymity because they received the information in confidence, said they were told Ortega would be in Washington Monday through Wednesday and has been trying to arrange meetings with officials at the State Department and the White House's National Security Council. He also has been trying to arrange meetings with major trade and business groups based in the Washington area, the analysts added. ``He's definitely trying to make the rounds, trying to make the best of his time here,'' one analyst said.

Ortega last visited Washington June 22, just days before he announced that the Castro government had agreed to free political prisoners jailed since a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

Officials in Washington last month confirmed to El Nuevo Herald that Ortega had met with Arturo Valenzuela, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee. Berman, who like Valenzuela has not confirmed the meeting, has endorsed a bill before Congress that would lift the ban on U.S. tourism travel to Cuba and ease restrictions on U.S. food sales to the island.

The Ortega-Castro talks, with support from the Spanish government, began in March after government-organized mobs harassed the Ladies in White during their Sunday marches to demand the release of male relatives jailed since the 2003 crackdown.
On July 7, Ortega announced that Castro had agreed to free 52 political prisoners over the next three to four months. Twenty have already been freed and left Cuba for Spain, along with more than 100 relatives. Cuba has not released any of the 10 or so political prisoners who have vowed to remain in Cuba and continue opposition activities.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/08/03/1758438/cuban-cardinal-visits-us-for-award.html#ixzz0vYa7axG3

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