Oil spill update

Update on oil spill 30. April 2010.

Cuba opens first online store


HAVANA – COMMUNIST Cuba unveiled an online store with a cultural twist Wednesday offering everything from books by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara T-shirts to designer shower curtains and music downloads.

‘It is really the biggest online selection of (Cuban) culture, and all the areas of the arts are represented,’ manager Teresita Espino was quoted as saying in Rebel Youth newspaper.

The new site, http://www.mallcubano.com, even features a clothing line from the Compay Segundo brand, named after the late star of the Buena Vista Social Club who died in 2003.

The government clearly has targeted the massive expat Cuban community – more than 1.25 million people of Cuban origin and descent live in the United States alone – offering specials for Mother’s Day and delivery in Cuba.

The prices – US$32 (S$45) for a pair of men’s jeans or US$41 for a linen guayabera shirt – are not terribly inexpensive but still out of the reach of the vast majority of Cuba’s 11 million people. Items can be bought in euros and dollars, but not in Cuban pesos. Cubans make an average of less than US$20 a month.

www.particularcuba.com – Cuba travel booking

56 websites and counting…U.S questions China but problems closer to home

The Cuba Blog:

Using phrases and words from the U.S constitution and countering the much maligned criticism by Hillary Clinton of China´s alleged Internet Censorship the new twitter profile proves that unchanged hypocrisy abounds…the tweets speak for themselves…

Follow http://twitter.com/thouwilttweet to get the broad picture of U.S censorship of the Web and the time the Government spends denying this as per Mrs. Clinton’s speech on Jan 21st 2010

Cubadisco 2010, the greatness of Cuban music

ACN: Country music will be on the spot, the wealth of this genre is to be promoted.

Country music will be on the spot, the wealth of this genre is to be promoted.

Ciro Benemelis, president of the International 2010 Cubadisco Festival, the highpoint of national music industry, declared that the event will be a special moment to show the wealth of Cuban country music.

According to declarations made in this city, he said that popular parades, colloquiums, workshops in art schools, album presentations and the longest singing of the world all over the country, will distinguish the event, whose Awarding Gala will take place in Havana, on May 15, 2010.

To revise and re-edit the country repertoire with arrangements for non-traditional frames –such as the symphonic and the chamber- will make the 14th edition shine, declared Benemelis, who invited the improvisers from every country to participate
in the event, to highlight cultural expressions of rural countries.

From CUBADISCO 2010 onwards children will have a permanent space in the festival and during the edition there will be colloquiums organized in the artistic education centers and in coordination with art instructors to show them the identity values of country music.

The festival will have a honor committee, among whose members stand out important keepers and specialists, such as María Teresa Linares, Adolfo Alfonso, Celina González and Inocente Iznaga González (El Jilguero de Cienfuegos).

The festival has been a very important contribution for the development and promotion of Cuban album industry. It widened its categories from the introduction of new technologies to award the DVD format, documentaries and video-clips.

The image and the sound of the national album are currently competing in more than 25 categories, which are evaluated by a committee made up by important musicians, critics and other specialists.


Tropical Strom IDA is approaching Cuba

National Hurricane Center

Tropical strorm IDA


Juanes Concert in Havana Paz Sin Fronteras

Russian strategic bombers could use Cuban & Venezuelan airfields


Maj. General Anatoly Zhikharev, Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force has told Interfax-AVN military news agency that Russia could use air bases for its strategic bombers in Cuba and Venezuela.

He said: “There are four or five airfields in Cuba with 4,000-meter-long runways, which absolutely suit us.”

San Antonio de Los Baños airfield , Southwest of Havana, would most likely be one of the airfields used.

Zhikharev also said Russian bombers would be prepared to use airfields on Cuba if the political leadership of the two countries allowed the use of Cuban bases.

President Hugo Chavez has offered a military airfield on La Orchila island  as a temporary base for Russian strategic bombers.

In September 2008 two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack multi-mission strategic bombers arrived in Venezuela after a 13-hour flight over the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Russia has nothing to gain strategically from basing long-range craft within relatively short range of US shores, independent military analyst Alexander Golts said, calling the military statement a retaliatory gesture aimed at hitting back after US ships patrolled Black Sea waters near Georgia.


Among DoD’s priority countries


USS TARAWA at SEA (Aug. 14, 2008) A 32-ship armada led by the ?amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1), manuever off the Panamanian ?Coast as part of the multi-national training exercise Fuerzas Aliadas ?PANAMAX 2008. Image: U.S. Navy

USS TARAWA at SEA (Aug. 14, 2008) A 32-ship armada led by the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1), manuever off the Panamanian Coast as part of the multi-national training exercise Fuerzas Aliadas PANAMAX 2008. Image: U.S. Navy

The Joint Forces Quarterly 2nd Quarter 2009 issue is now available and focuses on a strategic global outlook thematic. The journal is published by the National Defense University Press for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is the Chairman’s flagship joint military and security studies journal.

One of the articles in this issue titled, “Time to Improve U.S. Defense Structure for the Western Hemisphere,” is written by Dr. Craig A. Deare, Professor of National Security Affairs at the National Defense University, which addresses “U.S. defense policy toward the region as it seeks to explain the primary structural shortcomings associated with both the formulation and execution of policy.”

The article gives a snapshot of concerns for the Department of Defense (DoD) such as transnational threats including terrorism, insurgency and drug trafficking in the hemisphere.

A series of priority countries, e.q. Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil are mentioned in the article including Cuba.

Dr. Deare summarizes Cuba as:

“The question of what happens when the Castro brothers disappear from the scene remains open. This land, the size of Pennsylvania and with 11 million people, is at what the National Security Strategy would describe as a “strategic crossroads.” DOD’s stability operations mission has serious implications when matters begin to unravel. Conversely, should the Obama administration decide to engage the government of Cuba, and understanding the preeminent role of the Cuban armed forces, the policy implications for DOD could be significant.” p. 36

He provides suggestions on how to address such challenges, i.e. structural changes that “DOD can adopt to fundamentally improve the nature of the defense relationship between the United States and the countries of the region.”

The article merits a read in its entirety for what DoD priorities should be for the Western Hemisphere.



Cuban Five: Wrong Guys in Jail


All photos by Bill Hackwell except where credited otherwise


This is one of those stories that leaves you with your mouth open saying: How can that be?

Five Cubans have been in jail in the United States for over ten years for what would have earned them a presidential medal if they had been working for the US government.

They infiltrated terrorist groups to gather information on their next attacks and they warned their government so it could be on the alert.

The fact is for the last five decades Cuba has been the target of right wing extremist organizations, allowed to train and operate out of Southern Florida with the support of the old guard exile community. Their record includes plane and hotel bombings and assassinations in Cuba, the US and other countries.

Havana Times asked Bill Hackwell -a documentary photographer who has followed the Cuban Five case and the people involved for the last eight years- to tell the story with his photographs.

For those of you who wish to read in-depth articles and interviews about the case we recommend the following:

If you are looking for a way to help right a colossal wrong, check out: http://www.thecuban5.org



U.S. Congress set to open Cuban exiles’ passage to island

Miami Herald: A huge spending bill being debated by Congress would effectively lift the restrictions on Cuban-American families’ travel to the island.

The 1,128-page budget bill that will begin to work its way through Congress this week contains key paragraphs that alter the shape of U.S.-Cuba policy and ease Cuba family travel restrictions by not funding enforcement.

The provisions were written when the bill was drafted last year — and faced the threat of a veto by President George W. Bush. But Washington’s new White House resident, President Barack Obama, campaigned promising to lift the family restrictions, so the proposed changes are unlikely to meet much resistance by the administration, which is conducting its own review of Cuba policy.

The bill, which is expected to be voted on by the House on Wednesday, already has Cuban-American lawmakers balking.

The 2009 budget bill would:

Prevent the U.S. government from spending any of its budget enforcing 2004 rules that keep Cuban Americans from visiting their homeland more than once every three years.

Create a general travel license for Americans who sell food and medical supplies to Cuba.

Let Cuba pay for the American produce it buys when the products arrive in Havana. Current law forces Cuba to pay up front before products leave U.S. ports.

Require the U.S. Treasury Department to issue a report showing how much of its staff and funding is spent on enforcing the ban on travel to Cuba.


Amendments were added by Rep. José E. Serrano, a New York Democrat who chairs the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. That means he controls the Treasury Department’s purse strings — and it’s the Treasury that investigates people who violate the Cuba travel ban.

”I have been working on this issue for a very, very, very long time,” Serrano said. “Now I am chairman of a committee that appropriates those dollars, and I can do something about it.”

But his measures are bound to meet stiff opposition. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who backs the current restrictions, said she believes the travel measure wouldn’t pass on its own because most Republicans and about 80 Democrats are opposed.

Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez has informed Senate leadership that he will oppose any legislation that would change U.S.-Cuba policy — a move that could make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the legislation to clear the Senate.

”Modifying our nation’s policies at this point would be counterproductive and reward a repressive, authoritarian regime that has shown little concern for the security or well-being of its citizens,” Martinez said.

If Obama does not make his own policy change, most of the new measures expire Sept. 30.


The restrictions were imposed in 2004 by Bush, who created a rule that tightened Cuban-American visits to see immediate relatives every three years for two weeks. If that goes unenforced, then Cubans living here would be allowed to visit a wider array of relatives once a year, and they could spend up to $179 a day on the island.

”The American people do not see Cuba as a threat,” Serrano said, “and they can’t figure out why we do not deal with them.”

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said he had enough votes to oppose the measures, but House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi would not allow votes on specific amendments.

”That’s blatantly undemocratic,” he said.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, said she was disappointed that the regulations would be relaxed without a concession from the Castro government.

She was particularly disappointed that House budget writers didn’t include any money in the House bill for dissidents in Cuba, she said.

”Not to get any concessions from the Castro regime,” she said, “the Castro brothers will be very happy.”