The Cuban Revolution is Over

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Don't believe us?

Watch this clip:

We Will Never Forget OZT

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Cuban pro-democracy activist and political prisoner who died pursuant to an 85-day hunger strike protesting the abuses of the Castro regime, would have turned 43-years old today.

We will never forget his life, struggle and sacrifice.

Please join the Zapata Lives campaign!

Yoani Reveals Audio of Kidnapping

Friday, May 14, 2010
From Cuban-blogger Yoani Sanchez:

More than 60 days ago I sent several Cuban institutions a complaint for illegal detention, police violence and arbitrary imprisonment. After the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, successive illegal arrests prevented more than one hundred people from participating in the activities surrounding his funeral. I was among the many who ended up in a jail cell on February 24, when we went to sign the condolence book opened in his name. The level of violence used against me, and the violation of the procedures for detaining an individual at a Police Station, led me to file a claim with little hope that it would be heard in court. I have waited all this time for the response of both the Military Prosecutor and the Attorney General, holding back this revealing testimony, painful evidence of how our rights are violated.

Fortunately, my cell phone recorded the audio of what happened that gray Wednesday, and even after being confiscated it recorded the conversations of the state security agents and the police – who wore no badges – who had locked us up by force at the Infanta y Manglar station. The evidence contains the names of some of those responsible, reveals the background of the police operation against dissidents, independent journalists and bloggers. I have sent copies of this dossier of a "kidnapping" to international organizations concerned with Human Rights, protection of reporters, and all those related to abuse. Several attorneys from the Law Association of Cuba have advised me in this endeavor.

Although there is little chance that someone will be brought to account, at least those responsible will know that their atrocities no longer remain hidden in the silence of their victim. Technology has allowed all of this to come to light.

Please click here to listen to the audio and view the official documents.

Orlando Zapata's Tomb is Desecrated

Does this regime have any shame whatsoever?

Reina Luisa Tamayo is Besieged in Her Home, While Orlando Zapata's Tomb is Desecrated

From the city of Banes in the province of Holguín, Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died on February 23, 2010 as the result of an 86-day hunger strike, denounced that Cuban State Security has posted five men at the door of her home, controlling all those who enter and leave the house.

On Tuesday May 11th, Reina Luisa went to the cemetery in Banes and found the engraved inscription on her son's cement tomb had been covered with white paint. In addition, the plastic flowers left by her on the tomb had been removed.

In a recorded testimony of these incidents in Banes, Reina Luisa said of the State Security agents in front of her home:

"Murderers, insolents, go and guard the cemetery… what you should be doing is protecting my son's tomb. I will not allow anyone touching his tomb… Leave the door of my home free for those who wish to enter. If you are truly confident in the people's support, why are you so fearful of anyone from the opposition movement manifesting their solidarity to this Cuban mother?"

According to Reina, her son's tomb was desecrated as a form of manipulation by the authorities to try to intimidate and demoralize her, but she stressed:

"They will not succeed... We will not give up our peaceful struggle against the regime…"

Doing Business With the Devil

Whether it's with Fidel and Raul Castro, or Ali Khameini and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- for some, it's only about profits.

Wonder if Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota will also propose legislation to ease Iran sanctions through the House Agriculture Committee?

According to Bloomberg:

Boeing Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are lobbying to fend off tightened sanctions against Iran that business groups say may cost $25 billion in U.S. exports.

Legislation before Congress would expand a 1996 law penalizing foreign companies that invest in that country's oil industry. U.S. firms, already barred from investing there, say their sales worldwide could be hurt by provisions that ban doing business with companies in Europe, Russia or China that trade with Iran.

"We are up on Capitol Hill talking about the collateral damage," William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington-based group that represents Exxon and Boeing, said in an interview. "There is legitimate, non-Iran business that will be cut off."

The sanctions measure follows President Barack Obama's difficulty in getting members of the United Nations to agree to expanded financial penalties on Iran, which the U.S. estimates may be three to five years from having a nuclear bomb. Lawmakers are trying to work out differences this month between Senate and House versions of the bill.

Cargill Inc., ConocoPhillips, Hannover Re, Bechtel Corp., Halliburton Co. and Siemens AG are among more than 20 companies that have lobbied on the proposed sanctions, according to congressional disclosure forms.

Sound eerily familiar?

160+ Arbitrary Arrests in April

Thursday, May 13, 2010
According to a recently-released report by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), 162 pro-democracy activists were arbitrarily arrested by the Castro regime during the month of April.

These are only cases that have been thoroughly documented, for many more are suspected.

As regards incidents in political prisons, the CCDHRN reports that pro-democracy leader Dr. Darsi Ferrer has been imprisoned in Valle Grande prison for more than ten months without a trial.

Dr. Ferrer initiated a hunger strike on March 20th, demanding medical attention and due process. On April 12th, he abandoned his protest after the Castro regime assured him that he would be brought to trial and seen by a doctor. A month later, he is still awaiting trial.

Finally -- and most tragically -- Pedro Márquez Bell, Lorenzo Pérez Hernández and Alexander Carreras all died in prison pursuant to not receiving adequate medical care.

Cuban Special Forces in Ecuador?

The head of Ecuador's Justice and Liberty Party, Patricio Haro, has denounced the presence of Cuban special forces in the capital city of Quito, where they have been sent to serve as shock troops for President Rafael Correa's "citizen brigades."

Correa is an ally of the Castro brothers and of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Haro has asked Ecuador's Office of the Public Prosecutor to begin an investigation.

Zapata Twitter Campaign

Saturday, May 15th, would have been the 43rd birthday of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died in a hunger strike protesting the tortures and abuses of the Castro regime.

On that day, please join the Zapata Twitter Campaign to honor the memory of this courageous, young pro-democracy activist.

Click on the picture to learn more.

Quote (Thought) of the Year

"There is no doubt that the Castro dictatorship will fall. The problem is just how much suffering it will cause, how many more sacrifices it will require -- like a barbaric totem -- prior to falling. A moment of greatness is approaching the Cuban people. One of those historic thresholds that one must know how to cross to earn the future. In our transition (in Spain), we knew how to do it: our entire society knew how to be generous and choose coexistence. We must now support the Cuban people. We must help them untangle themselves as quickly as possible from the bloodied cobwebs of that immoral and scandalously inefficient regime which, for example, just had its lowest sugar production since 1905. And once the bars of that great prison that is the island of Cuba are shattered, they will have to learn to understand and respect each other. It's a crucial moment. Let's not abandon them."

-- Rosa Montero, Spanish journalist and author, in the left-leaning El Pais newspaper, May 11, 2010.

Who's in Charge in Venezuela?

From The Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer:

Hugo Chávez ceding too much control to Cuba

When Venezuela's former ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, learned that President Hugo Chávez had expropriated his ranch, his first reaction was to announce that he would submit a complaint to the Cuban Embassy. That's where the real power in Venezuela lies, he said.

Arria said he would deliver to the Cuban Embassy his farm's property deeds showing that he is the legitimate owner of the 840-acre ranch in the state of Yaracuy. "I'm going straight to those who run this country, the Cubans," Arria told me earlier this week. "Because it's the Cubans who make the key decisions here, and because they are much better organized than the Venezuelan government."

He added that Venezuela officially signed a 2005 contract with Cuba to help manage Venezuela's national identification and public registry services, "which means that all issues on who owns a property are now in the hands of Cubans." [...]

Consider some of the latest headlines in Venezuela:

• Shortly before Arria's statements, Venezuelan Gen. Antonio Rivero said he retired from the army in April because he did not agree with "the meddling of Cuban soldiers" in Venezuela's armed forces. Rivero told reporters that Cubans are now placed "at a high level in vital areas of national security," the Associated Press reported.

• Another former Venezuelan general, Angel Vivas Perdomo, issued a statement April 28 criticizing Chávez's decision to adopt the Cuban armed forces salute "Fatherland, Socialism or Death." Vivas Perdomo is being charged with insubordination for refusing to accept the salute.

• On May 2, Chávez lost his cool when a reporter from Venezuela's Televen network asked him about the growing clout of Cuban advisers in Venezuela. Chávez said that "Cuba is helping us modestly in some things that I won't detail," and went on to lash out against the reporter's television network.

• In February, powerful Cuban vice president and former interior minister Ramiro Valdes visited Venezuela to allegedly help Chávez solve an electricity crisis that had led to growing street protests. Valdes' visit was widely seen as the most telling sign of Cuba's growing role in helping manage Venezuela's government.

Spanish Artists for a Free Cuba

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
According to the AFP:

Spanish artists launch 'platform for democracy' in Cuba

MADRID — Spanish artists and intellectuals, including Oscar-winning film-maker Pedro Almodovar, Wednesday launched an initiative to press for democracy in Cuba.

"The Platform for Spaniards for the Democratization of Cuba" aims to defend "the basic and essential human rights" of the people of the communist-ruled island and help them choose between "democracy and totalitarianism."

"We Spaniards well know that nothing can justify lack of freedom," the manifesto said, referring to the 1939-75 dictatorship in Spain of Francisco Franco.

The initiative came just days before an EU-Latin America summit in Madrid during which the question of Cuba will be discussed.

Signatories to the platform called on the Spanish government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to drop its policy of rapprochement with Cuba, which they said had led to "no result."

Spain, which holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU, has been at the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba, a former Spanish colony.

Spain's Socialist government wants the EU to modify its 1996 common position on Cuba, which links dialogue to freedoms and human rights on the island, arguing it has yielded few results.The EU suspended ties with Cuba after a major roundup of 75 dissidents in March 2003, but resumed aid cooperation in 2008. Spain and Cuba renewed ties in 2007.

Besides Almodovar, other celebrities signing the manifesto were Spanish-Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa and Spanish actress Victoria Abril.

The new platform "may seem like a small gesture but for those who resist the dictatorship in difficult, even heroic, conditions, it is something very important," Vargas Llosa told a news conference called to launch the initiative.

The Cuba-China Oil Scare

It's only a matter of time before the disastrous oil spill caused by the rupture in a BP offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico revives the old "Cuba-China oil scare" strategy -- if it hasn't already.

This periodically recycled strategy seeks to convince policymakers that if U.S. companies aren't permitted to explore for oil off Cuba's shores, and/or if the U.S. doesn't engage Cuba's dictatorship on this issue, then the Chinese will do so -- risking the safety of U.S. coastlines.

What this old siren song fails to consider -- and why this scenario never seems to materialize despite years of hype -- is that it's economically implausible.

Why?

Precisely thanks to U.S. sanctions.


This 2008 opinion editorial in The New York Times further elaborates:

How the Cuban embargo protects the environment

By Mauricio Claver-Carone

The energy debate in the United States introduces one more powerful argument in support of current U.S. policy toward Cuba: environmental protection.

For years the Castro brothers have been courting foreign oil companies, and in recent years none have been courted more assiduously than China's Sinopec. Why Sinopec?

The answer is simple: If the Chinese were to start drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Cuba - so very close to the coast of Florida - it would send a "red scare" through the halls of the U.S. Congress, creating a new and otherwise improbable coalition for unilaterally lifting the current embargo. Longtime advocates of lifting trade sanctions against Cuba would join with conservative Republicans, who, though they now support the trade embargo, are strong advocates for allowing U.S. companies to drill offshore, and with liberal environmentalists who would rather have strictly regulated U.S. companies drilling than unregulated Chinese companies. In Cuba that looks like a winning trifecta for changing U.S. policy.

As early as 2006, the Reuters news bureau in Cuba was reporting: "Havana is eager to see American oil companies join forces with the anti-embargo lobby led by U.S. farmers who have been selling food to Cuba for four years."

In recent weeks this strategy has taken center stage in Washington with political and public opinion leaders openly discussing the irony of "the Chinese drilling 60 miles from Florida's coast," while U.S. law prevents American companies from doing the same along the outer continental shelf.

The premise of the argument, however, is just not true. Chinese companies are not drilling in Cuba's offshore waters. Nor do the Chinese have any lease agreements with Cuba's state-owned oil company, Cupet, to do so. As a matter of fact, the last drilling for oil off Cuba's coast took place in 2004 and was led by the Spanish-Argentine consortium Repsol YPF. It found oil but not in any commercially viable quantity. Inactivity since suggests that Repsol YPF is not eager to follow up with the required investment in Castro's Cupet.

For almost a decade now, the Castro regime has been lauding offshore lease agreements. It has tried Norway's StatoilHydro, India's state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, Malaysia's Petronas and Canada's Sherritt International. Yet, there is no current drilling activity off Cuba's coasts. The Cuban government has announced plans to drill, then followed with postponements in 2006, 2007 and this year.

Clearly, foreign oil companies anticipate political changes in Cuba and are trying to position themselves accordingly. It is equally clear they are encountering legal and logistical obstacles preventing oil and gas exploration and development. Among the impediments are well-founded reservations as to how any new discovery can be turned into product. Cuba has very limited refining capacity, and the U.S. embargo prevents sending Cuban crude oil to American refineries. Neither is it financially or logistically viable for partners of the current Cuban regime to undertake deep-water exploration without access to U.S. technology, which the embargo prohibits transferring to Cuba. The prohibitions exist for good reason. Fidel Castro expropriated U.S. oil company assets after taking control of Cuba and has never provided compensation.

Equally important, foreign companies trying to do business with Cuba still face a lot of expenses and political risks. If, or when, the Cuban regime decides again to expropriate the assets of these companies, there is no legal recourse in Cuba.

Frankly, it is bewildering why some seem to believe that U.S. companies partnering with one more anti-American dictatorship to explore and develop oil fields will somehow reduce fuel costs for American consumers and contribute to U.S. energy independence. One needs only to look at the reaction of the international oil markets when Hugo Chávez of Venezuela nationalized assets of U.S.-based ConocoPhillips and Chevron.

What message would the United States be sending to oil-rich, tyrannical regimes around the world about the consequences of expropriation if we were now to lift the embargo that was imposed after Fidel Castro expropriated the assets of Esso, Shell and Texaco?

For many years the U.S. embargo has served to protect America's national security interests; today it is also serving to prevent Cuba's regime from drilling near U.S. shores. And that's good for the environment.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is a director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC in Washington and formerly served as an attorney with the U.S. Treasury.

"Oscar's Cuba" Premiere Today

From CBS4:

World Sees "Oscar's Cuba" Thanks To Filmmaker

"Oscar's Cuba" is the story of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a political prisoner who has been called Fidel Castro's number one enemy; the man the Castro brothers fear most.

A medical doctor, Biscet is serving a 25-year prison term, much of it in a tiny solitary confinement cell.

Filmmaker Jordan Allott is an American who told CBS4's Eliott Rodriguez that he didn't know much about Cuba before he started filming his documentary.

"I read about Dr. Biscet and immediately connected with his story," Allott said. "I said, 'Wow if there isn't a movie about him I have to make one so people who are not Cuban will connect with him the same way I did."

Allott snuck into Cuba on two occasions to make the film. He interviewed Biscet's wife, who showed the food she takes him in prison, the bucket he uses to hold bathwater and the toilet paper and other personal items she takes him. Dissidents show how wiretaps are used by the government to spy on them.

The film captures the constant fear Cubans live with.

At one point in the film, Allot approaches a Cuban man on the street and asks, "If I was Cuban and I said I don't like Fidel would I be in jail?" The man responds by saying, "Please don't ask me that."

A man of peace, Dr. Biscet was harassed by pro-government mobs before being put in prison for speaking out against the government. Jailed but not silenced, he continues to send messages from inside prison.

"He's still having an affect even from the dungeons of Castro's prisons and if he gets out he could lead the people to freedom and that is what the Cuban people want," Allot said.

"Oscar's Cuba" is the story the Cuban government does not want you to see.

SHOW-TIMES:

The film is being shown in South Florida on Wednesday May 12th, Tuesday May 18th, Wednesday May 19th and Thursday May 20th.

All four screenings will be at the Tower Theater, 1508 S.W. 8 Street in Little Havana.

Castro Sets New Sugar Record

Tuesday, May 11, 2010
"In the coming years, the revolution aspires to have not only much higher productivity in the industry, but also the necessary working force so that a relief shift can be created and even the total number of workers needed in the sugar industry reduced. Thus, in the future we will grind much more cane, have a relief shift, and at the same time conserve part of the labor force which is needed in our industry today where many processes are antiquated and where many machines are antiquated. Everybody knows that before the revolution the sugar industry had practically brought in nothing new or made any new installations of any importance."

-- Fidel Castro, Cuban dictator, October 28th, 1969

Last week, CNN reported:

Cuba's sugar harvest this year is the worst it's been since 1905, the country's state-run daily newspaper reported.

Citing poor organizational planning, the report said the country's sugar mills face an 850,000-ton deficit in production expectations, the Granma newspaper said Wednesday.


That's right -- 1905.

"Cultural Exchange" Questions

Cuban songwriter Alina Brouwer, daughter of famed composer Leo Brouwer and grand-niece of the legendary Ernesto Lecuona, has sent the following timely letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Obama Administration's "cultural exchange" policy towards the Castro regime:

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State

Madame Secretary,

In March 2003, a group of Cuban poets, plumbers, journalists and everyday people were detained, tried and sentenced to long prison terms. Their crime? Being independent from the government. That same month, three young men who simply wanted to escape the island were also arrested, tried and executed. The global community was shocked. So shocked, that even some regime-supporting intellectuals came out condemning the acts.

To curtail the political damage inflicted upon themselves, the Castro brothers enlisted their top official artists for the document, "Mensaje Desde La Habana a Los Amigos Que Estan Lejos" (Havana, April, 19th, 2003), legitimizing the repression, summary executions and deeming them as necessary. Three of the signatories were my father, composer Leo Brouwer, singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez and ballerina Alicia Alonso. I have learned today that Alonso already has a U.S. visa, while Silvio Rodriguez is planning a big American tour with an opening concert at the legendary Carnegie Hall (New York), and is currently awaiting a visa from the State Department.

Richard Wagner was a great composer. As we all know, he was Adolf Hitler's favorite. Wagner, however, is remembered more for his hateful antisemitic views than for his works. Although the Jewish Holocaust is today part of world history, and Wagner was not even alive when the atrocious crimes were being carried out, many Jewish people can't bear to hear his music. The pain associated with the composer's persona is still very much present in their hearts and minds.

The Libertad Act (1996), clearly states that engaging with Cubans in cultural exchanges can benefit both nations -- I agree. It's also specific on what criteria must be followed in order for someone to qualify to come to the U.S. and benefit from these exchanges, while clearly stipulating that "visas may be denied to certain Cuban nationals who are officers and employees of the Cuban government."

Since President Obama opened the doors to these exchanges, I've seen the Cuban government's official artists and intellectuals flocking to American cities, but I have yet to see one truly independent person benefiting from this new policy. And while it's clear that none of these music groups, academics or writers meet the legal criteria, they are still receiving U.S. visas, and work contracts.

What's the criteria being used to qualify these persons?

What really constitutes a cultural exchange within the law?

Where are the monies that are being used to finance all of these contracts/concerts coming from?

Who's supervising all of it?

Who is benefiting economically and politically from it?

Under what basis can the Cuban government's cultural employees and officials receive visas and who's making these decisions?

These are some of the questions that I am posing to you in this letter, Madame Secretary.

I don't want to doubt the good intentions behind the new Cuba policy. However, it's obvious that those making the decisions on these so-called "cultural exchanges" have either bad intentions or are just bureaucrats who aren't really considering the circumstances, or the law. It seems to me that, up in Washington, no one is listening; or even worse, no one cares.

"Participation in evil can begin with noble and selfless intentions" said Stanislaw Krajewski. There are two facts arising from this discussion: one is from the legal stand point, and the other is from the ethical -- what's right and what's wrong. Either way, both facts set the tone for what is happening. It is now up to you, Madame Secretary, to decide whether to set things right.

Truly yours,

Alina Brouwer

Not a Happy Mother's Day

Monday, May 10, 2010
Mothers Day was not a happy occasion for the wives and mothers of dozens of Cuban political prisoners, known as the ''Ladies in White.''

Watch this Reuters video report from Havana:

Q&A With Pitbull

From an interview with famed Miami-based, Cuban rapper, Pitbull:

What's the most important lesson you want to pass on to your four kids?

The appreciation of hard work. The appreciation of opportunity. The appreciation of freedom. I want them to understand what it is to be a Cuban-American, a Latin American and how many people are losing their lives trying to get to the United States, trying to enjoy the American dream, the freedom that we have. I want my kids to know how hard I've worked for them. I want them to never lose their culture and never lose their hustle.

How do you keep the Cuban side alive in them?

Through food, through music, through language. By teaching them different sayings my grandma used to tell me: Dime con quien tu andas y te dire quien eres. Those couple of words really mean something. I'll always have their culture in their veins, in their blood, in their hearts.

Anything you want to do that you haven't done yet?

I'm dying for Cuba to be free so I can go over there.

It's Ecuador's Fault

Emigration is bad propaganda for the Castro brothers.

As such, they have long-blamed the Cuban Adjustment Act -- a federal law that provides safe-haven for Cuban nationals that reach the U.S. -- as the culprit of the island's emigration woes.

The Castro's have even labeled it as "the killer law."

This criticism is also periodically echoed by some Cuba "experts" in the U.S.

After all, why would anyone voluntarily -- let alone risk their lives to -- flee the Castro's communist tropical paradise, which even Save the World recently ranked (based on the regime's "official" statistics) as one of "the best places in the developing world to be a mother"?

Over the weekend, The Guardian (U.K.) shed further light on this issue:

Havana is being emptied of young people who are choosing emigration after Raúl Castro's promises of more freedoms come to nothing [...] Young people, especially well-educated professionals, are fleeing the island. Tens of thousands have emigrated in the past two years. The exodus has alarmed the communist government but remains largely unreported, a taboo topic for state media.

"It's a sign that the revolution has failed, so they don't want to talk about it. We are losing our future," said Ricardo Martinelli, a university professor who has seen many of his students and his only child, a 23-year-old technician, emigrate in recent months.


So, naturally, this must be the Cuban Adjustment Act's fault, right?

Wrong -- now it's Ecuador's fault:

Ecuador has become a magnet, because it requires only a letter of invitation rather than a visa. Last year Cuban arrivals soared by 147% to 27,114, according to the national immigration agency. The number of Cubans marrying Ecuadorians jumped from 88 in 2007 to 1,542 in the first nine months of 2009.

Before that, it was Spain's fault and so on, and so forth.

The fact remains that Cubans try to flee anywhere they can escape the repressive regime of the Castro brothers.

A shame, really, for this tragedy would be quickly resolved with a one-way ticket to Quito for two.

Obama Adviser: No Positive Movement by Castro

Sunday, May 9, 2010
According to Reuters, the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere in President Obama's National Security Council, Dan Restrepo, stated that the Castro regime is "far" from implementing the improvements in human rights necessary for the U.S. to lift sanctions.

"We haven't seen any positive movement regarding the fundamental rights of the Cuban people during the last 18 months," Restrepo said.

He stressed that President Obama remains committed to supporting the repressed desire of the Cuban people "to freely determine their future."

The War Against Media

A great opinion piece by United Nations correspondent John J. Metzler in The Korea Times:

Cuba censors and stifles media

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right… but around the world there are governments and those wielding power who find many ways to obstruct it," warned U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proclaiming World Press Freedom Day.

Thus when Vincente Botin, a veteran Spanish TV news reporter formerly based in Cuba, briefed U.N. correspondents, the message was all the more poignant. Botin, whose four-year stint in Havana working for Spain's TV Espanola, spoke of the ongoing pressures from the Castro dictatorship and the continuing attacks against the free press.

Botin stated that according to the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, that Cuba holds the dubious distinction of jailing the second largest number of journalists in the world today, led only by the People's Republic of China.

He added that even as a foreign correspondent, being forced to walk a thin line of "self-censorship" and "face a tricky balancing act as to what we can say."

Over the past few years, three foreign correspondents were kicked out of Cuba, and that is why "we have to write between the lines and use metaphor to convey the story."

Importantly Botin stated that since the communist controlled island considers itself in a "state of war," that press surveillance remains intense.

Again citing Reporters Without Borders, he stated that 20 state security agents are assigned to monitor each foreign correspondent.

"Freedom of media is at risk anywhere the independence of thinking is under pressure," stated a Spanish delegate at a separate U.N. committee hearing.

"All U.N. member states make their commitment to respect fundamental freedoms, to guarantee full respect for freedom of expression, and access to information, and to ensure the unhindered movements of press representatives. The EU considers it of paramount importance that these commitments are fully adhered to."

Thus I questioned Botin whether the Spanish government, which let's face it, has a long history with Cuba dating from colonial times to the present day, has taken a pro-active stance on human rights in the Caribbean island?

Given that the Madrid government presently also holds the presidency of the European Union, it is all the more of a political bully pulpit to exert positive influence over Cuba.

Botin conceded that Spanish governments both of the right, namely Jose Maria Aznar and currently Jose Luis Zapatero of the socialist left have spoken of "engagement" for the island. Yet neither right nor left has achieved any positive human rights results in dealing with Fidel Castro.

Interestingly, political pressures from the European Union states have been reserved and limited, with the exception of the Czech Republic's courageous stand.

Botin described the United Nations political position on Cuba as "immoral."

Though he does not favor the longstanding American economic embargo on Cuba which dates from the early years of Castro's rule, Botin admitted that what the Havana regime does not like to admit is that the U.S. is the island's fifth largest trading partner and the largest exporter of food to Cuba. This may prove an uncomfortable contradiction but it is equally a commercial reality.

He conceded that while Raul Castro formally replaced his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, in fact the expected reforms "never materialized."

Moreover the Communist Party of Cuba "controls all." Botin conceded the regime is a "personality driven dictatorship."

Dealing with the Internet, Secretary General Ban stated, "The censors are also active in cyberspace, restricting the use of the Internet and the new media."

According to Botin, the Internet in Cuba plays a very limited role; "It is one of the lowest in the world with only nine in 1,000 people having access, which is actually lower than Togo." The number of Internet bloggers is few but naturally under surveillance.

A 2010 Freedom House survey of global press freedom placed Cuba sixth from the bottom of 196 states surveyed followed only by Eritrea, Libya, Myanmar (Burma), Turkmenistan and North Korea.

In a riveting account of his four years in Cuba, Botin wrote a book, "Castro's Funerals," as a way to "exorcise" himself from the self-censorship and compromises made while formerly living in Castro's state.

Ban Ki-moon stated perhaps optimistically, "This year's theme is freedom of information; the right to know." I'm not so certain the Castro brothers would agree.

On This Mother's Day

We honor the mothers of Cuba's courageous political prisoners.

We honor the indescribable pain and suffering they endure.

We honor their unwavering struggle for freedom.

We honor the ultimate sacrifice of Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of deceased political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

We honor their inevitable triumph.

Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky --
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.


-- William Ross Wallace, American poet, 1819-1881