"Nobody is in agreement…It’s that, no one says it and no one takes the risk to say it, to speak the truth. That’s what is happening. In other words, one of the foundations, of what are the regimes in the entire world, in all of history, has been fear and lies. In other words, once you are in fear that's when you don’t take a risk, where you collect yourself and don’t unite…understood? To be in fear is not to offer help to anyone because that signifies risk." -Gorki Águila Carrasco, lead singer, guitarist of the music group Porno Para Ricardo and political prisoner
"Socialist ideology, like so many others, has two main dangers. One stems from confused and incomplete readings of foreign texts, and the other from the arrogance and hidden rage of those who, in order to climb up in the world, pretend to be frantic defenders of the helpless so as to have shoulders on which to stand." --Jose Marti
View Che Guevara's Forgotten Victims on Scribd
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
“13 de marzo” Tugboat Massacre, July 13,1994.
Thirty seven people drowned when the Cuban Coast Guard sank the hijacked tugboat “13 de marzo,” including eleven children:
Ángel René Abreu, age 3, Giselle Borjes, age 4, Juan Mario Gutiérrez, age 11, Caridad Leyva, age 4, Hellen Martínez, age 6 mos., Mayulis Méndez, age 17, José Carlos Nicle, age 3, Yousell Pérez, age 11, Yasser Perodín, age 11, Xicdy Rodríguez, age 2, Eliecer Suárez, age 11
Monday, March 26, 2007
U.S. Remains Top Food Source for Cuba
Mar 25 02:40 PM US/EasternBy WILL WEISSERTAssociated Press Writer
HAVANA (AP) - Since 2003, one country has been the main supplier of food to Fidel Castro's Cuba: the United States.
Surprised? You have good company.
Many Americans think their government's 45-year-old embargo blocks all trade with the communist government, but the United States is the top supplier of food and agricultural products to Cuba. In fact, many Cubans depend on rations grown in Arkansas and North Dakota for their rice and beans.
Since December 1999, governors, senators and congressmen from at least 28 U.S. states have visited Cuba, most to talk trade. They keep coming: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman was flying in Sunday with a farm delegation. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho plans a visit next month.
Washington's sanctions choke off most trade with Cuba, but a law passed by Congress in 2000 authorized cash-only purchases of U.S. food and agricultural products and was cheered by major U.S. farm firms like Archer Daniels Midland Co. interested in the untapped Cuban market.
Cuba refused to import one grain of rice for more than a year because of a dispute over financing, but finally agreed to take advantage of the law after Hurricane Michelle in November 2001 cut into its food stocks.
Since then, Cuba has paid more than $1.5 billion for American food and agricultural products, said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser at the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council of New York.
The $340 million in exports in 2006 represented a drop of about 3 percent from 2005, which was down from nearly $392 million in 2004. Kavulich said the decline was caused mostly by generous subsidies and credits from Venezuela and China.
But the U.S. remains on top. Its main exports to Cuba include chicken, wheat, corn, rice and soybeans—much of it doled out to Cubans on the government ration. The United States also sends Cuba brand-name cola, mayonnaise, hot sauce and candy bars, as well as dairy cows.
Kirby Jones, founder of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association in Washington, said Cuba's food import company Alimport has an entire department dedicated to American purchases.
Jones was in Cuba this month with Arkansas chicken exporters, Nebraska bean growers and officials from the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas.
"Hundreds and hundreds of American executives have come down here," he said. "(Cuban officials) know how to talk to us."
An assistant to Pedro Alvarez, Alimport's chairman, said the company could not comment without authorization from Cuban press officials.
But Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon has said Havana does not expect the U.S. embargo to be eased under President Bush. The current administration tightened restrictions in 2004, further limiting U.S. travel and imposing stricter rules for Cuban payments on U.S. goods.
Don Mason of the Iowa Corn Growers Association agreed, saying he was "less than optimistic" Washington will make it easier to trade with Cuba any time soon. He said the association ships on the order of 450,000 metric tons of corn to the island each year.
Any significant change in U.S. policy would be difficult under the 1996 Helms-Burton law, which prohibits normalization of relations with Cuba as long as 80-year-old Fidel Castro or his brother Raul are in charge. Fidel temporarily ceded power to Raul after emergency intestinal surgery in July.
Despite repeated moves in Congress to ease or eliminate the sanctions, the embargo still has supporters from both parties in both houses.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, introduced a bill in February seeking to promote American agricultural sales to the island by letting Cuba directly wire payments to U.S. banks rather than route them through third countries. But a similar measure introduced in 2005 was not approved.
Some believe American interest in Cuba's new oil exploration efforts could change the political tide.
The island plans deep-water drilling, searching for deposits of crude oil less than 100 miles from Florida's coast. Energy companies from China, India, Spain and elsewhere are interested in investing, but American firms are shut out.
U.S. senators Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, introduced a measure this month that would open Cuban waters to U.S. oil and natural gas companies.
"If that passes, the embargo goes out the window," Jones said. "We're not talking about mayonnaise now. We're talking about million and millions of dollars."
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Benito Cortés Maldonado, Age 41.
Executed By Firing Squad on January 13, 1959, in Santiago de Cuba. U.S. citizen by birth. Born In Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Occupation: Policeman and pilot.
Place of residence: Reparto Aguero, Santiago de Cuba.
The Cortes family had gone to Cuba when Benito was a boy, to expand their businesses in Puerto Rico to Cuba. They were very successful. When Benito came of age, he loved the police force and decided to join. He married a Cuban woman and had five children.
When Batista fled and the revolutionaries came to power, on January 1, 1959, a fellow policeman had gone into hiding and asked him to join in. He had declined, saying he was well known and regarded, has always done his duty, never committed any crimes, and had nothing to fear. Raúl Castro, however, rounded up 165 men –police and military personnel under Batista- on January 12, 1959. After very brief summary trials, with total disregard for due process, had ordered them executed. They were taken at dawn to an old airfield and shot in front of ditches, their bodies buried there. A witness to the executions, who later defected from the government, told the Cortes family that Benito had survived the shooting and had fallen to the ground from a shot to the leg. A militiaman went over and shot him in the head.
The family did not recover his remains for burial. It is thought that he was buried in the ditch where he fell, with the rest of the firing squad victims.
Cuba Archive has testimony of a field with many ditches dug in sequence at San Juan Hill in Santiago de Cuba, to accomodate the serial executions taking place in the first months of the Castro regime.
Sources: Guillermo Cortes, son. Resident of Florida. Personal, written and telephone testimony, 2005 and 2006. Copies of birth and death certificates.
Notes from telephone conversations with son, Guillermo Cortes (resident of Florida), March 10 and 11, 2006. By María C. Werlau
Both Benito's mother and father were from Puerto Rico. The family was well off and his father wanted to extend his enterprises to Cuba. Benito left with his father for Cuba to establish businesses there. They did very well, owned three coffee plantations and even their own private plane.
Benito married a Cuban girl from a poor family. The family lived in Palma Soriano, Oriente province. Guillermo was the oldest of five children.
Benito was a pilot. Guillermo remembered how he would hear him circling the family home from above, he would know his father was coming to get him. His father was very dashing. He loved life in uniform and joined the police force, serving under Batista when he was in power, but he was a good a and respected man, who did harm to no one.
When Castro came to power, a friend in the police force urged Benito to leave the country with him. It would have been easy, as he was a pilot, but he said he had nothing to fear, as he had always done his duty and hurt no one or done anything wrong.
Benito was detained on January 11 or 12 and taken to Santiago, falsely accused of raping a woman. Raúl Castro decide to have scores of "batistianos" killed. They fabricated charges and executed him on January 13th, 1959 with 164 others.
They took them to an old airfield, dug trenches, stood them in front, and shot them. A witness, a man who participated but later turned against the government, told the family he had fallen down, shot in the leg. A lieutenant walked over and shot him on the head.
Guillermo was 14, an intern at the Escolapios de Guanabacoa school, when they notified of his father’s death. The family left Cuba in 1960 for New York.
Guillermo enlisted in the Army, served during the Cuban Missile Crisis, married, and is a Protestant Chaplain. He lived in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, for ten years, working for Abbot Laboratories. He adored his father and all his life he wanted to be like his father, becoming for example a pilot, like him (in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, when he lived there).
Guillermo is both Puerto Rican and Cuban. He married a woman from Puerto Rico and had her go to Puerto Rico to deliver their children so they would be born there. He cannot go to Cuba, is on a government black list. He often serves a Chaplain on cruise ships that circle Cuba. He stares at the island, with grief in his heart.
When he attended the Memorial Cubano 2004 in Miami (www.MemorialCubano.org) and saw the cross with his father's name, he broke down, sobbing. He had never had a chance to mourn his father at his tomb.
The long trail of blood begins in Oriente
January 12-13, 1959
The Revolution had triumphed barely 12 days earlier, after Batista left the country at dawn on New Years’ Day. It was the afternoon of January 12, 1959. On the west cost of the island, in Santiago, Raúl Castro irrupted in the room where over one hundred members Batista military, police, and civilian supporters were being judged by a Revolutionary Tribunal. A multitude of people filled the locale. Raúl –wearing the olive green uniform of the Rebel Army, a black cap on his head and a caliber 45 pistol under his belt- tightly held a machine gun with his left hand. Suddenly, he yelled irately, “Bring this comedy to an end. These despicable men don’t even deserve a trial, they are unworthy dogs.” With the crowd yelling insults at the prisoners, he ordered them into trucks in groups of 12 to 15 and had then taken to San Juan Hill. There, in the shooting range of Madrevieja, they were executed in groups. Many cried out “Long live Cuba,” or “Long live Christ the King” as the firing squad platoon did its deed. The killing went on all night, past dawn of the next day, January 13. The victims were buried in mass graves dug by bulldozers at San Juan Hill.
Source: Testimony attributed to a lawyer who witnessed the events. In Alberto Alonso, “El baño de sangre comenzó en Oriente,” Defensa Institucional Cubana, Enrique Pizzi de Porras, ed., Año XI, Nro. 124, México, D.F.
an initiative of the
Free Society Project, Inc.
The Martin Family
Armando Martín Vázquez, Age 34,
Mercedes Romero Vargas, Age 32,
and son Yuniel Martín Romero, Age 11.
Residents of Mariel, Pinar del Rio, Cuba.
Drowned August 7, 1994 in the Florida Straits attempting to flee Cuba for the United States.
The family left on a small boat from Mariel, Pinar del Rio Province, with another family of three, by the last name Busot. On another boat was a group of 5 or 6 relatives, also from Mariel.
On August 7, 1994, in the Florida Straits, a storm developed and their boat capsized and they plus the Busot couple drowned. Only the child of the Busot family was saved, as he was pulled to safety unto the other boat.
Sources: Testimony by Armando Martín's uncle, resident of Florida, March 2006.The survivors, who made it to Florida, told the story on local media, including Channel 23.
The Canimar River Massacre
56 assassinated by the Cuban government on
July 6, 1980 for attempting to flee Cuba
The Canimar is a scenic Cuban river that flows into Matanzas Bay, near Varadero beach. In 1980, a tourist excursion service was inaugurated using the "XX Aniversario," a large boat with two decks of chairs and capacity for 100 passengers. It was to navigate for approximately 5 miles inland along the Canimar river.
On 6 July, 1980, the excursion boat was hijacked by three youngsters who wanted to flee Cuba and take the boat to the United States –Ramón Calveiro Leon (15 years old) and the brothers Silvio Aguila Yanes (18 years old) and Sergio Aguila Yanes (19 years old). Sergio was a Sergeant in the Cuban Armed Forces. Another youngster involved in the plot, Humberto Martínez Echazabal (19 years old), reportedly never made it when the hijacking took place.
Upon taking control of the vessel, the youngsters shouted: "To Miami!" amid screams of approval on the part of the surprised 100 passengers. The security guard resisted and shot at the youngsters, who wounded him with firearms they had brought aboard. Concerned for his health, they placed him on a fisherman’s boat that came along, together with a passenger who wanted to leave, sending them back to shore. Upon arriving, they alerted authorities. Meanwhile, the "XX Aniversario" had turned around and heading out to open seas.
Julián Rizo Alvarez, Secretary of the Communist party in Matanzas Province, commanded a chase. He dispatched two high-speed Cuban Navy patrol boats with orders to prevent the escape, sinking the vessel if necessary. They opened fire on the excursion boat and the youngsters fired back. When the patrol boat withdrew, several dead and wounded passengers were left on the deck of the “XX Aniversario.” A Cuban Air Force plane then opened fire, leaving more dead and wounded on the bloodied deck.
The excursion boat was very close to international waters when a huge boat rammed it the middle, sinking it. The surviving passengers, now in the water, soon had to contend with sharks attracted by all the blood. Silvio Aguila Yanes dove into the water and saved several survivors from drowning. Ten survivors were taken ashore by authorities.
The Cuban government claims that the “XX Aniversario" was accidentally sunk when waves forced the larger vessel to collide with it. It did not allow communal funerals for the victims. Survivors were ordered to keep silent and to never gather in groups with more than two of them present. For several years, government agents monitored their activities while they and victims' relatives were offered gifts of televisions and appliances usually reserved for high government officials.
The Cuban government claims that Sergio Aguila Yanes committed suicide, while others report he was taken from the water by the crew of the Cuban Navy patrol boats and never seen again. Silvio Aguila Yanes serves a 30-year prison sentence at “Combinado del Este” prison in Havana. Witnesses report he has been subjected to psychiatric torture with large doses of psychotropic drugs. 15 year-old Roberto Calveiro served time in prison but reportedly was released and lives in exile.
The toll of this disaster was 56 victims: eleven bodies recovered and forty-five went missing at sea. Among the children assassinated, Lilian González López, age 3, Marisol Martínez Aragonés, age 17, Osmanly Rosales Valdés, age 9, and Marisel San Juan Aragonés, age 11.
Haydée Santamaría Hart, veteran of the 1953 attack on the Moncada Army barracks, Director of the “Casa de Las Americas,” and wife of the then Cuban Minister of Education, was a final indirect victim of this tragedy. Immediately after the Canimar River tragedy, she visited the hospitals in the city of Matanzas, where survivors were receiving medical attention. One month later, on July 26, 1980. Haydee, already in despair after the “Mariel” boat exodus, committed suicide.
by Jeff Jacoby
When Fidel Castro finally dies, a few may remember the facts. He has killed far more people than the dictator he replaced. (Claudia Daut/Reuters/file 2006)
IT WAS on New Year's Day in 1959 that Fidel Castro's guerrillas toppled Fulgencio Batista, and a week later that Castro entered Havana and launched what has become the world's longest-lived dictatorship. This week thus marks the 48th anniversary of Castro's revolution -- and the last one he will celebrate, if the persistent rumors that he is dying prove to be true. Which makes this a good time to ask: What will be said about Castro after his death?
For decades, journalists and celebrities have showered Cuba's despot with praise . Norman Mailer, for example, proclaimed him "the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World War." Oliver Stone has called him "one of the earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult."
The cheerleaders have been just as enthusiastic in describing Castro's record in Cuba. "A beacon of success for much of Latin America and the Third World," gushed Giselle Fernandez of CBS. "For Castro," Barbara Walters declared, "freedom starts with education. And if literacy alone were the yardstick, Cuba would rank as one of the freest nations on earth." Covering Cuba's one-party election in 1998, CNN's Lucia Newman grandly described "a system President Castro boasts is the most democratic and cleanest in the world."
During a 1995 visit to New York, writes Humberto Fontova in "Fidel," a blistering exposé of Castro and his regime, Cuba's maximum leader "plunged into Manhattan's social swirl, hobnobbing with dozens of glitterati, pundits, and power brokers." From the invitation to dine at the Rockefeller family's Westchester County, N.Y., estate to being literally kissed and hugged by Diane Sawyer, Castro was drenched with flattery and adoration at every turn.
When Castro dies, some of his obituarists will no doubt continue this pattern of fawning hero-worship. But others, more concerned with accuracy than with apologetics, will squarely face the facts of Castro's reign. Facts such as these:
Castro came to power with American support.
The United States welcomed Castro's ouster of Batista and was one of the first nations to recognize the new government in 1959. It was not until 1961 that President Eisenhower -- reacting to "a long series of harassments, baseless accusations, and vilification" -- broke diplomatic ties with Havana. By that point Castro had nationalized all US businesses in Cuba and confiscated American properties worth nearly $2 billion.
Well before he came to power, Castro regarded the United States as an enemy. In a 1957 letter the future ruler wrote to a friend: "War against the United States is my true destiny. When this war's over, I'll start that much bigger and wider war."
Castro transformed Cuba into a totalitarian hellhole.
Freedom House gives Cuba its lowest possible rating for civil liberties and political rights, placing it with Burma, North Korea, and Sudan as one of the world's most repressive regimes. Hundreds of political prisoners are behind bars. Among them, writes Carlos Alberto Montaner in Foreign Policy, are "48 young people [imprisoned] for collecting signatures for a referendum, 23 journalists for writing articles about the regime, and 18 librarians for loaning forbidden books." Political prisoners can be beaten, starved, denied medical care, locked in solitary confinement, and forced into slave labor. Castro long ago eliminated freedom of religion, due process of law, and the right to leave the country.
Castro stole Cuba's wealth.
While Cubans grew progressively poorer under communism, Castro exploited them to become one of the world's richest people. Foreign companies doing business in Cuba must pay a significant sum for each worker they hire -- but most of the money goes to Castro's regime, while the workers receive only a pittance. Castro also controls Cuba's state-owned companies, whose profits account for much of his wealth. Castro insists that his personal net worth is zero, but Forbes magazine estimates the amount to be $900 million.
Castro shed far more blood than the dictator he replaced.
According to the Cuba Archive, which is documenting the deaths of each person killed by Cuba's rulers since 1952, Batista was responsible for approximately 3,000 deaths. Castro's toll has been far higher. So far the archive has documented more than 8,000 specific victims of the Castro regime -- including 5,775 firing squad executions, 1,231 extrajudicial assassinations, and 984 deaths in prison. When fully documented, the body count is expected to reach 17,000 -- plus the tens of thousands of Cubans who lost their lives at sea while fleeing Castro's Caribbean nightmare.
"Condemn me, it doesn't matter," Castro once said. "History will absolve me." But as Castro's ultimate day of judgment draws near, history is not likely to be so kind.
Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Idaho governor seeking approval for trade mission to Cuba
Ag News, March 22, 2007.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - State officials have filed applications with the U.S. State Department for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to travel to the communist island nation of Cuba on a trade mission to promote Idaho agricultural products.
Cuba has been under a U.S. trade and travel embargo since 1962, which Otter would like to see lifted.
"While in Congress, he made it clear that the embargo with Cuba has been a failure," Mark Warbis, Otter's communications director, told the Idaho Statesman. "It's not the government, but the people it's punishing."
Otter would be part of a trade mission that would include other state officials as well as business leaders. State officials hope to receive approval by the end of the month, and travel to Cuba next month.
The U.S. began allowing the sale of food and medicine to Cuba in 2000.
As a U.S. congressman representing Idaho, Otter traveled to Cuba three times in 2003 and 2004. A February 2004 visit included Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and the two met with Cuban President Fidel Castro and negotiated a $10 million trade agreement.
But little trade resulted because Cuba didn't want to pay prices Idaho companies required, said Sid Smith, Craig's spokesman.
The Idaho Commerce and Labor department reported that Idaho exported $22,613 worth of frozen vegetables to Cuba in 2004.
Developing trade relations would be a "fantastic move," said Robin Lorentzen, a professor of sociology at Albertson College in Caldwell.
"It would be very beneficial to Idaho farmers and the Cubans as well," she said.
Nina Ray, a professor of marketing at Boise State University, said the visit is a smart idea considering Castro's failing health and the possibility of improved relations between the two nations were Castro to die.
She said that might lead to markets for high-tech products from Idaho.
"Cubans aren't ignorant about high tech," Ray said. "Although they can't afford high tech, they are very educated, and if trade does open up more it would open up for our high-tech products."
Information from: Idaho Statesman.