"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
Sunday, September 23, 2007
"All the world health organizations or whatever [sic] have confirmed that if there's one thing they do right in Cuba, it's health care. And there's very little debate about that."
-- Michael Moore
Reporter John Stossel of 20/20 has the following interesting observations about Michael Moore's claims concerning the state of Cuban healthcare in his "documentary" Sicko:
1. As we previously reported, Moore did not visit representative hospitals, but only elite institutions.
2. The United Nations report that Moore relies upon to support his claims of medical nirvana in Cuba did not gather any data. It simply repeated data given to it by the Cuban government itself, a government that is a crazed dictatorship with no checks on its power or accuracy.
3. Cuba's fetal mortality rates are grossly understated because of the national practice of aborting sick fetuses before they are born and of classifying a fetus which perishes within a few hours of being born as never having been born at all.
4. Moore stated: "All the independent health organizations in the world, and even our own CIA, believes that the Cubans have a pretty good health system. And they do, in fact, live longer than we do." Stossel asked the CIA, and it stated that it never made such a conclusion about Cuban health care; it stated that its data shows Americans live significantly longer on average than Cubans.
5. When challenged with these facts by Stossel, Moore tried to change the subject: "Let's stick to Canada and Britain and this stuff, I think you should challenge me on these things, and I'll give you my answer."
The prosecution rests.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Russian women stranded in Cuba since USSR fall
By Anthony Boadle Wed Sep 5, 8:50 AM ET
HAVANA (Reuters) - They came from Russia with love to a tropical socialist utopia when the going was good.
They were young women romantically drawn to 's revolution, a breath of fresh air on a distant Caribbean island for those who were disillusioned with Soviet communism.
But when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, hundreds of Russian women who married Cubans and moved to were cut off from home and stranded in poverty as the Cuban economy plunged into deep crisis.
For those who had lived through the hardships of in as children, the long blackouts and the lack of food, medicine and fuel for transport were a cruel flashback.
"We were young and Cuba was beautiful when we got here," said film historian Zoia Barash, who arrived in 1963. Cuban leaders were so young compared to the Soviet gerontocracy and abstract art was not seen as incompatible with communism.
Her hopes of finding "true socialism" were dashed, though, as Cuba copied the Soviet model, with sweltering heat added.
"Today our situation is difficult, as it is for the whole country," said Barash, 72, who cannot make ends meet on her 260 peso ($10) monthly pension after 30 years working for the Cuban film industry.
About 1,300 women from Russia and former Soviet republics , and still live in Cuba, scraping a living as best they can.
In an old mansion belonging to the Russian Embassy, two women run a store selling anything from vodka and pickled gherkins to imported toothpaste, Pringles and Viagra pills.
The harshest aspect is not being able to travel home. Cuba used to grant them subsidized tickets every five years, paid for in pesos. But Cuba's airline stopped flying to and tickets must now be paid for in hard cash few can afford.
"My father died in 1994 and I could not go to his funeral," said Zita Kelderari, a Ukrainian gypsy, in tears.
The Flamenco singer fell for a Cuban helicopter pilot in in 1985 and sailed to Cuba on a Soviet freighter loaded with Yugoslavian butter. When he defected to the United States a few years ago, she was left penniless in Cuba.
Only the women lucky enough to receive money from their relatives get to travel these days. On a Cuban pension alone, it would take 10 years to gather the cost of a flight home.
For most it is too late to go back and start a new life. Many are grandmothers with families to look after.
The blackouts are gone and food supplies have improved since the dark days of Cuba's post-Soviet crisis. But housing remains dilapidated and overcrowded, few have cars and access to the Internet is expensive.
NO BOOKS, NO NEWS
's Russian bookstore closed when "perestroika" reforms took hold in Moscow under . Newspaper and magazine subscriptions were stopped, cutting off information from .
Despite the problems, some women have pressed ahead.
"I don't know what nostalgia is. There is no point sitting around crying," said Natalia Balashova, who set about uniting the women in a cultural club for Russian speakers.
Balashova's father was a Bolshevik and she was drawn to Cuba in 1969 as much by love of the Cuban military officer she met in Moscow as by Castro's "bold" transformation of Cuba.
"I knew what to expect. Cuba was building socialism and had its difficulties. We came willingly, out of love," she said. Still, she felt "shipwrecked" when her country disappeared.
Balashova said she tapped her inner reserves and wartime improvisations she learned from her mother to cope with the crisis, such as using crushed egg-shells for cleaning powder.
After a 14-year hiatus, she returned to Moscow last year, invited to attend a world conference of Russians living abroad, and got to meet President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
DEPORTED FROM CUBA
Elena Verselova, who was struggling to get ahead after two Cuban divorces, took her activism in a different direction. She became a dissident on Cuba's depressed Isle of Youth.
Verselova was deported by the Cuban government on July 26, according to her daughter Diana Aguilar, who arrived from Russia when she was a nine-month baby in her mother's arms.
Verselova was harassed and threatened by Cuban police, and eventually arrested, her daughter said. The family had to sell hard-won electrical appliances to pay for her ticket to Moscow, where she arrived with $170 in her pocket to start a new life.
"They didn't let us say good-bye to her," said Aguilar, 22, a University of Havana student. She said the Russian consulate in Cuba refused to help her mother even locate family members in Vladimir, 115 miles east of Moscow.
"I hope to leave Cuba to join my mother. I want to return to my roots in ," said the blond student.
A Cuban documentary "Todas iban a ser reinas" (They were all going to be queens) made last year captured the isolation of women from seven former Soviet republics living in Cuba.
"It was a migration of love, a part of our shattered utopia," said director Gustavo Cruz. "They worked in our country for many years. It would be ungrateful to forget them."
Women from other former Soviet bloc countries were also stranded in Cuba and forgotten by post-communist governments.
Stasia Strach, 65, is one of 49 native Poles living in Cuba -- only three of whom are men. The view from her small apartment overlooking 's Malecon, or sea-wall, is spectacular. But the elevator packed up years ago and the 130 steps are a daily effort. Going home is out of the question.
"What would I do in , beg at the door of a church?" she said. "I have no pension and nowhere to go."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Cuban woman tells tales of human smuggling
Ray Sanchez | Cuba notebook. Sun-Sentinel, September 16, 2007.
Word about potential smuggling voyages comes to her almost weekly, a 24-year-old woman named Adiany says.
Just last week, a friend informed her that two go-fast boats from South Florida would pick up 52 Cuban migrants along the northern coast. "This time it's a sure thing," the friend insisted.
Though anxious to be reunited with her husband in Miami, Adiany declined. The uncertainty and peril surrounding two of her previous trips worried her mother. "I don't think she can handle the stress," said Adiany, who asked that her full name not be used for fear of reprisals by Cuban police.
Adiany claims to have tried to leave the island 25 times. Cuban police have arrested her "numerous" times on her way to meet smugglers, and held her overnight, she said. Other times the boats failed to show up. Twice she has made it on board smuggling vessels, only to be intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and returned to Cuba.
"You try and you fail," said Adiany, who now contemplates flying to a Latin American country and entering the United States through Mexico. "Then you keep trying and trying until finally you make it."
The number of Cubans trying to leave the island appears to be rising, according to analysts and coast guard officials, who cite an increase in interdictions at sea this year. With slightly more than three months to year's end - as of Thursday - the Coast Guard has intercepted 2,467 Cuban migrants at sea, compared with a total of 2,293 in 2006. The current rate threatens to eclipse the 2,952 migrants intercepted in 2005, the largest one-year total since 1994, when 37,191 Cubans were picked up at sea during the rafter crisis.
Adiany attributed the surge to growing desperation among Cubans frustrated with economic disparities as well as U.S. and Cuban government polices that force the separation of families. Because she has been arrested for trying to leave Cuba, Adiany can no longer find work.
Her husband, Franscisco, left Cuba on a go-fast boat a year and a half ago. He lives in Miami, where he installs Direct TV equipment, work that helped him raise part of the $10,000 fee the smugglers will collect when they bring Adiany to Florida. He sends money to Adiany and her mother, but U.S. government limits the amount he can send to $100 per month.
Her mother has done her part to raise the smuggler's fee as well, illegally selling her home in Cuba and moving into a smaller house.
"Getting to Florida becomes an obsession," Adiany said. "The desperation is so great."
Adiany calmly described the disturbing first moments of the perilous journeys. As many as two dozen people wait in water up to their necks or deeper for the boat to arrive. When it does, "People climb over you," she said. "I was pushed underwater. People stepped on me. It's a human stampede. No one cares. There is no control."
A friend of Adiany provided similar accounts. Emilia, a 21-year-old Cuban who twice crossed the Florida Straits with Adiany, said smugglers attempt to maintain order by requesting that women and children board first, but to no avail.
"The men are the first to climb up," Emilia said in a phone interview. "Only then do they try to help others. Everyone fears that the Cuban coast guard will show up and they'll be left behind. It's survival of the fittest."
Adiany and Emilia most recently boarded a boat July 23. Adiany said a migrant traveling near her repeatedly struck his head on the floor of the vessel as it pulled into the open sea. She remembered his head swelling and his body convulsing and twitching as the go-fast boat equipped with three 250-horsepower engines lurched along the Florida Straits in the predawn.
"I remember him saying at the start of our journey that he was determined to reach the United States even in death," Adiany said. "He nearly died."
After the smuggling vessel was intercepted 65 miles south of Dry Tortugas, the man Adiany called Carlos was flown by helicopter to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. Because he had reached dry land, he was allowed to remain in the United States.
The two suspected smugglers were turned over to the customs and border protection authorities in Key West as part of a criminal investigation, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Of the 24 migrants, nine - including a child and Emilia - were turned over to American officials in Key West to assist in the criminal investigation. The testimony of the other migrants, including Adiany, was not needed and they were returned to Cuba on Aug. 2.
This photo was sent on Thursday, September 20, by Dr. Darsi Ferrer, Director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Center for Health and Human Rights.
The young man in the photo is Yuri Martinez Sanchez, 34 years old, who is suffering from AIDS.
Martinez Sanchez has been arrested three times for what is known in Cuba as "peligrosidad social," (social hazard) that allows the Cuban regime to send innocent people to jail just because it considers that they may be "inclined" to commit a crime in the future.
On August 21, his birthday, Martinez Sanchez was walking on the street of what is known as 'Habana Vieja' (Old Havana) around 2 AM, when a Lada automobile, normally used by Cuba's state security, stopped next to him.
Four people came out of, grabbed him and forcibly threw him inside the car. The kidnappers covered his eyes and tied his hands.
After driving around for a while, he was taken inside a house and left alone in a room for approximately 10 hours.
Later, when his kidnapers returned, they tried to remove a tattoo that he had by placing a hot iron on is forehead while being held down by two of the men. The reason? Martinez Sanchez tattooed the letters 'USA' on his forehead about a year ago to protest for his several arrests.
Afterward, the kidnapers placed Martinez Sanchez back in the car and after a 40 minute drive left him on a highway, far from the city. Before leaving, they untied his hands, but he was told not to remove his blindfold. He was warned that if he continued protesting against the regime, next time they would kill him.