New threat of sanctions against Cuba is called
By Nancy San Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Bush administration announcement that Cuba
will face economic sanctions for failing to curtail
the sexual exploitation and forced labor of Cuban
minors will have little impact beyond public humiliation,
several experts say.
''Leverage is minimal,'' said Damián Fernández,
director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida
International University. "This really is
more symbolic than anything else.''
Cuba, Burma and North Korea were among three
nations cited this week for not taking steps to
stop human trafficking, including forcing people
to work or engage in sexual acts against their
will. Twelve other nations, including the Dominican
Republic and Haiti, were spared from losing U.S.
All 15 nations were cited by the State Department
earlier this summer for not doing enough to stop
the trafficking of humans -- internally or across
their borders -- as called for by the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act of 2000.
Cuba's problem is intertwined with the tourism
industry, according to the State Department's
report released in June.
''Cuba is a country of internal trafficking for
sexual exploitation and forced labor,'' the report
states. "Despite occasional measures by the
government of Cuba to crack down on prostitution,
state-controlled tourism establishments and independent
operators facilitate and even encourage the sexual
exploitation of minors by foreign tourists. Government
authorities turn a blind eye to this exploitation
because such activity helps to win hard currency
for state-run enterprises.''
The report also cites Cuba for forcing children
to engage in agricultural work.
In announcing the sanctions Wednesday, U.S. officials
said penalties could include voting against loans
from the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank, neither of which currently lends money to
Cuban officials scoffed at the U.S. assertions.
''It's completely absurd,'' Lázaro Herrera,
a spokesman at the Cuban Interests Section in
Washington, said in a telephone interview Thursday.
"Children are among the most sacred of things
in Cuba. This is nothing more than a political
ploy. It's an insult to our national dignity.
''I don't know what sanctions they [U.S. officials]
could impose. We've had them for more than 40
years,'' Herrera added, referring to the economic
embargo on Cuba.
Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute for
Cuba and Cuban American Studies at the University
of Miami, said the United States is limited in
what it can do, particularly since Cuba does not
turn to the IMF or World Bank for loans.
''This is more about highlighting the abuses
in Cuba,'' he said.
Of the 15 nations, all but five have taken adequate
steps to avoid sanctions that were to take effect
Oct. 1, U.S. officials said. In addition to the
three cited, Liberia and Sudan also have failed
to meet the standards of the legislation. However,
they were spared from sanctions because President
Bush determined that certain multilateral assistance
for these two countries would help the purposes
of the act or U.S. national security, State Department
Those countries rewarded for taking positive
steps include Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Haiti,
Kazakhstan, Suriname, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
Videotape aims to discredit rights advocate
Images show activist allegedly getting a government
By Nancy San Martin, email@example.com.
The controversy over the role of Cuban dissident
Elizardo Sánchez as an alleged government
agent deepened Thursday with the release of a
videotape that purports to show him receiving
a medal of honor from a high-ranking state security
The internationally recognized human rights advocate,
who last month was the focus of a government-sponsored
book claiming he was a snitch, told reporters
in Havana he didn't clearly recall the taped incident
unveiled before the foreign press. But Sánchez
was adamant about never having collaborated with
agents, even as he again acknowledged having
met with them dozens of times over the years.
''You can believe the totalitarian regime, or
believe me,'' Sánchez, head of the Cuban
Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation,
told journalists at his Havana home, the Associated
''I am at peace with my conscience, and time
will tell,'' said Sánchez, a former professor
of Marxism who advocates dialogue with the government
to achieve peaceful change in Cuba.
Still unclear is why the government chose to
discredit Sánchez six months after an island-wide
roundup that landed 75 dissidents in jail. Many
in the United States and Cuba believe the smear
campaign is an attempt by President Fidel Castro's
government to further erode the opposition movement.
''In the worst of cases, Elizardo is a government
agent; but in that case he obviously didn't do
the work the government wanted him to,'' Vladimiro
Roca, another prominent dissident, told The Herald
in a telephone interview from Havana. "Otherwise,
they wouldn't have done what they did.''
With the return to Cuba of Eloy Gutíerrez-Menoyo,
a former rebel commander turned opposition leader,
some people on the island have been speculating
that the government is either permitting or trying
to create a loyal opposition movement.
''The government either exalts people or assassinates
people,'' said Angel De Fana, a leader of the
Miami group Plantados, which supports dissidents
in Cuba. "I can't figure out why they'd release
a little video or book to discredit him. It makes
The videotape follows the Aug. 18 release of
a book authored by two journalists affiliated
with the state-run media that attempted to out
Sánchez as a state security informant.
The book, titled El camaján, or The Freeloader,
displayed several pages of photographs of Sánchez
with men identified as government security officials.
One of the photographs depicted a government
official placing something on Sánchez's
shirt. Sánchez claimed at the time that
the official was placing a pen in his pocket.
But in the taped version of the event, the uniformed
colonel with Cuba's Interior Ministry is clearly
shown pinning a medal to Sánchez's shirt,
''Congratulations, Elizardo,'' the colonel is
heard saying, before the two embrace and share
a toast with two other officials. Cuban authorities
said the ceremony took place on Oct. 28, 1998.
Earlier in the videotaped ceremony, the small
group sang along to a recorded version of the
Cuban national anthem and the colonel thanked
Sánchez for helping authorities identify
three CIA officials in a visiting American delegation,
according to AP.
Efforts by The Herald to reach Sánchez
by telephone were unsuccessful.
Although the videotape raised doubt among some
about Sánchez's relationship with government
agents, other opposition leaders in Cuba remained
supportive and raised their own questions about
the credibility of the tape.
The tape also did little to deter support of
Sánchez in Miami.
''I cannot give any credibility to anything coming
from the regime, period,'' said Sebastián
Arcos Cazabón, who served in a Cuban prison
with Sánchez in the 1980s.
The 59-year-old Sánchez, who describes
himself as a socialist democrat, broke with the
government more than three decades ago and has
since been a vocal critic of human-rights abuses.
He spent four years in Cuban prisons in the early
1980s and founded the human-rights commission
group in 1987.
Herald staff writers Oscar Corral and Alejandro
Landes contributed to this report.
Cuban Americans decry casino's Castro billboards
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - (AP) -- Cuban Americans
are calling for a boycott of the Tropicana Casino
and Resort after the gaming hall erected two billboards
with the likeness of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
The Tropicana is using Castro's image to tout
The Quarter, the casino's $245 million entertainment,
dining, retail and spa development project.
The ads, along two major highways leading into
the city, show Castro with his trademark cigar
and carry the slogan "The next revolution.''
Tropicana spokeswoman Maureen Siman told The
Press of Atlantic City that the dictator's likeness
was used to show that the project was revolutionary.
She said the casino was not trying to make a political
''The project is going to change Atlantic City
in a positive way, in a revolutionary way,'' Siman
told the newspaper.
Leading the boycott call is Assembly Speaker
Albio Sires, D-West New York, who said the ad
campaign was offensive and "pretty stupid.''
''He is one of the biggest violators of freedom,''
said Sires, a Cuban immigrant. "To be rewarded
by being put on a billboard by the Tropicana Casino
in America, I just think it's in poor taste.''
The Cuban American National Foundation said it
has received complaints about the billboard from
Cuban Americans and non-Cubans.
''There's no question it is distasteful,'' said
Mariela Ferretti, a foundation spokeswoman. "It's
just unfortunate that someone should choose to
portray a figure of a man who still has 11 million
subjugated citizens on the island.''