July 20, 2005

The Miami Herald

Former official: Reduce Cuba tensions

By Brooke Prescott, Posted on Mon, Jul. 18, 2005.

Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, spoke in Coral Gables on Sunday urging normal relations between the United States and Cuba.

During an event at the Biltmore Hotel, Smith called for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba beginning with the easing of travel restrictions and, ultimately, ending the trade embargo on the island.

''We should reduce tensions, not aggravate it, making it clear to the Cuban government that we do not have hostile intentions toward them,'' Smith said during a 40-minute speech at a conference titled Cuba and the United States: Relations in Permanent Conflict, Causes, Effects and Solutions.

''I did not say lift the embargo without conditions,'' he said.

Many Cuban exiles support the embargo as a legitimate foreign policy tool to pressure the Cuban government into allowing changes that would bring democracy to the communist-controlled island.

The conference was sponsored by the Greater Miami Free Speech Coalition. Alberto Fernandez, a member of the group's steering committee, said the organization

JFK artifacts recovered

Items belonging to President Kennedy -- including a map of Cuba -- have been found and placed in his archives

By Jenna Russell, Boston Globe. Posted on Mon, Jul. 18, 2005.

The map of Cuba, displayed at the Kennedy Library and Museum, bears the marks of history: a series of X marks in black ink, crosshatched east and west of Havana by President John F. Kennedy, and two foreboding words scrawled above them: "missile sites.''

A priceless artifact of the Cuban missile crisis, the map was used by Kennedy during a Cabinet briefing on the morning of Oct. 16, 1962, as CIA officials described the evidence, discovered by spy planes.

A more vital piece of U.S. history would be hard to find. But not long ago, the map was unknown to the museum and was up for grabs, listed for sale on the Internet for $750,000.

Its arrival at the Kennedy library, with thousands of pages of documents and a half-dozen other long-missing items, seemed to close the book on a bitter, long-running dispute. For almost a decade, the library and the Kennedy family have sought the return of presidential papers and possessions taken by the president's former secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, and willed to her friend and fellow collector, Robert White, after her death.

When White died two years ago, library leaders saw an opportunity and asked lawyers for the National Archives to intervene in the settlement of his estate. The rewards, unveiled to reporters last Wednesday but not on public display, include the Cuba map; a pair of gilded eagle bookends used in the Oval Office; a brown suede glove worn by Kennedy at his inauguration; and his worn copy of ''Why England Slept,'' his book based on his thesis at Harvard.

''These are precious artifacts which should have been here all along but which were wrongfully removed,'' said Deborah Leff, director of the library. "They belong to the American people.''

The Cuba map -- sold by White to another collector, discovered online by a National Archives researcher and recovered after two years of litigation -- was the most exciting find, curator Frank Rigg said.

''It takes me right to that moment, when he was trying to digest that information,'' he said. "Who knows what was going through his mind?''

While key artifacts were returned to the museum, the terms of the settlement allowed the collector's widow to keep thousands of other items. The widow, Jacquelyn White, plans to auction them off in New York in December, her lawyer, Robert M. Adler, said. Among them will be a watch worn by Kennedy at his inauguration and flags that flew on his limousine in Dallas the day he was assassinated, Adler said.

The story of the lost fragments of Kennedy history is one of betrayal, according to family members, who once considered the president's secretary a friend. Raised on a farm in Nebraska, Lincoln attended college in Washington, D.C., and worked for Kennedy from 1953, for his first term in the Senate, until 1963, when she accompanied him on his trip to Dallas. In a letter to the secretary after her husband's death, Jacqueline Kennedy wrote that the memories she shared with Lincoln "will bind us together for always.''

Described by those who knew her as a ''presidential pack rat,'' Lincoln saved even Kennedy doodles. After his death, she was hired by the government to oversee the processing of his papers. This took four years, and it was probably then, National Archives general counsel Gary M. Stern said, that she took home documents and objects that belonged to the government.

''The library was absolutely aware that she had a substantial collection,'' Adler said.

Ignoring embargo, Americans film in Cuba

American filmmakers who shot a movie in Cuba and will screen it today at the American Black Film Festival may have violated the 45-year-old economic embargo.

By Daniel Chang, Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.

What may be the first American feature film made in Cuba since Fidel Castro's revolution will screen at the American Black Film Festival on Miami Beach today.

Not since 1959, when actor Errol Flynn made his last picture, Cuban Rebel Girls (tag line: "Filmed during the heaviest fighting of the Cuban revolution''), has an American filmmaker shot a movie on the communist island, say the creators of Love & Suicide, a romantic drama shot in Havana over 12 days in December 2003.

It's not that Tinsel Town has no interest in the Land of Tobacco and Rum. Hollywood heavyweights from Steven Spielberg and Stephen Soderbergh to Francis Ford Coppola and Sydney Pollack have expressed a desire to make movies in Cuba.

But Cuba has been off-limits to American filmmakers with commercial motives since the U.S. government imposed an embargo against the island in 1960.

Some independent filmmakers, though, are ignoring the embargo.

Luis Moro, a Cuban American filmmaker from Los Angeles, filmed Love & Suicide while attending the 2003 Havana International Film Festival, which was screening one of his earlier movies, Anne B. Real.

Moro traveled to Cuba with about 10 Americans -- actors, a director, a cinematographer. While there, they used wireless microphones and a digital camera the size of a shoebox to film 15 hours of scenes in the streets and parks of Old Havana, in cabs, bars and homes.

The filmmakers say they did not cooperate with the Cuban government.

''Nobody bothered us about anything. . . . We looked like tourists,'' said director Lisa France. "We weren't trying to hide.''

For American filmmakers, Cuba long has radiated an otherworldly appeal.

Scene after scene in Love & Suicide portray a picturesque island: fishermen's dories bob in shimmering Havana Harbor, majestic waves crash over the el Malecón seawall, a setting sun casts the coastal Morro Castle in silhouette. The film portrays the fictional narrative of Tomás (played by actor Kamar de los Reyes), a distraught New Yorker who travels to Cuba with the intention of taking his life but ends up falling in love with Nina (played by actress Daisy McCrackin) and rediscovering his ancestral roots.

Long before Love & Suicide, American filmmakers publicly expressed desires to film on the island but were forbidden because of the U.S. embargo. Pollack's Havana and Coppola's Godfather II, for instance, have scenes set in Cuba and both directors reportedly wanted to film on the island.

To be sure, films made in Cuba have screened in American theaters before -- including the 1999 documentary Buena Vista Social Club, which was produced by a German company in partnership with Cuba's Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos, or ICAC.

Those films were distributed in American theaters under a cultural exemption to the embargo that allows U.S. companies to buy completed films, recordings and art, and participate in their distribution.

But Americans are prohibited from directly financing or producing a film in Cuba.

And while the U.S. Department of the Treasury has issued licenses for American filmmakers to work in Cuba in the past, those licenses are limited to filmmakers engaged in noncommercial, academic research.

Molly Millerwise, a Treasury department spokeswoman, has not seen Love & Suicide. But, she said, "U.S. persons must have a specific or general license from the Treasury department to travel to Cuba. If not they may face civil monetary penalties or criminal penalties.''

Moro and France say they did not knowingly break the law.

Young Cuban filmmakers say they have worked on the island without the government's knowledge -- largely by using guerrilla techniques.

''I basically shoot indoors. I shoot in areas that are not problematic,'' said Miguel Coyula, 27, who left Cuba in 2002 and said he made 12 short films while living there.

Coyula, who now lives in New York City, made his last film in Cuba in 2001. He plans to visit the island in January.

Asked if he plans a movie, Coyula quickly replied.

''Oh yes,'' he said, "I'm planning to shoot there.''

Cuba trip ends with no games

A rugby team from Naples returned from Cuba confused and disappointed after games it expected to play never materialized.

By Cammy Clark, Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2005.

The Naples Rugby Football Club practiced in the heat and humidity of Havana, ate two pigs during a team barbecue at the beach and went on a historical-sights tour in a fleet of horse-drawn carriages.

Most of the players even rode out Hurricane Dennis in their rooms at Hotel Vedado, while drinking rum and beer and watching radar of the storm pass over them on CNN before the electricity went out.

But the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba to play four rugby games -- one of which was to be against the Cuban National Team on the Fourth of July at Jose Marti Stadium -- ended with the Cuban ministry of sports canceling all scheduled competition.

The reason remains a mystery to the U.S. team.

''They wouldn't even meet with us; they didn't offer us an explanation,'' said player Sean Reddick, who also organized the trip and acquired the necessary amateur sports license to compete in Cuba from the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

''It's frustrating, but we'll continue to ask why,'' Reddick said.

The 45-person Naples-based team, which included five players from Miami and four from Key West, was angry it didn't get a chance to play after spending $1,100 each for the nine-day trip as well as giving up several Saturdays for practice and vacation time.

''I wish I was able to tell you about a hard-hitting competition,'' said Bill McDonough, captain of the Key West Rugby Club. "The guys would much rather be nursing bruises than nursing hangovers.''

Reddick also was concerned about how the fiasco "will affect the way the world looks at Cuban rugby.''

The Cubans are in the midst of trying to become members of the International Rugby Board and join the Caribbean Union.

''I don't think it's any fault of the Cuban rugby team,'' Reddick said. "They were pretty much victimized, too.''


The team arrived in Havana via a charter flight from Miami on July 2. At that point, things still seemed to be going according to plan with the exception that the team was not allowed to use a field to practice.

Team captain Wadie Zacca, a Miami-based estate lawyer, said he wasn't concerned because the rugby goal posts were in place.

But on Sunday, Reddick got a phone call from Chukin Chao Campanioni, director of Cuban Rugby Development and the person who extended to the Naples team the formal invitation to play, who told him the games were canceled and offered no reason.

The Cubans also were not allowed to attend a joint team dinner planned for later that night and a joint team barbecue planned for two days later.

Some players surmised that the reason was political.

''Here we are, 45 guys coming off a plane from Miami,'' Zacca said. "A reporter from AP was there and went over to the Cuban side to try to get interviews with those guys.

"In my opinion, having us play them on July 4 was a bit too overwhelming. For us, it was not a matter of winning on July 4. We just wanted to play.''


Reddick said all along there was no political agenda. The goal was simply to promote rugby in Cuba. To that end, Reddick wrote a letter, inviting Cuban President Fidel Castro to the game.

Reddick spent July 4 and 5 trying to salvage the rare sports opportunity he had worked on for months. He went to ''Cuba Deportes,'' the ministry of sports, to try to talk with the official who canceled the games. He never got past the secretary, although the official did talk briefly with a Spanish-speaking Naples player.

According to Reddick, the official told the player that "he didn't know we were there.''

Reddick said: "That's untrue. I have e-mails that we notified them. And the official was offended by [The Herald's] article.''

In that article, Cuban American National Foundation executive director Alfredo Mesa was quoted as saying that inviting Castro was "like inviting Osama bin Laden to view the reconstruction of the World Trade Center.''

But the article ran July 4. The games had been canceled July 3.

A couple of players and the French coach of the Cuban team visited some of the Naples players, who gave them a bag full of clothing.

''One of our guys told the French coach who spoke pretty good English, 'If we were in Miami or Florida and President Bush said we can't play the Cuban team, we would have told Bush, "Sorry, but we're playing.'' ' That's the big difference between here and there,'' Zacca said.

The team practiced July 5 in hopes of playing, but by Wednesday the focus changed from rugby to evacuation. Hurricane Dennis was heading straight for the island nation.

Eight players were able to catch flights home before the storm hit last Friday, but the rest were stranded to ride it out. The night before it hit, the players watched a packed free Air Supply concert in the pouring rain at a stage near the Malecon, Havana's famed seawall.

They finally got home last Sunday.

''The trip is something you can definitely tell your kids about someday,'' said McDonough, who flew to Miami via the Bahamas and then rented a car to Key West to secure his home just before the hurricane arrived. "But it's not what we wanted. I really wish we had an answer as to what the decision was and why it was made. But we know we may never get that.''

Visas offered to war hero's Cuban sons

The State Department has offered the sons of a Cuban-American war hero fast-track visas so they can visit him in the United States.

By Pablo Bachelet, Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.

WASHINGTON - The State Department is making the unusual offer of giving expedited visas to the Cuban sons of Iraq war hero Sgt. Carlos Lazo so they can visit him in the United States, people familiar with the case said Friday.

The offer is the latest twist in a case that opponents of the U.S. embargo against Cuba have highlighted as a symbol of the human cost of travel restrictions to the island. The move is unusual because it is the U.S. government that has reached out to the Lazo family with the offer, rather than the other way around. Critics say the Bush administration and its congressional allies are simply trying to take an embarrassing case out of the public spotlight.

In a phone interview with The Herald, Lazo confirmed that his sons, Carlos Manuel, 19, and Carlos Rafael, 16, have been invited to the U.S. Interest Section in Havana for an interview on Monday to explore visa options.

A National Guard medic who received a bronze star for helping injured troops while under fire in Fallujah, Lazo tried and failed to visit his sons last year, just before new regulations went into place that limited family visits at once every three years. Lazo had been visiting his sons regularly since 1994.

He renewed his campaign again in March, when his younger son was hospitalized for 10 days for a viral infection.

''I think the restrictions are unjust, cruel, leave no room for humanitarian exceptions, and in addition attack my right as a U.S. citizen to travel,'' he said.

Lazo's photo, clad in bandanna and combat fatigues, was a regular fixture in last month's House and Senate floor debates on the travel restrictions. Opponents of the measures argued that the travel curbs needlessly separate families while doing little to weaken the government of Fidel Castro.

Supporters of the measures say Castro uses the money from travelers to sustain a repressive communist regime. Legislative initiatives aimed at easing the restrictions failed to pass Congress last month.

Lazo has met with more than 50 members of Congress, including one 40-minute encounter with Florida Sen. Mel Martínez. It was Martínez, Lazo said, who first proposed having his sons visit their father in the United States.

''I am aware of the State Department's process,'' Martínez said in an e-mail. "My office will help in any way we can within the limits of current U.S. policy toward Cuba. I believe it would be good for his sons to visit a free society and a free country.''

Kevin Whitaker, who heads the Cuban affairs office at the Department of State, spoke with Lazo on two occasions about the effort to give his sons visas.

The State Department declined to comment on the visa offer, saying they do not speak about visa-related cases.

Opponents of the travel ban say the Bush administration is motivated by more than just humanitarian considerations in a case that raises questions over just how many more fast-track visas the State Department is willing to award to families whose needs are as urgent as Lazo's but less high-profile.

''They want to get this story off the radar screen,'' said Sarah Stephens, who heads the Center for International Policy's Freedom to Travel Campaign, an advocacy group that argues for more contact with the island.

Lazo said he initially turned down Martínez's offer because his kids were in school, but now he is hopeful the reunion can take place during the summer vacations. He has sent his sons money to apply for passports but worries that it will all come to naught because Cuban regulations forbid draft-age youngsters from leaving the island.

Washington, which Lazo says is well aware of the Cuban laws, could then blame Havana for refusing to let his sons travel to the United States.

''I trust that people have the best of intentions,'' said Lazo, who spent a year in a Cuban jail for trying to flee the country in 1988. ''But the road to hell is paved with good intentions,'' he added.

Cubans losing patience with Castro

Daily blackouts, ongoing financial woes and Hurricane Dennis have helped fan the flames of discontent among Cubans, many of whom blame Fidel Castro for their problems.

By Marc Frank, Financial Times. Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.

Record summer heat has combined with hurricanes, relentless power cuts, water shortages and crumbling housing to tax Cubans' traditional patience with President Fidel Castro's government and the strains caused by the U.S. embargo.

''I've never seen people talk this way about Fidel. That they want his head. Most of them really do not mean it. It's more like they are really frustrated with their father,'' a Havana housewife said the other night sitting in her pitch-black home in the La Lisa district.

Castro raised expectations this year when he announced a big increase in reserves, centralized control of foreign exchange and alliances with China, while oil-rich Venezuela finally put an end to Cuba's 15-year crisis that followed the Soviet Union's demise.


The Cuban leader, who turns 79 next month and has been in power for 46 years, said hundreds of millions were being spent to ensure the chronic energy shortage that marked the crisis would improve by the holiday months of July and August and disappear completely within a year.

Castro also increased most state salaries and pensions, announced plans to improve free healthcare strained by the absence of thousands of doctors sent to Venezuela and promised to shore up waterworks and transport and build 50,000 homes a year.

But since May, daily blackouts of six, 12 and even 18 hours have left Cubans miserable and expectations dashed, even as millions live with little if any running water due to a long drought and then suffer leaky roofs when it does rain.

Cuba's power grid simply cannot meet demand. Obsolete plants need constant maintenance and burn a sulfur-ridden local fuel that clogs and destroys equipment. Breakdowns throw the entire system into crisis.


Small, scattered protests have taken place from one end of the island to the other, unusual events in this tightly controlled society.

''A few people have been putting up anti-government posters and stirring people up,'' a nurse in the central part of the country said.

A Havana resident said people were throwing bottles from his high-rise apartment complex when the lights went out at night.

A rare July hurricane, Dennis, has made matters worse, killing 16 people, causing $1.4 billion in damage, destroying 15,000 homes and cutting power lines between the east and west of the country.

A recent National Housing Institute report said 500,000 new homes were needed and 43 percent of the current stock was in mediocre or poor shape, due in part to six hurricanes in less than five years that damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of dwellings.

''Dennis multiplied the problems. We are still without water, the blackouts are just as bad, if not worse, and the storm blew away what little we managed to plant in recent weeks,'' said Antonio, a government-supporting pensioner in drought-stricken eastern Holguin province.

Above-normal June rains combined with Dennis eased the impact of the worst drought in a century. This saw two million of Cuba's 11 million citizens fetching water from trucks and turned the island's lush greens into ugly yellows and browns, forcing the government to almost double food imports that already accounted for 50 percent of the local diet.

Panel: Miami trial of Cubans unfair

A U.N. human rights group has concluded that the trial in Miami and subsequent imprisonment of five alleged Cuban spies were flawed.

Posted on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005.

GENEVA - (AP) -- The U.S. detention of five Cubans convicted in a Miami trial of being spies is arbitrary and in violation of international law, according to a U.N. panel ruling obtained by The Associated Press Thursday.

The judgment by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that the Cubans -- convicted in 2001 on charges of trying to infiltrate U.S. military bases and Cuban exile groups in South Florida -- were denied full access to evidence and to their lawyers.

The working group is one of several sections within the Geneva-based U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Its makeup was not immediately known but its top official, Leila Zerrougui, an Algerian magistrate, has the title of Special Reporter.

Zerrougui told the AP by phone from Algeria that she could not comment on the decision because it was sent to the U.S. government for comment.

The Herald's efforts to reach some of the Miami prosecutors and defense lawyers involved in the trial were unsuccessful Thursday.

The ruling, which cannot be enforced under international law, urged the U.S. government to "adopt the necessary steps to remedy the situation, in conformity with principles stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.''

In its ruling, the panel found that the Cubans' trial "did not take place in the climate of objectivity and impartiality which is required in order to conclude on the observance of the standards of a fair trial.''

The ruling concluded that these failings "are of such gravity that they confer the deprivation of liberty of these five persons an arbitrary character.''

Geraldo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labanino, Fernando González and René González were arrested in September 1998 as part of the so-called Wasp Network.

They are serving sentences ranging from 15 years to life.

The Cuban government has been carrying on a publicity campaign defending the five men.

Protests lead to arrests in Cuba

At least 11 Havana residents were detained for participating in demonstrations deemed anti-government.

By Nancy San Martin, Posted on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005.

At least 11 protesters who participated in demonstrations in Havana commemorating a deadly 1994 tugboat sinking remained in custody Thursday, according to a human rights activist on the island.

The arrests came after clashes Wednesday along the seaside Malecón highway between a small group of protesters and a much larger contingency of government supporters, as well as a separate, more violent incident near the Plaza de la Revolución in central Havana.

Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation in Havana, said his organization confirmed the detention of 11 people, including two women, but have reports of as many as 20 arrests.

''There are no charges against them and they remain incommunicado from family members,'' Sánchez told The Herald in a phone interview.

Sánchez said the repressive actions -- veiled as counter-protests -- were carried out in four separate incidents, three of them along the Malecón and a fourth near the Plaza de la Revolución that involved ''punching and kicking'' by rapid-response brigades.

''It is a great pity that the Cuban government's fear of its own people prompts it to attack people who were simply demanding their own human rights,'' Kevin Whitaker, the State Department's coordinator of Cuban affairs, said Thursday on Radio Martí.

The hostile acts were similar to a verbal attack in March against the wives of some of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003. About 150 members of the state-run Federation of Women surrounded the wives, known as the ''Ladies in White,'' and shouted insults and slogans as the wives tried to carry out a silent protest to bring attention to their plight.

Beatriz Pedroso, wife of imprisoned dissident Julio César Gálvez, said that ''tempers are flaring'' as the country continues to struggle with extended blackouts and a shortage of food, made worse by Hurricane Dennis.

Several spontaneous anti-government acts, including vandalism against government buildings, have been reported across the island in recent days.

''The scarcities are worse than ever. We just got rid of one hurricane, but we've been dealing with another one for more than 40 years,'' Pedroso said by phone from Havana.

Herald translator Renato Perez contributed to this report.

Cubans, Americans unite to save Hemingway home

U.S. preservationists have offered Cuba help in shoring up Ernest Hemingway's beloved home outside of Havana.

By Amy Driscoll, Posted on Thu, Jul. 14, 2005.

The yellow-tiled room where Ernest Hemingway stood to write For Whom the Bell Tolls is empty now, his house stripped of its books and bull-fighting posters and bottle of Gordon's gin that stayed right where he left them for more than four decades after his death.

The famous artifacts have been tucked safely away, preservationists say, as part of a rare joint effort by Cubans and Americans to save the rotting Havana villa that Hemingway called home through 20-plus years, two wives and the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature.

''This is a unique literary shrine -- one-of-a-kind,'' said Jenny Phillips, chairman of the board of the Hemingway Preservation Foundation and granddaughter of Hemingway's editor and friend, Max Perkins. "If it isn't preserved, it may be lost forever.''

The author's beloved Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, suffers from structural problems and damage from tropical weather, most recently Hurricane Dennis. Built in 1886, the building's walls are crumbling, the pool is empty and the roof leaks, especially in Hemingway's writing room. Experts have called it a preservation emergency.

The Cuban government has begun restoration work but Americans like Phillips want to help, offering expertise and -- eventually, they hope -- financial resources.

''We see it as a shared responsibility,'' she said.

Last month, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the home, used as a museum since Hemingway's death in 1961, on its annual list of endangered historic sites. It was the first time a non-American property has made the list.

''Even though the finca sits on foreign soil, it's a part of our heritage as well as the heritage of the Cuban people,'' explained Paul Edmondson, vice president and general counsel for the trust. "It was the house Hemingway lived in longest, and he loved it the best. He felt a great connection to Cuba.''

The house, located in a suburb about 12 miles outside of Havana, played a significant role in Hemingway's literary life and swashbuckling persona. More than his homes in Key West and later in Ketchum, Idaho, the finca fed his creativity and stirred his imagination with its abundance of mango and avocado trees and proximity to the ocean, scholars say. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea there, basing it on a Cuban fisherman, and it won him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953. A year later, he won the Nobel Prize and donated the medal to the Cuban people.

He wrote other books, too -- Islands in the Stream and Across the River and Into the Trees -- and reveled in the sun-drenched daily life of the finca. In one room, he kept a lizard preserved in a jar of formaldehyde, honored for its heroic, if losing, battle with one of Hemingway's many cats. He entertained celebrity friends at the house -- Ava Gardner reportedly once swam naked in its pool.

The Cuban Ministry of Culture and the Council on National Patrimony have already begun leading the first round of conservation work on the property and its colorful contents, the stuff of Hemingway scholars' dreams: animal skins and game trophies, rifles, his Royal typewriter and artwork, plus 2,000 letters, 3,000 photos and 9,000 books with handwritten notes in the margins. The bathroom wall bears meticulous, penciled notations of his weight and blood pressure. Outside, his beloved boat, the Pilar, is on display.

Under a 2002 agreement coordinated by the Social Science Research Council of New York, U.S. preservationists are assisting the Cubans in conserving documents and photos from the house. They're being digitally copied and the originals preserved to halt deterioration, with the work financed by grants from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations.

A set of copies will be sent to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, where a large collection of Hemingway research materials -- much of it brought from Cuba by Mary Hemingway after her husband's suicide -- already resides. The originals eventually will be returned to the house in Cuba.

The second phase of preservation -- the house itself -- has been complicated by the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. An application by the Hemingway foundation to travel to Cuba for the project last year was turned down.

But in June, after the National Trust joined the application, the Bush administration agreed to allow a team of architects and engineers to go to Cuba to consult on the project. The five-person U.S. team made one trip earlier this summer and plans at least two others before the license expires this fall.

The group does not have permission to bring financial support into the country but plans to apply for a new license in the fall that would include that provision.

''It's not political -- it's a cultural project that overrides politics,'' Phillips said. "It's just absolutely unique.''

Cuban school children make field trips to the museum to study ''Papa'' and his influence on world literature, she said.

But U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, R-Fla., thinks Americans have no business working in Fidel Castro's Cuba, no matter how good the cause.

''I'm against the whole operation -- engineers and architects, anybody who's going down there to fix a tourist site. And that's what it is, a tourist site,'' she said. "It's only going to help increase Castro's tourism industry, and that's how Castro stays in power.''

She said she plans to meet with National Trust leaders within weeks to discuss the preservation efforts.

For Phillips, the drive to save Hemingway's house started with the tug of family ties. On a trip to Cuba in 2001, she and her husband made a spur-of-the-moment decision to see the home, since her grandfather had been Hemingway's editor. Because of their connection, they were given a guided tour.

Astonished at the richness of the artifact collection and captivated by the intimacy of the house, she and her husband started the Concord, Mass.-based foundation and began working toward preservation of the property.

''This has been kind of a personal mission for me. It's been very gratifying,'' Phillips said.

Perhaps even more so for Hemingway scholars in the United States, who soon will have access to vast amounts of new material from Cuba.

''He wrote many of the masterpieces there. It was really the center of his writing life from 1939 on,'' said Sandra Spanier, professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, an ambitious plan to publish 12 volumes of his letters.

''He himself talked about why he loved living in Cuba, because he worked better in the early morning air, with the breeze coming through the hilltops,'' she said.

Cubans remember him as much for his whole-hearted embrace of the people as for his literary achievements.

Rene Villarreal, who served as ''major domo'' of Finca Vigía and became the first curator of the museum after Hemingway's death, said the author adopted the Cuban people as his own.

After a chance first encounter -- he met Hemingway when he asked the famous writer for help to buy baseball equipment -- he went on to run the household. During his time there, Villarreal met movie stars Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy, helped care for Hemingway's 50-plus cats and went to cockfights with him and his famous pals.

When locals couldn't afford a funeral, Hemingway paid, he said, and when Villarreal got married, Hemingway urged the bride-to-be to "take care of my Cuban son.''

After Hemingway's death, Villarreal continued to watch over the house as museum curator.

''He was very much loved -- by the world but especially by the townspeople,'' he said.

Villarreal and his son, Raul, have written the story of his years with the man he called ''Papa'' and are hoping to sell it to a publisher.

''The best time of my life was with him at the finca,'' Villarreal recalled from his home outside New York City. "He was a friend to the Cuban people and he will never be forgotten.''



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