Cuban exiles, dissidents sign plan
Hard-line Cuban exile
organizations worked with dissident groups
in Cuba to implement a democracy action
By Frances Robles. frobles@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Thu, Oct. 12, 2006
Cuban exile organizations in South Florida
working together with dissidents on the
island this week launched a five-point plan
designed to bring democracy to Cuba -- without
budging on controversial issues like negotiating
with the current leadership.
The document is an important historic step,
because it demonstrates an unusual level
of cooperation between dissidents and prominent
Cuban exile groups, its signers said.
The resolution was signed by the Cuban
Patriotic Forum, an umbrella exile group,
and the dissident Cuban organization Assembly
to Promote Civil Society. The Patriotic
Forum includes the Bay of Pigs Veterans
Association, the Cuban Liberty Council,
Cuban Municipalities in Exile and others.
''This document is the beginning of the
end of communism,'' said Roberto Martín
Pérez, spokesman of the Association
of Cuban Political Prisoners. "The
forum's mentality is not to be against one
man, but the principles these men have held
for 48 years.''
The exile groups represented traditional
hard-line organizations that shun any kind
of negotiation with the Cuban government.
They worked with prominent dissident Martha
Beatriz Roque, who could not be reached
for comment Wednesday.
Cuban-American legislators Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,
Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart
attended an event presenting the document
Tuesday in Little Havana, and heralded it
as a sign of a united Cuban exile community.
The resolution advocates:
o Freedom for all political prisoners and
an end to harassment of all kinds to internal
o Installment of a transition government
that establishes democracy in Cuba, that
respects human rights and offers the following
freedoms: economic, press, religion, to
associate, to assemble and to protest peacefully.
o Establishment of a constituent assembly
that provides a new constitution submitted
to a popular vote.
o Recognition of political parties and
o Reestablishment of the rule of law, making
sure that "every Cuban is protected
from whimsical decisions that could lead
to social discontent.''
''This is a strong document endorsed by
all freedom-loving people,'' Ros-Lehtinen
said. "We're going to work hard to
make sure all these points come true.''
New task force to target Cuba ban offenders
South Florida's top federal
law enforcement official unveiled a task
force to crack down on violators of the
U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.
By Jay Weaver. jweaver@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Wed, Oct. 11, 2006
Although the U.S. trade embargo against
Cuba is more than four decades old, criminal
prosecutions of violators have been rare
-- especially in South Florida.
But if U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta
has his way, that's about to change.
Acosta announced on Tuesday the creation
of a task force of federal agencies to target
embargo offenders more aggressively -- whether
they violate travel bans, business restrictions
or limits on currency remittances to relatives
on the island.
''The purpose of these sanctions is to
isolate the Castro regime economically and
to deprive the Castro regime of the U.S.
dollars it so desperately seeks,'' Acosta
said at a news conference.
When asked why the task force was being
created now, Acosta dismissed any suggestion
that it was driven by next month's U.S.
elections or the recent disclosure about
Cuban leader Fidel Castro's health crisis.
He reiterated again and again that ''it's
an appropriate time'' without discussing
any specific reason -- even noting that
there had not been any sudden ''upsurge''
in embargo violations.
Acosta -- flanked by nine law enforcement
officials from the FBI, Immigration and
Customs Enforcement, the Treasury Department
and other agencies -- said the group was
being set up "with the aim of hastening
the transition to democracy in Cuba.''
He said there would be serious consequences
for those who don't follow the law -- ''more
than a slap on the wrist'' -- including
up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines
for the worst offenses.
The Treasury Department annually imposes
hundreds of fines against Americans and
U.S. corporations, mostly for violating
the embargo's business and travel restrictions,
said agency spokeswoman Molly Millerwise.
A ''handful'' of those cases are referred
to federal law enforcement agencies for
criminal investigations, she said.
Indeed, criminal prosecutions have been
rare. Here are a few:
o In 2004, a federal judge dismissed charges
against the organizers of a sailboat race
from Key West to Cuba. They had been charged
with two counts of providing unlicensed
travel services to Cuba. Crews competing
in the Key West Sailing Club Conch Republic
Cup departed in May 2003 for Havana and
Cuban shore communities after receiving
prerace warnings that they would be violating
U.S. licensing regulations.
o In the 1990s, a family-owned Philadelphia-area
business, Bro-Tech Corp., sold some of its
product, a water-purification material called
Purolite, to Cuba. In 2000, two brothers
and their company were charged in a 77-count
indictment with violating the trade embargo.
One brother, Bro-Tech's president, ultimately
was acquitted. The other brother, a vice
president, and the company itself pleaded
guilty and paid fines.
o In 1989, federal agents seized about
220 Cuban paintings owned by Miami art collector
Ramon Cernuda from his Brickell Avenue condo,
allegedly because their acquisition violated
the trade embargo. But a judge ruled the
First Amendment protected Cuban art in the
U.S. officials defend the embargo, which
allows the sale of some U.S. food and medicine
to Cuba, saying unfettered trade and travel
to the island would prop up the communist
government. They say Cuba's imprisonment
of dissidents and restrictions on economic
and political freedoms justify the policy,
aimed at pushing Castro and his associates
out of power.
Acosta, appointed as U.S. attorney by President
Bush, said it was critical to enforce the
U.S. embargo -- despite criticism that it
has not loosened Castro's grip on the communist
nation and that it has only harmed the lives
of everyday Cubans.
Cuba waging war against dengue fever
The Cuban government
has begun a fumigation campaign against
the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which spreads
dengue fever, a viral disease.
Miami Herald Staff Report.
Posted on Sat, Oct. 07, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Cuba - The roar of the fumigation
truck sent residents scurrying off their
stoops as shutters quickly slammed shut
to stave off the toxic mist designed to
kill mosquitoes and combat the spread of
When the stench of petroleum oozed from
the truck into homes and cars, everyone
knew: It was time to kill the mosquitoes
''Let me tell you, dengue is the worst
thing you can get,'' Irene, a housewife,
said. "Everything, everything, everything
hurts -- even your eyes.''
Without officially admitting a dengue epidemic,
the Cuban government has launched a massive
fumigation campaign against the Aedes Aegypti
mosquito, transmitter of dengue fever.
Trucks regularly roll down the streets
in cities around the country, particularly
Santa Clara, Havana and Santiago, spraying
entire blocks with a thick white fog. Cars
and buses are stopped on highways and men
lugging devices that look like leaf blowers
spray homes with insecticide.
High school kids and other enlisted volunteers
are going door-to-door inspecting homes
for larvae and other signs of the mosquito,
while hotels are evacuating guests at least
once a week for spraying.
Dengue, a disease typical of tropical regions,
causes high fever, severe joint pain and
a rash. There's no cure or vaccine.
''We have two goals: An immediate, urgent
goal of the highest priority is to diminish
the infestation of the Aedes Aegypti, practically
bring it to zero,'' Cuban Vice President
Carlos Lage told the local media.
The second goal: Make sure it doesn't happen
''We won't resolve the problem with fumigation
alone,'' Lage said. "Fumigating treats
the results, not the causes.''
The government acknowledges it lacks the
personnel needed to thoroughly spray affected
areas. It has yet to release an official
figure of the number of dead or infected.
''There is a pile of dead people nobody
talks about,'' said Arturo, a restaurant
worker recruited by the Communist Party
to fumigate Havana homes. "A lot of
people have gotten sick. A lot.''
Another technician working on the spraying
campaign said wards were set up for infected
people at Salvador Allende Hospital in Havana,
known as ''Covadonga.'' There, a nurse told
The Miami Herald that cases began appearing
at least a year ago.
''We have quite a few cases, certainly
more than a dozen, but it's not like it's
the whole city,'' said the nurse, who declined
to give a name. "There's been a death
here and there, and a few patients are in
very serious condition. I would not call
it an epidemic; it's more like an outbreak.''
Reports from Cuba's independent journalists
allege a nationwide dengue epidemic rivaling
outbreaks of years past, particularly in
Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Dissident doctor
Darsi Ferrer wrote in an article in El Nuevo
Herald last week that the number of dead
was ''in the hundreds,'' but he offered
no source for the information.
The Pan American Health Organization says
Cuba's minister of health sent an August
letter confirming cases of dengue and the
more deadly hemorrhagic dengue fever in
four provinces, but the letter did not offer
In 1981, 344,000 Cubans caught dengue,
and 158 of them died. Cuba blamed the United
States for the outbreak, saying in a 1999
lawsuit that Washington unleashed the disease
in an act of germ warfare. The U.S. State
Department has denied causing the epidemic.
In official notes in the press and public
awareness campaigns, Cubans are being warned
to help fight the spread of thedisease by
watching out for standing water. Inspectors
enlisted by the Cuban government are checking
water tanks, plants, pipes, discarded tires
and other places for mosquito breeding sites.
High school students who normally are dispatched
to the countryside for farm work are instead
going door-to-door looking for pests. If
larvae are found, the entire square block
Residents and tourists interviewed said
they have begun to suffer skin, eye and
breathing problems since the spraying started
''We don't have an epidemic; we don't have
anything,'' said an official at Havana's
international medical center, a hospital
aimed at tourists. "We have mosquitoes,
and we are killing them.''
Sandra Fisher, chief of the mosquito control
division at the Miami-Dade County Department
of Public Works, said she is keeping an
eye on the situation in Cuba and other countries
where dengue has recently been reported,
such as the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.
At least 36 people have died in the Dominican
Republic, health officials there said.
The United States eradicated dengue decades
ago, but South Florida could be at risk
because of the high number of international
travelers passing through the area, she
Widespread daytime spraying and the routine
stopping of cars shows Cubamust be facing
a serious problem, Fisher said.
In Florida, spraying in the daytime is
But the mosquito that transmits the dengue
virus is active only during the day -- making
daytime spraying the only option.
''Spraying of that nature is a last resort
measure you turn to when you are facing
imminent disease,'' she said. "I am
not saying they are not taking the safety
of the public in mind, but when you have
an epidemic like that, you use whatever
The identity of the Miami Herald correspondent
who wrote this story is being withheld to
protect the correspondent's ability to continue
reporting from Cuba.
Batista's widow dies at 82, 33 years
after her husband
Posted on Thu, Oct. 05,
WEST PALM BEACH - (AP) -- Marta Fernandez
de Batista, the widow of former Cuban dictator
Fulgencio Batista, has died, her son said
Wednesday. She was 82.
She died at her West Palm Beach home on
Monday, the son, Roberto Batista, told The
Associated Press. She had suffered a heart
attack on Sept. 8 and was hospitalized until
last week, when she returned home under
hospice care, her son said.
Born Marta Fernandez Miranda, she was Batista's
second wife. She earned a reputation as
a lover of the arts and supporter of the
needy, in both Cuba and the United States,
giving to South Florida charities that fought
cancer and leukemia, her son said.
Her husband was pushed out of power by
Fidel Castro's rebels more than 47 years
ago, and left Havana in the middle of the
night on Jan. 1, 1959. The former dictator,
then 58 years old, fled first to the Dominican
Republic, then Portugal and finally Spain,
where he died in 1973.
His government had captured Castro and
his younger brother, Raúl Castro,
in 1953 after a failed attack on the Moncada
military barracks in eastern Cuba. Both
were jailed, but Batista was pressured to
release the two under a general amnesty
two years later.
Fulgencio Batista had a home in Daytona
Beach and donated an extensive art collection
to the city. His wife had lived in Palm
Beach County since the 1980s.
''She always talked about being able to
see Cuba again. Of course, that never materialized,''
Roberto Batista said. "She was very
fond of her own people that she loved dearly.
She always spoke highly of Cubans here,
Cubans on the island and Cubans everywhere
in the world.''
Marta Fernandez de Batista will be buried
with her husband in Madrid after a Mass
in West Palm Beach, her son said.
In addition to Roberto, she is survived
by her sons Jorge Luis Batista and Fulgencio
Jose Batista and her daughter, Marta Maria
The family will receive friends from 10
a.m. to noon Saturday at Quattlebaum Funeral
Home in West Palm Beach. A Mass will follow
at 12:30 p.m. at St. Juliana Catholic Church
in West Palm Beach.