U.S. senators condemn beating
Several U.S. senators
blasted the attack on Cuban dissident Martha
Beatriz Roque and demanded that Cuba allow
its citizens to exercise their rights.
By Oscar Corral, ocorral@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Tue, May. 09, 2006.
Pushed by a hotel lobby of a different
kind, several U.S. senators -- including
two who are considering running for president
-- on Monday condemned Cuba for the ''beating
and intimidation'' of well-known dissident
Martha Beatriz Roque in late April.
The effort began in Coral Gables' Biltmore
Hotel, where -- in separate visits -- many
of the senators got word of the attack on
Roque from activists including Ana Navarro,
the former Nicaraguan ambassador to the
U.N. Human Rights Commission, whose boyfriend,
Gene Prescott, is the hotel's proprietor.
''It was all a matter of coincidence and
really talking to them with the truth,''
Navarro said. "When policy makers are
faced with the truth, they take action.''
U.S. senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut
and Bill Nelson of Florida led the charge
to introduce a resolution Monday blasting
the attack on Roque and demanding that Cuba
allow its citizens to exercise their rights.
Also listed as co-sponsors are potential
presidential candidates Democrat Joseph
Biden and Republican John McCain.
''The Senate condemns the brutality of
the regime of Fidel Castro toward Martha
Beatriz Roque, a 61-year-old woman in frail
health,'' the resolution reads. It also
says the Senate "calls on the regime
of Cuba to release the hundreds of political
prisoners still held today and to stop the
intimidation of dissidents and their families.''
If approved, it would be a rare boost to
an individual in Cuba's dissident movement,
said Mauricio Claver-Clarone, director of
the anti-Castro U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC.
''Few people outside of Miami can name
a leading Cuban dissident,'' said the Washington,
D.C.-based Claver-Clarone. "The hope
here is to personalize it.''
The push for the resolution started with
a quick hallway rendezvous at the Biltmore.
Late last month, Nelson, who is up for
reelection, was there for a meeting, Navarro
said, when she and several members of the
U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC pulled him aside
in a hallway and told him about Roque. ''He
was immediately supportive and promised
to do something,'' Navarro said. "He
understood the need to express solidarity
and was touched by this woman's story.''
A few days later, Lieberman met with members
of the PAC at the Biltmore, where they informed
him about Roque, Navarro said. Lieberman,
a supporter of U.S. sanctions against Cuba,
also sat next to Navarro on his flight back
to Washington, and got an earful about Roque,
she said. Last week, Biden was at the Biltmore,
when Navarro brought up Roque, she said.
Roque was leaving her Havana home April
25 to meet with Michael Parmly, head of
the U.S. Interests Section, when a mob of
Cuban government supporters swarmed her,
knocked her down, punched her and dragged
During a call to a Miami radio station
after the incident, Roque made an emotional
plea for international support.
''They kicked me, a strong young man punched
me in the eye with his fist,'' she said.
"I thought my eye had popped out. They
knocked me down and dragged me . . . The
world must know this. To my brothers and
sisters in Miami, please let the world know.''
Cuba wins seat on U.N. Human Rights
By Pablo Bachelet, pbachelet@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Tue, May. 09, 2006
WASHINGTON - Cuba on Tuesday secured a
seat on the new U.N. Human Rights Council,
which replaced an agency where abusers were
often members, obtaining the seventh spot
out of eight reserved for Latin American
and Caribbean nations.
Cuba's candidacy was viewed as a test case
for the seriousness of the new Council.
Other nations with questionable rights records
that were elected at a U.N. General Assembly
meeting in New York included Russia, China
and Saudi Arabia.
But General Assembly President Jan Eliasson,
who oversaw the negotiations that created
the new council, downplayed the election
of some nations accused of rights abuses,
saying it was nonetheless a ''truly historic
occasion'' and a ''new departure'' for human
rights work worldwide.
Venezuela failed to obtain a spot on the
47-member body, which will start its sessions
June 19 amidst expectations that it will
mark a departure from its discredited and
defunct predecessor, the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights.
The other Latin American nations that secured
seats, in the order of votes obtained, are
Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Guatemala,
Uruguay and Ecuador. Brazil, the top vote-getter
in the group, garnered 165 votes. Cuba obtained
Nations needed at least 96 of the 191 General
Assembly votes to get elected.
Cuba's election to U.N. rights panel
Cuba was elected to a
seat on the newly created U.N. Human Rights
Council, despite its record.
By Pablo Bachelet, pbachelet@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Wed, May. 10, 2006
WASHINGTON - Cuba and four other nations
accused of widespread human-rights abuses
won seats Tuesday on the U.N. Human Rights
Council, newly created to replace a controversial
agency where abusers were often members.
Cuba's candidacy was viewed as a test case
for the fairness of the future council.
Other nations singled out by human rights
groups as being unworthy of membership yet
still elected were Russia, China, Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia.
U.N. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson,
who oversaw the negotiations that created
the 47-member council, downplayed the controversy,
saying the council was nonetheless a "truly
But critics were unconvinced. Miami Republican
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said calling the
new council an improvement was ''farcical''
and its composition "irresponsible.''
''Like a juvenile delinquent with indulgent
parents, the U.N. will persist in its course
toward destruction until it is decisively
held to account,'' she said.
The council replaced the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights, where violators such as
Cuba, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Libya regularly
got themselves elected and then worked from
the inside to block commission condemnations
of their abuses.
Cuba won the seventh spot out of eight
reserved for Latin American and Caribbean
nations during the the new council's first
membership vote at a General Assembly meeting
in New York. The other Latin American nations
that secured seats were Brazil, Argentina,
Mexico, Peru, Guatemala, Uruguay and Ecuador.
Brazil, the top vote-getter in the group,
garnered 165 votes. Cuba obtained 135 votes.
Venezuela got 101 votes but finished out
of the running in 10th place. Nations needed
at least 96 votes to get in.
The council had been criticized by the
Bush administration and some members of
Congress as a lukewarm compromise that did
not ensure rights abusers were kept out.
After the vote, Rick Grenell, a spokesman
for the U.S. mission to the United Nations,
said membership had improved somewhat over
the previous body.
''But we still have certain members that
are troublesome on the council,'' he added.
BUSH OPPOSED PANEL
The U.S. government, which will supply
more than one-fifth of the council's financing,
was one of three nations opposing its creation
in a March U.N. vote. The Bush administration
declined to run for a seat but has said
it will cooperate with the new body, while
keeping a watchful eye on its work.
The Cuban foreign ministry posted a statement
on its website calling the vote a defeat
of Washington's efforts to stop Cuba from
gaining a seat and "irrefutable proof
of Cuba's international prestige.''
Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights
Watch, said that while the council's imperfections
don't "guarantee that the council will
be a success . . . it is a step in the right
Supporters say that under the council's
new rules, its members will be the first
to have their rights record reviewed. This
would mean an automatic review of the Cuban
government, a one-party communist system
that regularly jails dissidents and monopolizes
the mass media.
''It opens up a whole new avenue for those
of us who work in human rights,'' said Eric
Olson, the acting director for government
relations with Amnesty International, who
added that ''you can bet your last dollar''
that Amnesty will be lobbying heavily for
a reprimand of Havana.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN
Watch, a Geneva-based group that monitors
U.N. performance, said non-democracies in
fact were a majority in the new body, meaning
the touted review would probably boil down
to "a few softball questions lobbed
14 join Nelson bid to bar Cuban oil
search off Keys
Lawmakers joined a bid
to prevent Cuba from drilling for oil near
the Keys as Congress looked eagerly at opening
Florida waters to energy exploration.
By Lesley Clark. lclark@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Sat, May. 06, 2006
WASHINGTON - With efforts to open Florida's
coast to energy exploration gaining momentum,
more Florida lawmakers are turning their
sights south, filing legislation aimed at
blocking Cuba from drilling for oil near
the Florida Keys.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami
Republican, and 14 other House members --
11 of them from Florida -- Friday joined
in introducing a bill that would deny visas
to any employees of a company or entity
that "contributes to the development
of Cuba's oil-exploration program.''
Their bill, a companion to Florida Democratic
Sen. Bill Nelson's Senate bill filed earlier,
would also impose sanctions on any individuals
-- or companies -- who invest $1 million
or more to help Cuba develop its oil and
natural gas resources.
''My colleagues and I have been working
tirelessly to prevent our own companies
from ruining Florida's pristine beaches
and delicate ecosystem by exploring and
drilling for oil off our coast,'' Ros-Lehtinen
said in a statement. "To now have this
murderous and totalitarian regime say it
wants to drill just 45 miles from Key West
is beyond the pale and totally unacceptable.''
Her co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Lincoln
Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart,
both Miami Republicans; Clay Shaw, R-Fort
Lauderdale; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston,
and Mark Foley, R-Palm Beach County; Katherine
Harris, a Senate candidate, and Jim Davis,
a Democratic candidate for governor.
With the exception of food and medicine,
U.S. companies are barred from doing business
with Cuba. But the Cuban government -- which
does not have the technology for deep-water
drilling -- has entered into agreements
with several companies in countries including
Spain, China and Canada.
Ros-Lehtinen suggested the congressional
measures could create enough uncertainty
among the foreign companies to affect Cuba's
nascent energy exploration program.
''This could have a chilling effect on
anyone who wants to have further entanglements
with Castro,'' she said. "Had it not
been for [the embargo against business with
Cuba] there would be far more investment
Nelson and most of the Florida delegation
have long opposed energy exploration in
Florida waters, contending that a spill
could wreak havoc with Florida's beach-dependent
But pressure to open Florida waters is
building as fuel costs rise. Senate Republicans
-- anxious over sliding poll numbers --
are expected to push to open up a large
swath of the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola
At a Senate hearing Thursday, that bill's
sponsor, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., told
Dirk Kempthorne, President Bush's nominee
to be Interior secretary, that the nation's
energy needs are greater than any state's
Environmentalists have criticized the effort
to drill, saying it would be better spent
on conservation, including higher fuel economy
But U.S. Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., may
revive his attempt to lift the ban on drilling
for natural gas off the Outer Continental
Peterson has criticized the Florida delegation
for its insistence on blocking drilling.
He criticized the legislation targeting
''If we spent as much time and effort trying
to address our own nation's energy supply
issues as we did trying to address Cuba's,
our current energy crisis would be a whole
lot easier to fix,'' Peterson said.
Ros-Lehtinen, however, said some of the
potential exploration sites off Cuba are
within 50 miles of Key West.
War of words: website can't define Cuba
What's a neutral point
of view? The Cuba entry in the online reference
site Wikipedia shows just how difficult
it is for the volunteer-run website to tackle
politically charged subjects.
By Pablo Bachelet, pbachelet@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Wed, May. 03, 2006.
WASHINGTON - One editor complained that
Havana sympathizers were transforming a
scholarly enterprise into ''their own private
Fidel Castro fan page.'' A user was tossed
out after threatening to sue another for
The fuss is over the Cuba entry in Wikipedia,
the free online encyclopedia created, edited
and administered entirely by volunteers
with the altruistic purpose of becoming
a Web-based knowledge repository for humanity.
But the Cuba entry, like those on President
Bush and abortion, has been snared in intense
political divisions over everything from
the impact of U.S. sanctions on the communist-ruled
island to whether it should have a separate
section on its human rights record. Russia
and North Korea do not.
There have been so many dueling edits --
30 entries on April 27 alone -- that the
article has been placed off-limits to first-time
or unregistered users. The article has notices
alerting readers that the neutrality of
four sections is under dispute.
A central tenet of Wikipedia is that articles
must be written in a neutral point of view.
But, as the debate on the talk page attached
to the Cuba article demonstrates, neutrality
is often in the eye of the beholder.
The debate over Cuba turned intense after
Adam Carr, who identifies himself as having
a Ph.D. in history from the University of
Melbourne in Australia and a gay rights
activist, introduced this sentence high
in the article: "Cuba is a socialist
republic, in which the Communist Party of
Cuba is the sole legal political party,
and is the only state in the western hemisphere
that is not a democracy.''
This prompted responses that went from
scholarly citations of political scientists
with definitions of democracy, to accusations
of not-so-hidden political agendas.
Bruce Hallman wrote that calling Cuba undemocratic
is a ''logical fallacy'' because it applies
''capitalistic values'' in the context of
a socialist society. 'Might it be possible
to write the article without using the word
'democracy' at all?'' he suggested.
''Sorry, comrade, no dice,'' answered Carr,
one of the few writers who posts a description
of himself. "These comments show quite
clearly that you are a communist, or at
least someone who actively supports the
Castro dictatorship, not just . . . someone
who is naïve about the realities of
With neither side giving in, on April 15
a ''mediation cabal'' -- an informal mediator
-- joined the discussion. The cabal suggested
citing reputable sources to back the Cuba-is-not-a-democracy
''If we need a citation that Cuba is not
a democracy, then maybe we need citation
that Cuba is in Latin America,'' retorts
CJK, another user.
''Cuba is a dictatorship, plain and simple,''
says Carr, calling Castro's foreign supporters
Failing to produce an agreement, the cabal
departed after complaining that several
editors were being rude.
Others argued that if the article discusses
human rights in Cuba, then it should also
point out U.S. human rights abuses. ''We
will not be distracted by the well-known
communist diversionary tactic of playing
bogus moral equivalence games,'' Carr responded.
Scott Grayban, a talk page writer who claims
to be a U.S. Air Force veteran, calls Carr
''nothing more than a pro-Bush hate-Cuba
type person'' and in a separate e-mail threatened
to sue Carr for libel. An administrator
promptly banned Grayban for life from editing
Other users also have been banned, including
''Comandante,'' who has changed the Cuba
article more than 700 times. Another participant
wrote that Comandante's Internet address
suggests he lives in Cuba.
A few years ago, online discussions of
this sort would have gone unnoticed. But
Wikipedia is now the 17th-most-visited site
in the world, according to Alexa Internet,
a Web-ranking outfit owned by Amazon.com.
Created by Web entrepreneur Jimmy Wales,
who today heads the foundation that oversees
the site, Wikipedia is an example of ''social
computing'' -- the ability of users to create
their own content without relying on the
filters of newspaper or hard-copy encyclopedia
Wikipedia has had some stumbles. A hoax
entry wrongly implicated journalist John
Seigenthaler in the JFK assassination. Several
U.S. congressional staffers have been caught
altering their bosses' entries.
There are now 900 volunteer administrators
patrolling the site to keep troublemakers
at bay, as well as formal arbitration mechanisms.
Most articles are uncontroversial, says
Kat Walsh, an administrator for Wikipedia.
But ''where people are out fighting in the
real world, they're going to have differences
of opinion on Wikipedia as well,'' she said.
Web | Cuba
entry on Wikipedia
Workers join in May Day rallies to call
May Day rallies were
mostly peaceful, but there were tense protests
in the Philippines and Belarus.
Associated Press. Posted
on Tue, May. 02, 2006.
Workers around the world held May Day rallies
Monday to press for better factory conditions
and higher wages in mostly peaceful marches.
In Havana, Fidel Castro used the occasion
for criticism of the United States while
activists in the Philippines and Belarus
used the holiday to show their opposition
to their governments in tense protests watched
In Cuba, more than 1 million workers in
red T-shirts distributed by the government
crowded into Havana's Plaza of the Revolution
and adjacent avenues, and listened as President
Fidel Castro said recent U.S. military maneuvers
in the Caribbean were aimed at intimidating
Cuba and its ally, Venezuela.
In Santiago, Chile, police used water cannons
to disperse dozens of rock-throwing demonstrators,
injuring at least four people. More than
30 demonstrators were arrested, authorities
said, and two police officers and two photographers
In Caracas, Venezuela, thousands of workers
took part in rival marches -- with supporters
of President Hugo Chávez praising
a recent minimum-wage hike and opposition
unions calling the increase insufficient.
About 100,000 workers took to the streets
across Indonesia, protesting a labor law
that would cut severance packages and introduce
more flexible contracts that would chip
away at worker security.
Most rallies across Europe were peaceful,
although tensions were evident in Belarus,
where about 2,000 opposition supporters
marched in Minsk in a show of defiance,
days after the authoritarian government
of President Alexander Lukashenko tried
to stop an unprecedented series of demonstrations
by throwing protest leaders in jail.
In Russia, about 25,000 people gathered
in Moscow opposite the mayor's office in
the warm spring sunshine to hear speeches
from trade union leaders and the mayor and
listen to a concert, the ITAR-Tass news
In Istanbul, Turkey, police fired tear
gas and pepper spray at demonstrators shouting
slogans against the United States and the
International Monetary Fund, and detained
In the Philippines, government troops and
police with batons and shields turned away
hundreds who tried to approach the presidential
palace to demand a wage increase and the
ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In Cambodia, thousands of police brought
the capital of Phnom Penh to a virtual standstill
during a clampdown on an unauthorized May
Day demonstration. ''Cambodia still lacks
real democracy. There is no real respect
for human rights,'' opposition leader Sam
Thousands of garment factory workers rallied
in Bangladesh to demand the United States
and Europe drop tariffs on their products,
saying they could bring the industry down.
In Bosnia, residents marched down Sarajevo's
main street, demanding new elections and
the resignation of the government, which
they claim is not doing enough to lower
the unemployment rate, which has been above
40 percent for years.
Thousands marched in central Athens to
protest the war in Iraq and the Greek government's
economic policies. Aleida Guevara, the daughter
of Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto
''Che'' Guevara, was among 6,000 marching
to the U.S. Embassy -- a traditional target
of many Athens protests.
Women on airwaves setting the agenda
on Cuba issues
From sunrise past sunset
on Miami's Spanish- language radio, women
often set South Florida's agenda on Cuba.
By Oscar Corral, ocorral@MiamiHerald.com.
Posted on Mon, May. 08, 2006.
Miami's Spanish-language AM radio can wake
you up with a strong dose of anti-communist
rhetoric, serve up a midday jolt of local
political hijinks and even feed the exile
soul with ''Daddy Dearest'' bashing from
Fidel Castro's daughter.
But who can sleep soundly without capping
the night with a take-no-prisoners harangue
by the Queen of the Night, whose 1960s theme
song, A Summer Place, belies the political
machinations of the day?
The women of Spanish-language radio --
all of them professionals with a loyal following
-- are not faint of heart: They're strong-willed
and plain-spoken, can turn paupers into
kings, poison the opposition and sweeten
the stakes for their causes.
With a loyal following, they set the agenda
for a city where politics rule and nostalgia
for Cuba remains palpable. ''This was a
medium that at one point was dominated by
men,'' said WQBA's Bernadette Pardo, who
has a daily morning call-in show on 1140
AM. "I just think women in Miami are
pushier than other Hispanic women around
Unlike her counterparts, Pardo doesn't
expound her views on the air. She has to
remain objective for credibility as a reporter
for radio and for Channel 23.
The other commentators vary from moderate
to conservative, but most are card-carrying
Their influence has manifested itself clearly
over the last month, as undocumented immigrants
and their supporters across the country
marched for rights and legalization. The
most influential Spanish-language radio
commentators -- in the top-rated programs
-- not only didn't support the plight of
undocumented immigrants, but often criticized
''Illegal immigrants have no rights,''
said Lourdes ''D'Kendall'' Bertot on the
air Monday morning as thousands of immigrants
gathered around Miami-Dade County. "They
shouldn't come here illegally.''
Bertot's nickname is a product of her ''discovery.''
She spent years calling in to radio shows
to give her opinion, always describing herself
as Lourdes de Kendall, noting where she
lived. In the early 1990s, one of the radio
stations gave in and tapped her for her
Bertot focuses on South Florida issues,
often criticizing local officials considered
off limits to other commentators. For example,
she ripped Miami City Manager Joe Arriola
and Mayor Manny Diaz for their role in the
fire fee fiasco. Her show is weekday mornings
10 to 11 a.m.
Raquel Regalado's show also targets local
issues. On the radio for 30 years in Miami,
Regalado, who is married to Miami Commissioner
Tomás Regalado, has her own show
on WWFE-AM (670) La Poderosa, from 10 to
11 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m.
''Being women, we've had to empower ourselves
by appearing tougher,'' said Regalado, who
has three grown children. "I could
have had a much more distinguished career
if I had dedicated more time to it, but
my family has always been my first priority,
so it has been difficult.''
Working on AM radio in Miami has special
challenges, said Sasha Tirador, 32, a former
radio commentator who was pressured to resign
from La Poderosa four years ago for what
she says were political reasons.
Tirador said listeners often don't get
the whole story, particularly when dealing
with local issues.
''When you work for a station you have
to abide by their rules, and the rules are
dependent on who is friends with the station
manager,'' Tirador said. "When they
talk about public corruption, for example,
you don't get the whole story if there are
certain lobbyists involved that the managers
are friends with.''
Marta Flores, Radio Mambí's Reina
de la Noche -- Queen of the Night -- pocketed
thousands of dollars from campaigns in the
1990s from her advertising agency, MarFlo,
a practice considered unethical, but not
illegal. She said at the time that it never
influenced her coverage. Flores, who has
a show from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. every night
on Radio Mambí, said she was the
first woman on Spanish-language radio in
Miami on WMIE in 1959. Everyone from Gov.
Jeb Bush to State Rep. Marco Rubio has visited
''I am a Republican, but before I'm a Republican,
I'm Cuban,'' Flores said. "I admire
a lot of Republican policies in many aspects,
but when I have to criticize them, I do
it because inside the Republican Party there
have been many errors, and you can't ignore
that. What I do believe is that neither
Republicans nor Democrats have given Cuba
that final push [to freedom].''
On any given night, Flores, who hosts somewhat
of a variety show, might talk about pets
or parties or politics. Recently, music
guru Emilio Estefan dropped by to sing her
Alina Fernandez Revuelta, daughter of Fidel
Castro from his relationship with Cuban
socialite Natalia ''Naty'' Revuelta, also
has a sort of variety show on WQBA in the
evenings, from 6 to 7 p.m. Fernandez left
Cuba 15 years ago in an elaborate ruse that
included wearing a wig to board a plane
with false papers. She settled in Miami
four years ago.
''Being on the radio is a great medium.
It carries enormous responsibility,'' she
said. "In Cuba, they don't have freedom
of speech or the press, so it's not something
I take lightly.''
While all of these women criticize the
communist Cuban government for human rights
abuses, none do so as fervently as Ninoska
Pérez Castellón, who hosts
a show on Radio Mambí every morning
with station director Armando Perez-Roura.
As a former spokeswoman for the Cuban American
National Foundation and now for the hard-line
Cuban Liberty Council, she is unrelentingly
virulentagainst Castro. She is also a loyal
Republican who seldom attacks her party.
''I don't think it has anything to do with
being a man or a woman, it's about doing
a good job,'' Pérez Castellón
said. "The wonderful thing about radio
in Miami is that it continues with the same
intensity 47 years after the Cubans got
here and started using the microphones to
denounce the situation in Cuba.''
"Some people say what are you going
to do when Castro dies and you have nothing
to talk about? I'll just talk about other
Link to Oscar Corral's blog,
Miami's Cuban Connection, at www.MiamiHerald.com