CUBA NEWS
November 2, 2006
 

CUBA NEWS
The Miami Herald

Rights group calls Cuba on 75 arrests, 3 deaths

By Pablo Bachelet, [email protected] Posted on Wed, Nov. 01, 2006.

WASHINGTON - The human rights branch of the Organization of American States today condemned Cuba for jailing 75 dissidents and swiftly trying and executing three hijackers during a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommended Cuba free the prisoners, compensate the victims and their families and modify its laws to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the rights of its citizens.

The IACHR's opinion, issued in two separate reports, will likely have little immediate impact because Cuba has long refused to recognize IACHR decisions. But human rights lawyers say it might lay the ground for future legal actions, including suits for reparations, if there is a change of government in Cuba.

''As a result of this case, these three deaths . . . are not anonymous deaths anymore,'' said Claudio Grossman, a law professor at American University who led a legal team that argued the hijackers' case. "Their story should be told by a legitimate organ with authority.''

The IACHR, widely respected by nongovernment human rights groups, has been credited with helping thousands of victims of violations in the hemisphere obtain redress and prod OAS member states to improve their human rights protections.

Cuba argues the commission has no jurisdiction over Havana because the country was suspended from the OAS in 1962. It routinely returns IACHR communications unopened.

The 75 dissidents were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison after brief trials on charges generally alleging they were acting as U.S. agents. The IACHR report mentions another four dissidents jailed around the same time. Fifteen were released later on health grounds.

The three men were executed by firing squads just nine days after their arrest following a foiled attempt to hijack a passenger ferry to Florida. Their swift trial and executions infuriated international human rights organizations, many Cuban Americans in Miami and the U.S. government.

The IACHR regularly condemns Cuba for the lack of liberties there, and also urges the United States to end the embargo against the island. But the panel rarely tackles specific cases.

In 1996, it condemned Cuba for the 37 deaths during the 1994 sinking of a Florida-bound tugboat after it was rammed and sunk by government vessels. And in 1999 it blamed Cuba for the 1996 shoot-downs of the two Brothers to the Rescue planes in which four people were killed.

The commission argues that Cuba is still subject to its jurisdiction because it continues to be part of the 1948 Charter of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man of the same year -- the documents that gave rise to the IACHR in 1959.

However, Cuba is not part of another agreement in 1969 that created the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, meaning that neither side can take the IACHR report to that tribunal for a more binding decision.

The Cuban American Bar Association and the rights group Cuban Democratic Directory acted as plaintiffs for the jailed dissidents, filing their complaint shortly after the 2003 crackdown. They argued the defendants were forced to use court-appointed lawyers and were allowed just hours to prepare their defenses. They were subject to solitary confinement, beatings and other abuses, according to the 78-page report.

The IACHR says Cuba also denied the defendants their right to a fair and public trial and humane treatment in jail, among other violations. It also condemned Cuba for laws that limit the rights of freedom of expression and opinion.

The commission berated Cuba for not using ''a judicial approach'' to prove the charges against the dissidents. It cites one case where a flier listing generally recognized human and civil rights was used as proof to show the defendant was seeking to destabilize the country.

The Venezuelan representative on the IACHR, Freddy Gutiérrez, wrote the sole dissenting opinion, saying the legal arguments were ''weak and inconsistent'' and that Cuba's 1962 suspension meant the country had no representation in the OAS.

Lorenzo Copello, Bárbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martínez were executed by firing squad on April 11. The family members were never informed of the trial and were not allowed to see the bodies afterwards.

OAS agency blasts Cuba for rights violations

The human rights branch of the Organization of American States condemned Cuba for the arrest of 75 dissidents and for three killings, the first specific condemnation in seven years.

By Pablo Bachelet, [email protected] Posted on Thu, Nov. 02, 2006.

Informe Nº 67/06 / Oscar Elías Biscet y Otros / CIDH
Informe Nº /06 / Lorenzo Enrique Copello y otros / CIDH

WASHINGTON - The human rights branch of the Organization of American States Wednesday condemned Cuba for jailing 75 dissidents and swiftly trying and executing three hijackers during a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommended Cuba free the prisoners, compensate the victims and modify its laws to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the rights of its citizens.

The IACHR's opinion, issued in two separate reports, will likely have little immediate impact because Cuba has long refused to recognize IACHR decisions. But human rights lawyers say it might lay the ground for future legal actions, including suits for reparations, if there is a change of government.

TELLING THEIR STORIES

''As a result of this case, these three deaths . . . are not anonymous deaths anymore,'' said Claudio Grossman, a law professor at American University who led a legal team that argued the hijackers' case. "Their story should be told by a legitimate organ with authority.''

The IACHR, widely respected by nongovernment human rights groups, has been credited with helping thousands of victims of violations in the hemisphere obtain redress and prod OAS member states to improve their human rights protections.

Cuba argues the commission has no jurisdiction over Havana because the country was suspended from the OAS in 1962. It routinely returns IACHR communications unopened.

The 75 dissidents were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison after brief trials on charges generally alleging they were acting as U.S. agents. The IACHR report mentions another four dissidents jailed around the same time. Fifteen were released later on health grounds.

HIJACKERS KILLED

The three men were executed by firing squads just nine days after their arrest following a foiled attempt to hijack a passenger ferry to Florida. Their swift trial and executions infuriated international human rights organizations, many Cuban Americans in Miami and the U.S. government.

The IACHR regularly condemns Cuba for the lack of liberties there, and also urges the United States to end the embargo against the island. But the panel rarely tackles specific cases.

In 1996, it condemned Cuba for the 37 deaths during the 1994 sinking of a Florida-bound tugboat after it was rammed and sunk by government vessels. And in 1999 it blamed Cuba for the 1996 shoot-downs of the two Brothers to the Rescue planes in which four people were killed.

The commission argues that Cuba is still subject to its jurisdiction because it continues to be part of the 1948 Charter of the OAS and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man of the same year -- the documents that gave rise to the IACHR in 1959.

However, Cuba is not part of another agreement in 1969 that created the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, meaning that neither side can take the IACHR report to that tribunal for a more binding decision.

The Cuban American Bar Association and the rights group Cuban Democratic Directory acted as plaintiffs for the jailed dissidents, filing their complaint shortly after the 2003 crackdown. They argued the defendants were forced to use court-appointed lawyers and were allowed just hours to prepare their defenses. They were subject to solitary confinement, beatings and other abuses, according to the 78-page report.

The IACHR says Cuba also denied the defendants their right to a fair and public trial and humane treatment in jail, among other violations. It also condemned Cuba for laws that limit the rights of freedom of expression and opinion.

The commission berated Cuba for not using ''a judicial approach'' to prove the charges against the dissidents. It cites one case where a flier listing generally recognized human and civil rights was used as proof to show the defendant was seeking to destabilize the country.

VENEZUELA DEFENDS

The Venezuelan representative on the IACHR, Freddy Gutiérrez, wrote the sole dissenting opinion, saying the legal arguments were ''weak and inconsistent'' and that Cuba's 1962 suspension meant the country had no representation in the OAS.

Lorenzo Copello, Bárbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martínez were executed by firing squad on April 11. The family members were never informed of the trial and were not allowed to see the bodies afterwards.

Sports agent charged with smuggling Cuban ballplayers

A California sports agent was arrested and charged in a conspiracy to smuggle Cuban baseball players -- a case that industry insiders say reveals the dark side of a thriving business.

By Casey Woods, Kevin Baxter And Frances Robles. [email protected] Posted on Wed, Nov. 01, 2006.

A California-based sports agent was arrested Tuesday, charged in federal court in Miami with financing and organizing a scheme to smuggle Cuban baseball players from the communist island to the United States.

Baseball agent Gustavo ''Gus'' Dominguez of Total Sports International is accused of hiring four men to help him get 19 Cubans off the island on Aug. 22, 2004, including several who are now U.S. minor-league baseball players. The voyage also included three children only identified by their initials.

Dominguez's Beverly Hills company represents some 50 players, including pitcher Jason Simontacchi, former Marlin Greg Colbrunn and Cuban defectors Eddy Oropesa and Andy Morales. Dominguez has said he represents 38 Cuban defectors.

Industry insiders say the case reveals the dark underbelly of the business of representing Cuban defectors. Where player representatives once assisted Cubans in the act of defecting once they were outside Cuba -- as agent Joe Cubas did when he spirited former Marlin Liván Hernández away from the national team during a trip to Mexico in 1995 -- agents have in recent years begun working closely with or even recruiting smugglers to get the players off the island.

At least 100 Cuban players have defected since 1991. Although the smuggling operations have been an open secret for years in the baseball community, it is the first time an agent has been charged with a crime.

The indictment accuses Dominguez of depositing $50,000 into an account at the California-based Commercial Capital Bank to finance the operation.

The indictment says he rented an apartment in Woodland Hills, Calif., in late July 2004. Four days later, co-defendant Geoffrey Rodrigues loaded 22 Cubans onto a 28-foot boat in Cuba. The boat was intercepted by Customs and Border Protection.

A month later, co-defendant Roberto Yosvany Hernandez went back to Cuba to pick up another 19 Cuban nationals -- many of them from the first aborted trip.

''Mr. Dominguez has never been in trouble before. He is a successful businessman in California,'' said Susan Dmitrovsky, attorney for Dominguez. "I believe he will prevail in this case.''

According to the indictment, co-defendants Rodrigues and Hernandez operated go-fast boats used in the two smuggling ventures. Aides Ramón Batista and Guillermo Valdez allegedly transported the players from Florida to California in a rented van. Batista provided meals and clothes, using money Dominguez provided, the indictment said.

Among the players was Francisely Bueno-Trueba, a pitcher with the Atlanta Braves' minor-league affiliate in Mississippi; Osbek Castillo-Pérez, a pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks' minor-league team in Missoula, Mont.; Allen Guevara-Pérez, a pitcher from Havana; Osmany Masso-Arredondo, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in June but did not sign; and Yoankis Turino-Montalno, a pitcher for the Lincoln, Neb., Saltdogs of the independent American Association.

''Though this case involves a Beverly Hills sports agent and talented baseball players, it is remarkably similar to the human smuggling operations that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] encounters every day,'' ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers said in a statement. "The ringleaders put the lives of illegal immigrants at risk and sought to profit from their labor. It is unfortunate that those who claim to support Major League Baseball taint America's pastime with these illegal human smuggling operations.''

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the agent immediately began training and conditioning the baseball players, failing to present them to Customs and Border Protection for immigration processing.

Cuban-American baseball agent Juan Iglesias said he is often approached by the families of Cuban players, asking for a hand in getting their relatives off the island.

'My answer is always the same: 'When he gets to the U.S., have him call me,' '' Iglesias said. "That's heavy-duty stuff. More things can go wrong than can go right.''

Agent Joe Kehoskie said he's surprised it took so long for someone to be arrested.

''I don't want to gloat about someone else being arrested,'' Kehoskie said, "but it seems like in recent years the [business of representing] Cuban defectors has turned into a smuggling business.''

Dominguez was released from jail Tuesday after posting a $25,000 corporate surety bond. Batista posted a $15,000 bond.

The indictment charges all five defendants with a conspiracy to bring immigrants illegally into the United States, illegally transporting them in violation of law, and concealing and harboring them from detection.

Dominguez, Rodrigues and Hernandez are separately charged with smuggling the Cubans, and Rodrigues is charged with assaulting Customs and Border Protection marine interdiction agents. Dominguez, Batista, and Valdez are accused of transporting, concealing and harboring from detection undocumented immigrants.

The smuggling conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The assault of a federal officer carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The charges of smuggling, transporting, harboring and concealing undocumented immigrants each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Herald writer Andrea Torres contributed to this report.

Raúl Castro takes his own path

Fidel Castro transferred power in Cuba three months ago, and the government led by his brother Raúl has proved it can hold up without him.

By Frances Robles, [email protected] Posted on Wed, Nov. 01, 2006.

Three months after Cuban leader Fidel Castro handed the reins of power to his brother Raúl, triggering shocking uncertainty on both sides of the Florida Straits, there are early but important signs that Raúl has taken a different track than Fidel.

Raúl's few speeches have stuck to issues like worker productivity and corruption rather than to Fidel's firebrand denunciations of Yankee imperialism. Two Cabinet members have been replaced, and the government has announced a potentially critical plan to study flaws in the communist system. In August, he signaled a willingness to work closer with the United States.

Another difference between the two brothers: no massive street marches to mark this anniversary or protest that U.S. action; no revolutionary hoopla to welcome a new shipment of Chinese buses or rice-cooking pots.

Overall, Fidel's younger brother appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach on more significant changes: wait until Fidel dies, and see what he will be able to do.

''Announcing any kind of policy shift would be upstaging Fidel,'' said William LeoGrande of American University. "Before doing something like that, they would wait until Fidel was back and had blessed it.''

The stunning July 31 announcement that Fidel Castro was so sick with an intestinal ailment that he had ''temporarily'' surrendered his powers for the first time in 47 years sparked waves of speculation about his much less charismatic brother's ability to for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies maintain control of the island.

But during his three months in charge, Raúl has defied naysayers and proved that the system could survive with the 80-year-old Fidel on the sidelines -- alive but looking thin and sickly in the latest video released last weekend.

Raúl Castro, Cuba's defense minister for nearly five decades, has long been known to strive for institutional efficiency. The military he runs is a respected institution that is the engine behind much of the nation's economy.

But some Cuba experts say it remains unclear whether Raúl has either the acumen or political backing to run the country in the long run.

''They have demonstrated that nothing has changed,'' said Andy Gómez, a senior fellow at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. "The key issue is: How long can Raúl keep it together?''

Gómez added that when Fidel dies, Raúl will be forced to make a modicum of changes in hopes of buying himself at least six months before Cubans start making strong demands for improvements in their daily lives.

Cubans on the island are largely concerned about low wages, high prices, food shortages and decrepit housing. If Raúl is able to make at least a start toward improvements, he is unlikely to face massive street unrest, experts agree.

CALLING THE SHOTS

For now, many experts believe Fidel, despite his infirmity, is still calling the major shots. Amid speculation about cancer, Fidel's illness remains a state secret.

''He's very much involved . . . It may not be minute to minute, but certainly day to day,'' Gómez said.

Fidel Castro said he remains in close touch during a video he released Saturday to quash talk that he had died.

Among the surprise moves experts say must have been the work of the ailing Fidel: the appointment of former interior minister -- and reputed Raúl rival -- Ramiro Valdés as minister of communication.

American University Professor Philip Brenner said among the most dramatic, if subtle, changes was an Oct. 21 announcement that an academic committee would study the system for flaws that fuel corruption and inefficiencies. Previously, such widespread problems were blamed on people, not the system.

Cuban media reports quoted some of the academics as raising the possibility of introducing market competition to increase efficiency.

''This is very dramatic,'' he said. "I'd say this was one of two or three very significant things that mark a revitalization.''

KEEPING LOW PROFILE

Experts said the academic research team also was indicative of Raúl's low-key style of seeking a consensus -- a far cry from Fidel's autocratic approach to management. Compared to his brother's showmanship, Raúl has given only a handful of public addresses in the three months.

''The most interesting thing is that he hasn't been more of a public figure,'' LeoGrande said. "Being president requires symbolic leadership and demands a more public presence than being vice president. I'm surprised he hasn't come to grips with that.''

Raúl will likely continue his backstage approach, at least until he has a clearer sense of Cuba's future, experts say.

''At the end of the day, Fidel is still the president,'' LeoGrande said. "Even if he has turned over power to Raúl, he's still the jefe.''

Translation: Fidel's the boss.

OAS human rights branch condemns Cub

By Pablo Bachelet, [email protected] Posted on Wed, Nov. 01, 2006.

WASHINGTON - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Wednesday Cuba committed multiple violations when it imprisoned 75 dissidents and swiftly tried and executed three hijackers during a 2003 crackdown on dissent.

The decision by the commission, a branch of the Organization of American States (OAS), will likely have little immediate impact on the 61 dissidents still in jail or the relatives of the three hijackers because Cuba has not recognized previous commission decisions.

But human rights lawyers say it could lay the groundwork for reparations if there is a change Cuba's government.

The commission, an independent branch of the 34-member OAS, is widely respected among non-government human rights groups and has been credited with helping thousands of victims of violations in the hemisphere obtain reparations from governments.

Cuba argues the commission has no jurisdiction over Havana because the country was suspended from the OAS in 1962. It routinely returns IACHR communications unopened.

The 75 dissidents were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison after brief trials on charges generally alleging they were acting as U.S. agents. Fourteen were later released on health grounds.

The three men were executed by firing squads just nine days after their arrest following a foiled attempt to hijack a paseenger ferry to Florida. Their swift trial and executions infuriated international human rights organizations, many Cuban Americans in Miami and the U.S. government.

Cuba accused of slavelike labor deal

Cuban shipyard workers say they were forced to work as modern slaves at a Curacao ship repair company

By Frances Robles. [email protected] Posted on Sat, Oct. 28, 2006 in The Miami Herald.

The Cuban government conspired with a Curacao ship repair company to provide practically slave labor fixing up vessels, including Miami-based cruise ships, and kept workers under harsh conditions, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District court in Miami alleges.

The civil suit filed before Judge James Lawrence King alleges that up to 100 Cuban shipyard workers are forced to work against their will at Curacao Drydock Co., a ship repair company with an agent in Delray Beach, Klattenberg Marine Associates.

The suit, filed by three workers who escaped and now live in Florida, alleges they were ordered to work 16-hour shifts for $16 a month, a low wage common in their native Cuba.

''We started work at 3 in the afternoon and kept working until 7 a.m. the following day,'' plaintiff Alberto Justo Rodríguez told The Miami Herald. "We worked in the worst, most uncomfortable parts of the ship. Where nobody wanted to go -- that's where they sent the Cubans.''

112 HOURS A WEEK

According to the suit, the men often worked 112 hours a week.

Their wage amounted to 3 ½ cents an hour.

The suit was filed two months ago and was first reported Friday by The Associated Press.

Rodríguez, a former shipyard worker in Cuba, was summoned to the Ministry of Transportation in 2001 for a mandatory transfer to Curacao. Upon arrival on the Caribbean island, he says, his passport was seized.

He and up to 100 other Cubans worked on a joint venture with the Cuban government and Curacao Drydock, a company that does shipyard repair, including work for U.S.-based cruise lines, oil companies and shipping firms.

The joint venture between the Cuban government and Curacao Drydock has Cuba providing the workers for the company, providing a source of cash for the Cuban government, the suit alleges.

Curacao Drydock, the suit alleges, knew the Cuban workers were being held against their will.

A written statement provided by Curacao Drydock attorney Matt Triggs to The Miami Herald says many of the suit's allegations are directed at the Cuban government.

''There are allegations, however, regarding the health and safety of our employees that are of great concern to Curacao Drydock Co.,'' the statement said, stressing that the company has safety measures in place. "Nevertheless, the company is undertaking a full investigation of the allegations.''

The suit claims the men were forced to labor in sweltering weather and dangerous conditions, like hanging from scaffolds. When Rodríguez broke his foot and ankle in 2002 while scraping rust from the hull of a ship, he was sent home to heal -- and then ordered back after his recovery.

The suit claims plaintiff Luis Alberto Casanova once suffered an electric shock but was forced to finish his shift despite bleeding from his tongue.

The workers' supervisors were other Cubans, including a nephew of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the suit alleges.

''They always told us if we didn't work, they'd throw us out of the country, fire us and send us to jail,'' Rodríguez said. "Really, we were slaves. We didn't have a voice or a vote.''

FORCED VIEWING

On time off, Rodríguez said, they were forced to watch videos of political speeches, marches and the Cuban government Mesa Redonda -- Round Table -- TV news shows. He escaped in 2004 and now works odd jobs in Hialeah.

The suit was filed by Miami Beach lawyer John Andres Thornton under the Aliens Tort Act, which allows foreigners to file civil suits in U.S. federal courts when an international law has been violated.

Curacao Drydock has asked the judge to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. No trial date has been set.

Co-plaintiffs Fernando Alonso Hernández worked in Curacao from 1995 until he fled in January 2005. He and the third plaintiff, Luis Alberto Casanova, who worked in Curacao from 2002 until 2005, now work in shipyards in Tampa.

One of the plaintiffs, Thornton said, now makes in an hour what he used to get in a month.

Cuba examining socialism for flaws

The Cuban government has launched a study with a surprising focus: What about socialism causes people to steal?

By Frances Robles. [email protected] Posted on Thu, Oct. 26, 2006.

In the wake of an unusual investigation by Cuban state journalists into public employees who regularly cheat customers, Havana has announced an even more surprising response: a study of what's wrong with the entire system.

But the study won't be all. New rules aimed at cracking down on widespread fraud at state businesses will take effect Jan. 2, the Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Wednesday.

Together, the two announcements appear to hint at what some experts say could be a significant change in policy in the wake of Fidel Castro's surrender of power -- an acknowledgement that perhaps the root cause of Cuba's workplace fraud is a flaw with its socialist system.

POLICY SOLUTION

''This is different. They are not saying it's greed'' that causes corruption, said Cuba expert Philip Peters, of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia think tank. "They are saying it's not just a few bad apples. It's the system. They are putting the public on notice that they are looking for a policy solution.''

Raúl Castro, who assumed his brother's powers after Fidel Castro announced July 31 that he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery, has been portrayed by some Cuba-watchers as willing to reform the island's communist system.

This week's announcements came on the heels of a three-part series in the Communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde. In a remarkably unusual piece of journalism for Cuba's state-controlled media, reporters went undercover to restaurants, taxis and shoe repair shops to show how customers were routinely cheated. Beer mugs were not filled to the top, sandwiches were light on ham, taxi fares were too high and repair shops charged more than state-set prices.

While the Oct. 1 article did not stress the meager wages that often drive Cubans to pilfer from their state employers, it quoted workers as saying it was unfair to judge them when the government failed to provide the supplies needed to conduct business. The shoe repairman, for example, was buying his own thread and adjusting prices to make up for his investment.

On Tuesday, the newspaper followed up with a story reporting that a group of Cuban experts would study the issue of ''socialist property'' -- the communist system under which the government owns and operates virtually all enterprises on the island.

The study will be led by specialists from the Cuban Philosophy Institute ''as a scientific, multidiscipline investigation that cannot be economic alone,'' the newspaper added. It did not say when the study would be completed.

''I think we are probably at the verge of a new policy shift,'' said St. Thomas University economics professor Maria Dolores Espinosa. "Maybe they are looking at mixing some amount of market and moral incentives. Right now the only reason to work in Cuba is to steal. Otherwise, people would not be working.''

Florida International University professor Jorge Salazar-Carrillo cautioned, however, that the Cuban government periodically criticizes itself with great fanfare -- and then does little to address the problem.

''It's the same old thing: 'We have to stop this somehow,'' ' Salazar-Carrillo said. "They try to control it, and it gets worse and worse and worse.''

He said Cuba's black market economy is so strong that it would take impossibly drastic measures to stop it.

''I don't think this is going to fly at all,'' he said. "It's not going to happen.''

NEW RULES

But the Cuban government seems determined to crack down on the internal theft and other labor inefficiencies that have plagued state enterprises for decades.

Wednesday's Communist Party newspaper Granma said rules will take effect Jan. 2 "intended to strengthen the established order, educate the workers and deal with indiscipline and illegalities in the performance of labor.''

Among the rules: No wasting time on the job. Workers must report theft, damages and losses and should work their whole shift. No pornography or games can be downloaded on work computers.

''There must be a scientific method to organize society economically and politically so it may function better,'' the paper quoted Ernesto Molina, consulting professor of the Department of Economic Disciplines and Management Techniques at the Superior Institute of International Relations, as saying. "What we must not do is to allow the market to transform the economic structure of this country all by itself.''

Miami Herald translator Renato Pérez contributed to this report.

Radio and TV Martí begin aircraft broadcasts

By Pablo Bachelet, [email protected] Posted on Thu, Oct. 26, 2006

WASHINGTON - Radio and TV Martí have officially launched their new aircraft-based broadcasts with a program sure to please their Cuban audiences -- baseball's World Series.

The new G1 twin turboprop, based in Key West, is to be airborne between 6 and 11 every night except Sunday in an attempt to bypass Cuban government jamming of the stations' previously stationary broadcasting facilities.

After several weeks of testing, the aircraft officially began beaming the regular Martí broadcasts Tuesday, starting with Game 3 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers.

Although Cubans could rarely view the previous land-based broadcasts because of the government jamming, anecdotal evidence suggests some have been receiving the airborne transmissions, especially outside the Havana area, said the stations' chief of staff and spokesman, Alberto Mascaro.

''We did have some reports in the last few weeks of reception,'' he said in a telephone interview during a trip to Washington.

The Bush administration hopes the aircraft, which replaces broadcasting blimps once tethered in the Florida Keys but destroyed by hurricanes, will prove a more robust platform for defeating the Cuban jamming. Some Cuban-American activists have long lobbied for the shift to aircraft.

But the aircraft is still restricted to flying within U.S. airspace to avoid violating international broadcasting regulations. Some Cuban-American lawmakers are pushing the administration to let the plane fly in international airspace, which would make it even harder on the Cuban jammers.

The Cuban government has argued that all Radio and TV Martí broadcasts are illegal.

Last week, Cuba's acting ambassador before the United Nations, Ileana Núñez, told the General Assembly that on Aug. 11, Cuba detected simultaneous broadcasts from two aircraft in the 213 MHz frequency that interfered with island stations.

Mascaro said the new aircraft is broadcasting on TV's Channel 20 frequency and will not broadcast Radio Martí on the FM frequency. The plane is also capable of broadcasting live Martí signals.

U.N. will slam trade embargo, Cuban predicts

Posted on Wed, Oct. 25, 2006.

WASHINGTON - (AP) -- American hostility toward Cuba has reached ''unprecedented levels'' under the Bush administration, a senior Cuban official said Tuesday. He predicted that the U.N. General Assembly will deliver a sharp rebuke of U.S. policies in a resolution next month.

Cuba's chief diplomat in Washington, Dagoberto Rodríguez, said the world assembly will denounce the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, as it has each year since the early 1990s.

''The longest running and most ruthless blockade ever known to mankind will be rejected again,'' Rodríguez said, noting that 182 countries voted to end ''this cruel and genocidal policy'' last year.

He said the United States pursues regime change in Cuba and seeks to annex the island.

The Bush administration says it is seeking, through a policy of economic denial and other means, a peaceful transition to democracy on the island.

In response to a question about the possible reinstatement of Fidel Castro, Rodríguez said, "His health has been improving every day. He will soon be assuming his duties as president.''

A month ago, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Castro will take charge on Dec. 2. He relinquished power to his brother, Raúl, on July 31 after reportedly undergoing intestinal surgery.


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