Cuba: Effective Friday UPDATED

January 15th, 2015

What this country doesn’t need is a good $2 Cuban cigar.

Alberto de la Cruz predicted it, Obama may release his new Cuba sanctions policy tomorrow against the apartheid Castro regime

Today, the Administration announces new regulations for Cuba travel, trade

Here’s the White House Statement by the Press Secretary on the Publication of Regulatory Changes regarding Cuba (emphasis added)

Last month, President Obama announced historic changes to our Cuba policy, beginning the process of normalization between our countries, and announcing his commitment to ease restrictions on American citizens and businesses. Today, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce took a significant step forward in delivering on the President’s new direction by publishing regulatory amendments to existing Cuba sanctions. These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people.

We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans. The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation. The United States remains committed to our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a more prosperous Cuba that respects the universal rights of all its citizens.

So, no, not effective Friday, effective immediately? The NYT says

a set of new regulations to take effect on Friday easing decades-old restrictions on travel, business and remittances

so let’s not split hairs over the date; after all, everyone knew something like this was coming.

UPDATE:
Read it and weep, Fact Sheet: U.S. Department Of Commerce and U.S Department Of The Treasury Announcement Of Regulatory Amendments To The Cuba Sanctions

Charlie Hebdo: 5 million

January 15th, 2015

Five million copies are being issued this week following last week’s massacre:

Air France bought 20,000 copies of Charlie Hebdo to distribute to passengers.

Spain’s El País is all-in, not only showing the cover on the front page, but showing and translating into Spanish the special issue’s centerfold (click on image to go to El País),

Contrast that with Sky News’s anchorwoman:

and Pope Francis:

Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

It’s a good thing the pope can express his opinion freely, without fear that someone may force him to STFU.

Bonus:
Where’s the Lead in the Pencil?



Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality

January 14th, 2015

Since the next round of US-Cuban discussions is scheduled for January 21 and 22 (a week from today) in Havana, it’s worth taking a look at Cuba’s outdated Cold War mentality.

Read my article here.

Image from Comrade Šterpin at The People’s Cube.

Venezuela: Qatar gives a band-aid

January 14th, 2015

No specifics, though:
Qatar Helps Venezuela Weather Oil Crisis
Venezuela Will Receive ‘Several Billion Dollars’ in Financing From Qatari banks, President Nicolás Maduro said, as Opposition Members Criticized the Leader’s Economic Stewardship.

“They’re giving us enough oxygen to cover the fall in crude prices,” he said in remarks carried on Venezuelan state television.

An untold amount, in an untold date, by unnamed banks.

Sounds like a deal!

Meanwhile, Venezuelan authorities are doing what they do best:
Over 1.5 Million Diapers Seized from Venezuela Warehouse

A government raid on a warehouse in western Venezuela has resulted in the confiscation of more than 1.5 million diapers along with over 360 tons of detergent and thousands of pounds of food which were being illegally hoarded.

Venezuelan Vice President Jorge Arreaza said on state television Monday that during the raid, 1,523,776 diapers, 360 tons of detergent powder, as well as conditioners, razors and towels, were found.

In the warehouse, situated in Zulia province, there were also 15,000 units with thousands of liters (gallons) of infant milk substitute, 17,076 kilograms (37,646 pounds) of beans, 11,176 liters (2,952 gallons) of milk, 40,250 kilograms (88,736 pounds) of maize flour and 30,000 kilograms (66,139 pounds) of rice, Arreaza said.

They also found sanitary napkins, shampoos of different brands, soap powder, toothpastes, batteries, napkins, food supplements, milk powder, salsas and pet food.

No band-aids there.

And people who photograph the long lines and empty shelves are sent to jail.

Juan Cristobal Nagel posted videos of folks Overcoming capitalist savagery at Farmatodo Bella Vista:

Who’s publishing the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon? UPDATED

January 13th, 2015

Buzzfeed has the list:
Here’s Who Is And Isn’t Publishing The New Charlie Hebdo Cover Image
Libération, the newspaper where Charlie Hebdo staff have been working since the attack, unveiled the cover of the magazine’s next edition on Monday. Some news outlets have been censoring themselves when it comes to publishing cartoons of Muhammad after the deadly Paris attack last week.

UPDATE:
My initial reaction to the “Tout est pardonné” (all is forgiven) was “Rien n’est pardonné” (nothing is forgiven). Ace’s Laura looks at what it really means.



Cuba: Finally, the list of the 53 UPDATED

January 13th, 2015

UPDATE, January 16,
Castro Re-Arrests Cuban Dissidents From the List of 53

—————————–

Marc Masferrer explains, on Facebook,

For more than nine years, I have tried to make my blog a repository of information, in English, about Cuban political prisoners. It rarely is an easy task — it’s not like the Cuban government provides an up-to-date list — but a major goal of my blogging has been to report the prisoners’ names and their stories so that they, and their captors, know they are not forgotten.

I wish the release of 53 political prisoners was a more joyful moment, that maybe I could retire this function of my blog. But there is nothing in recent developments that suggests that the released prisoners’ places in the Castro gulag won’t later be filled by others. And then there are those prisoners who apparently didn’t make the list of 53.

Here is Marc’s list with links; I cannot emphasize enough that these are not the only political prisoners in Cuba:

1. Alcibiades Guerra Marín

2. Alexander Fernández Rico

3. Alexander Otero Rodríguez

4. Alexeis Vargas Martín

5. Ángel Figueredo Castellón

6. Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga

7. Anoy Almeida Pérez

8. Aracelio Ribeaux Noa

9. Bianko Vargas Martín

10. Carlos Manuel Figueredo Álvarez

11. César Andrés Sánchez Pérez

12. Daniel Enrique Quesada Chaveco

13. David Bustamante Rodríguez

14. David Piloto Barceló

15. Diango Vargas Martín

16. Eider Frometa Allen

17. Eliso Castillo González

18. Emilio Plana Robert

19. Enrique Figuerola Miranda

20. Ernesto Riverí Gascón

21. Ernesto Tamayo Guerra

22. Eugenio Hernández Hernández 

23. Haydée Gallardo Salázar

24. Iván Fernández Depestre

25. Jorge Cervantes García

26. Jorge Ramírez Calderón

27. José Leiva Díaz

28. José Lino Ascencio López

29. José M. Rodríguez Navarro

30. Juan Carlos Vásquez Osoria

31. Juliet Michelena Díaz

32. Julio César Vegas Santiesteban

33. Lázaro Romero Hurtado

34. Leonardo Paumier Ramírez

35. Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz

36. Madeline Lazara Caraballo Betancourt

37. Marcelino Abreu Bonora

38. Mario Alberto Hernández Leiva

39. Miguel Alberto Ulloa

40. Miguel Ángel Tamayo Frías

41. Miguel Guerra Astie

42. Ramón Alejandro Muñoz

43. Reiner Mulet Levis

44. Roberto Hernández Barrio

45. Rolando Reyes Rabanal

46. Ruberlandis Maine Villalón

47. Rubisney Villavicencio Figueredo

48. Sonia Garro Alfonso

49. Vladimir Morera Bacallao

50. Vladimir Ortiz Suárez

51. Wilberto Parada Milán

52. Yohanne Arce Sarmientos

53. Yordenis Mendoza Cobas

When Will Cuba’s Remaining Political Prisoners be Released?

Why didn’t it release the list on December 17th?

Here are a few clues:

The list includes over a dozen prisoners who were released prior to the December 17th announcement, such as Sonia Garro, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, Eugenio Hernandez Hernandez, Juliet Muechelena Diaz Vladimir Morera Bacallao, Alcibiades Guerra Marin, Eider Frometa Allen, Madeline Lazara Caraballo Betancourt, Jorge Cervantes García, Juan Carlos Vasquez Osoria and Niorvis Rivera Guerra.

The Administration insists that they were also part of the Obama-Castro deal. Of course, since they kept the list secret all this time, we’ll never know. So much for accountability and transparency.

One of the prisoners on the list, who was also released prior to December 17th, Marcelino Abreu Bonora, had been out of prison since October 24th. He was then re-arrested on December 26th (after the Obama-Castro deal), brutally beaten (click here to see evidence) and kept in a punishment cell for nearly two weeks before being re-released on January 7th.

Abreu Bonora’s case proves how fungible and fickle this deal is.

What’s clear is that the Obama Administration didn’t want to travel to Havana next week for further talks, while questions lingered about the unknown fate of these 53 prisoners.

Thus, after sitting on their hands for four weeks, they ratcheted the pressure on the Castro regime. Imagine that, pressure works.

Or they simply got creative with the list.

(Additionally, most of the political prisoners were released on the “condition” they don’t renew their democracy activism — or face re-arrest — while many were at the tail-end of their sentences.)

But wait! There’s more!
Expelled Castro spy most likely to lead talks with U.S. in Cuba. Details at Cuba Confidential:

The Cuban delegation is expected to be led by Josefina Vidal, director of the North American Affairs Division within Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vidal led the previous round of migration talks last July in Washington, D.C. A member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee, Vidal was thrown out of the US in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of Havana’s spy-diplomats. For five years, her office also played a central role in the negotiations regarding the return of USAID contractor Alan Gross.

The trip to China Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

January 12th, 2015

LatinAmerLast week Nicolas Maduro and a few others visited China in search of funds. How did that work out?

ARGENTINA
Ha! You Thought Argentina Would Negotiate

BAHAMAS
What the New Value Added Tax Means for Visitors to the Bahamas

BOLIVIA
Robert Downey Jr. helped out, too: A Devoted Sean Penn Helps US Man Recover From Bolivia Ordeal

Ostreicher, who is an Orthodox Jew, had the attention of the Aleph Institute, a foundation that helps incarcerated Jews. The Florida-based group asked Wahlberg to reach out to Penn, who is widely known for his Haiti relief efforts and closeness to leftist Latin American leaders.

Penn became convinced Ostreicher had been unjustly imprisoned since mid-2011 so corrupt authorities could drain the assets of the $25 million rice-farming operation in which he was a minor investor. Though he was accused of money-laundering, no evidence was ever presented.

Penn was self-effacing when asked about his odd-couple friendship with Ostreicher and why he decided to help. “What can I say? He was likable,”

When Penn asked Bolivian President Evo Morales to intercede, Penn got a tepid response.

So he exposed the extortion ring, sparking a scandal that eventually would see 14 Bolivian officials jailed ? the ring’s No. 2 figure entered a guilty plea last week ? while others fled the country.

Penn then got Ostreicher moved to a medical clinic. The New Yorker had withered to 107 pounds from a liquids-only hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. Penn leveraged his Venezuelan connections ? he was close to the late President Hugo Chavez ? to get armed Venezuelan security guards assigned to protect him, fearing he’d be targeted for exposing the extortion ring.

Even though he had endured more than 30 court hearings, Ostreicher continued to insist he wanted to clear his name in Bolivia.

Penn told him to let it go.

Ostreicher should have listened to Penn.

BRAZIL
Brazil’s Inflation Rises Even Amid Low Growth
Inflationary Pressures, Sluggish Growth Create Challenger for New Economic Team

CHILE
Robbers set off explosion in Chile subway station heist
The Franklin metro station in Santiago was filled with smoke after thieves blew up two ATMs Wednesday night,
the Santiago Fire Department said. Authorities have not yet said if there were any injuries.
This sort of thing keeps happening.

COLOMBIA
Colombia Passes Law for Referendum on Peace Agreement Along with Elections

CUBA
Cuba dissidents says 36 activists freed as part of deal with US
Opposition activists are freed following Cuban and US governments agreeing to renew diplomatic relations in December

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Dominican Republic Won’t Recognize Gay Union at British Embassy

ECUADOR
Ecuador Debt: Vulnerable To Oil, But Safe W/China Loan Vs. Argentina, Venezuela. Maybe.

HAITI

Hillary’s Half-Baked Haiti Project
Caracol Industrial Park is failing to deliver on the promises made to foreign investors and Haitians.

Successful industrial parks are built by people who know the business and who demand accountability. This park was put in the hands of State, the IDB and Bill Clinton. The results have been predictable

HONDURAS
Kidnapped Honduras Aids activist Keren Dunaway freed

JAMAICA
‘Blame the Government of Jamaica’

HUMOR
Terapia intensiva:

Edgar Borja en la UdQ:

MEXICO
Carso Energy Slim-Owned Company Gets Share of Contract for Texas Gas Pipeline

Human-Rights Failings Overshadow Peña Nieto’s US Visit
Pressure Mounts to Resolve Iguala Disappearances, End Impunity

Mexican President Offers Obama Help With Executive Amnesty

Obama Outsources Leader-Of-The-Free-World Job To Mexico

NICARAGUA
Springfield firefighters in Nicaragua to help build homes

PANAMA
The Expansion Of The Panama Canal Will Have A Huge Effect On Global Trade

PARAGUAY
Paraguayan rebel leader Albino Jara ‘killed’

PERU
Peru’s Fujimori Gets Eight Years for Tabloid Bribe
Cash for Coverage Conviction Joins Upheld Corruption Charges

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico begins school semester with complaints of teacher shortage

URUGUAY
Fake bomb prompted evacuation of Israeli embassy in Montevideo

VENEZUELA
No fries for you! Out of French Fries in Venezuela, McDonald’s Turns to Yuca

Ángel Vivas: Venezuela Must Resist the Cuban Invasion
Former General Will Defend His Homeland Through Any Means

Venezuela food shortages: ‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food’
Toilet paper, rice and coffee have long been missing from stores, as Venezuelan president blames CIA plot for chronic shortages
. Idiot.

The week’s posts and podcast:
Cuba: Spoof?

And now, a post on eyeglass frames

France: Hostage situation

Charlie Hebdo’s next: 1,000,000 copies

Venezuela: Maduro does/doesn’t get $20billion UPDATED

France: Massacre on #CharlieHebdo

Venezuela: Maduro wants a Puerto Rican out jail

Argentina, Venezuela, chickens coming home to roost

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
Cuba: Is Fidel dead yet?

The Charlie Hebdo massacre

Podcast:
Cuba & US-Latin America topics



Cuba: Spoof?

January 12th, 2015

This popped up today:

Color me skeptical:

Like I said before, I won’t believe it until CSI releases the post-mortem report.

And now, a post on eyeglass frames

January 10th, 2015

Face it, guys, this week’s news has been exhausting. Time to think of other things:

Glass Distinctions: Which Eyewear Frames Suit Your Personal Style?
You don’t want the same boring frames. But how much of a style risk can you live with every single day?

Eyewear can define who you are and who you want to be perhaps more than anything else a man owns. “You could have a great pair of shoes or a great suit, but people are first connecting with your face, so finding the right pair of glasses is crucial,” said designer Garrett Leight, who has followed in the footsteps of his father Larry Leight, founder of 28-year-old Oliver Peoples, by creating his own eponymous eyewear company which specializes in frames inspired by classics from the literary and film worlds.

With women, traditionally it’s been different, with the gin-soaked Anita Loos creating a mantra for generations with “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

Until you find the guy who does:

Here’s what I’m wearing now,

Lafont_Magnolia

And at my Facebook page, a survey:

A question to my FB friends,
Who was the best actor in all of The Godfather movies? (pick one)
1. Al Pacino
2. Marlon Brando
3. Lee Strassberg
4. Robert Duvall
5. Robert DeNiro
6. James Caan
7. Richard S. Castellano (the guy that played Clemenza)
and,
8. John Cazale (apologies for the omission!)

Cuba: Is Fidel dead yet?

January 9th, 2015

It’s that time of the year again!

Read all about it, Cuba: Is Fidel dead yet?


This is what he looked like a quarter century ago.