Friday, November 21, 2014

Court rejects sex harassment case

A woman who sued a USAID contractor for sexual harassment in Venezuela lost her case on appeal, court documents show.
Heather Rome had worked for Development Alternatives Inc., the same company that sent American development worker Alan Gross to Cuba.
Rome was based in Caracas, where DAI was carrying out a project aimed at undermining the government of Hugo Chavez. In 2011, she accused the head of DAI's Venezuela project, Eduardo Fernandez, of misogynistic conduct, according to her lawsuit, filed on Oct. 18, 2011.
Rome said Fernandez harassed and screamed at female subordinates and complained that their office was "as inefficient as a brothel."
Rome said in a court brief:
Examples of Fernandez’s more belligerent and childish behavior catalogued by DAI’s HR Director included:
  • Fernandez uses inappropriate words and gestures when he speaks about females - this is done in the presence of other females and the client
  • Fernandez refers to females as “pussies”
  • Fernandez makes gestures indicating female “boobs” when he refers to certain female visitors
  • Fernandez told the office staff “if DAI girls learn to keep the pill between their legs then we would not have to pay for maternity insurance”
  • Fernandez creates a very hostile work environment when he screamed and shouted at the staff, almost on a daily basis

Report: Cuba does not promote drug trade

Seized drugs in Cuba. Photo: BBC
I came across this report today while catching up on some reading. The State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs released the report in March 2014.

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Cuba

A. Introduction

Despite its location between some of the largest exporters of illegal drugs in the hemisphere and the U.S. market, Cuba is not a major consumer, producer, or transit point of illicit narcotics. Cuba’s intensive security presence and bilateral interdiction efforts have effectively reduced the available supply of narcotics on the island and prevented traffickers from establishing a foothold. The Cuban Border Guard (TGF) maintains an active presence along Cuba’s coastal perimeter and conducts maritime counternarcotics operations and patrols. As such, traffickers typically attempt to avoid Cuban and U.S. counternarcotics patrol vessels and aircraft by skirting Cuba’s territorial waters.
Cuba’s domestic drug production and consumption remain low due to active policing, harsh sentencing, very low consumer disposable income and limited opportunities to produce illegal drugs, either synthetic or organic. Cuba’s counternarcotics efforts have prevented illegal narcotics trafficking from having a significant impact on the island.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cuban journalists, professors to visit U.S.

Raúl Garcés Corra. Photo: Mesa Redonda
Nine Cuban journalists and scholars plan to visit California State University, Fullerton, for 10 days starting on Dec. 3.
The visitors plan to get a first-hand look at digital journalism. They'll talk to American journalists and professors. They'll examine the rise of social media in journalism. Some will even do some reporting, a Cal-State source says.
Cal-State scholars, for their part, are interested in assessing changes in Cuban journalism, among other things.
The December visit is a first step toward a full-scale university exchange.
The visitors include:

Cristina Escobar Dominguez
  • Raúl Garcés Corra, dean of faculty of communication at the University of Havana.
  • Deborah Torres Ponjuán, vice dean for information technology and development at the University of Havana.
  • Beatriz Pérez Alonso, a University of Havana communication professor and former chief editor of Cubahora digital magazine.
  • Maribel Acosta Damas, head of the journalism department at the University of Havana.
  • Miguel Ernesto Gomez Masjuan, a journalist, blogger, screenwriter and faculty member at the University of Havana.
  • Liliam Marrero Santana, a professor in the New Technologies Department at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism.
  • Fidel A. Rodríguez Fernández, also a professor in the New Technologies Department at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism.
  • Sergio Alejandro Gomez, international editor of Granma newspaper.
  • Cristina Escobar Dominguez, a reporter, commentator and broadcaster who anchors a talk show about journalism in Cuba.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Alan Gross loses appeal

Document filed today
Yet another setback for Alan Gross: He lost his appeal in his suit against the U.S. government.
The court's 3-0 decision, filed today, is below:

United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Argued September 19, 2014 Decided November 14, 2014
No. 13-5168
ALAN GROSS AND JUDITH GROSS,
APPELLANTS
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
APPELLEE

Appeal from the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia
(No. 1:12-cv-01860)

Barry I. Buchman argued the cause for appellants. With him on the briefs were Scott D. Gilbert, Natalie A. Baughman, and Emily P. Grim. Alan Burch, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. On the brief were Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney, and R. Craig Lawrence and Michelle Lo, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
Before: HENDERSON, ROGERS and KAVANAUGH, Circuit Judges.
Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge ROGERS.

ROGERS, Circuit Judge: The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104–114, 110 Stat. 785 (1996) (codified at 22 U.S.C. § 6021 et seq.), aimed “to assist the Cuban people in regaining their freedom and prosperity, as well as in joining the community of democratic countries that are flourishing in the Western Hemisphere.” Id. § 3, 22 U.S.C. § 6022(1). The Act authorized the President “to furnish assistance and provide other support for individuals and independent nongovernment organizations to support democracy-building efforts for Cuba.” Id. § 109, 22 U.S.C. § 6039. In that regard, the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) entered a contract with a private consulting firm, Development Alternatives, Inc. (“DAI”), to provide humanitarian support to groups within Cuba. DAI, in turn, contracted with Alan Gross to train the Jewish community in Cuba to use and maintain information and communication technologies, such as mobile phones, wireless technologies, and personal computers. As his fifth trip to Cuba was drawing to a close in December 2009, Mr. Gross was detained and interrogated by Cuban authorities. In 2011, he was convicted for his participation in “a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communications systems out of the control of [Cuban] authorities” and sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. Compl. ¶ 115 (alteration in original).