Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pooch in pursuit

The chase


Along the Malecon - Dogs and puppies index

An unusual sight: Fidel Castro votes

Here's something you don't see every day: Fidel Castro voting in a Cuban election

In this Jan. 11, 1998, election, Castro cast his ballot in the town of El Cobre on the island's southeastern edge. He told reporters:
We're free. We're independent.  And we fight for our independence - today, yesterday and always. 
After the vote

Critics say Cuba's national elections mean nothing because there are no opposition candidates. Castro loyalists say Cuba has its own style of democracy based largely on the grassroots selection of local government leaders.

Castro fielded questions for more than an hour after voting in 1998. Isn't that Felipe Perez Roque to the right?

Ever defiant

Castro rejected democracy imposed on Cuba by foreign nations. And he issued a warning to those who are trying to topple or weaken the socialist government:
Nothing can stop us. Not even death, because those who try to wipe us out will have to die, too.
Explaining with words - and with his hands

Around the time of the 1998 elections, Fidel Castro sat down with two or three Cuban journalists. It wasn't exactly a press conference because the journalists asked very few questions. The president spoke most of the time and the journalists listened.

I was in Havana, staying at the Hotel Victoria. I listened to Castro for a while and then decided to go out. Several hours later, I returned. Castro was still on TV. I asked:
They're re-broadcasting the show already?

Playing it again? a bartender replied. Fidel hasn't finished. He's still talking.
I watched a while longer. The journalists were still pretty quiet. But at one point, one of them spoke up, asking if he could ask a question. I remember Castro saying something like:
Yes, as long as you ask a question about exactly what I am talking about at this precise moment.
The show went on for four or five hours, maybe more.

One of the reporters' last questions was about the elections. By then, it was well after midnight and Castro said, "I wish you'd asked me about that when I was fresh." Then he proceeded to talk for another hour.

It was quite a performance. At least that's the way I remember it. There must be a transcript somewhere.


Elections in Cuba - Wikipedia
Jan. 12, 1998, story in the Dallas Morning News
Results of the last Cuban elections in May 2009

Photo (s) of the Week - Carnival beauties

Index to Photo (s) of  the Week - August 2008 to May 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Batter up: Cuban championship starts Saturday

A baseball fan cheers in Havana

The Cuban Baseball League championship starts Saturday, the Havana Times says. Villa Clara and Havana Province play in the best-of-seven series.

A tribute to Cuban baseball
More baseball fans

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cuba's lone McDonald's restaurant

The Guantanamo Bay McDonald's. Source of photo:
View of Guantanamo from Picote

There is a Mickey D's in Cuba, but it's not along the Malecon. It's at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
I've never been to Gitmo, but did catch a glimpse of the base one day from a nearby hilltop called Picote. I went there with a group of journalists on the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cuban officials wanted to get across the message that they were against terrorism. From a lookout point 600 feet above the naval base, Gen. Jose Solar told reporters:
Cuba doesn't sponsor terrorism. The terrorist bands are in Miami.
Cuban soldiers from a nearby base
Lights of Guantanamo. Through a telescope, we just make out the American flag flying at half-mast on the Sept. 11 anniversary
Fidel Castro has said the Guantánamo base should be in Cuban hands, although he didn't object when the United States began flying in Taliban prisoners in 2002.
Cuban officials said then they will cooperate with the U.S. in the anti-terrorism fight. Gen. Solar said:
What we want is peace. We're victims of terrorism, not terrorists.
Gen. Jose Solar

Cuban officials continue to say they'll cooperate on anti-terrorism matters. Despite that, Washington says Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism.

Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations, Abelardo Moreno, rejected that accusation on Tuesday. Europa Press quoted him as saying:
If the new U.S. administration really wants to demonstrate its commitment to the fight against terrorism, it has the opportunity now to act firmly and without double standards against the different terrorist organizations that attack Cuba from U.S. territory.

Sept. 12, 2002, story in the Dallas Morning News
General information on Gitmo from Web site

View of the Hotel Nacional as a storm rolls in

Traveler's tip: The "super cheeseburger" at the Hotel Nacional's downstairs cafeteria is pretty darned good and the service is fast

If China, why not Cuba?

Machete power

We don't have any qualms about diplomatic relations with China, but we remain wary of Cuba. The Examiner asks why.
Lately, the new American administration has made overtures to “enemy states,” one of which is Cuba. But my question is: why did it have to take this long?
The government tells us that we can’t deal with the island nation because it is Communist. Well, isn’t China Communist too?
...if we can deal with China, then we surely should be able to deal with our close neighbor as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Faint signs of movement in the U.S.-Cuba grudge match

Ricardo Alarcon

Cuban officials are studying "with great interest" an Obama administration proposal to renew migration talks with Cuba, said Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba's National Assembly.
Regular meetings to discuss migration issues would at least open a new channel of communication between the two countries, at odds for most of the past half century. And that can't hurt.
But Cuba and the United States remain light years apart on many key issues, including human rights, politics and freedom of expression.

Havana Note post on suspicions that the Obama administration is not pursuing migration talks with great enthusiasm.

Castro brothers rarely together in public

Fidel Castro waves as Raul watches

You don't see Fidel Castro and his brother Raul together in public very often. That's because if one is assassinated, the revolution can continue, conventional wisdom says.
I once saw them together at a rally and shot the photo above.
Below, the Castro brothers confer in a UPI photograph taken in July 1959. That was when Fidel Castro announced he was resigning as prime minister to protest demands that then-President Manuel Urrutia resign.
The Cuban Cabinet refused to accept Castro's resignation. Urrutia, a declared anti-communist who clashed with Castro, soon quit and moved to the United States.
Castro stepped back into his role as prime minister and consolidated his power, eventually becoming the country's undisputed leader.

Photo credit: UPI

The UPI photo is on eBay with a buy-it-now price of $250.

Granma rejects "apocalyptic view of Cuba"

Ready to face the world, gracefully

Granma, the state-run newspaper, is protesting Reuters' gloomy coverage of the Cuban economy. Granma said:
The colleague from the British agency minimizes the fact that our society’s greatest treasure is its human capital. That is why, appealing over and over to the recourse of participation by all, Cuba emerges gracefully from complex situations.
Reuters story saying Cuba was lowering its 2009 growth forecast to 2 percent
Reuters story saying the Cuban economy was expected to falter in 2009
Granma story on importance of saving money, in Spanish. Compares "homeland or death" motto with "savings or death."

Monday, May 25, 2009

A shirtful of pride

A Cuban veteran poses with his medals

Black berets, white gloves and assault rifles

These officers are with the Ministry of the Interior

Special ops unit?

The Ministry of the Interior - MinInt for short - has sweeping responsibilities. It oversees:

* Immigration
* Population registery and IDs
* National Revolutionary Police
* Prisons
* Firefighters
* Forest rangers
* Border troops
* Citizen services
* Criminal Investigation
* Anti-narcotics
* Criminal Investigations
* Juvenile matters
* Intelligence and state security agencies
* Security
* Counter-intelligence
* Domestic Counter-intelligence
* Special Operations
* Specialized Protective Services

Abelardo Colomé Ibarra heads the ministry, which marks its 48th anniversary on June 6, 1961.

MinInt headquarters at Revolution Square


Colomé biography, in Spanish
2006 Bohemia story on MinInt, in Spanish
Blogger Yoani Sanchez recounts experience with MinInt officials, calling them "intimidation professionals"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dogs & puppies

Tequilita of Vedado loves corn flakes

This pooch found a treasure

April 11, 2010 - Post 1,001: Cuban dog hits the jackpot
Jan. 14, 2010 - Who needs a bath? Estás loco
Dec. 11, 2009 - Leaving fate in the hands of strangers
Oct. 30, 2009 - New book: The Dogs of Havana
Oct. 16, 2009 - Antenna in position
Oct. 4, 2009 - Cuban girl imitates dog
Sept. 1, 2009 - Four-legged burglar alarm
Aug. 9, 2009 - Top-drawer dogs live on ground floor
June 2, 2009 - Me against the world
May 31, 2009 - Pooch in pursuit
May 10, 2009 - From Cuban street dog to canine jet setter
April 29, 2009 - Canine CDR
April 19, 2009 - White dogs, the cemetery and fried chicken
April 17, 2009 - Best chance for a thaw in 50 years? "Bacon!" Havana pooch says
Feb. 3, 2009 - Harley nostalgia creeps to the surface
Jan. 16, 2009 - Canine cuisine invention: Cuban pooch munches on corn flakes
Jan. 13, 2009 - Pirata - Puppy tales from Cuba, Part III
Jan. 11, 2009 - Cuban puppy ready to travel

Nov. 27, 2008 - Thanksgiving tribute to Cuban canines
Nov. 1, 2008 - Beware of dreaded Multiple Havanese Syndrome
Sept. 24, 2008 - Famous Cuban dog learns to shoot pistol, also barks at President Bush
Sept. 15, 2008 - Street dogs of Havana
Aug. 28, 2008 - Blan Blan - Puppy tales from Cuba, Part II
Aug. 28, 2008 - Puppy tales from Cuba, Part I

Spy vs. spy

CIA in Cuba

The Cuban Five

April 21, 2010 - To some they're heroes. To others they're "rats"
Feb. 19, 2010 - CIA in 1962: "The Cuban people feel helpless and are losing hope fast"
Jan. 13, 2010 - Ex-State Department official: Pro-democracy work in Cuba fraught with peril
Jan. 13, 2010 - Satellite link to the Internet may have been heart of jailed American's mission
Jan. 13, 2010 - American Jew in Cuba held as American spy
Jan. 13, 2010 - Jailed American looks like a Beltway insider
Jan. 13, 2010 - American has managed U.S. government development projects
Jan. 13, 2010 - Jailed man not interested in "meddling" in other nations' affairs
Jan. 13, 2010 - U.S. contractor left a photo trail
Jan. 13, 2010 - Contractor's company evidently has worked in more than 50 countries
Jan. 12, 2010 - American jailed in Cuba is finally identified

Dec. 20, 2009 - American scientist accused of spreading dengue fever in Cuba defends himself
Dec. 14, 2009 - U.S. government outsources work in Cuba
Nov. 20, 2009 - High-profile spy case ends with plea bargain
Oct. 26, 2009 - Fidel Castro's younger sister, Juanita, says she worked with the CIA
Oct. 13, 2009 - Agent could be out of prison in about 2016
Oct. 13, 2009 - Mothers and sons
Oct. 13, 2009 - Judge: Cuban agent sought "top secret information"
Oct. 13, 2009 - Cuban agent is now an English teacher
Oct. 13, 2009 - Miami judge considers Cuban agent's fate
Oct. 8, 2009 - Cuban agent stuck in "living tomb" paints to escape
Oct. 6, 2009 - Luis Posada Carriles volunteered to spy on anti-Castro exiles
Oct. 4, 2009 - No visa for would-be Cuban agent
Oct. 1, 2009 - Did Cuban Five harm U.S. national security?
Aug. 31, 2009 - Three convicted Cuban agents transferred
Aug. 22, 2009 - Rally next month for the Cuban Five
Aug. 19, 2009 - Cyberwars and toilet paper doom
July 2, 2009 - Gwen Myers' South Dakota home
June 19, 2009 - Accused spy's son: Dad's not some fanatic
June 18, 2009 - Six-month delay can only help Posada Carriles
June 16, 2009 - Tough road ahead for Cuban Five
June 16, 2009 - Myers and wife want house arrest. Lawyers argue case today. New documents filed.
June 15, 2009 - Cuba: Supreme Court's refusal to hear Cuban Five's case "a monstrous injustice"
June 12, 2009 - Politics - and sex - drove former CIA spy, ex-agents say
June 12, 2009 - Artists' view of accused spies
June 11, 2009 - Cuban Five fighting to get out of prison
June 11, 2009 - Accused spy Kendall Myer linked to marijuana in 1979
June 11, 2009 - Former colleague: Kendall Myers "seemed like an absent-minded professor," not a spy
June 10, 2009 - Was Gwen Myer digging into diplomats' finances?
June 10, 2009 - FBI secretly searched spy suspects' luxury apartment
June 10, 2009 - Accused spies must stay in prison. May have had an "escape plan," prosecutor says
June 10, 2009 - Federal judge: Government's case against accused spies is "very strong"
June 10, 2009 - Accused spies due in court today
June 9, 2009 - FBI agents "went out of their way" to pursue accused spies
June 9, 2009 - New photos of accused spies
June 7, 2009 - Kendall Myers: "Revolution...liberated the Cuban spirit"
June 7, 2009 - Accused spies adored Fidel Castro, but wanted to quit spying
June 6, 2009 - Fidel Castro: Can't remember meeting accused agents
June 6, 2009 - Kiss that boat goodbye
June 6, 2009 - U.S. senator: Suspend all diplomatic outreach to Cuba
June 5, 2009 - U.S. paid accused spy more than $1.7 million
June 5, 2009 - Walter Myers clashed with the State Department
June 5, 2009 - Walter Myers, a.k.a. Agent 202
June 5, 2009 - Two accused spies arrested
April 14, 2009 - The Comandante's Pinky
March 19, 2009 - And now, USSOUTHCOM
March 18, 2009 - CIA stumbles upon Along the Malecon
March 6, 2009 - Nobel Prize winners stand behind Cuban agents
March 5, 2009 - Conspiracies "R" Us: Revisiting the shootdown
Feb. 10, 2009 - Love-sick crabs stir up trouble on Cuba's Pink Highway
Jan. 31, 2009 - Armchair view of Cuban Five's Supreme Court petition
Jan. 22, 2009 - Ex-CIA analyst picks apart Raul Castro

Dec. 5, 2008 - Cuban-American activist says she's not an agent, sues her accuser
Oct. 24, 2008 - Wife of Cuban agent says she's "sadly famous"
Oct. 14, 2008 - Hollow rocks, CIA plots, blood, murder and escape tunnels
Sept. 23, 2008 - Please speak clearly into the coffee cup
Sept. 20, 2008 - High-level Cuban delegation heads to Big Apple
Sept. 13, 2008 - Adriana Perez, wife of accused Cuban agent (Part I)
Sept. 12, 2008 - James Cason: "Lots and lots" of Cuban spies "all over the place"
Sept. 10, 2008 - Does Cuba have our number?
Sept. 12, 2008 - Five nabbed after pro-spy protest
Sept. 1, 2008 - Lethal Weapon star supports Cuban agents
Aug. 28, 2008 - Ex-KGB honcho praises Cuban spies
Aug. 24, 2008 - Artist's tribute to five Cuban spies
Aug. 14, 2008 - Poof! Instant propaganda

A glimpse of Fidel Castro's birthplace

Antonio Lopez, caretaker of the Castro brothers' childhood home in Birán, shows me Fidel Castro's crib

Fidel Castro's father was Ángel Castro, a plantation owner. His mother was Lina Ruz González, a servant in Angel's home.

Castro described his early years in a 2006 spoken autobiography, 100 Horas con Fidel Castro. French author Ignacio Ramonet conducted the 100 hours of interviews with Castro from 2003 to 2005.

The book was released in 2006 and an version in English called Fidel Castro: My Life was published in 2008. Excerpts are below along with pictures I took in Birán.
I was born on a farm…called Birán. It wasn’t a town, or even a village – just a few isolated houses. The roads at that time were just big mud tracks. People traveled on horseback or in oxcarts. There were no motorized vehicles yet, or even electric light. When I was little, we lit the house with wax candles and kerosene lamps.

It was a house constructed in Spanish architecture, or rather Galician. I should point out there my father was a Spaniard, a Galician, from the village of Lancara, in the province of Lugo, the son of poor campesinos.

My house was inspired by that architecture in Galicia, because it was built on wooden piles, like stilts. These piles were over six feet tall, which was the usual way of building houses in Galicia.
This was Fidel Castro's home. I don't know how much of it is original. Fire destroyed at least part of the home many years ago, the guide told me.
Castro: I remember that when I was three or four years old, the cows slept underneath the house. They’d be brought in at nightfall, and they’d sleep under the house. And they’d be milked there, tied to some of the piles.
Under the house there was also…a little pen with pigs and fowl – at various times there’s be chickens, ducks, guinea hens, turkeys and even a few geese.
Family cattle
Castro: In my childhood I can assure you that in Birán fewer than 20 percent of the people who lived there knew how to read and write, and even those who did so with great difficulty. 
Very few made it to the sixth grade. There I had the experiences that enable me today to understand how much an illiterate person suffers.
Fidel Castro's first school.
I believe that Antonio Lopez told me Castro sat in this seat in the first row
Castro: In Birán, the people who didn’t know how to read and write would ask the ones who did to write a letter to the woman they were courting, for example.
But it wasn’t that they dictated a letter – tell her so-and-so and so-and-so – that he dreamed about her last night and that he’s not eating for thinking about her....
No, he’d tell the one who knew how to read and write, ‘No, no, you just write whatever you think I ought to write to her.’ To win over the girlfriend! I’m not exaggerating. I lived during a time when things were like that.

The town watering hole
Castro: In those surroundings, from the time I was a very young boy I lived among the sights and the work of the country – the trees, the sugar cane, the birds, the insects….
I believe the guide said cockfights took place here
The grave of Fidel Castro's parents
Castro: I lived with people of the most humble origins. I remember the illiterate unemployed men who would stand in line near the cane fields, with nobody to bring them a drop of water, or breakfast, or lunch, or give them shelter, or transport. And I can’t forget those children going barefoot.
All the children whom I played with in Birán, all those I grew up with, ran around with, all over the place, were very, very poor.

The images of so many poor, hard-working, humble people there in Birán will never be erased from my mind….
Birán had a Disney-like quality to it. It was clean and sanitized, kind of like a movie set.

Birán wasn't open to tourists when I went. I needed government permission to go there. It's an interesting spot because it gives you a glimpse into Castro's past.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Show and tell for Cuban military

Antiaircraft missile launchers

You don't see missile launchers within sight of the Capitolio very often.

This is an old picture, one of many I dragged out of the shoebox this weekend. These are Russian-made weapons.

Yoani & digital revolt

Yoani Sanchez

Along the Malecon links:

Sept. 3, 2010 - Yoani Sanchez named "World Press Freedom Hero"
Feb. 23, 2010 - Latest chisme: Bardach book making rounds in Cuba
Feb. 9, 2010 - Yoani Sanchez joins Las Damas' Sunday march
Jan. 20, 2010 - When Reinaldo was more famous than his wife
Jan. 20, 2010 - Behind the scenes at Generacion Y

Dec. 20, 2009 - Cuba experts at odds over importance of Yoani Sanchez
Dec. 15, 2009 - U.S. government consultants have included iRevolution blogger
Dec. 15, 2009 - Plotting Cuba's digital revolution
Dec. 14, 2009 - U.S. government outsources work in Cuba
Dec. 12, 2009 - U.S. contractor detained in Cuba
Nov. 25, 2009 - Ramiro Valdes is a member of Raul Castro's inner circle

Photo credit: Cambios en Cuba

Nov. 21, 2009 - Real and virtual mobs clash in Cuba
Nov. 7, 2009 - Post-march Saturday: More questions than answers
Nov. 7, 2009 - Facebook friends: We are all Yoani
Nov. 7, 2009 - Peace march "rather shady," pro-government blogger says
Nov. 7, 2009 - Cuban marchers shout "peace and love"
Nov. 7, 2009 - Yoani Sanchez: "I grabbed his testicles"
Nov. 6, 2009 - Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez shaken up in attack
Nov. 4, 2009 - Yoani Sanchez, driving 'em to drink in her blond wig
Oct. 24, 2009 - CPJ: Cuban bloggers growing in strength
Oct. 24, 2009 - No cruise for Yoani
Oct. 15, 2009 - Brazen blogger to Cuban official: "The future is ours"

Photo credit: Generacion Y

Oct. 14, 2009 - Is Cuban government approach to Yoani Sanchez counterproductive?
Sept. 29, 2009 - Rapper given "injection of fear"
Sept. 28, 2009 - Two onions, a head of lettuce and a dash of freedom
Sept. 10, 2009 - Cuban government promises public internet access
Aug. 23, 2009 - Most Cuba bloggers don't live in Cuba
Aug. 20, 2009 - Psst...hey, buddy... Wanna buy a Ford Fairlane?
June 4, 2009 - How popular is Generación Y in Cuba?
June 2, 2009 - Ex-diplomat: Bloggers threaten socialist regime
June 2, 2009 - Yoani had to buy shades
May 25, 2009 - Black berets, white gloves and assault rifles
May 23, 2009 - Havana hotel again selling tickets to cyberspace
May 22, 2009 - Yoani Sanchez hitches a ride
May 10, 2009 - Now they're calling Yoani a 'Pentagon babe'
May 10, 2009 - Battle over right to enter cyberspace heating up in Cuba?
May 10, 2009 - Micsoda nő! Yoani most beszél magyar*
May 2, 2009 - A subdued kitchen revolt
May 1, 2009 - Unclear who organized Cuba's kitchen kettle protest
March 5, 2009 - What's going on with Generacion Y?
Feb. 27, 2009 - Time/CNN goof: They describe Cuba's most famous blogger as a 'he'
Feb. 14, 2009 - Yoani Sanchez: can't be stopped

Photo credit: Generacion Y

Dec. 11, 2008 - Why gays and not gusanos?
Dec. 4, 2008 - Clamping down on bloggers in Cuba
Dec. 3, 2008 - Yoani is warned
Dec. 3, 2008 - Beware of that sinister cheese, Yoani
Nov. 28, 2008 - Generacion Y's Yoani Sanchez wants human rights, not awards
Aug. 30, 2008 - Gen Y blogger given access to punk rocker's trial