Monday, March 29, 2010

Ex-CIA spy loyal to Fidel Castro until the end

Philip Agee, regarded as traitor by U.S. officials, died in Havana in January 2008.

Former CIA spy Philip Agee turned against the U.S. government in the 1970s, saying he didn't believe the American government should be interfering in the affairs of Latin American nations. He outed hundreds of American agents and became an outspoken critic of the CIA.
Agee traveled to Cuba frequently and eventually settled in Havana and opened a travel agency.
He appeared from time to time at press conferences and spoke out against U.S. attempts to undermine the socialist government. I shot these photos during a press conference in mid-May of 2003.
Around that time, in an article that appeared in Counterpunch, Agee wrote that:
 ...regime change, as overthrowing governments has come to be known, has been the continuing U.S. goal in Cuba since the earliest days of the revolutionary government. Programs to achieve this goal have included propaganda to denigrate the revolution, diplomatic and commercial isolation, trade embargo, terrorism and military support to counter-revolutionaries, the Bay of Pigs invasion, assassination plots against Fidel Castro and other leaders, biological and chemical warfare, and, more recently, efforts to foment an internal political opposition masquerading as an independent civil society.

Scenes from a tourist resort in Holguin province

Photos taken at the Paradisus Rio de Oro in Guardalavaca, Cuba.

American politicians and others continue to debate whether Congress ought to lift the ban on travel to Cuba.
These photos give you a glimpse of a resort in Guardalavaca in the province of Holguin.

Taino Indian show at Paradisus Rio de Oro

Dance show at Paradisus Rio de Oro

Born at the beach

A mixed-breed puppy born at the house I rented in Tarara, Cuba.

Scenes from countryside in Holguin province

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Posada Carriles joins Damas de Blanco march

Luis Posada Carriles. Photo credit: Reuters

Luis Posada Carriles, who is awaiting trial on perjury, immigration fraud and other charges, marches with supporters of the Damas de Blanco in Miami.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ready for action

A rooster struts around across the street from Parque Central.

Flashback: Damas de Blanco in 2004

Laura Pollan, leader of Damas de Blanco, has been in the news lately, gaining the support of Cuban-American stars Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia. These photos show her in her Havana home in June 2004.

The slideshow below includes more photos of Laura Pollan along with pictures of Yolanda Huerga and her son, Gabriel, when they lived in Havana.
Huerga's husband, Manuel Vazquez Portal, was among 75 dissidents, journalists and others arrested in March 2003.
His release came a few weeks after I shot these photos.

Play ball

Latin American Stadium, Havana

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Accused crook falls for Tropicana dancer

In case you haven't seen it, Juan Tamayo wrote a fascinating story in the March 15 issue of the Miami Herald. Here's the opening:
He's an eccentric British antiques collector, middle-aged and a bit of a dandy. She's a fetching young dancer from Cuba's famed Tropicana nightclub.
Improbably, they fell in love. Even more improbably, they got themselves entangled in a bit of foreign intrigue involving a purported former Fidel Castro bodyguard and a stolen Shakespeare manuscript, the latter 387 years old and worth millions.

Photo credit: Daily Mail stories here and here

Future scenarios: Battle of ideas or guns?

The sign behind Fidel Castro says battles in the future will be fought with ideas, not guns. But I wonder whether the fight over Cuba will eventually turn violent.

Walking the streets of Havana

The women above must be tourists, don't you think? The water bottle is a dead giveaway.
The women below are Cubans.

March issue of CubaNews is out

The March issue of CubaNews was published on March 15. It contains a story I wrote about Vicki Huddleston, the former chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
Huddleston headed the Interests Section from 1999 to 2002. She and Carlos Pascual, now the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, recently wrote a new book, "Learning to Salsa: New Steps in U.S.-Cuba Relations."
Huddleston and Pascual suggest that U.S. officials take unilateral steps to engage Cuba as part of a strategy that would gradually lead toward the normalization of relations.
Huddleston told me that unless U.S. policy toward Cuba changes, there is a risk "that Cuba will evolve without us." Then, "when change really comes" to Cuba, "we will be inconsequential."
CubaNews also reprinted portions of an Along the Malecon post called, "A correspondent's life: What the heck was I complaining about?" A section of a Reporters without Borders report is inadvertently reproduced in the CubaNews report as if I wrote it. Just to clarify, I'm including an image of the report below to show the section of the report that referred to in my post, but didn't write.

Monday, March 8, 2010

New OFAC rules on export of Internet services to Cuba

OFAC today also published new rules on export of Internet services to Cuba. Click here for summary of new Cuba rules and here for the entire 21-page document.

Updated OFAC air and travel list is out

Old Havana street corner

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, released today an updated list of air, travel and remittance services to Cuba.

Cattle along the road near Havana

Photo taken on the way to Jose Marti International Airport

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The ambassador's pooch

Here's an Afghan hound named Havana. This was Vicki Huddleston's dog while she led the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Vicki Huddleston bio

Castro's 76th birthday

The 2002 cartoon shown above is a tribute to Fidel Castro. Gerardo Hernandez, one of the Cuban Five, drew it while at a federal prison in Lompoc, Calif.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Havana soccer team

Dancing her time away at the beach

Eight or nine years ago, I often spotted this good-humored old lady dancing and entertaining tourists at Playas del Este. I don't know what became of her.

A Cuban sugar mill

John Lennon in Havana

John Lennon

Fidel Castro attended the unveiling of a John Lennon statue at a Havana park in December 2000.
The ceremony came 20 years after a gunman murdered Lennon in New York. Castro said of Lennon:
What makes him great in my eyes is his thinking, his ideas. I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality.
A Cuban artist created the bronze statue. The problem was, people kept stealing Lennon's glasses. So authorities stationed a guard near the statue so that wouldn't happen.

Scene from outskirts of Havana

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This little piggy

All smiles along Paseo del Prado

Number of Internet users rose slightly in Cuba in 2009

The Telecommunications Company of Cuba, ETECSA by its Spanish initials, is the main Internet provider in Cuba. Less than a quarter of 1 percent of all Internet users on the island are ETECSA customers.
That's based on a Telecom Italia statement saying ETECSA has 27,100 Internet customers, up from 25,800 at the beginning of 2009. Telecom Italia owns a 27 percent share in ETECSA.
Cuba's population in 2008 was 11,247,334. Divide that by 27,100 and you get .24 of 1 percent.
Many Cubans share Internet accounts, so the actual number of users is higher. Just how much higher, I do not know. A quarter of 1 percent seems awfully low. Internet World Stats reports that Cuba has an 11.5 percent Internet penetration rate.
Whatever the case, it appears the number of Internet customers grew in 2009, at least by one measure.