Monday, May 24, 2010

Miami activist: Peter Pan kids were pawns of Cold War

A documentary tracing the lives of six Peter Pan kids who left Cuba in the early 1960s premiers at 9 p.m. Thursday on CNBC.
"Escape from Havana: An American Story" is worth seeing. I just watched a preview and it is a compelling documentary. The six characters are all remarkable in their own way.
Here's how CNBC describes the characters:
* Carlos Eire. Author of Waiting for Snow in Havana and Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University. Carlos last saw Cuba 48 years ago when his parents put him and his brother on a plane bound for America.
* Tomas Regalado. Mayor of Miami, Florida. Regalado was a young boy when his father, a journalist and critic of Castro, disappeared.
* Maria de Los Angeles Torres. Political Scientist and Director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, University of Illinois, Chicago. Maria was just 5 years old when Fidel Castro took over. Her parents supported the revolution that brought him to power, but their hopes for the future soon turned to fear.
* Candi Sosa. Singer | Songwriter. Candi caught Castro’s attention when he heard her sing. He tried to take her away to study in Russia. Her parents refused. The revolution really hit home when Candi’s father was arrested for treason.
* Carlos Saladrigas. Chairman and CEO, Regis HRG. Carlos arrived in Miami – alone and penniless – at the age of twelve. Prevailing has been his mission ever since that fateful day when he was airlifted away from his home.
Oddly enough, the sixth character in the film wasn't listed tonight on the documentary's website.
Silvia Wilhelm directs a Miami group called Puentes Cubanos. She used to favor the U.S. ban on trade with Cuba, but shifted her view in the 1990s, not long after the Soviet Union broke up.
In the film, which lasts about 48 minutes, Wilhelm speaks out forcefully against the U.S. government's Cuba policy. She calls it a failure. So does Carlos Saladrigas.
Two other characters appear to favor normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. Maria de Los Angeles Torres says she goes to Cuba regularly to do research. Candi Sosa returns, too.
I seriously doubt Tomas Regalado is making trips to Cuba. No Miami mayor could do that and last for long. And for sure, Carlos Eire doesn't go back.
Eire says he refuses to travel to Cuba because that would legitimize the socialist government. He says he wouldn't spend a penny on the island because that would benefit the government, not the people.
The film doesn't say much about current political conditions on the island. It says Fidel Castro was considered a liberator early on, but never held the elections he promised.
Among the historical tidbits the film reveals:
The CIA spread misinformation about the Cuban government in the early 1960s, creating panic and prompting many parents to try to send their children abroad.
Wilhelm says she believes the Peter Pan children were pawns, used by both sides for their own political purposes.
The only people who really had the kids' best interest at heart, she said, were their parents.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lawyers for Posada Carriles: FBI bomb reports "irrelevant"

A goal of the 1997 bombing campaign was to scare off tourists so they wouldn't go to such attractions as the Bodeguita del Medio, above, an old Ernest Hemingway watering hole.

Lawyers for Luis Posada Carriles want to bury FBI reports on detonators examined in Havana.
The lawyers say the government sprang the evidence on the defense just as the case was going to trial in February 2010.
Defense lawyers said in a document filed May 18 that disclosure of the reports on Feb. 12, 2010, "was untimely, and the reports and testimony accordingly should be stricken by this Court."
They said:
In addition, the evidence is subject to exclusion for foundational reasons. These would include: a significant gap in the chain of custody created by the Cuban authorities who obtained the evidence, the failure to maintain a proper chain of custody by both Cuban and American investigators, a lack of authentication and hearsay. Finally, this evidence is irrelevant and violates Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence as its prejudicial value far exceeds any probative value.
Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants page

FBI examined U.S.-made detonators in Cuba after 1997 bombings

DuPont made the aluminum detonators that the FBI examined in Havana after the string of hotel bombings in 1997, according to a document filed in federal court on May 18.
The electric detonators were manufactured before 1986 at DuPont's facility in Pompton Lakes, N.J., according to the FBI. My guess - and I don't have firm evidence - is that these are the same type used in the Havana hotel bombings, which killed an Italian businessman.
The FBI had gone to Cuba in 1998 to collect evidence related to the bombings, journalist Jane Franklin reported in 2007. A November 1999 U.S. State Department Diplomatic Note to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., gave these details:
In June 1998, in the aftermath of a series of bombing and bomb threats against Cuban citizens and interests, a team from the FBI met in Havana with Cuban law enforcement authorities. The discussions focused on allegations that United States residents had participated in a terrorist conspiracy related to the bombings. At that time, Cuban officials shared evidence with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis in Washington D.C.
Instead of taking action against activists who oppose Cuba's socialist government, the FBI wound up charging Cuban agents who were working in Florida. Five of those agents - the so-called Cuban Five - remain in U.S. prisons.
Luis Posada Carriles, a key figure who has been convicted in plots against the socialist government, is free to walk the streets. Indeed, he was recently spotted at a Miami restaurant.
Posada Carriles is awaiting trial on perjury, immigration fraud and other federal charges. His lawyers filed a document the other day saying he was too ill to travel by car to a status hearing set for June 2 in El Paso, Texas. So the defendant will participate via teleconference.
Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative, has dedicated much of his life to trying to undermine Cuba's socialist government, if not kill Fidel Castro.
He's been linked to many plots, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane that killed 73 people and the 1997 Havana attacks.
According to the FBI document recently filed in his case, agents examined four detonators in Havana. The detonators were 1.75 inches long and were marked "Dangerous Blasting Cap Explosive."
In 1998, DuPont told the FBI that it made some 50 million detonators of this kind and exported them all around the world.
The memo doesn't explicitly say these were the same type used in the bombings.

Along the Malecon's Anti-Castro militants' page

Mariel refugee database goes online May 21

The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald on Friday plan to unveil a database that will list the names of 125,000 Mariel refugees who landed at Key West from April 1980 to September 1980.
What a great idea.
The database will also list the names of the boats that brought the Cubans to Florida.
The Herald today quotes one refugee who spent a decade trying to find the boat that he rode to the U.S. during the Mariel boatlift.
Alfredo Malagon, shown above in a Herald photo, finally tracked down the 72-foot Capt. Cracker boat and now has a miniature version of it in his office. He told the Herald:
Some days I look at that boat and I'm 10 years old and crossing the Florida Straits with my parents. . . . I can even smell the sea air.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Havana corner

A new Peter Pan Operation documentary premiers later this month

"Escape from Havana: An American Story" premiers May 27. The full text of a press release is here.
The documentary tells the story of six Peter Pan kids who would become "a big-city mayor, an accomplished author, a singer, an activist, a professor and a business tycoon."

Cuban insurance company says couple's medical costs were covered

Some news reports have said a Cuban insurance company is refusing to pay medical costs linked to the violent death of a Cuban-American tourist in Cuba.
The insurance company denies that in a May 14 statement, saying that no one in Cuba has asked the victim's family to pay any of the medical costs that were incurred in Cuba.
The statement, in Spanish, says the insurance company is waiting for details on the Florida funeral home that will receive the victim's body once it is sent from Cuba.
News reports say that Laida Licet Recio, 40, died after two men armed with cement-filled pipes hit her on the back of the head. Her husband, Rolando Suarez, was injured. They had gone to Santiago de Cuba to celebrate a relative's birthday party.

El Nuevo Herald's story on the controversy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rent a Harley in Cuba

A Danish company, MC-Travel, has started a Harley Davidson rental business in Havana. I'm sure a lot of Europeans will jump at the chance to go motorcycling in Cuba. U.S. law prevents most Americans from traveling to Cuba.

Photo credit: Cycle Canada

Monday, May 10, 2010

Panoramic views of Havana

View from a Coconut

The famous CocoTaxi

Streets of Havana

Cuban singer in green

Flashback: Ricardo Alarcon tells editors the U.S. has no right to impose embargo

The American editors check out the arts and crafts market along the Malecon.

A delegation of managing editors, representing 1,700 newspapers in the United States and Canada, visited Cuba in April 2004. Ricardo Alarcon told the group:
The US should put an end to its hostile policy against Cuba, first, because that policy is illegal: it is not justifiable according to international law. You simply cannot do it. It is as simple as that.
You should be condemned for imposing an economic embargo, for trying to subvert somebody else's government, interfering in its affairs and so on and so forth, a whole list of violations of international law.
Remember what was said in a State Department memo in 1959 when the first steps of economic hostility were taken against Cuba. It is written in a published document available to all of you since 1959 from the State Department. The aim was to create suffering and hunger among the Cuban people. But you have no right to do that. That kind of policy was condemned by the UN just after the Second World War. It was defined by the UN as genocide. An attempt to provoke suffering against an entire group of persons, in this case the Cubans living in Cuba.