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Amid Worries, Cuba To Mark 50 Years Of Revolution

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Bianca
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« on: December 31, 2008, 08:59:55 am »










                                          Amid worries, Cuba to mark 50 years of revolution




     

December 30, 2008.
HAVANA
(Reuters)

Against a backdrop of economic gloom and the frail health of former leader Fidel Castro, Cuba will mark on Thursday the 50th anniversary of the revolution that turned the island into a communist state and Cold War hot spot at the doorstep of the United States.

President Raul Castro will speak in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba from the same balcony where his older brother, Fidel Castro, proclaimed victory after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country in the early morning hours of January 1, 1959.

The elder Castro, 82, in semi-seclusion since July 2006 after surgery for an undisclosed intestinal ailment, will not attend, officials said.

Due to his absence and the economic difficulties plaguing Cuba, what had been expected to be a major celebration of the revolution's longevity will be a no-frills event in a tree-shaded square with room for about only 3,000 people, the officials said.

Concerts are planned throughout the country, with the major one in Havana where popular Cuban band Los Van Van will play at the Anti-Imperialist Tribunal in front of the U.S. Interests Section.

The Interests Section was the embassy for the United States until it broke off diplomatic relations in January 1961 after U.S.-owned properties were nationalized by Fidel Castro.

Officials have said this was not a time for lavish celebration because Cuba is struggling from the effects of three hurricanes this year that caused $10 billion in damages, as well as the global financial crisis.

Government leaders gave a gloomy assessment of the economy last week, telling the National Assembly the country's trade and budget deficits had ballooned due to rising import costs and falling prices for exports.

Raul Castro called for more belt-tightening and an end to handouts he said discouraged people from working.



'A NEW STAGE'

"The victory of the 1st of January did not mark the end of the struggle, but the start of a new stage," he said. "There has not been a minute of respite during the past half century."

Should he not show up, Fidel Castro's absence will raise new speculation about his condition, to which many believe Cuba's future is closely linked.

Although he has not been seen in public for 2-1/2 years, he still has a behind-the-scenes presence in the government and a public voice via opinion columns he writes regularly.

He remains a world figure who made his name thumbing his nose at the United States, just 90 miles away, and forging close ties with its Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union.

Many Cubans believe that as long as Fidel Castro is alive, his more pragmatic brother will not be able to reform the Cuban economy or political system in a meaningful way.

Others doubt Raul Castro wants to make many changes and that early reforms he implemented, such as opening computer and cell phone sales to Cubans, were meant chiefly to gain favor with Cubans skeptical he could fill his brother's shoes.

Cuba's revolution arrives at its 50th anniversary in a time of transition.

Fidel Castro is on the sidelines after ruling Cuba for 49 years and his archenemy, the United States, may be on the verge of change in its Cuba policy.

President-elect Barack Obama, who replaces President George W. Bush on January 20, has said he wants to ease the 46-year-old U.S. trade embargo toward Cuba, is open to talks with Cuban leaders and will consider steps toward normalizing relations.

Both Castros have warily said talks were possible.

Changes are not just occurring at the top.

In Cuba, people, especially the young, clamor increasingly for an end to five decades of economic hardship and see improved U.S.-Cuba relations as a way out.

In the United States, a recent poll showed that for the first time a majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami, center of the Cuban exile world and anti-Castro sentiment, favor ending the embargo.

As Raul Castro told the National Assembly, "We are living in a radically different period of history."



(Editing by Peter Cooney)
« Last Edit: January 28, 2009, 07:29:02 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2008, 09:06:28 am »



Poster of Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuego







                                       Cuba and US debate costs of the Revolution, 50 years on






WASHINGTON
(AFP)
Dec. 31, 2008

Fifty years after the Cuban Revolution, the US government still accuses the Americas' only communist regime of doing irreparable harm, while Havana blames US trade sanctions for its economic ills.

Cuba's government has put its price-tag on allegedly crippling US sanctions: more than 92 billion dollars since 1962, when then president John F. Kennedy approved the full trade embargo in effect on Cuba, according to official Cuban data out in October.

But "the Cuban number is questionable because they don't release their methodology," Daniel Erikson, author of the book "Cuba Wars," told AFP.

"While it is arguable that the communist economic system has wrought more damage on the island than the US sanctions, the cost of the embargo is likely to be substantial," he says.

Still, in Cuba, the government blames US sanctions morning, noon and night for Cuba's economic ills -- even as the United States -- since a gaping 2001 humanitarian loophole was established -- emerged as its main supplier of food.

The United States has no official data on what its sanctions on Cuba might cost economically.

But what is known is that since President George W. Bush allowed cash-only food and medical sales to Cuba after a 2001 hurricane, US farmers have been making big sales they were missing for decades.

And US sanctions serve as a useful political symbol in both countries, whether or not they deliver much economic bite.

To be sure, if no US sanctions were in place and Cuba had access to credit,

the Caribbean nation likely would buy much more food and services from its neighbor to the north. If travel ties were normal, US tourists would earn more for Cuba's industry.

Even many US conservatives don't care for US sanctions on Cuba; Washington does not treat other countries like it does Cuba just because they have communist regimes.

"It is an insult to Americans who are barred from travelling there or doing business in Cuba," argued Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute.

"By increasing our commercial ties to Cuba, America will be in a stronger position to influence events there. After almost half a century, the embargo has failed to change the Cuban regime or benefit the people of Cuba in any way," he said.

Some people closer to the US administration's policy point out that under the Fidel Castro and Raul Castro regime, Cubans' caloric intake has gone down sharply. The World Food Program has fed many in hardscrabble eastern Cuba, it says.

"Though some would blame Cuba's food problems on the US embargo, facts suggests the food shortages are a function of an inefficient collectivized agricultural system and a scarcity of foreign exchange resulting from Castro's unwillingness to liberalize Cuba's economy," a University of Miami Cuba Transition Project study found.

Cuba argues that among the Revolution's crowning achievements are socialism, universal access to education, and health care.

A common joke among Cuban emigrants, however, is that the Revolution's failures are breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Indeed a major export of the Revolution has been Cubans, voting with their feet. Cuba has 11 million people; the United States alone has more than 1.25 million Cuban Americans.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2008, 09:11:12 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2008, 09:16:06 am »








                                   After 50 Years of Castro's Cuba, an End to the Cold War?
     





Tim Padgett
Tue Dec 30, 2008
Time.com

It's good that the Cuban Revolution's 50th anniversary falls on Jan. 1. That's the day for New Year's resolutions, and it's time for Washington and Havana to make some big ones.


They can start by acknowledging that after 50 years of communist revolution in Cuba, and counter-revolution from the U.S., both sides can claim only partial victories. Washington and Miami's Cuban exiles can say they kept the U.S. trade embargo against Havana intact. Yet they failed to dislodge Fidel Castro and his government and instead succeeded in alienating the entire hemisphere. Congratulations! The Castro regime can say it stood up to a half-century of yanqui aggression while proving that quality universal education and health care are doable. But the price - a basket-case economy and a bleak human rights record - overshadowed those achievements. Felicidades!


So, fittingly, don't expect much of a charged observance on either side of the Florida Straits this week. It looks unlikely that the ailing, 82-year-old Fidel, who ceded Cuba's presidency to his younger brother Raul this year, will even be fit enough to attend the celebration in Santiago de Cuba. In Miami, exile hardliners are wrestling with a new Florida International University poll showing that a majority of Cuban-Americans there think the embargo should end. The question now is whether Washington and Havana can smell the cafe cubano, leave their cold-war time warp, enter the 21st century - and cease being an impediment to a hemisphere that's trying to do the same. (See the Top 10 News Stories of 2008.)


Fortunately, the signs are looking better as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration nears. Obama, who has said he's willing to talk with Raul Castro, is poised to end the Bush Administration's restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba. That could (and should) be the first step toward dismantling the ill-conceived, 46-year-old embargo (which Obama surely knows is also the aim of many pro-business Republicans in Washington). Either way, such gestures make it harder for the Castros to rail against gringo imperialism. For his part, Raul Castro recently told actor Sean Penn in an interview for The Nation magazine that he and Obama "must meet" in a neutral place "and begin to solve our problems."
« Last Edit: December 31, 2008, 09:19:48 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2008, 09:17:38 am »









A big problem, of course, is the scores of jailed dissidents in Cuba and the island's lack of free speech. Raul said this month he would consider releasing some of those prisoners as a prelude to talks with Obama. He wants U.S. reciprocation, however - like freedom for the "Cuban Five." They are Cuban agents convicted in Miami in 2001 for espionage, but who Havana insists were only in the U.S. to monitor exile groups that had allegedly aided the bombings of Cuba tourist hotels. A "swap" release of the Five isn't likely. (A U.S. appellate panel did rule that their trial had not been fair; but another panel affirmed their convictions this year.) But Obama could respond by prosecuting Luis Posada Carriles, an exile militant who allegedly took part in the hotel attacks as well as the 1976 bombing of a Cuba jetliner that killed 73 people. FBI evidence links Posada to the crimes, but the Bush Administration has let him remain free in Miami - inviting charges of a double standard on terrorism.


The point is that both sides have got to learn to give a little. Last year, when TIME put Raul Castro on its list of the world's 100 most influential people - because he had taken over for Fidel as interim president and looked to be moving Cuba in a more pragmatic direction - the magazine got scorn from U.S. officials. This year, when TIME put Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez on the list - for the impact she's had on political blogging around the world - Cuban officials complained in turn. They're entitled to their opinion; but both camps' responses point up how tiresome U.S.-Cuba intolerance has gotten. If Washington and Miami are as serious as they claim about democratizing Cuba, they'll find more creative ways than a globally condemned embargo to engage the island. If Raul and the aging generals around him are as serious as they say about working to end the embargo and revive Cuba's moribund economy, they'll loosen the island's political leash. (See pictures of music in Cuba.)


If all parties don't act soon they risk making the same hemispheric muddle of the first half of the 21st century that they made of the last half of the 20th. They could also spend this century on the hemisphere's sidelines. The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko just visited Havana for five days - the first Russian warship to dock there since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 - and it symbolized to many how low U.S. influence has sunk in the Caribbean. Cuba, meanwhile, was invited this month to a regional summit in Brazil from which the U.S. was excluded - a reminder that Latin Americans still see U.S. treatment of Cuba as a reflection of how the U.S. treats them.
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2008, 09:19:10 am »









But at the same time, Raul had to notice that his Brazilian host, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - who is supposedly the Castros' leftist soulmate and head of Brazil's Workers Party - is arguably Latin America's most acclaimed capitalist leader today. Capitalism's excesses get deservedly excoriated for causing today's global catastrophe. But even Venezuela, which helps prop up Cuba's economy with cut-rate oil, has made it clear in recent elections that it's not the socialist hotbed that its own left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, dreams of. Yes, the hypocritical drill among Latin leaders is that they censure Washington publicly but Havana privately. Still, most of them believe Cuba is as out of step with the rest of the Americas as the U.S. is.


Which isn't to say that the Cuban Revolution doesn't deserve its due. It overthrew one of Latin America's most putrid dictators, championed the poor (still a rare thing to do in Latin America) and showed the U.S. that its worst Monroe Doctrine impulses (not to mention the Mafia that was overrunning Cuba then) could be thwarted. People do buy Che Guevara T-shirts for more than just the lefty chic. The Miami exiles (many of whom actually backed Fidel before he went communist) deserve their props too, despite the Elian Gonzalez mess. Most were not corrupt oligarchs and gusanos (worms, as Fidel called them) but an industrious working and middle class that helped build modern Miami. In December, the Miami Herald unveiled an online database that gives the exiles an Ellis Island-style history of their arrivals in the U.S.


No one should begrudge respect for Cubans on either side of the Straits - not those who died in prisons fighting Batista nor those who died on rafts escaping Castro. But after 50 years it's time to stop reliving the Bay of Pigs.
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Bianca
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2009, 07:32:09 pm »









                                   After 50 Years of Castro's Cuba, an End to the Cold War?
     





Tim Padgett
Tue Dec 30, 2008
Time.com

It's good that the Cuban Revolution's 50th anniversary falls on Jan. 1. That's the day for New Year's resolutions, and it's time for Washington and Havana to make some big ones.


They can start by acknowledging that after 50 years of communist revolution in Cuba, and counter-revolution from the U.S., both sides can claim only partial victories. Washington and Miami's Cuban exiles can say they kept the U.S. trade embargo against Havana intact. Yet they failed to dislodge Fidel Castro and his government and instead succeeded in alienating the entire hemisphere. Congratulations! The Castro regime can say it stood up to a half-century of yanqui aggression while proving that quality universal education and health care are doable. But the price - a basket-case economy and a bleak human rights record - overshadowed those achievements. Felicidades!


So, fittingly, don't expect much of a charged observance on either side of the Florida Straits this week. It looks unlikely that the ailing, 82-year-old Fidel, who ceded Cuba's presidency to his younger brother Raul this year, will even be fit enough to attend the celebration in Santiago de Cuba. In Miami, exile hardliners are wrestling with a new Florida International University poll showing that a majority of Cuban-Americans there think the embargo should end. The question now is whether Washington and Havana can smell the cafe cubano, leave their cold-war time warp, enter the 21st century - and cease being an impediment to a hemisphere that's trying to do the same. (See the Top 10 News Stories of 2008.)


Fortunately, the signs are looking better as U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration nears. Obama, who has said he's willing to talk with Raul Castro, is poised to end the Bush Administration's restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba. That could (and should) be the first step toward dismantling the ill-conceived, 46-year-old embargo (which Obama surely knows is also the aim of many pro-business Republicans in Washington). Either way, such gestures make it harder for the Castros to rail against gringo imperialism. For his part, Raul Castro recently told actor Sean Penn in an interview for The Nation magazine that he and Obama "must meet" in a neutral place "and begin to solve our problems."
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