After UN vote (it was a drubbing) Cuba still says “let’s talk” plus news about I/M, Price Controls, Honduras, and more

Dear Friends:

Psychologists call it “projection,” a defense mechanism that we humans use to deny our personal faults by assigning them to others.

How else to account for Ambassador Susan Rice, our representative at the United Nations, who accused Cuba’s foreign minister of engaging in Cold War rhetoric as she defended the U.S. embargo of Cuba, that old piece of furniture that President Obama inherited from….well, the Cold War.

You could almost hear the shrinks working their pipes on that one!

No need to over-analyze it.  The U.S. defense of the embargo got slaughtered, again, for the 18th consecutive year, with the resolution condemning our policy against Cuba passing 187-3.  Even Iraq voted against us!  It was a drubbing.

Gracefully, we thought, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, offered immediately after to open negotiations with the U.S. government at any level to broaden and deepen the diplomatic contacts President Obama authorized earlier this year.  A graceful U.S. response would be to accept.

We lead the news summary with a recap of the U.N. vote and promptly move forward to other news from the week that was nicely filled with Cuba items large and small.

We report on Amnesty’s call on the President to lift the embargo, the U.S. Treasury letter signaling a relaxation toward Instant Messaging for Cuba and other sanctioned countries, a decision to impose price controls at Cuban Farmers Markets and the reaction of Cubans to the news, another Florida City asks permission to launch direct flight service to Cuba, and there’s a deal, finally, that would allow President Mel Zelaya to finish out his coup-shortened term.

That, and more, this week in the news summary.

UN VOTE

Another drubbing at the UN: 187-3

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelming adopted the resolution condemning the United States embargo of Cuba by a margin of 187-3.  It was the 18th time the U.N. General Assembly voted to condemn the embargo, but this was the first under President Obama’s watch.   The only nations to side with the United States were Israel and Palau, a nation of 21,000 people in the Pacific.  Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained.

The tally in last year’s vote was 185-3, but two countries that abstained in 2008, Iraq and El Salvador, joined the rest of the world in voting against the embargo.  In a letter sent to Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Congressman Jim McGovern urged the Obama administration to abstain from voting “to signal that the United States is considering all options in how it will conduct its relations with Cuba in the coming years.”

Instead, Ambassador Rice – apparently channeling President Reagan – began her remarks “Here we go again,” and gave a speech absolving the embargo of any responsibility for suffering in Cuba and accused Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, of engaging in Cold War-era rhetoric in his address on the resolution.

In his remarks to the General Assembly, Cuban Foreign Minister said that despite a new administration in Washington there has been no softening of the embargo. “Since the election of President Obama, there has not been any change in the implementation of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba. The blockade remains intact,” he said in his speech.

The Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing nations, called on the United States “to bring an end to the five-decades-old embargo and to fully adhere to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of a sisterly country,” IPS reported.

“The time to end this embargo is long overdue,” said South African U.N. ambassador Baso Sangqu, adding that the embargo had “caused untold suffering” to Cuba’s people, the Associated Press reported.

Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said: “President Obama should take this U.N. vote for what it is – a sign that our country needs to act in the world like its 2009 and not 1959, drop the embargo, and engage openly and directly with Cuba.”

Following vote, Cuba reiterates willingness to hold talks with the U.S.

Cuba is willing to hold talks with the United States “on any level,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Wednesday following the annual embargo vote. In an interview with the Associated Press, Rodriguez said his government is waiting for a response from Washington to deepen talks, saying the U.S. has not formally responded to a July offer to expand talks to cover combating terrorism and drug trafficking, and to work together to fight natural disasters, among other things.

“We are prepared to have a dialogue with the government of the United States at any level,” Rodriguez said, adding that talks on migration and re-establishing direct mail service have been “productive and respectful.”

Of Ambassador Rice, Rodriguez said he was “a little bit surprised” by the vehemence of her initial comments, but said he knew and respected her and held her in high esteem. “She is an articulate person, a decent and well-meaning person, like President Obama,” he said. “And we respect both of them for that.”

Amnesty International asks Obama to follow UN’s lead on the embargo

Amnesty International called on President Obama to follow the lead of the U.N. General Assembly and take steps to end the economic embargo of Cuba. “The U.S. embargo against Cuba is putting at risk the lives of millions by preventing them from accessing vital medicines and medical technologies,” said Kerrie Howard, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Americas program. “These sanctions are immoral and should be lifted immediately.”

U.S. POLICY

Brazilian defense minister speaks out against the embargo

Nelson Jobim, Brazil’s minister of defense, spoke out this week about the effects the embargo has on the Cuban people, Agence France-Presse reported. According to Jobim, the embargo on Cuba leads to three things: “a very poor country, a very proud people, and greater mistrust [of U.S.] in South America.”

According to Jobin, “the vision of the United States in South America is conditioned by Cuba.”

Obama asks Spain to pass message to Cuba

In a meeting earlier this month, President Obama asked Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to pass on a message to Cuban President Raúl Castro expressing his desire for democratic reform in Cuba, Reuters reported. Presidents Obama and Zapatero met just a week before Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos traveled to Havana to meet with Castro.

“Have (Moratinos) tell the Cuban authorities we understand that change can’t happen overnight, but down the road, when we look back at this time, it should be clear that now is when those changes began,” Obama told Zapatero, according to a U.S. official speaking on anonymity.

“We’re taking steps, but if they don’t take steps too, it’s going to be very hard for us to continue,” Obama apparently said.

However, Cuba said that it prefers to speak face to face and doesn’t need a third party to mediate, El País reported. “Cuba does not need intermediaries…we are not interested in discussing issues that should be resolved by Cubans with third parties,” said Cuba’s Ambassador to Spain, Alejandro González Galiano.

U.S. Wants Microsoft, Google to End Message Bans in Iran, Cuba

The U.S. Treasury Department says it wants Microsoft and Google to reinstate their instant messaging services in countries under U.S. trade sanctions, including Cuba and Iran, Bloomberg News reported.

Yahoo and Google instant messaging capabilities in these countries were severed by the companies, who said that United States regulations prevented the download of essential software.  The Treasury Department has now recommended that Microsoft and Google lift these bans.

“Ensuring the flow and access to information available through the Internet and similar public sources is consistent with the policy interests of the United States,” Adam Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), said in a letter last month to the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA).  Sarah Stephens, executive director of CDA, had written to OFAC to complain about Cuba being disconnected from messenger.

According to James Lewis, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the company-imposed blackouts show how U.S. trade restrictions can conflict with diplomatic goals. “We want people to be able to communicate…”But in the normal course of business this stuff is on autopilot. The sanctions system rolls on and generates an answer that is no,” he said.

U.S. and Cuban scientists plan joint Gulf research

Scientists representing Cuba, Mexico and the United States met this week in Havana to discuss a joint study of the Gulf of Mexico, which all three countries share, Reuters reported. Cooperative work on the Gulf of Mexico is a “low-risk area in which to begin discussions with Cuba,” said Environmental Defense Fund senior attorney Dan Whittle.

The meeting of 66 scientists consisted of thirty Americans, 30 Cubans and 6 Mexicans. “We’re starting now to enter a new era of collaboration,” said meeting organizer David Guggenheim, marine scientist and head of Washington-based advocacy group 1planet1ocean.

Fort Lauderdale airport requests to begin flights to Cuba

After approval from Broward County officials, Florida’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has requested permission from the U.S. Department of Treasury to begin scheduling flights directly to and from Cuba, the Miami Herald reported.

According to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport director Kent George, the federal government still has not created a national policy regarding approval of direct flights to Cuba.  Spirit Airlines and JetBlue have said they are interested in operating flights from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba. Currently the only airports with permission are Miami, Los Angeles and New York-Kennedy, but New Orleans and Key West have begun processes to seek authorization.

State Department says religious freedom not respected in Cuba

In its annual report on religious freedom, the US State Department once again criticizes Cuba for not respecting religious freedoms, EFE reported. They say that such liberty is ample across Latin America with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela, where people suffer “restrictions and abuses.”

However, the report recognizes that the Cuban Constitution grants its citizens the right to freely practice religion and says conditions have improved Cuba, Voice of America reported.

You can read the report here.

In doing so, please remember these words from a friend of ours who keeps the faith in Cuba.  He said to us recently, “The U.S. Department of State says there is no freedom of religion. It is not like that in Cuba.  We have to show some respect for the truth.”

Indeed.

Date set for resentencing of two of the Cuban Five

Two of the “Cuban Five” currently imprisoned in Miami will be resentenced on December 8th, Prensa Latina reported.  A federal judge in Miami will determine new sentences for Fernando González and Ramón Labañino after an Atlanta circuit judge determined their sentences were excessive when the government could not prove they accessed any classified material.  Labañino was originally sentenced to life plus 18 years and González had a 19 year sentence.

IN CUBA

Cubans Fear More Government Control of Farmers Markets

Cuba is set to impose price controls at Farmers Markets on January 1, an announcement that provoked anger and fears of scarcity among Cuban shoppers, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reportedly witnessed a shouting match among Cubans and state workers conducting an inspection; the wire service reporting that two of its journalists were escorted from a market after questions about the changes caused another outbreak of shouting.

Cuba Says It Hasn’t Heard from Miami Telecoms Firm

Cuba’s government has not received any communication from a Miami based company that recently announced it plans to construct an underwater fiber-optic cable connecting the two countries, Cuban officials told EFE this week.

TeleCuba Communications Inc., the company in charge of construction, issued a press release on October 14 announcing they had received authorization from the U.S. government to begin work on the cable, but the Cuban government has not heard from the company. Cuba, currently the only Caribbean country not linked to the rest of the world by an underwater fiber-optic cable, is involved with Venezuela in a project to build such a line.

Director-General of WHO visits the island, meets with Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro met for over two hours with the head of the World Health Organization who said Fidel Castro looks strong, the Associated Press reported. Margaret Chan, director-general of the United Nations’ health authority, said Castro “looks wonderful for his 83 years” and that she found the former leader “very dynamic.”

“I’m younger than him and I felt tired when he wasn’t,” Chan said.

Following her meeting with Castro, Chan commended Cuba’s health care system, praising its success in containing the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, as well as the large amounts of medical staff and supplies that Cuba has provided to several countries around the world, EFE reported.

The WHO announced that Cuba is one of 100 developing countries that will receive supplies to administer H1N1 vaccinations in the next twelve months. There have been 700 reported cases of H1N1 on the island and seven have died, the Associated Press reported.

Portrait of Camilo Cienfuegos built in Revolutionary Plaza

An image of Camilo Cienfuegos, an instrumental leader of the Cuban Revolution, has been constructed in the Plaza of the Revolution alongside one of Che Guevara, El Pais reported.  The image of the revolutionary leader was constructed on the side of the Ministry of Informatics and Communications to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his disappearance on October 28, 1959.

The image was designed by Cuban artist Enrique Avila, the same artist behind the Che image. Accompanying the portrait of Cienfuegos are the words “Vas Bien, Fidel,” meaning “You’re doing fine, Fidel,” in a reference to a famous conversation between the two leaders.

You can see a picture here.

OTHER NEWS

Castro’s sister reveals that she worked for CIA

In an interview with Univision, the younger sister of Fidel and Raúl Castro, Juanita Castro, said that she worked with the CIA before going into exile in the 1960s. According to Juanita, she grew dissatisfied as Fidel Castro moved the country toward communism, USA Today reported. Castro did not go into detail regarding her work with the CIA, but did say that one of her duties was to harbor people mistreated by the Cuban government. She left Cuba for Mexico in 1964 and eventually settled in Miami, where she soon began to publicly denounce the Cuban government. She has not spoken to either Raúl or Fidel Castro since the early 60s.

Bolivia using Cuban made passports

Bolivian Migration Services (SNM) will begin to issue passports with booklets made from Cuban companies, the Associated Press reported. María René Quiroga, director of SNM, said Bolivia bought 350,000 booklets from Cuba and the new passports will have 18 forms of security “that will make falsification impossible.”

The presentation of the new document took place at a ceremony in the Government Palace, with the presence of President Evo Morales, the Cuban Ambassador, Rafael Dausá, and local authorities. “The passports are evidence that the modernization of our nations constitutes a priority for our governments, in the path to technological independence,” said Dausá. The 350,000 passports were made by the Cuban companies Datys and Impresos de Seguridad, which charged $1,000,050.

Around the Region:

Deal Reached in Honduras to Restore Ousted President, NY Times

A lingering political crisis in Honduras seemed to be nearing an end this week after the de facto government agreed to a deal, pending legislative approval, which would allow Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, to return to office.

Colombia, U.S. sign military base deal, Reuters

Colombia and the United States signed a pact increasing U.S. access to Colombian military bases, the Colombian government said, despite objections to the deal from several South American leaders.

Recommended Reading:

“The United Nations Denounces the U.S. Embargo on Cuba … Again,” Ted Piccone

For the 18th year in a row, the United Nations General Assembly unequivocally calls for the end of “the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” And once again, the United States finds itself completely isolated from even its closest friends in the international community.

What is John Kerry Planning on Cuba??? Steve Clemons on the Washington Note

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is going to give a major speech on Cuba on Friday, the 6th of November, at Boston University. I hope that John Kerry encourages great “strategic depth” and thinking in the White House on Latin America in general — and that he calls for an end to restrictions on the “human right” of Americans to travel.

“Hemingway’s papers come to JFK library,” Boston Globe

In a little-known nook of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, with a fine view five floors above Boston Harbor, lies a book-lined room with a lion skin throw rug, a scrapbook with photographs of old fishermen, and a host of other odd relics from Cuba.

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One Response to After UN vote (it was a drubbing) Cuba still says “let’s talk” plus news about I/M, Price Controls, Honduras, and more

  1. Excellent thanks for your information

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