Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A post-postmodern hybrid, part thriller, part drama, part existencial romance, Paraiso is a film that eschews stereotypes. Ichaso explores generational as well as class divides within the Cuban exile community seldom addressed in film. Is the American dream possible for those who arrived a little too late? Ichaso avoids didacticism for raw authencity, to the point of even challenging the very possibility of full integration ever, in a 'land with a future' that waits for no one.Shot on a 'Cuban coffee budget', the film explodes with heart, color, music and a desperate tale seldom brought to the screen before. A Miami of no return, where freedom is murder.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fidel Castro resigns as Cuba's president

HAVANA - An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba's president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday.

The end of Castro's rule — the longest in the world for a head of government — frees his 76-year-old brother Raul to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006. President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition.

"My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath," Castro wrote in a letter published Tuesday in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma. But, he wrote, "it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer."

In the pre-dawn hours, most Cubans were unaware of Castro's message, and Havana's streets were quiet. It wasn't until 5 a.m., several hours after Castro's message was posted on the internet, that official radio began reading the missive to early risers.

By sunrise, most people headed to work in Havana seemed to have heard the news, which they appeared to accept without obvious signs of emotion. There were no tears or smiles as Cubans went about their usual business.

"He will continue to be my commander in chief, he will continue to be my president," said Miriam, a 50-year-old boat worker waiting for the bus to Havana port. "But I'm not sad because he isn't leaving, and after 49 years he is finally resting a bit."

Castro temporarily ceded his powers to his brother on July 31, 2006, when he announced that he had undergone intestinal surgery. Since then, the elder Castro has not been seen in public, appearing only sporadically in official photographs and videotapes and publishing dense essays about mostly international themes as his younger brother has consolidated his rule.

There had been widespread speculation about whether Castro would continue as president when the new National Assembly meets Sunday to pick the country's top leadership. Castro has been Cuba's unchallenged leader since 1959 — monarchs excepted, he was the world's longest ruling head of state.

Castro said Cuban officials had wanted him to remain in power after his surgery.

"It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-a-vis an adversary that had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply," he said in a reference to the United States.

Castro remains a member of parliament and is likely to be elected to the 31-member Council of State on Sunday, though he will no longer be its president. Raul Castro's wife, Vilma Espin, maintained her council seat until her death last year even though she was too sick to attend meetings for many months.

Castro also retains his powerful post as first secretary of Cuba's Communist Party. The party leadership posts generally are renewed at party congresses, and the last one was held in 1997.

The resignation opens the path for Raul Castro's succession to the presidency, and the full autonomy he has lacked in leading a caretaker government. The younger Castro has raised expectations among Cubans for modest economic and other reforms, stating last year that the country requires unspecified "structural changes" and acknowledging that government wages that average about $19 a month do not satisfy basic needs.

As first vice president of Cuba's Council of State, Raul Castro was his brother's constitutionally designated successor and appears to be a shoo-in for the presidential post when the council meets Sunday. More uncertain is who will be chosen as Raul's new successor, although 56-year-old council Vice President Carlos Lage, who is Cuba's de facto prime minister, is a strong possibility.

"Raul is also old," allowed Isabel, a 61-year-old Havana street sweeper, who listened to Castro's message being read on state radio with other fellow workers. "As a Cuban, I am thinking that Carlos Lage, or (Foreign Minister) Felipe Perez Roque, or another younger person with new eyes" could follow the younger Castro brother, she added.

Bush, traveling in Rwanda, pledged to "help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

"The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for democracy," he said. "Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections — and I mean free, and I mean fair — not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

The United States built a detailed plan in 2005 for American assistance to ensure a democratic transition on the island of 11.2 million people after Castro's death. But Cuban officials have insisted that the island's socialist political and economic systems will outlive Castro.

"The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong," Castro wrote Tuesday. "However, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century."

Castro rose to power on New Year's Day 1959 and reshaped Cuba into a communist state 90 miles from U.S. shores. The fiery guerrilla leader survived assassination attempts, a CIA-backed invasion and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Ten U.S. administrations tried to topple him, most famously in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961.

His ironclad rule ensured Cuba remained communist long after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe.

Castro's supporters admired his ability to provide a high level of health care and education for citizens while remaining fully independent of the United States. His detractors called him a dictator whose totalitarian government systematically denied individual freedoms and civil liberties such as speech, movement and assembly.

The United States was the first country to recognize Castro's government, but the countries soon clashed as Castro seized American property and invited Soviet aid.

On April 16, 1961, Castro declared his revolution to be socialist. A day later, he defeated the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. The United States squeezed Cuba's economy and the CIA plotted to kill Castro. Hostility reached its peak with the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

The collapse of the Soviet Union sent Cuba into economic crisis, but the economy recovered in the late 1990s with a tourism boom.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Report: Castro in serious condition

Cuban leader said to have diverticulitis complications, Spain’s El Pais says

NBC News and news services
Updated: 1 hour, 3 minutes ago

HAVANA - Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in serious condition after complications following three failed operations on his large intestine for diverticulitis, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Monday.

Castro suffered an infection that worsened to peritonitis, the newspaper's Tuesday edition said, citing two medical sources at the Madrid hospital where a surgeon who visited Castro in December works. The report was posted on the newspaper's Web site.

Despite its seeming immediacy, the El Pais report may shed no new light on Castro's current condition. Sources told NBC News on Monday that the El Pais article was not based on new information, but on information from the Spanish surgeon who examined Castro in December.

The Spanish doctor who examined Castro said he does not have cancer and could return to govern Cuba if he recovered fully from his surgery.

In a New Year's message issued on Dec. 30, Castro told Cubans that he was recovering slowly from surgery and said his recovery was "far from being a lost battle."

Problem with stitches
Earlier Monday, a diplomat said the ailing Cuban leader "has problems with his stitches healing."

Cuban officials in Havana were not immediately available to comment on the envoy's remarks. But Cuban authorities have been insistent they will not divulge details of Castro's illness.

The diplomat said Castro was taken to the operating theater seven times in a single day in December to deal with the problem of his stitches. He did not give details.

On Saturday, Castro's eldest son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, told reporters in Chile that his father is on the mend.

"He's getting better, better, I see him improving," the Soviet-trained nuclear physicist said, adding that his father was in a "positive and optimistic mood."

Castro, who took power in Cuba in 1959, has not been seen in public since July 26. He handed over power to his brother five days later, fueling speculation he is so ill he may never return to power on the communist-run Caribbean island.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Report: Acts of civil protest on rise in Cuba


From candlelight vigils to hunger strikes and even a mountain hike, Fidel Castro opponents logged more than 3,300 acts of civil disobedience in Cuba last year, nearly twice the number of the year before, according to a report to be released today.

As Castro's government continues a campaign of reprisals against dissidents that began with a wave of arrests three years ago, members of the opposition movement say more people are speaking up and joining up.

''Repression generates rebellion,'' said Janisset Rivero, executive director of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, an exile organization that published Steps to Freedom, to be released tonight at the University of Miami.

The report's numbers underscore growing discontent with the quality of life in Cuba, and the government's inability to satisfy basic needs. And while the government's 2003 crackdown decapitated much of the dissident movement, each year the number of acts of civil resistance climbs, the report said. Among the group's findings:

• The central province of Villa Clara appears to be a hotbed of political opposition, logging far more protests than any other province. Even though nearly all of the island's internationally known dissident activists live in Havana, only 11 percent of last year's civil disobedience took place there.

• 25 hunger strikes were held by prisoners.

• The Ladies in White, the group of female relatives of the 75 political prisoners picked up in the 2003 sweep, held 182 different protests.

• The 3,322 acts logged in 2005 -- including 2,613 vigils -- represent an 85 percent increase over the 1,805 acts of civil disobedience in 2004.


''What we're seeing is a direct relation between the incapacity of the regime's administration -- economically, politically, the errors they commit every day -- and the discontent of the people,'' Rivero said. ``People see no hope, but they are losing their fear.''

The Directorate helps pro-democracy organizations on the island. It receives a portion of its funding, some $1 million, from the U.S. Agency for International Development. The USAID money goes to a project, separate from the civil disobedience report, that focuses on outreach.

The Directorate's federal funding has made it a frequent object of criticism from the Cuban government. The report has come out annually since 1997, documenting each reported act of disobedience by date and address and citing the source. When it began a decade ago, the listing was of a scant 44 events. That more than doubled to 100 events in 1998, eventually jumping to 1,328 in 2003.

''The opposition has taken a lower profile since July 2005, when Fidel Castro incited violence against us in a speech he gave,'' said Eliécer Consuegra Rivas, of the Eastern Democratic Alliance in Holguín. 'But as that happens, horizons broaden. The police will loot an independent library, and people on the street come forward and say, `How are they going to take the books?' ''

Cuban dissident leaders say they lost momentum when the 75 were jailed, but have since overcome the leadership loss.

''The 2003 wave was a big blow to the opposition,'' said Juan Carlos González Leiva, a Ciego de Avila activist who was jailed for two years for heading the Cuban Human Rights Foundation. ``It decapitated the movement, so that now we have opposition members leaving the country and being jailed. But there are two sides to that: we lose people to jail and exile, but those people have friends and family who join the ranks.''


He said the opposition movement is stymied by a lack of funding and materials. The issue has been a sticking point for the Bush administration, which last year pledged to provide dissidents an additional $80 million.

But U.S. law prohibits AID from sending cash, and Cuban law prohibits dissidents from receiving it.

González cut the conversation short when he said the pro-government mob throwing rocks at the home of another dissident where González was using the phone had set the roof on fire. Reached later, he said a few pails of water put out the fire.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Ailing Castro gives power to brother

Fidel Castro temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother Monday night and told Cubans he will undergo surgery.

The Cuban leader said in a letter read live on television by his secretary that he had suffered gastrointestinal bleeding, apparently due to stress from recent public appearances in Argentina and Cuba.

Because of that illness, Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, according to the statement read by Carlos Valenciaga.

Associated Press

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Lost City - Andy Garcia

This is an excellent movie releasing nationwide on 4/28/06. It is about the life, trials and tribulations of a Cuban man living in Havana, Cuba during the time of the Batista regime, and the beginning of the Castro Socialist revolution. The movie is well directed, and exemplifies what Cubans went through during the tyranny of Fidel Castro and still go through today. It is a love story, and a story about a love that can never be regained. Please go see this movie, it is a great movie!

Please also check out this blog about the movie, and excerpts of an interview with Andy Garcia about the movie (click here)

Que dios nos vendigas...y que un dia Cuba sere libre!

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