FREE THE CUBAN FIVE Columbia University 2013

Dear Friends of Cuba and Supporters of the Cuban Five

Sisters and Brothers,

The July 26 coalition want to apologize to all that were not let into the Cuban Five event on Friday March 29th. We don’t blame each and everyone one of you for being disappointed and it is impossible that anyone would be more disappointed than the entire July 26 coalition group. We were originally informed that, based on Columbia’s very restrictive and rigid bureaucratic rules and procedures, which are especially enforced for “controversial” “political” (read left-wing) events organized by student groups like the one’s that initiated this event, that we would be allowed 200-250 non-Columbia-Barnard students to attend and that a formal list of attendees would have to be provided 72 hours before the event. This was after the original flyer and card had been printed without indicating that a formal RSVP was required. We immediately sent out to all the groups and individuals and listserves of friends and supporters of the Cuban Five invitations formally asking for an RSVP, because this was required by University rules. RSVPs started coming in and were confirmed and put on a master list. Three days before the event the Columbia cops, called “Public Safety,” which would not do so acting on their own, argued at an “Events Review Board’ meeting with the students that the students were “in breach” of Columbia rules because of outside “advertising” for the event, citing ridiculous “safety” considerations and threats of “disruption.” They threatened that they could shut it down altogether, but were, nice guys that they are, instead restricting the non-student participation to “15 or 20.”

The students immediately went on a big campaign, enlisting faculty and other student support, and succeeded on Thursday to get the original numbers restored. We were given a 7:00 PM Thursday deadline to submit a “final” list. We worked frantically to supplement the existing list and get people to submit their names. The process had been on hold while the meeting was under direct attack and we were discussing other options with the students. Unfortunately, a good number of names were submitted after 7:00 PM. There were also at least 40 names that were submitted right before 7 which the Administration claimed they didn’t get, even though we showed them the timeline on one of our comrade’s Iphone documenting the fact. But they were very rigid at the door. Many more people RSVPs on Thursday night and Friday all day past the “deadline.” Our phone and emails were ringing and pinging off the wall; we emailed and spoke on the phone to as many people as humanly possible giving the objective facts, which were that it was very unlikely that they would get in and that the students and we would fight to get everyone in that we could and the choice of whether to risk it by coming was a decision individuals would have to make. We did manage to get in quite a few but, many were turned away despite our and the students efforts. In addition to the 100 or so turned away, many of whom had been confirmed at the last minute before the arbitrary deadline (the injustice of which was further underlined by the last-minute attempt to minimize the event) there were many, many more who wanted to come and had submitted their names, until they heard of the bureaucratic labyrinth they faced and stayed home.

Nevertheless, 200 people or more were finally in attendance, and by all accounts it was an excellent program and event. But we are very certain it would have been perhaps the largest event ever in the US for the Cuban Five. The entire event was videoed and we will post it on our website july26coalition.org; we will send an email once the video has been posted on the site.

Again we are very upset and aggravated by the inconvenience and really insulting treatment given to people honestly and sincerely attempting to attend a free-speech forum. We hope with this minor problem that occurred on Friday, March 29th will not affect our movement to continue to DEMAND the release of the CUBAN FIVE.

Sincerely and in solidarity,
July 26 Coalition

Cuban Federation of Women

DON’T FORGET THIS WEEK…

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FMC_logo

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, you will have a unique opportunity to share an evening of information and open dialogue with Maritzel Gonzalez, Foreign Relations Representative of the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC), North America Region, and others from the delegation of Cuban women participating in this year’s event at the United Nations for Women’s History Month.

During the Question & Answer part of our program, you will also be able to raise your interests and concerns about the current economic, social, and political situation in Cuba. Literature will be available on Cuba and the Cuban 5.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
WHERE: Casa de las américas
182 E. 111th St. (btwn. Lexington Ave. and 3rd Ave.)
Take the 6 train to E. 110th St.
RECEPTION: 6:00 PM – Program Begins 7:00 PM

Suggested donation: $5-10 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds)
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Sponsored By:Casa de las Americas and the July 26th Coalition, an ongoing initiative by the orgnizations and individuals in solidarity with the People of Cuba, in the NYC/Tri-State Area.

Venezolanos despiden a su líder Hugo Chávez

“El Telegrafo” de Ecuador
El féretro del presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, inició hoy el recorrido desde el Hospital Militar de Caracas hasta la Academia Militar, donde tendrán lugar las honras fúnebres del jefe de Estado que falleció este martes.

Envuelto en la bandera tricolor del país, el féretro fue despedido del hospital por militares, seguidores y familiares, encabezados por la madre del mandatario, Elena de Chávez, tras una breve ceremonia religiosa que se inició con el himno nacional.

El cortejo partió entre acordes de “Patria, patria, patria querida, tuya es mi alma, tuyo es mi amor…”, que entonó el Jefe de Estado en la alocución del pasado 8 de diciembre, la última antes de partir a Cuba para someterse tres días después a una operación tras la recaída del cáncer, y de la canción “En Venezuela”.

Miles de personas se agolpan a los lados del vehículo que transporta el ataúd, coronado con flores amarillas y blancas y custodiado por integrantes de la Guardia Honor Presidencial y que emprendieron así un recorrido de 6,3 kilómetros antes llegar a la Academia Militar, en el oeste capitalino.

Más temprano, la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana (FANB) comenzó el homenaje de despedida con el lanzamiento de 21 cañonazos de salva a las 8.00 hora local (12.30 GMT) y anunció que “luego sonará un cañonazo cada hora” hasta que sus restos sean inhumados el próximo viernes.

“Como Chávez no habrá otro”

Escenas desgarradoras se vivían frente al Hospital Militar, donde cientos de seguidores permanecieron en vigilia durante toda la noche y otras decenas se sumaron la mañana de hoy.

“Qué puedo decir, estoy muy triste”, senaló a la agencia AFP Isabel Febres, mientras lloraba inconsolable mirando un retrato de Chávez luciendo su banda presidencial.“Yo me quiero despedir porque él era un hombre bueno que dio todo por los más pobres”, manifestó de su lado Iris Dicuro, de 62 años, que vino al centro médico desde Puerto La Cruz, en el noreste del país.

“Era un hombre muy bueno y me hizo mucho bien. Yo lo quiero, tengo mi salud por él, por los médicos cubanos que trajo”, agregó la mujer, vestida con una camiseta roja con la frase “Pa’lante Comandante”.

“Vengo a expresar mi último adiós a mi presidente. Como Chávez no habrá otro, es el hombre más grande que ha parido esta patria”, acotó José Gregorio Conde, de 34 años y quien trabaja en un colegio.

El canciller Elías Jaua indicó que se instalará una capilla ardiente “para que el mayor número de pueblo pueda ver a su padre, a su libertador, a su protector”.

Mandatarios empiezan a llegar

En la madrugada del miércoles comenzaron a llegar mandatarios regionales, que asistirán al funeral oficial de Estado previsto para el viernes a las 10H00 (14H30 GMT). La presidenta de Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, y su homólogo uruguayo, José Mujica, fueron los primeros en llegar cerca de las 05H00 hora local (09H30 GMT), seguidos por el mandatario boliviano, Evo Morales, que arribó dos horas después y que fue recibido por Jaua.

Jaua indicó que el país amaneció en calma y adelantó que hasta el momento diez mandatarios han confirmado su presencia a las exequias de Chávez, la mayoría de los cuales llegarán durante la tarde del jueves.

El Gobierno dijo que informará dónde serán enterrados los restos del presidente, oriundo del Estado llanero de Barinas (oeste).

Maduro, de 50 años, será el candidato oficialista para las elecciones presidenciales que deberán celebrarse en un plazo de 30 días, como indica la Constitución, probablemente contra el líder opositor Henrique Capriles, de 40 años.

Hugo Chavez Hugo Chavez II

Falleció el presidente Hugo Chávez

CUBADEBATE 5 marzo 2013
hugo-chavez
El presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, falleció hoy a las 4:25 de la tarde en el Hospital Militar Doctor Carlos Arvelo, de esta capital.

En cadena nacional de radio y televisión, el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo, Nicolás Maduro, informó sobre el deceso del mandatario, acompañado del gabinete ejecutivo.

Maduro indicó que en el momento en que se encontraban recibiendo el parte sobre el estado de salud de Chávez, nos dieron “la información mas trágica que podemos transmitir” al pueblo.

Y agregó: “Este es un dolor inmenso y una tragedia histórica que hoy toca a esta patria. Comandante, donde esté usted: gracias, mil veces gracias, de parte de este pueblo que usted protegió, al que nunca le falló. Sólo cabe la comprensión y el respeto a los ideales más grandes de paz que perseguía Hugo Chávez”

El Vicepresidente Ejecutivo señaló que se instruyó un despliegue especial de los órganos de seguridad y la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, con vistas a garantizar la paz y el respeto al pueblo de Venezuela.

“En esta tragedia histórica llamamos a los hombres y mujeres a ser los vigilantes de la paz y del respeto de esta patria”, expresó.

Nosotros los civiles y militares “asumimos su herencia, sus retos, su proyecto, junto al acompañamiento y apoyo de todo el pueblo sus banderas serán levantadas con dignidad. Gracias, mil veces gracias”, añadió Maduro.

Unido a ello, llamó a evitar el odio y en su lugar promover el amor, la paz, unidad y disciplina.

Maduro convocó además al pueblo a las plazas Bolívar de todo el país, con el propósito de llevar cantos de homenaje en honor al Comandante Chávez.

“Vamos a crecernos, vamos a ser dignos herederos e hijos de un hombre gigante como fue y como siempre será en el recuerdo el comandante Hugo Chávez”, añadió.

(Con información de Prensa Latina)

Raul Castro speech at the National Assembly 2013

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL
Havana. February 26, 2013

Our greatest satisfaction is the tranquility and calm confidence we feel handing over the responsibility of continuing to build socialism to new generations

• Speech given by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee and President of the Councils of State and Ministers, closing the Constitutional Session of the 8th Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Havana’s International Convention Center, February 24, 2013

Raul Castro

COMPAÑERAS and compañeros:

On a day like today, February 24, 1895, the struggle for independence was reinitiated with the fusion of the experienced Mambises of the first war and the nuevos pinos (new guard), under the leadership of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and [José] Martí.

It is once again incumbent upon me to assume before you and all our people the honor of presiding over the Council of State and the government.

In this context, I think it is worth reiterating what I have affirmed twice in this Parliament, and I quote, “I was not elected President to restore capitalism in Cuba, not to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it.”

In accordance with the agreements of the 6th Congress it will be necessary to reconcile the postulates of the Constitution of the Republic with the changes associated with the gradual implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution.

Included in modifications we propose to introduce into the Constitution is one limiting to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms the principal positions of state and government, and to establish maximum ages for occupying these positions.
At the same time, it is not healthy to be continually reformulating the nation’s Magna Carta and, given that effecting a constitutional reform necessarily takes a reasonable time since, while some questions can be modified by the Parliament itself, more important ones require ratification through the favorable vote of the majority of citizens in a referendum; I wish to clarify that, in my case, independently of the date of improving the Constitution, this will be my last mandate.

In this session the National Assembly elected Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez First Vice President of the Council of State and subsequently approved his appointment as First Vice President of the Council of Ministers.

We consider, given the circumstances being experienced by the country, circumstances we have been obliged to live with over the last 50 years of Revolution, that executive unity in the face of any contingency resulting from the loss of the maximum leader must be guaranteed in such a way that the continuity and stability of the nation is preserved without interruptions of any kind.

This decision is of particular historical significance because it represents a definitive step in the configuration of the country’s future leadership, via the gradual and orderly transfer of the principal positions to the new generations, a process that must be implemented over the next five years, acting from now on in a deliberate and farsighted manner, in order to avoid repeating the situation of not having sufficient reserves of cadres prepared to occupy higher positions in the country, and to ensure that the relief of the leaders proceeds in a natural and systematic process.

Compañero Díaz Canel is not a newcomer or an impromptu. He has a work record of almost 30 years, beginning at the base, in the profession which he studied. After completing his military service in the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) anti-aircraft missile units, he taught in the Central University of Las Villas Faculty of Electrical Engineering, where he was proposed as a professional cadre of the Union of Communist Youth. Later, taking into consideration his results, he was promoted to the Party, gradually taking on greater responsibilities, among them first secretary of the Villa Clara Provincial Committee for close to 10 years, and then in Holguín for six years.

He has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 1991 and of the Political Bureau since 2003. He completed an internationalist mission in Nicaragua. He is a graduate of the National Defense College.

In 2009, he moved on to undertake governmental functions, first as Minister of Higher Education and, from 2012, as Vice President of the Council of Ministers responsible for attending to various bodies linked to education, science, sports and culture. On the other hand, he participates on a weekly basis in the government’s Financial Economic Commission, and in the Political Bureau Commission supervising the implementation of 6th Congress agreements.

The conduct of compañeros Machado Ventura and Colomé Ibarra, who took the initiative of offering their positions within the Council of State to promote younger generations, merits special mention.

In the case of Machado Ventura, a man with exceptional qualities as a leader and human being, modesty and dedication to his work, and an outstanding revolutionary for close to 60 years, a combatant in the Sierra Maestra and a founder member of the Frank País Eastern Second Front, from which he created and developed 20 field hospitals and 11 dispensaries distributed across mountainous areas throughout Guantánamo province and in parts of Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, the area covered by this guerrilla front. He took part in multiple combat actions, being wounded in one of them. On the basis of these qualities, and the prestige, training, experience and vitality which he has conserved, as well as his genuine capacity to continue contributing to the direction of decisive activities, the National Assembly has elected him to occupy one of the vice presidencies of the Council of State.

Similarly remaining a member of the Council of State is compañero Abelardo Colomé Ibarra who, from an early age, joined the revolutionary struggle in his native Santiago de Cuba, taking part in the November 30, 1956 uprising under the orders of Frank País, who selected him to enter the first reinforcement of the nascent Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra.

Like Machado Ventura, he is a founding member of the Frank País Eastern Second Front, wounded on two occasions in combat against the dictatorship troops, and outstanding for his courage, for which he was promoted from the rank of solider to that of Comandante.

Since the triumph of the Revolution he has undertaken – with success, humility and loyalty – the tasks assigned to him, among which I must highlight the fulfillment of delicate internationalist missions. He undertook the development of the always-competent Military Intelligence; made a decisive contribution to the first victory over the invading forces in Angola, at the head of the Cuban Military Mission, from 1975-1977; and has served as First Deputy Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and Minister of the Interior, among other positions.

The attitude of Machado Ventura and Colomé Ibarra is not fortuitous, nor should it surprise anybody, it is a concrete demonstration of their genuine revolutionary fiber, with no room for vanity or personal interest, and far less for clinging to any position. This is the essence of the founding generation of this Revolution. That is how Fidel acted five years ago, providing a praiseworthy example.

Speaking in this context, it is appropriate to recall what Fidel stated, exactly 15 years ago, addressing the National Assembly on February 24, 1998, in relation to the first rule or trait which must characterize a revolutionary cadre. I quote, “No ambitions to occupy any position, people should reach the positions they hold on the basis of their merits, their work, their virtues and their patriotism…”

The Council of State elected in this session of our Parliament is a reflection of how we are beginning to make real the agreements of the 6th Party Congress in relation to the cadre policy. Of its 31 members, 41.9% are women and 38.6% are Black or mixed race. The average age is 57 and 61.3% were born after the triumph of the Revolution.

We already have two women vice presidents of the Council of State and we will persevere with the will to continually increase the number of women representatives in this body and in all the country’s institutions.

Similarly, the National Assembly was renewed by 67.26%, women’s participation has risen to 48.86% and that of Black and mixed race Cubans to 37.9%. Of our deputies, 82.68% completed higher education and the average age is 48 years.

In the country’s 15 provinces, women were elected as presidents of the Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power in 10; the average age in these positions is 47 years and all are university graduates.

This data corroborates the quality of the Cuban electoral process and the potential of the People’s Power bodies and this Assembly as the highest body of state power, executing the important powers established in the Constitution.

Fruitful and intense legislative work on the strengthening of our institutionality is precisely the responsibility of this legislature, particularly in the face of the implementation of the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Revolution and the Party, a process which has first priority and in which, as I explained in the last session of the National Assembly, we are beginning to advance toward questions of greater scope, complexity and profundity.

It fills us with healthy pride and satisfaction that the Cuban Parliament is headed, as of today, by compañero Esteban Lazo Hernández, member of the Political Bureau, a Black man of humble origins, from a very early age a cane cutter, worker in the mill and rice dryer in Jovellanos, where he was a member of the Municipal Committee of the Party. With enormous effort and without neglecting his Party responsibilities, he obtained a degree in Economics.

He subsequently occupied the position of first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in Matanzas and then in Santiago de Cuba and City of Havana.

The same can be said in the cases of the new vice presidents of the Council of State, Díaz-Canel; Mercedes López Acea, the efficient first secretary of the Party in the capital; and Salvador Valdés Mesa, direct representative of the working class who, as a member of the Political Bureau, will move on to attending to the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC), in addition to other functions to be assigned by the Party.

All of them came from the people and, like the rest of the members of the Council of State, they constitute an irrefutable example of the putting into practice of Fidel’s words on April 16, 1961, on the eve of the mercenary Bay of Pigs invasion, when he said, “This is the socialist and democratic Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.” Today, we are demonstrating that this is how it will continue to be for ever.

At the same time, having youth who identify with the ethical values and principles of social justice, who are prepared in all senses, including militarily, to defend and maintain on high the flags of the Revolution and socialism, is a motive for legitimate joy.

It is a fact that those of us who had the honor of accompanying Fidel in the early stages of the revolutionary undertaking and in the insurrectional struggle against the dictatorship, have had the privilege, together with the heroic people, of seeing with our own eyes the consolidation of the Revolution; however, the greatest satisfaction is the tranquility and calm confidence we feel upon gradually handing over the responsibility of continuing to build socialism to younger generations and with that, ensuring independence and national sovereignty.

We do so having defined in the Party Congress the direction to be taken in updating the Cuban economic model and attaining a prosperous and sustainable socialist society, a less egalitarian society, but a more just one, these being principles which will serve as a foundation for drafting the development program through 2030, currently being prepared.

This will be possible because the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines are, in the first place, the fruit of wide-ranging and democratic discussion with the people, which made them theirs, reformulating 68% of the initial proposals as a result of popular consultation.

In the same way, these were supported by Parliament, in its twice yearly sessions, used to report on the progress of the economic plan and the implementation of the aforementioned guidelines.

A similar analysis is undertaken in the plenary sessions of the Central Committee and the provincial and municipal committees of the Party, with the participation of local administrative leaders.

These methods of direct consultation with the population, which have developed over more than 50 years of the revolutionary process and which will continue to be perfected before, during and after adopting more highly significant decisions for the country’s future, constitute an additional factor contributing to the tranquility and hopes for the future which we experienced as members of the historic leadership of the Revolution, given that, in addition to constantly strengthening the unity and support of the people, they will guarantee the timely rectification of errors which we might commit.

In Cuba, nobody will ever be permitted to sidestep what is clearly expressed in Article No. 3 of the Constitution, and I quote, “Sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all state power is derived.”

To those within or outside of the country who, with good or bad intentions, are encouraging us to move faster, we say that we will continue without haste, but in a measured way, with our feet planted firmly on the ground, without shock therapies against the people and without leaving any citizen unprotected, overcoming the barrier of immobility and obsolete mentality in favor of untying the knots holding back the development of the productive forces; in other words, economic advances, as the essential cement for ensuring, among other spheres, the social gains of the Revolution in education, public health, culture and sports, which should be fundamental human rights and not private businesses.

At the same time, we propose to continue confronting indiscipline and illegalities of every kind, including combating manifestations of corruption which attack the very bases of our social system, on the principle that, without establishing an environment of order, discipline and rigor in society, any result will be ephemeral. In the meeting of this Parliament in the first half of July, we shall deal in depth with this shameful matter of indiscipline and illegalities.

Moving on to issues of an international nature, I cannot fail to mention that, on January 28, the 160th anniversary of the birth of José Martí, Cuba assumed the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and will have the responsibility of organizing its next summit in our country in 2014.

This is an event of particular relevance which vindicates the struggle of the Cuban people for their sovereignty and self-determination. It demonstrates how much Latin America and the Caribbean have advanced toward their definitive independence and exposes the isolation and failure of the policy of the United States’ economic and media blockade of our nation.

The Cuban presidency of CELAC will act with prudence and determination to promote what unites us on the shared road to peace, development, social justice, democracy with the genuine participation of the people, the guaranteed exercise of all human rights for all the people, sovereignty over natural resources and the reduction of social inequality and poverty.

We must nurture our unity within diversity and prevent attempts to divide us. We know that the consolidation of this organization will confront difficult obstacles derived from the unjust and unsustainable international order, the global economic crisis, aggressive NATO policies, the threats and consequences of its non-conventional wars and the attempt at a new division of the world; the existence of enormous nuclear arsenals and ingenious weapons, as well as climate change.

Inequality in the distribution of wealth on the continent is the principal weakness and, at the same time, the greatest challenge that we face. In a Latin America with more unity, integration and social justice, nothing will be able to hold us back.

I take advantage of this occasion to reiterate, in the name of this Assembly and the Cuban people, congratulations to President Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution which he leads on their resounding electoral victory last Sunday (Feb 17).

We send President Hugo Chávez Frías a fraternal embrace and best wishes for his recovery. We confirm the solidarity of this National Assembly and that of our compatriots with the Bolivarian Revolution, the Venezuelan people and their leaders.

More than a month after they went into effect, the new migratory and travel regulations have been fully implemented without setbacks, with a favorable reception on the part of the population and the overwhelming majority of the Cuban émigré community.

We shall continue demanding the liberation and return to the homeland of our Five Heroes, to whom we convey fraternal greetings, the recognition and commitment of this Parliament and all of the people.

To end my words, and above all thinking about the future of the homeland, I believe that the best way of doing so is with the brilliant definition of the concept of Revolution formulated by its Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, on May 1, 2000, in Plaza de la Revolución. I quote:

Revolution is a sense of the historic moment;

it is changing everything that must be changed;

it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings;

it is attaining emancipation by ourselves and through our own efforts;

it is defying powerful dominant forces within and outside of the social and national sphere;

it is defending values in which we believe at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism;

it is fighting with courage, intelligence and realism; it is never lying or violating ethic principles;

it is a profound conviction that there is no force in the world able to crush the force of truth and ideas.

Revolution is unity; it is independence, it is fighting for our dreams of justice for Cuba and for the world, which is the foundation of our patriotism, our socialism and our internationalism.” (End of quote) (Applause)

May this masterly definition forever serve as the guide for all generations of Cuban patriots and revolutionaries!

Thank you very much (Ovation)

 

 

Raul Castro speech at the National Assembly 2013

Chavez Returns to Venezuela

By Ewan Robertson

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Mérida, 18th February 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela in the early hours of this morning after over two months in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.

“We’ve arrived once again to the Venezuelan Homeland. Thank you God! Thank you beloved people! We’ll continue treatment here,” announced Chavez on Twitter when he arrived in Caracas airport at 2.30am this Monday morning.

The Venezuelan head of state had been in Cuba recovering from an operation in the pelvic region undergone on 11 December, in what was his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.
In another tweet Chavez also thanked the Castro brothers, Cuban president Raul and former president Fidel for their support, as well as his medical team, declaring, “We will live and we will overcome!”

Fidel Castro also wrote a letter to Chavez before his departure from Havana, in which he referred to the stage reached in the Venezuelan president’s recovery.
“A long and agonising wait, as well as your astonishing capacity for physical resistance and the total dedication of a team of doctors…were necessary to achieve this objective,” he wrote.
Upon arrival Chavez was taken to the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas, where he will continue treatment as part of his recovery.

On Friday the first images of Chavez since his operation were released, which showed the Venezuelan president smiling and reading, while an official statement confirmed that temporarily he had difficulty speaking due to having a tracheal tube in place for respiratory insufficiency.

This morning, Venezuelan communication minister Ernesto Villegas argued that the official information given on Chavez’s recovery had been vindicated as accurate against voices in international and Venezuelan media which sought to speculate on the president’s health.

“He’s back, he’s back, he’s back,” said Villegas in an interview on state channel VTV, continuing, “the ominous voices are defeated, those who were calling into question the information emitted by the national government with respect to Chavez’s health”.

Villegas added that “a terrible machinery was activated to delegitimise, to call into question all of the information that was being given, including by echoing the most atrocious versions (of Chavez’s state of health)”.

The minister also said that Chavez “ordered at all times that the country was informed on the progress of his treatment,” and that the government had given 30 official updates on the president’s clinical progress during his stay in Cuba.

Venezuelan vice president Nicolas Maduro called on people to gather around the country to celebrate Chavez’s return.
By dawn a crowd had already gathered outside the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas to show their support for Chavez.

Maduro also confirmed that the leadership of Chavez’s party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), would be meeting today to discuss the party’s political strategy in the new circumstances.

Chavez Returns to Venezuela

Rethinking the Cuba perk

Legal Travel To Cuba

February 16, 2013

Cuban immigrant Ed Lacosta holds his baby Melody Grace, 6 months at a special Valentine's Day naturalization ceremony for married couples on February 14, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) held the Valentine's Day ceremony in Tampa for 28 married couples from 15 different countries. (John Moore/Getty Images / February 15, 2013)
Cuban immigrant Ed Lacosta holds his baby Melody Grace, 6 months at a special Valentine’s Day naturalization ceremony for married couples on February 14, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) held the Valentine’s Day ceremony in Tampa for 28 married couples from 15 different countries. (John Moore/Getty Images / February 15, 2013)

For Cubans who want to immigrate to the United States, the hardest part is getting here.

Since 1966, they’ve essentially been granted automatic refugee status upon arrival. The Cuban Adjustment Act was enacted then to address the legal status of 300,000 Cubans who’d fled Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution.

Almost half a century later, the Cubans who come to America rarely claim to be victims of political persecution. They want a better economic future, or to join family members already here, or both — just like most of the people who want to immigrate from anywhere else.

Unlike most immigrants, though, Cubans don’t have to wait years for a visa, or sneak across the border illegally. Once they’re here, they’re fast-tracked to legal residency, with a clear path to citizenship.

It’s a sore subject as Congress considers what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants to whom the system has not been so generous.

Those immigrants — more than half of them from Mexico — live and work under the government’s radar, often for low wages, constantly in fear of being deported.

To come here legally, most Mexican laborers would have to wait decades for a visa. But Cubans who present themselves at our southern border — a common point of entry, thanks to the U.S. “wet foot, dry foot” policy — are allowed in once they show an ID.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify it to my colleagues,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is the son of Cuban immigrants. Rubio is one of eight senators working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill. “I’m not sure we’re going to be able to avoid, as part of any comprehensive approach to immigration, a conversation about the Cuban Adjustment Act,” he said.

The special considerations are especially hard to defend now that Cubans can travel freely between the U.S. and their homeland, thanks to loosened restrictions at both ends.

In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the limits that kept Cuban-Americans from traveling to the island to visit family. Last year, more than 400,000 of them did so, some dozens of times.

In January, the Cuban government began allowing citizens to leave without an exit permit. Passports are now granted more liberally, and those who leave can stay away up to two years without losing their residency. Most Cubans are able to come and go at will.

Together, the changes are likely to invite a new influx of Cubans to the U.S., where they are eligible for legal residency, while encouraging them to return frequently to visit family — and spend money — in Cuba.

We have no problem with allowing Cuban-Americans to travel back and forth to Cuba. Congress ought to kill the travel ban entirely, so that all Americans can visit the island. Tourists from other countries have been flocking to “terrorist” Cuba for years.

Mixing it up with the outside world is an important exercise for Cubans as they ponder a future without the aging Castro brothers.

But it’s hard to argue that Cubans who can come and go as they please are in need of special considerations normally reserved for victims of political repression. One does not flee communism only to return repeatedly with a suitcase full of money and merchandise for the family.

Nor does it make sense to allow entry to the U.S. based not on a claim of persecution, but on whether the person dodged the Coast Guard boats long enough to tag American soil.

To be fair, those immigrants aren’t lying about their circumstances. They’re not required to demonstrate that they’re political refugees. They come because they can. But it isn’t fair. Cubans who want to come here for economic reasons should play by the same rules as economic immigrants from other countries.

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

About Some of the Changes in Cuba

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February 15, 2013
Andrés Gómez, Director of Areítodigital

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Miami.- I returned from Havana recently after a few weeks in that beloved city. A lot is changing in Havana, just as in the rest of the Island, as a result of the new economic measures in place in the country.

Clearly the changes are positive. New enterprising forces are visible. These were made possible by the latest laws, guidelines and regulations. The most obvious changes are those related to transportation, gastronomy and building. Also and most importantly is the money available to the population in general.

The availability of money in the population in general makes possible the rest of the changes that are taking place. Today I will talk about the three I mentioned before. Perhaps because I am not an economist I fail to understand how with the level of salaries received by the large majority of Cuban workers so many of them can spend so much money to acquire so many things. I know that there are sectors related to the new businesses that have a higher purchasing power; but it is difficult for me to believe that there are as many persons related to these new businesses as those we see spending money in the streets and buying at the commercial shops in the city. This situation is still an enigma for me. And although it is a mystery, I see it with pleasure, because people enjoy it and benefit from it. There will be time for me to understand it.

Transportation in the city has improved considerably, and not because the government has acquired many more buses, but because the private sector has made available to many customers the old American cars -at least their bodies, because these cars operate with motors and parts of cars that are not American. And I say to many –and not to all- because a trip in Havana (in the metropolitan area) in one of these cars costs between 10 and 20 non-convertible Cuban pesos.

Most of the persons who have to use public transportation because of their economic situation, must use the available buses whose numbers have increased, but are still not enough. However, the availability of “almendrones” [literally big almonds], as these private cars used for public transportation are called, contributes greatly to solve the transportation problem.

It is amazing to see the lines of almendrones, one after the other, along the main avenues in the city such as Avenidas 51, 41, 31 and 3ra in Marianao and Playa, Línea or 23 in Plaza, or Calle Neptuno in Centro Habana picking up passengers and performing dangerous maneuvers against traffic regulations. It looks as if all the old American cars in the Island are running as public transport along the streets of Havana. It is a good business that of almendrones!

Gastronomy seems good business as well. There are small places that require little investment with a counter or table to serve their products; some with a little electric oven or toaster. These are in home porches, building entrances, garages of houses or buildings, or inside houses that serve food from an enlarged window. They sell ham or ham and cheese sandwiches, omelets in bread –the omelet could be of plain eggs or with added onion, ham, cheese or combinations of these. Among these places there are many that sell Cuban pizzas or Cuban food. The Cuban menu and pizzas have been available for a longer while, but are more numerous now.

And ranking above these basic places there are others -better and larger- that are considered cafeterias, some with a few tables and chairs and others that also have a bar counter and tall chairs. These places vary in decoration, some are quite rustic, but others are rather elegant. The cafeterias offer different sandwiches and hamburgers, pizzas and even more sophisticated dishes.

And higher up in this gastronomic chain are the paladares and private restaurants that specialize in different cuisines or menus; from the budget places to the expensive and the very expensive.

Another visible change in Havana these days is in construction, or rather the repair, remodeling and enlarging of homes. The new laws related to the buying and selling of houses and the new regulations to facilitate the legal procedures to repair or enlarge houses have fueled these processes.

It is very encouraging to see how –not only in the areas where the best houses in the city are located, supposedly the places where the owners with more money reside, but practically in every neighborhood in the capital city- so many people are involved in the improvement of their houses.

And these activities have stimulated the creation of places where building materials are sold, including more materials and parts related to these works in the hardware stores of the State commercial network, and specially a proliferation of small kiosks that sell plumbing appliances of great demand.

In future articles I will be dealing with these issues, because they are important to see how our country is at the moment in the midst of a positive process of change that, even with its problems, makes life more productive and pleasant to our people in the Island.//

Sobre algunos de los cambios en Cuba

15 de febrero de 2013 Andrés Gómez, director de Areítodigital

Miami.- Recientemente regresé de La Habana después de estar varias semanas en esa querida ciudad. Mucho cambia en La Habana, como mucho también cambia en el resto de la Isla, como consecuencia de las nuevas medidas económicas que han entrado en efecto en el país.

Claramente los cambios son positivos. Se hacen evidentes nuevas fuerzas emprendedoras posibilitadas por las nuevas leyes, directrices y reglamentos. Entre los cambios que más se hacen obvios están los relacionados al transporte, la gastronomía y a la construcción. Como también, y más importantemente, es indudable el dinero disponible en la población en general.

Lo del dinero disponible en la población en general posibilita el resto de los cambios que tienen lugar y de los cuales hoy trataré sobre los tres anteriormente señalados. Quizás sea porque no soy economista, pero realmente no entiendo, cómo con el nivel de los sueldos que percibe la inmensa mayoría de las trabajadoras y trabajadores cubanos puedan gastar muchos de ellos tanto dinero en adquirir tantas cosas. Entiendo que hay sectores relacionados a los nuevos negocios que tienen más poder adquisitivo. Pero me es muy difícil creer que haya tantas personas relacionadas a estos nuevos negocios como las que se ven gastando dinero en las calles y comprando en los establecimientos comerciales de la ciudad. Para mí esta situación sigue siendo un enigma. Aunque es un misterio que percibo con regocijo porque la gente lo disfruta y se beneficia. Ya tendré tiempo para entenderlo.

El transporte en la capital ha mejorado notablemente y no porque el gobierno haya adquirido muchos más autobuses sino porque el sector privado ha puesto a disposición de muchos los viejos automóviles americanos, al menos sus carrocerías, ya que estos carros funcionan con motores y piezas de carros que no son americanos. Digo a disposición de muchos –y no de todos– ya que un viajecito en La Habana en estos carros, y cuando digo en La Habana, incluyo toda el área metropolitana, oscila entre los $10 y $20 pesos moneda nacional no convertible.

La mayoría de la gente que tiene que utilizar transporte público, por necesidad económica, tiene que recurrir a los autobuses disponibles, que han aumentado en número, pero siguen siendo insuficientes. Aunque la disponibilidad de los almendrones, como son conocidos los carros privados que se utilizan en el transporte público, alivia notablemente el problema de ese transporte.

Es increíble ver las hileras de almendrones, uno detrás de otro, por las vías principales de la ciudad como pudieran ser las Avenidas 51, 41, 31 y 3ra en Marianao y Playa, Línea o 23 en Plaza, o la Calle Neptuno en Centro Habana, recogiendo pasajeros, en peligrosos despliegues de paragüería. Tal perece que todos los viejos carros americanos de la Isla corren en estos tiempos como carros públicos por las calles de La Habana. Es un buen negocio el de los almendrones.

Como tal parece ser que un buen negocio también es el de los establecimientos relacionados con la gastronomía. Estos pudieran ser pequeños lugares, que requieren poca inversión, con una tabla o mesa para despachar, algunos con hornitos o planchas eléctricas, que se encuentran en portales de viviendas, entradas de edificios o entradas de garajes de casas y edificios, o dentro de viviendas en las que se despacha por las ventanas ampliadas de las viviendas. Estos pudieran vender panes con jamón, con jamón y queso, panes con tortilla — la tortilla pudiera ser de huevos solamente o de huevos con cebolla, con jamón, queso y sus combinaciones. También hay entre este tipo de establecimientos los que se dedican a la venta de pizzas, pizzas cubanas, o de comida criolla. Este último menú así como el de la venta de pizzas tienen más tiempo de existencia, aunque ahora proliferan.

Y partiendo de este tipo básico de establecimiento hay otros mejores o más amplios que son considerados cafeterías que pudieran ser de los más básicos con algunas mesitas con sillas, hasta otros que, además de las mesitas, tienen mostrador con banquetas. Estos están montados desde de una manera rústica a otros que están muy bien puestos. Estas cafeterías pueden ofertar diferentes tipos de bocaditos y hamburguesas, pizzas, hasta platos más sofisticados.

Y entonces están los paladares y restaurantes privados especializándose en diferentes tipos de cocinas o menús. Desde los que son más económicos hasta los que son caros, bien caros.

Otro cambio que se hace evidente en estos tiempos en La Habana es el de la construcción, o más bien, el de remozar, reparar y ampliar viviendas. Las nuevas leyes relacionadas a la venta y compra de viviendas y las nuevas regulaciones dirigidas a la agilización de los trámites relacionados a la reparación o ampliación de viviendas han dado impulso a estas necesidades.

Es muy estimulante ver cómo, no solamente en los barrios donde se encuentran las mejores viviendas de la ciudad –que es donde uno supone se encuentren los propietarios con más dinero disponible — sino en prácticamente todos los barrios de la capital muchos se han volcado a mejorar sus viviendas.

Y con estas actividades se ha impulsado la creación de lugares donde se venden materiales de la construcción, incluyendo más materiales y piezas relacionadas con estos trabajos en las propias ferreterías de las redes comerciales estatales, y muy especialmente la proliferación de los timbiriches donde se venden productos relacionados a la plomería, que tanta falta hacen.

Sobre estos asuntos trataré en próximos artículos ya que éstos son de importancia para representar a nuestro país como éste se encuentra actualmente en medio de un acertado proceso de cambios que, aunque con sus problemas, hace la vida más productiva y placentera a los nuestros en la Isla.//

John And Ken Show Protested By Latinos

John Kobylt , Kenneth Chiampou

John And Ken Show Protested By Latinos, As Conservative Talk Radio Program Expands To New York

(The Huffington Post  |  Posted: 02/12/2013 6:21 pm EST)

A Latino group is re-launching a campaign against a talk radio show it accuses of fueling hate speech against Hispanics.

The National Hispanic Media Coalition said Tuesday it would renew its push to force the “John and Ken Show” off the air, now that the show will begin syndicating its program in New York, according to La Opiníon.

Despite a round of cultural sensitivity training, the radio personalities have built a reputation for offending people of color, the Coalition says. The hosts routinely bash undocumented immigrants on their show.

The Coalition first launched its attack on the radio duo back in 2011. Just before the passage of the California DREAM Act, the hosts read the cell phone number of immigrant rights activist Jorge Mario Cabrera on air and urged their listeners to call him. Hundreds of “John and Ken Show” fans obeyed, many leaving hateful and threatening messages, including one who said:

You illegal immigrant, piece of sh*t motherf***er. We will do everything to fight you motherf***ers until you’re all dead, you’re all motherf***ing dead.

Kobylt and Chiampou apologized for the incident and wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Times that they hadn’t intended for their listeners to threaten Cabrera and said his cell phone appeared on his organization’s press releases.

But their response didn’t satisfy the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which says on its website:

For years John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, hosts of “The John and Ken Show,” have terrorized and targeted Los Angeles communities, creating an atmosphere of hate, intolerance, discrimination and legitimizing hateful attitudes against members of these groups. John and Ken are known to habitually use unsubstantiated claims, divisive language, flawed argumentation and dehumanizing metaphors to shock and anger their audience.

Advertisers including General Motors and the Anaheim Angels pulled their money out of the show in response to a boycott led by Latino activists after the Cabrera incident.

Kobylt and Chiampou were suspended for seven days last year for calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho” after her death. They apologized for the remarks.

With a weekly audience of 1.2 million, the afternoon talk show is one of California’s highest rated, according to Los Angeles Magazine.



Other related stories

La Opinion: http://www.laopinion.com/coalicion-medios-hispanos-renueva-lucha-contra-programa-radial-racista-john-and-ken-show-los-angeles&source=RSS#.URrQfaVEGSp

RBR-TVBR: http://rbr.com/nhmc-denounces-john-and-ken-show-addition-in-nyc/

Defending the Cuban Revolution