Why Does Change Take So Damn Long?

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From the New York Times:

With Cuba cautiously introducing free-market changes that have legalized hundreds of thousands of small private businesses over the past two years, new economic bonds between Cuba and the United States have formed, creating new challenges, new possibilities — and a more complicated debate over the embargo.

The longstanding logic has been that broad sanctions are necessary to suffocate the totalitarian government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Now, especially for many Cubans who had previously stayed on the sidelines in the battle over Cuba policy, a new argument against the embargo is gaining currency — that the tentative move toward capitalism by the Cuban government could be sped up with more assistance from Americans.

Even as defenders of the embargo warn against providing the Cuban government with “economic lifelines,” some Cubans and exiles are advocating a fresh approach. The Obama administration already showed an openness to engagement with Cuba in 2009 by removing restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. But with Fidel Castro, 86, retired and President Raúl Castro, 81, leading a bureaucracy that is divided on the pace and scope of change, many have begun urging President Obama to go further and update American policy by putting a priority on assistance for Cubans seeking more economic independence from the government.

There’s more>>>Changes in Cuba Create Support for Easing Embargo

(Photo above (c) New York Times, 2012)

Today Is “World Press Freedom Day”

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Journalists In need of help from around the world

A reminder from Amnesty International:

World Press Freedom Day (May 3) provides an opportunity for people around the world to celebrate the fundamental human right to freedom of expression, defend the media from attacks on their independence and honor the memory of journalists who have lost their lives because of the peaceful exercise of their right to speak and write freely.

Amnesty International works to protect journalists from harassment and death threats, free them from arbitrary detention and guarantee them their right to freedom of expression. TAKE ACTION now on behalf of these journalists around the world.

Shame on Nokia

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and other “international companies” to whom profits seem more important than human rights. From the European Parliament, via @mikkohipponen:

Ban surveillance technology exports

The resolution “strongly criticizes international companies, and notably Nokia/Siemens, for providing the Iranian authorities with the necessary censorship and surveillance technology, thus being instrumental to persecution and arrests of Iranian dissidents”. Parliament called on the EU institutions immediately to “ban the export of surveillance technology by European companies to governments and countries such as Iran”.

Finally, MEPs strongly condemned death sentences and executions in Iran and called for the abolition of the death penalty.

Read more…

Cubans now Welcomed in Cuba’s Resorts

Some inherent rights take five decades to be granted in Cuba. The right to stay at a modern hotel in a national tourist attraction by Cuban citizens is just one of them. I personally witness this form of apartheid when I visited Cuba a number of years ago. I could stay at a fancy hotel in the center of Havana, eat a sumptuous meal at one of its restaurants and take in a show. My cousins who were still living, and working and sacrificing in Cuba, could not.

Varadero Beach, Cuba. (Image by Nick Miroff for NPR)
Varadero Beach, Cuba. (Image by Nick Miroff for NPR)

That seems to be changing by decree from above. I suspect that the reason might have everything to do do with financial calculus and zero to do with citizen’s rights or humanitarian considerations.

NPR’s Nick Miroff has the full story from Havana:

Cuba’s President Raul Castro put an end last year to the country’s so-called tourism apartheid that banned ordinary Cubans from staying at tourist hotels.

The change has brought something new this summer to the island’s all-inclusive resorts: Cuban tourists.

With 12 miles of white sand beaches and more than 50 hotels, Varadero is one of the largest resorts in the Caribbean. Foreign companies partner with the Cuban government to run the place, and it’s a bit like Cancun without the American college kids.

Varadero is still off-limits to American tourists under U.S. law, and for years it was pretty much that way for Cubans, too. Cuban workers cleaned the hotel rooms and staffed the restaurants, but the island’s communist authorities wouldn’t let them check in as guests.

That policy ended with reforms initiated by Raul Castro, who succeeded his ailing brother, Fidel.

Now, dozens of tour buses packed with Cuban vacationers are pouring daily into Varadero. For less than $200 per person, Cubans can buy a weeklong, all-inclusive package and finally claim their places in the sand alongside budget-minded Europeans and Canadians.

Great!

Cubans are still waiting, after 50 years, for the granting of other simple human rights, like freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to travel abroad…

They’re still waiting for just plain freedom.

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