Posted May 16, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
Summary of the Last Seven Days Most Important Developments
In the largest number of expulsions in the history of US-Cuban relations, Washington expelled seven Cuban diplomats accredited to the United Nations in New York and another seven from Cuba’s Interests Section in Washington due to “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.” (i.e. espionage). The diplomatic crisis coincides with the crackdown against Cuba’s internal opposition and executions in Havana. (El Nuevo Herald, The Washington Post, May 13th )
Responding to the expulsions the Cuban foreign ministry said: “With these actions the North American government demonstrates once again it has openly rushed into a provocative and interventionist course.” Cuba’s official newspaper said a plan to undermine the migration accords with Havana is being implemented to create a crisis which could facilitate a confrontation between the two countries. Cuba, it said, will take the necessary time to respond to this new provocation. (Granma, May 13th).
“In the whole world you are the person who most values the price of liberty, the most appropriate to intercede, to obtain the liberation of my husband and of all Cuban political prisoners,” said Blanca Reyes, wife of Cuba’s imprisoned poet Raul Rivero, in a letter to South African leader Nelson Mandela. Mrs. Reyes asked Mandela to visit Cuban prisons, comparing them to the South African prisons where the black leader spent twenty seven years. (AFP, May 14th).
Cristina Rivero, daughter of the poet, and Miguel Angel Sanchez, his step-son, met in Washington D. C. with human rights organizations, diplomats, journalists, and legislators to explain the dissidents’ plight and the summary trials, and to urge international solidarity for them. Although in good spirits, they said Rivero was transferred to a prison three hundred miles from his home. (EFE, May 14th ).
Six Cuban rafters attempting to reach U.S. shores were intercepted by the US Coast Guard while a Miami television station broadcast the incident live. They reached the U.S. but were charged with threatening Coast Guard personnel who attempted to detain them. If found guilty, they face up to 20 years in prison. (AP, Telemundo, Miami, May 15th).
The Caracas daily, El Nacional, denounced the issuance of bonds for 183 million dollars approved by the Finance Commission of the Venezuelan Congress as damaging to Venezuelan interests. The bonds are to finance three projects to be carried out by Chinese and Cuban firms. The Chinese will rebuild a section of a railroad track; and Cuba will start the construction of a sugar mill in the Venezuelan state of Barinas. The agreement was reached between Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. (El Nacional, May 15th).
A bipartisan congressional group introduced a bill to legalize American tourist travel to Cuba. Among the sponsors are Congressmen William Delahunt (D-MA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The bill has little possibility of passage. The proposed legislation encourages “tourist apartheid,” Frank Calzon, director of the Center for a Free Cuba, told The Washington Times. “These are segregated facilities. Cubans are not allowed to go to those hotels, or visit those beaches,” he said. Mr. Calzon said that while members of Congress who want to lift the travel ban and the economic embargo travel freely to Cuba, U.S. law-makers known for their tough stand on human rights, including Republican Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Frank R. Wolf of Virginia, are denied visas to visit the island by the Cuban government. (El Nuevo Herald, The Washington Times, May 15th).
Poul Nielson, the European Commissioner for Cooperation who visited Havana before the crackdown said he was disappointed with the repressive wave in Cuba, indicating it was a step backwards. “We are all dismayed,” he said. (AFP, May 16).
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