Sunday, September 09, 2007

Light blogging ahead

Dear folks,

Blogging will almost certainly take a back seat over the next few weeks, as your bloggist and his long-suffering wife take a much-anticipated break in Europe, starting off in Madrid.

Then again, the trusty laptop is coming along so ... who knows?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Recommended reading

What's wrong with this sentence?

Member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, which is chaired by Cuba, are meeting in Iran to discuss human rights.

I know, I know ... where do we start? Human rights? Cuba? Iran?

On the other hand, yYou can start with this very good commentary by Anne Bayefsky in National Review Online.

(More) boxing news

Remember those two Cuban boxers who tried to defect while competing in Rio only to reportedly change their mind after a few days and ask to be returned home?

That was back in July.

On their return, the hapless boxers received a “royal pardon” from Fidel Castro.

The man who for the past 50 years has had the final say on what happens to each and every one of his 11 million subjects was at his magnanimous best: h
e promised the boxers would never represent Cuba again but would be treated with “dignity”.

Well, now we know what the ailing dictator meant by “dignity”.

Oone of the boxers involved, Guillermo Rigondeaux, has confirmed to the Spanish news agency EFE that he is now officially out of work – in a country where all sportspeople are employed by the Government.

Rigondeaux, an Olympic champion regarded among the top boxers in the world, said he had been ignored by officials and shunned by his friends, former trainers, fellow boxers and sports administrators.

“No one has come to speak to me about my future,” he said. “They know where I live so if they don’t visit is because they don’t want to.”

Actually, they don’t visit because they have been told not to.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

From Russia with love

Anthony Boadle, a Reuters correspondent in Havana, has just filed a fascinating article about a little known by-product of the Cold War.

It’s the story of 1,300 or so Russian and Eastern European women aged in their 60s who are currently “stranded” in Fidel Castro’s island paradise.

Most of them married Cubans back in the 1960s and 1970s, when it seemed as if the Soviet Union and its empire would last (and stretch) for ever.

The women moved to Cuba with their husbands to help build Soviet-style communism in the tropics. And for years, they led what could best be described as relatively comfortable lives, at least when compared to their Cuban neighbours.

In fact, as the article reveals, Fidel Castro used to provide the women with heavily-subsidised air tickets so they could fly back home every five years – a privilege most Cubans could only dream about.

No more.

Since the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the women have more or less been forgotten by the regime, forced to make ends meet on their Cuban pensions, which are worth about USD10.00 a month.

You know, just like ordinary Cuban pensioners.

Read the article here.

H/T Penultimos Dias

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Suspended animation

The official Cuban media has published another one of Fidel Castro’s increasingly erratic reflexiones.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean the “editorial” was written by the seriously ill 81-year-old dictator.

But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the very clear message in the latest missive.

This time around, Castro gets stuck not into his old enemies in the United States (surprising, no?), but into his “progressive” friends in Western Europe and elsewhere.

You know, those obviously deluded Left-wingers who have dared to suggest that perhaps Raul Castro could look at opening up the moribund Cuban economy to market forces in an effort to make life a little easier for ordinary Cubans, struggling on monthly wages that average USD15.00.

Treating them with the utter contempt he obviously believes they deserve, Castro mocks his long-standing supporters as “super revolutionaries” with “poisonous” recommendations designed to "help the Empire" and destroy “the achievements of the Revolution”.

He says opening up the economy would “inundate” Cuba with money, which would be akin to “selling our sovereignty”, a novel concept that obviously has escaped those enterprising Chinese.

But forget the silly rhetoric, it’s the message here that counts.

This most recent diatribe is a clear sign to those waiting in the wings inside and outside Cuba (does that include Raul Castro?), that while Castro I is alive, there will be no change on the island of any type.

The dinosaurs are still in charge.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In Tbilisi

Here is an excellent article in The Wall Street Journal by Melik Kaylan on the Museum of Soviet Occupation.

Despite pressure from Moscow, the Museum opened its doors last year in Tbilisi, the capital city of the former Soviet "republic" of Georgia.

As the writer explains, the Museum has received surprisingly little attention … except among countries that suffered a comparable fate under Communism, such as Poland and the Baltic states.

In the West, no one seems to care.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Adios, Cuba

Some time ago we reported on the decision by the Castro regime to withdraw the working visas of a handful of foreign correspondents in Havana on the grounds their articles were “too negative”.

One of those singled out was Stephen Gibbs of the BBC.

Mr Gibbs has now filed his last report from Cuba, explaining some of the peculiarities of living and working in a place where the State censors everything at any time and for no particular reason at all.

He explains, for instance, how the regime's ever-efficient censors deleted 30 seconds from the film "Hotel Rwanda" when it was shown on Cuban television - because one of the characters made a joke about Cuban cigars.

You can read his report here.

Imperialist refrigerators

There is very readable article in today’s International Herald Tribune about the fate of those old American-made, 1950s refrigerators now being replaced "voluntarily" by the Castro regime.

For nearly half a century, inventive Cubans have managed to keep the old machines working.

But over the past two to three years, they have been progressively replaced by new, Chinese-made refrigerators that are supposed to be just as good but much more energy efficient.

Well, energy efficient they may be but it seems the old American warhorses were a lot more reliable, according to the Cubans interviewed for the article.

The article points out that Cubans do not have to switch to Chinese refrigerators, but there are “strong incentives to comply”.

For instance, Cubans are told that the new refrigerators were Fidel Castro’s idea and therefore, refusing to exchange old for new would be deemed to be “unpatriotic” - and we all know what that means.

As for the cost of the new refrigerators, Cubans have to fork out the equivalent of USD200.00 for the privilege, paid in monthly instalments.

In case you are wondering, the average monthly wage for ordinary Cubans is about USD15.00.

H/T: Penultimos Dias