Capitol or Bat House

I managed to sneak into the stairway when the workers went to the dining room to scarf down their lunch. It was the summer of 1992 and the temptation to climb to the cupola of the Capitol was stronger than the “keep out” warning written in red letters. Up above, the cobwebs the structural shoring, and the openings in the molding, alternated with objects covered in dust. From the height I looked down, where a shiny dome marks kilometer zero of the national highway.

Havana’s Capitol has been humiliated by its past, punished for seeming too much like Washington’s and embarrassed for having sheltered — once — the congress. Like a symbol of that republic demonized by the official propaganda, the imposing building has suffered the fate of the castigated. The Academy of Sciences established itself there, filling its spacious interior with partitions, and an ancient museum of stuffed animals located just below the chamber. Several bat colonies camped inside, spraying the walls with their feces and making holes is the decorative embellishments. The nooks and crannies of the facade became the most popular urinal in a several bloc radius.

A few years ago word got around that an Italian millionaire had donated a set of lights for this architectural gem. But by bit the light bulbs burned out and the colossus of stone and marble once again went dark. To the surprise of those who already took for a condemned site, billboards have recently been erected around it announcing the restoration of the majestic building. Hopefully the repairs won’t take longer than the brief years of its construction, and the Capitol will become — one day — the site of the Cuban parliament: a magnificent building that houses real debates.


25 thoughts on “Capitol or Bat House

  1. Sigmund Freud,

    I’m sorry but I dont do it for you man! Is more as a gift to my “REVOLUTIONARY RAT FRIENDS” that are hiding right now in their holes! IS SO NICE TO HAVE SOME PEACE!

  2. Thanks Humberto, thanks for continuing with the Avalancha when others like me have no time to participate.


    REUTERS: Cuba will not be rushed into reform, VP says-By Rosa Tania Valdes-SANTA CLARA | Mon Jul 26,

    Cuba (Reuters) – Cuban leaders will not be rushed into decisions about economic reforms and whatever they do will be faithful to the ideals of the Cuban revolution, Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said on Monday in a nationally televised speech.
    The speech was a defiant response to those pushing for faster change on the communist-led island, which is in the grips of a economic crisis.

    Machado Ventura, a veteran of the revolution and longtime Castro loyalist, spoke at a celebration marking the 57th anniversary of the start of the revolution that put Fidel Castro in power in 1959.

    President Raul Castro was expected to speak, but he was only a spectator at the event and older brother Fidel Castro, who has re-emerged in recent weeks after four years in seclusion, did not attend.

    “We will proceed with a sense of responsibility, step by step, at the rhythm we determine, without improvisation or haste so as not to make mistakes,” Machado Ventura said to a crowd estimated at 90,000 in the central city of Santa Clara.

    “We will continue the study, the analysis and the taking of decisions that lead to overcoming our deficiencies,” he said. “We will not conduct ourselves by campaigns of the foreign press.”

    Machado Ventura spoke in front of a monument holding the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine who helped lead the armed insurrection that began on July 26, 1953.

    On that day, Fidel Castro led an assault by young rebels on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

    The attack failed, with many of the rebels killed, but it marked the beginning of the end for the government of U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, who fled the country on January 1, 1959.

    “Today we confirm the commitment with them to be loyal to the ideas for which they gave their lives,” Machado Ventura said, referring to those who died in the assault.


    Even though President Castro did not speak as he has in past July 26 celebrations, Machado Ventura’s words echoed his earlier pronouncements that the government must act deliberately to avoid mistakes that could endanger the future of Cuban communism when the current generation of leaders is gone.

    Castro, 79, has tweaked the system to try to create incentives for greater productivity, but his efforts have not yet raised salaries for most Cubans, who receive social benefits but earn on average the equivalent of $18 a month.

    Many have said they are eager for improvements, but some people at Monday’s event said they agreed with the government’s direction.

    “Machado made clear that we have to change things, but without anybody interfering. It’s a matter for the Cubans and we don’t accept pressure from anyone,” said Griselda Rodriguez, the head of the agricultural union of the state of Villa Clara.

    Machado Ventura, 79, cited three 2008 hurricanes and the longstanding U.S. trade embargo against the island as principal causes for Cuba’s current economic lethargy.

    Raul Castro surprised many earlier this month by agreeing to release 52 political prisoners in a deal with the Catholic Church that quieted international criticism about Cuba’s human rights record.

    Machado Ventura did not mention the release of the prisoners, who Cuban leaders view as mercenaries working with the United States to topple the communist government.

    There had been expectations that Fidel Castro, 83, might attend the event since he recently reappeared after undergoing intestinal surgery in July 2006.

    He has made several appearances covered by state-run media in which he has warned that nuclear war is imminent, sparked by conflict between the United States and Iran.

    Fidel Castro ceded power provisionally to his brother at the time of surgery, then officially resigned in February 2008 and Raul Castro was elected his successor by the National Assembly.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was scheduled to speak at Monday’s celebration, but canceled his trip due to escalating tensions between Venezuela and neighboring Colombia.


    “Mr Machado also referred to what he termed “the visible recuperation” of Fidel Castro.” WHAT A CHARADE!

    BBC NEWS: Cuba marks Revolution Day but no sign of Fidel Castro-26 July 2010

    Cuban President Raul Castro has been presiding over events at the annual 26 July rally that recalls the start of the revolution in 1953.

    There was no sign of his elder brother, Fidel, who has appeared at several small events recently, thereby increasing speculation he might attend.

    Raul Castro did not address the rally, Spanish news agency Efe reported.

    There had been some suggestions he might announce economic reforms or more prisoner releases.

    President Castro confounded critics last month by agreeing to free large numbers of political prisoners.

    Many Cubans would have been hoping that Raul Castro would use the event to move on his long-awaited economic reforms, says the BBC’s Michael Voss in Havana.

    Average wages are barely $20 (£13) a month in the island’s crippled state-run economy.

    Support for Venezuela
    President Castro and other officials arrived for the ceremonies in the central city of Santa Clara early on Monday.

    The main event was beside the mausoleum of Ernesto Che Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary leader who fought alongside the Castro brothers and was a close associate of Fidel.

    President Castro handed out diplomas, while First Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura delivered the keynote speech, Efe reported.

    Mr Machado spoke of Cuba’s support for Venezuela, currently mired in a diplomatic row with Colombia.

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cancelled a planned visit to Cuba in the light of the crisis.

    Mr Machado also referred to what he termed “the visible recuperation” of Fidel Castro.

    Fidel Castro, who turns 84 next month, has made six public outings over the past fortnight, the first since he stepped down to undergo major surgery in 2006.

    However, despite rumours he might attend, there was no sign of the former president.

    The annual 26 July rally marks the anniversary of the first battle of the Cuban revolution when Fidel, along with Raul, led an attack on the Moncada barracks.


    NPR: Raul Castro Prepares Cuban Revolution Day Speech- Anne-Marie Garcia -July 25,

    It would be easy for Raul Castro to make headlines in a major Revolution Day speech Monday. All he has to do is bring up the 52 political prisoners he has agreed to release, or discuss plans to open the island’s communist economy.
    Of course, nothing Cuba’s 79-year-old president says will mean as much as whether elder brother Fidel is standing by his side. A recent spate of appearances by the revolutionary leader after four years of near-total seclusion has got everybody talking. Could this be Fidel’s coming out party?

    “If Fidel is there it will cause a huge stir. It will be very important,” said Wayne Smith, a former top American diplomat in Havana and senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.

    He said the elder Castro brother’s presence would make clear to many in Washington that the 83-year old revolutionary still has a strong hand in affairs of state. That, Smith says, would not be viewed positively by those waiting for Cuba to allow more economic, political and social changes.

    “The thought has been that they are moving toward reforms under Raul, but that they might be moving more energetically if not for the fact that Fidel Castro is still sitting on the porch and Raul is afraid he might not be enthusiastic,” Smith said. “If Fidel does come back, that could suggest they aren’t going to move as fast as they should with these changes.”

    Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for nearly half a century until he was forced to step down in 2006 and undergo emergency intestinal surgery, turning power over — first temporarily, then permanently — to his brother.

    Since then, Castro has lived in near total seclusion. Until this month, that is.

    The former president has seemingly been everywhere, most recently making an emotional visit Saturday to a town outside Havana to honor fallen revolutionary fighters. There he read a statement that was right out of his much-weathered revolutionary playbook, turning Cuba’s tortured half-century conflict with the United States into a positive.

    “The simple fact of maintaining this fight for such a long time provides proof of what a small country can achieve against a gigantic, imperial power,” Castro said after laying a wreath at a mausoleum for his comrades. In other appearances Castro has visited economists, scientists, diplomats and even dolphins at the national aquarium, his every move captured on national television and in state-run newspapers.

    State media have even taken to calling him “commander in chief” again, a title he has largely shunned since stepping down.

    Fidel Castro has used the publicity spree to warn that the world stands on the precipice of a nuclear war — pitting the United States and Israel on one side, and Iran on the other.

    So far he has stayed clear of commenting on current events in Cuba, perhaps in an effort to avoid the appearance of interfering with his brother’s work running the country. But merely attending Revolution Day celebrations would be an overtly political act.

    While Raul Castro has remained loyal to his brother’s communist ideals, he has overseen the handover of tens of thousands of acres of government land to individual farmers; has allowed some small-level entrepreneurship in a country where the state controls well over 90 percent of the economy; and has spearheaded an anti-corruption drive in which several senior officials were fired.

    He has also tried to scale back unsustainable subsidies in a system where most people earn low government wages but receive free health care and education, near-free housing and transportation and deeply discounted basic food.

    The reforms — while halting — have allowed Raul to emerge from the shadow of his more famous brother, though opinion is divided on how much influence Fidel wields behind the scenes.

    The government has said nothing about whether Fidel will be on hand for Monday’s celebration, which commemorates the date in 1953 when the Castros led an attack on the Moncada army barracks in the eastern city of Santiago and a smaller military outpost in the nearby city of Bayamo. The operation failed spectacularly, but Cubans consider it the beginning of the revolution that culminated with dictator Fulgencio Batista’s ouster on New Year’s Day 1959.

    Cuba celebrates Revolution Day in a different part of the island each year. The 2010 affair in the central city of Santa Clara offers an intriguing backdrop. The speeches will be held at a towering outdoor memorial housing the remains of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Santa Clara is also home to Guillermo Farinas, a dissident who recently ended a 134-day hunger strike after the government agreed to release the last remaining opposition leaders jailed since 2003. At least 15 have been released and sent to Spain so far, with the rest expected to follow in coming months.

    While many think Fidel Castro’s appearance Saturday means it’s less likely he will also show up in Santa Clara, there have been some signs he might attend.

    When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he would attend the festivities, he wrote that he wanted to share the day “with Raul, with Fidel and with the Cuban people.”

    Chavez canceled the visit shortly before he was scheduled to leave Sunday, citing rising tension between his country and neighboring Colombia.

    On the streets of Havana, many believe the former leader will make an appearance.

    “I think Fidel has to be in Santa Clara,” said Mariana Delgado, a 71-year-old retiree standing in line to buy a copy of state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde, or “Rebel Youth.”

    “The people are waiting to see him at a public event, and we are waiting to hear him speak about the situation in Cuba,” she said. “Until now, he has only talked about problems in other countries. We have many problems here that we need to solve.”

    NPR: Raul Castro Prepares Cuban Revolution Day Speech- Anne-Marie Garcia -July 25,


    THE TIMES OF INDIA: Chavez cancels Cuba trip citing risk of ‘aggression’ by Colombia-Jul 26, 2010

    CARACAS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez abruptly cancelled a trip to Cuba on Sunday, citing the danger of “armed aggression” by Colombia amid escalating tensions between the South American neighbors.

    Announcing the decision at a political event, Chavez said he had intelligence that “the possibility of an armed aggression against Venezuelan territory from Colombia” was higher than it has been “in one hundred years.”

    “Everything points to the Colombian government, and even more so to the United States — there you have the guilty one, there you have the great instigator,” added Chavez, who is highly critical of a US-Colombian military base deal struck last year.

    Chavez said Venezuela was ready to repel any aggression from Colombia.

    Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota on Thursday in response to charges by President Alvaro Uribe that 1,500 Colombian guerrillas had taken refuge in Venezuela and were launching attacks from its territory.

    The United States on Friday threw its support behind its key ally Colombia in its latest row with Venezuela, calling Chavez’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with Colombia and put border troops on alert “a petulant response” to Bogota’s accusations.

  7. GUARDIAN U.K. : Cuba indicates it will free all its political prisoners-Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent -25 July 2010 -Prisoners will be free to stay in Cuba or emigrate, say authorities in bold move to repair ties with international community

    Cuba has signalled that it will free all its political prisoners and let them stay on the island in a bold attempt to repair Havana’s ties with the international community.

    Senior officials said the recent release of 15 prisoners would be followed by dozens more and the dissidents would be free to stay, should they wish, or they could emigrate.

    The announcement was followed by another public appearance by Fidel Castro, who yesterday attended a ceremony honouring comrades killed at the outset of his revolution over half a century ago.

    The 83-year-old former president wore an olive-green shirt and state media referred to him as “commander in chief”, emphasising his continued influence despite being sidelined by a health crisis in 2006.

    His return to the limelight has coincided with the recent prisoner releases, part of a Vatican-brokered deal in which the communist government promised to free 52 of 75 detainees jailed in a 2003 crackdown.

    Last week the head of Cuba’s parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, went further and said it was the government’s wish “to free all the people” on condition they had not been accused of murder.

    Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Switzerland, he said the released men would not be forced into exile. “In Cuba there are people who have been freed from prison several years ago and who stayed in their homes. As in this case.”

    Western diplomats in Havana said authorities were taking brave, pragmatic steps. “It shows the government is willing to change course,” said one. “Whether it is linked to a wider process, time will tell.” Spain has urged the European Union to reward Havana with diplomatic and economic concessions.

    The releases – and promise of more to come – altered the political landscape, said Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank. “It does not signify political liberalisation – no one is claiming that – but it is a positive step in which everyone wins.” He urged the Obama administration to respond creatively.

    Exactly how many political prisoners there are is now an urgent question. Amnesty International, using narrow criteria, lists 53 prisoners of conscience. Human Rights Watch, which includes activists jailed on ostensibly criminal charges, estimates more. The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission counted 167. The Castro government does not acknowledge holding any political prisoners, only US-funded “mercenaries” and “terrorists”.

    Freeing prisoners should help President Raul Castro to concentrate on stalled economic reforms which are widely expected to determine the fate of the revolution. “Raul knows that’s where he needs to direct his energies,” said one diplomat.

    Over the weekend a group of artists and intellectuals probed the boundaries of official tolerance with an unauthorised three-day meeting in Havana to debate Cuba’s future. “It was an experiment to see if people could openly express views,” said Antonio Rodiles, one of the organisers. “If we succeed with this I think we will be able to say we have all won: the authorities, the participants and the public.”

  8. MIAMI HERALD: In exile, different type of survival begins-After barely overcoming the odds in Cuban prisons, the ex-political prisoners transferred to Spain face emotional and tough decisions about life, work and political activism.-BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO

    MADRID — Before their lives changed in a phone call from Cuba’s Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the men’s days were focused on surviving notoriously harsh Cuban prisons, their energy spent on winning a psychological war with their jailers, armed with only a sliver of hope that one day they might get out.
    Now that they’re free but in exile, the former political prisoners are dealing with survival of another kind: adjusting to a new life in a foreign country and making difficult legal and emotional choices for themselves and their families as they mourn, remember and grasp all they’ve left behind.

    “In prison, the day was so long and here it’s so short,” said Ricardo González Alfonso, a widely published independent journalist sentenced to 20 years after his arrest in the Black Spring of 2003, who was released last week under an agreement between the Cuban and Spanish governments and the Catholic Church.

    González, 60, and the first 10 Cuban political prisoners freed last week have commandeered the news headlines in Spain with their stories of life in prison and their angst about having been expatriated to Spain without much time to ponder their choices.

    But now the time has come to decide whether they’ll accept relocation to other parts of Spain, as the government wishes, or fight to stay in Madrid — an issue on which the prisoners are divided.

    While all the ex-prisoners vow to continue fighting on behalf of democracy in Cuba, some are eager to follow housing and employment opportunites elsewhere. Others want to stay close to the tight-knit Cuban-exile community — and the country’s political epicenter — in Madrid.

    “I’m ready to start a new era of my life even if it’s sweeping the streets,” Pablo Pacheco, 40, told The Miami Herald as he bid an emotional goodbye to fellow ex-prisoners and their families at the hostel Welcome, where the Cubans have been staying since their arrival.

    Along with his doctor wife, Oleidys García, and their 12-year-old son, Jimmy, Pacheco hopped on a white Spanish Red Cross van for a ride to the train station, one-way tickets to Málaga in hand.


    He became the first to accept relocation Monday afternoon, and throughout the week others followed: two more to Málaga, others moving to the beach town of Cullera in Valencia, Gijón in Asturias, and the tiny medieval-walled village of Sigüenza in central Spain.

    But three others have refused to leave Madrid.

    “I’m not going to Alicante,” said Julio César Gálvez, 66. “I’m staying in Madrid. . . . They will have to use the Civil Guard to get me out of here. I didn’t ask to come to Spain. The Spanish government made commitments to us [in Havana] and now we feel abandoned.”

    He showed The Miami Herald the document that representatives of the Spanish government gave the prisoners in Havana promising a living stipend he has not received yet, plus medical attention and housing. Nowhere in the document does it say that the Cubans have to accept relocation to receive benefits.

    “They tell us they haven’t completed the housing projects where they could house us in Madrid, but that is not true,” said Gálvez, whose denunciations of prison conditions in Cuba have made every newspaper and television newscast in Spain and internationally. “They want to split us up, keep us away from the limelight. But we will continue to speak up until every political prisoner is free and until there’s democracy in Cuba.”

    Most troubling to the Cubans is their legal situation in Spain. Work permits are issued only temporarily and need to be renewed every six months. Legal advice they can trust is hard to come by, as Spanish immigration laws are confusing even to lawyers.

    The ex-prisoners say they will most likely never be able to return to Cuba under the current regime because their jail sentences were not forgiven and their Cuban passports are stamped salida definitiva — final exit.

    But even something as simple as a request for adult diapers for an older woman who is incontinent and suffering from an undiagnosed Alzheimer’s-like condition went without attention, said Natalia Bellusova, a Spaniard who has been helping the Cubans voluntarily through her humanitarian organization, Asociación de Iberoamericanos por la Libertad.

    “I had to go and get the diapers myself,” she said. “The Spanish Red Cross has been entrusted by the Spanish government with caring for the Cubans, but they seem overwhelmed.”

    Red Cross workers at the hostel would not comment. Government representatives have told the Spanish media that the Cubans need to be patient with the slow-moving Spanish bureaucracy.

    But the reality is that the penniless prisoners are living traumatic moments filled with uncertainty, hardship and family separations.

    Normando Hernández was reunited with his mother, Blanca Rosa González, who flew in from Miami. But that joy will be short-lived. González must return to the United States — and Hernández and his wife, Yarai Reyes, and 8-year-old daughter Daniela have to stay in Spain. The family remains at the hostel in an industrial sector of Madrid.

    Daniela, who wrote moving poetry in Cuba about her jailed father, is showing signs of stress and sadness.

    “She has been through so much emotional trauma that we’ve had to have her see a psychologist,” Hernández said. “First with her father in prison, then leaving Cuba at a moment’s notice, and now all of this and the uncertainty.”


    Hernández, 40, also has serious health problems. He is pencil-thin and gravely ill from malnutrition. His nose and Adam’s apple are visibly deformed. He can eat only baby food, and even that gives him horrible cramps, yet so far he’s only had one perfunctory medical examination.

    “He needs intensive medical attention,” Bellusova said.

    Others like Lester González, 33, who left a daughter in Cuba from a previous relationship, and his new wife, Misladis González, 26, who was forced to leave behind her 5-year-old daughter Lorena when the girl’s father refused to give the required permission, are realizing they may not see their loved ones for a long time, if ever.

    The couple attended a party thrown at the hostel with a piñata and sweets to cheer up the children last weekend, when Misladis began to cry.

    The party had reminded her of her daughter.

    “The Cuban authorities pressured her father, who is in prison for robbery, not to sign the permission letter,” Lester said.

    Said Misladis: “I left her in the care of my mother and I came here thinking of her future because I know my mother will eventually convince [the girl’s father] to let her leave.”

    “He never had anything to do with her,” Lester said. “He was just pressured by the Cuban government to punish us. They always want to leave hostages behind so that we won’t talk.”

    On Wednesday, the couple accepted relocation to Sigüenza.

    For the Cubans, there are advantages to living in a country like Spain, where they speak the language and can culturally acclimate quickly. In some cases, even though they have family in the United States, they want to stay here.

    Jose Luis García Paneque, a plastic surgeon who specializes in burn victims, has a wife and four children in Texas, but he doesn’t want to live there because he wants to practice medicine and it would be a tortuous process to regain his license in the United States. His wife is barely surviving alone in Texas doing menial jobs.

    García Paneque, who also is ill from malnutrition and weighs only 101 pounds, brought with him his elderly parents and his sister, her husband, and their newborn girl.

    “It would be very difficult for me to restart my career in English,” says the 44-year-old. “But here I speak the language and I have my knowledge, my hands. I can start over.”

    He accepted relocation to Cullera.

    If what has happened to other expatriated political prisoners is an indication, life in Spain — a country in the throes of an economic crisis — will be bittersweet.


    After two years of exile in the Spanish capital, Alejandro González Raga still has not found a job and lives on a fixed stipend from the Spanish government. The former Cuban political prisoner lives with his wife and three grown sons in an apartment in Vallecas, an immigrant suburb 10 miles from the city center, the same part of Madrid where the hostel is located.

    González Raga, 52, survives on a modest stipend the Spanish government gives him as a political refugee, but he wants to work, build a future. Yet he arrived in Madrid just as the Spanish economy was nose-diving, and the unemployment rate is now upwards of 20 percent. He dedicates his time to the cause of democracy in Cuba, and is now helping guide the arriving political prisoners in starting a new life. He also runs a website of support for political prisoners,

    “If I had to do it all over again, I would not have left Cuba,” says González Raga, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for working as an independent journalist, then released five years later and put on a plane to Spain in 2008. “I left because I had no choice, it was either Spain or staying in prison.”


    GUARDIAN U.K. :Fidel Castro’s Potbelly amigo Max Marambio finds brother Raul Castro is not so friendly-Max Marambio had it all from the Cuba leader Fidel Castro. Now Raul Castro wants him on corruption charges

    A globe-trotting guerrilla befriends a dictator, goes into business and makes a fortune but ends up accused of corruption and betrayal. How the story ends remains unclear, but Max Marambio’s rise and apparent fall could already fill several novels – and shed light on Castro rule in Cuba.
    It begins in 1973. Marambio, pictured, a Chilean leftist and bodyguard for president Salvador Allende, flees to Havana after Augusto Pinochet overthrows his boss. Fidel Castro promotes the exile through the ranks of Cuba’s special force guerrillas. Over time, Marambio swaps a Kalashnikov for a pen and sets up a company, Rio Zaza, in partnership with Cuba’s communist authorities. The food and beverage enterprise thrives and makes the Chilean rich. His waistline expands along with his bank balance, earning the nickname Potbelly.

    After Pinochet leaves power, Marambio returns to Chile with a lavish lifestyle including a helicopter and ranch outside his home town of Santiago. He maintains a close friendship with Fidel. But last week it all went wrong. After months of investigation into Rio Zaza, Cuban authorities accused Marambio of bribery, fraud, embezzlement and falsifying documents. They demanded he appear before investigators by 29 July or face an international arrest warrant. Through his lawyer, Marambio protested innocence and said he would fly to Havana.

    In a regime as hermetic as Havana’s, analysts were left guessing. Corruption rumours swirl round many companies in Cuba so why pick on Marambio’s? And why now?

    One theory is that since succeeding his brother, Raúl Castro has emboldened auditors to go after big fish, regardless of links to the government. Other think Marambio was targeted because Rio Zaza demanded access to bank accounts that the cash-strapped government froze, along with that of other foreign businesses, in 2008. Punishing Marambio would deter others from seeking redress.

    Meanwhile, in April his local manager, fellow Chilean Roberto Baudrand, was found dead in his apartment. Suicide, said some. Stress caused by seven-hour interrogations, said others.


    CBS NEWS: Cubans Wait to Hear News on Bread and Butter Issues- by Portia Siegelbaum

    Havana, July 24, 2010: It’s looking more and more like Cuban former President Fidel Castro will appear at the upcoming July 26th rally in the central city of Santa Clara, some three hours east of Havana. Rumors are rife that he will be there.

    It would only be justice for that to happen as the “Maximum Leader” of the Cuban Revolution succumbed to illness after speaking to the nation during the 2006 festivities marking the anniversary of July 26, 1953 when along with a band of intrepid rebels he launched an eventually successful fight to oust the Batista dictatorship.

    Until several surprise appearances earlier this month, the elder Castro had not been seen in public since then. Rare photos and government edited video for a time showed him in a track suit. In his latest outings, he has been dressed in a sport shirt and slacks, seemingly underling his civilian role in Cuban life. But least anyone forget that he remains the head of the all-powerful Communist Party, Castro popped up Saturday morning in his trademark olive green though without stars or insignia to visit a town some 40 miles from Havana where he visited the mausoleum that houses the remains of several of his July 26th fighters. Actually it was just the top of a uniform. Below it he wore regular dress pants. Semi-retired might be that message. However his voice was strong and he stood unaided during the reading of a long message to revolutionaries throughout the island.

    Even if Castro attends Monday’s rally the day should belong to his successor and younger brother, President Raul Castro who is expected to deliver Cuba’s traditional State of the Union address, as he has done for the past two years.

    The competition will be fierce however, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Fidel Castro disciple, says he will be there too. Chavez announced on Venezuelan TV that Raul Castro has asked him to be a guest speaker at the July 26th rally. As far as I recall, it will be the first time in the past 30 years in which I have been covering Cuba that there is a guest speaker at this very national event.

    Perhaps the Castros hope to give Chavez a diplomatic boost as he politically skirmishes with neighboring Colombia. And perhaps the United States and Latin American governments will be taking note but it is safe to say most Cubans will be frustrated if he in any way detracts from the domestic issues they want to hear about.

    “We expect some solution to some problems that we have and we hope, at least, that some measure will be taken,” says Leonardo Jimenez, 52, a professional chauffer, one of eight people we spoke with at random on Havana streets about their expectations for Raul Castro’s speech.

    ” People have been talking for a long time about a single currency, to fix the currency problem, the problem of the economy. I imagine that he has to talk about that…because we are in a big mess”, he added.

    Cuba has a highly unpopular dual currency system. There is the non-convertible Cuban peso and the Cuban Convertible Currency or CUC, which came into existence in 1994. The CUC is, theoretically at least, backed by hard currency. Foreign visitors change their EUROS or U.S. dollars into CUC to pay their hotel and restaurants. Cubans buy CUC at a highly unfavorable exchange rate with the regular Cuban pesos that they receive as wages. And the only reason they do so is because they have to.

    “Take toiletries, basic products like that have to be bought in shops that charge CUCs and as far as I know workers here earn Cuban pesos,” points out Luis Diaz, 26, a computer specialist.

    Bath soap, toothpaste, cooking oil, and butter are just some of the products Cubans can only obtain in CUCs.

    Nearly everyone we spoke with raised the same issue.

    “There is one measure that the entire world is waiting for, that is the elimination of the dual currency…and it’s a measure that our Government and our economists must analyze sooner or later,” echoed Ruben Pupo, 47, a security guard.

    While paying lip service to the U.S. economic embargo and the world economic crisis, many Cubans believe their own Government can do much to get them out of the hole they’re in.

    Gustavo Diaz, a 44-yar-old swimming coach, listed some of the areas that he hoped Raul Castro would touch on in his July 26th speech.

    “People are talking about the dual currency, the problem of supplies, that is to say the issue of farming….”

    His thought was picked up by retiree Candido Martinez.

    “We have had many problems with agriculture of late, with sugar cane, root vegetables and there is not much to see in the markets for reasons that nearly everybody knows, a lack of organization, deficiencies in farming and that has to improve and I think that some measure to fix this situation should emerge on July 26th, but not just words or something that remains on paper, we need action.”

    Young People Not Expecting Breakthrough

    Luis Diaz, like many of the younger people we’ve spoken with, is not looking forward to the speech with hope.

    “They haven’t done the things they’ve said they would do until now and on Monday they wil say new things. First they have to implement the pending things.”

    Among the many steps that Diaz thinks should be taken is giving people the right to open their own businesses. “There are people who have the money to do things and the State should make it possible for them to act on it. There are many locations in the city where they could open businesses, places that are now falling apart.”

    Beauty parlors and barber shops have been privatized in the past year. Diaz thinks that experiment should be extended to other areas.

    Two reliable sources say the privatization or cooperatization of services and other small businesses is most likely on the agenda of the upcoming National Assembly or parliament session August 1st, whose closing session they assured me Fidel Castro would attend.

    Furthermore they say the long-awaited Communist Party Conference will be held in November and it will take up the reorganization of the Cuban economy and the establishment of a single currency. But just how cash strapped Cuba will be able to do that they were unable to say.

    They did say that the surviving currency would be the Cuban peso. Evidence of this appears in the opening of some restaurants, cafeterias and stores across the country selling products normally priced in CUCs for Cuban pesos but at elevated cost. A can of beer is 10 pesos, a large can of tomato puree is 120 pesos. One university professor and department head said that even on her salary of more than 600 pesos a month–well over the average–she can rarely afford these items. “It costs 100 pesos, if I’m lucky, to take my three children for a simple lunch at one of the peso cafeterias. How many days’ work does that 100 pesos represent,” she asked.

    These are the issues that Cubans will want to hear about next Monday. An appearance by Fidel Castro would be the icing on the cake but the cake is what they are interested in.


    REUTERS AFRICA: As Cubans wait, Castro to mark revolution’s start-Sat Jul 24, 2010 – By Jeff Franks

    HAVANA (Reuters) – President Raul Castro will mark the 57th anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution on Monday on a bit of a roll internationally, but still struggling to modernize one of the world’s last communist economies.
    He is expected to make the annual July 26 speech at a morning ceremony in the central city of Santa Clara, beside a monument holding the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the Argentine who helped lead the armed uprising that put Fidel Castro in power in 1959.

    Raul Castro, who replaced older brother Fidel in 2008, this month sprung the biggest surprise of his administration by agreeing in a deal with the Roman Catholic Church to free 52 political prisoners.

    The announcement of the release quieted, at least for the moment, international criticism of Cuba that followed the February death of an imprisoned hunger striker and raised hope for improved relations with the United States and Europe.

    But on the domestic front, Castro’s success has been muted, at best, and the Caribbean island remains mired in financial problems.

    He will speak to a nation waiting for him to make good on an early pledge to improve the economy and raise salaries that average the equivalent of $18 a month.

    The most urgent complaint of most Cubans is that they are tired of having only enough money and government subsidies to scrape by.

    “I work every day and I make 250 pesos (7.32 pounds) a month. I have to invent to survive,” said 28-year-old construction worker Enrique, who did not give his full name. “Invent” is a word commonly used in Cuba for finding ways, usually illegal under Cuban law, to make extra money.

    Castro has tweaked the system to try to create incentives for greater productivity and to improve efficiency, but he has moved slowly, saying he wants to avoid mistakes that could endanger the future of Cuban communism.


    Many Cubans complain that he needs to speed up because the greater need is to improve the present.

    The president’s daughter, Mariela Castro, alluded to the problem in a recent interview with German magazine Der Spiegel when she said most Cubans who leave the island are looking for “better economic conditions.”

    “We have to create more attractive policies for young people, so that it makes economic sense for them to stay. We need growth and a better quality of life for everyone,” she told the magazine.

    She said the Cuban government knows “that our people want more flexibility and liberality. How this can happen is now the subject of discussion in many committees. It’s a slow process, but something is moving.”

    Whether the president will address those issues on Monday is unknown, but he is more reticent than his older brother was and has made many of his changes without announcing them.

    Most likely his speech will be the “usual rhetoric” but with the possibility of “a slight, flirtatious mention of change for international audiences,” said Christopher Sabatini an analyst at the Council of the Americas in Washington.

    “They know they have the world’s attention with the release of the 52. They may go no further, but they don’t want to lose attention either,” he said.

    The political prisoners release likely will not be directly mentioned because the topic is rarely raised by Cuban officials, although the Catholic Church’s announcement of the deal was published in state-run press.

    Cuba views the jailed dissidents as mercenaries of the United States, working to topple the government.

    Castro’s speech will be part of a celebration of a July 26, 1953, assault on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba by young rebels led by Fidel Castro.

    The attack failed, with many of the rebels killed, but it began the armed insurrection against U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista that ended in victory on January 1, 1959.

    Fidel Castro, 83, has recently emerged from four years of seclusion that followed emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, but there has been no word from the government that he will attend Monday’s event.

    Venezuelan President and close ally Hugo Chavez has said he will attend and that Raul Castro had asked him to speak at the ceremony.

    (Additional reporting by Esteban Israel; Editing by Xavier Briand)

  12. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Cuba: List of prisoners of conscience declared by Amnesty International
    1AGUIAR RAMIREZ, Nelson Alberto20.03.2003Art.6.1 (Law 88)13 yrs
    2ARGUELLES MORAN, Pedro19.03.2003Art Law 8820 yrs
    3ARROYO CARMONA, Víctor Rolando18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code26 yrs
    4BARZAGA LUGO, Mijail20.03.2003Arts Law 8815 yrs
    5BISCET GONZALEZ, Oscar Elías06.12.2002Art 91 Penal Code25 yrs
    6CANO RODRIGUEZ, Marcelo22.03.2003Art 91 Pen Code & Arts Law 8818 yrs
    7CORRALES ALONSO, Rafael28.02.2002Disrespect, public disorder & resistance4/5 yrs
    8DIAZ FLEITAS, Eduardo18.03.2003Arts of Law 8821 yrs
    9DIAZ SANCHEZ, Antonio Ramón18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    10DOMINGUEZ BATISTA,Alfredo Rodolfo19.03.2003Arts Law 8814 yrs
    11FELIPE FUENTES, Alfredo20.03.2003 26 yrs
    12FERNANDEZ FERNANDEZ, Efren18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code 12 yrs
    13FERNANDEZ SAINZ, Juan Adolfo18.03.2003Arts Law 8815 yrs
    14FERRER GARCIA, José Daniel19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code25 yrs
    15FERRER GARCIA, Luis Enrique19.03.2003Arts Law 8828 yrs
    16GAINZA AGUERO, Próspero19.03.2003Arts Law 8825 yrs
    17GALVAN GUTIERREZ, Miguel18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code & Law 8826 yrs18GALVEZ RODRIGUEZ, Julio César19.03.2003Arts Law 8815 yrs
    19GARCIA PANEQUE, José Luis18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code & Law 8824 yrs20GONZALEZ ALFONSO, Ricardo Severino18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs21GONZALEZ MARRERO, Diosdado18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    22GONZALEZ PENTON, Lester18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    23GONZALEZ TANQUERO, Jorge Luis19.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    24GRAVE DE PERALTA ALMENARES, Leonel19.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs25HERNANDEZ CARRILLO, Ivan18.03.2003Arts Law 8825 yrs
    26HERNANDEZ GONZALEZ, Normando24.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code25 yrs
    27HERRERA ACOSTA, Juan Carlos19.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    28IGLESIAS RAMIREZ, Regis19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code18 yrs
    29IZQUIERO HERNANDEZ, Jose Ubaldo20.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code16 yrs
    30JIMENEZ POSADA, Rolando25.04.2003disrespecting authority and revealing secrets about state security police12 yrs
    31LABRADA PEÑA, Reinaldo Miguel19.03.2003Arts Law 886 yrs
    32LINARES GARCIA, Librado Ricardo18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    33MARTINEZ HERNANDEZ, José Miguel20.03.2003Arts Law 8813 yrs
    34MASEDA GUTIERREZ, Hector Fernando19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code & Law 8820 yrs35MILAN FERNANDEZ, Luis18.03.2003Arts Law 8813 yrs
    36MOLINET ESPINO, Nelson20.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    37MOYA ACOSTA, Angel Juan18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    38MUSTAFA FELIPE, Jesús Miguel18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code25 yrs
    39NAVARRO RODRIGUEZ, Felix18.03.2003Arts Law 8825 yrs
    40PACHECO AVILA, Pablo18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    41PEREZ DE ALEJO RODRIGUEZ, Arturo18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    42PIÑA BORREGO, Horacio Julio19.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    43PRIETO LLORENTE, Fabio18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code20 yrs
    44PULIDO LOPEZ, Alfredo Manuel18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code14 yrs
    45RAMOS LAUZERIQUE, Arnaldo18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code18 yrs
    46REYES RODRIGUEZ, Blas Giraldo19.03.2003Arts Law 8825 yrs
    47RODRIGUEZ FERNANDEZ, Alexis18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code15 yrs
    48RODRIGUEZ SALUDES, Omar19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code27 yrs
    49RUIZ HERNANDEZ, Omar Moisés19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code18 yrs
    50SANCHEZ ALTARRIBA, Claro19.03.2003Arts Law 8815 yrs
    51SIGLER AMAYA, Ariel18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    52SIGLER AMAYA, Guido18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    53SILVA GUAL, Ricardo20.03.2003Arts Law 8810 yrs
    54SUAREZ CRUZ, Fidel18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    55UBALS GONZALEZ, Manuel18.03.2003Arts Law 8820 yrs
    56VALLE HERNANDEZ, Héctor Raúl18.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code12 yrs
    57VILLAREAL ACOSTA, Antonio Augusto19.03.2003Art 91 Penal Code15 yrs
    58ZAPATA TAMAYO, Orlando20.03.2003Disrespect, public disorder & resistance25 yrs 6 mo


    TELEGRAPH U.K.: Cuban capitalists must wait for change as Fidel Castro returns to the fray. Just as Cuba’s government under Raul Castro appeared to be loosening its grip, Fidel is back – dismaying those waiting for the imminent capitalist explosion. -By Andrew Hamilton in Havana – 24 Jul 2010

    It is Friday night in Havana, and the Don Cangrejo bar overlooking the Florida Straits is filled to capacity as a live band thrashes out rock music. The party-goers are mainly young, well-connected Cubans. They swig locally-brewed Bucanero beer, or neat rum. The men wear designer jeans. Their girlfriends smoke menthol cigarettes, and mouth the English lyrics of the songs being played.

    One man can be overheard telling a beautiful young woman that he is spending his days refurbishing his home. “It’s a good investment,” he says. “One day this country is going to change”.

    The man is a nephew of President Raul Castro. Since he took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, the younger Castro has given those Cubans that hope for reform reason for some cautious optimism. Petty restrictions in Cuba have been removed. Cubans who can afford it can now stay in tourist hotels; they can buy their own mobile phones. The lengthy, expensive bureaucracy of obtaining exit permits to leave the country has become a little easier.
    The president, who was understood to have long been exasperated by his older brother’s economic intransigence, has begun to lease acres of completely unproductive state owned land to private farmers, with the incentive that they can keep the profit from a proportion of any crops they grow.

    And most recently he has moved to rid Cuba of what those close to him say is the most irritating inheritance his brother left him, by agreeing to release a third of the political prisoners currently languishing in the island’s prisons.

    But, with pantomime timing, just when Cubans might have been fooled into believing this could be the start of something significant, an old ghost has reappeared.

    Fidel Castro, who stood down from the presidency in 2006 after suffering a rupture in his intestine which almost killed him, suddenly seems to be everywhere in Cuba.

    After four years as a near total recluse, with only a few photos or heavily edited videos to prove he was still alive despite what many believe is continuing colon cancer or the digestive disease diverticulitis, the 83-year-old, casually dressed and looking surprisingly fit, has made no less than five public appearances in the space of nine days. He has been seen chatting to Cuban scientists at a research centre. He visited the Havana aquarium. And twice he has appeared on national television, lecturing bemused audiences about what he sees as the imminent threat of nuclear war in the Middle East.

    “Please tell me when this is all going to end?” asked Yusi, 26, one of the guests at the Havana party. “Why doesn’t he turn his energy to sorting out the problems he created?”

    Others seem amused, some even proud, that the man that has completely dominated life in Cuba for more than half a century is back again – strangely immortal. “They must be giving him a magic potion” said one young man.

    But one group is likely to be watching this strange political dance between the two Castro brothers with concern, as well as frustration: those who are preparing to amass vast personal wealth from Cuba’s eventual return to capitalism.

    They include senior officials within the regime, according to the Havana-based and traditionally pro-government intellectual, Esteban Morales.

    Earlier this year, he wrote an essay comparing senior officials to wannabe Russian oligarchs; they were hovering “like vultures”, he warned, waiting to snap up the country’s national resources.

    The author appears to have made the mistake of believing that his boldly-stated warning would be welcomed by his superiors. Raul Castro has repeatedly called for a greater openness amongst Cubans; urging them to debate “without fear” their country’s shortcomings.

    But Mr Morales was not praised for his article. Instead, he was promptly expelled from the communist party. He now faces possible prosecution.

    It seems he touched a nerve. This year has already seen two high-level corruption probes which show the way that, beneath the surface, things are beginning to stir.

    The first involved Rogelio Acevedo, the head of the island’s aviation authority, who fought alongside the Castro brothers during the 1959 Revolution and was previously believed to be totally loyal.

    In April he was abruptly removed from his post, after allegations that entire cargo planes belonging to the national airline, Cubana, were being leased out privately without the government’s knowledge.

    Now another supposed Castro ally, Chilean businessman and tycoon Max Marambio has been summoned to appear, by the end of this month, before investigators in Havana. Mr Marambio, a onetime bodyguard of the former Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende, has been a friend of Fidel Castro since the 1960s.

    Mr Marambio’s extensive business interests in Cuba include the production of fruit juices under the trade name Rio Zaza. He is being investigated for possible bribery, embezzlement and fraud – all of which he denies. In an unexplained twist to the case, his chief representative in Cuba was found dead in his Havana apartment last April.

    “I am not convinced there is corruption right at the very top here,” said one Western diplomat based in Havana. “But just below the leadership, it seems increasingly prevalent.”

    And just as a select few Russians did after the collapse of Soviet communism, well-connected Cuban officials might make fortunes if they are in a position to control the sale of national assets, or hand out contracts for the development of the currently under-exploited, stagnant economy. Land, property, telecommunications rights, sugar and agriculture are among the many sectors which could be worth billions.

    But who are the potential oligarchs? Esteban Morales has only named Mr Acevedo, the disgraced aviation boss. But his criticism appears to be aimed at corrupt government junior ministers and military bosses who manage parts of Cuba’s sprawling state run businesses

    While all government and military officials officially live on government salaries of as little as £25 a month, some already appear to be living far better-funded lifestyles. At a recent big-game fishing competition at the beach resort of Varadero, the Canadian expatriate competitors were surprised when they saw they were competing against some entirely Cuban teams, in motor yachts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    “It was unbelievable,” said the executive from one multinational. “We felt like paupers compared to the Cubans.”

    The yachts had emerged from a military-run marina at a remote end of the Varadero Peninsular, to which foreign vessels are denied access.

    Any ostentatious displays of wealth by Cubans were strongly discouraged and even punished by Fidel Castro, who has publicly espoused an abstemious lifestyle. His home in Western Havana is a relatively modest bungalow. And although he has open access to dozens of magnificent “protocol” houses across the island, and at least one motor yacht, he has successfully given the impression to his supporters that he is nothing more than a frugal soldier.

    Raul Castro is considered a different man. One of his first acts after taking over the leadership of the country was to replace his brother’s aging 1980s Mercedes limousines with a fleet of gleaming 7-series BMWs. One foreign businessman recalls the president’s boyish excitement at discovering a DVD player in the rear seat of his official car. His residence is understood to be considerably more comfortable than that of his older brother.

    Yet those who hoped that, under Raul, a capitalist bonanza was about to begin have been disappointed by events over the last two weeks. Fidel Castro’s reappearance seems designed to send the clear message that he is back on the scene – and that, at least for now, real change is not yet in the air.

  14. In 2002 we were visiting cuba under a scientific permit. we had to go to this capital building to get our visa time extended. the office we went to was in the right wing of this building. as we waited for our paperwork we saw a small cluster of bats hanging from the ceiling of the room we were in. same room as the office where they were processing our paperwork. The bats were obviously resident in that spot. the rundown third worldness of it all was overwhelming

  15. Did you went there since that day? No?
    Then so go see it! It´s on restauration again!! No bats, like you anymore!

  16. THE HUFFINGTON POST: Fidel Returns, Enjoy it While You Can [VIDEO]

    Today’s guest blog post is from Claudia Cadelo, whose blog Octavo Cerco has been featured here before. Today Claudia is writing about her reaction to the “return” of Fidel Castro, who, after staying out of the public eye — except in photographs and in his newspaper column, Reflections — since he fell ill in 2006, has suddenly returned to Cuban television, visited a research center, the aquarium and other public places, turning up somewhere almost every day.
    The Return
    by Claudia Cadelo
    I don’t know why, nor for what, the obscure reasons and the theories surrounding his reappearance don’t interest me. I don’t think, even for a moment, of trying to figure out Fidel Castro’s return to the cameras. There are things in life that that are only for delight, and this is one of them.
    The Twilight of the Dictators is hard not to enjoy in its entirety, since his retirement, in 2006, I’ve had a feeling I would miss a good part of the senile finale of the “Cuban Revolution.” I was wrong and I rejoice for my mistake.
    I had to satisfy myself with his newspaper column, Reflections, increasingly more like science fiction short stories in nickel magazines than anything else, good for a laugh, but infinitely inferior to their graphic versions — it wasn’t for nothing that television flooded the marketplace in the twentieth century.
    It is not the same as reading statements like this one from the former Comandante en Jefe, who is using his reemergence to warn us of the empire’s pending nuclear war (due just a few weeks from now):
    “The economy of the super power will collapse like a house of cards. American society is the least prepared to withstand a catastrophe like that the empire has created on its own territory from where it left.
    We are ignorant of the environmental effects of the nuclear arms, which will inevitably burst upon various parts of our planet, and that in a less severe variant will be produced in abundance. To venture a hypothesis would be pure science fiction on my part.”
    Or listening to and seeing this.
    Gentlemen, without sadness or despair, this miracle of the national comedy calls for a celebration, there is a distinct possibility that this will be the last time we will see it pass by.

  17. Brief history of the Capitol

    The Capitol was design by the architects Raúl Otero and Eugenio Raynieri.The construction started in April 1926, and the building was completed on May 20, 1929 in just 3 years and 2 months. The building is finished with fine marble throughout and the total cost of construction and decoration was $17 million.

    The Capitol was the seat of legislature until 1959 both the House of Representatives and Senate were based in the building. Nowadays the Academy of Sciences occupy part of it, the Convention Bureau occupy the second level, and its chambers are used for conventions and events. Its architecture is a combination of neo-Classical and Art Deco styles. It has some exterior similarities with the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, since both have a cupola and a big main stair. The gardens around the building were design by the French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier.

    The inside of the main hall under the cupola is dominated by the huge bronze gold covered Statue of the Republic by the Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli, the third taller indoor statue in the world.

    Statue of the Republic

    In the center of the floor of the main hall is a replica of the 25 carat diamond which mark kilometer zero for all road distances in Cuba. At each side of the main hall is the Hall of Lost Steps (Salón de los Pasos Peridos), named for its acoustic properties.

    Hall of Lost Steps

    The Island, like the mythical bird Phoenix, will raises from the ashes and flourish again and the Cubans will be set free; as Yoani says “the Capitol will become — one day — the site of the Cuban parliament: a magnificent building that houses real debates.”

  18. Yoani’s post brought back some memories of a May visit to Berlin where we visited the German Reichstag. Severely damaged by a fire set by the Nazis in 1933, the building fell into further disrepair during the Cold War. Among other things, it had the misfortune to sit right on the dividing line between East and West Berlin.

    Since reunification the building has been re-built and is once again the seat of the German Parliament. The center piece is a beautiful glass dome that allows visitors a 360 degree view of the Berlin skyline. For me, the best part of visiting the Reichstag was the audio tour which is a remembrance of Germany’s tragic and divided past, but also a celebration of Germany’s rebirth as a unified, tolerant, and democratic country. The dome was purposely built of glass to symbolize the transparency of German democracy. In addition to seeing outward, you can also look inward to the chamber in which the German Parliament meets.

    So have faith Yoani. The Cuban people will overcome this dark period in their history.

  19. Cuba sets shake-up for powerful health minister

    HAVANA — Cuba has replaced its long-serving health minister, the latest in a flurry of recent leadership changes by the government of President Raul Castro.

    Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered few details on why he was replaced.

    Balaguer had held the post since 2004, when he was a surprising choice to replace Damodar Pena, an official made health minister in 2002 as part of a then effort to promote younger leaders.

    Trained as a physician, Balaguer was a founding member of Cuba’s Communist Party and has been an ideological hard-liner for decades.

    Replacing him will be 43-year-old Roberto Morales, a fellow physician who had been first vice minister of health.

    Cuba provides free health care for all citizens, making the health minister an influential position — but the Cabinet shake-up was one of many of late.

    In June, Cuba fired its transportation minister for professional mistakes and replaced the head of the Sugar Ministry after he admitted incompetence.

    Those moves came after the March 23 replacement of Attorney General Juan Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year’s Day 1959. Health problems were cited as the reason.

    Also in March, Rogelio Acevedo, who as a teenager fought alongside the Castros and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was abruptly dismissed as the overseer of Cuba’s airlines and airports for unexplained reasons.

    Cuba has since been awash with rumors that Acevedo was secretly running his own airline and otherwise misusing state aircraft. The speculation was eventually mentioned in a controversial essay on state corruption posted on a government website in April.

  20. LATIN AMERICA HERALD TRIBUNE: Cuba Prevents Blogger Yoani Sanchez from Traveling to Brazil

    RIO DE JANEIRO – Cuban authorities have denied journalist and blogger Yoani Sanchez permission to travel to Brazil to attend the screening of a documentary denouncing censorship in Cuba, she said Thursday in a Twitter post.

    Sanchez had hoped to travel to Jequie, in the northeastern state of Bahia, where on Friday the documentary “Conexion Cuba Honduras” by Brazilian activist Dado Galvao is to be screened, a film that tells the stories of several Cuban and Honduran bloggers persecuted by censorship in their countries.

    “(I have) few hopes that I can arrive in time for the documentary festival in Bahia, Brazil,” admitted Sanchez on her Twitter page, where over the past few weeks she has recounted the process she has been pursuing to obtain travel permission from the Castro regime.

    After receiving a letter from Bahia authorities inviting her to attend the showing of the documentary, Sanchez began the required bureaucratic procedures to secure authorization to leave the communist-ruled island, one of the few countries in the world to require that citizens obtain permission to travel abroad.

    “A strategy to prevent us nonconformists from traveling is delaying ‘ad infinitum’ the invitation letter made in Cuban consulates,” tweeted Sanchez.

    The journalist said that, despite having an invitation letter from Brazilian authorities, having her passport in order and not having a criminal record, Cuban migration officials did not grant her request.

    “In theory, I fulfill all the prevailing requirements to cross the national frontier, although I continue to issue critical opinions and that transforms me into a special type of criminal,” she wrote.

    In March, the Cuban blogger wrote a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva asking him to intercede on her behalf with Cuban authorities.

    Other Brazilian politicians, including Sen. Eduardo Suplicy and Bahia Gov. Jacques Wagner, interceded try and ensure that Sanchez received carte blanche to travel to Brazil.

    This is the sixth time in three years that Cuban authorities have denied an exit permit to Sanchez, one of the most prominent figures in the struggle against the repression and censorship of the communist regime in Havana.

    After the release last week of 20 Cuban political prisoners, some of whom traveled to Spain, Sanchez had said she felt a little more hopeful and thought that finally Cuban authorities might authorize her to travel abroad. EFE

  21. ***
    A bat poop covered Capitol Building is an appropriate symbol for Cuban Freedom. No need for votes when one man is king of a country.
    Un Edificio Capitolo cubrido con caca de murcieliego es un simbolo apropriado por la Libertad Cubano. No necesita votos cuando un hombre es rey de un pais.
    John Bibb

  22. How much is lost, of freedom, art & life for the sake of a belief of totalitsrian nature?
    How much of it is in the “name of the people” but for the benefits & enrichment of the few?
    How much starts with promise & hope but as the time goes by becomes greed & corruption?
    How is it that we welcome them yeasteryear w/open arms & today we can’t even voice our disapointment?
    Like Dorian Grey’s portrait … the capitolio shows in its “face & body” the degradations & corruptions reflecting its soul.
    Would it happen that all that will be as it once was when the “spell” is finally briken?

  23. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » Capitol or Bat House --

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