WBEZ | Cuba http://www.wbez.org/tags/cuba Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Ebola in Liberia http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-13/ebola-liberia-110644 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP814365172299.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Liberia is now &quot;Ground Zero&quot; of the current Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, but the country received good news yesterday in the form of an experimental drug shipment to come from the U.S. We&#39;ll talk to a Chicagoan who is working to send other humanitarian supplies to Liberia.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-ebola-in-liberia/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-ebola-in-liberia.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-ebola-in-liberia" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Ebola in Liberia" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-13/ebola-liberia-110644 Russia announces sanctions http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-07/russia-announces-sanctions-110613 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP303165536701.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Russia has announced a ban on imports of certain food and agricultural products from Europe, the U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia. The ban is a response to sanctions being imposed by the West on Russia. We&#39;ll take a look at how the tit-for-tat sanctions will impact the crisis in Ukraine.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-russia-announces-sanctions/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-russia-announces-sanctions.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-russia-announces-sanctions" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Russia announces sanctions" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-08-07/russia-announces-sanctions-110613 Indonesian election results http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-23/indonesian-election-results-110545 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP425816010165.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Joko Widodo has been declared the winner of the Indonesian presidential election, but his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, is challenging the results on accusations of fraud. We&#39;ll take a look at the allegations.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-indonesian-election-results/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-indonesian-election-results.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-indonesian-election-results" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Indonesian election results" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-23/indonesian-election-results-110545 After marrying at 16, a Cuban immigrant strikes out on her own in a foreign land http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-marrying-16-cuban-immigrant-strikes-out-her-own-foreign-land-108176 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7358_marta and marta_cropped.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When Marta Liriano was 9, Fidel Castro and the communist party took control in Cuba. As upper-middle-class landowners before the revolution, her family lost much of its property and faced a hostile regime. When Marta was just 15, she met an older man who offered her a way to get out of the country. Marta visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth with her daughter, Marta Garcia, to share what happened when she started wanting to become her own person.</p><p><strong>Marta (daughter)</strong>: So after you met my father, you&rsquo;re able to flee the country?</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>: Yes, but he decided to leave first. I came to Miami,&nbsp; 2 o&rsquo;clock in the morning.</p><p><strong>Marta (daughter)</strong>:&nbsp; What was Miami like?</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>: I don&rsquo;t like to remember that because when I came, nobody was waiting for me. So I didn&rsquo;t know what to do, so I called a taxi cab to take me to the address, and there was your father.&nbsp; He didn&rsquo;t go to the airport because he was sleeping.</p><p>Marta Liriano was later joined in Miami by her parents. Eventually she had two daughters. But as she got older, she longed for something more out of life.</p><p><strong>Marta (mother)</strong>:Your father married a 16-year-old girl. When I grew older, I started thinking. So he couldn&rsquo;t understand why, me, a simple girl, wanted to go to school, you know, do something productive for me &hellip; He used to tell me, &lsquo;There&#39;s a jungle out there.&rsquo; But you know what? I wanted to know the jungle, by myself.</p><p>To find out what happened next, listen to the audio above.</p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-7ae20f65-1654-5096-507a-39d739014de4"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival. </span></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 26 Jul 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/after-marrying-16-cuban-immigrant-strikes-out-her-own-foreign-land-108176 Why Assata Shakur was suddenly promoted to terrorist http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/why-assata-shakur-was-suddenly-promoted-terrorist-107093 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7231_AP050511021581-scr.jpg" style="height: 323px; width: 250px; float: right;" title="Assata Shakur in Havana (AP)" />Last week, on the 40th anniversary of her arrest, the FBI suddenly put Assata Shakur, aka Joanne Chesimard, on the Ten Most Wanted Terrorists List. She is the first woman to reach such criminal heights. The reward for her capture has been doubled to $2 million.</p><p>But that move might say less about Shakur&rsquo;s alleged crimes than about President Barack Obama. His willingness to use a black woman&mdash;a black woman whose political roots date back to a time when official U.S. government policy was to destroy the black liberation movement&mdash;to play this kind of politics is soulless.</p><p>Because have no doubt whatsoever: putting Shakur&mdash;who is at worst a cop killer&mdash;on that list has less to do with her and any recent activities to justify her promotion to terrorist status than it does with helping to make an argument to keep Cuba on the terrorist nations list, an appointment that reflects political game-playing more than reality.</p><p>Perhaps Obama sees this as a last ditch effort to pressure Cuba into releasing Alan Gross, a USAID contractor jailed on the island for anti-government activities. (This year&rsquo;s iteration of the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-cuba-us-terror-list-20130502,0,2494970.story" target="_blank">terrorist nations list</a> will be released at the end of the month.)</p><p>Because Cuba has long ceased being a state-sponsor of terrorism, the main accusation hurled its way by the U.S. is that it serves as a refuge for international terrorists, including about 70 U.S. citizens, many of them affiliated with the Black Panthers and other black liberation groups.</p><p>But just one quick look at the rest of the <a href="http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists" target="_blank">FBI terrorists list</a>&mdash;a collection of bombers and international kidnappers and conspirators&mdash;makes clear just how out of place Shakur and her alleged crimes are in such company. As a warning, the FBI laughably says Shakur &ldquo;may wear her hair in a variety of styles and dress in African tribal clothing.&rdquo;</p><p>For the record, this is the <a href="http://terrorism.about.com/od/whatisterroris1/ss/DefineTerrorism_6.htm" target="_blank">FBI&rsquo;s own definition of terrorism</a>: &ldquo;The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.&rdquo;</p><p>If you believe Shakur did what she was convicted of, then she&rsquo;s a vicious but common criminal&mdash;and nothing more. It&rsquo;s not imperative to be sympathetic to Shakur&rsquo;s politics to see the disconnect between what she&rsquo;s been tried and convicted of doing and her new designation.</p><p>And nothing in the FBI&rsquo;s own description of her crimes suggests Shakur has done anything to merit reconsideration. Her new listing merely recounts her previous history: In 1977, Shakur was convicted of first degree murder of a police officer after a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was sentenced to life in prison. Two years later, she escaped, eventually turning up in Cuba.</p><p>Shakur maintains her innocence, pointing out that she was also wounded in the incident and that the state police&rsquo;s own investigation found there was no gunpowder residue on her hands at the time of her arrest. But now the FBI clams Shakur has <a href="http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/05/forty_years_later_hunt_still_o.html" target="_blank">always been seen as a terrorist</a>.</p><p>&quot;Today, Chesimard, now known as Assata Shakur, remains an inspiration to the radical, left-wing, anti-government black separatist movement,&quot; said Aaron Ford, special agent in charge of the FBI&rsquo;s Newark office in announcing the change in Shakur&rsquo;s status. &quot;While living openly and freely in Cuba, she continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology. She provides anti-U.S.-government speeches, espousing the Black Liberation Army&rsquo;s message of revolution and terrorism.&quot;</p><p>In other words, Shakur talks and writes about revolutionary change. Writing and talking are not in and of themselves force or violence even if the words themselves call for such actions. It seems not even the FBI, in its announcement of her new status, can actually pin her with terrorist action.</p><p>With so many other U.S. exiles in Cuba, why Shakur? Perhaps because she&rsquo;s the best known U.S. fugitive in Cuba. She is, however, not the only Black Panther convicted of <a href="http://www.assatashakur.org/forum/pan-afrikanism-afrocentricity/1779-black-exiles-cuba.html" target="_blank">cop killing</a> exiled on the island: Charlie Hill, whose crime took place in New Mexico and involved the hijacking of a U.S. airline (which, in some circles, might actually qualify as terrorism), is also living in Cuba.</p><p>Perhaps the bigger question is, without a Florida election to worry about, what Obama hopes to accomplish beyond keeping Cuba on the terrorists list. He is most certainly not going to invade Cuba or send in a drone to kill a 65-year-old African-American grandmother. Shakur is not going to surrender, Havana is not going to turn her in, and good luck to any bounty hunters who want to risk playing in Cuba.</p><p>But this is precisely the kind of move that gets the Cubans&rsquo; back up. It threatens to not only extend rather than abbreviate Gross&rsquo; sentence but to mess with <a href="http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_22997924/under-radar-cuba-and-u-s-often-work" target="_blank">bilateral cooperation</a> on a variety of matters that Havana and Washington have been quietly making progress on. What the hell, Barack?</p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 23:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/why-assata-shakur-was-suddenly-promoted-terrorist-107093 Three takeaways from Jay-Z and Beyoncé's Cuba trip http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/three-takeaways-jay-z-and-beyonc%C3%A9s-cuba-trip-106608 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202013-04-11%20at%202.39.40%20PM.png" style="float: right; height: 170px; width: 300px;" title="File: Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting Cuba. (AP/File)" />Three takeaways from Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip to Cuba:</div><p>1) It was <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/beyonce-jay-z-cuba-trip-89849.html">legal</a>, but that it was legal doesn&rsquo;t mean it wasn&rsquo;t utterly fraudulent.</p><p>2) How anybody on earth can think the embargo is doing any good is a continuing mystery of American politics.</p><p>3) Anybody surprised by Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip to the island hasn&rsquo;t been listening to Jay-Z. And anybody listening to Jay-Z probably knows nothing feeds a false sense of rebellion more than prohibiting something.</p><p>Now, one at a time.</p><p>Did anybody think Jay-Z and Beyoncé were going to make such a noisy trip to the axis of evil without a legal license to do so and embarrass the hell of their buddy in the White House?</p><p>They&rsquo;re not that stupid, and Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart &ndash; who asked the Treasury for an investigation into the power couple&rsquo;s trip &ndash; should have known better.</p><p>That said, Jay-Z and Beyoncé&rsquo;s trip was legal because, let&rsquo;s face it, it&rsquo;s ridiculously easy to get a license for an &ldquo;educational&rdquo; trip to Cuba. Pretty much any U.S. citizen can just sign up and go with any of the 220 agencies, museums, churches and synagogues that take tour groups to Cuba.</p><p>A visit to a school, a meeting with artists and the trip qualifies as cultural exchange when, in fact, it&#39;s touristic. In other words, the qualifying aspects, for the most part, are performances. If the U.S. opened up to tourism to Cuba, most people would travel to the island the way they do everywhere else &ndash; on their own or in tourist groups, not for formal cultural exchange . (The Cuban government, by the way, knows Jay-Z and Beyoncé were there as tourists and described their trip as such on their websites, including <a href="http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2013/04/05/beyonce-y-jay-zestuvieron-en-cuba-fotos/">Cubadebate.com</a>.)</p><p>Which brings us to the embargo itself and the travel restrictions that accompany it. In its 52 year history, the Cuban embargo has accomplished none of its stated goals, including free and fair democratic elections in Cuba. It has, however, caused incredible misery to the Cuban people and encouraged charades like the Jay-Z and Beyoncé trip.</p><p>The thinking is that it&rsquo;s Cuban-Americans in South Florida who force politicians into a corner on the issue. But look here: A 2012 Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans found that 57 percent <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/02/07/us-embargo-on-cuba-turns-50/#ixzz2QAqC8dE3">favored removing travel restrictions</a> to the island for all Americans and 58 percent supported reestablishing diplomatic relations.&nbsp;</p><p>Sure, the same poll found that 56 percent of Cuban Americans said they still supported the trade embargo, even though 80 percent said they did not believe the policy worked well.</p><p>What&rsquo;s that about? Wishful thinking, that&rsquo;s what that is, especially from an older generation who believes their lives were disrupted by the Revolution&rsquo;s advent. In any case, it&rsquo;s absurd to continue to formulate foreign policy on the crazy end of a contradiction.</p><p>As to Jay-Z &ndash; <em>negro, por favor</em>. This full-of-himself-fool has been exploiting his three minutes of once-upon-a-time drug dealing for street cred for more than two decades and comparing his rich privileged ass to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Che Guevara for just as long.</p><p>Remember 2002&rsquo;s &ldquo;The Bounce&rdquo;?: &ldquo;<em>Rumor has it &lsquo;The Blueprint&rsquo; classic/ Couldn&rsquo;t even be stopped by Bin Laden/&nbsp; So September 11th marks the era forever/ of a revolutionary Che Guevara.&rdquo;</em></p><p>Jay-Z was <a href="http://tweetwood.com/trends/revolutionary%20jay">retweeting</a> that sh*t days before going to Cuba.</p><p>Or &ldquo;Public Service Announcement&rdquo; when he <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAbxCTABfis" target="_blank">full on appropriates</a> in the most laughable and absurd way of signaling he really doesn&rsquo;t understand sh*t about Che Guevara: <em>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m like Che Guevara with bling on, I&rsquo;m complex.</em>&rdquo; And then he talks about chains and the Lexus he&rsquo;s willing to kill for.</p><p>Then there was his <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15c3JuPG0kY">wearing a Che t-shirt</a> on&ldquo;Unplugged&rdquo; in 2001.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the thing: Forcing Jay-Z and Beyoncé to pretend this was cultural exchange meant that they were handed right over to cultural authorities who parroted the Cuban government&rsquo;s familiar bullsh*t.</p><p>They were guaranteed not to hang out with ordinary Cubans, from whom they might have found that, while they were treating Havana like a playground, Roberto Zurbano, a black Cuban and a lifetime revolutionary, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/world/americas/writer-of-times-op-ed-on-racism-in-cuba-loses-job.html?partner=rssnyt&amp;emc=rss&amp;_r=0">lost his job</a> as a top literary editor (probably the only black man in such a position on the entire island) for writing an opinion piece in the <em>New York Times</em> about <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/for-blacks-in-cuba-the-revolution-hasnt-begun.html"><em>racism on the island</em>.</a></p><p>Indeed, Jay-Z came back from his Cuba trip full of self-righteous rebel defiance about doing what pretty much anyone can do, i.e., go to Cuba. The world woke up today to a new song of his, &ldquo;Open Letter,&rdquo; in which he pushes back about criticism of his Cuba trip. You can hear it <a href="http://www.missinfo.tv/index.php/jay-z-open-letter-timbaland-swizz-beats/">here</a>.</p><p>Yeah, it&#39;s just more pseudo-rebel bullsh*t.</p><p>(And even so, the <a href="http://stereogum.com/1318672/white-house-responds-to-jay-zs-open-letter/video/">White House</a> was asked about it at Thursday&#39;s news conference.)</p></p> Thu, 11 Apr 2013 12:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/three-takeaways-jay-z-and-beyonc%C3%A9s-cuba-trip-106608 Encuentro con los Artistas: Pedro Páramo http://www.wbez.org/amplified/about/encuentro-con-los-artistas-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-106208 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NMMA-Goodman_March17-panel1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Flora Lauten y Raquel Carrío, extraordinarias innovadoras de La Habana, ponen en escena una de las obras de mayor importancia dentro del realismo mágico de la literatura latinoamericana&mdash;<em>Pedro Páramo</em>, novela de Juan Rulfo escrita en 1955. La historia cuenta de un hijo que regresa a casa a conocer a su padre y revela la manera en la que la ambición sin límites de un hombre destruyó todo lo que amaba y al igual el pueblo que le dio el triunfo.<br /><br /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F84217143&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><br /><br />En Chicago, se hará historia, con el estreno mundial de PEDRO PÁRAMO, una producción comisionada por el Goodman Theatre, y el MCA Chicago. La obra, fue desarrollada por Teatro Buendía, la compañía de teatro independiente más aclamada de Cuba, con artistas locales a través de una residencia de ocho semanas en Chicago y La Habana, Cuba.<br /><br />El elenco cubano está integrado por los actores Dania Aguerreberez, Alejandro Alfonzo, Ivanesa Cabrera, Carlos Cruz e Indira Valdéz, y el músico Jomary Hechavarra.<br /><br />Los actores de Chicago son; Charín Álvarez, Steve Casillas, Laura Crotte y Sandra Delgado.<br /><br />Como músicos participan Victor y Zacbe Pichardo, de la agrupación Sones de México.</p><p><strong id="internal-source-marker_0.11533360672183335">Esta grabación la podrán escuchar&nbsp;&nbsp;a través&nbsp;de Vocalo 90.7 FM el próximo Domingo, 24 de Marzo, a la 12&nbsp;pm, medio dia.</strong></p><div><span>La platica fue moderada por <strong>María Inés Zamudio</strong>, reportera de la publicación periodística, the Chicago Reporter, y en el panel participó, <strong>Henry Godinez</strong>, asociado de dirección artística en el Goodman Theater, la directora y fundadora del Teatro Buendía, <strong>Flora Lauten</strong>, la dramaturga <strong>Raquel Carrió</strong>, y <strong>Victor Pichardo</strong>, músico de la agrupación, Sones de Mexico.&nbsp;</span></div><p>La obra, Pedro Páramo, se estrena el 22 de Marzo, 2013. Para más informes visite <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/" target="_blank">Goodmantheatre.org</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 21 Mar 2013 12:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/amplified/about/encuentro-con-los-artistas-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-106208 From Cuba to Chicago: Pedro Páramo and Havana Blue http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 <p><p>Listen to artists from River North Dance Chicago, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Goodman Theatre and Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía as they discuss cross-border collaborations with dance, original music and theater that led to the world premiere productions of Havana Blue (music and dance) and Pedro Páramo (theater). Moderated by WBEZ&rsquo;s <strong>Tony Sarabia</strong>.</p><div>Panelists include:</div><div><strong>Raquel Carrió</strong>, Playwright, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Frank Chaves</strong>, Artistic Director, River North Dance Chicago</div><div><strong>Orbert Davis</strong>, Artistic Director, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Henry Godinez</strong>, Resident Artistic Associate, Goodman Theatre</div><div><strong>Flora Lautén</strong>, Artistic Director, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>**Note: This audio starts a few minutes into the discussion.</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IC-webstory_3.jpg" title="" /></div><div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recorded live on March 14, 2013 at Instituto Cervantes Chicago.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 15:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 Change at the top in Cuba, though the old guys linger http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/change-top-cuba-though-old-guys-linger-105789 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7068_AP222515787094-scr.jpg" style="height: 408px; width: 620px;" title="Miguel Diaz Canel sits between Ramiro Valdes (R) and outgoing National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon (AP)" /></div><p>On Sunday, Raúl Castro announced that he would serve as Cuba&rsquo;s president for one more five year term, as had been widely predicted (including <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713">here</a>). And almost as anticipated, Ramón Machado Ventura, his First Vice President, was kicked to the curb in favor of a fresh face, Miguel Díaz Canel.<br /><br />The naming of Díaz Canel to be the country&rsquo;s number two caught most observers by surprise. He was widely rumored to be under consideration for the post of President of the National Assembly, roughly equivalent to the U.S.&rsquo;s Speaker of the House, and few had imagined him in the Biden role. (The presidency of the National Assembly went to Esteban Lazo, a longtime loyalist, the first Afro-Cuban to reach such a high post, and the assembly&rsquo;s first new president in 20 years.)<br /><br />If Díaz Canel actually makes it to the presidency, he&rsquo;ll be the first non-Castro in the top post in Cuba since, technically, 1976, when Osvaldo Dorticós was pushed out of the presidency -- a post that been mostly ceremonial until that point. Fidel Castro, then the prime minister and the real head of government, assumed the presidency and imbued it with its current significance.<br /><br />If there appears to be muted enthusiasm for Diaz Canel, even in Cuba -- you&rsquo;ll notice that there have been no open, public events with Díaz Canel -- it&rsquo;s that there have been Castro dauphins before (Carlos Lage, Felipe Pérez Roque, Roberto Robaina and Carlos Aldana, to name a few) who stumbled and fell on the way up. They&rsquo;re all still in Cuba, relegated to a kind of internal exile where they&rsquo;re left alone but have no say about anything and are completely unavailable to the people and the media.<br /><br />Díaz Canel, who at 52 signals a generational transition, isn&rsquo;t as flashy as any of these other guys: he hasn&rsquo;t been central to policy the way Lage was, or had a particular mentoring relationship with Fidel like Pérez Roque, or has had the kind of international assignments that Robaina was trusted with, or given the kind of internal profile that Aldana was allowed.<br /><br />He is an up by the bootstraps guy who performed well enough in a series of provincial assignments and has been slowly, like molasses, moving up the ranks. As a friend of mine in Cuba said, he&rsquo;s either brilliant or a complete mediocrity. For more on Díaz Canel and his rise, there&rsquo;s a pretty decent piece in the <em><a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-cuba-diaz-canel-20130227,0,5971888.story">Los Angeles Times</a></em>.<br /><br />Díaz Canel does, however, have an ace: a longstanding relationship with Ramiro Váldes, the third Comandante de la Revolución after the Castro brothers, and Cuba&rsquo;s former longtime security chief and all-around Darth Vader. How close they might be is a mystery, but Díaz Canel -- who is rumored to have tensions with the outgoing VP Machado Ventura, one of Raúl&rsquo;s closest personal friends -- would not have been made heir without Váldes&rsquo; approval. How far back they go is unknown, but in 1997, when Che Guevara&rsquo;s remains were returned to Cuba, Váldes and Díaz Canel stood guard together -- a pairing over which Váldes would have had complete say.</p><p>In other words, there may be a generational change coming, but with Váldes hovering, there may not be much of a power shift at all.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ramiro%2Bmiguel.jpg" title="Ramiro Valdes and Miguel Diaz Canel stand guard over Che Guevara's remains in 1997 (Photo from http://josma.blogia.com/2007/100201-regreso-de-un-gigante-moral.php)" /></div><p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 13:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/change-top-cuba-though-old-guys-linger-105789 Raul Castro teases with retirement while lining up successor http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7050_AP071117011156-scr.jpg" title="Ramiro Valdes (L) is Raul Castro's most likely successor in Cuba (AP)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Raúl Castro, Cuba&rsquo;s president for the last seven years (since 2006, though not officially until 2008) sent tongues a-wagging yesterday when he suggested that he&rsquo;ll address his retirement on Sunday, during the National Assembly&rsquo;s meeting, when the nation&rsquo;s president will be selected.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to retire,&rdquo; the 81 year-old Cuban president <a href="http://latinotimes.com/latinos/44471-cuba-s-raul-castro-jokingly-hints-at-possible-retirement.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitter#comment-808953446">told reporters</a>, grinning.</p><p>And, of course, sparking wild speculation about what should be a pretty predictable government meeting, as nearly all the National Assembly meetings in Cuba have been since the Castros -- Raúl and Fidel before him -- came to power.<br /><br />But anyone expecting anything other than routine tomorrow is bound to be disappointed.<br /><br />Raul Castro is not going to retire on Sunday.<br /><br />He may announce that he&rsquo;ll retire after this next term, another five year stint, but that should come as no surprise. Unlike his brother Fidel, who played like power didn&rsquo;t matter but held on until the last possible second, Raúl Castro -- love him or hate him -- has been forthcoming about this from the very beginning of his ascendancy, when he said the head of government should be limited to two five-year terms.<br /><br />So, Sunday, if Castro mentions retirement in anything other than an abstract fashion, or as a tease, it&rsquo;ll be only to repeat what he&rsquo;s been saying all along.<br /><br />What will be much more interesting, especially if Castro chooses to stress his retirement, is how the Council of State -- from where Raúl&rsquo;s successor (the first non-Castro head of government in 54 years of Revolution) will be plucked -- will be lined up. And how Castro&#39;s heir is manuevered.<br /><br />Constitutionally -- if you believe the Cuban constitution -- Castro&rsquo;s official successor is Ramón Machado Ventura, the country&rsquo;s first vice president, the same position Raúl Castro held under Fidel Castro. Machado Ventura, who is actually about a year older than Raúl, is an old school hardliner whose friendship with Raúl goes back to 1958.<br /><br />But whether it&rsquo;s Machado Ventura or anyone else officially at the helm, real power in Cuba will most likely pass from the Castros to Ramiro Valdés, the <em>eminence gris</em> of the Revolution -- the only man twice deposed from power and twice returned meaner and stronger.<br /><br />Technically, Valdes is number two to Machado Ventura but he&rsquo;s number one in the Scariest Guy in Cuba category.<br /><br />Valdés, 82, was an early supporter of the Revoluton -- and the only one besides Raúl and Fidel still alive with the title Comandante de la Revolución -- but by 1969, when he was serving as Minister of the Interior -- the internal security apparatus -- he was kicked to the curb at the Soviet&rsquo;s request. Fidel brought him back in 1978 but he was fired again in 1986.<br /><br />But what a very lucky bastard he turned out to be: he ended up as the chief of Copextel, the national electronics firm, just as computer technology was changing the world. In this new position, Valdés wisely made himself indispensable (by learning the new technology and by<em> withholding</em> knowledge of the new technology) and eventually Copextel became a kind of mini-ministry within the Ministryof Information Technology and Communications. By 1996, Valdés had taken over the ministry -- and turned it into a security behemoth. Raúl made him a VP in 2008.<br /><br />How important has Valdés become since then? Well, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz recovered from myriad surgeries in Havana,&nbsp; Venezuelan officials met exclusively with Raúl Castro and Valdés (Machado Ventura was nowhere to be seen). And this made perfect sense: For the last few years, Valdés has been advising Venezuela -- Cuba&rsquo;s economic lifeline -- on behalf of the Cuban government on energy and security. He supervises the more than 40,000 Cubans sent to Venezuela as doctors, sports instructors, planners, military advisers and intelligence agents (many embedded in Venezuela&rsquo;s armed forces, foreign and finance ministries, ports, electricity grid, central bank and intelligence agency).<br /><br />Make no mistake: The next guy to control Cuba is the guy who keeps Venezuelan oil coming. There&rsquo;s only one of those, and it doesn&rsquo;t hurt that he&rsquo;s ruthless.<br /><br />But Raúl isn&rsquo;t ready to hand the reins over just yet.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 23 Feb 2013 05:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/raul-castro-teases-retirement-while-lining-successor-105713