Presidential Campaign Comes to Florida

Republican presidential candidates are expected to descend on Florida at the end of the month, focusing their efforts on the competitive Sunshine State after the South Carolina GOP primary Jan. 20.

Cuba: No More Bad Guys (or Gals) Allowed

Joanne_chesimard In a rare gesture of cooperation, Cuba now says that it won't accept any more fugitives from U.S. Justice. Is it evidence of a thaw with Fidel Castro ailing, or just a random act of diplomacy with no greater theme behind it?

The US accuses Cuba of harboring fugitives like accused cop-killer Joanne Chesimard (photo at left), and Cuba accuses the US of harboring accused terrorists like Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles.

So Three Surgeries Sidelined Him

Castrochavez Castro finally acknowledges his bad health, saying for the first time that he doesn't want to waste time on "primping" for cameras and interviews. As usual, he raises more questions about his condition and his leadership status than he answers.

Oppenheimer: Iraq War Shock Waves Could Warm U.S.-Cuba Relations

DETANTE WITH CUBA?

Andres Oppenheimer believes the meltdown over the Iraq war could spell a friendlier, less antagonistic relationship between Cuba and the United States. Why? Because a United States with a badly damaged international reputation may rethink its policy of regime change in Cuba in order to maintain stability there.

Any change in course would come after the next presidential election, of course.

Michael Moore's Cuba Problem

Michaelmoore Michael Moore, who recently took 9/11 workers to Cuba for treatment to shed light on US health care problems, may be in trouble for his Cuba trip.

UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen weighs in: "Again we see this Hollywood director interjecting himself in politics for the sake of promoting his films. It is preposterous to compare the healthcare systems of the US and Cuba. In Cuba there exists TWO health care systems-- one for tourists, as well as Communist Party officials, and another for Cubans, who are forced to take with them even the most basic necessities when visiting a Cuban hospital; even aspirins are scarce. Does Moore report that in his film? NO."

Congressional Reps Go to Bat for Posada

Lincolnpresser South Florida's Three Cuban American Congressional Representatives today issued a statement condemning the FBI for cooperating with Cuba to build a terror case against exile militant Luis Posada Carriles.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said:

"By asking a state sponsor of terrorism for "evidence" regarding terrorism, the Bush Administration Justice Department demonstrates a shockingly profound ignorance of the nature of terrorism, of its origins, and its state sponsors. The only "evidence" that the terrorist regime in Havana could provide the United States with regard to the twice-acquited-in-Venezuela-Mr. Posada or anyone else, would be fabricated evidence. The evidence that the Bush Administration Justice Department needs to bring forth and stop ignoring is of the murder of U.S. citizens and other crimes committed with impunity by the Castro brothers and their henchmen."

Posadagrimace

FBI, Cuba Cooperating on Posada

Posadainmiami The FBI office in Miami has been quietly gathering evidence on a 1997 bombing that killed an Italian man at a Havana hotel, with agents traveling to the Cuban capital recently to see if they can link Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles to the attack.

The extraordinary effort at cooperation between the two countries underscores their shared goal to pin the plot on Posada, the focus of a federal grand jury probe in Newark, N.J. Posada, a former CIA operative trained in explosives, is under house arrest at his wife's West Kendall apartment as he awaits trial on immigration fraud charges unrelated to the bombing.

Former U.S. Interests Section Chief: Engage Cuba

Vickihuddleston_2 Vicki Huddleston, whose served as the U.S. Interests Section chief in Havana from 1999 to 2002, wrote an op-ed piece on U.S.-Cuba policy going against the grain of the presidential administrations she served.

Huddlestons writes:

"...Perhaps it is time for American oil companies to lead the way in opening up Cuba? After all, the expropriation of these companies led President Eisenhower to impose the first comprehensive sanctions.

It will take courage and vision to change course, but the alternative is that neither the United States nor Cuban Americans will play a part in Cuba's future..."

photo: Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Jaime Suchlicki, Huddleston, 2002

U.S. Intel: Castro's Better

CastrochineseCastro's Adidas track suit signals serious illness, U.S. Intel says.

UM Tries to Link Cuba to Al Qaeda

The University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies, led by Prof. Jaime Suchlicki, claims that Cuba may have ties to Al Qaeda through the disputed North African territory of Western Sahara.

I wrote a story two years ago about Cuba's involvement in Western Sahara, and their forced education of Polisario children in Cuban boarding schools.

This is from my clip, dated Sept.19, 2005:

Saadani Ma Oulainie's first memory from childhood is seeing her father tortured publicly in front of her by the Polisario Front in North Africa when she was five.

After that, her memories of youth are a blur of forced separation, a flight to Cuba, sugar cane cutting, and an unending campaign by Cuban teachers to convince her that Allah was a farce and that Fidel Castro was the only person that mattered to her now.

As Ma Oulainie recalled her itinerant adolescence Saturday in Miami Beach as part of an effort by the Moroccan government to discredit the Polisario Front, she broke down crying, stopping just short of saying exactly how Castro-allied soldiers tortured her late father, who they had accused of being a Moroccan spy.

``We were stripped of our traditions, of our religion, they made us eat lots of pork,'' Oulainie said of her 15 years in Cuba, during which she never communicated with her parents. ``When I went back to Sahara, my father had died. Hundreds of Saharan children have been orphaned while they were forced to study in Cuba.''

Oulainie, one of thousands of children shipped to Cuba by the leftist Polisario for communist indoctrination, is in Miami this week along with several other Western Saharans, or Sahawaris, who have passed through the Polisario's refugee camps and prisons in the last 32 years. They hope their firsthand accusations of human-rights abuses and corruption will help bring attention to the plight of Western Saharans.

But like everything else in the post-9/11 world, the story of the the Sahawari plight is complex. Both the Polisario and Morocco, who are at odds over control of Western Sahara, have been accused of human-rights abuses against Sahawaris by Amnesty International, a respected human-rights organization."

According to an ICCAS staff report from this week:

"As the U.S. military offensive in Iraq intensifies, al-Qaeda affiliates are reportedly moving westward across North Africa. With the bulk of American combat forces locked down in Iraq for the foreseeable future, the desolate sands of the Sahara offer an environment from which terrorist cells could conceivably coordinate an offensive against U.S. interests and allied governments in the region. Like Taliban controlled Afghanistan, the disputed desert territory of Western Sahara may be emerging as a new haven for al-Qaeda and its proxies. Cuban influence in there has been strong for decades."

These are some photos of the people I interviewed for that article. See above posts for more info.

Saadani_ma_oulainie_polisario Former_saharan_refugees

Moroccans_and_exiles_meet

 
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