Circles Robinson Online

My Photo
Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fidel to Lead Cuba’s Golden Anniversary

By Circles Robinson

Fidel Castro will play the lead role at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution on New Years Day in Santiago de Cuba, whether or not his health allows him to be there personally.

Fidel and his group of bearded rebels entered the city of Santiago on the first day of 1959, just hours after Gen. Fulgencio Batista fled the country. A week later they would ride triumphantly into an expectant Havana.

From then on Fidel and the revolution he brought to Cuba would become major protagonists of world history. They would inspire many supporters around the globe, especially in Latin America and Africa, along with many detractors - including a string of 10 US administrations that have gone to extremes in their failed attempts to isolate Cuba and eliminate its top leader.

To the chagrin of the old-guard exile community in Miami, on this 50th anniversary, Mr. Castro’s influence and stature as a world leader will overshadow any deficiencies in the Cuban political, social and economic systems that they have combated as passionately as he has defended.

Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Cuban revolution has fostered a well-educated and healthy population; an environment that isn’t overrun by cars and pollution; an economy that functions without commercial advertising or credit cards; a thriving Cuban culture, and a strong sense of history. It has also made important inroads in the long-term battle against racism and sexism. These accomplishments have earned the Revolution praise from around the globe, from people who do not worship the marketplace as the regulator of people’s destinies.

Mr. Castro’s clarity of vision is best exemplified by his forecast several years ago that the bubble of speculative finances in the United States was going to burst and hurt masses of people around the world.

Fidel was also a leading voice among those who predicted the damage foreign debt would cause underdeveloped countries back in the 1980s and warned that the privatization schemes that swept the continent were nothing but a new manifestation of economic colonization.

However, Cuba faces many problems as well. Both supporters and detractors would agree that its economy operates at far below its capacity, for a wide-range of reasons, and that many of the younger generations are pessimistic about their future.

The relatively young Cuban Revolution is clearly an open book, and now other leaders including Fidel’s brother Raul, the current president, face the tough challenges of guiding the country within a world in serious recession while at the same time entering a new era.

When Fidel first set out with his tiny rebel army to challenge the US-backed dictator, only those close enough to know his determination and strategic prowess could have imagined that he would be presiding over such a celebration as the one set for New Years Day 2009 in Santiago de Cuba.

For a more detailed look at the 50 years of the Cuban Revolution check out:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cuba Makes Overture to Obama

By Circles Robinson

Cuban President Raul Castro isn’t waiting for Barack Obama to take office on January 20th to make the first overture that could lead to defrosting US-Cuba relations.

During his first trip abroad since taking office in February, Castro told the press in Brazil that he was willing to free dozens of prisoners that Washington calls “dissidents” in return for the release of the Cuban Five, who have spent more than 10 years in US prisons.

In saying “Let’s do gesture for gesture,” the Cuban leader makes an attractive offer that would please his compatriots on both sides of the Florida Straights, reported the BBC.

“We'll send them with their families and everything. Give us back our five heroes. That is a gesture on both parts," said Mr. Castro.

Who Are the Prisoners?

Washington’s “dissidents” have been the cornerstone of the Bush administration policy to try and build an internal opposition to the governments of Fidel Castro and now his brother Raul. They routinely received funds from Miami based groups and the US Interests Section in Havana and many were arrested during a crackdown on March 18, 2003.

Working for the enemy is not taken lightly in Cuba. The following month they were tried and received stiff sentences of up to 27 years in prison. Some received early release for health reasons.

A dozen or so wives of the prisoners dress in white and parade down Fifth Avenue in Havana’s Miramar district on most Sundays demanding their husband’s release.

Meanwhile, in the US, five Cubans continue in prison after more than 10 years for the “crime” of uncovering terrorist plots against the island being planned in Miami under the complacent eye of US authorities.

Shortly before their arrest, Cuba had made available to the White House the sensitive information gathered by the Cuban Five. However, the FBI proceeded to arrest the informants instead of the terrorists.

Detained in 1998 and convicted in a politically charged Miami courtroom in 2001 for conspiracy and failing to register as foreign agents, the Cuban Five were sentenced to harsh terms ranging from 15 years to double life imprisonment.

To make their imprisonment even crueler, the Cubans faced long periods of solitary confinement and their family visits, supposedly guaranteed by US law, have been hampered at best and denied at worst.

Back home the Cuban Five are considered heroes and are never far from most peoples’ thoughts.

The Cuban people, like many Latin Americans, are very family oriented and the divisions created over the last half-century for political and economic reasons have been heartfelt.

If the new US administration decides to accept President Castro’s offer it would make a lot of people happy on both sides of the Florida Straits, providing a significant break in what appeared to be a never-ending diplomatic stalemate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Cape Cod Cuba “Expert”

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA, Dec. 17.— Somehow our two-month-old Havana Times website from and about Cuba is causing lost sleep for a Massachusetts businessman who claims to be the world’s leading expert on Cuba.

Marketeer Rob Sequin wrote, “When the 100% Communist Cuban propaganda rag Granma endorses a new Cuban news and information website with a title like ‘New website in English presents reality of Cuba,’ I find it offensive. This is not the first time I have been offended by the new Havana Times website, which I am here today to expose as a pure propaganda tool of the Cuban government.”

Sequin appears fixated on convincing the world that HT is unworthy of reading, unlike his many business websites like, which bills itself as “Preparing for opportunities in a post-Castro, post-Embargo Cuba.

He’s not alone; there are several other US “entrepreneurs” who have been selling futures on bits and pieces of the island.

Guys like Sequin have a win-win situation. Their attacks on the Cuban government often allow them to tap into US congressional funds allocated to try and bring it down. This has been going on for decades and is part of the Congressional Record.

One of Mr. Sequin’s many scams is to purchase every Internet domain he can think of and to try and turn a big profit if the Revolution cries uncle, enabling guys like him to move in for the kill.

“We own over 2,400 Cuba related domains that complement our network and are scheduled for development, used for marketing purposes or are for sale or lease,” says Sequin. He goes on to claim to “own the biggest private Cuba-related website in the world.”

With that information, you’d think Seguin would have plenty to do managing all of his many businesses. Nonetheless, he still finds time to slander HT as well. He tries to do the site harm, but I’d like to thank him for getting us new readers. We have received numerous referrals from his ranting, as people with that good old curiosity try to find out if we could be as bad as Rob says.

Sequin says he lives in Cape Cod and “is not Hispanic and has no family ties to Cuba,” as if that were either is something bad or discredits ones’ opinions about issues related to the island.

I have lived in Havana for the last seven years, have a normal translating job, and edit and write for HT in my free time. Maybe I’m a little naïve, but since I haven’t asked anybody else for permission to run the site, I don’t think I need Rob’s approval either?

Lastly, Sequin (who also administers uses as burning proof of my being “a senior Cuban government agent” the fact that several of my commentaries on Cuba and US-Cuba relations have been published in the Cuban online media, and that Havana Times was able to present itself in Cuba—where it is happy to be based. I hope to give him more hard evidence in the future as I try to get published locally as well as write for a foreign audience.

I feel honored that Sequin says he’s “offended” by the existence of Havana Times. I guess the monopoly he pretends to corner on Cuba has no room for little non-profit upstarts like us!

Friday, December 05, 2008

How will Cuba Receive Soderbergh's Che?

By Circles Robinson

Benicio del Toro is heading for Havana, Cuba this weekend to be at the screening of the Steven Soderbergh film about Ernesto “Che” Guevarra, the role played by the Oscar-winning actor.

Che (1928-1967) is everywhere in Cuba: on billboards, in numerous documentaries, songs, on three-peso coins and T-shirts. Factories, work collectives, and museums bear his name. His ideas and feats, from his university days in Buenos Aires, his time as a Cuban government minister, to his death in Bolivia, are still front-page news at different times throughout the year in Cuban newspapers.

Che is revered by government leaders, much of the general citizenry, as well as by people who see in him ideals they think have been sidetracked over 50 years of the ups and downs of revolution.

My seven-year-old grandson calls Che his brother, and has wept over the fact he was killed. “Why did the good guy die so young,” he has asked me? Axel, like most Cuban grade school children, says he “wants to be like Che,” considered an icon of altruism, revolutionary commitment and perseverance, values instilled in the Cuban educational system.

A few years ago the full-length film Motorcycle Diaries -by Brazilian director Walter Salles about Che’s motorcycle trip through South America in the early 1950s- was well received by just about everyone on the island who saw it. It played nationwide at movie theaters and had several TV showings.

When the Havana Film Festival (Dec. 2-12) agreed to hold a special showing of Soderbergh’s production, the anti-Cuba foreign press speculated that it must have received former President Fidel Castro’s approval in order to be shown.

What the media didn’t mention is that the Cuban Film Institute (ICIAC) has screened many controversial films at its annual festivals that do not necessarily support aspects of the Cuban Revolution or the country’s system of government.

Del Toro won the best-actor prize for his role as Che at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where the movie premiered.

The four-hour film was made in two parts, “The Argentine” and “Guerilla,” and was shot in Spain and Bolivia, where Che was captured and executed under CIA orders in 1967.

Accompanying Del Toro on his trip to Havana is actor Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Cuba’s current president Raul Castro in the film. Reuters reported that whether Soderbergh would make an appearance in Havana was still unclear; noting the Bush administration’s travel ban could keep him away.

For photos and more articles on the Havana Film Festival and follow up on the showing of the Soderbergh film check out:

Business Logo design
Hit Counter