Circles Robinson Online

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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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is Cuba in Her Universe?

By Circles Robinson

Miss Universe, Dayana Mendoza, is back home from the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and she says she “had a wonderful time” visiting several days with the soldiers as part of the U.S.O. Armed Forces Entertainment Tour.

Occupied territories and prison camps must be a lot of fun when you don’t have to meet the people whose land was taken or the inmates who have faced years of abuse and mistreatment.

One of the highlights according to Dayana’s blog: was the military dogs who gave her “a very nice demonstration of their skills.”

Something tells me her visit with the cute dogs was a little different than the canine-human encounters inside the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, established in 2002.

However, don’t get me wrong, Mendoza who traveled with Miss USA Crystle Stewart, did get a glimpse of the prisoner conditions: “We visited the detainee camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting,” said Mendoza.

After Miss Universe got a big welcoming lunch it was off to “one of the bars they have here on the base.” There, Dayana and Crystle heard first hand from the soldiers about life on Gitmo.

“We had a wonderful time, this truly was a memorable trip! We hung out with the guys from the East Coast [of the base] and they showed us the boat inside and out, how they work and what they do… it was a loooot of fun!”

One of the highlights for Miss Universe was: “We took a ride with the Marines around the land to see the division of Gitmo and Cuba while they informed us with a little bit of history.” She didn’t elaborate on the content of the lessons.

The US military has held Guantanamo Bay since 1903 on what Cuba considers a totally illegitimate perpetual lease.

“I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful,” said Mendoza who grew up in Venezuela but has lived in the US as a model for several years.

Miss Universe did not express any interest in visiting the part of Cuba governed by the Cubans. Perhaps because that part of the Caribbean island nation doesn’t participate in the contest that made her famous, or could it be that Cuba and Dayana are not really in the same universe?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Changes Leave You Wondering

The World Baseball Classic is diverting my attention these days but there is still a buzzing in my head, wondering what has just happened in Cuba where the two youngest key figures in the government were removed in disgrace and numerous other changes were made.

VP Carlos Lage was a virtual prime minister, and former foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque defended Cuba at the United Nations and numerous other forums for the last decade.

Like most Cubans and foreigners that follow events on the island, the fall of both on March 2nd, and their being accused of abusing their posts and pleasing the enemy, was not something to take lightly.

The replacement a few days before without explanation of Fernando Remirez de Estenoz as the Communist Party’s top International Relations officer was another big surprise.

Lage and Perez Roque for the government, and Remirez for the Party, had been the most visible faces of Cuba’s contact with most governments and political parties since I’ve lived in Cuba.

The Surprise Wasn’t the Restructuring

President Raul Castro had said when he first took office a year earlier that he would be making changes to streamline the government, requesting time to do so. It was also understood that in the restructuring new figures would be appointed to some of the top posts.

In that light, several of the changes like fusing the ministries of External Commerce (MICE) and Foreign Investment and Economic Collaboration (MINVEC) and the Food and Fishing Ministries came as no surprise.

Raul Castro comes from a military background with a half century heading the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). Besides defending the nation, that institution has a reputation of being more disciplined and successful in its economic ventures.

Therefore, it’s also no surprise that the President has put some of his most trusted generals in key posts to oversee the economy and other aspects of Cuban life, especially in these difficult times of world economic crisis to which Cuba is not immune.

However, the information to make an intelligent evaluation of Cuba’s civilian vs. military led economic performance, the pluses and minus of both, is simply not available to journalists or the general population.

Most disturbing are the cases of Lage and Perez Roque. Rumors abound as to what the deposed officials actually did. Some say more information is forthcoming and others feel it could take months or longer.

While the bats are swinging in Mexico and San Diego and the air clears as to how far Cuba will go in the World Baseball Classic, I know I’m not alone in also hoping some clarity will emerge soon as to what happened in the political arena.

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