Monday, February 14, 2005


Arthur Miller: Literature Myth and Man of Conscience

Broadway may have dimmed its bright lights in respectful good-bye to one of its greates playwrights, but Arthur Miller, dead at 89, is praised and recognized the world over, including Cuba, where his visit in the year 2000 is still remembered.
Daily Granma published Saturday an obituary note whose last paragraph recalls Miller´s visit to Havana, together with other eight US cultural figures and the defense he made of the Cuban´s right to self-determination.
Lisandro Otero, vice president of the Cuban Writers and Artists´Union and awarded novelist said Miller will remain as the writer which with greater audacity bashed the intolerance that spread in the US during the Cold War, for fear that socialism overtook the world.
An article under his signature for on-line review Cuba Literaria, Otero says Arthur Miller dared say rigid fanatism was not only of post-war years but it had also shown itself in other times like the setting of The Witches of Salem, New England.
His work shook the conscience of intellectuals in the US at a time when a trial on the so-called “Hollywood Ten” was a display of ideological repression, says Lisandro Otero who recalls having met the playwright in October 1986 when Kirguizian novelist Chinguiz Aitmatov led a group of intellectuals at the invitation of Mikhail Gorbatchev.
From the US attended Arthur Miller, black novelist James Baldwin, Nobel Prize winner Claude Simon, Russian playwright Peter Ustinov and futurologist Alvin Toffler and we were to witness the first hints of Gorbatchev´s theories on “perestroika”, to have such disastrous consequences for socialism in Eastern Europe.
Contrary to Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, Miller succeeded in judging and condemning the two most conspicuous monsters of his time: intolerance and the cruelty of daily life in a hostile environment, asserts Otero.
US newspapers like the Chicago Tribune compared Miller to Eugene O´Neill and Tennessee Williams. Another consulted playwright even said Miller´s work is as significant as Anton Chekhov´s.
Whatever rank he may be given in theater and literature history, Arthur Miller will be remembered as an undisputed man of conscience.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Go Puff Somewhere Else!

Cuba has just put into effect a ban on smoking in public places, but also, has forbidden the sale of cigarettes and cigars less than 100 meters away from schools, children´s day-care centers, young computer clubs and the like. The campaign makes intensive use of TV, radio and the media, highlighting the harm produced by smoking on people´s health.
About three years ago, I was having problems with my teeth. I had blamed it on work stress, very common in journalists like myself. But the dentist identified another scoundrel, smoking. I defended myself saying I really didn´t smoke that much, maybe four or five cigarettes a day. But he said something smokers rarely think of, that is, puffing away in a closed environment on other non-smokers´ breathing space.
I then reflected on the fact and quit altogether. I can tell you I began sensing a whole variety of aromas I was missing when I was a smoker, but also foul smells like bad breath and smoke taking away the oxygen my lungs and others´should be taking in.
Take my sister, for instance. She really puffed-away, in the range of two packets a day for too long. A smoking-related emphysema and the accompanying asthma reduced her oxygen intake progressively until a bad cold almost took her life. It is surprising how she is recovering just after two months. She has even gained weight and although nobody has made her promise she won´t take a cigarette again in her mouth, she is beginning to take this into her system.
The new Cuban regulations take into account that smoking is strongly rooted in a country land to the best tobacco the world over. There will not be any fines against violations, instead there will be a lot of persuasion.
Health authorities have revealed that while heart and vascular diseases have receded, lung cancer has increased, including among non-smokers that are compelled to inhale the tar and nicotine smokers puff out. If not for yourself, think about those other lifes you are putting in danger.
So go puff somewhere else!


DairyAmerica Inc. Sells Powder Milk to Cuba for USD$22 million

Keith Murfield, president of DairyAmerica, Inc. a US dairy products company based in Fresno, California, ratified here on February 3 the interest of US entrepreneurs in establishing normal commercial links with Cuba.
Murfield advocated for establishing two-way commercial relations with Cuba based on mutual respect and favored the elimination of restrictions.
Cuban food import company ALIMPORT signed an agreement for the purchase of 10,000 tons of powder milk from Dairy America, for more than 22 million dollars. ALIMPORT president, Pedro Alvarez signed for the Cuban part.
Murfield said that both parties have fulfilled their commitments and his visit contributes to let know about the Cuban market"s potential in the US.
Alvarez was thankful for the work of congressmen and businesspeople from the US who promote the establishment of commercial relations in normal conditions.
Under the administration of US President George W. Bush, restrictions have been tightened. In June 2004, he limited chances for travelling to Cuba even more, among other unilateral measures.
Since the beginning of this incipient one-way trade in 2001, up to now, Cuba has imported US farm products for more than 1.4 billion dollars, with a volume of more than 3.918 million metric tons. Cuba has made its payments on time, despite the inexistence of direct banking relations.
According to official sources, since the beginning of the conversations, ALIMPORT has contacted more than 3,900 companies from 45 US states, and more than 3,000 US businessmen have visited Cuba.


Cuba Strengthens Links with Another Powerful Ally

Havana and Tehran decided to step up cooperation in banking, food production, biotechnology, sports and education and snubbed Washington, whose new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice ranks them both as “outposts of tyranny”.
The documents signed January 21 in Havana, have strengthened their bilateral links by signing several cooperation, trade, scientific and economic agreements. The accords were the result of the Tenth Mixed Intergovernment Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, held in the Cuban capital and signed by Cuban government minister Ricardo Cabrisas and Iranian minister of Agriculture and Reconstruction, Mahmud Hojjati.
The agreement, according to sources from the Ministry for Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation, and the Iranian embassy includes a credit of $20 million euros (about 26 million USD) for the production of food and the acquisition of equipment and means to help reduce the effects of the lengthy drought that of late has spread to all the country. Cuba alreay had a credit line from Iran which is used to finance imports for the sugar and light industries.
Minister Mahmud Hojjati as saying the credit line could be increased. Other areas included water resources, transport, construction, sports and education, said minister Cabrisas to local media. The agreement is open, he stated, to include any other branch of the economy that might be of interest for both parts.
Iran will gain, among other, greater cooperation from Cuba, technological transfer on biotechnology that will enable Iran to begin operating facilities to produce the Cuban vaccine against Hepatitis-B, as well as Interferon and other state-of-the-art pharmaceuticals.
Havana´s biological potential and Iran´s nuclear capacity are both heading the list of worries expressed but not proved by Washington on the two countries, both in the administration´s “black list”.
Analysts and international observers consider US accusations have made Cuba and Iran grow closer. Havana is interested in Iranian experience to increase farming productivity and irrigation networks, as the Islamic nation has very dry weather, but most important, it has modern power plants and long-dating experience in oil extraction and refining as well as a developed petrochemical sector.

Cuba expressed interest in auto transport and railroads. Iran set eyes on the sugar industry from previous years and bilateral cooperation marches smoothly. Several Iranian businessmen will come to Cuba for negotiations on the development of sugar cane by-products. There is also interest from both parts of exchange of experiences in the oil sector, as minister of the Basic (Heavy) Industry, Yadira Garcia, informed the press.
Iran has also received Cuban know-how since 1980 in health care, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, and grown over the last 25 years also in the sugar industry and sports.
Hojjati advanced there would be more credits coming and an Iranian exhibition in Havana.
The financial framework, said Hojjati, would ensure the broadening of cooperation and credits according to the needs of the projects.
There will be a boost in banking relations, said Cabrisas, with the next visit to Havana of the president of the Iranian Bank for Export Development, in order to improve mechanisms to make efficient use of the credit line and speed up the execution of contracts negotiated on that basis.
It was also known that over the last few weeks, a Preferential Trade Agreement will be signed as well as the Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investment protocol. Hojjati highlighted his country and Cuba are on an expansion trend and revealed that in a few months there will be an Exhibition of Iranian products to be held in the Cuban capital.
In August, 2004, Francisco Soberon, president of the Central Bank of Cuba, held a meeting with the Iranian ambassador here who expressed his government had the intention of increasing trade flows with Havana through joint ventures to produce and invest in Cuba.
These plans could point to an increase in Iranian production of detergent and cosmetics, which reached two billion dollars in 2004, items of high demand for the hotel and tourism sector in Cuba. Iran is precisely on the verge of completing one of the world´s biggest plants in aromatic petrochemicals with an installed capacity of 4.8 million tons per year.
All these steps will help make trade grow. Trade turnover over the last years has swinged between 30 and 50 million dollars a year to make Iran an important trading partner for Cuba, while the biotech factories could help the island to launch its products in the Middle East market.

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