New information about the inner workings of the Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program (CDCPP)--a multimillion-dollar program administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ostensibly to promote democracy in Cuba—were made public on Jan. 15 when a major USAID contractor filed program-related documents in federal court in Washington, DC. The documents are being used in an effort by Maryland-based Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) to win the dismissal of a $60 million lawsuit against it and USAID by the family of US citizen Alan Gross, a DAI subcontractor now serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for his work there for the CDCPP. The DC-based research group National Security Archive posted the documents on its website on Jan. 18.
Spanish national Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios, sentenced to four years in Cuba after being convicted of causing an automobile accident that killed Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on July 22, was flown from Havana to Madrid Dec. 29 accompanied by four Spanish Interpol agents. Carromero will serve out his sentence in Spain under a 1998 agreement between Cuba and Spain. Another Spanish citizen, Miguel Vives Cutillas, was with Carromero on the flight; under the same agreement Vives will stay in Spain for the remaining 14 years of an 18-year sentence imposed by a Cuban court for drug trafficking.
In a Nov. 17 statement the leaders of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), a trade bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay (suspended), Uruguay and Venezuela, expressed their "strongest condemnation of the violence unleashed between Israel and Palestine" and their "concern with the disproportionate use of force" since Israel began a military offensive against Gaza on Nov. 14. Mercosur also expressed "its support to the request from the state of Palestine to obtain the status of [United Nations] observer member."
Although the worst damage from Sandy took place in Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba, the storm also affected other parts of the Caribbean. One man died in Juana Díaz in southern Puerto Rico on Oct. 26 when he was swept away by a river swollen because of rain from the edges of the storm, and 3,500 homes were damaged in the Dominican Republic. Sandy hit the Bahamas after leaving Cuba, and one man was killed there. The total number of deaths from Sandy in the Caribbean islands was at least 68. (AP, Oct. 28, via Miami Herald) [The reported death toll in the US, which Sandy struck starting on Oct. 29, was 110 as of Nov. 4. (CNN, Nov. 4)]
Tropical storm Sandy had become a Category 2 hurricane by the time it slammed into eastern Cuba early Oct. 25. Eleven were killed in the eastern provinces of Santiago and Guantánamo. Official sources reported that 132,733 homes were damaged in Santiago province, of which 15,322 were destroyed; 1,052 homes were leveled in just two villages, Banes and Antilla, on the northeastern coast in neighboring Holguín province. The dozen homes that made up the small fishing village of Tortuguilla in Guantánamo province were swept away. In the central provinces, heavy rains caused flooding; an official in Encrucijada municipality, Villa Clara province, told the local press the floods there were the worst in 30 years.
Cuban television announced on Oct. 15 that a court in the eastern province of Granma had found Spanish national Angel Francisco Carromero Barrios guilty of causing an automobile accident that killed the well-known dissident Oswaldo Payá and another dissident, Harold Cepero, on July 22. Carromero, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain's governing right-wing Popular Party (PP), had been visiting Payá and was driving the dissidents in a rented car when the accident occurred. Prosecutors charged that Carromero had been speeding, while the defense blamed the condition of the road and a lack of warning signs. The court sentenced Carromero to four years in prison instead of the seven years requested by the prosecution. Spain's consul in Cuba, Tomás Rodríguez, described the trial as "clean, open and procedurally impeccable."
Angel Francisco Carromero Barrio, the leader of the New Generations youth movement of Spain's right-wing Popular Party (PP), was tried on Oct. 5 in Bayamo in the eastern Cuban province of Granma on charges of causing a car accident in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero died. Carromero was driving with the two Cubans and Jens Aron Modig, chair of the youth wing of Sweden's center-right Christian Democratic Party, on July 22 when they entered an area where the road was being repaired and Carromero lost control of the rented car. Prosecutors said he was speeding and called for a seven-year prison sentence. It isn't clear when the five-judge panel will announce its verdict.