Elian Gonzalez Joins Cuban Youth Communist Union

June 16, 2008

Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle eight years ago has joined Cuba’s Young Communist Union and never let down ex-President Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro, according to the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

Now 14, Elian was 6 when his relatives in Miami lost their fight to keep him in the United States, and he was returned to Cuba in mid-2000 with his father, after surviving a boating accident off the Florida coast that killed his mother while attempting to get to the U.S.

The newspaper reported Sunday that the boy was among 18,000 people who joined the group.


Cuba To Offer Free Sex Changes

June 7, 2008

Cuba has authorized sex-change operations and will offer them free for qualifying citizens, an official said Friday. The move is the latest in a series of changes implemented by President Raul Castro since he succeeded his elder brother, Fidel, in February. Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, heads Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, which strongly backs the new policy.

Health Minister Jose Ramon Balaguer signed a resolution approving sex-change surgery, said an official at the center who spoke on condition of anonymity because the measure has not been formally published. The resolution will be posted on the Internet on Saturday, the official said.

The procedure would be available to Cubans for free as part of their country’s health-care system.
The sex education center has said previously that 28 transsexual Cubans have asked to undergo the surgery and that Cuban doctors have trained with physicians from Belgium to prepare for the procedures.

According to the center, a clinic for transsexual health will be created to perform the procedures, but it was not clear when it will start operating.
Cuba carried out a successful sex-change operation in 1988, but future surgeries were canceled because it sparked a negative public outcry.

Since becoming Cuba’s first new president in 49 years, the younger Castro has done away with bans that kept most Cubans from owning cell phones in their own names and renting hotel rooms and cars. His government also has decentralized the floundering state agricultural sector, raised pensions for retirees and hiked salaries for some state employees, among other changes.

This story was found @ Associated Press


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Bush OKs Sending Cellphones To Family Members in Cuba

May 21, 2008

The United States will allow Americans to send mobile phones to relatives in Cuba under a change in policy that President Bush announced Wednesday. Bush said he is making the change since President Raúl Castro “is allowing Cubans to own mobile phones for the first time.”

“If he is serious about his so-called reforms, he will allow these phones to reach the Cuban people,” Bush said.

Bush urged the Cuban government to loosen restrictions further, saying if Cubans can be allowed to own mobile phones, “they should be trusted to speak freely in public.”

They should be allowed to watch uncensored movies and have free access to the Internet, he said.

And he called for the government to implement major free-market reforms.

Relations between the United States and remain tense nearly 50 years after Fidel Castro overthrew the pro-American government in Havana. The United States has maintained an embargo against Cuba for decades.

Cuban officials on Monday accused the top U.S. diplomat in Havana of delivering money from private anti-Castro groups in Florida to dissidents in Cuba.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that “the U.S. government has programs to provide humanitarian assistance to people that are essentially forgotten by the Cuban government and that we … do not stand in the way of private groups doing that as well.”

As to how that is done, he said, “I’m not aware of the mechanics; I don’t steep myself in these things.”

Fidel Castro, beset with health problems, handed day-to-day governing power over to Raúl, his younger brother, earlier this year.

After being elected president in February, Raúl Castro announced that Cubans who can afford them could buy cell phones and DVD players and stay in hotels previously reserved for foreign tourists — overturning bans from the Fidel era.

The goods and services remain out of reach for most people on the island, where $120 cell phones plus $10.80 calling cards cost about six times the average monthly salary.

Bush said Wednesday it is “the height of hypocrisy to claim credit to allow Cubans to purchase appliances that virtually none of them can afford.”

Though the price may put mobile phones out of the reach of most Cubans, they are affordable for many of those who have access to U.S. dollars — typically either sent from relatives abroad or earned internally by tourist workers.

Bush on Wednesday marked what the White House called a Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People, which the president said he hopes will be an annual event.

This was originally found @ CNN.com