AP: This just in from a nearby Workers’ Paradise….
Posted by gpmtrad on April 26, 2016
[I’m not sure exactly to what gpmtrad is referring, but I post three Cuba-related AP news items for that date and put my money on no. 1. – AQ moderator Tom]
1. Archbishop of Havana, key figure in US detente, steps down
What’s so funny? Looks like Cuban Commie dictator Raul Castro was telling Cardinal Jaime Ortega about the dozens of Cuban Catholics that he sent to die in front of a firing squad, for the only crime of being Catholics. Why would Ortega laugh at the jokes of this criminal? (Hat-tip to Pinterest via Babalublog.com )
Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who oversaw a warming of relations with Cuba’s Communist government and played a role in the secret negotiations that led to U.S.-Cuba detente, has stepped down, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
He is being replaced as archbishop of Havana by Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, the archbishop of the eastern city of Camaguey.
Ortega was named Archbishop of Havana in 1981 and oversaw three papal trips to Communist Cuba. He ferried a letter from the Vatican to President Barack Obama during 18 months of secret negotiations that led to the Dec. 17, 2014 declaration that the U.S. and Cuba were restarting diplomatic relations and moving toward normalization.
Under his leadership, the Roman Catholic Church has quietly established itself as practically the only independent institution with any widespread influence on the island. Expanding into areas once dominated by the state, the church is providing tens of thousands of people with food, education, business training and even libraries stocked with foreign best-sellers. Under economic reforms launched by Castro, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have launched small businesses or gone to work for them, and the church is increasingly playing a key role in supporting them.
However, the church has made little headway in its hope for more access to state-controlled airwaves and permission to run religious schools.
The church said Pope Francis had accepted Ortega’s resignation, which was presented in 2011 under a church rule requiring archbishops to offer their resignation when they are 75. His being kept on four more years was seen, particularly in retrospect, as a reflection of the importance of his leading the Havana archdiocese at a critical time for Cuba.
Garcia, 67, was born in Camaguey, the son of a railway worker and a homemaker. He attended seminary in Havana, as part of the first group of Cuban priests who received their entire training inside the country, and was ordained in 1972. He became archbishop of Camaguey in 2002 and was elected president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops 2006, a post formerly held by Ortega.
The church described Garcia as “a man who’s been characterized by his simple life, apostolic devotion, prayer and virtuous living.” It described him as particularly devoted to caring for priests with “as much with gestures of great understanding, service and help as discreet and firm authority.”
Per Vatican custom, church statements made no mention of Garcia also being appointed cardinal. Important archdioceses traditionally have cardinals at the helm, but sometimes many months can pass before an archbishop is made a cardinal, often in a special decree naming several at a time.
Garcia was known within the church for his work on drawing more young people into the churches of highly traditional Camaguey. Cuba already has one of Latin America’s lowest rates of church attendance, a phenomenon exacerbated by the mass emigration of tens of thousands of young people in recent years.
A month after President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba was seen by many as closing the first chapter in the normalization of ties between the U.S. and Cuba, the naming of Garcia shows a church focus on renewing religious observance on the island, said Enrique Lopez Oliva, a retired professor of religion at the University of Havana.
“The church is starting a process of renovation in order to adapt itself to the new, historic moment that the country is living,” Lopez Oliva said.
2. Walt Disney Cruise Ship Rescues Fugitives off Coast of Cuba
A Walt Disney Co. cruise ship has rescued three fugitives off the coast of Cuba who were wanted in New Orleans.
U.S. Marshal Amos Rojas Jr. said in a news release that last Thursday, the Disney Fantasy cruise ship found the fugitives clinging to a capsized boat. He says all three were wanted for violating their supervised release on federal credit card fraud charges in New Orleans.
Twenty-six-year-old Luis Rivera-Garcia, 23-year-old Juliet Estrada-Perez and 23-year-old Enrique Gonzalez-Torres were turned over to authorities in Florida.
The fugitives were Cuban nationals who were from the United States. Rojas says authorities believe the three may have been fleeing to Cuba to avoid prosecution.
They have been charged with violation of supervised release. It’s unclear if they have attorneys.
3. Cuban players paid smugglers $15 million, prosecutors say
Cuban baseball players paid a South Florida-based smuggling ring more than $15 million to leave the communist island in secretive ventures that included phony documents, false identities and surreptitious boat voyages to Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, federal prosecutors say.
A recently unsealed grand jury indictment against three men provides fresh details about the smuggling of 17 Cuban players, among them Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox and Leonys Martin of the Seattle Mariners. The smugglers usually took a percentage of any Major League Baseball contract a player signed.
The indictment names Bartolo Hernandez, a Weston, Florida-based sports agent whose clients included Abreu; Hernandez associate Julio Estrada, who runs Total Baseball Representation and Training in Miami; and Haitian citizen Amin Latouff of Port-au-Prince, who is not in U.S. custody and remains in Haiti. They are charged with conspiracy and illegally bringing immigrants to the U.S.
Estrada, who was arrested last week, has pleaded not guilty and is free on $225,000 bail. Hernandez pleaded not guilty when originally charged in February and is also free on bond.
Estrada’s lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, said in an email Tuesday that he has never been involved in illegal human smuggling.
“He has always taken care of his players, training them so that they could achieve their dream of playing MLB in the United States,” she said.
The case is an outgrowth of the previous prosecution in Miami of four people for the smuggling of Martin out of Cuba, one of whom is serving a 14-year prison sentence. Martin is among the players named in the new indictment as well. None of the players have been charged.
Prosecutors have said the investigation is focused on the smuggling organizations and not on the players. As Cubans, under U.S. policy they are generally allowed to remain in this country once reaching U.S. soil.
As part of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, MLB is in talks with both nations’ governments on a potential deal that could make it easier for Cuban ballplayers to play in the U.S. without having to sneak away at international tournaments or risk high-seas defections with smugglers.
But beginning in April 2009, prosecutors say, the South Florida-based smugglers ran a flourishing and lucrative illegal pipeline for Cuban players who must establish third-country residency in order to sign as MLB free agents.
The indictment says that Hernandez, Estrada and Latouff “recruited and paid” boat captains to smuggle players from Cuba to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The plot included use of fake jobs for the players, such as welder, mechanic, body shop worker — even one who was called an “area supervisor for Wet Set Ski.”
The conspirators also used fake foreign and U.S. documents, including falsified passports and visa applications, to get the players to the U.S., according to the indictment.
The case of Abreu, who set a White Sox rookie record with 36 home runs in 2014 and was named American League rookie of the year, is fairly typical although the money involved is higher than most.
According to the indictment, Latouff paid $160,000 in August 2013 to a boat captain to smuggle Abreu from Cuba to Haiti. There a fraudulent visa and false name were provided so that Abreu could fly from Port-au-Prince to Miami.
A short time later, Chicago announced Abreu had signed a five-year, $68 million MLB contract. But the court documents show he still owed the smugglers millions and sent them several wire transfers in 2014 totaling at least $5.8 million.
Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of more than $15.5 million in total payments from ballplayers to the smugglers, as well as forfeiture of four pieces of property in South Florida, four Mercedes-Benz vehicles and a Honda motorcycle.