Posted by: Idioma Extra | April 6, 2010

Tuesday’s News

Pressure on Cuba increases
after death of dissident


The United States and some European nations are increasing pressure on Cuba following the death of a prominent dissident during a hunger strike. Cuban President Raúl Castro first expressed regret at the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. But now he is firing back, accusing adversaries of taking advantage of the situation.

Cuban leaders have long defended the nation’s human rights record from critics in the U.S. and Europe. President Castro, however, said the latest round of criticism is akin to blackmail.

“We will never yield to blackmail from any country or group of nations, no matter how powerful they are,” said Raúl Castro.

The death of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo sparked criticism of Cuba by U.S. and European leaders. Zapata Tamayo fasted for more than 80 days to press for better jail conditions.

At a Communist Youth congress, Castro said foreign critics are using the death to launch a new media campaign against Cuba.

“They are cynically manipulating the death of a person jailed for common crimes,” he said.

President Barack Obama has said Zapata Tamayo’s death was tragic, and he called for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba.

Other dissidents have launched hunger strikes including Cuban journalist Guillermo Farinas. He says he will refuse food until the Cuban government releases 26 political prisoners said to be in poor health.

U.S. officials also are concerned about a group called the Ladies in White, made up of wives and relatives of jailed dissidents.

Gordon Duguid is acting deputy spokesman at the State Department:

“We’re concerned about the welfare of the Damas de Blanco and dismayed that a peaceful march was disrupted by the Cuban government authorities who interfered with the right of Cuban citizens to peacefully assemble and express their support for their family members who are prisoners of conscience,” said Gordon Duguid.

Last month, Cuban-Americans and other Miami residents held a march in support of the Ladies in White. At the same time, in Havana, the Ladies in White tried to march but police intervened.

Pro-democracy groups say anti-government sentiment is spreading, partly because of the death of Zapata Tamayo. Recent protests have been reported in areas outside Havana. 

Marcibel Loo monitors human rights in Cuba for the Cuban Democratic Directorate, a pro democracy group in Miami. 

“We are seeing every day that people are not willing to cooperate with the regime,” said Ms. Loo. “So they have had to conduct beatings and arrests and sacrifice their image to try to control them.”

Ms. Loo says the crackdown is not a result of pressure from the White House, rather it’s is in response to domestic problems.

“With the marches that are going on not just in Miami, but Los Angeles, and New York, Spain and Brazil, it is tying the Cuban exile community to people on the island,” she said. “And that is something new.”

Pro-democracy activists like Ms. Loo hope pressure inside and outside the island will yield change in Havana. 

But for the moment, it’s unclear how things will play out.

Word of the Day 

Main Entry: black·mail
Function: noun
Etymology: black + 1mail
Date: 1552
1 : a tribute anciently exacted on the Scottish border by plundering chiefs in exchange for immunity from pillage
2 a : extortion or coercion by threats especially of public exposure or criminal prosecution
b : the payment that is extorted
blackmail transitive verb
black·mail·er noun

More Vocabulary

Akin: adj. essentially similar, related or compatible
Crackdown: n. the act of instance of taking positive regulatory or disciplinary action
Dismay: v. to upset, perturb
Dissident: n. one who disagrees especially with an established religious or political system, organization or belief
Fast: v. to abstain from food
March: n. an organized procession of demonstrators who are supporting or protesting something
Strike: n. a temporary stoppage of activities in protest against an act or condition

Love those Phrasal Verbs!

Call for: to request, summon

     Our coworker called for better employee transportation at the meeting.

Go on: to happen or take place

     Do you hear that noise? What’s going on in Mr. Reagan’s office?

Make up: to constitute, compose, form

     Costa Rica is made up of seven provinces.

Play out: to bring to an end; finish

     No one had given us an itinerary for the business trip, so no one was sure how the week was going to play out.


Below are some common errors that Spanish speakers make when writing in English. To learn more common mistakes and expressions, consider Idioma Internacional’s AFD 450 Emailing and Business Communication Course!

Wrong: Important for us
Right: Important to us 

Wrong: Depends of
Right: It depends on 

Wrong: Responsible to
Right: Responsible for 

Wrong: Explain me
Right: Explain to me


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