Noriega's confirmation came after a long delay because Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., had been blocking the vote for months in an effort to force a Senate vote on his proposal for easing restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba. ''We had all been waiting for so long that we stopped watching,'' said Ana Navarro, a longtime Miami lobbyist and friend of Noriega, the current U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.
Until Tuesday, the Senate had refused to confirm a series of nominees for the State Department job, in charge of relations with Washington's hemispheric neighbors, since 1999 because of a string of political disputes. The post had been held since then on an interim or appointed basis by four officials.The unanimous approval on a voice vote, as Congress headed toward its summer recess this week, drew praise from Latin American officials as well as U.S. supporters. ***
Some Cubans were surprised President Fidel Castro's government allowed exhibition of a film that focuses on the daily grind of life under tropical socialism. While criticism of the island's one-party political system is not permitted, Cuba has tolerated films that satirize bureaucracy such as "Guantanamera," "Alice in Wonder Village" and "Death of a Bureaucrat." "Strawberry and Chocolate," which criticizes discrimination against gays, was in 1995 the first Cuban film to receive an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. The public debate over "Suite Habana" was no less surprising given the country's media are controlled by the state. ***