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Daily Archives: January 30, 2015

Apple Pay Accounts for $2 out of every $3 Spent with Contactless Payments Apple CEO Tim Cook said nearly $2 out of every $3 spent using contactless payments across Visa, MasterCard, and American Express Continue reading
… Points GuyThe Cuban Convertible Peso.I had the impression that Cuba would … , though, Havana very much holds its own. 10. I loved Cuba and … Hotels in Havana, Cuba, What to Do and See in Havana, my review … us a great deal about Havana and Cuba as a whole. This … Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38365" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Several people stand on line at a currency exchange (CADECA). (EFE)[/caption] 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 January 2015 -- It was barely 10:00 am Wednesday, January 28th, and the currency exchange (CADECA) at Belascoaín had no national currency (CUP)*. One of the tellers explained that he had only several 50 peso bills and that was it until the “cash truck” arrived.  Some customers, leaving because they could not transact business, stated that this has become the norm, not only at this currency exchange, but also at the one on Galiano Street, across from the Plaza del Vapor. These are virtually the only two currency exchanges operating in the municipality of Centro Habana after most of them were converted to ATM’s, so both exchange of hard (i.e. foreign) currency to Cuban convertible currency (CUC) as well as CUC to CUP implies traveling to some CADECA or to Banco Metropolitano, both located at some distance, and the likelihood of having to stand on long lines before being able to complete the desired transaction. Another difficulty that has become common in both CADECA and ATM locations is the absence of bills in denominations smaller than 100 or 50 CUP, which also distresses the population, especially the elderly, who receive their pensions in debit cards and are often unable to withdraw all of their money, since there are no 5 or 1 peso bills available. In these cases, they need to wait a whole trimester or quarter until enough funds accumulate in their accounts to cover the minimum denominations of 10 or 20 CUP, a ridiculous amount compared to the high price of any market product, but what is significant is that the affected individuals depend almost entirely on this income. Since the start of 2015, Cubans who receive remittances from abroad or convertible pesos by other means are quick to exchange their money into the national currency. Those who receive larger amounts – on the order of 100’s of CUC, in general the owners of more thriving private business -- prefer to use the black market to exchange their funds into US dollars. The common denominator is that nobody wants to hold CUC money, which, until recently, was in high demand and CADECAS would even often run out of. Announcement of a new national currency bill being issued into circulation in February, in 200, 500 and 1000 peso denominations, coupled with the ability to access the former “hard currency market” with either money, has sounded the drum-roll in people’s psyche as a prelude to the much anticipated monetary unification. People fear that an official changeover will take place that will carry penalizing fees that will cause serious losses to people’s pockets. Fear is running throughout the population that an official changeover will take place suddenly, with extremely high fees that would produce serious loses to their pockets The expectation is felt, by osmosis, in the capital’s agricultural trade networks, especially in meat markets that are not “state-owned”, where either one of the two currencies was accepted a few weeks ago. “Mother of Mercy, give me national currency!” is the butcher’s cry at Combinadito de Sitios in Centro Habana when a customer brings out 20 CUC to pay for a cut of pork meat whose price these days of non-ration cards has risen to 45 Cuban pesos per pound. “Country farmers don’t want CUC, my brother, they have a lot of money** and are really afraid of the monetary unification. They won’t sell me meat unless I pay in national currency”. Something similar is happening with peddlers with street carts, who still accept payment in “convertible” currency for retail sales, but their wholesale suppliers are demanding payment in national currency for their products. A street peddler in my neighborhood states “farmers have high incomes and almost all producers have accumulated large sums. None of them wish to lose when the currency is unified”. The lack of information and clarification from the official media creates uncertainty and speculation in the population. It is evident that, once more, the lack of information and clarification on the part of the official media are causing uncertainty and spreads speculation throughout the population, giving way to obstacles such as the (unexplained) shortage of cash in the CADECA, increasing the demand for US dollars in the black market foreign exchanges. With the imminent introduction of the new denomination bills, clear evidence of the very high inflation rate in Cuba, nothing is known about a monetary unification that -according to official notification- will be gradual and will “not affect” Cuban pockets. For now, it is expected that, when it takes place, the official exchange rate of 25 pesos in national currency for each CUC will not continue, a transaction with which the CADECA and the state commercial networks have operated to date. Our experience, after decades of deceptive monetary maneuvers, has motivated the popular wisdom so that, already, before the dreamed about monetary unification, Cubans are shedding was has been the last few years’ supreme sign of Cuba’s status: the CUC. Translator's notes: *See here [2]for a longer discussion of the history of Cuba's currencies and the plan to move to a single currency. Briefly, Cuba has two currencies: Cuban pesos, also called moneda nacional (national money), abbreviated CUP; and Cuban convertible pesos, abbreviated CUC. In theory CUCs are a hard currency, but in fact, it is illegal to take them out of Cuba and they are not exchangeable in other countries. Cubans receive their wages and pensions primarily in CUPs, with wages roughly the equivalent of about $20 US per month, and pensions considerably less. The CUC is pegged 1-to-1 to the American dollar, but exchange fees make it more expensive. The CUP trades to the CUC at about 24-to-1.  **It has been a common practice in other tightly controlled countries, when new currencies are introduced, to limit the total amount of money people are allowed to exchange and/or to require documentation of the sources of larger sums. As the old currency becomes instantly worthless domestically and internationally, people who have been 'hoarding' it can see almost all their savings disappear. Cubans fear this could happen with the elimination of the CUC. Translated by Norma Whiting [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Varias-personas-cambio-CADECA-EFE_CYMIMA20150129_0001_16.jpg [2] http://www.worldfinance.com/banking/cuba-to-ditch-complicated-dual-currency-system Continue reading
HAVANA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Cuba's improved relations with the United States could lead to a more rapid expansion of the port upon which the country has staked much of its economic future, an executive Continue reading
Story highlights Mitt Romney tells supporters Friday he does not intend to run for president in 2016 Ruben Navarrette: Rubio gets a Christmas present he can really use: a second chance As in Marco Rubio, Continue reading
Los datos de los vuelos se muestran de manera general, si bien aún es necesario cumplir con los requisitos y estar dentro de las 12 categorías establecidas por Estados Unidos para poder volar a Cuba. Continue reading
Story highlights Cuban Catholics start building their first churches since 1959 Religious believers had been seen as suspicious under the Castro regime The new churches are desperately needed, Cuban Catholics Continue reading
Story highlights Cuban Catholics start building their first churches since 1959 Religious believers had been seen as suspicious under the Castro regime The new churches are desperately needed, Cuban Catholics Continue reading
Do Obama's measures promote democratic change on the Island? / Antonio
Rodiles
Posted on January 29, 2015

Diario de Cuba, Antonio G. Rodiles, Havana, 28 January 2015 — The recent
visits to Havana by American legislators and by Assistant Secretary of
State Roberta Jacobson, have reawakened controversy over the
transparency in the process of political dialogue between the Obama
administration and the Castro regime. So far, the aim of furthering a
previously determined plan has been evident, as well as raising the
profile of those political actors who support and conform to this policy.

Indispensable voices from the opposition movement have been
conspicuously absent from the meetings held. Equally apparent was the
reluctance to have a balance of opinions in these contacts.

On multiple occasions, in support of the new policy, the Obama
administration has posited the premise that the Cuban people should be
the ones who guide the process of change on the Island. This
pronouncement implicitly seeks approval for the new measures and opens
the door to strong criticisms of those of us who reject the
unconditionality — and the notable lack of transparency and consensus —
that have characterized the start of this process.

This premise, presented simplistically and with an added dose of false
nationalism, tries to label those of us who demand firm commitments to
the advancement of democracy and human rights,as individuals who are
incapable of assuming our political responsibilities — stuck in the past
or wanting foreign governments to come in and make the needed changes.
The administration's theory is curiously parallel to the old idea of
"national sovereignty" employed by the regime for so many years and
echoed as a part of the arguments of the self-declared "loyal" opposition.

Do Obama's measures promote the Cuban people's empowerment, insofar as
their civil and political rights are concerned? Can the opposition
generate a broad social compact, given the degrees of control,
repression and impunity with which the regime operates? Are there
guarantees that the new measures will generate a Cuban entrepreneurial
class in the medium term? Can Cuban society move toward a Rule of Law,
given the atomization, evasion and corruption in which the vast majority
of Cubans live?

If we are realists, the answers are obvious. The current Cuba only
functions through corruption and patronage. We lack the legal framework
that permits the empowerment of the people in any aspect. There cannot
exist any broad and extensive leadership by Cuban democrats and
entrepreneurs as long as the regime can maintain these high levels of
repression and social control without paying a large political price.
And a peaceful transition to full democracy requires such leadership.

Peaceful and sufficiently ordered transitions of despotic regimes to
democracies have occurred under intense international pressure coupled
with an effective internal push. Political results have emerged when
these regimes sense that their permanence in power is impossible and
they start to fear that a total social collapse will put them in
disadvantageous or dangerous situations.

The continued presence of the political heirs as a part of the new
system is one of the flashpoints in any transition. Experience also
shows that, in the majority of cases, this continued presence brings
with it an inheritance of corruption and a web of influences, and that
it ultimately hijacks the genuine interests in building full
democracies. To allow a transfer of power to the heirs correlates to
perpetuating the poverty of the Cuban people, and sacrificing the future
of our nation in the medium and long terms.

The dialogue conducted by the current American administration has not
achieved even the release of all political prisoners and the annulment
of their sentences. Many of the freed prisoners were released
conditionally and not to full liberty. Such is the case of the 12
prisoners from the wave of repression of 2003, released in 2010, who
decided to remain in Cuba and who now find themselves on parole and
prohibited from traveling outside the country. This dialogue also has
not managed to prevent further imprisonments and waves of arrests, such
as the ones that occurred at the end of 2014 and start of the new year.

To insist on the idea that Cubans don't understand fundamental rights
and that only basic necessities are their priority demonstrates
ignorance of our reality and gives a biased view of our genuine
democratic aspirations. Freedoms don't need to be explained; even when
they have not been experienced, the human being can recognize them. We
Cubans are not the exception.

A probable failure of this political process would be very harmful for
all concerned, but most of all for the Cuban people. The Obama
administration should combine effective pressure on the regime with the
consensual work of a large group of democratic actors from within the
Island and in exile. If the desired ultimate result is truly the
democratization of our nation, a change of direction is needed.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Do Obama's measures promote democratic change on the Island? /
Antonio Rodiles | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/do-obamas-measures-promote-democratic-change-on-the-island-antonio-rodiles/ Continue reading
"Our actions can make people lose their fears"
REINALDO ESCOBAR, La Habana | Enero 29, 2015

Few could imagine that this activist, born in the east of the country
and leader of Cuba's most numerous opposition organization, is also a
compulsive reader and an avid collector of famous quotes. Conversing
with José Daniel Ferrer is like a trip that starts with a pamphlet cast
in the streets of Palmarito del Cauto, then jumps to the best texts
about the French Revolution, and ends in the pages of some modern
psychological treatise.

Yet, the biggest pleasure of speaking to a man like him is to see him
behave as if he were free, despite the police surveillance andthe years
he has spent in prison. During a quick visit to Havana, Ferrer answered
some questions for the readers of 14ymedio about the current situation
of activism in Cuba and the new stage that is opening up for dissidents.

Escobar: How does the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) view the
negotiations between Washington and Havana?

Ferrer: This process, which started after 18 months of secret talks,
will be very positive in bettering the difficult life conditions of our
people. However, the final result will best be appreciated as the
announced relaxation of policies is implemented and also in the way that
it is put in practice. If it is applied in an intelligent manner and is
consistently complemented by solidarity and support to the independent
civil society, it will yield better results than the prior policies.

Escobar: And the embargo?

Ferrer: Our people and the international community have in great part
been critical with regards to the embargo, which by now has lasted for
more than 50 years. In all this time, and especially following the
collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Cuban government has placed the blame
for our economic woes on the embargo, and has even used it to justify
repression within the country. Obama's policies delegitimize these
justifications. Additionally, they are in tune with the sentiments of
Cubans and of the international community.

Escobar: During your encounter with various American members of
congress, you expressed the gratitude of your organization's activists
who had been released from prison as a result of the negotiations. Can
you give us more details about them?

Ferrer: Of the 38 political prisoners that were freed between the days
of January 7 and 8, 28 of them were members of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba, in other words more than 70%. Of the 10 who were not members of
UNPACU, 4 have already reached out to us and vocalized their desire join
our organization. However, 14 of our activists are still imprisoned, 10
of them affiliated with our branches in eastern provinces and the other
4 belonging to organizations that are associated to our own.

Escobar: What type of activism does UNPACU carry out?

Ferrer: Our organization is not just a group of audacious and courageous
activists that protest peacefully on the streets. That mode of
operation, that type of battle, is just the tip of the iceberg. Our
strategy includes a great variety of means of peaceful combat, including
seminars, courses, disseminating leaflets when the wind is favorable,
putting up posters in public spaces… even better if it's at the
headquarters of the People's Power ( Poder Popular) or the offices of
the Communist Party.

In a society that has been paralyzed by terror for many years, our
actions can make people lose their fear.

Escobar: Do you see a disjunction between street activism and other
forms of dissidence?

Ferrer: Discrete activism also greatly annoys the regime. They, through
their intelligence apparatuses, know where we meet and with whom despite
our greatest efforts. As soon as they find out about someone who has
chosen not to make their dissent public, they threaten them with
removing them from their jobs or even worse things. This is especially
true when it's someone who, because of his or her training or talent,
could be a strong protagonist. But, if that person chooses to defend
their rights, then the threats can be greater. That's the proof that
they fear these forms of activism more than the others.

Escobar: It has transpired that the organization you lead has lost
alliances with other groups. Is that true? And if so why is that?

Ferrer: Many factors come to play here. In the first place, when other
organizations merged with the Patriotic Union of Cuba, the oppressive
bodies of the government also multiplied their efforts to divide us.
Another issue is that some leaders believed at certain points that the
best way to accelerate the process of non-violent combat was by uniting
with UNPACU and later they changed their minds. Be it because attacks
multiplied or because there were also instances of disagreement, some
chose to return to their prior situations.

In fact, the relations between these groups and us remain good. Our
disposition to cooperate remains. If we had to choose what was more
important, for everyone to come under the same name and things not run
as smoothly as they should, or that each keep their organization's name
and that things work better, we would choose the latter. We have
separated but we did not become enemies.

Escobar: And has Obama's announcement of December 17th deepened those
differences?

Ferrer: With regards to the recent changes in policy announced by the
Cuban and United States governments, there are some who believe it is a
mistake. Some activists and opposition leaders object to reestablishing
relations between the two countries and also disapprove of dismantling
the embargo. However, we have to find what unites us. They want the same
as we do: the democratization of the country and that Cuba respect human
rights. They want us to be a just and prosperous nation "with all and
for the good of all*." The difference is in the means, not the
objective, which we hold in common.

Escobar: So, you propose finding consensus points?

Ferrer: Yes, we would work together to reach that common end, including
those who disagree with us today on topics like the reestablishment of
relations between Cuba and the United States. We hope that they too
understand that they can cooperate with us.

*Translator's note: A quote from José Martí who is honored by both the
Castro regime and its opponents.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Source: "Our actions can make people lose their fears" -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/our-actions-make-people-lose-fears-Cuba_0_1715828412.html Continue reading
“¡Fíjate qué país más libre es éste!” VÍCTOR ARIEL GONZÁLEZ, La Habana | 29/01/2015 “Yoani Sánchez estaría presa en Vietnam”, dice Rafael Hernández, director de la revista Temas, comparando el régimen cubano con el vietnamita. Y añade: “¡Fíjate qué país más libre es éste!”. Según el investigador oficialista, a los blogueros cubanos “los arrestan y […] Continue reading
Uno de los hijos del ex presidente cubano Fidel Castro ha asegurado este viernes que las empresas estadounidenses "Coca-cola y McDonald's son bienvenidas en Cuba", en el marco de la normalización de las relaciones entre La Habana y Washington. Continue reading
Una Cuba distinta Jorge Riopedre enero 29, 2015 La batalla del futuro por una Cuba distinta, no voy a decir democrática porque eso está lejos, muy lejos, debe enfocarse en promover los Derechos Humanos y ayudar a la sociedad civil, con el fin de fomentar el concurso no sólo de la disidencia interna sino de […] Continue reading
USA Today: Cubanos más pobres no auguran ventajas en lazos con EEUU En los suburbios habaneros, pobres y alejados del turismo, predomina una visión menos optimista, según comprobó un enviado del diario estadounidense. Martinoticias.com enero 29, 2015 En barrios como Centro Habana, donde muchos cubanos sobreviven gracias a los dólares que deja el turismo, el […] Continue reading
PEDRO CORZO: Cuba, paraíso de prófugos 01/29/2015 1:00 PM 01/29/2015 6:00 PM La decisión del presidente Barack Obama y del dictador Raúl Castro de reiniciar relaciones diplomáticas con todo lo que se deriva de esos vínculos, sitúa a los fugitivos de las leyes de Estados Unidos refugiados en Cuba en una situación difícil. Son decenas […] Continue reading
La guía se lanzará en breve con una tirada inicial de 20.000 ejemplares que serán distribuidos en "centros de investigación sobre Cuba, institutos académicos de EEUU que organizan viajes a la isla y algunas agencias de viajes de Miami". Continue reading
El gran desafío de Cuba es la unificación cambiaria, según el BM
Agencia EFE

Washington, 29 ene (EFE).- El economista jefe del Banco Mundial (BM)
para América Latina, Augusto de la Torre, apuntó hoy que el gran desafío
que encara Cuba, dentro de su proceso de normalización de relaciones con
Estados Unidos, es la "unificación" del sistema cambiario para eliminar
la "gigante" distorsión macroeconómica actual.
"La unificación cambiaria es muy complicada, pero es el desafío más
importante y dominante", aseguró De la Torre en una conferencia para
comentar el proceso de restablecimiento de relaciones entre Estados
Unidos y Cuba en el Peterson Institute for International Economics, un
centro de estudios con sede en Washington.
En Cuba rige un sistema de doble moneda: el peso convertible CUC es la
divisa fuerte en la que se vende buena parte de los productos y
servicios de la isla, mientras que la mayor parte de los cubanos recibe
su salario en pesos cubanos CUP.
Actualmente, 1 CUC equivale a 24 CUP, mientras que el CUC mantiene la
paridad con el dólar.
Como consecuencia, el diferencial monetario en Cuba es del 2.400%, lo
que supone en la práctica un "ardid fiscal" a través de "un sistema de
subsidios e impuestos: impuestos al trabajador y subsidios al Estado",
indicó De la Torre.
Por tanto, para avanzar hacia la normalización económica es necesaria
"una gran reforma fiscal", que el funcionario del BM apuntó que sería
"dolorosa" en un primer momento, y solo "daría sus frutos en el medio
plazo".
Así, abogó por un proceso de "transición" en el que se llevase a cabo la
unificación cambiaria de "un golpe y de manera transparente",
manteniendo la tasa por dólar a 24 pesos y eliminando la doble moneda,
pero ofreciendo un "fuerte amortiguador fiscal para suavizar el impacto".
No obstante, reconoció que uno de los problemas de la isla es su
incapacidad para acceder a los mercados internacionales y a las
instituciones financieras como el Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI),
el propio BM o el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), que podrían
suministrar estos fondos.
Para que Cuba se incorpore a estas instituciones, explicó De la Torre a
Efe, la iniciativa debería surgir desde La Habana y solicitar
formalmente su ingreso en las instituciones.
La conferencia del Peterson Institute for International Economics se
enmarca en los diálogos abiertos por el proceso de normalización
anunciado en diciembre entre Washington y La Habana, después de 50 años,
y cuyas primeras medidas entraron en vigor el 16 de enero.
Entre ellas, destacan la flexibilización de las restricciones de los
viajes de los estadounidenses a Cuba, la ampliación de 500 a 2.000
dólares por trimestre en el envío de remesas, así como el permiso para
la exportación de materiales de construcción y herramientas o de equipos
para la actividad agrícola privada.
Asimismo, Mastercard anunció este mes su intención de dejar de bloquear
a partir del 1 de marzo las transacciones en Cuba con tarjetas emitidas
por bancos estadounidenses y, en paralelo, American Express (Swiss:
AXP.SW - noticias) afirmó que planea operar en el país una vez que se
han levantado algunas de las restricciones económicas.
Desde Estados Unidos se ha subrayado el potencial económico de Cuba, un
país que se encuentra a solo 90 millas (140 kilómetros) de la costa de
Florida, especialmente desde el punto de vista de la inversión.
Según un informe de Barbara Kotschwar y Gary Hufbauer, investigadores
del Peterson Institute, los flujos de inversión directa extranjera en
Cuba como resultado del proceso de normalización comercial y económica
pasaría de los actuales 1.000 millones de dólares anuales a 17.000
millones de dólares.
Aunque el acercamiento entre Estados Unidos y Cuba se ha iniciado
gracias al empujón del presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, y su
colega cubano, Raúl Castro, el gran reto es el levantamiento del bloqueo
comercial a la isla caribeña por parte de Washington.
La anulación del bloqueo solo la puede aprobar el Congreso de Estados
Unidos, donde el actual control en ambas cámaras de la oposición
republicana -que se opone a esa medida- dificulta el proceso.

Source: El gran desafío de Cuba es la unificación cambiaria, según el BM
- Yahoo Finanzas España -
https://es.finance.yahoo.com/noticias/desaf%C3%ADo-cuba-unificaci%C3%B3n-cambiaria-bm-220900750.html Continue reading
General Rivero – Cuba tiene a 20,000 hombres listos para el combate en Venezuela ANTONIO MARIA DELGADOADELGADO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM 01/29/2015 6:45 PM 01/30/2015 6:44 AM El régimen de La Habana, que a lo largo de los últimos años ha asumido el control de segmentos sensibles de la Fuerza Armada de Venezuela, cuenta también dentro del país petrolero […] Continue reading
“Puedes escoger: morirte de hambre o envenenada” “Yo no sé qué será lo que le echan a eso, que le da ese sabor medio ‘rancioso’, pero a mí tuvieron que pasarme hasta sueros… Por poco me voy pal otro lado”. “Parecemos conejillos de indias del experimento del gobierno” viernes, enero 30, 2015 | Miriam Celaya […] Continue reading
Cuba and the IMF: towards a new chapter?
By Jeremy Tordjman

Washington (AFP) - After its rapprochement with the United States, the
steadfastly communist Cuba could further dismantle nearly six decades of
isolation by shaking hands with another old enemy, the International
Monetary Fund.

The IMF, the world's crisis lender but also an economic policy
disciplinarian, does not have an especially good reputation in Havana.

Cuba, like a number of its allies -- Venezuela and Bolivia, for instance
-- regards the Fund as too married to a liberal capitalist ideology.

Cuba's now-retired strongman of 50 years, Fidel Castro, has never passed
up an opportunity to label it an "evil" dispenser of "lethal advice". He
went so far as to call for the Fund's "demolition" pure and simple in
the early 2000s.

The Caribbean island was a founding member of the Fund in 1944 when it
was established along with the World Bank.

But in 1964, five years after Castro's revolutionary forces seized
power, Cuba became the first country to turn its back on the IMF, as
well as the World Bank.

That makes Cuba one of the few countries -- North Korea and
Liechtenstein are others -- cut off from the two Bretton Woods
institutions that form the core of the world's powerful development
finance system.

- Times change -

View gallery
A women walks out of a shop with a poster wishing a happy 2015, in
Havana, on December 23, 2014 (AFP …
But the times are changing. "El Lider Maximo" has retired, letting his
less-obdurate brother Raul take over as president.

With that, and an effort by US President Barack Obama to clear away the
cobwebs of the past, lines have opened between Havana and Washington.
And a new generation of Cuban leaders seem less hostile toward the two
institutions, according to experts.

"Younger Cubans are more open to participating in the global economy,
indeed they are eager to do so, and that implies normal relations with
the major international agencies including the IMF and World Bank," said
Richard Feinberg, who advised former president Bill Clinton on Latin
America policy.

Cuba's economy has been choked by the US embargo on the country dating
to 1961, and joining the two institutions could encourage foreign
investors to take advantage of its opening to American tourism and other
formerly blocked sectors.

"It would be a good thing for Cuba," said Terry Maris, former executive
director of the Center for Cuban Business Studies at Ohio Northern
University.

"There's just not sufficient infrastructure right now, it would cost
billions that are not going to come overnight. Cuba has to be stable to
attract foreign investment," he said.

- Struggling economy -

View gallery
US flags adorn a pedicab in Havana on January 26, 2015 (AFP Photo/Yamil
Lage)
Tightly controlled by the government, the Cuban economy is struggling,
with growth of just 1.3 percent last year, the weakest since Raul Castro
arrived in power in 2006.

But because of its longtime focus on health and education, the country
ranks high in social indicators, according to the United Nations Human
Development Index.

Returning to the IMF fold is not a simple thing. Cuba would have to
submit a formal request, possibly contribute millions of dollars to the
Fund's financial resources, and then agree "to fulfill the obligations
of IMF membership," noted an IMF spokesman.

That includes having to lift a veil on the state of the country's
economy, supplying data on government accounts and submitting to an
annual IMF evaluation.

Carl Meacham director of the Americas Program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the question is
whether they will take that step toward openness.

"Are they willing to play by the rules of the game by making their
economy much more transparent and cooperating with other countries?" he
asked.

The IMF has not yet received any request to join from Havana.

"We are just waiting and seeing," the Fund's Western Hemisphere
department chief Alejandro Werner said recently.

Also crucial is what Washington thinks, as the IMF's largest
shareholder. So far the US has not weighed in on the subject.

Asked about it Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki demurred.

"We're not even there at this point in time. We're far from there," she
said.

"The road will be long," Juan Triana, a professor at the University of
Havana, told AFP.

He pointed to the need for the US Congress to remove its Cuba embargo
law, and for Cuba to be removed from the government's official list of
states which sponsor terrorism.

As long as those two issues remain unresolved, he said, the IMF and
World Bank "can do nearly nothing."

Source: Cuba and the IMF: towards a new chapter? - Yahoo News -
http://news.yahoo.com/cuba-imf-towards-chapter-031216846.html;_ylt=AwrBEiS2dMtUzjQAXdbQtDMD Continue reading
U.S. has no idea how many fugitives Cuba's harboring
By Megan O'Matz and Sally Kestin
Sun Sentinel

The United States does not know how many fugitives are in Cuba.

Nobody tracks it. Nobody even routinely asks for the return of those
wanted on serious federal charges, much less more common state offenses,
the Sun Sentinel has found.

Law enforcement officials on state and federal levels say paperwork is
rarely filed in Washington to request diplomatic assistance out of a
sense that doing so would be futile. The United States has no working
extradition treaty with Cuba.

"I could request Mars send someone back and we'd probably have better
luck" said Ryan Stumphauzer, a former U.S. assistant state attorney in
Miami who prosecuted Medicare cheats, most of them Cuban-born. "We know
Cuba is not sending anybody back."

Since President Obama's surprise shift in December toward normalizing
relations with the Communist-led nation, some members of Congress have
demanded that Cuba hand over fugitives. The irony: law enforcement isn't
regularly seeking their return.

Last week, three U.S. senators, including Florida's Marco Rubio, asked
the FBI to produce the names of fugitives in Cuba and copies of their
indictments. No complete list is likely to be forthcoming.

There is no formal mechanism in use to request extradition, no centrally
collected records nationwide of how many likely are on the run in Cuba,
and no coordination among counties or states on the issue, the Sun
Sentinel has found.

Even in Miami-Dade County, where most Cuban-Americans live, state
prosecutors do not log or tally fugitives thought to be in Cuba.

"It's not like we send up to Justice our Christmas list of potential
felons," said Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's
Office.

In recent weeks the U.S. Marshals Office in South Florida has been
scrambling to compile a list of people possibly hiding in Cuba, in case
the Castro government suddenly agrees to expel such fugitives.

"We want to be prepared," said Marshals Office spokesman Barry Golden.

The Sun Sentinel, in a recent far-reaching investigation into Cuban
crime rings in America, disclosed that Cuban nationals are taking
advantage of generous U.S. immigration laws to come to the U.S. and
steal billions from government programs and businesses.

Millions of dollars have traveled back to Cuba, and many individuals
flee there when police close in on scams the Cubans specialize in. These
typically involve health care, auto insurance, or credit card fraud;
cargo theft; or marijuana trafficking, the Sun Sentinel found.

The Sun Sentinel located one fugitive wanted in a million dollar Texas
credit card fraud case living in Santa Clara, Cuba. He'd written to the
judge in his case in 2013, saying he "went to the U.S. to steal" and
included his return address in Cuba.

Prosecutors had no evidence he was actually in Cuba and had not sought
his return. "We can't extradite from Cuba. We wouldn't reach out to the
State Department in a case like that," said Scott Carpenter of the
District Attorney's Office in Fort Bend County, Texas.

In the occasional diplomatic talks, high-level U.S. officials have
brought up the issue of fugitives in Cuba — usually the cases of
prominent violent offenders, such as New Jersey cop killer Joanne
Chesimard, a member the militant Black Liberation Army who fled to Cuba
30 years ago and was given political asylum.

How these appeals happen are a mystery to most street level
investigators and prosecutors who simply don't bother filing voluminous
records to Washington because the process is cumbersome, costly and
likely fruitless.

"As far as them putting together a package for extradition, I guarantee
that isn't happening," said Humberto Dominguez, a Miami criminal defense
lawyer. "It would be worse if they did: it would be such a waste of
taxpayer dollars."

Why send the paperwork to Cuba, he asked. "So they can utilize it as a
bathroom implement?"

No answers or records

John Caulfield, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until
2014, said that for many years, American officials figured "there was no
point in talking to the Cubans" because they didn't expect any cooperation.

But he said he'd tell individuals in law enforcement that if you don't
ask, you don't know what will happen. "We were surprised in some cases"
when the U.S. asked for someone's return and got it.

In the past decade, Cuban officials have returned a handful of
criminals: Kidnappers. Child abusers. An insurance fraudster and others.

Neither the Department of State nor the Department of Justice will
answer questions about how many fugitives the U.S. has sought to have
returned, who, or even whether, state and federal prosecutors request
extradition.

In recent months, the agencies have provided the Sun Sentinel with the
same prepared statement three times: "The United States continues to
seek the return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice, and repeatedly
raises their cases with the Government of Cuba."

Said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr: "We generally do not
disclose if requests are made or provide information on whether specific
cases have been brought before different foreign authorities."

In March, the Sun Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information request with
the Justice Department seeking copies of requests from prosecutors for
the return of Cuban nationals wanted for felonies since 2007. The
newspaper also sought records showing what efforts were made to inform
Cuban authorities or US diplomats in Cuba of a fugitive's possible
presence in Cuba.

The agency replied that it "failed to locate any responsive records."

The Sun Sentinel has received no records under a similar request made
nine months ago to the State Department.

American University Professor William LeoGrande, a specialist in Latin
American politics, said Cuba has had difficulty getting solid
information from the Justice Department on fugitives the U.S. wants.
"I've had a Cuban official tell me they couldn't even get confirmation
that this was the right person."

Teddy Roosevelt's treaty

It's widely assumed that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Cuba.
In fact, one was signed in 1904 under President Theodore Roosevelt. Its
use was suspended in the 1960s after Fidel Castro came to power.

"You often hear that the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cuba
has been abandoned. That's not so," said Robert Muse, a Washington
attorney and expert on Cuban-related law. "It's listed by the State
Department as a treaty in force. This agreement exists, it's just in
abeyance."

Requesting extradition from any country is a long, formal, onerous
effort, guided by the terms of each treaty.

Prosecutors must assemble affidavits stating the facts of the case;
texts of relevant criminal statutes; certified copies of arrest warrants
and indictments; evidence such as court transcripts, photographs and
fingerprints of the criminal; and any conviction papers.

An original and four copies must be sent to the Justice Department's
Office of International Affairs in Washington, which translates the
material and funnels it to the State Department. Prosecutors are warned
not to contact foreign countries directly.

Appeals are made by American Embassy officials through "diplomatic
note," accompanied by the thick bundle of documents —certified and
secured with an official seal and red ribbon.

Though federal officials in Miami know that dozens of Medicare fraud
fugitives who stole millions fled to Cuba, "Why would the government
file extradition requests when there isn't even a treaty to proceed
under?" said Stumphauzer, who left the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami
in 2011.

Asked what federal agents do when they learn a Medicare fraudster has
taken off to Cuba, one current investigator explained: they throw up
their hands and say: "Oh crap," knowing the likelihood of recovering
someone is low.

State and local officials, too, make no attempts at extradition.

Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Henry Sacramento, whose team repeatedly arrests
Cubans in marijuana grow houses, said: "We just put a warrant in the
system and hope they make a mistake in coming back into the country again."

"As far as extradition from Cuba," he said, "I don't know of anyone
that's tried to do that."

The Jan. 23rd letter Rubio and the two other senators sent to U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting a list of all fugitives the FBI
believes are living in Cuba, notes "there is little definitive
information about their cases available publicly."

The senators wrote that there are longtime murderers and airplane
hijackers in Cuba, but also "numerous others guilty of lesser but still
important crimes, including money laundering and health care fraud."

For years, members of Congress have accused Cuba of harboring 70 to 80
fugitives: most of whom fled there decades ago

More recently, the FBI in Miami has compiled a spreadsheet showing 20
Medicare fugitives thought to be hiding in Cuba.

The Sun Sentinel, in its investigation, found references in court or
police records to an additional 50 wanted in other frauds, cargo theft
or marijuana trafficking.

The count could be far higher.

There are 500 Cuban-born fugitives wanted on federal charges and at
least another 500 wanted on state charges in Florida alone. They could
be anywhere in the world, according to records provided by the U.S.
Marshals Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

FDLE does not require country of birth to be filled out consistently on
warrants, so it's impossible to fully determine exactly how many are
from Cuba or may have gone back there.

Proving a criminal is in Cuba can be difficult. At times authorities
know a fugitive boarded a charter flight for Cuba, but in other cases
they have only the word of a family member to go on — and that person
may lie to throw police off the track.

"There's no method of confirming that somebody has fled, either directly
to Cuba or indirectly through another country, because we don't have
communication with anyone in Cuba to verify that," said Golden, the
Marshals Service spokesman.

Some criminal defense lawyers representing Cuban offenders believe
thousands of fugitives may have returned there.

Fort Myers defense attorney Rene Suarez, who represents Cuban clients,
said public estimates of fugitives in Cuba are typically "big, federal
type cases."

"But most of these folks that have gone back, they're not federal cases.
The vast majority are just state charges that are tracked county by
county," he said.

Asked if there could be hundreds hiding in Cuba, he said: "No … there's
got to be thousands of them."

Staff writer William E. Gibson and correspondent Tracey Eaton
contributed to this report.

momatz@tribpub.com

Source: U.S.-Cuba extradition treaty lacking - Sun Sentinel -
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/fl-cuba-fugitive-us-requests-20150130-story.html#page=1 Continue reading
… Church in Cuba. And for the first time since the Cuban Revolution … the closest thing the isolated Cuban town of Sandino has ever … in Cuba in more than 56 years - since the Cuban Revolution … between the Catholic Church and Cuban government. In the first years … Continue reading
Story highlights Mitt Romney tells supporters Friday he does not intend to run for president in 2016 Ruben Navarrette: Rubio gets a Christmas present he can really use: a second chance As in Marco Rubio, Continue reading
The U.S. Will Not Return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, the White House Says
TIME Staff Jan. 29, 2015

U.S. has leased land on Guantanamo Bay since the 1903 Cuban–American Treaty

Despite the recent historic thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, the White House
said Thursday it had no plans to return Guantánamo Bay, the site of a
significant U.S. naval base and military prison on the island-nation's
southeast coast.

This announcement comes in response to Wednesday's statement from Cuban
President Raúl Castro that restoring Havana's control of the bay is a
prerequisite for normalizing ties with the U.S, Agence France-Presse
reports.

However, White House spokesman Josh Earnest indicated any such move was
off the cards. "The President does believe that the prison at Guantánamo
Bay should be closed down," he said. "But the naval base is not
something that we wish to be closed."

The U.S. currently controls over 45 sq. mi. of Guantánamo Bay as a
result of treaties dating back to the Spanish-American War. The military
prison has been embroiled in controversy for reports of torture and the
absence of trials for inmates accused of terrorism.

The U.S. and Cuba reopened diplomatic ties in December after over 50
years of nonacknowledgment. Obama issued an executive order to close the
Guantánamo prison in 2009, but so far this has not come into fruition.

Source: The U.S. Will Not Return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, the White House
Says | TIME - http://time.com/3688995/u-s-guantanamo-bay-cuba-return/ Continue reading
Obama won't meet Raul Castro's demands, but doesn't regret Cuba move
By Ben Wolfgang - The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Obama administration has no intention of meeting Cuban President
Raul Castro's various preconditions for normalizing diplomatic relations
with the U.S., officials said Thursday.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters the
administration, while not entertaining the idea of, for example,
returning the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, does
not regret the historic decision to end 50 years of isolation and reopen
diplomatic avenues with Havana.

"I think what [Mr. Castro's] comments highlight is there are pretty
clear differences between establishing diplomatic relations and carrying
out the longer process of normalizing relations," Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Castro this week laid out three central conditions for fully
normalizing relations with the U.S. — the lifting of the American
embargo on Cuba; the return of Guantanamo to the Cuban government; and
compensation for the "human and economic damage" suffered by the Cubans
as a result of U.S. policies.

It's not yet clear whether Congress will move to lift the embargo, but
the White House all but ruled out the other two conditions.

Still, Mr. Earnest said the decision to open diplomatic channels with
Havana was a good one, as it will allow the U.S. to have greater
influence over the country and provide a more formal way to express
displeasure with certain Cuban policies.

"There are a variety of concerns we have with the way the Castro regime
treats political dissidents, the way they treat individuals who are
trying to freely express their views, even the way they treat some
reporters," he said.

Source: Obama won't meet Raul Castro's demands, but doesn't regret Cuba
move - Washington Times -
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/29/obama-wont-meet-castro-demands-doesnt-regret-move/ Continue reading
En entrevista en Miami, el director de Los Van Van explicó que otros de los cambios que le gustaría ver en la isla serían que "pueda existir el día de mañana otro partido, que se puedan hacer elecciones libres al final y que el que gane las elecciones se quede" Continue reading
Crecimiento del PIB en Cuba. Usos y abusos. [29-01-2015 17:05:33] Héctor Maseda y Roberto Díaz Vázquez Grupo Decoro (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- Fuentes oficiales cubanas procedentes de la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONE) informaron que el año 2014 concluyó para Cuba con una fuerte contracción económica debido a la reducción de los bienes producidos, destinados a la exportación. […] Continue reading
ETECSA, una empresa sin competencia [30-01-2015 12:07:32] Osmel Almaguer Delgado Hablemos Press (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- La Habana.- La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) controla, desde su fundación en el año 1994, la totalidad de las operaciones en la Isla; convirtiéndose, de esta manera, en un monopolio. Su dominio abarca las telefonías fija y celular, así como […] Continue reading
Story highlights Mitt Romney tells supporters Friday he does not intend to run for president in 2016 Ruben Navarrette: Rubio gets a Christmas present he can really use: a second chance As in Marco Rubio, Continue reading
El acoso psicológico [30-01-2015 09:42:39] Manuel Alberto Morejón Soler (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net). La Habana.- El acoso psicológico es una crueldad verbal empleada como método por la policía política cubana que aunque atenta contra la dignidad e integridad moral y vulnera los Derechos de la Persona amparados por la Constitución cubana, se emplea en contra de quienes disienten […] Continue reading
El mosquito tigre en la Habana Vieja [29-01-2015 18:30:12] Mario Hechavarría Driggs (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- Larvas del mosquito Aedes albopictus, el llamado “mosquito tigre” fueron encontradas en una ciudadela de la calle Zulueta# 57 en la Habana Vieja. Brigadas de la campaña anti vectorial comenzaron a fumigar toda la zona. Se reportan personas con fiebre y vómitos. […] Continue reading
Gobierno cubano: manía de acusar [29-01-2015 17:37:18] René Gómez Manzano Abogado y periodista independiente (www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- En un artículo mío que publicó CubaNet hace días, refiriéndome a los recientes acuerdos entre Cuba y Estados Unidos, aludí al sin sentido que sería que el régimen castrista volviera a arremeter contra el gran país del Norte. Ironizaba yo […] Continue reading
Story highlights Cuban Catholics start building their first churches since 1959 Religious believers had been seen as suspicious under the Castro regime The new churches are desperately needed, Cuban Catholics Continue reading
Cuba's dissidents and exiles seek a leadership role in the future of Cuba
NORA GÁMEZ TORRES NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
01/29/2015 10:32 PM 01/29/2015 10:32 PM

The historic Dec. 17 announcement that Washington and Havana agreed to
restore diplomatic relations took members of the exile community and
Cuba's opposition movement by surprise.

But now that the shock has subsided, there is a new effort underway for
Cubans on and off the island to join forces and take on a greater role
in both the ongoing negotiations between the two governments and in the
future of Cuba. The dialogue between exiles and Cuban dissidents and
activists is happening in organized gatherings in Miami as well as at
homes across the island.

At a Convention for Democracy in Cuba event held Wednesday evening in
Little Havana, some 150 Cubans and Cuban Americans pledged to set aside
differences and sang Cuba's national anthem together before pitching
ideas for establishing a consensus that would help shape the future
political landscape of Cuba. Among the ideas was establishing a formal
Mesa de Diálogo (Roundtable of Dialogue) between government opponents on
and off the island and creating a citizens network tied to the
Roundtable to enhance the flow of information. The group also discussed
organizing a similar event in Cuba.

While much remains to be seen on how negotiations and civil society's
role will unfold, the Little Havana gathering illustrated how the new
Cuba policy has enhanced dialogue.

Many in the audience expressed support for dissidents in Cuba.

Elvira Casal, who left Cuba in 1961 as part of the exodus of children
during Operation Pedro Pan, said she attended the Convention for
Democracy in Cuba event at the Cuba Ocho cultural center to hear what
dissidents living on the island had to say and how exiles could help
their cause.

"These are the people we need to listen to because they are the ones
living there," Casal said. "If we want to be part of whatever happens in
the future — and I'm not necessarily overly optimistic in the short term
— we Cubans here and there need to take advantage of whatever spaces we
can because the United States is not going to solve our problem."

Ramon Saúl Sanchez, founder of the Democracy Movement, said the new
dialogue between exiles and Cubans breaks traditional patterns.

"It is the first time this happens at this magnitude," Sanchez said. "We
are eager to see how the Cubans can coordinate an effective instrument
and become protagonists of our own destiny, so that the absence of our
voices does not cause someone else to speak for us."

Convention participants also said they would like to develop a
comprehensive plan for changing the political landscape in Cuba to
present at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April. Roberta
Jacobson, the U.S. top diplomat on Cuba, has said that including a broad
range of civil society organizations — including Cuban dissidents — in
discussions at the Summit of the Americas is a priority.

But during his address at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean
States (CELAC) in Costa Rica on Wednesday, Cuban leader Raúl Castro
suggested that only Cuban NGOs with formal United Nations recognition,
in essence those with links to the Cuban state, should participate in
the Summit in Panama.

Follow Nora Gamez Torres on Twitter @ngameztorres

Source: Cuba's dissidents and exiles seek a leadership role in the
future of Cuba | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article8605607.html Continue reading
Arco Progresista: ‘La comunidad internacional debe prestar atención a los traumas del pueblo cubano’ DDC | La Habana | 29 Ene 2015 – 6:03 pm. La oposición socialdemócrata ratifica su apoyo a la normalización de relaciones entre La Habana y Washington. El Partido Arco Progresista (PARP) pidió este jueves a la comunidad internacional que “preste […] Continue reading
Machado Ventura recibe al secretario general del Partido Comunista español DDC | La Habana | 30 Ene 2015 – 12:30 pm. El exeurodiputado de Izquierda Unida Willy Meyer dice que el acuerdo Castro-Obama obliga a la UE a cambiar su ‘ridícula’ Posición Común. La Habana le otorga una medalla. El vicepresidente José Ramón Machado Ventura, […] Continue reading
La CELAC pide el fin del embargo mientras obvia el debate sobre la democratización de la Isla AGENCIAS | San José | 30 Ene 2015 – 1:10 am. Dilma Rousseff y otros mandatarios apoyan las exigencias que Raúl Castro plantea en su negociación con Barack Obama. Los países de América Latina y el Caribe instaron […] Continue reading
Cancelan cita de presidentes de la CELAC por la presencia de un independentista de Puerto Rico AGENCIAS | San José | 30 Ene 2015 – 12:30 am. Daniel Ortega dejó como delegado suyo al puertorriqueño Rubén Berríos, pero Costa Rica y otros países mostraron su repulsa. El presidente de Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, dio […] Continue reading
…  recent and current trends in Cuban imports of goods and services … on Cuba would have on US trade with Cuba, while identifying Cuba’s … of congressionally mandated sanctions against Cuba that are unaffected by an … will open an embassy in Havana, ease travel restrictions on US … Continue reading
Story highlights Cuban Catholics start building their first churches since 1959 Religious believers had been seen as suspicious under the Castro regime The new churches are desperately needed, Cuban Catholics Continue reading
Tras medio siglo de oídos sordos por parte de La Habana, los trámites de extradición de delincuentes buscados por EE UU, han caído en un punto muerto, afirma el diario Sun Sentinel. El FBI compiló una lista de 20 fugitivos por fraude al Medicare que cree se esconden en Cuba Continue reading
… States citizens still need a Cuban visa to visit the country … up commercial airline flights to Cuba, airlines have warned that it … the legislation surrounding travel to Cuba remains vague for American companies … the moment, their services for Cuba will be even less comprehensive. Continue reading
… decades-old limits on travel to Cuba; under regulations issued two weeks … prospects are unclear. The only Cuban-American Democrat in the Senate, Robert … beaches of Varadero, smoking a Cuban cigar that is made by … Cuba libre, which is an oxymoron, is going to liberate the CubanContinue reading
La secretaria de Estado adjunta para Latinoamérica, Roberta Jacobson, y Rosa María Payá, hablarán en la primera audiencia sobre nuevas relaciones con Cuba. Continue reading
[1]One of the few Havanans not happy with the historic agreements of December 17th between President Obama and General Raul Castro was Dagoberto, a guy approaching forty who got out of jail six months ago after serving a six-year sentence for marijuana possession. “I have family in la yuma (US), but because of my drug possession record I don’t qualify for the family reunification program. My only option is to throw myself into the sea and make it to the Mexican border,” he said while drinking a Corona beer in a Havana bar. A couple of times in 2014, Dagoberto tried to reach the United States. “The first time the American Coast Guard intercepted me. I spent $3,000 to buy a motor and gas and with a group of friends we prepared a wooden boat. “The second time I boarded a plane for Ecuador. But customs in Quito sent me back to Cuba. It’s rumored that with the new policy, the Adjustment Act’s days are numbered, for people who plan to leave on a raft or enter through a third country. I have to hurry if I want to get to the North.” In a park in Vedado, two blocks from the United States Interests Section (USIS) in Cuba, where from the early hours in the morning people line up for visas, the topic of discussion is the Cuban Adjustment Act. In the past two years, Ihosvany has been denied a visa four times. But he keeps trying. “A cousin in Orlando invited me and they denied me a tourist visa. Now I’m doing the paperwork to leave for family reunification, to see if I have more luck.” USIS consular officials insist that for those people who want to travel or emigrate to the United States, the strategy of applying over and over for a visa is not the best. Yulia, desperate to leave the country, openly ignores them. In a house near USIS, she fills out the paperwork to take to the consulate again. “Three times they’ve told me no. We are going to see if the fourth time is lucky, because a friend in Chicago got me into a university program. If what they say is true, that the Adjustment Act will be repealed in 2015, there will be another Mariel Boatlift. There are tens of thousands of people who want to leave Cuba.” Every year, the Interests Section awards more than 20,000 visas under the Family Reunification program. In the last 20 years, about half a million people have left the Island through the migration accords signed by Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro in 1994. But demand exceeds supply. Those who don’t have relatives or spouses resort to any trick or simply opt to launch themselves into the turbulent waters of the Florida Straits in a rubber raft. In an attempt to discourage the worrying growth in illegal journeys from the Island, the US authorities have reiterated that the immigration policy and the Coast Guard operations will continue without changes and insist that only Congress can repeal the current laws on Cuban refugees. The Coast Guard issued a government warning, after an unprecedented growth in the illegal flow of emigrants from Cuba during the second half of December and the first days of January, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s announcement of the normalization of relations with Havana. According to analysts in the United States, the steps taken by Obama don’t alter the Cuban Adjustment Act and it is not a priori in danger of being repealed by a presidential act. It is a Federal law, Public Law 89-732/1966, approved by the U.S. 89th Congress. Being a public and general interest law — unlike a “Private Laws” — it can only be amended, revised or revoked by the Congress of the United States of America. But the Cuban rafters appear to have deaf ears. A total of 890 Cubans have been intercepted in the Straits of Florida and in the Caribbean zone, or have managed to make it to the U.S. coast since the beginning of the 2015 Fiscal Year, last October 1. Of them, 577 have done so during December and the first days of January in an escalation that has set off alarms in Washington and Miami. After Obama’s announcement, the Cuban side captured 421 people at sea. Everything seems to indicate that the flow could increase. Cuban-American members of Congress and Senators are questioning the letter and spirit of the law. Many Cubans say they are politically persecuted and so they flee, invoking this when they decide to seek asylum in the United States. But in a few months they return to Cuba, as tourists. Incongruities that are difficult to explain. A majority of Cubans, on both shores, demanded the normalization of relations with the United States and the end of the embargo. But, according to a recent survey conducted by Florida International University, 85% of Cuban-Americans in south Florida favor the continuation of the Adjustment Act. Even among the generation that left Cuba between 1959 and 1962, only 36% favor its elimination, while 64% are opposed. It doesn’t look like a winner. If the relationship between the governments goes down the path of good neighbors, the White House will have no reason to give special treatment to Cuban citizens. If the Adjustment Act was created to legalize the status of thousands of Cubans who fled from the Castro autocracy, then it should be applied that way. And Cubans who take shelter under this law, should only be able to travel to the Island in exceptional cases. Not to spend time with their families or have a beer with friends in the neighborhood. This is privilege enjoyed by no other citizen in the world, to settle in the United States. Either the laws are abided by or their existence makes no sense. Iván García Photo: One of the lines that forms daily outside the United States Interest Section in Cuba to request visas. Taken from “Voice of America.” 20 January 2015 [1] https://desdelahabanaivan.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/cola-seccic3b3n-de-intereses-de-eeu-en-cuba-fm-620x330.jpg Continue reading