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Daily Archives: May 15, 2016

Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

Rubí y Jessica ríen mientras cuentan lo que han vivido. Es una risa salpicada de dolor que resuena en la noche habanera como un amargo bolero. Hablan con 14ymedio durante una de las jornadas contra la homofobia y la transfobia, que este año promueven la no discriminación de la comunidad LGBTI en ambientes laborales.

Pero se muestran escépticas de que sus oportunidades profesionales comiencen a cambiar con esa iniciativa. Las dos travestis fueron expulsadas de la Facultad de Medicina en Santiago de Cuba por vestir con prendas femeninas. Rubí llegó a la capital huyendo de la intolerancia que alcanza tintes insoportables en las provincias del interior y en los pequeños pueblos. Nunca pudo ser doctora como soñó cuando niña y ahora se prostituye para sobrevivir, pero aún se imagina en bata blanca y con un estetoscopio colgado al cuello.

Jessica cuenta que llevó el caso de su expulsión universitaria hasta un abogado del Centro Nacional de Salud Sexual (Cenesex) pero no tuvo respuesta. Su historia se repite, una y otra vez, provocando en quienes la viven el silencio, la queja, el suicidio o la emigración, pero la marginación social es un componente inseparable del drama.

Conocida como Paloma Dietrich, Lesly García lleva 29 años dedicada al transformismo.  “Antes de hacer esto traté de trabajar, pero en aquel momento el Estado no dejaba trabajar en ningún lugar a los homosexuales que se sacaban las cejas, se pintaban el pelo o se los dejaban largo, o vestían prendas femeninas”, evoca. “Solo tenían alguna posibilidad como auxiliar de limpieza en hospitales”, comenta a 14ymedio.

A pesar de que no existe una legalidad laboral discriminatoria, en ciertos sectores como el sistema educativo no se permite que los transgéneros o travestis ocupen cargos relacionados con estudiantes. Yojanne Mora Duarte, más conocida como Donatela y proveniente de la provincia Santa Clara, es licenciada en bibliotecología pero no ha podido ejercer su profesión en un centro escolar.[[QUOTE:"Yo no me siento masculino, me siento mujer, tal y como me ven”]]

“Me exigían estar vestida de hombre, estar pelado y cumplir los requisitos que deben seguir las personas heterosexuales, pero yo no me siento masculino, me siento mujer, tal y como me ven”, alega.

Otros dentro de la comunidad LGBTI han corrido con mejor suerte. Abraham Bueno García, conocida como Imperio y con una larga trayectoria de transformista, cuenta que “gracias a la labor del Cenesex hice una audiencia en la agencia Caricato” y ahora trabaja en diversos espectáculos y programas, aunque reconoce que la suya no es “la historia de todos los transformistas”.

Una opinión con la que coincide la doctora Ana Gisandes, master en educación sexual y representante del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex) en Santiago de Cuba. En declaraciones para 14ymedio vía telefónica, la especialista explica que en la esfera laboral cubana “no se ha eliminado totalmente la discriminación hacia las lesbianas, gays, bisexuales, transexuales e intersex (LGBTI)”.[[QUOTE:“No iban a aceptar que representara a la revolución con mis plumas y mis lentejuelas”]]

En la escena artística y el sector de la salud pública han encontrado más espacios para realizarse profesionalmente los miembros de la comunidad LGBTI cubana. Mientras que las mayores dificultades para hallar empleo se están en las dependencias vinculadas al Ministerio de las Fuerzas Armadas, el Ministerio del Interior y la esfera de las Relaciones Exteriores, explica a este diario Lucy, una transexual que trabajó muchos años como secretaria de un alto funcionario del gobierno.

“Es raro que nos dejen llegar hasta allá arriba y porque hay mucha desconfianza hacia nosotros”, comenta Lucy quien hace un lustro se jubiló y dice ahora sentirse “más discriminada”, porque ya no tiene “las influencias de cuando trabajaba”. Según explica “siempre es más difícil para los transexuales que pasamos de hombre a mujer, porque caemos en una posición más frágil debido al machismo que hay en Cuba y el acoso de los jefes y compañeros de trabajo es algo que se repite donde quiera que vamos”.

Lucy cuenta que en varias ocasiones recibió presiones de parte de sus superiores para intercambiar favores sexuales pero “nunca pude denunciarlo porque no me iban a creer y si me creían yo solo era un mariconcito más, mientras que al otro lado había alguien con poder”, recuerda.

De haber podido elegir hubiera querido ser “diplomática en alguna embajada de Cuba por el mundo”, pero Lucy reconoce que “me tocó un tiempo en que eso era imposible”. Porque “no iban a aceptar que representara a la revolución con mis plumas y mis lentejuelas”, ironiza.


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  RELACIONES BILATERALES

Sobre la cubierta del octogenario bergantín-goleta, atracado en el puerto de la Bahía de La Habana, 29 ciudadanos españoles, la mayoría de ellos residentes en Cuba, rindieron juramento a la bandera



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Seis activistas del Movimiento Cubano Reflexión fueron arrestados tras salir a la calle portando un cartel donde pedían a Raúl Castro hacer realidad las propuestas de Obama en su discurso a los cubanos. Continue reading
Travestis disfrazados de bailarinas de cabaret, gritando consignas y agitando banderas arcoíris estremecieron este sábado la más concurrida avenida del centro de La Habana con una bulliciosa conga contra la … Click to Continue » Continue reading
Sobre la cubierta del octogenario bergantín-goleta atracado en el puerto de la Bahía de La Habana, 29 ciudadanos españoles, la mayoría de ellos residentes en Cuba, rindieron juramento a la bandera española. Continue reading

La Confederación Venezolana de Industrias (Conindustria), la principal organización gremial industrial de Venezuela, estimó este domingo que en el país petrolero cerca de 8.000 empresas han cerrado en los últimos 20 años.

"Presumimos que hay en comparación con 1996 cerca de 8.000 empresas menos, lo cual es dos terceras partes menos que las que hubo entonces", dijo en una entrevista con el canal privado Televen el presidente de Conindustria, Juan Pablo Olalquiga.

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El vicepresidente venezolano, Aristóbulo Istúriz, afirmó este domingo que no habrá referendo revocatorio contra el mandatario Nicolás Maduro por supuestos errores de la oposición en la recolección de firmas para convocar la consulta, reporta la AFP.

"Aquí Maduro no va a salir por referéndum porque primero aquí no va a haber referéndum (...) Ellos saben que no va a haber referéndum porque primero lo hicieron tarde, segundo lo hicieron mal y tercero cometieron fraude", dijo Aristóbulo en un acto de respaldo a Dilma Rousseff, transmitido por la televisora gubernamental.

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… rebuilding, but how long can Cuban really afford to put it … ?  Sherrington: My guess is that Cuban will put it off as … Continue reading
Berta Soler dijo que las autoridades del régimen de La Habana mantienen en vigor su política de impedir que las integrantes del grupo lleguen a misa, y participen en la campaña Todos Marchamos. Continue reading

Tras cinco días en la capital cubana, el emblemático buque escuela zarpará a primera hora del lunes rumbo a Miami

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Un grupo de 21 cubanos, entre ellos tres niños, se encuentran varados en el corregimiento de Sapzurro, en el departamento colombiano de Chocó, a pocos metros de la frontera con Panamá, país que cerró desde hace varios días el paso a los emigrantes de la Isla después de que más de 3.500 se acumularan en su territorio.

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… will be in Havana Monday to meet with their Cuban counterparts for … to engage Cuba. The two nations reopened respective embassies, Havana and Washington … an initial visit to Havana and several other Cuban ports of call … in Cuba, and direct scheduled airline flights are not approved by CubanContinue reading


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Atrapados en un limbo migratorio tras el cierre de la frontera entre Panamá y Colombia, los cubanos esperan que el gobierno panameño les permita cruzar a su territorio y continuar su travesía hacia Estados Unidos. Continue reading

La representación cubana en el Grand Prix de judo de Almaty consiguió dos medallas de oro y un bronce, mientras que Brasil zanjó su participación con una plata y un tercer puesto, informa EFE.

Iván Felipe Silva e Idalys Ortiz consiguieron vencer en las categorías de -81 y +78 kilos, al imponerse en sus respectivas finales al italiano Matteo Marconcini y a la turca Kayra Sayit.

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… year's presidential election. Cuban told The Washington Post that … voters, according to the newspaper. Cuban, also a cast member on … ; The 57-year-old Cuban declined to identify the anti-Trump Republicans. Cuban became the … twice in 17 seasons since Cuban bought the team. "It … Continue reading
Travestis disfrazados de bailarinas de cabaret, gritando consignas y agitando la  bandera del arcoíris, estremecieron este sábado la más concurrida avenida del centro de La Habana con una bulliciosa conga contra la homofobia, encabezada por la hija del gobernante Raúl Castro Mariela Castro y la actriz transgénero de EEUU, Candis Cayne. En la "Conga cubana contra la homofobia y la transfobia" participaron unos 400 homosexuales, bisexuales, travestis... Continue reading
Durante los conciertos en el Karl Marx, este sábado y domingo, se presentan imágenes y videos para recordar a aquellos músicos como Ibrahim Ferrer que fueron fundadores del proyecto, pero ya no están. Continue reading
Cuba: Detenidos y multados por pedir que se hagan realidad las palabras de Obama Martinoticias.com Seis activistas del Movimiento Cubano Reflexión fueron arrestados tras salir a la calle portando un cartel donde pedían a Raúl Castro hacer realidad las propuestas de Obama en su discurso a los cubanos. Activistas del Movimiento Cubano Reflexión (MCR), en […] Continue reading
Rousseff's Ouster Will Have a Negative Impact On The Cuban Economy /
14ymedio

14ymedio/Agencies, Havana, 13 May 2016 — The suspension of the president
of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, is bad news for Cuba, which, despite detente
with Washington, is feeling the effects of the recession affecting its
allies in South America and Africa. Brazil will review its short-term
policy toward the island, as revealed on Friday to Reuters, by a
diplomat from that country who was stationed in Havana.

Over the past 13 years, the Government of Brazil provided Havana with at
least 1.75 billion dollars in loans on favorable terms, resulting in
criticism from the opposition, which is also angered by the "More
Doctors" program, which sent some 11,400 Cuban doctors to work in Brazil.

These projects will be reexamined after the vote in the Brazilian Senate
this Thursday and the ouster of president Rousseff for allegedly
falsifying public accounts.

"There will be a short-term review of our policy toward Cuba because the
money has run out. All this is not on hold," said a Brazilian diplomat
who asked to remain anonymous.

Some of the Brazilian loans were spent on the expansion of the Mariel
Special Development zone, with repayment periods of 25 years at rates of
between 4.4% and 6.9%, according to official data from Brazil. The
detractors of this policy believe that the terms of the agreements have
been extremely generous to a country like Cuba, with recognized solvency
problems.

It is not expected that the interim government led by Michel Temer will
end the collaboration with the with the Cuban doctors program working in
Brazil since 2013, although it will not contract with new doctors. "This
model of cooperation is debatable and he will not support, although I
doubt they throw the Cuban doctors out of the country," a diplomatic
source told Reuters.

Last month, Rousseff extended the health services contract for three
years, a measure that is currently pending in Congress.

Cuban medical personnel work in some of the remotest regions of Brazil,
where they enjoy the support of local authorities. The holding of
municipal elections in October is one of the factors that Congress
should consider before opting for a drastic interruption of the program
of cooperation.

Allies like Venezuela, Brazil and Angola have been used their enormous
oil revenue during the boom years—now diminished by the very low price
per barrel—to pay for medical and educational services from Cuba, making
these a principal source of hard currency for the island..

The thaw reached by President Raul Castro with the United States has
been a boost for tourism, but revenue from this sector accounts for only
about a third of the seven billion earned in 2014 through the export of
health and education services.

The Government of Cuba began to cut imports and request longer deadlines
for payment to foreign suppliers last year, and is falling behind in its
obligations this year, according to Western diplomats and businessmen.
"Clearly, they have a liquidity problem. Some of our companies receive
payments and others do not," a European ambassador told Reuters on Monday.

The official forecast points to a slowdown in economic growth for 2016
compared to 4% increase recorded last year.

Source: Rousseff's Ouster Will Have a Negative Impact On The Cuban
Economy / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/rousseffs-ouster-will-have-a-negative-impact-on-the-cuban-economy-14ymedio/ Continue reading
El Trigal Wholesale Agricultural Market Closes Its Doors / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 13 May 2016 – Less than three years after it opened,
the El Trigal agricultural market closed its doors this Friday after it
was announced on primetime television news last night by the vice
president of the provincial government, Luis Carlos Gongora Dominguez.

Located in Havana's Boyeros municipality, the center had been heavily
criticized by the official press itself in recent months, for its high
prices and their possible causes. An article published on the Cubadebate
site today enumerated the irregularities that occurred in the market,
such as "violations, bad management, corruption, lack of control."

Gongora Dominguez said that the sale of agricultural products would
cease "temporarily" and the agricultural cooperative that manages the
place would also be dissolved, because of "a group of irregularities"
that were presented.

The vice president of the provincial government did not detail the
causes that have led to the closure of El Trigal, and the television
news just announced that in the coming days they will explain to people
what happened through "Cuba Dice" (Cuba Says), an information segment
that addresses issues such as shortages, the diversion of resources and
bureaucratic excesses, from an official point of view.

With the closing of El Trigal many of the retail agricultural markets
lost their source of supply in the Cuban capital, including local
markets and pushcart vendors.

The El Trigal market, with 16,000 square meters and 292 stalls, was
opened with great fanfare in December of 2013, and was created with the
purpose, among others, of "eliminating obstacles to the marketing of
agricultural products." The cooperative that managed El Trigal was
established with ten partners and the place was basically conceived to
concentrate the production from Artemisa and Mayabeque provinces for
distribution in Havana.

However, high prices and shortages in that market have been the reality
in the just over two years of the life of El Trigal.

Source: El Trigal Wholesale Agricultural Market Closes Its Doors /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/el-trigal-wholesale-agricultural-market-closes-its-doors-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Antonio Castro's Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique Works in
Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 12 May 2016 — The most expensive labels in Cuba are
on the verge of the abyss. Mango, Gas, Zara, Paul & Shark, Adidas,
Lacoste, Desigual and a few others present their calling cards to the
Cuban government while naïve foreign businessmen in the high-end textile
industry look on, allowing themselves to be seduced. The stores pretend
to be profitable but it is all an illusion. They are nothing more than a
houses of cards, fragile and in danger of collapse.

Commercial concessions like these are doled out on the basis of their
usefulness through politically connected friends and with people who,
directly or indirectly, wield authority, hold decision making power or
have influence.

One very recent example happens to be talk of the town: Patricia Nuñez,
an anchor on the educational channel and the current fiancée of Antonio
Castro Soto del Valle, son of Fidel Castro. She recently made her debut
as manager of a new Desigual store in the shopping mall of the Hotel
Comodoro in Miramar.
Fashion is the new obsession among Cuba's elite. But not even close ties
to Cuba's monarchs are enough to improve the bottom line of these luxury
clothing brands. Having a presence in Cuba can certainly be an added
plus, albeit a costly one. Economically speaking, the thrill of being on
the island mainly results in huge and continuous losses.
The government's unpaid bills are piling up in the accounting books of
these retail companies. But that is not the main reason these stores are
suffering. It is due to their employees who — with a work ethic that
includes criminality (specifically, handling stolen goods) — make steady
money tax-free while dealing a body blow to their own employers.

Another issue is that, generally speaking, what is being sold in stores
like those in the Hotel Comodoro are knock-offs imported by merchants
who circumvent Cuban custom regulations, or who sell merchandise
produced clandestinely by seamstresses — with or without self-employment
licenses — who attach fake labels made by local artisans.

These include blouses, skirts, shirts, leggings and pants. Anything that
can be purchased for a price of between five to seven convertible pesos
is sold as "the real thing" at one-hundred times the original price. As
a result, the legitimate stores lose while these shopkeepers win.
It is for this reason that Cuba's well-to-do have not been seduced into
buying this stuff. They have no interest in the Hotel Comodoro shopping
mall.

What interests them are places like New York's Fifth Avenue, London's
Bond Street, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Tverskaya Street in Moscow,
Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, Wangfujing in Beijing, Avenue Montaigne in
Paris, Via Monte Napoleone in Milán, P.C Hooftstraat in Amsterdam and
Madrid's Serrano Street.

Why? Because for them, as well as for those who talk so much about
sacrifice and revolution, the shopping experience at these places far
exceeds the average earthling's retail expectations, whether they live
inside or outside of Cuba.

Source: Antonio Castro's Fiancee, Manager of Desigual: How a Boutique
Works in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/antonio-castros-fiancee-manager-of-desigual-how-a-boutique-works-in-cuba-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
The Enemies of Modern Democracy / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2016 — What do the autocratic Castro brothers, the
solemn Vatican, Islamic fundamentalists and the madhouse that is North
Korea have in common? The answer is simple: devotion to dogma, lack of
transparency and unchecked caste-based power.

In theory communism should be music to the ears of a laborer who works
eight hours a day and is not paid until the end of the month. Imagine
it: a world without class distinctions or the need for money or budgets
to maintain standing armies.

It sounds like one big peaceable kingdom. But in practice nothing works
and for one very good reason. As we all know, the world is populated by
capricious, imperfect, narcissistic, ambitious and competitive human beings.

A few are community-minded and help out their neighbors. But most only
care about their own relatives. If the world is not a big, bloody
slaughterhouse — a place where the strong trample the weak — it is
thanks to a body of laws that stipulate long years in prison, or in some
cases the penalty of death, for homicide and criminal activities.

Something similar is at work in the international arena. China does not
use force against Taiwan for fear of reprisals. Russia and the United
States do not engage in nuclear warfare because it would destroy the planet.

There is a similar dynamic when it comes to North Korea and South Korea,
or in India and Pakistan's struggle over Kashmir. There are fewer
conflicts between nations in the twenty-first century than there were a
century ago.

There are now civil wars, medium-intensity brawls between two or more
states and a bizarre Islamic caliphate that has gained ground in the
Middle East due to the apathy of the major world powers.

There are zones of influence. Russia has colonized a region of Ukraine,
Great Britain is landlord of the Falkland Islands and no nuclear power
challenges the mighty US army on the North American continent.

Despite the danger that nuclear weapons pose, they have a deterrent
effect. Political and religious dictatorships are among humankind's
congenital traits.

It does not matter what mystical ideology or faith they represent. It
does not matter whether it is right or left. Or whether it is Catholic,
Islamic or Jewish. Its structural framework is dogmatic and anti-democratic.

The pope reigns until he dies or until powerful forces within the
Vatican push him out, as happened with Benedict XVI. The thug state of
North Korea will be governed by the Kim dynasty until the day its people
have had enough.

Cuba's Castroism as well as China's and Vietnam's communist plutocracy
will end when political factions recognize that the democratic model
works better, generates more wealth and produces a better quality of life.

People's revolutions are not common in totalitarian societies. Fear and
social control keep the governed in check. The exercise of absolute
power is always accompanied by corruption.

Greed is an unpleasant human trait. Even in democratic countries — in
spite of their independent judiciaries, transparency, free elections,
parliamentary rule and free press — politicians, businessmen and bankers
still like dipping their hands into the till.

But if a district attorney or bright investigative reporter goes
snooping, he could face prosecution. Just look at the FIFA case, the
International Athletics Federation or the Petrobras corruption scandals.

Citizens of democratic countries feel the battle has been lost. For
every person who goes to jail for embezzling public funds or getting
rich illegally, half a dozen get off scot-free.

But there are institutions and media outlets to hold them accountable.
That is not the case in autocratic systems. In the Castro brothers'
Cuba, only the state brings egregious corruption scandals to light.

The press is its obedient ally, the judiciary is another branch of its
power and the legislature is a joke, voting unanimously as directed by
the executive.

The Vatican's authoritarian style of governance also creates problems.
The legacy of the papacy — with its fratricidal conflicts, crimes and
wars in the name of religion — is a part of world history.

Could John Paul II or Benedict XVI have democratized the Vatican? They
could not and would not. Francis is trying, but there are attempts to
sweep cases of pedophilia and corruption under the rug.

Emiliano Fittipaldi, an Italian reporter who has investigated the Holy
See's finances and illicit businesses is awaiting trial by the Vatican
and could be sentenced to as much as eight years in prison.*

His crime? Publishing a book, Avarice, in which he explores these
allegations. It is not God's fault that human beings have a penchant for
dynastic power and taking what does not belong to them.

it is part of human nature. Fixing human beings or trying to construct
an individual without flaws only paves the way for a new type of
dictatorship. Cuba is a good example. Therefore, the best and only
option is to choose democracy. For all institutions.

*Translator's note: Italian journalists Emiliano Fittipaldi and
Gianluigi Nuzzi are accused of having published books about Vatican
waste, greed and mismanagement that were based in part on confidential
Holy See documents. The books are based on documents leaked in 2012 by
Pope Benedict's butler. (Source: Daily Mail).

Source: The Enemies of Modern Democracy / Iván García – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/the-enemies-of-modern-democracy-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Cuba Gets Connected
A yellow submarine breaks the information embargo
Matt Welch from the June 2016 issue

"For you, the Internet is like water," our tour guide told us as we
barreled through Havana's storied La Rampa neighborhood after a night
out. "For us, it is like caviar."

She motioned out the bus window where packs of happy-looking Cuban
youths were clustered together around the magic blue-green glow coming
from their iPhones, the light piercing through the man-made darkness of
yet another local power outage.

Like the open presence of Miami tourists and the American flag over the
nearby U.S. embassy, civilian Internet access in Cuba is an absurdly
recent phenomenon. Only last year did the omnipresent government open a
few dozen wireless shops where Cubans can buy access to the information
superhighway for the dear price of $2 an hour, roughly 8 percent of the
average monthly salary. And yet there were more people standing in line
outside one Internet store I saw in downtown Havana than there were
customers inside a large supermarket across the street. Of course,
there's little incentive to throng a market selling only one kind of cheese.

Raul Castro's communist dictatorship does its level worst to keep the
virtual experience as comparatively miserable as Havana's crumbling
bricks-and-mortar reality, but corralling the Internet is like tackling
water from a fire hose.

The government tries to herd most consumers into a state-controlled
intranet (complete with its own top-down knockoff of Wikipedia), but the
desire for access to Skype and other video links to relatives in the
States is just too strong in a country where few have phones that can
make international calls. Airbnb is already becoming a major force in
Havana tourism and real estate, as the government shruggingly
acknowledges it has no money or competence to build the infrastructure
necessary to accommodate the sharp increase in much-needed tourists. The
joint liberalizations of Cubans finally being allowed to buy and sell
property and Americans finally being allowed to send money back to
relatives left behind have combined to create some startlingly handsome
home and business renovation projects. Now those ubiquitous '50s
American cars don't have to be held together with rubber bands and scrap
metal; Uncle Roberto in Miami can send real parts.

Most intriguing of all are the mysterious paquetes semanal ("weekly
packets"), small storage drives containing American, Cuban, and
international movies, television, and sports that are spread around by
"data mules" and sold on the cheap. Nobody seems to know who came up
with or executes the idea, or what role the government plays (in a
country that still has a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution on
every block, it's hard to believe that the packets are spread in
successful defiance of the police state), but the results provide a
welcome relief to the artificial cultural and informational starvation
that the Castro brothers have cruelly inflicted on this country since 1959.

To a degree not fully appreciated by Americans not of Cuban extraction,
Havana was the dominant commercial and cultural capital of not just the
Caribbean, upon which the landmass of Cuba sits like a cocked
revolutionary beret, but also the Gulf of Mexico, toward which the
city's fine natural deep-water harbor faces. From its founding in the
early 1500s all the way through the mid-20th century it was Havana, not
Miami (or even the culturally similar melting-pot port city of New
Orleans), that most influenced the broader region's music, literature,
sports, and trade.

Port towns don't just derive a fringe benefit from international
exchange, they subsist on it like oxygen. By choking off the Cuban
economy through the disaster of state ownership, centrally planning
trade relationships not with neighbors but with the faraway Soviet
Union, and imposing all sorts of censorial controls and physical
scarcity on everything from newspapers to popular music, the Castros
alienated Havana from its own deeply felt sense of self, effectively
smashing a pillow in the face of a people's entire cultural identity.

But culture has a funny way of outliving even the longest-lasting
dictatorships. When I first traveled to Cuba, in 1998, the single most
shocking thing in a country full of constant jaw-drops was the
informational black hole. Because the Castros censored even so much as a
mention of Cubans living in the United States—the Cuban-American musical
legend Celia Cruz was not permitted to be broadcast on the island's
radio stations until 2012, for example—my interactions with the locals
were dominated by requests for basic information about people like
Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcí­a, and Liván Hernández. The main government
newspaper, Granma, was six or eight pages long and widely used as toilet
paper (since there were constant shortages of the latter). Most
information of value was transmitted orally, like a game of telephone,
rather than through any official channels. "Say, where can I get my
hands on a baseball schedule?" I would ask Cubans. The question confused
them.

I vividly remember attending a hush-hush gathering in a private home
with a handful of Cuban longhairs and a middle-aged American lefty who
had assembled for the semi-clandestine purpose of listening to, talking
about, and singing along with The Beatles. Yes, that's right: Such was
Fidel Castro's vice-like grip on the means of production and consumption
for that you could not listen to "Yellow Submarine," nor for that matter
wear your hair long as a man, for much of the 1960s and '70s without
running afoul of the cops. And God help anyone caught in the act of
being a homosexual, an aberration punishable by forcible relocation to a
quarantined camp.

Yet now not far from that house you can visit a nice little neighborhood
park that was rechristened in 2000 by Fidel Castro himself as "Parque
Lennon," complete with a life-sized statue of the sitting ex-Beatle.
"What makes him great in my eyes is his thinking, his ideas,'' the
caudillo said at the unveiling ceremony, obscenely. "I share his dreams
completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality.''

Well, not quite. The rehabilitation and attempted co-opting of the man
who wrote the immortal lines "But if you go carrying pictures of
Chairman Mao / you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow" was more a
grudging acknowledgment that even totalitarianism cannot forever tamp
down on the human insistence on cultural exchange. Local musicians had
been defiantly playing Beatles songs and trading memorabilia in that
park for a decade before Castro jumped on the bandwagon. The demise of
the Soviet Union cut off the island's figurative sugar daddy, forcing
the regime to reorient toward Western tourists, who are not exactly fond
of gratuitous musical censorship. The Ministry of Culture even opened up
a nearby music club and bar five years ago called the Yellow Submarine.

What will Cubans do with their newfound latitude? Critics of lifting the
embargo scoff that President Barack Obama's opening to the island has
not yet produced democratization, and claim that exposing Cubans to more
U.S. dollars will only enrich, instead of undermine, the regime.

But they are wrong about the latter. As Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.), who
accompanied Reason Foundation on a recent trip there, and who has been
visiting and agitating for change on this communist island for 16 years,
pointed out in an interview with reason.com's Nick Gillespie: "You have
about 25 percent of Cubans who work fully in the private sector….The big
change is the number of Cubans being able to not have to rely on
government and therefore can hold their government more accountable. I
would say that we've passed the point of no return."

Totalitarians will always try, but you can't keep a great culture down.

Source: Cuba Gets Connected - Reason.com -
http://reason.com/archives/2016/05/15/cuba-gets-connected Continue reading
Returning to Cuba for family, culture and, for some, a painful past
By Maria Perez of the Naples Daily News

MIAMI — Waiting in line at the Miami International Airport to check in
for her Eastern Airlines flight to Cuba, Ana Perez misses her mother,
who is recovering from surgery to remove a tumor in her breast.

Perez, 47, left Cuba 17 years ago and now lives in Miami. She returns
almost every year to visit her parents.

"I want to hug them, see my mom after the surgery," she said in Spanish.

Along with suitcases carrying clothes and other travel necessities,
Perez has packed medicine and food, everything she said her family in
Cuba lacks. She plans to spend most of her time at home with her
parents. But she hopes to take her 14-year-old son to Varadero and Havana.

"I am trying to give him good memories of Cuba, because mine are not the
best," she says. "It's hard over there."

Like many Cuban Americans, Perez chose spring break in March to return
home to connect with family at the other side of the straits. They want
their children to speak Spanish, to know where they come from, to keep
what is beautiful about their country.

School vacation periods are high season for Cuban families who want to
make their trip home. More than 63,000 U.S. residents and citizens born
in Cuba traveled to the island nation in the first quarter of 2016, said
José Luis Perelló, Tourism professor at Havana University. He sees those
who emigrated as a significant market for Cuba´s tourism sector.

Some Cuban American families return regularly to the country. They wait
in line at the Miami airport, their luggage full of clothing, coffee,
soap, shaving machines, shoes, medicines, smartphones, and toys for
their relatives.

It´s only a few hours until they can hug their parents, siblings, sons
and daughters or childhood friends they left behind.

***

Judit Sánchez is not planning for much sightseeing, she says while
waiting to board the charter flight to Cuba that already has been
delayed for more than an hour.

Both Sánchez, 48, and her 13-year-old daughter, Yojades Castro, left
Pinar del Río two and a half years ago. Sánchez wanted a higher-paying
job so she could help her family in Cuba. On this trip, Sanchez only has
a couple of days to visit and then she must return home.

"I´m going to see my two sons and my three grandchildren," she lists.
"My mother, my brother, they are all there."

She is carrying toys for her grandchildren, clothing, shoes, and sweets.

"There aren't many sweets there," she says.

Many Cuban Americans visiting their families on the island travel with
extra suitcases or boxes filled with U.S. goods, everything from toilet
paper to flat screen television sets, and coffee to smartphones. This is
how Cubans have imported many U.S. products for years, offering
relatives any comforts they can afford.

Moving to the U.S. was difficult for Sanchez's daughter. She misses
their family, her friends, playing in the streets of Cuba.

"I´m going to play with my friends, be with my nephews, my brothers,"
Yojades says. "Spend time with my brothers and my dad."

Sanchez is a tailor, but in Cuba, she had a bakery. She misses her town,
Pinar del Rio on the west end of the island.

"I love to sit down on the sidewalk, and chat with the neighbors, like
before," she said. "Take out my shoes on the sidewalk and feel I´m Cuban."

Castro's friends from her hometown have many questions for her.

"They ask me how schools are here, how things are here," she says. "I
tell them, this is like Cuba, but with more things."

***

Near Sánchez and Castro sit Maria Fernández, who also is waiting in the
Miami airport with her 7-year-old great-granddaughter, Sofía Jaspe. She
is taking her great-granddaughter to Havana, where Fernández will spend
her 80th birthday.

This is Sofia's third trip to Cuba, with her first when she was 2. She
has an uncle there.

Fernández visits her two sisters, three brothers and a son there, among
other relatives. She came to the U.S. 13 years ago to care for her
daughter, who was sick. It´s not easy, she said, to move to another
country at her age, but her daughter needed her.

Now living with her granddaughter, she keeps the traditions at her
Florida home.

"I am the one who cooks at home and I cook a lot of Cuban food," she says.

Sofía says she misses her uncle and wants to see her friends in Havana.
She also wants to go to the Malecón, a popular promenade in Havana by
the sea. She says she likes it because it´s like a beach. If she could,
Sofia said she would be in Havana and Miami at the same time.

***

Lany Blanco, 38, has never been to Cuba. Neither has her husband, or
their two sons, 5 and 7. But they all trace their roots back to the
island country. Blanco´s grandmother and her husband´s parents were born
in Cuba and then moved to the U.S.

"We had heard the stories about Cuba," she said. "We always wanted to go."

Blanco wants their children to know where they come from. She wants to
encourage them to keep using Spanish.

She knows her grandmother is from Santa Clara and his parents are from
San José de las Lajas. They have family over there but they don´t know
anyone.

In this trip, they will only visit Havana and spend a day in Varadero.
They have booked an apartment in Havana through Airbnb´s site.

Blanco says her mother-in-law accompanied them to the Miami airport in
the morning.

"She started crying," Blanco said.

Her mother-in-law, she says, came to the U.S. with the Pedro Pan
operation, one of the more than 14,000 Cuban children that were sent
unaccompanied to the U.S. by their parents in the early 1960s. Their
parents sent them to the U.S. because they didn´t want them to be raised
under a communist system. Blanco´s mother-in-law was 15 when she left
Cuba. She refuses to visit the country until the government releases all
political prisoners, Blanco says.

"She wants to come back, but because of her principles, she can´t," she
says.

At the airport, both Blanco and her husband, Alejandro Blanco, were
thrilled to be on their way to Havana.

"My culture is from there, but I´m not from there," he says. "I want to
get to know the country for the first time."

Source: Returning to Cuba for family, culture and, for some, a painful
past -
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/local/returning-to-cuba-for-family-culture-and-for-some-a-painful-past-32bc4582-c652-49bd-e053-0100007f84b--379536591.html Continue reading
Spanish foreign minister visits Cuba
AFP
May 14, 2016

Havana (AFP) - Spain's foreign minister was in Cuba on Saturday for a
bilateral visit that comes two months after the European Union and the
communist-run country signed a deal to normalize relations.

Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo landed in the capital Havana late Friday,
telling reporters upon arrival that the March agreement, the culmination
of nearly two years of negotiations, "makes us very happy."

The official Cubadebate website said the visit -- Garcia-Margallo's
second in a year and a half -- was intended to review the bilateral
relationship between the two countries.

Spain is one of the leading investors in Cuba, particularly in the
tourism sector, and is also ranked as the island's third-largest trading
partner after Venezuela and China.

On Monday, Garcia-Margallo will place flowers at a memorial to Jose
Marti, a leading figure in Cuba's battle for independence from Spain,
according to an official itinerary provided by the Cuban foreign ministry.

He will also meet with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, it said.

The top Spanish diplomat arrived in the Cuban capital after visiting
Ecuador, where he toured areas devastated by a powerful earthquake last
month.

Garcia-Margallo previously visited Cuba in November 2014.

Source: Spanish foreign minister visits Cuba -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/spanish-foreign-minister-visits-cuba-183607776.html?ref=gs Continue reading
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