Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are
deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible
realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure
development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom
succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently
in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants
encased in a fog of digits.
This year the region will have weak growth of 1.3%, according to
forecasts by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
(ECLAC). A data point that barely manages to transmit the scope of lives
that will be ruined by the region's sluggish progress. Unfinished
projects and a long string of social dramas will be accentuated in many
of these countries in the coming months. The breeding ground from which
However, the major drama remains the lack of horizons formillions of
people on this side of the planet
A Haitian who risks crossing the jungle of Panama's Darien Gap to reach
the United States is driven not only by the miserable conditions of life
in her country, the destruction left by natural phenomena or the
repeated epidemics that cost thousands of lives. The most powerful
engine that moves her is hopelessness, the conviction that in her own
country she will never have new opportunities.
Seeing no end to violence pushes other Central Americans to escape their
countries. In several of these nations gangs have become an enthroned
evil, corruption has corroded the internal scaffolding of institutions
and politicians go from one scandal to the next. Discouragement then
prompts a response quite different from that generated by indignation.
While the latter may push people to rebel, the former pushes them to escape.
Meanwhile, on this Caribbean island, millions of human beings ruminate
over their own disappointment. For decades Cubans fled because of
political persecution, economic problems and weariness. Until 12 January
2017, that generalized choking sensation had a relief valve called the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy, but President Barack Obama closed it a few
days before finishing his second term.
The most staunch critics of that migratory privilege say that it
encouraged desertions and illegal exits. Some people also criticized its
unjust character in that it benefitted and offered entitlements to
people who were not escaping war, genocide or a natural disaster. They
forget, among these arguments, that discouragement also deserves to be
taken into account and computed in any formula that tries to decipher
the massive flight that affects a nation.
A similar error has been committed by agencies such as the FAO, UNHCR or
ECLAC, all of which specialize in measuring parameters such as the
number of daily calories ingested, the effect of climate change on human
displacements, or the percentage decrease in a nation's GDP. Their
reports and statements never evaluate the energy that accumulates under
frustration, the weight of disappointment or the impotence reflected in
When more than three generations of individuals have lived under a
political and economic system that does not evolve or progress, there is
a conviction among them that this situation is eternal and
immutable. They no longer see any horizon and the idea that nothing can
be done to change the status quo becomes rooted in their minds. By
now, many of those born in Cuba after January 1959 have grown up with
the conviction that everything had already been done by others who
That explains why a young man who had recently slept under a roof in
Havana, who had access to a limited but adequate amount of food through
the rationed market and who spent his long free hours on a park bench,
launched himself into the sea on a raft, at the mercy of the winds and
sharks. The lack of prospects is also behind the large number of
migrants from the island, in recent years, who have ended up in the
hands of human traffickers in Colombia, Panama or Mexico.
Washington not only cut an escape path, but the White House's decision
ended up deepening the depression that comes from the chronic absence of
dreams that characterizes our country. The Cuban Adjustment Act, enacted
in 1966, is still in effect for those who can prove they are politically
persecuted, but the most widespread feeling among potential migrants is
that they have lost a last chance to reach a future.
However, this undermining of illusion has little chance of being
transformed into rebellion. The theory of the social pressure cooker and
the idea that Obama closed the escape valve so that the fire of internal
austerity and repression will make it explode is a nice metaphor; but it
misses several key ingredients, among them the resignation that
overcomes individuals subjected to realities that appear unchangeable.
The belief that nothing can be done and nothing will change continues to
be the principle stimulus, in these areas, to lift one's anchor and
depart for any other corner of the planet. The pot will not explode with
a sea of people in the streets bringing down Raul Castro's government
while singing hymns on that dreamed of "D-Day" that so many are tired of
Those who believe that the closing of a one door to emigration will act
like the snap of the fingers to awaken a society whose civic conscience
is hypnotized are mistaken. The cancellation of this policy of benefits
in the United States is not enough to create citizens here at home.
A new bureaucratic barrier is a small thing to those who believe that
they have reached their own glass ceiling and that in their homeland
they have nothing left to do. This quiet conviction will never appear in
tables, bar charts or schemes with which specialists will explain the
causes of exodus and displacement. But ignorance of it means the
specialists will never understand such a prolonged escape.
Far from the reports and statistics that everyone wants to explain,
hopelessness will take Cuban migrants to other places, re-orient their
route to new destinations. In distant latitudes, communities will
flourish that will dine on their usual dish of rice and beans and
continue to say the word "chico" before many of their phrases. They will
be the ones who will let drop small tear when they see on a map that
long and narrow land where they had their roots, but in which they could
never bear fruit.
Source: Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/measuring-hopelessness-yoani-sanchez/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 10 February 2017 — Seven years ago, when the roar of the
winds of a hurricane devastated Havana and the water filtered through
the unglazed living room door of Lisvan, a private worker living in an
apartment of blackened walls which urgently needed comprehensive
repairs, his housing conditions did not interest the snitches on the
block where he lives.
"When I began to be successful in my business and I could renovate the
apartment, from doing the electrical system, plumbing, new flooring,
painting the rooms to putting grills on the windows and the balcony, the
complaints began. What is, in any other country, a source of pride that
a citizen can leave his poverty behind and improve his quality of life,
is, in Cuba, something that, for more than a few neighbours, arouses
both resentment and envy so that it leads them to make anonymous
denunciations", says Lisvan.
So many years of social control by the regime has transformed some
Cubans into hung-up people with double standards. "And shameless too,"
adds Lisvan. And he tells me that "two years ago, when I was putting in
a new floor, my wife brought me the ceramic tiles in a truck from her
work, authorized by her boss. But a neighbor, now in a wheelchair and
almost blind, called the DTI to denounce me, accusing me of trafficking
in construction materials."
Luckily, Lisvan had the documents for the tiles, bought in convertible
pesos at a state "hard currency collection store" — as such
establishments are formally called. But the complaint led to them taking
away the car his wife was driving. In the last few days, while he was
having railings put across his balcony, to guard against robberies, a
neighbor called Servilio complained to the Housing Office that he was
altering the façade of the building, and to the electric company for
allegedly using the public electricity supply. Lisvan ended by telling
me that "It all backfired on him, because everything was in order, and
the inspectors involved gave me the phone number of the complainant,
who, being a coward, had done it anonymously."
According to Fernando, a police instructor, anonymous complaints are
common in the investigation department where he works. "Thanks to these
allegations we started to embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in
the United States.
"People report anything — a party that seems lavish, someone who bought
beef on the black market or a person who drinks beer every day and
doesn't work. It's crazy. Snitching in Cuba is sometimes taken to extremes."
When you ask him what is behind the reports, he avoids the question.
"Because of envy or just a habit of denouncing. These people are almost
always resentful and frustrated and tend to be hard up and short of lots
of things. And not infrequently the complainant also commits illegal
acts," admits the police instructor.
Carlos, a sociologist, believes that large scale reporting, as has
happened for decades in Cuba, is a good subject for specialist study.
"But lately, with widespread apathy because of the inefficiency of the
system, the long drawn-out economic crisis and the lack of economic and
political freedoms, as compared to the 60's, 70's and 80's, informing
And he adds. "It's true that in the beginning the Revolution was the
source of law. But it also smashed to pieces deep-rooted traditions and
social norms. Fidel Castro justified launching the practice of informing
on people by reference to Yankee Imperialism, class enemies, and as a
way of protecting the Revolution."
In Cuba, the CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) are the
basis of collective vigilance in the blocks and neighborhoods of 168
municipalities on the island. Those same committees provide information
to the State Security Department about dissidents, that elevates
unfounded gossip and marital infidelities to the category of 'secret
"In the 21st century, when inequalities have increased, the most diehard
Fidelistas, who are still to be found in blocks and neighborhoods,
continue with their complaints. It's a mixture of several things, from
base instincts to failure to adapt to new circumstances. It will take
years for this dreadful habit to disappear," concludes the Havana
Diana, an engineer, recalls the time when the State granted a week's
holiday on the beach, a TV, a fan or a coffee. "The ancient squabbles in
the union meetings to decide who should get the prizes were a theatrical
spectacle. It was embarrassing. Yesterday's shit gave us today's smell."
It is likely that in Cuba, if we bet on democracy and are lucky enough
to choose good rulers, we will make progress in economic terms, and the
country will start to develop and progress.
But the damage caused to Cuban society by informants, as approved by the
olive green autocracy, is anthropological. Recovering a basket of
interpersonal values will take time. Perhaps ten years. Or more.
Translated by GH
Source: Informers Approved by the Cuban Government / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/informers-approved-by-the-cuban-government-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 6 February 2017 — Officials, students, athletes,
workers, members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution,
foreign journalists and even tourists. Almost all have been victims of a
flagrant, illicit operation authorized by the Cuban government. It is a
business that involves millions, one that the Castro family is not
inclined to give up: the production and sale of jerseys worn for
non-stop campaigns and political marches.
Allow me to cite two examples.The visual common denominator during the
series of tributes the Cuban people paid to Fidel Castro between
November 29 and December 4 was a cloud of white T-shirts, some of which
were printed with the phrase "I am Fidel."
Millions of people sporting similar clothing paid their tributes at
Havana's José Martí Memorial, at events in Santiago de Cuba and
throughout the tour of the late commandante's ashes through the island.
The same shirts were seen on January 3 when hundreds of thousands of
Havana residents and representatives from the Artemisa and Mayabeque
provinces paraded in front of the Plaza of the Revolution during
commemorations for the 60th anniversary of the landing of the yacht
Granma and Revolutionary Armed Forces Day.
Cuba's "jersey business" is unquestionably generating millions of dollars.
The Cuban textile industry is engaged in a process of technological
revitalization intended to modernize its equipment and expand its capacity.
One beneficiary is the state-owned company Hilatex, which produces and
markets towels. Others are companies such as Alquitex, which produces
training uniforms for the Armed Forces and Public Health as well as
sanitary tissues for expectant mothers.
The Ducal y Boga group is licensed to import fibers, yarns, fabrics made
of cotton, polyester and lycra, knitted and woven fabrics, semi-finished
articles, threads, clothing accessories, dyes, chemicals, sewing
machines, machinery for knitting and other textile-related machinery
along with spare parts.
Whether they are commercial in nature or not, all Cuban businesses — and
this includes those whose products are handmade — are under a regulatory
directive to buy T-shirts from an unnamed producer that nobody wants to
A source with access to the chain of production of this unique item —
one which, like the mathematical constant and irrational number pi,
shows up in every government parade and store — informs me that the
product is both expensive and of poor quality. Nevertheless, Cuban
businesses are obliged to buy them at three dollars per unit, twice its
Let's do a simple calculation. If we multiply $3.00 — the price Cuban
companies are forced to pay — by the number of people wearing them in
political marches, it is not unreasonable to think that the income
generated by this business would be the envy of any number of companies.
In the midst of a major campaign to combat corruption, the question that
arises is: Why does everyone turn deaf, dumb and blind when faced with
evidence of a national crime?
A Spanish businessman, who struggles with all his might to combat this
fraudulent monopoly, notes that he has met with the directors of the
retail chains Caracol, TRD and Tiendas Panamericanas.
To all of them he has offered a product of higher quality at a lower
price. He has made large scale tender offers and has even complained to
the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba yet he has never managed
to break into the market.
"The Castros," says this native of the Iberian peninsula, who asks in a
pleading tone that his name not be used — "have a good eye for business
and enough power to crush any competitor."
Who is behind this hidden lucrative business?
The mystery would seem harder to crack than the formula for Coca-Cola.
But dissatisfied men have no tolerance for secrets. The small, unknown
factory that produces these textile riches is located in Punto Cero, the
Castro family compound, and its operations are, without the slightest
doubt, illegal. This is because it relies on unpaid military labor or,
more precisely, slaves in battle fatigues.
And, like icing on a cake, we discovered that the person who runs this
corrupt and profitable company is Alexis Castro, son of the late Cuban
dictator. To be specific, this is a multi-million dollar business whose
workplace conditions are without dignity.
Source: A Million Dollar Business Run by Fidel Castro's Son / Juan Juan
Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-million-dollar-business-run-by-fidel-castros-son-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Missions / 14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton
14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton, Quito/Miami, 10 February 2017 —
A group of Cubans in Ecuador united in the Movement X Cuba (MXC)
requested in an open letter to the next present of Ecuador, the end of
the medical missions of the Cuban government in the Andean nation.
Doctor and president of the association, Duniel Medina, signed the
letter that expresses "concern" over the opinions of some of the
presidential candidates that the organization considers "xenophobic and
poorly focused," especially with regards to the presence of Cuban
citizens in the country.
"We believe it is important to release this communication due to the
kinds of statements the candidates are making. Many of them believe that
Cubans come here to take Ecuadorian jobs and they think we are all
employees of the Cuban government," says Medina in statements made to
Movement for Cuba defines itself as a peaceful organization that seeks
change in Cuba. During its short months of existence has created 3
different cells inside of Cuba. It is fundamentally composed of Cubans
who migrated to Ecuador but who maintain a close relationship with their
country of origin.
The group of Cubans also stays updated on the situation of their
undocumented colleagues in Ecuador and has assisted in several ways the
hundreds of migrants who asked for an airlift that would allow them to
travel safely to Mexico to continue their journey to the United States.
"We are making a call for attention so that they can differentiate
between the Cuban doctors and health professionals who live in Ecuador
and share the same fate as the Ecuadorian people," the note adds.
The MXC, representing Cuban doctors and health professionals who
migrated from Cuba to Ecuador, is expressing its desire to put an end to
the medical agreements signed by President Correa and the Cuban
Government "that undermine the employment opportunities of Ecuadorian
and foreign citizens who live in Ecuador."
Some candidates for presidency of the Republic have emphasized the need
to eliminate contracts with Cuba and give priority to Ecuadorian doctors.
Cynthia Viteri, one of the candidates, has called for the "recovery" of
jobs in public health by Ecuadorians, as has Guillermo Lasso, who in an
interview with the newspaper El Universo indicated that the health
sector's priority is "more non-Cuban Ecuadorian doctors."
The agreement of cooperation with Cuba stipulates that the salary of
Cuban professionals is of 2,700 dollars, of which only 800 dollars ends
up in the hands of the professionals themselves while the rest stays
with the Cuban government.
The Movement condemns this practice: "We advocate that Cuban doctors be
free and can decide their future, their country of residence and have
the freedom necessary to exercise such a worthy profession."
Hundreds of Cuban doctors took advantage of the free visa that Ecuador
provided between 2008 and 2015 to emigrate to that country. Through a
relatively easy process, health professionals achieved the accreditation
of their qualifications and were integrated into the national health system.
According to official data, in 2015 almost 800 foreign doctors were in
Ecuador, the great majority of Cuban nationality.
After the migratory crisis triggered by the thousands of Cubans who were
stranded in Central America in 2015, Ecuador reinstated the visa
requirement for citizens of the island. It is estimated that Ecuador
hosts the third or fourth largest group of Cubans abroad, with a
population of over 40,000 Cubans.
Ecuador is immersed in its electoral campaign. On February 19 the
country will elect a new president and decide whether to continue with
the program of the current president Rafael Correa or to distance itself
from the left.
Source: Cubans In Ecuador Ask Ecuador's Next President To End The
Medical Missions / 14ymedio, Diana Ramos and Mario Penton – Translating
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-in-ecuador-ask-ecuadors-next-president-to-end-the-medical-missions-14ymedio-diana-ramos-and-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 10 February 2017 — Without posters,
lists of demands or protest demonstrations, Havana's private taxi
drivers are responding to the recently imposed fare caps. The
authorities made a bold move, adjusting their previous fare caps – which
the drivers got around by breaking their journeys into pieces and
charging separately for each piece – to specifically apply the price
controls to newly defined portions of a single trip. In response, the
self-employed taxi drivers have offered a Friday from hell for Havanans
trying to travel around the city.
At the edge of the sidewalk, desperately waving their arms, were
hundreds of people this morning along the routes of the "almendrones" –
as these shared taxis are called, in reference to the "almond-shape" of
the old American cars called into service to run them. But the drivers
rarely stopped on the grounds that they would only make "direct trips"
between the first and last points of the journey. In this way they avoid
fragmenting the payments and lowering the costs of the travel, in
accordance with the new regulations.
Lacking a union to represent their demands, the drivers are trying to
force the government to withdraw the pricing measure, by ensuring
congestion in urban transportation. For its part, the government knows
that a good share of the city's residents need these shared taxis to get
to their workplaces or schools. Without them, the country will be paralyzed.
As of yesterday, a silent pulse is developing in the streets, where
right now the worst affected are the passengers.
Source: A Day Without Private Taxis / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-day-without-private-taxis-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/ Continue reading
14ymedio, 10 February 2017 – The fight for popularity between Fidel
Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara continues even after the death of both
leaders. According to an article in last Saturday's official newspaper
Granma, some 150,000 people – both Cubans and foreign tourists – have
visited Fidel Castro's tomb in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de
Cuba. The mausoleum was opened to the public on 4 December 2016.
For its part, the Ernesto 'Che' Guevara Sculpture Complex in Santa
Clara, dedicated to the Argentine guerrilla who died in 1967, received a
total of 374,900 visits throughout 2016. Che died in Bolivia at the
hands of the Army of that country and his remains were allegedly exhumed
in 1997 by a forensic team designated by Fidel Castro himself, just in
time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his assassination.
After a dubious process undertaken by Cuban doctors in Bolivia,
described by Havana as a "scientific feat," the alleged remains were
brought back to Cuba and buried alongside the other guerrillas who
accompanied him in his unsuccessful attempt to export the Revolution to
South America. For Cuba, which was in the midst of the economic trauma
of the Special Period, Che's "return" was a much-needed injection of morale.
Despite the high number of visitors to the Guevara tomb – about 1,000
visits a day in average in 2016, including Cubans and many foreigners,
especially Argentines, Italians and French – the forecasts announced by
the authorities suggest that the struggle for post
mortem popularity will be won by Fidel Castro.
The pantheon erected to the former president, who died on 25 November
2016 at age 90, receives an average of 2,000 visits per day. At that
rate, and with the increase in visits the government predicts for the
summer months, the number of visitors to the remains of Fidel Castro
will reach 1 million before the end of the 2017.
Everything seems to indicate that the decision is already taken in favor
of the former president. It is a political issue and the numbers do not
have to be true. Nor does it matter whether Che's remains are his or
whether Fidel Castro's ashes are really deposited in the interior of
that strange artificial rock erected next to José Martí's mausoleum.
Source: Fidel Castro's Ashes and Che's Bones Compete to Attract Visitors
/ 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/fidel-castros-ashes-and-ches-bones-compete-to-attract-visitors-14ymedio/ Continue reading
La selección cubana participará en el torneo de Rotterdam, el principal espectáculo deportivo de Holanda, que se celebrará del 1 al 9 de julio próximo, confirmó el presidente de la Federación Cubana de Béisbol (FCB), Higinio Vélez, reporta EFE.
Aún "es muy temprano para dar un equipo, pero es seguro que asistiremos al Torneo de los Puertos de Rotterdam (Holanda) este año", dijo Vélez.Continue reading
The Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi 1:54 p.m. CT Feb. 11, 2017
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is supporting a new effort to help create more
export opportunities for Mississippi farmers by lifting a U.S.
restriction on private financing for American agricultural exports to Cuba.
The Mississippi Republican is an original cosponsor of the Agricultural
Export Expansion Act legislation, which would eliminate the prohibition
against providing private credit to finance agriculture sales to Cuba.
Financing such exports is limited to upfront cash payments, effectively
blocking American farmers from the Cuban market.
"Removing this barrier would help open the door for more Mississippi
rice and other agriculture exports," Cochran said in a news release.
Agriculture is a $7.6 billion industry in Mississippi and supports
approximately 29 percent of the state's workforce. In 2013, agriculture
exports totaled an estimated $2.3 billion, with soybeans, broilers and
cotton being the leading exports.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, and John
Boozman, R-Arkansas, would allow banks and companies to finance the sale
of American agricultural commodities to persons or entities in Cuba. The
statutory restrictions on financing of these products remain in place
despite the former Obama administration last year acting to remove
restrictions on non-agricultural products.
Source: Cochran backs bill to expand ag exports to Cuba -
http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2017/02/11/cochran-backs-bill-expand-ag-exports-cuba/97605980/ Continue reading
En plenas vacaciones andan molestos. Turistas que llegan a la encantadora y derruida Cuba, uno de los destinos de moda, tropiezan con inconvenientes donde menos lo imaginan: en hoteles de cuatro o cinco estrellas, reporta la AFP.
Una mañana, el francés Jean Orsini se encontró con una bañera oxidada, y luego esperó largo tiempo por la cena. Disgustado, ve un parecido entre Cuba y la ex Unión Soviética, más allá del comunismo.Continue reading