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"I Only Know That I Am Afraid" / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — For almost the first three years of his regime, Fidel
Castro was not interested in Cuban intellectuals. He did not forgive
their passivity during the years of revolutionary insurrection. They had
not put bombs in the street, nor did they engage in armed conflict with
the previous dictator's police. Even those who lived abroad did not do
anything for the revolutionary triumph. He never forgave them. Neither
he nor other political leaders considered them revolutionaries either
before or after the Revolution.

Che Guevara had left it written forever in his little Marxist manual
Socialism and Man in Cuba: "The guilt of many of our intellectuals and
artists resides in their original sin: they are not authentically
revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will produce
pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees."

But the pears that Che mentioned had nothing to do with human beings
because an intellectual, writer or artist is characterized by his
sensitivity, his pride, his sincerity. In general, they are solitary and
proud.

But also they are, and that is their misfortune, an easy nut to crack,
above all for a dictator with good spurs.

During those almost first three years of the Revolution, the most
convulsive of the Castro regime — the number of those shot increased and
the few jails were stuffed with more than 10,000 political prisoners —
surely writers did not fail to observe how Fidel Castro was cracking the
free press when after December 27, 1959, he gave the order to introduce
the first "post-scripts" at the bottom of articles adverse to his
government, supposedly written by the graphics workers.

It was evident that Fidel Castro, who controlled the whole country, did
not want to approach them to fill leadership positions of cultural
institutions founded by the regime, like the Institute of Art and
Cinematographic Industry, House of the Americas, the Latin News Press
Agency and numerous newspapers, magazines, and radio and television
stations that were nationalized.

For minister of education he preferred Armando Hart. For the House of
the Americas, a woman very far from being an intellectual, Haydee
Santamaria. For the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Papito
Serguera, and for the Naitonal Council of Culture, Vicentina Antuna and
Edith Garcia Buchaca, two women unknown in cultural domain.

The first approach that Fidel Castro had with writers, June 16, 1961, in
the National Library of Havana, could not have been worse. It was there
where he exclaimed his famous remark, "Within the Revolution,
everything; outside the Revolution, nothing," and where he made clear
that those who were dedicated to Art had to submit themselves to the
will of the Revolution, something that is still in force.

The maximum leader left that closed-door meeting more than pleased on
seeing the expressions of surprise and fear of many of those present,
and above all by the words of Virgilio Pinera, one of the most important
intellectuals of the 20th century when he said: "I just know that I am
scared, very scared." That precisely was what the new Cuban leader most
needed to hear from the intellectual throng: Fear, to be able to govern
at his whim.

Two months later the Fist Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was
held, and UNEAC was founded. The intellectuals had fallen into line.

If something was said about that palatial headquarters, property of a
Cuban emigrant, it is that the Commandant was allergic to all who had
their own judgment, and for that reason he would never visit it, as it
happened.

It is remembered still today that in a public speech on March 13, 1966,
he attacked the homosexuals of UNEAC, threatening to send them to work
agriculture in the concentration camps of Camaguey province. The
"Enlightened One," as today the president of UNEAC Miguel Barnet calls
the Cuban dictator, kept his word. Numerous writers and graphic artists
found themselves punished with forced labor in the unforgettable
Military Units to Assist Production — UMAP.

These Nazi-style units were created in 1964 and closed four years later
after persistent international complaints. If anyone knew and knows
still the most hidden thoughts of the intellectuals, besides their
sexual intimacy, it is the Enlightened One, thanks to his army of spies,
members of the political police who work in the shadows of the mansion
of 17th and H, in the Havana's Vedado where UNEAC put down roots.

In 1977, one cannot forget the most cruel and abominable blow that the
Enlightened One directed against the writers of UNEAC when his army of
political police extracted from the drawers of the headquarters the
files of more than 100 members — among them was mine as founder — so
that they were definitively and without any explanation separated from
the Literature Section of that institution.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014

Translated by mlk.

Source: "I Only Know That I Am Afraid" / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-only-know-that-i-am-afraid-tania-diez-castro-hemosoido/ Continue reading
Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I)
April 15, 2014
Regina Cano

HAVANA TIMES — Many a time, when I get up in the morning, I don't need
to look at the clock, for, at exactly 7 am every day, a man who sells
bread and invariably walks past my house blows a whistle and yells out:
"Bread, come get your bread!"

For some years now, this man, now around 70, pushes a cart loaded with
sacks of bread (usually fresh), sparing people the walk to the
neighborhood bakery.

Every morning of every day, in other places around Havana, other elderly
men and women start on their daily walk in search of people they can
sell such things to. Some of them rely on suppliers, others make their
own products.

Currently, elderly Cubans – part of the population that does not
contribute to the GDP – render different kinds of services of this
nature, for making ends meet is becoming harder and harder as a result
of rising prices and the repercussions of corruption. The elderly, for
the most part retirees, have measly pensions and hardly any other income
to help them get by. Sometimes that pittance is added to the family
income and in others is their only individual substance.

In recent days, the government has repeatedly referred to the aging of
Cuba's population, something which was already being announced by the
migratory avalanche that took place in the 90s, a phenomenon which takes
on a different dimension now and has resulted in the loss of a great
part of an entire generation.

At the time, most of the Cuban men and women who left the country,
fleeing the economic crisis, were young people, young people who today
swell the work forces of other countries and have had their children there.

Though they took the memory of their loved ones with them and promised
to help them financially, in many cases, they cannot offer those who
stayed behind as much help as they need or as they would want.

The cost of living in Cuba has also undermined the quality of life of
many people now over or pushing 70, who live in poverty and are
malnourished.

In addition to old people selling bread, sweets, peanuts or pastries,
one sees elderly men and women selling tamales, working as errand people
who take others their rations, gas bills and mail and even carrying
people's groceries.

In a fairly large area of Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, two
elderly street vendors have become well known in the neighborhood: one
carries peanuts inside a can heated up with coals (to keep the product
warm) and the other, an elderly lady, sounds a tiny bell to sell the
different pastries she makes.

In other parts of the city, you run into elderly people who roam the
streets, dirty or wearing rags, people who rummage through garbage bins
in search of things, selling used plumbing or electrical fixtures, spare
parts some people buy from them.

Some of them sell toothpaste, candles, tampons, bags of cotton balls,
used shoes, cigarettes, popsicles, plastic bags or chicken bouillon.

Many of them are no longer able to find employment at State institutions
and find illegal means of making a living.

Though all of this may be common in other societies, in the relatively
recent past, retirees were a prioritized sector in Cuba. Now, this is no
longer the case.

Well, folks, the situation has become worse and worse and has become
more noticeable as time passes. These elderly vendors are part of the
daily life of all of Havana's neighborhoods, as we may well be one day,
when we join the ranks of this army whose glorious battles are a thing
of the past.

Source: Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I) -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103010 Continue reading
Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the
news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the
hijacking of the Regla-based boat "Baraguá." They were trying to flee
the country and get to the United States.

Leftist newspapers, sympathetic to the Cuban regime, tried to justify
the act, writing: "the government wanted to strike at the roots of
airplane and boat hijackings." They admitted that the punishment was
intended to send a message, meaning that none of the accused was
entitled to a fair trial.

Some went further. Heinz Dieterich Steffan (who later became the
ideologist of "Socialism of the XXI Century"), told on his website how
the then-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was sending a message to the
White House: "You have declared war and your first soldiers have
fallen." And he later added: "I want you to know how to interpret the
message of the firing squad, so there is no more bloodshed."

The executions occurred just over a week after the group of 11 young
men, armed with a gun and a knife, had diverted the ferry some 30 miles
offshore.

How did it all happen?

The hijackers, upon boarding the boat, fired a shot in the air and one
yelled: "This is fucked! We're going to the U.S.!" After 30 miles the
fuel ran out and the boat drifted. The sea was very choppy, so in an act
of tragic naivety they agreed to be towed to the port of Mariel with the
promise that the authorities there would give them fuel.

They didn't tie anyone up (as—according to family members of the
accused—the prosecution claimed). If they had, how do you explain that
upon arriving at Mariel some passengers, at a signal from security
agents, jumped into the water? Enrique Copello Castillo, who tried to
prevent one of the foreigners on board from escaping, had the gun. But
he didn't use it even when the situation got out of his control. This
shows that he was not a criminal, just a young person desperate to reach
the United States, in search of freedom and the chance for personal
advancement.

On April 8, 2003, after a summary trial, the sentence was issued:
Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro L. Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis
Martínez Isaac were condemned to death. The rest of those involved in
the attempted hijacking were given prison sentences: life imprisonment
for Harold Alcala Aramburo, Maykel Delgado Aramburo, Ramon Henry Grillo
and Yoanny Thomas Gonzalez; 30 years for Ledea Wilmer Perez; and from 2
to 5 years for the women traveling with them.

In March of that same year, the government had jailed 75 human-rights
activists, independent journalists, and political dissidents. These were
in the Villa Marista prison when the hijackers were taken to that
infamous headquarters of the Cuban political police. Ricardo González
Alfonso, the now-exiled independent journalist and one of the 75, has
left behind a disturbing account of the last hours of Enrique Copello
Castillo, who shared his cell.

The day of the trial, a State Security captain took him to an office to
explain that, although they were seeking the death penalty for Copello
Castillo, there was a chance he would not be executed. He therefore
asked for González Alfonso's cooperation in helping save the condemned
man's life if he tried to commit suicide. In light of what happened on
April 11, when the condemned were taken before the firing squad without
notice to their families, it can be interpreted that the captain was in
charge of "supply": he could not allow the scapegoats to escape their
own sacrifice. How could they make an example of Copello Castillo if he
had not attended his own execution?

Danger Zone

On San Francisco Street in Havana, between Jesus Peregrino and Salud
streets, is the building where Bárbaro L. Sevilla García lived with his
mother, Rosa Maria. Some neighbors remember what happened on April 11,
2003. The street was full of cars with military license plates from 6:00
am., forming a police blockade. Some women from the Interior Ministry
knocked at the door of Rosa Maria to tell her that her 22-year-old son
had been shot at dawn. The woman started screaming and ran out to the
street naked, yelling the whole time: "Down with Fidel!" and
"Murderers!" Afterward she was forced to leave the country, say the
neighbors, who did not give their names for out of concern for their safety.

A short time later police began moving into the building on the corner,
on Salud Street. Even today the area is considered "dangerous."
Neighbors also warned this reporter not to take pictures of the
demolished middle balcony where the mother and her son lived, because
the green building on the corner of Jesús Peregrino is the DTI
(Department of Technical Investigations), a division of the Interior
Ministry.

They did not use explosives, but charge will be used in court

Why so much harshness and speed in the execution of punishment if there
was no alleged injury or loss of life during the kidnapping? The lawyer
Edilio Hernández Herrera, of the Cuban Legal Association (AJC,
independent), has prepared a legal opinion that reveals how the law was
broken in Case 17 of 2003.

The defendants were tried for the crime of Acts of Terrorism. Law No. 93
"Against terrorism" was published on December 24, 2001, in the Official
Gazette.

In the opinion of Hernández Herrera, the portions of the law that apply
to the crime committed would be Articles 14.1 and 16.1.a, pertaining to
the taking of hostages and acts against the safety of maritime
navigation. But the court sentenced the boys for acts that certainly did
not happen. The other offense charged, from Articles 10 and 11.c,
referred to "acts committed with explosives, chemical, biological or
other substances." With this they intended to justify the sentences of
the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and independent journalist,
one of the political prisoners of the Case of the 75, shared a cell in
Villa Maristas with Dania Rojas Gongora, age 17, who was on the boat.
She was the girlfriend of Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who was shot. The
girl told how another mother learned that her son had been shot the day
she was to bring him toiletries. The last time Dania saw her boyfriend
alive, one of the guards said sarcastically: "Plan now how many children
you are going to have."

Roque Cabello has no doubt in stating:

"The dictator Fidel Castro wanted blood. He was furious also because in
the midst of this, sending the 75 political dissidents to prison was
turning out to be a fiasco. That gained worldwide condemnation. It was
his decision: execution and life imprisonment for these young people. So
those who are now continuing to serve a life sentence are prisoners of
Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eleven-years-since-the-baragua-lilianne-ruiz/ Continue reading
Refugees pose financial challenge
By: James Whittaker | james.whittaker@cfp.ky15 April 2014

The cost of detaining and repatriating illegal immigrants, often moving
through the region on makeshift boats, is proving a challenge for many
small island nations in the Caribbean, according to a United Nations
representative.

Dr. Buti Kale, the deputy regional representative for the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees, said challenges faced in the Cayman
Islands are mirrored in neighboring countries.

He said the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas each spent more than US$1
million last year on the issue. According to statistics from a Freedom
of Information request late last year, Cayman spent around CI$600,000 to
house, feed and repatriate Cuban migrants in 2012 and 2013.

The Cayman Islands, because of its proximity to Cuba, is one of the most
affected islands in the region, according to Dr. Kale, who was speaking
at the Red Cross in George Town on Thursday evening.

He said the standards mandated by the United Nations, under
international treaties, are fundamental. But he acknowledged that doing
the right thing could be an expensive business.

"It is not always that countries and territories do have adequate means
to provide assistance to these people. That's when the Red Cross and
others have to supplement whatever assistance the government provides,"
he said.

A delegation from the Cayman Islands government will travel to Cuba next
month to renegotiate the Memorandum of Understanding which commits
Cayman authorities to certain enforcement actions and sets out a
timetable and shared costs for returning illegal migrants.

The cost of processing, detaining and returning migrants, as well as
resettling legitimate asylum seekers, has been an issue for authorities
in Cayman.

Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer for Home Affairs with the Cayman
Islands government – also speaking at the Red Cross – suggested that
detaining illegal immigrants for extended periods of time while awaiting
authorization from Cuban authorities to transfer them, without travel
documents, adds to the financial challenge.

"We have a group of migrants who arrived on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18 –
according to the MOU, they should be repatriated within three to four
weeks. They are still here ...

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens," said Mr. Howell.

He added, "Our level of migration is three times percentage-wise what
the U.S. has to deal with. As a country with financial constraints,
there are limitations on what we can do."

Dr. Kale, who visited the detention center and met with government
officials during his brief visit, acknowledged that many countries are
facing financial challenges. He said the Bahamas government works with
nonprofit organizations to reduce costs.

"Instead of systematically detaining people, they are working with the
Church of God in order to keep people in their shelter," he said.

Cayman is one of only a handful of countries in the region that has
proper detention facilities and a processing system for migrants.

Dr. Kale believes there are issues across the region.

"In some cases, the conditions are substandard. They have to elevated.
Yes, it costs money, but it is all about abiding by international
standards," he said.

The United Nations expert also touched on an issue that has troubled
some locals – the prohibition, under the MOU, against providing support
to boatloads of migrants and helping them on their way.

"There is a unique phenomenon where people are assisted to move on. The
position of UNHCR is that when people arrive in an irregular fashion in
a country, you have got to screen them ...

"If they are going to be assisted in an onward movement, the authorities
of the arrival destination have got to be apprised of the imminent
arrival, otherwise you have a disorderly movement of people."

He said it is important to process migrants properly to find out their
circumstances and ascertain if they are entitled to asylum. He added
that it is good that people in the Cayman Islands want to help, but any
assistance has to be managed properly and not impede the official
processing.

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens."

Wesley Howell, Cayman Islands deputy chief officer for Home Affairs

Source: Refugees pose financial challenge :: cayCompass.com -
http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2014/04/15/Refugees-pose-financial-challenge/ Continue reading
Coast Guard Launches Rescue After Mysterious Raft Washes Ashore
By Kayle Fields
Apr 14, 2014 7:00pm

The U.S. Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission today near
Floridana Beach, Fla., after a mysterious raft washed ashore this
morning full of personal items.
Steve and Shelby Crouse said they spotted the vessel while having coffee
on their beach-front porch around 8 a.m. The homemade 18-foot raft had a
wood frame and a metal mast, reading "Hecho in Cuba", or made in Cuba.
With the help of two other men, Steve Crouse brought it to shore, he
told Florida Today.
That's when the three discovered the contents on the vessel: 21 plastic
bottles, 40 syringes and packs of medical tubing, labeled "MEDICUBA," a
child-sized shoe, a woman's bra, a hairbrush, a Spanish-language Bible,
a carton of apple juice, and a potato.

What wasn't on the mysterious raft full of personal items? People.

That's what led the Coast Guard, Brevard County Sheriff's Department and
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to search the area by
boat and helicopter for any possible occupants.
Lori Phatterplace from the Brevard County Sheriff's Department said
their efforts in the search are over. "We treated it as a person in the
water protocol, but we never had any information that anyone was in the
water." Phatterplace told ABC News. "We haven't located anyone from the
raft."
"We hope to God they made it," Shelby Crouse told Florida Today. "Who
knows if we'll ever find out."

Source: Coast Guard Launches Rescue After Mysterious Raft Washes Ashore
- ABC News -
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/coast-guard-launches-rescue-after-mysterious-raft-washes-ashore/ Continue reading
Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 13, 2014

(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled " Raul
Castro Goes in Reverse")

Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law "approved" by the usual
parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the
town on the topic of "Cuba", for the Island's official as well as for
the independent and foreign press.

With the relaxation of the existing law–enacted in 1995–the new
regulation is aiming to throw the ball to the opposite field: if Cuban
residents of the US cannot invest in Cuba currently, it would no longer
be because the regime bans it, but because of the shackles imposed by
the embargo, a trick of the elderly olive green crocodile that continues
with its wiles and snares despite the collapse of the system.

Amid the expectations of the government's and of aspiring investors,
there stretches a wide tuning fork of the ever-excluded: the common
Cubans, or the "walking Cubans" as we say, whose opinions are not
reflected in the media, magnifying their exclusion.

This time, however, the cancellation of the innate rights of Cubans is
causing social unrest to multiply, in a scenario in which there are
accelerated shortages in the commercial networks and persistent and
increasing higher prices and a higher cost of living.

Rejection of the Investment Law

Shortages, as well as inflation, indexation and bans for certain items
of the private trade, have caused many family businesses to close since
January 2014 due to the uncertainty surrounding the heralded–and never
properly explained–monetary unification.

In addition to the lack of positive expectations, these are the factors
that thin out the social environment and lead to generally unfavorable
reviews of the new law and its impact within Cuba.

An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after
the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of
the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the "approval"
that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49
were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many
cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic
about laws–in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various
aspects of the law.

The main reasons for the people's discontent are summarized in several
main points: the new law excludes, arbitrarily and despotically, Cuban
nationals, which implies that the lack of opportunities for the Island's
Cubans is being maintained.

Foreign investors will not only have great advantages and tax
considerations which have never been granted to the self-employed,
tariff concessions with respect to imports (which is just what traders
in imported items asked for and was not granted); the State will remain
the employer of those who will labor in foreign-funded enterprises,
implying consequent hiring based on Party loyalty–be it real or fake,
and taxed wages; widening social gaps between sectors with higher levels
of access to consumption and the more disadvantaged sectors (the latter
constantly growing).

At the same time, many Cubans question the vagaries of government policy
which, without any embarrassment, favors the capital of the expats-–the
former "siquitrillados*, the bourgeoisie, gypsies, worms, traitors,
scum, etc."–over those who stayed behind in Cuba.

The logical conclusion, even for those who stayed relatively associated
with the revolutionary process, or at least those who have not openly
opposed the regime, is that leaving the country would have been a more
sensible and timely option to have any chance of investing in the
current situation. There are those who perceive this law as the regime's
betrayal to the "loyalty" of those who chose to stay, usually Cubans of
lesser means.

Another topic that challenges the already diminished credibility of the
government is the very fact of appealing to foreign capital as the
saving grace of the system, when, the process of nationalization of
1959, it was deemed as one of the "fairer measures" and of greater
significance undertaken, to "place in the hands of the people" what the
filthy bourgeois capital had swiped from them.

Cubans wonder what sense it made to expel foreign capital and 55 years
later to plead for its return. It's like going backwards, but over a
more unstable and damaged road. Wouldn't we have saved ourselves over a
half a century of material shortages and spiritual deprivation if we had
kept companies that were already established in our country? How many
benefits did we give up since the State, that unproductive, inefficient
and lousy administrator, appropriated them?

What revolution are you taking about?

At any rate, the majority has a clear conscience that the revolution and
its displays of social justice and equality are behind us, in some
corner of the twisted road. "Do you think this new law will save the
revolution?"

I provocatively ask an old man who sells newspapers in my neighborhood.
"Girl! Which revolution are you referring to, the one that made Batista
flee or the one that is making all Cubans escape? The 1959 revolution
was over the moment 'this one' handed over the country to the Russians,
now the only thing the brother wants is to give it back to the Americans
and to keep himself a nice slice."

I probably never before heard such an accurate synthesis of what the
history of the Revolution means today to many a Cuban.

*Translator's note: Those who lost investment and personal property when
companies were nationalized in 1959 and early 1960's. From one of
Fidel's speeches, "we broke their wish bone and we will continue to
break their wish bone".

Translated by Norma Whiting

11 April 2014

Source: Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/driving-in-reverse-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
The Revolution's Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen
Posted on April 13, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba. Jose Manuel Rosado, 74 years of age, from Havana del
Este, stands in line at four in the morning to be among the first to
"fill up his checkbook."

The bank opens at 8:30 for multiple transactions. Many other people
like Jose Manuel will wait patiently, on foot, whether in intense sun or
cold and rain if it is winter, in order to cash their retirement. Jose,
his two-hundred forty pesos (ten dollars average), which will vanish in
the first food purchases and payments for services.

Maria Victoria, 81 years old, stands in line in front of Branch 286 of
the People's Savings Bank — a state bank — in the San Miguel del Padron
township:

"I retired at 65. I was a cook in a business the last thirty. I worked
another eight years. The money goes to deficient nutrition. I
"resolved" my food at my work, do you understand, for my home. Now I
almost cannot walk because of my ulcerous legs, I am diabetic. I rent a
pedicab to go get my cash. A dollar going, another returning. Fifty
pesos spent, but it is dangerous to walk through broken, dark streets,
exposed to robberies to go to the bank."

She pays another fifty pesos monthly on installment for a bank loan for
the purchase of her Chinese refrigerator. She has paid off five years,
five are still left.

Build up for whatever official or individual management: mail, Currency
Exchange, tax payment, liquidation sale and transfer of property and
vehicles, fines, repayments, deposits, bonds, required seals–foreign and
national currency–monthly payments for dwelling, loans retirement and
pension payments. Craziness!

Pensioner Eloy Marante, 76 years old, pays triple the tax for his
courier license. Day by day, he loads, transports and distributes gas
cylinders to homes with his tricycle, in order to obtain a supplement
for his lean pension.

"We run errands in the warehouse, attentive to if they are selling the
piece of chicken allowed to those on a special "health diet." We pay
electricity, telephone, gas. We take the little kids to school and pick
them up; take the snacks to the kids in high school, also we do favors
for neighbors for a small tip. Jobs that the family throws to the old
people. The worst: standing in unending lines to exchange bills for
coins because business clerks and bus drivers say they don't have
change! An fraud*,because the government does not demand
responsibility. . ." says Jose Manuel.

Milagros Penalver, director of Budget Control for the Ministry of Labor
and Social Security, says there are 672,568 retirees and pensioners out
of 2,041,392 people over 70 years of age, according to the Population
and Household Census of 2012.

Significant is the prediction by the Center for Population Studies and
development of the National Office of Statistics: 33.9 percent of the
population will be over six decades old in 2035. The birthrate
continues in permanent decline because of factors so adverse to procreation.

*Translator's note: The fraud is refusing to give the customer coins and
so the business or bus driver "keeps the change."

cosanoalen@yahoo.com

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

Translated by mlk

Source: The Revolution's Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-revolutions-pensioners-reinaldo-emilio-cosan-alen/ Continue reading
State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research
By Quincy J. Walters, STAFF WRITER
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014

In 2006, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that
prohibited Florida universities from funding travel to "terrorist"
states, including Syria, Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
But the politics behind that bill may be prohibiting academic research
eight years later.
Frank Muller-Karger, a professor of biological oceanography, said the
ban has posed obstacles for his research.
Access to Cuban waters needs to be re-opened for the examination of
biodiversity, he said. Marine life doesn't acknowledge borders, and what
happens in Cuban waters is often consequential to Floridian waters.
"A lot of the resources that we use — in terms of lobsters, corals and
fish — come drifting over from Cuba and we don't necessarily understand
how, when or why," he said.
Prior to 2006, Muller-Karger said he was able to use academic funding to
study the interconnected system of American and Cuban waters.
But after the bill, state funding for such research is prohibited.
"I think that's a gap in our knowledge and the only way to fill that gap
is to work with people over there and sample and understand the
resources better," he said.
The appeal to end the restriction isn't motivated by politics,
Muller-Karger said. It is motivated instead by the pursuit of knowledge
regarding the nature of the world we all share.
This isn't the first time Florida's terse relations with Cuba have
created challenges for academics at USF, though.
In 2011, Noel Smith, curator of the USF Institute for Research in Art
(IRA), was one of eight Florida faculty plaintiffs along with the
American Civil Liberties Union who filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's
travel ban to Cuba, a ban that hindered the IRA's ability to host Cuban
artists or travel to Cuba to seek artists.
At the time, Rachel May, director of the Institute for the Study of
Latin America and the Caribbean, said USF once offered a Cuban studies
certificate for graduate students, but the program is no longer offered
after a study abroad program could no longer be offered.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court stated they would not hear the case,
leaving the ban in tact and many professors, such as Muller-Karger,
still searching for solutions.
Mark Amen, director of Graduate Political Science Studies, said
Florida's isolationist mindset against Cuba is rooted in beliefs from
decades ago.
The U.S. placed a financial embargo on Cuba in 1960 to punish a
communist regime, and further diplomatic and travel sanctions were
placed in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis — the climax of the Cold War.
"This has been a problem since the embargo," Amen said. "It reinforces
our boundaries with Cuba."
Five decades later, Cuba is in the process of economic liberalization,
political resentment in the U.S. has cooled and the practicality of the
embargo is being discussed without fear of the communist label.
In recent years, U.S. President Barack Obama has loosened restrictions
on travel and some universities in other states have pursued academic
endeavors there.
"I don't see the value (of the ban)," Amen said. "It blocks all kinds of
exchanges with humans that are meaningful."
Muller-Karger said while there are alternatives to the research he
wishes to conduct, satellite imagery cannot really be a means of
conducting his research.
"Unless you go there and sample the water or the clay or the sand, you
won't be able to know (why the changes occur) just by looking at the
colors from a satellite," he said. "This is what we call ground proofing."
Muller-Karger said the standoff-ish attitude of the existing ban values
pride over progress.
"We're wasting an opportunity to fill the knowledge gaps, which would
benefit our state," he said. "We lose the knowledge, while other people
gain the knowledge…that's a problem for Florida."

Source: State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research -
The Oracle: University of South Florida -
http://www.usforacle.com/state-restrictions-continue-to-inhibit-cuba-related-research-1.2864660#.U0ujEPmSwx4 Continue reading
Posted on Saturday, 04.12.14

Cuba — where even human rights are subversive
BY MIRTA OJITO
MAO35@COLUMBIA.EDU

Every country has its own narrative, a product of its history and
mythology. Narratives are important because they are, essentially, the
stories we tell ourselves. And stories are the foundation of humanity.
It's how we establish connections and how we remain connected.

Stories sell everything, from shoes (think Zappos) to pizza (think of
all those menus with family histories) to revolutions (think of the 20th
Century).

Political leaders know this and so do dictators, of course, which is why
the Cuban revolution was so successful and why it's lasted so long. It
was a good story. Astonishingly, for many, it still is.

I first rebelled against "the story" of the revolution at 10, when, at
the end of the school year, my teachers gave me a large book with
gruesome picture of the bloodied and tortured bodies of young men who
had died in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista.

The idea was that I would feel humbled and grateful for their sacrifice.
But too many martyrs already weighed on my then narrow shoulders, from
José Martí to Che Guevara. I closed the book and hid it on top of the
tallest shelf I could find. When I left Cuba six years later, I'm pretty
sure the book was still there.

One of the first things the Cuban government did when it came to power
in 1959 was to close the newspapers and eradicate press freedoms. The
narrative was one and it was tightly controlled. The only mythology
allowed was the one fed to the masses by the regime.

Shrewdly, it neatly tied together rebellious native Cubans and Martí's
poetry, with the mambises who fought against the Spaniards, and a dozen
bearded men who came down the Sierra Maestra Mountains to become the
leaders of the "first free territory of America." (In a sign of the
endurance of that particular mythology, Amazon sells posters with this
phrase for $6.99 plus shipping).

And that's pretty much how the country remained until the emergence of
independent journalists in the 1990s and, later, with the advent of the
Internet, a handful – now dozens – of courageous men and women who share
a different story.

Powerful and personal, intimate yet universal, their stories pierced the
thick mantle of censorship that encapsulates the island like a hard
shell, and the world began to see a different narrative — a more
literary, civil, measured and inspired one. A narrative that reaches
back to our oldest and richest mythology: Cubans as learned and
tolerant. Cuba as an inclusive island.

It's been nearly impossible to disseminate that message among Cubans
because access to the Internet on the island is restricted and
expensive, the second most expensive in the world, after Eritrea.

Now comes the news, revealed by AP last week, that the United States
Agency for International Development created and financed a social media
site, similar to Twitter, called ZunZuneo. The site, which closed in
2012, was either a way to promote communication in Cuba or a covert
attempt to weaken, or even overthrow, the Castro regime.

Because I don't believe the Obama administration has the desire or
inclination to overthrow any government, I'm going with the agency's
version, as revealed by Rajiv Shah, USAID's administrator, during a
congressional hearing last Tuesday.

"These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,"
he said.

While the idea may have been to help the democratic forces on the
island, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, a writer and blogger who is now in the
U.S., told me no one he associated with in Cuba's blogosphere even knew
of ZunZuneo. Yet, he said he has no doubt the program, though now
defunct, will be used against those who promote democracy there.

"To support human rights is not subversive," he said. "The problem is
that in Cuba human rights are subversive."

Even our languages — both English and Spanish — certainly do accommodate
this need for story. It is time to "turn the page" when we need to move
on, when " el cuento," the story, changes on us. But you can't turn the
page when someone else is holding the book.

What is needed in Cuba, with the aid of the U.S. government or any other
country or international organism willing to help, is a way for its
people to connect with each other and create a new narrative for
themselves, sidestepping the stories they have been told for years by
the Cuban government, by the Americanos, and by the nostalgic left.

Only then will they be able to imagine the country they want. If they
can imagine it, they can build it. And that would be a much better story
to tell than the one we've been repeating for more than half a century.

Source: Cuba — where even human rights are subversive - Other Views -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/12/4054280/cuba-where-even-human-rights-are.html Continue reading
Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba
By Reihan Salam APRIL 11, 2014

Alan Gross, the 64-year-old American who has been imprisoned by Cuban
authorities since 2009, is an unremarkable man on the surface. He could
be a friend or colleague, or an uncle you've been meaning to call.

Yet what distinguishes Gross from most of the rest of us, myself
included, is his courage. As a sub-contractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, Gross traveled to Cuba to help private
citizens gain access to the Internet, and thus to news and information
not managed or manufactured by the Cuban government. Gross likely knew
that his work was dangerous, but he may have underestimated the risk he
was taking. In a heartbreaking letter to President Obama, Gross
recounted the many ways his wife and daughters have suffered in his
absence. He beseeched the president to intervene in his case.

And so Gross, a husband and father from Maryland who seems to want
nothing more than to be reunited with his family, has reignited the
decades-long debate over how the United States should deal with Cuba, a
rogue state that continues to adhere to Marxist-Leninist one-party rule
long after the collapse of its Soviet patron.

While some lawmakers, including Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have urged the Obama administration not to
negotiate — but instead to demand Gross's unconditional release — Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has led the chorus of those calling for the
president to play ball with Cuba's rulers, or rather to "not shrink from
the obligation to negotiate for his freedom."

What the Cuban government wants most is a relaxation of the economic
sanctions the U.S. government first imposed on the island nation in
1963, when it became clear that Fidel Castro intended to align his new
regime with the Soviet Union and to have Cuba serve as a staging ground
for armed insurgencies throughout Latin America.

In the decades since then, the sanctions regime has evolved in various
ways. There are now a number of licensed exemptions that allow Americans
to provide humanitarian assistance in Cuba, or that allow academic
researchers to travel there. Cuban households receive $2.6 billion in
remittances from Cuban immigrants and people of Cuban origin living
abroad, most of which comes from the United States. And as Emily Parker
observed earlier this week, for example, the Obama administration made
it somewhat easier for U.S. telecom providers to do business with Cuba
in 2009, in an effort to encourage the free flow of information in and
out of the country.

So should the U.S. government ease economic sanctions even further? The
plight of Alan Gross represents an opportunity to rethink the sanctions
regime. One widely held view is that U.S. sanctions actually serve to
entrench the current Cuban government, as they allow Cuba's rulers to
tightly control the flow of resources in and out of the island, and also
to blame the United States for the poverty and deprivation that plagues
Cuban society. The problem with this line of thinking, as Mauricio
Claver-Carone, director of Cuba Democracy Advocates and a proponent of
sanctions, notes, is that foreign trade and investment in Cuba is the
exclusive domain of the state.

Whereas the Chinese government offers wide latitude to private
enterprises, both domestic and foreign-owned, to operate on Chinese
soil, the Cuban government severely limits the scope for private
economic activity. This is one reason why China "feels" like a freer
society than Cuba, despite the fact that the Chinese government
maintains a large and expensive repressive apparatus. To grow the
Chinese economy, China's rulers have had little choice but to relax
their grip on investment and entrepreneurship.

In recent years, the Cuban government has allowed for the emergence of a
small-scale "self-employment" sector. Yet this sector shouldn't be
mistaken for private enterprise, as self-employed individuals are barred
from building their own independent businesses. If sanctions are lifted
without conditions, it seems more likely than not that the Cuban
government would insist that all U.S. trade and investment be channeled
through state-owned entities. Given Cuba's parlous fiscal state, this
would be an enormous boon.

Rather than lift sanctions unilaterally, the U.S. ought to consider
modifying the approach it has taken since passage of the Helms-Burton
Act of 1996. Under Helms-Burton, the U.S. is prepared to lift sanctions
if and when Cuba releases political prisoners and allows for the
inspection of its prison facilities, legalizes political activity and
opposition parties, and abolishes its secret police. Essentially, the
law insists on immediate regime change, and it is easy to see why Cuba's
rulers find its conditions unacceptable.

Congress ought to consider a new approach: the U.S. will relax sanctions
if Cuba allows its citizens greater scope to build their own private
businesses, which will have the right to engage in foreign trade,
receive foreign investment, and employ workers. The Cuban government
will, of course, be allowed to tax and regulate these private
businesses, but it will have to offer its citizens at least some
economic liberty, so that an influx of U.S. trade and investment won't
simply bolster the Cuban state and Cuba's repressive apparatus.

Yes, Cuba's propagandists will characterize this deal as yet another
example of Yankee meddling. It is also true, however, that this approach
would offer Cuba's rulers a meaningful alternative to Regime Change Now
while also allaying the concerns of Americans who fear that easing
sanctions might strengthen the current regime. And by loosening the
economic stranglehold of Cuba's state-owned monopolies, we can give
Cubans the breathing room they need to start building a free society.

Source: Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba | Reihan Salam -
http://blogs.reuters.com/reihan-salam/2014/04/11/congress-sanctions/ Continue reading
PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute
By rickey singh
Story Created: Apr 12, 2014 at 8:40 PM ECT

International ware­house shopping company PriceSmart, which operates
in vari­ous Caribbean Com­mu­nity (Caricom) states, is under sharp
criticisms for now involving Cuba's diplomatic mis­sions in the region
in the more than half-cen­tury of America's trade, economic and
financial blockade of that Caribbean nation.
Immediately affected Cuban missions include Barbados, Jamaica, and
Trinidad and Tobago where accredited diplo­mats, their families and
staff have been in­formed by PriceSmart management of the sus­pension of
busi­ness ac­counts after being ad­vised by the parent company of
possible vio­lations of the US embargo in trans­acting business with
Cu­bans without "per­manent residency" in countries of their opera­tions.
In a mixture of hila­ri­ty and strong warning, current Caricom chairman
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Gre­na­dines Dr Ralph Gon­salves
said in a telephone interview yesterday that the US government should be
"mindful of the implications of Price­Smart's action".
He pointed out while at first, he could not resist "laughing at this
infantile political move", he was never­theless mindful that PriceSmart
is in­corporated into the laws of sovereign Carib­be­an states, and now
enga­ging in "unnecessary, unprovoked acts" against Cuba's diplomatic
per­sonnel and other Cuban nationals who are wor­king in various
regional sectors, including doctors and nurses.
The Vincentian prime minister said neither the US government nor owners
and operators of corporate enterprises like PriceSmart could be
unmindful of the historic role initially played by Caricom countries to
bring Cuba out of the "dip­lo­matic isolation" to which the US economic
embargo had assigned it, following its Fidel Cas­tro-led 1959 revolution.
Further, of the com­mu­­nity's continuing involve­ment with the rest of
the international commu­nity, minus the mi­nis­­cule exception of three,
in passage year after year, resolutions denouncing the "archaic law"
gover­ning the embargo which has "miserably failed to destabilise" the
govern­ment in Havana or to "quench the revolution­ary spirit of the
Cuban peo­ple...".

'Criminal act'

Criticisms of Price­Smart's suspension of bus­iness accounts for
Cu­­bans have come from
Cuba's embassies in Ja­mai­ca, Barbados, and Trini­dad and Tobago,
headed respectively by ambassadors Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Lis­ette
Perez Perez and Guit­termo Vazquez Moreno.
For ambassador Her­nan­dez, the decision by PriceSmart constituted "a
criminal act, based on an anachronistic law" which violates the Vienna
convention.
In Barbados, ambas­sa­dor Perez disclosed a representative of the local
PriceSmart turned up to inform the embassy about the suspension of
business transactions while, he explained, they invest "effort, time
and resources" in pursuing lawful channels in the US which "may enable
us to reactivate those accounts…".
The resident Cuban diplo­matic missions in Barba­dos, Jamaica, and
Trini­dad and Tobago have pointed to "unne­ces­sary inconveniences" to
non-embassy staff like Cuban doctors and teachers.
According to ambassador Pe­­rez, there seems to be an "un­derlying
intention to en­courage defec­tions" by Cubans, in favour of having
per­manent resident status that would enable them to do "membership
busi­ness" with PriceSmart.
"This is the sort of con­tempt by those", she said, "who do not really
understand what the Cu­ban revolution and Cuban patriotism mean for us...".
Ironically, the move by Price­Smart to suspend busi­ness tran­sactions
with Cu­ban di­plo­matic missions and Cubans who do not have permanent
work­­ing status in Caricom states came against the backdrop of approval
last month by the Cuban National Assem­bly of a ground-breaking
for­eign-investment law to en­cou­rage a new "development partner­ship"
that would be exten­ded also to overseas-based Cubans.

Source: PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute | Trinidad Express
Newspaper | News -
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/PriceSmart-and-Cuba--in-shopping-dispute--255047631.html Continue reading
Toward a New Constitution / Rafael Leon Rodriguez
Posted on April 12, 2014

A group of Cubans in Cuba and its diaspora agreed to promote a road map
for a constitutional consensus. Organizations and public figures from
different generations, of all ideologies, religious beliefs and
interests, we believe it is good that, firstly, we agree as to the type
of constitution we want to establish or take as a reference for the
creation of a new constitution, in accord with our time and reality.

The managing group making this project viable consists of Rogelio
Travieso Pérez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Fernando
Palacio Mogar, Eroisis González Suárez, Veizant Voloi González, Wilfredo
Vallín Almeida and Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.

We want to escape from the vicious and corrupt circle of an elite that
for decades has set the course of our country regardless of the opinion
of its citizens. The constitutional road map arises also to bring down
the perverse myth that was born with the ruling political model, in
which Cuba is only a part of his children: extending one hand to take
money from its emigrants and with the other pushing them away and
separating them from an environment to which they rightfully belong. So
for this reason we will work in common to seek a consensus and legal and
constitutional order that emanates from citizens, from their diversity,
place of residence and plurality.

Thousands of Cubans have already signed the call for a constituent
assembly in Cuba and we continue to call on all our compatriots,
wherever they are or reside, to join us in this effort, for arm
ourselves with a new shield of civilized coexistence. In this
undertaking we invite Cubans to offer their ideas about how to finally
achieve a Cuba for all within in the law.

In order to promote these efforts, compatriots living abroad have
created the site http://consensoconstitucional.com/ in which there is an
update on this project.

We are drawing up a methodology in which we encourage Cubans interested
in participating to submit papers in which they lay out, in about ten
points, the reasons why they defend one or another constitutional
proposal as a starting point for change in the "law of laws" in order to
lead us toward the democratization of our nation.

This coming May, Cubans inside and outside of Cuba will begin to hold
meetings in which we will debate ideas about this process of promoting
consensus. Right now, we are working for the creating of "initiative
tables" on the island and this design is just the start of a long road
to justice, equity and a state of rights for all Cubans.

10 April 2014

Source: Toward a New Constitution / Rafael Leon Rodriguez | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/toward-a-new-constitution-rafael-leon-rodriguez/ Continue reading
Just One Account / Josue, Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association
Posted on April 12, 2014

I live in a community with more than sixty buildings. Behind them, as is
the case with my home, many residents—at the request of the government
itself—began planting fruit trees and banana plants. When the marathon
of demolishing everything began, I decided to make an estimate of the
economic losses that were indiscriminately carried out by people who
came from other cities to destroy what had been so passionately
harvested for more than a decade.

To give you an idea, there were about 300 banana plants when demolition
started, some 50 new bunches were uprooted and another 130 were cut and
thrown in a corner of the building, their remnants remaining there since
July 2012. In that same time frame, 50 or 60 bunches had been collected
monthly, which means about 660 per year, or about 16,500 pounds that
were contributed to urban consumption and that represent about 9,900
pesos taken from the pockets of those citizens to whom no one came to
meet their needs.What is more aggravating is that when the Director of
Physical Planning visited the town and I gave him that assessment, he
told me that it didn't matter, that many residents reported that they
now had more open space. I responded that people can't live on open
space, but they can live on food. He shut up and couldn't get out of
there fast enough.

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Just One Account / Josue, Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/just-one-account-josue-rojas-marin-cuban-law-association/ Continue reading
Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do more to
secure release
By Barnini Chakraborty Published April 13, 2014FoxNews.com

WASHINGTON – For Alan Gross, the American contractor locked up in a
Cuban prison on spying charges, the road to freedom seems increasingly
out of reach.

The Maryland resident, who repeatedly has denied working for any
intelligence agency, was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009, stripped
of his rights and thrown into a foreign prison.

Since then, his family has worked tireless – and unsuccessfully -- to
bring him home.

Gross currently is being held at the Carlos Finlay Military Hospital in
the Havana Providence in Cuba where he spends 23 hours a day in a small
cell with two other men. He is let out of his cramped quarters for an
hour each day, led to a small courtyard with high walls and if he is
lucky, he gets to catch a glimpse of the sun.

After his 60 minutes are up, the 64-year-old man who is facing another
long decade behind bars heads back to his cell.

The details of Gross' daily routine were relayed to FoxNews.com by his
legal team. With Gross starting, and recently ending, a one-week hunger
strike, he and his supporters are trying to draw more attention to his
case and urge the U.S. government to do more to help.

In December -- the four-year anniversary of his imprisonment – Gross
wrote President Obama a letter pleading for the White House to get
involved and negotiate his release.

So far, Gross hasn't heard back, his camp tells FoxNews.com. But that's
where the stories start to blur.

The White House is on record multiple times calling on the Cuban
government to let Gross go. Gross was working at the time of his arrest
as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development on
expanding Internet access.

In December, around the same time Gross sent the letter to the
president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Gross
was a "dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to
underserved communities in more than 50 countries" and called for his
release.

In the past, the Obama administration has called Gross' case a sticking
point in improving ties with Cuba but has rejected any prisoner trade
for Gross.

In March 2011, following Gross's sentencing, Philip Crowley, the
assistant secretary in the bureau of public affairs at the State
Department, issued a statement: "We deplore this ruling."

"Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has
devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries," Crowley
said. "He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of
the world."

Still, while U.S. officials say they're pressing his case, it's unclear
to what lengths they have gone to pursue his release. Attorney Scott
Gilbert said: "We really hope that the two governments can work
something out and do what it takes. He wants to come home ... the only
way that will happen is if Obama gets involved, and that hasn't happened."

Gross, a native New Yorker, moved south where attended school at the
University of Maryland and at Virginia Commonwealth University in
Richmond, Va., where he studied social work.

In 2001, Gross formed the Joint Business Development Center -- a Chevy
Chase, Md.-based company that works to increase Internet connections abroad.

As the boss, his career took him around the world. His passport has been
stamped in Africa, Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His friends and family describe the 64-year-old, white-haired contractor
as a gentle humanitarian, a loving husband and father of two girls, now
grown up and living in Oregon and Israel. His wife, Judy, a social
worker, is still by his side and lobbying for his release.

"I've been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan
home," she said in a written statement. "I'm worried sick about Alan's
health, and I don't think he can survive much more of this."

Gross has lost 110 pounds in prison. He has a growing list of health
problems and is considerably weaker, his camp says.

It's been hard on Judy, too. In the four years her husband has been in a
Cuban prison, she has been forced to sell their Maryland home, unable to
afford the mortgage in the upscale Potomac, Md., neighborhood.

Last week, Gross announced through his attorney Gilbert that we was
going on a hunger strike, "enraged" over recent reports about the
controversial "Cuban Twitter" project, first reported by The Associated
Press.

The project, a communication network called ZunZuneo, was reportedly
built to stir unrest on the island. USAID, the same agency Gross was
working for when he was arrested in 2009, was behind the now-defunct
project. Gross and his supporters voiced concern that the project could
have put him at additional risk.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions and inaction by both
governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my
arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any responsible or
valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross said via a
telephone conversation he had with Gilbert.

By Friday, Gross had called off the strike.

Disheartened, his friends, family and legal team say they'll push even
harder for his release, especially in light of the ZunZuneo report. They
argue the government has put his safety at risk and continues to do so
every day he is in Cuba. They also blame his employer – USAID. "Once
Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety
even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," Gilbert said in a
statement.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said earlier this week he's gotten
emails from USAID employees "all over the world" asking "how could they
do this, to put us in such danger?"

At issue are a range of secretive USAID programs the agency claims are
not "covert" – but aren't widely publicized either. Having them outed,
some argue, leaves contractors like Gross in danger.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the responsibility for Gross'
imprisonment lies with Cuba.

"The State Department has led an aggressive effort to help Alan secure
his release," Shah said at the same Senate subcommittee.

Source: Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do
more to secure release | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/12/family-friends-us-contractor-held-in-cuba-pleads-to-obama-for-his-release/ Continue reading
European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba
Published April 13, 2014 Associated Press

HAVANA – A French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in
more than 30 years Saturday, traveling to the communist-run nation at a
time when it is seeking to attract more foreign investment and improve
ties with the European Union.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he met with President Raul Castro
for an hour and half, during which the two men "talked about everything,
including human rights."

Earlier Fabius met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez to start
the trip, which French officials have said is partly to promote business
ties and support French companies that want to do business in Cuba.

"We want to strengthen our ties with South America and particularly with
Cuba," Fabius told reporters. "Europe also wants to (strengthen ties)
and from that we are going to be able to talk about economic, cultural,
political and international issues."

The European Union suspended cooperation with Cuba in 2003 when the
island's government jailed 75 dissidents. Dialogue was restored five
years later, though it was conditioned on improvements in the human
rights situation. In February, the EU's foreign ministers approved talks
to negotiate a broad new political agreement with Cuba.

Fabius noted that his visit marked the first time in more than three
decades that the chief of French diplomacy had visited the island.

He arrived in Havana from Mexico, where he took part in an official
visit by President Francois Hollande.

Cuban lawmakers recently approved a law aimed at making the country more
attractive to foreign investors, a measure seen as vital for the
island's struggling economy.

There are currently about 60 French companies present in Cuba.

Fabius also noted that Cuba has a debt with European Union countries and
said that talks with Havana on the issue would begin in the coming months.

Source: European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba | Fox
News -
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/04/13/french-foreign-minister-makes-1st-trip-to-cuba-in-30-years-as-europe-explores/ Continue reading
Cuba's Expensive Glass of Milk
April 12, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Officials from the Ministry of Finance and Prices, the
Food Industry and CIMEX Corp. pulled off a fast one this week when they
announced they would raise the price of milk because its price on the
world market had gone up.

Various sources, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,
ensure that the international price of milk powder is falling and this
year will actually cost 10% less. Apparently the population deserves a
more detailed explanation on the subject.

Someone should explain where the milk is purchased, why it is so
expensive, if Washington penalizes the sale [under the embargo] when the
cows have US genes or if the integration with Latin America cannot
provide cheaper markets.

If the government's importers do not have clear answers to these
questions, the Comptroller General of the Republic should become
involved at the smell of the sour milk. It wouldn't be the first time
they buy bad and expensive.

And while at the same time they are telling people that the milk price
must go up, they also recently announced that tens of thousands of cows
are dying of hunger and thirst in the country. As happens with the
bankers in Europe, inefficiently run agriculture is paid for by the
citizens.

Assuming that all the criticisms that have been unleashed are wrong and
that Cuba cannot buy milk cheaper on the international market, there
could still be better solutions than raising the price to the public.

Blogger Yohan Gonzalez proposes raising the price of "luxury products or
alcoholic beverages, which being harmful to health could well receive a
tax to avoid further losses with the milk."

If the sales price of cars rose to 10 times their value to fund public
transport, why not use the same principle to subsidize milk for children
and the elderly by raising the price of rum and cigarettes?

In the case of rum and milk, I don't think anyone doubts as to which
product should be subsidized and which should be taxed. Families with
children and also those with alcoholics would be appreciative.

If this really is the "revolution of the humble, for the humble and for
the humble" there are many more products that could be taxed to
subsidize the staples of the Cuban family.

You'd think it would annoy the humble of the revolution to have the same
tax on imported ice cream, cheese and chocolates as on staple products,
forcing them to spend more than 10% of their salary to buy a liter of
vegetable oil.

When the government raised car prices nobody supported the measure, but
to most Cubans it mattered little. With the increase in the price of
milk, officials are once again alone, but this time managed to awaken
the ill-feeling of the majority of the population.
—–
(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg's blog.

Source: Cuba's Expensive Glass of Milk - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102968 Continue reading
Something That Goes Beyond the Law / Josue Rojas Marin, Cuban Law
Association
Posted on April 11, 2014

Some landlords from Santa Lucia beach in the Camaguey province find
themselves confused before a measure imposed by officials from
Immigration and Aliens. Since last year, they have made them sign a
document obliging them to be responsible for the cars rented by tourist
staying in their homes, in spite of the fact that they sign a rental
contract with the agency. As is logical, there is nothing in the law
that imposes a responsibility for property that forms no part of the
accommodation.

They also have to keep the home's door wide open, as we say in good
Cuban, in order not to obstruct a surprise inspection, abrogating to the
inspectors the right to write or cross things out in the rental registry
book, in spite of the fact that it is not they but the Municipal Housing
Department that is responsible for controlling this document, so it is
required that a responsible person not leave the dwelling unattended,
even when there are no guests.

The landlords often suffer unexpected visits by police agents who also
write in the registry books, conduct illegal searches, take the registry
book without any legal process and return it whenever they want.

All that affects the rental activity and consequently their income.

Translated by mlk.
31 March 2014

Source: Something That Goes Beyond the Law / Josue Rojas Marin, Cuban
Law Association | Translating Cuba -
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The Melodrama of Buying Potatoes in Havana
April 11, 2014
Francisco Castro

HAVANA TIMES — The reason I write this now is not precisely because some
farmers markets around Havana are selling potatoes again, but the fact
this product has been made available again in such a surreptitious
manner. It's taken so long – has it been months, years? – that people
have been caught off guard.

Like everything else on this island of ours, for better or for worse, no
one knows for certain whether potatoes will stay around for long now
that they've suddenly reappeared, and, since the present is all that
truly matters to people, everyone is going out to buy potatoes en masse.

I have too. It's not that I am so different from everyone else that I
wouldn't dream of setting out to buy the delicious tuber. The thing is
that I'm allergic to waiting in line, to our daily queues – places where
the essence, the unexpected, the concealed and proven aspects of our
temperament always come to the fore.

I had to go to my neighborhood market to buy the potatoes. I wanted to
treat myself to some mashed potatoes, to some delicious baked dish, to
some incomparable steamed or boiled potatoes, or a potato and chicken
salad, or whatever else you can throw together. What I hadn't counted on
– naïve me – is that I would have to deal with a line of people ahead of me.

The line was made longer by people who saved several spots to buy as
much as they could (they were only selling 20 pounds per person) and
later re-sell the potatoes at higher prices. The line was endless and
thick, always ready to scatter and reform, as though by divine
intervention, and to double or triple in length, in the worst of scenarios.

In the worst of scenarios, I would have to argue about who had arrived
at the line first, and make an older lady anxious to reach the counter
understand she had gotten there a mere half hour before and that I had
been waiting for much more than an hour – insist it was impossible for
the man in the red T-shirt to have told her he was the last in line,
because he had said the same thing to me.

But, in the end, it was worth the effort.

What took me by surprise was an even sorrier scene, which I came upon in
another neighborhood. The huge throng of people recalled those
demonstrations we used to hold in front of the Anti-Imperialist
Grandstand – not only because of the large numbers of people, but also
because of the police officers present.

They had even cordoned off the market with a line of metal tables used
to sell products to the public – a barricade meant to hold back the
crowd and ward off any opportunist seeking to cut in line.

I couldn't help but bring to mind images of the Holocaust…

I imagine this story will have a happy ending, provided potato supplies
become as stable as they were years ago. Then, we will be able to eat
potatoes that don't taste of queues and shoving, and we will eat them
every week.

Source: The Melodrama of Buying Potatoes in Havana - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102947 Continue reading
Havana: The Poverty Behind the Glamour / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 11, 2014

Just across from Cordoba park, in the Havana neighborhood of La Vibora,
is nestled a luxury cafe called Villa Hernandez. It is a stunning
mansion built in the early 20th century and renovated in detail by its
owner.

At the entrance, a friendly doorman shows clients the menu on a black
leather-covered card. A pina colada costs almost five dollars. And a
meal for three people not less than 70 cuc, the equivalent of four
months' salary for Zaida, employed by a dining room situated two blocks
from the glamour of Villa Hernandez which attracts retired people, the
elderly, and the poor from the area.

"It is not a dining room, it is a state restaurant for people of limited
means. They call it 'Route 15,' and the usual menu is white rice, an
infamous pea porridge, and croquettes," says Zaida.

Like the majority of the area's residents, she has never sat on a stool
in the Villa Hernandez bar to drink a mojito or to "nibble" tapas of
Serrano ham.

A block from the dining room, on the corner of Acosta and Gelabert, in a
house with high ceilings in danger of collapse, live 17 families crowded
together. The people have scrounged in order to transform the old rooms
into dwellings.

The method for gaining space is to create lofts with wooden or concrete
platforms between the walls. Each, on his own or according to his
economic possibilities, has built bathrooms and kitchens without the
assistance of an engineer or architect.

Even the old basement, where there once existed an animal stable, has
been converted into a place that only with much imagination might be
called a home.

The neighbors of the place see the Villa Hernandez restaurant as a
foreign territory. "They have told me that they eat very well. I am
ashamed to enter and ask about the menu. What for, if I have no money?
At the end of the year they put up pretty decorations and a giant Santa
Claus. I have told my children that this kind of restaurant is not
within the reach of our pockets," says Remigio.

Like small islets, in Havana there have emerged houses for rent,
gymnasiums, tapas bars, cafes and private restaurants much like those
that a poor Cuban only sees in foreign films.

There exists a nocturnal Havana with many lights, elegant designs and
excess air conditioning which is usually the letter of introduction for
the apparent success of the controversial economic reforms promoted by
Raul Castro.

It is good that little private businesses emerge. The majority of the
population approves cutting out by the roots dependence on the State,
the main agent of the socialized misery that is lived in Cuba.

But old people, the retired, professionals, and state workers ask
themselves when fair salary reforms will happen that will permit a
worker to acquire a household appliance or drink a beer in a private bar.

"That's what it's about. Almost all we Cubans approve of people opening
businesses. After all, in economic matters, the government has shown a
lethal inefficiency. But there are two discussions: one is sold to
potential foreign investors and another internal that keeps crushing the
commitment to Marxism and to governing in order to favor the poorest,"
says Amado, an engineer.

In the business field, the government has opened the door, but not
completely. In the promulgated economic guidelines, it is recognized
that the small businesses are designed such that people do not
accumulate great capital.

A large segment of party officials and the official press believes it
sees in each private entrepreneur a future criminal.

At the moment, self-employment is surrounded with high taxes, the
expansion of the opening of a wholesale market, and a legion of state
inspectors who demand a multitude of parameters, as if it were anchored
in Manhattan or Zurich and not in a nation that has short supplies of
things from toothpaste and deodorant to even salt and eggs.

The regime takes advantage of the poor to sell the Cuban brand.
"Marketing has been created that shows an island interspersed with
images of tenements, mulattas dancing to reggaeton, happy young people
drinking rum, US cars from the '50's, the National Hotel and luxury
restaurants," says Carlos, a sociologist.

Successful managers, like Enrique Nunez, owner of La Guarida, situated
in the mostly black neighborhood of San Leopoldo in downtown Havana,
also benefit from the environment in order to grow their businesses.

La Guarida was one of the locations in the film Strawberry and Chocolate
by the deceased director Tomas Gutierrez Alea. There, among many others,
have dined Queen Sofia of Spain, Diego Armando Maradona and US congressmen.

The dilapidated multifamily building where it is located, with sheets
put out to dry on interior balconies and unemployed mulattos and blacks
playing dominoes at the foot of the stairway, has become the particular
stamp of La Guarida.

"Yes, it's embarrassing. But to carry on culinary or hospitality
businesses in ruinous neighborhoods replete with hustlers and
prostitutes, is an added value that works. Maybe that happens because
Havana is still not a violent or dangerous city like Caracas. And the
naive Europeans like that touch of modernity surrounded by African
misery," points out the owner of a bar in the old part of the capital.

While the governmental propaganda exaggerates the economic opening,
Zaida asks if someday her salary in the State dining room will permit
her to have a daiquiri in Villa Hernandez. For her, for now, it would be
easier for it to snow in Cuba.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: El Fanguito, old neighborhood of indigents in El Vedado, Havana,
arose in 1935, at the mouth of the river Almendares, in the
now-disappeared fishing village of Bongo and Gavilan. With Fidel
Castro's arrival in power, this and other Havana slums not only did not
disappear but were growing. At any time, El Fanguito, La Timba, Los
Pocitos, La Jata, Romerillo, El Canal, La Cuevita, Indalla, and La
Corea, among others, are included in sightseeing tours through the
capital, in order to be in tune with the fashion of mixing glamour with
poverty, as occurs in Rio de Janeiro with the slums. The photo was taken
from Cubanet (TQ).

Translated by mlk.

10 April 2014

Source: Havana: The Poverty Behind the Glamour / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -
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Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 10, 2014

When a government's financial figures are in the red, everything takes
on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are
well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public
spending is slashed.

But if the goal is to attract American dollars, euros or other forms of
hard currency, then any reforms must tempt likely foreign investors and
Cuban exiles alike.

The situation is pressing. Venezuela, the spigot from which Cuba's oil
flows, is in a firestorm of criminal and political violence and economic
chaos. China is an ideological partner but only makes loans if it can
reap some benefit.

The Cuban government does not have a lot of room to maneuver. Its
solution has been to open things up a little but not completely. Except
in the areas of health, education and defense, Cuba is for sale.

The communist party's propaganda experts have been trying to sugarcoat
the message to its audience. In recent months government officials have
been working to attract foreign capital by offering investors a more
important role in the Cuban economy.

"Foreign financial resources would do more than provide a complementary
role to domestic investment initiatives and would play an important
role, even in areas such as agriculture, where foreign investment has
been rare," said Pedro San Jorge, Director of Economic Policy at the
Ministry for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, in January.

In an interview with the newspaper Granma on March 17, José Luis Toledo
Santander, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
of People's Power for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, said the new law
"will also provide for a range of investments so that those who wish may
know the areas of interest in the country."

"This action will also be a breakthrough in terms of the paperwork
required to make an investment by creating a more streamlined process,"
the official added in response to a common complaint by business people
that the Cuban bureaucracy is too slow.

Toledo Santander said the new law "also includes incentives and tax
exemptions in certain circumstances, as well as an easing of customs
duties to encourage investment."

He stressed that "the process of foreign investment will be introduced
without the country relinquishing its sovereignty or its chosen social
and political system: socialism. This new law will allow foreign
investment to be better targeted so that it serves the best interests of
national development without concessions or setbacks."

On Saturday March 29 the national television news broadcast reported
sometime after 1 PM that the single-voice Cuban parliament had
unanimously passed a new foreign investment law without providing more
details

The new law provides for an exception to one passed in 1995 which
assigned foreign capital a "complimentary" role in Cuban state
investments. This meant that foreign investors could hold no more than a
50% stake in any joint venture.

The proportion was higher when it came to technology and retail
businesses but only because of a strong interest in these sectors on the
part of military autocrats. Between 1996 and 2003 roughly 400 firms in
the mining, hospitality, food, automotive and real estate sectors were
created in Cuba with foreign capital.

All were small-scale and supervised closely by authorities. Now it's a
choice of life or death. Fidel Castro's revolution generated many
promises and speeches, but these did nothing to foster the economic
development that the country needed.

Cuba imports everything from toothbrushes to ball-point pens. Large
areas of arable land are overrun with the invasive Marabou weed, and
produce little or nothing. In 2013 the government imported almost two
billion dollars worth of food.

Since 1959 government leaders have continuously promised ample harvests
of malanga, potatoes and oranges coffee as well as a glass of milk per
person per day, but the inefficient economic system hampers any such
nationial initiatives.

Finally the last trump card was played. It involved opening the gates by
luring foreign investors with generous tax exemptions. They included
Cubans living in the United States and Europe but not virulent
anti-Castro Cuban-Americans from Florida.

If they toned down their strident anti-Castro rhetoric, then perhaps
Alfonso Fanjul, Carlos Saladrigas and company might come under
consideration also.

Of course, it is not all clear sailing. The U.S. embargo presents a
powerful obstacle to any business venture on the island. And the Castro
brothers are not serious business partners.

On the contrary. They have changed or corrected course at whim in
response to shifting political dynamics. Of the roughly 400 foreign
firms that existed in 1998, only about 200 remained in operation as of
spring 2014.

Several foreign businessmen, including Canadians, have been threatened
with imprisonment while others, like Chilean Max Marambio*, have had
arrest warrants issued against them by Cuban prosecutors.

Raul Castro, who inherited power by decree from his brother Fidel in
2006, has tried to clean up government institutions and establish more
legal coherence, abolishing absurd laws that prevented the Cubans
renting hotel rooms, having mobile phones and selling their own homes
and cars.

In January 2013 a new emigration law was adopted that made it easier for
Cubans, including dissidents, to travel abroad. Internet access became
available, though at jaw-dropping prices, and Peugeot cars went on sale,
though priced as if they were Lamborghinis.

For many European and American politicians, Cuba is in the process of
becoming a modern nation whose past sins as well, as it's the lack of
democracy and freedom of expression, must be forgiven. Others say it's
just a ploy to buy time.

The average Cuba, whose morning coffee does not include milk, who has
only one hot meal a day and who wastes two hours a day commuting to and
from work on the inefficient public transport system, is not likely to
be impressed with the much hyped opportunities.

Those who open private restaurants or receive remittances from overseas
can weather the storm. Those who work for the state — in other words,
most people — are the ones having it the worst.

Although the regime may try to camouflage its new policies by resorting
to various ideological stunts, the person on the street realizes that
the new Cuban reality is nothing more than state capitalism painted over
in red.

For a wide segment of the Cuban population, the new investment law is a
distant echo. It is yet to be see if it bring them any benefits.

Ivan Garcia

*Translator's note: In 2010 Cuban prosecutors accused Marambio and his
firm, Río Zaza, of corruption. Marambio claimed the actions were
retribution on the part of Fidel and Raul Castro for his support for
Marco Enríquez-Ominami, a candidate in Chile's 2009 presidential
election. Marambio filed suit with the International Court of
Arbitration in Paris against his Cuban business partner, Coralsa, a
state-owned juice and dairy company. On July 17 the court found in favor
of Marambio and ordered Coralsa to pay over $17.5 million dollars in
damages "for refusing to cooperate in good faith" in the process of
liquidating Rio Zaza.

30 March 2014

Source: Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-opens-the-gates-to-foreign-capital-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 04.10.14

Promoting democracy in countries where USAID isn't welcome is a delicate
balancing act
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

The U.S. Agency for International Development has a long history of
funding democracy-building programs in Latin America and around the
world — even in countries like Cuba, where it isn't welcome.

It's always been a delicate balancing act because promoting democracy
can sometimes be perceived as meddling in internal politics and spark a
backlash against USAID-supported programs that are supposed to open
political space, protect human rights and support civil society.

But the recently disclosed USAID program to create a secret Twitter-like
network in Cuba, run through front companies with the goal of evading
strict Cuban government controls on the flow of information, highlights
how the distinctions between democracy-building and politics can become
muddled.

"USAID may have some excellent programs around the world, but the
problem here is that anything dealing with Cuba becomes politicized and
in my opinion there was very little oversight of it," said Andy Gomez, a
retired University of Miami Cuba scholar and now senior policy adviser
for Washington law firm Poblete Tamargo.

The Associated Press reported last week that USAID established the
network called ZunZuneo — Cuban slang for the sound of a hummingbird —
as a text-messaging service that began gearing up in late 2009 and
reached at least 40,000 subscribers before funding ran out in September
2012. USAID, however, says the number was around 68,000 at its peak.

The plan, according to AP, was to start with "non-controversial" content
to build subscribers to the network, which was never identified as
funded by the U.S. government, and then introduce political content
aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize in mass demonstrations that could
perhaps trigger a Cuban spring.

But Gomez said the program was ill-conceived and fraught with problems.

At one point, he said, Creative Associates International, the
Washington, D.C., contractor that worked on the ZunZuneo program, sought
his opinion. "I knew what they were doing and I advised them what I
thought young people would be interested in. I was very clear: Don't
politicize it and don't provide information about overthrowing the
government."

Gomez, who was not paid for his advice, suggested Cubans would be
interested in general news — "problems in the world, how people in the
rest of the world live."

USAID has taken issue with AP's assertion that the program was designed
to encourage smart mobs or funnel political content that could trigger
unrest.

"The purpose of the ZunZuneo project was to create a platform for Cubans
to speak freely among themselves, period," USAID said in a statement,
adding that tech news, sports scores, weather and trivia were sent out
initially but then Cubans began to generate their own conversations.

However, Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Cuban satirical artist living in Chile
who was subcontracted to write messages for ZunZuneo, told AP that he
does only political work. AP said documents it obtained showed some of
the early messages sent to Cuban cellphones were overtly political.

Despite USAID's original assertion that no messages were politically
charged, a State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that USAID is now
looking into whether any of the messages were political and if so,
whether they were drafts or actually sent. The Senate Foreign Relations
Committee also plans to review the program.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told USAID Administrator Rajiv
Shah during a Congressional hearing Tuesday that the program was a
"cockamamie" idea. But members of South Florida's Cuban-American
delegation have been supportive.

"The real question here is why does the press and some in our
Congressional family demonize these programs," said South Florida
Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"There is no independent press in Cuba. There is complete control over
the Cuban airwaves and programming on television and the press to
promote the political propaganda spewed by the dictatorship," she said.

"Clearly those who defend the program are right that people should have
access to information and technology in Cuba, and it's hard to defend
the Cuban government for clamping down," said Michael Shifter, president
of the Inter-American Dialogue.

"But Cuba is a very special case," he said. "You really have to ask
yourself how smart the program was and what it hoped to accomplish.
There is a role for these democracy-building programs, but in Cuba, it
is just so tainted."

Some analysts also questioned whether keeping Cuban users of ZunZuneo in
the dark about the origin of the program could have potentially put them
at risk.

"There's often been blow-back when the United States tries to help
people,'' said Ted Henken, a Baruch College professor who has studied
Cuban bloggers. "The people you're helping need to know who you are" so
they can evaluate whether they want to take risks.

Matthew Herrick, a USAID spokesman, said the agency needs to maintain a
"discreet profile" in countries where it might not be welcome to
minimize risk to its staffers and partners. "But discreet does not equal
covert," he added. "USAID's work in Cuba is not unlike what we and other
donors do around the world to connect people who have been cut off from
the outside world by repressive or authoritarian governments."

Henken defends the right of those outside the island to help the Cuban
people. But he said the short-term effect of the ZunZuneo disclosures
will be to "put activists in Cuba more under the microscope than they
are already. It reduces the oxygen for them and allows Cuba to play the
threat card."

He said it could also jeopardize the impending launch of Cuban blogger
Yoani Sánchez's digital newspaper. While he thinks Sánchez has too high
a profile internationally for the Cuban government to touch her, Henken
said "they could crack down on those who associate with her."

The ZunZuneo program was gearing up for launch just as USAID
subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested in Havana in December 2009 for
distributing satellite equipment to link with the Internet. A Cuban
court ruled that the intent of Gross' activities was to undermine the
government and he was sentenced to 15 years.

Despite Gross' imprisonment, USAID pressed ahead with ZunZuneo.

When Gross learned of the ZunZuneo program last week he told his
attorney it was the "final straw," prompting him to begin a hunger
strike until he is released. "I am fasting to object to mistruths,
deceptions, and inaction by both governments,'' Gross said.

"I don't see how the ZunZuneo disclosures can make his release any
easier," Shifter said. "This strengthens the position of the hardliners
in Havana and gives them ammunition to say, how can we loosen-up or
relax when the United States wants to topple this government?"

"The huge irony is that a program that was supposed to support
democracy, which is all about good governance and transparency, was
delivered by deceptive means," said Richard Feinberg, a professor at the
University of California, San Diego, and senior director of
Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the
Clinton administration.

Even though the general public might associate USAID more with
humanitarian programs and disaster assistance, it has engaged in
democracy-building programs around the world with varying degrees of
success for decades.

Sometimes the programs have landed the agency in hot water.

In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, it partnered with the CIA's Office
of Public Safety to train foreign police forces in 17 countries in Latin
America, Africa and Asia.

After concerns were raised about U.S. funds being used to train officers
in authoritarian regimes that used torture against political prisoners,
Congress passed legislation in 1973 and 1974 to stop U.S. assistance to
foreign law enforcement forces except when it dealt with narcotics control.

But during the controversial 1990-2000 presidency of Alberto Fujimori,
USAID "was very supportive of pro-democracy groups in Peru," said
Shifter. "It was useful to help them create some political space in a
situation where the president essentially controlled everything."

Shifter also said some USAID-sponsored democracy building programs in
Ecuador have been effective and professional.

But late last year, Ecuador announced that USAID, which has worked in
the country for 50 years, was no longer welcome because U.S. authorities
failed to sign a bilateral cooperation agreement that regulates foreign
aid. In a statement, USAID said its pullout later this year would
jeopardize $32 million in projects.

President Rafael Correa had long accused the agency of supporting his
political foes through its democracy building and free-speech programs.

The announcement followed the decision by Bolivian President Evo Morales
to boot USAID last May.

But Herrick said USAID is committed to working in difficult
environments: "The closure of a USAID mission does not mean an end to
our support for democracy, human rights and governance in that country.
It may mean a change in approach, such as moving to new, innovative
platforms to support civil society, or virtual and third-country
training instead of in-country."

In the wake of the ZunZuneo debate, Gomez said he'd like to see more
innovative and effective democracy programs for Cuba.

Cuban democracy programs were established in 1996 under the Helms-Burton
Act, which tightened the embargo and seeks to encourage a regime change
in Cuba. In recent years the programs have received $15 million to $20
million in annual funding.

To be effective, Cuba democracy programs need to be "well-adapted to the
local social and political contexts,'' Feinberg said, "and lot of them
fail to meet this test."

"I'm hoping that ZunZuneo will lead to a careful rethinking of how Cuban
democracy funds can be re-channeled to programs that can lead to
meaningful change on the island,'' said Gomez.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Jim Wyss contributed to this report.

Source: Promoting democracy in countries where USAID isn't welcome is a
delicate balancing act - Nation - MiamiHerald.com -
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Posted on Thursday, 04.10.14

Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
As senator Patrick Leahy calls ZunZuneo 'a cockamamie idea,' senators
Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez voice their support for the program.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Defenders of a U.S. government program for Cubans fired back in the U.S.
Senate on Thursday, with Marco Rubio urging the Twitter-like platform be
restored, and Bob Menendez asking for documents on all similar programs
around the world.

Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he
wants to figure out whether the ZunZuneo platform created by the U.S.
Agency for International Development was consistent with USAID programs
for Internet freedoms in other authoritarian countries.

"Our work in Cuba is no different than our efforts to promote freedom of
expression and uncensored access to information in Ukraine, Russia,
Belarus, Iran, China or North Korea," he told a committee hearing with
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

USAID's ZunZuneo program came under intense scrutiny after The
Associated Press reported that it was a "covert" effort to promote
opposition to the communist government. USAID and the White House have
rejected The AP's characterization.

With supporters of USAID's programs in Cuba saying they are legal and
necessary, and critics saying they are ineffective and wasteful, one
program supervisor who asked for anonymity said Wednesday that the
controversy "is turning into a food fight."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate appropriations panel,
told Shah during a hearing with his committee Tuesday that ZunZuneo,
which allowed Cubans to send short messages to each other from 2010 to
2012, was "a cockamamie idea."

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Cuban-American, says it was
"dumb, dumb, and even dumber" to suggest that Cubans don't deserve the
same freedoms as the rest of the world and took a jab at Leahy.

"Let me say for the record: When it comes to the issue of Cuba or your
work in any closed society, I do not believe that USAID's actions … are,
in any way, a 'cockamamie idea,' " he told Shah.

"You come at a time when USAID is making headlines for, in my mind,
doing nothing more than the job you were appointed to do," Menendez
said. "It is common sense that we shouldn't ask the government of Iran
or Egypt or China for permission to support advocates of free speech,
human rights, or political pluralism or to provide uncensored access to
the Internet or social media."

Rubio, a Cuban-American Republican from South Florida, said he wanted to
shoot down the "insinuation" that ZunZuneo was illegal and covert and
argued that the platform was successful, with 64,000 users before it ran
out of USAID money.

"When is the last time that we've been outraged by a government program
that undermines a tyranny and provides access to a people of a country
to the free flow of information and the ability to talk to each other,"
he asked.

"And so, my question would be, and I know this is a long-winded
question: When do we start this program again?" he said. "What do we
need to do to start, not just this program, but expand it, so that
people in Cuba can do what I just did?"

What Rubio had just done was to send a tweet that he said would have
landed him in jail if he had sent it from Cuba, where the government
blocks access to Twitter and holds a monopoly on Internet access and
telecommunications.

Rubio's tweet: "raul castro is a human rights violator &tyrant. people
of #cuba have a right to have access to internet and social media."

Source: Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
- Cuba - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/10/4052226/rubio-and-menendez-defend-usaids.html Continue reading
Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso Torna /
HemosOido
Posted on April 9, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuba-United States confrontation increased its pitch
with the publication by the daily Granma of the article, Zunzuneo: The
Noise of Subversion, commenting on a report by the AP news agency about
ZunZuneo and Piramideo, two text message services (SMS) accused of
having illegally complied a list of telephone numbers to which it sent
unsolicited messages on innocent topics like sports and culture, but
which later would become subversive messages to young people, considered
"susceptible to political change."

According to Granma, the cornerstone of the ZunZuneo plan — a network
that emerged in February 2010 — was to access the "data and phone
numbers of Cubacel users," the branch with the most ETECSA users. In the
same paragraph, the Communist Party daily suggests: "It is not clear to
the AP how the telephone numbers were obtained although it appears to
indicate that it was done in an illicit manner."

Maybe the AP does not know that the ETECSA database — guide of mobile
and fixed (residential and commercial) telephone numbers — was leaked in
early 2010 to laptop and desktop computers all over the Island. And
that, immediately, promotional texts began to appear issued by Cuban
artistic groups or clubs and bulk messages — unsolicited — demanding
freedom for the five Cuban spies. I remember perfectly one that said:
"To love justice is to defend the five. End injustice! Freedom now!"

The official ETECSA database is updated every year. The latest version
that circulates in the population accounts for 60 per cent of the mobile
phones, some 200,000 users, not counting the residential sector. The
weight of this application in megabytes is between 200 and 450 (by
design) and can be copied in any digital format.

Is it possible that ZunZuneo got 25 thousand subscribers in less than
six months without the need of a database as the AP well reflects? Why
not talk about the so popular data leakage by ETECSA and the
proselytizing in its unsolicited text messages?

Thanks to a friend not tied to the internal oppositon or independent
journalism, I subscribed to ZunZuneo in 2010. It was all very simple, it
just required sending an SMS to a phone number outside the border and
you would receive news about sports, culture or science or technology.
Also, one could subscribe on the Internet, at a time when the number of
connected Cubans was barely 2.9 percent of the population.

Often senior citizens receive in Cuba promotional messages about a
reggaeton concert, also the "March of the Torches Parade in Havana — The
Great Country" is convened through Cubacel, as happened January 27 this
year. Is this not, perhaps, the equivalent of infringing on "the laws of
privacy" as Granma says of ZunZuneo?

Nothing is said about the database leak by Cubacel, software that has
generated groups of clandestine users and even phantom prepaid top-ups
within the informal Cuban market.

This Thursday, the US government responded to the AP's accusations.
White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that his government was
involved in the program and that it even had been approved in Congress.
But the spokesman for the State Department, Marie Harf, denied on
Thursday that the social network was the product of a secret or
undercover operation. "We were trying to expand the space for Cubans to
express themselves," said Harf.For his part, White House spokesman Jay
Carney denied that ZunZuneo had an undercover nature although he
clarified that the US president supports efforts to expand
communications in Cuba.

AP and international media that have reproduced the "scandal" of
ZunZuneo should know that the ZunZuneo application never was used for
any "subversive" movement in Cuba. Instead, the Cuban government used
the ETECSA database to send text messages advocating the liberation of
the five spies or the attendance at pro-governmental political events.

About a year ago, the ZunZuneo messages stopped. Cubans still do not
communicate freely.

Cubanet, April 8, 2014

Translated by mlk

Source: Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso
Torna / HemosOido | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/zunzuneo-subversion-or-breaking-censorship-odelin-alfonso-torna-hemosoido/ Continue reading
The Means and the End / Regina Coyula
Posted on April 10, 2014

Much has been written about Zunzuneo and Piramideo and I'm not going to
be an analyst. My reflection is simple: Could a mass messaging through
Twitter subvert governments like those of Great Britain, Canada, France,
Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica?

Beyond the well-known 15-M (May 15th) protests in Spain, the student
movement in Chile, and Occupy Wall Street in the very belly of the
beast, the social networks have mobilized, have probably knocked down
politicians, but they haven't knocked down governments.

Where does this turn into a dangerous thing? In countries where a bad
economy, lack of freedoms, or both, create the conditions. The Arab
Spring is the best known referent. The displeasure of the Cuban
government is not about the alleged violation of the telephone privacy
of its citizens (that would be a colossal joke) but precisely because
the government knows very well the express or buried opinions of much of
its citizens about the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both, and
what they least want is that a significant group of them would organize
themselves through this means.

And also, I believe, reacting in the face of the launch of Yoani
Sanchez's announced project–a new digital newspaper–a "means" that could
align the feelings of citizens in response to the bad economy, the lack
of freedoms, or both.

9 April 2014

Source: The Means and the End / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-means-and-the-end-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
A Dictatorship Exactly Like the Cuban? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on April 9, 2014

There are countries that never recover from totalitarianism. They remain
anthropologically backward, even though, after a more or less traumatic
transition from dictatorship to democracy they end up being First World
countries.

Faith in themselves and in society dies. A desolate loneliness is sown
in the souls of the surviving citizens, whether they were victims or
executioners. All hope is hopeless. Even God ends up suspected of a
debacle against divinity. They flee their past like the plague. The word
never regains its shine of a human thing and is devalued, like a bridge
permanently in danger of collapse. They cease to be a society to become
something far more sinister and silent. This is the transcendent triumph
of totalitarians: once installed, they are irreversible in perpetuity.

This happened in my country, Cuba, although almost no Cuban is capable
of recognizing it, perhaps to avoid his share of the blame.

This is happening in your country now, Venezuela, and half the world
seems to accept it with a criminal complicity.

When the machinery of the State is the deliverer of a Dogma that must be
imposed at any price, be it Mohammed or Marx, when the government
hijacks the balances that resolve and evolve within a modern society,
when the individual is worth less than an amorphous mass, when a whole
life turns into a vaudeville theater where the intelligence apparatus is
manipulating its script with puppets and deaths, then the damage to
civilization ends up being constitutional. Genetic. Generation after
generation. The human being is annihilated with a bullet to the head, or
condemned to decades in prison, or to permanent exile.

Paternalistic despotism is that simple, half slanderous and half
childish, in its radical simplicity. Like a boy who, in cold blood,
opens the entrails of a worm or a lizard that he trapped in the garden.
Fascist childhood, Eden of all extremisms—and exterminations.

There is something almost sanctifiable in these serial murderers in the
name of socialism and only of socialism, whether of the 21st century or
antiquity: there is no totalitarianism that hasn't justified its
genocides in the sacred name of a social good, with or without mixing
God into the equation of corpses piled over corpses piled over corpses.
Rude geology.

Whoever tires (of killing), loses. That is the limitless logic of the
State gangs, be they Muslims or Marxists.

And that happened in my country, Cuba, which in a few months paid with
thousands of deaths—and with an exile in the millions—for the barbaric
beauty of a Revolution that was applauded throughout Latin America.

And that is happening in your country now, Venezuela, which
unfortunately applauded the Fidelist feast of the anonymous dead of
Cuba, those who half a century back died in the mountains or on the
scaffold, also for you, trying—even with the assassination of the
commander in chief—to spare you this massacre that today continues to
excite the wicked international Left.

No dictatorship is exactly like the Cuban. But Castroism is exactly like
all dictatorships.

8 April 2014

Source: A Dictatorship Exactly Like the Cuban? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-dictatorship-exactly-like-the-cuban-orlando-luis-pardo-lazo/ Continue reading
Cricket in Cuba is clinging on thanks to SOS Kit Aid donations - and I
even had the fortune of bowling Stalin
Scyld Berry visits Cuba to witness first hand how cricket kit donations
are helping teams like Caimanera and Guantanamo to keep the flame
burning against the odds
By Scyld Berry3:29PM BST 09 Apr 2014

Stalin was defeated! I beat him in the air and went through his defence.
Not even Hitler could claim that.
Alright, it wasn't the same Stalin. The chap called Stalin that I
defeated last week was not the Russian dictator but a Cuban cricketer.
Still, not a bad way to start this season…
I was playing in Guantanamo. Not the infamous American naval base, but
the town nearby in south-east Cuba which presents a more human face to
the world.
Stalin plays for Caimanera. Cricket in Cuba saw its best days in the
1950s, when teams from Jamaica and elsewhere would tour the island which
Columbus called the most beautiful place he had seen. But it has become
so neglected and run-down in the last decade that only two teams linger
on: one representing Caimanera, the town next to the US base, and
Guantanamo.
You can quickly see why. The nearest thing to a cricket ground that
remains is the football ground in Guantanamo. Last week, on a hot
morning, somebody walked 22 paces in the centre circle, and stuck the
stumps into the sandy dirt.
Twelve players from the two teams turned up, so we had middle-practice,
everyone batting in pairs. Stalin - oh well, if you must know, I suppose
you can drag the details out of me - ran down the somewhat dusty pitch
and was beaten by a googly which hit his leg stump.
The fact that there were any stumps to hit, and that Stalin had a bat,
was thanks to a remarkably fine charity called SOS Kit Aid. Not the sort
of charity that spends almost everything you donate on administration -
ie their own salaries - but actually does something, without money being
involved.
A visionary called John Broadfoot retired as a Shell executive at the
start of this millennium, visited Romania, and saw how rugby had
suddenly declined there - almost as much as cricket in Cuba, and for the
same basic reason. The cost of kit was prohibitively high.
So for the last 11 years Broadfoot has collected any spare rugby kit
that schools, clubs, governing bodies, kit manufacturers and individuals
have not wanted. And for the last three years any spare cricket kit as
well, in conjunction now with the Lord's Taverners.
Like all the best ideas, it is wonderfully simple. Collect spare cricket
and rugby kit, and send it to where it is appreciated and used, maybe in
UK inner cities or other parts of the world.
The Caimanera team were down to their last cricket bat, between them,
when I escorted a bag of SOS Kit to Guantanamo. Broadfoot's charity has
just signed a contract with the International Cricket Council to supply
21 countries around the world this year: seven each in Europe, Asia and
South America.
To see the impact of the arrival of four quality bats in Guantanamo was
heart-warming, even for a bowler, and of the first cricket helmet the
players had ever seen. A useful addition, because the first ball of our
middle-practice - just short of a length - went three feet over the
batsman's head.
Got anything useful in the cupboard? If so, see www.soskitaid.com for
details. Or if you want to sponsor the charity.
In the meantime the few remaining Cuban cricketers have something to
play with, and for, knowing they are not alone.
Caimanera's opening bowlers are Stalin and Castro, which sounds
imposing. They should be able to dictate terms... and they are pretty nippy.
But the best player I saw was the wicketkeeper of the national Cuban
side ie of the combined Guantanamo-Caimanera teams, surnamed Armstrom
(sorry, I didn't catch all the first names as my Spanish is hopeless).
AB de Villiers and Matt Prior could not have been better or braver at
diving to take balls that shot along the ground down the legside.
I ought to confess that in my first over I was hit for six by a huge
bloke who had just retired as one of the pitchers of the Guantanamo
baseball team. In fact my first over cost nine, which is probably the
most expensive ever recorded in Cuban history. Scoring 10 runs in those
conditions is the equivalent of a double-century at Lord's.
But the main point is: the very existence of cricket in this corner of
the Caribbean is worthy of note, and our encouragement.

Source: Cricket in Cuba is clinging on thanks to SOS Kit Aid donations -
and I even had the fortune of bowling Stalin - Telegraph -
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/10755128/Cricket-in-Cuba-is-clinging-on-thanks-to-SOS-Kit-Aid-donations-and-I-even-had-the-fortune-of-bowling-Stalin.html Continue reading
APRIL 10, 2014 4:00 AM

Sending Ideas to Cuba
The Castro regime appreciates that Communism cannot survive the free
flow of communication.
By Mike Gonzalez

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50
years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune
with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even
immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959.
That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of
oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for
International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist
censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans
could access. This "Cuban Twitter" was a ray of hope that should be
celebrated.

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul.
The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline "US
secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest." This week the U.S.
Senate got in on the act with a hearing at which Democrats took the
agency to task. It is passing strange that journalists and legislators
whose trade depends on a free flow of information should get a bad case
of the vapors when Cubans are given access to each other and the outside
world. Let's concentrate, however, on why USAID's action should be
applauded, not denigrated.
Cubans have no independent press. The three national newspapers and
eight television stations are under the control of the Communist party.
Only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet, according to the
watchdog group Freedom House. This 5 percent is presumably the
percentage the regime thinks it can count on.

What Cubans have, in other words, is 24/7 Castro propaganda. The reason
is very simple. As with all totalitarian regimes, Communism cannot
survive the free flow of ideas. If people under Communism were exposed
to alternative viewpoints, not even the most ruthless police state could
hold them back.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) put it succinctly at an event, on the
Internet and Cuba, that the Heritage Foundation hosted with Google two
years ago: "The regime is so afraid of sharing information because they
can't survive it."

Communist governments must rely on a mixture of state terror,
information blackout, and constant propaganda. It's no coincidence that
Cubans share their fate with North Koreans and the Chinese, whose
countries also ban an independent press, or that the Communist party in
Beijing is busily squelching the last few remnants of the free press in
Hong Kong and putting pressure on bankers to stop advertising in the
last truly free newspaper, Apple Daily.

I know whereof I speak. Today I take for granted my information-rich
environment, my drives to work in the morning as I toggle between NPR,
talk radio, and C-SPAN Radio, and my office decked out with two screens,
one on which I typed this article, the other devoted to Tweet Deck,
which I think of as my personal wire-service newsroom.

As a child I wasn't as fortunate, and neither was my father. As a young
Cuban in the 1960s, I saw him huddle in the evenings around the
pre-Castro shortwave radio he used to receive information from abroad,
his ear pegged to it because he had to keep the volume low lest he be
overheard by neighborhood snitches and instantly arrested. Owning such a
device was illegal, so we hid it during the day.

Even my father's father was luckier. He could use his radio show to
fulminate against the dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1940s. Sure, my
grandfather had to avoid Batista's thugs from time to time, and once
they tried to force him to drink a bottle of airplane fuel to intimidate
him.

But my father under Castro had no recourse to his father's "luxury." He
had no independent media he could use to communicate with thousands or
even millions of other Cubans. Had father taken to our porch to give his
thoughts an airing, he would have been heard by only a handful of people
before being arrested and probably later shot.

The difference between the three generations of my family is the
difference between authoritarian regimes, totalitarian ones, and
freedom. Venezuela has demonstrators in the streets because there is
still some vestige of independent media there. If its goonish
authoritarian regime succeeds at quashing that rebellion, it will try to
turn Venezuela into a version of Cuba and North Korea.

It was precisely that totalitarian control on the flow of ideas that
USAID was trying to sidestep. It was trying to give Cubans access to
ideas from outside and, more important, let them communicate with one
another.

Was that subversive? Yes, I suppose it was. But was it noble? Yes, very
much so. That 10 million Cubans today should suffer the same fate as my
father 50 years ago is a tragedy.

— Mike Gonzalez is vice president of communications at the Heritage
Foundation. His book on Hispanics will be out in September.

Source: Sending Ideas to Cuba | National Review Online -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/375454/sending-ideas-cuba-mike-gonzalez Continue reading
Cuba: U.S. using new weapon against us -- spam
By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)

Havana (CNN) -- Cuban officials have accused the U.S. government of
bizarre plots over the years, such as trying to kill Fidel Castro with
exploding cigars. On Wednesday, they said Washington is using a new
weapon against the island: spam.
"It's overloading the networks, which creates bad service and affects
our customers," said Daniel Ramos Fernandez, chief of security
operations at the Cuban government-run telecommunications company ETECSA.
At a news conference Wednesday, Cuban officials said text messaging
platforms run by the U.S. government threatened to overwhelm Cuba's
creaky communications system and violated international conventions
against junk messages.
The spam, officials claim, comes in the form of a barrage of unwanted
text messages, some political in nature.
Ramos said that during a 2009 concert in Havana performed by the
Colombian pop-star Juanes, a U.S. government program blanketed Cuban
cell phone networks with around 300,000 text messages over about five hours.
American contractor imprisoned in Cuba Rubio: Cuba using Alan Gross as
a pawn Alan Gross wife: Handshake 'irrelevant'
"It was a platform created to attack Cuban networks," Ramos said.
As first reported by the Associated Press last week, the U.S. Agency for
International Development created a cell-phone-based "Cuban Twitter"
program, known as ZunZuneo.
It allowed U.S. government officials to send blast texts to Cubans and
allowed people on the island to message each other independent of Cuban
government restrictions on communications.
Under Cuban law, all Internet and communications services on the island
are controlled by government-run entities.
USAID officials envisioned the program being used to organize "smart
mobs" that could challenge the Cuban government's control on power,
according to documents obtained by the AP.
U.S. defends 'discreet' program
Just this month, Cuba started a government e-mail service that allows
people to receive e-mails on their phones.
In the country, which has the lowest rate of Internet access in the
Western Hemisphere, the vast majority of people communicate via text
message rather than using e-mail.
ZunZuneo -- Cuban slang for erratic, zigzag movements -- counted around
68,000 users at the height of the program's popularity, USAID said. The
program ended in 2012 after U.S. government funds for it dried up.
Cuban officials have blasted the program as part of a long-running
campaign by Washington to destabilize the island's single-party
communist government and said other similar mass-messaging programs
still exist.
U.S. government officials have defended the program, saying they were
trying to foster free expression in Cuba.
Last week State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf denied accusations
that the program aimed to push a particular political agenda.
"We believe that the Cuban people need platforms like this to use
themselves to decide what their future will look like, and that's
certainly what we did here," she told reporters. "We were trying to
expand the space for Cubans to express themselves. They could've
expressed ... anti-American views on it. We didn't monitor or ... choose
what they say on these platforms. That's up to them."
But other U.S. officials have been less positive about the program's value.
During a USAID budget hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy,
D-Vermont, called ZunZuneo "a cockamamie idea" that the Cuban government
had little difficulty tracing back to the United States.
USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said that ZunZuneo had been carried out
"discreetly" to avoid Cuban government detection, but it wasn't a covert
program that would have required Congressional approval.
"Creating platforms to improve communication in Cuba and in many parts
of the world is a core part of what USAID has done for some time and
continues to do," Shah said. "Our administration's policy is to continue
to support efforts to allow for open communications."
Shah said that USAID "continues to support platforms" like ZunZuneo, but
he didn't go into details.

Alan Gross' attorney: Program is 'shocking'
Attempts by USAID employees and contractors to get U.S. government
technology into the hands of Cubans has been at the heart of a
high-profile case that's been a flashpoint in Cuba-U.S. relations in
recent years.
Former USAID subcontractor Alan Gross is serving a 15-year sentence in
prison on the island after his 2009 arrest for importing banned
communications as part of a USAID program to connect Cubans to the Internet.
He was charged by a Cuban court in 2011 of being an American spy. USAID
has said he was in the country working on a U.S. government project
setting up satellite Internet connections.
Shah said the U.S. government continues to push Cuban officials to
release Gross.
But Gross, 65, announced Tuesday that he had begun a hunger strike on
April 3 from his cell at a Cuban military hospital to protest the way
both countries' governments are treating him.
His lawyer said he was shocked to learn about the ZunZuneo program.
"Once Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his
safety even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," attorney
Scott Gilbert said in a statement.
Gross has lost 10 pounds since beginning the hunger strike, a
spokeswoman for his attorney said Tuesday.
A statement issued Wednesday by Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
expressed "concern" over news of Gross' hunger strike, but said he "was
in good physical condition and his health was normal and stable."
Cuban government officials have offered to discuss trading Gross for
three Cuban intelligence operatives serving lengthy prison in the United
States. But U.S. officials have said that there will be no swap, saying
Gross was not spying in Cuba.
Former Cuban counterintelligence official weighs in
A former member of Cuba's secretive State Security unit, which hunts
what Cuban officials perceive to be internal threats, said he wasn't
surprised to hear about the U.S.-funded ZunZuneo program.
It's just the sort of thing that Jose Manuel Collera Vento says he was
tasked with stamping out when he worked as a counterintelligence official.
"My job was to discover and neutralize these plans against my country,"
said Collera, who's also a cardiologist and a top official in Cuba's
masonic community.
In 2004, Collera says he came face to face with Gross.
"It's impossible that he didn't know he was carrying out clandestine and
illegal activity," Collera said.
Gross, Collera said, visited him to deliver camera equipment and money.
At the time, USAID officials and representatives from other U.S.
agencies proposed setting up satellite, Internet-based centers at the
masonic temples that Collera oversaw.
"Alan Gross as a person was nice, very friendly," Collera said. "He
communicated by making gestures because his Spanish was very limited."
What Gross did not realize, according to Collera, was that Collera was a
30-year veteran of Cuba's State Security and was informing his superiors
of the USAID contractor's activities in Cuba.
After Gross was arrested, Collera testified against him at his trial,
where in 2011 he was convicted of threatening Cuba's national security.
Collera has since retired but said Cuba's domestic intelligence
capabilities make any United States-directed program, from the CIA's
alleged exploding cigars to USAID's "Cuban Twitter," nearly impossible
to keep secret.
"There are 11 million Cubans," Collera said. "That means there are 11
million people who could be State Security."
CNN's Kevin Liptak and Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

Source: Cuba: U.S. using new weapon against the island -- spam - CNN.com
- http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/09/world/americas/cuba-twitter-spam/ Continue reading
Democracy in the Times of the Energy Crisis
April 10, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — In this post, I will assume two things:

1) No democracy exists in Cuba. Individuals, acting independently or as
groups, have absolutely no means of influencing or modifying the
decisions of those who hold the reins of the nation. It is not, to be
sure, a typical, bloody dictatorship, but rather one based on the
annihilation of civil society.

2) The depletion of natural resources and the destruction of the
environment spell the decline of industrial civilization. The growth and
progressive development to which the second half of the twentieth
century accustomed us are today a utopian dream.

The interesting part is that these are not isolated phenomena: democracy
and the crisis of civilization condition each other mutually. In this
post, I will try to work out what will happen with the former as the
latter begins to take root.

Democracy is one of the top achievements of humanity. Without it, we
would be reduced to cruel, power-hungry creatures. The limited democracy
that some peoples have enjoyed at certain points in history has been
made possible by the confluence of a number of factors I will try to
summarize: the fulfillment of certain basic needs, relative autonomy of
the micro and the local with respect to the macro, the flexibility of
religious dogma and, most importantly, the predominance of a culture
that upholds justice, fraternity, virtue and the dignity of individuals.

Democracy reached its highest expression during the second half of the
past century. However, as the Western world grew richer, thanks (among
other things) to the treasure that issued from the subsoil, nature and
tenets of democracy began to change radically.

Virtue, for instance, ceased to be an indispensable condition for
democracy. Today, a nation can be made up of a majority of alienated and
consumerist idiots (in the ancient sense of the word) who choose not to
participate in public affairs, and still be considered "free and
democratic." It suffices for this nation be prosperous, well-armed and
connected somehow to hegemonic culture. Let no one be deceived: it is
the decline of the original project of democracy.

Cuba

In keeping with the above, many of those who long and work for the
"restoration" of democracy in Cuba believe that this process is
necessarily conditioned by economic development and greater contact with
the outside world. The thinking goes that when individuals begin to
travel freely, connect to the Internet without restrictions and enjoy
the advantages and comforts of modern life, they will no longer put up
with a provincial-minded, petty tyrant that whips them into action when
he wishes.

New comforts will sway the hard-headed who still believe in the
generosity of the regime. Employment and decent salaries will help
contain the pernicious vulgarity that destroys Cuban culture and
alienates the young. The Internet will sweep away the foundations of the
dictatorship more resolutely and radically than all aggression by
imperialism and its lackeys.

The only tiny little problem is that all of the above is achieved by
making the GDP grow, and this is not possible in the times of the energy
crisis.

The Facts

It is already too late. The crisis is around the corner and the
possibility of overthrowing the regime using Facebook or showing people
the good life it is missing is decreasing minute after minute. But do
not despair, for the end of cheap oil could spell an opportunity for
democracy.

The dictatorship that began in 1959 has been able to survive thanks to
its monopoly over healthcare services, education, the media and the
means of production. Such tight control over things is possible only
when one has abundant oil at one's disposal – the day the oil pipeline
spits out mud, the party's over. One needn't be a prophet to see this
coming: we already experienced it during the Special Period.

The crash will be announced by the horsemen of the apocalypsis, but the
good news is that these same demons will break the chains that bind
individuals and communities to the totalitarian and paternalistic State.

As the Center weakens, the local, the communal, horizontal relationships
among people and a whole series of related virtues (without which a true
democracy cannot be built) will be favored. The problem is that vices
will come along with the virtues.

Conclusion

Democracy could well be within hand's reach in a future marked by the
energy crisis, the only "inconvenience" is that we will have to fight
for it old-school: wielding a machete, in exile or prison with a quill
and some ink, through guerrilla warfare up in the mountains or
clandestine cells in the city. Will we have what it takes?

Source: Democracy in the Times of the Energy Crisis - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102927 Continue reading
Dad, I Want to Go to La Yuma* / Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on April 9, 2014

Havana, Cuba – It's not too surprising that a son of Cuba's Minister of
the Interior recently arrived in the U.S. to stay. Josué Colomé–as this
immigrant is named–is not the first descendent of a high official of the
regime who decided to leave for "enemy" lands, and so join the thousands
of Cubans who arrive in the United States each year in search of
opportunity. It's obvious that the Revolution that dad helped make isn't
good enough. Not even for him.

His father, General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, is one of the historic
leaders of the Cuban dictatorship. He serves in a key position, given
that he's the guardian of State Security, in charge of administering the
repressive forces, watching friends and enemies alike, as well as
executing exemplary sentences. That is, the largest jailer on the
island-prison. The job of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) one of
the strongest currencies that sustains the regime: fear. The heads of
this institution have always been dark characters who enjoy the greatest
confidence of the Supreme Leader. MININT is the principle guarantor of
the Cuban government (that is the Castro brothers) to exercise their
absolute power.

Thus, although not unique, it's a singular case of apostasy. The son of
the General, who now awaits his residency in the U.S., is one of the few
who know first hand the intimacies of the governmental summit. Josué has
lived among luxuries and complete indifference, and could stay in Cuba
enjoying his surname. However, he preferred to abandon ship.

But that's not the most striking thing: his father having ears that hear
everything, it's tempting to wonder about the following: Did the General
know that his son was preparing to escape? Did the chief of MININT
participate in the plan in some way, or knowing it, did he look the
other way?

It's hard not to suspect it. The Cuban Minister of the Interior could
sin at anything, but not naivete. It may never be clear what, if any,
degree of involvement did the Cuban official have in the happy journey?
Perhaps it's not a crazy assumption that the young Josué, now a refugee
in the USA (waiting on the Cuban Adjustment Act), had the help of his
powerful father to get to his destination through a third country. Then,
the "killer" Adjustment Law would have been very good for the family
interests of the representative of the regime.

*Translator's note: "La Yuma" is what Cubans call the United States and
other foreign countries.

Cubanet, 7 April 2014, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Source: Dad, I Want to Go to La Yuma* / Victor Ariel Gonzalez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/dad-i-want-to-go-to-la-yuma-victor-ariel-gonzalez/ Continue reading
The Voices of Cubans? / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 8, 2014

Arrogance is a personality trait impossible to hide for those who suffer
from it. In fact, it becomes more obvious when an arrogant individual
tries to cover his proverbial petulance under a cloak of feigned
humility. The worst of such a subject, however, is his histrionic
ability that allows him to deceive considerable groups of people,
particularly those who desperately need someone to speak "for them" or
those who, quite the opposite, enjoy the blessing of authority.

In the case of Cuba, where freedom of speech, of the press, of
information and of association are among the major shortages of this
society, it is not difficult that, from time to time, some savior may
appear self-proclaiming to be "the spokesperson for Cubans" which–it's
obvious–betrays immeasurable insolence, not only because it lacks the
allocation of powers, but because it previously assumes an often
repeated lie that, for some chumps, has become the truth: Cubans have no
voice. Allow me, Mr. Arrogant and his troupe, to correct your mistake:
Cuba's Cubans do have a voice, what they lack is the means to be heard,
not to mention the great number of deaf people in the world.

But, of course, a shining hero will always appear–usually with
credentials and even with a pedigree–who, from his infinite wisdom, will
quickly delve into the deeper intricacies of the Cuban reality and will
be the only one capable to interpret it objectively because he, balanced
and fair, "is not at the end of the spectrum". Interestingly, these
specimens proliferate virulently among accredited foreign journalists on
the Island.

Since I don't wish to be absolute, I suppose that there are those who
are humble and even respectful of Cubans and of our reality, only I have
never had the privilege of meeting them. It may be my bad luck, but,
that said, to practice journalism in Cuba armed with credentials of a
major media outlet and with the relative safety that your work will be
published and–very important–duly financially rewarded, seems to have a
hallucinogenic effect on some of them.

Such is the case of quasi-Cubanologist Fernando Ravsberg, to whom I will
refer as "R" as an abbreviation, a journalist recently fallen from grace
with his (ex) employer, the BBC, who has written a plaintive post
following his clash with the powerful medium and, oh, surprise! after
many years of working as a correspondent in Cuba and having collected
his earnings has found that "he does not share their editorial judgment"
as stated in his personal blog, Cartas Desde Cuba. R, inexplicably, took
longer to find out the editorial standards of the BBC than to get
acquainted with the intimacies of such a controversial society as that
of Cuba.

R soaked us with "having tried to be the voice of ordinary Cubans," of
"the man on the street" through his blog. He says this with such
conviction that there are even those who, besides himself, have believed
it. And, since this man is not afraid and has taken his messianic
mission very seriously, he is proposing that, "from now on, whoever has
an interest in continuing to debate on the reality of the Island, will
be able to do so through my personal page". Very humble, R, seriously,
and we should be thankful… where else could we do it otherwise?

I must confess that my stomach is not that strong, so I read R's work
only every now and then, and afterwards, I spend some time detoxing. For
example, phrases like this sicken me: "We tried to decipher the keys to
the psychiatric hospital crime, where some thirty patients died from
hunger and cold". In Cuban lingo R was really "discovering" warm water
because that monstrous crime was in no way encrypted.

For most Cubans, and to every independent journalist who covered the
story extensively and published serious review articles about the case,
the essence of the events lies in the corrupt nature of the system, its
officials and, in particular, the impunity of its practitioners and
those who are foremost responsible: the dictatorial gerontocracy of over
half a century, that is, the same one R awards great credit for the
universal health care for Cubans.

In any moderately democratic country, more than one high official would
have been blown out of the water over a similar scandal. OK, then, the
events of the psychiatric hospital are just the sample button of the
quality of health service offered to ordinary Cubans, common Cubans who
have no access to hard currency clinics, or to the CIMEQ*, where the
anointed and the leaders are cared for. Needless to say, mental patients
are the most fragile and defenseless.

If R knew a tad more about the history of Cuba, he would know that,
though as inadequate as it is today, Cuba had public health care since
colonial times; therefore, it is not a Castro-innovation. And there were
health care institutions that were eliminated by the revolution: I, as
the daughter of a qualified laborer and a housewife, was born at Acción
Médica (Coco and Rabí Streets, Santos Suárez, Havana) a clinic all the
members of my family belonged to. Their service and their attentive care
were both very good.

As for "low infant mortality" so highly advertised, many specialists
question the accuracy of Cuban statistics. In fact, they are so fickle
that they do not reflect the number of neonates who die before being
entered in the records, because there is an official policy that guides
registration of births when newborns are healthy and have at least some
basic guarantees for survival.

I know testimonials from parents whose children were born with certain
defects or conditions incompatible with life and remained hospitalized
until their death, several days later, without ever being registered.
Officially, these children are never born, so they go from the womb to
their eternal sleep without the required red tape. Thus, officials
prevent them from being a negative number in the fabulous statistics
displayed to the world, but what does it matter, if even the World
Health Organization recognizes the overwhelming success of revolutionary
medicine and applauds it excitedly.

As for "universal education" comments are not needed. Every Cuban born
in this process who has attended school in previous decades, and whose
children and grandchildren have also been students in Cuba know only too
well about the deteriorating quality of education, teachers and teaching
facilities, more manifest in the last two decades, to say nothing of the
indoctrination and the segregation of those who think differently than
the official line.

If R considers this an achievement, he should also know that public and
private education existed since colonial times on the Island, and that,
since the eighteenth century, academic tradition was established in our
country and lasted until the totalitarianism of this government turned
it into a hostage to ideology and monopolized, generalized, and
uniformed, to its detriment, all education.

As an example, my grandson Cesar, who is in first grade, learned about
"the five heroes", Che Guevara and F. Castro at school, however, they
have never mentioned Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte or any
of the founding fathers of the Cuban nation to him… and even less the
great civic figures in the history of this country.

Another issue would be what R calls "the world's most efficient civil
defense". This already seems a hallucination as a result of an overdose
…of something. What exactly is the "civil defense" for this brilliant
journalist? The answer is a mystery, so we can only speculate. Could it
be that he is referring to the spectral MTT**, whose only "proof" of
existence is the work-day that all of this country's state employees
donate annually, but nobody knows where the money goes or how these
funds are used?

Or is this what R calls the amorphous mass, grouped under the generic
"CDR" whose only purpose is to pay the State a few cents monthly and to
light up a bonfire once a year to display the collective hunger by
consuming a repulsive (revolutionary) stew? Does R ignore that the CDR's
are today a pipe dream, just shreds of the most formidable organization
that Castro I created in order to spy on us and get us to betray each
other, which filled people with distrust, envy and hatred?

In criticizing the dissidence and some others of Cuba's ills, R states
he's seeking a necessary "journalistic balance" (some euphemism!). R is
just spewing the first thing that comes to mind or whatever is at hand,
be it a stone or something less principled, which–far from achieving
some balance–only results in murky half-truths or misrepresentations.
It's what happens whenever a "critic" attacks the effects, carefully
avoiding pointing out the causes. Thus, R is playing with the chain,
including some high links, but he keeps a very prudent distance from the
monkey. That way, anyone can be an acrobat and keep the balance.

He does lash out at "the dissidence", and how! This is what happens
when, from his comfortable seat, R questions the finances that the same
dissidence gets, since such an expert analyst of the Cuban reality must
know, members of the dissidence are expelled from jobs and school and
many lack any other income or livelihood.

At the same time, for R–and for the Cuban regime–it is obvious that any
"dissent" is funded by the U.S. government: apparently, they have their
proof. However, I don't know of any dissident jailed for being "in the
service of a foreign power". Who could believe that the olive green
satrapy would allow the existence of so many "mercenaries" when the mere
act of protesting or making an anti-government poster has resulted in
brutal reprisals or landed many Cubans in prison?

But we human beings always have something in common. Here's where R and
I are alike: I'm not "politically correct". Indeed, some people think
I'm not correct at all. Though I suspect we do not have the same concept
of what is "political" or what is "correct". For instance, R says on his
blog "we analyzed the dissidence's weaknesses" (because in his infinite
virtue, R humbly overuses the plural and replaces the "I" with an
unpretentious "we", a common vice among speakers of the nomenclature).

At times, I have also criticized the proposal or program of my
opponents, stipulating the reasons why I don't share their views, which
doesn't mean I don't respect or support them in their struggle against
the regime and in favor of democracy, or do not recognize their values.
Because, if we are talking about equilibrium, attacking the
dissidence–the weakest link of the political chain in Cuba–is the
easiest thing in the world; not allowing them a chance to reply is
simply indecent.

As in every community or human group, it is true that not all the
members of the dissidence are an example of virtue or honesty, but that
does not imply that the opposition is a cesspool of detritus. R doesn't
even acknowledge the value of certain groups or individuals that have
been performing staid and growing civic work within society and enjoy
great prestige in their communities, as well as outside of Cuba.

Manipulating information, distorting and fragmenting reality to suit
your fancy and raving against sectors and individuals who do not have
the possibility or the means to defend themselves and who are at a total
disadvantage against the longest dictatorship in this hemisphere is
opportunism and mediocrity, but, above all, it is immoral and unethical.

Finally, if, as R says, "the chief diplomat of the U.S. in Cuba
recommended that the State Department" should read his blog "to
understand the real situation" in our country, revealed through a
"secret cable" filtered through Wikileaks, our sincerest congratulations
(to R, of course, because the State Department would just end up with
yet another oblique interpretation from a foreigner who is thriving on
the Cuban situation).

There is no doubt that R can still extract other advantages from his
undeniable ability to sell himself as a specialist of the topics he
writes about. Pity those souls who give him credit or pay for his work;
it is well known that all spectacles need their public.

It is striking, however, that R considers as beneficial the
acknowledgment he gets from the government he often condemns because it
maintains the "criminal embargo" against the Island and, in addition,
finances us, the sinister mercenary dissidence. Will he make up his
mind, already and pick a side? Maybe neither; rather, the incident
deeply flatters his ego and serves as a present for his arrogance, hence
the gloating.

I think I've already overextended myself. Some might be of the opinion
that so much effort was not worth it, as a very wise saying goes: to
foolish words, deaf ears. I have decided this time to go with another:
silence means consent. These twisted characters can end up doing a lot
of harm.

For the rest, my regular readers know that this writer is characterized
by the absence of hair follicles on her tongue [she will say whatever
she thinks], a trait which will annoy some. What are we gonna do! It's
very hard for me to keep silent in the face of so much effrontery.
Chauvinism aside, it especially irks me to see such cheap verbiage from
a foreigner who, when it's all said and done, does not hurt for Cuba,
Cubans, or their distresses. As far as I'm concerned, if this man is the
voice of Cubans, it would be better for us if he remained discretely silent.

*El Centro de Investigaciones Médico Quirúrgicas (Medical-Surgery
Research Center, in Havana)
**The Territorial Troops Militia (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales)

Translated by Norma Whiting
4 April 2014

Source: The Voices of Cubans? / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-voices-of-cubans-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
Cuba promises to offer internet to all citizens — with restrictions
More and more Cubans have access to cellphones and email accounts
JUAN JESÚS AZNAREZ Havana 8 ABR 2014 - 19:19 CET

The Cuban government has promised that it will allow its citizens to
access the internet from their homes – something that can currently only
be done at state-run internet cafés – but it said it would not permit
them to access "counter-revolutionary" sites financed by Washington.

Cuba has recently made inroads into opening up its society and allowing
people to connect with the outside world. But according to dissidents,
new technologies are still restricted in many ways because Cuban
Communist Party (PCC) leaders fear that more openness will lead to them
losing their hold on absolute power.

At the same time, Havana angrily lodged a protest with Washington last
week over its promotion of an ambitious cellphone texting service
designed to bombard users with anti-Castro messages.

On a recent day when Cuban authorities denied to EL PAÍS that they were
restricting access to global networks, dozens of young people interested
in purchasing a cellphone, opening an email account and surfing the
internet could be seen crowding in front of the state-run ETECSA
communications office in Havana's El Vedado district.

An estimated two million Cubans, out of a total population of 11
million, own a cellphone – a growing number, but still miniscule
compared with other Latin American nations. Around 330,000 islanders are
also permitted to surf the internet through government-approved
accounts. Cubans can check their emails at cybercafés and by cellphone
through a new state domain: name@nauta.cu.

They don't want everyone using Facebook or Twitter"
Another undetermined number use pirated internet signals or email
accounts opened by friends abroad.

"There is no censorship but we lack the technical capability to offer
more than what we can offer with the budget we have," explains Tania
Velázquez, an ETECSA official. The state communications agency runs 118
internet centers for the public across the island, containing a total of
520 computers running on slow 2G networks. Government officials have
their own internet service.

"We need to invest more, in the manner in which we can, to obtain more
technical capacity but there are no regulatory or commercial barriers.
Our objective is to reach all households," says Luis Manuel Díaz,
another ETECSA official.

But sources say the government has no intention of allowing this to
happen. The connectivity is there: an underwater fiber optic cable
linking Cuba with Venezuela has been in operation for about a year now.

"They don't want everyone using Facebook or Twitter, and allowing people
to always be connected, which could lead to an eventual mobilization,"
says one businessman, who describes himself as "interested" in President
Raúl Castro's economic reforms.

An estimated two million Cubans, out of a total population of 11
million, own a cellphone
But the Cuban government also has other reasons. On Thursday, the Cuban
Foreign Ministry lodged an official complaint over a plan by agencies
and private companies with links to the Obama administration "to promote
subversion" on the island.

The complaint came after the Associated Press reported earlier this
month that the United States tried to initiate a "Twitter-like" Cuban
messaging service called Zunzuneo to offer news, sports and
entertainment to thousands of subscribers on the island. According to
the plan – supported by documents and interviews obtained by AP – once
the service reached a certain number of subscribers, political messages
would be transmitted in the hope of mobilizing the people to push for
change.

According to AP, the system was developed in Barcelona. The Obama
administration defended the program and said it complied with US
anti-espionage and trade laws but there are critics who believe otherwise.

Two years ago, the US Treasury Department imposed a $1.75 billion fine
on Ericsson, the world's biggest cellphone company, for doing business
with Cuba and violating the 1962 US embargo with the island.

And there have been ways to circumvent US laws. In 2007, Cuba and
Venezuela signed an agreement for a fiber optic cable that connected the
island with the South American nation, which went into operation last
year and has given the island better connectivity.

Source: Cuba promises to offer internet to all citizens — with
restrictions | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/04/08/inenglish/1396975288_827346.html Continue reading
Repression in Cuba during Times of Peace and Transition
April 7, 2014
Jimmy Roque Martinez

HAVANA TIMES – I first saw footage of an official act of reprisal (mitín
de repudio) in Cuba in the Cuban film Memories of development. The
footage showed a group of people beating up a person. The images were
from the eighties, during the Mariel exodus.

Seeing those images was painful. I felt a mixture of pain, shame, anger
and even loneliness. I find it curious that I've never met anyone who
has admitted (with shame or pride) having participated in such actions.
I don't believe all who did have left the country.

I recently got my hands on acts of reprisal carried out very recently –
the documentary Gusano ("Scum"), by the Estado de SATS group. The film
documents some violent acts against the opposition that are evidently
organized by the Cuban government.

In Cuba, people don't even organize themselves independently to march in
front of the US Interests Section and demand the lifting of the
blockade, something which, in theory, should not be a source of conflict
between the Cuban government and such demonstrators – but any kind of
autonomy is inadmissible here on the island.

It is inconceivable that a government should pit its own citizens
against one another. Cuban military officers send civilians to verbally
and physically attack other (peaceful) civilians, many a time without
even telling them why or telling them anything about the people they are
supposed to attack.

Many of these aggressors are opportunists who are looking after their
privileged positions or illegal businesses, and participating in these
reprisals is a kind of endorsement that guarantees personal protection.

There are also cases in which people feel some antipathy towards the
person targeted for a reprisal and are given an opportunity, by the
government, to attack their personal enemy.

The people's resources are used to attack the people, to pit neighbor
against neighbor.

There are two aspects of these actions that I consider particularly
dangerous. One is the participation of military officers dressed as
civilians, who drive vehicles with regular license plates. This ought to
be illegal, as military officers trained in personal defense and paid to
attack others conceal their true identity, playing the part of ordinary
people.

The other point is the subordination of the Ministry of Education to the
Ministry of the Interior, caught sight of in the fact students who are
not of age are involved in violent acts, probably without the consent of
their parents.

They are made to skip classes, taught that violence is a means of
defending one's criteria, and exposed to the risk of getting hurt when
the violence is unleashed.

The Ministry of Education should have to respond publicly and before the
law for this. Is part of its aim as a social institution to teach
violence, to teach the young that imposing one's viewpoints, not
debating, is a valid form of communication? Is public education
subordinate to a military institution in Cuba?

Source: Repression in Cuba during Times of Peace and Transition - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102854 Continue reading
Was ZunZuneo To Promote Free Speech Or Destabilize Cuba?
April 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET

David Greene to Julia Sweig, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations, about revelations the USAID created and ran a now-defunct
Cuban Twitter communications network from 2010 to 2012.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Dumb, dumb, dumb. That's a quote. It's what Democratic senator Patrick
Leahy is calling a social media program the U.S. government operated in
Cuba for two years, ending in 2012. The Associated Press last week
reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development, which funds
humanitarian and development projects, created a text messaging service
called ZunZuneo meant to give Cubans a platform for political dissent.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The name is Cuban slang for a hummingbird's tweet. The 68,000 Cubans who
used ZunZuneo had no way of knowing the U.S. was paying for it. USAID
denies there was anything improper about ZunZuneo and the head of USAID
answers questions today before a Senate panel chaired by Patrick Leahy.

GREENE: The White House has also been on defense, saying it was all
above board. Here's press secretary Jay Carney.

JAY CARNEY: Suggestions that this was a covert program are wrong.
Congress funds democracy programming for Cuba to help empower Cubans to
access more information and to strengthen civil society. These
appropriations are public, unlike covert action. The money invested has
been debated in Congress .

GREENE: OK, so is ZunZuneo an effort to promote free speech in a
repressive country? Or a covert program meant to destabilize the Cuban
government - or is it both?

For one point of view, we turned to Julia Sweig. She's a senior Fellow
at the Council on Foreign Relations who's been a frequent visitor to
Cuba and has been openly critical of U.S. policy there.

Julia Sweig, thanks so much for coming on the program. We appreciate
your time.

JULIA SWEIG: I'm happy to be here, David.

GREENE: So give us thumbnail, if you can. What exactly was this program?

SWEIG: This program created an app that was sent in a big blast to Cuban
cell phone users that allowed them to communicate with one another for
free. It's been called a Twitter-type platform but manufactured by
companies who were contracted by USAID.

GREENE: So someone in Cuba using this would not have realized that it
was connected to the U.S. government. They might have been using it to,
you know, chat with friends - do other stuff.

SWEIG: That's absolutely true. The program was designed actually to
conceal the fact that it was developed by the U.S. government.

GREENE: Well, how exactly was the U.S. government trying to use this
program?

SWEIG: In this particular case, the idea is that social media has the
possibility of bringing about political change. And this attempt was to
measure and seize upon dissatisfaction by young people in Cuba with
their government, and to gradually encourage them with content and other
sorts of messaging, to create pools of dissidents and opposition activity.

What's funny about this is that in order to get this program up and
running and to sustain it, the front companies actually paid the Cuban
government-owned telephone company revenue for providing the
connectivity that was necessary, in order for this quasi-Twitter app to
function. So on the one hand, the Obama administration is working very
hard to enforce economic sanctions. On the other hand, through this
essentially covert program, is actually giving money to the Cuban
government.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you this, Julia Sweig: Could a program like
this backfire? I mean there are some who are suggesting that people who
are in countries around the world, who are genuinely trying to organize
protests using social media in difficult environments, this now gives a
leader the right to say: Look, I'm going to shut down social media
because this might be if foreign government trying to infiltrate.

SWEIG: Well, it certainly does have that potential. We saw that in Iran
over the last few years. But the truth is, David, on the Cuba front, I
think that this is not going to cause the Cuban government to shut down
the use of social media or to stop its strategy of trying to expand the
Internet digitally. Because I think the broader economic imperative is
that Cuba needs and Cubans need to have these tools.

So I do think it's going to just sharpening attitudes inside of the
Cuban government, where it would be better for the future if the two
countries could deal with one another with a slightly more positive
view. This will die down however, in my view.

GREENE: Julia Sweig is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations. Julia, thanks so much for your time.

SWEIG: Thanks very much for having me, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: And there's more firm MORNING EDITION ahead. We appreciate you
making NPR News a part of your daily routine. This afternoon, remember
to tune into ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Source: Was ZunZuneo To Promote Free Speech Or Destabilize Cuba? : NPR -
http://www.npr.org/2014/04/08/300477959/was-zunzuneo-to-promote-free-speech-or-destabilize-cuba Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 04.08.14

'Cuban Twitter' _overtly political, poking Castros
BY DESMOND BUTLER AND JACK GILLUM AND PETER ORSI
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Draft messages produced for a Twitter-like network that
the U.S. government secretly built in Cuba were overtly political and
poked fun at the Castro brothers, documents obtained by The Associated
Press show. The messages conflict with claims by the Obama
administration that the program had no U.S.-generated political content
and was never intended to stir unrest on the island.

Disclosure of the messages, as described in internal documents, came as
the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development told Congress
in sometimes- confrontational testimony Tuesday that his agency's
program was "absolutely not" covert and was simply meant to increase the
flow of information.

An AP investigation last week found that the program, known as ZunZuneo,
evaded Cuba's Internet restrictions by creating a text-messaging service
that could be used to organize political demonstrations. It drew tens of
thousands of subscribers who were unaware it was backed by the U.S.
government.

At an oversight hearing Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of
Vermont told USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah that the program was
"cockamamie" and not adequately described to Congress.

USAID, known worldwide for its humanitarian work, has repeatedly
maintained it did not send out political messages under the project.
Leahy asked Shah whether the project's goal was to "influence political
conditions abroad by gathering information about Cuban cellphone users"
or "to encourage popular opposition to the Cuban government."

"No, that is not correct," Shah said. "The purpose of the program was to
support access to information and to allow people to communicate with
each other," he said. "It was not for the purpose you just articulated."

But some messages sent to Cuban cellphones were sharp political satire.
One early message sent on Aug. 7, 2009, took aim at the former Cuban
telecommunications minister, Ramiro Valdes, who had once warned that the
Internet was a "wild colt" that "should be tamed."

"Latest: Cuban dies of electrical shock from laptop. 'I told you so,'
declares a satisfied Ramiro. 'Those machines are weapons of the enemy!'"

Others were marked in documents as drafts, and it was not immediately
clear if they were ultimately transmitted by the service, which the
government said ceased in 2012 because of a lack of funding.

Said one draft message: "THE BACKWARDS WORLD: 54% of Americans think
Michael Jackson is alive and 86% of Cubans think Fidel Castro is dead."
Another called Castro the "The coma-andante," a reference to Fidel's age.

"No," wrote organizers, apparently nixing that text. "Too political."

A USAID spokesman did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment
Tuesday.

Last Thursday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said that
"no political content was ever supplied by anyone working on this
project or running it. It was the people — the Cuban people on the
ground who were doing so."

However, Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in
Chile, said Tuesday that he was hired to write the political texts,
though he was never told about ZunZuneo's U.S. origins.

"I don't do cultural humor," he said. "I do political humor. Everything
I do is politics even if it is humor about politics."

"Obviously it has to be covert, there is no way you can do something
like this in Cuba without someone paying a price," he said.

Some lawmakers in Washington have expressed support for ZunZuneo since
the AP's original disclosure. The latest came at a second hearing on
Tuesday, this one before a House subcommittee. Two Florida lawmakers —
Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart —
said the Cuba project was successful.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, and Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the House
Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, said USAID should be
applauded for giving people in Cuba a less-controlled platform to talk
to each other.

But Leahy and other lawmakers questioned how thoroughly Congress was
informed of the project. They've said it's been described only in broad
terms and they were given no indications of the program's risks, its
political nature or the extensive efforts to conceal Washington's
involvement.

Shah said that Congress has been notified about this program every year
since 2008 in documents outlining USAID's budget. "The fact that we are
discussing it in this forum, and that it is an unclassified program,
illustrates that this is not a covert effort," he said.

He said "parts of it were done discreetly" to protect the people
involved. He cited a study by the Government Accountability Office into
democracy promotion programs run by USAID and the State Department —
including the Cuban Twitter project — that found the programs to be
consistent with the law.

But the author of the GAO study, David Gootnick, told the AP this week
that investigators did not examine the question of whether the programs
were covert. Gootnick said the GAO's report was focused on examining the
extent that USAID knew what its contractors were doing. It found that
the agency was adequately monitoring the work, but "we did not ask, nor
did we report, on the wisdom of conducting such activities."

Shah maintained his agency's position Tuesday that the AP's report had a
number of critical inaccuracies. He said the agency operates
transparently and noted that he was discussing the Cuba program in
Tuesday's open congressional hearing.

Shah said USAID did not set up a Spanish company to help run ZunZuneo.
But strategy documents and expense reports obtained by the AP show the
project not only planned to establish the Spanish company but also
listed an end-of-month expense of $12,500 for the incorporation costs.
USAID has not disputed that contractors set up a shell company in the
Cayman islands called MovilChat that was used to hide the program's
money trail.

In a blog posted Monday, USAID said references to the use of "smart
mobs" in documents "had nothing to do with Cuba nor ZunZuneo," though
the two are clearly referenced.

The agency also said several CEO candidates for the network's company
were told explicitly that the U.S. government was involved. Documents
show the creators of ZunZuneo wanted to keep the origins of the service
secret from CEO candidates. The AP contacted two of the candidates, both
of whom said they'd interviewed for the job with no idea of U.S.
involvement.

The program's effects could be far-reaching. Leahy said USAID employees
have been contacting the oversight committee to complain that such
secretive programs put them at risk because they drive perceptions that
the agency is engaged in intelligence-like activities.

"We're already getting emails from USAID employees all over the world
saying, 'How could they do this and put us in danger?'" Leahy said.

Leahy, whose voice at times grew angry, demanded to know whose idea it
was "to undertake this program in this manner." Shah said ZunZuneo was
designed in 2007 and 2008, although it launched publicly in Cuba in 2010
— shortly after Shah was confirmed as USAID's chief.

The launch came months after American contractor Alan Gross was arrested
in Cuba. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly on a separate,
clandestine USAID mission to expand Cuban Internet access using
sensitive technology that only governments use.

Early Tuesday, Gross' lawyer released a statement that his client was
going on a hunger strike. The ZunZuneo story was "one of the factors"
Gross took into account in connection with his hunger strike, the
attorney said.

"Once Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his
safety even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," said the
lawyer, Scott Gilbert. "USAID has made one absurdly bad decision after
another."

---

Orsi reported from Havana. Associated Press writer Richard Lardner in
Washington and Alberto Arce in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, contributed to
this report.

Contact the AP's Washington investigative team at
DCinvestigations@ap.org. Follow on Twitter: Butler at
http://twitter.com/desmondbutler and Gillum at
http://twitter.com/jackgillum.

Source: WASHINGTON: 'Cuban Twitter' _overtly political, poking Castros -
Cuba - MiamiHerald.com -
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Posted on Wednesday, 04.09.14

Cuba shows concern over American's hunger strike
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HAVANA -- The Cuban government is expressing concern over a hunger
strike launched by a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned on the island.

Alan Gross is a 64-year-old from Maryland who is serving a 15-year
sentence in Cuba. He was convicted of crimes against the state after he
was caught setting up illegal Internet access for the country's small
Jewish community.

Gross announced Tuesday that he had begun his fast the previous week to
protest his ongoing incarceration. He expressed frustration at both his
own and the Cuban governments' failure so far to resolve his case.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday reiterating its
willingness to negotiate a solution with the U.S. government. It said
Gross has been receiving all due medical attention.

Source: HAVANA: Cuba shows concern over American's hunger strike -
Latest News - MiamiHerald.com -
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Glance: Draft messages for secret 'Cuban Twitter'
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- USAID's secret Cuban Twitter program hired Alen Lauzan
Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based in Chile, to propose text
messages to be sent to Cuban users. Neither Lauzan nor the Cuban
subscribers realized the U.S. government was behind ZunZuneo, the social
media network.

Last Thursday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said "no
political content was ever supplied by anyone working on this project or
running it. It was the people — the Cuban people on the ground who were
doing so."

But in an interview Tuesday, Lauzan said he does only political work.

In a series of linked messages, obtained by The Associated Press, Lauzan
had imagined Cuban President Raul Castro teaming with the now-deceased
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a pop act who would dance the
"perreo," a twerk-like Caribbean dance associated with the tropical
genre reggaeton, and record songs with titles mocking their countries'
economic and social policies.

Said one text: "'The economy is not our thing' by the Hugo and Raul duo
is already a hit."

The messages, written in Spanish and presented here in translation, are
full of puns, cultural references and in-jokes that would mystify most
outsiders but would be readily understandable by islanders.

Here is a sample of the messages Lauzan wrote for ZunZuneo:

---

THE BACKWARDS WORLD

54% of Americans think Michael Jackson is alive and 86% of Cubans think
Fidel Castro is dead.

---

GRAB THE CLAWS!

Fidel Castro Ruz's nails are cut after fifty-one years. They will be
donated in Formal Ceremony to the Museum of Manicurevolution.

(Note: "Manicurevolution" is a play on "manicure" and Havana's Museum of
the Revolution.)

---

Latest: Cuban dies of electrical shock from laptop. "I told you so,"
declares a satisfied Ramiro. "Those machines are weapons of the enemy!"

(Note: Ramiro Valdes is a Cuban vice president and former communications
minister who once famously described the Internet as a "wild colt" that
"should be tamed.")

---

Hot news! Latest!: Cuba YES, laptops NO! Ramiro, firm: "We are too old
and revolutionary for that, dude, the cellphone is enough for us!"

---

FROM RUMBA TO REGGAETUMBA

The coma-andante testified in "Hysteria will Bury me" his desire to be
buried with MP3 of Baby Lores.

NO: TOO POLITICAL (Apparent rejection of this text)

(Note: "Coma-andante" is a pun on "comandante," the honorific commonly
attributed to Fidel Castro; the Spanish-language play on words
translates roughly to "walking comatose," a dig at Castro's age and
shaky health in recent years. "Hysteria will Bury me" references
Castro's revolutionary prison manifesto, "History will absolve me." Baby
Lores is another reggaeton singer.)

Source: WASHINGTON: Glance: Draft messages for secret 'Cuban Twitter' -
Politics Wires - MiamiHerald.com -
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The Prisoners / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on April 7, 2014

Not a week goes by that we don't receive a phone call from some Cuban
prison to denounce physical abuses, denial of visits, lack of medical
care and other outrages. The vast majority are common prisoners, men and
women, many of whom say they have been politicized in prison. The
majority consider themselves totally innocent of the charges that sent
them to prison, others accept their responsibility for the imputed
events but feel they've received a disproportionate sentence.

It's almost impossible to verify these complaints and this desire for
objectivity from which we suffer keeps us from talking about every case.
Our greatest treasure is the credibility we've achieved among our
readers, but every call provokes a dilemma that makes us see ourselves
as egotists or cowards, after listening to a Cuban behind bars spell his
name–so we will get it right–and state the name and rank of the boss of
his prison, the person who denies him medications, suspends his visits,
or sends him to the punishment cell.

However serious the crime committed, no citizen should be helpless
against the abuses of power. Whose duty is it to protect their rights?

7 April 2014

Source: The Prisoners / Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba -
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Apretaste! A Craigslist for the Island of the Disconnected / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on April 7, 2014

Tatania wants to sell a stroller, Humberto is interested in some
sneakers, and the retired woman on the corner is offering a mahogany
desk. Individual barter and buying-selling alleviates the shortages in
state markets. So it's become common to see walls plastered with ads
offering houses for sale or the services of someone who repairs
furniture. The classified sites on the Internet also trade in anything
you can imagine, from an illegal satellite dish to birdseed.

Despite the poor connectivity, Craigslist-style sites are very popular
on the Island. Some of them have developed strategies to reach Cuban
readers, such as the distribution of classifieds via email. This is the
case with Apretaste! which offers the service of sending and receiving
information via email for users on our "Island of the Disconnected."
Winner of a hackathon held in Miami this February, the site has great
potential and boasts a simple design that loads quickly.

Visiting Apretaste!, I remember a phrase I always repeat when I
encounter something hard. "Creativity is the capacity to open a window
when the door is closed," I tell myself, like a mantra in complex
situations. And this classified portal is a diminutive and promising
window that has opened in the iron wall of disconnection. A breath of
air flows through it.

I hope that one day Tatiana, Humberto, and the retired lady on the
corner can not only use the powers of Apretaste! through email, but also
enter it on the web, click, enter a phrase into its simple search engine
and find, in this way, whatever they need.

7 April 2014

Source: Apretaste! A Craigslist for the Island of the Disconnected /
Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba -
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MIAMI HERALD | EDITORIAL

The buzz in Cuba
OUR OPINION: ZunZuneo was a well-intentioned effort to break
government's information monopoly
HERALDED@MIAMIHERALD.COM

The Obama administration's recently exposed program to provide a
text-messaging service for ordinary citizens in Cuba is a commendable
effort to break the Castro government's information monopoly. We hope
they don't quit trying.

Critics of the program like Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called it
"dumb, dumb, dumb" as soon as the Associated Press published a report
last week on the short-lived Twitter-like program that ran out of
funding in 2012. What would be really dumb, though, is to sit back
silently and do nothing while Cuba's 11 million people are kept from
hearing or reading any information except what bears the government's
stamp of approval.

Keep in mind that among the most successful programs of the Cold War
were those like Radio Free Europe and communications support for groups
like Solidarity in Poland that gave citizens of Soviet bloc countries
vital information they could not get elsewhere.

These programs managed to foil the embargo on truth maintained by the
communist dictatorships of Eastern Europe and weakened the authoritarian
governments propped up by the Red Army. They paved the way for the
dissolution of the Iron Curtain and the rise of civil societies capable
of nurturing democracy.

The Cold War may be over, but in Cuba an aging dictatorship spawned at
the height of East/West tensions still employs the same tactics of that
era to keep its people in the dark and under control. If it was
unacceptable in Eastern Europe, it's unacceptable in Cuba, as well.

And if this country took the lead in overcoming the information barriers
created by the communist dictatorships of that era, why should it
refrain from devising effective programs to do the same against the
Castro regime?

Created in 2009, the program called ZunZuneo, a Cuban word mimicking the
buzz of a hummingbird, allowed some 40,000 Cubans, mostly young and
tech-savvy, to communicate with each other using the government's own
cellphone network.

U.S. sponsorship of the program was kept secret for obvious reasons, but
that does not discredit the program itself or its goals — to allow the
Cuban people to communicate with each other without government interference.

Sen. Leahy may be right in saying that placing the program under the
auspices of the Agency for International Development (USAID) was wrong.
That compromises USAID's mission and supplies ammunition for critics of
the agency's many other admirable efforts to promote democracy and human
rights around the globe, including in Cuba.

It also allows the Cuban government to draw inaccurate connections
between this "clandestine" effort and the plight of USAID contractor
Alan Gross, who remains in jail for delivering banned communications
equipment to Cuba's tiny Jewish community.

A Senate panel is slated to examine the propriety of USAID's role in
this case on Tuesday. Members of the panel should not lose sight of who
bears responsibility for restricting the free flow of information in
Cuba. The villain in this scenario is an authoritarian and paranoid
gerontocracy afraid of its own people and unwilling to let them
communicate with each other — in print, by electronic media, or in
cyberspace.

The government fears the means of communication used by young people the
world over. They will continue to close the doors of information, but
they are unlikely to stop new forms of communication trying to fill the
vacancy left by ZunZuneo.

Source: The buzz in Cuba - Editorials - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/07/4045448/the-buzz-in-cuba.html Continue reading
Posted on Monday, 04.07.14

Study: US travel to Cuba continues to rise
BY CHRISTINE ARMARIO
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The number of U.S. visitors to Cuba continues to rise, even as the
embargo, instituted more than five decades ago, remains firmly in place,
according to study released Monday.

Within the first three months of 2014 alone, there were more U.S.
tourists to the island than in all of 2013 from England, Germany or
France, according to a report by the U.S.-based Havana Consulting Group
provided to The Associated Press. Canada remains the No. 1 country of
origin for travelers to Cuba, but the number of U.S. travelers to the
island has been steadily increasing over the last seven years.

Some 173,550 U.S. travelers visited Cuba in January through March. That
compares to 149,515 from England, 115,984 from Germany and 96,640 from
France in 2013.

"The data confirms, although the Cuban government does not recognize it
publicly, that the United States, even with the effect of the embargo,
is the second greatest source of tourists to Cuba after Canada," Emilio
Morales, the consulting group's president wrote in the report.

"The push in the first trimester has been huge," he added.

Most of the U.S. travelers are Cuban-Americans visiting family but
others have no ties to the island and travel to participate in academic
and cultural programs.

The continuing increase in U.S. travel to the Communist-run island comes
five years after President Barack Obama loosened restrictions on travel
to Cuba. In 2009, Obama lifted a limit put in place by former President
George W. Bush allowing Cuban-Americans to travel to island country no
more than once every three years to visit relatives. And in 2011, he
reinstated the so-called "people-to-people" trips, allowing U.S.
citizens to apply for a travel license to participate in educational
activities that promote contact with ordinary Cubans.

Havana is the top destination for most U.S. travelers, followed by Santa
Clara and Camaguey. The vast majority fly out of Miami International
Airport. More than 1,000 flights have departed from Miami to Cuba so far
this year, with another 109 leaving from Tampa, the report said.

Travel in the first three months of 2014 was higher than in the last
trimester of 2013, when many Cuban-Americans travel to spend the
holidays with their family. The number of U.S. travelers has increased
steadily each year, from about 245,000 in 2007 to nearly 600,000 last year.

"We expect that 2014 will be a record year," Morales wrote.

On average, Cuban-American travelers spend about $3,238 per person
during their stay, accounting for a major source of revenue for the
economically-strapped island.

The study was based off data from U.S. airports and Cuba's National
Statistics Office.

While the data points toward another big year for U.S. travel to the
long-forbidden island, there is one ongoing hurdle: Cuba suspended
consular services in February after being unable to find a new bank in
the U.S. for its diplomatic accounts. While many U.S. travelers had
already submitted their visa requests for spring visits to Cuba, the
situation remains unresolved and charter operators say it is having an
impact.

"At this point, it's just getting worse," said Armando Garcia, the owner
of Marazul, one of the largest Cuba charter operators. "For
Cuban-Americans born in the United States we already have serious
problems because we don't have visas for them. It's affecting travel, no
doubt."

Source: Study: US travel to Cuba continues to rise - Just In! | Travel
News - MiamiHerald.com -
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The Recently Elected General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas Hides Behind the
Press and His Oldest Son / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on April 7, 2014

Oh Jesus, our only consolation in times of sorrow, our only consolation
sustain us in the immense vacuum that…!

Today I woke up praying, asking for the rest of the fast-paced, almost
dead, but still alive Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas. Parasite
with a beautiful face and expensive clothes, recently promoted to
general. He knows full well that this olive branch is the final blow.

With more fear than money, Luis Alberto walks prudently, as I said a few
days ago, gripping the armrests of his battered old couch. Having beaten
Deborah Castro to the point of putting her in the hospital, he is more
vulnerable than a manatee at the North Pole. No father accepts this; and
much less so if he is the "Godfather" of a formidable clan, because as
they say in Sicily, the Camorra doesn't forgive.

This significant promotion has at least a couple of purposes and one
reading; to distract our attention, and bring Lopez-Callejas to paroxysm
of despair making real the torment of being between pride and terror.

We can think, speak, and insinuate and put our heads together; but faced
with such cases we must never forget that the January 1, 1984, Maj. Gen.
Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez publicly received the distinction of Hero of the
Republic of Cuba, the highest honor awarded by the Council of State. And
only 5 years later, on July 13, 1989, he was shot by a makeshift firing
squad by the sea, by the decision of Raul and a military tribunal.

Chance or coincidence, a few years after the execution of Ochoa,
Alejandro, his only son, died in suspicious accident; but I don't even
want to talk about this out of respect for people I love. But I have to
admit that a few weeks ago just when I finished writing an article under
the title "The powerful former son of Raul Castro, into exile" a great
friend (family of the General) whom I prefer to keep more hidden than
groin of a nun, had the wisdom to warn "As you publish this, you're only
protecting Luis Alberto and dragging out what for him is inevitable."

Indeed, only the press can shield Luis Alberto today, and he clings to
his best and only wild card, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro (his eldest
son), who although he is the favorite grandson of the Cuban leader
generates frequent discord within of the royal family, because this
arrogant boy, with the well sculpted athletic body, fed certain
addictions that build gradually.

The road to Cuban power is paved with hypocrisy and victims. The
recently sanctioned General Rodríguez López-Callejas is at the center of
a hurricane at the mercy of Raul Castro's clock, and his son Alejandro,
who without any hurry, calculating, calm and meticulous waits for the
exact moment to activate the guillotine which, during the unexpected
storm of some morning, will fall on his neck and like the curtain in a
theater and put a final end to the terrible work of his short eternity.

19 March 2014

Source: The Recently Elected General Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas Hides
Behind the Press and His Oldest Son / Juan Juan Almeida | Translating
Cuba -
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Analysis: Is there anything 'new' in Cuba's new foreign investment law?
Email This Post
By José Manuel Pallí, Esq.

For the past few days, everyone, in and out of Cuba, has been commenting
on a law — Cuba's 'new' foreign investment law — no one seems to have
fully read yet.

An American friend from Massachusetts, finding me all worked-up with
that very same topic, wistfully asked me why on earth is that law so
important when, on the one hand, Cuba remains a small communist country
where few would entertain investing in, and, on the other hand, it is
forbidden to us in the United States to invest in it anyways. I
explained to him, who is spending his annual swallow stay in Miami, that
this is not America: this is "Cuban America" (where else in the USA
would you need to clarify that your friend is "an American"?…).

Is my friend right? Is this just much ado about nothing? The "normal"
source for seeking confirmation or advice in this regard should be any
of those colleagues of mine who practice law in Cuba, many of them
excellent lawyers who I presume are behind some of the changes the new
law may entail, since I know first-hand of their concern with the
excessive "administrativización" (what we call bureaucratization) of
Cuba's laws, and this is one field where Cuban bureaucrats have, for
years, run amok.

And yet, here I am, a Florida lawyer who happens to also be a lawyer in
Argentina (and seldom writes about Floridian or Argie laws) writing
about Cuban laws. Why? Because, on the one hand, my colleagues in Cuba
(whose collective voice is only heard behind heavy curtains there) are
as eerily quiet as ever, and on the other hand "Cuban America" prevents
the rest of the country from having the kind of "normal" relation with
Cuba, its people and its laws that it could and should have.

In any event, no lawyer, whether in Cuba or here, can seriously comment
on any given law without first reading the full text of it. In the case
of Cuba's foreign investment law, the text based on which valid comments
could be made is the one published in Cuba's Gaceta Oficial, and such
publication is still pending.

It could also prove useful to read the law, once it is published and
becomes "the" law, in the context of the other documents Cuba has
announced as companions to the law itself, a Reglamento or regulatory
act (an improvement on the previous foreign investment law, which
lacked one) and a series of "sectorial policies" that will serve as a
guide to what kind of foreign investment Cuba is likely to welcome in
any given sector of its economy, since what we presently "know" about
the law indicates the Cuban government's approval to most foreign
investments is still a requirement (as it is in many other countries)
and remains highly discretionary. Diluted administrativización may be in
store, but not the kind that would get Cuba a Top 10 ranking in any
among the plethora of indexes that grade (mostly arbitrarily) the
different nations' environment for business purposes.

The fact is Cuba's previous foreign investment law (enacted in 1995) is
not a bad law at all, although as is the case with all laws, if it is
not applied to all those subject to it in a fair and unprejudiced way,
it is irrelevant, no matter how well crafted. It does have a chapter
(the 11th) that is a ridiculous attempt to put a corset on labor
relations between foreign investors and their Cuban employees, and I am
still hoping to see it gone by the time I get to read the law published
at the Gaceta Oficial de Cuba (little more than a wishful thought of
mine, I know…).

But if most of the comments and analysis already made regarding this
"new" law — both in Cuba and here in Miami — based on a draft version
prove to be accurate, I am afraid it may all end up being much ado about
nothing indeed, and even give the hardliners who have historically
driven U.S. policy towards Cuba, and who absurdly claim all changes
Cuba has made over the past six years to its socio-economic model are
cosmetic in nature, new ammunition to preserve the status quo. If this
is all there is to it, the Miami Herald's headline once the law is
published may well read:

"Cuba's "new" foreign investment law: brought to you by Revlon"…

José Manuel Pallí is president of Miami-based World Wide Title. He can
be reached at jpalli@wwti.net; you can find his blog at
http://cubargiejoe.com

Source: Analysis: Is there anything 'new' in Cuba's new foreign
investment law? « Cuba Standard, your best source for Cuban business
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A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded
By Editorial Board, Monday, April 7, 1:20 AM

HUMAN RIGHTS Watch's 2014 annual report paints a somber picture of
political life in Cuba. "The Cuban government continues to repress
individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic
human rights," the report notes. "The government controls all media
outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information,
severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny
fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs
because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet."

It is worse than scandalous that Cuba's 11 million people are still
trapped under these conditions some 55 years after Fidel and Raul Castro
came to power on a promise of national liberation. Yet a recent story in
the U.S. press and comments by certain U.S. politicians about it imply
that Americans should be terribly upset about the Obama administration's
efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.

Source: A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded - The
Washington Post -
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-us-plan-to-help-cubans-communicate-should-be-applauded/2014/04/06/28ba5794-bc2b-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html Continue reading
Why The U.S. Government's Fake 'Cuban Twitter' Service Failed
4/03/2014 @ 5:46PM

Updated below with statements from USAID and one of its contractors

It's almost common these days for state-run parties to subvert
grassroots movements. During the heyday of Anonymous, a hacktivist
community born on 4chan and organized by hackers in chat rooms, federal
authorities tried to usurp the collective with a honeypot-style movement
called AntiSec. Not long after, AntiSec lost steam and fell apart.

A more fundamental failure hit ZunZuneo, a social-change project in Cuba
that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) quietly
created in 2009. The so-called "Cuban Twitter" shut down three years
later when it failed to survive without state funding, and started
getting blocked by the Cuban government.

The fake service allowed Cubans to send texts freely and anonymously to
one another. USAID's goal, according to the Associated Press, which
cites government documents about the project, was to surreptitiously
incite "smart mobs," or spontaneous political rallies against Fidel
Castro's restrictive government.

U.S. officials have confirmed the government was behind the ZunZuneo
project, calling it a discreet form of humanitarian aid and denying it
was covert.

The aid agency's Office of Transition Initiative division kickstarted
the project after one of its sources obtained a database of half a
million Cuban cell phone numbers. With the help of contractors the
agency hid behind the guise of a hip, social-media service, then spammed
those phone number with with texts bearing news snippets or satirical
jokes. It relied on a complex network of spoof servers and front
companies to disguise ZunZuneo's origins in the United States.

This was secretive marketing for political purposes, an ill-fated
attempt to copy the organic wave of 2011 Arab Spring protests that
gathered momentum thanks to Twitter.

At first, it worked. ZunZuneo's early users were people like Saimi Reyes
Carmona, a Cuban journalism student quoted in the AP's story, who could
send free texts to thousands of followers under a nickname, free from
the prying eyes of the Cuban government. Carmona recalled thinking at
the time that ZunZuneo was "the coolest thing I've ever seen." She was
later stunned to learn about the service's origins.

ZunZuneo ultimately fell apart because it became too big, too fast. It
amassed 40,000 users but had no clear explanation for how it was paying
thousands of dollars in texting fees each month. Contractors reportedly
sent internal memos suggesting the service should cut financial ties
with USAID and continue promoting political change in Cuba — but the
ideas weren't sustainable. Even with tens of thousands of users,
targeted advertising simply wouldn't make enough money in a developing
nation like Cuba. By June 2012, ZunZuneo was offline.

Given how pervasive mobile messaging apps can be, governments around the
world have almost certainly flirted with ways they can co-opt them for
snooping or marketing, or create their own as USAID did. But the most
effective route may be to work, transparently, with popular services
that already exist.


In India, political parties have used messaging giant WhatsApp to send
text messages to hundreds of thousands of their constituents, with the
goal of reaching young, tech-savvy voters. Rather than pilfering a
database of phone numbers, they require party members to sign up to
their WhatsApp group voluntarily.

It's unclear if USAID has since tried repeating the fake, ZunZuneo
project in some other part of the world.

"It depends on the results of this mission," says J.J. Thompson, CEO of
security consultancy Rook Security. "If the core objective was fulfilled
then it is likely to be replicated."

Considering the failure of ZunZuneo, the answer may well be "no."

UPDATE: Mobile Accord, one of the contractors tasked with building
ZunZuneo for USAID, has released an official statement on the matter:

"We're a mobile services company who facilitates open communications to
power social good. We provided a platform for Cuban people to connect
with one another. The program ran its course and was defunded, but it
was well-loved by users and we're very proud of the network we built for
Cubans to share information about their daily lives."

The USAID has also released a statement, saying:

"…All of our work in Cuba, including this project, was reviewed in
detail in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office and found to be
consistent with U.S. law and appropriate under oversight controls…

The purpose of the Zunzuneo project was to create a platform for Cubans
to speak freely among themselves, period…"

Source: Why The U.S. Government's Fake 'Cuban Twitter' Service Failed -
http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/04/03/why-the-u-s-governments-fake-cuban-twitter-service-failed/ Continue reading