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Solidarity with Miguel Ginarte / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on October 31, 2014

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, the president of the Diez de Octubre Court
declared conclusive the trial against Miguel Ginarte and five other
defendants. Just a year ago, Ángel Santiesteban-Prats wrote this post in
solidarity with Miguel.

The Editor

My mother always warned me that the Cuban government proceeds through
their actions: "When they no longer need you, the squash you like a
cockroach".

In the cultural media, it is well-known that there are very few shows on
Cuban TV that do not use Miguel Ginarte to produce their programmes; in
fact, very few are those who in the end who are not grateful for his
disinterested help, his constant effort, because he takes the care with
each show as if it were the final project that he would ever collaborate
on. A man who people rarely hear say no, and when he has had to say no
it is because it really was beyond his reach to help.

But that ranch not only provides work for the The Cuban Institute of
Radio and Television (ICRT), but also for the Ministry of Culture, who
closed events at that location, like a peasant with a pig being roasted
under the stars. I was able to participate in some of these closures
before opening my blog, of course, and there we could also see the make
up of the diet of then Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, now adviser to
President Raul Castro: Fish and wine.

At that time, Ginarte wasn't selling or diverting resources, as he is
now being accused of. The television directors, when they wanted their
guests to be treated decently, approached Papa Ginarte: who never turned
his back, and after giving the respective indications, persevered to
make sure that the requests were met.

As the actor Alberto Pujol said in his letter, there was no luxury to be
found there; on the contrary, everything was very modest, to the point
that it looked like somewhere one would film a mambises* cabin in the
foothills of a mountain. Ostentation never interested Ginarte, only the
quality of his work, because as every good Cuban peasant knows "A bull
is tied by his horns, and a man by his words".

As always on the island, behind this web of lies against Ginarte, there
must be an official in love with the place, to at a whim do away with
the work accomplished by the sweat of another; perhaps someone who
resents Ginarte because at some time he should have said no, as only he
knows how to do with bureaucrats. But it should come as no surprise to
anyone: everyone's time will come, regardless if they are excellent
professionals, altruists, creators, honest, revolutionary people; they
need only to be inadequate for the plans of those in power to be
literally swept under the carpet.

I remember him with his jovial smile of a macho peasant who enjoyed very
few days before entering prison. I would like to be able to say to him
"the master should be ashamed, Papa Ginarte", and remember him on his
horse, back in the seventies, going to see Luyanó with his daughter
Dinae and, patiently, lifting us up one by one to give us each our turn
on his beautiful auburn steed.

At any rate, despite the pain that the injustice committed against
Ginarte has caused us, there is something that makes it worth it, and
that is his friends and admirers who have joined him by tooth and nail.
I am sure that, as always, those who are ashamed will sign the petition,
as they have done for decades. Others will want to do it but their lack
of courage, or their commitments or perks, won't let them; they think
that it is not their problem, for now. But when someone does it from
their heart, then that is already more than sufficient.

Ángel Santestiban-Prats

Lawton prison settlement. October 2013

*Translator's notes: Mambises is a term used to refer to independent
guerillas who, during the 19th Century in Cuba and the Philippines,
fought in the wars of independence.

Translated by Shane J. Cassidy

25 October 2014

Source: Solidarity with Miguel Ginarte / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/solidarity-with-miguel-ginarte-angel-santiesteban/ Continue reading
Coast Guard fights on different front line in the immigration crisis
By Javier De Diego, CNN
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
Florida Straits are 90-mile-long stretch of open water between the
Florida Keys, Cuba
It's where many use makeshift rafts and boats in an attempt to reach America
This year, Coast Guard has seen the highest number of migrants in five years

Miami (CNN) -- "No queremos ir pa' Cuba!"
We don't want to go to Cuba.
Those words were repeatedly sung by a young man in his mid-20s, who had
just risked his life to escape the communist island. Instead, he found
himself, along with nine other Cuban men, lying on the deck of the U.S.
Coast Guard Cutter Margaret Norvell. The eyes of all 10 filled with
desperation and sadness. They knew they were going back.
On this night, the Norvell received the men from another cutter, less
than 10 miles off Key West, Florida. In the distance, they could see the
lights of the land of freedom they hoped to reach. But, like many before
them, they would be quickly processed and repatriated.
This is a different front line of the immigration crisis: the Florida
Straits, a 90-mile-long stretch of open water between the Florida Keys
and Cuba. On one side, the Bahamas. On the other, the Gulf of Mexico.
And, in between, an alarming increase in the number of people -- mostly
Cubans and Haitians -- using makeshift rafts and boats in an attempt to
reach America.
In fiscal year 2014, which ended September 30, the U.S. Coast Guard 7th
District, which patrols this area, saw the highest number of migrants in
five years, with 10,126 people found on land and sea. That's over 3,000
more than the previous year.
"Most of it is economic. They're looking for a better way of life," said
Lt. Kirk Fistick, commanding officer of the Norvell.
More attempts, new routes
For some of those caught and returned, it's just the latest chapter in
their long journey to freedom. CNN learned one of the Cuban men on the
Norvell was on his ninth attempt at crossing the Florida Straits. "There
are people that have done this dozens of times," said Fistick.
And, since 2012, the Coast Guard says it has seen human smugglers use
new routes to get migrants to America -- namely, by avoiding Florida
altogether.
In Cuba's case, people on the island now have more freedom to visit
other countries. So, an increasing number of Cubans are legally flying
to smaller Caribbean islands near the U.S. Virgin Islands, then
smugglers are bringing them over to the tiny American territory. "That's
a very short maritime distance. And so, it's tough to combat that," said
Capt. Mark Fedor, the chief of response for the Coast Guard 7th District.
For Haitians, the new routes are longer and more dangerous. "There are
organized smugglers that will try to lure them from Haiti through the
Dominican Republic, and then into Puerto Rico. That never happened
really, before 2012. And now, that vector accounts for 40% of all the
Haitians leaving Haiti," said Fedor.
Doing more with less
When it comes to dealing with migrants, the Coast Guard is in a unique
position. Part of the agency's mission is humanitarian. But, unlike the
other military branches, the Coast Guard, which now resides within the
Department of Homeland Security, also has federal law enforcement
responsibilities.
In that capacity, it also serves as the lead agency in charge of
stopping human and drug smugglers in open waters. And, along the Florida
Straits, it's not an easy task.
"There are organized smugglers here, especially human traffickers -- the
lowest of the low, when it comes to trafficking. It could be kids, women
caught up in the sex trade. They're moving people any way they can to
try to get them in the United States," Fedor said.
He said it can get frustrating to deal with these multiple missions,
with such limited resources. In a recent summary released online, the
Coast Guard's budget is expected to be about $6.7 billion for the 2015
fiscal year -- a fraction of what other military branches receive.
"We try to do the best we can to be creative, to be nimble and to try to
be one step ahead of these smugglers. But it's a challenge, because
they're thinking the same way. They're running a for-profit,
multimillion-dollar business, so they have a lot of incentive to get
their product to market, whether it's drugs or people."
'This is what we do'
Ronald Garcia, 33, is on the crew of the Norvell. The 13-year Coast
Guard veteran is also the son of Cuban immigrants, who came to the
United States in 1979. "They did everything they could to come and have
children in the United States, and provide better opportunities for us.
I'm able to live the American dream."
Garcia is one of two Cuban-Americans on the cutter. They both admit, at
times, it's hard to separate their jobs from their personal connections
to the plight of the migrants they find. "It's a very difficult thing to
deal with. Personally, it's just difficult for me to see the situation
they're in," said Garcia.
It's a reality that's not lost on his fellow crew members, including the
commanding officer, Fistick. "We empathize with them and it's tough on
the human spirit to do it. But, we're in the military. We follow orders.
This is what we do."

Source: Coast Guard fights immigration crisis at sea - CNN.com -
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/30/world/uscg-embed-migrants-at-sea/index.html Continue reading
Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting
Last updated on: October 31, 2014 7:11 AM

WASHINGTON—
One of Washington's most vocal opponents of the Castro brothers' regime
in Cuba has blasted the U.S. decision to attend an Ebola conference in
Havana this week.

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart called the participation of a mid-level
official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the
two-day multinational meeting "a disgrace."

The United States has no official diplomatic relationship with the
Communist island nation.

Dr. Nelson Arboleda, Director of CDC's Guatemala office and Regional
Programs, represented the CDC at the conference that ended Thursday.

"It's been a very rich technical experience in which we've learned all
the different plans of all the different countries and that helps us, as
a bloc, identify the needed areas to be better prepared in our region,"
said Arboleda.

Multinational Ebola meeting

Cuba's state news agency Granma said nearly 300 experts from 34
countries gathered to coordinate a regional strategy on the prevention
and control of Ebola, which has killed about 5,000 people in West Africa.

The meeting was organized by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of
Our America (ALBA), a nine-member regional bloc created by the United
States' top diplomatic foes in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba and Venezuela.

Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American lawmaker from south Florida, said it was
the left-leaning ALBA's involvement that made the U.S. decision to
participate in the conference "ludicrous."

"ALBA ... was created solely to oppose U.S. interests in our hemisphere.
It enjoys the support of other anti-American regimes such as Syria and
Iran. That the U.S. would send a representative to such a meeting is by
itself ludicrous," the congressman said.

Other participants in the meeting included Colombia and the island of
St. Lucia, which were the first countries in the region to ban travelers
arriving from West Africa. More followed, such as Belize, Guyana, and
Jamaica. Several small island states are concerned about whether they
could handle even one case of the deadly disease.

Sending aid in Ebola fight

Cuba has received international attention - including rare positive
comments from U.S. government officials - for sending hundreds of
doctors and nurses to West Africa to mitigate the spread of Ebola.

Citing the medical staff's working conditions, however, Diaz-Balart said
there is "nothing charitable about the Cuban dictatorship's actions in
Africa."

"Cuban doctors are hastily trained, poorly equipped, and forced to work
in dangerous conditions while most of their pay is siphoned to the
Castro dictatorship. That a U.S. official would condone their overt
exploitation is outrageous," said Diaz-Balart. "The U.S. does not belong
at an ALBA meeting, nor should it applaud the Castro regime's use of
forced labor under any circumstances," he added.

When pressed for comment at multiple news conferences this week, a U.S.
State Department spokeswoman would not elaborate on Ebola prevention
efforts with Cuba.

However, earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called
Cuba's dispatch of healthcare workers to West Africa "impressive." U.S.
Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also lauded Havana's
contribution.

More than half of the roughly 450 Cuban doctors and nurses trained to
treat Ebola have deployed to West Africa.

Earlier this week, the United Nations voted for the 23rd time in favor
of a resolution to end the decades-long U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

Ambassador Ronald D. Godard, U.S. Senior Area Advisor for Western
Hemisphere Affairs, addressed Cuba's role in Ebola prevention during a
speech in New York opposing the resolution.

"Though Cuba's contributions to the fight against Ebola are laudable,
they do not excuse or diminish the regime's treatment of its own
people," Godard said ahead of the vote.

Source: Lawmaker Blasts US Participation in Cuba Ebola Meeting -
http://www.voanews.com/content/lawmaker-blasts-us-participation-in-ebola-meeting/2503042.html Continue reading
What You Saved Yourself From Camilo! / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on October 29, 2014

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 31 October 2014 – For the first and last time,
I saw him from afar for a fraction of a second on 21 October 1959, the
day he passed through Camaguey to arrest Comandante Huber Matos. No one
understood anything, but the presence of Camilo in the midst of the
confusion gave us confidence that everything would be solved in the best
possible way.

The details of the moment when his disappearance was reported (a week
later) has been erased from my memory, but I haven't forgotten that
instant when they announced the false news that he had been found.
People on the streets brought out flags and pictures of the Virgin of
Charity. The joy was brief, but unforgettable.

How is it possible that in all these years, when not a single square
yard remains unexplored, that not a single vestige has appeared (…)?

For a long time I was convinced that he might appear at any moment. In
the years when I thought myself a poet, I even penned some verses
describing his return. All the times I flew between Camaguey and Havana,
every time I do it, I wondered what could be the reason for plunging
into the sea… how a Cessna, that never flies too high, could fall on a
site other than the island platform? How is it possible that in all
these years, when not a single square yard remains unexplored, that not
even one vestige has appeared, a part of an engine, the propeller, what
do I know…

If he had survived what happened and not been involved in another
similar incident, Camilo Cienfuegos would today be another octogenarian
at the summit of power. If he had not been sacked, imprisoned or shot,
he would be burdened today with the responsibility for a national
disaster. We would no longer be discussing if he was more popular than
the "other one," but if he was as guilty.

Right now, as I write these lines, students are marching along the
Malecon with flowers, the people who work in offices are leaving earlier
than usual because they are going to throw flowers in the sea for
Camilo. A ritual now lacking the emotions of the first years, when those
who went to the shore to pay homage did so with tears in their eyes, and
without having to be summoned by the director of a workplace or the
principal of a school.

Death has immortalized among us his cheerful and popular image. If there
is something beyond, and from that place he is watching us, he must feel
happy to have disappeared in time. The death saved him from the
ignominy, and the probable temptation of corruption and the humiliation
of having been treated as a traitor and as an accomplice.

Source: What You Saved Yourself From Camilo! / Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/what-you-saved-yourself-from-camilo-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
Cuban Wave Arrives by Land
Migrants Take Circuitous Routes to Reach the Border, Where They Gain Entry
MICHAEL STRAVATO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
By MIRIAM JORDAN and ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES
Oct. 28, 2014 7:36 p.m. ET

In June, Luis Alberto Cuan Lio and his pregnant wife, Yordana Bravo
Perez, flew from Cuba to Ecuador as tourists. It was the first leg in a
circuitous journey that ended when they crossed the border from Mexico
into the U.S., where they are building a new life.

An influx of illegal immigrants from Central America drew wide attention
recently, but more than 22,000 Cubans entered the U.S. over land in the
year that ended Sept. 30, twice as many as in the previous year. An
additional 3,940 sought to reach the U.S. along maritime routes, nearly
double the previous year and the highest number since 2008, when the
island was buffeted by several hurricanes, exports were suffering and
Raúl Castro became president.

Helping to fuel the exodus are the Cuban government's easing of travel
restrictions for its citizens last year and a general lack of hope among
Cubans for the country's economic prospects. "People are growing
frustrated with the depth and pace of the economic reforms," said Ted
Henken, a Latin American studies professor at Baruch College in New York.

The U.S. also has loosened restrictions on visas for Cubans who arrive
by air as tourists, some of whom are believed to remain in the U.S.
About 30,000 of these visas were issued in the fiscal year ended Sept.
30, 2013.

Officials at the Cuban Interests Section, the country's consular
presence in Washington, D.C., didn't return calls seeking comment.

Cuban migrants to the U.S. enjoy special treatment. The Cold War-era
Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 allows those who touch U.S. soil to remain
here rather than be deported. They are eligible for some benefits that
are accorded to refugees fleeing persecution. After a year, they can
apply for permanent residency or a green card.

The number of new Cuban arrivals pales next to the 130,000 or so Central
Americans that crossed into the U.S. illegally in the latest fiscal
year, or the estimated 125,000 Cubans that came by sea in 1980's Mariel
boatlift. But the land crossings open a new chapter in Cuban flight to
the U.S., and experts expect arrivals to keep climbing.

At the Mexico-Texas border, Cubans join the line for people with
permission to enter the U.S. "They know exactly where to go, arrive with
their documents and say they want to apply for the Cuban Adjustment
Act," said Adriana Arce, assistant director at the Laredo port of entry
for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who has had to bolster staffing
to process the influx. After an interview, the Cubans typically are
"paroled" into the country, a process that takes roughly two hours.
Then, armed with U.S.-issued papers, they are free to go wherever they wish.

Mr. Cuan, a physician, and his wife, a preschool teacher, saved money
for years and used help from friends and relatives in the U.S. to pay
for their journey to the U.S., which cost about $8,000.

"We had lost hope of Cuba improving," said the 47-year-old Mr. Cuan, who
says he earned the equivalent of $20 a month in Cuba. Rather than risk
their lives at sea, they opted for a safer, if longer and pricier, route.

The couple flew to Ecuador because it didn't require a visa. From there,
they traveled to Lima, Peru, where they secured fake Peruvian passports
that enabled them to enter Mexico without a visa. In Monterrey, they
boarded a bus to Laredo, where they told U.S. inspectors that they were
Cuban nationals.

The couple is now in Houston, where they are being helped by Refugee
Services of Texas. That nonprofit agency over the summer handled as many
Cubans as it did refugees from all other countries combined. "It's a lot
of people all at once," said Sara Kauffman, area director.

Wafa Abdin, a vice president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of
Galveston-Houston, says the agency has been serving about 50 Cubans a
week this year, up from about five to 15 a week two years ago. "Our
staff is used to helping everyone who comes through the door; this is
nonfunded need," that is stretching resources, said Margaret Ayot, a
program supervisor.

YMCA International Services of Houston served 700 refugees from Africa,
Asia and other countries in the 2014 fiscal year. In that same period,
it provided assistance to 434 Cubans. "They present themselves and we
piece together a plan quickly," said executive director Jeff Watkins.

Cubans are eligible for eight months of cash assistance, medical
coverage, job-placement services and free English classes, among other
benefits offered to refugees. For a family of three, eight months of
cash assistance totals $4,300; for a single person, it is about $2,500.
Cubans can also receive food stamps if they meet the income requirements.

Some say Cubans aren't refugees in the traditional sense, though they
have such rights. "The majority of Cubans are economic migrants," said
Jodi Goodwin, an immigration attorney who works along the Texas border.
The U.S. admitted 70,000 refugees last year, mainly from Africa, Asia
and the Middle East.

Cubans who take to the sea to reach Miami are typically the poorest,
traveling on vessels made with rebar, wood and Styrofoam, according to
Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of response for the Coast Guard's Seventh
District in Miami. The spate of recent crossings is causing alarm, he
said. "It's sometimes ingenious what they put together," he said. "But
they're very unseaworthy."

The Cuban influx is expected to accelerate, experts say, especially if
the U.S. economy keeps improving.

Mr. Cuan says he is looking for work in any field after receiving his
employment authorization and a Social Security number. "We have nothing
here," he said, but "it's a better place to live."

Write to Miriam Jordan at miriam.jordan@wsj.com and Arian Campo-Flores
at arian.campo-flores@wsj.com

Source: Cuban Wave Arrives by Land - WSJ - WSJ -
http://online.wsj.com/articles/cuban-wave-arrives-by-land-1414539408 Continue reading
33 Cuban migrants rescued off Boca Raton
BY ALFONSO CHARDY ACHARDY@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
10/29/2014 11:23 AM 10/29/2014 5:25 PM

Thirty-three Cuban men were rescued from the water by U.S. Coast Guard
crews Wednesday morning after they jumped off a boat that was taking on
water off Boca Raton in southern Palm Beach County.

A Coast Guard spokesman said the incident occurred about seven miles
east of Boca Raton in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rescue came two days after 13 Cuban rafters attempted to reach Miami
in a makeshift boat that broke apart near the Turkey Point nuclear power
plant. Eleven of the migrants were rescued or made it safely to land.
The Coast Guard suspended its search for two more who were still missing
Wednesday.

"Upon our assets arriving on scene, the suspected migrants were taken
aboard a Coast Guard boat and safely transferred to a Coast Guard Cutter
for basic medical attention if needed," the Coast Guard said in a statement.


A boat suspected of carrying 33 migrants floats seven miles east of Boca
Inlet. The boat apparently took on water and the migrants jumped into
the ocean where they were rescued. | Coast Guard

Related Stories

Bodies of four victims found off Hollywood Beach identified as Cuban
migrants
Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another group
at sea
News of the 33 migrants in the water off Boca Inlet immediately raised
questions about whether this was the second group of Cuban migrants said
to be traveling to Miami from Mariel, a Cuban port west of Havana.

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of Miami-based Democracy Movement, said he
was contacted by a member of the Cuban exile community Tuesday asking
for information about a boat carrying 23 Cuban migrants that left nine
days ago from Mariel.

Coast Guard officials said they did not know if the boat had left from
Mariel.

The 13 Cubans who attempted to reach Miami Monday departed more than 10
days ago from Cojimar in Cuba.

Five of those Cubans were held aboard a Coast Guard cutter and likely
will be returned to the island. The six others who reached land or were
brought ashore likely will be allowed to stay.

Under the so-called wet foot/dry foot policy, Cuban migrants interdicted
at sea are generally returned to the island while those who reach U.S.
soil get to stay.

Sánchez and relatives of some of the rafters who arrived Monday were on
two boats in Biscayne Bay conducting their own search for the two
missing Cubans. By telephone from his boat, Sánchez said they were
searching in waters where the rafters' boat broke apart Sunday near the
Turkey Point nuclear plant in South Miami-Dade.

All of the 33 migrants plucked from the water off Boca on Wednesday
never reached land. They were all being held on a Coast Guard vessel
Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

A Coast Guard statement said the 33 migrants "jumped in the water from
their grossly overloaded vessel 7 miles east of Boca Inlet."

The migrants in the water were initially spotted by the crew of a Coast
Guard C-130 searching for the two missing Cubans from Monday's arrival.

The Coast Guard dispatched the cutters Shrike and Robert Yered as well
as search and rescue boats from bases in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth
Inlet.

Source: 33 Cuban migrants rescued off Boca Raton | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article3438485.html Continue reading
An Unfamiliar Cuba in the "Era of Changes" / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya
Posted on October 28, 2014

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, New York, 19 October 2014 — If it weren't
because the mediations are in English, because of the discipline in the
adhering to the schedules, because of the coordination and care of each
detail and because the quality of the service, it could be said that the
conference covering "Cuba in an Era of Change", in which I am taking
part as an invitee, could be taking place at an official Cuban venue.

However, it is all taking place at the Columbia School of Journalism,
New York, though, on occasion, the debate and its members seem to be
following a script designed to please even the most demanding Castro
delegate, not because of its focus on issues of the lifting of the
embargo–not just in the news coverage in a changing Cuba where,
nevertheless, we continue to endure a shocking lack of freedom–but in
the combined half-truths and warped fantasies that aim to lay the
foundations of the futility of American policy towards the Cuban government.

There is no doubt about the need to implement new policies to clear the
current impasse in US-Cuba relations, but it is incorrect to regard as
null the effect of the embargo on the Cuban government, the same way
that "it's an excuse that allows Castro to stifle dissent" is a thesis
that constitutes a candid remark, to put it delicately.

If indeed the embargo is harmless, how do we explain the repeated
complaints of the ruling caste, qualifying it as "criminal policy",
especially after the fall of the so-called European real socialism, when
the huge subsidies that allowed the implementation of social programs
ended, yet still nurture the "Castro" legend in almost every forum?

As long as the image of "the kind dictatorship" prevails, the one that
universalized health and education "for the people" (…) Cubans will,
unfortunately, continue to be fucked.

But life for Cubans will not improve by reinforcing old myths. So long
as the image of "the kind dictatorship", the one that universalized
health and education "for the people", forgetting that the price paid
was our freedom; while that strange fascination about Fidel Castro, the
maker of the longest dictatorship in the western hemisphere, continues
to exist; while we continue to fall into the vice of alluding about
those who are considered adversaries without allowing them participation
in the debate, or just while some lobbyists, perhaps too sensitive,
leave the room when someone–with the moral authority conferred by being
Cuban and living in Cuba–dares to reveal truths that they don't want to
hear; while the voices of those who are really suffering the ebbs and
tides of the policies are absent, it will not matter whether there is an
embargo or not. Cubans will, unfortunately, continue to be fucked.

These past few days I have been attending, perplexed, the debates of
many speakers who think they know, perhaps with the best motivation in
the world, what the Cuban reality is and what is best for us. I've heard
the old version of Cuban History where Fidel Castro is heir to the Martí
philosophy, and successor to the struggle for independence. I have heard
many compliments about the fabulous achievements of the Cuban system in
matters of ecology, social services and even in economics. I have
discovered the Cuba which those who move public opinion in this country
want to show.

The notable absentees are still the Cubans, not just the ones from
Miami, who they generically include in a big sack in these parts, as if
they were mere numbers to swell statistics and fill out surveys, who
they consider equal to Haitians, who flee their country for purely
economic reasons, but also the thousands who continue to emigrate by any
means in an ever-growing and constant way, and the millions condemned to
drag a life of poverty and hopelessness in our Island. But the most
eloquent vacuum, except for my exceptional presence here, is that of the
journalists and independent bloggers that do cover the day-to-day from
the depth of the Island. Once again, the foreigners' sugar-coated view
has prevailed.

Privilege of the powerful, the media and politicians, for whom Cuba is
only an exotic and beautiful island, long ruled by a genius-–perhaps a
tad tyrannical, but who will have to die someday–and replaced, in
dynastic order, by his brother. An island inhabited by the most cheerful
and happy people in the world.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: An Unfamiliar Cuba in the "Era of Changes" / 14ymedio, Miriam
Celaya | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/an-unfamiliar-cuba-in-the-era-of-changes-14ymedio-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
Cuban migrant recounts nightmare voyage on raft
Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 4:14 pm | Updated: 8:00 pm, Tue Oct
28, 2014.
Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — For eight days, they had no food or water.
Joel Moreno and the 12 other men with whom he'd fled Cuba were so close
to the U.S. at one point they could see the lights off the coast of
Florida. Then a strong wave overturned their raft, throwing all their
supplies into the ocean.

They drank sea water and vomited. They told stories. They thought about
their children.
After a week, Moreno, 39, decided they had no option left but to try and
swim to shore. He broke apart what was left of the raft, giving each man
a piece to cling to, and they separated into the night.
"We'd each have to try and save our own life," he said.
By Monday evening, 11 had been found by rescuers or made it to land. The
Coast Guard continued searching Tuesday for two rafters who remain
missing. Moreno, who swam two miles and reached Elliott Key in Miami's
Biscayne Bay, recounted their journey. His skin was deeply tanned and
wrinkled from days under the sun, giving the appearance of a man twice
his age.
At the Church World Service offices, where Cuban migrants are connected
with social services, he shivered in an air conditioned room.
"I'm still cold," he said.
Moreno said the men left from Cojimar, on the island's northern central
coast, where he worked as a fisherman. The others, mostly in their 20s
and 30s, worked as truck drivers and mechanics in surrounding towns.
They spent three days building the raft from inner tubes, foam and tarp.
After adding a 90 horsepower boat motor, they departed on Sunday, Oct.
19 at about 3 a.m.
Within six hours, Moreno said they could see ships and lights from
buildings in Key West. Then the motor ran out of gas. The men began
paddling toward land, but a cold front moved in and pushed them further
back to sea.
On the second day, their vessel capsized. They all managed to climb back
aboard, but were left with no food or fresh water to sustain them.
Moreno said he thought about his daughters, ages 7 and 1, in those long
days drifting in the ocean.
"Two beauties," he said, his eyes wet with tears.
Soon, the men began to feel the effects of dehydration: One suddenly got
up and started walking, as though he was hallucinating and about to
leave. They grew sick from ingesting so much sea water.
On the sixth day, a cargo ship hit their craft and continued on, Moreno
said. None of the men were hurt, but their vessel was damaged. By Sunday
evening, he said they could no longer endure without food or water.
"I'm going," he announced. "What are you all going to do?"
He began taking the raft apart and each man grabbed a buoyant piece.
About 12 hours later, Moreno had swum two miles and reached land.
Another man also made it to shore. Five more were rescued in the water
by two pleasure craft. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue plucked three more from
the water.
An eleventh man was found around sunset Monday by a boater.
In a poignant twist, not all of them may be allowed to remain in the
U.S., despite their ordeal.
Under the "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, Cuban migrants who reach U.S.
shores are generally allowed to stay, while those who are found at sea
are returned.
The rescue comes amid a significant rise in the number of Cubans
attempting to reach the U.S. by sea. At least 3,722 were intercepted in
the water or made it to shore in the last fiscal year, a 75 percent
increase.
Moreno said he had tried to leave Cuba in a raft five times before. Each
time he was caught. He said he wants to work and better provide for his
family, and also be with his father, who left in 1980. He had not seen
him since.
On Tuesday, Luis Felipe Moreno, 60, received a call from his relatives
in Cuba: His son was in Miami.
He rushed over to the Church World Service and buried himself in his
son's thin arms.
___
Follow Christine Armario on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/cearmario

Source: Cuban migrant recounts nightmare voyage on raft - Beloit Daily
News: National News -
http://www.beloitdailynews.com/news/national/cuban-migrant-recounts-nightmare-voyage-on-raft/article_dff5f6f2-8bfd-5da6-8df2-243a95cf7147.html Continue reading
Cuba: The Country of the "No"
October 28, 2014
Vicente Morin Aguado

HAVANA TIMES — I invite you to take trip with me to the Kingdom of the
No. An attentive gaze, some notes and several photos are enough to
confirm the persistent obstacles that people run into when dealing with
service providers supposedly created to make their lives easier. The
first thing that strikes the eye are the chronic shortages experienced
in the Cuban capital, a fact that the official press avoids while
government authorities try to conceal or at least downplay it.

In the morning, we were at Cuatro Caminos, an area at the intersection
of several municipalities with a high population density, where mostly
low-income people live (Centro Habana, Old Havana, Cerro, Diez de
Octubre). The pictures speak for themselves.

To the right and behind the clerk, an empty shelf awaits cigarrette
packs, while the employee has nothing to do. There are simply no
products to sell!

To see whether this is an exception, we head up the street from the
intersection of Belascoain and Monte, until we reach Matadero. There,
other clerks desirous of selling something (and avoid the boredom of the
previous clerk) await us.

They were selling buns with something inside (omelets, in fact, which
the furtive photo does not clearly show). On the counter, there was only
a small calculator and a bottle of rum, which looks more like decoration
than something on sale.

A sign at the back reads "Happy New Year". It's unclear whether it
refers to the next, the current or previous year. It may be announcing
the promised joy of a prosperous and sustainable form of socialism. The
sign has been hung on the wall for who knows how long.

Managing poverty, however, is an art that Cuba's governing bureaucracy
has mastered. The next day offers us a different picture, as "one or two
cigarette cartons come in from time to time", I hear a waiter say,
warning his friends: "they don't last long. People are very anxious and
buy things en masse."

A slightly different scenario awaits us the following day:

At least there are cigarettes and the clerk has something to do. It is
well worth recalling that, according to statistics that one can see on
any bulletin board posted at a food industry locale in Havana, the sale
of cigarettes, cigars and alcoholic beverages account for nearly 90
percent of an establishment's sales plan.

Incidentally, the chain of State stores for the poor are completely out
of cigars, as these are hoarded immediately, bought in 25-unit packages
(1 peso per cigar), to be re-sold at around twice the price set by the
State monopoly.

It's time for a rest. We arrived at one of the few Cuban peso
restaurants with air conditioning in the area. The table beyond the
counter should offer us a variety of products, but there isn't much to
be done here either, save look at ourselves in the mirror above the
counter, after musing on "life's many blows", as the poet said.

Roque Dalton, the revolutionary Salvadoran poet, never lived long enough
to see a country experience a decades-long rule by the communists. I can
just picture how shaken up he would be, and the other magnificent poem
he would write, if he were to visit Cuba from El Salvador and stand next
to the post office located on Belascoain and Carlos III.

Outside, we read about the modern communications systems inside: email,
fax, DHL (leading courier in the world), photocopies, etc.

I don't think the woman in the picture believes the pretty ad. Perhaps
she is waiting for her turn, to collect a wire or something along those
lines, always within that limited time of the day, because the place
isn't open 24 hours – it closes in the early afternoon, without even
guaranteeing the delivery of urgent telegrams.

The worst "no" is still to come. Sometimes, even though the products or
services are available, you can run into surprising obstacles.

You see the sign in most public offices around the country: "Closed for
Fumigation," a procedure aimed at combating the spread of several
contagious diseases typical of the tropics and which gets in the way of
regular working hours. In this particular case, it'll be three and a
half hours less work for the pleased employees.

These obstacles have no recognizable pattern. They arise without a
previous plan. There may have been a previous announcement, but
customers are not sight-seers and often find out at the entrance to the
establishment.

The "no" has been with us for nearly 50 years. We run into it
constantly, at intervals. We are so well trained in the art of survival
that we manage to regain our strength between crises, such that, though
we are unable to properly diagnose the disease, we are ultimately able
to live with it. We feel we face a chronic condition we cannot overcome.

Returning to the poets and recalling the singer-songwriter who was a
friend of Dalton's, Silvio Rodriguez, someone who seems to be a little
taken aback by reality today, I say: "what a way of knowing that this is
the same old story."
—–
vicentemorin@yahoo.com

Source: Cuba: The Country of the "No" - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106951 Continue reading
On the "Physical Disappearance" of Cuba's Historical Figures
October 28, 2014
Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — Ernesto "Che" Guevara was taken prisoner and assassinated
on October 9, 1967 under orders from the CIA.

We know this thanks to testimonies offered by the person who executed him.

Every 8th of October, however, Cuba continues to commemorate Che
Guevara's "fall in combat" and even his "physical disappearance."

Those phrases were also used in the course of this year.

Why falsify the historical record?

Today October 28th marks 55 years since the disappearance – here the
term is apt – of Camilo Cienfuegos.

Less renowned than Che outside of Cuba, Camilo Cienfuegos – the
"broad-smiling comandante", as he was known back in his time – embodied
people's feelings towards youth, work and charisma.

Many urban legends about his disappearance have existed. The official
version of events is that the Cessna plane he was travelling on fell
into the ocean, never to be found.

A friend told me that, even at the close of the 60s, there were those
who maintained Camilo was living incognito in Havana.

Today, 55 years since his disappearance, it would be worthwhile to pay
closer attention to Camilo Cienfuegos' political ideas. We don't much
see him on television, and I don't recall ever having been shown any of
his speeches, and he did deliver a number of these.

The year 1959 continues to embody a number of mysteries for those of us
who live in Cuba.

What really pisses me off is that phrase, "physical disappearance."

Used as a euphemism for the word "death", it is a cold and false expression.

It is not even adequate as a euphemism: death is biological, not
physical, even if we agree that life continues in some form of
patriotically spiritual dimension.

It would be good to replace "disappearance" with a more accurate expression.

I hope our memory of recent history becomes less cold and increasingly
more exact.

Source: On the "Physical Disappearance" of Cuba's Historical Figures -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106953 Continue reading
Cuba's Roofs, Small Spaces of Freedom
Posted: 10/28/2014 9:39 pm EDT Updated: 10/28/2014 9:59 pm EDT

14ymedio, YOANI SANCHEZ, Havana, 28 October 2014 - Some cities have a
subterranean life. Metros, tunnels, basements... the human victory of
winning inches from the stone. Havana no, Havana is a surface city, with
very little underground. However, on the roofs of the houses, on the
most unthinkable rooftops, little houses have been erected, baths, pig
pens and pigeon coops. As if above the ceilings everything were
possible, unreachable.

Ignacio has an illegal satellite dish on a neighbor's roof, it is hidden
under grape vines that gives undersized sour grapes. A few yards away
someone has built a cage for fighting dogs, which seek out the shade
during the day, thirsty and bored. On the other side of the street
several members of one family broke down the wall that connects to the
roof of an old state workshop. They've built a terrace and a toilet on
the abandoned place. At nightfall they play dominos, while the breezes
of the Malecon wash over them.

Carmita keeps all her treasure on top of her house. Some enormous wooden
beams with which she wants to shore up her quarters before they fall in.
Every week she climbs up to see if the rain and the heat have swollen
the wood and cracked the pillars. Her grandson uses the roof for trysts,
when night falls and the eyes barely distinguish shadows, although the
ears detect the moans.

Everyone lives a part of their existence up there, in the Havana that
wants to stretch to the sky but can barely manage to rise a few inches.

Source: Cuba's Roofs, Small Spaces of Freedom | Yoani Sanchez -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/cubas-roofs-small-spaces_b_6065154.html Continue reading
Family of Man Executed in Cuba Denied Access to Funds
Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal
October 29, 2014

The family of a man summarily executed by the Castro regime in 1960
cannot access electronic funds frozen in banks under U.S. government
sanctions against Cuba, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the family of the
late Robert Fuller cannot attach funds blocked under the Cuban Assets
Control Regulations, pursuant to §201 of the Terrorism Risk Insurance
Act of 2002, to satisfy a default judgment against Cuba.
The circuit, applying new case law stating that only funds directly
deposited into banks by a state sponsor of terrorism can be attached,
found insufficient the link between Cuba and the funds the family wants
to access to satisfy a $400 million default judgment they won in Florida.
The circuit reversed Judge Victor Marrero (See Profile) in Hausler v.
JPMorgan Chase Bank, 12-1264, the latest in a series of cases limiting
the ability of attorneys to seize blocked funds from sponsors of
terrorism to collect on judgments.
The decision came Friday, one day after the circuit agreed in
Calderon-Cardona v. The Bank of New York Mellon, 12-075, that North
Korea's removal from the list of countries considered state sponsors of
terrorism meant plaintiffs could not attach some $378 million in
electronic fund transfers (EFTs) that were blocked under the U.S.
sanctions regime against North Korea (NYLJ, Oct. 27).
In Calderon-Cardona, Judges Peter Hall (See Profile), Gerard Lynch (See
Profile) and Susan Carney (See Profile) also dealt with circuit case law
on the attachment of "mid-stream" EFTs, stating that an EFT blocked in
midstream is the property of a foreign state subject to attachment "only
where the state itself or an agency or instrumentality thereof …
transmitted the EFT directly to the bank where the EFT is held pursuant
to the block."
Part of Calderon-Cardona was then remanded to a lower court to determine
if, in fact, North Korea had directly sent any of the EFTs to defendant
banks.
Hausler, a case that was argued with Calderon-Cardona on Feb. 11, 2013,
did not present the same factual set up to Judges Hall, Lynch and Carney.
Robert "Bobby" Fuller was an ex-U.S. Marine who owned a sugar plantation
in Cuba. In October 1960, in a period of less than 24 hours, he was
arrested by the Castro regime, accused of disloyalty and executed by
firing squad.
The Hausler-Fuller family brought suit against Cuba and other defendants
under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §1602 and won a
default judgment in state court in Miami-Dade County, Florida for a
combined $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Garnishment actions in Florida were ultimately transferred to the
Southern District, where garnishee banks and other adverse claimants
argued the blocked EFTs are not attachable assets of Cuba under the
Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and Marrero ruled against the banks.
The TRIA was an effort by Congress to allow victims of terrorism to
recover monies otherwise blocked. But in arguing for amicus curiae the
United States in both Hausler and Calderon-Cardona, Assistant U.S.
Attorney David Jones said the TRIA only permits attachments of blocked
assets in which a terrorist party has an ownership interest, that the
language in TRIA is far less expansive than the Cuban Assets Control
Regulations and that such an ownership interest could not be shown.
In Calderon-Cardona, the plaintiffs were seeking to attach blocked funds
to satisfy a judgment based on North Korea's provision of weapons to the
Japanese Red Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
weapons used in an attack a Israel's Lod Airport in 1972.
The TRIA is read in tandem with the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act,
which carves out terrorism-related exceptions to sovereign
immunity—including allowing for the attachment of the property of
"terrorist parties" under the TRIA.
In a per curium opinion in Hausler, Hall, Lynch and Carney said that,
like Calderon-Cardona, the court has to interpret New York State law to
determine the status of EFTs blocked midstream—an issue that has
generated a lot of case law in the last five years—in the context of the
Cuban Assets Control Regulations.
In Shipping Court of India Ltd. v. Jaldhi Overseas PTE, 585 F.3d 58, the
circuit stopped a flood of maritime attachments in the Southern District
when it held that EFTs of which the defendant is a beneficiary cannot be
attached (NYLJ, Oct. 19, 2009).
Then, in Export-Import Bank of the United States v. Asia Pulp & Paper
Co., 09-2254-cv, the circuit held that midstream transfers passing
through intermediary banks cannot be garnished (NYLJ, June 28, 2010).
Finally, in Calderon-Cardona, the court quoted Jaldhi and said "the only
entity with a property interest in the stopped EFT is the entity that
passed the EFT on to the bank where it presently rests."
And because in Hausler it was "undisputed that no Cuban entity
transmitted any of the blocked EFTs directly to the blocking bank," Cuba
and its agents and instrumentalities have no property interest in the
blocked funds that can be attached by the plaintiffs.
David Baron, James Perkins, Robert Charrow and Laura Klaus of Greenberg
Traurig represent the Hausler-Fuller family.
James Kerr of Davis Polk & Wardwell and Kenneth Caruso of White & Case
argued for the banks at the Second Circuit. The lawyers declined comment
on behalf of their clients.

Source: Family of Man Executed in Cuba Denied Access to Funds | New York
Law Journal -
http://www.newyorklawjournal.com/home/id=1202674861201/Family-of-Man-Executed-in-Cuba-Denied-Access-to-Funds?mcode=1202617075062&curindex=1&slreturn=20140929122831 Continue reading
Cuba to Women: Please Have More Babies

The Cuban government is encouraging women to have babies and turn around
its falling birth rate, which is now the lowest in Latin America.

Authorities announced this week they will soon be unveiling financial
incentives for couples who are thinking of starting a family. The
government has already expanded maternity, and in some cases paternity
leave, to a full year with pay. In addition, Cuba has opened dozens of
special centers for infertile couples and special maternity units where
women can live full time during high-risk pregnancies.

"We've been evaluating this low birth rate for years," said Roberto
Alvarez Fumero, chief of the maternity and child health unit at Cuba's
Ministry of Health. "Now we're taking action to improve sexual and
reproductive health, which can help drive up the country's birth rate."

The average Cuban woman had nearly five children in the 1960s but the
birth rate has fallen to less than two children since the late 1970s.
Due to decades of fewer births, the number of working-age people in Cuba
is expected to shrink starting next year, which is bad news for an
island trying to improve its economy.

In socialist Cuba, the decades-long falling birthrate is attributed to
several things, including more women in the workforce, wider access to
contraception and abortion, a tough economy, housing shortages and high
levels of emigration among young people.

Source: Cuba to Women: Please Have More Babies - NBC News.com -
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/cuba-women-please-have-more-babies-n236406 Continue reading
October 29, 2014 2:24 pm

Medical mission against Ebola brings pride and fear to Cuba
Marc Frank in Havana

Ebola provokes panic in most countries and Cuba, it seems, is little
different – despite Havana's widely-applauded move to fight the disease
by dispatching doctors to Africa, an initiative-cum-public relations
coup that may help ease the US embargo against the island.
The decision by Raúl Castro, the president, has already put 256 Cuban
medical personnel in west Africa, where they will work on six-month
tours compared with the six weeks of many other foreign health providers.
Another 200 personnel are waiting on assignment, and the initiative has
won top billing in the state-controlled press, with broadcast footage of
Mr Castro hugging every doctor and nurse before they board aircraft that
will take them to the gruelling and dangerous task.
"I am convinced that if this threat is not stopped in west Africa with
an immediate international response . . . it could become one of the
gravest pandemics in human history," Mr Castro said at a recent Ebola
summit in Havana.
The move – which has earned Havana lavish praise from Margaret Chan,
head of the World Health Organisation, and been welcomed by John Kerry,
US secretary of state – has given the government a rare glow of
favourable international publicity and helped divert Cubans' attention
from the island's sputtering economy.
"Are we proud? Are our doctors and nurses courageous? Of course, they
are heroes," says Maria Cordoba, who runs a cafeteria in the sun-baked
village of Pijirigua in western Artemesia province.
"Here we take care of them all, reduce our prices and even let them pay
later," says Maria. "Children are precious, not just in Cuba, but
everywhere."
But then fear enters her voice. "Dengue [now endemic in Cuba] is bad
enough, imagine if Ebola gets here," she adds, as a group of school
children, in their red and white uniforms, line up for after school
snacks in front of her shop's counter.
Cuba's long tradition of sending medical personnel abroad – it currently
has 50,000 health providers in more than 60 countries – has won the
island praise from those who see it as driven by idealism. But it has
also drawn criticism from those who see it as a tacit form of indentured
labour for medics who have little choice but to go – although they can
earn bigger salaries abroad and perks when they return home.
There are an estimated 10,000 Cuban medics working in Venezuela, for
example, partly in return for the 100,000 barrels per day of subsidised
oil that Caracas sends to Havana. But worsening conditions in Venezuela
has seen increasing numbers of Cuban doctors seek exile in the US.
"There is nothing forced about this [Ebola programme]. The people going
have already volunteered to be part of a group in every province that
are trained for and ready to assist wherever there is a disaster,"
Anaida Himenez, a nursing professor, said in a telephone interview from
Camagüey, a town 300 miles east of Havana.
Interactive

Tracking the Ebola outbreak

Track the outbreak's spread since the World Health Organisation first
issued a global alert in March 2014
"You have to understand we have a medical system where no doctor or
nurse denies care to anyone, anywhere. Although there are always
exceptions and there is no reason our people over there shouldn't be paid."
Cubans are also perhaps the safest residents in the region. The
country's free and prevention-oriented healthcare system ensures any
case that appears will be quickly spotted and all contacts traced.
Medical personnel will be treated in Africa if they contract Ebola and
anyone travelling from the centre of the epidemic is quarantined for 21
days. The government is also sending experts to other countries, from
Jamaica to Central America, to advise on preparations to ward off the
Ebola threat.
Whether planned, idealistic or undertaken for other motives, Cuba's huge
and rapid response to the Ebola crisis has been a boon for state media.
It has been a welcome diversion from the island's struggling economy
where food prices are rising more than 10 per cent a year and growth has
slowed to less than 1 per cent. Market-oriented reforms begun under Mr
Castro have been slow and have failed to meet expectations fostered by
the Communist party's pledge to develop a "prosperous and sustainable
socialism".
Cuba's Ebola initiative may also prove to be a foreign relations coup,
as it comes at a time when the US is under increasing pressure to ease
its half century embargo against Cuba.
Mr Castro has offered to work alongside its old foe in west Africa, as
happened after the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Meanwhile, the US has
welcomed Cuba's offer, with Mr Kerry highlighting the size of Cuba's
contribution in relation to its population. Still, collaboration did not
lead to improved relations after Haiti.

Source: Medical mission against Ebola brings pride and fear to Cuba -
FT.com -
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4ace7caa-5ed0-11e4-be0b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3HYHg6Uw9 Continue reading
Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another group
at sea
BY ALFONOSO CHARDY ACHARDY@MIAMIHERALD.COM
10/28/2014 1:20 PM 10/28/2014 4:50 PM

The Coast Guard continued its search Tuesday for two missing Cuban
rafters, part of a group of 13 men that left days ago from Cojimar, on
Cuba's northern coast about 340 miles east of Havana.

On Tuesday, activist Ramón Saúl Sánchez, head of the Democracy Movement,
said a man who identified himself as the father of one of the 13 was
desperately trying to find his son at area hospitals and with the Coast
Guard.

Sánchez said there was also a second boat that has not yet arrived or
been heard from carrying 23 Cuban rafters — 22 men and a woman — who
departed from the port of Mariel about eight days ago. The Coast Guard
said it has not heard reports of another group of Cuban rafters.

The latest incidents are part of a growing number of Cuban rafters who
have arrived on South Florida shores or have been interdicted in waters
of the Florida Straits in the last 12 months.

Five suspected Cuban migrants picked up off Hollywood Beach
According to the Coast Guard, 2,059 Cubans were intercepted at sea in
the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, or 702 more than the fiscal year
before. About 814 Cubans reached shore during the same time period, an
increase from 359 who made it to the United States the previous year.

The majority of Cuban migrants who arrive in the United States without a
visa cross the border from Mexico. So far this year, 16,247 Cubans have
arrived via the border, according to figures released recently by U.S.
Customs and Border Protection.

The latest incident unfolded Monday around 10 a.m. Monday when the
captain of a private boat called the Coast Guard to report people in the
water desperately clinging to remnants of what seemed like a raft or
makeshift boat.

Ultimately, three Cuban migrants were plucked from the waters by rescue
helicopters dispatched by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. They were taken to
area hospitals for medical treatment. Five other migrants were rescued
by the Coast Guard and taken to a Coast Guard cutter offshore. Two other
rafters swam safely to shore at Elliot Key, near Key Biscayne. That left
three rafters unaccounted for.

Late Monday, a good Samaritan located a person in the water near Fowey
Rocks Light. The person in the water was rescued and transferred to a
Coast Guard crew. They brought the man ashore for medical treatment.

On Tuesday, Sánchez told el Nuevo Herald that he had been in contact
with Lázaro Allegue in Miami who said his son Adríán was one of the 13
rafters in the makeshift boat that broke apart Sunday night in Biscayne
Bay near the Turkey Point nuclear power plant in South Miami-Dade.

Sánchez said Lázaro Allegue did not know whether his son was among the
two missing, those taken to area hospitals for medical treatment, those
held aboard a Coast Guard cutter or those processed by the Border Patrol
after they reached land.

Under a system currently in place, the Coast Guard provides information
on Cuban rafters to the offices of Cuban-American federal lawmakers.

But Sánchez said that system has resulted in rolls of red tape. He
called Tuesday for the Coast Guard to overhaul the system and allow
relatives of rafters to inquire directly by faxing a picture of their
loved to the agency to check if a loved one was in custody.

Under the wet-foot/dry-foot policy now in effect, Cuban migrants who are
interdicted at sea are generally returned to the island — although some
are taken to the U.S. Navy base in Guantánmo if they have a fear of
persecution if returned. Cuban migrants who reach shore are allowed to stay.

Separately, Sánchez said another member of the Cuban exile community had
called him Tuesday to inquire about a second Cuban migrant boat carrying
22 men and one woman. Sánchez said the boat had left eight days ago from
Mariel, a Cuban seaport west of Havana, from where more than 125,000
Cuban refugees left for the United States in 1980.

"The people are worried because they have not heard from these
migrants," Sánchez said.

Source: Coast Guard still searching for 2 missing Cuban rafters; another
group at sea | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article3417219.html Continue reading
Fabiola Santiago: Another exodus of Cubans in the making
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO FSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM
10/28/2014 7:26 PM 10/28/2014 8:51 PM

Only someone with a heart of stone would be unmoved by the images we've
seen this week of young Cuban men clinging to pieces of debris in the
high seas off South Florida.

Thirteen men adrift after their rickety homemade vessel split apart were
spotted Monday morning four miles off the Turkey Point power plant.

Thanks to the hustle of the U.S. Coast Guard, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, a
host of other government agencies — and ordinary boaters who rushed to
help — nine were plucked from the seas and saved.

Two swam ashore to Elliot Key. Two were still missing as of Tuesday evening.

Such is the luck of the draw when desperate people risk their most
priceless possession, their lives, to leave a country. They take the
all-or-nothing gamble to chase a dream: new lives among us.

Whether the latest Cubans to arrive get to stay or not will depend on
the 1996 Clinton Administration "wet-foot dry-foot" policy — those who
reach land end up on the path to residency, those who don't are
repatriated via Coast Guard cutter.

Such is the luck of the draw of U.S-Cuba policy — another high-stakes
gamble for those making the risky 90-mile voyage across the Florida Straits.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because the continuous trickle of
Cubans washing ashore has all the markings of another exodus by sea in
the making. If you've covered the topic of Cuban immigration as long as
I have — since 1980 — none of this comes as a surprise.

Any time Cuba has sought a policy change from the U.S., the exodus card
comes into play, at first a subtle looking-the-other-way as those
leaving begin to trickle into South Florida and the count turns into
what the New York Times aptly called "a rising tide."

Unexpected, however, this is not. Cubans know that such windows of
flight are priceless, and they have historically acted on them.

By now Cubans on the island have confirmed that the promise of reforms
is another pantalla — theater for foreign consumption — to prolong the
life of the same clan in power. They've been visited by the returning,
successful balseros who fled 20 years ago. And although the balseros did
suffer losses at sea and were detained at Guantánamo camps for months, I
have yet to interview one who hasn't told me he or she would risk it all
again to gain the life they have now.

What could possibly keep a young man on the island, after hearing the
triumphant stories of returning relatives, from seeking that same life?

The dangerous voyage on unsafe vessels is not the only route Cubans
continue to take — with the hope of reaching land, dry foot — to the
tune of 25,000 during the year that ended Sept. 30, according to the Times.

A startling statistic, but there's another one more telling reported by
El Nuevo Herald: In recent months, more than 3,700 have been intercepted
at sea or made it to shore —– a 75 percent increase from that same
period last year.

The numbers quantify the flight. But who can forget the image of a
helicopter hovering over a young man clinging to a piece of debris
seconds away from life or death before our eyes?

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Another exodus of Cubans in the making | The
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article3424679.html Continue reading
"My Most Fruitful and Difficult Experience Has Been Jail" / 14ymedio,
Lilianne Ruiz, Antunez
Posted on October 27, 2014

14ymedio, LILIANNE RUIZ, Havana, October 25, 2014 — On leaving prison,
it took Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, some time to digest
that he could go where he wanted without being watched. They had held
him captive for 17 years and 37 days of his life.

Just as he learned to do in jail, today he devotes his efforts to civic
resistance, inspired by the doctrine of Gene Sharp and Martin Luther
King. His movement gathers dozens of activists who carry out street
protests and civic meetings in several provinces of the country and in
his native Placetas.

Lilianne: Let's talk about before going to prison, adolescent Antunez.
What did you want to be?

Antunez: In adolescence, a firefighter. I liked the idea of rescuing
people, putting out fires. But before going to prison I wanted to become
a lawyer. I believe that was my calling.

Lilianne: Jail is a survival experience. Do you think it hardened you?

Antunez: The most fruitful and difficult experience, as paradoxical as
it may seem, has been jail. I never could imagine that jail was going to
be a hard as it was, nor that I was going to be a witness to and a
victim of the vile abuses that I experienced. I do not know how to
answer you if it hardened me or not. When I entered prison I had a much
more radical ideology, it was less democratic. But jail, thanks to God
and to a group of people whom I met, helped me to become more tolerant,
more inclusive, and to respect various opinions.

As a prisoner, I went to the most severe regime in Cuba. The gloomy
prison of Kilo 8 in Camaguey, commonly known as "I lost the key," where
the most sinister repressors are found. Torture forms part of the
repressive mentality of the jailers in a constant and daily way. It was
there where a group of us political prisoners came together and founded
the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoner's Association, in order to
confront repression in a civic way. Thus, I tell you that prison did not
harden me, because if it had, I would have emerged with resentment,
hatred, feelings of vengeance, and it was not so.

Lilianne: What is your favorite music?

Antunez: I like romantic music, Maricela, Marco Antonio Solis, Juan
Gabriel. But I also enjoy jazz, although I am no expert. The music to
which I always sleep is instrumental.

Lilianne: Will you share with us your personal projects?

Antunez: There is a saying according to which a man, before he dies,
should plant a tree, write a book and have a child. Fortunately, there
is already a book, titled Boitel Lives; CADAL published it in 2005. I
have planted many trees, because I am a country peasant. I only need to
have a son with the woman I love, Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera, so here I
am now telling you one of my goals I am aiming for.

Lilianne: You know that a growing number of dissidents and activists
have identified four consensus points. What do you think?

Antunez: I believe that they are standing demands that concern all
members of the opposition and all Cubans wherever they are. I wish that
more fellow countrymen would adhere to these four points. I believe that
they represent the sentiment of all good Cubans: to free political
prisoners, for the Cuban government to ratify the human rights
agreements, recognize the legitimacy of the opposition and stop
repression. Everything that is done for change, to free us from the
communist dictatorship that oppresses us, is positive.

Lilianne: Why does Antunez not leave Placetas?

Antunez: Not everyone wants to go to Havana. I know many people who keep
their rootedness. I would say that, more than roots, it is a spiritual
necessity. I leave Placetas three or four days and I begin to feel bad.
And that sensation that I have when I come up the heights, coming from
Santa Clara… that is something inexplicable. The motto that I repeat, "I
won't shut up, and I'm not leaving Cuba," means also: "I won't shut up
and I'm not leaving Placetas."

Translated by MLK

Source: "My Most Fruitful and Difficult Experience Has Been Jail" /
14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Antunez | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/my-most-fruitful-and-difficult-experience-has-been-jail-14ymedio-lilianne-ruiz-antunez/ Continue reading
Tampa donations build Cuba church
Times wires
Monday, October 27, 2014 9:17pm

Cuba has allowed construction of the country's first new Catholic church
in 55 years, the church said Monday. Experts said it's a sign of
improving relations between the Vatican and Cuba's communist government.
The church, funded by donations from Catholics in Tampa, will be built
in Sandino, a citrus and coffee-growing town in the far-western province
of Pinar del Rio. The church publication Christian Life said it will
have space for 200 people. "The construction of a church is a clear
demonstration of a new phase, of an improvement, in relations between
the church and the state," said Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor the
history of religions at the University of Havana.

A delivery mission to the International Space Station was called off
Monday after a sailboat got too close. Orbital Sciences Corp. got to
within the 10-minute mark for the launch of its unmanned Cygnus capsule
from Wallops Island, Va. But a sailboat ended up in the restricted
danger zone, and controllers halted the countdown. The company will try
again this evening. The capsule holds 5,000 pounds of cargo for NASA.

South African state prosecutors said Monday that they planned to appeal
the conviction and sentence handed down to track star Oscar Pistorius
after a seven-month trial that ended last week in ferocious debate over
the magnitude of his punishment. In a post on Twitter, Nathi Mncube, a
spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, said the organization
"will be appealing both the conviction and sentence." Pistorius, 27, was
sentenced to a five-year prison term for culpable homicide, equivalent
to manslaughter, in the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, 29,
on Feb. 14, 2013. Under the terms of the sentence, he may be released
into house arrest after 10 months.

A portion of a Columbian mammoth skull and tusks have been uncovered in
southeastern Idaho, and experts say a rare entire skeleton might be
buried there. Experts estimate the mammoth was about 16 years old and
lived 70,000 to 120,000 years ago in what was a savanna-like country
populated with large plant-eaters and predators.

Source: Tampa donations build Cuba church | Tampa Bay Times -
http://www.tampabay.com/news/world/tampa-donations-build-cuba-church/2203992 Continue reading
Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week's Election, Says
Congressman
By Michael E. Miller Mon., Oct. 27 2014 at 9:00 AM

The Cuban expression "mañana, mañana." is often interpreted by Anglos as
an excuse for laziness. In fact, the saying speaks volumes about its
island of origin. In a country that has been led by one Castro or
another for more than half a century, what hope can there be that
tomorrow will be any different from today?
Earlier this month, that question brought several dozen experts,
academics, and journalists to Columbia Journalism School in Manhattan.
Optimism was evident in the conference's title -- Covering Cuba in an
Era of Change -- as well as in the presentations, which included strong
hints that the embargo's days are numbered.

Gregory Craig, former White House counsel under Barack Obama, said the
president already has the legal power to lift most of the sanctions that
have crippled Cuba since the fall of the Soviet Union. Although Congress
probably would refuse to officially overturn the embargo, Obama could --
and should -- instantly normalize diplomatic relations and allow
Americans to travel to the island, Craig said.

Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern outlined a six-month window in
which Obama is most likely to make a move, beginning after next week's
midterm elections and concluding with the Summit of the Americas in late
April.

If Obama and Raúl Castro both attend as predicted, it will be the first
official meeting between two countries' leaders since Raúl and Fidel
swept down from the Sierra Maestra.

"We are reassured [by the White House] that people are working on it,"
McGovern said of a U.S.-Cuba policy change. "The stars seem to be aligned."

Many roadblocks remain, however. McGovern warned that any rapprochement
would require dealing with both Alan Gross -- the USAID contractor
imprisoned in Cuba since 2011 for distributing satellite phones without
a permit -- and the three surviving members of the "Cuban Five," the
Castro agents who spied on Miami's exile community.

Easing the embargo would also cost Obama politically. "I think part of
the reluctance is that [the administration] will get some pushback from
people who are in pretty serious positions," McGovern said, including
Miami's hard-line Cubans.

Perhaps the most concrete evidence that things are already changing on
the island was the presence of three Cuban journalists at the
conference. Miriam Celaya, Elaine Díaz, and Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo have
all been allowed to leave under recently relaxed travel restrictions.
Celaya is scheduled to return to Havana this week, while Díaz and Pardo
are on yearlong academic fellowships.
But Celaya and Pardo hardly painted a promising picture of their
homeland. Celaya said she had been blocked from entering the library
because of her journalism. Other reporters had been beaten and
imprisoned, Pardo said. Both described having to share articles via
paquetes, or troves of documents on flash drives. And Pardo said Cuba's
infamous state security apparatus remained intact despite the growth of
internet on the island.

"Our own [Edward] Snowden would not survive, would not escape," he
warned. "Our own Snowden would be shot on the spot."

Ultimately, despite the talk of Obama ending the embargo and ushering in
change in Cuba, Pardo feared that the solution was still, as it has been
for 50 years, "biological."

Source: Obama Could Lift Sanctions Against Cuba After Next Week's
Election, Says Congressman | Miami New Times -
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2014/10/obama_could_lift_sanctions_against_cuba_after_next_weeks_election_says_cong.php Continue reading
Graying Cuba approves plan to boost birth rate

Havana (AFP) - Cuba is encouraging its rapidly aging population to have
more babies, state-run media reported Monday.

The daily Granma newspaper reported that President Raul Castro called
the communist island's graying population "one of the greatest
challenges facing the nation because of its impact on social, economic
and family life."

Castro's cabinet has adopted a slate of policies to boost the fertility
rate, including financial incentives, the daily reported.

The government also announced plans to increase care for the elderly,
Granma wrote.

By 2027, the number of deaths in Cuba could surpass births, and overall
population will not only get older, but also smaller, a state official
said at the meeting.

Lower birth rates and a steady stream of migrants leaving the island has
caused the population to drop 11.2 to 11.1 million in the last decade,
according to census data.

Around 45,000 Cubans have left the island every year in the last decade,
official statistics show.

Cuba currently has 2.4 million people over the age of 60, a demographic,
which, by 2045, is expected to make up more than a third of the island's
population, posing serious economic challenges.

Officials said limited access to housing, the high costs of child care
and a lack of family support services have contributed to the low
fertility rate.

Source: Graying Cuba approves plan to boost birth rate - Yahoo News -
http://news.yahoo.com/graying-cuba-approves-plan-boost-birth-rate-175641018.html Continue reading
Member of Cuban Ebola Mission Dies of Malaria
HAVANA — Oct 27, 2014, 2:41 PM ET

Cuba says a member of a medical team it sent to fight Ebola in West
Africa has died of malaria.

According to state newspaper Granma, Jorge Juan Guerra Rodriguez, 60,
died in Guinea on Oct. 26 from cerebral malaria, a complication of the
parasitic infection that severely and sometimes fatally damages the brain.

The newspaper said two tests for Ebola turned up no sign of the disease.

Cuba sent 165 medical workers to Sierra Leone this month, followed by a
second group of 83 who went to Guinea and Liberia last week. Guerra, who
the newspaper said was trained as an economist, was a member of the
advance team sent to Africa before the doctors were dispatched.

Source: Member of Cuban Ebola Mission Dies of Malaria - ABC News -
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/member-cuban-ebola-mission-dies-malaria-26490389 Continue reading
Cuba builds first new church in 55 years
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has allowed construction of the country's first new
Catholic church in 55 years, the church said Monday. Experts said it's a
sign of improving relations between the Vatican and Cuba's communist
government.

The church, funded by donations from Catholics in Tampa, Florida, will
be built in Sandino, a citrus and coffee-growing town in the far-western
province of Pinar del Rio.

The church publication "Christian Life" said it will have space for 200
people.

"The construction of a church is a clear demonstration of a new phase,
of an improvement, in relations between the church and the state," said
Enrique Lopez Oliva, a professor the history of religions at the
University of Havana.

The Catholic Church had tense relations with what was long an officially
atheist government for many years after the 1959 revolution, but they
began to improve ahead of Pope John Paul II's visit in 1998.

The government revived observance of a Christmas holiday and began
allowing masses or homilies to be broadcast on official media. It also
dropped a ban on church membership for Communist Party members that had
been adopted in the years after the 1959 revolution.

___

Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP

Source: Cuba builds first new church in 55 years - Yahoo News -
https://news.yahoo.com/cuba-builds-first-church-55-years-191657884.html Continue reading
11 Cuban rafters saved near Turkey Point; 2 more sought
BY CHARLES RABINCRABIN@MIAMIHERALD.COM
10/27/2014 11:06 AM 10/28/2014 7:54 AM

A large rescue operation continued into Monday night for two men missing
after their ramshackle, handmade vessel, which left Cuba about a week
ago, broke apart four miles east of the Turkey Point nuclear power plant
in South Miami-Dade.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the U.S. Coast Guard and civilians in pleasure
crafts, searching the still-warm waters between Sands Key and Turkey
Point with boats, helicopters and airplanes, plucked nine men from the
water Monday morning.

Two others swam to Elliott Key.

The group, all adult men, told law enforcement officers that they left
Cuba between five and 10 days ago on a makeshift raft made of wood and
inner tubes, and that it broke into pieces about 10 Sunday night.
Several of the men were found clinging to inner tubes.

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of planning
By late Monday, five of the men were aboard the Coast Guard Cutter
Robert Yered, three others who were pulled from the water by Miami-Dade
Fire Rescue — two by helicopter hoists — were in area hospitals, one was
rescued near Fowey Rocks Light, and two more were in the custody of
immigration authorities on Elliott Key.

Coast Guard officials said the search for the two missing men would
continue through Monday night, and then the situation would be
reevaluated. They believe there is a good chance the missing men can
survive through the night because water temperatures remain in the low
80s, with relatively light waves of two or three feet.

"It broke apart, and we're not sure why it broke apart. Probably because
it's a small craft and a large sea," said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard
Hartley. "Water temperatures are pretty warm. There's a good chance
they're still clinging to some debris."

Hartley said authorities recovered several inner tubes, which the
rescued men said they used as flotation devices for their vessel during
the 90-mile trip from Cuba.

"That's why we don't believe it was a smuggling operation," said Coast
Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss.

Several of the men, if Cuban, will probably be able to remain in the
United States because of a 1996 revision to the Cuban Adjustment Act
that expedites the legal permanent residency status of Cubans who reach
the American shore.

According to Hartley, the Coast Guard was informed of the men in the
water shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, then quickly informed Miami and
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, which both sent watercraft. They also contacted
national parks officials and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission, which was also helping in the search.

A signal was also sent out to pleasure craft in the area whose operators
quickly spotted two of the men swimming without any flotation devices,
and pulled them aboard.

The men seemed to be in good condition considering the lengthy, rough
voyage through the Florida Straits, said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Eric
Lowd.

"I don't know how long they were in the water," Lowd said, "but they
looked pretty good. One of the men said it was long and hot and he was
thirsty and cold."

Officials, still trying to determine where the men began their voyage,
said a steady stream of migrants has reached shore this year.

In September, a group of nine rafters came ashore behind the Mar-Azul
condominium complex in Key Biscayne.

According to U.S. Border Patrol, 2,059 Cubans were intercepted at sea in
the year ending Sept. 30, which was 702 more than the year before. Only
814 Cubans reached shore during the same time period, an increase from
the 359 who made it to the United States the previous year.

Most of the Cubans who make it to the United States cross over from
Mexico, according to Border Patrol. So far this year, 16,247 Cubans have
migrated to the United States through Mexico.

El Nuevo Herald staff writer Alfonso Chardy contributed to this report.

Source: 11 Cuban rafters saved near Turkey Point; 2 more sought | The
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/deadline-miami/article3400848.html Continue reading
'Su novio la mató'
JORGE ENRIQUE RODRÍGUEZ | La Habana | 28 Oct 2014 - 8:50 am.

Los homicidios y la violencia, sobre todo contra las mujeres, crecen en
el país. La prensa y el Gobierno callan.

"¿Eh, y la muchacha bonita que siempre me hornea la pizza a mi gusto?"

Es domingo 19 de octubre, 1:30 pm. Quien pregunta es un joven
veinteañero, cliente habitual de la cafetería El Toldo, en la avenida
principal del Reparto Eléctrico; a un costado del parque infantil.

No hay respuestas, solo rostros demasiados tensos y nerviosos para una
tarde de domingo. Finalmente, una de las vendedoras, de reojo y en
susurro, le dice: "su novio la mató, hace como cinco horas", y rompe a
llorar.

Los detalles se los amplía el ponchero, pues tiene su negocio ubicado
justo al frente de la cafetería. "Asere, esa chamaca no se merecía eso.
Conozco también al tipo, que la maltrataba al extremo; hasta que ella se
cansó y lo acusó. Él estaba en prisión preventiva hasta el día del
juicio, pero todo indica que le dieron pase. Ni siquiera discutieron
porque solo se escucharon de repente los gritos y nadie tuvo tiempo de
reaccionar. Le dio ocho puñaladas, menos mal que todavía no había niños
en el parque".

El joven veinteañero no da crédito a lo que escucha; siente incluso algo
de culpa porque solía coquetearle a la muchacha. Tampoco puede dejar de
pensar que estos hechos violentos se han ido tornado habituales, y
comparte su preocupación con el ponchero.

"Mira sobrino, no sé en qué país tú vives, pero si de verdad te preocupa
la realidad tienes que caminar barrio adentro, y no solo en este, para
que te des cuenta que no solo en las películas del sábado hay violencia.
Sale a caminar la calle y verás".

Lo que tampoco logra explicarse el joven es "cómo alguien en custodia
preventiva, en espera de juicio, obtiene un pase".

La Ley 62 del Código Penal —artículo 261— sanciona el homicidio con una
pena de entre siete y quince años de privación de libertad. Con un buen
comportamiento —entiéndase trabajar y participar en los planes de
reeducación que auspicia el Departamento de Prisiones subordinado al
Ministerio del Interior— cualquier recluso sancionado por este delito
saldría en libertad condicional a los siete años, incluso menos porque
la norma es sancionar el delito a diez años; y a partir de cumplirse un
tercio de la sanción tiene la posibilidad de salir regularmente de pase.

"Estas bondades, que supuestamente deben conducir a la reinserción
social del individuo, permiten por otro lado y en cierto modo que se
condicionen los comportamientos violentos que suelen llegar a
convertirse con frecuencia en homicidio", asegura Dianelys Martínez, ex
jueza del Tribunal Municipal del municipio Plaza.

Esta perspectiva se confirma cuando se sigue, al pie de la letra, la
advertencia del ponchero, sin que ello signifique exponer,
peyorativamente, la vida y a la gente de los barrios.

"Cometer un homicidio, mi ambia, ya no representa una muestra de
verdadera hombría como en mis tiempos —cuenta Rogelio, personaje que
goza de respeto en los ambientes habaneros—. Incluso para llegar a esto
debían concurrir todas las circunstancias. Se mataba por razones de
peso; por defender tu honor, tu vida o tu sangre. Hoy los menores se
llevan a cualquiera del aire porque la ley es menos recia con ellos.
Cualquiera se lleva a cualquiera del aire por lo mínimo. Se sabe que
casi nadie cumple ni siquiera los diez años que te echan en el tanque;
hay gente que sale a los cinco años por buena conducta, o que salen de
pase a los tres. Con esas condiciones cualquiera mata monina. Yo tuve
que jalar veinte años por lo mío, en el 65".

Celia tiene secuelas que van más allá de perder a un familiar. Todavía
habla sobre el asunto con gravedad. Su testimonio no tiene afeites, ni
es afectado. Duele escucharla porque habla desde el corazón y a través
de los ojos.

"A mi esposo le quitó la vida Marquitos, a quien vi crecer, por una
simple discusión en una cola para comprar hamburguesas, en el año 95.
Fue delante de mi hijo que tenía entonces 13 años y quedó traumatizado
con tratamiento psicológico para toda la vida; ni siquiera pudo culminar
sus estudios. Yo me enfermé de los nervios cuando a los dos años de
estar cumpliendo condena Marquitos salió de pase. Al final solo cumplió
cinco años de la condena de diez. Y mira tú, hace menos de un año lo
mataron a él; de dos tiros, otro que tampoco lo pensó dos veces. No me
alegré; al contrario, me puse a pensar que algo anda mal en las leyes
cuando se asesina con tanta facilidad".

El suceso de la calle 27 y 4, en Nuevo Vedado, acompaña a Niurka como
una imagen congelada, incluso casi dos años después. No ha logrado tener
desde entonces una pareja formal, tiene mucha desconfianza hacia los
hombres.

"Ese día yo hacía el turno mañanero en la fregadora de la esquina. Vi a
un muchacho salir del portal de la casa de enfrente y creí que era algún
mecánico o algo porque no era de zona. Se cruzó con otro muchacho en la
acera y le dijo '¿tú no la querías?, pues ahí en ese portal te la dejo',
y siguió de largo. No entendí nada hasta que se oyeron los gritos del
otro. La había matado, a cuchillazos. Al otro día, la familia de esa
casa puso un cartel de se permuta".

Cierta impunidad en la aplicación de las sanciones propicia un alto
índice en el delito de homicidio. La última reforma en el código penal
cubano agravaría solo a los delitos relacionados con las drogas que
ampliaron, casi el doble, la privación de libertad. Los relacionados con
el homicidio quedarían intactos.

"Lo que no sale nunca, ni siquiera en los casos que recrea el programa
Tras la huella, es la creciente ola de homicidios y violencia que se
vive cotidianamente en Cuba, y mucho más en provincias"; alega un
informático natural de Campechuela, graduado de la UCI.

"En la prensa solo se reflejan los accidentes de tránsito o solo
aquellos hechos connotados que no hay modo de ocultarlo, como el de La
Habana Vieja o el de hace años en Artemisa, donde las víctimas incluían
niños. Pero en cualquier computadora de cualquier casa se puede
encontrar mucha documentación gráfica de los casos donde la mayoría de
los homicidios son contra las mujeres. La gente se los pasa, no por
morbosidad, sino para conocer de cerca la realidad que también se vive y
que el Gobierno intenta ocultar bajo la alfombra. Ni siquiera existen
estadísticas oficiales sobre ello".

Las dos vendedoras de la cafetería El Toldo evitan hablar del tema. No
habrá nada en el resto de sus vidas que pueda superar el haber sido
testigo de semejante hecho. Lo ocurrido a su compañera de trabajo fue
casi ante sus ojos; quedaron paralizadas.

Entre lágrimas, una de ellas solo se repite, "no es posible, no es
posible que ese hombre haya salido de pase solo para venir y hacerle
esto. Se supone que estaría en prisión hasta el día del juicio. Tengo
mucho miedo y no sé si pueda testificar contra él en el juicio sin la
garantía de que estará preso de por vida. No es posible".

Source: 'Su novio la mató' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1414479025_10999.html Continue reading
Has Stagnation Returned? / Fernando Damaso
Posted on October 26, 2014

For years, stagnation was a constant of Cuban-style socialism, as it was
in the socialism of Eastern Europe. Starting in 2006, with the change at
the helm, it seemed as if the country was going to awaken from its long
lethargy and start to move forward, albeit too slowly for many people. A
few timid steps were taken, but they were enough to create some hope
that, finally, we would begin to travel along the correct path, leaving
behind years of failed experiments and constant political, economic and
social improvisation.

There began a process of eliminating absurd prohibitions, which pleased
everyone, although it was known that the contents of our wallets would
be insufficient to fund such niceties as travel, hotel stays or buying a
car or house. It also seemed as though the economy was going to begin to
take off, salaries and pensions would improve, and we would begin to
live as normal people. Congresses and conferences were convened wherein
short-, medium-, and long-term plans were discussed and approved which,
according to their creators, would facilitate our secure path towards
development, without pressures but also without slow-downs.

Some years have now passed since then, and the scene has changed but
little: agriculture continues to lag behind the demand for
reasonably-priced foods for the majority of citizens, livestock breeding
continues to be stagnant, milk production is seriously below national
demand, basic industrial products are scarce, health and education
services get worse daily, the lack of hygiene is widespread, the state
of the epidemiological system is worrisome, streets and sidewalks remain
broken and unrepaired, buildings collapse and new housing units are not
built, businesses are deteriorating and under-supplied, and incivility
is rampant.

The list of problems could go on ad infinitum, adding to it, besides,
the prevailing corruption, diversion of resources, social violence and
generalized indiscipline. It appears that erstwhile gains are
insufficient, or that actions taken do not resolve the problems that
prompted them. It could be that, without realizing it, we are falling
once again into stagnation.

It is true that it is unjust to own lands when the owner does not work
them, or when the lands are unproductive. However, it is also unjust to
work them and make them productive, and not own them. The same thing
happens when business properties are legally transferred to
non-agricultural, non-private cooperatives. After the State, through its
interventions, nationalized these properties when they were in good
condition and let them deteriorate, now it pretends that the
responsibility to repair them falls on the private proprietors – while
the State continues to maintain ownership of the real estate.

We are face to face with a reality. As long as the State, which during
56 years has demonstrated its economic illiteracy and its incapacity to
make productive ventures out of agriculture, livestock breeding and
industry – as well as being unable to run its enterprises and services
at a quality level – continues to try to maintain itself as the absolute
owner of everything in the name of the people (that generic entity) –
and doesn't permit real Cubans the exercise of real private ownership,
nothing will work.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Has Stagnation Returned? / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/has-stagnation-returned-fernando-damaso/ Continue reading
Other voices: Truth and freedom in Cuba
Pioneer Press
POSTED: 10/26/2014 12:01:00 AM CDT

The other day, Fidel Castro wrote an opinion column for Cuba's state-run
newspaper, Granma, as he has done periodically from retirement. He
lavished praise on an editorial in The New York Times that called for an
end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. But Mr. Castro had one complaint:
The Times mentioned the harassment of dissidents and the
still-unexplained death of a leading exponent of democracy, Oswaldo
Paya, and a younger activist, Harold Cepero, in a car wreck two years ago.

The assertion that Cuba's authoritarian government had yet to explain
the deaths was "slanderous and 1/8a3/8 cheap accusation," Mr. Castro
sputtered.

So why has Cuba done nothing to dispel the fog of suspicion that still
lingers over the deaths? If the charge is slanderous, then it is long
past time for Mr. Castro to order a thorough investigation of what
happened on an isolated Cuban road on July 22, 2012. So far, there has
been only a crude attempt at cover-up and denial.

We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account
of Angel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of
the rental car that was carrying Mr. Paya and Mr. Cepero to a meeting
with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told
us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it
left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Paya as they traveled
were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Paya's courageous 2002
petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr.
Paya's supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned.
After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to
describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he
reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental
car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates.
Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that
seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise
details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a
credible investigation. Mr. Paya's family has sought one for two years,
without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of
the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case,
they got no answer. Nothing.

The U.S. embargo has been substantially relaxed in recent years to allow
hundreds of millions of dollars of food and medicine exports, in
addition to consumer goods supplied to Cubans by relatives in this
country. The question is whether a further relaxation is merited. The
regime's persecution of dissidents is unceasing; it continues to
imprison American Alan Gross on false charges. While Cuba has toyed with
economic liberalization and lifted travel restrictions for some, we see
no sign that the Castro brothers are loosening their grip. Fully lifting
the embargo now would reward and ratify their intransigence.

A concession such as ending the trade embargo should not be exchanged
for nothing. It should be made when Cuba grants genuine freedom to its
people, the goal cherished by Mr. Paya.

-- The Washington Post

Source: Other voices: Truth and freedom in Cuba - TwinCities.com -
http://www.twincities.com/columnists/ci_26804027/other-voices-truth-and-freedom-cuba Continue reading
Cuba to launch new air routes for tourism season
MENAFN - 26/10/2014

(MENAFN) Cuba is planning to launch new air routes to expand tourism in
the coming November-April peak season, Xinhua reported.

Cuba's national carrier, Cubana de Aviacion, will launch a new route
from Costa Rica, and add a second flight from Cancun, Mexico, local
media reported.

An official at Cuba's Tourism Ministry said that, carriers in Mexico,
Poland, Russia, Germany and Colombia will open new routes or add flights
to Cuba.

Canada, Cuba's leading source of tourists, has also announced more
flights to the Caribbean country.

Source: Cuba to launch new air routes for tourism season | MENAFN.COM -
http://www.menafn.com/1093990674/Cuba-to-launch-new-air-routes-for-tourism-season?src=RSS Continue reading
The Brothers Castro have an 'ah-ha!' moment
BY JOSÉ AZELJAZEL@MIAMI.EDU
10/26/2014 3:00 PM 10/26/2014 7:00 PM

The Story of Cuba, a book by Murat Halsted published in 1896, begins
with a prescient phrase: "The story of Cuba is a tragedy."

Tragedies often have a pivotal moment of revelation when a character
makes a critical discovery; a change from ignorance to knowledge.
Aristotle calls these moments, when we grasp things as they are,
"anagnorisis." Oedipus, the tragic hero of Greek mythology has his
anagnorisis when he learns that, in ignorance he has killed his father
and married his mother. Luke Skywalker has his when he realizes that
Darth Vader is his father.

Fidel Castro's public anagnorisis surfaced in 2010 when, in response to
a question by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg as to whether the Cuban model
was still something worth exporting, the Castro responded: "The Cuban
model doesn't even work for us anymore."

For his part Raul Castro — addressing Cuba's parliament in the "Year 50
of the Revolution" — reneged on the previous five decades proclaiming
that, "Equality is not egalitarianism." He then added that
egalitarianism is a form of exploitation of the hard working by the lazy.

It is clear that the delusion of Cuba as a nation engaged in a
transcendental historical endeavor of building a communist society is no
longer the national identity. The Castros and their governing
nomenclature lack a cohesive socioeconomic identity and seem to have no
national idea of whom or what they are, where they belong, or where they
want to go. Their objective is simply to remain in power.

Some totalitarian regimes, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union before it,
have relied on Marxism-Leninism as ideologies presumably imbued with a
higher construct of truth to create environments hermetically sealed
from outside information. These regimes, depicting themselves as an
expression of the absolute truth, have depended on fanaticism disguised
as social science to achieve political goals with abject disrespect for
personal freedoms.

In early Fidel Castro's Cuba, communist ideology conveyed and instructed
a sense of purpose that in some ways offered context and meaning to
freedom-deprived lives. In that Cuba, it was not tradition, or economic
success, or scientific greatness that served as the country's identity
anchor; it was the credibility of an ideology that imparted a sense of
destiny. Belief in the creed, and harsh repression produced in the
population acquiescence or resigned acceptance in the Platonic
formulation that "silence grants consent." Political loyalty was a
matter of fear as well as ideological faith.

In recent decades, the collapse of the Soviet Union, advances in
communication technologies and other factors have conspired to breach
the intellectual isolation required to sustain the mysticism of
Marxism-Leninism as the inevitable science of history. The magnitude of
the communist dystopia has become evident.

In Cuba today, the ideology that served as the country's identity and
sociopolitical glue has been abandoned even by the Communist Party. Over
time, Cuban communism has produced a profound disillusionment in the
population as well as in the ruling elite. Moreover, central tenets of
Marxist ideology such as abolition of private property and equality do
not lend themselves readily to doctrinal renovation as the Raul Castro
regime is pursuing with its "Perfecting Socialism" ideas.

As we witnessed with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the
preservation of an ideology- based state becomes very tenuous when the
ideology is discredited. The declining ideological convictions of the
ruling elite diminish both their governing legitimacy and their
political will.

None of this is to suggest that the demise of a totalitarian regime is
imminent once it loses its ideology. Other outcomes are possible, but
ultimately Cubans will experience a shared anagnorisis and will realize
that the cure for what ails them is not external, but internal. They
will demand regime change and the replacement of central planning and
totalitarian rule with a market economy and democratic participation and
institutions. A prosperous future requires a national identity based on
the rule of law and not on ideological messianic leadership. Only then,
with a new identity anchored in freedom will a new historical era of
change come to the tragic island.

JOSÉ AZEL IS A SENIOR SAT THE INSTITUTE FOR CUBAN AND CUBAN-AMERICAN
STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI AND THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK "MAÑANA IN CUBA."

Source: The Brothers Castro have an 'ah-ha!' moment | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article3389969.html Continue reading
Blatant Lies / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on October 26, 2014

During the days in which Ángel Santiesteban-Prats' whereabouts were
unknown, and with fears absolutely based on the illegal transfers that
he experienced before, we filed a complaint with the United Nations
Working Group on Forced or Involuntary Disappearances, so they would put
it before the Regime in Havana to clarify his whereabouts.

Translation of letter from the High Commissioner's Office of the United
Nations Human Rights Commission:

Dear Mrs. Tabakman,

I have the honor of addressing you in the name of the Working Group on
Forced or Involuntary Disappearances with respect to the case of
Mr. Ángel Lazaro Santiesteban Prats (case no. 10005155).

In this respect I would like to inform you that the communication sent
to the Government of Cuba on July 30, 2014, due to an administrative
error, did not include the phrase "Marti TV (Miami, United States)" in
place of "Cuban communication media."

Furthermore, I want you to know that this correction of the case does
not affect the decision taken by the Working Group during its 104th
session, such as was communicated to you in its letter of September 30,
2014.

I would like to inform you that the Working Group will celebrate its
105th session between March 2-6, 2015, in the City of Buenos Aires,
Argentina.

Sincerely yours,

Ariel Dulitzky, President-Presenter

They acted with the dedication and speed that an emergency requires,
and, of course, the Castro dictatorship did not. They only responded to
the Group's requirement when it gave them the demand; that is, when
Ángel already had been located by journalists from 14Ymedio. Thanks to
them we knew where he was, although they couldn't meet with him. The
Regime had put him in the border military prison where he presently is.

I want to point out not only the fact that the Regime responded to the
presenter for the Working Group, but they also took advantage of the
occasion to lie blatantly and use against the "source" complainant the
same strategies they use to falsely accuse and imprison the opposition.
All thieves believe that others are like them.

Translation of document from Cuban government:

On the other hand, the facts transcribed are not reliable. They don't
come from pertinent and credible sources that act in good faith, in
accord with the principles of cooperation in the matter of human rights
and without political motivation, contrary to what is set forth in the
United Nations Charter. They are supported by unfounded accusations that
are only intended to tarnish the reality of Cuba's record in the
promotion and protection of all human rights for everyone.

They exploited an involuntary omission in the group's communication to
the Cuban government to try to disqualify the complaint and the
complainants. Now they have just communicated and corrected the omission
– again – in order to continue supporting their lies, but they will
preserve the same pathetic silence that they have with respect to the
whole case.

I am transcribing here the response from the Regime (the complete
document is attached in a link in this post):

Session: 104

Government Item

Date: September 4, 2014

The Government of Cuba reported that:

"The allegations about a supposed transfer of the citizen Ángel Lázaro
Santiesteban Prats,

from the place where he was fulfilling a punishment of deprivation of
liberty to a 'military base.'

"After investigation, it was demonstrated that:

"1. At 7:00 a.m. on July 21, 2014, Santiesteban Prats tried to escape
from the center where he was held as a prisoner (with open living).
Immediately complaint 38563/14 was filed in the station of the National
Revolutionary Police of Municipio Diez de Octubre, for the crime of
Escape of Prisoners or Detainees.

"2. At 1:05 a.m. on July 27, 2014, Santiesteban Prats was detained and
transferred to the Territorial Department of Criminal Investigation and
Operations, where he remains. He enjoys good health and receives all the
benefits established in the Cuban penitentiary system.

"3. Santiesteban Prats himself admitted that he fled from the detention
center with the goal of leaving the country in an irregular and covert
manner, with support from the exterior, and to thereby avoid having to
continue serving his sentence.

"On the other hand, the facts transcribed are not reliable. They don't
come from pertinent and credible sources that act in good faith, in
accord with the principles of cooperation in the matter of human rights
and without political motivation, contrary to what is set forth in the
United Nations Charter. They are supported by unfounded accusations that
are only intended to tarnish the reality of Cuba's record in the
promotion and protection of all human rights for everyone.

"In that sense, it is false that his presumed disappearance was related
to 'declarations of a person associated with him in Cuban communication
media in the days previous to July 20, 2014.'

"Nor for his activities as a writer and blogger was Santiesteban Prats
sentenced to five years in prison for having committed common crimes, as
regulated in the present Cuban Penal Code.

"He was accused by his wife, Kenla Liley Rodriguez Guzmán, in August
2009, of the crimes of Harm, Home Invasion, Injuries, Threats, Rape, and
Robbery with Force. After investigation, the Prosecutor presented the
case before the Provincial Court of Havana for the crimes of Injuries
and Home Invasion.

"From that time they knew of his intentions to flee the country in an
irregular and covert manner, incited by his sister who lives in the
exterior, to evade his sentence. He finally tried, unsuccessfully, in
July of this year, as already has been explained."

Ángel Santiesteban, without even knowing of the existence of the
complaint or this document, has already given an answer to that nonsense
in the message that was sent explaining what motivated him to leave the
Lawton prison settlement and saying that he would give himself up
several days later. The only certainty in everything the dictatorship
alleges is that he recognized that he abandoned the prison voluntarily,
taking advantage of the movement of the prisoners who left for work in
the morning.

The first lie, which falls of its own weight, is that "he receives all
the benefits established in the Cuban penitentiary system." Exactly
because he DOESN'T receive them is the reason he left on his own to
recover them (the 15 days of pass that corresponded to the last 10
months, which they arbitrarily denied him). He wasn't "detained" on July
27 like they allege. He gave himself up, telling the official who
received him that they still owed him 10 days of pass.

"On the other hand, the facts transcribed are not reliable. They don't
come from pertinent and credible sources that act in good faith, in
accord with the principles of cooperation in the matter of human rights
and without political motivation, contrary to what is set forth in the
United Nations Charter. They are supported by unfounded accusations that
are only intended to tarnish the reality of Cuba's record in the
promotion and protection of all human rights for everyone."

Such a declaration merits nothing more than remembering that we are
facing a dictatorship where neither law nor justice exists, in which
they only administer rewards and punishments according to whether one is
obsequious or opposed. The cynicism of those who work for the Regime is
such that they have the nerve to mention the United Nations Charter and
human rights. Does Mr. Dictator finally want to ratify the pacts of the
U.N.? The biggest violator of all human rights on the continent makes
believe that the complaint "continues tarnishing reality and the
executive of Cuba in the promotion and protection of all human rights
for everyone." Ask him about all the executions, assassinations,
tortures, imprisonments, and those who have been banished and forced
into exile who have endured the said promotion and protection for 55 years.

Then they relied on the before-mentioned omission to lie again: "(…)
It's false that his presumed disappearance was related to 'declarations
of a person associated with him in the Cuban communication media in the
days previous to July 20, 2014.' Now it's already been explained to them
that it was a matter of an omission, clarifying that it referred to the
declaration of Angel's son in a television program from Miami. How do
they explain that they had prepared a transfer for Angel and that he
complained only five days after his son said on Television Marti how he
had been manipulated by his mother and the political police to lie and
prejudice the case against his father? Wasn't there a relationship with
the said complaints? Are they trying to delegitimize the rumor that he
denounced his imminent transfer on July 20 when on August 13 they
incarcerated him where he said they would? The Regime knows perfectly
well that there was an involuntary omission in the report, and they knew
that it referred to the declarations of Angel's son on Television Marti,
who said that the political police were permanently spying on him, so
that the Human Rights Commission granted cautionary measures for him also.

Ángel Santiesteban is the only "common" prisoner to whom the
dictatorship has offered – on numerous occasions since he was
incarcerated – freedom and banishment in exchange for renouncing his
political position, documenting it in a video. Every time he has refused
outright and denounced this in his blog. Even so, they continue
stubbornly trying to convince him. So that "From this time they knew
about his intentions to abandon the country in an irregular and covert
manner (…)" is no more than another cock-and-bull story like the ones
they habitually resort to in order to justify the unjustifiable: the
lack of freedoms, guarantees, and protections for the citizen victims of
the island prison.

Ángel never asked that they free him; he only requested a review of the
trial with ALL the guarantees of due process that they denied him when
they took him to prison. If they would proceed to carry out the review,
he would be absolved, because the accusations aretotally false. That's
the reason they delay the review with the stupidest excuses, because
they only pretend to penalize him by keeping him locked up: "Nor for his
activities as a writer and blogger was Santiesteban Prats sentenced to
five years in prison for having committed common crimes, as regulated in
the present Cuban Penal Code."

The accuser is named Kenia Diley Rodríguez Guzmán; only by reading how
they refer to her in the response do we have proof of the "care" they
put into fabricating causes of action, the accusations and the accusers.
It doesn't ever matter to them who has lied; the only thing that matters
is that their lies serve the interests of the dictatorship: "He was
accused by his wife, Kenla Liley Rodriguez Guzmán, in August 2009, for
the crimes of Harm, Home Invasion, Injuries, Threats, Rape, and Robbery
with Force. After investigation, the Prosecutor presented the case
before the Provincial Court of Havana for the crimes of Injuries and
Home Invasion."

I remember again that as there wasn't any proof that would incriminate
him, they condemned him after a report from a lieutenant, a handwriting
expert, who alleged that "from the size and inclination of his
handwriting, he's guilty."

In the end, there is little to add that is not already known.

The Editor

Translated by Regina Anavy

20 October 2014

Source: Blatant Lies / Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/blatant-lies-angel-santiesteban/ Continue reading
Cuba stalemate makes identifying rafters difficult
By Associated Press October 26 at 11:09 AM

MIAMI — The bodies surfaced 20 miles out from a popular South Florida
beach: Four men, still youthful. Their remains were badly deteriorated,
bitten by sharks, their faces unrecognizable.

One had a horseshoe-shaped scar on his head. Two bore tattoos: One of a
spider, the other of a tiger with a flower. The fourth wore a pair of
orange briefs and a gold-colored watch.

The Coast Guard delivered them to the Broward County Medical Examiner's
Office, where they remained for days, four more among the thousands who
have died trying to cross the turbulent Florida Straits.

The remains of rafters that surface near the U.S. are often in such poor
condition they cannot be visually identified. Politics makes the process
even more difficult with Cuban migrants: Because of the five-decade
diplomatic stalemate between the U.S. and Cuba, pathologists can't get
matching dental records and DNA from relatives on the island.

"The standard means of identification aren't going to work," said Larry
Cameron, operations director for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner
Department.

Many rafters who flee Cuba simply disappear, but when bodies are found,
they often have no documents, leaving a puzzle of scars, tattoos,
surgeries and clothing.

Sometimes, relatives in the U.S. emerge and can provide a DNA match.
Others remain unidentified, and since Florida law forbids their
cremation, the bones are stored in morgues for years. The Broward morgue
has bodies dating back to the 1970s. Many others are buried in paupers'
cemeteries after DNA is extracted, labeled only by a number, "and we
never know that those rafters didn't get lost at sea," said Ramon Saul
Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement exile group.

Identifying these bodies has become a priority again for Florida's
medical examiners amid a 75-percent increase this year in the number of
Cubans trying to cross by sea. At least 3,722 Cubans have been
intercepted or made it to U.S. shores in the last fiscal year.

The U.S. Coast Guard has intercepted 72,771 Cubans at sea in the last
three decades. Thousands of others made it to U.S. shores or were
prevented by Cuban authorities from leaving. Scholars estimate at least
1 in 4 Cuban rafters don't survive, which could mean 18,000 have died.

In August, 32 migrants left Manzanillo, on Cuba's southern shore, and
were stranded at sea for nearly a month. When Mexican fishermen found
them in early September, only 15 were still alive. The others tried to
swim to shore, or their bodies were dropped into the water.

The four bodies found off the Florida coast Aug. 24 received less
attention. There were no survivors to tell their story. But then Sanchez
began receiving calls from Cuba: A group of nine rafters had pushed off
near Havana five days earlier. No one had heard from them since.

Sanchez gathered their U.S. relatives — some distant cousins — and went
to the Broward morgue, where investigators asked for any physical
details they could recall.

Aliandi Garcia remembered that his uncle Jose Ramon Acosta, 35, had a
scar after brain surgery for epileptic seizures. Then investigators
showed him Acosta's shirt — it was gray, with a red Puma logo — the very
same shirt Garcia had given his uncle when he left Cuba a year before.


Two others — Alberto Gonzales Mesa, 25, and Guillermo Enrique Buitrago
Milanes, 45 — were identified by their tattoos.

The fourth wore that gold-colored Orient brand watch, now clouded by
seawater. The family of Junier Fernandez Hernandez, 32, immediately
recognized it as a present given to the dead man's father.

Andres Diaz was never able to meet his cousin in life, but he has a
small headshot image of Hernandez, dressed sharply in a suit and tie,
taken for a passport the Cuban government denied.

"He died trying to come to this country," Diaz said. "We're going to
bury him here."

_

Follow Christine Armario on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cearmario

Source: Cuba stalemate makes identifying rafters difficult - The
Washington Post -
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/cuba-stalemate-makes-identifying-rafters-difficult/2014/10/26/173fc868-5d21-11e4-827b-2d813561bdfd_story.html Continue reading
For US and Cuba, the space between
by Julia Cooke

Last week, at a conference about reporting in Cuba held at Columbia
University, a writer talked about dealing with Cuban officials — a few
panels were conducted off-the-record, underlining the double-speak that
dominates discussion of Cuba, even when it takes place below the Tiffany
glass of Columbia's Pulitzer Hall. In her many years on the island, the
writer said, there had always been a disparity between the narrative
about Cuba and what her eyes told her, the daily evidence provided by
supermarket shelves, household gossip, jobs and transportation.

Over the course of three days of talks by writers, academics, and
policy-makers —including writers Jon Lee Anderson, Ann Louise Bardach,
historian Louis Perez, former Presidential advisor Dan Restrepo, and
many more — it became clear that the sentiment also refers to how Cuba
is discussed in the United States. Even as expert after expert confirmed
that support for the trade and travel embargo sits at an all-time low
among both politicians and the American public, they confirmed that the
act of Congress required to fully dismantle it wouldn't happen anytime
soon. Yet, experts also pointed out that the six months between
November's midterm elections and next April's Summit of the Americas
stand as a window in which the unpredictable could, potentially, occur.

"We should just do it, unilaterally," said ex-White House council Greg
Curtis, sketching out steps that President Obama could take, no strings
attached, to render the embargo toothless. Personally attend the Summit
of the Americas in Panama, where Raúl Castro will be in attendance, for
one. Re-establish diplomatic relations with the country. Take Cuba off
the list of state sponsors of terrorism, to which it was added in 1982
for supporting Latin American groups designated as terrorist by the U.S.
— something Cuba no longer does. Lift travel restrictions for all
Americans, a step long-supported by members of Congress from both sides
of the aisle, including Massachusetts' Rep. Jim McGovern, D, Arizona's
Sen. Jeff Flake, R.

Here are others who've come out against the embargo in the last few
months: Hillary Clinton, Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist,
and the entirety of the New York Times editorial board, whose recent
editorial summarized the reasons for ending the embargo. Extend the time
period examined to a few years and account for double-speak, and that
list also includes Cuban-American businessman Carlos Saladrigas and
sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul, who reported after various visits to the
island that he'd invest in Cuba were it legal to do so. An open letter
to the President outlining the steps he could take under executive
authority to encourage change in Cuba via engagement garnered signatures
from a host of thinktankers, including Anne-Marie Slaughter and John
Negroponte.

Were this an issue on which the American public could vote, two separate
polls conducted this year confirm that the embargo would not be long for
this world. The 2014 FIU Cuba Poll revealed that almost three-quarters
of Cubans living in Miami-Dade County believe that the embargo has not
worked. "Cubans may be intransigent, but we're not stupid," said
Guillermo Grenier, FIU sociology professor and the poll's author, as he
presented its results. Peter Schechter, director of the Atlantic
Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, reported that 63 percent
of Florida favors changing U.S. policy toward Cuba. "Polls don't usually
give you 65 percent," he said. "The notion that Florida is a poisoned
chalice that no politician can touch is not true anymore."

Within this context, the U.S.'s elected officials seem to be the party
generating a narrative that doesn't match the evidence provided by the
American public: widespread skepticism of the embargo's efficacy, a
desire to engage Cuba, and the acknowledgement of how useful investment
can be to coax change along. Come November, will voters reveal that they
want the storyline united with its reality?

Source: For US and Cuba, the space between | Al Jazeera America -
http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2014/10/26/cuba-us-summit-americas.html Continue reading
Uncovering a dark secret at 'Model Prison'
BY NORA GAMEZ TORRES NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
10/26/2014 9:46 AM 10/26/2014 2:46 PM

On a remote island off the southwest coast of Cuba stands a complex of
circular structures once described by French philosopher Michel Foucault
as a perfect model of disciplinary power. Those held there can't tell if
an armed guard was watching from a tower situated in the heart of the
penitentiary.

But for those detained there, as well as other Cubans, the panopticon
serves as a symbol of revolution and counter-revolution.

Originally designed in the 18th century by British philosopher and
social reformist Jeremy Bentham, the so-called "Model Prison" was copied
by Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado early in the 20th century and erected
at the Isle of Pines or Isla de Pinos, as it was known then.

For Miami resident Ricardo Vazquez, the panopticon was the keeper of a
dark secret that he was tasked with documenting.

Vazquez was a student in 1962 when he was serving time for conspiring
against Fidel Castro's government. His imprisonment preceded the Cuban
Missile Crisis in October 1962, and Vazquez and other political
prisoners watched in horror as prison workers drilled holes beneath the
ground floor of the four circular penitentiaries and filled the holes
with dynamite.

Vazquez's mission: to defy the perpetual vigilance at Isla de Pinos and
take photos of the loads of dynamite the Castro government had placed on
the ground floor of each of the buildings.

The explosives were intended to prevent the "counterrevolutionaries"
from staging a prison revolt and join an "imperialist" aggression should
such an attempt take place.

At the time, Vazquez was a national leader of the anti-Castro 30th of
November Revolutionary Movement whose objective was to "overthrow
Fidel's system," he said, "because we felt betrayed."

Like many others, Vazquez had initially joined Castro in a revolution to
oust then dictator Fulgencio Batista.

"I fought against Batista, and Fidel derailed our initial plans for the
revolution completely," Vazquez said. "We exhausted all our resources to
try to overthrow him."

But what exactly where the initial plans for the revolution?

"For it to be based on the constitution of 1940, for freedom to exist,
for oppression to end," he said. "And all of that resulted in Fidel's
farce. He lied to the people, everything was a terrible lie."

In February 1961, just a year after Castro's "triumph of the
revolution," Vazquez was arrested with "sensitive material," a euphemism
for guns, explosives, radio equipment or whatever other tools people who
were against the new regime could use.

Anastasio Rojas, the driver who transported Vazquez and the "sensitive
material" was executed. Seventeen-year-old Vazquez was sent to the Model
Prison.

Today, Vazquez is 71, has a soft voice and is a man of few words. He
doesn't like talking about his prison experiences too much, though he
agreed to an interview with el Nuevo Herald. He introduces his sister,
Guillermina Vazquez, who is bed stricken but mentally able to add to her
brother's memory.

The Dynamite

Guillermina Vazquez was the contact person between the various jails and
the 30th of November National Revolutionary Movement. She recalls
receiving a message from prisoners needing a camera.

In 1962, a prisoner who escaped and managed to make it to Miami spoke
publicly about the explosives. On September 14 of that year, Patria
newspaper published this account:

"We've seen the work [the jail]. It's completely full of dynamite. The
dynamite can be set off from a far away hill, by two means: by an
electric battery or by using a material which explodes in sections until
reaching the dynamite," the escaped prisoner, whose identity was kept
anonymous, told the newspaper.

But the political prisoners still needed proof of the allegations — the
photos. That's where Guillermina managed to transport a minuscule
spy-like camera fabricated by the German company Minox into the jail. In
order to sneak the camera past the guards, she hid it inside a tampon.

"They did extensive searches to women visitors," she said.

Added her brother: "I was the one who took the photos of the dynamite
along with another friend. In the cell where I lived, on the first
floor, there was an opening where the water ducts ran through."

With a lot of work, rebar and the help of other prisoners, Vazquez
managed to break the floor enough to be able to pass through.

"When we broke it, we already had the camera ready and both of us went
in there and we began taking pictures of the dynamite," Vazquez said.

The mission was accomplished but not without reprisals.

"Later came the problem of them finding the hole [on the prison floor]
and punishing us," he said. "We were isolated in the pavilions, the jail
cells were barren and they left us there with nothing more than underwear."

The photos ultimately made their way to the outside world with the help
of another Vazquez sister during a separate visit.

According to Guillermina, "the searches were made when you entered the
jail but not when you left."

Vazquez wasn't a seasoned photographer and the images, which were
published in the Miami Spanish-language paper Diario Las Américas in
1964, aren't of high enough quality to be reproduced today. One can
barely make out the bundles of dynamite and holes in the walls.

"But we did it!," Vazquez said. "The interesting part of this is that we
took the photos. Otherwise the world wouldn't have known about this."

The prison

"Eventually, one day after the October Missile Crisis, they removed the
dynamite although [and] they never covered the holes," Vazquez said. "I
don't know if they have now, I've heard they're using the prison as a
museum."

For political prisoners like Vazquez, united by a strict moral code,
their time in prison was another stage of their "struggle." They, along
with many others in the rest of the country, lived in a state of
"permanent war." The wounds they received because of maltreatment and
abuses became "combat injuries." Flaking out was unforgivable.

Vazquez and his friend, Israel Abreu Villareal, were among the first
plantados, the term given to political prisoners who rejected forced
labor. The day they decided to chuck work, the guards responded with
violence.

A buff sergeant called "Champion" [Campeón in Spanish] grabbed a gun and
hit Vazquez over the head.

"He knocked me out and later woke me up. He was being sarcastic and
hitting me incessantly until I managed to get up and keep walking," he said.

After this incident, Vazquez and Abreu were transported to the hospital
inside the prison where they started a hunger strike lasting 42 days.

In a blunt testimony published in the book Cuba: Clamor del Silencio,
Abreu added chilling details to Vazquez's tale. In the midst of the
hunger strike, Campeón and another sergeant, identified as Girón, once
again got a hold of Abreu and took him to the field where they proceeded
to beat him repeatedly with a bayonet until the bloody bone of his hip
protruded from his skin.

Unnamed Island

The testimonies of these two men are not exceptional. Abreu's book
documented at least 100 other similar stories. Other testimonials also
were documented in a 1963 report by the the Organization of American
States' Interamerican Commission on Human Rights.

The Cuban government discarded these accusations and made them a mere
footnote of a political and diplomatic battle it considered more
important, the battle between Cuba and the United States, one in which
the OAS and the Latin American governments were touted as "puppets" of
imperialism.

Still, a more powerful gesture may have been needed to rewrite Cuban
history and erase an uncomfortable memory. In 1967, when the Model
Prison was closed, Isla de Pinos became an island without a name.

In a speech made on Aug. 12, 1967 Castro said this about the nameless
land: "...this island is proof of the revolution and this is a starting
point. This island, which for now we will call, not of the Youth
(Juventud) and not of the Pines (Pinos), because there's little of both
of those things now."

But Castro promised to transform the island into "a grand center of
social experimentation, where we will resolve in the measure possible,
as a vanguard of our people, the problems which the idea of creating a
communist society implies."

Part of the new experiment was to recruit youth from several provinces
to "revolutionize nature and revolutionize society." To add drama to it
all, the former prison would host 20,000 students.

Almost 10 years later, the unnamed island was officially baptized in
1978 the "Island of Youth."

Cuban press regularly reports on the anniversaries of this proclamation
and the social transformation of the second largest Cuban island, which
was "recognized before the revolutionary triumph by the horrors of the
Model Prison," according to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The Pardon

It's no surprise that those born in Cuba after 1959 can only associate
the Model Prison as the place where Castro and his fellow assailants of
the Moncada Barracks in 1953 finished a jail sentence of less than two
years.

In May of 1955, Batista freed Castro and his group.

But a pardon for Vazquez and the rest of the 3,000 political prisoners
didn't come until 1979, after representatives of the Cuban exile
community and the Cuban government signed an agreement for their freedom
in December 1978. The accord stated that the U.S. and Cuban governments
would facilitate the transport of prisoners and their families to
American soil.

Vazquez finally made it to the United States in August 1979. Here, he
made a career as a banker.

Source: Uncovering a dark secret at 'Model Prison' | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/issues-ideas/article3385936.html Continue reading
The Camera Says More than "Cuba Says" / Regina Coyula
Posted on October 25, 2014

For several months now the Tuesday evening television news has featured
a series called "Cuba Says." The reporter, Thalia Gonzalez, and her team
seem to have been given the go-ahead to bring up — only to bring up —
the actual problems of average citizens. Yesterday's subject was
employment. What struck me more than the shallow discussion of this
topic were the opinions expressed by the respondents.

Notable was the widespread acceptance that anything coming out of
Ministry of Labor offices is of interest to no one, the aspirations
these people had to work for a private firm or to own a personal
business, the ease with which the they spoke about money and the
repeated use of the verb "to resolve," along with all that implies for
us Cubans.

The camera revealed what neither the interviewers' questions nor the
interviewees' answers could: the indifference with which the young
respondents on the street looked into the camera. Having a job is not
enough to get by. Salaries are not enough to live on.

22 October 2014

Source: The Camera Says More than "Cuba Says" / Regina Coyula |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-camera-says-more-than-cuba-says-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
NEW REPORT: CUBA'S SUICIDE RATE HIGHEST IN THE AMERICAS IN LAST
AVAILABLE YEAR
by FRANCES MARTEL 25 Oct 2014

Out of every 100,000 people in the island nation of Cuba, 16.3 commit
suicide, the highest rate of any country in the Americas in 2009.
According to a study by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO)--the
regional subdivision of the World Health Organization (WHO)--Cuba is
rivaled only by the "non-Hispanic Caribbean" in suicide rates.
The report, titled "Suicide Mortality in the Americas," uses two
different time subdivisions to compare suicide rates in North and South
America: the average of suicide rates between 2005-2009 and the data
available for the last year in which that country provided statistics.
In the former category, all of the Americas fare better than the global
average for suicide, and Cuba's average pales in comparison to Guyana
and Suriname (23.44 and 22.79 per 100,000 people, respectively).
Statistics provided for the last available year, however, show Cuba's
suicide rate high above other nations. For comparison, Guyana recorded
16.04 suicides per 100,000 people, while Suriname recorded 14.79 in the
same year.
The United States recorded 11.38 suicides per 100,000 population in
2009. Jamaica recorded 0.30 per 100,000. The lowest suicide rate that
year in the Americas was recorded in Haiti, where only 0.05 people per
100,000 took their own lives.
According to the Cuban dissident news outlet Martí Noticias, the vast
majority of people who commit suicide in Cuba choose to do so by
asphyxia (71.6%). Poison is in second place (10%), while a surprising
9.2% self-immolate.
The PAHO notes that their information is reliable but ultimately
incomplete, as they must rely on government figures provided to them,
and countries often differ on what kinds of deaths to classify as
suicides. "The validity of reported cases can be obscured by cultural
and religious factors, as well as by the stigma attached to those who
take their own lives. ... There are legal differences between the
countries regarding which deaths should be classified as suicides," the
authors note in the study. PAHO researchers and group leaders agree that
one of the main objectives of their study is to begin treating suicide
not as a stigmatized action, but as an often-preventable tragedy
triggered by a host of negative factors that should be individually
targeted.
Cuba's current political situation--nearly unchanged in more than half a
century--is largely to blame, both for the psychological and economic
hardship that many on the island endure. The Castro dictatorship has
intensified many of its abuses in 2014, particularly the arrest of
prisoners of conscience for peaceful public declarations of opposition
to communism. Some prominent members of the dissident community reported
this summer, when arrests peaked, that they were being arrested almost
weekly. In another harrowing display of police power this year, about
100 women were arrested for taking part in a Catholic mass to pray for
Cubans who were killed by the Cuban government for attempting to travel
to America during the 13 of March Tugboat Massacre.
For Cubans who are not politically or religiously active, the economic
situation appears only to worsen with time. The Castro dictatorship has
begun implementing more restrictions in its embargo on the United
States, preventing Cuban Americans from sending certain amounts of
necessary goods to their relatives on the island, including soap and
underwear. The economic deterioration has led to a surge of refugees
attempting the dangerous sea route off the island to the United States.

Source: New Report: Cuba's Suicide Rate Highest in the Americas in Last
Available Year -
http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/10/25/New-Report-Cuba-s-Suicide-Rate-Highest-in-the-Americas-in-Last-Available-Year Continue reading
The Shifting Politics of Cuba Policy
By THE EDITORIAL BOARDOCT. 25, 2014

There was a time, not too long ago, when any mainstream politician
running for statewide or national office in Florida had to rattle off
fiery rhetoric against the Cuban government and declare unquestioning
faith that the embargo on the island would one day force the Castros
from power.

For generations, among Cuban-Americans, once a largely monolithic voting
bloc, the embargo was a symbol of defiance in exile — more gospel than
policy.

That has changed dramatically in recent years as younger members of the
diaspora have staked out views that are increasingly in favor of
deepening engagement with the island. Cuba still looms large in Florida
politics, and to an extent nationally. But it is far from the clear-cut
issue it once was.

That evolution has allowed a growing number of seasoned politicians to
call the embargo a failure and argue that ending America's enmity with
Cuba represents the best chance of encouraging positive change on the
island. Several prominent Cuban-American businessmen who were once
strong supporters of the embargo have changed their stance and become
proponents of engagement. The pro-embargo lobby raises a fraction of the
money it once did. President Obama now receives more correspondence from
lawmakers who favor expanded ties than from those who want to keep
robust sanctions.

••

The shift has not been lost on the White House, where officials are
deliberating over how much progress they might be able to make on
President Obama's longstanding interest in expanding ties with Cuba. Mr.
Obama supported repealing the embargo when he was running for the United
States Senate in 2004 but backtracked as a presidential candidate,
saying in 2008 that the embargo gave Washington leverage over the Cuban
government.

No bold move on Cuba policy would be risk-free. But the political
backlash Mr. Obama would face by taking steps to normalize relations is
likely to be manageable, even in the Cuban-American community, and well
worth the opportunities there would be for expansion in trade,
communications and relationships between Americans and ordinary Cubans.

Charlie Crist, the former governor of Florida who is in a tight race for
his old job, recently said he was interested in traveling to Cuba, an
idea he later scrapped, blaming a busy schedule. Mr. Crist, however, has
emphatically said he has come to see the embargo as a relic that must be
shelved. Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in her memoirs, and repeated in a
recent interview, that she now favors repealing the embargo, which she
called a failure, because it has "propped up the Castros."

In Florida, members of Congress have staked out positions on Cuba that
once would have been considered political suicide. Representative Kathy
Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, traveled to the island last year and made
a strong appeal for an end to the sanctions, saying the United States
was failing to capitalize on economic reforms underway on the island.
She feels that far from hurting her politically, the stance has made her
more popular among constituents, including Cuban-Americans, who want to
play a role in the island's future.

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue
reading the main story
Even in Miami, where old-guard positions remain popular among older
exiles, who are largely Republicans, there have been notable changes. In
2012, Joe Garcia became the first Cuban-American Democrat from Miami to
be elected to the House. While he publicly supports the embargo, Mr.
Garcia holds views significantly different from other South Florida
members of Congress. For instance, he has called for clinical trials in
the United States of a Cuban diabetes treatment that has shown great
promise. He also favors easing travel restrictions to the island.

Still, ending the embargo, which requires congressional action, remains
challenging because a small but passionate group of Cuban-American
lawmakers is adamant about maintaining the status quo. The most vocal
defenders of the embargo are Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from
New Jersey; Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida; and
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart,
both Miami Republicans.

In April, during the height of the crisis set off by Russia's invasion
of Crimea, Mr. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who moved to the
United States in 1953, delivered a long, impassioned speech on the
Senate floor, arguing that despite the myriad foreign policy crises in
the world, Washington needed to focus on the abuses of "a Stalinist
police state" 90 miles away. He displayed photos of dissidents and
warned that expanded travel by Americans to Cuba was enabling a despotic
state. White House officials fear that Mr. Menendez, as the chairman of
the Foreign Relations Committee, could hold up confirmation of federal
nominees in retaliation for further moves to ease the embargo.

Although the embargo is locked into Congress for repeal, the Obama
administration can do several things to move forward and still have...
Larry Daley 38 minutes ago
Yet another editorial trying to save the Castro regimeWhat is it with
your Editorial board????Venezuela it seems is on the edge of a coupis...
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Mr. Menendez's loathing of the Cuban government has only increased
because he believes the island's intelligence service sought to destroy
his career by planting a fabricated story in the media suggesting that
he had patronized underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

White House officials are less concerned about pushback from
Republicans, who are reflexive about criticizing the president on
foreign policy. While a growing number of her congressional colleagues
have traveled to Cuba, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, who is among the most ardent
supporters of the embargo, seems to be strikingly out of touch with what
is happening on the island.

In a recent interview deploring a visit to Havana by Beyoncé and Jay-Z,
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen expressed outrage that the celebrities had stayed in
hotels where Cubans aren't allowed to stay, even if they could afford
it. As it happens, the Cuban government lifted that ban in 2008.

As the electorate has shifted on Cuba, some Cuban-American politicians
have begun to call for a review of the policy that puts newly arrived
Cubans on a fast track to citizenship, probably because new immigrants
support closer ties with the island and grew up despising the embargo.

••

Politics aside, the issue remains deeply personal for the holdouts,
Cuban-Americans of that generation say, because it continues to evoke
raw feelings about ancestry, homeland and loss. Those sentiments, which
have lasted for more than 50 years, cannot be ignored. But they should
not continue to anchor American policy on a failed course that has
strained Washington's relationship with allies in the hemisphere,
prevented robust trade with the island and offered the Cuban government
a justification for its failures.

Source: The Shifting Politics of Cuba Policy - NYTimes.com -
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/opinion/sunday/the-shifting-politics-of-cuba-policy.html?_r=0 Continue reading
Cuba hasn't earned embargo's end
10/25/2014 10:32 PM 10/25/2014 10:32 PM

In October of 1960, the United States imposed an embargo on exports to
Cuba covering all commodities except medical supplies and certain food
products. That was the beginning of a trade embargo that still endures
and still inspires heated debate.

The anniversary of the embargo, plus this week's upcoming vote in the
United Nations condemning it — which the United States will lose, as
usual — have prompted calls for a reassessment. Dropping the embargo
altogether would require action by Congress. Meanwhile, anti-embargo
advocates say, there's a lot the president can do to soften or minimize
its effects and open the door to restoring full ties with Cuba.

We disagree. Such a move would be premature and utterly lacking in
justification at this time.

Granted, Raúl Castro has loosened the reins on the tightly controlled
economy to permit more individual businesses. Some citizens can own
property, and new rules are designed to encourage foreign investment.
But it's only because Cuba has been frozen in time for so long that such
minimal change seems so dramatic. The Cuban nomenklatura still runs the
Soviet-style planned economy that largely remains in place, and its
members remain its major beneficiaries.

Some see vague government statements from Havana welcoming renewed
diplomatic ties with the United States as a sign that it's willing to
negotiate longstanding differences. We would attribute that not to any
goodwill but rather to Cuba hedging its bets as it nervously watches the
slide in oil prices and the rise of political instability in Venezuela.

The Andean country has been the Castro brothers' main benefactor in the
last few years, helping prop up Cuba's chronically weak economy with
cheap oil. But if oil prices continue to drop, Venezuela's Nicolás
Maduro will need every penny he can get selling oil on the international
market. He won't hesitate to throw Cuba under the bus if it means
survival for the Chávez movement in Caracas.

That makes the timing of any move by Washington toward Havana
particularly inappropriate. Why throw it a lifeline now?

Yet even if these objections could be met, the greater issue remains
unresolved: Cuba is still an unforgiving, authoritarian police state
that will stop at nothing to stifle those it deems enemies of the state.

Here's what Human Rights Watch says: "The Cuban government continues to
repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for
basic human rights. Officials employ a range of tactics to punish
dissent and instill fear in the public, including beatings, public acts
of shaming, termination of employment and threats of long-term
imprisonment."

Arrests of dissidents are going up, not down. Press freedom? Forget
about it.

Nor has the Cuban government bothered to investigate the death of
Oswaldo Payá, perhaps Cuba's most prominent advocate of democracy, nor
to allow an independent investigation of his supposed "accident" by
anyone else.

Then there's the case of American Alan Gross, sentenced to 15 years in
prison for "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity
of the state." Translation from the Kafkaesque: He was caught bringing a
satellite phone to Cuba's small and beleaguered Jewish community.

Is there any doubt that the Castro brothers remain committed to
maintaining their dictatorship over Cuba? Of course not. As long as that
remains the case, the United States has no incentive to extend a
welcoming hand.

Source: Cuba hasn't earned embargo's end | The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article3379550.html Continue reading
Cuban doctors fight Ebola in West Africa 'voluntarily'
The world is full of praise for Cuba: No other country has sent as many
doctors to West Africa. Critics of the communist regime, however,
believe Havana's using its doctors for political purposes - and at a
hefty markup.

Cuba is showing the capitalist world how crisis aid should work. Since
the beginning of October, the communist island nation has sent more than
250 doctors and caregivers to West Africa. According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), 50 more are soon to follow.
Since the beginning of the outbreak in March, some 4,500 people have
lost their lives to the Ebola virus, mostly in the African nations of
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Internationally, the Castro regime's health push has been very well
received. Both Margaret Chan, the WHO's general secretary, and the
"Ebola czar" for the United Nations, David Nabarro, have personally
thanked President Raul Castro and his health minister Robert Morales for
their support. Even Cuba's archenemy, the United States, has praised its
neighbor's actions.
Largest delegation
Cuba casts a shadow upon other nations with its contingent of helpers.
And not for the first time: Cuban doctors and nurses were also rushed to
Pakistan-administered Kashmir after the catastrophic earthquake there in
2005; there were many more Cuban doctors and nurses there, in fact, than
Pakistan itself sent. And in 2010 they were the first on the scene after
a similarly disastrous earthquake struck Haiti.

Other nations support crisis regions, sending helpers and supplies as
well. The procses can take a long time, however, as the current Ebola
epidemic in West Africa has made tragically evident.
But "Cuba is a special case," says Jose Luis Di Fabio, who heads the
WHO's Havana office.
"The country has the ability to react very quickly because of the
experience of the physicians and the political will to do so," he said.
Earning billions
It's precisely the country's "political will" that Antonio Guedes judges
from a completely different perspective. Guedes is a Cuban, a doctor,
and president of the exile party Cuban Liberal Union (ULC) in Madrid.
For him, the political course Cuba is charting does not have altruism at
its core. Rather, the regime in Havana is more interested in
international attention and goodwill.
"Cuba is doing this first and foremost to polish its political image,
secondly for economic reasons, and thirdly, so that countries that have
received their help will vote in Cuba's favor in international forums
like the United Nations," Guedes told DW.

A staggering 50,000 employees of the Cuban health ministry are currently
serving abroad in 66 countries, according to the ministry. Of those,
30,000 are stationed in Venezuela. There are 12,000 in Brazil, 2,000 in
Angola, and a further 2,000 in other parts of Africa.
In total, almost a third of Cuba's 83,000 doctors are working in foreign
countries.
The government in Havana earns more than six billion euros a year ($7.6
billion) through these doctors, because only a fraction of what the
doctors cost these foreign nations are paid out in their salaries.
Brazil pays Havana 3,100 euros per doctor per month. Only because of
pressure from Brazil's government do these doctors now get at least 900
euros per month. According to WHO representative Di Fabio, the Cuban
government receives a daily flat rate of 190 euros per helper.
The Cuban Embassy in Berlin did not respond to DW's request for
information as to the salaries of doctors in Ebola-affected regions.
Severe conditions
Cuban health should expect to be in Africa for six months. By
comparison, doctors with international aid organization "Doctors without
Borders" remain at the Ebola mission for only six weeks, since the work
and safety precautions are so demanding.
To learn the proper handling and use of equipment, Cuban medical
personnel must complete and three week course at the 'Pedro Kouri'
Institute of Tropical Medicine. However, should they become infected,
said institute director Jorge Pérez, they will be treated in a special
ward for international aid workers until they are healed or die from the
disease.

By comparison, volunteers from "Doctors Without Borders" who become
infected with Ebola are immediately transferred to their home country
and treated there, so they can be as close as possible to their families.
Given the lack of supplies in Cuba, the decision is understandable, says
Guedes, but says this is also a sign of the inhumanity of the regime in
Havana.
Nevertheless, 15,000 volunteers from the Caribbean island are said to
have signed up for duty to fight Ebola.
Possible, says Guedes, but unlikely.
According to the ULC leader, there is no such thing as "voluntary" in
Cuba. "Whoever does not cooperate may lose his job, or at least his
position, or his son will not get a place at university."
All of this, thinks Guedes, who runs a medical center in Madrid, does
not take away from the result, of course. "Naturally it is always good
when people, no matter where in the world, receive the help they need."

Source: Cuban doctors fight Ebola in West Africa ′voluntarily′ | News |
DW.DE | 25.10.2014 -
http://www.dw.de/cuban-doctors-fight-ebola-in-west-africa-voluntarily/a-18021288 Continue reading
Embargo 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez
Posted on October 24, 2014

The present year, 2014, started and in the last trimester Cuba began to
pack its bags. And it is something that has been repeated since the last
century to the point of exhaustion; as if year after year at the end, it
sneaks out the window to return, stealthily, by the back door. Plans,
promises, programs, guidelines; anyone would say: "More of the same with
the same people."

But it seems that finally something has started to move, mainly in the
economic and social sectors. Self-employment, taxes, workers contracted
to private domestic companies; use of the land by farmers leasing it
under usufruct; recovery of some rights to buy and sell, to travel
abroad and return. Political prisoners freed between deportation and
parole. New laws addressing foreign investment and work.

All a package of reforms from the authoritarian government, to maintain
the governments authoritarian power, with the intention of consolidating
state capitalism and guaranteeing a peaceful dynastic succession.

Logically, national and international observers have different
viewpoints on these matters. From those who claim they are only cosmetic
changes, to those who argue the opposite. It's clear that the
authorities still haven't addressed what they owe the peaceful political
opposition and the world community with regards to the ratification and
implementation of the United Nations' International Covenants on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Civil and Political Rights.

Eityher way, there is a new synergy, with its actions, contradictions
and surprises. Who would have thought, for example, that the newspaper
Granma, the organ of the Communist Party, would publish an article from
the New York Times almost entirely for domestic readers, as happened on
14 October of this year.

It is as if suddenly the maximum historical leadership of the country
would turn to independent journalism. And the topic of the American
embargo on Cuba is news again this month at the United Nations.

In addition, the next Summit of the Americas in Panama, to which Cuba is
invited for the first time, brings an unique opportunity for the Cuban
government to face that of the United States in a framework propitious
for the initiation of conversations.

The current instability in Venezuela, the electoral swings in Brazil,
the systemic Cuban economic crisis and the phenomena of international
terrorism, seem to have forced the Island's authorities top take
seriously the need for a constructive dialogue with our closest neighbors.

One of the significant aspects of these possible meetings and perhaps an
element that has conspired against their prior realization is that, over
the past 55 years, eleven eleven presidents and their respective
administrations have passed through the White House and Cuba the leaders
have remained the same, each with their respective histories.

However, only through negotiations can conflicts be peacefully resolved.
The embargo on Cuba, which has served to victimize the regime, is
senseless and has fallen on the most vulnerable sectors of the people
and should be negotiated.

It is, without a doubt, another violation of Cubans' human rights and an
obstacle to our just aspirations for freedom, justice and peace in
democracy.

19 October 2014

Source: Embargo 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez / Rafael León Rodríguez |
Translating Cuba -
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Cuba and Ebola: Business or Solidarity? / 14ymedio
Posted on October 24, 2014

THE NEW YORK TIMES: "Only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering what this
major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat patients."

VS

THE WASHINGTON POST: "The export of medical services will net Cuba 8.2
billion dollars in 2014, according to a recent report in the [Cuban]
newspaper Granma."

14ymedio, 23 October 2014 — Days after publishing an article
entitled "Cuba stands at the forefront of the fight against Ebola," the
Spanish daily El País goes a bit further with a discussion of the
issue. "The landing of white coats in countries decimated by scarcities
allows Cuba to generate prestige with its international presence, to
reset its conceptual discourse about fundamental human rights, and to
promote government alliances in a good part of Africa, Asia and Latin
America… where its vaccines and bandages are appreciated more than the
Western powers' exhortations for democracy," writes Juan Jesus Aznarez.
In addition, the newspaper echoes the news that doctors who travel to
West Africa and contract the virus will not be repatriated.

"Although the United Station and other countries have expressed
willingness to contribute money, only Cuba and a few NGOs are offering
what this major emergency needs: professionals prepared to treat
patients," says an editorial in the New York Times praising Cuba's
involvement in sending human resources.

In August, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a roadmap to
address the crisis caused by the epidemic. Since then the needs of all
types required by such an outbreak have been specified. So far 4,877
people of the 9,936 reported cases (almost all in West Africa) have
died. Among the affected, there are 443 health workers, of whom 244 died.

WHO needs financial aid of some one billion dollars to pay for the
salaries of professionals, materials, courses and information
campaigns. The collection so far has reached only one-third of that and,
if the outbreak behaves according to the agency's predictions, financial
needs could soar to 20 billion.

But WHO has run into a serious funding problem: the shortage of human
resources. "Money and materials are important, but those two things
alone can not stop the transmission of the Ebola virus. Human resources
are clearly our most important need," said its director, Dr. Margaret Chan.

Cuba is an economically failed country, with a per capita income of just
$ 6,011 (2011 data), but it has one of the highest rates of physicians
per 10,000 people: 59. Havana has turned its medical power into a huge
business, according to the official newspaper Granma, receiving more
than eight billion dollars a year for services provided abroad. The
government sells the labor of health workers at a high price and pays
them low wages (e.g., Brazil pays $4,300 for each Cuban doctor; the
doctor actually receives only $1,000).

Who will pay the expenses and salaries of the 461 doctors and nurses
Raul Castro's government has committed to fight Ebola in Africa? This
information was not revealed, and the WHO director, normally very
talkative about the exploits of the Cuban regime with regards to public
health, has not said a word about it.

"Critics have complained that Cuba has begun to sacrifice the health of
its citizens at home to make money sending medical workers abroad, and
the conditions for these medical workers themselves have been
criticized," said an editorial in The Washington Post. The text,
entitled "In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above
its weight," was complimentary overall, and so was reproduced in
Cubadebate.cu, a government run website, but with a few corrections
added, including: "The country has undertaken a comprehensive plan to
repair its health facilities and perfect its patient care system, based
on the recognized dissatisfactions with the services." It remains to be
seen if these will materialize.

Source: Cuba and Ebola: Business or Solidarity? / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
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Can teetering Venezuela afford to be so generous?
By Kieran Lonergan - Friday, October 24, 2014

As Venezuela restructures its petro-loans from China to boost its
critically low dollar reserves, the question arises whether the move
will be enough to avert a default and whether similar petro-deals with
countries in Latin America are under threat.

In recent years, China has provided more than US$50bn in credit to
Venezuela, which has serviced the loans with 330,000b/d of "free" oil.

But the loan terms have been amended: Venezuela will now ship less oil
per day over a longer period of time, research firm Capital Economics said.

Meanwhile, the volume of oil sold in Latin America under a number of
similarly generous agreements (San José, Caracas, Integral Cooperation,
and PetroCaribe) has stabilized at around 250,000b/d since 2009,
according to the IMF.

The shipments of discounted oil, predominantly to Cuba, Argentina, the
PetroCaribe bloc and China, in combination with high consumption at home
on account of generous subsidies, means that despite estimated output of
around 2.1Mb/d, Venezuela has only been selling around 845,000b/d on the
open market, to the detriment of export revenues, according to Capital
Economics.

The China deal should boost export revenues by as much as US$5bn (2.5%
of GDP) a year, assuming the "free" oil shipments to China are halved to
165,000b/d, it added.

Nevertheless, the recent decline in oil prices to around US$85/b is
likely to offset any gains made by the restructuring of China's
petro-loans, the research firm said.

"If oil prices now remain flat [at around US$85/b], as we think likely,
then our estimates show that the government will need to cut exports to
China by around 280,000b/d to simply maintain the same level of export
revenues as last year," Capital Economics said.

"With China unlikely to accept such a sharp cut in oil exports, the
government will probably still find itself worse off despite
restructuring the petro-loans," it added.

To compound matters, recent settlements with Exxon Mobil (US$1.6bn) and
ConocoPhillips (US$20bn) over the expropriation of assets will likely
add to the country's external liquidity constraints.

Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves at the central bank have fallen to
around US$2bn, according to Moody's, and investor concerns are reflected
in yields on Venezuela's benchmark 2027 bond of nearly 18%, a five-year
high.

But opinion is divided, with a number of investment banks saying fears
of default are unwarranted.

While Capital Economics says the country will likely default in the next
two years, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML) says such an outcome is
"unlikely", as the Venezuelan public sector is not accumulating net
external liabilities at present.

The Venezuelan government is also showing signs that it takes its
obligations seriously, factoring in a price of US$60/b of Venezuelan oil
in its 2015 budget, compared with the current price of around US$76/b.

Deutsche Bank also says that despite the nation's economic
vulnerability, authorities have the ability and willingness to pay
external debts.

"We believe the administration recognizes the importance of access to
external financing and would be willing to take the necessary measures
and continue honoring external obligations," the FT quoted the bank as
saying.

Whether such "necessary measures" include cutting generous petro-deals
with allies in Latin America remains to be seen.

Source: Can teetering Venezuela afford to be so generous? - BNamericas -
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Cuban Singer "Salsa Doctor" To Perform In Miami
October 24, 2014 9:40 AM

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A Cuban singer who lived in the U.S. for several
years after being banned from Cuban airwaves is back in Miami for a
performance in Little Havana.
Manuel Gonzalez — also known as the "Salsa Doctor" — will sing again on
Friday.
Gonzalez is perhaps most famous for his song "The Bridge." In the piece,
he croons about creating a bridge between Miami and Havana.
The singer fled Cuba in 2001 after he was banned from Cuban airwaves. He
settled in Miami but last year returned to live in Cuba permanently,
opting to be in the country that most inspires him, though he is still
rarely able to perform.
Gonzalez is now recording a new album and completed a brief tour in
Europe. He plans to return to Cuba in the near future.

Source: Cuban Singer "Salsa Doctor" To Perform In Miami « CBS Miami -
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Cuba: Where the Rainbow Starts
October 23, 2014
Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — In the course of Cuban history, political leaders have
mocked sexual minorities. The medical and religious establishments
labeled them sick and depraved beings, and, during the sixties, they
were dubbed as weak and counterrevolutionary. It is indeed regrettable
that today, after it's been scientifically proven that none of the above
is true, these minorities should continue to be considered inferior by
Cuba's socialist constitution and law.

Some months ago, I wrote an article for Havana Times briefly analyzing
Cuba's current constitution and roughly outlined how it had stagnated
and continued to deny sexual minorities social justice.

Sometime later, there were several developments in my country: the Cuban
parliament approved a labor code that was equitable in terms of sexual
diversity. The International Congress of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and
Transsexuals (ILGALAC) was held in Varadero. It was a huge event for the
country. To think that, twenty years before, it would have been
unthinkable in Cuba, or any other country in Latin America for that
matter, to host a gathering of this nature.

During the "festive euphoria" that ensued, I began to think about my
country.

We'd had eight years of the Day against Homophobia, an LGBT congress and
a non-discriminatory Labor Law. I thought that the Cuban government was
becoming better acquainted with the legal disadvantages of the LGBT
community. I was excited about the direction things seemed to be heading in.

How naïve of me. I had misread everything. The first sign of this was
how the Cuban parliament dismissed the public statements made by Cuba's
Proyecto Arcoiris ("Rainbow Project"), which questioned the legislative
processes behind the labor code for not having explicitly included the
issue of gender identity in this instrument.

The second sign was how an activist from the Arcoiris project was used
as a vehicle to inform the rest of the LGBT community about the
parliament's decision.

That was when I asked myself whether we were intentionally advancing at
a snail's pace and had any intention of moving past these cosmetic changes.

I am sick and tired of continuing to experience discrimination because
our displays of affection do not fit the hetero-normative model. It
pains me see how eight years of campaigning against homophobia have not
been enough to change the law.

I think it's time our country understood we are human beings and have
the inalienable right to be accepted as what we are, that we have
feelings, love, suffer, work and contribute to the development of Cuban
society.

I believe it is crucial for Cuban society that schools, workplaces,
universities and government officials find out we are not inferior, that
we are courageous, fun-loving, marvelous and very intelligent people,
and that the State has the right to guarantee the same rights for us.

I don't think this state of uncertainty is healthy for the country. I
believe it is time for the government to address sexual minorities (who
also count) with positive responses. I believe it must bring about
drastic changes to the current laws.

In my personal opinion, 54 years is more than enough, and, after 8 years
of campaigns in favor of sexual diversity, if we don't see any real
political changes in the short term, we are heading towards a
cul-de-sac, where our work will not become anything other than a
highly-publicized public performance without any real political power.
We will only get discos, galas and meeting places for gay people down
this road. Imagining myself stuck in this limbo frightens me.

To prevent this, I believe we must forge alliances with different
sectors within civil society and ensure no one can author any bill
single-handedly, that such legislation is conceived by a pluralistic and
genuinely LGBT community.

I believe these are times of change, a moment in history in which the
Cuban revolution must accept that the basic presuppositions of Cuba's
political, ideological and social model are not an effective foundation
for the legal system, because they discriminate against, censor or
exclude several sectors of the country's civil society, the LGBT
community in this particular case.

Regrettably, this makes the Cuban model an elitist regime, which
guarantees constitutional rights under a hetero-normative model which
runs counter to the dialectics and development of humanity.

I believe that, if Cuba's current government learns to understand and
address the genuine demands of the LGBT community, implementing reforms
on the basis of these demands, the country will be more in step with the
image it gives the world in terms of human rights and sexual diversity.

I also believe the time has come to do something positive with real,
political consequences: decentralize the institutional mechanism that
has been used to divulge issues of sexual diversity through the mass
media in recent years, project a positive image of the LGBT community
and publicize other positive criteria that do not stem from State
institutions.

In addition, I think that, at this point, we must urgently consolidate
different campaigns, implement mechanisms that encourage several forms
of activism in the public, political and social spheres. This would be
very useful if we are interested in changing the law in the short term,
as political causes serve to motivate people and create alliances. The
public campaigns would serve to convince politicians in power who aren't
entirely decided on the issue to pass legislation that gives the members
of the LGBT community the right to start a family, the right to a better
quality of life, visibility and the inalienable right to display
affection without the fear of being discriminated against over one's
sexual orientation or identity.

Source: Cuba: Where the Rainbow Starts - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106871 Continue reading
Cuba dual currency panorama
Submitted by: Oscar Rojas Curbelo
Business and Economy 10 / 24 / 2014

One of the challenges that Cuba face nowadays is to remove dual
currency. If during the first half of the 90s, when the country was
plunged into a deep economic depression due to the collapse of the
Soviet Union, circulation of two currencies functioned as a useful
measure to revive the economy, currently it shows as an obstacle.

Monetary duality refers to coexistence of two currencies in the same
economy. It means two currencies are used as means of payment, measure
of value (expression of the prices of goods and services sold, debts and
registrations of economic values) and as a means of hoarding (bank
deposits and cash).

Monetary duality proceeds generally from special economic situations
where production system is severely affected. In the case of Cuba it
began in the early 1990s when the Island lost its main trading partner
and the Government opened a program of integration into the
international economic context. Monetary duality is not an exclusively
Cuban process. Others economies, like China, have lived that process too.

Despite the serious shortage of foreign exchange and its urgent need, on
August 13, 1993 the Cuban Government legalized holding American Dollars
for individuals and bank accounts in USD were authorized, one of the
most controversial measures of the economy transformation program in its
more than 50 years. The Cuban peso did not satisfy the demand of goods
and services, so circulation of dollars was essential. Other measures
such as openness to foreign investment-employment and incited attract
foreign capital.

This phenomenon of partial dollarization of economy caused,
provisionally, a dual monetary regime. It was a decision that could not
be delayed either from a financial point of view, not from a political
point of view. Cuba achieved the desired reorientation and generated
significant internal changes. External threats caused the replacement of
the Dollar by the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which persists to this day.

Without stability and dollarization there is no justification to
maintain two currencies. The dual currency clouds accounting and
economic policy at both national and enterprise level, distorts
financial measurement and decisions, hides subsidies and taxes that are
incorrectly assigned and prevents linkages among firms. Financial
decontrol, inefficiency, underdevelopment of the productive forces are
other consequences of dual currency that jeopardizes the international
credibility of Cuban economy.

The end of dual currency is a slow process that carries an action
program to certify its effectiveness. Cuban economists have a mission to
design and implement a strategy to ensure a real import substitution: to
strengthen production of goods and services, to protect national
industry and to enhance national market.

Corruption and fraud will not disappear with dual currency because
purchasing power of wages does not change and this is associated to
organization, efficiency and labor productivity and not with monetary
policy. Recovery of wages requires structural reforms in Cuban economy.

Already more than 20 years that this economic phenomenon lives in Cuba
and the more time passes the more it damages our economy. Is it near the
end of this phenomenon? Does the country still is unable? The decision
exists strategically on Guidelines of the Economic and Social Policy,
but we do not know how strategic it is.

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QhkCJdzhTE

Source: Cuba dual currency panorama | Cuba Headlines – Cuba News,
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As Cuban economy stagnates, economists press for deeper reforms
BY MARC FRANK
HAVANA Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:46pm EDT

(Reuters) - Some of Cuba's best-known economists are openly questioning
the very core of the Soviet-style command economy and saying market
reforms under way are too modest to boost weak growth.

Emboldened by freer debate in the country, they are increasingly vocal
in criticizing rigid instructions coming down from the top and the
uneven management of policies across the economy, from banking to
agriculture.

Their influence on government policy-makers is difficult to gauge due to
the secretive nature of the ruling Communist Party, but they clearly
have been given leeway to call for changes.

Seeking to build a "prosperous and sustainable" socialism, President
Raul Castro pushed through a 311-point reform agenda that was adopted by
the Communist Party in 2011.

It has led Cuba to liberalize farming and retail services by turning
much of them over to cooperatives and allowing small private businesses.
The Caribbean island is also actively seeking foreign investment.

Castro, who took over from his older brother Fidel in 2008, has
repeatedly said he despises false consensus and has encouraged debate as
long as it takes place within the system.

The economists now talking out are generally members of the Communist
Party and some have contact with high-ranking officials, suggesting they
may be able to influence the debate inside government on the speed and
scope of reforms.

They have called for economic reforms for years, but never targeted so
sharply the very pillars of the system.

Juan Triana, one of the best-known and most influential economists, says
the government's reforms have signaled a reliance on market mechanisms
but officials have still not embraced competition for core parts of the
economy and more than 2,000 state companies.

"The cost of not recognizing the importance of competition for
development are paid in lower rates of growth than the potential, the
incorrect assigning of resources, lower than possible rates of
productivity and efficiency, and most of all a lack of incentives for
innovation, one of the principal motors of development," he said in a
recent presentation to mid-level government officials and peers at a
seminar in Havana.

The seminar was hosted by the Havana University Center for the Study of
the Cuban Economy, known for its bold stand for reform over the last 15
years and its criticism of the status quo.

Speaker after speaker joined Triana in urging deeper reform, according
to copies of presentations seen by Reuters. Central planning, the
government's sway over strategic company decisions and the state's
monopoly in foreign trade were all criticized.

"Probably, the so-called state monopoly on foreign trade is a big
obstacle to the diversification and growth of exports," said Miguel
Alejandro Figueras, winner of Cuba's top economics prize in 2007.

While Castro's reforms have raised the expectations of many Cubans, they
have largely disappointed. Public frustration over a lack of well-paid
jobs has contributed to a sharp increase in the number of Cubans risking
dangerous and illegal journeys on home-made boats in search of better
opportunities in the United States.

"Most Cubans support the reforms but are coming to realize that much
more needs to happen. I think everyone from top to bottom is concerned
with the numbers and reality on the ground," said one Cuban economist,
who asked to remain anonymous due to a prohibition on talking with
foreign journalists without permission.

FOLLOWING CHINA AND VIETNAM

The economists generally believe Cuba's leaders are listening, in part
because the reforms so far have failed to lead to growth. They say they
hope to reinforce the more reform-minded leaders in closed-door debates
at the highest levels.

Many liken Cuba's process to the first years of reform in China and
Vietnam, when partial measures proved ineffective and eventually gave
way to deeper reforms.

But Castro has moved at a deliberate pace, and despite official calls
for a more critical press unorthodox views rarely get aired in the
state-controlled media. The government revised down its economic growth
forecast for this year to 1.4 percent, a second straight year of slowing
growth, and food prices are rising on average 10 percent a year.

Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of the economy remains in state hands,
usually in the form of monopolies.

At the recent seminar, economist Jorge Mario Sanchez criticized state
monopolies as out of step with a growing mixed economy and international
competition.

"The state-centrist culture of production and trade by the state and for
the state should begin to transition to another broader mode from and
for society," he said.

Others say harsh U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba are only partially
to blame for a lack of state financing and delays in the arrival of
supplies and parts, which lead to disruptions in production and shortages.

"Our top leaders are very aware of these problems, but unsure how to
proceed without creating greater inequality," said the economist who
asked to remain anonymous.

Hal Klepak, a Canadian military historian and author of two books on the
Cuban military and Raul Castro, said he thought Castro and other leaders
"find criticism welcome not because it is comfortable but because it
allows them to push for more and faster movement of a deeply cutting kind."

"There will be more and deeper reform since there is really little hope
for any other option," Klepak said.

Another outside expert differed, doubting that major changes were coming
any time soon.

"There is still no blueprint as to where the major state-controlled
sectors will be in 5 or 10 years time," said Paul Hare, a former British
ambassador to Cuba who now teaches at Boston University.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Kieran Murray)

Source: As Cuban economy stagnates, economists press for deeper reforms
| Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/24/us-cuba-economy-idUSKCN0ID1OA20141024 Continue reading
The Misery That Unites Us / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on October 24, 2014

When the ill-named Special Period began in 1989, three years had passed
since I had quit my job with the Cuban National Commission of UNESCO
(with all that that implies), where I worked as a secretary. I was
making 148 Cuban pesos (CUP) a month at a time when a pound of ham that
tasted artificial and weighed half that amount once you removed the
excess water cost 6.00 CUP. I was earning only 6.20 CUP a day.

Around this time, thanks to my very good and late friend Poncito, I had
found out about the Cuban Association of Artisan Artists (ACAA) and how
much it was growing. So, after submitting three samples of my work and
letters of recommendation from two of its member artists, I was admitted
to the organization, which allowed me to be my own "immediate
supervisor," improve my quality of life and work from home, which had
become a veritable artist's studio.

By then my older son was pursuing a career in design, my niece — who was
also living with us — was in college and my younger son was in primary
school. On weekends the house was filled with kids and on weekdays my
friends — all of whom were professionals who worked nearby — came over
for a little peace and quiet, a cup of tea and a friendly atmosphere.

Since we all truly believed this was the end of the System, I "broke
out" (as we often say here) my best porcelain china cups — family
heirlooms — and filled them with Soviet black tea or an infusion of
lemongrass stalks from my patio. Sometimes I managed to make a tasty
pudding to sweeten our get-togethers. Outside my four walls the world
looked grey and menacing. People on the street walked with their heads
down and their shoulders slumped.

I remember one particular birthday during this period when there was
nothing in the stores and only a few vegetables in the produce market.
Some architect friends suddenly appeared at my door singing "Happy
Birthday" and carrying a beautiful basket they had fashioned from
cardboard and decorated with a beautiful bow made out of newspaper.
Inside it they had carefully and tastefully placed some green bananas,
several taro and half of a small pumpkin.

My friend the painter showed up with a beautiful painting of sunflowers.
And the dentist, who was never able to fill even one cavity for me due
to a shortage of materials, did me the honor of giving me a pixie
haircut. He was a master at challenges like this. It was without a doubt
one of the most memorable birthdays I have ever had.

As time went by, everyone's lives gradually got more complicated and
they began leaving the country. My children also left and this house,
which had always been so happy and bustling, began descending into
silence and solitude. I continued working as an artisan-artist and
started meeting new people, making new friends (some of whom have also
left) and seeing a new world open up through my blog.

Other wonderful people keep crossing my path, people who have given new
meaning to my daily routine as well as the courage and strength to carry
on. These days I am busy preparing for the next exhibition of my work
outside "my planet," taking advantage of our newly "restored" right to
travel freely, which had been denied us for almost half a century.

22 October 2014

Source: The Misery That Unites Us / Rebeca Monzo | Translating Cuba -
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