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New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan Garcia
Posted on July 23, 2014

On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will
begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking
of merchandise by relatives, friends and "mules"* through airports and
port facilities.

It's one more turn of the screw. Every year since 2011 new regulations
have been put in place designed to halt the illegal importation of goods
destined for families and private businesses on the island.
In Spring 2012 the customs service began charging ten dollars for every
kilo above the twenty-kilo limit for personal baggage. For parcel post
the charge was ten dollars per kilo above the five-kilo limit.

According to Onelia, a customs official, "The new measures are intended
to halt the trade in goods brought in by mules."

The military regime quite often resorts to demagogic rhetoric. It
eschews the military uniform and takes on the role of victim when
talking about the economic and financial embargo that the United States
has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

But the embargo does not justify establishing a string of regulations
that affect family well-being, private businesses and the quality of
life for a wide segment of the population.

Simply put, they are applying a set of prohibitions and laws in order
increase sales in the chain of hard-currency stores operated as military
businesses. It is a disgrace.
It is monopoly in its purest form. The government would now find itself
hard pressed to explain how these measures are benefitting its citizens.
Its aberrant customs rules, prohibitions on retail sales of imported
clothing and high taxes on the self-employed are anti-populist edicts.

I asked twenty-eight people — friends, neighbors, taxi drivers, public
and private sector workers — if they approved of these regulations.
Regardless of their political beliefs, the verdict was unanimous: all
twenty-eight were opposed to the current measures as well as to those
scheduled to take effect on September 1.

Some 80% of Cubans have a relative or friend in the United States or
Europe. Some benefit from regular shipments of clothes, food,
appliances, video games, computer tablets or smart phones. Others
receive occasional shipments.

But it is black market commerce, driven scarcity and a system of
economic production that does not satisfy demand, the most important
provider of the things people need.

HP laptops, plasma-screen TVs, instant soups and even major league
baseball hats arrive on the island from Miami, as do Russian car parts
and cloned satellite TV cards, which are banned by the Cuban government.
What businessmen, politicians and exiles living in the United States do
not mention when expressing support for relaxing or repealing the
embargo is the regime's obsession with controlling our private lives.

We must navigate an internet packed with filters, watch TV channels that
the government authorizes, read books over which the mullahs of
censorship pass judgment and pay extortionist prices for cell phone service.

We should be talking more often about the internal blockade the
government imposes on its citizens.

Is it legal for a nation to stifle illegal commerce? Yes, it is. But
before punishing people, it should provide by offering range of products
and prices for the domestic market, living wages and efficient services.

This is not the case in Cuba. State workers earn around twenty dollars a
month. The "basic basket" of goods that a ration book covers barely
lasts ten days. Putting two meals a day on the table is a luxury in many
homes.

The State has become an insatiable overseer. It owns industries that
provide us with overpriced mayonnaise, canned tuna and queso blanco.

At no meeting of the boring and monotonous National Assembly did I hear
any delegate demand that the state set fair prices. Food prices in Cuban
hard currency stores are higher than those in New York.

The price of flat-screen TV or a computer is two and a half times what
it is in Miami. Tiles and bathroom fixtures are five times as expensive.
And a Peugeot 508 sells for an exorbitant price, comparable to that of a
Ferrari.

Thanks to mules, relatives in Florida send us everything from powdered
milk to sanitary pads because the state cannot satisfy the monthly
demand of women or offer such products for sale at affordable prices.

This is what it's about. The new measures attempting to stop trafficking
by mules are intended to benefit state enterprises and businesses, and
to increase their sales, though what becomes of the profits is never
revealed.

They are only hampering the transfer of small ticket items, however, not
of dollars. Greenbacks are still welcome. The more, the merrier.

Before the Obama administration relaxes that relic of the Cold War
called the embargo, those speaking on behalf of the Cuban people should
ask Raul Castro for greater freedom and economic independence for his
citizens.

And don't get me started on the denial of political rights. That's
another story.

Photo: From Univision Colorado.

*Translator's note: Slang term for couriers of goods from overseas.

18 July 2014

Source: New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/new-measures/ Continue reading
China, Cuba sign bilateral agreements
Raúl Castro is working to attract foreign investment to jumpstart the
ailing Cuban economy
MAYE PRIMERA Miami 23 JUL 2014 - 16:14 CEST

Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in Havana on Tuesday to sign 29 new
bilateral agreements in finance, biotechnology, agriculture,
infrastructure and renewable energy.

Beijing will finance a new terminal at the port of Santiago de Cuba,
according to the news website Cuba Debate. China and Cuba will also
cooperate on cyberspace issues.

On the economic front, Xi and Raúl Castro agreed on protocols to oversee
the quality of the tobacco and sugar that the island nation exports to
China.

Before the meeting at the Palacio de la Revolución, Xi visited historic
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, 87, and presented him with "the respect" of
the Chinese people.

"You are the founder of the causes of the revolution and the
construction of Cuba, and you are the founder of relations between China
and Cuba," said Xi.

Xi and Castro were also expected to discuss the new conditions of the
Foreign Investment Law approved by the Cuban government in March. This
legislation, part of a government drive to jumpstart the ailing economy,
will allow foreign investors to bring their own workforce over to the
island to work on construction projects.

The Chinese president hopes to get a sense of Cuba's progress on
economic reform, especially with regard to foreign investment, with a
view to reactivating old projects and launching new ones.

This is the fourth and last Latin American stop for Xi before returning
home. Before this, he was in Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, where he
signed off on multi-million-euro loans and dozens of cooperation agreements.

The government of Raúl Castro hopes for similar treatment, but first
China needs to make sure that Cuba has done its homework.

Both Raúl and Fidel Castro have underscored the key role of Chinese
investment in regional development, especially when it comes to
exploiting the rich oil, mineral and freshwater reserves in Latin
America. "We face the challenge of working toward the industrialization
of our natural and agricultural resources, of increasing and
diversifying our exports, and achieving a more equal trade balance that
will reserve an important role for our ties with the People's Republic
of China," said Raúl Castro in Brazilia on June 17.

China has significant oil interests in Cuba, where it manages several
wells in the northern coast. In June 2011, then vice-president Xi
Jinping signed 13 energy and economic agreements with Havana, including
two projects to expand the Cienfuegos refinery and build a liquid gas
plant in partnership with Venezuela.

China is Cuba's second-most-important trade partner after Venezuela,
with a bilateral trade volume of 1.4 billion dollars in 2013.

In the last 17 years, Raúl Castro has traveled to Beijing three times to
learn about the "Chinese experiment" of economic reform.

Source: China, Cuba sign bilateral agreements | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/07/23/inenglish/1406124841_312333.html Continue reading
Cuban migrants repatriated to Cuba
By: Laura Buttigieg | lbuttigieg@pinnaclemedialtd.com
24 July, 2014

A group of 21 Cuban migrants who were detained at the Immigration
Detention Centre have been repatriated to Cuba.

The group was supervised by Immigration and Prison officials and left on
a chartered flight from Owen Roberts International Airport on Tuesday.

Six Cuban migrants remain at the center, including two women. Five men
who arrived on Cayman Brac on July 20 and requested repatriation will be
moved shorty to the Immigration Detention Centre off Fairbanks Road.

The group forms part of hundreds of Cuban migrants who arrive in Cayman
on their way to the U.S. every year. Since June, more than 100 Cuban
migrants have landed in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac's coastal waters.

Cuban migrants who enter the Cayman Islands are held at the detention
center while they wait for their paperwork to be processed. Detained
migrants are transported back to Cuba in line with a memorandum of
understanding between Cuba and the Cayman Islands.

During the 2013/14 fiscal year, the cost of housing, feeding and caring
for the migrants in Cayman was more than $500,000.

Repatriation to Cuba has been taking an average of two or three months,
a delay responsible for the backlash in May when a group of Cubans
threatened to burn down the immigration detention center.

During the disturbance, one of the migrants jumped the fence and escaped
before being recaptured by prison officers, and a second man climbed up
onto the roof armed with rocks. The center also recorded an attempted
suicide involving one of the migrants earlier this month.

There have been a number of escape attempts from the center this year,
including more than two dozen migrants who ran from the center in the
middle of the afternoon on March 17. All except one were picked up
immediately by enforcement officials.

A group of 13 escaped on April 16, with 10 captured immediately.

Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong told the Cayman Compass
earlier this month sources in Cuba believe the boats being used by Cuban
migrants are built somewhere about 90 miles north of Cayman.

Mr. Wong said immigration officials had received information that the
boat building was financed by Cuban migrants' families who live in the U.S.

Under United Nations conventions, migrants are allowed to make an
application for asylum in the Cayman Islands. However, most migrants do
not qualify for the application.

Source: Cuban migrants repatriated to Cuba :: Cayman Compass -
http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2014/07/24/Cuban-migrants-repatriated-to-Cuba/ Continue reading
China Grants Credit to Cuba to Build Port Terminal in Santiago
July 23, 2014

HAVANA TIMES — China granted Cuba several new loans on Tuesday,
including one for the construction of a port terminal in Santiago de
Cuba, according to the agreements signed during the visit to the island
by Chinese President Xi Jinping, reported dpa news.

The loans from Peking are interest-free, while there are also new trade
agreements and donations. The official Cuban media did not disclose the
amounts involved.

The new lines of credit for Cuba add to the loans and investment
agreements granted by China to Venezuela and Argentina during the
earlier legs of the trip of President Xi Jinping to the region. Havana
and Santiago de Cuba are his last stops before returning to China later
Wednesday.

The governments of Beijing and Havana signed a total of 29 agreements to
enhance cooperation and economic relations, according to information
released by the state television.

The first "concessional credit line" will be aimed at "building a
multipurpose terminal in the port of Santiago de Cuba," states the text
of the agreement.

Other loans are meant to postpone payment of the Cuban debt with Beijing
and make possible the installing of digital television on the island,
which is being carried out with Chinese technology.

Other contracts provide for cooperation in the sugar and oil industries
as well as Cuba's sale to China of nickel derivatives.

Xi took part in official talks in the afternoon on Tuesday with his
Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. In the morning he visited former
President Fidel Castro, active in recent days with foreign policy matters.

Xi gave Fidel Castro a bronze bust of 175 kilograms depicting the Cuban
revolutionary in his youth.

In his first visit to Cuba as head of state, Xi was granted the Jose
Marti order, the highest distinction awarded by the Cuban state.

The Chinese leader travels on Wednesday to Santiago de Cuba, from where
he will return to his country. Cuba's second largest city, located in
the east of the country, is still recovering from the devastating
hurricane "Sandy" in October 2012.

Before reaching Cuba, the Chinese leader was in Venezuela and Argentina.
Last week he also participated in the summit of the emerging group of
BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held in
Fortaleza and Brasilia.

The BRICS group approved the creation of two alternative institutions to
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), focused on
their interests.

In Venezuela, Xi and President Maduro signed 38 agreements that include
the sharp increase in the South American country's oil sales to China.

Caracas will go from providing the current amount of 524,000 barrels per
day to nearly double. The increase will be covered by a new line of
Chinese credit of US $4 billion, which should ensure the supply of one
million barrels of oil per day through 2016.

Xi also announced in Buenos Aires investments of almost $7 billion for
the construction of two hydroelectric dams and the modernization of the
railway.

Source: China Grants Credit to Cuba to Build Port Terminal in Santiago -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105054 Continue reading
My Own T-Shirt Hero: The Forgotten Story of a Bay of Pigs Pilot
July 22, 2014
Clive Rudd Fernández (Cafe Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — I recall I was around 10 years old when my father used to
take me from one ministry to the other to collect his salary. It could
have been the Ministry of Sugar or Transportation. He didn't work at any
of them, but he would collect his full salary there every month. In
fact, he didn't work anywhere. He was paid on instructions from the
Ministry of the Armed Forces.

That situation was difficult for me to understand. To me, a
14-year-old-child, my father was a Cuban hero and a pilot of the Armed
Forces who risked his life for the country.

When I'd ask him something like, "Dad, what you know about sugar?", or
"Why do you get paid by the Ministry of Transportation if you don't work
there?", he would reply with that cold, fixed gaze that characterized
him. "It's because Diocles is here now." Then, he would turn away from
me so as not to look me in the eyes and wince. That was his way of
saying that was an "awkward question" and that I shouldn't ask another.
I had a lot of respect for him, so I would zip my lip immediately.

With "Diocles", he meant Minister Diocles Torralba, a former officer of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces. One of his tasks was seeing to the needs
of the hero who had been chewed up and spat out by the revolution –
Douglas Rudd, my father.

As a teenager, I began to realize that a number of episodes were missing
from my dad's story. My old man, who wasn't very talkative (much less
boastful), never spoke about planes or about his air combat at the Bay
of Pigs or his involvement in Cuba's Vietnam campaign.

From time to time, I would gather the courage to ask him when he would
take me flying with him. Without looking at me in the eyes, he would
always say: "One of these days." Later, I would find out he hadn't flown
in years and would never do so again in his life.

The Douglas Plane

The void of my father's silence was gradually filled by the anecdotes of
his friends, who would tell me of his feats in the Air Force, about how
he played a crucial role as war pilot during the Bay of Pigs invasion
and his work as one of the military advisors the Cuban government had
sent to Vietnam during the war.

They told me that, after being promoted up the ranks of the Air Force,
he began to question decisions made by the high command and that the
revolutionary leadership had given him a number of warnings, telling him
to forget about his ideas and proposals and to follow the "strategy
traced by the revolution and Fidel."

Around 1968, my father, disillusioned with the Castro government,
tendered his resignation to begin flying as a civilian pilot with Air
France, where they had spoken to him about a job.

No sooner had rumors of his resignation began to circulate than he was
detained for having "sensitive documents" at home. According to some of
the old pilots I've spoken to, those national security documents were
nothing other than flight manuals for some of the planes they were
piloting at the time and it was routine to have copies at home to go
over the technical specs of the plane.

Following a summary trial, he was sentenced to 30 years at Havana's La
Cabaña prison. He broke out of there by sea with two common inmates.

Waiting for Celia Sanchez

Many years later, my mother told me of the terrible days she spent at
the State Security's Villa Marista, where she was interrogated for hours
about my father's whereabouts, while still pregnant with my younger
sister Yvonne.

While my mother was being tortured psychologically by the Ministry of
the Interior, a police and military detachment was mobilized across
Havana in search of the missing hero.

My father had set up camp outside the home of Celia Sanchez Manduley,
Fidel Castro's assistant, to demand an explanation for what the
revolution was doing to the country and to him.

When they found him, Celia had his prison sentence commuted and he was
sent home. From that point on, they strictly forbade him to work
anywhere in Cuba. The island's sole employer, the Cuban government, had
condemned him to a virtual house arrest. He would remain in this
situation for more than 25 years, until he was able to leave the country.

Years after having his sentence commuted, a high-ranking Air Force
(DAAFAR) pilot showed up at his house in Vedado to tell him that Army
General Raul Castro wanted to decorate him on April 17, during the
commemorative ceremony for the 25th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs
invasion. My father kicked him out of the house, yelling a number of
rude things at him. So many years without being able to have any kind of
job had destroyed his meager "social skills."

In the 1980s, I had the impression that my father had become delirious.
One day, he said to me: "The Soviet Union is going to fall to bits and
no one's going to cry over it. Fidel Castro is going to turn Cuba into
Haiti and no one's going to stand in his way. Try and get out of this
country while you still can. There's no future here, neither for you nor
any young person in Cuba who isn't willing to submit to Fidel completely."

In one of his last ravings, he said to me: "Clive, the Brigadier General
and head of Cuba's Air Force Rafael del Pino came to see me to tell me
he was planning on fleeing the country in a two-engine Cesna and asked
me whether I wanted to go with him. Of course, I said no. I'm sure it's
a trap to send me to prison again."

Of course, I didn't put much stock in that rumor and thought that, in
addition to delirious, my father was also becoming paranoid. But then,
through Radio Marti and other unofficial channels, I heard of the
desertion of General Rafael del Pino and his family in 1987. Several
years later, when I took out my private pilot license in England, I
would fly with Rafael del Pino over the outskirts of London and I would
finally confirm that he had indeed invited my father to leave the
country with him. The paranoia they had injected into his DNA had made
him miss the boat.

The Hero's Image

My father was finally able to leave Cuba in 1990. He died two years
later in the home of one of the pilots he had fought during the Bay of
Pigs invasion. He had become reconciled with his combat enemies, but not
with his past.

After leaving Cuba in 1992, it would take me fifteen years of coming to
terms with my past and country to go back.

In one my trips in 2008, I traveled to Cuba with an English friend of
mine who was a journalist for The Independent. I told him that, like
many men of his generation, my father had given his life and youth to
the revolution, and that many of these people had been devoured and
thrown out the window by that same, insatiable beast they helped create,
that they were now among the country's enemies.

We did a basic tour of Havana's Revolution Museum and made our way to
the Bay of Pigs exhibit. There, I was surprised to see that my father,
Douglas Rudd, a man who had been decorated and defenestrated by the
revolutionary New Man, had his name inscribed on the wall as one of the
heroes of that battle. After having destroyed and swallowed up the man,
they had decided to leave behind the image of the hero, because it sells
ideas and T-shirts at a museum and Havana's tourist areas.

I continue to remember my father as I pictured him when I was a child,
when I would imagine him flying, risking his life and going to battle
for just and important causes – as a man of great courage. I've been
telling my children, from a very early age, that T-shirt heroes do not
exist.

Source: My Own T-Shirt Hero: The Forgotten Story of a Bay of Pigs Pilot
- Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105039 Continue reading
Confessions of a Cuban Plumber
July 22, 2014
Yusimi Rodríguez

HAVANA TIMES — Last Sunday, I washed some rotten lentils down the drain
and ended up clogging the pipe. I had no choice but to look for a
plumber and pay to have it fixed. I called a plumber who had fixed a
number of other things around the house, with whom I'd never exchanged
more than a few words of greeting and the inevitable "how much do I owe
you?" He is a polite and quiet man with a reassuring smile that seems to
tell you everything will be alright.

On this occasion, I stood next to him, watching him unclog the drain. We
started a conversation for the first time. Without turning away from the
basin, he told me he had been a photographer and, before that, a teacher
of Marxism in junior and senior secondary school. "I had my graduation
at the steps," he said, referring to the steps of the University of
Havana (UH).

For a very long time, I've had the impression that a degree issued by
the UH is more impressive than one issued by another university. When I
say I am an English language graduate, people enthusiastically ask me:
"from the UH?" Their enthusiasm vanishes when I reply: "from the
Pedagogic Institute."

Luis, the plumber, does not evince the pride of many from his
generation, particularly black men, who have their degrees framed and
hanging on a wall in their living rooms. Neither does he speak with the
pessimism of others who, today, feel they wasted their time studying at
university. His tone is casual, the same he uses when he asks me to hand
him a bucket to place under the sink.

Why does it still surprise me that this man in overalls, who finds it
increasingly difficult to crouch under sinks and basins and would like
to be a photographer again (because it requires less effort, though the
digital age has left him behind), graduated from the UH with a Social
Sciences major? I don't know.

I've heard many similar stories and they still leave me in shock. The
most intriguing thing, for me, is the reason they leave behind the
classroom, the engineering project or the clinic. It took me a while to
get my answer in this case, because Luis kept losing himself in
anecdotes about city historian Eusebio Leal.

They were classmates for a while, and Luis described him as a "simple
and kind" man. Leal had every qualification for the position of City
Historian, save for the university degree. He would often miss classes
and exams because of his job. He would have to take these in the
classroom later, in the middle of a lecture. "He would hand in the exam
twelve minutes later," Luis told me. "What about his grades?" I asked.
"Always the highest."

I managed to get him to tell me why he quit his job as a teacher,
presuming the reason had been his low salary at the end of the 1980s.
His answer was even simpler: "I taught Marxism-Leninism and, by the end
of the 80s, when the socialist bloc collapsed, I no longer believed in
any of that, particularly the twist given to the subject here, by this
fellow (our Eternal Leader, Comrade Fidel Castro)."

When he quit education, Luis got a job in tourism. The hard years of the
Special Period didn't hit him that hard, but one day, in 1994, at the
end of his vacation, he told his wife he would not be going back to his
job. "I was too old to have the police knock at my door. There was a lot
of corruption, people were stealing a lot. They didn't simply take what
they and their families needed, they took things by the truckloads. I
got scared." Around that time, he also handed in his Party membership card.

Now, he makes a living as a plumber and by selling pru (a traditional,
fermented drink from Cuba's eastern regions). His older children live in
the United States. Perhaps, with their help, he can get his hands on the
equipment he needs to work as a photographer again.

After making sure the pipes were draining properly and charging me for
the job, he said goodbye to me. His story was interesting to me from the
beginning and I asked him permission to tell it. "I won't use your
name," I assured him, in the hope he would give me permission and allow
him to take some pictures. "Write it if you want," he finally says,
"without using my name." His name isn't Luis, but that doesn't matter,
because, as he says at the door, "my story could be that of any Cuban."

I watch him go and think about other Cubans like him, about my own
father, people who believed in a bright future and even acknowledge some
of Cuba's achievements, but who do not see any balanced relationship
between these achievements and what they cost the country.

Source: Confessions of a Cuban Plumber - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105037 Continue reading
Being a Teenager in Cuba
July 23, 2014
Mercedes Gonzalez Aguade

HAVANA TIMES — At the pharmacy, I ran into some of the mothers of my
son's friends. We had a long conversation and, like always, almost every
topic had to do with the central issue in our lives: children.

We spoke about education, clothing, teenagers and their changes, in
short, everything that's wrong in the world and how to fix it. Then, we
started talking about something that worries us: there are no places
where they can vent and channel all of the hormonal energy of this stage
in life.

Sometimes, they go to places that aren't suited to their age (they are
either too old or too young for a particular environment) and almost
always end up taking away the negative side of that environment.

That's why, most of the time, we force them to stay at home, sitting in
front of the TV, the computer or videogames, denying them the right to
have fun and generally enjoy themselves. As mothers, we worry about
their safety and integrity, but we feel guilty about this situation.

I say this thinking about my own son, who barely goes out. There are
very few options out there: Vedado, the Coppelia ice cream parlor and
the occasional party thrown by a friend or classmate. The movies could
be another option, but, in the age of DVDs, kids see the cinema as
something old fashioned.

Everyone, mothers and children, would be grateful if there were places
for teenagers at affordable prices, where alcohol and violence were
strictly prohibited.

Some mothers offer their homes once a month so that kids will have a few
hours of fun, listening to music in a safe environment without alcohol.
That is all fine and good, but I feel it limits kids a lot, as,
ultimately, they continue to be confined between four walls, and it is
good for them to go out and get to know the world.

Another concern of ours is that, once alone and away from home, they
should want to experience their teenage years to "the fullest" and,
overwhelmed by their wish to have fun, should skip that beautiful stage
in their lives, a time when proper guidance is hard to offer.

Source: Being a Teenager in Cuba - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105063 Continue reading
Cuba's All-So-Kind Economy Czar
July 22, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Marino Murillo, the so-called "reforms Czar", has always
struck me as a contemptuous person. The arrogance with which he speaks
before those who allegedly represent the people, the self-confidence
with which he addresses the thorny issues no one before him has been
able to solve, and his body language, place him somewhere between a
domineering public official and a neighborhood butcher.

These elements of body language, together with the concrete content of
his pronouncements, make it seem as though Murillo does not appear
before parliament to account for his actions but to threaten and scold
the public, inform them at best.

I did however notice a certain change in his demeanor in his most recent
public appearances: a distant melancholy in his eyes, an almost
unnoticeable stammering, there where there was once resolve, less
vigorous hand movements…

There were subtle signs of fatigue and doubt, signs that less sensitive
spirits may not have noticed. The fact is that, in these appearances,
his spiels did not make my blood boil.

Today, however, he once again set me off.

After referring to the re-establishment of a single currency monetary
system and other labor-related provisions that would be implemented in
the coming new stage of the reform process, the Czar said:

"These tasks are all the more complex because of the commitment towards
the people we have. In other parts of the world, these things can be
done much more easily."

The phrases that Murillo often lets out reveal the real state of Cuba's
power relations and the way in which the governing class interprets the
social contract.

In the Czar's worldview, Cuba's political stage is set up as follows:

On the one side, we have the people, not the real people but the people
presupposed by the Party Guidelines: an innocent people, as helpless as
a small child that tells the leaders its problems so that they can solve
them.

On the other side of the equation we have the leaders: a group of
know-it-all technocrats and responsible patriarchs who know what to do
to solve the said problems, provided people work hard and remain
disciplined.

If the technocrats wanted (this is the best part) they could solve
social problems through unpopular measures, as their super-evil
counterparts do in the rest of the world, but their commitment towards
the people prevents them from going so far.

Ultimately, I am grateful for such unsubtle politicians, for politicians
who think like foremen and bare themselves and call a spade a spade from
time to time. I am confident such insolent remarks will someday end up
angering Cubans and awakening their civic pride, their dormant dignity
and their political awareness. If it happened to me, why can't it happen
to others?

Source: Cuba's All-So-Kind Economy Czar - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105029 Continue reading
China eyes investment boost in Cuba
Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:29AM GMT

China's President Xi Jinping has held talks with his Cuban counterpart
Raul Castro during a state visit to the Caribbean country in a bid to
discuss the expansion of Chinese investment in the country.

Castro greeted Xi with military honors on Tuesday at the Palace of the
Revolution, where the two leaders later held private talks.

The opening of the Cuban economy has created new opportunities to
tighten bilateral ties, said Xi, who arrived in Havana Monday night.

"Cuba is already fully promoting the updating of its economic model,
which means new and important development opportunities for
Chinese-Cuban ties," he added.

China is already the Caribbean island's second-largest trading partner
after Venezuela and its primary source of credit, filling the gap left
by the US embargo on Cuba and its long-time exclusion from institutions
such as the World Bank.

Nearly 50 Chinese entrepreneurs traveled to Havana along with Xi to
explore business opportunities, attracted by foreign investment
incentives and the planned Mariel free trade zone outside Havana.

Xi kicked off his tour last week in Brazil by pledging a new $20-billion
infrastructure fund for Latin America, highlighting the fast-growing
Asian giant's increasing interest in the resource-rich region.

The trip, Xi's second to Latin America since taking office last year,
has also taken the Chinese president to Argentina and Venezuela. He
offered cash-strapped Buenos Aires an $11-billion currency swap and
signed a raft of oil and mineral deals with Caracas.

Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years,
reaching $261.6 billion in 2013. China is now the second-largest trading
partner of many countries, including Argentina, and has been Brazil's
largest since 2009.

MFB/HJL

Source: PressTV - China eyes investment boost in Cuba -
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/07/23/372453/china-eyes-cuba-investment-boost/ Continue reading
Does Cuba Intend to Fight For Gay Rights?
BY EMMA MOORE
JULY 23, 2014 8:58 PM )

A pioneer in the region, Cuba has begun to add to its list of internal
advancements LGBTI rights; the 1990s saw the abolishment of many
oppressive laws and practices towards gays while the National Center for
Sex Education (CENESEX, Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual) was founded
to affect policy change and to provide sexual education programs. As
with just about anything occurring in Cuba, despite many progressive
accomplishments, many Cubans strongly disagree with the purported extent
of the changes and their use as propaganda by the Castro government
abroad. Dissidents, activists, and human rights organizations denounce
the government's scope of inclusion and depth of understanding.
Homosexuality is a topic that has faced a deluge of inconsistent
government attitudes and policies, illustrating incompleteness and
failure on the part of the government to include all Cubans within the
Revolution, illustrating incompleteness and failure on the part of the
government to include all Cubans within the Revolution.

Regardless of government attitudes, the LGBTI community in today's
Havana is thriving, and open enough to be visible. The Teatro Nacional
(National Theater, usually home to the ballet) hosts Proyecto Divino,
featuring live music, shows of strength, and male strippers until 6AM.
It acts as the government's official endorsement of a gay party while
keeping everything under one roof. On the other hand, certain privately
owned bars are known for their clientele and public locations around
Havana serve as informal meeting places such as a wooded area near the
baseball stadium on the outskirts of the city. Support for the community
tends toward obvious displays such as Proyecto Divino while excluding
other more critical items. Nightclubs and discotecas, like all major
venues, are government-owned in Cuba, and have therefore historically
not been amenable to homosexuals. Legislative reform has also not
assisted in the creation of safe and comfortable gathering spaces, and
the government regularly shuts down popular gay bars and organizations.

The Castro regime and Cuba as a whole has a long history of LGBTI
discrimination with which to contend. Cuba used to be one of the most
repressive socially and politically towards homosexuals. Communism did
not include gays, who had been supportive of Fidel's revolutionary
movement with hopes for societal change and abolishment of
pro-harassment laws. These laws were maintained under the principle that
gay men were not the Revolution's envisioning of Che Guevara's 'New Man'
and between 1965 and 1966 homosexuals were placed in UMAP labor camps
along with others considered unfit for military service and HIV patients
quarantined from 1986 until 1993.

Nowadays, gay rights tend to extend only as far as one operates within
the government. Cuba legalized state supported sex changes in 2006,
openly serving as gay in the military in 1993, and the right to change
one's legal gender on their government ID Officially, marriage in Cuba
is defined as being between a man and a woman. This is less important
than in the United States,, as marriage does not hold the same societal
values or financial rewards. CENESEX is currently working on legalizing
civil unions, the reluctance on the part of the governing body
illustrating to many Cubans the rifts between the political desires of
the Castro family and actual government policies. Despite policy
changes, however, advocacy and organizing attempts that test boundaries
beyond government-endorsed measures are met with anger and attacks by
the Castro family and government supporters.

Gay rights advocacy in Cuba, although effective, has similarly failed to
resolve some of the more probing issues within the Cuban LGBTI
community. CENESEX (Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual), founded by the
feminist Cuban Women's Federation, is the only legal channel for gay
rights activism in Cuba. It has proven vital in opening the public
debate on the topic, producing a series on television (the best way to
reach everyday Cubans) called the Dark Side of the Moon about a married
man who realized he was bisexual, supporting sexual diversity classes
among students, publishing the journal Sexology and Society, and
directing an educational association on human sexuality. Other chapters
such as the Cuban League Against AIDS and Divine Hope technically
function illegally. Functionally, this limits the degree of social
change that can occur and the support provided to the LGBTI community.
Similarly, many gay activists are also 'dissidents,' consistently
followed and observed by the government as with Isbel Díaz Torres or
beaten up (ostensibly by) the police as with Mario José Delgado.

As can be expected in Cuba, personal involvement by the Castro family in
promoting LGBTI rights account for some of the greater contributions —
and­ failures — of the Cuban government on the issue. In the 1990s,
Fidel took full responsibility for Cuba's homophobic policies in the
1960s, paving the way for some resolution of institutionalized
discrimination and harassment. In practice, though, the government often
appears disingenuous, paying lip service to the cause than actually
changing it.

Castro family involvement in gay rights has continued over the years,
with Mariela Castro, the government's representative for sexual health
and rights, at the epicenter of the debate. Mariela is the daughter of
current President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel and serves as the head
of CENESEX . She is both advocate and propaganda machine, although her
unwillingness to more extensively combat LGBTI issues has led to ample
criticism and backlash. Dissident Yoani Sánchez and activist Mario José
Delgado both target her personally in columns and tweets as culpable for
failing to follow through with HIV/AIDS support and more profound
structural changes that would truly assist the LGBTI community.

In Cuba, everyone is equal and everyone shares the same opportunities
and benefits— this is the continued rhetoric of the Cuban government
apparatus since its inception in 1959. Nevertheless, Cuba is not a
utopia, and despite attempts to achieve communist ideals it is largely
stuck when it comes to guaranteeing fair treatment of the LGBTI
community. Discrimination of any kind is difficult to correctly
identify, especially considering the effect of inconsistent, but
intense, government involvement. By and large, this means that LGBTI
rights are treated like a non-issue, halting further consciousness of
bias towards homosexuals. Well-meaning Castro involvement has only
fostered uncertainty, whereas real progress through renegotiation of
party policies remains indecipherable outside of official circles. If
true progress towards LGBTI equality is in the works, Havana's
bureaucrats have little intention of letting it show.

Source: Does Cuba Intend to Fight For Gay Rights? | Brown Political
Review -
http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2014/07/does-cuba-intend-to-fight-for-gay-rights/ Continue reading
The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo
Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian
Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to
collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom
of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as
well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed
by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most
visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002 the
European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by
and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the
situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the
Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia
University and the University of Miami.

Paya's death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he
was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede
Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government
explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and
many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An
independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has
been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities
have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked
activists who shared his democratic ideals, "What is the greatest legacy
of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?"

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European
Parliament's Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation,
beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and
the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela
Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People's Assembly on a
citizens' petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to
hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion
was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is
beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it
does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro's
totalitarian state.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, promoter of Constitutional Consensus

I see the legacy of Oswaldo Paya in his pioneering activity to
demonstrate that it was possible to generate civic trust towards
democratic change. Even he had many doubts that the public would respond
positively, would commit itself to a proposed change, especially at a
time like the 90s and early 2000s when it was even more difficult for
the civic movement. That's what he sowed, what he left as a legacy,
which demonstrated this as a future possibility for all pro-democracy
activists on the island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the digital magazine Convivencia

First we recall our brother Oswaldo Paya with much love and affection
and I would especially emphasize the future, in his legacy, the legacy
he has rendered to all Cubans and so I think of the three gifts he left
us. First, his posture, his civic attitude. He was a citizen who forged
this society and who knew how to awaken a consciousness to fight for
democracy in a peaceful way, and from there came his second
contribution. Oswaldo was a man who fought tirelessly throughout his
life with peaceful methods without being provoked or coming to violence.
Finally—I have to say it—as someone who is also a Christian: he was a
man who understood that religion could not be alienated or be divorced
from the reality in which he lived, and that was why he was deeply
committed as a Christian to work for democracy in Cuba.

Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre, Catholic priest

Oswaldo has left us a legacy full of sincerity and honesty; a love
sacrificed for his country and a genuine commitment to the gospel of
Jesus Christ, a gospel embodied in social life, in political life, in
the good of others, everything that has to do with society as such. His
was a radical commitment to the gospel, but at the same time, as it
should be, to every human being. In remembering him, we must pay tribute
to the man he was in every dimension, while we feel the pain of the
brother we lost and we ask God that there be many others like him, men
who can give their lives for others, in silence, in humility, in the
midst of the misunderstandings of men, but certainly with a total
commitment and a quality of life that today illuminates the existence of
those of us still here.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

There is no doubt that the late Oswaldo Payá left an everlasting
impression. We remember him as a determined and courageous Cuban who,
from an early date, assumed the method of nonviolent struggle with the
intention of bringing Cuba the rights and freedoms that we have lacked
for half a century. The work of the Christian Liberation Movement set a
tone in peaceful actions in favor of the fair, free, democratic and
prosperous Cuba that we all want, this was the side he was on.

The Varela Project, the citizen initiative launched by Oswaldo in which
so many of us became involved full-time, also set a tone in the actions
of the fighters for democracy. Initially, there were more than 11,000
people, in complex and difficult circumstances, circumstances that were
against those who collected signatures and against those who signed that
citizen petition. The fact that for the first time so many Cubans
defended a proposal, putting their names and identity data, supporting
the five points that made up the project, it was a real milestone.

Personally Oswaldo was a great friend with whom I shared both difficult
and happy moments. We are very mindful of that. The Cuba Democratic
Union (UNPACU) will render the homage he deserves on this second
anniversary of his tragic death.

***

Today, from 6:45 PM (Havana time) there will be the premiere of a
documentary about Oswaldo Paya of the Varela Hall of Ermita de la
Caridad in Miami, Florida. The video can also be viewed simultaneously
on www.vocesdecuba.com.

Source: The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-political-legacy-of-oswaldo-paya-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014

Tampa delegation sees ways to help during Cuba visit
As Darryl Rouson, center, recited "I've Been to the Mountaintop," Cubans
walking by stopped to listen, forming a crowd around him. VICTOR DIMAIO
By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: July 22, 2014 | Updated: July 23, 2014 at 12:31 AM

TAMPA — A delegation that traveled to Cuba last week signed up in the
belief they would be part of history — the Charlie Crist excursion,
featuring the Florida gubernatorial candidate who denounced the Cuban
embargo.

But Crist, the St. Petersburg Democrat, pulled out, saying he didn't
have time before the Nov. 4 election.

So instead, Tampa City Councilwoman Yvonne Capin led the 43-member group
— elected officials, arts and civic leaders and business people.

And while the July 16-20 trip didn't draw the attention Crist would
have, the travelers returned home confident they still made a
difference, sowing seeds for return trips to bring positive change.

Two examples: Restoring a crumbling monument in Havana that honors U.S.
civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and guiding the Cuban
government on ways to make the nation more accessible to the disabled.
Among those who hope to return are state Rep. Darryl Rouson, the St.
Petersburg Democrat and a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar, and Tampa's
Arizona Jenkins, member of a committee that provides advice on
disability issues to Hillsborough Area Regional Transit.

❖ ❖ ❖

Albert A. Fox Jr., founder of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible
Cuba Policy Foundation, organized the trip and said he is already in
discussions with the Cuban government to set up meetings for both
causes. ❖  ❖ ❖

The Martin Luther King Jr. monument is in the Havana section called Vedado.

It consists of two marble and granite walls — one with an engraved photo
of King, his dates of birth and death, and behind it a longer wall
resembling the Vietnam Memorial with excerpts from King's "I Have A
Dream Speech" in English and Spanish.

The monument was erected in the 1980s, Fox said. As many as half the
raised bronze letters have disappeared over the years.

"Dr. King's legacy deserves better," Fox said.

Vedado is best known as the location of the U.S. Interests Section, like
an embassy except the two nations have no formal diplomatic relations.
Vedado is also home to monuments honoring Abraham Lincoln, musician John
Lennon, civil rights activist Malcolm X and the USS Maine — the
battleship whose mysterious explosion in Havana harbor touched of the
Spanish-American War in 1898.

Some believe Cuba honors U.S. civil rights heroes as a publicity stunt.
Others say the government has a true affinity for those who fought for
equality.

Rouson's motive is not political, he said, but rooted in his desire to
spread King's philosophy.

"We should want it to be in perfect condition so his message can clearly
reach," Rouson said. "The words of Dr. King can inspire men and women
everywhere. This is about honoring a man who was against violence and
for equal rights not just in America but all over the world."

Fox said it is too early to consider a specific plan or costs.

"Let's talk with the Cuban government and our delegation and see what we
can come up with," he said.

❖ ❖ ❖

Jenkins found his purpose for making the Cuba change while he was there,
once he found that accommodations for people with disabilities are even
poorer than he expected.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana, with ramps and specially built rooms,
was one exception.

First, he had to leave behind his motorized wheelchair because of
restrictions on the size of batteries allowed on board the aircraft in
which he flew.

The delegation was able to find him a manual push chair in Cuba. He does
not have full use of his hands.

"It was the best they could get," he said.

And he learned that in all of Havana, only three vans have a mechanized
lift for a chair — none of them available during his trip.

Jenkins had to be pushed everywhere he went and lifted by hand into vans.

"It created awareness for all of us," said Frank Reno of Cuba Executive
Travel, who licensed and accompanied the delegation on its trip.

Reno has been to Cuba over 80 times and never realized how inaccessible
it is.

"But perhaps Arizona can now lend his guidance to Cuba in this arena,"
he said.

"It's an educational process," Jenkins said. "I want to let them know
what they need to do and which step they need to do next. They don't
have to spend as much money as they may think. They just need to spend
it right."

❖ ❖ ❖

Fox has had success brokering such meetings in the past, initiating
meetings in 2010 that led to an agreement this year between Cuba and the
U.S. to work together in the event of an oil spill in Caribbean waters.

Fox' connection to Martin Luther King Jr. dates to his days working for
then-Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield. When King visited the
Senate, Fox showed him around. Later, as a lobbyist, he served as
chairman for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Prayer
Breakfast.

He has been interested in repairing the Havana monument and invited
Rouson because he's a King scholar.

"I know few people who have studied Dr. King more than he has," Fox said.

Rouson proved his knowledge on his first visit to the memorial July 19.

As Rouson talked to a dozen members of the delegation about restoration,
he began reciting King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.

"He knew every word of it," Fox said. "And Cubans walking by stopped to
listen. By the time he was done, a crowd had formed around him. It gave
me goose bumps. His delivery was perfect."

The next day, the entire delegation visited the monument and Rouson
delivered the speech again.

"I was mesmerized," Councilwoman Capin said. "And so was everyone else
who walked by."

❖ ❖ ❖

What Rouson remembers about the visit twas Jenkins' words.

"He told me he has been fighting for equal rights for the disabled for
years," Rouson said. "He said we have come so far in our country but
then he saw how far behind Cuba is and said he wanted to do something to
help them too."

Jenkins said Cuba has good intentions but lacks the resources and
knowhow to accommodate the disabled.

He said Cuban citizens helped him whenever he needed it. But he also
noticed few disabled people in the streets..

The delegation traveled under a "people to people" cultural and
educational license. The group met with Cuba's minister of oil, the
Cuban Chamber of Commerce, and leaders of Cuban cultural and arts
organizations.

Other members of the delegation included former secretary of the U.S.
Senate Walter Stewart, CFO of the Alabama based producer of construction
aggregates Vulcan Materials Daniel Sansone; Tampa restaurant owner Scott
Courtney; and David Cox, founder of the Gasparilla Music Festival.

Mario Nunez, host of the cable access show Tampa Natives, joined the
delegation to support Crist and admitted he was disappointed at the
candidate's cancellation.

Still, he said, he's glad he went.

"It was wonderful," he said. "Who knows, if they do what they want to do
maybe this trip will be historic anyway.

pguzzo@tampatrib.com

Source: Tampa delegation sees ways to help during Cuba visit | TBO.com,
The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times -
http://tbo.com/news/politics/cuba-trip-crist-skipped-may-bear-fruit-in-other-ways-20140722/ Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 07.22.14

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader
Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, announced Tuesday that the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign
to demand a plebiscite on the island's future.

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father's Varela
Project, would include "one single question: Do you want to participate
in free and multi-party elections?"

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition
seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of
expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other
measures.

The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in
2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela
Project remains alive, "it is not necessary to collect more signatures.
More than double the number required already have been handed in, even
though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

"But the Varela Project is a citizens' effort. Our intention with this
(new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights," she
added. "There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there's a
recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of
association to carry out the change we want."

The activist added that her family, which now lives in South Florida, is
also preparing a new request to the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, for an
independent investigation of her father's controversial death.

According to the official version of the Cuban government, Payá and MCL
activist Harold Cepero died when the driver of their vehicle, Angel
Carromero, lost control near the eastern city of Bayamo and crashed into
a tree on July 22, 2012.

Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain's Popular Party, was
tried in Cuba and sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular
homicide and is now serving his sentence in Spain, free but under
probation. The other passenger in the car, Jens Aaron Modig, a member of
the youth wing of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, was allowed to
leave Cuba shortly after the crash.

The Payá family and Carromero have repeatedly insisted that the car
carrying the two Cubans and two Europeans was rammed from behind and
forced off the road by another vehicle that had been following them.

Source: Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba - Cuba -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/22/4249586/paya-family-launches-new-effort.html Continue reading
How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each
Sunday?

As a result of the Ladies in White movement continuing to be a target of
Cuban state authorities, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to
bring greater public attention to two cases of Ladies in White members
who have been forced to contend with constant repression over the last
two years.

Keila Ramos Suarez is 28 years old. She has been detained and assaulted
15 times between March 2013 and April 2014.

Due to the fact that her family doesn't agree with the political
opinions she holds, she has been repressed to an even greater extent.
She has been thrown out of her house and left to live on the street.
Furthermore, her son has been taken away from her by state authorities
on account of her dissident activities. She has regularly been arrested
before the weekly Ladies in White marches held on Sundays or been given
orders that prevent her from participating in the Mass.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas is 48 years old. She has been detained and
assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.

The state police organized a so called search of her house during which
all of her belongings were destroyed; she was assaulted, and subjected
to acts of repudiation and intimidation. She has been under constant
surveillance, including having a police patrol car permanently parked in
front of her house. She has been prevented from participating in the
Ladies in White marches almost every Sunday during this time span. The
police usually arrest her either just outside of her residence or in
front of the local church. We would like to stress the gravity of the
fact that she happened to be assaulted directly by the priest as well.
Her situation has been made all the more difficult due to her daughter's
health problems for which she hasn't been receiving any help.

The scripts and tactics the authorities use are almost always the same:

One of them is to detain members of the Ladies in White before the
Sunday Mass, so that they cannot participate in their weekly protest by
taking part in their common walk to the church. They are brought to the
local police station for several hours where they are placed under
constant psychological and physical distress: the police agents have
been beating, humiliating and threatening to jail them for years, while
also openly threatening to harm their families if they don't stop their
dissident activities. The Ladies in White protest every Sunday dressed
in white, as a symbol of peace, in order to demand freedom for the their
relatives who are jailed dissidents, as well as on behalf of all other
political prisoners.

The other tactic is to organize public acts of repudiation against them
in order to cause them distress, while also intimidating and frightening
them. Usually small groups of people are brought to the dissidents'
residence who then shout insults at them, throw stones at their houses
and threaten them.

Why have these brave women kept on fighting their battle despite the
pressure they find themselves under? Their answer is simple and clear:
they want change and freedom for their loved ones and the people of Cuba.

The NGO People in Need condemns the repression that the Cuban
authorities have directed towards Keila and Maria Teresa, as well as
towards all the Ladies in White, and ask for them to comply with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a signatory.

The regular weekly march was harshly repressed in Havana, as well as in
the provinces, following the announcement of celebrations in memory of
the victims of "13th of March" Tugboat that was sunk in 1994. A total of
89 Ladies in White, among which the leader of the movement, Berta Soler,
and 9 men who participated in the march were arrested.

The Ladies in White Movement was initiated in the aftermath of the Black
Spring in 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried
and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and
independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The
initiator was Laura Pollan, the wife of one of the jailed activists,
Hector Maseda. Each member of the march carries a picture of her jailed
relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Sincerely,

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba

People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Facebook.com/peopleCuba | @PeopleCuba
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org Continue reading
The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Fernando Damáso, Havana, 21 July 2014 – It is no secret that
the editorial policy of a newspaper responds to the interests of its
owners. In countries where freedom of the press exists and is respected,
newspapers abound, reflecting many different interests. In countries
where freedom of the press is clearly absent, one, two or three
newspapers are sufficient, more than enough to cover the form, because
they all say the same thing and defend the same principles.

The case of Cuba is a good "bad example"; Granma, Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth), and Trabajadores (Workers), each in its area of
influence, serve a single objective: to defend at all cost the
established political economic system.

In Republican-era Cuba, with a population half as large as today, there
were 14 national newspapers: Diario de la Marina, El Mundo, Información,
El País, Excelsior, Prensa Libre, Mañana, Alerta, El Crisol, Ataja,
Tiempo en Cuba, La Calle, Diario Nacional and Noticias de Hoy. There
were also two newspapers in English and three in Chinese, as well as
newspapers in each one of the six provinces.

Some came out in the morning and others in the afternoon. Some included
comic strips and were printed in color with photographs, and some had
weekend supplements. In their Sunday additions the newspapers multiplied
the number of pages and had a great number of advertisements. They sold
for five cents during the week and 10 cents on Sunday.

This variety of daily papers covered the entire Cuban social spectrum,
from the most conservative positions represented by Diario de la Marina,
to the most radical represented by Noticias de Hoy, the newspaper of the
communist. Between one or another there appeared the whole gamut of
political, economic and social concepts. Some prioritized political
news, and others events. All of them dedicated space to culture and
sports, where qualified journalists had regular columns.

In their Sunday editions Diario de la Marina, El Mundo and Información
devoted ample space to literature, visual arts, theater, music, film,
science, among other topics, with articles written by prestigious
intellectuals who were not forced to toe the editorial line.

Leafing through old copies, articles appear from important personalities
and journalists such as Enrique José Varona, Juan Gualberto Gómez, Rubén
Martínez Villena, Raúl Roa, Carlos Márquez Sterling, Sergio Carbó, Jorge
Mañach, Anita Arroyo, Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Gastón Baquero,
Felipe Pazos, Mirta Aguirre, Eladio Secades, Edith García Buchaca, Alejo
Carpentier, Agustín Tamargo, Enrique de la Osa and many others who make
up the endless list and demonstrate the multiplicity of views.

Every citizen could freely choose the one most corresponding to their
own, without dogmatic impositions of any kind.

There were dailies that exploited sensationalism and yellow journalism
to sell their copies quickly, and those that offered more serious news
in a measured way, which were most of them. Newspapers were hawked on
the streets by vendors, using as promotional hook the main news on the
front page, always leaving up in the air a question that forced you to
buy it, if you wanted to know everything.

Some famous hooks, often repeated, were: See how they caught him! He
struck her and fled! He stole and jumped from the second floor! Get the
scandal! Here is all the evidence! The cyclone is coming tomorrow! and
others.

The main points of sale were the bus stops, where they were offered to
the passengers through the windows in quick sales transactions. In
addition, there was home delivery by subscription or, more leisurely, by
distributors that roamed the neighborhoods. They were characterized by
punctuality, thus ensuring that the papers arrived daily before
breakfast or before dinner, depending on whether it was a morning or
evening edition.

After 1959, the Republican-era press had a sad ending, first with the
invention by the government of "tag lines"—short texts, supposedly
written by "revolutionary" workers, were added at the ends of articles
and reports to reject the opinions expressed—and finally, with the
intervention and closure of the newspapers.

The Republican-era Cuban press was dismissed during the last half
century by the spokespeople of the ruling party, forgetting that it
provided an important service in the defense of citizens' interests and
in critiquing the different governments in every era, a source of pride
and an example to imitate in these times, where free opinions are only
possible in the few independent newspapers that exist against all odds,
persecuted and suppressed by the authorities, and whose circulation is
hindered.

Source: The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-battered-press-14ymedio-fernando-damaso/ Continue reading
Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
investigation.
By Editorial Board July 21 at 6:40 PM

TWO YEARS ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road
in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba's
best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic
referendum on the nation's future. Mr. Payá's voice was not the loudest
against the Castro dictatorship, but it was one of the most committed
and determined. On the day of the car crash, he had been trying for more
than a decade to bring about a peaceful revolution, one that would
empower Cubans to decide their own fate and end the half-century of
misrule by Fidel and Raúl Castro.

Mr. Payá endured harassment and intimidation for his efforts. Many of
his friends and allies were jailed. He received threats by phone and
other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the
crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero,
across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation
Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel
Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country's ruling party,
and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle
bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and
the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed.
Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a
rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero's
videotaped "confession," broadcast on television, was forced upon him;
he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers.
He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and
later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the
deaths. Cuba has brushed aside all demands for an international probe
that would reveal the truth. Mr. Payá held dual Cuban and Spanish
citizenship, but Spain has been shamefully uninterested in getting to
the bottom of the story. The truth matters — to show the Castro brothers
that they cannot snuff out a voice of freedom with such absolute impunity.

On May 14, Pope Francis received Mr. Payá's family at his private
residence. We don't know what the pope said, but Mr. Payá's daughter,
Rosa Maria, delivered a letter carrying an impassioned appeal for the
cause of democracy and human dignity in Cuba. Hopefully, the pope will
keep listening to the voices demanding change in Cuba and speak out for
democracy and freedom there. The values that Mr. Payá fought for in Cuba
must not be forgotten. Other dissidents are still struggling, despite
crackdowns, beatings, jailings and persecution, and they must not be
forsaken.

Source: Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
investigation. - The Washington Post -
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/oswaldo-payas-death-in-cuba-two-years-ago-still-awaits-a-proper-investigation/2014/07/21/b0ac9612-0bb8-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html Continue reading
Everything We Know About The Huge Spy Base In Cuba That Russia Is Reopening
COREY ADWAR AND MICHAEL B KELLEY
JUL. 21, 2014, 6:00 PM 6,857 24

Moscow and Havana have agreed to reopen a Cold War-era signals
intelligence (SIGINT) base in Lourdes, Cuba.
An agreement was reached during Putin's visit to Cuba last week to
reopen the base, Russia business daily Kommersant reported last week.
That was confirmed by a Russian security source who told Reuters: "A
framework agreement has been agreed."

The base was set up in 1964 after the Cuban missile crisis had brought
the U.S. and Soviet Union close to confrontation over Moscow's proposal
to place nuclear weapons on Cuban soil.

Havana shut it down in 2001 because of financial issues and American
pressure.

Located south of Cuba's capital Havana and just 150 miles from the U.S.
coast, the base left many parts of the U.S. vulnerable to Soviet
communication intercepts, including exchanges between Florida space
centers and U.S. spacecraft.

Here's what a Congressional report from 2000 said about the facility:

• The Secretary of Defense formally expressed concerns to Congress
regarding the espionage complex at Lourdes, Cuba, and its use as a base
for intelligence directed against the United States.

• The Secretary of Defense, referring to a 1998 Defense Intelligence
Agency assessment, reported that the Russian Federation leased the
Lourdes facility for an estimated $100 million to $300 million a year.

• It has been reported that the Lourdes facility was the largest such
complex operated by the Russian Federation and its intelligence service
outside the region of the former Soviet Union.

• The Lourdes facility was reported to cover a 28 square-mile area with
over 1,500 Russian engineers, technicians, and military personnel
working at the base.

• Experts familiar with the Lourdes facility have reportedly confirmed
that the base had multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own
satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls,
faxes, and computer communications, in general, and with other groups
used to cover targeted telephones and devices.

• News sources have reported that the Lourdes facility obtained
sensitive information about United States military operations during
Operation Desert Storm.

• Academic studies cite official U.S. sources affirming that the Lourdes
facility was used to collect personal information about United States
citizens in the private and government sectors, and offered the means to
engage in cyberwarfare against the U.S.

• The operational significance of the Lourdes facility reportedly grew
dramatically after Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a 1996 order
demanding the Russian intelligence community increase its gathering of
U.S. and other Western economic and trade secrets.

• It has been reported that the Government of the Russian Federation is
estimated to have spent in excess of $3 billion in the operation and
modernization of the Lourdes facility.

• Former U.S. Government officials were quoted confirming reports about
the Russian Federation's expansion and upgrade of the Lourdes facility.

• It was reported in December 1999 that a high-ranking Russian military
delegation headed by Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel-General
Valentin Korabelnikov visited Cuba to discuss the continuing Russian
operation of the Lourdes facility.

Defense experts agree the base could significantly boost Russia's
ability to spy on America during a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.

Ivan Konovalov, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Trends
Studies, estimated that the Lourdes base was used to acquire at least
50% of the Soviet Union's radio-intercepted intelligence from the U.S.,
according to Reuters.

Reopening the Lourdes base could boost Russia's intelligence-gathering
capabilities "quite significantly" as U.S.-Russia relations remain
strained. "One needs to remember that Russia's technical intelligence
abilities are very weak. This will help," Konovalov told Reuters.

If reopened, the base will demonstrate Russia's interest in maintaining
its own alliances to counter those of the U.S.

"After what's happened in Ukraine, with all these alliances the United
States has developed, Russia is showing it's joining the game and that
it too can lean on allies and form alliances," Sergey Ermakov, head of
the Regional Security Section at the Russian Institute for Strategic
Studies, told Reuters.

Source: The Spy Base Russia May Reopen In Lourdes, Cuba - Business
Insider -
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-spy-base-russia-may-reopen-in-lourdes-cuba-2014-7 Continue reading
Monday, July 21, 2014

Russia Rejoins Cuba's Espionage Apparatchik in the Americas
By Jerry Brewer

In order to effectively monitor aggression, hostile intelligence acts,
interference, and other forms of insurgency within their homelands,
democracies throughout the Americas must immediately address their
governments' counterintelligence missions against those rogue and
dictatorial style regimes that pose obvious threats.

Russia's recent decision to reopen its electronic spying center in Cuba
is once again an obvious act that aggressively demonstrates support for
the Cuban Castro regime, and a shared dispute versus the United States.

The Lourdes base closed 13 years ago, having been built in 1962. The
closing was reportedly due to the economic crisis in Russia, along with
repeated requests from the United States.

Lourdes served as a signals' intelligence (SIGINT) facility, among other
applications, located just 100 miles from the United States at Key West,
Florida. During what has been described as the Cold War, the Lourdes
facility was believed to be staffed "by over 1,500 KGB, GRU, Cuban DGI,
and Eastern Bloc technicians, engineers and intelligence operatives."

In 2000, it was reported that China signed an agreement with the Cuban
government to share use of the facility for its own intelligence agency.

Despite pro-Cuba chants for economic aid and the lifting of the 50 year
old Cuban Embargo, placed via President John F. Kennedy's Proclamation
3447, there appears to be no shortage of funding by Cuba for that
nation's energetic spy apparatchik.

The original U.S. manifesto regarding Cuba, in 1962, expressed the
necessity for the embargo until such time that Cuba would demonstrate
respect for human rights and liberty. And today, there certainly cannot
be much of an argument that the continuing Castro regime has ever
complied with any aspect of that mandate. In fact, Castro's revolution
has arrogantly continued to force horrific sacrifices on Cubans in their
homeland, as well as suffering by those that fled the murderous regime
over the decades and left families behind.

Neither of the Castro brothers has ever, even remotely, disguised their
venomous hatred for the U.S., democracy, or the U.S. way of life – even
prior to the embargo. Their anti-U.S. rhetoric continues, along with
Russia and Venezuela, and they continue to extol radical leftist and
communist governments throughout the world.

The Russian parliament recently pardoned 90% of Cuba's US$38.5 billion
debt dating back to the now defunct Soviet Union.

Last week a senior Russian official, explaining the revived interest of
Moscow to monitor communications from Washington, said, "Our relations
(with the U.S.) deteriorated considerably well before the crisis in the
Ukraine. In reality, they never really improved, except for some
specific periods which have been the exception to the rule."

The U.S. and others, especially in Latin America, must not underestimate
Cuba's vast intelligence and espionage services. Their security and
intelligence networks are on a scale perceived to be "many times larger
than that of the United States." And even with Cuba's poverty, depressed
economic situation and weak prognosis for future windfalls, their
clandestine operational acts continue and extend throughout the Americas
and the world.

The Cuban espionage budget is not generally known outside of most major
competent intelligence services globally. However, much of their modus
operandi is – essentially that of the DI (Dirección de Inteligencia),
which never had to be reinvented. That is other than changing the
moniker, from the former DGI (Dirección General de Inteligencia), with
its original training by the former Soviet KGB.

Cuba maintains one of its largest intelligence networks in Venezuela,
and in Mexico, as does Russia. The late President Hugo Chavez of
Venezuela preferred direct access to Cuba's security service, as
indicated by cables unscrupulously released and sent from the U.S.
Embassy in Caracas to the State Department. This cozy relationship,
between Cuba and Venezuela, reeked of massive funding hidden by obscure
secret decrees and continues to this very day.

Cuba's intelligence network has long been focused on the U.S. as its
primary adversary. As the U.S. is perceived to be the number one threat
to the Castro and leftist regimes in Latin America, intelligence
acquisition is a high priority to the dictatorial-like leftist regimes
throughout the hemisphere.

In addition, the U.S. DEA has shown direct and growing criminal drug
ties between Colombia's FARC guerrillas and Hezbollah. Testimony in
February of this year revealed that "FARC is a central part of the
revolutionary project of bringing together armed groups and terrorist
organizations under the umbrella of the (Venezuelan) Bolivarian
Revolution." Plus there are known and reported links between the late
Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, Ecuador's President
Rafael Correa, and current President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El
Salvador, all of whom are apparently "giving significant logistical,
financial, and political support to the FARC, allowing FARC to expand
its international networks and increase its resources."

El Salvador's Sanchez Ceren may have telegraphed his mindset last May,
just prior to being sworn in as president on June 1, when he met with
Cuban President Raul Castro and two of Cuba's spies who were previously
convicted in the United States on conspiracy and espionage charges.

The real objective of Cuban espionage in the United States is to
penetrate and influence the various spheres of government, the military,
academia, the media and social organizations. The cases of Ana Belen
Montes, the Cuban spy at the Pentagon, and the couple, Kendall and
Gwendolyn Myers, who for 30 years gave State Department secrets to
Havana, prove the determination of the regime to damage U.S. national
security. And it appears that Russia is anxious to help.

——————————
Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a
global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His
website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

Source: Russia Rejoins Cuba's Espionage Apparatchik in the Americas -
http://www.mexidata.info/id3933.html Continue reading
The Wasted Bolivian Summit and the Words of Raul Castro / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on July 20, 2014

With much of the world caught up in the unharmonious rivalry of
football's World Cup, which ended last Sunday in Brazil, few people were
paying attention to the conclusion of the funereal G77+China summit.

It was attended by a couple of serious figures, a group of spermatzoon
zombies and a broad spectrum of political antiques who, given their
actions, did not seem to be living in an era in which theoretical
debates, respect for inequality and discord dominate.

This event — a theatrical fantasy based on an esoteric work of fiction —
ended on June 15 in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was yet another
portrayal of lunacy, one in which uncreative delegates gave insipid
speeches full of florid mumbo-jumbo.

They amounted to monologues that sounded good but convinced no one. Ban
Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General himself, spoke of human rights before
a cynical troupe of representatives from countries – Zimbabwe, Syria,
Equatorial Guinea, Cuba and Venezuela – accused of violating them. And
the there was China, which arrived at the summit without bothering to
conceal its true intentions: commercial expansion and strategic
positioning in the Americas.

I suggest that analysts start paying attention to this particular issue
and stop ignoring Asia's current imperial-minded superpower, which has
invested more than one-hundred million dollars in the region over the
last eight years.

There were pleasant but disturbing words from the gruff, obstinate and
colorful Evo Morales, president of the summit and of Bolivia — the
poorest and most backward country in the South America — whose speeches
were sprinkled with his customary and dangerously foolhardy statements.
Instead of requesting more support for his nation, he proposed the
elimination of the UN Security Council as a means of creating a "new
world order."

A dictatorial government must appear above reproach and project an
exemplary image, at least according to books that try to explain how
power and social harmony in totalitarian systems are achieved
principally through fear. But it can intimidate the lackluster,
incoherent, arrogant and rigid.

General Raul Castro, with marked but unconvincing overacting and macho
bravado, eschewed the customary meddling policies of Cuba's
revolutionary government. Projecting instead a posture of economic
prowess and crocodile charisma, he publicly and shamelessly denounced
what he called "illegal, covert and subversive actions, used to
destabilize countries." The Cuban president added, "At the present time
state sovereignty is being transgressed and principles of international
law are being blatantly violated."

Has the General/President been drinking again or does he think that
saying one thing while doing another is not lying but rather just a way
to maintain a tradition that has been passed down?

In short, the sea.* I don't know if it was luck or misfortune but,
because attention was focused on goals, news of a summit attended by
presidents, heads-of-state and over 100 representatives from various
countries was not reported until the end of some newscasts. It is
evidence that we live at a crucial time marked by a complete leadership
vacuum. Worrisome.

*Translator's note: "en fin, el mar." Final line of a stanza from the
well-known poem "Tengo" ("I Have") by 20th century Cuban poet Nicolas
Guillen.

16 June 2014

Source: The Wasted Bolivian Summit and the Words of Raul Castro / Juan
Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-wasted-bolivian-summit-and-the-words-of-raul-castro-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
"I do not know if it makes much sense to try to legalize the
Hispano-Cuban Foundation on the Island" / 14ymedio, Marta Beatriz Roque
Posted on July 19, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 18 July 2013 — The Cuban economist Martha Beatriz
Roque has just been named president of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation
(FHC). The institution has tried to "promote the presence and relevance
of the FHC in the island." 14ymedio was able to speak with the prominent
dissident to get her impressions about the new appointment and her
immediate plans.

QUESTION: How do you feel to have been chosen for this position?

ANSWER: It is a tremendous responsibility, because when the board
members of the FHC decided to choose me for this position they based it
on some expectations that I must now meet. A challenge of this nature,
one always takes it as a challenge, with a bit of fear too, because I
know it will not be easy.

Q. What are the first steps that you will take starting now?

A. First I must organize the Cuban side. The patronage in Madrid is very
well defined, but here there are some steps that need to be taken in
that regard. The first is to legalize the situation at the Embassy of
Spain in Cuba and then there will be many other steps and concrete
actions. But contrary to how Raul Castro thinks things must be done in
Cuba, when he advised doing everything slowly and gradually, we will try
to make our plans a reality as quickly and swiftly as possible.

Q. Do you intend to try to legally register this entity in the Register
of Associations of Cuba?

A. In Spain this foundation is legalized, it is based in Madrid and is
well known in the European Union. Legalize it in Cuba? …? I don't know
if it makes much sense even to try.

Q. Will you continue as usual with his work as head of the Community
Communicators Network and the Institute of Independent Economists?

A. Yes, of course, one has nothing to do with the others. All tasks that
come starting now with this new responsibility will be in addition to
what we do every day. I hope I have the time and energy.

Source: "I do not know if it makes much sense to try to legalize the
Hispano-Cuban Foundation on the Island" / 14ymedio, Marta Beatriz Roque
| Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/35717/ Continue reading
Church receives $7,000 to bring water filtration systems to Cuba
Monday, July 21, 2014

EXETER — A local church has received $7,000 to help provide water
filtration systems to Cubans.

The money, which has been given to Christ Church on Pine Street, comes
from The Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire's Millennium Development
Goals Grant Fund.

Christ Church will partner with The Episcopal Diocese of Cuba.

"One of the greatest needs in Cuba after decades of economical isolation
and government mismanagement is clean drinking water," said Mark
Pendleton, rector at Christ Church. "The public water and sewage system
has broken down after decades of disrepair."

Pendleton led a pilgrimage to Cuba in January in which the Exeter group
saw several water filtration systems donated by other American churches.
The best water systems, said the church, were "ultraviolet water
systems." Those require less maintenance than other types.

"These systems serve as important outreach for the wider community and
gave the church a vehicle to reach out and begin a faith conversation,"
said Pendleton.

In addition to working on water systems, the Exeter group toured local
churches and the cathedral in Havana, and spent the week making
meaningful connections with Cuban Episcopalians.

Due to the U.S. trade embargo, all materials for the system have to be
transported in checked luggage by travelers. Items cannot be shipped.

A trip to Cuba is planned for March 2015 by the Episcopal Seacoast
Convocation and will be open to others throughout the diocese.

Pendleton said that journey is about more than water. The water systems
are a vehicle to begin a faith conversation, he said.

Source: Church receives $7,000 to bring water filtration systems to Cuba
- Fosters -
http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140721/GJNEWS_01/140729940 Continue reading
Havana's Siberia
July 19, 2014
Martin Guevara

HAVANA TIMES — They gave us the keys to our new apartment in Alamar. The
year was 1987. Even though the property title was the same as that of
the other apartment in that sprawling neighborhood, even though it was
located in a five-story tenement (without elevator) like the other
place, the area it was in was significantly different to Zone 6, where
we had lived until that point.

Some fifty thousand people ended up living in that part of the
neighborhood, which had no stores, no tobacco or food stands, not even a
facility where one could get drinking water at. The bus didn't make it
that far either, it merely skirted that immense sub-neighborhood of
Alamar, where power cuts broke records, heaven knows why.

My building was located near the entrance. Luckily, there was a
cafeteria next to it, where they had ice-cream from time to time and,
more often than not, a very cold syrupy substance that was a blessing to
anyone who got off the bus, particularly those people who still had a
long walk to their homes ahead of them. Behind the counter, the clerks
had practically the entire day to chat about the crammed buses and men
who rubbed up against them as there were practically no customers and
the ice-cream ran out very quickly.

Though we were close to the entrance to the neighborhood, there were
mosquitos there one would have thought had been domesticated and trained
in Cuba's territorial troop militias, were it not for the fact that, in
their excessive aggressiveness, they made no distinction between locals
and outsiders.

The people from the neighborhood, as witty as Cubans tend to be,
baptized that strip of Alamar that began at my building and spread
beyond the horrible unknown (bordering with Bucaranao beach, through the
coast and beyond), "Siberia."

Che Guevara had been killed in Bolivia [1967] before Alamar began to be
built in Cuba, but he had coined the term "New Man" before then. He had
pictured a new generation that would follow the triumph of the
revolution, one educated in a society that offered moral (not material)
incentives, a fair society that had uprooted capitalist, individualist
and egotistical values, and that this society would give rise to new
values that mankind would make its own in the span of a single generation.

He thought that the genetic memory of the animal ferocity within human
beings, awakened when it is a question of taking food from others, would
be eradicated in a single generation, two at the most. A concerted
ideological effort, a cleansing of old vices – "capitalist vices", as
they said – through education, would of course be needed for that.

This New Man, molded from the clay of the new generations, would become
the envy of all the world's peoples, governed by the impulse to pillage
they were educated with. The new generations, raised in a world of
solidarity, proletarian internationalism and the moral incentive to
become better workers, would also be characterized by an iron-hard
revolutionary discipline and would conceive of punishment for any
ideological deviation as just – they would, in short, be guided by an
exemplary order, morale and conduct.

One could hold Che Guevara accountable for that, but not for the
aesthetic and functional abomination that Alamar and its "Siberia" are.
I am positive Guevara, not even in his most severe and perverse ideas
about the creation of a new aesthetic devoid of superfluous elements and
useless decorations, ever pictured such a perfect atrocity.

I felt that my uncle, Che Guevara, from wherever he was, was saying
something to me along the lines of:

"Martin, we did this with good intentions. It wasn't merely a
pipe-dream, but part of a mechanism that would take us to a society that
could one day replace capitalism and rid us of the exploitation of man
by man, not through violent revolution, but by drawing men and women
around the world with a model more seductive that the one based on
individual success, another example of parallel traction. But you, my
nephew, son of my eternally confused and well-tempered brother, Patatin,
don't give in or become anyone's servant, much less of my plans and
mistakes. These are not your projects, and if they should be so for your
father, remain free whatever way you can, through confusion, anger or
cowardice, clear-headed or disturbed, keep a distance from the garbage
that what I did or tried to do has become. Fight against it if you want,
and if you don't feel like fighting, don't do it, but don't yield, don't
let them convert you, don't give up, boy, that there are fewer and fewer
of our kind around."

Ultimately, why would anyone willingly mistreat oneself?

Source: Havana's Siberia - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104991 Continue reading
Posted on Saturday, 07.19.14

Russie-Cuba love affair on again
Trade, politics, culture and history are leading to warmer relations
between the Cold War allies.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Like lovers who quarrel and then kiss and make up, Cuba and Russia are
falling into each other's embrace again, bringing back memories of their
more than 30 years as the warmest of Cold War allies.

The renewed love affair was in full display when Russian President
Vladimir Putin met with both Fidel and Raúl Castro and signed a dozen
agreements during a visit to Havana that launched his six-day swing
through Latin America.

"This is not surprising. Cuba and Russia were allies for many years and
remain the most natural of allies, much more so than China," said
Alcibiades Hidalgo, a Miami journalist who served as chief of staff for
Raúl Castro, Cuba's current ruler.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika marked the breaking point
in the Cold War alliance, when the communist empire collapsed and Moscow
cut subsidies to Havana estimated at $4 billion to $6 billion a year.
Cuba plunged into recession and an angry Fidel Castro denounced
Gorbachev as a traitor to socialism.

Putin, then in his first term as president of Russia, made things worse
in 2000 when he visited Havana to press Cuba to repay its $32 billion
Soviet-era debt and announce that he would close the Lourdes electronic
eavesdropping base near Havana. Fidel Castro refused to pay. Lourdes was
slowly shuttered in 2001 and 2002.

Bilateral relations began warming after Raúl Castro, described by
Hidalgo as an admirer of all things Russian, succeeded brother in 2006
and visited Russia in 2009 and again in 2012.

But the rekindled embrace blossomed during Putin's visit this month to
the lone communist-ruled nation in the Western Hemisphere, when he
signed a dozen agreements that fell neatly in line with Cuba's interest
in new credits, trade and investments.

Russia wrote off all but $3.2 billion of the debt and announced a $1.6
billion credit for construction of four power plants. The oil companies
Rosneft and Zarubezhneft promised to resume the exploration for crude in
the deep waters off Cuba's northwestern coast. There were even reports —
and denials — that Russia also had agreed to reopen the Lourdes base and
resume eavesdropping on U.S. communications.

"We will provide support to our Cuban friends to overcome the illegal
blockade," Putin declared in Havana, referring to the U.S. embargo. Raúl
Castro replied that the debt write-off showed "the palpable generosity
of the Russian people toward Cuba" and added that the Castro revolution
would not have survived without Soviet aid.

Beyond the economic and political factors, however, there are cultural
and historical affinities that the two nations nourished between 1960,
when they established diplomatic relations, and 1991, when the Soviet
Union collapsed.

Many if not most of Cuba's top generals and senior government officials
studied in the Soviet bloc. The island's armed forces and Communist
Party copied the Soviet model, and Cuban distilleries make vodka from
sugar cane.

Some Cubans carry Russian names like Yelena or Dmitri, some married
Russians and many remember a few of the Russian words and songs they
learned in school and the Russian cartoons they watched on TV as children.

Havana's Tavarich Restaurant, opened by two Russian brothers in 2013,
caters to Russians living in Cuba — 794, according to the 2012 census —
and "Cubans nostalgic for the Soviet era," its manager told a visiting
journalist last year.

Fidel Castro remained loyal to Moscow even as virtually every other
national leader condemned the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
And just last week he endorsed Moscow's claim that the Ukrainian
government shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

In contrast, Havana was never as close to Beijing, Hidalgo noted, even
though its combination of a relatively free economy and tight political
controls has been held up repeatedly as a model for the island nation.

Cuba took Moscow's side in the Sino-Soviet dispute that split the
communist world from 1960 to 1989. Chinese government trade credits to
Cuba have been moderate, and private investors have pulled out several
big-ticket investment projects in recent years.

"The Chinese never opened the taps [on subsidies] like the Soviet
Union," said Hidalgo.

On the Moscow side of the love affair there's a cultural component as
well, with many Russians wistfully remembering the days when Fidel
Castro was a youthful and exciting ally in the tropics and proof that
their own 1917 revolution remained attractive to others.

But trade between the two nations is moderate at best, reaching a mere
$272 million in 2012 and making Russia just Cuba's 10th largest
commercial partner. Cuba, mired in economic stagnation, cannot afford to
increase its imports without credits.

Militarily, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has repeatedly said he plans
refueling bases in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Yet most experts
believe that while Russian warships and long-range bombers can
occasionally "fly the flag" in the region, Moscow is too weak militarily
to project real power.

Politically, however, the warming Cuba-Russia alliance appears to be a
Putin signal of defiance in the face of opposition by the Obama
Administration, European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) to his seizure of Crimea and support for pro-Russian fighters in
eastern Ukraine.

Andy Gomez, a retired Cuba specialist at the University of Miami and now
senior policy adviser for the Washington law firm Poblete Tamargo said
Putin's is plainly thumbing his nose at Washington with his Cuba
rapprochement.

"Putin believes that U.S. foreign policy is now at probably its weakest
point in 10 to 15 years," Gomez said. "He has realized that he can get
away with anything, that he can tell the Americans 'We're back in the
region, and what are you going to do about it?' "

Carl Meacham, head of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, said Putin's visit to Cuba more broadly
signaled "that if the United States and NATO pushes in on Ukraine,
Russia can push in on Cuba."

Source: Russia-Cuba love affair on again - Cuba - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/19/4244706/russia-cuba-love-affair-on-again.html Continue reading
Offering Fish At Your Door? Be Careful! / 14ymedio
Posted on July 18, 2014

Rosa Lopez, Havana, 17 July 2014, 14ymedio — Many Cubans opt for the
informal market instead the high prices of the products in hard currency
stores. Who among us has not bought cheese, ketchup or milk in illegal
trading networks? However, when we acquire something in secret and do
not know the seller, the chances of being scammed or buying spoiled
merchandise multiply. The greatest danger, however, is to buy a product
that damages our health, hence it is important to be careful with
certain foods.

Every Cuban adult has some experience to tell about a fish sold as red
snapper and it was actually tench, Claria or barracuda. With the fish
slickly packaged and displayed furtively, the trader assures us that it
is " good, white with few bones." Later, in the pan or dish, frustrated,
we discovered the deception.

Some customers claim to have a good contact to buy seafood that so far
has not failed them. Lucky them! By contrast, the vast majority is
supplied by an illegal and unstable market whose providers change
frequently. The fish markets under state management offer little variety
and high prices, not to mention the long lines that sometimes form in
front of their doors.

It is easy to think that living on an island we can have our tables
filled with seafood, oysters, sardines and other sea delicacies. Nothing
is further from reality. In Cuba it it easier to find turkey hash "made
in USA", than a good marlin steak or grouper head soup.

The restrictions imposed on both private fishing and the sale of fish
push us to the black market when looking for a good product. The species
may have been caught in oxidation ponds belonging to factories or
industries, and could introduce chemicals into our bodies that bring
negative short and medium term effects.

On the island there are many reservoirs and coastal areas that
contaminated by discharges from industries and settlements. Fish that
live in those stretched should not be used for human consumption. An
example is Havana Bay, whose waters are polluted by oil, sewage and
other waste discharges.

Another threat is ciguatera, a food poisoning that is endemic in the
tropics caused by eating infected fish. The fish afflicted with this
disease cannot be identified by smell, taste or color.

If a stranger knocks at your door offering a tempting fish filet or
steak, be careful. It may not be what they say, or in the worst case, it
could damage your health.

Source: Offering Fish At Your Door? Be Careful! / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/offering-fish-at-your-door-be-careful-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Raul Castro's Plans for Venezuela and Russia / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on July 18, 2014

The grass, the cows, and the man; in the food chain every species
expects a greater predator. International politics works in the same
way. The government of Venezuela, for example, manipulates world,
regional and even local opinion, publicizing the work it does in
the Barrio Adentro, Milagro, Sonrisa, Negra Hipólita, José Gregorio
Hernández, Moncada missions, etc, etc, etc.

Seeming to clean the castle but in reality they market popular health as
if it were a pedestal, in order to save the King and to entertain the
country. Using their own sick people to bring the country to its knees,
to divide it into tribes that confront each other, to denigrate the
spirit and to darken the pride of millions of Venezuelans.

It is a tragedy for many is fortunate for a few. There is nothing of
altruism, much less of kindness; it is simply a crime that, given the
necessity, becomes socially acceptable but continues to be exactly like
any criminal.

There are, therefore, many who confuse a beach with a battlefield, trash
with news, who on seeing themselves observers of the real world, limit
their vision and mimic whatever parrots are to blame for this crisis
called Nicholas Maduro.

Big mistake. The politicians know perfectly well the basics and the
repetitiveness of the human race; most people allow themselves to be
led, need to be led, and hope that their loyalty will be well compensated.

The former member of the Socialist League, the former bus driver of
Caracas the former Foreign Minister, the former executive Vice
president, autocrat par excellence and current president of Venezuela,
is simply a chess piece who has great responsibility; here Havana is the
predator with amazing acuity, and driven by its usual strategy, of
domination and management, it invests resources in sending doctors and
medicine to control the area and to feed groups of opinion. Julius
Caesar, military leader, politician and former Roman dictator said, "A
people should not be invaded without any reason."

I still can not accept that so many analysts in their work of analysis
overlook the detail that "El Chino" has nothing to do with China, and
the invasion of stethoscopes and white coats is pure business;
delivering to the highest bidder the great bear of the Russian steppe.

General Raul Castro, A man more occupied in accumulating power then in
defending ideologies, avidly pro-Russian, zigzagging, calculating, and
in favor of the Cold War, is trying to organize a possible ending
serving the area to a Moscow that is awakening from a lethargy and
misses no opportunity to throw itself threateningly into the backyard of
the United States with the idea of recapturing its feudal Caribbean
paradise and using it as a naval base in the expansion of ALBA, CARICOM,
CELAC, OEA and MERCOSUR, all governed by the left and, coincidently, the
geographic space that could favor the Kremlin and its ambitions to match
the pulse of the New World Order. Something that contradicts the Monroe
doctrine; hence much to my regret, "America is no longer for Americans."

17 July 2014

Source: Raul Castro's Plans for Venezuela and Russia / Juan Juan Almeida
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/raul-castros-plans-for-venezuela-and-russia-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
There Is None So Blind As He Who Refuses to See / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on July 17, 2014

For several days now I have not published a post, despite my desires to
do so and the nagging thought that it wasn't getting done.

It is true that the World Cup robbed part of my attention, but that was
not what impeded my writing. Rather, it was all the tasks that were
piling up in relation to an upcoming exhibition of my works. Preparing
for this event takes a lot of effort and dedication, as does the
negotiating required to obtain adequate materials.

Even so, with all due respect, I would be remiss if I didn't comment on
the recent visit of Dr. Margaret Chan, General Director of the World
Health Organization, and the statements she delivered in the University
of Havana's Grand Hall, during the unsuitably named magisterial
conference. Dr. Chan expressed that, thanks to the Cuban government, our
people do not eat junk food. She also praised the work of our public health.

I really do not comprehend how these people, who occupy such relevant
posts in the United Nations (UN), take at face value the reports
provided by totalitarian regimes, without taking the trouble to check
the facts through other means and compare other data.

Most of us know that these people are hosted in our country by
high-level officials, and that they are taken over and over to the same
places, which obviously are set up for such purposes, e.g.: a certain
floor of Almejeiras Hospital, the Biotechnology department, and the La
Castellana special school for differentiated teaching, among others. In
addition, the visitors are customarily taken down 5th Avenue in Miramar,
and they never stop at locations that aren't set up for these political
purposes.

How is it possible that the supreme body that oversees all of these
organizations — the UN — has yet to take the trouble to look into these
matters more deeply?

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

15 July 2014

Source: There Is None So Blind As He Who Refuses to See / Rebeca Monzo |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/there-is-none-so-blind-as-he-who-refuses-to-see-rebeca-monzo/ Continue reading
An Inexplicable Explanation / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on July 17, 2014

Customs restricts imports even more

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14ymedio | 14 July 2014 – On the occasion of
the latest customs regulations that further limit the products that
travelers can bring to the island, a group of officials from the General
Customs of the Republic of Cuba (AGR) held a press conference to respond
to some concerns of the population. Among the pearls exposed there, it's
worth nothing an argument put forward by Idalmis Rosales Milanes, deputy
chief of the AGR, where she tried to equate these actions with what
happens outside of Cuba. "All countries," she said, "regulate
non-commercial imports to their territory."

And it's true. What this official didn't say is that in all countries
there are other regulations for commercial imports to non-state
entities. If this weren't the case, I would have to believe two things:
that in the rest of the world all the stores are state-owned, or that
the goods for sale in them are produced entirely in the country in which
they are located. It gives the impression that this precision is for
idiots, because it's so irrational it's embarrassing to have to clarify it.

The absurdity is normal only if the entire environment is also absurd.
Whoever developed and approved these resolutions was personally
persuaded that commerce is a crime unless it is performed by the only
state monopoly that they themselves control.

Instead of developing a list detailing how many razors, pairs of shoes
or fake nails can be carried in your suitcase, it would be much more
useful to allow the importation and sale of whatever merchandise
(non-lethal) is produced in the world, and to promote its free trade by
private individuals who would be those who would assume the risk of
being left with them in their shops if they weren't able to sell them.

The law should allow the owner of a restaurant to import, in his
condition as a private businessperson, the wine, pasta and cheese
consumed by his customers. The seamstress should also have the right to
bring fabric and dyes from other countries with which she designs her
clothes, and the small trader must be able to count on the possibility
of bringing the instant glue, the sponges for cleaning, and the hair
dye, from other latitudes to the island. All this, backed and supported
by commercial permits and import licenses… in the hand of the non-state
sector.

That theses commercial imports are on a list of prohibited products,
that there is a limit of the number of admissible pieces, that a
diversified tax is imposed according to the article… all this would be
almost comprehensible and, especially, debatable. What I can't make
heads nor tails of is this "dog in the manger" conduct, which neither
eats nor allows others to eat, and in this case neither imports nor
allow to be imported; neither trades, nor allows others to trade.

Source: An Inexplicable Explanation / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/an-inexplicable-explanation-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
The Ochoa Case: A Point of Inflection / 14ymedio
Posted on July 17, 2014

IGNACIO VARONA, 14ymedio, Havana, Cuba | 13 July 2014 – The Cuban
government's support for the Soviet tank invasion of Czechoslovakia, the
failure of the 10 Million Ton Sugar Harvest, the case of Heberto
Padilla, the repudiation rallies of 1980, and Cuba's Black Spring are
chief among the breaking points for many who at one time backed the
Cuban Revolution. A political process that at its beginnings more than a
half century ago enjoyed strong approval inside and outside the island
has become increasingly characterized by deception. This persistent flux
from believing to not believing has made critics out of former
sympathizers, and antagonists out of those who once gave ovations.

Inside Cuba, one instance of major fracture in the support for the
revolution was the execution of General Arnaldo Ochoa. This event took
place on July 13, 1989, exactly 25 years ago. Along with him were
executed three high-level officials of the Ministry of Armed Forces
(MINFAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT). A military court
found them guilty of — and condemned them to death for — the crimes of
drug trafficking and high treason.

Never will it be known the true extent of the disillusionment caused by
this event in many communist militants as well as the rest of the
population. The disappointment amongst the people that emanated from the
so-called "Case Number 1″ of 1989 fed the decision of many individuals
to take the step toward dissension. Numerous dissidents cite this
judicial process and its extreme sentences as the moment when they broke
with the party line.

The 1990s could not be understood without the precedent of a televised
trial that riveted millions of Cubans to the small screen, as if to the
most impelling soap opera. After long days of hearing allegations and
accusations, a bond was established between the TV audience and the
figure of Ochoa that nobody could have foreseen. This "connection"
consisted of a combination of respect and pity, to which was added the
silent hope that the sentences requested by the prosecutors would not
actually be applied in their full severity.

"I sat in front of the television set believing in the system, and when
I arose I no longer believed in anything", said María López, who at that
time belonged to the Young Communists League (UJC). A few months after
"El Indio" ("The Indian") — as Ochoa was popularly called by some —
Maria turned in her UJC membership card. "I could not tolerate such
cruelty, besides which it always seemed to me that what came out in that
trial was not the full truth," she concluded. Like her, an unpublicized
number of other militants distanced themselves from the organization,
severing their ties or assuming a less aggressive stance.

The "Balseros" (Rafters) Crisis that would occur five years later was
comprised of individuals who, besides suffering the miseries of the
Special Period, had lived through the trial. Part of the disillusionment
that would manifest in fragile vessels crossing the Florida Straits
emanated from that event. Although hunger and the lack of prospects
where the primary goads toward the exodus, for many of those who
launched themselves to the sea, the death of of Arnaldo Ochoa had
contributed to severing their emotional ties to the system.

"It was the moment in which totalitarianism removed its mask", noted
Ezequiel Méndez, who is now based in Los Angeles, USA. On that July 13,
Ezequiel had guard duty in the unit where he was serving his compulsory
military service. He remembers seeing the "long faces of the officers,
which gave us to understand that something was going on". Within the
army, the execution of these four military men was especially
disturbing, but fear and silence were the major expressions of this
emotion. "In the mess hall, when the TV set was turned on for the
broadcast of the trial, nobody said a word…everyone was very, very
quiet", recalls Ezequiel about those days.

A quarter century after the effect of those executions, the
disappointment has not diminished. Rather, other disappointments have
been added to it. The government was never able to recapture lost
sympathy, and the days are over when military feats produced heroes.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: The Ochoa Case: A Point of Inflection / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-ochoa-case-a-point-of-inflection-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Putin backtracks on Cuba deal
The Russian President has Denied his government has plans to resurrect
Cold-War Era Spy Base on Cuba
By Roland Oliphant, Moscow11:35AM BST 17 Jul 2014

Vladimir Putin has denied plans to reopen a Caribbean radar station
designed to eavesdrop on US communications systems.
Russian media earlier reported Vladimir Putin had discussed reopening
the radar base at Lourdes, south of Havana, during a visit to Cuba last
week.
The deal was reported to be part of a deal that saw Russia cancel 90 per
cent of Cuba's £18.6 billion Soviet-era debt.
But Mr Putin denied any link between the debt-relief and reopening the
eaves-dropping centre, saying on Thursday that there are "no plans" to
reopen the base.
"There's nothing to be upset about, we are able to meet our defence
needs without this component, there's nothing unusual here, we closed
this centre in agreement with our friends, we have no plans to renew
work [there]," he said in comments carried by ITAR-TASS, a state-owned
news agency.
The Lourdes base was opened in 1967 to eavesdrop on a range of American
communications, but was closed by Mr Putin in 2001 for cost reasons.
With the conflict in Ukraine putting relations between Washington and
Moscow at their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War, reopening the
base would have been seen as a foreign policy coup at the expense of
Barack Obama's White House.
Russia has promised a "sharp and painful" response to the United
States's decision to impose sanctions on several major Russian firms as
punishment for what Washington calls the Kremlin's continued support for
separatist rebels in Ukraine.
Targets include state-controlled oil firm Rosneft, two state-owned
banks, and Kalashnikov Concern, the makers of the famous assault rifle.
The sanctions deny the companies access to US credit markets for
long-term loans and ban US citizens from buying products from some,
including Kalashnikov - although a footnote to the sanctions reassured
American gun owners that previously bought weapons would be unaffected.
Although the latest round of US sanctions fall short of so-called "level
three" measures, which would target entire sections of the Russian
economy, they go far further than previous sanctions.
Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, said
the measures would have no impact on the company's work with Exxon
Mobil, with which the Russian firm on several development projects.
But analysts suggested the measures could have an adverse impact on a
range of Western firms working in Russia, including BP, which holds a
19.75 per cent stake in Rosneft.

Source: Putin backtracks on Cuba deal - Telegraph -
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10973173/Putin-backtracks-on-Cuba-deal.html Continue reading
What's Putin Putting in Cuba?
[17-07-2014 13:30:32]
Jaime Suchlicki
Director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y Cubano-Americanos de la
Universidad de Miami

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- The recent Putin visit to Cuba rekindled
memories of the Cold War. In those days the Soviets used Cuba to
challenge and spy on the U.S. An electronic eavesdropping facility was
placed on the island. Airports and ports to service the Soviet planes
and fleet were upgraded. Finally nuclear missiles were introduced
bringing the world close to a nuclear holocaust.
These are different times. The U.S. is a much stronger power. Russia is
a smaller, weaker nation.

Yet the Russians defied the U.S. and Europe over Crimea; are not
particularly cooperative on Iran; have profound differences with the
U.S. over a possible Nato-missile deployment in Europe; and recently
deployed in Kaliningrad, in the Baltic, tactical nuclear missiles to the
chagrin of the U.S.

Within these growing U.S.-Russian differences, what's Putin up to in
Cuba? First there is no significant Russian interest in commercial
relations with a poor, debt ridden country lacking in major mineral
resources and the ability to purchase large scale Russian goods. Second,
while Russia signed agreements with General Raul Castro's regime to
continue to search for petroleum in Cuba's waters, the Russians have
enough petroleum and no need for Cuban petroleum. Third, these are not
the Soviets, willing to subsidize the bankrupt economy of an ally.

The Russian visit is primarily strategic, perhaps aimed at poking the
Americans in the eye. Russian investments in the Port of Mariel and the
construction of a modern airport in San Antonio de los Baños, may not
presage the visit of Russian tourists, but of naval vessels including
nuclear submarines, and long range bombers. Also the installation of
Glonass infrastructure could provide Cuba with remote sensory and
satellite telecommunications, as well as a facility to eavesdrop on U.S.
military and commercial communications, not much different than the
Lourdes facility of the Cold War era, but much more sophisticated.

It seems that Putin and the Russian military are not content with
remaining a second rate power. By this visit and actions, Putin is
giving notice to Washington that Russia is ready for an aggressive
projection of power and for a new internationalism.

Source: What's Putin Putting in Cuba? - Misceláneas de Cuba -
http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/Article/Index/53c7b3d83a682e17181a9010#.U8jo7fmSwx4 Continue reading
"I owe to my father the hatred of authoritarianism that he embodied" /
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa
Posted on July 16, 2014

The writer Mario Vargas Llosa discusses literature, democracy and Latin
America in the second part of an interview with 14ymedio. First part of
the interview: "The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds"

Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 15 July 2014 – During my conversation with the
writer and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Mario Vargas Llosa in his
home in Madrid, we spoke about his passion for Cuba and his
disappointment with the revolutionary myth, as we reflected yesterday in
the first part of this interview. Today I share with our readers the
rest of this dialogue, centered on democracy, literature and Latin America.

Question: How do you see the health of the democratic model and civil
liberties in Latin America?

Answer: If we compare it to the ideal, of course we get depressed. But
if we compare Latin America from a democratic point of view looking at
the last few years, there has been considerable progress.

When I was young, Latin America was a set of dictatorships and the
democracies, such as Chile and Costa Rica, were really the exception to
the rule. That has changed radically today, there are virtually no
military dictatorships. There is one dictatorship, which is Cuba, one
quasi-dictatorship, which is Venezuela, and beyond that some democracies
that are far from perfect. There are varying degrees of quality and
there are some Latin American democracies that are very basic and others
that are more advanced. However, the democratic trend predominates over
the authoritarian tradition that was so strong in our peoples.

My impression is that this is not coincidental, it's because there is a
much much wider consensus about democracy than in the past. There is a
rightwing that has accepted that democracy is preferable to
dictatorship, that offers more institutional guarantees for property and
for business. We also have a leftwing that wasn't democratic either,
that has accepted—or resigned itself—to democracy. Which explains cases
like Uruguay, where a very extreme left took power, and yet, the
democratic way works, freedom of expression works, and the economy and
the market work.

This also explains the phenomenon of the Concertación (Concentration) in
Chile, which respected the precepts of democracy and didn't change the
political economy of the dictatorship, because it gave good results. The
Concertación respected this model but expanded economic freedom and
political freedom, which brought Chileans an extraordinary period of
prosperity and calm.

This trend toward democracy will continue, with ups and downs, but it's
difficult to imagine there will be a reversal that reestablishes the
authoritarian tradition that was so catastrophic for Latin America.

Question: How do you see the case of Peru?

Answer: Peruvians have had many dictatorships throughout our history. If
I weigh it from my birth to today, we've probably experienced more
dictatorships than democratic governments. Perhaps the greatest
difference is that the last dictatorships we've had, from General
Velasco Alvarado's to Alberto Fukimori's, had such catastrophic
consequences that a part of the population has somehow been vaccinated
against the idea that a dictatorship is more efficient for bringing
economic prosperity or for achieving social justice.

We have experienced dictatorships of the right and left that have
brought widespread corruption or an atrocious impoverishment of the
country, like during the Velasco era, which was a leftist military
dictatorship, or during the first term of Alan Garcia, which wasn't a
dictatorship but it was a populist government which, with its
nationalizations and its defiance of all the international organizations
brutally impoverished the country. Finally, Fujimori's dictatorship was
probably the one that was most thieving. An investigation by the
Ombudsman calculated that more or less six billion dollars was stolen
and sent abroad by the Fujimoro regime. For a poor country like Peru,
that's significant.

All this was so disconcerting; as of 2000 there hadn't been a consensus
in Peru for political democracy and economic freedom. There had been a
consensus for democracy at some times, but there had never been one for
economic freedom. Today, for the first time, there is. That consensus
has brought 15 years that are so good, so prosperous, that my hope is
that it lasts until its irreversible. Although the truth is that nothing
is irreversible, as modern history has demonstrated.

"Literature was an indirect way of resisting the authority of my father
doing something he hated and that he wanted to eliminate from my life"

Question: In the foreword to a book of poems for children written by
José Martí, he said "Son, scared of everything, I take refuge in you."
In your case, were you so scared of reality you looked for refuge in
literature?

Answer: Yes, literature was my refuge when I was a kid, when I met my
father with whom I had a very difficult relationship. I met him when I
was 11 and he was a very authoritarian person who practically isolated
me from my maternal family, with whom I'd lived in a virtual "paradise."
My father was very hostile to my literary ambition. As soon as he
discovered it, he thought it was a terrible failure in my life. I owe
him many things: discovering the fear and discovering the hatred of
authoritarianism that he embodied. My father's hostility to my literary
vocation made me cling to this vocation and I found a refuge in
literature, a different way of living that life of fear I had in my
parents' house, because of my father.

I see that now, at that time I didn't see it. Literature was an indirect
way of resisting the authority of my father doing something he hated and
that he wanted to eliminate from my life. Writing became something more
important, more transcendent, more intimate than it had been. Until
then, it was a kind of game that my mother's family celebrated in me.
With my father it was a risk to write poems and "little stories," but at
the same time it was a way of defending the freedom and the autonomy
that I lost when faced with him.

Yes, in my youth literature was a refuge, but in my life literature has
been much more than this. In literature we can live what we can't
experience in our own lives. We are beings endowed with imagination and
desires, those eternal dissatisfactions because life never gives anyone
everything they desire. We want lives more diverse, rich and intense
than those we have. That is why we have invented literature, why we have
fiction, to compensate for how limited our lives are.

So literature is a refuge, but it also has the ability to complete those
incomplete lives we are obliged to have. However, literature is much
more than that, because while it appeases that appetite for different
experiences, it sparks, sparks the need, which results in greater
dissatisfaction. If we read a lot it turns us into beings deeply
dissatisfied with the world as it is. Nothing is better than good
literature to make us discover, in such a vivid, persuasive way, that
the world works badly and that it's not enough to satisfy human aspirations/

"That is why we have invented literature, why we have fiction, to
compensate for how limited our lives are."

When you finish reading a great novel, like The Kingdom of this World,
by Alejo Carpentier, or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García
Márquez, or a story by Jorge Luis Borges, what do you discover? That
reality is very poor compared with that wonderful reality you've
experienced with this fantasy, this language. This makes us dissatisfied
and rebellious people, who want the world to be better than it is, and
this is the engine of progress.

The world has been evolving, we have come out of the caves and we've
reached the stars. Literature is an extraordinary stimulus for
dissatisfaction and rebellion, and also a permanent critique of what
exists. If this criticism and dissatisfaction didn't exist, literature
wouldn't exist.

Question: So literature is to blame for so much dissatisfaction?

Answer: I think so, and the best proof of that is that all the regimes
that have tried to control life from the cradle to the grave, the first
thing they've done is to try to control literary creation. They try to
subjugate fiction, because they have seen the danger in the free
creativity that fiction signifies. Religious dictatorships, ideological
dictatorships, military dictatorships… the first thing they do is
establish systems of censorship. I don't think they're wrong, because in
some ways literature is a source of sedition, discrete and indirect, but
a source of sedition.

Question: You chair the Fundación Internacional para la Libertad (FIL)
[International Foundation for Freedom]. How do you evaluate the work of
the foundation? Do you think you've wasted your time?

Answer: I don't know if it's had the effect we wanted it to have. The
fact that it exists, it's been twelve years, we've had a lot of
conferences, seminars, spreading liberal ideas. We defend democracy, but
within democracy we defend the liberal doctrine, against which there are
many prejudices. Even the word liberal has been demonized and that is a
great victory for the more dogmatic left, having turned the word
"liberal" into a bad word, associating it with exploitation, injustice,
dictatorship.

The task of the International Foundation for Freedom is to combat this
demonization of the liberal doctrine and to spread the culture that has
brought these major reforms and changes to society since the creation of
democracy, of the idea of Human Rights, of the idea of the individual as
the pillar of society, endowed with rights and duties that must be
respected and exercised freely. Those are the kind of ideas that we want
to spread and to what extent we have succeeded? We have done something
and I think it would be worse if we hadn't done the things we've done,
even if they are insufficient.

Source: "I owe to my father the hatred of authoritarianism that he
embodied" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-owe-to-my-father-the-hatred-of-authoritarianism-that-he-embodied-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez-mario-varga-llosa/ Continue reading
“The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds for the most part” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa
Posted on July 15, 2014
The writer and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, talks about Cuba in the first part of an interview with 14ymedio

Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 14 July 2014 — Mario Vargas Llosa, writer, politician, excellent analyst and even better conversationalist, received me at his home in Madrid for this interview. The minutes flew by with his proverbial grace for dialogue as he offered me his reflections about democracy, freedom, literature, Latin America and Cuba. Today I share these with the readers of 14ymedio who in some way were there, without being in that room lit by the light of summer and the lucidity of the writer.

Question: I know that Cuba has been an important part of your passions, to say nothing of your great obsessions…

Answer: Absolutely. The Cuban Revolution was for me, as it was for many young people, the appearance of a possibility many of us had dreamed about but that had seemed unattainable. A socialist revolution, which was both socialist and free, socialist and democratic.

Today that may seem like an act of blindness, but it wasn’t at that time. At that time, that’s what the Cuban Revolution seemed to us, accomplished not for, but outside, the Communist Party, a Revolution that was backed up by every heroic exploit. In the first days of the Cuban Revolution, we saw in it what we wanted to see.

A Revolution that would make great social reforms, that would end injustice and at the same time would allow freedom, diversity, creativity, that wouldn’t adopt the Soviet line of strict control of all creative and artistic activities.

We believed it was going to allow criticism and this is what we wanted to see in the Cuban Revolution and for a good number of years that is what I saw in it, despite going to Cuba, despite being linked very directly to the Casa de las Americas, in which I came to sit on the committee. That was what we saw because the Cuban Revolution had the ability to feed that illusion.

Question: At what point did you start having doubts?

Answer: Of the five times I went to Cuba in the sixties, the fourth time coincided with the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) and it was a shock to know that they had opened what were almost concentration camps where they took dissidents, thieves, homosexuals, religious people. I was very impressed especially by the case of a group I expect you know, El Puente (The Bridge). I knew many of the girls and the boys who made up the group, among them were lesbians and gays, but all were revolutionaries, absolutely identified with the Revolution. A good number of them went to the concentration camps, where there were even suicides.

That affected me a great deal, because it seemed impossible that something like this was happening in Cuba. So I wrote a private letter to Fidel Castro, where I said, “Comandante, I really don’t understand, this doesn’t fit with my vision of Cuba.” Then they invited me to visit Cuba and have a meeting with Fidel Castro. We were about ten or twelve and somehow we demonstrated our surprise about what was happening.

It was the only time I’ve talked with Fidel Castro, it was all night, from eight at night to eight in the morning. It was very interesting and although he impressed me, I wasn’t convinced by his explanation. He told me what had happened to many very humble peasant families, whose sons were trainees, and they complained that their sons had been victims of “the sickos,” that’s what Fidel said. The gays and lesbians for him were “the sickos.” He told me something had to be done, that perhaps there were excesses, but they were going to correct it.

I remember Che Guevara had already left by then and no one knew where he was. Then Fidel Castro—during that conversation—made allusions to where Che might be and show up. He was also very histrionic, standing on the table, telling how they’d set up ambushes, he was a very overwhelming personality, but I realized then that he did not allow interlocutors, only listeners.

It was almost impossible to pose any questions, however brief. It was the first time and since then I was left with many doubts, much anguish that I didn’t dare to make public and I continued returning to Cuba until Fidel’s support for the interventions of the Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia.

Question: How did you experience the entry of Soviet tanks into Prague in 1968?

Answer: That made a tremendous impression on me, and it was the first time I made public a letter criticizing Cuba. I wrote an article titled Socialism and the Tanks, saying it wasn’t possible that if Fidel had always defended the autonomy, the sovereignty of small countries, now that a small country wanted its own version of socialism, for the Soviet tanks to invade and for Cuba to support this. How is it possible?

Despite this they continued to invite me, but when I returned to Cuba there was already a situation of panic among the intellectuals. My best friends wouldn’t talk to me or they lied to me. There was terror. It was a few weeks before the imprisonment of Heberto Padilla and the poet was totally beside himself, talking like a mad man, feeling the spaces close in on him and very soon he would no longer be able even to function.

The main problem with Cuba is not that it still awakens revolutionary fantasies and desires, rather the problem is the forgetting

I was with Jorge Edwards, just during the months that he was described as persona non grata. I remember that thanks to Jorge, who was diplomatic, we could bring Jose Lezama Lima to eat in one of those dining rooms where only diplomats could go. Poor Lezama, he ate with happiness, he loved to eat.

We talked about everything but politics, of course. But on leaving, on saying goodbye, I remember he squeezed my hand and said, “You understand the country in which I am living,” I responded yes, but he came back and squeezed my hand again and repeated, “But you understand the country in which I am living,” and I answered, “Yes, I understand.” That was the last time I saw him.

Soon came the capture of Padilla, the letter that several of us wrote and that meant the rupture with a number of important intellectuals who weren’t Communists but we had made the cause of the Cuban Revolution our own. For me that was very important, because I regained a freedom that had been lost during those years, because of this blackmail that was so effective, of “not giving arms to the enemy,” “you can’t attack the Cuban Revolution without yourself becoming an ally of colonialism, imperialism, fascism.”

Well, since then I was much more free and I was left forever, up to today, with the idea of having contributed in some way to this myth and to helping a system—already 55 years old—that had converted Cuba into a concentration camp and that has frustrated at least three generations of Cubans.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been so insistent in my criticisms of Cuba, it’s a way of exercising self-criticism. Because I believe that we contributed a lot, and the Cuban regime was highly skilled in this, getting the support of intellectuals, journalists, academics, that contributed so much to this myth, that still survives, although it seems like lies and happily the support is from ever smaller circles.

The main problem with Cuba is not that it still awakens revolutionary fantasies and desires, rather the problem is the forgetting, the disinterest. Many people are tired of the Cuba issue and then there is a great detachment. Many times when the topic of Cuba is on the agenda, there is such skepticism, as if it weren’t a social and human phenomenon. What can you do against an earthquake, a tsunami? Nothing, because Cuba is like an earthquake or a tsunami for many people.

Source: “The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds for the most part” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/the-myth-of-cuba-has-been-cut-to-shreds-for-the-most-part-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez-mario-varga-llosa/ Continue reading
Raul Castro’s Not-So-Innocent Slip of the Tongue about Russia
July 15, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — “We support the current policy of firmness and the intelligent policies being pursued in the international arena by the Soviet Union – I mean Russia,” General Raul Castro declared during President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Havana.

This “slip of the tongue” is not as innocent as it could seem. It is common for Cuba’s official press and for many high officials of the Cuban government to refer to contemporary Russia in friendly terms, as though they were speaking of the former Soviet Union.

Referring to the collapse of the USSR and the “socialist bloc” in that same speech, Raul Castro said: “the world’s power balance was disrupted when the force that kept that balance disappeared.” “That force,” he added, “begins to recover and we’re already seeing the effects, first of all at the international level and, second of all, in Russia’s new bilateral relations.”

This means that, for the Cuban president, there is apparently no difference between that “socialist” force of old and this new “Russian” force: they are one and the same balancing factor.

The colonial mentality of dependence of many high Cuban officials continues to be marked by the role the Soviet Union played in maintaining the Cuban government and by the fact Putin comes from the old, “Soviet” bureaucratic apparatus. “Things continue like before,” our smart boys in uniform appear to be saying.

The Cuban bureaucracy’s objective need to secure foreign economic and political aid in order to sustain its centralized State system forces it to ignore or blinds it to the “nature” of the new international role played by Russia, or anyone willing to aid the “Cuban revolution” for that matter.

This is also related to the traditional view of imperialism that predominates within the Cuban government, which generally only makes mention of “US imperialism”, forgetting about Spanish, British, German and (increasingly) Chinese imperialism, to say nothing of Russia’s.

Another factor that keeps the high leadership from seeing the true nature of contemporary Russia is that many members of Cuba’s high and mid-level nomenklatura regard the changes that took place in the country of the Tsars as something akin to the transformation of “State socialism” into authoritarian State capitalism, as we can surmise from the policies of the so-called economic “reforms” impelled by Raul Castro and his military.

Little by little, the different decrees and laws passed as part of the “reform process” have slowly but surely revealed that the “changes” being implemented by the Raul Castro administration are principally aimed at strengthening the control of the top leadership over large State companies that exploit wage labor in the absence of worker control, a Cuban version of the appropriation of important State companies by the Soviet nomenklatura, in the context of a capitalist market economy.

In this “updated” model – yet another form of non-socialism – non-State forms of production (self-employment, small and midsized private companies and cooperatives) have no life of their own in terms of production and the market, but are rather subordinated and dependent on the State economy, which they are meant to support.



Incidentally, to characterize forms of production not on the basis of how they exploit the means of production and labor force (slavery, feudalism, wage labor, free or associated labor) but by whether they are part of the State or not is one of the “brilliant” contributions of our “reform” process to so-called Marxism-Leninism.

It is therefore no accident that, in Cuba, Russia should often be confused with the former Soviet Union, that the post-Perestroika government should be seen as a natural extension of the “Soviet” era, that the Cuban government-Party-State has never discussed the fall of “socialism” in the USSR and Eastern Europe in depth and that Cuba’s debts to Russia (or the former Soviet Union) should be wiped clean from the slate. Everything’s been forgotten here and there, so let’s move forward!

To give further weight to the ideas that sustain this “slip of the tongue,” the “main enemy” of the two governments continues to be the same one and, since both adhere to the pragmatic maxim to the effect that “the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” the two needn’t say much to reach an agreement and cooperate in financial, political and security issues.

The rapprochement between Russia and Cuba, in the absence of the relaxation or lifting of the US blockade/embargo, could be the lifebelt Raul Castro’s government needs to continue “selling the future” to the Cuban people and to hold the “anti-imperialist” flag high (as though Russia were not at all imperialist). It allows him not to “give in” to the “blackmail” of US imperialism with regards to the human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people. It’s a sweet deal.

The problem is that, as a military power, Russia will not likely be in a position to offer Cuba the economic subsidies the former Soviet Union did. This could make the Cuban government restrain itself in its cooperation with Russia on “security” matters in order to continue looking for an agreement with the United States and the West.

All the while, the restructuring of the Cuban government with regards to the people – in greater need of beans and freedom than cannons and violent, imposed measures – is nowhere to be seen, as revealed by the last regulations established by Cuban customs, aimed at restricting the number of products brought into the country by Cubans, products that help many families get by and to overcome many of the daily needs faced by Cubans (and which the State is unable to meet).

What worries the State the most is that such products nourish a market that is independent of the State, a market that competes with the chain of stores operated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) – something the military government cannot tolerate.

This clearly reveals that the similarities between Putin’s authoritarian government and Cuba’s governing military, more than casual, are causal.

—–
 pedrocampos313@yahoo.es

Source: Raul Castro’s Not-So-Innocent Slip of the Tongue about Russia - Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104875 Continue reading
Popular Havana “Pain Clinic” Closed
July 14, 2014
Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — On June 30th, the Traditional and Asian Comprehensive Medical Clinic (CIMTAN), popularly known as the “pain clinic”, located in the town of Santiago de las Vegas, in Havana’s municipality of Boyeros, was shut down despite the efforts of workers and uncertainty for patients around the town.

Days before the clinic was closed, I paid the institution a visit to get to know what was happening first hand and to find out why high public health authorities had decided to close a center that offers medical services which do not entail significant State spending (most of them being based on natural and traditional medicine).

When I arrived at the clinic, I introduced myself at the reception and asked about the bad news. With an angry look on her face, the receptionist informed me the decision had been handed down by the Provincial Public Health Office. I then approached a number of patients. They were disconcerted; for they didn’t know where they could go after the clinic was shut down.

“I’m in treatment, there’s still a month left and no one’s informed me where I should go to continue my therapy,” said an elderly woman who was sitting outside the reception, waiting for her turn.

The discomfort was apparently common to patients and employees. When I asked the receptionist if I could speak with the director of the clinic in order to obtain more information about the decision, I was denied permission. She said that the management was not authorized to give me that information.

“Is what’s happening here a State secret?” I asked. “If not, then, explain this to me.”

Minutes later, I met Dr. Nelson Garcia Rodriguez, the Municipal Public Health Coordinator. He briefly explained the situation to me. “The story behind the clinic being shut down dates back to 2010. The program failed,” he said to me.

He went on to describe, in his own words, the role played by natural and traditional medicine practitioners in family clinics and polyclinics. Since there was a shortage of personnel at the time, these were assigned to other areas unrelated to their profession. This left patients receiving this kind of medical attention without treatment. According to him, this problem has not yet been overcome. He expounded on this on November 11, 2010, in a “report” where he made recommendations about natural and traditional health services in the municipality of Boyeros. He added that, today, they face the same problem they did 4 years ago.

I decided to look into what opinion people had of these services at the Santiago de las Vegas polyclinic and the Public Health Workers Union in the municipality of Rancho Boyeros. When I got in touch with Ramon Rivas, Head of Population Services, he told me to phone the Municipal Health Office in Fontanar, where they could offer me more information on this matter. He told me he was being bombarded with complaints by workers of CIMTAN and people who were receiving treatment there.

Before calling the Provincial Health Office, I called the municipal health workers union and was informed that “the measure was taken at management level and the union had no authority to intervene before a decision of that nature.” They suggested I call the Municipal Health Office, which is what I did when I hung up. Unfortunately, no one picked up at the number they gave me, so I decided to call someone higher up to see if I got an answer different than the one given me by the director of CIMTAN.

After calling several offices of the National Public Health office, I was redirected to the Population Services Department, where they noted “my concerns.” They said goodbye promising to “convey my comments to the responsible entity.”

Two hours later, I again gathered up the courage to call the Municipal Health Office. I got someone on the phone this time around. I asked my questions about the “pain clinic” over the phone. Judging from the tone of the woman’s voice, she was not too pleased to talk about this, for all of her answers repeated the argument that “the closure of the clinic had to do with the restructuring of Public Health institutions, undertaken as per the Party Guidelines.” She hung up without giving me another explanation.

The following day, I talked to delegate Jaime Antonio Toledo and found out that, on March 17, Dr. Nelson Garcia had sent a letter to the Population Services Office of the Council of State, the Boyeros Municipal Health Office, the Ministry of Public Health, the Provincial Public Health Office, the Boyeros People’s Power Bureau and the Boyeros branch of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), hoping they would address CIMTAN’s problems, as per the right granted its employees by Article 63 of the Constitution.

A month later, he had only gotten a reply from the Provincial Health Office, through an official responsible for natural and traditional medical services in the province. According to Nelson, before the union of the institution, the chair of the People’s Council, Noel Perdigon, delegate Jaime Antonio Toledo and the clinic’s director, Dr. Maria Asuncion Tosar, they were led to believe that the clinic would not be completely shut down. Some delegates there even calmed people down saying the clinic would not disappear.

“We’ve been lied to,” Jaime remarked. “The employees of CIMTAN and the town residents were told they were not going to shut down the clinic, and they did precisely that!”

According to data provided by Jaime, in its 17 years of operations, CIMTAN treated a total of 306,766 patients. In 2013, it treated a total of 24,820 patients, administering a total of 96,284 treatments (2,281 patients per month, 570 per week and 102 per day).

The clinic offered courses to dentists, medical doctors and nurses and private training courses for foreigners.

On June 18, in protest over the closure of the clinic, Nelson sent out a letter titled “Yes to restructuring, no to closure.” It was addressed to the Municipal Health Office, with a copy sent to the Canal Habana TV station, the Ministry of Public Health, the Boyeros Municipal Health Union, the Boyeros branch of the PCC, the Boyeros People’s Power Office and the Council of State. He has yet to receive a reply from these institutions.

Source: Popular Havana “Pain Clinic” Closed - Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104862 Continue reading
Conservative Mentalities and Cuba’s Exchange Rates
July 15, 2014
Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — Many years ago, the US dollar – then on a par and freely exchangeable with the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) – was valued at 20 Cuban pesos (CUP).

At the time, Cuban quarters (25 CUC cents) were, by simple arithmetic, equivalent to 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) each. By the same logic, nickels (or 5 CUC cents) were each valued at 1 Cuban peso, and dimes at two. Fifty CUC cents were exactly 10 CUP.

With time, the value of the CUC went up (or that of the CUP went down). Today, some private cab drivers – those in the town of Guanabo, for instance – maintain the original exchange rate of 1 CUC to 25 CUP, presumably because this makes it easier for them to deal out change to passengers. In these cabs, when you pay with a 50 CUP bill, you almost always get your 25 CUP change in CUC (in bill or coin form).

Cuban exchange locales (known as “CADECAS”), however, purchase CUCs at 24 Cuban pesos, and many privately-operated establishments exchange it at 23 CUP (sometimes posting up a sign announcing this).

Yesterday, I went to the market to buy an avocado that cost 8 CUP. I didn’t have Cuban pesos on me and I paid the vendor with a 3 CUC bill. The vendor didn’t have Cuban Convertible Pesos and gave me back 61 CUP (using the 1 CUC – 23 CUP exchange rate).

Had he valued the CUC at 25 CUP, he would have given me 67 CUP in change.

Following a rather twisted arithmetic logic, the 6-CUP difference means that I bought that avocado at 14 CUP. If the average price of a mid-sized to large avocado (I am unsure as to the exactness of this figure, but let us assume it is accurate) is 10 CUP, thanks to this less favorable CUC exchange rate, a cheap avocado (8 CUP) was suddenly made expensive (14 CUP).

Things become even more complicated when we start to deal with fractional figures.

For some strange reason, even though the CUC quarter is mathematically equivalent to 6 CUP (as per the 1 CUC – 24 CUP rate), it is still valued at 5 Cuban pesos by the vast majority of private vendors. That means you will never get any change back if you buy something worth 5 CUP with that “dollar quarter.”

If you pay with a 50 “dollar cent” (CUC) coin, the vendor treats it as 10 CUP.

In a similarly conservative fashion, vendors maintain the old equivalences of 5 CUC cents = 1 CUP and 10 CUC cents = 2 CUP, even when one pays with many of these coins, enough to make the difference in value considerable.

Thus, 20 CUC nickels aren’t often equivalent to 23, 24 or 25 CUP, but only 20. The same holds for CUC dimes.

It is easier to convince one’s counterpart that one is giving them the equivalent of 1 CUC (23, 24 or 25 CUP, depending on the exchange rate) if one pays with 4 CUC quarters.

A bit complicated, isn’t it?

A certain Frenchman once said that people’s mentalities tend to be conservative.

I say that whoever laughs last laughs loudest.

Source: Conservative Mentalities and Cuba’s Exchange Rates - Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104887 Continue reading
​Russia to reopen Cuban mega-base to spy on America – report
Published time: July 16, 2014 07:51

Moscow and Havana have reportedly reached an agreement on reopening the SIGINT facility in Lourdes, Cuba - once Russia’s largest foreign base of this kind - which was shut down in 2001 due to financial problems and under US pressure.

When operational, the facility was manned by thousands of military and intelligence personnel, whose task was to intercept signals coming from and to the US territory and to provide communication for the Russian vessels in the western hemisphere.

Russia considered reopening the Lourdes base since 2004 and has sealed a deal with Cuba last week during the visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin to the island nation, reports Kommersant business daily citing multiple sources.

“I can say one thing: at last!” one of the sources commented on the news to the paper, adding that the significance of the move is hard to overestimate.

The facility in Lourdes, a suburb of Havana located just 250km from continental USA, was opened in 1967. At the peak of the cold war it was the largest signal intelligence center Moscow operated in a foreign nation, with 3,000 personnel manning it.

From the base Russia could intercept communications in most part of the US including the classified exchanges between space facilities in Florida and American spacecraft. Raoul Castro, then-Defense Minister of Cuba, bragged in 1993 that Russia received 75 percent of signal intelligence on America through Lourdes, with was probably an overstatement, but not by a large amount.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the base was downscaled, but continued operation. After Russia was hit the 1998 economic crisis, it found it difficult to maintain many of its old assets, including the Lourdes facility. In Soviet times Cuba hosted it rent-free, but starting 1992 Moscow had to pay Havana hundreds of millions dollars each year in addition to operational costs to keep the facility open.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Raul Castro Ruz during a press statement at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolsky)

An additional blow came in July 2000, when the US House passed the Russian-American Trust and Cooperation Act, a bill that would ban Washington from rescheduling or forgiving any Russian debt to the US, unless the facility in Lourdes is shut down.

Moscow did so in 2001 and also closed its military base in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh, with both moves reported as major steps to address Americans’ concerns. But, in the words of a military source cited by Kommersant, the US “did not appreciate our gesture of goodwill.”

No detail of schedule for the reopening the facility, which currently hosts a branch of Cuba’s University of Information Science, was immediately available. One of the principle news during Putin’s visit to Havana was Moscow’s writing off of the majority of the old Cuban debt to Russia. The facility is expected to require fewer personnel than it used to, because modern surveillance equipment can do many functions now automatically.

With the Lourdes facility operational again, Russia would have a much better signal intelligence capability in the western hemisphere.

“Returning to Lourdes now is more than justified," military expert Viktor Murakhovsky, a retired colonel, told Kommersant. “The capability of the Russian military signal intelligence satellite constellation has significantly downgraded. With an outpost this close to the US will allow the military to do their job with little consideration for the space-based SIGINT echelon.”

Source: ​Russia to reopen Cuban mega-base to spy on America – report — RT News - http://rt.com/news/173092-russia-sigint-facility-cuba/ Continue reading
Travel deals: Cruise Cuba by yacht By Phil Marty, Special to Tribune Newspapers 1:29 p.m. CDT, July 15, 2014 Since the U.S. government has somewhat loosened restrictions on visits to Cuba by Americans, the island nation has been turning up on a lot of... Continue reading
DOCUMENT - FURTHER INFORMATION: CUBA: SENTENCING OF THREE BROTHERS POSTPONED

Further information on UA: 201/13 Index: AMR 25/003/2014 Cuba Date: 15 July 2014
URGENT ACTION
sentencing of three brothers postponed

The sentencing of three prisoners of conscience originally scheduled for 1 July has been postponed with no further information. They are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Twenty-two-year-old Alexeis Vargas Martín and his two 18-year-old twin brothers, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín, were tried on 13 June at the Provincial Court in Santiago de Cuba, south-eastern Cuba, under the charges of public disorder of a continuous nature (alteración del orden público de carácter continuado).
The sentencing was scheduled for 1 July but was postponed with no indication of a new date. The mother of the three brothers visited the Court on 1 July in order to collect the sentencing documents but they were not finalised. According to local activists the authorities may try to convince the three brothers to give up their activism and this could be the reason behind the postponement.
Amnesty International believes that their arrest and detention is in response to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and that it is intended to send a message of intimidation to other government critics, particularly other members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU). The three brothers are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Please write immediately in Spanish, English or your own language:
Calling on the authorities to release Alexeis Vargas Martín, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín immediately and unconditionally, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;
Urging them to allow the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, without fear of reprisal.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 26 AUGUST 2014 TO:

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República Fiscalía General de la República Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella Centro Habana
La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
And copies to:
UNPACU
Calle 9 no. 10, entre E y G
Altamira, Santiago de Cuba
Cuba C.P. 90200
Email: leonardoramirez1973@gmail.com

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the second update of UA 201/13. Further information: http://amnesty.org/en/library/info/AMR25/002/2014/en
URGENT ACTION
sentencing of three brothers postponed
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

According to information received by Amnesty International, the Public Prosecutor has asked for Alexeis Vargas Martín to be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and three years for Vianco and Django Vargas Martín, who were 16 at the time of arrest. They were reportedly subjected to a summary trial, with none of the witnesses for the defence being allowed to testify. In political trials such as these it is typical for the judge to pass the sentences requested by the public prosecutor.
The brothers, from the city of Santiago de Cuba, are all members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a civil society organization which advocates for greater civil liberties in the country. Since their detention, Alexeis Vargas Martín is being held at Aguadores Prison in Santiago de Cuba province, while Vianco and Django Vargas Martín are held at the Mar Verde prison in the same province.
In the afternoon of 27 November 2012, Alexeis was returning to his house where a government-sanctioned demonstration (acto de repudio) was underway at the time. The house was surrounded by government supporters as his mother, Miraida Martín Calderín, a member of the Ladies in White protest group, was meeting with other members of the same organization. Alexeis was refused entry to his own home and was arrested by police and officials from the Department of State Security. On 2 December, Vianco and Django Vargas Martín – then only 16 years old – were also arrested when they went with friends to protest outside the Micro 9 police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba against the detention of their brother. In early July 2013, officials from the Department of State Security told the brothers’ family that they could be released on bail. The three brothers, however, have refused this as they reject the charges made by the police and insist on their innocence.
Miraida Martín Calderín was also arrested on 2 December 2012 as she protested outside the Tercera Unidad police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba and charged by police with public disorder (desorden público). She was held at the Mar Verde prison for women and released pending trial on 20 February 2013. Miraida Martín Calderín appeared in court alongside her sons on 13 June facing charges of public disorder and defaming institutions, heroes and martyrs (difamación de las instituciones, héroes y mártires). She may face a sentence of over two years to home arrests.
The right to a fair trial in Cuba is affected, especially in trials with political connotations, as courts and prosecutors are under government control. Cuba’s National Assembly elects the President, Vice-President and the other judges of the Peoples’ Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In addition, all courts are subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State, raising concerns over internationally recognised standards for fair trial and the right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) are government-coordinated demonstrations, usually carried out in front of the homes of government critics, attended by government supporters, state officials and law enforcement agencies, aimed at harassing and intimidating opponents of the government, and are often used to prevent them from travelling to take part in activities. During an act of repudiation, political opponents and human rights activists are subjected to verbal and physical abuse by groups of people chanting pro-government slogans. Police are usually present but do not intervene to stop the assaults. Such incidents frequently involve the Rapid Response Brigades (Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida), a structure set up in 1991 and composed of Communist Party volunteers whose task is to deal with any sign of "counter-revolution". Local human rights activists and others believe these incidents are orchestrated by Cuba's security services to intimidate any opposition. Miraida Martin Calderin has told Amnesty International that members of the Rapid Response Brigade threw stones at her house during the act of repudiation on 27 November 2012.
Names: Alexeis Vargas Martín, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín
Gender (m/f): m
Further information on UA: 201/13 Index: AMR 25/003/2014 Issue Date: 15 July 2014

Source: Document - Further information: Cuba: Sentencing of three brothers postponed | Amnesty International - http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/003/2014/en/af538db9-db11-4abf-ada9-3938b092b75d/amr250032014en.html Continue reading
Putin eyes Cuba as springboard for economic expansion into Latin America
Russian leader visits Havana after forgiving €26 billion in debt owed by island nation
JUAN JESÚS AZNAREZ Madrid 11 JUL 2014 - 17:01 CEST

Vladimir Putin’s official trip to Cuba – the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Argentina and Brazil – underscores the growing rapprochement between Moscow and Havana and the island’s renewed role as a springboard into Latin America.

The Russian president is aware that ever since the creation of the São Paulo Forum in 1990, Cuba has developed closer ties with a political left that now rules over countries with which the Kremlin is keen to establish more commercial links.

Meanwhile, the United States is keeping a close – and concerned – watch on Russia’s new geopolitical moves.

Putin is scheduled to meet with Raúl Castro and his brother Fidel, two historical figures from the Cold War, when the communist island was a key piece in the chess game between the US and the Soviet Union. In October 1962, the discovery of a Cuban base holding Soviet nuclear missiles brought the world to the brink of another global conflict. Fidel Castro never forgave the agreement that US President John F. Kennedy and Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev reached behind his back: to remove the missiles in exchange for an American pledge not to invade the island and to pull its own missiles out of Turkey.

Putin will be arriving in Cuba in the middle of his most serious post-bloc confrontation, the one pitting him against Washington and its European allies over control of Ukraine. The intervention of US diplomacy in Russia’s backyard seems reflected in Moscow’s gradual penetration into America’s own backroom, most particularly the Latin American countries governed by the left, and more specifically Cuba, just 145 kilometers off the coast of Florida.

His arrival is preceded by the Russian decision to write off 90 percent of Cuban debt, representing around €26 billion built up over three decades of dependence on Moscow. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 spelled financial disaster for the island, whose GDP fell by more than 30 percent.

Bilateral relations then fell to the bare minimum until the present, although the link is now much more utilitarian than ideological. The rapprochement began in earnest in 2005, and includes all aspects, including the military. The two sides are in the late stages of logistical agreements to allow Russian war ships to dock and undergo maintenance work in the port of Havana. The spy ship Viktor Leonov recently made a stop there.

This is the second time that Putin has visited Cuba, while Raúl Castro has already traveled to Moscow twice, in 2009 and 2012. The island’s top trading partner is Venezuela, followed by China and Spain. Russia sits 10th on the list with €200 million.

The remaining 10 percent of the debt that has not been forgiven, around €3 billion, will be reinvested in the Mariel free zone, located 45 kilometers from Havana.

Source: Putin eyes Cuba as springboard for economic expansion into Latin America | In English | EL PAÍS - http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/07/11/inenglish/1405088007_807157.html Continue reading
14 July 2014 Last updated at 11:50 GMT 'Ladies in White' protesters held in Cuba crackdown "Ladies in White" activists said Cuban police rounded them up during a regular protest in Havana Dozens of "Ladies in White" opposition activists say they were ... Continue reading
Journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez Beaten / Luis Felipe Rojas
Posted on July 13, 2014

Independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez was beaten on Wednesday, 11 June by a regime partisan. Guerra Perez uploaded a photo to his Facebook account where he appears with contusions on his face.

Guerra Perez is director of the Information Center and Prensa Hablemos (Let’s Talk Press), and in days past had warned about the threats that he was receiving daily. Perez made public the detentions Monday morning of journalist Mario Echevarria Driggs and journalism student Yeander Farres who receives training at Let’s Talk Press.

The independent reporter and director of Palenque Vision, Ramon Olivares Abello, was beaten on 31 May by a “State Security collaborator named Fidelito,” his wife told Martinoticias.com from the city of Guantanamo.

The director of Let’s Talk Press, Guerra Perez, added a brief message that the known dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello also had been beaten on leaving her house on Wednesday.

The telephones cut off by Cuba’s only phone company (the state-run ETECSA), short but continuing detentions, beatings and death threats seem to be the messages that the regime sent to non-conformist Cubans at the same time that the Vice-President of the government, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, insists that the official press should be “more transparent.”

Translated by mlk.

11 June 2014

Source: Journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra Perez Beaten / Luis Felipe Rojas | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/journalist-roberto-de-jesus-guerra-perez-beaten-luis-felipe-rojas/ Continue reading
Clash intensifies over travel to Cuba
Would-be travelers balk at ban on pleasure trips
July 13, 2014|By William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Pressure from some Florida members of Congress is making it harder to travel to Cuba even as thousands of their constituents line up to fly to the forbidden island.

The stream of passengers from South Florida to Cuba has slowed slightly since 2011, as some would-be travelers balk at the cost of licensed educational tours and others remain stymied by a ban on casual pleasure trips.

Now some in Congress are trying to tighten those rules to further discourage travel to Cuba, except for Cuban-Americans visiting their families. At the same time, travel proponents are pressing President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to loosen the rules so that all Americans are free to roam the island on their own.

The long-simmering debate over Cuba travel has heated up as prominent politicians — including Hillary Clinton, a prospective presidential candidate, and Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor of Florida — have called for an end to the travel ban.

Recent poll results indicate that travel restrictions have fallen out of favor, even among Cuban-Americans fervently opposed to the Castro regime.

"Absolutely I believe we should drop the restrictions," said J.K. McCrea, 67, of Fort Lauderdale, who was able to attend a baptism in Cuba in 2012 while her husband was on an academic mission.

"It was sad because the other Americans had to stay with their tour groups and weren't allowed to wander," she said. "We were able to go down the streets and visit the markets. They developed a lot of fear because they were restricted from going anywhere. They had the impression it would be very dangerous. But there was no problem whatever. Everybody wanted to talk about baseball. The welcoming experience was amazing."

To encourage contacts between Americans and Cubans, Obama loosened travel rules in 2009 to allow Cuban-Americans unlimited trips to visit relatives. Two years later, he furthered loosened the travel ban to allow groups to apply for a license to lead educational tours.

But Cuban-Americans in Congress — notably Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami — vehemently objected, saying many such trips amount to tourism that puts money in the hands of an oppressive Castro regime.

Rubio blocked Senate confirmation of one of Obama's top State Department nominees until the administration agreed to tighten enforcement of the new rules. Tour groups must submit a rigorous agenda of "purposeful travel," stressing cultural activities and history tours while steering clear of lounging, recreation and rum-drinking at the beach.

Diaz-Balart last month inserted further restrictions into a money bill that is moving through the U.S. House.

"Regrettably, the Obama administration weakened sanctions to allow travel which features tourist activities, such as scuba diving, salsa dancing, jazz clubs, cigar factory tours, and other clearly tourist activities," Diaz-Balart said last week. He said his proposals are designed to "end so-called 'people-to-people' travel to Cuba, closing this Obama-created loophole."

Charter flights from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to Havana have dropped from three per week to only one. Airport officials still hope to get a burst of traffic if Cuba is ever opened up to tourists.

Flights from Miami International Airport, a major hub for Cuba travel, dropped from 7,131 in 2011 to 6,097 last year. The number of Cuba-bound passengers dipped from 657,838 in 2011 to 637,754 last year, according to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.

Cuban-Americans remain avid visitors, including sugar baron Alfonso Fanjul of Palm Beach, a prominent exile who reconnected with his homeland in 2012 and 2013. But critics of the embargo say the traffic is restrained by tight regulations on educational tours and the ongoing ban on pleasure trips, which discourages casual and repeated visits.

"That lends itself to Americans not being able to freely roam the country as they wish. They have to stick to the agenda, and that includes an official program where you have to see what the Cuban government wants you to see," said Ricardo Herrero, executive director of #CubaNow, a new Miami-based advocacy group that pushes against the travel ban.

His group and other advocates are urging Obama to allow all Americans to visit Cuba as individuals on a general license not tied to a pre-approved itinerary. Herrero points to a poll released by Florida International University last month, which found that 69 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County support lifting travel restrictions for all Americans.

Encouraged by such signs, Clinton and Crist are making a case for removing travel limits while ending the U.S. embargo, setting up a clear contrast to Republican leaders.

"People are voting with their feet," said David Hernandez, 44, of West Palm Beach, who left Cuba at age 4 and returned for the first time last year. "We need to stop being obsessed with a policy designed to hurt the Cuban government and instead obsess over a policy to help the Cuban people."

wgibson@tribune.com or 202-824-8256

Source: Clash intensifies over travel to Cuba - Sun Sentinel - http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2014-07-13/news/fl-broward-cuba-travel-restricted-20140712_1_travel-ban-travel-rules-cuba-travel Continue reading
Cuba: Synecdoche of the LGTB Community
July 14, 2014
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso

HAVANA TIMES — Activists of Cuba’s LGTB community organized around the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) headed by Mariela Castro – the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro – welcomed the New Year brimming with optimism.

In December of 2013, Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power (Parliament) officially closed the debate surrounding the country’s new Labor Law and, following approval of the legislation, referred the document to a specialized commission tasked with incorporating the petitions made by the CENESEX – ensuring no one in the workplace suffered discrimination because of sexual orientation or for being HIV positive – in the most advantageous way possible. This procedure was certainly a bit strange (as the parliament approved the legislation before its final version had been drafted), but Cuba’s National Assembly isn’t exactly a house of parliament and the discussion had ended with a spiel by the vice president announcing a positive tilt to the balance.

A well-known gay rights activist supportive of the regime declared he had been left speechless with joy. Another – a reputable medical doctor – praised the measure as a leap forward in the strengthening of “Cuban democracy and republicanism”, proclaiming that Cuba “was one of the few countries in the world where a gender focus is applied.”

Both the activist and doctor were, in fact, undergoing that metamorphosis that leads an individual from excessive virtue to sinful indulgence, and I do not believe the step, had it been taken, had the democratic and republican significance the physician claimed it did. Nor would it have pulled Cuba out of the sorry place it’s in regarding sexual diversity. It did, on the other hand, legitimize the work of Mariela Castro and those close to her, consolidating her political position within the system.

Ultimately, however, none of that took place, for the commission in question eliminated every reference to sexual diversity in the document. When this happened, the gay rights activist regained his speech and complained bitterly about something we all know: our poor excuse for a parliament is not exactly transparent.

I believe this step back – not only for the LGTB community, but for all of Cuban society as well – teaches us two things.

The first is that the movement for the rights of different sexual orientations cannot continue to move forward in the shadow of the CENESEX, even if it considers this institution its ally. The commission’s refusal to include the issue of sexual diversity in the new legislation is nothing other than a pale and discrete illustration of the militant homophobia of Cuba’s political class, an attitude that, for many years, has expressed itself as the direct repression, exclusion and discrimination of homosexuals.

Government activists have always preferred to advance on tip-toes, highlighting the “achievements of the revolution” and the aspiration to treat homosexuals more decorously than they have been for more than fifty years. It is as though they wanted to throw out the dirty water and keep the gleaming child. What Cubans – be they homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, transsexual or asexual – actually need to do today is scrutinize the dirty water some to understand our problems in all of their complexity.

The second lesson has to do with Cuba’s rigid sectarianism. The political putrefaction suffered by Cuban society today lies, most of all, in the capacity of the post-revolutionary elite to fragment society and isolate each of its different parts.

The demands made by Cuba’s emerging civil society (I am not referring to the opposition, which had its own debate elsewhere) generally assume this fragmentation as a given, and this allows the political class to “manage” these demands without much tension or uncomfortable politicization. Because of this, when they present themselves as though they stood for the whole, like a social synecdoche, they achieve nearly nothing.

I am not questioning whether different social sectors ought to demand specific rights, on the basis of their identity. Cuban society is diverse and, as such, ought to demand representation. But it must do so with the understanding that they are parts of a larger system. It is impossible for homosexuals to enjoy inalienable rights (such as those Mariela Castro speaks of in her frivolous spiels) if a system of consecrated civil, political and social rights does not exist in society. African Cubans will not be able to eliminate racist discrimination if they tolerate other forms of discrimination. While Cuba’s political regime continues to regard the rights of people as an administrative issue and becomes more or less permissive depending on circumstance, there will be no true rights for anyone.

This is what happened with the demands made by the CENESEX and with the entirety of the legislation in question. Ultimately, the issue of sexual preference is a secondary issue when it comes to Cuba’s new labor law.

The truly serious thing is that the Labor Law forbids the creation of independent unions, does not envisage the right to strike, reduces the social rights of workers and does not acknowledge the right of workers to keep their jobs regardless of their political opinions. It constitutes another step taken by Cuba’s political elite in the process of establishing an authoritarian capitalist system, for which they require a mass of dispossessed and subjugated workers.

Needless to say, had Raul Castro wanted to please his daughter on this issue, it would have sufficed to slam his fist on the table for all of the country’s deputies to have introduced the petitions made by the CENESEX. This would have given the regime a much-needed semblance of open-mindedness. If he didn’t, he must have good reasons I am unaware of.

To venture one hypothesis, I believe we witnessed one of the things Raul Castro offered as gift to the Catholic hierarchy, which could prove more cooperative politically in exchange of greater control over those fields where it can unfold its conservative vocation in full. This may again prove too much for the gay rights activist who welcomed the New Year thinking something new and better was coming, and leave him speechless.

Source: Cuba: Synecdoche of the LGTB Community - Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104836 Continue reading
An Optimistic Map of the Cuban Opposition
July 12, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban opposition is a mind-boggling issue. The State has shrouded itself with so much smoke and fear that it is practically impossible to know the identity of those who confront it. From its point of view, all are mercenaries, supporters of the US blockade and champions of savage capitalism.

The truth, however, is that Cuba’s dissident community is a complex and varied universe. When it comes to government opponents, you find people on both the Right and Left, anarchists and neo-totalitarians, anti and pro-capitalists, violent militants and pacifists, Yanqui-lovers and anti-imperialists. As they say in Cuba, there’s “a bit of everything, like in the pharmacy.”

Faced with the government’s campaign of disinformation, people tend to adopt extreme postures: they either swallow the entire shit sandwich or they assume that absolutely everything the government tells them is a lie.

As a result of this, many fledgling dissidents end up gravitating towards the more recalcitrant groups that are more likely to be infiltrated (and even organized) by State Security. No one has to come and tell me this: I personally saw this happen to a very close friend of mine.

Because of all this, I value and am grateful for socialist Haroldo Dilla’s recent efforts to undo this thick tangle and shed light on the “nature” of different dissident groups in Cuba.

I also have some criticisms of Dilla’s commentary Cuba: los nuevos campos de la oposicion politica (“Cuba: The New Fields of Political Opposition”). Some may be fruit of my ignorance, others perhaps not. Only time will tell.

The first thing that strikes me is the optimism with which Haroldo looks towards the future. This optimism cuts through his entire analysis and leads him to conclusions that are, from my point of view, erroneous. The following paragraph illustrates what I mean:

“On the other hand, we must regard the impossibility of continuing to maintain Cuban society behind an information fence as a potentially auspicious sign. As international contact increases and dissident or critical actors multiply, the State begins to lose its communication monopoly. The economic reforms and Cuba’s insertion into the global economy will demand greater access to cyberspace by the Cuban population, with the implications this has for access to information and interaction with the outside world. Everything points towards a future that will afford the opposition greater elbow room.”

Dilla takes the exponential and stable growth of the global economy and communications for granted. If that premise were true, it would be logical to assume that “political” dictatorship will give way to the advance of globalization. The question is: will this growth take place?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and nearly all scientific communities involved in predicting climate patterns herald an environmental crisis whose destructive power mirrors that of a global war. Every year, they rectify their predictions, alerting us to the fact that the crisis will hit earlier and harder than they originally thought.

Shouldn’t this hot potato be one of the possible future scenarios we consider in our political predictions?

The same holds for the energy (and raw material) crisis. Even those scientific institutions that are most committed to development (I am thinking of the International Energy Agency) are beginning to acknowledge its seriousness. The oil company Shell tells us that, to maintain our current consumption levels in the coming decade, we would have to discover and vigorously exploit several deposits like the one in Saudi Arabia. This is as impossible as covering the coming oil gap with renewable sources of energy or nuclear power plants.

More and more geo-strategists are including the energy deficit and its potentially destructive consequences among the factors that will steer developments in the short and middle terms.

It is therefore valid to ask ourselves: why don’t Cubanologists (I use the term in its most positive connotation) accord it the importance it deserves? Could it be they have bought into that bubble known as “fracking”? If we couple this explosive situation with the progressive destabilization of Venezuela, the political conflicts that are likely to ensue following Raul Castro’s retirement, less and less room for doubt remains: we are sitting on a powder keg.

With such dark clouds and thunder looming in the horizon, isn’t it a bit crazy to assume business will continue as usual? We ought rather to expect forms of political and economic destabilization that result in greater authoritarianism (the much-feared imposition of a North-Korea-like model) or, on the contrary, the complete but no less traumatic destruction of the regime.

I am also “reproaching” all other Cuban political scientists and politicians. As far as I know, not one has given environmental problems and the energy crisis the importance they deserve. As the leaders they are or pretend to be, they have the responsibility to become informed, divulge the bad news and make decisions on the basis of the principle of precaution.

This is the end of my reflection for today. In my next post, I will continue to yap about the political map of the opposition drawn up by the great Haroldo Dilla.

Source: An Optimistic Map of the Cuban Opposition - Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=104824 Continue reading
Posted on Sunday, 07.13.14

Man accuses Cuban agents of insidious, ‘psychological’ intimidation
A man who threw a party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of intimidation.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a punk-rock band.

Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his delirious s---.”

So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets refuse to change their behavior.

Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes, seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and throw them out of school.

“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.

Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6, 2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own home that Saturday.

“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news on Cuba.

On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.

“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify themselves and walked away.

Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does not consider himself to be a dissident.

He phoned police the same night to report the incident but got nowhere, he said. When he went to his nearest police station Saturday, officers refused to write down his complaint. But they called in one of the men who had threatened him “and in front of me told him to stop and treated him like a little child.”

Neighbors later told him the four were former officials of his neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a pro-government watchdog organization, who were operating as a sort of auxiliary to State Security, said Casanella.

He walked out of the police station thinking the harassment would stop. But as he arrived home, two men in civilian clothes identified themselves as State Security agents and asked to talk to him inside the house — but refused to show any IDs.

“They looked more like delinquents than officers, and I said no,” Casanella said. The men then turned up the threats. “They said they could mess up my life, mess up my family, put me in jail, that I could think whatever I wanted, but not say it.”

The party nevertheless went on that Saturday, the researcher said, with about 50 people dancing and drinking plus four men in civilian clothes watching the front and back of the house and a neighbor writing down the license plates of all the cars parked outside.

The pressure went up another notch Monday when Casanella returned to work at the National Oncology and Radiology Institute, where he’s studying for his doctorate. Supervisor Pedro Fernández Cabezas warned him that he could lose his job. His work environment “turned hostile,” and he was left out of a new project.

Worse still, he was turned away when he appealed to Lorenzo Anasagasti, a supervisor and mentor who had sponsored him for a scholarship in Switzerland from 2011-2013.

“He told me that if State Security ordered him to throw me out of this institution, he would do it because he loves his children more than anything,” Casanella said

“I was already very nervous. And that tipped me over, from the psychological point of view,” Casanella recalled.

Nothing more happened until April, when he was summoned to the neighborhood police station for a meeting with Capt. Jose Antonio Blasco Pérez. The captain led him to a room with three State Security agents. Again, no names, just threats.

They called his dissident friends “mercenaries, terrorists,” Casanella said. They said they could have him fired or transferred to a less important research job or even to a common neighborhood clinic. They told him they could hurt his relatives.

He asked to file a complaint with the police right then and there, he said. The police again refused.

Casanella sounded almost incredulous as he recounted his tale, and said he had repeatedly asked the State Security agents, the police and his supervisors what right they had to threaten him and try to force him to abandon his friends.

He rounded up letters of support from some workers at his institute. He wrote letters of complaint to Cuban ruler Raúl Castro and to the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the police and State Security, and even to prosecutors.

The prosecutors responded in a July 1 letter. The police and State Security have no record or memory of any meetings with Casanella, they said.

Source: Man accuses Cuban agents of insidious, ‘psychological’ intimidation - Cuba - MiamiHerald.com - http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/13/4234416/man-accuses-cuban-agents-of-insidious.html Continue reading