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Cuba Verdad

Cuba's New Private Sector Employees Reveal Where the Reform Process is
September 22, 2014
Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government's reforms continue to make slow,
somewhat erratic progress and to evince a series of unique
characteristics and tendencies that are food for thought.

Let us recall, first, that Cuban politicians like to refer to this
process as the "updating of Cuba's economic system." This past Friday,
Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, proudly informed readers about one of
the sectors now at the forefront of the process, the food industry.

Reading the article, one immediately senses that its author, journalist
Lorena Sanchez, suffers from the deeply-rooted shyness that
characterizes government propagandists, those who refuse to call the
private sector by its name and use the euphemism "non-State" in its
place. Perhaps she merely transcribed the message from the Vice-Minister
for Domestic Trade Ada Chavez Oviedo: in short, that private or
"non-State" forms of ownership will prevail in the sector once it has
been fully "modernized."

In her report, we find out that 68 % of the country's better known food
establishments are still under State management. Over a thousand have
been passed on to the self-employed and cooperatives (mostly the
former). Here, we run into a fact that is alarming for left-wing forces.
If the process of de-nationalization was planned by an allegedly
socialist government, why weren't cooperatives prioritized? Will the
same tendency characterize the de-nationalization of the establishments
that have yet to be "updated"?

Agriculture and the food industry have experienced the most visible
changes, perhaps because they were facing the most severe crises. Farms,
cafes and restaurants have been the paradigms of bad and inefficient
State management. In both cases, the main solution has been to place the
means of production in private hands.

In effect, we are now witnessing substantial changes in the activities
conducted in these sectors, prosperous fields and quality services where
before there was nothing but marabou brush and flies. One cannot help
but wonder, however, about the actual potential of these reforms, which
are more liberal than anything else, and about who is reaping the actual
profits of this.

Another article published by Granma a few days before reported that the
largest number of self-employed workers aren't exactly "self-employed",
but rather the employees of someone else – small or mid-scale private
entrepreneurs. In fact, the number of such employees in the country
isn't larger because of how small most businesses are. This data can
prove useful for a study of the changes our society is experiencing.

Champions of capitalism say that the market economy and privatizations
are good because they increase the number of property owners, of
prosperous individuals. Our government's spokespeople praise the
"updating" process, based on liberal and market reforms, because it will
lead to prosperity, or so they claim.

I invite readers to go out for a stroll around Cuba's cities and talk
with the people who stand behind the counters of private restaurants and
food stands owned by others, to ask these employees whether their
working hours abide by the limits established in the recently-approved
Labor Code, how many vacation days the owners grant them, and, if they
are women of reproductive age, whether they believe that they can have a
child and keep their jobs.

If you do, don't ask them whether they can ask for a raise – you
wouldn't want to get them fired on the spot. The owner, see, is
sacrosanct, and Cuba's blessed Labor Code gives them the authority to do
just that. We are simply to accept that they're being generous enough by
paying more than the State. Afterwards, take a trip to the countryside
and ask the farmhands employed on the ranches of the more fortunate
farmers – those with both land and connections – the same questions.

The liberalization of the food industry and other sectors, given the
"successes" the government boasts of, is probably representative of what
is to come. Both the facts and history suggest that the Cuban State will
continue to fail at most of its economic endeavors. Unable to solve
these itself, it will have two alternatives: dismantle such production
and service centers, or hand them over to the self-employed or cooperatives.

The more liberal option has been the most common implemented to date.
With every step taken in this direction, with the expansion of the means
of production involved, the exploitation of workers by private
entrepreneurs, owners or managers of such means of production, will
invariably increase. It is also true that, till now, State exploitation
had been the norm.

Will we improve as a society following the privatizations that are
presumably to come? It is not an easy question to answer, for we aren't
doing well at all right now. What's certain is that the path ahead of us
is a 180 degree turn from the road towards legitimate socialism, and
that, in other parts of the world, this road has led to severe and
irreparable damage to the so-called middle classes, to the concentration
of property in a handful of individuals and to the extreme polarization
of society between wealth and power and poverty and despair.

In short, the path traced by the "updating of Cuba's economic model" is
strewn with contradictions. One day, the authorities create more
possibilities for private initiative. A short while later, they restrict
these same spaces. They want for the private sector to absorb all who
have been laid off or will be by the State sector, but they curtail the
basic conditions needed for the development of the sector, such as the
opening of wholesale markets and imports through different channels.
They want to open the entire country to foreign investment, but they do
not allow foreign investors to deal directly with the work force,
setting up an onerous and profitable State mechanism that acts as

The government also has its ways of dealing with the ideologically
restless. One day, the papers expound on philosophical hesitations with
pronouncements such as "no one knows for certain how socialism is
built." The next day, they reveal that the Council of Ministers has
traced a development plan for the economy, society and politics for 2030
and beyond. The only problem is that they don't tell you what those
plans are. Some time later, they tell us they are going to save
socialism through a battle in the field of ideas and culture, ignoring
the vital space of society's material reproduction.

What one discerns from below following a simple class-conscious analysis
is a tendency towards the kind of capitalism that the opposition wants –
but with the current governing class, the one that speaks of "updating
socialism", at the top, and without opposition. The government and
opposition, thus, will continue to quarrel, and each will thwart the
concrete progress of the reforms with the same objective that unites
them and rifts them apart.

Source: Cuba's New Private Sector Employees Reveal Where the Reform
Process is Heading - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba to build pharmaceutical plant in Bolivia
HAVANA Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:06pm EDT

(Reuters) - The Cuban state-owned pharmaceutical and chemical company
Labiofam plans to build a complex in Bolivia that would help the South
American country meet 100 percent of its demand for basic medicine, the
company said on Monday.

Bolivian President Evo Morales requested the project and Bolivia will
finance it, Labiofam Director General Jose Antonio Fraga said without
disclosing the cost.

"We should sign the contract at the end of this month," Fraga told
Reuters at a company meeting on Monday. "If we sign the contract we will
start right away." Bolivia hopes to supplement current supplies and meet
100 percent of its domestic demand for basic medicine once the project
is complete, and any excess production would be exported mostly to
countries within the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America
(ALBA), an association created by leftist governments in Latin America.

"This is basically for poor people because they can't afford the prices
set by the trans-nationals," Fraga said. "So these industries will be
subsidized by the state or their products will be sold at a very small
profit margin, just to sustain themselves, not to get rich."

Bolivia in 2012 created the Fund for the Productive Industrial
Revolution (FINPRO) to finance such projects. Of the trust fund's $1.2
million, some $900 million have been set aside for public development
projects, such as a $300 million cement factory and a $50 million
powdered milk plant.

Labiofam was created in the 1960s with the help of former Soviet bloc
nations and today does business in 60 countries.

In Cuba it produces 98 percent of the veterinary medicine used on the
island and also makes nutritional supplements, homeopathic medicine,
pesticides, cleaning products and plastic containers.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Additional reporting by Daniel Ramos in La
Paz; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Andrew Hay)

Source: Cuba to build pharmaceutical plant in Bolivia | Reuters - Continue reading
Does Being Able to Pay with Either Currency Resolve the Problem? /
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 September 2014 – At an artisan fair
near the Malecon a seller offers unusual wallets. "Designed for a
country with two currencies," says the skilled merchant, while
demonstrating their two separate compartments. Accustomed to living
among convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP), we barely even
notice any more the complications this duality brings us every day. The
additional calculations, the long lines at the exchange kiosks, and the
confusions in speech, requiring that we always make it clear if we are
referring to CUPs or CUCs… are just some of them.

This mess has been slightly eased with the emergence of stores and
markets where you can pay with both currencies. It took them more then
twenty years, from the legalization of the dollar, to eliminate the
problem of going to the nearest CADECA—currency exchange—to convert our
Cuban pesos into chavitos (CUC). This could be a clear example of the
slow pace at which economic relaxations are adopted in the country, if
it weren't for the fact that there are other aspects of national life
where things move much more slowly.

A few years ago a group of dissidents launched the excellent slogan,
"With the same money," to demand a correspondence between the currency
in which wages are paid and that needed to buy products as basic as oil,
soap and milk. I remember that on several occasions some of those
activists were at a café or restaurant and, after eating, they asked for
the bill and paid with the devalued Cuban pesos. This action brought
them arrests by the police, threats and even beatings.

Now the government has inverted the slogan and seems to be telling us,
"for the same product." It doesn't matter if the bill is expressed in
the banknotes without faces—the ones with monuments—which are the
convertible pesos. It is now possible to also settle the bill with those
other pieces of paper, bearing the sober glance of the Apostle—José
Martí—or the stern face of Antonio Maceo. What does difference does it
make what we pay with, or how many security threads this or that
currency has? The central problem remains the divorce between the cost
of living and wages.

A few days ago, official TV broadcast an extensive report about "the
good popular reception given to the measure" of allowing us to pay for
things in both currencies. The Commercial Director of the CIMEX chain of
stores, Barbara Soto, referred to the gradual extension of the
prerogative to a greater number of stores throughout the country. Some
customers interviewed said that the price of every product should be
visible both in CUPs and CUCs. However, the media report continually
avoided the main questions: Why should a professional work three days to
be able to buy a quart of oil? Until when will a worker need a full
week's wages to be able to buy two pounds of chicken?

Do we live better now because CUPs and CUCs are intermingled in the cash

Right now it takes two working days to be able to acquire a package of
hot dogs, while a tetrapack of milk can only be bought with the fruit of
three days labor. This morning at the market a woman was looking at can
of tomato sauce and seemed to be thinking, "For this I need to sweat
eight hours for half a week."

In a society with such great economic distortions, paper money has lost
the capacity to express the value of merchandise. The illegal market,
the massive inflow of remittances, the diversion of resources and the
invisible capital of one's political standing, completely alter the
valuation of each product. To calculate the cost of living you need to
have at hand equations that include the time and effort required to get
something. How many hours do you have to work to buy a piece of cheese,
a soft drink, bath soap. After how many trips will a bus driver be able
to afford a beer?

It's true that from now on the wallets offered by that artisan are
becoming less necessary. However, the financial distortion we suffer
hasn't diminished with the newly adopted measure. Has something changed
because we can indiscriminately hand the supermarket clerk convertible
pesos or national money? Do we live better now because CUPs and CUCs are
intermingled in the cash registers? The answer is no. A "no" that bears
the watermark of reality and ink of emergency.

Source: Does Being Able to Pay with Either Currency Resolve the Problem?
/ 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Three Lies in One / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on September 22, 2014

A few years ago they began selling salt in little one-kilo bags — it
previously had been sold in bulk — with a ration book allotment of one
bag per couple every three months. As a result it was out of reach of
most consumers. At first it was white and fine, as though it had been
imported, but that did not last long. For a long time now it has been
available in the same plastic bags with three key features highlighted
on the label: fine, iodized, non-clumping. In reality it is thick,
dirty, gray and damp. It looks like the kind used by industry for
tanning leather.

Just yesterday I heard on the radio that Cuba had officially licensed a
testing lab that will certify the quality of products that are imported
and exported. This was presented as a great achievement, as big news!
Then I remembered that back in the 1950s almost all products consumed in
this country — especially those that were imported — prominently
displayed two internationally recognized seals of approval: one from
Good Housekeeping and one from the University of Villanueva.

For more than three decades now we have been buying naked products — in
other words products without labels — especially toothpaste and toilet
paper, which came unwrapped, resulting in largely unsanitary paper. I
hope that from now on they will take this initiative seriously and
revamp products they guarantee — or simply drop false claims on
packaging like the ones on bags of salt and other products in the market
— so that the consumer will no longer continue to be misled.

19 September 2014

Source: Three Lies in One / Rebeca Monzo | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Another Absurd Prohibition / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 22, 2014

Wandering around some of the shopping streets in Havana, with the
objective of photographing shop logos embedded in the granite floors of
their entrances, I was shocked at the Fontana store on Neptuno Street
with the absurdity that accompanies us every dat.

When I was taking the picture, after having come to an agreement with
the clerk who was sitting next to one of his dirty shop windows, a
character who said he was the manager came out, angry, and told me it
was forbidden.

On asking him why, he responded to me, upset, that it was an order from
the superior bosses, adding: It is forbidden to photograph the floor,
the store inside and out, the display windows and even the bars.

I smiled and answered him: Tell your superior bosses that it is
forbidden to photograph the ruins that Havana has been turned into,
cannot hide the reality

I've confronted this absurd situation in cafes, restaurants, shops,
offices and other state property. It seems, indeed, to e a government
regulation. Perhaps they think that someone could copy their primitive
sales systems and abuse the public. Anything is possible.

But it's not the case in private establishment, where they're happy when
people take pictures and the employees themselves will push the shutter
for you, because it's free advertising.

Clearly, between the private businesses and the state businesses there
is a lot of difference: the former are pleasant, agreeable with good
service, while the second, although the sell in hard currency, are
dirty, disagreeable and with the worst service.

As a photograph is worth a thousand words, here I show you some that
speak for themselves. The title photo is the sidewalk on Fontana, taken
before the manager came out, the second is Neptuno between Consulado and

Source: Another Absurd Prohibition / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba
- Continue reading
We're Eating More, We're Eating Worse / 14ymedio, Ignacio Varona
Posted on September 20, 2014

14ymedio, Ignacio Varona. Havana. 2 September 2014 — In a few bites he
polishes off the second pizza of the day. That evening he'll dine on
"bread with something," accompanied by a shake and a sweet. For years
now he has trouble seeing his feet while standing. His stomach hangs
over his extremities and other, more lamented parts. Richard was slender
in his youth, but a sedentary lifestyle and an excess of calories have
caused his neighbors to call him "the fat man from the third floor." His
condition is shared by the more than 43% of the Cuban population which
suffers from some degree of overweight.

Obesity, that 21st-century epidemic, also wreaks havoc in our country.
In the last two decades, the scales have increasingly shown higher
poundage. Does this mean that we're eating more, or eating worse?
Experts such as Dr. Jorge Pablo Alfonso Guerra declare that the first
alarming signs of this affliction can already be seen in adolescence.
Among the causes of Cubans storing more fat than they should, Dr.
Alfonso points to "inadequate nutrition, a tendency towards less
physical activity, and false standards of health and beauty."

The common diet of the country, rich in carbohydrates and animal fats,
is a legacy of our culinary heritage, but it is also a result of
economic adversity. "There are days when all I eat is rice and hotdogs,
because that's all I can buy," says Eugenia Suárez, who is 5ft-31/2in
tall, and weighs 254 pounds. For years she has suffered from diabetes,
high blood pressure and severe knee pain, due to her excess weight.
Today she dreams of having bariatric surgery to reduce the size of her

Eugenia's children are highly likely to be overweight, as well.
Scientific studies have shown that the risk of obesity in children is
multiplied by four if at least one parent is obese. A study produced in
Havana by the anthropology department, assigned to the biology faculty
of the university, determined that, between the ages of 6 and 15 years,
23% of girls and 21% of boys are overweight.

"It's the children of those who suffered through the Special Period
during their adolescence," says Eloy R. López, endocrinologist and
associate of the Institute of Nutrition and Nutritional Hygiene. "Their
parents have an obsession with food and pass it on to their little
ones." According to this doctor, "the nutritional hardships that we
endured in the 90s have triggered a compulsion towards constant food
intake which, combined with bad culinary habits and poor food choices,
create a very worrisome situation."

Erroneous esthetic standards that glorify the "beer belly" and "love
handles" make it difficult to treat males for this affliction.

"Sugar consumption is very high, because with it, people try to fill
other needs," López explains. "The same happens with the flour that is
often used to make a food 'go farther' and feed several diners." Every
week, dozens of people visit his practice who want to make the needle on
the scale go backward. His patients are "mostly women because among that
population in our country, obesity is more common, and also because they
worry more about their physique and tend to seek help." However, he
points out that "men are more difficult to convince that they have a
problem. Erroneous esthetic standards that glorify the 'beer belly' and
'love handles' make it difficult to treat males for this affliction.

"I always encounter difficulties when recommending a healthier diet,
because these individuals will tell me, 'Doctor, I can't afford that
type of food,' and they have a point, to some extent." One grapefruit
costs two Cuban pesos, the healthy pineapple can cost up to 15, and
right now one pound of tomatoes costs no less than 20. "When I add it
all up, a healthy diet would cost in one week what a professional earns
in one month," admits the doctor. To eat healthy in Cuba is expensive –
but the problem isn't only a monetary one.

Richard, the one whose neighbors no longer call by name, explains what
it is that makes him consume so much junk food. "I live with my parents,
my brother, his wife and child, the kitchen is small, and there's almost
always somebody frying or boiling something, so most of the time I have
to eat out." In the dining room at his workplace there are also no
options that might help him lose weight. "Almost every day there is
rice, sweet potato, custard…and the choice of vegetables is limited to
cabbage for a season of the year."

It is rare to find anywhere in the country a cafeteria whose menu is not
based on sandwiches, fried foods or highly-sweetened juices. Those that
attempt to offer more healthy choices have a limited clientele and are
forced to impose higher prices. "I am often disappointed that the best
dishes on our menu, which are based on vegetables and fresh ingredients,
are rarely requested," says Miguel, a chef in a private restaurant on
3rd Street in Miramar. Instead, "fried pork morsels, pizzas, and
sandwiches with mayonnaise are the most popular among diners."

Following such indulgences, the more vain among the populace try to burn
those calories in the gym, or seek faster and riskier methods to drop
their extra pounds.

The Weight-Loss Business

"An obese society is a society disposed towards paying to lose weight,"
affirms Dayron Castellanos, who sells diet pills. He earned a degree in
physical culture and sports, but now he works in the weight-loss
business. He sells via catalog such products as the Chinese-made Pai You
Guo pills, whose directions for use state that they will promote
"appetite reduction and effective evacuation." To his list of "miracle
remedies" are added ketones (supposed fat-burning substances), and green
tea capsules.

Castellanos is not licensed to sell any of these products, most of which
are not even approved by the country's pharmaceutical authorities. His
business is by word-of-mouth and classified ads. All that is needed is a
phone call and a few "convertible pesos" and the customer goes home with
what he thinks will be the solution for his "little rolls and spare tires."

"I have had patients adversely affected by continued consumption of
diuretic tea and other weight-loss remedies," says Dr. R. López. "People
want magical, immediate solutions, but to lose weight and keep it off,
it is necessary to make permanent lifestyle changes." However, the
doctor's opinion can barely be heard within the chorus of those hawking
weight-loss products of all kinds.

Castellanos' customers are basically members of Cuba's emergent middle
class. "This doesn't mean that there are no overweight poor people, only
that they can't afford these pills," says the prosperous entrepreneur.
Many young women looking for quick fixes answer his ads, but older
people do, too. In Cuba it is estimated that among the population older
than 60, 51% of women and 30% of men are overweight to some degree. The
risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are causing
many of them to be concerned about those extra pounds.

Declining health is a problem, but those suffering from obesity have a
harder time emotionally with the social and familial repercussions of
their condition. "I want people to start calling me by my name again,
and not 'the fat man from the third floor,' " Richard concludes, as he
faces a cafeteria board advertising a special of ham-and-double-cheese

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: We're Eating More, We're Eating Worse / 14ymedio, Ignacio Varona
| Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Internet "offline" packages for sale
Published: 21 Sep 2014 at 13.46
news: Writer: dpa

HAVANA - Game of Thrones fever is beginning to die down in Cuba. The
fourth season of the wildly popular medieval-setting United States
television series wrapped up in June.

The man who enters the back room of a private home in Havana, where it
is dark and an old ventilator is thumping on the wall to ease the summer
heat, is looking for something else.

"Give me the next episode of 'Lord of the Skies,'" he says as he hands
over a pen drive.

He is referring to a current "narco-novela" or "narco soap-box series"
being broadcast by the Spanish-language Telemundo network in the US.

Cuba has some of the world's worst internet access, which is the fault
of both relentless government control and general economic backwardness.
Cuba's state-run television offers content that is low in quality. Many
would say plain boring.

Yet foreign movies and television series are avidly watched on the island.

Most Cubans get to see them thanks to weekly sales of what is known as
the "package." The "package" is a weekly selection of current television
series, movies and web publications that is viewed across the island,
passing from hand to hand and computer to computer.

Most of the best loved television series, movies and shows are made in
the US, but viewers are also partial to the content of womens' magazines
such as the Spanish Hola!, or the Mexican Vanidades, as well as
specialized magazines such as Autobild, a German cars mag, and Sport, a
sports magazine from Barcelona.

The magazines are saved and read in PDF format.

The files are first downloaded using a broadband connection, or else
taped directly from cable television.

Downloading would be so ordinary as to rate no excitement in any country
except Cuba, where private homes are not allowed to have internet
accounts and the most common online connection continues to be an
analogue modem. Cable television is not allowed either.

The "package" starts off as a one-terabyte disk, explains Isbel Diaz, a
38-year-old computer expert who is familiar with the clandestine
internet world in Cuba. Distribution operates as a chain.

Some people are in charge of obtaining the master "package" and they
sell it by dividing it up into smaller deliveries right down to the
level of the small-time distributor who sells the content in small
units, sometimes even personally delivering those orders to the homes of

"The hard-drive disk is taken to the distributor, and the distributor
then does his or her business," said Diaz. It is as it were an "offline
Internet" service - a way of having internet access without actually
going online.

Many Cubans wait anxiously each week for the arrival of the "package" to
watch their favourite series as well as to acquire bootleg computer
software. An 8GB memory device can be bought for less than a dollar in Cuba.

A popular series in Cuba is the US "Cold Case" programme along with
shows by the Cuban comedian Alexis Valdes, who is based in Miami.

Diaz said that those programs are basically the Spanish-language
television fare that people in Florida watch. Many users also buy
foreign news programmes or Discovery Channel documentary films.

It is the rule to offer commercial programming with no political
messages. Pornography is also taboo. Because of this, Diaz and others
believe that Cuban authorities tolerate the making of the weekly
"package," even though it is not a legally sanctioned activity.

Otherwise, he said, "It is very suspicious that such a large amount of
information contained in those 'packages' can be updated on a weekly
basis... How many people are there in Cuba with that kind of connection,
so rapid, to download those volumes of information?"

In Cuba, only state institutions or foreign firms are entitled to use
broadband connections or satellite antennae.

That is why downloading the Internet content, "has to be from state
centres, with or without the authorization of the bosses," said Pablo,
another Internet bootlegger who will not give his full name because the
activity is illegal on the island.

Pablo, trained as a physician, sells "packages" from the back room of
his home in Havana.

He explained why the "packages" are so popular: "It's because Cuban
television lacks this kind of material," he said.

The black-market internet content packages are becoming so widespread
that small local entrepreneurs, who are authorized to do "self-employed"
work within Cuba's communist system, are now starting to advertise their
businesses on the "packages."

They pay a special fee to the distributors to promote their businesses
with videos and photos.

Local musicians are also taping their reggae music shows for
distribution as part of "the package". There are also people willing to
offer other kinds of programmes and video for dissemination in Cuba.

"'The package' that exists currently and is being sold does not satisfy
my consumption needs nor that of many of my peers," says Yaima Pardo, 34.

She is a television director and filmmaker and believes that many people
her age want something else. Pardo is in the planning stages of
producing a "Weekly Independent Package" that would go by its Spanish
acronym, PaSA (a play on the word pass or pass along).

Pardo and her colleagues want to distribute PaSA for free in Havana and
other cities.

"I see it as the kind of internet we could create ourselves" if we had
regular access to the web, she said.

The internet television and video package Pardo would distribute would
also include political topics and erotic material, because there is
"nothing wrong" with that, she said.

"We would like it to operate as a kind of 'citizen's journalism
report,'" she added, "that people produce their own content with social
objectives, to be included on the disk."

Pardo also said she would have no objection to including "14ymedio"
("14andahalf"), a digital newspaper produced by the Cuban dissident
Yoani Sanchez and launched in May. Sanchez and her fellow dissident
journalists are periodically producing issues of "14ymedio" in PDF
format that they distribute clandestinely on the island.

For now, the success of the internet "package" is directly tied to the
commercial aspect.

It is hard to measure just how widespread the practice is, because there
are no official figures, but in cities such as Havana it is common to
hear people talking about how they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of
their "package," be it on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the service

In conversations, people seem to be well aware of the latest television
fads outside Cuba.

At Pablo's internet shop a female buyer refers to the show she is most
interested in at this time: she just loves MasterChef, a cooking show
that has become very popular in the United States, as well as in Spain
and Latin America.

Source: Internet "offline" packages for sale are a hit on Cuba's black
market | Bangkok Post: Most recent - Continue reading
Unfortunately, cash, smugglers rule
09/20/2014 3:00 PM 09/20/2014 7:00 PM

Human trafficking is not new, but smugglers have new clients: Cuban
baseball players. That became clear with revelations about Los Angeles
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig's flight from Cuba through violent
smugglers who left a trail of death and deceit along the way.

Cuban boxer Yunior Despaigne, who fled with Puig, signed an affidavit
claiming that Gilberto Suarez and others financed Puig's escape to Islas
Mujeres and Mexico for $250,000. Realizing Puig's dollar value to a
Major League Baseball team — there are 30 — the smugglers doubled the
amount to be paid for his release.

Puig was held until the ransom was paid. As it turns out, the smugglers
were working for the notorious Zetas Mexican drug cartel, which
allegedly killed one involved in the plot over a dispute about money.

Is the trip worth the risk?

Baseball is a way of life in Cuba. Cuban baseball players are considered
national icons; every time one defects, it is an embarrassment to the
government. They are leaving to escape poverty and to fulfill a dream of
playing for the MLB. In Cuba, a baseball player lives in poor
conditions. earning between $12 and $16 a month. In the United States,
the minimum salary reported by the MLB in 2013 was $490,000. Some, of
course, earn much more. Puig has a $42-million contract with the
Dodgers; White Sox star Jose Abreu earns $68 million. The difference in
salaries between both countries would be almost comical were it not so sad.

Joe Kehoskie, a baseball agent and president and CEO of Joe Kehoskie
Baseball has represented more than a dozen Cuban defectors. In an
interview for Issues Reports, which I host 11 a.m. Sunday on WPBT2,
Kehoskie says that professional smugglers work with U.S. sports agents
to target and seduce players to leave Cuba. The smugglers/agents get up
to 30 percent of the value of the player's contract in return. He paints
an ugly portrait of a sport that is considered America's pastime.

Facing the embarrassment of the growing number of prominent ball players
who are fleeing the island, the Cuban regime is softening its position
now allowing some to play abroad as long as they return to Cuba to
fulfill their commitments at home. Mexico and Japan have taken
advantage, reportedly signing deals that range from $980,000 to $1.5
million. There are two catches: The Cuban government receive the
players' salaries, and none can play in the United States. It could
become a lucrative business for the communist country that never lets
its workers directly negotiate or be compensated by companies.

The Cuban government has long profited from the human trafficking of its
best talent. That is the perspective of Mauricio Claver-Carone,
executive director of Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, who calls out MLB
Commissioner Bud Selig as a frequent visitor to Cuba and friend of
members of the regime.

Photographs of Selig in Cuba sitting next to Fidel Castro support his
view: "The real problem is that MLB does not treat Cuban players in the
same way as they do other international players," says Claver-Carone.

Under MLB rules, only Cubans who arrive in the United States via a third
country are allowed to negotiate as free agents; that is where the
lucrative contracts lie. MLB policy ignores Cubans who arrive legally by
other means such like a visa or wet foot-dry foot. They can only be
hired by a team as an amateur draft pick who earns far less. It is a
rule the MLB could easily change, thus eliminating the stain of
corruption and immorality associated with human trafficking.

There are those who say that the Cuban embargo is the culprit behind the
human trafficking of ball players, but that clearly isn't true. By
changing its rules, the MLB could let all Cuban arrivals negotiate as
free agents like other international players.

Cuban baseball players might not care how they get off the island, but
the rest of us should. Human exploitation is wrong. The Florida
Legislature was right in unanimously passing a law that attempts to
pressure the MLB to level the playing field for all Cuban ball players.
The story is out that sports agents and drug cartels are smuggling Cuban
players; MLB needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing for
all international ball players, including Cubans.

Source: Unfortunately, cash, smugglers rule | The Miami Herald - Continue reading
Cuba's Military on the Hunt for Chinese Tourism
September 19, 2014
Fabian Flores (Café Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES — The Grupo Gaviota, one of the pillars of the commercial
chain operated by Cuba's Armed Forces, has launched an aggressive
campaign to attract Chinese tourists to Cuba.

The Cuban government is laying its bets on the mid-term potential of the
Chinese tourism market, today the top source country (reporting 100
million travelers every year)

The number of Chinese tourists that travel to the island is
infinitesimal when compared to other destinations (a mere 22,218 Chinese
travelled to Cuba last year), despite the 100 % growth experienced since
2008. China ranks 15th among the island's tourism source countries.

Courting the Chinese

According to a report issue by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX),
a delegation of the Grupo Gaviota company headed by general manager
Ileana Pilar Martinez traveled to China at the beginning of September
and held a meeting at the Cuban embassy with the three agencies that
were the main sources of Chinese tourism to the island in 2013.

Martiez invited the Chinese companies to assess the possibility of joint
ventures in the tourism sector, from the building of hotels to the
creation of golf courses.

The visit to China by Gaviota representatives coincided with the
launching of a six-minute promotional video (below), with Chinese
subtitles, about Cuba's touristic charms.

By the close of the year, the Grupo Gaviota S.A. will operate 55 hotels,
12 of them in the Varadero beach area, for a total of 29,400 rooms. The
company is also planning the development of marinas and a range of other
tourist facilities.

Chinese Food

The expansion of the Gaviota Varadero Marina, expected to become Cuba's
largest and most modern facility of its kind (with a mooring capacity of
1,200 vessels), will be completed next year.

The first Cuba-China forum was held in Havana last year. It was aimed at
the promotion of Cuban products that could contribute to an increase in
Chinese tourism.

At the forum, there was talk of raising the number of Chinese visitors
to the island to 100,000 a year. The Chinese ambassador in Havana, Zhang
Tuo, went as far as predicting "a sea of Chinese tourists for the near

Some of the issues to be addressed in order to encourage more visits to
Cuba from China are the scarce availability of Chinese food on the
island, the training of tourist guides who speak Mandarin and the search
for better flight connections between the two countries.

Source: Cuba's Military on the Hunt for Chinese Tourism - Havana - Continue reading
How to Break the Chains on Cuba's Economy
September 19, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — The extremely low growth of Cuba's GDP during the first
half of the year (0.6 %), acknowledged by the government, has revealed
that the reform measures aimed at stimulating the economy are inadequate
and prompted more and more criticisms among the country's economists.

In addition, the number of Cubans entering the United States through the
Mexican border or risking their lives in the Strait of Florida to reach
this country is harrowing. According to data from the US Immigration
Service, 14 thousand Cubans have crossed the Mexican border and 2
thousand have been captured in the high seas by the US Coast Guard over
the past 12 months – record figures for this last five-year period.

These facts, coupled with the island's aging and dwindling population,
should be enough to invite those interested in pushing the Cuban economy
forward, particularly those currently responsible for "steering" it, to
think about the need for implementing other types of measures. One
cannot expect to get different results by doing the same things over and
over again.

President Raul Castro, the top figures of the "reform process" and many
Cuban economists have acknowledged the need to unleash the country's
productive forces. If a survey were conducted, the vast majority of
Cuban citizens would probably also be in favor of this. The question,
then, is what is the leadership waiting for.

Freeing up the country's productive forces, however, implies free trade
in the broad sense of the term, and that is something the bureaucracy
does not approve of, because it would undermine its control over the
market. The recent Customs regulations that came into effect, aimed at
preserving the State-military monopoly in the clothing, footwear and
appliances market, made this clear.

The proposals below are a contribution to the current debate surrounding
the poor economic results achieved this year. Were they implemented in
their entirety, they would work to bolster production, increase the
availability of high-demand products in the domestic market, free up
exchange among the country's different forms of production, stimulate
monetary circulation, increase the purchasing power of Cuban pesos and
citizens, lower prices and place the economy under the control of the
general citizenry.

These are fourteen keys needed to open the locks that currently keep
Cuba's productive forces in chains and depress the country's economy.

1. Free the domestic market of all current restrictions, controls and
prices set by ACOPIO (the state farm products purchasers) and other
bureaucratic entities. Let cheese produced in the province of Camaguey
be sold freely in Havana and all types of establishments for the sale of
farm, industrial and craft products, or offering different services, be
set up, applying a basic tax on these. Prices ought to be decided on the
basis of an agreement between sellers and buyers.

2. Lift all restrictions on access to the foreign market, such that any
Cuban wishing to import or export a given product, be it for personal or
commercial reasons, may do so without being subjected to too many
control mechanisms or steep taxes.

3. Modify the current tax policy, which restricts the growth of the
self-employed sector, and limit its application to profits (not to
incomes pure and simple, as is the current practice).

4. Allow all professionals, including medical doctors, architects,
engineers and others, to become self-employed.

5. Lift restrictions on the creation of autonomous cooperatives of every
kind and eliminate bureaucratic hurdles and taxes for these for the
first three years of operations. Those wishing to set up a cooperative
should only be required to submit a letter of incorporation with the
basic information about the company's capital, members and acceptance of
the internationally accepted cooperative principles.

6. Make it possible for international organizations to make loans and
provide machinery and equipment directly to cooperatives, taking as a
starting poing the principle that cooperativism is the soul of socialism.

7. Allow State companies to be managed by workers, with full autonomy to
buy, sell and receive credits, such that worker collectives become
empowered to choose the management, organize and control administrative
mechanisms and distribute part of the profits among members, after
setting aside the sums needed to reproduce the means of production and
pay taxes.

8. Transfer ownership, or offer credit to purchase through installments,
the lands made available to small farmers, such that these feel a degree
of security to make long-term investments in housing, warehouses,
irrigation systems, land improvements, machine purchases and others.
Remove the obligatory requirement of having to join a credit and service
cooperative, which in actuality is a State mechanism for controlling
harvests and the sale of products.

9. Establish regulations for private companies that exploit salaried
labor, with a view to guaranteeing that workers enjoy rights, part of
the company's profits (in addition to their monthly salaries),
collective employment contracts, the right to create free trade unions
that will defend their interests, social security payments, paid
holydays, 40-hour work weeks, overtime payments, transportation and
worker cafeterias offering products at low prices and other facilities
workers may require.

10. Freedom to advertise products, actively search for customers and
sources of raw materials, both in Cuba and abroad (through high-speed
Internet and freedom of a commercial press).

11. Eliminate the two-currency system once and for all and establish
exchange rates that make for a more favorable relationship between the
Cuban pesos and international hard currencies.

12. The State should cease to manage companies, except basic service
providers (such as water and electricity), and these should pay their
employees a part of the profits, in addition to monthly stipends. The
incomes of the State, province and municipality should come from taxes,
to be applied in a transparent fashion at all levels and controlled by
base-level mechanisms and through regular reports to citizens.

13. Health and education should continue to be subsidized by the State,
which is to guarantee health and education for all. Health
professionals, however, should be allowed to create individual or
collective clinics, to be administered by medical collectives, and to
set up practices and even minor surgical hospitals. Groups of teachers
should also be permitted to create schools, to be administered by the
staff that, in addition to teaching the syllabus established by the
Ministry of Education, may incorporate complementary or specialized
programs. Such clinics and schools would charge for their services on
the basis of an agreement with their clients and would pay taxes on
their profits.

14. The decentralization of power, currently concentrated in the State,
from the control of taxes, through the creation and administration of
budgets, to the control of local police forces, justice and others,
strictly necessary for the autonomous functioning of communities.

These and other measures aimed at freeing the economy, socializing it
and bringing it under the control of citizens, with a view to
democratizing society, as freedom of expression and association, the
separation of powers and the direct and democratic election of all
public officials also aim to do, should be implemented without much
delay to avoid a greater catastrophe. A broad, nationwide democratic
debate that can open the way to a new and dearly needed constitution is
also something we no longer postpone.

What of the US blockade/embargo? The direct and indirect contribution of
this policy to Cuba's stagnation have already been expounded on
elsewhere, but, as its lifting does not depend on us Cubans, it is best
to concentrate on those things we can tear down here: the internal
blockade that hinders the development of a people's economy. Perhaps
without this internal blockade, the other will collapse of its own weight.

Source: How to Break the Chains on Cuba's Economy - Havana - Continue reading
¿Por qué no crece el empleo asalariado en la economía castrista?
[19-09-2014 11:45:24]
Elías Amor

( ¿Inquieta al régimen castrista la baja
contratación de trabajadores asalariados por los cuenta propistas? ¿Por
qué, a pesar de que existen ya 471.085 trabajadores por cuenta propia
con licencia, según datos oficiales, tan solo han contratado a 99.395
La ratio de empleados por empleador en cualquier economía se sitúa en
una media de 1 a 5, desvelando con ello el predominio natural de las
pequeñas y medianas empresas, en general. Si en Cuba se mantuviera esa
ratio, el número de trabajadores contratados debería ascender, con la
cifra de cuenta propistas que existe, a 2.355.465, casi ell 50% del
empleo total que existe en la economía. Uno de los objetivos de los
llamados "Lineamientos" es reducir el empleo estatal y favorecer el
aumento de las actividades privadas. No parece que ésta sea la tónica
que ofrecen los datos, tal y como va el ritmo de aumento del número de
trabajadores contratados.

¿Qué ocurre en la economía castrista para que no se aproximen las cifras
de contratación? Dar respuesta a esta pregunta obliga a examinar algunas
cuestiones fundamentales.

Primero, la naturaleza de las actividades autorizadas por el régimen,
básicamente en el sector servicios y en oficios que tienen una limitada
capacidad de creación de puestos de trabajo, como son la elaboración y
venta de alimentos y el transporte de cargas y de pasajeros. Incluso en
aquellos como la restauración, donde existe potencial de crecimiento del
empleo, las autoridades han fijado límites a la dimensión de las
paladares (en número de mesas y de sillas, etc), para que no alcancen
economías de escala. Sin aumento de las dimensiones de los pequeños
negocios, por muy positiva que sea la pequeña y mediana empresa para la
economía de un país, los bajos niveles de productividad alcanzados
impedirán a los emprendedores contratar más gente. No hay más vuelta de
hoja en esta cuestión.

Segundo, la limitada productividad del capital. Las restricciones
financieras operan no sólo como consecuencia de un sistema bancario
controlado por el estado, sino por las limitaciones para financiar el
crecimiento de los pequeños negocios, lo que unido a una presión fiscal
y de seguridad social elevada, hace inviable el coste de la contratación
de más empleados. Se ha sabido que buena parte de la financiación
existente detrás de muchos pequeños negocios en la economía castrista
tiene su origen en las remesas procedentes del exterior. Sin capital
productivo, una economía no puede crecer. La participación de la
formación bruta de capital fijo en el PIB de la economía castrista,
apenas un 9%, es de las más bajas del mundo y poco estimulante para el
desarrollo emprendedor.

Tercero, por si lo expuesto no fuera suficiente, las normas del "Código
de trabajo castrista", aprobado en el mes de diciembre pasado después de
larga maduración, han mostrado que no sirven para mejorar el marco de
las relaciones laborales en la economía de base estalinista que sigue
operando en la Isla. Sin libertad ni pluralismo sindical, y siendo las
organizaciones de pequeños emprendedores políticamente ausentes, no
existe espacio para el desarrollo del diálogo social, que es clave para
la evolución sostenible de la economía. El Código de trabajo, con sus
burocráticas restricciones y exigencias de control por el aparato
político del país, está siendo un obstáculo para el desarrollo de la
contratación. Su desarrollo normativo debería tener en cuenta esta
situación y apostar por una mayor flexibilidad que aporte oxígeno a la
economía de base privada.

Además de los aspectos mencionados, los desmanes de los inspectores
comunistas contra los trabajadores por cuenta propia provocan el sonrojo
de los observadores, analistas y en general de cualquiera que siga con
interés el proceso de nacimiento de los pequeños negocios en Cuba. Como
ocurrió días atrás en Santiago de Cuba, cuando una ola de chequeos ocupó
las primeras páginas de los medios, pese a la escasa relevancia de los
problemas detectados, por otra parte, consustanciales al nacimiento de
cualquier sector emprendedor y fácilmente subsanables sin necesidad de
penalizaciones o castigos desmedidos..

En tales circunstancias, se confirma una vez más que las bases
institucionales y jurídicas de la economía castrista tienen poco margen
para dar oportunidad a la empresa privada a mejorar sus perspectivas de
desarrollo. No es posible el desarrollo de la economía de mercado en
Cuba sin un cambio de 180º en las bases de funcionamiento del sistema.
Estas se resisten a abandonar las prioridades del centralismo
burocrático, la planificación, la ausencia de derechos de propiedad y
mercado, la falta de estímulos e incentivos económicos, la óptica de la
rentabilidad y del beneficio, manteniendo a los trabajadores por cuenta
propia como un "mal menor" que se tiene que aceptar para que el conjunto
del sistema no sucumba. Malos presagios. Las cosas ni van ni irán bien.

Source: ¿Por qué no crece el empleo asalariado en la economía castrista?
- Misceláneas de Cuba -
The Lessons of Lope de Vega / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 19, 2014

Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 September 2014 – A friend visting Cuba for the
first time asked me why the government can put an end to the illegal
distribution of the so-called "audiovisual packets." "They just have to
detect who makes it and trades in it, to be able to stop it," the young
man speculated. I reminded him of the work Fuenteovejuna, written by
Lope de Vega. In three acts, the noted Spanish playwright tells how a
town rebels against the abuse of power. The villagers unite against the
injustice and together assume responsibility for the death of the local
oppressor. "Who killed the Commander? Fuenteovejuna, señor," we learned
from the theater of the Golden Age and have put into practice, at least
in the compilation and distribution of programs, documentaries and other
digital materials.

My friend listened incredulously to my explanation, so I offered a more
concrete example. Some months ago a traveled to Spain to participate in
a technology event. Before saying goodbye, my family and friends asked
me to bring them various things, as is common in such an undersupplied
country. However, unlike other times when I left with a long list of
shoe and clothing sizes, this time the requests were very different. A
neighbor on the third floor wanted an update of the Avast antivirus and
asked that I download a course in small business accounting. Two cousins
noted the details of a videogame—with all the updates—so I could bring
it back. A niece's husband asked me for PDFs of some magazines about
industrial design and almost all agreed that an off-line copy of
Revolico—the Cuban Craigslist—would be fantastic.

The list of things to bring was very significant to me. I alternated the
soap and deodorant, unavailable in the stores these days, with drivers
for an acquaintance who lost the installation disks. The sweet seller on
the corner asked me for a digital encyclopedia of pastry, and a friend
who is learning to drive needed a simulator for a PC. A photographer
colleague asked me to download some Android apps that wold let
her retouch images and a relative learning English demanded all the
chapters of a Podcast to practice that language.

The two nights I spent in Granada I barely slept two hours, because the
list of what I had to download off the Internet was very long. I took
advantage of the connectivity to also download about fifty TED talks, to
bring some of the fresh wind of entrepreneurs and creative people to the
Island. I renamed some files to be able to find them more easily in the
numerous folders containing the requests and returned to Havana. In less
than 48 hours the orders were delivered, even a Pilates course on video
requested by the owner of a nearby fitness center, and a digital gallery
for a university professor who urgently needed images of Egyptian art.
Everyone was satisfied.

Several weeks passed and one day I got the latest update of the "packet"
that was circulating. To my surprise, the TED talks included in it were
exactly the same files I'd downloaded from the web and later renamed. So
I could confirm that all of us—in one way or another—form a part of and
feed this alternative bulletin board that circulates hand to hand.

Poor Commander, you already know that the packet is "all for one,
señor," like Lope de Vega taught us.

Source: The Lessons of Lope de Vega / Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba proyecta paso de la gastronomía estatal a manos de privados
09/18/2014 5:59 PM 09/18/2014 6:13 PM

El gobierno cubano proyecta que los servicios gastronómicos, actualmente
de administración estatal en un 68 por ciento de sus establecimientos,
pasen gradualmente a manos del sector privado, indicaron este jueves
directivos del sector.

Ahora solo el 11 por ciento de las 11,000 unidades gastronómicas
estatales son gestionadas por "trabajadores por cuenta propia", como se
denominan en la isla a quienes ejercen actividades laborales de manera
autónoma, según trascendió durante un foro regional sobre calidad e
inocuidad de los alimentos que se desarrolla en La Habana.

La viceministra de Comercio Interior de la isla, Ada Chávez, explicó a
los delegados la nueva política aprobada por el gobierno de extender la
gestión gastronómica por todo el país atendida por formas no estatales,
de acuerdo con un reporte de medios oficiales.

Precisó que en la aplicación de la nueva política regirá el
mantenimiento de la propiedad estatal sobre los medios fundamentales de
producción, como los inmuebles, aunque podrán ser arrendados o vendidos
los equipos, útiles y herramientas.

Entre los propósitos de las modificaciones la funcionaria citó el
rescate de los servicios que representan tradiciones en instalaciones
emblemáticas, así como también la cultura culinaria típica de cada región.

Cuba cuenta en la actualidad con 8.984 unidades administradas por
empresas estatales de comercio, 2,769 adscritas al sistema de turismo,
1,261 arrendadas por trabajadores autónomos y 215 cooperativas.

El número de trabajadores del sector privado en Cuba alcanzó al cierre
de julio pasado los 471,085 profesionales por cuenta propia en algunos
de los 201 oficios autorizados, según datos oficiales.

La elaboración de alimentos, categoría que incluye las cafeterías y los
restaurantes conocidos popularmente como "paladares" reúne junto al
transporte de carga y pasajeros, y el arrendamiento de viviendas la
mayor representación de trabajadores autónomos.

La ampliación del trabajo en el sector privado es una de las principales
reformas acometidas por el gobernante Raúl Castro para "actualizar" el
modelo socialista de la isla y compensar la supresión progresiva de unos
500,000 empleos estatales entre 2011 y 2015.

Source: Cuba proyecta paso de la gastronomía estatal a manos de privados
| El Nuevo Herald - Continue reading
The "Virtuous Circle" of Cuba's Reforms
September 18, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — The slow implementation of economic reforms in Cuba is justified with the argument that the government does not want to make any mistakes. Every step taken is allegedly preceded by a pilot test used to evaluate the consequences of the change.

This is doubtless a new way of doing things in the country, in which concrete results matter more than inspiration. Many Cubans, however, have grown impatient, because the waiting period is sometimes longer than what they deem necessary.

The food service business is a case in point. It is clear to all Cubans that State cafeterias and restaurants are, generally speaking, disastrous and that the private sector is the one offering the best services today.

But the process of putting this sector in the hands of cooperatives and the self-employed is advancing at a snail's pace, despite the fact that anyone who walks by a State cafeteria can see the poor quality of the menu themselves, in the event the establishment sells something other than cigarettes and rum.

In my neighborhood, there's a cafeteria that people have been referring to as the "flies palace" for years, owing to the number of these insects that inhabit it. Curiously, the inspectors who monitor the self-employed so rigorously have never set foot there.

I have a friend who set up a very successful cafeteria in the Havana town of Guanabacoa who has been waiting for years to rent one of the most dilapidated facilities in the area from the State, in order to transform it into a prosperous business.

It's clear that much of the prosperity of these private businesses is owed to the fact supplies are bought at low prices in the black market, which gets its stocks from State warehouses, the products that State cafeterias should be serving.

It's like a dog chasing after its own tail. This happens, in part, because the government still refuses to create wholesale markets with preferential prices for the self-employed and cooperatives, the kind that exist everywhere in the world.

According to some Cuban economists, these markets, in addition to giving the self-employed advantages, would make the State more efficient in terms of tax collection, as having control over supplies would allow it to calculate what a business's actual profits are.

What's certain is that the slowness and indecision that characterizes the application of these policies prevents the self-employed from growing in numbers and limits the State in terms of laying off superfluous personnel at its institutions and ministries.

If the country's economic plan for the future is to have half or more of the population in non- State jobs (as self-employed, cooperatives or farmers), the government should act in a more determined, coherent and global manner.

The logical course of action upon detecting some form of stagnation should be for authorities to offer greater facilities that will attract new workers to the non-State sector: wholesale markets, tax breaks, bank credits, a greater range of supplies and access to machinery and tools.

A change in mentality is also needed. Cuba must put behind it the economic Stalinism inherited from the Soviet Union, which condemned all private initiative, and move forward towards a range of forms of property than even Marx and Lenin thought compatible with socialism.

Even today, whenever the press or some leaders speak of corruption, they mention only the private sector, all the while concealing the constant destitution of corrupt managers at "socialist State companies."

The fact of the matter is that the growth of the self-employed sector and cooperatives would increase the incomes of many Cubans, reduce State payrolls and fill the nation's coffers with tax payments.

This "virtuous circle" could afford the government the financial surplus needed to raise salaries in such indispensable sectors as education, where salaries are still well below the income required to meet basic needs.

Source: The "Virtuous Circle" of Cuba's Reforms - Havana - Continue reading
Chinese Military-Linked Telecom Firm Shipped U.S. Equipment to Cuba
BY: Bill Gertz      
September 19, 2014 5:00 am

A Chinese telecommunications company linked to the People's Liberation Army provided U.S.-origin equipment to Cuba in apparent violation of U.S. economic sanctions on the communist-ruled island.

U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports said the equipment included U.S.-made modems, routers, and switches for telecommunications networks.

The transfer took place within the past two months and was reported by the U.S. Southern Command, the military command with responsibility for Latin and South America in internal channels, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

One official said the transfer violated U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Cuba and that the transfer is under investigation by the Commerce Department.

No other details could be learned on the U.S. companies or company involved. However, administration officials said it is illegal to export any U.S.-origin telecommunications equipment to Cuba without an export license.

President Obama in 2009 loosened controls on Internet and telecommunications services for Cuba in an effort to promote greater openness. But telecommunications equipment remains banned under the 1964 embargo.

Huawei, a global network equipment manufacturer based in Shenzhen, China, has been identified by the Pentagon in reports to Congress as one of several companies that maintain close ties to the PLA.

Along with two other firms, Huawei, "with their ties to the [Chinese] government and PLA entities, pose potential challenges in the blurring lines between commercial and government/military-associated entities," the 2012 report said.

Huawei also was identified by the U.S. government as posing a cyber espionage risk. A House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report in 2012 warned U.S. businesses not to use equipment made by Huawei and another firm, ZTE, over concerns the gear can be used by China's government to conduct cyber espionage.

China's Ministry of Commerce announced Aug. 7 that it is increasing trade and investment in Cuba following a visit to the island by trade officials in late July.

A U.S. official said the telecommunications transfer is suspected of being part of the Chinese government's effort to bolster ties with Cuba.

Huawei and ZTE took part in a trade fair in Cuba in March 2013.

A Southern Command spokesman referred questions to the Department of Commerce, which is in charge of enforcing U.S. export controls.

An official at Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security declined to comment and would not confirm that an investigation of the company for the equipment transfer is underway.

If the transfer is confirmed by the Commerce probe, Huawei could face U.S. sanctions for violating the embargo.

The transfer of equipment to Cuba appears similar to another deal involving Huawei and Iran in 2012. Documents obtained by Reuters revealed that Huawei offered to sell Iran's state-run telecommunications firm $1.7 worth of computer and network equipment made by Hewlett Packard. Huawei denied that it sought to evade U.S. sanctions in the proposed 2010 deal.

The company has offices in 11 U.S. cities and a headquarters in Plano, Texas.

In the early 2000s, the company sought to gain access to the lucrative U.S. telecommunications market. But the company was blocked from concluding several mergers with U.S. firms by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States on national security grounds.

The company has denied it is linked to the military and claims it is employee-owned. However, the Chinese government has identified Huawei as one of its most important national businesses.

Huawei spokesman Bill Plummer said he was unaware of the transaction.

"Huawei has not seen nor otherwise heard of any government or other report on such matters and would expect that if such information were truly believed that the company would be notified by the appropriate authorities," Plummer said in a statement.

"Huawei has very strict trade compliance programs and disciplines in place throughout our company to ensure that we are and remain in full compliance with export control and sanctions laws and regulations, such as those of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States," he added.

R. Evan Ellis, an Army War College professor specializing in Latin affairs, warned in a paper published last year that Chinese telecommunications deals in the region pose a potential strategic threat to the United States.

Huawei began focusing on selling equipment to Caribbean nations, including in Cuba, starting in 2007, he wrote when Chinese companies began modernizing Cuban telecommunications infrastructure. By 2009, Huawei was setting up broadband service on the island, Ellis stated. Huawei also has a large presence in Venezuela—a close Cuban ally—Mexico, and Brazil, as well as most states in the region.

"There is nothing inherently wrong, of course, with the PRC making advances in the telecommunications sector," Ellis wrote. "It is simply a reality that must be acknowledged that the good that such advances generate for the Chinese people and economy also benefits PRC strategic military capabilities that the United States, one day, may have to face."

Other potential threats posed by Chinese telecommunications systems in Latin American include commercial and military spying and denial and disruption of communications in times of war, he said.

"For the Chinese, building telecommunications architectures gives the Chinese designers unique knowledge of the systems, as well as to design in capabilities in[to] either the hardware or software that could be used to collect data traveling over those systems, introduce false information, or degrade or destroy them at the moment of the perpetrator's choosing," Ellis said. "The vulnerability created is far larger than is generally understood in an era in which everything from cables and switches to servers and routers to modems and the computers they connect to, to the software that runs on them are, to some extent, made by Chinese companies."

The risk applies to military and government users as well as commercial and private networks.

Jennifer Hernandez, a researcher at the Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, said Chinese telecommunications transfers to Cuba likely will boost government surveillance on the island.

"China's transfer of technology to Cuba does not necessarily benefit Cubans," Hernandez wrote in a recent report. "Instead, China seems to be equipping the island's information technology infrastructure with systems that can potentially spy on Cubans."

Another potential threat is that the Chinese are "also equipping an anti-American leadership with sophisticated communication and network technology capable of cyber espionage 90 miles from our shores," Hernandez said.

Huawei was targeted by National Security Agency electronic cyber espionage technicians, according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Top-secret briefing slides revealed by Britain's Guardian show that NSA uses its access to Huawei telecom gear to spy on hard-target countries, such as China, Pakistan, Iran and others, through cyber penetrations of Huawei equipment used in those countries.

"Many of our targets communicate over Huawei produced products. We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products—we also want to ensure that we retain access to these communication lines, etc.," one NSA slide states.

"There is also concern that Huawei's widespread infrastructure will provide the PRC with [signals intelligence] capabilities and enable them to perform denial of service type attacks."

The slide quoted a National Intelligence Estimate that said, "the increasing role of international companies and foreign individuals in U.S. information technology supply chains and services will increase the potential for persistent, stealthy subversions."

Source: Chinese Military-Linked Telecom Firm Shipped U.S. Equipment to Cuba | Washington Free Beacon - Continue reading
Cuban Tourists: Filling-in the Gaps / Miriam Celaya
Posted on September 17, 2014

The truth is that I don't know all the numbers, but I have been browsing
the ad pages of Cubatur, Havanatur and all the Cuban "tours" and I found
that this year the "all-inclusive" offers have increased which, since
the restrictions for Cubans to stay at hotels were lifted, better-off
Cubans have been taking advantage of them.

I'm not criticizing anyone for wanting to enjoy a vacation –usually
short– at a beach hotel due to lower prices. After all, shortages and
discriminations for decades have created a thirst for consumption and
pleasure in the Cuban population that manifests itself as soon as the
luckier few have an opportunity to escape the everyday filth and misery
for a few days.

So, the number of regular Cubans who regularly take advantage of
all-inclusive packages has been creating a clientele that feeds on the
assorted neo-affluent sectors, corresponding to the most diverse groups
and backgrounds: owners and employees of private restaurants,
professionals who often have foreign contracts, employees of
"enterprises" and shops that operate in hard currencies, the managerial
caste, and even black marketers. Everyone wants their piece of Varadero
to live the illusion of "I can", despite the sorrows. And, of course,
"everyone stretches out his feet as far down the sheets as they will
reach" like my granny used to say, so there are those who save all year
to spend a couple of nights at a three-star hotel, up to those who visit
a five-star hotel in the outlying resort islands several times a year.
It is, definitely, the realization of a long-cherished dream.

Well, it turns out that this year the "offers" to Cubans have
skyrocketed. According to an accredited source (with the obligatory
reserve), although some press reports state that foreign tourist
participation has increased, the truth is that, in order to increase
their income and fulfill quotas, tourist operators have had to extend
and enhance the offers that so many well-off Cubans purchase. Cubans
also serve to fill the gaps, so they will continue to collect fees,
making use of what was, until recently, taboo: enjoyment.

This is not disclosed in the press, but it is so. That's why the media
publishes an occasional report in the news and on the regular press
where there is a reference to "Cuban workers who enjoy camping
facilities and beaches and recreation centers"; but I am absolutely sure
that they never have dedicated one to show wealthy Cubans basking in the
sun at hotels in Varadero or the outlying islands: we all know that they
have already decriminalized the differences among us, but they should
not be displayed so brazenly. These are the conditions to enjoy the
benefits of Raúl-type socialism, aren't they?

Translated by Norma Whiting

22 August 2014

Source: Cuban Tourists: Filling-in the Gaps / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Holy Chocolate: On Agro-Industrial Speculation in Cuba
September 17, 2014
Yenisel Rodríguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Drinking hot chocolate in Cuba is almost a privilege, an
exotic experience, an act denoting social prestige. Few Cubans would
believe that, for the longest time, hot chocolate was one of the most
popular breakfasts in the country. Once the companion of people's
morning toast, it has become a true culinary luxury.

So what happened?

Just about everything, particularly over the last 24 years.

For instance, when the price of cocoa butter skyrockets in the
international market, local state investors, blinded by their thirst for
hard currency, deprive the confectionary industry of the raw materials
it needs. This way, the production of chocolate bars and other sweets
aimed at the domestic market decreases considerably.

In other cocoa-producing Caribbean countries, this problem is solved
using alternative oils, like coconut or palm oils. For Cuban
decision-makers, however, the profits generated by cocoa butter are
enough and no additional time or effort is devoted to the matter.

Cocoa production suffices to supply the domestic market, and the prices
offered producers are low enough so as to allow them to set a retail
price that is affordable for the population. Low production levels
persist, however, as a result of misguided macro-economic policies.

Here's where the issue of speculation comes in.

The price of chocolate manufactured domestically is well above the
economically rational, which is why chocolate is advertised as a luxury
item, under the formula of "after the feast comes the reckoning."

Perhaps without being entirely aware of it, decision-makers use and
strengthen the high prestige this product enjoys in the Cuban collective
imaginary in order to speculate with people's money and demand, selling
it as though it were an imported item that belonged to the family of
socially prestigious and glamorous articles.

Suffice it to mention the well-known Casa del chocolate ("Chocolate
House") cafeterias, baroque culinary cathedrals designed for the
veneration of the dark elixir.

The other face of the coin is Cuba's Chocolatin, instant chocolate whose
production is subsidized by the State, born back in the days of
messianic speeches. Its dubious quality varies with the highs and lows
of Cuba's social policies, consolidating the exotic and sacred
reputation of chocolate sold in hard currency. Who, after all, would ask
their government to subsidize the production of caviar and French wine?

And so, we are left like our Aztec brothers. They were deprived of
Mexican maize, when they were the civilization that produced it most
widely, and we must pay for a Cuban product as though it were imported.

As the popular song says, "drink your chocolate and pay up what you owe."

Source: Holy Chocolate: On Agro-Industrial Speculation in Cuba - Havana - Continue reading
Saving a Dog at Havana's Calixto Garcia Hospital
September 16, 2014 | Print
Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The Coronary Care Ward at Havana's Calixto Garcia
Hospital is not exactly a merry place, but it would be far more
depressing if it wasn't for La Niña.

La Niña is a cute little dog that squats on the ground floor of the
hospital. She is always in a good mood, greeting everyone with
affection, spreading love on her four, agile legs. She has won over
everyone this way.

Fate, however, is woven out of paradoxes and irony. Though La Niña is a
universal donor of happiness, she had more than enough reasons not to be
happy herself: one of her teats was swelling uncontrollably and had
grown to the point that she was almost dragging it across the ground.

I had seen the dog around. Some time ago, I'd gone by the hospital and
seen her immense, hanging bag. I thought of doing something for her, but
my daily problems made me forget about the matter.

A relative of mine ended up in the Coronary Care Ward and the dog took
advantage of the situation to break my heart.

Taking care of a sick dog requires money, time and effort. Every time I
walked by the hospital and saw La Niña I thought of doing something to
help her as soon as my relative got better.

One morning, after a sleepless night, the calculating part of my brain
experienced a short circuit and the hemisphere of blind impulses staged
a coup. I put the dog on my shoulder and didn't stop until I reached the
veterinary clinic run by ANIPLANT, an NGO based at the intersection of
Espada and Hospital streets, Centro Habana.

It was a relief to be told that it was not a cancerous tumor but a groin
hernia that was entirely curable. A few days later, La Niña went into
the operating room, escorted by one of her adoptive mothers at the hospital.

Edgar, the veterinary doctor, spends long hours seeing sick little
animals and dealing with angst-ridden "relatives", without this
undermining his kind aura one bit. As he handed over the "bundle" (La
Niña, still under the effects of the anesthesia) officially to me, he
explained she was pregnant and the uterus had drifted into the hernia.
Had we waited a few more days, the condition would have become far more

The danger is behind us and La Niña has been discharged and is back at
the Coronary Care Ward, sparing no affection. Now, the main concern of
those who look after her is Zoonosis, Cuba's State dog pound (allegedly
hunting down dogs as a sanitary measure, though some claim it is to feed
the lions at the zoo).

I want to thank Nora and the other doctors at ANIPLANT very much for
having worked unselfishly to see the operation through. I also want to
thank the nurses and caretakers at the hospital who made the utensils
used to heal her available. I thank destiny for allowing me to arrive at
the right moment and the neighbor who took in the dog during her recovery.

I invite everyone to look after the animals around them. The reward –
the joy of seeing them get better and simply to be of help to someone –
will come in this life.

Source: Saving a Dog at Havana's Calixto Garcia Hospital - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba's Organic Urban Gardens Now Cater to Private Businesses
September 17, 2014
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Though I am surrounded by large organoponicos where I
live, putting fresh, healthy food on my table is becoming harder every
day – and not precisely because of the prices.

For those who are not familiar with the term, an organoponico is a kind
of urban or semi-urban garden where vegetables are grown on a substrate
made up of soil and organic matter (mixed in a growing bed), an urban
farm that should employ organic agriculture methods.

These gardens, many a time either not known or neglected by the
population, are sometimes the only State option where one can buy fresh
vegetables at affordable prices and which are relatively close to one's

The first thing that strikes the eye about these places is the small
variety of products offered. In dependence of the season, one may find
lettuce, chard, cucumber, spring onions, radish, tomatoes, aloe, noni
fruit, red peppers, spinach, beets, carrots and some other vegetables there.

But one is hard pressed to find all of these products there at the same
time. Today, the garden at the corner of my street only had spring
onions, at 7 Cuban pesos the bunch (a price above average, owing to an
onion shortage) – and they were selling only the stems, without the bulbs.

What's new these days is that, in addition to the low productivity of
the gardens, when the buyer arrives, there's usually nothing left of the
day's harvest.

Early in the morning, while most of us are heading to our places of
work, the owners of private restaurants send out their buyers to load up
on any green thing to be found around the city.

Three or four cars parked in front of an organic garden is an
unequivocal sign that one won't be able to buy anything there, as the
trunks of those cars are likely to be filled up with products. Before
noon, there no vegetables left on the stands.

Cuban organoponicos were first created in 1987, but they were most
extensively developed after the Cuban economy hit rock bottom in 1994.

My experiences during the more than ten years I have frequented these
urban farms make me think that they are currently undergoing changes in
terms of their social aim.

A model that sought to increase the availability of farm products
(particularly fresh produce) and aimed at benefitting the low-income
population through improved nutrition and job creation, has become the
chief supplier of Havana's private restaurants.

State organic gardens are covering the lack of the country's vegetable
wholesale market and supplying private businesses.

We have no choice but to go to agricultural and livestock markets and
accept the arbitrary rise in the price of onions, garlic, sesame seeds,
peanuts, beans, sweet potatoes and practically all other products
("subtle" rises in price which the press makes no mention of).

In my next post, I will comment on how the once noble organoponicos are
anything but clean, ecological and sustainable twenty years after they
first began to operate on the island.

Source: Cuba's Organic Urban Gardens Now Cater to Private Businesses -
Havana - Continue reading
The Unknowns Behind the Cultural Exchange / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on September 16, 2014

Before the Portuguese awning maker and salt merchant Matias Perez*
disappeared in the world, already Cuba and the United States were
maintaining solid ties, including cultural exchanges, which continues
being today an important part of our history and identity.

Just by glancing we can find Cuban elements in American culture and vice
versa, so much so that "Cuban-American" is the highest expression of
that cultural ethnic fusion between both nations.

The cultural reciprocity was frequent, artists came and went constantly.
The thing got complicated during the first half of the 20th century when
both governments–and I'm going to tell the truth, like it or not–began
to have a relationship based on political principles so conflicting that
paradoxically they made the arts sector, that of the expression of the
spirit and creativity, a prisoner of circumstances.

The Cuban Government historically has used art and culture as a
machinery for social control and as influence, as much national as
international. Today, in the era of globalization, the internet and
social networks, much more so.

It was for this purpose, and in order to undermine with patience and
subtlety the controversial law of the embargo, that at the end of the
'90's the "Battle of Ideas" was created, a real strategy that built new

In 1998, with a depressed economy and more than fifty percent of Cuban
artists unemployed. The financial strain was such that it managed to
break even the connection with inspiration and many important names
decided to emigrate. But this time, the Cuban Government was not
prepared to lose so easily its cultural heritage.

For such purpose it invented the figure of the "independent artist," a
category that still permits them to enjoy more of the destination than
the trip, to give them the possibility of, paying a paltry sum of Cuban
pesos, establishing legal residence indefinitely outside of Cuba, even
in the United States, without losing the status quo.

Other less well known artists also managed to find a legal loophole,
many times covered in false work contracts that they get weaving a net
of bribes, in order to be domiciled outside the island.

That is how various actors, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists,
dancers and even lecturers leave Cuba, like they left the mango
marmalade the coffee, and the guava shells, to produce in liberty.

On living outside the island, these artists hold accounts abroad. Today
they come to the United States for cultural exchange, they act, they
triumph with poses of lofty urban climbers, and although none of them
says it, nothing keeps them from collecting. The embargo law sanctions
sending dollars to Cuba; not so the rest of the world.

As a Cuban, I don't like to stimulate the climate of hostility that
separates us as a people and that also serves as a political and
economic platform for groups that manipulate us from both shores of the
Florida strait. I believe that contact with exponents of the culture
coming from the island is a good thing. I am in favor of exchange; but
not this lie that turns it into contraband.

Translator's note: From Wikipedia: Matias Perez was a Portuguese born,
Cuban resident, who started a canopy business in Havana in the 19th
century. He was carried away with the ever increasing popularity of
aerostatic aircraft, and became a balloon pilot, ascending at least
three times before he disappeared while attempting an aerostatic flight
from Havana's Plaza de Marte (today, Parque Central) on June 28, 1856. A
few days earlier he had made a successful attempt, flying several miles.
His second try, however, became part of Cuba's folklore: when somebody
or something disappears into thin air, Cubans say: "Voló como Matías
Pérez" (it flew away like Matias Perez)

Translated by mlk

4 September 2014

Source: The Unknowns Behind the Cultural Exchange / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Catholic Church in Cuba Sets New Pastoral Plan for Evangelization
'On the Road to Emmaus' offers a three-part reflection on the social and
political reality and on the Church in the country.
BY CNA/EWTN NEWS 09/17/2014

HAVANA — The Catholic Church in Cuba recently unveiled its pastoral plan
for 2014-2020, which will encourage the faithful to engage in
evangelization and respond to the call of Pope Francis.

Entitled "On the Road to Emmaus," the plan offers a three-part
reflection on the social and political reality and on the Church in the
country. The first part invites the faithful "to look beyond
sociological aspects and at the life of our society and of our Church,
in order to discover in both realities the calls God is making today to
our work of evangelization in Cuba."

In the second part, the Gospel passage about the disciples on the road
to Emmaus is highlighted as a source of inspiration and orientation in
putting the pastoral plan into practice.

The third part lays out four priorities of the bishops' pastoral plan,
and concludes, "We proclaim our faith that the 'conversion to Jesus
Christ is our hope'."

In drafting their pastoral plan, the bishops said they were guided by
the conclusions of the Fifth General Meeting of the bishops of Latin
America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, the message of Benedict XVI in
his visit to Cuba, the document "Hope Does Not Disappoint" by the Cuban
bishops, and the words and gestures of Pope Francis.

The document said, "We exhort every Christian to be converted to Jesus
Christ and to proclaim the joy of his Gospel, so that the transforming
testimony of the love and hope of our communities and families will
reach all the men and women of our country."

Source: Catholic Church in Cuba Sets New Pastoral Plan for
Evangelization | Daily News | - Continue reading
Cuban Intelligence Targets Academia
September 17, 2014 by Humberto Fontova

"Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence
services, including the [Cuban intelligence service]," says an FBI
report from Sept. 2nd.

"One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American
leftists' ideology. "For instance, someone who is allied with communist
or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because
of his/her personal beliefs."

Not that any of the above should come as earth-shaking news to anyone who:

A: Attended a typical college and suffered through typical Liberal Arts

B. Knows anything at all about the history of Cuban spying in the U.S.

Let's face it: FBI agents tasked with ferreting out Cuban spies in the
U.S face a daunting task. Just think of how many Liberal Arts college
professors match the potential Cuban-spy profile—ideology-wise that is,
competence at sleuth-work is a different matter.) Just how many Liberal
Arts college professors actually eschew "leftist ideology?"

Indeed, of the most recently convicted Cuban spies–Ana Montes, Walter
Kendall Meyers and Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, three were recruited by
Castro's agents from academia– John Hopkins, for Montes and Florida
International University for the Alvarez couple.

Cuba's Intelligence services "will actively exploit visitors to the
island" continues the report. "Intelligence officers will come into
contact with the academic travelers (from the U.S.) They will stay in
the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for
the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify
targets….Castro's intelligence aggressively targets U.S. universities
under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move
on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to
information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service,"] continues the
FBI report.

"A preferred target are 'study abroad' programs (in Cuba,)" adds
America's top Cuban spycatcher Chris Simmons, recently retired from the
Defense Intelligence Agency, "as participating students (from the U.S.)
are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution."

It's not customary for U.S. administrations to increase the size of an
enemy spy agency's "preferred spy-recruitment target," but we're talking
the Obama Administration here, amigos. To wit: Academic and cultural
exchanges along with various types of legalized "people-to-people
travel" between the U.S. and terror-sponsoring Cuba now allow hundreds
of thousands of people to visit Cuba annually from the U.S. —over half a
million visited just last year.

By the way that's DOUBLE the number who visited Cuba from the U.S. in
1958, when Cuba was a "tourist playground" for Americans. Surely, you
remember that from Godfather II?

Let's stand back for a second and ponder this issue: When Cuba was a
"U.S. tourist playground" 263,000 people visited Cuba from the U.S.

But now that Cuba suffers from a beastly "blockade" or "embargo" (as the
media calls it) by the U.S. 599,426 people visited Cuba from the U.S.
102.396 of these, by the way, went under "educational and cultural
exchanges" approved by the Obama State Department.

In brief, Obama has greatly simplified matters for Castro's
Intelligence. Used to be that for recruiting U.S. spies, Castro relied
on Obama's Chicago 'neighbors, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

You read right. You see during the late 60's and early 70's the
terrorist offshoot from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society)
known as The Weathermen and staffed most famously by Barack Obama's
future "neighbors" Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn served as the Cuban
DGI's (Directorio General de Intelligencia) top U.S. recruitment
officers. They accomplished this recruitment primarily through their
sponsorship of the then famous Venceremos Brigades.

During that heady Age of Aquarius hundreds of starry-eyed college kids
were volunteering to "help build Cuban Socialism" and "fight U.S.
Imperialism," mostly by joining these Venceremos Brigades (many via the
Weathermen,) making their way to Cuba and joyfully cutting Cuban sugar cane.

"The ultimate objective of the DGI's participation in the setting up of
the Venceremos Brigades," says an FBI report declassified in 1976 "was
the recruitment of individuals who are politically oriented and who
someday may obtain a position, elective or appointive, somewhere in the
U.S. Government, which would provide the Cuban Government with access to
political, economic and military intelligence

Sure sounds like what the very recently de-classified FBI report claims
about current recruitment objectives by Cuba's intelligence, except now
the Cubans have tens of thousands more spy candidates to choose from!

In brief: nowadays instead of relying on terrorist groups as an
employment agency to screen their spy recruits, the Castro regime–thanks
to "People-to-People" "academic exchanges, etc.– relies on the massive
apparatus of academic "Cuban Studies Programs" and their U.S. government

"So what?" some readers might rebut. "So what's the big deal? So what
kind of threat does tiny, impoverished Cuba present to the U.S.?"

"Cuba is intelligence trafficker to the world," reveals U.S. spycatcher
Christopher Simmons. Among many others, the U.S. military secrets stolen
by Castro's spies have been sold to former regimes in Iraq, Panama and
Grenada, alerting these dictatorships to U.S. military plans against
them and costing untold American lives.

Source: Cuban Intelligence Targets Academia | FrontPage Magazine - Continue reading
As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea
By Rosa Tania Valdés,

MANZANILLO Cuba (Reuters) - Eighteen-year-old Miguel Lopez Maldonado
boarded a homemade boat last month with 31 others, leaving behind this
sleepy fishing town on Cuba's southeast coast to seek a new life in the
United States.

The motor broke down after a couple days, and the craft drifted for
three weeks. One by one, the passengers died of thirst, the survivors
left with no option but to throw the bodies overboard.

By the time the Mexican navy spotted them 150 miles off the Yucatan
peninsula, 15 had died, including Lopez Maldonado. Of the 17 rescued,
two died in a Mexican hospital.

Lopez Maldonado's parents say they don't understand why their son left.
But others here say many young Cubans see no future in a state-run
economy, under U.S. sanctions for 50 years, with few opportunities for
private enterprise.

"Young people today do not think like my generation did. They are
looking for something more that they can't find here," the dead teen's
father, Miguel Lopez Vega, said, sobbing, in the living room of the
family's home as neighbors stopped by to offer comfort.

"My son wanted to leave Cuba since he was 15. He didn't want to live in
this country."

The tragedy, the worst Cuban migrant boat disaster in two decades, is
part of a growing illegal exodus from eastern Cuba - a region famous as
the launching pad of the 1959 revolution in the nearby Sierra Maestra

U.S. authorities say 14,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border
with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

In Manzanillo, a run-down colonial city of 130,000 in eastern Granma
province, residents say as many as five boats, with up to 30 passengers,
depart in weeks with favorable weather.

Passengers in last month's voyage, who were aged 16 to 36, each paid the
equivalent of $400 to $600 for the 675-mile trip.

The situation threatens to further strain relations between Cuba and the
United States. Cuba argues that U.S. policy foments illegal and
dangerous departures by granting Cubans a special right of entry not
offered to other nationalities.

The wave of migration also exposes the fragility of President Raul
Castro's market-oriented reforms, in which independent farming and small
businesses have been legalized in an attempt rebuild a private sector
wiped out in 1959.


Joaquín de La Paz, who works at a rice mill, lost a daughter, a son and
two grandsons in last month's tragedy. He said economic hardship and a
lack of jobs in Manzanillo, once a busy port handling sugar from nearby
cane fields, had made people desperate.

De La Paz, 62, said that even though his daughter was a teacher and his
son worked for the health ministry, neither earned enough to satisfy
their needs.

"The kids see people leave Cuba who never even had a bicycle, and then
by the time they return within a year their family situation is
improved," he said.

"Look at me. After 43 years of work, I haven't been able to acquire
anything, except sadness and sorrow for my family."

One granddaughter decided at the last minute not to join her mother and
brother, but De la Paz frets that she will be next. The girl's
16-year-old brother, Hector, was rescued, but he died on the way to a

De la Paz's wife, Xiomara Milan, sobbed alongside him as she recounted
how they raised pigs to feed the family. She said all she had left was
the hope her grandson would be returned for burial, adding the family
did not have the money to repatriate his body.

Family members and neighbors said the government and state-run media
have been silent about the tragedy. Only the Catholic Church has offered
solace, they said.

A Mass for the victims was held in the town's main Catholic church on
Friday, and prayers were offered "for those who feel the need to find
another country to live." One speaker urged people to think hard about
the decision and "look for safer paths."

There were also prayers that Cuban authorities "achieve the necessary
material and spiritual progress" of the country.

Relatives of the victims said their only information has come from
survivors detained by immigration authorities in Mexico, who have been
allowed to call home twice a week.

They are pleading with Mexican authorities not to deport the survivors
back to Cuba, and to allow them to continue their journey to the U.S.

Niurka Aguilar, the mother of one survivor, Maylin Perez, said it was
her daughter's fifth attempt to leave. Perez, 30, was hoping to join her
husband, who made the trip nine months ago and now lives in Texas.

"If they send her back, she will just try again," said Aguilar.

(Editing by David Adams, Marc Frank and Douglas Royalty)

Source: As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea -
Chicago Tribune - Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 09.16.14

Fabiola Santiago: Let Fidel flunkies sing

The giant invasive snails — so deft at travel that they've made it from
southern Miami-Dade to Davie without a passport or a helicopter or
having to pay tolls — worry me.

They're a major threat to South Florida's ecosystem.

But Buena Fe, the controversial musical duo from Cuba — in Miami for a
Thursday concert — hadn't even registered on my radar until I came
across a tweet from an island blogger who's a well-known front-man for
the Cuban government.

"The bulldozers are ready in Miami," he tweeted, linking to a story in
the Spanish-language daily Diario Las Americas. "Read this. There will
be a before and an after Buena Fe in [Miami]."

Buena Fe who?

The news story quoted Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado saying he would join
planned protests against the duo. And the mayor noted that if the
concert, slated for the Miami Dade County Auditorium, were being held in
a city-run venue, he'd do all he could to ban it. I immediately thought
back to the Ultra Music Festival, and oh, no, I thought we had already
settled this issue. Politicians in this country don't get to dictate
taste in music.

But how had I almost missed such an allegedly momentous happening as a
concert that, according to a Cuban government mouthpiece, would make
history in my town?

Well… 'tis a lot of hot air. They're baiting us, that's all.

For starters, Buena Fe, which means good faith, is a misnomer. The
musicians are a pair of crass, opportunistic souls who have some swing,
but nothing out of the ordinary in a country where musicality is built
into the collective DNA.

In August, they were singing happy birthday to the geriatric comandante
in Havana — and now in September, they have a date with the dollar.

What Israel Rojas and Joel Martínez do have is an official government
platform, thanks to the hefty dose of babosería — brown-nosing — for the
regime that comes with their brand of dated trova music.

In 2011, the two held a concert "against the invasion of Lybia" and
celebrated with a tour across the island the 50th anniversary of the
Communist Pioneers Organization. Two years later, the eager beavers sang
their goodbyes before the corpse of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Back in Cuba, in their most despicable display yet, the duo used a
musical platform to insult the brave women who peacefully march for
human rights across the island, the Ladies in White.

They attacked las damas using some of the most vulgar expressions in the
Cuban lexicon.

There's not an ounce of good faith in their bones.

I wouldn't pay a dime to see them in concert. I wouldn't even see them
for free — but let them sing in Miami.

This is a free country, and even jerks are protected by the First Amendment.

The exiles who want to show how they feel about the duo's politics also
have First Amendment rights. They want to stage a demonstration near the
concert site — something dissidents wouldn't be allowed to do in Cuba —
and we should respect that, too.

These days, it's not unusual for an opportunist to come from the island
to challenge the fact that this is the capital of free Cubans.

Fat chance. Cuba may be a lost cause, but Miami is not — invasive
species not withstanding.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Let Fidel flunkies sing - Fabiola Santiago - - Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 09.17.14

Brazil election may change diplomatic direction

SAO PAULO -- More than a decade of Workers Party rule has seen Brazil
prioritize ties with its leftist regional neighbors, from helping muscle
socialist Venezuela into the Mercosur trade bloc to financing a
billion-dollar transformation of an industrial port in Cuba.

But if President Dilma Rousseff fails to fight off the surging candidacy
of reform-minded Marina Silva before presidential voting in October,
South America's largest economy could reset its focus.

Silva was thrust into the Socialist Party's presidential nomination when
its candidate of choice, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash last
month. Since then, her anti-establishment profile has propelled her to a
neck-and-neck race with Rousseff.

Silva says she would re-emphasize ties to the United States and Europe,
mostly by working to land trade deals with each. Such moves could cause
tension with Mercosur, which prohibits members from making bilateral
deals without the group's approval.

Under Silva, "there will be a change of direction in foreign policy,"
her top adviser Mauricio Rands told supporters at an event unveiling her
proposals. "Brazil should be the promoter of bilateral and regional
(trade) agreements."

It would be a sharp change in direction for the proverbial slumbering giant.

Under Rousseff and her two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,
Brazil has given strong backing to leftist regional allies, such as
Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Rousseff beamed in January as she stood beside Cuban President Raul
Castro at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the first phase of an
overhaul of the Port of Mariel, which the Communist nation expects will
become the largest industrial port in the Caribbean.

It was the clout of her government that persuaded Mercosur to set aside
fears about possible violation of its democracy rules and welcome
Venezuela into membership.

At the same time, Rousseff was not afraid to ruffle Washington's
feathers by rejecting an invitation to make a formal state visit to the
U.S. capital, the first extended to a Brazilian leader in two decades.
Her rebuff of the White House, made in protest of revelations the
National Security Agency had spied on her communications, was the first
in memory.

Rousseff had been sailing toward an expected victory before Silva's
candidacy. Now the two women are expected to claim the first two spots
in the Oct. 5 vote, without either one winning an outright majority.
That would trigger a run-off vote three weeks later.

Silva has said her foreign policy would aim "to promote national
interests and values." A 242-page plan she released declares, "foreign
policy cannot be held hostage by factions or political groupings."

Most of her proposed changes would aim to lower tariffs, expand trade
and revive Brazil's sputtering economy, which fell into recession this
year after years of only feeble expansion.

Critics blame the stagnation on Rousseff's heavy state hand on the
economy, replete with trade barriers and an unfriendly business
environment. The Mercosur bloc, which also includes Argentina, Paraguay
and Uruguay as full members, has yet to sign any significant trade deals
and infighting routinely hampers trade even within the group.

Rousseff said earlier this month that Brazil turning its back on
Mercosur would be "shooting ourselves in the foot," emphasizing that "we
have to realize the size of that market."

While Silva agrees a strong South America is still essential, her plan
makes clear she would seek to pivot Brazil toward stronger ties with the
broader global market and not be hobbled by its neighbors.

If Silva is elected, "Brazil, as a hemispheric power, will continue to
maintain good relations with all the countries in the hemisphere," said
Riordan Roett, director of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins
University. "But it's not going to be the same ideological fervor ...
for regimes like Venezuela and Cuba."

Many expect Silva, a renowned environmentalist and human rights champion
in the Amazon, to change Brazil's policies of largely ignoring alleged
abuses in allies like Venezuela and Cuba. But others argue her hands may
be tied by heavy, ongoing investments with those countries.

"The Brazilians have been very reluctant to criticize Venezuela
publicly," said Patrick Duddy, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and
former consul-general in Sao Paulo. "There are still broad commercial
interests there that are not going to disappear if Silva wins."

In a column headlined "Marina scares the neighbors," Clovis Rossi, a
foreign affairs columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, wrote
that Brazil under the Workers Party has been the most powerful defender
of Venezuela's former leader Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas
Maduro, backing both amid crises as they pushed ahead with their
Bolivarian movement.

"With Marina," Rossi wrote, "everything suggests that Bolivarianism
won't be able to count on this powerful crutch."

Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia, and Brad
Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Source: SAO PAULO: Brazil election may change diplomatic direction -
Americas Wires - - Continue reading
'She lied all along': Quebec man claims Cuban marriage a nightmare
SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 05:55 AM MDT

MONTREAL- A Quebec man says he's out $90,000 after falling in love with
a Cuban woman, marrying her, and moving her to Canada.

He also claims that when she arrived, she was pregnant with another
man's baby and left him after six days.

Michel Beaudry told QMI Agency that he wants to share his story to help
other Canadians avoid making the same mistake.

The 62-year-old met a 25-year-old woman while on an all-inclusive Cuban
vacation in March 2013.

"At first," said Beaudry, "I thought it was impossible that she would
want to be with me."

The relationship blossomed, bolstered by Beaudry making about 10 trips
to Cuba to visit. They married in September 2013.

In June 2014, his wife was given permission by the Canadian government
to move to Canada.

From the first day, she explained to Beaudry that she didn't want to
lead a normal married life with him.

"She said she loved me like a father figure. I slept on the sofa while
she slept in my room."

Beaudry says his wife also announced she was pregnant. He had a
vasectomy, and knew he could be responsible for a child that wasn't his.

Six days after her arrival, she asked for $50,000 to buy a home for her
relatives in Cuba. When Beaudry refused, she packed her bags and left.

"She lied all along," said Beaudry. "She only wanted money."

Reynaldo Marquez, Beaudry's lawyer, told QMI that they are seeking an
annulment of the marriage. "I want her to leave the country," Beaudry said.

Source: 'She lied all along': Quebec man claims Cuban marriage a
nightmare | Canada | Ne - Continue reading
Solidarity or Propaganda? / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 15, 2014

I wish I could be happy about the quick response by the Cuban government
to the request for assistance from the World Health Organization and the
UN general secretary in their efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, but
I cannot.

I am all too aware of the deteriorating state of our hospitals, the lack
of hygiene, the poor medical care — provided mainly by students rather
than doctors — the poor nutrition provided to patients, the shortage of
drugs and many other problems.

I am referring, of course, to the medical centers which serve the
average Cuban, which are the majority, not to the specialized centers
catering to foreigners, VIPs or people who can pay for their services in
hard currency.

A similarly rapid response should be applied to the serious problems
that have afflicted our health care system for years. We make the
mistake of trying to solve the world's problems without due regard for
our own. This seems to have paid off in that at least it generates a lot
of free propaganda.

However, no one who speaks or writes about the magnificent Cuban health
system has had to have their illnesses or those of their loved ones
treated here. Furthermore, many Cuban bigwigs prefer to seek treatment
in other countries, even that of the enemy. There must be some reason
for this.

At a press conference in Geneva, Cuba's minister of public health took
the opportunity to propagandize about the country's achievements and to
emphasize yet again how many medical personnel have provided and are now
providing care in other countries.

He also talked about the thousands of overseas volunteer workers, though
without mentioning how much Cuba charges in dollars for this service —
currently one of the country's main sources of foreign exchange — or how
doctors, nurses and other specialists are not being properly paid.

At one point during the press conference the minister stated that the
Revolution did not wait for its health services to be developed before
beginning to provide assistance to other peoples.

He neglected to mention that Cuba's health services were already
well-developed before 1959 and were among the best not only in the
Caribbean but in all of Latin America. One need only look to official
statistics from international organizations of the time to confirm this.

Given these questions, I am concerned that what we are dealing with here
has more to do with propaganda than with solidarity.

September 2014

Source: Solidarity or Propaganda? / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Pot With Missing Cord Doesn't Come With a Guarantee / 14ymedio, Regina
Posted on September 14, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Regina Coyula, 8 September 2014 — Tiendas
Panamericanas [Panamerican Stores], owned by the CIMEX corporation, has
just launched a grand (for Cuban national standards) shopping center.
Utilizing the building formerly occupied by the old towel factory,
Telva, on the corner of 26th Avenue and Calzada del Cerro street, a side
addition was built, doubling the space. The opening of Puentes Grandes
has been well received, being that until now only small stores have
existed in that neighborhood, and the closest shopping centers — La
Puntilla, Galerias Paseo, and Plaza Carlos III — are located about two
miles away.

Spurred by curiosity, I visited Puentes Grandes last Saturday. Hundreds
of people had flocked to the place. There was a line at the handbag
security station, because bags and purses are not allowed inside stores
that take convertible currency. There was another line at the entrance.
We were going on half an hour already. In other circumstances I would
have left, but resisted the impulse just to be able to write this
article. Finally, I went through a narrow entryway where, as always, are
those who wait, and those other, clever ones who butt the line. The
interior entrance is quite spacious, with metal shopping carts, and
other cute small plastic carts on wheels for which I predict a brief,
happy life, and baskets. All is set up for the customer to select his
purchases; merchandise is kept behind the counter in the perfume and
household appliance departments.

A large interior arcade connects the grocery and housewares area with
the hardware department, where I was detained by an employee. To go from
one area to the other, you have to now go outside and re-enter, even
though just days before you could walk directly between departments and
check out at any register. Why is this? The employee doesn't know, but
he was assigned there to enforce the trajectory. I had placed various
items in my cart, then had to stand at the register line, go outside,
stand in another line to leave my purchases at the handbag security
station, then go stand in another line to enter the hardware area.

Among my purchases was a pressure cooker — a Columbian one. I don't know
whatever happened to those marvelous pressure cookers from the INPUD
factory of the city of Santa Clara, which for a while now have not been
on the market. At the exit of every Cuban store there is always an
employee who compares purchases to sales slips

Employee: "You're missing the guarantee for the pressure cooker."

Me: "And where do I get that?"

Employee: "In Household Appliances."

Back at Household Appliances, the young (all the employees are very
young) lady told me "no," in that overly-familiar, faux-affectionate way
that many mistake for kindness:

"Mami (Mom), do you see a power cord in this pot? My department is
*electrical* household appliances. The guarantee is given at the register."

The check-out girl assured me that she had no guarantee certificates at
the register, that it was at Household Appliances where I had to obtain one.

Among my purchases was a pressure cooker — a Columbian one. I don't know
whatever happened to those marvelous pressure cookers from the INPUD
factory of the city of Santa Clara, which for a while now have not been
on the market.

I know how to be patient. Besides, this ridiculous episode was prime
material for my article. I returned to Household Appliances, where I
told "my daughter" (she had called me, "Mami," right?) if she knew the
meaning of "back-and-forth." The girl gamely took my pressure cooker and
marched over to the register. The ensuing argument over the pot without
a power cord was priceless. A half hour was spent on that silliness,
just to conclude in the end that the guarantee for the pressure cooker
is the sales slip.

I asked to speak with the management because it is inconceivable to me
that a business can operate in this manner. The manager was not
available, but there were various people in his office who turned out to
be his superiors. I'm not going to repeat my complaint here — you can
put two-and-two together and imagine it. The interesting thing is what
those officials, who have been spending opening week in a kind of
mobilization mode, told me.

For almost all the personnel in the store, this is their first work
experience. The cash register system is new, the check-out staff do not
understand it very well, and the registers frequently get stuck,
producing electrical overloads that trigger the circuit breakers,
leaving whole zones of the shopping center in the dark. On opening day
they had to suspend a children's event. Adults and children were run
over by the crowd, and nothing less than a sacking of the place
occurred, what with many people taking advantage of a power outage to
eat and drink for free in the food court. From the hardware area there
even disappeared an electric drill, among other, less valuable items.
The neighbors (not the officials) say that even a flat-screen TV went
out the door without being paid for.

These officials, who themselves are retail veterans, expressed amazement
at the level of theft they are encountering here. For example, they told
me that on Friday (the day prior to my visit), they had surprised five
people in the act of thievery; two customers had had their handbags
stolen inside the store and one other in the adjoining cafeteria; and
all of this is in addition to the disappearance of many small objects
from the shelves. They told me that they had never had such a hard time
at any other store, not even at Ultra, which is located in a
densely-populated and troubled area of Central Havana.

The solution (?) has been to divide the two areas of the shopping
center, creating an inconvenience for the customer which I don't think
will solve the theft problem, because the cause of this phenomenon has
to be sought outside the store.

I thanked the officials for their friendly explanation. However, as long
as the customer of this center remains nothing more than an annoyance to
the staff, the oversized photo at the door of the smiling young woman
promoting efficient service and customer satisfaction will be just one
more Kafkaesque detail of the whole picture.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Pot With Missing Cord Doesn't Come With a Guarantee / 14ymedio,
Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba denies access to Ernest Hemingway's fishing records
Team of US marine scientists on a tour with the author's grandsons
'return empty-handed'
SAM MASTERS Sunday 14 September 2014

A quest to access potentially invaluable fishing logs kept by Ernest
Hemingway in Cuba appeared to have failed yesterday, after US
researchers attempting to gain knowledge of over-fishing were denied
access to the materials collated by the Nobel Prize-winning author.

A team of US marine scientists on a tour with the author's grandsons,
John and Patrick Hemingway, had hoped to access the his logs of fishing
in the Florida Straight.

"He was a fisherman," said Patrick Hemingway of his grandfather last
week. "He considered them his brothers."

But Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council denied the team access to
the records. And yesterday they were reported to have returned home
empty handed.

"Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman," wrote Hemingway in his ode
to game fishing off the Cuba coast, The Old Man and the Sea. "But that
was the thing that I was born for."

Dr David Die, a US-based fishery scientist, said: "Hemingway was there
in Cuba for 20 years. If he did keep log books for that long, having 20
years – even if it is only for a single vessel – would be very valuable.

"It would be a record of relative changes in the size and the abundance
of fish over a period where we do not have any other records. It's
exactly the type of information that we use nowadays when we assess
populations of fish in the ocean."

The logs are thought to contain enough details about Hemingway's decades
of game fishing to help measure how populations of sport fish such as
marlin have declined because of overfishing.

Researchers gathered little empirical data in the years before
industrial fishing devastated populations of tuna and other highly
desired big species in the second half of the 20th century.

Hemingway lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960 at Finca Vigía, a villa in the
village of San Francisco de Paula on the southeast edge of Havana. From
Cojimar, he often launched his boat, the Pilar, with first mate Gregorio
Fuentes, who helped inspire the ageing fisherman who battles a giant
marlin in The Old Man and the Sea.

Source: Cuba denies access to Ernest Hemingway's fishing records -
Americas - World - The Independent - Continue reading
SA-Cuba medical doctor programme to increase output
Saturday 13 September 2014 20:36
Kabelo Molope

The South African Cuba programme which trains South Africans as doctors
in Cuba, will expand nearly tenfold over the next five years.

The programme aims to avert the critical shortage of doctors, especially
in rural areas.

The next group of students to head to the Caribbean island country will
be a group from the North West.

Cuba has 25 medical schools which produce 11 000 doctors annually.

South African graduates are posted to under-resourced medical facilities.

Former Cuban medical student, Dr. Tshepo Lekone says, "I've experienced
that more doctors are needed since I'm working in a level 2 hospital in
Mahikeng. The Cuban program has produced a lot of doctors that are
currently working with me here."

Students are recruited from disadvantaged communities.

North West Health MEC, Dr. Magome Masike says, "Most of them come from
rural areas where it is difficult to attract doctors, especially young
ones. Most of the students, who are going to Cuba, come from those
areas. They understand that it is their uncles, their mothers; it is
their relatives that need them most."

The partnership was initiated by former President Nelson Mandela and
former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Source: SA-Cuba medical doctor programme to increase output : Saturday
13 September 2014 - Continue reading
Posted on Saturday, 09.13.14

Andres Oppenheimer: Obama should go to summit - and challenge Cuba

President Barack Obama's biggest upcoming diplomatic challenge in Latin
America will be whether to attend the 34-country Summit of the Americas
alongside Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who has been invited by the host
country — Panama — over U.S. objections. I think Obama should go, and do
something really bold there.

Before we get into what exactly Obama should do, let's recall that the
United States opposes Cuba's participation at this meeting because the
2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec agreed by consensus that "strict
respect for the democratic system" is an "essential condition of our
presence at this and future summits."

But Panama, which will host the summit in April 2015, has said it will
invite Cuba at the request of all other Latin American countries, which
voted at a recent Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly
to demand Cuba's presence without preconditions at the 2015 Summit.
Venezuela and several other countries have already said that they will
not attend if Cuba is not present.

The U.S.-sponsored Summits of the Americas, which are held every three
or four years, are the only such meetings in which U.S. presidents meet
with all Latin American leaders and try to set a common agenda. In
recent years, Brazil and Venezuela have created other regional
institutions — such as UNASUR and Celac — that exclude the United
States, and thus leave Washington out of regional summits.

So Obama faces a tough choice: if he shows up at the meeting alongside
Castro, critics on the right in Washington will accuse him of
"unilateral surrender" to Cuban-Venezuelan diplomacy. They will say that
Obama abdicated the U.S. defense of democratic values in the region.

On the other hand, if Obama doesn't go to Panama, other critics will
accuse him of effectively killing the last diplomatic arena in which the
United States has some leverage in Latin America.

Richard Feinberg, a former Clinton White House official who was a key
architect of the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami in 1994,
told me that "If President Obama does not attend the Panama summit and
sends a stand-in, even if it's Vice President Joe Biden, that's the
collapse of inter-American summits, and yielding the playing field to
the Cubans, Venezuelans and Brazilians."

When I asked U.S. officials what the Obama administration plans to do,
State Department spokeswoman Angela Cervetti told me that "the United
States respects that Panama is the host of the next Summit, and the
issue of which countries it invites is one for the Panamanian government
to decide."

But she immediately added that the 2001 Summit in Quebec agreed that
only democratic nations should attend, and that "we should not undermine
Summit commitments previously made, but instead should encourage
democratic change in Cuba." My translation: The administration has not
yet decided what to do.

What are Obama's options? If he decides not to go to Panama out of
principle, or in order not to enrage Cuban-American voters in Florida
and New Jersey ahead of the 2016 elections, he could send Biden. Problem
is, Biden may be running for president, and he will be the last one to
want to be photographed alongside Castro before the elections.

Another option for Obama would be trying to set conditions for Cuba's
participation, such as that the island make some gesture toward a
political opening. But that won't fly either, because Latin American
countries agreed at the recent OAS meeting that Cuba should be invited
without any strings attached.

Lastly, Obama could accept Cuba's participation at the Summit as an
"observer country," arguing that China and Russia are already OAS
observer countries, and Cuba's addition wouldn't amount to a big deal.
But, again, Latin American countries demand that Cuba be invited as a
full member, arguing that a 2009 vote at the OAS cleared the way for
Cuba's return to the inter-American diplomatic community.

My opinion: Obama should put in motion some creative diplomacy. He
should attend the summit, and cede half of the time at his opening
speech to a prominent Cuban dissident — someone like Cuban blogger Yoani
Sanchez — to steal the show from Cuba's aging military dictator.

The Cuban speaker would have an unparalleled public podium to tell the
world about the government repression and poverty that the Cuban people
have been suffering for the past five decades. That way, Obama could
save the summit, argue that he is entitled to use his speaking time as
he wishes, and defend the principle of democracy in the region.

Source: Andres Oppenheimer: Obama should go to summit - and challenge
Cuba - Andres Oppenheimer - - Continue reading
Of Freebies and Schools / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 13, 2014

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 September 2014 – The school bell
rings and the children enter the classroom followed by their parents.
The first day of classes triggers joy, although a few tears are shed by
some who miss their homes. That's what happened to Carla, who just
started kindergarten at a school in Cerro. The little girl is lucky
because she got a teacher who has taught elementary school for several
years and has mastered the content. "What luck!" some of the little
one's family members think, just before another mother warns them, "But
beware of the teacher, she demands every student bring her a bit of a
snack from home."

On the afternoon of September 1, the first parent meeting took place.
After the introductions and welcoming remarks, the teacher enumerated
everything that the classroom was lacking. "We have to raise money for a
fan," she said, unsmiling. Carla had already suffered from the morning
heat, so her mother gave the 3 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) that was
her daughter's share, so she would have a little breeze while studying.
"We also need to buy a broom and mop for cleaning, three fluorescent
tubes for the lights, and a trash can," said the teaching assistant.

A list of requests and needs added some disinfectant for the bathroom,
"Because we don't want the flu," said the teacher herself. The total
expenditures began to grow, and a lock was added, "So that no one steals
things when there's no one in the school." A father offered some green
paint to paint the blackboard, and another offered to fix the hinges on
the door, which was lopsided. "I recommend that you buy the children's
notebooks on the street because the ones we received to hand out this
year are as thin as onion skin and tear just by using an eraser," the
teacher added.

After the meeting Carla's family calculated some 250 Cuban pesos in
expenses to support the little girl's education, half the monthly salary
of her father, who is a chemical engineer. Then the school principal
came to the meeting and rounded it off with, "If anyone knows a
carpenter and wants to hire him to fix their child's desk, feel free."

Source: Of Freebies and Schools / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Rebuilding Cubans as Individuals
September 12, 2014
By Alejandro Armengol*

HAVANA TIMES — Even though studies and conferences about the rebuilding
of a post-Castro Cuba abound, this transformation has never been
analyzed in any depth from the point of view of the individual.

Urgently taking on the study about the means that will allow Cubans to
change and become individuals capable of facing the challenges and
benefits of a democratic State and civil society is as pressing a task
as debating over the economic and political bases that are to sustain
the Cuban nation of the future.

Impelling such a process from within Cuba's current regime is
impossible. Though efforts to establish the foundations of a civil
society in Cuba under the current situation are commendable, these
efforts are for the most part limited if not utopian. No civil society
could be built in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy or the communist Soviet
Union. That came later.

The comparison may seem disproportionate for some – in part, if one
considers the war these European nations experienced, or the subsequent
Cold War faced by the USSR, it is – but, when one focuses on the
characteristics of a totalitarian system, most differences tend to
vanish. To speak of establishing civil structures, groups and
institutions that are truly separate from the State – and not of
necessity pitted against the government – in today's Cuba is as
nonsensical as suggesting this be tried in North Korea.

This, however, does not stand in the way of studying the slow and
inevitable evolution towards this end, a process which, in Cuba's case,
is characterized by the development of an increasingly porous border
between the island and its counterpart, Miami.

Here, in contrast to North and South Korea, we cannot speak of a nation
divided into two States. We are faced, rather, with an ever-more
deteriorated country and a refuge established in a republic that is at
once similar and different (ultimately, Cuban émigrés living in Miami
abide by US laws).

Beyond the superficial similarity caught sight in the fact that South
Korea directly and indirectly offers North Koreans economic aid so that
they will be less hungry and miserable, Cubans living on the island and
in the United States have become closer to one another in the course of
years and these ties are transcending ideological and political
differences (whose extremes are becoming more and more obsolete at both
ends) every day.

In this sense, attempts in Miami at establishing the bases for a "future
Cuba", let alone a government for tomorrow's Cuba, are as absurd as the
pretext of the "besieged fortress" one still hears at Havana's
Revolution Square, and, with time, have become mere comical references
to an abandoned project.

The New Émigrés

In the course of 55 years, Cubans have evolved into two groups with
significant differences and similarities. One group, the majority, has
remained in the country. The other has made a new life for itself abroad.

For years, the Cuban government has been repeating that émigrés leave
Cuba for economic reasons. This argument has been echoed in Miami. Here,
we are also told on a daily basis that those who have arrived in the
country in recent years have come in search of a better life and not for
ideological reasons. In that always ironic convergence of extremes, a
discourse that points to the immigrant who is solely interested in their
wellbeing and not in any ideal of freedom begins to take shape on both

There is some truth to these claims, insofar as there is a growing
tendency among the new émigrés to distance themselves from all forms of
"politicization" (having grown tired of hearing these kinds of
discourses) and to prioritize family values or maintain previous
personal ties, and even customs, with which those who arrived before the
1990s were, for the most part, obliged to break off.

There are however differences that remain, even though these are
overlooked or deliberately ignored in our daily lives. This could be
described simply by saying that Cubans go back to Cuba but never
actually return. Those who do – as in the case of the occasional
musician – are the exception that turns the event into news.

The most significant difference between Cubans within and without Cuba
is that those who have emigrated to the United States or other countries
live in countries with capitalist, market economies and democratic
governments, while those who have remained in Cuba of their own will or
reasons beyond their control are obliged to adapt to the circumstances
that prevail in a totalitarian society based on communist tenets
(though, in practice, the ideological terminology has evolved and the
prevailing system is the facade of a regime whose sole interest is
surviving at all costs).

Beyond the possibility of expressing oneself freely – and without facing
any repercussions, for the most part – under capitalism and the
generalized censorship of a system that continues to call itself
socialist, what has the greatest impact upon individuals is the sense
that they are not in control of their own lives.

Escape Valve

For the time being, leaving the country continues to be the escape valve
chosen by those living on the island. Neither the increase in travel and
sending of remittances between the two countries nor Cuba's new
migratory laws have put an end to the exodus of Cubans, who leave the
country on vessels and other means considered illegal by Havana and
other governments (save in such exceptional cases envisaged by the still
effective "wet foot / dry foot" policy).

In addition, leaving Cuba is, in most cases, no longer considered an
attack on the regime, but rather a family or personal affair.

This tendency to regard the migratory process through the lens of family
or personal concerns (and, as such, depoliticitzed), however, serves a
political aim.

What the Cuban government is actually after is a twofold benefit: to
receive revenue through those who settle abroad and continue to help the
relatives they left behind and to widen the social and political blowoff
valve. Like Havana, Washington also acts in accordance with its national
interests: to maintain social and political stability 90 miles from
Cuban coasts, without looking for any additional trouble. Ultimately,
that has more weight than any declaration in favor of democracy in Cuba.

For many years, migratory policies have been used as political
instruments by both the United States and Cuba, and this has not
changed. This has benefitted many Cubans, but not without a number of costs.

Over time, Havana and Washington have offered different answers to the
phenomenon of Cuban immigrants. They are two very different countries
that share a common problem, while thousands of desperate people
continue to look for a better life. Of course we should not condemn
anyone for wanting to have a better life, particularly if one has done
exactly the same.

It is the country of origin that is suffering ever greater damage from
the point of view of its future independence, not only political but
also social, the danger of disintegration, chaos and violence that looms
ever more threateningly over Cuban society.

A Volatile Stage

An extremely volatile situation – which the government has managed to
control through repression and promises – has been taking shape in Cuba
over recent years. Though repression is generalized, it manifests itself
more visibly when applied on dissidents.

The regime is not only capable of keeping dissidents divided – that
hasn't been news for years – but also of ensuring that the small
protests and acts of civil disobedience that take place on a daily basis
do not acquire larger dimensions. The dissidents still prove incapable
of guiding or organizing the nationwide feeling of discontent and the
government has not made any significant progress in terms of alleviating
the prevailing poverty in the country. In this sense, we can speak of
stagnation both within the opposition and government, whose reforms make
such slow progress that it could well be said they aren't moving at all.

All of this increases the chances of a social upheaval. Should such a
violent fragmentation of society take place and regardless of its
outcome, taking advantage of the chaos and the use of force as a
solution to daily problems will likely become a behavioral pattern that
will be adopted by part of the island's population. This behavior will
limit or thwart social progress, as is the case in Haiti today.
Manipulation would cease to be institutionalized, as is the case now,
and would become the work of small groups of thugs, demagogues and

Should a social upheaval take place – and we must stress that the
situation of Cuban society is ever more like a boiler gaining more and
more pressure – people will not take to the streets to demand political
liberties (the moment for that has passed), but to vent their social and
economic frustration.

From the economic point of view, and contrary to what people may
suppose, a general worsening of the country's economic situation need
not be the catalyst for these more or less generalized protests. The
country's growing social differences, which become starker every day,
are what could light the fuse.

Despite the extreme limitations they face in their efforts (chiefly owed
to the vigorous forms of repression applied on them), Cuban dissidents
have not only warned of this danger but have done everything possible to
avoid reaching such a chaotic situation, after which it would be very
difficult to carry out the task of rebuilding Cubans as individuals. The
government of the Castro brothers, on the other hand, is intent on
leaving only chaos behind following its disappearance.

Every day there are more and more signs that reveal that part of Cuba's
population is willing to carry out violent acts – or is unable to
control its passions and base instincts – and that it reacts to the
simplest of stimuli. It is that sector of the population that willingly
participates in public reprisals against dissidents, in which they are
guided and controlled by a group of repressive agents. That is to say,
they are not even at the level of professionals of violence: they are
mere, circumstantial thugs.

In the more or less immediate future, following the disappearance of the
Castros, gang members, extortionists, people who abuse power and even
murderers will come out of the ranks of that sector, to meet the demand
for delinquents and violent people that the different groups involved in
illegal activities (now flourishing on the island) will have.

The rise in criminal activity is not the only danger that lurks ahead of
us in connection with these unscrupulous individuals who currently find
satisfaction in and take advantage of their participation in repressive

The main problem is the existence of a population accustomed to living
under a totalitarian regime that will soon find itself incapable of
living in freedom and assuming the responsibilities this entails. Those
who deal the blows today will be the maladjusted individuals of tomorrow.

Getting to know how people who have survived in a country in ruins for
too long think and act involves exploring a world that is broader than
our current political discussions. Studying the conduct of part of the
island's population that will limit or prevent social progress in the
future goes beyond the anecdote, the timely chronicle or the report on
the island's most recent shortage. It is of course not an easy task and
there are practically no means of carrying out such studies. That,
however, should not prevent us from sounding the alarm and continuing to
worry about this situation.

Source: Rebuilding Cubans as Individuals - Havana - Continue reading
Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores
September 12, 2014

HAVANA TIMES – When a Cuban goes shopping they never know what they will
find on store shelves. There may be plenty of some unaffordable luxury
products and acute shortages of basic necessities.

In the centralized system, government buyers purchase for millions of
Cubans. Consumer satisfaction is a factor rarely taken into account,
since the monopoly on the import and marketing protects the state companies.

Today we publish a report from Café Fuerte on the current shortages of
many basic products in the country. We recognize that if the situation
is distressing in the capital in the provinces and municipalities it is
even worse.

Cuban Government Explains Shortages of 25 Basic Products
By Cafe Fuerte

Havana's Puentes Grandes Commercial Center, located at the busy
interesection of 51 and 56 streets.
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has acknowledged that the shortage
and unstable supply of products sold through its retail network is
chiefly owed to a lack of the financial resources needed to guarantee
the production or import of these articles, adding that sanctions were
recently applied in cases in which such deficient market offers "had no

The Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) issued an open letter
recognizing that the shortage of some twenty food and personal hygiene
products at retail stores had been caused by a number of factors,
ranging from "the lack of financial resources needed to guarantee the
production or import of products during the first months of the year" to
"failure to comply with discipline and the established norms."

It pointed out that "administrative and disciplinary measures" have been
taken in certain cases evaluated, where there was no justification for
the product shortage, as "the production conditions were present and the
country had made the needed financial resources available."

MINCIN issued this missive in response to a report published on August
27 by Cuba's main official newspaper, Granma, following increasingly
frequent complaints by the population over the shortage of basic
products at hard currency stores and State industrial product markets.
The article stated that product shortages have become a "chronic
phenomenon" in the country, despite attempts by industry to meet
production plans and efforts by retail chains to compensate for
unbalances through imports.

Potatoes, Juice and Toilet Paper

The list of under stocked products includes potatoes, fruit juices,
salt, domestically produced beers, toilet paper, toothbrushes, matches
and plastic bags.

Though MINCIN insists efforts to stabilize the supply of numerous
products for the remainder of the year are being made, the panorama
described does not appear to point to an immediate solution to the under
stocking of Cuban markets.

"With the import of some raw materials and supplies, it has been
possible to resume some production processes in the country and ensure a
more stable supply of high-demand products. That said, it is both
crucial and fair to point out that it will not be possible to meet the
population's growing demands in all areas," MINCIN stated, pointing to
the demands of the self-employed and new forms of employment established
in the country as one aggravating circumstance.

A letter issued by Cuba's CIMEX Corporation followed MINCIN' communiqué
last week. Published in Granma, it leaves a number of "pending
questions" regarding the shortage of products distributed by its stores
across the country unanswered. The document was signed by Barbara Rosa
Soto Sanchez, commercial vice-president of the company.

Product Shortages

On the basis of these two letters, a list of 25 products in short or
unstable supply in Cuba's domestic market, and the official prognosis
regarding a possible solution to this, can be drawn up.

• Potatoes: Production during this year's harvest, aimed at 65,700 tons,
fell by 48,000 tons in comparison to 2013. These figures make it
impossible to satisfy the demand for this product.

• Natural juices and nectars: CIMEX has imported products to meet
demands and hopes to be able to stabilize the supply of its products by
year's end. The increase in the number of self-employed workers and the
establishment of new food service cooperatives are the main causes of
the unstable supply.

• Soft drinks: Consumer demands aren't being met and production plans go
unfulfilled. This has led to under stocking. These products are not
being imported.

• Powdered Chocolate: The dairy industry has recovered production
indices, but these still do not meet customer demand.

• Domestic beer: Cristal and Bucanero-brand beers were fulfilling their
production plan at 94%, which is below the market demand. Shortages are
also being caused at markets due to the demand of the self-employed and
food service cooperatives. Other beers have been imported to meet demand
at stores.

• Salt: No explanation as to its absence at markets is offered.
Production and delivery goals continue to go unfulfilled and contractual
clauses governing its sale are still being violated.

• Toilet paper: Domestic manufacturers are meeting production plans but
consumer demand is not being met. CIMEX imported toilet paper to reduce
shortages by 10 % during July.

• Toothbrushes: There have been delays in domestic production and
deliveries since May. CIMEX has begun to import this product to
stabilize its stocks. Demand is still not being satisfied, however.

• Toothpaste: A drop in market offer was registered in the first months
of the year. Supplies should become stable in the second half of the year.

• Deodorant: The industry experienced difficulties during the first
months of the year owing to a lack of financing, but production and
distribution have become stable.

• Laundry soap: With a production commitment of 17,000 tons for the
year, its offer is guaranteed in the market.

• Toilet soap: The production goal of 18,876 tons has been met to meet
demand. Product shortages are the result of distribution problems. The
soap deficit has been evident in the Cuban peso retail market, where a
sustained offer of the product has not yet been achieved.

• Razors: Stocks have run out. The product should be made available at
stores this month.

• Colognes and perfumes: A steady supply cannot be guaranteed through
domestic production or imports. Of the total of 5,938,600 units put on
the market last year by Suchel Regalo and Suchel Camacho, only 37%
(2,218,649 units) was available for sale this year. The industry is not
expected to recover until 2015.

• Talcum powder: The demand continues to go unmet. Of the 362,000 units
of talcum powder produced in 2013, a mere 16% will be produced this year.

• Batteries for electric motorcycles: Cuba's Minerva factory has not
been able to guarantee a steady supply at retail stores operated by
CIMEX' Automobile Transportation Division. Supplies for electric
bicycles, including the batteries, are expected to become stable by
mid-September with the help of imports.

• 18 and 32-Watt fluorescent lights: Though high numbers of affordable
fluorescent lights were imported from January to June for distribution
throughout the country, stocks have not become stable in the market.
MINCIN reports that under stocking is owed to a failure to import the
product on a timely basis.

• Energy-saving bulbs: There has been a shortage of this product since
the beginning of the year owing to lack of timely imports. The number of
bulbs needed to stabilize supplies in the market will be imported from
Vietnam and China. CIMEX claims that the market will recover slightly
between May and June.

• Portable radios: No contract with domestic manufactures exists because
a steady supply of this product cannot be guaranteed.

• Matches: the product shortages and unstable supply are owed to
negligence on behalf of the companies that sell the product. There are
no production problems or shortages.

• Grease removing and descaling substances: Lack of inventory and
unstable supplies in the market are expected throughout the year.

• Bleach: It will be impossible to meet customer demands owing to
technical problems faced by domestic manufacturers. Of the 8,720,879
liters of bleach needed to meet the demand this year, only 29% of that
volume will be produced.

• Hydrochloric acid: It will be impossible to meet demands. Of the
4,556,473 liters needed, a mere 7% will be produced for sale.

• Plastic bags: The product is available and instructions to sell it at
Cuban peso retail stores have been issued.

Source: Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores - Havana - Continue reading
"Puro, Buy My Stimulus" / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on September 12, 2014

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 September 2014 — Passing near the Chinese
cemetery on 26th Avenue, a young man leading his bike by the hand, said
to me, "Puro, buy my stimulus." I confess that it took me a few seconds
to decipher the code. Clearly the "puro" was a reference to my youth,
but what was difficult to understand was the "stimulus." How can you buy
such a thing?

As he explained to me, it was a plastic bag that contained a quart of
vegetable oil for cooking, two bath soaps, and some ounces of detergent
that he'd been given at work as a "stimulus" for having stood out in
socialist emulation.

I didn't believe a single word and committed the journalistic folly of
rejecting his offer. If I had said yes, now I'd have a photo here of the
products, laid out on the wall of the cemetery with the graves in the

When I told the story to my friend Regina Coyula, author of the blog Bad
Handwriting, she told me this is the latest scam. The allusion to having
been chosen as the vanguard, a standout, or special prize winner, makes
you think that the potential seller is a "true believer" who has no
recourse but to sacrifice the material honors his political-social
conduct has earned him, to alleviate his urgent needs.

To buy the "stimulus" is almost a sado-political vengeance, but selling
fake merchandise, that is oil that isn't good for cooking, soap that
doesn't produce lather, and lime instead of detergent, is already a
mockery… the old scam in new clothes.

Source: "Puro, Buy My Stimulus" / Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Ministerial Hustling / 14ymedio
Posted on September 12, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Luzbely Escobar, 11 September 2014 – When I was
younger and went out looking for something to do in Havana's evenings or
nights, one day I stumbled over Julio. I went out with a girlfriend from
Berlin and he was looking to make a living scamming innocent foreigners.
He approached us intending to invite us to a Rumba Festival, but was
disappointed by our refusal. The trick was easy: lead the unwary to
Hamel Alley where there was almost always the sound of drums and right
now there was the Festival he mentioned.

I had warned my German friend about those characters who invent
everything to attract the tourists, and the truth was that, in those
days of September 1993, there wasn't much to do. Every encounter ended
in a park, along the Malecon, or the home of a friend. Julio didn't give
up and told my friend, Angelica, that he knew a place where there was
salsa dancing. We turned our worst faces to the old rockers and took off
before they came up with something else. I remember my friend at the end
of this episode telling me, "That's what I would call cultural hustling."

I'm telling this story because right now there is a cultural event
called Habanarte. I support the theory that this is more or less the
same thing, but organized by the Ministry of Culture itself. With a
program that includes everything but which, in reality, brings little
new, one more festival where supposedly a program specially designed for
the event is created, which comes to be a kind of umbrella that covers
everything and anything that's happening in Havana lately. Thus, this
umbrella festival takes credit for everything and even includes visits
to museums on its list of events.

Presentations by the National Ballet of Cuba, Haydée Milanés, Descemer
among others, are part of the shows absorbed by Habanarte. Also, the Art
in the Rampa show, and even the sixth Salon of Contemporary Art, have
been put under the umbrella.

An odd, or revealing, piece of data is that the Paradiso agency
confirmed the participation of 1,500 Venezuelans and announced that the
event in question is being marketed to tourists passing through Havana
and Varadero. The perfect mix to ideologize even more the cultural
spaces that, gradually, we Havanans have conquered to relax the everyday
political ballad.

At the press conference that took place a few days ago, we learned that
the Festival Information Center will be located at the Casa del Alba,
the most rancid epicenter of political propaganda masquerading as
culture. All this made me remember Julio and his fake musical event, and
my friend Angelica who realized the farce in time. However, unlike that
lie to get some money from unsuspecting tourists, Habanarte is a huge
ministerial balloon scamming thousands of people.

(The event takes place from 11 to 21 September, but the official opening
is on September 12, at 11 pm, at El Sauce Cultural Center, of Artex,
with a concert by El Chevere de la Salsa, Isaac Delgado.)

Source: Ministerial Hustling / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Rejoice, Rise Up and Persevere, Pope Francis's Verbs for Cubans / 14ymedio
Posted on September 12, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, 9 September 2014 – A letter sent by Pope Francis to
Cubans has highlighted three verbs he invites pastors and the faithful
to put into practice. On the occasion of the Feast of the Virgin of
Charity of Cobre—our Cachita—this Monday, 8 September, the Bishop of
Rome has urged us to rejoice, rise up and persevere. The message seems
full of clues and enigmas to solve.
The Holy Father, for example, has emphasized, "What joy the authentic
soul feels in daily events, and not in the empty words that abound,
blown away with the wind." Pope Bergoglio has also called us to rise up,
but "not about the big things, rather in everything you do, with
tenderness and mercy. María was always with her people caring for the
little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile," allusions also
emphasized with the verb persevere.

The message takes as its context the widespread pilgrimages that have
occurred on the Island for the Feast of Cachita. To the yellow flowers,
the promises kept and the acts of faith, we now add the Pope's words,
which have been shared publicly in churches throughout the country.

Source: Rejoice, Rise Up and Persevere, Pope Francis's Verbs for Cubans
/ 14ymedio | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Obama's Cuba Problem

The last time President Obama met with his Latin American and Caribbean
counterparts was not a particularly memorable affair. The 2012 Summit
of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was overshadowed by an
embarrassing Secret Service scandal that saw members of his advance team
soaking in a little bit too much of the historical city's Caribbean
Meanwhile, in the absence of any substantive agenda, President Obama
spent most of the summit being hectored by his counterparts with the
incongruous assertion that undemocratic outlier Cuba must be part of the
next meeting of all the popularly elected governments in the Americas.
It was clear the president wasn't pleased with the
badgering, complaining that, "Sometimes I feel as if in some of these
discussions ... we're caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and
gunboat diplomacy."
Fast forward two years: Preparations for the 2015 Summit are well
underway and once again Cuba's participation has become the flashpoint.
Governments in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua
have already said they will boycott any summit where Cuba is excluded.
Panama, the host, has announced its intention to formally invite Cuba,
with its president saying that the presence of the last military
dictatorship in the region was "important."
The State Department has already voiced its opposition, citing the 2001
Summit's agreed-upon "democracy clause," which conditions Summit
participation to countries that respect democracy and rule of law.
According to a spokesperson, "So we should not undermine commitments
previously made, but should instead encourage -- and this is certainly
our effort -- the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the
basic qualifications."
Secretary of State John Kerry privately repeated that message in no
uncertain terms to Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo when
the two met at the beginning of September.
Nevertheless, the drumbeat has started that President Obama must accept
the Castro regime's presence at the Summit or else, as one former
advisor to President Clinton has said, be "responsible for the collapse
of inter-American summitry, 20 years after its initiation by President
There is no doubt that U.S.-Cuba policy critics see the president's
dilemma as a golden opportunity to mainstream Cuba back into regional
polite society despite its uncompromising, repressive rule, thus making
it more difficult to justify the U.S. policy of isolating the Castro
regime politically and economically. The administration will therefore
be coming under enormous pressure to accept the "inevitable" and attend
the Summit with Cuba.
These critics understand the power that symbolism plays in international
affairs. The presence of a U.S. President at any event -- international
or otherwise -- is never routine, or ever lacking of import and
consequence. Thus, in their construction, President Obama's attendance
at a Summit with Cuba will signal a U.S. surrender of fifty years of its
embargo-centric policy. On the other hand, the symbolic importance of
standing up for the region's hard-won democratic gains over the past
quarter-century by making a point about the incongruity of Cuba's
presence in this age of regional democracy will be a dagger in their heart.
It's worth noting that several of the governments insisting on Cuba's
presence are those guilty of their own back-sliding on respect for
democratic institutions over the last several years, including
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Why wouldn't they want the Castro
regime present in regional fora, so as to lower the bar for everyone on
adhering to democratic principles?
But this isn't just to argue that President Obama should just stiff his
counterparts and appoint a lesser State Department official to attend in
his stead if other Latin American governments insist on Cuba's
presence. The president should seize the opportunity to be proactive
and make a statement that what distinguishes the Americas is that it is
a community of democracies and that commitments to democratic governance
are enduring and meaningful to ensure it will always be that way. He
should challenge others to argue why the Castros' military dictatorship
is deserving of any special consideration or compromise for their
flaunting of democratic norms over the past five decades.
If, in the end, the president opts not to attend the Summit due to the
Castro regime's presence, meaning that the U.S. "isolates" itself from
the Summit process, then so be it. Principle is more important that
popularity. The sun will rise the next day and the struggle for
democracy in Cuba will continue. And if Latin American governments
choose to condition their relationships with Washington on U.S.
relations with Cuba, that is their choice to make -- and to live with.

Source: Obama's Cuba Problem - Continue reading
Twenty years after Cuban raft exodus, they keep coming
By David Adams,

MIAMI (Reuters) - Alicia Garcia vividly recalls her rescue at sea 20
years ago during a mass exodus from Cuba, a dramatic event that changed
the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and reshaped relations
between the communist-run island and the United States.

"We didn't think we'd make it. We prayed, and put ourselves in God's
hands," she said of her six-day ordeal clinging with five others to a
raft made of truck inner tubes and rope.

Illegal departures by sea from Cuba are on the rise again, U.S.
officials say, with more than 2,000 migrants picked up by the U.S. Coast
Guard over the last 12 months. That is the highest rate in six years.

Many more are passing undetected, mostly headed west aboard flimsy
home-made vessels in a risky bid to cross the Caribbean to Honduras, in
hopes of getting across the Mexico-U.S. border.

Late last month 17 Cubans were rescued by the Mexican navy after almost
a month at sea, 20 days without food. Details are unclear, but more than
a dozen others may have died from dehydration - the survivors forced to
throw their bodies overboard.

The town of Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, where most of the victims are
from, planned a church Mass on Friday night.

"My wife, she can't bring herself to tell me what really happened. It's
too terrible," said Jose Caballero, husband of one of the survivors, who
left Cuba via a similar route in December and now lives in Texas.


According to the latest U.S. figures, more than 14,000 Cubans have
crossed the southwestern U.S. border illegally since Oct. 1, almost
triple the number four years ago.

The spike is attributed to delays of up to five years for Cubans seeking
to emigrate legally to join relatives in the United States. Economic
reforms designed to open up Cuba's state-controlled system and create
private sector jobs have also failed to improve living conditions for
most people.

"We left (Cuba) because there are no jobs or the basic items for
living," said Angel, a former fishing boat captain who reached Honduras
with 11 others aboard a home-made boat last week after a two-week
journey via the Cayman Islands.

The boat was built clandestinely with cannibalized parts, including a
car engine, a propeller and aluminum sheets sealed together with resin,
he said.

It wasn't much different in 1994, said Garcia, except on that occasion
Cuba lifted restrictions, opening the flood gates for anyone who wanted
to jump on a raft.

That summer, between Aug. 12 and Sept. 13, some 31,000 Cubans were
detained at sea by U.S. ships. It was the largest exodus since the 1980
Mariel boatlift that brought 120,000 Cubans to Miami.

The 1994 crisis led to a major shift in U.S.-Cuba policy and an accord
under which Washington agreed to grant visas to 20,000 Cuban migrants a

As a result, since 1995 more than 600,000 Cubans have emigrated to the
United States, the largest flow since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

The 1994 crisis also led to the establishment of a so-called "wet foot,
dry foot policy," under which Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil
are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are turned back.

Rafters have kept coming in smaller numbers, though these days they make
few political or media waves.


A series of seminars and exhibitions are being held to mark the 1994
exodus. An exhibition at the Spanish Cultural Center in Miami, opening
on Saturday, features the work of Willy Castellanos, a young
photographer in Havana in 1994 who chronicled the exodus as homes were
ripped apart to build rafts, lowered by pulleys onto the street below.

"Living in Havana at that time and watching the exodus felt like the
fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the end of the utopia, the socialist
model we grew up with," he said.

Garcia said she will never forget the five months she spent in 1994 at a
makeshift refugee camp at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base before
making it to Miami.

She has not been back to Cuba to visit the grandparents who raised her.

Garcia and other rafters say the 1994 exodus has not been fully
appreciated by Cubans who arrived in Miami in the 1960s, or on the
Mariel boatlift.

"The Cubans who came before, in 1980, were never in agreement with the
revolution. We were supposed to be different," added Garcia, born in
1974. "We were the children of the revolution."

(Reporting by David Adams, editing by Jill Serjeant and Dan Grebler)

Source: Twenty years after Cuban raft exodus, they keep coming - Chicago
Tribune - Continue reading
The Las Cuevas Camp Facility: Deficiencies and Corruption
September 9, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — Whenever there is talk of Cuba's camp facilities in any
of our media, everything is looked at through rose-colored glasses. The
reality, however, is quite different.

This past Friday, August 29, campers who arrived at the Las Cuevas
recreational center were able to confirm the deficiencies of the
facility in person. Upon arrival, they were informed there was no
running water because the pump was broken. The swimming pool – the one
source of entertainment for visitors – had not yet been filled.

The cabins had their own, private bathrooms, but some didn't have doors
and were equipped merely with one, plastic bucket for fetching water.
There were no basic cleaning products such as floor mops or brooms.

That day, the menu was less than interesting: a bit of fish with rice
and beans for lunch, minced meat, wieners in sauce and poor-quality rice
for dinner.

At noon on Saturday, several water tanks were installed on the premises
so that campers could wash themselves (many had to go off into wooded
areas or nearby cabins that have long been abandoned to relieve themselves).

The menu also suddenly broadened. They began to sell pizzas, served pork
fricassee for lunch and rice and beans, white rice, yellow rice, roasted
chicken and other main courses for dinner.

Thanks to campsite employees, people found out this sudden change in
conditions was due to a visit by the Minister of Tourism, who, we can
assume, does not know what is actually taking place at Las Cuevas.

At cabin no. 48, located at the back of the campsite where the police
are based, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages (extracted from the rum
factory in Santa Cruz del Norte) are sold illegally.

The prices of the cigarettes sold there are:

H.Upmann: 1 CUC, or 25 Cuban pesos

Popular (filtered): 1 CUC, or 25 Cuban pesos

Hollywood: 2 CUC, or 50 Cuban pesos.

At the campsite, the State establishments did not have cigarettes. Rum
bottles were sold at 40 Cuban pesos.

Cabin 56 was devoted to the sale of beer. A bottle cost 30 Cuban pesos.
A 24-pack (in very high demand) was sold there at 720 pesos. They also
sold cigarettes and food that was better than that being offered by the

The people in these cabins were not campers. Apparently, these
individuals live in the area during the summer months.

Campsite employees know of this: it is they who tell campers where to
find the products they're looking for, and none of them seem bothered by
this network of illegal activities.

Source: The Las Cuevas Camp Facility: Deficiencies and Corruption -
Havana - Continue reading
Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly Still in a Tight Spot
September 11, 2014
Luis Rondón Paz

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba's new mobile phone email service continues to be
highly deficient owing to "jamming of the lines", and no announcement as
when this will be fixed has been made.

I have sporadically contacted CUBACEL's customer services line to let
them know the problems I'm having. I have informed them of the
difficulties I've encountered whenever I try to send an email using my
cell's Nauta account, and that there are times during the day when text
(SMS) messages cannot be sent, take long to be delivered and sometimes
never reach the addressee (even though the nine cents are still deducted
from my balance).

Repeatedly, they have replied that "the servers are jammed and changes
to the technical infrastructure have been made recently. Please be
patient, we're working on it."

Cuba's telecommunications company (ETECSA-CUBACEL) broadened its range
of services for the population some time ago. Some of the more
noteworthy changes were the possibility of accessing the Internet and
sending emails from computers at newly-opened centers of this State
monopoly, and an email service (Nauta) for mobile phones. The latter was
quite novel for Cubans and promised to make communication quicker and
more affordable, provided customers limited themselves to sending
messages and photos no larger than one Megabyte.

That was the idea, but reality proved entirely different. The quality of
the email service offered by Nauta in recent weeks is one case in point.
According to ETECSA officials, problems affecting the quality of the
service have been reported since September 3. I know, however, that the
problems began well before, having long experienced difficulties sending
and receiving emails using my mobile phone.

This past 8th of September, I again phoned Customer Services in the
hopes of getting some good news. Unfortunately, when I got through, the
operator informed me that, currently, the company does not know whether
there will be any immediate solution to the poor quality of mobile phone
services – services, incidentally, that are charged in hard currency.

Source: Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly Still in a Tight Spot -
Havana - Continue reading
Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get into U.S.

- At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be
admitted to the U.S. this year
- Cuba keeps 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela in part to pay for oil
- One Cuban doctor in Venezuela describes workload as 'crushing'

Worsening conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of
Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States
under a special program that expedites their applications, according to
Colombian officials who help process many of the refugees.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in
Washington said the number of Cuban doctors, nurses, optometrists and
medical technicians applying for U.S. visas under the Cuban Medical
Professional Parole Program is running as much as 50% ahead of last
year's pace, which was nearly double that of the year before.

At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be
admitted to the United States this year.

For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored trampoline
for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, whose leftist government has struggled to
rein in runaway inflation, shortages of goods and services and rising
social unrest.

Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has
long exported doctors and nurses to friendly countries, maintains an
estimated 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela. The medical outreach
program is intended as partial payment for 100,000 barrels of oil that
President Nicolas Maduro's government ships to the Castro administration
each day.

Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived
in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working
in Venezuela's Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She
declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home.

Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas'
Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there
for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned
her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.

"It was all a trick. They tell you how great it's going to be, how you
will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you.
Then comes the shock of the reality," Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia
had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was
supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.

She described the workload as "crushing." Instead of the 15 to 18
procedures a day she performed in Cuba, she did as many as 90 in
Venezuela, she said. Crime is rampant, the pay is an abysmal $20 per
month and Cubans are caught in the middle of Venezuela's civil unrest,
which pits followers of the late President Hugo Chavez — whose
handpicked successor is Maduro — against more conservative,
market-oriented forces.

"The Chavistas want us there and the opposition does not. And there are
more opposition people than Chavistas," said Nelia, who was interviewed
in a Colombian immigration office in Bogota.

A 32-year-old Cuban optometrist who identified himself as Manuel and who
also fled Venezuela to apply for U.S. residency said that at his clinic
in Merida he was prescribing and grinding up to 120 pairs of eyeglasses
a day, triple his pace in Cuba.

"As a professional you want to be paid for what your work is worth. What
we were getting, $20 a month, was not enough to pay even for food and
transportation, much less a telephone call to Cuba now and then," Manuel
said. "That's the main reason I want to go to Miami, to earn what I'm

Cubans have long had favored status as U.S. immigrants. Virtually any
Cuban is guaranteed automatic residency and a path to citizenship simply
by setting foot on U.S. territory, legally or not. The Cuban Medical
Professional Parole Program gives medical personnel a leg up by allowing
them to apply for residency at U.S. embassies.

Though some Cubans apply at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan
capital, others say they fear being seen there. Also, airfare to the
United States from Colombia is much cheaper than from Venezuela.

The increasing flow of Cuban doctors is only part of a rising tide of
Cubans seeking to reach the United States, many through Colombia.
Lacking the special status of medical personnel, many U.S.-bound Cubans
first land in Ecuador, where the government requires no visas. They then
typically pass through Colombia to Panama with the help of coyotes, or
human traffickers. However, many are detained in Colombia.

Of 1,006 illegal immigrants detained in Colombia from January through
July of this year for failing to have proper visas, 42% were Cuban,
according to Colombia's immigration agency director, Sergio Bueno
Aguirre. The flow of Cubans had more than doubled from the year before.

One Colombian Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the political sensitivity said the U.S. policy of
allowing Cubans immigrant status simply by arriving in the United States
has fed organized crime in Colombia and in other transit countries.

"Coyotes helping the Cubans transit through Colombia often use the
migrants to carry drugs or submit to prostitution," the official said.
"Or the coyotes will just abandon them at a border, creating a big
headache for the Colombian government, which has to take care of them or
send them back home."

Kraul is a special correspondent.

Source: Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get
into U.S. - LA Times - Continue reading
Posted on Friday, 09.12.14

Cuba sending dozens of doctors to fight Ebola

LONDON -- Cuba's health ministry said Friday it is sending more than 160
health workers to help stop the raging Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone,
providing a much-needed injection of medical expertise in a country
where health workers are in short supply.

World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan said the agency was
extremely grateful for the help.

"If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we need the resources to
fight," she said. "This will make a significant difference in Sierra Leone."

While millions of dollars have already been pledged and countries
including Britain and the U.S. have volunteered to build treatment
centers, Chan said "human resources are most important," noting a
crucial need for experienced doctors and nurses across the region.

"There is not a single bed available for an Ebola patient in the entire
country of Liberia," she said, adding that a further 1,500 health
workers are desperately needed in West Africa.

Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Cuba's health minister, called on other
countries to help.

Ebola is believed to have killed more than 2,200 people in West Africa
so far, the biggest-ever outbreak of the lethal virus. So far, the death
rate is about 50 percent. Doctors and nurses are at high risk of
catching Ebola, spread via the exchange of bodily fluids.

Cuba will be sending experienced doctors, nurses and other scientists to
Sierra Leone in early October. They will stay for six months.

Since the 1959 Cuban revolution, the country has dispatched thousands of
doctors worldwide to work on issues ranging from maternal health to

Cuba's program has been praised for improving health care in countries
short on doctors, but also criticized for underpaying the physicians by
funneling too much of the compensation for the program to Cuban state

Associated Press Writer Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to
this report.

Source: LONDON: Cuba sending dozens of doctors to fight Ebola - World
Wires - - Continue reading
A New Women's Opposition Group is Born in the East: Citizens for
Democracy / 14ymedio
Posted on September 11, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 10 September 2014 – A schism with the Ladies in White
has given birth to a new women's group called "Citizens for Democracy."
Last Monday, during the feast of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, the
recently created movement held it's first public activity with a
pilgrimage of seventy women to the Sanctuary of Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

Citizens for Democracy is led by Belkis Cantillo and consists mostly of
women from Palma Soriano, Palmarito del Cauto and the city of Santiago
de Cuba itself. At least thirty of them come from the Ladies in White
group, from which they separated some days ago because of disagreements
between Berta Soler and Cantillo herself.

The reason for this separation was explained as "gross indiscipline"
allegedly committed by several members of the Ladies in White in the
eastern area of the country, which provoked the removal of Cantillo as
local representative of the movement. Soler, for her part, declared that
"every person can join or found a party or a group if they feel badly in
another and if they are not able to abide by the rules of the Ladies in

Belkis Cantillo was a member of the Ladies in White from its origins in
2003 after the imprisonment of 75 dissidents in the so-called "Black
Spring." Her ex-husband is the opponent Jose Daniel Ferrer, who heads
the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Berta Soler hopes that the Citizens for Democracy will "succeed as human
rights activists."

Source: A New Women's Opposition Group is Born in the East: Citizens for
Democracy / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Hemingway, Tourism, and the Contradictions of Revolutionary Cuba
Posted: 09/10/2014 3:33 pm EDT Updated: 09/10/2014 3:59 pm EDT

At El Floridita bar in Old Havana, Ernest Hemingway drank in the
afternoons and supposedly met his only Cuban love, Leopoldina (a sex
worker). Hemingway, although he has been dead for over 50 years, is
still hanging around the bar. Today a life-size bronze statue of the
author stands in the corner, in his favorite drinking spot. On the walls
behind him, black-and-white photos show an aged and bearded Hemingway
talking closely with Fidel Castro and drinking with actors Errol Flynn
and Spencer Tracy. The memorial, commissioned by the Cuban revolutionary
government, has become a popular photo-stop for tourists. Large groups
of foreigners order expensive daiquiris, listen to live music, and take
pictures with a timeless Hemingway.

Attractions like this one awkwardly neighbor the poverty of everyday
life in Havana. The contradictions of the Cuban Revolution are a
half-century in the making. But with the arrival of more and more
tourists, they have become increasingly obvious. Last year, 2.85 million
tourists visited the island. U.S. citizens are also joining the tourist
crowds. Over 170,000 travelers from the U.S. arrived to Cuba in the
first three months of 2014. The question is: what will this new 21st
century boom in tourism mean for the Cuban people?

The afternoon I visited El Floridita, a group of men and women lingered
outside the bar's only entrance, waiting for foreigners to exit with
lubricated pockets. Hemingway's favorite drink - a daiquiri - costs
around $6.50, roughly one-third the average monthly salary ($20) of a
Cuban worker. The bar, owned by the Cuban state, isn't really for
Cubans. Neither is the Hotel Habana Libre (Free Havana), nor many other
tourist attractions in the city. Extreme economic inequality and state
policing separate local and foreign access to food, entertainment, and
certain "public" spaces.

Tourism has become Cuba's new enclave economy. The hotels, and the best
restaurants and bars, are exclusive sites. Foreigners are allowed in and
Cubans are physically kept out. The revolution (1953-1959) was supposed
to end these social problems and the demoralizing divide between the
majority of Cuban 'have-nots' and the exclusive foreign 'haves.' The
decadence of tourism in 1950s Havana helped mobilize a nation against
dictatorship and U.S. imperial arrogance. Today, though, the Cuban
government offers international tourism as the nation's best hope. The
revolution's leaders have decided to build a new contradiction on top of
a very old one. As the state-owned Hotel Meliá-Cohiba tells its
employees, "smile, always" for the tourists.

Old problems are reemerging. As tourism grows, so does a culture of
hustle. Male and female hustlers, locally called jinteros, use slick
words, lies, quick friendship, and sex to get money, luxury, and
mobility. Jinteros are willing to prostitute soul and sometimes body to
economically survive and find diversion in the mundaneness of a
restricted life. The reasoning goes: "If the tourists can have a drink,
a fun night out, a good meal, a travel visa, a decent income, why can't
I?" The state has responded by harassing, and when it sees fit, jailing
Cubans who talk too much with foreigners in the streets of downtown Havana.

The boom in state-run luxury tourism undermines the revolution. The
Ministry of Finance and Pricing is on the far end of Obispo Street, the
same street where El Floridita and many other tourist bars and
restaurants are located. Inside the ministry's neocolonial building
there is a huge banner, with a younger-looking Fidel dressed in green
fatigues, explaining the meaning of Cuba's ongoing struggle.
"Revolution," it declares, "is the feeling of an historical moment; it
is to change everything that should be changed; it is plain equality and
liberty; it is to treat everyone like human beings." It concludes:
"Revolution is unity, it is independence, it is to struggle for our
dreams of justice for Cuba, for the world."

I empathize with and respect the 1959 Cuban Revolution. There was
legitimate reason for revolt. A visit to the island, however, makes it
impossible to morally accept what's happened since. Rhetoric and action
have long parted ways.

There is not enough hope or basic necessities for the majority of
Cubans. Healthy and affordable food, consistent and clean drinking
water, uncensored news sources, the internet, sustained cross-cultural
connections (not just at hotels with false smiles), a livable income...
travel... freedom... these should be the fruits of revolution. Instead,
they remain intangible possibilities for Cubans who stay on the island
and follow the rules.

Young people are trapped in a country run by old authoritarians talking
about 1959 like it was yesterday and forever. The nation's leaders keep
looking to the past. In the face of material and existential
uncertainty, the revolutionary government has in fact returned to
develop one of its original enemies.

At first I was confused how Hemingway could be a beloved figure for a
state claiming to be so revolutionary. For all of Hemingway's literary
talent, and his sympathy for the downtrodden (fishermen, peasants, war
veterans, bootleggers, and Indians), he was still by most accounts a
bigoted white man who demanded that he be called "Papa." People of color
and women were always inferior to the risk-taking righteousness of
Hemingway and his white-male characters. His image of himself was his
favorite literary figure. He was the authority, the troubled explorer,
looking out on the good, bad, ugly, and also the beauty of the world. He
was "Papa." The Cuban Revolution has created a similar narrative, and
image, of itself. Fidel is still the island's "Papa." The revolution's
most revered characters continue to be virile white-men. Che, Camilo,
Raul, even Martí. Everyone else is still in the backseat, or serving drinks.

For travelers contemplating a trip to Cuba this shouldn't mean stay home
or visit somewhere else. Just the opposite. The embargo is also
wrongheaded policy. It shares responsibility for the island's troubles.
There is both an external and internal embargo against Cubans.

If you do travel to Cuba: engage, meet, and listen to local people, with
love and humility; talk politics and history, and the uncertain meaning
of freedom; share and exchange, and avoid the poison of apartheid
luxury; learn and speak the truth about the troubles and advantages of
the different political-economic systems in the U.S. and Cuba. Dialogue
and cross-cultural exchange are the only hope for forging a respectful
relationship between our two nations.

Viva Cuba Libre!

And don't be a tourist.

Source: Hemingway, Tourism, and the Contradictions of Revolutionary
Cuba | Blake Scott - Continue reading