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Embargo 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez
Posted on October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 October 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuba: Where the Rainbow Starts - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba dual currency panorama
Submitted by: Oscar Rojas Curbelo
Business and Economy 10 / 24 / 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: Cuba dual currency panorama | Cuba Headlines – Cuba News,
Breaking News, Articles and Daily Information - Continue reading
As Cuban economy stagnates, economists press for deeper reforms
HAVANA Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:46pm EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: As Cuban economy stagnates, economists press for deeper reforms
| Reuters - Continue reading
The Misery That Unites Us / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 October 2014

Source: The Misery That Unites Us / Rebeca Monzo | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba Between Post-Totalitarianism and the Dictatorship of the Right
October 23, 2014
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — I often say that the Cuban regime is a totalitarian
dictatorship and, in saying this, I vent the frustration it produces me
in one fell swoop. It's a shame Spanish does not have as expressive and
accurate a term as Totalherrschaft.

To be entirely honest, however, I am not too sure that shoe fits this
particular system. Allow me to explain myself.

Totalitarianism is defined by a series of characteristics: some we find
in Cuba, others not. Those that are related to the Party-State seem to
have a higher "survival rate."

These characteristics are:

- Hierarchical authority.
- Complete control over the press and media and their use for
propagandistic purposes.
- Overlapping of the State and the single Party.
- The existence of a secret police whose activities do not appear to be
restrained by law.
- Intense and explicit indoctrination of children and young people.
- Ideological control over key aspects of society, such as culture and
the economy.
- Persecution and demonization of the "Other" (dissidents, in our case).
- Liquidation of representative democracy: the leader communicates with
the people directly.
Now, totalitarianism is not authoritarianism. To secure total control,
it requires the complicity and enthusiasm of the masses. We could say
that a country is going through a totalitarian phase if:

The fear towards those who would threaten the nation state (aristocrats,
the bourgeoisie, capitalists, communists, anarchists, foreign powers)
has been transformed into mass hysteria.
Faith in political institutions has been lost and a form of unity loaded
with transcendent and mystical references is appealed to.
People long for the arrival of a charismatic, iron-handed leader that
embodies the spirit of the community and takes on the battle against the
demons that besiege it.
People are driven by a blind and irrational faith in the project's
ultimate triumph.
Do we qualify?

During the first years of the revolution, we did, but not so much now.
Some old-school Stalinists with high-ranking positions seek to restore
the country's lost ideological purity and popular euphoria, but the
spirit of the times is headed in a different direction. Even the
president seems to be blowing in a different direction.

People are fed up with grandiloquent strongmen and military parades.
Neighboring sister nations have easy access to the Internet, an active
political life, modern cities, middle classes, high levels of
consumption, so people invariably ask themselves: "why not us?" The
feeling of belonging, of a national, cultural, ideological or spiritual
identity, is a light tendency – the times of fundamentalism are behind us.

I also perceive a considerable consensus in favor of a free-market
economy. If we add the informal and indomitable spirit that
characterizes "us" to the above, it becomes extremely difficult to fit
Cuba into the mold of a totalitarian state. Where shall we place it, then?

Post-totalitarianism could be described as the remnants of a
totalitarian system (one that isn't sufficiently large to implode, as
did the Soviet Union) that has exhausted the social "energies" that once
sustained it. The government, now devoid of massive popular support,
becomes increasingly authoritarian. But it is a weary form of
authoritarianism, sustained more by inertia than by weapons and
violence. The people, however, remain mired in a king of "light
totalitarianism." I say this thinking about Cuba in particular.

The liquidation of institutions, of civil and community structures and
the affront on labor organizations, among other disasters brought about
by the revolution, have engendered what we could call the empowerment of
the rabble, a phenomenon that is not lacking in totalitarian features.
Tongue-in-cheek, I would say it is an emergent, community-based,
horizontal, self-managed and profound form of totalitarianism.

No Country for Dupes

This totalitarianism is not political, fanatical, obstinate or cruel,
like its predecessor. On the basis of local forms of aggression,
however, it wears down those who do not share its principles and values.
It is suffered by those who insist on considering themselves persons,
the bearers of an inalienable individuality that is irreducible to the
masses, most of all.

The enterprising, the creative, the intelligent, the talented, the
early-risers, the self-sacrificing, the studious, the hard-working,
those who patiently cultivate something that takes its time to yield
fruits, the non-violent, those who loathe seedy places, shady dealings
and illegalities invariably grow frustrated in such an environment. Some
lock themselves up in their homes and others leave the country,
complicating the situation even more.


If the social brew described above is placed in the context of the
approaching global crisis, the mix becomes explosive. I foresee three
possible scenarios: two probable and one miraculous.

- The country becomes ungovernable, torn by chaos, insecurity and
growing poverty. It ends up being run by mafias and patriarchal
- In reaction to the above, the State gets down to business and tries to
restore order by force, without discarding the possibility of alliances
with some criminal organizations. I would call this a "Mexicanization"
of society.
- Caught between a rock and a hard place, attacked by both, people grow
up, mature, organize and arm themselves and decides to fight for their
interests. This is something that's also happening in Mexico.
I would like to end this post with a question: if the above happened and
you had a choice, what group would you join?

Source: Cuba Between Post-Totalitarianism and the Dictatorship of the
Right - Havana - Continue reading
The Cuban State: Jack of All Trades, Master of None
October 23, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — "People were embezzling money from the State
systematically. We had genuine criminal organizations that conducted
risky, large-scale operations. These involved managers who declared
losses or damages, which were in fact embezzled funds that were being
syphoned to the underground economy. It was common for managers and
salespeople at State stores to set aside the products with the highest
demand in order to get money over and above the legal market price."

Though they appear to be referring to Cuba, these comments are actually
about the Soviet Union shortly before its collapse. They come to us from
Gregory Grossman, one of the most renowned experts on the workings of
the so-called "Second Economy" in the former USSR.

To get a sense of the significance that this parallel economy can have
in a socialist country, suffice it to note that, in 1988, 219 billion
rubles were paid in salaries in the Soviet Union, while the population
spent or saved 718 billion – three times as much (1).

As in the USSR, that underground economy has not been studied in depth
in Cuba, even though its effects are notable – and unacknowledged
problems, far from being solved, usually end up blowing up in one's face.

Cuba's economic difficulties have a variety of ingredients: the island's
status as an underdeveloped nation, the chosen socialist model, the
mistakes made by the government, the US blockade and internal corruption
(whose expression is the black market).

There is very little that can be done to remedy some of these
situations, because they stem from the country's historical reality or
the will of others. However, it is well within the government's power to
mend its ways, change the model and put an end to corruption.

The search for a new economic model and the struggle against corruption
go hand in hand because the current model is what encourages
embezzlement, as does any centralized State that vainly seeks to control
every last economic mechanism in the country.

The ensuing chaos is the breeding ground for corrupt officials that
misappropriate State resources to pocket these. They are the
"wholesalers" who keep the black market, the island's Second Economy,
stocked up.

Thanks to the work of the Comptroller's Office, we know that there are
large numbers of ministers, vice-ministers, foreign entrepreneurs, Cuban
importers, store managers, administrators, company presidents and many
others among the corrupt.

We are dealing with a new social class that amasses its fortunes by
stealing from the country and corrupting all those who have dealings
with them, turning them into their accomplices. It is a parasitical
class that has become the nation's worst enemy.

And they reproduce very quickly: they are sent to prison and, three
months later, their replacements are at it again. What happened to their
predecessors only appears to teach them to be a little bit more astute
and evade State inspections.

Like the former Soviet Union, these officials who become "wholesalers"
in the black market are the result of an economic model that places all
of the country's companies and businesses in their hands, making it
impossible to control their activities rigorously.

Cuba would be well-served if the government defined which means of
production it considered fundamental (which are to be maintained as
public property, that is), in order to open other sectors to
cooperative, private and even foreign management.

The step taken through the authorization of self-employment and
cooperatives in areas such as hair dressing, transportation and, more
recently, cafeterias, points in a direction that could continue to open
up other sectors of the country's economy.

Why continue to keep under State management stores that are constantly
being pillaged by their own managers and clerks, that are always
under-stocked owing to lack of foresight by importers and devoid of
proper sanitary controls?

The State needs to stop frying rissoles in order to focus and properly
manage and control banking, tourism, the energy sector, nickel
production, oil refining, tobacco products and socially important
sectors like education and healthcare.

The Soviets tried to create a society fully controlled by the State and
produced their own undertaker this way: a caste that took hold of all
the means of production the nation had placed in its hands.

Of course, they didn't have a Jose Marti to warn them that "with every
new function, a new caste of functionaries will come," and that, later,
it would be very difficult to "confront these functionaries, tied by
common interests."

Source: The Cuban State: Jack of All Trades, Master of None - Havana - Continue reading
Users Bothered By Increase in Internet Prices at Presidente Hotel /14ymedio
Posted on October 24, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 24 October 2014 — Jorge Suarez has been connecting to
the Internet for six months at the Presidente Hotel. In recent weeks he
has seen an increase in the number of clients who use the wireless
connection of the central Havana lodging. Nevertheless, some days ago he
got a bitter surprise when the employees informed him of an increase in
the price of the service. The measure was not due to a regulation by the
Cuban Telecommunications Enterprise (ETECSA) but due to a decision by
the management of the place.

The management of the Presidente Hotel has decided to increase the
service to 8.50 convertible pesos since it has required a minimum
purchase of 4 CUC in the cafeteria of the place, to which is added the
price of an hour of Internet connection which is 4.50 CUC. The decision
is aimed at decreasing the number of people who show up daily to their
facility to navigate the web or check their email. "These people were
filling us up, and that is not good for tourists," says a cleaning lady
who prefers to remain anonymous.

While most places that offer the navigation service keep the cost at
4.50 convertible pesos per hour, the Presidente Hotel has invoked the
"discretionary" rate. Clients confirm that before the increase in
connection costs, the service had been deteriorating, and most of the
time at the desk they said that "there were no internet cards to sell."

Jorge Suarez tells how he was losing confidence in being able to access
the network from the well-known hotel establishment. "I knew that they
were going to do something to hinder the connection, because every day
the workers in this place looked with harsher faces at those of us who
came and sat on the terrace or in the lobby with a laptop or a tablet,"
he explains. "They told us that we had to make a purchase to be able to
be here, but the prices of everything in this place are through the roof."

The young man, a civil engineering graduate, has no other means of
viewing digital sites or answering his email. "I would prefer internet
in my home, I only come here because I cannot access a home connection."
The measure implemented in the Presidente Hotel leaves him without any
options. "The price before already seemed expensive to me, but the new
one is simply beyond reach," he says with frustration.

According to official statistics in Cuba – with a population of more
than 11 million inhabitants – there are 1,014,000 computers and more
than 2.9 million internet users. The figure, nevertheless, has been
questioned by those who assert that as "internet users" the government
includes people who only have access to a national intranet with health
or cultural content.

Cuba is the least connected country in Latin America, in spite of the
fact that in February 2011 a fiber optic cable was installed between
Venezuela and the east side of the island, which at first was announced
as the best option for guaranteeing the highest connectivity in the
country. Three years later, the government has only opened something
more than a hundred public navigation places and offered an email
service via mobile phones.

Cubans like Jorge Suarez keep waiting to become web surfers.

Translated by MLK

Source: Users Bothered By Increase in Internet Prices at Presidente
Hotel /14ymedio | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Fear Has Seized the Artistic Community of Pinar del Rio / 14ymedio, Juan
Carlos Fernandez
Posted on October 23, 2014

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez,Pinar del Río, 25 September 2014 — The
artists' guild in Pinar del Rio is living in distressing times because
of the cancellation of the exposition by Pedro Pablo Oliva, "Utopias and
Dissidences." Talking about the most famous of the Pinareno painters has
turned into a sad argument by Tyrians and Trojans, some in favor, almost
in whispers, and others not so much, also in a quite low tone. But what
the whisperers have in common is that they are living a fear that is
corroding them and brings up the miseries and limitations that we humans
all suffer, but that situations like this multiply.

The way in which the machinery of creating enemies can be efficient and
dissuasive then becomes the model, the perception of real danger has
been the offering of a local artistic community that shows its
solidarity by emulating Nicodemus: they do not want to be seen or heard.
They have given to the victim their absence and silence. They have been
simple spectators, once again, of the crime of exclusion and
disqualification. Listeners at a trial in which they themselves have
been condemned although they may only have attended as the public.

The inquisitors of Pedro Pablo Oliva have known how to stimulate in the
neurological systems of many Pinareno creators the amygdala situated in
the temporal lobe which fires that feeling that we call fear. Although a
scant minority has risked and has stood out in spite of also admitting
its fears. These last have revived the artistic brotherhood in Pinar;
some few carry the decorum of many; someone said one day, those few have
meant a breath of hope in the middle of so much impoverishing hate
against someone who only has sown love and has been consistent with
himself. That is the price of honesty.

The others, the majority, are captivated by reforms that award airplane
trips and trips for compensation that rot the soul and ruin the brush.

On the other hand, the common people possess an intuitive intelligence,
flavorful and uninhibited and tell you to your face what they think.
Overall, they do not plan to fly or exhibit in halls of the elite.
Without any ambiguity that take sides with Pedro Pablo, both as a person
and an artist, and lament the fear of his fellow painters, according to

That's why I think that, although what has happened has been a sovereign
injustice, it has served to put on the table who is company for
cocktails, galleries and inaugurations and who accompanies you on the
road overcoming their fears and discarding the complicity of silence and

It has been painful for Pedro Pablo, his family, work team and all of us
who love him as a friend and national treasure, but instructive.
Although it may seem utopian, I think that the night we are living today
will not have the last word. It only serves as the anteroom for the
light of day.

Translated by MLK

Source: Fear Has Seized the Artistic Community of Pinar del Rio /
14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
US Coast Guard repatriates 43 Cuban migrants
Published on October 24, 2014

MIAMI, USA -- The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr.
repatriated 43 Cuban migrants to Bahia de Cabañas, Cuba, on Wednesday.

These repatriations are a result of three separate interdictions of
people attempting to migrate illegally to the United States.

On Saturday, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Charles Sexton
interdicted 22 Cuban migrants from two separate interdictions in the
Florida Straits. The next day, the Sexton interdicted another 21 Cuban

"Along with our Department of Homeland Security and international
partners, the Coast Guard continues to robustly patrol the Florida
Straits and Caribbean sea to prevent migrants from taking the perilous
and illegal maritime journey to the United States," said Capt Mark
Gordon, Chief of Response Enforcement for Coast Guard 7th District in
Miami. "Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, we will seek to quickly
repatriate illegal migrants to their respective countries."

All of the migrants were safely removed from their makeshift vessels and
were transferred to the Charles David Jr. for repatriation.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter all migrants receive food, water,
shelter and basic medical attention.

Source: US Coast Guard repatriates 43 Cuban migrants | Caribbean News
Now - Continue reading
Artist El Sexto Will Face Trial in a Few Hours / 14ymedio
Posted on October 22, 2014

The trail of the independent artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto
– "The Sixth" – has been set for tomorrow at 8:30 AM in the Plaza of the
Revolution municipal court.

The cartoonist and creator of numerous graffiti is accused of the
alleged crime of threatening his wife, which could mask political
retaliation. The complaint was made by Danilo's wife's father, who was
also present as the main prosecution witness.

Friends and colleagues fear that the court hearing is a way of settling
accounts with this uncomfortable "king of the spray can." In statements
to 14ymedio, El Sexto has demonstration his dissatisfaction with the
legal process and has confirmed that his wife was present during the
session to "state what occurred." Right now the couple is living under
the same roof together with their small daughter and hope that "the
charges won't go forward."

With regards to tomorrow's trial, Maldonaldo believes, "There won't be
any problems, although there is always the pressure. Just for the simple
fact of thinking differently, I feel exposed in front of them."

In recent decades it has become a frequent practice to bring common
crime charges against activists and artists who undertake work critical
of the government. In a similar situation right now is the writer Angel
Santiesteban, condemned and sentenced to prison on alleged charges of
violation of domicile and injury.

Gorki Aguila, the famous singer and leader of the punk rock band Porno
para Ricardo is also on the list of those awaiting trial, accused of
alleged "drug abuse."

As a general rule, people critical of the government are not judged on
political reasons but for "common crimes" with the aim of limiting
solidarity and international pressure.

Source: Artist El Sexto Will Face Trial in a Few Hours / 14ymedio |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Berta Soler: They Must Put An End To This / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez
Posted on October 22, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Victor Ariel Gonzalez, 21 October 2014 — Berta Soler,
leader of the Ladies in White, has called for a vigil this October 21 in
front of the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana. The reason is
the new suspension of the trial of Sonia Garro.

Soler explained that there are "dubious things" in the way the
authorities have handled this latest extension. "Sonia called to tell me
that a captain had told her that the trial was suspended, but she did
not believe it." The activist also said that Sonia Garro's defense
lawyer "was unaware" of the decision. The new date for holding the
criminal trial has been set for next November 7.

"We do not trust the Cuban Government, therefore the vigil goes on," the
leader of the Ladies in White told this newspaper. Soler does not rule
out that "all this supposed suspension is for the purpose of
demobilizing the people." So, "we are going to be there anyway," she

There will also be a vigil in the interior of the country because it is
expected that in front of the courts of Santiago de Cuba and other
cities peaceful demonstrations similar to that in Havana will take
place. The Diez de Octubre municipal court is at Juan Delgado and
Patrocinio, and Berta Soler says that "the plan is to begin at 8:00 a.m.
and last until noon. It depends on whether they let us or not."

The activist also reported that "since this Saturday, State Security has
reinforced vigilance over the Ladies in White." This is the third time
that they have suspended the trial of Sonia Garro. "They must to put an
end to this," she demands.

Translated by MLK

Source: Berta Soler: They Must Put An End To This / 14ymedio, Victor
Ariel Gonzalez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Burma is closer than we think … / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 23, 2014

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Prague, 15 October 2014 – A few years ago, when
I was overcome with despair about the situation of my country, I thought
about those who were in worse shape with regards to the lack of
freedoms. Two nations invariably came to mind: North Korea and Burma.
The first of these still tops the list of places where few want to live,
while Myanmar (Burma) has undertaken a slow and imperfect process of
In Prague I just met two Burmese who are contributing to these small
changes, the blogger Nay Phone Latt and activist Soe Aung.

Question: Nay, you are just 34-years-old and you were arrested for
spreading information about the 2007 protests in your country on the
Internet, and then convinced of the alleged crime of violating the
electronic law. Do you think that now the access to information is more

Nay Phone Latt: Right now there is less censorship in the media, it is
not as strong as before. I'm speaking not only of digital media, but
also of the written press that is subject to fewer controls on the part
of the government. The problem we still have is that some of these media
are in the hands of the ruling party and the others, which are private,
belong to people who have very good relations with the military, so many
are corrupt. However, there are always some who try to be independent.

There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you
can't. For example if someone posts an article criticizing the
Government and uncovering a corruption scandal, they can get into
serious trouble and even end up in jail.

"There are still very clear limits on what you can write and what you can't"

Q. How has the situation changed since the election in 2012?

Soe Aung: Currently in Burma we have a Parliament whose majority is
still made up by the military. The Constitution reserves a quarter of
the seats in parliament and 56 of the 24 Senate seats to the ruling
Union Solidarity and Development Party. Meanwhile, the opposition
National League for Democracy (LND) has barely 43 seats. Thus, it is
every difficult to promote changes, becaue this isn't a real democratic

Q. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible
face of dissent in Burma What other opposition groups are calling for

Soe Aung: There is the movement known as Generation 88, because there
was a popular protest in 1988 against the military junta. These
demonstrations, composed mostly of students, were brutally repressed.
Currently the group is still very strong in Burmese society and demands
a democratic and open society.

Q. What are the main problems for the Burmese people now?

Nay Phone Latt: First, the lack of trust in institutions, in the police,
the judiciary and the government. People have a lot of disbelief, they
are very skeptical. The whole society has lost trust in the military
regime. We have lost the ability to believe.

Aung Soe R.: In my opinion, our biggest problem is still poverty. We
still have very poor people in our country who do not even have a piece
of land to grow their own food. We have experienced an economic opening
but the big winners are the military and the people close to them who
have become very rich.

Source: Burma is closer than we think … / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
El Washington Post dice que no se debe premiar a Cuba por privar de
libertad a su gente
10/21/2014 12:21 PM 10/21/2014 1:46 PM

El diario The Washington Post advirtió el martes de que "no se debe
premiar a Cuba por privar de libertad a su gente", en un nuevo editorial
publicado en medio del intercambio de artículos entre La Habana y
Estados Unidos sobre un eventual levantamiento del embargo a la isla.

El periódico capitalino arrancó citando la más reciente columna del ex
gobernante cubano Fidel Castro para el diario estatal Granma, en el que
el Post considera que "se prodigó en elogios" sobre un artículo
publicado previamente por The New York Times que pedía el fin del
embargo comercial de Estados Unidos a La Habana.

Sin embargo, el rotativo de Washington arremete en su texto del martes
contra el ex mandatario cubano por "quejarse" de que el Times mencionara
en su reflexión "el acoso a los disidentes y la muerte aún no explicada"
de los activistas Oswaldo Payá y Harold Cepero.

"'La afirmación de que el gobierno autoritario de Cuba todavía tenía que
explicar la muerte fue "calumniosa y (la) acusación barata', farfulló el
señor Castro", recuerda el periódico.

"Así que, ¿por qué Cuba no ha hecho nada para disipar la niebla de la
sospecha que aún persiste sobre la muerte? Si la acusación es
escandalosa, entonces ya es hora de que el señor Castro curse una
investigación a fondo de lo que ocurrió en una carretera cubana el 22 de
julio de 2012. Hasta ahora, sólo ha tenido lugar un burdo intento de
encubrimiento y negación", agrega el editorial.

The Washington Post defiende una vez más la versión del político español
Ángel Carromero, que estaba al volante del coche de alquiler en el que
Payá y Cepero iban a una reunión con simpatizantes.

"Tras el suceso, el señor Carromero fue presionado por las autoridades
cubanas para describirlo como un accidente causado por su exceso de
velocidad temeraria. Pero la semana pasada (en la que el español visitó
Washington), nos reiteró que lo que realmente sucedió es que el coche de
alquiler fue embestido por detrás por un vehículo de matrícula estatal",

Según el periódico, Carromero les mostró en su visita a Estados Unidos
fotografías del vehículo dañado, y los desperfectos no parecían los
ocasionados por un accidente causado por exceso de velocidad.

"El embargo de Estados Unidos -apunta- se ha relajado considerablemente
en los últimos años para permitir cientos de millones de dólares de las
exportaciones de alimentos y medicinas, además de los bienes de consumo
suministrados a los cubanos por sus familiares en este país. La cuestión
es si una mayor relajación es merecida".

El artículo considera que la persecución de los disidentes del régimen
"es incesante" y que el hecho de que el estadounidense Alan Gross siga
encarcelado en la isla "con falsos cargos" demuestra que los hermanos
Castro no han levantado la mano para limar asperezas.

"El levantamiento del embargo ahora sería premiar y ratificar su
intransigencia", asevera el rotativo.

"Una concesión como acabar con el embargo comercial -concluye- no debe
darse a cambio por nada. Debe hacerse cuando Cuba conceda una auténtica
libertad a su gente, la meta anhelada por el señor Payá".

Source: El Washington Post dice que no se debe premiar a Cuba por privar
de libertad a su gente | El Nuevo Herald - Continue reading
What Will Become of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted?
by EcoWatch October 21, 20149:00 am
Written by David Guggenheim and reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

When a foreigner sets foot in Cuba, it immediately becomes clear that
this magical island is profoundly unique and has developed drastically
differently than any other country in Latin America and the Caribbean.
And for those who venture into its verdant mountains or below its
aquamarine waves, a striking revelation awaits: Just as the fifties-era
Chevys and horse-drawn buggies portray an island seemingly frozen in
time, so, too, do its exceptionally healthy and vibrant ecosystems
illustrate that Cuba may have picked the perfect time in history not to
follow the path of its neighbors. Indeed the past half century has seen
a tragic and unprecedented decline in Caribbean coastal and marine

Elkhorn coral, one of the Caribbean's most iconic and important species,
is estimated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) to be 95 extinct from Caribbean waters today. But in Cuba's
Gardens of the Queen National Park—which includes Cuba's first "no-take"
marine reserve, the largest in the Caribbean—a barrier reef of healthy
and magnificent elkhorn stretches across more than thirty miles as part
of a barrier reef, brimming with snapper, grunt, eagle rays and sea
turtles, leaving one scratching their head and wondering how in a world
of corals dead and dying that such a sight is possible today.

The health of Cuba's environment is partially an accident of history and
the unique way Cuba has developed—or not developed as the case may be.
The U.S. economic embargo, which was imposed on Cuba 54 years ago today,
has no doubt kept millions of would-be tourists from Cuban shores and
the consequent development of the resorts and golf courses that might
have accommodated them. However, an important part of the story lies
with the Cubans themselves who have placed strong environmental laws in
place along with a comprehensive national system of protected areas.
Its national commitment to protect 25 percent of its marine waters in
protected areas is world-leading. In comparison, the global average is
only one percent.

At a time when we reflect on the embargo, it is critical to consider
what becomes of Cuba's environmental achievements in a post-embargo
world. Given the uncertainty in Cuba's future—including a burgeoning
privatization movement and the possibility of an end to the U.S.
economic embargo and massive influx of tourism and business—it is
important to anticipate dramatically increasing pressures on Cuba's
natural resources. A team of Cuban and American scientists believes that
placing an economic value on Cuba's natural resources will be essential
to ensure the long-term protection of Cuba's ecosystems and the
"future-proofing" of its environmental laws.

By the 1960s it became clear that traditional economics failed to take
into account important factors, such as social welfare and the
environment. Environmental economics seeks to measure the environmental
impacts or costs of economic decisions, helping to address the
shortfalls of policies based on traditional economics which often treat
environmental impacts as externalities without economic consequence.
Interestingly, Cuba's "Law of the Environment" requires that its
environmental ministry "… direct actions intended to promote the
economic evaluation of biological diversity." Cuba has a handful of
dedicated environmental economists who have had to adapt to an
ever-shifting economic landscape that is comprised of dizzying
combinations of socialist and capitalist elements. The work of one Cuban
environmental economist, Tamara Figueredo, helped support the Cuban
government's decision to establish Gardens of the Queen as a national
park in 2010. Our team is now working with Tamara to perform an economic
assessment focused on the possible expansion of the marine reserve
within Gardens of the Queen National Park.

We believe that helping Cuba apply the principles of environmental
economics will serve to "future-proof" the country's strong
environmental legacy against future economic pressures by providing it
with the tools and information necessary to demonstrate the economic
value of its resources in their natural state. Such studies, though
limited in Cuba, have already demonstrated that protecting large marine
areas can be more valuable to the economy than commercial fishing,
thanks to Cuba's growing ecotourism sector.

Just over the horizon lies the first day of Cuba's post-embargo
existence. It is our fervent hope that on that day and those that
follow, Cuba avoids the well-worn path that too many nations followed
over the past half century, at the expense of too many of their
environmental treasures. By considering the economic and cultural value
of some of the last remaining vibrant marine ecosystems in the
Caribbean, Cuba has a unique opportunity to continue on a truly
sustainable path. In a country where boundless Cuban ingenuity keeps
Chevys running for more than 60 years, we have faith that Cuba's people
will find a way to ensure that their pristine ocean ecosystems endure
for centuries to come.

Source: What Will Become of Cuba After the Embargo is Lifted? | Care2
Causes - Continue reading
Gran Piedra Park in Eastern Cuba Will be Renovated
Created on Wednesday, 22 October 2014 14:39

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, Oct 22 (acn) A comprehensive project for the
renovation of La Gran Piedra (The Great Stone) area is underway in that
place on the outskirts of this city, belonging to Baconao Park, declared
a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1987.
On the occasion of the celebration next year the 500th anniversary of
the founding of Santiago de Cuba city, important actions will be
undertaken there including the repair of Gran Piedra hotel, belonging to
Islazul Group.
Marisol Rodriguez, Delegate of Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR by its
Spanish acronym) in this territory, said that the 27 rooms will receive
resuscitation in accordance with their quality standard.
The project also includes the physical plant and the redesign of
gastronomic services in line with the features and advantages of this
place, Rodriguez said.
A new and well-equipped point of sale, with exceptional location,
already provides services, Rodríguez added.
The project will repair the access to the viewpoint and will add
observation points and signs to the path to inform visitors of the
natural, historical, cultural and heritage attractions of the place,
where the big rock lies, at 1 227 meters above the sea level, she noted.
It also aims to rescue nature tourism in this important area, for which
the trails must be revived, she added.
These actions would also facilitate access to La Isabelica museum,
former manor house of the hacienda of the same name, where it was placed
the Heritage Site plate of the archaeological landscape of the first
coffee plantations in southeast Cuba.
La Gran Piedra is considered a unique product in Santiago de Cuba, and
will be included in the project ´Los Caminos del café¨ (Paths of
coffee), of the Office of the Curator of the City, which will link old
farms of that eastern hilly region.
This natural attraction with immense tourism potential, since it allows
to interact with the flora, fauna, climate and landscape, in addition to
visit the hotel and rural communities, is 23 km far from Santiago de
Cuba city.

Source: Gran Piedra Park in Eastern Cuba Will be Renovated - ACN - Continue reading
Rubio to Kerry: No Cuba at Summit of Americas
By Ramsey Cox

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Secretary of State John Kerry Cuba should
not be allowed to participate in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in

Rubio wrote to Kerry on Tuesday, saying the administration has sent
mixed messages to the Panamanian government about Cuba's participation.

"Allowing a country that is a habitual violator of human rights and has
not allowed a free election in over 50 years would damage everything
that the Summit wishes to accomplish," Rubio wrote. "Cuba should not be
allowed to undermine the commitment to democracy made by the remaining
nations of the Western Hemisphere during the Summit process."
Rubio said the United States should stick to its word. At the 2001
summit, the United States made a formal commitment that a democratic
system was an essential condition for a country to be invited to
participate. Rubio said Cuba is a nondemocratic system, therefore Panama
should not allow Cuba to attend the gathering next year.

"The United States should not stand idly by if Panama does indeed intend
to invite Cuba to the Summit," Rubio wrote. "I urge you to reaffirm the
United States' position that Cuba should only be welcome to participate
in the Summit when the Castro regime abandons its repression of the
island's population."

Rubio is considered a potential GOP presidential nominee in 2016.

Source: Rubio to Kerry: No Cuba at Summit of Americas | TheHill - Continue reading
Cuba's black market thrives

From foreign DVDs to perfume, rum and coffee, Cuba's shelves are packed
with pirated and counterfeit goods, which are sold as authorities turn a
blind eye -- using the longstanding US embargo as justification.
The more than 50-year US trade freeze with communist-ruled Havana has
bred a healthy appetite for smuggled goods, including TV series, films,
music and software -- all available at a low cost.
"Here, everything costs one CUC," the Cuban convertible peso equivalent
to one US dollar, explains 28-year-old vendor Jorge, standing before
three bookcases packed with CDs and DVDs.
In southern Havana's October 10 neighbourhood, where Jorge peddles his
wares, pirated DVDs featuring current American blockbuster films,
children's movies and Latin music are all on sale to delighted crowds.
For Jorge, the cost of doing business is affordable. For 60 Cuban pesos
($A2.59) a month, he can buy a vendor's licence to sell his goods.
He is one of half a million Cubans who work in the 200 or so independent
jobs authorised under President Raul Castro's economic reforms.
Though buying and selling pirated goods is technically illegal in Cuba,
the trade is widely known and mostly tolerated, even by the Committee
for the Defence of the Revolution officers who rarely punish vendors.
"I pay for my licence on time and no one interferes with my work," said
Jorge, who declined to give his full name.
Like many other merchants, Jorge's stock extends far beyond
entertainment DVDs. He also sells "packages," which feature hundreds of
megabytes of data obtained weekly from overseas sources.
The bundles include television series, sports programs, films,
anti-virus software and up-to-date listings from the banned classified
sites "Revolico" and "Porlalivre".
The online classified listings, which are officially banned in Cuba,
offer interested buyers anything from air conditioners to black market
tyres, and even empty perfume bottles to be secretly refilled in
off-the-grid factories.
With the help of complicit employees, some of the black market
fragrances and other items even find their way to the shelves of
government-owned stores.
Every so often, the heavily-censored state-run media report on police
busting illegal rings producing fake perfume, rum, beer, coffee or
toiletries -- items rarely found in supermarket aisles -- but
authorities mostly ignore the contraband sales.
Authorities struggle to contain this Cuban "tradition," which emerged
during the dark days of severe shortages in the early 1990s following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of Cuba's staunchest Cold War-era
"The new situation in the 1990s was so sudden, so violent, so
unexpected... that people started, with the only means they had, to find
ways to fulfill their needs," said sociologist Mayra Espina in the
online newspaper Cuba Contemporanea.
"Certain activities, previously deemed unacceptable or socially
negative, started to become legitimate."
This time of shortages bred a social phenomenon called "la lucha," or
"the struggle," which has seen Cubans do whatever is necessary to tackle
the island nation's social and economic malaise, Espina said.
Pirated programs have also crept into the state's sphere, with public
media and government-owned cinemas running illegally-obtained shows and
Some television networks lacking their own means to produce original
programming have "resorted for years to carrying shows from American
channels without paying for the rights," Cuban TV director Juan Pin
Vilar told AFP.
Indeed, this is one of the fringe benefits of the US embargo -- the
Cuban TV channels and cinemas could act with virtual impunity, as legal
repercussions were unlikely.
"There is a kind of tactical willingness (in the US) not to bother Cuba
because culture... is a very effective means of communication," said
Jorge de Armas, a member of a group of Cuban exiles calling for a
rapprochement with Washington.
But the flip side, according to Vilar, is that certain stations in Miami
-- home to most of the Cuban diaspora -- air Cuban programs to satisfy
their viewers, nostalgic for home.
On Miami's "Calle Ocho," or 8th Street, in the heart of Little Havana,
the Maraka shop sells pirated music, films and television programs
brought in from Cuba.
On the other side of the Florida Straits, the international Cuban
television network Cubavision offers its signal to satellite suppliers
around the world.
The idea, said one Cubavision executive, is "to spread our image".

Source: Cuba's black market thrives - Yahoo7 Finance Australia - Continue reading
Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tourist Development Council study looks at travel to Cuba
BY MANDY MILES Citizen Staff
"If and when..."

The words have preceded "Cuba conversations" in South Florida for more
than 50 years as travel experts, tourism officials, business owners and
boaters discuss the possibilities and realities of travel "when Cuba
opens," and "If the embargo is lifted."

But despite the prevalence of such conversations from Key West to
Kissimmee, researchers with the Monroe County Tourist Development
Council learned recently that interest in Cuban travel restrictions is
not as widespread as South Florida residents may have thought.

"In reality, only 8 percent of households, or two of five active
travelers, are interested in Cuba as a travel destination," Jessica
Bennett, market research director for the TDC, said during Wednesday's
Key West Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Bennett shared the results of a recent TDC survey of "U.S. Travelers'
Intentions and Perceptions Toward Cuba Travel."

The survey was the TDC's latest move toward evaluating, understanding
and reacting to the age-old "if and when" possibility.

Bennett reminded Chamber members that the TDC established its Opening of
Cuba Committee back in 2000 with the goal of creating a strategic
marketing plan to prevent travelers from skipping over the Florida Keys
and flying straight from Miami or other metropolitan airports to Havana.

That marketing plan was finalized in 2009, when U.S. policy changes
increased travel opportunities from the U.S. to Cuba. In that time
period, Cuba's tourism has increased by 17 percent and is still on the
rise, Bennett said.

"My role in developing the plan was to talk about how U.S. travelers
could react to an open Cuba," Bennett said. "There were so many
questions, but really no good research telling us who would actually
want to go to Cuba."

So the TDC decided to ask the questions and find the answers.

Bennett and others from the TDC evaluated the results of more than 2,500
surveys collected from active U.S. travelers with an annual household
income of $50,000 or more.

"We wanted to know what they'd heard about Cuba, and what would make
them want to go there," she said.

But the researchers were somewhat surprised to learn that "most U.S.
travelers -- three out of four -- haven't heard anything about Cuba, and
only two of five active travelers are interested in Cuba, Bennett said,
adding that aside from Florida, the states with the most interest were
California, Georgia and New York.

"The longevity of the embargo has affected the American psyche when it
comes to travel planning," Bennett said.

But even without a keen American interest in the off-limits island, Cuba
is welcoming more than three million visitors per year, mainly drawing
tourists from Canada and Germany.

So the next question was "why," Bennett said.

"That's what's most interesting to me," she said, pointing out that the
answers were about the same for all U.S. travelers, regardless of their
income, age or gender.

Nearly all travelers surveyed said they would go to Cuba for the history
and culture; "just to see it," and for the beaches.

Fortunately for the Florida Keys, 81 percent of travelers said they
would consider a "Florida Keys plus Cuba trip," Bennett said, adding
that the Keys' proximity to Cuba is a key advantage over other Florida
cities that would offer similar options.

In addition to the surveys, the TDC's marketing plan includes an
analysis of Cuba's strengths and weaknesses with regard to tourism.

Cuba's strengths include its island climate and beaches, its colonial
architecture and cultural history, "and it's perceived as being safe for
visitors," Bennett said.

On the flip side, Cuba also struggled with an aging infrastructure
system, especially in its hotels, which find it difficult to keep
workers and often fall short of customer service expectations.

"As a result, they have a low incidence of repeat visitors," she said.

The Keys continued viability as a destination "if and when" they are
competing with Cuba, likely will come down to transportation options
between the two islands, Bennett said.

Mike Morawski asked Bennett whether the Keys stood to lose its weekend
visitors from Miami and the mainland if Cuba becomes an option.

Bennett reported that people in South Florida weren't necessarily more
interested in traveling to Cuba, but are interested in going there
sooner. In other words, the first flights to an open Cuba will likely be
filled with South Floridians in years one, two and three, she said.

"The rest of the country will wait to make sure it's safe."

When asked about cruise ships going to Cuba instead of Key West, Bennett
said, "We found that interest in Cuba via cruise ship was significantly
lower than interest in a Florida plus Cuba trip," she said, reminding
the audience of Cuba's resources and infrastructure, which are currently
inadequate to handle the pressures of a cruise port.

Now armed with research and revelations, the Florida Keys and its
tourism officials will be ready -- if and when Cuba opens.

For a complete copy of Bennett's report, email

Source: Tourist Development Council study looks at travel to Cuba | - Continue reading
Cuba emerges as committed ally against Ebola - yet can't treat illnesses
at home
By Andrew O'ReillyPublished October 22, 2014 Fox News Latino

Cuba is a nation of just over 11 million people that has been in
economic dire straits since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the
early 1990s and has had a combative relationship with its neighbor to
the north, the United States, for much longer than that.

Yet the socialist state has emerged as one of the most committed
providers of medical supplies and healthcare workers to the
Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa.

About 165 Cuban health workers arrived last Thursday in Sierra Leone –
the largest medical contingent from any nation, according to the World
Health Organization (WHO) – to fight Ebola and 296 other doctors and
nurses are currently being trained in Cuba before shipping out to
Liberia and Guinea where the deadly virus is also spreading. On Tuesday,
Cuba's intensive care specialist Leonardo Fernández headed to Guinea and
Liberia along with 90 other Cuban medical workers as part of the
country's half-century-old strategy that puts doctors on the forefront
of the Cuba's foreign policy.

The commitment from the government of Raúl Castro has led to widespread
praise from across the international community – including the United
States – but also to allegations that the regime is sending doctors to
West Africa for less than altruistic reasons along with neglecting its
own populace in the meantime.

"They've been doing this kind of medical diplomacy for years because
this is really all they've got besides rum and cigars," Ricardo Herrero,
the executive director of the Miami-based advocacy group #CubaNow told
Fox News Latino. "They've got plenty of work to do with their image on
the world stage but they've got some good PR from this."

Cuba's Ebola effort has been called "robust" and "impressive" by media
outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, while WHO
praised the effort and encouraged more countries to follow in Cuba's

"Those of us who have been working on the response efforts at WHO know
how truly valuable this offer is," Bruce Aylward, assistant director at
WHO said of Cuba's doctors heading to West Africa in a press statement.
"Many countries have offered money but no other country has offered such
a large number of workers to go in and help do the most difficult jobs
in this crisis."

The United States and Western European powers have so far donated vast
sums of money - $258 million from the U.S. alone – but despite the U.S.
sending some Marines to Liberia to battle the virus, no country has
committed as many boots on the ground as Cuba.

Some experts see the silver lining of the Ebola crisis being the
opportunity for the U.S. and Cuba to jointly work on combating the virus
and possibly repairing some of the strained relations on the side.
Former leader Fidel Castro said in an article published Saturday that
Cuba was ready to work with the U.S. and Secretary of State John Kerry
mentioned Cuba on Friday as a country stepping up on the frontlines.

"We've seen mutual cooperation before between the U.S. and Cuba,"
Herrero said. "To us, however, eradicating Ebola is the mother of common

Besides the philanthropic gesture to send medical workers to West
Africa, some observers say that Cuba's efforts against Ebola is a way to
put on a good face toward sympathetic U.S. politicians as Cuba's economy
– and those of some of its close allies – continues on a downward spiral.

World Bank statistics put Cuba's gross domestic product at about $68.2
billion in 2011 – only a little better than Azerbaijan $65.9 billion –
and its per capita GDP is $6,051 compared to the U.S.'s $49,855. When
Hugo Chávez took power in Venezuela, Cuba found a wealthy ally to supply
cheap oil in exchange for doctors, but as the government in Caracas
suffers through its own economic doldrums they have signaled that the
inexpensive shipments of oil could soon slow…if not stop altogether.

"There has been a lot of talk about Cuba being concerned about Venezuela
having to cut off the amount of oil its ships to them," Susan Kaufman
Purcell, the director of the University of Miami's Center for
Hemispheric Policy, told Fox News Latino. "This is part of an effort on
the part of Cuba to look good in the eyes of the U.S. and get support of
U.S. politicians who could help lift the embargo."

The U.S. has had a commercial, economic, and financial embargo against
Cuba since 1962 and while there has been a loosening in years, Cuba –
and the vast majority of countries in the United Nations – has lobbied
for it to be lifted.

While Cuba's motives in Africa have been ubiquitously praised, some
experts worry that Cuba's historical focus on using its doctors on
so-called "soft power" missions is hurting its population on the island.

For decades, Cuba has been praised for its free, universal healthcare
and medical advances that has brought its life expectancy rate on par
with the U.S., made its infant mortality rate the lowest in the
hemisphere and eradicated measles on the island.

The crumbling economic situation, however, has shown cracks in the
country's aging system and revealed poorly stocked pharmacies, hospitals
that require patients to bring their own sheets and only about 10
percent of the island having access to clean drinking water. The U.S.
embargo hasn't helped either as it makes replacing parts for more
technologically advanced equipment such as mammograms and cancer therapy
hard to replace.

"The foreign policy concerns of the country have always outweighed the
ability of the country to deal with its own population," Kaufman Purcell
told FNL. "Now they really can't afford to do this."

And despite the training the doctors in Cuba are receiving before
heading to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, observers say that the
nation itself is ill fit to deal with the virus if it comes to Cuba –
making the country hope that the goodwill they have now will pay off.

"If there is Ebola exposure that reaches them," Kaufman Purcell said,
"they're woefully unprepared to deal with it."

Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.

Source: Cuba emerges as committed ally against Ebola - yet can't treat
illnesses at home | Fox News Latino - Continue reading
No change by Castro, no change in trade embargo
10/22/2014 6:26 PM 10/22/2014 6:26 PM

There's an eagerness among many in this country to begin a process of
normalizing relations with Cuba. The belief persists that economic
considerations could influence Raúl Castro's policy decisions and that
Cuba's difficult economic situation will force Cuba's leader to move
toward a market economy and closer ties to the United States.

Yes, despite economic difficulties, Castro does not seem ready to
provide meaningful and irreversible concessions for a U.S.-Cuba
normalization. He may release and exile some political prisoners. He may
offer limited economic changes to tranquilize the Cuban population, but
not major structural reforms that would open the Cuban economy. Cuba is
not moving to a market economy. In Cuba, political considerations
dictate economic decisions.

Raúl's legitimacy is based on his closeness to Fidel Castro's policies
of economic centralization, control and opposition to U.S. policies.
Raúl cannot reject Fidel's legacy and move closer to the United States.
A move in this direction would be fraught with dangers. It would create
uncertainty among the elites that govern Cuba and increase instability
as some advocate rapid change while others cling to more orthodox
policies. The Cuban population also could see this as an opportunity for
mobilization demanding faster reforms.

Raúl is also unwilling to renounce the support and close collaboration
of countries like Venezuela, China, Iran and Russia in exchange for an
uncertain relationship with Washington. Russia and China have recently
provided billions of dollars in credits to Cuba, and Venezuela's aid to
the island surpasses $7 billion yearly.

SUCHLICKI | Hector Gabino/El Nuevo Herald

Raúl is no Gorbachev or Deng Xiaoping and no friend of the United
States, presiding over the worst periods of political repression and
economic centralization in Cuba.

Raúl has been a loyal follower and cheerleader of Fidel's anti-American
policies and military interventions in Africa and elsewhere. In 1962, he
and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conspired to surreptitiously
introduce nuclear missiles into Cuba. He supervised the Americas
Department in Cuba, approving support for terrorist, guerrilla and
revolutionary groups throughout Latin America, and in 1996 he personally
ordered the shooting down of two Brothers to the Rescue unarmed civilian
planes in international waters, killing three U.S. citizens and one
Cuban-American resident.

Raúl's politically motivated speeches in the past, in which he expressed
his willingness to negotiate with the United States, are preceded by
attacks on U.S. foreign policy and followed by the now-standard
qualifiers that Cuba is sovereign and that its revolution won't change.

For the past four decades, Fidel Castro had been making similar
statements. Raúl's statements are aimed at foreign audiences, the
Europeans and, particularly, the U.S. Congress. He expects unilateral
U.S. concessions on the embargo and the travel ban. In a rare public
statement six years ago, Raúl warned that the United States should
negotiate its differences with Cuba while Fidel was alive since "the
U.S. would find it more difficult to negotiate with him."

There has to be a willingness on the part of the Cuban leadership to
offer real concessions — in the area of human rights and political and
economic openings — for the United States to change its policies.

No country gives away major policies without a substantial quid pro quo
from the other side. Only when Raúl is willing to deal, not only with
the United States, but more importantly with the Cuban people, then and
only then we should sit down and talk.


Source: No change by Castro, no change in trade embargo | The Miami
Herald - Continue reading
Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on October 21, 2014

The Nobel Peace Prize winner speaks with several Cuban activists on the
situation of the island and the possibilities for democratic change

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Warsaw, 21 October 2014 — Vaclav Havel and Lech
Walesa had an agreement that death annulled. The two would go to Havana
when the democratic transition occurred to support the process of
political and civic reconstruction in our country. The "Cuban change,"
however, has been too long delayed and the Czech died before realizing
his dream. The Solidarity leader, meanwhile, has only been able to have
contact with the island through dissidents visiting Poland.

Yesterday, Monday, Walesa talked for more than two hours with a group of
activists from diverse provinces and political leanings. It was if a
piece of Cuba had arrived in the autumn cold of Wasaw. I share here with
the readers of 14ymedio the first part of that conversation.

Lech Walesa: Tell me what can I do to help speed up the democratization
process in your country. Am I likely to see a Free Cuba before I die?

Dagoberto Valdés. I have good news for you and a suggestion of how you
can help. A significant and growing group within Cuban civil society has
identified four points on which we agree and which are demands to the
regime. It is a way of organizing ourselves, but not the only one. There
are other agendas, but I will now read the four issues on which we
converge: the release of political prisoners, the ending of political
repression, ratification of International Covenants on Human Rights, and
recognition of Cuban civil society as a legitimate interlocutor. You
could collaborate with us to disseminate these and support them in
international forums.

Lech Walesa: I like those points, but I would add a fifth which would be
to ask that "Raul Castro leave power," because I think when the previous
four are achieved it will be because the current system has been
dismantled. If the rulers accept that agenda, that would mean that they
would lose power immediately. So I think that they will never approve
them, but in any event I support them.

Yoani Sánchez: You wonder when you can visit a free Cuba, but for now
what has happened is that a fragment of an already free Cuba has come
here. A plural, diverse and growing group of Cubans, who behave as free
beings, have come to Warsaw this week. Isn't that hopeful?

Lech Walesa: Wherever there are two Poles there are three political
parties and from what I see wherever there are two Cubans there are five
political parties. You have to be very well prepared and organized, not
only for what you are doing now but for what comes next.

Once democracy is achieved there are very important elements that have
to be considered and one of them is creating laws that protect the
rights of the people. However, if they already exist, than you have to
ask yourself if people are using them to behave like citizens, if they
are enjoying the legality they have and are organizing themselves in
accordance with it. Another important part is economic resources. If
people are afraid of showing their political differences because they
will lose their jobs or resources, this greatly limits democratic activism.

Yoani Sánchez: In the case of Cuba, recent years have also been
characterized by a loss of the government's monopoly on information.
Numerous independent publications have emerged and new technologies help
people to be better informed. Do you think this flow of information will
help bring about change?

Lech Walesa: I am a big user of the new technologies, I always have a
computer or tablet nearby. However, although technology and information
are very helpful in any democratic process there is also information
that can slow it down.

One day, after the transition, I was speaking with a Polish soldier who
had had a high position in the Communist regime. I asked him why the
military had not participated actively in the democratic struggle. His
response was very interesting. He told me that in the barracks they that
knew all the major Polish cities were targeted for a Soviet military
attack. They had missiles pointed at those cities. Many people did not
know, but the military itself was aware it. They feared that the USSR,
with the push of a button, could erase a third of our country. Knowing
too much paralyzed them, the responsibility this information brought
them made them opt for passivity.

Dagoberto Valdés. With this control and all the threats of a foreign
force how did Poland free itself? Did the spiritual power of the nation

Lech Walesa: For over twenty years I was looking for people to join me
to overthrow communism, but very few wanted to join. We had a more
difficult situation here because our country came to be occupied by more
than two hundred thousand Soviet soldiers and people were enormously
afraid. Our struggle was different, for too long we couldn't organize
because the government had a very simple formula against us: disperse,
divide and dissolve the democratic forces. We were lucky that a Polish
pope was appointed. He joined us first in prayer and faith, but
afterwards the opposition also learned to channel that sense of unity
brought to us by John Paul II.

Before the appointment of Karol Józef Wojtyla as Pope, I could not
muster even ten people, and then ten million joined in. He awakened the
nation and said "do not be afraid."

Mario Felix Lleonart: I would like to say that even though you are not
able to travel to the island, the government is very annoyed that you
are receiving activists in Poland. The official press has published
several articles against you. What message would you like to send to
those who are in opposition in our country?

Lech Walesa: During the years of change in Eastern Europe, the Cuban
opposition was not as organized and could not use that democratizing
energy. Maybe that's why you have had to wait so long. However, in the
eighties when I was asking people whether they believed that Poland
could democratize, everyone answered me no, we had no chance. The
forecasts were very unfavorable.

You are in this situation now, because few believe you can change. Sure,
they said the same thing to us, but you should wake up and find those
values—which every nation has—and in these is the unifying force. If you
find them and bring them together you can achieve it. You need a
multitude of people who say, "Starting tomorrow we are going to change
our country." Who don't just believe it but who take to the streets, who
go into the factories to convince others. For this you have to have
structures. You need responsible leaders.

Source: Lech Walesa: "Cubans need responsible leaders" / 14ymedio, Yoani
Sanchez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Down With the Embargo, Long Live the Embargo / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on October 20, 2014

The New York Times is not in favor or against the American embargo of
the Cuban government. The New York Times is simply in favor of what in
every circumstance is most convenient to the Castro regime.

So it was that the New York Times just published this recycled editorial
where they ask for an end to the embargo for the 1959th time, even going
beyond American law (they are like frogs in the Fidelista fable,
demanding of the White Heron that governs at coups of presidential

So, in addition, the New York Times in a second act to its distracting
editorial, opened its plural debate pages to the one thousand and 959
Cubanologists: and so dissolved all the attention to not speak of what
is most important now (and has been for two years),
Olympianically omitting the presence in the United States of the witness
to a double State murder on the part of the Raul and Fidel regime.

In effect, Angel Carromero is in American territory. However, the last
reference on the New York Times to this criminal case of the Castro
regime was from last year. The complaint of the Payá-Acevedo family, the
complicity of the Spanish judiciary and executive with this announced
assassination, the violations and mockery of those uniformed in
olive-green on the little Island of the Infamous: none of this is
Newyorktimesable. They love only the embargo because they know it works
like an engine of little lies.

And because of this I don't have one ounce of respect for the great
media. They are killing machines in exchange for majestic salaries. I
prefer the tiny voices of the nobodies. The almost anonymous biographies
of the redeemers and their blogs with zero commentaries in every post.

So they killed Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá, martyrs to a perverse
country where a perpetual power stones you and manipulates you to death
with impunity. The Cuban Interior Ministry killed them both on Sunday,
22 July 2012, like two nobodies who are now barely doubtful statistics
for the Ph.D.-holding experts of the New York Times. In this Manhattan
edifice, so chilling in its supposed transparency, I say: Fuck you, New
York Times.

But, of course, the debate of our exile, historic or recently arrived,
follows the rhyme of the New York Times. Some say: lift it… Other say:
keep it… and the arguments in both cases were conceived decades ago by
the genocidal hierarchs from Havana.

What is laughable about this debate between dinosaurs is that it keeps
the commanderesque mummy of Fidel alive and kicking: the dictator makes
us dance the motherfuckers' conga every time his cadaverous cojones come

Cubasummatum est.

14 October 2014

Source: Down With the Embargo, Long Live the Embargo / Orlando Luis
Pardo Lazo | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people
By Editorial Board October 20 at 7:56 PM

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

The assertion that Cuba's authoritarian government had yet to explain
the deaths was "slanderous and [a] cheap accusation," Mr. Castro sputtered.

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

We know something about what happened, thanks to the eyewitness account
of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who was at the wheel of
the rental car that was carrying Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero to a meeting
with supporters. Mr. Carromero, who visited Washington last week, told
us the car was being shadowed by Cuban state security from the moment it
left Havana. He said his conversations with Mr. Payá as they traveled
were mostly about the Varela Project, Mr. Payá's courageous 2002
petition drive seeking to guarantee democracy in Cuba. Many of Mr.
Payá's supporters in the project were later arrested and imprisoned.

After the wreck, Mr. Carromero was pressured by the Cuban authorities to
describe it as an accident caused by his reckless speeding. But he
reiterated to us last week that what really happened is that the rental
car was rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates.
Mr. Carromero showed us photographs of the damaged car, damage that
seemed inconsistent with a wreck caused by speeding. But the precise
details of what happened are unknown and need to be cleared up by a
credible investigation. Mr. Payá's family has sought one for two years,
without success. When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of
the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case,
they got no answer. Nothing.

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

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

Source: Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people -
The Washington Post - Continue reading
To stop invasive lionfish, divers are helping sharks acquire a taste for them
Darryl Fears, Washington Post | October 20, 2014 2:20 PM ET

In the war against invasive lionfish, Andres Jimenez took up one of the
oldest weapons used by humans: the spear.

Jimenez thought this was a novel approach to help rid the Caribbean
Ocean of a growing menace. He skewers the colorful fish into a kabob,
swims to coral in a marine sanctuary off the coast of Cuba and holds it
bleeding and squirming under the jaws of reef sharks.

The idea is to get sharks to develop a taste for a fish they are not
accustomed to eating. That's right, Jimenez, who co-manages a dive
operation in the Gardens of the Queen National Marine Park, is trying to
teach one of the Caribbean's biggest predators to eat a new type of fish.

The lionfish is an exotic glutton that eats everything it can stuff in
its mouth, and the fish are destroying life on the coral reef. Native to
the Pacific Ocean, the fish were widely traded for their looks and were
first spotted near Miami in the mid-1980s before proliferating in the
Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and the Caribbean near the turn of the century.

They have been called the Norway rats of the Atlantic and Caribbean
because they are voracious eaters that wolf down scores of reef animals
from Florida to Mexico and Venezuela but have no predator in those waters.

Spoon-feeding sharks, as Jimenez has done in recent weeks, is the latest
desperate attempt to restore the balance of an ecosystem that humans
threw out of whack.

Reef sharks are thought to be one of a few animals that can choke down a
lionfish. To avoid the toxic spikes on its back and tail fin, said
Antonio Busiello, they eat the fish starting at its mouth.

Busiello, a photography documentarian in Florence said he watched that
happen while diving in Honduras with park officials who speared lionfish
and fed them to reef sharks in 2010. His website is full of pictures
depicting the action.

But marine ecologist Serena Hackerott and her colleagues at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said feeding lionfish to
sharks is crazy. Sharks "are going to associate divers with food," she said.

In a test of 71 ocean sites — in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Cuba and the
Bahamas — UNC researchers found nothing to show that lionfish are shark
bait, according to a paper published last year in the journal PLOS One.

"I've been a diver for more than 10 years and have never felt threatened
by a shark," Hackerott wrote in a recent blog post. "I might not feel so
comfortable, though, if sharks began to expect snacks every time I enter
the water."

It's a justifiable fear that often plays out at the sanctuary, Jimenez
said. In an email from Cuba, he wrote that "sharks don't seem to be
hunting for lionfish naturally, but they are really mad for dead or
injured lionfish, and they get used to being fed lionfish by divers.
They learn fast and improve ways to get that lionfish once the diver
captures it."

When Jimenez dives with groups of divers and photographers, the
sight-seeing can become tense and dangerous.

For example, he wrote, "An injured lionfish escapes the sharks and then
the sharks get really mad. They start looking for the prey everywhere,
and in this quest they . . . sometimes hit divers with the nose, or can
even try to bite the spear, the rocks where the lionfish is hiding, or
the cameras. Then the situation sometimes gets out of control."

I might not feel so comfortable, though, if sharks began to expect
snacks every time I enter the water
Busiello could testify to this behavior. When he traveled to Roatan
Marine Park in Honduras four years ago to see thousands of grouper in a
mating ritual and "missed the moment," he wound up diving to watch
lionfish get fed to the park's 22 gray reef sharks.

The sharks came close — 15 inches from his camera. "I got bumped a
couple of times. They hit me on the side," Busiello said. "A big shark,
a six- to seven-foot shark hits you, you feel it."

Somehow the recommended approach to reducing lionfish was twisted
around, Hackerott said: They should be overfished for human consumption,
not reef sharks. The pretty fish is poisonous, but when a chef rips out
its spine and cooks it, lionfish are delicious.

There's no witness to an instance of someone releasing lionfish into the
waters in Florida, but that's the largely agreed upon working theory for
how they ended up there.

This sort of thing keeps happening in the United States, the second
largest market for the legal trade of wildlife. Florida in particular is
overrun with Burmese pythons, tegu lizards from South America and Cuban
tree frogs to name only a few invasive animals.

The Chesapeake Bay region is fighting the aggressive Asian northern
snakehead fish that eats native fish, and efforts to harvest it from
rivers have done little to stop it. Asian carp that spread from Arkansas
to the Great Lakes region and Louisiana have out-muscled native fish for
food, leaving many to starve.

The voracious appetite of lionfish is why divers and marine biologists
want to eliminate them, but feeding them to sharks is a scary task,
Jimenez said. "I am [spearing them] very seldom, as it gets dangerous,"
he said. "You can't do it in all spots, only in places with small shark

Teaching sharks to eat lionfish "is a double-edged sword," said Ian
Drysdale, the Honduras coordinator for the Healthy Reefs Initiative.
"You don't want to relate human divers with shark feed. It can get out
of hand."

Source: To stop invasive lionfish, divers are helping sharks acquire a
taste for them | National Post - Continue reading
New gloss on Cuba's classic cars
Published October 20, 2014 Associated Press

When Martin Viera's Chevrolet rolled out of the dealer's lot, Harry
Truman was president of the United States, gasoline cost 27 cents a
gallon and a 24-year-old lefty named Tommy Lasorda was pitching for
Almendares in the Cuban winter baseball league.

That world is long gone, but the Chevy's still running on the streets of
Havana — part of a fleet of classic cars that have become an icon of
tourism in the socialist nation.

For decades, the cars slowly decayed. But officials in recent years have
eased state control over the economy by allowing limited
self-employment. So those lucky enough to have a pre-revolutionary car
can earn money legally by ferrying tourists — or Cubans celebrating
weddings — along Havana's waterfront Malecon boulevard.

That's allowed many to paint and polish their aging vehicles.

Viera's 1951 Chevrolet and Osmani Rodriguez's 1954 Ford are now part of
Havana's tourist draw.

Rodriguez, who has three daughters, said the opening to self-employment
"was a great benefit for me. I bought an apartment to live in and really
it improved my standard of living a lot."

The cars may gleam on the outside, but they're often battered, rolling
monuments to ingenuity within. People like Yoandri Failu fabricate parts
in crude workshops. Many scavenge parts, particularly engines, from
Soviet-era cars and trucks.

While the U.S. embargo that took effect in 1961 stopped the flow of new
cars, and most parts, a few Cubans now manage to bring in replacement
parts when friends or family visit from the U.S.

Source: New gloss on Cuba's classic cars | Fox News - Continue reading
Florida Aquarium leaders visit Cuba
By Paul Guzzo | Tribune Staff
Published: October 20, 2014

TAMPA — Leaders from Tampa's Florida Aquarium visited Cuba over the
weekend to discuss a possible partnership with the island nation's
National Aquarium in Havana.

No official agreement was signed but those representing The Florida
Aquarium on the trip believe that day is coming.

It would mark the first time such a deal is struck between Cuban and
U.S. aquariums since the U.S. travel and trade embargo was imposed over
five decades ago.

"The trips and the talks exceeded my expectations," said Margo McKnight,
vice president of biological resources at the Florida Aquarium. "We
spent a lot of time sharing information with their aquarium's officials
and agreed that working together makes sense. Now we need to talk it
over with the overall leadership at The Florida Aquarium and move from

A return trip to Cuba has not been planned. Nor has bringing officials
from the National Aquarium of Cuba to Tampa.

While the two sides discussed a variety of ways they could collaborate,
McKnight said, the primary focus was on coral reef restoration research.

Scientists predict that by 2050, all the world's coral reefs will be
threatened by pollution and changes in water temperature. Florida's
coral reefs already are dying at an alarming rate, McKnight said.

Coral reefs protect coasts by reducing wave energy from storms and
hurricanes. And as home to more than 4,000 species of fish and countless
species of plants, some support up to 25 percent of all known marine life.

The Florida Aquarium, McKnight said, is actively searching for ways to
reverse the decline.

Cuba, she added, has the most pristine coral reef in the world — one yet
to feel the effects of the changing marine environment.

Called "Gardens of the Queen," the reef is in southern waters off the
provinces of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila.

"Just 90 miles off Florida's coast is a look back into time at what a
reef should be like," McKnight said. "We want to study it to understand
why its ecosystem is so healthy and learn if we can extract any lessons
from it that we can apply."

Under the preliminary talks, the Florida Aquarium would get access to
the Gardens of the Queen. In return, the Florida Aquarium would keep the
National Aquarium of Cuba up-to-date in its research on restoring coral

"This would be their way of proactively protecting their reefs,"
McKnight said. "They don't have a problem now but they want to be
prepared in case it is threatened in the future."

McKnight was unsure if this would be the first collaboration between a
U.S. and Cuban aquarium since the embargo was put in place. But last
week, Jeffrey Boutwell, board member with the Latin America Working
Group Education Fund in Washington, D.C., told the Tribune it would be.

Boutwell's organization carries on the work of author Ernest Hemingway
on a shared U.S.-Cuba approach to maritime resources. He recently met
with the National Aquarium of Cuba to discuss such collaboration with
the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He has no connection to The Florida
Aquarium or the delegation that traveled to Cuba.

Tampa has been part of a historic maritime alliance between the U.S. and
Cuba before.

In March, an international oil spill agreement was signed by five
nations with Caribbean shorelines — Mexico, the Bahamas, Jamaica, the
United States and Cuba. The agreement circumvents the U.S. travel and
trade embargo, which would have slowed the process of sharing resources
to clean up a spill in Cuban waters that could reach Florida shores.

Albert A. Fox Jr., founder of the Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible
Cuba Policy Foundation, introduced U.S. oil and environmental leaders
from the private sector to members of the Cuban government in 2010.
These people later successfully lobbied the U.S. government to work with
Cuba on the cleanup and containment protocol.

In a similar way, David Guggenheim, director of the Washington,
D.C.-based Cuba Conservatory, said he believes a partnership between the
two aquariums could help persuade the U.S. government to support
collaborative research on coral reefs between U.S. and Cuban scientists.

"If enough research partnerships are happening between private U.S.
organizations and the Cuban government, the U.S. government may take
notice and get involved sooner," Guggenheim said.

Guggenheim helped establish the Tri-National Workshops — meetings
between researchers from the U.S., Cuba and Mexico on issues affecting
turtles, sharks, dolphins, fisheries, coral reefs and protected marine

Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory is among the private research
institutes that regularly attends the annual meetings, held since 2007.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has sent
representatives to observe the meetings, Guggenheim said, while Mexico
and Cuba send government representatives who actively participate.

Guggenheim said he is talking to members of the U.S. State Department
about increasing federal involvement.

He welcomed news of talks between the two aquariums.

"Collaborations like that one could kick what we are doing to a new level."

The future of the marine ecosystem shared by Cuba and Florida depends
upon college students from both nations studying the waters without
concern for politics, Guggenheim said.

"Marine life does not know borders," he said. "The students need to be
trained as leaders who work together. Ultimately, they will inherit this

The Florida Aquarium has an internship program, but it is too early to
discuss sending those students to Cuba, McKnight said.

If that day does arrive, it may be the only opportunity for students
from the University of South Florida to study Cuban waters.

Under Florida law, money that flows through a state university cannot be
used for travel to a nation on the U.S. list of state sponsors of
terrorism. Cuba is on that list.

"I realize nothing is ever easy to do between these two countries,"
McKnight said.

"But ultimately I think everyone will agree this is not about politics
but about doing what is best for the environment. Cuba offers us an
amazing opportunity for our research here."

Source: Florida Aquarium leaders visit Cuba |, The Tampa Tribune
and The Tampa Times - Continue reading
Cuba and the USA: Beyond Confrontation
October 20, 2014
Roberto Veiga Gonzalez*

HAVANA TIMES — The normalization of relations between Cuba and the
United States has long been a thorny issue. Bilateral conflicts between
the two countries date back to the 19th century and reached a peak with
the embargo policy applied following the triumph of the revolution in 1959.

That said, following Raul Castro's appointment as head of State, the
matter has been gaining momentum (unexpectedly for some), to the point
that the strained relations between the two countries and the island's
ties to other States and a number of supra-national institutions could
be modified. It is also worth emphasizing that this could make Cuba's
domestic social structures (be these economic, civil, political or
other) more dynamic.

It's not that I am inclined to think that the improvement of our
internal and international relations ought to ultimately depend on the
sensibleness of US power sectors vis-a-vis the issue of Cuba. I believe,
on the contrary, that, regardless of the policy of any country, no
matter how powerful they are, any bloc of countries or any international
mechanism, the progress and balance of the nation should always
ultimately depend on our political maturity and ingenuity.

I am also of the opinion, however, that, without normalized relations
between Cuba and the United States, securing the internal conditions and
the atmosphere needed to consolidate ourselves as a nation in important
areas would prove burdensome. We cannot deny the history, culture,
geography and other economic, social and political realities that bind
us to the United States, for better and for worse.

In this sense, we are duty-bound to strengthen the ties that could make
a positive contribution to both societies and, on the basis of the
mutual trust this ought to afford us, we must make an effort to overcome
the negative situations that could arise, or become more intense, as a
result of power asymmetries. This could contribute to helping us
overcome the difficulties we face and set us down the road of economic
and socio-political development.

There's a broad consensus within Cuban society regarding the need to
transform the current social model in order to make it increasingly
easier to materialize the shared aspirations of the nation. The
country's current collective longings stem from a process of national
maturation rooted in the numerous achievements and frustrations it has
accumulated over history.

The generations that share the country today wish to have greater
possibilities to develop responsible forms of freedom and social
justice, greater balance in terms of the entire range of rights,
educational, cultural and spiritual efforts capable of bolstering human
virtue and solidarity within communities, an economic model aimed at
development and the common good, a heterogeneous social tapestry that is
committed to the overall development of society, an increasingly more
effective citizen's democracy and relations of peace and cooperation
with all of the world's countries.

There are, however, different ideas and proposals as to how to move
forward to attain the above, and this demands the tracing of common path
among Cubans. This process is already a reality in the nation today, but
it still lacks all of the needed facilities.

To secure these, as we all know, developing the country's
socio-political institutions is of the essence. Though some sectors find
more than enough reasons to try and destabilize this process and exclude
those sectors committed to the historical process known as the Cuban
revolution from it, it isn't difficult to see that the changes brought
about by this, though potentially positive, would not suffice in terms
of achieving greater and more plural political participation. This is
both obvious and irrefutable, as no one in their right mind provides
others with the tools needed to destroy them.

In addition, if we pay close attention to the genuine demands of those
Cubans who are in dearest need of change in the country, we see that we
cannot aspire to restoring the past or to completely and hastily
dismantling the current system. We must, rather, strive to broaden the
entire universe of human possibilities in a peaceful and gradual manner.

Therefore, if we seek to transform Cuba's current model to a more
positive arrangement, in which there are, of course, no newly excluded
sectors, but rather collective and liberating efforts based on
solidarity, we must develop the conditions that make it possible. To
achieve this, we require an intense leap forward where the economic and
social stability of the country is concerned, for this, in turn, will
reduce the potential for an internal, heart-rending political
confrontation and will gradually create – likely to the displeasure of
some at either end of the political spectrum – the conditions for a
diverse, serene and edifying political spectrum.

I have focused on this, which eminently appears to be an issue of
domestic policy, because I want to reiterate that, without the
normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, it would
be very difficult to achieve economic and social stability on the
island, conditions that could sustain a far more audacious and intense
process of reforms. The potential for pluralistic political
participation would also not be feasible while it can be argued, and
even proven that spaces for citizen participation can be utilized by
certain US power sectors, and their allies, with a view to perturbing
and irresponsibly modifying sovereign socio-political processes.

In this connection, we must express satisfaction over the island's
current reform process. Though perceived as inadequate and confused now,
these can mobilize a process sustained by a vision that can create ever
more solid forms of social justice in a continuous and unrestrained fashion.

Similarly, we must commend all efforts in the United States aimed at
arriving at a solution to these bilateral conflicts, particularly those
undertaken as of 2006, when the Cuban head of State and government
announced the country's willingness to hold talks with the US
administration and, on the basis of respect and equality, to address all
pertinent issues, with a view to easing tensions between the two states.

The movements in Cuba and the United States that support these processes
have expanded and are being coordinated by important personalities and
sectors in the two countries. This embodies a possibility and a radical
sign of hope that was long unheard of for most Cubans. It suggests that
human and political hatred, the different but identical attempts at
exclusion and vengeance, and the creation of mechanisms for
confrontation and destruction, may today be on the retreat, and that
their somber ambitions to determine the present and, most importantly,
the future of the Cuban nation, may also be vanishing.

*General Coordinator of Cuba Posible.

Source: Cuba and the USA: Beyond Confrontation - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba and the World's Oldest Business
October 20, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — On Sunday, October 12, I was invited to the birthday
party of a close friend. A cousin of his had offered her apartment for
the party. The apartment is close to Old Havana's well-known Parque de
la Fraternidad.

The owner has been legally renting out the two bedrooms in the apartment
for two months. The day of the party, I wasn't in the mood for drinking.
During my stay, I only tried the occasional snack and enjoyed the
company of my friends, who do drink and usually have a very good time
under the influence of beer and rum.

The observant type, I saw that, in less than three hours, more than five
girls and their partners (some young, others not-so-young), had gone in
and out of the bedrooms. A group of four shared a room for half an hour
(personally, I feel that half an hour is not much time for a foursome.
You're supposed to enjoy those kinds of things, right?)

Other girls would arrive and be told that the rooms were occupied. They
would decide to sit and wait for their turn patiently, then go up into
the bedroom to give their best and, most importantly, make a little cash
with the sweat of their…brows.

A girl that caught my eye was a 20-year-old with a happy little face
whom people called La Flaca ("Skin-and-Bones"). She was a regular
customer, judging from the familiarity between her and the owners. "In a
single day, she's brought as many as ten different men here, of all
skin-colors and ages," my friend's cousin said to me after she'd had a
few drinks too many. Many of the girls who use the bedrooms come and go
non-stop and, according to the owners, don't ever rest, not in the
morning or at night.

The price of room rental is relatively cheap: 1 CUC for half an hour.
They sell beer at 1.50 CUC.

Right now, the owners of this business want to improve the conditions of
the bedrooms, which aren't bad (but, if they improve them a bit, they
can charge a little more).

An excellent and very prosperous business, don't you think?

Source: Cuba and the World's Oldest Business - Havana - Continue reading
Getting out of Cuba gave us a future
10/20/2014 10:53 AM 10/20/2014 10:53 AM

Hands shaking…holding back tears…acting as if it weren't breaking me
apart… I said good-bye with tears falling down my cheeks and walked
through the doors, not looking back.

They were the doors that would forever separate me from my family. The
doors that made it impossible for my grandparents to see me grow up and
graduate with honors from high school. The doors that took me away from
my three closest cousins, Javier, Joan and Yoandi.

While I was waiting for my flight with my parents and sister Leirys, my
mind drifted and I began to wonder why my mother Mirian and father Erick
had decided to leave everything behind to start all over in a new
country. I could not comprehend why they did not stay with the rest of
our family.

The more I thought about it, the less it all made any sense and the more
aggravated I became with Mirian and Erick. My parents had never told me
the reasons behind moving. What 9-year-old child could ever understand
that there was no hope for anyone in their country? How could my parents
explain to me that they were leaving because it was the best decision
for everyone?

"Mami, why must we leave?"

"Sara, please, try to understand. We are only doing this so that you and
your sister can have a better future."

"But why? I was fine here with everyone."

"Trust your parents, Sara. One day you will understand."

"No, I will never understand."

I left Cuba in November 2003 after my family won the visa lottery — the
random selection of legal U.S. entry visas granted to Cubans on the
island each year.

In Miami, one of our father's cousins, Nico, waited for us at the
airport. Nico welcomed my family into his humble home. He gave us
shelter, food, and transportation for three months. My father was very
independent and did not like taking advantage of anyone so he decided
that it was time to move out after three months.

During this time, I struggled because I couldn't adjust to all the new
changes. I had lived all my life in a place where everyone was family,
in the sense that they all helped each other.

My mom enrolled me in elementary school as soon as she could to help me
make new friends. Unfortunately, this did the very opposite. I began
with a teacher who knew not even a single word in Spanish. The teacher
would ask the other students to translate for me but they were cruel and
would tell the teacher horrible things about me. They would also make
fun of her for not knowing the language. I isolated myself little by
little in school.


"Si, mi niña…"

"I don't want to go back to school. No one likes me and they are always
making fun of me."

"That can't be true, sweetheart, they like you. It's just that they have
a different way of showing it."

The years passed by, and I was now in eighth grade. I was able to
understand why my parents made the decision they did and why they
sacrificed their lives for my sister and me. I saw that we both had
futures in the land of opportunities, while our cousins and friends were
unable to better themselves.

Back in our country, the situation had worsened. The majority of the
teenagers were dropping out of school to find a job and help at home. I
couldn't help but think that would have been our case if our family had
stayed. I couldn't believe that my cousins would never have the
opportunity to attend college.

Although I was very proud of my heritage, I was ashamed to talk about
how Fidel Castro left families to die of hunger; how he took their
belongings, ripped their freedom from their hands, and separated
families forever. I was torn between the culture I once left behind and
the new one she was part of. I was growing up with two cultures.

It was difficult for me to adopt the ways and beliefs of the United
States because I felt I was betraying my family in Cuba. Visiting my
country after nine years confused me more. It was as if I were being
pulled by opposite sides.

When I was a baby, I was always with someone related to me, and now I
couldn't accept the fact that people in the United States did not see
each other as often. I never considered myself American because I was
not born in the United States. Whenever I was asked where I was from my
answer was always the same, Cuba.

But this changed after my first visit back. I've come to realize I'm
part of the American culture and the Cuban culture because I've been
raised by both. Ever after, when I'm asked where I was from, I say Cuba
and the United States.

After living with the separation from my family, I wanted everyone to
move to the United States. I embarked on a long journey that consisted
of raising funds in order to claim my close family members — my
grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins.

I wanted to give them the opportunity to have the "American Dream," as
my parents had given me when I was a child. I believed my cousins had
the right to receive an education and aspire to be someone in the
future, something they couldn't even think about back in Cuba.

Source: Getting out of Cuba gave us a future | The Miami Herald - Continue reading
Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on October 19, 2014

The egos and grandstanding are projecting an uncertain outlook within
the peaceful opposition in Cuba. It's like a symphony orchestra without
a conductor, where musicians play their own tunes.

It's not for lack of political programs that Cuban activists cede space.
They are overflowing with ideas, projects and platforms aimed at
democratic change. Some are more consistent than others.

And although all platforms and political parties are entitled to have
their doctrines and programs, the reality in Cuba has demonstrated the
ineffectiveness of dissident theses.

Born deformed as a matter of genesis. They have no popular support.
There are ever fewer reports about them in the Florida media, the
Spanish press and the BBC.

Indeed, to be an opponent on the island is an act of unquestionable
value. Hanging in the air of the Republic is a dark law that sanctions
with up to twenty years behind bars those who oppose the regime or write
without permission.

But the repression, fierce or subtle, the lack of public space, has
transformed the dissidents into a group of coffee klatchers, without
support in their neighborhoods.

The evidence of their incompetence is that they're out of sync with the
average Cuban. Never before in the 55 years of the Castro brothers'
government, has the percentage the citizenry who disapprove been higher.

Any survey or conversation with people on the street serves to confirm
it. But political proselytizing has failed to organize that anger.

Their interests are different although they sound analogous. Carlos, a
carpenter, also wants democracy. He feels that the military autocracy
has hijacked the future of his family with unfulfilled promises. Be he
has no confidence in the discourse and narrative of the Cuban opposition.

In the old taxis in Havana, in the lines for bureaucratic paperwork, or
at a baseball stadium, people talk to you without hesitation about a
radical change to improve the economy and the precarious quality of life.

Some have read or heard about an opposition paper. But it does not
excite them. They see it as distant as a government minister. Although
the dissidents are neighbors on their same block, they have done little
for his district or municipality.

They are disconnected, like a cosmonaut from the Earth. The particular
world of dissent is to generate news, report meetings, make suggestions
or report police abuse, but they lack a basic foundation to become
legitimate actors for the future that is upon us.

The fate of the Island will be decided in the next five years. Perhaps
earlier. The great majority of those in European Union, the United
States and Latin America also want a democratic Cuba.

But the opposition's raw material to manage the future is tenuous. So
the strategy of the international community is to agree to a bizarre
transition from totalitarianism to authoritarianism with Castro
supporters. According to their perception, it is the least bad way.

On issues ranging from the repression to the shamelessness, the
opposition has degenerated into a "swallow" dissent who at the first
change ask for political asylum, preferably in the United States.

Those who remain are tough, but have adapted to the rules dictated by
the regime.

There is an unwritten law of what can be done within the magical realism
of autocracy.

The elderly rulers have gone from an anachronistic and authoritarian
totalitarian system to another with a veneer of modernity and more
flexible laws.

In 2014 you won't be sent to prison for writing articles critical of the
government. The most that will happen is a short detention in a police
dungeon, an act of repudiation, or screams on the public street from an
enraged assassin.

Depending on the circumstances, the dissidence is allowed to hold
discussions, forums and debates in private homes. For two years, just
for dissenting, Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Munoz, both
black, have been held in jail. Another dozen activists are also
prisoners or awaiting sentencing.

But the playing field is much wider today than before 2003. Since
February 2013, most opponents and independent journalists are allowed to
travel abroad.

A golden opportunity for more effective political lobbying. And they are
not taking advantage of it. Everything stays in sterile encounters.
Probably the most consistent program is led by Antonio G. Rodiles with
his Citizen Demand For Another Cuba.


It is reasonable, because it has a grip on reality and not in the
political science fiction of other groups with their outlandish appeals.
Rodiles uses a primary logic.

If we want Cuba to change, the government must ratify the United
Nations' international covenants signed in 2008. This is the gateway to
legalizing a future civil society where, in addition to freedoms and
human rights, there is political pluralism.

All opponents should support Rodiles and the Campaign for Another Cuba.
But egos and grandstanding prevails. Each dissident leader is surrounded
by a cloud of minions who defend their project as if it were an island
under siege.

In turn, they attack and discredit contrary proposals. The worst of
these brawls is that they don't generate any credible proposals. Just
bluster and platitudes. And behind them are the special services with
their strategy of division.

Unfortunately, the Lades in White, an organization whose street marches
in 2010 forced the government to release the 75 dissidents imprisoned in
the 2003 Black Spring, has been split by intrigues and intemperate

This scrapping also extends to other dissident groups. More than an
internal crisis or one of leadership, the Cuban opposition suffers from
paralysis and the inability to join with the citizens.

When I read that some opposition groups claim to have the support of
thousands of followers, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. An event
that triggers a massive protest needs capable leaders Any event that
triggers a massive protest only need capable leaders. And that is what
we're lacking.

Iván García

Photo: Antonio G. Rodiles, Coyula Regina and Ivan Garcia in a panel of
independent journalism in Cuba organized by Estado de SATS in Havana on
September 4, 2014.

9 October 2014

Source: Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba
- Continue reading
Misguided Opinions / Fernando Damaso
Posted on October 20, 2014

It comes to my attention that in recent months the World Bank has
reported that, according to their evaluation, Cuba has one of the best
public education systems in the world, with acceptable teacher pay, and
the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has said something
similar about the public health system.

What's more, CNN has placed Cuba among the ten countries with the
highest level of public hygiene. With the majority of my years having
been lived in Cuba, and having suffered and continuing to suffer from
one system or another, it seems to me like a bad joke.

It seems that those who make these assessments use official data from
the Cuban authorities to prepare their analysis and come to their
conclusions, without taking the trouble to investigate and conform their

If they took a tour — without official authorization nor government
handlers — of our schools, polyclinics and hospitals (and not of the
facilities prepared for visitors), they would see that the reality is
very different from the statistical data.

They would find deteriorated schools, without adequate conditions to
support the teaching process, hot, dark, unhygienic and with many
"improvised" teachers, and the polyclinics and hospitals are in a
deplorable state, lacking in hygiene, the technical means and equipment
to care for patients, lacking in medicines, and in the case of those
admitted, with terrible food, as well as medical attention offered
primarily by students or recent graduates, as the better prepared are
pressed into service in other counties, for which the State receives
important economic and political earnings.

Propaganda toward the outside is one thing and the internal reality is

Since I know that these assessments do not reflect the truth, I also
question that released about other countries, both for and against,
because I think they use the same bureaucratic method.

The terrible thing is that this serves, wittingly or otherwise, to
provide a misleading picture of two systems that Cubans have to endure
daily. It's like the story of the torturer asking the tortured not to
scream because he was enjoying one of the greatest torture in the world.

13 October 2014

Source: Misguided Opinions / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
¿ALEJANDRO ARMENGOL: Anticastrismo o anticastrismos?
10/19/2014 4:00 PM 10/19/2014 8:00 PM

Siempre he tenido reservas con las categorías y los adjetivos, y no por
ello dejo de utilizarlos. Es inevitable y mucho más en periodismo.

¿Hay un anticastrismo o varios? Uno solo si la respuesta se limita a una
definición esencial: la oposición al régimen de los hermanos Castro.
Muchos, cuando tras esa pauta se tiende a establecer una agenda única o
fijar una forma de pensar, actuar o sentir que responde a un conjunto de
patrones —más o menos conocidos, mejor o peor definidos, pero de exigido
cumplimiento—, que convierten a una posición, o mejor una actitud ante
un hecho político, en un dogma. Entonces se pasa al fanatismo. O a lo
que es incluso peor: la adopción de un canon por conveniencia.

Eso en Cuba se llama oportunismo, pero la palabra ha perdido significado
en el exilio y es quizá más preciso decir que se adopta una forma de
pasividad, complacencia o incluso complicidad ante el charlatán de
turno, el demagogo de esquina o el líder improvisado. Todo con tal de no
buscarse problemas.

Quizá la clave del problema radica en esa tendencia a los extremos que
aún domina tanto en Cuba como en el exilio, donde falta o es muy tenue
la línea que va del castrismo al anticastrismo, palabras que por lo
demás sólo adquieren un valor circunstancial.

El problema con estos patrones de pensamiento es que resultan poco
útiles a la hora de plantearse el futuro de Cuba.

Cierto, las conclusiones del momento son que poco o nada cambiará en
Cuba hasta la desaparición de los Castro. Pero confundir un paréntesis
con un objetivo final resulta engañoso y fuente de errores y desdichas.

Los cubanos nos hemos destacado en agregar una nueva parcela al
ejercicio estéril de ignorar el debate, gracias a practicar el
expediente fácil de despreciar los valores ajenos. Aquí y en la isla nos
creemos dueños de la verdad absoluta. Practicamos el rechazo mutuo, como
si sólo supiéramos mirarnos al espejo y vanagloriarnos.

En muchas ocasiones, el encuentro de la diversidad de criterios ha
quedado pospuesto. La apuesta reducida al todo o nada. Antes que
discutir o aceptar diferencias, abogar por la uniformidad.

Establecer lo anterior como una situación en blanco y negro sería caer
en el mismo pecado que se intenta rechazar. Ni Miami es siempre tan
intransigente como la pintan, ni en ocasiones tan tolerante como
debiera. Olvidar que es una ciudad generosa con exiliados de los más
diversos orígenes resulta una injusticia.

La causa de todo ello radica precisamente en la razón de origen.
Empecinarse, exagerar e insistir son rasgos típicos del exiliado,
escribe Edward W. Said, al caracterizar una condición de la que
participaba. Mediante ellos el expatriado trata de obligar al mundo a
que acepte una visión que le es propia, "que uno hace más inaceptable
porque, de hecho, no está dispuesto a que se acepte".

Esa negativa a adoptar otra identidad, a mantener la mirada limitada y
conservar las experiencias solitarias marca a quienes han sufrido
cualquier tipo de exilio, con independencia de raza y nación.

El problema con los cubanos se ha vuelto más complejo con los años, al
mezclarse las categorías de exiliado, refugiado, expatriado y emigrado
entre los miembros de un mismo pueblo.

El exiliado es quien no puede regresar a su patria —la persona
desterrada—, mientras que los refugiados son por lo general las víctimas
de los conflictos políticos. El expatriado es aquel que por razones
personales y sociales prefiere vivir en una nación extraña y el emigrado
es cualquiera que emigra a otro país.

En el caso de Cuba, estas categorías han ido modificándose en los
últimos años. Ahora muchos que viven en el exilio pueden entrar y salir
de la isla sin problema. Hay indudablemente una transición de exiliado a
expatriado, aunque por lo general se vuelve pero no se regresa.

Esa distancia entre el ir y el regresar —por las razones más diversas,
desde políticas a económicas y familiares— está estableciendo una nueva
identidad que se caracteriza por una difusión, que es ajena a lo que
definió a la inmigración cubana durante la segunda mitad del siglo
pasado. No es más que parte de un fenómeno mucho mayor: la difusión de
fronteras entre la isla y Miami.

Sin embargo, en este caso se habla de una tendencia reciente, que es
incapaz aún de caracterizar al exilio en su conjunto. Porque la inmensa
mayoría de quienes viven en esta ciudad, caen en la categoría de
exiliados, para los que el regreso a la patria no es aún una prioridad,
y probablemente nunca lo será.

Sin embargo, aunque no todos "practican'' el exilio con igual fuerza,
ello no impide que se adopte un "código político", y es aquí donde el
anticastrismo es único, pero diverso a la vez.

Source: ¿ALEJANDRO ARMENGOL: Anticastrismo o anticastrismos? | El Nuevo
Herald -
US-Cuba Relations and the Internal Blockade
October 18, 2014
The fundamental question that those of us interested in the wellbeing of
the Cuban people should ask ourselves is: how will such measures affect
Cuba's internal blockade.
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — A New York Times editorial published on October 12 urges
President Obama to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba –
something that is beyond the scope of the embargo provisions and which
falls within his presidential prerogatives – with a view to improving
international relations with Latin America and setting in motion new
forms of interaction with the island and its internal situation.

The US embargo (which some call a blockade) has thus become the center
of all debates about Cuba's problems once again, when many of us know
that the main blockade, the one we need to lift once and for all so that
the Cuban people and economy will be able to improve their lot, is the
internal blockade, the one imposed by the Party-State on its citizens
and which thwarts the development of their economic, political and
social initiatives.

The fundamental question that those of us interested in the wellbeing of
the Cuban people should ask ourselves is: how will such measures affect
this internal blockade which is ultimately what keeps Cuba in chains
(not the other, the external one, something which those who insist in
maintaining the trade embargo agree on)?

Raul Castro's reform process does not suffice to eliminate the internal
blockade we Cubans are subjected to. Its extension and progress, without
current obstacles, could however gradually lead to its dismantling and
ultimate elimination. Its stagnation and ultimate neutralization by
conservative forces within the Castro government would indeed be the
worst thing that could happen to Cuban society today.

US policy does not determine but does have an impact on the correlation
between the forces at play within the governing elite and, generally
speaking, within the Party-government and Cuban society as a whole, as
well as among those who support the deepening and broadening (to varying
degrees) of the so-called "updating of Cuba's economic and social model"
and those who merely aspire to maintain only the semblance of this
process to keep the old, hyper-centralized system in place.

Between the Two Castros

It is no secret that there exists a kind of "friendly" arm-wrestle – a
permanent conflict arising from disagreements between Cuba's historical
leader, Fidel, and his brother, the army general Raul – as to the form
and content Cuba's domestic and foreign policy and the structure of the
country's economy.

It is easy to demonstrate that the first speeches pronounced by Raul
Castro after he took office and the spirit of renewal of the "reform
process" have not been adequately embodied by the application and the
results of the policies implemented.

The most visible cause of this is Fidel Castro's gradual recovery and
his attempts at taking back the limelight.

The evidence for this are his "reflections", his continuous public and
media appearances, where he is seen receiving foreign personalities, and
in the systematic praise for his thoughts and figure in the
Party-controlled press – so frequent that they outnumber Raul's public
appearances and speeches, even after Fidel "retired and asked not to be
called 'Commander in Chief' any longer."

Are we expected to forget Raul Castro's "glass of milk" speech and the
suppression of his remarks by Granma, as well as everything that entailed?

Raul may have replaced the members of Fidel's administration, but the
traditional Fidelistas still remain within the Party leadership,
particularly in the Party Secretariat, headed by Machado Ventura, the
man in charge of all the Party's concrete activities, the appointment
and dismissal of cadres, propaganda and others.

This is the main Party structure responsible for keeping the positions
of the "historical leader" alive. The second-in-command within the
government, Diaz Canel, is not the second-in-command within the Party,
Machado is.

The authority of these Party structures, at the top of the ladder, next
to Fidel, but beneath Raul, was evident in the debates during the 6th
Party Congress, which were manipulated by Party bureaucrats against
calls for a free and democratic debate at the base level.

The general, Fidel's brother, who knows Fidel better than anyone and was
appointed by him, has had to govern in his shadow, with that particular
handicap, caught between advancing his "reforms" and avoiding a
confrontation with the leader – hence his increasing moderation and
fewer and fewer public appearances.

Raul has been clear in his intentions of a rapprochement with the United
States, while his brother, now recovering, does not miss an opportunity
to try and distance himself from them as much as possible.

This, which could also be interpreted as the "good cop, bad cop"
routine, could have served to achieve such a rapprochement if only it
had been adequately encouraged, if Washington had been more consistent
in its first appraisal of what Raul Castro's ascent to power meant.

It is therefore worthwhile to recall that, at the time, the United
States demonstrated much interest and willingness to work with him and
his military officers, and rumors were even leaked to the effect that
Washington was convinced the tough hand of the military and their
"reforms" would prevent future migratory avalanches, the main concern
weighing on US-Cuba relations.

However, the United States did not take any significant steps to help
the Raul Castro government in its reform plans, steps that could have
strengthened the General's position in the Cuban government's internal
correlation of forces.

More effective support and the lifting of other important sanctions
stemming from the blockade-embargo could have tilted the internal
balance of power in favor of Raul's reformers and allowed them to
develop their "updating process" better – and, eventually, other
democratic "reforms" that could have entailed deeper changes in the

It's possible the United States considered that the transfer of power
was merely nominal and that "only the television had been handed over,
without the remote control."

Today, we bear witness to how Cuba's critical economic situation, caused
by the limitations of the "reform process" and its inability to overcome
the stagnation produced by the near-absolutist model that was in place
for nearly fifty years, is prompting a mass exodus of Cubans towards the
United States through all imaginable routes.

The proposals now advanced by the New York Times may be coming a little
too late, but, as they say, "better late than never."

Should they yield results, they would have the immediate effect of
easing tensions between the two governments and, without a doubt, many
of those desperate to leave for the United States might consider that it
is more advisable to stay a little longer, to see the concrete results
of this rapprochement.

At the same time, it would suggest that the Obama administration is not
chiefly responsible for maintaining the blockade-embargo, but that
Congress is. It could clear the way towards the elimination of the
embargo, inasmuch as it would entail previously removing Cuba from the
list of countries that sponsor terrorism and make other positive
relations between the two countries possible.

Such developments could serve to appease those who blame all of our
misfortunes on imperialist aggression, which is one of the fundamental
pretexts with which the economic disasters of the State-command economy,
the repression of the opposition, the absence of democracy and the lack
of civil and political liberties and rights are justified.

Most importantly, it would imply a measure of US support for Raul
Castro's updating process. The "reformist" current could be thus
revitalized and the complicated balance of forces within the Cuban
government could be tilted in its favor. Raul, in turn, would be unable
to ignore such US gestures and would be forced to act accordingly. One
development would prompt others.

The issue can be approached from many other perspectives. As far as
Cuba's internal situation is concerned, these are the ones I consider
most important.

Source: US-Cuba Relations and the Internal Blockade - Havana - Continue reading
What Happens If Ebola Comes To Cuba? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Posted on October 17, 2014
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The Ebola outbreak on the world epidemiological scene will obviously
involve a huge challenge for every country that is reached by the
current epidemic, already registered as the greatest in history and that
in recent days has reached about 9000 confirmed cases — although experts
say that figure is an undercount. The World Health Organization (WHO)
recently reported that the epidemic is not being confronted will all the
political rigor that the moment demands on the part of the international
community and also warned that if the situation is not brought under
control in time, by 2015 it predicts an incidence of about a million and
a half cases.

It is easy to conclude that arriving at this state of things the danger
would only grow exponentially. We are confronting an extremely
contagious illness of non-vectoral transmission, that can be spread
person to person through the most subtle contact with any bodily fluid
of an infected person — and that may be transmitted sexually to boot,
given that the virus is isolated in semen until 90 days after recovery.

Although a first clinical trial for a vaccination has just been
implemented, the reality is that for now the medical treatment protocols
are in their infancy in the face of a disease that in previous outbreaks
has reached a lethality of between 90% and 100% of cases and in the face
of which one can only commit to treatments of its severe complications
and to practice the usual measures for life support.

Today is raised before man a threat by one of the bad boys of virology,
which demands the implementation of the most extreme biological
containment measures, as well as the use of the most specialized and
scrupulously trained personnel for its handling.

Such a scene places before us the most elemental question: what if Ebola
breaks out in Cuba? This is not negligible, and it stopped being a
remote possibility after the departure of a detachment of hundreds of
Cuban professionals destined for the African countries flogged by the
epidemic. Let's remember the possibility that it was that route used by
cholera to reappear in our country, imported from Haiti after an absence
of 120 years, and not to mention the everlasting dengue fever.

The eruption of this most dangerous illness in Cuba could simply take on
shades of tragedy. Beyond how dissipated may become the customs of the
inhabitants of the alligator, I am inclined to fear by the experience of
one who has seen too often the systematic use of recyclable material,
the usual practice in Cuba, even when long ago the world definitively
committed to the exclusive use of disposable material: the idea of
treatment centers for these patients winding up recycling suits, gloves
or other materials because it occurs to some pig-headed guy from the
"higher level" that this would "guarantee" safety under such
circumstances is terrifying.

In a country where too many times a doctor does not have in his office
something as basic as running water and soap in order to wash his hands,
it will be understood what the demand for costly minimal material
demanded for handling patients with Ebola would involve, and if besides
we take into account that the almost generality of our hospital
infrastructure is not designed or prepared objectively for the
containment of this kind of scourge, now we will be able to raise a
prayer to the Virgin to save us from the trance.

On the other hand, let's not forget how reticent the Cuban authorities
have shown themselves to be about publicly reporting on the incidence of
epidemics when one considers that this might risk the affluence of
tourists or the successful conclusion of some relevant international
event — the Cuban dengue fever mega-epidemic of 2006 is still an
excellent example in that regard.

With all these antecedents at hand, chills are felt before the
possibility here considered and the questions that remain unanswered.
Will the Cuban Public Health System be prepared to control the Ebola
outbreak with the required speed? Will we Cuban professionals have the
training, methodology and even the discipline necessary for adequately
confronting a contingency of this caliber — and that quite few seem to
have faced before? When the moment arrives, will our government be
ready to report the truth bluntly to the people and to the world? Will
this "infallible" government that has exported dozens of medical
missions around the world have the humility to recognize its inability
to control it and to seek help?

Since the strategy followed until now by WHO at an international level
may be debatable — which has accepted being faced with the most serious
epidemiological problem since the appearance of AIDS — in regard to the
transfer of the foreign sick in order to receive treatment in their
respective countries. Obviously this increases considerably the
possibility of transcontinental spread of the virus.

Instead, it would be much more recommended and safe to create adequate
conditions in the country where each case is confirmed through a
centralized and functional network of field installations correctly
equipped and with the full extent of security that is presupposed, where
each patient is diagnosed, isolated and treated on site. For example,
it would be worthwhile to consider, in order to implement this kind of
possibility, the immediate conversion of uninhabited coastal African
islands under the supervision of the experts of WHO and similar
organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.

Means analogous to these, and apart from any legal or political
assessment, would be more convenient and effective for the containment
of this epidemic. Even the UN — which came to air the topic at the
Security Council — could deliver strong resolutions that support and
regulate these variants, and it would all be justified by the gravity of
a moment that is not made for warm cloths. It requires taking the
strongest measures everywhere the illness is found, if with these
measure rapid control of the situation is achieved — including the
extreme recourse of military quarantine where it comes to be evidently
applicable and necessary.

Admittedly, this proposal may be offered to varied readers, but in
operative, practical terms it may constitute the only option that
guarantees concrete solutions that stop the advance of this fearful
scourge. It may be now or never: we live at a critical time that
demands critical measures. What is not rushed today for lack of
political will, governmental indolence or timidity by world
institutions, undoubtedly will tomorrow charge a much more dramatic and
global human and economic cost.

Source: What Happens If Ebola Comes To Cuba? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
From Havana, a Prominent Voice for Change
The Cuban Journalist Miriam Leiva Writes About Relations With the U.S.
OCT. 17, 2014

To the Editor:

Re "The Moment to Restore Ties to Cuba" (editorial, Oct. 12) and "Still
Pondering U.S.-Cuba Relations, Fidel Castro Responds" (Editorial
Observer, by Ernesto Londoño, Oct. 15):

Latin America and the Caribbean require a closer involvement of the
United States, and Cuba has been an obstacle in recent years, when the
leaders of the region promote its inclusion in their organizations and
meetings, such as the Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama in 2015.

President Obama must be there to express the ideals of democracy and
human rights, contribute to solving the most urgent problems and
strengthen ties with neighbors. Russia, China and others are advancing
in Latin America, seeking to displace the United States.

Since the Obama administration started the people-to-people policy in
2009, encouraging exchanges between Americans and Cubans, a lot has
changed. Remittances from relatives and friends help thousands of Cubans
to survive and even open small businesses.

More important, Cubans are feeling empowered by exchanges of views with
Cuban-Americans coming to visit and Americans on cultural, academic,
scientific, religious, sport and trade trips. Cubans who travel to the
United States discover the opportunities offered by democracy and work.

Further steps by President Obama would help the Cuban people, civil
society and dissidents. It is not just a matter of discussing whether to
have an embargo, although the embargo must be lifted, but of making the
appropriate decisions at the right time. The moment is ripe.

Fidel Castro, in citing the New York Times editorial, is delighted to be
back in the headlines and wants the credit in case of a turn in
Cuban-American relations.

Havana, Oct. 16, 2014

The writer, an independent journalist, was a co-founder of Ladies in
White, an opposition group.

Source: The Cuban Journalist Miriam Leiva Writes About Relations With
the U.S. - - Continue reading
October 18, 2014

An Update on the 'Reforms' in Cuba
By Silvio Canto, Jr.

We keep hearing about all of those reforms in Cuba. Even the NY Times
is now promoting an end to the embargo because of the reforms.

Here is the truth: reforms in Cuba are a farce!

Just ask Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart-Barroso. He is a pastor in Cuba
under siege from the Castro regime, as reported by Christian Solidarity

Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a prominent religious freedom
activist and church leader, was officially summoned to the State
Security Unit in Camajuani, Villa Clara on 8 October. He was threatened
with arrest if he did not appear. At the unit a Lieutenant Colonel read
out an Official Warning or "Acta de Advertencia", a document that can be
used as justification for future arrests and criminal charges. Two
witnesses, whom the pastor did not recognize, were present and offered
testimony of his "counter-revolutionary" links. This is the third time
that government agents have unsuccessfully attempted to pressure
Reverend Lleonart Barroso into signing an Acta de Advertencia.

According to Reverend Lleonart Barroso, who leads the Ebenezer Baptist
Church in the town of Taguayabon in Villa Clara Province, and who is a
member of the Western Baptist Convention, one of the largest registered
religious organisations on the island, the Lieutenant Colonel told him
verbally that the government was unhappy about the pastor's recent visit
to the eastern part of the country. The official added that if the
pastor did not change his behaviour soon, a criminal case would
"probably be filed."

The purpose of Reverend Lleonart Barroso's visit was to meet with church
leaders who had reported violations of religious freedom. Reverend
Lleonart Barroso met with Pastor Yiorvis Denis, the leader of a church
in Camaguey which has come under repeated threat of forced closure and
confiscation of property. He also met with Pastor Esmir Torreblanca, the
leader of a large church in Santiago that was razed by the government in

Reverend Lleonart Barroso told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), "I
intend to continue on with my activities in the defence of religious
freedom in Cuba."

Let's say that Reverend Lleonart-Barroso did not get the memo about
greater tolerance or freedom in Cuba.

The New York Times' editorial board got the memo, but not Rev

For years, the church in Cuba has been targeted for two reasons:

1) the regime fears that pastors are talking about freedom and
commitment to a supreme being not named Castro.

2) More and more young people are going to churches.

As we've said before, there should be no talks or negotiations with the
Castro regime until:

1) Mr. Gross, a U.S. citizen, is released;

2) independent journalists and pastors are allowed to operate freely; and,

3) the opposition, and specially "Las damas en blanco," are not harassed
by government thugs. ("Las damas en blanco" are a group of ladies who
march every Sunday calling for the government to release their husbands,
sons, or brothers from prison.)

In the meantime, tell your pastor, priest, or rabbi about Rev.
Lleonart-Barroso. We should be praying for him and his wife, who is
being harassed constantly.

Source: Blog: An Update on the 'Reforms' in Cuba - Continue reading
Ebola crisis: US says Cuban medical support 'welcome'
16 October 2014 Last updated at 10:44 GMT

The disease has killed about 4,500 people so far, mostly in Liberia,
Guinea and Sierra Leone

Cuba is a "welcome" addition to the fight against Ebola, a senior US
official has said.

A state department spokesman said the Cuban government was doing more
than many others to contain the disease. "We welcome their support," she

The US has maintained an embargo on Cuba for more than five decades.

Last month, Havana announced it would send about 450 medical and support
staff to the region.

The BBC's Will Grant in Havana said that Cuba already had a tradition of
sending its doctors and nurses to Africa before the recent Ebola outbreak.

Cuban officials are hosting a regional summit on the virus next week
involving left-wing Latin American governments.

Health ministers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador are
expected to attend to discuss how to bolster the region's response to
the Ebola crisis.

So far the outbreak has killed about 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia,
Guinea and Sierra Leone.

On Wednesday the head of a United Nations agency said a food crisis
could soon hit the affected West African states.

Kanayo Nwanze, president of the UN's International Fund for Agriculture,
said farmers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia had abandoned their
crops because of fear of catching the disease.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that a major Ebola
outbreak in the West was unlikely.

Source: BBC News - Ebola crisis: US says Cuban medical support 'welcome'
- Continue reading
Human Trafficking Between Cuba and the USA
October 16, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban émigré Mercedes Morera Roche pleaded guilty in the
United States of conducting illegal human trafficking operations between
2004 and 2011. During that time, she had taken in a part of the US $ 6.6
billion that these criminals move around the world (1).

Mercedes arranged safe passage through Central America and Mexico for
migrants, most of whom were Cubans arriving from Ecuador, the only
country in the region that does not require Cubans to have a visa. She
would provide them with instructions, fake identity documents, safe
houses and transportation.

Despite her guarantees, the Ecuador-US route is teeming with danger. In
El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha routinely kidnaps illegal immigrants
of any nationality. It is said they have carried out more than 22,000
kidnappings (2).

Cuban migrants have also met with very difficult situations in Mexico.
In 2008, armed groups hijacked a bus from the Chiapas Detention Center
and took with them the 33 illegal Cuban migrants on board.

In 2010, Mexican authorities rescued 6 illegal Cuban immigrants who had
been taken hostage by these groups, in Cancun. The previous year, 14
others had been mistreated and beaten in an abandoned house in this city.

The number of Cubans travelling by land grew quickly after the United
States approved its "dry foot – wet foot" policy, which establishes that
all Cubans captured on rafts in the high seas are to be repatriated by
the US Coast Guard.

The number of rafts intercepted by the Coast Guard is massive, such that
the only viable option left are speedboats from Miami. Over the past ten
years, nearly 90% of Cuban migrants have traveled by land. Last year,
some 22,000 entered the United States through the Mexican and Canadian

The trip costs US $10,000 per person, and the bulk of this traffic is
financed by Cuban Americans (3). They pay for their relatives to be able
to reach the border and avail themselves of the Cuban Adjustment Act,
which has guaranteed residency to any Cuban who sets foot on US soil
since 1966.

Double Standards

Cuba's migratory figures are the most publicized, but Cubans are not the
only ones who undertake these illegal journeys to the United States.
Mexicans cross the border in far larger numbers, and Dominicans set sail
to the US in their "yolas", and no one much cares how many of these
makeshift boats sink in the ocean every year.

In 2011, the number of Cuban-born US residents reached the figure of
1,090,563, while that for Mexican-born residents was 11,691,632 and
immigrants from El Salvador – a nation with half the island's population
– were reported at 1,245,458 (4).

Miami's anti-Castro media speak of 2 million Cuban émigrés, but they are
inflating the actual figure by adding all residents of "Cuban origin",
including the sons and grandchildren of immigrants, all of them born in
the United States.

Cuban immigrants have always been made a political issue, presented as
persecuted individuals who are fleeing communism and given the status of
refugees by the United States – despite the fact that 500,000 of these
alleged "exiles" visit Cuba every year without anything happening to them.

Washington deals with the issue of immigration with a double standard.
It applies contention policies on other countries, and even worked with
the Dominican government to launch a media campaign that included taped
interviews of people who had lost relatives at sea.

Mexico did the same thing, publishing a CD for local radio broadcasters
across the country titled Migracorridos. The songs in the CD describe
the dangers and risks faced by illegal Mexican immigrants in their
journey to the United States.

In Cuba's case, by contrast, it maintains an Adjustment Act that tempts
Cubans to take the risk. Most of the benefits this legislation affords
apply to those who do not have a visa to travel to the United States,
that is to say, those who reach US borders illegally.

Cuba's laxer migratory laws now allow citizens to travel freely,
multiplying their chances to emigrate, but the only countries that open
their doors to them are Ecuador and the United States. The former has
become a kind of trampoline for reaching the latter.

With this state of affairs, it isn't strange that the number of people
risking their lives is growing and that more and more people are paying
traffickers like Mercedes Morera, in the hopes of one day enjoying the
benefits of living in a developed country.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Human Rights Committee, "Special Report on the Kidnapping of Migrants in
"High-Speed Escape: Greater Optimism at Home Has Not Stopped the Exodus
to the United States", The Economist.

Source: Human Trafficking Between Cuba and the USA - Havana - Continue reading
Candidate to lead OAS says Cuba shouldn't be excluded from regional summit
Published October 16, 2014 EFE

Guatemala's Eduardo Stein, one of the candidates seeking to become head
of the Organization of American States, said here Thursday that it would
be regrettable if the presence of Cuba at the 2015 Americas Summit
prompted other countries to boycott the event.

Whether to invite Cuba "is no longer a question," as the Panamanian
government has already taken steps toward issuing an invitation, the
former Guatemalan vice president said during the latest in a series of
forums at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center featuring candidates for
the OAS post.

"It would be very regrettable if, in this edition of the summit, if the
Cuban government decides to accept the invitation and participate, other
governments decide not to be there," Stein said in response to a question.

"That would shatter the principle of inclusion that all of us are
seeking as well as the possibility of understanding each other," he said.

Panama has publicly signaled that it wants to see Cuba attend the April
gathering, but the formal invitations will not go out until late December.

While the United States government has yet to say whether it would
boycott the summit if Cuba were there, Washington maintains that the
Cuban government should be excluded because Havana is not committed to
democratic principles.

Stein pointed to the Guatemalan government's decision in the 1980s to
enter talks with guerrillas as an example of the value of adversaries
sitting down "at the same table."

Those negotiations led in 1996 to an accord that put an end to 36 years
of civil war in the Central American nation.

By cautiously reaching out to Cuba, Stein said, the Panamanian
government has shown that it takes "very seriously" the idea of striving
for full inclusion as the path toward achieving goals including
protections for human rights, Stein said.

The Cuba question loomed large during the 2012 Americas Summit in
Cartagena, Colombia, where Havana's allies in the ALBA group -
Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua - vowed to boycott any future
summits that excluded the Communist-ruled island.

Colombia made an effort to have Cuba included in the 2012 gathering, but
the attempt fell short.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 and while the group revoked that
measure in 2009, Havana has made no moves to rejoin and says it has no
plans to do so.


Source: Candidate to lead OAS says Cuba shouldn't be excluded from
regional summit | Fox News Latino - Continue reading
Rare Independent Group Aims to Open Debate in Cuba
CARDENAS, Cuba — Oct 16, 2014, 2:31 PM ET

The former editors of one of Cuba's few non-government controlled media
outlets have quietly restarted efforts to spur debate about the nation's
future, launching a series of public forums and plans for a new journal
addressing the island's most urgent problems.

The project, known as "Cuba Posible," joins a handful of others in the
small space between the uncritical state-run media and fiercely partisan
dissident websites that have little reach inside Cuba.

Lawyer Roberto Veiga and journalist Lenier Gonzalez gained renown among
Cuban intellectuals by transforming the Catholic church magazine Espacio
Laical into a rare and influential forum for sociopolitical debate
before the two men left last year amid an apparent church backlash over
the publication's aggressive coverage of current affairs.

The two men and their small circle of close collaborators say they are
confident the project can provide a space for dialogue between
government supporters and critics without running afoul of the island's
communist leaders.

"We hope that we'll be heard and paid attention to in the world of
politics," said sociologist and project backer Aurelio Alonso. "We hope
that what's said won't remain in a void, but will affect institutions
and political players."

Funded by Norway's University of Oslo, Cuba Posible is based out of the
Christian Center for Reflexion and Dialogue, an ecumenical church group
focused on community projects that occasionally publishes newsletters
and magazines from Cardenas, a sleepy mid-sized city about 95 miles (155
kilometers) east of Havana. Basing the new group there means it can use
the center's existing government permits rather than seek permission for
a new independent publication.

"There have always been people inside the government who don't like what
we do and people who care about what we do," Veiga told The Associated
Press this week. "There are a variety of opinions but there's no policy
aimed at disrupting or battling us."

The first public forum attracted dozens of academics and intellectuals
and gave a hint of the group's approach. Its central theme, "Cuba:
Sovereignty and the Future," was uncontroversial enough to avoid the
risk of official ire. Participants avoided direct criticism of President
Raul Castro or the island's single-party system in place since the 1959
revolution. But some speakers, particularly those who rose from the
audience to question speakers on panels, were unsparing in their
evaluations of Cuba's poor performance in a variety of sectors ranging
from expanding the economy to updating educational curricula.

Gonzalez said the project's founders were fierce defenders of Cuban
sovereignty and wanted to improve the current system rather than see it
overturned in a return to its pre-revolutionary past.

"We don't think that's a possibility for Cuba and we don't want that,"
he said. "We're working to pose important questions, to maintain the
ideal that a better country is possible, and it's possible to achieve
that among Cubans who think differently but have common values."

Prominent Cuban exile businessman Carlos Saladrigas, who participated in
forums organized by Espacio Laical, said he believed that Cuba Posible
could gain more influence than the two men's former publication.

"For the moment their task is putting on the table ideas that require
critical debate. Cuba has a lot of things to rethink," Saladrigas said.
"If they succeed in this process I think they're going to greatly
contribute to this dialogue between Cubans."

Gonzalez, 33, and Veiga, 49, say they plan to publish their first
journal by year's end.

Speaking after the forum, Veiga cited the country's slow progress toward
the abolition of a special currency for tourists as an example of the
type of problem that Cuba Posible is designed to address. The double
currency allows Cuba to theoretically split the country between a realm
of highly subsidized prices in Cuban pesos and a tourist economy where
prices more closely resemble those of U.S. or European cities. But the
system has contributed to the rise of a new class of privileged Cubans
with access to convertible pesos. And it has led to economic distortions
like a special exchange rate for state enterprises that effectively
subsidizes them with cheap convertible pesos.

Cuba can't get rid of the convertible peso and related subsidies without
increasing productivity, can't increase productivity without foreign
investment and can't attract sufficient foreign investment without
reforming its monetary system, Veiga observed.

"We're trapped in a vicious cycle that we have to get out of," he said.

Of his and Gonzalez's efforts to spur dialogue in a nation not
accustomed to it, he added: "We've strived from the beginning to have
something that appeared impossible, and today is more possible, which is
that people who think differently can share the same space and even work


Associated Press writer Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this report.


Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: Rare Independent Group Aims to Open Debate in Cuba - ABC News - Continue reading

While the Ebola outbreak in west Africa has been nothing short of
devastating for affected nations, at least one country has been able to
exploit the crisis to garner goodwill: Cuba, whose communist government
has vowed to send hundreds of doctors to the region. What those covering
the deployment from the tiny island have not reported is the vow doctors
must take never to return to Cuba should they contract Ebola on the job.
Al Jazeera reports that Cuba has promised to send 300 doctors to west
Africa; as of now, 165 have been deployed in Sierra Leone. The doctors
will be working alongside African personnel to diagnose, quarantine, and
treat Ebola patients.
Leftist publications have marveled at what they argue is the nation's
trademark charity on display. The Guardian praised Cuba's "leadership"
on this front, quoting romanticized mass murderer Ernesto "Che" Guevara
for evidence of the communist nation's conscience. The Nation, whose
propaganda efforts to promote the state sponsor of terrorism is rivaled
only by El Granma itself, somehow managed to twist the news that Cuban
doctors were working abroad into an indictment on the United States (of
course). CNN has dutifully repeated the statistic that 15,000 Cuban
health workers have volunteered to die on the front lines fighting
Ebola, a statistic provided by the Cuban government with nothing but the
Cuban government's word to rely on for evidence.
What reports have not covered are the conditions in which Cuban medical
personnel are being forced to go. For one, in what is internationally an
unprecedented move for a state, Argentine news outlet Infobae is
reporting that Cuban doctors are being forced to sign a release wherein
they promise never to return to Cuba should they contract Ebola. The
state will not airlift them back to the island for care, as most other
nations providing humanitarian support-- most prominently Spain and the
United States-- have done with their workers. The news comes from a
doctor who was pre-selected to travel to west Africa but eventually
decided against it, who reported that doctors must "sign a document in
which they renounce their right to return if they contract the disease
in Africa." Should the doctors die, they must agree to being incinerated
in Africa.
Cuban doctor Jeovany Jiménez confirmed to Infobae that "such an exit has
not been given by any nation implicated," much less nations involved in
providing aid. The doctor added that whether Cuban doctors were
sufficiently well-trained to actually provide valuable help in Africa
would require a "wait and see" approach.
The opposition publication El Diario de Cuba reports that doctors have
been told there is a "90%" chance they will never return to Cuba, and
that part of the screening process required doctors to be "without
family" and between the ages of 45 and 55. The doctors were promised an
$8,000 a month salary, and potentially cars and homes, though it is
unclear where the money for such a project will come from. For
comparison, Cuba made headlines last May when it announced it would
increase medical salaries to a whopping $67 a month.
Nonetheless, west Africa's medical infrastructure, already barely
functional before the outbreak, is so devastated that Sierra Leone
welcomed the Cuban doctors with open arms. "It is when we have fearless
people on the frontline to confront Ebola that is so dangerous that you
will be able to win the war," President Ernest Koroma said, thanking the
doctors who volunteered upon their arrival in Freetown.

Source: Cuban Government Bans Doctors Fighting Ebola in Africa from
Returning if They Get Sick - Continue reading