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Cuba Verdad

Cuba continues to support terrorism
BY FRANK CALZON
frank.calzon@cubacenter.org

President Donald Trump's strong opposition to terrorism, during his
successful campaign, his recent speech to Arab leaders in Riyadh, and
comments following the Manchester bombing, are welcome. Now, media
reports indicate the administration is reevaluating U.S.-Cuba policy. It
can be hoped that as Trump will look south to Cuba, he factor in that
the island nation has long supported terrorism and terrorists.

Gen. Raúl Castro, succeeded his late brother Fidel, who for many years
sent agents to sow terrorism in Latin American and Europe. Today, Cuba
continues to harbor a convicted American terrorist: Joanne Chesimard.
She is a fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Indeed, the FBI is
offering $1 million for information leading to her capture and arrest.
In 1977, Chesimard was convicted of the cold-blooded murder of a New
Jersey state trooper, sentenced to life in prison, but fled to Cuba
where Fidel Castro granted her "asylum."

As we know, President Obama acquiesced to Raúl Castro's request to
remove Cuba from the State Department's list of countries supporting
terrorists in a deal to restore diplomatic relations. Chesimard has not
been returned to United States to face American justice. Instead, she
speaks to American college students visiting Havana. She, of course,
speaks glowingly about the Castros' dynasty.

She's not the only terrorist to be welcomed in Cuba. Oscar Lopez Rivera
is a Puerto Rican terrorist whose sentence was commuted by Obama. Raúl
Castro sent his congratulations and invited him to visit the "socialist
island nation." Lopez Rivera spent more than 35 years in U.S.
penitentiaries for his role in a series of deadly bombings in New York
City and Chicago. He is one of the militants of the infamous FALN (Armed
Forces for National Liberation) that in 1975 blew up Fraunces Tavern in
Manhattan. Four died, scores were injured.

Chesimard claims to be an American "exile." Lopez Rivera says he was "a
political prisoner."

This is not all. A summary of Havana's support for terrorism should
include the heist of $7 million from Wells Fargo in West Hartford,
Connecticut, in 1983. The money was taken to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico
and turned over to the regime. Castro's Cuba has also been associated
with the infamous terrorist Carlos, who in 1975 kidnapped 70 hostages in
Vienna (three people were killed) at a meeting of oil ministers from
OPEC. "Carlos" who committed several murders in France was, according to
The Guardian, provided by Cuba "with passports, money and five
apartments in Paris." As a result, the Quai d'Orsay expelled several
Cuban diplomats.

In 2014 Obama pardoned a convicted Cuban spy, who was serving two life
sentences in the United States, for his role in planning with Cuba's
military the 1996 shoot-down of two small single-engine planes in
international airspace over the Florida Straits. Four men — three
American citizens and a legal resident born in Cuba — died. Raúl Castro,
then minister of the armed forces, pinned medals on the MIG pilots who
murdered them. Upon his release and return to Cuba, the spy was given a
hero's welcome and continues, to this day, to be part of Havana's
anti-American disinformation campaign.

Then there was Fidel Castro's 1976 speech, in which he denied Cuba
engaged in terrorism while issuing a threat to the world, and to the
United States in particular: "If the Cuban state were to carry out
terrorist acts and respond with terrorism to terrorists, we believe we
would be efficient terrorists. Let no one think otherwise. …The mere
fact that the Cuban Revolution has never implemented terrorism does not
mean we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning" —which became
reality.

President Trump and his administration should take heed. Raúl Castro
exerts total control over Cuba, but has never renounced or contradicted
his late brother. The regime continues to support and protect
terrorists. A tough global counter-terror policy must drop Obama's
exemption for Cuba.

FRANK CALZON IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR A FREE CUBA, BASED
IN WASHINGTON, D. C.

Source: President Trump should take into account that Cuba continues to
support terrorism | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article154513419.html Continue reading
Republicans send letters to administration urging Cuba remain open
By SERENA MARSHALL
Jun 9, 2017, 6:11 PM ET

Two groups of pro-Cuba engagement House and Senate Republicans each sent
letters to President Donald Trump and members of his administration,
respectively, asking for Cuba to remain open in the wake of reports the
administration is leaning toward reversing its policy on the island nation.

The National Security Council met Friday to finalize their policy and
recommendations for the Principals Committee and then provide those
recommendations to the president on Cuba, according to multiple sources
briefed on the matter. ABC News has confirmed that Trump will likely
announce policy changes in Miami next Friday.

In the letter from the House group, seven Republicans write to Trump
that "Reversing course would incentivize Cuba to once again become
dependent on countries like Russia and China. Allowing this to happen
could have disastrous results for the security of the United States."

The representatives also argue that reversing the re-normalization of
U.S. relations with Cuba would "threaten" the efforts to combat human
trafficking, illicit drug trade, cybercrime and fraud identification.

The Republican congressmen that signed the letter include Reps. Tom
Emmer of Minnesota, Rick Crawford of Arkansas, Ted Poe of Texas, Darin
LaHood of Illinois, Roger Marshall of Kansas, James Comer of Kentucky
and Jack Bergman of Michigan.

The Senate letter, written by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; Mike Enzi,
R-Wyoming; and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, to Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster cites the growth
in Cuban entrepreneurs, expanded opportunity for U.S. businesses and the
national security benefit of preventing the island nation from becoming
"a client state of nations that view US interests as counter to their own."

"We strongly urge you to weigh carefully any rollback of policies that
would endanger these benefits," the letter reads.

A U.S. official said that a rollout is likely next week, but cautioned
that the details are still being finalized and the date could be pushed
back.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro initiated the
process in 2014 of opening Cuba, overturning decades of diplomatic
hostility, economic and business restrictions, and constraints on travel.

Source: Republicans send letters to administration urging Cuba remain
open -
https://abcnews.go.com/amp/Politics/house-republicans-send-letter-trump-urging-cuba-remain/story?id=47941330 Continue reading
The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling Favours /
Iván García

Iván García, 26 MAY 2017 — Ideology is no longer the most important
consideration if you want to get an administrative position in Cuba's
chaotic business and commercial network. They only ask you to do two
things: fake support for the autocracy and show loyalty to government
business.

If you have both these qualities, they will remove any common offences
from your work record. Nor is it a problem if you frequently beat your
wife or drink more rum than you should.

Human qualities are no longer a priority if you want to have a job in a
company management team or join the ranks of the Communist Party.

Let's call him Armando. He has always worked in internal trade. "It's
all been run down. Starting with the beginning of the Revolution. In the
food and internal trade sector, the biggest wastes of space have
occupied key positions. The employment culture is asphyxiating, like
being in a prison. Money, extortion, nepotism and witchcraft are more
important that professional qualifications and personal qualities".

After letting his life go down the drain, what with getting into
trouble, involving knives, robberies, public disorder, Armando decided
to get himself back on track when his son was born. "I spent most of my
youth and adolescence in the clink. With a family to support, I have to
look at things differently. I have no family in the States who could get
me out of here. I had to learn how to play the system. With the help of
a friend, after paying him 300 chavitos (CUC), I got a bodega [ration
store] for my wife and managed to include myself in the staff as an
assistant to the storekeeper".

After a year and a half, his wife started the process of joining the
party. "She knows nothing about politics, but in Cuba having a red card
opens doors for you. My next goal is to 'buy' a bodega just for me."

According to Armando, for 400 CUC you can get a bodega with lots of
customers. "The more people buy things in your store, the more options
you have to make money. In six months or a year, depending on your
contacts with truck drivers and people running warehouses, you can
recoup your investment".

Although the neighbourhood bodegas have seen a reduction in the
distribution of goods being issued through the ration books, various
storekeepers have said that, in spite of that, they are still making money.

"It's not like thirty years ago, when we had 25 different products
delivered to the bodegas. You don't get rich, but you can support your
family. You can do two things: cheat on weighing, and buy foreign made
things and sell them on to owners of private businesses or direct to
customers", admits a storekeeper with forty years' experience.

If there is a robbery in a state-owned food centre or bodega, the boss
or storekeeper has to meet the loss. "A little while ago, they stole
several boxes of cigars and bags of coffee. I didn't even report it. I
paid about 4 thousand pesos for the loss and coughed up nearly another
200 CUC have new bars fitted and improvements to the security of the
premises", said a storekeeper

An official dealing with these things emphasises that, "When a robbery
occurs, the first suspect is the storekeeper. It's an unwritten law of
business. If you get robbed, you should pay up and shut up, because
police investigations usually uncover more serious problems".

Naturally, in high-turnover food stores and markets you pay weekly
bribes to the municipal managers. The manager of a state pizzeria
explains: "The amounts vary with sales level. The more you sell, the
more you have to send upstairs. At weekends I send an envelope with
1,500 Cuban pesos and 40 CUC to the municipal director, as I sell in
both currencies".

This hidden support network, of mafia-like construction, at the same
time as it offers excellent profit on the back of State merchandise,
also generates a de facto commitment to the government.

"It's what happens in any important government activity. Whether it's
tourism, commerce, or import-export. The money comes from embezzlement,
irregular financial dealings and corrupt practices. One way or another,
the present system feeds us. It all comes together, as a kind of
marriage of convenience. I let you do your thing, as long as you let me
do mine", is a sociologist's opinion.

Raúl Castro has tried to sort things out, and designated Gladys Bejerano
as Controller General of the Republic. "Successes have been partial.
They get rid of one focus of corruption but leave others or change the
way they work. If you were to arrange a thorough clean up of the network
of government-run businesses, the system would break down. Because, like
the bloodsuckers, they feed off other peoples' blood", explains an
ex-director of food services.

Essentially, what is left of socialism in Cuba is a pact. In its attempt
to survive, Castroism violates Marxist principles and, in place of
loyalty, accepts that Catholics, Santeria priests and masons can enter
the Communist Party.

In the business sector there is a different idea. Embezzlement in return
for applause. In that way, not much is being stolen – kind of.

Translated by GH

Source: The Cuban Government, Complicit in Corruption and Peddling
Favours / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-government-complicit-in-corruption-and-peddling-favours-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Reinaldo Escobar: The Unqualified Cuban Truth / Somos+

Somos+, Leyla Belo, 23 MACH 2017 — Those who ever speak with Reinaldo
cannot deny his innate genius, his sense of humor and gentleness of
expression. A matter of decorum, isn't it? That quality which is so
scarce among many people nowadays. He does what he considers to be his
duty: to disassemble our Island from within, dreaming that some of us,
or all of us together, will fix it. Each one of his writings brims with
endless sensibility, while leaving to others the use of easy adjectives
and trivial cruelties. A committed journal¡ist; of the kind of those no
longer living, because his commitment is not centered around one man but
around his Cuba, his suffering Cuba.

You had nearly two decades of work in official media under your belt.
When did you decide to take another path and why?

When I was supposed to graduate from the School of Journalism in 1971,
there was a "purge" at the University of Havana which meant the
expulsion and punishment of several students. My "punishment," caused by
my "ideological issues," consisted of working for a year for a tabloid
by the name of El Bayardo, which was part of Columna Juvenil el
Centenario, a youth brigade (a forerunner of the Youth Working Army), in
Camagûey province. I stayed there until mid-1973.

After serving out my sentence I was placed with Revista Cuba
Internacional where, according to my colleague Norberto Fuentes, we were
involved in "sugarcoating." I worked there until mid-1987, when I
transferred to the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, inspired by the Soviet
glasnost, and thought that we would be able to engage in a different
type of journalism in Cuba. I tried to do so with the best of
intentions, and the result was that I was expelled from the newspaper in
1988 and disqualified from exercising the profession on the Island.
Thus, some 18 years elapsed between mid-1971 and 1988 when I was engaged
in official journalism.

I began working as an independent journalist in January, 1989, which was
referred to at that time as "freelance" journalism, and contributed to
several European publications by writing about Cuban subjects.

You are the founder of 14ymedio and are its Editor in Chief. How
difficult is it to engage in serious journalism in an underground media?

The 14ymedio newspaper is not an underground newspaper. If I were to
label it at all, I would rather call it an independent or unofficial
newspaper. The best definition is that we are a digital, non-subsidized,
non-printed newspaper.

That definition is essential to explain its difficulties. The problem
other media have in securing ink and paper is experienced by us in
achieving Internet connectivity. The largest volume of information flow
is with our correspondents in the provinces and with other associates
through the Nauta webmail network, which is slow and government-controlled.

The other difficulty is the scarcity of journalists who meet the
appropriate requirements, as the first characteristic is for them to
have the professional sensibility to sense everything which is really
newsworthy. The second characteristic is to be able to truthfully and
appealingly write in any journalistic genre, while checking with
reliable sources. The third element is for them to dare to face the
risks stemming from the threats by the political police.

At times those threats materialize into specific events which physically
render it difficult to perform our job.

Current independent journalism (most of it) does not stem from a
"passion" when dealing with the news.

One of the distinctive features of the current, independent journalism
is the short distance that exists between many of its reporters and
political activism. Arbitrary detentions, beatings, searches, evictions
and everything that contributes to a true picture of a typical
dictatorship seems to be the only thing of interest to that type of
journalism. This can be explained because such news is absent from
official media, and to counteract the official media monopoly on
information is one of the raisons d'être of independent media. The
passion is inherent to the nature of this reporting, hence the (always
unnecessary) profusion of adjectives.

Independent journalism should also focus on other matters, such as the
growing presence of entrepreneurs, and it should look at those
–apparently insignificant– signs of defiance by our plastic artists,
filmmakers, writers, humorists and musicians.

Authorized press in Cuba is subsidized by the Cuban Communist Party
(PCC). In your opinion, what would be the ideal management paradigm for
the media?

I do not think there is an ideal management paradigm for the media.

The issue of media ownership is a complex matter. When it is
privately-owned, under a market system, information becomes one more
item of merchandise and "what sells" gains visibility over "what needs
to be reported." When management is in state hands and does not depend
on advertisers, the media often becomes boring and doctrinaire. In
addition, there is public management, which is somewhat different from
state management in that it is governed by the readership.

Even though it is not noticed at first glance, the official broadcasting
media in Cuba are privately-owned and are the monopoly of the Communist
Party. If we understand that the concept of ownership specifically
refers to the decision-making capacity and add to the aspect of material
responsibility for what is owned, there is no question that the official
media owner is the PCC, which designates the management staff,
establishes the editorial line, manages material resources and pays the
salaries.

Earnings are not measured in terms of money as under a market system,
but in terms of the achieved control over the population, which only
finds out about what those media report if they are privileged enough to
connect to other media. It is acceptable for a political party to own
its own publication, but it not acceptable for that party, having
exclusive access to power in the name of the law, to use State funds to
pay the cost of its media and, in addition, to take upon itself the
right of prohibiting the existence of its competitors.

Eventually, we will have private newspapers and magazines in Cuba,
perhaps full of advertisements, police-blotter journalism and trivial
news about the world of show business; civil society institutions will
manage their own media and perhaps there will be a public TV channel
where people will learn about the debates in Parliament.

You interviewed the Law student expelled from Cienfuegos University. How
do you define his action?

This young man only exercised his sacrosanct right to free expression
when answering the test questions. If a student is asked on a test what
his opinion is regarding a specific subject, whoever grades the test has
to refrain from his or her political prejudices, otherwise they should
pose the questions with more honesty, such as, "What do you think I
would be pleased to hear regarding such subject?"

You were detained a few months ago while a Spanish journalist
was interviewing you. Was that another violation of the freedom of
expression?

During the days of mourning following the death of former president
Fidel Castro, I was interviewed by journalist Vicent Sanclemente, from
Televisión Española. I do not think I was being followed at that
particular time, but "they" were just highly-strung. Maybe the informant
who was keeping an eye by the Malecón sea wall thought my answers to be
inappropriate. When this young man reported to his superiors that there
was a Cuban guy saying strange things to a foreign journalist, the
person who got the report was compelled to fulfill his duty. Something
"natural" in our environment.

Violating the freedom of expression is expressed in the most acute way
when, for instance, our 14ymedio.com newspaper becomes inaccessible to
the domestic servers providing Internet browsing service.

The official discourse boasts of freedom of expression in Cuba. Yet the
reality is different.

Once, I do not remember the exact date, Mr. Carlos Lage maintained that
there was total freedom of thought in Cuba… and it is true. What happens
is, as Friedrich Engels used to say, "the word is the material wrapping
of thought," so that it is totally worthless for someone to come up with
a political formula if he or she cannot in absolute calmness expound
upon it to all of his or her followers.

Freedom of expression, exercised in its public environment, is the best
guarantee that all rights to which people are entitled are fulfilled,
including, naturally, the right to education, public health and social
security.

Translated by: Anonymous

Source: Reinaldo Escobar: The Unqualified Cuban Truth / Somos+ –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/reinaldo-escobar-the-unqualified-cuban-truth-somos/ Continue reading
Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet, Miriam
Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 1 June 2017. – A characteristic feature
of ineffective and outdated political regimes is the constant appeal to
the historical past as a mechanism for legitimizing the present, and as
a resource for survival. In the case of Cuba, this principle has been
the rector of official discourse and its means of diffusion, and it has
been applied with particular force in the teaching of History.

As a consequence, several generations of Cubans born shortly before or
after 1959 have grown up indoctrinated in the assumption that all events
from the "discovery" of the Island by Christopher Columbus through
Spanish colonization, the Taking of Havana by the British, the Wars of
Independence, and the brief Republic were nothing more than the
flagstones that paved the long road that would lead to this (even
longer) path -with airs of eternity- known as the "Cuban Revolution",
our nation's only and final destination.

The preaching took almost religious tones. Just as Noah saved all of
Earth's living species, the boat "Granma", with its young crew, was the
Cuban people's "salvation". Thus, judging from history textbooks at all
levels of "revolutionary" teaching, the founding fathers, the
illustrious pro-independence, the brightest Cuban-born intellectuals,
and all decent Cubans for the last 525 years had their hopes set, though
they didn't know it, in today's "socialist" Cuba and, above all, in the
pre-eminent guidance of an undisputed leader of world stature who would
continue to lead the ship even beyond material life: Fidel Castro.

With enthusiasm worthy of better causes, most Cuban professors,
including those who teach other subjects and not just History, have
reinforced the systematic misrepresentation of the past. An illustrative
example might be that of a professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters
of the University of Havana, who would tell her students that "José
Martí would have been a perfect Cuban, except for one limitation: he was
not a Marxist. However, had he been born in this era, he would most
certainly have been a Marxist. No comments."

However, despite the official efforts, the flat rejection of history is
embodied in the obstinate student response. Year after year, pedagogical
technocrats, faithful servants of the regime, therefore, accomplices of
that apocryphal, mechanical and boring Cuban History, insist in the
useless need for improving teaching programs, "updating" the contents
and adapting them to the present in order to make them "more attractive"
for students. The problem is a fundamental one, since the objective and
basic principle of the subject is still to blur the values of the past,
to praise a failed sociopolitical system -a fact that most students can
verify in the reality that surrounds them- and to glorify the leadership
that today's young people find distant, alien and unwanted.

So perverse has the indoctrination been, and so reinforced the idea that
in Cuba everything has been done and decided since January 1st, 1959,
that it has resulted in the opposite effect than what the Power
attempted to achieve. Not only do the new generations show disinterest
in Cuba's history, but many young people feel alienated from the system,
from the country where they were born, and from that future as promising
as it is unattainable, in search of which their parents and grandparents
became uselessly worn out. The Revolution has lost its heroic quality
for the new generations, who perceive it as a sort of fatal outcome
which they would rather take no notice of. Now the heroes and villains
of video games are infinitely more exciting than that gang of hungry and
stinking guerrillas who roamed an inhospitable mountain range.

It is not by chance, then, that the worst university entrance exams
results, especially in recent years, are precisely in the subject of
Cuban History, according to Elsa Velázquez Cobiella, Minister of
Education, within the framework of the National Council of Federation of
Secondary Education Students (FEEM), adjourned in Havana this last
Saturday, May 27th.

The same Minister also expressed concern about the decrease in the
number of students taking the entrance exams, a phenomenon that is
becoming stronger every year, which shows the growing lack of interest
of the new generations in higher education studies in a country where
professionals often make less than many skilled workers or employees in
restaurants and the service industries.

In fact, unlike the generations of students of the 70's and 80's, the
current tendency is a decrease in university enrollment, which does not
necessarily entirely correspond to a State policy, as some claim, but to
a scenario that is distancing itself from the official utopia and
speeches as it approaches an increasingly crumbling reality.

Successive attempts to attract students for teaching careers have not
had the expected results either. Not only are their enrollments still
insufficient, but these centers are essentially sustained by those
students whose depressed academic averages prevent them from pursuing
other, more attractive majors. For decades, teaching careers -along with
agricultural specialties– have not been in very high demand, which is
why they have been the last and sometimes, the only option for
low-achieving young people aspiring to higher education. This factor, in
turn, has weakened the teaching levels, particularly in primary, middle,
and pre-university education.

In turn, the relative success of some private sectors (the
self-employed), related to restaurant services, tourism and other
activities independent of the State seem to be influencing the
decision-making of young people when it comes to choosing between
continuing university studies or opting for expeditious and practical
training that allows them to enter a much more attractive and better
paying labor market.

The crude reality that today's generations exhibit far surpasses their
parents' naive romanticism, whose paradigm of success, prestige and
salary advantages were first achieved by getting a university degree, a
mirage that faded rapidly in the face of the deep economic crisis -never
surpassed- which produced in Cuba the collapse of the so-called real
Eastern Europe socialism and pushed thousands of qualified professionals
into survival mode, translated into occupational reorientation in the
presence of the devaluation of the currency, some of them being
contracted out, into conditions of semi-slavery (as in the paradigmatic
case of doctors) or, markedly accented, in emigration as the best
alternative.

Today's young people -in many cases unaware- are in the presence of the
end of the utopia that marked the lives of several generations of
Cubans. At last, capital has come to be imposed, so they prefer to
dedicate themselves to what provides them with income and prosperity in
the shortest possible term.

It is a pragmatic vision without doubt, more in tune with a
post-egalitarian society, where contrasts proliferate between some
absurd "Guidelines" commanded by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and the
glamour of capitalism appearing in the stained glass windows of the new
luxury hotels in Havana and other areas of the country. "If the power
elite and their descendants can enjoy the good things in life, why not
us?" reason young people.

It's true that there are still some areas of interest for young Cubans
in higher education, as in careers related to computer science,
industrial engineering, and art and design, among others. However,
suffice it to consult the enrollment figures today and contrast them
with those in previous years to envision a future that is still being
sketched with lines unequivocally opposed to the utopia.

All indicates that the old myth of the levels of education of Cubans has
begun to crumble, and with it, that sentence that "the future in Cuba
will be that of men of science". Another gross error of the
Unmentionable, because the Cuban future will belong to those enlightened
ones that have learned better to conduct themselves under the empire of
capitalism.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Between the Official Utopia and Generational Realism / Cubanet,
Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/between-the-official-utopia-and-the-generational-realism-cubanet-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
Found in Moscow's Flea Markets: Car Parts, Jeans and Bargain-Hunting Cubans

They fly 13 hours seeking items to sell in a Communist island still
starved of consumer goods

MOSCOW—Sometimes the wheels of history turn slowly. The hottest shopping
destination for Cubans is not across the water in Miami. It's Moscow,
6,000 miles away.

Tougher U.S. border control and rising remittance income from relatives
abroad have led to a recent surge of Cuban travel to Russia, the only
major country that stilldoesn't ask islanders for a visa. Cuban shoppers
don't take the daily 13-hour Aeroflot flight, a legacy of the Soviet-era
alliance, to see the Kremlin or the Red Square. They bring back bags of
jeans, haberdashery and car parts to a Communist island starved of
consumer goods.

"The Cubans are flooding in without speaking a word of Russian just to
stock up," said Ricardo Trieto, a Russian-educated Cuban engineer who
now translates for compatriot shoppers in Moscow's flea markets. "It's
very profitable: Whatever you buy here you can sell it for more at home."

The U.S. trade embargo with Cuba remains in place despite the fact that
President Barack Obama loosened restrictions for Americans to travel to
Cuba last year and opened a U.S. Embassy in Havana in 2015 after more
than half a century of severed ties. President Donald Trump has said he
would roll back Mr. Obama's Cuban initiatives. All of this has helped
revive a very Cold War-sounding trading relationship between Russia and
Cuba.

Consider the need for car parts in Cuba. Given the U.S. trade embargo,
most cars in Cuba are either American-made cars from the 1950s or
Soviet-era jalopies. The square-shaped models of Ladas and Nivas all but
disappeared from Moscow's streets years ago.

In Cuba, they are still going strong. Well, when they don't break down
and need new parts, the shortage of which can produce some spectacular
profits.

In Moscow, a 1980 Moskvich—another boxy offering from the Soviet era—
might fetch around $500. In embargoed Cuba, it can go for as much as
$14,000, Cuban taxi drivers say, fueling a booming cottage industry
specializing in cannibalized car parts for the Caribbean island.

At the sprawling Yuznii Port used-car market in southern Moscow, traders
say up to 40% of the business comes from Cuban shoppers. "We would've
gone broke without them," said trader Timur Muradian.

On a gray winter morning, a dozen Cubans dressed in ill-fitting beanie
hats and gray puffer jackets walked around the market's metal containers
filled with rusty car parts. Several extra layers of clothing and skin
darker than most locals easily gave them away to traders, who wooed them
with shouts of "hola, amigo."

"I can buy anything I want here; it's unbelievable," said Alejandro, who
flew from Havana for the first time to buy tractor parts.

Waving hands and typing into calculators with frozen fingers, the Cubans
haggled over prices in the thousands of dollars for heaps of what most
locals would consider useless scrap. "They buy up everything for Russian
cars and tractors by weight, without even looking at what parts and
models they are for," said Mr. Muradian. "Whatever it is, they'll be
able to sell it at a profit at home."

A typical group of Cubans spends $3,000 to $7,000 in the market, stall
owners say. These are astronomical sums for residents of an island where
the average wage is $25 a month.

Back in Cuba, whole villages chip in to send an envoy on shopping trips
to Moscow, often using remittances from relatives in Miami or Madrid.
Residents of the Rodas village in Cuba's central sugar belt said their
cane would rot in the fields without an annual trip to Moscow to buy
parts for their 1970s Soviet tractors.

Some of the workers in this cottage trading industry are part of the
tens of thousands of Cubans who went to the former Soviet Union as
students. They studied engineering, medicine and science and returned to
develop their Communist homeland. But when the Soviet Union and its
subsidies collapsed in 1991, they often found themselves working as
waiters and security guards for minimum wage.

Soviet-educated Cuban engineer Raul Curo came back to live in Russia
several years ago. He bought a taxi and became part of Moscow's booming
Cuban expatriate community, servicing shoppers from the island. Mr. Curo
meets Cubans in the airport and drives them around the city's flea
markets, helping to translate and haggle.

"Everyone loves Cubans here. It's been like this since Khrushchev," Mr.
Curo said, referring to the Soviet leader who risked nuclear Armageddon
by striking an alliance with Cuba in the 1960s and deploying missiles there.

During the low season, translator Mr. Trieto makes money giving Spanish
lessons to Azerbaijani and Armenian stall owners in the city's flea
markets. Others make ends meet giving salsa lessons in Moscow night
spots such as Old Havana.

Most Cuban shoppers come to Moscow for about a week and spend whole days
trawling the city's flea markets to collect the 260 pounds worth of
goods they are allowed on the plane for a fee.

They borrow boots and parkas from friends and family and sleep on
double-bunks in crammed Soviet-era apartments owned by Cuban
expatriates. "I've never been this cold in my life, but I'm getting used
to it," said shopper Abelito. He said his first purchase was the warmest
jacket he could find on the entire 150 acres of the Sadovod flea market.

At the entrance of Lyublino's budget Moskva shopping center is a Cuban
canteen adorned with pictures of the island's lush rolling hills and a
photo of President Vladimir Putin with the late Cuban leader Fidel
Castro. The Cuban cook serves up cheap homemade dishes of rice, beans
and shredded pork.

The shopping center offers a translation service and Cuban immigrants
work in the center's cheap jewelry stalls. An Azerbaijani stall owner
haggled in broken Spanish with a group of Cubans over a stack of jeans
on a recent visit.

"They basically live in the bazaar," said taxi driver Mr. Curo of his
compatriot shoppers. "They came, they bought up, and they left. In a
couple of months, they are back."

—Dmitry Filonov contributed to this article.

Write to Anatoly Kurmanaev at Anatoly.kurmanaev@wsj.com

Source: Found in Moscow's Flea Markets: Car Parts, Jeans and
Bargain-Hunting Cubans - WSJ -
https://www.wsj.com/articles/found-in-moscows-flea-markets-car-parts-jeans-and-bargain-hunting-cubans-1496850722 Continue reading
Trump Will Reverse Damage Done by Obama's Cuba Policy
Jun 8th, 2017 3 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Mike Gonzalez
@Gundisalvus
Senior Fellow
Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
The administration is about to announce it is reinstating the limits on
travel and trade that Obama lifted.

With Cuba's international benefactor, Venezuela's own despotic
government, teetering on the brink of collapse, the Obama lifeline to
Castro looms even larger.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering measures that would
block deals between American companies and the Cuban military.

If "America First" means anything, it must mean preventing a virulently
anti-American criminal enterprise from perpetuating its existence next
door and reproducing itself throughout the hemisphere. And since this is
precisely what President Obama's opening to the Castros accomplished,
President Trump is duty-bound to reverse this mistake.

In fact, if The New York Times is to be believed—and on this we should,
as coddling the Castros is one thing the Gray Lady has been consistent
on for sixty years—the administration is about to announce it is
reinstating the limits on travel and trade that Obama lifted.

This isn't full reversion, but I'll take it. I don't say this very
often, but let's hope The New York Times is right.

President Obama always said he was helping Cubans with his opening, and
in a technical way that is true. Alejandro Castro Espin, the
ideologically unbending Leninist son of military ruler Raul Castro, is a
Cuban. So is Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Calleja, the economic
czar in charge of the lucrative tourist trade. Oh, Lopez Calleja is also
General Castro's son-in-law and Alejandro's brother-in-law.

U.S. recognition and sanction of the Castros helped these two Cubans
enormously in their endeavor to inherit political and economic control
when General Castro, a spry eighty-five-year-old man, effected a
transition from one communist Castro to another in a short nine months.

Cuba's eleven million other citizens were not helped so much. They would
have had a much better hope of a real transition to a post-communist,
post-Castro, free Cuba had President Obama not promised that, in
exchange for nothing, the Castro dictatorship would benefit from selling
their products in the United States and receiving credits to boot.

With Cuba's international benefactor, Venezuela's own despotic
government, teetering on the brink of collapse, the Obama lifeline to
the Castro family looms even larger.

People with zero understanding of Cuba have always parroted the
Godfather stereotypes, so let's put things in a language they'll understand.

Raul is Don Corleone in this version, while Alejandro is Michael
Corleone, and Lopez Calleja is Tom Hagen. Sonny and Fredo are played by
any number of Miami Cuban-Americans with business interests tied to this
division of the spoils, the freedom of their former compatriots be damned.

Alejandro is widely expected to pull the strings of power when and if
the nominal heir apparent, Miguel Diaz-Canel, first vice president since
2013, takes the title of president from Raul in February 2018. There are
precedents for this in the revolution and earlier Cuban history.

Cuba's president from 1959 to 1976 wasn't Fidel Castro, but a wealthy
lawyer by the name of Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, a nonentity who
committed suicide in 1983. From 1936 to 1940, the Republic's official
head of state was Federico Laredo Bru, another wealthy lawyer whose
strings were pulled by Fulgencio Batista.

Both Dorticos and Laredo Bru associated with communists and let them
take part in government (yes, little-known fact: Batista was such a
communist sympathizer that even Stalin's Chilean hagiographer, Pablo
Neruda, once wrote a poem to him). But before reading these lines, had
you ever heard of either of Dorticos or Laredo Bru?

This window-dressing fate awaits Diaz-Canel. Journalists are now
besoiling themselves by claiming all sorts of things about him. Six
months ago, Reuters said he "has already established press and internet
freedom as signature concerns." It is often written that he's a Beatles
fan (the way Andropov liked jazz).

Probably better to listen to what Alejandro Castro says and watch what
he does. This is admittedly onerous, as he's a humorless Marxist
ideologue who would apply a dialectical analysis to a doughnut. But if
you're interested in what's ahead for Cuba, there is, alas, no alternative.

"Cuba will never return to capitalism," the reclusive Alejandro,
officially an army colonel and the head of military intelligence, told
Peruvian-Greek journalist Lasonas Pipinis Velasco in a sweeping 2015
interview.

In it, he applied "the logic of history" to everything from the serfs of
the Middle Ages to John Locke, Bretton Woods and the distinction between
"participative democracy" and "bourgeois representative democracy." (He
says Cuba practices the former because it constantly holds "popular
consultations.")

A bit earlier, it was Alejandro, not Diaz-Canal, who conducted the
secret negotiations on the opening with Obama's outmatched deputy Ben
Rhodes in 2014. It was also Alejandro who received the Cuban spies
charged with the murder of Americans whom Obama obligingly sent to
Havana in 2015. More recently, it was Alejandro who sat next to Obama at
the table when the forty-fourth president visited Havana. And it was
also him who accompanied Raul for the 2015 meeting with Pope Francis.

And again just recently, it was Alejandro again who popped up in Moscow
negotiating, of all things, an agreement on cybersecurity cooperation
with the head of the Russian Security Council, Nicolai Patrushev.

Known in hushed tones in Havana as "One Eye" (El Tuerto) after losing
most of his sight in one eye in Angola, Alejandro has also left his
feelings for the United States known in the book he wrote about
America's rise, "The Empire of Terror."

According to the The New York Times, the Trump administration is
reportedly considering measures proposed by Florida Republicans Sen.
Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart that would block deals between
American companies and the Cuban military—measures that would hit the
Castro family where it hurts.

Let's hope it's true.

This piece originally appeared in The National Interest

Source: Trump Will Reverse Damage Done by Obama's Cuba Policy | The
Heritage Foundation -
http://www.heritage.org/global-politics/commentary/trump-will-reverse-damage-done-obamas-cuba-policy Continue reading
Cuba holiday CRISIS: Britons warned to take THIS to airport or risk
being refused entry

CUBA holidays have spiked in popularity this year with a British tourist
boom, but there's one critical addition you'll need to your trip.
By CLAUDIA CUSKELLY
PUBLISHED: 12:42, Wed, Jun 7, 2017 | UPDATED: 13:02, Wed, Jun 7, 2017

Over a third of Brits (37 per cent) are more interested in travel to
Cuba now than they were two years ago according to research.

Tourism has soared on the island in recent years – particularly since
relations between Cuba and the US started to thaw in 2014.

In 2016, a record four million tourists visited Cuba – a 13 per cent
increase on the previous year.

This year the Cuban Ministry of Tourism predicts that number will rise
by 100,000 visitors.

With more flights from the UK than ever, now is the perfect time to
visit the Caribbean island nation for sun, sand and sea.

But if you're jetting off for your Cuban holiday, you must take a
tourist card with you.

The UK's Foreign Office (FCO) warns British holidaymakers to obtain a
card before you travel, or you won't be allowed to enter the country.

This special tourist visa can be purchased online before you leave.

The FCO said: "Make sure you get the right visa for your visit. As well
as tourist visas, there are other visa categories for different types of
travellers.

"For more information and advice about visas, contact the Cuban Embassy."

That's not the only compulsory document you'll need to produce at customs.

Travellers also require travel insurance for holidays to Cuba.

The FCO explained: "You must take out comprehensive travel and medical
insurance before you travel.

"You will be expected to present your insurance policy on arrival in the
country."

Your passport must only be valid for the duration of your stay.

There's also an airport tax you'll have to pay at a cost of 25 Cuban
convertible pesos (£1.29).

This tax should be built into your airline ticket but the FCO advises
travellers to check with your carrier if there's any doubt.

Most visits to Cuba by Britons are trouble free.

Source: Cuba holiday CRISIS: FCO warns Britons will be refused entry
without a tourist card visa | Travel News | Travel | Express.co.uk -
http://www.express.co.uk/travel/articles/814132/Cuba-holidays-visa-tourist-card Continue reading
Cuba: Socialism, Private Property and Wealth
June 8, 2017
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Parliament has finally approved the groundwork
for the reforms process put forward by President Raul Castro and his
government. However, it has done so with some reserves, the most
sensitive subject seems to revolve around private businesses and a
consequent accumulation of wealth.

Legalizing private property over modes of production has raised clear
suspicions among some legislators. They fear that wealth will start
becoming concentrated and that this will lead the country to experience
a social inequality similar to that in the rest of Latin America.

However, economists ensure them that without the accumulation of
capital, private businesses won't be able to develop to such an extent.
Business people need to reinvest, they need funds to put up with losses,
they need tax breaks from the start and personal financial incentives.

So then we reach a point where social differences will inevitably
deepen. The national economy can no longer be regulated by the socialist
laws of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his
contribution", not even in theory.

Although, it's only the shreds of this economic principle that remain in
reality and it's been like this for a long time. Ever since salaries
lost their real value in the '90s, the prevailing axiom in the economy
seems to be "From each according to his/her astuteness, to each
according to their cunning."

"Meritocracy" has also lost popular support, according to which those
who piled up revolutionary duties could live better than the rest of
Cubans. The problem here is that it became hereditary and today their
children are enjoying these privileges, even though they have no track
record of contribution of their own.

Inequality isn't the result of "updating the system", it has been
growing since the '90s because of many different factors such as family
remittances, dollarization, opening the national economy to foreign
investment, tourism or children of the elite reaching adulthood.

The reforms seek to "legalize" the country that currently exists, in
some way or another. Self-employment, the underground small and medium
sized business person or those alleged Cuban managers of foreign
companies who are in actual fact the real company owners.

With these changes, the national economy will start to integrate this
underground world, which has been operating on the side for many years.
This grounding in reality will allow a better distribution of wealth
because the government will be able to charge taxes to those people who
have never paid them.

Of course, now there are new dilemmas, like what always happens whenever
you leave stagnation behind and begin to move forward. Some economists
claim that if you don't allow the self-employed to accumulate a bit of
wealth, they will never be able to become business people.

Without accumulation of capital, the only people who can become owners
of small and medium-sized companies are those who receive money from
abroad or those who managed to accumulate it during socialism, a
significant part of whom are corrupt and/or criminals.

In one way or another, this concentration of wealth will lead to
deepening social differences between Cubans and in a poor country this
can even lead to a few people taking the largest slices of cake for
themselves, leaving others without even a taste.

However, the truth is that there is still a lot to establish: How many
employees can a medium-sized company employ? What are the limits on the
accumulation of capital? What government mechanisms will redistribute
wealth? How will the government ensure that there are equal
opportunities for all Cubans in this kind of society?

The terms "private enterprise" or "wealth accumulation" can scare a few
people a lot and encourage others too much, but until details are
revealed, we are only dealing with abstractions. And it will be these
details that then define the country's future socio-economic model.

Source: Cuba: Socialism, Private Property and Wealth - Havana Times.org
- http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=125633 Continue reading
3 US women attempt to paddle board from Cuba to Florida

HAVANA, CUBA (REUTERS) - With calm waters under their boards, Americans
Aimee Spector, Cynthia Aguilar and Karen Kim are preparing for the
paddle boarding experience of a lifetime.

"We will be the first three girl relay to ever even paddle from Cuba, on
land, finishing in Key West on land." said Aguilar.

Starting in Havana's Hemingway Marina on Thursday (June 8), Spector took
off first in what the three athletes hope will set a new Guinness record
for the longest non-stop paddle as a three-girl relay team.

They estimate crossing the Florida straits should take between 20 and 25
hours.

"I think the hardest part is just the fatigue. It's going to take us
about 24 hours so paddling all through the night, having those
challenges of staying focused and staying energised, I know that we can
do it but that's probably our biggest challenge." said Spector.

A challenge that they will have to paddle through until they reach the
US on Friday.

Source: 3 US women attempt to paddle board from Cuba to Florida,
Americas News & Top Stories - The Straits Times -
http://www.straitstimes.com/world/americas/3-us-women-attempt-to-paddle-board-from-cuba-to-florida Continue reading
Country drills for own oil as Venezuelan flow falters
Cuba once got most of its oil cheap from its socialist ally Venezuela,
largely paid for by exporting medical staff and supplies.
Published: 09:43 , Refreshed: 09:38 Pulse News Agency International By AFP

Near the Cuban seaside village of Boca de Camarioca, a giant drill runs
into the ground and out to sea, probing for oil.
Cuba once got most of its oil cheap from its socialist ally Venezuela,
largely paid for by exporting medical staff and supplies -- but economic
crisis in Venezuela has stemmed the flow of crude.
That has caused "instability" of supplies on the communist island, says
Roberto Suarez, joint director of the state oil monopoly Cuba Petroleo
(CUPET).
"We are making every effort to explore and identify zones that might
produce oil."
The island is being forced to look for alternatives at home as analysts
warn that, without Venezuela, there are few available abroad.
Urgent search
Cut-price oil from Venezuela helped rescue Cuba from the downturn it
suffered in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its most
powerful patron.
But Venezuela's oil exports have plunged by 40 percent since 2014,
according to independent analysts.
Cuban authorities have been regularly resorting to energy rationing
since last year.
Cuba consumes 130,000 barrels of oil a day but only produces 50,000
itself, estimates Jorge Pinon, a former oil executive and now an analyst
at the University of Texas at Austin.
Venezuela for years supplied more than 100,000 barrels of crude a day to
Cuba, which refined and exported the excess.
But that industry has declined too. UN statistics body Uncomtrade says
output at the key Cienfuegos refinery plunged from $500 million in 2013
to $15.4 million last year.
A total halt to Venezuelan oil imports would cost Cuba $1.5 billion a
year, Pinon estimates -- a further blow to its already grim finances
after it entered recession last year.
Billions of barrels
Dressed in orange overalls, engineer Geisel Escalona supervises the work
of the 58-meter (190-foot) drill, rented from the Chinese company Great
Wall.
CUPET hopes to drill a well dubbed "Varadero 1,008" to tap part of a
reserve which it estimates to hold 11 billion barrels of oil.
In the best case scenario for Havana, that would turn Cuba into a
well-funded small power overnight -- able to project the Americas' only
Communist regime years into the future.
But for now, there is no breakthrough.
The company's on-shore oil platforms have run dry and attempts to drill
in the Gulf of Mexico have been fruitless.
Now, it is using a technique known as "horizontal drilling" in this
village east of Havana, probing for possible off-shore oilfields with a
drill that slants underground from an on-shore location.
"We have reached down to 1,350 meters... and we hope to get down to
8,200 meters," Escalona said.
CUPET already has nine other wells drilled in the broader Varadero zone.
Between them they account for more than 98 percent of Cuba's home oil
production, Suarez said.
Lifeline from Russia?
Cuba also appears to be reaching out beyond its shores -- it received
249,000 barrels of crude from Russian state oil firm Rosneft in May.
That was part of a deal for 1.8 million barrels signed in March with a
Cuban state metal company. Full terms of the deal were not made public.
Pinon interpreted it as "a test for a lifeline while they wait for
Venezuela's political and economic collapse."
However he judged that under the current political conditions, it was
unlikely Moscow would return to supporting Cuba to the extent it did
during the Cold War.
Other traditional allies such as Algeria and Iran, he said, also appear
economically unable to do much to help Cuba at the moment.
"I know of no other country that has the financial strength, the level
of oil production and the political alignment with Cuba which could
replace Venezuela without it having an impact on the Cuban economy,"
said Pinon.
"Brazil, Angola, Algeria, China, Russia? I doubt it."

Source: Cuba: Country drills for own oil as Venezuelan flow falters -
World - Pulse -
http://www.pulse.ng/world/cuba-country-drills-for-own-oil-as-venezuelan-flow-falters-id6802843.html Continue reading
Human Rights Violations: How to Report them? / Somos+

Somos+, 20 March 2017 — During the last session of Academia 10/10, we
were joined by renowned Prof. Moisés Rodríguez Valdés, a physicist by
profession but one with ample knowledge of human rights and civil liberties.

He is the chief spokesperson in Cuba for Corriente Martiana. Attendees
enjoyed this very valuable conference during which, among other
important topics, he explained how to formally report human rights
violations to the United Nations. The following are some of the major
points he shared with us.

Report violations of human rights you have experienced to the United
Nations.

Not doing so encourages the perpetrators' sense of impunity, even if
this is not your intention.

The process is easy and does not take much time, but the effect can be
significant if everyone follows established procedures.

We hear reports on a daily basis, through Radio Martí and other
broadcasters, as well as through digital and print media, of human
rights violations against civil society activists not formally
recognized, who are vilified and repressed and, occasionally, are
subject to unjustified physical violence.

Using the media to raise public awareness is NECESSARY, BUT IS NOT
ENOUGH. That is because UN resolution 1503 precludes the organization
from considering complaints based on press reports (see annex, UN Res.
1503).

Some complaints are forwarded to international human rights
organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International,
among others. There is nothing wrong with it, but this is also NOT
ENOUGH. UN Res. 1503 establishes that the complaint must be filed by the
victims, their representatives or organizations located in the places
where the actions were known to have occurred.

Furthermore, it is well-known that complaints by the European Union and
even the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), while
noteworthy, have proved to be inadequate in stopping systemic and
institutionalized violations depicting a persistent situation, which is
what triggers UN mechanisms.

Failure to communicate individual facts to this international
institution means to forego the one institution that can compel the
Cuban government to halt violations committed by state officials and
institutions, which essentially means State Security agents.

It is not a question of resolving individual cases but rather that out
of all the complaints made it will be possible to put members of the
Cuban government on the stand, as was done until prior to 2006, when the
Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the current UN Human Rights
Council (UNHRC).

The fact that the Cuban government has served on Council three times, or
that it is currently a member, does not preclude us from seeking redress
from that government through other channels provided we report each
violation we have personally experienced, or that others we know have
experienced, whether they are civil society activists or the population
at large.

For information on how to go about filing a complaint, we are attaching
the text of Res. 1503, which you should review prior to initiating such
communication, as well as the sample form to report violations to the
so-called special procedures.

We suggest that you begin the process by emailing your written testimony
to Corriente Martiana:

corrientemartiana2004@gmail.com

It will be reviewed and forwarded to the UN by people who have years of
experience in dealing with these matters. They will also send you
suggestions on how to format any future correspondence.

Do not fail to do so, for only in this manner will we contribute to
increase the political cost to the Cuban government for its systemic,
institutionalized violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
which keep the country in a continuous state of crisis, cause the steady
exodus of fellow countrymen and keep the citizenry mired in an effort to
survive amidst generalized fear and misery, which prevents them from
acting as legitimate citizens but rather as accomplices due to their
dependence upon the totalitarian regime imposed on our country.

Looking forward that you will carefully assess this suggestion, I remain,

Sincerely,

Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez Valdés

Human Rights Advocate

This document was prepared and distributed by Corriente Martiana, an
institution currently focused on the promotion of human rights through
face-to-face teaching, distribution of information and teaching
material, and implementing pressure strategies on decision-making
individuals.

Address: Ave. 45 # 2410 e/ 24 y 26. Cabañas, municipio Mariel, provincia
Artemisa. Cuba

Emails: corrientemartianacuba2004@gmail.com moises47@nauta.cu

Web page:
www,corrientemartianacuba.org
@cubamartiana

Mobile phone: +53 5 3351152

Annex 1

Procedure contemplated in Res. 1503, reviewed (summary of the main
points for purposes of this suggestion).

The fact that a communication is forwarded to the applicable government
and an acknowledgment of receipt is forwarded to the author thereof does
not mean any opinion as to the admissibility or merits of the
communication. When the Working Group finds that there is reasonable
evidence to the existence of a persistent sitatuon of manifest human
rights violations, the matter will be referred to the Working Group on
Situations for review. The Working Group on Situations will consist, as
before, of five members designated by regional groups, and due attention
shall be given to the rotation of its members.

The Group shall meet one month, at the latest, prior to the Commission's
meeting, in order to review particular situations referred to it by the
Working Group on Communications, and it shall subsequently decide
whether or not to refer some of those situations to the Commission.

Then, the Commission shall adopt a decision on each particular situation
brought to its attention in this manner. Confidentiality.

All initial steps of the process are confidential until a situation is
referred to the Social and Economic Council (ECOSOC). However, since
1978, the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights has disclosed the
names of those countries subject to review. Thus, if a situation of
abuses occurring in a given country are not resolved during the initial
stages of the process, it can be brought to the attention of the
international community through the ECOSOC, which is one of the main UN
bodies.

What are the admissibility criteria for a communication to be reviewed?

– No communication shall be admitted which is contrary to the principles
of the UN Charter or which displays political motivations.

– Only one communication shall be admitted if, after having reviewed it,
it is determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe –also
having taken into account all replies sent by the interested country–
that there is a persistent situation of manifest, conclusively proven
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

– Communications may originate from individuals or groups claiming to be
victims of human rights violations or from those having first-hand,
reliable knowledge of those violations. Anonymous communications shall
be inadmissible, as well as those based on media reports.

– Each communication shall describe the events and indicate the purpose
of the petition, as well as the rights which were violated. As a general
rule, communications containing offensive terms or insulting comments
regarding the State against which a claim is made shall not be reviewed.

– In order for a communication to be reviewed all internal remedies must
have been exhausted, unless it can be convincingly proven that national
solutions would be ineffective or would take longer than reasonable
expected to be achieved.

Annex 2

THIS IS THE MOST COMMON COMMUNICATION MODEL USED, WHICH YOU MAY USE:

Communication to UN Special Procedures from CUBA.

(Read the instructions at the end prior to beginning your communication.)

i. Identification of individuals(s) victim(s):

1. Surnames:

2. Given Names:

3. Sex: M____ F____

4. Date of birth or age (at the time of being subject to the violation):

5. Citizenship(s):

6. a) Type of ID (ID from your country, passport or similar).

ID Card

b) Number:

7. Profession and/or activity (if there are grounds to believe that the
violation of rights and/or freedoms bears any relation to it(them):

8. Current address:

City: Province:

II. Identification of violation's perpetrators.

1. Date when violation occurred:

2. Place where violation occurred (please provide as many details as
possible):

3. Alleged perpetrators of violation:

4. Are perpetrators members of any official institution? Which one?

III. Please provide a detailed description of events and circumstances
under which the violation subject to the communication occurred (be
brief and concise).

IV. Indicate which rights were allegedly violated during incident
subject to the communication.

V. Identification of individual(s) or organization(s) filing the
communication:

1. Name and surnames of individual(s) or name of the organization and
representative's name:

2. a) Address of the individual or the organization's headquarters:

City: Province:

b) Email:

c) Telephone No. (landline):

d) Cell phone:

Instructions.

1. If you submit a handwritten communication, please use black or blue
ink and write legibly, preferably in block letters.

2. Your communication shall not be reviewed if you use insulting
language or political content.

3. Please limit yourself to describing the events in connection with the
incident and clearly and concisely provide only the essential details.
It is not a questions of evaluating or giving an opinion, only of
describing the facts.

4. No anonymous communications shall be accepted.

To clarify any questions, you can contact Moisés Leonardo Rodriguez at:

Avenida 45 número 2410 entre 24 y 26, Cabañas, municipio Mariel,
provincia Artemisa. CP 34100. Cuba.

Email: corrientemartiana2004@gmail.com

Let's do it! That way we will achieve a more favorable environment for
the defense of Human Rights!

P.A. Mosés Leonardo Rodríguez

Original Corriente Martiana founder.

Translated by: Anonymous

Source: Human Rights Violations: How to Report them? / Somos+ –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/human-rights-violations-how-to-report-them-somos/ Continue reading
Increased investment in ICT infrastructure likely in Cuba but
connectivity problems and control over internet to remain
Diego Moya-Ocampos - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly
06 June 2017

Key Points
- The Cuban government is increasingly viewing new information and
communication technology as a possible sector for foreign direct
investment, rather than necessarily a threat over its information monopoly.
- Despite the Cuban government likely to continue controlling,
restricting, and surveilling access to the Internet, Vice-President
Miguel Diaz-Canel has been signalling greater willingness to allow
Cubans more access to the internet and support buildout in software
development and IT infrastructure.
- The problem of low connectivity in Cuba is likely to continue
depending on US-Cuba relations, with the US Embargo remaining a
constraint for development and over efforts of the security apparatus to
control citizen's access to internet content. Nevertheless, investment
in software, information platforms, and communications solutions is
likely increase in the one-year outlook.

EVENT
Increased investment in new information and communication technology
infrastructure is likely facilitating business operations in Cuba and
encouraging easier domestic policies on internet usage but restrictions
to ordinary Cubans on internet access to remain.

The Cuban government plans to extend internet access to 50% of Cuban
homes by 2020, while the active promotion of foreign investment software
development is generating short-term investment opportunities. Recent
pilot projects have started providing 3G mobile access in important
areas, indicating opportunities in the tourism sector, with independent
software entrepreneurs offering services to tourists.

These developments suggest that the Cuban government is becoming more
flexible in terms of giving away control over its information monopoly.
The Cuban government currently still controls, restricts, and surveils
access to the internet. Cuba has restrictive and slow internet
connectivity but its vice-president Miguel Diaz-Canel has signalled more
willingness to allow Cubans improved internet access.

Source: Increased investment in ICT infrastructure likely in Cuba but
connectivity problems and control over internet to remain | Jane's 360 -
http://www.janes.com/article/71167/increased-investment-in-ict-infrastructure-likely-in-cuba-but-connectivity-problems-and-control-over-internet-to-remain Continue reading
Local Surfers Are Rallying to Legalize Surfing in Cuba
TUESDAY JUNE 6, 2017
Corey McLean
Filmmaker, Photographer

In Cuba, there is a small, tight-knit community of diehard local surfers
who are determined to represent their country in the 2020 Olympics,
despite a laundry list of obstacles working against them. The most
significant of these obstacles? Surfing is technically illegal in their
country.

History
Surfing has been unintentionally controversial with the Cuban government
since it's inception. When the Cold War came to an end in the early 90s,
all economic support for Cuba from the Soviet Union evaporated. Still,
on the dark side of the US embargo, this left the population starving
and fearing for their future. A mass exodus began via all forms of
watercraft – ranging from car tires to leaky tin rafts – prompting the
Cuban government to effectively ban people from the coastline.
In this same time frame, several guys began developing their own strain
of surfing while testing out homemade board designs. When the government
saw young men paddling out into the water on foam boards, they assumed
they were making a break for Florida. In a country that maintained a
longstanding ban on rock n' roll and dished out year-long prison
sentences for eating beef, legalizing surfing was never a consideration.
So, the constant threat of being detained or surfers having their
coveted boards confiscated came to define the sport until the past
couple of years.

Few know Cuba even has waves, including many Cubans themselves. The 100
or so Cubans who do surf, though, want to share the stoke by coercing
their government to recognize a sport that's technically been illegal
for so long.

Today
As the US/Cuba relationship has slowly thawed out politically, tensions
have eased between surfers and law enforcement. Things are vastly
improved compared to how they were 10 years ago, but the government's
failure to recognize surfing as a legitimate sport still presents a huge
barrier for the sport's evolution on the island.
For years, Cuban surfers have sought to organize an official club and
association to collectively further the sport. They want to hold
competitions at home as well as travel to competitions abroad if
invited. They want to have the legal ability to advocate for ocean
protection around their island and build a national team to develop
future surfers. Until surfing is recognized as a sport, none of this can
happen in Cuba.

Why Now?
With the acceptance of surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics comes a huge
opportunity for Cuban surfers to make a legitimate case to their
government. "Even if we don't win, even if we don't pass the first
round," says Frank Gonzalez, one of the pioneers of the Cuban surf
scene, "if we're there, I could breathe in peace, and say that we
accomplished our goal."
For Yaya Guerrero, one of the only female surfers in the country,
legitimizing surf has become her primary focus. She's made it a mission
to assemble the full story of Cuban surf, along with evidence of the
sport's growth, into a presentation for the government.
The week following New Years 2016, myself and a small group of
filmmakers packed our bags with ten weeks worth of clothing and headed
to Cuba to work with Frank and Yaya on a film. As the country started to
change more and more rapidly, legitimizing the sport seemed more and
more in reach, and our conversations shifted toward how we could
collaborate to make it succeed.
A year and a half later, Yaya and her group have asked for global
support in the endeavor. They feel confident that, in light of all of
the recent changes, if they can demonstrate that the world of surfing is
behind them they will finally reach their goal.
If you think that it's time for Cubans to be able to surf at home and
with the rest of the world, please add your name to this petition and
share with your friends – it could make a huge difference for their
future in the sport! Let Cuba #surflibre.
To learn more about the effort to legalize surfing in Cuba, visit
surflibre.org, or follow @surflibre on Instagram.

Source: Local Surfers Hope to Legalize Cuban Surfing | The Inertia -
http://www.theinertia.com/surf/local-surfers-are-rallying-to-legalize-surfing-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Poland offers to cooperate with Cuba to restore monuments
07.06.2017 09:56
Poland has offered to cooperate with Cuban authorities to restore and
revitalise monuments.

"Poland is interested in cooperating with the authorities of Cuba and
its institutions in the field of renovation and revitalisation of
monuments," Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said during a
meeting with Eusebio Leal, director of the restoration programme of Old
Havana.
On the last day of his visit to Cuba on Tuesday, Waszczykowski discussed
the development of cultural cooperation and promotion of Polish culture
in the Cuban capital.
The discussion also covered renewing cooperation between Poland and Cuba
on issues of monument restoration and drawing on the experience of
Polish experts, as well as making use of laser techniques in the
restoration of Havana monuments.
Waszczykowski also met the Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad
Garcia Rodriguez, and visited the Salesian Centre for Social
Communication, which is involved in social and educational activities
for young people. The Polish Embassy in Havana regularly cooperates with
the centre.
This was the first visit by a Polish foreign minister to Cuba in over 30
years. (rg/pk)

Source: Poland offers to cooperate with Cuba to restore monuments -
Radio Poland :: News from Poland -
http://www.thenews.pl/1/10/Artykul/310606,Poland-offers-to-cooperate-with-Cuba-to-restore-monuments Continue reading
UN Sounds Alarm on Rising HIV Infections in Cuba Due to Officials'
"Complacency"
BY: ELENA TOLEDO - @NENATOLEDO - JUN 6, 2017, 2:50 PM

Cuba has reported significant increases in HIV/AIDS cases, according to
the United Nations.

UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Edward Greene said this
week that Cuba is among the countries in the region that have seen an
uptick in the infection following decades of decline.

The island has seen a nine percent increase in HIV infections, just
under eastern Europe and central Asia.

Infection rates have increased among the older age groups, the official
said.

According to Greene, 67 percent of people in Cuba living with HIV are
receiving treatment. He said he thinks the Caribbean region "has become
complacent" on the issue.

Though there has been a significant reduction in the number of
HIV/AIDS-related infections and deaths overall, there has also been an
increase in patients receiving treatment, which means that infections
have increased.

Among the causes for this increase could be the reduction of funds from
donor agencies, as well as from the government.

Cuba has long been dependent on geopolitical factors to fund its
healthcare system, first relying on the Soviet Union, and later on the
Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

Following the collapse of the Venezuelan economy, Cuba has increasingly
sought to alternative sources of income, and is now heavily dependent
upon hard currency from tourism, as well as remittances from foreign
workers.

Cuba has had a complicated relationship with AIDS patients in the past.
During the 1980s and 1990s patients living with HIV/AIDS were required
to live in sanitariums where they were shut off from the rest of the
world in order to control the spread of the disease. Critics charged
that the policy denied AIDs patients of their civil rights.

Source: Cubanet

Source: UN Sounds Alarm on Rising HIV Infections in Cuba Due to
Officials -
https://panampost.com/elena-toledo/2017/06/06/un-hiv-infections-cuba-officials/ Continue reading
Work begins on 4.4 MW PV plant in Cuba
The Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus, which will host the plant, is
planning to deploy 63 MW of PV capacity by 2019.
JUNE 7, 2017 EMILIANO BELLINI

The power utility of the Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus, Empresa
Eléctrica (EE), announced that work has begun on the first MW-sized PV
plant of the region.

According to official government-run international broadcasting station
Radio Havana Cuba, the plant will have a capacity of 4.4 MW and will be
connected to the local grid Sistema Electroenergético Nacional (SEN). An
unspecified Chinese technology is being utilized to build the plant, the
radio station said.

EE also announced that the province of Sancti Spíritus is planning to
host 63 MW of PV capacity by 2019, without providing further details.

Cuba reached an installed PV power of approximately 22 MW at the end of
2015. For 2016, another 25 MW was expected to be installed in the
country. Most PV installations connected to the grid in Cuba range in
size from 1 MW to 3 MW.

In Cuba there's also a PV module factory with a capacity of 15 MW, which
provides the modules for the national market.

Cuba is targeting to install 700 MW of solar in order to diversify its
energy mix. At the end of 2014, fossil fuels covered around 98% of the
country's power demand, according to Cubaenergía. At the time, solar and
wind combined had a capacity of 21.7 MW and covered 0.35% of power demand.

Source: Work begins on 4.4 MW PV plant in Cuba – pv magazine
International -
https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/06/07/work-begins-on-4-4-mw-pv-plant-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Cuba sees huge potential in medical tourism
By Xu Qin | 00:01 UTC+8 June 7, 2017 | PRINT EDITION

ANY talk of Cuba conjures up images of sun-kissed beaches, scintillating
music, culture, traditions and a history that continues to unfold even
now, but the Caribbean island nation's top envoy in China is keen that
visitors from the mainland take in a dose of medical tourism as well.

"One of the strengths of Cuba is health tourism," Miguel Angel Ramirez
Ramos, the Cuban ambassador in China, told Shanghai Daily after
delivering a talk at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Think Tank
Foundation. "Cuba has made important strides in the field of
biotechnology and health care. We have competitive advantage in this area."

In 2000, one of the best-known names in the world of sports, Argentine
football legend Diego Maradona, traveled to Cuba to seek treatment for
drug addiction. Since then, the island nation has become one of the
medical destinations for Americas, looking for affordable healthcare in
sunnier climate.

"In fact, these days the Chinese are going to the US, but the Americans
are going to Cuba for medicinal tourism," the ambassador said.

"There are groups coming for disease treatments. Not only because they
are only available in Cuba, or they may be somewhere else, but in Cuba
they are cheaper. They get better results... I believe this is an
important area in tourism," the ambassador said.

According to International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ), Servimed, a
state-owned company, offers foreigners access to the 16 Cuban hospitals
and clinics that provide more than 100 types of health services on the
island.

Few weeks ago, the Cuban Minister of Public Health, Dr Roberto Morales
Ojeda, told a WHO assembly in Geneva that by the end of 2016, Cuba had
achieved a life expectancy of 78.45 years. He also said that Cuba was
the first country to officially eliminate mother-to-child transmission
of HIV and syphilis way back in 2015.

But the Cuban envoy in China was also clear that general tourists were
equally welcome.

"There are lots of facilities for the Chinese tourists to go to Cuba,"
Ramos said. "They will be surprised to see how friendly we are,
particularly how friendly we are to the Chinese people, because we have
a strong historical connection with China that goes back to 170 years
ago. In fact, we are going to celebrate in June the 170th anniversary of
the first arrival of Chinese coolies to Cuba.

"We have a monument in the middle of Havana, celebrating the
Cuban-Chinese," he said.

The monument in Havana is carved with the words of 19th century Cuban
General, Gonzalo de Quesada, "No hubo un chino cubano desertor, No hubo
un chino cubano traidor" (There was not a single Chinese Cuban deserter,
nor a single Chinese Cuban traitor).

The monument was erected to commemorate the participation of thousands
of Chinese plantation workers in the struggle for Cuban independence.

"They were brought to Cuba on contracts. They were tricked or covered by
recruitment agents to substitute other resources for labor. The moment
they realized they were cheated, they rose up in rebellion. They
immediately took part in the independence war against Spanish colonial
rule. Most of them were male so they mixed with the local population.

"Now in Cuba we have many Chinese descendants who intermingled with the
local population."

China's presence is kept alive by descendants of that period, through
societies and various manifestations. They are also present in the
consumption of rice and other culinary traditions of the Island.

The influence of these immigrants served as a link to maintain the
economic exchanges between Chinese and Cubans, as well as to keep the
germs of cultural interconnection, said Ramos.

"China is present in almost all sectors of Cuban economy. It is
widespread and we are encouraging that it should be in that way. The
cooperation not only comes because of the quality, the technology, the
facilities on prices, but also financing support of the infrastructures
of course.

"We have cooperation plans with China in the area of biotechnology. For
a small country like Cuba, it is safer for Cuba to export technology not
just raw material, sugar or cigar, which we are also exporting to China.
We are keen on exporting high-tech to China because these are all new
products developed by Cuban scientists.

"There will (also) be strong opportunity of cooperation in the area of
information, computing. We are providing very favorable conditions to
the Chinese as well as the rest of the world," he said.

Source: Cuba sees huge potential in medical tourism | Shanghai Daily -
http://www.shanghaidaily.com/business/biz-special/Cuba-sees-huge-potential-in-medical-tourism/shdaily.shtml Continue reading
Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García

Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want
blood. And more severe laws for criminals.

While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are
advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there
are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated.

If you ask Gisela about the subject, her eyes fill hopelessly with
tears. At one time this woman, who is pushing 50, was a brilliant nurse.
She formed a model family together with her spouse, an ex-official of a
foreign business. They lived in a well-cared-for apartment in Reparto
Sevillano, in the south of Havana.

But the night of December 14, 2010, their marriage took a dramatic turn.
"They killed our only son. He was only 15. He was with some friends in
El Vedado. A gang assaulted him to take his clothes. Before running
away, they stabbed him twice in a lung. After his death, our life
changed and got worse. I always wonder, if God exists, where he was that
night," says Gisela.

After the loss of their son, the marriage dissolved. She became a
habitual alcoholic. They sold their car and later exchanged their
apartment for a smaller one. The money was spent on rum and psychotropics.

Gisela divorced the father of her deceased son, and they put him in a
psychiatric hospital. When you ask her opinion about the death penalty
or more severe laws for certain crimes, she answers without subtlety:
"Whoever kills a person ought to be executed. Look at my case. The
criminal who killed my son got 20 years in prison, and for good conduct
he served only six and is now back on the street. It's not fair."

Those who have lost a family member or friends of violent crime victims
are more susceptible and hope for the return of executioners and a State
that decrees death.

In Cuba, the crime rate is notably low. Although official statistics are
unknown, the Island is a safe place. But gangs of juvenile delinquents
and home robberies have increased.

Since 2005, the Cuban Government has had a moratorium on the death
penalty. The last convict executed was called "Crazy Victor" in the
world of the marginal underground, and he was a sinewy mestizo almost
6'6″ tall, with an assassin's soul.

At the end of the '90s, he killed an old woman inside her house in the
neighborhood of La Vibora. The day of his arrest he had a shoot-out with
police in the style of an American action film.

In the spring of 2004, the Council of State ratified the death penalty
for Victor, which was carried out in the adjacent courtyard at the
Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the
capital.

Fidel and Raúl Castro have not held back from pulling the trigger. From
the very beginning of January 1, 1959, they used the death penalty to
eliminate their recalcitrant enemies and even peaceful dissidents. A
lawyer, now retired, relates:

"When an objective academic study is done, without political passion,
the exact number of Cubans that the government of Fidel Castro has
executed will be known. On principle, they eliminated criminals from
Batista's police and army. Several of these trials were real Roman
circuses, televised to the whole country, without the proper judicial
guarantees. They took advantage of the situation to deliver justice in
order to liquidate the enemies of the revolution.

"In one step, the laws sanctioned the death penalty for betrayal of the
country by soldiers, as in the case of General Arnaldo Ochoa. Or the
execution of 19 people in an air base in Holguín in 1963, most of them
war pilots. Fidel, Raúl and Che signed quite a few death penalties. The
figures vary, according to the sources. Some say that 500 were executed;
others, 3,000 or more.

"Dissident jurists consider these to be crimes of the State, because
they were established offenses that didn't necessarily call for capital
punishment. But the Government claimed it was being persecuted by Yankee
imperialism."

In 2003, after a summary trial, three young black men, residents of
Centro Havana, were executed for trying to hijack a boat to leave the
country, which they weren't able to achieve. "It was a counterproductive
political error. It was an an act of Fidel Castro's meant to set an
example that cost him the condemnation of world public opinion," said
the ex-lawyer.

In the spring of that same year, among the 75 peaceful dissidents
punished with long years in prison by Fidel Castro, who used only words
as a weapon, the Prosecutor of the Republic requested seven death
penalties. "It was something appalling. Luckily the Government didn't
carry it out. It would have been a crime in all meanings of the word,"
said the old lawyer.

As in any revolutionary movement, whether in France, Russia or Cuba,
violence begins with force. The death penalty always was a weapon of
combat for intimidating the enemy. However, several people consulted
considered that while political adversaries were sanctioned excessively
or executed in a pit in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, Cuban
justice was too permissive with some blood crimes.

"Right now someone who kills a cow gets more years in prison that
someone who kills a human being. I know cases where they got only four
or five years in prison in spite of having killed someone. Those who
slaughter beef cattle are condemned to 20 or more years of privation of
liberty," says an ex-prisoner.

There are quite a few ordinary Cubans who think that crimes like robbery
in occupied homes, sexual violations and other mean-spirited acts should
be considered by the State as crimes, and the killers should be executed.

"Although my religion is against the death penalty, I'm in favor of
executing those who commit horrendous crimes," confesses Mayda, who
defines herself as a practicing evangelical.

Saúl, who works for himself. considers that in addition to "executing
serial killers or psychopaths, they ought to punish other infractions
with more years. As in the United States, where they give them life
imprisonment for these same crimes. The thugs would think twice before
breaking the law."

But in the opinion of another lawyer, in the case of major crimes or by
resuming the death penalty, "the State could be tempted to condition
these laws and carry out a purge of the opposition. The subject of the
death penalty, whether to abolish it or keep it, should be debated
nationally and the citizens should decide by vote." But Cuba isn't
Switzerland.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-want-more-severe-laws-for-criminals-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Should US Entrepreneurs Make Their Way to Cuba?
Entrepreneurs: this could be big.
By James Paine
Founder, West Realty Advisors@JamesCPaine

There's a new possible hotspot for entrepreneurship that might surprise
you: Cuba.

Now that relations between the U.S. and Cuba are warming up, many
entrepreneurs see the island nation as an intriguing choice. When former
President Obama announced that he'd like to open up relations with Cuba,
thoughts of tourism and trade arose.

For entrepreneurs, Cuba could be a land of untapped potential.

Cuba has a struggling economy, but it also has a population of roughly
11 million -- and is a short flight from Florida.

Not long after Obama's announcement, companies started to dip their toe
in the Cuban market. While trade policies have been slightly relaxed,
it's still not a situation where a U.S. company could open up in Cuba.

Tourism rose roughly 20 percent after Obama's 2014 announcement and more
than 94,000 U.S. tourists visited Cuba in the first quarter of 2016, but
it's still a complex web for businesses.

In 2015, American companies such as PepsiCo, Caterpillar, Boeing and
American Airlines were present at the Havana International Fair, an
event usually sparsely attended by the U.S.

However, the hurdles toward building a successful business in Cuba are
endless. In addition to the lack of infrastructure in Cuba (it's still
largely a cash-based society, with little availability for plastic), the
U.S.-Cuba embargo remains in place.

There are still avenues for a determined American entrepreneur, though.

Experts have said that entrepreneurs who visit the island are more
interested in real estate opportunities, the hospitality industry and
establishing small factories in a 180-square-mile "free zone" outside of
Havana. Foreign entrepreneurs are able to own and operate businesses in
that zone, but only after being granted approval from the Communist Party.

Right now, most of the entrepreneurship is happening natively, as Cubans
start to gain more economical power thanks to the influx of tourism
dollars. The country's policies are still very insular, leading
Americans and other foreigners to work more with entrepreneurial Cubans
than trying to curry favor with the Communist Party in order to own a
business.

Still, the seeds are being planted. Largely popular airline Southwest
recently opened up routes to Havana, and Carnival Cruise Lines docks in
the capital city, as well. It may take years for Western companies to
operate out of Cuba, but these are promising steps toward that future.

There are ways for entrepreneurs to gain a foothold within Cuba, but it
takes some coordination and teamwork. Americans are able to go into
business with Cuban entrepreneurs, or cuentapropistas as they are known.
The Cuban government allows these cuentapropistas to operate taxis,
shops and restaurants.

Right now, they are the best conduit for American entrepreneurship in
Cuba. Working with a cuentapropista is a great first step for the
determined entrepreneur wanting to learn more about business operations
in the island nation.

As more tourism comes to Cuba, that revenue could fuel a change in
thinking. Currently, the Cuban government and the Communist Party
strictly prefers that Western business practices stay away from the
island. But with an influx of tourism money, that could change,
especially if Cuba uses this money to build out infrastructure.

While it might be easier now (though still an arduous process) to travel
to Cuba as a tourist, it does not seem that the land is totally open for
business yet.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not
those of Inc.com.

PUBLISHED ON: JUN 5, 2017

Source: Should US Entrepreneurs Make Their Way to Cuba? | Inc.com -
https://www.inc.com/james-paine/should-us-entrepreneurs-make-their-way-to-cuba.html Continue reading
Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real
As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.
Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News Jun 5, 2017

It was 20 years ago when I first reported on the state of LGBT life in
Cuba, and the differences between then and now could not be more apparent.

Start with the procedure to arrange my travel to the island nation. In
1997, as an out LGBT journalist, I received no assistance from the U.S.
government — except the warning that I could have trouble re-entering
the United States, since the U.S. government might not recognize LGBT
reporters as legitimate journalists.

As for Cuba, its embassy refused to return calls.

As with most Cuba-bound Americans, I had to travel via Mexico and
arrange hotel and other necessities through third- and fourth-party
connections. At times, it was almost cloak-and-dagger.

Today, travel protocols made my arrangements vastly easier than 20 years
ago. The Cuban Embassy not only sped up my visa, it arranged for me to
have official Cuban press credentials, which it also did for other U.S.
LGBT media on the same trip.

That ease of entry symbolizes Cuba's attempt to open its society — and
go after the lucrative LGBT tourism market.

My trip could not have been timed better, since Cuba was about to
commemorate the 10th annual International Day Against Homophobia and
Transphobia, spearheaded in the country by the Cuban National Center for
Sex Education. CENESEX is headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of the
current president of Cuba and niece to its former president, Fidel Castro.

Understanding religion's role
My first evening's dinner was spent with an old friend and U.S. gay
pioneer, the Rev. Troy Perry of the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan
Community Church, who was scheduled to receive an award from CENESEX.

We dined with members of his Cuban church, whose pastor is Elaine
Saralegui, an out lesbian from Matanzas, Cuba. Their work holds a mirror
up to the religious complexity of the Cuban people.

The Roman Catholic Church estimates that 60–70 percent of Cubans
identify as Catholic, with Protestants — like MCC members — making up
only about 5 percent. Many from both denominations also embrace
practices of the African-Caribbean Santería faith.

As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.

But Perry's church has a distinction: It is the first official
non-government LGBT organization in Cuba. Perry takes pride in stating
that Cuba now becomes the 34th nation with MCC churches.

The distinctions and progress don't end there. Perry says that while the
Catholic Church in Cuba imports its priests from other Latin countries,
all MCC churches will have Cuban-born ministers.

The first is Saralegui, making her the first out lesbian activist in
Cuba. She says, with a grin, that she identifies as an LGBT Christian
activist.

Saralegui was inspired by Perry's work two years ago and asked her
bishop about creating a church for LGBT people. A few disagreements
later, MCC Matanzas — a city that considers itself Cuba's art capital —
became Cuba's first out church.

When she's not tending the church, Saralegui travels the country
performing liturgies for LGBT Cubans and anyone else who wants to hear
her message of inclusion.

"I want our community to be proud," she says with a smile through a
translator.

When I ask her if she's had any issues from members of the LGBT
community about her activism, she smiles broadly and states, "Some don't
believe you can be Christian and gay."

Overcoming Cuba's dark past
Cuba's past often clashes with its present — and the government's
relative embrace of the LGBT community today belies its shameful past.

Meet Luis. Now 74, he survived one of Cuba's labor camps for gay men in
the 1960s. At 16, Luis was taken to a camp, which was apparently
unsurprising since, he smiles and says, "Everyone in my neighborhood
said I was that way." He soon discovered what his time in detention
would comprise: "The second day they yelled and yelled at me, 'Be a man,
be a man.' All day.

"They never hit those of us in the camps; they only spoke at us."

On most days, the men had to sit through what today we'd call
re-programming. "They had signs everywhere: 'The revolution needs men.'
And they kept telling us we had to be men and gay people were not men."
They also heard frequently from the psychologist camp officials brought
in from Havana.

In another attempt at reeducation, the men were put to work.

According to Luis, there were many camps and each held about 120 men.
The hard physical labor was supposed to make one a hard (read: straight)
man.

As to numbers, Luis tells me several thousand gay inmates were housed in
a section of Cuba far from Havana.

Luis is not clear about how he left the camp, but he knows what he did
afterward.

"My old life was no more and I couldn't go home or get work so I went to
the capital," he recalled. "I told them I lost my papers and was given
new papers; they never knew about my past life."

He studied and became a technical draftsman. He found love, and settled
into life.

The government used to deny it had such camps, but before his death,
Fidel Castro admitted it and apologized. Luis, a short, jovial man,
wanted a personal apology and he eventually received it from another
Castro — CENESEX's Mariela.

When I ask what he thinks the future holds for Cuba's LGBT community, he
shrugs and says he's "hopeful." He wants people not to forget their
history, but he doesn't want that connection to the past to impede progress.

It's a hard line he walks, but he does it with a joyous style.

A couple of days later I watched him dancing at the CENESEX rally, doing
a rhumba with his friends. Luis was enjoying life and its new freedoms,
but never letting go of those memories of a different time.

Nascent LGBT tourism industry
The reality is that you can't judge Cuba on its treatment of LGBT people
in the past. Louis wants to live for today, and in today's Cuba, at
least for the LGBT community, things have changed.

My tour guide, Leandro Velazco, says of LGBT tourism: "We have bars,
nightly 'inclusion' parties, a couple of good restaurants, a state-run
LGBT organization, occasional festivals and even Grindr." When I look
quizzically at him, he tells me about something called Planet Romeo,
which he said was the first LGBT social-networking site to hit Cuba
several years ago. His business, GaytoursHavana.com, like many in Cuba,
is adjusting to the internet, hoping that the promise of LGBT tourism in
Cuba becomes a reality.

I thought of that as I marched in the International Day Against
Homophobia and Transphobia rally, along with almost 1,000 Cubans. They
shouted socialist slogans peppered with "End Homophobia and Transphobia
Now." There were no corporate sponsors, and it looked more like a gay
Pride celebration than a march of defiance. At the rally, there were a
few speeches and then a dance and festival. CENESEX used the event for
HIV education, condom distribution and testing.

There's no question Cuba wants to get into the gay tourism game. There
are at least four LGBT tour-guide sites on the web and numerous
individuals and travel groups in the United States who specialize in
LGBT Cuban tourism.

Cuba is home to great weather, beaches, mountains, incredible colonial
architecture and some of the most hospitable people you'll ever meet. It
also sometimes seems the country is in a time capsule.

That can be a curse or a charm.

The old Buicks and Chevys are an example. They're charming, but their
prevalence reminds visitors that new cars are out of reach for many
Cubans — although that has begun to change, as has the hospitality
industry, which languished for years. On the way to the airport, you
notice parking lots full of new taxis and tour buses waiting for the
explosion of tourists.

Cubans call their country "The Pearl of the Caribbean," but that pearl
is still trapped by the U.S. embargo. It's a touchy subject here — some
claim the embargo is keeping this country in economic turmoil, while
others say it is the government's political repression that stifles Cuba.

Either way, it wreaks havoc on tourism. There is not one place in all of
Cuba that you can use an American credit card. Therefore, cash is a
requirement. How many Americans want to travel with a wad of cash in
their pockets?

Still, Cubans themselves say they want change — and no longer to feel
like pawns of two governments.

This article originally appeared in Phildelphia Gay News.

Source: Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real | Lifestyle |
wisconsingazette.com -
http://www.wisconsingazette.com/lifestyle/cuba-then-and-now-lgbt-progress-is-real/article_7c2376dc-4a0c-11e7-8414-37ec2768a301.html Continue reading
Geingob calls for removal of U.S. trade embargo on Cuba
June 6, 2017
Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-President Hage Geingob says there is much ground to cover to
ensure the complete lifting of the United States of America's long
running economic and trade blockade against Cuba.

Geingob made the remarks yesterday during the commencement of the 5th
Continental African Conference in Solidarity with Cuba, where about 174
delegates, including several Cuban nationals, were gathered.

He said Africa would continue to support the people of Cuba until the
world sees the total elimination of existing economic and commercial
barriers, noting that some progress had been made, particularly
following the release of the Cuban Five (who were held in the U.S. on
dubious espionage charges), but said it was necessary that the U.S. lift
its economic and trade embargo of Cuba.

"We applaud the positive developments in this respect and commend the
governments of Cuba and the U.S. for their efforts… We salute the people
of Cuba for the fortitude that they have maintained throughout the
years, never compromising on their principles while facing economic
injustice," he stated.

The conference aims to strengthen bonds of friendship between the people
of Cuba and progressive peoples of the world by recognising the
important work done by them in solidarity and support of Cuba.

The three-day conference further aims to galvanise international
solidarity organisations to demand the lifting of the economic,
financial and trade blockade against Cuba, and the restoration of the
territory illegally occupied by the U.S. as a naval base at Guantanamo
Bay where the infamous Guantanamo Prison is based, as two of the main
obstacles to the island's development.

Andima Toivo Ya Toivo, patron of the Namibia-Cuba Friendship
Association, said he looked forward to discussions on how the two
countries can jointly help bring an end to the economic blockade and the
return of Guantanamo Bay to the people of Cuba.

The conference also aims to strategise collectively and to strengthen
solidarity movements with Cuba, as well as Cuban solidarity with Africa,
in light of the importance of utilising social and alternative media to
spread news of the reality of Cuban social, political and economic life.

It also aims to highlight and promote the legacy of late Commandant
Fidel Castro, who from Havana spearheaded the Cuban forces in the famous
and decisive Battle of Cuito Cuanevale in Angola in the late 1980s – the
largest battle on African soil since the Seoncd World War – which led to
the military defeat of the South African regime, opening up the
prospects for Namibian independence and the end of apartheid rule in
South Africa.

Geingob said the continent of Africa and Cuba continue to enjoy
fraternal relations. This, he added, needs to translate into strong
meaningful commercial and trade relations.

Further, he said Africans still face major challenges related to
economic development, external debt, the global economic downturn,
rampant poverty, as well as the HIV/Aids pandemic.

"We all agree that our aim should be to achieve sufficient levels of
sustainable economic development in order to eradicate poverty in our
societies. We must take bold and concrete actions aimed at promoting
South-South cooperation at all levels in areas, such as investment,
trade, technology exchange for agricultural production and
manufacturing, as well as human resources development," he argued.

In this way, he said, Africans would improve their productive capacities
for economic growth and competiveness in the global market.

Fernando Gonzalez, the president of the Cuban Institute of Friendship
with the Peoples (ICAP) and one of the Cuban Five, highlighted the
friendship between the two countries that dates back to the days when
Cuba assisted Namibia during its liberation struggle.

Gonzalez condemned acts of terror being committed against African and
Middle East nations and thanked Namibian leaders, particularly President
Geingob and the two former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye
Pohamba, for their sympathy and support following Castro's death on
November 29, 2016.

A moment of silence was observed by the conference attendants in honour
of the late Cuban leader.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah
said Africa is not foreign to Cubans, noting that many Cubans are today
providing essential services in various countries in Africa, including
Namibia.

Source: Geingob calls for removal of U.S. trade embargo on Cuba | New
Era Newspaper Namibia -
https://www.newera.com.na/2017/06/06/geingob-calls-for-removal-of-u-s-trade-embargo-on-cuba/ Continue reading
Senators introduce The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017
The legislation repeals the Cuban trade embargo.
Jun 06, 2017

A bipartisan coalition of senators have introduced legislation, The
Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017, to eliminate legal barriers for
Americans doing business in Cuba.

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patrick Leahy
(D-VT), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) led the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers
who introduced the legislation to lift the Cuban trade embargo.

The legislation repeals key provisions of previous laws that block
Americans from doing business in Cuba, but does not repeal portions of
law that address human rights or property claims against the Cuban
government.

"For far too long, U.S.-Cuba policy has been defined by the conflicts of
the past instead of the realities of today and the possibilities for the
future," Klobuchar said. "More than 50 years of isolating an island just
90 miles from our border has not secured our interests and has
disadvantaged American business owners and farmers. This bipartisan
legislation would benefit the people of both our countries by boosting
American exports and creating opportunity for the Cuban people. We need
to turn the page on the failed policy of isolation and build on the
progress we have made to open up engagement with Cuba by ending the
embargo once and for all."

"Over the last 50 years, our strategy of isolating Cuba hasn't been very
successful," Enzi said. "This bipartisan legislation would lift the
travel restriction to Cuba, providing new opportunities for American
businesses, farmers and ranchers. But trade is very powerful. It can be
more than just the flow of goods, but also the flow of ideas – ideas of
freedom and democracy are the keys to positive change in any nation. It
is time we moved on from the failed ideas of the past and tried a new
approach to Cuba."

"Decades after the end of the Cold War we continue to impose punitive
sanctions against Cuba, a tiny island neighbor that poses no threat to
us," said Leahy. After more than half a century, the embargo has
achieved none of its objectives. President Obama took a courageous and
pragmatic step in opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. It is now up
to Congress to end the embargo, which is used by the Cuban government to
justify its repressive policies, and by foreign companies to avoid
competing with U.S. businesses that are shut out of the market. Lifting
the embargo will put more food on the plates of the Cuban people, allow
them to access quality U.S. products, and spur reforms in Cuba's
economy, all while benefiting American companies."

"While there are no guarantees, engaging with Cuba economically is more
likely to nudge Cuba toward democracy than a half century of trying to
isolate the island," Flake said. "It's long past time we move ahead."

Cuba relies on agriculture imports to feed the 11 million people who
live on Cuba and the 3.5 million tourists who visit each year. This
represents a $2 billion opportunity for American farmers annually. The
Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017 repeals the original 1961
authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that
required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that
prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba,
and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.

Source: Sen. Mike Enzi

Source: Senators introduce The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act of 2017 -
http://www.wallacesfarmer.com/farm-policy/senators-introduce-freedom-export-cuba-act-2017 Continue reading
Major increase in HIV infections in Jamaica, Cuba – UN Envoy
By STAFF WRITER June 5, 2017

(Jamaica Gleaner) UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS to the Caribbean, Dr
Edward Greene, has revealed that Jamaica and Cuba are among the two
countries in the region which have seen major increases in HIV infections.
Speaking at the recent Regional Testing Day 10th Anniversary Caribbean
Launch Breakfast and Awards in Bridgetown, Barbados, Greene said after
10 years of decline in the prevalence rate, the Caribbean
has experienced a nine per cent increase in new HIV infections. He says
the rate places the region second to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
He says infection rates have increased among older groups within the
population, while progress in stopping new infections has also stalled
among adults.
Greene says Jamaica has an HIV prevalence rate of 1.6 per cent of the
population with the lowest coverage of treatment for people with
AIDS. Only 32 per cent of people living with AIDS are receiving
treatment in Jamaica. Cuba has the highest coverage with 67 per cent.
The UN envoy on HIV/AIDS says the region has become complacent. He says
although there has been significant success in reducing the number of
HIV/AIDS related infections and deaths, and increases in the numbers of
persons receiving treatment, infections are increasing.
He says reduced funding from donor agencies; a reduction in Governmental
support and a lack of adherence to treatment, which can all lead to
serious reversals in the gains already made in the fight against HIV and
AIDS, may be reasons for the region's complacency.

Source: Major increase in HIV infections in Jamaica, Cuba - UN Envoy -
Stabroek News -
https://www.stabroeknews.com/2017/news/regional/06/05/major-increase-hiv-infections-jamaica-cuba-un-envoy/ Continue reading
The miracle of marabú, Cuba's wonderful weed
A nuisance that can be used to light barbecues and generate electricity
Jun 1st 2017 | HAVANA

THE peskiest weed in Cuba sprouts a charming flower. Pink and wispy,
with a bushy yellow tail, it looks like a cross between a Chinese
lantern and a Muppet. Marabú, as Cubans call the leguminous tree, covers
2m hectares, about 18% of the country's territory. It spread unchecked
during the "special period" of the 1990s, when the Soviet Union stopped
subsidising Cuba and farms fell into disuse. Uprooting it is
time-consuming and labour-intensive.
Recently, though, Cubans have begun to view marabú as an asset rather
than an irritant. Since 2009 Cuba has exported 40,000-80,000 tonnes a
year of "artisanal charcoal" made from marabú, which is used for firing
up hookahs in the Middle East and pizza ovens in Italy. That could rise
after the United States in January approved marabú as the first legal
import from Cuba in more than 50 years. There it will compete
head-to-head with mesquite to fuel American barbecues.

Some businessmen have bigger ambitions for marabú. Three tonnes of the
stuff can produce as much electricity as a tonne of fuel oil, a
commodity in short supply. Havana Energy, an Anglo-Chinese firm, has
entered a joint venture with Azcuba, a state-owned company, to build
five generators. Built next to sugar mills, they will be powered by a
mix of marabú and bagasse, the residue of crushed sugar cane. Andrew
Macdonald, Havana Energy's boss, calls the marabú fields "outdoor mines".
Heated in a process called "thermal pyrolysis", marabú can become
"activated carbon", which is used for such purposes as filtering water
and decaffeinating coffee. In this form, it can fetch prices of up to
$2,400 a tonne, around five times its value as a barbecue fuel.
Donald Trump is considering whether and by how much to reverse the
opening to Cuba that took place under Barack Obama. It is not clear
whether marabú will remain the only item on the United States' list of
approved imports, whether it will be struck off or whether new products
will be added, such as organic honey, which costs even more per tonne
than activated carbon. Whatever Mr Trump decides, there is demand for
the Muppet-flowered weed. Cuba has the makings of a maraboom.

Source: Maraboom: The miracle of marabú, Cuba's wonderful weed | The
Economist -
http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21722896-nuisance-can-be-used-light-barbecues-and-generate-electricity-miracle-marab Continue reading
Manzana Kempinski: Luxury Alongside Ruin
ADRIANA ZAMORA | La Habana | 6 de Junio de 2017 - 13:09 CEST.

A few days after its opening, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski hotel has
already welcomed its first guests, though the official opening is
scheduled for June 7 and 8, according to workers at the establishment.

"You can book right here, in person, or online," explains one of the
employees, dressed in red and black. "Payment may be in cash or by
credit card."

Unsurprisingly, most Cubans cannot even dream of staying at the hotel,
where the cheapest room costs more than 400 CUC per night and, the most
expensive, more than 1,300.

But, according to Elsa, a Tourism worker, the prices are not as high as
she expected.

"If you take a close look, the difference is not that great, relative to
other hotels," he says. "At others, like the Telégrafo, across from it,
or any of those in Old Havana, a double room costs almost 300 CUC. It's
almost the same, but the Manzana has a level of luxury that the others
do not."

Luisa, a State worker, sees things from another perspective: "When I
can't even afford oil for the month, you can imagine that, for me, that
hotel is like a museum," she says.

Havana residents had been making similar comments for a few days, as
soon as they opened the stores located on the first floor of the hotel.

"Quick, go buy a hair dye at the perfumery," joked a girl. "They cost a
bit over three CUC, and that's the only thing that you will be able to
buy in those stores, ever."

In front of the store called Malecón, a woman explains to two Asian
tourists: "It's for foreigners with money, because very few Cubans can
afford to buy anything here."

It could be said that no ordinary Cuban will have access to the products
at Malecón, where the Prada high heel sandals cost 1,119.95 CUC, and the
cheapest item sold are Valentino coin purses, for 37 CUC each.

In Casa Blanca, the perfumery, it is true that the only thing that a
Cuban woman could ever buy is the aforementioned coloring, but no one is
deceived into thinking that throngs of women customers will ever be
showing up to buy things like the perfume at the counter (Sí, by Giorgio
Armani, for 131.95 CUC), or Moschino sunglasses, for 83.95.

The Fotoestilo store is like a museum for products that Cubans cannot
have. Apart from a few "ornaments" featuring a photo of Che (the only
even remote allusion to Communism in the whole hotel), the prices of the
rooms and the accessories sold there reserve them for Cubans' dreams.
The cheapest is a Nikon, at 1,672 CUC, and the most expensive, a Leica
that costs 8,180 CUC, more than some houses in the country.

"With that kind of money I could buy a little place and solve my
problem," says a man staring at a Canon that costs 7,524 CUC.

At the L'Occitane en Provence store a 50-ml cream costs 47 CUC, and
nothing at Lacoste costs less than 50.

"Someone might buy something, but most come to gawk," admits the clerk
at one of the stores. "There have been a lot of people here who feel
insulted by the prices, and mention that to build this there is money,
but to fix their houses, there is nothing."

An area in ruins

One block away from the brand-new Manzana Kempinski hotel, on the back
wall of the shabby Payret cinema, a work of graffiti protests the state
of Havana's homes: it consists of a little house, drawn in the style of
children, but upside down, a condemnation of the precarious conditions
under which Cubans live.

"In Old Havana there are a lot of houses falling apart," says Vivian, a
resident of San Isidro. "Not only in my neighborhood, which is further
away from the hotel, but also close-by. The house right next door,
across from Albear Park, is a sorry sight."

On the occasion of the hotel's opening, the surrounding parks have
undergone changes. In Central Park trees and vegetation were removed as
if they were a nuisance. The small Albear Park, by Obispo, was uprooted.
Not only were the trees under which Havanans sat to connect to the
Floridita's Wi-Fi torn out, but the sidewalks and the walls of the
flower beds are also being changed.

"The trees were rotting," explained a worker from Puerto Carena. "We're
going to fix everything and plant new one."

Transit in the area has also been modified. The bus stops were
eliminated in Central Park, along with the private taxi pick-up point in
Alamar, which had been there for years. Now no vehicle, State or
private, can park to drop off passengers.

The number of policemen in the area has increased. There are more not
only on Obispo and O'Reilly, but you can even see a PNR truck parked
permanently in front of Albear Park.

This whole effort made to upgrade the area surrounding the hotel has not
extended to the dwellings of Havana residents, who continue to suffer
the same construction-related problems as always.

On the same side of Albear Park, the building that is right across from
the hotel's balconies has the same precarious latticework of bricks and
derelict balconies. And it is not uncommon to find debris and trash of
all kinds on the sidewalk.

What Manzana Kempiski guests will encounter when they go for a walk is
going to completely clash with the luxury they find in their rooms.

"There are historic buildings here, like that of the old Ministry of
Public Works, of which only the façade remains," says Yunior, an Old
Havana resident. "There are buildings that still have marble stairs,
surrounded by ruins. Others have been waiting for repairs from the
Historian's Office for years, but even their braces are bending, it's
been so long."

Many buildings have weeds growing on their facades, and no roofs over
their rooms. Others have been covered up to conceal their ruinous state.

Large numbers of residents live in danger, as their homes may collapse.
Some, such as those at Villegas 5, have seen their roofs fall. Only then
did the authorities take an interest in their situation.

"The problem is not that new hotels are built. That could be a very good
thing," says Elvira, a retired university professor. "The problem is
that investments are not made with a global approach, but rather a
linear one. What they earn there, they use to build new hotels, never
for social projects. That is why there is such a great gulf between the
development of tourism and Cuban society."

"No one cares about our houses," laments another Old Havana resident.
"They are run-down, but that is part of the folklore they sell to the
foreigners. It's the same with the tumbledown bars that still accept
Cuban pesos, the taverns, and even the pharmacies."

In general, when the people of Old Havana are asked about the new hotel,
they respond with a grimace of displeasure. And it is not an expression
aimed at foreign investors, but rather a Government that rakes in money
that everyday Cubans never see the fruits of.

"Everyone knows that these ultra-expensive stores are not owned by the
hotel," says Yaimara, a pre-university student walking around the
Malecón store with some friends. "They all belong to CIMEX, and that
means the State."

This information is confirmed by the clerks themselves: "We are State
workers like all the others, and they pay us in Cuban pesos, the same
pittance as everyone else," said an employee who asked not to be identified.

Even the passers-by walking the streets of Havana identify the luxurious
hotel as one more work of the Government's.

"This is an achievement of the Revolution," sneers a man in the little
square separating the Manzana Kempinski and Museum of Fine Arts. "First
they turned the barracks into schools, and now the schools, into
five-star hotels."

One of those crazy Havanans who travel around the city, shabbily dressed
and laden with bags full of random goods, spots some tourists taking
pictures of the building and asks them, "What, taking pictures of
Castro's hotel?"

Source: Manzana Kempinski: Luxury Alongside Ruin | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1496747346_31672.html Continue reading
'Rotten paintwork and the smell of cheap aftershave' await visitors to
Havana's new luxury hotel
Claire Wrathall•The Telegraph
June 5, 2017

Given the extent to which the US began last year to make it easier for
its citizens to visit Cuba, it was only a matter of time before
mainstream luxury brands turned their attention to Havana. Starwood, for
example, has announced it will be adding the Hotel Inglaterra
(established 1875) to its Luxury Collection at the end of 2019 and has
already opened a Four Points by Sheraton, one of its less exalted
brands, in the city's Miramar district.

In terms of a proper grande dame though, Kempinski, which prides itself
on being "Europe's oldest luxury hotel group" and celebrates its 120th
anniversary this year, has beaten them to it. Its Gran Hotel Manzana
Kempinski La Habana is already accepting reservations and opens its
doors on June 9.

It's an unlikely fit, somehow, that the Geneva-based operators of the
stately, staid and slightly stuffy Adlon in Berlin and the excessively
blingtastic Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi should be opening in a
crumbling city where the average wage is less than £25 a month.
Certainly they would seem to be doing what they can to temper
expectations of its Old Havana location, a block east of Paseo de Martí
and El Capitolio, Cuba's answer to the Capital in Washington, and a
15-minute walk from the Malecon, the five-mile esplanade that runs along
the Gulf coast.

Take this, headlined Welcome to Havana, from the hotel's website: "Close
your eyes for a moment and imagine you are there. Waves crashing against
a mildewed sea wall; a young couple cavorting in a dark, dilapidated
alley; sunlight slanting across rotten peeling paintwork; a handsome
youth in a guayabera shirt leaning against a Lada; the smell of diesel
fumes and cheap aftershave; tourists with Hemingway beards…"

But it's stranger still, somehow, that a management company
substantially owned by Thailand's Crown Property Bureau, which manages
the Thai royal family's wealth and assets, should have been engaged to
manage a building that belongs to Gaviota, the tourism arm of communist
Cuba's army, which owns 67 hotels on the island and is headed by General
Luis Perez Rospide.

That said, the venerable Gran Hotel Manzana retains a certain majesty,
having been built at the turn of the last century as part of the city's
first European-style shopping arcade, which has itself just been brought
back to life and is now home to the Cuban outposts of Armani Jeans,
Giorgio Gucci's Giorgio G VIP, Lacoste, Montblanc, L'Occitane and
Versace, among other brands. Though not yet Chanel, even if Karl
Lagerfeld brought its 2017 cruise and resortwear collection to Havana
for a runway show on Paseo del Prado, the street that divides the old
and new parts of town earlier this month.

As to the revamped hotel, its décor has been contrived to signal
opulence, what with the Louis Quinze-inspired furniture and
Schiaparelli-pink accents one finds in its 246 bedrooms and suites.
There's a rooftop swimming pool and terrace, a spa, a lobby bar and,
inevitably, a cigar lounge, as well as a restaurant, Confluencia, that
has sensibly taken its inspiration from the nation's paladares, the
small independent restaurants run by locals, often out of their front
rooms, and not the state-sanctioned hotel restaurants that have blighted
so many holidays.

Wi-fi and high-speed internet access – still not a given in Cuba – will
be available in the rooms (though as is the case everywhere here, it
will be charged for). And for the moment at least, it will be in a class
of its own.

Doubles at Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana​ start from US$330 (£255).

Source: 'Rotten paintwork and the smell of cheap aftershave' await
visitors to Havana's new luxury hotel -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/gran-hotel-manzana-kempinski-la-132432568.html Continue reading
The Cuban Parliament Closes Ranks Around Nicolás Maduro

14ymedio, Havana, 1 June 2017 — A statement of support for "the people
and the Government of Venezuela" came at the last minute in the
extraordinary session of the Cuban Parliament this Thursday and was
unanimously approved. The text salutes "the constant calls for dialogue"
made by President Nicolás Maduro.

Deputy Yoerkis Sánchez, a member of the parliamentary group of
friendship with the South American country, presented the statement
denouncing "the serious escalation of internal violence and
international intervention that has destabilized" Venezuela.

The document criticizes harshly the role of "the media of the oligarchy
that distort the reality of the achievements of the Bolivarian
Revolution." An informative line that supposedly hides "the barbaric
coup of the right, including the murder of young people."

The members of the National Assembly had hard words for the Organization
of American States (OAS) and its secretary general Luis Almagro, who
they accused of "double standards." According to the document, the
entity seeks to "surround and overthrow the government of Nicolás
Maduro, while silencing other serious manifestations of violence and the
breakdown of democracy in other countries of the region."

Criticism against the OAS comes within hours of the organization's
foreign ministers failing to agree on a statement on the Venezuelan
crisis on Wednesday and setting another meeting before the June General
Assembly in Cancun.

The Cuban deputies called for "the cessation of any intervention in the
internal affairs of Venezuela" and invoked "respect for the
determination of its people and their right to build the model of
society it determines."

The statement included a call to the legislators of the world to show
solidarity with the South American country.

Since the protests began two months ago, there have been marches
convened by the opposition against Maduro's government, which have
resulted in at least 59 deaths. There have also been 2,977 arrests, of
which 197 were ordered by military courts, according to the Venezuelan
NGO Penal Forum.

Source: The Cuban Parliament Closes Ranks Around Nicolás Maduro –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-parliament-closes-ranks-around-nicolas-maduro/ Continue reading
Autonomy of Cuban Dissidents Will Always Be Beneficial / Iván García

Iván García, 1 June 2017– The majority of the openly anti-Castro
opponents I know do not live in lavish mansions nor do they possess
items fashioned with the latest technology. Neither do they boast bank
accounts in financial paradises and they do not own yachts or beach
houses. I don't believe any of them know how to play golf or can afford
a vacation on a Greek island.

Those luxuries are reserved for the hierarchs of the olive green regime.
Those who sing The Internationale, compose speeches replete with
declarations on behalf of social justice and poverty, but who wear
designer-label clothing, use French perfumes and employ household servants.

The national prosecutor's office will never open a file on the Cuban
functionaries involved in the Panama Papers. No state office exists
where the average Cuban citizen can learn how public monies are spent or
invested. The nomenklatura lives and performs its functions with total
impunity.

That leadership style of never being accountable, which has taken root
inside the olive green autocracy, has in a certain way been imitated by
the opposition on the Island. Most certainly, it is a harmful style.

Corruption, and its variants such as nepotism and influence peddling,
has permeated a significant sector of the dissident movement. There is
no transparency regarding the funding and materials they receive.

Some opponents behave with dictatorial arrogance and manage their
organization as if it were a family business.

One needs money to live. And it doesn't fall from the sky. The ideal
would be that the opposition obtains money through local financing
mechanisms. But Cuba under the Castros is a genuine dictatorship.

Those on the Island who declare themselves dissidents, if they work or
study, are expelled from their workplaces or schools. And even were they
employed, because of the financial distortions caused by the country's
dual currency system and low wages, they would be unable to sustain
their organizations. Prior to 1959* political parties supported
themselves with membership dues and donations from sympathizers and
anonymous supporters.

To make political opposition and free journalism, to maintain offices
for independent lawyers or for any civil society organization, requires
funds. How to obtain them?

There are foreign private foundations that award grants to approved
projects. Government institutions in first-world democratic societies
also provide aid.

Is this lawful? Yes. But for the Castro regime, it is illegal and you
could be prosecuted under the anachronistic Ley Mordaza [Gag Law] in
force since February 1999. If the nation's laws prohibit obtaining funds
from other countries to finance political, journalistic, or other types
of activities, Cuba in this case should be able to count on banking
mechanisms to enable to transmission of resources.

But the opposition on the Island is illegal. The dissident movement has
almost always been financed by institutions or foundations based in the
US, which is not illegal in that country and is publicly reported.

I am not against receiving money from US government institutions, as
long as it can be justified by by the work performed. In the case of
journalism, reporting for the Voice of America, Radio Martí, the BBC,
and Spain's RNE Radio Exterior is not a crime–except in Cuba, North
Korea or perhaps in China and Vietnam.

Any funding from abroad is financed by that country's taxpayers. In the
case of political or journalistic activities, the ideal would be to
receive monies from journalistic foundations and citizens or enterprises.

An important part of the opposition's economic support has come from the
US State Department or other federal institutions. Those local
opposition groups who believe this to be ethical and a lawful way to
obtain funds should therefore be transparent in their management.

Yet 95 per cent of them do not account for those monies nor do they
publish reports about them. Most of the time, the members of these
groups do not know how the funds received are managed. By and large they
are administered by the individual at the head of the opposition group.

They justify this secrecy with the pretext, at times well-founded, that
they are keeping this information from reaching the ears of the State
Security cowboys, who act like 21st Century pirates and confiscate money
and goods without due process of law.

However, and this is regrettable to say, that opacity in managing
collective resources is the embryo of corrupt behaviors within the Cuban
opposition. Within the majority of dissident organizations, whatever
they may be called, such absence of managerial accountability and
transparency leads some dissidents to skim money and goods that do not
belong to them, or to appropriate a portion.

These organizations, with their erratic performance, hand over on a
silver platter enough information for the counterintelligence to sow
division and create interpersonal conflicts inside the dissident movement.

How to stamp out these corrupt and nefarious practices, which not only
defame the dissident movement, but also set a bad precedent for a future
democracy? Can you imagine one of those current venal opponents tomorrow
becoming a State minister or functionary? The most reasonable way to nip
this phenomenon in the bud is through practicing transparency.

This could take the form of quarterly or annual reports. For example,
the reporters of Periodismo de Barrio [Neighborhood Journalism], led
by Elaine Díaz, keep a running budget on their web page of receipts and
expenditures.

The Trump administration's measure to drastically cut aid to the Cuban
opposition, more than being harmful, signifies a new way forward that
will require the development of new funding models.

Besides, this will provide greater autonomy and credibility. And it
might bury once and for all that very questionable mentality of seeking
solutions to Cuba's problems through mechanisms sponsored by other
governments.

The interests of the US are their interests. They are not necessarily
our interests. Of course, that nation's solidarity and also the European
Union's, is a support at the hour of denouncing the lack of political
freedoms and the Cuban regime's human rights violations.

But that's where it ends. The money needed to carry out political
projects under the harsh conditions of absurd tropical socialism should
be provided by those Cubans in exile who are concerned about the future
of their homeland. Money from their own pockets. Not from a foreign
government. And if they believe that to enroll in a cause that is not
their affair or doesn't interest them is not a smart investment, they
are within their legitimate rights to not donate even a penny.

Cuba's problems are for Cubans, those at home and abroad, to resolve.
Not for anybody else.

Our society's modernization and the future we design for ourselves is
our problem and we should resolve it with creativity, greater humility
and more unity of judgment.

Perhaps the Cuban opposition will end up being grateful to Donald Trump
for cutting millions in funds of which few knew the ultimate
destination. Believe me, it is always better to be as independent as
possible.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

*Translator's Note: Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces overthrew the
government of dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day, 1959.

Source: Autonomy of Cuban Dissidents Will Always Be Beneficial / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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Cuba, Pensioners and Respect for the Law
May 29, 2017
Jimmy Roque Martinez

HAVANA TIMES — Some people usually sell goods on Tulipan Street, in the
Revolution Square municipality, just like they do in almost every
neighborhood throughout the country. Generally-speaking, these are
industrial and/or craft goods, and the people selling them are people
aged 65 years old and over, many of whom have already retired.

I have seen policemen, along with inspectors, fining these street
vendors on many occasions, and there is almost always a particular
policeman who is tall and imposing in manner.

Not too long ago, I witnessed how this policeman, this time dressed as a
civilian, fined an old lady, with the help of two inspectors. Minutes
later, they took her merchandise to a police truck that was parked nearby.

That's when I made my way towards them and asked where the goods that
had been taken off sellers, who had already received fines, would go.

Of course, the plain clothes policeman asked who I was, before answering
that the goods are kept in inspector warehouses and are then used to
replenish stock at stores or markets, depending on the item in question.

That's when I asked if it would be possible to corroborate the fact that
this mechanism works properly, as it is common knowledge that policemen
and inspectors pocket confiscated goods for themselves a lot of the time.

The plain clothes policeman told me that he wasn't obliged to give me
any explanations, and that he only needs to answer to the Ministry of
Interior and State Security, trying to void my right to question him.

During our conversation, the policeman showed me his identification to
show me that he really was a policeman, while the two women who were
accompanying him did the same and identified themselves as inspectors.

Every public authority should be obliged to give any citizen
explanations and report back whenever a citizen asks them to; but we
already know that talking about rights in Cuba is extremely suspicious.

If Cuba was really a socialist country, if its modes of production
really were the peoples, then they would be compelled to give account
for their management; but because that isn't the case, the only thing
that is promoted here is that corruption spreads and grows in every sector.

It's a well-known fact that salaries here in Cuba aren't enough for
people to live a dignified life and that pensions for civilians are
measly, while the cost of living is becoming more and more expensive.

One of the causes (among many others) is the fact that we are still
keeping an army up and running and such a large police force, without
them having any real work to do, who are used to confiscate lighters and
cigarette packs from old people on the streets of this city because they
have no real military maneuvers to do.

We need to fight for our civil rights and for citizen control so as to
put an end to corruption and the privileges that the Cuban military and
political elite enjoy.

Source: Cuba, Pensioners and Respect for the Law - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=125462 Continue reading
A Tough 5-Years Since Hurricane Sandy Hit Eastern Cuba
May 31, 2017
Rosa Martinez

HAVANA TIMES — It is truly difficult to make any project come to light
on my beloved island. The self-employed know this well enough, those who
began a long time ago and those who have started up their own businesses
right now. Likewise, those who decide to build their homes by themselves
can't get everything they need even with cash in hand.

However, we ordinary Cubans are the ones who suffer the most, because we
can barely live on our super low salaries; much less get involved in
another business.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, which almost destroyed Santiago
de Cuba and caused severe damage in the other eastern provinces
including Guantanamo, and left my house trembling as it nearly tore off
the roof all of a sudden, we haven't been able to take a break.

The most urgent thing we had to do, which was clearly the first thing we
had to do, was to repair the roof, which we luckily received government
support for as the State put up half of the money for materials –
fibreglass tiles, nails, cement – and also allowed us to pay the rest
back in installments, via the Bank, which we are still paying.

Later, we found ourselves forced to buy a rice cooker, plates, cutlery
and glasses, among other things, as the kitchen had collapsed and nearly
all of the glass kitchenware and other kinds of kitchenware were
destroyed when the roof fell through.

We also bought a new mattress, because no matter how much we tried to
fix the one that had got wet in the middle of that terrible disaster,
there wasn't anyone who could get rid of the awful smell that was
brought on by the damp, not to mention that we had been told that even
though it might seem dry, it might have bugs.

It has been a long five years of many shortages, more than one loan from
the bank, "inventing" on the side to try and collect a bit of money, and
the worse thing is that we still have so many things we need to take
care of.

I would say it has been a grey five-year period, not to say black. Only
my family and I, especially the girls, know how much we have had to
sacrifice in order to make a little bit of progress. Weekends stuck at
home, entire holidays without going on holiday; clothes and shoes, only
when we have no other choice; even our diets have been affected in one
way or another.

It was an extremely hard five years, but it's over now. My husband and I
have said that we WON'T make any more extreme sacrifices; we'll fix
whatever needs to be improved or changed gradually over time. However, I
have to ask myself, if it took us five long years to do just a little
bit with the rope so tight that we almost strangled ourselves, how much
more time has to pass before my family and I can live the dignified life
we deserve!

Source: A Tough 5-Years Since Hurricane Sandy Hit Eastern Cuba - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=125516 Continue reading
Cuba Recognizes Private Businesses
June 2, 2017
"Calling things by their proper name"
By Guillermo Nova (dpa)

HAVANA TIMES — While some Cuban officials fear that economic reforms
mean that capitalism will return to the island, Parliament has taken
heed of president Raul Castro about "calling things by their proper
name" and has legalized what is already a reality: the existence of
small private businesses, which have been operating in a legal limbo up
until now.

The discussion about private companies marked the 7th Cuban Communist
party congress (PCC) which took place in April 2016, but back then, the
over 1000 legislators who took part couldn't reach a consensus about the
documents that would define the socialist model in Cuba.

The "Conceptualization of Cuba's Social and Economic model of
Development", as well as the "Guidelines for the Political Party and the
Revolution for the time period 2016-2021", are the documents that will
define the social, economic and political future of this country,
according to the Government.

At that time, the Cuban president asked Parliament to leave "euphemisms"
aside because allowing independent workers to hire their own "workforce"
led to these small private businesses existing in reality, but operating
without the legal framework it needed.

In order to reach an agreement, the Cuban Communist Party continued the
debate and held assemblies where over 1.6 million Cubans took part,
according to what Cuban authorities have reported. These included Party
members and affiliates of organized mass organizations.

After a year of discussions, the subject has finally been closed after
the Cuban Parliament decided to recognize the existence of small private
companies and to give them legal protection.

"The documents approved are programatic efforts which reaffirm the
socialist nature of the Revolution and the role that the Party plays as
the leading force in society and the State," Raul Castro said Thursday
at Parliament, quoted by the Cuban state-owned news agency CAN.

The approved measure is one more step in the economic reforms process
that Castro has been pushing ever since he became president seven years ago.

At the beginning of his presidency, he extended the number of
self-employment licences to 200 different types of work and he also
allowed some cooperatives (non-agricultural) to be created, as before
only agricultural cooperatives were allowed.

According to Cuban authorities, 535,000 self-employed licenses were
requested in 2016, mainly in sectors such as small vehicle drivers,
private room renters or food services.

The Cuban government wants small private companies to focus on the
service sector, while the State keeps hegemonic control of strategic
sectors such as tourism, energy or biotechnology.

One of the concerns that some Cuban officials have is that wealth will
slowly begin to accumulate in individual hands if the small business
sector expands in Cuba.

"The dominant form of management continues to be socialist property with
the basic modes of production belonging to the people," Marino Murillo,
a vice-president and considered to be the "tsar of economic reforms" in
Cuba, assured legislators.

After decades of all economic activity being in State hands, the
slightest prominence of small business here would be considered by the
United States as the seed of capitalism, which would lead to political
reform on the island.

"As your friend, the United States wants to help you," then US president
Barack Obama said when he met with a group of the Cuban self-employed
during his official state visit to the island in March 2016.

A month later, during the conclave of Cuban communists, Raul Castro
warned the Cuban people of US interests.

"We aren't naive, nor are we ignoring the influence of powerful external
forces who are betting on the so-called "empowerment" of non-goverment
management, with the aim to create agents of change in the hope that
they bring about the end of the Revolution and socialism in Cuba,"
stated Raul Castro.

Source: Cuba Recognizes Private Businesses - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=125558 Continue reading
Carmelo Mesa-Lago: "The Cuban Government Panicked After Obama's Visit"

14ymedio, Maité Rico, Madrid, 1 June 12017 — Carmelo Mesa-Lago (born
Havana, 1934) has spent a good part of his life trying to open a breach
of good sense in the wall of absurdities with which that the Castro
regime has ended up plunging into bankruptcy a country that was, in the
1950s, the third most developed in Latin America after Argentina and
Uruguay.

A Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, he
has just presented in Madrid the only study on the private sector in
Cuba (Voices Of Change In The Cuban Non-State Sector, published by
Iberoamericana-Vervuert), based on interviews with 80 self-employed
individuals.

Armed with the best statistical data, this economist views with
perplexity how the economic reforms announced by Raúl Castro in 2010 are
being diluted ("the Government takes one step forward and four steps
back"), and how the country is losing the opportunity that was offered
to it last year by the reestablishment of bilateral relations with the
United States.

It was precisely Barack Obama's outstretched hand that sowed panic in
the Government, which fears that economic openness will lead to
political change. Now there is a brake on the reforms, there are no
investments, and the crisis in Venezuela, which replaced the USSR as
Cuba's economic supporter, has plunged the country into disaster.

Rico: Is Cuba entering a new "Special Period" [a euphemism to describe
the period of hardship that followed the fall of the USSR and the end of
aid to Cuba]?

Mesa-Lago: The situation is similar, but not so dramatic, because the
dependence on the Soviet Union was much greater than that on
Venezuela. That said, the trade volume with Venezuela has dropped
significantly (from 42% to 27% in 2015) and the supply of oil has
declined from 105,000 barrels a day to 55,000.

Cuba sold a part of that oil in the world market, and it was an
important source of income that has also fallen by half. And another
income that has fallen is the most important one: the sale of
professional services (doctors, nurses, teachers) [to foreign
countries], which went from 11 billion dollars in 2013 to 7 billion. In
2015, GDP growth was 4.4%. In 2016, it was minus 0.9%. Everything points
to a very strong crisis, but I do not think it reaches the level of the
Special Period.

Rico. At least, within this parasitic economy, tourism remains.

Mesa-Lago. There is a boom, for the first time they exceeded four
million tourists and took in about 4 billion dollars. The problem is
that this gross income has to be subtracted from the value of imports of
goods and supplies for tourists. Cuba has to import everything. And that
data is no longer published. So it's not 4 billion. It's less, but we do
not know how much.

Rico. Despite the announcement of the investment plan and Obama's trip,
foreign investment has not materialized and the Special Development
Zone in the Port of Mariel, the big Brazilian bet, is quite inactive.

Mesa-Lago. It is inexplicable. Cuba needs [new investments of] at least
$2.5 billion a year. Until last month there were some 450 proposals for
foreign investment, some of them already established in Cuba. And they
have only approved some twenty of them. According to their figures,
since the opening of the Port of Mariel Special Development Zone the
cumulative figure has not reached 2 billion dollars. Why do they do
this? It does not make sense to me.

Rico. But what can Cuba offer, beyond cheap labor? The system of
production is destroyed.

Mesa-Lago. The infrastructure is a disaster. And the workforce, which is
qualified, works extremely slowly. For the construction of the Manzana
hotel, Kempinski brought workers from India because they were more
productive. The problem is that the Cuban worker earns very little and
is paid in Cuban pesos (CUP), and has to buy most things in convertible
currency (CUC), and they can't support themselves. There is no
incentive, and it is a vicious cycle. Between 1989, the year before the
crisis, and 2015, the purchasing power of Cubans fell by more than 70%.

Rico. And when are they going to solve the problem of the dual-currency
system?

Mesa-Lago. Raul has announced it many times and two years ago made a
very complicated resolution, full of equations. But nothing
happened. The problem is that inflation will be about 12% this year, it
is very high. And the unification of the currency, by itself, generates
inflation. So I find it difficult to see them doing it in the short
term. In addition, they must first do it in the state sector, and there
will be companies that will cease to be sustainable, and then comes the
population. It's going to be a longer process than in Vietnam and
probably in China.

Rico. How many workers has the state fired since the reforms began?

Mesa-Lago. They announced that between 2010 and 2015 they were going to
lay off 1.8 million unnecessary workers, but in the end it was half a
million. The private sector did not advance as rapidly as needed to
create all those jobs, and there would have been a social explosion.

Rico. But why does private activity grow so slowly?

Mesa-Lago. Because of all the obstacles. It is as if the right hand
doesn't know what the left hand is doing. There are many activities that
the Government has closed down or rescinded [the permission for, after
initially granting licenses]: clothing sales, 3D movie theaters … now
they have begun to regulate prices for private taxis and on the sale of
homes, and to interfere in the free agricultural market. Taxation is
brutal. There are something like seven taxes. The Government punishes
those who succeed and who could help the State solve its problems. It is
not logical.…

Rico. And how do you explain it?

Mesa-Lago. The only explanation I have is that in Cuba there is no
unified leadership with a single opinion, but there is a group that
resists. Obama's visit had a very positive impact on the population, but
the government panicked. From there came a a paralysis. The most
hardline group, the most orthodox, came out stronger than ever.

Rico. Are the Armed Forces putting obstacles in the way?

Mesa-Lago. Yes, and the Party, but the Army is more important because it
has economic power. And it has like a reverse Midas touch. Everything it
touches it turns to garbage … Restaurants, hotels … It is impressive.

Rico. The self-employed people interviewed agree on their problems:
scarcity and lack of inputs, regulatory overspending, taxes, difficult
access to the internet …

Mesa-Lago. Yes, and in spite of the continuous obstruction of the State,
80% of them are satisfied with what they do (although not with what they
earn). And 93% made profits, and most reinvested them into their
business. That is extraordinary.

Rico. Will the team in power be able to make the transition?

Mesa-Lago. If Raúl Castro, in ten years, has not pushed the reforms, I
doubt that his successor can be more successful. Political logic
prevails over economic logic. And they fear losing control.

_____

Editorial Note: This article was previously published in the Spanish
newspaper El País and we reproduce it with authorization of the author.

Source: Carmelo Mesa-Lago: "The Cuban Government Panicked After Obama's
Visit" – Translating Cuba -
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Cuba: More Castroism but Without the Castros / Iván García

Iván García, 17 May 2017 — In front of an old mansion on 17th Street in
Vedado that now serves as the headquarters of the Union of Writers and
Artists, there is a poster showing hundreds of men dressed in battle
fatigues and lined up in military formation. A resounding verdict in two
rows of black letters reads, "Cuba Post-Castro."

The political propaganda machine is operating at full steam. On the
exterior walls of schools, factories, public buildings and produce
markets it is common to see "Fidel Castro's Concept of Revolution" and
the oft-repeated slogan "I am Fidel."

Nine months and three weeks before Raúl Castro will presumably cede
power, no one has any idea what protocols to follow for effecting a
transfer to a new leader.

As part of her official duties Mariela Castro Espín, the dictator's
daughter, has granted a couple of interviews to the international press,
reiterating that her father intends to resign from office. She claims
not to know who will succeed him and said he has no intention of being
further involved in politics.

Authoritarian governments control the flow of news so, to understand
them, you have to read between the lines. A reader must be an empirical
cryptographer, always on the lookout for a key piece data or a clue.

Although the tedious national press corps writes in Spanish, its
soporific articles are so saturated with official jargon and stale
rhetoric from the Cold War era that reading them is like deciphering a
Chinese riddle.

In spite of being surrounded by a dense smoke screen of secrets and
mysteries, it is still possible to surmise that — given the extent of
his travels throughout the island and the extensive press coverage they
have received — Miguel Díaz-Canel, one of the country's two
vice-presidents, is the man Raúl Castro has chosen to control the fate
of a Cuba facing a new, untested version of Castroism, one without a
Castro at the helm.

Tall and grey-haired, Díaz-Canel, has the look of a fading movie star.
Women like him for his resemblance to Richard Gere. Those who know him
say that he can be relaxed and witty. When he was the first secretary of
the communist party in Villa Clara during the Special Period, he could
be seen cycling through the streets of the city.

Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez was born on April 20, 1960, at his
family's farm in the village of Falcón, outside Placetas, in Villa Clara
province. Aida, his mother, was a school teacher, and his father Miguel
was a mechanical plant worker in Santa Clara. In 2012, the newspaper La
Nueva España reported with pride that Díaz-Canel was the great-grandson
of Ramón Díaz-Canel, a Spaniard from Asturias who emigrated to Cuba in
the mid-nineteenth century.

For many of his student years he was on scholarship, first at Campo
Primero de Mayo high school and later at Campo Jesus Menéndez college
preparatory school, both in Santa Clara. In 1982 he graduated with a
degree in electronic engineering from Central University of Las Villas.
He began his professional career as an officer in an air defense unit in
the Revolutionary Armed Forces, a post he retained until April 1985.
After leaving the military, he became a professor at his alma mater in
Las Villas. After serving in an internationalist mission to Nicaragua in
1989, he worked as a "professional staffer" in the Union of Young
Communists.

In 1994 he was elected first party secretary in Villa Clara. Nine years
later he was named party leader in Holguín, a more challenging province
than Villa Clara. According to local residents, his work in Holguín
cannot be described as significant. That did not prevent Raúl Castro
from promoting him to membership in the party politburo. At the
time, Raúl stated: "He has a strong collective work ethic and high
expectations of the subordinates. He leads by example through his desire
to better himself every day and has demonstrated a solid ideological
commitment."

Raúl Castro is something of mentor to Diaz-Canel. In May 2009 he
summoned him to Havana and appointed him Minister of Higher Education.
In March 2012, he quit that post and replaced José Ramón Fernández as
vice-president of the Council of Ministers in charge of education,
science, culture and sport. On February 24, 2013, he was elected first
vice-president of both the Council of State and the Council of
Ministers, replacing José Ramón Machado Ventura, a party stalwart who
gave up his position "in order to promote the new generation."

Perhaps because he comes from a small village – the population of Falcón
is only six thousand — those who know him describe him as educated and
unassuming, someone who knows how to listen, though some believe he does
not have enough charisma to be president of the republic. But at least
in photos and videos he looks different from that coterie of rancid
officials who never smile at public appearances. Unlike former
high-level officials of roughly the same age such as Carlos Lage,
Roberto Robaina and Felipe Pérez Roque, Díaz-Canal always stayed out of
the media spotlight, preferring more intricate and discreet pathways.
"He is not one of the newly rich or a makeshift candidate," said Raul
Castro in 2013.

He has two children from his previous marriage. His current wife is Lis
Cuesta, a college professor whom he met while living in Holguín. A
cultural affairs source in Santa Clara recalls, "He was the one who gave
permission to El Mejunje nightclub to present shows featuring
homosexuals and transvestites and to sponsor rock concerts He also
allowed the provincial radio station to broadcast programming that was
quite critical of state institutions." In spite of such cultural
support, he is a sports fan, one who is especially fond of basketball.

Díaz-Canel does not appear to be an eloquent statesman or a great
orator. His speaking style is flat, as though he were exhausted. He does
not engage in soaring rhetoric but neither is he given to
anti-imperialist diatribes. As one official journalist noted, "he does
not just regurgitate the party line like Machado Ventura.*" The
journalist describes a event sponsored by the Union of Journalists at
which Díaz-Canel was present. His statements gave some attendees cause
for hope because "he did not repeat the usual litany about the need to
improve the press. But after the applause died down, things went back to
normal. The impression I have is that he is content to remain in
crouching position, awaiting his turn. He is a cross between Cantinflas
and Forrest Gump."

As an official at the municipal headquarters of the communist party
observes, "three or four candidates will be chosen at the plenary
session of the National Assembly in December. Of those, one will be
elected president." According to this official, expectations are that
the new president will govern the nation for the next five years.

"It seems like a bad joke," notes a party member familiar with internal
party dynamics. "Everyone knows the list of candidates is dictated from
above and the ones who are chosen belong to Cuba's only political party."

Some dissidents and exiles believe that at the last minute Raul Castro
will find a pretext, either a matter of national security or the crisis
in Venezuela, to remain in office for another five years.

Tomás Regalado, the mayor of Miami, told the Spanish newspaper El País
that he had bet money with a friend that Castro II would remain in
power. A retired historian thinks otherwise: "That is not a conclusion
the general shares. Raul is at the end of his rope. He is tired of
power. And quite simply, if you want to undo the Gordian knot that is
the embargo, you cannot have anyone with the name Castro in a governing
role. I believe that Raúl will remain behind the scenes, calling the
shots. On June 3 he will be eighty-six-years old and anyone that age
could kick the bucket at any time."

Among Afro-Cubans, the passing of the presidential baton does not arouse
much interest. "The game plan will be the same. The communist party is
the only game in town. I don't think there will be any major changes. In
terms of the economy, perhaps they will do away with the double currency
and maybe there will be more cooperatives in the state service sector.
But the script will not change much," says the employee of a Havana
nightclub.

One political science graduate is optimistic and hopes the presidential
handover provides some surprises. "It's a different generation so, of
course, they are going to think differently. Don't forget what happened
under Gorbachev in the former USSR. Or under Balaguer, Trujillo's
vice-president, in the Dominican Republic. Both began the path towards
democracy. Just as in Cuba today, people didn't necessarily say what
they meant. The gap is less than one imagines and a reformer could emerge."

Arousing Cubans' interest in national politics will require creativity.
After almost sixty years of stasis, people move by force of inertia.
Most Cubans respond to the government's summons like automatons. And
although they do not express their true feelings publicly, in private
they confess to pessimism and frustration. They do not believe that a
new litter of leaders is capable of building an efficient and prosperous
political, economic and social system.

A large segment of the population is tired of everything and everyone.
They have no faith in Castro, Díaz-Canel or anyone else who might happen
to come along. Changing the current state of public opinion will require
daring strategies as well as new and convincing promises. Yet all the
government is offering is more Castroism. But without the Castros.

*José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President and Second Secretary
of the Culban Communist Party.

Source: Cuba: More Castroism but Without the Castros / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
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Havana: Clandestine Business Deals, Poverty and Glamor / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 26 April 2017 — When night falls, it's not advisable to
walk through certain neighborhoods in Havana. Like the one from El
Curita Park, on Reina and Galiano, up to the corner of Monte and Cienfuegos.

In addition to the disagreeable odor from the sewer water running
through the streets, you'll see propped-up buildings, beggars and drunks
hanging out in the doorways, and poor cheap whores on the hunt for the
incautious.

More than 10,000 compatriots of the eastern provinces who flee poverty
reside illegally in Havana. In the case of Zenaida, a woman from
Santiago, who with a bag full of cones of peanuts and chickpeas for sale
ambles along toward a rickety room in a rooming house on O'Reilly
Street, which she rents.

There, under the light of an incandescent bulb, she loads several pails
of water and waits her turn to bathe in one of the three shared
bathrooms of the tenement. After reheating her meal, she turns on the
old Chinese television and hopes for the arrival of her 22-year-old son,
who makes a living by pedaling 12 hours in a bicitaxi.

"This is what it's like to live in poverty: eat badly and make a few
pesos to survive in the lion's den. Yes, because in this zone of Havana
you have to be a lynx if you want to make a little money," says Zenaida,
seated in an iron chair.

In spite of everything, she doesn't complain. "In Santiago de Cuba we
were worse off. The water supply on the outskirts of the city comes
every 40 days, and the money just goes. At least in the capital,
although we live like animals, you can make enough money to eat and send
detergent and clothing to relatives in Oriente. If I were younger, I
would be hooking like some women in the building. But now I can't do
that kind of thing," confesses Zenaida.

The old part of the city is a network of narrow alleyways with broken
asphalt and deteriorated buildings where Cubans live who know their way
around the streets.

Here illegalities are not hidden. Any neighbor knows who sells imported
marijuana, cocaine delivered from a boat on the coast or who rents half
an hour in a room in his house for convertible pesos, so that a client
can have a toss in the hay with a prostitute who charges in the national
money.

Just in front of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, formerly Manzana de
Gómez, which is close to being inaugurated, several blue buses with
large windows in Parque Central pick up more than 100 workers from India
who are putting the final touches on the first five-star plus hotel in Cuba.

Seated on a marble bench in front of the Kempinski Hotel, José Alberto
wonders, "Why are they paying an Indian, 500 dollars a month and Cuban
workers, adding up pesos and hard currency, don't even get 60 dollars?"
And he answers himself: "These people (the Regime) don't respect us.
Havana now is the same as during the epoch of Batista. Luxury hotels are
for the foreigners, surrounded by poverty, whores and guys who have to
clean to earn four pesos. The worst is that there's no end to this."

José Alberto is a perfect wildcard. He gets money from the illegal Cuban
lottery, parks cars for a home restaurant in the area and fills the
cistern with water for the "retired guys in the neighborhood."

Under the protection of night and avoiding the black-uniformed police
with their German Shepherds who patrol the streets at this time, José
Alberto asks for money from passing tourists. "The ones from the State
(United States) are the most generous, and the Japanese, if they like
you. Europeans are the most stingy."

Old Havana has two opposite faces, distinct levels of life and many ways
to earn money, outside the law or behind its back. In the areas restored
by the historian Eusebio Leal, with their cobbled streets, renovated
buildings, innumerable cafes, restaurants and hard currency shops, the
panorama is beautiful.

Two blocks up or down, the landscape is something else. At the entrance
to crowded quarters, shirtless men standing in the heat seem to be
waiting for a a miracle. Around them are screaming neighbors, Reggaeton
at full blast and kids playing soccer with torn tennis shoes and a
deflated balloon.

On calle Chacón, a few meters from the Museum of the Revolution, where a
garrison of young soldiers at the back of a patio guard the Granma yacht
and other relics and trophies of the delirious guerrilla saga of Fidel
Castro, there are three elegant bars where tourists calmly drink mojitos
and nibble on garlic shrimp.

Nearby, a group of boys, mainly black, sitting on the sidewalk pavement,
wait for the foreigners to leave the bars, restaurants or home
restaurants to ask them for money, chewing gum or pens.

The revolution of the humble, so promoted by the Castro brothers, today
is a slogan without meaning for the poor people of Havana.

Iván García

Note from Tania Quintero: The night photo of the Gran Hotel Manzana
Kempinski, the first with five-plus stars in Cuba, was taken by Iván
García. Up to this date, the hotel installations had not been officially
inaugurated, but after putting in shops and luxury boutiques on the
ground floor, with showcase windows on the street, every day hundreds of
people go to look at and even photograph the clothing and accessories
exhibited, with prices that are not within reach for the large majority
of the population. Already the first incident happened when they removed
the bust of the student leader, Julio Antonio Mella, which had been
installed in 1965, from the central patio with access to the public.

An installation artist held a silent protest with a sign that said
"Where is Mella?" Without using violence, the police took him away, put
him in a vehicle and drove him home. The hotel, constructed by
Kempinski, a Swiss company founded in 1897, occupies the space of the
old Manzana de Gómez, the first commercial center on the Island, located
on Neptuno, San Rafael, Zuleta and Monserrate streets, in the heart of
Havana.

Inaugurated in 1910, along its history the Manzana de Gómez housed law
offices, commercial businesses, restaurants and cafeterias, among other
facilities. The management of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski is
under Gaviota S.A., a Cuban tourist corporation administered by the
military.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Havana: Clandestine Business Deals, Poverty and Glamor / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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Getting Dressed in Cuba / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 15 May 2017 — The plastic drawers holding garments for men
and women give off the usual scent of things that have have been in
storage for a long time. We are in a government-run store that sells
used clothing on the Calzada de Monte, a busy thoroughfare lined with
state-owned retail establishments, privately owned coffee shops and
people clandestinely selling cheap Chinese-made merchandise.

At the back of the store, three plastic drawers of second-hand clothing
lie scattered on the floor. A variety of pants and shirts hang from
racks flanked by two mirrors with blackened edges.

The place is stifling. Sweat runs down the faces of employees, who try
to relieve the heat by fanning themselves with covers of old magazines
and pieces of cardboard.

A shirt with a dirty collar and no label costs eighty pesos, almost four
dollars. It is to thrift shops and flee markets like these that people
with low-incomes — typically state workers paid in the local currency
and those who do not receive remittances from overseas — come to shop.

"All the used clothing here is imported. The Ministry of Domestic Trade
cleans them but then the customers dirty them. They're clothes that
people from other countries have sold or donated to thrift stores. This
lot came from Canada. There were better items for sale but they're
already gone. What's left over is the stuff nobody wants," says the manager.

Yamil, a thirty-four-year-old primary school custodian often buys
second-hand clothing. "My salary of 300 pesos (the equivalent of
thirteen dollars) doesn't go far. I would like to dress more fashionably
but my buying options are limited to used clothes. Occasionally, a
friend will give me pants or a shirt. And a relative living in the US
sends me cheap stuff, which I give to my kids," he says.

The biggest problem in Cuba today is putting food on the table. Not
everyone can afford breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maintaining a
high-quality diet consumes 80% of a typical family's income. Sometimes
more. Even if you have enough money, you cannot always find the foods
you want or need.

Dressing children is a huge headache. Old people, the biggest losers of
Raul Castro's timid economic reforms, also face struggles. Just ask
Eusebio, an octogenarian retiree who sells magazines on Calzada del Cerro.

"At least it's almost never cold here. Otherwise, we'd be a pile of
stiffs. Most of us wear clothes that are twenty or more years old. Those
with families overseas manage to do alright. So do people with children
who are snappy dressers or managers with foreign companies. But the rest
of us are out of luck. The worst is when shoes wear out. I use shoes
that my newspaper customers give me. If they didn't, I would be walking
around in flip-flops," says Eusebio.

A standard monthly salary of twenty-six dollars makes it impossible for
the average Cuban to buy clothes. Families with children who do not
receive overseas remittances have to hope for a miracle, especially if
they have more than one child.

"Buying clothes and shoes is a nightmare," says Daniel, a civil
engineer. "Society is divided into those who have options and those who
don't. Students whose parents are well-off wear brand label shoes to
school. Everyone else has to make-do with low-quality shoes. Other kids
ridicule them. They made fun of my son because of the tennis shoes I
bought him. I try to encourage him and tell him to study hard so that
he'll have a career after he graduates. But he says, 'Dad, professionals
here are worse off than someone who works at a produce market.' It's a
mess."

In Cuba, stores cater to different markets. Those whose merchandise is
priced in Cuban pesos (CUP) usually offer standard or poor quality
clothing. Most stores, however, sell items of higher quality, which are
priced in hard currency in the form of convertible pesos (CUC) and carry
import duties of 240%.

TRD Caribe — one of a chain of businesses owned by GAESA, a conglomerate
run by the Cuban military, which controls 80% of the Cuban economy —
offers clothing purchased in bulk from wholesale markets in Panama Canal
Zone or cheap garments acquired from China.

The prices are predatory. Jeans of mediocre quality go for between
twenty and thirty CUC. "The quality of shoes and clothing is really bad.
It's a bunch of junk that they treat as though it were of the highest
quality," says a woman looking through a box of rubber flip-flops at a
shop on Acosta Avenue in southern Havana's Tenth of October neighborhood.

At one of the Palco stores or the well-known boutiques located in hotels
or shopping malls, better quality goods can be found but at sky-high prices.

A pair of Converse sneakers at the boutique in the Hotel Saratoga, where
the king of Morocco recently stayed, costs the equivalent of ninety
dollars. A pair of Gap jeans goes for more than one-hundred twenty.

"Only musicians, hookers, owners of successful private businesses or
people who get a lot of money from overseas can afford to shop in those
boutiques. Everyone else is screwed," say Luisa, a bank employee.

At the Mango store in the shopping mall of the Comodoro hotel, which is
run by a daughter-in-law of the late dictator Fidel Castro, a pair of
denim shorts can cost as much as ninety dollars.

For Cubans trying to dress fashionably, the underground market provides
the best options. "Most people buy small items from individuals. They
have better prices and a wider selection than state-run stores. They
also let you pay in installments," says Sheila, a college-prep student.

The government has prohibited sales of clothing by privately owned
stores since late 2013. But almost all private businesses take advantage
of the revolving door that operates between what is legal and what is
not, a mechanism that operates with the precision of a Swiss watch.

Thousands of people on the island and abroad are engaged in the garment
trade. Merchandise is usually purchased in Panama, Peru or Russia. In
some cases it is acquired by catalogue. But whether shopping in
state-owned or private businesses, getting dressed in Cuba is an expense
that is five times the average Cuban's monthly salary.

If you ask a Cuban what he sort of present he wants, he will give you
one of three answers: a smart phone, a pair of comfortable shoes or a
ticket out of the country.

Source: Getting Dressed in Cuba / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
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Cuba Warns of Human Trafficking Risk Due to Frosty U.S. Ties
June 1, 2017, at 2:34 p.m.
By Daniel Trotta and Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba and the United States have dramatically reduced
the rate of human trafficking since reaching a landmark accord in
January but risk losing those gains if the two neighbors fail to resume
high-level talks, Cuban Interior Ministry officials said in an exclusive
interview.

During bilateral talks in the final days of former U.S. President Barack
Obama's administration, the United States agreed on Jan. 12 to end a
longstanding policy of admitting Cubans who set foot on U.S. soil, a
move aimed at discouraging them from taking a dangerous voyage on the
high seas.

The "wet foot, dry foot" policy was one example of the special welcome
the U.S. government extended to Cubans as it sought to isolate the
island's Communist government, and its repeal marked the culmination of
Obama's rapprochement with America's former Cold War rival.

Since President Donald Trump assumed power on Jan. 20 with promises to
review the detente, high-level bilateral talks have ground to a halt. In
the meantime, smuggling rings have been trying to reorganize and
consolidate, Cuban officials said, seeking new ways to sneak Cubans and
other foreign nationals into the United States.

Although U.S. and Cuban law enforcement agencies maintain direct
communications with each other, the high-level talks are essential, the
Cubans say.

"It's of great importance for both countries because the security of
both is put at risk," Lieutenant Colonel Dalgys Lamorut said.
"Cooperation is important to safeguard the advances we have made."

Lamorut, representing the immigration directorate, and two other
lieutenant colonels in the Interior Ministry, representing the police
and coast guard, spoke to Reuters on Wednesday in a rare opening to the
foreign media, limiting their comments to human trafficking and
immigration fraud.

The interview took place as the Trump administration nears completion of
a policy review to determine how far it will go in rolling back Obama's
engagement with Cuba, according to current and former U.S. officials and
people familiar with the discussions. The announcement of any policy
change could come in June, they said. Trump, a Republican, has been
critical of the move by his Democratic predecessor on the grounds it did
not push Cuba hard enough on human rights issues.

At a meeting of senior officials from major U.S. government agencies in
mid-May, Justice Department and immigration service officials were
among those who expressed support for continuing law enforcement
engagement implemented under Obama's rapprochement, according to people
familiar with the discussions. However, Trump's senior national security
aides have yet to take up the issue in detail, the sources said.

Bilateral talks enable multiple agencies from both sides to coordinate
and update strategies against criminal organizations, said Lieutenant
Colonel Marco Rodriguez, representing Cuban police.

"These organizations are not going to cease their criminal activity,
which undoubtedly is going to involve Cuba and the United States,"
Rodriguez said.

"Together we can continue neutralizing these structures," he said.

SHARP DROP IN TRAFFICKING

The Cuba officials said the smuggling of illegal immigrants had dropped
remarkably since Jan. 12, the day the United States ended the "wet foot,
dry foot" policy.

In the first 12 days of this year, Cuba intercepted 69 plots to smuggle
people off the island, but there were only 44 such cases in the
following three and a half months, Rodriguez said.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported zero detention of Cubans at sea in April,
the first month in seven years that has happened. It is just 90 miles
(145 km) from Cuba to Key West, Florida, and tens of thousands of
Cubans, if not more, have made the journey since Cuba's 1959 revolution.

Cuba describes human trafficking as the work of paid smugglers in
organized criminal gangs, distinguishing it from cases of Cubans
attempting to leave on their own in home-made rafts. It also considers
the forced trafficking of people for sexual exploitation a separate
category.

The Cuban officials also revealed a host of other previously unreported
statistics.

Since 2013, officials have stopped 1,153 Cubans attempting to reach the
United States with false visas or travel documents, Lamorut said.

In 2015 and 2016 alone, she said, on 23 occasions Cuba stopped a total
of 86 foreigners trying to enter the United States via illegal voyages
from Cuban territory, but none since Jan. 12 of this year.

From 2010 to 2017, Cuba detained 182 traffickers including four U.S.
citizens in Cuban territory, confiscating 83 speed boats, said
Lieutenant Colonel Imandra Oceguera, representing the Cuban coast guard.

During that time 49 died while being smuggled, including 30 from one
launch last year, Oceguera said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Sarah Marsh in Havana and Matt
Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: Exclusive: Cuba Warns of Human Trafficking Risk Due to Frosty
U.S. Ties | World News | US News -
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Trump Threatens to Rescind Obama's Cuba Engagement—and Activists Fight Back
The advocacy community now includes travel agencies, airline and
agricultural companies, and a growing number of politicians.
By Peter KornbluhTwitterTODAY 7:00 AM

At mid-day on May 29, the conservative media website The Daily Caller
posted an "exclusive" story titled "Trump Set To Roll Back Obama's Cuba
Policies." The article stated that the president was planning a June
trip to Miami, where he would reimpose restrictions on the right of US
citizens to travel to Cuba, as well as curtail business opportunities
that Obama had authorized through executive decree. The Daily Caller
credited Trump's decision "to the behind-the-scenes efforts of
Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob
Menendez and Republican Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart"—the trio of
hard-line Cuban-American legislators who have pressed the president to
rescind Obama's history-changing policy of engagement toward Cuba.

The article immediately ricocheted around the Internet, was forwarded by
CNN and picked up by a number of media outlets. Within 24 hours, other
journalists began consulting their sources inside the Trump
administration and publishing more comprehensive stories. On May 31, The
Hill posted a detailed article on the internal debate within the
foreign-policy bureaucracy on how much to alter a policy that has
yielded clear benefits for US economic and security interests in the
Caribbean and a new era of collaboration between Washington and Havana
on key issues of mutual importance such as counternarcotics,
counterterrorism, and migration. The New York Times followed up with a
front-page report that "a split has emerged over rolling back a policy
that many senior officials privately agree has been an improvement on
the Cold War dynamic that shaped relations with Cuba in the past."

The information in the original Daily Caller story did not leak from
inside the Trump administration. Rather, the story was sourced to "an
anti-embargo group." An astute advocate of engagement, it appears,
decided to sound a political fire alarm on Trump's pending plans for
Cuba, rather than sit by as a clique of right-wing Cuban-American
legislators influenced the new administration to torch a successful policy.

Indeed, with the spate of news reports, the Cuba advocacy community—now
made up of travel agencies, airline corporations, tech companies,
agricultural interests and a growing number of politicians and political
activists, among others—is mobilizing to defend recently expanded
US-Cuba relations. "Cuba policy should not be determined by several
hard-line Cuban-American legislators from South Florida," points out
Mavis Anderson, head of the Washington-based Latin America Working Group
(LAWG), which is generating grassroots support to sustain engagement
with Cuba. "Especially when the great majority of US citizens approve
the changes President Obama made to Cuba policy, and want it to go further."

LAWG was one of the first advocacy groups to push back against the Trump
administration's plans to roll back Cuba policy. "Its Now or Never: Stop
Trump from reversing travel to Cuba!" reads a LAWG posting on May 30.
The posting included an image to share on social media that states in
bold letters i support engagement with cuba, and it calls for ending the
travel ban and the embargo. In less than two days, it had been viewed
over 37,500 times on Facebook, and had some 300 shares.

The LAWG posting also exhorted readers to contact members of Congress
and urge them to demand continued travel and engagement with Cuba. After
years of efforts by advocacy groups such as the Center for Democracy in
the Americas and the Washington Office on Latin America to educate both
Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate about Cuban
realities, Congress is finally emerging as a potential player on Cuba
policy. Last week, in anticipation of Trump's decision, a bipartisan
group of senators reintroduced the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. When
this bill was first introduced two years ago, it had only eight
cosponsors; now it has 55—a reflection of how normalization, and the
advocacy and lobbying interests it has unleashed, have dramatically
changed the politics of the Cuba issue.

The legislation would lift remaining restrictions on travel and deprive
Trump of his ability to interfere with the constitutional right of US
citizens to visit whenever they want. "Recognizing the inherent right of
Americans to travel to Cuba isn't a concession to dictators," stated
Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who co-sponsored the bill with Vermont
Democrat Patrick Leahy. "It is Americans who are penalized by our travel
ban, not the Cuban government."

Opinion polls show that some 81 percent of the American public supports
free travel to Cuba, and that 74 percent of Cuban-Americans do as well.
"The current travel restrictions," notes the Cuban Study Group (CSG), a
Miami-based Cuban-American association of business professionals, "have
no parallel for any other country and are vestiges of over fifty years
of failed policy. Rather than catalyze political or economic freedom on
the island, they have only served to hurt the Cuban people in a
misguided attempt to weaken their government." Moreover, according to
the CSG's statement supporting the travel bill, "lifting the travel ban
will have a substantial and positive effect on the lives of ordinary
Cuban citizens who have joined the country's nascent private sector."

Last week, 46 travel agencies made a similar economic argument in a
letter to Trump—one timed to support the introduction of the Freedom to
Travel to Cuba Act. Organized by one of the leading travel providers,
Cuba Educational Travel (which has helped coordinate The Nation's Cuba
trips), the signatories urged the new administration to consider the
"benefits of increased travel to Cuba to both the American and Cuban
private sectors," and to continue the Obama-era relaxation of travel
restrictions, which have led to a 73 percent increase in the number of
US visitors to the island this year.

"Many US travelers visiting Cuba stay in privately run B&Bs, dine at
private restaurants, hire independent taxis, and purchase goods and
services from entrepreneurs," the letter stated. And US jobs are also at
stake. "Due to increased demand, our companies have brought on
additional staff to handle the high volume of travel to Cuba," the
signatories noted. If travel to Cuba expands, the travel service
providers will "hire more American workers," according to the letter.
But, the letter warned, "a rollback of the current policy would lead to
significant layoffs at many of our companies."

An "economic impact" analysis released earlier today by the leading US
business lobby, Engage Cuba, attempts to quantify the significant
employment and monetary costs of rolling back the policy. Based on
average plane-ticket prices and cruise-ship fares, the study estimated
that restrictions on travel could cost up to $3.5 billion in lost
revenues and affect over 10,000 jobs in the travel industry over the
next four years. Jobs and revenue streams in South Florida would be
hardest hit, with loses of $212 million per year to the state economy,
should Trump cut off cruise ship travel to the island. "Manufacturing
companies are finalizing commercial contracts that will create $1.1
billion worth of exports from the U.S. to Cuba over the next five
years," according to the impact analysis. "Ending this process could
diminish U.S. exports by $227.6 million per year, or $929 million over
four years." Ending those export deals in progress, the study predicts,
would affect 1,359 jobs a year.

The Engage Cuba study is the latest salvo in the bitter battle to rescue
Cuba policy, but it certainly won't be the last. The stakes, as the
pro-engagement advocacy community understands, go beyond job and
investment losses; in both language and action, Trump is threatening to
undermine years of concerted effort—inside and outside of government—to
establish a civil, peaceful coexistence with an island neighbor after
more than half a century of intervention, embargoes, and assassination
plots. At stake is a model of responsible US foreign policy—to be
emulated, not repudiated. "Now is not the time to backtrack," Mavis
Anderson told The Nation. "Now it is time to take our policy back."

Source: Trump Threatens to Rescind Obama's Cuba Engagement—and Activists
Fight Back | The Nation -
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Cuba's parliament meets to approve Communist Party roadmap
Reuters International
JUN 1, 2017 - 16:00
By Marc Frank and Sarah Marsh

HAVANA (Reuters) - With less than a year until Raul Castro steps down as
president, Cuba's parliament met on Thursday to vote on documents
confirming the Communist Party as the country's guiding force and
banning the concentration of wealth.
The national assembly was summoned for an extraordinary session to
approve documents reaffirming the one-party political system and state
domination of the socialist economy, even as the Caribbean island allows
some private business and foreign investment. Assembly deputies
regularly approve such documents unanimously after some discussion.
The meeting was called as U.S. President Donald Trump considers
rolling back the U.S.-Cuban detente launched under his predecessor,
Barack Obama, due to what he charges is a lack of democracy and respect
for human rights in Cuba.
While it was planned before Trump's election last November, the
gathering will send a clear message that Cuba will not make the
political and economic concessions that Trump has demanded.
The documents to be discussed resulted from last year's Communist
Party Congress and include a theoretical justification for ongoing
efforts to loosen up the Soviet-style command economy and a "national
plan for economic and social development until 2030."
The Communist Party is the "leading" and "only" political
organisation and "the superior leading force of society and the state,"
the theory document begins. It cites as guiding lights Cuban
independence leader Jose Marti; communists Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin;
and Fidel Castro, the late president who led Cuba's 1959 revolution.
The documents make some reference to the incipient private sector,
such as family firms, but also stress the means of production and most
farm land as "property of the whole people" through the state.
Cuba's economy is currently staving off a crisis as a tourism boom that
followed the 2014 deal between Castro and Obama to improve relations
fails to offset declining shipments of bartered fuel from key socialist
ally Venezuela and a drop in exports.
Critics say the government should bolster growth by carrying out
more reforms, while hardliners who distrust market economics and any
change that would lessen their hold on power balk at that.
Raul Castro, who took over the presidency in 2008 from his ailing
brother Fidel Castro, has vowed to step down as president next February
and as head of the Communist Party by 2021.
First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, is seen as the heir
apparent.
Castro, 85, said last year that those who fought in the revolution
and remain in Party and government positions would all leave office over
a five-year period.
However, Cuban authorities have been at pains to highlight at every
opportunity that the revolution will not end with the deaths of the
"historic generation" or the handover of power.
(Editing by Frances Kerry)
Reuters

Source: Cuba's parliament meets to approve Communist Party roadmap - SWI
swissinfo.ch -
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In Cuba, Entrepreneurs Start First Private Business Group
by ASSOCIATED PRESS

A group of entrepreneurs have quietly formed communist Cuba's first
private small business association, testing the government's willingness
to allow Cubans to organize outside the strict bounds of state control.

More than a half million Cubans officially work in the private sector,
with tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands more working off the books.
Cuba's legal system and centrally planned state economy have changed
little since the Cold War, however, and private business people are
officially recognized only as "self-employed," a status with few legal
protections and no access to wholesale goods or the ability to import
and export.

The government is expected to take an incremental step toward changing
that Thursday when Cuba's National Assembly approves a series of
documents updating the country's economic reform plan and laying out
long-term goals through 2030. Those goals include the first official
recognition of private enterprise and small- and medium-size businesses,
although it could be years before any actual changes are felt on the
ground in the country.

The Havana-based Association of Businessmen is trying to move ahead
faster, organizing dozens of entrepreneurs into a group that will
provide help, advice, training and representation to members of the
private sector. The group applied in February for government
recognition. While the official deadline for a response has passed, the
group has yet to receive either an OK or negative attention from
authorities, leaving it in the peculiar status known in Cuba as "alegal"
or a-legal, operating unmolested but vulnerable to a crackdown at any time.

"People have approached with a lot of interest but they don't want to
join until we're officially approved," said Edilio Hernandez, one of the
association's founders. Trained as a lawyer, Hernandez also works as a
self-employed taxi driver.

"Many people really understand that entrepreneurs need a guiding light,
someone who helps them," he said.

Another founder, Rodolfo Marino, has a construction license and has
worked privately and under contract to state agencies. He said
organizers of the association have gone door-to-door trying to recruit
members by convincing them they need independent representation.

The group says roughly 90 entrepreneurs have signed up. Without legal
recognition, the group is not yet charging membership fees, the
organizers say. Until then, they meet occasionally in Marino's Havana
home to plan their path forward, which includes legal appeals for
government recognition.

"We hope to push the country's economic development forward," he said.

The number of officially self-employed Cubans has grown by a factor of
five, to 535,000 in a country of 11 million, since President Raul Castro
launched limited market-based reforms in 2010. The government currently
allows 200 types of private work, from language teacher to furniture
maker. In reality, many officially self-employed people have become
owners of small business, some with dozens of employees and hundreds of
thousands of dollars in annual revenue — big number for a country where
the monthly state salary is about $25.

Without access to government-controlled imports, exports or wholesale
supplies, business owners are emptying the shelves of state stores,
either by snapping up items as soon as they arrive or buying them stolen
on the black market. That leaves them vulnerable to crackdowns and
frequent extortion from state inspectors.

The government has taken a few tentative moves toward easing the
situation in recent months — opening stores where owners of some of the
country's 21,000 bed-and-breakfasts and 2,000 private restaurants can
buy large quantities of goods, although still at retail prices.

The state has also promised special access to gas and car parts to taxi
drivers who comply with widely flouted government caps on fares.

Along with those small steps, the future of the Association of
Businessmen is a gauge of Cuba's openness to private enterprise and its
ability to move forward, the group's founders say.

"We really hope they approve us," said Hernandez, the lawyer and taxi
driver. "If they don't, we'll be in the hands of a state that considers
us illegal and we won't be able to reach our goal of representing
entrepreneurs. If they do, it will be a sign that things are changing.

Source: In Cuba, Entrepreneurs Start First Private Business Group - NBC
News -
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/cuba-entrepreneurs-start-first-private-business-group-n766961 Continue reading
POISONED IN PARADISE Brit family's dream £6,000 Thomas Cook trip to
luxury Cuban resort turns into holiday from hell after they are struck
down by crippling stomach bug
Mum claims sewage leaked near swimming pool and they were served RAW chicken
By Neal Baker
30th May 2017, 4:04 pm

A MUM has told how a holiday of a lifetime was ruined when her family
were struck down with a crippling stomach bug at a "dreadful" resort.

Debbie Wood said her family's dream trip to Cuba turned into a nightmare
when their hotel served them raw chicken and sewage leaked near the
"filthy" pool.

Daughter Talia, 10, had to get emergency medical help and was bed-bound
for much of the holiday after getting ill
Her ten-year-old daughter Talia got so ill that she needed emergency
medical treatment and was bedridden for much of the two-week stay at the
Memories Varadero Beach Resort.

Their harrowing story will form part of a group lawsuit being brought by
several families who say they suffered holiday hell at the venue.

Debbie jetted off from Leeds with her ex and their three kids to the
Memories Varadero Beach Resort with Thomas Cook on March 31 hoping for
all-inclusive family fun at a cost of over £6,000.

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saw comedian Kathy Griffin's vile beheading sketch
But all five family members fell ill from a suspected food poisoning
outbreak.

Their plight was made worse by "dreadful" bathroom facilities and a
hotel said to be in a general state of disrepair.

Foster carer Debbie compiled an alarming list of hygiene failings,
claiming that her family was served raw chicken on at least two occasions.

She said the outdoor buffet selection was often left uncovered, inviting
birds and bugs to feast on prepared dishes.

She claimed that cutlery, crockery and glassware were frequently chipped
and not properly cleaned, with drinks appearing watered down and mains
water used.

Talia before she was struck down with illness. Her family claim to have
been served raw chicken twice

What appears to be a speck of blood on a bedsheet at the Cuban resort
Debbie, 46, said: "The swimming pool was simply filthy.

"It was horrific and was not once cleaned properly. You could see green
algae on the tiles.

"Whilst we were there, there was even a raw sewage leak behind the bar
in the pool."

Debbie also slammed cleaning standards inside the hotel, and remains
angry that her daughter Talia's bedding was replaced with what appeared
to be blood-stained linens.

Debbie said: "It was terrifying seeing how ill my daughter was.

"She had a raging fever as well as gastric issues but she was too poorly
to go anywhere so we had to call the doctor to the room.

"There she was given an injection, antibiotics and analgesics.

"She was in bed ill for at least four days, too ill to go out. She then
spent the rest of the holiday resting in the shade or spending time in
the room as she was so ill."

The Wood family say they have still not returned to full health with
both Debbie and Talia attending their GP at home.

Debbie added: "I have been told that it is likely we contracted food
poisoning, possibly salmonella.

"My daughter and I are still suffering ill effects weeks after we have
returned.

"It could have ended in a tragedy due to the unhygienic food practices.

"My advice to other holidaymakers would be to avoid Memories Varadero
Beach Resort at all costs.

"We spoke to experienced Cuban holidaymakers who advised us this was the
worst hotel they had ever stayed in.

"According to reviews, sickness has been a long running issue at
Memories Varadero Beach Resort with reports stretching back as far as 2012.

"We booked almost a year before going so Thomas Cook had ample time to
contact us regarding the problems that I can only assume they must have
been aware of."

Sue Robinson of Your Holiday Claims, part of Farnworth Rose Solicitors,
said: "We have reported on outbreaks of illness at Memories Varadero
Beach Resort for a number of years.

"This latest sickness saga is especially worrying – illness coupled with
disrepair is a recipe for disaster and I sincerely hope that the hotel
and tour operators work together in order to fully investigate the cause
or causes of illness.

"Contracting food poisoning on holiday is not only unpleasant but can
have lasting and even life-altering consequences if any number of
post-infective conditions are developed.

"For this reason, it is imperative that anyone affected by illness at
Memories Varadero Beach Resort seeks both medical and legal advice."

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: "We want our customers to have the
best possible holiday, so we are sorry to hear that Ms Wood and her
family became ill while in Cuba.

"We take all reports of sickness very seriously and will look into this
case thoroughly with the hotel as soon as we receive it."

Source: Brit family's dream £6,000 Thomas Cook trip to luxury Cuban
resort turns into holiday from hell after they are struck down by
crippling stomach bug -
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3672497/holiday-cuba-thomas-cook-nightmare-food-poisoning/ Continue reading
Former ambassador recounts tense clash she had with Fidel Castro in 1991
Twenty-six years ago, Vicki Huddleston was brand new in her job as a
U.S. diplomat to Cuba — and her dramatic first test came from none other
than the country's charismatic and infamous dictator
VICKI HUDDLESTON 05.29.17

The year was 1991, the place was the Palacio de la Revolución in Havana,
Cuba, and my interlocutor was Fidel Castro, one of the most
consequential figures of the 20th century, and one of the most
commanding and charismatic men I have ever met.

A member of the U.S. foreign service, I had recently taken a job to
manage U.S. government relations with Cuba. It was a politically
sensitive position reserved for senior officers, but many of my fellow
diplomats avoided it because the powerful Cuban-American lobby dictated
a punitive policy toward Cuba. If you got on the wrong side of the
exiles ousted by the Castro regime, they could ruin your career.
Although I didn't have the rank required, the State Department had
decided to make an exception, perhaps because of an ongoing legal
challenge on behalf of women foreign service officers that claimed
discrimination in awarding high-ranking jobs. Whatever the reason, I was
delighted and seized the opportunity, despite the risks.

One of my first duties was to accompany a U.S. delegation to Havana. At
the time, U.S.-Cuba relations were frosty, at best. We'd imposed a
destructive unilateral embargo on Cuba; a CIA-organized invasion at the
Bay of Pigs was a disastrous failure; and the Missile Crisis brought us
to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon. Nevertheless, the United States
and the Soviet Union had played critical roles in negotiating what was
called the Tripartite Accord, which resulted in Namibia's independence
and Cuba's withdrawal of 50,000 troops from Angola. Fidel Castro had
invited to the Palacio de la Revolución ambassadors to Cuba from around
the world and additional delegations from five countries. Among the
200 guests there were only three women, Castro's young, beautiful
interpreter, the Soviet ambassador's spouse, and myself.

Immediately after the treaties acknowledging the successful completion
of the Tripartite Accord had been signed, Castro made a beeline for me.
I knew Castro preferred female interlocutors, assuming his formidable
charisma would work in his favor, but America was also his sworn enemy.
So I was not sure how he would react when we met. He was still handsome
at 65 with a long face made even longer by his heavy grey-black beard.

Castro smiled, clearly enjoying a moment where he could hover over the
petite representative of the "empire," as he called the United States.
He then asked in English, "Who are you, someone's spouse?"

I was furious. Fidel knew exactly who I was; he knew everything about
those of us who managed U.S. policy, and I had visited the island
several times when I was the deputy in the Cuba office. As I drew myself
up for an appropriately outraged reply, I realized that the entire room
was listening. No matter. I stood as tall as possible — at 5-feet,
5-inches — and announced boldly, "No. I am the director of Cuban affairs."

Fidel, now purring with pleasure, surveyed the room to ensure that no
one would miss his next words. He boomed, "Oh? I thought I was." Laugher
filled the great hall. My delegation was speechless; I was angry and
embarrassed. Fidel moved on, having skewered me. But just as I was
thinking that perhaps this job wasn't the right fit, security guards
asked me to accompany them. Fidel was waiting at the entrance to the
buffet. He offered me his arm. I swallowed my pride and took it.
Diplomats gasped.

Fortunately, there were no media on hand and no cellphones to record
Castro and me, arm in arm. Had the ever-wary Cuban diaspora seen this, I
would have been fired instantly. But diplomats live in a world where
personal relations count and, at that moment, I decided the better
course was to accept his calculated gesture of graciousness.

At the same time, I realized that, without even trying, I'd become
Castro's foil. Fidel gave a slight bow, indicating that I should lead
the guests in filling their plates with traditional Cuban delicacies. I
hesitated, uneasy, then took a few shrimps from the sumptuous display.
The impact of our embargo and dwindling Soviet subsidies meant that most
Cubans did not have enough to eat. Many survived on the tinned meat and
root crops they bought with their government-issued ration cards in
tiny, dingy, stores with unhappy clerks. Some were so desperate that
they raised pigs in their apartments, cutting their vocal cords to avoid
problems with the neighbors.

As I left the buffet table, a security guard again appeared, this time
to escort me to Fidel and his simultaneous interpreter, who were
standing alone on the far side of the room. By the time I'd reached him,
he was talking rapidly and passionately, throwing up his hands. The
American "Bloqueo" — Castro's name for the embargo — was cruel to Cuba's
children. They were suffering. It was all the fault of my uncaring
government.

The other delegations were keenly watching this pantomime. They couldn't
hear Fidel, but they could see his passion. They must have been
wondering how Fidel intended to humiliate the new American diplomat
next. Castro's calculating brown eyes scrutinized me, like a cat toying
with a mouse. With plate, fork, and napkin in my hands, I felt at a
distinct disadvantage. I felt trapped and detected a fleeting smile
cross Fidel's lips. I was on my own. This moment would determine whether
I was up to the job.

Fidel pushed closer to me, forcing me to step back. "Your Bloqueo is
killing our children. Not one aspirin to stop their suffering. How can
you be so cruel?" I took a deep breath. In fact, I disagreed with
American policy on exactly this point. Our embargo hurt the Cuban people
far more than its Communist leaders.

But as much as I disliked the embargo, I wasn't going to be Fidel's
patsy. It was my job to defend U.S. policy, no matter my personal
feelings. I looked him squarely in the eyes. "That's not true," I almost
shouted. "The embargo is not a blockade. Cuba can buy aspirin from any
country it wishes, except the United States. If there is a medicine your
children need that is only made in the United States, we will sell it to
you."

Fidel scoffed. "You know it takes years to get permission."

"When Cuba holds free and fair elections with international
observation," I continued, "we will lift the embargo." Castro moved
closer; he was intense, and seemed to be searching for a sign of
softening in my position. I stood my ground. "There is no change in U.S.
policy. Cuba must change first."

Fidel fumed, "You will never give up the Bloqueo; the Gusanos won't
allow it." Gusanos, or worms, was the spiteful term he used to describe
Cuban exiles in America. Turning away, he stomped off. Relieved, I set
down my still full plate and poured myself a glass of Cuban rum. I had
not succumbed to Fidel's forceful personality. I'd stood up to him and
proven to myself and my delegation that I could handle my new position.
I didn't like the embargo, but I loved the job. By doing it well, I
hoped I might help craft a policy that would empower — rather than harm
— the Cuban people.

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston is a retired career senior foreign service
officer whose last assignment was as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of
defense for African affairs in the office of the secretary of defense
from June 2009 through December 2011. Before that she was chargé
d'affaires ad interim to Ethiopia, U.S. ambassador to Mali, principal
officer of the U.S. interests section in Havana, deputy assistant
secretary of state for African Affairs, and U.S. ambassador to
Madagascar. She is a member of Women Ambassadors Serving America. Her
book Our Woman in Havana: A U.S. Diplomat's Chronicle of America's Long
Struggle with Fidel Castro's Revolution, The Overlook Press, is due out
in 2018.

Source: Former ambassador recounts tense clash she had with Fidel Castro
in 1991 – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times –
WITW -
https://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/05/29/former-ambassador-recounts-tense-clash-she-had-with-fidel-castro-in-1991/ Continue reading
'Freak': meet Cuba's last self-infected HIV punk rebel
AFP
Héctor Velasco

Like many young punks, Gerson Govea saw himself as a misfit. But few
embraced the role as self-destructively as this Cuban rocker: he
deliberately infected himself with HIV.

He is considered the last of the most hardcore members of the "frikis,"
or "freaks," as the communist island's unique breed of hippy-punk
dropouts is known.

Beyond the rum, free love and forbidden rock 'n' roll music, they took
their rebellion a stage further: infecting themselves in order to get
into the relative safety and comfort of a state AIDS clinic.

"I found a friend who gave me his (infected) blood," recalls Govea, a
long-haired 42-year-old with earrings and tattoos. "I extracted it
myself and injected it into me."

That was 17 years ago. He has since seen friends die of AIDS and his
wife Yohandra Cardoso, 44, lose both her legs to the disease.

Meanwhile Govea, still standing but in fragile health, is rocking his
way into middle age.

- Best of worlds -

Sleeping in parks, listening to music and taking drugs, the "frikis"
would not have been such an unusual sight in many world cities.

But their lifestyle was a particularly bold statement in communist Cuba,
where rock music was outlawed during the Cold War and drug-taking
severely policed.

"They shared everything: women, men, food and pills," said Jorge Perez,
a doctor and the former director of an AIDS sanatorium in Havana.

Cuba plunged into poverty after the allied regime in the Soviet Union
fell in 1989, and as the AIDS pandemic unfolded.

Amid such misery, a state-run AIDS clinic was a haven.

"It was the best of all possible worlds for them," says Maria Gattorno,
director of the Cuban Rock Agency, a state music promotion body.

"They had everything guaranteed there: they had medicine and great food
and were looked after."

Govea says he infected himself so that he could get in a clinic and
avoid the police harassment he suffered for being a "friki."

Others infected themselves "so that they could be with the person they
liked" who already had the disease, he says.

- AIDS in Cuba -

Cuba's first case of AIDS was in a soldier returning from Africa, where
the country supported various sides in proxy conflicts during the Cold War.

Just over 3,800 people died of AIDS in Cuba between 1986 and 2015,
according to the government. Some 20,000 were living with HIV at the
last count.

It is not known how many "frikis" the island has had, nor how many of
them willingly got infected.

Gattorno reckons those who infected themselves "miscalculated," thinking
a cure for AIDS would quickly arrive.

"They went to live in the sanatoriums, but naturally a lot of them died
very quickly."

Gattorno has mentored frikis, helping them find rehearsal space and
arranging gigs in sanatoriums.

Govea himself set up a band in the clinic. But their illness prevented
them from playing in public.

"When one of us felt alright, another would be in bed sick," he said.
"When they were, it meant they were dying."

- Gettin' freaky -

Antiretroviral drugs slowed down the killer impact of AIDS. Cuba's
internment clinics closed in 1994.

But Govea and Cardoso in her wheelchair still live in the west of the
island in the house that once was the Pinar del Rio sanatorium, where
they met in 2000.

On top of a small state allowance, Govea earns a living selling manicure
products.

When they have time, the couple go out and "get freaky," singing and
headbanging with other young rockers near their home.

The house is filled with posters of punk bands such as the Sex Pistols
and The Ramones.

The state let them keep the place and continues to give them their
medicine for free.

"They lived better in the sanatorium" than outside it, says Perez, who
wrote a book about his work.

"What's more, they were scared to leave."

Source: 'Freak': meet Cuba's last self-infected HIV punk rebel -
http://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/freak-meet-cubas-last-self-infected-hiv-punk-rebel/ar-BBBANXW Continue reading
U.S. Lawmakers Want to End Cuba Travel Restrictions, But May Face Trump
Opposition
Reuters • Newsweek May 26, 2017

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators reintroduced legislation on Thursday
to repeal all restrictions on travel to Cuba, this time attracting far
more co-sponsors in a sign of growing support for U.S.-Cuban detente
even as its future looks uncertain.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act was introduced in 2015 by eight
Republican and Democratic co-sponsors but never made it to the floor.
The latest measure attracted 55 co-sponsors.

While efforts to ease the decades-old U.S. embargo against Cuba have
been gathering strength and 55 votes would be a majority in the
100-member Senate, that number falls short of the 60 needed to advance
the legislation. There was no indication the chamber's Republican
leaders would allow the measure to come up for a vote.

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Kong in Return for Ice Cream

Republican President Donald Trump threatened during his 2016 election
campaign to reverse a normalization of ties with the Communist-run,
Caribbean island initiated in 2014 by Democratic President Barack Obama.
Trump's administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward the country's
former Cold War foe.

Obama eased trade and travel restrictions, fueling a boom in American
visits to Cuba, although tourism was still not officially allowed.

Cubans walk near the Manzana Kempinski Hotel, the first luxury five star
plus tourist facility in Cuba, on May 22. Former U.S. President Barack
Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, but President Donald Trump has
threatened to reverse the move. YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty

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On Wednesday, more than 40 U.S. travel companies and organizations urged
Trump not to roll back expanded U.S. travel to Cuba.

"It is Americans who are penalized by our travel ban, not the Cuban
government," said U.S. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who with
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy led the group that co-sponsored the bill.

Flake added that lifting the ban would give Americans more freedom but
also benefit the Cuban people.

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Michael Jordan with 5,989th Point

"This is certain to have positive benefits for the island's burgeoning
entrepreneurial and private sector."

The number of U.S. visitors rose 74 percent last year, boosting business
for Cuban hotels, BnBs, restaurants and taxis but also U.S. cruise
operators and airlines that entered the market over the past year.

"We applaud Senators Flake and Leahy for their leadership in supporting
the American and Cuban people by eliminating archaic, outdated policy,"
said James Williams, president of the Washington-based Engage Cuba group.

There is still strong congressional opposition to any ending of Cuba's
isolation, led by anti-Castro Cuban-American lawmakers including
Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

They say the United States should not make travel to Cuba easier before
the Havana government moves toward democracy.

Source: U.S. Lawmakers Want to End Cuba Travel Restrictions, But May
Face Trump Opposition -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-lawmakers-want-end-cuba-071810787.html Continue reading
Obama has no shame
By Ed Rogers May 26

In the age of President Trump, liberals love nothing more than to pine
for the glory days of President Barack Obama. But Obama was always
better in theory than he was in reality. His recent trip to Europe
reminded us all of that phenomenon. Still, liberals would have you
believe that today's problems began on Jan. 20, 2017, with Donald
Trump's inauguration — as if the plague of Obama's foreign policy
blunders and failed economic initiatives had never occurred. And so the
story goes, with Obama retired from the White House, the liberals and
their allies in the media are trying to recapture the near-godlike
status he had attained during the summer of 2008.

But some things never change. Obama continues to hold himself in high
regard. He still loves the sound of his own voice, and his
self-congratulatory ramblings mirror the inescapably pretentious tone of
his campaign and presidency. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, Obama's
supporters continue to swoon behind him — seemingly blind to the chaos
caused by the past eight years of mishaps, inaction and distorted truths.

Former president Obama has no shame. After all, it was Obama's
arrogance, inexperience and misguided worldview that fractured our
relationship with key allies. It was Obama who retreated from the world
stage at a time of increasing conflict and uncertainty. As Israeli
President Reuven Rivlin asserted this week, under President Trump's
leadership, "America is back again." For Obama and his supporters, that
has got to hurt.

And it was Obama who capitulated to Iran, saluted Cuba, and walked back
on the American promise to retaliate against the Assad regime's barbaric
use of chemical weapons in Syria. It was Obama who undermined U.S.
leadership and signaled to our allies that America was not the reliable
actor they previously knew. But even with the benefit of hindsight,
Obama has not come to terms with the impact of his foreign policy
blunders. Rather than remain silent and humbly accept the consequences
of his misguided actions, Obama incredibly announced in a recent
interview, "the issue that required the most political courage was the
decision not to bomb Syria after the chemical weapons use had been
publicized." In his mind, reneging on a commitment made to the world
should be glorified as an act of political courage. And perhaps most
chillingly, the truth is neither Assad's refusal to turn over his entire
supply of chemical weapons nor the fact that he took a green light from
Obama to continue slaughtering his own people seem to have made any
impression on the former president.

And here at home, Obama has contrived notions of reality that serve to
build only the facade he desperately wants us to see. Rather than remain
on the sidelines for a gracious period of time like most other former
presidents, Obama is taking shots at his political opponents. While
cozying up with a host of euro-elites in Berlin yesterday, Obama
pronounced in a pompous and self-righteous fashion, "We can't hide
behind a wall." Thankfully, the homeland security secretary, retired
Gen. John F. Kelly, pushed back against Obama's childish jab, arguing,
"We're not hiding behind a wall, and you can't defend anything by hiding
behind something."

With a flock of unquestioning liberal enablers cheering on his every
word, Obama can continue to obfuscate reality and advance the narrative
that all was good and well under his reign in the White House. But Obama
invited mayhem around the world, fostered a depressed, crippled economy
at home, created racial divisions, and imposed a PC culture that hangs
like a dark cloud over Middle America. Remember, Obama did more to make
the conditions ripe for a Trump presidency than anything Hillary Clinton
did.

Regardless of what happens at home or abroad, our former president can
hop on his private jet and escape the unfortunate realities of today's
crises. Obama can bask in self-delusion and embrace the collective
amnesia of his pious followers while living the life of a .01 percenter,
but feeding his own ego does not help solve any of today's problems.
Obama can afford to walk away from his blunders, but the rest of us can
only hope that today's leaders do a better job than he did.

Source: Obama has no shame - The Washington Post -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/05/26/obama-has-no-shame/?outputType=accessibility&nid=menu_nav_accessibilityforscreenreader Continue reading