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"The Student Body Will Never Accept The Counterrevolution"

14ymedio, Havana, 15 April 2017 — A statement signed by the Council of
the University Student Federation (FEU) of 'Marta Abreu' Central
University of Las Villas ratified the expulsion of student Karla Pérez
González from the journalism department. "The university students will
never accept the counterrevolution within our universities," says the
text published Friday.

The statement came to light in the midst of a flood of criticism over
the expulsion of an 18-year-old student who is accused of having
contacts with the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement and publishing on
digital sites critical of the government. "In our universities
professionals must be trained who are ever more competent and committed
to the Revolution," argues the FEU.

The statement dusted off the "Words to the Intellectuals" – delivered by
Fidel Castro in June of 1961 in the National Library and which have
served as the basis for the government's cultural policy – and said that
the student "acknowledges being a member of an illegal and
counterrevolutionary organization, contrary the principles, objectives
and values of the Cuban Revolution."

"Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.
Because the Revolution also has its rights; and the first right of the
Revolution is the right to exist. And no one can stand against the right
of the Revolution to be and to exist," writes the FEU, quoting Fidel's

The statement ends with a "Revolutionarily" and does not include the
names of the members of the FEU Council that initial it

Perez Gonzalez told this newspaper about the sequence of meetings that
led to her expulsion. "I was also accused of manipulating my friends and
having a strategy from the beginning of the course to subvert the young."

The statement from the Federation lists two main points of the
organization's actions, controlled for decades by the ruling party. "The
defense of our José Marti inspired, Marxist-Leninist, socialist and
anti-imperialist process will always be the first task of university
students," and "every brigade will be an impregnable stronghold against
any enemy of the work that we Cubans raise our flag for."

The statement ends with a "Revolutionarily" and does not include the
names of the members of the FEU Council that drew it up.

Pérez González plans to "write a letter to the Minister of Education and
to denounce what happened to organizations that watch over Human
Rights," to denounce her expulsion.

Source: "The Student Body Will Never Accept The Counterrevolution" –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-student-body-will-never-accept-the-counterrevolution/ Continue reading
In the twilight of the Castros
By Stephen Kinzer APRIL 14, 2017

THIS PROVINCIAL CAPITAL in central Cuba throbbed with life on a recent
Saturday night. In one plaza, a Beatles cover band sang "Ticket to Ride"
for an enthusiastic crowd. Exuberant groups of gay men made their way
toward a club that stages drag shows and welcomes patrons of all sexual
orientations. In an evangelical church, dozens of young people were
being driven to near-ecstasy by a young preacher shouting, "We need the
voice of God now!" Many kids wore T-shirts featuring the American flag.

None of this would have been possible or even imaginable at the height
of Fidel Castro's power. Beatles music was banned in Cuba. Gays were
arrested. Public displays of religiosity were forbidden. Police would
have viewed wearing the American flag as nearly equivalent to wearing
the swastika. Cubans now enjoy more cultural freedom than at any time
since the Castro movement seized power 58 years ago.

Economic progress has been more fitful, but still significant. Small
businesses have sprouted across the island. By some estimates, as many
as half a million Cubans are now self-employed. That is a remarkable
change in a country where private enterprise was demonized for
generations. It has whetted the appetite of many shopkeepers,
beauticians, and restaurant owners to expand beyond tight legal limits.

As for political change, it remains beyond a distant horizon. President
Raul Castro is expected to retire next year. No one I met imagines that
this transition will lead to serious changes in the ruling system. This
is today's Cuba: remarkable cultural opening, growing economic opening,
no political opening.

Cuban leaders fear that allowing unrestricted business growth would
strengthen the wealthier class that is already emerging, give enemies in
the United States new ways to subvert the revolutionary project, and
ultimately lead to the collapse of their government. They are right.
Capitalist economics might make Cuba rich, but it would also create a
new version of the class society that revolutionaries have devoted their
lives to wiping away. This is their dilemma. In recent years they have
allowed Cubans to become more prosperous, but that has led to widening
social divisions. How far should they allow the process to go?

Booming tourism is among the forces that have created both new
possibilities and new frictions. Tourists — and Cubans with relatives
abroad — use a different currency from the one most Cubans use. It
allows them to buy many products that are beyond the reach of those who
earn local pesos. Worst of all, tourist demand sucks large amounts of
food out of the market. That leaves even less for Cubans. Many spend
hours every day trying to find food they can afford on government
salaries that often hover below $25 per month.

Cuba has large amounts of fertile and uncultivated land. Selling it to
agro-business conglomerates would produce more than enough food for
every citizen. It would also, however, mark a return to the era when
rich outsiders controlled Cuba's economy. Determined to avoid this, the
government is taking half-steps instead. Private farmers may now sell
their produce more freely. Some state-run cooperatives have become
independent. Good food, though, remains beyond the reach of many Cubans
who must shop in ill-supplied government markets.

Havana, the capital, used to be famous for its fleet of sputtering,
broken-down American cars, all imported before the 1959 revolution. Many
of them have been refitted, polished, and turned into taxis that take
tourists on pricey city tours. Not all Cubans appreciate this. "Those
cars look different to us than they look to you," one man told me as he
pointed to a glistening 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible, complete with
rumble seat. "To you, they're a cute way to have fun. To us, they
symbolize our backwardness. We're stuck in time, back in the days when
those cars were made. We're not getting anywhere."

One sign of the frustration many Cubans feel is the remarkable aging of
the population. Young people have flooded out, leaving parks and plazas
in many towns full of old people. This adds another burden to the
already inadequate welfare system, and poses serious challenges for
future growth. "Before, there were lots of grandchildren to take care of
grandparents," said Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, an official at the
national statistics bureau. "Now, we sometimes have more grandparents
than grandchildren."

Cuba's long century of repression and upheaval famously began with the
US intervention of 1898. A commanding monument on the Malecon, the long
seaside boulevard that anchors Havana, commemorates the explosion of an
American warship, the USS Maine, that became the pretext for
intervention after newspapers and politicians falsely claimed that it
was the result of an enemy attack. In 1899, the US government decided to
renege on its pledge to grant Cuba full independence, and installed a
puppet regime instead. That led to dictatorships, deepening anger, the
Castro revolution, and decades of Communist rule.

President Obama's visit last year, and his modest loosening of the US
trade embargo, momentarily raised hopes for a deep change in US-Cuba
relations — and possibly deep changes in Cuba itself. That has not
happened. Cuban leaders are working quietly to assure that President
Trump does not revert to the bitterly anti-Cuba policies of the
pre-Obama era. Many ordinary Cubans, however, worry more about getting
through each day.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for
International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Follow him on
Twitter @stephenkinzer.

Source: In the twilight of the Castros - The Boston Globe -
http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/04/14/twilight-castros/95OdHKELKcSeu8NfrnyFxJ/story.html Continue reading
Spirit Airlines to end Havana service June 1; last flights on May 31
Arlene SatchellContact Reporter
Sun Sentinel

Another U.S. air carrier is saying 'Adios' to Cuba.

Low-cost Spirit Airlines plans to operate its last flights between Fort
Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Havana on May 31, an
airline official said early Friday.

The news comes a little more than four months after the Miramar-based
airline began serving Havana with regularly scheduled twice-daily
service from Fort Lauderdale as part of a slew of new U.S.-Cuba routes
approved in 2016.

"We really wanted [Fort Lauderdale-to-Havana] to work, especially being
South Florida's hometown airline... and the ultra-low cost leader to the
Caribbean, but the costs of serving Havana continue to outweigh the
demand for service," said Bob Fornaro, Spirit's president and CEO, in a
statement. "Due to overcapacity and the additional costs associated with
flying to Cuba, we don't find it sustainable to continue this service
while maintaining our commitment to pass along ultra-low fares to our

Although Spirit's Cuba flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana's Jose
Marti International Airport will officially end June 1, the carrier
plans to operate an adjusted schedule starting in May.

Effective May 3-24, the Havana service will operate once-daily only, but
will revert to its twice-daily schedule from May 25-31, spokesman Paul
Berry told the Sun-Sentinel.

"We're in the process of contacting our customers who'll need
re-accommodations," Berry said.

For example, during the period when only one flight will operate,
passengers already booked on its afternoon flight would be re-booked for
the morning one, Berry noted.

For customers with flights booked beyond May 31, full ticket refunds
will be given, he said.

In March, Fort Lauderdale-based regional carrier Silver Airways also
decided to suspend service on its eight routes to Cuba effective April
22, citing lack of demand and competition from "too many flights and
oversized aircraft" in the market.

A month earlier, JetBlue Airways, said it would begin operating smaller
planes on routes from Fort Lauderdale and other U.S. cities to four
Cuban destinations starting May 3. Those Cuba routes are Havana, Santa
Clara, Holguin and Camaguey.

The announced pullouts from Cuba and schedule adjustments by American
carriers are a continuing sign that airlines may have been too ambitious
about the demand for regular flights to the Communist island following
the restoration of U.S-Cuban diplomatic relations.

In December, American was the first to announce it would reduce service
between Miami and Holguin, Santa Clara and Varadero to one daily flight
starting Feb. 16, "to remain competitive in the market."

American also serves Havana from Miami.

Today, travel to Cuba from the United States is restricted to 12
approved categories, such as educational and religious activities,
family visits and humanitarian projects. A ban on leisure tourism to
Cuba remains in force as part of the long-standing U.S.-imposed trade
embargo against the Communist island.

As for returning to Havana in the future, Fornaro said: "Spirit will
continue to monitor the Cuban market and if circumstances improve in the
future, we would consider resuming service there."

asatchell@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4209 or Twitter@TheSatchreport

Source: Spirit Airlines to end Havana service June 1; last flights on
May 31 - Sun Sentinel -
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-spirit-nixes-lauderdale-havana-route-20170414-story,amp.html Continue reading
Jacksonville Business Delegation Heads to Cuba Despite Possible Policy

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Eric Smith is heading up a local
delegation to Cuba next week, comprised of local business leaders
seeking more trade with the island nation.

"Ninety percent of all shipping to and from Cuba passed through the Port
of Jacksonville prior to the 1959 revolution," Smith told First Coast

"Our city has historic ties ranging from Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a
confidante of Jose Marti, to the Cuban Consulate that used to be located
at a home in the 1600 block of Pearl Street in Springfield."

Smith said the delegation will meet with senior governmental leaders to
discuss the Jacksonville business community's interest in reconnecting
with Cuba.

"We will share with them that our city is Florida's largest in both land
and population, with a major port, a vibrant business climate and a
place that welcomes business and trade with open arms," he said. "And,
we will ask what they think the future is and could be.

"We will share that this is one of the key places to be in the years
ahead. The genie's out of the bottle, whether or not President Trump
changes course on Cuba policy."

Smith said the delegation had some difficulty obtaining business visas
for the trip, but finally saw success when they began working with the
Tampa-based Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy. Jacksonville
has lagged behind other Florida cities in aggressively pursuing business
opportunities in Cuba, and Gov. Rick Scott has threatened funding cuts
for Florida port operators that do business with the communist country.

Meanwhile, former State Department official John Caulfield, who headed
up the U.S. mission in Havana, notes that the Trump administration has
been silent on Cuba.

"They've said only that their policy is under review," he said. "So far,
the Obama policies on Cuba have not been reversed. It's interesting that
we've had high-profile trips from several governors to promote business.
The Cubans are comfortable with this, and trade delegations are one way
to get their attention.

"Still, it's one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Cuba
doesn't have a lot of resources, and they are limited in what they can
buy. But there's still a market to all kinds of agricultural products,
and as the tourism business grows there, that's opening up more

Melissa Ross is the host of "First Coast Connect." She can be reached at
mross@wjct.org or on Twitter @melissainjax

Source: Jacksonville Business Delegation Heads to Cuba Despite Possible
Policy Change | WJCT NEWS -
http://news.wjct.org/post/jacksonville-business-delegation-heads-cuba-despite-possible-policy-change Continue reading
5 Things Cruise Lines Won't Tell You About Cuba
April 13, 2017

Of all the ports I've sailed into as a crew member, Havana is my
favorite. I fell in love with the city while working as a guide on the
first round of Cuba cruises. We were the only ship from the United
States, with just 700 passengers every 2 weeks. This summer is the
beginning of a new era for Havana. If you're considering a cruise to
Cuba, don't hesitate! But make sure you follow my insider tips to get
the most out of your visit.

#1- Don't miss the sail in: Sailing into Havana is like going back in
time. On the port side of the ship, you'll get up close and personal
with the Morro Castle as you sail through the narrow harbor. On the
starboard side, you'll enjoy a panoramic view of hustle and bustle of
central Havana, Art Deco facades, classic cars, and pedestrian traffic
on the Malécon, Cuba's ocean-front boulevard. Get a good spot on the top
deck early in the morning and bring your binoculars.

#2- Carry a lot of water with you: It's going to be a long, sweaty day
and you need water by your side. I suggest investing in a 40 oz.
Hydroflask. Fill it with ice and water from the ship before disembark.
You'll have cold water for 12+ hours and create less waste from buying
and disposing plastic bottles.

#3- Don't get stuck in the line to exchange money: Your credit and debit
cards from the United States likely won't work in Cuba so you'll need to
exchange money…and so does everyone else. Either get off the ship before
you're fellow cruisers, or get stuck in an hour long backup at the
exchange booths in the cruise terminal. Another option is to exchange
money at the San José Artisans Market down the street. Save money: Make
sure you bring Euros, Pounds, or Canadian Dollars to avoid the extra 10%
exchange fee on United States Dollars.

#4- Get away from the bus: Tours are great, but let's face it, you spend
more time stuck on a bus than you do immersing in the local culture.
Budget some time in your schedule to stroll around the Plazas of Old
Havana or visit a museum near Parque Central. Just make sure you check
the "self-guided" box when you fill out your affidavit. This means that
you agree to document the educational and cultural activities you do
while you're in Cuba.

#5- Do some research beforehand: Enrichment presentations can be hit or
miss, so don't wait until you're onboard to start thinking about Cuban
politics and culture. This doesn't mean you have to bury your head in a
long history book. Rent the movie Una Noche. It's a thriller about
teenagers who try and escape Havana on a homemade raft. If you're
looking for a quick and easy read, checkout my cruise-friendly guide 12
Hours in Havana available on Amazon.

About the Author:
Greg Shapiro is a millennial travel hacker, an expert at packing lots of
fun into short periods of time. From backpacking South America to
sailing around the world, he's visited over 35 countries and counting.

Source: 5 Things Cruise Lines Won't Tell You About Cuba -
http://cruisefever.net/5-things-cruise-lines-wont-tell-cuba/ Continue reading
You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex

Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of
law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic,
social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba
(PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the
Government with repressive methods.

Workers have no right to strike nor can they freely create trade
unions. The government refuses to legalize any social organizations that
do not share the policies of the party elite. Dissidents and human
rights defenders are stigmatized, harassed and ultimately imprisoned.

Opposition to the government can not be organized. There are no legal
mechanisms for the existence of political parties. The PCC is the only
party recognized in the National Constitution, which was drafted by the
founders of this political organization, senior military commanders who
have remained in power for almost 60 years; almost sixty years with two
presidents, brothers named Castro.

This military elite, does not tolerate opposition, nor pay any political
or economic price for harassing and repressing it. They are not open to
public debate. Through the Law they harass people who openly criticize them.

They count on making an example of those who oppose them. The rest of
society refrains from expressing their political preferences. They fear
negative consequences in their lives. They are controlled by social and
mass organizations.

The electoral law does not allow political parties to participate in the
elections, but the PCC participates in them, through the mass
organizations. They control the electoral process. They avoid
competition and ensure that the members of this political organization
are elected and appointed to hold office in government. Their leaders
occupy positions in the highest party and state structure.

As a consequence, people with citizenship and residence on the island
cannot run on equal terms. Nor do they have the mechanisms to
participate in political and economic decision-making. The election of
the members of parliament does not depend on their votes and political

They are excluded from intervening in the national economy, a privilege
only allowed to foreigners. While the country's economic situation is
precarious and worsens, the State limits its ability to generate
income. It obliges them, through the exercise of self-employment, to
carry out non-professional economic activities with only minimum profit

If Cubans dramatically flee the country, it is to seek better
opportunities for their lives, but also to seek freedom. "When the
people emigrate, the rulers are superfluous," is a phrase of José
Martí's that today is fully in force.

Source: You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/you-know-why-cubans-flee-cuba-en-masse-cubalex-hemosoido/ Continue reading
Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights
/ Cubalex

Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the
world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society
organzations, documenting human rights violations.

It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or
less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less democratic. Civil
society is the one that monitors the universal and effective
applications and implementation of human rights.

These organizations are the mediators between individuals and the State
and an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of
democracies and the rule of law. Without civil society, there is no
legitimate state.

Lamentably its members often are exposed to dangers. Many times they are
tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including
murder. They are vulnerable worldwide, due to undue restrictions on
freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Of the 43 thematic mandates of the special procedures of the United
Nations, the rapporteurs who deal with the exercise of these rights are
those who send the most communications to the States. Cuba is no
exception. These rapporteurs were the ones that sent the most
communications, either individually or jointly, between 2011 and 2016.

However, the Cuban State disagrees with the rapporteurs'
characterization of the people who make up the organizations that defend
human rights in Cuba. The State considers it inadmissible that they
should be recognized internationally as such and as a part of Cuban
civil society.

The State says that these human rights defenders aim to openly
transgress the laws, undermine, subvert and destroy the political and
social system, the internal legal and constitutional order, established
in a sovereign way by the Cuban nation, acting against the purposes and
principles enshrined in the International agreements on human rights.

It asserts that they are everything from invaders to terrorists, hiding
behind the mantle of human rights defenders. it states that they receive
funding from the United States government to fabricate excuses that
justify their policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba.

The government denies the work of defending human rights on the part of
informal civil society organizations, and discredits them, to increase
their vulnerability.

Source: Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending
Human Rights / Cubalex – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-denies-the-work-of-informal-civil-society-in-defending-human-rights-cubalex/ Continue reading
Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano

Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano, Havana, 5 Abril 2017 — In recent days, the
absence of a true rule of law has become evident in the two countries of
"Socialism of the 21st Century," an absence that reached the highest
levels of arbitrariness and injustice: Cuba and Venezuela. In the second
of these the iniquity took place at the highest level, the
Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.

The brand new Chavista magistrates ruled: "As long as the contempt and
invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persist, this
Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly
by this Chamber or by the body that it designates." In short, the court
replaced the parliament with itself.

And in passing, the High Court also withdrew immunity from the country's
parliamentary deputies. It was a coup d'etat pure and simple; only not
one undertaken by the military or the congressional branch, but by the
judicial. Of course, it didn't happen on the judges' own initiatve, but
because Maduro ordered it, because it is already known that the supposed
independence of that power is now a fiction in the homeland of the
"Liberator," Simon Bolivar.

The voices of protest did not hold back: in Venezuela, National Assembly
President Julio Borges called the shameful ruling "trash" and ripped it
up in front of the television cameras. The protests of students and
others who disagree began. At the international level, the Permanent
Council of the Organization of American States was convened, and Peru
withdrew its ambassador from Caracas. Even complacent the mediators
Torrijos, Fernandez and Rodríguez Zapatero rejected the gross maneuver.

But not only democracy supporters weighed in. A character as little
suspected of being anti-Chavez as the Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa
Ortega (yes, the same person labeled the "Eternal Commander" as "the
most humanist man that has ever existed on the planet" and totally
supported the unjust imprisonment of Leopoldo López) described what
happened in his country as a "rupture of the constitutional order."

Urgently convened, the Venezuelan Defense Council called on the Supreme
Court to "review" the statements that left Parliament without
functions. The obedient magistrates, in a fulminating manner, applied
"what I meant to say was…"

In Cuba, on the other hand, recent illegality had a lower level, in both
directions of the word. Lady in White Lismerys Quintana Ávila, also
urgently, was subjected to a spurious trial and sentenced to six months
in prison — the maximum allowed penalty — by a docile Municipal Court.

As a precedent for this injustice, we must remember the new trick that
the political police use against these admirable women: At the outset,
they impose a fine for a misdemeanor that does not exist. After the
refusal to pay the illegally imposed penalty, the defendant (in this
case, Lismerys) is taken to a Municipal Court to be tried.

Now the offense charged is "breach of obligations arising from the
commission of misdemeanor," and is provided for in article 170 of the
current Penal Code.Under this provision, "anyone who fails to comply
with the obligations arising from a resolution that has exhausted its
legal process, issued by a competent authority or official, relating to
contraventions" may be punished.

According to the final sentence of that rule, "if before the sentence is
pronounced, the accused meets the obligations derived from that
resolution, the proceedings will be archived." The purpose of this,
obviously, was not to establish a mechanism to send one more person to
prison, but to dissuade her from not paying the imposed pecuniary penalty.

But it is already known that, in Cuba, "whoever made the law, set the
trap." In the case of someone who disagrees and says so, any
misrepresentation of the correct sense of the rules is valid for the
Castro regime's authorities. What real chance to pay the fine had
Lismerys or her loved ones if she were detained and the latter did not
know what her situation was?

We know that the repressor who "cared for her" (who calls himself
"Luisito", but whose real name is known (unusual in itself) — Ariel
Arnau Grillette) was truthful in the text messages with which he
harassed this Cuban mother. We know what they said thanks to the
inventiveness of the brave fighter Angel Moya Acosta: "the desicion to
send you to prision is in my hands," he wrote. A phrase in which we do
not know what to admire more: his creative spelling or the confidence
with which he says what everyone knows, but usually shuts up about …

However, what is decisive in this case is not what the murky State
Security intended, but the submission of a court to the design of that
repressive body. This is how the "organs of justice" of Cuba and
Venezuela, once again, have become brothers in ignominy.

Translated by Jim

Source: Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez
Manzano – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-and-venezuela-and-god-created-them-hemosoido/ Continue reading
Cuban-American Relations in 2017

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Jorge Duany,
director of the Cuban Research Institute.

Upon Fidel Castro's arrival to power in 1959, the United States and Cuba
built up an oppositional animosity toward one another. The US responded
to Cuba's communist ideology with an embargo in hopes of overthrowing
the regime.

Strict regulations were enforced until President Barack Obama began to
make progress toward normalizing this protracted animosity. On July 20,
2015, Washington and Havana marked the restoration of diplomatic
relations. This has led to an ease on remittances and travel, but
financial, economic and commercial restrictions still remain.

Although Obama made efforts toward removing hostility between the two
countries, shortly before leaving office he ended the
"wet-foot/dry-foot" policy implemented in 1995 allowing for Cubans to
remain in the US once they reached its shores. While the cancellation of
this policy coincides with the new Trump administration's views on
tightening immigrant documentation, many US policies toward Cuba are up
for debate.

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Jorge Duany,
director of the Cuban Research Institute and professor of anthropology
at Florida International University (FIU). Born in Havana, Cuba, Duany
shares his insight on Cuban-American relations and predicts what will
come of this year.

Samantha Mendiguren: The US and Cuba reopened diplomatic relations after
more than 50 years. What effect has this had on Cuba?

Jorge Duany: On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced he
would take several steps to normalize relations between the US and Cuba
— some of those steps have been quite significant, especially the
removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And that
had a number of consequences — among them, from our little corner in the
world, that public universities in Florida were now able to cover travel
expenses to and from Cuba.

I mention that because that has been the most important consequence of
the change, not only for us but for Florida in general and particularly
for academic and cultural exchanges with Cuba. We don't know what's
going to happen with that particular move because the new secretary of
state under the Trump administration mentioned that he was going to
review this policy change, so that means that the Trump administration
might revert it.

The main impact of the changes in US policy toward Cuba has been to
increase the official contact between the US and Cuban governments at
all levels, from the president's visit to Cuba last year in March to a
number of lower-level but still significant contacts between
representatives of both governments. Several agreements have been signed
to conduct and collaborate with scientific research, for instance, and
even more policy-oriented issues like drug trafficking, undocumented
migration and so forth. So I think that has been the major change in the
past two years and a few months, especially once the US and Cuban
embassies were opened in the two capitals.

In addition, there has been some impact on trade, communication and
travel. There are a number of other areas that still haven't produced
significant results. For instance, there was a proposal to build
tractors in Cuba by a Cuban-American Jewish businessman, but
unfortunately it did not go through. That would have been the first time
there was direct investment by the US on Cuban soil for decades. So
there are some significant achievements and some failures in the
relationship between the two countries over the last two years.

Mendiguren: While the US and Cuba have amended diplomatic relations, the
commercial, economic and financial embargo still remains. Do you foresee
these positions changing with the new Trump administration?

Duany: As of now we're waiting to see. And we've been waiting ever since
the new administration took office on January 20th. It's been a little
more than a month and there has been no official change, specifically on
US' Cuba policy, except for a couple of tweets by the president and some
very strong language regarding human rights in Cuba, but so far we don't
know what concrete measures will be taken by the new administration.

We're still figuring out what the new administration will do about it
because we were expecting Trump to change it rather than Obama. So the
fact that Obama did it about one week before the new administration took
office was not only surprising but quite controversial.

I imagine that putting Cuba back on that black list of sponsors of
terrorism and even closing the embassy, which Trump mentioned at some
point during the campaign as a candidate, are very unlikely. All the
other changes are under revision, for instance the relaxation of
requirements for travel to Cuba, short of allowing tourism — which is
not allowed under the embargo law — and some other minor changes. I
don't know whether people will be able to bring cigars and rum or not
from Cuba, which was one of the latest changes in US' Cuba policy.

Mendiguren: What needs to happen within Cuba for the US to seriously
consider removing the economic embargo?

Duany: The Helms-Burton Act of 1996 sets several conditions to be met:
free elections, competitive party politics, respect for human rights and
so on, which are very difficult to be met by any government, let alone a
communist government such as the one in power in Cuba. Short of those
major changes what could happen is that Congress decides to look at the
embargo again and, given the changes that have taken place between the
two countries, if a majority of Congress decides it's time to lift the
embargo, that may take place.

However, I think it's very unlikely that it's going to happen given that
the majority of Congress is in Republican hands. And again, there are
few signs on the Cuban government's side that it will move in the
direction stipulated by the Helms-Burton Act.

Mendiguren: Why do you believe that Cuban Americans supported Trump in a
much higher degree than other Latin American groups in the United States?

Duany: I think Trump made one of the last stops of his campaign in late
October of last year when he came to Miami, and of course he was here
several times, has strong connections to south Florida and made a very
strong promise to revert all of President Obama's executive orders
regarding Cuba. He got the support of the veterans of the Bay of Pigs
invasion, which had not endorsed any presidential candidate in the past
five decades. The veterans reflect a broader sector of the community,
particularly the early wave of Cuban refugees from the 1960s, who tend
to be more conservative. Probably that sector of the community did give
him a majority support.

However, there is a lot of argument here in Miami as to exactly what
percentage of the Cuban-American vote went to Trump. I've seen some
estimates that suggest something like 60%, which I think is a little
exaggerated; others are closer to 50-52%, a slight majority. I don't
think there's any doubt that Trump got a much larger percentage of the
Cuban-American vote than any other Latino community, but we don't know
yet what specific percentage actually did. Once Trump sided with the
more conservative sector of the Cuban-American electorate, which means
older, first generation, better-off exiles and their children, he did
get the majority of the vote.

However, there's also a growing number of Cuban Americans, both those
who were born in the US and those who have come in the last three
decades, who are increasingly leaning toward the Democratic Party and
there's also quite a lot of evidence that that particular sector of the
community tended to favor Hillary Clinton. But in the final analysis I'd
say that because many of these more recent immigrants aren't US citizens
or aren't registered to vote, they're still a minority in terms of the
electorate of Cuban origin.

Mendiguren: Obama ended the wet-foot/dry-foot policy. How do you think
this affects the Cuban-American community? Do you think Trump will
change this policy?

Duany: We're still figuring out what the new administration will do
about it because we were expecting Trump to change it rather than Obama.
So the fact that Obama did it about one week before the new
administration took office was not only surprising but quite
controversial. Some of the polls that have been conducted, especially
here at FIU in the past couple of years, have found that the majority of
the Cuban-American community does support the wet-foot/dry-foot policy
and the Cuban Adjustment Act. However, when you break it down by age and
time of arrival, the earlier Cuban refugees probably wouldn't support as
strongly that particular policy measure.

The main reason is because of the concern in south Florida about the
abuse of the wet-foot/dry-foot policy by some Cuban immigrants, who are
not necessarily political refugees and who go back to Cuba once they get
their permanent residence. That issue got a lot of media coverage here
in south Florida, and even in Washington. Marco Rubio, for instance, and
Carlos Curbelo were two of the main critics of the policy and even the
Cuban Adjustment Act.

However, because of political party affiliation, when Obama decided to
cancel the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, that put the new government in a
difficult situation because the incoming president had said that he
would revert all of Obama's executive orders. But this one is likely to
stay, because it seems to fit within the discourse of the new
administration of reducing undocumented migration to the US, which was
facilitated by the wet-foot/dry-foot policy toward Cubans.

Mendiguren: How has Fidel Castro's death affected Cuba and its relation
to the US? What implementations have been set by Raúl Castro and what do
you expect from him in the future? What will happen when he leaves his

Duany: Fidel was out of the picture for about 10 years since his
retirement and mysterious medical emergency. He was coming out of his
house every so often and made public appearances, and wrote that column
that probably wasn't written by him in Cuba's official press, Granma.
But as far as I can tell, looking back at those years, there had been a
transition or a succession of power from Fidel to Raúl, and Raúl was
pretty much the one who was leading the Cuban government and actually
made some changes.

But Fidel still had a strong symbolic influence, for instance when he
criticized Obama's visit in calling him "Brother Obama" and saying some
very nasty things about his visit; whereas Raúl was very friendly with
Obama, sat next to him at the Tampa-Cuba baseball game and so on.

So, with Fidel out of the picture, one theory is that Raúl will finally,
in whatever time he remains in power, be freer to continue his reforms
than when he was under the shadow of Fidel. Another theory is that there
was never that kind of big brother/younger brother distinction in terms
of their actual thoughts and actions.

With Fidel out of the picture, in the next year or so when Raúl has said
he would retire, he might, for instance, accelerate some of the reforms
he started but that Fidel and his entourage didn't support. I'm thinking
especially of the US-Cuba normalization process. Fidel didn't
particularly like this, he didn't stand in the way of the process but he
did make a couple of critical comments about the process of
reestablishing diplomatic relations with the US.

In about a year from now, [Raúl] has declared that he wants to retire
from the presidency and that has led to all kinds of speculations as to
who's next in line. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the vice president, seems to be
the heir to the throne, so to speak, although some people speculate that
it might be somebody from the Castro family itself and the inner circle
— we don't know that yet either.

But if he does retire there's still the question as to whether he will
remain as the first secretary of the Communist Party, which is really
the power behind the throne, or as the commander-in-chief of the armed
forces, and it doesn't look like he's going to let go of those very
powerful positions. So, there might be a new president who doesn't
really have control over the main institutions in Cuba (the army, the
Communist Party), and become the figurehead of the Cuban government.

Then when you go, you find yourself being treated sometimes as a
foreigner, sometimes as a Cuban. You have to pay more, you have to use
the more expensive currency — there's all kinds of experiences that make
you feel like you're not at home.

What I think is now at a crossroads is the question of what kind of
relationship Castro will establish with the new US administration. Raúl
has restated that he's willing to negotiate, that he's willing to talk
to the new government like he had said before with the Obama
administration, but there hasn't been much in the way of a response from
Washington either, so it's kind of a standstill at this point. And it's
unclear where the Trump administration wants to move with this, or just
keep it the same or return to December 16, 2014.

Mendiguren: You've written extensively about Cuban identity and the
diaspora. Can you explain the cultural and political divide between
Cubans and Cuban Americans — do you think that this chasm can be
reconciled into one national identity?

Duany: It's a long history of love and hate between Cuba and the US. In
fact we just held a conference where we used what I think is a good icon
of that relationship. It's an image of a cigar box from Key West,
Florida, in 1898, that shows the symbols of Cuba and the US as these
very strong women giving each other the gift of tobacco — a cigar —
which was then processed in Key West and sold to the US market.

And that of course alludes to migration to the US from Cuba, which is
really a long and protracted process. It began more than a century and a
half ago with the Cuban War of Independence against Spain and continued
throughout the first half of the 20th century. It became massive after
1959, so these very strong historical and cultural links between the US
and Cuba, particularly with Florida, are now stronger than before.

And despite the lack of diplomatic relations and the lack of economic
ties between the two countries over the last 60 years or so, you do find
links between the two places. For instance, travel between Miami and
Havana is very strong now; depending on your sources it could be as many
as 400,000 people of Cuban origin based in the US traveling to Cuba for
a visit. The telephone calls, the remittances, the money that people
send their relatives to the island is in the millions of dollars —and
then more recently, I think as part of this opening about, the
increasing number of artists, musicians, writers and even academics who
have expanded and strengthened these personal and family links between
Cubans on and off the island.

Now, the division is still very much there and all kinds of restrictions
are still difficult to overcome, including visas and passports. Since I
was born in Cuba, I have a very difficult time traveling there because I
either have to get a Cuban passport, which I don't have right now (I'm
still waiting for one since I applied in July, but no response yet), or
I can apply for a one-time only Cuban visa, which is very expensive.

Then when you go, you find yourself being treated sometimes as a
foreigner, sometimes as a Cuban. You have to pay more, you have to use
the more expensive currency — there's all kinds of experiences that make
you feel like you're not at home.

Yet at the same time, you were born there, you have family, and you're
familiar with the culture, the language, the food and the music. In any
case, it's an issue for many Cuban Americans of various generations,
both my own generation and my children's generation, to decide for
themselves in terms of their identity and how they want to define
themselves. If you're a US citizen but your parents were born in Cuba,
even the issue of traveling to Cuba is a major dilemma. I know that a
lot of young Cuban Americans won't go to look for their roots on the
island because their parents or grandparents went through such a
difficult, traumatic experience that they don't want to offend them.

In fact, some FIU students will wait until their parents and
grandparents have passed so that they respect that experience. This
issue of identity of the second generation and the links between the
island and the US are very intractable. They're still difficult to
overcome especially in this, what seems to be, a Cold-War division
between Cuba and the US.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Fair Observer's editorial policy.

Source: Cuban-American Relations in 2017 -
https://www.fairobserver.com/region/latin_america/cuba-america-relations-trump-castro-news-20170/ Continue reading
Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2107 — Confined for more than 80
days in a punishment cell, without a single contact with the outside,
the activist Lisandra Rivera Rodríguez of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) received her first family visit this Tuesday, in the Mar Verde
Women's Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Lisandra Rivera, 28, was arrested after her home was raided by State
Security on 31 December of last year. On that occasion, and despite
having been beaten by the agents, she was accused of an alleged criminal
"attack," according to UNPACU activists. Her family had not been able to
contact her since 17 January when her trial was held in the Provincial
Court and she was sentenced to two years imprisonment. On 18 April she
will have served four months.

Her husband, Yordanis Chavez, commented in a telephone interview with
14ymedio that both he and her parents managed to be with her for almost
two hours. "As of Saturday she is outside the punishment cell and is in
a of maximum severity wing of the prison."

According to Chávez, from now on they will be able to visit her
normally. The next appointment is scheduled for the 17th of this
month. "We saw her well, quite strong of spirit. She continues to refuse
to comply with orders and or to accept reeducation."

The authorities of the prison used this refusal to accept the
"reeducation" regime as a reason to impose the isolation of a punishment
cell on Rivera. "The tried to make her stand up and give military
salutes to the jailers who conduct a count three or four times a day.
When a high official arrived she also had to stand at attention like
they do in the military and she refused to do it," says Chavez.

During the visit, Lisandra told her relatives that the punishment cell
is like that of any police dungeon, pestilent and in very bad
conditions, without light. She had no access to anything, no right to
family or conjugal visits, nor could she receive phone calls or food
brought in from outside. "Every Tuesday I was handcuffed and taken,
almost dragged, to the disciplinary council," the activist told her husband.

Yordanis Chavez explained that they have not appealed the ruling because
they do not trust the judicial system. "Lisandra has not committed any
crime, it is only because it was an order of State Security as
punishment for her activism in UNPACU in favor of freedom and democracy
in Cuba."

José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU's leader, fears that, in the midst of the
difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of what
happened in the spring of 2003, when 75 regime opponents were arrested
and sentenced to extremely long prison terms. That crackdown, which came
to be known as the Black Spring, coincided with the United States'
invasion of Iraq, a time when the world was looking the other way. At
present, more than 50 UNPACU activists remain in prison in several
provinces, many of them accused of crimes they have not committed.

For its part, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation announced in its last report, on the month of March, that
there had been at least 432 arbitrary detentions of peaceful dissidents
in Cuba in that month. In addition, several dissidents were vandalized
and stripped of their computers, cell phones and other means of work, as
well as cash.

Source: Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lysandra-does-not-want-to-be-reeducated/ Continue reading
Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the brink of death

HAVANA — The young woman sees me watch in amazement as she gets up from
her seat and attempts to carry the four bags with her through the aisle
of the plane, and she gestures at them and shrugs.

"There is nothing in Cuba, so whatever we can, we bring."

It took me a few days to fully grasp what she had told me, being a
first-time visitor in a country entering its 58th year of communist
dictatorship, and its very first without Fidel Castro. I came here to
find out what had changed since his passing, and what was next for the
island regime, but to my great surprise it was business as usual, in
more ways than one.

On my way from the airport I ask my cab driver if things feel different
since Castro's death. He shakes his head and tells me that even on the
night of his passing there was little movement in the streets or
commotion through Havana.

"I was impressed, actually. Fidel has been everything, you know? He is
the father of the revolution and when he dies – nothing – not a word.
They were able to control everything, even then."

By "they" he means the regime, now taking orders from Fidel's brother
Raoul Castro, and the security apparatus attached to it, with its
infamous security service, Direccion General de Intelligencia (DGI)
making sure the wheels turn smoothly. It is a simple yet brilliant
scheme, where every neighborhood has an informant, reporting to the
Comites de Defensa de la Revolution (CDR), a secret police in charge of
keeping tabs on counter-revolutionary activity, and every infraction or
sign of disloyalty is met with stern and immediate consequences. Given
the dire straits of the people in Cuba, the regime is not willing to
take any chances, having experienced revolutions in the past it knows
not to allow the flame of change to be ignited.

With a monthly salary of $30 USD per person, supplemented with a fixed
portion of rice, eggs and beans, the people of Cuba have been forced to
use every opportunity to make some money on the side in order to avoid
starvation. This has resulted in a shadow-society to take shape within
communist Cuba, a society that is highly capitalist in every single way.
I get evidence of this en route to old Havana one day, when my driver
stops for gas and is told there is none left, only to leave the car with
a fistful of cash and return later, car filled-up and ready.

"This is what we call the Cuban way. You see, the gas station belongs to
the government, so the only way for these men to earn something extra is
to sell gas to the highest bidder and deny those who can't pay. I call
it communist capitalism."

The same is true everywhere you go: people cooking the books to fill
their plates and fight their way out of desperation, and as a tourist
you accept it and move on, constantly struggling with the guilt of
living here in a bubble that everyday Cubans will never be privy to. To
outsiders, the combination of poverty and oppression and the recent loss
of the symbol of the revolution would inevitably result in a turn toward
democracy and capitalism. But as the regime does its best to convey,
very little has been buried with Fidel.

The Cubans I have spoken to are proud of their country. Even though they
criticize the regime, under promise of anonymity, they are quick to add
that they don't necessarily want Cuba to become the United States or
just any other country in the West. When I ask them if they believe that
democracy and capitalism will come to Cuba now that Fidel has left and
Raoul is on his way out, they respond in the negative, saying that
whatever will come next will be a Cuban version of those things, an
adaptation from what it is now.

And the way things are looking, they may be right. Rumor has it Raoul
Castro has already reshuffled the government, replacing generals and
ministers with his personal confidants so that he will remain the
unofficial leader even after his assumed successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel,
is sworn in as president in 2018. This ensures that even though Fidel is
dead, the spirit of the revolution lives on, and the Cubans I've spoken
to fear that the regime will take steps to emphasize the status quo by
tightening its grip on the population.

It is not an improbable scenario, but rather a common tactic for
totalitarian regimes when dealing with dramatic shifts, as most recently
seen in Iran after the nuclear deal, where executions and imprisonments
have risen dramatically during and after the rapprochement with the
West. There is an important difference, however, and that is that Cuba
is unlike many other countries of its kind, and that difference may
actually be a hindrance in its journey toward democracy.

One thing that sets Cuba apart from other totalitarian regimes is the
romance that surrounds it, still, despite the thousands of extrajudicial
executions and arbitrary imprisonments, a ruined national economy, and
denial of basic freedoms of association, religion, movement, and speech
having taken place in the past 58 years. Even those who do not hold an
ideological torch for the communist revolution are still enchanted with
the country's beauty, charm, and lust for life, making it easier to
disregard the daily crimes committed against its people and quell the
international community's instinct to intervene.

Cuba is truly magical, and yes, it is full of life, but once you step
outside of the lush hotel garden you see that it is life on the brink of
death, magic existing in a state of suspended animation.

There are several shadow-societies existing side by side in Cuba, and
through these the population has come to function and survive, with very
limited resources and freedoms.

This is made possible by the geographical and cultural proximity to the
U.S., loosening of sanctions and the idea of Cuba being kept alive
through and by the booming Cuban tourism industry. This process is
quietly supported by the regime itself because, ironically, the only way
for the communist revolution to survive is by covert capitalism, keeping
the population from starvation, and turning a blind eye to this keeps
the oppressive communist regime from having to admit defeat.

There were no rallies through Havana on the eve of Fidel's death and
now, almost 4 months later, he has already moved from leader to martyr,
cementing a well-directed legacy. Life goes on for the Cubans, with or
without the father of the revolution, as they watch tourists flood their
Island paradise, hoping to benefit from some of the overflow.

Cuba is lively and loud – full of life for days of play. But when it
really matters, it is quiet – its people's fate decided in silence,
without so much as a word.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (@truthandfiction) is a journalist and author,
based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Source: Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the
brink of death | Washington Examiner -
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/cuba-after-fidel-castro-full-of-life-but-it-is-life-on-the-brink-of-death/article/2619841 Continue reading
Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals
AFP April 12, 2017

Havana (AFP) - Cuban dissidents planning to run in the communist
country's local elections in November have been arrested, threatened and
otherwise harassed by the authorities, one of their leaders said Tuesday.

At least five would-be candidates have been charged with crimes such as
robbery, had their property seized, or been threatened with losing their
jobs, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the opposition Unity
Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD).

"They (the authorities) are taking preventive measures so that no
independent citizen who doesn't fit their agenda can run," he told AFP.

The local elections in November kick off an electoral cycle that will
ultimately decide the successor to President Raul Castro.

The next step will be the election of the 612-member National Assembly,
which chooses the all-powerful Council of State, which in turn chooses
the president.

Opposition parties are banned in Cuba, but dissident groups are trying
to sneak the maximum number of Castro opponents into the local polls.

Two opposition candidates managed to stand in the last local elections
in 2015. Neither won.

This year, 109 opposition candidates are prepared to run, according to
Cuesta Morua.

Castro, 85, took over in 2006 from his brother Fidel, Cuba's leader
since 1959.

Raul Castro has steered Cuba toward a very gradual economic opening and
restored ties with its old Cold War enemy the United States.

But opponents say the only communist regime in the Americas still
controls most of the economy, and muzzles free speech and political dissent.

Source: Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cuba-opposition-candidates-targeted-reprisals-224942848.html Continue reading
What the Future Holds for U.S.-Cuba Relations
Apr 11, 2017 Latin America North America

When the Obama administration reestablished U.S. diplomatic relations
with Cuba in December 2014, many experts predicted that it would bring a
flood of new money to the island, transforming its economy and political
culture for the better. Almost two-and-a-half years later, U.S. trade
with Cuba continues to languish, and a handful of executive orders on
the part of President Donald Trump could soon set back the clock to the
days when hardline opposition to ties with Cuba's communist regime was
the norm in Washington. What is the future of U.S.-Cuba ties now that
the honeymoon that began under Obama is over? Which aspects, if any, of
the Obama administration campaign to open up Cuba are most likely to

On the one hand, during his presidential campaign, "Trump certainly
talked about repudiating what Obama has done with Cuba," says Stephen
Kobrin, Wharton emeritus management professor. "Clearly, with the stroke
of a pen, he could eliminate a lot of the liberalization that occurred
under Obama," which was enacted as executive orders, not congressionally
sanctioned legislation. On the other hand, "the streets have not exactly
been paved with gold in Cuba," Kobrin notes. "There hasn't been a great
rush to do business in Cuba. Right now, there is not a huge amount of
interest." Of the dramatic rapprochement with Cuba undertaken by
President Obama, Kobrin adds: "It was an historical event that seems to
have come and gone."

Cuban-American attorney Gustavo Arnavat, senior adviser at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, notes, "One of the missed
opportunities is that not as many deals were done" as anticipated.
"That's bad for a number of different reasons. One, I think U.S.
companies have missed out. I think the Cuban people and the Cuban
government have missed out on great U.S. products and services." He adds
that now — just as the Trump administration is reviewing its Cuba policy
— instead of having 100 U.S. companies advocating for liberalization by
going to their congressional representatives and saying, 'Look, we have
this business now in Cuba,' "you only have 25 or 30 or so." (Editor's
note: Arnavat, who recently returned from Cuba, addressed this topic at
the 2017 Wharton Latin American Conference, where Knowledge@Wharton
interviewed him. The interview will be published soon.)

Uncertainty and Disappointment

"The impact of Donald Trump's victory can be defined by one word:
'uncertainty,'" notes John Kavulich, president of the New York-based
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "That uncertainty has negatively
impacted interest by U.S. companies [in Cuba]."

In both countries, disappointment has been fueled by misunderstanding of
the potential impact of their mutual ties. Charles Shapiro, president of
the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, says that "U.S. business people
thought that they were going to go to Cuba and see hundred dollar bills
floating down the streets. Just as Americans thought that Cuba was going
to change pretty quickly after December 2014, individual Cubans also
thought that their standard of living was going to change [right away] …
[that] their lives were going to get better. Both of those expectations
were wrong; real life is more complicated."

Many Americans imagined that the Cuban government would soon liberate
political prisoners and make political reforms. When that didn't happen,
critics argued that the U.S. was making all the concessions, but the
Cubans were doing nothing to open their economy. Notes Kavulich,
"Basically, an overall negative narrative has been created."

And while uncertainty is growing over which measures Trump might take to
unwind the Obama administration's efforts, "the Cuban government is not
doing its part to mitigate any of the uncertainty," Kavulich notes.
"What it could do would be to allow more U.S. companies to have a
presence in Cuba, more U.S. companies to directly engage with the
licensed independent sector in Cuba. They are not allowing that." Adds
Arnavat, "If you look at Cuba's plan for economic development, [foreign
direct investment] just doesn't quite fit into their priorities. And
then even if it's the right kind of company, and the right opportunity,
they still blame the embargo, right?"

It's not just the Americans who aren't investing in Cuba now, notes
Shapiro. "The Chinese are not investing in Cuba," nor are the
Brazilians or the Europeans. "It's because you can make more money
investing in Singapore or Atlanta, Georgia" or many other places under
the current system in Cuba. He adds, "One gets the sense that the
government of Cuba doesn't understand that foreign direct investment is
a competition — that the investor gets to decide where he is going to
get the best return on his money. There are not people out there wanting
to throw their money at Cuba in a way that doesn't allow them to make a
competitive return on their investment. That's the issue."

In the travel sector, explains Kavulich, "The airlines, in their
exuberance and enthusiasm to get as many routes as possible, far
exceeded what the reality was going to be. All the airlines asked for
far more seats than they were going to be able to fill. They asked for
approximately three million seats, when the agreement with the Cubans
was for about one to 1.2 million. From the beginning, it was out of
whack, but the airlines were all trying to grab as many of the routes as
they could."

As international hotel companies signed building contracts, U.S.
arrivals in Cuba ballooned 34% between 2015 and 2016. Hotel rates soared
by between 100% and 400%, with rooms previously priced at $150 per night
skyrocketing to $650, according to New York-based tour operator Insight
Cuba. American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit and other carriers started
operating daily flights to 10 cities, including airports that hadn't
welcomed U.S. airlines in decades. But the novelty has worn off, and
hotel rates have normalized. Airlines that overestimated demand for Cuba
are cutting back on their routes and using smaller planes.

Two major factors have changed since the high-profile restoration of
diplomatic ties during the Obama administration, says Wharton management
professor Mauro Guillen. "The first is the change in the U.S.
administration. The second is that Raul Castro has said that he will
step down in a couple of years. There is a power struggle going on in
Cuba between those who are traditional and others who believe, like
Raul, that there should be a change towards more freedoms in Cuba. Both
factors are making it difficult to get things moving in that direction."

Guillen adds: "Trump has not been president for even 100 days yet; we're
going to have to wait and see. It's not so much that [everyone has] lost
interest, but that there are so many other things going on that require
the attention" of lobbyists and policy makers in the U.S.

Travel: 'A Bad Telenovela'

Trump's first statement about changes in U.S. policy is expected soon,
but no one knows for sure what to expect. The Trump administration is
"not going to sit around with a majority in the [U.S.] House, Senate and
… the Supreme Court — and not do anything. They're taking their time
until they think the President and people around him have time to act,"
says David Lewis, president of Manchester Trade, a Washington
consultancy. "My view is that they are not going to leave this
[situation] as it is." That doesn't necessarily mean that Trump will
undo every policy change made by Obama, he adds.

According to Kavulich, "If they decide to go with increased enforcement
[of the travel rules] — which it seems they will do — that could lead to
the demise of the 'self-defined trips' that have become a popular way
for Americans to visit Cuba," despite the official ban on tourism. "One
change the Obama administration made was to allow people to go to Cuba
on their own. They didn't have to go with a group, and they could
self-certify. It was the honor system on steroids."

Lewis argues that the changes made in the travel sector "are going to
remain as is — not because [the Trump administration] thinks it's good,
but because to try and reverse travel is going to be a major quagmire, a
whirlpool, like a bad telenovela that will never end. You're going to
have to start fighting with the nuns who go to Cuba, with the college
kids who go to Cuba, with the NGOs. It will be a never-ending mad house,
which could engulf [the administration's] limited bench."

However, in order to pressure the Cuban government to liberalize its
economy, the Trump administration could tighten the screws on U.S.
visitors in various ways. Kavulich notes that it may try to make travel
harder for U.S. visitors to Cuba who don't comply with the official
rules, which make it impossible for Americans to visit as a tourist, by
requiring them to go through several inspections at customs. Overall,
the Trump administration "can do a lot without seeming as though they
are being punitive, simply by enforcing the regulations."

The Trump administration could also "make it clear that no further
licenses will be given to any [U.S.] company that wants to engage with
the Cuban military, which controls the Cuban hospitality sector," adds
Kavulich. "If they act retroactively, that means the Sheraton [in
Havana, the first hotel to operate under a U.S. brand since the 1959
revolution] gets closed; U.S. cruise ships can't dock at the ports; and
U.S. [air] carriers can't land at the airports because the Cuban
military controls all of it."

"With Trump, you're reading tea leaves," says Kobrin. "You never know
what's real and isn't. But he is not viscerally anti-communist. He isn't
part of the old Republican Cold War establishment. He doesn't seem to
have trouble dealing with Hungary, for example, and his problems with
China have more to do with what he perceives as 'American first' and
U.S. interests, rather than their political system." Moreover, "the
opposition to establishing relations with Cuba comes especially from
Congress and Cuban-American members of Congress, who are concerned about
the political system."

Reasons for Optimism

Originally, the expectation was that an announcement by the
administration regarding Cuba would be made in early February and then
March. "It seems as though the announcement is being held hostage to
whatever events are happening each day," Kobrin says. "It could end up
that the decision could be a tweet that is a response to something the
Cuban government does that we don't know about yet."

Overall, Kobrin says, "I've always felt that once liberalization occurs,
Cuba is just another island in the sun. It has some advantages in terms
of its medical system, the education of the populace, and so forth, but
then it has to compete with every other Caribbean island, once the
novelty has worn off. Cuba is not a logical place to put much in the way
of manufacturing or other sorts of industry, [except] maybe some health
care initiatives."

Shapiro is more optimistic. "The private sector in Cuba is growing.
Cubans call [self-employed workers] cuentapropistas — which means they
are 'working on their own account.' And they are [becoming] a larger
percentage of the work force. Lots of people in Cuba have their
government job, but they are doing other things as well. They can't
exist on a government salary.… Everybody in Cuba is working a deal."
Internet access has actually skyrocketed, he adds, with Wi-Fi hot spots
available in parks around the country. "Lots of people use them, and
they are owned by the government. Unlike the case in China, you can
access The New York Times in Cuba, and more importantly, El Pais from

"I'm still a little bit hopeful and optimistic," Guillen says. "At
least, a framework has been established for the basic relationships….
Now we have cruise ships going through Havana, we have regularly
scheduled flights, and we have some broadening of the kinds of trade
that can be done. Let's give this first round of reforms some time to
sink in. Then, the [Trump] administration will have a better idea of
what it wants to do."

Source: What the Future Holds for U.S.-Cuba Relations -
Knowledge@Wharton -
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/future-holds-u-s-cuba-relations/ Continue reading
Cuba Searches for its "Lost" Money
April 11, 2017
By Eileen Sosin Martinez* (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — In my neighborhood, the story about Juan the butcher, who
took a detour with a truck full of minced meat, sold it and then left
the country, is famous. "It's a good thing he left," a neighbor warns,
"because if he was still here, people would have got their hands on him…
and they would have killed him." But, Juan's story belongs to a greater

Days later, several markets in the city closed, among them the
Almendares Shopping Center (on 41 and 42 Streets) and the one on 51 and
26 Streets. Salespeople responded "Inventory check" or "Public Health
inspection" in a bad mood, and it's hard to believe them. For example,
at the Carlos III shopping mall, the rumor mill has it that the
inspection found adulterated and repackaged products, expired food items
on sale, price distortion… the real reason why these places have been
closed. The shit hit the fan, people usually say.

In late January, some results from the latest National Check of Internal
Controls were published, namely, losses of over 51 million CUC and over
90 million CUP (Adding up to over 55 million USD), just at
government-run busniesses in Havana alone.

The numbers come with exclamation marks: 51 million CUC and 90 million
CUP, lost or undeclared, in a country which came face to face with a
recession (-0.9% of GDP) last year, something which hasn't happened in
23 years.

It's barely reassuring that the capital's Head Comptroller, Miriam
Marban, explained that not everything is a result of crime, and adds
other reasons for the missing revenue, such as "production and sale
targets not being met" and "accounts for charging and paying."
Regardless, the statistics are scandalous.

The anti-corruption fight in Cuba took center stage with the opening of
Cuba's Comptroller General Office several years ago, one of the first
steps in updating the economic model. According to lawyer Michel
Fernandez Perez, its creation is the most important structural change in
the Cuban political system after the 1992 reforms.

Controls, controls…
"This institution will play an essential role in upholding order,
economic discipline, internal controls and tackling any cases of
corruption head-on, as well as the causes and conditions that might
encourage any leader or public servant's negligible and criminal
behavior," President Raul Castro stressed at the Cuban Parliament in
August 2009, when Cuba's Comptroller General's Office was approved.

This institution responds directly to the National Assembly of the
People's Power and the State Council, and its purpose is to help them in
carrying out "the highest supervision of State and Government bodies."

Taking this concept into account, Fernandez notes that the authority of
the Cuban Comptroller General's Office is above the government and every
executive-administrative apparatus; it is only subordinate to the most
important institutions of power.

In spite of this hierarchy, the Comptroller Office doesn't form part of
the country's constitutional framework. "Maybe from a legal-formal
viewpoint, it would have been better to have reformed the Constitution
(so as to introduce it)," the lawyer highlighted. This plus the
existence of the self-employed, non-agricultural cooperatives, dual
citizenship and other economic and political realities, remind us that
the Constitution does indeed need to be changed.

Cuba's armed forces may be audited, complying with a special disposition
in the law governing the Comptroller's Office, if the country's
president requests it and when he deems it to be timely.

Meanwhile, they are governed by their own internal control regulations,
and need to inform the Comptroller General about their activities at
least once a year.

[Editors Note: Much of Cuba's tourism industry is run by the Armed
Forces or contracted out to foreign companies. The same goes for

Something similar happens in the case of the Communist Party
organizations and its related social and mass organizations; as well as
the National Assembly, State Council and Council of Ministers; the
Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Office. Their economic and
administrative dependencies are auditable, provided that the highest
authorities from these same institutions, or the State Council, request it.

When an audit ends, a document is drawn up which is then made public to
employees. That is to say, they only receive information about what has
happened. The Comptroller's Office complies with the functions that it
has been assigned, according to the law. However, dialogue and worker
participation don't really work in practice.

Cuba is a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption,
a document it signed in 2005 (two years after it was created) and
ratified in 2007. Cuban Audit Regulations are in sync with International
Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI).

However, the critical factor which distinguishes the National
Comptroller's Office from its equivalents across the world is its lack
of public information. While in other countries it's normal for these
institutions to put up the findings of their investigations on their
website, here ordinary citizens don't find out anything, only skeleton
reports in the media, which lack statistics and are all too general.

This results in the inspection process being incomplete. By law, the
Comptroller is obliged to inform those who were subject of the
inspection, labor unions and high-ranking figures of its results and
recommendations. That's been made explicitly clear. So who is
responsible for informing the general public?

We're talking about monitoring the State's resources – read here, our
resources. As such, the logical thing is that we know, in excruciating
detail, the inspections findings and what measures were taken. Without
detailed and timely information there isn't any popular control or real
citizen participation.

Real public participation
One of the alleged causes of irregular accounts lies in the impoverished
economic situation Cuba is experiencing. "When workers are paid a
dignified salary which they can live off, I'm sure many of these cases
of corruption will disappear," claimed somebody in the comments of
Escambray newspaper.

Nevertheless, "although you can understand that we have problems which
affect Cuban people's everyday lives, as a matter of principle, we
cannot accept that this leads to people committing illegal activities,"
stressed Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, during the closing ceremony
of the first International Audit and Control Workshop (2014) in Havana.

On the other hand, there are also those who have just wanted to get
rich. The Comptroller General, Gladys Bejerano, has stated that the key
motive continues to be "deviating resources" to sell them illegally for
illicit gain."

In both cases, the moral crack of those who say they are "fighting"
(luchando), "inventing" "resolving" as if that was positive… when they
should be saying that they are stealing, is commonplace.

Not by chance, the last two Internal Control inspections focused on the
extremely important sectors and processes for current change:
decentralizing State business operation, measures to "tackle" the aging
population, granting subsidies to the population, non-agricultural
cooperatives and the application of performance based salaries at State
businesses. Going beyond companies, the Comptroller Office is
responsible for verifying the ethical conduct of State managers and leaders.

We don't know much else about the millions lost at the beginning of this
article: "severe measures" were applied to nine managers; and 114
officials and employees were sanctioned with "lesser disciplinary
measures", because of their collateral responsibility. That's it.

The fact that the law has a chapter called "About popular participation"
gives us some hope. "It's society who has to control the public budget,
because we are the ones controlling what we spend," commented the
director of Budget Implementation at the Ministry of Finance and Prices,
Jesus Matos.

He's right; I completely agree. However, for that to happen we need
information, transparency and the real capacity to involve ourselves and
participate. There can't be socialism (much less a prosperous and
sustainable socialism) if workers don't participate.

Source: Cuba Searches for its "Lost" Money - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124670 Continue reading
'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political prisoner to
run in the 'elections'
YUSIMÍ RODRÍGUEZ LÓPEZ | La Habana | 12 de Abril de 2017 - 12:10 CEST.

'We will take the voter's voice wherever necessary', says José Díaz Silva.

For his anti-Government activism José Díaz Silva has received four jail
sentences totaling 16 years. He is the leader of various internal
dissidence organizations, and frequently ends up in jail. Now he plans
to be a candidate to serve as a Poder Popular (national assembly)
delegate, running on the #Otro18 independent platform, exercising his
right, as stipulated in the Constitution, to elect and to be elected.

Never before had he thought about taking a step of this type. "I do not
belong to the CDR, nor did I use to vote. Years back, we wanted to be
observers. We went here to the Electoral Board close to here, and they
threw us out. I will run here and now because we want to define the
difference between their [pro-Government] candidates and ours," he
explains. In this way, we will not change the system, but we will act as
spokespeople for the community, which complains about its lack of say.
We know that they will (...) describe us as delinquents and
contrarrevolutionaries. They also claim that we are paid by the Empire.
A lie, and they know it," says Díaz Silva.

"I get help from my family in the US: two children (also former
political prisoners, for writing 'down with Fidel', as stated in their
court records), five siblings, and my mother. My wife has five siblings
there. There I have friends there who want to see a free and democratic
Cuba. They help human rights organizations and political prisoners. They
send food," he explains.

Díaz Silva is the president ofOpositores por una Nueva República,a
national delegate of the Movimiento Democracia, a national coordinator
of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Frente de Resistencia y Desobediencia
Civil, and one of the coordinators of the Democratic Action Unity Bureau

"The way you entered through, I clear it with a mower I brought from the
United States. Where is the money assigned for that? It is robbed by
Áreas Verdes, Comunales, the municipal government. They report that the
highway is kept clean. But it is cleaned by a human rights activist," he

"We want to know where the budget assigned to each municipality goes,
which comes from taxes," he affirms.

He is already suffering retaliation for his intention to run for office
in his district.

"They have threatened us, telling us that they could easily tie us up in
the courts, which would prevent us from exercising our right. Manuel
Velásquez Licea and Eduardo Herrera Hernández, also candidates, have
been incarcerated for the past six months", he explains.

"On Tuesday, 28 March, at 4:35 a.m., they knocked on my door. They came
to conduct a search. The paper indicated 'electronic equipment and
others.' To make it legal, they have to look for something specific. The
witnesses were people they have used before to carry out acts of
rejection, brought from Santiago de las Vegas. This is a violation, as
the witnesses must be from the community," he complains.

"I told them to wait, as I was going to get cleaned up. They kicked the
door in. They injured my hand and fingers, throwing me against the wall.
My head was swollen, but it subsided. I bled from my nose. They
handcuffed me. They burned our brochures. They took books, legal
documents (like sentences), two laptops, a mini laptop belonging to my
daughter, and another to my granddaughter, a disk drive, CDs; money,
mine and my daughter's; two chains worth some 1,200 CUC, my pressure
gauging device, two little short-wave radios, a printer, a television
set antenna, a large television set that my son bought and that entered
legally, through Customs. They left the one in the living room. They
broke the door to my daughter's room, to which I do not have a key. She
came when the neighbors told her, and they wouldn't let her in. From the
refrigerator they took a tin of Spam, packages of noodles, six or seven
bars of chocolate, and two of peanut butter, sent for the prisoners," he

"The police officers' ID numbers were 29140 and 29113, two captains. And
lieutenant 29156. There was an official from the MININT who, while the
search was carried out, lit up a cigarette. I told him that he was
showing a lack of respect, that in my house nobody smoked. He went
outside to smoke, very annoyed, and when he returned he said to me: 'you
people, for us, you are animals, dogs, and we are going to do away with
you.' I asked why he didn't say that on television, so that the people
could know their position. He responded: 'that's just what you'd like.'"

Díaz Silva says that he was taken to Santiago de las Vegas. The
authorities, he indicates, made eight copies of what they took from his
house, but did not give him one.

State Security agents Bruno and Raymo, who had threatened him before,
said to him: 'Have you seen how what we said is happening?'" the
activist recalls.

"The police fined me for handling stolen goods. They let me go the next
day, a 6:00 in the afternoon. Here there are no laws. They could kill us
and nothing would happen."

Do you think any members of your community will dare to nominate or vote
for you?

A family told me that they were going to nominate me. But it remains to
be seen, as they can take measures against the family… but residents
told me that I can count on their votes, and I think that they will dare
to follow through. When the Police entered my house, some neighbors
expressed their indignation to me. It was they who alerted my daughter.
And they are not dissenters.

Many presidents of the CDR and women with the Federation (FMC) approach
us, as dissidents, to tell us that we have their votes." There are even
police who tell us to "continue fighting, because you are right. They
see that what the regime says, that we are delinquents, is a lie.

How did Fidel and Raúl deal with this? With force. They killed. They
killed police heads, informers. It is in the documentaries that they
broadcast. We don't do those things. We are pursuing what Fidel Castro
claimed he wanted in History will Acquit Me: a state based on the rule
of law.

Traditional delegates, many eager to work, face barriers, like the lack
of resources. Will a dissident be able to do more for the community?

We don't promise anything, and we don't have conditions. After all, the
system is our enemy. But we will take the voice of the voter wherever it
is necessary. The community's vote will give us the right us to demand
solutions to problems before bodies. In this way we have an advantage,
because we are not scared, and we know the laws a little better.

In spite of your intention to run, you say that the way to remove the
Castros' Communist regime from power is with people in the streets.

They will always look for mechanisms to thwart anything that we do. We
have the example of Oswaldo Payá. It was necessary to change the law,
because he presented the signatures. I was a promoter of the Varela
Project. When it reached [the National Assembly], they said that the
Cuban socialist system was irrevocable, and the Constitution said so.
They mocked what they themselves had written, because they wrote that
Constitution and Penal Code. Now they will do the same thing, but this
is a way to tell the people that we have the right to change this
through peaceful channels.

Source: 'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political
prisoner to run in the 'elections' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1491991825_30312.html Continue reading
The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in
the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the
Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and
necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable
to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas.

If communism's major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by
force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic
solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The
democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of
democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have
a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work
together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the
democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting
the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual
future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An
upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional
democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a
solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: The Right of Assembly / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-right-of-assembly-somos/ Continue reading
Congressman reflects on recent Cuba trip
Apr 10, 2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with several of my
colleagues on a 3-day congressional delegation. On this trip, we saw the
country and were warmly welcomed by citizens and government officials
alike. While everyone knows that the cars and architecture look like the
year is still 1959, so much has changed, and in a very positive way.
Cuba is becoming a modern country, and very much wants to engage with
and trade with America.

While much about our past relations with Cuba can be debated, one thing
this trip cemented for me is how dramatically our current policy of
isolation has failed. Cuba has moved on, as has the rest of the world.
The 50-year-old embargo now only serves to generate animosity toward
America and to arbitrarily limit our citizens' chances to engage with
Cubans. The moves over the last two years toward greater engagement are
already paying dividends in peoples' hearts and minds. Folks there are
getting a taste of capitalism, and are craving more.

Greater engagement in Cuba can lead to positive changes. Americans and
Cubans have a great deal in common; the importance of family, a strong
sense of patriotism and entrepreneurship. These commonalities will only
become greater as we continue to engage, and Cuba continues to
modernize. The spread of the internet in Cuba is opening dialogues that
previously couldn't occur. More than a third of the island's workers are
now in the private sector. Tourism continues to boom, even with travel
restrictions placed on the nation by its neighbor.

Opening relations with Cuba should be a win-win for Cuban and American
citizens. A healthy relationship with the country would foster greater
mutual security, additional trade opportunities and greater human
rights. For our Kansas farmers and ranchers, Cuba is a natural export
market. They represent a potential top-10 wheat market, and as their
tourism continues to grow, demand for higher quality protein sources
will match well for our livestock producers. In a time of record low
commodity prices, we cannot be arbitrarily choosing markets in which not
to sell. We are only holding ourselves back.

Though lifting the embargo is the ultimate issue, a good first step
would be to allow American banks and financial institutions to provide
financing. To this end, I have co-sponsored H.R. 525, the Cuba
Agricultural Exports Act, to achieve just that.

This trip was a remarkable opportunity to learn more about the
opportunities ahead of us with Cuba. I am proud to be a member of the
Cuba Working Group, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to
continue to build relations between our two countries.

—Congressman Roger Marshall serves on the House Ag Committee, the
Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the House Small Business

Source: Congressman reflects on recent Cuba trip | Opinion | hpj.com -
http://www.hpj.com/opinion/congressman-reflects-on-recent-cuba-trip/article_ad47ad5a-1a41-11e7-9ebf-2b3d00857b97.html Continue reading
Time Passes By and Cuba's Anonymous Elderly
April 8, 2017
By Harold Cardenas* (jovencuba.com)

HAVANA TIMES — Nelson barely gets by and not many people know it. He
doesn't like to draw attention to himself. For years he's been passing
daily in front of my apartment with his wife and they go up the building
stairwell in silence. I don't know how old he is or if he has any other
relatives, I don't know anything except for the fact that he is living
in a very precarious situation.

He most probably followed all the rules, decades of doing everything he
was expected to do, but even still it wasn't enough. Once you reach
retirement, the total of a whole life worked comes down to a couple
hundred pesos per month [10 USD], and he doesn't even complain about it.

His story is just one of many. For those who have other income sources,
it's difficult to understand that there are still people in Cuba who
only live off of their salaries or pensions. Those who decide the fate
of the people, in any political system, don't have everyday struggles.
Nelson, rather than living, survives.

He is well-educated, he was an electrical engineer and if he had lived
in another country, he would surely have had another life, but this was
the life he got. He calculates everything and it's not because he likes
math, but rather because he has to plan out his finances down to the
last cent. He studies the calorie intake a person should have in a day,
not out of curiosity but so that neither him nor his wife gets sick.

In Cuba, many of us assume that everyone has at least their basic needs
covered, and it's not like that. For eight years, I have lived near them
and didn't know anything about their situation, ashamedly.

I lacked the much needed sensitivity to realize what was going on, until
a friend told me. This friend has very different political views from me
and nevertheless, he picks up on things like this.

Life is a lot richer than our prejudices and personal values don't cling
to ideologies.

This post will be published, there will be several comments on the
subject and then tomorrow everything will carry on the way it is. This
elderly couple will continue living in their dignified poverty (if there
is such a thing) until this country overcomes its ghosts which affect it
both here and abroad. I am afraid that those who are just about getting
by don't have much time left.

*Translation by Havana Times

Source: Time Passes By and Cuba's Anonymous Elderly - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124618 Continue reading
Why Did I Stay in Cuba, Why Didn't I Leave?
April 10, 2017
By Lilibeth Alfonso (La Esquina de Lilith)

HAVANA TIMES — Staying in Cuba is reason to be asked one fine day why
you didn't leave, and it's asking yourself what would have happened if
you had left. This "what if" is the father of all absurdity and
uncertainty for what never happened, not because you lacked
opportunities, not because you didn't want to prove something to
somebody, just because that's the way you wanted it to be.

Staying is a choice, and choices have consequences. It implies a life
without any obvious uprooting but its roots have been fleeing
nonetheless. You might have the most important but you're missing the
peripherical, because while you decided to stay, almost all of your
family, your best friend, your life-long neighbor, different lovers, the
boy who you always swore to yourself that you'd kiss one day… all of
them left.

It's having to bite your tongue when you feel like complaining to your
colleagues abroad about your salary, about being over 30 years old and
the closest you've ever been to being in a foreign country is when you
visit those places in Guantanamo province which somebody has called
Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador, New York…, because you know you'll get a
"I told you so" and you don't want to argue.

Staying is missing what you love about Cuba without going anywhere, and
having your very heart split into two by people who leave, because a
country isn't only its land and architecture, a country is the scents
you love, the trips you made, the people you met along the way, and a
lot of this no longer exists in this day and age.

Staying is living between two worlds: the reality you love and hate,
weighing up your words and actions, carefully choosing your emotions,
the ones you share on Facebook, what you like and what makes you sad,
what makes you angry…, because they are watching you, they are judging
you, and you know it.

Staying in Cuba is corroborating the fact that the people who leave will
never be the same, or almost never the same; it's getting used to
flexible morals and radical changes, and convincing yourself that the
coke that makes one forget exists.

Staying in Cuba is watching, like a spectator, the great theater of
unfulfilled dreams, watching the journalist who left because she used to
say that she didn't fit into the politics of official media and its
promise of music always being produced on a conveyor belt, and in spite
of this, not being able to define, for certain, the feeling of the moment.

Staying in Cuba is experiencing the violent dichotomy of working in the
field you studied, but having to do a juggling act to get to the end of
the month, and not judging somebody who chose to do anything else, but
they have the house you don't, the car you don't and the financial
security that you can't even imagine.

Staying in Cuba is dreaming of a better country in spite of all of the
bad omens, in spite of the fact that the economy shows signs but almost
never advances, and therefore you have to dream alone a lot of the time,
struggle alone.

It's watching how people who swore you would leave have their
predictions proved wrong, and you see them leave one day, from the other
side of security control at airports.

Staying in Cuba is a choice, and like every choice you have to live with
it. It isn't easier than leaving. Sometimes staying can also be a pile
of crap.

Source: Why Did I Stay in Cuba, Why Didn't I Leave? - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124644 Continue reading
Cuba's Port of Mariel is ready for U.S. cargo once trade agreement is

The new Trump leadership team has yet to determine its policy toward the
Communist Caribbean nation, however

At this time last year, U.S. seaports in Southeast and Gulf regions were
telling shippers that they were well positioned to take advantage of
trade with Cuba as restrictions were gradually lifted.

The election of populist President Donald Trump, may have altered those
plans, however, as the new leadership team has yet to determine its
policy toward the Communist Caribbean nation.

Prior to embargo initiated by the Kennedy administration over nearly 50
years ago, the ports of Mobile, Tampa, Miami and New Orleans were all
major entrepots for this lane of waterborne commerce. Shippers attending
the recently concluded "Critical Cargoes Conference" in New Orleans were
told that when and if trade is resumed, the Cuban port of Mariel will be

"We are prepared to become the newest transport hub for the America's,"
declared Charles Baker, president and CEO of the Port of Mariel. "Our
position as a transshipment center is also viable."

Baker said he envisions the three-year-old container facility on the
northwest coast of Cuba, 26 miles west of the capital city of Havana, as
the "new transport hub for the Americas" in "a very, very good location
for a transshipment hub."

Total container throughput at the Port of Mariel grew from about 160,000
twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, noted Baker. This was its
first year of operation following end of container traffic at the
relatively shallow Port of Havana, to 330,713 TEUs in 2015 prior to
reaching 325,319 TEUs in 2016.

"Mariel's current annual throughput capacity is 800,000 TEUs, with
future expansion to boost that number to 3 million," he said.

Under the current U.S. embargo requirement vessels must wait 180 days
after leaving a Cuban port before calling at a U.S. port. Baker
considers this a major handicap, calling it Mariel's "achilles heel."

"We would like to see Washington officials address this so that we may
move on and welcome a new era of business," he said.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply
Chain Management Review magazines and web sites.

Source: Cuba's Port of Mariel is ready for U.S. cargo once trade
agreement is restored - Logistics Management -
http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/cubas_port_of_mariel_is_ready_for_u.s._cargo_once_trade_agreement_is_restor Continue reading
UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba
Associated Press 3:59 p.m. ET April 10, 2017

Havana — An independent expert from the United Nations was in Cuba on
Monday for a four-day visit to evaluate the human trafficking situation
on the island for the first time in a decade.

Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro is expected to visit a
school and meet parliament leader Esteban Lazo and also has scheduled
trips to the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa near the capital, Havana.

Such U.N. visits are routine in other countries, but Cuba has generally
rejected inspections by international organizations. The government has
relaxed that stance somewhat in recent years, and officials welcomed
Giammarinaro upon her arrival and stressed that Cuba has a
zero-tolerance policy on trafficking.

They presented her with a government action plan on trafficking and
exploitation. According to government statistics, in 2015 a little over
2,000 cases of underage sexual abuse were reported among a population of
2.6 million children.

Giammarinaro expects to analyze what progress Cuba has made and
challenges it still faces regarding trafficking, including sexual and
labor exploitation. The findings will be presented to the U.N. Human
Rights Council in June 2018.

Other trips to Cuba by U.N. experts are still pending, including one
related to torture.

Giammarinaro's visit comes three months after the United States ended
its so-called wet foot, dry foot policy, which for over two decades
allowed nearly all Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain. Island
officials had long complained about it, arguing that it contributed to
human trafficking.

The policy was scrapped in January days before then-President Barack
Obama left office, as part of a process of normalizing relations between
Washington and Havana.

The United States previously removed Cuba from its blacklist of
countries it says have failed to fight modern-day slavery after
diplomatic relations were formally restored in July 2015.

Source: UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba -
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/world/2017/04/10/un-expert-probes-human-trafficking-cuba/100299254/ Continue reading
Eliécer Ávila, The 'New Man' Who Became An Opponent

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the
streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well
known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However,
before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a
model "New Man": the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.

Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school's
morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities
"against imperialism" and dreamed of resembling Ernesto 'Che'
Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements
that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home
reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different.

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of
Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was
born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A
place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for
their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life
did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985,
in the middle of that "golden decade" when the Soviet Union was propping
up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro
ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the
"Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies."

Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special
Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many
days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He
hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of
"outfits" from his grandfather's old shirts, and turned off the light
when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the

With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with
an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man
made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to
escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a
future in politics, because of those "fine lips" that helped him in
student meetings and in romantic conquests.

A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the
University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of
the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the
Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the
Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union
before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was
a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a
Revolution that fears the Internet.

While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to
monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those
spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for
political struggle that included everything from hacking to the
execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the

Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those
anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind
and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his
turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then
president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public
appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.

The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first
place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed
audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the
leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans
by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to
board an airplane.

Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called
"Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon," but for the rest of his
life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of
Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice,
has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of
rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.

After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the
authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his
audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the
red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the
Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.

The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level
of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw
darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed
that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.

Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses
new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns
of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip
of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and
assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud

The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and
Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to
discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories
that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have
dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.

Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to
represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat
remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the
People's Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of
hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.

This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A
public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his
house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with "illicit
economic activity." The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs
when he returned from Colombia.

Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his
Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a
system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own
ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly
punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.

More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.
With online translation:

Source: Eliécer Ávila, The 'New Man' Who Became An Opponent –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eliecer-avila-the-new-man-who-became-an-opponent/ Continue reading
Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 8 April 2017 – Were the events like the books
tell us? Is the official story a report of what really happened? The
attempt to answer these questions inspires the documentary and two
fictional shorts that were presented Wednesday in the 'Moving Ideas'
section of the 16th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition of the
Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) in Havana.

Under the motto "Forgetting does not exist," the filmmakers approached
collective and family memory to show a point of view often ignored by
the epic of Revolutionary discourse. The works probe those memories for
what Cubans treasure about moments in national life, beyond the
gilded frame that the institutional version attaches to them.

Economic disasters, a war on a distant continent and the drama of family
separation after exile, were some of the issues addressed by this new
generation of film directors, who show a special interest in looking
back. Children of indoctrination and official silence seem willing to
shed light on the darker areas of what has happened in the last half

Director Pedro Luis Rodríguez offers the short Personal Report set on
the eve of the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 — when all remaining
private businesses in the country were confiscated, down to the last
shoeshine boy. It was a watershed moment in the economic life of the
nation that brought profound effects on commerce, supply and even the
mentality of those born after that massive closure of private businesses.

In less than half an hour, Rodríguez shows the conflicts experienced by
Ricardo, an analyst on the Planning Board, who is preparing to present a
report to his boss on the consequences of the measure that is about to
be taken. The protagonist defends his right to participate in the
decisions that are made in the country or at least to be heard, but
everything is in vain.

Personal Report presents that look from below on a historical event
where the decision was taken "on high." An offensive about which the
government has never offered a public self-criticism, although a quarter
of a century later the private sector was again authorized to
operate. Today, more than half a million workers are struggling to
support themselves despite strong legal limits on their activities and
economic hardships.

In the discussions with the audience after the screening in the Chaplin
room, Rodriguez acknowledged that his film is "a wink" at the current
phenomenon of self-employment. His desire is that the work serves to
"reflect on this present" and to meditate "on participation and the need
to be heard and to be consistent with oneself."

The flood of memories and questioning continued with the fictional
short Taxi, directed by Luis Orlando Torres. Taxi addresses another of
the many themes barely touched on by the fiery speeches from those in
power: Cuba's involvement in the war in Angola and its aftermath in
society; the plot centers on the physical and mental wounds left by that
conflict outside the island's borders.

Torres focuses on the effects on families and establishes a parallel
with the internationalist medical missions that now send Cuban
healthcare workers around the world, and their consequences here at
home. The film develops a suspense story that begins when a taxi driver
picks up a passenger in a seemingly casual way. A brief conversation
will suffice to call into question moral aspects of a war, one which the
Government has always defended as an act of solidarity.

Meanwhile, The Son of the Dream, directed by Alejandro Alonso and filmed
in 16 millimeter with a Bolex camera, relives through family letters and
postcards the filmmaker's memories of an uncle whom he was unable
to know due to the separation caused by the Mariel Boatlift. The
material is the result of a workshop given at the International Film
School of San Antonio de los Baños by Canadian director Philip Hoffman.

Beyond the aesthetic and artistic values ​​of each of the projects
presented in 'Moving Ideas', it is clear that much of the young cinema
that is being produced on the Island is not trying to please
institutions or accept pre-established truths. It is an uncomfortable,
irreverent, questioning and willing movement to belie an epic story that
has been shaped more with silences than with truths.

Source: Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/young-cuban-filmmakers-challenge-official-history/ Continue reading
BY REUTERS ON 4/9/17 AT 6:40 AM

When they are not tending to international affairs, diplomats based in
Havana can be found these days stewing in interminable lines at gas
stations and concocting ways to increase the octane in fuel as Cuba's
premium gasoline shortage takes its toll.

Cuba sent around an internal memo last week advising that it would
restrict sales of high-octane, so-called "special fuel," in April. That
is not an issue for most Cuban drivers, whose vintage American cars and
Soviet-era Ladas use regular fuel.

But it is for the embassies that use modern cars whose engines could be
damaged by the fuel at most Havana gas stations. So the diplomats are
taking a leaf out of the book of Cubans, used to such shortages, and
becoming resourceful.

Given the U.S. trade embargo, Cubans have for decades had to invent new
ways to keep their cars on the road, replacing original engines with
Russian ones and using homemade parts.

"I bought octane booster, and the embassy has bought lubricants, meant
to help the motor deal with rubbish gasoline," said one north European
diplomat, who got a relative to bring the booster in his luggage given
it is unavailable in Cuba.

"At the moment we are using the car that runs on diesel, so we can
'survive'," said an Eastern European diplomat.

Cuba has not announced the measure officially yet. According to the
memo, "the special fuel remaining in stock at gas stations from April
will only be sold in cash and to tourists until the inventory is depleted."

"It's very serious. I have already suspended a trip to Santiago de Cuba
for fear of lack of gas," said one Latin American diplomat, adding that
it seemed like the problem would last. "Diplomats are very worried."

Some embassies in Havana have people scouting out which stations still
have some higher-octane fuel and are sending around regular updates to
staff. One gas station worker said they were getting small deliveries of
fuel each day still.

The embassies are also advising people to carpool or use the diplomatic

Meanwhile the European Union has requested from the ministry of foreign
affairs that one or more service centers be set aside for diplomats with
special gas, according to a European diplomat.

Cuba has become increasingly reliant on its socialist ally Venezuela for
refined oil products but the latter has faced its own fuel shortage in
recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the Communist-ruled island cannot easily replace subsidized
Venezuelan supplies as it is strapped for cash.

Although the memo referred to April, it is not clear how long the
shortage will last. Cubans joke that once something disappears in Cuba,
it is never to return, referring to products that have disappeared from
their ration book like cigarettes, beef and condensed milk.

The Peugeot dealership in Havana has sent its clients lists of technical
tips on how to protect their motors while using lower-grade gasoline,
including more frequent maintenance and ensuring vehicles at running at
optimum temperature before driving.

The shortage is also impacting others using modern cars such as taxi
drivers, tourists and workers at joint ventures.

Source: Cuba's Premium Gas Shortage Leaves Diplomats Stuck -
http://www.newsweek.com/cuba-premium-gas-shortage-diplomats-stuck-581066 Continue reading
Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home

The video shows Eliecer Avila and other human rights activists at the
Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, protesting the confiscation
of Avila's laptop when he returned to the country from abroad.

14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Some fifty uniformed members of the
National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior raided
the home of the activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are
More) Movement this Saturday morning. The police seized documents and
home appliances, in addition to arresting the opponent, according to
detailed information from his wife, Rachell Vázquez, speaking to 14ymedio.

The police search began at six in the morning and lasted about four
hours during which the troops did not allow access to the property
located in the neighborhood of El Canal, in the Havana's Cerro
municipality. "We were going to eat something when they knocked on the
door," says Vázquez.

During the search, the police were accompanied by two witnesses of the
Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). "All they left us was
the TV," adds the wife. "Right now Eliécer is missing, because no one
knows where they took him," he says.

Hours earlier, the couple was at Terminal 3 of José Martí International
Airport, where Avila staged a protest to demand the return of several of
his belongings retained by the General Customs of the Republic. Last
Thursday, when the activist returned from a trip to Colombia, his
personal laptop was confiscated.

The opponent remained at the airport for more than 36 hours and insisted
to security agents that he would not leave the place until they returned
the computer. Other members of his organization joined in the protest.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife
to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera
and Lugareño in La Viñora. "He asked me to bring the deed of the house
and 1,000 CUP," says Vázquez, but "the police took the money in the

In a video posted on the Somos+ website, Avila is seen in an airport
lounge with two activists carrying posters with the phrase "No More
Robbery." The opponent denounced in front of the camera that the
authorities "gave no explanations" and have not told him the reason for
confiscating his computer.

Police searches and raids on dissidents' homes have become common in the
last year. In its report for March, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced this procedure.

During that month "there were innumerable cases of dissidents deprived
of their computers, cell phones and other means of work as well as
cash," the report adds. These actions are aimed "to prevent the work of
peaceful opponents and to make them increasingly poor," said the
independent entity.

Source: Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/police-arrest-activist-eliecer-avila-and-raid-his-home/ Continue reading
Tips from a traveler to Cuba
By Amelia Rayno APRIL 7, 2017 — 1:45PM

During a solo people-to-people tour of Cuba, I learned some important
things through trial and error. Here are some important tips I wish I'd
known before I went:

• Bring more cash than you think you need; prices across the country
wildly vary and many taxi drivers, store clerks and restaurateurs will
simply name a price based on how rich you look. Modest haggling is
acceptable. Meanwhile, though the U.S. government now condones their
use, U.S. credit and debit cards are still not accepted at most
establishments and ATMs in the country, and U.S. citizens cannot receive
wired funds via Western Union. It is also worth noting that the Cuban
government charges a 10 percent fee to convert U.S. dollars to Cuban
currency; some places charge a fee in excess of that.

• Avoid people in uniforms, especially when you're dealing with money
issues. Regular citizens are mostly very helpful with directions and
other questions. Ask regular Cubans about where to exchange money in the
airport; avoid the tourist information desk. I was sent from that desk
to a small room, where an official exchanged my money and charged 3
percent, on top of the 10 percent fee for converting dollars.

• Consider getting some CUPs (Cuban pesos) along with your CUCs (Cuban
convertible pesos, a currency that is a 1:1 equivalent of the U.S.
dollar and the one tourists typically receive). Many traditional Cuban
restaurants list prices only in CUP. Other restaurants will note two
prices and hope tourists don't do the confusing calculation to realize
they're paying perhaps three to five times more in CUCs than they would
in CUPs. If you're unable to get CUPs at the currency transfer, it will
be possible to do so at a bank.

• Make friends with the locals. Besides benefiting from a population
that is highly cultured and educated, your new friends will help you get
around and negotiate prices. If you happen to run out of money, as I
did, you'll need them: Although U.S. citizens cannot receive wired
funds, Americans can send money to a Cuban. So you'll need to find a
Cuban friend who can pick up the funds for you. To be polite, give them
a generous tip for the trouble.

• Take gypsy cabs when possible. They are typically as safe as marked
taxis, and will ask for drastically lower fares. At the airports, you
can find a line of these unmarked cars out front.

• In general, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve the best, cheapest and
most authentic Cuban food. Many of these do not have signs. Many do not
have alcohol. In Cuba, eating and drinking is often separated — you eat
first, then drink later. The restaurants that have English menus and
cater to tourists will be priced accordingly.

• Be wary of fresh produce. If it doesn't look good, don't eat it.
Vegetables are a common cause of food poisoning. Consider visiting your
doctor before departure and requesting some antibiotics to bring with you.

• Bring printed maps if possible. Google and Apple have not yet
digitally mapped the country.

• Exercise your Spanish as much as possible. Doing so will allow you to
communicate better, receive better prices and be harassed less.

• Skip Varadero. The oceanside city 40 minutes from Havana is reputed to
be one of Cuba's sparkling gems, but in my experience, the resort
destination lacked authentic charm. It had white beaches, but the
predominant languages were English and French and it seemed like a
Disney-esque version of Cuba.

• Bring back rum and cigars. Last year, the U.S. lifted the previous
$100 limit on the value of these items Americans could bring into the
country. The goods are now subject to the same duties as alcohol and
tobacco from other countries.

Source: Tips from a traveler to Cuba - StarTribune.com -
http://www.startribune.com/tips-from-a-traveler-to-cuba/418568233/ Continue reading
Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba

14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Cuban opposition leaders were detained
at Havana's international airport on Thursday, when they arrived from
Colombia, according to sources in the political movement Somos+ (We Are
More) speaking with 14ymedio.

Eliécer Ávila, president of that movement remains "in open protest" at
the capital's airport after the authorities' attempt to confiscate his
electronic devices.

"Immigration has not allowed us to pass, it seems there are signs on the
computers that say: interested in confrontation," Avila explained in a
message addressed to his movement. Later they were allowed to enter the
national territory but in the face of the attempt to confiscate their
belongings, the opponents rebelled.

Carlos Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is being
held at the police station in Santiago de las Vegas. Eliecer Avila has
said that he refuses to leave the airport without his laptop. The
opponent has been there for more than seven hours.

The order to seize his computer was issued by Carlos Pons, Chief of
Confrontation at the airport.

In the case of Marthadela Tamayo and Zuleidy Pérez, they were subjected
to a "rigorous search" and their personal computers siezed.

Source: Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/several-opposition-leaders-detained-on-their-return-to-cuba/ Continue reading
Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Airbnb hosts in Cuba, who
were so enthusiastic at the beginning, have been complaining recently
about the delays in receiving the payments made by the tourists who have
stayed in their homes. The discontent is clear from the complaints
published on the platform of the American company and the interviews
conducted by 14ymedio.

On the Airbnb site a couple claims to have experienced repeated delays
in payments. "Between January and part of February 2016 we had a serious
delay in receiving the payments through the agency VaCuba," complained
Ileana and Rolando, who have had problems again in early 2017. "We are
already behind in the dates scheduled by Airbnb; we haven't received the
payments and right now we're waiting on three more payments," they explain.

The Miami-based courier company VaCuba, with headquarters in Miami, is
in charge of bringing the payments to the hosts who rent out their
homes, rooms and spaces through Airbnb. In any other country, these
payments are made in the ordinary way through internet transfers, but
the banking system in Cuba has hired this agency to send the cash to get
the money to the Airbnb hosts.

The growth of Airbnb in Cuba during the last year has been remarkable,
making it the country where the platform has grown the most thanks to
the extension of licenses of that allows Cuban hosts to attract clients
from all over the world, not only from the United States, like at the

Jorge Ignacio, an economics student who rents out a house in the town of
Soroa, in Artemisa, told 14ymedio that in February of this year,
"there's nothing from Airbnb." Now he says he's "looking for
alternatives" to collect for the stays of his guests because VaCuba, the
only money distribution mechanism offered by Airbnb has collapsed,
"because there are so many customers" and it can't continue "counting
the 'kilos'," he comments. "I get the full amount of the payment but
always with a big delay," said Jorge Ignacio, explaining that it's not
an isolated case "because the whole world is in the same situation."

Rebeca Monzó, a Cuban artisan and blogger who has a room to rent in
Nuevo Vedado, has a different complaint but adds to the discomfort
generated in recent months. "The payment delay is almost a month, I
never receive the full amount, they bring me 19 CUC when they actually
owe me 500." Monzó says that a messenger from VaCuba explained that "the
Cuban bank is behind with the transfers" and that "it cannot get the
full amount at once" and that is why they prefer to "make partial payments."

As a retiree, Monzó says the situation is not easy because she doesn't
see the result of her efforts and she only receives a fraction of what
she spends on daily supplies that allow her to "maintain a functioning
business." The payments are not the only thing she needs to stay
afloat. Monzó does her best to earn the good comments that clients place
on her profile. Each morning she prepares the breakfast for her clients
with great care and when they arrive at her house, she receives them
with a welcome card she makes herself.

"I wrote an email to Airbnb to comment on the delay of the payments and
not only did they not answer me but they returned the message. I have
also asked other hosts who have been in this for a longer time and they
have told me that it is not possible to receive the money by any means
other than VaCuba."

She says that Airbnb always makes the payment "in less than two days"
and that the company notifies her by email. Monzó confesses that she
does not want to leave the platform because "it is very safe" and sends
"the type of clients that you ask for."

"I refuse to take in the tourists just off the street because I do not
want to take risks, I want it to always be through a company that
guarantees me the seriousness of the customer," says Monzó.

Other users of the platform say they have found a solution to the
problem by using AIS cards to send and receive transfers, which can be
found in any branch of the state-owned company Financiera Cimex.

"You can ask VaCuba to start sending the money to the AIS card,"
explains an Airbnb host.

By the end of 2016, at least 34,000 self-employed people were engaged in
renting homes to serve a growing number of tourists (4 million last
year). To do so legally, they have to get a license and pay taxes, which
are levied even when their rooms are not rented.

Source: Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System – Translating
Cuba -
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Connectify Will Be Free in Cuba to Share Internet Access

14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 – The managers of the Connectify
application have announced additional benefits for Cuban users who will
now be able to access the tool's premium features free of
charge. The app converts a computer connected to the internet into a
virtual repeater and is widely used on the island to share access to the
web from wifi zones.

A statement on the company's official website says that it will continue
"to fully support Cuban citizens with free Connectify Hotspot MAX 2017
licenses." The statement also announced the release of a Spanish version
of its program.

Along with the features available in the free version, such as creating
a Wi-Fi hotspot, using the ad blocker and customizing the hotspot name,
residents of the island will also have access to the premium functions
of Connectify Hotspot, among them the repeater mode.

Connectify for PC has gained users in Cuba in recent years with the
opening of public wifi zones and is used by many to share the bandwidth
of their connection. It has also generated a lucrative business of
reselling access to the web at a price below the 1.50 CUC for each hour
charged by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).

This is not the first time that the company offers an advantage to Cuban
clients. In the middle of 2015 the company launched a special promotion
for the island that allowed the free download of the professional
version of the software for three months. Until now, most of the
versions that were used were hacked copies.

Source: Connectify Will Be Free in Cuba to Share Internet Access –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/connectify-will-be-free-in-cuba-to-share-internet-access/ Continue reading
Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what people think
of when they think of America'
hola.com April 6, 2017

Long before her pop star days, Camila Cabello was a young girl looking
to start a new life in the United States. The singer and her mother
Sinuhe candidly opened up about their journey from Cuba to America in a
new interview with Glamour magazine. "We flew from Cuba to Mexico, and
went by bus to the American border; it took a month. We left everyone
behind, my friends, my family," Camila's mom recalled. "It was really
hard. I came here with no money and left everything that was familiar.
But I just made a list of goals, and every time I scratched one off, I
felt that everything was worth it."

Relocating from her native Cuba to Miami was an adjustment for the
former Fifth Harmony member. She explained, "In Cuba there were days in
class where we would just watch cartoons. We weren't learning. But when
I came to the U.S., it was like: homework. A lot of things were suddenly
so ­different—being at a new school without my friends, I didn't speak
the language, and I missed my dad." Though her father reunited with
Camila and her mother a year and a half later.
MORE: Camila talks the scariest part of leaving Fifth Harmony
While the Bad Things singer was admittedly shy as a child, she used
music as a way to connect with others. "I was very introverted as a kid.
But I started bringing my CDs to the YMCA after school; I'd ask for the
boom box and go play my music in the corner and people would come over,"
she said. "And I created a little YouTube channel doing covers—I must
have posted 50. Even though I'd be like, 'Oh my god, this is so bad,'
music was the thing I was passionate enough about to get over being
shy." The 20-year-old was also inspired by a famous boy band, One
Direction, to pursue her passion. She shared, "After seeing a One
Direction 'tips on auditioning for The X Factor (USA)' video, I asked
Mom if I could audition" — and the rest is history.

Camila joined Fifth Harmony in 2012 on the competition show and left in
2016. Now as a solo artist the Work from Home singer said, "Right now
I'm in the process of writing about our whole journey. I want to make a
love song for immigrants. That word, immigrant, has such a negative
connotation—I can just imagine all the little girls who have dreams of
coming here and feel unwanted."
She continued, "It inspires me in my music to do my best to give [them]
the light that I have. I want to be what people think of when they think
of America—a person who, no matter what her first language was or what
her religion is, can see her dreams come to life if she works hard enough."

Source: Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what
people think of when they think of America' -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/camila-cabello-shares-her-success-125422431.html Continue reading
Invasive Marabou Weed Arrives at the Plaza of the Revolution

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, NYC, 6 April 2017 — Resistant and thorny, the
invasive marabou weed has inundated Cuban fields and threatened to
displace the national shield's royal palm. The shrub has become a plague
spreading across the country, covering previously arable land, and
worming its way into a topic for the speeches of senior officials. But
the tenacious invader is not exclusive to rural areas and has also
reached that symbol of power that is the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.

On one side of the José Martí National Library, among the ruins of a
building that would have been used to house patients for Operation
Miracle – an eye care program – but that was never finished, grows a
spontaneous garden with tiny yellow flowers and powerful pods loaded
with seeds. The marabou raises its defiant branches there as if it were
pointing to the huge tower popularly called "La Raspadura" – The Scratch.

Without adequate machinery or chemical defoliants to help stop the
plague, across the island many country dwellers use old machetes and
makeshift axes to cut the trunks. However, on both sides of the highways
and in any vacant lot, the marabou continues to display its excellent

In 2007, during his speech on the anniversary of the attack on the
Moncada Barracks, Raúl Castro joked about the panorama he had found on
his trip to the city of Camagüey: "What was most beautiful, what stood
out to my eyes, was how lovely the marabou was along the whole road."

Now, the implacable enemy is approaching the presidential office in the
Palace of the Revolution. Stealthy and steady, the marabou has won the

Source: Invasive Marabou Weed Arrives at the Plaza of the Revolution –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/invasive-marabou-weed-arrives-at-the-plaza-of-the-revolution/ Continue reading
Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans Stranded in the

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Cubans living in the Mexican city of
Nuevo Laredo, who were stranded after the United States ended the Wet
foot/Dry Foot policy that allowed Cubans who set foot on US soil to
stay, may now apply for political asylum to regularize their situation
in the country, according to the city's mayor, Enrique Rivas Cueller,
who spoke on Nuevo Laredo TV.

"We had a meeting where we had people from immigration, people from the
state … all the actors from the federal government, to be able to give
them a procedure. They are going to submit a request for political
asylum and achieve their legal stay in the country," explained Rivas

The municipal authorities estimate that there are currently between 500
and 1,000 Cuban migrants who could not continue their trip to the United
States after the end of the previous US immigration policy.

The long stay in Nuevo Laredo to which migrants have been subjected has
been a natural step for their integration into the city.

The municipal government will conduct a census of the Cubans in the city
and, according to declarations of Rivas Cuellar in the newspaper
Milenio, "many of them are participating in the economic activity, some
have already developed some commerce," which is why regulation is necessary.

"Even if they want to go to another city in the country where they
intend to work or live, it will support them," said the mayor, who said
that many Cubans "are already regularizing themselves."

The measure that the authorities of Nuevo Laredo intend to carry out is
unprecedented in Mexican migration policy, as of 12 January of this year
when they stopped issuing transit permits for Cuban migrants to transit
through the country for 20 days as a legal way to reach the United States.

In its place, the Mexican Government has since passed the Immigration
Law and, as of 18 February, 680 Cuban migrants found to be in different
parts of Cuba illegally were repatriated to Cuba.

Author 14ymedio
Posted on April 6, 2017

Source: Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans
Stranded in the City – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/nuevo-laredo-mayor-to-regularize-the-situation-of-cubans-stranded-in-the-city/ Continue reading
Cuba's Phone Company Lowers Home Internet Prices After Customer Complaints

14ymedio, Havana, 5 April 2017 – After complaints from customers, the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) lowered internet browsing
prices for its "Nauta Home" service. A few weeks after the pilot test,
only 358 users have signed up for the service, 41% of whom who
participated in the pilot project.

The pilot offered the service for free, bringing the internet to 858
homes in two People's Councils areas of Old Havana, between 19 December
2016 and 28 February of this year. Initially the pilot was designed to
include some 2,000 families.

At first, ETECSA marketed 30-hour internet packages for a price of
between 15 and 105 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) (roughly the same value
in US dollars), at speeds ranging from 128 kilobytes to 2 Mb. However,
as of 30 March, the minimum package has doubled the speed to 256 Kbps at
the same price.

The 512 Kbps package now costs 30 CUC — more than the average monthly
wage in Cuba — and the 1,024 Kbps costs 50 CUC, with 2,048 Kbps going
for 70 CUC, a reduction of 40 percent; but the prices remain prohibitive
for most Cubans.

The engineer Amarelys Rodríguez Sánchez, head of the Nauta Home Project,
told the official press that during the test, issues such as contracting
and service assistance were evaluated, as well as "the quality of the

"The study has raised demand for wireless modems," said the engineer,
who added that customers also demanded that "rates be more affordable"
and that there be a tool that allows them to "measure the speed at which
they are surfing."

The initial cost of a contract will now be 29 CUC: 19 for the purchase
of the ADSL modem, and 10 CUC for the activation of user access.

Customers wishing to use more connection time will pay an additional
1.50 CUC for each extra hour.

Until now, web browsing from home was only allowed for a select group of
professionals such as doctors, journalists, intellectuals or academics,
who needed government authorization to have the service.

Rodríguez justified the high rates because of "all the investments that
must be deployed" by the company. "Fiber optic infrastructure solutions
are very expensive, as is implementing a project that requires
multiservice equipment."

To continue expanding the service ETECSA needs to "make specific
investments on fixed and mobile networks," she said.

By the end of 2017, the company plans to have installed at least 38,000
internet connections in the island's homes.

Source: Cuba's Phone Company Lowers Home Internet Prices After Customer
Complaints – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-phone-company-lowers-home-internet-prices-after-customer-complaints/ Continue reading
This Is How Cuba Threatens, Intimidates, Controls and Punishes Its Own

To citizen Ivan Garcia Quintero, resident of 12 Carmen Street, Apt 3,
between San Lazaro and Calzada 10 de Octubre. Your presence is required
at the 10 de October PNR (People's Revolutionary Police) [station] on 2
April 2017 at 10:00 PM with the objective of an Interview.

You are warned that if you don't appear we will use all the legal
resources [obscured by stamp] … you will be fined up to 50 pesos or you
will be criminally processed for the crime of disobedience to the

Note that the name signing the citation is a first name only: 1st Lt.

Source: This Is How Cuba Threatens, Intimidates, Controls and Punishes
Its Own Citizens – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/this-is-how-they-try-to-threaten-intimidate-and-control-you/ Continue reading
"State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us"

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Maydolys Leyva can breath easy for the
first time since last March 7. Her three children have abandoned their
hunger strike after being released on parole. This Monday, their mother
prepared a meal of mild creamed vegetables, root vegetables and meat for
her daughter Anairis and son Fidel Batista, as they began to resume
eating. Her other daughter, Adairis Miranda, is still in intermediate care.

From her bed at Vladimir Ilich Lenin Teaching Hospital in Holguín,
where she is recovering, Anairis Miranda spoke via telephone with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. What led you to undertake the hunger strike?

Anairis. We spent 27 days without food and continued to demand the
immediate release of our family because we never accepted the unjust
sentence of a year of deprivation of liberty imposed on us.

We are also demanding the release of the political prisoners of the
Cuban Reflection Movement to which we belong with pride and whose
national leader is Librado Linares. We also demand the immediate release
of the national leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Eduardo
Cardet. In response to these demands we obtained parole for health reasons.

14ymedio. Are you still under surveillance?

Anairis. Right now, here in the hospital, there is no presence of State
Security. As of Sunday, when they delivered the parole documents to us,
they took their repressors and left.

14ymedio. What were the most difficult moments during the strike?

Anairis. We suffered a lot of repression by State Security. They made
threats against our mother's life. The official in charge of
confrontation in the province of Holguin, Fredy Agüero, threatened to
take custody of my sister's two children, who were being looked after by
our mom. He said they would arrest her and kill her in prison.

14ymedio. How is your sister right now?

Anairis. Adairis is now in intermediate therapy in the surgical clinic,
she has a monitor and an IV. We all have very low blood pressure. We
weigh 66 pounds and are continuing to lose weight. My brother has very
unstable blood pressure, it goes up and down. My brother and I are
suffering from ischemic heart disease as a sequel to the strike. I have
some vaginal bleeding and diarrhea. I am still very ill, just like my

14ymedio. How has the treatment from the doctors been from a humane
point of view?

Anairis. Some doctors have treated us well, those who are not from the
Ministry of the Interior. The doctors of the State Security, who
constantly mistreated us, have already left. They tried to misrepresent
everything about our health and to overshadow everything. Now, since
they left, we have noticed the change in the treatment of the hospital
doctors and the people who have come to see us. Before they didn't let
anyone approach us.

14ymedio. How many days do the doctors expect you to remain hospitalized?

Anairis. They tell us that we have to stay in the hospital about ten
more days because we could suffer a heart attack or different
complications can occur, although in the case of my sister it could be
longer depending on the improvement in her immune system.

14ymedio. How did you receive evidence of solidarity?

Anairis. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the international
public for their solidarity and to all the brother and sister activists
of both the diaspora and the country. Of course, also the journalists
who reported what happened.

Source: "State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us" – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/state-security-doctors-constantly-mistreated-us/ Continue reading
Exercising Independent Journalism In Cuba Is A State Crime / Iván García

Iván García, 30 March 2017 — Fear has the habit of first knocking on
your door. On any night, in a work center or a house, an official of
State Security can give a citizen an official citation with an
intimidating look.

It could be your sister, a close relative, childhood friends or a
neighbor. The strategy is always the same. The assassination of the
dissident journalist's reputation by combining half-truths with
treacherous lies.

They play all their cards. From one's commitment to the Revolution to
blackmail and social isolation.

Since I began a relationship with my wife, a telecommunications
engineer, her professional career has been stalled. They control her
email and the contents of her work through a magnifying glass. The same
thing happens with friends who collaborate on my journalistic notes.
It's an insolent and arbitrary harassment.

The political policy officials in Cuba know they have an all-reaching
power. They perform, Olympically, the violation of their own laws of

An official of the National Revolutionary Police told me about the
problems the State Security agents cause among their staff instructors.
"They consider themselves to be above good and evil. They come into the
unit and mobilize personnel and resources to detain or repress someone
in the opposition. Or they take over an office without even asking
permission. They're a bunch of thugs."

If you want to know the methods they use to create tensions among
families and friends and to cause marital problems, I recommend that you
see the documentary on political prisoners in Cuba, Avatares de la
familia, made by Palenque Visión and recently premiered in Miami.

When someone gets involved in peaceful dissidence or exercises
independent journalism, the family pays the price. If it's not enough to
create concern when a mother, father, spouse or son isn't going to sleep
at home one night; the treacherous State Security tries to dynamite
intimate relations with accusations of marital infidelity.

The Regime surely washes its hand like Pontius Pilate when it declares,
in international forums, that the Island doesn't assassinate the
opposition or independent journalists. But the fabrication of files with
false proof is also a punishable crime.

The beatings of dissident women on public streets or in front of their
children have increased. The occupation of work teams and the harassment
of independent journalists have become a habitual practice of the
political police.

Creed, religion or ideology doesn't matter. It's the same repression for
neo-communist bloggers like Harold Cárdenas (El Toque Cuba), foreign
correspondents like Fernando Rasvberg (Cartas Desde Cuba) or pure
reporters like Elaine Díaz, who founded a digital newspaper (Periodismo
de Barrio), which covers the country's vulnerable communities.

For Raúl Castro's government, disagreeing is a symptom of
insubordination and the first step toward dissidence. In the midst of
the 21st century, the olive-green State affirms its right to give
permission about what should be written or expressed. Anyone who doesn't
fulfill this precept is a criminal outside the law. Of course, for the
openly anti-Castro journalists, the repression is more ferocious.

In the spring of 2003, 14 years ago, Fidel Castro ordered the
incarceration of 75 peaceful opponents, 27 of which were independent
journalists, among them the poet Raúl Rivero, whose "weapon" was a stack
of ballpoint pens, an Olivetti Lettera typewriter and a collection of
literature from universal writers.

Some colleagues who write without State permission and with different
doctrines believe that the subject of the dissidence in Cuba — although
it is packed with problems, divided but real — is hidden by the
ideological police, and that those who support the status quo, the
cultural policies and ideological thought on the Island, are rewarded.

Recent facts show that the mantle of intolerance, which at times
resembles fascist behavior, has no borders. They insult Rasvberg with
crude swearwords and detained Elaine and several of her colleagues from
Periodismo de Barro when they tried to report on the aftermath of
Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, just as they systematically harass the
independent journalist from Cama gagüey, Henry Constantín Ferreiro, who
has been the regional Vice President of the Sociedad Interamericana de
Prensa for some months.

I know Henry personally. He's a quiet guy, unaffected and creative, and
right now the authorities are trying to accuse him of "usurpation of
legal capacity," the same as his colleague, Sol García Basulto. His
"crime" is to exercise independent journalism and direct a magazine
without State sponsorship.

We Cuban journalists should show solidarity with each other when the
State tries to roll over us and shut us up. It doesn't matter what each
of us thinks. We all have the right to freely express our opinions.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King: You don't have to love me, I only ask
that you don't lynch me.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Exercising Independent Journalism In Cuba Is A State Crime /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/exercising-independent-journalism-in-cuba-is-a-state-crime-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Discover The Incredible Cars Of Cuba And The People Who Keep Them Running
Justin T. Westbrook

Recent political changes in Cuba, including expanded accessibility to
personal transportation and loosening restrictions of trade and tourism
with the U.S., have put a fresh light on the country's car scene.
Popular YouTube channel Mighty Car Mods just released a beautiful
documentary on the culture, the people and the cars of the communist state.

Cuba was cut off from the capitalist world when Fidel Castro took power
in 1959, leaving the country's roads as a snapshot of 1950's Americana
and forcing people to innovate and eventually mix with the utilitarian
boxes of the former Soviet Union. Cuba and its car culture now finds
itself front and center in the big Western blockbuster franchise that is
Fast & Furious.

I suspect that the eighth installment of the franchise, which includes
The Rock kicking a ice-skating torpedo into a truck at one point, isn't
going to do the people of Cuba justice, but here's a documentary that does.

Cuba is perhaps the one place in the world where automotive intelligence
hasn't faded—it's not allowed to. Instead it has flourished into a
beautiful quagmire of car parts and culture; a stream of a crazy
alternate reality just a few miles south of the rest of the world.

Check out the documentary from Mighty Car Mods below:
The production quality is incredibly high compared to the YouTube I grew
up with, but Marty and Moog and their automotive misadventures have
always been maaaaad. This documentary takes it to a new level though,
and I'm excited to see the guys move into more amazing spotlights like this.

Source: Discover The Incredible Cars Of Cuba And The People Who Keep
Them Running -
http://jalopnik.com/mighty-car-mods-documented-the-incredible-cars-of-cuba-1794056570 Continue reading
How to plan a Cuba trip without an organized tour
By KAREN SCHWARTZ | karenlschwartz@yahoo.com |
April 6, 2017 at 12:01 am

I've always been one to abide by the important rules. I carry car
insurance. I don't cheat on my taxes, and when I decided to visit Cuba,
I wanted to comply with the U.S. government regulations for travel to
the communist island.

That would have been easy to do had I taken an organized tour, but at
$5,000 to $10,000 a person for a week, it was beyond my budget. Instead,
I planned the trip myself and saved about $2,500 for each of us.

It took some patience and ingenuity. Much of the tourist information
online was geared toward those who aren't subject to the U.S
regulations. Also, internet service in Cuba is limited, so email
exchanges sometimes took several days.

Still, the trip was worth the effort. I didn't relax at one of the
all-inclusive beach resorts (an activity barred for U.S. travelers), but
because the trip focused on the Cuban culture and people, it was

If that sounds appealing, considering these tips:

Know the law

So far, President Trump has left in place the looser Cuba travel
regulations implemented in 2015.

Tourism remains banned, but visits that fall under 12 special categories
don't require filing for a license from the Treasury Department. Some of
the categories involve various professional exchanges; others include
family visits, educational, humanitarian or religious activities.

I traveled under the educational/people-to-people option, which required
that I "maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange
activities" and "meaningful interaction" that would "enhance" contact
with Cubans, promote their independence, or support "civil society."

The wording was vague enough that I looked for some clarification. I
reviewed the itineraries from the tours that cater to Americans, and I
also found some specific recommendations on a Cornell University Law
School website.

For instance, it said that a bike trip exploring Havana, with casual
conversations with shopkeepers, waiters and hotel staff wouldn't meet
the government's standards.

The visa required by the Cuban government was simple to obtain through
my American Airlines reservation. Upon booking my flight, its partner,
www.CubaTravelServices.com, sent me the forms. It cost $50 for the visa
and $35 for processing,

Have a plan

My husband, daughter and I were traveling during the peak New Year's
week and found that many of the bed and breakfasts known as casas
particulares were full by early December. Airbnb is relatively new in
Cuba, so there are few reviews. We took our chances and found
comfortable rooms for as little as $25.

I wanted to set up activities before we left to ensure we met the
people-to-people requirements. I started with the tours and guides
listed on TripAdvisor, but again, most were booked. Working off the
list, I was finally able to set up three half-day tours in Havana to
look at the Art Deco architecture, the history of the mob and a rundown
on the religions and culture. These cost $35 per person.

We also decided to take some lessons at Havana Music. My daughter, who
plays trombone, studied Cuban jazz, and my husband and I learned some
percussion rhythms on wooden claves and the guiro gourd. Others we met
were studying piano and voice.

The staff also helped me set up a last-minute tour of Old Havana, which
cost about half the price of the other excursions. This outing relied on
public transportation rather than a vintage car, but there were lots of
other opportunities to ride in the 1950s-era Chevys.

You can't ask too many questions

Before the trip, I asked everyone I knew whether they had contacts in
Cuba. That led a friend of a friend to put us in touch with some people
who run a music cooperative in the city of Matanzas, about 55 miles east
of Havana and best known as the birthplace of danzón and rumba.

Our new Cuba friends were generous with their time and knowledge,
inviting us to their home, sharing their stories and taking us on a tour
of the city and its art galleries. They spoke English, but that's
unusual in Cuba.

Mission accomplished

It wasn't until we arrived in Cienfuegos, a city of neoclassical
architecture that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, that we
encountered tour buses.

As I watched the huge groups following dutifully behind their guide, I
realized they may have stayed in more comfortable hotels or had better
meals, though perhaps not.

More important, I doubted that a large group would have had the intimate
discussions about life and politics we had been able to enjoy. To me,
those made my trip a true "people-to-people" experience.

Source: How to plan a trip to Cuba without joining a tour -
http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/06/cuba-trip-without-an-organized-tour/ Continue reading
Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'

Two months after the Trump administration announced a total review of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, several controversial proposals are being
circulated at the White House with no clear front-runner on the issue.

But Sen. Marco Rubio says he has spoken with Trump three times about Cuba.

"We've been walking through all these issues with the president and his
team, figuring out the right steps to take and when," Rubio told el
Nuevo Herald.

"I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the
dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the
fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us
to be doing business with the Cuban military," he added.

The Miami Republican of Cuban descent declined to say whether the
president had made any commitments to him on Cuba policies. But a Rubio
spokesman told el Nuevo Herald that the senator and his staff "have been
working behind the scenes" on Cuba policy.

The Cuban government has taken notice of Rubio's rising voice in U.S.
policy toward Latin America, and the state-run Granma newspaper recently
criticized his efforts to have the Organization of American States
condemn Venezuela's human rights record.

But the Granma article carefully avoided insulting Trump. And the Raúl
Castro government, in a rare show of restraint, has said little about
the Trump administration as it waits for the ongoing review of overall
U.S. policies toward the island.

Spokespersons for the White House and the State Department have said
that the National Security Council (NSC) has the lead in the
multi-agency review. Several knowledgeable sources have said that Jill
St. John, a low-level NSC staffer, is coordinating the work. The White
House did not immediately reply to el Nuevo Herald questions about St. John.

The review requires an initial examination of current policy and
regulations. But whoever is gathering that information "has no
directions on what to do about that," said one source who favors
improved relations with Havana.

Several key jobs in the State Department and other agencies also remain
unfilled by officials "who usually would be the ones you could approach
to talk about Cuba," said one pro-embargo source frustrated by the
so-called "vacuum."

But "treating Cuba as a dictatorship" does not necessarily entail
reversing all of President Barack Obama's measure to improve bilateral
relations. Rubio said he favored tougher policies toward Cuba, a
strategy favored by some dissidents on the island. But he did not reply
directly to a question on whether he favors a total rollback of the new
regulations, as proposed in a memorandum making the rounds on Capitol
Hill and the White House that is believed to have been crafted by staff
members for Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

The memo proposes imposing new sanctions within 90 days unless Cuba
meets a string of requirements contained in the Helms-Burton law and
takes action toward the return of U.S. fugitives and compensation for
confiscated U.S. properties.

Several proposals circulating
However, the memo is just one of many proposing different policies,
according to several sources.

A White House official said in a statement of the Diaz-Balart memo:
"This appears to be an unofficial DRAFT memo which is not consistent
with current formatting and may be a Transition document.

"Some of the language is consistent with what the President said during
the campaign, which is guiding the review of U.S. policy toward Cuba,"
the official said. "The review is not complete and therefore there is no
further comment at this time."

Trump promised during the presidential campaign to "reverse" all the
pro-engagement measures approved by Obama unless the Cuban government
bows to his demands. These days, the phrase making the rounds within
political circles in Washington and Miami is "treat Cuba like a

"Cuba must be treated for what it is and not, as the Obama
administration did, what it wished Cuba were. Cuba remains a Communist,
totalitarian police state that allies itself with American adversaries
and enemies, including state sponsors of terror and terrorist
organizations," said attorney Jason Poblete of the Washington-based
PobleteTamargo LLP. His wife Yleem Poblete was appointed to the Trump
transition team.

Other proposals floating around Washington would reverse only parts of
the Obama changes, because doing more would disrupt the market and risk
lawsuits from U.S. companies that have already signed deals with Cuba.
The recommendations in the presumed Diaz-Balart memo would cost U.S.
tourism and service companies about $2 billion during the remaining
years of the Trump administration, said John Kavulich, president of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Turning back the clock even further, to the tight restrictions on travel
and remittances imposed by former President George W. Bush — a
possibility that had frightened many people — seems even less likely now.

Several sources who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly on the
issue said that among the proposals submitted to the Trump
administration is one that would eliminate the self-guided trips to Cuba
under the so-called "people to people" travel category, described as
"tourism on steroids" or a thinly-veiled way to sidestep the U.S. ban on
Cuba tourism.

Another would impose targeted sanctions on Cuban military or Interior
Ministry officials. And a third would deny further licenses to U.S.
companies that do business with enterprises run by the Cuban military,
which controls at least an estimated 60 percent of the island's economy.

"They are 100 percent looking into this," said one source close to the
business sector with ties to Cuba. One pro-engagement source said that
the proposal to deny licenses — perhaps the most detrimental for Cuba —
would be difficult to implement.

"How's OFAC going to determine which companies are connected to the
Cuban military?," said the source.

He also cautioned that such harsh measures could strengthen the most
conservative sectors within Cuba, at a time when the Venezuelan crisis
is growing worse and Castro's deadline for retiring from power in 2018
is approaching.

Rubio's statements, nevertheless, hint that Trump policies may target
the Cuban military. House Speaker Paul Ryan last year also proposed
banning U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba military enterprises.

Lobbyists scrambling
At the same time, groups that support improving relations with Cuba have
not stopped their lobbying efforts, and continue "strategizing about how
to influence the Trump administration, although the window of
opportunity is closing," said Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at Brookings
Institution who specializes in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Piccone said that maintaining the current policy toward Cuba would be in
the best interest of the United States, not just because of the economic
benefits but also because of national security concerns. He said Trump
administration officials such as Jason Greenblatt at the NSC, Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are
"open to this argument."

U.S. companies doing business with Cuba also have been sending messages
to the Trump administration in support of a pro-business agenda.

"With the new administration's desire to grow our economy, we are
hopeful that both governments will continue the momentum to work to open
the door for commerce to flourish between our two countries," said
Vanessa Picariello, Norwegian Cruise senior director of public relations.

"Business and civic leaders from the American Farm Bureau, the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce and Republican members of Congress also have been
encouraging President Trump to shake up our failed embargo policy with
Cuba," said James Williams, director of Engage Cuba, a coalition of
businesses and organizations lobbying to eliminate economic sanctions to
Cuba. "President Trump can create billions of dollars in trade and tens
of thousands of American jobs by expanding trade with Cuba."

Letters in support of the current pro-engagement policy have been sent
to the Trump administration by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Catholic
Church leaders, the American Farm Bureau, Cuban-American organizations
like the Cuba Study Group and members of Congress like Minnesota
Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who has submitted a bill to lift the U.S.
trade embargo on Cuba.

Piccone said that on balance the pro-engagement camp feels "positive,
although realistic that certain promises were made to senators like Rubio.

"It is up for grabs, what is happening at the end."

Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142898404.html Continue reading
Cuba sí, racism no!

CAMBRIDGE — The Afro-Cuban painter Juan Roberto Diago came of age in the
1990s in the midst of a firestorm. The collapse of the Soviet Union
devastated Cuban trade and the island's economy suffered a teeth-jarring
blow. Famine followed. Social unrest was inevitable.

Hardship wrenched open racial divides. Still, as late as 1997, President
Fidel Castro said that in Cuba — a country that until 1886 had benefited
from slavery — racial discrimination had been eradicated.

"Diago: The Pasts of This Afro-Cuban Present," at Harvard's Ethelbert
Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, charts the career of
an artist who decries racism in a country that has largely denied it exists.

Fury drives the early works. That's understandable in the face of
stonewalling, and Diago was hollering into a void. He used simplified
figures, graffiti, and aggressive marks to get his message across. The
painting "Aquí Nadie Gana (Nobody Wins Here)" (at right) depicts a
figure outlined in red and yellow with one eye in the shape of a cross.
The background looks scorched; the piece reads like a sizzling brand.

The artist matured and his message deepened, thanks to an increasingly
poetic use of materials. In slats of found wood covering the entryway to
the gallery, the installation "De la Serie El Rostro de la Verdad (From
the series The Face of Truth)" lucidly summons the textures of
shantytowns where many poor black Cubans live.

The more abstract Diago's work gets, the more power it carries. In the
minimalist "De La Serie La Piel que Habla, No. 4 (From the Series: The
Skin that Speaks, No. 4)" he binds a black canvas in strips of pale
fabric, which might represent scars, barbed wire, or bandages.

If Diago's earlier, more expressionistic art has the immediacy of blood
on the canvas, his later evocation of scars is more poignant. Covered up
or not, oppression leaves an indelible mark.


At Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African &
African American Art, Harvard University,
102 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, through May 5. 617-496-5777,

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her
on Twitter @cmcq.

Source: Cuba sí, racism no! - The Boston Globe -
https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2017/04/05/cuba-racism/c6eI4x3GMk0J8bT6DZ0WTO/story.html Continue reading
Soccer beginning to gain foothold in Cuba
Tim Wendel, USA TODAY Sports Published 9:02 p.m. ET April 4, 2017

HAVANA — Aerial photographs of soccer fields in Cuba were once enough to
sound the alarm.

"Cubans play baseball," warned a CIA consultant in 1970 after studying
U.S. satellite images. "Russians play soccer."

That was then on the island, soccer is now. Parks, empty lots and
alleyways that were once home to baseball in and around Havana have been
taken over by pickup or organized soccer games. Baseball aficionados say
the shift began a decade ago and could have a major effect on a nation
that has seen its top baseball talent defect — often under perilous
conditions — to sign lucrative contracts with Major League Baseball teams.

"I'd been told it was happening, but until you see it with your own
eyes, you can't believe it," says Milton Jamail, the author of Full
Count: Inside Cuban Baseball, who has been to the island 10 times, most
recently in January. "You always hear that baseball is Cuba's game. But
it is clearly not the only sport that has captured the attention of
young men on the island."

Reasons for this sports shift might sound familiar to U.S. fans:

•Baseball moves too slowly, especially on television.

•Soccer only requires a ball, while baseball equipment can be too expensive.

•Baseball in Cuba is often viewed as the sport of the older generation.

Perhaps as a sign of the times, Team Cuba failed to get out of pool play
in the World Baseball Classic. Netherlands eliminated Cuba 14-1 on March 15.

Despite such struggles, they have been playing baseball in Cuba for
almost as long as it's been in the USA. In 1864, Nemesio Guillo returned
to his homeland with a bat and baseball after studying in the USA. He
and his brother, Ernesto, founded the Habana Base Ball Club, and the
game in Cuba soon flourished. The first ballpark in the country was
built in 1874 in Matanzas, east of Havana, and amateur leagues were soon
organized around the island's sugar mills.

In the USA, baseball remains as traditional as it gets. In Cuba, though,
playing the game could be viewed as a political statement. In the 1890s,
students and would-be revolutionaries were attracted to the sport
because it demonstrated their support for an independent Cuba. Soon
after taking power in 1959, Fidel Castro barnstormed with his ballclub,
Los Barbudos. Yet turn on a TV in a Cuban home, and it's easier to find
soccer than baseball.

"Barcelona, Real Madrid, games from Brazil — those are all available to
Cubans now," says Luke Salas, a Cuban-American former minor league
ballplayer who attempted to play in a provincial league outside of
Havana in 2012. "And when you think about the growth of soccer on the
island, it makes sense."

Of course, MLB has plenty of Cuban stars, including Aroldis Chapman,
Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, who were born and got their
baseball start in Cuba. From 2008 to 2014, nearly 50 Cuban ballplayers
defected to the USA, with 19 reaching the majors, according to MLB.com.
Yet once Cuban players leave, they cannot return to play for their
country. As a result, the level of play in Serie Nacional, the island's
top league, has suffered in recent years.

"Fans in Cuba know that Chapman helped the Cubs win the World Series,"
says Salas, who also produced a 2013 documentary film, The Cuban Dream.
"But it's not celebrated as much as you would think. That's because
Chapman and so many other top stars are gone."

Manny Hidalgo has made nine trips to Cuba since 1994 and recently
rebuilt a playground in Jovellanos, a two-hour drive from Havana and
next to a sugar mill that his mother's family owned for nearly a
century. On the refurbished fields, which will soon have lights, soccer
became the most popular game. Hidalgo's 11-year-old son, Francisco, who
plays soccer in the Washington, D.C., area, says the Cuban kids are
"really good."

At least one Cuban baseball official sees soccer as a passing fad.
Baseball Commissioner Heriberto Suarez told Jamail, "Soccer is not in
our blood, baseball is."

At the Esquina Caliente or "Hot Corner" in Parque Central in Havana, men
still gather every day to talk and debate baseball. But some of them
wear shirts for such iconic soccer teams as Real Madrid and Barcelona.

During the Tampa Bay Rays exhibition game in March 2016 at Estadio
Latinoamericano in Havana, MLB made sure that new infield grass was in
place and the dugouts and roof were repaired. Despite such efforts,
FIFA, soccer's world governing body, might be doing more to promote its
sport on the island.

In late February, Granma, the nation's newspaper, detailed how FIFA was
building a field with artificial grass for Cuba's youth and top-echelon
teams. Salas says Alberto Juantorena, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist who
is head of the Cuban track and field federation, once gave him a soccer

"We have thousands of them," Juantorena told him. "A gift from FIFA."

Since then, Salas has begun "Baseballs For Cuba," an effort that plans
to donate 1 million baseballs to kids on the island.

Cuba is 155th out of 205 countries in FIFA's ranking. So playing
baseball would still seem to be the best path to sports fame and fortune.

Yet David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of
Soccer, isn't so sure.

"The World Cup seems unlikely," he says, "though with an expanded
48-team (field) and maybe seven places for CONCACAF, hardly the world's
strongest football confederation, why not?"

Outside of Havana, just down the road from Ernest Hemingway's former
home, a small baseball diamond still stands. In the 1940s, the author's
sons, Patrick and Gregory, who was nicknamed Gigi, played baseball
nearby with kids from the barrio. Hemingway, who loved the game,
supplied balls, bats and gloves, and he pitched to both teams.

A sign for the Gigi All-Stars stands alongside the road leading up to
house, passed by dozens of tour buses daily. But guides at the Hemingway
house cannot remember the last time an actual game was played nearby.

"Weeks or more," one says. "It's been awhile since I've seen the game here."

Wendel is the author of the novel "Castro's Curveball" and has visited
Cuba four times since 1992.

Source: Soccer beginning to gain foothold in Cuba -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/2017/04/04/soccer-gaining-foothold-baseball-cuba/100049094/ Continue reading
Panel: Relations between Cuba, U.S. remain uncertain under Trump

It is still uncertain what will happen between the United States and
Cuba under President Donald Trump, several journalists who took part in
a panel discussion on that topic at the Hispanicize 2017 conference in
Miami said Tuesday.

"It's a mystery. Nobody knows, nobody knows when Trump is going to take
a step," said Pablo de Llano, the Florida and Cuba correspondent for the
El País newspaper. "He will have some dialogue with the Cuban American
community, apparently Senator Marco Rubio is trying to influence the
issue, but what can be deduced is that it is not at all a priority."

De Llano was joined on the panel, "What is the future of relations
between Cuba and the United States in 2017?," by Rick Jervis, USA Today
correspondent; Myriam Márquez, executive editor of el Nuevo Herald;
Angie Sandoval, Telemundo correspondent; and Hatzel Vela, Cuba
correspondent for WPLG Local 10.

"What interests Cuba is to have the embargo lifted in order to have
access to the credits that other countries have," Márquez said.
"Venezuela is on fire. They know they do not have much time. So what can
the Raúl Castro regime do to change that equation, with a man like
Trump, who no one knows which way he is going to turn? That's going to
be the most interesting thing."

The thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, spurred by the Obama administration,
was also addressed by panelists.

"The population has not seen much of that transformation," Sandoval
said. "What is true is that people have been able to dream about seeing
something more. But the one that has benefited the most economically
with the opening is the Cuban government."


Source: US-Cuba relations uncertain under Trump, Hispanicize
participants say | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142697714.html Continue reading
Depression, the "Silent Epidemic" Also Attacks in Cuba
April 3, 2017
By Pilar Montes

HAVANA TIMES — A recent medical event in Havana and particular
indicators I picked up on in TV programs and social projects, stirred my
curiosity about the impact of depression in Cuba.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO),
depression affects 322 million people worldwide, 18% more than in the
last decade.

Delving into the distribution of this so-called "silent epidemic" in the
world, the WHO says that the relationship between this disease with
rapid changes, war and migration isn't clear and that this illness is
more closely linked to addictions such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

In Latin America, Brazil is the country with the highest level of
depression, followed by Cuba, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that over 4%
of the global population suffers from depression and that women, young
people and the elderly are more prone to its crippling effects.

While it's true that the most immediate causes of depression can be
found in alcohol and drugs, underlying root causes lie in war and
regional conflicts, violence including domestic violence and families
being separated because of migration or economic needs.

"Alcohol consumption is our number one problem," explains Dr. Alejandro
Garcia, director of the Mental Health Community Center in Central
Havana, the most densely populated muncipality in Cuba, with over
160,000 inhabitants in a total area of 5.44km2.

"They aren't alcoholics as such, but people who consume alcohol in an
irreponsible manner, which leads to family violence, accidents and
behavioural problems."

Garcia explained that the response to this health problem is founded on
a three-way strategy which consists in promoting health awareness and
preventing diseases, medical care, as well as rehabilitation, the latter
being closely monitored.

Meanwhile, Conner Gorry, the author of an article published by MEDICC
magazine, which publishes articles by US and Cuban scientists, claims
that the statistics could hit us hard: in Cuba, suicide is one of the
ten leading causes of death and 25% of people who go to health centers
are diagnosed with depression.

In her article published in 2013, Gorry claims that this health
situation "isn't any different to the global health trend, especially in
Europe, the United States and Canada." However, Cuba is facing specific
challenges and since 1995 put its mental health system at the service of
the community with professionals available to provide a coordinated
national response to this problem.

Cuban experts agree that one of the greatest challenges the island is
experiencing right now is the rapid increase in its aging population,
Gorry points out. Life expectancy in Cuba is around 80 years, and the
gross birth rate is the lowest within the region and has a lower
fertility rate than what's needed to replace the generations.

Based on government data, it's estimated that by 2030, more than a third
of the population will be aged 60 years old and over, he said. Cuba is
on its way to becoming one of the planet's eleven oldest countries.

The population sector to be most affected by depression and other health
problems that derive from this disease are precisely the elderly. A lot
of the time, the cause for this stems from families being separated, due
to migration and even due to domestic violence.

War, conflict and migration
This situation isn't exclusive to Cuba, not in the least, it is also
evident in developed countries, where some don't have universal health
care and the country's wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in
fewer hands.

Ever since I was little, I was always struck by the fact that the
highest rates of suicide took place in the richest countries with the
highest levels of education.

The richest part of the planet make up 70-80% of the 800,000 annual
suicides that take place in high-earning countries, according to a
recent WHO report.

In spite of the increasing threat of this "silent epidemic" in the
world, national health systems continue to dedicate pitiful resources to
dealing with and treating this health problem.

And it's obvious that when a human being suffers failure in their life
goals, being mentally and professionally capable of reaching these
goals, depression and despair take root.

In the biological, psychological and social make-up of every individual,
changes to any of these components can influence everything and this
disease appears as a result.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there are 100 million
new cases of depression in the world every year. Primarily in adults,
depression is suffered by 15% of men and 24% of women. The greater
percentage is understood to be in the 18-45 year old age group, which is
when people are at the most productive stage of their lives.

People live and are driven by their interest to satisfy their needs,
ranging from the most basic or simple to the most complex on a spiritual
level, while also interacting with the rest of society, where questions
like how to live, what the meaning of life is and even if it's worth
living or not come up.

One of the authors of the Pan American Health report, Dan Chisholm,
warned at the Geneva Assembly that the majority of people who suffer
from depression don't have access to treatment.

"The number of people who access treatment in these countries is
extremely low, it's less than 5%. Around 95% of those suffering from
depression don't seek help and this is truly worrying," the expert said.
Mental health in Cuba: some statistics

Psychiatric hospitals: 17
Admittanceto psychiatric hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants: 0.3
Psychiatric consultations: 899,075
Psychiatric consultations per 100,000 inhabitants: 79
Psychiatrists: 1051
Psychiatric interns: 167
Child psychiatrists: 297
Child psychiatrist interns: 72
Graduated Health psychiatrists (2010-2011): 26
Health psychiatrist interns: 49
Graduated psychiatrists in 2012: 491
Graduated psychiatrists since 19959: 28,745
*Mental Health Community Centers: 101

Sources: Annual Health Statistics, 2012. Public Health Ministry, Cuba;
*Dr. Carmen Borrego, director of the National Mental Health and Drug
Abuse Program, MINSAP

Source: Depression, the "Silent Epidemic" Also Attacks in Cuba - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124535 Continue reading
Virgin Atlantic launches new route to Cuba's biggest beach resort
The Caribbean island is home to some seriously amazing sandy white beaches
11:01, 3 APR 2017UPDATED11:45, 3 APR 2017

When you think of Cuba, it's Havana's colourful buildings and classic
1950s-esque cars that spring to mind.

However, there's so much more to the Caribbean island that makes it a
tropical paradise - and thanks to Virgin Atlantic, it's easier than ever
to go exploring.

The airline launched a new flight route on Sunday from London Gatwick to
Varadero, one of Cuba's most popular beach resorts thanks to the
pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue oceans.

Virgin Atlantic expects to transport 28,000 more Brits for a holiday in
Cuba, after research conducted by the airline showed that in the last
two years, a third of UK travellers have become more interested in
checking out the island.

Not only has Cuba become an increasingly popular holiday hot spot, but
the death of Fidel Castro has also played a role in igniting interest in
the nation.

It's not surprising that the resort of Varadero is topping the list for
a go-to luxurious getaway: after all, it's home to a string of
all-inclusive hotels, award-winning spas and lusciously green golf courses.

Currently, almost half of holiday makers in Cuba have been landing in
Havana and making the two-hour drive to Varadero.

Many have been spending a few days in the capital for a cultural break
before heading off to unwind on the resort's beaches.

Therefore, Virgin Atlantic is expecting a significant increase in the
number of customers who arrive and depart from different airports -
especially as they are the only UK airline to provide year-round service
to both destinations.

To celebrate the inaugural flight, Virgin Holidays has launched a new
booking service aptly named 'Cars to Cuba', so customers can ride in a
classic car just like the ones you can spot across Havana's busy
streets. The offer includes a one-hour drive in a vintage Cuban car, a
take-home voucher for salsa lessons and a hamper full of Cuban goodies.

Source: Virgin Atlantic launches new route to Cuba's biggest beach
resort - Mirror Online -
http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/usa-long-haul/virgin-atlantic-launches-new-route-10148145 Continue reading
Florida Aquarium helps create underwater coral nursery in Cuba
By WFLA Web Staff
Published: April 3, 2017, 7:52 pm Updated: April 4, 2017, 9:38 am

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – An international team of divers from The Florida
Aquarium and the National Aquarium of Cuba constructed an underwater
staghorn coral nursey in Cuba waters, The Florida Aquarium announced Monday.

The underwater coral nursery took months of planning and six days in the
field. The nursery is located in the Guanahacabibes, Peninsula National
Park, off the westernmost point of Cuba.

The coral nursey was created by anchoring 20 "trees" to the ocean floor,
15 feet in length and able to hold up to 60 coral fragments. The trees
are able to move with the ocean waves and currents.

Once the trees were installed, they were filled with a specific staghorn

The design of the tree keeps the growing corals above the sea floor,
away from competition and predators.

The Florida Aquarium has been studying sexual reproduction of the
staghorn coral, as it is a key, fast-growing building block for reef

The Director of The Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation, Scott
Graves, who managed the project, said the operation was a huge success.

"I have never worked in the field with a better team. Our Cuban
colleagues are highly skilled divers, knowledgeable biologists, tireless
workers and a pleasure to be around," he said.

Now, land-base "coral greenhouses" are being constructed, where
differing genotypes of coral can be preserved and living labs operated.

The Florida Aquarium said the goal is to help build these "greenhouses"
at the National Aquarium of Cuba, too.

Source: Florida Aquarium helps create underwater coral nursery in Cuba |
WFLA.com -
http://wfla.com/2017/04/03/florida-aquarium-helps-create-underwater-coral-nursery-in-cuba/ Continue reading