September 2014
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Vacations / Regina Coyula
Posted on September 2, 2014

With the heat, my summer option is to sit in front of the TV, but not in
front of the summer programming which doesn't interest me, rather to
decide what I watch because in the end I have a TV for the halfway

"24" with its thrilling season has been the thriller. And it's not that
I don't know that later in the third season Jack Bauer will save the
world once again with the help of Chloe alone, but he'll still end up
screwed; it's that in this tacit agreement, I'm disposed to believe in
Super Bauer if it's told well.

Also the action movie, Die Hard, 5? 6? 7? Bruce Willis, Bauer's putative
uncle, does his thing in a Moscow unrecognizable for those left in the USSR.

Not everything is banal. movies like "Siberian Education" or "The Map in
the Clouds" have added the dramatic note. Light humor comes at the hands
of "Modern Family"; thanks for not putting canned laughter in "Breaking
Bad," excellent black humor, the best of the summer. "The Hammer and
Tickle," a Canadian documentary about USSR and Eastern European humor,
made me laugh and made me think of copies, and the current drought of
good jokes, in great measure due to the fact that so many of these jokes
were island adaptations of the originals beyond what you see, over there.

But the best has been the arrival of Piura, the new puppy in the house.
Perky, smart, loving, she's already the boss of everyone. And like all
my dogs, rescued. It's an odd vacation idea to spend my days cleaning up
pee and a good part of the night consoling a little puppy who's afraid
of the dark, but the dogcatcher understands me.

That's been my vacation. It's a really nice personal project that has
grabbed my attention.

29 August 2014

Source: Vacations / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Unprotected / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 1, 2014

In Cuba, animals, for the most part, are unprotected. There are no laws
or regulations that define how they should be treated, nor sanctions for
those who abuse them. Flora and Fauna, for the most part, deals with
problems relating to the extinction of species, but doesn't interest
itself in domestic animals, much less pets and other affectionate
animals. They depend totally on their owners, consistent with their
feelings and financial capabilities.

There is no governmental agency or organization that answers for them.
There are some regulations prohibiting their presence, even with their
owners, in certain public places, like beaches, recreations centers and
others, and fines are imposed if they are violated.

This lack of regulated State attention, as happens in most civilized
countries in the world, seems not to be on our authorities' list of

If during the years of the Republic there was a magnificent Veterinary
School, situated on Carlos III, where these friends of human beings were
looked after for free, today the school is deplorable, and only works
thanks to the dedication of its personnel, most of the time without the
veterinary resources needed or the drugs to treat them, because we've
come to the absurdity of prohibiting veterinarians from writing
prescriptions, knowing as we know, that many of the drugs used to fight
disease in people also work in animals. This requires finding a friendly
doctor who will issue them.

There are also private clinics, where they offer to shelter and care for
pets when their owners go on vacation. Today the attention, apart from
vaccination campaigns or government sterilizations, rests mainly on
private vets, who make house calls, or see pets in their own homes.

Public Health, with its Department of Zoonosis (the transmission of
infectious diseases between species) is only in charge of picking them
up in the street and killing them, without any system of treatment or
preparing them to be offered for adoption, without recourse to measures
that are too extreme or anti-human.

In addition, the procedures they use to pick them up are wild and
violent, causing injury to the poor animals, and when you criticize them
they say they lack adequate methods.

The Almiquí y Animalia stores exist principally as means to collect hard
currency, but their prices in CUCs are prohibitive for most people, not
to mention that pet food and other animal supplies are unavailable for
most of the year.

Prohibitions continue to what the authorities know best how to so. We
urgently need the development, adoption, and putting into effect a Code
of Protection for this friends of human beings, which also establish the
duties and rights of their owners, and that sanction acts of cruelty and

Until this happens, the streets of our towns and cities will continue to
be filled with dogs, cats and other pets wandering, vulnerable, sick,
hungry, scared and looking for food and affection.

30 August 2014

Source: Unprotected / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Hey, You With The 25 Smartphones! Cuba Gets Tough With Tourists Bringing
Goods To Island
Published September 01, 2014Fox News Latino

HAVANA (AP) — Lugging duffel bags crammed with soap, socks, toys and
toiletries, travelers arriving in Cuba on Monday carried loads of
hard-to-obtain consumer goods but complained that new government
restrictions on their imports would leave their families wanting.

Passengers on the day's first flights from Miami grumbled about higher
duty fees and limits on the amount of products they could bring to Cuban
relatives frustrated with the high prices and scarcity of quality
products. At Havana's international airport, there appeared to be fewer
bicycles, 40-inch televisions or other bulky household items that
normally made the baggage carousels look like the inventory line of a
Target or Wal-Mart.

"There are barely any bags on the floor inside," said Arnaldo Roa, a
45-year-old Miami handyman on a trip to see relatives. While he had a
bag stuffed with toys and clothes for his daughter, he said he wasn't
able to bring his usual extra bags filled with gifts for other family

"I'm upset," he said. "Some relatives are going to get upset because
normally I bring them things."

The easing of travel restrictions by the U.S. and Cuban governments over
the last five years has allowed travelers to bring in nearly $2 billion
of products a year.

The Cuban government enacted new rules Monday sharply limiting the
amount of goods people can bring and raising customs duties of many
items that are still allowed.

The government says the measure is meant to curb abuses that have turned
air travel in particular into a way for professional "mules" to
illegally import supplies for both black-market businesses and legal
private enterprises that are supposed to buy supplies from the state.

Ana Maria Perez, who works in a South Florida factory making airplane
seats, said she had been forced to pay $95 in customs duties, far more
than usual.

"We've got to pay a lot now," she said. "I don't understand it at all,
but I paid."

The rules that went into effect Monday run 41 pages and give a sense of
the quantity and diversity of the commercial goods arriving in checked
bags. Travelers are now allowed to bring in 22 pounds (10 kilos) of
detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24
bras instead of 48. Four car tires are still permitted, as are two
pieces of baby furniture and two flat-screen televisions.

The value of a passenger's imported items can total no more than $1,000,
with the estimate based on a long list of assigned prices for certain
goods ($250 for a video-game console, for example.) Those values rose
sharply under the new rules, making it far easier to reach the $1,000 limit.

The new rules similarly increased the duties paid on goods shipped from
abroad, another major source of foreign merchandise for the island.

Authorities took to the airwaves and pages of state media in recent days
to assure Cubans that the vast majority of travelers won't be affected.
The change is intended "to keep certain people from using current rules
on non-commercial imports to bring into the country high volumes of
goods that are destined for commercial sale and profit," Idalmis Rosales
Milanes, deputy chief of Cuban customs, told government newspaper Granma
in Friday editions.

The government has justified the new rules with examples of prolific
mules including one passenger it said brought in 41 computer monitors
and 66 flat-screen TVs in a year.

Between $1.7 billion and $1.9 billion worth of goods were flown to Cuba
in traveler's baggage last year, with the average flyer bringing in
goods worth $3,551, according to a 2013 survey of 1,154 Cuban and
Cuban-American travelers conducted by the Havana Consulting Group, a
Florida-based private consultancy that studies the Cuban economy.

"It's sustenance, support that greatly aids in the survival of the Cuban
family," Consulting Group President Emilio Morales said. "Along with
cash remittances, it's the most significant source of earnings for the
Cuban population, not the salaries the government pays."

While his study did not look at the final destination of travelers'
goods, Morales said he estimated based on his knowledge of the
phenomenon that about 60 percent went to families and 40 percent to
black-market retailers.

With foreign reserves dropping sharply over the last two years as Cuba
tries to pay off sovereign debt and make itself a more attractive
destination for foreign investment, Morales said, the government is
desperate to reduce the flow of goods and push Cubans' relatives abroad
to send help in the form of cash remittances, which are subjected to
hefty government fees. Limiting informal imports also would presumably
help boost business in state-controlled stores.

The rule change already has had an effect in Miami, where many stores
are dedicated to selling goods to island-bound Cubans and
Cuban-Americans. Many employees reported sharp drop-offs in sales in
recent days as people braced for the change.

Source: Hey, You With The 25 Smartphones! Cuba Gets Tough With Tourists
Bringing Goods To Island | Fox News Latino - Continue reading
Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from US
AUTHOR: Emily Morris
Research Associate, Institute of the Americas, UCL at University College
Emily Morris does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive
funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this
article, and has no relevant affiliations.
Provides funding as a Founding Partner of The Conversation.

Cuba has imposed new limits on the amount of goods that travellers can
bring into the country. The new measures will be unpopular with many
involved in the trade from suppliers to customers, and at first sight
they appear futile and counter-productive.

The informal trade in consumer goods and domestic equipment involves
huge bundles and packages being brought to the island by visiting
Cuban-Americans. The strong growth of these imports in recent years has
been the result of reforms in both the US and Cuba.

In 2009 Barack Obama lifted travel restrictions to Cuba for
Cuban-Americans that had been imposed by his predecessor, George W Bush,
allowing them to travel back and forth to visit relatives on the island
without any limit to the number of journeys. Meanwhile, Raúl Castro,
Cuba's president, has removed the requirement for Cubans planning
foreign trips to obtain an exit visas and fostered the growth of new
private businesses in Cuba. This has increased the purchasing power of
successful entrepreneurs and created new demand for business equipment
and consumer goods to sell.

The trade has allowed Cubans to acquire goods that are otherwise scarce
or very expensive. Families on both sides of the Florida Straits have
been using the trade to circumvent restrictions created by both US
sanctions, which prohibit the export of US consumer goods to Cuba, and
Cuba's centrally controlled economy, in which the state has a
near-monopoly on imports. The result of the restrictions has been a lack
of access to US goods, poor quality substitutes purchased from distant
markets, and persistent shortages in Cuban shops.

The informal trade has been welcomed by Cubans on the island with hard
currency to spend. But it's a problem for the broader economy as the
demand for these imports draws precious hard currency out of the
country. It also exacerbates growing income inequality within Cuba by
increasing the relative economic advantage enjoyed by Cubans with family
in the US.

The Cuban government, by restricting rather than banning this trade,
seems to recognise that it is neither possible nor desirable to end it.
The measures that have now taken effect represent a partial and
temporary fix, which is designed to placate those Cubans who are unable
to benefit from the trade but will aggravate frustrations among the
traders and their customers.

The apparent arbitrariness of the rules invites ridicule: as the foreign
press has noted, the new rules are 41 pages long, and state:

Travelers will now be allowed to bring in 22 pounds (10 kilos) of
detergent instead of 44; one set of hand tools instead of two; and 24
bras instead of 48.
And at a time when Castro has called for restrictions on non-state
economic activity to be removed, the restrictions seem anachronistic as
well as ridiculous.

But, with a dual currency system in which a severely undervalued Cuban
peso gives those with access to hard currency – or the "Convertible
peso" — enormous relative economic privilege, the socialist government
feels obliged to "do something", while it attempts to grapple with the
deeper causes of inequality and shortages.

In preparation for a reform of the currency system, the authorities have
been trying to build international reserves. And, although the planned
currency unification will not solve the problem overnight, it is
necessary to eventually narrow the gap between Cuban peso earners and
the privileged minority with ready access to hard currency.

Beyond this reform, the state importers, distributors and retailers need
to become more responsive to consumer preferences, and Cuban productive
capacity needs to grow. These challenges are on the agenda of a process
of profound, albeit gradual and cautious, transformation of the economic
system that is currently underway in Cuba.

But even if the Cuban government were to successfully deal with all
these shortcomings, the urge among Cuban-American visitors and returning
Cubans to heave enormous bundles of goods from the US would not
disappear, so long as the US government maintains its trade sanctions.
In effect, US policy forces its exports to Cuba to be channelled through
this route.

The route also provides images that fit the US anti-Castro narrative –
of US plentitude and Cuban shortages – while at the same time ensuring
that the money flows only one way: from Cuba to the US. Meanwhile,
paradoxically, US restrictions on Cuban informal imports into the
American "free market" are very much tighter than Cuban restrictions on
US imports, as anyone arriving in the US from Cuba with Cuban cigars or
rum in their luggage can testify.

Although these latest restrictions by the Cuban government are clearly
cumbersome, discriminatory and inefficient, the biggest obstacle to the
normalisation of trade between the US and Cuba remains US sanctions.

Source: Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from
US sanctions - Continue reading
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX (KTRK) -- An amazing survival story after a wooden boat, carrying six Cuban immigrants, washed ashore in Texas after drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for three weeks. Border ... Continue reading
I Choose to Stick with Cuba
September 1, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — As it turns out, it seems everyone who leaves Cuba is
having a rough time. Many of my old friends kept in touch and sent me
the occasional email shortly after leaving, but, a few months later,
next to no one writes me.

When they do write, their messages are brief and do not offer much
information about how they're doing. On the contrary, they tend to be a
catalogue of hardships – that they have to work hard, that they get home
dead tired, that they don't even have the time to read a book, that
everything costs money, that people are completely different than those
in Cuba, that everyone minds their own business, in short, that they
feel they have landed in a different planet.

None of them, however, chooses to return from that other planet. I
wonder why. At one point in my life, I felt the wish to leave the
country, because I thought I'd have greater opportunities to get my
hands on the things I need for my work elsewhere (buying a professional
stills camera, a lighting kit, a good computer where I could edit
videos, etc.) Here, it is next to impossible to be able to buy those
kinds of things.

I also considered the possibility of visiting a country that wasn't my
own and never returning, in order to escape from all of the problems
here. I came to the conclusion, however, that other kinds of problems
would exist on a different planet.

To be honest, I've gotten that idea out of my mind. I will continue
living where I am for the time being, even though I practically have
none of the things that would make my creative work easier.

When I run out of coffee, however, my next-door neighbor gives me a bit
for a cup. When she doesn't have coffee, I offer her some of mine. Every
morning, we greet one another and almost always end up talking with
other neighbors in the building. We laugh about our problems; confident
things will one day change for all of us, save the way Cubans are.
Generally speaking, we are people who help one another.
It doesn't matter if those who leave change somehow. I don't suppose
it's their fault. The thing is that, out there, things are of a
different color.

Source: I Choose to Stick with Cuba - Havana - Continue reading
Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba
Tue Sep 2, 2014 5:00am EDT

(Reuters) - Cuba's experiment with free-market reforms has
unintentionally widened the communist-led island's racial divide and
allowed white Cubans to regain some of the economic advantages built up
over centuries.

Under President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel Castro
in 2008, Cuba has expanded its non-state workforce, loosened travel
restrictions and promoted private cooperatives and small businesses.

As the communist government relinquishes its once near-total control of
the economy, inequality has widened, undoing some of the progress seen
since the 1959 revolution.

Much of the funding for new businesses such as restaurants,
transportation services and bed-and-breakfast inns - targeted at
tourists, diplomats and dollar-earners - comes from family members who
emigrated to the United States over the last 50 years, especially Miami.

They sent almost $3 billion to relatives back in Cuba last year and, as
they are mainly white, their investments put black and mixed-race Cubans
at a disadvantage as they try to set up their own businesses.

Walter Echevarria, a 60-year-old black man, co-owns a humble cafeteria
run out of a ground-floor Havana apartment belonging to one of his partners.

There is no seating, and the clients are mostly state workers who order
pork sandwiches and juice or a coffee for about 15 Cuban pesos, or
around $0.60.

"It's usually the whites who have family abroad and send them money, and
they can set up bigger businesses," Echevarria said while customers
lined up at the take-out window during the busy lunch hour.

With the additional economic freedom under Raul Castro's reforms, there
is also greater discrimination.

Armed with a substantial resume, Miguel Azcuy quit his job at a
state-owned restaurant to go job-hunting in Cuba's incipient private
labor market two years ago, hoping to wait tables in the fast-growing
restaurant sector.

The job offers never came. Azcuy, 39, had a degree from gastronomy
school and 15 years of experience in state-owned restaurants.

He's also black, and says his race closed opportunities that would be
available to white Cubans. Researchers and analysts also say the
market-oriented economic reforms under way have put poorer Afro-Cubans
at a disadvantage

"I felt like the owners of many of these places looked at me with
disdain," said Azcuy, who has since managed to open a small cafeteria
selling coffee and juice from his home near a major hospital in Havana.

"They didn't trust me. They didn't give me a chance. They probably
figured that sooner or later the blacks will let you down. Here people
say they are not racist but at the moment of truth their prejudices come

Anecdotally, the divisions appear obvious in a society descended from
Spanish colonists and African slaves.

Tato Quiñones, a researcher who heads a private group called Brotherhood
of Blackness, says it is enough to observe the small number of
Afro-Cubans who have relatively lucrative sources of income such as
owning restaurants, driving taxis, or renting out rooms in their homes.

Shortly after Raul Castro took over as president in 2008, he allowed
Cubans to visit resort hotels, previously reserved only for foreigners.
Today, in the exclusive beach resort of Varadero, the Cuban clientele is
almost all white.

Black construction workers largely built the hotels but client-facing
staff are mostly white.


When Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, it was mostly the privileged
white elite that fled the country for Miami, not the largely black
workforce of laborers, sugar cane cutters and domestic help.

Following changes in U.S. laws in 2009 and 2011, Cuban-Americans can now
more easily travel to Cuba and send unlimited remittances to their families.

A study by the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group found Cuban-Americans
sent a record $2.77 billion in remittances to Cuba in 2013. Of that
total, 82 percent passed through white hands. Twelve percent was sent to
mixed-race relatives, and 5.8 percent went to blacks.

By contrast, Cuba's 2012 census showed that 64.1 percent of Cuba's 11
million people are considered white, 9.3 percent black, and 26.6 percent
of mixed race.

Besides financing the fledgling private sector, remittances contribute
to a more general inequality in Cuba. The relatives of exiles and
doctors who work overseas or commercially successful artists line up at
hard-currency stores to buy luxury goods while most Cubans scrape by on
$20-a-month government jobs.

Before Castro's revolution, education was largely off limits to blacks
and mestizos and they were shut out of universities and jobs that
involved interacting with customers. Whites had their own social clubs,
beaches and private parties.

As soon as he assumed power, Castro eliminated segregation and attempted
to abolish inequality by giving all Cubans access to free education and
health care. The government hails those as among the revolution's
greatest accomplishments.

Today Cuba is largely a mixed-race society, though one in which lighter
skinned Cubans still enjoy advantages in all but sports and entertainment.

Many Cubans are of ambiguous racial heritage, and a panoply of names
exist to people of various hues. The terms are more descriptive and not
considered offensive.

Some Afro-Cubans say they have not experienced racism under the
revolution, advancing in education and careers without impediment.

Echevarria, the sandwich shop co-owner, said he was content with his
humble business and not too bothered by inequality. "Racism exists. Not
like before, but it exists."

But other black and mixed-race Cubans say they feel racism, and experts
say whites still have better access to good jobs and higher education.

Those disadvantages grow more acute with major economic changes, such as
when the collapse of the Soviet Union caused a deep recession in the
1990s and now as market forces have a bigger role.

"That's what has dragged our people back and is being aggravated today,"
Quiñones said.

In 2011, the ruling Communist Party sent a message on racial equality by
raising the number of blacks or mixed-race Cubans on its 115-member
Central Committee to 36, almost in line with the census data.

And the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) is working
on proposals to counteract inequality, both in media representation and
in society, such as harassment by police, a common complaint.

But Cuba does not publish demographic data such as income or crime by
race and experts say it makes it very difficult to design economic,
social and cultural policies to boost equality.

"In Cuba the statistics are color blind," said Jesus Guanche, a frequent
writer on matters of race. "If you want to enact measures to help
disadvantaged people, you have to identify them."

(Editing by Kieran Murray)

Source: Market-style reforms widen racial divide in Cuba | Reuters - Continue reading
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Story Created: Sep 1, 2014 at 7:36 PM ECT Story Updated: Sep 1, 2014 at 7:36 PM ECT  \\ HAVANA Cuba has implemented new rules that will restrict the personal importation Continue reading
(Reuters) - Cuba's experiment with free-market reforms has unintentionally widened the communist-led island's racial divide and allowed white Cubans to regain some of the economic advantages built up Continue reading
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HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba has raised duties and restricted imports on consumer goods brought in by air travelers or sent by mail, imposing greater hardship for a fledgling private sector and angering people Continue reading
\\ HAVANA Cuba has implemented new rules that will restrict the personal importation of foreign goods into the country, except where locally made items are expensive and scarce. The government says Continue reading
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