April 2014
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Descriptive Hardship / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on April 17, 2014

An acquaintance of mine traded his one-and-a-half-room apartment for an
even smaller one and a little cash, to ease his alcoholism and misery. I
never entered his house and so I was unaware of his poverty. His
furniture looked like shabby junk, which was probably — as in most Cuban
houses — bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model that
installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

An oily film covers the surface of the dresser that was perhaps once
covered in formica, the dilapidated cabinet narrates a history of old
age and over use, as do his mattress and the remains of his sofa and
Russian washing machine–from which he had to amputate the dryer–which
are as revealing as the speeches of the Cuba's leaders, their words
blurred by neglect and demagoguery.

During the move, he took out a yellowed nylon bag with a ton of
black-and-white photos to show his companions how beautiful the
apartment had been when his father moved in 1958. Then the furniture
seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat
of paint. Monochromatic sentiments showing the nostalgia on his face,
pummeled by frustration and liquor.

His drinking buddies helped him carry out his things and let them in the
sun for an hour waiting for transport. They were a dozen addicts invited
to show "solidarity" and encouraged by rum, which served as fuel to
maintain their enthusiasm. A truck from the thirties carried a part of
the "skimpy" patrimony to the "new house," which was clearly built
before the Castro government and which sheltered, as in many other homes
in Cuba, the ethyl-alcohol scandals of that part of society that drowns
its disappointments and miseries with a cheap sulfuric homemade rum
which is all they can afford.

The alcohol solidarity brigade turned themselves over to the care of the
liquid treasure left int he bottle. The emptying of this was the shot
that ripped through their own hardships accumulated over decades of
governmental injustices, apathy, anti-democratic subjugation and social
exhaustion. The delirium tremens, or tremendous delirium of trying to
trick societies all the time with drunken ideological and economic
theories, has failed worldwide.

Perhaps, in the quiet of their homes, before the bottle gives them the
knockout blow, they pull from their personal yellowed plastic bags of
history, photos that bear witness to that fact that once–before
addiction had them tied by the neck–these were their houses and this was
their country, before this evil government drove it to ruin.

17 April 2014

Source: Descriptive Hardship / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Neither Blacks Nor Whites, Cubans / Fernando Damaso
Posted on April 16, 2014

Neither black nor white, Cuba is mixed, some of the country's
investigators and intellectuals have asserted for some time now. The
declaration seems to respond to an eminently political intention:
incorporation into the current Latin American mixed ethnicity, so
fashionable among our populists.

This tendency, promoted by the authorities and some associated
personalities, instead of looking objectively at the African influence
in the formation of the Cuban nationality and identity, overestimating
it to the detriment of the Spanish, also an original race. To do this,
for many years, they have officially and supported and promoted its
demonstration, both in arts and religion, with the objective of
presenting it as the genuine Cuban.

Bandying about issues of race has many facets and, hence, varied
interpretations. Marti said they didn't exist, and wrote about the
different people who populate the distinct regions of the planer, noting
their unique characteristics, both positive and negative and which, in
practice, differentiate them. His romantic humanism went one way and
reality another. In more recent times, they sent us to Africa to fight
against colonialism, to settle a historical debt with the people of that
continent brought to Cuba as slaves, according to what they tell us.

That is, we accept that they can't free themselves and we, in some way
considering ourselves superior, come to their aid, independent of the
true political hegemonic interests, which were the real reason for our
presence in favor of one side in the conflict, during the so-called Cold

Without falling into the absurd extremes, talking about superior and
inferior races, in reality there are differences of every kind between
the historical inhabitants of different regions. To hide or distort it
doesn't help anyone. Some ethnic groups have developed more than others
and have contributed more to humanity, and still do. No wonder we speak
of a developed North and the underdeveloped South, and it has not only
influenced the exploitation of some by others, as both the carnivorous
and vegetarian Left and their followers like to argue. There are those
who, with their talent and work, are able to produce wealth, and those
who find it more difficult and only create misery.

In Cuba, the original population lived in north of South America and
expanded to the Antilles. Afterwards came the Spanish, and later the
blacks, Chinese, Arabs, French, Japanese and the representatives of
other nations of the world, bringing their customs, characteristics,
traditions, virtues, defects and cultures, which in the great mix (never
in a pot) formed the Cuban nation. For many years whites were the
majority, followed by mixed, blacks and Asians (in 1953, whites were
72.8%, mixed 14.5%, black 12.4% and Asians 0.3% of the population).

From the year 1959, with the mass exodus of whites and Asians, who
settled mainly in the United States, and the increase in births in the
black and mestizo population, plus the various racial mixtures, their
percentages increased within the country, but not among Cubans living
abroad, who are mostly white. To ignore the statistics constitutes both
a demographic and political mistake, they are as Cuban as those based in
the country, often with more rooted customs, traditions and culture.
Cuba is white, mestizo, black and Asian and much more, but above all, it
is Cuba. Who benefits politically from this extemporaneous definition of
a mixed Cuba? What are they trying to accomplish? to divide Cubans still

It is absurd that, after years indoctrinating people about the
non-existence of races (say man and you will have said it all), and not
taken into account published statistics, now appears this strange
assertion,which no one is interested in or cares about, whites, blacks,
mixed, Asians, trying to survive within a system that has been unable,
for over 56 years, of solving its citizens' problems.

It's a secret to no one, that it is precisely and black and mixed
population that is most affected by the economic and social crisis, the
most discriminated against by the authorities, despite their discourse,
propaganda, and the 30% quotas within political and governmental

With the exception athletes and artists, blacks and mixed-race are the
poorest, hold the worst jobs, are least likely to graduate from college,
live int he worst conditions, often bordering on slums, and are the most
likely to be in jail or prison.

I doubt that the conclusions reached by these investigators and
intellectuals have some practical value or help in any way to change
this terrible situation, nor to the authorities of Public Order cease to
besiege them, continually stopping them and demanding their ID cars on
the streets of our towns and cities.

11 April 2014

Source: Neither Blacks Nor Whites, Cubans / Fernando Damaso |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Is This the Moment to Normalize US Relations With Cuba?
With Senator Foreign Relations chairman and Cuba hawk Robert Menendez
mired in scandal, the embargo could finally be lifted.
Tom Hayden April 16, 2014

Until last week, New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, chairman
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was relatively untouchable
among Democrats, while holding virtual veto power over US Cuba policy
and being a military hawk on US policies towards Syria, Iran and Venezuela.

Not any more.

Now Menendez's grip is weakened by revelations that his very close
friend, Miami opthalmologist Saloman Melgen, topped the country in
Medicare fraud, and funneled $700,000 in campaign contributions through
a Democratic super-PAC, nearly all of which were channeled right back to
the Menendez re-election campaign in 2012. Melgen ripped off $21 million
in Medicare reimbursements that year alone by over-prescribing a
medication for vision loss among seniors.

A key question is whether Senate leader Harry Reid, whose close former
aides run the Majority PAC for Senate Democrats, will aggressively
investigate ethics violations, diminish Menendez's Senate standing, or
risk his party's association with the scandal by circling the wagons.

Federal investigations, including two raids on Dr. Melgen's clinics,
already have revealed that Menendez interceded with Medicare officials
on his friend's behalf in 2009 and 2011. Menendez is still under
scrutiny by the Obama Justice Department. Menendez acknowledges
traveling several times on Melgen's private jet and staying at the eye
doctor's posh estate in the Dominican Republic. Menendez was forced to
reimburse $58,500 for the costs of those trips when the information was
disclosed in 2010.

The important back story in the Menendez-Melger case is that US Cuba
policy is at stake.

The Cuban-born Menendez is a fierce lifetime opponent of any easing of
tensions with Havana. As a top fund-raiser and the Democratic chairman
of the key foreign relations committee, Menendez is an obstacle to Obama
and Senate liberals on a range of national security policies. He favors
regime change through military or covert means in Syria, Iran,
Venezuela, and of course Cuba. He has the power to set bills, hold
hearings, and approve or deny administration nominations. Menendez is
becoming Obama's chief domestic obstacle in normalizing relations with
Cuba. Even on an administration priority like immigration reform,
Menendez (and Senator Marco Rubio) have pledged their votes only on the
condition that their hardline position on Cuba is heeded.

Now that Menendez's grip on power is weakened, the only question is by
how much.

Only a few years ago Menendez, chairing the Senate Democrats' campaign
committee, raised hell when one of the party's biggest fund-raisers,
Hollywood's Andy Spahn, tried raising funds for candidates who supported
a new Cuba policy. Spahn, who travels often to Cuba with American
politicians and Hollywood producers like Steven Spielberg, was demonized
by Menendez and shut down. But Spahn today remains as one of Obama's top
fund-raisers, and actively supports lifting the embargo.

This year an even sharper split erupted in the Senate between Menendez
and Senator Patrick Leahy who is making a top priority of achieving a
new Cuban policy. Leahy, who engages in steady, behind-the-scenes
dialogue with Cuban officials, obtained sixty-six Senate signatures on a
December 2013 letter to Obama calling on the president to "act
expeditiously to take whatever steps are in the national interest" to
obtain the release of American citizen Alan Gross. Gross is a contractor
for the US Agency for International Development serving a fifteen-year
sentence in Cuba for covertly smuggling high-tech communications
equipment into the island. A rival letter sent by Menendez and Rubio
calling for Gross' "immediate and unconditional release" garnered only
fourteen votes, an embarrassing setback for Menendez. In the opaque
culture of Washington, the Leahy letter was interpreted as political
cover for Obama to negotiate diplomatically for Gross' release, whereas
the Menendez letter was a dud.

The Leahy-Menendez feud has deepened further with recent revelations
that the AID has operated a secret Twitter program to stir protests in
Cuba. Leahy denounces the project as "dumb, dumb, dumb" while Menendez
defends it vigorously.

National Democrats interested in Cuba commonly claim their hands are
tied on Cuba because of Menendez's role. Under the 1997 Helms-Burton
legislation, President Bill Clinton delegated to Congress the final say
over recognizing Cuba and lifting the embargo, providing the most
powerful tool in Menendez's arsenal until now. For that reason, Obama
has pursued gradual progress with Cuba through executive action—like
lifting license requirements for travel by Cuban-Americans, which has
resulted in a flow of about 500,000 Cuban Americans per year. Obama also
is conducting business-like talks with the Cuban regime on immigration,
drug enforcement and other state-to-state matters. Obama shook hands
with President Raul Castro at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, angering
the Cuban Right.

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Any ebbing of Menendez's role will help Obama to take further steps
towards normalization. For example, the State Department is considering
lifting its designation of Cuba as a "terrorist state." Such a move
would make it much easier for the Cuban government to engage with
private banks and firms who now worry about breaching US anti-terrorism
laws. While lifting the terrorist label is within the administration's
power, the decision can be challenged by two-thirds of the Senate. With
a weakened Menendez, the Senate might go along with Obama and John Kerry.

The surfacing of the Medicare scandal, Melgen's donations to Menendez,
and the links between that money and the Senate's Majority PAC now
increase the pressure on Senator Reid and Democrats to distance
themselves from Menendez. For Democratic insiders, managing the scandal
is a dicey matter, because losing the Senate in November will turn Cuba
policy over to the exiles' latest favorite son, Senator Marco Rubio.

If Democrats are uncomfortable about a nasty fight with one of their
own, who will step up? Menendez is not up for election this November.
Republicans who agree with his right-wing foreign policies may like him
where he is. Where are New Jersey Democrats? For many years the liberal
focus against the Cuban Right has centered on Miami, not so much on the
enclave of right-wing Cubans in Jersey City. The recent liberal
obsession about New Jersey has been about Republican governor Chris
Christie, not Democratic senator Menendez. The uproar over Christie,
while fully justifiable, is easier politically than Democrats taking on
a leader of their own party. But while causing traffic jams on an
interstate bridge is an outrage, how does it compare with a lone Senator
flaunting his own president, fomenting US military interventions, and
sabotaging a possible bridge to Cuba? Time will tell.

Source: Is This the Moment to Normalize US Relations With Cuba? | The
Nation - Continue reading

Reporters Without Borders condemns independent journalist Juliet
Michelena Díaz's detention since 7 April, three days before the
publication of a by-lined report she wrote for the Miami-based
independent news platform Cubanet about a case of ordinary police
violence she had witnessed in Havana.

Michelena, who was arrested in a heavy-handed police operation, is a
member of the Cuban Network of Community Journalists (RCCC), an
organization that defends freedom of information. The police often break
up its meetings and arrest participants, but the arrests are usually of
short duration.

The charges against Michelena have changed since her arrest. Initially
accused of "threatening a neighbour," she is now charged with
"terrorism." Despite the absence of any evidence, the nature of the
charge prevents a quick release, which is otherwise often the case with
arbitrary arrests in Cuba.

"We urge the authorities to free Michelena without delay and drop all
charges against her," said Lucie Morillon, head of research at Reporters
Without Borders. "The decision to bring a more serious charge indicates
a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting.
Police violence is nonetheless far from being a subject that Cubans can
easily forget."

Independent journalists are subject to constant judicial harassment in
Cuba. Arbitrary arrests are used to undermine their ability to work and
to restrict the flow of information.

Michelena was already arrested on 26 March, when she was released after
a few hours. Police officers attacked the independent journalist Dania
Virgen García on 12 April, as she was dropping her nephew off at school.
Two state TV journalists who began to film the attack were also
immediately arrested. The three women were released that evening.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to French foreign minister Laurent
Fabius ahead of his visit to Havana on 10 April asking him to raise the
issue of arrests of journalists. RWB believes that an improvement in
economic relations between Cuba and European Union countries should not
be at the expense of Cuba's journalists.

Three other journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Cuba.
They are Yoenni de Jesús Guerra García, who was arrested last October
and was given a seven-year jail term in March; Angel Santiesteban-Prats,
who has been held for more than a year; and José Antonio Torres, a
reporter for the official newspaper Granma who was given a 14-year
sentence in July 2012.

Cuba is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without
Borders press freedom index – the lowest position of any country in the

Source: Journalist held for past ten days, charged with "terrorism" -
Reporters Without Borders -,46165.html Continue reading
An acquaintance of mine traded his one-and-a-half-room apartment for an even smaller one and a little cash, to ease his alcoholism and misery. I never entered his house and so I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture looked like … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuban fishermen found in local waters - sent home 1:36 pm, Wed April 16, 2014 Six Cubans who were picked up by the marine police near a beach in Negril in the western parish of Westmoreland early Tuesday, have been identified as fishermen. They tol... Continue reading
Cuba Formalizes Tax Holiday For Foreign Investment In Mixed-Ownership
Published April 16, 2014Fox News Latino

HAVANA – Cuba's government on Wednesday published the text of a new law
that seeks to make it more attractive for foreign investors to bring
badly needed capital to the island. It will take effect in late June.

The law was approved by parliament and the broad outlines of its content
were aired in state media. The text is now publicly available after
being published in the government's Official Gazette.

Havana is betting that the measure will make the country more attractive
to the business community and bring in more foreign investment, which
has been flat including in the years since President Raul Castro began a
program of economic reforms.

The measure, which was approved last month, includes tax breaks for new
investments and property guarantees for investors, and also outlines
arbitration procedures and labor rules for foreign-financed projects.

Investments in mixed-ownership projects or in tandem with independent
cooperatives will enjoy a tax holiday for the first eight years of
operation and pay 15 percent on profits after that — about half the
current rate. Such operations will also be exempt from payroll taxes.

However projects that are funded completely by foreign capital do not
automatically qualify for those breaks, unless they are granted an
exemption by the government. Also, the law specifies that the profit tax
could be as high as 50 percent for firms involved in natural resource

It also states that, excluding management positions, the hiring of Cuban
citizens and residents must be done through an employment agency, which
will recruit and select workers, negotiate salaries with the foreign
investors and be in charge of paying Cuban workers.

The law allows for investors to work with independent cooperatives, but
does not establish a mechanism for the same to happen with the small
private sector that has been budding under Castro's reforms.

Cuba must attract between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in foreign direct
investment annually to ensure the sustainability of its socialist
economic model and the success of recent market-oriented reforms,
according to Cuban government estimates.

The AP and EFE contributed to this report.

Source: Cuba Formalizes Tax Holiday For Foreign Investment In
Mixed-Ownership Ventures | Fox News Latino - Continue reading
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First, potatoes disappeared from Cuban markets. They are back, but police are struggling to keep throngs of frantic buyers in check. And now there are shortages of beer and condoms, with some shops charging Continue reading
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Six Cubans who were picked up by the marine police near a beach in Negril in the western parish of Westmoreland early Tuesday, have been identified as fishermen. They told the police they were on a Continue reading
David and Janet Jensen recently returned to Yankton from a Road Scholar tour, formerly Elder Hostel, that took them on an eight-day journey into Cuba. While there, they spent time in Havana and Cienfuegos, Continue reading
By Juan O. Tamayo el Nuevo Herald First, potatoes disappeared from Cuban markets. They are back, but police are struggling to keep throngs of frantic buyers in check. And now there are shortages of beer Continue reading
HAVANA Cubas government on Wednesday published the text of a new law that will take effect in late June and provide tax breaks for foreign investors.After it was approved on March 29 by the National Assembly, Continue reading
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The Cuban government Wednesday published the new Foreign Investment Law aimed at attracting at least 2 billion U.S. dollars a year in foreign investment. The new regulations were published in a special Continue reading
Condoms are now going for $1.30 — when Cubans can find them. Continue reading
Questions? +1 202-657-5157 1,691 live feeds · 1,453 readers Send a FREE press release Get Started Today's edition is brought to you by EIN Presswire - a service dedicated to helping Continue reading
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Questions? +1 202-657-5157 39,480 live feeds · 2,299 readers Send a FREE press release Get Started Today's edition is brought to you by EIN Presswire - a service dedicated to helping Continue reading
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