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Impressions of an Unprecedented Event / Regina Coyula
Posted on April 17, 2014

Those of us in Cuba who sat in front of the television at dawn,
witnessed an unprecedented event: The dialogue between the government
and the opposition in real-time, from Venezuela.(*)

Unprecedented in the sense that the majority of Cubans, born after 1959,
don't know what opposition to the government is. They have heard talk
about mercenaries and traitors and but to see, sitting across from the
Venezuelan government, a group of politicians with other points of view,
provokes different reactions.

I followed the speeches of both sides with equal interest. The
government remained on the defensive against accusations from the
opposition, but within a framework of respect. Only the Vice President
of the National Assembly seemed to confuse the meeting room with a
platform for agitation, and Capriles, from whom I expected much more,
organized his time badly to leave the impression that there was a
catharsis around the presidential election loss.

I found the topics on the table very familiar. The Venezuelan government
went for the Cuban model–I refuse to repeat that this is socialism–and
the achievements in education and healthcare fail to hide the other
realities which they enumerated in facts and figures. President Maduro
too often forgot that he was elected with half the votes, which means
that his support comes from half of Venezuelans. One of the great
responsibilities of Chavism is the social fracture provoked, and as well
stated on both sides of the table, with two opposite halves you can't
make a country. However, they have a Constitution that is not Chavista
but Venezuelan and in which citizens feel they are represented and
protected, at least in theory.

IO don't have a lot of optimism about the future of these encounters.
They are different postures and it was left very clear that those in
power don't intend to cede it. The violence and shortages affect
everyone regardless of ideological tint. But Maduro is that the
opposition will only enter Miraflores as visitors.

(*) From TeleSur, which for Cuba is a major window of information not
offered by national television.

11 April 2014

Source: Impressions of an Unprecedented Event / Regina Coyula |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/impressions-of-an-unprecedented-event-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
First Trimester of 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez
Posted on April 18, 2014

The first three months of 2014 and part of April have stood out for the
now traditional practice of the government use and abuse of congresses,
symposia, fairs, assemblies, etc, from which emanate, almost always, two
messages: one for abroad and another for the boring local citizens.

The 20th Congress of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), in which, as usual,
the secretary general was designated by the authorities and not
election, as would happen under free, plural and democratic elections by
the attending delegates, diminishing the credibility and independence of
the Cuban unions is an example.

On the other hand, the National Assembly unanimously adopted the new
Foreign Investment Law, which establishes, once again, discrimination
against Cuban citizens residing on the island, who can not invest or
participate on their own processes of this nature, nor through free
association or self employment. That is for state officials, state
capitalist, and for foreigners. Again, a state employment office will
fulfill the function of providing the labor force to the foreign
investment companies, as to not leave any loophole to free employment
for Cuban residents.

And it's as if they depreciate and despise we Cubans who live in Cuba.
For a long time we weren't even allowed to stay in hotels. Now, reviving
this examples, Cubans cannot enter the waiting rooms at our own
airports. And doesn't this embarrass the authorities? At the precise
point of access of those who visit us they begin the practice of
discriminating against locals. In the resorts of Varadero or Boyeros
this practice has been institutionalized. It's humiliating to see how
with indifference, without giving it any importance, they humiliate our
fellow citizens.

The most recent event ended last weekend: the VIII Congress of the Cuban
Writers and Artists Union, UNEAC. In his closing speech, Cuban Vice
President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, among others, spoke of the need to
regulate the dissemination of music and audiovisual materials in public
spaces. He also spoke about the battle against pseudo-cultural messages
associated with the exaltation of consumerism, to get ahead
economically, and stressed that the choice is socialism or barbarism.

Surely he must have been referring to a socialism not yet known nor what
will be, the so-called Socialism of the 21st Century, because the other
one, the socialism that wasn't, is already completely known. He said
this was the only alternative to save our culture. So if it's about
saving it, he should start by saving the productive culture of a country
because right now the animals in our fields are practically in danger of
extinction.

The current sugar harvest is the smaller in the history of Cuba and the
lack of productivity of our land is stupefying. And looking back, at
Marti, we recognize the solution when he said in a speech at Hardman
Hall, NY on 10 October 1890:

"Neither childish boasting, nor empty promises, nor class hatred, nor
pressures from authority, nor blind opinion, nor village politics has
met our expectations, but the politics of foundation and of embrace,
where terrible ignorance gives way to justice and culture, and the proud
worship abides repenting the fraternity of man, from one end of the
island to the other, swords and books together, together those of the
mountains and the villages, hear, above the forever uprooted suspicions,
the creative word, the word: 'Brother!'"

Source: First Trimester of 2014 / Rafael Leon Rodriguez | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/first-trimester-of-2014-rafael-leon-rodriguez/ Continue reading
Converting communists? Cuban capital gets an Istanbul mosque
ISTANBUL

Turkey's Directorate General for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has sent a
delegation to Cuba for a project involving the construction of an
Istanbul mosque, adapted for Havana's historic center.

Mustafa Tutkun, who is chairing the Diyanet delegation, said the mosque
in the Cuban capital would resemble the historic Ortaköy Mosque in
Istanbul. The Ortaköy Mosque bears aesthetic features that Tutkun hopes
will suit the local Cuban architectural style.

The Diyanet Foundation is funding the construction of the mosque, which
will serve the 3,500 Muslims who live in Cuba.

The project is part of a wider campaign in the Caribbean, with the
Diyanet also planning to fund the construction of a mosque in Haiti.

Source: Converting communists? Cuban capital gets an Istanbul mosque -
INTERNATIONAL -
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/converting-communists-cuban-capital-gets-an-istanbul-mosque.aspx?pageID=238&nID=65213&NewsCatID=359 Continue reading
Cuba and Modern Technologies of Indiscretion
April 17, 2014
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — We're definitely living in an era in which technology has
become an essential part of people's lives everywhere. The devices,
techniques and processes employed in any field and directed towards
progress and development, such as portable computers, state-of-the-art
cell phones and other, have become something like a fifth appendage for
people.

What use are we giving these technologies, however?

When Alfred Hitchcock released his adaptation of Cornell Woolrich's
story It Had to Be Murder, the suspense film Rear Window, in 1954, he
could not have imagined that, sixty years later, there would be so many
real-life versions of the main character L.B. Jefferies.

In the film, a photographer who has suffered an accident and has a leg
in a cast spends hours sitting in front of a window at home. He notices
that his neighbor (Raymond Burr) is acting suspiciously and begins to
spy on him using a pair of binoculars and a photographic camera. Thus
unfolds the plot of the movie.

I wonder what Mr. Jefferies might have been able to do with cutting-edge
technology and if he had lived in our age, when not a single event in
our life fails to be recorded by a nosy camera somewhere (and ends up in
YouTube or Facebook many a time).

The immense majority of Cubans do not know these social networks because
they have no access to them, and the alternative at hand is to circulate
such materials using USB memories, such that people can watch them in
their computers or DVD players.

Drawing inspiration from such programs as Videos Asombrosos ("Amazing
Videos") or Al rojo vivo ("Red Hot"), which air amateur videos, Cubans
try to keep abreast with the times and have become improvised paparazzis
that record just about everything.

Promiscuity is the word that applies to a situation in which nothing is
private anymore. Lacking scruples and sometimes evincing much morbidity,
people film any situation they come across and make it public.

This is why we are constantly seeing images of regrettable accidents,
police officers beating up a civilian, people with physical deformities
making silly faces in front of the camera, a reprisal against dissidents
and things like the most recent and popular of Cuba's amateur videos,
"The Nude Beauty of Camaguey".

A woman – no one knows for certain why – walks buck naked down a street
in Camaguey. She is followed by a throng of men who film her with their
mobile phones and cameras and say crude things to her. She is finally
intersected by female police officers who attempt to cover her. She
resists and gets a good pummeling.

The crowd of people standing around yells: "Don't hit her, that's
abuse!" The nudist is then taken away by the police officers. There are
several versions of what happened. Some say she is a member of the
opposition staging a protest (I don't buy this), others that she is
mentally ill (I put more stock in this one).

The fact of the matter is that this video has not only been seen by
people in Camaguey, but by everyone in Cuba. It may even have been
uploaded to the Internet, thanks to our indiscrete technologies.

Source: Cuba and Modern Technologies of Indiscretion - Havana Times.org
- http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103062 Continue reading
Salon Tropical 'Paladar' in Santiago de Cuba Is Still Afloat
April 17, 2014
By Norges C. Rodríguez Almiñan (Progreso Weekly)


SANTIAGO DE CUBA — In 1996, the Cuban government decided to allow some
economic activities theretofore exclusively handled by the State to be
developed by private workers or self-employed entrepreneurs.

Among the activities allowed, one of the most popular was the
preparation and commercialization of food. The places where this
activity was carried out became known as "paladares," thanks to a
Brazilian soap opera broadcast on Cuban TV at the time.

During that period, the opening was very timid. The State restricted the
number of customers (only 12 at a time) and the hiring of the labor
force, stating that only relatives living on the premises could work in
the restaurant.

In the early 2000s, the government took several measures that adversely
affected the private workers and many of them gave up their work
licenses. In 2011, the regulations on private workers were relaxed and
self-employed entrepreneurs again became actors of importance in the
country's economy.

One of the private restaurants that survived all these waves, one of the
oldest in Santiago de Cuba, is the Salón Tropical in the November 30
neighborhood, known to everyone as "the paladar in the 30th." Its owner,
Nilda Gil, has managed the place from the start, as best as the rules of
the game allowed her.

Norges Carlos Rodríguez: When did you found the restaurant and why did
you choose that activity and no other, like lodging for instance?

Nilda Gil: In March 1996. I began with this because, although I never
studied food preparation, I always liked it. Lodging did not attract me.
At first, I worked and my sister took care of the kitchen. When I
returned from work, I'd remove my uniform and helped her in the kitchen.
We began with a small seating capacity. I used the first room in the
house and began with four tables and six chairs.

NCR: How did you handle the hiring of workers, the preparation of the
menu, and how did the customers behave?

NG: At that time we couldn't hire workers, only members of the family
who had to live in the same house, and were members of the same CDR
[Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a neighborhood watch
network]. The menu consisted of spaghetti, pork chops, smoked loin, and
lamb, which were the only things we could sell. Seafood could not be
sold; it was banned. I had to reinvent and lay out different menus for
three days with the same ingredients: pork, lamb, rabbit and chicken.
One day we'd make Italian food, the next day Chinese. At the time, many
customers came, both Cuban and foreign. There were a lot more customers
than today.

NCR: The Cuban government has acknowledged that the 1996 opening was
done as a palliative. It assumed that self-employed work was a necessary
evil. This made many people look at self-employed workers with
suspicion, and many prejudices were formed regarding you. What
experiences did you have with this?

NG: All kinds. I was inspected three times over the sale of lobster and
shrimp, which were forbidden. I was detained by the police. If anything
was missing at some state-run place, they'd come here, looking for it.
The inspectors came day in, day out. We could barely work.

NCR: When did the taxes go up and by how much?

NG: That was in 2000. At first, we all paid the same: 500 national pesos
[CUP]. Then someone did a study and said that some paladares should have
their taxes raised because of their location. Those that were in midtown
should pay in CUC [convertible pesos]; those that weren't, would
continue to pay in domestic currency.

I had to pay in domestic currency but that problem was that I was
situated in a neighborhood with many boarding houses. So I asked the
ONAT [internal revenue office] to do a study and give me a license for
hard-currency trade, so I could serve foreign tourists, because I
couldn't do business in hard currency if I didn't pay taxes in hard
currency. At the end, I had to pay 700 CUC [about $700]; restaurants in
midtown had to pay 860 CUC.

When the taxes went up, many paladares in Santiago de Cuba disappeared.
From the existing 120 paladares, only eight remained, then only two,
Las Gallegas and the Salón Tropical. The customers either came here or
went there.

NCR: Why do you think the taxes went up?

NG: Well, remember that this was a necessary evil and people knew that
self-employed workers worked here.

NR: In 2011, new activities were approved. In the case of restaurants,
the state allowed an increase in the number of chairs and allowed you to
hire workers from outside the family. What benefit did those changes bring?

NG: Those measures were very favorable because in the past only the
relatives could work in the business, and that entailed problems with
discipline. Now we have the possibility to hire specialized personnel
who know the trade.

Now we notice a slight change. In the past, we self-employed workers
were almost accused of being counter-revolutionaries; now, we're
described as the rescuers of the nation. I don't know what we'll be
tomorrow, but I do notice a tendency to help us. We'll see.

NR: In comparison with 1996, how's the attendance and the access to
supplies and foodstuff?

NG: The clientele has shrunk a lot. In the past, we started work at noon
and worked till night. Today, we have very few customers at noon, and
only at night can we do something. The subject of supplies and
foodstuffs is tough on us. It was as difficult in '96 as it is today. We
don't have a market that can supply us, so we have to buy the food at
the hard-currency stores — that's expensive.

NR: One of the changes forecast for the country is the opening of
wholesale markets. What do you think?

NG: I won't believe it until I see it. I've been waiting 17 years for that.

NR: One of the options in this new opening is a link between private
businesses and state-run enterprises. What do you think of that?

NG: Well, I've already gone through that and didn't fare well at all. I
had a contract with Oriente University that was not favorable to me. I
always abided by the contract but they didn't, so there were past-due
bills that they never paid.

NR: Many private businesses in Cuba are taking seriously the role of
advertising and marketing, especially on the Internet. What do you think
of this? Is it important to you? Have you delved into it?

NG: That's extremely important and, yes, I have delved into it. I've
appeared in the magazine Excelencias Gourmet, in the issue published for
the Caribbean Festival, and that helped a lot because many tourists and
participants in the festival came to dine here.

The Gourmet television network, which broadcasts to Latin America and
the United States, did a documentary on us, too. They filmed an ordinary
day in the paladar: how we go to the store, how we shop in the market,
our day's work until the closing at night. It was a very pleasant
experience.

As a result, I received customers from Uruguay and Argentina. We also
have a presence on the Internet. The restaurant's Web page is updated
regularly. We have a profile in Tripadvisor, a page in Facebook and one
in Twitter.

NR: What personalities have you hosted?

NG: Actor Jim Carrey came here, also many Cuban actors and many
diplomats. We've had SINA officials [U.S. Interests Section], and the
French ambassador. The musicians in the Charanga Habanera came and I had
to roast a ham for them. We also had [Cuban actress] Luisa María Jiménez
and others who I don't remember.

NR: Today, American tourists cannot come to Cuba because of the
restrictions imposed by Washington. What benefits do you expect for your
business if the laws that prohibit the travel of U.S. tourists to Cuba
are lifted?

NG: It would be very beneficial, because I know that many would come.
This city would fill with them, and that's beneficial not only for
self-employed entrepreneurs but also for the country at large.

The author is an engineer living in Santiago de Cuba. He hosts the blog
'Salir a la manigua,' where this interview first appeared. Progreso
Weekly has published an abridged version.

Source: Salon Tropical 'Paladar' in Santiago de Cuba Is Still Afloat -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103069 Continue reading
Opposing Venezuelans Decry Doctors-For-Oil Deal With Cuba Amid Soaring
Inflation
Published April 16, 2014Fox News Latino

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) – When Judith Faraiz's son was near death after
a severe motorcycle accident, she put his life in the hands of God and
Cuban doctors.

Like many in Petare, a sprawling hillside slum of crumbling brick
buildings on the eastern outskirts of Caracas, Faraiz has come to rely
on Cuban physicians for free health services in a country where private
care is too expensive for the poor and public hospitals have a dismal
reputation.

The link is vital for both governments: In exchange for the services of
its doctors and other professionals, Havana gets an estimated $3.2
billion in cut-rate Venezuelan oil that is a lifeline for Cuba's ailing
economy. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, for his part, relies on
social programs such as these to shore up support among his poor power
base even as his approval ratings fall hand-in-hand with a faltering
economy.

The Cuban doctors are the most visible symbol of the controversial
collaboration between the two countries during 15 years of socialist
rule in Venezuela, and increasingly they are a flashpoint for the
violent unrest that has rocked the country since February and is blamed
for at more than 40 deaths.

The mostly middle- and upper-class protesters who have taken to the
streets say their country is following the path of Fidel Castro's
one-party Communist system. They see the doctors-for-oil deal as an
intolerable giveaway of Venezuela's vast petroleum wealth, even as the
country suffers from 50 percent inflation and chronic shortages of basic
goods like flour, cooking oil and toilet paper, not to mention a
homicide rate among the world's highest.

Unsubstantiated rumors have circulated that Cuban military advisers are
helping to crush the anti-government demonstrations. Some allege that
Havana is essentially running the Venezuelan military and that the Cuban
doctors lack proper training.

For supporters of Maduro's government, however, the doctors are an
example of concrete improvements in their lives delivered under the late
President Hugo Chavez and now his hand-picked successor.

Faraiz, a 54-year-old former domestic worker, said doctors at a public
hospital wanted to amputate one of her son's legs, which had been
horribly mutilated. He was prescribed a daily dose of antibiotics that
the family couldn't afford and contracted a serious infection.

So she took him to the Cuban doctors, who saved the leg by surgically
implanting eight nails and also healed his fractured cranium. The care,
and some of his medicine, didn't cost a cent.

Faraiz fears that if the opposition ever takes power it would follow
through on a promise to alter terms of the Cuba-Venezuela relationship,
and the doctors would be forced to leave.

"It will ruin the poor," she said, sitting in her low-ceiling living
room in Petare.

While official figures are not public, Cuba is believed to have sent
around 100,000 professionals, mostly health care workers but also
athletes, engineers and even circus artists, to Venezuela since Chavez
came to power in 1999. An estimated 31,000 Cuban health workers, about
11,000 of them doctors, are believed to be working in the country today.

Venezuela pays the Cubans a stipend for living expenses and they sleep
in dormitories at the clinics where they work. Havana also pays them
$425 a month — about 20 times the average government salary back home.

Cuba has similar programs in developing nations around the globe that
help burnish its international image, but none as important as the one
in Venezuela. Chavez was long the Caribbean island's staunchest
political and economic ally, and he spent months in Havana in 2013 for
cancer treatments before he died.

The South American country sends about 100,000 barrels of oil every day
to Cuba that accounts for half the island's domestic energy consumption,
University of Texas energy analyst Jorge Pinon says. Venezuela also
ships oil on preferential terms to other poor nations such as Haiti and
the Dominican Republic.

When the Cuban doctors arrived in Petare five years ago, residents
initially eyed them with suspicion and sometimes slammed the door in
their faces, said Yurisleidy Varela, a 29-year-old Cuban physician who
directs the local clinic that treated Faraiz's son.

Today the Cubans who staff "La Urbina" clinic are welcomed as they walk
the mazelike streets making house calls and vaccinating children. The
clinic offers free emergency, ophthalmology and pediatric care, as well
as minimally invasive surgical procedures. Its several dozen staffers
also minister to gunshot victims and drug and alcohol addicts.

But outside the slums and poor rural communities of Venezuela, the
Cubans have become a focus of anti-government rage.

In February, dozens of people carrying signs saying "Cuba go home"
physically harassed a Cuban baseball team playing in a tournament on
Margarita Island. More recently, assailants burned down a medical clinic
staffed by Cubans in the western city of Barquisimeto.

Some of the Cubans say the violence has them spooked.

"One never knows what can happen," Varela said. "If they're attacking
their own institutions, imagine how it is with us Cubans."

There's no sign that the doctors will decamp anytime soon, and Maduro
has vowed the anti-Cuba sentiment will only "bolster our conviction that
we must strengthen our brotherhood."

Miguel Tinker Salas, a professor of Latin American history at Pomona
College in California, said that besides domestic political concerns,
continuing the Cuba-Venezuela alliance is a way for Maduro to send a
message to Washington that has been echoed in recent years by
like-minded presidents around the region.

"Cuba was a model for this generation" of leftist leaders, Tinker Salas
said, "and I think it is, in a way, a way to declare one's autonomy and
independence."

Source: Opposing Venezuelans Decry Doctors-For-Oil Deal With Cuba Amid
Soaring Inflation | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2014/04/16/opposing-venezuelans-decry-doctors-for-oil-deal-with-cuba-amid-soaring/ Continue reading
Cuba's Energy Initiatives
April 17, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — A work group for the promotion of renewable sources of
energy was recently assembled in Cuba. It is a space for debate on the
different points of view regarding what sources of energy could
contribute to the country's sustainable development.

Only 5 % of the energy Cuba consumes is derived from renewable sources.
Oil dependence has already driven the country to the edge of the
precipice several times – first with the US embargo, then with the
collapse of the Soviet Union and now with the crisis in Venezuela.

The country has been investing in solar, wind and biomass energy, and
trying to make optimal use of accompanying gas, for some years now.
Today, it is in search of foreign companies willing to invest some US $
3 billion in the sector.

It's true these sources of energy are expensive, but, considering that
oil is currently at US $100 the barrel and oil prices continue to rise,
the investment will be profitable in the long term. It will give Cuba
the independence it needs to develop its economy with no hurdles other
than its own.

Uruguay is well on its way to achieving this: all of the country's
energy will be produced by hydroelectric plants and wind farms, an
infrastructure which the country's Energy Director tells us will have
citizens paying lower electricity bills.

That could well be Cuba's path: creating more wind farms, accompanying
gas processing plants, solar panels, bagasse-driven generators and
paying closer attention to Cuban research now also proposing the use of
marabou plants for energy production.

No one can discard the possibility that good quality oil will one day be
found in Cuba, but I believe one shouldn't put all of one's eggs in one
basket and count on the discovery of a miraculous well that will flood
the island with crude and turn Cuba into an OPEP member overnight.

Not much hope of finding oil beneath the seabed remains after the oil
platform left Cuban waters, and it is not exactly advisable to again
dream of building nuclear power plants like those that caused serious
accidents in the United States, the Ukraine and Japan.

Cuban authorities seem to understand this and are taking the first steps
down the road leading to energy independence, with the great, additional
advantage of employing technologies that do not damage the environment
or put human life at risk.

Diving into the Deep

Bolstering renewable energy sources, however, is no easy task. It
requires a lot of time, large investments and cutting edge technology.
This explains why Cuba is offering generous tax exemptions to
businesspeople interested in investing in this sector.

This is fine for the macro level, but progress could be achieved quicker
if local versions of this same project existed, allowing citizens to
participate and thus saving the nation fuel and money.

However, it is next to impossible for a Cuban to buy solar paneling,
wind-mills or mini-hydroelectric plants for their homes, to be able to
at least generate part of the electricity they require in their farms.

I've visited tobacco-growing areas in Pinar del Rio where there's no
electricity. Even though most of these farmers make good money (and in
hard currency), they can't watch television, own a fridge or enjoy a fan.

Renewable energy generators should be sold to the public at affordable
prices – meanness should go out the window when the interests of the
nation are at stake. The State will start to see profits as its oil bill
begins to decrease.

Cuba's vehicles also do not reflect these alternative initiatives. The
country does not import electric cars and does not authorize the use of
natural gas as fuel, as is the case in other countries in the region.
Cubans have no other option than to use gasoline or diesel, and at
hair-raising prices.

Current automobile prices in Cuba give the government more than enough
financial elbow room to offer discounts for electric cars, which can be
charged during the night, when most of the energy produced is lost.

Cuba could also import gas-operated devices that save enormous amounts
of fuel. Ironically, Cuban authorities apply fines to those who use this
technology today, and, in the event of recidivism, can even confiscate
one's car.

I am not criticizing the decision to use renewable sources of energy. On
the contrary, their use must be generalized as much as possible. It is a
question, rather, of doing what the old saying suggests: when you've
decided to jump into the water, the most advisable thing is to dive
where it's deepest.

(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg's blog.

Source: Cuba's Energy Initiatives - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103052 Continue reading
Cuba: No Country for the Elderly
April 17, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, I was thinking about the inevitable
passage of time and, after a very simple calculation, concluded I would
turn 50 in 10 years. In 20, if I haven't died of a heart attack (the
main cause of death among men in Cuba), I will have turned 60 and
become, as they say, a senior citizen.

By chance, I ran into my friend and colleague Veronica Vega at a stop of
the P11 bus, bound for the neighborhood of Alamar. The trip is tedious
and unpleasant, and there's nothing better than having someone to
converse with on the way over.

We talked about the rise in the price of powdered milk, the positive and
negative aspects of the Cuban film Conducta ("Conduct"), about Internet
and our limited connection, which hasn't improved with the installation
of Venezuela's fiber-optic cable, and, finally, got to the issue of the
elderly. Veronica mentioned something I'd never noticed (which is
understandable, as I am still a young man).

She pointed out to me that crossing an avenue was something nearly
impossible for an old person, as the streetlights go green for only 15
seconds and thoroughfares are usually very wide (to the point that even
young people have to walk briskly across). "No one thinks about the
elderly here," she said. Thinking about what she said, I realized it's true.

It dawned on me that an elderly person would be unable to stand in line
at Havana's Coppelia ice-cream parlor for long, or go out to buy
potatoes, because the long lines of people and squabbles that take place
at the market would be too much for them.

To get any kind of medication, an old person who has no one to look
after them must go to a doctor's office to get a prescription and arm
themselves with plenty of patience, as one must wait a long time to get
seen by the physician.

Many a time, I've seen an elderly man or woman be left behind at a bus
stop because they were unable to get on the bus. Everyone knows about
Cuba's transportation situation. One has to be on guard all the time and
be aggressive to board a bus, and this is impossible for many old people
– we must recall that many have physical issues, rely on walking sticks
to get around and, to make matters more complicated, can't see very well.

We live in a time in which it's every man for himself and, by the looks
of it the elderly don't have many things going for them right now.

I read somewhere that Cuba is a country of elderly and that it is
governed by old men (the latter, of course, do enjoy a good quality of
life).

The population is gradually aging: couples don't want to have more than
one child, because of the economic problems we all know (housing,
nutrition, a long list of problems with no solution in sight yet).

It remains to be seen whether, 20 years from now, things will look any
brighter for the young and my generation – and for me, who, in a
not-so-distant future, will be an old geezer.

Source: Cuba: No Country for the Elderly - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103063 Continue reading
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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/descriptive-hardship-rosa-maria-rodriguez/ 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
War.

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
further?

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
organization.

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/neither-blacks-nor-whites-cubans-fernando-damaso/ 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 -
http://www.thenation.com/article/179384/moment-normalize-us-relations-cuba#text=Denver%20students%20donate%20instruments%20in%20Cuba&via=9News Continue reading
JOURNALIST HELD FOR PAST TEN DAYS, CHARGED WITH "TERRORISM"
PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY 17 APRIL 2014.

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
Americas.

Source: Journalist held for past ten days, charged with "terrorism" -
Reporters Without Borders -
http://en.rsf.org/cuba-journalist-held-for-past-ten-days-17-04-2014,46165.html 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
Ventures
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
development.

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 -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/04/16/cuba-formalizes-tax-holiday-for-foreign-investment-in-mixed-ownership-ventures/ Continue reading
Iranian Firms Invited to Cuba Industrial Fair
April 15, 2014 - 19:21

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The Cuba Chamber of Commerce invited the Iranian
companies to participate in a major industrial exhibition, due to be
held in the Latin American country in the near future.

Cuba's Ambassador to Tehran Vladimir Andres Gonzalez Quesada on Monday
delivered a letter from the Latin American country's Chamber of
Commerce, according to which, companies from the Islamic Republic have
been invited to take part in the 32nd industrial exhibition in Cuba.
The upcoming exhibition is accounted Cuba's most significant fair,
Quesada said in a meeting with Gholam Hossein Shafiei, head of Iran's
parliament of private sectors, in Tehran.
The Iranian official, for his part, pointed to the commonalities between
Iran and Cuba, but noted that Tehran-Havana trade ties are not at a
desirable level now.
He stressed that the obstacles in the way of trade between the two
nations should be removed with a new attitude.
In a similar development in January, Cuban deputy minister for foreign
trade and investment said Tehran is Havana's strategic partner in every
field, and called for the further expansion of Iran-Cuba cooperation in
economic fields.
Antonio Caria Carte Corona had made the remark in a meeting with Iranian
Deputy Foreign Minister for American and European Affairs Majid Takht
Ravanchi in Cuba.
The Cuban diplomat had also praised Iran's progress in various
scientific, technological, and economic fields, and voiced his country's
readiness for evermore expansion of economic and trade ties in bilateral
and multilateral fields.

Source: Tasnim News Agency - Iranian Firms Invited to Cuba Industrial
Fair - http://www.tasnimnews.com/English/Home/Single/339334 Continue reading
Mariel workers to keep most of what employers pay

CUBA STANDARD — Although foreign investors at the Mariel Special
Development Zone (ZEDM) will still have to hire employees through a
state agency, they will be able to negotiate salaries, contract
self-employed Cubans, and hire as many foreign workers as they want, and
workers will pocket most of what their employers pay the agency.

Speaking at the FECONS construction fair in Havana, Mariel Zone chief
executive Ana Teresa Igarza said that workers at Mariel will receive 80%
of what employers pay the agency, and employers will freely negotiate
salaries with the agency, without having to adhere to any fixed tariffs.

Previously, foreign joint ventures paid salaries under to a fixed scale
in convertible pesos (CUC) to state agency ACOREC, which passed on only
a fraction to workers, in non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP). Under that
arrangement, foreign companies had few means to provide incentives to
Cuban employees; in a legal gray zone, "many employers" have been paying
hard-currency "gratifications" to good workers, Igarza recognized.

Igarza didn't say whether under new regulations the state agency will
offer employers a choice of workers. However, the new rules do not put
any limits on hiring foreign workers, and the new foreign investment law
also allows contracting self-employed Cubans through the state agency,
according to reports in official media.

The state agency is designed to help foreign investors, because "many
don't know the country, and they will be offered suitable workers,"
Foreign Trade and Investment Ministry official Deborah Rivas defended
its continued existence in a press conference with local media last week.

Igarza said the new employment agencies' main aim, according to the new
foreign investment law passed in March, is not to collect, but to "offer
a service" — "to supply and facilitate the personnel best qualified for
the activity."

"This will make investors feel motivated because they have to pay less,
and workers as well because they receive larger salaries than those
before, and therefore productivity is incentivized," Igarza said,
according to official news reports.

In negotiating salaries, employers must consider the high level of
education among Cuban workers, Igarza said during her speech. The
Foreign Investment Ministry's Rivas said that negotiations will be based
on comparable salaries in Latin America and average salaries in Cuba. If
an example cited by Igarza is an indication, Mariel jobs could pay more
than 10 times as much as the median salary in Cuba. The 20% fee will go
towards the cost of providing services, such as maintaining offices,
Igarza said.

In a hint of how the government is planning for a currency merger,
Igarza said that during the transition the workers will be paid in
soft-currency CUP, at a rate of 10:1 for each hard-currency CUC the
employer pays the agency. Observers have predicted a CUC devaluation in
that range as part of the ongoing currency reform; the current exchange
rate is 25 CUP per CUC. The CUC will eventually be pulled out of
circulation.

Regulations about contracting and paying personnel will soon be
published in the Gaceta Oficial, Igarza said. The new foreign investment
law, passed by the National Assembly March 29, has yet to be published.

During the same speech, Igarza said the Mariel Zone administration is
working closely with foreign investors on 15 projects, which could
materialize as early as this year.

Source: Mariel workers to keep most of what employers pay « Cuba
Standard, your best source for Cuban business news -
http://www.cubastandard.com/2014/04/15/mariel-workers-to-keep-most-of-what-employers-pay/ Continue reading
Cuba starts making money from its support for medical R&D
Source: SciDev - Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:27 AM
Author: SciDev.Net - Katia Moskvitch

Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of
Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cuba's long-term investment in medical research is starting to pay off
economically, with the communist nation poised to sell products and
drugs around the world, said Salvador Moncada, a consultant with the Pan
American Health Organization, a regional office of the WHO.

His assessment comes as the Cuban parliament approved a law that
promises foreign investors generous tax exemptions for joint ventures
with companies on the island — as long as they can get round the US
tradeembargo against the state.

Cuba already has a global reputation for the excellence of its doctors.
For many decades, especially during the Cold War, Cuba dispatched teams
of medics as a form of foreign diplomacy.

"Cuba is now selling products worldwide that are coming directly from
the research investment," said Moncada. "It takes many years for these
investments in science and technology to come to fruition."

Moncada spoke to SciDev.Net during a conference on transnational science
knowledge networks at the University of West London, United Kingdom,
last month (28 March).

"Cuba has always had a specific interest in the development of science
and technology, and in the area of biomedicine they have been very
successful," said Moncada.

For many years, Cuban research relied on subsidies from its fellow
communist state, the Soviet Union.

So when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuban research initially
stalled. But this loss of support also helped to bring renewal —
especially in thebiotech sector — because Cuba was forced to look for
alternative commercial and scientific partners, according to Rainer
Schultz, a Cuban expert at Harvard University, United States.

Miriam Palacios-Callender, a Cuban biomedical researcher who now works
at University College London, agreed that there was significant change
after the Soviet Union's fall.

"Soon after the collapse of the socialist block, the Cuban science,
technology and innovation system began a rapid transformation," she told
SciDev.Net. However, she added, this "might not have been a direct
consequence of the new geopolitical situation, but a result of
long-standing political will to develop science and technology for the
benefit of society and the investment in biotechnology in the early 80s".

During the Soviet era, Cuba mostly focused on pure research. But as far
back as 1965, state enterprises grew out of research institutions such
as the National Centre for Scientific Research, adding the more
practical elements of production and commercialisation to existing
research and development, according to Palacios-Callender.

At first the enterprises worked to integrate the new research into the
national pharmaceutical industry, so they could supply Cubans with
generic drugs, said Palacios-Callender.

In 1990, the government established the Ministry of Science, Technology
and Environment to harness Cuban scientific knowledge for more
sustainable development.

"By 2008, more than 100 research projects were generating more than 60
new products, which were mainly protected by intellectual property
rights, and more than 500 patents were submitted abroad," said
Palacios-Callender.

For instance, in 2004, Cuba signed a deal to transfer technology related
to a vaccine to treat cancer to US company CancerVax.

Until recently, the state was the sole supporter of such research and
development efforts. But the situation is changing. In November 2012, a
private company called BioCubaFarma was created, and a growing number of
private enterprises are operating with the government's consent.

This fundamental shift in the pharmaceutical sector, from one
administrated by the state to one based on entrepreneurial principles,
could lead to a successful new era of growth for Cuban science, said
Palacios-Callender.

Source: Cuba starts making money from its support for medical R&D -
http://www.trust.org/item/20140416112729-awxnq/?source=hppartner Continue reading
Was "Cuban Twitter" Dumb Or Defensible? Or Both?
By TIM PADGETT

Confession: When I criticized ZunZuneo as the story emerged earlier this
month, I left something important unsaid.

I support its basic intent. That is, the effort to help Cubans or anyone
else access news, information and opinions that authoritarian
governments around the world try to block.

ZunZuneo was a clandestine social media program hatched in 2009 at the
federal foreign aid agency USAID. Its pro-democracy aim was to give
Cubans a Twitter-style communications network independent of their
communist government's repressive monopoly on information.

But as the Associated Press reported when it revealed ZunZuneo's
existence two weeks ago, documents suggest it was also designed to
incite popular uprising in Cuba – to inspire anti-government "smart
mobs." That's usually a job for spooks. Either way, ZunZuneo – Cuban
slang for a hummingbird's tweet – eventually failed to catch on as
widely as USAID had hoped and in 2012 it was aborted.

Having covered Cuba for 25 years, I blasted ZunZuneo on two levels.
First, I've grown weary of watching USAID try to play CIA in Cuba.
Second, I'm even wearier of Washington's insistence, after 55 years of
utter failure, that it can provoke regime change inside Cuba. There are
so many more effective ways it could foster the island's democratization
at this point.

And, yes, one of them may well be social media projects. The central
question is how best to carry out that stealth task without it
backfiring – without it looking like an official U.S. call for
rebellion, which most often ends up aiding the very despots we want to
undermine.

And, like last year's NSA revelations, that's one very important thing
about this month's ZunZuneo news: It has engendered a healthy debate
about the nature of these programs as well as U.S. policy on Cuba.

It's a discussion that was off and running on Capitol Hill almost before
the AP ink was dry. In one Senate hearing last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy
(D-Vt.) lambasted USAID and called ZunZuneo "a cockamamie idea" that
"would be so easy" for the Cuban government to discover. "This one from
the get-go had no possibility of working."

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, responded by calling on USAID to not
only "start this program again… but expand it, so that people in Cuba
can… speak freely to the world and to each other."

For less politics and more insight on the so-called Cuban Twitter
dispute, I talked to veteran Miami journalists Juan Tamayo, Cuba writer
for El Nuevo Herald, and Juan Vasquez, deputy editorial page editor for
the Miami Herald.

Tamayo, who examined the issue in an April 3 article, says projects like
ZunZuneo of course should have limits. But he warns that if they're too
transparent about U.S. government involvement, and if they're too
deferential to Cuban sovereignty, they're "not going to get a lot
accomplished."

TWITTER REVOLUTION?

The Cuban government, Tamayo notes, "does not like these programs. It is
going to block them, it is going to filter them out." So somewhere
"between the two extremes" of cloak-and-dagger and total openness, he
says, "someone needs to find out what's doable."

In a Herald editorial last week that supported ZunZuneo's core intent,
Vasquez recalled successful Cold War programs like Radio Free Europe. He
thinks Cuban Twitter wanted to emulate that model, the kind "that tried
to [help] people to listen to a voice other than Big Brother."

Vasquez points out, however, that ZunZuneo and its "smart mob" ambitions
may have erred in a way "similar to the early Radio Free Europe
broadcasts that some people later regretted." Namely, he says, "it might
have tried to raise false expectations or hopes" about a Cuban Spring or
some other sort of groundswell of political change.

And as Vasquez sees it, USAID probably shouldn't be flirting with the
spy business.

"I think programs that try to break the information blockade are
perfectly defensible," Vasquez says. "The issue is whether you should
have an organization like USAID sponsoring [them] ... We already have
one for this sort of thing in Langley, Va." (The CIA.) For one thing, he
says, it compromises USAID's true mission in the eyes of foreign
governments all over the world, not just Cuba's.

Tamayo too feels "a general sense that USAID is perhaps not the best
agency to be handling this." But even so, he believes the criticism of
ZunZuneo seems overheated. There are big questions, for example, about
how serious the "rise up, Cubans!" nature of the program was. And even
if it were bent on regime change, Tamayo adds:

"That Twitter can start a revolution is not only ridiculous but has been
proven wrong historically."

Congress, meanwhile, has instructed USAID to provide more documentation
to help it determine if ZunZuneo was about social revolution or merely
social media.

Tim Padgett is WLRN's Americas Editor. You can read more of his coverage
here.

Source: Was "Cuban Twitter" Dumb Or Defensible? Or Both? | WLRN -
http://wlrn.org/post/was-cuban-twitter-dumb-or-defensible-or-both Continue reading
​Cuba's economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal characteristics?
Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached on Twitter or at
nilebowie@gmail.com
April 16, 2014 11:26
Reuters/Enrique de la Osa

Havana has prioritized foreign investment and private enterprise,
slashed state-sector jobs, while seeking closer cooperation with the
European Union. Will Cuba's latest market-based reforms undermine the
social gains of the 1959 Revolution?

Times are complicated in revolutionary Cuba. President Raúl Castro is
well into his second term and plans to officially step down in 2018; he
is now laying the groundwork for a new generation of leaders to take the
reins of the island nation.

In an effort to address the stagnating economic conditions that have
burdened the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, President
Raúl unveiled reforms in 2010 aimed at moving the island's outdated
command economy toward a mixed economy with greater emphasis on market
mechanisms and self-employment.

Cuban authorities have acknowledged the difficulties posed by
maintaining massive subsidies across various sectors, and plan to
transfer up to 40 percent of the workforce into the private sector by
2015, where workers will be expected to pay taxes on their income for
the first time.

The state has laid off some 500,000 workers, in addition to eliminating
more than 100,000 non-essential jobs in the nation's national health
service to cut costs. Havana has simultaneously relaxed prohibitions on
small business activity and the individual hiring of labor. Former
state-employees are now encouraged to start small businesses by driving
taxis, opening barbershops, clothing shops and restaurants.

The state employs around 79 percent of the 5 million-strong labor force,
while around 436,000 Cubans currently work in the private sector,
according to government figures. Reforms are becoming bolder and Cuban
politicians have recently approved a new law to draw in greater amounts
of foreign investment, while tax-free special development zones have
also been introduced. In these zones, foreign companies will be able to
transfer their tariff-free profits abroad, receive contract extensions
for up to 50 years, and retain full ownership entitlements, a drastic
departure from decades of Soviet-style central planning.

Public health indicators suggest that Cuba has some of the highest
quality health services in the developing world, which is provided to
citizens free of charge. Despite a severe lack of resources due in part
to decades of being under an economic embargo imposed by the United
States, the country has one of the highest literacy rates in the world
and free universal education for its citizens; it has also become one of
the world's leading exporters of teachers and doctors.

Cuban leaders have acknowledged how the country's traditional state-run
economic model can no longer support the across-the-board subsidies that
fuel socialist programs and welfare services, giving rise to new
legislation that would make the country much more reliant on market
mechanisms and foreign capital.

Reagan's ghost in Havana?
It may be seen as ironic that Cuba, with its history of sweeping
nationalizations of corporations that dominated the economy before the
revolution, is now sacking masses of state-sector workers and adopting a
capital-friendly growth model intent on cutting down the public sector
in favor of private enterprise and profit.

Cuba's decision to break from its traditionally closed economy and
toward a free market system with neoliberal characteristics is not a
signal that the country plans to yield toward unhinged capitalism. In
the view of pragmatic thinkers in the Communist Party, these reforms
represent an attempt to update the economic model, allowing Cuba to
define its own distinct system appropriate to modern developments and
external circumstances.

In essence, the Cuban leadership is attempting to develop a different
model of market-socialism better suited to advancing the ideals of the
revolution: egalitarianism, social justice, and resistance to
imperialism and US dominance. Cuban leaders have acknowledged the
negative features of market reforms, which can often exacerbate income
disparities and entrench cronyism, and have pledged to maintain its
public health services, universal education systems, and other features
that do not adhere to the ideology of free market capitalism.

Cuban workers will have three main avenues of employment to choose from.
While the largest portion of workers will run small businesses and
shops, the government has prioritized the agricultural sector to promote
food self-sufficiency. The state subsidizes land, seeds, and
chemical-free fertilizer for farmers and vegetable growers, and
agricultural collectives are also seen as a viable career path.

Other workers will find employment in sectors that rely on foreign
investment. Cuba's newly-passed foreign investment law, which comes into
effect in June, offers attractive incentives to foreign companies. Taxes
on profits have been reduced from 30 to 15 percent, and companies will
be exempt from paying taxes for the first eight years of operation;
foreigners doing business on the island would be exempt from paying any
personal income tax.

An exception remains for companies that exploit the country's natural
resources, such as nickel or fossil fuels, which will pay taxation rates
as high as 50 percent. Foreign investment will reportedly be allowed in
all sectors, however investment and marketization will be barred in all
fields related to medical services, education and national defense to
safeguard the country's socialist system.

Ending the embargo
The US unilaterally imposed a near-total embargo on Cuba in 1962
following the nationalization of properties belonging to US citizens and
corporations, which remains in place to this day. Washington has kept
Cuba on a list of 'state sponsors of terrorism' since 1982, while the
embargo has been consistently strengthened under several US
administrations despite the United Nations calling for its end for 22
consecutive years.

Cuban authorities claim that the economic damages accumulated after half
a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to
$1.126 trillion, and President Raúl knows he needs erode the foundations
of the embargo before significant economic growth can take place. Havana
believes that getting the European Union into its corner is the best way
to move forward, and negotiations with representatives from Brussels are
set to begin in late April. Havana will try to overturn the EU's 'common
position' on Cuba enacted in December 1996, which calls for greater
human rights and democratic conditions in exchange for improved economic
relations.

The recent visit by French FM Laurent Fabius, the highest-ranking French
official to visit the island in 31 years, should be seen in this
context. According to diplomatic sources, Fabius was testing the waters
prior to the negotiations with EU members.

France has interests in winning contracts in markets where French firms
are traditionally weak, and understands the regional importance of Cuba
as investment pours in from both Brazil and Mexico, who are increasing
their presence in the country.

Normalizing trade relations with the EU would qualify as a major step
forward toward bolstering foreign investment, but the alignment of
business interests is not expected to have major reverberations on
Havana's positions on global political issues, where it is aligned
closely to Russia and China.

On the eve of Fabius' visit, state-owned media in Cuba published
critical commentary of the French municipal elections, criticizing
President François Hollande for doing "exactly the opposite" of what was
promised during his election campaign, and for conciliating "the
neoliberal demands of Berlin and Brussels." The editorial could be seen
as subtle way of the Communist Party reinforcing its political
nonalignment, or as a way of deflecting criticism from hardliners who
would prefer that Cuba maintains its distance from Western powers.

As more emphasis is placed on making Cuba an attractive destination for
foreign investment, Europe is expected to become more vocal in
supporting a change in US policy toward the island nation.

Cuba's diversification of trade relations also comes at a time when the
leftist government of Venezuela faces protests and serious economic
difficulties. The leadership in Caracas supplies cheap oil to Cuba and
also pays for Cuban doctors and other medical specialists sent to
Venezuela, while some economists claim that Cuba receives over $6
billion per year from this arrangement, representing a more significant
subsidy than that which the island received from the Soviet Union, which
paid above-market prices for sugar and other goods.

If attempts to enact regime change in Venezuela are realized, it will
have detrimental short-term effects on Cuba, which the leadership in
Havana seems to be well aware of. Much like other socialist governments
that survived the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba is now reforming its
economy to conform to global capitalism, but unlike other countries that
have empowered their oligarchical elite through marketization, leaders
in Havana claim that the primary objective of attracting foreign capital
is to support social programs, the socio-economic development of the
country, and the distribution of wealth among all Cuban citizens.

Marketization may likely exacerbate income inequality and spur elite
corruption in the early stages, and these negatives features of
capitalism should be kept in check. If state-linked cronies are
perceived as being the most advantaged by foreign investment without
earnings being adequately channeled to social welfare programs and
development, it will have negative political ramifications.

If the new economic system can be leveraged to maintain socialist
benefits and bolster Cuba's biotechnology, pharmaceutical and renewable
energy sectors, the country may be in a position to assert its
independence more effectively through a mixed-development model that can
be replicated elsewhere.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely
those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Source: ​Cuba's economic reforms: Socialism with neoliberal
characteristics? — RT Op-Edge -
http://rt.com/op-edge/cuba-economic-reforms-market-852/ Continue reading
April 15, 2014 5:49 pm

Cuba fed a president's fears and took over Venezuela
By Moisés Naím

Caracas is paying the price for Chávez's misplaced trust, writes Moisés Naím

The enormous influence that Cuba has gained in Venezuela is one of the
most underreported geopolitical developments of recent times. It is also
one of the most improbable. Venezuela is nine times bigger than Cuba,
three times more populous, and its economy four times larger. The
country boasts the world's largest oil reserves. Yet critical functions
of the Venezuelan state are either overseen or directly controlled by
Cuban officials.
Venezuela receives Cuban health workers, sports trainers, bureaucrats,
security personnel, militias and paramilitary groups. "We have over
30,000 members of Cuba's Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in
Venezuela," boasted Juan José Rabilero, then head of the CDR, in 2007.
The number is likely to have increased further since then.
A growing proportion of Venezuela's imports are channelled through Cuban
companies. Recently, Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader,
revealed the existence of a large warehouse of recently expired
medicines imported through a Cuban intermediary – drugs allegedly
purchased on the international market at a deep discount and resold at
full price to the government.
The relationship goes beyond subsidies and advantageous business
opportunities for Cuban agencies. Cuban officers control Venezuela's
public notaries and civil registries. Cubans oversee the computer
systems of the presidency, ministries, social programmes, police and
security services as well as the national oil company, according to
Cristina Marcano, a journalist who has reported extensively on Cuba's
influence in Venezuela.
Then there is military co-operation. The minister of defence of a Latin
American country told me: "During a meeting with high-ranking Venezuelan
officers we reached several agreements on co-operation and other
matters. Then three advisers with a distinctive Cuban accent joined the
meeting and proceeded to change all we had agreed. The Venezuelan
generals were clearly embarrassed but didn't say a word . . . Clearly,
the Cubans run the show."
Why did the Venezuelan government allow this lopsided foreign
intervention? The answer is Hugo Chávez. During his 14-year presidency
he enjoyed absolute power thanks to his complete control of every
institution that could have constrained him, from the judiciary to the
legislature. He could also use Venezuela's oil revenues at will.
One of the most transformational ways in which Chávez used the complete
power he wielded was to let the Cubans in. He had many reasons to throw
himself into the arms of Fidel Castro. He felt a deep affection,
admiration and trust for the Cuban leader, who became a personal
adviser, political mentor and geopolitical guide. Mr Castro also fed
Chávez's conviction that his many enemies – especially the US and the
local elites – were out to get him and that his military and security
services could not be trusted to provide the protection he needed. But
the Cubans could reliably offer these services. Cuba also provided a
ready-to-use international network of activists, non-government
organisations and propagandists who boosted Chávez's reputation abroad.
In return, Chávez instituted a programme of financial largesse that
keeps Cuba's economy afloat to this day. Caracas ships about 130,000
barrels of oil a day to the island on preferential terms – a small part
of an aid programme that remains one of the world's largest.
The extent to which Chávez was beholden to the Cuban regime was
dramatically illustrated by the way in which he dealt with the cancer
that would eventually kill him last year: he trusted only the doctors
whom Mr Castro recommended, and his treatment mostly took place in
Havana under a veil of secrecy.
Chávez's successor, Nicolás Maduro, has deepened Caracas's dependency on
Havana even further. As students have taken to the streets in protest
against an increasingly authoritarian regime the government has
responded with a brutal repression that relies on many of the tools and
tactics perfected by the police state that has run Cuba for too long.

The writer, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment, is a former Venezuelan
minister of industry and trade

Source: Cuba fed a president's fears and took over Venezuela - FT.com -
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b7141b78-c497-11e3-b2fb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2z2qp2P2O Continue reading
"I Only Know That I Am Afraid" / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — For almost the first three years of his regime, Fidel
Castro was not interested in Cuban intellectuals. He did not forgive
their passivity during the years of revolutionary insurrection. They had
not put bombs in the street, nor did they engage in armed conflict with
the previous dictator's police. Even those who lived abroad did not do
anything for the revolutionary triumph. He never forgave them. Neither
he nor other political leaders considered them revolutionaries either
before or after the Revolution.

Che Guevara had left it written forever in his little Marxist manual
Socialism and Man in Cuba: "The guilt of many of our intellectuals and
artists resides in their original sin: they are not authentically
revolutionary. We can try to graft the elm tree so that it will produce
pears, but at the same time we must plant pear trees."

But the pears that Che mentioned had nothing to do with human beings
because an intellectual, writer or artist is characterized by his
sensitivity, his pride, his sincerity. In general, they are solitary and
proud.

But also they are, and that is their misfortune, an easy nut to crack,
above all for a dictator with good spurs.

During those almost first three years of the Revolution, the most
convulsive of the Castro regime — the number of those shot increased and
the few jails were stuffed with more than 10,000 political prisoners —
surely writers did not fail to observe how Fidel Castro was cracking the
free press when after December 27, 1959, he gave the order to introduce
the first "post-scripts" at the bottom of articles adverse to his
government, supposedly written by the graphics workers.

It was evident that Fidel Castro, who controlled the whole country, did
not want to approach them to fill leadership positions of cultural
institutions founded by the regime, like the Institute of Art and
Cinematographic Industry, House of the Americas, the Latin News Press
Agency and numerous newspapers, magazines, and radio and television
stations that were nationalized.

For minister of education he preferred Armando Hart. For the House of
the Americas, a woman very far from being an intellectual, Haydee
Santamaria. For the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, Papito
Serguera, and for the Naitonal Council of Culture, Vicentina Antuna and
Edith Garcia Buchaca, two women unknown in cultural domain.

The first approach that Fidel Castro had with writers, June 16, 1961, in
the National Library of Havana, could not have been worse. It was there
where he exclaimed his famous remark, "Within the Revolution,
everything; outside the Revolution, nothing," and where he made clear
that those who were dedicated to Art had to submit themselves to the
will of the Revolution, something that is still in force.

The maximum leader left that closed-door meeting more than pleased on
seeing the expressions of surprise and fear of many of those present,
and above all by the words of Virgilio Pinera, one of the most important
intellectuals of the 20th century when he said: "I just know that I am
scared, very scared." That precisely was what the new Cuban leader most
needed to hear from the intellectual throng: Fear, to be able to govern
at his whim.

Two months later the Fist Congress of Cuban Writers and Artists was
held, and UNEAC was founded. The intellectuals had fallen into line.

If something was said about that palatial headquarters, property of a
Cuban emigrant, it is that the Commandant was allergic to all who had
their own judgment, and for that reason he would never visit it, as it
happened.

It is remembered still today that in a public speech on March 13, 1966,
he attacked the homosexuals of UNEAC, threatening to send them to work
agriculture in the concentration camps of Camaguey province. The
"Enlightened One," as today the president of UNEAC Miguel Barnet calls
the Cuban dictator, kept his word. Numerous writers and graphic artists
found themselves punished with forced labor in the unforgettable
Military Units to Assist Production — UMAP.

These Nazi-style units were created in 1964 and closed four years later
after persistent international complaints. If anyone knew and knows
still the most hidden thoughts of the intellectuals, besides their
sexual intimacy, it is the Enlightened One, thanks to his army of spies,
members of the political police who work in the shadows of the mansion
of 17th and H, in the Havana's Vedado where UNEAC put down roots.

In 1977, one cannot forget the most cruel and abominable blow that the
Enlightened One directed against the writers of UNEAC when his army of
political police extracted from the drawers of the headquarters the
files of more than 100 members — among them was mine as founder — so
that they were definitively and without any explanation separated from
the Literature Section of that institution.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014

Translated by mlk.

Source: "I Only Know That I Am Afraid" / Tania Diez Castro / HemosOido |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-only-know-that-i-am-afraid-tania-diez-castro-hemosoido/ Continue reading
Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I)
April 15, 2014
Regina Cano

HAVANA TIMES — Many a time, when I get up in the morning, I don't need
to look at the clock, for, at exactly 7 am every day, a man who sells
bread and invariably walks past my house blows a whistle and yells out:
"Bread, come get your bread!"

For some years now, this man, now around 70, pushes a cart loaded with
sacks of bread (usually fresh), sparing people the walk to the
neighborhood bakery.

Every morning of every day, in other places around Havana, other elderly
men and women start on their daily walk in search of people they can
sell such things to. Some of them rely on suppliers, others make their
own products.

Currently, elderly Cubans – part of the population that does not
contribute to the GDP – render different kinds of services of this
nature, for making ends meet is becoming harder and harder as a result
of rising prices and the repercussions of corruption. The elderly, for
the most part retirees, have measly pensions and hardly any other income
to help them get by. Sometimes that pittance is added to the family
income and in others is their only individual substance.

In recent days, the government has repeatedly referred to the aging of
Cuba's population, something which was already being announced by the
migratory avalanche that took place in the 90s, a phenomenon which takes
on a different dimension now and has resulted in the loss of a great
part of an entire generation.

At the time, most of the Cuban men and women who left the country,
fleeing the economic crisis, were young people, young people who today
swell the work forces of other countries and have had their children there.

Though they took the memory of their loved ones with them and promised
to help them financially, in many cases, they cannot offer those who
stayed behind as much help as they need or as they would want.

The cost of living in Cuba has also undermined the quality of life of
many people now over or pushing 70, who live in poverty and are
malnourished.

In addition to old people selling bread, sweets, peanuts or pastries,
one sees elderly men and women selling tamales, working as errand people
who take others their rations, gas bills and mail and even carrying
people's groceries.

In a fairly large area of Alamar, on the outskirts of Havana, two
elderly street vendors have become well known in the neighborhood: one
carries peanuts inside a can heated up with coals (to keep the product
warm) and the other, an elderly lady, sounds a tiny bell to sell the
different pastries she makes.

In other parts of the city, you run into elderly people who roam the
streets, dirty or wearing rags, people who rummage through garbage bins
in search of things, selling used plumbing or electrical fixtures, spare
parts some people buy from them.

Some of them sell toothpaste, candles, tampons, bags of cotton balls,
used shoes, cigarettes, popsicles, plastic bags or chicken bouillon.

Many of them are no longer able to find employment at State institutions
and find illegal means of making a living.

Though all of this may be common in other societies, in the relatively
recent past, retirees were a prioritized sector in Cuba. Now, this is no
longer the case.

Well, folks, the situation has become worse and worse and has become
more noticeable as time passes. These elderly vendors are part of the
daily life of all of Havana's neighborhoods, as we may well be one day,
when we join the ranks of this army whose glorious battles are a thing
of the past.

Source: Getting By: The Daily Life of the Elderly in Cuba (Part I) -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=103010 Continue reading
Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the
news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the
hijacking of the Regla-based boat "Baraguá." They were trying to flee
the country and get to the United States.

Leftist newspapers, sympathetic to the Cuban regime, tried to justify
the act, writing: "the government wanted to strike at the roots of
airplane and boat hijackings." They admitted that the punishment was
intended to send a message, meaning that none of the accused was
entitled to a fair trial.

Some went further. Heinz Dieterich Steffan (who later became the
ideologist of "Socialism of the XXI Century"), told on his website how
the then-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was sending a message to the
White House: "You have declared war and your first soldiers have
fallen." And he later added: "I want you to know how to interpret the
message of the firing squad, so there is no more bloodshed."

The executions occurred just over a week after the group of 11 young
men, armed with a gun and a knife, had diverted the ferry some 30 miles
offshore.

How did it all happen?

The hijackers, upon boarding the boat, fired a shot in the air and one
yelled: "This is fucked! We're going to the U.S.!" After 30 miles the
fuel ran out and the boat drifted. The sea was very choppy, so in an act
of tragic naivety they agreed to be towed to the port of Mariel with the
promise that the authorities there would give them fuel.

They didn't tie anyone up (as—according to family members of the
accused—the prosecution claimed). If they had, how do you explain that
upon arriving at Mariel some passengers, at a signal from security
agents, jumped into the water? Enrique Copello Castillo, who tried to
prevent one of the foreigners on board from escaping, had the gun. But
he didn't use it even when the situation got out of his control. This
shows that he was not a criminal, just a young person desperate to reach
the United States, in search of freedom and the chance for personal
advancement.

On April 8, 2003, after a summary trial, the sentence was issued:
Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro L. Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis
Martínez Isaac were condemned to death. The rest of those involved in
the attempted hijacking were given prison sentences: life imprisonment
for Harold Alcala Aramburo, Maykel Delgado Aramburo, Ramon Henry Grillo
and Yoanny Thomas Gonzalez; 30 years for Ledea Wilmer Perez; and from 2
to 5 years for the women traveling with them.

In March of that same year, the government had jailed 75 human-rights
activists, independent journalists, and political dissidents. These were
in the Villa Marista prison when the hijackers were taken to that
infamous headquarters of the Cuban political police. Ricardo González
Alfonso, the now-exiled independent journalist and one of the 75, has
left behind a disturbing account of the last hours of Enrique Copello
Castillo, who shared his cell.

The day of the trial, a State Security captain took him to an office to
explain that, although they were seeking the death penalty for Copello
Castillo, there was a chance he would not be executed. He therefore
asked for González Alfonso's cooperation in helping save the condemned
man's life if he tried to commit suicide. In light of what happened on
April 11, when the condemned were taken before the firing squad without
notice to their families, it can be interpreted that the captain was in
charge of "supply": he could not allow the scapegoats to escape their
own sacrifice. How could they make an example of Copello Castillo if he
had not attended his own execution?

Danger Zone

On San Francisco Street in Havana, between Jesus Peregrino and Salud
streets, is the building where Bárbaro L. Sevilla García lived with his
mother, Rosa Maria. Some neighbors remember what happened on April 11,
2003. The street was full of cars with military license plates from 6:00
am., forming a police blockade. Some women from the Interior Ministry
knocked at the door of Rosa Maria to tell her that her 22-year-old son
had been shot at dawn. The woman started screaming and ran out to the
street naked, yelling the whole time: "Down with Fidel!" and
"Murderers!" Afterward she was forced to leave the country, say the
neighbors, who did not give their names for out of concern for their safety.

A short time later police began moving into the building on the corner,
on Salud Street. Even today the area is considered "dangerous."
Neighbors also warned this reporter not to take pictures of the
demolished middle balcony where the mother and her son lived, because
the green building on the corner of Jesús Peregrino is the DTI
(Department of Technical Investigations), a division of the Interior
Ministry.

They did not use explosives, but charge will be used in court

Why so much harshness and speed in the execution of punishment if there
was no alleged injury or loss of life during the kidnapping? The lawyer
Edilio Hernández Herrera, of the Cuban Legal Association (AJC,
independent), has prepared a legal opinion that reveals how the law was
broken in Case 17 of 2003.

The defendants were tried for the crime of Acts of Terrorism. Law No. 93
"Against terrorism" was published on December 24, 2001, in the Official
Gazette.

In the opinion of Hernández Herrera, the portions of the law that apply
to the crime committed would be Articles 14.1 and 16.1.a, pertaining to
the taking of hostages and acts against the safety of maritime
navigation. But the court sentenced the boys for acts that certainly did
not happen. The other offense charged, from Articles 10 and 11.c,
referred to "acts committed with explosives, chemical, biological or
other substances." With this they intended to justify the sentences of
the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and independent journalist,
one of the political prisoners of the Case of the 75, shared a cell in
Villa Maristas with Dania Rojas Gongora, age 17, who was on the boat.
She was the girlfriend of Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who was shot. The
girl told how another mother learned that her son had been shot the day
she was to bring him toiletries. The last time Dania saw her boyfriend
alive, one of the guards said sarcastically: "Plan now how many children
you are going to have."

Roque Cabello has no doubt in stating:

"The dictator Fidel Castro wanted blood. He was furious also because in
the midst of this, sending the 75 political dissidents to prison was
turning out to be a fiasco. That gained worldwide condemnation. It was
his decision: execution and life imprisonment for these young people. So
those who are now continuing to serve a life sentence are prisoners of
Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating
Cuba -
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Refugees pose financial challenge
By: James Whittaker | james.whittaker@cfp.ky15 April 2014

The cost of detaining and repatriating illegal immigrants, often moving
through the region on makeshift boats, is proving a challenge for many
small island nations in the Caribbean, according to a United Nations
representative.

Dr. Buti Kale, the deputy regional representative for the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees, said challenges faced in the Cayman
Islands are mirrored in neighboring countries.

He said the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas each spent more than US$1
million last year on the issue. According to statistics from a Freedom
of Information request late last year, Cayman spent around CI$600,000 to
house, feed and repatriate Cuban migrants in 2012 and 2013.

The Cayman Islands, because of its proximity to Cuba, is one of the most
affected islands in the region, according to Dr. Kale, who was speaking
at the Red Cross in George Town on Thursday evening.

He said the standards mandated by the United Nations, under
international treaties, are fundamental. But he acknowledged that doing
the right thing could be an expensive business.

"It is not always that countries and territories do have adequate means
to provide assistance to these people. That's when the Red Cross and
others have to supplement whatever assistance the government provides,"
he said.

A delegation from the Cayman Islands government will travel to Cuba next
month to renegotiate the Memorandum of Understanding which commits
Cayman authorities to certain enforcement actions and sets out a
timetable and shared costs for returning illegal migrants.

The cost of processing, detaining and returning migrants, as well as
resettling legitimate asylum seekers, has been an issue for authorities
in Cayman.

Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer for Home Affairs with the Cayman
Islands government – also speaking at the Red Cross – suggested that
detaining illegal immigrants for extended periods of time while awaiting
authorization from Cuban authorities to transfer them, without travel
documents, adds to the financial challenge.

"We have a group of migrants who arrived on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18 –
according to the MOU, they should be repatriated within three to four
weeks. They are still here ...

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens," said Mr. Howell.

He added, "Our level of migration is three times percentage-wise what
the U.S. has to deal with. As a country with financial constraints,
there are limitations on what we can do."

Dr. Kale, who visited the detention center and met with government
officials during his brief visit, acknowledged that many countries are
facing financial challenges. He said the Bahamas government works with
nonprofit organizations to reduce costs.

"Instead of systematically detaining people, they are working with the
Church of God in order to keep people in their shelter," he said.

Cayman is one of only a handful of countries in the region that has
proper detention facilities and a processing system for migrants.

Dr. Kale believes there are issues across the region.

"In some cases, the conditions are substandard. They have to elevated.
Yes, it costs money, but it is all about abiding by international
standards," he said.

The United Nations expert also touched on an issue that has troubled
some locals – the prohibition, under the MOU, against providing support
to boatloads of migrants and helping them on their way.

"There is a unique phenomenon where people are assisted to move on. The
position of UNHCR is that when people arrive in an irregular fashion in
a country, you have got to screen them ...

"If they are going to be assisted in an onward movement, the authorities
of the arrival destination have got to be apprised of the imminent
arrival, otherwise you have a disorderly movement of people."

He said it is important to process migrants properly to find out their
circumstances and ascertain if they are entitled to asylum. He added
that it is good that people in the Cayman Islands want to help, but any
assistance has to be managed properly and not impede the official
processing.

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens."

Wesley Howell, Cayman Islands deputy chief officer for Home Affairs

Source: Refugees pose financial challenge :: cayCompass.com -
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Coast Guard Launches Rescue After Mysterious Raft Washes Ashore
By Kayle Fields
Apr 14, 2014 7:00pm

The U.S. Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission today near
Floridana Beach, Fla., after a mysterious raft washed ashore this
morning full of personal items.
Steve and Shelby Crouse said they spotted the vessel while having coffee
on their beach-front porch around 8 a.m. The homemade 18-foot raft had a
wood frame and a metal mast, reading "Hecho in Cuba", or made in Cuba.
With the help of two other men, Steve Crouse brought it to shore, he
told Florida Today.
That's when the three discovered the contents on the vessel: 21 plastic
bottles, 40 syringes and packs of medical tubing, labeled "MEDICUBA," a
child-sized shoe, a woman's bra, a hairbrush, a Spanish-language Bible,
a carton of apple juice, and a potato.

What wasn't on the mysterious raft full of personal items? People.

That's what led the Coast Guard, Brevard County Sheriff's Department and
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to search the area by
boat and helicopter for any possible occupants.
Lori Phatterplace from the Brevard County Sheriff's Department said
their efforts in the search are over. "We treated it as a person in the
water protocol, but we never had any information that anyone was in the
water." Phatterplace told ABC News. "We haven't located anyone from the
raft."
"We hope to God they made it," Shelby Crouse told Florida Today. "Who
knows if we'll ever find out."

Source: Coast Guard Launches Rescue After Mysterious Raft Washes Ashore
- ABC News -
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/04/coast-guard-launches-rescue-after-mysterious-raft-washes-ashore/ Continue reading
Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 13, 2014

(Originally published in Cubanet the April 11, 2014 , titled " Raul
Castro Goes in Reverse")

Clearly, the new Foreign Investment Law "approved" by the usual
parliamentary unanimity last March 29, 2014, has been the talk of the
town on the topic of "Cuba", for the Island's official as well as for
the independent and foreign press.

With the relaxation of the existing law–enacted in 1995–the new
regulation is aiming to throw the ball to the opposite field: if Cuban
residents of the US cannot invest in Cuba currently, it would no longer
be because the regime bans it, but because of the shackles imposed by
the embargo, a trick of the elderly olive green crocodile that continues
with its wiles and snares despite the collapse of the system.

Amid the expectations of the government's and of aspiring investors,
there stretches a wide tuning fork of the ever-excluded: the common
Cubans, or the "walking Cubans" as we say, whose opinions are not
reflected in the media, magnifying their exclusion.

This time, however, the cancellation of the innate rights of Cubans is
causing social unrest to multiply, in a scenario in which there are
accelerated shortages in the commercial networks and persistent and
increasing higher prices and a higher cost of living.

Rejection of the Investment Law

Shortages, as well as inflation, indexation and bans for certain items
of the private trade, have caused many family businesses to close since
January 2014 due to the uncertainty surrounding the heralded–and never
properly explained–monetary unification.

In addition to the lack of positive expectations, these are the factors
that thin out the social environment and lead to generally unfavorable
reviews of the new law and its impact within Cuba.

An informal survey I conducted in recent days in Central Havana after
the March 29th extraordinary session of parliament shows rejection of
the new Law on Foreign Investment, almost as unanimous as the "approval"
that occurred in the plenary: of a total of 50 individuals polled, 49
were critical of the law and only one was indifferent.

In fact, the issue has been present with relative frequency in many
cliques not directly surveyed–uncommon in a population usually apathetic
about laws–in which the dominant tendency was to criticize various
aspects of the law.

The main reasons for the people's discontent are summarized in several
main points: the new law excludes, arbitrarily and despotically, Cuban
nationals, which implies that the lack of opportunities for the Island's
Cubans is being maintained.

Foreign investors will not only have great advantages and tax
considerations which have never been granted to the self-employed,
tariff concessions with respect to imports (which is just what traders
in imported items asked for and was not granted); the State will remain
the employer of those who will labor in foreign-funded enterprises,
implying consequent hiring based on Party loyalty–be it real or fake,
and taxed wages; widening social gaps between sectors with higher levels
of access to consumption and the more disadvantaged sectors (the latter
constantly growing).

At the same time, many Cubans question the vagaries of government policy
which, without any embarrassment, favors the capital of the expats-–the
former "siquitrillados*, the bourgeoisie, gypsies, worms, traitors,
scum, etc."–over those who stayed behind in Cuba.

The logical conclusion, even for those who stayed relatively associated
with the revolutionary process, or at least those who have not openly
opposed the regime, is that leaving the country would have been a more
sensible and timely option to have any chance of investing in the
current situation. There are those who perceive this law as the regime's
betrayal to the "loyalty" of those who chose to stay, usually Cubans of
lesser means.

Another topic that challenges the already diminished credibility of the
government is the very fact of appealing to foreign capital as the
saving grace of the system, when, the process of nationalization of
1959, it was deemed as one of the "fairer measures" and of greater
significance undertaken, to "place in the hands of the people" what the
filthy bourgeois capital had swiped from them.

Cubans wonder what sense it made to expel foreign capital and 55 years
later to plead for its return. It's like going backwards, but over a
more unstable and damaged road. Wouldn't we have saved ourselves over a
half a century of material shortages and spiritual deprivation if we had
kept companies that were already established in our country? How many
benefits did we give up since the State, that unproductive, inefficient
and lousy administrator, appropriated them?

What revolution are you taking about?

At any rate, the majority has a clear conscience that the revolution and
its displays of social justice and equality are behind us, in some
corner of the twisted road. "Do you think this new law will save the
revolution?"

I provocatively ask an old man who sells newspapers in my neighborhood.
"Girl! Which revolution are you referring to, the one that made Batista
flee or the one that is making all Cubans escape? The 1959 revolution
was over the moment 'this one' handed over the country to the Russians,
now the only thing the brother wants is to give it back to the Americans
and to keep himself a nice slice."

I probably never before heard such an accurate synthesis of what the
history of the Revolution means today to many a Cuban.

*Translator's note: Those who lost investment and personal property when
companies were nationalized in 1959 and early 1960's. From one of
Fidel's speeches, "we broke their wish bone and we will continue to
break their wish bone".

Translated by Norma Whiting

11 April 2014

Source: Driving in Reverse / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba -
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The Revolution's Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen
Posted on April 13, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba. Jose Manuel Rosado, 74 years of age, from Havana del
Este, stands in line at four in the morning to be among the first to
"fill up his checkbook."

The bank opens at 8:30 for multiple transactions. Many other people
like Jose Manuel will wait patiently, on foot, whether in intense sun or
cold and rain if it is winter, in order to cash their retirement. Jose,
his two-hundred forty pesos (ten dollars average), which will vanish in
the first food purchases and payments for services.

Maria Victoria, 81 years old, stands in line in front of Branch 286 of
the People's Savings Bank — a state bank — in the San Miguel del Padron
township:

"I retired at 65. I was a cook in a business the last thirty. I worked
another eight years. The money goes to deficient nutrition. I
"resolved" my food at my work, do you understand, for my home. Now I
almost cannot walk because of my ulcerous legs, I am diabetic. I rent a
pedicab to go get my cash. A dollar going, another returning. Fifty
pesos spent, but it is dangerous to walk through broken, dark streets,
exposed to robberies to go to the bank."

She pays another fifty pesos monthly on installment for a bank loan for
the purchase of her Chinese refrigerator. She has paid off five years,
five are still left.

Build up for whatever official or individual management: mail, Currency
Exchange, tax payment, liquidation sale and transfer of property and
vehicles, fines, repayments, deposits, bonds, required seals–foreign and
national currency–monthly payments for dwelling, loans retirement and
pension payments. Craziness!

Pensioner Eloy Marante, 76 years old, pays triple the tax for his
courier license. Day by day, he loads, transports and distributes gas
cylinders to homes with his tricycle, in order to obtain a supplement
for his lean pension.

"We run errands in the warehouse, attentive to if they are selling the
piece of chicken allowed to those on a special "health diet." We pay
electricity, telephone, gas. We take the little kids to school and pick
them up; take the snacks to the kids in high school, also we do favors
for neighbors for a small tip. Jobs that the family throws to the old
people. The worst: standing in unending lines to exchange bills for
coins because business clerks and bus drivers say they don't have
change! An fraud*,because the government does not demand
responsibility. . ." says Jose Manuel.

Milagros Penalver, director of Budget Control for the Ministry of Labor
and Social Security, says there are 672,568 retirees and pensioners out
of 2,041,392 people over 70 years of age, according to the Population
and Household Census of 2012.

Significant is the prediction by the Center for Population Studies and
development of the National Office of Statistics: 33.9 percent of the
population will be over six decades old in 2035. The birthrate
continues in permanent decline because of factors so adverse to procreation.

*Translator's note: The fraud is refusing to give the customer coins and
so the business or bus driver "keeps the change."

cosanoalen@yahoo.com

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen

Translated by mlk

Source: The Revolution's Pensioners / Reinaldo Emilio Cosan Alen |
Translating Cuba -
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State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research
By Quincy J. Walters, STAFF WRITER
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014

In 2006, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that
prohibited Florida universities from funding travel to "terrorist"
states, including Syria, Iran, Sudan and Cuba.
But the politics behind that bill may be prohibiting academic research
eight years later.
Frank Muller-Karger, a professor of biological oceanography, said the
ban has posed obstacles for his research.
Access to Cuban waters needs to be re-opened for the examination of
biodiversity, he said. Marine life doesn't acknowledge borders, and what
happens in Cuban waters is often consequential to Floridian waters.
"A lot of the resources that we use — in terms of lobsters, corals and
fish — come drifting over from Cuba and we don't necessarily understand
how, when or why," he said.
Prior to 2006, Muller-Karger said he was able to use academic funding to
study the interconnected system of American and Cuban waters.
But after the bill, state funding for such research is prohibited.
"I think that's a gap in our knowledge and the only way to fill that gap
is to work with people over there and sample and understand the
resources better," he said.
The appeal to end the restriction isn't motivated by politics,
Muller-Karger said. It is motivated instead by the pursuit of knowledge
regarding the nature of the world we all share.
This isn't the first time Florida's terse relations with Cuba have
created challenges for academics at USF, though.
In 2011, Noel Smith, curator of the USF Institute for Research in Art
(IRA), was one of eight Florida faculty plaintiffs along with the
American Civil Liberties Union who filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's
travel ban to Cuba, a ban that hindered the IRA's ability to host Cuban
artists or travel to Cuba to seek artists.
At the time, Rachel May, director of the Institute for the Study of
Latin America and the Caribbean, said USF once offered a Cuban studies
certificate for graduate students, but the program is no longer offered
after a study abroad program could no longer be offered.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court stated they would not hear the case,
leaving the ban in tact and many professors, such as Muller-Karger,
still searching for solutions.
Mark Amen, director of Graduate Political Science Studies, said
Florida's isolationist mindset against Cuba is rooted in beliefs from
decades ago.
The U.S. placed a financial embargo on Cuba in 1960 to punish a
communist regime, and further diplomatic and travel sanctions were
placed in 1963 after the Cuban Missile Crisis — the climax of the Cold War.
"This has been a problem since the embargo," Amen said. "It reinforces
our boundaries with Cuba."
Five decades later, Cuba is in the process of economic liberalization,
political resentment in the U.S. has cooled and the practicality of the
embargo is being discussed without fear of the communist label.
In recent years, U.S. President Barack Obama has loosened restrictions
on travel and some universities in other states have pursued academic
endeavors there.
"I don't see the value (of the ban)," Amen said. "It blocks all kinds of
exchanges with humans that are meaningful."
Muller-Karger said while there are alternatives to the research he
wishes to conduct, satellite imagery cannot really be a means of
conducting his research.
"Unless you go there and sample the water or the clay or the sand, you
won't be able to know (why the changes occur) just by looking at the
colors from a satellite," he said. "This is what we call ground proofing."
Muller-Karger said the standoff-ish attitude of the existing ban values
pride over progress.
"We're wasting an opportunity to fill the knowledge gaps, which would
benefit our state," he said. "We lose the knowledge, while other people
gain the knowledge…that's a problem for Florida."

Source: State restrictions continue to inhibit Cuba-related research -
The Oracle: University of South Florida -
http://www.usforacle.com/state-restrictions-continue-to-inhibit-cuba-related-research-1.2864660#.U0ujEPmSwx4 Continue reading
Posted on Saturday, 04.12.14

Cuba — where even human rights are subversive
BY MIRTA OJITO
MAO35@COLUMBIA.EDU

Every country has its own narrative, a product of its history and
mythology. Narratives are important because they are, essentially, the
stories we tell ourselves. And stories are the foundation of humanity.
It's how we establish connections and how we remain connected.

Stories sell everything, from shoes (think Zappos) to pizza (think of
all those menus with family histories) to revolutions (think of the 20th
Century).

Political leaders know this and so do dictators, of course, which is why
the Cuban revolution was so successful and why it's lasted so long. It
was a good story. Astonishingly, for many, it still is.

I first rebelled against "the story" of the revolution at 10, when, at
the end of the school year, my teachers gave me a large book with
gruesome picture of the bloodied and tortured bodies of young men who
had died in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista.

The idea was that I would feel humbled and grateful for their sacrifice.
But too many martyrs already weighed on my then narrow shoulders, from
José Martí to Che Guevara. I closed the book and hid it on top of the
tallest shelf I could find. When I left Cuba six years later, I'm pretty
sure the book was still there.

One of the first things the Cuban government did when it came to power
in 1959 was to close the newspapers and eradicate press freedoms. The
narrative was one and it was tightly controlled. The only mythology
allowed was the one fed to the masses by the regime.

Shrewdly, it neatly tied together rebellious native Cubans and Martí's
poetry, with the mambises who fought against the Spaniards, and a dozen
bearded men who came down the Sierra Maestra Mountains to become the
leaders of the "first free territory of America." (In a sign of the
endurance of that particular mythology, Amazon sells posters with this
phrase for $6.99 plus shipping).

And that's pretty much how the country remained until the emergence of
independent journalists in the 1990s and, later, with the advent of the
Internet, a handful – now dozens – of courageous men and women who share
a different story.

Powerful and personal, intimate yet universal, their stories pierced the
thick mantle of censorship that encapsulates the island like a hard
shell, and the world began to see a different narrative — a more
literary, civil, measured and inspired one. A narrative that reaches
back to our oldest and richest mythology: Cubans as learned and
tolerant. Cuba as an inclusive island.

It's been nearly impossible to disseminate that message among Cubans
because access to the Internet on the island is restricted and
expensive, the second most expensive in the world, after Eritrea.

Now comes the news, revealed by AP last week, that the United States
Agency for International Development created and financed a social media
site, similar to Twitter, called ZunZuneo. The site, which closed in
2012, was either a way to promote communication in Cuba or a covert
attempt to weaken, or even overthrow, the Castro regime.

Because I don't believe the Obama administration has the desire or
inclination to overthrow any government, I'm going with the agency's
version, as revealed by Rajiv Shah, USAID's administrator, during a
congressional hearing last Tuesday.

"These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,"
he said.

While the idea may have been to help the democratic forces on the
island, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, a writer and blogger who is now in the
U.S., told me no one he associated with in Cuba's blogosphere even knew
of ZunZuneo. Yet, he said he has no doubt the program, though now
defunct, will be used against those who promote democracy there.

"To support human rights is not subversive," he said. "The problem is
that in Cuba human rights are subversive."

Even our languages — both English and Spanish — certainly do accommodate
this need for story. It is time to "turn the page" when we need to move
on, when " el cuento," the story, changes on us. But you can't turn the
page when someone else is holding the book.

What is needed in Cuba, with the aid of the U.S. government or any other
country or international organism willing to help, is a way for its
people to connect with each other and create a new narrative for
themselves, sidestepping the stories they have been told for years by
the Cuban government, by the Americanos, and by the nostalgic left.

Only then will they be able to imagine the country they want. If they
can imagine it, they can build it. And that would be a much better story
to tell than the one we've been repeating for more than half a century.

Source: Cuba — where even human rights are subversive - Other Views -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/12/4054280/cuba-where-even-human-rights-are.html Continue reading
Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba
By Reihan Salam APRIL 11, 2014

Alan Gross, the 64-year-old American who has been imprisoned by Cuban
authorities since 2009, is an unremarkable man on the surface. He could
be a friend or colleague, or an uncle you've been meaning to call.

Yet what distinguishes Gross from most of the rest of us, myself
included, is his courage. As a sub-contractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, Gross traveled to Cuba to help private
citizens gain access to the Internet, and thus to news and information
not managed or manufactured by the Cuban government. Gross likely knew
that his work was dangerous, but he may have underestimated the risk he
was taking. In a heartbreaking letter to President Obama, Gross
recounted the many ways his wife and daughters have suffered in his
absence. He beseeched the president to intervene in his case.

And so Gross, a husband and father from Maryland who seems to want
nothing more than to be reunited with his family, has reignited the
decades-long debate over how the United States should deal with Cuba, a
rogue state that continues to adhere to Marxist-Leninist one-party rule
long after the collapse of its Soviet patron.

While some lawmakers, including Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have urged the Obama administration not to
negotiate — but instead to demand Gross's unconditional release — Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has led the chorus of those calling for the
president to play ball with Cuba's rulers, or rather to "not shrink from
the obligation to negotiate for his freedom."

What the Cuban government wants most is a relaxation of the economic
sanctions the U.S. government first imposed on the island nation in
1963, when it became clear that Fidel Castro intended to align his new
regime with the Soviet Union and to have Cuba serve as a staging ground
for armed insurgencies throughout Latin America.

In the decades since then, the sanctions regime has evolved in various
ways. There are now a number of licensed exemptions that allow Americans
to provide humanitarian assistance in Cuba, or that allow academic
researchers to travel there. Cuban households receive $2.6 billion in
remittances from Cuban immigrants and people of Cuban origin living
abroad, most of which comes from the United States. And as Emily Parker
observed earlier this week, for example, the Obama administration made
it somewhat easier for U.S. telecom providers to do business with Cuba
in 2009, in an effort to encourage the free flow of information in and
out of the country.

So should the U.S. government ease economic sanctions even further? The
plight of Alan Gross represents an opportunity to rethink the sanctions
regime. One widely held view is that U.S. sanctions actually serve to
entrench the current Cuban government, as they allow Cuba's rulers to
tightly control the flow of resources in and out of the island, and also
to blame the United States for the poverty and deprivation that plagues
Cuban society. The problem with this line of thinking, as Mauricio
Claver-Carone, director of Cuba Democracy Advocates and a proponent of
sanctions, notes, is that foreign trade and investment in Cuba is the
exclusive domain of the state.

Whereas the Chinese government offers wide latitude to private
enterprises, both domestic and foreign-owned, to operate on Chinese
soil, the Cuban government severely limits the scope for private
economic activity. This is one reason why China "feels" like a freer
society than Cuba, despite the fact that the Chinese government
maintains a large and expensive repressive apparatus. To grow the
Chinese economy, China's rulers have had little choice but to relax
their grip on investment and entrepreneurship.

In recent years, the Cuban government has allowed for the emergence of a
small-scale "self-employment" sector. Yet this sector shouldn't be
mistaken for private enterprise, as self-employed individuals are barred
from building their own independent businesses. If sanctions are lifted
without conditions, it seems more likely than not that the Cuban
government would insist that all U.S. trade and investment be channeled
through state-owned entities. Given Cuba's parlous fiscal state, this
would be an enormous boon.

Rather than lift sanctions unilaterally, the U.S. ought to consider
modifying the approach it has taken since passage of the Helms-Burton
Act of 1996. Under Helms-Burton, the U.S. is prepared to lift sanctions
if and when Cuba releases political prisoners and allows for the
inspection of its prison facilities, legalizes political activity and
opposition parties, and abolishes its secret police. Essentially, the
law insists on immediate regime change, and it is easy to see why Cuba's
rulers find its conditions unacceptable.

Congress ought to consider a new approach: the U.S. will relax sanctions
if Cuba allows its citizens greater scope to build their own private
businesses, which will have the right to engage in foreign trade,
receive foreign investment, and employ workers. The Cuban government
will, of course, be allowed to tax and regulate these private
businesses, but it will have to offer its citizens at least some
economic liberty, so that an influx of U.S. trade and investment won't
simply bolster the Cuban state and Cuba's repressive apparatus.

Yes, Cuba's propagandists will characterize this deal as yet another
example of Yankee meddling. It is also true, however, that this approach
would offer Cuba's rulers a meaningful alternative to Regime Change Now
while also allaying the concerns of Americans who fear that easing
sanctions might strengthen the current regime. And by loosening the
economic stranglehold of Cuba's state-owned monopolies, we can give
Cubans the breathing room they need to start building a free society.

Source: Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba | Reihan Salam -
http://blogs.reuters.com/reihan-salam/2014/04/11/congress-sanctions/ Continue reading
PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute
By rickey singh
Story Created: Apr 12, 2014 at 8:40 PM ECT

International ware­house shopping company PriceSmart, which operates
in vari­ous Caribbean Com­mu­nity (Caricom) states, is under sharp
criticisms for now involving Cuba's diplomatic mis­sions in the region
in the more than half-cen­tury of America's trade, economic and
financial blockade of that Caribbean nation.
Immediately affected Cuban missions include Barbados, Jamaica, and
Trinidad and Tobago where accredited diplo­mats, their families and
staff have been in­formed by PriceSmart management of the sus­pension of
busi­ness ac­counts after being ad­vised by the parent company of
possible vio­lations of the US embargo in trans­acting business with
Cu­bans without "per­manent residency" in countries of their opera­tions.
In a mixture of hila­ri­ty and strong warning, current Caricom chairman
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Gre­na­dines Dr Ralph Gon­salves
said in a telephone interview yesterday that the US government should be
"mindful of the implications of Price­Smart's action".
He pointed out while at first, he could not resist "laughing at this
infantile political move", he was never­theless mindful that PriceSmart
is in­corporated into the laws of sovereign Carib­be­an states, and now
enga­ging in "unnecessary, unprovoked acts" against Cuba's diplomatic
per­sonnel and other Cuban nationals who are wor­king in various
regional sectors, including doctors and nurses.
The Vincentian prime minister said neither the US government nor owners
and operators of corporate enterprises like PriceSmart could be
unmindful of the historic role initially played by Caricom countries to
bring Cuba out of the "dip­lo­matic isolation" to which the US economic
embargo had assigned it, following its Fidel Cas­tro-led 1959 revolution.
Further, of the com­mu­­nity's continuing involve­ment with the rest of
the international commu­nity, minus the mi­nis­­cule exception of three,
in passage year after year, resolutions denouncing the "archaic law"
gover­ning the embargo which has "miserably failed to destabilise" the
govern­ment in Havana or to "quench the revolution­ary spirit of the
Cuban peo­ple...".

'Criminal act'

Criticisms of Price­Smart's suspension of bus­iness accounts for
Cu­­bans have come from
Cuba's embassies in Ja­mai­ca, Barbados, and Trini­dad and Tobago,
headed respectively by ambassadors Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, Lis­ette
Perez Perez and Guit­termo Vazquez Moreno.
For ambassador Her­nan­dez, the decision by PriceSmart constituted "a
criminal act, based on an anachronistic law" which violates the Vienna
convention.
In Barbados, ambas­sa­dor Perez disclosed a representative of the local
PriceSmart turned up to inform the embassy about the suspension of
business transactions while, he explained, they invest "effort, time
and resources" in pursuing lawful channels in the US which "may enable
us to reactivate those accounts…".
The resident Cuban diplo­matic missions in Barba­dos, Jamaica, and
Trini­dad and Tobago have pointed to "unne­ces­sary inconveniences" to
non-embassy staff like Cuban doctors and teachers.
According to ambassador Pe­­rez, there seems to be an "un­derlying
intention to en­courage defec­tions" by Cubans, in favour of having
per­manent resident status that would enable them to do "membership
busi­ness" with PriceSmart.
"This is the sort of con­tempt by those", she said, "who do not really
understand what the Cu­ban revolution and Cuban patriotism mean for us...".
Ironically, the move by Price­Smart to suspend busi­ness tran­sactions
with Cu­ban di­plo­matic missions and Cubans who do not have permanent
work­­ing status in Caricom states came against the backdrop of approval
last month by the Cuban National Assem­bly of a ground-breaking
for­eign-investment law to en­cou­rage a new "development partner­ship"
that would be exten­ded also to overseas-based Cubans.

Source: PriceSmart and Cuba in 'shopping' dispute | Trinidad Express
Newspaper | News -
http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/PriceSmart-and-Cuba--in-shopping-dispute--255047631.html Continue reading
Toward a New Constitution / Rafael Leon Rodriguez
Posted on April 12, 2014

A group of Cubans in Cuba and its diaspora agreed to promote a road map
for a constitutional consensus. Organizations and public figures from
different generations, of all ideologies, religious beliefs and
interests, we believe it is good that, firstly, we agree as to the type
of constitution we want to establish or take as a reference for the
creation of a new constitution, in accord with our time and reality.

The managing group making this project viable consists of Rogelio
Travieso Pérez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Fernando
Palacio Mogar, Eroisis González Suárez, Veizant Voloi González, Wilfredo
Vallín Almeida and Rosa María Rodríguez Torrado.

We want to escape from the vicious and corrupt circle of an elite that
for decades has set the course of our country regardless of the opinion
of its citizens. The constitutional road map arises also to bring down
the perverse myth that was born with the ruling political model, in
which Cuba is only a part of his children: extending one hand to take
money from its emigrants and with the other pushing them away and
separating them from an environment to which they rightfully belong. So
for this reason we will work in common to seek a consensus and legal and
constitutional order that emanates from citizens, from their diversity,
place of residence and plurality.

Thousands of Cubans have already signed the call for a constituent
assembly in Cuba and we continue to call on all our compatriots,
wherever they are or reside, to join us in this effort, for arm
ourselves with a new shield of civilized coexistence. In this
undertaking we invite Cubans to offer their ideas about how to finally
achieve a Cuba for all within in the law.

In order to promote these efforts, compatriots living abroad have
created the site http://consensoconstitucional.com/ in which there is an
update on this project.

We are drawing up a methodology in which we encourage Cubans interested
in participating to submit papers in which they lay out, in about ten
points, the reasons why they defend one or another constitutional
proposal as a starting point for change in the "law of laws" in order to
lead us toward the democratization of our nation.

This coming May, Cubans inside and outside of Cuba will begin to hold
meetings in which we will debate ideas about this process of promoting
consensus. Right now, we are working for the creating of "initiative
tables" on the island and this design is just the start of a long road
to justice, equity and a state of rights for all Cubans.

10 April 2014

Source: Toward a New Constitution / Rafael Leon Rodriguez | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/toward-a-new-constitution-rafael-leon-rodriguez/ Continue reading
Just One Account / Josue, Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association
Posted on April 12, 2014

I live in a community with more than sixty buildings. Behind them, as is
the case with my home, many residents—at the request of the government
itself—began planting fruit trees and banana plants. When the marathon
of demolishing everything began, I decided to make an estimate of the
economic losses that were indiscriminately carried out by people who
came from other cities to destroy what had been so passionately
harvested for more than a decade.

To give you an idea, there were about 300 banana plants when demolition
started, some 50 new bunches were uprooted and another 130 were cut and
thrown in a corner of the building, their remnants remaining there since
July 2012. In that same time frame, 50 or 60 bunches had been collected
monthly, which means about 660 per year, or about 16,500 pounds that
were contributed to urban consumption and that represent about 9,900
pesos taken from the pockets of those citizens to whom no one came to
meet their needs.What is more aggravating is that when the Director of
Physical Planning visited the town and I gave him that assessment, he
told me that it didn't matter, that many residents reported that they
now had more open space. I responded that people can't live on open
space, but they can live on food. He shut up and couldn't get out of
there fast enough.

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Just One Account / Josue, Rojas Marin, Cuban Law Association |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/just-one-account-josue-rojas-marin-cuban-law-association/ Continue reading
Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do more to
secure release
By Barnini Chakraborty Published April 13, 2014FoxNews.com

WASHINGTON – For Alan Gross, the American contractor locked up in a
Cuban prison on spying charges, the road to freedom seems increasingly
out of reach.

The Maryland resident, who repeatedly has denied working for any
intelligence agency, was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009, stripped
of his rights and thrown into a foreign prison.

Since then, his family has worked tireless – and unsuccessfully -- to
bring him home.

Gross currently is being held at the Carlos Finlay Military Hospital in
the Havana Providence in Cuba where he spends 23 hours a day in a small
cell with two other men. He is let out of his cramped quarters for an
hour each day, led to a small courtyard with high walls and if he is
lucky, he gets to catch a glimpse of the sun.

After his 60 minutes are up, the 64-year-old man who is facing another
long decade behind bars heads back to his cell.

The details of Gross' daily routine were relayed to FoxNews.com by his
legal team. With Gross starting, and recently ending, a one-week hunger
strike, he and his supporters are trying to draw more attention to his
case and urge the U.S. government to do more to help.

In December -- the four-year anniversary of his imprisonment – Gross
wrote President Obama a letter pleading for the White House to get
involved and negotiate his release.

So far, Gross hasn't heard back, his camp tells FoxNews.com. But that's
where the stories start to blur.

The White House is on record multiple times calling on the Cuban
government to let Gross go. Gross was working at the time of his arrest
as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development on
expanding Internet access.

In December, around the same time Gross sent the letter to the
president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Gross
was a "dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to
underserved communities in more than 50 countries" and called for his
release.

In the past, the Obama administration has called Gross' case a sticking
point in improving ties with Cuba but has rejected any prisoner trade
for Gross.

In March 2011, following Gross's sentencing, Philip Crowley, the
assistant secretary in the bureau of public affairs at the State
Department, issued a statement: "We deplore this ruling."

"Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has
devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries," Crowley
said. "He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of
the world."

Still, while U.S. officials say they're pressing his case, it's unclear
to what lengths they have gone to pursue his release. Attorney Scott
Gilbert said: "We really hope that the two governments can work
something out and do what it takes. He wants to come home ... the only
way that will happen is if Obama gets involved, and that hasn't happened."

Gross, a native New Yorker, moved south where attended school at the
University of Maryland and at Virginia Commonwealth University in
Richmond, Va., where he studied social work.

In 2001, Gross formed the Joint Business Development Center -- a Chevy
Chase, Md.-based company that works to increase Internet connections abroad.

As the boss, his career took him around the world. His passport has been
stamped in Africa, Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His friends and family describe the 64-year-old, white-haired contractor
as a gentle humanitarian, a loving husband and father of two girls, now
grown up and living in Oregon and Israel. His wife, Judy, a social
worker, is still by his side and lobbying for his release.

"I've been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan
home," she said in a written statement. "I'm worried sick about Alan's
health, and I don't think he can survive much more of this."

Gross has lost 110 pounds in prison. He has a growing list of health
problems and is considerably weaker, his camp says.

It's been hard on Judy, too. In the four years her husband has been in a
Cuban prison, she has been forced to sell their Maryland home, unable to
afford the mortgage in the upscale Potomac, Md., neighborhood.

Last week, Gross announced through his attorney Gilbert that we was
going on a hunger strike, "enraged" over recent reports about the
controversial "Cuban Twitter" project, first reported by The Associated
Press.

The project, a communication network called ZunZuneo, was reportedly
built to stir unrest on the island. USAID, the same agency Gross was
working for when he was arrested in 2009, was behind the now-defunct
project. Gross and his supporters voiced concern that the project could
have put him at additional risk.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions and inaction by both
governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my
arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any responsible or
valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross said via a
telephone conversation he had with Gilbert.

By Friday, Gross had called off the strike.

Disheartened, his friends, family and legal team say they'll push even
harder for his release, especially in light of the ZunZuneo report. They
argue the government has put his safety at risk and continues to do so
every day he is in Cuba. They also blame his employer – USAID. "Once
Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety
even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," Gilbert said in a
statement.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said earlier this week he's gotten
emails from USAID employees "all over the world" asking "how could they
do this, to put us in such danger?"

At issue are a range of secretive USAID programs the agency claims are
not "covert" – but aren't widely publicized either. Having them outed,
some argue, leaves contractors like Gross in danger.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the responsibility for Gross'
imprisonment lies with Cuba.

"The State Department has led an aggressive effort to help Alan secure
his release," Shah said at the same Senate subcommittee.

Source: Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do
more to secure release | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/12/family-friends-us-contractor-held-in-cuba-pleads-to-obama-for-his-release/ Continue reading
European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba
Published April 13, 2014 Associated Press

HAVANA – A French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in
more than 30 years Saturday, traveling to the communist-run nation at a
time when it is seeking to attract more foreign investment and improve
ties with the European Union.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he met with President Raul Castro
for an hour and half, during which the two men "talked about everything,
including human rights."

Earlier Fabius met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez to start
the trip, which French officials have said is partly to promote business
ties and support French companies that want to do business in Cuba.

"We want to strengthen our ties with South America and particularly with
Cuba," Fabius told reporters. "Europe also wants to (strengthen ties)
and from that we are going to be able to talk about economic, cultural,
political and international issues."

The European Union suspended cooperation with Cuba in 2003 when the
island's government jailed 75 dissidents. Dialogue was restored five
years later, though it was conditioned on improvements in the human
rights situation. In February, the EU's foreign ministers approved talks
to negotiate a broad new political agreement with Cuba.

Fabius noted that his visit marked the first time in more than three
decades that the chief of French diplomacy had visited the island.

He arrived in Havana from Mexico, where he took part in an official
visit by President Francois Hollande.

Cuban lawmakers recently approved a law aimed at making the country more
attractive to foreign investors, a measure seen as vital for the
island's struggling economy.

There are currently about 60 French companies present in Cuba.

Fabius also noted that Cuba has a debt with European Union countries and
said that talks with Havana on the issue would begin in the coming months.

Source: European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba | Fox
News -
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/04/13/french-foreign-minister-makes-1st-trip-to-cuba-in-30-years-as-europe-explores/ Continue reading
Cuba's Expensive Glass of Milk
April 12, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Officials from the Ministry of Finance and Prices, the
Food Industry and CIMEX Corp. pulled off a fast one this week when they
announced they would raise the price of milk because its price on the
world market had gone up.

Various sources, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,
ensure that the international price of milk powder is falling and this
year will actually cost 10% less. Apparently the population deserves a
more detailed explanation on the subject.

Someone should explain where the milk is purchased, why it is so
expensive, if Washington penalizes the sale [under the embargo] when the
cows have US genes or if the integration with Latin America cannot
provide cheaper markets.

If the government's importers do not have clear answers to these
questions, the Comptroller General of the Republic should become
involved at the smell of the sour milk. It wouldn't be the first time
they buy bad and expensive.

And while at the same time they are telling people that the milk price
must go up, they also recently announced that tens of thousands of cows
are dying of hunger and thirst in the country. As happens with the
bankers in Europe, inefficiently run agriculture is paid for by the
citizens.

Assuming that all the criticisms that have been unleashed are wrong and
that Cuba cannot buy milk cheaper on the international market, there
could still be better solutions than raising the price to the public.

Blogger Yohan Gonzalez proposes raising the price of "luxury products or
alcoholic beverages, which being harmful to health could well receive a
tax to avoid further losses with the milk."

If the sales price of cars rose to 10 times their value to fund public
transport, why not use the same principle to subsidize milk for children
and the elderly by raising the price of rum and cigarettes?

In the case of rum and milk, I don't think anyone doubts as to which
product should be subsidized and which should be taxed. Families with
children and also those with alcoholics would be appreciative.

If this really is the "revolution of the humble, for the humble and for
the humble" there are many more products that could be taxed to
subsidize the staples of the Cuban family.

You'd think it would annoy the humble of the revolution to have the same
tax on imported ice cream, cheese and chocolates as on staple products,
forcing them to spend more than 10% of their salary to buy a liter of
vegetable oil.

When the government raised car prices nobody supported the measure, but
to most Cubans it mattered little. With the increase in the price of
milk, officials are once again alone, but this time managed to awaken
the ill-feeling of the majority of the population.
—–
(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg's blog.

Source: Cuba's Expensive Glass of Milk - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102968 Continue reading
Something That Goes Beyond the Law / Josue Rojas Marin, Cuban Law
Association
Posted on April 11, 2014

Some landlords from Santa Lucia beach in the Camaguey province find
themselves confused before a measure imposed by officials from
Immigration and Aliens. Since last year, they have made them sign a
document obliging them to be responsible for the cars rented by tourist
staying in their homes, in spite of the fact that they sign a rental
contract with the agency. As is logical, there is nothing in the law
that imposes a responsibility for property that forms no part of the
accommodation.

They also have to keep the home's door wide open, as we say in good
Cuban, in order not to obstruct a surprise inspection, abrogating to the
inspectors the right to write or cross things out in the rental registry
book, in spite of the fact that it is not they but the Municipal Housing
Department that is responsible for controlling this document, so it is
required that a responsible person not leave the dwelling unattended,
even when there are no guests.

The landlords often suffer unexpected visits by police agents who also
write in the registry books, conduct illegal searches, take the registry
book without any legal process and return it whenever they want.

All that affects the rental activity and consequently their income.

Translated by mlk.
31 March 2014

Source: Something That Goes Beyond the Law / Josue Rojas Marin, Cuban
Law Association | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/something-that-goes-beyond-the-law-josue-rojas-marin-cuban-law-association/ Continue reading
The Melodrama of Buying Potatoes in Havana
April 11, 2014
Francisco Castro

HAVANA TIMES — The reason I write this now is not precisely because some
farmers markets around Havana are selling potatoes again, but the fact
this product has been made available again in such a surreptitious
manner. It's taken so long – has it been months, years? – that people
have been caught off guard.

Like everything else on this island of ours, for better or for worse, no
one knows for certain whether potatoes will stay around for long now
that they've suddenly reappeared, and, since the present is all that
truly matters to people, everyone is going out to buy potatoes en masse.

I have too. It's not that I am so different from everyone else that I
wouldn't dream of setting out to buy the delicious tuber. The thing is
that I'm allergic to waiting in line, to our daily queues – places where
the essence, the unexpected, the concealed and proven aspects of our
temperament always come to the fore.

I had to go to my neighborhood market to buy the potatoes. I wanted to
treat myself to some mashed potatoes, to some delicious baked dish, to
some incomparable steamed or boiled potatoes, or a potato and chicken
salad, or whatever else you can throw together. What I hadn't counted on
– naïve me – is that I would have to deal with a line of people ahead of me.

The line was made longer by people who saved several spots to buy as
much as they could (they were only selling 20 pounds per person) and
later re-sell the potatoes at higher prices. The line was endless and
thick, always ready to scatter and reform, as though by divine
intervention, and to double or triple in length, in the worst of scenarios.

In the worst of scenarios, I would have to argue about who had arrived
at the line first, and make an older lady anxious to reach the counter
understand she had gotten there a mere half hour before and that I had
been waiting for much more than an hour – insist it was impossible for
the man in the red T-shirt to have told her he was the last in line,
because he had said the same thing to me.

But, in the end, it was worth the effort.

What took me by surprise was an even sorrier scene, which I came upon in
another neighborhood. The huge throng of people recalled those
demonstrations we used to hold in front of the Anti-Imperialist
Grandstand – not only because of the large numbers of people, but also
because of the police officers present.

They had even cordoned off the market with a line of metal tables used
to sell products to the public – a barricade meant to hold back the
crowd and ward off any opportunist seeking to cut in line.

I couldn't help but bring to mind images of the Holocaust…

I imagine this story will have a happy ending, provided potato supplies
become as stable as they were years ago. Then, we will be able to eat
potatoes that don't taste of queues and shoving, and we will eat them
every week.

Source: The Melodrama of Buying Potatoes in Havana - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=102947 Continue reading
Havana: The Poverty Behind the Glamour / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 11, 2014

Just across from Cordoba park, in the Havana neighborhood of La Vibora,
is nestled a luxury cafe called Villa Hernandez. It is a stunning
mansion built in the early 20th century and renovated in detail by its
owner.

At the entrance, a friendly doorman shows clients the menu on a black
leather-covered card. A pina colada costs almost five dollars. And a
meal for three people not less than 70 cuc, the equivalent of four
months' salary for Zaida, employed by a dining room situated two blocks
from the glamour of Villa Hernandez which attracts retired people, the
elderly, and the poor from the area.

"It is not a dining room, it is a state restaurant for people of limited
means. They call it 'Route 15,' and the usual menu is white rice, an
infamous pea porridge, and croquettes," says Zaida.

Like the majority of the area's residents, she has never sat on a stool
in the Villa Hernandez bar to drink a mojito or to "nibble" tapas of
Serrano ham.

A block from the dining room, on the corner of Acosta and Gelabert, in a
house with high ceilings in danger of collapse, live 17 families crowded
together. The people have scrounged in order to transform the old rooms
into dwellings.

The method for gaining space is to create lofts with wooden or concrete
platforms between the walls. Each, on his own or according to his
economic possibilities, has built bathrooms and kitchens without the
assistance of an engineer or architect.

Even the old basement, where there once existed an animal stable, has
been converted into a place that only with much imagination might be
called a home.

The neighbors of the place see the Villa Hernandez restaurant as a
foreign territory. "They have told me that they eat very well. I am
ashamed to enter and ask about the menu. What for, if I have no money?
At the end of the year they put up pretty decorations and a giant Santa
Claus. I have told my children that this kind of restaurant is not
within the reach of our pockets," says Remigio.

Like small islets, in Havana there have emerged houses for rent,
gymnasiums, tapas bars, cafes and private restaurants much like those
that a poor Cuban only sees in foreign films.

There exists a nocturnal Havana with many lights, elegant designs and
excess air conditioning which is usually the letter of introduction for
the apparent success of the controversial economic reforms promoted by
Raul Castro.

It is good that little private businesses emerge. The majority of the
population approves cutting out by the roots dependence on the State,
the main agent of the socialized misery that is lived in Cuba.

But old people, the retired, professionals, and state workers ask
themselves when fair salary reforms will happen that will permit a
worker to acquire a household appliance or drink a beer in a private bar.

"That's what it's about. Almost all we Cubans approve of people opening
businesses. After all, in economic matters, the government has shown a
lethal inefficiency. But there are two discussions: one is sold to
potential foreign investors and another internal that keeps crushing the
commitment to Marxism and to governing in order to favor the poorest,"
says Amado, an engineer.

In the business field, the government has opened the door, but not
completely. In the promulgated economic guidelines, it is recognized
that the small businesses are designed such that people do not
accumulate great capital.

A large segment of party officials and the official press believes it
sees in each private entrepreneur a future criminal.

At the moment, self-employment is surrounded with high taxes, the
expansion of the opening of a wholesale market, and a legion of state
inspectors who demand a multitude of parameters, as if it were anchored
in Manhattan or Zurich and not in a nation that has short supplies of
things from toothpaste and deodorant to even salt and eggs.

The regime takes advantage of the poor to sell the Cuban brand.
"Marketing has been created that shows an island interspersed with
images of tenements, mulattas dancing to reggaeton, happy young people
drinking rum, US cars from the '50's, the National Hotel and luxury
restaurants," says Carlos, a sociologist.

Successful managers, like Enrique Nunez, owner of La Guarida, situated
in the mostly black neighborhood of San Leopoldo in downtown Havana,
also benefit from the environment in order to grow their businesses.

La Guarida was one of the locations in the film Strawberry and Chocolate
by the deceased director Tomas Gutierrez Alea. There, among many others,
have dined Queen Sofia of Spain, Diego Armando Maradona and US congressmen.

The dilapidated multifamily building where it is located, with sheets
put out to dry on interior balconies and unemployed mulattos and blacks
playing dominoes at the foot of the stairway, has become the particular
stamp of La Guarida.

"Yes, it's embarrassing. But to carry on culinary or hospitality
businesses in ruinous neighborhoods replete with hustlers and
prostitutes, is an added value that works. Maybe that happens because
Havana is still not a violent or dangerous city like Caracas. And the
naive Europeans like that touch of modernity surrounded by African
misery," points out the owner of a bar in the old part of the capital.

While the governmental propaganda exaggerates the economic opening,
Zaida asks if someday her salary in the State dining room will permit
her to have a daiquiri in Villa Hernandez. For her, for now, it would be
easier for it to snow in Cuba.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: El Fanguito, old neighborhood of indigents in El Vedado, Havana,
arose in 1935, at the mouth of the river Almendares, in the
now-disappeared fishing village of Bongo and Gavilan. With Fidel
Castro's arrival in power, this and other Havana slums not only did not
disappear but were growing. At any time, El Fanguito, La Timba, Los
Pocitos, La Jata, Romerillo, El Canal, La Cuevita, Indalla, and La
Corea, among others, are included in sightseeing tours through the
capital, in order to be in tune with the fashion of mixing glamour with
poverty, as occurs in Rio de Janeiro with the slums. The photo was taken
from Cubanet (TQ).

Translated by mlk.

10 April 2014

Source: Havana: The Poverty Behind the Glamour / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/havana-the-poverty-behind-the-glamour-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 10, 2014

When a government's financial figures are in the red, everything takes
on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are
well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public
spending is slashed.

But if the goal is to attract American dollars, euros or other forms of
hard currency, then any reforms must tempt likely foreign investors and
Cuban exiles alike.

The situation is pressing. Venezuela, the spigot from which Cuba's oil
flows, is in a firestorm of criminal and political violence and economic
chaos. China is an ideological partner but only makes loans if it can
reap some benefit.

The Cuban government does not have a lot of room to maneuver. Its
solution has been to open things up a little but not completely. Except
in the areas of health, education and defense, Cuba is for sale.

The communist party's propaganda experts have been trying to sugarcoat
the message to its audience. In recent months government officials have
been working to attract foreign capital by offering investors a more
important role in the Cuban economy.

"Foreign financial resources would do more than provide a complementary
role to domestic investment initiatives and would play an important
role, even in areas such as agriculture, where foreign investment has
been rare," said Pedro San Jorge, Director of Economic Policy at the
Ministry for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, in January.

In an interview with the newspaper Granma on March 17, José Luis Toledo
Santander, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
of People's Power for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, said the new law
"will also provide for a range of investments so that those who wish may
know the areas of interest in the country."

"This action will also be a breakthrough in terms of the paperwork
required to make an investment by creating a more streamlined process,"
the official added in response to a common complaint by business people
that the Cuban bureaucracy is too slow.

Toledo Santander said the new law "also includes incentives and tax
exemptions in certain circumstances, as well as an easing of customs
duties to encourage investment."

He stressed that "the process of foreign investment will be introduced
without the country relinquishing its sovereignty or its chosen social
and political system: socialism. This new law will allow foreign
investment to be better targeted so that it serves the best interests of
national development without concessions or setbacks."

On Saturday March 29 the national television news broadcast reported
sometime after 1 PM that the single-voice Cuban parliament had
unanimously passed a new foreign investment law without providing more
details

The new law provides for an exception to one passed in 1995 which
assigned foreign capital a "complimentary" role in Cuban state
investments. This meant that foreign investors could hold no more than a
50% stake in any joint venture.

The proportion was higher when it came to technology and retail
businesses but only because of a strong interest in these sectors on the
part of military autocrats. Between 1996 and 2003 roughly 400 firms in
the mining, hospitality, food, automotive and real estate sectors were
created in Cuba with foreign capital.

All were small-scale and supervised closely by authorities. Now it's a
choice of life or death. Fidel Castro's revolution generated many
promises and speeches, but these did nothing to foster the economic
development that the country needed.

Cuba imports everything from toothbrushes to ball-point pens. Large
areas of arable land are overrun with the invasive Marabou weed, and
produce little or nothing. In 2013 the government imported almost two
billion dollars worth of food.

Since 1959 government leaders have continuously promised ample harvests
of malanga, potatoes and oranges coffee as well as a glass of milk per
person per day, but the inefficient economic system hampers any such
nationial initiatives.

Finally the last trump card was played. It involved opening the gates by
luring foreign investors with generous tax exemptions. They included
Cubans living in the United States and Europe but not virulent
anti-Castro Cuban-Americans from Florida.

If they toned down their strident anti-Castro rhetoric, then perhaps
Alfonso Fanjul, Carlos Saladrigas and company might come under
consideration also.

Of course, it is not all clear sailing. The U.S. embargo presents a
powerful obstacle to any business venture on the island. And the Castro
brothers are not serious business partners.

On the contrary. They have changed or corrected course at whim in
response to shifting political dynamics. Of the roughly 400 foreign
firms that existed in 1998, only about 200 remained in operation as of
spring 2014.

Several foreign businessmen, including Canadians, have been threatened
with imprisonment while others, like Chilean Max Marambio*, have had
arrest warrants issued against them by Cuban prosecutors.

Raul Castro, who inherited power by decree from his brother Fidel in
2006, has tried to clean up government institutions and establish more
legal coherence, abolishing absurd laws that prevented the Cubans
renting hotel rooms, having mobile phones and selling their own homes
and cars.

In January 2013 a new emigration law was adopted that made it easier for
Cubans, including dissidents, to travel abroad. Internet access became
available, though at jaw-dropping prices, and Peugeot cars went on sale,
though priced as if they were Lamborghinis.

For many European and American politicians, Cuba is in the process of
becoming a modern nation whose past sins as well, as it's the lack of
democracy and freedom of expression, must be forgiven. Others say it's
just a ploy to buy time.

The average Cuba, whose morning coffee does not include milk, who has
only one hot meal a day and who wastes two hours a day commuting to and
from work on the inefficient public transport system, is not likely to
be impressed with the much hyped opportunities.

Those who open private restaurants or receive remittances from overseas
can weather the storm. Those who work for the state — in other words,
most people — are the ones having it the worst.

Although the regime may try to camouflage its new policies by resorting
to various ideological stunts, the person on the street realizes that
the new Cuban reality is nothing more than state capitalism painted over
in red.

For a wide segment of the Cuban population, the new investment law is a
distant echo. It is yet to be see if it bring them any benefits.

Ivan Garcia

*Translator's note: In 2010 Cuban prosecutors accused Marambio and his
firm, Río Zaza, of corruption. Marambio claimed the actions were
retribution on the part of Fidel and Raul Castro for his support for
Marco Enríquez-Ominami, a candidate in Chile's 2009 presidential
election. Marambio filed suit with the International Court of
Arbitration in Paris against his Cuban business partner, Coralsa, a
state-owned juice and dairy company. On July 17 the court found in favor
of Marambio and ordered Coralsa to pay over $17.5 million dollars in
damages "for refusing to cooperate in good faith" in the process of
liquidating Rio Zaza.

30 March 2014

Source: Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia |
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Posted on Thursday, 04.10.14

Promoting democracy in countries where USAID isn't welcome is a delicate
balancing act
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

The U.S. Agency for International Development has a long history of
funding democracy-building programs in Latin America and around the
world — even in countries like Cuba, where it isn't welcome.

It's always been a delicate balancing act because promoting democracy
can sometimes be perceived as meddling in internal politics and spark a
backlash against USAID-supported programs that are supposed to open
political space, protect human rights and support civil society.

But the recently disclosed USAID program to create a secret Twitter-like
network in Cuba, run through front companies with the goal of evading
strict Cuban government controls on the flow of information, highlights
how the distinctions between democracy-building and politics can become
muddled.

"USAID may have some excellent programs around the world, but the
problem here is that anything dealing with Cuba becomes politicized and
in my opinion there was very little oversight of it," said Andy Gomez, a
retired University of Miami Cuba scholar and now senior policy adviser
for Washington law firm Poblete Tamargo.

The Associated Press reported last week that USAID established the
network called ZunZuneo — Cuban slang for the sound of a hummingbird —
as a text-messaging service that began gearing up in late 2009 and
reached at least 40,000 subscribers before funding ran out in September
2012. USAID, however, says the number was around 68,000 at its peak.

The plan, according to AP, was to start with "non-controversial" content
to build subscribers to the network, which was never identified as
funded by the U.S. government, and then introduce political content
aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize in mass demonstrations that could
perhaps trigger a Cuban spring.

But Gomez said the program was ill-conceived and fraught with problems.

At one point, he said, Creative Associates International, the
Washington, D.C., contractor that worked on the ZunZuneo program, sought
his opinion. "I knew what they were doing and I advised them what I
thought young people would be interested in. I was very clear: Don't
politicize it and don't provide information about overthrowing the
government."

Gomez, who was not paid for his advice, suggested Cubans would be
interested in general news — "problems in the world, how people in the
rest of the world live."

USAID has taken issue with AP's assertion that the program was designed
to encourage smart mobs or funnel political content that could trigger
unrest.

"The purpose of the ZunZuneo project was to create a platform for Cubans
to speak freely among themselves, period," USAID said in a statement,
adding that tech news, sports scores, weather and trivia were sent out
initially but then Cubans began to generate their own conversations.

However, Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Cuban satirical artist living in Chile
who was subcontracted to write messages for ZunZuneo, told AP that he
does only political work. AP said documents it obtained showed some of
the early messages sent to Cuban cellphones were overtly political.

Despite USAID's original assertion that no messages were politically
charged, a State Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that USAID is now
looking into whether any of the messages were political and if so,
whether they were drafts or actually sent. The Senate Foreign Relations
Committee also plans to review the program.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont told USAID Administrator Rajiv
Shah during a Congressional hearing Tuesday that the program was a
"cockamamie" idea. But members of South Florida's Cuban-American
delegation have been supportive.

"The real question here is why does the press and some in our
Congressional family demonize these programs," said South Florida
Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"There is no independent press in Cuba. There is complete control over
the Cuban airwaves and programming on television and the press to
promote the political propaganda spewed by the dictatorship," she said.

"Clearly those who defend the program are right that people should have
access to information and technology in Cuba, and it's hard to defend
the Cuban government for clamping down," said Michael Shifter, president
of the Inter-American Dialogue.

"But Cuba is a very special case," he said. "You really have to ask
yourself how smart the program was and what it hoped to accomplish.
There is a role for these democracy-building programs, but in Cuba, it
is just so tainted."

Some analysts also questioned whether keeping Cuban users of ZunZuneo in
the dark about the origin of the program could have potentially put them
at risk.

"There's often been blow-back when the United States tries to help
people,'' said Ted Henken, a Baruch College professor who has studied
Cuban bloggers. "The people you're helping need to know who you are" so
they can evaluate whether they want to take risks.

Matthew Herrick, a USAID spokesman, said the agency needs to maintain a
"discreet profile" in countries where it might not be welcome to
minimize risk to its staffers and partners. "But discreet does not equal
covert," he added. "USAID's work in Cuba is not unlike what we and other
donors do around the world to connect people who have been cut off from
the outside world by repressive or authoritarian governments."

Henken defends the right of those outside the island to help the Cuban
people. But he said the short-term effect of the ZunZuneo disclosures
will be to "put activists in Cuba more under the microscope than they
are already. It reduces the oxygen for them and allows Cuba to play the
threat card."

He said it could also jeopardize the impending launch of Cuban blogger
Yoani Sánchez's digital newspaper. While he thinks Sánchez has too high
a profile internationally for the Cuban government to touch her, Henken
said "they could crack down on those who associate with her."

The ZunZuneo program was gearing up for launch just as USAID
subcontractor Alan Gross was arrested in Havana in December 2009 for
distributing satellite equipment to link with the Internet. A Cuban
court ruled that the intent of Gross' activities was to undermine the
government and he was sentenced to 15 years.

Despite Gross' imprisonment, USAID pressed ahead with ZunZuneo.

When Gross learned of the ZunZuneo program last week he told his
attorney it was the "final straw," prompting him to begin a hunger
strike until he is released. "I am fasting to object to mistruths,
deceptions, and inaction by both governments,'' Gross said.

"I don't see how the ZunZuneo disclosures can make his release any
easier," Shifter said. "This strengthens the position of the hardliners
in Havana and gives them ammunition to say, how can we loosen-up or
relax when the United States wants to topple this government?"

"The huge irony is that a program that was supposed to support
democracy, which is all about good governance and transparency, was
delivered by deceptive means," said Richard Feinberg, a professor at the
University of California, San Diego, and senior director of
Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the
Clinton administration.

Even though the general public might associate USAID more with
humanitarian programs and disaster assistance, it has engaged in
democracy-building programs around the world with varying degrees of
success for decades.

Sometimes the programs have landed the agency in hot water.

In the 1960s and 1970s, for example, it partnered with the CIA's Office
of Public Safety to train foreign police forces in 17 countries in Latin
America, Africa and Asia.

After concerns were raised about U.S. funds being used to train officers
in authoritarian regimes that used torture against political prisoners,
Congress passed legislation in 1973 and 1974 to stop U.S. assistance to
foreign law enforcement forces except when it dealt with narcotics control.

But during the controversial 1990-2000 presidency of Alberto Fujimori,
USAID "was very supportive of pro-democracy groups in Peru," said
Shifter. "It was useful to help them create some political space in a
situation where the president essentially controlled everything."

Shifter also said some USAID-sponsored democracy building programs in
Ecuador have been effective and professional.

But late last year, Ecuador announced that USAID, which has worked in
the country for 50 years, was no longer welcome because U.S. authorities
failed to sign a bilateral cooperation agreement that regulates foreign
aid. In a statement, USAID said its pullout later this year would
jeopardize $32 million in projects.

President Rafael Correa had long accused the agency of supporting his
political foes through its democracy building and free-speech programs.

The announcement followed the decision by Bolivian President Evo Morales
to boot USAID last May.

But Herrick said USAID is committed to working in difficult
environments: "The closure of a USAID mission does not mean an end to
our support for democracy, human rights and governance in that country.
It may mean a change in approach, such as moving to new, innovative
platforms to support civil society, or virtual and third-country
training instead of in-country."

In the wake of the ZunZuneo debate, Gomez said he'd like to see more
innovative and effective democracy programs for Cuba.

Cuban democracy programs were established in 1996 under the Helms-Burton
Act, which tightened the embargo and seeks to encourage a regime change
in Cuba. In recent years the programs have received $15 million to $20
million in annual funding.

To be effective, Cuba democracy programs need to be "well-adapted to the
local social and political contexts,'' Feinberg said, "and lot of them
fail to meet this test."

"I'm hoping that ZunZuneo will lead to a careful rethinking of how Cuban
democracy funds can be re-channeled to programs that can lead to
meaningful change on the island,'' said Gomez.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Jim Wyss contributed to this report.

Source: Promoting democracy in countries where USAID isn't welcome is a
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Posted on Thursday, 04.10.14

Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
As senator Patrick Leahy calls ZunZuneo 'a cockamamie idea,' senators
Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez voice their support for the program.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
JTAMAYO@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM

Defenders of a U.S. government program for Cubans fired back in the U.S.
Senate on Thursday, with Marco Rubio urging the Twitter-like platform be
restored, and Bob Menendez asking for documents on all similar programs
around the world.

Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he
wants to figure out whether the ZunZuneo platform created by the U.S.
Agency for International Development was consistent with USAID programs
for Internet freedoms in other authoritarian countries.

"Our work in Cuba is no different than our efforts to promote freedom of
expression and uncensored access to information in Ukraine, Russia,
Belarus, Iran, China or North Korea," he told a committee hearing with
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

USAID's ZunZuneo program came under intense scrutiny after The
Associated Press reported that it was a "covert" effort to promote
opposition to the communist government. USAID and the White House have
rejected The AP's characterization.

With supporters of USAID's programs in Cuba saying they are legal and
necessary, and critics saying they are ineffective and wasteful, one
program supervisor who asked for anonymity said Wednesday that the
controversy "is turning into a food fight."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate appropriations panel,
told Shah during a hearing with his committee Tuesday that ZunZuneo,
which allowed Cubans to send short messages to each other from 2010 to
2012, was "a cockamamie idea."

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Cuban-American, says it was
"dumb, dumb, and even dumber" to suggest that Cubans don't deserve the
same freedoms as the rest of the world and took a jab at Leahy.

"Let me say for the record: When it comes to the issue of Cuba or your
work in any closed society, I do not believe that USAID's actions … are,
in any way, a 'cockamamie idea,' " he told Shah.

"You come at a time when USAID is making headlines for, in my mind,
doing nothing more than the job you were appointed to do," Menendez
said. "It is common sense that we shouldn't ask the government of Iran
or Egypt or China for permission to support advocates of free speech,
human rights, or political pluralism or to provide uncensored access to
the Internet or social media."

Rubio, a Cuban-American Republican from South Florida, said he wanted to
shoot down the "insinuation" that ZunZuneo was illegal and covert and
argued that the platform was successful, with 64,000 users before it ran
out of USAID money.

"When is the last time that we've been outraged by a government program
that undermines a tyranny and provides access to a people of a country
to the free flow of information and the ability to talk to each other,"
he asked.

"And so, my question would be, and I know this is a long-winded
question: When do we start this program again?" he said. "What do we
need to do to start, not just this program, but expand it, so that
people in Cuba can do what I just did?"

What Rubio had just done was to send a tweet that he said would have
landed him in jail if he had sent it from Cuba, where the government
blocks access to Twitter and holds a monopoly on Internet access and
telecommunications.

Rubio's tweet: "raul castro is a human rights violator &tyrant. people
of #cuba have a right to have access to internet and social media."

Source: Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
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Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso Torna /
HemosOido
Posted on April 9, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuba-United States confrontation increased its pitch
with the publication by the daily Granma of the article, Zunzuneo: The
Noise of Subversion, commenting on a report by the AP news agency about
ZunZuneo and Piramideo, two text message services (SMS) accused of
having illegally complied a list of telephone numbers to which it sent
unsolicited messages on innocent topics like sports and culture, but
which later would become subversive messages to young people, considered
"susceptible to political change."

According to Granma, the cornerstone of the ZunZuneo plan — a network
that emerged in February 2010 — was to access the "data and phone
numbers of Cubacel users," the branch with the most ETECSA users. In the
same paragraph, the Communist Party daily suggests: "It is not clear to
the AP how the telephone numbers were obtained although it appears to
indicate that it was done in an illicit manner."

Maybe the AP does not know that the ETECSA database — guide of mobile
and fixed (residential and commercial) telephone numbers — was leaked in
early 2010 to laptop and desktop computers all over the Island. And
that, immediately, promotional texts began to appear issued by Cuban
artistic groups or clubs and bulk messages — unsolicited — demanding
freedom for the five Cuban spies. I remember perfectly one that said:
"To love justice is to defend the five. End injustice! Freedom now!"

The official ETECSA database is updated every year. The latest version
that circulates in the population accounts for 60 per cent of the mobile
phones, some 200,000 users, not counting the residential sector. The
weight of this application in megabytes is between 200 and 450 (by
design) and can be copied in any digital format.

Is it possible that ZunZuneo got 25 thousand subscribers in less than
six months without the need of a database as the AP well reflects? Why
not talk about the so popular data leakage by ETECSA and the
proselytizing in its unsolicited text messages?

Thanks to a friend not tied to the internal oppositon or independent
journalism, I subscribed to ZunZuneo in 2010. It was all very simple, it
just required sending an SMS to a phone number outside the border and
you would receive news about sports, culture or science or technology.
Also, one could subscribe on the Internet, at a time when the number of
connected Cubans was barely 2.9 percent of the population.

Often senior citizens receive in Cuba promotional messages about a
reggaeton concert, also the "March of the Torches Parade in Havana — The
Great Country" is convened through Cubacel, as happened January 27 this
year. Is this not, perhaps, the equivalent of infringing on "the laws of
privacy" as Granma says of ZunZuneo?

Nothing is said about the database leak by Cubacel, software that has
generated groups of clandestine users and even phantom prepaid top-ups
within the informal Cuban market.

This Thursday, the US government responded to the AP's accusations.
White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that his government was
involved in the program and that it even had been approved in Congress.
But the spokesman for the State Department, Marie Harf, denied on
Thursday that the social network was the product of a secret or
undercover operation. "We were trying to expand the space for Cubans to
express themselves," said Harf.For his part, White House spokesman Jay
Carney denied that ZunZuneo had an undercover nature although he
clarified that the US president supports efforts to expand
communications in Cuba.

AP and international media that have reproduced the "scandal" of
ZunZuneo should know that the ZunZuneo application never was used for
any "subversive" movement in Cuba. Instead, the Cuban government used
the ETECSA database to send text messages advocating the liberation of
the five spies or the attendance at pro-governmental political events.

About a year ago, the ZunZuneo messages stopped. Cubans still do not
communicate freely.

Cubanet, April 8, 2014

Translated by mlk

Source: Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso
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The Means and the End / Regina Coyula
Posted on April 10, 2014

Much has been written about Zunzuneo and Piramideo and I'm not going to
be an analyst. My reflection is simple: Could a mass messaging through
Twitter subvert governments like those of Great Britain, Canada, France,
Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica?

Beyond the well-known 15-M (May 15th) protests in Spain, the student
movement in Chile, and Occupy Wall Street in the very belly of the
beast, the social networks have mobilized, have probably knocked down
politicians, but they haven't knocked down governments.

Where does this turn into a dangerous thing? In countries where a bad
economy, lack of freedoms, or both, create the conditions. The Arab
Spring is the best known referent. The displeasure of the Cuban
government is not about the alleged violation of the telephone privacy
of its citizens (that would be a colossal joke) but precisely because
the government knows very well the express or buried opinions of much of
its citizens about the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both, and
what they least want is that a significant group of them would organize
themselves through this means.

And also, I believe, reacting in the face of the launch of Yoani
Sanchez's announced project–a new digital newspaper–a "means" that could
align the feelings of citizens in response to the bad economy, the lack
of freedoms, or both.

9 April 2014

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A Dictatorship Exactly Like the Cuban? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on April 9, 2014

There are countries that never recover from totalitarianism. They remain
anthropologically backward, even though, after a more or less traumatic
transition from dictatorship to democracy they end up being First World
countries.

Faith in themselves and in society dies. A desolate loneliness is sown
in the souls of the surviving citizens, whether they were victims or
executioners. All hope is hopeless. Even God ends up suspected of a
debacle against divinity. They flee their past like the plague. The word
never regains its shine of a human thing and is devalued, like a bridge
permanently in danger of collapse. They cease to be a society to become
something far more sinister and silent. This is the transcendent triumph
of totalitarians: once installed, they are irreversible in perpetuity.

This happened in my country, Cuba, although almost no Cuban is capable
of recognizing it, perhaps to avoid his share of the blame.

This is happening in your country now, Venezuela, and half the world
seems to accept it with a criminal complicity.

When the machinery of the State is the deliverer of a Dogma that must be
imposed at any price, be it Mohammed or Marx, when the government
hijacks the balances that resolve and evolve within a modern society,
when the individual is worth less than an amorphous mass, when a whole
life turns into a vaudeville theater where the intelligence apparatus is
manipulating its script with puppets and deaths, then the damage to
civilization ends up being constitutional. Genetic. Generation after
generation. The human being is annihilated with a bullet to the head, or
condemned to decades in prison, or to permanent exile.

Paternalistic despotism is that simple, half slanderous and half
childish, in its radical simplicity. Like a boy who, in cold blood,
opens the entrails of a worm or a lizard that he trapped in the garden.
Fascist childhood, Eden of all extremisms—and exterminations.

There is something almost sanctifiable in these serial murderers in the
name of socialism and only of socialism, whether of the 21st century or
antiquity: there is no totalitarianism that hasn't justified its
genocides in the sacred name of a social good, with or without mixing
God into the equation of corpses piled over corpses piled over corpses.
Rude geology.

Whoever tires (of killing), loses. That is the limitless logic of the
State gangs, be they Muslims or Marxists.

And that happened in my country, Cuba, which in a few months paid with
thousands of deaths—and with an exile in the millions—for the barbaric
beauty of a Revolution that was applauded throughout Latin America.

And that is happening in your country now, Venezuela, which
unfortunately applauded the Fidelist feast of the anonymous dead of
Cuba, those who half a century back died in the mountains or on the
scaffold, also for you, trying—even with the assassination of the
commander in chief—to spare you this massacre that today continues to
excite the wicked international Left.

No dictatorship is exactly like the Cuban. But Castroism is exactly like
all dictatorships.

8 April 2014

Source: A Dictatorship Exactly Like the Cuban? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
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