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Oscar Elias Biscet Says That Cuba Can No Longer "Bring Down" The
Opposition / EFE (14ymedio)

EFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 26 May 2106 — Cuban dissident Oscar Elias
Biscet said Wednesday, on arriving at the Miami airport from Spain, that
the opposition on the island is "well defined" and that the regime "can
no longer bring it down."

Biscet, who was happy to be in "land of freedom" for Cubans, told
reporters that he would explain to the Cuban exile community in South
Florida his civic political project to end the dictatorship and promote
democracy, through a method of non-violent struggle.

The medical doctor said that the opposition is "very united" and that
part of the opposition is his initiative, the Emilia Project, which has
gathered the support of more than 3,000 signatures.

He noted that the signers are "brave people, who gave their names, who
gave their addresses, their identity card data, saying they do not want
more communism."

Biscet, 54, was optimistic that this group would become "a crowd that
would end the dictatorship in Cuba."

He said his initiative seeks to "make change by shifting the
superstructure" and he calls this "the revolution on non-violent human

The dissident was arrested in late 2002 and sentenced to 25 years in
prison for being part of the so-called Black Spring, where a group of
dissidents known as the Group of 75, were accused of conspiring with the
United States.

Biscet was released from prison in March 2011 during the process of the
release of political prisoners carried out by Raul Castro's government
after mediation by the Vatican.

The dissident, who visited Madrid to give a lecture and see friends,
admitted this week in Spain that he is afraid of reprisals in Cuba when
he returns.

Source: Oscar Elias Biscet Says That Cuba Can No Longer "Bring Down" The
Opposition / EFE (14ymedio) – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, 7 May 2016 — A black helicopter hovers at low altitude over
Havana Bay. Meanwhile, dozens of pedestrians on the streets below wave
and try to capture the image on their mobile phones.

The aircraft makes an acrobatic turn and flies back towards the port.
"Mijail, hurry up and try to get a photo now," yells a girl almost
hysterically to her boyfriend, who wastes no time activating the camera
from his old Motorola phone.

At the bus stop near the cruise terminal in the old part of the city,
everyone has a story to tell about filming in Havana for the eighth
installment of Fast & Furious.

Adelfa, a peanut vendor, observes, "A friend of mine who collects empty
beer and soda cans told me that — at the Hotel Saratogo, where the
actors and some yumas (Americans) are staying — they were handing out
twenty dollar bills to everyone who was in the Fountain of the Indian
across the street. I missed out. Now I am trying to sell peanuts where
people from Hollywood might be to see if they will give me something."

A guy with the look of a government official says to several people,
"The film producers paid forty million dollars to the local People's
Power administration for any inconvenience that might be caused."

His comments open up a debate. "Would you happen to know what the
government plans on doing with this money?" asks a man who says he has
been waiting an hour for the P-5 bus. "Will they fix the houses that are
falling down or buy new buses?"

A black youth who is listening to music removes his ear buds and
replies, "You want me to tell you what I think they will do with the
money? They will put it in a bank account in an overseas tax haven for
Daddy's kids: Antonio or Mariela Castro."

Some of those present cast sideways glances, an instinctive gesture in
Cuba denoting fear, to see if someone from the "apparatus" (political
police) have heard the young man's outburst.

On Wednesday, April 20, rehearsals began and on Friday, April 22, they
started shooting. From then until Thursday, May 5, when filming is
scheduled to end, several streets of Central Havana and Old Havana were
closed to traffic, forcing people to walk or take long detours to reach
homes or workplaces in those areas.

Production trailers, parked on the corner of Infanta and San Lazaro
streets, are surrounded by local residents and curious onlookers. Cuban
security personnel hired by the studio are harsh with people taking
photos and recording cell phone videos.

"It's what the producers ordered," a security guard, justifying this
behavior. "They claim that anyone can film a bit of something and then
post it on the internet. These people pay a lot and pay well but they
always want to control the rights to the film. In Cuba we don't know
anything about this."

Rumors about Fast & Furious producers handing out money by the fistful
are spreading throughout Havana.

Osvel, a driver for a taxi collective who works the Vibora-Vedado route,
notes, "They gave ONAT (the government agency that regulates
self-employment) three hundred dollars to give for every private-sector
worker in the area where they are filming. But the workers only got
forty convertible pesos apiece. They're taking a big cut."

Arianna, a secretary for ONAT, says, "I cannot confirm how much
producers paid. My bosses have not said anything about that, but I do
not think the government got that much, as always turns out to be the
case with these things."

As usually happens when it comes to the subject of money in Cuba, the
government has remained silent, which has only fed the rumor mill.
Getting anything out of a movie studio spokesperson is a mission
impossible for a independent journalist.

"When filming is complete, there will be a press conference," says a man
with a Universal Pictures badge. Not even the United States embassy in
Havana knows what the studio's plans are nor anything about a
hypothetical press conference with the actors and director.

"Private companies do not necessarily have to contact the embassy to
carry out their work. We only have access to governmental agencies,"
says an embassy spokeswoman.

Nor can she confirm various Fast & Furious rumors circulating through
the city. It is said, for example, that old car owners were paid eighty
thousand dollars for the use of their vehicles in collision scenes and
that extras were paid fifty dollars an hour.

The fact is that not since Fidel Castro's revolution has Cuba seen so
much Hollywood paraphernalia or such a waste of money.

"The last time Americans filmed here was in the mid-1959s when they
shot Our Man in Havana. They paid me ten dollars to play a fruit
vendor," says Ramon, a seventy-six-year-old man who, six decades later,
sells corn tamales corn from a bucket of hot water.

The movie, starring Alec Guinness and Maureen O'Hara and based on novel
by Graham Greene, won a Golden Globe in 1960.

But the street vendor was mistaken. Our Man in Havana was not an
American film; it was British. To Cubans all English speakers look alike.

Source: Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars / Ivan
Garcia – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Norwegian company looks at running ferry from Key West to Cuba
gfilosa@keynoter.comMay 28, 2016

Representatives of one of Norway's largest ferry operators met this week
with the city of Key West's port director, as city leaders say they
won't give up on the idea of landing a Key West-to-Cuba ferry.

The meeting between Norled executives and Port Director Doug Bradshaw on
Thursday was a courtesy meeting requested by the Norwegians, according
to city spokeswoman Alyson Crean.

But it's one more sign that Key West is doing what it can to once again
have a ferry service to Cuba, which sits nearly 100 nautical miles away.
Ferries between the two nations stopped when the countries broke off
diplomatic relations half a century ago. But relations were renewed in
late 2014.

Norled is "considering the startup of a regular 'day cruise service'
between Key West and a foreign destination, Ok-Hini Ronning wrote in a
company e-mail to the city obtained by the Keynoter. The company would
use a catamaran built to hold 300 passengers, the e-mail stated.

Crean confirmed the meeting took place but Norled has competition.

"Several companies are interested in doing a ferry service," said Mayor
Craig Cates. "I know there's three. I met with two six to eight months ago."

The city can eventually put out a request for proposals to find a
company to run the ferry service, Cates said. But first, the city needs
assurance from the federal government it would staff a new customs
office here.

Last November, the Key West City Commission ordered staff to figure out
if the existing ferry terminal, 100 Grinnell St., could be turned into a
customs facility. Such a project is estimated to cost $2 million.

"Some companies have said, 'We'll pay $2 million if you give us a
lease,' " Cates said.

Commissioner Richard Payne has pushed the Truman Waterfront as the best
location for a Cuba ferry, but the Navy closed the harbor to the public
in 2013 citing the need for military training as part of its national
security mission.

Cates said the Navy hasn't responded to requests by city leaders to sit
down and discuss reopening the harbor.

Source: Norwegian company looks at running ferry from Key West to Cuba |
News | KeysNet - Continue reading
EU provides drought support for Caribbean nations
Added 28 May 2016

SANTO DOMINGO – The impact of natural disasters is increasing, despite
countries' efforts to reduce it. Over the past year, drought has
affected more than 6.2 million people in the Caribbean, especially in
Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
Irregular and insufficient rainfall throughout 2015 has caused loss of
crop and livestock in the region. For the third consecutive year, some
people are facing periods of drought that threaten their livelihood,
with the most vulnerable groups being small producers, day-labourers and
people with no land of their own.
In this context, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil
Protection department (ECHO) is contributing 13.9 million euros to help
the Caribbean cope with drought in 2016, facilitating access to food and
water, and protecting the livelihoods of more than 429 000 people. The
European Commission has allocated 12.2 million euros of this
contribution to Haiti, 1.1 million euros to the Dominican Republic and
600 000 euros to Cuba.
Additionally, the European Commission continues its commitment to
Disaster Risk Reduction, helping the Caribbean prepare to cope with
future droughts by contributing 2.8 million euros in 2016: 1.5 million
for Haiti, 700 000 for the Dominican Republic and 600 000 for Cuba.
These actions will facilitate the sharing of good practice in the
current response implemented at local level, which can then be
replicated in the future. It is anticipated that around 200 000 people
in the region will be helped during 2016 to 2017.
These contributions are in addition to the more than 9.3 million euros
that the Commission provided for the region for Disaster Preparedness
during 2015 to 2016 through its DIPECHO programme (Disaster
Preparedness, ECHO), with the focus on strengthening local ability to
cope with future disasters. The key areas of intervention for this
programme, which benefits 410 000 people in 12 Caribbean countries,
include the strengthening of early warning systems, earthquake risk
preparedness and information concerning good practice in Disaster Risk
Since 1994, the European Commission has provided the Caribbean with a
total of 509.7 million euros in financial aid. Of this amount, 353.7
million euros have been allocated to Haiti, mainly in response to the
devastating earthquake of 12 January 2010, the fight against the cholera
epidemic, food insecurity and disaster preparedness. The remaining 156
million euros have provided support to the rest of the Caribbean in its
response to emergencies and activities aimed at disaster preparedness. (PR)

Source: EU provides drought support for Caribbean nations -- NationNews
Barbados -- Local, Regional and International News - Continue reading
Welcome to the new Cuba, where dog baths cost what some state workers
make in a whole paycheck
By Ana Campoy

If there's anything more anathema to the ideals of the Cuban Revolution
than a chihuahua-sized hoodie, I don't know what it is.

The story behind the racist Chinese ad where a black man gets his skin
color scrubbed off
Yet a Havana pet boutique I came across on a recent visit was selling
dog coats in both female and male designs for the equivalent of $18, not
far off an entire monthly salary for the average state worker. The pet
specialty shop, one of several in the Cuban capital, also had doggie
nail polish and American dog treats, likely smuggled in a suitcase on a
flight from Miami.

In today's Cuba, the Castro brothers stick to their communist spiel in
speeches, tourists continue to drool over Old Havana's crumbling
facades, but Cubans have moved on. Their sights are on branded sneakers
and all-inclusive beach vacations, the latest MacBook Air and a car to
get to work in. And thanks to legal changes in both Cuba and the US, a
growing number of them can actually afford those things.

As one local observer put it, the well-off have become the neediest
people in Cuba. And new businesses to serve those needs abound. For $60
a session, the island's nouveaux riches can get rid of tacky
communist-era tattoos. For $10 more, they can have a facial mud
mask—another superfluous vanity in a country where much of the
population is seemingly blessed with near-flawless skin.

Why does gin and tonic taste so good?
The rise of this consumer class is the new Cuban revolution. Its members
are sidestepping the island's schizophrenic, half-planned, half
market-driven economic model, and going full-blown capitalist. Give them
a few years, and they will turn Cuba around.

First, though, they need their dogs groomed.

Capitalism, self-multiplied

The whims of the wealthiest Cubans are contributing to a chain reaction
that's pulling everyone up the socioeconomic ladder. How it started
dates back to the final days of the Soviet Union.

Desperate for cash after the Soviet collapse, Fidel Castro flung Cuba's
doors open to tourism, and released Cubans to strike out on their own,
albeit in a highly restricted set of economic activities.

The pace of reform quickly picked up after Raúl Castro took over from
his more dogmatic older brother in 2008. He opened up more sectors to
cuentapropistas, or private entrepreneurs. In a stunning break with
previous rules, he even allowed them to hire workers who were not
actually related to them.

Meanwhile, in the US, president Barack Obama opened up the remittance
floodgates and in not-so-many-words told Americans it was now okay to
visit Cuba as tourists. Money orders worth roughly $2 billion a year
started gushing in, along with dollar-toting rubberneckers. The
cuentapropistas catering to them and the lucky Cubans with rich
relatives abroad had cash to burn. Thanks to the paquete semanal, the
stash of foreign media delivered weekly on USB sticks—a kind of
pre-internet internet—they also got ideas on how to spend it.

Other enterprising Cubans obliged, opening up spinning gyms,
party-planning companies, and private kindergartens. All those
businesses have employees, also considered cuentapropistas, earning
several times a state salary. This has added yet another layer of
consumers to the economy.

To be sure, even the richest Cubans would be considered middle-class
elsewhere. And many in Cuba's new private sector are barely making
enough to survive. But they, too, seem to be driven by the intoxicating
promise of stuff—everything from $67 Puma sneakers to new Audis, which
stand out amid Cuba's otherwise dilapidated fleet like American tourists
on the Malecón.

The officially estimated number of cuentapropistas has now reached some
half a million.

That's 10% of the workforce, and it doesn't include another 600,000 or
more making money in the underground economy, according to Richard
Feinberg, a Cuba scholar at the University of California, San Diego.

On May 24, the government announced that it would grant legal
recognition to small and medium-sized private businesses. Though details
on what this means are scarce, it could potentially lift many of the
current barriers that have stunted private enterprise.

Quick studies

The speed at which Cuba has caught up to standards outside the island is
mind-boggling. When Kché, a beauty salon, started out 11 years ago, it
consisted of one office chair and an antique sewing-machine table that
had been turned into a manicure counter.

Its owner, Cassandra López Tirado, had studied business management back
when "business" meant a slightly more independent branch of the
government. But a financial statement is a financial statement, she
says, whether you're at a state firm or a private company. She's gone
from being a state-employed shoe buyer making 300 pesos ($11) a month to
earning enough for a nanny, spinning lessons, and pet-parlor visits for
her dog.

Not that it's been easy. López Tirado has to buy nail polish at state
stores, at retail prices, because she has no access to the wholesale
market. Loans are hard to get and, when available, tend to be small, so
she had to rely on her savings, and the ornate apartment she inherited
from her aunt, to set up her newest salon on Havana's happening Calle 23.

The clucking chickens and the goat tied in the driveway a few buildings
down take Kché's classy ambience down a notch. Still, it's way more
sumptuous than many of the strip-mall salons that dot the US. It has
crystal chandeliers, perfectly restored, double-height ceilings, and a
gigantic vase of fragrant tiger lilies to greet customers.

It also has a much wider array of services than I'm used to back in the
US, all priced in CUCs, Cuba's secondary currency, which trades
one-to-one with the dollar. I had to Google some of the beauty
treatments on the list: Diamond-tip dermabrasion (essentially
dead-skin-cell vacuuming) and radiofrequency (or sagging-skin repair
without undergoing the knife).

There's also tattoo removal, made possible by a machine López Tirado
imported from the US in her suitcase. She reserves that service for
clients with smallish tattoos, because after all, this is still Cuba.
Who can afford the multiple $60-an-hour sessions needed to clear a large
swath of inked skin?

Actually, who can afford any of this stuff? I asked several experts that
question, and they said the answer is hard to pin down, because the
Cuban government doesn't acknowledge this social class, much less put
out statistics on it. Roughly speaking though, it's a heterogeneous
group of remittance recipients and independent entrepreneurs—people who
range from artists to babalaos, the Afro-Cuban priests commissioned to
perform other-worldly services. The academics I spoke with did not
mention prostitutes, but one business owner I interviewed whispered to
me that they, too, have small fortunes to drop on clothes and beauty salons.

Kché's clientele doesn't want the out-of-date techniques imparted at
state-run beauty schools. So the manicurists dutifully study the latest
international styles on YouTube beauty videos included every week in the
paquete. I got a pedicure adorned with a cute sparkly flower. It cost me
two CUCs and I left another two as a tip.

The ultimate middle-class indulgence

On a recent Friday morning, all the kennels at iDog, a pet salon in one
of Havana's nicer residential neighborhoods, were occupied by slightly
irritated dogs and one sleeping cat.

Since it opened three years ago, the business has exploded. Yorkies
alone take up six pages of the ruled notebook that serves as iDog's
client directory, says Anitée Vidal, one of the groomers. After studying
veterinary medicine, she's now getting an education in the kind of
marketing that spurs consumers to buy things they don't really need,
like polka-dot doggie bows. And I get why she's there, trimming dog ears
and paws. It's way better than working at a threadbare animal clinic, or
inspecting pig parts at a meat-packing plant, some of the state-job

iDog is covered in minimalist red tile and pictures of cute dogs. There
is a clear divider between the small receiving area and the grooming
stations so owners can see first-hand the devoted care doled out to
their pets. The air-conditioning is always on.

It wasn't that long ago that dogs were just another animal to Cubans,
says Vidal. But a growing number of Cuban families now treat their dogs
the way dogs are treated by the affluent in other countries—like spoiled
children. A client who dropped in while I chatted with Vidal couldn't
stop kissing her baby pit bull. It's named "Limbo," after the new
restaurant/bar her family is opening. The puppy sleeps with her, she
says, and gets a helping of her restaurant meals.

Another client, who pulled up in a modern Chinese sedan, was less
affectionate with his fluffy white dog. He takes her to iDog because he
has too much work to do to bathe her himself. Our conversation quickly
petered out after I asked him what it was that kept him so busy. He
loaded his perfumed dog into his new car and drove off.

Veterinarians can't yet get cuentapropista licenses. But if and when
they do, and if she can cobble together enough capital, Vidal hopes to
open her own clinic, going after the kinds of clients who come to iDog.
Like many of the Cubans I met during my visit, she's caught the
entrepreneurial bug.

The American dream, Cuban style

Castro came to power partly on the back of resentment at the excesses of
a small, corrupt elite. But two generations on, many Cubans say that
when they see the new elite's ballooning prosperity, they want to
reproduce it, not expropriate it.

It's hard to see the state's staid bureaucracy holding them back, much
less competing with them. A taxi driver pools his family savings to buy
one of the dilapidated American cars pictured in nearly every Cuban
postcard. He restores it and is now getting ready to sell it at several
times its original value. With the money, he plans to buy an even better
car to repeat the process.

A mathematician repurposes himself as a photographer of quinceañeras, or
girls turning 15. He promotes his services, which cost around $300 a
session, on Facebook, and on the glitzy virtual pages of Primavera, a
paquete-distributed magazine in PDF format and devoted to the teen
market. He proudly shows me his latest photos; they show a gangly girl,
posing provocatively, half-immersed in the Caribbean. The idea for the
setting came from his art director—a necessity, he says, to stand out in
his competitive line of business.

Then there's Sandro Fernández López, a personal trainer who wants to
spread the tropical version of spinning he's developed. He's doing all
the right things. He came up with a catchy name: "Q'suin", which is how
a Cuban would say "What swing!" He has a logo, and is in the process of
registering a trademark. He assembled a crowd of more than 700 last year
to watch sweat-dripped Q'suin practitioners dance atop stationary bikes.
Red Bull was a sponsor.

And yet he's not making any money off his idea. He needs a partner to
launch Q'suin classes at hotels in Cuba, or gyms abroad, but
cuentapropistas are not allowed to strike direct deals with government
entities or foreign companies.

For now, his business plan requires way more than what Cuba's confining
private-business rules allow.

But even as Fernández López struggles within Cuba's weird breed of
socialist capitalism, the achievements of the revolution are not lost on
him. A while ago, as he was planning a trip abroad, his heart failed. He
spent 15 days in the hospital, for free. "Had I left," he says, "I would
be dead."

Unlike the thousands of Cubans who are abandoning the island to try
their luck abroad, he's staying put.

"I'm hoping for my dream to come true," he says of Q'suin, "and that
it's here in Cuba."

Source: Welcome to the new Cuba, where dog baths cost what some state
workers make in a whole paycheck - Yahoo Finance -;_ylt=AwrC0CNQYElXkGcAN1LQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByOHZyb21tBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg-- Continue reading
"I'm Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens" / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

by Lumumba residents against the dumping of solid waste in the
neighborhood is all but lost. The garbage dump, established three years
ago, is bigger today and includes debris from roadwork done in the area.

According to residents, there were initially only twenty meters of
trash, but today it covers more than a hundred. Local residents point to
Comunales, the company in charge of collecting the solid waste, as the
main cause for what is happening.

"They blame us for creating this dump but it's not our fault. In this
borough (Arroyo Naranjo) it's Comunales; they are the ones responsible
for all the waste here," said Amelia Corrales, a resident of Lumumba.

"The problem is that we are black and that makes us scapegoats," notes
Yaima Lombillo, a resident of a neighborhood that is predominately
dark-skinned. We either have to put up with it or set the trash ablaze
to get the firemen to come, as happened three months ago."

Enrique Peña, a worker at the local headquarters of the company, says
that every three months they pick up all the refuse. "We come with a
six-person brigade, two trucks and a bulldozer to collect the debris
left there by residents. It takes us three hours and in the end
everything is clean," he said. Pity.

He continues, "We don't throw our trash there but neither do we make
sure that some of our workers aren't dumping garbage there instead of
going someplace further away."

But the problem is that residents do see company workers dumping their

"I passed there three times yesterday and there was a worker throwing
garbage there instead of picking it up. When I returned, there was
another one doing the same thing. We will continue living in filth and
breeding more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes [carriers of dengue fever and the
zika virus]," said Miguel Borroto, an area resident.

Local authorities have not responded to the problem. Attempts were made
to speak to the local representative but he refused to discuss it. "I am
very busy and am not going to my waste time talking to you," said
Alejandro, the area's representative, when I asked him about the Lumumba

Residents will have to make due with Comunales' three-month schedule for
cleaning an area which apparently its own employees are trashing. "I am
not expecting much," says Yaima Lombillo, "so I am going to set fire to
it all and see what happens."

Source: "I'm Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens" / Anddy
Sierra Alvarez – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request
May 26, 2016
By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press
freedom watchdog group, was denied consultative status at the United
Nations on Thursday, with South Africa, Russia and China among the
countries that opposed it.

The United States quickly denounced the decision and vowed to try to
overturn it.

New York-based CPJ reports on violations of press freedom in countries
and conflict zones around the world, reporting and mobilizing action on
behalf of journalists who have been targeted. A U.N. panel rejected its
application for status that would have given it access to U.N.
headquarters and allowed it to participate in U.N. events.

The 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations has for
years delayed action on the group's application for accreditation. CPJ
Executive Director Joel Simon described the NGO committee process as

"A small group of countries with poor press freedom records are using
bureaucratic delaying tactics to sabotage and undermine any efforts that
call their own abusive policies into high relief," he said in a statement.

The NGO committee rejected CPJ's application with 10 votes against, six
in favor and three abstentions.

Normally the committee decides by consensus. But a senior U.S. diplomat
requested a vote after South Africa and other committee members kept
posing questions that the United States and others denounced as a
delaying tactic.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Washington
would seek to overturn the NGO committee's "outrageous" decision by
calling for a vote in the 54-nation U.N. Economic and Social Council.

"We are extremely disappointed by today's vote," she told reporters. "It
is increasingly extremely clear that the NGO committee acts more and
more like an anti-NGO committee."

Western diplomats said the U.N. NGO committee has become increasingly
unfriendly to organizations supporting Western notions of human rights,
noting that gay rights NGOs and other groups have had trouble securing

The NGO committee's current members are Azerbaijan, Burundi, China,
Cuba, Greece, Guinea, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritania, Nicaragua,
Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, United States, Uruguay
and Venezuela.

Western diplomats said they were especially disappointed by South
Africa, whose delegation criticized CPJ for, among other things, not
supporting punishment for speech that incites hatred. The CPJ has noted
that there is no internationally agreed definition of the term "hate

A Russian delegate said he had "serious doubts about whether this
organization really is a non-governmental organization."

China, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan were also among those that voted
against CPJ's accreditation.

Azerbaijan, Iran, China, and Cuba are on the CPJ's list of the 10
most-censored countries. It says on its website that the legacy of
Nelson Mandela's drive for press freedom in South Africa has faded.

On Russia it says: "Russia has a poor record of impunity in the cases of
murdered journalists, which increases intimidation and acts of violence
against the press."

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)

Source: U.N. panel rejects press freedom watchdog accreditation request
- Continue reading
Havana's Man in Washington Takes to Twitter for Q&A
May 26, 2016 1:41 pm ET

Diplomats are increasingly turning to Twitter to engage with people
around the world and Thursday was no different. Except that the diplomat
the social media platform featured in a live question-and-answer
session hails from a country with extremely low Internet access and
scant press freedom.

José Ramón Cabañas, Cuba's ambassador to the U.S. in Washington, spent
about an hour answering questions via his verified account, from which
he frequently tweets.

He weighed in, in English and Spanish, on the significance of President
Barack Obama's March visit to the island, diplomatic contacts and
priorities between the two countries, whether Cuba's president Raúl
Castro would make a trip of his own to Washington and his taste in
music, among other topics.

Source: Havana's Man in Washington Takes to Twitter for Q&A - Washington
Wire - WSJ - Continue reading
Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams
May 26, 2016
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES – When our children left home it was as if the sky had
fallen; my wife and I fell in what is known as the "empty nest
syndrome". Suddenly we were without our main occupation; educate this
pair of boys who gave us life.

Grisel, an excellent psychologist and best friend was the one who gave
us the key to get out of this existential anguish. Write down on paper
all the things you had wanted to do and had to forego to devote time to
your children, she said.

I realized then that we are not what we want to be but what the
circumstances impose and that can be projected to Cuba as a whole. I had
read somewhere that Cuban society in general and individual Cubans are
not what they had wanted to be.

For half a century they lived in a "besieged plaza" and adapted to the
circumstances; rationed food and freedoms, a single centralized chain of
command, unanimous unity, the nation above the individual and a single
slogan: resist, resist and resist.

Perhaps resistance could have been done differently or perhaps there was
no alternative to successfully stand up to the wrath of the world's
greatest economic and military power. The costs were high but even Obama
acknowledged that they had been unable to subdue Cuba by force.

But the fact is that in this process the nation ceased to be what it
wanted to be, adapting all the time to aggressions. If today you have a
dual currency, for example, it was because one day the US decided to
punish banks that receive dollars from Cuba.

However, now the "enemy" recognizes its failure, begins to lift the
siege mounted against the island and develops a new strategy that puts
the dispute on a different plane and changes "the circumstances" of
Cuban society.

The government complains that Washington is moving too slowly in the
dismantling of the economic war but perhaps they should be thankful
because it gives them the time to develop the new Cuban strategy adapted
to this context.

My wife and I had it worse when our children left home, almost
overnight, without giving us the shortest time to adapt our lives but we
finally managed to recycle or our original plans, those that had been
continually postponed.

Obama's policy regarding Cuba is not the same as that of his
predecessors; therefore Cuba's policy should also be different. However,
designing the new society only thinking in response to the US takes away
possibilities for the nation.

Perhaps the advice of my friend Grisel would serve the whole society,
look back and remember that nation it had wanted to build. Not
everything will be useful in the present circumstances but it will serve
as a compass to resume aspirations and redraw the course.

With the change of US policy the nation should not fall asleep but it
can dream again and even build on one of those old dreams that one day
was left in the storage room because the times demanded their being
very, very awake.

The exercise could be useful even to bring the different generations
closer. Possibly if a young Cuban asks his/her grandfather what society
he dreamed of in 1959 they will realize that it is much like the Cuba
that today's youth are seeking.

Source: Cuba and its Outstanding Dreams - Havana - Continue reading
Hearing in lawsuit for Cubans who climbed Keys lighthouse

A hearing is set in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Cuban
migrants seeking to remain in the U.S. after they climbed onto a
lighthouse several miles off the Florida Keys.

A hearing is set in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of Cuban
migrants seeking to remain in the U.S. after they climbed onto a
lighthouse several miles off the Florida Keys.

An attorney for the migrants says he's hopeful a Miami federal judge
will order at Friday afternoon's hearing that the Cubans remain under
U.S. control until the matter is settled. The 21 migrants are on a Coast
Guard cutter.

Under the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, Cubans who reach U.S. shores are
usually allowed to stay, while those intercepted at sea are generally
returned to the communist island.

The lawsuit claims the 136-year-old American Shoal lighthouse on a reef
off Sugarloaf Key should qualify as U.S. territory so the migrants can
stay. U.S. officials disagree.

Source: Hearing in lawsuit for Cubans who climbed Keys lighthouse | In
Cuba Today - Continue reading
"The Cuban justice system is seriously corrupt"
DDC | Oslo | 26 Mayo 2016 - 9:03 pm.

For more than 15 years the Cubalex Legal Information Center has been
providing free guidance to Cubans, who, lacking resources and
information, must grapple with the regime's legal system.

Cubalex also advises Cubans and foreigners with regards to human rights,
and drafts reports for international organizations about the situation
in the island.

One indication of this independent project's success are the
approximately 120 requests for advice that it currently receives per
month. Another, the regime's harassment of its members.

Independent lawyer Laritza Diversent, the Director of Cubalex, spoke
with DIARIO DE CUBA at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

What does Cubalex's work consist of?

People come to Cubalex with housing problems, criminal matters, or want
to ask us questions. We do not discriminate. Most people have no
political motivations. They come to us to solve personal problems.

We ask for documentation, as one of our limitations is that we cannot
access records like the lawyers at the Collective Firms can. We conduct
a first interview and create a digital record that allows our lawyers to
carry out an analysis and assess each case.

We determine whether there have been any human rights violations, what
strategy to follow, if it is necessary to appeal to the international
level, but first internal legal channels must be exhausted.

The work can sometimes take between 15 to 20 days, because we labor
under difficult conditions, but when they come we give them a printed
document so they can present it directly to the authorities.

What kind of cases do you tend to receive?

Most of the cases we get at Cubalex are criminal matters, very shocking
murders, situations that clearly evidence the violence, often extreme,
affecting Cuban society, in which women bear the brunt. Apart from the
events themselves, we have also found very serious due process violations.

Prisoners and their families are among our main clients. Most of our
services are discussed inside the prisons, as the inmates themselves
pass the word on. They ask mothers and wives to come to us.

We are working, for example, with a blind mother who for two years has
been unable to visit her son in prison because he was transferred. That
mother is raising her grandson because her son killed his wife, the
child's mother. Such are most of the cases; people who are facing
critical social situations.

How many requests for assistance have you received since the project
began in 2010?

I can't venture an exact figure, but I would say more than 5,000. In the
last four months some 300 people have turned to us.

There is a lot of domestic violence, injuries suffered by women,
murders. The Government does not issue statistics on gender violence,
but what we see the most are cases of violence, intimidation and murder.
They are disturbing.

How do you work on a project like this, not recognized by the
Government? What kind of problems do you run into?

Almost all the cases that come to us have already been heard. Sometimes
they come to us during the investigation phase, but those involved are
compelled to hire a defense attorney from a Collective Firm, so in this
regard we cannot do anything.

What we can is to advise, orient. We say "look for this evidence, do
this, present that" because, generally speaking, unless you pay the
official attorney, they're not going to show much interest.

We provide technical assistance mechanisms to deal with the mechanisms
of the system. A lawyer may charge extra fees of 100, 200 or 400
dollars. Many of the people we see have no money even to pay the
attorney they're assigned. So, their lawyer often receives the case
immediately before the trial. It is very common to find contradictions
between what the lawyer and his client have said.

How serious is the corruption in the judicial system?

The justice system is seriously corrupt. Lawyers, prosecutors and judges
... many charge through the defense lawyers and ask for astronomical
figures that it is very difficult for a Cuban to come up with, unless he
has family abroad.

We have received cases of Cuban Americans charged with drug trafficking,
and in this regard we have achieved positive results. State justice
authorities have accepted appeals that we have prepared. We drew up the
appeals for a good number of those acquitted in 2015.

How many lawyers work at Cubalex? How do they join the project?

We have only four lawyers working full time at our "offices," which
consist of two rooms of my own house. Cubalex also offers advisory
services in Camagüey and Granma, where there are two lawyers.

First we look at the evolution of each person and their real interest,
and then we integrate him into the team. We don't close the door on
anyone, but one of the requirements is that they cannot work with the
Government, and they must have a bachelor's degree in Law.

We are now trying to form a multidisciplinary team. We have a
psychologist, a doctor and a social and prison investigator, working
from within these institutions, with the cooperation of prisoners.

What other lines of work does Cubalex have?

Legal professionals, a prosecutor, for example, do not take into account
the issue of gender when applying the law, and sometimes they do so
crudely and arbitrarily, in a way that is sexist. We consider this
institutional violence.

During the investigative work we have done we have found that most men
deprived of their freedom, more than 50%, are from families of African
descent living in slums.

This caught our attention, and we are conducting a transversal analysis
of the issue of gender, the plight of Afro-cubans, and criminal penal
policy. We started working on these research topics to present reports
on human rights.

We also strive for civil society to receive more information on human

We started out with workshops, going to organizations, mostly in the
eastern region, and with the Damas de Blanco. We managed for them to at
least begin to gather information about arrests. We teach them to act as
observers and not as victims.

Unfortunately, we have not yet succeeded in getting them to document
things thoroughly. We are planning a course for human rights activists,
to teach them mainly to document and exhaust internal legal channels
before taking their grievances international.

We were struck by the fact that, between December 2013 and December
2014, Cuba had only three complaints at the international level. That is
because civil society was not doing its job. How are you going to go the
United Nations to report human rights violations if there are no records
of complaints?

You mentioned gender violence and racial discrimination.

Crime statistics are secret in Cuba. We do not know, for example, the
number of murders, or femicides. The statistics are only those that are
issued by institutions such like the Interior Ministry and the Public
Prosecutor's Office. Some defense attorney might have access, but not
because they are public.

Police pursue lines of investigation based on racial profiling, which
constitutes institutional discrimination. Most Cubans of African
descent, we have seen in our research, live in marginal areas and their
social situations are dire. We have to work on a bill so that, at least,
positive measures are taken to address the challenges facing Afro-Cubans.

In the case of black women, they are discriminated against not only due
to the color of their skin, but also because of their sex. Almost all
live in slums, with rundown infrastructure and dreadful health and
hygiene conditions.

How does the regime react to the work of a project like Cubalex?

One of the regime's objectives is to isolate us, and to this end it
resorts to harassment. It is totally different from what it does with
activists who protest publicly. In our case, it is with threats,
interrogations, official citations... But we have a policy of not
accepting any citations if they are not signed by a court clerk.

Although until now it has not gone further, the regime has become more
aggressive of late. In April they prevented me from giving a talk on the
election issue. They surrounded the house and would not let me leave.
And, at airports the tactic is to review things, make you uncomfortable,
take what they believe is suspect.

There are neighbors who collaborate with State Security forces. There
are many who support us, but those closest are watching us. Security
forces don't show up directly to repress you, but they use other
indirect methods, involving your family and your close circle, to wear
you down and demoralize you. Repression takes the form of constant
surveillance, threats, and isolation.

Source: "The Cuban justice system is seriously corrupt" | Diario de Cuba
- Continue reading
The Mercado Único will be renovated ... but don't hold your breath.
PABLO PASCUAL MÉNDEZ PIÑA | La Habana | 27 Mayo 2016 - 10:19 am.

"Mala lengua conocida/ hablando mal de Machado/ que te ha puesto allí un
mercado/ que te llena la barriga/ La mujer de Antonio/ camina así" (A
famous sharp-tongued woman/ badtalking Machado/ who put a market there
for you/ that fills your belly/Antonio's wife /walks like this) sang the
trio Matamoros in its popular guaracha, back in 1928. But if the
Mercado (market) de Cuatro Caminos was the inspiration for the song's
lyrics, they made a mistake, as the landmark building opened in 1920,
when Mario García Menocal was the President of the Republic. And in
early 2014, without any official explanation, it was closed.

However, in the last 15 days, its perimeter has been covered with
galvanized steel plates, and signs have gone up reading, under a sketch
of the building in perspective: "Work on the Mercado de Cuatro Caminos;
License: 2304-100-1609-1 -2013; Designer and Investor: CIMEX;
Contractor: ECUSE; Completion date: December / 2019." Among other
details we can deduce, based on the code, that the project dates from
2013, one year before the closing. And the traditional participation of
the Office of the City Historian has been forgone.

In this way the military consortium GAESA went public with the
commencement of work to reconstruct the popular market delimited by the
streets Monte, Matadero, Arroyo and Cristina, in the Havana municipality
of Cerro. The construction involves two levels; a basement and a surface
area of ​​11,000 square meters.

Without even entering the site one can appreciate the ramshackle state
of the light, hipped roof, which lacks a significant number of
corrugated asbestos cement tiles resting on a frame of steel, joined by
rivets that remain rusty due to the lack of paint and their exposure to
the elements.

Despite its age (96 years since its construction), neglect, lack of
maintenance, and the heavy toll taken by car fumes, the building's
exterior is not in such bad shape.

Exhibiting an eclectic style typical of the first third of the 20th
century, its four exterior walls feature a number of pillars, openings,
arches, cornices and brackets, among other architectural elements which,
to the naked eye, do not feature damage that would prevent its restoration.

The mezzanine floor is of reinforced concrete and sustained by a series
of square columns with expanded capitals, affected by some structural
problems not classified as serious by the experts consulted, as are the
public entryways. Unfortunately, the state of the basement could not be
assessed, as access to the area was barred.

According to the sketch appearing on the sign, skylights or dormer
windows will be used – a plausible solution given that these features
can reduce energy costs during daylight hours by up to 25%. This system
was, in fact, widely employed in industrial architecture during the era.

What is distressing about the information one finds on the fence is that
the restoration work will take three years, an extremely protracted
period, in the view of specialists. And, according to sources with the
contractor hired for the project (ECUSE is a company attached to the
CIMEX corporation, dedicated to the repair and maintenance of automotive
systems and construction), the lack of skilled labor to complete the
work is alarming, due to the meager incentives. Therefore, it is
possible that the late deadline will not even be met, as is often the case.

In the memories of old Havanans

The original name of the property was the Mercado General de Abasto y
Consumo (General Supply and Consumption Market), and its construction
cost 1.2 million pesos at the time. Its administration was initially
assigned by the City of Havana to the Cuban politician and entrepreneur
Alfredo Hornedo, back when the capital listed a population of some 400,000.

In an article entitled "El Mercado Único" (The Sole Market), published
in the daily Juventud Rebelde, Ciro Bianchi stated that the concession
granted to Hornedo prohibited the opening of another similar market
within a radius of 2.5 kilometers, and within 700 meters for the most
humble sellers of foods and fruits and vegetables, hence its "Sole"

On the ground floor of the market agricultural products were sold, and
upstairs, meats and foods of all kinds. The freezers were found in the
basement. In the late evening the goods arrived on trucks, and were then
unloaded in the central courtyard, from which they were distributed to
the sales stands. There they were usually sold in the early morning
hours. After 9:00 am the products were discounted and sold to the mobile
vendors, to keep from storing them in the basement freezers. At 11:00
am the market closed for cleaning.

Felipe, a 78-year-old retiree who worked as a vendor in the 50s, said
the carts were rented at a daily cost of 40 cents, from a warehouse on
the Calle Vives, just a few blocks away. Many of the products were sold
"with the pointing of a finger;" that is, they could paid for later,
after their second sale. "Back then honesty was a good deal," he recalls.

Fish and shellfish were brought directly by the fishermen. They came
fresh and packed in zinc boxes full of ice. Lobster, shrimp, snapper,
yellowtail snapper, sawfish, grouper and other species stood out, among
others on offer. There was also a stand called El Escorial, where live
animals for sale were kept in cages on a shelf.

Most of the sellers were Spanish and Chinese immigrants; the former
mainly ran the stands selling meat, while the latter hawked fruits and
vegetables. Later Polish Jews began to run some of the stalls.

Some companies were present at the Mercado Único: the Compañía de
Armadores de Barcos, the American Chomer Fruit Company, and others. The
market housed a tavern, and various cafes and bars that were open 24 hours.

Antonio, a former tobacco vendor, age 82, still laughs about a trick he
played on a Chinese man at the Mercado Único. He shared how he put a
dead cockroach in a matchbox, went to the tavern and, after bingeing on
fried rice, dropped the insect into what remained on his plate.
Discreetly, but with an expression of outrage, he went up to the Chinese
man and said: "Look at this," to which he replied, "You no pay, you no
pay, you shut mouth."

José Candelario, an 84-year-old retiree, before 1959 was one of the many
night owls who, after frequenting bars, cabarets and other nightclubs
ended up at the Mercado de Cuatro Caminos. "Those soups cured your
hangover in a flash," he recalls. "I couldn´t even eat a full plate of
fried rice, the servings were so huge .... Oh, and the price for both
dishes was 25 cents. Those days were wonderful, until Mr. Barbatruco
(Fidel Castro) showed up, and brought hunger and misery."

Source: The Mercado Único will be renovated ... but don't hold your
breath. | Diario de Cuba - Continue reading
'El Sexto': "Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them." /
14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin

EFE (via 14ymedio), Maria Tejero Martin, Oslo, 24 May 2016 – Danilo
Maldonado is known as El Sexto the name engraved in ink on his skin and
that he paints on the walls of Havana to plant an idea of freedom in his
compatriots, like a seed that flourishes and breaks the "dangerous
myths" that, he says, surround Cuba.

When he was nine he caused his mother grief when he drew Fidel Castro in
his military uniform but with the head of a monkey; by his twenties he
had decided to turn himself into the antihero El Sexto (The Sixth), in
response to the regime's campaign to free Los Cinco (The Five), Cuban
agents arrested in the United States.

In his thirties, after the United States initiated contacts with Cuba
after years of the embargo, Maldonado "knew I would go to jail" he told
EFE, when he was inspired to paint the names "Raul" and "Fidel" on the
backs of two pigs for a piece of Orwellian inspired performance art
which he was unable to carry out.

"The worst thing is that I never got to release them, but I went to
jail, I went to jail for something that never existed, without cause or
role," explained Maldonado, who was declared a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International.

His incarceration prevented him from collecting the Vaclav Havel Prize
for creative dissent a year ago in Oslo, and today he is in the
Norwegian capital for the first time, where he is participating in the
Oslo Freedom Forum, although he says that he has already attended this
annual forum of activists and defenders of human rights "in conscience."

This is a basic word for this artist who considers himself a "prisoner
of conscience" who seeks to "awaken" the conscience of Cubans and open
the eyes of foreigners whose romanticism prevents them from seeing that
the vintage cars that circulate around Havana "means that we are stuck
in time."

Meanwhile he draws on a page, showing the Little Prince that he carries
on his long lean arm. And if, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery's character
would say, "the essence is invisible to the eyes," Maldonado feels that
his mission is to attack just there, on the plane of abstract
consciousness, where he "works with things that don't exist to make them
a reality."

Like freedom in Cuba, he laments, although he is "sure" that art will
first bring rights to the island and later allow them to become reality,
in the same way, he explains, that he conceived the hunger strike he
undertook in prison as a work of art titled "Mao's awakening."

"I said that if consciousness could change what is, it should save me
from there, I would die because I would have been talking complete shit.
The bars have to opened by the hands of the repressor himself, only in
this way will art exist. And so it happened," he affirmed.

Maldonado believes that art can serve as a catalyst for any change, like
a predecessor, and says that "an idea can destroy what exists." Even the

"I want to bring down a dictatorship that has lasted for a very long
time in my country, demystify it and demystify the false canons it was
selling, like that of Che Guevara," says El Sexto.

"Often it sold [the idea] that wearing green and roaming the world with
weapons was cool. And it is not cool. Cool was a guy like Martin Luther
King, Mahatma Gandhi or Christ. But cool is not the type of people who
believe they are rebels and what they are is a murderer who wants to
impose his idea," he added.

Maldonado does not mince words, either to defend the caricatures of
Muhammad or to charge his followers who have spent centuries killing in
his name.

"That is what I don't want to have happen in my country, that I die and
that fucking nutcase passes as a savior. What I want is that my art
demystifies and destroys him, leaves his essence in the base and that
people understand he is not good," he says, referring to Castro.

For him, he is confident that "art can do anything," even with some
"very dangerous myths."

"They manage to go on for so long that if people don't chip away at them
they are more dangerous dead than alive. But an idea can destroy and
undermine anything (…) That is why they fear me and follow me. They took
me prisoner because they know of this influence," says the artist, who
says he will continue living in Cuba and will give his life for what he
considers his duty: "Awakening" consciences.

Source: 'El Sexto': "Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break
them." / 14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 25 May 2016 — For Cubans who update
their domestic entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and
anonymous "Weekly Packet," a subtitle in bright greenish-yellow letters
at the beginning of movies has become familiar. It is the ever present, which appears so frequently that it spurred my curiosity:
I found it impossible to recognize what country corresponded to the
extension ".nu" so I turned to the always useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country where all the movies we watch at home are pirated
is Niue, an atoll with the pretensions of a little island, attached to
New Zealand. In 1996, an American (who of course doesn't live in Niue)
took the rights to ".nu" and in 2003 founded the Niue Internet Society,
and offered to the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into
the first wifi nation of the world. The offer was rounded out with a
free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we're talking about
a population of barely 1,300 people.

The irony is that while ".nu" generates enormous profits, the
inhabitants of Niue who want to connect from home and not from the only
internet café are obliged to pay for installation and service.

So I find another curiosity: the second most used internet extension
after ".com" corresponds to another little place in the corner of the
Pacific, also unnoticed, a group of islets of roughly four square miles.
Tokelau is the name of this place whose domain ".tk" hatched in 2009 and
was free, and today it is the virtual home of hundreds of thousands of
sites of dubious probity.

The way in which the territorial domains of each country (ccTLD, which
stands for: country-code-top-level-domain) are managed is very
different. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) has left the who and how to the discretion of each country. Many
countries have privatized it either in the hands of institutions or
companies created for that purpose, while in others it is done by an
entity attached to a stage agency.

The two ways of operating ccTLDs have advantages and disadvantaged.
Deregulating the extensions tips the balance toward the more profitable
companies to the detriment of the agencies, NGOs and social and cultural
institutions. Decreasing the influence of governments, can weigh heavily
on the sovereignty of countries with fragile economies or small and
young countries.

As a counterpart, state-regulation administration tends to protect
social and cultural interests, a successful management style that can
lead to gains that positively impact national life. It can also happen
that the process for buying a ccTLD are restrictive or discriminatory,
sheltering under deliberately vague rules to be applied at their
discretion, as is the case with Cuba's ".cu".

In Latin America, Argentina is the only country that offers a site for
free; hence the millions of sites with the extension ".ar". This
gratuity is about to change because a way to collect payments is being
studied. In Chile and Nicaragua domains are administered through public
universities. In Guatemala it is also done through a university but in
that case a private one.

State regulation occurs in Venezuela through the National
Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), and in Cuba through the
Information Technologies and Advanced Telematic Services Company (CITMATEL).

Colombia, and without going into details about its antecedents, is a
reflection of a similar debate ongoing in many countries. A private
company owns its ccTLD and they believe that the fact that 89% of the
owners of a ".co" site are foreigners living outside the country, far
from violating national identity, internationalizes Colombia and brings
its brand to the entire world. What underlies these debates is that the
market is imposed on cultural values and little can be done in the
defense of an intangible patrimony.

But ultimately, who governs the Internet? Any observant newcomer claims
that the United States governs it. On its territory are the institutions
and the majority of the servers intended to organize what would
otherwise be chaos.

The now well-known ICANN assigns domain names (DNS) to IP addresses, has
a contract with the government and is located in California. Very
influential internet companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are
also American. By September there will be news of a change; simply that
ICANN will be independent of the United States Department of Commerce.

In this asymmetric influence are counterpoised the interest of other
parties involved and also of the internet. International organizations
such as those dealing with trade (the ITO), intellectual property and
the International Communications Union have been involved in conjunction
with ICANN. Virtual space modifies the notion of sovereignty, with added
risks to equality and diversity; so the term governance has gained
importance in the design of policies, where governments, civil society,
business, academic and technical innovators come together.

In the same way that innovative technicians have placed in our hands the
protocol that ensures open access to the internet from any type of
device, it behooves governance to establish policies, even if they are
not binding, to guarantee freedom of expression and information, full
access and limits on control.

Source: Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina
Coyula – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Return to sender: Cayman's policy on Cuban migrants
By Editorial Board - May 24, 2016

On a picturesque beach in South Sound, there is an abandoned boat. The
waves pound upon its boards and planks. Scattered on the sand are dozens
of containers, for provisions and unspent fuel. Near the bow of the
makeshift wooden vessel, a simple message is painted in three capital
letters: "USA."

The photograph of the Cuban boat on the front page of Tuesday's
newspaper is an image of a dream deferred. The 43 Cuban migrants who
arrived in Grand Cayman on May 6 will not achieve their goal of escaping
their home country and reaching the United States … at least not this time.

For now, they have been detained by Cayman Islands immigration
officials, who currently have 116 Cuban migrants in custody in various
locations around the island. What follows next is a bureaucratic waiting
game, with the probable result being transportation back to Cuba by air,
and then, perhaps, some day, more attempts to flee.

It is important to understand the tremendous risks that these people
take when they fling their lives upon the mercy of the sea. For the
migrants who head south from Cuba, if and when they finally reach land
in Central America, their journey has just begun. From there they face
an arduous trek of 1,500 miles or more — on foot, by car, on trains …
any way possible — across multiple borders, facing natural elements,
government officials and organized criminals; until they maybe, at last,
attain their Promised Land, of the Free, of Opportunity, etc.

It is just as important to recognize the rewards that — perhaps aren't
actually received — but that these migrants anticipate, and upon which
they have pinned all their dreams, and all their hopes.

The experiences of the disappointed Cuban migrants who wash ashore in
Cayman are very different from what happens to those who do successfully
reach the U.S.

The New York Times recently published a story based on interviews with a
group of a dozen Cubans who made landfall in the Florida Keys. The men
expressed gratitude in two equal measures — for being in America, and
for no longer being in Cuba.

"What you have here is a nest of hope," one migrant said. "What you have
there is a nest of scorpions."

Instead of an immigration detention facility, the Cubans who reached
Florida were taken to a nonprofit assistance center run by the Roman
Catholic Church. They were put up in a motel in the short term. Half
were to be transported to Las Vegas, Nevada, to find work, and the other
half to Austin, Texas. The dreams of these dozen were, in fact, realized.

As has been related in The New York Times and many other news sources,
Cubans are saying that they are more afraid than ever that if they don't
get out of Cuba now, they may never be able to enjoy the special
protections still being extended to Cuban migrants by the U.S. (i.e.,
"wet-foot, dry-foot").

In Cayman, we are witnessing the effects of the nascent U.S.-Cuban thaw,
and the turbulent diplomatic and political currents, in the form of the
swelling numbers of migrants whose journeys end prematurely in our
waters or on our shores.

The agreement Cayman has in place with Cuba, to detain the migrants and
have them returned to the land from which they tried to flee, is far
from ideal. It is, to many Cayman residents, undesirable or even
distasteful. It is also expensive. But, unlike the vast nation of the
U.S., Cayman cannot possibly accommodate even a small portion of the
Cuban migrants who might wish to stay.

Although the conditions in Cuba may be the source of the problem, Cayman
is the recipient. Unfortunately, that doesn't look to change, unless or
until the U.S. alters its policies on accepting Cuban migrants (and
extinguishes their beacon of hope).

The problem of how to handle Cuban migrants may remain one for which
Cayman may not have an adequate solution.

Source: EDITORIAL – Return to sender: Cayman's policy on Cuban migrants
| Cayman Compass - Continue reading
Bartenders Are Winning Cuba's Embrace of Capitalism, and Doctors Are Losing
By Henry Grabar

Cuban state employees are abandoning their jobs for high-paying,
private-sector gigs—in Cuba. As bartenders, bellhops, and taxi drivers.

The growth of the Cuban private sector over the past two decades has
created some serious imbalances between skills and pay: A bartender with
some generous foreign customers could make more in tips in a weekend
than a doctor, each of whom is employed by the Cuban government, does in
a month.

A new reform could exacerbate that issue. Cuba will soon legalize small-
and medium-sized private businesses, according to an economic
development plan approved by the Cuban Communist Party Congress last
month. The 32-page document hit newsstands in Havana on Tuesday,
according to the Associated Press, and offers the first glimpse of the
reforms approved at April's five-year CCP meeting. It comes on the heels
of President Obama's historic trip to Cuba in March, and the relaxing of
the U.S. embargo.

The CCP hasn't released many details, but the plans have been the works
for some time, says Richard Feinberg, a professor at the University of
California-San Diego and the author of Open for Business: Building the
New Cuban Economy. It will soon be possible for Cuba's self-employed,
known as cuentapropistas, to incorporate their operations, easing the
way toward working with Cuban banks, foreign investors, and state-owned
companies. Small businesses will be the vanguard of the market economy
in Cuba, while bigger industries remain under state control.

Some private enterprise—including small restaurants, guesthouses,
construction trades, and taxis—is already legal in Cuba; a good deal
more occurs on the margins of the law. About half a million Cubans have
self-employment licenses; as many as a million Cubans may have some
illegal or informal involvement in the private sector.

"Up until now, the whole private sector was under something of a
cloud—something that was tolerated, a way to sop up some unemployment,"
Feinberg says. The CCP document, in contrast to your classic Fidelista
pronunciations, affirms the positive contributions of private property.

In some cases, anyway. Authorized private enterprise in Cuba currently
includes the sale of food and drink, the production and sale of
handcrafts, transportation, room rentals, construction, and some
services. But private professional activities—anything that requires a
college degree, basically—aren't legal yet. Engineers and lawyers, for
example, aren't yet allowed to have their own practices. If they do have
a side gig, it's by operating without (or with an inaccurate) license
and with the aide of mulas, who smuggle in supplies like printer ink
from abroad. It's not uncommon for a university professor to do tutoring
in the evenings, or a state-employed architect to have his or her own
clients outside the office.

The 200-plus legal means of self-employment in Cuba are themselves
severely restricted. Rules on property ownership would prevent the owner
of a successful guesthouse, or casa particular, from buying the house
next door, for example. The owners of paladares, Havana's chic private
restaurants, make their own menus and set their own prices—but the state
limits their size to 50 seats. When I visited Cuba last summer, one
entrepreneur, who runs a hip private cafe amid the state-run tourist
restaurants of Old Havana, told me he wasn't even allowed to put up a
sign outside.

Still, tourism is where the money is. Most emerging opportunities for
new business are directly or indirectly related to tourism, says Jorge
Duany, the director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida
International University. Because of Cuba's dual currency system—state
wages are paid in Cuban pesos (CUP), while private businesses can take
in the vastly more valuable convertible pesos (CUC)—the country has seen
a flood of professionals into the private sector, and into tourism in
particular. "People who have higher degrees are less remunerated than
people with less education, who are able to participate in this growing
private business sector," Duany says.

So the reforms will do two things: further liberalize the country's
existing, tourist-focused private sector, which is limited to a list of
jobs proscribed by the government. That will help Cuba prepare to meet
the growing influx of American tourists. (Already, there aren't enough
tables at Havana's private restaurants to go around.) But it will also
increase the flow of professionally trained Cubans into better-paying,
nonprofessional employment.

Is it a waste of a good socialized education to have economists giving
tours and driving cabs? Probably.

On the other hand, there's only so much prestige in a white-collar job.
"Baking cakes can be fun," Feinberg says. "Maybe more fun than being a
chemical engineer."

And it pays better too.

Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate's Moneybox.

Source: Cuba reforms business laws, but not for professionals - Continue reading
Connecting to Cuba: Accomodations
Jake Whittenberg , wsts2 3:05 PM. PDT May 25, 2016

It's just a 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana, but it's a world away.

When we landed at Jose Marti International Airport (HAV), I noticed my
cell phone with Verizon service switches to Cubacel. I was able to make
calls in Cuba back to the states, but it's $2.99/min. WiFi is only
available in certain hotels. The Cuban people don't have access to the
internet, unlike the government, and American credit cards do not work.

When I got off the plane, the line for customs was very fast actually.
(Aside from the few moments when the power went out, and we thought we
were stuck.)

After showing my journalist visa and passport, I was asked about any
recent illnesses or trips to Africa; then that was that. My bags were
never searched, and I was never asked any other questions.

I exchanged my money to the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) which is almost
1:1. From the airport, there were a lot of people gathered outside,
waiting for loved ones to visit. But there were also a lot of Cubans
hoping to earn a dollar from the tourists getting off the airplane.

My taxi ride from the airport opened my eyes to Cuba right away. My cab
driver spoke English, and also served as an excellent tour guide during
our drive.

There are a lot of Cubans trying to make extra money by renting out a
room or a house to tourists. I stayed with Jorge Luis Onidina in his
house along the seawall in Havana. He was incredibly gracious and
accommodating. The Cubans are very hospitable and kind-hearted. My room
was comfortable and cost $60 CUC/night. (I found out later that is
actually a little high)

After I woke up every morning, Jorge would offer me an espresso. Being
from Seattle, I love good coffee. Jorge could have dialed back on the
sugar, but I appreciated the gesture. Again, the Cubans are very caring.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are booking a hotel online you can do that, but
MAKE SURE YOU BRING CASH TO PAY FOR IT. Right now, Cuba is not connected
to American banks. So, just because you enter your credit card online to
book your room, it is not paid for until you get there. Cuba is still a
cash economy, so remember that when scheduling a trip.

To get around, I mostly took taxi cabs. In populated areas they are
everywhere and easy to hail. To find one from Jorge's house in the
suburbs, I had to be more patient or ask him to call a local friend to
give me a ride. I was given a tip to only use the yellow taxis because
they are owned by the government and drivers won't try to scam you. The
cost to get to and from the airport was $25 CUC. Most shorter rides were

If you are traveling a short distance in areas like La Habana Vieja (Old
Havana), try to hop in one of the classic American cars. The Cubans
offer taxi rides in them to tourists for extra money. They are
everywhere and fun to see their interiors. See the classic cars section
for more.

Because a lot of the cars are rebuilt using local parts, I found a lot
of cars spew a lot of exhaust. Sometimes on a busy morning, the major
roads got incredibly busy. Cubans drive with the windows up and the
air-conditioning on.

And although my first cabbie spoke English, it's not very common. So
brush up on your Espanol!

Source: Connecting to Cuba: Accomodations | - Continue reading
Cuba's Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
05/25/2016 04:49 pm ET | Updated 10 hours ago
Yoani Sanchez
Publisher of 14ymedio, independent newspaper in Cuba

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 May 2016 - People with
whom we share sorrows and joys are a reflection of ourselves, however
different they may appear. As friends we choose them to accompany us,
but also to complete us, with the diversity and continuity that our
human nature needs. The problem is when our choices of coexistence are
not based on affinities and preferences, but on interests and alliances
focused on annoying others.

In the same week, the Cuban executive has embraced two deplorable
authoritarian regimes. A few hours after Cuban Vice President Miguel
Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with government functionaries in Belarus,
Havana's Plaza of the Revolution hosted a meeting between Raul Castro
and a special representative from North Korea's Workers Party.
Disgraceful comrades, shamelessly embraced and praised by the island's

In a world where civil society, calls for the respect for human rights,
and movements that promote the recognition of rights are making
themselves heard ever more loudly, it is difficult for the Cuban
government to explain his good relations with Europe's last dictator and
with the cruelly capricious grandson who inherited power through his
bloodline. What united the island's authorities with similar political

The only possible answer is sticking their finger in the eye of Western
democracies and the White House. The problem with this attitude lies in
the demands from these fellow travelers for commitments and silences.
Diplomatic friendship is converted into complicity and the comrades end
up defining the nature of those who have chosen their company.

Source: Cuba's Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez - Continue reading
Royal Caribbean still waiting on Cuba
By Rebecca Tobin / May 25, 2016

Royal Caribbean International said that the cruise line is still in the
process of obtaining permission to sail to Cuba, and would likely use
the Empress of the Seas for Cuba voyages.
"Obviously, we're looking forward to being able to sail to Cuba, and
we're in the process of talking to various authorities ... to get the
various permissions that are required," Royal Caribbean International
CEO Michael Bayley told reporters at a press conference on the new
Harmony of the Seas last weekend.
As for when? "Tomorrow would be good," Bayley said. "But we're waiting
for the approvals."
The Empress is scheduled to operate short Caribbean cruises from Miami
through the end of July. "So we wouldn't be going [to Cuba] until the
end of July, beginning of August, assuming we get permission from the
Cuban government."
The 1,602-passenger Empress, which previously sailed for Spanish cruise
line Pullmantur, is in drydock through the end of May.
Carnival Corp. began sailing to Cuba in early May via its Fathom brand.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has also expressed interest in Cuba,
possibly using an Oceania Cruises ship.

Source: Royal Caribbean still waiting on Cuba: Travel Weekly - Continue reading
14 more Cuban migrants land in the Keys

The group arrived in Islamorada on Tuesday
They spent four or five days on a "rustic vessel"

A group of 14 Cuban migrants came ashore in Islamorada and 13 landed on
Ballast Key off Key West on Tuesday morning, according to the U.S.
Border Patrol.

The Upper Keys group landed near the Morada Bay Resort, on the bay side
of U.S. 1 at mile marker 81.6, around 8 a.m. A "concerned citizen"
noticed the 14 men and called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Adam Hoffner.

The men told Border Patrol agents that they traveled for four or five
days on a "homemade rustic vessel." The boat's engine failed at sea,
leaving the men stranded in the open ocean while they made repairs.

"Homemade vessels such as this, often suffer from engine of other types
of mechanical failures putting the migrants at risk," Hoffner said in an
e-mail. "The vessels also lack appropriate safety equipment and
navigational devices."

Hoffner said his agency regularly receives both confirmed and
unconfirmed reports of migrants drowning at sea on their way to the
United States.

Under the 1995 changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act, migrants from Cuba
who set foot on dry land in the United States can stay here and apply
for permanent residency after a year. The policy is known as wet-foot,

The Lower Keys group — all men — landed on Ballast Key, part of a group
of small islands west of Key West known as the "Mule Keys." They were
reportedly in good health. They said they were at sea in a single-engine
fishing boat for two days.

It has been a busy year for the Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border
Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responsible for
keeping an eye out for migrants and human smugglers. Migrant arrivals
and interdictions are up sharply in the wake of thawing relations
between the United States and the Castro regime. Many Cubans fear the
wet-foot, dry-foot policy will soon be repealed, and they want to leave
the island before that happens.

On Friday, a group of 21 migrants climbed onto the American Shoal
lighthouse off Sugarloaf Key after being confronted by a Coast Guard
boat that morning. They eventually came down off the 109-foot structure
later in the afternoon and were taken aboard an undisclosed Coast Guard
cutter to be sent back to Cuba.

However, an injunction was filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday by the
non-profit group Movimiento Democracia on behalf of some of the
migrants' families living in Florida arguing the Cubans made it to the
United States under wet-foot, dry-foot.

Also last Friday, nine Cubans arrived in a "single-engine rustic boat"
at the Dry Tortugas National Park about 70 miles from Key West. The
eight adult men and one woman arrived about 7:30 p.m., Hoffner said.

They told Border Patrol agents they spent two days at sea. The migrants
were first picked up by the Coast Guard, and it is not yet clear if they
will be allowed to stay.

Source: 14 more Cuban migrants land in the Keys | In Cuba Today - Continue reading
Lady in White Berta Soler Threatened With Prison / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 May 2016 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in
White, faces a prison sentence of three months to five years for the
alleged crime of resistance. The activist was arrested last Sunday when
she attempted to go to the Cathedral of Havana for the inauguration of
the new archbishop of the capital. After being charged by the
authorities, she is required to available to them at all times and
cannot leave Cuba before her trial. "I didn't become an opponent [of the
regime] in order to travel and I am prepared to go to prison if that is
the decision. I won't even get a lawyer," Soler told 14ymedio.

The group of 31 activists, among them 22 Ladies in White, was
intercepted on leaving the Ladies in White's headquarters in the Lawton
neighborhood. The repudiation rally against them before the Sunday Mass
was organized for 9 in the morning and involved many people who were not
even from the neighborhood. "Although we already knew we wouldn't be
able to get there," Berta Soler said, "we decided to leave [for the
church] because our house is not a jail cell." As commonly occurs,
tempers flared and finally the police arrived to arrest them.

"When they stopped us we sat down, which is a common practice in peace
movements around the world, except in Cuba," Soler emphasized.

Berta Soler was driven to the Alamar neighborhood where, she said, there
was "a classroom reserved by the PNR (People's Revolutionary Police)."
At about six or seven in the evening they told her that this time there
would be formal charges. "At first they said that I had scratched a
policewoman, but eventually they dismissed the charge of attack," she said.

That night an official who said she was the investigator/prosecutor on
her case told her that she was accused of resistance. "I didn't respond
in any way and went to sleep. At a quarter to ten at night they came to
find me to sign the accusation but I didn't sign any document. We (and
they as well) have videos that show I never lifted a hand to anyone
or attack anyone, not even verbally."

Berta Soler says she has no problem complying with the requirement that
she not leave the country. "At the moment I have no plans for any trip.
The closest is an idea to go to Geneva, but that still has not
materialized. If before [the trial], or at any time I need to leave the
country for some event, they will have to stop me from traveling at the
airport itself," she said.

The date of her trial has not been set.

Source: Lady in White Berta Soler Threatened With Prison / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 24 May 2016 – The receding tide of the
populist wave in Latin America, in particular the delicate situation in
Venezuela and the ouster of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, has
uncovered all kinds of speculation about the supposed relationship of
cause and effect controlling political-economic and social process in Cuba.

Those who are still waiting for the problems within the island to be
solved believe they can be resolved from outside, while the 'statist
fundamentalists' take advantage of the 'threat' to entrench themselves
in their anti-democratic and anti-socialist positions.

However, Cuba is not Brazil or Venezuela, in any sense. Its processes
have different origins, circumstances and dissimilar dynamics of
development and, therefore, an evolution that proceeds along uneven paths.

Suffice it to recall that this populist wave began almost 40 years after
the triumph of the Cuban Revolution of 1959, at a time of the sharp
decline, due to natural exhaustion, and the disappearance of the
socialist camp, and that Hugo Chavez came to power through democratic
means, subject to the general principles of democracy and its mechanisms.

Now, it is precisely the setting aside of these democratic institutions
and the assumption of authoritarianism that is at the center of the
reversal of that wave.

This has nothing to do with the emergence and evolution of the Cuban
political process, its origin and its authoritarian essence. It emerged
as an offshoot of the violence and social polarization inherited from
Batista's coup d'etat and the subsequent armed confrontation. This made
possible a government that went against the grain of the demand for
democracy that served as a base of support for the fight against the
Batista dictatorship and that was built on the confrontation between the
United States and the USSR, during the Cold War.

The "socialism of the Cuban state," which is neither socialist nor
Cuban, was not what inspired this wave, but it rode it for its own
benefit, encouraged the confrontation with "American imperialism" that
feeds the geopolitics of its subsistence and, in any case, encouraged
its authoritarian and state-centric tendencies that brought it to the
current situation.

We mustn't forget that it was Chavez and his oil that made possible the
abandonment of the reforms forced by the fall of the socialist camp and
the subsequent so-called "Special Period in a Time of Peace" in Cuba—a
time of severe economic crisis after the loss of the Soviet subsidies.

We must also remember that the paradigms of the so-called 21st Century
Socialism, which originated and gave strength to this wave, were related
to democracy and participatory budgets leading to greater citizen
involvement in decision making of all kinds, with the direct
intervention of workers in the property, management and distribution of
wealth and the Marxist concept of the law of value, pushed by Hugo
Chavez, Heinz Dieterich and the People's Summit held in Cochabamba,
Bolivia, in 2006.

These fundamentals were never adopted by the Cuban
government-party-state and later were gradually abandoned by Chavez
himself in favor of state-centrism.

This phase of decline depresses the influence of the Cuban government in
the region and could affect the support that, for Cuba's state
monopolies, are represented by Venezuelan oil and the billions of
dollars Cuba obtains in "leasing fees" for Cuba doctors and paramedical
personnel hired out in "medical missions" abroad.

But from there to an assumption that the Cuban government is threatened,
is quite a stretch. To expect regional pressures in support of respect
for human, political and civil rights, yes; to imagine a regional
isolation similar to the 1960s, no. Suffice it to recall the new
scenario in Cuba-US relations and the possibilities for economic exchange.

"Only Revolutionaries can destroy this Revolution," Fidel Castro said in
November 2005 at the University of Havana. This is true: the most
dangerous enemies of the Cuban political process, who have been leading
it to stagnation and to the "abyss," are those who themselves are
entrenched in power and who stubbornly impede the advance toward the
democratization of politics and the socialization of the economy.

The political system defined by a dictatorship of the proletariat,
originating in Stalinist Russia and perfected by the guerrillas in
power, liquidated the opposition early on, eliminated its material base
of support by nationalizing everything, and excluded all of the
democratic mechanisms—multi-party elections and the full exercise of
civil and political rights, the recall referendum process, impeachment,
and a democratic constitution—essential to confronting authoritarianism.
These mechanisms must be created from below.

Thus, democratization will be a process, not an act, that demands the
creation of an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony that can facilitate
an inclusive national dialog; the recognition of fundamental freedoms;
moving to a new Constitution that is the fruit of the creation and
democratic and horizontal discussion of the Cuban people and approved by
referendum; promulgation of a new democratic electoral law; and the
establishment of a modern state of law with full functional and
informational transparency, under permanent popular control: a Republic
that is democratic, humanist and supportive, one in which there is room
for everyone.

Source: Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba is making a big step toward capitalism
Michael Weissenstein, Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba announced Tuesday that it will legalize small- and
medium-sized private businesses in a move that could significantly
expand private enterprise in one of the world's last communist countries.

Cuban business owners and economic experts said they were hopeful the
reform would allow private firms to import wholesale supplies and export
products to other countries for the first time, removing a major
obstacle to private business growth.

"This is a tremendously important step," said Alfonso Valentin Larrea
Barroso, director-general of Scenius, a cooperatively run economic
consulting firm in Havana. "They're creating, legally speaking, the
non-state sector of the economy. They're making that sector official."

While the government offered no immediate further details, the new
business categories appear to be the next stage in reforms initiated by
President Raul Castro after he took over from his brother Fidel Castro
in 2008. While those reforms have allowed about half a million Cubans to
start work in the private sector, the process has been slow and marked
by periodic reversals.

The government has regularly cracked down on private businesses that
flourish and compete with Cuba's chronically inefficient state
monopolies. The latest backlash came after President Barack Obama met
private business owners during his March 20-22 visit to Cuba, prompting
hard-line communists to warn that the U.S. wants to turn entrepreneurs
into a tool to overturn the island's socialist revolution.

The Communist Party documents, published in a special tabloid sold at
state newsstands Tuesday, said a category of small, mid-sized and
"micro" private business was being added to a master plan for social and
economic development approved by last month's Cuban Communist Party
Congress. The twice-a-decade meeting sets the direction for the
single-party state for the coming five years.

The 32-page party document published Tuesday is the first comprehensive
accounting of the decisions taken by the party congress, which was
closed to the public and international press. State media reported few
details of the debate or decisions taken at the meeting but featured
harsh rhetoric from leading officials about the continuing threat from
U.S. imperialism and the dangers of international capitalism.

That tough talk, it now appears, was accompanied by what could be a
major step in Cuba's ongoing reform of its centrally planned economy.

"Private property in certain means of production contributes to
employment, economic efficiency and well-being, in a context in which
socialist property relationships predominate," reads one section of the
"Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist

Vanessa Arocha, a 56-year-old architect who makes hand-made purses and
bags at home under a self-employed worker's license, said she dreamed of
forming a legally recognized small business that could import supplies
and machinery and hire neighbors looking for extra income.

"I could import fittings, zippers, vinyl," she said. "Being a small
business would be a new experience, one we know little about, but
something very positive."

The government currently allows private enterprise by self-employed
workers in several hundred job categories ranging from restaurant owner
to hairdresser. Many of those workers have become de-facto small
business owners employing other Cubans in enterprises providing vital
stimulus to Cuba's stagnant centrally planned economy.

The Cuban government blames the half-century-old U.S. trade embargo on
Cuba for strangling the island's economy. Cuba's new class of
entrepreneurs say the embargo is a major obstacle but also lodges
frequent, bitter complaints about the difficulties of running a business
in a system that does not officially recognize them.

Low-level officials often engage in crackdowns on successful businesses
for supposed violations of the arcane rules on self-employment. And the
government maintains a monopoly on imports and export that funnels badly
needed products exclusively to state-run enterprises.

Due to its dilapidated state-run economy, Cuba imports most of what it
consumes, from rice to air conditioners. Most private businesses are
forced to buy scarce supplies from state retail stores or on the black
market, increasing the scarcity of basic goods and driving up prices for
ordinary Cubans. Many entrepreneurs pay networks of "mules" to import
goods in checked airline baggage, adding huge costs and delays.

The latest change will almost certainly take months to become law. Such
reforms typically require formal approval by Cuba's National Assembly,
which meets only twice a year.


Michael Weissenstein on Twitter:

Source: Cuba to legalize small and medium-sized private businesses -
Business Insider - Continue reading
Surviving in Cuba
May 24, 2016
Verónica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — My friend recently told me that he feels like he doesn't
understand Cubans anymore, and that he feels out of place.

"I don't know if it's just me who's got it wrong", he confessed confused
"but I see so much craziness everywhere, and I ask myself why people
just accept it and why nobody reacts anymore". I tried to comfort him
saying I know other people who feel the same way, including myself.

Day after day, I see a number of events which confirm this sentiment.
Travelling on a 400 bus, I witnessed an argument between a 40-something
year old man and a teenager. The young woman was standing blocking the
back exit, even though she wasn't getting off at any of the next stops,
so the man pushed her cruelly whilst getting onto the bus.

There's no good reason to get in the way of other passengers and it's
something which has become a bad habit for young people who travel to
the beach: they take up the bus like it were their own private vehicle.

However, the man's aggressive response really astonished me, especially
when you bear in mind the fact that the young teenager could have been
his daughter. But, things got worse when a friend who was travelling
with her butted in.

"If she were a man, you wouldn't talk to her like that", she rebuked.

The man attacked her too showing signs of being ready to get physically
violent. All of this happened right next to me, and I began to say to
him: "Listen, what's wrong with you? Can't you see she's pregnant?"
Blinded with rage, he hadn't noticed this very important detail and the
young woman, also flushed with anger, began shouting: "No, fuck the
belly…!" and I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if
another man hadn't intervened taking the first man by the arm and saying
in a complicit tone: "Leave it, just leave it".

That was my second surprise because a few minutes before this happened,
I had heard the young girl talking to the teenager and say: "This is
coming out", (referring to her pregnancy), as if it were a spot or a wart.

A few days beforehand, I saw two senior people arguing in a bus without
any composure, insulting eachother like kids do: Ah, old woman, you're
so ugly… was one of the "arguments" which made the entire crowd laugh. I
remember what I was told time and time again when I was child about
respecting our elders, the age-old idea that they are "wiser and to be

Waiting in line to use the Internet service at the Alamar post office,
people were talking about the topic of internet access cards, and a
woman said that she knew "firsthand" that 500 cards were made daily but
that none of these reached us because they were first sold to resellers
for 2.15 or 2.50 CUC. That's why customers are then forced to pay 3 CUC.
And she immediately followed this up with: "This directly harms me, but
I understand, everyone has to struggle to get by".

How could I talk to her about how important it is to not keep on
destroying the poor social fabric which maintains us. Just minutes
before, a woman in the line had said to me: "I can't wait for the
internet to be freely available, can you imagine? That you could connect
at home. Why doesn't the government just do that already? We're going to
have to pay for it anyway". I answered: "Because the governmnt doesn't
want people to see websites where they can find information which
contradicts what they say". "What?" she asked. "Websites where you can
access political information". "Ah…!", she said showing she'd
understood. And she added: "But people won't do that, with how expensive
the internet will be, nobody will look up that rubbish".

I stood there thinking that this "rubbish" was the reason why we don't
have internet at home, and not to mention free or even for a reasonable
price. But how was I going to get onto such a touchy subject.

Once when I was at a cafe, an old man enthusiastically told the waitor
and other customers that the price of milk had gone down, and added with
nostalgia all over his face: "With how much I like to drink a glass of
milk in the morning…" Then his expression changed as he said
disheartened: "It's too bad that money can't be found anywhere".

I couldn't help myself and interrupted saying: "Of course, sir, because
salaries are still the fundamental problem. If anything is really going
to change, salaries need to be increased".

My comment was received by an awkward silence. Then, I remembered a sign
I'd seen sometime ago in a cafe: "Talking about the thing is
prohibited", a sentence which became recurrent because of the fear
business owners had that social unrest which spontaneously broke out
amongst their customers, could become a danger to their interests.

The concept of survival in Cuba can be summed up perfectly in a phrase I
heard from a man talking about his business: "It doesn't kill me, but it
doesn't let me live neither."

Meanwhile however, whilst there is a wide sea to throw yourself into, a
house to sell in order to pay for your illegal exit, a way to "deviate
resources", or in the worst of cases, a bottle of rum, why are we going
to talk about more sound solutions?

After all, "this place doesn't sink because it's made of cork", so we
carry on dancing and smiling which has become our stamp for export, and
what an effect it has on the tourists!

Source: Surviving in Cuba - Havana - Continue reading
Fund bets counter to US trade embargo against Cuba
Written by Camila Cepero on May 24, 2016

In anticipation of the era when the US trade embargo against Cuba is a
thing of the past, Thomas J. Herzfeld's Caribbean Basin Fund has been
packing its portfolio with companies that he believes will get a "large
boost in business" when the time comes.

The US embargo against Cuba, which has been in place since the 1960s,
maintains a policy of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation of Cuba.

Now, as the US administration seems to be strengthening its relationship
with the Cuban government, some experts point to better prospects for
Cuba-US relations

"The fund has been in existence for a quarter of a century and it has
done quite well," said Thomas J. Herzfeld, founder of Thomas J. Herzfeld
Advisors Inc., the investment advisor to The Herzfeld Caribbean Basin
Fund Inc.

"Original investors have more than doubled their money as a result of a
good portfolio of stocks."

Since 1994, Thomas J. Herzfeld Advisors has managed the publicly traded
closed-end Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund.

According to the firm's website, it is the first-ever fund formed to
invest specifically in the Caribbean region, including Cuba (as legally
permissible), seeking long-term capital appreciation.

"We've selected companies that we think will get a large boost in
business" when Cuba opens, Mr. Herzfeld said.

Investors in the fund fall into three categories, he said.

There are the individual investors, the entrepreneurial investors "who
maybe would like to start a business in Cuba," and the large corporate
investors "who have been working on strategic plans for many years."

The fund does well even if there is no economic change, he said. It has
investments in hospitality, shipping and construction material companies.

"We also work with corporations. They know we've been working with this
for 25 years," Mr. Herzfeld said.

About 5% of the fund's assets are invested in shares of Carnival Corp.,
the world's largest cruise ship operator. Carnival this month began
cruises to Cuba.

"Mom-and-pop Cuban-Americans who would like to be involved in Cuba –
maybe they own a hardware store or a pharmacy and would like to expand
into Cuba – many people like that are invested in the fund," Mr.
Herzfeld said.

The firm was "rather extensively" involved with Airbnb, a website where
people can rent unique accommodations from local hosts in over 191
countries, before the company expanded into Cuba last year, he said. "We
gave them some ideas."

The site now offers over 4,000 Cuban listings and has had over 13,000
bookings in Cuba.

When Cuba-US news makes headlines, the fund "tends to be the focus of
attention," Mr. Herzfeld said. The fund reacts to news – both good and bad.

In 1996, after Cuba shot down a Brothers to the Rescue aircraft flown by
members of the exile organization known for its opposition to the Cuban
government, the fund's stocks also took a hit.

But "during the first visit of Pope Francis [in September] shares were
up sharply," Mr. Herzfeld said.

"The stock tends to be very sensitive to news," he said. "When Obama
made his first remarks in December 2014 – stocks doubled."

Source: Fund bets counter to US trade embargo against Cuba - Miami Today
- Continue reading
Communist Cuba Concedes Private Businesses Are Good For Economy
National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
8:38 AM 05/25/2016

The Communist government of Cuba announced Tuesday it will legalize
small-and medium-sized business ownership, allowing some Cuban
enterprises to come out of the dark.

Specifics of the policy shift were laid out in 32 pages in a state-run
tabloid, according to the Associated Press. The Cuban Communist Party
decided to make this change during its Party Congress meeting, which
happens once every five years, and it is the first time the government
shared policy plans in specific detail

Currently, businesses in Cuba are barred from selling products abroad or
from bringing in outside raw materials since the government does not
recognize them as legal.

This policy change is just the latest move in favor of economic
liberalization — Cubans gained the right to buy and sell property as of
November 2011.

President Barack Obama visited the island nation, which is just 90 miles
away from the U.S., back in March. Obama is the first U.S. president to
visit the country since Calvin Coolidge.

Cuban officials were angered when Obama met with the country's business
leaders during his visit, because the government did not recognize them
as legitimate.

The Carnival Corporation sent its first cruise from the U.S. to Cuba
since 1978 in May. Ties between the U.S. and Cuba were normalized in
December 2014, meaning that diplomats from both countries can directly
deal with one another rather than through intermediaries, as was
previously done.

Source: Communist Cuba Will Allow Some Private Businesses | The Daily
Caller - Continue reading

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Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 19 May 2016 — The raindrops tinkle on the zinc roof of a
greasy hut used to store sacks of fertilizer, agricultural tools, and
the various ancient contraptions that are always be a nuisance to keep
in the house.

Osvaldo, the sixty-five-year-old owner of a farm southeast of Havana,
calmly takes a drag on a cigarette butt, scratches his head with his
thick fingers, which look like twisted meat hooks, and asks his son,
"Where the hell have you left the wrench to open the water pump?" Then,
once the engine has been started, he runs through the rain back to the
entrance of his house.

Before answering a question as to why Cuban agriculture is incapable of
supplying people with enough food, he takes a swig of coffee and rocks
back and forth in his iron chair. He then tells me:

"No point in beating about the bush. It's the government's fault that
agriculture doesn't work. I have lost count of the number of measures
and strategies the agricultural directors have drawn up. The problem is
that you can't grow a crop sitting behind an office desk. Every piece of
farmland is different. The amount of sweet potatoes or beef cannot be
planned from an office in Havana."

He continues unwrapping his opinions about the black hole in the
nation's agriculture. "The land is for the peasants. If the government
wants to buy everfything that's harvested, they need to pay a fair price
for it. Now they have promised to pay properly, but two or three months
down the line Acopio (Cuba's state procurement and distribution
agency) and other government departments start to fall behind on their
payments. In my case, they owe me 20 to 30 thousand pesos. The Havana
middlemen buy your entire harvest, in cash."

Osvaldo is aware that shortages breed speculation. "But the government
needs to get real. They sell everything at very high prices to
individual farmers — fuel, seed, working clothes — and the agricultural
equipment is of poor quality. Also, times have changed. Now, nobody
wants to work on the land. Everyone is going to Havana or Miami. And
when it comes to hiring workers to gather the harvest, you have to pay
at least a hundred pesos a day. That drives up the cost of what you've
harvested. If the government gave the land to the people who are working
it, in Cuba, the food that they produced would be for export".

When you speak to private farmers, people working in co-operatives or
tenants, their opinions vary, but most of them believe that, to increase
the harvests, you have to first create appropriate living and working

"I lost about a hundred pounds of bananas and sweet potatoes because
Acopio couldn't provide enough transport," observes a farmer with a
credit and service cooperative, who prefers to remain anonymous. "It's a
joke. They have some honest people but most of the officials there are

When Fidel Castro came to power in January 1959, he began applying
countless forms of production management to Cuban agriculture, from huge
state farms and cooperatives to land leases.

But harvests did not increase. Bureaucrats always come up with excuses
to explain the shortfalls. They blame the unchecked greed of middlemen,
hurricanes, rain or drought.

Though intended to alleviate the deficit, targeted price controls
quickly generate even greater shortages instead. But there could be
other reasons as well. Economist Juan Triana Cordoví cannot be accused
of being of a dissident. But in his article "Price Caps", published in
On Cuba Magazine, Triana tries to find answers to the riddle. For this
economist, prices controls are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are other explanations. According to Triana, if you compare
produce production in 2005 to that of 2009, you will find that harvests
were, on average, was 15% smaller. With respect to potatoes, the drop
was 50%. In the case of vegetables, the average rate of growth in this
same period did not exceed 1% while tomato production fell 30%.

In 2009, 34,558 hectares of produce were planted (4,245 of which were
potatoes), while only 16,494 hectares were planted in 2014 (596 of which
were potatoes). In short, in 2009 — the latest year for which data is
available — there was 50% less produce and 14% less potatoes planted. In
2009, 32,174 hectares were planted while in 2014 only 21,397 hectares
were planted. This amounts to 66% of what had been planted just five
years earlier.

Less acreage under cultivation, lower yields, increased demand, higher
costs… "What else can we expect but for prices to go up?" asks Triana.

But the government is only thinking in the short term. Faced with
complaints from millions of its citizens, the solution is a home remedy
to relieve the pain while it continues to postpone the radical solution
that Cuban agriculture needs.

Average Cubans approve of the new measures the state has taken to cap
prices and close El Trigal wholesale market south of Havana. On May 13
Martí Noticias toured fifteen produce markets — some state-run; some
private, leased or cooperative operations.

In the markets with price controls, the chalkboards indicated nine to
fifteen items for sale. Tomatoes, on average, cost 2 pesos per pound.
Guava was priced at 1.5 to 3 pesos, a banana went for 2 pesos, and
cassava and sweet potato sold for 1 peso per pound.

The privately-run markets had more variety, were cleaner and provided
better quality, though the prices were twice as high. For example, two
Caney mangoes cost 30 pesos while a six-pound melon went for 25 pesos.

Osvaldo, the peasant quoted above, believes that price controls will not
increase farm production. And he is sticking to his theory: "When the
land belongs to the peasants, and they are allowed to import and export
without having to rely on the state, there will be more than enough
food," he says.

In no country with an autocratic government — whether it be Vietnam,
China or the former Soviet Union — did state-control of the land work.
Cuba is hardly an exception.

Translated by GH

Source: Why Cuban Agriculture Is Inefficient / Iván García – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Rosa María Payá: "Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not
pretend it is" / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín

EFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban
opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE,
that the "totalitarianism" of the government led by Raul Castro "has not
broken" despite the open contact with the United States and the European
Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve
"concrete progress."

"Rapprochement with Cuba is very good, but it depends on how and how it
is sold. It also has negative consequences, such as the rest of the
world perceiving an internal process of openings toward democracy, and
this has not occurred," said Payá in the Norwegian capital, where she
has come to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF).

The dissident said that "totalitarianism has not been broken" despite
the "legitimacy" with which it might have re-clothed itself after the
visits of personalities such as US President Barack Obama, the high
representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, Pope
Francis or the Rolling Stones.

Payá, daughter of the prominent opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, who died
in 2012 in a car crash which his daughter blames on the Cuban regime,
believes that the international community has an "opportunity to
pressure the regime for this change toward freedom."

Payá criticized the "excuses that can be cynical, but are invoked as
pragmatic" which are used as an argument to initiate dialogue with Cuba
placing special attention on economic relations and relegating to the
background demands for human rights and freedom.

"People say things like if we negotiated with China, why not with the
Cuban regime. Under this line of thinking, why not with North Korea?"
she said.

We regards to negotiations between Brussels and Havana, she considers it
"worrying" that no light has been shined on the text that serves as a
basis for contacts between the two parties and warned that it is not
enough to simply include "a mention of human rights, because tyrannies
have already learned to deal with these mentions."

"The support has to be concrete, specific and on measurable issues. Not
only speeches in support of democracy, of human rights," she said,
calling for support for the holding of a plebiscite on the island,
access to communications media and information, and the release of
political prisoners.

"Totalitarianism, which has not been broken, is broken when the ability
to decide does not reside in the same group of generals. At that moment
the transition will have begun, which won't happen in a single day. We
cannot pretend this is happening," she said, in a message she directed
to "the international community," from whom she asked for "support."

" Cubans are human beings just like everyone else, like Spaniards or
Belgians. We did not endure five decades in order to have Airbnb, but
rather all out rights (…), having more Americans to travel to the island
is not enough, it is a racist approach to think so," she claimed.

To Payá, inaction may also affect the international community itself and
democratic countries.

In this regard she pointed to how the situation in Venezuela has been
evolving under the leadership of Hugo Chavez and president Nicolas
maduro, but also the ideas that have come from "political parties in Spain."

Looking ahead to the upcoming Spanish elections, Payá stressed that "the
Spanish people are sovereign, so it is up to them to decide," although
she expressed her concern for "the influence of the totalitarian regime
in Havana and the Chavista regime which is concerned with undermining
Latin America and exporting its ideas to Europe."

About the rise of anti-democratic positions, the Cuban opponent once
again called on democratic countries to act.

In terms of rights, "Cubans were already in the worst situation ten
years ago, but now the rest of the world is worse off as well," she warned.

Source: Rosa María Payá: "Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can
not pretend it is" / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba to Legalize Small and Medium-Sized Private Businesses

Cuba says it will legalize small and medium-sized private businesses, a
move that could significantly expand the space allowed for private
enterprise in one of the world's last communist countries.

Communist Party documents published Tuesday say a category of small,
mid-sized and "micro" private business is being added to the party's
master plan for social and economic development.

Until now, the government has allowed private enterprise only by
"self-employed" workers in several hundred established categories. In
reality, many of those workers have become small business owners
employing other Cubans. But many complain about the difficulties of
running a business in a system that does not officially recognize them,
and that often engages in crackdowns on successful businesses for
supposed violations of the arcane rules on self-employment.

Source: Cuba to Legalize Small and Medium-Sized Private Businesses - ABC
News - Continue reading
Royal Caribbean could launch Cuba cruises by July
Gene Sloan, USA TODAY 8:23 a.m. EDT May 24, 2016

ABOARD HARMONY OF THE SEAS -- Royal Caribbean could be sailing to Cuba
as early as July, the line's top executive said this weekend.

Speaking at a press conference on board Royal Caribbean's new Harmony of
the Seas, CEO Michael Bayley said the company is just waiting on
approvals from Cuban authorities to start up regular sailings to the
country from Miami.

Confirming months of speculation, Bayley said the company likely will
deploy its 2,020-passenger Empress of the Seas on the Cuban runs. The
26-year-old ship is scheduled to emerge from an extended renovation next
week and spend the next two months operating short voyages out of Miami
to the Bahamas, Mexico and Grand Cayman. It has no sailings on the
docket beyond July.

Bayley suggested the line would go ahead with all of the sailings
currently on Empress' schedule even if the approvals for Cuba trips come
through soon.

"We wouldn't be going (to Cuba) until the end of July (or) early August,
assuming we get the correct permission from the Cuban government," he said.

When asked when the company expected approval, Bayley was circumspect.
"Tomorrow would be good," he said. "Hopefully it will be soon."

Industry giant Carnival Corp.'s new Fathom brand earlier this month
became the first cruise line in years to sail from the USA to Cuba. The
company received Cuban approval for the trips in March. Small-ship line
Ponant also has received Cuban approval for trips from the USA to Cuba
but doesn't plan to start them until 2017.

Unveiled in 1990, the 48,563-ton Empress is rejoining the Royal
Caribbean fleet this year after sailing for Spanish line Pullmantur for
eight years.

The press conference this weekend on Harmony came as the ship prepared
for its first sailing with paying passengers. At 226,963 tons, it is the
largest cruise ship ever and more than four times the size of Empress.

Source: Royal Caribbean could launch Cuba cruises by July - Continue reading
Afro-Cuban Activists Fight Racism Between Two Fires
They're caught between a government that denies the existence of racism
and fellow black Cubans who lack racial consciousness.
By Sujatha FernandesTwitterTODAY 8:00 AM

A "home for sale" sign in Santiago de Cuba. Far fewer Afro-Cubans get
remittances from family overseas, and residents of eastern Cuba, more
heavily Afro-Cuban than the west, migrate in large numbers to find work
in the capital. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

On May 4, the Network of Afro-descendant Women convened an urgent
meeting of activists, academics, and members of organizations fighting
against racial discrimination in Cuba. At the meeting, held at the
Jurists' Union Center in Havana, the longtime anti-racism activist
Gisela Arandia presented a document calling for government action in
response to a series of incidents on the island following Barack Obama's
visit in March. These included several racist articles published in
Cuban periodicals, an employment ad on Cuba's Craigslist site,, soliciting white applicants, and then a poster that
appeared on a central street in the middle-class suburb of Vedado with a
swastika and the note "Kill the black."

According to the Cuban novelist and activist Alberto Abreu Arcia, who
was present at the meeting, there was much debate about the document,
with some arguing that it was too conciliatory, that the events needed
to be placed in the context of growing racialized poverty and renewed
diplomatic relations with the United States, and that it should be
accompanied by concrete proposals for change. Even so, many agreed that
these events were not isolated incidents but rather that they make
visible the racism that has not only survived but been strengthened due
to an official policy of silence on issues that have supposedly been
solved by the revolution.

Cuba today finds itself at a crossroads, with the specter of economic
openings bringing the prospect of greater social inequalities,
especially racial inequality. This moment has a parallel in the early
1990s, when the turn to tourism and global markets in the context of
economic hardship following the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a
deepening racial divide and more overt racial discrimination. At that
time, black people in Cuba had no organizations from which to address
this racism. As the Cuban revolution had desegregated whites-only
spaces, launched an anti-discrimination campaign, and opened up avenues
of social mobility through employment and education for Afro-Cubans in
the 1960s, most of the race-based organizations that had represented
them were simultaneously deemed unnecessary, and some closed of their
own accord. In the past decade or so, there has been a re-emergence of
anti-racism organizations across the island, with some fifteen groups
forming in fields from legal rights to youth, culture, communications,
and barrio-based community organizing. These organizations are vital
during the current period of openings with the United States, as Cuba is
more exposed to a market economy, and the potential inequalities it brings.

The 51-year-old writer Roberto Zurbano has been one of the island's most
vocal critics of racial inequality. In March 2013, when he was head of
the publishing house of the venerated Casa de las Américas, Zurbano
published an op-ed in The New York Times about how blacks are being left
behind in the new market-driven economy. His piece was titled in
Spanish, "The Country to Come: and My Black Cuba?" After a series of
edits, the Times published the final piece with its own heading, "For
Blacks in Cuba the Revolution Hasn't Begun." As a result of this
pejorative headline and the article itself—an affront to the leadership
of Casa not so much because it was published in the Times but because
Zurbano's byline included his position at the cultural
institution—Zurbano was demoted from his position as head of publishing,
although he still works at Casa.

In much of Latin America, race has not been used as a primary marker of
identity; this is even more the case in Cuba.
Zurbano's experience reflects the balancing act being performed by many
anti-racism activists in Cuba, who find themselves, as he says, caught
between dos fuegos, or two fires: on the one hand a government that
still denies the existence of racism and, on the other, black Cubans who
lack a racial consciousness. In many parts of Latin America, race has
not been used as a primary marker of identity; this is even more the
case in Cuba, where the post-revolutionary leadership declared that
equality between blacks and whites had made racial identifications
obsolete. That has made it harder to organize and mobilize Cubans along
racial lines.

Yet in the face of these obstacles, anti-racism organizations have
continued to grow. Five years ago, Afro-Cuban leaders, along with
anti-racism activists across Latin America and the Caribbean, decided to
create a transnational anti-racist organization with local chapters
across the region. In September 2012, Latin American and Caribbean
activists, with the support of the Cuban minister of culture, Abel
Prieto, officially launched the Regional Afro-descendant Articulation of
Latin America (ARAAC) at the Ludwig Foundation in Havana. Leaders across
the region felt that the Cuba chapter should be a point of coordination
for regional work, given the profile and growing strength of anti-racism
work there. After the New York Times incident, ARAAC defended Zurbano's
right to raise issues of racism in Cuba, affirming that the black
population suffers disproportionately from poverty and lack of social
mobility. Afro-Cuban activists navigate a tricky terrain within Cuba,
but are growing in profile and size.

* * *

The revolution sought to remove barriers for Afro-Cubans, but racism
didn't disappear; it was relegated to private spaces.
Zurbano was born six years after the 1959 revolution. He came from a
poor family of Jamaican descent, the youngest of five children. At the
age of 2, he was sent to live with his grandmother in the Nueva Paz town
of rural Mayabeque province, where she taught him to box and to read.
Only one part of his family benefited from the revolution. The lack of
education on his father's side meant that they were not able to take
advantage of the possibilities opened up by the revolution for black
people. His mother's side, though, was better prepared to benefit from
opportunities for educational advancement, professional development, and
access to material goods and services. Almost all of his relatives on
his mother's side of the family became professionals in healthcare,
education, engineering, and the military.

As in the United States, racism in Cuba dates back to the colonial era,
when the Spanish colonizers wiped out the indigenous population and
brought African slaves to the island to work on the plantations. Even
after the abolition of slavery in 1886, black Cubans were denied equal
access to education and faced segregation and barriers in employment,
with greater concentrations of poverty. The 1959 revolution sought to
remove barriers for Afro-Cubans in areas of education, housing, and
healthcare, reducing poverty and creating social mobility for many
Afro-Cubans. However, as seen in the case of Zurbano's family, not all
black Cubans were able to take advantage of these opportunities, and
racism did not disappear. It was simply relegated to private spaces.

At the age of 26, Zurbano became the vice president of Brothers Saiz
Association (AHS), a group of young writers and artists in Havana
province. At that time, the association was considered irreverent and
counter-cultural, and government leaders decided to remove him from the
post. He was transferred to the military, where he served two years in
the infantry. During this time, Zurbano defied the authorities and the
regimentation of military life, spending much of his time in a cave used
by runaway slaves in the hillocks of Managuaco. It was here that he
developed his interest in Africa, reading novels and essays by African
intellectuals. After leaving the military, Zurbano developed a
friendship with an African diplomat and began to question why the
strategic alliances of Cuba with Slavic socialism seemed to preclude a
deeper engagement with Pan-Africanism and the Marxist writers of the
Caribbean, such as C.L.R. James.

In the mid-1990s, Zurbano became vice president of the national AHS and
discovered the nascent cultural movement of hip-hop, where young black
rappers from the poor and marginalized barrios of the cities were
raising issues of racism in Cuban society. The Cuban hip-hop movement,
which I detail in my book Close to the Edge, emerged at a time when
black youth were increasingly feeling the effects of racial
discrimination in the post-Soviet era. While this generation had
benefited from the extension of education, housing, and healthcare to
black families, they came of age when the revolutionary years were
giving way to times of austerity. Black Cubans were being excluded from
employment in tourism, saw declines in their standard of living and
housing, and were constantly harassed by police and asked for their IDs.
Racism had become more visible. In this context, the militancy of
American rap music appealed to Cuban youth. Afro-Cuban youth began to
proudly refer to themselves as black.

Zurbano saw the rappers as the vanguard of the Cuban anti-racist
struggle. They were public and vocal about racism, and they opened up a
space for debate and reflection about it in Cuban society. Cuban
intellectuals such as the historian Tomás Fernández Robaina helped to
develop the racial consciousness of the rappers by holding workshops on
black thought. At this time, during the 1990s, Afro-Cuban visual artists
such as Alexis Esquivel, Manuel Arenas, Elio Rodríguez, and Roberto
Diago were also raising issues such as the manifestations of racism in
the tourist economy. Arenas's painting Carné de Identidad (ID Card), of
a black man showing his ID card, set against the Cuban national emblem,
recalled the rappers' protests against police harassment of black youth.
The establishment accused these rappers and artists of being "radical
blacks," even as their work resonated both locally and globally. Over
time, though, the rap movement won an important space, one that was
helped along by prominent allies such as the American actor Harry
Belafonte, who spoke personally with Fidel Castro about the importance
of the movement.

* * *

While the anti-racism struggle in Cuba was spurred by the efforts of the
younger generation, its leadership also includes an older generation of
black Cubans who remembered the pre-revolutionary years and view the
current manifestation of racism with a different lens. These Cubans,
mostly older professionals, recall the hardships of the pre-Castro era
and take pride in their advances under the revolution, even as they seek
to educate others about the need for a racial consciousness in the
ongoing fight against racism.

Norma Guillard, 70, came from a poor family in the eastern province of
Santiago de Cuba. Her parents, a dressmaker and tailor, had only an
elementary education. The oldest of five children, Guillard was put in
charge of her siblings when her mother left the house early to go to her
factory. Guillard was 13 at the time of the revolution, and at the age
of 15, she joined the Conrado Benítez Brigade and became a literacy
teacher. She was one of 105,000 youth who left their homes and went into
the countryside, where 76 percent of the population was illiterate.
Guillard recalls that it was a difficult moment; the US government was
launching repeated offensives to try to overthrow the newly installed
Cuban government. Guillard was placed in the zone of Aguacate in
Guantánamo, very far from her home. In this zone there was a
counterrevolutionary insurgency, which killed a member of her brigade.

Guillard was rejected in her first home placement because of the color
of her skin and was then placed in a mixed-race family. Despite the
racism and hardships of rural life, the literacy campaign was a kind of
liberation for Guillard from the constraints of social norms and gender
expectations. After her placement ended, she went to Havana on a
scholarship to study Russian. She was housed with other students in the
homes of wealthy exiles who had left the country after the revolution.
During this time, she also confronted the machismo of male students who
wanted the female students to wash and iron their clothes, which
Guillard refused to do.

Guillard went on to become a social psychologist, with a focus on
women's empowerment, anti-racism, and LGBTQ activism. In the mid-1990s,
she was one of the pioneers of a small network of women known as Magín
(Image), which sought to engage in feminist activism and advocacy
outside the direct control of the state-sanctioned women's federation.
In the midst of the post-Soviet economic crisis, these activists found
the federation—and its lack of a feminist perspective—unequipped to deal
with issues such as the revival of sex tourism, the growing gender gap,
and the negative portrayals of women in the media. The women activists
promoted certain radical perspectives on gender and sexuality in Cuban
society, such as the rights of women to engage in sex work, as long as
they retained their dignity and self-respect. After operating for a few
years, Magín was dissolved by the Communist Party in 1996; this was part
of a broader crackdown on independent groups that year, but was also due
to a fear by the government that women organizing independently
presented a risk of division in Cuban society. For the women, this was a
machista line of thinking: that they needed to be saved by the men who
understood how politics worked and how women could be seduced by the enemy.

In the new millennium, this experience was to be repeated with the
anti-racist organization Color Cubano (Cuban Color), which was started
by the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). Guillard
participated in activities of the organization, although she wasn't part
of the leadership. Zurbano joined it in 2002. As the organization
reached a moment of intense activism in the mid-2000s, the Communist
Party put pressure on UNEAC, which eventually dissolved Color Cubano and
created a new organization, Comisión Aponte, from which several of the
original anti-racism leaders were excluded.

In spite of these setbacks, anti-racism activists continued to find
spaces to work. Guillard directed the Section of Identities and
Diversity in Communication in the Cuban Society of Psychology, which
provided a venue for discussions about racial discrimination. And it was
around this time that Zurbano joined the Casa de las Américas as
director of the publishing house, where he edited dozens of titles by
black authors from Cuba and around the region.

* * *

The contemporary anti-racism struggle in Cuba is a product of this
history. It is multi-generational and transnational. The groups that
have emerged over the past decade span from the urban centers of Havana
to the eastern region of Santiago de Cuba. The spaces for their social
activism are still limited, but leaders—many of them black women—are
making efforts to engage Cubans from a range of social backgrounds and
in multiple settings, from policy to activism.

In November 2012, the Red Barrial Afrodescendiente (Barrio Network of
Afro-Descendants) was started in the Havana barrio Balcón Arimao. The
organization was founded by three women, Maritza López, Hildelisa Leal,
and Damayanti Matos, with the aim of supporting anti-racist activism in
the marginalized barrios of Havana and creating projects to promote the
economic vitality and solidarity of the majority-black residents. The
Red Barrial is based on a horizontal style of organizing, local
leadership development, and collective decision-making, drawing on ideas
of popular education and taking inspiration from radical Brazilian
educator Paulo Freire and Martin Luther King Jr. Working closely with
the female-led organization Grupo Afrocubanas, the Red Barrial seeks to
bring together local barrio residents—mechanics, religious leaders,
architects, and doctors—to discuss old and new forms of racial
discrimination and ways to fight it.

Another project begun in 2012 is the legal-cultural organization Alianza
Unidad Racial (Racial Unity Alliance). Started by the lawyer Deyni Terri
Abreu, it focuses on civil rights, citizen education, and penal rights.
The Alianza offers free legal workshops and has won several
anti-discrimination cases, including one of a black man who had suffered
employment discrimination. It has also defended black Cubans in cases of
excessive police harassment. While black Cubans constitute about 10
percent of the population, the Cuban social scientist Rosa Campoalegre
argues that they are greatly overrepresented in the criminal justice and
penal systems. Black youth are constantly stopped by police on the
streets, asked to produce ID, and arrested without cause. As a legal
organization, the Alianza has faced some challenges, given that the
state-approved national organization of lawyers is usually required to
provide legal representation in court cases. As a result, the Alianza
has generally been limited to court accompaniment, legal advice, and
cultural work, such as training people in how to dress and present
themselves in court.

These various organizations come together under the umbrella group
ARAAC, which counts on the participation of many longtime anti-racism
activists in Cuba, including Zurbano, Guillard, Arandia, and Abreu, as
well as the historian Robaina. Arandia saw the formation of the Cuban
chapter of ARAAC in 2012 as a major advance in the struggle for racial
equality in Cuba. While ARAAC evolved out of the earlier struggles on
the island, Arandia also saw it as marking a different moment, when
various groups could come together in a new structure to change public
policy, reach out to broader social sectors, and build alliances with
Afro-descendant groups across Latin America and the Caribbean.

In response to official rhetoric, which holds that talking about race
divides the nation, the activists of ARAAC argue rather that it is
silence about race that divides the nation. Activists have been bolder
in staking out their autonomy from the state. Gisela Morales (Giselita),
who stepped down from a paid position in ARAAC, argued at the May 4
meeting that she did not want to take money from the state and that
ARAAC should be independent: "If the citizens decide to meet, they don't
have to ask permission from the state, and no one can dissolve a process
that the citizens decide to take forward."

* * *

Spurred by the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States, we are
now living in a moment of heightened anti-racist struggle globally.
Groups such as Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR) in Australia
and the New Urban Collective in Amsterdam have taken inspiration from
#BlackLivesMatter. This moment presents new opportunities for the
anti-racist movement in Cuba. Cuban activists recognize the vast
differences, of course: that while police brutality and murder of black
youth is all too common in the United States, in Cuba police rarely use
arms or kill unarmed black people. But the disproportionate surveillance
and harassment of black youth on the island does provide grounds for
transnational solidarity. The other opening has come from the United
Nations–sponsored International Decade for People of African Descent,
which began in January 2015 under the themes recognition, justice, and
development. The conversations, gatherings, and networks generated from
it could give momentum to anti-racism organizations and their demands in

Anti-racism organizations in Cuba may fall outside the radar of the
international news media because they don't fit the profile of the
typical dissident groups, such as those calling for freedom of speech
and denouncing the government. Rather, groups like ARAAC are part of a
lineage of activism that exists within the parameters of the Cuban
revolution, recognizing its progress in fighting structural
discrimination and seeking to preserve the social and economic benefits
that Afro-Cubans have won. Their allegiance to the ideals of the
revolution has helped Afro-Cuban activists to navigate a path for
independent dialogue within the constraints of the political system. But
the threat of closure or sanction is always a possibility, as is the
reality of racist backlash, as seen in recent events. One article
published last month on the Cuban website El Heraldo Cubano denies the
existence of racism in Cuba and attacks the Alianza Unidad Racial and
another organization, Cofradía de la Negritud (Brotherhood of
Blackness), as counter-revolutionaries funded by the US government. But
these organizations and activists openly define themselves as
anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and decolonizing. That does not
endear them to the kinds of US democracy-promotion programs sponsored by
USAID and the Obama administration.

There is now more than ever a need for these anti-racism organizations
on the island, as recent openings to the United States and an expanding
market economy have generated greater racial and economic inequalities.
Given the concentration of black Cubans in substandard housing, their
lack of access to capital, including remittances from abroad, and the
prevalence of racist norms in hiring for the tourism industry,
Afro-Cubans are much more poorly placed to take advantage of openings
for social mobility and economic improvement. Black-led anti-racism
organizations provide the best chance for ensuring that Afro-Cubans are
not left behind as normalization proceeds.

SUJATHA FERNANDES TWITTER Sujatha Fernandes is a professor of sociology
at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
She is the author of several books, including Cuba Represent!, Who Can
Stop The Drums?, and Close to the Edge. Her forthcoming book, Mobilizing
Stories: The Political Uses of Storytelling, will be published next year.

Source: Afro-Cuban Activists Fight Racism Between Two Fires | The Nation
- Continue reading
Inside The World's Slowest Newsroom
Staff at Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party, are
facing a new challenge — how to embrace the openness of the internet
while still pleasing ruthless censors. Karla Zabludovsky visited its
newsroom in Havana to find out.
posted on Jul. 8, 2015, at 5:24 p.m.
Karla Zabludovsky
BuzzFeed News World Correspondent, Mexico
Reporting From
Havana, Cuba

HAVANA — Every couple of months panic hits newsrooms around the world as
Fidel Castro's death is announced on Twitter. A scramble ensues as
reporters try to confirm the rumor and editors make sure his obituary is
up to date. Moments later, calm is restored as it turns out a fake
account was responsible.
But there is one newspaper where the staff remains permanently
unruffled. At Granma, the official newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party,
there is no Wi-Fi, leaving most of its reporters offline as soon as they
step away from their desks, so Twitterstorms tend to pass them by. The
paper's deputy editor, Oscar Sanchez Serra, carries around a beaten-up
old Nokia phone; he has no need for a smartphone to keep up with
breaking news — after all, Cuba remains mostly cut off from the internet.
On the plus side, he said, given their close ties to the state, the
editors of Granma are likely to know before anyone else when Castro does
eventually die. "There is no doubt that we will be the first to find
out," said Sanchez.
Now, more than five decades after revolution swept Castro to power,
Granma — and the rest of the island — is facing a huge test. Today,
around 5% of Cuba's 11 million inhabitants have internet access, but
that looks set to change. This month, 35 Wi-Fi hotspots opened across
the island. Some say this gives hope that the Communist country, subject
to decades of disastrous economic policy compounded by a punishing U.S.
embargo, is inching its way toward a more open society. After Barack
Obama announced a sweeping shift in Cuba policy in December, the White
House said boosting internet access would be a priority for his
government. For its part, the Cuban government said earlier this year
that it "wanted to make the internet available to all," according to
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermú­dez, the country's first vice-president, and
seen by some as the most likely successor to the Castros.
Inevitably the changes are happening slowly and — for now, at least —
Granma's newsroom remains trapped in a time capsule. Its offices stand
just off Revolutionary Plaza, a grassy square in Havana's busy Vedado
neighborhood under the perpetual watch of Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto
"Che" Guevara, whose silhouettes are etched into the buildings lining
the square.
Inside, the office is peppered with decade-old beige LG computer
monitors and large-button telephones installed in 1998. There are no
standing desks or ergonomic office chairs here — and while most
newsrooms are littered with newspapers and magazines from around the
world, at Granma there's nothing more than a pile of copies of a Cuban
weekly. In a country where censorship is everywhere, Granma's
inspiration, and competition, is Granma.
Now the paper, like much of the island, is trying to enter the 21st
century. Its website, launched in 1997 and getting about a quarter of a
million unique visitors a month, mostly from abroad, is set for a
revamp. They're looking to redesign the physical paper too, making
photos bigger, with plans to start running them in color. Its foreign
editor, Sergio Alejandro Gomez, said the goal is: "web first, print second."
But the paper, like Cuba's leadership, will need to confront a question
that has plagued oppressive regimes the world over — how can it embrace
the openness of the internet while also pleasing ruthless censors?
Sanchez was unequivocal: "The internet will not change the editorial
line … I'm the one the party put here." Granma, he said, would never
criticize the revolution's leaders and always runs stories about
sensitive subjects by the Communist Party before publishing them.
The consequences of that censorship have been profound for reporters in
Cuba, including some that worked at Granma. The paper's former
international news editor, Aida Calviac Mora, left Cuba for Miami last
year, telling America TeVe that new ideas were viewed as threatening and
that there was a crisis of credibility in Cuba between readers and the
media. In 2011, the journalist Jose Antonio Torres was arrested and
sentenced to 14 years in prison on suspicion of espionage for writing a
letter to an employee of the U.S. Special Interests Section, according
to local reports.
It is difficult to gauge how much support the leadership has in Cuba
since many people are afraid to express negative opinions and face
repercussions when they do. According to a poll published by the
Washington Post and Univision in April, 53% of those surveyed said they
were dissatisfied with the political system in Cuba, 58% said they had a
negative view of the Communist Party, and 75% admitted to being careful
when expressing their opinions in public.
Dissidents are frequently arrested; on Tuesday, the U.S. State
Department voiced concern about the detention of approximately 100
peaceful activists in Cuba this week. According to Freedom House, a
Washington-based nonprofit, Cuba is the most restrictive country in the
Americas in terms of press freedom and free speech. Reporters Without
Borders ranked Cuba 169 out of 180 countries in its 2015 World Press
Freedom Index.
As a result, many Cubans take Granma with a pinch of salt even though
it's the country's highest-circulation newspaper, with half a million
copies printed each day. It has a staff of around 280 people, and just
one foreign correspondent based — almost inevitably — in Venezuela, with
whom Cuba has close economic and political ties.
With little internet access on the island, many of readers
come from abroad, and in particular via social media. Around 80% of
traffic to its website, which totaled 274,554 unique visits in May,
according to an internal report provided by Sánchez, comes from Facebook
and Twitter.
In an effort to keep up to speed with the changes anticipated on the
island, Granma's bosses plan to launch a web-based TV channel, audio,
and interactive graphics in the near future. When the foreign editor
heard that BuzzFeed was visiting the offices, he smiled broadly. "Twenty
things you didn't know about Granma! The first of these? That the
director of international news at Granma is 27 years old," said Sanchez.
He's not the only one: 60% of the paper's reporters are "very young,"
and of these, "many are under 30," he added, reflective of Cuba's
younger generation, which is desperate to get on the web themselves.
Relics from the past can be seen everywhere in Granma's HQ, especially
on the picture desk, where dusty bronze photojournalism awards from the
1970s are neatly arranged in a filing cabinet. A dozen vintage cameras,
including a folding one from the 1930s, lay on a simple table, giving
the place the feeling of a museum.
Fortunately these are just for display. Photographers use
semi-professional Nikon cameras for assignments, said Juvenal Balan,
head of the photo desk, which is not ideal but allows his team to meet
the paper's expectations. Still, "there is a lag in technology," he
said, a thick copy of the Yellow Pages laying next to his computer.

Source: Inside The World's Slowest Newsroom - BuzzFeed News - Continue reading
U.S. fans of Cuban cigars still have long wait before they can be sold here

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could keep Cuban cigars out of
local tobacco shops for at least two years after the economic blockade ends.
Tampa Bay Times

For American cigar aficionados, Cuban tobacco is the forbidden fruit,
long-blocked from the United States market by its five-decade-old
embargo on the island nation.

But in this new era of normalizing relations, the prospect of the
embargo being lifted is rising. That excites Americans who now are
restricted to bringing in just $100 of the high-quality cigars, and then
only if they buy them on the island.

There's just one hitch: Regulations recently announced by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration could keep Cuban cigars out of local tobacco
shops for at least two years after the economic blockade ends. And even
then, smokers may not find the full catalogue available in other countries.

"This administration is talking out of both sides of its mouth," said
Bryan Haynes, a partner with the Atlanta-based law firm Troutman
Sanders, which represents tobacco companies. "While building a better
relationship with Cuba, it's effectively banned its most famous product."

Under the new FDA rules, electronic cigarettes, personal vaporizers and
cigars introduced into the U.S. market after February 15, 2007, must
submit detailed accounts of their ingredients and the process used to
manufacture them. It is a regulatory process similar to how the FDA
governs the cigarette industry.

The FDA estimates the application process would take up to 1,700 hours
for cigar manufacturers. The tobacco industry counters it could be as
high as 5,000. In all, it could take as long as two years to complete
this work.

Cigars for sale in the United States can remain on the market as they
apply. New products cannot be sold until FDA approval is received.

While some brands of Cuban cigars were on U.S. shelves before the
embargo, they will still have to fully comply with the new regulations,
said Haynes.

"Something produced in the '50s or '60s and not sold since then is not
grandfathered in the FDA's eyes," he said.

So if the embargo were to be lifted in 2017, for instance, Cuban cigars
may not be available for purchase until 2019. And that is if Habanos
—Cuba's state-owned company that runs its cigar industry— began the FDA
process the very moment the embargo ends.

The premium hand-rolled cigar industry —a category that would include
most Cubans— is lobbying to be exempt from the regulations. Industry
leaders claim their products use pure tobacco and no dangerous chemicals.

Among the locals affected by these regulations is Ybor City's J.C.
Newman Cigar Co., which rolls premium cigars using tobacco from Cameroon.

"We are disappointed in the FDA's decision to treat premium cigars as
cigarettes," said Eric Newman, the company's president. "This will be a
real challenge for us long term, but we are ready to fight."

Different types of cigars sold by the same brand are considered separate
products and each must comply with the regulations.

To do so will cost up to $330,000 per product, the FDA estimates, while
the tobacco industry argues that number is closer to $1 million.

Either way, said J. Glynn Loope, executive director of the advocacy
group Cigar Rights of America, it is doubtful that boutique operations
can afford the bill. Larger companies, he said, may cut back on the
number of new cigars they produce and pull some cigars already on the
market to avoid the regulatory costs. Newman said that's a possibility
for his company.

Expect Cuba to initially engage the U.S. market in a limited fashion,
said Jeff Borysiewicz, founder of Cigar Rights of America.

"At best I could see Cuba bringing its two top brands to the U.S.," he said.

But it may be worth it for Cuba to go all in.

Richard Feinberg, a senior fellow in the Latin America Initiative at the
Brookings Institute, has estimated that the U.S. cigar market could
inject an extra $200 million into the Cuban economy, although that
projection was made before the new FDA regulations.

Simon Evans, a spokesman for London-based Imperial Tobacco, which is the
international distribution partner of Habanos, acknowledged that the new
FDA policy will provide obstacles.

"The regulations will undoubtedly have an impact in the market and will
increase some operating cost," he said. "It would be foolish to
speculate on the timing of any potential lifting of the embargo.
Nevertheless, the Habanos team continues to work hard to be fully
prepared for that eventuality."

Americans visiting Cuba are allowed to bring back cigars for personal
use, capped at $100 worth. It's among the policies passed by the Obama
administration over the past 18 months.

But that doesn't buy much, said Borysiewicz. A box costs between $200
and $500.

Even though Cuban cigars are not FDA-approved, the new regulations
aren't expected to affect imports of small amounts for personal use.

"Because the amount of merchandise imported into the United States in
personal shipments is normally small, both in size and value,
comprehensive coverage of these imports is normally not justified," FDA
spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in an email.

If the embargo is lifted, the U.S. law governing the importation of
tobacco for personal use from Cuba will then be the same as it is for
every other country, increasing what can be brought back to as many as
100 cigars with a price capped at $800.

Still, Borysiewicz said that doesn't include the cost and time of the
trip to Cuba.

What American cigar aficionados expect, he said, is to be able to visit
their local tobacco shop and choose from a full catalog of Cuban cigars.
But it seems they'll have to wait longer than expected.

"When the embargo is lifted we would be celebrating a new day in
U.S.-Cuba relations" said Haynes, the attorney. "The symbol of that
should be the Cuban cigar."

Source: U.S. fans of Cuban cigars still have long wait before they can
be sold here | In Cuba Today - Continue reading
What's behind the changes to the Constitution?
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 24 Mayo 2016 - 1:36 pm.

At the VII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), the most
regressive of all those held thus far, Gen. Raul Castro announced that
major amendments will be made to the socialist Constitution.

The dictator said that they will be carried out in the future and,
although he did not provide any details, revealed that they would made
to "ratify the irrevocable nature of the political and social system
endorsed in the current Constitution, which includes the PCC's
leadership role in our society."

In short, they are bound to worsen the already appalling Constitution.
This is hardly a cause for surprise, because the two changes made thus
far, in 1992 and 2002, far from moderating its Stalinist character,
actually intensified it. The 2002 version was Castro's response to the
Varela project, spearheaded by opposition leader Oswaldo Payá (later
killed under quite suspicious circumstances), which called for political
reform to expand fundamental freedoms in Cuba.

The initiative had a national and international impact, cited in a
speech by former US president Jimmy Carter, before Fidel Castro, during
his visit to the island in 2002. The commander was furious, and ordered
the National Assembly of the People's Power to approve an amendment to
the Constitution stipulating the "irrevocable character" of the
Communist system.

The retrograde spirit of the only Communist Fundamental Law in
continental history jumps out when compared with the Constitution of
1940. That Constitution was drafted by a Constituent Assembly elected by
the people at the polls, and made up of prominent intellectuals, jurists
and politicians (76 in total) including six Marxist-Leninist
representatives of the Partido Unión Revolucionaria Comunista. The
nation's entire political-ideological spectrum was represented in that body.

The 1940 Constitution replaced that of 1901 and established rights not
enshrined in many constitutions in the world at that time, such as the
inalienable right of the individual to a decent job, a minimum wage, the
eight-hour workday, paid holidays, the right to strike, workers' freedom
of association, and social security protection against unemployment,
invalidity, old age, and other contingencies.

It also ensured the freedom of expression, assembly, and political
association as individual rights. It recognized the right to private
ownership over the means of production, and the separation of the three
branches of government. That Constitution was a source of national
pride, considered internationally one of the most advanced in the world.

Copied from the Soviets

The Constitution of 1976, in contrast, was drafted by a commission
cherry-picked by Fidel Castro, who appointed Blas Roca as its president,
a longtime leader of the Cuban Communists since in the 30s they were
allies of Fulgencio Batista. And it was copied from the USSR, with
aggravating elements imposed by Castro.

And I assert that it was copied from the USSR because Blas Roca told me
as much in early 1976. As he had been a delegate to the Constituent
Assembly of 1940, I asked him which constitutional text had been more
demanding and difficult to write: that approved 36 years ago, or that
which was receiving its final touches, to be approved shortly.

In his soft-spoken tone, he told me that the circumstances surrounding
the drafting of the two constitutions were very different, because in
1939 and 1940 each paragraph or important point had to be negotiated
"intensely with the bourgeois members" of the Constituent Assembly.

"However," he added, "this one now is more laborious because we do not
want to copy anyone, yet we have to take into account the constitutions
and the experiences of other socialist countries; Czechoslovakia's, for
example, has been very useful."

I think Blas Roca confessed more than he would have liked, and to
backpedal mentioned the Czech constitution rather than the Soviet. But
it is common knowledge that all the constitutions of the Communist
countries of Eastern Europe were essentially copied from that of the
Leninist motherland.

In the Cuban case, it is obvious that the ideas of a president of a
Council of State controlled by the PCC, rather than a president elected
at the polls, and the fact that the PCC and its first secretary
constitute the highest echelon of power, above the head of State and
Government, were flown in directly from Moscow. Thus, the current
Constitution does not even recognize individual rights acknowledged
throughout the civilized world, including private property, but rather
State ownership (sovjoses), that of small farmers, cooperatives
(koljoses), and mixed ownership between the State and foreign investors.

Jurassic in nature, but ...

It is very naive to believe that the constitutional changes that General
Castro has alluded to will include the right to private property, or
facilitate structural reforms that the country needs, measures
incompatible with Castroism's Jurassic nature.

However, the collapse of leftist populism in Latin America, the dire
crisis suffered by chavismo in Venezuela, and the ouster of Dilma
Rousseff in Brazil, Castro's second most important ally, is leaving
Castro's cadre almost defenseless, which could force changes to the
Constitution in an effort to attract foreign capital and relax the
State's monopoly over the economy and trade.

In other words, the foreseeable breakdown of the Sao Paulo Forum and
"21st-century Socialism" will impose its own rules on Cuba, which have
nothing to do with those of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che Guevara or
Fidel Castro.

Until there is new leadership on the island, however, and as long as the
two brothers continue to run the country, the Constitution will not
recognize the right to private ownership of the means of production, nor
citizens' basic rights.

The plan that the dictator had lined up when he announced the
constitutional reforms will need to be "updated" for simple reasons of
survival, but not for the benefit of Cubans. With today's low oil
prices, even if the disciples of Chávez continue in power, the current
flow of aid from Caracas to Havana cannot be sustained.

Guaranteeing the succession

In short, the core aim of these changes to the Constitution is to
institutionally guarantee the succession of the Castros and the
"historical" leaders back from the Sierra Maestra days, and to establish
a neo-Castroism consisting of a capitalism on the leash of an
authoritarian State, with some socialist, fascist, Chinese and
post-Soviet elements.

It is likely, therefore, that the positions of the President of the
Council of State and President the Council of Ministers will be
separated, and the head of State will be stripped of his status as
Commander- in-Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR); if Raúl
Castro is missing (due to his death, illness, or because he has finished
out his term) his replacement as head of State and the Government,
presumably Miguel Díaz-Canel, does not form part of the Military Junta,
but would become the supreme commander of the FAR without being the
First Secretary of the PCC ("number one").

For the first time a civilian without a revolutionary or family pedigree
would be the Commander-in-Chief of the FAR, and not the First Secretary
of the PCC, who is constitutionally the dictator, a genuine absurdity in
a Communist military regime. Fixing this institutional mess will be vital.

Of course, as neither China nor Russia will subsidize Cuba, and the
island will depend more than ever on the US, and anti-Castro Cuban
exiles (gusanos), anything could happen, albeit uncalculated by Castro's

Cubans' rejection of the regime, meanwhile, is accelerating like never
before. And as the song says, "La vida te da sorpresas..." ("Life
surprises you").

Source: What's behind the changes to the Constitution? | Diario de Cuba
- Continue reading
Filmmakers Reaffirm Their Demands / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 21 May 2016 – Three years after the first meeting
of the G20, a group of Cuban filmmakers who are demanding a Film Law,
the group continues to wait for an institutional response that
addresses their demands. This week a letter was made public reaffirming
their demands for greater recognition for filmmakers and the
legalization of independent productions, among other benefits.

Ignored by the official media and frowned upon by the authorities who
should be responding to these demands, the group has also been
transformed over its three years of existence. Exhausted, worn out and
with the responsibility of other commitments, a group that formerly
contained 22 names now has only eight members.

However, those who remain in the independent group believe that only
united can they achieve the objective of having filmmakers' expectations
valued, and address everyone's proposals in a practical way," says the
letter. They see that in this way they will be able to "confront the
tasks ahead quickly, efficiently and responsibly."

The artists make it clear that the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic
Art and Industry (ICAIC) should not disappear, but rather be
transformed. The group recognizes the institution as the "rector of the
film industry in the country" but clarifies that by saying that "the
ICAIC is all of us."

The highlight of their demands is the creation of a new Film Law to give
a "cultural and legal coherence to the film and audiovisual system in
the country."

In earlier statements the filmmakers stressed the urgency of seeking
better management and regulation of financial relations, banking and
taxes for their work in a "transparent and efficient" way, in a context
in which producers who not tied to the ICAIC now work without legal or
institutional support.

The filmmakers see as a ray of hope the use of the word "cinema" in one
of the new Guidelines emerging from the 7th Communist Party Congress
held earlier this year. In addition, comments on the concept of new
forms of economic management, made by Raul Castro at the Party Congress,
have fueled hopes that audiovisual creators could be included.

The document that has circulated this week by email summarizes the
events of the past three years and says that the effort has both "found
support and run into misunderstandings." The objectives that led to the
creation of the G20 "have not been realized," note the authors of the

At the head of the mission to overcome misunderstandings and multiply
support around the demands of filmmakers, are Manuel Perez Paredes and
Fernando Perez—both winners of the National Film Award—Jorge Luis
Sánchez, Magda González Grau, Dean Luis Reyes, Pedro Luis Rodriguez,
Mijaíl Rodriguez and, although his name does not initially appear as a
signatory of the letter, the filmmaker Enrique (Kiki) Álvarez.

The group emphasizes in its missive that it will continue "faithful to
its founding objectives." It also says that it will revisit the
"meetings and exchanges among artists of three generations," which it
qualifies as "one of the most legitimate conquests of these three
years." These meetings take place in the Fresa y Chocolate Cultural
Center in Havana.

The current legislation on cinema dates from 1959, when the ICAIC was
founded, but the emergence of new technologies, the appearance of
independent producers and the economic problems being experienced by the
ICAIC, along with the notorious cases of institutional censorship, have
exposed cracks in the regulations.

"The only chance for Cuban cinema to overcome its current ethical and
aesthetic poverty is a Film Law with all and for the good of all*,"
director Kiki Alvarez told 14ymedio. "The rest, the circumstantial
debates, are detours, delays and we never know anymore who favors them,"
he added.

*Translator's note: A quote from José Martí repeated without cease by
the Castros.

Source: Filmmakers Reaffirm Their Demands / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
In Search Of The Owner Of The City / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camagüey, 21 May 2016 — Every city rests
on the man who safeguards it. He can be called mayor, administrator or
public official; ultimately the label is the least important. This is
his charge, like the steward of the millionaire's mansion. His
obligation lies in the zeal with which he is able to optimize the
performance of the city's people. For this he counts on public economic
resources and the necessary personnel.

He is, almost always—as he always should be—the ideal citizen. He is the
man everyone knows, who knows everyone's name and where they live,
because, among his reasons for being, his priority is to be ready to
hear the needs of the last inhabitant of the village at any time.

However, in Camagüey this citizen never shows his face, no one knows his
name, or where he resides; and worse, when we assume who he is and where
he is, it is impossible to address him and we can not establish a
dialogue with him even through the press.

The certainty of not having been democratically elected lies in that
nobody knows him. Despite his phantasmagoric existence, when he takes
measures in search of "perfecting" the city, they are arbitrary and
counterproductive. I have given this man the name: "The Owner of the City."

Camagüey, despite its narrow winding streets due to its five hundred
years of existence, was a city where it was easy to circulate. Dozens of
traffic lights ordered the path of the cars, police officers took care
of traffic violations, to the point that the least of its alleys was
accessible to traffic, and both the sidewalks and the pavement were kept
clean and in perfect state of repair. It is said that Camagüey once
qualified as one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Above all,
at any hour of the night or in the earliest hours of the morning, the
citizenry enjoyed a high level of security.

The Camagüey of today is far from what it once was. The Owner of the
City is pleased to close streets for the slightest reason. Martí Street,
an important artery through the historic center and the main route to
the east for the fire brigade, has been permanently blocked in front of
Agramonte Park. An outdoor café has been placed in the street to serve
international tourism, as the snacks sold there are priced in hard
currency not attainable by ordinary Cubans.

Also to attract tourists, they have unearthed the rails that were
sleeping under El Gallo Plazoleta, so that the visitors can see that
there were once trams in the city, although the result has been too turn
this into the most inconvenient and dangerous crossing—over those sharp
steel strips—and on occasion bicycles and motorcycles come to grief there.

The parking lot at Merced Plaza—now called Workers Plaza—was dismantled
and vintage benches have been placed around the central ceiba tree, so
that those who visit us will have the most beautiful image of the place,
although cars in the business center of the province now have to park on
another street, under permanent guard. It seems, that the Owner of the
City wants to convert Camagüey into a showcase for tourism, to the
detriment of its permanent residents.

The most important streets in the center—Cisneros, Independencia and San
Esteban—have been closed for many months under the pretext of repairing
the abutting buildings, and Republica Street has been modified into a
boulevard for pedestrians only, while San Martin Street is in such a
state of disrepair that it is very difficult to travel on it, without
anyone showing any interest in its restoration.

Everyone who knows this city could intuit that these being the exclusive
thoroughfares of the historic center, its viability is reduced by nearly
half and thus its potential, while intersecting streets are overburdened
by traffic.

If we add to that the reductions in parking spaces in the plazas,
forcing parking to the left of the narrow lanes in the Historic Center,
this leaves only a tiny space where not even a bicycle or a pedicab can
get through—the common vehicles of residents—causing heavy volumes prone
to traffic jams. There are only four traffic lights in the city, three
of them on the central highway. In "peak" hours traffic in the
non-preferential directions suffers long delays because of this lack.

The narrow sidewalks of old Camagüey are mostly damaged, obstructed by
structures placed to shore up the buildings, or by the theft of the
utility covers. They are filled with dog excrement which is everywhere
due to the lack of discipline among unethical people and the absence of
inspectors capable of correcting the bad habits of animal owners.

People walk in the street more than on the sidewalks. No one respects
the rules of circulation: not only do cyclists and pedicabs ride against
traffic, but motorbikes and cars, very dangerously, do the same thing,
turning the city into something very like a rural village.

More could be said of the current Camagüey. There remains much to be
censored, but the shortage of publishing space makes it impossible. I am
barely permitted to make a call to the Owner of the City asking him to
consider these constructive criticisms and to begin his necessary labor.
To ensure that this urban honeycomb shelters not only international
tourism, but also its more than 300,000 inhabitants, his work is
urgently needed along with more rigorous and effective attention.


Editor 's Note: This text was originally published in the blog La Furia
de los Vientos (The Fury of the Winds) and is reproduced here with
permission of the author

Source: In Search Of The Owner Of The City / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando
Junco – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The New Archbishop Of Havana Confesses To Being "Scared" / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 22 May 2016 – In a packed cathedral with
screens showing the mass for those who couldn't enter the temple,
Havana's new Archbishop, Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez, took possession
of his new post this Sunday. The successor to Jaime Ortega y Alamino
delivered a homily in which he acknowledged he was "scared" the face of
so much responsibility.

"You will understand that I'm scared" and "do not understand the mystery
of why I'm here," said the prelate who also enumerated his wishes that
Cubans might "live in peace, eat in peace, work and study in peace, and
die in peace.. For which "we dream that no one touches anyone, no one
hits anyone, no one, nobody hurts anyone."

A multitude waited for García Rodríguez from the early hours of the
morning in the vicinity of the church. At the front door of the
Cathedral Cardinal Ortega y Alamino awaited him, and he opened the
ceremony with the crozier in his hands, subsequently handing it over to
the new archbishop. On June 29 Pope Francisco will deliver to him in
Rome the pallium, a liturgical ornament appropriate to his status.

For Marcia, 66, "it begins a new era for our church and I hope he will
bring harmony and respect," she told this newspaper. Christian and very
attentive to ecclesiastical life, the woman notes that "there are high
expectations among those who frequently come to this church and people
have received the appointment with joy."

The ceremony on Sunday was attended by several Cuban bishops of various
dioceses and the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski. Government
representation was headed by the Vice President of the State Council,
Salvador Valdes Mesa and Caridad Diego, head of the Office of Religious
Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

Along with parishioners who usually attend Sunday Mass in Havana's main
church, numerous foreign press correspondents, tourists passing through
town and dozens of onlookers also gathered. "This is a historic moment
and I came to take pictures and send them to my relatives in Tampa," a
young history student at the University of Havana explained to 14ymedio.

A group of faithful Catholics from the Camaguey region also came to the
church. "I am very proud that one of our own has come so far,"
Mauritius, age 58 and a resident in Sibanicú told this newspaper. He
added, "it has been known for years now that this priest was destined
for great challenges."

Garcia Rodriguez, who served as bishop of Camaguey, was appointed in
April by Pope Francis as the new archbishop of Havana. The appointment
came after the pope accepted the resignation of former archbishop of the
city, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who had passed the age of 75 years, which
is the limit set in the Code of Canon Law.

During the Mass on Sunday a message sent by Pope Francis from the
Vatican was read, in which he explained his decision and said that
Garcia Rodriguez is "endowed with recognized intellectual and moral
qualities," in addition to enjoying "a wide expertise in the exercise of
the pastoral work."

Born in 1948, the new archbishop of Havana was appointed priest in 1972
and joined the parish of Morón and Ciego de Avila. He was also pastor of
Jatibonico and Florida, as well as the founder and director of the
School for Missionaries in the diocese of Camagüey, for which was named
archbishop in 2002.

Garcia has stressed that he expects his episcopate to serve to increase
the dialogue with the Cuban government, so that "the Church can be
present in spaces that belong to them, such as education, the media and
prison ministry."

Source: The New Archbishop Of Havana Confesses To Being "Scared" /
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Several Cuban Migrant Identities Revealed As They Await Decision
May 22, 2016 8:44 AM

SUGARLOAF KEY (CBSMiami) – A group of 19 Cuban migrants that were in a
standoff with the Coast Guard at a lighthouse off the Florida Keys are
still waiting to hear whether they'll be able to remain in the U.S. or
be sent back to Cuba.

They found themselves in a stalemate with the U.S. Coast Guard on
Friday, swimming to a lighthouse and climbing on top as authorities
approached their home-made boat.

Hours later, the migrants gave in and came down off the lighthouse,
boarding the Coast Guard Cutter.

Now, their status remains in limbo.

"At this point, we're trying to enter into a dialogue with the
government to see if they will allow these people to remain here," said
Democracy Movement leader Ramon Saul Sanchez, who showed up at the Coast
Guard station in Miami Beach.

The migrants have remained on that Coast Guard ship, which is out at
sea, as the government tries to figure out if the lighthouse, in U.S.
waters, is considered "making it to shore" in the wet-foot, dry-foot policy.

If the answer is "no," they will be sent back to Cuba.

"The attorneys are working together with the relatives here to see if we
can present an injunction order as soon as possible or some kind of
legal recourse to stop the repatriation while the court can decide if
these people are dry foot because they were in a structure that is part
of the united states." said Sanchez.

The attorneys working on behalf of the migrants worked all day Saturday
preparing documents.

"We can file a federal action immediately upon their decision," said
attorney Virlenys Palma. "We have no filed action yet because we're
giving them an opportunity to decide if they're gonna allow them to stay
or not."

Late Saturday a list was compiled by Movimiento Democracia that showed
the name of 15 of the migrants that were with the Coast Guard.

Liban Concepcion Lio, Alexeis Leyva, Soltan Gamboa Ruiz, Luis Felpie
Gamboa Ruiz, Oscar Luis Lopez, Michael Perez, Yordanki Perez Varea,
Alexander Vergara Lopez, Jennifer Cespedez Almaguen, Carlos Javiel,
Leonides Pena Parra, Yasel Kalet, Carlos Alberto Jorge Quevedo, Marco
Antonio Pastoriza and Alexea Batista are the names on the list.

Relatives of some of the migrants also waited for the decision, which
could come at any time.

There is a precedent here for officials to reference. A similar
situation happened ten years ago when a group of Cuban migrants made it
to the old Seven Mile Bridge just below Marathon Key.

In that case, they were sent back to Cuba because officials said making
it to the bridge column in the water was not the same as making it to shore.

Then after going back to Cuba a judge ended up reversing that decision.

Source: Several Cuban Migrant Identities Revealed As They Await Decision
« CBS Miami - Continue reading
Normalizing relations with Cuba: not so fast

By aronsbarron

May 22, 2016 7:22 a.m.

Polls make it clear that the American public is way ahead of Congress in
supporting normalization of relations and reopening trade with Cuba. But
positive numbers from several polls don't mean that the
normalization process will be easy or fast. That was unequivocally
confirmed by Gonzalo Gallegos, Deputy Assistant for Western Affairs, at
a State Department briefing Monday for 30 members of the Association of
Opinion Journalists (AOJ).
Sixty-two percent in one key poll favor ending the embargo, even though
just 40 percent think it will restore democracy to Cuba. A majority of
the public approves of the way the Obama Administration is handling
the issue.
The Administration's approach hasn't changed since Under Secretary
Roberta Jacobson spoke to AOJ last year: small steps to build trust,
enabling the two countries to deal gradually with some of the more
contentious issues dividing them. The immediate focus, therefore, is
strengthening people-to-people links, assisting entrepreneurs to tap
economic opportunities and working to open the internet and
telecommunications. That goal, Gallegos said, is so the "broadest swath
of Cubans" can better see what's happening in the world around them.
Focusing on the relatively easy activities (agriculture, maritime,
civil aviation, climate change, for example) helps deepen dialogue
around the more difficult challenges of human rights, press freedom,
claims, and fugitives.
"The President has said that the future of Cuba is for Cubans to
decide," Gallegos declared. Not all Cubans I spoke with there a year ago
are so sanguine. Many Cubans working on normalization are still uneasy
that Cuban culture will be diluted as American businesses enter the new
market. This month's Chanel runway show and the incursion of film crews
into Havana were seen by many Cubans as the cultural down side of
normalization. The people of Cuba are friendly, optimistic about the new
opening and proud of their heritage. They are quick to point out that
"big countries do what they want; small countries do what they must."
A current theme in Obama foreign policy is trying to help other nations
improve governance and fortify the underpinnings of their economies,
improving the conditions that drive immigration and crime. Of
particular concern is the situation in Haiti, where the "people deserve
to have their voices heard." The United States is pushing the interim
government to complete their electoral process and achieve a
democratically elected government.
Gallegos noted that 'our one true success in nation building has been
in Colombia,' where our embassy has grown from 500 individuals (in the
mid 1990's) to 3000. Conditions were ripe because the people of Colombia
wanted change and forced their government to respond, there were well
trained police and military to move against the criminal elements, and
the government was able to expend significant resources. For every
dollar the United States invested, said Gallegos, the Colombian
government put up $10.
The changing relationship with Cuba is unique. Gallegos, who served in
Cuba from 2002-2004 under President George W. Bush, declined to
speculate on any time table for regularizing relations. He certainly
wouldn't hazard a guess of how much progress would have to be made to
persuade Congress to lift the embargo ("There is no micrometer"), nor
would he predict what will happen when Raoul Castro leaves office as
expected in 2018.
The goal of a peaceful, prosperous and ultimately democratic Cuba is out
there. How far out is the great unanswered question.

Source: Normalizing relations with Cuba: not so fast - Blogs - The
Winchester Star - Continue reading
Cuba: A country stuck in time
Finding beauty, desolation and my roots in the land of my ancestors
Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2016 12:00 pm
Viviana Pernot Staff photographer

It is the most desolate place I have ever seen.

It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

On nearly every block of cities such as Havana or Matanzas, slowly
crumbling buildings with stained walls, rusted window bars and
boarded-up holes sit next to piles of dust and rubble. Former buildings.

Yet, somehow, there is beauty in the decay. The detailed, century-old
craftsmanship is set off by exteriors painted in bright colors. Clothes,
hanging from wires, dry in the breeze.

Cuba is a country stuck in time. Carefully preserved cars from the 1950s
line the streets next to carriages and bicycles. For a visual artist, it
can be overwhelming, emotionally confusing.

There is such poverty, but also such happiness, apparent on the faces of
people sitting in doorsteps, watching the world go by at a leisurely pace.

And for me, my first visit to Cuba this spring was something more. This
is where my family came from. I was constantly aware that the streets I
was walking along were home to generations of my family. Everywhere I
looked, everyone I met, I thought, "That could have been me."

I recently had the chance to visit Cuba and photograph it on a food and
cultural tour. Despite the more open relationship between our two
countries, ordinary Americans still can't simply book a vacation to
Cuba. But my father, Guillermo Pernot, is chef partner of the Cuba Libre
Restaurants, one of which is located in Atlantic City. Twice a year he
organizes and hosts culinary tours with the help of the travel agency
Cultural Contrast.

With the quick and historic changes going on between the United States
and Cuba, I couldn't pass up the chance to go along on the spring trip.

My culture shock began at the Miami Airport, before we'd even left
America. I watched Cuban families saying goodbye to relatives who were
returning to the island. Instead of luggage, they sent them on the plane
with hundreds of pounds of American products, all wrapped securely, as
gifts to people in Cuba.

If they are not biking or walking, the most common form of
transportation for average Cuban citizens is to hitchhike on crowded
cattle trucks. Children go to school in uniforms based on age group.
Some people, who are viewed as saints, wear white and cannot be touched.

On our second day in the country, I kept hearing the same song as I
walked through Centro Habana, the heart of Havana. The beautiful melody
was being sung by a woman dressed all in white. The lyrics of the song
were a single word repeated over and over, "money." Whenever a group of
tourists would point a camera at her, she would block her face with a
fan and wag her finger, changing the lyric to "no pictures." I can only
guess that this was her way of asking for money.

Because this was a cuisine tour, scenes like this were in stark contrast
to the incredible food we ate at restaurants that cater to international
tourists, food that average Cubans cannot afford.

For everyone on the trip, the tour was a chance to experience the
country and its culture. For me, it was also a chance to see first-hand
how my grandparents had lived. My father is Argentinian, but my mother's
family is from Cuba.

I grew up listening to stories from my grandparents, adventure stories
about their life in Cuba before and during the revolution. When my
grandfather, Enrique Menocal, told these stories, they had all the drama
of a "Peter Pan" adventure, in which he was Peter Pan and Fidel Castro
was Captain Hook. He and Castro knew each other growing up, went to law
school at the University of Havana together and eventually went into
government together, until Castro's communist plans came between them.
My mother was 1 year old when my grandparents carried her and her three
older siblings onto a boat to escape Cuba.

When I was a child, my grandmother made a dollhouse that was a replica
of the house in Havana that my grandfather grew up in. I was able to
visit that house and the building next door that my mother was born in.
I even met my grandfather's little sister, who still lives in that same
house in Havana, with her daughter and granddaughter. It is now a

In my grandparents' house in Philadelphia, I also would see photos of
the Alma Mater statue in front of the University of Havana. It was
modeled after my great-grandmother, Feliciana Menocal. And I am related
to Mario Menocal, who was president of Cuba from 1913 to 1921. During
the trip, I saw photographs of him at the Museum of The Revolution in

We also got a taste of the arbitrary way in which the Cuban government
controls citizens' lives. We had been scheduled to stay in a hotel in
Havana, but because our trip came just weeks before President Barack
Obama and the Rolling Stones were to visit Havana, we were shuffled off
to Varadero, a beach town two and a half hours away from Havana by bus.

As I met Cuban people on the trip, I didn't really know how to feel. I
wasn't sure — I'm still not sure — whether to feel sorry for them
because they are living in poverty, make little money and subject to
government rationing, or if I should be happy for them because they seem
so content, living their relaxed lifestyle.

When we were touring Habana Vieja, "Old Havana," a run-down area packed
with people, I was walking toward our bus when I stopped to take a
photograph of four skinny boys sitting on a horse carriage. They jumped
off the carriage and surrounded me, hugging me and asking for money. I
apologized for not having any pesos. One boy looked up and asked, "Tiene
caramelo?" — Do you have candy? Their eyes lit up as I reached into my
bag and pulled out six pieces of caramel candy. As they smiled and
hugged me again, I thought of how different my life might have been if
my grandparents had not come to this country.

The six days I spent in Cuba now seem like a dream. But I am grateful I
was able to see the island in these early days of a more open cultural
exchange with the United States, when the character of Cuba and its
people still shines through, before there's a Starbucks on every corner.

Contact: 609-272-7242;; Twitter @ACPressPernot

Source: Cuba: A country stuck in time - Press of Atlantic City: Living - Continue reading
1950 brochure for Florida-to-Cuba cruise is a fascinating time capsule
Tampa Bay Times

After a decades-long hiatus, Miami-to-Cuba cruises resumed this month
with a hefty price tag, a lot of political baggage and an enormous
amount of publicity. But before Fidel Castro seized power in 1959,
overnight sailings to Havana were an easy way for U.S. citizens to take
a "trip abroad" and visit "the Paris of the Americas." That's how a 1950
brochure of the Peninsula & Occidental Steamship Co. touted its
thrice-weekly cruises from Miami to Havana aboard the 725-passenger S.S.

Found recently at a Tampa Bay flea market, the brochure hearkens back to
the heady postwar era when the United States enjoyed unrivaled
prosperity and Havana was a favorite playground of mobsters,
celebrities, politicians (including a young John F. Kennedy) and
thousands of ordinary tourists.

Passports for U.S. citizens were not required, the brochure notes, while
Chinese needed "special permission" to enter and "Gypsies, regardless of
nationalities," were barred altogether.

For just $46 per person ($456 in today's dollars), Americans could book
passage through offices in six U.S. cities including Tampa and St.
Petersburg. That included a stateroom with "forced ventilation, electric
fans and running water;" a "delicious dinner" followed by dancing to the
ship's orchestra and a "hearty breakfast" before docking at 8:30 a.m. in

There, myriad delights awaited. Pictured in the brochure are smiling
Americans, men in suits and women in calf-length sleeveless sheaths
"strolling down the wide, beautiful boulevards, past fine homes and clubs."

"Visit Havana's cigar factories and distilleries," the brochure urges.
"You'll love the many sidewalk cafes... and quiet patios and exotic
tropical gardens. Of course, you won't miss historic Morro Castle, nor
the lovely old cathedrals and convents. But for all your daytime
sightseeing, you'll want to take in the gay Latin American nightlife
with its native music and dancing."

Then came the 1959 Cuban revolution and overthrow of the U.S.-supported
Batista regime. Miami-to-Havana cruises ended, revived only briefly
during the Carter administration, then ceased again for the next several
decades. Only after a historic rapprochement between the two countries
in 2014 did the Obama administration allow cruises to resume for the
purposes of cultural and educational exchanges.

On May 2, Carnival's Adonia became the first U.S.-owned ship to dock in
Havana since 1959. Carnival offers several more cruises from Miami this
year, all for seven days and including stops in two other Cuban ports in
addition to Havana. Minimum charge for an inside stateroom: $1,750 per

As U.S.-Cuban relations further ease, Tampa Bay ports hope to get in on
what is estimated to quickly become a $100 million annual industry.

These days, passports are required for U.S. citizens cruising to Cuba.
Chinese are welcome – they've invested billions of dollars in the
country since President Kennedy imposed the U.S. embargo in 1962
(purportedly after placing one last order for Cuban cigars). Behemoth
liners three times as long as a football field have replaced ships like
S.S. Florida, which was scrapped in 1968.

Some things, though, haven't changed much since the Florida steamed
toward Havana every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Back then, passengers
could pay an extra $35 to $50 to take their cars with them and explore
"700 miles of Cuban highways."

Due to the embargo, Cubans are still driving thousands of cars of the
same makes, models and vintage.

Source: 1950 brochure for Florida-to-Cuba cruise is a fascinating time
capsule | In Cuba Today - Continue reading
Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 14 May 2016 — Eight months haven't been enough for the
state-owned employer in the tourism sector to hire Yasmani, 23, a black
guy nearly six feet talk who is perfecting his English in a private
academy in Havana and who has wasted time and money learning the secrets
of golf at a club south of the city.

Almost a year ago, on a night of drinking and reggaeton, Yasmani, with a
degree in tourism, met a British businessman who wants to do business in
Cuba in high class tourism.

"Do you know golf?" the man asked me. "I told him a remembered reading
somewhere about Tiger Woods, little more. He said to try to learn the
sport, with my command of English and the education I have, maybe I
could get a job as a caddy," said Yasmani, speaking from the doorway of
his house.

The olive-green regime buried golf, labeling it aristocratic. One
morning in 1961 Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara planned a round of golf
at the old Havana Biltmore Country Club, with the intention of staging a
parody of the golf parties in the United States were Eisenhower and
Nixon played.

Five and a half decades later, Raul Castro, hand-picked by his brother,
has among his master strategies the development of golf courses in the
country in exclusive luxury resorts for tourists with checkbook balances
ended in six zeros.

In Cuba, there aren't even a hundred a people who play gold. The
majority are the children of the Communist bourgeoisie officials
bewitched by haute couture, the bon vivant, and consumer luxuries. While
their fathers speak through tight lips about the proletariat, they pull
out all the stops living like magnates from Wall Street.

But this doesn't matter to Yasmini. "Some friends have told me that in
one day working as a caddy you can stuff your pockets,"boasts the young
man, still hopeful of being hired by the state company.

The criolla autocracy pays no attention to the voices of citizens who
warn of the environmental risks and the ecological strategies of
maintaining land that wastes a ton of water.

In 2013, the British company Esencia Hotels and Resorts and the Cuban
company Palmares agreed to the creation of a joint venture, Havana
Resort, for the development of golf courses. The Carbonera Club, with 18
holes, about 15 kilometers from Varadero and worth about 350 million
dollars, was presented as the first initiative of this association,
while similar projects are being negotiation with investments from
China, Spain, Vietnam and Russia.

Guy Chartier, President of Wilton Properties, confirmed in February that
the company plans to start a mega project with an investment of 1.4
billion dollars, in Jibacoa 60 kilometers east of Havana, to build
buildings and a luxury hotel, surrounded by seven beaches, golf courses
and tennis courts, an equestrian center and a 'village' for artists.

The Catalan company Urbas, despite losses in 2015 of $ 4.2 million, will
begin the development of a large tourism and real estate project in
Cuba, which includes the construction of luxury hotels and golf courses,
among others facilities, in the city of Cienfuegos, after acquiring 30%
of Caribbean Resort and Golf, with an option to buy up the remaining
70%, according to Europa Press.

The huge complex is projected to cover six to eight square iles in on
the Rancho Luna-Pasacaballos peninsula. Specifically, they plan to build
a marina, six golf courses, six five-star hotels, three
apartment-hotels, 1,500 villas and 3,000 apartments, whose development
would be undertaken through a joint-venture, with private and state
capital, through Cubagolf, whose second partner is the Spanish Company
Caribbean Resort and Golf.

These capitalist options, like the Chanel show, recently held in Havana,
the Havana Festivals and the arrival of cruises to various ports on the
island, can only be observed by ordinary Cubans from a distance, and
behind barriers guarded by the police and State Security agents.

In Cuba we see the implementation of a two-headed version: the worst of
Marxist socialism overlapped with the most primitive capitalism of the
African court.

For domestic consumption, along with ideological propaganda that we have
to be wary of imperialism, and the false promise of a prosperous and
sustainable socialism. Meanwhile, ordinary Cubans, look through the
display windows at the exorbitant prices in hard currency of LED TV sets
or domestic appliances.

Josué, a taxi driver on the Palma-Fraternity Park line, is clear. "This
is capitalism for a while now. Only for a few. The rest can go fuck
themselves," he says, navigating around the numerous potholes on Diez de
Octubre Street in Havana.

But Yasmani, who aspires to be a caddy, is trying to save himself by
entering the capitalism club. Even if he has to carry the clubs.

Source: Cuba: Capitalism From Afar / Iván García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The Persistence of Racism in Cuba
May 21, 2016
By Alberto N Jones

HAVANA TIMES — The 1994 rafter crisis, changed the face of the Cuban
emigration and the strategy of the United States government to puncture
and weaken the Cuban government, when the predominantly white emigrants
suddenly became black and brown.

Surprised, the mass media in the US was not reluctant to declare that
the new emigrants did not look like Cubans anymore, as it debunked the
myth of the 60's that Cuba was a nation of white millionaires without
social issues.

The late AM Radio personality Agustin Tamargo had argued that the Cuban
government remained in power through the large presence of blacks in the
armed forces, police, personal security and other repressive
institutions, for which he requested a three days license to dole out
retribution when it falls.

The Cuban American National Foundation held meetings in Washington and
Miami to evaluate this demographic change, which led to the recruitment
of blacks with higher education in the US and in Cuba. They organized
seminars and courses in peaceful resistance at black universities and at
the Martin L. King Center in Atlanta, where they were organized into
independent librarians, independent farmers, independent journalists
etc., with branches in Cuba.

Two public meetings in Miami and Washington organized by the Center for
International Policy of the John Hopkins University in 1999 and 2000
with participants from Cuba and abroad demonstrated the existence of a
plan to exacerbate racial divisions in Cuba.

Attempting to impede them from laying the basis for another massacre of
blacks as the one that took place in Cuba in 1912, I shelved my limited
knowledge in animal pathology and environmental health and safety, to
venture into the complex journalistic world without previous knowledge
or advisors.

I published over a hundred articles among which it is worthwhile to
highlight, Una Cuba en la imagen de los Diaz-Balart 1998, Un hito en la
lucha en contra del racismo 1999, The attempt to divide Cuba along
racial lines 2001, Desenmascarando a los promotores de la Guerra racial
en Cuba 2007, Una batalla mundial de vida y muerte 2009, A sincere and
painful apology to the US Congressional Black Caucus 2009, How was I
drawn into Cuba's racial issue 2011, and Afrocubans relations with
Florida 2013., Cubanews@yahoogroups, Havana Times, Cuba Journal, La
Alborada and other blogs played an outstanding role in spreading these
denunciations. The Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald, Daytona Times,
Daytona News-Journal, Florida Times Union, Florida Sun Sentinel, the
Record, Tampa Bay, Washington Post, Listin Diario, Jamaica Gleaner, the
Star, the Observer, the New York Times and others, contributed
decisively to reach a wider audience.

Meanwhile in Cuba…
Paradoxically, while this battle was taking place outside of Cuba, on
the island the most retrograde, racists, neo-racists and
segregationists, unleashed a cruel attack against blacks by absorbing
every possible job with access to hard currency in tourism, joint
ventures, corporations, high level jobs and international scholarships.
Police intimidation increased on Obispo Street in Old Havana and in
Varadero and other tourist areas. The obstruction of black related
activities was stepped up, as was the masking of black history, culture
and education and the restricting of entry into certain professional

The result is graphic, irrefutable and devastating. Black neighborhoods
are like war zones, the disproportion in the incarcerated population,
level of prostitution and poverty are permanent testimony.

Prominent visitors from the US Congressional Black Caucus, artists and
intellectuals from around the world who have historically supported the
Cuban Revolution, expressed serious concerns to high ranking government
officials, many statistical studies were carried out and numerous
journalistic and literary works have severely judged this behavior.

The literary works by black intellectuals are carefully scrutinized,
delayed, they do not circulate freely and some documentaries have never
been shown or they were shown in the wee hours, when most people are in bed.

Obtaining financing from the Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography
(ICAIC) for black historical and cultural projects is extremely
difficult and the National Folkloric Dance Group has been on the verge
of collapse. Meanwhile the life of a pimp and a psychopath were financed
and distributed widely alongside other vain, violent or semi
pornographic imported films.

Most Cubans understood and accepted the abolition of racial, ethnic,
cultural and other societies and social organizations when they were
fused into Social Clubs. What is near impossible to explain is the
quiet resurrection of the Arab Society, Chinatown, Synagogues and
Asturian Societies with their commercial wing with restaurants, B&B and
hotels, which allows them to do social work among their members.

No black or mestizo society has been recreated and the Ministry of
Justice has done everything possible to keep former black emigrant
societies from functioning, or from repairing of buildings and operating
cafeterias and restaurants like the other above mentioned groups.

In the legal environment, the population is alarmed to see how easily
blacks can be accused and condemned for crimes they did not commit or
when they are guilty their sentences are more severe than their peers.

The sum of these factors, are the root cause of the increased racist
expressions in Cuba. From the use in employment centers of codified
words like "people with nice features", the limited presence or absence
of blacks in areas with access to hard currency, the shameful job
opening on a blog for Whites Only and the repugnant and disrespectful
newspaper article following president Barack Obama visit to Cuba "Black,
are you Swedish"? and the appearance of Swastikas with a call to kill
blacks in Havana without any repercussion, denunciation or the capture
of the perpetrators by the authorities, are taking the country closer to
the abyss.

In the year 2006 erupted in the blogosphere the controversial letter
"Acting on our Conscience", which was signed by close to 60 black
intellectuals, including the late Abadias Nascimento. No other action
intended to weaken black unity in and out of Cuba have had such a
negative impact on the country.

Multiple articles in which I proposed actions that could mitigate these
ills and denunciations from unconditional friends of Cuba, fell on deaf
and arrogant ears and have placed the future and national unity at risk.

Let's rid ourselves of foolish arrogance by going to the heart of this
tragedy in Center Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Marianao and
others, before an uncontrollable social explosion dooms the pompous
visits by dignitaries, international accords and development plans of
the country.

Source: The Persistence of Racism in Cuba - Havana - Continue reading
International Lawyer Gathering in Cuba Abruptly Cancelled
May 20, 2016 7:13 pm ET

An intercontinental association of lawyers in the Western Hemisphere has
been forced to abandon plans to gather in Havana for its upcoming annual

The reason, according to organizers, was the Cuban government's concern
about who would be speaking at the meeting and what they would say about
the Communist regime and its allies in Venezuela.

The Inter-American Bar Association informed its members this week that
their meeting would now be in Miami. The abrupt venue change came after
its president, Carlos Lopez, flew down to Havana Tuesday at the urgent
request of Cuba's government-sanctioned bar association, according to
Mr. Lopez.

The Miami Daily Business Review has more coverage of the development.

Mr. Lopez said he met with the president of the Unión Nacional de
Juristas de Cuba who expressed concern that the general secretary of the
Organization of the American States would be participating in next
month's gathering.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has been a fierce critic of
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and "they didn't want anyone to say
anything bad about the Venezuelan regime," Mr. Lopez told Law Blog in a
phone interview Friday.

Mr. Lopez said he offered to withdraw the invitation to Mr. Almagro, but
that proved to be just one sticking point. "They wanted to have full
control of who was there and what they were saying," he said.

Founded in 1940 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the
Inter-American Bar Association describes itself as a "forum for the
exchange of professional views and information for lawyers to promote
the rule of law and protect the democratic institutions in the
Americas." The American Bar Association is a member of the group,
representing the U.S.

The association rotates where it meets for its yearly conference. Last
year, they gathered in Lima, Peru. This year's meeting would have been
the first time they met in Cuba since the association's inaugural annual
meeting 75 years ago in Havana.

Law Blog has sought comment from the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Source: International Lawyer Gathering in Cuba Abruptly Cancelled - Law
Blog - WSJ - Continue reading