Calendar

September 2014
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support in paying for servers. Thank you.


Cubaverdad on Twitter

  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.

Cubaverdad – En

The Unknowns Behind the Cultural Exchange / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on September 16, 2014

Before the Portuguese awning maker and salt merchant Matias Perez*
disappeared in the world, already Cuba and the United States were
maintaining solid ties, including cultural exchanges, which continues
being today an important part of our history and identity.

Just by glancing we can find Cuban elements in American culture and vice
versa, so much so that "Cuban-American" is the highest expression of
that cultural ethnic fusion between both nations.

The cultural reciprocity was frequent, artists came and went constantly.
The thing got complicated during the first half of the 20th century when
both governments–and I'm going to tell the truth, like it or not–began
to have a relationship based on political principles so conflicting that
paradoxically they made the arts sector, that of the expression of the
spirit and creativity, a prisoner of circumstances.

The Cuban Government historically has used art and culture as a
machinery for social control and as influence, as much national as
international. Today, in the era of globalization, the internet and
social networks, much more so.

It was for this purpose, and in order to undermine with patience and
subtlety the controversial law of the embargo, that at the end of the
'90's the "Battle of Ideas" was created, a real strategy that built new
masks.

In 1998, with a depressed economy and more than fifty percent of Cuban
artists unemployed. The financial strain was such that it managed to
break even the connection with inspiration and many important names
decided to emigrate. But this time, the Cuban Government was not
prepared to lose so easily its cultural heritage.

For such purpose it invented the figure of the "independent artist," a
category that still permits them to enjoy more of the destination than
the trip, to give them the possibility of, paying a paltry sum of Cuban
pesos, establishing legal residence indefinitely outside of Cuba, even
in the United States, without losing the status quo.

Other less well known artists also managed to find a legal loophole,
many times covered in false work contracts that they get weaving a net
of bribes, in order to be domiciled outside the island.

That is how various actors, writers, filmmakers, musicians, artists,
dancers and even lecturers leave Cuba, like they left the mango
marmalade the coffee, and the guava shells, to produce in liberty.

On living outside the island, these artists hold accounts abroad. Today
they come to the United States for cultural exchange, they act, they
triumph with poses of lofty urban climbers, and although none of them
says it, nothing keeps them from collecting. The embargo law sanctions
sending dollars to Cuba; not so the rest of the world.

As a Cuban, I don't like to stimulate the climate of hostility that
separates us as a people and that also serves as a political and
economic platform for groups that manipulate us from both shores of the
Florida strait. I believe that contact with exponents of the culture
coming from the island is a good thing. I am in favor of exchange; but
not this lie that turns it into contraband.

Translator's note: From Wikipedia: Matias Perez was a Portuguese born,
Cuban resident, who started a canopy business in Havana in the 19th
century. He was carried away with the ever increasing popularity of
aerostatic aircraft, and became a balloon pilot, ascending at least
three times before he disappeared while attempting an aerostatic flight
from Havana's Plaza de Marte (today, Parque Central) on June 28, 1856. A
few days earlier he had made a successful attempt, flying several miles.
His second try, however, became part of Cuba's folklore: when somebody
or something disappears into thin air, Cubans say: "Voló como Matías
Pérez" (it flew away like Matias Perez)

Translated by mlk

4 September 2014

Source: The Unknowns Behind the Cultural Exchange / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-unknowns-behind-the-cultural-exchange-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Catholic Church in Cuba Sets New Pastoral Plan for Evangelization
'On the Road to Emmaus' offers a three-part reflection on the social and
political reality and on the Church in the country.
BY CNA/EWTN NEWS 09/17/2014

HAVANA — The Catholic Church in Cuba recently unveiled its pastoral plan
for 2014-2020, which will encourage the faithful to engage in
evangelization and respond to the call of Pope Francis.

Entitled "On the Road to Emmaus," the plan offers a three-part
reflection on the social and political reality and on the Church in the
country. The first part invites the faithful "to look beyond
sociological aspects and at the life of our society and of our Church,
in order to discover in both realities the calls God is making today to
our work of evangelization in Cuba."

In the second part, the Gospel passage about the disciples on the road
to Emmaus is highlighted as a source of inspiration and orientation in
putting the pastoral plan into practice.

The third part lays out four priorities of the bishops' pastoral plan,
and concludes, "We proclaim our faith that the 'conversion to Jesus
Christ is our hope'."

In drafting their pastoral plan, the bishops said they were guided by
the conclusions of the Fifth General Meeting of the bishops of Latin
America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, the message of Benedict XVI in
his visit to Cuba, the document "Hope Does Not Disappoint" by the Cuban
bishops, and the words and gestures of Pope Francis.

The document said, "We exhort every Christian to be converted to Jesus
Christ and to proclaim the joy of his Gospel, so that the transforming
testimony of the love and hope of our communities and families will
reach all the men and women of our country."

Source: Catholic Church in Cuba Sets New Pastoral Plan for
Evangelization | Daily News | NCRegister.com -
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/catholic-church-in-cuba-sets-new-pastoral-plan-for-evangelization/ Continue reading
Cuban Intelligence Targets Academia
September 17, 2014 by Humberto Fontova

"Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence
services, including the [Cuban intelligence service]," says an FBI
report from Sept. 2nd.

"One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American
leftists' ideology. "For instance, someone who is allied with communist
or leftist ideology may assist the [Cuban intelligence service] because
of his/her personal beliefs."

Not that any of the above should come as earth-shaking news to anyone who:

A: Attended a typical college and suffered through typical Liberal Arts
courses.

B. Knows anything at all about the history of Cuban spying in the U.S.

Let's face it: FBI agents tasked with ferreting out Cuban spies in the
U.S face a daunting task. Just think of how many Liberal Arts college
professors match the potential Cuban-spy profile—ideology-wise that is,
competence at sleuth-work is a different matter.) Just how many Liberal
Arts college professors actually eschew "leftist ideology?"

Indeed, of the most recently convicted Cuban spies–Ana Montes, Walter
Kendall Meyers and Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, three were recruited by
Castro's agents from academia– John Hopkins, for Montes and Florida
International University for the Alvarez couple.

Cuba's Intelligence services "will actively exploit visitors to the
island" continues the report. "Intelligence officers will come into
contact with the academic travelers (from the U.S.) They will stay in
the same accommodations and participate in the activities arranged for
the travelers. This clearly provides an opportunity to identify
targets….Castro's intelligence aggressively targets U.S. universities
under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move
on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to
information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service,"] continues the
FBI report.

"A preferred target are 'study abroad' programs (in Cuba,)" adds
America's top Cuban spycatcher Chris Simmons, recently retired from the
Defense Intelligence Agency, "as participating students (from the U.S.)
are assessed as inherently sympathetic to the Cuban revolution."

It's not customary for U.S. administrations to increase the size of an
enemy spy agency's "preferred spy-recruitment target," but we're talking
the Obama Administration here, amigos. To wit: Academic and cultural
exchanges along with various types of legalized "people-to-people
travel" between the U.S. and terror-sponsoring Cuba now allow hundreds
of thousands of people to visit Cuba annually from the U.S. —over half a
million visited just last year.

By the way that's DOUBLE the number who visited Cuba from the U.S. in
1958, when Cuba was a "tourist playground" for Americans. Surely, you
remember that from Godfather II?

Let's stand back for a second and ponder this issue: When Cuba was a
"U.S. tourist playground" 263,000 people visited Cuba from the U.S.

But now that Cuba suffers from a beastly "blockade" or "embargo" (as the
media calls it) by the U.S. 599,426 people visited Cuba from the U.S.
102.396 of these, by the way, went under "educational and cultural
exchanges" approved by the Obama State Department.

In brief, Obama has greatly simplified matters for Castro's
Intelligence. Used to be that for recruiting U.S. spies, Castro relied
on Obama's Chicago 'neighbors, Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.

You read right. You see during the late 60's and early 70's the
terrorist offshoot from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society)
known as The Weathermen and staffed most famously by Barack Obama's
future "neighbors" Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn served as the Cuban
DGI's (Directorio General de Intelligencia) top U.S. recruitment
officers. They accomplished this recruitment primarily through their
sponsorship of the then famous Venceremos Brigades.

During that heady Age of Aquarius hundreds of starry-eyed college kids
were volunteering to "help build Cuban Socialism" and "fight U.S.
Imperialism," mostly by joining these Venceremos Brigades (many via the
Weathermen,) making their way to Cuba and joyfully cutting Cuban sugar cane.

"The ultimate objective of the DGI's participation in the setting up of
the Venceremos Brigades," says an FBI report declassified in 1976 "was
the recruitment of individuals who are politically oriented and who
someday may obtain a position, elective or appointive, somewhere in the
U.S. Government, which would provide the Cuban Government with access to
political, economic and military intelligence

Sure sounds like what the very recently de-classified FBI report claims
about current recruitment objectives by Cuba's intelligence, except now
the Cubans have tens of thousands more spy candidates to choose from!

In brief: nowadays instead of relying on terrorist groups as an
employment agency to screen their spy recruits, the Castro regime–thanks
to "People-to-People" "academic exchanges, etc.– relies on the massive
apparatus of academic "Cuban Studies Programs" and their U.S. government
facilitators!

"So what?" some readers might rebut. "So what's the big deal? So what
kind of threat does tiny, impoverished Cuba present to the U.S.?"

"Cuba is intelligence trafficker to the world," reveals U.S. spycatcher
Christopher Simmons. Among many others, the U.S. military secrets stolen
by Castro's spies have been sold to former regimes in Iraq, Panama and
Grenada, alerting these dictatorships to U.S. military plans against
them and costing untold American lives.

Source: Cuban Intelligence Targets Academia | FrontPage Magazine -
http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/humberto-fontova/cuban-intelligence-targets-academia/ Continue reading
As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea
By Rosa Tania Valdés,
Reuters

MANZANILLO Cuba (Reuters) - Eighteen-year-old Miguel Lopez Maldonado
boarded a homemade boat last month with 31 others, leaving behind this
sleepy fishing town on Cuba's southeast coast to seek a new life in the
United States.

The motor broke down after a couple days, and the craft drifted for
three weeks. One by one, the passengers died of thirst, the survivors
left with no option but to throw the bodies overboard.

By the time the Mexican navy spotted them 150 miles off the Yucatan
peninsula, 15 had died, including Lopez Maldonado. Of the 17 rescued,
two died in a Mexican hospital.

Lopez Maldonado's parents say they don't understand why their son left.
But others here say many young Cubans see no future in a state-run
economy, under U.S. sanctions for 50 years, with few opportunities for
private enterprise.

"Young people today do not think like my generation did. They are
looking for something more that they can't find here," the dead teen's
father, Miguel Lopez Vega, said, sobbing, in the living room of the
family's home as neighbors stopped by to offer comfort.

"My son wanted to leave Cuba since he was 15. He didn't want to live in
this country."

The tragedy, the worst Cuban migrant boat disaster in two decades, is
part of a growing illegal exodus from eastern Cuba - a region famous as
the launching pad of the 1959 revolution in the nearby Sierra Maestra
mountains.

U.S. authorities say 14,000 Cubans arrived without visas at the border
with Mexico in the past 11 months, the highest number in a decade.

In Manzanillo, a run-down colonial city of 130,000 in eastern Granma
province, residents say as many as five boats, with up to 30 passengers,
depart in weeks with favorable weather.

Passengers in last month's voyage, who were aged 16 to 36, each paid the
equivalent of $400 to $600 for the 675-mile trip.


The situation threatens to further strain relations between Cuba and the
United States. Cuba argues that U.S. policy foments illegal and
dangerous departures by granting Cubans a special right of entry not
offered to other nationalities.

The wave of migration also exposes the fragility of President Raul
Castro's market-oriented reforms, in which independent farming and small
businesses have been legalized in an attempt rebuild a private sector
wiped out in 1959.


TEARS AND PRAYERS

Joaquín de La Paz, who works at a rice mill, lost a daughter, a son and
two grandsons in last month's tragedy. He said economic hardship and a
lack of jobs in Manzanillo, once a busy port handling sugar from nearby
cane fields, had made people desperate.

De La Paz, 62, said that even though his daughter was a teacher and his
son worked for the health ministry, neither earned enough to satisfy
their needs.

"The kids see people leave Cuba who never even had a bicycle, and then
by the time they return within a year their family situation is
improved," he said.

"Look at me. After 43 years of work, I haven't been able to acquire
anything, except sadness and sorrow for my family."

One granddaughter decided at the last minute not to join her mother and
brother, but De la Paz frets that she will be next. The girl's
16-year-old brother, Hector, was rescued, but he died on the way to a
hospital.

De la Paz's wife, Xiomara Milan, sobbed alongside him as she recounted
how they raised pigs to feed the family. She said all she had left was
the hope her grandson would be returned for burial, adding the family
did not have the money to repatriate his body.

Family members and neighbors said the government and state-run media
have been silent about the tragedy. Only the Catholic Church has offered
solace, they said.

A Mass for the victims was held in the town's main Catholic church on
Friday, and prayers were offered "for those who feel the need to find
another country to live." One speaker urged people to think hard about
the decision and "look for safer paths."

There were also prayers that Cuban authorities "achieve the necessary
material and spiritual progress" of the country.

Relatives of the victims said their only information has come from
survivors detained by immigration authorities in Mexico, who have been
allowed to call home twice a week.

They are pleading with Mexican authorities not to deport the survivors
back to Cuba, and to allow them to continue their journey to the U.S.
border.

Niurka Aguilar, the mother of one survivor, Maylin Perez, said it was
her daughter's fifth attempt to leave. Perez, 30, was hoping to join her
husband, who made the trip nine months ago and now lives in Texas.

"If they send her back, she will just try again," said Aguilar.

(Editing by David Adams, Marc Frank and Douglas Royalty)

Source: As migrants flee eastern Cuba, a town mourns those lost at sea -
Chicago Tribune -
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-cuba-migrants-manzanillo-20140917-story.html Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 09.16.14

Fabiola Santiago: Let Fidel flunkies sing
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
FSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM

The giant invasive snails — so deft at travel that they've made it from
southern Miami-Dade to Davie without a passport or a helicopter or
having to pay tolls — worry me.

They're a major threat to South Florida's ecosystem.

But Buena Fe, the controversial musical duo from Cuba — in Miami for a
Thursday concert — hadn't even registered on my radar until I came
across a tweet from an island blogger who's a well-known front-man for
the Cuban government.

"The bulldozers are ready in Miami," he tweeted, linking to a story in
the Spanish-language daily Diario Las Americas. "Read this. There will
be a before and an after Buena Fe in [Miami]."

Buena Fe who?

The news story quoted Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado saying he would join
planned protests against the duo. And the mayor noted that if the
concert, slated for the Miami Dade County Auditorium, were being held in
a city-run venue, he'd do all he could to ban it. I immediately thought
back to the Ultra Music Festival, and oh, no, I thought we had already
settled this issue. Politicians in this country don't get to dictate
taste in music.

But how had I almost missed such an allegedly momentous happening as a
concert that, according to a Cuban government mouthpiece, would make
history in my town?

Well… 'tis a lot of hot air. They're baiting us, that's all.

For starters, Buena Fe, which means good faith, is a misnomer. The
musicians are a pair of crass, opportunistic souls who have some swing,
but nothing out of the ordinary in a country where musicality is built
into the collective DNA.

In August, they were singing happy birthday to the geriatric comandante
in Havana — and now in September, they have a date with the dollar.

What Israel Rojas and Joel Martínez do have is an official government
platform, thanks to the hefty dose of babosería — brown-nosing — for the
regime that comes with their brand of dated trova music.

In 2011, the two held a concert "against the invasion of Lybia" and
celebrated with a tour across the island the 50th anniversary of the
Communist Pioneers Organization. Two years later, the eager beavers sang
their goodbyes before the corpse of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Back in Cuba, in their most despicable display yet, the duo used a
musical platform to insult the brave women who peacefully march for
human rights across the island, the Ladies in White.

They attacked las damas using some of the most vulgar expressions in the
Cuban lexicon.

There's not an ounce of good faith in their bones.

I wouldn't pay a dime to see them in concert. I wouldn't even see them
for free — but let them sing in Miami.

This is a free country, and even jerks are protected by the First Amendment.

The exiles who want to show how they feel about the duo's politics also
have First Amendment rights. They want to stage a demonstration near the
concert site — something dissidents wouldn't be allowed to do in Cuba —
and we should respect that, too.

These days, it's not unusual for an opportunist to come from the island
to challenge the fact that this is the capital of free Cubans.

Fat chance. Cuba may be a lost cause, but Miami is not — invasive
species not withstanding.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Let Fidel flunkies sing - Fabiola Santiago -
MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/16/4352293/fabiola-santiago-let-fidel-flunkies.html Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 09.17.14

Brazil election may change diplomatic direction
BY ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAO PAULO -- More than a decade of Workers Party rule has seen Brazil
prioritize ties with its leftist regional neighbors, from helping muscle
socialist Venezuela into the Mercosur trade bloc to financing a
billion-dollar transformation of an industrial port in Cuba.

But if President Dilma Rousseff fails to fight off the surging candidacy
of reform-minded Marina Silva before presidential voting in October,
South America's largest economy could reset its focus.

Silva was thrust into the Socialist Party's presidential nomination when
its candidate of choice, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash last
month. Since then, her anti-establishment profile has propelled her to a
neck-and-neck race with Rousseff.

Silva says she would re-emphasize ties to the United States and Europe,
mostly by working to land trade deals with each. Such moves could cause
tension with Mercosur, which prohibits members from making bilateral
deals without the group's approval.

Under Silva, "there will be a change of direction in foreign policy,"
her top adviser Mauricio Rands told supporters at an event unveiling her
proposals. "Brazil should be the promoter of bilateral and regional
(trade) agreements."

It would be a sharp change in direction for the proverbial slumbering giant.

Under Rousseff and her two-term predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,
Brazil has given strong backing to leftist regional allies, such as
Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Rousseff beamed in January as she stood beside Cuban President Raul
Castro at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the first phase of an
overhaul of the Port of Mariel, which the Communist nation expects will
become the largest industrial port in the Caribbean.

It was the clout of her government that persuaded Mercosur to set aside
fears about possible violation of its democracy rules and welcome
Venezuela into membership.

At the same time, Rousseff was not afraid to ruffle Washington's
feathers by rejecting an invitation to make a formal state visit to the
U.S. capital, the first extended to a Brazilian leader in two decades.
Her rebuff of the White House, made in protest of revelations the
National Security Agency had spied on her communications, was the first
in memory.

Rousseff had been sailing toward an expected victory before Silva's
candidacy. Now the two women are expected to claim the first two spots
in the Oct. 5 vote, without either one winning an outright majority.
That would trigger a run-off vote three weeks later.

Silva has said her foreign policy would aim "to promote national
interests and values." A 242-page plan she released declares, "foreign
policy cannot be held hostage by factions or political groupings."

Most of her proposed changes would aim to lower tariffs, expand trade
and revive Brazil's sputtering economy, which fell into recession this
year after years of only feeble expansion.

Critics blame the stagnation on Rousseff's heavy state hand on the
economy, replete with trade barriers and an unfriendly business
environment. The Mercosur bloc, which also includes Argentina, Paraguay
and Uruguay as full members, has yet to sign any significant trade deals
and infighting routinely hampers trade even within the group.

Rousseff said earlier this month that Brazil turning its back on
Mercosur would be "shooting ourselves in the foot," emphasizing that "we
have to realize the size of that market."

While Silva agrees a strong South America is still essential, her plan
makes clear she would seek to pivot Brazil toward stronger ties with the
broader global market and not be hobbled by its neighbors.

If Silva is elected, "Brazil, as a hemispheric power, will continue to
maintain good relations with all the countries in the hemisphere," said
Riordan Roett, director of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins
University. "But it's not going to be the same ideological fervor ...
for regimes like Venezuela and Cuba."

Many expect Silva, a renowned environmentalist and human rights champion
in the Amazon, to change Brazil's policies of largely ignoring alleged
abuses in allies like Venezuela and Cuba. But others argue her hands may
be tied by heavy, ongoing investments with those countries.

"The Brazilians have been very reluctant to criticize Venezuela
publicly," said Patrick Duddy, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and
former consul-general in Sao Paulo. "There are still broad commercial
interests there that are not going to disappear if Silva wins."

In a column headlined "Marina scares the neighbors," Clovis Rossi, a
foreign affairs columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, wrote
that Brazil under the Workers Party has been the most powerful defender
of Venezuela's former leader Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas
Maduro, backing both amid crises as they pushed ahead with their
Bolivarian movement.

"With Marina," Rossi wrote, "everything suggests that Bolivarianism
won't be able to count on this powerful crutch."

Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman in Bogota, Colombia, and Brad
Brooks in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

Source: SAO PAULO: Brazil election may change diplomatic direction -
Americas Wires - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/17/4352770/brazil-election-may-change-diplomatic.html Continue reading
'She lied all along': Quebec man claims Cuban marriage a nightmare
JEAN-FRANCOIS RACINE, QMI AGENCY
FIRST POSTED: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 05:40 AM MDT | UPDATED: MONDAY,
SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 05:55 AM MDT

MONTREAL- A Quebec man says he's out $90,000 after falling in love with
a Cuban woman, marrying her, and moving her to Canada.

He also claims that when she arrived, she was pregnant with another
man's baby and left him after six days.

Michel Beaudry told QMI Agency that he wants to share his story to help
other Canadians avoid making the same mistake.

The 62-year-old met a 25-year-old woman while on an all-inclusive Cuban
vacation in March 2013.

"At first," said Beaudry, "I thought it was impossible that she would
want to be with me."

The relationship blossomed, bolstered by Beaudry making about 10 trips
to Cuba to visit. They married in September 2013.

In June 2014, his wife was given permission by the Canadian government
to move to Canada.

From the first day, she explained to Beaudry that she didn't want to
lead a normal married life with him.

"She said she loved me like a father figure. I slept on the sofa while
she slept in my room."

Beaudry says his wife also announced she was pregnant. He had a
vasectomy, and knew he could be responsible for a child that wasn't his.

Six days after her arrival, she asked for $50,000 to buy a home for her
relatives in Cuba. When Beaudry refused, she packed her bags and left.

"She lied all along," said Beaudry. "She only wanted money."

Reynaldo Marquez, Beaudry's lawyer, told QMI that they are seeking an
annulment of the marriage. "I want her to leave the country," Beaudry said.

Source: 'She lied all along': Quebec man claims Cuban marriage a
nightmare | Canada | Ne -
http://www.calgarysun.com/2014/09/15/she-lied-all-along-quebec-man-claims-cuban-marriage-a-nightmare Continue reading
Solidarity or Propaganda? / Fernando Damaso
Posted on September 15, 2014

I wish I could be happy about the quick response by the Cuban government
to the request for assistance from the World Health Organization and the
UN general secretary in their efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic, but
I cannot.

I am all too aware of the deteriorating state of our hospitals, the lack
of hygiene, the poor medical care — provided mainly by students rather
than doctors — the poor nutrition provided to patients, the shortage of
drugs and many other problems.

I am referring, of course, to the medical centers which serve the
average Cuban, which are the majority, not to the specialized centers
catering to foreigners, VIPs or people who can pay for their services in
hard currency.

A similarly rapid response should be applied to the serious problems
that have afflicted our health care system for years. We make the
mistake of trying to solve the world's problems without due regard for
our own. This seems to have paid off in that at least it generates a lot
of free propaganda.

However, no one who speaks or writes about the magnificent Cuban health
system has had to have their illnesses or those of their loved ones
treated here. Furthermore, many Cuban bigwigs prefer to seek treatment
in other countries, even that of the enemy. There must be some reason
for this.

At a press conference in Geneva, Cuba's minister of public health took
the opportunity to propagandize about the country's achievements and to
emphasize yet again how many medical personnel have provided and are now
providing care in other countries.

He also talked about the thousands of overseas volunteer workers, though
without mentioning how much Cuba charges in dollars for this service —
currently one of the country's main sources of foreign exchange — or how
doctors, nurses and other specialists are not being properly paid.

At one point during the press conference the minister stated that the
Revolution did not wait for its health services to be developed before
beginning to provide assistance to other peoples.

He neglected to mention that Cuba's health services were already
well-developed before 1959 and were among the best not only in the
Caribbean but in all of Latin America. One need only look to official
statistics from international organizations of the time to confirm this.

Given these questions, I am concerned that what we are dealing with here
has more to do with propaganda than with solidarity.

September 2014

Source: Solidarity or Propaganda? / Fernando Damaso | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/solidarity-or-propaganda-fernando-damaso/ Continue reading
Pot With Missing Cord Doesn't Come With a Guarantee / 14ymedio, Regina
Coyula
Posted on September 14, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Regina Coyula, 8 September 2014 — Tiendas
Panamericanas [Panamerican Stores], owned by the CIMEX corporation, has
just launched a grand (for Cuban national standards) shopping center.
Utilizing the building formerly occupied by the old towel factory,
Telva, on the corner of 26th Avenue and Calzada del Cerro street, a side
addition was built, doubling the space. The opening of Puentes Grandes
has been well received, being that until now only small stores have
existed in that neighborhood, and the closest shopping centers — La
Puntilla, Galerias Paseo, and Plaza Carlos III — are located about two
miles away.

Spurred by curiosity, I visited Puentes Grandes last Saturday. Hundreds
of people had flocked to the place. There was a line at the handbag
security station, because bags and purses are not allowed inside stores
that take convertible currency. There was another line at the entrance.
We were going on half an hour already. In other circumstances I would
have left, but resisted the impulse just to be able to write this
article. Finally, I went through a narrow entryway where, as always, are
those who wait, and those other, clever ones who butt the line. The
interior entrance is quite spacious, with metal shopping carts, and
other cute small plastic carts on wheels for which I predict a brief,
happy life, and baskets. All is set up for the customer to select his
purchases; merchandise is kept behind the counter in the perfume and
household appliance departments.

A large interior arcade connects the grocery and housewares area with
the hardware department, where I was detained by an employee. To go from
one area to the other, you have to now go outside and re-enter, even
though just days before you could walk directly between departments and
check out at any register. Why is this? The employee doesn't know, but
he was assigned there to enforce the trajectory. I had placed various
items in my cart, then had to stand at the register line, go outside,
stand in another line to leave my purchases at the handbag security
station, then go stand in another line to enter the hardware area.

Among my purchases was a pressure cooker — a Columbian one. I don't know
whatever happened to those marvelous pressure cookers from the INPUD
factory of the city of Santa Clara, which for a while now have not been
on the market. At the exit of every Cuban store there is always an
employee who compares purchases to sales slips

Employee: "You're missing the guarantee for the pressure cooker."

Me: "And where do I get that?"

Employee: "In Household Appliances."

Back at Household Appliances, the young (all the employees are very
young) lady told me "no," in that overly-familiar, faux-affectionate way
that many mistake for kindness:

"Mami (Mom), do you see a power cord in this pot? My department is
*electrical* household appliances. The guarantee is given at the register."

The check-out girl assured me that she had no guarantee certificates at
the register, that it was at Household Appliances where I had to obtain one.

Among my purchases was a pressure cooker — a Columbian one. I don't know
whatever happened to those marvelous pressure cookers from the INPUD
factory of the city of Santa Clara, which for a while now have not been
on the market.

I know how to be patient. Besides, this ridiculous episode was prime
material for my article. I returned to Household Appliances, where I
told "my daughter" (she had called me, "Mami," right?) if she knew the
meaning of "back-and-forth." The girl gamely took my pressure cooker and
marched over to the register. The ensuing argument over the pot without
a power cord was priceless. A half hour was spent on that silliness,
just to conclude in the end that the guarantee for the pressure cooker
is the sales slip.

I asked to speak with the management because it is inconceivable to me
that a business can operate in this manner. The manager was not
available, but there were various people in his office who turned out to
be his superiors. I'm not going to repeat my complaint here — you can
put two-and-two together and imagine it. The interesting thing is what
those officials, who have been spending opening week in a kind of
mobilization mode, told me.

For almost all the personnel in the store, this is their first work
experience. The cash register system is new, the check-out staff do not
understand it very well, and the registers frequently get stuck,
producing electrical overloads that trigger the circuit breakers,
leaving whole zones of the shopping center in the dark. On opening day
they had to suspend a children's event. Adults and children were run
over by the crowd, and nothing less than a sacking of the place
occurred, what with many people taking advantage of a power outage to
eat and drink for free in the food court. From the hardware area there
even disappeared an electric drill, among other, less valuable items.
The neighbors (not the officials) say that even a flat-screen TV went
out the door without being paid for.

These officials, who themselves are retail veterans, expressed amazement
at the level of theft they are encountering here. For example, they told
me that on Friday (the day prior to my visit), they had surprised five
people in the act of thievery; two customers had had their handbags
stolen inside the store and one other in the adjoining cafeteria; and
all of this is in addition to the disappearance of many small objects
from the shelves. They told me that they had never had such a hard time
at any other store, not even at Ultra, which is located in a
densely-populated and troubled area of Central Havana.

The solution (?) has been to divide the two areas of the shopping
center, creating an inconvenience for the customer which I don't think
will solve the theft problem, because the cause of this phenomenon has
to be sought outside the store.

I thanked the officials for their friendly explanation. However, as long
as the customer of this center remains nothing more than an annoyance to
the staff, the oversized photo at the door of the smiling young woman
promoting efficient service and customer satisfaction will be just one
more Kafkaesque detail of the whole picture.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Pot With Missing Cord Doesn't Come With a Guarantee / 14ymedio,
Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/pot-with-missing-power-cord-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
Cuba denies access to Ernest Hemingway's fishing records
Team of US marine scientists on a tour with the author's grandsons
'return empty-handed'
SAM MASTERS Sunday 14 September 2014

A quest to access potentially invaluable fishing logs kept by Ernest
Hemingway in Cuba appeared to have failed yesterday, after US
researchers attempting to gain knowledge of over-fishing were denied
access to the materials collated by the Nobel Prize-winning author.

A team of US marine scientists on a tour with the author's grandsons,
John and Patrick Hemingway, had hoped to access the his logs of fishing
in the Florida Straight.

"He was a fisherman," said Patrick Hemingway of his grandfather last
week. "He considered them his brothers."

But Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council denied the team access to
the records. And yesterday they were reported to have returned home
empty handed.

"Perhaps I should not have been a fisherman," wrote Hemingway in his ode
to game fishing off the Cuba coast, The Old Man and the Sea. "But that
was the thing that I was born for."

Dr David Die, a US-based fishery scientist, said: "Hemingway was there
in Cuba for 20 years. If he did keep log books for that long, having 20
years – even if it is only for a single vessel – would be very valuable.

"It would be a record of relative changes in the size and the abundance
of fish over a period where we do not have any other records. It's
exactly the type of information that we use nowadays when we assess
populations of fish in the ocean."

The logs are thought to contain enough details about Hemingway's decades
of game fishing to help measure how populations of sport fish such as
marlin have declined because of overfishing.

Researchers gathered little empirical data in the years before
industrial fishing devastated populations of tuna and other highly
desired big species in the second half of the 20th century.

Hemingway lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1960 at Finca Vigía, a villa in the
village of San Francisco de Paula on the southeast edge of Havana. From
Cojimar, he often launched his boat, the Pilar, with first mate Gregorio
Fuentes, who helped inspire the ageing fisherman who battles a giant
marlin in The Old Man and the Sea.

Source: Cuba denies access to Ernest Hemingway's fishing records -
Americas - World - The Independent -
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/cuba-denies-access-to-ernest-hemingways-fishing-records-9731619.html Continue reading
SA-Cuba medical doctor programme to increase output
Saturday 13 September 2014 20:36
Kabelo Molope

The South African Cuba programme which trains South Africans as doctors
in Cuba, will expand nearly tenfold over the next five years.

The programme aims to avert the critical shortage of doctors, especially
in rural areas.

The next group of students to head to the Caribbean island country will
be a group from the North West.

Cuba has 25 medical schools which produce 11 000 doctors annually.

South African graduates are posted to under-resourced medical facilities.

Former Cuban medical student, Dr. Tshepo Lekone says, "I've experienced
that more doctors are needed since I'm working in a level 2 hospital in
Mahikeng. The Cuban program has produced a lot of doctors that are
currently working with me here."

Students are recruited from disadvantaged communities.

North West Health MEC, Dr. Magome Masike says, "Most of them come from
rural areas where it is difficult to attract doctors, especially young
ones. Most of the students, who are going to Cuba, come from those
areas. They understand that it is their uncles, their mothers; it is
their relatives that need them most."

The partnership was initiated by former President Nelson Mandela and
former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Source: SA-Cuba medical doctor programme to increase output : Saturday
13 September 2014 -
http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/23b072804575e1d6aa1cafc7c599c9eb/SA-Cuba-medical-doctor-programme-to-increase-output- Continue reading
Posted on Saturday, 09.13.14

Andres Oppenheimer: Obama should go to summit - and challenge Cuba
BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
AOPPENHEIMER@MIAMIHERALD.COM

President Barack Obama's biggest upcoming diplomatic challenge in Latin
America will be whether to attend the 34-country Summit of the Americas
alongside Cuban leader Raúl Castro, who has been invited by the host
country — Panama — over U.S. objections. I think Obama should go, and do
something really bold there.

Before we get into what exactly Obama should do, let's recall that the
United States opposes Cuba's participation at this meeting because the
2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec agreed by consensus that "strict
respect for the democratic system" is an "essential condition of our
presence at this and future summits."

But Panama, which will host the summit in April 2015, has said it will
invite Cuba at the request of all other Latin American countries, which
voted at a recent Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly
to demand Cuba's presence without preconditions at the 2015 Summit.
Venezuela and several other countries have already said that they will
not attend if Cuba is not present.

The U.S.-sponsored Summits of the Americas, which are held every three
or four years, are the only such meetings in which U.S. presidents meet
with all Latin American leaders and try to set a common agenda. In
recent years, Brazil and Venezuela have created other regional
institutions — such as UNASUR and Celac — that exclude the United
States, and thus leave Washington out of regional summits.

So Obama faces a tough choice: if he shows up at the meeting alongside
Castro, critics on the right in Washington will accuse him of
"unilateral surrender" to Cuban-Venezuelan diplomacy. They will say that
Obama abdicated the U.S. defense of democratic values in the region.

On the other hand, if Obama doesn't go to Panama, other critics will
accuse him of effectively killing the last diplomatic arena in which the
United States has some leverage in Latin America.

Richard Feinberg, a former Clinton White House official who was a key
architect of the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami in 1994,
told me that "If President Obama does not attend the Panama summit and
sends a stand-in, even if it's Vice President Joe Biden, that's the
collapse of inter-American summits, and yielding the playing field to
the Cubans, Venezuelans and Brazilians."

When I asked U.S. officials what the Obama administration plans to do,
State Department spokeswoman Angela Cervetti told me that "the United
States respects that Panama is the host of the next Summit, and the
issue of which countries it invites is one for the Panamanian government
to decide."

But she immediately added that the 2001 Summit in Quebec agreed that
only democratic nations should attend, and that "we should not undermine
Summit commitments previously made, but instead should encourage
democratic change in Cuba." My translation: The administration has not
yet decided what to do.

What are Obama's options? If he decides not to go to Panama out of
principle, or in order not to enrage Cuban-American voters in Florida
and New Jersey ahead of the 2016 elections, he could send Biden. Problem
is, Biden may be running for president, and he will be the last one to
want to be photographed alongside Castro before the elections.

Another option for Obama would be trying to set conditions for Cuba's
participation, such as that the island make some gesture toward a
political opening. But that won't fly either, because Latin American
countries agreed at the recent OAS meeting that Cuba should be invited
without any strings attached.

Lastly, Obama could accept Cuba's participation at the Summit as an
"observer country," arguing that China and Russia are already OAS
observer countries, and Cuba's addition wouldn't amount to a big deal.
But, again, Latin American countries demand that Cuba be invited as a
full member, arguing that a 2009 vote at the OAS cleared the way for
Cuba's return to the inter-American diplomatic community.

My opinion: Obama should put in motion some creative diplomacy. He
should attend the summit, and cede half of the time at his opening
speech to a prominent Cuban dissident — someone like Cuban blogger Yoani
Sanchez — to steal the show from Cuba's aging military dictator.

The Cuban speaker would have an unparalleled public podium to tell the
world about the government repression and poverty that the Cuban people
have been suffering for the past five decades. That way, Obama could
save the summit, argue that he is entitled to use his speaking time as
he wishes, and defend the principle of democracy in the region.

Source: Andres Oppenheimer: Obama should go to summit - and challenge
Cuba - Andres Oppenheimer - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/13/4344892/andres-oppenheimer-obama-should.html Continue reading
Of Freebies and Schools / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 13, 2014

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 September 2014 – The school bell
rings and the children enter the classroom followed by their parents.
The first day of classes triggers joy, although a few tears are shed by
some who miss their homes. That's what happened to Carla, who just
started kindergarten at a school in Cerro. The little girl is lucky
because she got a teacher who has taught elementary school for several
years and has mastered the content. "What luck!" some of the little
one's family members think, just before another mother warns them, "But
beware of the teacher, she demands every student bring her a bit of a
snack from home."

On the afternoon of September 1, the first parent meeting took place.
After the introductions and welcoming remarks, the teacher enumerated
everything that the classroom was lacking. "We have to raise money for a
fan," she said, unsmiling. Carla had already suffered from the morning
heat, so her mother gave the 3 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) that was
her daughter's share, so she would have a little breeze while studying.
"We also need to buy a broom and mop for cleaning, three fluorescent
tubes for the lights, and a trash can," said the teaching assistant.

A list of requests and needs added some disinfectant for the bathroom,
"Because we don't want the flu," said the teacher herself. The total
expenditures began to grow, and a lock was added, "So that no one steals
things when there's no one in the school." A father offered some green
paint to paint the blackboard, and another offered to fix the hinges on
the door, which was lopsided. "I recommend that you buy the children's
notebooks on the street because the ones we received to hand out this
year are as thin as onion skin and tear just by using an eraser," the
teacher added.

After the meeting Carla's family calculated some 250 Cuban pesos in
expenses to support the little girl's education, half the monthly salary
of her father, who is a chemical engineer. Then the school principal
came to the meeting and rounded it off with, "If anyone knows a
carpenter and wants to hire him to fix their child's desk, feel free."

Source: Of Freebies and Schools / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/of-freebies-and-schools-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/ Continue reading
Rebuilding Cubans as Individuals
September 12, 2014
By Alejandro Armengol*

HAVANA TIMES — Even though studies and conferences about the rebuilding
of a post-Castro Cuba abound, this transformation has never been
analyzed in any depth from the point of view of the individual.

Urgently taking on the study about the means that will allow Cubans to
change and become individuals capable of facing the challenges and
benefits of a democratic State and civil society is as pressing a task
as debating over the economic and political bases that are to sustain
the Cuban nation of the future.

Impelling such a process from within Cuba's current regime is
impossible. Though efforts to establish the foundations of a civil
society in Cuba under the current situation are commendable, these
efforts are for the most part limited if not utopian. No civil society
could be built in Nazi Germany, fascist Italy or the communist Soviet
Union. That came later.

The comparison may seem disproportionate for some – in part, if one
considers the war these European nations experienced, or the subsequent
Cold War faced by the USSR, it is – but, when one focuses on the
characteristics of a totalitarian system, most differences tend to
vanish. To speak of establishing civil structures, groups and
institutions that are truly separate from the State – and not of
necessity pitted against the government – in today's Cuba is as
nonsensical as suggesting this be tried in North Korea.

This, however, does not stand in the way of studying the slow and
inevitable evolution towards this end, a process which, in Cuba's case,
is characterized by the development of an increasingly porous border
between the island and its counterpart, Miami.

Here, in contrast to North and South Korea, we cannot speak of a nation
divided into two States. We are faced, rather, with an ever-more
deteriorated country and a refuge established in a republic that is at
once similar and different (ultimately, Cuban émigrés living in Miami
abide by US laws).

Beyond the superficial similarity caught sight in the fact that South
Korea directly and indirectly offers North Koreans economic aid so that
they will be less hungry and miserable, Cubans living on the island and
in the United States have become closer to one another in the course of
years and these ties are transcending ideological and political
differences (whose extremes are becoming more and more obsolete at both
ends) every day.

In this sense, attempts in Miami at establishing the bases for a "future
Cuba", let alone a government for tomorrow's Cuba, are as absurd as the
pretext of the "besieged fortress" one still hears at Havana's
Revolution Square, and, with time, have become mere comical references
to an abandoned project.

The New Émigrés

In the course of 55 years, Cubans have evolved into two groups with
significant differences and similarities. One group, the majority, has
remained in the country. The other has made a new life for itself abroad.

For years, the Cuban government has been repeating that émigrés leave
Cuba for economic reasons. This argument has been echoed in Miami. Here,
we are also told on a daily basis that those who have arrived in the
country in recent years have come in search of a better life and not for
ideological reasons. In that always ironic convergence of extremes, a
discourse that points to the immigrant who is solely interested in their
wellbeing and not in any ideal of freedom begins to take shape on both
coasts.

There is some truth to these claims, insofar as there is a growing
tendency among the new émigrés to distance themselves from all forms of
"politicization" (having grown tired of hearing these kinds of
discourses) and to prioritize family values or maintain previous
personal ties, and even customs, with which those who arrived before the
1990s were, for the most part, obliged to break off.

There are however differences that remain, even though these are
overlooked or deliberately ignored in our daily lives. This could be
described simply by saying that Cubans go back to Cuba but never
actually return. Those who do – as in the case of the occasional
musician – are the exception that turns the event into news.

The most significant difference between Cubans within and without Cuba
is that those who have emigrated to the United States or other countries
live in countries with capitalist, market economies and democratic
governments, while those who have remained in Cuba of their own will or
reasons beyond their control are obliged to adapt to the circumstances
that prevail in a totalitarian society based on communist tenets
(though, in practice, the ideological terminology has evolved and the
prevailing system is the facade of a regime whose sole interest is
surviving at all costs).

Beyond the possibility of expressing oneself freely – and without facing
any repercussions, for the most part – under capitalism and the
generalized censorship of a system that continues to call itself
socialist, what has the greatest impact upon individuals is the sense
that they are not in control of their own lives.

Escape Valve

For the time being, leaving the country continues to be the escape valve
chosen by those living on the island. Neither the increase in travel and
sending of remittances between the two countries nor Cuba's new
migratory laws have put an end to the exodus of Cubans, who leave the
country on vessels and other means considered illegal by Havana and
other governments (save in such exceptional cases envisaged by the still
effective "wet foot / dry foot" policy).

In addition, leaving Cuba is, in most cases, no longer considered an
attack on the regime, but rather a family or personal affair.

This tendency to regard the migratory process through the lens of family
or personal concerns (and, as such, depoliticitzed), however, serves a
political aim.

What the Cuban government is actually after is a twofold benefit: to
receive revenue through those who settle abroad and continue to help the
relatives they left behind and to widen the social and political blowoff
valve. Like Havana, Washington also acts in accordance with its national
interests: to maintain social and political stability 90 miles from
Cuban coasts, without looking for any additional trouble. Ultimately,
that has more weight than any declaration in favor of democracy in Cuba.

For many years, migratory policies have been used as political
instruments by both the United States and Cuba, and this has not
changed. This has benefitted many Cubans, but not without a number of costs.

Over time, Havana and Washington have offered different answers to the
phenomenon of Cuban immigrants. They are two very different countries
that share a common problem, while thousands of desperate people
continue to look for a better life. Of course we should not condemn
anyone for wanting to have a better life, particularly if one has done
exactly the same.

It is the country of origin that is suffering ever greater damage from
the point of view of its future independence, not only political but
also social, the danger of disintegration, chaos and violence that looms
ever more threateningly over Cuban society.

A Volatile Stage

An extremely volatile situation – which the government has managed to
control through repression and promises – has been taking shape in Cuba
over recent years. Though repression is generalized, it manifests itself
more visibly when applied on dissidents.

The regime is not only capable of keeping dissidents divided – that
hasn't been news for years – but also of ensuring that the small
protests and acts of civil disobedience that take place on a daily basis
do not acquire larger dimensions. The dissidents still prove incapable
of guiding or organizing the nationwide feeling of discontent and the
government has not made any significant progress in terms of alleviating
the prevailing poverty in the country. In this sense, we can speak of
stagnation both within the opposition and government, whose reforms make
such slow progress that it could well be said they aren't moving at all.

All of this increases the chances of a social upheaval. Should such a
violent fragmentation of society take place and regardless of its
outcome, taking advantage of the chaos and the use of force as a
solution to daily problems will likely become a behavioral pattern that
will be adopted by part of the island's population. This behavior will
limit or thwart social progress, as is the case in Haiti today.
Manipulation would cease to be institutionalized, as is the case now,
and would become the work of small groups of thugs, demagogues and
politickers.

Should a social upheaval take place – and we must stress that the
situation of Cuban society is ever more like a boiler gaining more and
more pressure – people will not take to the streets to demand political
liberties (the moment for that has passed), but to vent their social and
economic frustration.

From the economic point of view, and contrary to what people may
suppose, a general worsening of the country's economic situation need
not be the catalyst for these more or less generalized protests. The
country's growing social differences, which become starker every day,
are what could light the fuse.

Despite the extreme limitations they face in their efforts (chiefly owed
to the vigorous forms of repression applied on them), Cuban dissidents
have not only warned of this danger but have done everything possible to
avoid reaching such a chaotic situation, after which it would be very
difficult to carry out the task of rebuilding Cubans as individuals. The
government of the Castro brothers, on the other hand, is intent on
leaving only chaos behind following its disappearance.

Every day there are more and more signs that reveal that part of Cuba's
population is willing to carry out violent acts – or is unable to
control its passions and base instincts – and that it reacts to the
simplest of stimuli. It is that sector of the population that willingly
participates in public reprisals against dissidents, in which they are
guided and controlled by a group of repressive agents. That is to say,
they are not even at the level of professionals of violence: they are
mere, circumstantial thugs.

In the more or less immediate future, following the disappearance of the
Castros, gang members, extortionists, people who abuse power and even
murderers will come out of the ranks of that sector, to meet the demand
for delinquents and violent people that the different groups involved in
illegal activities (now flourishing on the island) will have.

The rise in criminal activity is not the only danger that lurks ahead of
us in connection with these unscrupulous individuals who currently find
satisfaction in and take advantage of their participation in repressive
activities.

The main problem is the existence of a population accustomed to living
under a totalitarian regime that will soon find itself incapable of
living in freedom and assuming the responsibilities this entails. Those
who deal the blows today will be the maladjusted individuals of tomorrow.

Getting to know how people who have survived in a country in ruins for
too long think and act involves exploring a world that is broader than
our current political discussions. Studying the conduct of part of the
island's population that will limit or prevent social progress in the
future goes beyond the anecdote, the timely chronicle or the report on
the island's most recent shortage. It is of course not an easy task and
there are practically no means of carrying out such studies. That,
however, should not prevent us from sounding the alarm and continuing to
worry about this situation.

Source: Rebuilding Cubans as Individuals - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106124 Continue reading
Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores
September 12, 2014

HAVANA TIMES – When a Cuban goes shopping they never know what they will
find on store shelves. There may be plenty of some unaffordable luxury
products and acute shortages of basic necessities.

In the centralized system, government buyers purchase for millions of
Cubans. Consumer satisfaction is a factor rarely taken into account,
since the monopoly on the import and marketing protects the state companies.

Today we publish a report from Café Fuerte on the current shortages of
many basic products in the country. We recognize that if the situation
is distressing in the capital in the provinces and municipalities it is
even worse.

Cuban Government Explains Shortages of 25 Basic Products
By Cafe Fuerte

Havana's Puentes Grandes Commercial Center, located at the busy
interesection of 51 and 56 streets.
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has acknowledged that the shortage
and unstable supply of products sold through its retail network is
chiefly owed to a lack of the financial resources needed to guarantee
the production or import of these articles, adding that sanctions were
recently applied in cases in which such deficient market offers "had no
justification."

The Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) issued an open letter
recognizing that the shortage of some twenty food and personal hygiene
products at retail stores had been caused by a number of factors,
ranging from "the lack of financial resources needed to guarantee the
production or import of products during the first months of the year" to
"failure to comply with discipline and the established norms."

It pointed out that "administrative and disciplinary measures" have been
taken in certain cases evaluated, where there was no justification for
the product shortage, as "the production conditions were present and the
country had made the needed financial resources available."

MINCIN issued this missive in response to a report published on August
27 by Cuba's main official newspaper, Granma, following increasingly
frequent complaints by the population over the shortage of basic
products at hard currency stores and State industrial product markets.
The article stated that product shortages have become a "chronic
phenomenon" in the country, despite attempts by industry to meet
production plans and efforts by retail chains to compensate for
unbalances through imports.

Potatoes, Juice and Toilet Paper

The list of under stocked products includes potatoes, fruit juices,
salt, domestically produced beers, toilet paper, toothbrushes, matches
and plastic bags.

Though MINCIN insists efforts to stabilize the supply of numerous
products for the remainder of the year are being made, the panorama
described does not appear to point to an immediate solution to the under
stocking of Cuban markets.

"With the import of some raw materials and supplies, it has been
possible to resume some production processes in the country and ensure a
more stable supply of high-demand products. That said, it is both
crucial and fair to point out that it will not be possible to meet the
population's growing demands in all areas," MINCIN stated, pointing to
the demands of the self-employed and new forms of employment established
in the country as one aggravating circumstance.

A letter issued by Cuba's CIMEX Corporation followed MINCIN' communiqué
last week. Published in Granma, it leaves a number of "pending
questions" regarding the shortage of products distributed by its stores
across the country unanswered. The document was signed by Barbara Rosa
Soto Sanchez, commercial vice-president of the company.

Product Shortages

On the basis of these two letters, a list of 25 products in short or
unstable supply in Cuba's domestic market, and the official prognosis
regarding a possible solution to this, can be drawn up.

• Potatoes: Production during this year's harvest, aimed at 65,700 tons,
fell by 48,000 tons in comparison to 2013. These figures make it
impossible to satisfy the demand for this product.

• Natural juices and nectars: CIMEX has imported products to meet
demands and hopes to be able to stabilize the supply of its products by
year's end. The increase in the number of self-employed workers and the
establishment of new food service cooperatives are the main causes of
the unstable supply.

• Soft drinks: Consumer demands aren't being met and production plans go
unfulfilled. This has led to under stocking. These products are not
being imported.

• Powdered Chocolate: The dairy industry has recovered production
indices, but these still do not meet customer demand.

• Domestic beer: Cristal and Bucanero-brand beers were fulfilling their
production plan at 94%, which is below the market demand. Shortages are
also being caused at markets due to the demand of the self-employed and
food service cooperatives. Other beers have been imported to meet demand
at stores.

• Salt: No explanation as to its absence at markets is offered.
Production and delivery goals continue to go unfulfilled and contractual
clauses governing its sale are still being violated.

• Toilet paper: Domestic manufacturers are meeting production plans but
consumer demand is not being met. CIMEX imported toilet paper to reduce
shortages by 10 % during July.

• Toothbrushes: There have been delays in domestic production and
deliveries since May. CIMEX has begun to import this product to
stabilize its stocks. Demand is still not being satisfied, however.

• Toothpaste: A drop in market offer was registered in the first months
of the year. Supplies should become stable in the second half of the year.

• Deodorant: The industry experienced difficulties during the first
months of the year owing to a lack of financing, but production and
distribution have become stable.

• Laundry soap: With a production commitment of 17,000 tons for the
year, its offer is guaranteed in the market.

• Toilet soap: The production goal of 18,876 tons has been met to meet
demand. Product shortages are the result of distribution problems. The
soap deficit has been evident in the Cuban peso retail market, where a
sustained offer of the product has not yet been achieved.

• Razors: Stocks have run out. The product should be made available at
stores this month.

• Colognes and perfumes: A steady supply cannot be guaranteed through
domestic production or imports. Of the total of 5,938,600 units put on
the market last year by Suchel Regalo and Suchel Camacho, only 37%
(2,218,649 units) was available for sale this year. The industry is not
expected to recover until 2015.

• Talcum powder: The demand continues to go unmet. Of the 362,000 units
of talcum powder produced in 2013, a mere 16% will be produced this year.

• Batteries for electric motorcycles: Cuba's Minerva factory has not
been able to guarantee a steady supply at retail stores operated by
CIMEX' Automobile Transportation Division. Supplies for electric
bicycles, including the batteries, are expected to become stable by
mid-September with the help of imports.

• 18 and 32-Watt fluorescent lights: Though high numbers of affordable
fluorescent lights were imported from January to June for distribution
throughout the country, stocks have not become stable in the market.
MINCIN reports that under stocking is owed to a failure to import the
product on a timely basis.

• Energy-saving bulbs: There has been a shortage of this product since
the beginning of the year owing to lack of timely imports. The number of
bulbs needed to stabilize supplies in the market will be imported from
Vietnam and China. CIMEX claims that the market will recover slightly
between May and June.

• Portable radios: No contract with domestic manufactures exists because
a steady supply of this product cannot be guaranteed.

• Matches: the product shortages and unstable supply are owed to
negligence on behalf of the companies that sell the product. There are
no production problems or shortages.

• Grease removing and descaling substances: Lack of inventory and
unstable supplies in the market are expected throughout the year.

• Bleach: It will be impossible to meet customer demands owing to
technical problems faced by domestic manufacturers. Of the 8,720,879
liters of bleach needed to meet the demand this year, only 29% of that
volume will be produced.

• Hydrochloric acid: It will be impossible to meet demands. Of the
4,556,473 liters needed, a mere 7% will be produced for sale.

• Plastic bags: The product is available and instructions to sell it at
Cuban peso retail stores have been issued.

Source: Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106139 Continue reading
"Puro, Buy My Stimulus" / Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on September 12, 2014

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 12 September 2014 — Passing near the Chinese
cemetery on 26th Avenue, a young man leading his bike by the hand, said
to me, "Puro, buy my stimulus." I confess that it took me a few seconds
to decipher the code. Clearly the "puro" was a reference to my youth,
but what was difficult to understand was the "stimulus." How can you buy
such a thing?

As he explained to me, it was a plastic bag that contained a quart of
vegetable oil for cooking, two bath soaps, and some ounces of detergent
that he'd been given at work as a "stimulus" for having stood out in
socialist emulation.

I didn't believe a single word and committed the journalistic folly of
rejecting his offer. If I had said yes, now I'd have a photo here of the
products, laid out on the wall of the cemetery with the graves in the
background.

When I told the story to my friend Regina Coyula, author of the blog Bad
Handwriting, she told me this is the latest scam. The allusion to having
been chosen as the vanguard, a standout, or special prize winner, makes
you think that the potential seller is a "true believer" who has no
recourse but to sacrifice the material honors his political-social
conduct has earned him, to alleviate his urgent needs.

To buy the "stimulus" is almost a sado-political vengeance, but selling
fake merchandise, that is oil that isn't good for cooking, soap that
doesn't produce lather, and lime instead of detergent, is already a
mockery… the old scam in new clothes.

Source: "Puro, Buy My Stimulus" / Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/puro-buy-my-stimulus-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
Ministerial Hustling / 14ymedio
Posted on September 12, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Luzbely Escobar, 11 September 2014 – When I was
younger and went out looking for something to do in Havana's evenings or
nights, one day I stumbled over Julio. I went out with a girlfriend from
Berlin and he was looking to make a living scamming innocent foreigners.
He approached us intending to invite us to a Rumba Festival, but was
disappointed by our refusal. The trick was easy: lead the unwary to
Hamel Alley where there was almost always the sound of drums and right
now there was the Festival he mentioned.

I had warned my German friend about those characters who invent
everything to attract the tourists, and the truth was that, in those
days of September 1993, there wasn't much to do. Every encounter ended
in a park, along the Malecon, or the home of a friend. Julio didn't give
up and told my friend, Angelica, that he knew a place where there was
salsa dancing. We turned our worst faces to the old rockers and took off
before they came up with something else. I remember my friend at the end
of this episode telling me, "That's what I would call cultural hustling."

I'm telling this story because right now there is a cultural event
called Habanarte. I support the theory that this is more or less the
same thing, but organized by the Ministry of Culture itself. With a
program that includes everything but which, in reality, brings little
new, one more festival where supposedly a program specially designed for
the event is created, which comes to be a kind of umbrella that covers
everything and anything that's happening in Havana lately. Thus, this
umbrella festival takes credit for everything and even includes visits
to museums on its list of events.

Presentations by the National Ballet of Cuba, Haydée Milanés, Descemer
Bueno,
among others, are part of the shows absorbed by Habanarte. Also, the Art
in the Rampa show, and even the sixth Salon of Contemporary Art, have
been put under the umbrella.

An odd, or revealing, piece of data is that the Paradiso agency
confirmed the participation of 1,500 Venezuelans and announced that the
event in question is being marketed to tourists passing through Havana
and Varadero. The perfect mix to ideologize even more the cultural
spaces that, gradually, we Havanans have conquered to relax the everyday
political ballad.

At the press conference that took place a few days ago, we learned that
the Festival Information Center will be located at the Casa del Alba,
the most rancid epicenter of political propaganda masquerading as
culture. All this made me remember Julio and his fake musical event, and
my friend Angelica who realized the farce in time. However, unlike that
lie to get some money from unsuspecting tourists, Habanarte is a huge
ministerial balloon scamming thousands of people.

(The event takes place from 11 to 21 September, but the official opening
is on September 12, at 11 pm, at El Sauce Cultural Center, of Artex,
with a concert by El Chevere de la Salsa, Isaac Delgado.)

Source: Ministerial Hustling / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/ministerial-hustling-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Rejoice, Rise Up and Persevere, Pope Francis's Verbs for Cubans / 14ymedio
Posted on September 12, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, 9 September 2014 – A letter sent by Pope Francis to
Cubans has highlighted three verbs he invites pastors and the faithful
to put into practice. On the occasion of the Feast of the Virgin of
Charity of Cobre—our Cachita—this Monday, 8 September, the Bishop of
Rome has urged us to rejoice, rise up and persevere. The message seems
full of clues and enigmas to solve.
The Holy Father, for example, has emphasized, "What joy the authentic
soul feels in daily events, and not in the empty words that abound,
blown away with the wind." Pope Bergoglio has also called us to rise up,
but "not about the big things, rather in everything you do, with
tenderness and mercy. María was always with her people caring for the
little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile," allusions also
emphasized with the verb persevere.

The message takes as its context the widespread pilgrimages that have
occurred on the Island for the Feast of Cachita. To the yellow flowers,
the promises kept and the acts of faith, we now add the Pope's words,
which have been shared publicly in churches throughout the country.

Source: Rejoice, Rise Up and Persevere, Pope Francis's Verbs for Cubans
/ 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/rejoice-rise-up-and-persevere-pope-franciss-verbs-for-cubans-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Obama's Cuba Problem
BY JOSÉ R. CÁRDENAS SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 - 12:06 PM

The last time President Obama met with his Latin American and Caribbean
counterparts was not a particularly memorable affair. The 2012 Summit
of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, was overshadowed by an
embarrassing Secret Service scandal that saw members of his advance team
soaking in a little bit too much of the historical city's Caribbean
nightlife.
Meanwhile, in the absence of any substantive agenda, President Obama
spent most of the summit being hectored by his counterparts with the
incongruous assertion that undemocratic outlier Cuba must be part of the
next meeting of all the popularly elected governments in the Americas.
It was clear the president wasn't pleased with the
badgering, complaining that, "Sometimes I feel as if in some of these
discussions ... we're caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and
gunboat diplomacy."
Fast forward two years: Preparations for the 2015 Summit are well
underway and once again Cuba's participation has become the flashpoint.
Governments in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua
have already said they will boycott any summit where Cuba is excluded.
Panama, the host, has announced its intention to formally invite Cuba,
with its president saying that the presence of the last military
dictatorship in the region was "important."
The State Department has already voiced its opposition, citing the 2001
Summit's agreed-upon "democracy clause," which conditions Summit
participation to countries that respect democracy and rule of law.
According to a spokesperson, "So we should not undermine commitments
previously made, but should instead encourage -- and this is certainly
our effort -- the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the
basic qualifications."
Secretary of State John Kerry privately repeated that message in no
uncertain terms to Panamanian Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo when
the two met at the beginning of September.
Nevertheless, the drumbeat has started that President Obama must accept
the Castro regime's presence at the Summit or else, as one former
advisor to President Clinton has said, be "responsible for the collapse
of inter-American summitry, 20 years after its initiation by President
Clinton."
There is no doubt that U.S.-Cuba policy critics see the president's
dilemma as a golden opportunity to mainstream Cuba back into regional
polite society despite its uncompromising, repressive rule, thus making
it more difficult to justify the U.S. policy of isolating the Castro
regime politically and economically. The administration will therefore
be coming under enormous pressure to accept the "inevitable" and attend
the Summit with Cuba.
These critics understand the power that symbolism plays in international
affairs. The presence of a U.S. President at any event -- international
or otherwise -- is never routine, or ever lacking of import and
consequence. Thus, in their construction, President Obama's attendance
at a Summit with Cuba will signal a U.S. surrender of fifty years of its
embargo-centric policy. On the other hand, the symbolic importance of
standing up for the region's hard-won democratic gains over the past
quarter-century by making a point about the incongruity of Cuba's
presence in this age of regional democracy will be a dagger in their heart.
It's worth noting that several of the governments insisting on Cuba's
presence are those guilty of their own back-sliding on respect for
democratic institutions over the last several years, including
Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Why wouldn't they want the Castro
regime present in regional fora, so as to lower the bar for everyone on
adhering to democratic principles?
But this isn't just to argue that President Obama should just stiff his
counterparts and appoint a lesser State Department official to attend in
his stead if other Latin American governments insist on Cuba's
presence. The president should seize the opportunity to be proactive
and make a statement that what distinguishes the Americas is that it is
a community of democracies and that commitments to democratic governance
are enduring and meaningful to ensure it will always be that way. He
should challenge others to argue why the Castros' military dictatorship
is deserving of any special consideration or compromise for their
flaunting of democratic norms over the past five decades.
If, in the end, the president opts not to attend the Summit due to the
Castro regime's presence, meaning that the U.S. "isolates" itself from
the Summit process, then so be it. Principle is more important that
popularity. The sun will rise the next day and the struggle for
democracy in Cuba will continue. And if Latin American governments
choose to condition their relationships with Washington on U.S.
relations with Cuba, that is their choice to make -- and to live with.

Source: Obama's Cuba Problem -
http://shadow.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/09/12/obamas_cuba_problem Continue reading
Twenty years after Cuban raft exodus, they keep coming
By David Adams,
Reuters

MIAMI (Reuters) - Alicia Garcia vividly recalls her rescue at sea 20
years ago during a mass exodus from Cuba, a dramatic event that changed
the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and reshaped relations
between the communist-run island and the United States.

"We didn't think we'd make it. We prayed, and put ourselves in God's
hands," she said of her six-day ordeal clinging with five others to a
raft made of truck inner tubes and rope.

Illegal departures by sea from Cuba are on the rise again, U.S.
officials say, with more than 2,000 migrants picked up by the U.S. Coast
Guard over the last 12 months. That is the highest rate in six years.

Many more are passing undetected, mostly headed west aboard flimsy
home-made vessels in a risky bid to cross the Caribbean to Honduras, in
hopes of getting across the Mexico-U.S. border.

Late last month 17 Cubans were rescued by the Mexican navy after almost
a month at sea, 20 days without food. Details are unclear, but more than
a dozen others may have died from dehydration - the survivors forced to
throw their bodies overboard.

The town of Manzanillo in eastern Cuba, where most of the victims are
from, planned a church Mass on Friday night.

"My wife, she can't bring herself to tell me what really happened. It's
too terrible," said Jose Caballero, husband of one of the survivors, who
left Cuba via a similar route in December and now lives in Texas.

ECONOMY, LONG DELAYS, FUEL EXODUS

According to the latest U.S. figures, more than 14,000 Cubans have
crossed the southwestern U.S. border illegally since Oct. 1, almost
triple the number four years ago.

The spike is attributed to delays of up to five years for Cubans seeking
to emigrate legally to join relatives in the United States. Economic
reforms designed to open up Cuba's state-controlled system and create
private sector jobs have also failed to improve living conditions for
most people.

"We left (Cuba) because there are no jobs or the basic items for
living," said Angel, a former fishing boat captain who reached Honduras
with 11 others aboard a home-made boat last week after a two-week
journey via the Cayman Islands.

The boat was built clandestinely with cannibalized parts, including a
car engine, a propeller and aluminum sheets sealed together with resin,
he said.

It wasn't much different in 1994, said Garcia, except on that occasion
Cuba lifted restrictions, opening the flood gates for anyone who wanted
to jump on a raft.

That summer, between Aug. 12 and Sept. 13, some 31,000 Cubans were
detained at sea by U.S. ships. It was the largest exodus since the 1980
Mariel boatlift that brought 120,000 Cubans to Miami.

The 1994 crisis led to a major shift in U.S.-Cuba policy and an accord
under which Washington agreed to grant visas to 20,000 Cuban migrants a
year.

As a result, since 1995 more than 600,000 Cubans have emigrated to the
United States, the largest flow since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

The 1994 crisis also led to the establishment of a so-called "wet foot,
dry foot policy," under which Cuban migrants who make it onto U.S. soil
are allowed to remain, while those intercepted at sea are turned back.

Rafters have kept coming in smaller numbers, though these days they make
few political or media waves.

LIKE FALL OF BERLIN WALL

A series of seminars and exhibitions are being held to mark the 1994
exodus. An exhibition at the Spanish Cultural Center in Miami, opening
on Saturday, features the work of Willy Castellanos, a young
photographer in Havana in 1994 who chronicled the exodus as homes were
ripped apart to build rafts, lowered by pulleys onto the street below.

"Living in Havana at that time and watching the exodus felt like the
fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the end of the utopia, the socialist
model we grew up with," he said.

Garcia said she will never forget the five months she spent in 1994 at a
makeshift refugee camp at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base before
making it to Miami.

She has not been back to Cuba to visit the grandparents who raised her.

Garcia and other rafters say the 1994 exodus has not been fully
appreciated by Cubans who arrived in Miami in the 1960s, or on the
Mariel boatlift.

"The Cubans who came before, in 1980, were never in agreement with the
revolution. We were supposed to be different," added Garcia, born in
1974. "We were the children of the revolution."



(Reporting by David Adams, editing by Jill Serjeant and Dan Grebler)

Source: Twenty years after Cuban raft exodus, they keep coming - Chicago
Tribune -
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-rt-us-usa-florida-cuba-raft-20140912-story.html Continue reading
The Las Cuevas Camp Facility: Deficiencies and Corruption
September 9, 2014
Warhol P

HAVANA TIMES — Whenever there is talk of Cuba's camp facilities in any
of our media, everything is looked at through rose-colored glasses. The
reality, however, is quite different.

This past Friday, August 29, campers who arrived at the Las Cuevas
recreational center were able to confirm the deficiencies of the
facility in person. Upon arrival, they were informed there was no
running water because the pump was broken. The swimming pool – the one
source of entertainment for visitors – had not yet been filled.

The cabins had their own, private bathrooms, but some didn't have doors
and were equipped merely with one, plastic bucket for fetching water.
There were no basic cleaning products such as floor mops or brooms.

That day, the menu was less than interesting: a bit of fish with rice
and beans for lunch, minced meat, wieners in sauce and poor-quality rice
for dinner.

At noon on Saturday, several water tanks were installed on the premises
so that campers could wash themselves (many had to go off into wooded
areas or nearby cabins that have long been abandoned to relieve themselves).

The menu also suddenly broadened. They began to sell pizzas, served pork
fricassee for lunch and rice and beans, white rice, yellow rice, roasted
chicken and other main courses for dinner.

Thanks to campsite employees, people found out this sudden change in
conditions was due to a visit by the Minister of Tourism, who, we can
assume, does not know what is actually taking place at Las Cuevas.

At cabin no. 48, located at the back of the campsite where the police
are based, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages (extracted from the rum
factory in Santa Cruz del Norte) are sold illegally.

The prices of the cigarettes sold there are:

H.Upmann: 1 CUC, or 25 Cuban pesos

Popular (filtered): 1 CUC, or 25 Cuban pesos

Hollywood: 2 CUC, or 50 Cuban pesos.

At the campsite, the State establishments did not have cigarettes. Rum
bottles were sold at 40 Cuban pesos.

Cabin 56 was devoted to the sale of beer. A bottle cost 30 Cuban pesos.
A 24-pack (in very high demand) was sold there at 720 pesos. They also
sold cigarettes and food that was better than that being offered by the
campsite.

The people in these cabins were not campers. Apparently, these
individuals live in the area during the summer months.

Campsite employees know of this: it is they who tell campers where to
find the products they're looking for, and none of them seem bothered by
this network of illegal activities.

Source: The Las Cuevas Camp Facility: Deficiencies and Corruption -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106046 Continue reading
Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly Still in a Tight Spot
September 11, 2014
Luis Rondón Paz

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba's new mobile phone email service continues to be
highly deficient owing to "jamming of the lines", and no announcement as
when this will be fixed has been made.

I have sporadically contacted CUBACEL's customer services line to let
them know the problems I'm having. I have informed them of the
difficulties I've encountered whenever I try to send an email using my
cell's Nauta account, and that there are times during the day when text
(SMS) messages cannot be sent, take long to be delivered and sometimes
never reach the addressee (even though the nine cents are still deducted
from my balance).

Repeatedly, they have replied that "the servers are jammed and changes
to the technical infrastructure have been made recently. Please be
patient, we're working on it."

Cuba's telecommunications company (ETECSA-CUBACEL) broadened its range
of services for the population some time ago. Some of the more
noteworthy changes were the possibility of accessing the Internet and
sending emails from computers at newly-opened centers of this State
monopoly, and an email service (Nauta) for mobile phones. The latter was
quite novel for Cubans and promised to make communication quicker and
more affordable, provided customers limited themselves to sending
messages and photos no larger than one Megabyte.

That was the idea, but reality proved entirely different. The quality of
the email service offered by Nauta in recent weeks is one case in point.
According to ETECSA officials, problems affecting the quality of the
service have been reported since September 3. I know, however, that the
problems began well before, having long experienced difficulties sending
and receiving emails using my mobile phone.

This past 8th of September, I again phoned Customer Services in the
hopes of getting some good news. Unfortunately, when I got through, the
operator informed me that, currently, the company does not know whether
there will be any immediate solution to the poor quality of mobile phone
services – services, incidentally, that are charged in hard currency.

Source: Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly Still in a Tight Spot -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106108 Continue reading
Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get into U.S.
By CHRIS KRAUL

- At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be
admitted to the U.S. this year
- Cuba keeps 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela in part to pay for oil
- One Cuban doctor in Venezuela describes workload as 'crushing'

Worsening conditions in Venezuela are causing increasing numbers of
Cuban medical personnel working there to immigrate to the United States
under a special program that expedites their applications, according to
Colombian officials who help process many of the refugees.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in
Washington said the number of Cuban doctors, nurses, optometrists and
medical technicians applying for U.S. visas under the Cuban Medical
Professional Parole Program is running as much as 50% ahead of last
year's pace, which was nearly double that of the year before.

At the current rate, more than 1,500 Cuban healthcare workers will be
admitted to the United States this year.

For geographical reasons, neighboring Colombia is a favored trampoline
for Cubans fleeing Venezuela, whose leftist government has struggled to
rein in runaway inflation, shortages of goods and services and rising
social unrest.

Cuba, which prides itself on a comprehensive healthcare system and has
long exported doctors and nurses to friendly countries, maintains an
estimated 10,000 healthcare providers in Venezuela. The medical outreach
program is intended as partial payment for 100,000 barrels of oil that
President Nicolas Maduro's government ships to the Castro administration
each day.

Nelia, a 29-year-old general practitioner from Santiago de Cuba, arrived
in Bogota last month after what she said was a nightmarish year working
in Venezuela's Barrio Adentro program in the city of Valencia. She
declined to disclose her last name for fear of reprisal back home.

Nelia said her disillusionment started on her arrival in Caracas'
Maiquetia airport in mid-2013. She and several colleagues waited there
for two days, sometimes sleeping in chairs, before authorities assigned
her to a clinic in Valencia, she said.

"It was all a trick. They tell you how great it's going to be, how you
will able to buy things and how grateful Venezuelans are to have you.
Then comes the shock of the reality," Nelia said. Her clinic in Valencia
had no air conditioning and much of the ultrasound equipment she was
supposed to use to examine pregnant women was broken.

She described the workload as "crushing." Instead of the 15 to 18
procedures a day she performed in Cuba, she did as many as 90 in
Venezuela, she said. Crime is rampant, the pay is an abysmal $20 per
month and Cubans are caught in the middle of Venezuela's civil unrest,
which pits followers of the late President Hugo Chavez — whose
handpicked successor is Maduro — against more conservative,
market-oriented forces.

"The Chavistas want us there and the opposition does not. And there are
more opposition people than Chavistas," said Nelia, who was interviewed
in a Colombian immigration office in Bogota.

A 32-year-old Cuban optometrist who identified himself as Manuel and who
also fled Venezuela to apply for U.S. residency said that at his clinic
in Merida he was prescribing and grinding up to 120 pairs of eyeglasses
a day, triple his pace in Cuba.

"As a professional you want to be paid for what your work is worth. What
we were getting, $20 a month, was not enough to pay even for food and
transportation, much less a telephone call to Cuba now and then," Manuel
said. "That's the main reason I want to go to Miami, to earn what I'm
worth."

Cubans have long had favored status as U.S. immigrants. Virtually any
Cuban is guaranteed automatic residency and a path to citizenship simply
by setting foot on U.S. territory, legally or not. The Cuban Medical
Professional Parole Program gives medical personnel a leg up by allowing
them to apply for residency at U.S. embassies.

Though some Cubans apply at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, the Venezuelan
capital, others say they fear being seen there. Also, airfare to the
United States from Colombia is much cheaper than from Venezuela.

The increasing flow of Cuban doctors is only part of a rising tide of
Cubans seeking to reach the United States, many through Colombia.
Lacking the special status of medical personnel, many U.S.-bound Cubans
first land in Ecuador, where the government requires no visas. They then
typically pass through Colombia to Panama with the help of coyotes, or
human traffickers. However, many are detained in Colombia.

Of 1,006 illegal immigrants detained in Colombia from January through
July of this year for failing to have proper visas, 42% were Cuban,
according to Colombia's immigration agency director, Sergio Bueno
Aguirre. The flow of Cubans had more than doubled from the year before.

One Colombian Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the political sensitivity said the U.S. policy of
allowing Cubans immigrant status simply by arriving in the United States
has fed organized crime in Colombia and in other transit countries.

"Coyotes helping the Cubans transit through Colombia often use the
migrants to carry drugs or submit to prostitution," the official said.
"Or the coyotes will just abandon them at a border, creating a big
headache for the Colombian government, which has to take care of them or
send them back home."

Kraul is a special correspondent.

Source: Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get
into U.S. - LA Times -
http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-venezuela-cuba-doctors-20140911-story.html Continue reading
Posted on Friday, 09.12.14

Cuba sending dozens of doctors to fight Ebola
BY MARIA CHENG
AP MEDICAL WRITER

LONDON -- Cuba's health ministry said Friday it is sending more than 160
health workers to help stop the raging Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone,
providing a much-needed injection of medical expertise in a country
where health workers are in short supply.

World Health Organization chief Dr. Margaret Chan said the agency was
extremely grateful for the help.

"If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we need the resources to
fight," she said. "This will make a significant difference in Sierra Leone."

While millions of dollars have already been pledged and countries
including Britain and the U.S. have volunteered to build treatment
centers, Chan said "human resources are most important," noting a
crucial need for experienced doctors and nurses across the region.

"There is not a single bed available for an Ebola patient in the entire
country of Liberia," she said, adding that a further 1,500 health
workers are desperately needed in West Africa.

Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Cuba's health minister, called on other
countries to help.

Ebola is believed to have killed more than 2,200 people in West Africa
so far, the biggest-ever outbreak of the lethal virus. So far, the death
rate is about 50 percent. Doctors and nurses are at high risk of
catching Ebola, spread via the exchange of bodily fluids.

Cuba will be sending experienced doctors, nurses and other scientists to
Sierra Leone in early October. They will stay for six months.

Since the 1959 Cuban revolution, the country has dispatched thousands of
doctors worldwide to work on issues ranging from maternal health to
cataracts.

Cuba's program has been praised for improving health care in countries
short on doctors, but also criticized for underpaying the physicians by
funneling too much of the compensation for the program to Cuban state
coffers.

Associated Press Writer Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to
this report.

Source: LONDON: Cuba sending dozens of doctors to fight Ebola - World
Wires - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/12/4343586/cuba-sending-hundreds-of-doctors.html Continue reading
Cuba's bishops say Raul Castro's reforms not enough
POSTED: 11 Sep 2014 06:36

In a country with a centrally planned economy where opposition political
parties remain outlawed, the Church is the only sizeable non-state actor
that has an ongoing dialogue with President Raul Castro's government.

And in its Pastoral Plan for 2014-2020, the first such document since
Argentine-born Pope Francis's papacy began last year, the bishops were
blunt.

The government's limited "economic reforms have not jump-started the
economy in such a way that all Cuba's people can feel," the document
reads in part.

During the more than five decades that the Communist government has been
in power, health care, education and sports "experienced major progress"
but are now "stagnant and in some cases in decline," the document said,
referring to what the government sees as its key achievements.

Castro - who replaced his brother, longtime president Fidel Castro who
stepped aside in 2006 for health reasons - has ruled out the idea of any
political opening.

And on the economic front, he has refused to embrace market economics as
China or Vietnam have. Instead, the former military chief has cut the
government payroll and allowed more categories of self-employment.

But the cash-strapped economy depends heavily on Venezuela's economic
aid, and has no access to international loans. Most Cubans earn the
equivalent of US$20 a month.

"Despite the changes there have been," the bishops said, "we sense that
many citizens urgently want deeper and more appropriate reforms
implemented to solve pressing problems generated by their being
overwhelmed, plagued by uncertainly and worn out."

While not aggressive, the document is more frank than some in the past
which came as bishops were planning visits to Cuba by former and more
conservative popes John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict XVI in 2012.

The new document broached the issue of political opening saying that
many Cubans want their state to be "less bureaucratic and more
participatory."

Some "others who do not accept that way of thinking ... are confusing
the meaning of nationhood with an ideology, or with a party," the
document said.

"Dialogue among the various groups that make up our society is the only
path toward achieving and maintaining social transformations that happen
in Cuba," the bishops said.

While Cubans' everyday concerns have begun to emerge in the island's
state-run media and many political prisoners have been freed, new
dissident arrests and violent attacks against them "continue to be
worrisome and not constructive," they added.

The bishops also reiterated longstanding opposition to the US trade
embargo against Cuba in place for more than four decades.

- AFP/de

Source: Cuba's bishops say Raul Castro's reforms not enough - Channel
NewsAsia -
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/cuba-s-bishops-say-raul/1356350.html Continue reading
A New Women's Opposition Group is Born in the East: Citizens for
Democracy / 14ymedio
Posted on September 11, 2014

14YMEDIO, Havana, 10 September 2014 – A schism with the Ladies in White
has given birth to a new women's group called "Citizens for Democracy."
Last Monday, during the feast of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, the
recently created movement held it's first public activity with a
pilgrimage of seventy women to the Sanctuary of Cobre in Santiago de Cuba.

Citizens for Democracy is led by Belkis Cantillo and consists mostly of
women from Palma Soriano, Palmarito del Cauto and the city of Santiago
de Cuba itself. At least thirty of them come from the Ladies in White
group, from which they separated some days ago because of disagreements
between Berta Soler and Cantillo herself.

The reason for this separation was explained as "gross indiscipline"
allegedly committed by several members of the Ladies in White in the
eastern area of the country, which provoked the removal of Cantillo as
local representative of the movement. Soler, for her part, declared that
"every person can join or found a party or a group if they feel badly in
another and if they are not able to abide by the rules of the Ladies in
White."

Belkis Cantillo was a member of the Ladies in White from its origins in
2003 after the imprisonment of 75 dissidents in the so-called "Black
Spring." Her ex-husband is the opponent Jose Daniel Ferrer, who heads
the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Berta Soler hopes that the Citizens for Democracy will "succeed as human
rights activists."

Source: A New Women's Opposition Group is Born in the East: Citizens for
Democracy / 14ymedio | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-new-womens-opposition-group-is-born-in-the-east-citizens-for-democracy-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Hemingway, Tourism, and the Contradictions of Revolutionary Cuba
Posted: 09/10/2014 3:33 pm EDT Updated: 09/10/2014 3:59 pm EDT

At El Floridita bar in Old Havana, Ernest Hemingway drank in the
afternoons and supposedly met his only Cuban love, Leopoldina (a sex
worker). Hemingway, although he has been dead for over 50 years, is
still hanging around the bar. Today a life-size bronze statue of the
author stands in the corner, in his favorite drinking spot. On the walls
behind him, black-and-white photos show an aged and bearded Hemingway
talking closely with Fidel Castro and drinking with actors Errol Flynn
and Spencer Tracy. The memorial, commissioned by the Cuban revolutionary
government, has become a popular photo-stop for tourists. Large groups
of foreigners order expensive daiquiris, listen to live music, and take
pictures with a timeless Hemingway.

Attractions like this one awkwardly neighbor the poverty of everyday
life in Havana. The contradictions of the Cuban Revolution are a
half-century in the making. But with the arrival of more and more
tourists, they have become increasingly obvious. Last year, 2.85 million
tourists visited the island. U.S. citizens are also joining the tourist
crowds. Over 170,000 travelers from the U.S. arrived to Cuba in the
first three months of 2014. The question is: what will this new 21st
century boom in tourism mean for the Cuban people?

The afternoon I visited El Floridita, a group of men and women lingered
outside the bar's only entrance, waiting for foreigners to exit with
lubricated pockets. Hemingway's favorite drink - a daiquiri - costs
around $6.50, roughly one-third the average monthly salary ($20) of a
Cuban worker. The bar, owned by the Cuban state, isn't really for
Cubans. Neither is the Hotel Habana Libre (Free Havana), nor many other
tourist attractions in the city. Extreme economic inequality and state
policing separate local and foreign access to food, entertainment, and
certain "public" spaces.

Tourism has become Cuba's new enclave economy. The hotels, and the best
restaurants and bars, are exclusive sites. Foreigners are allowed in and
Cubans are physically kept out. The revolution (1953-1959) was supposed
to end these social problems and the demoralizing divide between the
majority of Cuban 'have-nots' and the exclusive foreign 'haves.' The
decadence of tourism in 1950s Havana helped mobilize a nation against
dictatorship and U.S. imperial arrogance. Today, though, the Cuban
government offers international tourism as the nation's best hope. The
revolution's leaders have decided to build a new contradiction on top of
a very old one. As the state-owned Hotel Meliá-Cohiba tells its
employees, "smile, always" for the tourists.

Old problems are reemerging. As tourism grows, so does a culture of
hustle. Male and female hustlers, locally called jinteros, use slick
words, lies, quick friendship, and sex to get money, luxury, and
mobility. Jinteros are willing to prostitute soul and sometimes body to
economically survive and find diversion in the mundaneness of a
restricted life. The reasoning goes: "If the tourists can have a drink,
a fun night out, a good meal, a travel visa, a decent income, why can't
I?" The state has responded by harassing, and when it sees fit, jailing
Cubans who talk too much with foreigners in the streets of downtown Havana.

The boom in state-run luxury tourism undermines the revolution. The
Ministry of Finance and Pricing is on the far end of Obispo Street, the
same street where El Floridita and many other tourist bars and
restaurants are located. Inside the ministry's neocolonial building
there is a huge banner, with a younger-looking Fidel dressed in green
fatigues, explaining the meaning of Cuba's ongoing struggle.
"Revolution," it declares, "is the feeling of an historical moment; it
is to change everything that should be changed; it is plain equality and
liberty; it is to treat everyone like human beings." It concludes:
"Revolution is unity, it is independence, it is to struggle for our
dreams of justice for Cuba, for the world."

I empathize with and respect the 1959 Cuban Revolution. There was
legitimate reason for revolt. A visit to the island, however, makes it
impossible to morally accept what's happened since. Rhetoric and action
have long parted ways.

There is not enough hope or basic necessities for the majority of
Cubans. Healthy and affordable food, consistent and clean drinking
water, uncensored news sources, the internet, sustained cross-cultural
connections (not just at hotels with false smiles), a livable income...
travel... freedom... these should be the fruits of revolution. Instead,
they remain intangible possibilities for Cubans who stay on the island
and follow the rules.

Young people are trapped in a country run by old authoritarians talking
about 1959 like it was yesterday and forever. The nation's leaders keep
looking to the past. In the face of material and existential
uncertainty, the revolutionary government has in fact returned to
develop one of its original enemies.

At first I was confused how Hemingway could be a beloved figure for a
state claiming to be so revolutionary. For all of Hemingway's literary
talent, and his sympathy for the downtrodden (fishermen, peasants, war
veterans, bootleggers, and Indians), he was still by most accounts a
bigoted white man who demanded that he be called "Papa." People of color
and women were always inferior to the risk-taking righteousness of
Hemingway and his white-male characters. His image of himself was his
favorite literary figure. He was the authority, the troubled explorer,
looking out on the good, bad, ugly, and also the beauty of the world. He
was "Papa." The Cuban Revolution has created a similar narrative, and
image, of itself. Fidel is still the island's "Papa." The revolution's
most revered characters continue to be virile white-men. Che, Camilo,
Raul, even Martí. Everyone else is still in the backseat, or serving drinks.

For travelers contemplating a trip to Cuba this shouldn't mean stay home
or visit somewhere else. Just the opposite. The embargo is also
wrongheaded policy. It shares responsibility for the island's troubles.
There is both an external and internal embargo against Cubans.

If you do travel to Cuba: engage, meet, and listen to local people, with
love and humility; talk politics and history, and the uncertain meaning
of freedom; share and exchange, and avoid the poison of apartheid
luxury; learn and speak the truth about the troubles and advantages of
the different political-economic systems in the U.S. and Cuba. Dialogue
and cross-cultural exchange are the only hope for forging a respectful
relationship between our two nations.

Viva Cuba Libre!

And don't be a tourist.

Source: Hemingway, Tourism, and the Contradictions of Revolutionary
Cuba | Blake Scott -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blake-scott/he-aint-my-papa-hemingway_b_5761948.html?utm_hp_ref=travel&ir=Travel Continue reading
Junk Food in Cuba, the State is the Main Supplier
September 10, 2014
Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez

HAVANA TIMES – Weeks ago, Margaret Chan, the director of the World
Health Organization, visited Cuba. While the official publicly praised
the country's pharmaceutical industry, she spoke of the need to pay
attention to the issue of a healthy and balanced diet (with the prudence
that such a pronouncement requires, of course).

She reminded the officials present at the meeting that the short-term
profits generated by fast food are eclipsed by the high costs of
treating chronic, non-transmissible conditions associated to their
frequent consumption.

It is clear the official was well-informed about the high morbidity
rates associated to the country's poor eating habits.

Despite the relevance and timeliness of the issue addressed by the
director of the WHO, the Cuban media made no reference to her comments
at all, as part of what I consider to be a deliberate omission.

Despite the fact the issue is widely addressed by television programs
dealing with health issues, I don't recall ever seeing a public debate
on the role that Cuba's State food industry has played in the
development of poor eating habits among Cubans, particularly in recent
times, when the science of nutrition has made considerable progress.

Today, the menus at Cuba's State food industry establishments are a
litany of super-greasy processed cold meats, extremely salty minced
meats, snacks fried in saturated oils that are several days old, soft
drinks and rancid sandwiches.

This way, the commercial departments of the State food industry cut back
on production costs and continue to offer a limited range of
high-calorie products that are detrimental to the health of low-income
consumers, which are the main customers of the State food industry.

This reveals a lack of a real political will aimed at designing
healthier options that give consumers a broader range of choices.

There have been attempts by the State food industry to offer the public
healthier options in recent times. Ultimately, however, they have proven
demagogic strategies that have sought to conceal the precarious
condition the sector is in and they perished when they ran into the
habitual setbacks and absurdities of the system. An illustrative example
were the short-lived vegetarian restaurants.

Some of today's isolated initiatives, like the sale of natural juices,
have only intensified the problem, as the facilities lack the
infrastructure needed to store and sell these natural products. The
juices become fermented in the dispensers before they are sold to the
public, causing as many health problems as the most synthetic of soft
drinks.

Of course, the Cuban State is far from assuming a responsible attitude
concerniing this, and regional initiatives like Plato de buen comer ("A
Healthy Dish") implemented by the Mexican government to encourage
healthy eating habits have eclipsed its efforts. Likewise, the
initiative of the Ecuadorian government aimed at raising taxes on junk
food as a means of discouraging the excessive consumption of these products.

Another example of the double standards that characterize our
authorities is that, after rubbing elbows with ecological and
alternative diet movements around the world, they end up validating the
hegemony of economic interests through their social policies.

Source: Junk Food in Cuba, the State is the Main Supplier - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106076 Continue reading
INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST ARRESTED, PRESSURED TO LEAVE CUBA
PUBLISHED ON TUESDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2014.

A former political prisoner, Bernardo Arévalo is being threatened with
another jail term if he does not leave.

Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, an independent journalist based in Cienfuegos,
250 km southeast of Havana, said the police of pressured him to leave
Cuba when they arrested him on 6 September because of his reporting for
the opposition newspaper El Cubano Libre, de Hoy.

Arévalo told Reporters Without Borders that the Cienfuegos police
threatened him with a four-year jail sentence if he did not leave the
island.

"I don't want to leave Cuba, I don't want to," Arévalo said. "My
decision is irrevocable. I would rather go to prison than leave the
country. I want to die in Cuba."

Arévalo spent six years as a political prisoner, from 1997 to 2003,
after being convicted of insulting Fidel Castro and then Vice-President
Carlos Lage. Between then and last weekend, he had only been detained
once – for eight hours in February 2010.

"We condemn the pressure being placed on Arévalo," said Camille Soulier,
the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk. "Cuba is
reestablishing relations with the European Union and EU member countries
but its treatment of independent journalists has not changed. Exile or
prison, that's freedom of information in Cuba today."

In its latest monthly report, the Havana-based Hablemos Press
independent information centre said there were a total of 609
politically-motivated arrests in Cuba in August, bring the total to
6,805 since the start of the year.

One of the latest victims, independent journalist Miguel Guerra Pérez,
was released on 1 September after being held for a week. Several
Hablemos Press reporters have been the targets of threats. They include
José Leonel Silva Guerrero, who was briefly detained and threatened with
reprisals against his family if he did not stop working as the Hablemos
Press correspondent in Holguín.

After the Hablemos Press monthly report was slammed by a recent "Mesa
Redonda" programme on state television, the centre's director, Roberto
de Jesús Guerra García, demanded the right to respond to the criticism
on 1 September without holding out any hope of his request being granted.

Four journalists are currently detained in Cuba. One of them, Juliet
Michelena Díaz, is still waiting for a court decision. Cuba is ranked
170th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press
freedom index – the lowest position of any country in the Americas.

Source: Independent journalist arrested, pressured to leave Cuba -
Reporters Without Borders -
http://en.rsf.org/cuba-independent-journalist-arrested-09-09-2014,46921.html Continue reading
Accessories and Sandwiches / Regina Coyula
Posted on September 8, 2014

The school year has just begun, the first for many children. Filled with
enthusiasm and wonder, these little ones are unaware of the disruption
their new status as students creates for many Cuban families.

Along with the canasta basica,* the school uniform is the last holdout
of the ration book as far as manufactured goods are concerned. It is
provided to each student upon enrollment in the form of a ticket to buy
subsidized uniforms, which he or she must treat with great care since
there won't be any more given out until the fourth grade.

As everyone knows, education in Cuba is free but other expenses related
to a child's schooling come directly out of the family budget. I am not
referring only to shoes, a backpack or a lunchbox. The first parents'
meeting will confirm what families already know from their own
experiences or those of others.

There are always parents who offer to buy paint and others who offer to
paint. There are always collection drives for cleaning supplies and
sign-up sheets for mothers to clean bathrooms. It is now standard
practice to start the school term every year by collecting five CUC per
child to purchase fans.

Teachers and administrators adopt a stance of giving in to these family
initiatives in a game of role playing in which it is assumed that the
Ministry of Education will provide everything that is needed to do the
work and that the family wants what is best for its children.

All this and other things that follow are part of an unwritten but
demonstrably effective methodology, which only gets better from one
school term to the next The youngest children must not bring backpacks,
only luncheras (lunch boxes). If they bring soft drinks, they must be in
plastic containers, even if they are in cans. Everything must be able to
be kept at room temperature.

Special emphasis is given to the lunchtime sandwich. No roast beef,
ground meat or fish. Chicken must be shredded, ham sliced. Even better
if it is the ever popular perrito (or hot dog).

Every pre-schooler must bring a sturdy shoebox to store all his or her
projects for the entire school term. They must also bring scissors for
cutting paper, crayons, an eraser — all items available only in hard
currency.

The classroom is a place where the disparities that have become
entrenched in society are there to be seen. Every student has a right to
education but equality ends there.

From the moment they arrive at school, even before morning classes
begin, their footwear and accessories tell a story of which the students
themselves are ignorant protagonists and about which their parents will
speak in private with cynicism or shame, depending on their personal
ideas about what constitutes success.

Translator's note: The "basic basket" is an allotment of foodstuffs
intended to provide Cubans with a minimum of 3,100 of calories per day.
The items include beans, rice, sugar, cooking oil and coffee. There is
also a monthly allotment of meat, chicken, and eggs. Prices for these
goods are heavily subsidized but the items themselves are often in short
supply.

5 September 2014

Source: Accessories and Sandwiches / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/accessories-and-sandwiches-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
Cuba Relaxes Some Housing Regulations
September 9, 2014
by Cafe Fuerte

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has announced a series of measures
aimed at restructuring the country's current housing system and
authorizing the building of dwellings on roofs, empty lots and
State-owned land by the population.

The special issue of Cuba's Official Gazette published this past Friday
made public Council of State Decree Law 322/2014, a new legislation that
substantially modifies the General Housing Law, in effect since 1988,
and seeks to simplify the legal norms governing applications by citizens
to request changes of address, the transfer of properties and individual
construction work.

The legislation, signed by President Raul Castro on July 31, aims to
"improve State housing services and reorganize housing-related
activities, reassigning these to entities responsible for work hitherto
governed by the National Housing Institute (INV)."

Urban Planning Control

This restructuring will involve the transfer of the INV's chief
functions to the Urban Planning Institute (IPF), presided by General
Samuel Rodiles Planas, and to other State entities, such as the
Ministries of Construction, Justice and Labor and Social Security and
the Provincial and Municipal People's Court system.

Following this government decision, the INV has become subordinate to
the Ministry of Construction and is now tasked with directing, executing
and enforcing State and government housing policy.

The Official Gazette also published seven complementary resolutions
aimed at making the issuing of permits to the population more efficient,
improving regional and urban organization and combatting illegal
practices and construction work.

The legislative package will come into effect on January 5, 2015.

Assigning State lands to individuals or entities who request these for
the building of homes, certifying that completed dwellings are
habitable, approving procedures for technical reports used to value
properties and transfer ownership of empty lots and flat roofs, are
among the functions now taken on by the IPF.

Land Assignation

The new provisions will regulate the sale, purchase, donation and
exchange of empty State lots.

The IPF will be empowered to assign State lots to individuals in need of
these for the building of homes. The lot assigned will have to meet
basic urban planning requirements, such that individuals may begin
construction on these immediately.

"The Municipal Urban Planning Office, in cases approved by the Municipal
Administrative Council and in accordance with the priorities established
by the State, will be authorized to transfer ownership of State lots to
individuals through the pertinent payments, giving these full rights
over these properties, so that they may build homes in their
jurisdiction, through the procedure to be established by the President
of the Urban Planning Institute," the Council of State Decree points out.

People who are assigned a State lot will be required to begin
construction there within a year from purchase. Failing this,
authorities will either extend the building permit for an additional
year or decide to terminate the agreement, returning the amount paid.

Building on Flat Roofs

Those affected by natural disasters, people living in precarious
conditions, welfare cases, those residing in State shelters or in
earthquake or disaster-risk areas will be prioritized in the assignation
of State lots.

Similarly, the transfer and use of flat roofs for the expansion of
homes, through purchases and other mechanisms, will also be made more
flexible.

"The owners of individual dwellings, dwellings located in buildings with
several stories (where each story constitutes a single dwelling) and
dwellings that are part of an apartment building, may, of mutual
agreement, grant the owners of dwellings on the top floor the right to
expand their homes, or grant a third party the right to build a new
dwelling, in the flat roof of the building in question, provided it is
technically feasible and does not violate any urban or regional
regulations, following authorization from the Provincial Urban Planning
Office," the regulations specify.

The measures are aimed at alleviating Cuba's housing deficit, calculated
at 600,000 dwellings, and at encouraging individual construction
efforts. According to official figures, a mere 26,634 new homes were
built last year, the lowest figure registered since 2004. The most
significant detail, however, is that nearly half (12,217) were built by
the population, unaided by the State.

Source: Cuba Relaxes Some Housing Regulations - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106049 Continue reading
New Organized Robbery / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on September 8, 2014

The great problem created by the government of my planet itself with the
dual currency, now, with the new authorization of being able to buy
things in some TRD (hard currency collection) stores with either
currency, is that it has become more complicated for both the customers
and the employees, who work at each cash register in these establishments.

The other day I was at La Mariposa in Nuevo Vedada to buy some soft
drinks–those that cost 0.50 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) whose
equivalent in Cuban pesos (CUP) is 12.50. I offered 13.00 CUP in payment
for which they owed me 0.50 CUP in change, but as the cash boxes don't
have this currency but only CUCs, they couldn't give me 0.05 CUC because
this would be the equivalent of 1.00 CUP, and so I would get 0.50 CUP
over. Their not having change in smaller values means that the client
loses the difference. I decided to return the soft drink.

Today my friend Mirta came over and brought me the receipt for a
purchase she'd made of a liter of oil in the same store. She, indignant,
told me exactly what I've told you. Well, I told her, if the famous
character Cantinflas lived in Cuba today he would be totally nondescript.

These new headaches and "wallet-aches" that we customers and even the
employees of these stores have to suffer are, in my modest opinion,
nothing more than a new way of organized robbery.

6 September 2014

Source: New Organized Robbery / Rebeca Monzo | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/new-organized-robbery-rebeca-monzo/ Continue reading
Ebola: FG warns Cuba, others against stigmatising Nigerians
SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 BY FRIDAY OLOKOR, ABUJA

The Federal Government on Monday called on countries which have been
stigmatising and profiling Nigerians because of Ebola to stop doing so
forthwith, saying it is not in line with global best practices.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, stated this during a
World Press Conference on Monday in Abuja while giving an update on EVD
50 days since it was "imported into Nigeria through Lagos and 38 days
since it was introduced into Port Harcourt".

At the event, he also revealed that a fiancé of one of Patrick Sawyer's
contacts, has been confirmed positive for EVD but has however since
recovered from the illness.

Also speaking, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, called on
Nigerians to contact their foreign missions whenever they were
stigmatised over EVD.

He said, "There is absolutely no basis for this stigmatisation, because
of the records we have set in dealing with Ebola so far.

"We also want to plead that we should avoid sensationalism when
reporting; this is where the stigmatisation starts. When people begin to
read such reports and rumours, it reinforces stigmatisation.

"A lot of the stigma we suffer come from the way we report issues about
Nigeria. The only confirmation of EVD should come from the Health
Minister and not the State Commissioners of Health."

Chukwu also debunked rumours that there were Ebola cases in Kebbi,
Kaduna, Oyo, Ebonyi, Delta and Sokoto states as well as the Federal
Capital Territory saying they "have been investigated and all the cases
have turned out to be negative for Ebola."

While reacting to the reported placing of Nigerian travelers including a
journalist on quarantine by the government of Cuba, the Health Minister
described the action of the countries as surprising.

He said, "The only case from Cuba concerns a journalist working with a
Newspaper which was very surprising. But as a responsible Ministry, we
have already written formally to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help
us investigate the case.

"We treat individual cases that way but when it comes to what we do
generally, I think it is education we are giving. That is how it is done
in civilized countries. We continue to appeal to countries and
individuals not to profile or stigmatise anyone on account of EVD.

"In particular, we have observed that some countries have continued to
selectively quarantine Nigerian travelers without any health or
scientific basis. For the record, let me say clearly that while any
individual from any country of the world, including Nigeria, could be a
carrier of the EVD and transmit same to others, no single Nigerian as of
now has introduced EVD to any country. Nigeria shall continue to support
protocols approved by the WHO which do not support the closure of
borders, do not restrict travel, and do not stigmatise anyone on the
basis of the passport that one carries."

He added: "We treat people for Lassa fever and they go back home. The
two infections belong to the same group. If anything, it is more serious
than EVD. We are again appealing to countries and individuals not to
profile or stigmatise anyone on account of EVD.

"The Federal Government shall continue to remain vigilant and strengthen
screening at our ports of entry and exit. As long as there is a single
case of EVD anywhere in the world, every nation, every individual
remains at risk and Nigeria and Nigerians are not exempted."

Giving an update of EVD in Nigeria, Chukwu said, "So far, all the cases
that have been confirmed in Nigeria are traceable to the index case, the
Liberian-American, Mr. Patrick Sawyer. As of this morning, the total
number of confirmed cases of EVD in Nigeria is 19; 15 in Lagos and four
in Port Harcourt.

"The 19th case is the fiancé of one of the primary contacts of Sawyer
who died of the disease. The test results were equivocal but further
tests established the disease. He had only mild symptoms and he has
since recovered from the illness. He was quarantined but because of the
equivocal test result he was not placed on active treatment.

"The total number of deaths from EVD in Nigeria stands at seven. Five of
this died in Lagos, one in a private hospital, the index case, Sawyer,
and the other four are in the isolation ward in Lagos State. Two of the
seven died in Port Harcourt, the medical doctor who died in a private
hospital and the contact, a patient in the hospital at the time the
doctor was also on admission, who died in the isolation ward in Rivers
State."

According to him, the total number of patients who have been
successfully managed and discharged stands at nine, adding that the
latest is the sister of the Port Harcourt doctor who was discharged from
the isolation ward in Rivers State on Sunday.

Chukwu said, "It should be noted that the nine patients successfully
managed and discharged are among the total number of 11 survivors of EVD
in Nigeria. At the moment only one person, the wife of the Port Harcourt
doctor is on treatment in the isolation ward in Lagos. She no longer has
any symptoms and is undergoing series of tests preparatory to her
discharge from the isolation ward this week.

"Regarding contacts currently under surveillance, Lagos has 27 contacts
as of now. A total of 339 contacts who were previously on surveillance
have been discharged having completed 21 days of observation. Port
Harcourt has 477 contacts under surveillance. It is a mixed group
consisting of tertiary and quaternary contacts of Sawyer's. Five
contacts have already been discharged from surveillance in Port Harcourt
having completed 21 days of observation."

He added: "All the Nurses in Lagos have insurance cover. We trained them
before touching any patient, training is very difficult because we keep
ensuring that we get it right because 99 per cent is not good enough, we
have to score 100 per cent. In any case, it is surprising that somebody
wants to go on strike when everybody has been discharged. I am not aware
of any caregiver not being paid; they are getting their salaries and
they are being given incentives to encourage them."

Speaking on efforts being put in place to check further spread of the
disease as schools plan to reopen, Chukwu said, "we have contained the
situation; Ebola is no longer in the streets anywhere in Nigeria.

"We are working with the Federal Ministry of Education, we made it clear
that in institutions having students returning from outside Nigeria,
they should let us know. We will work with them and we have
questionnaires which we are already using on our airlines, ships coming
into Nigeria and other means of transportation, including buses. They
will fill it and use it as our first line of screening. We will ask
questions and conduct tests to see that they don't have fever."

Source: Ebola: FG warns Cuba, others against stigmatising Nigerians -
http://www.punchng.com/news/ebola-fg-warns-cuba-others-against-stigmatising-nigerians/ Continue reading
Bicycles and the Future of Cuban Transportation
September 7, 2014
Jorge Milanes Despaigne

HAVANA TIMES — "I've always had a bicycle, but I'm in love with this
particular one because it was tailor-made," my brother Luis said to me,
polishing the bike he brought from Ecuador.

When he saw I was interested in the subject, he began to tell me about
bicycles, cyclists and the State policy towards these in Quito.

"There are workshops everywhere in Quito where you can get bicycles
built to your specifications. This is one such bike," he said, pointing
to his "space ship."

"It's a shame we Cubans couldn't continue that project we began during
the Special Period, in the mid-90s!" At the time, people believed that
every Cuban family would have at least one bicycle to mitigate the
collapse of public transportation and fuel shortages, among other things.

"Today, transportation continues to be a problem, and saving energy will
always be a concern as well. Perhaps, through the new foreign investment
and self-employment policies, the bicycle lane infrastructure and
bicycle parts industry can be revitalized. Of course, it would require a
preliminary study."

"Many students would be able to go to school on their bicycles. Others
would be able to ride these to reduce stress, obesity and other
conditions, all the while protecting the environment."

"Hold on, hold," I said to him. "That's all fine and good, but you're
pedaling too fast. They have to guarantee food and security for people
first. You talk this way because you ate well over there."

He went silent…and went on:

"The government promotes the use of bicycles through the media. They
have a bicycle day every Sunday. They also have bicycles for all tastes
and financial possibilities. They have protected bicycle lanes, like the
ones we had in Cuba, but with surveillance systems," he concludes, going
back to his polishing. I said to him:

"I haven't seen bicycles like this one here."

"No, and you won't see them in Quito either. This one is 'Made in Me',"
he said, trying to make me jealous of his English.

I told him the idea wasn't bad, but that Cuba lacked a policy that could
adequately study the possibility of securing foreign funding for the
sustainable and safe implementation of something that could become the
country's future transportation system, as it is in other countries.

"I have this bike, for the time being," he said to me when I was
finished talking.

"Wanna take it for a ride?" he asked me.

"Of course!" I replied.

Source: Bicycles and the Future of Cuban Transportation - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106002 Continue reading
Cuba's Computer Clubs: Another Endangered Social Achievement
September 8, 2014
Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES – Computer and electronics clubs (Joven Club de Computacion
y Electronica) in Cuba's province of Artemisa have begun charging users
for their services, yet another measure by the Cuban government that is
reverting the country's social achievements, including those in the
field of education.

As of August 25 this year, visitors to these facilities located in
Artemisa's provincial capital must pay two Cuban pesos per hour to use
the computers available there.

Anamaris Solorzano Chacon, National Director for Institutional
Communication, announces that "it is an experimental measure for the
time being which will be implemented gradually across the country."

Those of us who have visited these establishments know that they offer
only the most basic services and that the majority of users are
children, who go there to play computer games.

The courses offered at these facilities (including those at the Central
Computer Sciences Center in Havana, the main establishment of this
national institution) are generally terrible. In addition, the computers
are in bad condition, there are no printers and no connection to the
Internet, Nauta servers and even other sites of Cuba's Intranet.

Despite these many shortcomings, Cuba's Computer Clubs were extolled by
Cuba's authorities as ideal models for the socialization of computer
services, preferable to allowing computers and Internet connections to
reach the homes of Cubans.

This network of computer and technology-related centers came into
existence in 1987 as an initiative of former Cuban President Fidel
Castro, with the aim of "contributing to the socialization of
information technologies in Cuban society."

"These clubs are for workers, for institutions, for the people. They are
there, next to the neighbors, the family doctors – it is the computer of
the Cuban family," Fidel had said then.

According to the official site, "the services offered by Cuba's Computer
Clubs have a markedly social aim, steered towards the use of new
technologies as a means of addressing the most varied demands and
problems faced by Cuban society and towards stimulating the social,
cultural and spiritual lives of Cubans."

In addition, the site makes it clear that all services offered by these
establishments "are completely free."

Now, however, these State institutions, belonging to the Ministry of
Information and Communications Technologies, are being asked that, in
addition to the yearly budget allotted to them, they must secure profits
by charging the "neighbor", "family doctor" and "Cuban family" for their
services.

That, incidentally, is a strategy outlined by Cuba's Communist Party:
the measure is based on one of its Guidelines, related to the "gradual
elimination of free services and subsidies."

The same logic has been used to justify the cutbacks (or
"rationalization", as they euphemistically put it) of health services
offered at polyclinics and schools in remote rural areas, as well as the
rise in prices at the main theaters around the country.

All of the country's State-financed sectors (culture, sports, education
and healthcare) face true danger in the hands of the "reformers." This
is known as State capitalism: the services are there for those who can
pay them, like the digital TV decoders being offered.

Source: Cuba's Computer Clubs: Another Endangered Social Achievement -
Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=106017 Continue reading
Posted on Monday, 09.08.14

Pope Francis tells Cuban faithful that victory comes to those who don't
get discouraged
The pope sends a powerful message to Cuba on the feast day of our Lady
of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Pope Francis delivered a powerful message of hope and perseverance to
the Cuban faithful Monday on the feast day of Our Lady of Charity of El
Cobre, Cuba's patron saint.

Some saw a veiled political message in the pope's call for Cuban
Catholics to take to heart the lessons of the Virgin Mary and arise.
"The victory is for those who arise again and again without being
discouraged," the pope wrote in a letter sent to Santiago Archbishop
Dionisio García Ibáñez, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops
Conference of Cuba.

Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, known affectionately as La Cachita, has
a special place in the hearts of Cubans both on the island and abroad.

Across Cuba, thousands of people took part in religious processions
Monday and in Coral Gables, thousands attended a Mass celebrated by
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who was joined by local priests as well
as visiting Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil.

Veneration of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre dates from 1612 when three
Cuban salt collectors found a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary bobbing
in the Bay of Nipe after a violent storm. Neither the statue, which was
attached to a plank that read "I am the Virgin of Charity," nor her
clothing were wet. The 15-inch statue is now ensconced in a church on a
hill overlooking the copper mining town of El Cobre, about 12 miles from
Santiago.

In the letter, Francis noted that when Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she
still took care of her aging cousin Elizabeth and whoever else needed her.

"She did not think of herself; she overcame all setbacks and gave of
herself to others," Pope Francis said. "If we imitate Mary, we cannot
just do nothing and merely complain, or perhaps pass the buck on to
others for something that is our responsibility."

Andy Gomez, a Cuba analyst who took part in a 2012 pilgrimage to Cuba
when Pope Benedict XVI visited for the 400th anniversary of the
discovery of the Our Lady of Charity statue, found the pope's sentiments
not only beautiful but "probably the most powerful message sent by a
pope since the start of the revolution.

"It's clearly a message that the pope cares very deeply about the Cuban
people and is asking them to arise — not in the sense of a revolt — but
to ask for freedom and change in a peaceful way," he said.

Gomez said that should have been the message of Benedict when he visited
Cuba.

"I have no doubt this letter will be read if not today, then next
Sunday, in every Catholic Church in Cuba," said Gomez. "I view it as
asking for a rebirth of the nation."

Msgr. Terence Hogan, dean of theology at St. Thomas University, said he
viewed the letter as a powerful spiritual message of encouragement.

The pope, he said, was "looking toward a future when there is a unity of
all those in Cuba and those in exile based on the principles of love and
freedom. No matter what the political situation is in Cuba, the pope's
message encourages a spiritual understanding of the dignity of each
person's life."

The message comes at a time when the Cuban people are searching for
answers, the economy is sluggish and the repression of human rights
activists and dissidents continues.

"The agony that the Cuban people suffer is well known," Wenski said.
"One doesn't have to be Cuban to realize that. It's enough to be human."

In the letter, the pope highlights three words: Rejoice, arise and
persevere. Wenski urged those at the Mass to put those words into practice.

"How beautiful it would be if all Cubans, especially the young, could
say the same: 'I am a man or woman of charity. I live to truly love, and
thus could not be trapped in the toxic spiral of an eye for an eye,
tooth for a tooth,' " the pope said.

Francis also noted that Mary persevered by staying with her son when
others had abandoned him and asked the faithful to emulate that
perseverance.

"Lift up your heart and do not succumb in the face of adversities,
persevere in the way of good: tirelessly helping those oppressed by
sorrows and afflictions," the pope wrote. "These are the important
lessons taught to us by Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, useful both for
today and tomorrow."

This year, for the first time on the feast of the patroness of Cuba, a
replica of the statue found four centuries ago sits in a quiet corner of
the Vatican Gardens in front of an ivy-covered wall. The small stone
statue was brought to the Vatican in 2008 and blessed by Benedict. Last
month, it was enthroned in the garden.

"Its presence constitutes a moving reminder of the affection and
vitality of the pilgrim Church of those luminous lands of the Caribbean,
which for more than four centuries, has addressed the Mother of God with
that beautiful title," Francis wrote.

Not only is the feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre a special day
for the faithful in Cuba, it's also cause for celebration among Cuban
Catholics in South Florida who flock to La Ermita, the National Shrine
of Our Lady of Charity, in Coconut Grove.

But the feast day Mass was celebrated at the much larger BankUnited
Center. A replica of the virgin statue that was smuggled out of Cuba in
a suitcase in 1961 and is usually at La Ermita, made the journey for the
Mass.

"In particular let us pray for Cubans who have been exiles and had to
leave their homeland, accompanied by the Virgin Mary Our Lady of Charity
of El Cobre, whom we venerate today, and have come to Miami and the
entire United States," the Rev. Peter Baldacchino, auxiliary bishop of
Miami, said in his homily. "Also let us pray for all the Cuban people in
Cuba and around the world."

Miami Herald staff writer Matias Ocner contributed to this report.

Source: Pope Francis tells Cuban faithful that victory comes to those
who don't get discouraged - Americas - MiamiHerald.com -
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/08/4335993/pope-francis-tells-cuban-faithful.html Continue reading
All Exiles Are Possible / Luis Felipe Rojas
Posted on September 7, 2014

When I say exile, I only think of the word life. That was what happened
to me at the meeting "Fight for Liberation against Castro-communism,"
which the writer Julio M. Shiling generously coordinated and which was
held at the West Dade Regional Library of Coral Way, Miami, last July 10.

Attending the discussion were no more and no less than the well-known
former political prisoners Angel de Fana, Agapito "El Guapo" Rivera,
Jorge Gutierrez "El Sherif" and others who presented an overview of the
insurrectional struggle from 1959 to the present.

De Fana's words and his hopes for a future Cuba moved me. Twenty years
in jail did not seem to have put a dent in the energy of this man who
confronted the torture and prison horror of the Castro regime. "We must
fight, not for the Cuba that we lost but for the one that awaits us
ahead," I heard him say.

Agapito, a peasant known for having fought in the central plains of the
island against the militias and formal army, spoke of the bravery of
those who accompanied him in that feat (there is no other name for this
action). The loss of 11 relatives has not made him a resentful man,
although pain emerges with each word for a country that could not be.

"No one knows the pain that is felt on learning of the death of the
youngest of the brothers that you have taken to war," says the man who
earned the nickname "Handsome" in the prisons where they tried to break
him for the 25 long years that he spent without tasting freedom. His
liberation in 1988 must have been a relief for his jailers, according to
the anecdotes that are told by those who shared galley, hallway and
punishment cells with Agapito.

We live likewise through the story by Jorge Gutierrez, who landed in one
of the infilitration teams days before the Cuban expedition in the Bay
of Pigs. The loss of friends that had sent him off days before, the
bitter flavor of the disappointment of promised help that never arrived,
were related in detail by Gutierrez with a dynamic that left no room for
doubts.

The other fight, the same country

Roberto Luque Escalona like Normando Hernandez related experiences of
what is known as the peaceful resistance struggle, which although it has
its detractors on both sides of the island, gave rise to one of the
samples of respect that Cuba deserves.

Those who preceded Luque and Hernandez recognized the co-existence of
both methods without sidestepping one or the other. Luque as well as
Hernandez explored anecdotes that illustrated the advocacy of human
rights, the confrontation of a more sophisticated military, which
although assisted by Moscow, since its beginning was refining methods of
repression from physical to psychological torture: to the point that at
the beginning of 1980 many countries ignored what was happening on Dr.
Castro's island. So far the majority of nations ignore the lack of
liberty in Cuba.

It has been a good opportunity, a landscape portrait of thousands of
Cubans who do not fit in a single photo. Thanks to the labor of Shiling
and his insistence on learning more of the untold history of the
resistance against communism in Cuba.

Translated by mlk.

17 July 2014

Source: All Exiles Are Possible / Luis Felipe Rojas | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/all-exiles-are-possible-luis-felipe-rojas/ Continue reading
Francis' letter to Cubans: Imitate Mary's joy, haste, perseverance

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, Sep 7, 2014 / 10:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Marking
the feast of the patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre,
Pope Francis on Monday sent a letter to Archbishop Dionisio Garcia
Ibanez of Santiago encouraging the faithful of the island country to
remain steadfast in their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The Pope remarked particularly on three virtues that are seen in the
account of Mary found in the Gospels: her joy, seen when she conceived
Christ; her service, seen in her haste to aid her elderly cousin; and
her perseverance, seen in her dedication to her son throughout her life.
Pope Francis invited both the pastors and the faithful of Cuba to
imitate these Marian virtues.

The Sept. 8 letter marks the Feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre,
which is shared with the Nativity of Mary. Her statue is kept at the
Basilica del Cobre, near to Santiago.

A statue of Our Lady of Charity was enthoned at the Vatican Gardens last
month; it had been brought to the Holy See in 2008, at which time
Benedict XVI had blessed it.

The original statue was discovered in 1612 by three fishermen during a
storm in Nipe bay. In 1916, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre was declared
Patroness of Cuba by Benedict XV, and in 1998 St. John Paul II crowned
her Mother of the Reconciliation of Cuba.

The full text of Pope Francis' letter follows.


His Excellency Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba
President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Cuba

Vatican, 8 September 2014

Dear Brother:

A few days ago, the venerated image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre
was placed in the Vatican Gardens. Its presence constitutes a moving
reminder of the affection and vitality of the pilgrim Church of those
luminous lands of the Carribbean which, for mor than four centuries, has
addressed the Mother of God with that beautiful title. From the
mountains of El Cobre, and now from the See of Peter, that small and
blessed figure of Mary magnifies the souls of those who invoke her with
devotion, as She leads us to Jesus, her divine Son.

Today as we fervently celebrate the feast of Mary Most Holy, la Virgen
Mambisa¸ I join all Cubans who set their eyes on her Immaculate Heart to
pray for favors, to commend to her their loved ones and to imitate her
in her humility and devotion to Christ, of whose disciples she was the
first and greatest.

Every time I read the Sacred Scriptures in the passages that speak of
Our Lady, three words stand out to me. I would like to focus on them in
order to invite the pastors and faithful of Cuba to put them into practice.

The first is rejoice. It was the first word the Archangel Gabriel
addressed to the Virgin. "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you"
(Lk 1:28). The life of she who has discovered Jesus is filled with such
great interior joy that nothing or no one can take it from her. Christ
gives to his own the necessary strength to not be sad or overwhelmed by
thinking about the problems that cannot be solved. Sustained by this
truth, the Christian does not doubt that that which is done with love
engenders serene joy, the sister of that hope which breaks the wall of
fear and opens the doors to a future of promise. "I am Our Lady of
Charity," was what the three Johns read on the tablet that was floating
in the Bay of Nipe. How beautiful it would be if all Cubans, especially
the young, could say the same: 'I am a man or woman of charity:" I live
to truly love, and thus not be trapped in the toxic spiral of eye for an
eye, tooth for a tooth. What joy is felt by one who authentically loves,
through daily acts, and who is not among those who are full of empty
words that are carried away by the wind.

The second word is arise. With Jesus in her womb, St. Luke says Mary
arose and went with haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth, who in her old
age was with child (cf. Lk 1:39-45). She fulfilled the will of God
placing herself at the disposition of whoever needed her. She did not
think of herself, she overcame all setbacks and gave of herself to
others. The victory is for those who arise again and again without being
discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot just do nothing and merely
complain, or perhaps pass the buck on to others for something that is
our responsibility. Its not about doing great things but about doing
them with tenderness and mercy. Mary was always with her people looking
out for the little ones. She knew loneliness, poverty and exile, and she
learned to create fraternity and to make her home in whatever place good
would germinate. We implore her to make us poor in spirit, free of all
pride, and to grant us a pure heart that sees God in the faces of the
disadvantaged and patience that does not shrink from the difficulties of
life.

The third word is persevere. Mary, who had experienced God's goodness,
proclaimed the great things He had done for her (cf Lk 1:46-55). She did
not trust in her own strength, but in God, whose love has no end. For
this reason she remained with her Son, whom everyone had abandoned; she
prayed without failing together with the apostles and the other
disciples, lest they lose their soul (cf. Acts 1:14). We too are called
to persevere in the love of God and to persevere in loving the others.
In this world, in which eternal values are discarded and all is mutable,
in which triumphs are used and thrown away, in which people seem to have
a fear of lifelong commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and
women constant in good works, maintaining his words, which are always
faithful. And this is because we trust in God and we place in Him the
center of our live and of those whom we love.

We are to have joy, and share it with those around us. Lift up your
heart and do not succumb in the face of adversities, persevere in the
way of good; tirelessly helping those oppressed by sorrows and
afflictions: these are the important lessons taught to us by Our Lady of
Charity of El Cobre, useful both for today and for tomorrow. In her
maternal hands I place the pastors, religious communities, and faithful
of Cuba, so that She might encourage you in your evangelizing
commitments and in your will to make love the foundation of society.
Thus you will not be lacking in a joy for life, a soul for service, and
perseverance in good works.

To the children of the Church in Cuba I ask, please, pray for me, as I
am in need of it.

May Jesus bless you, and the Blessed Virgin care for you forever.

Fraternally,

Francis

Source: Francis' letter to Cubans: Imitate Mary's joy, haste,
perseverance :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) -
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/francis-letter-to-cubans-imitate-marys-joy-haste-perseverance-93556/ Continue reading
World upside down: Why are there so many police on the beach in Cuba? July 15, 2014 What was your eye-opening travel experience? VPRO Abroad received in reply to this appeal many beautiful p... Continue reading
'Castro betrayed Cuba,' American actor Garcia says
Ertuğrul Özkök – ISTANBUL

Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök (L), Andy Garcia (C) and Necati Şaşmaz
(R), who plays the leading role in the Valley of the Wolves.

Turkish TV drama sector looks to extend its vast earnings in new season

Fidel Castro "betrayed" his country, Cuban-American actor Andy Garcia
has said during an interview with Hürriyet.

Garcia, whose family fled Cuba when he was three-years-old and never
stepped foot on the island except Guantanamo, will reprise his role in
the Turkish drama, "Kurtlar Vadisi" (The Valley of the Wolves), after
nine years.

"Returning to his or her home country lies in the heart of every
immigrant child," Garcia said during an interview with Hürriyet, as he
visited Istanbul.

And would he want to meet Castro one day?

"Absolutely not," Garcia says, "Because he betrayed Cuba."

Garcia will reappear on the Turkish screens as the character "Amon" that
he last played in 2005, along Sharon Stone.

"It was the first time I worked with Sharon," Garcia says, referring to
the Valley of the Wolves episode that aired in 2005. "Then we made
another movie," he adds.

Both actors were surprised by the Turkish drama's success. "Why the
Valley of the Wolves?" they ask, according to Garcia.

Is it because everyone has a gangster inside?

"Thank God, it's not like that," he answers.

And it's possible to see the Cuba-born actor in more countries. "This is
not about appearing in a production. Other countries' cinemas are a
great experience for us. We all need such experiences in this sector,"
Garcia notes.

The Valley of the Wolves, which has been dominating Turkish TV since its
first episode in 2003, will be back this season on Kanal D.

Source: 'Castro betrayed Cuba,' American actor Garcia says - CINEMA-TV -
http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/castro-betrayed-cuba-american-actor-garcia-says.aspx?pageID=238&nID=71362&NewsCatID=381 Continue reading
Cuba's Renowned Ice-Cream Parlor & its Notorious "Hollow Scoops"
September 6, 2014 | Print | 0 110 1 118
Jimmy Roque Martinez

HAVANA TIMES – Cuba's official press and blogs have published several
articles dealing with product thefts at Havana's Coppelia ice-cream
parlor. Specificially, there are reports of so-called "hollow scoops."

A "hollow scoop" is a scoop of ice-cream that's round and full on the
outside but hollow on the inside.

My boyfriend and I go to this ice-cream parlor regularly and we always
have to ask to be served again, because we always get hollow scoops.

This week, I decided to go see an official and hear, first hand, what
those responsible had to say, why this happens and what the managers of
Coppelia are doing to prevent such bad service.

I couldn't see the manager, so I spoke with a Customers Service
representative and the Secretary for the ice-cream parlor's Communist
Party core group.

These officials told me that, when a customer experiences this or any
other kind of mistreatment, they should approach the area manager or the
Customer Services Office. When I specifically asked how the company's
control mechanisms worked and what they did to prevent bad service, they
mentioned a number of things.

According to them, the issue is brought up every morning with the
workers and managers (they have a manager for every wing or area). The
area manager is the person responsible for ensuring the quality of the
service.

The Party Secretary also told me that they are open to any suggestion as
to how to improve services from the population.

I stressed that customers have the right to demand good service and to
get full scoops of ice-cream, but that it was the ice cream parlor's
responsibility to ensure that happens. In principle, the customer should
not have to worry about being conned.

I left that office convinced we would continue to see hollow scoops of
ice-cream, that I would be back to tell them the service had not
improved and to demand they assume responsibility for this. I hope to be
able to go back with suggestions and a printed copy of this post.

We, the customers, must work to stop this practice once and for all. I
did not get the impression that the officials at Coppelia are committed
to offering a quality service.

Source: Cuba's Renowned Ice-Cream Parlor & its Notorious "Hollow Scoops"
- Havana Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=105981 Continue reading
Alert Sounded in the Informal Market / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez
Posted on September 5, 2014

Unauthorized vendors welcome new customs regulation with caution as they
prepare to redefine strategies

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 3 September 2014 — "Call me from a land
line" instructs the classified ad placed by Mauro Izquierdo, vendor of
electrical household appliances. He has a wide range of items on offer,
from air conditioning units to toasters, but his specialty is
flat-screen TVs. This morning, his cautious response to all callers was:
"Right now I'm in the midst of redefining my pricing structure until
everything settles down with the new customs regulations."

Mauro is but one strand in the complex tapestry of unauthorized vendors
who are living through anxious moments with the new restrictions imposed
by the General Customs of the Republic. Price increases are imminent in
the black market, given that a good part of the merchandise offered
through its networks enters the country via the flight baggage of
so-called "mules." "I have ceased all operations for the time being,
because I don't know if I will get the accounts with new prices that
have been imposed on the airports," the able merchant confirms.

His clients also have been preparing for the increase."I'm finishing
construction on my house and I had to run to buy lamps, bulbs and
bathtub plumbing for the bathroom, because all of that might become
unavailable very soon," said Georgina M., looking to the future, as she
concludes construction on a new residence in the western township of
Candelaria.

14ymedio contacted approximately 20 vendors offering merchandise on
classifieds sites such as Revolico and Cubisima. Although
previously-listed products remained at their advertised prices, any
orders going forward would come "with with new tariffs added to the
price," according to various distributors. Last week, Leticia was
offering hair dryers, massage machines, and hair removers. However, now
she is planning to raise prices by about 20 or 25 per cent on each
product so as to be able to "finance the payments that those who bring
the items into the country must make at Customs."

The advance notice given of the new rules has allowed many people to be
prepared. Rogelio, a Panataxi driver who makes trips from Terminal 2 of
José Martí International Airport, refers to how even "two days before
the new restrictions went into effect, what people brought was
incredible — suitcases upon suitcases." Even so, he noted that since
yesterday, "travelers seem more cautious and, among those I have
transported, I have seen a decrease in the amount of baggage they're
carrying." Another taxi driver joined the conversation, saying that
"people have now been made to jump through hoops."

Even so, for other alternative vendors, the new measures barely affect
their supply chain. "I buy space in the 'containers' of people who are
on official missions, working in the embassies and consulates throughout
the world, and that is how I bring in my merchandise — therefore the new
rules don't touch me," boasted a seller of lawnmowers and commercial
refrigerators, who enhances his ads with attractive photos of each unit
and the guarantee that it's "all done with proper documentation."

It is still too early to measure the true impact on the informal market
of the new customs rules, but sellers as well as merchants are preparing
for the worst.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Alert Sounded in the Informal Market / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/alert-sounded-in-the-informal-market-14ymedio-rosa-lopez/ Continue reading
Laurent Cantet's vision of Cuba takes Venice Days Award
Published September 05, 2014 EFE

French director Laurent Cantet has taken the Venice Days Award, an
independent sidebar of the Venice Film Festival, with his vision of
contemporary Cuba in "Return to Ithaca."

The official Venice Days jury, headed by Argentine director Diego
Lerman, announced its decision Friday afternoon upon concluding its
deliberations.

"In very limited conditions of time and space, the filmmaker was able to
deliver a complex, emotional work about secrets of the past," the jury said.

The award consists of a trophy and 20,000 euros ($25,000) to be shared
between the director and the international distributor, the latter
having to use part of its cash prize to promote the film.

Winner of the 2008 Palme d'Or at Cannes for "The Class," Cantet in the
movie goes deeply into the disillusionment of an entire generation of
Cubans educated under the Revolution.

With a screenplay based on "La Novela de mi Vida" by Leonardo Padura and
written by Cantet and the Cuban author, "Return to Ithaca" tells the
story of five friends getting together to celebrate the arrival in
Havana of the leading character, Amadeo, after 16 years in exile.

"Return to Ithaca" will also be screened at Spain's San Sebastian Film
Festival, which begins Sept. 19. EFE

Source: Laurent Cantet's vision of Cuba takes Venice Days Award | Fox
News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/entertainment/2014/09/05/laurent-cantet-vision-cuba-takes-venice-days-award/ Continue reading
Cocoa Beach chamber planning trip to Cuba
By Ilana Kowarski, FLORIDA TODAY 10:51 p.m. EDT September 5, 2014

Given the trade embargo between the United States and Cuba, you may be
surprised to learn that the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce is
organizing a February trip to Cuba.

The public is invited to go along.

The seven-day "Discover Cuba" tour costs $3,599 per person.

Tour guides from Chamber Explorations will lead the trip. Chamber
Explorations is licensed to provide educational trips to Cuba.

The company specializes in offering first-class travel accommodations to
Chambers of Commerce members throughout the United States.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has authorized the group to lead trips
to Cuba on the condition that the trip is primarily focused on cultural
exchange.

Such trips were legalized in early 2011, when President Obama revived a
Clinton-era exemption to the Cuba embargo.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the Cocoa Beach Chamber's
trip to Cuba should contact Linda Webster, the Chamber's CEO, by calling
321-459-2200.

Webster described the trip as a learning opportunity. "It's really an
opportunity to learn about the Cuban people and how Cuba is now," she
said. "It's an exciting trip, because it's not something you can do on
your own. You need a special visa."

Source: Cocoa Beach chamber planning trip to Cuba -
http://www.floridatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/05/cocoa-beach-chamber-planning-trip-cuba/15131861/ Continue reading
Posted September 5, 2014 - 2:59pm

Cuban migrants rescued off Mexican coast
By DAVID ADAMS
REUTERS

MIAMI — Two Cuban migrants died and as many as eight more are missing
after a three-week odyssey at sea, according to relatives of 15 badly
sunburned and dehydrated survivors of a boat rescued by the Mexican Navy
this week.

The Cubans, who face possible deportation back to Cuba, are receiving
treatment at an immigration facility in the city of Merida, in Mexico's
Yucatan Peninsula.

The rustic, homemade boat carrying 25 people left Manzanillo in eastern
Cuba on Aug. 7, Jose Caballero, the husband of one of the survivors,
told Reuters on Friday in a telephone interview from Austin, Texas.

Caballero, who left Cuba by a similar route last December, said his
wife, Mailin Perez, told him by phone from Mexico that the boat's motor
broke down after two days and the passengers rigged a makeshift sail.

Believing they were close to the northwest coast of Cuba seven or eight
passengers decided to swim for shore holding onto rubber inner tubes.
"No one has heard anything of them since," said Caballero.

The boat drifted for more than two weeks, without food and only rain
water to drink, before it was spotted by fishermen and intercepted by a
navy vessel about 150 miles northeast of Puerto Progreso in Yucatan, the
Mexican Navy said on Monday.

One 16-year-old boy died shortly after he was rescued of an apparent
heart attack, officials said.

Caballero said his wife told him another passenger, a six-months
pregnant woman, died during the journey and her body was thrown overboard.

"They tried to save her. They gave her urine with condensed milk," he
said, adding that his wife was an assistant at a blood bank and had
medical supplies with her.

"Her husband, pricked his skin and fed her with his own blood in a
syringe," he added.

Two Cuban American members of Congress in the Miami area wrote to
Mexico's government on Thursday urging it not to send the 13 survivors
back to Cuba.

"Cubans forcibly repatriated to the island often face harsh punitive
measures," said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart. "It is imperative that
Cubans who are found fleeing from their island prison are not made to
return to the oppression that they risk their lives to escape."

The latest boatload of Cuban migrants came only days after six men who
identified themselves as Cubans landed on a Texas coastal island after
their boat engine broke down and they drifted for two weeks across the
Gulf of Mexico, using a sail made out of a plastic sheet.

Relatives of another boat carrying 11 Cubans, last seen leaving the
Cayman Islands on Aug. 28, were also anxiously awaiting word of their
fate on Friday.

"I put my faith in God and that I hear news soon," Marlenis Alvarez, 42,
whose son and her brother are on the boat, said in a phone interview
from her home in Texas.

Under the U.S. "wet foot, dry foot policy," Cuban migrants who make it
onto U.S. soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are
turned back.

Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are heading in
increasing numbers to Central America or southern Mexico and then making
a long journey overland to reach the United States.

The U.S. Border Patrol said in late July that more than 13,500 Cubans
had tried to cross the southwestern U.S. border since last Oct. 1, more
than during all of the previous 12 months. Four years ago, the 12-month
total was about 5,500.

Additional reporting by Peter Polack in the Cayman Islands.

Source: Cuban migrants rescued off Mexican coast | Las Vegas
Review-Journal -
http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/nation-and-world/cuban-migrants-rescued-mexican-coast Continue reading