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Can Libertarians End the Communist Monopoly in Cuba?
Quornsum May 8, 2017
By Dries Van Thielen

Ever since some guy on a motorcycle and another guy in the Sierra
Maestra hunted President Fulgencio Batista away, the government in Cuba
consisted solely of members from the Cuban Communist Party. Thusly, all
612 seats in parliament are controlled by communists.

Partido Libertario Cubano – Jose Marti

Fortunately, it seems as if this communist monopoly will soon come to an
end. On May 7, the Libertarian Party of Nevada announced that Cuba will
have its own libertarian party named "Partido Libertario Cubano – Jose
Marti." They based their name on Jose Marti, Cuba's most prolific
19th-century poet and nationalist.

News of the founding of the Libertarian Party was brought into the
United States by a Havana-based libertarian individual who contacted a
fellow national in Miami, FL.

Arrests and Intimidation: How it Started

It all started on February 9, of this year when Ubaldo Herrera Hernandez
and Manuel Velazquez Visea were arrested by the regime of Fidel Castro.
Their crime? They met up at a private property to discuss free markets
and liberty. Both men are associated with Mises Cuba and the Benjamin
Franklin Libertarian Library project.

Liberal thinkers are frequently targeted by the Castro Regime. Three
other members of Mises Cuba have since then been halted by Havana, only
to be released 24 hours later. Also, it is not uncommon for police cars
to surround libertarian rallies – as a measure of intimidation. As a
peaceful protest against the oppressive Marxist regime, members of Mises
Cuba have founded the Libertarian Party.

Politics, Education, and Meet-ups

The group will work on three branches. First and foremost, they founded
the party to have a political impact on Cuba's government. Even though
Havana does not allow other parties, the Libertarian Party hopes to end
up one day in parliament.

Secondly, the Mises Cuba branch will focus on economic research and free
trade education.

And thirdly, the Benjamin Franklin Libertarian Library will create a
library for weekly meet-ups to discuss Austrian Economics and
liberty-related ideas.

Hopefully, the Partido Libertario Cubano – Jose Marti will be a
successful alternative to Raul Castro's dictatorship. It didn't take
more than 300 guerilla warriors to overthrow Batista…

Source: Can Libertarians End the Communist Monopoly in Cuba? - Continue reading
Cuban man carrying U.S. flag rewrote monotonous script of Havana's
annual celebration

The rehearsals for Havana's annual May Day celebration went on for
weeks. The Plaza of the Revolution was to host hundreds of thousands of
Cubans as they marched past top government leaders in the best Soviet

But a man who came out of nowhere rewrote the monotonous script this year.

Self-proclaimed dissident Daniel Llorente waved a large U.S. flag as he
ran down the plaza and demanded freedom at the top of his lungs. His
performance lasted just a few seconds, until security forces tackled and
pummeled him before a shocked audience that included several foreign

"He had everything figured out. My father is an educated man. A few days
before he had bought books on the Cold War and the Cuban Missile
Crisis," his son, Eliezer Llorente Perez, 17, recently said by phone
from Havana. "He says that you have to know history to understand what
we're going through."

As he ran in front of the marchers, Llorente shouted, "Freedom for the
Cuban people." His words were drowned out by the official song, produced
by members of the Young Communists' Union, to energize young Cubans long
indifferent to government propaganda.

"This is what I am. It's time to open my heart and show life that this
is what I am," says some of the lyrics to the song titled, "Gallo de
Pelea (Fighting Rooster)."

Seven men carried Llorente out of the plaza. He is currently being held
at the 100 y Aldabo detention center in Havana.

Llorente assured his son that he "was not beaten" but was told by police
that he's been charged with public disorder and resisting arrest and
will remain in jail until his trial, his son said. A trial date has not
been scheduled.

Llorente's anti-government protest was not his first, but it was the
most visible. He also waved the U.S. flag when President Barack Obama
visited Havana last year, and when the cruise ship Adonia first sailed
into Havana harbor. His social network posts claim that he also
protested on Aug. 31, 2016, at the airport when direct U.S.-Cuba
commercial flights resumed.

He was arrested at almost every protest.

"This system has not done anything to benefit the people," he told the
Mexican television channel EjeCentralTV during Obama's visit in March 2016.

"The people are afraid," Llorente said at the time. "Although many
Cubans are afraid to do it, here you do have one who's decided to do it
because I trust Obama's plans for the Cuban people."

Llorente was born in 1963, one year after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He
traveled to East Germany in the 1980s to study automotive mechanics,
said his former wife, Yudiza Pérez.

"He's very intelligent and has a big heart. He speaks perfect German
because he learned it when he studied about cars there," said Pérez, 39.

"I was married to him for 10 years and I am the mother of his only
child, who is also the only relative he has in this world because the
rest of his family died," she said.

The government-controlled newspaper Granma, official voice of the Cuban
Communist Party, broke the silence it traditionally maintains on
anti-government protests and accused Llorente, without naming him, of
being a convicted criminal who is padding his "opposition" resume to win
U.S. asylum. It also blasted the foreign media for reporting the event.

According to Granma, Llorente was convicted of robbery and sentenced in
2002 to five years in prison.

"It's true that he was in prison, but it was for a crime he did not
commit. Everything they said in the newspaper is pure lies," said his
former wife.

Pérez, who lives in the San Isidro neighborhood in Havana, said the
conviction and prison changed Llorente's life because "he missed out on
his son's childhood and his marriage" for something "that he did not do."

The son, Eliezer, who has studied to be a car mechanic and aspires to be
an actor or model, described his father's absence from the age of 3 as

"I was distanced from my father because he was in prison. We started to
talk after he came out of prison and today he is my best friend,"
Eliezer said. "He is a good father, and was a good son when his mother
was alive."

Llorente drives a taxi at night and financially supports his son, who
lives with his mother and a younger sibling. After he left prison, he
decided to become a "self-employed" dissident — not tied to any group —
and speak out against the government.

"Why did he protest with a U.S. flag? Because he says that's where there
is a true sense of patriotism and family, things that have been lost in
Cuba, that all human values have been lost in Cuba," Eliezer said.

Still, Llorente does not want to leave Cuba.

"I support my father. His biggest hope is for a change in the governing
system," his son said. "He always tells me that he wants to live in
Cuba, but in a free Cuba, with opportunities for all."

Follow Mario J. Pentón on Twitter: @mariojose_cuba

Source: Self-proclaimed Cuban dissident protests with U.S. flag in
Havana | Miami Herald - Continue reading
Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García

Iván García, 2 May 2017 — On an afternoon like any other, an underground
seller of beef, living in the southeast of Havana, bought flank steaks
wholesale from a slaughterer, to then sell them to private restaurants
and neighbours who could afford them.

He filleted the chops and started to offer them for the equivalent of
three dollars a pound. "They flew off the shelf. By night time I didn't
have an ounce of it left. If any red meat comes my way, I can sell it
immediately. The thing is, Cubans like to eat a good piece of steak with
fries, washed down with a glass of orange juice. But, my friend, that
dish has become an extravagant luxury in Cuba," says the vendor, who
knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of the Havana black market.

Even though a pound of beef costs three days' of a professional's
salary, you don't always find it in the profitable black market.

In the island there is a network of butchers, slaughterers and sellers
which makes sufficient money selling beef. "Everything starts when
someone spots a bullock or a cow not properly protected in some odd
corner in the Cuban countryside. That's when they start to plan how get
it to end up as stew (kill it) and transport it to Havana, which is
where they can sell it for the best price. They can get between 1,300
and 1,600 chavitos (CUCs) for a 1,000 pound bull, and the slaughterer,
the transporter and the sellers get a few kilos of meat free", according
to a cattle slaughterer, a native of the central region of the country.

And he explains that they will just as happily kill a calf, a grown up
cow, or a horse, "whatever has four legs and moves, gets what's coming
to it. Of course, a slaughterer who knows what he's doing takes care not
to kill a cow which is sick or has brucellosis, because if the police
catch you, along with the twenty years the District Attorney goes for on
account of killing a cow, he adds another five or six on top for
endangering public health.

In 2013, the Granma newspaper reported that more than 18,400 cattle were
dying of hunger or disease in the province of Villa de Clara. In April
2014, the Communist party organ highlighted that something over 3,300
cows died in the first three months of that year in the province of
Holguin, and another 69,000 were found to be under-nourished. The
authorities blamed the drought and, according to Granma, 35 thousand
head of cattle were receiving water from water tank trucks in order to
alleviate the effects of the months without rain.

According to Damián, an ex-employee of a sugar mill, who now survives
selling home-made cheese on the Autopista Nacional, "what has happened
to the cattle here is irresponsible and those officials should be behind
bars. But they carry on like that, carrying their Party card and talking
annoying rubbish".

Mario, a private farmer, says, jokingly, that "Cuba is an unusual
mixture of Marxism and Hinduism. Seems like a religious prohibition on
eating beef, which is what Cubans like to eat. Although the leaders
carry on eating it — just look at their faces and stomachs; they look as
if they are going to explode. If you gave them a blood test, their
haemoglobin would be around a thousand".

During the time of the autocrat Fidel Castro, when people wore Jiqui
jeans, Yumuri check shirts and very poor quality shoes, all made
locally, the old ration book which, in March 2017, had been in use for
55 years, authorised half a pound of beef every nine days for people
born in the country.

"Then the cycle was lengthened to once a fortnight, then once a month,
until it was quietly disappearing from the Cuban menu. Along with many
other things like milk, fresh fish, prawns, oranges and mandarines",
recalls a butcher, who made plenty of money selling beef "on the side"
for four pesos a pound in the '80's. In the 21st century he survives
making money from selling soup thickened with soya.

In the last week of February, some "good news" was announced. Because of
poor agricultural output, the state started to sell potatoes through
ration books again.

"It's one step forward, one step back. Five years ago potatoes were
rationed. Until one fine day, the bright sparks in the government
decided that, along with beans, they should be sold by the pound. So
that, everyone was fucked, with potatoes becoming a sumptuary good. If
you wanted to eat potato puree or fries, you had to wait in a queue for
four hours and put up with fights and swearing just to buy a bag of ten
potatoes for 25 pesos. And now that it is rationed once more, the news
channel tells you that they will sell you 14 pounds a head, two in the
first month, and six after that. But in my farmers' market they don't
give you a pound any more. Five miserable spuds and you have to take it
or leave it", says Gisela, a housewife.

If you fancy a natural orange juice, get your wallet ready. "Green
oranges with hardly any juice cost three pesos, if you can actually find
any. A bag of oranges costs between 140 and 200 pesos, half the monthly
minimum wage. I keep asking myself why it is that in countries with a
Marxist government, or a socialist one, as invented by Chavez in
Venezuela, getting food has to be such torture", says Alberto, a
construction worker.

In Cuba, you can't eat what you want, only what turns up.

Before 1959, in many Cuban households, eating fried steak for lunch or
dinner, with white rice and fries was not a luxury. In the fast fried
food places anybody could buy a steak sandwich with onion rings and
Julienne potatoes. Taken by Casavana Cuban Cuisine.

Translated by GH

Source: Eating Steak and Fries is a Luxury in Cuba / Iván García –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba: Another perspective

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall wants to sell Kansas wheat to Cuba
("Congressman reflects on a recent Cuba trip," High Plains Journal,
April 10), and has filled a bill that "allows" American banks and to
finance the Cuban government's purchase. Really? Cuba has one of the
worst credit records in the world. Americans shouldn't be dragooned into
the role of guarantors of credit extended to Cuba.

The real issue isn't selling to Cuba. It's getting Cuba to pay for what
it buys. The Heritage Foundation's 2017 Index of Economic Freedom puts
Cuba's credit rating right in the bottom—178th out of 180 countries,
followed by Venezuela and North Korea.

The problem : The average Cuban's salary is about $25 dollars a
month—there's no great purchasing power there. Havana has defaulted on
loans worth billions.

It's not a new issue. Despite raking in massive Soviet Union subsidies
and boasting Moscow was a better commercial partner than the United
States, Fidel Castro stopped payment in 1986 on the island's $16 billion
debt to the Paris Club, a consortium of foreign banks facilitating trade
with Cuba. By 2015, those banks had "forgiven" $4 billion of Cuba's
debt. Last year, Japan forgave $1.08 billion dollars (120 billion Yen)
owed by Cuba. The Castros dynasty seems to assume it never has to pay
off its loans. Uncle Sam must not become Cuba's next sucker.

American companies have been making sales for years to Cuba on a "cash
and carry" basis. In the year before Barack Obama became president,
American companies exported $711.5 million in foodstuffs to Cuba. By
2010, trade had dropped to $362.8 million and by 2015 to $180.2 million.
The decline was deliberate and intended to put pressure on U.S.
companies to lobby Congress and the U.S. administration to extend credit.

"Much has changed and in a very positive way," Marshall says now. In the
United States, many changes. In Cuba, not much change other than a
dramatic increase in repression. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights
documented 1,005 political arrests in 2008 and 9,940 in 2016.

The "greater mutual security" that the Congressman wants can't be
attained without considering the presence of Russian spy ships in
Havana's harbor and such hostile acts as Gen. Raul Castro's 2013 attempt
to smuggle war planes, hidden under tons of sugar, in a ship to North
Korea—a clear violation of United Nations' trade sanctions. That came as
President Obama prepared to re-establish diplomatic relations by making
numerous concessions to Cuba.

One of those concessions was removing Cuba from the U.S. list of
supporters of terrorism. Yet, Cuba today harbors numerous U.S.
criminals. On the FBI's "Most Wanted List" is a domestic terrorist
convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in cold blood. She was
sentenced to life in prison but escaped and fled to Cuba, where she
enjoys the regime's hospitality. The good people of Kansas may want to
ask President Donald Trump to demand her return and, if Cuba refuses, to
put the island nation back on the infamous list.

Before the Castro Revolution, Cuban teenagers used to sell expired
lottery tickets to naïve American tourists. Now Congressmen take guided
tours to Cuba. As Mark Twain observed: "It is easier to deceive folks,
rather than to convince them, they have been deceived." Extending credit
to "do business with Cuba" would be a deceit—and a very bad deal for
American taxpayers.

—Frank Calzon is executive director of the Washington-based Center for a
Free Cuba.

Source: Cuba: Another perspective | Opinion | - Continue reading
Cuba a mix of corruption, impressive beauty, people
By Amelia Rayno / Minneapolis Star Tribune

The uniformed woman's eyes narrowed as she looked me up and down, assessing.

Seconds earlier, she had told me that the currency exchange was one
floor up at the Havana airport. Now, after processing my poor Spanish,
blond hair and unaccompanied state, her tune quickly changed.

"He will take you," she offered, in the tone of a command.

Who? What? My questions hung in the air, unanswered.

A uniformed man had me by the arm, leading me not upstairs to the
exchange but into a room barely bigger than a cubicle. In it was a small
desk and two men sitting with arms folded, staring at me.

Click. The door shut.

This was not the Cuban experience I'd seen advertised by tour companies.
I'd shunned those.

Instead, looking for a more affordable and authentic experience, I'd
planned my own solo people-to-people exchange, taking advantage of the
eased sanctions that opened doors to a world on the precipice of change.

Free of tour guides and defined schedules, I encountered a different
angle on the postcard view. Beyond the white-sand beaches, colorful old
cars and pastel houses was an unscripted beauty on dusty streets, where
hope for progress edges up against reality.

In the small airport room, the sweat glands on my forehead leapt into
action, but I saw no way out.

I handed over my cash. The officials took 13 percent, skimming 3 percent
on top of the 10 percent fee I later learned the exchange center charged

Forty-five minutes into my journey to Cuba, I felt robbed.

Soon, the country would steal my heart.

How to be Cuban

Luy looked at me, lifted his espresso and raised an eyebrow.

"If you're going to hang with me," he said, "you have to learn how to be

It was my second day in Cuba. After getting swindled for a $200 taxi
ride from the Havana airport to Santa Clara (my new acquaintances later
said it should have cost $70, tops), I'd awakened to thick ribbons of
tobacco smoke rising from the courtyards below my casa particular, a
private room I was renting.

I'd met Luy, a Cuban American, while wandering around the historic
city's modest center on Day 1, trying to get my bearings amid a pastel
row of buildings. At first glance, they all looked like houses — until I
discovered that behind the grated metal doors, barber shears buzzed and
people congregated in hidden cafeterias for coffee and plates of rice
and beans.

Few of the businesses announced themselves with signs — but many had
another message broadcast on their facades: "Gracias Fidel" in hastily
constructed lettering, a complicated ode to the former dictator. With
Fidel Castro's death only a couple of weeks previous, drinking had been
banned for 10 days. Dancing, meanwhile, was banned for a year.

Luy had pegged my sorry state then. "You look lost," he said, as I
walked. Suddenly, I was adopted.

Now at the cafe, he eyed my short, chewed, natural nails and mulled how
un-Cuban I was.

"We'll have to start with those," he said.

Inside the small salon where he took me, about a dozen people clustered
around five beauticians at work, hair dryers whirring. At a small table
by the door, a woman painted my nails bright blue as she swatted away
the flies.

"OK, you're 15 percent Cuban," Luy said as we walked out.

Next on our mission was the museum across the street, a coffee
shop/historical treasure duo dubbed the Revolucion and housed in a space
even smaller than the salon. The tour guide showed me original
photographs, documents and uniforms from the Cuban revolution that hung
above the cafe tables, sweeping her arms dramatically as Luy
interpreted. None of it was under glass. She touched the clothing as she

At the end, she offered me one of a handful of war medals for $5.

'I'm not sad'

On another night at El Mejunje, Santa Clara's popular club set in the
bare bones of a brick building, branches spilled through the windows and
kept climbing. At the top, they joined to form a canopy where a roof
might have been and, with stars piercing through the leaves, they swayed
with the warm breeze.

That night had begun as most nights do in Santa Clara: at the beautiful,
grass-covered central square.

Boasting the city's only Wi-Fi and regular cultural events, Parque Vidal
draws young and old who come to meet friends, check their phones and
listen to the municipal orchestra while sipping rum from juice boxlike

But the night was ending, as do most nights in Santa Clara, at El
Mejunje, a vibrant, open-air venue where the edgy vibe serves as a
notice to the government's censorship police.

Once a year, it hosts a beauty pageant for transvestites. On the
weekends, El Mejunje transforms into a gay club — Cuba's only, and a
tangible point of pride for many, whatever their sexual orientation.

Luy, who works as a server there, had earlier pulled a tube of mascara
from his bag when explaining what his job entailed on Saturdays.

"Guys will come and ffffpt," he said, grinning and mimicking someone
patting his bum. He winked. "I just smile and carry the drinks."

The programming on this night was tame — singer-songwriters, armed with
guitars, crooning on the stage as Spanish harmonies filled the indoor

Young people, intently listening, gathered on thin metal bleachers. I
sat with Yuniel, another new friend, among the trees on a stone balcony.

Later, Cuba Libre cocktails in hand, my adopted crew and I spilled over
into the art gallery, which doubles as a tattoo shop, on El Mejunje's
upper level. With Yuniel acting as salsa instructor, we danced, against
government wishes, our sandals shuffling to the soft guitar beats below.

"We're supposed to be sad," Yuniel had said earlier, nodding at one of
the Fidel signs. He grinned. "But I'm not sad."

'It has to change'

In the taxi, that first day, I had to repeat myself.

"Yes, Santa Clara," I said.

The driver muttered.

"Not many tourists there," he said.

That's why I was going — far away from the Havana airport and its money

"There are two Cubas," Luy's friend KK had told me. "The government, and
the people.

"It's best to avoid the people in suits."

Smack in the country's middle, Santa Clara has no beaches, no cerulean
waters. Unlike other cities on Cuba's handsome coasts, it boasts no
ritzy resorts or travel guide lore. Tourists tend to go elsewhere.

But the tide is shifting.

With the political padlock removed, the gate is cracked open. Starting
last winter, airlines began adding direct flights from the U.S.,
including to cities beyond Havana such as Santa Clara. Cuba sits just
100 miles from Miami Beach. The dollar, even when exploited, goes far.
There is no doubt: The surge of tourists is coming.

Will Santa Clara change? Will Cuba change?

Luy mulled the questions as we sat on the steps of La Marquesina,
drinking mojitos.

He knows the untouched beauty, the stunning culture, the warmth.

But he knows the challenges, too.

Though widely and impressively educated, the Cuban people's wages are
low. The shelves at the stores in Santa Clara, much like the rest of the
country, are often lacking — one day, they'll be out of milk, another
day, eggs — and the black market is used as a necessity, supplying
everything from razor blades to good shampoo.

"It will change," Luy said. "It has to change."

Source: Cuba a mix of corruption, impressive beauty, people - Continue reading
Special Cinco de Mayo Greetings from Chicano Icon Che Guevara
Humberto Fontova |Posted: May 06, 2017 12:01 AM

"Mexicans are mostly a rabble of illiterate indians," (Che Guevara, 1955)

In the historic annals of unrequited love few cases rival the affair by
Chicanos with Che Guevara. I trust Che's iconization is sufficiently
documented by U.S. Chicano groups in their murals (i.e. graffiti.) They
seem to plaster this lily white Argentinian racist's mug on practically
everything they paint to celebrate their Amerindian Aztec culture. Go

Perhaps a word with some Bolivian Amerindians who actually experienced
Che Guevara's plans to Stalinize their culture would help. In 1967 these
(overwhelmingly indigenous) Bolivians (with help from U.S. Green Berets)
made short work of this Chicano hero. If a picture's worth a thousand
words than this one's worth a million. Please note the obvious ethnic
compositions of the gentlemen proudly and triumphantly holding their
guns over their vanquished European would-be enslaver.

At any rate, if any doubt remains about Che Guevara's iconization by
Chicanos I give you "The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes." This paining "
is a re-construction of da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper," replacing
religious figures with Chicano activists. Artist José Antonio Burciaga
polled Chicano students and activists to determine who would be depicted."

You guessed it. Che Guevara sits at the head of the table.

You see, amigos: Prior to "invading" Cuba, Castro's "guerrillas"
"trained" in Mexico. Some of these former "guerrillas" later defected
to the U.S. and revealed how the sneering Ernesto "Che" Guevara
constantly insulted his Mexican hosts. Hence, the quote at the top of
this article.

It was in 1955 that a Cuban criminal named Fidel Castro linked up with
an Argentine hobo named Ernesto Guevara in Mexico City. Minus this
historic hook-up everything points to Ernesto (shortly known a "Che")
continuing his life of a traveling hobo, panhandling, mooching off
women, staying in flophouses and scribbling unreadable poetry.

Alas! Instead this thoroughly unimposing vagabond and psycho named
Ernesto Guevara had the magnificent fortune of linking up with modern
history's top press agent, Fidel Castro, who over half a century had the
mainstream media anxiously scurrying to his every beck and call and
eating out of his hand like trained pigeons. His brother's not doing too
bad at this either.

Fidel and Raul were in Mexico putting together a guerrilla band to
invade Cuba and overthrow the black Cuban head-of-state Fulgencio
Batista. With the financial help of his wealthy lily-white Cuban backers
of the time, Castro hired a Cuban Korean war veteran named Miguel
Sanchez to train his guerrilla band. None of the trainees had the
slightest combat-experience so their extra-curricular curiosity on the
matter did not surprise Sanchez.

But one of the trainees struck Sanchez as a bit strange, especially the
gleam in his eye regarding the act of killing. "How many men have you
killed?" this trainee constantly asked Sanchez. "What does it feel like
to kill a man?"

"Look Ernesto (he was not yet known by his moniker "Che,")" Sanchez
would reply. "It was a war. I was in combat. It wasn't a personal thing.
Most soldiers don't make it a personal thing. You aim at an enemy
uniform and pull the trigger. That's it."

"But did you ever come upon a wounded enemy and kill him with the coup
de grace?" A wide-eyed Ernesto Guevara would continue. "What did it feel
like? I want to know what it feels like."

"It became obvious to me that the man who would shortly become known as
"Che" wanted to kill for the sake of the act itself," recalled Sanchez
later from exile in Miami, "instead of-- as in the case of most others,
and this includes Fidel and Raul Castro themselves—as a means to an end.
That end for Castro, of course, was absolute power," Sanchez quickly
recognized. "His power lust fueled his killing, and it didn't seem to
affect him one way or the other. With Ernesto Guevara, however, it
struck me as a different motivation, a different lust."

"On Sundays in Mexico I would often dine with Guevara and his Peruvian
wife, a great cook," recalls Sanchez. "Ernesto was a voracious reader
and loved poetry. I'll never forget his favorite poem "despair" by Jose
de Espronceda.

"I love a sullen-eyed gravedigger crushing skulls with his shovel!

I would love to light the flames of a holocaust which spreads devouring
flames that pile up dead and roast an old man until he crackles

What pleasure! What Pleasure!"

"Ernesto Guevara would close his eyes dreamily and recite it from memory
during all of my visits, even at the dinner table, recalled Sanchez.

"He went into convulsions for a while and was finally still," gloats Che
Guevara in his Cuban diaries. He was lovingly describing the death
agonies of a bound Cuban peasant he had just shot in the temple with his
pistol. "Now his belongings were mine." (Unwittingly here Che Guevara
defines Communism in a nutshell: cowardly murder and theft.)

Another item Sanchez recalls about Ernesto Guevara was his constant
belittling of his hosts: Mexicans. "These Mexicans are nothing but a
rabble of illiterate Indians," Che Guevara often snickered.

Source: Special Cinco de Mayo Greetings from Chicano Icon Che Guevara -
Humberto Fontova - Continue reading
Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington
by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, May 05, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Cuba (BP) -- Religious liberty leaders are interceding on
behalf of a college student interrogated, threatened and charged with
public disorder by the Cuban government because of his work to expose
Christian persecution there.

Felix Yuniel Llerena López, far left, is shown with USCIRF commissioner
Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, center, and others during his April trip to
Capitol Hill to advocate for religious liberty in his native Cuba.
Photo from Twitter
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a
commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF), are advocating for the student, 20-year-old Felix Yuniel
Llerena López, who was arrested April 27 upon his return from a trip to
Cuban state security authorities made him sign an "Acta de Advertencia"
or pre-arrest warrant for public disorder, ordered him to appear in
court and also interrogated his mother, CSW said in a May 2 press release.

"We are extremely concerned about the government's treatment of Felix
Yuniel Llerena López upon his return to Cuba," CSW Chief Executive
Mervyn Thomas said in the press release. "Public accusations linking him
to terrorism are not only preposterous and unfounded, but also put his
family in danger. We call on the Cuban government to cease its
harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its ongoing
violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We
also urge the international community to closely monitor this situation."

Llerena, central region coordinator for the independent Patmos Institute
for religious freedom, was part of a Patmos delegation including
evangelical pastors who briefed USCIRF, the State Department and
non-governmental groups on religious freedom violations in Cuba, CSW
reported. Llerena is described as the only Christian in his family.
Arriaga, who met Llerena during his trip to Capitol Hill, has initiated
a Twitter campaign on the student's behalf -- @FelixLlerenaCUB. While
Llerena's current whereabouts were not disclosed, Arriaga said on a May
2 WORLD Radio broadcast that he remained in custody.

"He came to the United States briefly with a group of evangelical
pastors," Arriaga told WORLD Radio, "and after he met with the
commission members -- precisely because he met with the commission
members -- he flew back to Havana with great courage to again continue
to spread the Word of Gospel."

The exposure of Llerena's story will not only encourage him but will
also help deter the Cuban government from harming him, Arriaga told
WORLD Radio. She also encouraged Americans to call and email the Cuban
government directly, urging them to stop harassing people of faith.

"The fact that his name is known by Americans alone," she said,
"protects him in Cuba."

Llerena was detained just a day after USCIRF released its 2017 annual
report naming Cuba for the 14th consecutive year as a "Tier 2" country,
the USCIRF category that falls just short of countries described as the
world's most severe violators of religious liberty.

Other members of the Patmos delegation to Washington, CSW said, included
Apostolic Movement pastor Yiorvis Bravo Denis, Baptist church leaders
Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, and Baptist
theologian and former political prisoner Raudel Garcia Bringas. But
there was no word of whether they also had been interrogated upon their
return to Cuba.

Cuban authorities captured Llerena as he arrived at Abel Santamaria
International Airport in Santa Clara, CSW said in its press release.

"Llerena López reported that he was questioned aggressively by two
high-ranking state security officers, who appeared to have detailed
information about his activities while in the United States," CSW said.
"They told him, 'This is a country town; the people here don't know
anything about human rights and if one of these country peasants is made
to believe that you are going to commit a terrorist act, he is going to
cut you open with a machete, and later you won't be able to say that we
sent him."

CSW describes the Patmos Institute as an independent group promoting
freedom of religion or belief and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

Common religious liberty offenses committed by the Cuban communist
government, USCIRF said in its 2017 report, include the harassment and
short-term detention of religious leaders and laity, demolition of
churches, threats to confiscate churches and the systematic restriction
of religious practice through laws and surveillance.

Source: Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington - Continue reading
If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2017 — Soot covers the unpainted facades of
buildings on Tenth of October Boulevard. Old American cars from the
1950s, rebuilt with modern diesel engines and now privately operated as
taxis, transit across asphalt, leaving behind a trail of black smoke and
the unpleasant odor of gasoline.

The noonday sun glimmers in the opaque windows of old clothing stores,
which have been converted into low-quality jewelry and handicraft shops.

Tenth of October is one of Havana's main arteries. Formerly known as
Jesus of the Mountain, the boulevard immortalized by the poet Eliseo
Diego is now a walkway of pedestrians carrying plastic bags past
makeshift booths set up in the covered entryways of people's houses.
Vendors sell old books, photos of Fidel and Kim Il Sung, and knickknacks
that are not longer fashionable.

Seated at a stool outside his butcher shop, Rey Angel reads a headline
in the newspaper Granma. He has not worked in days. "There have been no
deliveries of chicken or ground soy," he says. He kills time reading
boring articles by the nation's press and watching women walk by.

Right now, news from Venezuela is a high priority for the average Cuban.
"It's like seeing yourself in the mirror. You don't like to read stories
about shortages and misfortunes similar to your own, although ours don't
come with street protests or repression and killings by the police,"
says the butcher.

"But we have to follow the news from Venezuela," he adds. "If it all
goes to hell there, things won't look good for us. There will be another
'Special Period." The government is trying not to alarm people but
according to the official press, the country produces only 50% of the
crude it needs. The question then is: Where the hell are we going to get
the money for the other 50% Venezuela gives us."

The longstanding economic, social and political crisis in Venezuela also
impacts Cuba, a republic that has been unable to control its own
destiny. Hungry for power, Fidel Castro hijacked the country, making
political commitments in exchange for a blank check from the Kremlin and
later oil and credit guarantees from Hugo Chavez.

Like a baby, Cuba is still crawling. It won't stand up and walk on its
own two feet. "Whom should we blame for these disastrous policies?" asks
a university professor before answering his own question.

"If we are honest, the answer is Fidel Castro," he says. "Cuba a total
disaster, except supposedly in the realm of sovereignty and
independence. But these days we are more dependent than ever. In order
to survive, we must depend on tourism, on the export of doctors who work
under slave-like conditions and on remittances sent home by Cubans from

Although Cuba's government-run press and Telesur — a media company
founded with petrodollars from Hugo Chavez — is trying to cover up the
causes of the situation in Venezuela, to ignore other points of view and
to manipulate the narrative of the Venezuelan opposition, people on the
island can now compare their reporting with other sources of information.

"Whether it's through the internet, an illegal antenna or family members
returning from medical missions in Venezuela, people know that not
everything reported in the national media is true. It's not just the
middle class that supports the opposition, as the state press would have
us believe. If that were the case, the Venezuelan bourgeoisie would
number in the millions. Maduro's days are numbered. When another
political party occupies the presidential palace, when the oil agreement
and the exchange of doctors are over, the Cuban economy will experience
a crisis , a period of recession the likes of which it has not seen for
twenty-eight years. And even worse, all the turmoil in Venezuela
coincides with Raul Castro's stepping down from power" notes an academic.

Among the late Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro's longterm goals was the
eventual unification of their two countries," says a former diplomat.
"ALBA* was just a first step. They hoped to later create a common
currency: the sucre. In the halls of power it was jokingly referred to
as 'Cubazuela'. In their minds Castro and Chavez thought they would rule
forever. They didn't foresee themselves dying or anticipate the current
catastrophe. In spite of all Maduro's authoritarianism, there are still
democratic institutions which could reverse the situation. But in Cuba?
When Venezuela crashes, we'll be up the creek without a paddle. We can
perhaps count on rhetorical support from Bolivia and Ecuador but no one
is going to write us a blank check or extend us credit. We will then
will have to figure out where we are going and how to get there. If some
future politicians manage to figure out a path forward, we'll have to
erect a monument to them."

Hyperinflation, polarization and the socio-political crisis in Venezuela
are all impacting the Cuban economy. In the summer of 2016 Raul Castro
announced fuel cuts for the public sector, causing numerous government
programs which do not generate hard currency to grind to a halt.

As people die and mass protest marches take place in Venezuela,
officials and presidential advisers at the Palace of the Revolution in
Havana are devising contingency plans to deal with the eventual collapse
of the Chavez movement. It could take months, maybe a year or two, but
it will happen.

*Translator's note: Acronym for Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of
Our America, an organization founded by Cuba and Venezuela and currently
made up of eleven socialist and social democratic member states.

Source: If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba 2018: What To Expect As Castro Rule Comes To An End
By Simon Whistler

Should all happen as expected, February 24th 2018 will be a momentous
day in the lives of many Cubans. On that day, 10 years after officially
taking over from his brother Fidel, President Raúl Castro has promised
to step down from power, marking the first time that many on the island
will have ever known a head of state without his famous last name. Fidel
himself had been president between 1976 and 2008, and prior to that had
been the main power behind the throne since the 1959 Cuban revolution.
Nearly 60 years of Castro-led government, then, will finally come to an end.

For many Cubans, regardless of their political loyalties, the Castro
name has come to represent their country, for good or for bad. Raúl
stepping down from office, following on from the death of Fidel in
November 2016, is therefore a hugely symbolic moment by any account, and
one that will generate a great deal of uncertainty.

This is not lost on the Cuban authorities. The all-encompassing Cuban
state has been preparing for the moment since 2013, when Raúl first
announced his intention to step down. There is little doubt that the
handover of power will be carefully choreographed in public, the ruling
Cuban Communist Party (PCC) seeking to demonstrate that running the
country will be business as usual.

This will do little to stop the chatter, however, especially around the
big question that a Castro-less Cuba automatically entails: what are the
prospects for political and economic reform on the island? The easy
answer is that in the immediate term, probably very little will change.
The real answer to this question is more complex. Raúl's eventual
successor, the state of the economy, social pressures, and—perhaps in
time—relations with the US, will all play significant roles in defining
it. Inevitably, little will be resolved until Raúl has actually left the

Next on the block

Perceived wisdom has the non-military technocrat Miguel Díaz Canal as
Raúl's most likely successor. In his 50s, Díaz Canal would mark a clear
break from the Castro-led generation of revolutionary figures who have
dominated Cuban politics over the last six decades. He has also been
central to Cuba's baby steps towards a more-market based economy.

However, the fact that his name comes up so readily in discussion over
successors does leave some pause for thought. The Cuban regime has
historically played its cards close to its chest, with few really privy
to the thoughts of the key decision-makers at its apex. It would be
little surprise if Díaz Canal's presumed coronation next year turns out
to be a smokescreen for a different candidate altogether.

Even if Díaz Canal is the man to step forward, what power – or indeed
desire - will he genuinely have to call his own shots and take Cuba down
a more liberal path? The military old guard, led by the likes of Raúl
and José Ramón Machado Ventura, current second secretary in the PCC,
will almost certainly retain residual authority behind the scenes.
Despite Raúl's technocratic bent, many others in the old guard have been
less enthusiastic about recent steps to liberalize elements of the
economy. Without a Castro in charge, and the perception of a more
pliable president in Díaz Canal in his place, opposition to further
change could become stronger.

That points to the truth that there are divisions within the PCC over
the country's future direction. But these divisions are not big enough
that they obscure the party's common goal – to retain power and to
retain control of its destiny. Technocrat and non-military he may be,
but Díaz Canal is almost certainly first and foremost a loyal cadre of
the PCC. It would be foolish to believe that he is automatically an
agent for political change just because he is not a Castro or is part of
a younger generation of leaders.

It's the economy, stupid

In fact, the performance of the economy and the Cuban state's
(in)ability to maintain its basic social contract with the population
are the most likely portents of future structural changes. In almost any
scenario, there is little real prospect of the regime rolling back the
tentative economic reforms of recent years; all but the most blind
ideologues have come to realize that the state simply lacks the
resources to manage all facets of the economy. Although still
controlled, pockets of private enterprise and foreign investment will
grow in time.

But there is little doubt that the economy is facing significant
pressure as its main sponsor, Venezuela, implodes. The Cuban economy
contracted by 0.9% in 2016 as Venezuela cut oil exports to the island
and Cuba's export of human capital in the other direction—mainly in the
form of doctors and nurses—was severely curtailed. Efforts to attract
increased foreign direct investment have been tortuously slow in their
execution. Should these patterns continue (and there is little sign of
Venezuela, in particular, picking up soon), the strain of government
finances will begin to become critical.

That matters not so much in terms of official growth rates, but more in
terms of the ability of the state to ensure that it can provide the
basic services on which it has always laid its moral and political
authority. That's why a series of power cuts in 2016, on the back of
lower oil imports from Venezuela, have caused such unease; they were a
deeply uncomfortable reminder of the so-called 'special period' of the
early 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union pulled the plug on
Cuba's economic lifeline.

It also matters in the context of increasingly visible inequality and
regional divides. Different classes are emerging: particularly among
those who have access to foreign exchange, whether through their jobs or
through family overseas, and those who do not. The latter continue to
survive within the limited confines of the local economy. These
differences are intensified between rural and urban areas – the bustling
capital of Havana is increasingly a focal point of the 'haves', the
countryside that of the 'have-nots'.

The challenge ahead

This ultimately is the key challenge that the Cuban government faces
ahead of the presidential transition and beyond. Hand over the economy
in a resilient condition and on Cuba's own terms, and Castro's successor
has greater scope for ignoring the still small demands on the island for
political change. A fractured economy and a failing social contract, on
the other hand, spell difficulties ahead.

This would not necessarily play out in the form of widespread unrest or
immediate calls for political freedoms— there remains little overt
support to sustain such moves. But, perhaps more dangerously to the PCC,
it would result in a deeper sense of public disillusionment with a state
that has failed to deliver its promises. Without a Castro safety net to
fall back on, the foundations of a grassroots reform movement can emerge.

A business boom?

Businesses hoping for a Caribbean China or Vietnam to appear a year from
now will be disappointed. The conditions will not be ripe for a mass
opening of the Cuban market, yet. Díaz Canal, or whoever Castro's
successor proves to be, will almost certainly continue along the current
Cuban path to reform, with greater or lesser urgency dictated by the
economic situation. But the regime remains fearful of opening too fast,
too soon, for the impact they perceive it would have on social unity,
and ultimately on the PCC's ability to remain in control.

This will slowly bring more opportunities for the discerning investor,
but realities of doing business will remain complex. The Cuban regime
will remain slow in its decision-making and continue to bind investors
in reams of red tape. Meanwhile, the US embargo—unlikely to be lifted
this year or the next—will continue creating legal obstacles for US and
foreign companies alike. Although 2018 brings hope for a brighter future
in the longer term, in the meantime, the Castros' shadow will linger
over Cuba. Those thirsty for a Cuba libre, economically and politically,
will need to wait a while longer to be refreshed.

Simon Whistler leads the political risk analysis and consulting practice
for Latin America at Control Risks, the leading international risk

Source: Cuba 2018: What To Expect As Castro Rule Comes To An End - Continue reading
Russia signs agreement to supply oil to Cuba
Friday, May 05, 2017

HAVANA, Cuba (CMC) – Russia's state oil company Rosneft, has signed an
agreement with Cuba's state-run Cubametals to supply 250,000 tonnes of
olive and diesel fuel.The agreement, signed on Wednesday, means that for
the first time this century, Russia will be supplying the
Spanish-speaking Caribbean island with large quantities of oil as
supplies from Venezuela have dwindled.

According to Reuters, a Russian tanker with 249,000 barrels of refined
products is due to arrive in Cuba on May 10.

Reuters quotes Jorge Pinon, an oil expert at the University of Texas as
saying that Cuba consumes 22,000 barrel per day of diesel and 140,000
barrels per day of oil products.

"It is very clear that Cuba is diversifying its long-term supply
contracts in the event that its October 2000 subsidised oil agreement
with Venezuela is terminated," Pinon said.

In recent years, Cuba has relied on cash-strapped Venezuela for about 70
per cent of its fuel needs.

However Venezuela's subsidised shipments have fallen by as much as 40
per cent since 2014.

Source: Russia signs agreement to supply oil to Cuba - Continue reading
American interest in Cuba as a travel destination is waning: survey

Despite the fanfare around the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba,
the results of a new survey suggest that the novelty has worn out among
Americans, with fewer travelers expressing interest in the island as a
travel destination.

About a year after major commercial airlines restored flights between
the US and Cuba and travel restrictions were eased, an Allianz Global
Assistance survey has found that interest in Cuba has dipped slightly
compared to the year before.

While safety concerns were major anxieties for Americans in 2016, some
of the biggest stumbling blocks for American travelers this year include
a lack of information on Cuba's travel experiences, travel
infrastructure and the lack of mobile and internet connectivity.

Overall, 35 percent of respondents said the easing of travel
restrictions made them more interested in traveling to Cuba in 2016,
compared to 26 percent in 2017.

The likelihood of travel to Cuba also dropped a few percentage points
among respondents in 2017 compared to 2016, with 76 percent of
respondents saying it's highly unlikely they'll be booking a trip to
Cuba this year, compared to 70 percent a year before.

The survey is based on the answers of more than 1,500 Americans.

The biggest draw for Cuban travel, meanwhile, are the island's resorts
and beaches, followed by cultural attractions, Cuban food and rum,
people, classic cars, cigars, family and friends.

Source: American interest in Cuba as a travel destination is waning:
survey - Continue reading
Raul Castro's daughter: His successor may surprise Cubans
Associated PressMay 4, 2017

HAVANA (AP) — One of the highest-profile members of Cuba's ruling family
said Wednesday that the country could be surprised by the person who
succeeds her father as president.

Mariela Castro's uncle Fidel led Cuba for a half century before he was
succeeded as president by her father, Raul Castro, who has said he plans
to step down in February.

International and domestic observers widely expect him to be succeeded
by First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, a 57-year-old career
Communist Party official whose low-wattage public appearances have left
many Cubans unconvinced of his ability to be the first top Cuban leader
from outside the Castro family since 1959.

When asked about the succession process, Mariela Castro said: "Sometimes
you're going in one direction and suddenly you look over here and go,
'Wow, how interesting, I hadn't focused on this person.'"

"There are always surprises," she concluded.

Mariela Castro is a gay-rights advocate, member of Cuba's National
Assembly and head of the country's institute of sex education. She has
long been one of Cuba's most outspoken public figures, and her
statements are widely perceived to bear her father's imprimatur.

Recent speculation about alternate presidential candidates has focused
on Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, a forceful public speaker who has
represented Cuba on the international stage for eight years. Rodriguez
has taken on a slightly higher profile in recent months, including an
unusual article in state media last week apologizing to the family of a
Cuban who died on government business in Venezuela last May.

The daughter of the dead man, Nicanor Torres Ochoa, had complained to
the state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde that the family had not
received his death certificate, echoing thousands of Cubans' frustration
with the country's intractable Soviet-model bureaucracy. On Saturday,
the paper published an unexpected response from Rodriguez assuring
readers the problem had been resolved, saying the Foreign Ministry was
reviewing its procedures to avoid a repeat of the problem, and
apologizing to the family in the name of the state institutions involved.

Such lengthy apologies to citizens are virtually unheard of in Cuba,
particularly from high-ranking government officials.

Despite such subtle changes in public profile, there are no indications
so far that Diaz-Canel has lost his position as the unstated
front-runner to be Cuba's next president. However, Raul Castro's
departure from the presidency creates unprecedented opportunities for
surprising changes to Cuba's political structure.

As supreme national leader, Fidel Castro simultaneously held a variety
of roles as head of state, government and Communist Party institutions.

Raul Castro inherited that arrangement despite the fact that Cuba's
constitution does not stipulate such a total concentration of power.
Raul Castro's retirement as president opens the possibility that his
responsibilities could be handed over to more than one figure, creating
at least a nominal separation of powers for the first time since the
first years of the Cuban Revolution.

Source: Raul Castro's daughter: His successor may surprise Cubans - Continue reading
Cuba Imports First Russian Crude Since Collapse Of Soviet Union
By Zainab Calcuttawala - May 03, 2017, 4:37 PM CDT

Cuba will process Russian oil for the first time in two decades, after
supplies from Venezuela saw an eight-month hiatus that ended in March,
according to a new report from Reuters.

On May 10th, a vessel with 249,000 barrels of Russian crude will reach a
Cuban port, which mimics the Soviet Union's previous support of Fidel
Castro's regime prior to the 1991 disintegration of Russia's former
political arena.

The Venezuelan halt had caused Cuba's Cienfuegos refinery to stop
production due to lack of supplies. State-run PDVSA had scaled back the
export of its lighter grades to the Caribbean in order to use the fuel
to dilute heavier grades.

Cienfuegos is a Soviet-era refinery that had originally been built to
process Russian crude. PDVSA later upgraded the facility to refine
65,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude a day.

Rosneft announced on Wednesday that the shipments were part of a new
agreement with state-run Cubametals, which authorized the import of
250,000 tonnes of Russian oil and diesel on an unspecified timeline.
This Could Be The Biggest Winner Of The Electric Car Boom

This small company could be one of the biggest winners of the electric
car boom as tech giants and hedge funds fight over the limited supply of

"It is very clear that Cuba is diversifying its long-term supply
contracts in the event that its October 2000 subsidized oil agreement
with Venezuela is terminated," Jorge Pinon, an oil industry expert at
The University of Texas at Austin, said.

Relations between Cuba and the United States – Russia's main
geopolitical rival – had begun thawing during former President Barack
Obama's administration. President Donald Trump praised Russian President
Vladimir Putin for his "leadership" during the 2016 election campaign,
but Congress is in the midst of investigating ties between the new White
House and Moscow. This process is one of the reasons why the U.S. and
Russia remain cold to each other, despite Trump's promises to bridge the
gap between the superpowers.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for

Source: Cuba Imports First Russian Crude Since Collapse Of Soviet Union
| - Continue reading
Cuba: When "Winning" is Losing
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — The violent reaction to the dissident who ran through
Revolution Square carrying a US flag on May Day has been the last of a
series of failed responses.

The guy was beaten up and arrested in the middle of Revolution Square,
during the rally for May Day in front of journalists.

Photographs and videos of the scene have traveled the world over and
this was clearly the opponent's objective. He "stole the show" thanks to
the priceless help he received from those people who jumped on top of
him, grabbing the flag from him and hitting him in front of rolling
cameras which belong to the world's main press agencies.

What would have happened if nobody had got in his way during his speedy
race through the Square? It would have surely not been much more than an
anecdote, which would have supported government discourse when it
accuses dissidents of being mercenaries who serve the star-spangled banner.

Not too long before this event, a young journalism student was kicked
out of the university in Villa Clara, with the official media arguing
that "university is only for revolutionaries." Her photo went around the
world and stirred people's rejection, even from well-known followers of
the Cuban Revolution.

If the CIA's psychological warfare team had to have chosen a case, they
couldn't have done a better job. She was an 18-year-old girl, with the
face of an angel, who was expelled from a Cuban university because she
didn't share the government's ideas, "the perfect victim".

The University of Havana doesn't fall far behind either. Two Economy and
Law professors were dismissed from their jobs for such a malicious deed
as writing for a [non-governmental] media outlet which is legal and has
offices in a building on the Malecon.

Today, Omar Everleny Perez, PhD, continues to live in Cuba but he
travels all over the world, from Japan to the US, pouring out his
economic knowledge in classrooms of different universities, none of
which are Cuban. Who won and lost with this expulsion?

Lawyer Julio Fernandez was forced to choose between continuing to
express his thoughts publicly or to renounce this civil right so that he
could remain a professor at the university. Today, he continues to write
for OnCuba but he no longer teaches at the University.

After the hurricane that hit Baracoa, a group of young Cuban journalists
carried out a public fundraiser and traveled to the region to report on
the natural disaster. The government's response was to arrest them,
thereby converting an insignificant event into international news.

The Periodismo de Barrio journalists were released without the
authorities filing any charges against them. So, why were they arrested?
If they couldn't go into the area, wouldn't it have been enough to just
have stopped them from getting there? Does anybody believe that this
scandal helps Cuba in any way?

I recently received a threat that they would break my teeth if I didn't
start "talking softly". The threat was published by a government
journalist. Is there nobody capable of assessing the damage that such
cockiness does to the image of Cuba?

In Holguin, another scandal made headlines when a colleague, Jose
Ramirez Pantoja, got axed from the Cuban Journalists Association (UPEC)
and fired from his job at a local radio station because he reproduced,
on his personal blog, part of a speech the assistant director of the
official Granma newspaper gave at a professional event.

Pressure on young journalists in Villa Clara who collaborate with
digital media platforms (non-governmental) led them to write a public
letter of protest, which has also traveled across the globe. Despite the
cost, these policies remain steadfast.

Extremist blogs, financed by the State, repeat over and over again, that
whoever isn't a revolutionary is a counter-revolutionary, that is to say
that whoever isn't with "them" is their enemy, an opinion which pushes
towards a dangerous social polarization.

These are the same people who are promoting blind unanimity, a
caricature of the true conscious union between human beings. Unity
upheld in diversity is the only glue that can keep the mosaic of a
nation in place.

In 275 BC, General Pyrrhus of Epirus had already understood that some
battles inflict such a devastating toll on the victor that it is
tantamount to defeat. These "Pyrrhic victories" of the most extremist
sectors could lead Cuba down this same route.

Source: Cuba: When "Winning" is Losing - Havana - Continue reading
Declining Interest in Cuba Hasn't Stopped Cruise Ships From Sailing
by Joe Pike, Adam Leposa | May 4, 2017 11:14am

Despite a recent study by Allianz Global Assistance that showed a
declining interest in Cuba from last year to this year, suppliers
continue to pump out new Cuba products and offerings.

According to the study, 40 percent of Americans would be interested in
taking a trip to Cuba (two percent fewer than in 2016) while the easing
of travel restrictions made just 26 percent of Americans more interested
in visiting the country (nine percent fewer than 2016). Seventy-six
percent reported being unlikely to plan a trip to Cuba (six percent more
than 2016).

While safety concerns (38 percent in 2017/ six percent lower than in
2016) and fear of communist government (12 percent in 2017/ three
percent lower than in 2016) were major anxieties for Americans in 2016,
those worries appear to be weakening this year, according to the study.
Instead, lack of information on Cuba's travel experiences (22 percent
in 2017/ four percent higher than in 2016), travel infrastructure (13
percent in 2017/ one percent higher than in 2016) and Internet/mobile
connectivity (nine percent in 2017/ two percent higher than in 2016) are
the factors making Americans less interested and likely to travel to Cuba.

But that hasn't stopped cruise companies like Azamara Club Cruises,
which recently announced four new sailings to its lineup of Cuba
itineraries, from continuing to churn out new offering to the
once-forbidden destination at a rapid pace.

Read on to learn more about Azamara's new sailings as well as other new
offerings to the destination as Travel Agent breaks down the latest
batch of Cuba news and notes.

Azamara Club Cruises Adds Four New Cuba Cruises

Azamara Club Cruises has announced the addition of four new sailings to
its lineup of Cuba itineraries. Departing from Miami, the new sailings
will overnight in Havana and call at new maiden
ports Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba.

In Cuba guests will have the chance to participate in people-to-people
cultural exchanges, including chances to experience the destination at
night. Experiences will include a visit to the open air
cabaret, Tropicana, a Nelson Dominguez art gallery tour, Havana by
classic car along the Malecón waterfront and Hemingway's Havana, with
more coming soon. All tour programs offered by Azamara are designed to
meet U.S. requirements for travel to Cuba, the cruise line said.

Norwegian Sky Makes Inaugural Call in Havana, Cuba

Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Cruise Line's first ship to sail to Cuba, made
its inaugural call in Havana earlier this week. Norwegian Cruise Line
executives were onboard to celebrate the voyage, including Norwegian
Cruise Line Holdings President & CEO Frank Del Rio and Norwegian Cruise
Line President & CEO Andy Stuart.

The call was the first of Norwegian Sky's weekly roundtrip cruises
from Miami to Cuba. The ship will sail a total of 53 four-day voyages to
Cuba, with 52 including an overnight stay in the capital city of
Havana. Norwegian Sky will bring guests to the very heart of the city,
offering them the opportunity to visit historical sites such as Old
Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; view art and listen to the local
music scene; and visit with Cuba's residents through people-to-people

The all-inclusive Norwegian Sky will also call on Great Stirrup Cay,
Norwegian's private island in the Bahamas, during its four-day cruises
to Cuba. Great Stirrup Cay was recently enhanced to offer guests
exciting new ways to enjoy the island with additional pathways, seating
and shaded lounge areas, with additional amenities still to come,
including a private luxury lagoon enclave for suite guests and guests
of The Haven.

Refurbished in 2013, Norwegian Sky offers accommodations for 2,004
guests with 10 dining options, an onboard spa and casino. Guests sailing
on Norwegian Sky can also enjoy unlimited complimentary beverages at one
of 12 bars and lounges as part of the ship's all-inclusive program.

Book any four-day cruise from Miami to Cuba and get $50 for onboard
spending on all staterooms on Norwegian Sky , plus reserve cruises with
50 percent reduced deposits.


Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas Makes First Visit to Cuba

Royal Caribbean International recently made its inaugural visit
to Cuba on the newly revitalized Empress of the Seas as part of a
five-night sailing from Miami. In the new port of call, cruisers
participated in curated excursions throughout Havana, including rides in
1950's classic American cars to some of the city's famous stops, like
the Old Quarter and the Havana Club Museum.

Onboard, a set of activities have been curated to bring the spirit of
the island to the entire voyage. Guests will be able to enjoy cortaditos
and café con leche in Cafe Royal and salsa music and dancing in Boleros
Latin Lounge.

After returning to Miami, Empress of the Seas will reposition
to Tampa, Florida, for the summer season - the cruise line's first ever
summer program from the port - offering a series of four, five, and
six-night sailings with day and overnight visits to Havana and stops
in Key West, Florida; Belize City, Belize, Costa
Maya; and Cozumel, Mexico. Sailings from Tampa are available through
November 4, 2017, when Empress returns to Miami for the winter season,
adding calls to CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas.

Empress of the Seas spans 11 guest decks and accommodates 1,602 guests
at double occupancy in 795 staterooms. The also ship offers five bars
and lounges, complimentary entertainment and lie music, daily brunch
with a complimentary Mimosa or Blood Mary and a full-service spa.

For a limited time, guests can take advantage of the extended 'royal
refund' sale with up to $300 back to spend at sea.

Visit and keep visiting for all your latest Caribbean news.

Source: Declining Interest in Cuba Hasn't Stopped Cruise Ships From
Sailing | Travel Agent Central - Continue reading
Police Block Activist Lia Villares From Traveling to the United States /

Cubanet, 2 May 2017 — Independent activist Lía Villares missed a flight
that would have taken her to the New Orleans Jazz Festival after being
"abducted" by police on Monday morning.

Speaking to CubaNet, Villares describes that two patrol cars under the
command of State Security Agent "Jordan" were waiting for her near her
home this morning when she was left to go to José Martí Airport.
Villares had taken a taxi to go to the air terminal, but the vehicle was
intercepted and the activist arrested.

The young woman describes how she was taken by the agents to Tarará, at
the other end of the Cuban capital. The delay caused her to miss her
flight, apparently the primary objective of the operation against her.
Villares has a passport to travel, and permission to enter the United

Hours later, Villares was released without charges. She said he would
try to buy a ticket and travel again because the authorities did not
give a legitimate reason for her arrest.

Source: Police Block Activist Lia Villares From Traveling to the United
States / Cubanet – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
American Interest in Cuba as a Travel Destination is Waning
Updated: May 3, 2017, 10:11 AM IST

Despite the fanfare around the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba,
the results of a new survey suggest that the novelty has worn out among
Americans, with fewer travelers expressing interest in the island as a
travel destination.
About a year after major commercial airlines restored flights between
the US and Cuba and travel restrictions were eased, an Allianz Global
Assistance survey has found that interest in Cuba has dipped slightly
compared to the year before.
While safety concerns were major anxieties for Americans in 2016, some
of the biggest stumbling blocks for American travelers this year include
a lack of information on Cuba's travel experiences, travel
infrastructure and the lack of mobile and internet connectivity.
Overall, 35 percent of respondents said the easing of travel
restrictions made them more interested in traveling to Cuba in 2016,
compared to 26 percent in 2017.
The likelihood of travel to Cuba also dropped a few percentage points
among respondents in 2017 compared to 2016, with 76 percent of
respondents saying it's highly unlikely they'll be booking a trip to
Cuba this year, compared to 70 percent a year before.
The survey is based on the answers of more than 1,500 Americans.
The biggest draw for Cuban travel, meanwhile, are the island's resorts
and beaches, followed by cultural attractions, Cuban food and rum,
people, classic cars, cigars, family and friends.

Source: American Interest in Cuba as a Travel Destination is Waning - Continue reading
Baron Foods makes first shipment to Cuba
MAY 3RD, 2017

Saint Lucia's leading manufacturing company, Baron Foods (St. Lucia)
Limited, has finally achieved its goal of exporting its world class
products to Cuba.

The first shipment of condiments left Saint Lucia yesterday for the
Spanish-speaking nation.

Baron Foods CEO Ronald Ramjattan observed that Cuba is a new and
emerging market with over 12 million inhabitants sharing a similar
culture and food preference with the rest of the Caribbean.

" Baron Foods is creating an export path to Cuba where other St. Lucian
companies can follow," Ramjattan asserted.

Over the last five years Baron Foods (St. Lucia Limited) has attended
several trade shows facilitated by Caribbean Export and the Saint Lucia
Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA).

Within the last two years, the company has been selected by TEPA and
assisted by that organisation and the Cuban Embassy here in pursuing the
goal of entering the Cuban market.

To date, Baron Foods has secured a business relationship with TRD
Caribe, which is one of the largest food and beverage Distributors in Cuba.

Source: Baron Foods makes first shipment to Cuba - St. Lucia Times News
- Continue reading
Outdated laws and limited, expensive internet access slow Cuba's progress
Committee to Protect Journalists 2 May 2017
By Carlos Lauría

Cuba's media landscape has begun opening up in recent years, transformed
by a lively blogosphere, an increasing number of news websites carrying
investigative reporting and news commentary, and an innovative breed of
independent reporters who are critical of, yet still support, socialist

The energized press scene contrasts with the island nation's restrictive
legal framework, which curbs freedom of speech under the guise of
protecting the "independence or territorial integrity of the state."
Though the constitution bans private ownership of the press and all
media are supposedly controlled by the one-party Communist state, the
spread of independent reporting is a sign of change.

Reporters, from the most critical - who are known as dissidents - to
journalism school graduates, documentary filmmakers, and
pro-revolutionary bloggers, are opening new spaces for free expression
and entrepreneurial journalism that seemed off limits just a few years ago.

Bloggers said they have embraced the loosening of restrictions. "We are
seeing opportunities that were inconceivable five years ago," said
Alejandro Rodríguez, who quit his job in 2012 at Adelante, a state-run
weekly in the eastern city of Camagüey, to start a blog.

However, many said that more work needs to be done, with the threat of
arbitrary detention, vague and outdated laws, and limitations on
internet access slowing Cuba's press freedom progress.

Internet access in Cuba, which the U.N. rates among the lowest in the
Western Hemisphere, is still inaccessible to most citizens. And though
large-scale systematic state repression has eased significantly, the
most strident opponents in the media say they still face harassment and
intimidation from authorities.

Read the full article on CPJ's site.

Source: Outdated laws and limited, expensive internet access slow Cuba's
progress - IFEX - Continue reading
State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid
mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with
Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark

He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of
the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the summons, he is a
first lieutenant.

The interview location is the Aguilera police station in the Lawton
neighborhood, off Porvenir Avenue. By now the procedure is habitual.
State Security routinely summons dissidents and unmuzzled journalists to
police precincts.

Although he didn't tell me the reason for the summons, it probably has
to do with my latest news reports about the upcoming implementation of
the 3G network, and a report on the state of opinion of workers and
residents in Old Havana about the administration of the military company
GAESA in businesses run by Eusebio Leal, the City Historian.

Of course, the citations serve to try to gather information and to
threaten the interviewee. It's nothing new for me. In March 1991 I spent
two weeks in a cell at Villa Marista, headquarters of the Department of
Security (DSE). They accused me of "enemy propaganda," but I wasn't

Later, during several hours or days, in cells of the 10th Unit, at
Avenida de Acosta and October 10th Street. Then various summonses from
the political police in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In October 2008,
a 12-hour detention at the Zanja and Lealtad Unit, Central Havana. And
in August 2010, a summons from Counterintelligence in a special unit of
the armed forces, in Rancho Boyeros.

The novelty in this case is that before citing me directly, as they have
now done, they cited several friends in the neighborhood to gather
information about me, intimidating them with the accusation that they
provided me information or that they violated certain laws, and
ultimately asked them to collaborate with the special services.

This technique was used by the Soviet KGB and the East German
STASI. According to the procedure, the ideal is that there are two or
more informants in each neighborhood and a counterintelligence officer
for every 50,000 inhabitants.

The main lines of operational work of the Counterintelligence at the
moment are directed by Alejandro Castro Espín, the only son of Raúl, the
president appointed by his brother Fidel.

Since forever, the Castro brothers have designed the strategies to
follow and authorized every step taken by State Security. They don't act

In the current context, with the crisis in Venezuela that has cut oil
supplies to the island by 40%, the economic recession worsened by the
oil deficit, the arrival in the White House of a guy as unpredictable as
Donald Trump, who has threatened to repeal the agreements made with
Barack Obama since 17 December 2014, and the hypothetical change in
government in February of 2018, has set off alarms among the olive green
executive and the secret services.

The arrests have increased. The physical violence towards the Ladies in
White has not stopped. And the harassment, threats and confiscation of
the equipment of free journalists is multiplied.

In the case of the alternative press, they don't care that they have
different ideological positions. They repress equally an anti-Castro
journalist like Henry Constantin, a neo-communist blogger like Harold
Cardenas, or a foreign journalist with family in Cuba like Fernando

For political opponents, the repression has also increased. The most
controversial are beaten and injured. To those who bet on inserting
themselves legally into legal mechanisms, like Candidates for Change and
Otro18 (Another 2018), they are also repressed.

There is no ideological distinction. Liberal thinking wihout
authorization from the military junta is punished. Tomorrow it's my turn
to be 'interviewed' by the counterintelligence officials.

I promise to keep you informed.

Source: State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The Dangers of Hatred / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Norma Whiting, West Palm Beach, U.S., 29 April 2017 – The news,
later refuted, of a supposed Cuban flag burning in recent days by
Venezuelan demonstrators who oppose the government of Nicolás Maduro
provoked diverse reactions on social networks and some Cuban websites.
Many Cubans, mostly residing overseas, immediately expressed their
indignation against Venezuelans at what they interpret as an affront to
a national symbol they consider sacred, which does not represent in the
least the dictatorial power that has ruled Cuba for almost sixty years,
ultimately co-responsible for the deep political, social and economic
crisis that Venezuela is currently experiencing.

The misconception, however, was not completely unfounded, considering
that a few years ago Cuban flags burned in connection with student
protests in Venezuela.

However, leaving aside anything smacking of nationalism, justified or
not, the Venezuelans' apocryphal pyromantic message against the Cuban
flag in several important cities of their country would have made clear
the rejection of the gross Cuban interference in Venezuela by Havana's
Palace of the Revolution, since it is not just the perverse tabernacle
where the devastation of their nation has been cooked for years, but, to
date, it's the arena from where the strings of the Chávez-Maduro regime
are manipulated, now decadent but, because of this, more dangerous.

Thus, in any case, it should have been that evil power and not the Cuban
national emblem that Venezuelans burned in their riots of recent days.
In fact, the images from 2014 that caused the confusion leave no room
for doubt when we see that several of the flags burned then carry Fidel
Castro's image on a bundle of dollars displayed under his face, and
other pictures where the signs "Out with the Castros" and "Out of
Venezuela" can be seen. At that time, they also set on fire mannequins
that mimicked the now deceased creator of the longest dictatorship that
has existed in this region.

But it is also true that one of the dangers now is that, in the midst of
the violence applied by the repressive bodies and the gangs incited by
the central government against the demonstrators, their response will
turn more violent. The Venezuelan crisis offers a much more convulsive
and highly volatile and unstable scenario as a result of widespread
hunger, the shortages and the needs of the population, social
frustration, and the regime's misrule, so that any situation can lead to
uncontrollable chaos for any of the parties.

In this context, popular indignation would not be able to discriminate
between Cuba and Cubans on the one hand, and the Castro regime on the
other, bypassing the irrefutable fact that the misfortune of living
under autocratic regimes is something that nationals of both countries

In this sense, and not wishing to be apocalyptic, it cannot be denied
that the thousands of Cuban civilians who currently collaborate in the
populist programs (called "missions") of the Castro-Chávez alliance are
very fragile links in the midst of the Venezuelan confusion, not only
because they could easily become victims of the hatred, accumulated over
many years, against a political project led by a gang of thieves and
crooks which turned out to be a swindle, but because the perverse nature
of the alliance between the hierarchs of Havana and Caracas would not
hesitate for a second to sacrifice them motu proprio, and to attribute
to the opposition the loss of life and the violence against Cuban civilians.

The Cuban gerontocracy knows that the loss of Cuban lives would allow
them to unleash a whole Witches' Sabbath through their monopoly of the
press, and would be a golden opportunity to stir the patriotic spirits
of the masses in the hacienda in ruins, especially now, when the defunct
revolution doesn't have any credibility among Cubans, and when the final
fall of " twenty-first century socialism" also heralds (more) difficult
times for the Cuban population.

The fact that it would involve Cuban professionals, mostly in the health
industry, who carry out a humanitarian mission of medical care to very
poor populations, would add a dramatic touch that is extremely conducive
to the propaganda effects of the Palace of the Revolution. Who could
resist the tragedy of perhaps dozens of Cuban families?

For now, the official Cuban press is keeping a suspicious, almost
sepulchral, silence about what is taking place in Venezuela. Or it has
lied cynically, as is evident in the printed version of the main
official newspaper, Granma, which contained a brief note this past
Monday, April 24, stating that "normalcy reigns" in Venezuela, despite
the opposition to Maduro calling for demonstrations, the massive
mobilizations that have flooded the streets of many cities in Venezuela
since the beginning of April, and the dozens of deaths, mainly
protesters', that have taken place at the hands of the delinquents
grouped in the sinister "collectives", that variety of motorized
terrorists at the service of the government who assassinate their
compatriots with impunity, just for exercising their right to protest.

Let us hope that the best children of Venezuela do not allow the just
aspirations of freedom, justice and democracy of her people to be
contaminated with criminal acts against Cuban civilian collaborators.
They need to not give in to the hatred sown by officials in power. But,
in any case, the evils that might take place in Venezuela will be the
direct responsibility of the Cuban leadership and its puppets at the
head of the Venezuelan government.

(Miriam Celaya, a Havana resident, is currently visiting the U.S.)

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Dangers of Hatred / Miriam Celaya – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Protester disrupts start of Cuba's annual May Day parade
President Raul Castro in attendance as man breaks through security
By Associated Press , Hatzel Vela - Reporter
Posted: 11:40 AM, May 01, 2017
Updated: 12:37 PM, May 01, 2017

HAVANA - A protester has briefly disrupted the start of Cuba's largest
annual political event, sprinting in front of May Day marchers with a
U.S. flag before being tackled and dragged away.

President Raul Castro watched along with other military and civilian
leaders and foreign dignitaries as the man, who was carrying an American
flag, broke through security and ran ahead of the tens of thousands in
the pro-government march.

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Plainclothes officers struggled to control the man but eventually lifted
him off the ground and hauled him away in front of foreign and Cuban
journalists covering the parade.

Monday's protest was a surprising breach of security at a
government-organized event where agents line the route.

Castro has said he will step down as president in February, making this
his last May Day parade as head of state.

Eighty-six countries were represented in the march, which "unity is our
strength" was the theme.

This is about workers, the fight that has to continue for the rights of
workers in Cuba and around the world," a woman told Local 10 News
reporter Hatzel Vela.

She is a doctor on assignment in Jamaica, but since she's been back, she
has not missed a May Day celebration.

An Italian man, who lives in Cuba, said his communist and socialist
principles convinced him to come and participate with thousands of
others. He told Vela that he's been celebrating May Day since he was
young in honor of his father, who fought fascism in Italy.

Source: Protester disrupts start of Cuba's annual May Day parade - Continue reading
Fears Over Opening Up Of US-Cuba Tourism May Be Misplaced – IMF
Published: Monday | May 1, 2017 | 5:15 PM

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has declared that fears by
Caribbean countries that the opening up of United States-Cuba tourism
could seriously impact the sector in the region may be misplaced.

The assertion is made in a Working Paper titled 'Revisiting the
Potential Impact to the Rest of the Caribbean from Opening US-Cuba
Tourism', released on Friday.

The paper notes that the Cuban revolution and the subsequent US embargo
on Cuba helped shape the tourism sector in the Caribbean, facilitating
the birth and growth of alternative destinations.

It says the apprehension of the Caribbean tourism industry towards a
change in US travel policy to Cuba is therefore understandable.

However, it says the worry is likely unwarranted as the history of
tourism in the region has shown that it is possible for all destinations
to grow despite large changes in market shares.

The paper argues that while tourism shares have shifted with Cancun,
Cuba, and the Dominican Republic becoming larger players in the region,
the rest of destinations have still managed to grow their sectors at
respectable rates, even as their market shares have declined.

The authors argue that the change in US policy is expected to benefit
the region as a whole as the models indicate that aggregate tourism
flows will grow.

They also argue that the increasing US tourism demand in Cuba will push
prices up and result in a shift by some Canadian and European tourists,
who would have otherwise visited Cuba, to travel to other Caribbean

They say this will partly offset any potential loss of US tourists that
some destinations might suffer in the adjustment phase to the new

Source: Fears over opening up of US-Cuba tourism may be misplaced – IMF
| News | Jamaica Gleaner - Continue reading
Trade with Cuba remains a priority for potato, wheat officials
A team from Potatoes USA recently returned from an "informational
exchange mission" in Cuba.
John O'ConnellCapital Press
Published on May 1, 2017 10:06AM
Last changed on May 1, 2017 2:51PM

A team from Potatoes USA tours a potato field in Cuba. Cuba plans to
evaluate seed from the U.S. in trials this fall, though market
restrictions still make trade difficult.

DENVER — Though efforts to normalize trade relations with Cuba have been
in limbo under President Donald Trump, some potato and wheat industry
leaders have continued making inroads in the market.

A team of 16 board members, seed potato growers and agronomists,
representing Potatoes USA, recently returned from a five-day
"informational exchange mission" to Cuba. Kansas Wheat officials say
they've also been active in laying the groundwork for future trade
opportunities with Cuba.

The U.S. has had an embargo against Cuba for decades. Exceptions under a
2000 law allow for exporting U.S. food products and commodities into
Cuba — which have totaled more than $5.3 billion since Dec. 2001,
according to John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council Inc.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. entered discussions with Cuba
aimed at addressing trade barriers. Kaviluch explained the U.S. requires
Cuban buyers to pay cash rather than extending them credit, prohibits
Cuban businesses from having bank accounts in the U.S. and places
restrictions on the use of the U.S. dollar in transactions with Cuba.

Questions still linger about more than $1.8 billion still owed to U.S.
businesses who had assets taken after the Cuban Revolution. Food product
and agricultural commodities exported to Cuba are processed through the
Bureau of Industry and Security, under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Kaviluch said another trade obstacle is that "Cuba is consistently late
in paying those who they owe money to."

Kaviluch said Obama left office before the major questions were
resolved. Trump has voiced concerns about Obama's Cuban policy, sending
a Twitter message in late November 2016: "If Cuba is unwilling to make a
better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban-American people and the U.S.
as a whole, I will terminate the deal."

Laura Johnson, marketing bureau chief with the Idaho State Department of
Agriculture, said ISDA has added Cuba to the list of potential
destinations when it seeks industry input on state-sponsored trade
missions, though the industry chose Taiwan and Vietnam for the next
mission, scheduled for November.

Daniel Heady, director of governmental affairs with Kansas Wheat,
believes Trump will keep an open mind toward "finding the best deal
possible" with Cuba, which could represent a 50-million-bushel wheat
market. Kansas Wheat officials gave a Cuban team a tour of their state's
wheat production last October and made their own trip to Cuba a month later.

"At this point, I think we're probably in a holding pattern," Heady
said. "That doesn't mean doing outreach and still doing trade missions
and talking with people is a waste of time."

Kansas Wheat supports a bill by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., to normalize
trade with Cuba, and also participates in coalitions advocating for the
cause — Engage Cuba and Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The Potatoes USA team visited Cuba on March 27-31, meeting with the
nation's Ministry of Foreign Commercial Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture
and potato growers in the countryside. According to a press release, the
Cuban government hopes to revive its domestic potato industry, which has
declined significantly during the past two decades, and will need to
import high-quality seed. Potatoes are one of eight foods controlled by
the Cuban government for distribution and price.

The Cuban government hopes to conduct trials beginning this fall to
assess how U.S. seed varieties perform in their tropical climate,
according to the press release.

"Based on successes in the Dominican Republic and Central America,
Potatoes USA and the U.S. seed potato growers are confident U.S.
suppliers can provide potato seed to help improve yields in Cuba,"
Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern said in the press

Source: Trade with Cuba remains a priority for potato, wheat officials -
- Capital Press - Continue reading
Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+

Eliecer Avila on a walk around Lima's mountains, with two Peruvians
Somos+, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 March 2017 — During those days we
observed with deep sorrow the disaster that Peruvians are enduring, with
many deaths and thousands homeless due to flooding and landslides. A
beautiful country that has overcome some of the most unfavourable
historical events, to rise up to one of the continent's and the world's
emerging economies of our time.

It has reached a stable democracy after more than a decade of civil war,
dictatorship, and extreme poverty. It has since started to forge a
modern history of sustained growth, advances in social issues, in
infrastructure, in telecommunications, with booming business and an
unprecedented right-wing state.

Eliecer Ávila visiting a family-run ice cream factory in Lima in 2014
Still far away from its potential, Peru today constitutes an example of
what a Latin American nation can achieve when it advances together and
is reconciled in what is necessary. One can appreciate the tremendous
efforts of its entire diaspora that has not rested, collecting
assistance that will soon reach the hands of their compatriots to
alleviate, even if just a little, so much shared pain.

Our movement maintains strong ties of solidarity and cooperation with
different institutes and civil organizations in Peru. We have witnessed
there the humility, education and immense spirit of work that
distinguishes its people. To all our friends, we want to let you know
that we are at your disposal to help in everything that is possible.

We are sure that this dark chapter will pass and the immense South
American nation will resume even more strongly its path of flourishing
and progress. They will achieve it with the same spirit they express, in
the motto that accompanies their shield and banner: "Steady and happy
for the union."

Source: Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+ –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cuban state news agency restarts operations in Washington
AFP April 28, 2017

Washington (AFP) - Cuba's state news agency Prensa Latina officially
restarted journalism operations in the US capital of Washington on
Friday, unfreezing 50 years of inactivity and marking another step in
the rapprochement between America and the Communist island.

"The agency had a functioning office in Washington from 1959 to 1967,"
even after the US cut diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, one of the
Cuban journalists in the bureau, Diony Sanabria, told AFP.

Its reopening was made possible under a 2014 thaw in relations agreed by
then-US president Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro, which has
already seen the return of each country's embassy operations in the
other two years ago.

Prensa Latina's chief, Luis Enrique Gonzalez, was participating in the
agency's reopening ceremony Friday.

Although the Obama-Castro deal has relaxed tensions dating back to the
Cold War and restored ties, the easing of many American sanctions on
Cuba is dependent on the US Congress.

With the arrival of President Donald Trump in the White House and the
dominance of his Republican party in both houses of the legislature, the
future of the bilateral thaw is seen to be under a cloud of uncertainty.

Source: Cuban state news agency restarts operations in Washington - Continue reading
Cuban plane crashes, kills 8 troops on board, military says

CARAMBOLA, Cuba -- A Cuban military plane crashed into a hillside
Saturday in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on
board, the government said.

Cuba's military said in a statement that the Soviet-made AN-26 took off
from the Playa Baracoa airport outside Havana at 6:38 a.m. and crashed
outside the town of Candelaria about 40 miles away.

Fidel Castro, Cuba's fiery communist leader, dead at 90
The weather was clear and sunny. The military said a special commission
would investigate the cause of the crash. Officials did not immediately
release any further information.

"At about 7 a.m. I was sitting in front of the cafe and I saw an
airplane, which I watched because it looked slow, almost touching the
palm trees," said Regla Maria Gallardo in Carambola, a community in
Artemisa surrounded by mountains. "After a bit I heard what had happened."

Carambola residents watched as ambulances arrived and police and
soldiers blocked the road leading to the accident site.

In November 2010, an AeroCaribbean flight from Santiago to Havana went
down in bad weather as it flew over central Cuba, killing all 68 people
aboard, including 28 foreigners, in the country's deadliest air disaster
in more than two decades. In 1989, a chartered Cubana de Aviacion plane
flying from Havana to Milan, Italy, went down shortly after takeoff,
killing all 126 people on board, as well as at least two dozen on the

Source: Cuban plane crashes, kills 8 troops on board, military says -
CBS News - Continue reading
Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just
launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World
Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the
world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used
as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective
of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or
subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life
expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception
of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or
negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society,
the level of democracy and the level of income per household.

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup's
global survey. For example, the "life's staircase" question: "imagine a
staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top).
The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the
base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are
currently at right now?"

"Social support" means having someone that you can rely on during times
of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a
charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or
negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of
the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or
pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry,
sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the
other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness
such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed
by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New
Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin
American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico
(25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included
155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their
position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone,
whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for
Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on
Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the "staircase
of life" was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just
behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer "where is the
staircase to even begin to climb it?"

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of
social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third
worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of
democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China,
Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies
in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive
feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied
the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America,
with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal
frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100%
reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is
very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental
comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to
our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively
compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having
access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone
living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers
that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness
index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are
growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades,
emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual
initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or
allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections.
At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must
have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator's note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided
by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate.

Source: Happiness / Somos+ – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Eleven Minutes of Horror: Stray Animals in Cuba
April 29, 2017
Veronica Vega

HAVANA TIMES — "Natural Selection" is a documentary which shows, in only
eleven minutes and a succession of visual cuts, the current landscape
for stray animals in Cuba.

Filmed in May 2016, it was officially shown on April 7th this year at
the Cine Chaplin, during Havana's Young Filmmakers' Festival, where it
received a side prize: the creativity grant awarded by the Ludwig
Foundation in Cuba.

"Natural Selection" has traveled the world in the year that it was
absent from Cuban screens. It was presented at the Ethnografilm Festival
in Paris, at the LA CineFest (Los Angeles) where it was a semi-finalist,
at America's Rainbow Film Festival, in New York, at the Indie Wise Free
Virtual Festival…

The film's director, Cynthia Cazanas Garin is a fourth year student at
the Facultad Arte de los Medios de Comunicación Audiovisual (FAMCA),
where she specializes in Direction of Photography for films and TV. At
just 21 years old and with a radiant face, she states that her target
audience has always been the Cuban audience.

I don't know what we're turning into
HT: What motivated you to make this documentary?

Cynthia Cazanas Garin: My dad is an animal protector, and it was through
him that I began to learn a little about this subject: that there is a
dog catching program, what the situation is with stray animals, the need
to create an Animal Protection Law… And when I began to research what
the current landscape is here in Cuba, that's what made me decide to
make this documentary, and I did it with the objective to help in some way.

HT: How long did it take you to gather all the information that appears
in the documentary?

CCG: About three months. Filming as such only took a month and then, of
course, there's the time you need for post-production, but the most
difficult thing was getting film permits to shoot at the Dog Catcher's
and at the Public Health Ministry.

HT: Was that the greatest challenge?

CCG: Yes, coming up with a strategy that would allow me to bring my
camera into a place such as the Dog Catcher's, where filming is strictly
forbidden, to get an interview with one of its managers… always with a
letter from my school, which allowed me to prove that it was an
educational project.

I came to think that I wouldn't be able to pull it off, but my parents
and my grandmother supported me so much, with funding the project and
also emotionally. Another of the bigger challenges I faced was working
with such little technical equipment; there was only one guy who helped
me film the shots on the street and with editing, but most of it was
directed by me: editing, photography, production, sound… everything. The
greatest risk I had was that it wouldn't be the documentary I wanted to
make, that it would be something else, because I dared to choose a very
difficult subject matter for my final exam and I didn't have a lot of
time. I could have even failed the year.

I also received a lot of support from my professors. The Dean in my
Faculty was always advising me, asking if I was clear about what I
wanted because it's a subject which isn't seen in Cuban film, and that's
what made my documentary even more necessary. If you do a survey with
people on the street right now, many don't know what the Dog Catcher is;
there are even a lot of myths.

HT: One of these myths is that the dogs they catch are thrown to the
lions at the Zoo.

CCG: Yes, people constantly say this and that's because there isn't any
infomration, and that was one of the things that helped me convince them.

HT: Is it true that strychnine injections cause animals to convulse for
45 minutes?

CCG: The person I interviewed didn't explain anything about this, the
only thing he said was: strychnine. Just like you see in the
documentary, they have very few resources and I think that the
government should support them, finding a way for animals to die in the
least painful way possible, which would be euthanasia, according to
Animal Wellbeing laws. Even though the solution isn't to kill them, but
to sterilize them, to create mass campaigns and especially an Animal
Protection Law, because there are things outside of the Dog Catcher's
control such as dog fighting, for example. This law has to be created
and a different conscience needs to be promoted when it comes to
animals, creating a culture of responsible ownership.

HT: Now that you mention dog fighting, there's a fight which appears in
the documentary and it's one of the most violent scenes, did you take it
from another documentary?

CCG: Yes, from the short film "Por amor", which isn't very well-known.
The girl who made it has left Cuba now, it wasn't even shown, and it's
almost unedited. The title is ironic, from the dog's point of view, it's
his loyalty, how he is able to die for his owner. The director gave me
the rights to use this scene because it's very difficult to attend a dog
fight, as it is an illegal activity to some point. And I say "to some
point" because there is no law in Cuba which stops you from fighting
your dog, and that's one of the things we are strugling for. What you
can't do is bet.

HT: Why the title "Natural Selection"?

CCG: The title refers to Charles Darwin's theory, but you can look at it
from two angles: from the animals' point of view, their everyday
struggle to survive, and also from people's points of view. As people
are becoming more and more insensitive, ignoring animal rights, not
thinking that they are living beings and how their attitude has
contributed to creating an uncivilized society. According to Darwin's
theory, natural selections is a form of evolution but from the point of
view of civilization, it is rather a regression.

HT: How did you hope it would be received?

CCG: I always knew, and my professors always warned me: that my
documentary was going to be very shocking, because it's a very complex
issue and because of the way I have dealt with it. I decided to put in
the scenes of cruelty because they were necessary, and I always hoped
that people would take it this way because this is reality. I wanted it
to reach them, to really move them. I have seen people who haven't
wanted to continue watching, who cry, who leave the cinema… a lot of
times, but I don't need to change these people's mentality. I need those
who stay in the cinema, those who feel nothing for animals, who don't
like them, who have never even thought about the significance that abuse
they have suffered has, while they can suffer. That was always my hope.

HT: Where has it been screened the most?

CCG: After being shown at the Chaplin, it was screened at the Academia
Dante Alighieri, where a conference about Cuban and Italian animals was
held, which had been organized by members of the Veterinary Science
Council, and it was the subject of their debate. According to what I've
been told, it's also been shown at the Veterinary School. And I think
that's great, because it's important that young people who are studying
to become veterinarians know what is happening, that they aren't fooled.
That they know jsut how important their job is when it comes to animals'

HT: Why did it take a year for it to be officially shown in Cuba?

CCG: I don't know. They never told me that it was censored, I was even
interviewed for national TV but the interview never came out, they never
put the documentary on either. I sent it to the Havana Film Festival and
they told me that they had too many projects. Thanks to the Young
Filmmaker's Festival, it was finally able to be shown in Cuba.

HT: Why did you choose to study film?

CCG: In my opinion, film is what unites all the art forms and my
connection with it is very strong. It allows you to express your inner
thoughts, your subjectivity. It allows you to dream, to fly… But it is
also a very powerful weapon which transmits and controls information.
And I believe that it can be used for the good of society, of human
beings and living beings in general.

HT: So you believe that it being one of the most popular mediums, can
contribute to the regeneration of society?

CCG: It can always contribute, in a positive or negative manner. In my
case, I want to use my knowledge to change people's mentalities towards
a new society where human values are restored. I believe that this is my
duty with film. To fight for the dreams which still haven't been made

HT: "Natural Selection" is very hard-hitting, but it ends with a glimpse
of hope. Is this just a film technique or do you really believe this
hope exists?

CCG: I wanted it to be a blow to those who are responsible for making
this hope a reality, let's say the government, I wanted them to see it
and ask themselves, what is this? What kind of society are we building?
Everything that is depicted in this documentary is wrong, something
which needs to be urgently changed. Hope doesn't really lie in the
documentary; it lies in the viewer, when they finish watching it.

HT: Do you think passing an Animal Protection Law in Cuba is viable?

CCG: Viable? I don't know. All I know is that it's crucial. But, three
draft bills have been made and they haven't led to anything, why? And
these haven't been proposals that the Cuban people have suggested, but
they have rather come from experts who have studied this phenomenon, who
have presented the facts. What else does the government need? I hope
that this Law will be approved at some point; it's what I most want.

HT: Do you know a lot of young people who are concerned about the animal
situation in Cuba?

CCG: No. I think there are very few people who are concerned about this,
and not only this, but about Nature on the whole. There isn't a lot of
culture here of looking after the environment, I believe we need to work
more on this, educate… everything starts with education. If you walk
down the street, you'll see that the first people to throw some trash
onto the ground or abuse an animal are adults, and next to them you see
children, young people. This behavior is then reflected in their own
lives. I can't say that there isn't anybody who worries about this, at
my school, for example, I see some people but, how many? 3, 4, 5? What
are 4 or 5 people when we are millions? This really distresses me
because I don't know where this will end. I don't know what we're
turning into.

HT: Do you believe that Cuban youth worry about the future of our country?

CCG: I don't believe they are that interested. I wish they were! There
are a lot of university projects which are led by professors, and I
would like these to be led by the students themselves. That students
themselves come together and say: "Let's make an eco-friendly group", or
"Let's create an animal protection project", but this interest, when it
exists, I don't find it among young people. I know a group of ecologists
made up of young people and I am very happy to know they exist because
they are an example of the few people who worry about this, if only more
people would join, but they don't receive any support either, they don't
have the means to promote their work. I believe that every individual
can contribute in their own way, with what they know.

HT: What do you see young people interested in?

CCG: I think they live the day to day, the present. That's what I see:
that they are a little unmotivated. They study and then they work in
something else, they don't follow what they want, they don't follow
their dreams, and although we have all the problems we have in society,
you can never lose the motivation to live, you have to fight for what
you want. What you want won't turn up and knock on your door to say:
"I'm here," you have to go out and look for what you want. What's the
worst that will happen, that you don't get it? At least you tried, and
you also enjoy that experience. I tried to make this documentary a lot
of times, that is to say, to get the permits I needed. However, all the
doors closed in my face but I kept on trying, until I managed to get
what it was that I wanted. You can never try hard enough.

HT: What are your future plans?

CCG: To use this creativity grant from the Ludwig Foundation to make a
new documentary that will also be about animals because there were a lot
of things that I couldn't include in this one. I have also thought about
doing something related to animation photography, for my thesis. My
future plans are somewhat overaching… I want to continue to do what I'm
doing, to continue making films that benefit people, to change what I
feel needs to change.

Watch Natural Selection with subtitles in English.

Source: Eleven Minutes of Horror: Stray Animals in Cuba - Havana - Continue reading
Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of
corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its
emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its
diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic
system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, it
remained in the Republic, and became generalized until becoming the
predominant behavior in society.

To understand the regression suffered we must return to the formation of
our morality, essentially during the mixing of Hispanic and African
cultures and the turning towards totalitarianism after 1959, as can be
seen in the following lines.

The conversion of the island into the world's first sugar and coffee
power created many contradictions between slaves and slave owners,
blacks and whites, producers and merchants, Spanish-born and Creole, and
between them and the metropolis. From these contradictions came three
moral aspects: the utilitarian, the civic and that of survival.

Utilitarian morality

The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), said that
utility is measured by the consequences that actions tend to produce,
and came to the conclusion that all action is socially good when it
tries to procure the greatest possible degree of happiness for the
greatest number of people, and that each person has the right to be
taken into account in the exercise of power.

That thesis of Bentham became a popular slogan synthesized in the
phrase: "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Such a concept
crystallized in Cuba as a creole variant of a utilitarianism that took
shape in exploitation, smuggling, corruption, banditry, and criminality,
which turned into the violation of everything predisposed as an accepted
norm of conduct in society.

The gift of a plant by the sugar planters to the governor Don Luis de
las Casas; the diversion of funds for the construction of Fortaleza de
la Real Fuerza de la Cabaña, which made it the most expensive fortress
in the world; the gambling house and the cockfighting ring that the
governor Francisco Dionisio Vives had for his recreation in the Castillo
de la Real Fuerza, whose government was known for "the three d's":
dancing, decks of cards, and drinking, for which reason, at the end of
his rule, there appeared a lampoon that said: "If you live (vives) like
Vives, you will live!"; the mangrove groves; bandits like Caniquí, the
black man of Trinidad and Juan Fernandez, the blond of Port-au-Prince …
are some examples.

Utilitarianism reappeared on the republican scene as a discourse of a
political, economic, and military elite lacking in democratic culture,
swollen with personalismo, caudillismo, corruption, violence and
ignorance of anything different. A masterful portrait of this morality
was drawn by Carlos Loveira in his novel Generales y doctores, a side
that resurfaced in the second half of the twentieth century.

Thus emerged the Republic, built on the symbiosis of planters and
politicians linked to foreign interests, with a weak civil society and
with unresolved, deep-rooted problems, as they were the concentration of
agrarian property and the exclusion of black people. The coexistence of
different moral behaviors in the same social environment led to the
symbiosis of their features. Utilitarianism crisscrossed with virtues
and altruisms, concerns and activities on matters more transcendent than
boxes of sugar and sacks of coffee.

Throughout the twentieth century, these and other factors were present
in the Protest of the 13, in the Revolution of the 30, in the repeal of
the Platt Amendment, in the Constituent Assembly of 1939, and in the
Constitution of 1940. Also in the corruption which prevailed during the
authentic governments and in the improvement accomplished by the
Orthodox Dissent and the Society of Friends of the Republic. Likewise,
in the 1952 coup d'etat and in the Moncada attempted counter-coup, in
the civic and armed struggle that triumphed in 1959 and in those who
since then and until now struggle for the restoration of human rights.

Civic morality

Civic morality, the cradle of ethical values, was a manifestation of
minorities, shaped by figures ranging from Bishop Espada, through Jose
Agustín Caballero to the teachings of Father Felix Varela and the
republic "With all and for the good of all" of José Martí. This civic
aspect became the foundation of the nation and source of Cuban identity.
It included concern for the destinies of the local land, the country,
and the nation. It was forged in institutions such as the Seminary of
San Carlos, El Salvador College, in Our Lady of the Desamparados, and
contributed to the promotion of the independence proclamations of the
second half of the nineteenth century, as well as the projects of nation
and republic.

Father Félix Varela understood that civic formation was a premise for
achieving independence and, consequently, chose education as a path to
liberation. In 1821, when he inaugurated the Constitutional Chair at the
Seminary of San Carlos, he described it as "a chair of freedom, of human
rights, of national guarantees … a source of civic virtues, the basis of
the great edifice of our happiness, the one that has for the first time
reconciled for us the law with philosophy."

José de la Luz y Caballero came to the conclusion that "before the
revolution and independence, there was education." Men, rather than
academics, he said, is the necessity of the age. And Jose Marti began
with a critical study of the errors of the War of 1868 that revealed
negative factors such as immediacy, caudillismo, and selfishness,
closely related to weak civic formation.

This work was continued by several generations of Cuban educators and
thinkers until the first half of the twentieth century. Despite these
efforts, a general civic behavior was not achieved. We can find proof of
this affirmation in texts like the Journal of the soldier, by Fermín
Valdés Domínguez, and the Public Life of Martín Morúa Delgado, by Rufino
Perez Landa.

During the Republic, the civic aspect was taken up by minorities.
However, in the second half of the twentieth century their supposed
heirs, once in power, slipped into totalitarianism, reducing the Western
base of our institutions to the minimum expression, and with it the
discourse and practice of respect for human rights.

Survival morality

Survival morality emerged from continued frustrations, exclusions, and
the high price paid for freedom, opportunities, and participation. In
the Colony it had its manifestations in the running away and
insurrections of slaves and poor peasants. During the second half of the
twentieth century it took shape in the lack of interest in work, one of
whose expressions is the popular phrase: "Here there is nothing to die for."

It manifested itself in the simulation of tasks that were not actually
performed, as well as in the search for alternative ways to survive.
Today's Cuban, reduced to survival, does not respond with heroism but
with concrete and immediate actions to survive. And this is manifested
throughout the national territory, in management positions, and in all
productive activities or services.

It is present in the clandestine sale of medicines, in the loss of
packages sent by mail, in the passing of students in exchange for money,
in falsification of documents, in neglect of the sick (as happened with
mental patients who died in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana of
hypothermia in January 2010, where 26 people died according to official
data), in establishments where merchandise is sold, in the workshops
that provide services to the population, in the sale of fuel "on the
left" and in the diversion of resources destined for any objective.

The main source of supply of the materials used is diversion, theft, and
robbery, while the verbs "escape", "fight" and "solve" designate actions
aimed at acquiring what is necessary to survive. Seeing little value in
work, the survivor responded with alternative activities. Seeing the
impossibility of owning businesses, with the estaticular way (activities
carried out by workers for their own benefit in State centers and with
State-owned materials). Seeing the absence of civil society, with the
underground life. Seeing shortages, with the robbery of the State.
Seeing the closing of all possibilities, with escape to any other part
of the world.

Immersed in this situation, the changes that are being implemented in
Cuba, under the label of Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the
PCC, run into the worst situation regarding moral behavior. In this,
unlike in previous times, everyone from high leaders to simple workers
participates. A phenomenon of such a dimension that, despite its
secrecy, has had to be tackled by the official press itself, as can be
seen in the following examples of a whole decade:

The newspaper Juventud Rebelde on May 22, 2001 published an article
titled "Solutions against deception", where it is said that Eduardo, one
of the thousands of inspectors, states that when he puts a crime in
evidence, the offenders come to tell him: "You have to live, you have to
fight." According to Eduardo, neither can explain "the twist of those
who bother when they are going to claim their rights and instead defend
their own perpetrator." It results in the perpetrator declaring that he
is fighting and the victims defending him. The selfless inspector,
thinking that when he proves the violation he has won "the battle," is
wrong. Repressive actions, without attacking the causes, are doomed to
- The same newspaper published "The big old fraud", reporting that of
222,656 inspections carried out between January and August 2005, price
violations and alterations in product standards were detected in 52% of
the centers examined and in the case of agricultural markets in 68%.
- For its part, the newspaper Granma on November 28, 2003, in "Price
Violations and the Never Ending Battle" reported that in the first eight
months of the year, irregularities were found in 36% of the
establishments inspected; that in markets, fairs, squares, and
agricultural points of sale the index was above 47%, and in gastronomy 50%.
- On February 16, 2007, under the title "Cannibals in the Towers", the
official organ of the Communist Party addressed the theft of angles
supporting high-voltage electricity transmission networks, and it was
recognized that "technical, administrative and legal practices applied
so far have not stopped the banditry. "
- Also, on October 26, 2010, in "The Price of Indolence", reported that
in the municipality of Corralillo, Villa Clara, more than 300 homes were
built with stolen materials and resources, for which 25 kilometers of
railway lines were dismantled and 59 angles of the above-mentioned high
voltage towers were used.

If the official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde had addressed the
close relationship between corruption and almost absolute state
ownership, with which no one can live off the salary, with which
citizens are prevented from being entrepreneurs, and with the lack of
the most elementary civic rights, then they would have understood that
repression alone is useless, that the vigilantes, policemen, and
inspectors are Cubans with the same needs as the rest of the population.

In order to change the course of events, it is necessary to extend the
changes in the economy to the rest of the social spheres, which implies
looking back at citizens' lost liberties, without which the formation
and predominance of civic behavior that the present and future of Cuba
require will be impossible.

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

In Cuba, the state of ethics – a system composed of principles,
precepts, behavior patterns, values and ideals that characterize a human
collective – is depressing; While politics – a vehicle for moving from
the desired to the possible and the possible to the real – is
monopolized by the state. The depressing situation of one and the
monopoly of the other, are closely related to the issue of corruption.
Therefore, its solution will be impossible without undertaking deep
structural transformations.

The great challenge of today's and tomorrow's Cuba lies in transforming
Cubans into citizens, into political actors. A transformation that has
its starting point in freedoms, beginning with the implementation of
civil and political rights. As the most immediate cause of corruption –
not the only one – is in the dismantling of civil society and in the
nationalization of property that took place in Cuba in the early years
of revolutionary power, it is necessary to act on this cause from
different directions.

The wave of expropriations that began with foreign companies, continued
with the national companies, and did not stop until the last fried-food
stand became "property of the whole people", combined with the
dismantling of civil society and the monopolization of politics, brought
as a consequence a lack of interest in the results of work, low
productivity, and the sharp deterioration suffered with the decrease of
wages and pensions. Added to these facts were others such as the
replacement of tens of thousands of owners by managers and
administrators without knowledge of the ABCs of administration or of the
laws that govern economic processes.

The result could not be otherwise: work ceased to be the main source of
income for Cubans. To transform this deplorable situation requires a
cultural action, which, in the words of Paulo Freire, is always a
systematic and deliberate form of action that affects the social
structure, in the sense of maintaining it as it is, to test small
changes in it or transform it.

Paraphrasing the concept of affirmative action, this cultural action is
equivalent to those that are made for the insertion and development of
relegated social sectors. Its concretion includes two simultaneous and
interrelated processes: one, citizen empowerment, which includes the
implementation of rights and freedoms; and two, the changes inside the
person, which unlike the former are unfeasible in the short term, but
without which the rest of the changes would be of little use. The
transformation of Cubans into public citizens, into political actors, is
a challenge as complex as it is inescapable.

Experience, endorsed by the social sciences, teaches that interest is an
irreplaceable engine for achieving goals. In the case of the economy,
ownership over the means of production and the amount of wages
decisively influence the interests of producers. Real wages must be at
least sufficient for the subsistence of workers and their families. The
minimum wage allows subsistence, while incomes below that limit mark the
poverty line. Since 1989, when a Cuban peso was equivalent to almost
nine of today's peso, the wage growth rate began to be lower than the
increase in prices, meaning that purchasing power has decreased to the
point that it is insufficient to survive.

An analysis carried out in two family nuclei composed of two and three
people respectively, in the year 2014, showed that the first one earns
800 pesos monthly and spends 2,391, almost three times more than the
income. The other earns 1,976 pesos and spends 4,198, more than double
what it earns. The first survives because of the remittance he receives
from a son living in the United States; the second declined to say how
he made up the difference.

The concurrence of the failure of the totalitarian model, the aging of
its rulers, the change of attitude that is occurring in Cubans, and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US, offers better
conditions than previous decades to face the challenge. The solution is
not in ideological calls, but in the recognition of the incapacity of
the State and in decentralizing the economy, allowing the formation of a
middle class, unlocking everything that slows the increase of production
until a reform that restores the function of wages is possible. That
will be the best antidote against the leviathan of corruption and an
indispensable premise to overcome the stagnation and corruption in which
Cuban society is submerged.

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to the US
Apr 27, 2017, 10:14 AM ET
Lisette Poole

There are currently more than 20 daily flights from the United States to
Cuba. The 330-mile trip from Miami takes a little over an hour and
helped fill the streets of Cuba with a record number of tourists in 2016.

Although the island nation is evolving to accommodate the growing
tourism, the sense of hope is offset by an increasing economic divide.
For two Havana women, Marta and Liset, their lives did not improve as
they hoped, so they decided to leave.

Photographer Lisette Poole departed with them, documenting the entire
8,000 mile journey as they illegally crossed borders, joined other
groups of migrants and navigated the sometimes treacherous world of
smugglers, border control and jungle paths used by narco-traffickers.

Departing from Havana in May 2016, Liset and Marta were among the last
Cuban immigrants to make it across the U.S. border before the end of the
"Wet Foot, Dry Foot" policy that granted automatic asylum to Cuban
immigrants. In the slideshow below, Poole documented intimate moments of
the arduous journey, while experiencing it first-hand.

Poole has a personal interest in the women's journey as a Cuban-American
herself. Her mother left for the United States in 1969, and Poole grew
up in the U.S. with a constant awareness of the immigration issues that
affected her family.

"Living and working in Cuba, I always imagine what kind of life I would
have had if I'd been born here," Poole said. "I imagine what kind of
person I would be, what my goals would be, and I question whether I'd
have the courage to do what Liset and Marta did."

Marta and Liset's journey began in Havana with a plane ticket and the
name of a human smuggler, known as a coyote, scribbled on a piece of
paper. After flying to Guyana, the two navigated through South and
Central America following routes that many immigrants traveled before
them. Poole departed with them, documenting the complete experience as
Marta and Liset joined groups of other immigrants, illegally crossed
borders and were detained by law enforcement.

The women journeyed on planes and buses, but also traveled many miles by
foot. Their route crossed through Brazil and Peru before heading north
through Colombia. The ever-changing immigrant group then traversed
through the Darien Gap, a roadless jungle swamp on the Panama-Colombia
border, and into Central America.

For Poole, the journey was not without incident. In Costa Rica, Marta
and Liset had a falling out over money. Liset had been funding their
trip and was unable to continue paying for herself as well as Marta.
Liset planned to move ahead and send back money for Marta once she could
gather more funds.

"At the prospect of being left behind Marta was enraged. (She) fought
with Liset and told the men running the stash house that I was a
journalist. I'd been keeping quiet there, it was one of the places I
didn't feel safe having the coyotes know who I was," Poole said.

The stash house was a remote shelter where immigrants were housed along
the migration routes. Poole was able to talk her way out of the
situation and continue on with Liset and other migrants. The two parted
ways with Marta, who would end up joining the next group.

Here she walks for several days without food or water. more +
Poole continued on, photographing the resolve and resourcefulness of
migrants attempting the journey. Her reportage gracefully blurs the line
between straight documentation and personal insight through her experience.

"There was one moment in Nicaragua (after the Costa Rica incident) where
we were without food or water or even sleep for a few days," Poole said.
"I was getting delirious and so was Liset. We helped each other during
that time, and we got through it together."

Poole and Liset crossed the U.S. border into Texas, followed by Marta 12
days later. The two women rekindled their friendship and lived near each
other in Miami before moving around to other places in the U.S. Poole
has since returned to Cuba, but is continuing her work with Liset and
Marta and documenting their new lives.

Poole is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to turn the project into a
photo book styled as a classic travel guide. More information can be
found here.

"I hope that by looking at my work and experiencing the journey of Liset
and Marta, readers would relate to them and be able to put themselves in
their shoes as two people who wanted a better life," Poole said. "There
are significant global issues causing migration and it isn't a matter of
personal choice so much as a consequence of greater forces at play."

Source: 48 Days: Photographer captures 8,000-mile journey from Cuba to
the US - ABC News - Continue reading
Two Cuban Activists From Otro18 Arrested

14ymedio, Havana, 26 April 2017 — Activists Arturo Rojas Rodríguez and
Aida Valdés Santana were arrested at noon on Tuesday as they tried to
reach the Justice Ministry in Havana. The dissidents planned to enter
into the associations register the Citizens Observers of Electoral
Processes (Cope) initiative, one of the branches of the #Otro18 (Another
2018) platform, which pushes for multi-party and democratic elections in
Cuba in 2018.

Rojas, 51, was taken to the Santiago de las Vegas police station and
Valdés, 78, was taken to the Zapata and C Station and then to Aguilera,
where police threatened to prosecute her legally.

The woman was released on Tuesday at about 10 at night, but there is
still no information on the whereabouts of Rojas Rodriguez whose
telephone continues to be out of service.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, speaking on behalf of #Otro 18, told 14ymedio that
"actions of this nature make clear the government's intention to prevent
the free participation of citizens in the next electoral process, thus
opening the way to delegitimizing it."

"The narrative of the government consists in classifying what we do as
counterrevolutionary activities, but we have to assume that the law is
not only for revolutionaries, but for all citizens and precisely because
of this we are within the law," he added.

The #Other18 initiative collects citizen proposals for new electoral
laws, associations and political parties. In addition, at the moment it
is focused on obtaining the nomination of independent candidates for the
next elections for the People's Power.

Source: Two Cuban Activists From #Otro18 Arrested – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Police Raid Rafters' Homes Looking for a Boat Stolen From the Army

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 April 2017 — Cuban police are
searching for a boat stolen from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR)
and to find it they are raiding houses of former rafters, according to
Solainy Salazar, whose husband tried to leave the island several
times. That was the justification given by the authorities, including
several State Security agents, who searched her home on Monday.

"I was resting next to my four-year-old boy when the neighbors called me
and I discovered the officers who were searching my yard," says Salazar
by phone from San Miguel del Padrón in Havana.

"They came into the house and told me they were going to search
everything because they were looking for an inflatable boat and that I
and my husband were accomplices to the theft," she adds.

José Yans Pérez Jomarrón, Salazar's husband, has tried unsuccessfully to
escape from Cuba six times, but has been intercepted by the Cuban Coast
Guard or returned to the authorities of the island by its American
counterparts. On his last voyage he took refuge, with some twenty
Cubans, in a lighthouse 30 kilometers northeast of Key West.

Although most of the rafters managed to be admitted a special program
that gives them the opportunity to be relocated in a third country,
because they were able to demonstrate "credible fear" of being
persecuted in Cuba, for Pérez Jomarrón the outcome was different.

"When I finished my military service they offered me a job with the
Ministry of the Interior (MININT). As an inexperienced boy I agreed and
when the immigration agents in the United States learned that I had once
belonged to that repressive organ, they returned me to Cuba," explains
the rafter-turned-entrepreneur who at the moment is in Guyana looking at
the possibility of some business linked to his commercial activity.

Police and State Security agents accused Solayni Salazar of being an
accomplice in the theft of the boat and described all the members of
her family as antisocial and counterrevolutionary. "They offended me
with their words as much as they wanted and when I threatened them with
filing a complaint they were indifferent, because they know nothing is
going to happen to them," says the wife, age 31.

"They threatened to arrest me. But they never brought the witnesses
(required by law) when they did the search and they never showed me a
court order to enter my home. And they did all this in front of my
little boy," she says.

In addition, she says, she was told that her husband was in Guyana
escaping from the law, an argument that Salazar considers "completely

"I fear for what will happen to my husband when he returns from the
trip. Surely they will try to arrest him or persecute him for a crime he
has not committed," she says.

Salazar believes that the authorities are persecuting her family due to
her husband's multiple attempts to illegally exit the country and
because of his opposition to the government.

"They do not want to give me jobs in state institutions. It's a way to
persecute those who disagree with official politics," says José Yans
from Georgetown via telephone.

The situation is increasingly complex for the Cuban authorities. "Now
not only do we have to pay for a 'crime' we didn't commit but we are
suspected of everything else that happens in the country."

Alfredo Mena, a rafter who tried four times to leave the island, was
also searched last Wednesday.

"They came to my house and broke down the door without a search warrant.
They took me to the police unit and accused me of having stolen a boat
belonging to the FAR (National Revolutionary Police)," says Mena,
nicknamed El Pelú, by the locals.

"The officers who were dealing with me asked me why we wanted to go to
the United States, because there they killed people like us and another
series of lies," he adds.

Mena, 50, a native of Granma province, says he was threatened with being
"deported" to the East, because he resides in Havana without having an
address officially registered in the capital.

Mena was fined 2,000 pesos for the crime of "receiving" for buying
supplies for his work as a welder. Although he swears he is innocent,
those metal parts are an indispensable component in the manufacture of
the makeshift boats used to emigrate.

"Nothing they took had anything to do with the supposed theft of the
boat. The only thing they do with these things is to reaffirm one's
desire to escape from such garbage," he adds.

Source: Police Raid Rafters' Homes Looking for a Boat Stolen From the
Army – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S. Investigation

A Huawei booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, in
February. The widening inquiry in the United States puts Huawei in an
awkward position at a moment when sanctions have taken on new import.
Credit Eric Gaillard/Reuters
HONG KONG — As one of the world's biggest sellers of smartphones and the
back-end equipment that makes cellular networks run, Huawei Technologies
has become one of the major symbols of China's global technology ambitions.

But as it continues its rise, its business with some countries has
fallen under growing scrutiny from investigators in the United States.

American officials are widening their investigation into whether Huawei
broke American trade controls on Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, according
to an administrative subpoena sent to Huawei and reviewed by The New
York Times. The previously unreported subpoena was issued in December by
the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets
Control, which oversees compliance with a number of American sanctions

The Treasury's inquiry follows a subpoena sent to Huawei last summer
from the United States Department of Commerce, which carries out
sanctions and also oversees exports of technology that can have military
as well as civilian uses.

Huawei has not been accused of wrongdoing. As an administrative
subpoena, the Treasury document does not indicate that the Chinese
company is part of a criminal investigation.

Still, the widening inquiry puts Huawei in an awkward position at a
moment when sanctions have taken on new import. The Trump administration
has been working to push China to cut back its trade, and in turn
economic support, for North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North's
nuclear and missile programs. The growing investigation also comes after
Huawei's smaller domestic rival, ZTE, in March pleaded guilty to
breaking sanctions and was fined $1.19 billion.

It is not clear why the Treasury Department became involved with the
Huawei investigation. But its subpoena suggests Huawei might also be
suspected of violating American embargoes that broadly restrict the
export of American goods to countries like Iran and Syria.

"The most likely thing happening here is that Commerce figured out there
was more to this than dual-use commodities, and they decided to notify
Treasury," said Matthew Brazil, a former United States commercial
officer in Beijing and founder of the Silicon Valley security firm
Madeira Consulting.

Huawei said in a statement that it "has adhered to international
conventions and all applicable laws and regulations where it operates."
The company would not comment on the specifics of the investigation but
said it had a "robust trade compliance program."

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Still, by its own admission, the company has at times struggled with
corporate governance. In a rare 2015 media appearance, Ren Zhengfei,
Huawei's founder, said that 4,000 to 5,000 employees had admitted to
various improprieties as part of a "confess for leniency" program the
company set up in 2014.

"The biggest enemy we've run into isn't other people," he said at the
time. "It's ourselves."

A Treasury spokeswoman declined to comment on whether it was conducting
an investigation. A Commerce Department spokesman also declined to comment.

Huawei plays an important strategic role for China. The company is often
a part of Chinese overseas trade delegations and investment deals in
emerging markets like South America and Africa. As a major spender on
research and development, it is also a crucial part of Chinese
industrial policies aimed at building up domestic technological

It has also turned itself into an increasingly recognized smartphone
brand. In the fourth quarter of 2016, Huawei was the third-largest
smartphone maker in the world, with a global market share of about 10

The subpoena, which was sent to Huawei's Texas offices in the Dallas
suburb of Plano, called for the company to describe technology and
services provided to Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria over the past five
years. It also called for the identity of individuals who played a part
in those transactions. North Korea, which was named in the Commerce
Department subpoena issued last year, was not named in the Treasury
Department subpoena.

The scrutiny of Huawei shows the increased importance both the United
States and China are putting on the technology industry. Earlier this
year a Pentagon report distributed at the top levels of the Trump
administration indicated Chinese flows of investment into American
start-ups were a new cause for concern.

The American authorities have jurisdiction over the trade of companies
like Huawei and ZTE when those companies sell equipment made by or
featuring components from American companies. If Huawei is deemed to
have violated American laws, it could have its access to American
electronic components cut off. Given the company's size — it is one of
the two largest cellular phone equipment makers in the world — that
could have an effect on the expansion of mobile networks around the globe.

When the Department of Commerce first announced its investigation into
ZTE, it released a document in which ZTE executives mapped out a plan
for how to get around American export controls. The document said the
strategy came from a company that ZTE labeled with the code name F7,
which The New York Times reported closely resembled Huawei.

Earlier this month 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the Commerce
Department demanding that F7 be publicly identified and fully investigated.

"We strongly support holding F7 accountable should the government
conclude that unlawful behavior occurred," read a part of the letter.

Source: Huawei, Chinese Technology Giant, Is Focus of Widening U.S.
Investigation - The New York Times - Continue reading
Scots pair delivering Cuba's first major renewables project
Written by Reporter - 27/04/2017 8:18 am

Two Scots, including the head of the biggest manufacturer of Harris
Tweed, are helping deliver Cuba's first major renewables project.

A ground-breaking ceremony at Ciro Redondo sugar mill today will herald
the start of construction on one of four planned biomass power plants
which will add 300 megawatts to the country's power grid.

Generating electricity partly from residues of its sugar crop, the
£500million scheme is seen as vital to reducing Cuba's reliance on oil
imports from Venezuela.

Former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson chaired Havana Energy after being
asked by the Cuban government to help find a solution to their energy
needs. The company secured a joint venture with the Cuban sugar ministry
in 2012 to build the plants and found technical and investment partners
in the Chinese conglomerate Shanghai Electric.

The joint venture, Biopower Ltd, will be headed by Havana-based Scot,
Andrew MacDonald, who also has a home in South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides.

Mr MacDonald said: "The fact that we are now delivering the first of
these power stations should give other investors confidence in the
potential to do business, particularly at a time when change is in the
offing and opportunities are many and varied."

Mr Wilson, a UK Business Ambassador and chairman of Harris Tweed
Hebrides, said progress on the project had been "a long haul made
infinitely more difficult by the American blockade."

He added: "Without Andrew's presence on the ground and his utter
commitment to overcoming obstacles, we would never have reached this point.

"There is still the challenge of funding subsequent plants but the first
one was always going to be the most difficult."

In addition to residues of the sugar crop, power will be generated by
burning an invasive weed called marabou.

Source: Energy Voice | Scots pair delivering Cuba's first major
renewables project - News for the Oil and Gas Sector - Continue reading
Names and Brands / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Dámaso, 29 October 2016 — Creating a brand name respected
around the world requires resources, effort and time. In the colonial
and republican eras certain Havana names became famous established
brands over time.

Among retail department stores there were El Encanto, Fin de Siglo, La
Epoca, La Opera, Filosofia, Sanchez Mola and Los Precios Fijos. Stores
specializing in jewelry, fine china, and luxury giftware included Le
Trianon, Riviera and Cuervo y Sobrino.

Confectioners included Potín, La Gran Vía, and Sylvain. Restaurants and
cafes included La Zaragozana, El Castillo de Farnes, Floridita, El
Emperador, Monseñor, El Castillo de Jagua, and Rancho Luna.

If other types of retailers are included, the list becomes almost
endless. This was the case throughout the entire island.

Brands also repeated the phenomenon: Bacardí. Arechabala, Hatuey,
Cristal, Tropical, Polar, Pilón, Regil, Jon Chí, Tío Ben, Bola Roja, El
Miño, Nalón, Escudo, Catedral, Guarina, Hatuey, Regalías El Cuño,
Partagás, H. Hupman, Competidora Gaditana, Trinidad, and many more.

Beginning in 1959 the new authorities changed the names and the brands,
and allowed years of resources and serious work by many Cubans to be
lost. It was a suicidal commercial policy, replacing established names
and brands with absurd numbers and generic names.

So appeared the markets A-14, S-34, M-67, and others; cigarettes were
all Popular or Soft; soaps were Nácar; soft drinks and deodorant were
Son; cologne, shampoo, and other products were Fiesta.

Gone were the labels and containers that differentiated one brand from
another, although they were made in different places. Names and brands
to defend or to answer for ceased to exist, losing quality.

This still happens with some products, the most representative example
being matches: they are called Chispa, although their producers are
different and they are located in different provinces. Many beers, with
different brand names, are produced in a factory in Holguín, closing the
existing factories in Havana.

With the slow entry into the world market, some names and brands have
been rescued and other new ones have been created.

As for commerce, the laurels go to the Historian of the City, who has
restored the original names to many business of the historic district,
although with some liberties regarding their locations: Cuervo and
Sobrinos were in Águila and San Rafael and not in Oficios and Muralla,
where they are located now. But hey, not everything can be perfect. The
effort should be appreciated.

Hopefully the new private businesses being built on the sites of old
shops will imitate him. Maybe this way in Havana and in other places in
Cuba the lost historic continuity will be restored.

Source: Names and Brands / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head
or torture him with electric prods. Let's call him Josué. (The names in
his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made
jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a
diehard fan of LeBron James.

He used to work at a gasoline station. One day earned the equivalent of
fifty dollars, enough to have some beers at a Havana bar with his
buddies. "One of my friends was an opponent of the regime and two were
independent journalists," says Josué. "That wasn't a problem for me. I
had known them for years and they were decent, trustworthy people. We
talked politics but, when we just hanging out, we usually talked about
sports or our daily lives," says Josué.

One morning two officials from the Department of State Security (DSE),
dressed as civilians and riding motorcycles, showed up at his door.
"They wanted to 'have a friendly chat' with me. They asked if I would
collaborate with them, if I would pass on information about my dissident
friends. When I refused, they threatened to charge me with embezzling
state funds."

"'We know you are stealing gasoline,' they said. 'Either you work for us
or we'll press charges.' At first, I went along with it but only passed
along false information or said that my friends didn't tell me anything
about their work activities. Then they suggested I infiltrate the
dissident movement. I refused. In the end I quit my job at the gas
station. So now they hassle me constantly and come up with any excuse to
arrest and detain me at the police station," say Josué.

For Sheila, an engineer, the modus operandi is familiar: "First, they
tried to blackmail me, accusing me of having an extra-marital affair
with a dissident. When I told them, 'Go ahead; do it,' they changed
tactics and said they were going to charge me with harassment of
foreigners and prostitution because I have a European boyfriend."

One of the objectives of Cuban special services is to "short-circuit"
the connections that so many of the regime's opponents, such as
independent journalists, have with official sources. "They are in a
panic over the possibility that dissidents and independent journalists
are building bridges and establishing networks of trust with employees
and officials at important state institutions. That's why they are
trying to poison the relationships dissidents and journalists have with
relatives, friends and neighbors," claims an academic who has received
warnings from the DSE.

According to this academic, "The DSE will use whatever weapon it can to
achieve its goals. These include blackmail, psychological pressure, a
person's commitment to the party and the Revolution, and threats of
imprisonment for criminal activity, which is not uncommon given that
some potential informants work in the financial or service sector and
often make money by defrauding the government. State Security does not
need to torture its informants. A system of duplicity, widespread
corruption and fear of reprisal are enough to accomplish the objective:
to isolate the opponent from his circle of friends."

Yusdel, an unlicensed bodyshop repairman, recalls how one day an
agent from State Security told him, "If you want to keep your business,
you have to inform on your stepfather," a human rights activist.
"They're pigs," says Yusdel. "It doesn't matter to them if you betray
one of your relatives. If you refuse, you are besieged by the police."

For Carlos jail is a second home. "Once, when I was a serving time at
Combinado del Este prison, a guard asked me to intimidate another
inmate, who was a dissident. 'Punch him, do whatever it takes. Nothing
will happen to you.' In exchange for this, they were going to give me
weekend passes. I said I wouldn't do it. But there are common criminals
who are all too willing to do this shit," says Carlos.

The pressure to become a "snitch" is greater when a government opponent
or an alternative journalist is inexperienced. Because the dissident
community is made up of groups of pacifists and because it operates
openly, it is easy for counterintelligence to infiltrate it and
blackmail dissidents, who can easily break down or crack under
psychological pressure.

With eighteen years' experience in the free press, a colleague who has
known fake independent journalists such as the late Nestor Baguer and
Carlos Serpa Maceira says that ultimately they became informants
"because of pressure exerted on them by State Security."

A professor of history who has been subjected to bullying by an agent
believes, "The revolutionary/counterrevolutionary rhetoric was inspiring
in the first few years after Fidel Castro came to power, when those who
supported the revolutionary process were in the majority. Now, those who
collaborate do not do it out of loyalty or ideology. They do it out of
fear. And that makes them vulnerable and unreliable citizens. Not to
mention that the professionalism of the current DSE officers leaves much
to be desired. Some agents seem marginal and very intellectually unstable."

To achieve its objective, Cuban counterintelligence resorts to extortion
of would-be informants. And in the case of the opposition, to physical
violence. If you have any doubts, just ask the Ladies in White.

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Former CIA Operative Argues Lee Harvey Oswald's Cuba Connections Went Deep
Olivia B. Waxman
Apr 25, 2017

After Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy shortly after
noon on Nov. 22, 1963, things moved quickly. About an hour later, Oswald
fatally shot Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. Thirty minutes after
that, police found Oswald and arrested him. Two days later, on Nov. 24,
Jack Ruby shot Oswald. And just a day after the assassination, FBI
Director J. Edgar Hoover had already expressed his preliminary finding
that Oswald had acted alone.
The full Warren Commission report would later back up that finding — but
more than a half-century later, polls have found that most Americans are
not convinced of that fact.
That's why former CIA operative Bob Baer launched an investigation into
the declassified government files on the case. As the above clip shows,
on his six-part series JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald — debuting
Tuesday night on the History channel — Baer (seen in the clip above with
former LAPD police lieutenant Adam Bercovici) attempts to demystify the
link between Oswald and Cuban and Soviet operatives. It's no secret
that, for example, Oswald went to a meeting at the Soviet embassy in
Mexico eight weeks before he assassinated JFK, or that he tried to
defect to the Soviet Union in 1959. But Baer pursues those leads, and
further investigates Oswald's connections to the Cuban dissident group
Alpha 66, which had been infiltrated by Cuban intelligence officials who
were reporting their activities back to Fidel Castro's government. His
conclusion is that, while Oswald acted alone when he fired the bullets
that killed the President, his connections to Cuban and Soviet officials
were deeper than is often assumed.
Ahead of the debut of his series, Baer spoke to TIME about why Oswald
could have wanted to work with the Soviets and Cubans:
TIME: Why did you start looking into declassified government files on
Lee Harvey Oswald?
BAER: I went through CIA files on it when I was working there, and there
was Cuban-related stuff that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
When I got into the CIA, George H.W. Bush signed a release [of files] to
me, and the archives came back and said they couldn't find [the files I
requested] anymore. Documents on it that shouldn't have disappeared had
disappeared. So that raised an alarm bell. But what really got me into
it was meeting a defector from Cuba and one of the best agents the CIA
has ever had. He said that on the 22nd of November 1963, four hours
before the assassination, he was at an intelligence site in Havana when
he got a call from Castro's office, saying, "Turn all of your listening
ability to high frequency communications out of Dallas because
something's going to happen there."
What are the biggest revelations in the documentary?
Our hypothesis was that the Cubans knew [about Oswald's plan] in
advance. We have eyewitnesses putting Oswald with Cuban intelligence in
Mexico City. And the last people that Oswald was hanging out with before
the assassination were Alpha 66. I do believe that, after the
assassination, Oswald was heading for a safe house that was owned by
Alpha 66. Now, according to the FBI, CIA and Cuban intelligence sources
we talked to, in November 1963, info about anything that Alpha 66 did in
the U.S. was sent back to Cuba. So if, in fact, Oswald told Alpha 66 he
was going to kill the president — and we do have witnesses saying he
told them this — then Castro knew. And the borders were all shut down at
that point, so our assumption is he was going to this Cuban safe house,
where he had been before. Whether the Cuban dissidents of Alpha 66 knew
he was coming or not, we don't know.

But I do not think that [Castro] furthered the plot. I think the Cuban
dissidents reporting back to Havana informed him that there's this
American, Lee Harvey Oswald, who says he's going to kill the president.
The fact that this stuff has never been looked into I find extraordinary.
Why didn't they?
The Warren Commission did mention it, but they just said that it was a
coincidence that he met with the KGB's head of assassinations for North
America in Mexico City. They didn't look into how peculiar it is for an
American, on a weekend, to meet with three KGB officers during their
time off. The Warren Commission said he only went to the Cuban consulate
in Mexico City and met a local employee. But I believe his Cuban
connections are much deeper than the Warren Commission shows. I think
[the commission] just didn't want to make that public. Johnson told the
FBI that if they can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Russians
and the Cubans were involved in this, then they shouldn't drag their
suspicions into the public eye. But they sort of suspected it.
That reminds me of the discussion of whether the FBI should have shared
its news from its investigations into Hillary Clinton's email use or
possible Russian involvement in the campaign prior to the election last
fall. It's this question of how and whether intelligence officials
should talk about something that's still ongoing.
Yeah it's exactly like that; If you can't prove it, don't drag it out to
the public. Except the [Oswald] evidence is stronger than so far what
we've seen on Russia and its connections to the Trump campaign.

What was going on in Cold War history at this point that caused this
controversy to play out the way that it did?
My assumption at the end is that Castro had every reason in the world to
[want to] kill Kennedy. It's risky if there are actual Cuban agents
shooting the President, that's Armageddon, nuclear war. But if you
simply hear rumors of this, you don't do anything. I've seen that happen
in the CIA, where we heard stuff and didn't pass the details to another
government because it was a hostile government.
What about the Soviet side? Did you find any evidence that they
encouraged Oswald?
There's no evidence that the Russians took that risk, providing him
money weapons or training, and I don't think the Russians encouraged
him. What we think is that they were like three times removed. I think
they simply monitored Oswald as best they could. The Russians probably
thought, "We can't afford to deal with an American crazy person," but
Cuban intelligence deals with a lot of crazy people. The Cubans didn't
give money or guns to agents; they were just looking for fellow believers.
Why did Oswald want to defect to the Soviets in the first place?
I think he was at a dead end. He had a broken childhood, and he joined
the Marines to become somebody. He wanted to become a historical figure,
and he thought he deserved to be one. He needed some sort of anchor to
his life and that thing in 1959 was communism. When he gets there [to
the Soviet Union], they don't want him at first. And when they have to
accept him after he attempts suicide, they send them to Minsk. It's sort
of the end of the earth. He's a factory worker, not what he expected at
all, so he comes back. That's the context of the whole series, what was
going through his mind at each one of these steps.
Are there any unanswered questions you still have or now have after
doing the documentary?
I'd look for further confirmation that Cubans knew about this to confirm
our thesis. We don't know exactly what the Cubans told him in Mexico
City — was it to go back to Louisiana and Dallas and tell us what Cuban
dissidents there were doing? And what did Oswald mean when he said he
was a "patsy" when he was being questioned by the Dallas police? A patsy
for whom?I know the general relationship was that Russians and Cubans
shared everything in those days. So did this get back to Moscow? I don't
know, I don't have the evidence. Do I suspect it did? Yes. It's sort of
like if an American went to Syria, spent a month with the Islamic State,
and came back and assassinates the President. Would anyone call him a
lone wolf? That's what happened with Kennedy.

Source: Lee Harvey Oswald and JFK—Documentary Argues Cuba Connection | - Continue reading
Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to
thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there
are always enough funds in military's coffers to write a blank check.

Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative
estimates, Cuba's special services and armed forces account for roughly
35% of the nation's paltry GDP.

There is never a shortage of fuel, guesthouses, vacation homes, medical
clinics or surveillance equipment for monitoring alleged

It is mistakenly believed that the top priority of the Special Services
is the fragmented domestic opposition, which can never turn out more
than a few followers for any public gathering. Meanwhile, the brave
fighters at the barricades are kept in line by punches, karate chops and
detention in damp, filthy jail cells.

The real danger for the government, and for counterintelligence as well,
are high-level officials. "They are like laboratory guinea pigs, always
under observation. Their phone calls, internet traffic, contacts with
foreigners, sexual preferences and personal tastes are monitored. They
cannot escape electronic surveillance even in the bathroom," says a
former intelligence officer with experience listening in.

As in the German film The Lives of Others, people with meaningful
positions in government, the armed forces, international trade and the
foreign ministry are under tight scrutiny. The next most heavily
monitored group of individuals — more closely monitored even than
dissidents — are those in the world of arts and letters and the sciences.

"The method for dealing with outspoken opposition figures is to
intimidate them, pressuring them with physical and psychological abuse,
or simply incarcerating them. We know how they think. But individuals
such as writers, musicians, scientists, researchers and
government-employed journalists are like a knife with two edges. Many
are silent dissidents. They often lead double lives. In assemblies,
government offices and newsrooms they appear to be loyal to the system.
At home they are budding counterrevolutionaries," observes the former
intelligence officer.

According to this source, agents are well-trained. "They focus on
managers, officials and employees of important state institutions.
Recent graduates of the Higher Institute of the Ministry of the Interior
are assigned to dissidents and independent journalists. They are more
adept at using physical and verbal violence than intellectual arguments."

In my twenty-years working as an independent journalist, State Security
has summoned me for questioning five or six times. On other occasions
the interviews were more casual. A guy would park his motorcycle outside
my building or near my house, as though he were a friend, and calmly
chat with me or my mother, Tania Quintero, who now lives in Switzerland
as a political refugee and who was also an independent journalist.

He said his name was Jesús Águila. A blond, Caucasian young man, he had
the air of an Eton graduate. When he became annoying, as when he would
call or visit us to discuss our case or would harass my sister at work,
Tania would threaten him with a ceramic mug and he would flee the scene.

One afternoon in the late 1990s I was questioned at a police station by
a high-ranking, rather refined official. Then, on an unbearably hot
morning in 2010, I was questioned at a branch of Special Troops near the
Reloj Club on Boyeros Avenue by officials from Military Counterintelligence.

The site where I was interviewed was an interrogation cubicle located in
a holding area for inmates. I had written a couple of articles for the
Americas edition of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on meddling by senior
military officers in businesses and corporations. According to my
interrogators, the Cuban armed forces did not like the image these
articles created of military institutions. In a hollow threat, they told
me that I could charged with violating a law — I do not remember which
one — against disrespecting the "glorious and undefeated revolutionary
armed forces."

But ultimately it only amounted to intimidation. For six years they did
not bother me. They denied me access whenever I tried to cover something
at which operatives from State Security were present but they never
detained me. Then, three weeks ago, they questioned a few of my friends
whom they suspected of being sources for my articles.

I wrote one piece in which I said that, if they wanted to know anything
about me, they could call me in for questioning. Apparently, they read
it because on April 4 they summoned me to appear the next day at a
police station in Havana's Lawton district.

There I encountered two pleasant, mixed-race and educated young men. I
cannot say much else about them. I told them that what is needed — once
and for all and by everyone — is open dialogue, to acknowledge the
opposition and to try to find a solution to the national disaster that
is Cuba today by following the path of democracy. While the officers did
not promise tolerance, they did remain silent.

Three days later, one saw the flip side of the coin. As had happened for
ninety-seven Sundays, a mob dressed in civilian clothes was incited by
State Security to stage a verbal lynching of the Ladies in White House
near the police station in Lawton where I had been questioned.

From January to March of 2017 the political police made 1,392 arrests
and in some cases confiscated work materials and money from independent
journalists and human rights activists.

They harass people with little rhyme or reason. A group of reporters
from Periodismo del Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), an online journal
which focuses on environmental issues and vulnerable communities, or a
neo-Communist blogger like Harold Cardenas are as likely to be targeted
as an overtly anti-Castro figure like Henry Constantin, regional
vice-president of the Inter-American Press Society.

With ten months to go before Raul Castro hangs up his gloves, the
Special Services' game plan is poised to undergo a 180-degree
turnaround. Using its contacts, it could establish a channel of
communication between dissidents and the government, which could serve
as a first step towards the ultimate legal resolution of Cuba's
political problems.

But I fear that democracy is not one of the Cuban regime's top priorities.

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs
April 25, 2017, 10:59:00 AM EDT By Reuters
By Sarah Marsh

BAY OF PIGS, Cuba, April 25 (Reuters) - Cuba's Bay of Pigs
has been invaded again, this time not by U.S.-backed anti-Castro
forces, but by millions of red, yellow and black landcrabs.
Each year, after the first spring rains, the crabs march for
days from the surrounding forests to the bay on Cuba's southern
coast to spawn in the sea, wreaking havoc along the way.
At dawn and dusk they emerge, scuttling sideways toward the
sea, climbing up house walls and carpeting the coastal road that
curves around the bay. The stench of crushed crab fills the air
and their sharp shells puncture car tires.
"Thirty to 40 can enter without you even realizing it," said
Edian Villazon, who runs a food hut opposite the sea, which does
not serve up crab meat. Cubans believe this type is toxic. "We
have to always keep the door shut."
The Bay of Pigs, where in 1961 Cuban exiles landed in a
failed attempt to end Fidel Castro's revolution, lies within a
national park where 80 percent of Cuba's endemic birds, along
with crocodiles and other wildlife, can be observed.
With its deep sinkholes, coral reefs and turquoise waters,
the bay is known as one of Cuba's best spots for diving.
Visitors have spiked in recent years, in tandem with the overall
tourism boom since the U.S.-Cuban detente.
"It's very surprising and impressive to see so many crabs in
one go and to watch them crossing so quickly," said 36-year-old
French tourist Emilie Lannegrand, adding it was "a little
heartbreaking" to see so many crushed on the road.
As cars speed by, some swerving to avoid the 10-legged
crustaceans, the cracks of carapaces zing through the air.
That does not threaten the survival of the two prolific
species, Gecarcinus ruricola and lateralis, which are not
endemic to Cuba, said Jorge Luis Jimenez, a science ministry
official who works in the park.
Similar crab migrations occur in other parts of Cuba at the
same time of the year, as well as in some other special
ecosystems such as Australia'sChristmas Island.
At the Bay of Pigs, the adult crabs return to their forest
burrows after releasing clouds of eggs and are joined a couple
of months later by the baby crabs which hatched at sea, said
For locals, the crab invasion is good business.
Ito Molina, 45, said tourists would happily pay $10 for tire
repair, a princely sum compared with the average state salary of
around $25 per month.
For patches, he applies condoms, which get put to many uses
in Cuba given how cheap and readily available they are.
"All the cars pass along this road, and they all get
punctures," he said. "So we stand there and repair the tires."

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: Crabs invade Cuba's Bay of Pigs - - Continue reading
As Cuba's economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat
By ANTONIO PACHECO • April 25, 2017

This article appears in The Architect's Newspaper's April 2017 issue,
which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA
Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We're publishing
the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the
latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba's storied
architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic
circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts
market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba's
cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred
maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman,
who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of
Architectural Historians, said, "There are a lot of cranes in Havana
right now, every one of them related to a hotel project."

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international
hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first
hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the
renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that
was designed as Cuba's first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of
Havana's neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and
the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first
United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel
Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel
Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017
after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these
renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural,
archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home
to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites
important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the
island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building
stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th– and 20th-century
development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country.
What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many
of the city's inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux
Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a
hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional
by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton
Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both
in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local
and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution's communist utopianism was codified through
the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture
by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist
National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto
Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio
Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast
neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived
designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken
across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be
prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim
picture, saying, "There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment
of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally
speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any
significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure."

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in
official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has
strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic
driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler,
has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration
of Old Havana's neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old
Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many
projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler's
efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other
properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of
the city's early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels
sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the
National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and
renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic
downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba's
chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the
renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up,
explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major
restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international
funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the
continuation of work on Gottardi's School of Dramatic Arts and also,
England's Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to
finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of
Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, "I can't speculate now on when the
restoration will be completed," adding that despite the fact that
Porro's School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been
completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there
would be a shortage of funds "dedicated to maintaining those structures
into the future."

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially
completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical
elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, "Essentially, the three unfinished
buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored."

Antonio Pacheco
West Editor, The Architect's Newspaper

Source: As Cuba embraces global tourism, modernist works are threatened
- - Continue reading
Human trafficking focus of Cuba, Cayman Islands talks
By Kayla Young -April 24, 2017

Cuban officials and the Cayman Islands government met in bilateral talks
last week to discuss migration between the two island nations.

The meetings on April 20 and 21 in Havana focused on controlling illegal
migration and human trafficking, Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Relations
reported. Talks also touched on a Memorandum of Understanding the
countries signed in 2015 that regulates migrant handling between the
countries. The memorandum has not been made public.

While in Havana, Cayman's Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Cuba's
Director of Consular Affairs Ernesto Soberón Guzmán signed minutes from
the meetings, reaffirming established migratory regulations.

Mr. Manderson said the meetings were successful.

"We exchanged useful information on both sides. The relationship
continues to be strong, and we're grateful for the cooperation of the
Cuban government on the Memorandum of Understanding," Mr. Manderson said.

While human trafficking continues to be a concern for both governments,
Mr. Manderson said no policy changes were made during the talks.

The Cuban government described the meetings as friendly and respectful.

"Representatives of Cuba and the Cayman Islands reiterated the
importance of these types of meetings for the good development of
relations between the two countries and reaffirmed the government
willingness and compromise to ensure regular, orderly and secure
migratory flow, and to increase bilateral cooperation in the fight
against illegal migrant trafficking," the Cuban government said in an
official release.

Source: Human trafficking focus of Cuba, Cayman Islands talks | Cayman
Compass - Continue reading
Commentary: Social justice in Cuba? No racism?
Javier Garcia-Bengochea
Guest Columnist

Privacy Policy
It ain't what you don't know that hurts you. It's what you think you
know that just ain't so ... Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige
paraphrasing Mark Twain.

It's called fake news. For decades, Cuba has promoted a false narrative
regarding its revolution. A receptive media have dutifully perpetuated
this lie and Americans remarkably suspend all critical thinking
regarding Cuba, accepting this deception categorically.

What Americans think they know about Cuba just ain't so. Here's the

Cuba is a socialist country. Wrong. Cuba is a totalitarian white male
military dictatorship that insulates itself from accountability to the
Cuban people through the enormous bureaucracy of the Cuban government.

The Cuban government "owns" Cuba's industries. No, the military owns
these, particularly the tourist industry run by Raul Castro's son-in-law
(a general). Virtually every aspect of licensed travel by the U.S.
Treasury to Cuba is controlled by the military (who are white). Tourism
funds the repression.

There is social justice in Cuba. Nope. The dictatorship has
institutionalized an apartheid between foreigners and Communist Party
elites — Cuba's 1 percent — and "ordinary" Cubans. How? Through two
currencies, a valuable one for the former and a worthless one for the
latter, who are mostly black and brown.

Tourists use one currency (CUCs) pegged to the U.S. dollar. Cubans are
paid (by law) in the second worthless currency. The latter can pocket
tips in CUCs. Consequently, neurosurgeons rush through brain surgeries
to park cars, drive taxis and bus tables for tips. Most doctors,
lawyers, teachers and engineers leave their professions altogether. This
slavery few Americans even notice. It's disgraceful.

There is no racism in Cuba. Ha! As one white regime official put it on
page 119 of UCLA professor Mark Sawyer's book, "Racial Politics in
Post-Revolutionary Cuba," "It is simply a sociological fact that blacks
are more violent and criminal than whites. They also do not work as hard
and cannot be trusted." This was 2003; enough said.

Free health care and education for all. Sorry. University professors and
managers in tourism are overwhelmingly white and connected to the
generals. Most university students must join the communist party.

There are hospitals for foreigners and Communist Party elites and those
for everyone else. The former are for medical tourism with Cuba's best
doctors. The latter have no sheets, soap, toilet paper, electricity,
medicines or even Cuban doctors — they are imported from Africa.

Where are Cuba's doctors? Those not driving cabs are "rented" to foreign
countries for $10,000 monthly. The chattel slave doctors are paid a few
hundred CUCs while their families are held in Cuba. Ditto for thousands
of Cuban nurses, social workers and teachers. Human trafficking is the
dictatorship's largest source of hard currency — by far.

Opening Cuba represents a tremendous business opportunity. Really? Cuba
is bankrupt. Moreover, everything in Cuba is stolen: land, homes, rum,
cigars, even old American jalopies — in many cases from Americans. Every
enterprise in Cuba will involve trafficking in stolen property. This
isn't a business opportunity; it's criminal and immoral behavior.

The intent of U.S. law is to protect, not disenfranchise claimants as
President Obama has done by allowing select companies to "do business"
and traffic in stolen property. Sustaining this requires protection by
the dictatorship and a U.S. administration that disregards property
rights and the rule of law. It's politically sanctioned organized crime.

History is replete with examples that economic engagement will not bring
political liberalization or change (e.g., China). See Cuba before 1959,
when American cronyism brought corruption and three dictators — Batista
and the Castro brothers. Why would U.S. businesses "invested" in Cuba
property want change? A democratic government will return property to
the legitimate owners and these "investments" will be lost. Investment
seeks certainty.

The embargo is "failed" policy. The teeth of the embargo, the ability to
prosecute traffickers in stolen property, has been waived since its
inception to "expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba," a
justification that is conclusively false.

It's the definition of insanity: capitulating with another dictatorship
and perpetually violating existing sanctions while expecting change.

Here's a novel approach to Cuba policy: Enforce the law.

Javier Garcia-Bengochea, a Jacksonville neurosurgeon, is a certified
U.S. Claimant for The Port of Santiago de Cuba.

Source: Social justice in Cuba? No racism? #FakeNewsCuba - Orlando
Sentinel - Continue reading
JetBlue, American and Delta apply for more flights to Havana

While several U.S. airlines have cut flights to Cuba citing weak demand,
American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Delta Air Lines are investing in
more service to Havana.

Monday, American filed an application with the U.S. Department of
Transportation requesting seven weekly flights between Miami
International Airport and Havana. Last week, JetBlue did the same,
applying for seven slots: an additional Havana to Fort Lauderdale flight
six times a week and an inaugural weekly flight from Boston to the Cuban
capital on Saturdays. Delta Air Lines requested seven weekly flights
from Miami to Havana.

If approved, American would start flying to Cuba on a 160-seat Boeing
737 on Oct. 5. JetBlue plans to use a 162-seat Airbus A320 aircraft for
its flights beginning Nov. 1.

The openings for new routes were made available after Spirit Airlines,
Silver Airways and Frontier Airlines announced they would completely
pull out of Cuba by June 4.

From Miami, American currently offers daily flights to Holguín,
Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Santa Clara, Varadero and Havana and Delta Air
Lines offers one daily flight to Havana. JetBlue operates 13 times
weekly service from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.

While flights to other parts of the island have been reduced in the
past, Havana routes seems to be profitable — but there were some growing

In February, JetBlue said it would move to smaller planes on several
routes, including Havana, to adjust for demand to the island. In all,
JetBlue is cutting capacity to Cuba by 300 seats a day beginning May 3.

"With these adjustments, Havana is performing well against our
expectations and we are seeing strength in our group's business," said
JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart, in a statement. "We hold an optimistic
long-term view as visitor levels grow at a record pace."

Since the initial frenzy to add service to Cuba began last year, some
airlines have cut some, if not all, of their flights to Cuba. The
changes, experts said, were likely due to overly optimistic forecasts
for demand.

American Airlines was the first to reduce its service to Cuba,
announcing in November that it would cut flights from Miami
International Airport to Holguín, Santa Clara and Varadero from two
daily to one. In December, Silver Airways reduced the number of flights
on six of its nine destinations to the island before announcing in March
that it was cutting service to Cuba altogether on April 22. Last month,
Frontier announced it would completely eliminate its Miami to Havana
route on June 4.

Spirit is the latest airline to make a change, announcing earlier this
month that it would reduce flights to once daily, from its daily two
flights between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, from May 3 to 23, offer its
usual twice-daily flights from May 24 to 31 and then end flights
altogether beginning June 1.

Source: JetBlue, American and Delta apply for more flights to Havana |
Miami Herald - Continue reading
An inside look at Cockfighting in Cuba
Apr 23rd 2017 6:01PM

CIEGO DE AVILA, April 20 (Reuters) - Cuban farmer Pascual Ferrel says
his favorite fighting cock's prowess was "off the charts," so after it
died of illness he had the black and red rooster preserved and displays
it on his mantelpiece beside a television.

"He fought six times and was invincible," the 64-year old recalled
fondly, talking over the crowing of 60 birds in his farmyard in the
central Cuban region of Ciego de Avila.

Though it is banned in many parts of the world, cockfighting is favored
throughout the Caribbean and in Cuba its popularity is growing.

Last year, Ciego de Avila opened its first official cockfighting arena
with 1,000 seats, the largest in Cuba, to the dismay of animal rights
activists who see it as a step backward.

Cockfighting is a blood sport because of the harm cocks do to each other
in cockpits, exacerbated by metal spurs that can be attached to birds'
own spurs.

After the 1959 revolution, Cuba cracked down on cockfighting as part of
a ban on gambling, recalls Ferrel.

Over the years that stance has softened. Official arenas have opened and
hidden arenas are tolerated as long as there are no brawls.

"'People say: if the government is allowed to hold cockfights, why can't
we?" says Nora Garcia Perez, head of Cuban animal welfare association

Enthusiasts argue that cockfighting is a centuries-old tradition.
Critics say it is cruel, and they blame its popularity on lack of
entertainment options, poor education on animal welfare, and its
money-making potential.

In Ciego de Avila, there is a different clandestine arena for every day
of the week, some hidden among marabu brush or in sugarcane fields, down
dirt tracks with no signs.

People carrying cockerels in slings or under their arms travel to these
venues by horse-drawn carriage, bicycle or in candy-colored vintage
American cars.

Arenas made of wood and palm fronds operate like fairgrounds. Ranchera
music blasts from loudspeakers, roasted pork and rum are sold and tables
are set up with dice and card games.

"You'll see how fun this is," says Yaidelin Rodriguez, 32, a regular
with her husband, writing in a notebook bets she has placed on her cock.

Gambling is outlawed in Cuba but wads of cash exchange hands at most
arenas. Enthusiasts wear baseball caps that read "Cocks win me money,
women take it away."

In the Ciego de Avila official arena, foreigners pay up to $60 for a
front row seat. At concealed arenas, mainly a local affair, seats are $2
to $8, a princely sum in a country where the average monthly state
salary is $25.

"We can earn about $600 a day from entrance fees and the sale of seats,"
says Reinol, who declined to give his full name.

He splits that sum with his business partner and still earns more from
it than from his regular job as a butcher.

Cuba also exports cockerels, breeders say, adding that cocks with proven
fighting prowess could sell for up to $1000.

At a secluded arena near Ciego de Avila one recent afternoon,
cigar-smoking, rum-swigging owners guarded their birds to make sure
noone hurt or poisoned them before the fight.

"Come on," "Go for it," onlookers screeched once it began, the cocks
flying at one another in rage.

"You have to train the cocks like they are boxers, so they are
prepared," says Basilio Gonzalesm adding they must also be groomed,
scarlet legs sheared and feathers clipped.

Some, like cockfighting enthusiast Jorge Guerra, dream of making more
money in countries where betting is legal.

Source: An inside look at Cockfighting in Cuba - AOL News - Continue reading