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Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2107 — Confined for more than 80
days in a punishment cell, without a single contact with the outside,
the activist Lisandra Rivera Rodríguez of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) received her first family visit this Tuesday, in the Mar Verde
Women's Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Lisandra Rivera, 28, was arrested after her home was raided by State
Security on 31 December of last year. On that occasion, and despite
having been beaten by the agents, she was accused of an alleged criminal
"attack," according to UNPACU activists. Her family had not been able to
contact her since 17 January when her trial was held in the Provincial
Court and she was sentenced to two years imprisonment. On 18 April she
will have served four months.

Her husband, Yordanis Chavez, commented in a telephone interview with
14ymedio that both he and her parents managed to be with her for almost
two hours. "As of Saturday she is outside the punishment cell and is in
a of maximum severity wing of the prison."

According to Chávez, from now on they will be able to visit her
normally. The next appointment is scheduled for the 17th of this
month. "We saw her well, quite strong of spirit. She continues to refuse
to comply with orders and or to accept reeducation."

The authorities of the prison used this refusal to accept the
"reeducation" regime as a reason to impose the isolation of a punishment
cell on Rivera. "The tried to make her stand up and give military
salutes to the jailers who conduct a count three or four times a day.
When a high official arrived she also had to stand at attention like
they do in the military and she refused to do it," says Chavez.

During the visit, Lisandra told her relatives that the punishment cell
is like that of any police dungeon, pestilent and in very bad
conditions, without light. She had no access to anything, no right to
family or conjugal visits, nor could she receive phone calls or food
brought in from outside. "Every Tuesday I was handcuffed and taken,
almost dragged, to the disciplinary council," the activist told her husband.

Yordanis Chavez explained that they have not appealed the ruling because
they do not trust the judicial system. "Lisandra has not committed any
crime, it is only because it was an order of State Security as
punishment for her activism in UNPACU in favor of freedom and democracy
in Cuba."

José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU's leader, fears that, in the midst of the
difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of what
happened in the spring of 2003, when 75 regime opponents were arrested
and sentenced to extremely long prison terms. That crackdown, which came
to be known as the Black Spring, coincided with the United States'
invasion of Iraq, a time when the world was looking the other way. At
present, more than 50 UNPACU activists remain in prison in several
provinces, many of them accused of crimes they have not committed.

For its part, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation announced in its last report, on the month of March, that
there had been at least 432 arbitrary detentions of peaceful dissidents
in Cuba in that month. In addition, several dissidents were vandalized
and stripped of their computers, cell phones and other means of work, as
well as cash.

Source: Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lysandra-does-not-want-to-be-reeducated/ Continue reading
Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the brink of death
By ANNIKA HERNROTH-ROTHSTEIN • 4/10/17 8:00 PM

HAVANA — The young woman sees me watch in amazement as she gets up from
her seat and attempts to carry the four bags with her through the aisle
of the plane, and she gestures at them and shrugs.

"There is nothing in Cuba, so whatever we can, we bring."

It took me a few days to fully grasp what she had told me, being a
first-time visitor in a country entering its 58th year of communist
dictatorship, and its very first without Fidel Castro. I came here to
find out what had changed since his passing, and what was next for the
island regime, but to my great surprise it was business as usual, in
more ways than one.

On my way from the airport I ask my cab driver if things feel different
since Castro's death. He shakes his head and tells me that even on the
night of his passing there was little movement in the streets or
commotion through Havana.

"I was impressed, actually. Fidel has been everything, you know? He is
the father of the revolution and when he dies – nothing – not a word.
They were able to control everything, even then."

By "they" he means the regime, now taking orders from Fidel's brother
Raoul Castro, and the security apparatus attached to it, with its
infamous security service, Direccion General de Intelligencia (DGI)
making sure the wheels turn smoothly. It is a simple yet brilliant
scheme, where every neighborhood has an informant, reporting to the
Comites de Defensa de la Revolution (CDR), a secret police in charge of
keeping tabs on counter-revolutionary activity, and every infraction or
sign of disloyalty is met with stern and immediate consequences. Given
the dire straits of the people in Cuba, the regime is not willing to
take any chances, having experienced revolutions in the past it knows
not to allow the flame of change to be ignited.

With a monthly salary of $30 USD per person, supplemented with a fixed
portion of rice, eggs and beans, the people of Cuba have been forced to
use every opportunity to make some money on the side in order to avoid
starvation. This has resulted in a shadow-society to take shape within
communist Cuba, a society that is highly capitalist in every single way.
I get evidence of this en route to old Havana one day, when my driver
stops for gas and is told there is none left, only to leave the car with
a fistful of cash and return later, car filled-up and ready.

"This is what we call the Cuban way. You see, the gas station belongs to
the government, so the only way for these men to earn something extra is
to sell gas to the highest bidder and deny those who can't pay. I call
it communist capitalism."

The same is true everywhere you go: people cooking the books to fill
their plates and fight their way out of desperation, and as a tourist
you accept it and move on, constantly struggling with the guilt of
living here in a bubble that everyday Cubans will never be privy to. To
outsiders, the combination of poverty and oppression and the recent loss
of the symbol of the revolution would inevitably result in a turn toward
democracy and capitalism. But as the regime does its best to convey,
very little has been buried with Fidel.

The Cubans I have spoken to are proud of their country. Even though they
criticize the regime, under promise of anonymity, they are quick to add
that they don't necessarily want Cuba to become the United States or
just any other country in the West. When I ask them if they believe that
democracy and capitalism will come to Cuba now that Fidel has left and
Raoul is on his way out, they respond in the negative, saying that
whatever will come next will be a Cuban version of those things, an
adaptation from what it is now.

And the way things are looking, they may be right. Rumor has it Raoul
Castro has already reshuffled the government, replacing generals and
ministers with his personal confidants so that he will remain the
unofficial leader even after his assumed successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel,
is sworn in as president in 2018. This ensures that even though Fidel is
dead, the spirit of the revolution lives on, and the Cubans I've spoken
to fear that the regime will take steps to emphasize the status quo by
tightening its grip on the population.

It is not an improbable scenario, but rather a common tactic for
totalitarian regimes when dealing with dramatic shifts, as most recently
seen in Iran after the nuclear deal, where executions and imprisonments
have risen dramatically during and after the rapprochement with the
West. There is an important difference, however, and that is that Cuba
is unlike many other countries of its kind, and that difference may
actually be a hindrance in its journey toward democracy.

One thing that sets Cuba apart from other totalitarian regimes is the
romance that surrounds it, still, despite the thousands of extrajudicial
executions and arbitrary imprisonments, a ruined national economy, and
denial of basic freedoms of association, religion, movement, and speech
having taken place in the past 58 years. Even those who do not hold an
ideological torch for the communist revolution are still enchanted with
the country's beauty, charm, and lust for life, making it easier to
disregard the daily crimes committed against its people and quell the
international community's instinct to intervene.

Cuba is truly magical, and yes, it is full of life, but once you step
outside of the lush hotel garden you see that it is life on the brink of
death, magic existing in a state of suspended animation.

There are several shadow-societies existing side by side in Cuba, and
through these the population has come to function and survive, with very
limited resources and freedoms.

This is made possible by the geographical and cultural proximity to the
U.S., loosening of sanctions and the idea of Cuba being kept alive
through and by the booming Cuban tourism industry. This process is
quietly supported by the regime itself because, ironically, the only way
for the communist revolution to survive is by covert capitalism, keeping
the population from starvation, and turning a blind eye to this keeps
the oppressive communist regime from having to admit defeat.

There were no rallies through Havana on the eve of Fidel's death and
now, almost 4 months later, he has already moved from leader to martyr,
cementing a well-directed legacy. Life goes on for the Cubans, with or
without the father of the revolution, as they watch tourists flood their
Island paradise, hoping to benefit from some of the overflow.

Cuba is lively and loud – full of life for days of play. But when it
really matters, it is quiet – its people's fate decided in silence,
without so much as a word.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein (@truthandfiction) is a journalist and author,
based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Source: Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the
brink of death | Washington Examiner -
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/cuba-after-fidel-castro-full-of-life-but-it-is-life-on-the-brink-of-death/article/2619841 Continue reading
Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals
AFP April 12, 2017

Havana (AFP) - Cuban dissidents planning to run in the communist
country's local elections in November have been arrested, threatened and
otherwise harassed by the authorities, one of their leaders said Tuesday.

At least five would-be candidates have been charged with crimes such as
robbery, had their property seized, or been threatened with losing their
jobs, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the opposition Unity
Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD).

"They (the authorities) are taking preventive measures so that no
independent citizen who doesn't fit their agenda can run," he told AFP.

The local elections in November kick off an electoral cycle that will
ultimately decide the successor to President Raul Castro.

The next step will be the election of the 612-member National Assembly,
which chooses the all-powerful Council of State, which in turn chooses
the president.

Opposition parties are banned in Cuba, but dissident groups are trying
to sneak the maximum number of Castro opponents into the local polls.

Two opposition candidates managed to stand in the last local elections
in 2015. Neither won.

This year, 109 opposition candidates are prepared to run, according to
Cuesta Morua.

Castro, 85, took over in 2006 from his brother Fidel, Cuba's leader
since 1959.

Raul Castro has steered Cuba toward a very gradual economic opening and
restored ties with its old Cold War enemy the United States.

But opponents say the only communist regime in the Americas still
controls most of the economy, and muzzles free speech and political dissent.

Source: Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cuba-opposition-candidates-targeted-reprisals-224942848.html Continue reading
What the Future Holds for U.S.-Cuba Relations
Apr 11, 2017 Latin America North America

When the Obama administration reestablished U.S. diplomatic relations
with Cuba in December 2014, many experts predicted that it would bring a
flood of new money to the island, transforming its economy and political
culture for the better. Almost two-and-a-half years later, U.S. trade
with Cuba continues to languish, and a handful of executive orders on
the part of President Donald Trump could soon set back the clock to the
days when hardline opposition to ties with Cuba's communist regime was
the norm in Washington. What is the future of U.S.-Cuba ties now that
the honeymoon that began under Obama is over? Which aspects, if any, of
the Obama administration campaign to open up Cuba are most likely to
survive?

On the one hand, during his presidential campaign, "Trump certainly
talked about repudiating what Obama has done with Cuba," says Stephen
Kobrin, Wharton emeritus management professor. "Clearly, with the stroke
of a pen, he could eliminate a lot of the liberalization that occurred
under Obama," which was enacted as executive orders, not congressionally
sanctioned legislation. On the other hand, "the streets have not exactly
been paved with gold in Cuba," Kobrin notes. "There hasn't been a great
rush to do business in Cuba. Right now, there is not a huge amount of
interest." Of the dramatic rapprochement with Cuba undertaken by
President Obama, Kobrin adds: "It was an historical event that seems to
have come and gone."

Cuban-American attorney Gustavo Arnavat, senior adviser at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, notes, "One of the missed
opportunities is that not as many deals were done" as anticipated.
"That's bad for a number of different reasons. One, I think U.S.
companies have missed out. I think the Cuban people and the Cuban
government have missed out on great U.S. products and services." He adds
that now — just as the Trump administration is reviewing its Cuba policy
— instead of having 100 U.S. companies advocating for liberalization by
going to their congressional representatives and saying, 'Look, we have
this business now in Cuba,' "you only have 25 or 30 or so." (Editor's
note: Arnavat, who recently returned from Cuba, addressed this topic at
the 2017 Wharton Latin American Conference, where Knowledge@Wharton
interviewed him. The interview will be published soon.)

Uncertainty and Disappointment

"The impact of Donald Trump's victory can be defined by one word:
'uncertainty,'" notes John Kavulich, president of the New York-based
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. "That uncertainty has negatively
impacted interest by U.S. companies [in Cuba]."

In both countries, disappointment has been fueled by misunderstanding of
the potential impact of their mutual ties. Charles Shapiro, president of
the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, says that "U.S. business people
thought that they were going to go to Cuba and see hundred dollar bills
floating down the streets. Just as Americans thought that Cuba was going
to change pretty quickly after December 2014, individual Cubans also
thought that their standard of living was going to change [right away] …
[that] their lives were going to get better. Both of those expectations
were wrong; real life is more complicated."

Many Americans imagined that the Cuban government would soon liberate
political prisoners and make political reforms. When that didn't happen,
critics argued that the U.S. was making all the concessions, but the
Cubans were doing nothing to open their economy. Notes Kavulich,
"Basically, an overall negative narrative has been created."

And while uncertainty is growing over which measures Trump might take to
unwind the Obama administration's efforts, "the Cuban government is not
doing its part to mitigate any of the uncertainty," Kavulich notes.
"What it could do would be to allow more U.S. companies to have a
presence in Cuba, more U.S. companies to directly engage with the
licensed independent sector in Cuba. They are not allowing that." Adds
Arnavat, "If you look at Cuba's plan for economic development, [foreign
direct investment] just doesn't quite fit into their priorities. And
then even if it's the right kind of company, and the right opportunity,
they still blame the embargo, right?"

It's not just the Americans who aren't investing in Cuba now, notes
Shapiro. "The Chinese are not investing in Cuba," nor are the
Brazilians or the Europeans. "It's because you can make more money
investing in Singapore or Atlanta, Georgia" or many other places under
the current system in Cuba. He adds, "One gets the sense that the
government of Cuba doesn't understand that foreign direct investment is
a competition — that the investor gets to decide where he is going to
get the best return on his money. There are not people out there wanting
to throw their money at Cuba in a way that doesn't allow them to make a
competitive return on their investment. That's the issue."

In the travel sector, explains Kavulich, "The airlines, in their
exuberance and enthusiasm to get as many routes as possible, far
exceeded what the reality was going to be. All the airlines asked for
far more seats than they were going to be able to fill. They asked for
approximately three million seats, when the agreement with the Cubans
was for about one to 1.2 million. From the beginning, it was out of
whack, but the airlines were all trying to grab as many of the routes as
they could."

As international hotel companies signed building contracts, U.S.
arrivals in Cuba ballooned 34% between 2015 and 2016. Hotel rates soared
by between 100% and 400%, with rooms previously priced at $150 per night
skyrocketing to $650, according to New York-based tour operator Insight
Cuba. American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit and other carriers started
operating daily flights to 10 cities, including airports that hadn't
welcomed U.S. airlines in decades. But the novelty has worn off, and
hotel rates have normalized. Airlines that overestimated demand for Cuba
are cutting back on their routes and using smaller planes.

Two major factors have changed since the high-profile restoration of
diplomatic ties during the Obama administration, says Wharton management
professor Mauro Guillen. "The first is the change in the U.S.
administration. The second is that Raul Castro has said that he will
step down in a couple of years. There is a power struggle going on in
Cuba between those who are traditional and others who believe, like
Raul, that there should be a change towards more freedoms in Cuba. Both
factors are making it difficult to get things moving in that direction."

Guillen adds: "Trump has not been president for even 100 days yet; we're
going to have to wait and see. It's not so much that [everyone has] lost
interest, but that there are so many other things going on that require
the attention" of lobbyists and policy makers in the U.S.

Travel: 'A Bad Telenovela'

Trump's first statement about changes in U.S. policy is expected soon,
but no one knows for sure what to expect. The Trump administration is
"not going to sit around with a majority in the [U.S.] House, Senate and
… the Supreme Court — and not do anything. They're taking their time
until they think the President and people around him have time to act,"
says David Lewis, president of Manchester Trade, a Washington
consultancy. "My view is that they are not going to leave this
[situation] as it is." That doesn't necessarily mean that Trump will
undo every policy change made by Obama, he adds.

According to Kavulich, "If they decide to go with increased enforcement
[of the travel rules] — which it seems they will do — that could lead to
the demise of the 'self-defined trips' that have become a popular way
for Americans to visit Cuba," despite the official ban on tourism. "One
change the Obama administration made was to allow people to go to Cuba
on their own. They didn't have to go with a group, and they could
self-certify. It was the honor system on steroids."

Lewis argues that the changes made in the travel sector "are going to
remain as is — not because [the Trump administration] thinks it's good,
but because to try and reverse travel is going to be a major quagmire, a
whirlpool, like a bad telenovela that will never end. You're going to
have to start fighting with the nuns who go to Cuba, with the college
kids who go to Cuba, with the NGOs. It will be a never-ending mad house,
which could engulf [the administration's] limited bench."

However, in order to pressure the Cuban government to liberalize its
economy, the Trump administration could tighten the screws on U.S.
visitors in various ways. Kavulich notes that it may try to make travel
harder for U.S. visitors to Cuba who don't comply with the official
rules, which make it impossible for Americans to visit as a tourist, by
requiring them to go through several inspections at customs. Overall,
the Trump administration "can do a lot without seeming as though they
are being punitive, simply by enforcing the regulations."

The Trump administration could also "make it clear that no further
licenses will be given to any [U.S.] company that wants to engage with
the Cuban military, which controls the Cuban hospitality sector," adds
Kavulich. "If they act retroactively, that means the Sheraton [in
Havana, the first hotel to operate under a U.S. brand since the 1959
revolution] gets closed; U.S. cruise ships can't dock at the ports; and
U.S. [air] carriers can't land at the airports because the Cuban
military controls all of it."

"With Trump, you're reading tea leaves," says Kobrin. "You never know
what's real and isn't. But he is not viscerally anti-communist. He isn't
part of the old Republican Cold War establishment. He doesn't seem to
have trouble dealing with Hungary, for example, and his problems with
China have more to do with what he perceives as 'American first' and
U.S. interests, rather than their political system." Moreover, "the
opposition to establishing relations with Cuba comes especially from
Congress and Cuban-American members of Congress, who are concerned about
the political system."

Reasons for Optimism

Originally, the expectation was that an announcement by the
administration regarding Cuba would be made in early February and then
March. "It seems as though the announcement is being held hostage to
whatever events are happening each day," Kobrin says. "It could end up
that the decision could be a tweet that is a response to something the
Cuban government does that we don't know about yet."

Overall, Kobrin says, "I've always felt that once liberalization occurs,
Cuba is just another island in the sun. It has some advantages in terms
of its medical system, the education of the populace, and so forth, but
then it has to compete with every other Caribbean island, once the
novelty has worn off. Cuba is not a logical place to put much in the way
of manufacturing or other sorts of industry, [except] maybe some health
care initiatives."

Shapiro is more optimistic. "The private sector in Cuba is growing.
Cubans call [self-employed workers] cuentapropistas — which means they
are 'working on their own account.' And they are [becoming] a larger
percentage of the work force. Lots of people in Cuba have their
government job, but they are doing other things as well. They can't
exist on a government salary.… Everybody in Cuba is working a deal."
Internet access has actually skyrocketed, he adds, with Wi-Fi hot spots
available in parks around the country. "Lots of people use them, and
they are owned by the government. Unlike the case in China, you can
access The New York Times in Cuba, and more importantly, El Pais from
Spain."

"I'm still a little bit hopeful and optimistic," Guillen says. "At
least, a framework has been established for the basic relationships….
Now we have cruise ships going through Havana, we have regularly
scheduled flights, and we have some broadening of the kinds of trade
that can be done. Let's give this first round of reforms some time to
sink in. Then, the [Trump] administration will have a better idea of
what it wants to do."

Source: What the Future Holds for U.S.-Cuba Relations -
Knowledge@Wharton -
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/future-holds-u-s-cuba-relations/ Continue reading
Cuba Searches for its "Lost" Money
April 11, 2017
By Eileen Sosin Martinez* (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — In my neighborhood, the story about Juan the butcher, who
took a detour with a truck full of minced meat, sold it and then left
the country, is famous. "It's a good thing he left," a neighbor warns,
"because if he was still here, people would have got their hands on him…
and they would have killed him." But, Juan's story belongs to a greater
narrative.

Days later, several markets in the city closed, among them the
Almendares Shopping Center (on 41 and 42 Streets) and the one on 51 and
26 Streets. Salespeople responded "Inventory check" or "Public Health
inspection" in a bad mood, and it's hard to believe them. For example,
at the Carlos III shopping mall, the rumor mill has it that the
inspection found adulterated and repackaged products, expired food items
on sale, price distortion… the real reason why these places have been
closed. The shit hit the fan, people usually say.

In late January, some results from the latest National Check of Internal
Controls were published, namely, losses of over 51 million CUC and over
90 million CUP (Adding up to over 55 million USD), just at
government-run busniesses in Havana alone.

The numbers come with exclamation marks: 51 million CUC and 90 million
CUP, lost or undeclared, in a country which came face to face with a
recession (-0.9% of GDP) last year, something which hasn't happened in
23 years.

It's barely reassuring that the capital's Head Comptroller, Miriam
Marban, explained that not everything is a result of crime, and adds
other reasons for the missing revenue, such as "production and sale
targets not being met" and "accounts for charging and paying."
Regardless, the statistics are scandalous.

The anti-corruption fight in Cuba took center stage with the opening of
Cuba's Comptroller General Office several years ago, one of the first
steps in updating the economic model. According to lawyer Michel
Fernandez Perez, its creation is the most important structural change in
the Cuban political system after the 1992 reforms.

Controls, controls…
"This institution will play an essential role in upholding order,
economic discipline, internal controls and tackling any cases of
corruption head-on, as well as the causes and conditions that might
encourage any leader or public servant's negligible and criminal
behavior," President Raul Castro stressed at the Cuban Parliament in
August 2009, when Cuba's Comptroller General's Office was approved.

This institution responds directly to the National Assembly of the
People's Power and the State Council, and its purpose is to help them in
carrying out "the highest supervision of State and Government bodies."

Taking this concept into account, Fernandez notes that the authority of
the Cuban Comptroller General's Office is above the government and every
executive-administrative apparatus; it is only subordinate to the most
important institutions of power.

In spite of this hierarchy, the Comptroller Office doesn't form part of
the country's constitutional framework. "Maybe from a legal-formal
viewpoint, it would have been better to have reformed the Constitution
(so as to introduce it)," the lawyer highlighted. This plus the
existence of the self-employed, non-agricultural cooperatives, dual
citizenship and other economic and political realities, remind us that
the Constitution does indeed need to be changed.

Cuba's armed forces may be audited, complying with a special disposition
in the law governing the Comptroller's Office, if the country's
president requests it and when he deems it to be timely.

Meanwhile, they are governed by their own internal control regulations,
and need to inform the Comptroller General about their activities at
least once a year.

[Editors Note: Much of Cuba's tourism industry is run by the Armed
Forces or contracted out to foreign companies. The same goes for
construction.]

Something similar happens in the case of the Communist Party
organizations and its related social and mass organizations; as well as
the National Assembly, State Council and Council of Ministers; the
Supreme Court and the Attorney General's Office. Their economic and
administrative dependencies are auditable, provided that the highest
authorities from these same institutions, or the State Council, request it.

When an audit ends, a document is drawn up which is then made public to
employees. That is to say, they only receive information about what has
happened. The Comptroller's Office complies with the functions that it
has been assigned, according to the law. However, dialogue and worker
participation don't really work in practice.

Cuba is a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption,
a document it signed in 2005 (two years after it was created) and
ratified in 2007. Cuban Audit Regulations are in sync with International
Standards of Supreme Audit Institutions (ISSAI).

However, the critical factor which distinguishes the National
Comptroller's Office from its equivalents across the world is its lack
of public information. While in other countries it's normal for these
institutions to put up the findings of their investigations on their
website, here ordinary citizens don't find out anything, only skeleton
reports in the media, which lack statistics and are all too general.

This results in the inspection process being incomplete. By law, the
Comptroller is obliged to inform those who were subject of the
inspection, labor unions and high-ranking figures of its results and
recommendations. That's been made explicitly clear. So who is
responsible for informing the general public?

We're talking about monitoring the State's resources – read here, our
resources. As such, the logical thing is that we know, in excruciating
detail, the inspections findings and what measures were taken. Without
detailed and timely information there isn't any popular control or real
citizen participation.

Real public participation
One of the alleged causes of irregular accounts lies in the impoverished
economic situation Cuba is experiencing. "When workers are paid a
dignified salary which they can live off, I'm sure many of these cases
of corruption will disappear," claimed somebody in the comments of
Escambray newspaper.

Nevertheless, "although you can understand that we have problems which
affect Cuban people's everyday lives, as a matter of principle, we
cannot accept that this leads to people committing illegal activities,"
stressed Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel, during the closing ceremony
of the first International Audit and Control Workshop (2014) in Havana.

On the other hand, there are also those who have just wanted to get
rich. The Comptroller General, Gladys Bejerano, has stated that the key
motive continues to be "deviating resources" to sell them illegally for
illicit gain."

In both cases, the moral crack of those who say they are "fighting"
(luchando), "inventing" "resolving" as if that was positive… when they
should be saying that they are stealing, is commonplace.

Not by chance, the last two Internal Control inspections focused on the
extremely important sectors and processes for current change:
decentralizing State business operation, measures to "tackle" the aging
population, granting subsidies to the population, non-agricultural
cooperatives and the application of performance based salaries at State
businesses. Going beyond companies, the Comptroller Office is
responsible for verifying the ethical conduct of State managers and leaders.

We don't know much else about the millions lost at the beginning of this
article: "severe measures" were applied to nine managers; and 114
officials and employees were sanctioned with "lesser disciplinary
measures", because of their collateral responsibility. That's it.

The fact that the law has a chapter called "About popular participation"
gives us some hope. "It's society who has to control the public budget,
because we are the ones controlling what we spend," commented the
director of Budget Implementation at the Ministry of Finance and Prices,
Jesus Matos.

He's right; I completely agree. However, for that to happen we need
information, transparency and the real capacity to involve ourselves and
participate. There can't be socialism (much less a prosperous and
sustainable socialism) if workers don't participate.

Source: Cuba Searches for its "Lost" Money - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124670 Continue reading
'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political prisoner to
run in the 'elections'
YUSIMÍ RODRÍGUEZ LÓPEZ | La Habana | 12 de Abril de 2017 - 12:10 CEST.

'We will take the voter's voice wherever necessary', says José Díaz Silva.

For his anti-Government activism José Díaz Silva has received four jail
sentences totaling 16 years. He is the leader of various internal
dissidence organizations, and frequently ends up in jail. Now he plans
to be a candidate to serve as a Poder Popular (national assembly)
delegate, running on the #Otro18 independent platform, exercising his
right, as stipulated in the Constitution, to elect and to be elected.

Never before had he thought about taking a step of this type. "I do not
belong to the CDR, nor did I use to vote. Years back, we wanted to be
observers. We went here to the Electoral Board close to here, and they
threw us out. I will run here and now because we want to define the
difference between their [pro-Government] candidates and ours," he
explains. In this way, we will not change the system, but we will act as
spokespeople for the community, which complains about its lack of say.
We know that they will (...) describe us as delinquents and
contrarrevolutionaries. They also claim that we are paid by the Empire.
A lie, and they know it," says Díaz Silva.

"I get help from my family in the US: two children (also former
political prisoners, for writing 'down with Fidel', as stated in their
court records), five siblings, and my mother. My wife has five siblings
there. There I have friends there who want to see a free and democratic
Cuba. They help human rights organizations and political prisoners. They
send food," he explains.

Díaz Silva is the president ofOpositores por una Nueva República,a
national delegate of the Movimiento Democracia, a national coordinator
of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Frente de Resistencia y Desobediencia
Civil, and one of the coordinators of the Democratic Action Unity Bureau
(MUAD).

"The way you entered through, I clear it with a mower I brought from the
United States. Where is the money assigned for that? It is robbed by
Áreas Verdes, Comunales, the municipal government. They report that the
highway is kept clean. But it is cleaned by a human rights activist," he
explains.

"We want to know where the budget assigned to each municipality goes,
which comes from taxes," he affirms.

He is already suffering retaliation for his intention to run for office
in his district.

"They have threatened us, telling us that they could easily tie us up in
the courts, which would prevent us from exercising our right. Manuel
Velásquez Licea and Eduardo Herrera Hernández, also candidates, have
been incarcerated for the past six months", he explains.

"On Tuesday, 28 March, at 4:35 a.m., they knocked on my door. They came
to conduct a search. The paper indicated 'electronic equipment and
others.' To make it legal, they have to look for something specific. The
witnesses were people they have used before to carry out acts of
rejection, brought from Santiago de las Vegas. This is a violation, as
the witnesses must be from the community," he complains.

"I told them to wait, as I was going to get cleaned up. They kicked the
door in. They injured my hand and fingers, throwing me against the wall.
My head was swollen, but it subsided. I bled from my nose. They
handcuffed me. They burned our brochures. They took books, legal
documents (like sentences), two laptops, a mini laptop belonging to my
daughter, and another to my granddaughter, a disk drive, CDs; money,
mine and my daughter's; two chains worth some 1,200 CUC, my pressure
gauging device, two little short-wave radios, a printer, a television
set antenna, a large television set that my son bought and that entered
legally, through Customs. They left the one in the living room. They
broke the door to my daughter's room, to which I do not have a key. She
came when the neighbors told her, and they wouldn't let her in. From the
refrigerator they took a tin of Spam, packages of noodles, six or seven
bars of chocolate, and two of peanut butter, sent for the prisoners," he
explains.

"The police officers' ID numbers were 29140 and 29113, two captains. And
lieutenant 29156. There was an official from the MININT who, while the
search was carried out, lit up a cigarette. I told him that he was
showing a lack of respect, that in my house nobody smoked. He went
outside to smoke, very annoyed, and when he returned he said to me: 'you
people, for us, you are animals, dogs, and we are going to do away with
you.' I asked why he didn't say that on television, so that the people
could know their position. He responded: 'that's just what you'd like.'"

Díaz Silva says that he was taken to Santiago de las Vegas. The
authorities, he indicates, made eight copies of what they took from his
house, but did not give him one.

State Security agents Bruno and Raymo, who had threatened him before,
said to him: 'Have you seen how what we said is happening?'" the
activist recalls.

"The police fined me for handling stolen goods. They let me go the next
day, a 6:00 in the afternoon. Here there are no laws. They could kill us
and nothing would happen."

Do you think any members of your community will dare to nominate or vote
for you?

A family told me that they were going to nominate me. But it remains to
be seen, as they can take measures against the family… but residents
told me that I can count on their votes, and I think that they will dare
to follow through. When the Police entered my house, some neighbors
expressed their indignation to me. It was they who alerted my daughter.
And they are not dissenters.

Many presidents of the CDR and women with the Federation (FMC) approach
us, as dissidents, to tell us that we have their votes." There are even
police who tell us to "continue fighting, because you are right. They
see that what the regime says, that we are delinquents, is a lie.

How did Fidel and Raúl deal with this? With force. They killed. They
killed police heads, informers. It is in the documentaries that they
broadcast. We don't do those things. We are pursuing what Fidel Castro
claimed he wanted in History will Acquit Me: a state based on the rule
of law.

Traditional delegates, many eager to work, face barriers, like the lack
of resources. Will a dissident be able to do more for the community?

We don't promise anything, and we don't have conditions. After all, the
system is our enemy. But we will take the voice of the voter wherever it
is necessary. The community's vote will give us the right us to demand
solutions to problems before bodies. In this way we have an advantage,
because we are not scared, and we know the laws a little better.

In spite of your intention to run, you say that the way to remove the
Castros' Communist regime from power is with people in the streets.

They will always look for mechanisms to thwart anything that we do. We
have the example of Oswaldo Payá. It was necessary to change the law,
because he presented the signatures. I was a promoter of the Varela
Project. When it reached [the National Assembly], they said that the
Cuban socialist system was irrevocable, and the Constitution said so.
They mocked what they themselves had written, because they wrote that
Constitution and Penal Code. Now they will do the same thing, but this
is a way to tell the people that we have the right to change this
through peaceful channels.

Source: 'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political
prisoner to run in the 'elections' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1491991825_30312.html Continue reading
The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in
the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the
Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and
necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable
to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas.

If communism's major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by
force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic
solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The
democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of
democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have
a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work
together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the
democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting
the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual
future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An
upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional
democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a
solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: The Right of Assembly / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-right-of-assembly-somos/ Continue reading
Congressman reflects on recent Cuba trip
Apr 10, 2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with several of my
colleagues on a 3-day congressional delegation. On this trip, we saw the
country and were warmly welcomed by citizens and government officials
alike. While everyone knows that the cars and architecture look like the
year is still 1959, so much has changed, and in a very positive way.
Cuba is becoming a modern country, and very much wants to engage with
and trade with America.

While much about our past relations with Cuba can be debated, one thing
this trip cemented for me is how dramatically our current policy of
isolation has failed. Cuba has moved on, as has the rest of the world.
The 50-year-old embargo now only serves to generate animosity toward
America and to arbitrarily limit our citizens' chances to engage with
Cubans. The moves over the last two years toward greater engagement are
already paying dividends in peoples' hearts and minds. Folks there are
getting a taste of capitalism, and are craving more.

Greater engagement in Cuba can lead to positive changes. Americans and
Cubans have a great deal in common; the importance of family, a strong
sense of patriotism and entrepreneurship. These commonalities will only
become greater as we continue to engage, and Cuba continues to
modernize. The spread of the internet in Cuba is opening dialogues that
previously couldn't occur. More than a third of the island's workers are
now in the private sector. Tourism continues to boom, even with travel
restrictions placed on the nation by its neighbor.

Opening relations with Cuba should be a win-win for Cuban and American
citizens. A healthy relationship with the country would foster greater
mutual security, additional trade opportunities and greater human
rights. For our Kansas farmers and ranchers, Cuba is a natural export
market. They represent a potential top-10 wheat market, and as their
tourism continues to grow, demand for higher quality protein sources
will match well for our livestock producers. In a time of record low
commodity prices, we cannot be arbitrarily choosing markets in which not
to sell. We are only holding ourselves back.

Though lifting the embargo is the ultimate issue, a good first step
would be to allow American banks and financial institutions to provide
financing. To this end, I have co-sponsored H.R. 525, the Cuba
Agricultural Exports Act, to achieve just that.

This trip was a remarkable opportunity to learn more about the
opportunities ahead of us with Cuba. I am proud to be a member of the
Cuba Working Group, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to
continue to build relations between our two countries.

—Congressman Roger Marshall serves on the House Ag Committee, the
Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the House Small Business
Committee.

Source: Congressman reflects on recent Cuba trip | Opinion | hpj.com -
http://www.hpj.com/opinion/congressman-reflects-on-recent-cuba-trip/article_ad47ad5a-1a41-11e7-9ebf-2b3d00857b97.html Continue reading
Time Passes By and Cuba's Anonymous Elderly
April 8, 2017
By Harold Cardenas* (jovencuba.com)

HAVANA TIMES — Nelson barely gets by and not many people know it. He
doesn't like to draw attention to himself. For years he's been passing
daily in front of my apartment with his wife and they go up the building
stairwell in silence. I don't know how old he is or if he has any other
relatives, I don't know anything except for the fact that he is living
in a very precarious situation.

He most probably followed all the rules, decades of doing everything he
was expected to do, but even still it wasn't enough. Once you reach
retirement, the total of a whole life worked comes down to a couple
hundred pesos per month [10 USD], and he doesn't even complain about it.

His story is just one of many. For those who have other income sources,
it's difficult to understand that there are still people in Cuba who
only live off of their salaries or pensions. Those who decide the fate
of the people, in any political system, don't have everyday struggles.
Nelson, rather than living, survives.

He is well-educated, he was an electrical engineer and if he had lived
in another country, he would surely have had another life, but this was
the life he got. He calculates everything and it's not because he likes
math, but rather because he has to plan out his finances down to the
last cent. He studies the calorie intake a person should have in a day,
not out of curiosity but so that neither him nor his wife gets sick.

In Cuba, many of us assume that everyone has at least their basic needs
covered, and it's not like that. For eight years, I have lived near them
and didn't know anything about their situation, ashamedly.

I lacked the much needed sensitivity to realize what was going on, until
a friend told me. This friend has very different political views from me
and nevertheless, he picks up on things like this.

Life is a lot richer than our prejudices and personal values don't cling
to ideologies.

This post will be published, there will be several comments on the
subject and then tomorrow everything will carry on the way it is. This
elderly couple will continue living in their dignified poverty (if there
is such a thing) until this country overcomes its ghosts which affect it
both here and abroad. I am afraid that those who are just about getting
by don't have much time left.

*Translation by Havana Times

Source: Time Passes By and Cuba's Anonymous Elderly - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124618 Continue reading
Why Did I Stay in Cuba, Why Didn't I Leave?
April 10, 2017
By Lilibeth Alfonso (La Esquina de Lilith)

HAVANA TIMES — Staying in Cuba is reason to be asked one fine day why
you didn't leave, and it's asking yourself what would have happened if
you had left. This "what if" is the father of all absurdity and
uncertainty for what never happened, not because you lacked
opportunities, not because you didn't want to prove something to
somebody, just because that's the way you wanted it to be.

Staying is a choice, and choices have consequences. It implies a life
without any obvious uprooting but its roots have been fleeing
nonetheless. You might have the most important but you're missing the
peripherical, because while you decided to stay, almost all of your
family, your best friend, your life-long neighbor, different lovers, the
boy who you always swore to yourself that you'd kiss one day… all of
them left.

It's having to bite your tongue when you feel like complaining to your
colleagues abroad about your salary, about being over 30 years old and
the closest you've ever been to being in a foreign country is when you
visit those places in Guantanamo province which somebody has called
Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador, New York…, because you know you'll get a
"I told you so" and you don't want to argue.

Staying is missing what you love about Cuba without going anywhere, and
having your very heart split into two by people who leave, because a
country isn't only its land and architecture, a country is the scents
you love, the trips you made, the people you met along the way, and a
lot of this no longer exists in this day and age.

Staying is living between two worlds: the reality you love and hate,
weighing up your words and actions, carefully choosing your emotions,
the ones you share on Facebook, what you like and what makes you sad,
what makes you angry…, because they are watching you, they are judging
you, and you know it.

Staying in Cuba is corroborating the fact that the people who leave will
never be the same, or almost never the same; it's getting used to
flexible morals and radical changes, and convincing yourself that the
coke that makes one forget exists.

Staying in Cuba is watching, like a spectator, the great theater of
unfulfilled dreams, watching the journalist who left because she used to
say that she didn't fit into the politics of official media and its
promise of music always being produced on a conveyor belt, and in spite
of this, not being able to define, for certain, the feeling of the moment.

Staying in Cuba is experiencing the violent dichotomy of working in the
field you studied, but having to do a juggling act to get to the end of
the month, and not judging somebody who chose to do anything else, but
they have the house you don't, the car you don't and the financial
security that you can't even imagine.

Staying in Cuba is dreaming of a better country in spite of all of the
bad omens, in spite of the fact that the economy shows signs but almost
never advances, and therefore you have to dream alone a lot of the time,
struggle alone.

It's watching how people who swore you would leave have their
predictions proved wrong, and you see them leave one day, from the other
side of security control at airports.

Staying in Cuba is a choice, and like every choice you have to live with
it. It isn't easier than leaving. Sometimes staying can also be a pile
of crap.

Source: Why Did I Stay in Cuba, Why Didn't I Leave? - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124644 Continue reading
Cuba's Port of Mariel is ready for U.S. cargo once trade agreement is
restored

The new Trump leadership team has yet to determine its policy toward the
Communist Caribbean nation, however

At this time last year, U.S. seaports in Southeast and Gulf regions were
telling shippers that they were well positioned to take advantage of
trade with Cuba as restrictions were gradually lifted.

The election of populist President Donald Trump, may have altered those
plans, however, as the new leadership team has yet to determine its
policy toward the Communist Caribbean nation.

Prior to embargo initiated by the Kennedy administration over nearly 50
years ago, the ports of Mobile, Tampa, Miami and New Orleans were all
major entrepots for this lane of waterborne commerce. Shippers attending
the recently concluded "Critical Cargoes Conference" in New Orleans were
told that when and if trade is resumed, the Cuban port of Mariel will be
ready.

"We are prepared to become the newest transport hub for the America's,"
declared Charles Baker, president and CEO of the Port of Mariel. "Our
position as a transshipment center is also viable."

Baker said he envisions the three-year-old container facility on the
northwest coast of Cuba, 26 miles west of the capital city of Havana, as
the "new transport hub for the Americas" in "a very, very good location
for a transshipment hub."

Total container throughput at the Port of Mariel grew from about 160,000
twenty-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) in 2014, noted Baker. This was its
first year of operation following end of container traffic at the
relatively shallow Port of Havana, to 330,713 TEUs in 2015 prior to
reaching 325,319 TEUs in 2016.

"Mariel's current annual throughput capacity is 800,000 TEUs, with
future expansion to boost that number to 3 million," he said.

Under the current U.S. embargo requirement vessels must wait 180 days
after leaving a Cuban port before calling at a U.S. port. Baker
considers this a major handicap, calling it Mariel's "achilles heel."

"We would like to see Washington officials address this so that we may
move on and welcome a new era of business," he said.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply
Chain Management Review magazines and web sites.

Source: Cuba's Port of Mariel is ready for U.S. cargo once trade
agreement is restored - Logistics Management -
http://www.logisticsmgmt.com/article/cubas_port_of_mariel_is_ready_for_u.s._cargo_once_trade_agreement_is_restor Continue reading
UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba
Associated Press 3:59 p.m. ET April 10, 2017

Havana — An independent expert from the United Nations was in Cuba on
Monday for a four-day visit to evaluate the human trafficking situation
on the island for the first time in a decade.

Special Rapporteur Maria Grazia Giammarinaro is expected to visit a
school and meet parliament leader Esteban Lazo and also has scheduled
trips to the provinces of Matanzas and Artemisa near the capital, Havana.

Such U.N. visits are routine in other countries, but Cuba has generally
rejected inspections by international organizations. The government has
relaxed that stance somewhat in recent years, and officials welcomed
Giammarinaro upon her arrival and stressed that Cuba has a
zero-tolerance policy on trafficking.

They presented her with a government action plan on trafficking and
exploitation. According to government statistics, in 2015 a little over
2,000 cases of underage sexual abuse were reported among a population of
2.6 million children.

Giammarinaro expects to analyze what progress Cuba has made and
challenges it still faces regarding trafficking, including sexual and
labor exploitation. The findings will be presented to the U.N. Human
Rights Council in June 2018.

Other trips to Cuba by U.N. experts are still pending, including one
related to torture.

Giammarinaro's visit comes three months after the United States ended
its so-called wet foot, dry foot policy, which for over two decades
allowed nearly all Cubans who reached U.S. soil to remain. Island
officials had long complained about it, arguing that it contributed to
human trafficking.

The policy was scrapped in January days before then-President Barack
Obama left office, as part of a process of normalizing relations between
Washington and Havana.

The United States previously removed Cuba from its blacklist of
countries it says have failed to fight modern-day slavery after
diplomatic relations were formally restored in July 2015.

Source: UN expert probes human trafficking in Cuba -
http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/world/2017/04/10/un-expert-probes-human-trafficking-cuba/100299254/ Continue reading
Eliécer Ávila, The 'New Man' Who Became An Opponent

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the
streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well
known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However,
before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a
model "New Man": the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.

Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school's
morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities
"against imperialism" and dreamed of resembling Ernesto 'Che'
Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements
that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home
reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different.

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of
Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was
born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A
place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for
their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life
did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985,
in the middle of that "golden decade" when the Soviet Union was propping
up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro
ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the
"Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies."

Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special
Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many
days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He
hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of
"outfits" from his grandfather's old shirts, and turned off the light
when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the
holes.

With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with
an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man
made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to
escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a
future in politics, because of those "fine lips" that helped him in
student meetings and in romantic conquests.

A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the
University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of
the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the
Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the
Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union
before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was
a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a
Revolution that fears the Internet.

While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to
monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those
spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for
political struggle that included everything from hacking to the
execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the
Revolution.

Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those
anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind
and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his
turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then
president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public
appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.

The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first
place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed
audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the
leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans
by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to
board an airplane.

Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called
"Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon," but for the rest of his
life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of
Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice,
has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of
rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.

After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the
authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his
audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the
red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the
Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.

The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level
of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw
darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed
that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.

Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses
new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns
of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip
of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and
assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud
power.

The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and
Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to
discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories
that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have
dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.

Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to
represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat
remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the
People's Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of
hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.

This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A
public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his
house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with "illicit
economic activity." The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs
when he returned from Colombia.

Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his
Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a
system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own
ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly
punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.

More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.
http://translatingcuba.com/category/authors/eliecer-avila/
With online translation:
http://www.cubaverdad.net/weblog/?s=eliecer+avila

Source: Eliécer Ávila, The 'New Man' Who Became An Opponent –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eliecer-avila-the-new-man-who-became-an-opponent/ Continue reading
Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 8 April 2017 – Were the events like the books
tell us? Is the official story a report of what really happened? The
attempt to answer these questions inspires the documentary and two
fictional shorts that were presented Wednesday in the 'Moving Ideas'
section of the 16th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition of the
Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) in Havana.

Under the motto "Forgetting does not exist," the filmmakers approached
collective and family memory to show a point of view often ignored by
the epic of Revolutionary discourse. The works probe those memories for
what Cubans treasure about moments in national life, beyond the
gilded frame that the institutional version attaches to them.

Economic disasters, a war on a distant continent and the drama of family
separation after exile, were some of the issues addressed by this new
generation of film directors, who show a special interest in looking
back. Children of indoctrination and official silence seem willing to
shed light on the darker areas of what has happened in the last half
century.

Director Pedro Luis Rodríguez offers the short Personal Report set on
the eve of the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 — when all remaining
private businesses in the country were confiscated, down to the last
shoeshine boy. It was a watershed moment in the economic life of the
nation that brought profound effects on commerce, supply and even the
mentality of those born after that massive closure of private businesses.

In less than half an hour, Rodríguez shows the conflicts experienced by
Ricardo, an analyst on the Planning Board, who is preparing to present a
report to his boss on the consequences of the measure that is about to
be taken. The protagonist defends his right to participate in the
decisions that are made in the country or at least to be heard, but
everything is in vain.

Personal Report presents that look from below on a historical event
where the decision was taken "on high." An offensive about which the
government has never offered a public self-criticism, although a quarter
of a century later the private sector was again authorized to
operate. Today, more than half a million workers are struggling to
support themselves despite strong legal limits on their activities and
economic hardships.

In the discussions with the audience after the screening in the Chaplin
room, Rodriguez acknowledged that his film is "a wink" at the current
phenomenon of self-employment. His desire is that the work serves to
"reflect on this present" and to meditate "on participation and the need
to be heard and to be consistent with oneself."

The flood of memories and questioning continued with the fictional
short Taxi, directed by Luis Orlando Torres. Taxi addresses another of
the many themes barely touched on by the fiery speeches from those in
power: Cuba's involvement in the war in Angola and its aftermath in
society; the plot centers on the physical and mental wounds left by that
conflict outside the island's borders.

Torres focuses on the effects on families and establishes a parallel
with the internationalist medical missions that now send Cuban
healthcare workers around the world, and their consequences here at
home. The film develops a suspense story that begins when a taxi driver
picks up a passenger in a seemingly casual way. A brief conversation
will suffice to call into question moral aspects of a war, one which the
Government has always defended as an act of solidarity.

Meanwhile, The Son of the Dream, directed by Alejandro Alonso and filmed
in 16 millimeter with a Bolex camera, relives through family letters and
postcards the filmmaker's memories of an uncle whom he was unable
to know due to the separation caused by the Mariel Boatlift. The
material is the result of a workshop given at the International Film
School of San Antonio de los Baños by Canadian director Philip Hoffman.

Beyond the aesthetic and artistic values ​​of each of the projects
presented in 'Moving Ideas', it is clear that much of the young cinema
that is being produced on the Island is not trying to please
institutions or accept pre-established truths. It is an uncomfortable,
irreverent, questioning and willing movement to belie an epic story that
has been shaped more with silences than with truths.

Source: Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/young-cuban-filmmakers-challenge-official-history/ Continue reading
CUBA'S PREMIUM GAS SHORTAGE LEAVES DIPLOMATS STUCK
BY REUTERS ON 4/9/17 AT 6:40 AM

When they are not tending to international affairs, diplomats based in
Havana can be found these days stewing in interminable lines at gas
stations and concocting ways to increase the octane in fuel as Cuba's
premium gasoline shortage takes its toll.

Cuba sent around an internal memo last week advising that it would
restrict sales of high-octane, so-called "special fuel," in April. That
is not an issue for most Cuban drivers, whose vintage American cars and
Soviet-era Ladas use regular fuel.

But it is for the embassies that use modern cars whose engines could be
damaged by the fuel at most Havana gas stations. So the diplomats are
taking a leaf out of the book of Cubans, used to such shortages, and
becoming resourceful.

Given the U.S. trade embargo, Cubans have for decades had to invent new
ways to keep their cars on the road, replacing original engines with
Russian ones and using homemade parts.

"I bought octane booster, and the embassy has bought lubricants, meant
to help the motor deal with rubbish gasoline," said one north European
diplomat, who got a relative to bring the booster in his luggage given
it is unavailable in Cuba.

"At the moment we are using the car that runs on diesel, so we can
'survive'," said an Eastern European diplomat.

Cuba has not announced the measure officially yet. According to the
memo, "the special fuel remaining in stock at gas stations from April
will only be sold in cash and to tourists until the inventory is depleted."

"It's very serious. I have already suspended a trip to Santiago de Cuba
for fear of lack of gas," said one Latin American diplomat, adding that
it seemed like the problem would last. "Diplomats are very worried."

Some embassies in Havana have people scouting out which stations still
have some higher-octane fuel and are sending around regular updates to
staff. One gas station worker said they were getting small deliveries of
fuel each day still.

The embassies are also advising people to carpool or use the diplomatic
shuttle.

Meanwhile the European Union has requested from the ministry of foreign
affairs that one or more service centers be set aside for diplomats with
special gas, according to a European diplomat.

Cuba has become increasingly reliant on its socialist ally Venezuela for
refined oil products but the latter has faced its own fuel shortage in
recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the Communist-ruled island cannot easily replace subsidized
Venezuelan supplies as it is strapped for cash.

Although the memo referred to April, it is not clear how long the
shortage will last. Cubans joke that once something disappears in Cuba,
it is never to return, referring to products that have disappeared from
their ration book like cigarettes, beef and condensed milk.

The Peugeot dealership in Havana has sent its clients lists of technical
tips on how to protect their motors while using lower-grade gasoline,
including more frequent maintenance and ensuring vehicles at running at
optimum temperature before driving.

The shortage is also impacting others using modern cars such as taxi
drivers, tourists and workers at joint ventures.

Source: Cuba's Premium Gas Shortage Leaves Diplomats Stuck -
http://www.newsweek.com/cuba-premium-gas-shortage-diplomats-stuck-581066 Continue reading
Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home

The video shows Eliecer Avila and other human rights activists at the
Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, protesting the confiscation
of Avila's laptop when he returned to the country from abroad.
https://youtu.be/0d9qfL6qOmg

14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Some fifty uniformed members of the
National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior raided
the home of the activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are
More) Movement this Saturday morning. The police seized documents and
home appliances, in addition to arresting the opponent, according to
detailed information from his wife, Rachell Vázquez, speaking to 14ymedio.

The police search began at six in the morning and lasted about four
hours during which the troops did not allow access to the property
located in the neighborhood of El Canal, in the Havana's Cerro
municipality. "We were going to eat something when they knocked on the
door," says Vázquez.

During the search, the police were accompanied by two witnesses of the
Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). "All they left us was
the TV," adds the wife. "Right now Eliécer is missing, because no one
knows where they took him," he says.

Hours earlier, the couple was at Terminal 3 of José Martí International
Airport, where Avila staged a protest to demand the return of several of
his belongings retained by the General Customs of the Republic. Last
Thursday, when the activist returned from a trip to Colombia, his
personal laptop was confiscated.

The opponent remained at the airport for more than 36 hours and insisted
to security agents that he would not leave the place until they returned
the computer. Other members of his organization joined in the protest.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife
to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera
and Lugareño in La Viñora. "He asked me to bring the deed of the house
and 1,000 CUP," says Vázquez, but "the police took the money in the
drawers."

In a video posted on the Somos+ website, Avila is seen in an airport
lounge with two activists carrying posters with the phrase "No More
Robbery." The opponent denounced in front of the camera that the
authorities "gave no explanations" and have not told him the reason for
confiscating his computer.

Police searches and raids on dissidents' homes have become common in the
last year. In its report for March, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced this procedure.

During that month "there were innumerable cases of dissidents deprived
of their computers, cell phones and other means of work as well as
cash," the report adds. These actions are aimed "to prevent the work of
peaceful opponents and to make them increasingly poor," said the
independent entity.

Source: Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/police-arrest-activist-eliecer-avila-and-raid-his-home/ Continue reading
Tips from a traveler to Cuba
By Amelia Rayno APRIL 7, 2017 — 1:45PM
AMELIA RAYNO

During a solo people-to-people tour of Cuba, I learned some important
things through trial and error. Here are some important tips I wish I'd
known before I went:

• Bring more cash than you think you need; prices across the country
wildly vary and many taxi drivers, store clerks and restaurateurs will
simply name a price based on how rich you look. Modest haggling is
acceptable. Meanwhile, though the U.S. government now condones their
use, U.S. credit and debit cards are still not accepted at most
establishments and ATMs in the country, and U.S. citizens cannot receive
wired funds via Western Union. It is also worth noting that the Cuban
government charges a 10 percent fee to convert U.S. dollars to Cuban
currency; some places charge a fee in excess of that.

• Avoid people in uniforms, especially when you're dealing with money
issues. Regular citizens are mostly very helpful with directions and
other questions. Ask regular Cubans about where to exchange money in the
airport; avoid the tourist information desk. I was sent from that desk
to a small room, where an official exchanged my money and charged 3
percent, on top of the 10 percent fee for converting dollars.

• Consider getting some CUPs (Cuban pesos) along with your CUCs (Cuban
convertible pesos, a currency that is a 1:1 equivalent of the U.S.
dollar and the one tourists typically receive). Many traditional Cuban
restaurants list prices only in CUP. Other restaurants will note two
prices and hope tourists don't do the confusing calculation to realize
they're paying perhaps three to five times more in CUCs than they would
in CUPs. If you're unable to get CUPs at the currency transfer, it will
be possible to do so at a bank.

• Make friends with the locals. Besides benefiting from a population
that is highly cultured and educated, your new friends will help you get
around and negotiate prices. If you happen to run out of money, as I
did, you'll need them: Although U.S. citizens cannot receive wired
funds, Americans can send money to a Cuban. So you'll need to find a
Cuban friend who can pick up the funds for you. To be polite, give them
a generous tip for the trouble.

• Take gypsy cabs when possible. They are typically as safe as marked
taxis, and will ask for drastically lower fares. At the airports, you
can find a line of these unmarked cars out front.

• In general, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve the best, cheapest and
most authentic Cuban food. Many of these do not have signs. Many do not
have alcohol. In Cuba, eating and drinking is often separated — you eat
first, then drink later. The restaurants that have English menus and
cater to tourists will be priced accordingly.

• Be wary of fresh produce. If it doesn't look good, don't eat it.
Vegetables are a common cause of food poisoning. Consider visiting your
doctor before departure and requesting some antibiotics to bring with you.

• Bring printed maps if possible. Google and Apple have not yet
digitally mapped the country.

• Exercise your Spanish as much as possible. Doing so will allow you to
communicate better, receive better prices and be harassed less.

• Skip Varadero. The oceanside city 40 minutes from Havana is reputed to
be one of Cuba's sparkling gems, but in my experience, the resort
destination lacked authentic charm. It had white beaches, but the
predominant languages were English and French and it seemed like a
Disney-esque version of Cuba.

• Bring back rum and cigars. Last year, the U.S. lifted the previous
$100 limit on the value of these items Americans could bring into the
country. The goods are now subject to the same duties as alcohol and
tobacco from other countries.

Source: Tips from a traveler to Cuba - StarTribune.com -
http://www.startribune.com/tips-from-a-traveler-to-cuba/418568233/ Continue reading
Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba

14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Cuban opposition leaders were detained
at Havana's international airport on Thursday, when they arrived from
Colombia, according to sources in the political movement Somos+ (We Are
More) speaking with 14ymedio.

Eliécer Ávila, president of that movement remains "in open protest" at
the capital's airport after the authorities' attempt to confiscate his
electronic devices.

"Immigration has not allowed us to pass, it seems there are signs on the
computers that say: interested in confrontation," Avila explained in a
message addressed to his movement. Later they were allowed to enter the
national territory but in the face of the attempt to confiscate their
belongings, the opponents rebelled.

Carlos Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is being
held at the police station in Santiago de las Vegas. Eliecer Avila has
said that he refuses to leave the airport without his laptop. The
opponent has been there for more than seven hours.

The order to seize his computer was issued by Carlos Pons, Chief of
Confrontation at the airport.

In the case of Marthadela Tamayo and Zuleidy Pérez, they were subjected
to a "rigorous search" and their personal computers siezed.

Source: Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/several-opposition-leaders-detained-on-their-return-to-cuba/ Continue reading
Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Airbnb hosts in Cuba, who
were so enthusiastic at the beginning, have been complaining recently
about the delays in receiving the payments made by the tourists who have
stayed in their homes. The discontent is clear from the complaints
published on the platform of the American company and the interviews
conducted by 14ymedio.

On the Airbnb site a couple claims to have experienced repeated delays
in payments. "Between January and part of February 2016 we had a serious
delay in receiving the payments through the agency VaCuba," complained
Ileana and Rolando, who have had problems again in early 2017. "We are
already behind in the dates scheduled by Airbnb; we haven't received the
payments and right now we're waiting on three more payments," they explain.

The Miami-based courier company VaCuba, with headquarters in Miami, is
in charge of bringing the payments to the hosts who rent out their
homes, rooms and spaces through Airbnb. In any other country, these
payments are made in the ordinary way through internet transfers, but
the banking system in Cuba has hired this agency to send the cash to get
the money to the Airbnb hosts.

The growth of Airbnb in Cuba during the last year has been remarkable,
making it the country where the platform has grown the most thanks to
the extension of licenses of that allows Cuban hosts to attract clients
from all over the world, not only from the United States, like at the
beginning.

Jorge Ignacio, an economics student who rents out a house in the town of
Soroa, in Artemisa, told 14ymedio that in February of this year,
"there's nothing from Airbnb." Now he says he's "looking for
alternatives" to collect for the stays of his guests because VaCuba, the
only money distribution mechanism offered by Airbnb has collapsed,
"because there are so many customers" and it can't continue "counting
the 'kilos'," he comments. "I get the full amount of the payment but
always with a big delay," said Jorge Ignacio, explaining that it's not
an isolated case "because the whole world is in the same situation."

Rebeca Monzó, a Cuban artisan and blogger who has a room to rent in
Nuevo Vedado, has a different complaint but adds to the discomfort
generated in recent months. "The payment delay is almost a month, I
never receive the full amount, they bring me 19 CUC when they actually
owe me 500." Monzó says that a messenger from VaCuba explained that "the
Cuban bank is behind with the transfers" and that "it cannot get the
full amount at once" and that is why they prefer to "make partial payments."

As a retiree, Monzó says the situation is not easy because she doesn't
see the result of her efforts and she only receives a fraction of what
she spends on daily supplies that allow her to "maintain a functioning
business." The payments are not the only thing she needs to stay
afloat. Monzó does her best to earn the good comments that clients place
on her profile. Each morning she prepares the breakfast for her clients
with great care and when they arrive at her house, she receives them
with a welcome card she makes herself.

"I wrote an email to Airbnb to comment on the delay of the payments and
not only did they not answer me but they returned the message. I have
also asked other hosts who have been in this for a longer time and they
have told me that it is not possible to receive the money by any means
other than VaCuba."

She says that Airbnb always makes the payment "in less than two days"
and that the company notifies her by email. Monzó confesses that she
does not want to leave the platform because "it is very safe" and sends
"the type of clients that you ask for."

"I refuse to take in the tourists just off the street because I do not
want to take risks, I want it to always be through a company that
guarantees me the seriousness of the customer," says Monzó.

Other users of the platform say they have found a solution to the
problem by using AIS cards to send and receive transfers, which can be
found in any branch of the state-owned company Financiera Cimex.

"You can ask VaCuba to start sending the money to the AIS card,"
explains an Airbnb host.

By the end of 2016, at least 34,000 self-employed people were engaged in
renting homes to serve a growing number of tourists (4 million last
year). To do so legally, they have to get a license and pay taxes, which
are levied even when their rooms are not rented.

Source: Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-hosts-complain-about-airbnbs-payment-system/ Continue reading
Connectify Will Be Free in Cuba to Share Internet Access

14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 – The managers of the Connectify
application have announced additional benefits for Cuban users who will
now be able to access the tool's premium features free of
charge. The app converts a computer connected to the internet into a
virtual repeater and is widely used on the island to share access to the
web from wifi zones.

A statement on the company's official website says that it will continue
"to fully support Cuban citizens with free Connectify Hotspot MAX 2017
licenses." The statement also announced the release of a Spanish version
of its program.

Along with the features available in the free version, such as creating
a Wi-Fi hotspot, using the ad blocker and customizing the hotspot name,
residents of the island will also have access to the premium functions
of Connectify Hotspot, among them the repeater mode.

Connectify for PC has gained users in Cuba in recent years with the
opening of public wifi zones and is used by many to share the bandwidth
of their connection. It has also generated a lucrative business of
reselling access to the web at a price below the 1.50 CUC for each hour
charged by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA).

This is not the first time that the company offers an advantage to Cuban
clients. In the middle of 2015 the company launched a special promotion
for the island that allowed the free download of the professional
version of the software for three months. Until now, most of the
versions that were used were hacked copies.

Source: Connectify Will Be Free in Cuba to Share Internet Access –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/connectify-will-be-free-in-cuba-to-share-internet-access/ Continue reading
Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what people think
of when they think of America'
hola.com April 6, 2017

Long before her pop star days, Camila Cabello was a young girl looking
to start a new life in the United States. The singer and her mother
Sinuhe candidly opened up about their journey from Cuba to America in a
new interview with Glamour magazine. "We flew from Cuba to Mexico, and
went by bus to the American border; it took a month. We left everyone
behind, my friends, my family," Camila's mom recalled. "It was really
hard. I came here with no money and left everything that was familiar.
But I just made a list of goals, and every time I scratched one off, I
felt that everything was worth it."

Relocating from her native Cuba to Miami was an adjustment for the
former Fifth Harmony member. She explained, "In Cuba there were days in
class where we would just watch cartoons. We weren't learning. But when
I came to the U.S., it was like: homework. A lot of things were suddenly
so ­different—being at a new school without my friends, I didn't speak
the language, and I missed my dad." Though her father reunited with
Camila and her mother a year and a half later.
MORE: Camila talks the scariest part of leaving Fifth Harmony
While the Bad Things singer was admittedly shy as a child, she used
music as a way to connect with others. "I was very introverted as a kid.
But I started bringing my CDs to the YMCA after school; I'd ask for the
boom box and go play my music in the corner and people would come over,"
she said. "And I created a little YouTube channel doing covers—I must
have posted 50. Even though I'd be like, 'Oh my god, this is so bad,'
music was the thing I was passionate enough about to get over being
shy." The 20-year-old was also inspired by a famous boy band, One
Direction, to pursue her passion. She shared, "After seeing a One
Direction 'tips on auditioning for The X Factor (USA)' video, I asked
Mom if I could audition" — and the rest is history.

Camila joined Fifth Harmony in 2012 on the competition show and left in
2016. Now as a solo artist the Work from Home singer said, "Right now
I'm in the process of writing about our whole journey. I want to make a
love song for immigrants. That word, immigrant, has such a negative
connotation—I can just imagine all the little girls who have dreams of
coming here and feel unwanted."
She continued, "It inspires me in my music to do my best to give [them]
the light that I have. I want to be what people think of when they think
of America—a person who, no matter what her first language was or what
her religion is, can see her dreams come to life if she works hard enough."

Source: Camila Cabello shares her success story: 'I want to be what
people think of when they think of America' -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/camila-cabello-shares-her-success-125422431.html Continue reading
Invasive Marabou Weed Arrives at the Plaza of the Revolution

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, NYC, 6 April 2017 — Resistant and thorny, the
invasive marabou weed has inundated Cuban fields and threatened to
displace the national shield's royal palm. The shrub has become a plague
spreading across the country, covering previously arable land, and
worming its way into a topic for the speeches of senior officials. But
the tenacious invader is not exclusive to rural areas and has also
reached that symbol of power that is the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.

On one side of the José Martí National Library, among the ruins of a
building that would have been used to house patients for Operation
Miracle – an eye care program – but that was never finished, grows a
spontaneous garden with tiny yellow flowers and powerful pods loaded
with seeds. The marabou raises its defiant branches there as if it were
pointing to the huge tower popularly called "La Raspadura" – The Scratch.

Without adequate machinery or chemical defoliants to help stop the
plague, across the island many country dwellers use old machetes and
makeshift axes to cut the trunks. However, on both sides of the highways
and in any vacant lot, the marabou continues to display its excellent
health.

In 2007, during his speech on the anniversary of the attack on the
Moncada Barracks, Raúl Castro joked about the panorama he had found on
his trip to the city of Camagüey: "What was most beautiful, what stood
out to my eyes, was how lovely the marabou was along the whole road."

Now, the implacable enemy is approaching the presidential office in the
Palace of the Revolution. Stealthy and steady, the marabou has won the
battle.

Source: Invasive Marabou Weed Arrives at the Plaza of the Revolution –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/invasive-marabou-weed-arrives-at-the-plaza-of-the-revolution/ Continue reading
Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans Stranded in the
City

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Cubans living in the Mexican city of
Nuevo Laredo, who were stranded after the United States ended the Wet
foot/Dry Foot policy that allowed Cubans who set foot on US soil to
stay, may now apply for political asylum to regularize their situation
in the country, according to the city's mayor, Enrique Rivas Cueller,
who spoke on Nuevo Laredo TV.

"We had a meeting where we had people from immigration, people from the
state … all the actors from the federal government, to be able to give
them a procedure. They are going to submit a request for political
asylum and achieve their legal stay in the country," explained Rivas
Cuellar.

The municipal authorities estimate that there are currently between 500
and 1,000 Cuban migrants who could not continue their trip to the United
States after the end of the previous US immigration policy.

The long stay in Nuevo Laredo to which migrants have been subjected has
been a natural step for their integration into the city.

The municipal government will conduct a census of the Cubans in the city
and, according to declarations of Rivas Cuellar in the newspaper
Milenio, "many of them are participating in the economic activity, some
have already developed some commerce," which is why regulation is necessary.

"Even if they want to go to another city in the country where they
intend to work or live, it will support them," said the mayor, who said
that many Cubans "are already regularizing themselves."

The measure that the authorities of Nuevo Laredo intend to carry out is
unprecedented in Mexican migration policy, as of 12 January of this year
when they stopped issuing transit permits for Cuban migrants to transit
through the country for 20 days as a legal way to reach the United States.

In its place, the Mexican Government has since passed the Immigration
Law and, as of 18 February, 680 Cuban migrants found to be in different
parts of Cuba illegally were repatriated to Cuba.

Author 14ymedio
Posted on April 6, 2017


Source: Nuevo Laredo Mayor to Regularize the Situation of Cubans
Stranded in the City – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/nuevo-laredo-mayor-to-regularize-the-situation-of-cubans-stranded-in-the-city/ Continue reading
Cuba's Phone Company Lowers Home Internet Prices After Customer Complaints

14ymedio, Havana, 5 April 2017 – After complaints from customers, the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) lowered internet browsing
prices for its "Nauta Home" service. A few weeks after the pilot test,
only 358 users have signed up for the service, 41% of whom who
participated in the pilot project.

The pilot offered the service for free, bringing the internet to 858
homes in two People's Councils areas of Old Havana, between 19 December
2016 and 28 February of this year. Initially the pilot was designed to
include some 2,000 families.

At first, ETECSA marketed 30-hour internet packages for a price of
between 15 and 105 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) (roughly the same value
in US dollars), at speeds ranging from 128 kilobytes to 2 Mb. However,
as of 30 March, the minimum package has doubled the speed to 256 Kbps at
the same price.

The 512 Kbps package now costs 30 CUC — more than the average monthly
wage in Cuba — and the 1,024 Kbps costs 50 CUC, with 2,048 Kbps going
for 70 CUC, a reduction of 40 percent; but the prices remain prohibitive
for most Cubans.

The engineer Amarelys Rodríguez Sánchez, head of the Nauta Home Project,
told the official press that during the test, issues such as contracting
and service assistance were evaluated, as well as "the quality of the
speeds."

"The study has raised demand for wireless modems," said the engineer,
who added that customers also demanded that "rates be more affordable"
and that there be a tool that allows them to "measure the speed at which
they are surfing."

The initial cost of a contract will now be 29 CUC: 19 for the purchase
of the ADSL modem, and 10 CUC for the activation of user access.

Customers wishing to use more connection time will pay an additional
1.50 CUC for each extra hour.

Until now, web browsing from home was only allowed for a select group of
professionals such as doctors, journalists, intellectuals or academics,
who needed government authorization to have the service.

Rodríguez justified the high rates because of "all the investments that
must be deployed" by the company. "Fiber optic infrastructure solutions
are very expensive, as is implementing a project that requires
multiservice equipment."

To continue expanding the service ETECSA needs to "make specific
investments on fixed and mobile networks," she said.

By the end of 2017, the company plans to have installed at least 38,000
internet connections in the island's homes.

Source: Cuba's Phone Company Lowers Home Internet Prices After Customer
Complaints – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-phone-company-lowers-home-internet-prices-after-customer-complaints/ Continue reading
This Is How Cuba Threatens, Intimidates, Controls and Punishes Its Own
Citizens

To citizen Ivan Garcia Quintero, resident of 12 Carmen Street, Apt 3,
between San Lazaro and Calzada 10 de Octubre. Your presence is required
at the 10 de October PNR (People's Revolutionary Police) [station] on 2
April 2017 at 10:00 PM with the objective of an Interview.

You are warned that if you don't appear we will use all the legal
resources [obscured by stamp] … you will be fined up to 50 pesos or you
will be criminally processed for the crime of disobedience to the
authorities.

Note that the name signing the citation is a first name only: 1st Lt.
'Alejandro'

Source: This Is How Cuba Threatens, Intimidates, Controls and Punishes
Its Own Citizens – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/this-is-how-they-try-to-threaten-intimidate-and-control-you/ Continue reading
"State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us"

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Maydolys Leyva can breath easy for the
first time since last March 7. Her three children have abandoned their
hunger strike after being released on parole. This Monday, their mother
prepared a meal of mild creamed vegetables, root vegetables and meat for
her daughter Anairis and son Fidel Batista, as they began to resume
eating. Her other daughter, Adairis Miranda, is still in intermediate care.

From her bed at Vladimir Ilich Lenin Teaching Hospital in Holguín,
where she is recovering, Anairis Miranda spoke via telephone with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. What led you to undertake the hunger strike?

Anairis. We spent 27 days without food and continued to demand the
immediate release of our family because we never accepted the unjust
sentence of a year of deprivation of liberty imposed on us.

We are also demanding the release of the political prisoners of the
Cuban Reflection Movement to which we belong with pride and whose
national leader is Librado Linares. We also demand the immediate release
of the national leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Eduardo
Cardet. In response to these demands we obtained parole for health reasons.

14ymedio. Are you still under surveillance?

Anairis. Right now, here in the hospital, there is no presence of State
Security. As of Sunday, when they delivered the parole documents to us,
they took their repressors and left.

14ymedio. What were the most difficult moments during the strike?

Anairis. We suffered a lot of repression by State Security. They made
threats against our mother's life. The official in charge of
confrontation in the province of Holguin, Fredy Agüero, threatened to
take custody of my sister's two children, who were being looked after by
our mom. He said they would arrest her and kill her in prison.

14ymedio. How is your sister right now?

Anairis. Adairis is now in intermediate therapy in the surgical clinic,
she has a monitor and an IV. We all have very low blood pressure. We
weigh 66 pounds and are continuing to lose weight. My brother has very
unstable blood pressure, it goes up and down. My brother and I are
suffering from ischemic heart disease as a sequel to the strike. I have
some vaginal bleeding and diarrhea. I am still very ill, just like my
siblings.

14ymedio. How has the treatment from the doctors been from a humane
point of view?

Anairis. Some doctors have treated us well, those who are not from the
Ministry of the Interior. The doctors of the State Security, who
constantly mistreated us, have already left. They tried to misrepresent
everything about our health and to overshadow everything. Now, since
they left, we have noticed the change in the treatment of the hospital
doctors and the people who have come to see us. Before they didn't let
anyone approach us.

14ymedio. How many days do the doctors expect you to remain hospitalized?

Anairis. They tell us that we have to stay in the hospital about ten
more days because we could suffer a heart attack or different
complications can occur, although in the case of my sister it could be
longer depending on the improvement in her immune system.

14ymedio. How did you receive evidence of solidarity?

Anairis. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the international
public for their solidarity and to all the brother and sister activists
of both the diaspora and the country. Of course, also the journalists
who reported what happened.

Source: "State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us" – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/state-security-doctors-constantly-mistreated-us/ Continue reading
Exercising Independent Journalism In Cuba Is A State Crime / Iván García

Iván García, 30 March 2017 — Fear has the habit of first knocking on
your door. On any night, in a work center or a house, an official of
State Security can give a citizen an official citation with an
intimidating look.

It could be your sister, a close relative, childhood friends or a
neighbor. The strategy is always the same. The assassination of the
dissident journalist's reputation by combining half-truths with
treacherous lies.

They play all their cards. From one's commitment to the Revolution to
blackmail and social isolation.

Since I began a relationship with my wife, a telecommunications
engineer, her professional career has been stalled. They control her
email and the contents of her work through a magnifying glass. The same
thing happens with friends who collaborate on my journalistic notes.
It's an insolent and arbitrary harassment.

The political policy officials in Cuba know they have an all-reaching
power. They perform, Olympically, the violation of their own laws of
autocracy.

An official of the National Revolutionary Police told me about the
problems the State Security agents cause among their staff instructors.
"They consider themselves to be above good and evil. They come into the
unit and mobilize personnel and resources to detain or repress someone
in the opposition. Or they take over an office without even asking
permission. They're a bunch of thugs."

If you want to know the methods they use to create tensions among
families and friends and to cause marital problems, I recommend that you
see the documentary on political prisoners in Cuba, Avatares de la
familia, made by Palenque Visión and recently premiered in Miami.

When someone gets involved in peaceful dissidence or exercises
independent journalism, the family pays the price. If it's not enough to
create concern when a mother, father, spouse or son isn't going to sleep
at home one night; the treacherous State Security tries to dynamite
intimate relations with accusations of marital infidelity.

The Regime surely washes its hand like Pontius Pilate when it declares,
in international forums, that the Island doesn't assassinate the
opposition or independent journalists. But the fabrication of files with
false proof is also a punishable crime.

The beatings of dissident women on public streets or in front of their
children have increased. The occupation of work teams and the harassment
of independent journalists have become a habitual practice of the
political police.

Creed, religion or ideology doesn't matter. It's the same repression for
neo-communist bloggers like Harold Cárdenas (El Toque Cuba), foreign
correspondents like Fernando Rasvberg (Cartas Desde Cuba) or pure
reporters like Elaine Díaz, who founded a digital newspaper (Periodismo
de Barrio), which covers the country's vulnerable communities.

For Raúl Castro's government, disagreeing is a symptom of
insubordination and the first step toward dissidence. In the midst of
the 21st century, the olive-green State affirms its right to give
permission about what should be written or expressed. Anyone who doesn't
fulfill this precept is a criminal outside the law. Of course, for the
openly anti-Castro journalists, the repression is more ferocious.

In the spring of 2003, 14 years ago, Fidel Castro ordered the
incarceration of 75 peaceful opponents, 27 of which were independent
journalists, among them the poet Raúl Rivero, whose "weapon" was a stack
of ballpoint pens, an Olivetti Lettera typewriter and a collection of
literature from universal writers.

Some colleagues who write without State permission and with different
doctrines believe that the subject of the dissidence in Cuba — although
it is packed with problems, divided but real — is hidden by the
ideological police, and that those who support the status quo, the
cultural policies and ideological thought on the Island, are rewarded.

Recent facts show that the mantle of intolerance, which at times
resembles fascist behavior, has no borders. They insult Rasvberg with
crude swearwords and detained Elaine and several of her colleagues from
Periodismo de Barro when they tried to report on the aftermath of
Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, just as they systematically harass the
independent journalist from Cama gagüey, Henry Constantín Ferreiro, who
has been the regional Vice President of the Sociedad Interamericana de
Prensa for some months.

I know Henry personally. He's a quiet guy, unaffected and creative, and
right now the authorities are trying to accuse him of "usurpation of
legal capacity," the same as his colleague, Sol García Basulto. His
"crime" is to exercise independent journalism and direct a magazine
without State sponsorship.

We Cuban journalists should show solidarity with each other when the
State tries to roll over us and shut us up. It doesn't matter what each
of us thinks. We all have the right to freely express our opinions.

To paraphrase Martin Luther King: You don't have to love me, I only ask
that you don't lynch me.



Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Exercising Independent Journalism In Cuba Is A State Crime /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/exercising-independent-journalism-in-cuba-is-a-state-crime-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Discover The Incredible Cars Of Cuba And The People Who Keep Them Running
Justin T. Westbrook

Recent political changes in Cuba, including expanded accessibility to
personal transportation and loosening restrictions of trade and tourism
with the U.S., have put a fresh light on the country's car scene.
Popular YouTube channel Mighty Car Mods just released a beautiful
documentary on the culture, the people and the cars of the communist state.

Cuba was cut off from the capitalist world when Fidel Castro took power
in 1959, leaving the country's roads as a snapshot of 1950's Americana
and forcing people to innovate and eventually mix with the utilitarian
boxes of the former Soviet Union. Cuba and its car culture now finds
itself front and center in the big Western blockbuster franchise that is
Fast & Furious.

I suspect that the eighth installment of the franchise, which includes
The Rock kicking a ice-skating torpedo into a truck at one point, isn't
going to do the people of Cuba justice, but here's a documentary that does.

Cuba is perhaps the one place in the world where automotive intelligence
hasn't faded—it's not allowed to. Instead it has flourished into a
beautiful quagmire of car parts and culture; a stream of a crazy
alternate reality just a few miles south of the rest of the world.

Check out the documentary from Mighty Car Mods below:
https://youtu.be/ZJPqe1baowA
The production quality is incredibly high compared to the YouTube I grew
up with, but Marty and Moog and their automotive misadventures have
always been maaaaad. This documentary takes it to a new level though,
and I'm excited to see the guys move into more amazing spotlights like this.

Source: Discover The Incredible Cars Of Cuba And The People Who Keep
Them Running -
http://jalopnik.com/mighty-car-mods-documented-the-incredible-cars-of-cuba-1794056570 Continue reading
How to plan a Cuba trip without an organized tour
By KAREN SCHWARTZ | karenlschwartz@yahoo.com |
April 6, 2017 at 12:01 am

I've always been one to abide by the important rules. I carry car
insurance. I don't cheat on my taxes, and when I decided to visit Cuba,
I wanted to comply with the U.S. government regulations for travel to
the communist island.

That would have been easy to do had I taken an organized tour, but at
$5,000 to $10,000 a person for a week, it was beyond my budget. Instead,
I planned the trip myself and saved about $2,500 for each of us.

It took some patience and ingenuity. Much of the tourist information
online was geared toward those who aren't subject to the U.S
regulations. Also, internet service in Cuba is limited, so email
exchanges sometimes took several days.

Still, the trip was worth the effort. I didn't relax at one of the
all-inclusive beach resorts (an activity barred for U.S. travelers), but
because the trip focused on the Cuban culture and people, it was
fascinating.

If that sounds appealing, considering these tips:

Know the law

So far, President Trump has left in place the looser Cuba travel
regulations implemented in 2015.

Tourism remains banned, but visits that fall under 12 special categories
don't require filing for a license from the Treasury Department. Some of
the categories involve various professional exchanges; others include
family visits, educational, humanitarian or religious activities.

I traveled under the educational/people-to-people option, which required
that I "maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange
activities" and "meaningful interaction" that would "enhance" contact
with Cubans, promote their independence, or support "civil society."

The wording was vague enough that I looked for some clarification. I
reviewed the itineraries from the tours that cater to Americans, and I
also found some specific recommendations on a Cornell University Law
School website.

For instance, it said that a bike trip exploring Havana, with casual
conversations with shopkeepers, waiters and hotel staff wouldn't meet
the government's standards.


The visa required by the Cuban government was simple to obtain through
my American Airlines reservation. Upon booking my flight, its partner,
www.CubaTravelServices.com, sent me the forms. It cost $50 for the visa
and $35 for processing,

Have a plan

My husband, daughter and I were traveling during the peak New Year's
week and found that many of the bed and breakfasts known as casas
particulares were full by early December. Airbnb is relatively new in
Cuba, so there are few reviews. We took our chances and found
comfortable rooms for as little as $25.

I wanted to set up activities before we left to ensure we met the
people-to-people requirements. I started with the tours and guides
listed on TripAdvisor, but again, most were booked. Working off the
list, I was finally able to set up three half-day tours in Havana to
look at the Art Deco architecture, the history of the mob and a rundown
on the religions and culture. These cost $35 per person.

We also decided to take some lessons at Havana Music. My daughter, who
plays trombone, studied Cuban jazz, and my husband and I learned some
percussion rhythms on wooden claves and the guiro gourd. Others we met
were studying piano and voice.

The staff also helped me set up a last-minute tour of Old Havana, which
cost about half the price of the other excursions. This outing relied on
public transportation rather than a vintage car, but there were lots of
other opportunities to ride in the 1950s-era Chevys.

You can't ask too many questions

Before the trip, I asked everyone I knew whether they had contacts in
Cuba. That led a friend of a friend to put us in touch with some people
who run a music cooperative in the city of Matanzas, about 55 miles east
of Havana and best known as the birthplace of danzón and rumba.

Our new Cuba friends were generous with their time and knowledge,
inviting us to their home, sharing their stories and taking us on a tour
of the city and its art galleries. They spoke English, but that's
unusual in Cuba.

Mission accomplished

It wasn't until we arrived in Cienfuegos, a city of neoclassical
architecture that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, that we
encountered tour buses.

As I watched the huge groups following dutifully behind their guide, I
realized they may have stayed in more comfortable hotels or had better
meals, though perhaps not.

More important, I doubted that a large group would have had the intimate
discussions about life and politics we had been able to enjoy. To me,
those made my trip a true "people-to-people" experience.

Source: How to plan a trip to Cuba without joining a tour -
http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/06/cuba-trip-without-an-organized-tour/ Continue reading
Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Two months after the Trump administration announced a total review of
U.S. policy toward Cuba, several controversial proposals are being
circulated at the White House with no clear front-runner on the issue.

But Sen. Marco Rubio says he has spoken with Trump three times about Cuba.

"We've been walking through all these issues with the president and his
team, figuring out the right steps to take and when," Rubio told el
Nuevo Herald.

"I am confident that President Trump will treat Cuba like the
dictatorship it is and that our policy going forward will reflect the
fact that it is not in the national interest of the United States for us
to be doing business with the Cuban military," he added.

The Miami Republican of Cuban descent declined to say whether the
president had made any commitments to him on Cuba policies. But a Rubio
spokesman told el Nuevo Herald that the senator and his staff "have been
working behind the scenes" on Cuba policy.

The Cuban government has taken notice of Rubio's rising voice in U.S.
policy toward Latin America, and the state-run Granma newspaper recently
criticized his efforts to have the Organization of American States
condemn Venezuela's human rights record.

But the Granma article carefully avoided insulting Trump. And the Raúl
Castro government, in a rare show of restraint, has said little about
the Trump administration as it waits for the ongoing review of overall
U.S. policies toward the island.

Spokespersons for the White House and the State Department have said
that the National Security Council (NSC) has the lead in the
multi-agency review. Several knowledgeable sources have said that Jill
St. John, a low-level NSC staffer, is coordinating the work. The White
House did not immediately reply to el Nuevo Herald questions about St. John.

The review requires an initial examination of current policy and
regulations. But whoever is gathering that information "has no
directions on what to do about that," said one source who favors
improved relations with Havana.

Several key jobs in the State Department and other agencies also remain
unfilled by officials "who usually would be the ones you could approach
to talk about Cuba," said one pro-embargo source frustrated by the
so-called "vacuum."

But "treating Cuba as a dictatorship" does not necessarily entail
reversing all of President Barack Obama's measure to improve bilateral
relations. Rubio said he favored tougher policies toward Cuba, a
strategy favored by some dissidents on the island. But he did not reply
directly to a question on whether he favors a total rollback of the new
regulations, as proposed in a memorandum making the rounds on Capitol
Hill and the White House that is believed to have been crafted by staff
members for Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

The memo proposes imposing new sanctions within 90 days unless Cuba
meets a string of requirements contained in the Helms-Burton law and
takes action toward the return of U.S. fugitives and compensation for
confiscated U.S. properties.

Several proposals circulating
However, the memo is just one of many proposing different policies,
according to several sources.

A White House official said in a statement of the Diaz-Balart memo:
"This appears to be an unofficial DRAFT memo which is not consistent
with current formatting and may be a Transition document.

"Some of the language is consistent with what the President said during
the campaign, which is guiding the review of U.S. policy toward Cuba,"
the official said. "The review is not complete and therefore there is no
further comment at this time."

Trump promised during the presidential campaign to "reverse" all the
pro-engagement measures approved by Obama unless the Cuban government
bows to his demands. These days, the phrase making the rounds within
political circles in Washington and Miami is "treat Cuba like a
dictatorship."

"Cuba must be treated for what it is and not, as the Obama
administration did, what it wished Cuba were. Cuba remains a Communist,
totalitarian police state that allies itself with American adversaries
and enemies, including state sponsors of terror and terrorist
organizations," said attorney Jason Poblete of the Washington-based
PobleteTamargo LLP. His wife Yleem Poblete was appointed to the Trump
transition team.

Other proposals floating around Washington would reverse only parts of
the Obama changes, because doing more would disrupt the market and risk
lawsuits from U.S. companies that have already signed deals with Cuba.
The recommendations in the presumed Diaz-Balart memo would cost U.S.
tourism and service companies about $2 billion during the remaining
years of the Trump administration, said John Kavulich, president of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Turning back the clock even further, to the tight restrictions on travel
and remittances imposed by former President George W. Bush — a
possibility that had frightened many people — seems even less likely now.

Several sources who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly on the
issue said that among the proposals submitted to the Trump
administration is one that would eliminate the self-guided trips to Cuba
under the so-called "people to people" travel category, described as
"tourism on steroids" or a thinly-veiled way to sidestep the U.S. ban on
Cuba tourism.

Another would impose targeted sanctions on Cuban military or Interior
Ministry officials. And a third would deny further licenses to U.S.
companies that do business with enterprises run by the Cuban military,
which controls at least an estimated 60 percent of the island's economy.

"They are 100 percent looking into this," said one source close to the
business sector with ties to Cuba. One pro-engagement source said that
the proposal to deny licenses — perhaps the most detrimental for Cuba —
would be difficult to implement.

"How's OFAC going to determine which companies are connected to the
Cuban military?," said the source.

He also cautioned that such harsh measures could strengthen the most
conservative sectors within Cuba, at a time when the Venezuelan crisis
is growing worse and Castro's deadline for retiring from power in 2018
is approaching.

Rubio's statements, nevertheless, hint that Trump policies may target
the Cuban military. House Speaker Paul Ryan last year also proposed
banning U.S. companies from doing business with Cuba military enterprises.

Lobbyists scrambling
At the same time, groups that support improving relations with Cuba have
not stopped their lobbying efforts, and continue "strategizing about how
to influence the Trump administration, although the window of
opportunity is closing," said Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at Brookings
Institution who specializes in U.S.-Cuba relations.

Piccone said that maintaining the current policy toward Cuba would be in
the best interest of the United States, not just because of the economic
benefits but also because of national security concerns. He said Trump
administration officials such as Jason Greenblatt at the NSC, Treasury
Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are
"open to this argument."

U.S. companies doing business with Cuba also have been sending messages
to the Trump administration in support of a pro-business agenda.

"With the new administration's desire to grow our economy, we are
hopeful that both governments will continue the momentum to work to open
the door for commerce to flourish between our two countries," said
Vanessa Picariello, Norwegian Cruise senior director of public relations.

"Business and civic leaders from the American Farm Bureau, the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce and Republican members of Congress also have been
encouraging President Trump to shake up our failed embargo policy with
Cuba," said James Williams, director of Engage Cuba, a coalition of
businesses and organizations lobbying to eliminate economic sanctions to
Cuba. "President Trump can create billions of dollars in trade and tens
of thousands of American jobs by expanding trade with Cuba."

Letters in support of the current pro-engagement policy have been sent
to the Trump administration by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Catholic
Church leaders, the American Farm Bureau, Cuban-American organizations
like the Cuba Study Group and members of Congress like Minnesota
Republican Rep. Tom Emmer, who has submitted a bill to lift the U.S.
trade embargo on Cuba.

Piccone said that on balance the pro-engagement camp feels "positive,
although realistic that certain promises were made to senators like Rubio.

"It is up for grabs, what is happening at the end."

Miami Herald reporter Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: Marco Rubio: 'Trump will treat Cuba like the dictatorship it is'
| Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142898404.html Continue reading
Cuba sí, racism no!
By Cate McQuaid GLOBE CORRESPONDENT APRIL 06, 2017

CAMBRIDGE — The Afro-Cuban painter Juan Roberto Diago came of age in the
1990s in the midst of a firestorm. The collapse of the Soviet Union
devastated Cuban trade and the island's economy suffered a teeth-jarring
blow. Famine followed. Social unrest was inevitable.

Hardship wrenched open racial divides. Still, as late as 1997, President
Fidel Castro said that in Cuba — a country that until 1886 had benefited
from slavery — racial discrimination had been eradicated.

"Diago: The Pasts of This Afro-Cuban Present," at Harvard's Ethelbert
Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art, charts the career of
an artist who decries racism in a country that has largely denied it exists.

Fury drives the early works. That's understandable in the face of
stonewalling, and Diago was hollering into a void. He used simplified
figures, graffiti, and aggressive marks to get his message across. The
painting "Aquí Nadie Gana (Nobody Wins Here)" (at right) depicts a
figure outlined in red and yellow with one eye in the shape of a cross.
The background looks scorched; the piece reads like a sizzling brand.

The artist matured and his message deepened, thanks to an increasingly
poetic use of materials. In slats of found wood covering the entryway to
the gallery, the installation "De la Serie El Rostro de la Verdad (From
the series The Face of Truth)" lucidly summons the textures of
shantytowns where many poor black Cubans live.

The more abstract Diago's work gets, the more power it carries. In the
minimalist "De La Serie La Piel que Habla, No. 4 (From the Series: The
Skin that Speaks, No. 4)" he binds a black canvas in strips of pale
fabric, which might represent scars, barbed wire, or bandages.

If Diago's earlier, more expressionistic art has the immediacy of blood
on the canvas, his later evocation of scars is more poignant. Covered up
or not, oppression leaves an indelible mark.

DIAGO: THE PAST OF THIS AFRO-CUBAN
PRESENT

At Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African &
African American Art, Harvard University,
102 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, through May 5. 617-496-5777,
www.coopergalleryhc.org

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her
on Twitter @cmcq.

Source: Cuba sí, racism no! - The Boston Globe -
https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2017/04/05/cuba-racism/c6eI4x3GMk0J8bT6DZ0WTO/story.html Continue reading
Soccer beginning to gain foothold in Cuba
Tim Wendel, USA TODAY Sports Published 9:02 p.m. ET April 4, 2017

HAVANA — Aerial photographs of soccer fields in Cuba were once enough to
sound the alarm.

"Cubans play baseball," warned a CIA consultant in 1970 after studying
U.S. satellite images. "Russians play soccer."

That was then on the island, soccer is now. Parks, empty lots and
alleyways that were once home to baseball in and around Havana have been
taken over by pickup or organized soccer games. Baseball aficionados say
the shift began a decade ago and could have a major effect on a nation
that has seen its top baseball talent defect — often under perilous
conditions — to sign lucrative contracts with Major League Baseball teams.

"I'd been told it was happening, but until you see it with your own
eyes, you can't believe it," says Milton Jamail, the author of Full
Count: Inside Cuban Baseball, who has been to the island 10 times, most
recently in January. "You always hear that baseball is Cuba's game. But
it is clearly not the only sport that has captured the attention of
young men on the island."

Reasons for this sports shift might sound familiar to U.S. fans:

•Baseball moves too slowly, especially on television.

•Soccer only requires a ball, while baseball equipment can be too expensive.

•Baseball in Cuba is often viewed as the sport of the older generation.

Perhaps as a sign of the times, Team Cuba failed to get out of pool play
in the World Baseball Classic. Netherlands eliminated Cuba 14-1 on March 15.

Despite such struggles, they have been playing baseball in Cuba for
almost as long as it's been in the USA. In 1864, Nemesio Guillo returned
to his homeland with a bat and baseball after studying in the USA. He
and his brother, Ernesto, founded the Habana Base Ball Club, and the
game in Cuba soon flourished. The first ballpark in the country was
built in 1874 in Matanzas, east of Havana, and amateur leagues were soon
organized around the island's sugar mills.

In the USA, baseball remains as traditional as it gets. In Cuba, though,
playing the game could be viewed as a political statement. In the 1890s,
students and would-be revolutionaries were attracted to the sport
because it demonstrated their support for an independent Cuba. Soon
after taking power in 1959, Fidel Castro barnstormed with his ballclub,
Los Barbudos. Yet turn on a TV in a Cuban home, and it's easier to find
soccer than baseball.

"Barcelona, Real Madrid, games from Brazil — those are all available to
Cubans now," says Luke Salas, a Cuban-American former minor league
ballplayer who attempted to play in a provincial league outside of
Havana in 2012. "And when you think about the growth of soccer on the
island, it makes sense."

Of course, MLB has plenty of Cuban stars, including Aroldis Chapman,
Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, who were born and got their
baseball start in Cuba. From 2008 to 2014, nearly 50 Cuban ballplayers
defected to the USA, with 19 reaching the majors, according to MLB.com.
Yet once Cuban players leave, they cannot return to play for their
country. As a result, the level of play in Serie Nacional, the island's
top league, has suffered in recent years.

"Fans in Cuba know that Chapman helped the Cubs win the World Series,"
says Salas, who also produced a 2013 documentary film, The Cuban Dream.
"But it's not celebrated as much as you would think. That's because
Chapman and so many other top stars are gone."

Manny Hidalgo has made nine trips to Cuba since 1994 and recently
rebuilt a playground in Jovellanos, a two-hour drive from Havana and
next to a sugar mill that his mother's family owned for nearly a
century. On the refurbished fields, which will soon have lights, soccer
became the most popular game. Hidalgo's 11-year-old son, Francisco, who
plays soccer in the Washington, D.C., area, says the Cuban kids are
"really good."

At least one Cuban baseball official sees soccer as a passing fad.
Baseball Commissioner Heriberto Suarez told Jamail, "Soccer is not in
our blood, baseball is."

At the Esquina Caliente or "Hot Corner" in Parque Central in Havana, men
still gather every day to talk and debate baseball. But some of them
wear shirts for such iconic soccer teams as Real Madrid and Barcelona.

During the Tampa Bay Rays exhibition game in March 2016 at Estadio
Latinoamericano in Havana, MLB made sure that new infield grass was in
place and the dugouts and roof were repaired. Despite such efforts,
FIFA, soccer's world governing body, might be doing more to promote its
sport on the island.

In late February, Granma, the nation's newspaper, detailed how FIFA was
building a field with artificial grass for Cuba's youth and top-echelon
teams. Salas says Alberto Juantorena, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist who
is head of the Cuban track and field federation, once gave him a soccer
ball.

"We have thousands of them," Juantorena told him. "A gift from FIFA."

Since then, Salas has begun "Baseballs For Cuba," an effort that plans
to donate 1 million baseballs to kids on the island.

Cuba is 155th out of 205 countries in FIFA's ranking. So playing
baseball would still seem to be the best path to sports fame and fortune.

Yet David Goldblatt, author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of
Soccer, isn't so sure.

"The World Cup seems unlikely," he says, "though with an expanded
48-team (field) and maybe seven places for CONCACAF, hardly the world's
strongest football confederation, why not?"

Outside of Havana, just down the road from Ernest Hemingway's former
home, a small baseball diamond still stands. In the 1940s, the author's
sons, Patrick and Gregory, who was nicknamed Gigi, played baseball
nearby with kids from the barrio. Hemingway, who loved the game,
supplied balls, bats and gloves, and he pitched to both teams.

A sign for the Gigi All-Stars stands alongside the road leading up to
house, passed by dozens of tour buses daily. But guides at the Hemingway
house cannot remember the last time an actual game was played nearby.

"Weeks or more," one says. "It's been awhile since I've seen the game here."

Wendel is the author of the novel "Castro's Curveball" and has visited
Cuba four times since 1992.

Source: Soccer beginning to gain foothold in Cuba -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/soccer/2017/04/04/soccer-gaining-foothold-baseball-cuba/100049094/ Continue reading
Panel: Relations between Cuba, U.S. remain uncertain under Trump
BY LEÓN HERNÁNDEZ
lhernandez1@elnuevoherald.com

It is still uncertain what will happen between the United States and
Cuba under President Donald Trump, several journalists who took part in
a panel discussion on that topic at the Hispanicize 2017 conference in
Miami said Tuesday.

"It's a mystery. Nobody knows, nobody knows when Trump is going to take
a step," said Pablo de Llano, the Florida and Cuba correspondent for the
El País newspaper. "He will have some dialogue with the Cuban American
community, apparently Senator Marco Rubio is trying to influence the
issue, but what can be deduced is that it is not at all a priority."

De Llano was joined on the panel, "What is the future of relations
between Cuba and the United States in 2017?," by Rick Jervis, USA Today
correspondent; Myriam Márquez, executive editor of el Nuevo Herald;
Angie Sandoval, Telemundo correspondent; and Hatzel Vela, Cuba
correspondent for WPLG Local 10.

"What interests Cuba is to have the embargo lifted in order to have
access to the credits that other countries have," Márquez said.
"Venezuela is on fire. They know they do not have much time. So what can
the Raúl Castro regime do to change that equation, with a man like
Trump, who no one knows which way he is going to turn? That's going to
be the most interesting thing."

The thaw between the U.S. and Cuba, spurred by the Obama administration,
was also addressed by panelists.

"The population has not seen much of that transformation," Sandoval
said. "What is true is that people have been able to dream about seeing
something more. But the one that has benefited the most economically
with the opening is the Cuban government."

FOLLOW LEÓN HERNÁNDEZ ON TWITTER:@EL_LEON

Source: US-Cuba relations uncertain under Trump, Hispanicize
participants say | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article142697714.html Continue reading
Depression, the "Silent Epidemic" Also Attacks in Cuba
April 3, 2017
By Pilar Montes

HAVANA TIMES — A recent medical event in Havana and particular
indicators I picked up on in TV programs and social projects, stirred my
curiosity about the impact of depression in Cuba.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO),
depression affects 322 million people worldwide, 18% more than in the
last decade.

Delving into the distribution of this so-called "silent epidemic" in the
world, the WHO says that the relationship between this disease with
rapid changes, war and migration isn't clear and that this illness is
more closely linked to addictions such as alcoholism and drug abuse.

In Latin America, Brazil is the country with the highest level of
depression, followed by Cuba, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that over 4%
of the global population suffers from depression and that women, young
people and the elderly are more prone to its crippling effects.

While it's true that the most immediate causes of depression can be
found in alcohol and drugs, underlying root causes lie in war and
regional conflicts, violence including domestic violence and families
being separated because of migration or economic needs.

"Alcohol consumption is our number one problem," explains Dr. Alejandro
Garcia, director of the Mental Health Community Center in Central
Havana, the most densely populated muncipality in Cuba, with over
160,000 inhabitants in a total area of 5.44km2.

"They aren't alcoholics as such, but people who consume alcohol in an
irreponsible manner, which leads to family violence, accidents and
behavioural problems."

Garcia explained that the response to this health problem is founded on
a three-way strategy which consists in promoting health awareness and
preventing diseases, medical care, as well as rehabilitation, the latter
being closely monitored.

Meanwhile, Conner Gorry, the author of an article published by MEDICC
magazine, which publishes articles by US and Cuban scientists, claims
that the statistics could hit us hard: in Cuba, suicide is one of the
ten leading causes of death and 25% of people who go to health centers
are diagnosed with depression.

In her article published in 2013, Gorry claims that this health
situation "isn't any different to the global health trend, especially in
Europe, the United States and Canada." However, Cuba is facing specific
challenges and since 1995 put its mental health system at the service of
the community with professionals available to provide a coordinated
national response to this problem.

Cuban experts agree that one of the greatest challenges the island is
experiencing right now is the rapid increase in its aging population,
Gorry points out. Life expectancy in Cuba is around 80 years, and the
gross birth rate is the lowest within the region and has a lower
fertility rate than what's needed to replace the generations.

Based on government data, it's estimated that by 2030, more than a third
of the population will be aged 60 years old and over, he said. Cuba is
on its way to becoming one of the planet's eleven oldest countries.

The population sector to be most affected by depression and other health
problems that derive from this disease are precisely the elderly. A lot
of the time, the cause for this stems from families being separated, due
to migration and even due to domestic violence.

War, conflict and migration
This situation isn't exclusive to Cuba, not in the least, it is also
evident in developed countries, where some don't have universal health
care and the country's wealth is becoming more and more concentrated in
fewer hands.

Ever since I was little, I was always struck by the fact that the
highest rates of suicide took place in the richest countries with the
highest levels of education.

The richest part of the planet make up 70-80% of the 800,000 annual
suicides that take place in high-earning countries, according to a
recent WHO report.

In spite of the increasing threat of this "silent epidemic" in the
world, national health systems continue to dedicate pitiful resources to
dealing with and treating this health problem.

And it's obvious that when a human being suffers failure in their life
goals, being mentally and professionally capable of reaching these
goals, depression and despair take root.

In the biological, psychological and social make-up of every individual,
changes to any of these components can influence everything and this
disease appears as a result.

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there are 100 million
new cases of depression in the world every year. Primarily in adults,
depression is suffered by 15% of men and 24% of women. The greater
percentage is understood to be in the 18-45 year old age group, which is
when people are at the most productive stage of their lives.

People live and are driven by their interest to satisfy their needs,
ranging from the most basic or simple to the most complex on a spiritual
level, while also interacting with the rest of society, where questions
like how to live, what the meaning of life is and even if it's worth
living or not come up.

One of the authors of the Pan American Health report, Dan Chisholm,
warned at the Geneva Assembly that the majority of people who suffer
from depression don't have access to treatment.

"The number of people who access treatment in these countries is
extremely low, it's less than 5%. Around 95% of those suffering from
depression don't seek help and this is truly worrying," the expert said.
——
Mental health in Cuba: some statistics

Psychiatric hospitals: 17
Admittanceto psychiatric hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants: 0.3
Psychiatric consultations: 899,075
Psychiatric consultations per 100,000 inhabitants: 79
Psychiatrists: 1051
Psychiatric interns: 167
Child psychiatrists: 297
Child psychiatrist interns: 72
Graduated Health psychiatrists (2010-2011): 26
Health psychiatrist interns: 49
Graduated psychiatrists in 2012: 491
Graduated psychiatrists since 19959: 28,745
*Mental Health Community Centers: 101

Sources: Annual Health Statistics, 2012. Public Health Ministry, Cuba;
*Dr. Carmen Borrego, director of the National Mental Health and Drug
Abuse Program, MINSAP

Source: Depression, the "Silent Epidemic" Also Attacks in Cuba - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124535 Continue reading
Virgin Atlantic launches new route to Cuba's biggest beach resort
The Caribbean island is home to some seriously amazing sandy white beaches
BYJULIE DELAHAYE
11:01, 3 APR 2017UPDATED11:45, 3 APR 2017

When you think of Cuba, it's Havana's colourful buildings and classic
1950s-esque cars that spring to mind.

However, there's so much more to the Caribbean island that makes it a
tropical paradise - and thanks to Virgin Atlantic, it's easier than ever
to go exploring.

The airline launched a new flight route on Sunday from London Gatwick to
Varadero, one of Cuba's most popular beach resorts thanks to the
pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear blue oceans.

Virgin Atlantic expects to transport 28,000 more Brits for a holiday in
Cuba, after research conducted by the airline showed that in the last
two years, a third of UK travellers have become more interested in
checking out the island.

Not only has Cuba become an increasingly popular holiday hot spot, but
the death of Fidel Castro has also played a role in igniting interest in
the nation.

It's not surprising that the resort of Varadero is topping the list for
a go-to luxurious getaway: after all, it's home to a string of
all-inclusive hotels, award-winning spas and lusciously green golf courses.

Currently, almost half of holiday makers in Cuba have been landing in
Havana and making the two-hour drive to Varadero.

Many have been spending a few days in the capital for a cultural break
before heading off to unwind on the resort's beaches.

Therefore, Virgin Atlantic is expecting a significant increase in the
number of customers who arrive and depart from different airports -
especially as they are the only UK airline to provide year-round service
to both destinations.

To celebrate the inaugural flight, Virgin Holidays has launched a new
booking service aptly named 'Cars to Cuba', so customers can ride in a
classic car just like the ones you can spot across Havana's busy
streets. The offer includes a one-hour drive in a vintage Cuban car, a
take-home voucher for salsa lessons and a hamper full of Cuban goodies.

Source: Virgin Atlantic launches new route to Cuba's biggest beach
resort - Mirror Online -
http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/travel/usa-long-haul/virgin-atlantic-launches-new-route-10148145 Continue reading
Florida Aquarium helps create underwater coral nursery in Cuba
By WFLA Web Staff
Published: April 3, 2017, 7:52 pm Updated: April 4, 2017, 9:38 am

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – An international team of divers from The Florida
Aquarium and the National Aquarium of Cuba constructed an underwater
staghorn coral nursey in Cuba waters, The Florida Aquarium announced Monday.

The underwater coral nursery took months of planning and six days in the
field. The nursery is located in the Guanahacabibes, Peninsula National
Park, off the westernmost point of Cuba.

The coral nursey was created by anchoring 20 "trees" to the ocean floor,
15 feet in length and able to hold up to 60 coral fragments. The trees
are able to move with the ocean waves and currents.

Once the trees were installed, they were filled with a specific staghorn
coral.

The design of the tree keeps the growing corals above the sea floor,
away from competition and predators.

The Florida Aquarium has been studying sexual reproduction of the
staghorn coral, as it is a key, fast-growing building block for reef
ecosystems.

The Director of The Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation, Scott
Graves, who managed the project, said the operation was a huge success.

"I have never worked in the field with a better team. Our Cuban
colleagues are highly skilled divers, knowledgeable biologists, tireless
workers and a pleasure to be around," he said.

Now, land-base "coral greenhouses" are being constructed, where
differing genotypes of coral can be preserved and living labs operated.

The Florida Aquarium said the goal is to help build these "greenhouses"
at the National Aquarium of Cuba, too.

Source: Florida Aquarium helps create underwater coral nursery in Cuba |
WFLA.com -
http://wfla.com/2017/04/03/florida-aquarium-helps-create-underwater-coral-nursery-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Uncertainty surrounds charter flights from Pittsburgh to Cuba
THERESA CLIFT | Monday, April 3, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Plans to launch charter service between Pittsburgh International Airport
and Cuba are on hold indefinitely, a spokesman said Monday.

Miami-based Choice Aire planned to start offering twice-weekly charter
flights to Cuba by the end of last year, but those flights never got off
the ground. Pittsburgh airport spokesman Bob Kerlik said he doesn't
expect them to do so this year, if at all.

"Charter flights to Cuba are still a focus, and we will continue to work
on that, whether it's with Choice Aire or another carrier," Kerlik told
the Tribune-Review.

After airports nationwide began offering regularly scheduled flights to
Cuba last year, demand for charter flights waned, Kerlik said. A
scaling-back of regularly scheduled service, however, could increase
demand for charter flights, he said.

The airport received federal approval in 2011 to offer nonstop flights
to Cuba.

A one-time-only charter went from Pittsburgh to Cuba last month, Kerlik
said. It was the first to travel to the communist country from the
Findlay facility. That flight, through Eastern Air Lines, contained
local business people, Kerlik said.

News that the Cuba charter flights were on hold came as a disappointment
to the University of Pittsburgh's Study Abroad Office, which sends about
25 students to Cuba each year.

"It shouldn't affect our study-abroad plans. It would've just been more
convenient," Jeff Whitehead, the office's director, said.

Students fly to Miami, Fort Lauderdale or New York to catch connecting
flights to Cuba for one-week trips during spring break or six-week
visits during the summer, Whitehead said.

The airport will begin receiving charter flights from China this year
through a Chinese tourism company, it announced last week. It will
launch regularly scheduled service to Iceland and Germany in June.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at
412-380-5669 or tclift@tribweb.com.

Source: Uncertainty surrounds charter flights from Pittsburgh to Cuba |
TribLIVE -
http://triblive.com/local/allegheny/12151050-74/uncertainty-surrrounds-charter-flights-from-pittsburgh-to-cuba Continue reading
Volunteer Blood Donors Ignore The Cuban Regime's Business Dealings /
Iván García

Iván García, 6 March 2017 — A sloppy piece of cardboard painted with a
crayon announces the sale of a discolored house in the neighborhood of
La Vibora, 30 minutes by car south of Havana.

If Amanda, the owner, who is raving poor, manages to sell the house for
the equivalent of 40,000 dollars, she intends to buy two small
apartments, one for her daughter and the other for her son.

The house urgently needs substantial repairs. But Amanda's family
doesn't have the money needed to undertake the work. Frank, 36, her son,
is the custodian of a secondary school and earns a monthly salary of 365
Cuban pesos, around 17 dollars, and to help support the family, he's a
blood donor.

The Cuban regime doesn't pay for these donations. Frank, who gives blood
up to two times a month, should receive some 10 pounds of meat, a
half-kilo of fish and three pounds of chicken.

"There are always delays. It's a pain. In every municipality there's a
warehouse assigned to distribute this food to the blood donors. But it
never happens. And what is worse, the government doesn't reinstate you.
For example, you never receive fish. Several of us donors sent a letter
to the Ministry of Public Health complaining about the lack of supplies,
but we've never received an answer," complains Frank.

The material insecurity in Cuba is brutal. A growing number of families
have furniture in their homes that is half a century old, or more. They
lack modern appliances and must make their clothing and shoes last forever.

But the biggest problem is food, which devours between 80 and 90 percent
of the average salary, which, according to official data, is the
equivalent of 26 dollars a month.

Odalys, a nurse in a blood bank, says that "most volunteer donors give
blood in order to take some food home. There are also people who
occasionally give blood in order to receive a little snack of ham and
cheese and a soft drink."

The CDRs (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) are paramilitary
organizations, created as embryos of support for special services, to
collect commodities. They also conduct night patrols to expose
dissidents and those suspected of "illicit enrichment," an aberrant
judicial heading applied by the Castro government to any person who
improves his quality of life.

Also, the CDRs have campaigns for blood donations. A resident of Lawton,
the president of a CDR, affirms that "every time there are fewer people
who want to donate blood. The CDRs have become a mess. They're only busy
snitching on the dissidents. They haven't done night duty for some time
on my block, much less organized recreational activities."

Danaisis, who's been a doctor for three years, recognizes that "even in
the large hospitals in Havana, where there are dozens of surgical
interventions every day, they don't have sufficient plasma in their
blood banks. When a patient has to have an operation, family members
must donate blood. Or buy it from people at 20 dollars a donation."

Like Frank and the rest of blood donors in the 10 de Octubre
municipality, the nurse, Odalys, and the doctor, Danaisis, don't know
that the State exports, annually, hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of human blood derivatives.

According to María Welau, the executive director of the Cuba Archive
project, in an article published June 4, 2016, in Diario de Cuba, "For
decades, the Cuban State has coordinated a multimillion dollar business,
based on the commerce of blood extracted from its citizens, who ignore
this trafficking and don't receive any remuneration for their donations.
Already in the middle of the 1960s, reports indicate that Cuba sold
blood to Vietnam and Canada. In 1995, Cuba exported blood worth 30.1
million US dollars, and this commerce represented its fifth export
product, surpassed only by sugar, nickel, shellfish and cigars."

Werlau provides figures. "These exports don't appear in the official
statistics of the Cuban Government, published by the National Office of
Statistics and Information (ONEI), but data from the world commerce
indicate that in the 20 years between 1995 and 2014, Cuba exported 622.5
million dollars worth of human blood derivatives — which gives an
average of 31 million dollars a year — under the category of Uniform
Classification for International Commerce (SITC 3002), for human blood
components (plasma, etc.) and medical products derived from plasma (PDMP
is the acronym in English).

In this article, the Cuba Archive Director denounces the fact that "the
largest amount of these exports has been allocated to countries whose
authoritarian governments are political allies of Cuba, probably to
state entities that apply less strict criteria and have the same ethical
standards (Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Algeria until 2003; then to Venezuela,
Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador).

"According to Cuban Government reports, 93 percent of all units of human
blood collected are broken into their components, which permits a much
more lucrative business than if only plasma is sold, and facilitates the
production of derivatives of high value, like interferon, human albumin,
immunoglobulins, clotting factors, toxins, vaccinations and other
pharmaceutical products. This export commerce gives Cuba a considerable
advantage over its competitors, because it saves the usual cost
represented by payments to the doors, whose blood is the raw material of
the business."

Exporting plasma, whether animal or human, isn't a crime. What's
despicable is the lack of transparency of Raúl Castro's regime. Or that
Cubans like Frank have to give blood in exchange for a handful of meat
and a few pounds of chicken. Food that the State doesn't deliver most of
the time.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Volunteer Blood Donors Ignore The Cuban Regime's Business
Dealings / Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/volunteer-blood-donors-ignore-the-cuban-regimes-business-dealings-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Former FARC Guerrillas to Train as Doctors and Journalists in Cuba /
Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 17 March 2017 — From the very moment it gained power,
the Cuban regime has devoted precious resources to exporting its
ideology and cultivating followers. Overseas military conflicts as
distant as those in Africa in the late 1970s and the guerrilla wars in
Central America in the 1970s and 1980s relied on Cuban logistics and
personnel. And just as it expressed solidarity by sending professionals
from multiple disciplines to so-called Third World countries, so too has
it brought professionals to the island for training throughout the
years, generating a wellspring of sympathizers who feel a huge debt of
gratitude.

As part of this successful experiment, there is now a new Cuban
"solidarity" contribution to the peace process in Colombia. It was no
coincidence that the island's capital was the setting for the signing of
the peace accord.

The Castro regime has instructed its ambassador in Bogota to announce
that it is awarding up to one thousand scholarships to the demobilized
members of the FARC guerrilla group and the victims of its armed
conflict to study medicine in Cuba.

The communiqué notes that the 200 scholarships to be awarded annually
over a five-year period — 100 for FARC soldiers and 100 for its
executive council — will be Cuba's contribution to the implementation of
the peace accords reached in Havana and to a lasting peace in Columbia.
Students may access their scholarships beginning in the 2017-2018 school
year. The Cuban embassy will submit a document to the Columbian
government and the FARC outlining the details which, even at the last
minute, was still being finalized by Cuban authorities.

This "goodwill gesture" on Cuba's part — a followup to the final
resolution of the conflict — seems more about publicity than
plausibility. The war went on for so many years that any attempt to
avoid death and violence is noteworthy. Cuba wants not only to promote
itself as a champion of peace in the region but also to profit from the
naivety of some democratic voices who applaud any action that might help
end the long conflict. But above all — and this is very important — it
wants to influence the underdogs, the FARC, with aid and support in
order to achieve a fundamental objective: to mask their image as crude
terrorists by treating them as a legitimate political organization.

Let's not forget that a significant portion of the two billion dollars
that the FARC made from kidnapping and drug trafficking in its own
country is now safely stashed away. Having been well laundered, it is
used to buy sophisticated, modern equipment for humanitarian purposes at
CIMEQ and the Cira Garcia Clinic.* Or it has been invested as Cuba's
contribution to joint venture projects that the government has with
business consortiums and large hotel chains operating both inside and
outside the country.

Cuban ambassador José Luis Ponce publicly announced the program
alongside members of the CSIVI, the commission which oversees the
implementation and verification of the peace accord. He addressed his
remarks to FARC secretariat member Iván Márquez, who used his Twitter
account to stress that "this contribution by Cuba to the implementation
of the Havana Agreement and to the postwar period in Colombia is a pure
humanitarian gesture."

Curiously, Piedad Córdoba — a Columbian attorney, politician and leader
of the Citizen Power XXI Century movement — used her own Twitter account
minutes later to state, "In spite of being under embargo, Cuba not only
has the best medicine in the world, it is also among the most supportive."

Such Twitter coincidences are not exactly a fitting prelude to support
for the end of the conflict. Why don't any of the parties involved
mention that, in addition to the one-thousand scholarships to study
medicine, the Cuban government is offering as many as five-hundred
scholarships to study journalism on the island?

Cuba is well-known for the high-quality training it provides to its
health care professionals as well as for the benefits it receives from
its program of exporting doctors.

This lab coat diplomacy, which includes training foreigners on the
island to be physicians, currently generates more income than tourism,
family remittances, nickel or sugar.

Besides operating a well-oiled financial machine, the Cuban government's
main goal is to create an army of grateful people, spread across the
globe, who are influential in the social circles. They remain committed
and invisible, ever ready to take immediate action in support of
medicine and the Cuban revolution.

Let us take this to the exercise of journalism, taking into account the
fluidity, or freedom of information that exists today in the world,
where even some democratic governments are becoming more and more
controlling. A host of indoctrinated journalists is a weapon of
significant influence and an effective tool for spreading ideas and
ideologies.

*Translator's note: The hospital and clinic mentioned here were
established to treat foreigners and foreign dignitaries as well as
members of the Cuban government, the military and their families. Their
facilities, equipment and provisions are known for being of a much
higher quality than those for ordinary Cubans.

Source: Former FARC Guerrillas to Train as Doctors and Journalists in
Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/former-farc-guerrillas-to-train-as-doctors-and-journalists-in-cuba-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Cuba's elderly adrift on the streets
By: Mario J. Penton and Luz Escobar
Posted: 04/2/2017 4:00 AM
Miami Herald/Tribune News Service

HAVANA — At 67, struggling against the challenges that come with aging
and a meagre pension, Raquel — an engineer who in her own words was
"formed by the Revolution" — survives by sifting through garbage every
day in search of recyclable products.

Hands that at one time drew plans and measured distances now pick up
cardboard, cans and other discarded containers.

"My life is a struggle from the moment I wake up," Raquel said.

"My last name? For what? And I don't want any photos. I have children,
and I once had a life. I don't want people talking about me," she said
after agreeing to tell her story.

Digging through garbage as a way to make a living was not part of
Raquel's plan, but she is not alone. Many within the island's growing
aging population are struggling with survival in their twilight years.

Cuba has become the oldest country in the Western Hemisphere, according
to official figures, amid an accelerated process that has even surprised
specialists who had not expected the phenomenon to become apparent until
2025.

Facing a pension system that is increasingly nonviable, a harsh economic
recession and an expected impact on social services as a result of the
aging population, the island is confronting one of the biggest
challenges of its history, experts say.

Almost 20 per cent of Cubans are older than 60 and the fertility rate
stands at 1.7 children per woman of child-bearing age.

To counter the aging population, the fertility rate would have to rise
to 2.4 children per woman of child-bearing age. Cuba's economically
active population shrank for the first time in 2015, by 126,000 people.

"The population aging that is affecting the country leads to a
significant increase in public spending as well as a drop in the
population of the fertile age, which in turn leads to a decrease in the
fertility rate," said Juan Valdes Paz, a Cuban sociologist who has
written several books on the issue.

Valdes said no government can be prepared for the kinds of demographic
problems Cuba has.

"If there's no harmony between demographic progress and economic
development, the latter is impacted," he said.

Government spending on public health per capita in 1999 was 21 per cent
lower than in 1989, economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago said. Official Cuban
figures show that category of spending dropped from 11.3 per cent of the
country's gross domestic product in 2009 to eight per cent in 2012.

Although Raquel is retired, government pharmacies do not subsidize the
medicine she needs for her diabetes and hypertension. State social
service programs do not serve elderly Cubans who live with relatives or
other presumed caretakers.

"I get a pension of 240 pesos a month," said Raquel, the equivalent of
less than US$10. "From that money, I have to pay 50 pesos for the Haier
refrigerator the government forced me to buy and 100 pesos to buy my
medicines."

Cuba has about 300 daytime centres for the elderly and 144 nursing
homes, with a total capacity of about 20,000 clients. Officials have
acknowledged a significant portion are in terrible shape and many
elderly prefer to go into one of the 11 homes across the country run by
religious orders.

They operate thanks to foreign assistance, such as the Santovenia asylum
in the Cerro neighbourhood of Havana.

The state-run daycare centres charge 180 pesos per month and the nursing
homes charge about 400 pesos. Social security subsidizes the payments
when social service workers determine the clients cannot afford to pay
those fees.

Cuba once had one of the most generous and broadest social security
systems in Latin America. But that was largely possible because of the
massive subsidies from the Soviet Union, calculated by Mesa-Lago at
about US$65 billion over 30 years.

"Although the pensions were never high, there was an elaborate system
established by the state to facilitate access to food and other products
at subsidized prices," the economist said.

"After the Soviet subsidies ended in the early '90s, pensions remained
at about the same level, but their purchasing power collapsed. In 1993,
a retired Cuban could barely buy 16 per cent of what he could afford in
1989.

By the end of 2015, the purchasing power of retirees remained at barely
half of what it was when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba entered
into the so-called Special Period."

Raquel is a product of that reality.

"It bothers me when I hear talk of the good services for the elderly,"
she said. "I don't get any subsidies because I live with my son, his
wife and my two grandchildren. But they have their own expenses and
can't afford to also pick up all of mine.

"I need new dentures," she added, "and if you don't give the dentist a
little gift, they take months or come out bad."

Other elderly residents on the island echoed Raquel's sentiments.

"We are two old people living alone, we have no one overseas, so we
receive no remittances," said Andres, a former cartographer who lives
with his wife Silvia in the central city of Cienfuegos, and now sells
homemade vinegar and other products to make ends meet. "It's very hard
to get old and live off a US$10 pension when four drumsticks of chicken
cost US$5.

"Last year, I was awarded with a lifetime achievement recognition at
work and then I was laid off," he said. "I was already retired but
continued to work because we could not live on my pension."

After Fidel Castro left power in 2006, following a health emergency, the
Raul Castro government began drastic cutbacks in social security
benefits under the rubric of "the elimination of gratuities."

From the 582,060 Cubans who were receiving social assistance benefits
in 2006, such as disability or special diet funds, the number was
slashed to 175,106 by 2015.

Castro also removed several products from the highly subsidized ration
card, such as soap, toothpaste and matches, forcing everyone to pay far
more for those products when they bought them on the open market.

The government has launched some new programs for the elderly. The
Sistema de Atencion a la Familia (System to Help the Family), for
example, allows more than 76,000 low-income elderly to obtain food at
subsidized prices. That's a tiny number compared to Cuba's elderly
population, estimated at more than 2 million in a nation of about 11
million.

Some elderly Cubans also receive assistance from churches and
non-governmental organizations.

"People see me picking up cans, but they don't know I was a
prize-winning engineer and that I even travelled to the Soviet Union in
1983," Raquel said.

After retirement, she had to find other ways of making ends meet. She
cleaned the common areas of buildings where military officers lived near
the Plaza of the Revolution until she got too old to handle the work.

"They wanted me to wash the windows of a hallway on the ninth floor.
That was dangerous and I was afraid of falling. I preferred to leave,
even though they paid well," she said.

Raquel was earning 125 pesos (about US$5) per week — more than half her
monthly pension of 240 pesos.

Raquel said she sells the empty recyclable containers she collects to
state enterprises but would love to be able to sell them to a private
company, instead, to avoid bureaucratic problems and delays.

In the patio of her home, she has created a homemade tool to crush the
empty cans she finds on the streets.

The work can be profitable but competition is stiff and physically
tougher for the elderly and disabled who have to wait in long lines to
sell their products at state enterprises or pay someone else to hold
their spot in line.

"In January, I made 3,900 pesos on beer bottles. But I paid 500 pesos to
hold my spot in line because I can't just lay down on the floor while I
wait," she said. "Aluminum also pays well. They pay 40 pesos for a sack
of cans. It's eight pesos per kilogram."

Cuba does not have official statistics on poverty.

A 1996 government study concluded 20.1 per cent of the two million
people in Havana were "at risk of not being able to afford a basic
necessity."

A poll in 2000 found 78 per cent of the country's elderly complained
their income was not enough to cover their expenses.

The majority of the elderly polled said their main sources of income
were their pension benefits, assistance from relatives on the island and
remittances sent by relatives and friends abroad.

Many elderly now walk the streets in Havana and other cities, selling
homemade candy or peanuts to make ends meet.

Others resell newspapers or pick through garbage for items to sell. The
number of beggars on the streets of Cuba's main cities has visibly
increased.

For Raquel, the daily struggle is but another chapter of her life.

"I have always been a hard worker because the most important thing is my
family," she said. "It doesn't bother me to wear old clothes while I
collect the cans. The one who has to look good is my grandson, who just
started high school.

"The kids in school sometimes make fun of him, but my grandson is very
good and he's not ashamed of me, at least not that he shows," she said.
"He always defends me against the mockery."

— Miami Herald

Source: Cuba's elderly adrift on the streets - Winnipeg Free Press -
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/cubas-elderly-adrift-on-the-streets-417886713.html Continue reading
Marco Rubio: I've spoken to Trump three times about Cuba
Patricia Mazzei, Miami Herald
Friday, March 31, 2017 1:55pm

Sen. Marco Rubio has kept mostly tight-lipped about what he's discussed
with President Donald Trump on the occasions the two Republicans have
met -- including over dinner with their wives at the White House.

But Rubio disclosed in a Spanish-language interview this week that he's
used those conversations with Trump to bring up Cuba.

"I've spoken to the president of the United States personally on three
occasions," Rubio told Mega TV host Oscar Haza after Haza asked about
the future of U.S.-Cuba policy. "I think without a doubt there will be
changes in U.S.-Cuba policy."

Rubio said he and his staff are dealing "very closely" with the White
House on the issue, which he expects Trump to address "strategically."

"If the Cuban government is going to behave like a dictatorship, well,
then we're going to deal with them like a dictatorship," Rubio said,
without going into specifics. "We're not going to pretend it's changing.
There haven't been any changes -- on the contrary, we've seen more
repression."

The topic of Cuba came up last week during White House health care
discussions with Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Source: Marco Rubio: I've spoken to Trump three times about Cuba | Tampa
Bay Times -
http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/marco-rubio-ive-spoken-to-trump-three-times-about-cuba/2318733 Continue reading
Locked up for 16 months: how a British architect discovered Cuba's dark side
2 APRIL 2017 • 7:00AM

The Cuban conundrum is that little is what it seems. The mojitos flow,
the Buena Vista tribute acts play and the tropical sun shines
magnanimously on the tourists: the pasty Canadians, Britons and now –
thanks to Barack Obama – Americans.

My mother, on her first visit to the island a few years back, remarked:
"It's so strange, because when you think of Stalinist dictatorships you
think of grey, North Korean-style misery, and Cuba doesn't feel like
that." I'm going to buy her Stephen Purvis's book.

In Close But No Cigar, Purvis, a 52-year-old London architect who moved
to Cuba in 2000, reveals a rather different side to the Castros' fiefdom.

His shocking memoir recounts being locked up for more than a year,
initially for "spying", then for "economic crime", without ever being
told the details of the allegations against him. "It's Alice in
Wonderland for sociopathic commies," he writes.

In 2012, Purvis was seized from his home in Havana by the much-feared
secret police.

"When they come for you, they mostly come either to your workplace and
march you out of the front door for maximum public humiliation, or they
grab you off the street like the Gestapo and throw you in the back of
the car so no one knows," he writes.

"But sometimes they appear like phantoms at your house just before dawn,
politely dismember your family and dismantle your life forever." So it
was for Purvis. In the early hours, he was bundled into an ageing Lada,
and went on to spend 16 months trapped in Cuba's Kafka-esque justice system.

The frightening thing is just how unwittingly he had been caught in the
spider's web. Having arrived from London with his wife and four children
aged between six months and six years, his decade in Cuba had been, on
the whole, tropical and bright: a whirl of diplomatic socialising and
business schmoozing, with weekend sorties to the beach.

He made Cuban friends, and took up painting and boxing; he was on the
board of the international school, and co-produced the Sadler's Wells
dance show Havana Rakatan.

Things began to sour in October 2011 when his boss, overseeing 
the
$500 million construction of the Bellomonte golf course and club, was
arrested. As the web tightened around Purvis, his diplomat friends
became concerned. But Purvis, with what he now sees as naivety, believed
that even the Cubans couldn't invent charges. After all, he said, he had
done nothing wrong. But he underestimated the danger.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Fidel Castro realised that he had to
open up the island to the outside world to survive. It was a reluctant
engagement: Castro was horrified by memories of a visit to China, and
determined that the communist grip would not slip. He and his brother
Raúl had a tiger by the tail; capitalism was ushered in, but kept on a
tight leash.

At times, when it served their interests, business freedom was
increased. When it got too much, it was abruptly curtailed.

"Having allowed foreign capitalism in to rescue the collapsed economy,
they now want to behead it before it becomes too powerful," Purvis
writes. "They have watched the piggy get fat and now they want to steal
the piggy before it goes to market. It's a Stalinist purge for the
internet generation."

After his arrest, Purvis endured eight months of daily interrogation in
Havana's notorious Villa Marista prison, sharing a fetid cell no larger
than a king-size mattress with three others, the rancid roof six inches
from his nose. He was kept in that darkness apart from 15 minutes each
week, when he was ushered into a cage open to the sky. He was not
physically tortured, but felt his mind slipping away. To cope, he
relived in his mind childhood escapades to the Norfolk coast.

Then he was transferred to the dog-eat-dog world of La Condesa, 40 miles
outside the capital, a prison for foreign inmates, where he found
himself with Latin American drug traffickers, European paedophiles and
what he terms "business class passengers" – those, like him, locked up
for falling foul of some economic rule they never knew existed.

The heat was unbearable, the boredom stifling, the food inedible – and
meagre, tithed first by the deliverers, then by the guards, then by the
cooks.

"My Friday supper club for business-class passengers is going well," he
jokes. "Last night I did Chinese, although to be fair the only Chinese
thing about it was that it was cooked in a communist country."

He spent his time playing chess with an Algerian inmate, and carved out
a niche painting fellow inmates' wives from photos. He gave classes on
architectural design, and helped Jamaican drug smugglers draw up
business plans for boat repair shops.

One evening, he came across a group of Yardies, sobbing during a
screening of the film Mamma Mia! Prison football teams played
tournaments: São Paulo Dealers vs Juarez Rapists, Napoli Smugglers vs
Montego Bay Murderers. "It's like being retired except without the
G&Ts," he says.

But his humour cannot hide the horror. Purvis lost 50lbs in weight, and
his wife had to be sectioned. The ordeal of finding psychiatric care for
her in Cuba was a nightmare all of its own.

After his family left for Britain, Purvis struggled to mask despair in
his letters home – with good reason. In July 2012, the redoubtable
British ambassador Dianne Melrose was succeeded by Tim Cole, about whom
Purvis is scathing. The Foreign Office mantra that Britain cannot
interfere in another country's judicial system – a line parroted to
journalists – still drives him to rage.

In its tragic absurdity, Close But No Cigar reads like a Graham Greene
story, with a cast of characters to make Hemingway proud. Purvis
describes it as 
"an attempt to shine a tiny 
light into the broken
heart of Cuba". His tale should be read 
by anyone who wants to
understand what lies beyond 
the beaches and Bacardi.

After an absurd trial, Purvis was released in 2013 with a
two-and-a-half-year custodial sentence, then driven by a cheerful guard
to the house of a friend. The driver sauntered off with the words: "I
hope you have enjoyed your stay in Cuba."

Purvis, turning, replied: "You are all totally f------ mad."


Close But No Cigar by Stephen Purvis
272pp, W&N, £18.99, ebook £9.99. To order this 
book from the Telegraph
for 
£16.99 plus 
£1.99 p&p, call 0844 871 1515 or visit
books.telegraph.co.uk

Source: Locked up for 16 months: how a British architect discovered
Cuba's dark side -
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/locked-16-months-british-architect-discovered-cubas-dark-side/ Continue reading
Warning to the Repressors: "We Are Watching You"

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 31 March 2017 — The Foundation for Human
Rights in Cuba (FDHC) launched its new program Artists For Rights in
Miami on Friday and sent a strong message to the Cuban government's
"repressors": You are being watched and your actions will not go unnoticed.

The artistic project seeks to sensitize artists and the Cuban people in
general about the difficult situation of human rights in the island.
More than 30 artists have contributed to the project's first activity,
among them artists who are in Cuba, in exile and in other countries such
as Venezuela, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

"In the gallery there will be pictures of all kinds, not necessarily
political. What we consider to be political is the artist's decision to
contribute his art to the promotion of human rights in Cuba," said Juan
Antonio Blanco, president of the Foundation.

The first action of this new project is an exhibition of fine art open
to the public at Calle 8 in Miami, the hub of the Cuban diaspora in the
city.

Among the artists who will exhibit their works at the Cuban Art Club
Gallery are Ramón Unzueta, Danilo Maldonado known as El Sexto, Claudia
Di Paolo, Rolando Paciel, Yovani Bauta, Roxana Brizuela and Ramon
Willians. The exhibition will be open from April 1st to 15th, and
admission will be free

Blanco also talked about the Foundation's project to identify and
document the repressors that the Cuban government uses to muzzle the
opposition.

"We have numerous documented cases of repressors, with photos and
archives proving their participation in activities against civil society
and human rights activists on the island," he said.

"Publicity isn't important to us, rather we want to have a psychological
impact on military and paramilitary repressors. We want our message to
reach those who carry out the acts of repudiation in exchange for a
sandwich or for a T-shirt, so that they think about it three times," he
added.

According to the FDHC, in Cuba there are more than 70,000 prisoners,
which is why it ranks as the sixth country in the world in prisoners per
capita.

"There are thousands of prisoners who are in prison under the charge of
'dangerousness' [without having committed a crime] so they do not have
to call them political prisoners," he added.

According to Blanco, the Foundation is undertaking "quiet diplomacy" to
ensure that these people who have been identified as repressors are not
able to obtain visas for the United States or European countries.

The detailing of the record or repressors has not been without conflict.

"In Miami we have received denunciations against repressors, but we
always ask the denouncer to sign a notarized affidavit that the
repressor is accused of having carried out that work in Cuba," he explained.

According to Blanco, his organization has had to face maneuvers by the
Cuban government to delegitimize the work they are doing, by 'leaking'
the names of people who are not repressors.

"The Havana regime wants to keep it quiet, it is not a priority, but
that is precisely what we do not want. We seek to focus on violations of
human rights in Cuba and we want Cuba to be a priority," he insisted.

Source: Warning to the Repressors: "We Are Watching You" – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/warning-to-the-repressors-we-are-watching-you/ Continue reading
The Thousand Faces of "Journalism" / Miriam Celaya

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 29 March 2017 – An opinion piece
published in recent days by El Nuevo Herald gives me a disturbing
feeling of déjà vu. It is not the subject – overflowing with a number of
articles by different authors – but its focal point, which presents as
adequate a number of superficial and highly subjective assessments to
validate conclusions that in no way reflect the reality it alleges to
illustrate.

With other hues and nuances, it has the same effect in me as the
experience of participating as a guest at a meeting of journalists,
politicians and academics – primarily Americans – held October, 2014 at
Columbia University, just two months before the announcement of the
restoration of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United
States, where the wish to support rapprochement and to substantiate the
need to eliminate the embargo was essentially based on colossal lies.

For example, I heard how the "Raúl changes" that were taking place in
Cuba favored the Cuban people and a process of openness, and I learned
of the incredible hardships that Cubans had to endure as a result of the
direct (and exclusive) responsibility of the embargo, of the fabulous
access to education and health services (which were, in addition to
being easily accessible, wonderful) enjoyed by Cubans, and even the zeal
of the authorities to protect the environment.

To illustrate this last point, an American academic presented the
extraordinary conservation state of the Jardines de la Reina
archipelago and its adjacent waters, including the coralline formations,
as an achievement of the Revolutionary Government. She just forgot to
point out that this natural paradise has never been within reach of the
common Cuban, but is a private preserve of the ruling caste and wealthy
tourists, a fact that explains its favorable degree of conservation.

The Cuba that many American speakers described on that occasion was so
foreign to a Cuban resident on the Island, as I was, that I wondered at
times if we were all really speaking about the same country.

In my view, the question was as contradictory as it was dangerous.
Contradictory, because there is certainly sufficient foundation, based
on realities, to consider the (conditional) suspension of the embargo or
to show partiality for dialogue between governments after half a century
of sterile confrontations, without the need to resort to such gross
falsehoods, especially – and I say this without xenophobic animosity or
without a smack of nationalism – when they are brandished by foreigners
who don't even have a ludicrous idea of the reality the Cuban common
population lives under or what its aspirations are. Dangerous, because
the enormous power of the press to move public opinion for or against a
proposal is well known, and to misrepresent or distort a reality unknown
to that public, can have dire consequences.

But it seems that such an irresponsible attitude threatens to become a
common practice, at least in the case of Cuba. This is what happens when
overly enthusiastic professionals confuse two concepts as different as
"information" and "opinion" in the same theoretical body.

It is also the case of the article referred to above, that its essence
is the answer to a question that is asked and answered by the author,
using the faint topic of the first anniversary of Barack Obama's
historic visit to Cuba and some conjectures about the continuity of the
relations between both governments with the new occupant of the White House.

"What repercussions have the normalization of relations between the
United States and Cuba had on the Cuban people?" the writer of the
article asks, and she immediately answers herself by assuming several
suppositions, not totally exempt from logic, but regrettably inaccurate.

"Greater openness to Cuba has undoubtedly meant greater interaction with
the Cuban people through the exchange of information from the thousands
of Americans who now visit the island", she says. And this is partially
true, but this "exchange of information" about a society as complex and
mimetic, and as long closed off as Cuba's, is full of mirages and
subjectivities, so it ends up being a biased and exotic vision of a
reality that no casual foreign visitor can manage to grasp.

A diffuse assertion of the article is one that reassures: "Tourism
represents the main economic source for the country, and at the same
time it leverages other sectors related to textiles, construction and
transportation." Let's see: It may be that tourism has gained an
economic preponderance for Cuba, but that it has boosted the textile,
construction and transportation sectors is, at the most, a mere
objective, fundamentally dependent on foreign capital investment, which
has just not materialized.

In fact, the notable increase in tourist accommodations and restaurants,
bars and cafes in the private sector is the result not of the tourist
boom itself but of the inadequacy of the hotel and gastronomic
infrastructure of the State. If the author of the article has had
privileged access to sources and information that support such
statements, she does not make it clear.

But if the colleague at El Nuevo Herald came away with a relevant
discovery during her trip to Havana –job related? for pleasure? – it is
that many young people "believe in the socialist model." Which leads us
directly to the question, where did these young people learn what a
"socialist model" is? Because, in fact, the only thing that Cubans born
during the last decade of the last century have experienced in Cuba is
the consolidation of a State capitalism, led by the same regime with
kleptomaniacal tendencies that hijacked the power and the Nation almost
60 years ago.

About the young people she says that "many are self-employed and
generate enough resources to live well." There are currently more than
500 thousand people In Cuba with their own businesses, about 5% of the
population, according to ECLAC" [U.N.'s Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean]. This is another slip, almost childish. The
source that originally reports the figure of half a million
self-employed workers belongs to the very official National Office of
Statistics and Information (ONEI), a Cuban Government institution, and
not to ECLAC. This number has remained unchanged for at least the last
two years, as if the enormous migration abroad and the numerous returns
of licenses on the part of the entrepreneurs who fail in their efforts
or who are stifled by the system's own circumstances, among other
factors, did not make a dent.

But even assuming as true the immutable number of "self-employed" that
the authorities refer to, on what does the writer base her assumptions
that the self-employed generate sufficient recourses to live well? Could
it be that she ignores that that half a million Cubans includes
individuals who fill cigarette lighters, sharpen scissors, recycle trash
("the garbage divers"), are owners of shit-hole kiosks, repair household
appliances, are roving shaved-ice, peanut, trinket and other knickknack
vendors, and work at dozens of low-income occupations that barely
produce enough to support themselves and their families? Doesn't the
journalist know about the additional losses most of them suffer from
harassment by inspectors and the police, the arbitrary tax burdens and
the legal defenselessness? What, in the end, are the standards of
prosperity and well-being that allow her to assert that these Cubans
"live well"?

I would not doubt the good intentions of the author of this unfortunate
article, except that empathy should not be confused with journalism. The
veracity of the sampling and the seriousness of the data used is an
essential feature of journalistic ethics, even for an opinion column, as
in this case. We were never told what data or samples were used as a
basis for the article, the number of interviewees, their occupations,
ages, social backgrounds and other details that would have lent at least
some value to her work.

And to top it off, the trite issue of Cuba's supposedly high educational
levels could not be left out. She says: "While it is true that education
in Cuba is one of the best in the continent, the level of education is
not proportional to income, much less a good quality of life."
Obviously, she couldn't be bothered going into the subject of education
in Cuba in depth, and she is not aware of our strong pedagogical
tradition of the past, destroyed by decades of demagoguery and
indoctrination. She also does not seem to know the poor quality of
teaching, the corruption that prevails in the teaching centers and the
deterioration of pedagogy. We are not aware of what comparative patterns
allow her to repeat the mantra of the official discourse with its myth
about the superior education of Cubans, but her references might
presumably have been Haiti, the Amazonian forest communities or villages
in the Patagonian solitudes. If so, I'll accept that Cubans have some
advantage, at least in terms of education levels.

There are still other controversial points in the text, but the most
relevant ones are sufficient to calculate the confusion the narration of
a reality that is clearly unknown can cause to an unaware reader. It is
obvious that the writer was not up to the task, or is simply not aware
of the responsibility that comes from a simplistic observation. And she
still pretends to have discovered not one, but two different Cubas.
Perhaps there are even many more Cubas, but, my dear colleague: you were
definitely never in any of them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: The Thousand Faces of "Journalism" / Miriam Celaya – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-thousand-faces-of-journalism-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
UA: 76/17 Index: AMR 25/6001/2017 Cuba Date: 31 March 2017
URGENT ACTION

PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE ON HUNGER STRIKE

Two days after Fidel Castro's death, a family of four human rights
defenders were
arrested in Holguín, south-east Cuba. They received a one-year sentence,
and the three
siblings are currently on hunger strike. They are prisoners of
conscience and must be
released immediately and unconditionally.

Twin sisters Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva, their brother, Fidel
Manuel Batista Leyva, and their mother,
Maydolis Leyva Portelles, all human rights defenders, were arrested on
27 November 2016, two days after the
death of Fidel Castro for allegedly leaving their house during the
period of state mourning. The initial arrests took
place in Holguín and coincided with an "act of repudiation" (acto de
repudio), a government-led demonstration that
is common in Cuba, carried out at the family's home. The family are
government critics, known for their activism
and associated with a number of political and human rights movements
including Movimiento Cubano de Reflexión
(Cuban Reflection Movement). According to Maydolis Leyva Portelles,
currently under house arrest, there were
many non-uniformed state security officials, including political police
and military officials, present during the arrest.
Maydolis Leyva Portelles and her children were charged under Article 204
of the Penal Code, which criminalizes
defamation of institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the
Republic of Cuba, and with public disorder.
On 13 January, a court of second instance upheld a one-year prison
sentence for all three siblings, but allowed
their mother to carry out her sentence under house arrest in order to
care for her grandchildren, Adairis' children.
According to their mother, the three siblings began a hunger strike on 7
March, the day they began serving their
sentences and were imprisoned. The siblings are currently being held in
three separate hospitals in critical
condition. Doctors informed their mother that Adairis is at risk of a
heart attack and that Fidel is urinating blood; and
that all have lost significant weight. On her last hospital visit,
Maydolis Leyva Portelles says that she was asked to
sign a document which would authorize doctors to force feed her three
children, which she refused to do. She told
Amnesty International, "I don't want any of my children to die, but I
want to respect their wishes." All three siblings
and their mother are prisoners of conscience and must be released
immediately and unconditionally.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to release Anairis Miranda Leyva, Adairis
Miranda Leyva, and Fidel Manuel Batista
Leyva immediately and unconditionally from imprisonment and Maydolis
Leyva Portelles from house arrest, as they
are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising
their right to freedom of expression;
- Calling on them to refrain from using measures to punish hunger
strikers or to coerce them to end a hunger
strike, which would be a violation of their right to freedom of expression.
- Urging them to provide the siblings with access to qualified health
professionals providing health care in
compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of
confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 MAY 2017 TO:
President of the Republic
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in
Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban
Mission to UN)
Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission
to UN)

Salutation: Your Excellency
Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella
Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/
Señor Fiscal General
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your
country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address
Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above
date.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
According to its webpage, El Movimiento Cubano de Reflexión is a
non-violent organization which aims to mobilize Cuban
citizens to bring about social change.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a
Cuban-based human rights NGO not recognized by
the state, documented a monthly average of 827 politically motivated
detentions in 2016.
Provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code, such as contempt of a public
official (desacato), resistance to public officials carrying
out their duties (resistencia) and public disorder (desórdenes públicos)
are frequently used to stifle free speech, assembly and
association in Cuba.
Article 204 of the Cuba Penal Code criminalizes "defamation of
institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the
Republic of Cuba." (Difamación de las instituciones y organizaciones y
de los héroes y mártires). Under the law, anyone who
publically defames, denigrates or disparages institutions of the Cuban
Republic, or political organizations, or heroes or martyrs
of the homeland, risks sanctions of deprivation of liberty of three
months to a year or a fine.
Under international law, the use of defamation laws with the purpose or
effect of inhibiting legitimate criticism of the government
or public officials violates the right to freedom of expression.
Name: Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva (f), Fidel Manuel Batista Leyva
(m), Maydolis Leyva Portelles (f)
Gender m/f: all
UA: 76/17 Index: AMR 25/6001/2017 Issue Date: 31 March 2017

Source: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/AMR2560012017ENGLISH.pdf Continue reading