March 23, 2017
By Fernando Ravsberg
HAVANA TIMES — Dozens of tons of tomatoes are rotting in Guantanamo
because nobody is collecting them, according to what journalist Lilibeth
Alfonso tells us on her personal blog. Apparently, there isn't any
diesel for private trucks who could distribute them to the population.
However, fuel shortages haven't affected the supply needed for the
Agriculture Ministry's four-wheel drives or the modern 4×4 Korean cars
that the leaders of the National Association of Small Farmers in Cuba
(ANAP) use, which continue to run on and consume diesel on Havana
streets, traveling from office to office.
Fellow journalist Singh Castillo wrote in that "Tomatoes are rotting in
the Caujeri Valley. This is happening because of the fault of all of
those involved in the matter, starting with farmers, agricultural
cooperatives, the state company, municipal and provincial Agriculture
He also adds that "the yield of this harvest had been underestimated (…)
there weren't enough boxes and transport was insufficient and, the main
thing here, there weren't enough destinations." And he ends by claiming
that "this harvest is the paradigm to follow in the future," as if this
is the first time that this has happened.
Agricultural engineer Fernando Funes has stated that, every year, 50% of
harvests are lost in Cuba because of poor collection systems, a lack of
storage spaces, the inability to process these crops, insufficient
transport systems and an awful distribution system.
An ANAP leader told me that they had fixed the problem of food rotting
when nobody can distribute it. They force farmers to take out an
insurance policy which then pays them for everything they lose. They
turn the mattress over without really solving the problem at the heart
of this situation.
Farm sector bureaucrats aren't worried about losing dozens of tons of
tomatoes, they don't care if the country pays 2 billion USD a year to
import food or that ordinary Cubans have to pay more than what they earn
in order to take food home.
They don't seem to take into account the fact that the agricultural
sector consumes 60% of the water at a time when Cuba is experiencing
full-on drought. How much water is wasted on watering tomatoes which
then rot in the fields of Guantanamo and other crops which are then lost
across the entire island?
The expense of the agrarian bureaucracy's "lack of foresight" doesn't
stop there. Now, when the government is looking for a way to save fuel
in every sector, we should also calculate how much oil was imported to
drive the water used for watering these fields for no reason whatsoever.
They have been giving different excuses for poor harvests for decades.
Generally-speaking, it was the climate, the drought or heavy rains that
were to blame. Now, the harvest has exceeded estimates, and they blame
the good weather and explain that they "underestimated the yield of this
How can you explain the fact that Cuba is never "taken by surprise" by a
hurricane but it is unable to foresee a good harvest? It's simple, Civil
Defense troops don't leave anything to chance, they are always ready to
take on any variables and use all of the resources that might be
necessary, which is why they save lives.
But do we have to alert every farmer that the weather is good, that
there are enough seeds, that pests are under control and that by working
hard, they can end up causing a crisis for our officials? Is there
anything else more ridiculous than talking about overproduction in
The large Cuban Agricultural Ministry building is a kind of living
bureaucratic monument. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
You don't have to be Einstein to know that you don't get different
results in agriculture by keeping the same governing institutions, the
same men leading them and by using the same methods which have failed
time and time again for decades.
My colleague Singh Castillo claims that tomatoes being wasted are "the
responsibility of everybody involved." This is a foolproof analysis so
that at the end of a meeting nobody is to blame, just like a song from
the duet Buena Fe says.
In the face of situations like this one, which affects the national and
local economy, you can't divide the blame up between everyone. The old
principle of "collective work and individual responsibility" is the one
which allows the most incompetent leaders to shake off their blame and
focus on everyone else instead.
They can continue to call for meetings to make analyses of the
situation, but this chaos will continue to take place while officials
get away with their inefficiency and don't pay for it by losing their
jobs and the privileges that these give them: air-conditioned offices,
cars, fuel, internet, allowances and trips.
Source: Cuba and Its Rotting Tomatoes - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124319 Continue reading
"So when are you going to Cuba?"
I get that a lot, maybe once a week. It's understandable, since I am a
home-grown Cubano, at least until I was almost 5 years old. That's when
my parents, in an act of ultimate sacrifice, left everything behind
except their dignity and a sense of purpose to escape Fidel Castro's thumb.
It's the Cuban-American narrative. We'll fast-forward through all the
tears and pain and hardships to get to 2017, when we are dancing on
Fidel's grave and Cuba is now an alluring tropical paradise. Grab some
sunscreen, book a flight or cruise, and order a mojito with a side of
Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!
Not I. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to go. It is a beautiful place,
with a time-machine vibe. Hop on a '57 Chevy and feel the ocean breeze
as you cruise down el Malecón.
Cuba still stands still in so many ways. The "normalization" of Cuba
under the Obama administration has unlocked the keys to free commerce,
but not the chains that bind dissidents and others under Cuba's
People still rot and die in prisons. Members of the dissident group
Ladies in White still get pummeled by cops and arrested.
Just last month, Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez died in
prison. Cuban officials called it a "heart attack," a euphemism for when
a prisoner develops kidney failure, loses 35 pounds and rots away in a cell.
The U.S. does business with a number of unsavory nations, including
China, but the difference with Cuba is that there are a lot of
Cuban-Americans taking notes. They are passionate hall monitors who
don't understand why the Obama administration didn't squeeze Cuba on the
human-rights issue in return for the perks of tourism and groovy
Will things change under the Trump administration? Check your Twitter
feed for updates from 45. I suspect there will be more pushback, given
this snippet from the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex
"Our recent engagement with the government of Cuba was not accompanied
by any significant concessions on human rights," he said. "We have not
held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much
while their people received little. That serves neither the interest of
Cubans or Americans."
He has a point. The purpose of negotiating is to get something in
return, not just give away stuff.
But there's another dynamic in play here, too, that does not bode well
for Cuban tourism. The novelty is wearing off.
Silver Airways recently announced that it will scrap its service to Cuba
next month, citing low demand and competition from other airlines.
Frontier Airlines will cease its daily flight to Havana from Miami in
June. American Airlines and JetBlue have also scaled back their number
Raúl Castro and his compadres are finding out that capitalism is driven
by market factors, and Cuba is still running the con trying to lure all
The infrastructure is a little shaky, given the impact of the embargo
and other economic factors. Hotel reviews on TripAdvisor include handy
tips like "Don't forget to bring and 'USE' bug repellent!!" and "I guess
you get what you pay for."
Restrictions abound: There are 12 "authorized types" of travel to Cuba,
including educational, religious and journalistic purposes. And here's
another fun fact from the U.S. embassy in Havana:
"The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S.
citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents."
That would be somebody like me. Cuba keeps meticulous notes on
journalists writing about the regime, and I probably would fill all the
checkmarks as an "enemy of the state." Without any rights as a
naturalized American citizen.
I'm afraid there will be no Havana Daydreamin' for me.
I prefer to visit my homeland one day free of restrictions. I want to
take in the ocean breeze from el Malecón without a cop asking for my
Cuban passport. I want to walk freely along the streets, without fear of
somebody monitoring my footsteps.
You don't have to be in prison to wear shackles. You just can't see them
when you disembark the cruise ship or an airplane.
email@example.com Read George Diaz's blog at
Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun -
http://www.baltimoresun.com/os-ed-cuba-human-rights-not-improving-george-diaz-20170317-story.html Continue reading
Despite thaw in relations, Ana Belén Montes looks set to serve last nine
years of quarter-century sentence
PABLO DE LLANO
Corresponsal en Miami
Miami 8 MAR 2017 - 16:05 CET
On February 28, in her cell at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth,
Texas, Ana Belén Montes turned 60 years of age. Once regarded as one of
the Pentagon's top analysts and an expert on Cuba's military, the
so-called "Queen of Cuba" was arrested in 2001 when her 17-year career
as Cuban spy was discovered and she was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Despite the thaw in relations between Havana and Washington under Barack
Obama, which saw three of the last Cuban spies returned home in 2014,
Montes remains behind bars in a facility reserved for some of the most
dangerous and mentally ill prisoners in the United States.
In 2016, a family member revealed that Montes had undergone surgery for
breast cancer, although there has been no official confirmation of this.
Her release is currently scheduled for 2026, by which point she will be
69 years old.
Unlike the three prisoners released in 2014, the Cuban government has
never officially campaigned for Montes' freedom. In June 2016, Miami
Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald reported that Cuban officials had
asked after her during a meeting in the United States. A few months
earlier, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez had called for her
release at a concert in Spain. The request was repeated a few days ago
at one of his concerts in Puerto Rico. Mariela Castro, daughter of
Cuba's President Raúl Castro, posted a report from Venezuela's official
news agency mentioning that a campaign for Montes' freedom had been
organized in Cuba.
Montes penetrated US intelligence deeper than any other Cuban agent
Writing in his blog on Montes' birthday about her treatment by the
regime, Cuban journalist Harold Cárdenas said: "The Cuban Foreign
Ministry's discretion is understandable. In contrast, the silence in the
national media is shameful."
There has been speculation that the United States and Cuba are
negotiating Montes' exchange for Assata Shakur, the Black Panther leader
accused of shooting a police officer who managed to escape to Cuba in
1984, claiming political asylum. But a 2016 US State Department internal
document rejects the option.
Montes is considered to be the Cuban agent who most deeply penetrated US
intelligence. An analyst at the Pentagon, she was recruited by Havana in
1984, and after undergoing training, would report each night to her
handlers via shortwave radio without ever having to make copies of
documents, thanks to her remarkable memory.
She rose through the ranks from her initial position as a typist,
garnering commendations along the way, one of which was presented by the
then-head of the CIA. Born to Puerto Rican parents on a US army base in
Germany and whose two siblings worked for the FBI, while her former
boyfriend was a Pentagon official, Montes passed on top-secret
information, such as the identity of four US spies in Cuba or US
activities in Central America. She refused payment for her spying,
telling the judge at her 2002 trial she acted out of "love" for Cuba,
which she felt was being treated "cruelly" by the United States.
The Cuban government has never officially campaigned for Montes' freedom
Former CIA analyst Brian Latell, who worked with Montes, remembers her
as "bitter" and "prepared to risk her life for her love of Fidel Castro
and his revolution."
Piero Gleijeses, an expert in US foreign policy, was her teacher in the
1980s when Montes undertook a Master's in International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University. He remembers her as a "brilliant" student regarded
as "conservative" in the classroom. Montes visited him in a decade
later, ostensibly to discuss a paper he had written, but in reality to
scope him for information about Cuba. "I told her that if I had any
confidential information I wouldn't tell her, because I knew where she
worked and I didn't agree with US foreign policy."
A year ago, in a letter to her family, Montes wrote from her cell:
"There are certain things in life that are worth going to jail for. Or
that are worth committing suicide for after doing them."
English version by Nick Lyne.
Source: US-Cuban thaw: No sign of release for the last Cuban spy in a US
jail | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/03/08/inenglish/1488974544_403150.html Continue reading
El poeta y ensayista Francis Sánchez ha regresado esta semana a la blogósfera después de seis años sin actualizar su bitácora personal. El escritor avileño anunció que continuará publicando sus ideas “sin censura” en el sitio Hombre en las nubes, ahora con una nueva dirección web.
“No soy el mismo”, aclara Sánchez en el primer texto que colgó en la red tras su largo silencio digital, una pausa que le achaca a las presiones sociales que vivió a raíz de la apertura del sitio en octubre de 2010.
“Después de cinco meses me vi obligado a dejar de actualizarlo”, recuerda el autor. “A todos los blogueros, en Cuba, se nos acusaba entonces de cibermercenarios”. Esta situación que llevó a que muchos conocidos le cerraran las puertas o cruzaran “la calle en busca de otra acera” cuando lo veían.
En aquellos años la prensa oficial desplegó una intensa campaña contra la blogósfera alternativa. La televisión nacional le dedicó un capítulo del programa Las Razones de Cuba en el que se sugería que se trataba de “una nueva estrategia en la guerra de Estados Unidos” contra la Isla.[[QUOTE:En aquellos años la prensa oficial desplegó una intensa campaña contra la blogósfera alternativa]]En marzo de 2011 Sánchez publicó el post Cerrado por demolición en el que se despedía de los lectores. Ahora retoma el espacio digital con la intención de escribir sobre “lecturas, arte, sociedad, la realidad y la imaginación, derechos humanos, y todo lo imprevisible que late dentro de un larguísimo etcétera”.
El también creador de la revista Árbol Invertido ha publicado tres textos en su nueva etapa como bloguero, uno de ellos dedicado al poeta Pedro Alberto Assef, nacido en Ciego de Ávila en 1966 y recién fallecido en un hospital de El Paso, (Texas). En el texto lo cataloga como un escritor auténtico y poseedor de un “conocimiento lírico exhaustivo”.
Otro post reproduce un fragmento dedicado a las figuras de Julián del Casal y José Martí en el libro de ensayos Sagradas compañías que Sánchez escribiera a cuatro manos con su esposa, la ensayista y poeta Ileana Álvarez. El volumen se presentó en la última edición de la Feria del Libro de La Habana en febrero pasado.
“No puedo calmar a nadie ni calmarme anunciando qué va a pasar o de qué voy a escribir mañana. En realidad no lo sé, ni quiero. Solamente estoy atento”, advierte Sánchez a sus lectores.
El periodista uruguayo Fernando Ravsberg compartió en su blog Cartas desde Cuba una respuesta que le ofreció la dirección de la Unión de Periodistas de Cuba (UPEC) sobre una denuncia que emitió contra una de sus asociadas. Se trata de Norelys Morales, que publicó en su blog amenazas contra el corresponsal.Continue reading
Resumo hechos: DDC publicó una caricatura de nuestro colaborador habitual Alen Lauzán; al menos tres intelectuales cubanos encontraron racista esa caricatura y así lo dijeron en sus páginas de Facebook y en un blog; DDC invitó a esos tres intelectuales a explicar en este diario el racismo advertido por ellos en la caricatura; uno de ellos —Arsenio Rodríguez Quintana— decliContinue reading
February 20, 2017
HAVANA TIMES – Today the journalist Fernando Ravsberg warns of the
public threats he has received from people linked to the most extremist
side of Cuban officialdom.
Ravsberg, who currently works for the Spanish newspaper Publico.es and
writes his blog "Cartas desde Cuba" has been the victim of defamation
campaigns, like many other independent journalists, by bloggers and
journalists under the protection of the Cuban government. They continue
to urge the government to expel Ravsberg from the country, where he has
lived and worked for a quarter of a century.
The following is the alert published today by the Uruguayan journalist.
They Threaten to Break My Teeth if I Continue Writing
by Fernando Ravsberg
In several "revolutionary" blogs like La Mala Palabra, Cuba por Siempre
and Isla Mía, this last one of the journalist Norelys Morales, has just
appeared an article on the problems of transportation in Cuba, written
by a certain Felix Edmundo Diaz, that ends with a strong threat against
me. I transcribe it:
"I want to convey an idea to a colleague: Fernan, read Fernando
Ravsberg, do you really think that you can live in Cuba ranting against
my people? Don't you think it's time for you to start to write in
"Letters from the USA" or "Letters from Spain"? Why don't you pay a
visit to Uribe or Peña Nieto and write "Letters from Colombia" or
Letters from Mexico". Go, just to see if any 'paramilitary'
(self-defense?) or some 'Zeta' gives you a kick in the groin and your
balls come out of your ears…
"From here, in Cuba, it is easy because you know that nobody will kidnap
you, disappear, torture or kill you, but we are not obliged to allow you
to live and rant on our soil. That's why my offer for you is simple: Get
the hell out of here or refine your writing. Remember that at your age
your teeth won't come out again and dental implants are expensive… "
They just took another step on the level of insults, they resume the
request for expulsion and, above all, it is the first time that I am
directly threatened with a beating. It is not accidental, recently I
commented that the extremists might win and evidently this text shows
that they are emboldened.
I am convinced that if the Cuban government does not put a stop to them
the next step will be to move from threats to actions, it is the path of
both right and leftwing extremists: you silence yourself out of fear or
you are silenced by force.
Source: Serious Threat against Journalist in Cuba - Havana Times.org -
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=123787 Continue reading