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Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video. 14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed … Continue reading "Dozens of Opponents Attend Mass in Honor of Oswaldo Paya in Havana" Continue reading
… during the peace process in Havana, said that throughout the 52-year … Continue reading
… to the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba to learn more about its … for the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba, which states: “We seek to … on the needs of the Cuban family.” A key part of … through the Episcopal Church of Cuba. We were privileged to learn … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2017 — On Monday afternoon, in the presence of 27 people, priests Jose Conrado Rodríguez and Castor Álvarez celebrated a mass at the Ladies in White headquarters Havana’s Lawton neighborhood. Berta Soler, leader of the women’s group, explained via telephone that they gathered at the building with “a lot of discretion” … Continue reading "Mass Celebrated At Ladies In White Headquarters ‘For The Freedom Of The Cuban People’" Continue reading
UM names interim director for the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American
Studies
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

The University of Miami has appointed founder and former senior fellow
Andy Gómez as interim director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-
American Studies.

Gómez, who retired from UM in 2012 with a Presidential Medal, replaces
Jaime Suchlicki, who will leave ICCAS on Aug. 15, according to a UM
statement.

He said he was "honored" to be asked to return.

"First, we need to honor Jaime Suchlicki for his work and dedication to
the university," Gómez said. "My intention here is to preserve some of
the legacy that Suchlicki created ... part of the good work that has
been done ... and to begin to move forward in some of the programming
aspects of ICCAS, but more importantly to begin a search for a permanent
director. That is going to take some time."

Gómez was assistant provost of UM between 2005 and 2012, and dean of the
School of International Studies between 2001 and 2004. More recently, he
traveled to Cuba for Pope Francis' 2015 visit to the island. He and his
family also support two programs at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in
Havana.

Following UM's recent announcement of his departure, Suchlicki publicly
refuted insinuations that he was retiring stating that he was
"resigning" due to differences with President Julio Frenk on the
university's mission for Cuban studies. He further stated that he had
received notice that the ICCAS would close in August and that he had
plans to move the institute to another location.

An official at the University of Miami disputed Suchlicki's version of
what transpired. Jacqueline R. Menendez, UM's vice president for
communications, said there are no plans to close the center.

The controversy has raised some concern among members of the
Cuban-American community.

The National Association of Cuban Educators (NACAE) sent a letter to
Frenk requesting that ICCAS not be closed because it could be
interpreted as a "lack of support for the Cuban community." The Mother's
Against Repression group asked Frenk to hold off on a decision so that
members of the Cuban-American community, lawmakers and donors could
weigh in.

Gómez's appointment puts an end to speculation about an immediate
closure of the institute.

Founded in 1999, ICCAS for years received several million dollars from
the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to
finance the Cuba Transition Project. But the administration of former
President Barack Obama cut those funds significantly and ICCAS cut some
of its staff. Its digital site is has become outdated and several of its
databases are no longer available.

Gómez said his priorities include looking at ways to provide more
"meaningful information" on the website, raise funds for the institute
and attract a younger audience to events at Casa Bacardí.

ICCAS' academic rigor has been questioned some some in the field of
Cuban studies. Many other U.S. universities have already developed
institutional relationships with their Cuban counterparts and
established study abroad programs.

Events at Casa Bacardí, by contrast, often feature speakers from the
island's dissident movement and members of anti-Castro organizations in
exile.

"ICCAS has suffered a little bit by being, at times, too political to
one side," said Gómez. "I think institutes have to find a balance and
stay in the middle.

"I strongly believe in academic freedom," he said. "...ICCAS should be a
center for everybody to feel comfortable to come and share different
points of view. I know that is always a bit challenging in our community
but we have come a long way."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres en Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: UM names interim director at ICCAS | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article161288108.html Continue reading
… their local Havana church but, according to a Diario de Cuba note … arrested in their homes in Havana. Another fourteen women were arrested … call their spiritual home in Havana. The Ladies in White are … become increasingly repressive against religious Cubans since the policies the Ladies … Continue reading
… and other church authorities visited Havana to launch the second branch … build Mormonism there. While in Havana, the LDS leaders huddled with … Church and representatives of the Cuban Council of Churches. "The … staff full-time missionary efforts in Cuba," said Martinich, who has … Continue reading
Cuba policy July 16 at the Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana … of Havana called for dialogue between the United States and Cuba, and … magazine for the Archdiocese of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who played … ; and applying them presently to Cuba can "overshadow or delay … Continue reading
… .S. Cuba policy today, Cubans are bracing for the worst. MARIEL, Cuba — Church bells rang out and Cubans strung American flags … modern Cuban history. Today, the city 30 miles west of Havana is … 2016 visit to Havana and his calls for Cubans to seize control … Continue reading
… home to Cuba’s oldest church, a food market with Cuban staples … sunbathed to the strains of Cuban music with a rum punch … Legendarios del Guajirito show by Havana’s Buena Vista Social Club … : Cuba has two currencies – the convertible peso (CUC) and the Cuban peso … Continue reading
Trump and Francis may face new tensions over Cuba
John L. Allen Jr.June 12, 2017 EDITOR

President Donald Trump and Pope Francis had a cordial meeting on May 24,
stressing areas of agreement such as religious freedom and persecuted
Christians in the Middle East. Since then, however, a Vatican aide
described Trump's pullout from the Paris climate change accord as a
"slap in the face," and now Trump seems poised to rollback the opening
to Cuba that Francis helped engineer.
Share:
ROME - Just days after basking in the support of white Evangelicals in a
speech at the Faith and Freedom Forum in Washington, U.S. President
Donald Trump may be poised to create new tensions with a different sort
of religious leader with whom he already has an ambivalent relationship:
Pope Francis.
According to media reports, Trump will travel to Miami on Friday to
announce a partial rollback of the opening to Cuba that was a
cornerstone of the Obama administration's foreign policy, among other
things reinstating tighter restrictions on trade and travel. The setting
is carefully chosen, as Miami remains a stronghold of Cuban exiles and
anti-Castro dissidents.
The move likely will be justified on human rights and pro-democracy
grounds. Aides caution, however, that the president has yet to make a
final decision on Cuba, and plans for the announcement could still change.
Shortly after taking office, Trump ordered his national security team to
undertake a review of American policy on Cuba with an eye towards
undoing some of the openings under Obama, and is expected to package his
announcement on Friday as a "promise kept."
Assuming the president follows through, it's unlikely to go down well
with Francis.
When a restoration of relations between the United States and Cuba was
announced in December 2014, both U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban
leader Raúl Castro thanked Pope Francis for the role he played in
creating lines of communication, after writing both men to appeal for
dialogue.
The letter from Pope Francis "gave us greater impetus and momentum for
us to move forward," a White House official said at the time.
In October 2014, the Vatican hosted confidential negotiations between
the two sides that helped pave the way for an agreement.
Francis later visited Cuba in September 2015, immediately prior to
arriving in the United States, a bit of scheduling widely seen as his
way of affirming the opening between the two nations and encouraging the
process to continue.
"For some months now, we have witnessed an event which fills us with
hope: the process of normalizing relations between two peoples following
years of estrangement," Francis said in a speech on the tarmac of Jose
Marti International Airport immediately after arriving on the island nation.
"I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all
its potentialities as a proof of the high service which they are called
to carry out on behalf of the peace and well-being of their peoples, of
all America, and as an example of reconciliation for the entire world,"
he said.
Francis's top aide, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on that trip
the Vatican hoped the restored diplomatic relations would soon be
followed by lifting the U.S.-imposed trade embargo on Cuba, which is the
world's longest-running such ban.
Given all that, it's likely the Vatican under Pope Francis will not view
a rollback on U.S./Cuban détente in positive terms.
The possible new tension over Cuba compounds other differences between
the White House and Rome on issues such as immigration, anti-poverty
efforts, and climate change, including the recent decision by the Trump
administration to abandon the Paris accords which Francis and his
environmental encyclical Laudato Si' helped to inspire.
The pull-out from the Paris agreement was described as a "slap in the
face" to the Vatican and Pope Francis by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo,
head of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Social
Sciences.
Despite those flashpoints, Trump and Francis had a cordial encounter in
the Vatican on May 24, stressing basic agreement on matters such as
religious freedom, the dignity of human life, rights of conscience, and
the importance of defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, the new twists on Paris and, apparently, now Cuba, suggest
that if Callista Gingrich, the wife of former House Speaker Newt
Gingrich, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Trump's ambassador to the
Vatican, what already promised to be a fairly complicated diplomatic
assignment is likely to be even more so.

Source: Trump and Francis may face new tensions over Cuba -
https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/06/12/trump-poised-open-new-tensions-francis-cuba/ Continue reading
… plans to present his new Cuba policy Friday in Miami… of Pigs museum in Little Havana, which is probably too small … former church, is symbolic for Cuban exiles. Manuel Artime was an … Continue reading
Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García

Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want
blood. And more severe laws for criminals.

While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are
advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there
are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated.

If you ask Gisela about the subject, her eyes fill hopelessly with
tears. At one time this woman, who is pushing 50, was a brilliant nurse.
She formed a model family together with her spouse, an ex-official of a
foreign business. They lived in a well-cared-for apartment in Reparto
Sevillano, in the south of Havana.

But the night of December 14, 2010, their marriage took a dramatic turn.
"They killed our only son. He was only 15. He was with some friends in
El Vedado. A gang assaulted him to take his clothes. Before running
away, they stabbed him twice in a lung. After his death, our life
changed and got worse. I always wonder, if God exists, where he was that
night," says Gisela.

After the loss of their son, the marriage dissolved. She became a
habitual alcoholic. They sold their car and later exchanged their
apartment for a smaller one. The money was spent on rum and psychotropics.

Gisela divorced the father of her deceased son, and they put him in a
psychiatric hospital. When you ask her opinion about the death penalty
or more severe laws for certain crimes, she answers without subtlety:
"Whoever kills a person ought to be executed. Look at my case. The
criminal who killed my son got 20 years in prison, and for good conduct
he served only six and is now back on the street. It's not fair."

Those who have lost a family member or friends of violent crime victims
are more susceptible and hope for the return of executioners and a State
that decrees death.

In Cuba, the crime rate is notably low. Although official statistics are
unknown, the Island is a safe place. But gangs of juvenile delinquents
and home robberies have increased.

Since 2005, the Cuban Government has had a moratorium on the death
penalty. The last convict executed was called "Crazy Victor" in the
world of the marginal underground, and he was a sinewy mestizo almost
6'6″ tall, with an assassin's soul.

At the end of the '90s, he killed an old woman inside her house in the
neighborhood of La Vibora. The day of his arrest he had a shoot-out with
police in the style of an American action film.

In the spring of 2004, the Council of State ratified the death penalty
for Victor, which was carried out in the adjacent courtyard at the
Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the
capital.

Fidel and Raúl Castro have not held back from pulling the trigger. From
the very beginning of January 1, 1959, they used the death penalty to
eliminate their recalcitrant enemies and even peaceful dissidents. A
lawyer, now retired, relates:

"When an objective academic study is done, without political passion,
the exact number of Cubans that the government of Fidel Castro has
executed will be known. On principle, they eliminated criminals from
Batista's police and army. Several of these trials were real Roman
circuses, televised to the whole country, without the proper judicial
guarantees. They took advantage of the situation to deliver justice in
order to liquidate the enemies of the revolution.

"In one step, the laws sanctioned the death penalty for betrayal of the
country by soldiers, as in the case of General Arnaldo Ochoa. Or the
execution of 19 people in an air base in Holguín in 1963, most of them
war pilots. Fidel, Raúl and Che signed quite a few death penalties. The
figures vary, according to the sources. Some say that 500 were executed;
others, 3,000 or more.

"Dissident jurists consider these to be crimes of the State, because
they were established offenses that didn't necessarily call for capital
punishment. But the Government claimed it was being persecuted by Yankee
imperialism."

In 2003, after a summary trial, three young black men, residents of
Centro Havana, were executed for trying to hijack a boat to leave the
country, which they weren't able to achieve. "It was a counterproductive
political error. It was an an act of Fidel Castro's meant to set an
example that cost him the condemnation of world public opinion," said
the ex-lawyer.

In the spring of that same year, among the 75 peaceful dissidents
punished with long years in prison by Fidel Castro, who used only words
as a weapon, the Prosecutor of the Republic requested seven death
penalties. "It was something appalling. Luckily the Government didn't
carry it out. It would have been a crime in all meanings of the word,"
said the old lawyer.

As in any revolutionary movement, whether in France, Russia or Cuba,
violence begins with force. The death penalty always was a weapon of
combat for intimidating the enemy. However, several people consulted
considered that while political adversaries were sanctioned excessively
or executed in a pit in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, Cuban
justice was too permissive with some blood crimes.

"Right now someone who kills a cow gets more years in prison that
someone who kills a human being. I know cases where they got only four
or five years in prison in spite of having killed someone. Those who
slaughter beef cattle are condemned to 20 or more years of privation of
liberty," says an ex-prisoner.

There are quite a few ordinary Cubans who think that crimes like robbery
in occupied homes, sexual violations and other mean-spirited acts should
be considered by the State as crimes, and the killers should be executed.

"Although my religion is against the death penalty, I'm in favor of
executing those who commit horrendous crimes," confesses Mayda, who
defines herself as a practicing evangelical.

Saúl, who works for himself. considers that in addition to "executing
serial killers or psychopaths, they ought to punish other infractions
with more years. As in the United States, where they give them life
imprisonment for these same crimes. The thugs would think twice before
breaking the law."

But in the opinion of another lawyer, in the case of major crimes or by
resuming the death penalty, "the State could be tempted to condition
these laws and carry out a purge of the opposition. The subject of the
death penalty, whether to abolish it or keep it, should be debated
nationally and the citizens should decide by vote." But Cuba isn't
Switzerland.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-want-more-severe-laws-for-criminals-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real
As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.
Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News Jun 5, 2017

It was 20 years ago when I first reported on the state of LGBT life in
Cuba, and the differences between then and now could not be more apparent.

Start with the procedure to arrange my travel to the island nation. In
1997, as an out LGBT journalist, I received no assistance from the U.S.
government — except the warning that I could have trouble re-entering
the United States, since the U.S. government might not recognize LGBT
reporters as legitimate journalists.

As for Cuba, its embassy refused to return calls.

As with most Cuba-bound Americans, I had to travel via Mexico and
arrange hotel and other necessities through third- and fourth-party
connections. At times, it was almost cloak-and-dagger.

Today, travel protocols made my arrangements vastly easier than 20 years
ago. The Cuban Embassy not only sped up my visa, it arranged for me to
have official Cuban press credentials, which it also did for other U.S.
LGBT media on the same trip.

That ease of entry symbolizes Cuba's attempt to open its society — and
go after the lucrative LGBT tourism market.

My trip could not have been timed better, since Cuba was about to
commemorate the 10th annual International Day Against Homophobia and
Transphobia, spearheaded in the country by the Cuban National Center for
Sex Education. CENESEX is headed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of the
current president of Cuba and niece to its former president, Fidel Castro.

Understanding religion's role
My first evening's dinner was spent with an old friend and U.S. gay
pioneer, the Rev. Troy Perry of the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan
Community Church, who was scheduled to receive an award from CENESEX.

We dined with members of his Cuban church, whose pastor is Elaine
Saralegui, an out lesbian from Matanzas, Cuba. Their work holds a mirror
up to the religious complexity of the Cuban people.

The Roman Catholic Church estimates that 60–70 percent of Cubans
identify as Catholic, with Protestants — like MCC members — making up
only about 5 percent. Many from both denominations also embrace
practices of the African-Caribbean Santería faith.

As the country opens its doors even farther, U.S. fundamentalists are
looking for influence and to proselytize — not a good omen for LGBT Cubans.

But Perry's church has a distinction: It is the first official
non-government LGBT organization in Cuba. Perry takes pride in stating
that Cuba now becomes the 34th nation with MCC churches.

The distinctions and progress don't end there. Perry says that while the
Catholic Church in Cuba imports its priests from other Latin countries,
all MCC churches will have Cuban-born ministers.

The first is Saralegui, making her the first out lesbian activist in
Cuba. She says, with a grin, that she identifies as an LGBT Christian
activist.

Saralegui was inspired by Perry's work two years ago and asked her
bishop about creating a church for LGBT people. A few disagreements
later, MCC Matanzas — a city that considers itself Cuba's art capital —
became Cuba's first out church.

When she's not tending the church, Saralegui travels the country
performing liturgies for LGBT Cubans and anyone else who wants to hear
her message of inclusion.

"I want our community to be proud," she says with a smile through a
translator.

When I ask her if she's had any issues from members of the LGBT
community about her activism, she smiles broadly and states, "Some don't
believe you can be Christian and gay."

Overcoming Cuba's dark past
Cuba's past often clashes with its present — and the government's
relative embrace of the LGBT community today belies its shameful past.

Meet Luis. Now 74, he survived one of Cuba's labor camps for gay men in
the 1960s. At 16, Luis was taken to a camp, which was apparently
unsurprising since, he smiles and says, "Everyone in my neighborhood
said I was that way." He soon discovered what his time in detention
would comprise: "The second day they yelled and yelled at me, 'Be a man,
be a man.' All day.

"They never hit those of us in the camps; they only spoke at us."

On most days, the men had to sit through what today we'd call
re-programming. "They had signs everywhere: 'The revolution needs men.'
And they kept telling us we had to be men and gay people were not men."
They also heard frequently from the psychologist camp officials brought
in from Havana.

In another attempt at reeducation, the men were put to work.

According to Luis, there were many camps and each held about 120 men.
The hard physical labor was supposed to make one a hard (read: straight)
man.

As to numbers, Luis tells me several thousand gay inmates were housed in
a section of Cuba far from Havana.

Luis is not clear about how he left the camp, but he knows what he did
afterward.

"My old life was no more and I couldn't go home or get work so I went to
the capital," he recalled. "I told them I lost my papers and was given
new papers; they never knew about my past life."

He studied and became a technical draftsman. He found love, and settled
into life.

The government used to deny it had such camps, but before his death,
Fidel Castro admitted it and apologized. Luis, a short, jovial man,
wanted a personal apology and he eventually received it from another
Castro — CENESEX's Mariela.

When I ask what he thinks the future holds for Cuba's LGBT community, he
shrugs and says he's "hopeful." He wants people not to forget their
history, but he doesn't want that connection to the past to impede progress.

It's a hard line he walks, but he does it with a joyous style.

A couple of days later I watched him dancing at the CENESEX rally, doing
a rhumba with his friends. Luis was enjoying life and its new freedoms,
but never letting go of those memories of a different time.

Nascent LGBT tourism industry
The reality is that you can't judge Cuba on its treatment of LGBT people
in the past. Louis wants to live for today, and in today's Cuba, at
least for the LGBT community, things have changed.

My tour guide, Leandro Velazco, says of LGBT tourism: "We have bars,
nightly 'inclusion' parties, a couple of good restaurants, a state-run
LGBT organization, occasional festivals and even Grindr." When I look
quizzically at him, he tells me about something called Planet Romeo,
which he said was the first LGBT social-networking site to hit Cuba
several years ago. His business, GaytoursHavana.com, like many in Cuba,
is adjusting to the internet, hoping that the promise of LGBT tourism in
Cuba becomes a reality.

I thought of that as I marched in the International Day Against
Homophobia and Transphobia rally, along with almost 1,000 Cubans. They
shouted socialist slogans peppered with "End Homophobia and Transphobia
Now." There were no corporate sponsors, and it looked more like a gay
Pride celebration than a march of defiance. At the rally, there were a
few speeches and then a dance and festival. CENESEX used the event for
HIV education, condom distribution and testing.

There's no question Cuba wants to get into the gay tourism game. There
are at least four LGBT tour-guide sites on the web and numerous
individuals and travel groups in the United States who specialize in
LGBT Cuban tourism.

Cuba is home to great weather, beaches, mountains, incredible colonial
architecture and some of the most hospitable people you'll ever meet. It
also sometimes seems the country is in a time capsule.

That can be a curse or a charm.

The old Buicks and Chevys are an example. They're charming, but their
prevalence reminds visitors that new cars are out of reach for many
Cubans — although that has begun to change, as has the hospitality
industry, which languished for years. On the way to the airport, you
notice parking lots full of new taxis and tour buses waiting for the
explosion of tourists.

Cubans call their country "The Pearl of the Caribbean," but that pearl
is still trapped by the U.S. embargo. It's a touchy subject here — some
claim the embargo is keeping this country in economic turmoil, while
others say it is the government's political repression that stifles Cuba.

Either way, it wreaks havoc on tourism. There is not one place in all of
Cuba that you can use an American credit card. Therefore, cash is a
requirement. How many Americans want to travel with a wad of cash in
their pockets?

Still, Cubans themselves say they want change — and no longer to feel
like pawns of two governments.

This article originally appeared in Phildelphia Gay News.

Source: Cuba then and now: LGBT progress is real | Lifestyle |
wisconsingazette.com -
http://www.wisconsingazette.com/lifestyle/cuba-then-and-now-lgbt-progress-is-real/article_7c2376dc-4a0c-11e7-8414-37ec2768a301.html Continue reading
Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want blood. And more severe laws for criminals. While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated. If … Continue reading "Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 30 May 2017—Cuba’s Catholic bishops are not “on the fringes of the suffering and uncertainty experienced by Venezuelans,” according to a letter released this week signed by Dionisio García Ibáñez, archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba . The letter, addressed to the Venezuelan episcopate, … Continue reading "Cuban Catholic Bishops Express Solidarity with Venezuela" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 16 May 2017 — In the midst of a wave of pressure from the authorities, members of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) have issued a declaration of commitment to their work on the island. “We are not leaving Cuba, we are not leaving the Church and we will continue working for the … Continue reading "“We Are Not Leaving Cuba”, Say Members Of The Center For Coexistence Studies" Continue reading
San Salvador, May 19 (RHC-teleSUR)-- A judge in El Salvador on Thursday reopened the nearly four-decade-old case of murdered Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, an icon of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, and asked that prosecutors seek criminal … Continue reading
… a refurbished synagogue in Havana, shows Cuba's progress in religious … . The priest is a native Cuban who celebrated Mass in churches … spiritual connection between Cuba and Tampa. Tampa and Cuba have already had … in Cuba. Two other Catholic churches are currently under construction in HavanaContinue reading
A Liverpool bar with a Cuban spirit could become the place … they say in Havana). Over at Alma De Cuba on Seel Street … mezzanine floor at Alma De Cuba. “The altar is the centrepiece … church overlooks the Alma De Cuba dancefloor “It’s a really … Continue reading
… we have a synagogue in Havana," Cabañas said. Still, the … build a new church. The Cuban government approved the necessary permits … here of cigar factories using Cuban tobacco. The ties were strengthened … are under construction in Cuba — one in Havana and another in Santiago … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2017 – This Sunday Cuban State Security prevented Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), from boarding a flight to Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF). The car in which the activist was traveling to José Martí International Airport was intercepted by the police, according to … Continue reading "State Security Prevents Yoandy Izquierdo From Boarding A Flight For Sweden" Continue reading
Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different
MAY 15, 2017 BY MONIKA DONIMIRSKA

COLLEGE PARK, Md., May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Cuba is
experiencing a brain drain, though it's not the kind that forecasters
were predicting when the long-closed country began opening its borders.
It's internal brain drain, says Rebecca Bellinger, managing director of
the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Office of
Global Initiatives and Center for International Business Education and
Research.

The small island nation's doctors and other highly skilled workers
aren't emigrating for more lucrative jobs in Miami and elsewhere. In
fact, they aren't emigrating at all. They're staying in Cuba, but moving
toward the burgeoning hospitality sector.

And it's posing a major new threat to Cuba, Bellinger says. „Cubans are
deciding that they'll have a higher quality of life if they enter the
travel and service industry."

To be sure, some highly skilled Cubans – doctors, lawyers, professors
and others – are leaving the country in search of opportunity. But many
more who are staying in Cuba are opting to leave their jobs because of
low state salaries or are taking on second jobs, becoming taxi drivers,
waiters and bellhops – jobs involving regular interaction with foreign
visitors and their hard currency. The government is experiencing a sort
of „drain" as well, as state workers flee their jobs for the more
lucrative private sector.

„These are people who are leaving the jobs for which they have been
trained," Bellinger says. „Last year, we met an English teacher who left
his rural school position to become a tour guide, both to use the
language he had learned and to gain access to hard currency."

Cuba's universities have long been regarded as the best in Latin
America, but in recent years, gross enrollment has been plummeting,
sparking additional worries.

The country maintains two forms of legal tender: the Cuban peso (CUP)
and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC). The CUC is pegged to the U.S.
dollar, and is many times more valuable than the CUP. Neither trades on
the global forex market. Most Cubans are paid in the weaker peso (CUP),
limiting their buying power. Visitors to the country use the CUC and
leave tips, and that's helping to fuel Cuba's internal brain drain.

Bellinger has been traveling to Cuba since 2010, studying what's
happening there as she forges experiential learning opportunities for
students and collaborative partnerships with the University of Havana
and its associated research centers. As part of her work with NAFSA, the
Association of International Educators, she has worked with the Office
of Foreign Assets Control, a Treasury Department unit that manages
sanctions, to educate the higher education community in the U.S. on
regulations that govern legal travel to Cuba. She also leads the CIBER
Faculty Development in International Business (FDIB) Program to Cuba for
faculty from across the U.S.

She has seen an uneven upturn in travel, steep in Havana, but shallow
everywhere else.

„Last year, we were told by a hotel manager that Havana has 100 percent
capacity in hotels all year long," she says. The capital city is so full
of foreign travelers today that it's scarcely recognizable from even a
year ago.

Travel to Cuba's secondary cities, meanwhile, has been generally missing
the boom. That's in large part because U.S. travelers have faced highly
restrictive travel conditions in the past and may not be aware of what
the island has to offer outside of Havana.

To be approved for travel to Cuba, Americans must have an itinerary that
aligns with one of 12 approved purposes, which include religious
activities, journalism, humanitarian projects and people-to-people
outreach. „And tourism is not one of them. This is not a destination
that U.S. citizens can just explore for sun and sand," Bellinger says.
That has kept most U.S. travelers in Havana for now, but gradually that
will change, Bellinger says, as U.S. relations with Cuba continue to evolve.

As Cuba looks to its future, Bellinger says, it must focus on these
eight things.

Support economic reforms: This has already begun, Bellinger notes, but
much work remains. The economic reforms announced in 2010 have
encouraged development and job creation in the non-state sector, which
has eased the financial burden on the state. Over 500,000 Cubans are now
self-employed in their own microenterprises and private cooperatives,
but the regulations that govern these businesses are still constraining.
For example, private restaurants are able to have only 50 seats, and
private companies are not permitted to import any goods or foodstuff to
support their business.

Address the dual currency issue: Rebuild the country around a single
currency, to level the playing field for Cubans and increase consumer
confidence.

Address salary issue: Traditionally esteemed, high-skilled work should
be appropriately compensated, to counter brain drain tendencies in the
country.

Invest in innovative capacity: „Because of Cuba's history," Bellinger
says, „it does not lack the ability to innovate. Just think about the
old jalopies." Closed off from much global trade, Cubans have long found
ways to maintain and retrofit 50-year-old automobiles. „That type of
innovation exists," she says, „but so do impressive global innovations
in health, biomedical and pharmaceutical fields.

Ease access to information: Access to the internet has increased in
Cuba, with about 2,000 homes in Havana authorized to receive the
internet directly and with the number of Wi-Fi hotspots growing
virtually every day. „It is fantastic," Bellinger says, „that the
government is no longer afraid of giving people access to information."
The country should encourage the democratization of the internet,
allowing greater accessibility at a fair and level price, she adds. In
most countries, internet prices are determined based on the amount of
data used. In Cuba, users are charged based on the types of websites
visited, with domestic websites costing less than foreign ones. Some
foreign websites are still blocked in Cuba.

Educate a generation of business leaders: For a half-century beginning
around 1960, the economy was generally controlled by the Cuban
government. Now, the country faces a crisis in business education: Who
will educate the next generation of business leaders, job creators and
entrepreneurs? The reforms that have allowed for the creation of private
business have not been supported with education, meaning that the
individuals starting and running small businesses do not have access to
the formal training they need to be successful. The Catholic Church has
begun a program that's similar to a masters of business program, and a
Miami-based nonprofit is doing some startup business training on what
Bellinger describes as „a very small scale." But education remains an
area where Cuba prohibits joint ventures with foreign entities, so
prospects for business education remain murky.

Improve transportation and infrastructure: Cuba has infrastructure
problems, „first and foremost," Bellinger says, making travel cumbersome
between Havana and the country's secondary cities. Addressing those
problem would spread economic development across the island.

Choose democracy: Elections are planned for 2018, when Cuban President
Raul Castro plans to step down. „But if there's going to be an election,
is it going to be fair? Who will be the key players? We don't know,"
Bellinger says. „It's as important as ever that Cuba listen to its
citizens."

Central to her suggestions is the notion of investing in human capital.
„At the end of the day," Bellinger says, „if you don't invest in human
capital – if you don't invest in your workforce – nothing is going to
change in Cuba."

Visit Smith Brain Trust for related content
at http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/faculty-research/smithbraintrust and
follow on Twitter @SmithBrainTrust.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized
leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and
schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School
offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online
MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as
outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its
degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North
America and Asia.

Contact: Greg Muraski at 301-892-0973 or gmuraski@rhsmith.umd.edu

Source: Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different | satPRnews -
http://www.satprnews.com/2017/05/15/why-cubas-brain-drain-looks-different/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 5 May 2017 — “Cuba is waiting for changes,” said Archbishop Dionisio García Ibáñez Friday on Radio Vatican; he has also said that “the Cuban people can live in better spiritual and material conditions.” The statements of García Ibáñez, collected in Spanish by ACI Prensa, came after Pope Francisco received a delegation of Cuban prelates … Continue reading "The Archbishop Of Santiago de Cuba Says In The Vatican That The Island “Is Waiting For Changes”" Continue reading
Christians in Cuba worry about student's alleged persecution
After trip to the U.S., Cuban pro-democracy student gets expelled
By Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer , Hatzel Vela - Reporter
Posted: 2:01 PM, May 10, 2017
Updated: 2:11 PM, May 10, 2017

HAVANA - A 20-year-old history student dared to publicly criticize the
Cuban government. He also defied them when he met with U.S. officials to
try to influence President Donald Trump's policy.

During a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Commission on
International Religious Freedom in Washington, Félix Llerena wore a suit
and tie. The ten members of the U.S. federal government commission make
policy recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of State and Trump.

Llerena documented his trip on social media. He drank coffee under the
U.S. flag and visited the Radio y Televisión Martí studio in Miami. The
U.S. federal government has been financing the TV station's programs in
Spanish since 1990.

"I am returning to continue the struggle for your true liberation,"
Llerena wrote on Facebook during his return flight to Cuba.

Cuban customs' officials detained him for about four hours when he
arrived April 27 at the Aeropuerto Abel Santamaría in Santa Clara. He
reported they seized his tablet, flash drives, a pamphlet of the U.S.
Constitution, a cap with the Bay of Pigs Invasion Brigade 2506 logo and
cards. The alleged harassment didn't stop there.

Cuban police officers later went to pick him up at his home in the
province of Villa Clara's town of Encrucijada. He told friends that
state security agents called him a "terrorist," accused him of having
ties to terrorists living in Miami and threatened him with not being
able to go back to the town.

"I am a young Christian, a Cuban, a patriot and a pacifist,"
Llerena later said in a statement. "I would never approve of an armed or
violent struggle, or of an armed foreign invasion that would hurt my
people."

On Monday, Llerena learned that the Universidad
de Ciencias Pedagógicas Enrique José Varona's administrators decided to
expulse him. They attributed their decision to absenteeism.

"They told me that if I wanted to return I had to wait for two years ...
But of course everyone knows that my expulsion is due to purely
political reasons," Llerena wrote on Facebook.

Llerena traveled to the U.S. as part of a Christian delegation that
included Baptist church leaders Mario
Felix Lleonart, Yoaxis Marcheco and Raudel Garcia Bringas, and Apostolic
Movement Pastor Yiorvis Bravo. They are part of the island's Christian
revival.

The Cuban constitution recognizes freedom of religion. As a result,
clergy and academics estimate there are some 40,000 Methodists, 100,000
Baptists and 120,000 members of the Assemblies of God. About 60 percent
of Cubans are baptized Catholic, with many also following Afro-Cuban
syncretistic traditions such as Santeria.

Llerena also serves as the central region coordinator for the Patmos
Institute, a Christian organization that promotes religious liberty on
the island. He is also a promoter for CubaDecide, a campaign to request
an electoral vote to begin a transition to Democracy on the island.

Mervyn Thomas, the director of the London-based Christian Solidarity
Worldwide, released a statement asking the Cuban government "to cease
its harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its
ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency."

Source: Christians in Cuba worry about student's alleged persecution -
https://www.local10.com/news/cuba/christians-in-cuba-worry-about-students-alleged-persecution Continue reading
Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of TodosMarchamos

14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested
this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa
Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March)
campaign for the release of Cuba's political prisoners.

The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with three
other activists outside the group's headquarters in Havana's Lawton
neighborhood. The women carried posters denouncing the harassment
against their movement, dissident Deisy Artiles told 14ymedio.

Soler was leaving the headquarters along with to Yamilet Garro, Aliuska
Gómez and Sodrelis Turruella when they were intercepted and arrested by
the police. Inside the house were Artiles, along with Ladies in White
Zenaida Hidalgo and Cecilia Guerra.

The police also detained, in the vicinity of the headquarters, the
former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta and the activist Jose Oscar
Sánchez.

"The operation started on Friday morning," Artiles said, adding that "an
act of repudiation was carried out [against Berta Soler] at the time of
her arrest."

Dissident Ada Lopez was also arrested outside her home when she tried to
reach the headquarters of the movement. Her husband reported the arrest
and managed to photograph the moment she was taken to a police car.

In Matanzas, at least a dozen of the movement's women managed to reach
the church to attend Sunday Mass, while 19 were arrested on the way to
the parish.

"We have had an operation since Saturday in front of the houses of the
Ladies in White," said Matanzas activist Leticia Ramos Herrería.

The police "have been embroiled in trying to end our movement," says the
opponent. "The threats they are making against the activists and their
families are serious. Many are being fined for simply evading the police
cordon in front of their homes."

In the town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba, a dozen members of
the group were arrested, while in Ciego de Avila the police violently
arrested the dissidents Lucía López Rondón and Mayden Maidique Cruz.

On Thursday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) issued a
report in which it stated there were 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the
island during the first four months of 2017.

Throughout the month of April the organization documented 467 arbitrary
arrests, of which 335 were women and 132 were men. 147 of those arrested
were black and ten of them were "beaten brutally," according to the text.

The OCDH emphasizes that a climate of repression prevails "at a time
when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support
such as that from the European Union and the Government of Spain," and
warns that "in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated
because of the government's nervousness over the difficult economic and
social situation that Cuba is facing."

Source: Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of
#TodosMarchamos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/dozens-of-ladies-in-white-arrested-on-the-100th-day-of-todosmarchamos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners. The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with … Continue reading "Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of #TodosMarchamos" Continue reading
Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington
by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, May 05, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington -
http://bpnews.net/48819/cuban-student-arrested-after-trip-to-washington Continue reading
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, May 5, 2017 / 09: … ;EWTN News).- Following the Cuban bishops' ad limina meeting … faster than others, but we Cubans, whatever our personal ideas may … can express their own faith.” “Cubans are a religious people, but … Continue reading

La iglesia First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York (FPCNYC) invita al concierto de Melvis Santa & Ashedí, evento que forma parte de "Cuban State of Mind", una serie de actividades que pretenden celebrar "la rica tradición del arte y la cultura cubana" en Estados Unidos.

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In the twilight of the Castros
By Stephen Kinzer APRIL 14, 2017
SANTA CLARA, Cuba

THIS PROVINCIAL CAPITAL in central Cuba throbbed with life on a recent
Saturday night. In one plaza, a Beatles cover band sang "Ticket to Ride"
for an enthusiastic crowd. Exuberant groups of gay men made their way
toward a club that stages drag shows and welcomes patrons of all sexual
orientations. In an evangelical church, dozens of young people were
being driven to near-ecstasy by a young preacher shouting, "We need the
voice of God now!" Many kids wore T-shirts featuring the American flag.

None of this would have been possible or even imaginable at the height
of Fidel Castro's power. Beatles music was banned in Cuba. Gays were
arrested. Public displays of religiosity were forbidden. Police would
have viewed wearing the American flag as nearly equivalent to wearing
the swastika. Cubans now enjoy more cultural freedom than at any time
since the Castro movement seized power 58 years ago.

Economic progress has been more fitful, but still significant. Small
businesses have sprouted across the island. By some estimates, as many
as half a million Cubans are now self-employed. That is a remarkable
change in a country where private enterprise was demonized for
generations. It has whetted the appetite of many shopkeepers,
beauticians, and restaurant owners to expand beyond tight legal limits.

As for political change, it remains beyond a distant horizon. President
Raul Castro is expected to retire next year. No one I met imagines that
this transition will lead to serious changes in the ruling system. This
is today's Cuba: remarkable cultural opening, growing economic opening,
no political opening.

Cuban leaders fear that allowing unrestricted business growth would
strengthen the wealthier class that is already emerging, give enemies in
the United States new ways to subvert the revolutionary project, and
ultimately lead to the collapse of their government. They are right.
Capitalist economics might make Cuba rich, but it would also create a
new version of the class society that revolutionaries have devoted their
lives to wiping away. This is their dilemma. In recent years they have
allowed Cubans to become more prosperous, but that has led to widening
social divisions. How far should they allow the process to go?

Booming tourism is among the forces that have created both new
possibilities and new frictions. Tourists — and Cubans with relatives
abroad — use a different currency from the one most Cubans use. It
allows them to buy many products that are beyond the reach of those who
earn local pesos. Worst of all, tourist demand sucks large amounts of
food out of the market. That leaves even less for Cubans. Many spend
hours every day trying to find food they can afford on government
salaries that often hover below $25 per month.

Cuba has large amounts of fertile and uncultivated land. Selling it to
agro-business conglomerates would produce more than enough food for
every citizen. It would also, however, mark a return to the era when
rich outsiders controlled Cuba's economy. Determined to avoid this, the
government is taking half-steps instead. Private farmers may now sell
their produce more freely. Some state-run cooperatives have become
independent. Good food, though, remains beyond the reach of many Cubans
who must shop in ill-supplied government markets.

Havana, the capital, used to be famous for its fleet of sputtering,
broken-down American cars, all imported before the 1959 revolution. Many
of them have been refitted, polished, and turned into taxis that take
tourists on pricey city tours. Not all Cubans appreciate this. "Those
cars look different to us than they look to you," one man told me as he
pointed to a glistening 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible, complete with
rumble seat. "To you, they're a cute way to have fun. To us, they
symbolize our backwardness. We're stuck in time, back in the days when
those cars were made. We're not getting anywhere."

One sign of the frustration many Cubans feel is the remarkable aging of
the population. Young people have flooded out, leaving parks and plazas
in many towns full of old people. This adds another burden to the
already inadequate welfare system, and poses serious challenges for
future growth. "Before, there were lots of grandchildren to take care of
grandparents," said Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, an official at the
national statistics bureau. "Now, we sometimes have more grandparents
than grandchildren."

Cuba's long century of repression and upheaval famously began with the
US intervention of 1898. A commanding monument on the Malecon, the long
seaside boulevard that anchors Havana, commemorates the explosion of an
American warship, the USS Maine, that became the pretext for
intervention after newspapers and politicians falsely claimed that it
was the result of an enemy attack. In 1899, the US government decided to
renege on its pledge to grant Cuba full independence, and installed a
puppet regime instead. That led to dictatorships, deepening anger, the
Castro revolution, and decades of Communist rule.

President Obama's visit last year, and his modest loosening of the US
trade embargo, momentarily raised hopes for a deep change in US-Cuba
relations — and possibly deep changes in Cuba itself. That has not
happened. Cuban leaders are working quietly to assure that President
Trump does not revert to the bitterly anti-Cuba policies of the
pre-Obama era. Many ordinary Cubans, however, worry more about getting
through each day.

Stephen Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for
International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Follow him on
Twitter @stephenkinzer.

Source: In the twilight of the Castros - The Boston Globe -
http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/04/14/twilight-castros/95OdHKELKcSeu8NfrnyFxJ/story.html 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
… when visiting Cuba recently. The six-strong group travelled to Havana as part … three years, with visitors from Cuba coming to Scotland last year … 's Sarah Brown in Cuba While there the group got … different issues (about living in Cuba) will be looked at in … Continue reading
14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 31 March 2017 – A report published by the Associated Press published last Monday, under the title “Far From the Dark Past, Evangelicals Growing in Cuba,” upset evangelical pastors with its open defense of the Cuban regime to the detriment of religious freedom. The author, Andrea Rodríguez, cites one of the … Continue reading "Cuban Evangelicals Denounce Complacent Article By Associated Press" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 31 March 2017 — A delegation from the European Union in Cuba visited the Coexistence Study Center (CEC) in the city of Pinar del Río on Thursday. The group was headed by EU political attaché in Havana, Carlos Perez Padilla, and also included representatives from the embassies of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece … Continue reading "European Diplomats Visit The Center For Coexistence Studies In Pinar Del Río" Continue reading
Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney General

14ymedio, Havana, 2017 — The Ladies of White Yamile Garro Alfonso,
Lázara Barbara Sendilla and Maria Cristina Labrada delivered on Monday,
as representatives of the whole movement, a summary report to the
Attorney General's Office on the repression they have suffered over the
last fifteen months.

The leader of the women's group, Berta Soler, explained to 14ymedio that
the report is the same as the one presented on 23 March by Leticia Ramos
to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression,
David Kayes, on "Arbitrary detention and harassment against the family
of Ladies in White," but that it had been "updated to yesterday."

Soler detailed that the new version of the report explains how "the
Cuban regime" threatens them "all the time" with fines to keep them from
leaving the country and with imprisonment.

The leader of the movement denounced that activist Lismerys Quintana
Ávila was sent to prison on Monday in what she defined as "a rigged trial."

"They are really inventing some crimes to be able to fine us and to kill
the Ladies in White," explains Soler

"We delivered it to the Attorney General's Office, the European Union
Delegation, the mailbox of the Apostolic Nunciature and the Embassy of
the United States," said Soler. She also said that they will also "hand
it over to the Archbishop of Havana." According to the Lady in White,
the movement wants the Catholic Church to understand what is happening
to them.

"They are really inventing some crimes to be able to fine us and to kill
the Ladies in White," explains Soler, who considers the actions of the
authorities arbitrary and also denounces "what they are doing to the
families, to the children and spouses," of the activists.

He added that they plan to deliver a copy of the text, about twelve
pages, to the Military Prosecutor's Office and the State Council, as
well as to send it to the embassies of Spain and the Czech Republic by
e-mail.

She also denounced that the Ladies in White headquarters in the Lawton
neighborhood of Havana is surrounded by "an operation" that "has been
around the clock since Thursday, March 23."

Source: Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney
General – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/ladies-in-white-report-the-repression-they-suffer-to-attorney-general/ Continue reading
Evangelical Churches Booming In Cuba Amid Tensions
March 27, 2017 7:47 AM

HAVANA (CBSMiami/AP) — Fidel Castro's government punished Rev. Juan
Francisco Naranjo and sent him to two years of work camp for preaching
in Cuba where atheism was law. For years, Naranjo's church was almost
abandoned, with just a handful of people daring to attend services.

Naranjo died in 2000 but on a recent Sunday, his William Carey Baptist
Church was packed and noisy. Government doctors treated disabled
children at a clinic inside. A Bible study group discussed Scripture in
one corner of the building before a service attended by 200 of the faithful.

"In the 1960s, the few brothers and sisters who came here had to hide
their Bibles in brown-paper covers," said Esther Zulueta, a 57-year-old
doctor. "It's night and day."

Trump administration officials have repeatedly said religious freedom is
one of the key demands they will make of Cuba when they finish reviewing
former President Barack Obama's opening with the island. The
administration has never been more specific, but outside groups have
accused Cuba of systematically repressing the island's growing ranks of
evangelicals and other Protestants with acts including the seizure of
hundreds of churches across the island, followed by the demolition of many.

An Associated Press examination has found a more complicated picture.
Pastors and worshippers say Cuba is in the middle of a boom in
evangelical worship, with tens of thousands of Cubans worshipping
unmolested across the island each week.

While the government now recognizes freedom of religion, it doesn't
grant the right to build churches or other religious structures. It has
demolished a handful of churches in recent years, but allowed their
members to continue meeting in makeshift home sanctuaries. And like the
Roman Catholic Church, the island's dominant denomination, evangelical
churches have begun providing social services once monopolized by the
Communist government.

"There's a revival of these churches, of the most diverse denominations
in the country, and all of them are growing, not just in the number of
members, but in their capacity to lead and act in society," said
Presbyterian pastor Joel Ortega Dopica, president of Council of Churches
of Cuba, an officially recognized association of 32 Protestant
denominations. "There is religious freedom in Cuba."

Clergy and academics say Cuba's 11 million people include some 40,000
Methodists, 100,000 Baptists and 120,000 members of the Assemblies of
God, which had roughly 10,000 members in the early 1990s, when Cuba
began easing restrictions on public expressions of religious faith. The
church council estimates there are about 25,000 evangelical and other
Protestant houses of worship across the country. About 60 percent of the
population is baptized Catholic, with many also following Afro-Cuban
syncretic traditions such as Santeria.

Naranjo was part of that opening. After the work camp, he returned to a
church whose worshippers were barred from many state jobs. A thaw began
in 1984 when visiting American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson
stunned Cuba by taking Fidel Castro to a Protestant church service. In
1990, Naranjo was among a group of pastors who met with Castro to push
for a greater freedom, and his own church worked on building ties
between religious groups and the Communist Party.

The opening culminated in the 1998 visit of Pope John Paul II, which led
to new liberties for both Catholic and Protestant worshippers.

The Cuban constitution now recognizes freedom of religion, but the law
is silent on the issue of church construction. In a system where the
government has long monopolized public life, virtually all activities
are presumed illegal unless the law says otherwise. Authorities in some
areas have prohibited new churches, even as they allow worship in
religious buildings erected before Cuba's 1959 revolution.

The London-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide issued a
report alleging the Cuban government committed 2,380 violations of
religious liberty in 2016, most linked to the declaration of 2,000
Assemblies of God churches as illegal, with 1,400 in process of
confiscation. The group says it based that information on a source
inside Cuba whom it would not name.

Juan Whitaker, the Assemblies of God's treasurer in Cuba, told The
Associated Press this month that none of its churches had been declared
illegal or were at risk of confiscation.

David Ellis, regional director for Latin America and Caribbean for world
missions of the Missouri-based General Council of the Assemblies of God,
told the AP, "We are in ongoing contact with the Cuba Assemblies of God
leadership and they have not reported any churches being confiscated.
Neither have they reported that churches have been threatened with
confiscation."

Kiri Kankhwende, a spokeswoman for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said
its assessment hadn't changed and any statement to the contrary could be
explained by official pressure on churches in Cuba.

Christian Solidarity has also cited the case of Juan Carlos Nunez, a
minister in the Apostolic Movement in the eastern city of Las Tunas,
while other religious freedom advocates have cited the case of Bernardo
de Quesada, in the eastern city of Camaguey, as examples of religious
persecution.

Both men told the AP that churches they built in the yards of their
homes were demolished by the government because they were constructed
without permits. Both continue leading services inside their homes,
where hundreds of worshippers gather each week.

"They tolerate me, but they don't accept me," said de Quesada. "I'm not
shutting up or leaving. We have passion and no one will stop us."

Nunez said he was sentenced to a year of house arrest after neighbors
complained about speakers he set up to boost the sound of services in
his home. He blamed the situation on the vague status of new churches in
Cuban law.

"If there were a law on church activities, none of this would happen and
everything would be clear," he said.

Even so, churches are working on projects that once would have been
forbidden to them, including efforts on AIDS prevention, sustainable
agriculture, renewable energy, medicine distribution, training of farm
workers and disaster relief.

"The Cuban authorities have understood the necessity of our presence and
dialogue with the government, which still continues, even if we don't
always agree," said the Rev. Dorilin Tito, a 38-year-old pastor at
William Carey Baptist Church.

Source: Evangelical Churches Booming In Cuba Amid Tensions « CBS Miami -
http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/03/27/evangelical-churches-booming-in-cuba-amid-tensions/ Continue reading
… previously exclusively operated by the Cuban government. 'There's … ;There is religious freedom in Cuba.' Cuba's 11 million … in a report that the Cuban government has committed 2,380 … Baptist Church, said: 'The Cuban authorities have understood the necessity … Continue reading
Cuba's secret negotiator with US was president's son: cardinal
AFP March 24, 2017

Havana (AFP) - Cuban President Raul Castro's son, Alejandro, was the
communist island's envoy for secret negotiations with the United States
that led to the countries' historic rapprochement, a cardinal close to
the talks said.

Speculation had long swirled that Alejandro Castro Espin, the
president's 51-year-old son, headed up the secret talks.

But the confirmation from Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the former archbishop
of Havana, is the most official namedrop to date -- and further boosts
the profile of Castro Espin, who is touted as a possible future
president of Cuba.

Castro Espin was "at the head of the Cuban delegation," Ortega said in a
speech to a conference in the United States that was published in the
latest issue of Cuban Catholic magazine Secular Space (Espacio Laical).

Ortega, who recently stepped down as head of the Cuban Church,
represented the Vatican at the talks, which Pope Francis played a key
part in brokering.

The US delegation was led by Ricardo Zuniga, a top adviser to then US
president Barack Obama.

The negotiations led to the announcement of a rapprochement in December
2014 after more than half a century of Cold War hostility.

Castro Espin, an army colonel, is an international relations expert.

The president's only son, he kept a low profile for years. But he was
present when his father and Obama held their first-ever talks in Panama
in April 2015.

Many observers now tip him to be a major player in the power transition
due next February, when Castro is due to step down.

Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, is seen as Castro's heir apparent.
But Castro Espin is increasingly viewed as a president-in-waiting.

Ortega also unveiled another mystery of the US-Cuba talks, saying the
date of the rapprochement announcement -- December 17 -- was chosen
because it is Pope Francis's birthday.

Source: Cuba's secret negotiator with US was president's son: cardinal -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cubas-secret-negotiator-us-presidents-son-cardinal-212705806.html Continue reading
"San Lazaro Has Been My Savior" / Cubanet

San Lázaro has been my savior. I've been through some very hard times
and only when I placed my faith in San Lázaro was I able to find my way.
Many people don't understand why I do this. I left school in ninth
grade, quite early, to work and help my mom. She earned very little
money. How was she going to raise my ailing brother and me, if the money
was never enough, not even for food?

They always called us 'poorly dressed', and to top it off we lived in a
house cramped with people. (…) Since 2007 I've been making my
pilgrimage. I remember the first time, I did the whole trip in
somersaults. My brother went with me. I swear that one was the most
exhausting trip. I passed through many villages, but I was told that was
how it was supposed to be, I had to prove my faith. And I did.

Once I got to El Rincón they took pictures of me, movies… I felt that
San Lázaro was with me. It was my first time at the Santuario del Rincón
[the church dedicated to San Lázaro in the village of El Rincón to the
south of Havna], and when I came in the door it was something amazing.
Seeing the photographers and the people shouting, giving me water, it
felt good. (…)

Today I'm alone, my brother feels better. I start my trajectory in
November and I go around the streets of Havana collecting alms. Everyone
stops, even the children. I see fear in their little faces, but one day
they will understand.

Translated by: Beverly James, Aliya Kreisberg, Aracelys Pichardo-Bonilla

Source: "San Lazaro Has Been My Savior" / Cubanet – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/san-lazaro-has-been-my-savior-cubanet/ Continue reading
As Cuba's economy flat-lines, retirement has become notional
Tiny pensions must be supplemented by whatever work is available
Mar 23rd 2017 | HAVANA

NORBERTO MESA, a 66-year-old grandfather, stands in the hot sun 11 hours
a day, six days a week, guiding cars in and out of the parking spaces in
front of a bustling farm stand. The 4,000 Cuban pesos ($170 at the
official exchange rate) he earns each month in tips is more than ten
times his monthly old-age pension of 340 pesos. Without it, the retired
animal geneticist could not afford fruit and meat, or help his children,
who work for low salaries, to feed his four grandchildren.

Though revolutionary Cuba had one of the region's earliest and most
comprehensive pension systems, in recent years retirement has almost
vanished. Without further economic reform, and the cheap oil that used
to come from Venezuela, the economy has stalled. Pensions have been
frozen, and their value eaten up by inflation. According to the most
recent government statistics, from 2010, a third of men past retirement
age are working. Three-fifths of older people say they often have to go
without necessities.

The insular socialist paradise supposedly offers a social safety-net,
cradle to grave. But it is full of holes. Medical care is free, but most
medicine is not. Retirement homes are scarce, and rules that mean
residents must give up their pensions and homes put off many, since
these are often a lifeline for younger relatives in equally distressed
circumstances.

So old people can be seen on the streets of Havana selling newspapers
and peanuts, or recycling cans. They are scrubbing floors in affluent
homes or cooking for a growing number of private restaurants and
bakeries. Ernesto Alpízar, an 89-year-old former agronomist, goes
door-to-door selling strawberries and flowers. Even so, he remains an
ardent "Fidelista", grateful to the island's late dictator for the free
cataract surgery that saved his eyesight.

For even as the island's old and infirm must hustle to survive, they
have benefited from its success at providing health care. Life
expectancy at birth is 79, not far short of most developed countries,
and widely available birth control helps explain why family size has
fallen further and faster than in most other countries (see chart). The
flip side, though, has been a breakneck demographic
transition—exacerbated by the large share of young and middle-aged
Cubans who have fled to America. Over-65s now make up 14% of the
population. The national statistical office estimates that the total
number of pensioners will overtake the number of state-sector workers by
2025.

A few churches and charities, mostly funded from abroad, are trying to
fill the gap. Rodolfo Juárez, a pastor of the International Community
Church, a Protestant congregation, helps 60 indigent elderly people in
Havana. His scheme provides fruit, vegetables and beans to supplement
government rations of a daily piece of bread; and 7lb of rice, 2lb of
sugar, five eggs and a piece of chicken a month. Although running it
costs just 18,000 pesos a month, funding is a constant problem.

Mr Juárez and his wife, at 80 and 75, are older than many of those they
help. Between their church duties and his teaching at a seminary, they
make 3,600 pesos a month. Though that does not go far, it dwarfs Mr
Juarez's pension. As long as Cuba's economy flat-lines, its elderly will
have no rest till they drop.

Source: Hustling, cradle to grave: As Cuba's economy flat-lines,
retirement has become notional | The Economist -
http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21719482-tiny-pensions-must-be-supplemented-whatever-work-available-cubas-economy-flat-lines Continue reading
San Lázaro has been my savior. I’ve been through some very hard times and only when I placed my faith in San Lázaro was I able to find my way. Many people don’t understand why I do this. I left school in ninth grade, quite early, to work and help my mom. She earned very little … Continue reading "“San Lazaro Has Been My Savior” / Cubanet" Continue reading
"The LGBT community in Cuba is going through a transition"
Daniel Abma, director of 'Transit Havana' says the regime is now
integrating gays into society
IÑAKI MAKAZAGA
Bilbao 20 MAR 2017 - 15:50 CET

"El colectivo LGTB de Cuba vive un momento de apertura y transición"
A meeting with a Belgian surgeon gave the Dutch documentary filmmaker
and human rights activist Daniel Abma the story he was looking for:
every year, Cuba invites this surgeon along with a Dutch colleague to
carry out sex reassignment surgery on five of the island's residents.
Between November 2013 and January 2015, Abma documented the lives of
three transsexuals hoping to be among the lucky five. Then, as relations
between the US and Cuba warmed, he was given a newsworthy peg on which
to hang his film.

"The regime has gone from persecuting homosexuality to using all its
propaganda machinery to promote integration," says Abma who has just
watched his documentary, Transit Havana, premiere at the LGTBI Zinegoak
2017 Film Festival in Bilbao. " But Cuban homosexuals still have to deal
with religious intolerance, poverty, discrimination and often prostitution."

Many Cuban transsexuals have no alternative than to turn to prostitution

Cuban-trained doctors do not possess the necessary know-how to perform
sex reassignment procedures, which is why the Cuban government seeks out
experts in Europe. Through him, Abma was able to get permission to
document the new transgender residents' program, headed by President
Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela.

"Mariela Castro supported us in every way. There was no control over
what we filmed and it became clear that she is a sort of mother figure
for the community," says the director, who visited the island four times
over the course of two years.

Mariela Castro is a member of Cuba's National Assembly and Director of
the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), whose push for
integration is giving the community a great deal of positive exposure
while, at the same time, making socialism a priority – the program
financing the sex reassignment surgery has adopted as its slogan:
homophobia no, socialism yes.

But it wasn't all plain sailing for Abma's project. While he was offered
unprecedented access to certain aspects of life in Cuba, some of his
footage was thought to give the wrong image of the island. "Without
Mariela's support, it would have been impossible to move so easily
around the island but when the authorities saw the results, they wanted
several changes that we didn't make," says the director, who regrets
that Mariela Castro did not show up for the premiere.

The Cuban authorities wanted some cuts to the documentary, which were
refused

Along with Abma, the documentary's three protagonists, Odette, Malú and
Juani – three generations of different sexes facing different challenges
– were at the premiere in Bilbao. "At 64, Juani has a good life," says
Abma. "She was one of the first transsexual women and her new identity
as a man has not caused her problems."

This is not the case for Odette, who at the age of 38, has had to deal
with rejection from her family due to their religious beliefs, while
Malú, 28, was forced at times to turn to prostitution to make a living.
"Each of the three highlights the challenges that still face
transsexuals: religious prejudice, the lack of job opportunities and
social stigma," says Abma.

The director adds that Cubans are aware discrimination is wrong and
that, in the spirit of the revolution, they accept in theory that all
people are equal. But in practice traditional attitudes, combined with
Catholic convictions, mean that prejudice is widespread.

"The Church is a big problem for Odette," says Abma. "Her mother insists
that she can't be transsexual because it goes against Creation. Malú's
fight for transsexual rights has become her life and made her the leader
of the TransCuba Association. The older generation has reservations
about the country opening up, and finds it hard to understand
transsexuals. The young people are pushing for change and see the
community as normal."

The making of Transit Havana also prompted Abma to consider issues such
as how countries can implement radical change and how the most
traditional governments can turn their propaganda tools to good use. "In
Cuba, tradition exists side-by-side quite comfortably with movements
keen to open up," says Abma. "And it's Mariela Castro who is promoting
integration within the National Assembly. It's a shift that fills the
LGBTI community in many Eastern European countries with hope.
Communities can take strength from my documentary and governments can
reinforce their campaigns."

In Georgia, a transsexual was murdered on the street just days after
Transit Havana was released. But as he embarks on his next project,
these kinds of brutal responses only make the director more determined
to use cinema as a platform to bring about change and equality.

English version by Heather Galloway.

Source: Gender issues in Cuba: "The LGBT community in Cuba is going
through a transition" | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/03/20/inenglish/1490015070_027498.html Continue reading
… , and two residents from Bolondron, Cuba, who enjoyed trying out skateboarding … another Christian church in a Cuban city not much larger than … , about 90 minutes southeast of Havana, were pressured to be more … and happy,” Lewis said of Cubans. During the weeklong visit, Steamboat … Continue reading
Do You Want to be Free? / 14ymedio, Jose Azel

In memory of Oswaldo Payá
Video:
https://youtu.be/TB0m5Euv1Ag

14ymedio, Jose Azel, Miami, 9 March 2017 – We take as a given that all
people aspire to be free, but the idea of ​​individual freedoms is not
universally accepted.

Defenders of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes argue that a
dictatorial approach to government is moral, just, and necessary. Some
preach that a developing nation needs a strong man to effectively
promote economic growth without the complications of democracy.

Others feel that an authoritarian government is necessary to ensure law
and order. Others prefer monarchies and other hereditary forms of
government to protect the traditions and customs of their people. Others
believe that their church and government are one and the same, and that
their religious beliefs are about selfish desires for freedom. Marxists
sacrifice individual freedoms on the altar of collectivism.

If that is their decision, those believers in the permanent dominion of
a single party should be free not to be free, preferably on another
planet. But this implies the question of how a society should decide its
form of government. The dictatorial response is to remain in power
indefinitely, as we can see in totalitarian states such as North Korea
and Cuba. The democratic response is to hold free, fair, competitive,
multiparty and frequent elections.

That is why the Cuba Decide plebiscite project, headed by Rosa Maria
Payá Acevedo, seems to me to be a refreshing proposal after nearly six
decades of Castro rule in Cuba. Rosa María is the young and eloquent
daughter of the late democratic activist Oswaldo Payá, winner of the
prestigious European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of
Thought. Rosa María, as president of the Latin American Youth for
Democracy Network, continues her father's work to promote democracy on
the tragic island.

The Cuban Decide initiative proposes that voters respond with a simple
"Yes" or "No," to a basic but transcendental question:

Do you agree with free, fair and plural elections, exercising freedom of
expression and of the press; and organizing freely in political parties
and social organizations with total plurality? Yes or No?

It would be naive to expect the Castro regime to accept such a
plebiscite. But, at the very least, promoting the plebiscite provides a
strategic tool to stimulate in Cuba and in international forums a
solidly focused political debate and public dialogue. The plebiscite
focuses attention on the fact that deciding how to be governed is the
prerogative of the people, and no one else.

Few would reject the central postulate of the plebiscite that Cubans
should be free to decide their future. Even sympathizers of the Castro
regime would find it ideologically difficult to refuse to ask such a
simple question to the Cuban people.

The only intellectually honest way to oppose a plebiscite that empowers
the people in this way would be to argue that the people have nothing to
say about their future, and that dictatorships are the preferable forms
of government. Not many international leaders would be willing to
publicly proclaim that preference.

The Cuba Decide Plebiscite is not a political platform, but rather a
tool to begin the change that would be justified if the Cuban people
decide, by a "Yes" vote, and that offers the possibility of
alternatives. The "No" vote would legitimize the one-party permanent
mandate. To some extent the idea of ​​the plebiscite offers the
leadership of Raúl Castro's successors an elegant and accepted way of
changing course or, alternatively, legitimizing one-party rule. In
post-Castro Cuba, the initiative of the Cuba Decide plebiscite promoted
by young people can become a key component of a legitimate transition.

Freedom has consequences, not all of them useful, but it is immoral to
deprive the people of their liberties, as dictators do. Our rational
approach is our basic way of living. If we cannot act according to our
free opinions we can not live fully as human beings. And we need freedom
to act according to our reasons.

After decades of living without freedom under a totalitarian government,
the Cuba Decide Plebiscite is an initiative promoted by citizens
presenting to the Cuban people a question with rational criteria: Do you
want to be free? "Yes or No." Who could oppose such a question? The
answer should enlighten us all.

____________

Editor's Note: José Azel is a senior researcher at the Institute of
Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami and author
of the book Mañana in Cuba.

Source: Do You Want to be Free? / 14ymedio, Jose Azel – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/do-you-want-to-be-free-14ymedio-jose-azel/ Continue reading