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… , according to Cuban officials. Tourism helped propel the Cuban economy to 1 … slightly positive results, Cabrisas said. Cuban officials have estimated economic expansion … would prohibit Americans traveling to Cuba in the people-to-people category from … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 24 July 2017 — Cuba’s incipient civil society, independent journalism and political activism on the island is starting to find the cupboard is bare. According to a US embassy official in Havana, “Seven out of ten dissidents chose to settle in the United States after the Cuban government’s new immigration policy in January … Continue reading ""Since 2013, 7 of every 10 Cuban dissidents have settled in the US" / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuba’s historic cities, vibrant culture and sandy beaches were the star performers of the economy in the first half of the year, pulling in 23.2 percent more visitors than the … Click to Continue » Continue reading
… Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, Cuba and North Vietnam. In this … Continue reading
… advances in US- Cuba relations, as long as the Cuban government continues …  the Cuban Adjustment Act, and the US government insists that Cuba should … toward Cuba will affect the fledgling private sector of the Cuban economy …  Washington’s policy toward Havana would fail. Moreover, Cuba has hit back … Continue reading
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 July 2017 — The walls full of photographs of old city landscapes and a whole host of famous artists from the Cuban Republic, record album covers from the same period, and old advertising posters from the 40’s and 50’s. In a central space, an old off-duty Victrola captures the prominence … Continue reading "Havana, Nostalgia Capital" Continue reading
… aimed to support modernisation of Cuban economy and society. The Chamber … policy towards Cuba, which ruled out any relations with Havana until it … restricted its high-level visits to Cuba, reduced bilateral cultural cooperation and … negotiations on mutual relations with Cuba in 2014. The relevant agreement … Continue reading
14ymedio, Hector Mairena, Managua Nicaragua, 18 July 2017 – July 19th marks the 38th anniversary of the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, without a doubt the most important date in Nicaraguan history. However, its meaning and consequences – even its ultimate causes – are still under discussion. Divergent opinions emerge not only because of the political and … Continue reading "Daniel Ortega Resuscitated ‘Somocismo’*" Continue reading
By Marc Frank HAVANA, July 18 (Reuters) - Cuba's two-year-old … payments to suppliers, according to Cuban Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas. In … fuel to communist-run Cuba, as well as payments for Cuban professional services. Venezuela's oil and fuel deliveries to CubaContinue reading
… with the U.K., Mexico, Cuba and Russia also increased by … Continue reading
The Mistakes of Raúl Castro

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2017 – In his most recent
public speech before Parliament, General-President Raul Castro offered a
self-criticism about "political deviations" under which the private
sector and cooperatives are governed. "Mistakes are mistakes, and they
are mistakes… they are my mistakes in the first place, because I am a
part of this decision," he emphasized.

In the list of mistakes he didn't mention, he should have put in first
place the absence of a wholesale market to serve these forms of economic
management. It that option existed, honest entrepreneurs wouldn't have
to turn to the diversion of state resources to get raw materials and
equipment to allow them to produce goods and services in a profitable way.

The greatest advance in this direction has been opening shopping centers
were goods are sold "wholesale," meaning in large volume sacks or boxes,
but with the retail price per unit unchanged.

If, in addition, self-employed workers were allowed to legally import
and export commercially, with the required customs facilities, then
these forms of management would be on an equal footing with the state
companies, and be able to perform efficiently.

The underreporting of income to evade taxes is a problem that exists in
most countries where citizens must pay tribute to the state treasury. As
a rule, evasion of these payments is seen as a dishonest act where taxes
are fair, and as an act of self-defense where the state tries to suck
the blood out of entrepreneurs.

When governments have the vocation to grow the private sector, they
reduce taxes, whose only role is to redistribute wealth and increase the
financial capacity for social spending, but not to act as a drag to
reduce individuals' ability to grow and prosper.

Raúl Castro's most profound mistake, when he decided to expand
self-employment and the experiment of non-agricultural cooperatives, has
been to do so with the purpose of depriving the state of "non-strategic
activities, to generate jobs, deploy initiatives and contribute to the
efficiency of the national economy in the interest of the development of
our socialism."

This opportunistic vision, of using an element alien to the economic
model as the fuel to advance it, generates insurmountable
contradictions. An entrepreneur who starts a business is interested in
increasing his profits (according to Karl Marx) and growth. He does not
care that hiring workers will reduce unemployment and that their
particular efficiency will have repercussions on the country's
economy. Much less, that his good performance contributes to perfecting
a system that takes advantage of his success in a circumstantial way.

The entrepreneur dreams that in his country there are laws that protect
his freedom to do business, that his money is safe in the banks, and
that he has the right to import and export, to receive investments, to
open branches, to patent innovations without fear of unappealable
seizures or sudden changes in the rules of the game. Without fearing a
report will arrive on the president's desk detailing how many times he
has traveled abroad.

The entrepreneur would also like to be able to choose as a member of
parliament someone proposing such laws and defending the interests of
the private sector, which he does not see as a necessary evil, but as
the main engine to advance the country. Not understanding this is Raul
Castro's principal mistake.

Source: The Mistakes of Raúl Castro – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary

14ymedio, Mario Penton and Luz Escobar, Miami and Havana, 14 July 2017 —
Ileana Sánchez is anxiously rummaging through her tattered wallet,
looking for some bills to buy a toy slate for her seven-year-old
granddaughter who dreams of becoming a teacher. She has had to save for
months to get the 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $20 US) that
the gift costs, since her monthly salary as a state inspector is only
315 CUP (Cuban pesos), about 12 dollars.

At the end of June, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information
(ONEI) reported that the average salary at national level reached 740
CUP per month, slightly more than 29 CUC. However, the increase in the
average salary does not represent a real improvement in the living
conditions of the worker, who continues to be able to access many goods
and services only through remittances sent from family abroad, savings
and withdrawals.

"I do not know who makes that much money, nor what they base these
figures on, because not even with the wages my husband earns working in
food service for 240 CUP a month, along with my wages, do we get that
much," says Sanchez.

The ONEI explains that the average monthly salary is "the average amount
of direct wages earned by a worker in a month." The calculation excludes
earning in CUC. However, the average salary is inflated by the increases
in "strategic" sectors, such as has happened in healthcare, where the
pay has been more than doubled, while in other areas of the economy
wages have remained practically unchanged for over a decade.

"If you buy food you can not buy clothes, if you buy clothes you can not
eat, we live every day thinking about how to come up with ways survive,"
she says in anguish.

Most Cubans do not support themselves on what they earn in jobs working
for the state, which employs 80% of the country's workforce.

President Raúl Castro himself acknowledged that wages "do not satisfy
all the needs of the worker and his family" and, in one of his most
critical speeches about the national reality in 2013, he said that "a
part of society" had become accustomed to stealing from the state.

Sanchez, on the other hand, justifies the thefts and believes that the
"those who live better" are those who have access to dollars or those
who receive remittances. "Anyone who doesn't have a family member abroad
or is a leader, is out of luck," she says.

According to the economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, when speaking of an
increase in the average wage, a distinction must be made between the
nominal wage, that is, the amount of money people receive, and the real
wage, adjusted for inflation.

A recent study published by the academic shows that although the nominal
wage has grown steadily in recent years, the real wage of a Cuban is 63%
lower than it was in 1989, when Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union
and the government had various social protection programs. At present,
the entire month's salary of a worker is only enough to buy 10.3 whole
chickens or 7.6 tanks of liquefied gas.

Among retirees and pensioners, the situation is worse. The elderly can
barely buy 16% of what a pension benefit would buy before the most
difficult years of the so-called Special Period – the years of economic
crisis after the fall of the Soviet Union – according to Mesa-Lago.

Or by another measure, spending an entire month's salary a worker can
only afford 19 hours of internet connection in the Wi-Fi zones enabled
by the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, or 84.5 minutes of
local calls through cell phones.

To buy a two-room apartment in a building built in 1936 in the central
and coveted Havana neighborhood of Vedado a worker would need to save
their entire salary for 98 years, while a Soviet-made Lada car from the
time of Brezhnev would cost the equivalent of 52 years of work.

However, the island's real estate market has grown in recent years at
the hands of private sector workers who accumulate hard currency, or by
investments made by the Cuban diaspora. In remittances alone, more than
three billion dollars arrives in Cuba every year.

According to Ileana Sánchez, before this panorama many people look for
work in the areas related to state food services or administration where
they can steal from the state, or jobs that provide contact with
international tourists such as in the hotels.

Other coveted jobs in the private sphere are the paladares – private
restaurants – and renting rooms and homes to tourists where you can get
tips. The "search" (as the theft is called) has become a more powerful
incentive to accept a job than the salary itself.

Although, according to the document published by the ONEI, workers in
the tourism and defense sector earn 556 and 510 pesos on average, many
of them receive as a bonus a certain amount of CUC monthly that is not
reflected in the statistics, and they also have access to more expensive
food and electrical appliances than does the rest of the population.

Among the best paid jobs in CUP, in order of income, are those in the
sugar industry, with 1,246 CUP on a monthly basis, and in agriculture
with 1,218. Among the worst paid jobs according to the ONEI are those
working in education, with 533 CUP, and in culture with 511.

For Miguel Roque, 48, a native of Guantánamo, low wages in the eastern
part of the country are driving migration to other provinces. He has
lived for 12 years in the Nuclear City, just a few kilometers from
Juraguá, in the province of Cienfuegos, where the Soviet Union began to
build a nuclear plant that was never finished.

"The East is another world. If you work here, imagine yourself there. A
place stopped in time," he explains. Roque works as a bricklayer in
Cienfuegos although he aspires to emigrate to Havana in the coming
months, where "work abounds and more things can be achieved."

The provinces where average wages are highest, according to the ONEI,
are Ciego de Avila (816 CUP), Villa Clara (808 CUP) and Matanzas (806
CUP), while the lowest paid are Guantanamo (633 CUP) and Isla de la
Juventud (655 CUP).

"Salary increases in the east of the country are not enough to fill the
gaps with the eastern and central provinces," explains Cuban sociologist
Elaine Acosta, who believes that cuts in the social services budgets are
aggravating the inequalities that result from the wage differences.

"It is no coincidence that the eastern provinces have the lowest figures
on the Human Development Index," he asserts.

Source: Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
… ;s proprietary AgraBurst PRO™ in Cuba and the Caribbean. The initial … exhibiting AgraBurst PRO at the Havana International Fair (FIHAV) this November … . About FIHAV Trade Show in Havana The Havana International Fair (FIHAV) will … America. All sectors of the Cuban economy participate in the international … Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2017 – In his most recent public speech before Parliament, General-President Raul Castro offered a self-criticism about “political deviations” under which the private sector and cooperatives are governed. “Mistakes are mistakes, and they are mistakes… they are my mistakes in the first place, because I am a part of … Continue reading "The Mistakes of Raúl Castro" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton and Luz Escobar, Miami and Havana, 14 July 2017 — Ileana Sánchez is anxiously rummaging through her tattered wallet, looking for some bills to buy a toy slate for her seven-year-old granddaughter who dreams of becoming a teacher. She has had to save for months to get the 20 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, … Continue reading "Average Wages Rise but Nobody in Cuba Lives on Their Salary" Continue reading
Cuban Vice President and Planning and … in Cuban state media to have released the numbers in Cuba's Parliament this week * Cuba enjoyed a … was quoted in the Agencia Cubana de Noticias (ACN) as saying … Continue reading
Cuba's Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump
- Castro's comments to Cuba's National Assembly were his first on
Trump's June announcement of a partial rollback of the Cuba-U.S. detente
- He also rejected any "lessons" on human rights from the U.S., saying
his country "has a lot to be proud about" on the issue
The Associated Press

Cuban President Raul Castro denounced President Donald Trump's tougher
line on relations with Havana on Friday, calling it a setback but
promising to continue working to normalize ties between the former Cold
War rivals.

Castro's comments to Cuba's National Assembly were his first on Trump's
June announcement of a partial rollback of the Cuba-U.S. detente
achieved by then-President Barack Obama. They contained echoes of the
harsh rhetoric of the past.

"Any strategy that seeks to destroy the revolution either through
coercion or pressure or through more subtle methods will fail," Cuba's
president told legislators.

He also rejected any "lessons" on human rights from the U.S., saying his
country "has a lot to be proud about" on the issue.

Surrounded by Cuban-American exiles and Cuban dissidents in Miami, Trump
announced last month that the U.S. would impose new limits on U.S.
travelers to the island and ban any payments to the military-linked
conglomerate that controls much of the island's tourism industry. He
said the U.S. would consider lifting those and other restrictions only
after Cuba returned fugitives and made a series of other internal
changes including freeing political prisoners, allowing freedom of
assembly and holding free elections.

Trump's policy retained elements of Obama's reforms but tightened
restrictions on travel and employed harsh rhetoric on human rights.

On Friday in Washington, the Trump administration said it was suspending
for another six months a provision of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

The State Department said it told Congress that it will keep suspending
a provision of the Helms-Burton Act that deals with property seized from
Americans. The provision lets Americans use U.S. courts to sue
non-American companies that operate and deal with property confiscated
after Fidel Castro's revolution.

Speaking to the National Assembly, Castro called the Trump
administration's policies a "setback," though he reiterated his
government's position that it would work to normalize relations with

Earlier in the legislative session, Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas
announced that Cuba's economy is growing again after a dip last year.

Cabrisas said the economy grew around 1 percent in the first half of
2017. That puts GDP growth on track to hit 2 percent for the year.

The government said the economy shrank last year by 1 percent amid
falling support from troubled Venezuela. That was the first decrease
reported in two decades. Cabrisas said that instability in the supply of
Venezuelan oil weighs on the country but tourism, construction,
transportation and communications were growing.

Foreign media did not have access to the National Assembly session.

Source: Cuba's Raul Castro dismisses harsher US tone under Trump - Continue reading
Cuba says GDP recovers, up about 1 percent so far in 2017
HAVANA — Jul 14, 2017, 5:59 PM ET

The Cuban government said Friday that the economy is growing again
following a decline last year that was the first drop reported in two

Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas said at the opening session of the
National Assembly that Cuba's GDP grew just over 1 percent in the first
six months of 2017 and is on track to hit an estimated 2 percent for the
full year.

The rebound came despite the economic crisis in Venezuela, which
provides oil and other support to the island. The government said Cuba's
economy shrank last year by 1 percent amid falling help from Venezuela,
which is struggling with triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages
of food and other basic goods. The decrease was the first reported by
Cuba in years.

Cuban media quoted Cabrisas as telling the assembly that instability in
the supply of Venezuelan oil weighs on the country's economy but
tourism, construction, transportation and communications are all growing.

Foreign media were not allowed to attend the session, which was presided
over by President Raul Castro.

Some growth in tourism is due to the normalization of relations with the
U.S. that was started by President Barack Obama and is now threatened
under President Donald Trump.

Source: Cuba says GDP recovers, up about 1 percent so far in 2017 - ABC
News - Continue reading
HAVANA —  The Cuban government said Friday that the … of the National Assembly that Cuba’s GDP grew just more … the island. The government said Cuba’s economy shrank last year … the first reported by Cuba in years. Cuban media quoted Cabrisas as … Continue reading
HAVANA, July 14 (Reuters) - Cuba's economy bounced back … . In his speech to the Cuban parliament that meets twice a … tensions, according to the state-run Cuban News Agency. The Caribbean island … . The United Nations estimates the Cuban economy will grow 1 percent … Continue reading
How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Iván García

Iván García, 11 July 2017 — After painting the facades of several
buildings along 10 de Octobre street, the workers of the brigade shelter
from the terrifying heat in doorways, eating lunch, having a smoke or
simply chatting.

These days, in Havana's La Vibora neighborhood, in the area between Red
Square and the old Bus Terminal, there is a hive of workers dedicated to
converting the one-time terminal into a cooperative taxi base.

The work includes asphalting the surrounding streets and a quick splash
of cheap paint on the buildings along the street.

"They say that Raul Castro or Miguel Diaz-Canel is going to come to
visit the Luis de La Puente Uceda Limited Access Surgical Hospital and
to inaugurate the taxi base," says a worker sweating buckets.

When they finish talking about the poor performance of the national
baseball team against an independent league in Canada, a group of
workers comment on the street protest that have been going on for more
than a month, led by the opposition in Venezuela, and how much the
economy and energy picture of Cuba could be affected.

Yander, in dark blue overalls, shrugs his shoulders and responds, "I
don't follow politics much. But I hear on the news is that place
(Venezuela) is on fire. According to what I understood, the Venezuela
right is burning everything in their path. They're as likely to burn a
market as they are some guy for being a chavista [supporter of Maduro's
government]. If Maduro falls off his horse, things are going to get ugly
in Cuba. The oil comes from there

Opinions among the workers, students, food workers consulted about
Venezuela, demonstrates a profound disinterest in political information
among a wide sector of the citizenry.

Younger people are active in social networks. But they pass on political
content. Like Susana, a high school student, who with her smartphone is
taking a selfie which eating chicken breasts in a recently opened
private care, to post later on Instagram. When asked about the Venezuela
challenge, she answers at length.

"You can't fight with a political grindstone. What are you going to
resolve with that. You're not going to change the world and you can make
problems for yourself. I heard about Venezuela on [the government TV
channel] Telesur, but I don't know why they started the protests. Nor do
I know why there have been so many deaths. The only thing I know is that
Cuba is strongly tied to Venezuela by oil. And if the government
changes, if those who come, if they are capitalists, they will stop
sending us oil. So I want Maduro to remain in power," explains Susana.

Not many on the island analyze the crisis in Venezuela in a wider
context. The South American nation is trapped between the worst
government management, a socialist model that doesn't work, and the
hijacking of democratic institutions.

Ordinary Cubans don't know to what point the Castro regime is involved
in the design of the the local and continentals strategies of Chavismo.
Opinion in Cuba is fueled by a myopic official press and Telesur, a
propagandistic television channel created with the petrodollars of Hugo
Chavez and Rafael Correa.

Except for specialists and people who look for information in other
sources, most of the Cuban population believes that the violence
originates with the opposition, classified as terrorists and fascists by
the official media.

They know nothing of the fracture within chavismo itself, as in the case
of Attorney General Luisa Ortega or the former Interior Minister Miguel
Torres. Nor that at least 23 of the 81 who have died in more than ninety
days of protests, was due the excessive use of violence by the
Bolivarian National Guard.

Alexis, a private taxi driver, believes that the state press sweeps
under the carpet any news that shows the brutality of the chavista
regime. His concern is that "if they're fucked, we're fucked too. Man,
then the blackouts will start, the factory closures, and eating twice a
day will be a luxury. There's no certainty about the origins of what is
happening in Venezuela. I suppose the Venezuelans would like to free
themselves from a system like ours. If they manage to do it then Cuba
isn't going to know what to do with itself."

A wide segment of Cubans think that if the street protests in Venezuela
end up deposing Maduro, given the domino effect, hard times will return
to the Cuban economy.

"These people (the regime) have never done things well. That is why they
are always passing the hat to survive or live off favors from others. We
have not been able to made the earth produce. Everything we have we
export. We are a leech. Thanks to the Venezuelan oil and the dollars
that come from relatives in Miami, the country has not sunk into
absolute misery," points our Geraldo, an elderly retiree.

Geraldo clarifies, "It's not out of selfishness, political blindness or
love of Maduro that many Cubans are betting on the continuity of
chavismo. It's pure survival instinct."

And the fact is that the economy has not yet hit bottom. Statistics and
predictions forecast new adjustments and an economic setback if there is
a change of government in Miraflores Palace.

Cuba is still not at the level of Haiti, the poorest country in Latin
American, but it is headed that way. As the former USSR was, Venezuela
is our lifeline.

Source: How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Iván García –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Iván García,  11 July 2017 —  After painting the facades of several buildings along 10 de Octobre street, the workers of the brigade shelter from the terrifying heat in doorways, eating lunch, having a smoke or simply chatting. These days, in Havana’s La Vibora neighborhood, in the area between Red Square and the old Bus … Continue reading "How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years

14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 — The latest Council of Ministers,
chaired by Raul Castro, has extended the term of the country's land
leases under the usufruct system to 20 years, but the leases can be
cancelled if the beneficiaries use illicit funds, according to an
announcement today in the official press.

The meeting analyzed the economic performance of the first half of 2017
and included the announcement of new measures "to improve
self-employment" and the decision to consolidate the experiment of
non-agricultural cooperatives.

According to Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Minister of Economy and Planning,
the national economy behaved as planned. For the second semester, higher
levels of execution are expected with "the arrival of imported supplies
and the completion of contracts."

Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Permanent Commission for
Implementation and Development, announced that it will no longer be for
10 years, but rather for 20, that a 'natural person' will be able to
enjoy the use of the land in usufruct, although he pointed out that
these lands remain "nontransferable property of the State and must be
kept in operation."

If the authorities detect that the person leasing the land has used
illicit financing, it may cancel the usufruct agreement, a move that
could be an answer to the recent announcements of Donald Trump's
administration to support local entrepreneurs to the detriment of state-
or military-owned and operated businesses.

During the Council of Ministers it was also announced that to receive
land, "natural persons have to work and manage it in a personal and
direct manner."

As of September 2016, 4.7 million acres of land had been delivered in
usufruct, representing 31% of the country's agricultural area. Starting
now, the taxes provided in the Tax Law concerning the use, possession
and idleness of the land, will gradually begin to be applied.

The lack of growth in the delivery of land is due, as Murillo explained,
to the fact that the number of requests have declined, since the
currently available land extensions "are less productive, with high
infestation from the invasive marabou weed, are far from the population
settlements and basic services, or have difficulty accessing water sources."

The measures to "improve self-employment," which were not explained to
the press, will be aimed at increasing control over entrepreneurs.

There was no report of any decisions made about the longed-for wholesale
market, the ability to import, or an increase in authorized occupations.

However, concerns were expressed about "the use of raw materials,
materials and equipment of illicit origin" in the private sector, in
addition to "breaches of tax obligations and underreporting of income,"
among other irregularities.

The authorities acknowledged that the presence of more than half a
million people in self-employment activities "confirms its validity as a
source of employment, while increasing the supply of goods and services,
with acceptable levels of quality."

The update of the policy of non-agricultural cooperatives was limited to
"concentrating efforts on consolidating the 429 already constituted."

The government reproaches these types of entities for "deviations from
the original idea for which they were created," their tendency to
increase prices, and the use of bank loans for "purposes other than the
concepts for which they were granted."

However, the Government recognized that this type of management
structure, authorized three years ago, "constitutes an alternative that
frees the State from the administration of economic activities,
production and services that are not considered primary," which will
continue to be treated as "an experiment" going forward.

Source: Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Venezuela oil exports to Cuba drop, energy shortages worsen
Marianna Parraga and Marc Frank

HOUSTON/HAVANA (Reuters) - Venezuela's crude and fuel deliveries to Cuba
have slid almost 13 percent in the first half this year, according to
documents from state-run oil company PDVSA viewed by Reuters,
threatening to worsen gasoline and power shortages in the communist-run

Cuba's government since 2016 has reduced fuel allocations 28 percent to
most state-run companies, and has cut electricity consumption. Public
lighting was cut 50 percent, while residential electric use was spared.

Beginning in March, Cubans also have reported minor gasoline and diesel
shortages at service stations.

Cuba's economy depends heavily on Venezuelan crude shipments under a
series of bilateral agreements started in 2000 by the South American
country's late President Hugo Chavez. In return, the island nation has
provided Venezuela with Cuban doctors and other services.

Venezuela's shipments of crude for Cuba's refineries dropped 21 percent
to 42,310 bpd, the documents showed. Last year, Venezuela made up for a
shortfall in crude shipments by sending Cuba more fuels, but this year's
data showed refined products sent to Cuba remained almost unchanged at
around 30,040 bpd.

In total, PDVSA sent Cuba an average of 72,350 barrels per day (bpd) of
crude and refined products in the first half of 2017, down almost 13
percent from the same period of last year, according to the data from
internal PDVSA trade reports. (Link to Graphic:

The source who provided the documents to Reuters asked not to be named.

"Cuba needs at least 70,000 bpd from Venezuela to cover its energy
deficit and avoid deeper rationing. A larger or total loss of the
Venezuelan supply would have a high political and financial cost for
Cuba," which has been gearing up to welcome more tourists, said Jorge
Pinon, a Cuban energy expert at the University of Texas in Austin.

Cuba suffered severe energy rationing in the 1990s after the collapse of
the Soviet Union, an ally that had provided cheap fuel. In 2016, Cuba's
economy went into recession for the first time since those days,
declining almost 1 percent as shrinking export earnings left it short of
funds to import oil on the open market and replace declining Venezuelan

With Venezuela's crude production sliding in 2017 for the sixth year in
a row, the OPEC nation has had less oil to send Cuba and other customers
in regions from Asia to North America and the Caribbean.

Cuba, which produces extremely heavy crude used by industry and power
plants, received 103,226 bpd of oil from Venezuela in the first half of
2015, according to the same data.

PDVSA, whose full name is Petroleos de Venezuela SA, did not reply to a
request for comment.

Venezuela's oil shipments to Cuba have been falling since 2008, when
they peaked at 115,000 bpd mainly due to a decline in crude exports. The
poor shape of Venezuelan refineries cut into fuel exports this year, and
Venezuela has also had to boost fuel imports to meet domestic demand.

Cuba, in addition to rationing fuel, is seeking oil cargoes from other
producers including Russia, something it had not done for more than a

In one of several recent shipments, the Ocean Quest tanker loaded with
fuel oil at Russia's Tuapse terminal, arrived in Havana on July 9 and is
waiting to discharge, according to Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.
The Tuapse terminal is operated by state-run Rosneft.

Cuba's three aged refineries have been operating at reduced rates since
last year due to a shortage of light crude, which also affects
Venezuela's 1.3-million-bpd refining network.

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Marc Frank in Havana.
Editing by Gary McWilliams and David Gregorio

Source: IEA says OPEC compliance with oil cuts at lowest in six months - Continue reading
Sadly, the above video is not subtitled, but whether or not you understand the words, you can observe Miguel Coyula and Rafael Alcides speaking. Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 3 Miguel Coyula: … And it’s [Rafael] Alcides for several reasons. First, because in my opinion he is the best Cuban poet alive. Pata de palo, Agradecido … Continue reading "Counterrevolutionary or Communist / Regina Coyula" Continue reading
Convicted of Murder, and Now Swept Up in U.S.-Cuba Shift

Ishmael Muslim Ali now lives a quiet life in Cuba, where he remains
wanted by the F.B.I. for aircraft piracy. Credit Cave 7 Productions
For more than 30 years, Ishmael Muslim Ali has lived a relatively full
and unremarkable life in Cuba. He taught English in the nation's public
schools, worked as a translator and raised a family — a quiet coda for
an international fugitive.

Or at least, that was the case until last month, when President Trump
announced a partial halt to relations with Cuba unless certain
conditions were met. Handing over Mr. Ali, who resides on the F.B.I.'s
most-wanted list for hijacking an American Airlines flight and fleeing
to Cuba to escape multiple life sentences for the murder of eight
people, is one of those conditions.

Mr. Trump's demands contained the usual requirements for Cuba: free and
fair elections, allowing a political opposition and opening up its
economy. But they also included a call for the extradition of all
American convicts who had fled to the island for asylum. Among them are
Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, who is wanted for
escaping from prison while serving a life sentence for the murder of a
New Jersey state trooper, and an estimated 70 others who have taken
refuge in the communist nation.

As to the threat of being sent home, Mr. Ali, 69, harbors no concern.
The Cuban government has already made it clear that the extradition of
those granted asylum is off the table — along with the other demands
laid out by the president.

"They want their sovereignty respected," Mr. Ali said in a telephone
interview from Cuba, among his first public comments in three decades.
"They are not going to let anybody bully them."

He said he felt reassured that the Cuban authorities would not let him
be sent back. After all, he said, Mr. Trump's stance is a return to the
old Cold War animosity that further hardened the Cuban government's

Beyond that, experts say that if the United States requests the
extradition of its wanted criminals, Cuba may do the same. That could
include a request for Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban with ties to the
C.I.A. who lives in the United States but is wanted in Cuba for, among
other things, his possible role in the bombing of a Cuban airliner that
killed 73 people.

Mr. Ali's case stretches back to a turbulent time in American history,
when political radicalism sometimes crossed into violence and hijackings
were carried out dozens of times by dissidents and those evading the
law. But his case continues to reverberate today, in the racially
charged debate over American justice and the churn of relations between
Cuba and America.

His case, along with that of his co-defendants, is the subject of a new
documentary, "The Skyjacker's Tale," that was publicly released in
recent days in New York.

The story began on Sept. 6, 1972, in St. Croix, in the United States
Virgin Islands, when five masked individuals killed eight people at the
Fountain Valley Golf Course. The murders rocked the small island and
summoned a wave of law enforcement authorities from the United States to
conduct the investigation.

The club, owned by the Rockefeller family, was frequented by the wealthy.

Soon after the murders, Mr. Ali, at the time known as Ronald Labeet, and
four others were arrested and charged with the crime. The trial drew
some of the most prominent liberal legal figures of the time, including
William Kunstler, who defended the activists known as the Chicago Seven,
as well as William Estridge, a lawyer for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr.

The trial was over in less than a year, and eventually all of the men
were convicted and given eight consecutive life sentences, plus 90
years, for the crimes. They were shipped to prisons in the continental
United States, where three of them remain today. One of the men, Raphael
Joseph, died in 1998, after being pardoned.

Mr. Ali, who was considered the leader of the group, and the others
convicted maintained their innocence, arguing that their original trial
was unfair. The film raises allegations that the suspects were tortured
while in custody and that the judge presiding over the trial was biased
because he had represented members of the Rockefeller family in his
private practice.

After being convicted, Mr. Ali spit on the floor, and he and his
accomplices struck out at the marshals who took them into custody,
according to news accounts at the time.

"Even at the trial, we were freaked out on an emotional basis," he said.
"We felt anger and desperation that we had a judge who didn't care about
the law."

He added: "I would be different now. I would be with my defense in a
much different way than I was at the time. But you can't go back. Life
isn't that way. You have to go forward. The way we tried to get justice,
how we acted in our desperation to seek justice, it don't justify what
was done to us."

Mr. Ali's conviction was upheld on appeal. And despite his proclamations
of innocence, many feel his conviction, and the sentence, were justified.

"Proclaiming his innocence is ridiculous," said Jeffrey Resnick, the
chief prosecutor in St. Croix in 1972, who said there was overwhelming
forensic evidence — as well as witness identification and confessions —
of Mr. Ali's guilt. "There is no doubt that they did it."

Michael Joseph, the brother of Raphael Joseph, also believes Mr. Ali is
guilty and published a book on the massacre in 2015.

Mr. Joseph, a lawyer in St. Croix, says the events he details in the
book, which specify Mr. Ali's role in the murders as well as that of his
brother, are based on conversations he had with Raphael after he was

In a presentation he gave on the book in 2015, he described Mr. Ali as a
"wicked man" and claimed that he held a gun to his brother's head to
make him participate in the robbery-turned-massacre.

Following his conviction, Mr. Ali fought to be returned to St. Croix.
After more than a decade in prison, he was sent back to the island,
though only for proceedings in a civil suit he had filed, asserting that
his rights had been violated when he was placed in solitary confinement
for 90 days. He was awarded $12,000 in damages and placed aboard an
American Airlines passenger plane bound for New York on New Year's Eve
in 1984.

Mr. Ali went to the bathroom repeatedly during the flight, complaining
of stomach pains. On his final visit, he emerged with a handgun. (He did
not say how he got it.) He then commandeered the plane and forced it to
land in Havana. Upon landing, he was taken into custody.

The Cuban authorities convicted Mr. Ali of hijacking the plane, and
sentenced him to 10 years in jail. He served seven years and got an
early release for good behavior. Afterward, on the petition of Ms.
Shakur, Mr. Ali says he was granted asylum, the beginning of an entirely
new chapter for him.

"I have a quiet life. I've been married two times. I have kids and a
family here," he said. "I can't complain. I'm really thankful to the
Cuban government and the Cuban people for the way I have been treated."

In Cuba, he says he has found a peace he never experienced in the United
States, where race was an issue in every facet of life.

"The thing about race here is that it's not an issue," he said. "In the
U.S., you are always aware of the race difference. There was always
someone or something you had to be fighting against. Here in Cuba, that
has been wiped out by the revolution for ages now. I just feel like
another citizen here."

His reasoning for participating in the film, he said, was to raise
awareness about his co-defendants, arguing that they have spent their
lives in prison for a crime they did not commit. It is not quite guilt
that he feels for being the only one to escape, he says, but rather a
consciousness that he is the only one who was able to live a real life.

"It hurts me every day to think about them," he said. "When I think
about my co-defendants, what they have suffered bothers me."

A version of this article appears in print on July 9, 2017, on Page A4
of the New York edition with the headline: Convicted of Murder, and
Focus of U.S.-Cuba Shift. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 — The latest Council of Ministers, chaired by Raul Castro, has extended the term of the country’s land leases under the usufruct system to 20 years, but the leases can be cancelled if the beneficiaries use illicit funds, according to an announcement today in the official press. The meeting analyzed … Continue reading "Cuban Government Extends Land Lease Period to 20 Years" Continue reading
The "Undead" Market: Long-Dormant U.S.-Cuba Air Travel Market Still
Isn't Alive
I write about airlines, the travel biz, and related industries
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

When you shoot a zombie, does it count as murder, or at least attempted

That question actually is of some epistemological importance in the
context of President Donald Trump's decision last month to reverse most
– but not quite all – of his predecessor's actions opening up travel to
and trade with the Caribbean communist island of Cuba. That policy
change triggered accusations from some quarters that Trump is killing
the U.S.-Cuba travel market.

But can one kill that which was already dead?

U.S. airlines jumped in to the U.S.-Cuba market with great fanfare in
2016. The early projections from the Obama White House and economic team
were that soon there would be 1.8 million passengers a year flying
between this nation of 320 million people who are, by Cuban standards,
nearly all insanely wealthy, and the impoverished island 90 miles south
of Florida.

So, most U.S. carriers rushed to offer service to Cuba. Since no market
existed previously, and since the Cuban economy is so stunted it's
likely that they did not expect the kind of immediate profitability that
the Obama Administration had implied. So perhaps they rushed to launch
service to Cuba in an effort to stake an early claim in a market that
they might eventually actually be worthwhile to serve, to grab free
service rights that they might be able to sell later at a profit to a
stronger competitor, or to protect their market share positions in U.S.
markets like south Florida where large numbers of Cuban-Americans live
and conceivably might want to visit their familial homeland and
relatives from time to time.

But it never made any economic or marketing sense for U.S. carriers to
pour 10,000 seats a month into the U.S.-Cuba air market, as U.S. carrier
did initially. The per capita income in Cuba is around $5,500 a year, or
roughly one-seventh that of the state of Mississippi, which at just
under $37,000 ranked last in 2014 among the 50 states in per capita
income. But while Mississippi ranks just 31st in population among the
states with just under 3 million residents Cuba's population of 11.4
million would place it 8th, if it were a state, just behind Ohio and
just ahead of Georgia. That means Cuba has, in relative terms, an
inordinate number of extremely poor people. Developing profitable
traffic demand among such a population likely will take decades, even if
they eventually are allowed to travel at will, a right they still don't
have today.

Thus, nearly all of the passengers flying between the two nations were –
and continue to be – Americans. Indeed, restrictions still imposed by
the Castro regime block most Cubans from flying north, even if their
American family members pay for the tickets. And most of those Americans
flying to Cuba are, and likely will be for the foreseeable future, Cuban
Americans traveling to visit family and friends who still live on the
island. As leisure, rather than business travelers, they can be expected
to be very price sensitive, a factor that promises to make it even more
difficult for U.S. carriers to earn profits from their Cuban routes.

Meanwhile Americans who did fly to Cuba after the market opened last
year quickly discovered that there's not much to do there.

Source: The "Undead" Market: Long-Dormant U.S.-Cuba Air Travel Market
Still Isn't Alive - Continue reading
Application Deadline July 9 ALBUQUERQUE, NM, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, July 6, 2017 / -- As the labor market in the United States wrestles with the shift away from traditional manufacturing and service jobs, there is one global … Continue reading
… harvest, yet below early estimates. Cuba's economy is to … , it was announced Tuesday in Havana. The figure represents success, but … major source of revenue for Cuba, netting around 450 million US … dollars for the sale of Cuban cigars, a 5 percent rise … Continue reading
Havana, July 1 (RC/ACN)-- Cuba has ended the first … Planning Minister Ricardo Cabrisas told Cuba’s Council of Ministers. Agriculture … a national problem, said the Cuban Economy and Planning minister, noting … the mid-of-year ordinary session of Cuba's National Assembly of … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 21 June 2017 — One morning, eighth grade students at a high school in La Vibora, a neighborhood in southern Havana, are waiting to take a Spanish test. After drinking a glass of water, the principal clears her throat and lashes out with the traditional anti-imperialist diatribe, denouncing the interference of “Mr. Trump … Continue reading "Trump Provides the Perfect Stage for the Castro Regime / Iván García" Continue reading
Average Monthly Salary in Cuba is $29.60 US

EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 – The average monthly salary in
Cuba in 260 was 740 Cuban pesos (CUP), the equivalent of $29.60 in US
dollars, although the figure is higher in sectors such as the sugar
industry – where the best paid earn 1,246 CUP ($48.80 US), and falls in
public administration, defense and social security, with a figure a 510
(CUP) ($20.40 US).

The figures come from the publication "Figures for Average Salaries in
2016," released on Thursday by Cuba's National Office of Statistics and
Information, which includes average monthly salaries by province since
2007, and average monthly salary by economic activity type since 2014.

According to the report, the average salary in Cuban increased from 408
CUP ($16.30 US) in 2007 to 740 CUP in 2016.

By province, the highest salaries are earned in Ciego de Ávila (816 CUP
/ $32.60 US), Villa Clara (808 CUP / $32.30 US) and Matanzas (806 CUP /
$32.20 US), while the lowest wages are paid in Guantánamo (633 CUP /
$25.30 US), Isla de la Juventud (655 CUP / $26.20 US) and Santiago de
Cuba (657 CUP / $26.20 US).

The highest paid sectors on the island are the sugar industry (1,246 CUP
/ $49.80 US), mining and quarrying (1,218 CUP / $48.70 US), financial
services (1,032 CUP / $41.20 US), and agriculture, livestock, forestry
and fisheries (991 CUP / $39.60 US).

On the other hand, economic activities with lower wages are: "Other
communal services, associations and personal activities," (503 CUP /
$20.10 US); public administration, defense and social security (510 CUP
/ $20.40 US); Culture and sport (511 CUP / $20.40 US); and education
(533 CUP / $21.32 US).

The low wages paid to state employees in Cuba, compared to the high cost
of basic products—Cuba imports 80% of its food—are constantly subject to
criticism by international organizations and also by opposition movements.

Health and education are universal and free in Cuba, and citizens
receive some basic food from the state through the "ration book."

But the rationing system, which decades ago covered much of the
population's needs—including underwear, shoes and children's toys—has
been reducing the quantities and types of subsidized products.

The rationing system, which decades ago covered much of the population's
needs, has been reducing the quantities and type of subsidized products

Currently, an adult Cuban receives monthly from the ration stores about
7 pounds of rice, 4 pounds of sugar, one pint of soybean oil, one packet
of mixed coffee (that is coffee mixed with fillers such as dried peas),
one packet of pasta, five eggs and small quantities of chicken. Children
also get one quart of milk a day until they turn seven.

In 2011, Cuban President Raul Castro approved the authorization of new
categories of self-employment (the term used in Cuba means "own
account-ism") as one of the key measures to compensate for the
progressive reduction of 500,000 jobs in the state sector.

Another of the main distortions in the Cuban economy is the simultaneous
circulation of two currencies—the Cuban pesos or "national money" and
the Cuban convertible peso, or "hard currency"—that the Government
recognizes needs to be changed, but for the system remains in force and
there is no firm date to merge the currencies.

Source: Average Monthly Salary in Cuba is $29.60 US – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 30 June 2017 – The average monthly salary in Cuba in 260 was 740 Cuban pesos (CUP), the equivalent of $29.60 in US dollars, although the figure is higher in sectors such as the sugar industry – where the best paid earn 1,246 CUP ($48.80 US), and falls in public administration, … Continue reading "Average Monthly Salary in Cuba is $29.60 US" Continue reading
HAVANA, June 30 (Reuters) - Cuba's economy minister told … was quoted as saying. Communist-run Cuba said in December its economy … of those problems are abating. Cuba is struggling to pay foreign … fallow land to would-be farmers, Cuba has leased 1.9 million … Continue reading
… over by Cuban President Raul Castro. (Photo: Estudio Revolución) Cuba has almost … the second half of 2017 Cuban Minister of Economy and Planning … for the Cuban economy receive all the needed resources. Cuba has almost … 14, at which time the Cuban people will receive more information. Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- Cuban minister of economy and planning, … for the Cuban economy receive all the needed resources. Cuba has almost … island, mainly in Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Holguín and Las Tunas … Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba, Jun 30 (ACN) Cuban Minister of Economy and Planning, … for the Cuban economy receive all the needed resources. Cuba has almost … territory, mainly in Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Holguín and Las Tunas … 14, at which time the Cuban people will receive more information … Continue reading
Anatomy of a fake fact Continue reading
Cuba expects tourism growth despite Trump's crackdown on U.S travel
World16 hours ago (Jun 28, 2017 08:20PM ET)

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba earned more than $3 billion from tourism in 2016
and expects to better that this year despite President Donald Trump's
tightening of restrictions on U.S. travel to the Caribbean island, a
government official said on Wednesday.
"In 2016, revenue reached more than $3 billion in all activity linked to
tourism in the country," Jose Alonso, the Tourism Ministry's business
director, told state-run media.
"We think that, given the growth the country is seeing at the moment, we
will beat that figure this year," Alonso said.
Tourism revenue totaled $2.6 billion in 2015.
The number of foreign visitors to Cuba was up 22 percent in the first
half of 2017 compared with the same period last year, according to
Alonso, who said that put it on track to reach its target for a record
4.2 million visits this year.
Tourism has been one of the few bright spots recently in Cuba's economy,
as it struggles with a decline in exports and subsidized oil shipments
from its key ally Venezuela.
A surge in American visitors has helped boost the sector since the 2014
U.S.-Cuban detente under the Obama administration and its easing of U.S.
travel restrictions, even as a longtime ban on tourism remained in effect.
But Trump earlier this month ordered a renewed tightening of travel
restrictions, saying he was canceling former President Barack Obama's
"terrible and misguided deal" with Havana.
Many details of the policy change are still unknown. But independent
travel to Cuba from the United States, by solo travelers and families,
will likely be much more restricted.
Alonso said he was confident "an important number of Americans" would
still be able to visit the island. But an announcement by Southwest
Airlines Co (LUV.N) on Wednesday that it was reducing its number of
flights to Cuba cast shadow over his upbeat comments.
"There is not a clear path to sustainability serving these markets,
particularly with the continuing prohibition in U.S. law on tourism to
Cuba for American citizens," Southwest said in a statement.
Southwest joined other U.S. airlines that have cut flights to Cuba over
past months or pulled out of the market altogether.

Source: Cuba expects tourism growth despite Trump's crackdown on U.S
travel By Reuters - Continue reading
Analysis: Can Trump Destroy Obama's Legacy?
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — When the judgment of history comes, former President Barack
Obama might have figured he would have plenty to talk about. Among other
things, he assumed he could point to his health care program, his
sweeping trade deal with Asia, his global climate change accord and his
diplomatic opening to Cuba.

That was then. Five months after leaving office, Mr. Obama watches
mostly in silence as his successor takes a political sledgehammer to his
legacy. Brick by brick, President Trump is trying to tear down what Mr.
Obama built. The trade deal? Canceled. The climate pact? Forget it.
Cuba? Partially reversed. Health care? Unresolved, but to be repealed if
he can navigate congressional crosscurrents.

Every new president changes course, particularly those succeeding
someone from the other party. But rarely has a new president appeared so
determined not just to steer the country in a different direction but to
actively dismantle what was established before his arrival. Whether out
of personal animus, political calculation, philosophical disagreement or
a conviction that the last president damaged the country, Mr. Trump has
made clear that if it has Mr. Obama's name on it, he would just as soon
erase it from the national hard drive.

"I've reflected back and simply cannot find another instance in recent
American history where a new administration was so wholly committed to
reversing the accomplishments of its predecessor," Russell Riley, a
presidential historian at the University of Virginia's Miller Center,
said. While other presidents focus on what they will build, "this one is
different, far more comfortable still in swinging the wrecking ball than
in developing models for what is to follow."

Shirley Anne Warshaw, director of the Fielding Center for Presidential
Leadership Study at Gettysburg College, said Mr. Trump is not unusual in
making a clean break from his predecessor. "Trump isn't doing anything
that Obama didn't do," she said. "He is simply reversing policies that
were largely put in place by a president of a different party."

The difference, she said, is that other presidents have proactive ideas
about what to erect in place of their predecessor's programs. "I have
not seen any constructive bills in this vein that Trump has put forth,"
she said. "As far as I can tell, he has no independent legislative
agenda other than tearing down. Perhaps tax reform."

With a flourish, Mr. Trump has staged signing ceremonies meant to show
him tearing down. Not only did he pull out of the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade deal and the Paris climate accord, he approved the
Keystone XL pipeline Mr. Obama had rejected and began reversing his
fuel-efficiency standards and power plant emissions limits. Not only is
he trying to repeal Obamacare, he has pledged to revoke regulations on
Wall Street adopted after the financial crash of 2008.

Still, he has not gone as far as threatened. He has for now kept Mr.
Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran, however reluctantly, and while he
made a show of overturning Mr. Obama on Cuba, the fine print left much
of the policy intact. He did not rescind Mr. Obama's order sparing
younger illegal immigrants from deportation. Senate Republicans released
a new version of legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in recent
days, but it may yet end in impasse, leaving the program in place.

Advisers insist Mr. Trump is not driven by a desire to unravel the Obama
presidency. But like the Manhattan real estate developer he is, they
said, he believes he must in some cases demolish the old to make way for
the new.

"He hasn't dismantled everything, and I don't know that that's exactly
what he's looking to do," said Hope Hicks, the White House director of
strategic communications. "That may be a side effect of what he's
building for his own legacy. I don't think anybody's coming into the
office every day saying, 'How can we undo Obama's legacy, and how can he
go back?' "

Yet Mr. Trump has depicted the Obama legacy as a disastrous one that
needs unraveling. "To be honest, I inherited a mess," he said at a news
conference soon after taking office. "It's a mess. At home and abroad,
a mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on
with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other
places, low pay, low wages, mass instability overseas no matter where
you look. The Middle East is a disaster. North Korea. We'll take care of
it, folks."

Critics say Mr. Obama brought this on himself. His biggest legislative
achievements were passed almost exclusively with Democratic votes,
meaning there was no bipartisan consensus that would outlast his
presidency. And when Republicans captured Congress, he turned to a
strategy he called the pen and the phone, signing executive orders that
could be easily erased by the next president.

"I've heard it joked about that the Obama library is being revised to
focus less on his legislative achievements as each week of the Trump
administration goes by," said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American
Conservative Union. "It's like living by the sword and dying by the
sword. When your presidency is based on a pen and a phone, all of that
can be undone, and I think we're seeing that happening rather

Mr. Obama would argue he had little choice because of Republican
obstructionism. Either way, he has largely remained quiet through the
current demolition project, reasoning that speaking out would only give
Mr. Trump the public enemy he seems to crave. He made an exception on
Thursday, taking to Facebook to assail the new Senate health care bill
as "a massive transfer of wealth from middle class and poor families to
the richest people in America." But Mr. Obama's team takes solace in the
belief that Mr. Trump is his own worst enemy, better at bluster than
actually following through.

"Obama's legacy would be under much greater threat by a more competent
president than Donald Trump," said Josh Earnest, who served as Mr.
Obama's White House press secretary. "His inexperience and lack of
discipline are an impediment to his success in implementing policies
that would reverse what Obama instituted."

Other Obama veterans said much of what Mr. Trump has done was either
less dramatic than it appeared or reversible. He did not actually break
relations with Cuba, for instance. It will take years to actually
withdraw from the Paris accord, and the next president could rejoin. The
real impact, they argued, was to America's international reputation.

"There's a lot of posturing and, in fact, not a huge amount of change,
and to the extent there has been change, it's been of the self-defeating
variety," said Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser.
"What's been happening is not that the administration is undoing
President Obama's legacy, it's undoing American leadership on the
international stage."

Mr. Trump, of course, is hardly the first president to scorn his
predecessor's tenure. George W. Bush was so intent on doing the opposite
of whatever Bill Clinton had done that his approach was called "ABC" —
Anything but Clinton. Mr. Obama spent years blaming his predecessor for
economic and national security setbacks — blame that supporters
considered justified and that Mr. Bush's team considered old-fashioned
buck passing.

For decades, presidents moving into the Oval Office have made a point on
their first day or two of signing orders overturning policies of the
last tenant, what Mr. Riley called "partisan kabuki" to signal that "a
new president is in town."

The most tangible example is an order signed by Ronald Reagan barring
taxpayer financing for international family planning organizations that
provide abortion counseling. Mr. Clinton rescinded it when he came into
office. Mr. Bush restored it, Mr. Obama overturned it again and Mr.
Trump restored it again.

Even so, neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Obama invested much effort in
deconstructing programs left behind. Mr. Bush kept Mr. Clinton's health
care program for lower-income children, his revamped welfare system and
his AmeriCorps service organization. Mr. Obama undid much of Mr. Bush's
No Child Left Behind education program, but kept his Medicare
prescription medicine program, his AIDS-fighting program and most of his
counterterrorism apparatus.

That was in keeping with a longer tradition. Dwight D. Eisenhower did
not unravel Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, nor did Richard M. Nixon
dismantle Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. Mr. Reagan promised to
eliminate the departments of Education and Energy, created by Jimmy
Carter, but ultimately did not.

Mr. Obama understood that his legacy might be jeopardized by Mr. Trump.
During last year's campaign, he warned supporters that "all the progress
we've made over these last eight years goes out the window" if Mr. Trump
won. Only after the election did he assert the opposite. "Maybe 15
percent of that gets rolled back, 20 percent," he told The New Yorker's
David Remnick. "But there's still a lot of stuff that sticks."

Indeed, when it comes time to tally the record for the history books,
Mr. Trump can hardly reverse some of Mr. Obama's most important
achievements, like pulling the economy back from the abyss of a deep
recession, rescuing the auto industry and authorizing the commando raid
that killed Osama bin Laden. Nor can Mr. Trump take away what will
surely be the first line in Mr. Obama's obituary, his barrier-shattering
election as the first African-American president.

Conversely, Mr. Obama owns his failures regardless of Mr. Trump's
actions. History's judgment of his handling of the civil war in Syria or
the messy aftermath of the intervention in Libya or the economic
inequality he left behind will not depend on his successor. If anything,
America's decision to replace Mr. Obama with someone as radically
different as Mr. Trump may be taken as evidence of Mr. Obama's inability
to build sustained public support for his agenda or to mitigate the
polarization of the country.

But legacies are funny things. Presidents are sometimes defined because
their successors are so different. Mr. Obama today is more popular than
he was during most of his presidency, likely a result of the contrast
with Mr. Trump, who is the most unpopular president this early in his
tenure in the history of polling. By this argument, even if Mr. Trump
does disassemble the Obama legacy, it may redound to his predecessor's
historical benefit.

Richard Norton Smith, who has directed the libraries of four Republican
presidents, said presidents are often credited with paving the way
toward goals that may elude them during their tenure. Harry S. Truman is
called the father of Medicare even though it was not achieved until
Johnson's presidency. Mr. Bush is remembered for pushing for immigration
reform even though Congress rebuffed him.

"It's hard to imagine future historians condemning Barack Obama for
breaking with his country's past ostracism of Cuba or joining the
civilized world in combating climate change or pursuing a more humane
and accessible approach to health care," Mr. Smith said. "Indeed, we
build memorials to presidents who prod us toward fulfilling the
egalitarian vision of Jefferson's declaration."

But that may not be all that comforting to Mr. Obama. Presidents prefer
memorials to their lasting accomplishments, not their most fleeting.

Source: Analysis: Can Trump Destroy Obama's Legacy? - Continue reading
Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy

Was President Obama's opening to the Castro government motivated by a
real belief that it would help Cubans, or was it a vanity project from
the start? We will never know for sure, but we do know it violated his
Inaugural promise that he would shake the hands of tyrants only if they
first unclenched their fists.

Raul Castro has never relaxed his grip on the island he and his brother
have ruled for nearly 60 years. In fact, after Obama announced the
re-establishment of relations with in December 2014, he tightened it.
Since then, Cuban dissidents have paid a heavy price in repression,
arrests and beatings.

According to the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation,
politically motivated arbitrary arrests rose rapidly after the opening,
culminating in 9,940 last year—a six-year high. In December alone, 14
dissidents were beaten by government officials, according to the
Havana-based Commission, whose numbers are reported by Amnesty

President Obama argued that, by "normalizing" relations with Cuba, the
regime would be inspired to grant fundamental freedoms to its people.
Yet Obama asked for, and of course received, nothing in return from the
Cuban authorities.

President Trump put some of that right yesterday when he announced that
he would reverse some of the Obama changes and reinstate some
prohibitions on trade with military-controlled entities and persons on
the communist-ruled island.

Trump's changes don't go far enough. Still, his critics should resist
the urge to lash out at him.

Once upon a time, American liberals knew that legitimizing dictators
never ended well for those who dared speak their minds. That insight led
them to denounce Washington's support for dictators and call out the
moral hollowness in FDR's fatuous line that Anastasio Somoza Sr. may
have been an S.O.B., "but he's our S.O.B."

They should not be surprised today that the Washington establishment's
rush to embrace the Castro regime in pursuit increased trade would only
further entrench the family's hold on power. The Obama changes, which
facilitated American trade and transfer of convertible currency to the
military and the Castro family, only made easier the prospect of their
continued rule.

In other words, if you denounced the Somozas, Augusto Pinochet and
Ferdinand Marcos, and you want to be considered consistent, you should
support the changes Trump announced in Miami.

Those changes are, in fact, narrowly tailored to restrict the
aggrandizement of the regime's military. And they didn't come easy.

Two factions waged a tremendous struggle to win President Trump's heart
and mind on the issue. On one side were a phalanx of congressional
offices that sought to curb the Cuban military's access to convertible
currency. Opposing them were career officials burrowed inside the
Treasury and the State Departments, who wanted President Obama's
legacy—the "historic opening" to the Castros—to be left untouched.

Nor was Cuba an idle bystander in the debate. According to Marc Caputo
at Politico, the regime launched a last-minute bid to stave off the
changes, enlisting Colombia's help in lobbying Trump. The government of
President Juan Manuel Santos reportedly threatened to pull out of a
U.S.-led summit on security in Latin America.

Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.), told the White House to tell Colombia that
if it withdrew from the summit, it could kiss the $450 million "Peace
Colombia" aid package goodbye. And that was that.

In the end, the Trump Cuba change closely mirrored the 2015 Cuban
Military Transparency Act introduced by Rubio in the Senate and by Devin
Nunes, (R– Calif.), in the House. The bill prohibits U.S. persons and
companies "from engaging in financial transactions with or transfers of
funds to" the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, the
Ministry of the Interior, any of their subdivisions and companies and
other entities owned by them.

In other words, it aims directly at Cuba's largest company, the Grupo
Gaesa holding company (Grupo de Administracion Empresarial, Sociedad
Anonima). Founded by Raul Castro in the 1990s, Gaesa is run by the
military, more specifically, by Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez
Lopez-Callejas—who also happens to be Castro's son-in-law. It represents
an estimated 80 percent of the island nation's economy.

Its affiliate, Gaviota, SA., owns the tourism industry. If you eat ropa
vieja at a restaurant, sip a mojito in bar, play golf in a resort, or
sleep in a hotel—you are paying Gaviota. Same with renting a taxi or
renting a car. Thanks to Trump's changes, that cash flow will now be

Or Raul Castro can unclench his fist and allow real Cubans to own and
run these places, and we really have President Obama's dream, expressed
on a January 14, 2011 speech, of increasing "people-to-people contact;
support civil society in Cuba; enhance the free flow of information to,
from, and among the Cuban people; and help promote their independence
form the Cuban authorities."

Shouldn't liberals support this?

Mike Gonzalez (@Gundisalvus) is a senior fellow in the Kathryn and
Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
Studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views
of The Hill.

Source: Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy |
TheHill - Continue reading
Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García

Iván García, 19 June 2017 — For both countries it amounts to a remake of
the Cold War, this time in version 2.0. It will take time to determine
the scope of the contest or if the new diplomatic battle will involve
only bluffs, idle threats and blank bullets.

With an unpredictable buffoon like Donald Trump and a conspiratorial
autocrat like Raul Castro, anything could happen.

The dispute between Cuba and the United States is like an old love
story, one peppered with resentments, disagreements and open admiration
for the latter's opportunities and consumerist lifestyle.

Beginning in January 1959, the dispute between Havana and Washington
took on an ideological tone when a bearded Fidel Castro opted for
communism right under Uncle Sam's nose. The country allied itself with
the former Soviet Union and had the political audacity to confiscate the
properties of U.S. companies and to aim nuclear weapons at Miami and New

Successive American administrations, from Eisenhower to George Bush Jr.,
responded with an embargo, international isolation and subversion in an
attempt to overthrow the Castro dictatorship.

Times changed but objectives remained the same. Castro's Cuba, ruled by
a totalitarian regime which does not respect human rights and represses
those who think differently, is not the kind of partner with which the
White House likes to do business.

But the art of politics allows for double standards. For various
reasons, Persian Gulf monarchies and Asian countries such as China and
Vietnam — countries which have leap-frogged over democracy like Olympic
athletes and are also heavy-handed in their use of power — are allies of
the United States or have been granted most favored nation status by the
U.S. Congress.

To the United States, Cuba — a capricious and arrogant dictatorship
inflicting harm on universally held values — is different. Washington is
correct in theory but not in its solution.

Fifty-five years of diplomatic, economic and financial warfare combined
with a more or less subtle form of subversion, support for dissidents,
the free flow of information, private businesses and an internet free of
censorship have not produced results.

The communist regime is still in place. What to do? Remain politically
blind and declare war on an impoverished neighbor or to try to coexist

Washington's biggest problem is that there is no effective mechanism for
overturning dictatorial or hostile governments by remote control. The
White House repeatedly shoots itself in the foot.

The embargo is more effective as a publicity tool for the Castro regime
than it is for the United States. This is because the military junta,
which controls 90% of the island's economy, can still trade with the
rest of the world.

The very global nature of modern economies limits the effectiveness of a
total embargo. In the case of Cuba, the embargo has more holes in it
than a block of Swiss cheese. Hard currency stores on the island sell
"Made in the USA" household appliances, American cigarettes and the
ubiquitous Coca Cola.

There are those who have advocated taking a hard line when it comes to
the Cuban regime. In practice, their theories have not proved effective,
though they would argue that Obama's approach has not worked either.

They have a point. The nature of a dictatorship is such that it is not
going to collapse when faced with a Trojan Horse. But as its leaders
start to panic, doubts begin to set in among party officials as support
grows among a large segment of the population. And what is most
important for American interests is to win further approval from the
international community for its geopolitical management.

Obama's speech in Havana, in which he spoke of democratic values while
directly addressing a group of wrinkled Caribbean strongmen, was more
effective than a neutron bomb.

There are many Cubans who recognize that the root of their problems —
from a disastrous economy to socialized poverty, daily shortages and a
future without hope — lies in the Palace of the Revolution.

Hitting the dictatorship in its pocketbook has not worked. In Cuba, as
Trump knows all too well, every business and corporation which deals in
hard currency belongs to the government.

And all the money that comes into the country in the form of remittances
ends up, in one form or another, in the state treasury. Sanctions only
affect the people. I am convinced that, if Cuba's autocrats lack for
anything, it is more digits in their secret bank accounts.

Like other politicians and some members of Congress, Donald Trump is
only looking at the Cuban landscape superficially.

The United States can spend millions to support Cuban dissidents (though
96% of the money goes to anti-Castro organizations based in Florida),
launch international campaigns and impose million-dollar fines on
various foreign banks to punish them for doing business with the
Caribbean dictatorship, but they overlook one thing: the regime's
opponents — local figures who would presumably be leaders of any
prolonged, peaceful battle for democracy on the island — are failing.

The reasons vary. They range from intense repression to the opposition's
proverbial inability to turn out even five-hundred people for a rally in
a public square.

I understand the frustration of my compatriots in the diaspora. I too
have suffered. I have
not seen my mother, my sister or my niece in the fourteen years since
the Black Spring in 2003 forced them to leave for Switzerland.

Various strategies have been tried yet the island's autocrats still have
not given up. They are not going to change of their own free will. They
will retreat to the trenches, their natural habitat, where they can
maneuver more easily. And they will have the perfect pretext for
portraying themselves as victims.

As is already well known, the real blockade is the one the government
imposes on its citizens through laws and regulations that hinder them
from accumulating capital, accessing foreign sources of credit and
importing goods legally.

The regime has created anachronistic obstacles to the free importation
of goods from abroad by imposing absurd tariffs and restrictions.

But Cubans want a real democracy, not a caricature. We have to
understand that we must find the solutions to our problems ourselves.

Cuba is a matter for Cubans, wherever they happen to reside. All that's
lacking is for we ourselves to believe it.

Source: Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García
– Translating Cuba - Continue reading
… decision to limit trade with Cuba, arguing that it will hinder … released a joint statement saying Cuba is “an important market for … the world stage,” Blossom said. Cuba imports 80 percent of its … to places like Cuba important. “A developing economy like Cuba that could … Continue reading
Iván García, 19 June 2017 — For both countries it amounts to a remake of the Cold War, this time in version 2.0. It will take time to determine the scope of the contest or if the new diplomatic battle will involve only bluffs, idle threats and blank bullets. With an unpredictable buffoon like Donald … Continue reading "Cuba and the United States Return to the Trenches / Iván García" Continue reading