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… . President Barack Obama and former Cuban president Raul Castro announced a … the Cuban people and economy. “The influx of Americans traveling to CubaCuban people over a few politicians in Washington.” Representatives of Engage Cuba … and remaining travel restrictions eliminated, Cubans will continue to suffer under … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 20 May 2017 — Cuba seeks to take advantage of the recent rise of tourism, one of the locomotives of the island’s economy, to boost other areas and local services, in which the tourism sector invested more than 310 million Cuban convertible pesos in 2016. This figure represents approximately 64% of the operating … Continue reading "Cuba Seeks To Use Tourism Boom To Boost Other Economic Areas" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 23 May 2017 — Agriculture in Cuba is among the lowest performing in Latin America according to an evaluation published by the non-governmental organization Mundubat, based in the Basque Country (Spain). On the island, losses during harvest and after collection represent 30% of total production, while during the distribution stages they reach an additional … Continue reading "Cuba Loses More Than Half of the Food Harvested, Reports a Spanish NGO" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 15 May 2017 — The plastic drawers holding garments for men and women give off the usual scent of things that have have been in storage for a long time. We are in a government-run store that sells used clothing on the Calzada de Monte, a busy thoroughfare lined with state-owned retail establishments, privately … Continue reading "Getting Dressed in Cuba / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 17 May 2017 — In the midst of the morning hustle and bustle, residents of Havana are trying to reach their destinations on time, a challenge because of the inefficient public transport and the sky high prices charged by the private operators of fixed-route shared-ride taxi services. On Monday a new service, “Rutero taxis,” … Continue reading "A Taxi Cooperative Proposes To Lower Private Transport Prices" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 May 2017 — This digital newspaper first saw the light just three years ago, on 21 May 2014. In this time the setbacks have been many, as have the gratifications from updating the site, providing a constant flow of information to our readers, and maintaining high quality standards of reporting in the … Continue reading "Readers Opine About ’14ymedio’ on its Third Anniversary" Continue reading
Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan
opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government
as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live
a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive
Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay "until the last
moment," but misery, fear and violence are overwhelming athletes,
doctors and engineers.

"We are not soldiers and we did not come to Venezuela to put a rifle on
our shoulders," says a Cuban doctor from the state of Anzoátegui who
asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

According to the physician, who has been working for two years in the
country, Havana has asked them to remain "with honor until the last
moment," in a clear allusion to the possible fall of the Venezuelan

"We are working under a lot of pressure because the Medical Mission is
adept at continuing to insist that services not be closed and that we
maintain our position here in spite of everything," he adds.

In Venezuela there are about 28,000 health workers and thousands of
others who are sports instructors, engineers, agricultural technicians
and even electricians. The model of paying for Cuban professional
services through the export of oil to Cuba has never been clearly
exposed by the Venezuelan government.

According to Nicolás Maduro, since Chavez came to power, more than
250 billion dollars have been invested in the so-called "missions." The
former Minister of Economy of the Island, José Luis Rodríguez, published
last April that Cuba received 11.5 billion dollars a year in payment for
professional services rendered abroad, most of which comes from
Venezuela. Other sources consider, however, that this is a very inflated
number, although Havana's profits are undoubtedly very high.

"We are afraid every day about what could happens to us. Sometimes they
throw stones at us at the CDI [Centro de Diagnóstico Integral, doctor's
offices] or they yell all kinds of insults at us. Every day there are
demonstrations in front of the medical unit and nobody protects us,"
explains the doctor.

"So far they only attack us with words. They shout at us to get out of
here, that they do not want to see themselves like us and other
atrocities," he adds.

The doctor, however, assures that those who work in the missions also do
not want to be in that situation, but they are forced by the Cuban
Government, that exerts pressure through diverse mechanisms.

"If we leave, we lose the frozen accounts maintained for us in Cuba.
Also, if you leave the mission you are frowned upon in the health system
and you have no possibility of being promoted," he explains.

The Cuban government deposits $200 a month in a frozen account that at
the end of the three years the mission lasts in Venezuela, totals
$7,200. If the professional maintained "proper conduct and did their
duty," they can withdraw that money upon their return to the island. If
they return before the established period or their participation in the
mission is revoked (among other reasons for attempting to escape) they
lose all that money.

In Cuba 250 dollars a month are deposited that can be withdrawn when the
professional on the mission visits the Island once a year. Meanwhile, in
Venezuela, they receive 27,000 bolivars, less than 10 dollars a month.

In the case of health technicians, Cuba pays them 180 dollars in a
current account and another 180 dollars a month in an account frozen
until the end of the mission.

A Cuban radiologist who is in the Venezuelan state of Zulia explains
that for months they have no "Mercal," a bag of food delivered by the
Government of Venezuela.

"We live in overcrowded conditions with several colleagues and we do not
even have potable water," he adds.

"Thanks to some patients we can eat, but they are having a very bad
time. We are repeating something like the Special Period that we
experienced in Cuba," he says.

Although he fears for his life because of the situation in the country,
he says he is determined not to return to the island. "We have to endure
until the end. It is not fair to lose everything after so much
sacrifice," he says.

Following the outbreak of the protests in Venezuela, Cuban aid workers
have been directed not to leave their homes and have experienced reduced
communications with their families in Cuba.

"The internet is very bad, you can not even communicate. We have been
forbidden to go out after six o'clock in the afternoon, as if we were
slave labor, and on television they broadcast news that has nothing to
do with what we are living through," he explains.

Julio César Alfonso, president of Solidarity Without Borders, a
Miami-based nonprofit organization that helps Cuban health personnel
integrate into the US system, says the exodus of professionals has
increased in recent weeks.

"Even without the US Medical Professional Parole Program, which allowed
doctors to obtain refuge in the United States, they continue to escape
because of the situation in Venezuela," said the physician.

Alfonso added that his organization is lobbying to re-establish the
Parole Program, eliminated by former President Barack Obama in January,
and allowing more than 8,000 Cuban professionals to enter the United States.

Eddy Gómez is an critical care doctor who worked in the state of Cojedes
in western Venezuela. He decided to escape because he was afraid of the
difficult conditions in which he was forced to work.

"We had to work in dirty places, without air conditioning, exposed to
the fact that even the patients insulted us because we nothing to treat
them with," recalls the doctor who now lives in Bogota and acts as
spokesperson for dozens of other professionals who escaped medical missions.

"After the end of Medical Parole program people have continued to escape
and come to Colombia. There are more than 50 professionals who left
Venezuela after President Obama's decision to eliminate it. We hope that
Trump will admit doctors again," says Gómez.

To escape Venezuela, the Cubans have to pay the coyotes about $650 to
take them to Colombia. The path, full of dangers, includes a bribe to
Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard that protects the borders, and to
whom they must be careful not to show their official passports issued to
them by the Cuban government because they would immediately be deported
to the Island.

"There are many Cubans who have died violently in Venezuela, but the
Cuban government does not tell the truth to their families, nor does it
pay them compensation," explains the doctor.

"We left Cuba looking for a better life, but in Venezuela we discovered
a real hell."

Source: Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela – Translating Cuba - Continue reading

The electoral victory, from which el chavismo emerged victorious in 1999, represented an invaluable opportunity to diversify the economy and democratize Venezuela. With enormous wealth, popular support, and almost absolute power, Hugo Chávez chose to copy the Cuban model, which has led to a frustrating alternative: Maduro or Death.

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14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 May 2017 — Seen from the Venezuelan opposition as an army of occupation and from the Venezuelan government as soldiers of socialism, tens of thousands of Cuban professionals live a situation that is complicated day after day in convulsive Venezuela. The Cuban government has asked them to stay “until the last … Continue reading "Cuban Professionals Are Afraid In Venezuela" Continue reading
… of Canadian companies selling to Cuban government buyers since 1991. Through … the Government of Cuba, helping to strengthen the Cuban economy through increasing … for Cuba's sugar harvest, and water softeners for Cuban hotels … CCC in the Cuban Market. Utilizing the CCC Cuba Contracting Program, we … Continue reading
Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García

Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let's step back in time. One morning in 1985,
Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio
Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet
entitled "Nueva Cuba." After distributing the single-page, handmade
newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall in
the Coppelia ice cream parlor in the heart of Havana's Vedado district.

His intention was not to criticize the autocratic regime of Fidel
Castro. No, it was simply an act of rebellion by a reporter who believed
that information was a public right. In his writing, Yndamiro tried to
point out the dire consequences that institutional contradictions were
having on the country's economy.

He was arrested and questioned at Villa Marista, a jail run by the
political police in southern Havana. Later that year he was arrested
again, this time for having given an interview to the New York Times.
That is when his troubles began. He was fired from Radio Rebelde and
branded with a scarlet letter by Special Services. Without realizing it,
Yndamiro Restano had laid the foundations for today's independent
journalism in Cuba.

Cuba was emerging from overwhelmingly bleak five-year period in which
censorship was having an almost sickening effect. The winds of glasnost
and perestroika were blowing from Gorbachev's USSR. Some intellectuals
and academicians such as the late Felix Bonne Carcasses decided the time
was right for more democratic openness in society and the media. Havana
was a hotbed of liberal thought.

Journalist Tania Díaz Castro along with young activists Rita Fleitas,
Omar López Montenegro, Estela Jiménez and former political prisoner
Reinaldo Bragado established the group Pro Arte Libre. According to the
writer Rogelio Fabio Hurtado, Cuba's independent press was born out of
the first dissident organization, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights,
led by Ricardo Boffill Pagés and the organization's vice-president
Rolando Cartaya, a former journalist at Juventud Rebelde. In a 2011
article published in Martí Noticias, Cartaya recalled, "When we arrived
at dawn at his house in Guanabacoa's Mañana district, Bofill had already
produced half a dozen original essays and eight carbon copies of each
for distribution to foreign press agencies and embassies."

No longer able to work as a journalist, by 1987 Yndamiro Restano was
making a living cleaning windows at a Havana hospital. He would later be
fired from that job after giving an interview to the BBC. Frustrated by
not being able to freely express himself in a society mired in duplicity
and fear, he joined the unauthorized Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation created by Elizardo Sánchez.

Along with other journalists fired from newspapers, magazines, radio
stations and television news programs who were eager to publish their
own articles without censorship, Restano decided in 2011 to form an
organization that would allow reporters condemned to silence to work
together. Thus was born the Cuban Association of Independent
Journalists, the first union of freelance correspondents.

In 1991 — a date which coincided with the beginning of the Special
Period, an economic crisis lasting twenty-six years — the Havana poet
Maria Elena Cruz Varela founded Criterio Alternativo which, among
causes, championed freedom of expression. In an effort to crack open the
government's iron-fisted control of the nation, Maria Elena herself,
along with Roberto Luque Escalona, Raúl Rivero Castaneda, Bernardo
Marqués Ravelo, Manuel Diaz Martinez, Jose Lorenzo Fuentes, Manolo
Granados and Jorge A. Pomar Montalvo and others signed the Charter of
Ten, which demanded changes to Castro's status quo.

On September 23, 1995, Raúl Rivero — probably Cuba's most important
living poet — founded Cuba Press in the living room of his home in La
Victoria, a neighborhood in central Havana. The agency was an attempt to
practice a different kind of professional journalism, one which reported
on issues ignored by state-run media.

Now living in exile in Miami, Rivero notes, "I believe in the validity
and strength of truly independent journalism, which made its name by
reporting on economic crises, repression, lack of freedom and by looking
for ways to revive the best aspects of the republican-era press." He
adds, "There was never an attempt to write anti-government propaganda
like that of the regime. They were pieces whose aim was to paint a
coherent portrait of reality. The articles with bylines were never
written so some boss could enjoy a good breakfast. They were written to
provide an honest opinion and a starting point for debate on important
issues. That is why, as I found out, Cuba Press was formed at the end of
the last century."

Cuba Press brought together half a dozen official journalists who had
been fired from their jobs. Tania Quintero, now a political refugee who
has lived in Switzerland since 2003, was one of them.* Once a week,
Quintero boarded a crowded bus to deliver two or three articles to Raul
Rivero, whose third-floor apartment was a kind of impromptu editing
room, with no shortage of dissertations on every topic. An old Remington
typewriter stood vigil as the poet's wife, Blanca Reyes, served coffee.

The budding independent journalism movement had more ambitions than
resources. Reporters wrote out articles in longhand or relied on
obsolete typewriters using whatever sheets of paper they could find.
Stories were filed by reading them aloud over phone lines; the internet
was still the stuff of science fiction. The political police often
confiscated tape recorders and cameras, the tools then in use, and well
as any money they found on detainees. They earned little money but
enjoyed the solidarity of their colleagues, who made loans to each other
that they knew would never be repaid.

Those who headed other alternative news agencies also had to deal with
harassment, arrest and material deprivation. That was the case of Jorge
Olivera Castillo, a former video editor at the Cuban Institute of Radio
and Television who wound up being one of the founders of Havana Press.

Twenty-two years later, Olivera recalls, "Havana Press began life on May
1, 1995. A small group led by the journalist Rafael Solano, who had
worked at Radio Rebelde, was given the task of starting this initiative
under difficult conditions. After working for four years as a reporter,
I took over as the agency's director in 1999 and worked in that position
until March 2003, when I was arrested and sentenced to eighteen years in
prison during the Black Spring."

Faced with adversity, the former directors of Havana Press — Rafael
Solano, Julio Martinez and Joaquín Torres — were forced to go into
exile. "More than two decades after this movement began, it is worth
noting its importance to the pro-democracy struggle and its ability to
survive in spite of obstacles. Those initial efforts paved the way for
the gradual evolution of initiatives with similar aims," observes Olivera.

For the former prisoner of conscience, "independent journalism remains
one of the fundamental pillars in the struggle for a transition to
democracy. It has held this position since the 1990s, when it emerged
and gained strength due to the work of dozens of people, some of whom
had worked for official media outlets and others who learned to practice
the trade with remarkable skill." This is because independent journalism
began with people who had worked in technical fields or in universities
but had no journalistic experience or training. They are self-taught or
took self-improvement courses either in Cuba or abroad, carved a path
for themselves and are now authorities their field. They include the
likes of Luis Cino, Juan González Febles and Miriam Celaya.

Radio Martí was and still is the sounding board for the independent
press and opposition activists. The broadcaster reports on the regime's
ongoing violations of freedom of expression, its intrigues, its delaying
tactics and its attempts to feign democracy with propaganda that rivals
that of North Korea.

In a 2014 article for Diario de Cuba, José Rivero García — a former
journalist for Trabajadores (Workers) and one of the founders of Cuba
Press — wrote, "It is worth remembering that this seed sprouted long
before cell phones, Twitter, Facebook or basic computers. The number of
independent journalists has multiplied thanks to technology and
communication initiatives over which the Castro regime has no control."

Necessity is the mother of invention. Even without the benefit of proper
tools, a handful of men and women have managed in recent years to create
independent publications such as Primavera Digital, Convivencia or 14ymedio.

Currently, there are some two-hundred colleagues working outside the
confines of the state-run media in Havana and other provinces, writing,
photographing, creating videos and making audio recordings. But they
still face risks and are subject to threats. At any given moment they
could be detained or have their equipment confiscated by State Security.
Their articles, exposés, chronicles, interviews and opinion pieces can
be found on Cubanet, Diario de Cuba, Martí Noticias, Cubaencuentro and
other digital publications, including blogs and webpages.

In almost lockstep with the openly confrontational anti-Castro press
there is an alternative world of bloggers and former state-employed
journalists. They practice their profession as freelancers and hold
differing positions and points of view. Among the best known are Elaine
Díaz from Periodismo de Barrio, Fernando Rasvberg from Carta de Cuba and
Harold Cárdenas from La Joven Cuba, all of whom are subject to
harassment and the tyranny of the authorities.

Reports issued by organizations that defend press freedom in countries
throughout the world rank Cuba among the lowest. The regime claims that
there have been no extrajudicial executions on the island and that no
journalists have been killed. There is no need. It has been killing off
the free press in other ways since January 1959.

Since its beginnings more than two decades ago, Cuba's independent press
has sought to revive freedom of the press and freedom of expression. And
slowly it has been succeeding. In spite of harassment and repression.

*Translator's note: Tania Quintero is the author's mother.

Source: Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading
Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different

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

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

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

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

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 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

Source: Why Cuba's Brain Drain Looks Different | satPRnews - Continue reading
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Cuba's crazy used-car market
Why it behaves like the prime-property market
The Americas
May 11th 2017 | HAVANA

MULTIMARCAS, a car dealership on the outskirts of Havana, is not a
conventional showroom. On a recent visit it contained one salesman and,
despite the promise of variety in its name, just one car: a 2014-model
Kia Picanto with no miles on its odometer. The price would cause the
most spendthrift American or European to blanch: 68,000 Cuban
convertible pesos (or CUC, each of which is worth a dollar). That is
seven times what a Kia Rio, a similar car, of that age would cost in the
United States, though you would be hard-pressed to find one that had not
been driven.

It is not just virgin vehicles that are startlingly expensive. A Chinese
Geely, listed in Revolico, a Cuban version of Craigslist, with "only
93,000km" (58,000 miles) on the clock, goes for 43,000 CUC. A used 2012
Hyundai Accent costs 67,000 CUC.

Cuba is famous for classic Cadillacs and Chevys that whisk tourists
around, but Cubans would rather drive such banal automobiles as Korean
Kias and French Peugeots, which are more comfortable and burn less fuel.
Cuba may be the only country where the value of ordinary cars rises over
time, even though they age quickly on the potholed roads. That is
because demand is soaring while the supply is not.

Cuba's communists have a complicated history with personal transport.
After the revolution in 1959 they banned almost all purchases of cars
(but let existing owners keep theirs). The government gave cars to
artists, athletes and star workers. High-ranking employees could use the
official fleet and buy vehicles upon retirement at a discount. Petrol
was almost free.

Cuba's hesitant opening of its economy allowed the car market a bit more
freedom. Since 2013 individuals have been able to buy and sell used cars
without official permission. New cars can only be sold in
government-owned dealerships like Multimarcas. The island's spotty
internet access makes it hard for buyers to compare prices. Many find
vehicles by word of mouth and through Revolico, used by individual
sellers and wildcat dealers. Cubans download it via the paquete, a
portable hard drive delivered by courier weekly to their houses.
The rate of car ownership, 20 per 1,000 people, is one of the world's
lowest. The government keeps a lid on imports. It has allowed in 2,000
cars a year for the past five years. But its cautious economic
liberalisation has stoked demand. A new class of entrepreneurs, called
cuentapropistas, is eager to buy, as are Cubans with cash from relatives
abroad. So in the market cars behave more like prime property, whose
supply is restricted, than depreciating machines. One dealer says he has
bought and sold two cars in the past year for a profit of 20,000 CUC,
far more than his 25 CUC-a-month salary from the state. He prefers not
to know much about the buyers: they probably do not declare their money.
A cuentapropista couple in Havana bought a 2011-model European saloon
for 30,000 CUC four years ago and sold it for 45,000 CUC; they traded up
to a used SUV for 100,000 CUC. "We could have got many BMWs for the same
price in the United States," says the wife. Another habanero sold a
house to buy a 25-year-old VW Golf for 10,000 CUC. In ten years its
value has doubled. "I could sell it for a couple of thousand more if it
had air conditioning," he says. A retired engineer bought a 1980s-model
Russian Lada from his state company in 2000 for 160 CUC, and sold it
last year for nearly 100 times the price.
Cubans realise how crazy the market is. Prices are so high, jokes
Pánfilo, a comedian, on government-controlled television, that the
Peugeot lion "covers its face with its paws".

This article appeared in the The Americas section of the print edition
under the headline "Cash for clunkers"

Source: Cash for clunkers: Cuba's crazy used-car market | The Economist
- Continue reading
Cuba Is 'Huge Opportunity' for U.S. Travel Companies, BCG Says
| May 10, 2017, at 12:18 a.m.

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba represents a "huge" but challenging opportunity
for U.S. cruise, airline and hotel companies as American visitors to the
Caribbean island could increase as much as sevenfold by 2025, according
to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

As many as 2 million Americans could visit up from 285,000 last year,
excluding Cuban Americans, the BCG study published on Wednesday estimated.

Given tourism infrastructure is already creaking, that means there are
business opportunities aplenty but U.S companies must learn to navigate
a centrally-planned economy with its quirks.

U.S. travel to Cuba has already surged, albeit from very low levels, in
the last two years since the former Cold War allies announced a detente
and the Obama administration eased travel restrictions to the island.

"The reality is that U.S. travel to Cuba is in its nascent stages, and
all the players are still learning how to make it work," the report
read. "Success, as with most things Cuban, will require unusual - and
often unorthodox - approaches".

BCG did not address the uncertainty cast by the election of U.S.
President Donald Trump who has threatened to row back on the
normalization of relations.

The Cuban government aims to double hotel capacity by 2030 through
partnerships with foreign companies, it pointed out. So far, Starwood is
the only U.S. hotel company operating in Cuba.

Instilling a hospitality mindset in tourism workers who were mostly
state employees, even at U.S.-owned companies, on low wages could be
challenging, it noted.

Poor service sat particularly badly when rooms were "extremely expensive
for the region".

"The risk is that U.S, travelers who visit Cuba and stay at a hotel that
is part of a brand they trust will experience prices much higher than
usual - and more customer service," the report read.

Meanwhile there was also an opportunity for expanding cruise lines to
Cuba, BCG said. Nearly two thirds of 500 U.S. travelers surveyed would
consider one to Cuba. Several U.S cruise operators have started offering
lines to Cuba in the past year.

They have to deal with different challenges such as including a cultural
element to their trips to comply with U.S. government rules on travel to
Cuba, BCG noted.

U.S. companies should work together with the Cuban government to resolve
some of these issues.

As for airlines, they needed to deal with excess demand for flights to
Havana. They could carry out campaigns to lure Americans to other Cuban
cities, BCG advised, and tap into Cuban demand for flights to the United

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh)

Source: Cuba Is 'Huge Opportunity' for U.S. Travel Companies, BCG Says |
U.S. News | US News - Continue reading
Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado is in San Francisco, planning for the opening of his art exhibit, “Angels and Demons,” at the Immersive ART LAB, 3255A Third Street, May 11, 6-10pm. His exhibit is sponsored by the Human Rights Foundation as part of its Art in Protest series. This interview took place with the translation help … Continue reading "Interview with El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) in San Francisco" Continue reading
… Marianna Parraga HAVANA/HOUSTON, May 9 (Reuters) - Cuban exports of … publish oil-related export information. Cash-strapped Cuba reported its exports of goods … the Cuban economy into a recession the following year. Cuba depends on … its energy needs, including re-exports. Havana gets the oil as part … Continue reading
14ymedio, 8 May 2017 – According to a report on foreign debt by Spain’s Secretary of State for the Economy and Business Support released to the newspaper El Economista, Greece and Cuba account for 60% of all foreign debt owed to Spain. According to the report, Cuba owes the Spanish State 2.07 billion euros, (about 2.27 billion dollars). The … Continue reading "Greece and Cuba Account for 60% of the Debt Owed to Spain" Continue reading
… no “elected officials” in Cuba. The entire Cuban economy is run by … talking about Cuban-American tourists because the only tourist coming from Cuba who … Cuban government. When it comes to Cuba’s medical prowess, doctors in Cuba … utilizing the ports of Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and so forth … Continue reading
If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next on the block

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

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

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

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

It's the economy, stupid

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

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

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

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

The challenge ahead

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

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

A business boom?

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

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

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

Source: Cuba 2018: What To Expect As Castro Rule Comes To An End - Continue reading
… am EDT Mark Cuban on technology stocks Billionaire Mark Cuban shared his … role in the technology sector? Cuban believes that artificial intelligence will … , which should increase companies’ profitabilities. Cuban also believes that advances in … comparison to the unemployment rate. Cuban believes that the technology sector … Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 28 April 2017 — Soot covers the unpainted facades of buildings on Tenth of October Boulevard. Old American cars from the 1950s, rebuilt with modern diesel engines and now privately operated as taxis, transit across asphalt, leaving behind a trail of black smoke and the unpleasant odor of gasoline. The noonday sun glimmers in … Continue reading "If Venezuela Goes to Hell, Will Things Look Bad for Cuba? / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuba: When "Winning" is Losing
By Fernando Ravsberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuba: When "Winning" is Losing - Havana - Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 May 2017 — The guard looks at him and dismisses him as an undercover cop. “Are you coming to change dollars? I’ll pay you at 90 cents,” he tells the customer while turning his back on the security camera at the Currency Exchange (Cadeca). At the window, that same dollar is exchanged … Continue reading "Neither CUPs nor CUCs, It’s Bucks That Reign in Cuba" Continue reading
Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

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

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

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

Utilitarian morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civic morality

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

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

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

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

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

Survival morality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
HAVANA The flood of Cubans to the United States via … as proof that Cubans preferred capitalism over socialism. Havana blamed it on … previously, it had been Cubans. Just 86 Cubans arrived at ports of … for Democracy in the Americas. Cuba said its economy shrank 0 … Continue reading
Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, … Continue reading "Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano" Continue reading
What happens to the shares of a Cuban joint venture company when the foreign party is taken over by another company or wants to sell its stake to a third party? Continue reading
As Cuba's economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat
By ANTONIO PACHECO • April 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Antonio Pacheco
West Editor, The Architect's Newspaper

Source: As Cuba embraces global tourism, modernist works are threatened
- - Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 April 2017 — In the palace of the Captains General in Havana there is a throne awaiting its king. It was prepared when Cuba was still a Spanish colony and a monarch has never sat in its imposing structure. The visit of Spain’s King Felipe VI visit may end such a long wait, … Continue reading "The King, The President and The Dictator" Continue reading
Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 24 de Abril de 2017 - 17:00 CEST.

Once gain former Economy minister José Luis Rodríguez has attempted to
pull the wool over everyone's eyes. Apparently the Castro dictatorship
has called on him to do its dirty work and cook the books to present a
more favorable picture of the regime's administration.

Rodríguez recently wrote, in Cubadebate, that the export of doctors,
nurses and other health professionals brought in revenue amounting to an
average of 11.543 billion dollars yearly between 2011 and 2015. False.
As a source he drew upon the 2016 Statistical Yearbook on Health – which
was so incomplete that it does not even mention how many health
professionals work outside Cuba, the most important factor of all. The
Ministry of Public Health acknowledges that there are about 50,000 in all.

I think it is appropriate to note that last February Rodríguez announced
that in 2016 Cuba paid its foreign creditors $5.299 billion, which is
also false. And, in 2006, as Minister of the Economy, he said, with a
straight face, that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Cuba had grown
12.5%, the greatest growth in the world, even surpassing China.

This time the former Castroist higher-up – who today serves as an
advisor at Cuba's International Economy Research Center (CIEM), and at
the aforementioned Yearbook of Public Health – is guilty of several more

To begin with, in order for the medical services that Cuba exports to 62
countries on four continents to have generated $11.543 billion, the
average salary of each contracted Cuban professional would have to have
been around $19,200 per month, which is impossible. His claim is even
more far-fetched when said yearbook indicates that 35 countries paid for
these services, and the other 27 paid nothing.

The key to all this is that the regime lies. It calculates Venezuelan
subsidies as a sale of medical services. Curiously, in his article
Rodríguez did not include the year 2016, in which Caracas slashed its
subsidies to the Island. Experts estimate that they have fallen by 40%,
and that oil deliveries were reduced from 110,000 to 55,000 barrels a
day, which would explain the current fuel crisis on the Island.

Cuba now depends and will depend more and more of the flow of foreign
currency coming from the "Empire" via remittances, packages and travel
to the island, which in 2016 came to more than 7 billion dollars. That
figure probably already equals or exceeds the subsidies from Venezuela,
and triples the gross revenue generated by tourism.

Moreover, even supposing that everything stated by the former minister
were true, it is immoral for the Castroist leadership to openly proclaim
that it steals salaries from doctors. That's called trafficking. Those
$11.543 billion belong to the doctors, who earned them with their work,
and then saw them confiscated.

According to the pact between the previous government of Brazil and
Cuba, negotiated with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the
Brazilian government pays Cuba $4,080 per month for each Cuban doctor.
Of this amount, the physician receives less than 25%, that is, less than
$1,000, according to doctors who have left Brazil, and complaints from
the National Federation of Brazilian Doctors, which describes the
contracts as "slave work." For every Cuban doctor in Brazil, Castro
pockets $3,000 a month.

The figures do not add up

There are now some 10,400 Cuban doctors and professionals in Brazil;
that is, 20% of those it has abroad. Venezuela, meanwhile, has more than
34,000 professionals, almost 70% of the total. That means that if the
average salary obtained, based on the figure cited by Rodriguez, comes
to $19,200 per month, and Brazil pays only $4,080 per doctor, then
Venezuela pays several times that monthly amount for each Cuban
professional, which is untrue.

Moreover, the $11.543 billion reported surely include the more than $720
million per year that Cuba was making by re-exporting gasoline from
Venezuela, or refined in Cienfuegos with crude given away by Caracas. Is
that not that a subsidy, like the one that was previously received from
the USSR, when the Island re-exported Soviet oil?

It is outrageous that the international community has not condemned the
export of Cuban doctors, essentially working as slaves in the 21st
century. Neither the International Labor Organization (ILO), nor any
government in the world has censured this abusive practice. The UN
Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Maria Grazia Gianmarinaro,
just visited Havana, but apparently apparently was satisfied with the
explanation provided by her hosts, masters of propaganda to protect the

In Brazil, for example, Article 149 of the Penal Code states that "slave
labor" exists when one is subjected to "forced labor, excessive shifts,
and remuneration that is dramatically deficient relative to the work
performed, justified by debts owed one's employer."

But the governments of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff wanted to favor
the Castros, and signed those shameful agreements. And the current
government has done little to fight this abuse.

Why no self-employed doctors?

The truth is that more than a third of the 90,161 doctors of the Island,
according to the yearbook, do not work in Cuba, but rather abroad, which
affects medical services on the Island. The regime graduates them, en
masse, to export and exploit them, as they are sent abroad for the
selfish aim of confiscating their wages. They are reminiscent of the
"talking instruments," as Marco Terencio Varrón called slaves in
classical Rome, 2,000 years ago.

If the Castro hierarchy allowed university professionals to enjoy
economic freedom, provide their services on their own, and doctors to
have private practices, they would render a valuable public service,
earn much more income, and not have to accept being exported as if they
were owned by the State, or the Castro family, to receive meager
remuneration, with which to make their lives and those of their families
on the Island more bearable.

Exported doctors have their freedom of movement restricted. They travel
alone, without their families. Their passports are held, and they are
enlisted in pro-Castro political campaigns with local populations, with
which they cannot interact privately. The whole system is like a modern
version of labor markets in the 18th and 19th centuries through which
masters rented out their slaves to third parties for given periods.

In short, the $11.543 billion cited by Rodríguez were not obtained just
through the "exported services." Rather, they mainly came from
Venezuelan and Brazilian subsidies. And the money confiscated from
doctors constitutes an international crime, which does not prescribe,
and ought to be punished.

Source: Theft and Subsidies, Not Exports | Diario de Cuba - Continue reading
MONTREAL and HAVANA, Cuba, Apr 24, 2017 (Canada NewsWire … to the world. As the Cuban economy Grows, the pipeline of … ventures in international companies with Cuban ties that are well positioned to grow with the Cuban economy. Sectors include the following … Continue reading
Havana, April 20 (RHC-PL)--  The central Cuban province of Ciego de … and increasing Cuba's financial capacity. The commercialization of Cuban charcoal … Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 17 April 2017 — Cuban professional services abroad are the main source of foreign exchange for the government and represent an estimated 11.543 billion dollars annually, according to an article published in the official press by the island’s former Minister of the Economy, José Luis Rodríguez. Most of the income comes from the … Continue reading "Ex-Minister: Cuba Earns $11.5 Billion From Export of Professional Services" Continue reading

Years back what they call "civil society" became part of my life through my early engagement in a combination of community activism and links to the few NGOs working in Cuba, followed by participation in Latin American social movements and organizations that defend an ethical economy, the environment and human rights. Thus, as an activist and analyst, I can say something about the matter.

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14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 11 April 2017 – The treatment of blacks and the market in slaves brought from Africa developed by the European colonists has clearly been established as a crime against humanity before all contemporary civilized beings without the slightest doubt. It was a practice that “sold” human beings as if they were … Continue reading "The Treatment Of ‘White Coats’" Continue reading
Cuba Frozen in Time
Paul R. Pillar
April 16, 2017

A week-long visit to Cuba reveals a tropical country of 11 million
people that is stuck in a kind of time capsule. The anachronistic
aspects of the country are symbolized by the 1950s-era U.S.-made
automobiles that cruise city streets—and the resourcefulness of Cubans
is symbolized by whatever they do to keep those old cars running.

Also within the time capsule are long-obsolete ideas of Fidel Castro
that continue to shape Cuba's economy. Salaries are meager and not
linked to productivity. People commonly work multiple jobs to get by.
Many well-educated professionals spend less time on their professions
than on something else, such as driving a bus, that pays better. Some
basic consumer items are heavily subsidized but not in the necessary
quantities. A system of two different currencies, one convertible and
the other not, adds to the jury-rigged quality of the economy.

Comparisons between Cuba and the United States provide some
illustrations of the strengths and limitations of, on one hand,
collective endeavors mounted through government and, on the other hand,
reliance on free markets. In making such comparisons, however, one must
be aware of other factors in determining relative performance.
Transportation infrastructure, for example, is in bad shape in both
countries, but for different reasons. In the United States, it is
largely because of anti-government sentiment that affects the allocation
of resources to what is inherently a public endeavor that requires
government. In Cuba, where problems of transportation infrastructure
include bone-jarring pavement even on major highways, the cause is
simply not enough resources to allocate in the first place.

The most revealing contrasts involve not potholes but people, and the
attitudes and energy that the systems in which they live inculcate. In
Cuba it is easy to find examples of unmotivated workers, in situations
where one could say that some more market incentives could do a lot of
good. But in contrast there are the positive outlooks and abilities
produced by Cuba's comprehensive system of public education, which is
one of the success stories of the revolution.

Cubans do not exhibit any widespread and unsettling discontent. Maybe
this is partly because they just don't know of any better alternatives,
with at least two generations having come of age since Castro took
power. But with much less inequality than in the United States, even
the more ambitious and upwardly mobile Cubans define their aspirations
in terms of what is realistically attainable through hard work in school
and university, however different the end goal may be from the kind of
wealth that many better educated Americans crave. With most basic needs
met, the most talented Cubans find satisfaction and self-realization in
things such as arts and sports, both of which are areas of emphasis in
the educational system. The enthusiasm of young people participating in
the performing arts is obvious and infectious.

Related to all this is a near absence of expectations for major
political change, and of any appetite for the kind of political activism
designed to produce such change. In short, no counterrevolution is in
sight, and not just because of the current regime's use of its coercive
power to ensure that it stays out of sight. Cuba's modern political
history is a factor. The nation achieved independence later than most
other Latin American states, (and when it did get independence, it was
with the U.S.-imposed, sovereignty-compromising Platt Amendment that
went along with it) and has not had as much time to work through stages
of political development as, say, Mexico. Most Cuban presidents in the
first half-century after Spanish rule ended were not commendable
leaders, with Fulgencio Batista being the last of a corrupt and
ineffective lot before Castro ousted him.

But the popular attitudes involving personal fulfillment are a factor as
well. Along with the instances of insufficient motivation it also is
easy to find Cubans who throw themselves into their work with energy and
commitment, whether the work is bartending or city planning. On the
Isle of Youth (which sees very few tourists), in the island's only city,
Nueva Gerona, is a beautiful pedestrian boulevard which makes creative
use of the marble that is extracted from nearly quarries. The park
benches in the town are made of marble. Someone with the drive and
leadership ability that in other circumstances may have been applied to
making a political revolution instead applied those talents to
beautifying the city, even though he or she probably was paid only a
pittance for doing so.

The external influences of globalization can greatly change attitudes
and aspirations in any country, but for Cuba the biggest single external
reality is the anti-globalization U.S. embargo. With the embargo having
been in effect for half a century and with it not leading to even the
possibility of significant political change in Cuba, one can safely
declare the embargo to be a complete and utter failure. All it has done
is to embarrass the United States each year with United Nations
resolutions condemning it, in which every member of the General Assembly
joins the condemnation except for the United States, Israel, and usually
a couple of the Pacific micro-states.

If the embargo were to end—and this would be a major economic event for
Cuba, given the size and significance of the colossus to the north—this
would inevitably mean significant change in Cuban attitudes and, because
of that, Cuban policies. Whoever was ruling Cuba at the time would
almost be forced to pull a Deng Xiaoping regarding modernization and
freeing of the economy, because the ineffective anachronisms could not
survive either the direct competition or the competition in the minds of
Cubans who would see a new range of possibilities.

If significant political change were to come to Cuba in our time, this
is the route it would take. There are no guarantees, of course, and
Castro's heirs, like rulers in a lot of other countries, would look to
the China model with the hope of loosening the economy while maintaining
tight political control. But it is too early to tell whether that sort
of dichotomy between the economic and the political can endure.

Source: Cuba Frozen in Time | The National Interest Blog - Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 14 April 2017 — The vehicle belonging to El Biky cooperative is adorned with the images of its products and the smiling faces of some of its employees. The food center, located at the corner of Infanta and San Lázaro, is looking to conquer new new customers for its cafe, restaurant and bakery. … Continue reading "Advertising On Wheels Arrives In Havana" Continue reading
14ymedio, Naky Soto (Vertice News), Caracas, 15 April 2017 — In spite of having previously asserted that they would call him a dictator and that would not matter to him, Nicolas Maduro did not put up with two days of national and international denunciations of Venezuela’s constitutional rupture demanding a reversal of the Constitutional Chamber’s … Continue reading "Chavism Chose Repression" Continue reading
In the twilight of the Castros
By Stephen Kinzer APRIL 14, 2017

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 - Continue reading
You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex

Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of
law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic,
social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba
(PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the
Government with repressive methods.

Workers have no right to strike nor can they freely create trade
unions. The government refuses to legalize any social organizations that
do not share the policies of the party elite. Dissidents and human
rights defenders are stigmatized, harassed and ultimately imprisoned.

Opposition to the government can not be organized. There are no legal
mechanisms for the existence of political parties. The PCC is the only
party recognized in the National Constitution, which was drafted by the
founders of this political organization, senior military commanders who
have remained in power for almost 60 years; almost sixty years with two
presidents, brothers named Castro.

This military elite, does not tolerate opposition, nor pay any political
or economic price for harassing and repressing it. They are not open to
public debate. Through the Law they harass people who openly criticize them.

They count on making an example of those who oppose them. The rest of
society refrains from expressing their political preferences. They fear
negative consequences in their lives. They are controlled by social and
mass organizations.

The electoral law does not allow political parties to participate in the
elections, but the PCC participates in them, through the mass
organizations. They control the electoral process. They avoid
competition and ensure that the members of this political organization
are elected and appointed to hold office in government. Their leaders
occupy positions in the highest party and state structure.

As a consequence, people with citizenship and residence on the island
cannot run on equal terms. Nor do they have the mechanisms to
participate in political and economic decision-making. The election of
the members of parliament does not depend on their votes and political

They are excluded from intervening in the national economy, a privilege
only allowed to foreigners. While the country's economic situation is
precarious and worsens, the State limits its ability to generate
income. It obliges them, through the exercise of self-employment, to
carry out non-professional economic activities with only minimum profit

If Cubans dramatically flee the country, it is to seek better
opportunities for their lives, but also to seek freedom. "When the
people emigrate, the rulers are superfluous," is a phrase of José
Martí's that today is fully in force.

Source: You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic, social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the Government with repressive methods. Workers have no right to strike … Continue reading "You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex" Continue reading
Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the brink of death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuba after Fidel Castro: Full of life, but it is life on the
brink of death | Washington Examiner - Continue reading