A brutal high-security prison was the last place Stephen Purvis expected
to end up when he moved to Havana. Stephen Gibbs tells his story
Sunday 19 March 2017 09.00 GMT
If you happened to go to a British embassy reception in Havana in the
early 2000s, you would likely have met Stephen Purvis. You could not
miss him. Six foot four, cropped grey hair, rum in hand, a broad smile
and no shortage of good stories.
Purvis loved Cuba. Escaping what he saw as the risk of a "pre-ordained
suburban middle-class life" in Wimbledon, the architect and his wife
seized the opportunity to move to the island 17 years ago. He had been
offered a job as development director with Coral Capital, an investment
and trading company. It was one of several small foreign firms – almost
all led by maverick, adventurous individuals – that were setting up in
Cuba as the country sought international partners following the collapse
of the Soviet Union. Purvis's job was to look for joint venture
opportunities with the Cuban government. The planned projects included
the first golf course to be constructed there since the 1959 revolution,
and the revamp of a formerly glamorous hotel, the Saratoga.
Speaking to me from Myanmar (more about that later) Purvis recalls his
early Havana years. "It felt like another era," he says. "No internet.
No TV. No shopping." The family adapted well to their new life. Home was
a handsome 1950s villa, soon full with their four children. Saturdays
would be spent by the pool at the beach club. The son of a theatrical
designer, Purvis also dabbled in theatre himself, producing the Cuban
dance show Havana Rakatan, which performed successfully for several
years in London. No one, of course, imagined that those halcyon days
would end so abruptly, with Purvis imprisoned in what he describes as a
"zoo" for enemies of the state. But that is how it turned out. The title
of his powerful memoir, Close but No Cigar, is his own admission of just
how badly life can go wrong.
I last saw Purvis in Havana in 2011, a few weeks before his arrest, at a
New Year's Eve party (I had been the BBC's correspondent in Cuba between
2002 and 2007). The arrival of the New Year is a big deal in Cuba,
partly because it coincides with the anniversary of Fidel Castro's
revolution. Two of President Raúl Castro's daughters were at the event.
By then, the mood among the expats doing business on the island had
notably soured. Many were whispering that this would likely be their
last fin de año in Cuba. All knew someone who had been caught up in a
mysterious but ever-widening series of arrests. Two prominent Canadians,
Sarkis Yacoubian and Cy Tokmakjian, had been detained since the summer.
A well-known Chilean entrepreneur, who used to boast he was a friend of
Fidel Castro, had been convicted in absentia to 20 years in jail. And
Purvis's boss, Amado Fakhre, the British-Lebanese CEO of Coral Capital,
had been imprisoned in October.
"The sense of an impending doom was growing day by day," recalls Purvis.
He says he'd be the first to admit he was "an idiot" not to leave the
country when he still could. But he was convinced he had done nothing wrong.
None of the imprisoned foreigners had at that stage been formally
charged with anything, but the assumption was they were caught up in
Raúl Castro's pledge to root out corruption. The younger Castro had
formally taken over from the ailing Fidel in 2008. In 2009, he
established a comptroller's office, tasked with investigating evidence
of misdeeds among communist party officials, managers and state company
employees. It was turning out to be a never-ending task. Cuban state
salaries are all around $20 a month. To varying degrees, everyone does
something technically illegal to survive. By 2010, hundreds of Cubans,
including ministers and senior executives, had been detained or
dismissed. The net was widening to the foreigners, who were also
breaking the law by paying their employees any bonus on the side, or
even buying them lunch.
Purvis, who admits paying a small pension to one ex-employee, is
convinced that the mass arrests were not in fact about corruption, but
instead the clumsy purge of Fidel Castro's old guard, which was being
replaced with a new (mainly ex-military) clique, allied to Raúl.
On 8 March 2012 they came for him. Shortly after dawn, a fleet of
unmarked Ladas drew up outside his home. The Purvis children were
hastily packed off to school, told by their mother that the commotion
was because "Dad needs to answer some questions about work."
Purvis was taken away, handcuffed, his head forced between his knees, to
an anonymous art deco house close to the airport. There, he was
provisionally charged with being an "enemy of the state". He was advised
not to hire a lawyer and to co-operate immediately. Agreeing to that, he
was then taken to the notorious Cuban state security prison known as
Villa Marista, for what was described, euphemistically, as "further
"The villa", as it is known by Cuban dissidents, is a former Catholic
seminary on the outskirts of Havana. Since 1963 it has been an
interrogation centre, using techniques perfected by the KGB. Eventually,
they say, everyone "sings" at the villa. Purvis believes he and his boss
(who had been transferred to a military hospital by the time his
co-director arrived) are the only Englishmen ever to have been held
there. For months, he became "Prisoner 217". His life was entirely
controlled by a man known as "the instructor". He spent almost every
hour of the day in a cell the size of a double mattress, with three
other inmates (one of whom he believes was a government informant). The
four shared an open latrine.
The appalling conditions were only alleviated by the "psychological
games" of interrogation that took place day and night. Purvis says he
was questioned for hours, often about the details of the lives of other
foreigners on the island. The intent was to get him to inform on anyone
who might have done something illegal, however minor. Purvis says he
refused to do so, probably sparing other expats (some of whom still live
and work in Cuba) a similar fate to his own. He does not deny the
temptation was there. "You can see why in the end people just go, 'Oh
give a dog a bone. Throw them some names just to get out of there,'" he
After months in Villa Marista, he says he felt himself "drifting away".
Sleeping only fitfully, he had constant tinnitus and was losing his
vision. About once a month he says he would hear a suicide attempt
nearby. The strain on his family, allowed to see him for less than half
an hour every week, was enormous. His wife had a breakdown and had to be
hospitalised. Purvis's elderly mother came to Cuba to look after the
children before finally the decision was taken that the family should leave.
In his book, Purvis is scathing about the lack of help the UK foreign
office offered him and his family for much of the ordeal. While one
British ambassador, Dianna Melrose, comes across as exceptionally kind
in the early weeks of his imprisonment, the new embassy team appears to
have shown scant interest in the case. No consular escort was offered to
Purvis's wife and children the day they left Cuba.
You have this warm, fuzzy feeling that HM Government will look after
your back. And then you find it doesn't
"As a British passport holder," he tells me, "you have this sort of
warm, fuzzy feeling that HM Government will look after your back. And
then you find it doesn't." He suspects that someone within the FCO had
made a decision not to "rock the boat" with the Cuban authorities,
focusing instead on what was seen as the bigger prize of a potential
rapprochement between all EU governments and Raúl Castro.
Finally, after the authorities gave up trying to tease information from
him, the enemy of the state charges were dropped and Purvis was moved to
La Condesa, a maximum security prison for foreigners. He describes his
fellow inmates there as a "mixed bunch" of the innocent, as well as
murderers, rapists, drug smugglers and hit men. He overlapped with
multimillionaire Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian, who was earning
respect for his obstreperous approach towards his jailers.
La Condesa may have been less psychologically traumatic than the villa,
but it was brutal. The depravity Purvis vividly describes was in part
aided by a network of corrupt prison guards, bullying prisoners while
profiting from a prostitute ring, supplied from the local village.
Purvis eventually formed his own gang, one made up of "complete losers",
with the sole intent of "preventing unpleasantness".
In June 2013 a trial date was arranged, a process which would ultimately
lead to Purvis's freedom, while convincing him of the farcical nature of
Cuban justice. As the trial was secret he was not shown any evidence
ahead of it, so never had any chance to know what he was being accused
of, or prepare a defence. Instead, in the hours before his closed court
appearance, he was asked by the prosecutor to run through what he might
say to the judge, as a form of dress rehearsal. Purvis was found guilty
of illegal foreign currency transactions. He says all were entirely
routine and had been authorised by the country's central bank. His
sentence was a two-and-a-half-year non-custodial term. He was set free.
The experience, he says, has had a "catastrophic spin-off" to every
aspect of his life. All his assets in Cuba have been lost. The golf
course project he worked on has been taken over by a Chinese company;
construction has not begun. The Saratoga is now considered the best
hotel in Cuba. Madonna celebrated her 58th birthday there last year.
Coral Capital investors are still trying to recover their outlay on the
property. Purvis has no desire to see it again.
After he returned to London he says he became "aggressive and volatile".
Prison habits were hard to shake. He would often ring the Condesa jail
to speak to his friends there. "I needed to wean myself off the
brutality," he says. That, and the lack of alternative options, is one
reason he has chosen to work abroad once more, away from his family but
visiting them in London regularly. A friend helped arrange a new job for
him in Myanmar, where he is overseeing a city redevelopment project.
Purvis says he is "recovered now", and the process of writing this
powerful book, which has been nominated for a Gold Dagger award, has
helped that process. Gone, however, is much of his cheerful optimism. He
is certain the Cuban authorities realise they made a mistake by
imprisoning him. But he expects no apology. And the damage is done.
An extract from Close but No Cigar by Stephen Purvis
I am now in a dimly lit room. The ceiling is made of tiles with a great
section missing, collapsed and never replaced. There are some random
fluorescent strip lights. The capacitor of one is on the blink, so it
clicks on and off. The walls are covered in a dark timber-effect
panelling that is coming off in places. A few derelict brown vinyl sofas
are pushed against one wall and a timber bench screwed to the other. The
air seems to be full of plaster or cement dust. It looks like a
ransacked government building in post-invasion Baghdad. I am sitting on
the bench and the guards slouch on the sofas.
There is a high desk, also in dark timber. Behind it is a big dirty
glass window into some kind of control room. Banks of CCTV screens
flicker in the gloom. A fat old uniform with a row of decorations
waddles out from the back, chewing a cigar. He looks at me briefly and
waves me over. Then he sticks his one hand out in the direction of the
guys that brought me here. No love lost between them, they heave
themselves upright and slap the transfer documents into his hand. He
signs various papers, gives them a receipt and they unlock me. They
leave saying nothing. Fatty coughs, picks his nose and then asks me to
empty my pockets and hand over my watch and shoelaces. I sign a chit for
them but he keeps both copies so maybe it's the last I'll see of my watch.
Then two very young guards in olive fatigues take me off to a side room.
Another boy, earnest yet nervous, is waiting at a desk. Stumbling over
the words he explains that I have to fill in a form. I can feel his fear
of me. They must tell them we are dangerous monsters. Another man enters
and what little confidence the boy has now evaporates.
About my age, he is a handsome man who introduces himself in perfect
American English. He is a major. He asks me about my family. "How do you
think they are coping with the situation?" Is this a genuine question or
some kind of threat? His face gives nothing away. Then he explains the
rules. They are pretty simple. "From now on you have no name. You are
My lucky number.
"When you are out of the cell you walk on the left-hand side with your
head facing down and hands behind your back. You never look at anyone.
At each door or staircase you face the wall until told to proceed. You
will obey the officials. If you do not, you will be punished. If you are
ill, then call for the nurse. You will be fed in your cell three times a
day. Any questions?"
"Can I call my wife?"
"No, we will arrange for her to visit."
"When will the embassy visit?"
"These things take time."
I feel a lump forming in my throat. I concentrate hard not to tear up.
"Can I have something to read?"
'That depends on your instructor. Your instructor decides on your
conditions and safety. This depends on your conduct."
"Do I have a lawyer?"
He laughs. "This also takes a long time. Take my advice, don't wait."
I am then led off to a succession of dingy rooms where I am
fingerprinted, photographed and have blood taken to test for hepatitis,
Aids and TB. Then I am pushed into a musty laundry and told to strip
while they issue me with a second-hand uniform. It's a washed-out
slate-blue number in scratchy nylon. Very me. I get shorts, long
trousers and two shirts with a stinky towel thrown in, plus two sheets
and a pillow case. In a bit of a daze, all sounds scrambled and muffled,
I am prodded along a tiny corridor that feels subterranean.
This place was originally meant to have been a seminary but there is no
sign of any heavenly inspiration now. God has deserted the place and it
is in the hands of the dark side.
This is where captured suspected CIA guys are brought, where purged
officials repent and where all Cubans fear to tread. This is where
American pensioner Alan Gross was interrogated for months on end to try
to prove that he was a spy and not some deluded Jewish activist. This is
their Lubyanka, their Gestapo headquarters. These crude, hulking green
blocks are designed to extract confessions, real or fantasy, and then
mentally cripple the enemies of state. It has a fearsome reputation for
We pop out into a broad corridor. It's the cell block. No time to look
as the rules now kick in, so head down I shuffle along as instructed. I
am pushed into a side room and told to put all my things on top of a
disgustingly filthy, shit-stained, one-inch foam mattress. A pillow
mottled with bloodstains is chucked on the top. I stare at the blood in
disbelief, a wave of despair building inside me. They cannot be serious.
I am told to pick up the entire load and walk down through the gates.
I shuffle along, now almost catatonic. The guard in front has a long
chain looping around him and a huge wobbly rubber baton that bangs
against the wall as he marches. All is silent except for the dripping of
water, the squeaking of the guards' boots and a man sobbing in a cell.
I count 32 doors. I am told to stop
and face the wall while Mr Rubber Baton fumbles with his key chain.
My nose is six inches from the
wall. I read the guards' obscene graffiti, scrawled in childish pencil.
And then the true significance of what has happened hits me. It isn't
going to go away and it isn't going to get better for a long time. The
gate and then the door clang open with a foul rush of stale air,
revealing a tiny cave with three pale faces blinking like moles in the
light. I step into my new life. My dungeon.
Close but No Cigar by Stephen Purvis is out on 23 March, priced £18.99.
To order a copy for £16.14, go to bookshop.theguardian.com
Source: 'From now on you have no name': life in a Cuban jail | Global |
The Guardian -
https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/mar/19/life-in-a-cuban-jail-for-a-british-man Continue reading
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
In his last month in office, former President Barack Obama preempted
what could have been one of President Donald Trump's first actions on
Cuba: he suspended a section of the Helms-Burton Act that allows former
owners of commercial property expropriated by Cuba to sue foreign
companies "trafficking" in those confiscated holdings.
President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which among other
things sets strict conditions that must be met by Cuba before the U.S.
embargo against the island is lifted, in 1996 soon after Cuba shot down
two Brothers to the Rescue planes, resulting in the deaths of four South
But no one has ever filed suit because every U.S. president since has
routinely suspended the lawsuit provision every six months. The fear has
been that letting the lawsuits go forward would alienate important
trading partners such as Canada and EU countries whose citizens have
invested in Cuba. Opponents contend that Section III of Helms-Burton
violates international treaties by attempting to punish foreign
companies for business they conduct outside U.S. borders.
On Jan. 4, former Secretary of State John Kerry notified Congress that
Obama had suspended the lawsuit provision for another six months,
effective Feb. 1. The Trump administration won't be able to take action
on the provision until this summer but it could make other changes in
U.S. policy toward Cuba.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing Friday that a
"full review of all U.S. policies towards Cuba" is under way. "The
president is committed to an agenda of ensuring human rights for all
citizens throughout the world. And as we review those policies in Cuba,
that will be forefront in their policy discussions," Spicer said.
Under Obama, there was a rapprochement with Cuba that included both
countries reopening respective embassies, the signing of 22 agreements
on topics of mutual interest, the resumption of regularly scheduled
commercial airline and cruise service to Cuba, and a limited commercial
and travel opening to the island.
Trump has said variously that he would get a better deal than Obama and
that he might consider shutting down the opening unless Cuba makes
Section III of Helms-Burton was designed to have a chilling effect on
foreign investment in Cuba. If the president doesn't exercise a waiver,
it would allow the preparation of lawsuits in U.S. federal courts
against those using, for example, tourism properties, mining operations
or seaports where there are prior claims.
"There are individuals who maintain they have Title III-actionable
claims relating to Jose Martí International Airport and the port at
Santiago de Cuba," said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade
and Economic Council. "United States-based air carriers and those from
other countries could find their assets attached if they do not avoid
the Republic of Cuba. Passenger cruise ships and cargo ships might avoid
docking and unloading [in Santiago] for fear of expensive and enduring
Cuba is actively courting foreign investors and says it needs foreign
investment of around $2.5 billion a year to reach a goal of 7 percent
annual economic growth. Since Cuba's new foreign investment law went
into effect in 2014, it has only attracted about $1.3 billion in
FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI
Source: Obama suspended lawsuit provision of Helms-Burton Act | Miami
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article131092324.html Continue reading
Some worry whether Donald Trump will preserve President Obama's historic
re-opening of Cuba.
BY CHRISTOPHER ELLIOTT ON 1/14/17 AT 4:10 PM
It seems like every travel organization in the country is out with its
"must visit" list for 2017. What do they say? They're literally all over
the map, but one place gets repeated mentions: Cuba.
The U.S. Tour Operators Association singled out the island nation as the
hottest destination of 2017, while the website for the travel guidebook
Frommer's listed Cuba as one of the best places to go this year. Based
on search data, the airfare website Skyscanner.com named Havana the top
destination of the year. Virtuoso, the travel agency consortium,
includes Havana on its list of "emerging" destinations.
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Readers also told me that the island nation was at the top of their list
"I would love to go to Cuba before it gets ruined by capitalism," wrote
Alicia Nieva-Woodgate, a Denver consultant.
Laurie Fullerton, an author who lives in Marblehead, Mass., feels the
same way. "Unfortunately," she wrote, "the cruise ships are on their way."
Their fears may be well-founded. Anyone who visited Eastern Europe just
after the fall of the Iron Curtain knows how quickly a destination can
go from affordable and interesting to expensive and overcommercialized.
For a year or two, places like Prague or Warsaw were affordable. And
then they were discovered by American tourists, and — poof! — there go
the authenticity and the bargains.
"I hate these sorts of pieces where the media has to arbitrarily
pronounce something is hot," says Doug Lansky, a longtime advocate for
sustainable tourism. "Then people flock there before the place can brace
for crowds or create a strategic plan, it gets overcrowded and
overdeveloped, then people are directed to the next hot spot, leaving
the destination discarded like a nightclub that's no longer trendy."
Lansky cites the example of Jericoacoara, a remote Brazilian fishing
village that, after a guidebook declared it the world's most beautiful
beach, became overrun by tourists.
Other travelers have more immediate concerns.
Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommers.com, notes that Cuba
made her site's list as a last-minute addition. "That was a
'visit-it-while-you-still-can' pick," she said.
Indeed, in the weeks since the election, some travel suppliers have cut
back their Cuba itineraries, anticipating a slump in demand, if not a
complete stop in tourism from the United States. For example, in
December, American Airlines announced that it would cut nearly a quarter
of its flights to Cuba for early 2017, citing weak demand.
The carrier reportedly plans to reduce daily round-trip flights between
the United States and Cuba from 13 to 10, starting in the middle of
February. [Americans can plan 'people-to-people' trips to Cuba, but what
does that mean?]
Mike Weingart, president of Air Land Sea Consultants, a Houston travel
agency, says that while he received "huge requests" for Cuba last year,
the future is uncertain. "Hopefully, the Trump administration will
continue in the good efforts made by the Obama administration," he says.
But until it does, he expects to see more queries than actual bookings.
The American Society of Travel Agents is pushing to keep Cuba open for
tourism, and with good reason. In a poll conducted late last year, 84
percent of its agents reported an uptick in Cuba interest by their
clients in 2016. And 78 percent are predicting even more interest in the
destination this year.
Travel agents don't want to give up the gains made during the past few
There may be an opportunity to open the doors to Cuba permanently.
Earlier this month, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2017 was
introduced in Congress by Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Jim McGovern
(D-Mass.). The bill would repeal restrictions to Cuba.
The country's presence on many of this year's must-visit lists is no
fluke to someone like Anthony Rubenstein, the co-owner of the
Philadelphia-based Havana VIP Tours. Although he's expecting 2017 to be
his best year yet, he's strongly recommending trip-cancellation
insurance for any trip booked after Jan. 20.
"No one knows what Trump will do," Rubenstein says. "But I'm optimistic.
After all, he was interested in building a hotel and golf course there,
and his longtime associates from Starwood, Sheraton and American
Airlines are not going to accept him interfering with their businesses."
Writer and photographer Christopher Baker, who leads motorcycle tours of
"Trump is the big unknown," he says. "He could throw this into reverse.
Consumer advocate Christopher Elliott's latest book is How To Be The
World's Smartest Traveler (National Geographic). You can get real-time
answers to any consumer question on his new forum, elliott.org/forum, or
by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Want to Visit Cuba? Go While You Still Can -
http://europe.newsweek.com/want-visit-cuba-go-while-still-can-542498?rm=eu Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida
Juan Juan Almeida, 29 December 2017– On December 21 a leftist coalition
led by Spain's Podemos party introduced a legislative proposal that
could benefit thousands of Cubans, as well as people of other
nationalities, who are descendants of Spanish citizens born outside of
If approved, the bill submitted to the Chamber of Deputies would grant
Spanish citizenship to descendants of Spaniards who had emigrated.
Spanish law had already made a person whose mother or father were
native-born Spaniards eligible for citizenship. Law 52/2007, also known
as the "Historical Memory Law" or the "Grandchildren's Law" expanded the
opportunity and, within two years and eleven months, some 446,277 people
had acquired citizenship under the law. 95.2% of them were from Latin
America, with more than half of the applications made through Spanish
consulates in Cuba and Argentina.
If approved, this legislation will greatly expand the number of
descendants eligible for Spanish citizenship. It would allow the mother
country to legally recognize, among others, grandchildren of Spanish
women born in Spain and married to a Spaniard before the adoption of the
1978 Spanish constitution and children of those who obtained citizenship
through Law 52/2007.
"Thousands of legislative proposals are made by various parliamentary
factions and not even 10% of them manage to get the necessary support in
the Spanish parliament. The Podemos proposal does not have this
support," says a source within the ruling party.
However, the proposal by the leftists comes at a significant as well as
opportune moment for thousands of Cubans of Spanish descent who were not
covered by the Historical Memory Law.
The year 2016, which is quickly coming to an end, was an important year
for the Cuban government. In terms of marketing, it was excellent.
President Barack Obama's visit at the end of March aroused people's hope
for a change. With the resumption of relations, they watched high-level
US officials parade through the Havana airport. The Old World's interest
in strengthening political-economic dialogue with the island culminated
in the repeal of the the EU's "Common Position" towards Cuba. And the
visit to Cuba by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan was the first by a
head of government from that country.
But in spite of all the publicity and the VIP visitors, the Cuban
people's prospects for development are obsolete and the arrival of much
anticipated changes is nowhere in sight.
This legislation would encourage many Cubans to look for an alternative
emigration route in light of the still ambiguous outlook for relations
between the United States and Cuba.
I personally am unaware how this law in the land of Serrano ham would
work. But I do know that, today, Spain is not prepared to handle an
influx of 100,000 new citizens, who will surely arrive seeking assistance.
Source: Legislative Proposal Would Grant Spanish Citizenship to More
Cubans / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/legislative-proposal-would-grant-spanish-citizenship-to-more-cubans-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
By Silvio Canto, Jr.
December 29, 2016
For 10 years, Raúl has benefited a lot from having Fidel around. Fidel
always showed up at the big celebrations or wrote a column.
Forget that. It won't be pretty in 2017, as we see in this report from
Castro must manage these twin economic and diplomatic challenges during
a year of transition. The 85-year-old general has promised to hand over
the office in early 2018 to a successor, widely expected to be Miguel
Diaz-Canel, a 56-year-old official with neither the Castro name nor
revolutionary credentials. The change will occur without Castro's older
brother Fidel, the revolutionary leader whose largely unseen presence
endowed the system he created with historical weight and credibility in
the eyes of many Cubans before he died last month at 90.
"Even if those two events hadn't taken place -- Trump's victory and
Fidel's death -- 2017 was going to be a very difficult year for Cuba,"
said Cuban economist Omar Everleny Perez, a visiting professor at Keio
University in Tokyo.
Cuba publishes few credible economic statistics, but experts expect the
country to end this year with gross domestic product growth of 1 percent
or less. It maintained a rate close to 3 percent from 2011-2015.
By the way, it's nice to see an analyst admit that Cuba produces very
little credible economic data. This is why so many have been skeptical
of health care or literacy gains boasted by Cuba.
Back to the economy.
Indeed, there are tourists, but it does not seem to help the Cuban
economy. This is because Cubans have very little to gain from these
hotels and restaurants where tourists are spending their dollars.
Add to this the mismanagement of Cuba's economy, and you have profits
that end up in the Castro accounts rather than the pockets of the Cuban
We are not saying this is new. Cuba has always been for the benefit of
Castro and the gang that protects him. However, this is the first time
that they are going to do without a USSR subsidy, EU loans, cheap
Venezuela oil, or a U.S. president willing to go around the embargo.
It will be Raúl vs. reality in 2017, and the Cuban elites don't have a
clue of what will hit them. There is no one waiting to bail them out
Source: Blog: 2017: 'Muy malo' for Cuba -
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/12/2017_muy_malo_for_cuba.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 21 December 2016 – Walking around
the block with a suitcase in hand has been added to the rituals to mark
the end of the year, as a plea to be able to travel outside the country.
Many Cubans fear, however, that the situation is becoming complicated
with the pending arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.
The president-elect of the United States has been so contradictory in
his declarations about Cuba that no one knows what will happen between
the two countries when he is installed in the Oval Office. Cubans on the
island seem less concerned about a possible setback in the diplomatic
thaw, than about the loss of their immigration privileges.
The debate over the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which awards
benefits to migrant Cubans arriving in the United States, could put an
end to the dreams of many in the new year. Foreign consulates in Havana,
especially those of Latin American and European countries, have seen a
surge in visa applications.
"We are overworked," the custodian of the Mexican consulate site in the
Miramar neighborhood told 14ymedio. Outside the building, Roberto, who
prefers not to give his last name, managed to get a temporary visa to
travel to the land of the Aztecs. This Thursday he will fly to Cancun,
the cheapest flight between the two countries. "I'm working against the
clock," he says, while finishing the bureaucratic paperwork before the
Roberto has a long journey ahead of him, plagued with obstacles and
dangers to reach the US border, but he feels confident. "My brother who
lives in Miami is going to help me and pay for the whole trip," he
explains. "It will be much more expensive, but I have to get there
before January 20th," he says.
Trump's inauguration date has become the goal in a marathon race for
thousands of Cubans. People who in recent months have liquidated their
possessions, managed to get a visa and are preparing to leave.
Most consulates close their doors at the end of December for the
Christmas holidays, an element that contributes to the desperation.
Departures by raft have also increased. The US Coast Guard recently
reported that since last October 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year,
around 1,000 Cubans have tried to enter the US illegally by sea. For
fiscal year 2016, which ended on 30 September, the figure reached 7,411,
compared to 4,473 for the same period in 2015.
With this exceptional winter, without cold and with an ocean free of
hurricanes, many Cubans embark on the route to Florida in makeshift
crafts. Raul Castro's government has redoubled its vigilance along the
coast lately, but the rafters choose to leave from remote places, among
the mangroves or the rocks.
"I don't know if Trump will be good for us or not, but I'm not going to
stay here to find out," says Yusmila Arcina, who worked as an accountant
for a state company until she decided to "make the leap." The young
woman considers herself fortunate, in part, for having obtained a work
visa for the Schengen Area (a free movement zone made up of most of the
EU countries and others in the area). From Europe, where she expects it
will be easier, she hopes to get a tourist visa to travel to the US,
using the old continent as a springboard to realize her "American Dream."
"Yes or no, we have to take advantage now," suggests the young women,
who has no family in the United States. Arcina has paid for the
paperwork and a plane ticket in the high season, which cost her around
2,000 Convertible Cuban pesos (roughly the same in dollars), with the
sale of a mid 20th century Cadillac that belonged to her father. "That
car has been my ticket to freedom," she jokes.
Arcina's boyfriend is stranded in Colombia waiting to take the route
through the Darien Gap. The challenge for both of them is to reach US
territory "before that millionaire gets into office." Both hope "to
watch the inauguration ceremony on local TV in Miami," says Arcina.
Trump has fired the starting gun, and each one, on their own side, has
embarked on their migration journey.
Source: On Your Marks, Get Set…Trump / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/on-your-marks-get-set-trump-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/ Continue reading
The Council of the Union European (EU) is lying when it says that the agreement signed with the dictatorship of Raúl Castro in Brussels on 12 December, which put an end to the Common Position adopted in 1996, aims to "strengthen democracy and respect for human rights" in Cuba, as alleged by the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica MogheriniContinue reading
ELENA LARRINAGA | Madrid | 14 de Diciembre de 2016 - 12:47 CET.
Yesterday European Union/Cuba Bilateral Agreement was signed, though it
still must be ratified by the European Union and the parliaments of its
member states. Personally, I cannot support signing it, due to both its
symbolism and its contents. A democratic institution supporting a
dictatorship makes no sense. What does this mean, then? It is, above
all, a symbol.
The Common Position did not prevent commercial transactions with Cuba,
nor constrain bilateral agreements between the Island and the countries
of the European Union. Its importance stemmed from its united stance in
favor of Cuban democrats, and its rejection of a single-party political
system that has been trampling the rights of the Cuban people for over
half a century. It meant a legitimation of the Cuban opposition, to the
detriment of the Government's positions. But this situation has,
supposedly, changed. Why?
The High Commissioner of the Union European has announced that Cuba has
changed. Does Ms. Mogherini really believe that Cuba has implemented the
structural changes essential for the country to merit the friendship and
assistance of international bodies? The rhetoric coming out of Havana
The European Union and all its citizens desire to help the Cuban people
recover what they have every right to: their sovereignty and freedom.
The differences are procedural. But let us get the diagnosis right, to
keep from applying the wrong cure.
And let us hope that, once again, we are not guilty of wishful thinking,
lest we suffer a rude awakening by confusing what we would like to see
Source: EU-Cuba Agreement: Wishful Thinking? | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1481716067_27413.html Continue reading
Yesterday European Union/Cuba Bilateral Agreement was signed, though it still must be ratified by the European Union and the parliaments of its member states. Personally, I cannot support signing it, due to both its symbolism and its contents. A democratic institution supporting a dictatorship makes no sense. What does this mean, then? It is, above all, a symbol.Continue reading
The country had been the only Latin American state not to have a
'dialogue and co-operation' deal with the bloc.
BY JOSH LOWE ON 12/13/16 AT 1:08 PM
The European Union has ended a 20-year block on diplomatic relations
with Cuba following the death of Fidel Castro.
European Commission officials have agreed to drop a policy, in place
since 1996, that said Cuba must first improve its human rights standards
before co-operating more closely with the EU.
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The country had been the only Latin American state not to have a
"dialogue and co-operation" deal with the EU.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, European Union foreign
affairs chief Federica Mogherini and representatives from the 28 EU
member states signed the agreement at a Brussels ceremony.
The EU imposed sanctions on Cuba in 2003 and reopened discussions in 2008.
Parrilla said the agreement "demonstrates that with goodwill and respect
it is possible to make progress and resolve differences," France 24
Source: EU Unfreezes Cuba Relations After Fidel Castro's Death -
http://europe.newsweek.com/eu-cuba-deal-relations-freeze-diplomacy-531290 Continue reading