by Susan Young | Mar 15, 2017 9:32am
"Demand for cruising in the last 10 years has increased 62
percent," Cindy D'Aoust, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International
Association (CLIA), told thousands attending the Seatrade Cruise Global
conference's "State of the Industry" general session at Port Everglades,
FL, on Tuesday.
Some 25.3 million ocean passengers will sail on CLIA lines in 2016, she
said, noting that more than $50 billion in new cruise ship orders are on
the books right now. That's twice as many new ship orders than what the
industry had a decade ago, emphasized D'Aoust.
What's Driving Business?
The four major cruise company executives then sat for a "State of the
Industry" discussion with reporter Susan Li of MSNBC, the session's
moderator. "What's driving business?" she asked.
"All of us have great experiences onboard our very differentiated
brands," said Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival
Corporation. "People love cruising, they see it as a great value and
they can't stop talking about it to all their friends and relatives and
we all do a reasonably good job of now promoting [the experience]."
"Customers are happy, the economy is doing well and we've had the Trump
effect," said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line
Holdings,who said the stock market is at an all time high.
Dio Rio continued: "We haven't had any external shocks to the system, so
all systems are go and I think all of us are seeing that in bookings and
pricing. It's going to be a good year."
Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises, focused on the
ability of cruising to give people the freedom to travel -- to go to
places in the world they might not go to on land.
Vago said the cruise industry's focus on safety and security makes them
feel cocooned and confident to travel: "Customers think, 'I can visit
that part of the world and I can do it in a safe mode. I can explore,
and I can 'touch' places."
From the perspective of Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean
Cruises Ltd.: "For a long time, we've really been expecting this – [a
strong surge in demand for cruise vacations] -- and in the last few
years, we've had a lot of things that retarded this, but all of a
sudden, I think the understanding of what a cruise offers, seems to have
He said it's almost as though someone released it from a bag. "We're
seeing it in the United States, which is a tremendous market because of
consumer confidence and the economy doing well," said Fain, but added
"actually we're [also] seeing it in Europe and Asia is just exploding."
Donald added that part of the burgeoning demand is because "we've
invested a lot to create demand." He said there's "no big correlation
between economic growth and demand. One factor? The industry is all over
the world, so it has the ability to weather any recession that hits one
region or economy.
The Trump Effect
What about the Trump effect? Li asked. "What about policies that U.S.
President Donald J. Trump's administration may take that could have an
effect on corporations, such as border taxes, corporate taxes that may
"It's too early to tell," said Donald. "We just have to wait to see what
the taxes are." He said his company pays taxes everywhere in the world
and operates in lots of political environments…so the industry
just has to wait for specifics of any policy changes.
Donald noted that the cruise industry pays lots of taxes that other
industries don't pay, and in some cases, there are taxes the industry
Vago emphasized that it wasn't Washington as much as Brussels [the
European Union] that was impacting the cruise industry. "From the
regulatory side, Brussels sometimes is certainly more the driver for our
industry," Vago stressed.
"One of the things that is very heartening to me…is that people do
understand the economic benefit that we all contribute to the local
society," Fain said, pointing to CLIA's release of annual numbers and a
thorough economic analysis that show the local economic impact in jobs
and other factors.
For example, Fain noted that CLIA's recent numbers show the cruise
industry is responsible for 350,000 jobs, just in the United States, and
there are many more across the globe.
"When you have that kind of economic impact, governments tend to want to
help [the industry involved]," Fain said. "While nobody can predict the
future, we have some really good reasons to believe that maybe we're not
as vulnerable than some."
Del Rio said "most businesses today recognize that the Trump
administration is a pro-business government and we're all going to
benefit from a basket of initiatives, whether it's infrastructure,
whether it's less regulations, tax reform that could put more money in
consumers' pockets, and that's good for all businesses."
Today, the industry carries 25 million people across all social/economic
levels, Deo Rio noted: "So everyone is going to benefit if it's true
that these kind of initiatives come to fruition."
"I agree we have to wait and see," he added, "but at least we're talking
about the right things and that puts a bounce in everybody's step, and
has triggered the Trump Effect."
He said the stock market is up nearly 13 percent since the beginning of
the year "and that's...great for business."
But What About Cuba?
Del Rio, a Cuban American who emigrated to the U.S. when he was seven,
is now head of a company that sails to Cuba and has publicly expressed
his delight at that development. All three of his line's brands are
sailing there this year.
So Li asked Del Rio about President Trump's potential "revisiting" of
the Cuba situation – with the potential for Trump to roll back existing
policies put in place by former President Obama allowing the cruise
industry to begin service.
"Let's hope he revisits it in a positive way," said Del Rio. "I'm all
for lifting the embargo. It's been a failed policy for 57 [or so]
years." He said that after that time frame, "you'd think someone wants
to try something new."
Del Rio continued: I salute President Obama for starting that process.
All of us are going to Cuba or have already gone. It's a major market
that could develop over time."
He noted that "Cuba has infrastructure limitations today but certainly
Cuba can be a major force in the cruise business for years to come, and
I hope the administration sees that potential. They are business oriented."
As for discussing the issue, "I think it's in the best interest always
to just bring people together," said Donald. "Who knows what the
administration is going to come up with. I have no particular insight on
Donald said that as long as the Cuba policy that impacts cruise travel
isn't rolled back, "we'll continue to forge forward." He agreed with Del
Rio that the embargo being lifted would be the best policy for Americans
and for the Cuban people.
"But the powers that be will discuss that," Donald stressed. "We're just
privileged and honored to be able to sail there."
He said Cuba is a beautiful country with beautiful people and "so many
Americans want to go there."
Fain found it interesting that the cruise industry is so much in the
center of the discussion about Cuba, and says it demonstrates the
industry's advantage: "Nobody's talking about, 'oh, this is great for
the hotel industry.' Nobody is talking about, 'oh, this is great for the
Cruising offers an opportunity to visit ports of call or places that
would be a little more difficult to visit, said Fain. Even though Cuba
is a fairly insignificant part of any cruise line's business right now,
"I think it says something about one of the great attributes of
cruising, which is that we bring that infrastructure with us."
Li asked if the administration would opt to label China a currency
manipulator, what effect that would have? Doesn't that hurt businesses
that do business in China?
"China one day – it's inevitable -- will be the largest cruise market in
the world," said Donald. Probably, larger than the entire cruise
industry is today and it's just sheer numbers of people."
He added that the China market will take a long time to develop, the
industry has to build ships to serve it, and there isn't enough shipyard
capacity to make it happen in a short time frame.
"But for us again, we're in the business of travel and we can connect
people," said Donald, adding that currency manipulation as a topic for
cruise leaders to weigh in on, "is kind of beyond us."
Vago emphasized that "our assets are movable," referring to the ability
of ships to be moved to markets, based on global conditions. "The world
is the oyster," he said, pointing to the industry's three percent market
penetration, which reveals great potential.
Whether executives are talking about China or Cuba, Vago said it's
important to remember that the cruise industry's assets can move as
needed. Still, he's excited about the potential for those markets and
others across the globe.
Source: State of the Cruise Industry: Trump Effect, Cuba and More |
Travel Agent Central -
http://www.travelagentcentral.com/cruises/state-cruise-industry-trump-effect-cuba-and-more Continue reading
14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo
Payá "Freedom and Life" Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after
the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the
guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President
Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.
Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to
travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event
called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by
Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá,
which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a "provocation."
Around Payá's house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police
operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists
from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security
agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any
dissident or independent journalists who approached.
Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been "out of service" in the
afternoon although "in the morning it worked." The ceremony was attended
by seven activists who had spent the night in the house "plus another 20
people who where able to reach it," said the dissident. Among them was
the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba,
Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the
Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of
repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the
Foreign Ministry." She condemned the reprisals "suffered by civil
society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in
many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes."
All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island "were
invited," Payá told this newspaper. "There are some with whom we have
lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is
happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn't
"We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a
reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of
American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in
the European Union," said Rosa María Payá.
Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba's approach to
Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country's achievements
in science, health and education.
The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of
Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island
Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the
Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the
matter as "a grave international provocation against the Cuban
government," with the aim of "generating internal instability" and
affecting Cuba's diplomatic relations with other countries.
According to this note, the act was created "by an illegal anti-Cuban
group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the
repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of
politicians and foreign institutions."
The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the
international guests. "The chairs will remain empty" until the awardees
"can land in Havana" to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María
Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or
arrested on the road.
Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto
were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried
to board a flight towards the capital.
Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press
Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being
able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according
to his father.
Havana's decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS
was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether
Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to
fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities
yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right
of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.
"To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin
America will also gain stability," said the opposition leader, who hoped
that "today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights
and freedom in Cuba."
She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to "speak out against
anyone," but instead to put itself "on the side of all Cuban citizens in
their right to begin a transition process."
Source: Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio,
EFE – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/oswaldo-paya-award-ceremony-is-absent-the-winners-14ymedio-efe/ Continue reading
January 28, 2017 8:00 am • By Agriculture Coalition(0) Comments
On behalf of the undersigned U.S. agriculture, trade, commerce related
businesses and associations, we urge you to continue to show your
support for American agriculture by advancing the relationship between
the U.S. and Cuba and building on the progress that has already been made.
Net farm income is down 46 percent from just three years ago,
constituting the largest three-year drop since the start of the Great
Depression. This strain on the farm economy is felt across all sectors
of the industry and the thousands of small communities that make up
The importance of trade to America's farmers and ranchers cannot be
overstated. The share of U.S. agricultural production exported overseas
is 20 percent by volume, with some sectors being much higher. For
example, exports account for over 70 percent of U.S. production of tree
nuts and cotton, over 60 percent of soybeans and over 50 percent of rice
and wheat. Positive farm income throughout America would not be possible
without increasing access to foreign markets, like Cuba.
Mr. President-elect, as an international business icon, you understand
how difficult it is to be competitive without the ability to extend
credit to your customers. We need the administration's support for
legislation that would remove these arbitrary and archaic restrictions
on extending credit for the purchase of agricultural commodities and
Your support in removing outdated financing and trade barriers for
exporting agricultural products and equipment to our island neighbor
could significantly strengthen a U.S. industry which supports 17 million
jobs across the country, and can provide the Cuban people with
high-quality American-grown food.
Cuba imports nearly 80 percent of its food to feed a population of 11
million people and upwards of 3 million tourists annually. Cuba's $2
billion agriculture import market could provide tremendous benefits for
farmers across the country and help American agribusiness offset recent
In addition to the size of the Cuban market, its proximity to U.S. ports
allows for considerably lower shipping costs and shorter delivery times
than our foreign competitors. The logistical advantages alone should
make Cuba a common-sense partner for two-way commerce.
Instead, the federal government overreach has put American farmers at a
global disadvantage. U.S. agriculture continues to lose out to our
foreign competitors and our net sales have been steadily declining since
As a result of trade restrictions, the U.S. has fallen from its position
as the No. 1 supplier of agricultural products from 2003 to 2012, to now
the No. 5 supplier after the European Union, Brazil, Argentina and
Vietnam. The U.S. needs to be No. 1 again. Especially given many of
Cuba's imports, including rice, poultry, dairy, soy, wheat and corn,
make up more than 70 percent of what they import and they're all grown
right here in the U.S. by hardworking American farmers.
As a broad cross-section of rural America, we urge you not to take steps
to reverse progress made in normalizing relations with Cuba, and also
solicit your support for the agricultural business sector to expand
trade with Cuba to help American farmers and our associated industries.
It's time to put the 17 million American jobs associated with
agriculture ahead of a few hardline politicians in Washington.
We look forward to working closely with you and your team, and please
let us know if we can provide any assistance moving forward.
These comments are from a letter sent to President-elect Donald Trump by
a coalition of more than 100 U.S. organizations representing farmers and
agribusinesses. Full text of the letter is at http://bit.ly/2jFK3OL.
Source: Ag to Trump: Help trade with Cuba -
http://www.illinoisfarmertoday.com/news/opinion/ag-to-trump-help-trade-with-cuba/article_08c3d7b4-e3e5-11e6-a2b1-c7176da100df.html Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2017 — A spring rainstorm with light gusts of
wind fell over metropolitan Havana on Sunday, March 20th, when at 4:30
PM Air Force One landed at the first terminal of the José Martí
International Airport carrying President Barack Obama to one of the
final redoubts of communism in the world.
While a Secret Service agent opened Obama's umbrella at the foot of the
airplane stairs as he greeted Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez,
two hours earlier in Miramar, west of Havana, State security agents had
fiercely repressed a group of forty women and two dozen men who were
demanding democracy and freedom for political prisoners.
The dissident movement Ladies in White was instrumental in the
olive-green autocracy's calculated political reforms before the
Raúl Castro, hand-picked for the presidency in the summer of 2006 by his
brother Fidel, took the brunt of the escalating violence, and in three
way negotiations with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos
and the National Catholic Church in 2010, he freed 75 dissidents and
sent the majority into exile.
Castro II changed the rules of the game. The repressive modus operandi
of the regime began using brief detentions and returned, in a worrisome
way, to beatings, death threats, and verbal attacks on its opposition.
The afternoon that The Beast rolled into Old Havana, where Obama ate
dinner with his family in a private restaurant, the regime sent a
message back to Washington: the reforms — if they can be called reforms
— would be made at the convenience of the Palace of the Revolution, not
the White House.
On December 17, 2014, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama decided to
reestablish diplomatic relations and to turn around the anachronistic
policies of the Cold War.
The strategy of Obama proved indecipherable to the Taliban of Castroism.
He did not threaten to deploy gunboats nor subvert the state of affairs.
In his memorable speech at the Grand Theater of Havana on the 22nd of
March, he simply offered things that the majority of Cubans desire, and
of course did not renounce the doctrines that sustain American
democracy, of supporting private businesses and political rights.
Obama said what he thought looking into the eyes of Raúl Castro,
squatted in an armchair on the second balcony of the theater and
surrounded by the military junta that has administered Cuba for almost
The 48 hours of his visit shook Havana. Neither the strong security
measures nor the Communist Party's strategy for minimizing the impact of
Obama's speech prevented the spontaneous reception of the people of
Havana that greeted the president wherever Cadillac One passed.
But official reactions to the visit were not long in coming. Fidel
Castro, retired from power, sick and waiting for death in his
residential complex of Punto Cero, opined that Obama's outstretched hand
was poisoned candy.
The propaganda machinery of the regime began to corrode, and some signs
of economic backlash against intermediaries and private sellers of
agriculture products, which began in early January, were reinforced in
the following months.
Obama's visit entrenched the hard-core of the island's totalitarianism.
The gang closed ranks, they returned to the spent Soviet language, and
began to render to Castro I a cult of personality modeled on a North
It was assumed that the arrival of the president to Havana would be the
event of 2016 in Cuba, but at 10 PM on the night of November 25th,
according to the government, Fidel Castro died.
His death was no surprise. With 90 years and various ailments, the death
of the ex-guerilla was imminent. For better or for worse, he placed Cuba
on the world political map, confronting it with strategies of subversion
against the United States.
His revolution was more political than economic. He could never erect a
robust economy, and the architecture and textile factories during his
extensive rule, only produced things of shoddy and bad taste. Any
reasonable person should analyze the benefits and prejudices of the
regime of Fidel Castro. Sovereignty powered by cheap nationalism.
Division of families. Polarization of society. Relentless with its
enemies and local opposition.
Agriculture declined, he buried the sugar industry and it is difficult
to find any economic, sports or social sector that has not gone
downhill. There was no political honesty in recognizing his failures. On
the contrary, the regime entrenched itself in what it knows best: odes,
panegyrics and trying to enshrine its absurdities in gothic lettering.
And then, 2016 was the year of Raul Castro's diplomatic apparatus, the
most outstanding in his decade as president of the republic. In the last
five years he has reaped success. The secret negotiations for the
reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba. The
intermediation of peace in Colombia, with the Roman Catholic Church and
the Russian Orthodox Church. The cancellation of financial debts and
negotiation of a new deal with the Paris Club. And he even managed to
blow up the Common Position of the European Union. Unobjectionable
triumphs of Castro's advisers in international relations.
But those same advisers misjudged their strategy against the United
States. Like the American media and pollsters, they failed to discern
the Donald Trump phenomenon. They may now regret that they have not made
enough progress during Obama's term.
Trump is unpredictable. He repeals the agreements reached with the
United States saying he will make a better one. But something is clear
to the regime. To negotiate benefits you have to make concessions. No
In 2016 there was much more. Mick Jagger unfolded his unusual physical
energy in a mega-concert, scenes of the movie Fast and Furious were
filmed in Cuba, and almost every day a celebrity landed in Havana.
In May, Chanel offered a haute couture show in the Paseo del Prado in a
country where the majority of inhabitants earn $25 a month and not
everyone can see Chanel models in fashion magazines.
Cruises began arriving from Miami as did regular flights from the United
States. There were more than 1,200 cultural and academic exchanges, and
the visits by weighty figures of both governments have been numerous.
The meetings and negotiations have been constant; as constant as the
repression. According to the National Commission of Human Rights and
Reconciliation, in the month of November there were 359 arbitrary
detentions of dissidents, activists, and independent journalists.
The détente is not about to land on the Cuban table. Markets continue to
be out of stock, two meals a day is still a luxury, and one hour of
surfing the internet is equivalent to the wages of a day and a half of
work by a professional.
The year 2017 will be a key year. Barack Obama, the conciliator, will
not be in the White House, and in Cuba the old leader Fidel Castro will
not be there either.
Source: Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-2016-the-visit-of-barack-obama-and-death-of-fidel-castro-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2017 at 3:38 PM
"With less than one week until the Trump administration takes the reins,
it's important that the agricultural community voices its support for
policies that will allow us to sell our crops and products in a free and
open market," Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA
Rice, said. "Trade with Cuba is not just a priority for U.S. rice but
the dozens of other organizations and businesses that represent nearly
every sector of our vital industry that signed-on in support of reduced
trade and financing barriers for agricultural commodities."
By Peter Bachmann / USA Rice Federation
USA Rice, along with more than 100 state and national
agriculture-related organizations and agribusinesses sent a letter to
President-elect Trump and his team asking his administration to
prioritize the removal of private financing and trade barriers for
agricultural commodities and equipment.
"With less than one week until the Trump administration takes the reins,
it's important that the agricultural community voices its support for
policies that will allow us to sell our crops and products in a free and
open market," Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for USA
Rice, said. "Trade with Cuba is not just a priority for U.S. rice but
the dozens of other organizations and businesses that represent nearly
every sector of our vital industry that signed-on in support of reduced
trade and financing barriers for agricultural commodities."
While the needed fixes fall under the jurisdiction of Congress, the
letter asks the administration to consider "progress made in normalizing
relations with Cuba, and also solicit the administration's support for
the agricultural business sector to expand trade with Cuba to help
American farmers and our associated industries.
The groups highlighted the fall of the U.S. as Cuba's go-to for food,
"The U.S. has fallen from its position as the number one supplier of
agricultural products from 2003 to 2012, to now the number five supplier
after the European Union, Brazil, Argentina and Vietnam. The U.S. needs
to be number one again. Especially given many of Cuba's imports,
including rice, poultry, dairy, soy, wheat and corn make up more than 70
percent of what they import and they're all grown right here in the U.S.
by hardworking American farmers," Mosely explained.
The letter was organized in part by USA Rice and the dozens of state
agriculture organizations and businesses that make up Engage Cuba's
state councils for Cuba.
Source: USA Rice Federation, more than 100 others push for ag trade with
http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/news/20170116/usa-rice-federation-more-than-100-others-push-for-ag-trade-with-cuba Continue reading
14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2016 – Last year closed with a balance of
almost 1,000 more arbitrary arrests than in 2015, according to data from
the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, which on
Wednesday issued its annual report on the situation on the island.
In 2016, there was a total of 9,351 arbitrary arrests, 5,383 against
women and 3,968 against men. A year earlier, there were 8,314 acts of
Most of these arrests were "made by the political police to prevent the
exercise of the rights of association, assembly and peaceful
demonstration," the entity says.
Organizations most affected have been UNPACU (with 138 detainees, 70
raided homes and 48 members currently in prison) and the Ladies in
White, who have suffered harassment by the authorities every Sunday
since they started street demonstrations almost two years ago.
The Observatory also cites the cases of two activists whose legal
situation at the moment is delicate. One of them is Eduardo Cardet,
national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL),
arrested on November 30 and for whom the prosecutor is requesting up
to 3 years in prison for the alleged crime of "undermining the
authority." Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), has been in
prison since late November for a graffiti farewell to Fidel Castro – Se
fue (He's gone) – and his family knows very little about the details of
In addition to the opposition organizations or prominent members of the
anti-Castro activism, the Observatory notes that there has been an
extension of the repression of civil society, as, for example, against
the Convivencia (Coexistence) project in Pinar del Rio, led by Dagoberto
The current Law of Associations regulates the make up of these entities,
the report says, but independent organizations claim that in practice
they are not allowed to exercise their rights and there is no
recognition of their legal status by the State. "In addition to these
legal impediments, the political police 'monitors,' that is they talk,
spy, threaten, repress and try to infiltrate every group," it added.
The report describes the general situation of Cuba's civil rights,
noting that there has been no positive change despite the normalization
of relations with Washington, initiated more than two years ago, and the
rapprochement – "voluntary and with the acquiescence of the government"
– with the European Union, which signed a new bilateral agreement with
Cuba on December 12.
"We cannot assess the Cuban situation and the effectiveness of
international changes related to Cuba, from a perspective that does not
take into account the exercise of rights and freedoms," reflects the
The Observatory notes that there are still no elections nor political
pluralism and that the year has ended without a new Electoral Law,
repeatedly promised by the powers-that-be.
The economic conditions on the island continue to be negative the
organization stresses, and although official propaganda calls for
support for the self-employed sector, there have been withdrawals of
licenses from several private workers "for making use of the citizen's
right to publicly disagree with the Cuban regime."
The report adds that workers' rights are permanently violated because
workers cannot freely choose their employment or be remunerated
according to their social contribution, which pushes them to the illegal
market. Discrimination against Cuban workers is also addressed,
recalling the case of the workers from India who worked on the Manzana
de Gomez Hotel in Havana, at salaries of 1,400 to 1,600 dollars, while
Cuban workers were receiving less than 100 dollars.
"In the last six years, the Cuban government […] has announced more
repressive and disciplinary measures in the workplace under a model that
aims to maintain the essence of the system: collectivism, state
ownership of the means of production, planning, centralization of
decisions and the prohibition of individual accumulation of wealth," it
adds. In addition, in early 2011 the Government launched a plan to lay
off 1,300,000 state employees.
The text also refers to discrimination against organizations of
vulnerable groups such as LGTBI or racial diversity, since they cannot
defend the rights of their members, being outside of officialdom.
"The only solution to the problem of all Cubans is a comprehensive
reform, that is, constitutional and legal changes that cover all spheres
of social life [and are accompanied by] public policies that respond to
the huge problems […] of the poorest and most destitute, which are the
immense majority of citizens," the report close
Source: Arbitrary Arrests Rose And Repression Spread To Civil Society In
2016 / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/arbitrary-arrests-rose-and-repression-spread-to-civil-society-in-2016-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Rafael Leon Rodriguez, 30 December 2016 — One more year of the young
third millennium is about to conclude and give way to the next, 2017,
the fifty-eighth of the totalitarian and one-party regime that, under
the omnipotent power of the Castros, has controlled the Cuban
archipelago since the middle of the last century.
This year, which is now over, has witnessed important and hopeful
political events on the islands, framed fundamentally in the real
opportunity of an opening towards a new, prosperous and plural state of law.
The visit to Havana of the President of the United States of America,
Barack Obama, last March, certified the political will of the head of
the US executive branch of government to accompany us in this essential
and urgent task.
The European Union, for its part, recently concluded an agreement with
Cuba to try to leave behind the so-called Common Position and to make
viable other political openings.
The refusal of the Cuban authorities to take positive steps in terms of
civil and political rights of citizens — that promote their plural
participation in the political and economic development of society — has
stopped the start of this process of democratic opportunities.
The other significant event of the year that will soon end was the
physical disappearance of Fidel Castro. The fall of the founder of the
dictatorial regime began, actually, ten years ago, in July of 2006 when,
due to health problems, he was forced to hand over power to his brother
Raúl. This transit towards the end, announced in some way, concluded
But in our opinion, all this recent history must be analyzed and
projected in the future, which obviously does not imply erasing
historical memory. Cuba and the Cubans deserve a better present and a
However, so far, the authorities are reluctant to take steps in the
direction of respect for civil liberties and the human rights of
society. Worse still, they have increased repression and harassment of
peaceful opponents and open dissent. This reality, coupled with the
uncertainty caused by statements by the US President-elect Mr. Donald
Trump on migratory issues, which may have some effect on certain
modifications to the Cuban Adjustment Act, have once again triggered a
citizen exodus in all directions.
The country's economic scenario also remains stressed, a victim of lack
of productivity and government contradictions. Right now, President Raúl
Castro informed the National Assembly that we are in an "economic
recession." The nation's GDP decreased 0.9% in 2016.
The historical dependence of specific countries, as for example in
recent times to Venezuela, paralyzes us when they suffer adverse
situations. In these December declarations to Parliament, the president
also assured us that Cuba would not return to the
capitalism. Nevertheless, he called for work to boost foreign investment.
That is: the investment of foreign capitalists in Cuba. Then: capitalism
in Cuba, but not of Cubans. Is not this a contradiction and an
absurdity? In essence we continue to live under the effects of a
systemic crisis that, of course, will only be resolved when the
prevailing system changes. A system that has already provided evidence
that proves that it has not been successful in those Western countries
where they have implemented it. And we belong to that part of the world:
the Western Hemisphere.
In recent years, Cuban institutions dealing with statistical issues have
been warning of the accelerated aging of the population. And even, they
warn about the decrease of the population, saying that we will never
reach 12 million people. False. We are already more than that, scattered
all over the world. Therefore, we must begin by recovering them through
a necessary new law.
One Constitution that we contemplate recognizes all of us, through dual
citizenship, with rights and duties as equals, without privileges of
individuals, groups or classes. Beginning a process of democratization
involving all the children of the Cuban nation and based on the United
Nations Human Rights Covenants, which have been signed by the Cuban
authorities and now are only awaiting ratification and implementation.
Then and only then, we will leave behind the crises and will begin a new
era of progress towards modernity, prosperity and the common good, with
all, for all and in Peace.
Source: End of Year Declaration / Rafael León Rodríguez – Translating
http://translatingcuba.com/end-of-year-declaration-rafael-leon-rodriguez/ Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, November 29, 2016 – Fidel Castro died on
November 25 at 10:29 p.m. and, according to his own will, his remains
will be cremated, according to the brief statement read by Raúl Castro
on Cuban television. at midnight.
As a deceased person, the former president deserves respect. Surely he
expired on a soft bed, surrounded by his closest family members; perhaps
he left directions for his funeral. Jose Marti, the man Cubans call the
Apostle of Cuba, will welcome him in his monument in the Plaza of the
Revolution and in the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba.
The government decreed nine days of official mourning and a journey of
the funeral cortege from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, following in
reverse the route of the "Freedom Caravan" of the guerrilla chief in
January of 1959. The Comandante bequeathes his predilection for
symbolism in dates: his death coincided with the 60th anniversary of the
beginning of the Revolution with the departure of the yacht Granma from
Mexico in 1956, and the burial on December 4th will coincide with the
day of Saint Barbara, Shangó in the syncretic religion, a day venerated
with great offerings. The drumming and all the rituals that begin in the
early hours of the morning will be suspended on this solemn occasion, to
the disgust of thousands of believers.
Most Cubans within the archipelago reacted with silence, no comment,
without grief. The outcome had long been expected. The cheerful,
humorous, jovial and bustling Cuban protects himself in the shell when
he feels it dangerous to think differently from the official line, fears
the consequences in his life, and disenchanted with the unfulfilled
promises, is careful of his weak status or he looks the horizon to jump
Respectful relief floats in the environment, because the Comandante will
allow everyone to rest, not fearing his interference in the essential
changes. Every photo and every writing was overwhelming. The impressive
olive green presence and thunderous voice became pitiful and the phrases
delirious. He asserted, "history will absolve me," at the conclusion of
his trial for the attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. Much
accumulated for 63 years, and there will be a delay in the objective
writing of his until the secrets of all the parties involved are
known. However, it is impossible to exempt him from the precarious
present state of Cuba, because for 47 years he decided and prohibited
In 1959, Fidel Castro liquidated a bloody dictatorship, he was Cuba's
most popular politician of all time and came to power with the false
promises of democracy and a commitment to the religion. He will be
remembered for dismembering families and sending their children to
schools in the countryside, the exodus of more than two million Cubans,
the hardships of a people overshadowed and disposed to immense sacrifices.
From the initial dispossession of the great owners, he continued with
the small ones during the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968. Among his
immense unproductive works: the failed Ten Ton Sugar Harvest of 1970,
the destruction of the sugar industry that forged the Cuban nationality
and of all agriculture with the uprooting of the peasants. For the waste
of resources from the Soviet Union and the socialist camp. For not
having invested Hugo Chavez's petrodollars in the capitalization of the
destroyed or antiquated industry.
Fidel Castro curtailed rights, credited the state with granting
universal education and healthcare, when in fact this was paid for with
the contributions of all workers. He left a weak economy, misery-level
salaries and pensions, a dual monetary system, large debts accumulated
since 1986, and a social fabric devoid of high ethical and moral values,
a pride of the Cubans for centuries.
Fidel Castro will be remembered for the executions and long prison
sentences. For punishing those who thought differently from the official
opinions with agricultural work and expulsion from their jobs. For the
surveillance and stalking by State Security, the informants and the
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. By the impossibility of
attending a university because the universities were "only for the
Time will not forget that he was about to provoke a nuclear
conflagration in October 1962, his support of guerrillas in Latin
America and wars abroad, his persecution of homosexuals, his ban on
miniskirts and the Beatles until the end of the 1980s, and on the
practice of religion and tourism until 1992.
Raúl Castro inherited the ruins that he helped create. He mentioned the
need for structural changes and concepts in 2007, which he reduced to
the updating of the failing economic and social system. But he
acknowledged that "the fundamental obstacle we have faced, as we
predicted, is the burden of an outdated mentality, which forms an
attitude of inertia, or lack of confidence in the future," in his Report
to the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in April 16, 2016.
Ten years after the inevitable abandonment of absolute power, outside
the Cuban archipelago, Fidel Castro is credited with the positive
collaboration of doctors, teachers and technicians abroad. With the high
rates of healthcare and education, achieved with the sacrifice and low
quality of life of Cubans for 57 years.
The worn-out old man is kindly visualized, thanks to the process of
cleaning up his nefarious image undertaken by Raúl Castro with the
opportunities offered by the international community, the popes and
eminences of various religions, the relationship with the United States,
collaboration with the European Union, and the cancellation of
debts. Economic interests have played an important role, but also the
general president has the space to open up citizen participation in
Raul's actions after Fidel's death in compelling Cubans to sign an Oath
to the Commander's Words could strengthen the stagnation, or he could
use them to reverse it: "Revolution is a sense of the historical
moment. It is changing everything that must be changed. It is full
equality and freedom. Is to be treated and to treat others as human
beings," Fidel said in his speech of May 1, 2000.
The high attendance of the population to the extensive and pompous
funeral rites is a sign of the usual compulsion of students, workers,
peasants and members of the so-called organizations of the masses and
civil society, as well as the mobilization of the hundreds of thousands
of party members and Youth communists, military agencies, ex-combatants
and people who really did admire him.
However, the authorities should recognize the real feelings of the
majority of Cubans and undertake radical changes.
Source: The One Who Left Ashes / Miriam Leiva – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-one-who-left-ashes-miriam-leiva/ Continue reading
It's hard to know what direction US-Cuba relations will take once Donald
Trump is in the White House, but Cubans are already contemplating the
consequences of a reversal of President Obama's normalization process.
By Fulton Armstrong, American University DECEMBER 21, 2016
A version of this post ran on American University's Center for Latin
American & Latino Studies AULA Blog. The views expressed are the
Cubans are already calibrating their expectations for relations with the
United States under incoming President Trump – hoping the normalization
process does not unravel but preparing for a return to a sanctions-based
policy from Washington.
Conversations in Havana reveal deep concern that the president-elect's
tweets and statements about Cuba, Mexico, and Latinos in the United
States will translate into efforts to slow, stop, or reverse
normalization. The past two years of dialogue have focused on mutual
interests, without ignoring remaining differences between capitals but
not allowing them to blot out hopes of mutually beneficial cooperation.
Cuba will interpret a return to bombastic rhetoric, exaggerated
conditions to reach a "deal," and the pressure tactics of the pre-Obama
era as a sign of US willingness to put bullying a small neighbor eager
for improved ties ahead of its own national interests.
Cubans present the stiff upper lip in conversations and, not
surprisingly, defiantly note that they've already survived decades of US
pressure, but their disappointment is palpable.
- Most concerned are entrepreneurs in Cuba's small but growing private
sector, who depend on investment from US-based relatives and friends.
More than 100 Cuban private businessmen wrote a letter to Mr. Trump last
week urging restraint.
- Nationalism has precluded Cubans from saying that normalization would
be a major driver of their long-promised economic reforms, but few deny
that improving ties with the United States would eventually present
Havana important opportunities. US retrenchment will remove important
incentives for the government to move ahead with its reform strategy.
- Rumors about tensions between Cuban proponents of normalization and
conservative opponents may have some merit, but Cubans across the
spectrum will close ranks if Trump gets aggressive.
Cuba's reactions to Trump's election, including President Raúl Castro's
congratulatory message to him, so far suggest that it will hold its
tongue and resist being provoked. A US return to full-bore Cold War
tactics would not pose an existential threat to Cuba, even considering
the country's difficulties dealing with unrelated problems such as the
crisis in Venezuela. Popular reactions to the passing of Fidel Castro
last month are being construed as evidence of residual political
legitimacy for the government and support for it to deliver on promised
Moreover, Cuba's progress in normalization – its effective contribution
to the Colombia peace accord, its new political dialogue and cooperation
agreement with the European Union, and the recent Havana visit of
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – has boosted the country's
international image, and blame for collapse of normalization will surely
fall solely upon the United States.
However difficult it will be for the proud people of Cuba to resist
rising to whatever bait the Trump administration throws its way, showing
forbearance in the bilateral relationship and moving "without hurry but
without pause," as Raúl Castro has said, with its national reform plan
would protect the investment that Cuba has already made in normalization.
Fulton Armstrong is director of American University's Center for Latin
American and Latino Studies AULA blog.
Source: How will Cuba react if relations with the US reverse under
Trump? - CSMonitor.com -
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/Latin-America-Monitor/2016/1221/How-will-Cuba-react-if-relations-with-the-US-reverse-under-Trump Continue 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
14ymedio, Havana, 14 December 2016 – Yesterday, Tuesday afternoon,
Carlos Amel Oliva checked in well in advance with his ticket to take Air
Europe Flight 052 that was leaving for Madrid just after 10:00 PM,
intending to connect from the Spanish capital to travel on to Poland.
However, the activist was not able to board because an immigration
official told him he was prohibited from leaving.
Oliva was invited to participate in the third edition of Warsaw
Democratic Dialogue as a representative of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
Upon reaching the immigration controls he was separated from the line.
"They took me to an office where there was an official who was
apparently the shift manager, who explained that I appeared in their
computer system as a person prohibited from leaving," he explained to
Carlos Amel asked for an explanation, which he felt he deserved, but the
control officials responded that they "didn't work on that part."
The dissident told this newspaper what had happened a few yards from the
check-in desk for his flight. "[The official] suggested that I direct
myself to the appropriate entities, such as the prosecutor, so that I
could find out the reasons and I replied that I already knew, because
surely the only possible reason was my status as a dissident, a peaceful
"I do not have any unpaid fines, nor am I in the midst of a judicial or
police investigative process," Amel Oliva stated, rejecting that he was
subject to these established reasons for being denied the right to travel.
On December 10, International Human Rights Day, his father, also named
Carlos, was also unable to take his plane at Terminal 2 at José Martí
International Airport, heading to a meeting sponsored by Freedom House
and the Venezuelan Institute of Parliamentary Studies that was being
held in the United States. The UNPACU youth leader's father also did not
receive any satisfactory explanation.
"Obviously," Carlos Amel Oliva commented before leaving the terminal to
return to Santiago de Cuba, "this measure I have been the victim of is
not consistent with the signing of agreements between Cuba and the
European Union, which has set aside its so-called Common Position. The
European Union has done something that could be called a goodwill
gesture, having ceased to condition its relations with the Cuban
government on issues of human rights, but this is how the government
repays the gesture: preventing a peaceful dissident from attending an
event organized by civil society in a European country," he lamented.
The current Cuban immigration law, in force since January 2013,
established different reasons for denying a Cuban citizen the ability to
leave the country. Among them are motives of public interest or national
security, or being subject to a pending court case, as with the former
prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 who refused to leave the country
as a condition of their release, and so remain in Cuba on parole. They,
however, were each granted the right to make one trip abroad earlier
A common method to prevent a civil society activist or regime opponent
from traveling abroad, is to detain them at a police station on the day
they are planning to travel and to release them after their flight has
Source: Cuban Authorities Block Travel Of Dissident Amel Carlos Oliva /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-authorities-block-travel-of-dissident-amel-carlos-oliva-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 10 December 2016 — In a country sculpted by slogans,
intolerance and symbols, the departure of Fidel Castro — absolute ruler
and founding father of the Cuban Revolution — changes the rules of the game.
Nothing will ever be the same again. No future autocrat will be able to
summon a million people to a public square, call for enormous sugar
harvests, tell huge lies or launch wars of emancipation far from our shores.
Fidel Castro's death is the signature on the death certificate of his
Revolution. Castro himself perverted it in 1976 when the country
formally adopted a Soviet-style system. The whole process can be divided
into seven different phases.
The first phase was romantic. Fidel and his bearded soldiers were like
the Three Wise Men bearing a simple political message: democracy, free
elections and social justice.
Most people applauded the deception. Fidel deceived the public by
appearing to distance himself from communism and seducing a large swath
of the world's intellectuals.
Then there was his own version of the Storming of the Bastille. Red
tides, confrontations, executions of opponents, a phony civil war in the
Bay of Pigs and seven years of uprisings in the Escambray Mountains.
Large industries were nationalized as an astute Fidel Castro entered
into a strategic geopolitical alliance with the Soviet Union. It was the
most violent phase of his rule, with 50,000 political prisoners. He
governed the country as though it were his private estate and
transformed Havana into the Mecca of anti-colonial guerrilla movements.
One day, when the secret archives of the state sanctum are opened and
their contents are dispassionately examined, we will see how
irresponsible Castro was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Urging Nikita
Khrushchev to launch the first atomic missile strike, thus condemning
his own people to extermination, was no small detail.
The years 1968 to 1976 marked Fidel Castro's most radical phase. He
confiscated small businesses, anesthetized art and culture, and
accumulated total power.
From that date until 1991 he began building Soviet Cuba. The army grew
to a million men, four thousand tanks and two-hundred-fifty MIG fighter
Espionage became professionalized and social control began to be applied
with scientific precision. Cuban intelligence services ultimately had
agents operating in half the world's countries and about five thousand
in Florida alone.
The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin, along with his policies
of perestroika and glasnost, heralded the decline of Castro's personal
empire. Already in the fifth phase, Cuba suddenly found itself face to
face with reality. It was a nation that had been impoverished by
economic delusions and Fidel's wars in Africa and Latin America.
Thus began a painful period of deprivation. People fainted from hunger
in the streets, oxen replaced tractors in the fields and daily blackouts
lasted for twelve hours or more.
In spite of thousands of Cubans fleeing by air, land and sea, as well as
an attempted popular uprising in 1994, Fidel Castro was able to govern
without major disruption due to the efficiency of his propaganda and
The sixth phase was a gift from Santa Claus. Hugo Chavez — a former
parachutist from the Venezuelan city of Barina, a man of disjointed
speeches with the obsessions of a visionary hero — attempted to revive
socialism by combining a handful of theoretical inanities by Heinz
Dietrich with a bogus religiosity and odes to Simon Bolivar.
In his twilight years Fidel Castro achieved his crowning achievement:
Venezuela. It was perhaps as significant as the victory at Cuito
Cuanavale, a key battle against the South African army, which he had
commanded from ten thousand kilometers away.
The Venezuelan case is worthy of study by political scientists and
instructors in espionage. Castro conquered Caracas without firing a
shot. His recipe? Ideology and backroom consultations.
Fidel remade himself into a kind of Caribbean Rasputin. Never in human
history has a nation with an army of has-beens managed to colonize
another nation with three times the population and four times the GDP.
The symbolism and message it offered were enough. Chavez opened the
doors of his presidential palace to Cuban military advisers and the
South American country got thirty thousand doctors and medical personnel.
Half of this aid was paid for with petroleum, the other half with
dollars. The current Venezuelan crisis, a perfect storm, arose from the
fall in petroleum prices but was aggravated by interference from Cuba.
The seventh and current stage began with the political death of Fidel
Castro on July 31, 2006. His brother and hand-picked successor, Raul, is
trying to dismantle the operation and get the machinery of production
back in order.
In the international arena, Cuba put away the pistols and began the
diplomatic dialogue. Raul Castro, always operating from behind the
scenes, negotiated the release of a handful of political prisoners with
the Catholic church and the Spanish government. Cuba held secret talks
with the United States, which made possible the reestablishment of
diplomatic relations with its old enemy. It helped mediate an end to the
civil war in Colombia. It alleviated burdensome international financial
debts and it allowed Cubans to be tourists in their own country. Believe
me, all this was no small feat.
It did all this while still repressing dissenting voices. The repressive
model of the Raul era is different and probably more efficient.
Opponents can travel overseas and, if they are detained, it is often
only for a few hours in police holding cells except in unusual
By the time Fidel Castro had died — from causes still unknown — on the
night of November 25, a quarter of a million Cubans had emigrated over
the previous four years, the economy had run aground, corruption had
become endemic, the country faced an eminent demographic time bomb,
apathy and discontent were widespread and an amateurish dissident
movement was as disorganized as it was distracted.
With the death of Fidel Castro, things are bound to change in Cuba. One
cannot continue to expect good results from the same old economic,
political and social recipes.
Fidel Castro was the past. When he came to power, there were no such
things as cell phones, the internet or gay marriage. Some nations were
still colonies and electronic commerce was something out of science fiction.
The European Union was but a dream in the head of the French president,
General Charles de Gaulle, and no one foresaw the end of Russian
communism. Raul Castro announced that he will retire in February 2018, a
year and two months from now.
According to Cuba watchers, the possible subsequent scenarios range from
neo-Castroism to state capitalism to a family dynasty. And any of the
three, they predict, could lead to democracy in the not too distant future.
The reason is simple: we have already hit bottom.
Marti Noticias, December 7, 2016
Source: The Seven Phases of Fidel Castro / Iván García – Translating
http://translatingcuba.com/the-seven-phases-of-fidel-castro-ivn-garca/ 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
Putin seeking to take pressure off deteriorating Russian economy
BY: Reuben F. Johnson
December 6, 2016 11:12 am
Post-Fidel Castro Havana may lose its long-time protector and guarantor
of security, Russia, according to Cuba-watchers in Miami's community of
exiles and dissidents.
They predict Russian President Vladimir Putin will offer the incoming
Trump administration a free hand to deal with Cuba as it sees fit in
return for the United States recognizing Moscow's invasion and
annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
The assessment comes from former Cuban officials who fled the island
nation under the rule of Fidel Castro. They said Putin is seeking to use
the recent passing of Castro as an opportunity to take the pressure off
a deteriorating domestic economic situation back in Russia.
The first indicator was the naming of the Russian government officials
who led the delegation to attend Fidel Castro's funeral, said one former
Cuban official now living in Miami. The two most senior members from
Moscow's political order dispatched to Havana were Vyacheslav Volodin,
speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, and
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin.
Naming Rogozin as one of the two most important representatives to the
funeral ceremony "is almost an insult to the Cubans," said a Russian
political analyst in Moscow. "Rogozin is regarded by many as more of a
clown than anything else, and he is most famous for a series of
ridiculous and bombastic public statements that have no anchor in reality."
"It is clear that Moscow wanted to keep the delegation low-key so as to
not in any way antagonize Trump by having a senior Russian official like
PM [Dmitry] Medvedev or Putin himself deliver a eulogy that lambasts
Washington with a lot of inflammatory rhetoric," said a former Cuban
defense official now living in the Miami area. "This unusual reticence
to engage in the usual anti-U.S. tirade accompanies some other
indicators that Putin needs to lay the groundwork for this 'trade' where
the U.S. gets to do whatever it wants with Cuba and he in return gets a
blank check for Ukraine."
Putin stayed in Moscow during the funeral. His official spokesman
announced that the Russian leader was preoccupied with preparing a
speech for the president's upcoming annual address to the Federal
Assembly—a joint session of both houses of the national parliament. But
analysts in Moscow told the Free Beacon that nothing about this event
would normally preclude Putin from still attending Castro's funeral.
Instead, Putin is preoccupied with the deteriorating domestic situation
For years under Putin, Russia has engaged in a series of land-grabbing
invasions of neighboring nations. Russia is now bordered by "frozen
conflict" zones that it either claims as its own or are occupied by
Russian armed forces.
These "statelets" cost Russia an estimated $5 billion per year—a
significant drag on the Russian state's operations. Meanwhile, Russia's
economy continues to spiral down while both the value of the Russia
ruble and the oil prices that the state budgets depend on for revenue
are at record lows. These conditions show little to no chance of
improving any time soon.
A crisis of public confidence in Putin's rule could very well be in the
making. Recent economic data shows that since 2014 the size of Russia's
middle class has declined by more than 16 percent, putting an additional
14 million people into the ranks of the poor. The number of people who
consider themselves middle class has likewise fallen from 61 percent two
years ago to 51 percent this year, while real household incomes have
decreased by 7 percent since last year.
Much of this decline has been blamed on countersanctions put in place by
Putin after the United States and the European Union imposed embargoes
on Russia over the invasion of Crimea. The Russian president banned food
products from Europe and Ukraine in response to various U.S. and EU
travel bans on Russian officials, freezes of Russian assets, and Russian
banks being barred from numerous international financial markets.
Putin needs a "relief valve" that can reduce Russia's external financial
obligations and a lifting of sanctions if the country's economic
situation is ever going to improve, said Russian political experts. They
told Western news outlets that these sanctions are endangering Putin's
chances for reelection in 2018. Some Kremlin insiders have recently
floated snap presidential elections—in order to give the former KGB
lieutenant colonel another six-year term now while his reelection
prospects are still positive.
"Proposing this Cuba-for-Ukraine trade is a sign that Putin is running
out of options and running out of time," said the Cuban defense official
in exile. "And he is just hoping that the Trump team would be naïve
enough to take him up on this deal."
Source: Exiles: Vladimir Putin Could Offer Donald Trump a Deal on Cuba -
http://freebeacon.com/national-security/exiles-putin-offer-trump-deal-cuba/ Continue reading
President-elect could face pushback from some companies regarding his
By FELICIA SCHWARTZ and CAROL E. LEE
Updated Nov. 27, 2016 11:14 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — The death of Fidel Castro is putting unexpected pressure on
President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on earlier promises to
reverse the recent openings to Cuba made by President Barack Obama.
While Mr. Trump could undo Mr. Obama's efforts, which were implemented
using executive authority, he could face pushback from U.S. companies
now deeply invested in Cuba under the current administration's policy.
Those companies include major airlines, hotel operators and technology
providers, while big U.S. phone carriers have signed roaming agreements
on the island.
Mr. Trump's top aides said Sunday that he would demand the release of
political prisoners held in Cuba and push the government to allow more
religious and economic freedoms. Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump's incoming
White House chief of staff, said the president-elect "absolutely" would
reverse Mr. Obama's policies if he didn't get what he wanted from Cuba.
"We're not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the
United States without some changes in their government," Mr. Priebus
said Sunday on Fox News. "Repression, open markets, freedom of religion,
political prisoners—these things need to change in order to have open
and free relationships, and that's what president-elect Trump believes,
and that's where he's going to head."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a critic of Mr. Obama's opening, said
Sunday on CBS that he hopes Mr. Trump will examine Mr. Obama's changes
to U.S.-Cuba policy and consider whether they foster democracy.
Ana Rosa Quintana, an expert on Latin America at the conservative
Heritage Foundation, said she hopes Mr. Trump will roll back regulations
that allow U.S. companies to interact with state-run entities in Cuba.
Mr. Obama announced in December 2014 that his administration had reached
a deal with Cuba to begin to normalize relations. Since then, embassies
have reopened in both countries, and the U.S. has loosened trade and
travel restrictions to Cuba.
Despite bipartisan support, Congress has refused to lift the economic
embargo on Cuba, which administration officials have said is necessary
to fully normalize relations.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.), a co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to
lift the embargo, said until Republican leaders allow a vote on the
legislation its supporters are "stymied."
That gives Mr. Trump broad authority to scale back U.S. relations with
Cuba, said lawyers and former officials who specialize in sanctions policy.
Regulations that allow U.S. companies to deal with Cuban state-owned
entities seem the most vulnerable, such as one that allows U.S.
businesses to use state-owned distributors as middlemen for deliveries
to the private sector, the former officials and lawyers said.
Peter Harrell, a former senior official at the State Department who
worked on sanctions in the Obama administration, said he expected Mr.
Trump would "pull back some of that dealing with the Cuban state while
allowing travel and private enterprise to go forward."
Another measure Mr. Trump could reverse is Mr. Obama's decision earlier
this year to allow so-called people-to-people travel to Cuba without a
tour group, a move that essentially lifted the travel ban and that
critics believe went too far. According to the State Department, 700,000
Americans visited Cuba in 2015, which officials said was an increase
from previous years.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see that rescinded," said Robert Muse, a
Washington-based lawyer who advises companies on doing business in Cuba.
Republican opponents of Mr. Obama's Cuba policy—including Mauricio
Claver-Carone, who is on Mr. Trump's transition team at the Treasury
Department—have been critical of a deal Starwood Hotels signed with the
Cuban government earlier this year, under which the company is running a
hotel once owned by the tourism arm of the Cuban military. Mr. Harrell
said Mr. Trump might rethink that authorization or allowing similar
licenses in the future.
Jeff Flaherty, a spokesman for Marriott International Inc., which now
owns Starwood, said it was premature to assess what effect a Trump
administration would have on its business in Cuba.
"It is too early to know precisely what it could mean for businesses
that have invested in Cuba and are providing opportunities for the Cuban
people, but we remain interested in being part of those conversations,"
Mr. Claver-Carone didn't respond to requests for comment.
In addition to corporations seeking to invest in Cuba, Mr. Obama's
policy has strong support in another Republican stronghold: the farming
Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said he voted for
Mr. Trump but didn't want to see the next administration take any steps
that would put U.S. farmers at a further disadvantage in the Cuban market.
"Every other country in the world has diplomatic and trade relations
with Cuba, and what we don't want to do is lose that market share to the
European Union, Brazil, Argentina," Mr. Paap said, adding that U.S.
market share in Cuba has decreased in recent years as other countries
are able to provide better financing.
The White House has been working to facilitate new investments in Cuba
by U.S. companies to try to further entrench business and trade ties
between the two countries before Mr. Obama leaves office, with new
announcements expected in coming weeks. It is unclear how Mr. Castro's
death might affect those efforts.
The potential blowback from U.S. business has been the White House's de
facto insurance policy on Mr. Obama's approach to Cuba.
In March Mr. Obama became the first sitting U.S. president in 88 years
to visit Cuba, and many administration officials have gone to the island
to advance economic and cultural ties.
Matt Miller, an American Airlines spokesman, said the company is
proceeding "full steam ahead" with plans to expand its service from the
U.S. to Cuba this week to include flights to Havana from Miami and
Charlotte, N.C. U.S. commercial flights to Cuba resumed in September.
To further entrench Mr. Obama's policy, administration officials also
are relying on lawmakers in agriculture states poised to benefit from
trade with Cuba and a growing number of Cuban Americans who support
policy changes that loosen travel restrictions and allow them to send
more money to family members living there.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R., Minn.), a strong proponent of lifting the
embargowho supported Mr. Trump in the election, said he hopes the
Trump administration will seize on the opportunity of Mr. Castro's death
to further normalize ties.
"Hopefully the Trump administration will build off what has already
been created, understanding that it is a new day in the Western
Hemisphere," he said in an interview.
Paul Johnson, co-chair of the U.S. agriculture coalition for Cuba, said
he isn't yet worried that Mr. Trump would reverse the momentum from Mr.
Obama's policy because "rural America clearly supports normalization of
trade with Cuba" and wants to end the U.S. embargo.
Dan Restrepo, a former Latin America adviser to Mr. Obama who is now a
fellow at the Center for American Progress, said U.S. companies that
invested in Cuba under Mr. Obama's policy could explore legal action
against the government if Mr. Trump reversed measures that allowed them
to operate there.
U.S. companies "now have a vested interest and they are going to be part
of any debate" and that "broadens the political conversation," he said.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee
Source: Death of Fidel Castro May Pressure Donald Trump on Cuba Promises
- WSJ -
http://www.wsj.com/articles/death-of-fidel-castro-may-pressure-donald-trump-to-keep-cuba-promises-1480290496 Continue reading
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO AND NORA GAMEZ TORRES
There are 44 years of dissidence between Cuban human rights activist
Elizardo Sánchez and street protester Sara Martha Fonseca, four and a
half decades of peaceful opposition to a communist system that jails
people for simply "disrespecting" Fidel Castro.
In between were the Ladies in White, bloggers like Yoani Sánchez,
independent groups of journalists, librarians and lawyers, Afro-Cubans,
Catholic and Protestant and gay rights activists and everyone else
struggling for human and civil rights.
The Cuban government has branded them all as "counterrevolutionaries"
and "mercenaries" on the U.S. payroll. It has thrown thousands of them
in prison, freed them, forced them into exile abroad and then jailed
thousands more again.
Yet the dissidents not only survived but evolved into today's
many-headed, multi-cause movement that, while still relatively small and
little known inside Cuba, is bigger than ever and commands intense
attention and respect abroad.
Blogger Yoani Sánchez won an armful of international prizes. The
European Union awarded its Sakharov prize for human rights in 2010 to
Guillermo Fariñas and in 2005 to the Ladies in White, female relatives
of political prisoners.
Only a handful believe they can topple the system. But through sheer
defiance and persistence, they have carved out spaces once thought
impossible — for the Ladies in White the right to march down the streets
of Havana every Sunday, for others the possibility of uncensored access
to Sánchez's blog.
"The important thing is that as recently as 1987 there were only 10 of
us in Havana, and now there are thousands of us throughout the country,"
said Elizardo Sánchez, who has spent 44 of his 70 years as a human
rights activist — 8½ of them in prison.
A former professor of Marxist philosophy at the University of Havana, he
broke with Fidel Castro in 1967 and now heads the Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which meticulously monitors
and tabulates government abuses.
Compare that with Fonseca, a 47-year-old high school dropout who staged
a string of stunningly daring protests in very public places, including
the Capitol building in central Havana, with the declared intent of
sparking a street disturbance.
Yet Fonseca sees no difference between the many generations of dissent.
"We have one same destiny, to oppose the government," she said. "Some do
it with human rights, some with technology, like the bloggers. My thing
is the streets, to take our message to the people and look for ways to
have the people join us."
Elizardo Sánchez acknowledges that he is the last of the founders of the
dissident movement still living in Cuba. Many others, like Gustavo
Arcos, have died. Dozens of others went into exile abroad after
suffering years of government persecution.
They were followed by more politically minded dissidents like Oswaldo
Payá, whose Varela Project collected 25,000 signatures demanding a
referendum on the communist system, and Héctor Palacios of the Liberal
Union. Payá died in 2012 in what the Cuban government says was a traffic
accident and what his family insists was a crash caused by state
security agents. His immediate family now lives in South Florida.
Other leaders have included hardliners like former Cuban air force MiG
pilot Vladimiro Roca and economist Martha Beatriz Roque; Catholic
activists like Dagoberto Valdés; and Oscar Elías Biscet, a physician who
started out alleging abuses in abortion procedures.
U.S. diplomats in Havana reported in 2009 that dissidents were "the
conscience of Cuba" and blamed many of their setbacks on penetrations by
Cuban government agents designed to fuel internal rivalries.
But the dispatch, made public by Wikileaks, went on to report that the
"traditional dissidents" were old, carried little weight on the island
and were unlikely to play a significant role in its future.
"We see very little evidence that the main-line dissident organizations
have much resonance among ordinary Cubans," it said. They also "have
little contact with younger Cubans and, to the extent they have a
message... it does not appeal to that segment."
The cable suggested U.S. policy should look more to "the younger
generation of nontraditional dissidents" like bloggers and artists
"likely to have a greater long term impact on post-Castro Cuba."
Fidel Castro tried to crush dissent once and for all in 2003, when his
security forces arrested 75 government critics across the island and his
courts sentenced them to up to 28 years in prison in a string of one and
two-day trials known as Cuba's Black Spring. All were declared
"prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International.
But just weeks later, wives, mothers and daughters of the prisoners who
had met while visiting their male relatives in jail began staging Sunday
marches down Havana streets dressed in white and carrying pink gladioli.
The Ladies in White eventually became the only opposition group usually
allowed by security forces to stage such street protests, and helped
push Raúl Castro into agreeing in mid-2010 to free the last of the 75
dissidents still in jail. Most were taken directly from prison to the
Havana airport to board flights to exile in Spain, and only 12 remain on
In his final years in power, Fidel Castro's repressive tactics shifted
from long prison sentences to short-term detentions — with the
dissidents sometimes dropped off in remote areas. Elizardo Sánchez
reported 8,899 such arbitrary short-term detentions in 2014, nearly
2,500 more than the previous year.
Dissidents also were subjected to verbal and physical harassment by
government-organized mobs and pressured to leave the island.
Yet the opposition movement continued to grow and evolve, along with the
Yoani Sánchez, who started out posting anonymously on the frustrations
of daily life, had by 2008 become the world-famous face of a digital
dissidence that included some 40 blogs, ranging from her Generación Y to
Cubanoconfesante, written by Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a dissident
Protestant pastor based in rural Taguayabón.
The new crop of bloggers — some prefer to be called "independent" or
"alternative" writers rather than "dissident" — now include a former
Cuban government counter-intelligence analyst, a lawyer, a photographer
and several gay-rights activists and university students. Their blogs
are based on servers abroad to get around the censorship, and are often
then emailed back to the island.
Trying to fight back, the government has deployed squads of
pro-revolution bloggers, most of them state employees, and created
Internet sites especially designed to engage in a "cyberwar" against the
Sánchez pushed on, founding a blogger's academy and opening a Twitter
account that almost immediately alerts to arrests and other government
abuses. Most recently, she launched a digital news site called 14ymedio.
In the latest evolution of the dissidence, Fonseca and other women set
out to stage protests in public places with the stated hope of getting
people to join them and sparking a street disturbance.
The strategy of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the largest and
most active dissident group on the island, especially in eastern Cuba,
is even more ambitious. Its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, one of the 75
arrested in 2003, has insisted on the opposition movement's "need to
coordinate more and more actions across the country" and work "with the
people, person by person" in order to reinvent itself.
"When we persist in maintaining the old paradigms and these demonstrate
patriotism, heroism, sacrifice, but do not attract the population, we
must modernize our strategies," Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald. With that
goal, UNPACU has developed one of the most effective media strategies
within the opposition movement by providing a steady stream of news,
videos and other content on the Internet.
Palacios, another of the so-called "75," said that the greatest
challenge facing the opposition is to establish a strong bond with the
Cuban people, "who are the only ones who can change the situation on the
island. Until the population has faith in the opposition movement and we
educate ourselves to prepare for change, it will not happen."
Said Ferrer: "Nobody will get on a boat they are told will sink 15 miles
offshore. It's the same with the Cuban people: They are eager to take
part in an expedition toward freedom and democracy but they want to make
sure they are on a sturdy ship, in this case the opposition movement,
and they want to see good captains on the bridge who know how to navigate."
Even Fonseca, the feisty protestor, acknowledged that the government's
repressive tactics could force her to reach for exile abroad — a safety
valve that has helped keep the dissident movement relatively small and
isolated over the past five decades.
"I have two roads ahead, and I know them very well," she said in 2011.
"On one road I would go to prison, and I would not come out alive. I
know that would end my life. The other is to leave. It's not what I
want. But it is one road."
Fonseca indeed went into exile in the United States on Jan. 7, 2014. She
now lives with her family in New Jersey.
Elizardo Sánchez, first arrested in 1972 on charges of "expressing
criticism of Comandante Fidel Castro," said he accepts that the road
ahead for dissidents appears to be long and hard.
Sánchez himself suffered a blow to his reputation in 2003 following the
release of a video showing a state security officer giving him a medal.
Sánchez denied the accusation and said he was set up, but dissidents
have long had to contend with infiltrations by state security agents to
promote internal conflict. Likewise, those linked to funds funneled by
the United States to pro-democracy programs in Cuba have had to fend off
accusations of being U.S. mercenaries.
Antonio Rodiles, a human rights activist who has led a demand for the
government to ratify several United Nations covenants, said that trying
to propel change without outside financial assistance is nearly
impossible because the Cuban government prevents dissidents from
generating "their own resources, especially to pay for a project that
could challenge the existing power. All that is coldly calculated. To
say that a Cuban can generate the necessary resources internally to
contribute to a regime change is totally absurd."
Rodiles also warned that dissident groups should be more selective with
their members: "The opposition movement in Cuba must have a clear
profile of the people it wants within so that it can really gain
prestige within Cuban society. Otherwise, the government will use that
to try to denigrate the opposition movement."
"The role of the dissidence has always been to present an alternative to
the totalitarian system," said Elizardo Sánchez. "So the best we can do
is to do our work, and allow the younger people to perform the role that
falls to them.
"Society will generate its next leaders," he said, adding a reference to
the Polish labor leader who helped end the communist rule of his nation.
"The Lech Walesas of Cuba are in the future."
Miami Herald staff writer Nancy San Martin contributed to this report.
Source: Prison, death, exile: Outcomes of peaceful opposition to Fidel
Castro's communist Cuba | Miami Herald -
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