14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 24 February 2017 – Members of the Cuban
exile remembered the anniversary of the death of four Cuban Americans
after the shooting down of two planes of the humanitarian NGO Brothers
to the Rescue by the Cuban Air Force in 1996.
The commemorative activities began with an act of homage to Manuel de la
Peña, Carlos Acosta, Armando Alejandre and Pablo Morales, at the
monument in Opa-locka that reminds them of the 21st anniversary of the
"Every year when we remember them, we feel immense pain," says Ana
Ciereszko, sister of Armando Alejandre, one of those murdered.
"When President Obama returned the spy responsible for the murder of our
relatives it was very hard because they gave their lives to save the
lives of others, Cuban rafters, many of whom have disappeared at sea,"
Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also recalled those
killed and lashed out at the Obama administration for the release of spy
Gerardo Hernandez, convicted of providing information to the Cuban
government that allowed the perpetration of the crime.
"Our nation must defend these murdered Americans and ensure that justice
prevails so that the families of these victims can have the final peace
they so deeply deserve," said the congresswoman.
Brothers to the Rescue emerged as an initiative of civilian aviators of
various nationalities and Cubans interested in assisting the rafters who
escaped from the island in fragile vessels during the migratory crisis
in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union caused the greatest
economic crisis in the country's history and thousands of migrants threw
themselves into the sea in the hope of reaching the United States.
The two Cessna 337 Skymaster aircraft, from Miami, were shot down with
air-to-air missiles by a MiG-29UB 900 fighter and a MiG-23 fighter. A
third plane escaped and called for help from the US authorities, who
never gave it to them.
The Cuban government accused the organization of having "terrorist
purposes" and defended the demolition of light aircraft on the grounds
that they were over Cuban waters. Brothers to the Rescue, however, says
that the shooting down took place in international waters.
"There has been no justice because there was no clarification of the
truth. The facts were carefully hidden under the presidencies of Clinton
and Castro," says Jose Basulto, 76, president of Brothers to the Rescue
and one of the survivors of the tragedy.
"It was a joint action, complicit, because they wanted to resume
relations between both countries," he says. He adds that on the Island
there practice runs for shooting down the planes and that it was
suggested to American officials what was going to happen. "We were
exposed to the enemy fire and nobody helped us," he adds.
According to Basulto, the days before each commemoration of the
demolition are filled with memories and are "very sad."
"Brothers to the Rescue was an example of human solidarity with the
people of Cuba and to teach the world the harshness of the suffering of
the people, capable of committing suicide at sea in order to escape from
that dictatorship," he recalls.
At Florida International University (FIU) a commemorative event was held
with relatives of the victims and a broad representation of the
exile. The meeting has become a tradition to remember the four
Cuban-American youth and, as every year, silence was held between 3:21
pm and 3:28 pm, the time at which the planes were shot down.
"My brother was my first baby. He was just a boy when he was killed,"
says Mirtha Costa, sister of Carlos Alberto Costa.
"He loved being together with everyone in the family. He was also a very
cheerful person and always looked for how to make jokes to others," he
Both Costa and the other relatives are responsible for the CAMP
Foundation, named after the initials of each of the victims of the
The foundation supports diverse organizations that promote youth
education, such as Miami Dade College and the University of Miami.
The families of the victims will honor their memory with a Eucharist at
St. Agatha Church at 7:00 pm this Friday.
Source: Brothers To The Rescue: A Crime That Hurts "Like The First Day"/
14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
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BY ABEL FERNÁNDEZ
A group of exile organizations and volunteers are trying to help
hundreds of Cubans who are stranded in Mexico following the end of the
so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy on Jan. 12.
Vigilia Mambisa, Democracy Movement, WWFE La Poderosa radio station and
other organizations and volunteers have set up a tent on Miami's Calle
Ocho at Southwest 13th Avenue, next to a monument dedicated to the Bay
of Pigs Invasion.
More than 4,000 pounds of food, personal hygiene products and other
donations have been collected so far. But much more is needed to fill a
tractor trailer headed to Mexico on Sunday.
"It's the people of the community who are mainly helping," said Ramón
Saúl Sánchez of the Democracy Movement. "They are arriving with clothes,
food, bedspreads, toiletries."
Miguel Saavedra, of the Vigilia Mambisa, said that "people from
different nationalities have come to make donations in solidarity with
The donations will be transported in a 53-foot truck traveling by road
to a church in the border city of Laredo, Texas. The cargo will be
received by Sergio Pérez, a Cuban-American businessman who lives in Las
Vegas and who has organized similar operations elsewhere in the U.S.
Last month, Pérez temporarily closed his restaurant in Las Vegas, the
Florida Café, to gather donations for the stranded Cubans. Some 22 tons
of food and other basic necessities have been collected so far.
The supplies are transported from Laredo, Texas to several churches that
are assisting some 800 Cubans stranded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Pérez
In late January, Cubans who were stranded in Mexico complained about the
"indifference of Cubans in Miami."
Pérez, who is flying to Miami on Saturday to finish the preparations for
the trip to Mexico, said the Cuban Club in California is also collecting
supplies for stranded Cubans.
The businessman said that he has noticed some "disunity"within the Cuban
community in exile and urged everyone to help the stranded Cubans.
"We need unity in the Cuban American community," he said.
Juan Cabrera, the owner and driver of the truck carrying the supplies,
said they need to raise about 40,000 pounds to fill the vehicle.
"I am doing this to help these Cubans because that's what my heart
dictates, because I went through the same thing," said Cabrera, who
himself was temporarily stranded in Bahamas in the 1990s.
"We need the support of the community," Cabrera said, adding that
donations also are being collected in Tampa and Orlando.
If organizers do not manage to fill the truck in Miami, Cabrera said he
will stop in Tampa and Orlando to load up more goods.
"This truck is going to leave full," Cabrera said.
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The island's medical system is envied throughout the region and is a
major foreign revenue earner
Havana 10 FEB 2017 - 16:08 CET
Cuba's healthcare system is a source of pride for its communist
government. The country has well-trained, capable doctors, the sector
has become an important export earner and gives Cuba valuable soft power
– yet the real picture is less rosy. A lot of health infrastructure is
deteriorating and there is a de facto two-tier system that favors those
Cuba's child mortality rate is on par with some of the world's richest
countries. With six deaths for every 1,000 births, according to World
Bank data from 2015, Cuba is level with New Zealand. In 2015, the global
average was 42.5 deaths for every 1,000 births. Despite more than half a
century of a US economic embargo, Cuba's average life expectancy matches
that in the US: 79.1 years, just a few months shorter than Americans
who, on average, live to 79.3 years, according to 2015 data from the
World Health Organization (WHO).
Much of Cuba's success in these areas is due to its primary healthcare
system, which is one of the most proactive in the world. Cuba's
population of 11.27 million has 452 out-patient clinics and the
government gives priority to disease prevention, universal coverage and
access to treatment.
Cuba has also produced innovations in medical research. In 1985 the
country pioneered the first and only vaccine against meningitis B. The
country's scientists developed new treatments for hepatitis B, diabetic
foot, vitiligo and psoriasis. They also developed a lung cancer vaccine
that is currently being tested in the United States. Cuba was also the
first country on earth to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis
from mother to child, a feat recognized by the WHO in 2015.
In 2015, Cuba spent 10.57% of its GDP on health, slightly higher than
the global average. According to the World Bank in 2014, the European
average spending GDP spending was 10%, compared to 17.1% in the United
A lesser-known characteristic of Cuba's healthcare system is the
existence of special clinics, reserved for tourists, politicians and
VIPs. The state reserves the best hospitals and doctors for the national
elite and foreigners, while ordinary Cubans sometimes must turn to the
black market or ask expatriate friends or family to send medicine.
"Cuba's health service is divided in two: one for Cubans and the other
for foreigners, who receive better quality care, while the national
population has to be satisfied with dilapidated facilities and a lack of
medicines and specialists, who are sent abroad to make money for Cuba,"
says Dr. Julio César Alfonzo, a Cuban exile in Miami and director of the
NGO Solidaridad Sin Fronteras.
In 1959, the country had only 6,000 doctors, half of whom emigrated
after the Cuban revolution. By 2014, Cuba had 67.2 doctors for every
10,000 inhabitants, with only Qatar and Monaco ahead of it.
However, despite these impressive statistics, the quality of primary
healthcare, which has been fundamental to Cuba's success, has been
declining in recent years. Between 2009 and 2014 there was a 62% fall in
the number of family doctors, from 34,261 to 12,842, according to Cuba's
National Statistics Office (ONEI).
An army of white coats
In the words of Fidel Castro, Cuba's "army of white coats" was formed in
1960, when a medical brigade was sent to Chile after an earthquake left
thousands dead. Since then, Cuba has sent more than 300,000 healthcare
workers to 158 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, according to
Cuba's state news agency. Today, around 50,000 Cuban medical workers are
present in 67 countries.
"Cuban doctors are rooted in solidarity and in the Hippocratic Oath. Our
job would be unthinkable without foreign missions," says Salvador Silva,
a doctor specializing in infectious diseases who has worked in Haiti and
"Yes, our salary is low and maybe that pushes us to go abroad, but it
also makes us proud when we see our work recognized throughout the
world, on top of just helping in our own country," he adds.
Doctors are arguably Cuba's most profitable resource and the country's
medical missions have proved to be a lucrative diplomatic tool. The
healthcare industry is also one of the country's main sources of income.
In 2014, Cuban authorities estimated overseas healthcare services would
bring in $8.2 billion, putting it ahead of tourism.
Cuba has a different deal with each country it works with. For example,
in exchange for sending 3,500 health care workers to work in and provide
training in Venezuela, a close Cuban ally, Venezuela sends oil.
With such a high demand for personnel, some suspect that the Cuban
government has been reducing educational requirements to hasten
students' entry into the work force.
"They are giving doctors licenses in record time to meet the need to
export them, and this has been detrimental to the quality of training
and medicine, which used to be the best. This has been happening since
they started the program in Venezuela, between 2003 and 2004," says Dr
Doctors are also eager to be sent abroad, not only to help the less
fortunate, but also for money. Salaries are higher – depending on the
location, with doctors abroad reportedly making up to $1,000 per month
(minus taxes), whereas those in Cuba make around $50. On the island, it
isn't rare to find taxi drivers, shopkeepers or construction workers
with medical degrees.
Juan drives a 1950s Chevrolet he bought with his brother and he uses it
as a taxi from 6pm to midnight. He's also a doctor in the clinic
"The wage is a pittance. We find ourselves obligated to make a living
doing other things. I have coworkers who sell prescriptions to
pharmacies, who work in unlicensed clinics or help their families in
shops. It's frustrating," he says. "It's like they're pushing us to
enlist in international missions, the business of Cuba."
The country's medical missions abroad have been an important escape
route for Cubans looking to defect. Before migratory reforms were passed
in January 2013 allowing Cubans with passports and visas to travel
abroad, the preferred way to abandon Cuba was via Venezuela. In 2013 and
2014, more than 3,000 doctors deserted the island to go to the United
States through a special visa program called Cuban Medical Professional
Parole, a program started by George W. Bush to help healthcare workers
who had escaped while working abroad.
Lucia Newman, a former CNN correspondent in Habana, said Cuban doctors
complain that travel restrictions prevent them from attending
conferences or keeping abreast of the latest medical advances. The US
trade embargo on Cuba includes some textbooks, but the major problem is
that Cuban doctors cannot buy medical equipment from the United States
or from any US subsidiaries.
For Odalys, a young patient waiting at the Hospital Salvador Allende,
"the situation is becoming unsustainable in this country and it's not
because of a lack of specialists, it's because we have to bring
everything ourselves. I just bought a light bulb for the hospital room.
I've called home so that they can bring me bedding, towels and even
toilet paper. There aren't even stretchers, I saw a family carrying
their sick son into a room. Free and universal health care, yes, but
it's a bit of a mess and very informal," she says.
English version: Alyssa McMurtry.
Source: Cuba's healthcare system: How does Cuba manage to achieve
first-world health statistics? | In English | EL PAÍS -
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14ymedio, Miami, 25 January 2017 — The former political prisoner Arturo
Perez de Alejo, who was part of the Group of 75, died Wednesday in Miami
at 66, as reported by MartíNoticias .
Pérez Alejo was born in Manicaragua, in the then province of Las Villas,
on 23 May 1951 to a peasant family.
During the nineties, in the middle of the Special Period, he began his
dissident activity. He participated actively in the Democratic Action
Movement, the Nationalist Action Party and the Independent Democratic Front.
In addition, he founded the Escambray Independent Organization For The
Defense Of Human Rights, of which he held the presidency, and he was
noted for his dissemination of the Varela Project, a civic initiative
promoted by the late Oswaldo Payá to demand more liberties in the island.
In 2003 he was imprisoned in the 2003 repressive wave known as the Black
Spring. He was imprisoned for five years, and the conditions of his
imprisonment greatly undermined his health.
During his imprisonment he was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International. In June 2010, through the efforts of the Catholic
Church, he was released and exiled to Spain.
He later moved to Miami, where he resided until his death. He spent his
last years closely linked to the work of organizations of the Cuban exile.
Source: Former Political Prisoner Arturo Pérez De Alejo Dies / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
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14ymedio, Pablo de Llano, Miami, 22 January 2017 — Minutes after the
announcement of the death of Fidel Castro, last November 25, Danilo
Maldonado Machado passed by his mother's house and knocked on the window
of her room. Maria Victoria Machado opened and her son asked: "Mom, are
you afraid?" She, who had heard the news, told him no: "You know this is
my bedtime." He continued: "Well, I'm going to warm up the track." Mrs.
Machado assumed that her son was going to paint some anti-Castro slogan
in a city, Havana, that that night had been mute, silent, empty. Free
for the cats and for the crazies.
"Have you ever asked him not to expose himself so much?"
"No," said the mother from Havana. "I admire my son."
El Sexto, the artistic alias of Maldonado, left and reappeared a while
later at the side of the Habana Libre Hotel. With a mobile phone, he
broadcast live on Faceboo, speaking directly to the screen and mocking
Fidel and Raul Castro, recalling dead regime opponents, moving through
the desolate streets: "Nobody it outside," he said. "Rare," he
scoffed. "Nobody wants to talk. But how long will you not want to talk,
He wore a white Panama hat. Sunglasses hanging from his shirt. Under the
right eyelid, tattooed barbed wire. Headphones around his neck. He was
an eccentric putting on a comedian-politician show in an empty but
guarded theater. The most risky sitcom of the year in Havana. Then he
asked some squire, "Papi, where's my can?"
El Sexto took out a spray can and on a side wall of the Habana Libre,
the former Havana Hilton and the hotel where the father of the Cuban
revolution had immediately taken possession of to set up his first
headquarters after conquering the capital, he scrawled: "He left."
Live. His face in the picture. Risk level one hundred.
He enjoyed it. He looked at the camera and said, "I see panic in their
faces." Six feet five-and-a-half inches tall, thin, bearded, exultant. A
Don Quixote crossing the line.
Hours later, according to the reconstruction of his mother, he was
forcibly removed from his apartment by a group of police and locked up
in the maximum security prison Combinado del Este, outside Havana,
accused of damage to state property. Only this Saturday, two months
later, was he released.
"They gave me my identity card and said I would have no problem
traveling outside the country," the artist told 14ymedio a few hours
after he was released without charges. "I am in good health and I am
very grateful for the solidarity of all those who were aware of my
During the time he was imprisoned, Amnesty International declared him
a prisoner of conscience. A campaign on Change.org collected about
14,000 signatures for his release. Kimberley Motley, an African American
lawyer specializing in human rights, traveled to Cuba in December to try
to visit him in prison, but was detained and returned to the United
States. The vice-president of the German Parliament, the Social Democrat
Ulla Schmidt, declared herself his "political godmother."
This was his second time in prison. In 2015 he spent 10 months locked up
for planning a performance art piece with two pigs painted with the
names of Fidel and Raul. In his 33 years El Sexto has become a heterodox
figure of dissent. More a provocateur than an activist, he is
essentially a natural punk, a creative thug who in another country would
only have paid a fine for painting a wall, but to whom 21st century Cuba
dedicates the punitive treatment it considers appropriate to a threat to
the security of the State.
When they released him in 2015, after a hunger strike, El Sexto traveled
through different countries and explained in a talk that in the
beginning he defined his political stance as that of an artist in
response to the official propaganda so abundant on the island: "If they
have the right to violate my visual space, I also have the right to
violate their visual space," he maintained.
Years earlier Cuban government proclamations were calling for the return
of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States for espionage. They were
called The Five Heroes. It was then that Maldonado adopted his nickname
"El Sexto" – the Sixth – and emerged as a graffit artist.
"Danilo says that art has to be brave and try to impact people,"
explains his girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, a Cuban-American journalist
he met in Miami. She says that El Sexto is a fan of Estopa, a Spanish
rock/rumba duo, and Joan Manuel Serrat, a Spanish singer-songwriter. She
tells how impressed he was when he went to New York and visited the
studio of artist Julian Schnabel, director of Before Night Falls, the
film about Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban poet who died of AIDS in exile, and
also the director of Basquiat, about the artist who began is career
using the tag SAMO (for Same Old), on his graffiti in the streets of
Mrs. Machado says that in the case file the cost of erasing her child's
graffiti at Havana Libre was recorded as 27 Cuban pesos
Martinez likes a drawing he has done in his current prison stay,
titled Cemetery of living men. It's a three-level bunk with a man in the
bottom, the middle bunk empty and a cockroach in the upper
bunk. "Someone," his mother says, has been sneaking out of prison the
pages he painted and publishing them on his Facebook page. They have a
He also writes. He talks about his nightmares – zoomorphic guards who
mistreat him; he takes notes of the language of the prisoners –
"fucking: synonymous with food"; and directs messages to his audience –
"I still have not received news of my case," "I draw little because of
my allergy, the excessive dampness and the lack of light, " "the boss of
my unit beat me," "only the cosmic knows the true purpose of this ordeal."
Mrs. Machado says that in the case file the cost of erasing her child's
graffiti at Havana Libre was recorded as 27 Cuban pesos, the equivalent
of one dollar and one cent US. "But they do not forgive what he
painted," she says. Maldonado has written from prison: "Imagine how many
people laugh about me. I'm already famous in jails and prisons." Fidel
Castro left. The bars remain.
Editor's note: This text is reproduced here with the permission of El
País, which published it today.
Source: The Punk Who Didn't Cry For Fidel / 14ymedio, Pablo De LLano –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-punk-who-didnt-cry-for-fidel-14ymedio-pablo-de-llano/ Continue reading
Non-profit sending non-monetary donations to help
3:28 PM, Jan 22, 2017
A pair of wrinkled hands are proof of a long fight in escaping a regime.
"11 years in an inferno. In hell," said Oscar Rodriguez, a Cuban exile.
For 11 years in 1960s he attempted to leave Cuba. That's why as
president of non-profit Casa Cuba. He started an initiative to send
donations to the border. From clothing, to toiletries to non-perishables.
"I think they are in worse conditions because they are like in a limbo,"
said Lydia Gonzalez, who also escaped the communist regime.
Right now around 150 Cubans are stuck there. Their trip to the U.S. cut
short. To pay for the months-long journey most sold their homes and
"I feel so bad," said Gonzalez. "I feel so bad."
Despite feeling bad she said she's supportive of ending the wet foot,
dry foot policy.
"It's not a free country like come and come and come. No, you need to
have your law," Gonzalez said.
The policy has long angered a number of politicians who say some Cuban
immigrants abused the law by getting American residency not for
political escape but for economic betterment.
"We don't care about the Republicans or Democrats in this situation. We
just care about the people," said Rodriguez.
He insists he's staying neutral in this debate, but is speaking out for
the community's help.
"They are over there without hope, so we have to give a little bit to
them," Rodriguez said.
Casa Cuba reopens Saturday, Jan. 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 2506 W.
Curtis St. in Tampa.
Source: Cuban immigrants facing humanitarian crisis near U.S. border,
Tampa helping out - Story | abcactionnews.com | Tampa Bay News, Weather,
Sports, Things To Do | WFTS-TV -
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Somos+, Jose Presol, 18 January 2017 — We expected it for a long time
and it happened, but when we weren't in the line for the ration book. I
am referring to the end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy. We all knew
that it would end, but what we least imagined was that it would be now
and done by the current president, Barack Obama.
It had to be sooner or later. The American people are leaning toward a
policy of protectionism and focusing on their own problems and stumbles,
and there are many Cubans in exile who affirm, "I am not politically
persecuted, I came to resolve my economic problems."
At the same time, there are constant complaints that old and current
repressors and collaborators with the Cuban political regime are also in
the United States, and whether or not they are still collaborating with
the tyranny is not clear. This had to come.
Obama, who not so long ago seemed wonderful to so many people, now has
thousands of defects. No friends, his message was clear, "Cuba's
problems must be solved by Cubans." One more thing we have heard and
interpreted according to our own convenience.
That was a way of saying, among other things: Gentlemen, the American
taxpayers have no obligation to indefinitely finance the immigration of
citizens of other nationalities, especially when we are not sure of
their ideology and when these funds are needed, for example, to improve
the conditions of our own veterans.
Few governments in the world are not aware that these resources are not
unlimited and that this problem is not solved by "minting money."
The fault belongs to us, Cubans. We all know, we are not fools, that the
problem is not that there is no food, the problem is those who have made
it so that there is no food. We have found it more convenient to confuse
the symptoms with the disease. We have found it more convenient to deny
reality. We have found it more convenient to say, with clenched teeth
"over there," that it is an economic problem.
But yes, it is an economic problem, but please, haven't we been under a
constant bombardment of Marxist doctrine for 58 years? Have we not
listened to a single word? Hey guys, they say it themselves, "The
economic problems are political problems."
I am not a fortune-teller and I don't know what the evolution of the
problem in Cuba will be, but I am sure that there have already been two
things: 1) a bucket of cold water for those who hoped to "escape" the
situation, and 2) the disappearance of the escape valve from the current
situation in Cuba, which does not please the regime, despite their
As I said, I do not know how the subject will evolve, but I have hope
that it will end up radicalizing the postures inside Cuba and clarifying
them outside Cuba, and vice versa.
I hope that we Cubans, once and for all, will face our problem, trying
to provoke quantitative changes (so they will understand me, I use
Marxist terms) that, in accumulation, end up producing qualitative changes.
And those quantitative and qualitative changes begin with ourselves.
First, we have to think about who our real rival is and face it, without
palliatives; finding all the cracks in the system and enlarging them,
analyzing their contradictions and denouncing them.
Second, recognize that the problem of Cuba belongs to Cubans, all of us
without exception, and that Cubans must solve it, and forget about
remedies, collective or individual, that come from outside.
Third, we need to focus on programs and lines of action to conquer our
rival; focus on weakening everything that benefits it; focus on
highlighting the weaknesses and errors of the system.
Fourth, these programs and lines of action should focus on Cuba's real
needs. We must not return to situations that we often yearn for and fail
to recognize that they were the reasons for what we have now. We must
build a New Republic, with the ideals of freedom and democracy from our
Fifth, around these programs and lines of action, we have to create the
necessary unity (and, why not, organization) to gather forces instead of
dispersing them, not looking for some leader to solve it for us.
Sixth, these programs and lines of action must be peaceful, we are
children of a nation that has not known peace and tranquility since
October 10, 1868, it is high time that we also address that.
Seventh: Cubans, think. You are the children of the people who fought
for 30 years for independence, who suffered 4 years of American
occupation, people who have had 57 years of a false republic and more
occupations (material or mediated) and another 58 of tyranny. We have
fallen many times and many times we have risen, even mistaking and
getting it wrong again. So get up at once and contribute with your
effort and imagination. This is your opportunity. Do not let it pass.
Translated by Jim
Source: And Now What? / Somos+, Jose Presol – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/and-now-what-somos-jose-presol/ Continue reading
be released Jan. 28
By Elizabeth Llorente Published January 18, 2017 FoxNews.com
A prominent graffiti artist in Cuba who was jailed the day after Fidel
Castro died for actions that appeared to celebrate the late Cuban
leader's passing, reportedly will be released on Jan. 28, his girlfriend
Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," has been transported to various
jails since his arrest on Nov. 26. The 33-year-old dissident has not
been charged with any crimes, those close to him say. He is being held
in a maximum-security jail on the outskirts of Havana, according to
Amnesty International, which has been monitoring Maldonado's
imprisonment and on Tuesday demanded his release.
His girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, who lives in Miami, said she is
hopeful but leery about news that Maldonado will be released. Martinez
said Maldonado told her in a telephone call on Tuesday night that Cuban
authorities told him they were freeing him on Jan. 28.
"We don't know if this is just more psychological torture," she said.
"Last week, he called me screaming that they told him they were going to
execute him. So it was shocking to hear yesterday that they are
Cuban authorities have accused Maldonado of damaging state property,
though no formal charges have been pressed, according to those close to
him as well as Cuban exile groups and international human rights
organizations that have been tracking his situation.
Cuba-based news media reported that Maldonado had created graffiti on a
wall in Havana that read: "He's gone," which was seen as a disrespectful
act by Cuban authorities.
"He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and
unconditionally," said Amnesty International in its Tuesday statement.
Amnesty International noted that it has been denied access to Cuban
jails since 1988. It describes the jail that is housing Maldonado as a
place "where convicted murderers and political prisoners being punished
for their political views are traditionally held."
Meanwhile, Martinez said she is looking toward Jan. 28.
"I fully expect and demand that they follow through" with the promise of
release, she said.
Source: Artist jailed in Cuba since November for anti-Fidel Castro
graffiti may be released Jan. 28 | Fox News -
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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
Totalitarianism touches every aspect of every person's life, and Cuban
communism has been traumatic for adults and children not drunk with
By Armando Simón
JANUARY 16, 2017
Ever since the death of that psychotic dictator Fidel Castro, I have
been experiencing déjà vu. At age ten, I fled my native Cuba after the
Communists took over and proceeded to trash the nation to make it
conform to their totalitarian ideology. You may think that a
ten-year-old would be ignorant of politics and not remember much, but
totalitarianism touches every aspect of every person's life, and it was
traumatic for adults and children who were not drunk with fanaticism.
Aside from the constant persecution, militarism, censorship,
indoctrination in schools, and idiotic slogans pasted everywhere, there
was a complete vanishing of books, comic books, good films, food,
clothing, household items, you name it. Not only were the Communists
psychotic murderers, they were stupidly incompetent at running the
economy, something that they boasted of benefitting the population. In
fact, the only ones who never lacked for anything were the Communists.
You see, "some animals are more equal than others."
So my parents sent me to Florida and joined me soon thereafter. In a few
years I was immersed in American life and culture. When I was in my late
teens and early twenties, I slowly became exposed to Communists in
America. In America, the Communists refuse to call themselves as such
and refer to themselves with euphemisms like "social activists,"
"progressives," and "liberals" (thereby tarnishing every decent
liberal). When they found out I was Cuban, they would grin and tell me
how much they admired Castro, how much good he had done for the Cuban
At the time, I thought they were misinformed, so I tried to tell them
what it was really like. But they didn't want to hear what I had to say,
and nothing penetrated their skulls. They would argue with me! They had
never lived in Cuba before the revolution, they had never visited Cuba
after the revolution, they knew absolutely nothing about Cuba's history,
they knew nothing about Cuban culture, they didn't even speak a word of
Spanish, yet they would argue with a Cuban about Cuba! And they didn't
see how grotesquely stupid was their position.
We Care About Ideology, Not People
Later, in the 1970s, they developed a myth: that Cuba had been America's
colony and playground (i.e., it was a tourist destination—big deal),
prostitution had been abolished, and it was run by the Mafia. This
delusional mantra was overlaid with claims that the Communists had
improved the educational system, and everyone on the island benefitted
from a superb health system (which didn't help my cousin from dying from
beriberi due to malnutrition).
They studiously ignored the tens of thousands of Cubans who fled such a
paradise, a fifth of the population; or the instances of political
repression that would occasionally be revealed, from Huber Matos early
on to the present-day Ladies in White. So although they would blather
about how much they cared about the welfare of the Cuban people, the
reality was that they didn't really give a damn. That was just an
excuse. They just cared about the welfare of the Communist regime.
President Obama's decisions on Cuba exemplify these ideas, from
normalizing the Cuban regime to just recently ending asylum for Cubans
who manage to escape to the United States.
Along this same line, no sooner had the guns gone silent in Cuba that
Hollywood began to crank out pro-Castro and anti-exile movies: "Cuban
Rebel Girls," "Cuba," "Havana," "Scarface," "Creature from the Haunted
Sea," "The Godfather 2," "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Che," "Che," and
more "Che." Since for leftists history is not a scholarly subject but an
instrument for power to be manipulated and molded, historical facts were
distorted. In one film Batista, who was a black man, was portrayed as a
Love for A Murderous Dictator Is Evil
Since the fall of the evil empire, I did not hear much from such
individuals, aside from occasionally coming across some ignorant jackass
who sported a Che Guevara T-shirt. But now, with the death of that
psychopath—yes, he was a true psychopath—they have come crawling out of
the woodwork to heap praise on Fidel Castro, saying yes, he may have
been a dictator but, hey, that is outweighed by how much good he did for
the people (and the s.o.bs still don't speak a word of Spanish!).
Besides, he defied America, whereupon they indulge in abuse of the
United States, usually by citing myths that they hold dear. Much has
been in print, such as the comments of Canada's Justin Trudeau, but you
can hear some of the gushing admiration and Peter Hitchens throwing cold
water on the admirers on YouTube.
So it's all coming back. I have a deep hatred for such individuals, not
just because they are praising a murdering, dictatorial Communist
dictator, although that is understandable in the same way as hearing
Muslims justify pedophilia. It is also because I know full well that
such individuals, given half the chance, would send people to either
concentration camps or firing squads, set up book-burning bonfires, shut
down book publishers and news sources, and establish a secret police. Of
that, you can be sure. That benevolent-sounding pipsqueak is evil.
So the next time you hear someone praise Castro and his minions, do me a
favor: break their face.
Armando Simón lives in San Antonio and is the author of "A Cuban from
Kansas," and, "The Only Red Star I Liked Was a Starfish."
Source: Normalizing The Communists Who Run Cuba Makes This Survivor Sick
http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/16/normalizing-communists-run-cuba-makes-survivor-sick/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 12 January 2017 – [Note: This is an
extended version of an article that appeared earlier today.] The Obama
administration ended the "wet foot/dry foot" policy that allowed Cuban
citizens to stay in the the United States as long as they touched land
in that country.
The Obama administration has also eliminated the Cuban Medical
Professional Parole (CMPP) program, which was set up under the
presidency of Republican George W. Bush, to host the hundreds of doctors
fleeing the island's government from third countries, where they were
serving on "medical missions."
In an official communication, aired jointly in both countries, the Cuban
Government committed to receiving individuals from a list of 2,746
Cubans who were considered inadmissible after the Mariel exodus and
others who did not originally appear on the list.
This measure by the United States does away with the entry by land and
sea of all Cuban citizens without visas, repealing the "wet foot/dry
foot" policy that gave legal status to Cuban migrants who managed to
reach US territory.
From now on, citizens of the island will be treated like any other
Latin American migrant.
"And now what do we do?" asks Yuniel Ramos, a Cuban migrant who is in
Honduras accompanied by more than forty compatriots heading to the
"We are desperate, in the middle of the jungle, how can Obama bypass
Congress and change things without even giving us a period of time to
arrive?" he added.
The end of that policy was an old demand from the Cuban government,
which called it "criminal" and "responsible for the deaths of thousands
The "wet foot/dry foot" policy is an executive order, signed by
President Bill Clinton in 1995, following the Rafter Crisis of that era,
put into effect after negotiations with the Government of the Island.
"The Government of Cuba agrees to begin accepting the return of Cuban
nationals with return orders," read the press release issued as part of
The presidential adviser who made the announcement in the United States
also suggested that the measure is consistent with the strategy proposed
by the Administration to promote change in Cuba.
Between 2006 and 2015, more than 8,000 health professionals have arrived
in the United States through the Medical Parole Program, according to
figures from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS). In 2015 alone, 1,663 Cuban health professionals were welcomed.
The elimination of the CCMP program represents an important triumph for
the Cuban government, which earns great profits from the work of its
doctors abroad, who are paid only a small portion of the money paid to
the Cuban government by foreign governments in exchange for their services.
President-elect Donald Trump threatened to end Obama's reestablishment
of diplomatic relations unless the Cuban government signed a "better
deal" with him.
On December 17, 2014 both countries announced the reestablishment of
diplomatic relations after 50 years, generating a wave of repulsion
among the historic exile in Miami.
"Castro uses refugees as pawns to obtain more concessions from
Washington, so there is no reason to end the Cuban medical program,
which is a reckless concession to a regime that sends its doctors to
foreign nations in a modern-day servitude," said Florida Republican Rep.
"The revocation of the Professional Parole Program for Cuban Doctors was
done because that is what the Cuban dictatorship wanted and the White
House gave in to what Castro wants, instead of defending the democratic
values of the United States," she added.
According to Alexander Jiménez, a Cuban living in Ecuador, the news left
him in shock.
"I had everything ready to go to the United States with my wife, I have
a lot of family members on the road, they are in the jungle, we are
desperate because we cannot communicate with them and now they cannot
continue on their way," he said.
Dariel Gonzalez, a Cuban health specialist who came to the United States
a year ago through the CMPP program, said he had "run out of words."
"It's a low blow that Obama is giving to all health professionals who
want to escape the slavery to which they are subjected by the Cuban
government. This leaves us totally defenseless,"he said.
On the same Thursday that the announcement occurred in Havana and
Washington, meetings were held between delegations of both countries to
discuss the trafficking of people and the claims of confiscated goods.
Both countries stated, however, that the United States will continue
granting 20,000 "exceptional" visas to Cubans on the island to promote
safe migration between countries.. The family reunification program will
also be maintained.
"It is important that Cuba has a population of young people who become
agents of change," said White House adviser Ben Rhodes.
The White House has made clear that it is aware that the reasons for
emigrating are more economic than political.
Cubans who show up at the border will be treated like any other
immigrant. They will have the opportunity to explain their motives if
they are afraid to return home, according to Ben Rhodes.
According to the announcement, Cuba will change its own immigration
policy and will allow Cubans to remain outside the country for a term of
up to four years before they lose their right to reside in the country.
Until today, Cubans who remained outside the country for more than two
years forfeited their right to live in their native country.
Note from the Editor: Contributing to this report were reporters from El
Nuevo Herald: Nora Gámez and Abel Fernandez.
Source: Wet Foot-Dry Foot Policy for Cubans Eliminated / 14ymedio, Mario
Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/wet-foot-dry-foot-policy-for-cubans-eliminated-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, 2 January 2017 – With a military march and a
"parade of the fighting people" the new year dawns in Cuba. This time
there were no tanks in the Plaza of the Revolution, but thousands of
Cubans were taken there from their workplaces in order to demonstrate
unity with the Communist Party and the figure of Raul Castro in the
absence of his brother Fidel, who died on 25 November of last year.
The event was dedicated to the young, "those who are carrying on the
work of the Revolution," to the deceased leader and to the
disembarkation from the yacht Granma, which in 1956 brought a handful of
revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba who overthrew the government of
Fulgencia Batista. All this in a year that is called 'complicated' after
a fall of 0.9% in the GDP, which reflects the failures of the Raulist
reforms and resurrects the old ghosts of the Special Period.
"It is ironic that they dedicate this demonstration to young people,
because they are the first ones who are escaping to wherever they can
because that don't see hope or any possibility of progress in Cuba,"
says Manuel Perez, a young Cuban psychologist who emigrated to Argentina
looking for better work opportunities.
Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu),
shares this view.
For Oliva, the Cuban government is in the midst of "a campaign whose
strategy is well thought out" to revive nationalism among young people,
following the ideological vacuum left by the reestablishment of
relations with the United States.
"Young people are indifferent to these old demonstrations. The only
thing that interests many young Cubans is to escape to any country to
find what they cannot find in theirs," he says.
In the last three years more than 100,000 Cubans have arrived in the
United States by various means to avail themselves of the Cuban
Adjustment Act and obtain residence in that country. A large proportion
of these migrants are young or of working age, which increases the
problem of the aging of the population on the island. In 2025 Cuba will
be the oldest country on the continent in demographic terms.
Negative migration balances, coupled with a low level of fertility, the
already obsolete just-opened technology park, and the scarcity of
foreign investments, which amounted to scarcely 6.5% of what was
planned, constitute serious problems facing the country. Added to that
is the crisis in Venezuela, the Cuban government's main ally, which has
substantially reduced trade with the country, according to official data.
"When the enemy disappeared, there was no one to fight against. That is
something that should be given much attention and hopefully the US
administration will maintain an intelligent discourse and offer no
reason to revive the old Cold War discourse," says Oliva, 29, who
opposes the regime. This Unpacu leader believes that the warlike message
was also addressed to the US government.
For Arnoldo A. Muller, president of the Social Democratic Co-ordination
of Cuba, a Cuban opposition organization attached to Cuban Consensus, an
umbrella organization that brings together several organizations in
exile, the January 2nd march "is a demonstration of strength."
"They want to maintain the continuity of the system and do not want
change. It is a message about who has military control over the country,
the regime makes it known to the people that Castroism continues," he says.
The military parade was barely able to count on some troops trying to
recall the significant moments of Cuban independence battles and the
struggles against the government of Fulgencio Batista. Transportation in
the city was focused on bringing thousands of people from their
workplaces, and there were reports of traffic jams due to the terrible
state of Havana's main arteries.
From the province of Pinar del Rio, Dagoberto Valdés, director of the
Center for Coexistence Studies, adds that military parades "are a
throwback to the culture of war" and "the legacy of a history that has
been written about warlike events and not about the development of civil
For Valdes, it is a manifestation "of that tradition that has believed
that the triumph of the Cuban nation is to make it strong as a Republic
in Arms and not as a Republic of Souls."
Valdés believes that, on the contrary, it is necessary to "change the
logic of war for that of peace, the inheritance of war for the ethical
inheritance, the building of the republic over virtue and love."
Source: Sounds Of War To Drown Out The Economic Crisis In Cuba /
14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/sounds-of-war-to-drown-out-the-economic-crisis-in-cuba-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 29 December 2016 — The model imposed in
Cuba in the name of a socialism that never existed had, among its worst
results, the politicization of everything. Families fought over
politics. Friends became enemies. This was one of the most disastrous
consequences of the "revolutionary intransigence" in which several
generations of Cubans were (badly) educated.
This intransigence, generated by the group in power, facilitated the
development of others.
The phenomenon affected practically every family and friendship, which
according to tradition had always remained very united. The divisions
began in 1959, when the provisional government that was intended to give
way to the restoration of institutionalized democracy, failed to do so
and turned itself into a permanent revolutionary government that began
to apply justice in its own way.
Immediately, more than a few began to see how to advance the centralized
and anti-democratic policies, traditionally identified with communism,
that had done so much damage in Europe and which, in the island's past,
had been linked to Batista, the tyrant who was expelled from power.
Disagreement in democracy is normal, but when there is none and dissent
is considered treason and is not accepted, as in Cuba in the early days
after the triumph of the Revolution, thinking differently is identified
With the first "counterrevolutionaries" began the first great exodus and
many families stopped seeing each other or even communicating for many
years. Then came other waves. In the early 80's, some of those who had
gone into exile began to return to visit and that began to break the ice.
It was not easy for families to welcome "worms" and "traitors" who now
returned with gifts and greater incomes, from a country with another
language, culture, climate and traditions. People were afraid that they
could lose their membership in the Communist Party or a government job.
Some of those who remained in Cuba would not receive their relatives at
that time. Or old friends would not visit with them.
With time and new waves of migration, many of those who had refused to
receive their relatives or friends also went into exile. During the
Mariel Boatlift, some had participated in the repudiation rallies and
shouted, "Let the scum go." They threw eggs. And later, more than a few
them took the same path.
The intransigents insist on continuing to confront families and friends
over politics, and they still reject friendships between people who
think differently, but there are also people who feel individuals are
separate from their ideas and they leave them alone, considering them
friends. Pope Francis comes to mind when he talked about "social
In Miami, on the other side, there are also intransigents. Both sides
make it all the more difficult.
Now, in the aftermath of the former leader's death, we hear again about
"revolutionaries" who did not make friendships carry the weight of
politics and did not accept judgments about the consequences of their
imprint on democracy and socialism. Intolerance is necessary for nothing
There are many people who do not lend themselves to politics destroying
families and friendships. They are fundamental pillars of the future Cuba.
Today, because of the wide exchanges among all Cubans, despite the
intolerance expressed from the rulers, there is more tolerance. This is
part of the preparation necessary to live in a democracy, which will
come sooner rather than later.
It is time for politics to stop separating families and friends. We are
in a good moment for it. Cuba, to advance, needs to leave behind so much
confrontation, so much stubbornness, so much stupidity. Perhaps all
that, on both sides, reached the highest possible point in recent days,
and now, like all that rises, it must descend.
It must be understood that, regardless of the political differences, we
Cubans will one day have to talk to each other and sit together in a
democratic parliament leaving behind grudges and the difficult and
dramatic moments of our history, leading with the future and looking for
a way to accept ourselves in our diversity.
There will have to be apologies and pardons, difficult encounters. If
not men, history will punish crimes and abuses. There will have to be
changes in political power, it will have to be peaceful and democratic,
but blood must be avoided in order not to resume the cycle of violence,
if we really want to see Cuba as a great nation with its international
economic and political weight. Politics will have to give way to family
and friendship. A divided country is easily made a victim of national
and global hegemonies.
Source: It's Time For Politics To Stop Separating Families And Friends /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/its-time-for-politics-to-stop-separating-families-and-friends-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo, Quito, 14 December 2016 — I wake up and I
see a report on the arrival of a group rafters on the coast of Miami.
I'm surprised by the open declaration of one of them, who confesses
having left Cuba in search of a better future, but says he has nothing
against Fidel Castro. His words set me to meditating.
The Cuban Adjustment Act is a good deed on the way to hell. Thousands of
Cubans arrive in the United States every year to take advantage of its
benefits. Its repeal is a taboo subject among the exile and the
emigration. Those who say they are in favor of its elimination or reform
from abroad, receive avalanches of criticism and support, demonstrating
the division of opinions about it.
The government of the island ascribes to the Cuban Adjustment Act the
main reason for the exodus, dismissing internal conditions and policies
that cause people to leave, this being a long-time strategy of the
regime: Someone else is always to blame.
Authorized voices within the Cuban-American political establishment,
such as Senator Marco Rubio, call for a revision of the Cuban Adjustment
Act on the basis that not all Cubans arriving in the United States and
claiming refuge under it meet the conditions to apply for asylum, and
many of them demonstrate their political apathy by returning to the
island as soon as they obtain a US residence permit, discrediting their
supposed condition as a politically persecuted person.
Since the beginning of the most recent migration crisis in November of
2015, the division among Cubans stranded in Costa Rica and Panama is
One group reaffirms, recklessly and motivated by an ignorance of the
nature of the Adjustment Act, that they are economic migrants, which
strengthens the arguments of the regime about the causes of illegal
Others, however, say that they left Cuba because of its repressive
policies, lack of political and economic freedoms, and the
impoverishment of the country, something imposed by an internal blockade
that has plunged the Cuban people into despair.
Both sides agree that this mass escape was motivated by the fear of
political transformations that would be generated by the "thaw," leaving
them inside a nation that sees no long-term changes in the relationship
between the government and the people.
It is legitimate to question whether the Cuban Adjustment Act should
continue under the current terms. The receiving government spends an
annual average of 500 million dollars in aid to the "Cuban
refugees." Some estimates indicate that, from 2014 to late 2016, the
United States has allocated 1.5 billion dollars for monetary aid for the
first six months, food stamps for three months which are renewable for
longer, health insurance for ten months for adults and more health
insurance assistance for children, as well as supplementary services for
Does every Cuban deserve such kindness? The final saga of the migratory
crisis, which has had its most recent and dire chapter in Ecuador,
demonstrated that some members of the regime are parasites benefitting
from the Cuban Adjustment Act. They waste no time in leaving behind the
claws of the tiger, and brazenly appear among the voices clamoring for
an airlift to continue their journey to the United States, while in Cuba
they were persecutors of the Ladies in White, Cuban counterintelligence
officials, members of the National Assembly of People's Power, and
militant communist/opportunists who, tired of the perks of the regime,
head north to take advantage of other perks in "la Yuma" – the United
States. Many of them, who denied there was a political motive to this
breakout, are now in the United States enjoying government help.
Another group, misunderstood and attacked, launched itself in courageous
though reckless protest against the Cuban embassy in Quito, showing the
political nature of the exodus and starring in one of the never before
seen historic feats of the emigration. Unfortunately, it is an event
little spoken of. Many of the protesters were deported to Cuba. Another
group of people and protagonists of the protest camp in Quito's Arbolito
Park are already in the United States, justifying with their actions and
political stance that they deserve the benefits of the Cuban Adjustment Act.
I support reform of the terms of the Cuban Adjustment Act. It is not
fair that the American taxpayers' money goes into the hands of those who
enjoyed communism and now want to enjoy capitalism without deserving to.
It is not fair that economic emigrants and future speculators head back
to the island with their recently obtained residence permits, trampling
on the spirit that gave rise to the law. Those who are unscrupulous and
reject with their behavior – far from that of the politically persecuted
– the refuge offered to them, should have their status reassessed.
I do not live in the United States and I have not benefited from the
Cuban Adjustment Act, nor do I consider myself politically persecuted,
despite my actions and opinions, but I condemn those who mock the law
and discredit the support and sustenance that the United States
government has offered to our people in the hard years of the exodus,
which sadly does not end.
Source: Cuban Adjustment Act or Upheaval Act / 14ymedio, Rolando
Gallardo – Translating Cuba -
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14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo, Quito, 10 December 2016 — On the 58th
anniversary of the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, the seizure of power
by Fidel Castro and the disappearance of the national hope of a return
to the constitutional values of 1940, the people of Cuba, their
emigration and the "historic exile" continue to ask the same rhetorical
question: When will we be free?
Before the Obama administration's rapprochement, the island's regime
raised the alarms of the possible perpetuation of the current state of
affairs. Opposition groups have concentrated their intellectual efforts
on delegitimizing the actions of the United States government and few
have concerned themselves with analyzing the new opportunities for
action that it presents. They demand that Washington return to the
politics of confrontation of the last 50 years, a return to a Cold War
based on ideological footholds or real threats to the stability of the
United States that no longer exist. Times have changed, the world is not
the same, this is a fact.
Although US President Barack Obama broke the taboo by stepping foot in
Havana and shaking General Raul Castro's hand, and despite the ongoing
conversations, the situation in Cuban continues more or less the same.
The defenders of the regime point to the deep popular roots of the
"Revolution"; the defenders of Obama's policies blame the opposition's
inability to articulate a plan to destabilize the regime or to win
popular support; the detractors of the US administration, coincidentally
the traditional opposition the Cuban regime, both on the same side but
for opposite reasons, argue that rapprochement is useless. For
officialdom it is a maneuver to hide mixed objectives, for the regime's
opponents it is a maneuver to strengthen the regime and betray
democratic aspirations, etc.
But what are the real reasons that social unrest does not happen in Cuba?
In the current Cuban conflict four elements are involved. We must assume
that there are four important figures, three national and one
external. The national figures are the government and its repressive
structures ("mass organization" in the official jargon), opposition
groups inside and outside the country and, most importantly, the
ordinary people (workers, students, housewives, technicians, doctors
etc.), mostly discontented but with high levels of political apathy. The
external element is the US government and its policies toward the island.
Where is the project?
The traditional, dispersed and divided opposition base their positions
on the flagrant violations of human rights. The main flag of dozens of
opposition groups is the establishment of democracy and free elections,
a cause undoubtedly just but one that does not offer a intelligible plan
to the Cuban masses who want a change in their pocketbooks and in their
kitchens. The objectives of the struggle seem futile to a needy majority
that depends on the ration book and the tiny wages, the lowest salaries
in the Western hemisphere. The opposition discourse forgets to speak out
about the pressing needs of the population. What does the ordinary Cuban
want to hear? Do they want to hear about democracy? Are the interests of
the opposition the same as those of the common people?
The opposition leadership is a burning issue. Some avoid talking about
it so that they are not accused of "pandering to the regime" and end up
being called "G2 agents," that is in the pocket of State Security. New
times need ethical leadership, a leadership immune to the caudillos, one
that can articulate the ideas and diverse projects in the current
collage of opposition factions.
We have a common rosary of ex-prisoners turned into patriotic opponents,
people who love to get checks and their phones recharged, opposition
caricatures who don't act if the interests of their fiefdom or their
personal opinions are not affected. A leadership that doesn't skimp on
launching insults to devalue their adversaries, in the seeking of
remittances from abroad. A kind of political flip-floppers that end up
smearing the work of ethically firm and committed opponents. One wonders
which they benefit more, the democratic cause, or the regime's
discourse. They should aspire to a prepared leadership, trained in
theory and practice. Leaders, not supervisors, are what the cause needs.
The Gene Sharp Academy has become famous among opponents. It is common
to hear the term as if it were a hidden card, a weapon per se. Civil
disobedience is a process that starts from a common idea, a shared
desire by the majority who attempt to act together from the first moment
in the simple refusal to be a part of what they don't agree with
The mistake is to call the masses to participate in marches and strikes
when they have not first been called to abandon the repressive
structures of the regime. It is joining together in civil disobedience
when fear is lost and this is discovered when realizing there are many
who are willing to be punished.
A simple act of civil disobedience is putting a ribbon on the door or a
sticker in the window. It is not about a march like that of September
1st in Venezuela if people haven't already identified with the
"The suspicion syndrome"
The fear of being marked by the regime is one of the reasons for
political apathy. The vast majority of Cubans talk quietly at home,
criticizing the barbarity and arbitrariness of the government. People
avoid talking about it more at work saying: "You don't know who's
who." The fear of being put on the blacklist makes people prefer to
remain outside any political debate and simply repeat the regime's
propaganda or join its repressive organizations (mass organizations) "so
as not to stand out." Opportunism and amorality have become an instinct
End of the charismatic government
Fidel Castro met his end. The charismatic leader, bearer of all truth,
was a decrepit old man. Although some, glued to the criticism of his
image and legacy, still blame him for everything as if he still ruled,
the reality is that nature, the only effective opponent of the regime,
has removed Fidel Castro.
Fidel's hypnotic personality was the cornerstone of the Cuban
government. The interfamily transfer of power left a vacuum that we
ignore. Raul Castro, the elderly general, is a person with little
facility with words, jovial among his people but lacking charisma,
incoherent, a faint shadow of what was the sex-symbol image of the
Commander in Chief in his younger days.
Obama's visit unveiled a Raul Castro without arguments, disoriented, his
voice shrill and disagreeable, reflecting what was left of the "historic
leadership of the Revolution." The dictatorship has lost its charisma
and its essence becomes more evident.
Possibility of dialog
The Cuban opposition currently does not have the power or the popular
support to force a dialog with the government. Some passionate but
hardly pragmatic leaders refuse, as an exercise in bravado, to accept a
possible future dialog with the regime. Dialog is desirable, it can be a
way to negotiate agreements and to obtain a share of power when the
conditions for it are created. But, being realists, the opposition in
Cuba had done very little to obtain the elements of pressure.
Obama policy and "normalization"
"Normalization" took the opposition by surprise. Something cooking
behind the scenes until we all got a whiff of it. President Obama,
ending his term in office, launched an adventure toward an uncertain
future. Like it or not there are now fluid diplomatic relations between
both countries. The screws have been loosened on the restrictions of the
embargo-blockade, a policy that has been voted against for two decades
by the majority of the countries that make up the United Nations General
Assembly. Keeping it was illogical and trying this new path is the only
The disappearance of tensions and the eventual end of the embargo will
put an end to the concept of the imperialist enemy and mark the end of
political ideological work. The regime is left without the excuse of
considering itself the hero of the "plaza under siege." The blame cannot
eternally fall on the United States: there are no reasons for the
scarcities, the corruption, the persecution of entrepreneurs, the
imposed lack of connection to the internet, the lack of freedom of
expression and the violations of human rights. Will the opposition adapt
to the new rules of the game and abandon its tantrums?
A social explosion will not occur in Cuba as long as a separation of
immediate interests between the population and the opposition
persists. People must lose their fear and become aware that most Cubans
want an immediate change in relations with the state. An ethical renewal
of the opposition is essential, as is the meeting at an intermediate
point that permits unifying the idea of change for Cuba on the basis of
a viable project to undermine the foundations of a regime that has lost
its charismatic leader. Articulating a project for a future Republic
that does not start from antiquated rhetoric about obsolete economic
projects and licenses to kill.
A social explosion will come only when the majority of the population
identifies the single culprit responsible for their ills, for which the
distractions and excuses must disappear. We must put an end to the idea
of the "imperialist enemy." It requires a committed opposition that
takes advantage of the new conditions and doesn't lend itself to the
improbable activities of those who have settled into a way of life
guaranteed by dissent.
The freedom of Cuba does not depend on the United States, it depends on
our own efforts. As long as we don't understand our own responsibility,
we will not achieve the changes we aspire to.
Source: Losing Fear To Get Freedom / 14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/losing-fear-to-get-freedom-14ymedio-rolando-gallardo/ Continue reading
by Father Joseph D. Wallace, December 9, 2016
Years ago, when I was in the seminary, I became friends with a fellow
seminarian who is now Father Manuel Rios, pastor of Saint Mary of the
Assumption Parish, in Elizabeth, N.J., and who remains a dear friend of
mine. Manny's family came to this country when he was a young man to
live in West New York, N.J. Many times I stayed at Manny's house and was
spoiled by his mother's wonderful cooking and the warmth of the wider
Cuban community who lived in great numbers along Bergenline Avenue that
ran through such places as Union City and West New York.
It wasn't hard to pick up after a short time being around the exile
Cuban community in this area, known as "Havana on the Hudson," that they
had no time for Fidel Castro. They viewed him as a brutal dictator who
imposed great suffering on those who opposed his brand of Marxism that
included suppression of religion on the island.
Since his death the other week, both political and religious leaders
have worded their responses and condolences very carefully. It is
because of his rather duplicitous legacy on the world scene. The vast
majority of Cubans prior to Castro were devout Roman Catholics. In fact,
Castro was baptized and raised in the Catholic Church as a child, but
would later say in an interview in a documentary that "I have never been
When Castro suppressed all Catholic institutions in Cuba in 1962, Saint
John XXIII excommunicated him.
Of course, Roman Catholics were not the only religious community
affected by Castro's anti-religious sentiments and persecutions. The
Jewish community which numbered over 30,000 before his revolution is
presently down to fewer than 1,000 living in Cuba today.
It really was not until the 1990s that Castro begun loosening his vice
grip on religious freedom on the island. In 1992 he actually allowed
practicing Catholics to join the Communist Party in Cuba. His rhetoric
about religion also started changing at this time, describing his
country as "secular" rather than his earlier description of "atheist."
In 1998, Saint John Paul II visited Cuba, the first pope to ever visit
the island. Castro and John Paul treated each other with respect and
dignity during the visit. Castro even donned secular clothes rather than
his usual fatigues (used to continue the notion of revolution). The
result of that meeting was that Castro formally reinstated Christmas Day
as an official celebration since he abolished permission to celebrate
Christmas in 1969. He also allowed for religious processions to resume
again. The pope sent him a telegram at that time thanking him for this
new permission for Christians.
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I came to Cuba to
consecrate the Orthodox Cathedral and bestowed an honor on Castro for
building and donating the church in the heart of Havana.
In 2012 Castro had a 30 minute audience with Pope Benedict XVI during
his visit to Cuba. Benedict, who advocated ending the American embargo
on Cuba, also encouraged a more open society in Cuba. During Pope
Benedict's visit, Castro asked what popes do with their time and asked
the pope his opinion on the changes that have taken place in the church
over the last century.
Pope Francis visited Cuba and met with Castro on Sept. 20, 2015, when
they discussed such things as protecting the environment and the
problems of the modern world. Pope Francis is also credited for helping
to broker the restoration of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Cuba.
After the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two
countries last year, Pope Francis in a statement quoted the Cuban hero
and independence fighter, Jose Marti, when he said the restoration "is a
sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue, 'the
system of universal growth' over 'the forever-dead system of groups and
In a 2009 spoken autobiography, Castro said that Christianity exhibited
"a group of very humane precepts" which gave the world "ethical values"
and a "sense of social justice," as he added, "If people call me
Christian, not from the standpoint of religion but from the standpoint
of social vision, I declare that I am a Christian."
While we all hope that the death of Fidel Castro may lead to greater
freedom and social justice in Cuba, the jury is still out. Even after
the lifting of religious repression laws back in the 1990s the Castro
regime was reported by the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom's 2016 report that Cuba's "government designated 2,000
Assemblies of God churches as illegal and ordered their closure,
confiscation or demolition."
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, where many exiles from Cuba live,
summed things up well when he said, "His death provokes many emotions,
both in and outside the island. Nevertheless, beyond all possible
emotions, the passing of this figure should lead us to invoke the
patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity, asking for peace for Cuba and
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious
Affairs, Diocese of Camden.
Source: Prayers for greater freedom, social justice in Cuba | Catholic
Star Herald -
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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
Por fin conocí a Carmen Herrera (1915) en 1992, gracias al documentalista Ray Blanco. Blanco estaba planeando su serie de documentales Artists in Exile y quería que yo fuera uno de los historiadores de arte entrevistados para el proyecto. Al final terminé ayudándolo con los guiones, las preguntas y un par de las entrevistas.Continue reading
BY GLENN GARVIN
Danilo Maldonado's collision with the Cuban revolution is, in some ways,
a silly asterisk to history. And in others, it practically defines the
country's dilemma of the past 57 years, a state that defines itself as
the people's political vanguard, but more often seems to be their jailer.
On Christmas Day of 2014, Maldonado — a dissident graffiti artist better
known as El Sexto — was riding along Havana's waterfront Malecón when
traffic cops pulled his car over. Hearing odd scrabbling noises from the
trunk, they opened it to find a pair of pigs with names scrawled on
their backs: Fidel and Raúl.
Without another word, the cops arrested the 30-year-old Maldonado. (Not
that his explanation would have helped; he was taking the pigs to
perform in an informal production of George Orwell's withering
anti-communist satire "Animal Farm.")
Charged with "disrespect of the leaders of the revolution" — the police
clearly did not believe it a coincidence that the pigs' names were the
same as those of the Castro brothers who have ruled Cuba since 1959 —
Maldonado languished in jail without a trial for 10 months until Amnesty
International labeled him a "prisoner of conscience" and the government
finally turned him loose.
Those 10 months — 300-some days, 7,000-some hours, all irretrievably
lost — are a tiny part of the human cost of Fidel Castro's revolution.
If Castro strode the stage of world history the past six decades,
preaching socialism and making allies and enemies of nations a hundred
times Cuba's size, the price was paid — in jail time, in exile, in blood
— by his unwilling countrymen. It is a price that defies accounting.
"The price? I couldn't begin to give you the numbers," says Carlos
Ponce, the director of the Latin American and Caribbean division of the
human-rights group Freedom House. "I can tell you that 2 million Cubans
live outside Cuba, I can tell you that in the last 10 years, there have
been nearly 18,000 political detainees.
"How many in jail since 1959? How many executed? How many lost at sea? I
can't even guess."
There are organizations that try to track those numbers. But extracting
information from a secretive totalitarian regime that likely doesn't
even know the answers itself is a nearly impossible task and likely to
remain so, even if there are significant changes in the way the the
Cuban government does business following Fidel Castro's death last month.
"Even after the Soviet Union fell, when some of its archives opened up
for a time, all we really learned was the extent of the cover-up, all
the measures the Soviets took to cover up their crimes," says Marion
Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Foundation, which studies the human-rights histories of communist regimes.
"But we never got a precise number of victims, or their names. The
Soviets didn't want to keep precise records — they had learned their
lesson from the Nazis, who did keep precise records, which were used to
indict Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg."
Approaching the problem from the other end — compiling statistics based
on accounts from victims or their friends and families — has its own
difficulties, including the human tendencies to exaggerate or even
deliberately falsify information for propaganda purposes.
In the mid-1990s, one of the most visible reproofs to Cuba's
human-rights record was the "Quilt of Castro's Genocide," a collage of
hand-sewn cloth panels bearing the names of about 10,000 Cubans believed
to have met their deaths at the hands of their own government. But
within a few years, the quilt disappeared after many of the "victims"
proved to be alive or to have died of natural causes.
Yet even with all the obstacles, some groups have at least made a start
in establishing the broad outlines of what Castro's government has cost
The late and widely respected University of Hawaii historian R. J.
Rummel, who made a career out of studying what he termed "democide," the
killing of people by their own government, reported in 1987 that
credible estimates of the Castro regime's death toll ran from 35,000 to
141,000, with a median of 73,000.
"I think that's a good range," says Smith. "It's compatible with what
we're comfortable using, which is 'tens of thousands.'"
Yet the Cuba Archive, the Coral Gables-based organization generally
regarded as the most scrupulous in documenting human-rights abuses in
Cuba, uses a much lower figure of 7,193 (which, incidentally, includes
21 Americans, several of whom worked with the CIA).
"Those are the ones we've documented, using either information released
by the government or the testimony of eyewitnesses, not hearsay or
guesswork," says Maria Werlau, the group's president. "We know the
numbers are much, much higher, but this is what we can actually document
Part of the difficulty is figuring out what deaths to include. The 5,000
or so executed in the immediate aftermath of Castro's 1959 takeover —
sometimes after kangaroo-court trials, sometimes without even that — are
included in nearly everybody's figures. (Figurative talk about a balance
sheet for the human costs of the revolution turns quite literal when the
executions are discussed; for a time during the 1960s, the Cuban
government extracted most of the blood from the victims before they were
shot, then sold it to other communist countries for $50 a pint.)
But what about the Cuban soldiers killed during Castro's military
adventures in Africa during the 1970s and 1980s? (The official death
toll: 4,000. But a Cuban Air Force general who defected in 1987 put the
number killed in Angola alone at 10,000.) And the county's suicide rate
has tripled under Castro. Should the 1,500 or so Cubans who kill
themselves each year be included? If not all of them, how about the 10 a
year who commit suicide — or die of medical neglect — in prison?
The largest number of deaths is believed to be those lost at sea trying
to escape Cuba on makeshift rafts. For years, the Cuba Archive used an
estimate worked up by Harvard-trained economist Armando Lago of about
77,000 rafter deaths by 2003.
But that number was always controversial. It was derived not from
eyewitness testimony but a shaky mathematical formula. Lago first
estimated the number of Cuban refugees reaching the United States by
sea, then assumed that they represented just 25 percent of the attempted
crossing. The rest were presumed dead.
"After Armando died in 2008, we quit using that 77,000 number," Werlau
says. "We don't really know how many people arrive by sea — the U.S.
Coast Guard does not cooperate with us, and in any event, they don't
catch everybody who comes by sea. And the 75 percent mortality rate,
that was just an assumption that was not really defensible. It might be
lower. It might be higher."
Instead, the Cuba Archive uses a much lower number — 1,134 missing or
dead — collected from accounts of survivors who saw other rafters go
astray. "We know that number is far too low — far, far too low — but
it's what we can prove," she says.
Whatever the real number of deaths that can be attributed to Fidel
Castro's regime, it's clear he was an underachiever compared to other
communist regimes, where large percentages of the population were
killed. "Our estimate on deaths in the Soviet Union is 50 million, and
in China, 60 million," says Smith. "Castro is small chops compared to that."
Whether you count in cold economic terms as time diverted from
productive work, or as an unquantifiable sentimental loss of moments
with friends and loved ones, the uncountable thousands of collective
years Cubans have spent in jail for political offenses is certainly part
of the human toll of the revolution. But it's a number that no one is
even willing to guess at.
"There is no one list of political prisoners that can be considered
complete or reliable," says Matt Perez, a spokesman for the New
Jersey-based Union of Cuban Ex-Political Prisoners. "Even court records
and prison records wouldn't tell you.
"For instance right after the  Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro
rounded up everybody who might remotely be considered a suspect in
working against the government, thousands and thousands and thousands of
people. They didn't have enough jails to hold them all, so they took
over schools and then houses and just put people inside, so crowded that
they couldn't even sit down.
"Some of those people were released in days, some in weeks, some in
months, and some went to jail for a long time. Most of them never had
any kind of trial and hearing. But every single one of them was a
political prisoner, at least for a little while.
"Perhaps someday, if we're lucky enough and the regime falls and we can
get into the archives, we can know this. If they don't burn them first."
Even the archives might not be enough. Many criminal offenses in Cuba,
from the illegality of owning a boat to the prohibition on farmers
slaughtering cattle to feed their families, wouldn't be crimes at all in
a democracy where people can come and go as they please and sell the
products of their work to whomever they choose.
"In Cuba, telling the difference between a political crime and a common
crime can be very complicated," says Cuban-American writer Humberto
Fontova, author of several books harshly critical of the Castro regime.
"The prohibition on slaughtering cows, for instance — you might actually
spend more time in jail in Cuba for killing a cow than for killing a
person, because they don't want farmers selling their beef to anybody
but government slaughterhouses."
Freedom House's Ponce, during conversations with Alan Gross, a U.S.
government contractor jailed for five years in Cuba on spying charges,
was astonished to learn that Gross' cellmate was in prison for accepting
an unauthorized tip from a foreign tourist. "Five or six years in jail
for taking a couple of dollars from a tourist!" exclaimed Ponce. "Most
human-rights groups do not include those types of crimes when they are
making lists of political prisoners, but I don't know what else you
could call it."
Nearly everyone who has examined the issue of Cuban political prisoners
agrees that, over the course of Fidel Castro's rule, they numbered in
the hundreds of thousands, serving jail time ranging from a few hours to
a few decades. And there is no sign that his death has changed anything.
Within a few hours of Fidel's exit from the mortal coil, Danilo
Maldonado, barely a year out of jail for his renegade pig humor, was
locked up again, accused of writing anti-Castro graffiti on the wall of
the Hotel Habana Libre, where Castro lived for a time following his
victory in 1959. The words Maldonado scrawled: Se fue. He's gone.
Clearly, he's not.
Source: The human cost of Fidel Castro's revolution was a high one |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article118282148.html Continue reading
BY ANDRES VIGLUCCI
The Gateway to the Americas: That's how Miami's business and civic
leaders would grandly if sporadically label the city in the middle of
the last century. In reality, the slogan was wishful thinking, little
more than the stuff of promotional brochures.
Contrary to the historic image as a sleepy tourist town that seems to
hold sway today, Miami was at the time already a dynamic city, having
grown dramatically after World War II. But it looked steadfastly north
as it absorbed waves of New Yorkers, Midwesterners and Southerners both
white and black who were drawn to settle in Miami by — what else? —
climate and opportunity.
Then came the Cuban Revolution.
Fidel Castro's march to Havana at the head of an army of bearded
revolutionaries in the early days of 1959 would turn out to be the
single most consequential event in Miami's short history. Over the next
five decades, Castro's increasingly repressive and eventually
economically bankrupt regime would send successive new waves of
enterprising Cuban refugees to Miami, transforming the fledgling
metropolis into a true international city that looks both south and
north, though likely in ways those civic leaders of the 1940s and '50s
It's one of the ironies of history that the late Castro, the Cuban
revolutionary hero-cum-tyrant who died Thanksgiving weekend at age 90,
was the unintending father of today's Miami — a cosmopolitan, polyglot,
multicultural global city that serves as an uber-capitalistic nexus of
finance, trade and culture between the United States and Latin America
and the Caribbean.
And it all goes back to the enclave centered on Little Havana and Calle
Ocho that the first waves of Cuban exiles established in the 1960s,
historians and sociologists who have studied the exodus say.
Mostly educated members of Cuba's elite and middle classes, these
largely disenfranchised exiles — with a substantial assist from a U.S.
government eager to showcase the American system's advantages over
Cuba's Communist regime — used their skills and experience to build
local businesses, providing ready-made employment for each group of new
arrivals, before branching out into larger enterprises and banking and
international trade. From that base, Cuban exiles would accomplish
something almost unheard of, rising to a dominant political and economic
power and reshaping a big U.S. city within a single generation.
It helped that the early exiles were what Florida International
University sociologist Guillermo Grenier, himself a Cuban exile, calls
"the right kind of immigrants" — overwhelmingly white and educated, many
already familiar with Miami and the United States and its business mores
— who arrived in massive numbers at a propitious time.
Immigration was opening up for non-Europeans, refugees from the Cold War
were welcome, and starting in 1966 the Cuban Adjustment Act, an
extensive refugee assistance program and generous federal small-business
loans gave exiles a priviliged immigration status and a marked economic
leg up. The U.S. population and economy, meanwhile, were beginning a
historic shift to the Sunbelt and the civil rights legislation barred
discrimination against minorities, Grenier notes.
Miami, a developing city primed for growth and without a deeply
entrenched elite, was fertile ground for a determined group of
newcomers, he said.
"Cubans didn't so much make Miami as Miami was ready to be made,"
Grenier said. "You had a perfect cauldron with this environment where
immigrants with the characteristics of Cubans would have to mess up big
time not to thrive. And we did thrive."
By dint of sheer numbers, mostly controlled by Fidel Castro's decision
to open or shut the tap for Cubans looking to leave the island, the
exiles were sure to change what was then known as Dade County, which had
a population of just under one million. About 135,000 Cubans came just
in the first two years after the Revolution, followed between 1965 and
1973 by 340,000 more on the twice-daily Freedom Flights, most of them
members of Cuba's middle and working classes.
The 1980 boatlift launched when Castro opened the port of Mariel to
anyone wanting out of Cuba would later bring 125,000 others — for the
first time including many Cubans who had grown up in Communist Cuba — in
a matter of months. In summer of 1994, after Castro allowed 32,000
people to flee on rafts, a bilateral migration accord that ended the
crisis reopened a steady flow until this day, with the U.S. government
agreeing to grant a minimum of 20,000 visas to Cubans every year. About
550,000 Cubans have received visas under the program since 1996, Grenier
Most of those refugees have ended up in Miami, including many who
initially settled in Puerto Rico, New Jersey or the numerous other
accidental shores around the world where Cubans landed after exile.
"No matter how hard the U.S. government has tried to resettle Cubans
elsewhere, they gravitate back to Miami," said Silvia Pedraza, a
Cuban-American sociologist at the University of Michigan who has written
extensively about the Cuban exodus.
Today more than a third of Miami-Dade's population of around 2.7 million
is either Cuban-born or of Cuban descent, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau. Over the decades, Cubans have been joined in Miami by other
political refugees and immigrants from around Latin America and the
Caribbean, including Nicaraguans and Colombians, who found the
Spanish-speaking culture hospitable and have also contributed
significantly to the city's internationalization.
But it was Cuban exiles who first established extensive business ties
with the rest of the hemisphere, looking to diversify and expand their
enterprises through trade and finance, Pedraza and other experts say.
U.S. companies, too, recruited Cuban exiles with business experience —
sometimes garnered while working for Americans in Cuba — to staff, run
or expand operations in other Latin American countries.
The experience of Pedraza's father is illustrative. Alfredo Pedraza, who
had studied at MIT, worked for tire-maker B.F. Goodrich in Cuba, and
after leaving the island became the company's sales manager in Bogotá
for 12 years before settling in Miami for good, the Michigan professor
said. In Miami, he helped an Ecuadorean firm establish what's proven a
lucrative trade sector — shipping fresh shrimp by air from Ecuador to
the United States.
"Miami is in many ways a Latin American city and it's open to all of
Latin America," Silvia Pedraza said. "There are connections of all sorts."
At the same time, as Miami's Cuban enclave expanded and diversified,
Latin American businesspeople looking to invest or park their capital
securely in the United States — especially at times of political or
economic crisis in their homelands — increasingly looked to Miami, where
they could bank and conduct business in Spanish while enjoying familiar
food and customs. So did American and European businesspeople looking to
connect to Latin America.
Those advantages helped Miami vault over competitors for Latin American
commerce and shipping like New Orleans and Tampa, said sociologist
Alejandro Portes, a Cuban-born Princeton professor emeritus with a
distinguished-scholar appointment at the University of Miami.
"That Miami rose up to prominence as a global city has a lot to do with
the arrival of the Cubans, but also because their presence created an
attractive opportunity for others," Portes said. "For the well-to-do in
places like Argentina, it's much more convenient that Miami has a savvy
business community that speaks Spanish, than to go to New York and
conduct business through a translator or in broken English."
That success didn't come without a battle, said Portes, co-author of
"Miami: City on the Edge," a definitive account of the city's
transformation through the early 1990s. Cuban exiles initially met
resistance from Miami's business and political establishment. But even
as they asserted themselves economically, and exerted clout through
organizations like the Cuban American National Foundation and the Latin
Builders Association, Cuban exiles used their numbers and concentrations
to begin electing political leaders from among their own, eventually
supplanting the city's "Anglo" business and political leadership, he said.
"This was a fairly enlightened leadership that opened and procured the
internationalization of the city as a financial center," said Portes,
who is now writing a sequel about Miami's rise to international
prominence since the 1990s. "Out of those battles came a series of
stages that have transformed the city into one of the key players in the
global economy, and way beyond its past as a winter tourist destination."
But absorbing hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees also carried
significant costs. The crashing waves at times led to considerable
disruption, including crime waves and fiscal and political crises, tense
clashes over the primacy of English and, over time, a dramatic "white
flight" that's left Miami-Dade's non-Hispanic white population a
The timing of the exiles' arrival also proved unfortunate for the
county's African-American population just as the civil rights struggle
might have opened doors and opportunities to blacks. They saw the road
to advancement closed off as hundreds of thousands of Cubans arrived to
fill jobs as waiters, maids, bellhops and cooks in hotels and
restaurants that were once the province of blacks.
To this day, relations between Cuban Americans and the city's
native-born blacks and Haitian immigrants remain standoffish at best,
and residential segregation is among the most pronounced in the country,
the sociologists say.
The rise of the city's internationally oriented economy that Cuban
exiles wrought, a significant segment of it concentrated in development,
has also created what some experts have termed a growth machine that
exacerbates economic divisions and inequality in Miami, not to mention
transportation and congestion problems — all which Portes says the
city's current leadership seems unequipped to address.
"The traditional black areas of town have not been beneficiaries in any
significant way of the economic expansion of the city. The winners are
the developers, the growth machine, the builders, the bankers and those
people who live in condominiums in Brickell and Downtown," Portes said.
"The city is living the consequences of its own success."
No longer a southern city, Miami is also no longer Havana north. Cubans'
success has attracted competition from entrepreneurial Venezuelans,
Brazilians and even — in a final turn of irony — Russians, who are
building, banking and living, at least part of the time, in the city.
The increasing diversity has diluted the sway of the Cuban political and
economic class, Portes says his new research suggests, leaving no clear
or decisive leadership group in place.
"There are lots of transients, lots of people who come and go, and there
are few of what you might call true Miamians, people who are civic
spirited," Portes said. "It exists, but is not very large."
And so the story of Miami doesn't end with the Cuban exiles, he
suggests. But as Fidel Castro is borne to his final resting place in the
city of Santiago, in Miami, too, it's not clear who's now going to be in
Source: Fidel Castro: Unwitting father of modern Miami | Miami Herald -
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BY GASPAR GONZÁLEZ
The magnitude of Fidel Castro's impact on society and politics in Cuba
also extended to the island's sporting life. It is difficult to name
another national leader who so completely identified — and encouraged
others to identify him — with the games his people played. For nearly
five decades, Castro enthusiastically trumpeted the achievements of the
national baseball and boxing teams (both long considered among the best
in the world), the national women's volleyball team (Olympic gold
medalists in 1992, 1996 and 2000) and various track and field stars as
proof that the future belonged to socialism.
It was baseball, though, that was closest to Castro's heart, and image.
It was rumored that, as a young pitcher in the late 1940s, Castro failed
a major-league tryout. The anecdote has always been particularly popular
in the exile community, where it is usually presented as evidence that
not only Fidel, but fate itself conspired against Cuba; the assumption
being that Castro was much more interested in dominating big-league
hitters than his homeland.
The truth is Castro was never a pitching prospect. In fact, the only
indication that he ever played baseball at all prior to the revolution,
according to Cuba scholar and Yale University professor Roberto González
Echevarría, is a single newspaper box score from 1946 showing that a
certain "F. Castro" pitched in an intramural game at the University of
Havana. (He lost, 5-4.) "There is no record that Fidel Castro ever
played, much less starred, on any team," writes González Echevarría in
"The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball."
Castro's lack of baseball prowess did not stop him from indulging in
diamond theatrics. On one such occasion — in July 1959 — he donned a
uniform for an exhibition game in Havana's Gran Stadium. Pitching for a
team that called itself "Los Barbudos" (The Bearded Ones), the maximum
leader struck out two batters in an inning's worth of work. The Sporting
News, though, couldn't help but notice that Castro was the recipient of
more than a little help behind the plate: "When the [umpire] called the
batter out on a high, inside pitch, Castro dashed to the plate and shook
hands with the ump."
No event, however, more closely tied together Castro, politics and
sports than the removal of the Havana Sugar Kings from Cuba in 1960. The
Sugar Kings were the defending champions of the International League, a
top-tier minor league circuit that also included the original Miami
Marlins. Troubled by Castro's increasing belligerence — the Cuban leader
had begun his seizure of American assets — and citing concern over the
safety of visiting players, the league pulled the team out of Cuba in
mid-season, moved it north and rechristened it the Jersey City Jerseys.
Castro characterized the decision as "one more aggression against our
people by the United States government" and branded Napoleon Reyes, who
had agreed to manage the team in Jersey City, a "traitor to the
revolution." When two plainclothes detectives were assigned to guard
Reyes during the Jerseys' home opener, few were surprised. "In those
days, everybody was scared," former major-leaguer Octavio "Cookie" Rojas
— at the time, a young second baseman on the team — told the Herald in 2005.
The cold war custody battle over the Sugar Kings marked the beginning of
the end of professional sports in Cuba. One last season of pro winter
ball was played in 1960-61 before Castro closed the door: Ballplayers
and other athletes, prized for their symbolic value to the revolution,
would no longer be allowed to emigrate.
With that decision, Castro not only altered the history of Cuban sport,
but the history of sport in this country as well. Cuban athletes had
been prominent in the U.S. since at least the 1920s, when pitcher Adolfo
Luque starred for the Cincinnati Reds and boxer Kid Chocolate (born
Eligio Sardiñas) ruled the ring in New York.
By the 1960s, the boxers and ballplayers who were among the last to
legally leave Cuba had become some of sports' prime performers. On the
baseball side, they included Hall of Famer Tony Pérez, three-time
American League batting champ Tony Oliva, 1969 Cy Young Award winner
Miguel "Mike" Cuellar and 229-game winner Luis Tiant. In boxing, Luis
Manuel Rodríguez, José (Mantequilla) Napoles and Ultiminio (Sugar) Ramos
all won world championships in the 1960s.
Hence the riddle that has hung over the sporting world for more than
five decades: How many more professional athletes of that caliber might
Cuba have produced? The answer to that question has turned into one of
our great sporting obsessions, a kind of perpetual fantasy league fueled
by the Olympics and other international competitions and the dramatic
defections of numerous Cuban ballplayers and boxers.
For years, many dreamed of a matchup between Olympic champion Teófilo
Stevenson and then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. It almost
happened: Stevenson reportedly was offered millions to defect following
his victory at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, the second of three
consecutive gold medals the fighter would win. "I wouldn't exchange my
piece of Cuba for all the money they could give me," Stevenson declared.
For his loyalty, he was lauded as a national hero.
If Castro, to some, was a tireless champion of athletics on the island,
he also denied generations of Cuban athletes the chance to perform on
the largest possible stage, to reap the full benefit of their gifts.
Perhaps, in the end, it is those games that were never played and the
cheers that were never raised that are the most fitting monument to a
man and a revolution whose promises — on so many fronts — went unfulfilled.
GASPAR GONZÁLEZ IS A DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND THE CURATOR OF THE
HISTORYMIAMI EXHIBITION (ON DISPLAY THROUGH JAN. 15) BEYOND THE GAME:
SPORTS AND THE EVOLUTION OF SOUTH FLORIDA.
Source: Squeeze Play: For nearly five decades, Fidel Castro maintained a
tight grip on Cuba's sporting scene | Miami Herald -
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