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… agricultural and telecommunications exports to Cuba as a step toward normalizing … the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would also eliminate the … agriculture and other products to Cuba - including the use of … conference was the professor of Cuban origin, Maria de los Angeles … Continue reading
Fabiola Santiago: Free American travel puts the burden of opening up on
the Cuban government
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO FSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/30/2015 6:26 PM 01/30/2015 9:39 PM

Congress, about to take up free travel to Cuba as a bipartisan bill
introduced Thursday makes the rounds, might want to consider the
laughable scenarios resulting from current U.S. policy.

Americans traveling to Cuba can't legally dip a toe in warm Cuban
waters, can't stroll on soft white sands, and perhaps, say, come upon
the opportunity to strike up an unscripted conversation with locals.

But American visitors can, for example, dine and drink at the
state-owned venue Cabaret Le Parisien at the historic Hotel Nacional and
gawk at erotic dancers shimmying like wild weeds in a windstorm.

Going to the beach is considered by the U.S. government a purely
touristy activity, and is forbidden, even under the relaxed travel
conditions set forth recently by the Obama administration.

Watching a Las Vegas-style show of scantily clad men and women, on the
other hand, falls under the scope of cultural enlightenment, and is
permitted as an educational experience.

Topsy-turvy, isn't it?

Such are the idiosyncrasies of U.S.-Cuba travel rules, which often times
end up having the opposite effect of what the American government
intended: throngs of Americans engaging with ordinary Cuban citizens,
breaking down the stronghold the Cuban government has on information,
and countering the negative image of five decades of anti-Yankee propaganda.

"I think it's important that more people go and get sense of the
enormity of the problem," says a Florida academic who has made two trips
and will soon travel again to the island. "It's not just a simple, 'Oh,
let's open it up.' There's a lot to sort out and no one has the answers."

But, as he and many other Americans who have traveled to Cuba have
assured me, there's no substitute for the perspective gained by going at
this point in history, even with the restricted movement of tightly
organized trips.

In a week when a defiant Raúl Castro put a major damper on the
cautiously optimistic mood of U.S.-Cuba talks with a litany of demands —
most of them quite ridiculous, he being the dictator in the diplomatic
equation — the outlook for positive change on Cuba's end is almost
non-existent.

But the Freedom to Travel Act of 2015 could be a way forward.

Truly free travel will depend on bilateral talks with Cuba to iron out
issues like air service agreements so that airlines can offer routine
scheduled service. But it certainly doesn't require any agreement with
the guardians of the Cuban island-fiefdom for the American government to
act and lift an unwarranted prohibition on its own people.

About 100,000 Americans travel to Cuba a year via charter flights booked
by travel groups that have over the past few years come to add Cuba as a
destination. Add to this 400,000 Cubans and Cuban-Americans who live in
the United States and travel to Cuba every year, and the numbers are
already substantial.

Allowing American citizens the right to freely travel to Cuba would put
the burden of opening up where it belongs — with the Cuban government.

Most of the Miami congressional delegation will dutifully object to the
free-travel bill on grounds that most of the money Americans spend goes
to state coffers. There's no getting around that now and maybe not ever:
Although there are small numbers of cuentapropistas — self-employed
entrepreneurs — practically every business, facility, or attraction in
Cuba is state-owned.

But the opponents of free travel are missing the larger picture — not
only that a democratic government shouldn't be in the business of
prohibiting its citizens' travel, but also that there are unquantifiable
benefits to engagement.

"We saw how well Cuban government officials live in western Havana — in
neighborhoods that might have been in Coral Gables," another traveler
told me. "And we saw areas of Old Havana with poor Cubans living with
garbage on the streets. We also ate in some very nice private
restaurants. We saw the buses ordinary Cubans rode in — such a contrast
to the upscale, Chinese-made buses for foreign visitors. Etc. etc. I'm
grateful that I got to see a little of Cuba, and I'm under no illusion
about the nature of the Cuban government."

For my American academic friend, the Cuban travel experience began with
a premise: "It's Cuba, so it's hard to know how much you're being fed
and how much is real."

But despite his tour guide's futile attempts to praise the Revolution
("everyone would roll their eyes," he said) the disastrous results were
in plain sight: a once stately Havana in ruins, a harbor without boats,
palpable repression.

At a museum showcasing priceless masterpieces, the air conditioner was
broken, yet the "stubbornly proud guide" in a white pressed guayabera
walked around "as if they were living in Paris."

"There wasn't one night when we sat down to dinner that someone didn't
cry when we discussed our experiences," he said. "All the destruction is
the result of the ego of that man [Fidel Castro]. How can you ride
around and watch your country fall apart around you — and not do
something to at least slow down the catastrophe?"

The reward of travel — even more so of free travel — is that no one has
to tell you what it's like. The regime's apologists notwithstanding,
those who keep their eyes open can see it all.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Free American travel puts the burden of
opening up on the Cuban government | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article8829206.html Continue reading
Congressional Oversight Needed as Obama Administration Moves to Remove
Cuba from State Sponsors of Terrorism List
By Ana Quintana

The Obama Administration has recently chosen to normalize relations with
Cuba. In addition to establishing embassies and expanding commercial
transactions, the White House has also declared that Cuba will be
removed from the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
To remove Cuba from the list would be to ignore both the Cuban
government's inherently malicious nature and the utility of terrorist
designations. For over three decades, the Castro regime has directly
supported organizations designated by the U.S. government as terrorist.
Recent activities that warrant Cuba's place on the list include Havana's
violations of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions,
leadership role in directing Venezuela's military and intelligence, and
steadfast support and intimate relationship with such countries as
Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The Castro regime also continues to harbor
U.S. fugitives and subsidize their livelihoods. One fugitive has been on
the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list since 2013 for killing a New
Jersey State Trooper.
Removing Cuba from the list would also remove restrictions that preclude
their receipt preferential foreign aid and trade benefits. Repealing the
designation combined with further weakening of sanctions will not bode
well for U.S. taxpayers. The regime routinely defaults on foreign loans
and is guilty of the largest uncompensated theft of U.S. assets in
recorded history, valued at $7 billion. Congress cannot ignore the
implications of an undeserving regime's being removed from this list.

Why the Castro Regime Cannot Be Trusted
President Obama's new Cuba policy has been heavily criticized and
rightfully so. His predecessors, both Republican and Democrat,
recognized that a Cuba governed by the Castro regime will never be
receptive to genuine engagement.
Previous unilateral attempts by the Carter and Clinton Administrations
to reduce hostilities ended up backfiring on the U.S. In 1977, President
Carter reestablished diplomatic relations by allowing each country
reciprocal interest sections. The government in Havana responded shortly
thereafter by sending expeditionary forces and resources to Marxist
insurgencies in over a dozen African countries. The Clinton
Administration for years attempted to improve relations and was rewarded
by the Castro regime's shooting down of Brothers to the Rescue flights.
In what the U.S. determined to be an international act of terrorism, the
Cuban military, at the order of current leader Raul Castro, shot down
two American aircraft over international waters, killing three American
citizens and one U.S. resident.
According to the State Department's annual terrorism report, the
government in Havana continues to support the terrorist Colombia's
Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).[1] While the FARC have been weakened,
it is premature to assume that they have been defeated. Throughout the
past two years of peace talks in Havana, the FARC has continued to
kidnap and kill Colombian civilians and military alike. FARC strongholds
still exist throughout the country, and it is widely known that they
have sanctuary just across the border in Venezuela. Considering that the
FARC has relationships with Islamist terrorist organizations, has
murdered a quarter-million Colombians, and has established drug
trafficking networks spanning the globe, the threat that it poses is
obvious.
Most recently in July of 2013, Havana was found to have violated UNSC
arms trafficking resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2094. Panamanian
authorities seized a North Korean freighter for attempting to transport
missiles and fighter planes through the Panama Canal concealed under
sacks of sugar.[2]
Cuba walked away unscathed, despite being the first country in the
Western Hemisphere to violate these resolutions. It should be noted that
the State Department's 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism made no mention
of the incident despite its release date of April 2014.

Cuba's Removal Would Violate the Law and Potentially Endanger U.S. Taxpayers
According to Section 6 of the Export Administration Act (EAA), the law
by which Cuba was added to the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, the
country can be removed from the list only if:[3]
(A) (i) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and
policies of the government of the country concerned;
(ii) that government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and
(iii) that government has provided assurances that it will not support
acts of international terrorism in the future; or
(B) (i) the government concerned has not provided any support for
international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period; and
(ii) the government concerned has provided assurances that it will not
support acts of international terrorism in the future.
It is easy to deduce that Cuba fails to meet the requirements of both
sections. Cuba's leadership has not changed, nor has its political
system. In spite of its new relationship with the U.S., Cuba's leader
Raul Castro claims the government will not democratize. While Cuba's
financial circumstances have curbed its ability to support international
terrorism, its alliances with Syria, Iran, and North Korea should remain
a source of concern. It is also unlikely that the U.S. could ever
receive genuine guarantees against future actions, as recent talks in
Havana proved. Cuba's top diplomat stated: "Change in Cuba isn't
negotiable."[4]
Terrorism designations as determined by the EAA are a critical
instrument in foreign policy, as they carry restrictions on U.S. foreign
aid, commercial transactions, and participation in international
financial institutions.
Even though these restrictions and others are further reinforced by the
Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996, a law
which strengthened the Cuban embargo, the Obama Administration is
systematically chipping away at the embargo until it becomes obsolete.
For example, the Administration recently expanded the allowable
exceptions on Cuban imports from the U.S. Items such as building
materials are now classified as agricultural products. It can be argued
that this new regulation is a violation of the law as Castro's military
controls much of Cuba's agricultural sector.

Congress Cannot Ignore the Dangerous Implications
While terrorist designations fall under presidential powers, Congress
can and should remain vigilant with respect to the White House's
dangerous rapprochements. The ultimate focus should be on promoting
policies that protect U.S. national security while simultaneously
promoting U.S. values such as freedom and democracy.
More specifically, Congress should:
-Urge the President to condition all future U.S. agreements with the
Cuban government upon significant, meaningful, and measurable changes.
The President's new Cuba policy has gone against the principle of
existing U.S. law by not requiring the Cuban government to modify its
behavior one iota in exchange for a loosening of restrictions. Many are
quick to point out that the regime released 53 political prisoners in
January, but that proved to be mistaken. Many of the prisoners either
had already been released or were close to being set free. They were
also subsequently put under strict house arrest or arrested shortly
afterwards for political reasons. In the 18 months the White House was
secretly negotiating with the regime, there were over 13,000 political
arrests on the island. Arrests in 2014 represented a 40 percent increase
from the preceding year. The White House has yet to impose any serious
conditions on Cuba.[5]
- Continue to support Cuba's democratic opposition and human rights
activists. Congress must make sure that U.S. policy continues to support
civil society groups on the island that uphold U.S. values and are
unaffiliated with the Castro regime and its Communist ideology. The
Cuban government is strongly against Washington's support for dissidents
and is painting it as an obstacle to the President's much-wanted embassy
in Havana. Congress has must continue its active support for these
groups.[6]
- Ensure that current and future funding from the U.S. Agency for
International Development and State Department does not support the
Cuban government or military. While these groups have generally been
prohibited from receiving U.S. assistance, the Cuban government is
pushing the Obama Administration to fund its regime-sponsored Communist
groups. Members of Congress hold the purse strings, and prohibiting the
funding of these groups falls to them.
- Reject policies that support financing for U.S. exports. Business
interests have been leading the movement against the Cuban embargo, and
the President's new policy has emboldened them. Recently, the U.S
Agricultural Coalition for Cuba was launched. Backed by large
corporations such as Cargill, the coalition is lobbying to end the
embargo in order to receive U.S. taxpayer subsidies for exports to Cuba.
Business interests should not be allowed to dictate foreign policy.
- Keep the Focus on Cuba. Congress must stay vigilant with respect to
the President's naïve approach to the Castro regime. President Obama has
granted an undeserving dictatorship the prestige of being allowed an
embassy and an ambassador in the U.S. He continues to refer to Cuba's
leader and unelected dictator, Raul Castro, as president. The next move
appears to be removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
Terrorism designation is not only about what the country is currently
doing, but also about the potential for future malicious actions.
Removing Cuba from the terrorist list is much more than a symbolic
gesture. It carries far-reaching implications that can endanger U.S.
national security interests.
—Ana Quintana is a Research Associate for Latin America in the Douglas
and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and
Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

Source: Cuba, Latin America, Alan Gross, Fidel Castro -
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/01/congressional-oversight-needed-as-obama-administration-moves-to-remove-cuba-from-state-sponsors-of-terrorism-list Continue reading
U.S. has no idea how many fugitives Cuba's harboring
By Megan O'Matz and Sally Kestin
Sun Sentinel

The United States does not know how many fugitives are in Cuba.

Nobody tracks it. Nobody even routinely asks for the return of those
wanted on serious federal charges, much less more common state offenses,
the Sun Sentinel has found.

Law enforcement officials on state and federal levels say paperwork is
rarely filed in Washington to request diplomatic assistance out of a
sense that doing so would be futile. The United States has no working
extradition treaty with Cuba.

"I could request Mars send someone back and we'd probably have better
luck" said Ryan Stumphauzer, a former U.S. assistant state attorney in
Miami who prosecuted Medicare cheats, most of them Cuban-born. "We know
Cuba is not sending anybody back."

Since President Obama's surprise shift in December toward normalizing
relations with the Communist-led nation, some members of Congress have
demanded that Cuba hand over fugitives. The irony: law enforcement isn't
regularly seeking their return.

Last week, three U.S. senators, including Florida's Marco Rubio, asked
the FBI to produce the names of fugitives in Cuba and copies of their
indictments. No complete list is likely to be forthcoming.

There is no formal mechanism in use to request extradition, no centrally
collected records nationwide of how many likely are on the run in Cuba,
and no coordination among counties or states on the issue, the Sun
Sentinel has found.

Even in Miami-Dade County, where most Cuban-Americans live, state
prosecutors do not log or tally fugitives thought to be in Cuba.

"It's not like we send up to Justice our Christmas list of potential
felons," said Ed Griffith, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's
Office.

In recent weeks the U.S. Marshals Office in South Florida has been
scrambling to compile a list of people possibly hiding in Cuba, in case
the Castro government suddenly agrees to expel such fugitives.

"We want to be prepared," said Marshals Office spokesman Barry Golden.

The Sun Sentinel, in a recent far-reaching investigation into Cuban
crime rings in America, disclosed that Cuban nationals are taking
advantage of generous U.S. immigration laws to come to the U.S. and
steal billions from government programs and businesses.

Millions of dollars have traveled back to Cuba, and many individuals
flee there when police close in on scams the Cubans specialize in. These
typically involve health care, auto insurance, or credit card fraud;
cargo theft; or marijuana trafficking, the Sun Sentinel found.

The Sun Sentinel located one fugitive wanted in a million dollar Texas
credit card fraud case living in Santa Clara, Cuba. He'd written to the
judge in his case in 2013, saying he "went to the U.S. to steal" and
included his return address in Cuba.

Prosecutors had no evidence he was actually in Cuba and had not sought
his return. "We can't extradite from Cuba. We wouldn't reach out to the
State Department in a case like that," said Scott Carpenter of the
District Attorney's Office in Fort Bend County, Texas.

In the occasional diplomatic talks, high-level U.S. officials have
brought up the issue of fugitives in Cuba — usually the cases of
prominent violent offenders, such as New Jersey cop killer Joanne
Chesimard, a member the militant Black Liberation Army who fled to Cuba
30 years ago and was given political asylum.

How these appeals happen are a mystery to most street level
investigators and prosecutors who simply don't bother filing voluminous
records to Washington because the process is cumbersome, costly and
likely fruitless.

"As far as them putting together a package for extradition, I guarantee
that isn't happening," said Humberto Dominguez, a Miami criminal defense
lawyer. "It would be worse if they did: it would be such a waste of
taxpayer dollars."

Why send the paperwork to Cuba, he asked. "So they can utilize it as a
bathroom implement?"

No answers or records

John Caulfield, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana until
2014, said that for many years, American officials figured "there was no
point in talking to the Cubans" because they didn't expect any cooperation.

But he said he'd tell individuals in law enforcement that if you don't
ask, you don't know what will happen. "We were surprised in some cases"
when the U.S. asked for someone's return and got it.

In the past decade, Cuban officials have returned a handful of
criminals: Kidnappers. Child abusers. An insurance fraudster and others.

Neither the Department of State nor the Department of Justice will
answer questions about how many fugitives the U.S. has sought to have
returned, who, or even whether, state and federal prosecutors request
extradition.

In recent months, the agencies have provided the Sun Sentinel with the
same prepared statement three times: "The United States continues to
seek the return from Cuba of fugitives from U.S. justice, and repeatedly
raises their cases with the Government of Cuba."

Said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr: "We generally do not
disclose if requests are made or provide information on whether specific
cases have been brought before different foreign authorities."

In March, the Sun Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information request with
the Justice Department seeking copies of requests from prosecutors for
the return of Cuban nationals wanted for felonies since 2007. The
newspaper also sought records showing what efforts were made to inform
Cuban authorities or US diplomats in Cuba of a fugitive's possible
presence in Cuba.

The agency replied that it "failed to locate any responsive records."

The Sun Sentinel has received no records under a similar request made
nine months ago to the State Department.

American University Professor William LeoGrande, a specialist in Latin
American politics, said Cuba has had difficulty getting solid
information from the Justice Department on fugitives the U.S. wants.
"I've had a Cuban official tell me they couldn't even get confirmation
that this was the right person."

Teddy Roosevelt's treaty

It's widely assumed that the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Cuba.
In fact, one was signed in 1904 under President Theodore Roosevelt. Its
use was suspended in the 1960s after Fidel Castro came to power.

"You often hear that the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cuba
has been abandoned. That's not so," said Robert Muse, a Washington
attorney and expert on Cuban-related law. "It's listed by the State
Department as a treaty in force. This agreement exists, it's just in
abeyance."

Requesting extradition from any country is a long, formal, onerous
effort, guided by the terms of each treaty.

Prosecutors must assemble affidavits stating the facts of the case;
texts of relevant criminal statutes; certified copies of arrest warrants
and indictments; evidence such as court transcripts, photographs and
fingerprints of the criminal; and any conviction papers.

An original and four copies must be sent to the Justice Department's
Office of International Affairs in Washington, which translates the
material and funnels it to the State Department. Prosecutors are warned
not to contact foreign countries directly.

Appeals are made by American Embassy officials through "diplomatic
note," accompanied by the thick bundle of documents —certified and
secured with an official seal and red ribbon.

Though federal officials in Miami know that dozens of Medicare fraud
fugitives who stole millions fled to Cuba, "Why would the government
file extradition requests when there isn't even a treaty to proceed
under?" said Stumphauzer, who left the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami
in 2011.

Asked what federal agents do when they learn a Medicare fraudster has
taken off to Cuba, one current investigator explained: they throw up
their hands and say: "Oh crap," knowing the likelihood of recovering
someone is low.

State and local officials, too, make no attempts at extradition.

Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Henry Sacramento, whose team repeatedly arrests
Cubans in marijuana grow houses, said: "We just put a warrant in the
system and hope they make a mistake in coming back into the country again."

"As far as extradition from Cuba," he said, "I don't know of anyone
that's tried to do that."

The Jan. 23rd letter Rubio and the two other senators sent to U.S.
Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting a list of all fugitives the FBI
believes are living in Cuba, notes "there is little definitive
information about their cases available publicly."

The senators wrote that there are longtime murderers and airplane
hijackers in Cuba, but also "numerous others guilty of lesser but still
important crimes, including money laundering and health care fraud."

For years, members of Congress have accused Cuba of harboring 70 to 80
fugitives: most of whom fled there decades ago

More recently, the FBI in Miami has compiled a spreadsheet showing 20
Medicare fugitives thought to be hiding in Cuba.

The Sun Sentinel, in its investigation, found references in court or
police records to an additional 50 wanted in other frauds, cargo theft
or marijuana trafficking.

The count could be far higher.

There are 500 Cuban-born fugitives wanted on federal charges and at
least another 500 wanted on state charges in Florida alone. They could
be anywhere in the world, according to records provided by the U.S.
Marshals Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

FDLE does not require country of birth to be filled out consistently on
warrants, so it's impossible to fully determine exactly how many are
from Cuba or may have gone back there.

Proving a criminal is in Cuba can be difficult. At times authorities
know a fugitive boarded a charter flight for Cuba, but in other cases
they have only the word of a family member to go on — and that person
may lie to throw police off the track.

"There's no method of confirming that somebody has fled, either directly
to Cuba or indirectly through another country, because we don't have
communication with anyone in Cuba to verify that," said Golden, the
Marshals Service spokesman.

Some criminal defense lawyers representing Cuban offenders believe
thousands of fugitives may have returned there.

Fort Myers defense attorney Rene Suarez, who represents Cuban clients,
said public estimates of fugitives in Cuba are typically "big, federal
type cases."

"But most of these folks that have gone back, they're not federal cases.
The vast majority are just state charges that are tracked county by
county," he said.

Asked if there could be hundreds hiding in Cuba, he said: "No … there's
got to be thousands of them."

Staff writer William E. Gibson and correspondent Tracey Eaton
contributed to this report.

momatz@tribpub.com

Source: U.S.-Cuba extradition treaty lacking - Sun Sentinel -
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/fl-cuba-fugitive-us-requests-20150130-story.html#page=1 Continue reading
"I Live Happy Because I Live Without Fear"
El Sexto tells of his incarceration in the Valle Grande prison
14YMEDIO, La Habana | Enero 28, 2015

Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as El Sexto, finished a
month in prison this January 25. He was arrested while riding in a taxi
whose trunk was carrying two live pigs. The animals were painted green
and each bore a name written on his side. On one could be read Fidel and
on the other, Raul.

The artist's intention was to release them in Central Park in order to
recreate a rural tradition in which one tries to catch pigs with the
added difficulty that their bodies are smeared with grease. His
frustrated performance art was entitled Animal Farm, in Memoriam.

The light blue Lada that was transporting him was intercepted by three
Revolutionary National Police patrol cars. The agents took away the
identity cards of Danilo and the vehicle's driver and took them to the
Infanta and Manglar Station. Two days later, they transferred the artist
to the Zapata and C unit where a prosecutor told him that he would be
taken to trial. He stayed in those dungeons seven days until he was
transferred to the central police station of Vivac de Calabazar, where
he spent another seven days.

It happened that Vivac was the destination for dozens of arrestees
accused of trying to participate in the performance announced by
performance artist Tania Bruguera in the Plaza of the Revolution last
December 30, which was interpreted by authorities as a
counter-revolutionary provocation. Some of those arrested, who learned
of his presence at the place, shouted, among other slogans, "Freedom for
El Sexto."

From the Valle Grande prison, where he is now, Danilo has sent us some
jail anecdotes and a couple of drawings.

The Tank

When I arrived at Valle Grande they took blood samples for the lab,
shaved my head and beard. They also photographed me. During my stay in
Vivac, they had diagnosed me with pneumonia, for which reason I was
carrying antibiotics with me, but they took them from me and have not
seen fit to return them to me so far, nor has a doctor listened to my
chest to find out if I am the same, better or worse than when I arrived
here. To make matters worse, I am surrounded by smokers who do not care
at all that I am sick and asthmatic.

I am in Company Four. They call this place "the tank," and there are all
kinds of people. I met four dissidents from Alturas de la Lisa. Yorlay
Perez, Yusel Perez, Santiago Perez and Hanoy.

Fidelito

One day a boy came into the tank who said he knew me from the park and
that he followed my work on the streets. This swarthy young man of small
stature surprised me when he took off his pullover revealing on his back
a tattoo of the face of Fidel Castro. I explained to him that I am an
opponent of the Castro regime and that the gentleman he wore engraved on
his skin was the one responsible for me being a prisoner.

He responded that he had no family and that he was a "son of the
fatherland," for which reason Fidel had given him a home, and that was
not happening anywhere else in the world. I told him that was true, that
if he had been born in another country no one would have given him a
home, but maybe he could have sought it for himself and that really he
owed nothing to Fidel. I told him of the case of Amaury Pacheco, who
with a family of six children was harassed into an eviction from an
abandoned house in the Alamar suburb, where they had gone so far as to
refuse him water and electric service.

Later I found out through another boy, whom I met in Vedado, that it was
said that he was with State Security and that he always had a pistol
under his shirt. His acquaintances nicknamed him the Hoarse One, but I
called him Fidelito.

This son of the fatherland was prisoner for falsification of documents,
something he had done in order to leave the country. In a single night
he tried to hang himself twice.

Yusel, the Opponent

In one of the constant inspections that they carry out here, a major and
a second lieutenant thought that the fingernails of one prisoner were
too long and that he had to cut them. He explained that he had no nail
clippers, much less scissors. The major took a knife from his belt and
threatened to cut his nails by force. The boy resisted and then the
major told him that he had to bite them off.

When they passed by the place where the opponent Yusel was, they noticed
that he wore a white bracelet with the word Change on one of his wrists.
As he did not obey the order to take it off, they forcibly snatched it
from him. Then Yusel started yelling, "Down with the Castros, down with
the dictatorship." The second lieutenant cornered him against a bed to
beat him but the rest of the prisoners got in the middle and prevented
it. Things got hot but did not go further because the major started
screaming that they were not going to beat him. Only then did the
prisoners relax. Yusel was in a punishment cell for four days, but they
did not beat him.

'The Cigar' that urinates

The Cigar arrived without a noise. Strong, tall, he must be between 60
and 70 years old, and he does not sleep. He said that he was a prisoner
because he had threatened with a screwdriver some teens who were
throwing a ball against the wall of his house. No one got close to him
because he did not bathe. One day he urinated in the middle of the
hallway, which was understood as "blackmail" for the other prisoners who
would have to clean his filth. When they demanded that he wipe up that
puddle, he said that he would do it with his clothes but they did not
let him because that would mean enduring an even greater stench from
him. We understood that he was going crazy the day that they read out
loud the cards where our names and crimes appear. Then we learned his
case: child sexual abuse.

To my Facebook friends and blog readers

I want to tell you that I really miss finding out about your trips and
other events that are reflected in your accounts. I would also like to
thank everyone who supported my cause and confess that none of my crazy
things would have been possible if I had not known that I was not alone
and that I count on the support of many of you. It is possible to fill
hearts with hope. Evil will never overpower good. Retrograde minds will
never overcome free minds. Violence will never overcome art and reason.
Death will never overcome life and love.

I am going through an ordeal that has only been the legitimization of a
good work and the confirmation of an iron dictatorship, which must be
combatted with wit and cunning.

Believe me, sometimes I laugh alone in this dark place of 18 by 100 feet
with 37 triple bunks, that is to say between 118 and 190 people plus
those who sleep on the floor. I laugh even though the toilets are stuck
next to each other without any privacy. I live happy because I live
without fear and, although they persecute and harass my family, they
will never manage to make a dent in my creativity. This time I believe
they have been ridiculed like never before by anyone. Although they kept
the pigs from getting to Central Park, all of us who have an imagination
can see them running with their names engraved and people behind them
like a true Animal Farm.

Ha, ha, ha. Hugs to all, and I wait to be able to read you.

Danilo Maldonado Machado

Translated by MLK

Source: "I Live Happy Because I Live Without Fear" -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/live-happy-without-fear_0_1715228478.html Continue reading
. AFP PHOTO/Yamil LAGEYAMIL LAGE/AFP/ Yamil Lage-AFP/ A bipartisan group of eight senators was set to introduce legislation Thursday to lift all travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. The Freedom Continue reading
El informe anual de libertades cree que el modelo democrático sufre su mayor peligro en 25 años por el autoritarismo y terrorismo”, Afirma Arch Puddington, vicepresidente de investigación de Freedom House Continue reading
Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio took the helm Wednesday of a
subcommittee -- and promptly scheduled a hearing on on President Obama's
new Cuba policy.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Western
Hemisphere subcommittee, Rubio called for a hearing at 10 a.m. next
Tuesday to "examine President Obama's changes to Cuba policy, and its
implications for human rights in the island," according to a news release.

"Being from Florida, I've seen how events in the Western Hemisphere not
only impact our state but our entire nation. For too long, Congress and
the Administration have failed to prioritize our relations in this
hemisphere." Rubio said in the statement.

"As chairman of the subcommittee, I will promote bold measures that
improve U.S. economic and security interests by addressing the region's
growing calls for transparent institutions, access to quality education,
private sector competitiveness, and respect for political and economic
freedom for all."

Rubio, who has been taking steps toward a potential presidential
campaign, is also a member of three other Foreign Relations subcommittees.

RUBIO NAMED CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE'S WESTERN
HEMISPHERE SUBCOMMITTEE

Panel will hold its first hearing next Tuesday regarding Cuba policy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was officially named
today as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian
Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women's Issues. He will
also be a member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and
International Cybersecurity Policy; the Subcommittee on Near East, South
Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism; and the Subcommittee on Africa
and Global Health Policy.

Rubio also announced the first hearing to be held in the Western
Hemisphere subcommittee will be next Tuesday, February 3 at 10:00 a.m.
EST. It will examine President Obama's changes to Cuba policy, and its
implications for human rights in the island.

In assuming this chairmanship, Rubio issued the following statement:

"Being from Florida, I've seen how events in the Western Hemisphere not
only impact our state but our entire nation. For too long, Congress and
the Administration have failed to prioritize our relations in this
hemisphere. This lack of attention has kept us from seizing the
opportunities of a rising middle class, emboldened tyrants and non-state
actors to erode democratic values, allowed global competitors to deepen
their influence in the continent, and diminished our ability to respond
to the proliferation of transnational organized crime and the violence
and instability associated with it.

"As chairman of the subcommittee, I will promote bold measures that
improve U.S. economic and security interests by addressing the region's
growing calls for transparent institutions, access to quality education,
private sector competitiveness, and respect for political and economic
freedom for all.

"I look forward to advocating for closer ties with Canada, Mexico, and
other regional partners such as Colombia as well as greater energy
cooperation and trade. The subcommittee will be a platform for bringing
light and solutions to rising problems in the hemisphere, such as
growing inhospitality for individual freedoms, deteriorating security
environments, lagging competitiveness, ineffective regional
organizations, the need for political stability and economic prosperity
in Haiti, and the promotion and support of democracy in places where
individual freedoms are all but a dream, such as Cuba and Venezuela.

"I hope to also continue my work on the U.S. government's efforts to
promote democracy and advance human rights around the world, to support
the fair and equitable treatment of women around the globe, and increase
religious freedom. This is another set of issues that has far too often
been neglected by this administration. I plan to continue to be a voice
for the oppressed, whether they be in our own hemisphere or on the other
side of the globe. I look forward to working to ensure that U.S.
programs aimed at advancing these freedoms are effective and achieving
results that are consistent with our values as a nation.

"I also intend to remain active on the East Asia and Pacific
subcommittee by supporting our strong alliances in Asia and working to
address the challenges confronting that vitally important region which
will play a significant role in shaping the 21st century. It's clear
that American leadership has achieved a great deal in this region in
recent decades, and now it's important that we take none of our gains
for granted and continue working with our allies to advance our
security, economic and human rights agenda."

Posted by Patricia Mazzei at 1:57 PM on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in
Cuba, Marco Rubio, Miami-Dade Politics | Permalink

Source: Marco Rubio schedules Senate hearing on U.S.-Cuba policy | Naked
Politics -
http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2015/01/marco-rubio-schedules-senate-hearing-on-us-cuba-policy.html Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38336" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Map of the 4H Company in prison hand drawn by Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’[/caption] El Sexto tells of his incarceration in the Valle Grande prison 14YMEDIO, Havana, 28 January 2015 -- Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as El Sexto, finished a month in prison this January 25. He was arrested while riding in a taxi whose trunk was carrying two live pigs. The animals were painted green and each bore a name written on his side. On one could be read Fidel and on the other, Raul. The artist’s intention was to release them in Central Park in order to recreate a rural tradition in which one tries to catch pigs with the added difficulty that their bodies are smeared with grease. His frustrated performance art was entitled Animal Farm, in Memoriam. The light blue Lada that was transporting him was intercepted by three Revolutionary National Police patrol cars. The agents took away the identity cards of Danilo and the vehicle’s driver and took them to the Infanta and Manglar Station. Two days later, they transferred the artist to the Zapata and C unit where a prosecutor told him that he would be taken to trial. He stayed in those dungeons seven days until he was transferred to the central police station of Vivac de Calabazar, where he spent another seven days. It happened that Vivac was the destination for dozens of arrestees accused of trying to participate in the performance announced by performance artist Tania Bruguera in the Plaza of the Revolution last December 30, which was interpreted by authorities as a counter-revolutionary provocation. Some of those arrested, who learned of his presence at the place, shouted, among other slogans, “Freedom for El Sexto.” From the Valle Grande prison, where he is now, Danilo has sent us some jail anecdotes and a couple of drawings. The Tank When I arrived at Valle Grande they took blood samples for the lab, shaved my head and beard. They also photographed me. During my stay in Vivac, they had diagnosed me with pneumonia, for which reason I was carrying antibiotics with me, but they took them from me and have not seen fit to return them to me so far, nor has a doctor listened to my chest to find out if I am the same, better or worse than when I arrived here. To make matters worse, I am surrounded by smokers who do not care at all that I am sick and asthmatic. I am in Company Four. They call this place “the tank,” and there are all kinds of people. I met four dissidents from Alturas de la Lisa. Yorlay Perez, Yusel Perez, Santiago Perez and Hanoy. Fidelito One day a boy came into the tank who said he knew me from the park and that he followed my work on the streets. This swarthy young man of small stature surprised me when he took off his pullover revealing on his back a tattoo of the face of Fidel Castro. I explained to him that I am an opponent of the Castro regime and that the gentleman he wore engraved on his skin was the one responsible for me being a prisoner. He responded that he had no family and that he was a “son of the fatherland,” for which reason Fidel had given him a home, and that was not happening anywhere else in the world. I told him that was true, that if he had been born in another country no one would have given him a home, but maybe he could have sought it for himself and that really he owed nothing to Fidel. I told him of the case of Amaury Pacheco, who with a family of six children was harassed into an eviction from an abandoned house in the Alamar suburb, where they had gone so far as to refuse him water and electric service. Later I found out through another boy, whom I met in Vedado, that it was said that he was with State Security and that he always had a pistol under his shirt. His acquaintances nicknamed him the Hoarse One, but I called him Fidelito. This son of the fatherland was prisoner for falsification of documents, something he had done in order to leave the country. In a single night he tried to hang himself twice. Yusel, the Opponent In one of the constant inspections that they carry out here, a major and a second lieutenant thought that the fingernails of one prisoner were too long and that he had to cut them. He explained that he had no nail clippers, much less scissors. The major took a knife from his belt and threatened to cut his nails by force. The boy resisted and then the major told him that he had to bite them off. [caption id="attachment_38338" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [2] Bunks. (El Sexto)[/caption] When they passed by the place where the opponent Yusel was, they noticed that he wore a white bracelet with the word Change on one of his wrists. As he did not obey the order to take it off, they forcibly snatched it from him. Then Yusel started yelling, “Down with the Castros, down with the dictatorship.” The second lieutenant cornered him against a bed to beat him but the rest of the prisoners got in the middle and prevented it. Things got hot but did not go further because the major started screaming that they were not going to beat him. Only then did the prisoners relax. Yusel was in a punishment cell for four days, but they did not beat him. ‘The Cigar’ that urinates The Cigar arrived without a noise. Strong, tall, he must be between 60 and 70 years old, and he does not sleep. He said that he was a prisoner because he had threatened with a screwdriver some teens who were throwing a ball against the wall of his house. No one got close to him because he did not bathe. One day he urinated in the middle of the hallway, which was understood as “blackmail” for the other prisoners who would have to clean his filth. When they demanded that he wipe up that puddle, he said that he would do it with his clothes but they did not let him because that would mean enduring an even greater stench from him. We understood that he was going crazy the day that they read out loud the cards where our names and crimes appear. Then we learned his case: child sexual abuse. To my Facebook friends and blog readers I want to tell you that I really miss finding out about your trips and other events that are reflected in your accounts. I would also like to thank everyone who supported my cause and confess that none of my crazy things would have been possible if I had not known that I was not alone and that I count on the support of many of you. It is possible to fill hearts with hope. Evil will never overpower good. Retrograde minds will never overcome free minds. Violence will never overcome art and reason. Death will never overcome life and love. I am going through an ordeal that has only been the legitimization of a good work and the confirmation of an iron dictatorship, which must be combatted with wit and cunning. Believe me, sometimes I laugh alone in this dark place of 18 by 100 feet with 37 triple bunks, that is to say between 118 and 190 people plus those who sleep on the floor. I laugh even though the toilets are stuck next to each other without any privacy. I live happy because I live without fear and, although they persecute and harass my family, they will never manage to make a dent in my creativity. This time I believe they have been ridiculed like never before by anyone. Although they kept the pigs from getting to Central Park, all of us who have an imagination can see them running with their names engraved and people behind them like a true Animal Farm. Ha, ha, ha. Hugs to all, and I wait to be able to read you. Danilo Maldonado Machado Translated by MLK [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Plano-dibujado-Danilo-Maldonado-Sexto_CYMIMA20150127_0006_16.jpg [2] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/El_Sexto_CYMIMA20150127_0008_13.jpg Continue reading
Freedom House: Cuba es el único país sin libertad de las Américas Con 6,5 puntos de 7 posibles, en una escala donde más es peor, fue el país con la peor evaluación en el hemisferio occidental. Martinoticias.com enero 28, 2015 La entidad vigilante de las libertades en el mundo Freedom House dio a Cuba una […] Continue reading
The Other Cuban Succession
[28-01-2015 12:00:11]
José Azel
Investigador, Universidad de Miami

(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- The Cuban succession conjecture pastime
began in earnest in 2006 when an aged and ailing Fidel Castro
transferred power to his younger brother Raul. With General Castro now
83 years old, the speculation continues as to whom, in the younger
generation of Cuban military officers and political apparatchiks, will
succeed him.
In Cuba, the elderly Castros are seeking to perpetuate the power of the
communist regime around a military-party-dynastic succession. It is a
succession my colleague Dr. Pedro Roig has labeled as "a supreme
manifestation of tragic insolence" that seeks to give continuity to the
Marxist catastrophe recycling its offspring. It is a fragile succession
of questionable legitimacy offering only freedomless lives. It is a
succession that presumes that the also aging historical exiles will
simply fade away.

They miscalculate; there is a less noticed Cuban succession taking place
north of Havana that juxtaposes the one on the Island. It is the
Cuban-American succession from first wave anti-Castro exiles to their
American sons and daughters.

My generation - of the aging heroes of the urban resistance of the
1960's, of the Bay of Pigs invasion, of the uprisings in the Escambray
mountains, of the Pedro Pan exodus- is also transferring its 56 years
old quest for a democratic Cuba to the next generation.

It is a generation in prime adulthood of U.S.-raised and educated
professionals exceling in every field of human endeavor. By way of
example, in the Washington political establishment, it is the generation
typified by the new cohort of Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz
(R-TX) and Representatives-elect Alex Mooney (R-WV) and Carlos Curbelo
(R-FL). Alongside Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representatives Albio
Sires (D-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
there will be eight Cuban-Americans serving in the 114th Congress.

Cuban-Americans make up less than ½ of 1 percent of the U.S. population,
yet they make up 3 percent of the U.S. Senate and more that 1 percent of
the U.S. House of Representatives. They speak for four states and both
political parties. Even more remarkable is the fact that all
Cuban-American representatives, regardless of party affiliation or state
representation, speak with a single voice regarding Cuba and its future.

My generation may not have succeeded in ridding Cuba of the Castro
regime, but in our unplanned succession we have succeeded admirably in
transmitting love of country -for both the U.S. and Cuba- and democratic
values to our sons and daughters. Ours is a vision of a democratic Cuba
that they will continue to articulate, sometimes in broken Spanish, but
eloquently and passionately.

Those inheriting our struggle, unlike their counterparts in Cuba,
understand freedom as a state of being, and a state of consciousness.
They apprehend the free flow of information, economic freedom, human
rights, political liberty, transparency, freedom of speech, and
empowerment of the individual as a way of life. Their freedom fighting
tactics may differ from ours, but these are values they will not
repudiate by embracing Cuba's tyrannical collectivism.

We are passing the torch to a generation that understands instinctively
that economic well-being is a consequence of freedom, and that to value
freedom is an insightful philosophical and moral achievement. Also, in
dramatic contrast with their counterparts in Cuba, it is a generation
that has acquired the American ethos that public servants are not
enlightened messianic emissaries.

It is a generation that grew up listening to our stories of a lost
country and has learned from us the lessons of Pericles as he sought to
inspire the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War: "Make up your minds
that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being
courageous." Their love of freedom honors us.

Source: The Other Cuban Succession - Misceláneas de Cuba -
http://www.miscelaneasdecuba.net/web/Article/Index/54c8c13b3a682e1980ed176d#.VMjgkGjF9HE Continue reading
Fabiola Santiago: Buddy-bear diplomacy falls short in Cuba
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO FSANTIAGO@MIAMIHERALD.COM
01/27/2015 7:53 PM 01/27/2015 8:58 PM

You could say that Lady Liberty — less statuesque, literally and
metaphorically — nevertheless has made an appearance in Havana.

Sort of…

Its re-interpreted image in the form of a cuddly, green chubby bear,
arms extended in solidarity with other bears, her torch not as high or
as grand as the original but oh-so-cute, is standing at St. Assisi
Square in Old Havana.

Painted cows in Miami Lakes, painted roosters in Little Havana — and now
an international "United Buddy Bears" in La Habana, dutifully making
their debut during the first round of historic U.S.-Cuba talks, and on
view through March.

Call it buddy-bear diplomacy —– the brain child of the Germans, who are
taking the traveling art exhibit of colorful bear sculptures around the
world where they're needed to encourage tolerance, understanding, and peace.

The show arrived in Havana just in time.

"Los osos buddy, anunciadores de un tiempo mejor," the official online
Habana Cultural magazine lavished praise on the installation. Buddy
bears herald better times.

A week later, unfortunately, it doesn't much look that way. Not in a
week's worth of agenda-setting discussions covered by the world's media,
and certainly not in the realm of the arts.

"It is not art, but publicity," New York-based Cuban art curator Elvis
Fuentes says of the government-sponsored bear show. "Look at Tania
Bruguera or any other case of political art. When an artist interferes
or uses the political sphere, they get jail time. When politicians
interfere and use the artistic sphere, nothing happens, they exploit it...."

Indeed.

While the bears were having their day to much pomp and circumstance from
the Cuban establishment, the high art of internationally acclaimed Cuban
artist Bruguera wasn't allowed to be.

The mere idea of giving a minute — one minute! — at the microphone for
any Cuban who wanted to speak at the historic Revolution Square on the
eve of the talks was rejected. Even though the experimental
#YoTambienExijo (IAlsoDemand) performance couldn't go on, the idea was
enough cause for Bruguera to be arrested three times. Three times
released, the New York resident now faces charges and can't leave the
country until a judge rules on her case. That won't happen for at least
60 days, her family says she was told Tuesday.

And the worldly buddy bears — particularly Siboney, the cigar-smoking
Cuban bear named after one of the indigenous tribes — are going to make
everything okay?

Not in Cuba.

A wishful kumbaya moment in an otherwise dismal reality: After the
initial excitement over news that the U.S. president was extending an
olive branch to Cuba, the island's government has made it clear that
there's no intention to democratize, nor respect basic international
human rights principles of freedom of speech and assembly.

Passing through Miami Saturday, the lead U.S. negotiator in the Cuba
talks, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, warned against
raising expectations of change too high. The "true normalization of
relations and change," she said, "will take a long time."

Her Cuban counterpart, Josefina Vidal, was more blunt. She point-blank
told the Associated Press: "Change in Cuba is not negotiable."

Is Cuba back-pedaling on re-establishing relations?

By Monday, Cuba trotted out the allegedly moribund comandante himself,
not in person but by way of an also alleged rambling message to
university students recalling his triumphant entrance into 1959 Havana,
and by the way opining on the renewal of Cuba-U.S. relations after five
decades.

Turns out that Castro says he doesn't have any confidence in U.S.
policy, but is not against seeking "cooperation and friendship with all
the peoples of the world, among them our political adversaries."

Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.

Meanwhile Cubans, known to vote with their feet, have been arriving in
rickety rafts by sea and crossing the Mexican border in dramatic new
numbers since the December 17 announcement by President Obama that he
would seek to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba, and, as part of the
thaw, expand travel and trade with the island.

So much for Lady Liberty's cuddly bear debut in Havana.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Buddy-bear diplomacy falls short in Cuba | The
Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article8422200.html Continue reading
… people living under the authoritarian Cuban government. In July 2000, I … of the relationship between the Cubans and their repressive government. Allowing … to Cuba would further promote freedom and liberty by exposing Cubans to … growing Cuban economy would increase the standard of living for Cuban citizens … Continue reading
… Adobe Flash installed. Thousands of Cubans marked 162 years since the … seen as a hero in Cuba. Continue reading

El mapa de las libertades en América que elabora la ONG Freedom House tiene un único país en morado: Cuba. Es el color que corresponde a las naciones sin libertad. La nota final que la organización no gubernamental, ubicada en Washington, asigna a Cuba en su informe 2015 es un 6,5. Es la media de las dos calificaciones del 1 al 7 (siendo el 1 para los más libres) que la ONG asigna a cada país para medir su índice de libertad, una para los derechos políticos, en la que la Isla obtiene un 7, y otra para las libertades civiles, en la que logra alcanzar un 6.

Con esta puntuación, Cuba se sitúa como país con menor puntuación de todo el continente americano. Solo hay doce países que clasifican en una categoría inferior, a los que Fredom House llama: lo peor de lo peor. Son República Centroafricana, Guinea Ecuatorial, Eritrea, Corea del Norte, Arabia Saudí, Somalia, Sudán, Siria, Turkmenistán y Uzbekistán.

En su reporte regional, Freedom House explica que, sin embargo, hay motivos para creer que hay una "oportunidad" en Cuba debido al crecimiento de medios independientes, "el más notable, el nuevo diario digital 14ymedio". "Si bien sigue siendo ilegal imprimir y distribuir tales medios, los periodistas independientes han encontrado maneras de compartir sus historias en línea y por paquetes de datos que circulan en el mercado negro", indica el informe. 14ymedio sigue estando bloqueado en Cuba.

En lo que respecta a América Latina, el informe muestra también preocupación por la violencia en México, Honduras, Guatemala o El Salvador, que empujan a miles de personas a emigrar a Estados Unidos. Así mismo, también se señala inquietud por las "enérgicas medidas" tomadas en Ecuador o Venezuela contra la oposición o "otras voces críticas".

EE UU no escapa al escrutinio de Freedom House que denuncia las torturas en Guantánamo y la violencia policial, especialmente contra las minorías, como así indican las muertes de afroamericanos en Missouri o Nueva York en 2014.

Según el informe, 61 países registraron retrocesos en materia de libertad y solo 33 experimentaron mejoras: el nivel más bajo desde que comenzó el retroceso hace nueve años. En general, el retroceso se ha producido en la libertad de expresión, la sociedad civil y el estado de derecho y ha venido motivado principalmente por una mayor vigilancia estatal y restricciones en internet, entre otros.

"La aceptación de la democracia como la forma dominante de gobierno y de un sistema internacional construido sobre los ideales democráticos, está bajo la mayor amenaza de los últimos 25 años", indicó el vicepresidente de investigación de Freedom House, Arch Puddington, en un comunicado.


Continue reading
Con 6,5 puntos de 7 posibles, en una escala donde más es peor, fue el país con la peor evaluación en el hemisferio occidental. Continue reading
U.S.-Cuba policy: Myth vs. reality
By Yleem D.S. Poblete and Jason I. Poblete

In announcing the move to "normalize" relations with the Cuban regime,
President Obama referred to U.S. policy as an "outdated approach." This
claim was reiterated in his State of the Union address, as if repeating
it enough would make it true.

A little history and clarification are in order.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower's response to Cuban aggression was
prompted by Havana's systematic assault on U.S. interests. One of the
early affronts was the unlawful confiscation and nationalization,
without compensation, of private property owned by Americans. Today,
those certified claims are valued at between $8-$10 billion. While it is
seldom mentioned in recent debates, this issue is the foundation on
which U.S. law and policy was constructed.
As the regime began to purchase weapons from the Soviet Union and
distance itself from the civilized world, there was a proportional
increase in foreign policy tools used by Washington to address growing
threats and policy challenges.

From missiles pointed at the U.S. and sending agents to Vietnam to
torture American POWs at a camp called "The Zoo", to exporting violence,
and destabilizing democratic allies, this pariah state has earned every
punitive measure imposed by the U.S. Havana helped create and grow the
Western Hemisphere drugs for arms network, as documented in numerous
official reports. Hostile acts carried out by Havana's spy recruits in
the U.S. government are linked to American deaths.

The regime also continues to collaborate with fellow rogues such as
Iran. It harbors terrorists, as well as murderers and other dangerous
fugitives of U.S. justice. Despite assertions to the contrary, Cuba
continues to earn its slot on the state sponsors of terrorism list and
that is one of many reasons why the embargo should remain firmly in place.

But the sanctions do not tell the whole story, as they are just one
component of a multi-prong U.S. strategy that aims to weaken and isolate
the regime, while supporting those struggling to free their island
nation from a totalitarian dictatorship.

U.S.-Cuba policy is both punitive, to hold Havana accountable for
actions against U.S. interests, and preventive, as it seeks to rein in
the regime's dangerous policies. It protects American property rights,
as well as the U.S. economy and financial system from the regime's
criminal activities. It has been formulated to ensure American
taxpayers are not implicitly or explicitly financing terrorism or
subsidizing bad investments. U.S.-Cuba policy is also formulated to
ensure the U.S. will have a privileged standing and relationship with a
future democratically elected Cuban government.

These priorities are again in jeopardy.

Leaders of the Cuban resistance movement, many former prisoners of
conscience as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (Antunez), have called the Obama
administration's "normalization" efforts "a betrayal." Antunez,
described as the Nelson Mandela of Cuba, and his wife Yris, were present
for the State of the Union address, as guests of Speaker John Boehner.
They described the Administration's initiatives as benefiting only the
regime and creating further roadblocks to freedom.

This is not, however, the first Presidential attempt at rapprochement
with the Cuban regime. Under President Carter, for example, sanctions
were weakened or allowed to lapse. President Clinton was preparing to
go even further when two civilian humanitarian aircraft, piloted by
three Americans and a U.S. resident, were shot down by Cuban military
jets over international waters. President Clinton was left with no
other choice but to sign the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity
Act, known as Helms-Burton. This bipartisan law enshrined the
multi-track approach and codified existing prohibitions to ensure these
could not be unilaterally abrogated through Executive action.

What specific steps can Congress take to stop the Obama administration?
These could include but are not limited to:

- Resolutions disapproving of the president's December 17 proposals and
subsequent action pursuant to such announcement for potential violations
of U.S. laws;
- Adding Cuba matter to other legislative and legal action pertaining to
abuse of executive power;
- Cross-committee hearings and investigations with the use of subpoenas,
as necessary, for documents, U.S. government officials and those acting
as representatives thereof;
- Prohibition on the use of appropriated funds for the implementation of
proposals announced on December 17 or related subsequent action, as well
as holds on funds for other Administration priorities, until
Congressional review and investigations are completed;
- Prohibition on the use of any funds for the U.S. Interests Section in
Havana if the status of the mission or its personnel is altered, without
expressed Congressional authorization, from that in effect on December
16, 2014.

The 114th Congress must, as Winston Churchill used to say, "never
surrender" to totalitarianism.

Yleem D.S. Poblete is a PhD and former chief of staff of the House of
Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee. Jason I. Poblete is an
attorney and former co-chairman of the National Security Committee of
the American Bar Association's Section of International Law.

Source: U.S.-Cuba policy: Myth vs. reality | TheHill -
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/230595-us-cuba-policy-myth-vs-reality Continue reading
Religious freedom worsening in Cuba: 'There is a crackdown happening'
Lucinda Borkett-Jones 26 January 2015
CSW

Pastor Esmir Torreblanco stands among the ruins of his home in Santiago
de Cuba where he led Establishing the Kingdom of God Church
Violations of religious freedom are increasing in Cuba, according to a
new report released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today.

The number of recorded violations has risen year on year. There were 220
recorded incidences in 2014, up from 180 the previous year, 120 in 2012,
and 40 in 2011.

The incidences have also become more violent, with cases of Protestant
pastors being arbitrarily detained or beaten and churches being demolished.

But the increase in the figures is partly owed to more information being
reported, despite government restrictions on information.

"There is a crackdown happening... but that's come simultaneously with
more people speaking out and being ready to put their work and their
situation on the line to make sure information gets out," CSW's Cuba
advocate told Christian Today. "I think that then provokes a more
intense crackdown, so it's a circular cycle.

"Everything's monitored, so the Cuban government has complete control
over telephone lines and internet connection. Any pastor or church
official who tries to send information out is doing that knowing that
what they are doing, the government's going to know about and that comes
with repercussions."

Those who have reported violations have been harassed and some have been
threatened with arrest.

Religious life in Cuba is regulated by the Communist Party's Office of
Religious Affairs (ORA), which has the power to recognise certain
religious groups and permit them to build new premises while denying others.

But even churches that are registered, legally operating church can face
intimidation. CSW's spokesperson said members of the congregation can be
threatened with losing their jobs, pastors' children are often singled
out at school, and the ORA can refuse to allow building repair work to
be done.

Unregistered churches can experience anything from the confiscation of
property to the demolition of the church building.

In July 2014 the ORA sanctioned the demolition of the Establishing the
Kingdom of God Church in Santiago de Cuba. The pastor and his family
were from their home, where the church met, early one morning and then
the building was reduced to rubble.

One Baptist leader, Rev Homero Carbonell, left the island last year
after 52 years of ministry and was granted asylum in the US on the basis
of harassment from the ORA.

However, the authorities did sanction the building of two new Catholic
churches in Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Rio.

The inconsistency of treatment by the ORA is a major concern of the
report. There are fears that by making concessions to some communities,
such as the Catholic Church, the government is trying to improve its
image abroad, while restricting the activities of other groups.

"On the one hand the government is promoting this image that
everything's fine and they respect religious freedom, while
simultaneously back home, really cracking down," the CSW spokesperson
said. "My worry is that people will buy into that and believe that
narrative, when the numbers just don't show that."

The report calls for governments to recognise this double standard.

"Real religious freedom can only exist if it is enjoyed by all religious
groups without discrimination," the report says. "It is vital that the
European Union, United States and other governments around the world do
not allow the Cuban government to pretend that granting limited
privileges to one or two religious groups over others constitutes an
improvement in religious freedom."

Although the Roman Catholic Church has more freedom than most, it too
has faced problems in the last year. Having waited for years for
permission to conduct necessary repairs, the Franciscan monastery in
Guanabacoa was forced to close in 2014. As a result, most of the monks
will be leaving Cuba even though their order has been there for centuries.

Visitors travelling for religious reasons also encounter restrictions
imposed by the ORA. Visas must be issued via the ORA, which means that
unregistered groups often cannot receive visitors.

Importing Bibles and other religious materials is also severely
restricted, as it must go through the Cuban Council of Churches, to
which the majority of Protestant Cubans, as well as the Roman Catholics,
do not belong.

"The negative trend seems to be part of a general attempt by the
government to eliminate the potential or any social upheaval by cracking
down on any groups it perceives as potentially problematic," the report
says.

Religious groups could be considered 'problematic' if the government
fears they will call for social and political reforms.

CSW does not think it likely that improved relations with the US will
have any effect on the treatment of religious groups.

The Catholic Church estimates that about 6 per cent of the Cuban
population regularly attend mass. According to CSW about 12-15 per cent
are actively involved in Protestant denominations. A large proportion of
the population (up to 80 per cent) have some involvement in
non-Christian Afro-Cuban traditional religious groups.

Source: Religious freedom worsening in Cuba: 'There is a crackdown
happening' | Christian News on Christian Today -
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/religious.freedom.worsening.in.cuba.there.is.a.crackdown.happening/46769.htm Continue reading
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has the details on how the regime targets organized religion with repression: Violations of religious freedom in Cuba continued to rise in 2014, according to a new report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) detailing 220 separate violations... Continue reading
Oscar Biscet is the Afro-Cuban physician to whom President George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. After President Obama granted full diplomatic recognition to the still-dictatorship Continue reading
A Letter to Fidel Castro from 'A Revolutionary Cuban' / 14ymedio
Posted on January 25, 2015

Dear Fidel,

I know you're dead. Despite their attempts to hide it from me, to deny
it or to lie about it with false letters bearing your signature, I am
convinced of your death.

I don't believe you capable of abandoning us now, at the moment when we
need you most, because that's not what you have accustomed us to. I
can't imagine you sitting back on your recliner enjoying a good book,
listening to music or eating your favorite dishes knowing that the
course of this country is changing at a vertigo-provoking speed that we
are not used to and that we are now faced with the impossible task of
writing a new chapter in our history without a leader. I can't picture
you oblivious or indifferent, absent as if you were roaming on an adrift
cruise ship, or wandering some faraway lands, ignoring what happens on
this island that gave you life, that gave you glory, and made you
universal. I also know that you would never cower like an ostrich or a
rat before the dangers that stalk us.

I know that if you were still alive you would be, right now, exhorting
us to defy these dangers like you always have. You would be warning us
of the threats that, invisible to us, only you are capable of seeing. If
you were alive, we would have seen you, filled with emotion, embrace
your Cuban Five, your heroes, for whose freedom we rallied behind you in
every campaign, march, parade, and act. If you still held on to life,
you wouldn't allow the threat of the empire to fly again over our heads,
except this time closely, too closely, and with new arms and combat
tactics for which we are unprepared. You wouldn't allow savage
capitalism to return to Cuba nor for those whom we once vanquished by
simply throwing eggs at them to come back as proud victors.

If even a drop of life were to still inhibit your body, you would give
your people a dignified goodbye, that people that has supported you in
everything: in the liberation war, by cleansing the
counter-revolutionary threats that hid in the Escambray Mountains,
working the arduous sugarcane zafras, repudiating the "worms", the
"antisocials", and the "scum," betting our lives in Angola, Nicaragua,
or Venezuela with rifles, notebooks and pencils or white coats, on
volunteer work, giving what little we had to others and receiving
nothing in exchange, and battling today, defenselessly, your most recent
detractors. Right now, it's your obligation to stand with us and you
know it.

You surely haven't forgotten (I haven't) your favorite slogans, like
"Homeland or Death" and "Socialism or Death", those that you pronounced
at the end of every speech in a firm tone, and that we followed with
cries of "We will be victorious" before we applauded you in passionate
approval while exclaiming "Long live Fidel" and "Long live the
Revolution." If neither the Homeland nor Socialism interest you any
longer, the only logical explanation is that death has won against you
in that final battle and we should not be kept in the dark, we should
know, if at least out of respect for those that have supported you
unconditionally, so that we may grieve you and honor you with a humble
but heartfelt tribute.

And if your death not be true, excuse my sincerity Comandante, I'd
rather continue thinking you're dead because it's simply the best option
I have to keep my faith as a Revolutionary.

A Revolutionary Cuban, January 16 2015

3 and 25 p.m.*

*Translator's Note: Fidel Castro signs his writings with the time
expressed in this way.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

14ymedio, 23 January 2015

Source: A Letter to Fidel Castro from 'A Revolutionary Cuban' / 14ymedio
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-letter-to-fidel-castro-from-a-revolutionary-cuban-14ymedio/ Continue reading
… , at least in the short-term: Cuba significantly relaxed its near-total control … information during the talks in Havana, allowing the live broadcast of … independent Cuban reporters who are considered members of the opposition. Cubans said … a park bench in Old Havana reading a report in the … Continue reading
© . Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his supporters have formed a political-action committee ahead Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38309" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Filmmaker Fernando Pérez during the interview with Henry Constantin[/caption] 14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Camagüey, 21 January 2015 -- I interviewed Fernando Pérez in a small room of that little movie theater is still left in Camagüey one day after the premiere of his latest production, La pared de las palabras (Wall of Words), a stellar film about which I didn’t ask a single question. I decided not to interview the film director and instead question the intellectual, the public figure who contributes more than just his works to the daily life of Cuba. Fernando Pérez deserves, and can handle, any difficult question one can think of. His films, never boring and with noteworthy depth, reveal a certain level of social nonconformity and demonstrate high cinematographic and intellectual capacities that transform the slim and modest man into a very serious subject. Despite being thoroughly deserving, the cinematographer isn’t inflated with the airs of a great artist or a prominent public figure and treats with kindness both his public and the press. I had to ask him a complicated or daring question in the scarce minutes of my interview because there was little I hadn’t heard following his eloquent speeches before the camagüeyano audiences that had welcomed him in various places throughout the day. Constantin. Following the prohibition of privately owned movie theaters, do you, cinematographers, still include in your proposals for the Cinema Law the independent distribution and showing of films? Peréz. We’ve advanced a proposal that, of course, includes the distribution, showing, and preservation of our patrimony. Regarding showings, there are very few venues that meet the requirements of a real movie theater. There are generations of youths that don’t know what a real movie theater is, even in a moment where the ways of showing and distributing films have diversified, for better or for worse. Rescuing the quality of movie theaters is fundamental. I can watch a movie in a smaller screen, on a laptop even, I don’t oppose that, but its true place is in a movie theater, not because it’s dark or because it is projected on a larger screen, it’s because of the energy generated from watching it alongside a live audience. It’s as if you were living within another movie altogether. Our movie theaters have either lost their intended purpose at the expense of other varied activities or, due to decay, have ceased to operate completely. “Personal initiative would generate better results than having to wait for centralized decisions to be passed down.” On the other hand, distribution is still centralized within The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). We need to debate an editorial policy that is concrete and safe because there are national works – and I’m not talking about the international ones – that are not shown due to an editorial policy that is unclear. That needs to be regulated as well; it can’t be subjected to circumstantial or temporary decisions. Q. Does your proposed Cinema Law conceive the ICAIC as the sole entity charged with distributing and showing films in Cuba? A. Not exactly, although we don’t have all the answers, but distributing and showing is an extensive process that depends on a financial framework that we neither manage nor will. But, we are considering and analyzing the possibility of a breakup, a decentralization of many of these activities, where independent initiatives, regulated but not controlled, can generate improvements and also experience a more dynamic growth themselves. I think that beyond Cuba’s audiovisual industry, having a centralized pyramidal social structure has caused many aspects of our reality to be plagued by processes that delay, that don’t find solutions, that aren’t dynamic, and that are bureaucratized because they depend on centralized decisions that cannot respond to everything. More freedom to operate and act would facilitate personal initiative, and personal initiative would generate better results than having to wait for centralized decisions to be passed down. This structural relaxation has to somehow be envisioned as part of the system we would like to have. I can’t give you concrete solutions because we are, in fact, debating. We don’t want them to come only from us; we want to explore them with other regulatory entities in our country. Not everything will be feasible immediately. We feel like that policy is not yet outlined, or like we don’t know where it’s going, or that it’s too centralized, that it starts on a routinely straight line that is very difficult to divert. “Maybe Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real performance, none at all.” Q. From what I’ve seen within your work, you strike me as a person who believes that art can serve to change the world you live in. How do you see the relationship between art and politics? A. Art needs to relate and mingle with life and also have its own discourse within that relationship, holding the person at the center of it all. While politics delves into the general, art targets the particular. Politics can serve art, by always upholding the freedom of expression that art needs, and art can serve politics, by rendering its reality more complex without becoming propaganda. If art becomes political propaganda, its reach becomes limited. Q. I asked you that question because I was interested in knowing your opinion regarding Tania Bruguera’s performance and all that occurred around it. A. Tania Bruguera’s situation has been very, very, very complicated. I think that it is possible that at some point an open microphone can be placed on Revolution Square. What happened was that Tania proposed it at a time when she knew it wasn’t possible. For a performance to have a deliberate result, it needs to account for its possible reach. Maybe Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real performance, none at all. So, the performance was the whole process, the waves of detentions, censorship… it wasn’t the microphone for people to speak through. That will happen someday, but not now. Translated by Fernando Fornaris [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Fernando-PACrez-entrevista-Henry-Constantin_CYMIMA20150121_0001_13.jpg Continue reading
Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the World /
Luis Felipe Rojas
Posted on January 24, 2015

The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where
he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a
friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent
releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with
Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful
reproduction of his text.

Ángel's post:

I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher,
and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from
the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government.

Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure
everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even
less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will
be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have
never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all
"minimum severity" prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years.

Nonetheless, although I know that I am not on the noted list, my joy is
infinite at knowing that those who were on it are now free. My suffering
is universal. I feel all Cubans to be an extension of me, or vice versa,
above all those who have suffered and do suffer for an ideal–and in
particular that of freedom for our country.

I also believe that the list that so gladdened me was missing the names
of other political prisoners who deserved to have been added. There will
always be some who are excluded because government's sleight-of-hand is
very swift and, when it already has one list compiled, it as another of
recently-apprehended inmates.

It is unfair to think that they should have taken one name off to insert
another. Rather, they should have added to the list, because those who
were freed deserved it, just as do those who still remain in the
totalitarian regime's jails–some shut away and subjected to inhumane
treatment for many years, for whose imminent freedom I pray.

By the same token, and referring again to the recycling of political
prisoners, we must now clamor for the immediate absolution and
liberation of El Sexto, Danilo Maldonado, whom they keep in the Valle
Grande prison for a crime of "disrespect to the images of the leaders."
This is a further proof of how jealously they hold on to their power,
and of what they are ready and able to do to safeguard it. Power and its
dictators are untouchable, and to live is to see it.

I will not live long enough to infinitely thank those who clamor for my
release, and those who suffer because of my imprisonment, but we must
clamor for all–just as my publisher entreats on the blog, "The Children
That Nobody Wanted," and my family through social media. At the least,
may I be last on the list, as I will complain no more.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

January, 2014. Jaimanitas Border Patrol Prison Unit, Havana.

*Translator's note: In an earlier post Ángel explained the Cuban penal
system that allows prisoners with shorter sentences to leave prison
every so many days for extended (overnight) home visits. He was granted
one of these passes when he was in the Lawton Settlement, a work camp,
but future passes were withheld.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

22 January 2015

Source: Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the
World / Luis Felipe Rojas | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/angelito-santiesteban-of-the-world/ Continue reading
New U.S. Measures on Cuba Not Featured in the Island's Headlines / Ivan
Garcia
Posted on January 24, 2015

On December 17 Noemi and her coworkers at the telecommunications company
ETECSA were surprised to hear their boss hastily reading "the day's top
news story" to their entire workforce in a tone of voice that was
intended to sound solemn.

"Comrades, after the conclusion of agreements with President Obama,
three of the five heroic Cuban prisoners unjustly incarcerated by the
Empire are today en route back to their homeland. They are returning as
was promised by our undefeated Comandante," he said the business
manager, barely taking a breath.

At noon later that day all the employees gathered around an ancient
Chinese television to listen to the speech by General Raul Castro and to
hear the news about the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the
United States after fifty-four years.
Although the news conference focused only on the return of the three
imprisoned spies, ETESCA employees clandestinely copied onto flash
drives online posts outlining the White House's new direction for U.S.
foreign policy, which is intended to help empower Cuba's emerging civil
society and small business sector.

The country's military rulers reacted with astonishing indifference to
Obama's new strategy and executive actions as they relate to the
embargo. The Castros live in a parallel universe.

They are not sure what to do with the ball at their feet. The best thing
the Communist Party bureau that controls the news could do was to
present a rosy portrait of the three espionage agents.

As the drama was quickly unfolding, it became clear that Obama was
taking his landmark decision seriously. On Thursday, January 15
Washington announced a package of measures clearly intended to benefit
ordinary people as well as Cuba's emerging private business sector.

In this instance Noemi and her colleagues had to do their own searches
for the information. "At first there was a sense of celebration over the
return of the three spies, but not now. It's not being talked about it.
We had to secretly surf the internet and copy news articles that are
important to Cubans," she says during her lunch break.
There were no reports on the story on national radio and television news
shows. By 1PM the top headlines were the new denominations of Cuban
currency, the preparations for the January 28 torchlight march and, in
international news, the annual United Nations' water conference in
Zaragoza, Spain.

Despite the poor media coverage, Osmin, who owns a candy store in the
Santos Suarez neighborhood, was commenting on the good news with some
clients by 2PM.

"I found out about it from a neighbor who has an illegal cable antenna.
It's unbelievable that the government still has not reported the news. I
get the impression they are a bit disoriented, that it has not sunk in
yet. These measures open the door to small business being able to secure
credit, though it won't be an option if they don't authorize it," he
points out.

In a shopping mall at Puentes Grandes and 26th Avenue, four young men
with garishly colored headphones around their necks are surfing the web
in an internet cafe. Though engrossed in the match between Real Madrid
and Atletico match for the Copa del Rey, they had heard the scoop.

"I think it's great that the Americans have changed course and adopted a
new strategy. Now we'll see what our government has to say. It's
pointless to import information technology and cell phones if the state
sells them at unaffordable prices," says one of the young men.

His comment provokes a small debate. Osvaldo, a doctor who regularly
goes online once a week to send emails to his son in Ecuador, thinks the
government's reaction is deceptive.

"The focus has been only on the release of the agents. Everything else,
including the measures announced today, evokes more fear than joy. It's
not in tune with the average, ordinary citizen, who is usually
optimistic about each new breakthrough. For fifty-four years the
government has blamed all it failures on the United States. People need
the government to provide its official version of events and outline the
strategy it plans to follow," says the Havana resident.
Josefa, a housewife, heard the news during a phone call from Miami at
the time she heard about the birth of her grandson: "I was told they are
thinking about revoking the airlines' licenses. I hope this lowers the
cost of a ticket. Flying from Havana to Miami is too expensive: 422 CUC
for a flight that lasts less than an hour. To make this happen will
require good will from the Cuban side. But I am afraid these people (the
regime) are only interested in money and power."
In a small park in Casino, a neighborhood in the Cerro district
twenty-five minutes from central Havana, two friends kill time playing
chess. "I heard about it at breakfast," says one. "The government
couldn't care less about Obama's policy; they will adopt only what suits
them. And, apparently, they want to retain control of the economy,
finance and people's lives. As long as this caste of elders remains in
power, nothing will change. The best thing about Obama's policy is that
it unmasks them."

It remains to be seen whether the new measures adopted by the United
States will be able to destroy the Castro regime's potent blockade of
economic autonomy and political freedom for its citizens.

A month after December 17 average Cubans are no longer quite so optimistic.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: A woman wearing clothes featuring the American flag walks through
Havana. At one point such actions were prohibited, so Cubans often wore
hats, shirts, shorts and leggings with American symbols cautiously. As
of December 17, however, they are on open display in streets throughout
the island. Source: Terra, EFE.

17 January 2015

Source: New U.S. Measures on Cuba Not Featured in the Island's Headlines
/ Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/new-u-s-measures-on-cuba-not-featured-in-the-islands-headlines-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
"It is up to Cubans decide their future"
YOANI SÁNCHEZ, Havana | Enero 24, 2015

In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a
Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of
women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in
the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a
few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State
for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio,
in Havana.

Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our
previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze
has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she
has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United
States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of
relations between both countries.

Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met
with Jacobson on the 14 th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where
our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a
conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics.

Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the
politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of
human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background?

Jacobson: The goals of our policy are exactly the same as before. It
focuses on achieving a free country, where Cubans have the right to
decide their future. The most important thing is how to get to that
point, and we are aware that we have not been successful with the
previous strategy. So we're trying to use a new policy of having
diplomatic relations because we – and especially President Obama and
Secretary Kerry – feel that it is important to have direct contact with
the government.

The most important thing is how we can empower the Cuban people in a
more effective way and offer you more telecommunications opportunities
to modernize your computer systems, to have access to information and to
be part of the connected "global village." It is a complex process, that
is going to take time, but we are not going to set aside the issue of
human rights and of democracy because they are in the center of this new
policy as well.

Reinaldo Escobar: The Cuban government has so far only put on the
negotiating scale the release of 53 people – and I emphasis "release"
because they are not liberations, because the majority have only been
placed on parole. Can we expect new releases derived from these
conversations?

Jacobson: That was part of the conversation where we showed an interest
in several people in Cuba. What was agreed in this process was the
exchange between intelligence agents, one who has traveled to the United
States and three who have returned to Cuba. The rest have been policies
of each side, gestures, of self interest. We are going to continue
implementing policies according to these interests, which we believe
support the Cuban people.

Reinaldo Escobar: We have learned that in Cuban prisons some of the
prisoners who are on the list of political prisoners but who haven't yet
been released are promoting a hunger strike. Should they have any hope?

Jacobson: I want to say something more: In the discussions of recent
days, we have agreed to hold dialogs of many kinds. About cooperation,
about the environment, anti-narcotics, etcetera, including the issue of
human rights which was proposed by Cuba last year and which has now been
accepted by us.

We have different conceptions of this dialog and participating for us
will be the experts on those issues, but we have said several times that
we have never thought that after more than fifty years of this problem,
it would be resolved overnight. We know that there are more people in
the prisons and there are more elsewhere fighting for their rights.

Eliécer Ávila: Some media have shown that in these conversations the
formula is human rights versus economics. However, I understand politics
as the mechanism for people to live more freely and to live well, so I
see no conflict between one subject and another. Do you share that view?

Jacobson: We totally agree that they are, not only complementary, but
are essentially linked. We have talked, and we have heard the president,
Secretary of State Kerry and Vice President Biden talk, about reaching a
democratic, free, secure and prosperous hemisphere.

Those are things that are all linked. How can we talk of a hemisphere
that is prosperous, but does not have freedom? Or that has freedom but
has nothing to eat? Or where there is plenty to eat and freedom but you
can't walk the streets because of insecurity and other dangers? These
are things that are linked, but some are the responsibility of the
governments to protect their citizens and to guarantee their fundamental
rights, and others have to be met by the citizens themselves, but in a
civilized society we have to talk about all these things.

Eliécer Ávila: Hence also the importance of access to telecommunications
and information…

Jacobson: Yes, citizens must have access to information not only on
issues of freedom and rights, they need access to information for their
economic life. It is very important and this is one way in which they
can have greater prosperity. So we are in total agreement that the
economy and human rights are closely linked. There is no contradiction
between them, none at all.

Dagoberto Valdés: From January 21-25, 1998 we had the historic visit of
Pope John Paul II to Cuba. For Cubans it was a visit of expectations and
yours now is also. What do you think is the role of the Catholic Church
as a mediator in the dialogue not only between the governments of Cuba
and the United States, but the important dialogue that must take place
between civil society and government of Cuba?

Jacobson: First I want to say that the role of Pope Francis and the
Vatican was instrumental in our process with the Cuban Government. We
know that the Vatican is always important in a process like this, but I
would add that this pope is special to this region… "We are all
Argentines at this moment…" So we appreciate the role of the Church.

In the future, I think the role of the Church in Rome as well as the
Church in Cuba will be very important. I had a conversation with the
Cardinal and there are several initiatives by the Cuban Church in
several areas, aimed at changes in economic, educational and other
areas. In the Church, as in the field and the media, it is for Cubans to
decide, not Americans.

Yoani Sánchez: Thank you for your visit to our editorial offices. We
deliver a printed version of 14ymedio with a weekly selection, which we
do to circumvent censorship. We hope that one day our newspaper will be
on newsstands nationwide.

Roberta Jacobson: Thank you, I have felt very comfortable here, like
with family.

Source: "It is up to Cubans decide their future" -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/Yoani-Sanchez-interviews-Roberta-Jacobson_0_1712828707.html Continue reading
US says it's not clear after Cuba talks if new policy works
Bradley Klapper | AP January 23 2015

The highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba in more than three
decades said Friday that two days of talks on re-establishing full
diplomatic relations had left her with no sense of whether the new U.S.
policy of engagement would achieve its goal of generating reforms that
benefit the Cuban people.

The Obama administration says the goal of its Cuban policy remains the
same: creating more freedoms for ordinary Cubans. Cuban diplomats said
throughout the negotiations in Havana that the U.S. needs to abandon
hopes of using closer relations to foment change on the island.
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson told reporters Friday that
the talks had left her with no clearer idea of whether Obama's new
policy has good prospects of success.

"It's very hard to say exactly how this will work," Jacobson said. "We
think that we need to make decisions in our own interest and take
decision that are to going to empower the Cuban people but the verdict
on whether that succeeds is still to be made."

The United States and Cuba both reported progress toward restoring
diplomatic ties after a half-century of estrangement. But it wasn't
immediately clear whether the human rights issue, which has previously
blocked closer U.S.-Cuban relations, would pose a threat to the new
diplomatic process.

"Cuba has never responded to pressure," Josefina Vidal, the country's
top diplomat for U.S. affairs, told reporters Thursday night.

The comments by Jacobson and Vidal lay bare the pressures each side
faces at home — the U.S., from Republican leaders in Congress and
powerful Cuban-American groups, and Cuba, from hardliners deeply
concerned that rapprochement could undermine the communist system
founded by Fidel Castro.

Earlier in the week, Jacobson hailed the talks as "positive and
productive," focusing on the mechanics of converting interest sections
into full-fledged embassies headed by ambassadors. But she also spoke of
"profound differences" separating the two governments and said embassies
by themselves would not mean normalized ties.

Along with human rights, Cuba outlined other obstacles in the
relationship. Vidal demanded that Cuba be taken off the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism. However, she praised Obama for easing the
U.S. trade embargo and urging the U.S. Congress to lift it entirely.

"It was a first meeting. This is a process," Vidal said. In the next
weeks, she said, the U.S. and Cuba will schedule a second round of
talks, which may or may not be the time to finalize an agreement.

Issues on Thursday's agenda included ending caps on staff, limits on
diplomats' movements and, in the case of the U.S. building, removing
guard posts and other Cuban structures along the perimeter.

Earlier, the two countries disputed whether human rights had even been
discussed at all. Jacobson said the U.S. raised it in the morning
meeting; Vidal said it had not come up.

Gustavo Machin, Cuba's deputy chief of North American affairs, later
said the delegations spent time in an afternoon session discussing U.S.
human rights problems — a reference to recent police killings of black
men in Missouri and New York. Cuban state media said the Cuban
delegation also complained about the detention of prisoners at the U.S.
base in Guantanamo Bay.

A U.S. official said the difference in Jacobson's statements was
unintentional and that the English version — that the U.S "pressed the
Cuban government for improved human rights conditions, including freedom
of expression" — reflected the delegation's position.

The U.S. and Cuba also talked about human trafficking, environmental
protection, American rules to allow greater telecommunications exports
to Cuba and how to coordinate responses to oil spills or Ebola outbreaks.

The need for at least one future round of talks could set back U.S.
hopes of reopening the embassies before April's Summit of the Americas,
which Obama and Castro are expected to attend.

Still, after so many years of mutual suspicion, each side stressed the
importance of the collegial atmosphere in Havana that included long
working lunches and a dinner together.

Source: US says it's not clear after Cuba talks if new policy works |
89.3 KPCC -
http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/01/23/49425/us-says-it-s-not-clear-after-cuba-talks-if-new-pol/ Continue reading
US admits: we're not sure if new Cuba approach will work

Roberta Jacobson, the highest ranking official to visit Havana in more
than 30 years, said she had no clearer idea if new policy of engagement
will be a success

The highest-ranking US official to visit Cuba in more than three decades
has said that two days of talks on re-establishing full diplomatic
relations left her with no sense of whether the new US policy of
engagement would achieve its goal of generating reforms that benefit the
Cuban people.

The Obama administration says the goal of its Cuban policy remains the
same: creating more freedoms for ordinary Cubans. Cuban diplomats said
throughout the negotiations in Havana that the US needs to abandon hopes
of using closer relations to foment change on the island. Assistant
secretary of state Roberta Jacobson told reporters Friday that the talks
had left her with no clearer idea of whether Obama's new policy has good
prospects of success.

"It's very hard to say exactly how this will work," Jacobson said. "We
think that we need to make decisions in our own interest and take
decisions that are to going to empower the Cuban people, but the verdict
on whether that succeeds is still to be made."

The United States and Cuba both reported progress toward restoring
diplomatic ties after a half-century of estrangement. But it wasn't
immediately clear whether the human rights issue, which has previously
blocked closer US-Cuban relations, would pose a threat to the new
diplomatic process.

"Cuba has never responded to pressure," Josefina Vidal, the country's
top diplomat for US affairs, told reporters Thursday night.

The comments by Jacobson and Vidal lay bare the pressures each side
faces at home — the US, from Republican leaders in Congress and powerful
Cuban-American groups, and Cuba, from hardliners deeply concerned that
rapprochement could undermine the communist system founded by Fidel Castro.

Earlier in the week, Jacobson hailed the talks as "positive and
productive", focusing on the mechanics of converting interest sections
into full-fledged embassies headed by ambassadors. But she also spoke of
"profound differences" separating the two governments and said embassies
by themselves would not mean normalized ties.

Along with human rights, Cuba outlined other obstacles in the
relationship. Vidal demanded that Cuba be taken off the US list of state
sponsors of terrorism. However, she praised Obama for easing the US
trade embargo and urging the US Congress to lift it entirely.

"It was a first meeting. This is a process," Vidal said. In the next
weeks, she said, the US and Cuba will schedule a second round of talks,
which may or may not be the time to finalize an agreement.

Issues on Thursday's agenda included ending caps on staff, limits on
diplomats' movements and, in the case of the US building, removing guard
posts and other Cuban structures along the perimeter.

Earlier, the two countries disputed whether human rights had even been
discussed at all. Jacobson said the US raised it in the morning meeting;
Vidal said it had not come up.

Gustavo Machin, Cuba's deputy chief of North American affairs, later
said the delegations spent time in an afternoon session discussing US
human rights problems — a reference to recent police killings of black
men in Missouri and New York. Cuban state media said the Cuban
delegation also complained about the detention of prisoners at the US
base in Guantanamo Bay.

A US official said the difference in Jacobson's statements was
unintentional and that the English version – that the US "pressed the
Cuban government for improved human rights conditions, including freedom
of expression" – reflected the delegation's position.

The US and Cuba also talked about human trafficking, environmental
protection, American rules to allow greater telecommunications exports
to Cuba and how to coordinate responses to oil spills or Ebola outbreaks.

The need for at least one future round of talks could set back US hopes
of reopening the embassies before April's Summit of the Americas, which
Obama and Castro are expected to attend.

Still, after so many years of mutual suspicion, each side stressed the
importance of the collegial atmosphere in Havana that included long
working lunches and a dinner together.

Source: US admits: we're not sure if new Cuba approach will work | World
news | theguardian.com -
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/23/us-admits-cuba-policy-unsure-success Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38306" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Fidel Castro billboard: "Fight against the impossible and win"[/caption] Dear Fidel, I know you’re dead. Despite their attempts to hide it from me, to deny it or to lie about it with false letters bearing your signature, I am convinced of your death. I don’t believe you capable of abandoning us now, at the moment when we need you most, because that’s not what you have accustomed us to. I can’t imagine you sitting back on your recliner enjoying a good book, listening to music or eating your favorite dishes knowing that the course of this country is changing at a vertigo-provoking speed that we are not used to and that we are now faced with the impossible task of writing a new chapter in our history without a leader. I can’t picture you oblivious or indifferent, absent as if you were roaming on an adrift cruise ship, or wandering some faraway lands, ignoring what happens on this island that gave you life, that gave you glory, and made you universal. I also know that you would never cower like an ostrich or a rat before the dangers that stalk us. I know that if you were still alive you would be, right now, exhorting us to defy these dangers like you always have. You would be warning us of the threats that, invisible to us, only you are capable of seeing. If you were alive, we would have seen you, filled with emotion, embrace your Cuban Five, your heroes, for whose freedom we rallied behind you in every campaign, march, parade, and act. If you still held on to life, you wouldn’t allow the threat of the empire to fly again over our heads, except this time closely, too closely, and with new arms and combat tactics for which we are unprepared. You wouldn’t allow savage capitalism to return to Cuba nor for those whom we once vanquished by simply throwing eggs at them to come back as proud victors. If even a drop of life were to still inhibit your body, you would give your people a dignified goodbye, that people that has supported you in everything: in the liberation war, by cleansing the counter-revolutionary threats that hid in the Escambray Mountains, working the arduous sugarcane zafras, repudiating the “worms”, the “antisocials”, and the “scum,” betting our lives in Angola, Nicaragua, or Venezuela with rifles, notebooks and pencils or white coats, on volunteer work, giving what little we had to others and receiving nothing in exchange, and battling today, defenselessly, your most recent detractors. Right now, it’s your obligation to stand with us and you know it. You surely haven’t forgotten (I haven’t) your favorite slogans, like “Homeland or Death” and “Socialism or Death”, those that you pronounced at the end of every speech in a firm tone, and that we followed with cries of “We will be victorious” before we applauded you in passionate approval while exclaiming “Long live Fidel” and “Long live the Revolution.” If neither the Homeland nor Socialism interest you any longer, the only logical explanation is that death has won against you in that final battle and we should not be kept in the dark, we should know, if at least out of respect for those that have supported you unconditionally, so that we may grieve you and honor you with a humble but heartfelt tribute. And if your death not be true, excuse my sincerity Comandante, I’d rather continue thinking you’re dead because it’s simply the best option I have to keep my faith as a Revolutionary. A Revolutionary Cuban, January 16 2015 3 and 25 p.m.* *Translator’s Note: Fidel Castro signs his writings with the time expressed in this way. Translated by Fernando Fornaris 14ymedio, 23 January 2015 [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cartel-Fidel-Castro_CYMIMA20150108_0027_13.jpg Continue reading
© . Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin speaks at the Freedom Summit in Des Moines WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An already crowded field of potential candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Continue reading
[1] Graphic: Sonia Garro Alfonso, recently freed Lady in White [2]. Collage over a piece by Rolando Pulido [3]. The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful reproduction of his text. Ángel’s post: I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher, and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government. Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all “minimum severity” prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years. Nonetheless, although I know that I am not on the noted list, my joy is infinite at knowing that those who were on it are now free. My suffering is universal. I feel all Cubans to be an extension of me, or vice versa, above all those who have suffered and do suffer for an ideal–and in particular that of freedom for our country. I also believe that the list that so gladdened me was missing the names of other political prisoners who deserved to have been added. There will always be some who are excluded because government’s sleight-of-hand is very swift and, when it already has one list compiled, it as another of recently-apprehended inmates. It is unfair to think that they should have taken one name off to insert another. Rather, they should have added to the list, because those who were freed deserved it, just as do those who still remain in the totalitarian regime’s jails–some shut away and subjected to inhumane treatment for many years, for whose imminent freedom I pray. By the same token, and referring again to the recycling of political prisoners, we must now clamor for the immediate absolution and liberation of El Sexto, Danilo Maldonado [4], whom they keep in the Valle Grande prison for a crime of “disrespect to the images of the leaders.” This is a further proof of how jealously they hold on to their power, and of what they are ready and able to do to safeguard it. Power and its dictators are untouchable, and to live is to see it. I will not live long enough to infinitely thank those who clamor for my release, and those who suffer because of my imprisonment, but we must clamor for all–just as my publisher entreats on the blog, “The Children That Nobody Wanted [5],” and my family through social media. At the least, may I be last on the list, as I will complain no more. Ángel Santiesteban-Prats January, 2014. Jaimanitas Border Patrol Prison Unit, Havana. *Translator’s note: In an earlier post Ángel explained the Cuban penal system that allows prisoners with shorter sentences to leave prison every so many days for extended (overnight) home visits. He was granted one of these passes when he was in the Lawton Settlement, a work camp, but future passes were withheld.  Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison  22 January 2015 [1] https://cruzarlasalambradas.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/picmonkey-collage1.jpg [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladies_in_White [3] http://translatingcuba.com/category/authors/rolando-pulido/?x=1 [4] http://translatingcuba.com/category/authors/el-sexto-danilo-maldonado-machado/ [5] https://hijosnadieeng.wordpress.com/ Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38293" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices[/caption] 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 24 January 2015 -- In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio, in Havana. Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of relations between both countries. Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met with Jacobson on the 14th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics. Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background? Jacobson: The goals of our policy are exactly the same as before. It focuses on achieving a free country, where Cubans have the right to decide their future. The most important thing is how to get to that point, and we are aware that we have not been successful with the previous strategy. So we're trying to use a new policy of having diplomatic relations because we – and especially President Obama and Secretary Kerry – feel that it is important to have direct contact with the government. The most important thing is how we can empower the Cuban people in a more effective way and offer you more telecommunications opportunities to modernize your computer systems, to have access to information and to be part of the connected "global village.” It is a complex process, that is going to take time, but we are not going to set aside the issue of human rights and of democracy because they are in the center of this new policy as well. Reinaldo Escobar: The Cuban government has so far only put on the negotiating scale the release of 53 people – and I emphasis “release” because they are not liberations, because the majority have only been placed on parole. Can we expect new releases derived from these conversations? Jacobson: That was part of the conversation where we showed an interest in several people in Cuba. What was agreed in this process was the exchange between intelligence agents, one who has traveled to the United States and three who have returned to Cuba. The rest have been policies of each side, gestures, of self interest. We are going to continue implementing policies according to these interests, which we believe support the Cuban people. Reinaldo Escobar: We have learned that in Cuban prisons some of the prisoners who are on the list of political prisoners but who haven’t yet been released are promoting a hunger strike. Should they have any hope? Jacobson: I want to say something more: In the discussions of recent days, we have agreed to hold dialogs of many kinds. About cooperation, about the environment, anti-narcotics, etcetera, including the issue of human rights which was proposed by Cuba last year and which has now been accepted by us. We have different conceptions of this dialog and participating for us will be the experts on those issues, but we have said several times that we have never thought that after more than fifty years of this problem, it would be resolved overnight. We know that there are more people in the prisons and there are more elsewhere fighting for their rights. Eliezer Ávila: Some media have shown that in these conversations the formula is human rights versus economics. However, I understand politics as the mechanism for people to live more freely and to live well, so I see no conflict between one subject and another. Do you share that view? Jacobson: We totally agree that they are, not only complementary, but are essentially linked. We have talked, and we have heard the president, Secretary of State Kerry and Vice President Biden talk, about reaching a democratic, free, secure and prosperous hemisphere. Those are things that are all linked. How can we talk of a hemisphere that is prosperous, but does not have freedom? Or that has freedom but has nothing to eat? Or where there is plenty to eat and freedom but you can’t walk the streets because of insecurity and other dangers? These are things that are linked, but some are the responsibility of the governments to protect their citizens and to guarantee their fundamental rights, and others have to be met by the citizens themselves, but in a civilized society we have to talk about all these things. Eliezer Ávila: Hence also the importance of access to telecommunications and information... Jacobson: Yes, citizens must have access to information not only on issues of freedom and rights, they need access to information for their economic life. It is very important and this is one way in which they can have greater prosperity. So we are in total agreement that the economy and human rights are closely linked. There is no contradiction between them, none at all. Dagoberto Valdés: From January 21-25, 1998 we had the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba. For Cubans it was a visit of expectations and yours now is also. What do you think is the role of the Catholic Church as a mediator in the dialogue not only between the governments of Cuba and the United States, but the important dialogue that must take place ​​between civil society and government of Cuba? Jacobson: First I want to say that the role of Pope Francis and the Vatican was instrumental in our process with the Cuban Government. We know that the Vatican is always important in a process like this, but I would add that this pope is special to this region... "We are all Argentines at this moment..." So we appreciate the role of the Church. In the future, I think the role of the Church in Rome as well as the Church in Cuba will be very important. I had a conversation with the Cardinal and there are several initiatives by the Cuban Church in several areas, aimed at changes in economic, educational and other areas. In the Church, as in the field and the media, it is for Cubans to decide, not Americans. Yoani Sánchez: Thank you for your visit to our editorial offices. We deliver a printed version of 14ymedio with a weekly selection, which we do to circumvent censorship. We hope that one day our newspaper will be on newsstands nationwide. Roberta Jacobson: Thank you, I have felt very comfortable here, like with family. [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Roberta-Jacobson-redaccion_CYMIMA20150124_0005_16.png Continue reading
[1]On December 17 Noemi and her coworkers at the telecommunications company ETECSA were surprised to hear their boss hastily reading “the day’s top news story” to their entire workforce in a tone of voice that was intended to sound solemn. “Comrades, after the conclusion of agreements with President Obama, three of the five heroic Cuban prisoners unjustly incarcerated by the Empire are today en route back to their homeland. They are returning as was promised by our undefeated Comandante,” he said the business manager, barely taking a breath. At noon later that day all the employees gathered around an ancient Chinese television to listen to the speech by General Raul Castro and to hear the news about the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States after fifty-four years. Although the news conference focused only on the return of the three imprisoned spies, ETESCA employees clandestinely copied onto flash drives online posts outlining the White House’s new direction for U.S. foreign policy, which is intended to help empower Cuba’s emerging civil society and small business sector. The country’s military rulers reacted with astonishing indifference to Obama’s new strategy and executive actions as they relate to the embargo. The Castros live in a parallel universe. They are not sure what to do with the ball at their feet. The best thing the Communist Party bureau that controls the news could do was to present a rosy portrait of the three espionage agents. As the drama was quickly unfolding, it became clear that Obama was taking his landmark decision seriously. On Thursday, January 15 Washington announced a package of measures clearly intended to benefit ordinary people as well as Cuba’s emerging private business sector. In this instance Noemi and her colleagues had to do their own searches for the information. “At first there was a sense of celebration over the return of the three spies, but not now. It’s not being talked about it. We had to secretly surf the internet and copy news articles that are important to Cubans,” she says during her lunch break.  There were no reports on the story on national radio and television news shows. By 1PM the top headlines were the new denominations of Cuban currency, the preparations for the January 28 torchlight march and, in international news, the annual United Nations’ water conference in Zaragoza, Spain. Despite the poor media coverage, Osmin, who owns a candy store in the Santos Suarez neighborhood, was commenting on the good news with some clients by 2PM. “I found out about it from a neighbor who has an illegal cable antenna. It’s unbelievable that the government still has not reported the news. I get the impression they are a bit disoriented, that it has not sunk in yet. These measures open the door to small business being able to secure credit, though it won’t be an option if they don’t authorize it,” he points out. In a shopping mall at Puentes Grandes and 26th Avenue, four young men with garishly colored headphones around their necks are surfing the web in an internet cafe. Though engrossed in the match between Real Madrid and Atletico match for the Copa del Rey, they had heard the scoop. “I think it’s great that the Americans have changed course and adopted a new strategy. Now we’ll see what our government has to say. It’s pointless to import information technology and cell phones if the state sells them at unaffordable prices,” says one of the young men. His comment provokes a small debate. Osvaldo, a doctor who regularly goes online once a week to send emails to his son in Ecuador, thinks the government’s reaction is deceptive. “The focus has been only on the release of the agents. Everything else, including the measures announced today, evokes more fear than joy. It’s not in tune with the average, ordinary citizen, who is usually optimistic about each new breakthrough. For fifty-four years the government has blamed all it failures on the United States. People need the government to provide its official version of events and outline the strategy it plans to follow,” says the Havana resident. Josefa, a housewife, heard the news during a phone call from Miami at the time she heard about the birth of her grandson: “I was told they are thinking about revoking the airlines’ licenses. I hope this lowers the cost of a ticket. Flying from Havana to Miami is too expensive: 422 CUC for a flight that lasts less than an hour. To make this happen will require good will from the Cuban side. But I am afraid these people (the regime) are only interested in money and power.” In a small park in Casino, a neighborhood in the Cerro district twenty-five minutes from central Havana, two friends kill time playing chess. “I heard about it at breakfast,” says one. “The government couldn’t care less about Obama’s policy; they will adopt only what suits them. And, apparently, they want to retain control of the economy, finance and people’s lives. As long as this caste of elders remains in power, nothing will change. The best thing about Obama’s policy is that it unmasks them.” It remains to be seen whether the new measures adopted by the United States will be able to destroy the Castro regime’s potent blockade of economic autonomy and political freedom for its citizens. A month after December 17 average Cubans are no longer quite so optimistic. Ivan Garcia Photo: A woman wearing clothes featuring the American flag walks through Havana. At one point such actions were prohibited, so Cubans often wore hats, shirts, shorts and leggings with American symbols cautiously. As of December 17, however, they are on open display in streets throughout the island. Source: Terra, EFE. 17 January 2015 [1] https://desdelahabanaivan.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/cuba-mujer-bandera-fm-620x330.jpg Continue reading
A question for Roberta Jacobson / 14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez
Posted on January 23, 2015

14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez, 22 January 2015 — In July of last year,
when I talked to some of the victims of the "Marzo de 13" Tugboat
massacre in the Bay of Havana, I found a list of horrifying statistics.

Two of them would make any halfway decent human being shudder: the
bodies recovered from the sea as a result of the sinking of the boat
were never returned to the families, and there was never an independent
investigation into the massacre in which 41 Cubans lost their lives. Ten
of them were minors.

What was so shocking about these events was not just the impunity of
those who perpetrated the atrocity on Cuban soil, but that what happened
on 13 July 1994 is a pattern that has been repeated almost since the
Revolutionary government took power in 1959.

The violent deaths, on 22 July 2012, of Oswaldo Payá, winner of the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Throught, and Harold
Cepero, young leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, followed the
same path of an absence of justice and the utter helplessness of the
affected families. Although in this case the bodies were handed over to
the families, neither Payá nor Harold were given an autopsy or an
independent investigation.

With the policy changes of the Obama administration and the Havana
dictatorship, some voices have begun to ask for independent
investigations of the violent deaths, especially where it is known that
the authorities had some participation.

Other think that these kinds of "problems" have to full potential to
point the accusing finger at the face of the government in Havana and
that "this is not the opportune moment to talk about accusations, but
rather the issues that bring both nations closer," like an independent
blogger on the Island told me.

The international media ignores the issue to the same extent. The
saddest thing isn't that they don't emphasize these presumed
assassinations, but rather that the majority of us, Cubans inside and
outside the country, don't consider it one of the most important issues
to address. An independent investigation into the deaths of Osvaldo Payá
and Harold Cepero protects all of us Cubans.

The alleged "accidents" and "careless doctors" who caused the deaths of
Laura Pollán, Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and many other Cubans are the
extrajudicial executioners that hang like the Sword of Damocles over the
heads of all Cubans living on the Island.

Those who dare to dissent and openly criticize the Government have felt
the danger much more closely. Many of them have received death threats
from members of State Security, who act with total impunity, as they
themselves know, without legal consequences.

Last night I heard that Rosa María Payá met Robert Jacobson on a plane,
when the daughter of the Cuban dissident was returning from a short trip
to Washington, where she had the privilege of being the guest of Senator
Marco Rubio at the State of the Union. The Assistant Secretary of State
for Western Hemisphere Affairs was on her way to Havana to meet with
officials from the Cuban Government in one of the meetings between the
two nations at the highest level since the Jimmy Carter administration.

In this short encounter, Rosa María Payá asked whether the investigation
into the death of her father would be on the negotiating table. The
answer, as politically correct as it was evasive, was, "This is always a
point that we can raise*," this is always an issue we can touch on.

Maybe I'm wrong, but judging by the response, the issue of the
unexplained deaths of opponents like Oswaldo Payá and Laura Pollán will
remain unaddressed (for now) and, with them, the fear every Cuban has of
being murdered at any moment, without consequences for the executioners,
nor for those who give the orders.

*In English in the original

Source: A question for Roberta Jacobson / 14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez
| Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/a-question-for-roberta-jacobson-14ymedio-clive-rudd-fernandez/ Continue reading
This is your country, and no regime can take it from you
The photographer's work was the pretext that Havana used to suspend
negotiations with the European Union
ERNESTO HERNANDEZ, Miami | Enero 23, 2015

Marius Jovaiša is a Lithuanian photographer, 41, who has spent much of
the last five years taking photos of Cuba from a perspective never
before seen: from above. He started the project in 2010 thinking that,
being a foreign artist far removed from politics, it would be quite easy
to get permission to take aerial photos. However he quickly realized
that he would have to navigate against an extremely slow bureaucracy,
invest a great deal of resources, be patient, and understand that the
freedom to do things is very limited on the island.

Unseen Cuba, a collection of more than 300 ariel photos of the island,
taken from an ultralight 300 feet above the surface of the earth, was
published in 2014. The exhibition of the images in Washington and
Brussels caused problems with the Cuban authorities, who came to use his
work as a pretext to suspend their dialogue with the European Union last
November.

Question: Why did you decide to write a book about Cuba?

Answer: After the publication of my book of ariel photos of Lithuania, I
realized that I was doing something that I enjoy, that appealed to the
public, and that could also be a profitable project. With this new
project I could combine my passion for photography with the adrenaline
that one feels when flying in an apparatus that is open as an
ultralight. It was like I was flying in a chair and, at the same, time
taking incredible photos.

First I did Unseen Belize to see if the model would work in a foreign
country and then I thought about Cuba, because there had not been a work
of this kind in the country, and also because the island and Lithuania
share a piece of history through the Soviet influence. Cuba was like a
secret country and it would be a great challenge for me to develop the
project. I love challenges.

Q. Do you expect to hold an exhibition in Havana next?

A. I would love that. There were already two exhibitions last year, one
in the Lithuanian embassy in Washington and another with the support of
the European Union in Brussels. Both caused problems with the Cuban
authorities. Unfortunately, my work found itself in the middle of a
political problem. Last May, our ambassador in Washington invited to the
exhibition several Cuban-American members of Congress, who made very
strong political statements, and the Cuban diplomatic mission reported
what happened to Havana

The person responsible for Latin America at the European Union is
Lithuanian and she invited me to show my work. Cuba and the European
Union had begun their rounds of talks, and she thought the show would be
an opportunity to educate the diplomatic community about the culture of
the country.

Someone in the embassy in Brussels realized that it was the same
exhibition that had created so much conflict in Washington and asked
that it be canceled, but the European union refused. The Cubans
boycotted the exposition, as did other Latin American ambassadors, and
at the same time they suspended the talks. Many said that my exhibition
was just an excuse for the cancellation and not the main reason, but
that is what happened.

Q. What do Cuban authorities think of your book?

A. I sent it to them last November. I hadalready reported by telephone
that on page 77 there is a picture of a lighthouse with what appears to
be a soldier patrolling, from above. Although you cannot see the soldier
very well, in Cuba there are regulations that prohibit photographing the
military.

I was also told that there is a picture of my children with some Cuban
children that they did not much appreciate. They said: "We do not want
to show our children to the world in this way, they appear to be poor
little savages. I am still waiting for a global response, but if there
is nothing that would harm my artistic work, I am willing to publish the
book in Spanish for sale in Cuba.

Q. Who were the first people you met with in Havana?

A. I met primarily with Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. One of the entry points for me was the Antonio Núñez
Foundation for Nature and Humanity. Its director, Liliana Nunez Velis,
fell in love with my project and took me, literally, by the hand to the
Ministry of Culture. She wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of
the Foundation saying that my project presented an opportunity to
promote Cuban culture in other countries through its geography and
landscape.

Then, in my meetings with the Department of International Relations
within the Ministry of Culture, I worked with the department director,
Pedro Monzón Barata. I was always talking with officials from each
ministry separately, but I realized that each of them was coordinating
everything with the military. The Government also designated me as a
trading company of the Ministry of Culture to coordinate the initiative,
Paradiso. Through them, money was sent from Lithuania to Cuba to
develop the project.

Q. At any point do you think that it would be better to abandon the project?

A: I thought of quitting many times because the bureaucracy did not do
its work and delayed decisions, it was exhausting. Something would be
agreed on in the meetings, and afterwards it wouldn't happen. On my
first visit to Havana I managed to open doors and even to fly, and I
committed myself totally to the project and believe that it would be
possible possible to do it. On this first trip I received many
compliments, everyone told me, "Relax don't worry."

I come from a country that belongs to the Soviet Union, I knew some
things would be achieved through under the table negotiations,
sidestepping the rules a little bit. I knew I would find some way to
navigate through the labyrinth of regulations. Then when I felt like
giving up the project, I thought about the flight that I managed on my
first trip. Perhaps if I hadn't taken this flight I would have lost
interest in the project.

Q. Do the Cuban authorities feel threatened by your book?

A. I don't think so, not at all. The problem is they expected it to be
done much more slowly, and that the captions on the photos would be
written by the Cuban historian and geographer assigned to the project.
But they weren't doing the work and I went ahead.

Q. In April 2014, you received a visit from the Interior Ministry. The
authorities claimed that they were not aware of the project and had
received complaints that "a foreign spy" was taking aerial photos of
Cuba. What did they ask you in the interrogation?

A. It wasn't an interrogation as such. They asked me several questions
about the work I was doing. I do not think it was an order from above.
It was rather the local police who were trying to show their spirit of
initiative and were doing their job.

Q. Why initially could you not take pictures of the cities?

A. I thought it was for security reasons, but they never explained it to
me. I always hoped they would let me take photos of cities, though
perhaps I would have to do it in a military plane and not in my
ultralight, but that was not the case. I was very surprised when they
let me do it, because in other places it is not allowed.

Q. How much did the project cost?

A. The whole process – travel, events, presentations, production of the
book, et cetera – has cost close to $1 million. I still haven't finished
the process, there's a lot to be done in terms of promotion and sales,
so the costs continue to rise

Q. What impressed you about Cuba?

A. When I started to visit places outside Havana – Trinidad, Santiago
and so on – I realized how big and long Cuba is. The roads were very
narrow and the transportation very limited. I realized it would be a
complicated job.

I had a lot of contact with Cuban artists. Before the project I
organized a series of seminars and presentations about my work and my
experience with photography. The island's photographers are very
talented, expressing in their work, in a way, the same pain and the same
sensitivity that existed in Lithuania in Communist times.

The Cuban people are strong. Their feel love for their homeland. It is
very difficult to live in Cuba without access to simple things, without
a free market, unable to express their creativity. It reminded me a lot
of Soviet times in Lithuania.

I also met many Cubans outside the island, dreaming of the day when they
could return. I stayed in B&Bs in private homes, I visited with Cubans
who welcomed me like a member of their families. My kids played with
their Cuban friends. Cubans are a very welcoming, they give you a unique
friendship. They don't see you as a commercial object. I was always
asked about my family and not about my professional life. They improvise
a lot, they have an incredible creativity.

Q. What do you want to accomplish with your book?

A. One effect that this book will have is to awaken a certain national
pride in Cubans. It's like saying: this is yours, this is your country,
it was created before any revolution and political system, and it will
also survive long into the future. No regime, whatever it might be, can
take it from you.

These pictures evoke a sense of belonging to a single Cuba for Cubans
living both inside and outside the island. I know it will be very
difficult for my book to be in the homes of every Cuban on the island,
but my hope is that Cuban-Americans can buy the book and share with
their families inside Cuba.

For those who are not Cuban, I hope my book will serve to show the
beauty of the country. Cuba is a place that is recognized throughout the
entire world and I hope that this book will allow many people to see
Cuba from a new perspective.

'Unseen Cuba' presented in Miami on Friday, January 23, 7:30 pm, at
Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. (305) 448-9599

Source: "This is your country, and no regime can take it from you" -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/this_is_your_country_no_regime_can_take_it_from_you_0_1712228777.html Continue reading
Marco Rubio anuncia: ‘prepárense para una campaña presidencial’ MARC CAPUTOMCAPUTO@MIAMIHERALD.COM 01/23/2015 8:59 PM 01/23/2015 9:13 PM En una importante señal de sus ambiciones por la Casa Blanca, el senador Marco Rubio inauguró el viernes una reunión de estrategia de elecciones en el Delano Hotel anunciando un equipo de recaudación de fondos que tiene todo el […] Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38273" align="aligncenter" width="443"] [1] Roberta Jacobson (From Marti-Noticias)[/caption] 14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez, 22 January 2015 -- In July of last year, when I talked to some of the victims of the “Marzo de 13” Tugboat massacre [2] in the Bay of Havana, I found a list of horrifying statistics. Two of them would make any halfway decent human being shudder: the bodies recovered from the sea as a result of the sinking of the boat were never returned to the families, and there was never an independent investigation into the massacre in which 41 Cubans lost their lives. Ten of them were minors. What was so shocking about these events was not just the impunity of those who perpetrated the atrocity on Cuban soil, but that what happened on 13 July 1994 is a pattern that has been repeated almost since the Revolutionary government took power in 1959. The violent deaths, on 22 July 2012, of Oswaldo Payá, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Throught, and Harold Cepero, young leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, followed the same path of an absence of justice and the utter helplessness of the affected families. Although in this case the bodies were handed over to the families, neither Payá nor Harold were given an autopsy or an independent investigation. With the policy changes of the Obama administration and the Havana dictatorship, some voices have begun to ask for independent investigations of the violent deaths, especially where it is known that the authorities had some participation. Other think that these kinds of “problems” have to full potential to point the accusing finger at the face of the government in Havana and that “this is not the opportune moment to talk about accusations, but rather the issues that bring both nations closer,” like an independent blogger on the Island told me. [caption id="attachment_38274" align="alignleft" width="300"] [3] Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero[/caption] The international media ignores the issue to the same extent. The saddest thing isn't that they don’t emphasize these presumed assassinations, but rather that the majority of us, Cubans inside and outside the country, don’t consider it one of the most important issues to address. An independent investigation into the deaths of Osvaldo Payá and Harold Cepero protects all of us Cubans. The alleged “accidents” and “careless doctors” who caused the deaths of Laura Pollán, Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and many other Cubans are the extrajudicial executioners that hang like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all Cubans living on the Island. Those who dare to dissent and openly criticize the Government have felt the danger much more closely. Many of them have received death threats from members of State Security, who act with total impunity, as they themselves know, without legal consequences. [caption id="attachment_38275" align="alignleft" width="300"] [4] Rosa María Payá[/caption] Last night I heard that Rosa María Payá met Robert Jacobson on a plane, when the daughter of the Cuban dissident was returning from a short trip to Washington, where she had the privilege of being the guest of Senator Marco Rubio at the State of the Union. The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs was on her way to Havana to meet with officials from the Cuban Government in one of the meetings between the two nations at the highest level since the Jimmy Carter administration. In this short encounter, Rosa María Payá asked whether the investigation into the death of her father would be on the negotiating table. The answer, as politically correct as it was evasive, was, "This is always a point that we can raise*,” this is always an issue we can touch on. Maybe I’m wrong, but judging by the response, the issue of the unexplained deaths of opponents like Oswaldo Payá and Laura Pollán will remain unaddressed (for now) and, with them, the fear every Cuban has of being murdered at any moment, without consequences for the executioners, nor for those who give the orders. *In English in the original [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/C50698FD-9028-4B4E-B69B-ADC1F323E64A_w443_h249.jpg [2] http://translatingcuba.com/remembering-the-tugboat-massacre-of-1994-orlando-luis-pardo-lazo/ [3] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/PAYA-29.jpg [4] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/rosa-maria-paya-2.jpg Continue reading
… Americans dreaming of holidays in Havana and Cubans imagining U.S. products … for greater political freedom in Cuba, something Cuban-American leaders and rights advocates … American companies or the Cuban government might respond. Cuba has notoriously poor … Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38266" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] A World Heritage site, the Colón (Columbus) Cemetery in Havana has more than 500 mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. (Photo: Marius Jovaisa)[/caption] The photographer's work was the pretext that Havana used to suspend negotiations with the European Union 14ymedio, Ernesto Hernandez, Miami, 23 January 2015 -- Marius Jovaiša is a Lithuanian photographer, 41, who has spent much of the last five years taking photos of Cuba from a perspective never before seen: from above. He started the project in 2010 thinking that, being a foreign artist far removed from politics, it would be quite easy to get permission to take aerial photos. However he quickly realized that he would have to navigate against an extremely slow bureaucracy, invest a great deal of resources, be patient, and understand that the freedom to do things is very limited on the island. Unseen Cuba [2], a collection of more than 300 ariel photos of the island, taken from an ultralight 300 feet above the surface of the earth, was published in 2014. The exhibition of the images in Washington and Brussels caused problems with the Cuban authorities, who came to use his work as a pretext to suspend their dialogue with the European Union last November. Question: Why did you decide to write a book about Cuba? Answer: After the publication of my book of ariel photos of Lithuania, I realized that I was doing something that I enjoy, that appealed to the public, and that could also be a profitable project. With this new project I could combine my passion for photography with the adrenaline that one feels when flying in an apparatus that is open as an ultralight. It was like I was flying in a chair and, at the same, time taking incredible photos. First I did Unseen Belize to see if the model would work in a foreign country and then I thought about Cuba, because there had not been a work of this kind in the country, and also because the island and Lithuania share a piece of history through the Soviet influence. Cuba was like a secret country and it would be a great challenge for me to develop the project. I love challenges. Q. Do you expect to hold an exhibition in Havana next? A. I would love that. There were already two exhibitions last year, one in the Lithuanian embassy in Washington and another with the support of the European Union in Brussels. Both caused problems with the Cuban authorities. Unfortunately, my work found itself in the middle of a political problem. Last May, our ambassador in Washington invited to the exhibition several Cuban-American members of Congress, who made very strong political statements, and the Cuban diplomatic mission reported what happened to Havana The person responsible for Latin America at the European Union is Lithuanian and she invited me to show my work. Cuba and the European Union had begun their rounds of talks, and she thought the show would be an opportunity to educate the diplomatic community about the culture of the country. Someone in the embassy in Brussels realized that it was the same exhibition that had created so much conflict in Washington and asked that it be canceled, but the European union refused. The Cubans boycotted the exposition, as did other Latin American ambassadors, and at the same time they suspended the talks. Many said that my exhibition was just an excuse for the cancellation and not the main reason, but that is what happened. Q. What do Cuban authorities think of your book? A. I sent it to them last November. I hadalready reported by telephone that on page 77 there is a picture of a lighthouse with what appears to be a soldier patrolling, from above. Although you cannot see the soldier very well, in Cuba there are regulations that prohibit photographing the military. I was also told that there is a picture of my children with some Cuban children that they did not much appreciate. They said: "We do not want to show our children to the world in this way, they appear to be poor little savages. I am still waiting for a global response, but if there is nothing that would harm my artistic work, I am willing to publish the book in Spanish for sale in Cuba. Q. Who were the first people you met with in Havana? A. I met primarily with Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of the entry points for me was the Antonio Núñez Foundation for Nature and Humanity [3]. Its director, Liliana Nunez Velis, fell in love with my project and took me, literally, by the hand to the Ministry of Culture. She wrote a letter of recommendation on behalf of the Foundation saying that my project presented an opportunity to promote Cuban culture in other countries through its geography and landscape. Then, in my meetings with the Department of International Relations within the Ministry of Culture, I worked with the department director, Pedro Monzón Barata. I was always talking with officials from each ministry separately, but I realized that each of them was coordinating everything with the military. The Government also designated me as a trading company of the Ministry of Culture to coordinate the initiative, Paradiso. Through them, money was sent from Lithuania to Cuba to develop the project. Q. At any point do you think that it would be better to abandon the project? A: I thought of quitting many times because the bureaucracy did not do its work and delayed decisions, it was exhausting. Something would be agreed on in the meetings, and afterwards it wouldn’t happen. On my first visit to Havana I managed to open doors and even to fly, and I committed myself totally to the project and believe that it would be possible possible to do it. On this first trip I received many compliments, everyone told me, “Relax don’t worry.” I come from a country that belongs to the Soviet Union, I knew some things would be achieved through under the table negotiations, sidestepping the rules a little bit. I knew I would find some way to navigate through the labyrinth of regulations. Then when I felt like giving up the project, I thought about the flight that I managed on my first trip. Perhaps if I hadn’t taken this flight I would have lost interest in the project. Q. Do the Cuban authorities feel threatened by your book? A. I don’t think so, not at all. The problem is they expected it to be done much more slowly, and that the captions on the photos would be written by the Cuban historian and geographer assigned to the project. But they weren’t doing the work and I went ahead. Q. In April 2014, you received a visit from the Interior Ministry. The authorities claimed that they were not aware of the project and had received complaints that "a foreign spy" was taking aerial photos of Cuba. What did they ask you in the interrogation? A. It wasn’t an interrogation as such. They asked me several questions about the work I was doing. I do not think it was an order from above. It was rather the local police who were trying to show their spirit of initiative and were doing their job. Q. Why initially could you not take pictures of the cities? A. I thought it was for security reasons, but they never explained it to me. I always hoped they would let me take photos of cities, though perhaps I would have to do it in a military plane and not in my ultralight, but that was not the case. I was very surprised when they let me do it, because in other places it is not allowed. Q. How much did the project cost? A. The whole process – travel, events, presentations, production of the book, et cetera – has cost close to $1 million. I still haven’t finished the process, there’s a lot to be done in terms of promotion and sales, so the costs continue to rise Q. What impressed you about Cuba? A. When I started to visit places outside Havana – Trinidad, Santiago and so on – I realized how big and long Cuba is. The roads were very narrow and the transportation very limited. I realized it would be a complicated job. [caption id="attachment_38268" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [4] Marius Jovaisa in in his ultralight (Marius Jovaisa)[/caption] I had a lot of contact with Cuban artists. Before the project I organized a series of seminars and presentations about my work and my experience with photography. The island’s photographers are very talented, expressing in their work, in a way, the same pain and the same sensitivity that existed in Lithuania in Communist times. The Cuban people are strong. Their feel love for their homeland. It is very difficult to live in Cuba without access to simple things, without a free market, unable to express their creativity. It reminded me a lot of Soviet times in Lithuania. I also met many Cubans outside the island, dreaming of the day when they could return. I stayed in B&Bs in private homes, I visited with Cubans who welcomed me like a member of their families. My kids played with their Cuban friends. Cubans are a very welcoming, they give you a unique friendship. They don’t see you as a commercial object. I was always asked about my family and not about my professional life. They improvise a lot, they have an incredible creativity. Q. What do you want to accomplish with your book? A. One effect that this book will have is to awaken a certain national pride in Cubans. It's like saying: this is yours, this is your country, it was created before any revolution and political system, and it will also survive long into the future. No regime, whatever it might be, can take it from you. These pictures evoke a sense of belonging to a single Cuba for Cubans living both inside and outside the island. I know it will be very difficult for my book to be in the homes of every Cuban on the island, but my hope is that Cuban-Americans can buy the book and share with their families inside Cuba. For those who are not Cuban, I hope my book will serve to show the beauty of the country. Cuba is a place that is recognized throughout the entire world and I hope that this book will allow many people to see Cuba from a new perspective. 'Unseen Cuba' presented in Miami on Friday, January 23, 7:30 pm, at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. (305) 448-9599 [1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Marius_Jovaisa_CYMIMA20150123_0003_16.jpg [2] http://unseencuba.com/ [3] http://www.fanj.org/ [4] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Marius_Jovaisa_CYMIMA20150123_0001_13.jpg Continue reading
Cuban artist, to stage an open-mike performance in Revolution Square in Havana … by telephone from Havana this week, she said of Cuban authorities, “Now … of vignettes about a Candide-like Cuban, in Havana, perhaps because the capital … dismissed. Artists and intellectuals, in Cuba and abroad, condemned the government … Continue reading
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="169"] [1] Photo of the author[/caption] Although today [15 January] is a holiday only in the USA, I also in my own way celebrate it in Cuba. Why not join in the celebration of the birth of the Baptist pastor and fighter for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.? His life is inspirational for many of us, including me, who every day seek freedom and equality for human beings, all creatures of God.  His existence is one of my answers to those who in Cuba who question why I combine theology with social activism. I have not invented anything new. It is the most natural thing to combine ideas and actions, and this was what happened in the life of the Reverend King. His sermons, his philosophy, his methodology, his strategy of nonviolent struggle, his life and his martyrdom are an example to follow in any dark corner of the world, and also in the illuminated places, to prevent anyone ever to darken them. The last time that I mentioned his name to those who are responsible for repressing me in Cuba was on October 26, when I arrived from Poland, two agents from State security awaited me at the airport for questioning about my statements in the land of Lech Walesa and my subsequent activities and position in Cuba. According to them my pastoral ministry should be confined to the four walls of a church to which they would gladly cloister me. My answer was that in addition to the unsurpassed example of Jesus Christ, I admired and tried to imitate, except for the distances, transcendental beings such as the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszco and the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr. To which one of them, with the obvious threat that the same thing could happen to me, he riposted: What a coincidence, that all of them are martyrs! Hopefully just like in August 1963, when he achieved that historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in Cuba soon we will be able to realize something similar of our own in Havana, which, as the successful artist Tania Bruguera [2]demonstrated in the recent events on December 30, so far remains forbidden to the people. In the midst of our Cuban reality of continual violations civil rights, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our luminaries. Translated by: Hombre de Paz Spanish post [3] 19 January 2015 [1] http://cubanoconfesante.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/hoy.jpg [2] http://translatingcuba.com/tania-bruguera-leaves-uneac-and-returns-her-national-culture-award-14ymedio/ [3] http://cubanoconfesante.com/?p=1080 Continue reading
The Unknown of the Diaspora / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila
Posted on January 22, 2015

14ymedio, Elicer Avila, 13 January 2015 – Cuban civil society is often
questioned, as are opposition groups, due to their apparent inability to
join the masses and pressure the government for necessary changes.

All of these questions are not without some truth, and a doubt comes to
mind that I would like to share. I am referring to the fact that the two
million Cubans (between emigrants and descendents) who live outside the
country have not found an effective way to participate in the politics
of the nation.

In theory, this group of Cubans has everything that the internal
opposition lacks in order to have a major influence: full access to
communications and information, freedom of movement, the right of
association and assembly, and, above all, it has an economic power that
could compete with that of the government itself.

On the other hand, the remittances that the Cuban migration sends to the
country every year constitute one of the top three sources of the gross
domestic product. If we accept the maxim that "He who holds the purse
strings holds the power," then it would correspond that those living
abroad should have a wide representation in the parliament for being the
most efficient and productive workers in the system, as well as for
being the largest union. Thus, we could at least say, "He who brings,
participates." But this is not the case.

Quite the contrary, the measures usually taken by the government tend to
directly affect the interest of the emigrants, and at times don't help
their families. The new customs regulations, the cost of the paperwork
to enter the country, and the treatment that often borders on
disrespect, are some examples of this.

To make matters worse, the new Foreign Investment Law* also excludes
them, depriving them of the opportunity to contribute with their
investments and their talent to the development of the country. And it
is a tremendous shame. I know that outside the country there is human
capital of incalculable professional value, with experience in every
kind of business and, above all with immense desires to see their native
land move towards progress.

How is our emigration organized to defend its natural rights in this new
scenario? Will it support in a major way a civil society and a
responsible opposition that has a more inclusive vision of the nation?
For me, this remains an unknown.

13 January 2015

Source: The Unknown of the Diaspora / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-unknown-of-the-diaspora-14ymedio-eliecer-avila/ Continue reading
Marco Rubio: Congress won’t fund ‘a fake embassy’ in Cuba (+video) At a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio, the lead Republican critic to opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, said there is a ‘huge threshold’ that needs to be crossed before funding can go forward or an ambassador appointed. By Francine Kiefer, Staff […] Continue reading
Obama as Cuba's Internet provider
Formal talks on US-Cuba ties started Wednesday, with President Obama
insisting on Cubans being given access to the Internet. He is right to
see the Internet as the people's searchlight for freedom – despite his
doubts about 'democracy promotion.'
By the Monitor's Editorial Board

The great power of the Internet and smart phones is in their ability to
connect people with shared values and interests – instantly, and across
any borders that might divide people. These virtual communities have
become a force in world affairs, either for good, such as during the
Arab Spring, or for ill, such as Islamic State's recruitment of
fighters. Not surprisingly, almost every nation has yet to come to grips
with this digital dynamo of collaboration.

President Obama's faith in the Internet as a force for good was cemented
during the 2008 election. His campaign team set a model in how to
mobilize popular support over the Web. And even though he entered office
as a critic of "democracy promotion" by the United States, he now
insists that Cuba's Castro regime provide open Internet access for its
people as a condition for normalizing diplomatic relations. Formal talks
to establish ties after five decades of estrangement began on Wednesday
in Havana.

Cuba is the least-wired country in Latin America, and ranks with China
and Iran in its restrictions on freedom of the Internet and other
telecommunications. Its authoritarian leaders fear an uprising if Cubans
can more easily organize. Pro-democracy revolts have long relied on
communication tools such as pamphlets or telephones. But recent
protests, such as those in Tunisia, Hong Kong, and Ukraine, were able to
spring up quickly and in larger numbers because of the special abilities
of the Internet and cellphones.

Cuba's regime also worries that a greater flow of ideas over the
Internet will undercut its propaganda about the quality of life in the
island nation. The sunshine of truth might also better expose the many
abuses of the regime, such as corruption and its treatment of political
prisoners.

Mr. Obama's pressure on Cuba is important not only for Cuba. For the
fourth consecutive year, Internet freedom has declined around the world,
according to the nonprofit advocacy group Freedom House, as more
governments block or filter the Web, or arrest those who use the
Internet for dissent.

Democracy promotion has gone out of favor to some degree since the Iraq
War, and as more despots learn how to suppress groups agitating for
freedom. But the Internet remains a compelling instrument for "soft
power." It rests on the hope that openness, transparency, and the flow
of ideas create a moral arc of progress. Cuba is the next test ground
for this hope. Obama should not waver in assisting Cubans in finally
getting connected to the world.

Source: Obama as Cuba's Internet provider - Yahoo News -
http://news.yahoo.com/obama-cubas-internet-provider-212134049--politics.html;_ylt=AwrBEiEA4MBU0EQAF9LQtDMD Continue reading