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Freedom

Not willing to let Cubans demonstrating for freedom upset their May Day party, the Castro dictatorship Sunday unleashed another day of repression, moving to block Damas De Blanco and other activists from taking to the streets to demand respect for... Continue reading
Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario
Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — The Panamanian Foreign
Ministry has begun to take a census of more than 670 Cuban migrants in
the hostel of Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui, in anticipation of
their transfer to Mexico in the coming days. Another three thousand
Cubans, most stranded on the border with Costa Rica, will also benefit
from this operation, the last of its type, according to the Panamanian
president, Juan Carlos Varela on Thursday.

"Starting from the completion of transfer operation of the Cubans
counted in the census, those who enter later will have to make a
decision about what country they want to return to; we can't become a
permanent logistical support for the trafficking of migrants," warned
the Panamanian president.

According to the regional director of migration, commissioner Alfredo
Cordoba, the transfer of more than 200 migrants in various shelters to
the Los Planes encampment began yesterday afternoon. "This mainly
involved pregnant women and families with children, who need to be
brought to a place with the attentions they deserve," he said.

The official told this newspaper that the purpose of this measure is to
"concentrate all the migrants in one area where their basic needs can be
met, taking into account their rights as people."

Cordoba said that right now there are 3,704 Cuban migrants in the
Republic of Panama, who should be gradually transferred to Gualaca,
where a joint task force–which includes the National Civil Protection
System (SINAPROC), the Panama National Migration Service, the State
Border Service (SENAFRONT), and the National Police–have mobilized to
address the humanitarian crisis.

"I believe we are in the final stretch, at least they are already making
photocopies of our passports, and that's something," said Angel Chale,
one of the stranded who came through Ecuador. Chale decided to abandon
the old Bond warehouse, in San Isidro, a mile from the Costa Rican
frontier, where she shared the floor with 400 other Cubans in the most
precarious conditions.

Both Angel and Leslie Jesus Barrera have spent a week at the Los Planes
shelter. "This place where we are now is pretty fun. Usually we play
baseball, dominoes or we dance," says Barrera. "We help when they ask us
to collaborate with some chore and for the rest, it's like camping." He
added that he is very grateful for the treatment he has received from
the Panama government, which right now includes free medical care.

The godmother of Cubans

Angela Buendia is the director of community organizing for SINAPROC, but
migrants have dubbed her "the godmother." As she herself says, "They
call me that because I identify with their needs and all the pain they
have gone through."

Buendia says she learned to deal with migrants from the island in the
last crisis and since then sympathizes with the plight of "these
thousands of people who have to leave their land and often go through
very intense trauma." She stresses that, even after spending weeks in
Panama, many still live in fear.

According to her, the migratory flow does not seem to stop, although
official statistics indicate a decline. "Every day we receive between 20
and 60 Cuban migrants in Chiriqui. This is why we decided to prepare
this camp."

Buendia explained that Los Planes was originally built to shelter Swiss
workers who worked on a local dam. "It's a ten acre site with a fresh
landscape and all amenities," she added. She also stressed that "the
only prohibition is not to leave at night, and this is for their own
security." She said they will have free WiFi, but right now they can use
data connections on a local network.

"The biggest problem I've had with the Cuban people is that when they
come here, having come from a place without freedom, they feel
completely free and clear, sometimes confusing liberty with license,"
she said.

Not everyone wants to be in the shelter

But not everyone wants to go to the shelter in Los Planes. "The problem
that I see to this place is that it is very far away. From the Milennium
one can at least work 'under the table' and earn a few bucks," said
Dariel, who prefers to omit his last name for fear of discovery. His
work as a carpenter, a trade he learned in Cuba, allows him to cover his
expenses and at the same time, he confesses, save something "for the end
of the journey."

"Here there were even Cubans who were whoring and charge less than the
Panamanians. Those were the smart ones, because in the end, they managed
to get together the money and now they're in the [United States]," says
the migrant.

In overcrowded rooms, hallways, or simply in tents put up at dusk in the
doorways of neighboring houses, hundreds of Cubans have preferred to
stay near the Costa Rican border.

"It's a problem that affects communities that often find themselves
overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving," says Commissioner Cordoba.

Many of the local inhabitants, from Puerto Obaldia to Paso Canoas, have
seen a business opportunity in the Cubans. With the flow of migrants,
businesses have flourished from hostels to simple restaurants where the
prices are usually double for inhabitants of the island.

"I don't want to go to the Gualaca shelter because it's very far away, I
prefer to stay here because I'm in a village and at least I can fend for
myself," says Yanieris, a 35-year-old Cuban woman who arrived in Panama
from Guyana. "It's hard, sure, but if I want to go with a coyote
tomorrow, there will be no one to stop me."

The coyotes prowl…

Juan Ramon is one of those Cubans stranded in Panama who decided not to
wait any longer to reach the United States. After collecting $1,400 from
family and friends in Miami, he left one night sneaking across the Costa
Rican border, along with six other companions under the guidance of a
coyote. "In each country a coyote handed us off to another, and we have
gone all the way: through the jungles, rivers, lakes… it is very hard,"
he said.

The worst thing for the young man was the moment they ran into a
military checkpoint in Nicaragua, where "a thug assaulted us, sent by
the same guide, who robbed us of everything we had. He even took our
cellphone. It was a terrible experience because it could have cost our
lives and nobody would have known about it," he told this newspaper.

After more than 12 days on the road, Juan Ramon found himself at the
border crossing station of El Paso, Texas, hoping they would process his
documents to enter the United States under the "parole" program.

To try to circumvent the army and police control on the borders of Costa
Rica and Nicaragua the migrants use unique measures such as hiding
themselves in a water pipe or hiding in a boat to pass through the
dangerous coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean.

In November of last year, Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government closed
the borders of his country to Cuban migrants using Central America as a
path to the United States.

The measure worked like a plug, leaving 8,000 people stranded in Costa
Rica, which in turn also closed its border transferring the problem to
Panama. Following an agreement with Mexico, both countries managed to
build a humanitarian bridge that allowed the orderly exit of a great
part of the migrants.

The coyotes, or human traffickers, have turned the migration to the
north into a huge business that generates millions of dollars. From
October of 2014, almost 132,000 Central Americans and around 75,000
Cubans reached the southern border of the United States.

The Cuban government has reiterated that all the migrants have left Cuba
legally and so can return to the country.

Source: Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico /
14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/panama-prepares-the-final-transfer-of-cubans-to-mexico-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — The Panamanian Foreign Ministry has begun to take a census of more than 670 Cuban migrants in the hostel of Los Planes in the province of Chiriqui, in anticipation of their transfer to Mexico in the coming days. Another three thousand Cubans, most stranded on the border with … Continue reading "Panama Prepares The Final Transfer Of Cubans To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Lawton, La Habana, Juan González, (PD) El informe elaborado por Freedom House, (FH) ubica al régimen militar cubano entre los diez peores países entre 199 examinados por esta organización. Freedom House compara estándares de derechos políticos y libertades civiles en todos los países del mundo. En términos de libertad de […] Continue reading
This is the future: Cuba – broken country Malema wants to replicate in SA

Before relocating to Germany, Melanie Sergeant was one of South Africa's
leading financial journalists. Sister to famous investigative writer and
author Barry, she now writes under her married name of Haape, Melanie
visited Cuba this month – partly to see what lies in wait for South
Africa should the EFF's Julius Malema have their way. She discovered
that as Cubans have experienced, the EFF's utopian dream is nightmarish.
Those who can leave the country; those who can't jostle each other to
acquire tourist-generated CUCs by serving tourists as waiters, maids or
taxi drivers. Cuba's socialist agenda has stagnated economic growth and
delivered its highly educated population to financial penury. Haape
urges Malema and anyone else who buys into the EFF's economic claptrap
to follow in her footsteps. Like nearby Venezuela, Cuba is a broken
country. And a breathing example of what awaits South Africa if it
allows the failed Castro/Chavez example to be repeated. – Alec Hogg

By Melanie Haape*

During US President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba last month, a glimmer
of hope shone: talk focused on the Castro era seeing an end, and being
superceded by a younger, more market-driven leadership. But hopes were
dashed this week when the revolutionary vanguard announced that
84-year-old Raul Castro (Fidel's younger brother) is holding onto his
post of party secretary for a second term, and several of the other aged
revolutionaries will keep their top posts too.

So if the Economic Freedom Fighters' (EFF) Julius Malema is serious
about his threat to "crush white monopoly capital", there's still time
for him to see the results of capital flight up close – both monetary
and human.

Mr Malema will get a nasty shock. As romantic and nostalgic as the
island is, it's also broken in every way. And the slide has been long
and slow. Cubans have learnt to queue for hours in the searing heat for
bread, potatoes, or to get into their 50's-style non-computerised banks;
it's very few South Africans that I know who will show such patient
resignation if supplies of their own staple foods dry up.

Cuba is rife with shortages, smuggling, and bribery which is also
fuelled by its confusing "dual" economy. Wages and basic foods are paid
in Cuban Pesos (average wage is about $20/month with cleaners at about
$15 and doctors around $35) and the CUC – the "convertible Peso"
equivalent to $1 is used to charge for hotel rooms, "tourist"
restaurants – and everything else that the government can scrounge to
foot its forex bill – or to pay for the massive bureaucracy needed to
spy on citizens and on foreign companies who have joint venture deals to
operate there.

It's more than 50 years since Che Guevara, Fidel Castro & co. took to
arms, and rapidly overthrew the Batista regime, quickly turfing out
foreign oil companies and sugar barons. Yes, bad luck came in chunks –
like the high sulphur content of Russian oil which damaged the
refineries, the absence of spare parts for farm equipment which
relegated thousands of tractors to the scrap-heap.

Nuts and bolts didn't even fit because Russia's metric system wasn't
compliant with the US's Imperial system. Not to mention the mass exodus
of its citizens. Cuba has had spells of needing to import even sugar.
While SA is not a single-product economy, it's focus on building
shopping malls instead of factories is not indicative of an economy
striving to move past being a supplier of raw materials and into more
self sufficiency.

Cuba boasts free education for all: SA does not. It was a world-beater
in the medical field (boasting the highest average life-expectancy of
all third world countries), and medicine is free for all, but today its
doctors are emigrating to earn proper salaries while medicine shortages
are commonplace. Locals queue for hours on hard benches in dark halls at
hospitals which have "tourism" entrances for sick foreigners. The latter
boast clean rooms and VIP service – all payable of course in CUC along
with the meds from "international" pharmacies.

Cuba's government still spends heftily on fighting its many foes, and
home Internet is forbidden. Scarce public Wi-Fi hotspots offer an hour
online for 2CUC so that young teachers and lawyers are waitering to earn
CUC tips rather than working for pitiful Peso salaries. Doctors drive
taxis after-hours to earn CUC tips to supplement their pay cheques.

Housing may be cheap, along with water and electricity, but most homes
are broken – along with their sewer systems, water pipes and electricity
cables. Tap water has been undrinkable for two decades. Since the Raul
Castro-led government has allowed citizens to house tourists for meals
or overnights, some have managed to patch-up and paint – or they have
done it on dollars sent from foreign relatives. But even then bribes for
building permission are commonplace and materials are hard to come by as
all imports are handled by the State. Raul's promised economic reforms
have been slow in materialising and their benefits hardly show. Even the
hype around Obama's visit last month got less people on the street than
the Rolling Stones concert a few days later.

Cities like Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba or Cienfuegos are clean and their
inner "old-cities" are painted, statues and buildings partly-renovated.
But move a few streets out of the touristy, CUC-financed core, and the
housing is shanty-style, decorated only by spaghetti cables overhead and
filth underfoot.

Thanks to UNESCO's generosity in many parts of this land, its legendary
mix of architecture is being restored, but the sheer anomaly of seeing
grand mansions long-ago converted into smelly, over-crowded, ghettos
where the homeless live in fear of the building collapsing over their
heads, can hardly be Mr Malema's answer to housing South Africa's
homeless – or indeed his panacea for a nation which has not concentrated
enough on building a solid, educated middle-class. Cuba's legendary
brain-drain is evident, and even Castro's stricter rules on doctors'
emigration hasn't halted the flow of educated 20-40-year-olds fleeing to
Spain, Ecuador or the US. The Island now has a negative population
growth rate thanks to falling birth rates and emigration.

Another factor which Mr Malema will note is that Cuba has never tried to
scrub out its history. Whether that of its aboriginal Taino Inhabitants,
Christopher Columbus or the Spanish conquistadors. Even the oldest
statues, monuments, churches and street-names are intact and mostly
shining today. Che's "renaissance" 15-years after the Russian melt-down
25 years ago now shines through with billboards and flags, statues and
slogans dotted throughout the land reminding everyone of this
revolutionary spirit.

But while school kids are still taken to work on farms as part of their
curriculum and to remind them of that revolutionary spirit, many young
farmhands are turning their backs to the fields in favour of the mighty
CUC. Cowboys are itchy to find jobs at the massive hotels on the Cayo
Coco and other islands. These forex-earning factories which cater
largely to visa-friendly nations like Canada or Spain, have become home
to Castro's new army: thousands of waiters, cleaners and bartenders are
transported daily from their squalor to these glitzy "Fronts" in
old-timer buses spewing the worst kinds of gases into the tropical Cuban
air.

It's now common for Cuban teenagers to listen to the same music played
in the discos of Barcelona, while families have old-style CD-players to
beam US and Spanish sit-coms – all available cheap on the black-market –
to replace the boring state-beamed propagandist news.

In the first quarter of this year, Cuba attracted well-over 1-million
tourists. Hotel, coffee and meal prices are comparable to or higher than
those in Berlin while state-owned car-hire is way more expensive and
almost as unreliable as the inland flights. The state realised 15 years
ago that tourism was its cash-cow, but how long it can pay workers less
than $20 a month to serve this often overweight, luxury market and
expect ill-paid farmers to produce coffee, sugar and tobacco is
questionable.

Photographing is banned in the tobacco factories and one has "Brave New
World" flashbacks as propagandist news and readings are blared from loud
speakers to rows of poorly-paid cigar-rollers 8-hours a day. Just as the
massive scar-faced nickel and cobalt-mining area in the lush rainforests
of Moa are no-stop and no-photography areas for braver tourists wanting
to travel inland. Cuba has its half-century of brain-washing propaganda
and control firmly entrenched in its population: SA has not. Cuba is
forced to allow its citizens to travel in dangerous buses, trucks and
cars where SA has seat-belt and other regulations governing its road-users.

If Mr Malema wishes to look further and compare Cuba's development with
that of the former East Germany, he may also get some surprises. At the
end of the Cold War, Russia's rapid retreat from Cuba's economy, along
with the US's heightened sanctions (eg forbidding relatives to send over
cash) were dark-years indeed for the island's inhabitants. The former
DDR, by comparison, received more than €400bn in renovations,
modernization and other aid from the former West Germany.

Today, I live near Berlin, in the old DDR and have witnessed the
regeneration of cities and towns in this area which hosted almost the
same population number as Cuba's. The most modern telecoms networks,
highways and sewerage systems took over from the broken post-WWII relics
left behind. The ex-DDR has, nevertheless, still battled to compete with
job-creation for youngsters and only after more than two decades sees
some areas coming into their own.

And even the old DDR has not attempted to blot out its history. Streets,
statues and buildings are restored. Festivals and traditions which the
communists introduced are still practiced today. West Germany did not
need to "chase" big money anywhere: the money and the keen kids followed
the markets. Smart, high-tech factories built in the DDR to replace
their dilapidated forbears were soon dismantled and auctioned to
companies in the West which had educated labour forces to run them. Big
money, as SA has seen itself, finds its own way to "move", and while the
jury's out on how long the Castros can hold onto Cuba's status quo, the
population has started voting with its feet – either through emigration
or by serving tourists to earn "hard-currency" CUCs.

Born in Zambia, Melanie Sergeant-Haape grew up in Botswana before
studying at Wits and doing the Argus Cadet Course and joining The Star
Finance (where she worked with Biznews's founder). After writing and
editing at Business Day, the FM and several other leading publications
in SA and overseas, she left for Germany where she has lived and worked
for 20 years. Today she travels widely and remains an astute observer of
environmental and international affairs. She is the sister of
incomparable investigative journalist Barry and wrote this piece for
Biznews during her visit to Cuba this month.

ALEC HOGG
APRIL 28, 2016

Source: This is the future: Cuba - broken country Malema wants to
replicate in SA - BizNews.com -
http://www.biznews.com/leadership/2016/04/28/this-is-the-future-cuba-broken-country-malema-wants-to-replicate-in-sa/ Continue reading

Cuba vuelve a reportarse como uno de los diez países del mundo con menos libertad de prensa, junto a Corea del Norte, Turkmenistán, Uzbekistán, Irán o Siria, en el informe que cada año publica la organización independiente Freedom House, reportó EFE.

leer más

Continue reading
De un máximo negativo posible de 100 puntos la isla caribeña acumuló 91, para situarse entre los 10 peores países de 199 evaluados por la organización vigilante de las libertades. Continue reading
The Obama Revolution and the Average Cuban / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 9 April 2016 — Quiet has returned to the streets of
Carraguao, a neighborhood in the suburb of Cerro. There are no more
patrol cars, no local police or beefy foreigners who look like U.S
Secret Service agents walking around and checking everything out. But
two days after it took place, Berta — a fifty-six-year-old housewife —
remembers every detail of Barack Obama's visit to the Latin American
Stadium here.

"When The Beast (the presidential limousine) drove by, the the
excitement was tremendous," she says. "People were shooting videos on
their cell phones and chanting 'Obama, Obama.' A pothole on my street
corner that had been there for twenty-five years was patched for the
president's visit as if by magic. They painted all the houses and fixed
all the streets. People now call him 'Representative Obama.' In one week
he solved more problems than our local representative, a dim-wit who
can't solve anything."

Obdulio, a sixty-six-year-old retiree has lived his entire life in a
narrow, roofless building a stone's throw from the stadium. "For those
few days all business stopped," he says. "The guys who sell beef, take
lottery bets and hawk detergent and soap stolen from Sabates were frozen
in place. Everyone was out on the street. If they held elections here,
most people would vote for Obama. The negro has it all: charm, charisma,
simplicity. He is one hell of a president."

As always happens in Cuba, rumors and fantasies fuse with reality.
Almost everyone you meet will tell you he or she saw Cadillac One from a
few feet away.

The residents of Carraguao closely followed Obama's speech. "The guy
spoke in stereo. No one has ever told Raul Castro to his face that what
this country needs is a real democracy, not a fake one," says Joel, a
private-sector worker.

A little more than two weeks since Obama's visit, people on buses, at
transit stops and in lines at government offices are still talking about
their impressions and discussing the impact of his two-and-a-half day
stay in Havana.

Distributors of the paquete — the weekly packet, a semi-clandestine
compendium of TV serials, soap operas, sports shows and films on sale
for fifty Cuban pesos — have included homemade videos filmed during the
tour Obama and his wife took through the oldest part of the city and to
the Cuban Art Factory cultural center in Vedado to view a project by the
musician X Alfonso.

These videos have gone viral. While waiting for her daughter to finish
her English class at a private academy in Havana's La Vibora district,
Yanaida recalls how for several days, while waiting in line to buy
bread, all anyone could talk about was Hurricane Obama.

"The man hit a homerun. He seduced almost everyone. It shows how
well-prepared he was. People can't help comparing him to the old farts
we have, who don't know how to give a decent speech and only repeat
slogans. They promise a lot but never fulfill their promises," says Yanaida.

Several Havana residents interviewed by Diario de las Americas were
harshly critical of Fidel Castro's editorial entitled "Brother Obama."
Many question whether the elder Castro actually wrote the article.

"No one has seen him speak in public for years. Fidel is completely out
of it. An uncle of mine says they constantly have to change his diapers,
the disposable kind they put on elderly people. What is going on is that
neither he nor his brother's government likes the spontaneous welcome
Obama got and are starting to make trouble," says Juan Carlos, a taxi
driver.

YouTube videos showing Cubans criticizing the Castros and a letter by
the musician Manolin el Medico de la Salsa (Manolin, the Doctor of
Salsa)* are in wide circulation via flash drive along the width and
breadth of the island.

"Obama opened a lot of eyes in Cuba. What with food shortages and
scarcities, people never thought much about freedom of expression, going
on strike or forming political parties. But at least I am now starting
to get it, that this is a human rights issue beyond just health and
education," says a shopkeeper.

Sometimes a small spark can cause to a major short-circuit. In 1989 a
visit by Mikhail Gorbachev to Berlin and the yearning of East Germans to
leap over the wall ruptured the communist dike.

On December 17 (coincidentally the same date the restoration of US-Cuban
relations was announced), 2010 twenty-six-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi set
himself on fire in a public square in Tunis, fed up with the corruption
and excessive fines of the Ben Ali regime. His death ignited protests
throughout the Middle East that marked the beginning of the Arab Spring,
which the region's monarchies and military governments were no longer
able to contain.

John F. Kennedy's legendary speech on the western side of the Berlin
Wall in 1961 or Ronald Reagan's in Moscow in the 1980s were seminal
events for a countless number of citizens from these countries.

Obama's speech in Havana has left its mark on many Cubans. A revolution
is not always carried out with arms.

Ivan Garcia

Diario de las Americas, April 9, 2016

*Translator's note: A reference to Manuel "Manolin" Gonzalez Hernandez,
formerly a young physician and now leader of highly successful
timba/salsa band, whose criticisms of social conditions in his community
have led to numerous run-ins with the Cuban government. The singer and
song writer posted an open and very blunt letter to Fidel Castro on
his Facebook page in response to an article by the former Cuban leader
that was critical of Obama's visit.

Source: The Obama Revolution and the Average Cuban / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-obama-revolution-and-the-average-cuban-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Editorial: The perils of business in Cuba
ZACHARY REID/TIMES-DISPATCH
Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2016 10:30 pm

Earlier this year a delegation of Virginia business leaders traveled to
Cuba to explore the potential for commerce there, now that the Obama
administration has eased relations between the two countries. At one
point, Cuban officials tried to reassure them by vowing that foreign
investment could not be "expropriated" except "for reasons of public or
social interest."
Some reassurance.
But having your money, plants or equipment stolen at gunpoint is not the
only peril facing American companies in the Castro Brothers' island
paradise. Just ask Carnival Cruise Lines.
The company recently, and wisely, made a hasty retreat from its
announced policy of not allowing Cuban-Americans to take cruises to
Cuba. We are not making this up. The company blamed the Cuban
government, which restricts how and whether Cuban-Americans can visit.
Carnival was just following orders, you see.
What's more, Cuba does not recognize the American nationality of
Cuban-Americans who were either born in Cuba or born to Cuban emigrés.
In fact, the U.S. government warns such individuals that they "will be
treated solely as Cuban citizens and may be subject to a range of
restrictions and obligations, including military service." In some
instances, Cuba has even refused to allow such "dual-nationals" to
return to the U.S.
Cuba's reprehensible treatment of its own political dissidents is
well-known. So is its treatment of gays and lesbians, who at one time
were routinely sent to labor camps for the crime of being gay. That is
no longer the case today, and the Cuban regime has tried to reinvent
itself as a paradise of gay liberation. That false front is one its
critics view, correctly, as little more than pinkwashing.
It's jarring to watch the American business community boycott North
Carolina over that state's new law regarding LGBT individuals — while
racing to see who can open up shop in Cuba, where discrimination is even
worse.
No, America's five-decade embargo did little to change things in the
Cuban prison state, and a new approach might produce better results. But
those who have flocked to Cuba looking for new business opportunities (a
cohort that includes Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe) might want to pause
and consider whether the potential gain is worth the risk — not only to
their own interests, but to the interests of freedom and justice for all.

Source: Editorial: The perils of business in Cuba - Richmond
Times-Dispatch: OUR OPINION -
http://www.richmond.com/opinion/our-opinion/article_34724158-505c-5eae-a152-a56c9000486f.html Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 9 April 2016 — Quiet has returned to the streets of Carraguao, a neighborhood in the suburb of Cerro. There are no more patrol cars, no local police or beefy foreigners who look like U.S Secret Service agents walking around and checking everything out. But two days after it took place, Berta — … Continue reading "The Obama Revolution and the Average Cuban / Iván García" Continue reading
Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 April 2016 — Army General Raul
Castro, newly re-elected first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party
(PCC), in his closing speech at the Party's 7th Congress spoke of moving
forward with our democratic, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It
turns out that the adjective democratic has just been added to the
socialism officially promoted in Cuba.

The leadership of the first Communist Party was allowed to take the
name, later used to turn the country into a disaster, even recognizing
one day that "no one knew how to build socialism." The leadership of
the PCC has the right to name the society they are proposing whatever
they want. But those of us who have been defending a democratic
socialism in Cuba also have the right to make it clear that this name
has nothing to do with the socialism as practiced by the PCC.

Everything done from the leadership of the PCC is solely intended to
strengthen the state monopoly capitalism with ingredients
of paternalistic populism that has always characterized what has been
intended in Cuba since 1959.

In his speech, the general was precise: one party, the Communist, based
on Marxist-Leninist ideology, which, in any case, is based on democratic
centralism (promoted by Lenin to crush the growing dissent within the
Bolshevik Party) and not on democracy.

He also argued that Article 5 of the Constitution regarding the leading
role of the Communist Party in society will remain, and that there will
be a continuation of the centralization of decisions and state ownership
as the linchpin of the economy. Only wells are built from above:
everything from the top down.

The election of the first and second secretaries of the Politburo was
not performed by the full Congress nor directly by the Party membership,
but by the members of the Central Committee. The age limit for new
members of the Central Committee is established as 60. By the stroke of
a pen the possibility is eliminated that the generation that fought at
the Bay of Pigs, that ran the literacy campaign, and that carried the
hardest tasks of the Revolution on their shoulders, will serve on the
Central Committee. And the limit applies arbitrarily to new members, but
not to those who are now in their 70s and 80s and who have been in the
PCC leadership ranks for more than five decades.

Self-managed cooperatives and self-employment are still regarded
contemptuously as secondary "non-state" forms of work, while appropriate
ways of self-management for workers in state enterprises is not even
mentioned.

How can there be democratic socialism when the means of production are
controlled by the bureaucracy and the wage labor that typifies the form
of capitalist exploitation is maintained, without democratization of
politics and without socialization of the economy?

If the Communist Party decided to honor the democratic qualifier for its
socialism, it should assume the minimum standards of democratic
socialism: democratization of politics, socialization of property and
ownership in the economy, and allowing free expression and political
activism of our groups and all democrats.

But we are not exclusive nor sectarian. Hopefully Raul Castro and his
Party will act consistent with this new adjective and not as occurs with
the term socialism, which they converted into an undesirable word for many.

If the Communist Party is open to the interests of the entire Cuban
nation, it will promote a true popular, broad, horizontal participation,
without restrictions in discussions of the documents 7th Congress and of
a new democratic constitution, in town meetings, without pre-conditions.

If, as a part of that process it assumes the overall defense of all
human rights of all Cubans; if it prevents repression against peaceful
opponents and those who think differently and releases all prisoners of
conscience; if it endorses freedom of expression, association and
election; if it accepts the free development of various forms of
production and property; if it grants ownership, management and profits
to workers in state enterprises; if it accepts that Cubans living abroad
can visit their country with passports from other countries and that
those who want to can invest in it; it would not be democratic
socialists who turn their backs on them.

If they take steps in that direction, I am sure they will have the
support of many Cuban democratic socialists and democrats.

Source: Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/clothes-do-not-make-the-man-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 23 April 2016 — Army General Raul Castro, newly re-elected first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), in his closing speech at the Party’s 7th Congress spoke of moving forward with our democratic, prosperous and sustainable socialism. It turns out that the adjective democratic has just been added to the socialism officially promoted in … Continue reading "Clothes Do Not Make the Man / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
Mr. Bruno Rodriguez, I am not going to say that your statements about President Obama’s visit surprised me, because nothing you do surprises me any more. Nor do I concern myself with looking for the logic in it, because there isn’t any. You, or some of you, are totally dogmatic and impractical. Because of this … Continue reading "Open Letter to Cuba’s Foreign Minister / Somos+, Jorge Ros" Continue reading
Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba
'We have to seize moment,' says International Relations Minister
Christine St-Pierre
By Ryan Hicks, CBC News Posted: Apr 18, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated:
Apr 18, 2016 6:45 AM ET


Quebec wants to seize the opportunity presented by the thawing of
diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States to open a
permanent office in Havana.

"It would be a very concrete gesture to show our determination to
establish [a] sustainable and permanent relationship with Cuba,"
International Relations Minister Christine St-Pierre told CBC News in a
one-on-one interview.

Cuba, U.S. to restore diplomatic relations after 50-year rift

Barack Obama thanks Canada for hosting Cuba-U.S. meetings

Canadian tourism in Cuba: Will American travellers affect the experience?

An office in Havana would help Quebec businesses hoping to break into
the island nation's economy and help develop relationships in education,
science and culture, St-Pierre said.

"Ideally, it would happen fairly quickly," said the minister. However,
talks with Cuban authorities and the federal government need to take
place before the province can establish a firm presence.

First official visit last November

St-Pierre accelerated steps to solidify the relationship after her
official trip last November — the first by a Quebec international
relations minister.

She said realized Quebec needed to act quickly in order to take
advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen relations
with Cuba, only a three-and-a-half hour plane ride from Montreal.

Fifty countries were present at the trade fair in November, St-Pierre
said, and many had the same idea.

"The Chinese are there," she said. "The Germans are there, and they
definitely want to do business with Cuba."

After the mission, she expanded the responsibilities of Quebec's mission
in Mexico to include Cuba, as a first step towards developing stronger
and more stable ties.

Quebec's relationship with Cuba dates back to the 18th century, when
French-Canadian explorers first travelled to the island. Today,
Canadians make up a third of tourists in Cuba, with Quebecers making up
40 per cent of them.

Quebec already has 26 offices in 14 countries around the world. It
opened a mission opened in Dakar, Senegal on March 4.

Under the decades-old U.S. embargo of Cuba, American authorities have
the right to penalize foreign companies with U.S. business interests in
Cuba.

This has prevented some Quebec companies from entering the Cuban market.

However, the recent thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is a
signal that the Americans may eventually lift the embargo. This is why
"Quebec [is] moving forward," said St-Pierre.

Cuba's human rights record

When it comes to Cuba's record on human rights and freedom of speech,
the minister believes Quebec can help promote democratic values by
further developing its relationship with Cuba and its government.

"If you want to show what you are doing in your own country and the
protection of values, democracy, human rights, I think it's the best way
to be with them and help them understand," she said.

"They can see what we have in Canada. We have freedom of speech, and
it's very, very important in a democracy."

'No-brainer,' says Cuba expert

Quebec and Canada have a "natural advantage," when it comes to
capitalizing on Cuba's economic opening, says John Kirk, a Latin
American Studies professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, because
of the relationship both governments maintained with the country despite
U.S. policy.

However, he says, until now, Quebec and Canada have not taken full
advantage of that position.

"This is a no-brainer," says the author and editor of 16 books on Cuba.

"While Ottawa has been asleep at the switch under Stephen Harper and has
frittered away its natural advantages, other countries have not," he said.

"The government of Quebec is taking the lead, and I sincerely hope
people in Ottawa will take notice and do the same thing themselves."

Source: Quebec wants to open a permanent office in Cuba - Montreal - CBC
News - http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-cuba-office-1.3538078 Continue reading
Loss of Freedoms in America Today Reminds Rafael Cruz of Communist Cuba
BY JERRY NEWCOMBE , CP OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
April 16, 2016|9:43 am

Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy
Library, a spokesman and cohost of Kennedy Classics.
Nowhere is it written that America will always remain free. In fact,
Thomas Jefferson and other founders warned about threats to our freedom.
Jefferson noted that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Liberty does not exist in a vacuum. Signs of the erosion of freedom in
our time surround us:

1. Political correctness muzzles the free expression of ideas if they
contravene liberal orthodoxy.

2. God, the source of freedom, is not allowed in public schools and pity
the teacher who references Jesus, even as an historical figure. This is
brought home powerfully in the new movie, "God's Not Dead 2."

3. North Carolinians can't even pass a law saying that men can't go into
the ladies room without experiencing the full wrath of big business, a
consortium of rock stars, and the Hollywood left.

The reminder of the high price of freedom was brought home to me
dramatically the other day. In Marathon, Florida, I came across a
rickety, small home-made "boat" with a sign in front of it, stating: "In
April 2013 this homemade craft arrived from Cuba after 4 days at Sea
carrying 17 people including five children."

Marathon is 303 miles from Cuba. Imagine people so desperate they would
risk everything, including their children's lives, to breathe free — so
that maybe, just maybe, they could get to experience what we enjoy here
in America — for now.

Apparently, neither the plight of such people nor the plight of
dissidents in the "worker's paradise" came up in President Obama's
recent historic visit to Cuba.

This is not a column about our porous borders. This administration is
defying the laws on the books that would protect our national security.
The president promised to "fundamentally transform" our country, and
tragically, for virtually everyone, he is succeeding.

Nor is this a column to be construed as an endorsement for any
particular candidate, as in Ted Cruz. (Though by way of full disclosure,
he is my favorite.)

(Photo: WND Books)Pastor Rafael Cruz, author and father of US Senator
Ted Cruz of Texas.
Recently, I got to interview with Rafael Cruz, the father of Ted Cruz,
who has written a book, A Time for Action.

Raphael Cruz told my radio show how, initially, like so many other
Cubans, he had had high hopes for Fidel Castro and the revolution. They
were sorely disappointed.

Rafael Cruz knows firsthand what it is like to lose one's freedom. He
also knows the link between God and freedom, as well as the opposite —
remove God and you remove the source of freedom.

He said, "The whole concept of the attack on religion that we see in
America today is precisely with the same objective — to have people not
be dependent on God, not to rely on God, but to rely on almighty
government."

Rafael Cruz tells a story where the soldiers of Castro would teach the
children to not believe in God, but instead to believe in Fidel.

Soldiers would come into a kindergarten class and tell the children,
"Okay now, close your eyes and pray to God for some candy."

The children would comply, but there was no candy.

Then they would say, "Close your eyes and pray for candy to Fidel Castro."

The children would close their eyes and pray accordingly, as the
soldiers quietly placed candy on the desks. This was an exercise to show
the children they should trust in Fidel and the government and not in
the Lord.

Meanwhile, as freedom-loving Cubans resisted the forced implementation
of Communism on the island country, many people were lined up and shot
in firing squads. This included many Christians — so many of whom would
shout in Spanish "Long live Christ the King," that, after a while, they
would be gagged before shot.

To Rafael Cruz, modern America is in need of a great national
restoration: "We need to get back to the principles that made America
great …This is the only country that was founded on the Word of God ....
If you look at the Constitution and the Declaration — all those
fundamental principles involved in those documents are based on the word
of God. We need to get back to the Judeo-Christian principles that made
America free. We need to get back to limited government and the rule of
law."

What Judeo-Christian principles could be found in the Declaration or the
Constitution (which is predicated on the Constitution)? Simple: Our
rights come from God and no other source. In fact, government becomes
unlawful when it interferes with those God-given rights. That's the
essence of the American experiment.

This is an experiment in organized liberty — liberties we are beginning
to lose.

As Jefferson put it: "Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we
have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"

Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy
Library and a Christian TV producer. He has also written or co-written
23 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our
Nation and (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?
His views are his own. www.jerrynewcombe.com

Source: Loss of Freedoms in America Today Reminds Rafael Cruz of
Communist Cuba -
http://www.christianpost.com/news/loss-of-freedoms-in-america-today-reminds-rafael-cruz-of-communist-cuba-opinion-161689/ Continue reading
A Cuban police officer arrests a member of the Damas de Blanco, or "Ladies In White." The Cuba President Barack Obama will visit this month has in 2016 suffered some of the most brutal repression in the past decade. The... Continue reading
Her father – Oswaldo Paya – was a leading figure of Cuba’s underground opposition movement. After being persecuted all his life by the political police, he was killed in 2012 in a mysterious traffic incident on the island, which survivors, witnesses, and fellow dissidents assure was no accident. Four years later, 27-year-old Rosa Maria Paya remains […] Continue reading
CUBA STANDARD — In another round in the gradual easing of U.S. sanctions, the Obama administration published amended regulations effective today that allow U.S. companies to sell a broader range of goods to Cuba — including on credit and to state companies — and permit airlines to interact with Cuba on a broader base. After publishing easing measures in January and September […] Continue reading
As we mark Cuban Independence Day this Wednesday, we must never forget that the only true form of independence for the Cuban people is freedom and democracy, and we must recommit our state and nation Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana 16 May 2015 – On the back of a copy of the I Ching were examples of questions about which one might consult this Chinese. Should I marry X? Is this the time to take a … Continue reading Continue reading
Hablamos Press, Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 16 May 2015 — In recent weeks, meetings between Raúl Castro and various heads of state have attracted the attention of national and international public opinion. During his visit to Algeria, Castro met with Abdelaziz … Continue reading Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 May 2012 — In the summer of 2012, Rosa María Payá had just started out in the political arena. She moved among the young people who animated the Varela Project, El Camino del Pueblo (The Path … Continue reading Continue reading
Fernando Damaso, 12 May 2015 — When it comes to talking about human rights, our authorities ignore the 30 items in the Universal Declaration about them, and they go on to extol the medical, educational and other types of assistance they … Continue reading Continue reading
Cubanet, Ignacio Gonzalez and Osmel Almaguer, Havana, 13 May 2015 – A Mass for the deceased Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, opposition leader, and Harold Cepero, activist, was held this afternoon at the Church of Los Pasionistas in Havana, with Rosa María … Continue reading Continue reading
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 12 May 2015 — The official reception at the airport, the photo shaking hands with the host, the wreath laid at the statue of José Martí and the expected lecture at the University of Havana. How many foreign … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba Technology Development: Cell Phones, Internet Remain Rare On Island
Stuck In The Past
By Cristina Silva @cristymsilva c.silva@ibtimes.com on May 10 2015 8:07
AM EDT

HAVANA -- Orlando Matillo hit the refresh button and stared hopefully at
the screen of his laptop personal computer. He had been attempting to
connect to Facebook and talk with family overseas for more than an hour
through one of the rare Wi-Fi networks available in Cuba.

"This time, it will work," he says as he maneuvered his keyboard once
again. "In Cuba, you have to have a little patience." However, the
screen remained unchanged. "You're not connected to a network," it read.

During the more than half a century since Cuba came under Communist
control, it has famously devolved into something of a museum piece
displaying the accoutrements of life absent updating. It is a land of
rusting vintage cars and crumbling architecture for lack of newer
options, and a place of vivid material scarcity amid widespread economic
dysfunction. In the realm of cyberspace, Cuba appears equally tethered
to the past, as people struggle with primitive infrastructure in
frequently futile efforts to interact with one another and the rest of
the world.

Cuba's physical confines as an island nation have been reinforced by a
stark digital divide: Most people cannot afford to go online for long,
and the available infrastructure is severely limiting. Now, as the U.S.
prepares to lift its decades-long embargo against Cuba, some here hope
they will finally be able to use the everyday technology such as cell
phones and PCs that much of the developed world takes for granted.

For years, telecommunications giants such as AT&T Inc., Nokia Oyj and
Verizon Communications Inc. have demanded entry into the Cuban market.
But Web access remains both expensive and rare across the country even
as Cubans are increasingly embracing smartphones, laptops, tablets and
other devices designed for easily connecting to the internet. Many
Cubans say they fear a 21st century world of online connectivity has
already left them behind and it's unclear when they will be able to
catch up.

The Cuban government allows only certain professionals to have limited
Internet access at home. They include some state workers, artists and
academics. Everyone else can go online through state-owned Internet
centers or at a handful of luxury hotels catering to foreign tourists.
Online access generally costs about $5 an hour, more than most Cubans
earn in a week.

In all, barely 5 percent of Cuba's 11 million residents are able to get
online, and when they do, the connection is often painfully slow.
Uploading pictures, downloading files and watching videos on the
Internet can take hours or days.

"Cuba remains one of the world's most repressive environments for the
Internet and other information and communication technologies," Freedom
House, a civil-rights group based in Washington, concluded in a recent
report. "There is practically no access to Internet applications other
than email, given the slowness of the country's connectivity and high
prices, and most users are restricted to an intranet for obtaining
information."

However, Cubans are increasingly poised to make use of widespread
Internet access. Smartphones -- iPhones, Blackberry handsets and Android
devices -- have become more common in recent years, especially among
millennials who largely use them to send text messages, make phone
calls, play games and share music. In 2011, about 1.3 million Cubans, or
around 11 percent, had mobile phones, up from roughly 443,000 in 2009.

The trendy phones, laptops and tablets are generally brought to Cuba
from "afuera," or the outside, a term frequently used as a shorthand
expression to explain a foreign connection. Some Cubans who travel
regularly to other countries earn cash by purchasing used devices in
Madrid, Miami, Ecuador's Quito and other major cities to later resell in
Cuba, while a lucky few receive old phones and PCs from relatives in the
U.S. who have upgraded to newer models.

Those in the market for a smartphone generally must choose from a
limited selection at a few dozen private outlets that have opened since
the government began allowing Cubans to operate small businesses in
2011. Movil Express, a phone vendor and repair shop in a bustling Havana
business district, had only two models for sale on a recent afternoon.
The LG phone cost $200; the Blu phone cost $100. Both were
bargain-basement models, below the quality of phone given away for free
with service contracts in the U.S.

"People who buy these phones know they can't really use them to go
online, but they are the best you can get here, and everyone always want
the best," says Eduardo Riva, 27, whose family owns Movil Express. "Most
Cubans can't afford these phones, but a relative sends them money from
Miami, or they have a little extra cash in their pockets, and they know
it's an investment."

'The 21st Century Has Left Us Behind'

More Cubans are also becoming dependent on home PCs, even if they can't
use them to surf the Web, says Carlos Leyva, 54, the owner of a popular
computer-repair shop. They play games, create documents and print
paperwork on Dells, Hewlett-Packards, Toshibas and other brands. More
often than not, the PCs are less than 10 years old and have found new
lives in Cuba after previous owners in foreign countries purchased newer
models.

Leyva began his business more than four years ago after decades of
working as a computer engineer for the Cuban government. At first, he
repaired about four PCs a week. As more Cubans acquired them and his
business grew, he purchased a storefront on a main street in Camaguey,
Cuba's third most-populous city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site replete
with colonial-style homes and churches. These days, his business employs
three people and repairs about 25 PCs a week, and he must often turn
away potential new customers because he can't meet the demand for his
services.

Most of the PCs that arrive at Leyva's store have overheated after being
exposed to Cuba's scorching year-round climate in homes without air
conditioning. "In the U.S., people have computers and phones for a year
or two before saying, 'Oh, this doesn't work. I need a new one.' Here,
we fix things and we make them last," he says.

Leyva has regular Internet access because of his wife, who is pursuing a
doctorate in engineering. He spends about two hours a day online
searching for the latest tech news. He regularly enters Spanish-language
tech chat rooms to ask for advice when he is stumped by one of his jobs.
He purchases computer parts, tools and other equipment from a smuggler
who travels frequently to Miami.

"Right now, it feels like the 21st Century has left us behind. Even when
you can get online, it's so slow, you are there for hours waiting for
the information to download. But we've been paying attention. People in
my field are ready for Cuba to have Internet, whenever that day comes,"
Leyva says.

Cell Phones Still Rare

Cuba's youths are also impatiently waiting for their country to catch up
with the rest of the world.

Jessica Santos, 19, has a Samsung Galaxy 3 smartphone that her boyfriend
in Florida brought her when he came to visit in February. She uses it to
send text messages to friends, take pictures and listen to Celine Dion
songs. The state-run phone company charges by the minute, so she keeps
her phone conversations short. Her mother, a clerk for a federal judge,
pays the bill. "Cell phones here are for emergencies. If you want to get
in touch with someone, you walk to their house," Santos says.

Ivan Reince, 24, got his first cell phone three years ago after landing
a job as a construction worker. Cell phones are still rare enough in
Cuba that "when you ask a girl out, you ask if she has phone first. Then
you ask for the number," he says.

He learned to type in school, where five PCs were shared by 25 students
for a few hours each week. He has been online only a few times over the
past five years. Asked whether he had a Facebook account, he laughs and
says, "But, do you think you're in the United States?"

If he could go online, he says, he would flirt with girls on Facebook,
watch music videos featuring Chris Brown and Lil Wayne, and download
movies whenever he wanted. "You pay $50 a month in the United States and
it's unlimited. Here, we pay for every phone call, every minute, every
text message and still we don't have Internet access," he says.

Albert Manrique, 20, recently sold the Blackberry his grandfather in
Miami sent him to buy two pairs of skinny jeans. It seemed more
practical, he says. "I hardly used the phone and I wanted the clothes to
go to parties on the weekend," says Manrique, who recently graduated
from high school with honors and lives in a crumbling apartment building
on the outskirts of Camaguey with his sister, mother and stepfather.

'It's My Right Hand'

Cubans who have embraced technology brought over from the U.S. and other
countries say the devices have already improved their lives, allowing
small-business owners to provide better service to customers and
improving communications among families and friends.

Miguel Antonio Evans, 18, saved up for months to buy a used Toshiba
laptop for $175 last year. Evans, who runs a tattoo studio out of the
humble home his family has lived in for more six decades in Camaguey,
keeps the PC within arm's reach each day as he spends hours drawing
elaborate designs across his customer's biceps, chests and legs.

He purchased a memory card loaded with music videos that he plays on
repeat to distract his clients from the pain of the tattoo needle. He
also downloaded dozens of images of tattoo art, and encourages customers
to choose from the designs. Before the laptop, he depended on a handful
of outdated tattoo-art magazines imported from the U.S. to inspire his
clients.

"It's my right hand," he says of the laptop on a recent afternoon as he
inks flowers on a customer's arm, the PC within reach. "It's made
everything much easier."

Evans says he would like to be able to surf the Web for new tattoo
designs and download the latest music for his clients. He would promote
his business on Facebook and upload pictures of his work.

"When will that day come? I don't know. No one else knows. I can't even
tell you if that will happen in my lifetime," he says.

'Are You Connected?'

Among Cubans desperate for a cheap Internet connection, the Kcho Studio
Romerillo Laboratory for Art on the outskirts of Havana has become a
unique solution. The art studio owned by Cuban artist Kcho offers free
Wi-Fi in the low-income Romerillo neighborhood, where many of the homes
are made of wood and metal siding and neighbors pass the days by
gossiping on crowded street corners under the sweltering sun. Local
youths, business owners and students still in their school uniforms
arrive daily with smartphones, laptops and tablets to sit on the benches
and wicker chairs scattered across the art complex as they try to log
on. They are multiple electrical outlets for charging devices. A cafe
sells juice, coffee and sandwiches.

Kcho's network allows only 25 people to connect at any one time, meaning
many Cubans hang around for hours until they can get online. "Are you
connected?" they ask strangers as they hit their refresh buttons.

Matillo, who teaches English at a local elementary school, says he heard
about Kcho's Wi-Fi spot a few weeks ago from a friend and has since
visited the studio multiple times a week. He takes two buses to the arts
complex, where getting online is not guaranteed. Last week, he was able
to post some selfies on Facebook before he lost the connection. Other
times, he has chatted with his cousin in New York.

"Cubans want to go online and talk to the world like everyone else,"
Matillo, 27, says on a recent afternoon as he sits on a bench with his
laptop open and a smartphone in one hand trying to connect. "We want to
be part of the Web and join the conversation."

Source: Cuba Technology Development: Cell Phones, Internet Remain Rare
On Island Stuck In The Past -
http://www.ibtimes.com/cuba-technology-development-cell-phones-internet-remain-rare-island-stuck-past-1913349 Continue reading
Cuba's charm hides a dark secret
The explorer finds a communist time warp means nothing has changed in
Havana in a decade
By Ben Fogle5:10PM BST 08 May 2015

The last vestiges of the Cold War may have finally thawed with the
recent announcement by the United States of a warmer relationship with
Cuba, but there is little hint of the end of the strangling embargo on
the island itself. It has been 10 years since I first visited the
largest of the Caribbean islands and last week I returned once again.
Unlike many nations that show signs of development over a decade, there
was no evidence of progress on Cuba. The island has been in a time warp
since Fidel Castro and Che Guevara seized power in the name of socialism.
The buildings, cars and people have been frozen in the Fifties. Huge
murals and propaganda across the island still evoke the glorious
revolution and the virtues of communism. While the extreme leftist
government may have excelled in eduction and health care, it has failed
the nation when it comes to communication, progress and consumerism.
Read: Ben Fogle visits the happiest place on earth
The people have been held in limbo by two stubborn governments, the
Cuban and the US, which have selfishly held on to their idealisms for
more than five decades. You only need to explore the island and speak to
the people to see the results of the destructive embargo that has
squeezed the life from this once-prosperous nation.
There is, of course, a breathtaking charm in the fleets of old cars that
still dominate the roads, the horse and traps on which people commute to
work, the cigar factories and the spontaneous music on the streets of
Havana. But the reality is much sadder. Concrete carbuncles and bunkers,
and the bleak food, are a stark reminder of the grey cloud that has
shrouded Cuba.
Crossing the island, I was captivated by the lush, green fields. The
land has been carefully utilised to maximise its potential and provide
enough food to sustain a nation. Workers toiled under the hot sun as
police and army patrolled the roads.
Read: We were just a speck on the Southern Ocean
I asked Eugenio, our guide, whether he had felt any changes since the
recent news. "Nothing," he replied, explaining that without access to
the internet and unbiased news, most Cubans were still not sure what it
meant.
I can only hope change happens soon. Free from the manacles of the
embargo, the people here will finally get the freedom and opportunity to
thrive once again.

Source: Ben Fogle: Cuba's charm hides a dark secret - Telegraph -
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/ben-fogle/11593406/Ben-Fogle-Cubas-charm-hides-a-dark-secret.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Brussels, 9 May 2015 — Wendy Flores Acevedo, a young lawyer with the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), spoke with 14ymedio in Brussels about the loss of legal guarantees in recent years in her country, under the … Continue reading Continue reading
6:30 p.m. (EDT) For many of the presidential hopefuls on stage Saturday for the South Carolina Freedom Summit, their parents are never far from their thoughts. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tells Continue reading
'Cachita' and 'Paquito' / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on May 5, 2015

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 May 2015 – He is Argentine and she Cuban. Separating them are the thousands of miles between the Vatican and the Sanctuary of Cobre. This coming September they will be very close, when Pope Francis I visits this island where the Virgin of Charity is adored as the patron saint of all Cubans. Cachita – as we call our Virgin – has spent decades listening to the prayers springing up on all sides; some pleas that will soon be known, first hand, are those of the one we already affectionately call Paquito.

The visit to Cuba of the head of the Vatican City State, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, could usher in a new era for the country. If last December's announcement about the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States opened the door to hopes of substantial change, perhaps the arrival of the Pope will grant to the current negotiations a character that transcends the agreement between the two governments.

As a mediator of the secret talks held between the White House and the Plaza of the Revolution, Francis knows that the process will be plagued with obstacles. Perhaps he believes that the greatest danger lies in one of the parties deciding to abandon the negotiations, but the risk is elsewhere. The most alarming would be that this spirit of understanding will not be completed with the dialog, so needed, between the Island's authorities and its civil society.

Like a biblical scene, the Pope will find that the little David of this story is personified by the Cuban people, while the great Goliath is represented by an authoritarian government that controls and silences. The urgent medicine is directed to making the intolerant and aggressive giant see that it should not continue to censor its own population, but usher in a new time of freedom and respectful coexistence. Is there a possibility that Paquito can help us elevate these desires?

We also hope that during his stay among us Francis will go beyond asking for the release of activists, as happened with previous papal visits. These quotas of prisoners handed over to the "shepherd," and in many cases forced to leave the country, would not provide sufficient relief right now. We Cubans need to put an end to political imprisonment. Hasten to close a stage of our national history during which so many people have been behind bars from thinking differently from the ruling party.

Francis can help us to close the chapter of the criminalization of dissent and suggest to the authorities of the Island that they make a public commitment to accepting "the other," regardless of their political orientation. Returning to our compatriots in the diaspora their right to enter, reside in, and freely leave the country, would be another historic act of justice that would eliminate the painful and artificial separation between "Cubans inside" and "Cubans outside."

Simply by setting foot on Cuban soil, the pope will perceive that Cachita's nation needs a new project for the future that includes economic relief and returns to citizens the rights of free association and free expression. In the circumstances facing Cuba, also urgent is a process of understanding that lets Cubans know that there is life after authoritarianism. That it is possible to have a prosperous country without faking a political affiliation, bowing to one party, or offering up one's own children to the altar of ideological indoctrination. It is time to end this absurdity and fully enter into the 21st Century, with all the advantages and risks that this signifies.

Nor should they wait any longer to end the shameful acts of repudiation where Cubans confront Cubans. These picketers who use screams, insults and hatred to intimidate defenseless people should be condemned to the past in our lives. May the crozier and miter contribute to promoting a national healing process, where the victims and the victimizers recognize their roles as simple pieces on a board of polarization that has ensured fear doesn't give way to a civic conscience.

It will be difficult for Francis to exceed that January 1998 when John Paul II breathed faith into the Catholics of this Island and hopes for those who do not embrace any religious creed. Now, the current pope comes when it seems that Karol Wojtyla's prediction will come true: that Cuba will open itself to the world, and the world will open itself to Cuba. Paquito, for his part, could pass into our national history by encouraging a new goal: "Let Cuba open itself to Cuba." Only then will Cachita stop hearing to so many stories of separation and pain, to be the patron saint of a country that looks to the future.

Source: 'Cachita' and 'Paquito' / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating Cuba - http://translatingcuba.com/cachita-and-paquito-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/ Continue reading
… reach the heart of Little Havana, about three miles south-west of … enemies of freedom and democracy. Cuba's military commander in … invasion. Domino players in Little Havana Close by, in a modest … Guatemala City (Cubans do not have a monopoly on Little Havana). You … Continue reading
Another Sunday, Another 89 Political Arrests in Cuba
April Tally Reaches 350 as Ladies in White Bear the Brunt
SABRINA MARTÍN MAY 4, 2015 AT 7:24 PM

The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported on Monday that Cuban security forces made 338 politically motivated arrests during April alone. While the figure is lower than that registered in March, April saw other forms of political repression increase, especially against dissident group Ladies in White.

"Across April we've identified 101 innocent victims of other forms of political repression in Cuba, such as physical aggression, threats, acts of vandalism, and 'shows of rejection' to intimidate peaceful dissidents and terrorize the population still further," write the commission's authors in their "Acts of Political Repression" report for April 2015.

An show of rejection (acto de repudio) typically consists of members of government security forces masquerading as citizens and demonstrating against an opposition protest.

Most recently, State Security forces detained 51 Ladies in White and 38 activists from other human-rights groups for over six hours in Havana on Sunday, May 3.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, shared with the PanAm Post that the group has spent five consecutive Sundays since April 5 holding a protest "mass." They share images of political prisoners and spread messages in defense of human rights and against the Cuban authorities.

Yet at every one of these peaceful demonstrations, Soler reports that the National Revolutionary Police collaborated with the Interior Ministry and groups dressed as civilians to arrest, threaten, and attack those protesting.

Ladies in White members have previously observed "military troops" and paramilitary organizations attempting to provoke a violent response to attacks on children and women with the objective of charging protesters with destabilization, prompting the demonstrations to move to another location.

The Ladies in White president tells the PanAm Post that while no group calling for greater human-rights protections has committed any kind of violence, the Cuban authorities still arrested them in a "brutally violent" manner.

Soler emphasizes that all the dissidents present were handcuffed with "very tight metal handcuffs," whereas on previous occasions the police had only used plastic restraints. Many of them were "brutally beaten," inflicting bruises and bleeding on several, and throughout their six-hour ordeal the authorities denied them food and water.

"It's further proof of the Cuban government's intolerance towards people who think differently," Soler concludes.

Summit Sham

The document published by the Commission finds that "in the Parallel Forums of the seventh Summit of the Americas the totalitarian regime in power in Cuba showed its true face, and its decision to continue imposing the disastrous single-party and single thought system model, which has mired the vast majority of Cubans in poverty and despair."

The tone of Cuba's participation in the April summit in Panama City further demonstrated Havana's unwillingness to "accept international standards on issues of civil, political, and labor rights, as well as other fundamental rights," the report adds.

Soler seconds this information, and adds that since the Panama summit in April, the Cuban government had worsened its violent stance towards protesters, specifically against the Ladies in White. The hostile stance of Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, she explains, was demonstrated by acts of violence "financed by the Cuban government" that broke out on the fringes of the international summit.

Soler argues that the regime wasn't able to interrupt the development of roundtable discussions in Panama, and were instead expelled by human-rights organizations, because "they found themselves in a country where there is democracy and where freedom of thought is defended."

The activist details that around 60 political prisoners currently remain in the hands of the Cuban government, although a precise figure is hard to come by without information provided by families, because varying lengths of detention mean that "while they imprison some they free others."

 "Seeking Credit"

According to Soler, the dialogue between the US government and the authorities in Havana "will in no way reach" the issue of human rights and freedom of expression.

She added that Castro is seeking "credit with powerful countries to keep himself in power, due to the fact that Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, can no longer comply with the support that former president Hugo Chávez offered Cuba."

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.



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14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 May 2015 – He is Argentine and she Cuban. Separating them are the thousands of miles between the Vatican and the Sanctuary of Cobre. This coming September they will be very close, when Pope Francis … Continue reading Continue reading
UPEC explica a viajeros del New York Times las “bondades de la prensa oficial” El viaje es parte del programa de intercambio “Pueblo a Pueblo” y tiene precio similar a los de Sri Lanka y Marruecos. Luis Felipe Rojas/ Martinoticias.com mayo 04, 2015 Los viajes que el influyente diario The New York Times promocionaba el […] Continue reading
Alarming Repression Against the Ladies in White in Cuba / Forum for
Rights and Freedoms
Posted on May 3, 2015

The repression against the Ladies in White, opposition activists and
human rights defenders in Cuba, that we have seen during the last couple
of weeks is alarming. The increase of violence from the authorities has
come as a result from the exercise of the right to public protests and
from the public exposure of the faces of political prisoners. Beatings,
physical abuse and various types of torture have become routine. In only
a few weeks, the numbers of arrests have skyrocketed and they now exceed
several hundred.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders raise a
warning regarding the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders
in Cuba, and we note with great concern the indifference of the
international community, especially from the US government, the EU and
the Vatican, of which the latter played an active role in the talks
between the Cuban government and the US administration.

The current actions by the Cuban government are a response to the
silence of the international community.

In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – of which
Cuba is a signatory – the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights – which the government of Raul Castro has signed but not ratified
– and, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful
assembly and of association, Maina Kiai has recently explained clearly
in his final report; states shall ensure the full exercise of freedom of
assembly, association and peaceful demonstration.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders call on the
international community to act against the dangers that Cuban human
rights defenders are facing. It is time for the American and European
governments, usually eager to improve their relations with the Cuban
government, to use their influence and speak out against the worsening
violations of human rights in Cuba.

Antonio G. Rodiles, Coordinating Committee, Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Erik Jennische, Programme Director for Latin America, Civil Rigths Defenders

For more information on the repression against Damas de Blanco/Ladies in
White on April 26 2015, follow the link

Source: Alarming Repression Against the Ladies in White in Cuba / Forum
for Rights and Freedoms | Translating Cuba -
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The repression against the Ladies in White, opposition activists and human rights defenders in Cuba, that we have seen during the last couple of weeks is alarming. The increase of violence from the authorities has come as a result from … Continue reading Continue reading
La libertad de prensa ha alcanzado su nivel más bajo de la última década, según el último estudio elaborado por la organización estadounidense Freedom House. 'Libertad de Prensa 2015' señala la presión estatal de países como Cuba, las tensiones sociales de Venezuela o la violencia de grupos radicales de Honduras como los responsables del atentado contra el periodismo en América Latina. Continue reading
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En su informe anual, publicado el miércoles, el grupo Freedom House indicó que la libertad de prensa en el mundo bajó el año pasado a su punto más bajo en más de 10 años. Continue reading