María Tejero Martín
(EFE).- La opositora cubana Rosa María Payá advirtió este lunes en una entrevista con Efe de que el "totalitarismo" del Gobierno dirigido por Raúl Castro "no se ha roto" pese al contacto abierto con Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea (UE), por lo que pidió que usen estos acercamientos para lograr "avances concretos".
"Acercarse a Cuba es muy bueno, pero depende de cómo y de cómo se vende. También tiene consecuencias negativas, como que el resto del mundo perciba un proceso interno de apertura hacia la democracia, y eso no ha ocurrido", dijo Payá en la capital de Noruega, a la que se ha desplazado para participar en el Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF).
La disidente aseguró que el "totalitarismo no se ha quebrado" pese a la "legitimidad" de la que puede haberse revestido tras la visita de personalidades como el presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, la alta representante de la UE para la Política Exterior, Federica Mogherini, el papa Francisco o los Rolling Stones.
Payá, hija del prominente opositor Oswaldo Payá, fallecido en 2012 en un accidente del que ella responsabiliza al régimen cubano, cree que la comunidad internacional tiene una "oportunidad para presionar al régimen para ese cambio libre".
[[QUOTE:"Acercarse a Cuba es muy bueno, pero depende de cómo y de cómo se vende"]]Payá critica las "excusas que pueden ser cínicas, pero son invocadas como pragmáticas" que se utilizan como argumento para iniciar el diálogo con Cuba poniendo especial atención a las relaciones económicas y dejando en un segundo plano la exigencia de derechos humanos y libertades.
"Se dicen cosas como que si negociamos con China por qué no con el régimen cubano. Bajo esta línea de pensamiento ¿por qué no con Corea del Norte?", dijo.
Respecto a las negociaciones entre Bruselas y La Habana, consideró "preocupante" que no se haya hecho luz sobre el texto que sirve de base para los contactos entre ambas partes y avisó de que no bastará con que solo incluya "una mención a los derechos humanos, porque las tiranías ya aprendieron a lidiar con las menciones".
"El apoyo tiene que ser concreto, especifico y sobre temas medibles. No solo el discurso de apoyar la democracia, los derechos humanos", aseguró, por lo que pidió que se respalde la celebración de un plebiscito en la isla, el acceso a medios de comunicación e información y la liberalización de los presos políticos.
"El totalitarismo, que no se ha roto, se rompe cuando la capacidad de decisión no reside en el mismo grupo de generales. En ese momento habrá empezado la transición, que tampoco llevará un día. No podemos pretender que está pasando", dijo en un mensaje que dirigió a "la comunidad internacional", a la que pidió "apoyo".
[[QUOTE:"El apoyo tiene que ser concreto, especifico y sobre temas medibles. No solo el discurso de apoyar la democracia, los derechos humanos", aseguró]]"Los cubanos somos tan seres humanos como el resto, como los españoles o los belgas. No llevamos cinco décadas soportando para tener Airbnb, sino todo los derechos (...), que haya más americanos viajando a la isla no es suficiente, es un enfoque racista pensar así", reivindicó.
Para Payá, la inacción también puede afectar a la propia comunidad internacional y a los países democráticos.
En este sentido apuntó a cómo ha ido evolucionado la situación en Venezuela bajo el liderazgo de Hugo Chávez y el presidente Nicolás Maduro, pero también a las ideas que han llegado "a partidos políticos en España".
De cara a las próximas elecciones españolas, Payá subraya que "el pueblo español es soberano, por lo que le corresponde decidir a él", aunque mostró su preocupación por que "la influencia del régimen totalitario de la Habana a través del régimen chavista se han preocupado de minar la región latinoamericana y exportar sus ideas hacia Europa".
Sobre el auge de las posiciones antidemocráticas, la opositora cubana llamó una vez más a los países democráticos a actuar.
"Los cubanos ahora no están peor que hace diez años, pero el resto del mundo sí", advirtió.Continue reading
May 22, 2016 7:22 a.m.
Polls make it clear that the American public is way ahead of Congress in
supporting normalization of relations and reopening trade with Cuba. But
positive numbers from several polls don't mean that the
normalization process will be easy or fast. That was unequivocally
confirmed by Gonzalo Gallegos, Deputy Assistant for Western Affairs, at
a State Department briefing Monday for 30 members of the Association of
Opinion Journalists (AOJ).
Sixty-two percent in one key poll favor ending the embargo, even though
just 40 percent think it will restore democracy to Cuba. A majority of
the public approves of the way the Obama Administration is handling
The Administration's approach hasn't changed since Under Secretary
Roberta Jacobson spoke to AOJ last year: small steps to build trust,
enabling the two countries to deal gradually with some of the more
contentious issues dividing them. The immediate focus, therefore, is
strengthening people-to-people links, assisting entrepreneurs to tap
economic opportunities and working to open the internet and
telecommunications. That goal, Gallegos said, is so the "broadest swath
of Cubans" can better see what's happening in the world around them.
Focusing on the relatively easy activities (agriculture, maritime,
civil aviation, climate change, for example) helps deepen dialogue
around the more difficult challenges of human rights, press freedom,
claims, and fugitives.
"The President has said that the future of Cuba is for Cubans to
decide," Gallegos declared. Not all Cubans I spoke with there a year ago
are so sanguine. Many Cubans working on normalization are still uneasy
that Cuban culture will be diluted as American businesses enter the new
market. This month's Chanel runway show and the incursion of film crews
into Havana were seen by many Cubans as the cultural down side of
normalization. The people of Cuba are friendly, optimistic about the new
opening and proud of their heritage. They are quick to point out that
"big countries do what they want; small countries do what they must."
A current theme in Obama foreign policy is trying to help other nations
improve governance and fortify the underpinnings of their economies,
improving the conditions that drive immigration and crime. Of
particular concern is the situation in Haiti, where the "people deserve
to have their voices heard." The United States is pushing the interim
government to complete their electoral process and achieve a
democratically elected government.
Gallegos noted that 'our one true success in nation building has been
in Colombia,' where our embassy has grown from 500 individuals (in the
mid 1990's) to 3000. Conditions were ripe because the people of Colombia
wanted change and forced their government to respond, there were well
trained police and military to move against the criminal elements, and
the government was able to expend significant resources. For every
dollar the United States invested, said Gallegos, the Colombian
government put up $10.
The changing relationship with Cuba is unique. Gallegos, who served in
Cuba from 2002-2004 under President George W. Bush, declined to
speculate on any time table for regularizing relations. He certainly
wouldn't hazard a guess of how much progress would have to be made to
persuade Congress to lift the embargo ("There is no micrometer"), nor
would he predict what will happen when Raoul Castro leaves office as
expected in 2018.
The goal of a peaceful, prosperous and ultimately democratic Cuba is out
there. How far out is the great unanswered question.
Source: Normalizing relations with Cuba: not so fast - Blogs - The
Winchester Star -
http://winchester.wickedlocal.com/article/20160522/BLOGS/305229994 Continue reading
We observe a man who always speaks of patriotism and he is never
patriotic, or only with regards to those of a certain class or certain
party. We should fear him, because no one shows more faithfulness nor
speaks more strongly against robbery than the thieves themselves.
Felix Varela (in El Habanero, 1824)
14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 19 May 2016 – Observing the tranquil
surface of Cuban society offers a misleading impression. The stagnation
is localized only in the government and in the party; and even there it
is not very reliable. There is no doubt that many party members
participated in and observed the 7th Congress of Cuban Communist Party
(PCC) hoping for changes and, watching the direction of the presidential
table, dutifully (and resignedly, why not) voted one more time unanimously.
Outside this context, where one thing is said but what is thought may be
something else, there is right now a very interesting debate in which
all parties believe themselves to be right. The most commonly used
concepts to defend opposing theses can be covered in the perceptions of
revolution and democracy, which each person conceptualizes according to
his or her own line of thinking.
There are generalities that are inherent in the concept itself. In the
case of the concept of revolution, it involves a drastic change within a
historic concept to break with a state of things that is generally
unjust. Although it is a collective project, revolutions don't always
enjoy massive support; it is not until it is resolved that the great
majority of citizens are included.
That said, from the official positions of the Cuban government they are
still talking about the Revolution that overthrew the Batista tyranny
and initiated profound changes in Cuba as a continuing event. This group
believes itself still within the revolutionary morass, but can a country
live permanently in a revolution?
One immediate consequence of a social revolution is chaos; everything is
changing, and after a nation experiences a revolutionary process it
needs stability to return to the path of progress, a natural aspiration
of society and of the individual.
The 1959 Revolution became a government many years ago and its young
leaders are, today, old men who in their long time in power ensured
mechanisms for the control of the country. It could be nostalgia for not
having been there or it could be comfort with the idea of having made
mistakes and implemented bad policies, all justified as an appropriate
effect of the revolutionary moment.
It is here that democracy intervenes. Whatever kind it is, it must
characterize itself because popular decisions are effective; directly or
through the leaders elected through voting. And also through debate. One
can't insist on continuing to wear children's clothes when one is an
adult. Norberto Bobbio's concept is always widely accepted: without
recognized and protected human rights there cannot be a real democracy,
and when we are citizens of the world, and not of one state, we are
closer to peace.
We do not live in a democratic country, however much they want to
minimize the lack of freedoms and blame it on the "blockade," the
"imperialist threat" and novelties such as "opinion surveys" or "media
wars." Because democracy is an umbrella that should also protect
minorities of every kind.
We can see vestiges of Marxism-Leninism in this stumbling march toward
capitalism without democracy, we see in the free state version of the
idea enclosed in this disturbing paragraph of a letter from Engels to
August Bebel, regarding power and those who oppose it: "So long as the
proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for
the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies and, as soon as
there can be any question of freedom, the state as such ceases to exist."
Where are the rights of minorities? How do we know if they are real
minorities? So far, certainly, the public support for the government has
been a matter of trust, but the suspicion showed by the government when
asked for transparency is striking.
From the polemics that are shared among websites and from closed-door
meetings to emails and the chorus of the interested, and from there to
the classic rumor on the street, it is clear that there is an imperative
to widen the debate. Patriotism is not a state monopoly nor is it
reflected only in talking about history and honoring symbols, much less
in the cult of personality, which by the way, this year promises North
One of the ideas that is addressed in this debate is the danger posed by
"non-revolutionary transitions in the name of democracy," but we know
that this is a concern of the hardline defenders of that model that they
stubbornly insist on calling socialist; 'they' being those who consider
themselves anti-imperialists, those who "won't budge an inch," and who
sleep peacefully without looking for other culprits for the collapse
that surrounds them on all sides.
My concern as a citizen is not having democracy in the name of the
Source: Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/revolutions-and-democracy-14ymedio-regina-coyula/ Continue reading
Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol, 17 May 2016 — If there is something shameful
in our republican history, it is the events of 1912. Nothing much is
being said about it, not even in the government's current propaganda. It
is mentioned, articles and books are published about it, although it is
not widely exposed.
Relatively few things have been written about it; the data, which is
scarce at the source, are lost, and it is difficult to achieve an
in-depth knowledge about it. Oral transmission is likewise poor, perhaps
out of shame by some or out of fear by others.
I am referring to what is called the "War of the Independent People of
Color," or the "War of the Blacks."
Whoever denies the significance of our compatriots of color in the War
of Independence is blind. Their freedom from slavery, their recognition
as citizens and all their rights as Cubans stem from it. Apparently,
there was something deeper: friendship and brotherhood amongst whites
and blacks who had jointly fought as mambises (patriotic fighters).
But that equality was merely on the paper the Constitution was written
on and in multiple laws. The fact is that Cuba had, and still has, an
important racist component. At the 7th Cuban Communist Party Congress,
Raúl Castro himself mentioned that "the fight against any vestige of
racism which hampers or slows down the promotion of blacks and mestizos
to leading positions shall be relentlessly pursued." And even after 57
years of a theoretical "egalitarian revolution" and three generations
under "socialism," we still encounter expressions such as "Dude, you
strike me as an 'Oreo'."
Legal equality had been achieved, but not in reality. In 1902 began the
creation of organizations in defense of the rights and interests of
black people, such as the Black Veterans Committee, some of whose
meetings were presided over by Juan Gualberto Gómez.
In 1908 the Group of Independent People of Color was created, a rather
more political organization, which on August 7 of the same year became
the Party of Independent People of Color (PIC, according to its Spanish
acronym). Its platform was not only anti-racist but also social, as it
called for an eight-hour working day and general and free education.
However, from then on big mistakes were made by both parties:
On the part of the State a black senator, Martín Morúa Delgado, filed a
motion against that party, by considering a party based on racial
principles to be unconstitutional, and the "Morúa Amendment," modifying
Section 17 of the Electoral Act was adopted and the PIC was declared
Morúa, in his–likely honest–attempts to avoid social division, even
forgot the continuous insults to which he and other black and mixed race
senators and congressmen were subject. One of the most frequent was that
in all receptions, these were directed to the guest and companion or
mistress, while discriminating against their wives.
On the other hand, Evaristo Estenoz, a slave-born PIC leader, distanced
himself from many whites who supported him, thus politically isolating
himself, and attempted to foster a new U.S. intervention, to which end
he held meetings with figures such as Charles Magoon, the U.S.
occupation governor between 1906 and 1909, and Enoch Crowder, former
Military Governor of the Philippines, who had taken part in U.S.
interventions in Cuba and in wars against the Apaches, led by Jeronimo,
and the Sioux, led by Sitting Bull. Both of them being "very good company."
Finally, on May 20, 1912, a PIC armed uprising took place in Pinar del
Río, Havana, Santa Clara and Oriente to achieve their demands, although
it did not contemplate the overthrow of the government presided by José
Originally no attention was paid to it, but the contacts initiated by
Estenoz were in motion, and the Cuban government was warned that, in
order to defend U.S. interests, armed troop vessels were being sent to
Guantánamo and other destinations.
Thus, the President ordered the army to intervene, which put an end to
the uprising–to the embarrassment of all–by murdering all the black and
dark-skinned mixed-race people encountered, whether or not they had
participated in the revolt; it even removed peaceful workers from their
homes and killed them in front of their families.
The leaders of the uprising, Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet,
perished. Regarding the former there are versions that he committed
suicide and that he died in combat; his body had a shot in the temple.
Ivonet was simply murdered after being taken prisoner.
It is not known how many victims there were. Some mention 60 victims,
which could be ludicrous if we were not referring to human lives, others
mention 6,000. The safest thing is that they ranged between 3,000 and 4,000.
In order not to revisit similar mistakes and embarrassments, let us
recall that we are all Cubans and it is no good to merely state it on a
piece of paper. This is another pending change which has to be begun, as
all changes, by ourselves.
Source: The War of the Blacks / Somos+ – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-war-of-the-blacks-somos/ Continue reading
Jake Whittenberg, KING 11:53 AM. EST May 19, 2016
SEATTLE -- Not everyone is ready to paint a rosy picture when it comes
to renewed US - Cuba relations.
Images of President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are drawing a
mixed reaction from families who fled the communist regime years ago.
Isabel Espino, 54, was born in Cuba and left with her family when she
was 18. Her father was a pharmaceutical salesman, and she was preparing
to go to college when the Cuban government confronted the family about
their Catholic beliefs. Practicing religion was forbidden under Castro's
Her father was forced to take a government job, and the family was no
longer allowed to go to church.
"If you deny people freedom of speech, if you deny people freedom of
religion, that's not OK," she said.
Espino still finds it difficult to talk negatively about the Cuban
government, because she fears repercussion.
"It still scares me," she said. "It's not a 'touristy' destination for me."
Since her family fled the country, Espino has not returned.
Now that the U.S. is opening up with Cuba, and diplomatic relations are
improving, she and many others are not yet ready to forgive the
government that drove them away from her homeland.
"This all happened at a point where the Cuban government was floundering
badly, which is what we were all been waiting for 50 some years," she
said. "You can ask someone else for their side of the story. But this is
Source: Not everyone is thrilled with renewed U.S., Cuba relations,
especially famlies who fled | WUSA9.com -
http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/not-everyone-is-thrilled-with-renewed-us-cuba-relations-especially-famlies-who-fled/204744499 Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 11 May 2016 — Daniel Llorente Miranda, 52, is a spontaneous
dissident. He doesn't belong to any opposition party, nor is he an
un-gagged journalist. He is on his own.
Last 22 March, with the stars and stripes on his shoulders, Llorente
found himself in the area of the United State Embassy, waiting to greet
President Barack Obama, after he met with a group of opponents,
activists and alternative journalists.
Mixed race, a little overweight and short, Daniel defends authentic
democracy, believes in freedom of expression and is openly anti-Castro.
He shares his narrative peacefully.
On Monday, 2 May, among the many people gathered at the Avenida del
Puerto to greet the Adonia cruise ship, again flying the stars and
stripes, Daniel Llorente was interviewed by the foreign corespondents
when, apparently spontaneously, a thin man with a gray cap, interfered
in his exchange with the press, first contradicting him, second act,
triggers a blast of support for the regime and he ends up insulting it.
Nearby, five or six brawny guys looking like military in plainclothes
join the dispute with the typical verbal verbal lynching: Mercenary!
Traitor! Turncoat! 'breaking' Llorente's interview with the foreign press.
Then, an undercover agent summoned a police car and the spontaneous
dissident was arrested. Before they put him in the car he got a few slaps.
You don't have to be very insightful to understand that everything was
staged. When the altercation got hot, the act of repudiation was joined
by people who, supposedly, are not used to different opinions because of
their doctrinaire education.
The line of plainclothes agents was in the immediate vicinity of where
the independent and foreign press were working. When hearing critical
opinions of the government by those being interviewed, we hear shouts of
Viva Cuba. But nothing is by chance.
According to a resident of San Isidro, a neighborhood a stone's throw
from the cruise ship terminal., "The lady that was asked to throw water
on the guy (Daniel Llorente) sells clothes in the black market. She was
formally warned by the police several times and they tried to make her
work with them to denounce those selling drugs and prostituting in the
area. The black guy with the tattoo is also shameless and corrupt, he
was in the war in Angola and belongs the soldier's association, like the
old many who started the discussion, a hard-line member of the CDR
(Committee for the Defense of the Revolution)."
It's not new that the marginals and delinquents collaborate with State
Security. Nor are acts of repudiation something new. Many analysts
believe they started in 1980 with the emigration of twenty-five thousand
Cubans through the Mariel Boatlift.
But the date goes back further. As far back as the spring of 1959, when
Fidel Castro supporters, with permission from the authorities, burned
newspapers and magazines that reproached the government.
These mobs arrived to injure the journalists critical of Castro. And
they were part of the stating of the "people outraged by the unpatriotic
role of the press."
They mobilized sectors of the people to confront those who disagreed and
to support Castro's measures. They did the same to homosexuals, lovers
of rock music, and the owners of french fry stands.
The year 1980 marked a turning point in the acts of repudiation. And
those who were not outcasts nor bourgeoisie. Nor "mercenaries" nor
"counterrevolutionaries." They were par of this silent mass who
apparently applauded a cause, but at the first opportunity fled their
These verbal lynchings came to be very violent. Dozens were reported
injured by beatings and stones thrown by enraged people.
Currently, this reprehensible method is used principally against the
dissidence. The site of the Ladies in White in Lawton, or Antonio
Rodiles' house in Miramar, have been surrounded by children and school
kids from nearby schools who attend without even knowing the background
of the event. They staged a wild party with music to disrupt the
activities planned by the opposition.
On 20 March, just when Barack Obama's Air Force One took off for Havana
from Andrews Military Base in the United States, the cowboys of the
political police formed their human shield with about three hundred
people, to repudiate the Ladies and White and dissident activists.
This has occurred every Sunday for more than a year. After the opponents
leave Santa Rita church, the insults, beatings and arrests start. The
police authorities can arrest the dissidents alleging any reason,
without having to resort to violence or the show.
But it makes up a part of the decalog of the autocracy" counterposing
the political differences with a swarm always superior in numbers, of
revolutionaries 'disgusted' with those who oppose the Castro.
The public money, with no consultation with the ordinary people, is
spent preparing the act of repudiation. Urban buses are diverted and
commerce in the area is paralyzed. Hundreds of students are workers from
the area are mobilized, mixed with the paramilitaries of the so-called
Rapid Response Brigades.
The expert officials from the Department of State Security manage all
the threads. They are worn out strategies. Every dissident or
independent journalist has suffered the same thing. Their function
continues to be intimidating the opposition and engaging their supporters.
The purpose, very simple: the street and public spaces belong
exclusively to Fidel Castro's supporters. It may not be fascism. But
Source: State Security Tactics in Cuba / Iván García – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/state-security-tactics-in-cuba-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson arrived in Cuba on May 11, 2016,
to take part in International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
commemorations. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
Two American LGBT rights advocates arrived in Cuba on Wednesday to take
part a series of events that will commemorate the International Day
Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida on Thursday is scheduled to take
part in a panel on LGBT advocacy in Havana that is organized by the
National Center for Sexual Education, which is directed by Mariela
Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. He and Freedom to Marry
founder Evan Wolfson will also attend marches and other events
commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
that are taking place in the Cuban capital and the city of Matanzas
through May 21.
"Thanks to President Obama, the restoration of relations between the
U.S. and Cuba allows people to travel and exchange ideas, and I am
thrilled to now be one of them," said Wolfson in a press release.
This year's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
commemorations in Cuba are taking place against the backdrop of a
campaign in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples that
independent LGBT rights advocates launched late last year.
The campaign — known as "We Also Love" or "Nosotros También Amamos" in
Spanish — encourages Cubans to sign a petition in support of the issues.
The Cuban constitution currently defines marriage as between a man and a
Mariela Castro, who spearheads LGBT-specific issues on the Communist
island, publicly supports marriage rights for same-sex couples. The
independent advocates who are behind the gay nuptials initiative have
accused Mariela Castro and her organization of not doing enough to spur
Cuban lawmakers to act on the issue.
"I am looking forward to meeting the brave Cubans advocating for
marriage equality," said Almeida, a Cuban American with relatives in
Wolfson: Human rights are universal
Then-President Fidel Castro sent more than 25,000 gay men and others
deemed unfit for military service to labor camps in the years after the
1959 Cuban revolution.
The Communist island's government forcibly quarantined people living
with HIV/AIDS in state-run sanitaria until 1993. Fidel Castro apologized
for sending gay men to the camps, known as Military Units to Aid
Production, during a 2010 interview with a Mexican newspaper.
Supporters of Mariela Castro, who is a member of the Cuban Parliament,
point out that Cuba has offered free sex-reassignment surgeries under
its national health care system since 2008. They also note that she
voted against a 2013 bill against discrimination in the workplace based
on sexual orientation because it did not include trans-specific protections.
Cuba and the U.S. officially restored diplomatic relations last August.
President Obama traveled to Havana in March.
He spoke publicly about human rights during a press conference with Raúl
Castro and in a televised speech at Havana's Alicia Alonso Grand
Theater. Obama also met with two independent LGBT rights advocates
before leaving the country.
"Human rights are universal," said Wolfson. "It's time for the freedom
to marry in Cuba and across the Americas."
Wolfson has traveled to South Africa, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and
other countries since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that
same-sex couples can legally marry across the U.S.
Freedom to Marry formally shut down earlier this year.
Source: Evan Wolfson travels to Cuba -
https://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/05/11/evan-wolfson-travels-to-cuba/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Isaac Nahon Serfaty, 10 May 2016 — Cuba is now the Disneyland
of the fashion show business. The list of celebrities who go to the
island as almost archeological tourists is growing every day. The Mummy
Stones, the Lagerfield effigy, and the inevitable voluptuous Kardashion
have made their Havana pilgrimage. From Miami comes a cruise ship
acclaimed by local enthusiasts. The gringos, like the expected Mr.
Marshall from Garcia Berlanga's film, wander along the Malecon and enjoy
their mojitos. Fascinated, they discover a theme park populated by
dilapidated American sedans, Old Havana with its architectural gems both
restored and in ruins, and a people hungry for change. All this under
the admiring acclaim of Western media fascinated by a supposed "opening"
in the Pearl of the Caribbean.
It is worth the exercise of historic imagination to show the
inconsistency of the liberal politicians and the enthusiastic
journalists. Let's consider, for example, that some legendary rockers, a
fashion designer and an exemplar of the "beautiful people" had decided
to visit Chile in the times of Pinochet to celebrate the economic
opening implemented by the dictator at the hands of his neoliberal
It is not difficult to imagine the reaction, fully justified, of leftist
intellectuals and politicians: "What barbarity to endorse the bloody
dictator!" "We must reject this propaganda maneuver of Yankee
imperialism!" "Enough with the manipulation to conquer the fragile minds
of our people, poor victims of industrial culture!" "Let's boycott
the music, clothes and porno photos of these agents of imperialism!" And
so we could continue with variations on the same manifestations of
However, when this happens in the Cuba controlled by the monarchical
Castro dictatorship, everything is all parties and laughter. Who gives a
crap if the repression against political dissidents continues? Who cares
if the regime's propaganda machinery continues to vomit its
hollow slogans while it limits freedom of expression? Who worries about
the refugees escaping the island for the United States (via Costa Rica,
for example), before Obama, or whoever succeeds him, eliminates the
privilege of the Cuban Adjustment Act? Who denounces the military
nomenklatura that controls the state enterprises, collecting bribes and
preparing the terrain for an economic opening in the style of savage
The hypocrisy of the leftist pimps has annulled their critical capacity.
They is not capable of digesting that in their breast there is too much
corruption (so says Lula); that with the excuse of the liberation of the
people they proclaim a discourse of anti-Semitic hatred (as some in the
British Labour Party say); with the alibi of the struggle against
injustice and inequality they mount a new class of privileged cynics (so
say the "bolichicos"—the young and politically connected Venezuelan
Carlos Rangel, a Venezuelan writer prematurely disappeared and despised
by this left, in the seventies drew the portrait of that intellectual
misery that idealizes the myth of the "good revolutionary." Myths are
not only symbolic resources. They are instruments to legitimize
interests and businesses, like those now being cooked up in Cuba-Disneyland.
Editor 's note: Isaac Nahon Serfaty is professor at the University of
Ottawa (Canada). This text has been published in the Spanish
newspaper El País and is reproduced here with the author's consent.
Source: Cuba-Disneyland and Its Leftist Pimps / 14ymedio, Isaac Nahon
Serfaty – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-disneyland-and-its-leftist-pimps-14ymedio-isaac-nahon-serfaty/ Continue reading
Manuel Cuesta Morua
14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 8 May 2016 — The only certainty
in Cuba in political terms is that the government accumulates a lot of
power but lacks leadership. The kind of leadership required when a
country faces an economic challenge, or a cultural, sociological,
information, knowledge and generational one, plus the obvious dangers of
any new era. They could all be summarized, therefore, by the following:
how to manage the Government to maintain a political model that is
beneath the basic intelligence, the accumulated experience of Cuban
society and cultural pluralism?
Faced with this dilemma, the government has sacrificed the possible
options for a new leadership before the metaphysics of the Revolution.
But, 57 years later, can we speak, beyond a memory and a name, of the
Cuban Revolution? From the point of view of conviction—a psychological
support—there is no doubt it exists. It is this kind of conviction that
founds religions and that can only be respected in its specific
dimensions. But from the point of view of its initial proposals, the
Cuban Revolution has long since dissolved its only assumable scope: the
external independence and sovereignty of Cuba.
Those who defend the Cuban government using the record of the
Revolution, never satisfactorily answer these two questions: Is Cuba the
only country where healthcare and education are free? Is it legitimate
for current generations to express the need for another revolution? A
revolution that blocks the possibilities of other futures is not a
revolution made by revolutionaries.
But the revolutionaries do not surrender, not even in the face of clear
evidence that the Cuban Revolution no longer exists because, beyond its
convictions and proposals, it was, by nature, conservative. I offer the
example par excellence for the followers of cultural studies and their
relationship to political models: faced with three subjects that, by
their anthropological condition gave substance to every emancipatory
revolution of the 20th century, and within diverse societies, the Cuban
government launched an active defense that closed the possibilities for
a coherent social, political and cultural modernization, in line with
global dynamics: the movements of feminists, blacks and the homosexuals.
This was an early sign of the conservative nature of the 1959 project.
Moreover, the closing of Cuba with respect to the initial freedom that
in the '60s of the 20th century citizens around the world began to
respond to, the freedom of movement, was the hallmark of this
conservatism that disconnected Cubans from their foundational dynamic as
a country. And the Revolution's reaction in the face of the impact of
technology was and is antediluvian: witness the political impact on the
regime of technological processes that are democratizers in their own
right. Nor today, in Cuba, are these matters are discussed—present here
despite and against the policies of the state—but they have been
incorporated for a long time into the reality of most nations, from
Haiti to Sweden.
By its nature, the Cuban Revolution is the last expression, in the 20th
century and so far in the 21st, of the criollo modernization project,
with its two clearest models: the expanded model of the
plantation-economy export-power, and the restricted model of
farm-bodega-control, more anchored in the structure of the Spanish
conquest of the Americas.
This project of modernization began its long march with the hegemonic
invention of Cuban in the 19th century. And this criollo conservatism
was updated through a dictatorship of social benefit that created, with
the Cuban Revolution, the second Jesuit state of the Western Hemisphere,
after the state of the same kind founded by Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de
Francia in Paraguay in the 19th century.
Now, facing a crisis, it has no more economic imagination than that of
the restoration of old models: the development of tourism, that was
Fulgencio Batista's celebrated project cut short, and the development of
a port, this one in Mariel, which was the most "modernized" project
possible for the Spanish metropolis.
The most important achievements of this Revolution, then, have to do
with its ability—taking as a starting point its own definition of
itself—to arrest poverty at the limits of misery exhibited by many Third
World countries, and with its confrontational visibility with the first
power in the world: the United States. This was a never a project for
These success of image and minimal cohesion fed a certain romanticism on
both the left and the right, often at the edge of political obscenity,
of the darkness of history before 1959, of cultural racism, and of a
vision of post-imperialist borders for its constant opposition to the
policies of the United States. They masked the conservative structure of
the society encouraged by the Revolution, and the revolutionary
imperialism toward the Third World: in the form of 'missions'–military,
medical and educational.
The conservative revolution, for 57 years, has triumphed. This allows us
to understand how it became a movement of diminishing expectations, how
it made the ration book a virtue, how it made a desire for modernization
counterrevolutionary and exchange with the United States a problem of
national security. This latter, taken to the limit, has meant a cultural
weakening of the country in the face of the challenge represented by the
United States in terms of the cultural continuity of Cuban society—we
could speak of the cultural ripe fruit—and an exhaustion of the Cuban
project in its inability to project and continue its policies in an era
of full globalization. To the extent that this criollo project has tried
to identify itself with the fundamentals of Cuba, it also endangers the
viability of the nation.
As a criollo project, with one foot in the structure of colonial Spain,
the Cuban Revolution is a project of hegemony and domination that has
legitimized the "counterrevolution," only the one made by the
revolutionaries in power.
The original 1959 contract updated itself in 1961 styling itself as
socialist; and updated itself again in 1976 with a Constitution that
established the hegemony and superiority of the communists; it broke in
1980 with the events at the Peruvian embassy and the resulting Mariel
Boatlift; it updated itself again in 1992, with the admission of another
moral universe within the Communist Party with the laicization of the
state; and it broke again in 1994 with the Malecon Uprising in Havana;
and it is trying to re-update itself with the liberalization of the
markets in food and other areas, which subsequently are distorted.
Throughout all this time, the government has done one thing and then the
opposite to remain in power, regardless of economic, social or political
practices that have been in absolute contradiction with earlier or later
ones. All in the name of the Cuban Revolution. Every one of these
"revolutions" and "counterrevolutions" carried out by a power ever more
divorced from society and that allowed them, finally, in 2002, to
rethink their organic relation with citizens.
Yes, "Within the Revolution, everything," but "within the
counterrevolution, also," is the epilogue of the political process
launched in 1959.
Incapable of criticizing its fundamentals—unlike representative
democracies, the Cuban Revolution does not permit a discussion based on
its pillars, which explains its lack of democracy—the government
undertook a constitutional reform in 2002, an authentic political
counter-reform, which was the ultimate and definitive rupture between
the criollo project and Cuban citizens.
On constitutionally declaring the "irreversibility of socialism," the
government pulverized the constitutional precedents of the founding of
Cuba. From our origins as a national project, these assimilated, without
contradictions, the unity of subject and sovereign that is the base of
the modern citizen. Subject to the law, sovereign to shape it, we Cubans
lost with this counter-reform the condition of citizens and the organic
relationship with a state that only knows and cares how to justify itself.
Starting from here it became clear that for the state we Cubans are only
a source of duties, not of sovereignty. Thus, the republican nature of
Cuba is dissolved, establishing a political "contract" to block any
future contract. An aberration that must have few precedents in the
constitutional history of the world.
If we want to understand, then, why the relationship of Cubans with
their state is fundamentally cynical, when it should be an ethical
relationship, the reason can be found in this static fluidity that the
Cuban Revolution has established with society, based on the assumption
that what is, is not, but should continue to remain as if it were, to
achieve mutual survival amid the blackout of our future and the
suspension of all strategic perspective.
The complicity and mutual deception that the society-state comes to
forge, over the span of 57 years, that modus vivendi has dissolved more
than one hope and has placed the country at a dead end. Corruption as
a zone of shared tolerance both by power and by citizens, in the midst
of a vital tension, is a clear example of the progressive national
collapse and crashing demoralization of the decent foundations of
The last definition of the Cuban Revolution, offered by Fidel Castro on
May Day of 2000, is reducible to the phrase, "change everything that
should be changed," when a revolution is defined by changing everything,
only confirms the diagnosis: for 50 years the Revolution has made a
costly transition from justification based on its essences to
justification based on its circumstances. In this sense,
"counterrevolution" and "revolution" are vacant words fixed in the
general vocabulary of society for the purpose of psychological control.
Outside of this—and only for a tiny minority of honest men and women who
have a sense of communion in the work and defense of a past that doesn't
contradict the answer to this question: What, ultimately, is the Cuban
It is this: Power and its circumstances defined both by a rogue state,
which was updated, at the recently concluded 7th Congress of the Cuban
Communist Party, with a bad monarchic joke: Our bipartisanship will
bring together the same surnames, Castro Ruz.
From this irresponsible rogue state we must move to the responsible
reconstruction of a national project that is anchored in something less
metaphysical and more promising: a democratic state governed by the rule
Part 1 of this article is here.
Source: 57 Years Later: Towards a New Contract for Cuba (Pt. 2) /
14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua – Translating Cuba -
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Apr 26, 2016
On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced his intention to
normalize relations with Cuba. Since that time there have been a number
of changes in U.S. policy and regulations affecting trade, investment
and travel. To provide business leaders with the latest developments,
Knowledge@Wharton has just released a fully updated and revised edition
of The Road to Cuba, an ebook that has earned a 2016 Independent
Publisher Book Award.
In the following excerpt from the book, three scenarios are presented
for how U.S.-Cuba relations could unfold.
U.S. President Barack Obama's December 17, 2014, move to normalize
relations with Cuba was a bold bet that introduced a historic
opportunity for communication, trade and investment between the two
close neighbors after more than half a century of Cold War–inspired
enmity. Underpinning the bet is the belief that direct engagement,
including a proposed lifting of the US economic embargo against Cuba,
will open up the Communist-ruled island to greater economic and
political freedom than continuing the old policy of isolation.
Experts, observers, and even the main protagonists have all sought to
calm the high expectations and warn that it could take years to achieve
full-fledged neighborly relations. "It's unrealistic to believe that a
relationship that was inimical for 54 years will be one of friendship
and warmth in just a year or two," said Pedro A. Freyre, an attorney
with the Miami-based law firm Akerman LLP, which advises U.S. businesses
interested in Cuba.
The biggest question on the US side is how quickly the multilayered and
legally codified U.S. embargo against the island can be dismantled to
allow free flows of trade, capital, and credit, as well as tourists.
This requires the cooperation of the U.S Congress, whose Republican
majority is no friend to outgoing President Obama.
In the last State of the Union address of his tenure, on January 12,
2016, Obama urged Congress to lift the embargo, but few believe that
this can happen before the new president takes office in early 2017.
Whether it happens at all may also depend on who wins the November 2016
US presidential election, with some contenders strongly support lifting
the embargo, while others oppose this move and Obama's Cuba policy.
On the Cuban side, the biggest unknown is whether Raúl Castro and the
Communist Party leadership, both military and civil, really want to
fully embrace the United States as a trading and investment partner.
Doing so involves making complete peace with the "Yankee imperialist
enemy" of decades — a radical rejiggering of an ideological DNA that
used "anti-imperialism" as a successful rallying cry both internally and
"Obama urged Congress to lift the embargo, but few believe that this can
happen before the new president takes office in early 2017."
Although much remains to be clarified, it is possible to sketch out
three possible ways in which the process could unfold: the "Slow-Motion"
scenario, the "Steady Movement on a Middle Road" scenario, or the "Big
The third scenario — of a "big bang" embrace — seems the least likely,
given the political realities of both countries. The second scenario of
steady, growing engagement between the U.S. and Cuba seems achievable,
unless political developments hold back the process or derail it.
The "Slow-Motion" Scenario
Political mistrust hinders the process on both sides, although full
embassies are in place and Cuba has been removed from the U.S. list of
state sponsors of terrorism. A Republican-dominated Congress is dragging
its feet over lifting the embargo, limiting the president's ability to
move the normalization forward. Raúl Castro's Cuban administration also
creates obstacles to the process by making political demands and
continuing to prosecute dissidents and restrict the flow of information,
trade and investment from the U.S.
Few significant business opportunities for U.S. companies have been
created to date beyond small openings in travel and telecommunications,
and Cuba continues to seek alliances with more politically compatible
allies such as China and Russia (and ailing Venezuela).
Obama can do little more to advance the normalization process before he
hands over the presidency in early 2017. In Cuba, no significant
political or economic change will take place before Raúl Castro's
announced departure in early 2018. A handpicked successor, perhaps a
Castro scion, seems likely to maintain the island's one-party Communist
system. In this scenario, fresh diplomatic spats and quarrels could set
back the process.
The "Steady Movement on a Middle Road" Scenario
In this scenario, bilateral relations improve steadily, travel and trade
restrictions for Americans are eased further, and air and ferry links
are established, leading to an increase in tourism, air and sea travel,
and telecommunications between the two countries. Business booms in
these sectors, and U.S. cruise lines and ferries begin service to Cuba.
Many executives of U.S. companies engage in fact-finding exploratory
visits to Cuba, meet government and private contacts and identify areas
of interest. Congress modifies embargo sanctions to allow more U.S.
exports to Cuba, including the provision of credit, and to allow more
Cuban imports. Financial and banking links are developed.
"The immediate challenge facing US businesses is to exploit existing
openings and position themselves for the bigger opportunities that could
come in the future."
Cuba does not abandon its socialist political and economic model but
allows more space for political dissent and private enterprise, while
maintaining Communist Party dominance. By the end of Obama's presidency,
relations have improved and seem headed for further improvement,
although the U.S. is still only one in Cuba's diversified range of
global trading partners. Some groundbreaking memorandums of
understanding are signed by major U.S. corporations for investment
projects in Cuba. Cuba rejoins the Inter-American Development Bank and
opens dialogues with the IMF and the World Bank.
The "Big Bang" Scenario
Congress lifts the U.S. embargo and travel ban in 2016 in this scenario,
and Americans flock to Cuba, leading to a surge in tourism. Normal trade
and financial links are quickly reestablished, leading to a boom in
bilateral trade that makes the U.S. Cuba's leading commercial partner.
Major U.S. corporations announce big investment projects in Cuba's oil
and gas, manufacturing, nickel mining, agriculture and biotechnology
industries. Compensation claims posed by both sides are resolved through
major U.S. financing and investment deals involving the affected lands
Fidel Castro dies, marking the end of an era on the island, and
President Raúl Castro steps down before or in 2018, handing power over
to a pragmatic civilian leadership that announces a transition to a
multiparty system that will include free elections. Political
persecution of dissidents ends and thousands of Cuban exiles return
home. The new Cuban government announces plans to privatize loss-making
state companies. Obama hands over the presidency in early 2017 with the
clear legacy of a changed Cuba once again a friendly neighbor of the
U.S., and U.S. companies look set to play a key role in the island's
Staying the Course
President Obama's policy shift toward Cuba is undoubtedly a potential
game changer for U.S.-Cuban relations. The immediate challenge facing
U.S. businesses is to exploit existing openings and position themselves
for the bigger opportunities that could come in the future. "My advice
would be to travel [to Cuba], start shaking hands and develop a
relationship," says Cuban American businessman Hugo Cancio, who left
Cuba in 1980 as a 16-year-old refugee and is now pursuing interests in
media and telecom projects on the island.
Despite widespread support for the normalization in both nations, few
expect some kind of immediate "big bang" reconciliation across the
Straits of Florida, either in terms of the U.S. embargo's being
completely and quickly lifted at a stroke or Cuba abandoning its
single-party Communist system to embrace Western-style capitalism and
multiparty democracy. "We should not confuse reality with wishful
thinking or expressions of goodwill," Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno
Rodriguez cautioned in October 2015 at the United Nations.
"US investors interested in developing major on-the-ground projects in
Cuba need to take a longer-term view and be ready for bumps on the road."
Most experts see normalization as a long and complex process that will
involve tough diplomatic wrangling and trade negotiations, political
battles and strains in both countries, and hitches and setbacks of
varying magnitude. "But I think it will advance," says Emilio Morales,
of the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group.
Although many see openings for quick wins and short-term opportunities,
especially in the travel, tourism, transportation, and telecom fields
and related services, U.S. investors interested in developing major
on-the-ground projects in Cuba need to take a longer-term view and be
ready for bumps on the road — just as in other frontier or emerging
markets in Latin America or Africa.
"You have to engage in very in-depth research. You need to get the facts
on what's there in Cuba today.… You need to get boots on the ground and
do the due diligence that anyone would do in any emerging economy," says
Tres Mares Group CEO Faquiry Diaz Cala.
Excerpted from The Road to Cuba: The Opportunities and Risks for US
Business, Updated and Revised Edition, by Knowledge@Wharton
Source: The Road to Cuba: Three Scenarios for U.S. Business Relations -
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If paradise ends where choice begins, as Arthur Miller observed, then
our digital age fantasy of paradise as a tropical island with no
Internet collapses with our choice to travel to one. The permanent
inhabitants of such an island, who live without Internet access or the
luxury of travel, would likely have a lot to tell the world about life
in paradise, if only they could get online. As of 2016, these
inhabitants represent 95% of the Cuban population.
In January of 2008, Seattle resident and transportation engineer Mary Jo
Porter set off on a trip to Cuba lugging a raised toilet seat and other
supplies for the friend of a friend on the island. She knew she wouldn't
be landing in paradise. Anything else she knew about daily life in Cuba
she had gleaned from a friend's daughter who worked there and a lone
blog she had found online called Generation Y.
When Porter visited Cuba, the author of Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, was
on the verge of international renown as a leading human rights advocate
and intellectual. Sanchez started her site in 2007, becoming one of the
first Cubans to blog about daily life on the island—an endeavor that was
complicated by the fact that she, along with most Cubans, was prohibited
from going online.
While Sanchez is now considered the pioneer of the Cuban dissident
blogger movement, Porter is the reason that Sanchez and bloggers like
her have enjoyed such an extensive readership among non-Spanish
speakers. For what Porter could not have known when she went to Cuba was
that, within months of her return to the US, she would be Sanchez's
unlikely translator. Soon after that, she would become an essential link
in an underground network of activists who support Cuban bloggers, and
the co-founder and organizer of a website called Hemos Oido [We've Heard
(You)], the first open and automated platform of its kind where
volunteers can go to translate the blogs of Cuban dissidents.
The exchange that follows took place by phone and email during the
winter of 2016.
Hillary Gulley (HG): You first came across Yoani's blog, Generation Y,
while preparing to take a trip to Cuba with a friend. What was it about
your experience on the island that compelled you to keep reading her
blog after your vacation was over?
Mary Jo Porter (MJP): Cuba grabbed me. I don't know how else to say it.
I've traveled to quite a few places and lived abroad, but only in
Ireland did I have a feeling similar to when I arrived in Cuba: that of
being home. The Cuban landscape was immediately familiar, similar to
California where I grew up and, like in Ireland, the people were deeply
familiar despite the language barrier. Cubans are like Californians:
outgoing, casual, willing to tell you their life story on a street
corner, and everyone has an opinion about everything. Cuba hadn't
settled in my consciousness since the Cuban Missile Crisis, but once I
went, I was hooked.
HG: When you visited Cuba you knew very little Spanish. How did you
overcome the language barrier?
MJP: Face-to-face you can probably communicate with anyone if you try.
In Cuba, I was often with my friend's daughter, Jenny, who was working
for an NGO there; she interpreted for me on many occasions. Other times,
I'd talk to Cubans who had some or a lot of English.
HG: Did Cubans seek you out for conversation, or did you approach them?
MJP: Both. I had a great conversation with a bookseller at a market in
Plaza de Armas. He asked if I was Canadian, and I said no, American. And
he said, in perfect English, "I have some excellent books about Che."
When I told him I had no desire to read about a psychopathic,
totalitarian murderer, I thought he was going to fall over. Really, he
almost stopped breathing. Then he couldn't stop laughing. When he got
serious again, he told me I was "different from other Americans" who
came to Cuba, and then spent a good part of the afternoon filling me in
on Cuban history, like the time Castro ordered Camilo Cienfuegos (his
former head of armed forces) to fly to Havana from Camaguey, and his
plane "crashed into the sea." Except they never found the plane—and the
route from Camaguey to Havana is over land. I learned a lot that afternoon.
One day I talked to a butcher at a ration store who didn't have any meat
or chicken or fish. He was reading the paper with nothing to sell, so he
had plenty of time to talk. Another time I walked into a tiny barbershop
and talked to the barbers and customers. And well after dark one night,
my friends and I talked to people playing dominos at a card table right
in the street. They had put the table under a streetlight and pointed
out that it was the only light working in the area.
Then we went to Viñales and stayed in a casa particular—a Cuban B&B. We
had a lot of time to sit around and work through the language barriers.
The owners had some English and a lot to say about trying to run a
private business and coming up against the Committees for the Defense of
the Revolution. I went out to fly kites I had made for the local kids,
and one of their dads came out and started fixing them to make them
better. So that was another way to connect, by playing.
Another conversation was with a cop guarding the American Interests
Section. My friends and I were walking along the Malecón late one night
and saw a huge billboard equating Bush and this unknown (to us) "evil
person" to Hitler. I wanted to know who the guy was, so I crossed the
street to ask the cop. He frantically motioned that I wasn't allowed on
his sidewalk, and he couldn't cross over to mine, so we met at the
center line. It seemed odd to stand in the middle of an arterial in the
dark, but it worked fine, because there were no cars—because they're
just weren't any. He didn't understand English, and I could hardly make
myself understood in my bad Spanish; but I did understand when he called
someone on his walkie-talkie to ask permission to tell me the "evil
guy's" name. He had to call three or four people, moving up the line,
before he got someone "high up enough" to give him permission to tell
me. Then I couldn't understand what he was saying, so he wrote it for me
on a scrap of paper.
HG: Who was the third evil person?
MJP: Luis Posada Carriles, someone who ultimately has been classified as
a terrorist by both the US and Cuba.
Along the Malécon as it passes the American Interest Section. These
kinds of anti-US government billboards are not common, although images
of the five men imprisoned in the US as Cuban spies are everywhere. The
man who, with Bush, equals Hitler, is Luis Pasado Carriles. Born in
Cuba, he is an anti-Castro terrorist charged in Panama with trying to
kill Castro, and in the US and elsewhere with other crimes. Bush
approved his release from prison in April 2007, against the advice of
the Justice Department. The New York Times headline read: "A Terrorist
HG: You also took portraits of some of the people you spoke to.
MJP: You can usually buy postcards of the sights wherever you go, so I
tend to focus on "urban-y" and transportation things—bike racks and
intersection configurations—and people. But in Cuba there were only
postcards of Che, and no mail service to the US, so there was no point
anyway. I like portraits, and if you want to get one, the person
generally has to cooperate, so, voilà, a great way to get talking to people.
HG: Do you think Yoani's blog captivated you because it brought you back
to the daily lives of the people you met while you were in Cuba?
MJP: Of course Yoani's voice, and especially then, so intimately placed
in the minutiae of her life and the lives of other Cubans on the island,
was captivating. But it might be overstating it a little to say that was
the major reason I became so engaged in it, because you have to
remember, there were almost no blogs coming out of Cuba, from the island
itself, at that time. Yoani was pretty much it. Of course if her blog
had been a lot of disengaged ranting, I probably wouldn't have continued
to read it. So yes, it was that intimate focus that really drew me in,
but I was looking hard, online, for something, anything, to read that
was written on the island.
HG: You say her writing focused on everyday life "especially then"—what
MJP: A few years ago, a journalist asked me if I thought Yoani's blog
had moved away from that immersion in daily life. This was after she
started traveling. I said she still chronicled her daily life, but that
it had changed so drastically: if she just wrote about how bad the
coffee is, and how her coffee pot exploded along with everyone else's
when the government put too many crushed peas in the coffee, it wouldn't
feel authentic anymore. Great, her coffee pot exploded (or didn't), but
the New York Times said she met with Jimmy Carter in Havana
yesterday—why isn't she telling us about that?
HG: Did you notice any connection between Yoani's blog and the narrative
that emerged from your photographs back in 2008?
MJP: Clearly everything about me and my worldview and my way of seeing,
thinking, feeling, writing, are my own and not Yoani's. But I felt a
connection to the point that I wanted to try to share her voice with
other English speakers.
But you've made me realize there is kind of an odd dissonance here,
because while my voice is not Yoani's voice and vice versa, Yoani's
voice in English is my interpretation of her voice, which cannot help
but get overlaid with my own voice and the words I choose and the way I
phrase things. So inevitably there is a distortion of her in what I do.
That is translation. It's unavoidable.
HG: Can you talk a little about this "distortion" in translating Yoani
and other Cubans?
MJP: I will say I have tried hard not to intrude, which leads to a whole
other conversation about translation and the choices of words and
phrasing that I made early on when I didn't know the language, choices I
almost certainly wouldn't have made had I understood, in a native kind
of way, what she was saying.
But I think these same choices accidentally set a pattern that was
powerful for many reasons. Cubans for whom Spanish is not their
"everyday" language—even if it is their first language—have been the
most enthusiastic about my translations, while naturally it seems they
would be the least happy, because they bring the best language skills to
it. But then I realized it isn't because the translations are so "good"
in the traditional sense—because they're not—but because, for fear of
getting it wrong, I left so much of the "castellano cubano" in the
English text. And that was a conscious decision: not to please Cubans in
exile, but to try to bring "more" of Yoani and more of Cuba and Cuban
Spanish to the English-language reader.
HG: Do you think your approach to translating Yoani's blog may have
attracted a larger readership in English? One that began with Cubans in
exile who recognized, in your translations, strains of a Spanish they
were familiar with but did not use every day?
MJP: No, not at all. Yoani's blog would have attracted a huge readership
in English with any reasonable translations. I think Cubans in exile,
and more to the point, the children and grandchildren of exiles, enjoy
seeing the words of their parents and grandparents reflected in the word
choices in the translations, but not to the extent that it generates
I have seen other translations of Yoani's writings here and there, and
with one exception, they have all been excellent.
HG: How did the exception go wrong?
MJP: There was a photo book being prepared on the architecture of the
"Cuban New School"—i.e. Socialist Brutalism. They asked Yoani to write a
short piece to accompany some photos of a boarding school in the
countryside that had been part of the "schools in the countryside"
project that her generation had attended. Yoani's response was a dark
essay titled "Concrete Forms to Forge a 'New Man.'" It opened with the
story of a fellow student who committed suicide by jumping off the roof
of the school.
The translator made Yoani sound like a Valley Girl. It was hilarious,
but horribly so. The editor asked for my help, and I retranslated it. I
did wonder what kind of impact Valley Girl-Yoani might have had if she'd
been translated that way from the start.
HG: You started translating Yoani's work shortly after you got back from
Cuba in 2008: Yoani's previous volunteer English translator stopped,
leading her to post a help-wanted ad on her blog. You answered after a
few weeks went by and no one else did. Is that right?
MJP: It was a few weeks at most, and it wasn't really a "help-wanted
ad," it was a little "by the way" at the bottom of a post. A sentence or
two. Other people did answer, but I guess she got my "translations" first.
HG: Can you describe the process of confronting Yoani's writing as a
novice translator who didn't know much of the language you were
translating from? What was your approach?
MJP: To say I was a "novice translator" at that point is a huge
overstatement. My approach was to ask for help translating by using my
computer skills and—most importantly—those of my partner-in-crime, Karen
Heffner Chun. Karen and I met when we were eight, and we've been friends
longer than we imagined we'd even be alive. She's been with me since
that first day when Yoani sent me the password to the English site and
said "it's yours now."
Along with the password, Yoani sent me "instructions" about how to use
Wordpress, which wasn't as common then as it is now. The background of
the site was all in German, because it had been set up by her friend in
Germany, and at the time there was no "change language" function. Her
accompanying instructions were in Spanish. Fortunately, little things
like foreign languages don't stop Karen, and we got it working.
That first night, we posted a "help" request in the domain's sidebar; by
morning a posse of volunteer helpers had arrived. There was also another
woman who had offered to help, Susanna Groves; Yoani gave me her email,
so she and I started off together. She quit later that year to help get
Obama elected, but by then there were already a lot of people who had
stepped up to help translate.
HG: As the demand for translators grew along with the Cuban blogosphere,
you and Karen founded an automated site called Hemos Oido, where
volunteers can access and translate Cuban blogs into English, French,
German, and Dutch; then you founded another site for English readers
called Translating Cuba. Can you talk about the process of founding the
sites and how they work?
MJP: By the time Karen and I created Hemos Oido, we were already
translating more than twenty blogs. But it was all case-by-case, with
people responding to the request for help on the sidebar; then I'd
manually send them links to blog posts. So as Cubans on the island were
writing more, and more people were offering to translate, it was getting
Karen suggested we try to put the translating online. We started using
Google Docs, which was labor-intensive in terms of manually loading
posts so multiple people could work on them; we did it for a few days
and were overwhelmed by the response.
So then Karen designed and coded Hemos Oido, a platform that
automatically picks up new posts from any blog we link to. Volunteers
can then access the posts on the site and translate them there. The site
notifies us when the posts have been translated and automatically
publishes the translations. Then, to make those translations more
accessible to readers, we created Translating Cuba, a site that
automatically pulls in all of the blogs that have been translated into
English so they can be read in one place.
HG: And Hemos Oido is an active site where volunteer translators can go
to help dissident bloggers.
MJP: It is—and it's growing. It worked great for several years, but now
it's breaking down again. The problem we're having is the result of
great things happening on the island—and I'm not referring to the "thaw"
or the regime's extremely limited reforms.
It's that the number of voices is exploding, along with the variety of
places people express themselves. So we can't just go look for good
blogs and link them in anymore. Also, many of "our" bloggers are posting
the same content on multiple sites. That's a great thing, but Hemos Oido
as a program can't search out this content, make judgments about what
should be translated, and pick it all up; that requires humans. We also
need to make sure that the same text doesn't load to our site more than
once from different sources, and that volunteers don't waste their time
translating something that's already done before we catch the overlap.
HG: Do you have any solutions on the horizon to keep up with the expansion?
MJP: We haven't figured out exactly what to do. We do have "off-line"
helpers, people I've gone back to assigning posts to. Alas, a couple of
our best translators are anonymous, and I have no idea who they are or
how to ask them if they want to help in this way.
Karen and I are still stuck with working for a living—and to support the
project—so we don't have infinite free time to do everything we would
like to do. It's already a full-time job for me, but it needs to be more
The same problem applies to people from other countries who want to do
something similar to what we're doing with Cuba. We're eager to help
them set it up, but again, no one has been able to pull it off yet. The
reality is, everyone has to work for a living, and when they realize how
much time this involves, they just can't commit.
HG: Do you think any of the skills you use in your day job as a
transportation engineer transferred to your work as a translator and
founder of Hemos Oido and Translating Cuba?
MJP: I joke about this, but yes, in a very odd way. A lot of the work
I've done in transportation is translating. I was deputy director on
Seattle's light rail project, and a lot of what I did was "translating"
all the engineering speak for elected officials and the general public,
and in some cases translating in the other direction as well.
I would say, however, that translating engineering speak to plain
English is really straightforward. On Hemos Oido, I started out
translating a language I didn't know, which is not only not
straightforward, it's impossible. So the volunteers have played an
essential role in teaching me the language and the cultural and
historical context; without them there would be no project. I value and
thank them more than I can possibly say.
HG: How did the initial support system of volunteers continue to grow
around you after you posted the help request in the sidebar? To what
extent do you know and have contact with each other?
MJP: The first Cubans who contacted me in 2008 in response to the
sidebar request eventually drifted away; I've never met any of them.
After that it just grew. In early 2009 I got in contact with Ernesto
Hernandez Busto, a Cuban living in Spain who was running Penultimos
Dias, one of the most important news sites about Cuba. The site now has
a more limited focus on the arts, but it remains active. He is also a
translator and he started helping me—and by "helping," I mean he and I
have exchanged over 900 messages. We ultimately met in New York and
remain in contact.
Norma Whiting emailed me in 2009 or earlier (2000+ messages to date) and
started helping on everything. Eventually she became Miriam Celaya's
translator, and we became great friends. She is a cousin, by the way, of
Adolfo Sainz, one of the prisoners of the Black Spring.
Also in 2009, I got an email from Raul Garcia Jr., a young Cuban
American living in Miami. He wrote (in Spanish) "for some time I've
wanted to help the blogger movement in Cuba. The problem is I don't know
how." From that first email he basically devoted his life to helping
people on the island. His own motivation was a desire to support and
honor his father, who had been imprisoned in Cuba at age 17 for joining
the movement against the Revolution. In addition to another million
things, Raul became a key member of the support network abroad for the
political prisoners from Cuba's Black Spring, who were driving the
regime crazy blogging "Behind the Bars." He also helped them when they
were finally released; most of them were forced into exile.
Isbel Alba, a Cuban exile who I eventually met in Quebec, contacted me
maybe in 2010 or possibly earlier. She also had a very influential
website about human rights in Cuba, and she introduced me to Alexis
Romay, a Cuban novelist, poet, musician, and teacher living in New
Jersey, and Ernesto Ariel Suarez, a Cuban writer and translator living
in Kansas City. Those two can tell me the entire cultural background of
all things Cuba starting with Columbus's landing and continuing up to
last week—not to mention explain how Cuban Spanish works in ways that I
finally "get it."
And most critically, a couple in Canada—a Cuban and a Chilean—who posted
Yoani's blog posts for her for years when she couldn't even see her own
blog from the island. They have been my most important help of every
kind: learning the language, managing the blog, expanding to lots of
blogs. They pretty much fly under the radar, so I won't mention their
names, but we basically just connected through chat programs and stayed
in touch all day, every day for a few years.
A non-Cuban I can't fail to mention is Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch
College. There is a series of something like ten or fourteen
three-minute videos he made of an interview with Yoani, back when you
could only record and post videos of that length on YouTube. He has
supported Translating Cuba and me personally in every possible way.
The "posse" eventually grew to include Cubans on the island who spoke
English and managed to finagle reasonable Internet access. The most
important of these is Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. I first needed his help
translating his own work, because he makes up words and mixes languages
and puns. So we were close before I met him in NYC on the same day I met
Yoani. He invited me to participate in a photo contest for Cubans on the
island, and to submit an article to a digital magazine he was
publishing, Voces (Voices). And now, though he's living in exile in
Iceland, I still translate for him and he for me.
HG: Internet access was largely off-limits to Cubans until last summer.
Now, the public Internet lounges that have popped up around Havana
charge $4.50/hour, or about one-fifth of a Cuban's monthly wages. Those
lucky enough to own a device can buy Wi-Fi access for $2/hour at the new
public hotspots. How has the enhancement of telecommunications in Cuba
affected the bloggers and your work with them?
MJP: It hasn't had that great of an effect yet. It's a little easier for
me to communicate with people in Cuba, because they are more likely to
see my emails in less than a week and more able to respond. Previously,
that might have taken a few weeks. But still, service is so bad and so
expensive that it's nothing like having broadband at home.
There continue to be a lot of ways Cubans get access to the Internet.
Several embassies offer Internet access to Cubans; I know a few bloggers
who have a weekly time slot at an embassy to get online for an hour.
Also, because home internet there is dial-up (though they're supposedly
starting an experiment in home broadband in Central Havana), people who
do have it—almost entirely people on the government's good side—can
"sell" their dial-up phone number with their log-in and password by the
hour. So you might buy 3 a.m. to 4 a.m., and you agree to log on at 3:01
a.m. and log off at 3:59 a.m., and not one second later, because someone
else has bought 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.; and you agree not to go to "bad"
websites, like politics or porn, that would get the account holder in
trouble. Others might have access only at work, but they can send and
receive emails for themselves and for friends, or for people who pay them.
It's important for people to understand that the bloggers—at least in
the earlier years—didn't just sit in their homes or embassies or hotels
and blog. They relied on a network of volunteers from all over the
world—very informal, set up by Cuban-to-Cuban contacts—who would create
and manage the actual blogs, hosted abroad, and they would post by email
through these intermediaries. The bloggers didn't see their own blogs.
And I know this way of working continues for many today. It's more
reliable, and cheaper. And there are a couple of million Cubans outside
of Cuba (and more every day), so it's not that hard to find someone
willing to help you.
HG: Were you ever afraid to trust any of the help you received,
translation-related or otherwise, given the political stakes inherent to
the writing of these bloggers?
MJP: It never occurred to me to distrust advice on political grounds, my
own naïveté showing I guess. Speaking of Yoani's writing in particular,
it would have been hard to distort it politically. For example, she'd
write articles like, "I live on a tropical island. I have a cold. Why
are there no lemons here?" When she wrote about days of "incredible
swaps" to get suture thread so that her friend's mother could have
surgery, and having to bring sheets, food, and cleaning supplies to the
hospital, it tells us more than all the rants and statistics ever could
about the current state of Cuba's highly vaunted healthcare system. It
was that approach, and her lack of political rants, that made her such a
powerful voice from the beginning.
I was led astray more than once, however, by translations in good
English that I assumed were perfect that were far from it, but not for
nefarious reasons—simply because I assumed the volunteers spoke Spanish
and it turned out some of them, not so much.
But the worst mistakes have been my own, and there were some doozies.
One of my "favorites" was a post where the first word was "Leo." I
couldn't figure out the grammar of how this Leo guy fit into the
sentence, but I made it work; he appeared two or three more times in the
text. It was maybe the Dutch translator who asked, "Who the hell is
Leo?" It turns out "Leo" means "I read"; it wasn't a man's name. Another
time the Dutch translator saved me from translating "umbrella" as "wool
socks"; I do remember thinking, Who in Cuba owns wool socks?
HG: It's possible to imagine what demographics might be reading the
blogs in Spanish, if it isn't Cubans on the island, but who is reading
MJP: I wish I knew precisely. We have a stats program that gives us the
usual information: how many readers, where they come from
geographically, what they search on, what posts they read the most. But
it doesn't really tell us who they are.
Encouraging, however, is how many quotes and links we're getting to our
articles from the mainstream press. I'll read articles in the New York
Times, the Washington Post, and Foreign Policy and see "our" words—which
means the voices of Cubans on the island—in these sources of influence.
HG: How has normalization affected the Cuban blogosphere? Has it
increased the number or reach of bloggers within Cuba?
MJP: "Normalization" is very young, and certainly in Cuba the physical
attacks on and arrests of human rights activists seem to have
intensified. I don't think we've seen changes in freedom of expression
and the press. Opposition blogs, websites, and Yoani's digital paper are
still censored on the island. Miriam Celaya wrote a great article on the
Probably the most significant "transition point" from there being just a
couple bloggers to lots of bloggers was the Blogger Academy project,
which is when Yoani and her colleagues started offering workshops to
aspiring bloggers on how to use social media tools and WordPress.
And of course when the government dropped the exit permit requirement,
and Yoani and other human rights activists on the island started
traveling the world, everything changed enormously.
HG: As early as 2008, Yoani had been named one of Time magazine's "100
Most Influential People in the World" and listed among Foreign Policy
magazine's "Ten Most Influential Latin American Intellectuals." But
because the Cuban government didn't drop their exit permit requirement
until 2012, Yoani wasn't able to leave the island until 2013. You
accompanied her on her first trip to the US that year. What was your
experience? Was it the first time you met her?
MJP: It was March 2013, and yes, it was the first time we met after five
years of working together. Before that I'd had one or two brief calls
with her, but with a price of US$ 1.00 per minute to call Cuba, I
couldn't afford it; and with my lack of Spanish and her lack of English,
there wasn't much point in our trying to talk on the phone. Also, the
few times I did call, we kept getting cut off. State security? Bad phone
service? I have no idea.
So what can I say? Meeting her in person, getting to hug her, was
fantastic. Who she is didn't surprise me, but it made me very happy,
because she is the person I thought she was, only happier, more
cheerful, and funnier. At the end of grueling days of being on, with
events and interviews nonstop, she never flagged or lost her sense of
humor. We shared a hotel room, so we were together 24/7; and when she
finally had quiet time, she was still smiling and laughing.
There were many high points, but one that really sticks out for me was
her press conference at the United Nations. Basically, the Cuban
government went nuts about the idea of Yoani being allowed to step foot
in the building or use any of the official facilities for a press
conference. They wrote a formal complaint, saying it would be an
"anti-Cuban action" and "grave attack" on the spirit of the United
Nations. So she wasn't allowed to use the "official" press conference
room. But she'd been invited by the UN Correspondents Association, which
has its own little space in some far corner of the building; they said
no one could tell them what to do in their own space. But the only place
they had that was "big enough" to set up in was a wide spot in the
hallway next to the copy machine; some of the reporters had chairs, many
were standing, and some were sitting on the floor. And Yoani was just so
articulate, so elegant, in making the case for the basic human rights of
the Cuban people.
HG: A protest erupted during one of Yoani's US appearances and you were
there. People shouted and unveiled signs in support of Castro and
against Yoani, which caused another group within the auditorium to start
chanting Yoani's name in support of her. Why do you think Yoani's
writing poses such a threat?
MJP: In New York City, there was an incident with some old white people
(like me) who (unlike me) never got over how "fun" it was to protest for
civil rights and against the Vietnam War, and who want to reprise that
"success." They totally ignore that despite some significant gains on
all fronts, we now have Black Lives Matter, making it clear we haven't
come nearly far enough on civil rights, active troops still in
Afghanistan, our longest involvement in any war ever, and a minimum wage
that isn't enough to live on. In the United States, these are perhaps
the most important causes of our time, along with global warming.
These old white people, apparently unwilling to take responsibility for
how much we have all failed to achieve in our own country, like to
believe there's some fairy tale paradise ninety miles offshore, and that
the rest of us are all too deluded—by CIA propaganda? I don't know, I
really don't know what these people believe—to admit it.
So for the people who didn't manage to create their own paradise, Yoani
is killing a lifetime of dreams that there really is a better world
someplace, right here on earth, rooted in freedom and equality,
brotherly and sisterly love, kindness and human understanding. As for
the threat to the Cuban so-called communists, aka the power elite, I
won't pretend to speak for them. But it's not hard to imagine their
HG: Protesters also accused Yoani of being translated by the CIA.
MJP: The one time I was in the room when people accused Yoani of being
translated by the CIA, she looked at me rather amused and asked me to
take the microphone. The old white people screaming away did shut up
when they saw this other old white person saying, "It's me, I'm 'the
CIA,' and is my check lost in the mail or what?!"
HG: Do you think Yoani is used to the protests yet?
MJP: One large event I attended was nearly shut down by the pro-paradise
versus it's-not-paradise-it's-a-totalitarian-hell crowds shouting at
each other. Yoani couldn't have gotten a word in if she'd wanted to.
Basically she watches this stuff in a sort of delighted amazement at
what happens in a free society where people are allowed to express
HG: Have you gone back to Cuba since your initial trip there in 2008?
MJP: Alas, no, and I really want to. I was planning to go a few years
ago, but was advised by some foreign journalists stationed there not to
do it for my own safety. But I think now, with the thaw, I probably
could, and I'm hoping to find a way to do that.
HG: Has your work with Yoani changed the way you reflect on that first trip?
MJP: Only slightly. The introduction I got to the country through Jenny
and the Cubans I talked to was totally consistent with what I read in
Yoani's blog then and later. Clearly a future trip would be very
different, and I really want to go back to meet all the people there who
are now my friends. I desperately want to hug them and share a laugh . .
. about anything . . . my horrible Spanish . . . anything.
But certainly my work with all the Cubans we translate has changed the
way I reflect on the whole world, past, present, and future. I see
things through a different lens—a clearer lens, I hope—and I'm more
tolerant of people I strongly disagree with, much less judgmental. I can
now understand how a totalitarian state can sustain itself over so many
decades and I find it completely inexplicable at the same time. So I've
learned to hold completely contradictory viewpoints in my mind. Maybe
I'm becoming a little Cuban!
HG: Has your relationship with language changed over the years since you
started your work with the Cuban bloggers?
MJP: Oh, of course. I still have problems with the small things—did the
man bite the dog or did the dog bite the man—but I now have a whole new
language, a culture, a history, a present, hopefully a future. It makes
me wish I spoke every language in the world, living and dead. I wish I
could talk to anyone anywhere, and I wish I not only had the words, but
the whole cultural understanding to really communicate.
I was telling a friend I hadn't seen for decades about translating
Cubans, and she nailed it: "You always were obsessed with words," she
said. The words are great fun, but context is even more so. It's all
been a gift to me in a way I can't even describe. I guess it's obvious,
because I'm now embarking on my ninth year of this. I'm not motivated by
a bleeding heart, but more by a happy, engaged heart, always excited by
new voices and new perspectives—though that's not to say I don't
sometimes get depressed to the point of tears by it all.
HG: You are reluctant to say you were a novice translator when you
embarked on this adventure. Would you call yourself a seasoned
translator by now?
MJP: Alas, absolutely not! Again, it's the simple stuff that still trips
me up, and it really, really bothers me that I have such a hard time
fluently understanding spoken Spanish and speaking it. My increasingly
deaf ears (too many rock concerts in the sixties, literally) are always
playing catch-up in English, and so much more so in Spanish.
But there are moments, more moments than not now, when I'm translating
and I just feel like I'm flying. There's a certain writing style we like
to call "Cuban baroque," which is basically making the structure of
every thought and sentence as complicated and arcane as possible. That
can be trying. But there are others who write with a fluidity and
clarity and whose thinking is so interesting, and who can frame an idea
and phrase it in way that it carries you along; you can feel your brain
cells lighting up. And I will say, when I feel I'm getting that
right—well, it is a very deep pleasure.
Source: Interview with Mary Jo Porter - Words Without Borders -
http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/may-2016-feature-nonfiction-about-cuba-interview-with-mary-jo-porter Continue reading
Coffee / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 5 May 2016 — The National Bureau of the
National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) in Cuba rejects the recent
measures from the U.S. Department of State which include coffee among
the products produced by the non-State sector in Cuba that can be
imported into the United States.
In a statement published Wednesday, the Association lambastes the
flexibility, which came into force on 22 April, allowing the import into
the United States of coffee and textile products from "independent
businesspeople" in Cuba.
John Kavulich, President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council,
acknowledged at the time that Washington aims to support the small
private sector of the island with this measure, although he highlighted
its "very limited impact."
However, ANAP does not appear to assess new business opportunities in
the same way. The organization, created in May 1961 defines itself by
its "social character" and claims to represent "the interests of Cuban
farmers." In response to the US State Department actions, it explains
that "the objective pursued by this type of measure is to influence the
Cuban peasantry and separate it from the State."
The entity, with around 200,000 members, details that something like
that "cannot be permitted, because it would destroy a Revolutionary
process that has provided participatory democracy, freedom, sovereignty
and independence." The National Bureau statement does not say, however,
if farmers devoted to the cultivation of coffee were consulted before
the statement was published.
Among the arguments put forth in the statement released in the official
press is the fact that "no one can imagine that a small agricultural
producer can export directly to the United States… To make this possible
Cuban foreign trade companies would have to participate and would have
to produce financial transactions in dollars, which so far they have not
been able to achieve," added.
ANAP presents itself in different forums as part of Cuban civil society,
but this statement says that the Cuban peasants are "members of the
socialist society" and they exist "as part of the State and not as
opposed to it."
The text which repeats an idea that has been raised by several figures
of the ruling party in recent months, says: "We face the objective of
the imperialist policy of promoting the division and disintegration of
In 2014, Cuba managed to produce 6,105 tons of coffee, an amount that
does not cover annual domestic demand, which stands at 24,000 tons. This
figure is very far from that achieved in the decade of the 1960s, when
more than 62,000 tons of this grain were produced.
Translated by Alberto
Source: Cuban Small Farmers Association Defends State Monopoly On The
Export Of Coffee / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-small-farmers-association-defends-state-monopoly-on-the-export-of-coffee-14ymedio-zunilda-mata/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 May 2016 — Since early this month,
members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have begun to
disseminate the document Minimum Program and Projections, which outlines
guidelines for the actions of the opposition organization, forms of
struggle, and a proposal for the country 's future.
With the publication of this text, which summarizes the experience of
the nation's largest group of activists, UNPACU is demonstrates maturity
and responds to criticisms about the Cuban opposition's lack of a
platform or agenda.
In nine pages, the program underlines the commitment of the opposition
to use peaceful means to reach its goals. It also clarifies that the
proposals contained are addressed to those living in the country and in
the diaspora and proclaims the need for "a free, democratic, just,
fraternal and prosperous Cuba."
This inclusiveness is appreciated in a nation that for decades no longer
exists only within the island, and where the phenomenon of emigration is
growing in numbers rather than diminishing in recent months.
Jose Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator for UNPACU, is optimistic that
the program's reach to date. Speaking to 14ymedio he noted, however,
that "the document is not final and is subject to changes or corrections."
For this former prisoner of the Black Spring, the platform is a "more
complete tool" in the work of the organization and has been received
"very well," mainly in Santiago de Cuba. Right now, he says, it is
"being distributed throughout the province, we will continue to print it
and send it to the rest of the country."
The text has not been the result of improvisation or a race against time
to publish a program. Several activists consulted confirmed that the
text originated in March of 2013, when the UNPACU instructed the lawyer
Rene Gomez Manzano, its chief legal adviser, to write the first draft.
That initial text was worked on by regime opponent Elizardo Sanchez
Santa Cruz and Ferrer himself, who used as sources for the final wording
of the document other texts, including: UNPACU, For The Cuba Of Your
Dreams and We Are UNPACU. Only after the recent close of the 7th
Congress of the Communist Party, with its disappointing results, did the
organization publish its program.
Ferrer explained that the dissemination of the text was preceded by
"many days of work and consensus in meetings occurring in several
provinces of the country." Technology was an ally in this effort, as
they were also able to share opinions through "emails, Facebook chat and
Twitter direct messages," he says.
The organization describes itself in the pages Minimum Program and
Projections as "a pluralistic and ecumenical effort of a union of
activists and former organizations." Its managers collected and
summarizes in their ideology components ideology "of Christian belief
and the liberal and social democratic doctrines."
Their main proposal for the country is summarized in "the establishment
of a democratic order that combines a social market economy, political
pluralism and makes possible greater equity and solidarity between the
individuals and groups that make up our society."
Copies of the program will be delivered to the "different levels of the
so-called People's Power, and, why not, the oppressor Party," said
Ferrer, who is quick to note that the "the main audience is the millions
of Cubans tired of living without rights, without freedom and in
complete misery. "
In its project for the economy, the program lists the current situation
as "an authoritarian capitalism, combining the worst of a savage market
and a state centralism," and details the main problems affecting items
such as wages, food, housing, transport, industry and agriculture, among
As a counterpart, UNPAC advocates a social market economy, where "both
the State and the markets, open to citizen control and advocacy, serve
as mechanisms to generate personal and public prosperity." It is also
committed to "the fertile combination of all forms of property and
production: small, medium or large, national, foreign or mixed," but
rejects the existence of state or private monopolies.
The group claims the right of Cubans living abroad to invest and own
property in the country and proposes the creation of "genuine agrarian
reform that recognizes the full rights of those who work the
land." Detailing the need to respect the properties acquired after 1959,
especially those used as living quarters, it intends to seek
"compensation formulas" and the right to put forward impartial claims
for confiscated property.
In the socio-political approach, the program calls for a new
constitution and a new electoral law "to ensure free, fair and
competitive elections," and proposes the establishment of freedom of
expression and association and the right to strike and unionize.
The document calls for respect for all religious beliefs and fraternal
organizations, and the promotion of Internet access, freedom in art,
academic freedom in teaching, university autonomy, the repeal of all
laws in force today that violate human rights and the immediate and
unconditional release of all political prisoners.
For those who see this emergence of this platform as a possible cause of
friction between dissident forces, Ferrer says that, on the contrary,
the new text "enriches and strengthens the struggle for the
democratization of Cuba." A clarification that is worth taking into
account is that the Democratic Unity Roundtable a coalition of
opposition organizations to which UNPACU belongs, is about to publish
its own program.
Ferrer does not believe in haste or improvisation, but stresses that
UNPACU members do not "like to leave for tomorrow what you can do today."
Source: Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/patriotic-union-of-cuba-launches-a-political-program-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
By MARY JO MURPHY MAY 5, 2016
The letter from Fidel Castro to the American people read like this:
"I wish to invite the American tourists and the American business men to
come back to Cuba."
"We are back to normal in Cuba, a Cuba where there is liberty, peace and
order, a beautiful land of happy people. Our hotels, shops and offices
are open and we want our friends from the United States to come and see
Cuba, which can now be counted among the countries where freedom and
democracy are a reality."
This was not the invitation that led an American cruise ship to sail
into Havana on Monday, the first from the United States to dock there in
40 years. Other forces and figures smoothed those choppy waters. Rather,
this invitation, according to a report in The Times, was issued by Mr.
Castro in January 1959, shortly after he overthrew the government of
President Fulgencio Batista.
Just months earlier, in November 1958, Mr. Castro's rebels were still
fighting hundreds of miles from Havana, and it was Batista who was
trying to revive tourism.
"To the visitor, Havana continues to be a charming, cosmopolitan city
which is rapidly becoming one of the most modern in Latin America," The
Times reported on Nov. 2.
"Streets are crowded and there is heavy traffic both day and night.
Motion picture theatres have good houses. At the big casinos and
nightclubs the play over the green tables is heavy. The Sevilla Biltmore
Hotel Casino has no limit on any wager in any game and recently two
Americans won $59,700 in two hours there at the blackjack table. This is
not rumor but an authenticated report."
When the Batista regime fell, it was left to Mr. Castro to resume the
enticements. And he did so with gusto.
A year after Mr. Castro's letter, the headline "Yankee Tourist Now a
V.I.P. in Cuba" ran in The Times along with a photograph issued by the
Cuban government showing a bikini-clad model posing seductively on
"That secretary of a number of years ago who went to Havana on one of
those cruises for $49.50 to spend a few days may be able to do so
again," R. Hart Phillips wrote. "Maybe not for $49.50, but for not too
much more than that. This is because Premier Fidel Castro has launched a
crash program designed to attract American visitors to Cuba, where
tourism is rapidly becoming a state owned and operated business."
Castro had made himself president of a new tourist organization with
"unlimited powers in tourism," Mr. Phillips reported. "With great
enthusiasm, he flies around the island, ordering the confiscation or
seizure of hotels and motels, the development of new beaches and the
construction of new roads, hotels, motels and other facilities for tourists.
"Strangely enough, Dr. Castro simultaneously talks of an 'imminent
invasion' by enemies of his regime and of blood flowing in the streets."
Nevertheless, Mr. Phillips reported, "the American tourist has become,
in the second year of the Revolution, a Very Important Person. He is
welcomed everywhere he goes. To the visitor, Cuba is a peaceful island
where the present Government is striving to remedy all evils of past
It may not have worked out quite as planned.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/07/us/politics/donald-trumps-idea-to-cut-national-debt-get-creditors-to-accept-less.html?ribbon-ad-idx=4&src=trending&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Art%20%26%20Design&action=swipe®ion=FixedRight&pgtype=article Continue reading
Panama has started to conduct a census of U.S.-bound Cuban migrants
stranded in that country and will soon be sending them to Mexico, where
they can resume the journey north. More than 3,000 Cuban migrants are in
Panama and the president said no more will be allowed through.
BY MARIO J. PENTÓN
Panama's Foreign Ministry has started a census count of the more than
670 Cuban migrants currently housed in the Los Planes shelter in
northern Chiriquí province, in anticipation for their expected transfer
to Mexico in coming days.
Another 3,000 Cubans, most of whom are stranded on the border with Costa
Rica, also will be allowed into the Los Planes shelter, counted and then
transferred to Mexico — the final such airlift for Cuban migrants on
trek to the United States, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said
"Once the transfer of those Cubans included in the census is completed,
those who arrive later will have to decide which country they want to
return to," Varela told local media as the country's borders shut down
to migrants in transit to the U.S. "We cannot become the logistical
support for an irregular migration route."
At least 100 Cubans making the trek are now in detention in Puerto
Obaldía, on the border with Colombia, awaiting for immigration
authorities to determine their fate. Many more Cuban migrants are likely
to face detention as they continue to travel from third countries
through Central America as part of their route to reach the U.S.-Mexico
The census and relocation of migrants from hotels to the Los Planes
shelter began last week.
"This is mostly pregnant women and families with children, who should be
taken to a place that has the services they deserve," Regional Migration
Director Alfredo Cordoba said in a telephone interview, adding that the
goal is "to concentrate all the migrants in an area where their basic
necessities can be met."
Cordoba added that the more than 3,000 Cuban migrants currently in
Panama will be transferred by groups to Los Planes, where the government
has mobilized a joint task force to handle the humanitarian crisis. The
task force is made up of officials from the agencies in charge of civil
emergencies, migration, border controls and the national police.
Angel Chale, one of the stranded Cubans, said he was hopeful he would
soon resume his journey to the United States.
"I think we're at the end of the process. At least they're not still
making photocopies of our passports. That's something," said Chale, who
moved to Los Planes from an old warehouse about one mile from the border
with Costa Rica, where he slept on the floor with another 400 Cubans.
"This new place is kind of fun. We usually play baseball or dominoes or
we dance," said Leslie Jesús Barrera, who arrived with Chale to Los
Planes and said he was grateful for the treatment provided by Panama,
including medical care. "We help out when we're asked to help with some
task, but otherwise it's like camping."
GODMOTHER TO THE CUBANS
Ángela Buendía is the director of the National Civil Defense System
(Sinaproc), but the migrants at Los Planes have nicknamed her "the
"They call me that because I identify with their needs and all of the
pain they suffered," she said.
Buendia said she learned to deal with the Cuban migrants during the
crisis that erupted in November, and since then she has sympathized with
the drama lived "by these thousands of people who have to leave their
country and often suffer intense traumas."
Although official statistics indicate that the numbers of migrants
traveling through have dropped, Buendia said the flow continues: "Each
day we receive 20 to 60 Cuban migrants in Chiriquí. That's why we
decided to prepare this shelter," she said.
Los Planes was originally built to house Swiss workers who worked on a
"It's about 10 acres, with nice landscaping and all kinds of amenities,"
Buendia said. "The only prohibition is that they cannot go out at night,
for their own security."
The complex will soon offer free Wifi, but for now the migrants must
connect on a local data network.
"The biggest problem I've had with the Cubans is that when they get
here, because they come from a place without freedom, they feel
completely free. And of course they sometimes confuse freedom with
debauchery," she added.
But not all the undocumented Cuban migrants want to move to Los Planes.
"The problem I see with that place is that it's too remote. From the
Milenium Hotel, you can at least work under the table and earn a few
pesos," said Dariel, who declined to give his full name for fear of
losing his job. His work as a carpenter, a skill he learned in Cuba,
allows him to survive and, he confessed, to "save something, in case I
can continue the trip north."
"We even had Cuban prostitutes here, and they're services were cheaper
than the Panamanians'. They were smart, because in the end, they managed
to save some money and today they are in the Yuma," he said, using Cuban
slang for the United States.
Even though they sleep jammed in hallways, or in tents put up in private
homes as night falls, hundreds of Cubans have preferred to remain close
to the border with Costa Rica.
"It is a problem that affects communities that many times are overcome
by the numbers of migrants who arrive," said Cordoba.
Many of the local residents have seen an opportunity for profit with the
Cubans. Along with the increase in the flow of migrants, there's been
increases in the number of hostels and restaurants, usually at prices
double what Panamanians would pay.
"I don't want to go to the (Los Planes) shelter … because that's too
far. I prefer to stay here because I am in a town and at least I can
take care of myself," said Yanieris, a 35-year-old Cuban woman who
arrived from Guyana. "That's difficult, of course. But if tomorrow I
want to go off with a coyote (people smuggler), there will be no one to
keep me from doing it."
COYOTES ON THE PROWL
Juan Ramón is one of the Cubans in Panama who decided he did not want to
wait. He gathered $1,400 from friends and relatives in Miami and crossed
the border with Costa Rica one night, with six other Cubans and a coyote
"In each country one coyote handed us over to another. We went through
all kinds of things on the road — jungles, rivers, lakes … It's very
hard," Juan Ramón said.
The worst part of the trip, he said, came as they tried to walk around a
military outpost in Nicaragua. "A thug sent by the smuggler himself
robbed us, took everything we had. He took even the cellular phone. It
was a terrible experience, because we could have lost our lives and no
one would have known," he recalled.
After more than 12 days on the road, Juan Ramón reached a U.S.
immigration station in El Paso, Texas, where he waited for documents
allowing him to remain in the United States under parole.
Trying to evade the controls on the border between Costa Rica and
Nicaragua, the Cuban migrants have used unique methods such as hiding in
water trucks or in boats for short hops on the Pacific ocean.
After Costa Rican authorities cracked down in November on a crime ring
that was smuggling undocumented Cuban migrants on their way to the
United States, the Sandinista government of Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega closed its borders to the Cubans.
The two measures cut the flow of migrants and left at least 8,000 Cubans
stranded in Costa Rica, which in turn closed its border with Panama and
left thousands of other Cubans stranded in Panama. Mexico eventually
agreed to a humanitarian airlift and allowed most of the migrants to fly
to Mexico and move by land to the United States.
People smugglers have turned the northward flow of migrants into a
business that generates millions of dollars in profits. Since October of
2014, nearly 132,000 Central Americans and about 75,000 Cubans have
crossed the U.S. border, according to immigration data.
Source: Panama prepares to transfer some 3,000 U.S.-bound Cuban migrants
to Mexico | In Cuba Today -
http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article75161897.html 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 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
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
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,"
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
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,"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
'We have to seize moment,' says International Relations Minister
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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