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No, No and No Raul Castro / Jose Luis Garcia Antunez
Posted on August 31, 2014

This I believe is the second or third occasion that I write to you, and
as always without the least mood or desire that you answer me, because
given the absolute contempt and disgust that emanates from your person I
can't feel otherwise.

Señor Dictator and Genocide, 24 years and five months ago at barely 25
years, five months and 15 days of age I dared to defy you. Surely your
lackeys and sycophants in the high command of the political police and
the party mentioned it to you.

I remind the dictator, that night you pronounced in the city of Santiago
de Cuba that call to the Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba,
and as always with a discourse like so many and like so many of your
brother's, barely a few paid you any attention.

I recall that I was in the plaza that you all call Revolution, where big
loudspeakers transmitted to mute, hungry and above all deaf people your
verbal diarrhea. That was Thursday March 15, 1990, Stalinist Europe was
falling, the old Soviet empire was at the point of disintegrating and
here in the Caribbean a senile caste was clinging to power and refusing
to implement reforms.

For demanding them, that evening, your bullying forces savagely beat me,
their educational bodies tortured me and instructed me so that months
later your lackey judiciary would sentence me to deprivation of liberty
for the famous crime of "oral enemy propaganda."

Señor Dictator, I believe it feasible to confess to you that at the
moment of my detention I was still unaware of the long and proven
history of crime and terror instituted by your brother and you.

From the forced labor, the concentration camps of the UMAP, the sad
history of those captive peoples and not to mention the Castro meddling
in the internal affairs of other countries and in international
conflicts. Maybe because of that lack of knowledge, I only asked for
reforms and screamed that communism was a mistake and a utopia. Today,
after knowing your system better, I ask for its overthrow and I catalog
communism as an aberration and a crime: the social plague of the 20th

It was only enough for me that day to feel that as a young man and a
Cuban, I was not free; that as a social being I lacked something in
order to be able to breathe and walk. I felt that I was prohibited from
speaking and that I must either continue using the mask in order to
avoid problems, or remove it and act and live in accord with myself
although that would mean suffering the most horrible repression.

I did that, I defied you, General without battles. I did it in spite of
your known fame as a cruel and bloodthirsty man. I did it, General and
the only thing that I regret is not having had the valor, the
opportunity or perhaps the possibility of doing it much sooner.

On the other hand, I also have to confess to you that the idea never
entered my mind that such a sickening fury of hatred and harassment was
going to be applied to me.

That in 1993, three years after the arrest and completing my unjust
imprisonment in Cause # 4 of 1990, your famous division for crimes
against State Security in the gloomy Popular Provincial Tribunal of
Santa Clara condemned me again, now in Cause #5 of that year for
supposed acts against your socialist Revolution for which I had to spend
17 years and 38 days of uninterrupted political imprisonment which
offered me the possibility of learning firsthand about torture and
vexation as a weapon of political repression.

Raul Castro, my case is known to you, because it was you and no one else
who ordered the multiple searches and lootings by those who have
victimized me in my home during the last weeks where in the grossest
flaunting of force and impunity you commanded that your cowards and
opportunist assault troops partially destroy my house and steal items
left and right on more than one occasion, goods, office materials,
medications, food during these acts known in the Cuban jargon as acts of
thievery, well, in the end, each does what he is taught.

Señor General, and now that you also title yourself president of the
Councils of State and of Ministers, I know well how many letters
opponents have sent you from within and without asking you to carry out
reforms and political opening as well as to hold elections. They ask it
of you as if you really were a president and as if in Cuba a true
government were in power and not a tyranny.

We know that at any moment, you, a Machiavellian and opportunistic
tyrant, are going to accept what they ask and carry out a referendum,
that is to say, an electoral farce under your control, where like in
Venezuela the totalitarian officialism will continue in power.

And it is no longer a secret for anyone, the desperate and astute
maneuvers that you and your acolytes carry out in order to manufacture
supposed opponents and assure with them the dynastic and ideological

But we warn you, General, which is one of the reasons for this missive,
that we, the decent Cubans committed to the future of our country, we
are not going to accept that fraudulent and cosmetic change that you all
forge. Know also that the Cuban Resistance does not expect or want
reforms implemented by the criminal tyranny over which you preside. The
only reforms to be accepted by us would be after your overthrow or
withdrawal from power, which the people will carry out from their base.

Señor Dictator, enough tricks, because you will not get another new
mandate, that does not even matter to us. That you carry out reforms in
the arena of economics and migration, that is a bunch of lies, and that
does not matter to us, either. That your regime carries out an update of
its model is another fallacy and another lie. That is more of the same.
That you will sell a monetary reform, tremendous trick and lie, General.

We, the people of Cuba, need a democratic system where a market economy
prevails. One, two, three or ten thousand currencies, it does not
matter, as long as there exists a centralized and asphyxiating economy
like your totalitarian system. We, Señor dictator, we do not want you,
nor reforms nor openings, you people are not our owners, nor do you need
to dictate our guidelines.

We know that your time on the earth is running out, and that powerful
interests have shown the intention of playing the game or dividing juicy
profits at the cost of the pain and sacrifice of the Cuban people.

General Raul Catro, warning about the danger of the fraudulent change,
you ordered killed Oswaldo Paya and young Harold Cepero. I doubt that
you now have enough goons to keep killing the thousands and thousands
that like Paya and Harold will keep denouncing your tricks and constant

For Laura Pollan, a defenseless woman, you sent your paid assassins to
get you out of it, because you could not defeat her in her marches every
Sunday on Avenue Quinta. It did not matter to you her condition as a
woman and the justice of her cry. But also Laura defeated you, coward
General, because her valiant troops of the Ladies in White survived the
cruel execution of their leader and now spread like patriotic wildfire
across the whole Island.

And they have also defeated you: Pedro Luis Boitel, Olegario Charlotte
Pileta, Orlando Zpata, Wilman Villar and many others who had the courage
to sacrifice themselves in the name of liberty and in respect for their
dignity, this honor that you lack as well as your goons who threatened
me with death in reprisal for my slogan that "I won't shut up and I
won't leave Cuba."

They themselves, also, barely some days ago, during one of the many
arrests of which I have been victim, tortured and beat me, now that
according to them and you, I sabotage the efforts of your tyranny to
normalize relations with the United States.

Know General Raul Castro that neither the absurd precaution of house
arrest that weighs against me and the evident threat of being
assassinated, will be able to make me change my purpose which is shared
by thousands and thousands of Cubans.

You all will not be able, Raul Castro, to crush a people who have grown
tired of living without freedom, just as you will not be able to
materialize the international conspiracy that is conceived against the
cause of freedom for Cuba. That conspiracy, Raul Castro, will not have
success, whether it comes from Havana, Washington, Brussels or Vatican
City itself. You people will not be able, General, because as much as
you, your family or that cruel and bloodthirsty party may know, you will
be excluded from all process of democratic change because you all mean
the negation of democracy itself.

And tell your subordinates, General, that I am here and will be, in my
beloved homeland of Placetas from which neither you nor your repressive
forces nor anyone will remove me, and that my humble home, although
profaned, vandalized and sacked by your faction, will continue being a
bastion of Resistance, fight, refuge and sanctuary for my compatriots
who fight against you and in favor of liberty and justice.

And tell them also, General, your promoters and accomplices, whether
your spokesmen are in Miami, Washington, Brussels, Havana or the Vatican
itself to stop rubbing their hands, we say no to your preservation of
the status quo because here in Cuba there will be no reconciliation
without there first being justice, liberty and democracy.

And, as we foresee, also tell some governments that call themselves
democratic and are in on the conspiracy, that they are wasting time,
General, that the event that we Cubans need and hope for international
solidarity, does not mean that some country or foreign power, as very
powerful or influential as it may be, is going to form part of our
process of change, because Cubans, those who are within and those who
are without, we are convinced that the solution for Cuba has to be and
must be resolved among Cubans, excluding of course you people, General,
who because of the damage that you have done to our nation, do not even
deserve to call yourselves Cubans.

Raul Castro Ruz, in the name of the people of Cuba, my fellow prisoners
and the victims of your dictatorship, I tell you no, no and no.

From Placetas, in the heart of Cuba, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez,"
who will not shut up or leave Cuba.

Translated by mlk.

21 August 2014

Source: No, No and No Raul Castro / Jose Luis Garcia Antunez |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
This I believe is the second or third occasion that I write to you, and as always without the least mood or desire that you answer me, because given the absolute contempt and disgust that emanates from your person I … Continue reading Continue reading
Judge Claudia House Morcom, second from left, followed by Alicia Jrapko, Graciela Ramirez, Gloria Justo, Netfa Freeman on the right end, Nov. 2013. Photo: International Committee For The Freedom Of Continue reading
Posted on August 27, 2014


The power of Castro's dictatorship couldn't rely only in the
annihilation of all kind of opposition, despite the fact that, since
January 1959, its governability depended on fear (out of pure terror) to
reduce a plural society to military obedience, ideological hatred, and
apartheid, whether geographical (in the case of the exiled for life) or
uncivil (for those resisting as pariah on an Island turned into a labor
camp behind The Iron Curtain). Detaching our homeland from its
hemispheric context put us into orbit as a satellite of the totalitarian
axis of the Cold War: the best alternative for the new class —now a
gerontocracy elite in their eighties— to keep control in perpetuity, or
at least for over a dozen of White House administrations.

The power of Castro's dictatorship necessarily had to rely also on
violence and, for so many —let's say— people of good-will in the world,
the beauty implicit in the narrative of The Revolution, with its ritual
of burying a decadent past in order to resurrect it in a fertile future,
as all revolutionary rhetorics promotes itself. To the image and
likeness of those historical guerrillas, nowadays only octogenarians
inside Cuba remember what presidential elections are all about. Such a
legacy leaves a discouraging anthropological damage if we are ever to
move forward from the Castrozoic Era.

Our citizenship was homogenized as soldiership, under the vertical rule
of a personality cult, as a justification to survive against a foreign
foe meant to last forever: nothing less than the first economy and war
potency of the First World, an anthological archenemy called
Imperialism. But nobody believes in this Fidelity fable anymore. And,
after half a century of officially sequestering the sovereign will of
our nation, it's about time for Cubans to recover their own voice, since
the Castros' long-lasting regime is the one who should retire in silence.

Our historical circumstances are critical today for those determined to
restore democracy in what was once called the Switzerland of The
Americas. The long-sought transition is finally on its way, 25 years too
late after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The demands of a peaceful civil
society are being dealt with by the Cuban government not as inherent to
human dignity, but as privileges and concessions for those who keep
quiet, fostering even more the hypocrisy of our culture of simulation,
without really respecting the fundamental rights of which Cubans
remained deprived, while selectively targeting our truest leaders, those
who wouldn't compromise with the despotism of fraudulent changes,
subjecting them to the abusive force of an intact intelligence apparatus
based on private surveillance and social stigmatization, concealed
coercion and cooption, and ultimately extra-judiciary execution,
disguised as a sudden disease or a car-crash, as it criminally occurred
to the winners of the European Parliament's Andrei Sakharov Award for
Freedom of Thought: Laura Pollán in October 2011 (founder of the Ladies
In White) and to Oswaldo Payá in July 2012 (founder of the Christian
Liberation Movement).

In the twilight of the first-generation Castros, everything is changing
in Cuba so that nothing changes in the end, in a desperately slow
transition from Power to Power, instead of from the Rule of Law to Rule
of Law, as was constitutionally requested by more than 25,000 Cuban
citizens, who publicly subscribed to the Varela Project, and who are
still waiting for the answer due from the National Assembly of People's
Power; although it's sadly known that the authorities' response was
silence in the mass media, a phony plebiscite in 2002, the massive
trials of the Black Spring of 2003 and the deportations of 2010
(involving an insulting Catholic hierarchy), plus the barbaric bonus of
the assassination not only of the reputation but of the precious lives
of those who wouldn't abide by our 21st century absolutism.

On one hand, a biological succession is underway in Cuba to a
neo-Castroism without Castros, or given the case, with second-generation
Castros, which are kindly invited to visit US: LGBT deputy Mariela
Castro and baseball dandy Antonio Castro. Emphasized in their hardliner
discourse of revolutionary intolerance, a State Capitalism is being
implemented in Cuba, one that combines the worse lack of freedom from
Communism with the worse corruption and captive markets of the
underdeveloped democracies.

On the other hand, tired of waiting for an opening in the Island,
complicit in today's crimes with the promise that profits will prevent
tomorrow's crimes, the international community is already turning their
backs on the remains of Cuban civil society, while compassionately
patting them on their shoulders, and sometimes even supporting them with
a petty percent of their investments with the State tycoons of Havana.
The EU is making an approach, so US should hasten and hesitate no more.
If Cuba is already doomed not to become a democracy, at least let it be
a dictocracy, is the ridiculous rationale of such not so "hard choices".

Consequently, the presidents of all chambers of commerce are ready to
act, since their legitimate jobs are to trade no matters what, with no
matters who. Many Cuban exiles are indolently or interestedly
prêt-à-porter too, as conveniently-funded push-polls seem to prove, and
as the age composition of Cuban emigration is radically renovated,
especially after the 2013 migratory reform in the Island, that
constitutes not only an escape valve for inner tensions, but also a coup
de grâce to the once emblematic —now barely residual— Cuban Adjustment Act.

The overall impression is that the further from the Castros, the easier
it is to become and behave pro-Castros, while anti-Castroism abroad is
now practically considered "harassment" by the academics and the NGO's
from that once-despicable capitalism that deserved humiliation first and
then inhumation from the proletarians of all over the world, united!

Many of the said universities and NGO's (some located in the US capital)
travel several times a year to Cuba only to accept blackmail from State
Security agents, behaving according a Castro agenda that they would
denounce as intolerable were it dictated by, for example, their own
State Department or Congress. I have met them in person. In unfortunate
cases, they have again labeled me with that pathetic epithet of
"mercenary" (as if there were good dollars and bad dollars from the
American tax-payer). In other cases, they have just advised me to
repent, since even I can still be a useful variable in this Cuban
equation with zero ethics.

If we are to lose the challenges imposed by global Castroism, or if we
have already lost this struggle for redemption and haven't realized it,
I'm still proud of having had the unique opportunity of being in touch
with so many Cubans of good will —as well as with foreigners'
solidarity— who keep alive the notion of being born with inalienable
rights, and that still believe that only Life in Truth is worthy of
being called human.

As with other biblical peoples, maybe we Cubans have lost Cuba, or are
not going to recognize it any longer when we return there once the last
of the Castros is gone, since Castroites will be waiting for us to make
our lives much more miserable. But this doesn't imply at all that
Freedom was on the wrong side of History. Freedom will always be our
right on the right side of History. Even if it's a faithful failure over
and over.

We Cubans are at risk that Evil might have prevailed too long among us
for our Nation to reconcile with itself. The Government and the People
of the United States of America, as in the 19th and 20th centuries, in
2014 have a debt with Cuban democrats and republicans and liberals and
conservatives and the rest of our non-totalitarian subjects trapped in
such an obsolete model: a debt not economical nor political nor military
but of a moral nature.

It's for the best interests of US not to abandon Cuban citizens in their
Caribbean backyard under a rogue State, since the supposed stability of
our region is only a time compass for the rogues to counterattack
America, where a normalized climate will only allow the abnormality that
Castroism represents to have a free hand to undermine —with felonies—
the foundations of the United States.

Original in English

27 August 2014

Lazo | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
NEW DELHI: As official representatives of the Republic of Cuba in India, a country with which historically we have maintained friendly relations and cooperation, we feel a moral obligation to clarify Continue reading
THE TRANSITION THAT IS ABOUT NOT TO COME The power of Castro’s dictatorship couldn’t rely only in the annihilation of all kind of opposition, despite the fact that, since January 1959, its governability depended on fear (out of pure terror) … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba cracks down on Christians
Posted Aug. 25, 2014, 11:30 a.m.

Cuba's communist government has increased its oppression of religious
institutions, according to a Christian watchdog group, with reports of
religious liberty violations almost doubling in the last six months.

According to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW),
there were 170 religious freedom violations from the start of 2014
through mid-July. In 2013, there were only 180 incidents documented.
This year's violations included government authorities beating pastors
and lay workers, dragging politically dissident women away from Sunday
services, and enforcing arbitrary detentions, church closures, and
demolitions, CSW said.

Todd Nettleton, with Voice of the Martyrs, agreed that government
persecution is on the rise in Cuba.

"It does seem like the government is paying more attention to the
churches and making much of a concerted effort to control religious
expression in Cuba," Nettleton said. Although the government has not
given a reason for the crackdown, Nettleton suggested President Raul
Castro could be more hostile to Christianity than his brother, or more
aware of it. The government might also be looking at the church and
sensing a need to assert control.

While the government of the once-atheist country is communist, Cuba's
constitution claims to allow religious freedom: "The State recognizes,
respects, and guarantees religious liberty." But that right, as well as
others, are ignored if the government claims they conflict with
communism, CSW said.

Article 62 of the Cuban constitution declares: "No recognized liberty
may be exercised against the existence and aims of the socialist State
and the nation's determination to build socialism and communism."

The Cuban Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) has authority over all
religious groups in Cuba and it has a "consistently antagonistic
relationship" with many of those groups, CSW notes in its report.
Roughly 56 percent of Cubans identify as Christian, according to
Operation World.

CSW said most of the cases of women being detained and forced to miss
church were Roman Catholics and Ladies in White, a political dissident
group made up of women related to political prisoners.

Churches also are often pressured and threatened by the government to
expel congregants the government considers political dissidents.
Churches that resist "are under constant and intrusive government
surveillance," CSW said. Roman Catholic priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez
Alegre's refusal to shun individuals the government wants to keep
socially isolated led to the state installing video cameras to watch his
home and church. His email accounts have also been blocked.

CSW said protestant leaders are often threatened with having their
churches closed if they refuse to expel and shun certain people.
Government reprisals also have included frozen bank accounts, harassment
and violence.

Cuban Christians live with the daily threat that everything, including
their educational opportunities and employment, could be taken away,
Nettleton said. Students could be kicked out of school without cause,
flunked even if they have straight A's, or be refused the diploma they
earned. They are constantly pressured to leave the church and follow the
government, Nettleton said.

Since 1959, the Cuban government has planted informants within churches
and religious groups to report anything critical of the state or deemed

Source: WORLD | Cuba cracks down on Christians | Julia A. Seymour | Aug.
25, 2014 - Continue reading
Team notes changes in Cuba in six years of mission trips
Friday, August 22, 2014
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Villa Heights Baptist Church has sent a mission team to Cuba off and on
for about six years, according to the church's pastor, the Rev. Keith
Spangenberg, who said he has seen some changes there during that time.
Teams went annually from about 2005-07 and 2012-14; the latest trip was
July 14-22.
"Changes that we have noticed in last three years, (they are) trying to
draw a lot more European tourists in, doing a lot of refurbishing of
Havana hotels, restaurants along the beach," Spangenberg said. "...
There also are newer cars. You still see a lot of 1956 and '57 cars they
jerry-rigged to keep going. If you see a newer car likely it's driven by
a government official."
Janet Copenhaver, who works for the Henry County Schools and went on the
trip for a fifth year, agreed: "Most Cubans have a very old car unless
you work for the government. Lots of people walk or take public
transportation instead of owning cars. Buses are very crowded and people
have to get to a bus stop very early to go anywhere. Most of the people
indicated that the bus ride to the church we visited was at least an
hour coming and going back home."
According to "The World Factbook" on the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency website, the Cuban government in 2011 held the first Cuban
Communist Party Congress in almost 13 years. A plan for wide-ranging
economic changes was approved at that session.
"Since then, the Cuban government has slowly and incrementally
implemented limited economic reforms, including allowing Cubans to buy
electronic appliances and cell phones, stay in hotels and buy and sell
used cars," according to the website. "The Cuban government also opened
up some retail services to 'self-employment.' ... Recent moves include
permitting the private ownership and sale of real estate and new
vehicles, allowing private farmers to sell agricultural goods directly
to hotels, and expanding categories of self-employment."
It added that despite these reforms, the average Cuban's standard of
living is worse than before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the
resulting downturn of the 1990s.
"Cubans have very little money to spend," Copenhaver said. "One of the
ladies that worked with us as a translator just retired and her
retirement check from the government is 20 pesos a month (about $20 U.S.
dollars). She also received vouchers of things she could purchase at the
store. Of course stores did not have lots of stock on the shelves so she
may not be able to purchase things during that month even if she had a
"It seems that in some areas, time stood still; when you visit houses,
they are very small, with concrete flooring. If houses have a
refrigerator, it is the rounded one like the '50s and '60s," she added.
Cuba has one of the world's least free economies, according to the 2014
Index of Economic Freedom, a joint publication of The Heritage
Foundation and The Wall Street Journal.
"A one-party Communist state, Cuba depends on external assistance
(chiefly oil provided by Venezuela ... and remittances from Cuban
émigrés) and a captive labor force to survive. Property rights are
severely restricted. Fidel Castro's 81-year-old younger brother Raul
continues to guide both the government and the Cuban Communist Party.
Cuba's socialist command economy is in perennial crisis," the index states.
"The average worker earns less than $25 a month, agriculture is in
shambles, mining is depressed and tourism revenue has proven volatile,"
the index states.
Spangenberg said that from what he saw, homes for most Cubans are
simple. He said the three daughters (ages 8, 12 and 17) of a minister he
worked with in Guanabo shared a bedroom, which was barely large enough
for the girls' three beds.
In Cuba, he also saw laundry hanging on balconies, and cisterns on the
tops of homes to catch rainwater for bathing, he said. Mission team
members drank and brushed their teeth with bottled water. They used
local water only to take showers.
Toilet seats are rare, Spangenberg said. They break easily and are hard
to replace.
"Roads that are heavily traveled by tourists and state roads between
cities get the most attention," he said. In the country he saw dirt
roads, horse-drawn carts, carriages and wagons.
Spangenberg also saw "a prevalence of police out on street corners and
around. We were told at one time groups of more than three are not
allowed. If more, they are asked to disperse. You don't see a lot of
people gathered together, talking on street corners."
According to a U.S. Department of State report, "The security
environment in Cuba is relatively stable and characterized by a strong
military and police presence throughout the country."
Janet Copenhaver is the director of technology and innovation for Henry
County Public Schools. Her husband, James, who also went on the mission
trip, was stationed in Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis in

Source: Team notes changes in Cuba in six years of mission trips -
Martinsville Bulletin - Continue reading
AUSTRALIAN director Peter Cousens has comfortably settled into the director's chair in the American film industry. Freedom, which was shot in Connecticut, USA, had Mr Cousens behind the camera as the Continue reading
“But Cubans are tired, Cubans want changes. More than ten years ago more than 25,000 Cubans supported a legal reform project. Called the Varela Project, it called for a plebiscite to ask the people, yes or no, did they want … Continue reading Continue reading
I’d like to be able to have a conversation with the Cuban-American Yadira Escobar. The photo in her blog tells me that she is young, and the information she provides about herself indicates that she emigrated when she was very little. I … Continue reading Continue reading
Madrid, August 20 (RHC)-- Etxarri Aranatz City City Council in the Chartered Community of Navarre, Spain, approved a motion calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to release the three Cuban anti-terrorists Continue reading
The Office of the ANC Chief Whip welcomes the resolution of the National Assembly at its sitting last night calling for the immediate release and freedom of the remaining members of the Cuban Five. Continue reading
Amidst Rumors and Disinformation, Angel Santiesteban Continues Missing
Posted on August 18, 2014

{*Translator's Note: Angel disappeared from prison on July 21, 2014. As
of today he has not been heard from for 29 days.}

Five days* have passed now since the disappearance of the writer Angel
Santiesteban in Havana, barely hours after he wrote a post from Lawton
prison, in which he announced to the world that there were strong rumors
that the Regime's prison authorities would transfer him to a higher
security prison.

After his disappearance from said prison last July 21, without the Cuban
authorities informing family members of anything, another rumor started
circulating: supposedly, Angel Santiesteban had escaped. In a telephone
call that the writer's son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban, made to the
prison, worried at not knowing anything about his father, a minor
official confirmed the rumor. "I don't know if they did it to scare me,
to make me more nervous than I am," said the 16-year-old, on the
Columbian television program, Night, Channel NTN24. In conversations
with family and friends he has said that he feels this lie by the
regime's prison officials is a bad sign.

Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban Prats said the same thing, from Miami:
"The telephone harassment I'm suffering since my brother disappeared in
Cuba, and other information we have obtained and that can't now be
revealed in order to protect some people on the island and in exile,
make me think that this is another maneuver of the dictatorship:
Spreading this rumor about my brother's escape serves only to deflect
attention from something big they are doing to him and that they don't
want known." In a conversation with the NeoClub Press agency, she
affirmed that "They are blackmailing me; last night, for example, I
received an anonymous call coming from Japan. They call me and tell me
that it's better that I shut up, that I'm going to end up losing."

A simple analysis of the facts preceding Santiesteban's disappearance is
enough to confirm the family's suspicions.

After many months without responding to the Request for Review of the
judgment against Angel, undertaken by the defense attorney last year,
the Cuban judicial authorities (as they have now demonstrated in this
case, manipulated by the Cuban political police) received a hard blow
which totally undid the judicial farce they prepared to condemn the
lauded Cuban writer to five years for a supposed crime of domestic
violence. One of the principal prosecution witnesses, the writer's own
son, Eduardo Angel Santiesteban, granted an interview to Television
Marti, in which he explained that being a minor he was forced and
manipulated by his mother – Kenia Diley Rodriguez – at the urging of
Castro's State Security, forcing him through psychologists and other
specialists, to declare against his father.

In this interview, and in a later one on the television program Colombia
Night, he confessed that he never saw anything like what his mother said
Angel did, and that the political police took advantage of "amorous"
problems between his parents, inciting Kenia Diley Rodriguez to
collaborate in a plot to punish Angel's dissident stance and the
international denunciations that he made in his blog, The Children
Nobody Wanted. This evidence, which exposed the dirty strategy of State
Security, makes it logical to think that the regime would want to punish
the writer and his family with this disappearance. It's not an isolated
fact, since every Cuban dissident who has been incarcerated can tell
similar stories.

Another detail that casts doubt about the rumor of flight is the same
post the writer sent from prison, hours before his disappearance, in
which he made known that one of the possible reasons of his transfer was
the fact that two high government officials, condemned for corruption,
would be sent to Lawton prison, where he was located. Logic imposes
itself: It was necessary to transfer Angel to avoid his making contact
with these officials and thereby getting first-hand information about
the corruption in high spheres of the island's government.

A third event to take into account would be the constant threats that
Angel received in the last months to stop writing denunciations in his
blog. In spite of these threats, in spite of the fact that he had to
hide in order to write and look for different ways of eluding the
vigilance to get his writing out of prison, they didn't manage to shut
him up; so that, in communication with his friends and family, he had
shown his suspicion that they would transfer him to a higher security
prison (thereby violating the established legal procedure for cases with
his sanction), if only to avoid his continued denunciation of the most
sinister face of a dictatorship that pretends to show itself to the
world as a truly human system.

Finally, as Angel Santiesteban's international prestige has grown, the
repressive forces of the regime have become more rabid and impotent. Its
murderous blindness doesn't permit them to digest the fact that
important intellectual and international human rights institutions have
their eyes on the writer, unjustly imprisoned on the island; that this
world recognition has allowed him to receive the Jovenaje 2014 award,
which is granted every year for the work and life of an important Cuban
intellectual, and that Reporters Without Borders has included him on the
list of the world's 100 Information Heroes.

"Something big has happened and they are hiding it," said Maria de los
Angeles, Angel's sister, in several interviews these last days. "I
demand that they show my brother alive and well, because he never has
had the intention of escaping."

We have mentioned it many times but it's good to remember it again: The
little time he has been in prison, Angel was visited by agents of State
Security to offer him his freedom in exchange for abandoning his
antagonistic position and testifying about this compromise in a video.
After roundly refusing, they told him he should look for a friendly
embassy to arrange his deportation, something Angel also roundly
refused. It's also good to remember again how many times they threatened
him with death, in prison or before.

Obviously they don't make such proposals to a simple "home invader"; if
anyone knows something about home invasions it's the regime; it's a
daily practice with which they try to intimidate the valiant and
peaceful opposition. And they know about maltreating women, which we can
add to everything the world knows and consents to with its complicit
silence. The Castro regime takes the prize for its duplicitous
discourse, now charging Mariela Castro to "sell" the image of an open
government that respects gender diversity. It's enough to see the brutal
images of aggression against the Ladies in White, to know their
testimonies, along with that of other dissident women and LGBT activists
who don't conform to the designs of the dictatorship, to know how much
falsity there is in that Castrista discourse.

Angel has spent five days* in an unknown location, and WE DEMAND HIS
justice be done, and that after the Revision of the judgment, with all
its procedural guarantees, he be freed because HE IS INNOCENT.

RAUL CASTRO is absolutely responsible for what can happen to Angel, and
do. The international community is witness to all this horror happening
to Angel, and NOW THERE IS NO PLACE FOR IMPUNITY. The same goes for his

The Editor

Maria de los Angeles Santiesteban, in the name of the whole family

Amir Valle

Lilo Vilaplana

Translated by Regina Anavy, August 18, 2014
26 July 2014

Source: Amidst Rumors and Disinformation, Angel Santiesteban Continues
Missing | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Investment in Cuba? What for? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

ASCE XXIV / 2014 Annual Conference, Miami Hilton Downtown Hotel,
Florida, USA
Panel 12. Concerto Ballrom B – Friday, August 1st, 2:45-4:15pm


In Cuba during the 1970s, historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals challenged
poet Jose Lezama Lima with his trendy scientific notions about the laws
of objectivity and the transition to a colonial/pseudo
republic/revolution from the slave mills to the Slavic sugarcane
cutters; the now forgotten Soviet KTP. Exhaling an asthmatic
counterpoint through his cigar, Lezama Lima responded to Moreno
Fraginals without foregoing the Marxist irony of a convenient Catholic:
"Ah… But when will we have a history that is qualitative?"

Are we Cubans lacking the type of analysis that at the margins of
academic exactitude and author-centered erudition would also require
ethicality? Is a qualitative economy that can escape the comparisons of
percents and profits and the tendency to always side with the expounder
at all conceivable? Is a qualitative political system that rises above
the lowbrow politics practiced in our country unthinkable? How about a
qualitative sociology without ideological determinism and infallible
founders? When all is said and done, is the anthropology of a quality
Cuban one that is multidimensional, subjective, and liberated from the
consensus imposed upon on us with the rhythm of a conga drumbeat?

No wonder the Professor did not answer the Master's question. Today,
when it comes to Raul Castro's reforms that in an ever-changing and
capricious landscape that hides a clan's control while a new image of
legitimacy is created, would Moreno Fraginals rely on the laws of
objectivity in a transition from communism to capitalism? And would
Lezama Lima respond to him with an "Ah… And when we will Cuba have a
history of qualitative capitalism?" Poetry asks impossible questions
that history can answer, though it finds it inconvenient to do so.


Today, by either vocation or duty, Cubanologists discuss their theories
about the island. They have placed their bets for quantitative changes
on the seat of power, avoiding any consultation with the will of the
Cuban people. For many of them the Revolution is a victim, not the
victimizer, and as such is granted the right to not disappear. Because
of this, throughout all of American academia, an anti-Castro stance is
practically considered intellectual harassment.

Therefore, Cubans are supposed to have no other alternative than to
collaborate with the government in the construction of controllable
capitalism that is already irreversible while the country's socialistic
constitution remains "irrevocable." In this scam of a transition, borne
of short memories where horrors become simply errors, liberty becomes an
encumbrance threatening to make everything end in a debacle. And it is
this astute death threat that forces us to be loyal as a post-socialist
substitute for legality.

"A country is not run like a campsite," another poet once told to
another general. But those who once dressed in olive-green uniforms and
now as the new generation wear business suits, have turned the country
into a campsite so as not to fully contradict Jose Marti's words to
Maximo Gomez. Citizens are abundant, but soldiers are saviors: the
disinterest of the former is secondary to the discipline of the latter.
The year 2018 is being called the new 1958. After 60 years of solitary
power, biology finally brings us a calendar without the Castros. But
after waiting for so long, we Cubans can now wait a little more. We have
become accustomed to the family legacy that leaves us the choice between
a parliamentarian sexologist and a colonel –like Putin– from the
Ministry of the Interior. One is in charge of reproduction and the other
of repression; she is in charge of pleasure, he of power; academia and
military; diplomacy and impertinence; masquerade and malice.

The inverted logic behind investing in such a Cuba is that after the
profits, it would precipitate a multi-party political system: vouchers
that will promote voting; underdevelopment erased by cash flowing
through banks; from Che to checks. Like dissidents without God, layman
Lenier Gonzalez might call them "wolves in sheep's clothing," because
the nation teeters on collapse between a war of economic action from the
outside and peaceful resistance from the inside.

Perhaps to sidestep such suspicions, foreign investors avoid showing off
the profit gained from a captive and insular market. They seem to invest
with almost-humanitarian intentions, although their "good deed" will be
repaid by having their property seized and not a few of them will end up
deported, imprisoned, or dead from a heart attack during interrogations
performed by State Security. As for Cuban exiles, they are not even
given the right to live in their own country. And the illusion of
investing in the island — out of nostalgia or some kind of labor therapy
— is justified by the notion that money can make a dictatorship dynamic
much more effectively than dynamite. If we cannot live in a democracy,
at least we will be able to live in a dictocracy. One-party companies
and a tinsel opposition. Like a person who draws a North Korean doodle
and ends up with an exquisite Chinese calligram. Or like in those
childhood cartoons where a tyrant is defeated by a golden antelope that
drowns the villain by throwing gold coins at him and when he can no
longer take the weight screams "enough!"


When I hear the word "economy," I reach for my gun.

First-world paradoxes: The possible Democrat party candidate for the
White House mumbles something to President Obama in the latest of her
hard choices: "Lift the embargo on Cuba because it's holding back our
broader agenda across Latin America". And from the Chamber of Commerce,
its president travels to a country that is presided over by a general
that for decades has denigrated chambers of commerce, and tells him:
Yes, you can.

The economy is too important to be left in the hands of economists.

Executives from the goliath Google land in David's kingdom of ruins and
are received at the University of Computer Sciences, a bunker of digital
censorship, the cradle of Operation Truth, where there is daily smearing
of those Cubans convinced that it is still possible to live a life of
truth. How do you google a government that like the dog in the manger
will not allow us to connect to the internet or allow anyone else to
connect us?

Within the economy, everything.

The president of a hemispheric organization who since 2009 has been
begging Cuba to rejoin the international community goes to Havana and
does not dare to ask the reason behind Cuba's snub of the world. He is
accompanied by a Secretary General who gets a haircut there but does not
question why there were dozens of illegal detentions taking place during
his visit.

Outside the economy, nothing.

Former brigadier generals of the military and intelligence agencies,
ambassadors to NATO, the OAS, and the Interests Section in Havana (in
their heyday categorized by Castro propaganda as torturers, coup
instigators, agents of the anti-Cuban dirty war, and other extremists
etc.). Hawks now clothed in sheep feathers who advocate an ultimatum not
to their archenemy in the continent, but to the President who extended
his open hand and in return received a closed fist, including weapons
smuggling, the kidnapping of an American to trade as a hostage for Cuban
Talibans, agreements with enemies of democracy and the free market, and
the State-run attempts on our Sakharov Prize winners for Freedom of
Thought: Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya.

Economy or death; we will sell.

Contrary to the stampede of Cubans mentioned in Wendy Guerra's novel
Everyone Leaves, everyone is going to Cuba, everyone is investing in the
first opportunity that presents itself. No one wants to miss out on
their slice of the despotic pie that is on the brink of transition.


Investment is critical for the material development of the country, but
investment should not come regardless of the political price. It would
be a shame to fall into an economy that would leave us dependent on
foreigners and no less vulnerable to domestic impunity. Under those
conditions, sovereignty is nothing more than a joke.

Foreign capital has not brought democratization to the island, but
neither has denying investment been a fountain of political liberty.
Although they are opposite concepts, investments are just like the
commercial embargo the United States has against Cuba: they have had no
influence on the blockade imposed by the Castro regime on Cuban
citizens. Oswaldo Paya believed in a human personal redemption that
would transcend the State as well as the market. And that simple but
ethical vision proved to be qualitatively impracticable for a perpetual
seat of power that relies on complicity by the majority of the nation.
Because if a people elect a single leader and a single party, that
single leader and single party have a moral obligation to downplay that
quantitative blindness, not enthrone themselves upon it. Along with the
Anglicism of a "loyal opposition," Cubans deserve a government faithful
to the people that will step down according to logical legislation, even
if it goes against the popular will of the people.

For now, the private investment initiative in Cuba does nothing to
obtain or guarantee rights to association, property, participation,
expression, or the means of production. Self-employed Cubans exhibit
their implausibility even in Washington D.C., but in the Plaza of the
Revolution, they can only march en masse with their propaganda banners.
For that very reason they are not invited to invest in Cuba and their
self-employment licenses are nothing more than economic privileges. As
soon as they achieve some type of cash liquidity, they will escape
without much noise or fuss, as our population pyramid tends to do since
that is always preferable in a transient nation: post-totalitarianism is
the same as post-trampolinism. That plebiscite with one's feet is
unstoppable, with investments or sanctions, with lack of solidarity or
interference. After spending so much time exporting guerillas and wars,
we learned to make our living at the expense of someone else, allowing
ourselves to be exploited by taxes rather than enjoying state security
(or suffering it if the words are capitalized).

At the start of the Revolution, throughout the paternalistic lying
during the march to power, Fidel Castro strictly applied his repetitive
slogans: "Elections? What for?"; "Guns? What for?"; Amnesty? What for?"
These were among the other "What for?" slogans that emptied out all the
common sense that previously existed in our nationality. The Revolution
not only installed itself by decree as the source of all rights, it also
made itself the arbiter of reason. Everything else became an
afterthought: money, for example. We should then publicly confront that
same philanthropic octogenarian before senility turns him into ashes and
ask him: "Investment? What for?"

And maybe he will respond with that European fascist plagiarism of
himself in 1953: Invest in Cuba, it does not matter, history will
confiscate you.

Translated by Alberto de la Cruz from Babalu blog.
1 August 2014

Source: Investment in Cuba? What for? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
20 years ago, 35,000 'balseros' fled Castro's Cuba on anything that
would float
By Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald
Monday, August 18, 2014 2:55pm

When the tiny Guantánamo-bound jet took off from the Fort Lauderdale
airport, the door handle fell into my lap.

The handful of journalists on board laughed nervously, eyeing the ripped
roof cover and beat up seats of the Fandango Airlines commuter under
contract by the federal government to shuttle journalists to the U.S.
Naval base on the eastern end of Cuba.

"I hope this is not an omen," I remember someone saying.

The unsettling start of our trip that crisp day in 1994 was like an
omen, but it was the least of our worries. We were on our way to report
on the lingering limbo of the Cuban balseros without a country and
enduring wholesale detention in a tent-city metropolis set up by the
Clinton administration in a remote no-man's land.

It had already been an extraordinary year.

That summer, furious at unprecedented protests and chants of "Freedom!"
rising from people gathered at the seafront Malecón in Havana, Cuban
leader Fidel Castro threatened to unleash another exodus — and he made
good on it, allowing people to leave the island by whatever means.

In a desperate bid to flee, some 35,000 men, women and children took to
the high seas in flimsy homemade rafts and quickly assembled boats. Some
made it to South Florida. Some died in the attempt. But most were
interdicted at sea in what became the largest and most-expensive
search-and-rescue operation undertaken by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The balseros, as the rafters were nicknamed after their ingeniously
constructed vessels, were ferried en masse to Guantánamo and packed into
dusty tent-city camps with names like Camp Kilo, Camp Oscar and Camp
Mike, which multiplied into Kilo Two, Oscar Three, etc., as the numbers
of people to be housed grew, day by day.

The refugees lived under drab-olive and yellow tents in an unusually
arid landscape under the strictest military rule. When I first visited,
they had not had any communication with family members, who didn't know
whether their loved ones had died at sea or made it to Guantánamo.

The "balsero crisis" would play out here largely in seclusion, except
for infrequent media and political visits, until the last Cuban was
flown to Miami in 1996.

The Cubans would eventually make it to the United States after the
Clinton administration announced on May 2, 1995, that most of the
Guantánamo detainees would be processed and allowed to emigrate. And, as
part of the deal reached with the Cuban government to curtail high-seas
departures, Washington agreed to issue 20,000 visas a year.

The historic exodus also changed U.S. immigration policy for Cubans to
what came to be known as "wet-foot/dry-foot," and it remains in effect
today: Those intercepted at sea must qualify for asylum or are returned
to Cuba; those who make it to U.S. soil generally get to stay.

But policy was the aftermath. For me, what lingers is the human story,
and nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced during two
reporting trips to the Guantánamo camps.

I would unknowingly become lost in a sea of refugees as I listened to
stories and pleas for help, and as a result, I was almost kicked out by
a military commander. He towered over me, screaming that I had ditched
my escort and broken a major rule. Only my trembling chin, teary voice
and a friendly spokesman who, like me, was a University of Florida Gator
would save me from being sent back on that plane and missing one of the
most dramatic stories of my career.

I would hold back tears many times during poignant interviews with
desperate people, and back at my desk in Miami, while writing their stories.

On this 20th anniversary, when celebrations are planned and
proclamations issued, what stands out is the resilience of the balseros
I came to know and whose lives in the United States I've followed for
many years.

There's the spunky Havana beautician, Dunys Torres, whom I found at Camp
Oscar cutting hair with a lot of humor amid a lice epidemic — now the
owner of Dunys Unisex, a lovely, stylish salon in Homestead.

"I still think it (leaving) was the best decision I ever made," she
tells me. "Now more than ever, I'm happy because I'm a citizen of this
great country. I'm 100 percent Cuban, but I adore this country."

There's the engineer, Martin Barquin, who invented a board game to pass
the time, only in his "Balseros '94" game, when you landed on a space, a
shark ate you, or waves overtook your raft on a stormy night — and the
best you could aspire to was to pass "Go" and land in Guantánamo.

"It was a way to make fun of our tragedy at a time when we were
hopeless," he remembers, surrounded by family in his South Dade home. He
has been in a wheelchair since he suffered an accident in 1997, "but I
cannot complain. I am a blessed man. I yearn for my physical freedom,
but my mind and spirit are free."

And there are the grief-stricken survivors of the July 13 sinking of a
tugboat by Cuban patrol boats in which at least 39 people died. One of
the survivors was a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother and brother. I
met him and his father, who had the saddest eyes I've ever seen, at Camp
Mike. It's heartwarming to see on social media that he's becoming an

The weary children of this exodus — the 78 unaccompanied minors I was
briefly allowed to see at a special camp — are unforgettable, the most
famous of all 12-year-old violinist Lizbet Martínez, a Miami-Dade music
teacher now. She became the symbol of the exodus when she propped her
violin on her shoulder and played The Star Spangled Banner after the
Coast Guard rescued her family.

The child who captured my heart was 10-year-old Yudelka César.

She lived at Camp Oscar Three under a huge yellow tent with her family
and the friends from her Havana neighborhood, who had all pitched in to
buy a boat.

Yudelka saw me interviewing people and brought me her diary. She had
written all she had endured from the moment her mother woke her up and
told her they were leaving Cuba on small white cards that came every day
with prepackaged military meals.

She had tied the cards together with two plastic bag clips.

"It's our story," Yudelka told me. "Take it to the United States and
print it."

At every camp I visited, refugees would stuff my pockets with SOS notes
to relatives in Miami. I would spend a weekend calling people to deliver
news that their loved ones were safe, and I would read a love letter to
a woman in Hialeah from her husband, who reassured her he was making
good on his promise that they would be reunited.

I brought back to Miami Yudelka's diary and translated it. The Herald
published it with my photo of her.

I could see myself in Yudelka's eyes, in her story. Like I once did at
her age, Yudelka left behind her beloved grandmother, her dog, her
cousins, her friends.

That she was willing to part with such treasures was remarkable. Many
years later, I tracked her down to the family's home in Arizona, and we
had a heartfelt reunion.

I returned her diary, though it hurt me to part with it. Her diary had
become a talisman, a source of inspiration for so many stories — and the
reason I would again take that scary flight on a dingy plane to
Guantánamo to cover the refugee's first flight to freedom.

I would return to see how the ingenious Cubans had turned their camps
into makeshift cities, their tents filled with handmade cardboard
furniture, complete with drawers and decorative knobs. They still slept
in slim cots but had divided tents into "apartments" with white sheets,
and helped the military shape camps into small towns with schools,
playgrounds, and even elected leaders.

They made art and they made love and babies were born there.

I would stay with the balsero story for two decades, charting fates and
remembering the Guantánamo sun burning my skin and the cooing music of
hummingbirds waking me up at dawn in a military barrack.

Twenty years later, Yudelka is married and the loving mother of a
kindergartener. We still stay in touch.

When I see her dancing a sensuous rhythmic salsa with her father,
celebrating her mother's citizenship with little American flags; when
she sends me a poem she wrote, a nostalgic ode to her feelings for Cuba,
I can see why they feel that the bold risk they took in 1994 was worth it.

But I wonder what happened to a young man, Jorge Santos, who called out
to me as I left the last camp on that first trip.

" Señora," he said, pressed against a fence topped by barbed wire. "If
you see freedom anywhere, please send her here. Tell her I've been
looking for her for a very long time."

I've never known if Jorge finally found her.

But I hope he has made a good life for himself like Dunys, Martin and
Yudelka, the little girl writing on the back of meal cards.

She was once a weary balserita huddled in the darkness of a boat adrift,
her fate in limbo under a dusty yellow tent, and today, she is part of
the mosaic of Cuban-Americans who call the USA home.

"People without a country," a headline in The Herald called the balseros
back then, but that they are no longer.


Here's what then 10-year-old Yudelka César wrote in her diary when she
was in Guantánamo in 1994. It was first published Oct. 2, 1994.

August 31st in Cuba:

It was 3:30 a.m. when my mother woke me and said, "Get up, we're
leaving." I got up. My sister was already awake and dressed. I put on
jean shorts and white T-shirt with six pearls around the neck. I grabbed
a bag full of dresses and things but my mother said, "Leave it." And I
said, "Well, OK."

We said goodbye to Carmen and Dolaydi, to whom I left my best jewel — a
little dog with short hair, all black, with little eyes dark like an
azabache (a Cuban good luck charm), and straight little ears. I love him
very much.

When we are about to leave my aunt and cousin who weren't on speaking
terms with my mother came out of their house. My mother called out to
them, and my cousin couldn't stop crying. When my mother started crying,
too, she said, "Don't you cry. Just take care." She kissed us and left.

Then a blue car came to get us and we could not say goodbye to my
grandfather, nor my other aunt and my uncle and my cousins. Another
thing that hurt me was to leave all my friends — big ones, old ones,
middle ones and the little ones.

When we reached the beach, we were not allowed to leave the car because
the police was not letting children leave. We left from a beach called
Brisa del Mar that my father liked, and it's near a restaurant called El
Ranchon. They unloaded the boat and they tried it out to make sure it
wouldn't take on water. While we swatted away the mosquitoes in the car,
some men from El Ranchon gave the children coffee cake.

When the boat started, there were people I didn't know and I got scared.
We were four children and six women on the boat. In total, 22 on the
motored boat. We left at 8:30 a.m., and at 2:20 p.m. a white and red
vessel picked us up. My father turned off the motor. When we got on, we
almost didn't fit there were so many people. Some Americans pulled us
up, and I supposed they liked me and they gave us water, some salted
crackers for our stomachs, and a soda that tasted like cherry.

About a half-hour later came another vessel, a mother ship called Whibey
Island in which we traveled for three days. It had 2 1/2 floors. It was

At the base, I have been in three camps. In the first came the press and
a ruckus ensued because they would not process us. The camp is called La
Lima, and there we saw people under the sticks of the military police of
the United States. We were at El Kilo two days — very bad days because
there broke my Santa Barbara (a revered saint in Cuba), which was before
we were processed and got a plastic watch, without numbers, that isn't
finished but inside has an identification number.

They snap the watch shut when the grown-ups sign a paper, walk in a
house that looks like a hospital where they explain how they will give
you two vaccines for the children and one to the grown-ups. They give
you a pencil, a piece of paper to put your name and last name (everyone
treats us lovingly). I played baseball with one of the attendants who
spoke Spanish. Then they took us in a school bus to El Kilo.

After two days, they moved us to another camp they call Oscar Three. I
have been here five days, not very well and not very bad. Not very well
because there's a lot of dust and it's hilly and when it rains the water
from other camps comes to ours. And not so bad because here there's more
order to get the food and they are going to put up a tent with toys for
the children. The water spigots are nearer and they are going to build
bathrooms for women and children separate from the men.

Thanks to God.

Source: 20 years ago, 35,000 'balseros' fled Castro's Cuba on anything
that would float | Tampa Bay Times - Continue reading
{*Translator’s Note: Angel disappeared from prison on July 21, 2014. As of today he has not been heard from for 29 days.} Five days* have passed now since the disappearance of the writer Angel Santiesteban in Havana, barely hours after … Continue reading Continue reading
Posted on Monday, 08.18.14

A long journey by raft, and a lesson in freedom

I was born in Guantánamo in 1956. I moved to Havana as a teenager to
study and ultimately graduated with a math degree. In 1994, I decided
take a raft to the United States.

I had to leave Cuba. I had no future there.

I graduated from the University of Havana believing that if I had a good
education and worked hard, I would succeed in life. But because I wasn't
integrated enough with the government, there weren't opportunities for
me. So I resorted to selling produce on the streets with my university
degree in my pocket. Later, I cleaned floors at the Hotel Inglaterra.

I also wanted to leave because I valued my freedom and found that I
didn't have the freedom to express myself in Cuba.

I started plotting my escape with a plan to try to get through the
border fence at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay. On Aug. 1, 1994 I
went to my 1-year-old niece's birthday party in Guantánamo. That was the
last time I saw many of my family members, including my father. I
couldn't even tell most of them that I had plans to leave. But it proved
too difficult to try to get passed security and onto the base.

On Aug. 5th, I returned to Havana to find the streets filled with
protesters. Several days later, Fidel Castro announced that whoever
wanted to leave, could go. So I got in contact with a cousin who also
wanted to leave and we started working on a raft.

When it was ready, everyone in the neighborhood helped us get the raft
on a truck we had rented. They wished us well, hugged us and gave us
blessings. Many of the old women cried.

We drove the truck to the Brisas del Mar beach east of Havana. Even the
people at the beach helped us get the raft out on the water. A neighbor
of mine, who had planned on going with us, backed out at the last
minute. And my cousin, who was just supposed to help us get out, ended
up coming along.

We left on Aug. 30, 1994.

I was the guide on the raft. I had the compass. Before we knew it, the
coast of Cuba was gone. We left in the late afternoon so we saw nightfall.

The night out on the water was one of the most impressive things I've
ever experienced. The only light you see is the moon. We would see empty
rafts out on the ocean. I later realized that those probably belonged to
people who didn't make it because when the U.S. Coast Guard rescued
rafters, they would usually sink the raft.

We were out on the ocean for the entire night. Our sail didn't work so
our hands were destroyed from rowing all night. Our drinking water had
been contaminated and we were too nervous to eat.

There was a point when everyone saw an image in front of us on the sea.
I'm not a particularly religious man but, to me, it was an apparition of
the Virgin Mary. She stood in the direction that we were supposed to be
heading. She came at a time when things were getting desperate for us.
Next thing we saw were helicopters.

At this point, night was falling on our second day at sea. We had been
out there for a little more than 24 hours.

We were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard and they took us to a ship
that was full of people. We were in bad shape. The ship had the biggest
American flag I have ever seen. For me, it was like an angel hugging us
and welcoming us to the United States. It was the first time I felt safe
since I left Havana's shore. Even in Cuba I didn't feel safe. So it was
the first time I felt that way in a long time.

I knew there was a chance that I wouldn't be able to get into the U.S.
Nothing was guaranteed. But I had to try. The freedom to express myself
and have a voice was worth it.

We were on the ship for about a week. We would travel around the Florida
Straits picking up more people on rafts. Then we finally made it to the
base in Guantánamo.

We stayed in tents on the sand in extremely hot weather and with barely
any clean water. I was in Guantánamo for a little more than two months.
With conditions as bad as they were in Guantánamo, they began building
camps in Panama. Some friends and I decided to go there.

When I got to Panama, all I had on was shorts and shoes that I had made
out of cardboard. I was there for almost four months. In Guantánamo,
they were creating better conditions, so that they could send us back.

Finally, I was able to come here to the United States. I arrived on Aug.
31, 1995.

It then became about a new struggle for a new life. I had to adjust to a
new language and a new system of living. In Guantánamo, there was a
program that taught us about these adjustments. I still work with this
program to help other refugees.

My first job here was at a Pollo Tropical; I lasted there two days. Then
I got a job at a pharmacy.

I went from a place where nobody was allowed to aspire and where
everything was decided for you and given to you, to working at a place
with so many products by all of these different companies. I wasn't used
to having so many options.

That was my first dose of the reality of living in the United States.
Here, they don't teach you, they push you to learn. You have to go look
for work instead of waiting to be told what to do.

In Miami, I feel at home. I love the Cuban atmosphere, the people and
the culture.

Twenty years later, I miss my close family and Havana, where I grew up.
But my life here gives me independence. If I had gotten here when I was
younger, I would've probably flourished more. But I can't complain. I
have everything I need for my life here.

What I want to celebrate 20 years after I fled, is not the fact that I
left on a raft but that I now know that every country has the ability to
be free. I hope that, in the future, every person realizes their
potential in whatever country they're in. So that they don't feel the
need to leave their lives and the people they love to find freedom.

I don't want there to ever be a need again for what we did and what we
went through. For me, that has been the biggest lesson from the past 20
years. I'm grateful to this country for giving me that lesson.

Source: A long journey by raft, and a lesson in freedom - Miami Stories
- - Continue reading
Investment in Cuba? What for? ASCE XXIV / 2014 Annual Conference, Miami Hilton Downtown Hotel, Florida, USA Panel 12. Concerto Ballrom B – Friday, August 1st, 2:45-4:15pm 1. In Cuba during the 1970s, historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals challenged poet Jose … Continue reading Continue reading
The Associated Press Calls Us 'Mercenaries' / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua
Posted on August 17, 2014

14ymedio, Havana, Manuel Cuesta Morua, 14 August 2014 — Two separate
reports from the American Associated Press (AP) agency, published urbi
et orbi, reproduce a syndrome of certain US media in relation to Cuba,
at least in the last 55 years.
The syndrome began in 1958 with the New York Times journalist Herbert
Matthews, and his sympathetic tale of the bearded ones in the Sierra
Maestra; it could be called the Syndrome of the Ultimate Thule, that
mythical and distant place in classic antiquity beyond the borders of
the known world, where the sun never sets, and the reign of the gods is
behind the customary events occurring on the world stage.

In this undisturbed world, inaugurated by the myth, there is no external
influence—and if there is, it's called 'interference'—its inhabitants
can be treated like idiots, that is they don't think about freedom for
themselves, and certain common words acquire another meaning.

Above all, it's about a world that should not be altered, and any
attempt to do so could only be a conspiracy; generated, naturally, by
external forces. The role of the media is exactly this: to transform
facts, to endorse the vocabulary of those who rule in the name of good,
and show evil as banal.

The Associated Press reports on Zunzuneo and the programs developed by
USAID, an agency of the US government to promote a possible version of
development and democracy, are modeled on the template of this syndrome
and follow its procedures.

If we accept what is put forward by the medium, the promotion of social
networks and civic courses in a territory captured by a dictatorship are
demonstrably illegal acts, not according to the ordinary law ruling the
interior of the kingdom, but according to the discourse of the dictators.

Nothing in Cuban legislation punishes the use a citizen makes of a
digital or educational tool provided from the exterior, whether by a
government or another institution, for legitimate purposes. But with the
enmity between the Cuban autocracy and the democratic providers we have
the necessary ingredient for the AP reporters to mount a case for
conspiracy, harassment and overthrowing, where the only thing that
exists is a project to promote democracy. Nothing else. And this toward
a country–I don't know why AP doesn't report on it—where democratic
ideas and freedom have more roots and antecedents than the "protoideas,"
we could argue, of the Castro regime.

The fundamental questions, far beyond the 'expertise' of USAID, are
whether it is legitimate to promote democracy—it turns out it's less
cynical to argue that you can bring in money from the outside, but not
ideas—and if Cuban citizens consider the Internet or a couple of
prohibited books as interference and manipulation of their brains. And
this latter, judging by the constant police raids prohibiting everything
that can be prohibited, doesn't appear to be the case.

Which the Associated Press can't talk about, unless it is willing to
discuss the existence of USAID itself, which it has the right to do but
that would lead it to question the very legitimacy of democratic changes
anywhere in the world, supported in every case from outside, including
by governments, and reported on by AP.

However, the AP doesn't risk criticizing the legitimacy of the social
purpose of USAID, it only suggests that it designs bad secret projects.
And it lies, using the techniques of the complex lie. How? Through a
report classified as secret that doesn't previously appear published by
the AP.

Certain press engage in the vice of recognizing as public only what is
published, a media tautology that circumscribes the real world to the
newsrooms; for the rest, they're either not aware of it, or it only
exists in the hidden labyrinths of the games of power. It so happens,
however, that USAID programs and funding are exposed to view by anyone
who wants to know about them or criticize them. And indeed they are, for
certain sectors, by their very nature public.

When it feeds the conspiracy theory, the AP has no other choice than to
assume the terminology of the Cuban penal code. For a Cuban, the term
'subversion' that the AP so happily uses in its reports, has made a long
journey from violence to public and peaceful demonstrations of popular
discontent with the brutality of an abusive regime. Thus, it tries to
criminalize the extreme right that helps the people to shake off their
oppression; this time solely through tweeting and civic leadership; a
demonstration, by the way, that people can behave themselves in a more
civilized way than those who oppress them.

Here the AP establishes an equivalence between a dictatorship and a
democracy, as if the criminal codes between the two regimes were
interchangeable and the punishments they mete out are within the same
category. From the depravity of pandering to the rhetoric of the
dictatorship, the press in democratic countries wants to appear aseptic
and condemns people like Alan Gross to ostracism by omission and
journalistic trivialities, and this a man whom everyone knows was not in
a condition to subvert any regime.

Hence the banalization of evil the AP always incurs referring to the
pro-democracy activists. It's odd that in all their reports the term
"mercenary" appears, a term the Government assigns to its opponents in
its periodic table. But doesn't the AP know that "a mercenary" is a
figure in the Cuban penal code but that that section of the code
cites are none of the actions for which the Government calls us mercenaries.

Dictatorships are not rigorous with words, an imponderable for its
specious domination over its citizens; but the free press should use the
language of the dictionary and not the neo-language of the autocrats.

We are still waiting for a report from AP that concludes by saying, "The
dissenters consider the Government to be despotic," to achieve that
balance. Something closer to the facts. In any event, I would like to
record that, according to the penal code, we can be where many of us
are: working for democracy in Cuba, although according to the rhetoric
of power we are mercenaries fighting to subvert the regime. Does the AP
have any objective opinion?

And the money? Well there it is. Money from the American people, both
private and public—not from the Government—that public and private
agencies in the United States destined to dissimilar projects all over
the world, for the benefit of the organizers and governments, with few
exceptions, which don't include the Cuban government, much less its
associated institutions.

In this whole issue of AP and Cuba I have a hypothesis: we are facing a
conflict in the centers of power between the media groups, and those of
the establishment. Which is settled from time to time on the periphery.
Once resolved, Cuba will once again be a dictatorship for the AP,
neither of the left nor the right, but infamous. As are all
dictatorships, in the words of a wise politician.

Source: The Associated Press Calls Us 'Mercenaries' / 14ymedio, Manuel
Cuesta Morua | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
When the tiny Guantánamo-bound jet took off from the Fort Lauderdale airport, the door handle fell into my lap. The handful of journalists on board laughed nervously, eyeing the ripped roof cover and Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, Manuel Cuesta Morua, 14 August 2014 — Two separate reports from the American Associated Press (AP) agency, published urbi et orbi, reproduce a syndrome of certain US media in relation to Cuba, at least in the last 55 … Continue reading Continue reading
When the tiny Guantánamo-bound jet took off from the Fort Lauderdale airport, the door handle fell into my lap. The handful of journalists on board laughed nervously, eyeing the ripped roof cover and Continue reading

In Cuba, a country where criticism of the government is whispered and no
citizen is allowed in any boat for fear they'll flee to Florida only 90
miles away, it is somewhat surprising to come across a wild warehouse
party in the beachside suburb of Vedado on Friday night, featuring rock
bands, electrified flamenco, edgy music video, film screenings and an
exhibition of compelling political art.

In a two storey former church, magnificently dilapidated and spot lit, a
few blocks from the famous Malecon (boardwalk), the headquarters of the
art collective F.A.C (Fabrica Arte Cubano) is teeming with Cubans and a
smattering of young hip tourists. Swarms of well-dressed gay men and
beautiful Cuban girls laugh and drink the ubiquitous mojitos as they
saunter around the enormous multi-levelled space, discussing the art,
buying cheap mojitos at the chic bars, watching the huge music videos
and spilling into outdoor terraces, lit by moonlight.

The building has been adapted into a permanent multi-media art-space,
with Moorish peep-holes through which art in all its forms can be
glimpsed within exquisite architectural frames. As you wander through
the space, art works and party-goers appear through these unexpected
internal windows, creating a multi-dimensional experience, which changes
every two months and is funded by the artists themselves.

A crowd of around a hundred sit on wooden crates surrounding one of
several stages to watch a local band and the three mesmerising female
dancers (Compania Flamenca Ecos) who perform a kind of trippy-new
millennium flamenco to thunderous applause, while hundreds of other
hipsters mingle downstairs.

The locals are either inoculated against the rum by virtue of its
low-price and availability or they are high on this pulsating, joyful
atmosphere. Everyone is well dressed but no garment has a brand name.
There is no sign of drugs — no wired eyes or even the whiff of marijuana
— ecstasy is here but it's embedded in the artistic circus that keeps
laying on new acts around every corner.

From the music to the soft-drinks — there is nothing obviously American
on show. This is a tiny glimpse into a world where America has no
cultural muscle and though some of the conceits of the art feel
familiar, there are some striking differences in how it is received.
When a Cuban rock-band takes to one of several stages, the audience is
appreciative but there is no dancing or mosh-pit. They sit
reverentially, then applaud passionately.

It is the visual art on the second floor that is particularly
captivating and fulfills the promise of the exhibition title: "De Lo
Sublime A Lo Ridiculo" (translated as "It's a fine line between the
sublime and the ridiculous"). Video art equal to anything one might see
at the Tate Modern or Serpentine, nestles next to sculptures, oils and
photographs. Curated by Maylin Pérez Parrado, a charming young Cuban
art-history graduate, the exhibition could have easily been stumbled
upon at any up-scale gallery in Melbourne or Sydney or in Berlin or New
York. But here in Havana, the political heart-beat of the work is
unsurprisingly louder and more emotional.

A magnificent world map — distinct and beautiful has subtly textured
brick-work layered over the communist countries. Adonis Flores'
photograph of a Cuban soldier blows a bubble of multi-colored flowers.
Enrique Rottenberg recreates a 19th century colonial salon with himself
in a bunny suit confiding to a Catholic Priest. What appears to be a
rusty old submarine periscope has tiny glass prisms in its sockets,
showing photographs of normal life. The humanity contrasts beautifully
with its inflexible infrastructure.

Everywhere in Havana you feel the layers of time. I think constantly of
all the times I've said to my children: "Wouldn't it be great to be
standing in this place a hundred years ago?". I am standing in that
place and time — only the laptops of tourists in hotel lobbies and the
stalls of canned soft drink (cheaper and more available than water)
disturb the illusion.

Hotels are the only businesses that accept credit-cards – and only
those not affiliated with U.S. banks — so almost every daily interaction
is cash-based. Horses and carts carrying tourists clip-clop around the
plazas. My iPhone doesn't work in Cuba — there is no service provider.
Old men on street corners sell newspapers. There is no intrusive
Coldplay or Beyonce blaring from shops, cafes, poolside or even in hotel
elevators. The music that blasts out of the open bars, like the famous
Bar Monserrate is live, Cuban and invariably great.

The Hotel Nacional, a faded but glorious mash-up of neo-classical,
art-deco, Californian and Moorish design, reputedly built by American
gangsters in 1930, overlooks the Straits of Florida and appears almost
indistinguishable from the photos that line its hallways depicting the
stars of bygone times from Edward VIII to Errol Flynn, as well as when
it was the headquarters of Che and Fidel during the Bay of Pigs crisis.

Uniformed sullen waiters carry trays of daiquiris across the green lawn
under the brutal sun, bell-hops load luggage onto brass trolleys, the
grand dining-room menu offers shrimp cocktail before a cabaret show in
the 'Parisian Room', and downstairs you pass a hairdresser and bank on
the way to the figure-eight shaped swimming pool around which Americans
in swim-suits snack on club-sandwiches.

All the architecture in Old Havana is Spanish colonial: faded muted
colours – yellow, green, pink – and intricate ironwork is set against
the contrasting plazas, opulently green with palm trees. Look up and you
will see rinsed plastic bags drying on washing lines and residents
peering from their dilapidated balconies onto the festive locals who
roam the streets of old Havana until the early hours, talking and laughing.

Every second car is a relic of 1950s America, restored with Toyota parts
and new duco. The significant historic buildings are being renovated,
but mostly the city's historical elegance clarifies the modern poverty.
Beggars sit beside crumbling marble collanades. Mansions with only the
external walls still standing are draped in thick vines. Everywhere the
past and present collide with ad-hoc beauty.

The Museo de la Revolucion, praising the beloved Castro, occupies the
old Presidential Palace from where Bastista once ruled. The marble
staircases and elegant mouldings incongruously host the photographs and
memorabilia of Che and Fidel in all their revolutionary glory.

Outside, the streets are full and the atmosphere is relaxed. Music is
everywhere. In Obispo, the main street of old Havana, the locals queue
for their quota of eggs from the free market while tourists queue
opposite at the only bank where it's possible to make a Mastercard
withdrawals — over the counter from a an actual human who creates
profound suspense as she studies your passport with unhurried concentration.

Taxi driving is a high-status job and many of the drivers are
university-educated – the man who drives me to Hemingway's house was
once in the diplomatic corps and is the only person I meet over five
days who has ever left Cuba. Many of his colleagues are doctors and
engineers who cannot get jobs and in any case, many trained
professionals favour tourist-based occupations where they have the
opportunity to interact with foreigners.

Every person I meet expounds love and loyalty for Fidel, who evokes the
kind of affection appropriate to one's actual father, not only the
father of the revolution. Everyone expounds on free health-care and
education — but lament the economy. "Things have to change". Che is not
held in the same regard as Castro. Despite the stencils that adorn many
buildings and every T-shirt sold in the souvenir shops, his name elicits
shrugs. More than once I am reminded he was Argentinian. His brutality
is not forgotten. "It had to be the Che way, otherwise — ," the driver
draws his finger across his throat.

Yselle, a 29 year old university graduate guide is, like most Cubans
I've met, fiercely patriotic and intellectually curious. But she is
simultaneously despairing of being unable to see the world. The problem,
everyone says, is not the Cuban government but the lack of money and the
impossibility of securing a visa from any country other than Russia and
Equador. She spends all her tips on the beaten up second-hand books
lining the stalls on the Plaza Vieja and asks me to send her the novels
of Paul Coelho.

In the midst of the pumping F.A.C. party, I ask Maylin — whose
curatorial ability would hold its own anywhere in the world ––how she
and her artistic colleagues find out what is going on in the global

"A little bit by the internet but it is very slow… and from foreigners
like you or a few friends who live outside Cuba".

When I show her a photo of Patricia Piccinini's crazy animal hot-air
balloon hovering over Melbourne that I happen to have on my phone, she
is very excited – she has glimpsed it somewhere on the internet and
describes Picicinini's sculptures with detail.

"Will you ever get out of Cuba – even just for a couple of weeks?" I ask

"It's not possible. I am curating a show soon for the Dutch Embassy and
I have a tiny hope to go to the Netherlands next year but it is
completely a dream".

I'm still mystified by how F.A.C. gets away with promoting art that is
so clearly critical of communism, and so representative of the
anti-establishment themes of contemporary political art all over the world.

She shrugs with a wry smile. "Irony allows us to define the work as
essentially "art" rather than political comment. Humour helps us," she says.

There is a beguiling nationalism in Cuba, a recognition of the beauty of
Havana and an articulate cultural pride and affection for the Fidel of
the past. It recognises no inconsistency with the longing for freedom
and anxiety about money and the future. The simultaneous love for Cuba
and criticism of its current state is evident in most of the art
presented by F.A.C, which manages to be exhilarated, indigenous and
savage all at once. For someone thoroughly jaded by sometimes posturing
Western art that wears its polemic on its sleeve, I find myself
incredibly moved.

On the way to the airport, my taxi bursts a tyre. I stand by the side of
the road, while Leonardo, my loquacious driver, hastily fixes it in the
atrocious heat. As we head for the airport, he shows me his laminated
Cuban identity card which he carefully replaces in his pocket.

"This is the most valuable thing in Cuba," he says, "all of Mexico wants
one". If you get to the U.S. coast with one of these in hand, they are
legally obliged to accept you, he says. A final reminder of one of the
many realities Cuban art has the power and passion to tell.

Source: Inside Cuba's exhilarated and savage arts scene | Daily Review:
film, stage and music reviews, interviews and more - Continue reading
Continue reading
Published Wednesday, August 6, 2014 Cuban writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban-Prats disappeared from the jail at San Miguel del Padron on July 21, 2014.  Authorities at first said that he had escaped; nevertheless, ten days later his daughter managed to … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuban government restrictions on religion remain severe although they have been eased on several fronts over the past year, according to the U.S. State Department's annual report on freedom of religion Continue reading
By Armando Añel, July 30, 2014 The confused news that comes from Havana indicates that either Angel Santiesteban ran away from the prison-settlement where he was unjustly imprisoned or the political police have launched a fabrication to condemn him to … Continue reading Continue reading
A battle between the Spanish metropolis forces against a troop of Cuban Freedom Army took place in August 6th, 1877 in a place called Mangos Mejias, belonging to the present day province of Holguin. Continue reading
Rekindling old friendships
Cuba is once again resorting to geopolitics to support a failing economy
Aug 9th 2014 | MARIEL

CARLITO, a wiry man with greying hair, sits under a palm tree in Mariel,
a town on a bay 40km (25 miles) west of Havana, sipping rum and watching
a container ship edge out towards the Caribbean. He recalls seeing a
flotilla of smaller boats leaving from this same spot in 1980, carrying
thousands of opponents of the Castro regime to Florida in the "Mariel

Those were politically charged times. Government trucks would come to
his school to deliver eggs for him and his friends to throw at the
people fleeing. About a decade and a half later, after the collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1989 plunged Cuba's economy into crisis, sources of
protein were so scarce that Carlito recalled those wasted eggs with
bitter regret. Some "Marielitos", as those who fled are known, returned
recently and Carlito was stunned at how prosperous they had become. "We
used to call them traidores (traitors)," he chuckles. "Now we call them
traedolares (bring dollars)."

Across the bay from where Carlito sits is a $900m container port, which
was built with Brazilian money and inaugurated in January. There are
plans to develop a special economic zone alongside it, modelled on the
thriving export hubs, such as Shenzhen, that China developed from 1980
onwards. The port is part of a vision for Cuba that relies less on
Cuban-American gusanos (worms) sending remittances to prop up the local
economy, and more on an inflow of foreign investors.

But Carlito is keeping his excitement in check. Construction workers
building the container terminal were paid a mere 250 pesos ($10) a
month, he says, so the ramshackle town has yet to benefit from the
development. None of the 23 firms who have sought licences to operate in
the special economic zone has yet been granted one. Even Joaquín
Infante, the 88-year-old vice-president of the slow-moving National
Association of Cuban Economists and Accountants, urges speedier
authorisation of investment. "We need to be more flexible and take more
risks," he says.

Despite reforms that have brought some big changes to Cuba in the form
of private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and new co-operatives, the
economy has virtually ground to a halt. In the first half of the year
GDP grew by just 0.6%, leading the government to reduce its estimate for
full-year growth to 1.4%. That is lower than the 2.7% annual average
figure since Raúl Castro (pictured on the right, with Vladimir Putin)
became president in 2008.

Investment is the root of the problem. In a report in July, two Cuban
economists, Omar Everleny and Ricardo Torres, estimated that the growth
in Cuba's capital stock, such as machinery and buildings, fell to 7.8%
of GDP last year, close to its level of 5.4% in 1993 when the economy
was in serious trouble. (In Latin America as a whole the figure is above
20%.) From the 20th floor of the Habana Libre, a run-down hotel, not one
crane can be seen on the skyline. "The economy is screwed," says a
Havana-based diplomat.

Supporters of the regime argue that the reforms simply need more time. A
profit-oriented reorganisation of state-owned behemoths, such as the
sugar monopoly, could be promising; it is just that the bureaucrats who
run them are slow to change. Critics, however, see a fundamental flaw in
the reform model. Although it has sought to give some people more
freedom in what they make and sell, the state keeps a stranglehold on
the inputs they need for those businesses, such as seeds for growing
crops, or sauces and spices for restaurants, or spare parts for taxis.
It has cracked down on "mules" bringing in such goods on passenger
planes from abroad.

Bad pennies
Diplomats say such counter-measures will make it harder for Cuba to
attract the $2.5 billion in annual foreign investment that the regime
aims for. Some also reckon the financial squeeze on the island has
tightened this year in the wake of the case against BNP Paribas, a
French bank, for evading American sanctions on doing business with Cuba,
among other places.

That is why Cuba-watchers have paid close attention to the visits of
Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, and China's leader, Xi Jinping, in
recent weeks. Though both men offered few concrete investments in Cuba,
they provide an opportunity for the Castro regime to start reducing its
dependence on its closest ally, Venezuela, whose pro-Cuba government has
been rocked by instability this year. Says Mr Infante: "We have to
diversify and not depend on just one partner." He hopes that means more
Chinese and Russian investment in Mariel.

One envoy says the regime also prefers such investments to Western
capital because it sees neither China nor Russia as a "Trojan horse"
working towards regime change. A Cuban economist sees uncanny parallels
with the special terms offered to the Soviet Union in the cold war. "The
mentality of the decision-makers is to talk to Russia, talk to China,
and make them offers based on politics," he says. "But this is the same
mentality we had in the past…and it didn't do much for productivity."

Cuba's courtship of Russia is particularly striking: a day after
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down, Fidel Castro publicly
blamed Ukraine's government. Such an overtly pro-Russian stance on
Ukraine may hinder political negotiations that started this year between
Cuba and the EU, diplomats say. It also makes it harder for Barack Obama
to improve America's relations with Cuba, let alone consider an end to
the counter-productive 54-year-old embargo. Back in Mariel, Carlito
wants good relations with everyone, especially America. "Luckily we
Cubans have a lot of patience and patience is good," he says. "Without
it there's just frustration."

Source: Cuba and the outside world: Rekindling old friendships | The
Economist - Continue reading

When detained Cuban writer and blogger Angel Santiesteban-Prats
disappeared from San Miguel del Padrón prison on 21 July, the
authorities said he had escaped but his daughter managed to talk briefly
with him in a police station ten days later. His present whereabouts are

After reporting his disappearance from the prison where he had been held
since April 2013, his family is now worried that the authorities will
charge him with escaping. As they do not known his version of events,
they fear that a trumped-up escape charge will be used to give him an
additional jail sentence.

His daughter is the only relative who has seen him since his
disappearance. As a police officer accompanied her during their
ten-minute meeting, Ángel Santiesteban-Prats was unable to talk freely.
Since then, no information about his situation has been provided while
rumours continue to circulate.

"We urge the authorities to provide a clear explanation of
Santiesteban-Prats' current situation," said Camille Soulier, the head
of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.

"Each day without news increases the risks for this blogger. We demand
his immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him. The
repressive methods being used by the regime recall the worst days of the
'Black Spring' of 2003."

An outspoken critic of regime in his blog, called "Los hijos que nadie
quiso" (The children no one wanted), Santiesteban-Prats was given a
five-year jail sentence after being convicted on trumped-up charges of
"home violation" and "injuries" in a summary trial in December 2012.

He began serving the sentence in April 2013 in San Miguel del Padrón
prison on the outskirts of Havana, where he was subjected to
mistreatment and acts of torture.

His disappearance followed an interview that his son, Eduardo Angel
Santiesteban, gave to Miami-based Televisión Martí on 15 July in which
he said he was forced to testify against his father and that the
prosecution's claim that his father physically attacked his former wife
was a complete fabrication.

Santiesteban-Prats is on the Reporters Without Borders list of
"information heroes ." Cuba is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in the
2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index – the lowest position
of any country in the Americas.

Source: Cuban authorities urged to explain detained blogger's
disappearance - Reporters Without Borders -,46770.html Continue reading
What This Media Outlet Got Wrong About Efforts to Promote Freedom in Cuba
Ana Quintana / @Ana_R_Quintana / August 06, 2014

Ana Quintana is a research associate in The Heritage Foundation's
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies. She specializes in U.S.
policy toward Latin America.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press ran an investigative piece on
the U.S. Agency for International Development and its democracy
promotion efforts in Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Concerns about USAID's overall efficiency are warranted.

The AP's piece noted the "extensive lengths" used to avoid monitoring by
Cuban authorities, but it failed to mention the objective of these
programs. From the USAID:

"The United States has a long history of confronting human rights
abuses, connecting the oppressed to the outside world, and helping
people have a say in how they are governed. Within repressive
environments such as Cuba, civil society and development practitioners
alike are often subject to abuse, harassment, threats, verbal
defamation, and unjustifiable prosecution and imprisonment."

U.S. efforts to promote freedom in Cuba and elsewhere are not new and
are in our national interest. The program the AP chose to examine serves
a dual purpose–it both provided support to HIV stricken communities and
promoted human rights.

What the AP did not manage to figure out is that Cuba remains a
dangerous place for human rights and freedom.

In 2014 alone, the Castro regime has arrested more than 1,000 peaceful
activists. Religious freedom is not protected either. A group of women
known as the Ladies in White, relatives of oppressed activists, have
been beaten and harassed on their way to church.

Cuba activists always have viewed AP's reporting with suspicion, and
that only heightened in April when AP slammed USAID for providing Cubans
with an uncensored media platform.

It continues to consider Alan Gross, who has served five years of a
15-year sentence in a Cuban prison for helping the disenfranchised
Jewish community on the island, a spy.

Its leftward bias extends beyond Cuba. In late July, AP tweeted, "As
much of world watches Gaza war in horror, members of Congress fall over
each other to support Israel."

I again urge the AP to take a look at the "freedoms" granted to Cuban
journalists for their next investigative piece. I can recommend a few
newsworthy items:

- The suspicious murder of peaceful democracy advocates, Oswaldo Payá ,
Harold Cepero and Laura Pollán by Cuban security forces
- The continued harassment and repression of peaceful human rights activists
- The more than 100 political prisoners on the island serving long-term
- The hypocrisy behind the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus and its
support of the Castro dictatorship

Criticizing U.S. efforts to promote to human rights is a matter of
opinion. But telling half the story is just bad journalism

Source: What This Media Outlet Got Wrong About 'Freedom' in Cuba - Continue reading
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It was a scene unlike anything ever captured in Cuba on camera under the Castro regime. Freedom! the angry young men shouted for the first time. Down with Fidel! as they stared straight into the cameras. Continue reading
Posted on Monday, 08.04.14

Groups: US political effort in Cuba hurts aid work

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. program in Cuba that secretly used an
HIV-prevention workshop for political activism was assailed Monday by
international public health officials and members of Congress who
declared that such clandestine efforts put health programs at risk
around the world.

Beginning in late 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development
deployed nearly a dozen young people from Latin America to Cuba to
recruit political activists, an Associated Press investigation found.
The operation put the foreigners in danger not long after a U.S.
contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday it would be "worse than
irresponsible" if USAID "concocted" an HIV-prevention workshop to
promote a political agenda.

And InterAction, an alliance of global non-governmental aid groups,
said, "The use of an HIV workshop for intelligence purposes is
unacceptable. The U.S. government should never sacrifice delivering
basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal."

The Obama administration defended its use of the HIV-prevention workshop
for its Cuban democracy-promotion efforts but disputed that the project
was a front for political purposes. The program "enabled support for
Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing
the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV
prevention," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Documents and interviews make clear that the program was aimed at
recruiting a younger generation of opponents to Cuba's Castro
government. It is illegal in Cuba to work with foreign
democracy-building programs. Documents prepared for the USAID-sponsored
program called the HIV workshop the "perfect excuse" to conduct
political activity.

Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that
oversees USAID, said in response to the AP's findings: "It may have been
good business for USAID's contractor, but it tarnishes USAID's long
track record as a leader in global health."

The White House is still facing questions about a once-secret "Cuban
Twitter" project, known as ZunZuneo. That program, launched by USAID in
2009 and uncovered by the AP in April, established a primitive social
media network under the noses of Cuban officials. USAID's inspector
general is investigating it.

In April, Leahy called the ZunZuneo program "dumb, dumb, dumb."

But on Monday, not all lawmakers were critical.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said USAID's programs were important
for human rights in Cuba. "We must continue to pressure the Castro
regime and support the Cuban people, who are oppressed on a daily
basis," said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban native and vocal supporter of
pro-democracy programs there.

As for health projects, the latest criticisms come months after a pledge
by the CIA to stop using vaccine programs — such as one in Pakistan that
targeted Osama bin Laden — to gather intelligence.

In the HIV workshop effort, the AP's investigation found the Latin
American travelers' efforts were fraught with incompetence and risk. The
young workers nearly blew their mission to "identify potential
social-change actors." One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on
how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net
for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.

In all, nearly a dozen Latin Americans served in the program in Cuba,
for pay as low as $5.41 an hour.

The AP found USAID and its contractor, Creative Associates
International, continued the program even as U.S. officials privately
told their government contractors to consider suspending travel to Cuba
after the arrest of contractor Alan Gross, who remains imprisoned after
smuggling in sensitive technology. A lawyer for Gross said Monday that
his client cannot take life in prison much longer and has said his
goodbyes to his wife and a daughter.

"We value your safety," one senior USAID official said in an email
concerning the Latin American travelers. "The guidance applies to ALL
travelers to the island, not just American citizens," another official said.

Creative Associates declined to comment, referring questions to USAID.

"All governments need to make trade-offs, for example, between civil
liberties and public safety," said Les Roberts, a professor at Columbia
University's Mailman School of Public Health. In the case of Cuba, he
said, there is a trade-off between conducting neutral development
efforts and "the political goal of regime change in Cuba."

"Without the appearance of neutrality," he said, "few things USAID wants
to do internationally can be achieved."

Drawing on documents and interviews worldwide, the AP found the
travelers program went to extensive lengths to hide the workers'
activities. They were to communicate in code: "I have a headache" meant
they suspected they were being monitored by Cuban authorities; "Your
sister is ill" was an order to cut their trip short.

To evade Cuban authorities, travelers installed innocent-looking content
on their laptops to mask sensitive information. They used encrypted
memory sticks to hide their files and sent obviously encrypted emails
using a system that might have drawn suspicion.

"These programs are in desperate need of adult supervision," said Sen.
Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and longtime critic of USAID's Cuba
projects. "If you are using an AIDS workshop as a front for something
else, that's — I don't know what to say — it's just wrong."

Both the travelers program and ZunZuneo were part of a larger,
multimillion-dollar effort by USAID to effect change in politically
volatile countries, government data show. But the programs reviewed by
the AP didn't appear to achieve their goals and operated under an agency
known more for its international-aid work than stealthy operations.

The travelers' project was funded under the same pot of federal money
that paid for ZunZuneo. But USAID has yet to provide the AP with a
complete copy of the Cuban contracts despite a Freedom of Information
Act request filed more than three months ago.


Orsi reported from Havana, and Rodriguez from Santa Clara, Cuba.
Associated Press writers Hannah Dreier in Caracas, Venezuela; Peter Orsi
in Havana; Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru; Raphael Satter in Dublin; Alberto
Arce in San Jose, Costa Rica; and Monika Mathur in Washington
contributed to this report.


Contact the AP's Washington investigative team at On Twitter, follow Butler at; Gillum at; Orsi at;
and Rodriguez at



Documents about the program at

Link to the unabridged story:

Another in a series of stories detailing secret American political
activity in Cuba under the Obama administration, including the creation
of a secret U.S.-backed "Cuban Twitter" program.

Source: WASHINGTON: Groups: US political effort in Cuba hurts aid work -
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It was a scene unlike anything ever captured in Cuba on camera under the Castro regime. "Freedom!" the angry young men shouted for the first time. "Down with Fidel!" as they stared straight into the Continue reading
It was a scene unlike anything ever captured in Cuba on camera under the Castro regime. "Freedom!" the angry young men shouted for the first time. "Down with Fidel!" as they stared straight into the Continue reading
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Cuba: HRF asks U.N. to inquire into attack on journalist
[30-07-2014 11:13:48]
The Human Rights Foundation,

( NEW YORK. —The Human Rights Foundation
(HRF) has submitted a petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur
on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and
expression (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an urgent
appeal to the government of Cuba regarding the brutal assault of Cuban
journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez on June 11, 2014, and the
repeated threats on his life. Guerra, who is the founder and director of
the independent news agency Centro de Información Hablemos Press
(CIHPRESS) in Cuba, was attacked solely for exercising his right to
freedom of opinion and expression.
"In Cuba, there is a widespread pattern of repression, persecution, and
imprisonment of journalists who represent an alternative to the media
monopoly of the dictatorship, which is mainly devoted to government
propaganda. The case of Roberto Guerra is emblematic of these types of
systematic human rights violations," said Sarah Wasserman, COO of HRF.
"For years, Guerra and the journalists at Hablemos Press have bravely
reported on these abuses, either through their modest website or by
distributing press releases they manage to print in the most rudimentary
form," said Wasserman.

HRF's petition includes an account of the attack on Guerra, points to
strong indications that the attack was ordered by Cuban government
agents, and documents the latest threats against other journalists at
CIHPRESS, including Guerra's wife. The petition calls on the U.N.
Special Rapporteur to request that the government of Cuba "adopt
immediate measures to protect the right to life, security and physical
integrity of Roberto Guerra and that of his family." It also asks the
rapporteur to request the government of Cuba "to take all necessary
measures to ensure the cessation of physical and verbal attacks on
Guerra, as well as to offer assurances and guarantees of non-repetition
with regards to these attacks."

"These journalists have committed the ultimate offense in a totalitarian
state, which is to dare to report on facts that the Cuban dictatorship
has tried to hide for years. Those are, to name a few, the dreadful
state of public healthcare and education, the arbitrary arrests of
peaceful dissidents, malnutrition, lack of food safety, and the
continuous outbreaks of cholera and other diseases," said Wasserman.
"These reports are deadly blows for a Latin American dictatorship that
has historically excelled in its ability to sell myths, like the ones
that praise Cuba for its 'excellent' public healthcare," said Wasserman.

Retaliation against independent journalists is a common occurrence in a
country that ranks only "behind Iran and China as one of the world's
biggest prisons for the media." In 2012, in the infamous case of Calixto
Ramón Martínez Arias, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned a
CIHPRESS journalist for seven months for reporting on the existence of a
cholera and dengue outbreak that the government attempted to conceal.

"The Cuban regime is required to comply with the rule of general
international law that establishes the obligation of 'cessation and
non-repetition' of acts or omissions that constitute internationally
wrongful acts. This means that Cuba must guarantee that attacks against
Guerra stop, and ensure that they never happen again," said Javier
El-Hage, HRF's general counsel. "Cuba may not be a state party to the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but as a member of
the U.N., it can be held accountable for violations to the right of
freedom of expression of its citizens. This right is enshrined in
article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a binding
instrument of customary international law signed by Cuba in 1948," said

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit
organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a
focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled
to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to
speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and
enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded
equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity
to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF's ideals
likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have
the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from
interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support
nor condone violence. HRF's International Council includes human rights
advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry
Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Jamie Hancock, (212) 246-8486,

Source: Cuba: HRF asks U.N. to inquire into attack on journalist -
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