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Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 19, 2014

Barack Obama and the State Department aren't stupid. But on the issue of
Cuba they act as if they were. Their cluelessness is monumental. They
should check their sources of information.

The NSA team in charge of monitoring phone calls to and from Cuba, as
well as emails and the preferences of the still small number of Internet
users on the island seems to be on vacation.

A word to the US think tanks that come up with political strategies for
Cuba: obsession disrupts insight.

Let's analyze the points against having a couple of autocratic dinosaurs
as neighbors. It's true that Fidel Castro expropriated US business
without paying a cent. He also seized the businesses of hundreds of
Cubans who are now citizens of that country.

Castro has all the earmarks of a caudillo. Ninety miles from the United
States, he blatantly allied with the Soviet empire and even placed
nuclear arms in Cuba. He destablized governments in Latin America. He
places himself on the chessboard of the Cold War, participating in
various African wars.

As he was an annoying guy, they tried to kill him with a shot to the
forehead or with a potent poison that was activated by using his pen.
Out of bad luck of the lack of guts of his executioners, the plans failed.

For five decades, the bearded one continued to lash out against US
imperialism. Then Hugo Chavez appeared on the scene along with the
troupe of Evo Morales and Rafael Correa. On Central America the
presidential chair was returned to the unpresentable Daniel Ortega.
Kicking the anti-American can.

I can understand what it means to have an annoying neighbor. I live in a
building where a woman starts screaming insults at 8:00 in the morning
and other one usually plays reggaeton at full volume. But common sense
says, move or learn to live with different people.

Cuba and the United States will always be there. Closer than they
wanted. What to do?

An American politician can raise the alarm because there is no
democracy, nor political freedoms, nor freedom of expression on the
island. He knows that Cubans on the other side of the pond have three
state newspapers that say the same thing and that dissidence is
prohibited. They consider it a horror. And he candidly thinks, "Let's
help them. Teach them how to install a democracy."

This is where the gringo philosophy of reversing the status quo comes
into play. They are right in their dissections, but the solution fails them.

Cuba's problems, which range from political exclusion,the absence of an
autonomous civil society, the legal illiteracy of most citizens, lack of
freedom of the press and political parties and the fact that opposition
is illegal, are a matter that concerns only Cubans.

From inability, egos, and ridiculous strategies, the dissidence hasn't
been able to connect with ordinary Cubans. Eight out of every ten Cubans
are against the government and its proven inefficiency. For now, their
decision is to escape.

It's not for lack of information that people aren't taking to the
streets. Cuba is now North Korea. Shortwave radios are sold here and
thousands of people connect illegal cable antennas. It's just they are
more interested in seeing a Miami Heats game or Yaser Puig playing for
the Dodgers than following CNN news in Spanish.

At present, Cuba has two million cellphone users. They can send text
messages. But not to denounce human rights abuses. They used to ask for
money from their families in Miami, the latest iPhone, or that their
relatives expedite immigration procedures so they can permanently leave
the country.

The Internet on the island is the most expensive in the world. One hour
costs 4.50 CUC (5 dollars), the same as two pounds of meat in the black
market. I usually go to internet rooms twice a week and talk with many

The majority don't want to read El País, El Mundo or El Nuevo Herald.
Nor Granma nor Juventud Rebelde. They want to send emails and tweet, to
their wave. Upload photos on Facebook, look for a partner or work abroad.

Are they fed up with politics? I suppose. Are they afraid of going to
jail if they openly confront the regime? Of course. Are they masochists
who do not want to live in a democratic society? Evidently so. But they
have no vocation to be martyrs.

This political apathy among a great segment of the population, weary of
the olive-green loony bin, is fertile ground for the proselytizing
efforts of the opposition, which has not done its job,

People are there in the streets. Only dissidents prefer to gatherings
among themselves, chatting with diplomats and, since 2013, traveling the
world to lecture on the status quo in Cuba and get their photo taken
with heavyweights like Obama, Biden or Pope Francisco.

For the gringos I have good news and bad news. The bad is that it is
great foolishness to expect to topple the Castros with Twitter, call it
Zunzuneo or whatever it's called. The good news is that this type of
totalitarian regimes has not worked anywhere in the world and they
crumble by themselves. You have to have patience.

There is a popular refrain in Cuba that states the obvious: desires
don't make babies.

Iván García

7 April 2014

Source: Overthrowing the Castros with Twitter / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Barack Obama and the State Department aren’t stupid. But on the issue of Cuba they act as if they were. Their cluelessness is monumental. They should check their sources of information. The NSA team in charge of monitoring phone calls … Continue reading Continue reading
One of their American trainers, multidecorated WWII and Korea veteran Grayston Lynch, called the Bay of Pigs freedom fighters, "brave boys who mostly had never before fired a shot in anger." Indeed, Continue reading
The Miami Herald reports on the move by Reporters Without Borders: Cuban authorities should immediately free a journalist jailed for reporting on a case of alleged police abuse involving a man bitten by a police dog, the Paris-based Reporters Without... Continue reading
PARIS, France -- Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders has condemned the detention in Cuba of independent journalist Juliet Michelena Díaz since 7 April, three days after she wrote a by-lined Continue reading

Reporters Without Borders condemns independent journalist Juliet
Michelena Díaz's detention since 7 April, three days before the
publication of a by-lined report she wrote for the Miami-based
independent news platform Cubanet about a case of ordinary police
violence she had witnessed in Havana.

Michelena, who was arrested in a heavy-handed police operation, is a
member of the Cuban Network of Community Journalists (RCCC), an
organization that defends freedom of information. The police often break
up its meetings and arrest participants, but the arrests are usually of
short duration.

The charges against Michelena have changed since her arrest. Initially
accused of "threatening a neighbour," she is now charged with
"terrorism." Despite the absence of any evidence, the nature of the
charge prevents a quick release, which is otherwise often the case with
arbitrary arrests in Cuba.

"We urge the authorities to free Michelena without delay and drop all
charges against her," said Lucie Morillon, head of research at Reporters
Without Borders. "The decision to bring a more serious charge indicates
a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting.
Police violence is nonetheless far from being a subject that Cubans can
easily forget."

Independent journalists are subject to constant judicial harassment in
Cuba. Arbitrary arrests are used to undermine their ability to work and
to restrict the flow of information.

Michelena was already arrested on 26 March, when she was released after
a few hours. Police officers attacked the independent journalist Dania
Virgen García on 12 April, as she was dropping her nephew off at school.
Two state TV journalists who began to film the attack were also
immediately arrested. The three women were released that evening.

Reporters Without Borders wrote to French foreign minister Laurent
Fabius ahead of his visit to Havana on 10 April asking him to raise the
issue of arrests of journalists. RWB believes that an improvement in
economic relations between Cuba and European Union countries should not
be at the expense of Cuba's journalists.

Three other journalists and bloggers are currently detained in Cuba.
They are Yoenni de Jesús Guerra García, who was arrested last October
and was given a seven-year jail term in March; Angel Santiesteban-Prats,
who has been held for more than a year; and José Antonio Torres, a
reporter for the official newspaper Granma who was given a 14-year
sentence in July 2012.

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

Source: Journalist held for past ten days, charged with "terrorism" -
Reporters Without Borders -,46165.html Continue reading
© Unknown Given that most Americans living today were born and raised under a massive military establishment, the CIA, and the NSA, a large number of Americans very likely believe that the United States Continue reading
Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the
news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the
hijacking of the Regla-based boat "Baraguá." They were trying to flee
the country and get to the United States.

Leftist newspapers, sympathetic to the Cuban regime, tried to justify
the act, writing: "the government wanted to strike at the roots of
airplane and boat hijackings." They admitted that the punishment was
intended to send a message, meaning that none of the accused was
entitled to a fair trial.

Some went further. Heinz Dieterich Steffan (who later became the
ideologist of "Socialism of the XXI Century"), told on his website how
the then-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was sending a message to the
White House: "You have declared war and your first soldiers have
fallen." And he later added: "I want you to know how to interpret the
message of the firing squad, so there is no more bloodshed."

The executions occurred just over a week after the group of 11 young
men, armed with a gun and a knife, had diverted the ferry some 30 miles

How did it all happen?

The hijackers, upon boarding the boat, fired a shot in the air and one
yelled: "This is fucked! We're going to the U.S.!" After 30 miles the
fuel ran out and the boat drifted. The sea was very choppy, so in an act
of tragic naivety they agreed to be towed to the port of Mariel with the
promise that the authorities there would give them fuel.

They didn't tie anyone up (as—according to family members of the
accused—the prosecution claimed). If they had, how do you explain that
upon arriving at Mariel some passengers, at a signal from security
agents, jumped into the water? Enrique Copello Castillo, who tried to
prevent one of the foreigners on board from escaping, had the gun. But
he didn't use it even when the situation got out of his control. This
shows that he was not a criminal, just a young person desperate to reach
the United States, in search of freedom and the chance for personal

On April 8, 2003, after a summary trial, the sentence was issued:
Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro L. Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis
Martínez Isaac were condemned to death. The rest of those involved in
the attempted hijacking were given prison sentences: life imprisonment
for Harold Alcala Aramburo, Maykel Delgado Aramburo, Ramon Henry Grillo
and Yoanny Thomas Gonzalez; 30 years for Ledea Wilmer Perez; and from 2
to 5 years for the women traveling with them.

In March of that same year, the government had jailed 75 human-rights
activists, independent journalists, and political dissidents. These were
in the Villa Marista prison when the hijackers were taken to that
infamous headquarters of the Cuban political police. Ricardo González
Alfonso, the now-exiled independent journalist and one of the 75, has
left behind a disturbing account of the last hours of Enrique Copello
Castillo, who shared his cell.

The day of the trial, a State Security captain took him to an office to
explain that, although they were seeking the death penalty for Copello
Castillo, there was a chance he would not be executed. He therefore
asked for González Alfonso's cooperation in helping save the condemned
man's life if he tried to commit suicide. In light of what happened on
April 11, when the condemned were taken before the firing squad without
notice to their families, it can be interpreted that the captain was in
charge of "supply": he could not allow the scapegoats to escape their
own sacrifice. How could they make an example of Copello Castillo if he
had not attended his own execution?

Danger Zone

On San Francisco Street in Havana, between Jesus Peregrino and Salud
streets, is the building where Bárbaro L. Sevilla García lived with his
mother, Rosa Maria. Some neighbors remember what happened on April 11,
2003. The street was full of cars with military license plates from 6:00
am., forming a police blockade. Some women from the Interior Ministry
knocked at the door of Rosa Maria to tell her that her 22-year-old son
had been shot at dawn. The woman started screaming and ran out to the
street naked, yelling the whole time: "Down with Fidel!" and
"Murderers!" Afterward she was forced to leave the country, say the
neighbors, who did not give their names for out of concern for their safety.

A short time later police began moving into the building on the corner,
on Salud Street. Even today the area is considered "dangerous."
Neighbors also warned this reporter not to take pictures of the
demolished middle balcony where the mother and her son lived, because
the green building on the corner of Jesús Peregrino is the DTI
(Department of Technical Investigations), a division of the Interior

They did not use explosives, but charge will be used in court

Why so much harshness and speed in the execution of punishment if there
was no alleged injury or loss of life during the kidnapping? The lawyer
Edilio Hernández Herrera, of the Cuban Legal Association (AJC,
independent), has prepared a legal opinion that reveals how the law was
broken in Case 17 of 2003.

The defendants were tried for the crime of Acts of Terrorism. Law No. 93
"Against terrorism" was published on December 24, 2001, in the Official

In the opinion of Hernández Herrera, the portions of the law that apply
to the crime committed would be Articles 14.1 and 16.1.a, pertaining to
the taking of hostages and acts against the safety of maritime
navigation. But the court sentenced the boys for acts that certainly did
not happen. The other offense charged, from Articles 10 and 11.c,
referred to "acts committed with explosives, chemical, biological or
other substances." With this they intended to justify the sentences of
the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and independent journalist,
one of the political prisoners of the Case of the 75, shared a cell in
Villa Maristas with Dania Rojas Gongora, age 17, who was on the boat.
She was the girlfriend of Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who was shot. The
girl told how another mother learned that her son had been shot the day
she was to bring him toiletries. The last time Dania saw her boyfriend
alive, one of the guards said sarcastically: "Plan now how many children
you are going to have."

Roque Cabello has no doubt in stating:

"The dictator Fidel Castro wanted blood. He was furious also because in
the midst of this, sending the 75 political dissidents to prison was
turning out to be a fiasco. That gained worldwide condemnation. It was
his decision: execution and life imprisonment for these young people. So
those who are now continuing to serve a life sentence are prisoners of
Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Refugees pose financial challenge
By: James Whittaker | james.whittaker@cfp.ky15 April 2014

The cost of detaining and repatriating illegal immigrants, often moving
through the region on makeshift boats, is proving a challenge for many
small island nations in the Caribbean, according to a United Nations

Dr. Buti Kale, the deputy regional representative for the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees, said challenges faced in the Cayman
Islands are mirrored in neighboring countries.

He said the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas each spent more than US$1
million last year on the issue. According to statistics from a Freedom
of Information request late last year, Cayman spent around CI$600,000 to
house, feed and repatriate Cuban migrants in 2012 and 2013.

The Cayman Islands, because of its proximity to Cuba, is one of the most
affected islands in the region, according to Dr. Kale, who was speaking
at the Red Cross in George Town on Thursday evening.

He said the standards mandated by the United Nations, under
international treaties, are fundamental. But he acknowledged that doing
the right thing could be an expensive business.

"It is not always that countries and territories do have adequate means
to provide assistance to these people. That's when the Red Cross and
others have to supplement whatever assistance the government provides,"
he said.

A delegation from the Cayman Islands government will travel to Cuba next
month to renegotiate the Memorandum of Understanding which commits
Cayman authorities to certain enforcement actions and sets out a
timetable and shared costs for returning illegal migrants.

The cost of processing, detaining and returning migrants, as well as
resettling legitimate asylum seekers, has been an issue for authorities
in Cayman.

Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer for Home Affairs with the Cayman
Islands government – also speaking at the Red Cross – suggested that
detaining illegal immigrants for extended periods of time while awaiting
authorization from Cuban authorities to transfer them, without travel
documents, adds to the financial challenge.

"We have a group of migrants who arrived on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18 –
according to the MOU, they should be repatriated within three to four
weeks. They are still here ...

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens," said Mr. Howell.

He added, "Our level of migration is three times percentage-wise what
the U.S. has to deal with. As a country with financial constraints,
there are limitations on what we can do."

Dr. Kale, who visited the detention center and met with government
officials during his brief visit, acknowledged that many countries are
facing financial challenges. He said the Bahamas government works with
nonprofit organizations to reduce costs.

"Instead of systematically detaining people, they are working with the
Church of God in order to keep people in their shelter," he said.

Cayman is one of only a handful of countries in the region that has
proper detention facilities and a processing system for migrants.

Dr. Kale believes there are issues across the region.

"In some cases, the conditions are substandard. They have to elevated.
Yes, it costs money, but it is all about abiding by international
standards," he said.

The United Nations expert also touched on an issue that has troubled
some locals – the prohibition, under the MOU, against providing support
to boatloads of migrants and helping them on their way.

"There is a unique phenomenon where people are assisted to move on. The
position of UNHCR is that when people arrive in an irregular fashion in
a country, you have got to screen them ...

"If they are going to be assisted in an onward movement, the authorities
of the arrival destination have got to be apprised of the imminent
arrival, otherwise you have a disorderly movement of people."

He said it is important to process migrants properly to find out their
circumstances and ascertain if they are entitled to asylum. He added
that it is good that people in the Cayman Islands want to help, but any
assistance has to be managed properly and not impede the official

"If someone is granted asylum, then what? We have demands on
humanitarian needs that exceed the amount that our government is
committed to giving our own citizens."

Wesley Howell, Cayman Islands deputy chief officer for Home Affairs

Source: Refugees pose financial challenge :: - Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the hijacking of the Regla-based boat “Baraguá.” They were trying to flee the country and … Continue reading Continue reading
I never met Alan Gross. But on Monday night, when I gather with 700 other American Jews in Phoenix to celebrate the Passover Seder, his plight will be one of the hot-button issues, along with the post-mortem Continue reading
Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba
By Reihan Salam APRIL 11, 2014

Alan Gross, the 64-year-old American who has been imprisoned by Cuban
authorities since 2009, is an unremarkable man on the surface. He could
be a friend or colleague, or an uncle you've been meaning to call.

Yet what distinguishes Gross from most of the rest of us, myself
included, is his courage. As a sub-contractor for the U.S. Agency for
International Development, Gross traveled to Cuba to help private
citizens gain access to the Internet, and thus to news and information
not managed or manufactured by the Cuban government. Gross likely knew
that his work was dangerous, but he may have underestimated the risk he
was taking. In a heartbreaking letter to President Obama, Gross
recounted the many ways his wife and daughters have suffered in his
absence. He beseeched the president to intervene in his case.

And so Gross, a husband and father from Maryland who seems to want
nothing more than to be reunited with his family, has reignited the
decades-long debate over how the United States should deal with Cuba, a
rogue state that continues to adhere to Marxist-Leninist one-party rule
long after the collapse of its Soviet patron.

While some lawmakers, including Cuban-American Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have urged the Obama administration not to
negotiate — but instead to demand Gross's unconditional release — Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has led the chorus of those calling for the
president to play ball with Cuba's rulers, or rather to "not shrink from
the obligation to negotiate for his freedom."

What the Cuban government wants most is a relaxation of the economic
sanctions the U.S. government first imposed on the island nation in
1963, when it became clear that Fidel Castro intended to align his new
regime with the Soviet Union and to have Cuba serve as a staging ground
for armed insurgencies throughout Latin America.

In the decades since then, the sanctions regime has evolved in various
ways. There are now a number of licensed exemptions that allow Americans
to provide humanitarian assistance in Cuba, or that allow academic
researchers to travel there. Cuban households receive $2.6 billion in
remittances from Cuban immigrants and people of Cuban origin living
abroad, most of which comes from the United States. And as Emily Parker
observed earlier this week, for example, the Obama administration made
it somewhat easier for U.S. telecom providers to do business with Cuba
in 2009, in an effort to encourage the free flow of information in and
out of the country.

So should the U.S. government ease economic sanctions even further? The
plight of Alan Gross represents an opportunity to rethink the sanctions
regime. One widely held view is that U.S. sanctions actually serve to
entrench the current Cuban government, as they allow Cuba's rulers to
tightly control the flow of resources in and out of the island, and also
to blame the United States for the poverty and deprivation that plagues
Cuban society. The problem with this line of thinking, as Mauricio
Claver-Carone, director of Cuba Democracy Advocates and a proponent of
sanctions, notes, is that foreign trade and investment in Cuba is the
exclusive domain of the state.

Whereas the Chinese government offers wide latitude to private
enterprises, both domestic and foreign-owned, to operate on Chinese
soil, the Cuban government severely limits the scope for private
economic activity. This is one reason why China "feels" like a freer
society than Cuba, despite the fact that the Chinese government
maintains a large and expensive repressive apparatus. To grow the
Chinese economy, China's rulers have had little choice but to relax
their grip on investment and entrepreneurship.

In recent years, the Cuban government has allowed for the emergence of a
small-scale "self-employment" sector. Yet this sector shouldn't be
mistaken for private enterprise, as self-employed individuals are barred
from building their own independent businesses. If sanctions are lifted
without conditions, it seems more likely than not that the Cuban
government would insist that all U.S. trade and investment be channeled
through state-owned entities. Given Cuba's parlous fiscal state, this
would be an enormous boon.

Rather than lift sanctions unilaterally, the U.S. ought to consider
modifying the approach it has taken since passage of the Helms-Burton
Act of 1996. Under Helms-Burton, the U.S. is prepared to lift sanctions
if and when Cuba releases political prisoners and allows for the
inspection of its prison facilities, legalizes political activity and
opposition parties, and abolishes its secret police. Essentially, the
law insists on immediate regime change, and it is easy to see why Cuba's
rulers find its conditions unacceptable.

Congress ought to consider a new approach: the U.S. will relax sanctions
if Cuba allows its citizens greater scope to build their own private
businesses, which will have the right to engage in foreign trade,
receive foreign investment, and employ workers. The Cuban government
will, of course, be allowed to tax and regulate these private
businesses, but it will have to offer its citizens at least some
economic liberty, so that an influx of U.S. trade and investment won't
simply bolster the Cuban state and Cuba's repressive apparatus.

Yes, Cuba's propagandists will characterize this deal as yet another
example of Yankee meddling. It is also true, however, that this approach
would offer Cuba's rulers a meaningful alternative to Regime Change Now
while also allaying the concerns of Americans who fear that easing
sanctions might strengthen the current regime. And by loosening the
economic stranglehold of Cuba's state-owned monopolies, we can give
Cubans the breathing room they need to start building a free society.

Source: Why Congress must rethink sanctions on Cuba | Reihan Salam - Continue reading
Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do more to
secure release
By Barnini Chakraborty Published April 13,

WASHINGTON – For Alan Gross, the American contractor locked up in a
Cuban prison on spying charges, the road to freedom seems increasingly
out of reach.

The Maryland resident, who repeatedly has denied working for any
intelligence agency, was arrested by Cuban authorities in 2009, stripped
of his rights and thrown into a foreign prison.

Since then, his family has worked tireless – and unsuccessfully -- to
bring him home.

Gross currently is being held at the Carlos Finlay Military Hospital in
the Havana Providence in Cuba where he spends 23 hours a day in a small
cell with two other men. He is let out of his cramped quarters for an
hour each day, led to a small courtyard with high walls and if he is
lucky, he gets to catch a glimpse of the sun.

After his 60 minutes are up, the 64-year-old man who is facing another
long decade behind bars heads back to his cell.

The details of Gross' daily routine were relayed to by his
legal team. With Gross starting, and recently ending, a one-week hunger
strike, he and his supporters are trying to draw more attention to his
case and urge the U.S. government to do more to help.

In December -- the four-year anniversary of his imprisonment – Gross
wrote President Obama a letter pleading for the White House to get
involved and negotiate his release.

So far, Gross hasn't heard back, his camp tells But that's
where the stories start to blur.

The White House is on record multiple times calling on the Cuban
government to let Gross go. Gross was working at the time of his arrest
as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development on
expanding Internet access.

In December, around the same time Gross sent the letter to the
president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Gross
was a "dedicated professional with a long history of providing aid to
underserved communities in more than 50 countries" and called for his

In the past, the Obama administration has called Gross' case a sticking
point in improving ties with Cuba but has rejected any prisoner trade
for Gross.

In March 2011, following Gross's sentencing, Philip Crowley, the
assistant secretary in the bureau of public affairs at the State
Department, issued a statement: "We deplore this ruling."

"Alan Gross is a dedicated international development worker who has
devoted his life to helping people in more than 50 countries," Crowley
said. "He was in Cuba to help the Cuban people connect with the rest of
the world."

Still, while U.S. officials say they're pressing his case, it's unclear
to what lengths they have gone to pursue his release. Attorney Scott
Gilbert said: "We really hope that the two governments can work
something out and do what it takes. He wants to come home ... the only
way that will happen is if Obama gets involved, and that hasn't happened."

Gross, a native New Yorker, moved south where attended school at the
University of Maryland and at Virginia Commonwealth University in
Richmond, Va., where he studied social work.

In 2001, Gross formed the Joint Business Development Center -- a Chevy
Chase, Md.-based company that works to increase Internet connections abroad.

As the boss, his career took him around the world. His passport has been
stamped in Africa, Europe, Afghanistan and Iraq.

His friends and family describe the 64-year-old, white-haired contractor
as a gentle humanitarian, a loving husband and father of two girls, now
grown up and living in Oregon and Israel. His wife, Judy, a social
worker, is still by his side and lobbying for his release.

"I've been begging our government for more than four years to bring Alan
home," she said in a written statement. "I'm worried sick about Alan's
health, and I don't think he can survive much more of this."

Gross has lost 110 pounds in prison. He has a growing list of health
problems and is considerably weaker, his camp says.

It's been hard on Judy, too. In the four years her husband has been in a
Cuban prison, she has been forced to sell their Maryland home, unable to
afford the mortgage in the upscale Potomac, Md., neighborhood.

Last week, Gross announced through his attorney Gilbert that we was
going on a hunger strike, "enraged" over recent reports about the
controversial "Cuban Twitter" project, first reported by The Associated

The project, a communication network called ZunZuneo, was reportedly
built to stir unrest on the island. USAID, the same agency Gross was
working for when he was arrested in 2009, was behind the now-defunct
project. Gross and his supporters voiced concern that the project could
have put him at additional risk.

"I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions and inaction by both
governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my
arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any responsible or
valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal," Gross said via a
telephone conversation he had with Gilbert.

By Friday, Gross had called off the strike.

Disheartened, his friends, family and legal team say they'll push even
harder for his release, especially in light of the ZunZuneo report. They
argue the government has put his safety at risk and continues to do so
every day he is in Cuba. They also blame his employer – USAID. "Once
Alan was arrested, it is shocking that USAID would imperil his safety
even further by running a covert operation in Cuba," Gilbert said in a

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said earlier this week he's gotten
emails from USAID employees "all over the world" asking "how could they
do this, to put us in such danger?"

At issue are a range of secretive USAID programs the agency claims are
not "covert" – but aren't widely publicized either. Having them outed,
some argue, leaves contractors like Gross in danger.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said the responsibility for Gross'
imprisonment lies with Cuba.

"The State Department has led an aggressive effort to help Alan secure
his release," Shah said at the same Senate subcommittee.

Source: Family, friends of US contractor held in Cuba plead for US to do
more to secure release | Fox News - Continue reading
WASHINGTON – For Alan Gross, the American contractor locked up in a Cuban prison on spying charges, the road to freedom seems increasingly out of reach. The Maryland resident, who repeatedly ... Continue reading
Reporters Without Borders has sent a letter about freedom of information in Cuba to French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who is about to make the first official visit to the Caribbean island by a member Continue reading
Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 10, 2014

When a government's financial figures are in the red, everything takes
on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are
well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public
spending is slashed.

But if the goal is to attract American dollars, euros or other forms of
hard currency, then any reforms must tempt likely foreign investors and
Cuban exiles alike.

The situation is pressing. Venezuela, the spigot from which Cuba's oil
flows, is in a firestorm of criminal and political violence and economic
chaos. China is an ideological partner but only makes loans if it can
reap some benefit.

The Cuban government does not have a lot of room to maneuver. Its
solution has been to open things up a little but not completely. Except
in the areas of health, education and defense, Cuba is for sale.

The communist party's propaganda experts have been trying to sugarcoat
the message to its audience. In recent months government officials have
been working to attract foreign capital by offering investors a more
important role in the Cuban economy.

"Foreign financial resources would do more than provide a complementary
role to domestic investment initiatives and would play an important
role, even in areas such as agriculture, where foreign investment has
been rare," said Pedro San Jorge, Director of Economic Policy at the
Ministry for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, in January.

In an interview with the newspaper Granma on March 17, José Luis Toledo
Santander, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly
of People's Power for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, said the new law
"will also provide for a range of investments so that those who wish may
know the areas of interest in the country."

"This action will also be a breakthrough in terms of the paperwork
required to make an investment by creating a more streamlined process,"
the official added in response to a common complaint by business people
that the Cuban bureaucracy is too slow.

Toledo Santander said the new law "also includes incentives and tax
exemptions in certain circumstances, as well as an easing of customs
duties to encourage investment."

He stressed that "the process of foreign investment will be introduced
without the country relinquishing its sovereignty or its chosen social
and political system: socialism. This new law will allow foreign
investment to be better targeted so that it serves the best interests of
national development without concessions or setbacks."

On Saturday March 29 the national television news broadcast reported
sometime after 1 PM that the single-voice Cuban parliament had
unanimously passed a new foreign investment law without providing more

The new law provides for an exception to one passed in 1995 which
assigned foreign capital a "complimentary" role in Cuban state
investments. This meant that foreign investors could hold no more than a
50% stake in any joint venture.

The proportion was higher when it came to technology and retail
businesses but only because of a strong interest in these sectors on the
part of military autocrats. Between 1996 and 2003 roughly 400 firms in
the mining, hospitality, food, automotive and real estate sectors were
created in Cuba with foreign capital.

All were small-scale and supervised closely by authorities. Now it's a
choice of life or death. Fidel Castro's revolution generated many
promises and speeches, but these did nothing to foster the economic
development that the country needed.

Cuba imports everything from toothbrushes to ball-point pens. Large
areas of arable land are overrun with the invasive Marabou weed, and
produce little or nothing. In 2013 the government imported almost two
billion dollars worth of food.

Since 1959 government leaders have continuously promised ample harvests
of malanga, potatoes and oranges coffee as well as a glass of milk per
person per day, but the inefficient economic system hampers any such
nationial initiatives.

Finally the last trump card was played. It involved opening the gates by
luring foreign investors with generous tax exemptions. They included
Cubans living in the United States and Europe but not virulent
anti-Castro Cuban-Americans from Florida.

If they toned down their strident anti-Castro rhetoric, then perhaps
Alfonso Fanjul, Carlos Saladrigas and company might come under
consideration also.

Of course, it is not all clear sailing. The U.S. embargo presents a
powerful obstacle to any business venture on the island. And the Castro
brothers are not serious business partners.

On the contrary. They have changed or corrected course at whim in
response to shifting political dynamics. Of the roughly 400 foreign
firms that existed in 1998, only about 200 remained in operation as of
spring 2014.

Several foreign businessmen, including Canadians, have been threatened
with imprisonment while others, like Chilean Max Marambio*, have had
arrest warrants issued against them by Cuban prosecutors.

Raul Castro, who inherited power by decree from his brother Fidel in
2006, has tried to clean up government institutions and establish more
legal coherence, abolishing absurd laws that prevented the Cubans
renting hotel rooms, having mobile phones and selling their own homes
and cars.

In January 2013 a new emigration law was adopted that made it easier for
Cubans, including dissidents, to travel abroad. Internet access became
available, though at jaw-dropping prices, and Peugeot cars went on sale,
though priced as if they were Lamborghinis.

For many European and American politicians, Cuba is in the process of
becoming a modern nation whose past sins as well, as it's the lack of
democracy and freedom of expression, must be forgiven. Others say it's
just a ploy to buy time.

The average Cuba, whose morning coffee does not include milk, who has
only one hot meal a day and who wastes two hours a day commuting to and
from work on the inefficient public transport system, is not likely to
be impressed with the much hyped opportunities.

Those who open private restaurants or receive remittances from overseas
can weather the storm. Those who work for the state — in other words,
most people — are the ones having it the worst.

Although the regime may try to camouflage its new policies by resorting
to various ideological stunts, the person on the street realizes that
the new Cuban reality is nothing more than state capitalism painted over
in red.

For a wide segment of the Cuban population, the new investment law is a
distant echo. It is yet to be see if it bring them any benefits.

Ivan Garcia

*Translator's note: In 2010 Cuban prosecutors accused Marambio and his
firm, Río Zaza, of corruption. Marambio claimed the actions were
retribution on the part of Fidel and Raul Castro for his support for
Marco Enríquez-Ominami, a candidate in Chile's 2009 presidential
election. Marambio filed suit with the International Court of
Arbitration in Paris against his Cuban business partner, Coralsa, a
state-owned juice and dairy company. On July 17 the court found in favor
of Marambio and ordered Coralsa to pay over $17.5 million dollars in
damages "for refusing to cooperate in good faith" in the process of
liquidating Rio Zaza.

30 March 2014

Source: Cuba Opens the Gates to Foreign Capital / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 04.10.14

Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
As senator Patrick Leahy calls ZunZuneo 'a cockamamie idea,' senators
Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez voice their support for the program.

Defenders of a U.S. government program for Cubans fired back in the U.S.
Senate on Thursday, with Marco Rubio urging the Twitter-like platform be
restored, and Bob Menendez asking for documents on all similar programs
around the world.

Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he
wants to figure out whether the ZunZuneo platform created by the U.S.
Agency for International Development was consistent with USAID programs
for Internet freedoms in other authoritarian countries.

"Our work in Cuba is no different than our efforts to promote freedom of
expression and uncensored access to information in Ukraine, Russia,
Belarus, Iran, China or North Korea," he told a committee hearing with
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

USAID's ZunZuneo program came under intense scrutiny after The
Associated Press reported that it was a "covert" effort to promote
opposition to the communist government. USAID and the White House have
rejected The AP's characterization.

With supporters of USAID's programs in Cuba saying they are legal and
necessary, and critics saying they are ineffective and wasteful, one
program supervisor who asked for anonymity said Wednesday that the
controversy "is turning into a food fight."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate appropriations panel,
told Shah during a hearing with his committee Tuesday that ZunZuneo,
which allowed Cubans to send short messages to each other from 2010 to
2012, was "a cockamamie idea."

Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Cuban-American, says it was
"dumb, dumb, and even dumber" to suggest that Cubans don't deserve the
same freedoms as the rest of the world and took a jab at Leahy.

"Let me say for the record: When it comes to the issue of Cuba or your
work in any closed society, I do not believe that USAID's actions … are,
in any way, a 'cockamamie idea,' " he told Shah.

"You come at a time when USAID is making headlines for, in my mind,
doing nothing more than the job you were appointed to do," Menendez
said. "It is common sense that we shouldn't ask the government of Iran
or Egypt or China for permission to support advocates of free speech,
human rights, or political pluralism or to provide uncensored access to
the Internet or social media."

Rubio, a Cuban-American Republican from South Florida, said he wanted to
shoot down the "insinuation" that ZunZuneo was illegal and covert and
argued that the platform was successful, with 64,000 users before it ran
out of USAID money.

"When is the last time that we've been outraged by a government program
that undermines a tyranny and provides access to a people of a country
to the free flow of information and the ability to talk to each other,"
he asked.

"And so, my question would be, and I know this is a long-winded
question: When do we start this program again?" he said. "What do we
need to do to start, not just this program, but expand it, so that
people in Cuba can do what I just did?"

What Rubio had just done was to send a tweet that he said would have
landed him in jail if he had sent it from Cuba, where the government
blocks access to Twitter and holds a monopoly on Internet access and

Rubio's tweet: "raul castro is a human rights violator &tyrant. people
of #cuba have a right to have access to internet and social media."

Source: Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez defend USAID's 'Cuban Twitter' program
- Cuba - - Continue reading
El senador Bob Menendez, presidente del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado de Estados Unidos, defendió el programa ZunZuneo implementado en Cuba por la Agencia de Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID), el cual, dijo, “no fue en modo alguno una idea descabellada" Continue reading
When a government’s financial figures are in the red, everything takes on new urgency. By now the formulas to address the problem are well-known. Often new tax measures are imposed while bloated public spending is slashed. But if the goal … Continue reading Continue reading
Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso Torna /
Posted on April 9, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuba-United States confrontation increased its pitch
with the publication by the daily Granma of the article, Zunzuneo: The
Noise of Subversion, commenting on a report by the AP news agency about
ZunZuneo and Piramideo, two text message services (SMS) accused of
having illegally complied a list of telephone numbers to which it sent
unsolicited messages on innocent topics like sports and culture, but
which later would become subversive messages to young people, considered
"susceptible to political change."

According to Granma, the cornerstone of the ZunZuneo plan — a network
that emerged in February 2010 — was to access the "data and phone
numbers of Cubacel users," the branch with the most ETECSA users. In the
same paragraph, the Communist Party daily suggests: "It is not clear to
the AP how the telephone numbers were obtained although it appears to
indicate that it was done in an illicit manner."

Maybe the AP does not know that the ETECSA database — guide of mobile
and fixed (residential and commercial) telephone numbers — was leaked in
early 2010 to laptop and desktop computers all over the Island. And
that, immediately, promotional texts began to appear issued by Cuban
artistic groups or clubs and bulk messages — unsolicited — demanding
freedom for the five Cuban spies. I remember perfectly one that said:
"To love justice is to defend the five. End injustice! Freedom now!"

The official ETECSA database is updated every year. The latest version
that circulates in the population accounts for 60 per cent of the mobile
phones, some 200,000 users, not counting the residential sector. The
weight of this application in megabytes is between 200 and 450 (by
design) and can be copied in any digital format.

Is it possible that ZunZuneo got 25 thousand subscribers in less than
six months without the need of a database as the AP well reflects? Why
not talk about the so popular data leakage by ETECSA and the
proselytizing in its unsolicited text messages?

Thanks to a friend not tied to the internal oppositon or independent
journalism, I subscribed to ZunZuneo in 2010. It was all very simple, it
just required sending an SMS to a phone number outside the border and
you would receive news about sports, culture or science or technology.
Also, one could subscribe on the Internet, at a time when the number of
connected Cubans was barely 2.9 percent of the population.

Often senior citizens receive in Cuba promotional messages about a
reggaeton concert, also the "March of the Torches Parade in Havana — The
Great Country" is convened through Cubacel, as happened January 27 this
year. Is this not, perhaps, the equivalent of infringing on "the laws of
privacy" as Granma says of ZunZuneo?

Nothing is said about the database leak by Cubacel, software that has
generated groups of clandestine users and even phantom prepaid top-ups
within the informal Cuban market.

This Thursday, the US government responded to the AP's accusations.
White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that his government was
involved in the program and that it even had been approved in Congress.
But the spokesman for the State Department, Marie Harf, denied on
Thursday that the social network was the product of a secret or
undercover operation. "We were trying to expand the space for Cubans to
express themselves," said Harf.For his part, White House spokesman Jay
Carney denied that ZunZuneo had an undercover nature although he
clarified that the US president supports efforts to expand
communications in Cuba.

AP and international media that have reproduced the "scandal" of
ZunZuneo should know that the ZunZuneo application never was used for
any "subversive" movement in Cuba. Instead, the Cuban government used
the ETECSA database to send text messages advocating the liberation of
the five spies or the attendance at pro-governmental political events.

About a year ago, the ZunZuneo messages stopped. Cubans still do not
communicate freely.

Cubanet, April 8, 2014

Translated by mlk

Source: Zunzuneo: Subversion or Breaking Censorship; / Odelin Alfonso
Torna / HemosOido | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
APRIL 10, 2014 4:00 AM

Sending Ideas to Cuba
The Castro regime appreciates that Communism cannot survive the free
flow of communication.
By Mike Gonzalez

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50
years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune
with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even
immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959.
That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of
oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for
International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist
censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans
could access. This "Cuban Twitter" was a ray of hope that should be

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul.
The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline "US
secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest." This week the U.S.
Senate got in on the act with a hearing at which Democrats took the
agency to task. It is passing strange that journalists and legislators
whose trade depends on a free flow of information should get a bad case
of the vapors when Cubans are given access to each other and the outside
world. Let's concentrate, however, on why USAID's action should be
applauded, not denigrated.
Cubans have no independent press. The three national newspapers and
eight television stations are under the control of the Communist party.
Only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet, according to the
watchdog group Freedom House. This 5 percent is presumably the
percentage the regime thinks it can count on.

What Cubans have, in other words, is 24/7 Castro propaganda. The reason
is very simple. As with all totalitarian regimes, Communism cannot
survive the free flow of ideas. If people under Communism were exposed
to alternative viewpoints, not even the most ruthless police state could
hold them back.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) put it succinctly at an event, on the
Internet and Cuba, that the Heritage Foundation hosted with Google two
years ago: "The regime is so afraid of sharing information because they
can't survive it."

Communist governments must rely on a mixture of state terror,
information blackout, and constant propaganda. It's no coincidence that
Cubans share their fate with North Koreans and the Chinese, whose
countries also ban an independent press, or that the Communist party in
Beijing is busily squelching the last few remnants of the free press in
Hong Kong and putting pressure on bankers to stop advertising in the
last truly free newspaper, Apple Daily.

I know whereof I speak. Today I take for granted my information-rich
environment, my drives to work in the morning as I toggle between NPR,
talk radio, and C-SPAN Radio, and my office decked out with two screens,
one on which I typed this article, the other devoted to Tweet Deck,
which I think of as my personal wire-service newsroom.

As a child I wasn't as fortunate, and neither was my father. As a young
Cuban in the 1960s, I saw him huddle in the evenings around the
pre-Castro shortwave radio he used to receive information from abroad,
his ear pegged to it because he had to keep the volume low lest he be
overheard by neighborhood snitches and instantly arrested. Owning such a
device was illegal, so we hid it during the day.

Even my father's father was luckier. He could use his radio show to
fulminate against the dictator Fulgencio Batista in the 1940s. Sure, my
grandfather had to avoid Batista's thugs from time to time, and once
they tried to force him to drink a bottle of airplane fuel to intimidate

But my father under Castro had no recourse to his father's "luxury." He
had no independent media he could use to communicate with thousands or
even millions of other Cubans. Had father taken to our porch to give his
thoughts an airing, he would have been heard by only a handful of people
before being arrested and probably later shot.

The difference between the three generations of my family is the
difference between authoritarian regimes, totalitarian ones, and
freedom. Venezuela has demonstrators in the streets because there is
still some vestige of independent media there. If its goonish
authoritarian regime succeeds at quashing that rebellion, it will try to
turn Venezuela into a version of Cuba and North Korea.

It was precisely that totalitarian control on the flow of ideas that
USAID was trying to sidestep. It was trying to give Cubans access to
ideas from outside and, more important, let them communicate with one

Was that subversive? Yes, I suppose it was. But was it noble? Yes, very
much so. That 10 million Cubans today should suffer the same fate as my
father 50 years ago is a tragedy.

— Mike Gonzalez is vice president of communications at the Heritage
Foundation. His book on Hispanics will be out in September.

Source: Sending Ideas to Cuba | National Review Online - Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba — The Cuba-United States confrontation increased its pitch with the publication by the daily Granma of the article, Zunzuneo: The Noise of Subversion, commenting on a report by the AP news agency about ZunZuneo and Piramideo, two text message … Continue reading Continue reading
The Voices of Cubans? / Miriam Celaya
Posted on April 8, 2014

Arrogance is a personality trait impossible to hide for those who suffer
from it. In fact, it becomes more obvious when an arrogant individual
tries to cover his proverbial petulance under a cloak of feigned
humility. The worst of such a subject, however, is his histrionic
ability that allows him to deceive considerable groups of people,
particularly those who desperately need someone to speak "for them" or
those who, quite the opposite, enjoy the blessing of authority.

In the case of Cuba, where freedom of speech, of the press, of
information and of association are among the major shortages of this
society, it is not difficult that, from time to time, some savior may
appear self-proclaiming to be "the spokesperson for Cubans" which–it's
obvious–betrays immeasurable insolence, not only because it lacks the
allocation of powers, but because it previously assumes an often
repeated lie that, for some chumps, has become the truth: Cubans have no
voice. Allow me, Mr. Arrogant and his troupe, to correct your mistake:
Cuba's Cubans do have a voice, what they lack is the means to be heard,
not to mention the great number of deaf people in the world.

But, of course, a shining hero will always appear–usually with
credentials and even with a pedigree–who, from his infinite wisdom, will
quickly delve into the deeper intricacies of the Cuban reality and will
be the only one capable to interpret it objectively because he, balanced
and fair, "is not at the end of the spectrum". Interestingly, these
specimens proliferate virulently among accredited foreign journalists on
the Island.

Since I don't wish to be absolute, I suppose that there are those who
are humble and even respectful of Cubans and of our reality, only I have
never had the privilege of meeting them. It may be my bad luck, but,
that said, to practice journalism in Cuba armed with credentials of a
major media outlet and with the relative safety that your work will be
published and–very important–duly financially rewarded, seems to have a
hallucinogenic effect on some of them.

Such is the case of quasi-Cubanologist Fernando Ravsberg, to whom I will
refer as "R" as an abbreviation, a journalist recently fallen from grace
with his (ex) employer, the BBC, who has written a plaintive post
following his clash with the powerful medium and, oh, surprise! after
many years of working as a correspondent in Cuba and having collected
his earnings has found that "he does not share their editorial judgment"
as stated in his personal blog, Cartas Desde Cuba. R, inexplicably, took
longer to find out the editorial standards of the BBC than to get
acquainted with the intimacies of such a controversial society as that
of Cuba.

R soaked us with "having tried to be the voice of ordinary Cubans," of
"the man on the street" through his blog. He says this with such
conviction that there are even those who, besides himself, have believed
it. And, since this man is not afraid and has taken his messianic
mission very seriously, he is proposing that, "from now on, whoever has
an interest in continuing to debate on the reality of the Island, will
be able to do so through my personal page". Very humble, R, seriously,
and we should be thankful… where else could we do it otherwise?

I must confess that my stomach is not that strong, so I read R's work
only every now and then, and afterwards, I spend some time detoxing. For
example, phrases like this sicken me: "We tried to decipher the keys to
the psychiatric hospital crime, where some thirty patients died from
hunger and cold". In Cuban lingo R was really "discovering" warm water
because that monstrous crime was in no way encrypted.

For most Cubans, and to every independent journalist who covered the
story extensively and published serious review articles about the case,
the essence of the events lies in the corrupt nature of the system, its
officials and, in particular, the impunity of its practitioners and
those who are foremost responsible: the dictatorial gerontocracy of over
half a century, that is, the same one R awards great credit for the
universal health care for Cubans.

In any moderately democratic country, more than one high official would
have been blown out of the water over a similar scandal. OK, then, the
events of the psychiatric hospital are just the sample button of the
quality of health service offered to ordinary Cubans, common Cubans who
have no access to hard currency clinics, or to the CIMEQ*, where the
anointed and the leaders are cared for. Needless to say, mental patients
are the most fragile and defenseless.

If R knew a tad more about the history of Cuba, he would know that,
though as inadequate as it is today, Cuba had public health care since
colonial times; therefore, it is not a Castro-innovation. And there were
health care institutions that were eliminated by the revolution: I, as
the daughter of a qualified laborer and a housewife, was born at Acción
Médica (Coco and Rabí Streets, Santos Suárez, Havana) a clinic all the
members of my family belonged to. Their service and their attentive care
were both very good.

As for "low infant mortality" so highly advertised, many specialists
question the accuracy of Cuban statistics. In fact, they are so fickle
that they do not reflect the number of neonates who die before being
entered in the records, because there is an official policy that guides
registration of births when newborns are healthy and have at least some
basic guarantees for survival.

I know testimonials from parents whose children were born with certain
defects or conditions incompatible with life and remained hospitalized
until their death, several days later, without ever being registered.
Officially, these children are never born, so they go from the womb to
their eternal sleep without the required red tape. Thus, officials
prevent them from being a negative number in the fabulous statistics
displayed to the world, but what does it matter, if even the World
Health Organization recognizes the overwhelming success of revolutionary
medicine and applauds it excitedly.

As for "universal education" comments are not needed. Every Cuban born
in this process who has attended school in previous decades, and whose
children and grandchildren have also been students in Cuba know only too
well about the deteriorating quality of education, teachers and teaching
facilities, more manifest in the last two decades, to say nothing of the
indoctrination and the segregation of those who think differently than
the official line.

If R considers this an achievement, he should also know that public and
private education existed since colonial times on the Island, and that,
since the eighteenth century, academic tradition was established in our
country and lasted until the totalitarianism of this government turned
it into a hostage to ideology and monopolized, generalized, and
uniformed, to its detriment, all education.

As an example, my grandson Cesar, who is in first grade, learned about
"the five heroes", Che Guevara and F. Castro at school, however, they
have never mentioned Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte or any
of the founding fathers of the Cuban nation to him… and even less the
great civic figures in the history of this country.

Another issue would be what R calls "the world's most efficient civil
defense". This already seems a hallucination as a result of an overdose
…of something. What exactly is the "civil defense" for this brilliant
journalist? The answer is a mystery, so we can only speculate. Could it
be that he is referring to the spectral MTT**, whose only "proof" of
existence is the work-day that all of this country's state employees
donate annually, but nobody knows where the money goes or how these
funds are used?

Or is this what R calls the amorphous mass, grouped under the generic
"CDR" whose only purpose is to pay the State a few cents monthly and to
light up a bonfire once a year to display the collective hunger by
consuming a repulsive (revolutionary) stew? Does R ignore that the CDR's
are today a pipe dream, just shreds of the most formidable organization
that Castro I created in order to spy on us and get us to betray each
other, which filled people with distrust, envy and hatred?

In criticizing the dissidence and some others of Cuba's ills, R states
he's seeking a necessary "journalistic balance" (some euphemism!). R is
just spewing the first thing that comes to mind or whatever is at hand,
be it a stone or something less principled, which–far from achieving
some balance–only results in murky half-truths or misrepresentations.
It's what happens whenever a "critic" attacks the effects, carefully
avoiding pointing out the causes. Thus, R is playing with the chain,
including some high links, but he keeps a very prudent distance from the
monkey. That way, anyone can be an acrobat and keep the balance.

He does lash out at "the dissidence", and how! This is what happens
when, from his comfortable seat, R questions the finances that the same
dissidence gets, since such an expert analyst of the Cuban reality must
know, members of the dissidence are expelled from jobs and school and
many lack any other income or livelihood.

At the same time, for R–and for the Cuban regime–it is obvious that any
"dissent" is funded by the U.S. government: apparently, they have their
proof. However, I don't know of any dissident jailed for being "in the
service of a foreign power". Who could believe that the olive green
satrapy would allow the existence of so many "mercenaries" when the mere
act of protesting or making an anti-government poster has resulted in
brutal reprisals or landed many Cubans in prison?

But we human beings always have something in common. Here's where R and
I are alike: I'm not "politically correct". Indeed, some people think
I'm not correct at all. Though I suspect we do not have the same concept
of what is "political" or what is "correct". For instance, R says on his
blog "we analyzed the dissidence's weaknesses" (because in his infinite
virtue, R humbly overuses the plural and replaces the "I" with an
unpretentious "we", a common vice among speakers of the nomenclature).

At times, I have also criticized the proposal or program of my
opponents, stipulating the reasons why I don't share their views, which
doesn't mean I don't respect or support them in their struggle against
the regime and in favor of democracy, or do not recognize their values.
Because, if we are talking about equilibrium, attacking the
dissidence–the weakest link of the political chain in Cuba–is the
easiest thing in the world; not allowing them a chance to reply is
simply indecent.

As in every community or human group, it is true that not all the
members of the dissidence are an example of virtue or honesty, but that
does not imply that the opposition is a cesspool of detritus. R doesn't
even acknowledge the value of certain groups or individuals that have
been performing staid and growing civic work within society and enjoy
great prestige in their communities, as well as outside of Cuba.

Manipulating information, distorting and fragmenting reality to suit
your fancy and raving against sectors and individuals who do not have
the possibility or the means to defend themselves and who are at a total
disadvantage against the longest dictatorship in this hemisphere is
opportunism and mediocrity, but, above all, it is immoral and unethical.

Finally, if, as R says, "the chief diplomat of the U.S. in Cuba
recommended that the State Department" should read his blog "to
understand the real situation" in our country, revealed through a
"secret cable" filtered through Wikileaks, our sincerest congratulations
(to R, of course, because the State Department would just end up with
yet another oblique interpretation from a foreigner who is thriving on
the Cuban situation).

There is no doubt that R can still extract other advantages from his
undeniable ability to sell himself as a specialist of the topics he
writes about. Pity those souls who give him credit or pay for his work;
it is well known that all spectacles need their public.

It is striking, however, that R considers as beneficial the
acknowledgment he gets from the government he often condemns because it
maintains the "criminal embargo" against the Island and, in addition,
finances us, the sinister mercenary dissidence. Will he make up his
mind, already and pick a side? Maybe neither; rather, the incident
deeply flatters his ego and serves as a present for his arrogance, hence
the gloating.

I think I've already overextended myself. Some might be of the opinion
that so much effort was not worth it, as a very wise saying goes: to
foolish words, deaf ears. I have decided this time to go with another:
silence means consent. These twisted characters can end up doing a lot
of harm.

For the rest, my regular readers know that this writer is characterized
by the absence of hair follicles on her tongue [she will say whatever
she thinks], a trait which will annoy some. What are we gonna do! It's
very hard for me to keep silent in the face of so much effrontery.
Chauvinism aside, it especially irks me to see such cheap verbiage from
a foreigner who, when it's all said and done, does not hurt for Cuba,
Cubans, or their distresses. As far as I'm concerned, if this man is the
voice of Cubans, it would be better for us if he remained discretely silent.

*El Centro de Investigaciones Médico Quirúrgicas (Medical-Surgery
Research Center, in Havana)
**The Territorial Troops Militia (Milicias de Tropas Territoriales)

Translated by Norma Whiting
4 April 2014

Source: The Voices of Cubans? / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Alan Gross, the American government contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009, received wide media coverage on Tuesday after he announced he had started a hunger strike to demand that Cuba and the United States negotiate his release. If only Vladimir... Continue reading
Arrogance is a personality trait impossible to hide for those who suffer from it. In fact, it becomes more obvious when an arrogant individual tries to cover his proverbial petulance under a cloak of feigned humility. The worst of such … Continue reading Continue reading
07 de abril de 2014, 13:58 Brasilia, Apr 7 (Prensa Latina) Brazilain youths demanded today in this capital, during a friendly soccer game, freedom for three Cubans jailed in the United States for fighting Continue reading
A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded
By Editorial Board, Monday, April 7, 1:20 AM

HUMAN RIGHTS Watch's 2014 annual report paints a somber picture of
political life in Cuba. "The Cuban government continues to repress
individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic
human rights," the report notes. "The government controls all media
outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information,
severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny
fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs
because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet."

It is worse than scandalous that Cuba's 11 million people are still
trapped under these conditions some 55 years after Fidel and Raul Castro
came to power on a promise of national liberation. Yet a recent story in
the U.S. press and comments by certain U.S. politicians about it imply
that Americans should be terribly upset about the Obama administration's
efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.

Source: A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded - The
Washington Post - Continue reading
The Internet in Cuba: 5 Things You Need to Know

A misguided attempt by the U.S. government to create a Twitter-like
social network in Cuba — which ended with $1.6 million spent and just
40,000 users to show for it — has put the state of the Internet on the
communist island back on the spotlight.

Cuba has long been one of the least connected countries in the world.
Indeed, the country rivals North Korea in the extent to which it has
shut itself out from the Internet.

Here are five things you need to know about Internet freedom in Cuba, a
country that blogger and Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez calls "the Island
of the disconnected."

SEE ALSO: Is Venezuela's Government Tightening Its Grip on the Internet?

1. Internet access is the greatest obstacle ...

In 2011, roughly 25% of Cubans had Internet access, according to the
country's National Statistics Office and the International
Telecommunication Union. But that number is misleading — it includes
people that can only log into a government-controlled Intranet of
state-approved websites.

Only 5% of Cubans actually have access to the open Internet, according
to Internet freedom watchdog Freedom House. Home connections are
practically nonexistent, and only government officials, academics,
doctors, engineers, or regime-approved journalists have Internet access
at work, says Ellery Biddle, a researcher who has focused on Cuban
Internet issues for the last six years.

For everyone else, there are expensive government-run Internet cafes
where an hour of connection can cost between $6 and $10, a prohibitive
amount of money in a country where the average weekly salary is around $20.

Where connection is possible, the speed is so slow there's very little
they can do online but check email and sluggishly surf websites. "When
they do access the Internet, they try to do really the bare minimum,"
Cynthia Romero, the Latin America Senior Program Officer at Freedom
House, tells Mashable.

Even computers are hard to come by. Until 2008 Cubans were barred from
buying their own, which explains why Cuba's National Statistics Office
reported in 2011 that there were only 783,000 computers in the whole

2. ... but there are creative workarounds

With such limited access, Cubans have employed more creative methods of
surfing. One of the most popular is for people to download online
articles onto thumb drives, then pass them around to friends and family.

This is sometimes called the "sneakernet," though Sanchez calls it the
"Internet without Internet" — a callback to the 1990s, when Cubans used
to cook the "meat picadillo without meat" because of food shortages.

"With one person connecting to the Internet, a hundred, two hundred,
five hundred or a thousands are actually accessing information," Sanchez
said during a talk (embedded below) at the 2013 Google Ideas Summit in
New York City.

Some Cubans with Internet access sell it to others or share accounts.
Others build their own antennas or use illegal dial-up connections. But
the Cuban government clamps down on these efforts with technicians
"sniffing" neighborhoods for ham radios and satellite dishes, according
to Freedom House.

Activists also use alternative ways to tweet, like texting or even
"speak-to-tweet" systems. Cubans can call a phone number in the U.S. and
record an anonymous message that gets automatically converted to text
and shared via Twitter or Facebook. These calls, however, can cost more
than $1, making it an expensive workaround.

3. There's actually very little online censorship

When so few people have Internet access, you don't need to censor it
that much. In terms of blocking content, Cuba is no China. News websites
like The New York Times, or the Miami Herald are available, as are the
sites of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International.

Facebook and Twitter are accessible. YouTube is not.

There is a certain degree of censorship, especially when it comes to
blogs run by anti-government activists like Sanchez. Her blog,
Generation Y, is inaccessible, and so are others like Bitácora Cubana
and Cubanet, according to Freedom House.

The Cuban government has also been prosecuting and silencing dissident
bloggers via arbitrary arrests, beatings and intimidation.

4. The Cuban government has a significant online presence

Despite limiting access, the Cuban government has a major footprint on
the Internet. A 1,000-strong cyber militia, made up of students from the
University of Computer Sciences (UCI) of la Havana, are part of a
so-called propaganda initiative called Operation Truth. They are tasked
with discrediting government critics and promoting the government's agenda.

"The Cuban government has always been very good with information and
disseminating its version of accounts," says Romer. "So now they're
starting to venture out more and more into the Internet and social media."

The regime even has its own versions of Wikipedia and Facebook. Cuba's
online encyclopedia is called Ecured, but it only has 78,000 articles
and a small number of hand-picked editors. Social Red was Cuba's
short-lived response to Facebook.

5. Internet surveillance isn't sophisticated, but Cubans take it for granted
The government has a tight control on the country's telecommunications.
There are only two Internet Service Providers; both are state-owned.
Cubacel, a subsidiary of Cuba's telecom authority ETECSA, is the only
cellular carrier.

With such control, Cuba doesn't need cutting-edge Internet surveillance
tools, but it does have software like Avila Link, which collects private
information from public computers and monitors Internet activity.

With real-world surveillance so widespread, Cubans "are paranoid that
someone may be watching," says Romero.

At Internet cafes, Cubans have to provide an ID to use a computer,
making anonymous use of the Internet nearly impossible. With all that
comes self-censorship — and a sense of resignation.

"There's no expectation of privacy in most aspects of your life," says
Biddle. "I think people people generally expect [online surveillance]."

Source: The Internet in Cuba: 5 Things You Need to Know - Continue reading
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), as one of a number of in-depth reviews of major press freedom developments in the past six months in each of the countries of the Americas, Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 04.03.14

Fabiola Santiago: Cuban Twitter story a big 'So What?'

On first read, the Associated Press report on the "Cuban Twitter" sounds
ominous and cloak-and-daggerish — like an old Cold War caper.

It has secret operatives and secret meetings, front companies and an
overseas account — and impeccable timing. The report was released
overnight Thursday after Cuba's most celebrated blogger, Yoani Sanchez,
on her third U.S. visit, held a Twitter talk from Washington D.C.

What else could one possibly want now that Russia has invaded Crimea?

A good tussle with Cuba, of course.

Headlined "U.S. secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest," the
lengthy report chronicled in detail the existence of a short-lived
social media project the news agency said was "aimed at undermining
Cuba's communist government."

As if a Cuban could overthrow a 55-year-old dictatorship in 140 characters.

According to the AP, the operation used a Cayman Islands bank account
and recruited contractors who didn't know they were working for the U.S.
government. The techies met in a Casablanca of sorts, Barcelona, and
came from places reminiscent of the Iran contra affair, like Costa Rica
and Nicaragua, and from Washington and Denver (although I failed to
detect a marijuana connection).

The techies, given what we know from the report, had no idea who was
signing the paychecks.

One of the contractors wrote in a memo that the U.S. government's
involvement should not be mentioned, as it was "crucial" that the
"Mission" (note the capital M) be kept secret.

It's only the seventh paragraph of a lengthy story, but by now, you're
already seeing Bogart in a trench coat.

But when placed in the context of history, the U.S.-sponsored creation
of a Cuban social media network sounds more like just another
run-of-the-mill U.S. Cuba policy fail.

This was not a CIA plot, but a project funded by the U.S. Agency for
International Development, which not only delivers humanitarian aid
abroad, as the AP pointed out, but also funds all sorts of international
projects more successful than this one.

A dedicated Cuban communications zone — even one cleverly dubbed
"ZunZuneo," after what Cubans call the sound of a hummingbird — in a
country where people earn an average of $20 a month and own little if
any technology, is not exactly a prescription for "smart mobs," flash
crowds, and a Cuban Spring.

To tweet, or even to do so as Sanchez often does from the island via SMS
messaging, one needs a cell phone, no?

Not to mention, as retired University of Miami scholar Andy Gomez
reminded me Thursday, that what keeps people in Cuba from protesting en
masse is not the lack of a tweet but the brutal repression to which
they're subjected for much lesser offenses.

"Youth in Cuba are more interested in getting out of the island than in
taking to the streets and taking over the government," Gomez said. "The
repression is so bad, why would they want to take on the government?"

All that aside, what's the difference between Radio and TV Marti,
founded during the Reagan administration, and the Obama administration's
Cuban Twitter?

The answer is two decades of modernity — the explosion of social media
and technology — and the fact that the hawkish President Reagan publicly
announced the creation of radio and television stations that would
broadcast news and information to Cuba.

President Obama, on the other hand, only hinted when he was in Miami
last November the need to be "creative" when it came to U.S. Cuban policy.

Now we know — or think we know — some of what Obama may have been
talking about the night he met with Cuban dissident leaders at the home
of the president of the Cuban American National Foundation.

"We've started to see changes on the island," Obama said that night.
"Now, I think we all understand that, ultimately, freedom in Cuba will
come because of extraordinary activists and the incredible courage of
folks like we see here today. But the United States can help. And we
have to be creative. And we have to be thoughtful. And we have to
continue to update our policies…. And what we have to do is to
continually find new mechanisms and new tools to speak out on behalf of
the issues that we care so deeply about."

So why not a "Cuban Twitter" — a site in which Cubans could communicate
with each other — from a maverick president who was the first to
successfully campaign and press his agenda on social media?

Too bad it didn't work, and that the only Cuban Spring is the travel
roster of a few brave dissidents, who have earned international acclaim
yet speak in a voice heard only outside Cuba.

And so here we are, the rest of us in Miami in the same place where we
were before we delved into the AP report — but a little more exhausted,
desgastados, following another sad installment of a never-ending saga.

There's even a name these days for what ails us.

Cuba fatigue.

Source: Fabiola Santiago: Cuban Twitter story a big 'So What?' - Fabiola
Santiago - - Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 04.03.14

Cuban-Americans react to secret Twitter project

Cuban-Americans are divided over the revelation by The Associated Press
that the U.S. government spent millions of dollars to secretly create a
"Cuban Twitter" designed to undermine the island's communist government.

Some view the project as a welcome alternative to the decades-old Cold
War between the United States and Cuba that has involved more violent
efforts to overthrow the Castro government, including a failed plot to
give then-President Fidel Castro an exploding cigar. For others, the
news sparked fear that the program would only help the Cuban
government's efforts to discredit the island's small movement of
independent journalists and bloggers.

Between 2010 and 2012, the social network ZunZuneo attracted tens of
thousands of Cubans seeking ways to evade their government's strict
control over media and communication. In fact, ZunZuneo was created
through a U.S. State Department grant to eventually transmit
anti-government political messages and to encourage widespread dissent
among the island's youth.

The revelations come at a particularly sensitive time for activists on
the island, as renowned Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez prepares to launch
her independent media project next month.


"I don't think it was a bad thing if it was opening up people's minds.
... Look, the (U.S. government) had to change its tactics. With the
embargo, nothing happened for more than 50 years. At least this way they
were helping people communicate." — Miami construction worker Ivan
Marrero, 48, who fled Cuba in 2005 by boat.


"What do I think? I think it was a good thing. I hope that it gains
momentum so that the people realize what is going on in the outside
world and things change also in Cuba." — Miami-based massage therapy
student Belkis Hernandez, 44.


"This is extremely counter-productive to the whole intent of trying to
get reliable and credible information to the Cuban people without having
to undermine the Cuban government. ... The Cuban government will do
everything possible to discredit Yoani (Sanchez) and other opposition
leaders inside Cuba using this kind of information." — Andy Gomez, a
Cuba expert and senior policy adviser with the law firm Poblete Tamargo.


"This is more of the same. ... It's clear the regime change policy is
working in full mode." — Arturo Lopez Levy, a Cuban-born economist who
lectures at the University of Denver.


"We would have bought into it if anybody had come to us for it. As a
matter of fact, we may go out and ask (Cuban-American) investors to see
if they want to put money in that." — Cuban exile Pepe Hernandez, a
director of the Miami-based nonprofit Foundation for Human Rights in
Cuba, which receives money from USAID for its work on the island.


"What's the story? That the United States supports people's ability to
access open media? ... We're talking about Cubans (who) were not allowed
to communicate on social media, who cannot even own a satellite dish,
where there is no freedom of press." — Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.,
whose father served in the administration of Cuban leader Fulgencio
Batista and fled Cuba after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.


"The bottom line of the story is the Cuban people have no way of
communicating with each other, and the U.S. government tried to provide
a platform. ... As a broad concept, I'm not a big believer that
nonprofits are good vehicles to bring down governments. That isn't how I
would have set it up. I would have done everything but 'and then we
promote dissent.' If you do it right, the dissent would come on its own.
But this is a country where people desperately fear dissent because of
what the government does to punish dissent. I wish I would have thought
of the idea." — Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., whose parents left the island
in the 1960s.

"USAID is not a secret organization and they don't get their funds
through secret means. They present their budget to Congress. Congress
approves their budget. ... This is part of our program routinely done
throughout the world for many years to help the people of oppressed
countries get information where their repressive government denies them
that opportunity." — Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who left Cuba as
a child with her parents following the Cuban revolution.

Source: Cuban-Americans react to secret Twitter project - Nation Wires - - Continue reading
The Castro Regime Kills and Doesn't Lie / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on April 2, 2014

The Castro regime is, above all, biopolitical. Power over the life and
death of each one of the individuals, within and beyond the national
frontiers of the wicked little island in the Caribbean Sea. The Castro
regime is nothing if not necropolitical: death or the pardoning of life,
at times with a legal view at times in a succulent secrecy.

The death penalty was restored in Cuba as soon as Fidel Castro's
guerrilla's were installed in the Sierra Maestra. Ernesto Ché Guevara
and Raúl Castro, two "leaders" who did not cause a single member of
Fulgencio Batista's constitutional army to fall in combat, loved to kill
handcuffed men, especially when the accused came from the ranks of their
own Rebel Army. So they won their ranks, their epaulettes gleaming with
the cadavers condemned by "conviction."

In the so-called "flatlands," in the violent urban underground of 1957
and 1958, the Revolutionary death penalty was happily applied right in
the Cuban streets by the shooters—not to be confused with the
terrorists—of the 26th of July Movement (M-26-7).

After the tremendous apotheosis of 1 January 1959, the government made
death its first law, and shot en masse several generations of
ex-Bastitaites and neo-Castroites. Thousands of "maximum penalties" are
documented, but the real figure will continue to be a mystery until the
end of time. There are no records. Not because an Orwellian intelligence
apparatus destroyed them, no. There are no records because in the
majority of cases no one kept them. They shot because people were
pointed at. Even before trial. By decree. As an exemplary punishment. As
prevention. Out of hatred for the Cuban people and their natural
anti-communism. Over and over again, from "conviction": that is, by the
balls of the comandante.

In this list there are many crimes, with real bombs and improbable
strokes, committed in exile. Some at the hands of Cuban diplomats
themselves, who carry arms and shoot in peace, even in the most
conservative capital of civilized Europe, as did Carlos Medina Pérez in
London 1988.

this Castro List of the Fallen, in October 2011, in the Calixto Garcia
Hospital in Havana, is the leader of the peaceful pro-democracy movement
The Ladies in White, the beloved Laura Pollán, betrayed perhaps by those
closest to her. Also on the Castro List of the Fallen, in July 2012, on
a highway closed to traffic in the provinces of Camagüey or Las Tunas or
Granma—we will never know, because no one has the right to believe in a
State forensic report—are the founding leader of the peaceful Christian
Liberation Movement, the intellectual Oswaldo Payá, along with his young
collaborator Harold Cepero. Both Oswaldo and Laura had won for Cuba the
Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European
Parliament, in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

This is just what Fidel does not forgive. As he does not forgive the
hope for a liberation. As he does not forgive that there is a future
after him.

We now have a living testimony of that double attack in eastern Cuba on
Sunday 22 July 2012. This testimony was just released by the Madrid
publisher Anaya.

The book is called Death Under Suspicion (2014), and it is the chronicle
of the crime in the voice of the young Spanish politician Ángel
Carromero (of the New Generations of the People's Party), direct witness
to the tragedy, who was driving the rental Hyundai when the
extrajudicial execution struck, causing the fatalities of Harold Cepero
and Oswaldo Payá. Also with them was the Swedish politician Jens Aron
Modig, another survivor, but he has still refused to tell everything,
after declaring "amnesia" caused by the "accident" provoked, according
to the Cuban State, by the "imprudence" of a driver "without a license."

The facts. Shortly after noon on 22 July 2012, the Hyundai was driven
off the road by another car, perhaps in a classic PIT maneuver (bumping
the car from behind). No one was injured. Then a group of men in
civilian clothes swarmed the car. The foreigners were taken down with
technical hits and then taken in separate vans to the hospital in
Bayamo, by then already taken over by officials from the army and the
national police. Little is known about the Cubans. But a few hours
later, without medical attention, Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were
the latest corpses of the Castro regime.

Nothing was heard, nor will it ever be known, about the identities of
those "anonymous heroes" who transported the two surviving foreigners.
Nor were they inquired about at the trial held in Bayamo—perhaps because
of an agreement between Havana's Plaza of the Revolution and Madrid's
Moncloa Palace—where, months later, Ángel Carromero was condemned to
four years in prison for "negligent homicide." The Swede had already
returned to Sweden by then, renouncing his political career, while his
testimony was dismissed as "irrelevant" by a Cuban court in this "common
case." So he was never called to testify.

All this was known from the beginning, because Carromero and Modig sent
several text messages just after the crime, and even managed to call
their respective bosses in Sweden and Spain—now suspiciously
silent—before their foreign phones were taken from them in the hospital
and they were kept incommunicado, despite the demands of Payá's and
Cepero's families to meet with both of them.

The most sinister part of Death Under Suspicion is that it is the
testimony of a man condemned to death, because Ángel Carromero reports
that, before finally being deported to his homeland to serve the rest of
his sentence in Spain (in December 2012), a Cuban State Security
official warned him that if he ever told the truth, he would also be
extrajudicially executed, like Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá.

You can believe Ángel Carromero now or not. It doesn't matter. But there
are thousands of dead for us to believe this horror of the Cuban official.

The Castro regime only lies in public. In private, never.

From El Nacional, Venezuela

2 April 2014

Source: The Castro Regime Kills and Doesn't Lie / Orlando Luis Pardo
Lazo | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 04.03.14

U.S. secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest

WASHINGTON — In July 2010, Joe McSpedon, a U.S. government official,
flew to Barcelona to put the final touches on a secret plan to build a
social media project aimed at undermining Cuba's communist government.

McSpedon and his team of high-tech contractors had come in from Costa
Rica and Nicaragua, Washington and Denver. Their mission: to launch a
messaging network that could reach hundreds of thousands of Cubans. To
hide the network from the Cuban government, they would set up a
byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account,
and recruit unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the
company's ties to the U.S. government.

McSpedon didn't work for the CIA. This was a program paid for and run by
the U.S. Agency for International Development, best known for overseeing
billions of dollars in U.S. humanitarian aid.

According to documents obtained by The Associated Press and multiple
interviews with people involved in the project, the plan was to develop
a bare-bones "Cuban Twitter," using cellphone text messaging to evade
Cuba's strict control of information and its stranglehold restrictions
over the Internet. In a play on Twitter, it was called ZunZuneo — slang
for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet.

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base
through "non-controversial content": news messages on soccer, music, and
hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of
subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce
political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize "smart mobs" —
mass gatherings called at a moment's notice that might trigger a Cuban
Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, "renegotiate the balance of
power between the state and society."

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news
and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was
created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were
gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for
political purposes.

"There will be absolutely no mention of United States government
involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the
project's contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term
success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission."

The program's legality is unclear: U.S. law requires that any covert
action by a federal agency must have a presidential authorization.
Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether
the White House was aware of it. McSpedon, the most senior official
named in the documents obtained by the AP, is a mid-level manager who
declined to comment.

USAID spokesman Matt Herrick said the agency is proud of its Cuba
programs and noted that congressional investigators reviewed them last
year and found them to be consistent with U.S. law.

"USAID is a development agency, not an intelligence agency, and we work
all over the world to help people exercise their fundamental rights and
freedoms, and give them access to tools to improve their lives and
connect with the outside world," he said.

"In the implementation," he added, "has the government taken steps to be
discreet in non-permissive environments? Of course. That's how you
protect the practitioners and the public. In hostile environments, we
often take steps to protect the partners we're working with on the
ground. This is not unique to Cuba."

But the ZunZuneo program muddies those claims, a sensitive issue for its
mission to promote democracy and deliver aid to the world's poor and
vulnerable — which requires the trust of foreign governments.

"On the face of it there are several aspects about this that are
troubling," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and chairman of the
Appropriations Committee's State Department and foreign operations

"There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had
no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity. There is the
clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the
appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility. And there is
the disturbing fact that it apparently activated shortly after Alan
Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to help provide
citizens access to the Internet, was arrested."

The Associated Press obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about
the project's development. The AP independently verified the project's
scope and details in the documents — such as federal contract numbers
and names of job candidates — through publicly available databases,
government sources and interviews with those directly involved in ZunZuneo.

Taken together, they tell the story of how agents of the U.S.
government, working in deep secrecy, became tech entrepreneurs — in
Cuba. And it all began with a half a million cellphone numbers obtained
from a communist government.


ZunZuneo would seem to be a throwback from the Cold War, and the
decades-long struggle between the United States and Cuba. It came at a
time when the historically sour relationship between the countries had
improved, at least marginally, and Cuba had made tentative steps toward
a more market-based economy.

It is unclear whether the plan got its start with USAID or Creative
Associates International, a Washington, D.C., for-profit company that
has earned hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts. But a "key
contact" at Cubacel, the state-owned cellphone provider, slipped the
phone numbers to a Cuban engineer living in Spain. The engineer provided
the numbers to USAID and Creative Associates "free of charge," documents

In mid-2009, Noy Villalobos, a manager with Creative Associates who had
worked with USAID in the 1990s on a program to eradicate drug crops,
started an IM chat with her little brother in Nicaragua, according to a
Creative Associates email that captured the conversation. Mario
Bernheim, in his mid-20s, was an up-and-coming techie who had made a
name for himself as a computer whiz.

"This is very confidential of course," Villalobos cautioned her brother.
But what could you do if you had all the cellphone numbers of a
particular country? Could you send bulk text messages without the
government knowing?

"Can you encrypt it or something?" she texted.

She was looking for a direct line to regular Cubans through text
messaging. Most had precious little access to news from the outside
world. The government viewed the Internet as an Achilles' heel and
controlled it accordingly. A communications minister had even referred
to it as a "wild colt" that "should be tamed."

Yet in the years since Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother
Raul, Cuba had sought to jumpstart the long stagnant economy. Raul
Castro began encouraging cellphone use, and hundreds of thousands of
people were suddenly using mobile phones for the first time, though
smartphones with access to the Internet remained restricted.

Cubans could text message, though at a high cost in a country where the
average wage was a mere $20 a month.

Bernheim told his sister that he could figure out a way to send instant
texts to hundreds of thousands of Cubans— for cheap. It could not be
encrypted though, because that would be too complicated. They wouldn't
be able to hide the messages from the Cuban government, which owned
Cubacel. But they could disguise who was sending the texts by constantly
switching the countries the messages came from.

"We could rotate it from different countries?" Villalobos asked. "Say
one message from Nica, another from Spain, another from Mexico"?

Bernheim could do that. "But I would need mirrors set up around the
world, mirrors, meaning the same computer, running with the same
platform, with the same phone."

"No hay problema," he signed off. No problem.


After the chat, Creative hired Bernheim as a subcontractor, reporting to
his sister. (Villalobos and Bernheim would later confirm their
involvement with the ZunZuneo project to AP, but decline further
comment.) Bernheim, in turn, signed up the Cuban engineer who had gotten
the phone list. The team figured out how to message the masses without
detection, but their ambitions were bigger.

Creative Associates envisioned using the list to create a social
networking system that would be called "Proyecto ZZ," or "Project ZZ."
The service would start cautiously and be marketed chiefly to young
Cubans, who USAID saw as the most open to political change.

"We should gradually increase the risk," USAID proposed in a document.
It advocated using "smart mobs" only in "critical/opportunistic
situations and not at the detriment of our core platform-based network."

USAID's team of contractors and subcontractors built a companion website
to its text service so Cubans could subscribe, give feedback and send
their own text messages for free. They talked about how to make the
website look like a real business. "Mock ad banners will give it the
appearance of a commercial enterprise," a proposal suggested.

In multiple documents, USAID staff pointed out that text messaging had
mobilized smart mobs and political uprisings in Moldova and the
Philippines, among others. In Iran, the USAID noted social media's role
following the disputed election of then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in
June 2009 — and saw it as an important foreign policy tool.

USAID documents say their strategic objective in Cuba was to "push it
out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get
the transition process going again towards democratic change."
Democratic change in authoritarian Cuba meant breaking the Castros' grip
on power.

USAID divided Cuban society into five segments depending on loyalty to
the government. On one side sat the "democratic movement," called "still
(largely) irrelevant," and at the other end were the "hard-core system
supporters," dubbed "Talibanes" in a derogatory comparison to Afghan and
Pakistani extremists.

A key question was how to move more people toward the democratic
activist camp without detection. Bernheim assured the team that wouldn't
be a problem.

"The Cuban government, like other regimes committed to information
control, currently lacks the capacity to effectively monitor and control
such a service," Bernheim wrote in a proposal for USAID marked
"Sensitive Information."

ZunZuneo would use the list of phone numbers to break Cuba's Internet
embargo and not only deliver information to Cubans but also let them
interact with each other in a way the government could not control.
Eventually it would build a system that would let Cubans send messages
anonymously among themselves.

At a strategy meeting, the company discussed building "user volume as a
cover ... for organization," according to meeting notes. It also
suggested that the "Landscape needs to be large enough to hide full
opposition members who may sign up for service."

In a play on the telecommunication minister's quote, the team dubbed
their network the "untamed colt."


At first, the ZunZuneo team operated out of Central America. Bernheim,
the techie brother, worked from Nicaragua's capital, Managua, while
McSpedon supervised Creative's work on ZunZuneo from an office in San
Jose, Costa Rica, though separate from the U.S. embassy. It was an
unusual arrangement that raised eyebrows in Washington, according to
U.S. officials.

McSpedon worked for USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), a
division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote
U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the
usual red tape.

In 2009, a report by congressional researchers warned that OTI's work
"often lends itself to political entanglements that may have diplomatic
implications." Staffers on oversight committees complained that USAID
was running secret programs and would not provide details.

"We were told we couldn't even be told in broad terms what was happening
because 'people will die,'" said Fulton Armstrong, who worked for the
Senate Foreign Relations committee. Before that, he was the US
intelligence community's most senior analyst on Latin America, advising
the Clinton White House.

The money that Creative Associates spent on ZunZuneo was publicly
earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, government data show.
But there is no indication of where the funds were actually spent.

Tensions with Congress spiked just as the ZunZuneo project was gearing
up in December 2009, when another USAID program ended in the arrest of
Gross. The U.S. contractor had traveled repeatedly to Cuba on a secret
mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology typically
available only to governments, a mission first revealed in February 2012
by AP.

At some point, Armstrong says, the foreign relations committee became
aware of OTI's secret operations in Costa Rica. U.S. government
officials acknowledged them privately to Armstrong, but USAID refused to
provide operational details.

At an event in Washington, Armstrong says he confronted McSpedon, asking
him if he was aware that by operating secret programs from a third
country, it might appear like he worked for an intelligence agency.

McSpedon, through USAID, said the story is not true. He declined to
comment otherwise.


On Sept. 20, 2009, thousands of Cubans gathered at Revolution Plaza in
Havana for Colombian rocker Juanes' "Peace without Borders" concert. It
was the largest public gathering in Cuba since the visit of Pope John
Paul II in 1998. Under the watchful gaze of a giant sculpture of
revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Miami-based Juanes
promised music aimed at "turning hate into love."

But for the ZunZuneo team, the concert was a perfect opportunity to test
the political power of their budding social network. In the weeks
before, Bernheim's firm, using the phone list, sent out a half a million
text messages in what it called "blasts," to test what the Cuban
government would do.

The team hired Alen Lauzan Falcon, a Havana-born satirical artist based
in Chile, to write Cuban-style messages. Some were mildly political and
comical, others more pointed. One asked respondents whether they thought
two popular local music acts out of favor with the government should
join the stage with Juanes. Some 100,000 people responded — not
realizing the poll was used to gather critical intelligence.

Paula Cambronero, a researcher for Mobile Accord, began building a vast
database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age,
"receptiveness" and "political tendencies." USAID believed the
demographics on dissent could help it target its other Cuba programs and
"maximize our possibilities to extend our reach."

Cambronero concluded that the team had to be careful. "Messages with a
humorous connotation should not contain a strong political tendency, so
as not to create animosity in the recipients," she wrote in a report.

Falcon, in an interview, said he was never told that he was composing
messages for a U.S. government program, but he had no regrets about his

"They didn't tell me anything, and if they had, I would have done it
anyway," he said. "In Cuba they don't have freedom. While a government
forces me to pay in order to visit my country, makes me ask permission,
and limits my communications, I will be against it, whether it's Fidel
Castro, (Cuban exile leader) Jorge Mas Canosa or Gloria Estefan," the
Cuban American singer.

Carlos Sanchez Almeida, a lawyer specializing in European data
protection law, said it appeared that the U.S. program violated Spanish
privacy laws because the ZunZuneo team had illegally gathered personal
data from the phone list and sent unsolicited emails using a Spanish
platform. "The illegal release of information is a crime, and using
information to create a list of people by political affiliation is
totally prohibited by Spanish law," Almeida said. It would violate a
U.S-European data protection agreement, he said.

USAID saw evidence from server records that Havana had tried to trace
the texts, to break into ZunZuneo's servers, and had occasionally
blocked messages. But USAID called the response "timid" and concluded
that ZunZuneo would be viable — if its origins stayed secret.

Even though Cuba has one of the most sophisticated counter-intelligence
operations in the world, the ZunZuneo team thought that as long as the
message service looked benign, Cubacel would leave it alone.

Once the network had critical mass, Creative and USAID documents argued,
it would be harder for the Cuban government to shut it down, both
because of popular demand and because Cubacel would be addicted to the
revenues from the text messages.

In February 2010, the company introduced Cubans to ZunZuneo and began
marketing. Within six months, it had almost 25,000 subscribers, growing
faster and drawing more attention than the USAID team could control.


Saimi Reyes Carmona was a journalism student at the University of Havana
when she stumbled onto ZunZuneo. She was intrigued by the service's
novelty, and the price. The advertisement said "free messages" so she
signed up using her nickname, Saimita.

At first, ZunZuneo was a very tiny platform, Reyes said during a recent
interview in Havana, but one day she went to its website and saw its
services had expanded.

"I began sending one message every day," she said, the maximum allowed
at the start. "I didn't have practically any followers." She was
thrilled every time she got a new one.

And then ZunZuneo exploded in popularity.

"The whole world wanted in, and in a question of months I had 2,000
followers who I have no idea who they are, nor where they came from."

She let her followers know the day of her birthday, and was surprised
when she got some 15 personal messages. "This is the coolest thing I've
ever seen!" she told her boyfriend, Ernesto Guerra Valdes, also a
journalism student.

Before long, Reyes learned she had the second highest number of
followers on the island, after a user called UCI, which the students
figured was Havana's University of Computer Sciences. Her boyfriend had
1,000. The two were amazed at the reach it gave them.

"It was such a marvelous thing," Guerra said. "So noble." He and Reyes
tried to figure out who was behind ZunZuneo, since the technology to run
it had to be expensive, but they found nothing. They were grateful though.

"We always found it strange, that generosity and kindness," he said.
ZunZuneo was "the fairy godmother of cellphones."


By early 2010, Creative decided that ZunZuneo was so popular Bernheim's
company wasn't sophisticated enough to build, in effect, "a scaled down
version of Twitter."

It turned to another young techie, James Eberhard, CEO of Denver-based
Mobile Accord Inc. Eberhard had pioneered the use of text messaging for
donations during disasters and had raised tens of millions of dollars
after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Eberhard earned millions in his mid-20s when he sold a company that
developed cellphone ring tones and games. His company's website
describes him as "a visionary within the global mobile community."

In July, he flew to Barcelona to join McSpedon, Bernheim, and others to
work out what they called a "below the radar strategy."

"If it is discovered that the platform is, or ever was, backed by the
United States government, not only do we risk the channel being shut
down by Cubacel, but we risk the credibility of the platform as a source
of reliable information, education, and empowerment in the eyes of the
Cuban people," Mobile Accord noted in a memo.

To cover their tracks, they decided to have a company based in the
United Kingdom set up a corporation in Spain to run ZunZuneo. A separate
company called MovilChat was created in the Cayman Islands, a well-known
offshore tax haven, with an account at the island's Bank of N.T.
Butterfield & Son Ltd. to pay the bills.

A memo of the meeting in Barcelona says that the front companies would
distance ZunZuneo from any U.S. ownership so that the "money trail will
not trace back to America."

But it wasn't just the money they were worried about. They had to hide
the origins of the texts, according to documents and interviews with
team members.

Brad Blanken, the former chief operating officer of Mobile Accord, left
the project early on, but noted that there were two main criteria for

"The biggest challenge with creating something like this is getting the
phone numbers," Blanken said. "And then the ability to spoof the network."

The team of contractors set up servers in Spain and Ireland to process
texts, contracting an independent Spanish company called to
send the text messages back to Cuba, while stripping off identifying data.

Mobile Accord also sought intelligence from engineers at the Spanish
telecommunications company Telefonica, which organizers said would "have
knowledge of Cubacel's network."

"Understanding the security and monitoring protocols of Cubacel will be
an invaluable asset to avoid unnecessary detection by the carrier," one
Mobile Accord memo read.

Officials at USAID realized however, that they could not conceal their
involvement forever — unless they left the stage. The predicament was
summarized bluntly when Eberhard was in Washington for a strategy
session in early February 2011, where his company noted the "inherent
contradiction" of giving Cubans a platform for communications
uninfluenced by their government that was in fact financed by the U.S.
government and influenced by its agenda.

They turned to Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, to seek funding for
the project. Documents show Dorsey met with Suzanne Hall, a State
Department officer who worked on social media projects, and others.
Dorsey declined to comment.

The State Department under then-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton thought
social media was an important tool in diplomacy. At a 2011 speech at
George Washington University, Clinton said the U.S. helped people in
"oppressive Internet environments get around filters." In Tunisia, she
said people used technology to "organize and share grievances, which, as
we know, helped fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change."

Ultimately, the solution was new management that could separate ZunZuneo
from its U.S. origins and raise enough revenue for it to go
"independent," even as it kept its long-term strategy to bring about
"democratic change."

Eberhard led the recruitment efforts, a sensitive operation because he
intended to keep the management of the Spanish company in the dark.

"The ZZ management team will have no knowledge of the true origin of the
operation; as far as they know, the platform was established by Mobile
Accord," the memo said. "There should be zero doubt in management's mind
and no insecurities or concerns about United States Government involvement."

The memo went on to say that the CEO's clean conscience would be
"particularly critical when dealing with Cubacel." Sensitive to the high
cost of text messages for average Cubans, ZunZuneo negotiated a bulk
rate for texts at 4 cents a pop through a Spanish intermediary.
Documents show there was hope that an earnest, clueless CEO might be
able to persuade Cubacel to back the project.

Mobile Accord considered a dozen candidates from five countries to head
the Spanish front company. One of them was Francoise de Valera, a CEO
who was vacationing in Dubai when she was approached for an interview.
She flew to Barcelona. At the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, she met
with Nim Patel, who at the time was Mobile Accord's president. Eberhard
had also flown in for the interviews. But she said she couldn't get a
straight answer about what they were looking for.

"They talked to me about instant messaging but nothing about Cuba, or
the United States," she told the AP in an interview from London.

"If I had been offered and accepted the role, I believe that sooner or
later it would have become apparent to me that something wasn't right,"
she said.


By early 2011, Creative Associates grew exasperated with Mobile Accord's
failure to make ZunZuneo self-sustaining and independent of the U.S.
government. The operation had run into an unsolvable problem. USAID was
paying tens of thousands of dollars in text messaging fees to Cuba's
communist telecommunications monopoly routed through a secret bank
account and front companies. It was not a situation that it could either
afford or justify — and if exposed it would be embarrassing, or worse.

In a searing evaluation, Creative Associates said Mobile Accord had
ignored sustainability because "it has felt comfortable receiving USG
financing to move the venture forward."

Out of 60 points awarded for performance, Mobile Accord scored 34
points. Creative Associates complained that Mobile Accord's
understanding of the social mission of the project was weak, and gave it
3 out of 10 points for "commitment to our Program goals."

Mobile Accord declined to comment on the program.

In increasingly impatient tones, Creative Associates pressed Mobile
Accord to find new revenue that would pay the bills. Mobile Accord
suggested selling targeted advertisements in Cuba, but even with
projections of up to a million ZunZuneo subscribers, advertising in a
state-run economy would amount to a pittance.

By March 2011, ZunZuneo had about 40,000 subscribers. To keep a lower
profile, it abandoned previous hopes of reaching 200,000 and instead
capped the number of subscribers at a lower number. It limited
ZunZuneo's text messages to less than one percent of the total in Cuba,
so as to avoid the notice of Cuban authorities. Though one former
ZunZuneo worker — who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to speak publicly about his work — said the Cubans were
catching on and had tried to block the site.


Toward the middle of 2012, Cuban users began to complain that the
service worked only sporadically. Then not at all.

ZunZuneo vanished as mysteriously as it appeared.

By June 2012, users who had access to Facebook and Twitter were
wondering what had happened.

"Where can you pick up messages from ZunZuneo?" one woman asked on
Facebook in November 2012. "Why aren't I receiving them anymore?"

Users who went to ZunZuneo's website were sent to a children's website
with a similar name.

Reyner Aguero, a 25-year-old blogger, said he and fellow students at
Havana's University of Computer Sciences tried to track it down. Someone
had rerouted the website through DNS blocking, a censorship technique
initially developed back in the 1990s. Intelligence officers later told
the students that ZunZuneo was blacklisted, he said.

"ZunZuneo, like everything else they did not control, was a threat,"
Aguero said. "Period."

In incorrect Spanish, ZunZuneo posted a note on its Facebook page saying
it was aware of problems accessing the website and that it was trying to
resolve them.

" ¡Que viva el ZunZuneo!" the message said. Long live ZunZuneo!

In February, when Saimi Reyes, and her boyfriend, Ernesto Guerra,
learned the origins of ZunZuneo, they were stunned.

"How was I supposed to realize that?" Guerra asked. "It's not like there
was a sign saying 'Welcome to ZunZuneo, brought to you by USAID."

"Besides, there was nothing wrong. If I had started getting subversive
messages or death threats or 'Everyone into the streets,'" he laughed,
"I would have said, 'OK,' there's something fishy about this. But
nothing like that happened."

USAID says the program ended when the money ran out. The Cuban
government declined to comment.

The former web domain is now a placeholder, for sale for $299. The
registration for MovilChat, the Cayman Islands front company, was set to
expire on March 31.

In Cuba, nothing has come close to replacing it. Internet service still
is restricted.

"The moment when ZunZuneo disappeared was like a vacuum," Guerra said.
"People texted my phone, 'What is happening with ZunZuneo?'

"In the end, we never learned what happened," he said. "We never learned
where it came from."


Contributing to this report were Associated Press researcher Monika
Mathur in Washington, and AP writers Andrea Rodriguez and Peter Orsi in
Havana. Arce reported from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Source: U.S. secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest - Top
Stories - - Continue reading
tell me anything, and if they had, I would have done it anyway," he said. "In Cuba they don't have freedom. While a government forces me to pay in order to visit my country, makes me ask permission, and Continue reading
The Castro regime is, above all, biopolitical. Power over the life and death of each one of the individuals, within and beyond the national frontiers of the wicked little island in the Caribbean Sea. The Castro regime is nothing if … Continue reading Continue reading
The First Book of the End of Castroism / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Posted on April 2, 2014

The Madrid publisher Anaya has just released the first book of the end
of Castroism—that is, of Castroism understood as a myth perpetuated by
the intellectual left. From now on, one cannot sympathize with the
Castro dynasty without also becoming a criminal collaborator.

The book is called Muerte bajo sospecha (Death Under Suspicion) and it
contains the testimony of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician
who witnessed a double State assassination in Cuba on July 22, 2012. In
the attach, both the human rights activist Harold Cepero and Oswaldo
Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and winner of the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002,
were killed.

Two years ago, on July 22, Carromero was driving a rental car from
Havana towards Santiago de Cuba, accompanied by the Swedish politician
Aron Modig and the Cubans, Cepero and Payá. A little after midday, they
were rammed off the road by another car. Nobody was injured. A group of
unidentified men in plain clothing descended on them immediately. The
foreign men were taken in separate vans to Bayamo Hospital which was
already occupied by army officers and the police. Hours later, Cepero
and Payá were dead. The identities of the men who transported the two
survivors has never been revealed by the Cuban government. A few months
later, during the trial that sentenced Carromero to four years in jail
for "negligent homicide," there was no investigation into the
unidentified men.

This is the basis of Carromero's story, and it's what he and Modig were
able to convey via text message after the accident, before their foreign
cell phones were confiscated by hospital staff, and before they were put
into solitary confinement, despite the Payá and Cepero families' demands
to speak with both of them.

Muerte bajo sospecha summarizes these details and many others. Most
sinister of all, the book is now the testimony of a man with a death
sentence hanging over him. Carromero describes how, before finally being
deported back to Spain in December 2012 to serve the rest of his prison
sentence, a Cuban State Security official warned him that if he ever
told the truth, he too would be killed by extra-judicial means.

Carromero has now told the truth, and so his death is inescapable, and
it will be "accidental." It could happen whenever public opinion least
expects it, and it will happen just when the intellectual left—who have
already begun to stigmatize the young Spanish secretary of the People's
Party, including through protests in the basest Castroist fashion—least
believe it could.

But Carromero's conscience can already rest in peace. The Cuban people
must show their gratitude for his courage. With his testimony, the
post-Castroist era has been ushered in, where the Revolution and
Crime-Without-Punishment will be synonymous forever more.

From Sampsonia Way Magazine, 1 April 2014

Source: The First Book of the End of Castroism / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
| Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The Madrid publisher Anaya has just released the first book of the end of Castroism—that is, of Castroism understood as a myth perpetuated by the intellectual left. From now on, one cannot sympathize with the Castro dynasty without also becoming … Continue reading Continue reading
For over a month now, the people of Venezuela have been joining together to protest the country’s Chavista government, which has ruled since Hugo Chávez took power 15 years ago. The demonstrations down on the streets and at the barricades … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuban blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sanchez flashes the peace sign as she arrives to speak during an event at the Miami Dade College's Freedom Tower on April 1, 2013 in Miami, ... Continue reading
Serious Denunciations Before the IACHR: Human Rights Situation of
Journalists in Cuba. The Santiesteban Case
Posted on April 1, 2014

The lawyer, Veizant Boloy, and the journalists Roberto de Jesús Guerra
and Julio Aliaga have presented before the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights denunciations about the permanent violations of human
rights of the independent journalists, and explained how the persecution
of information professionals operates. They have shown the Commission
the video of the detention of Angel Santiesteban on November 8, 2012.

Cuban journalists reported before the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights that they continue being persecuted in Cuba.

March 25, 2014

Washington, March 25 (EFE). Two Cuban journalists and a Cuban lawyer
reported today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(IACHR) that independent reporters "continue suffering persecution" in Cuba.

They explained in a hearing on the subject about the situation of
freedom of expression and the rights of journalists on the island,
organized by the IACHR, an autonomous entity of the Organization of
American States (OEA), at which no representative of Raúl Castro's
government turned up.

"The repression continues against the journalists, the opposition and
citizens who wish to express themselves freely," said the journalist
Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, of the agency Hablemos Press, who
described himself to the IACHR as an ex-political prisoner.

Guerra Pérez testified that in March, four journalists were detained
while they were performing their work on the island, and he added that
in 2013 the workers in his agency were arrested more than 70 times and
that they had their material confiscated on repeated occasions.

The lawyer Veizant Boloy González, from the center of legal information,
Cubalex, explained that Cuban journalists are submitted to censorship,
incarceration, surveillance and requisition of material.

"The authorities continue persecuting independent journalists," affirmed

"Although the Cuban state projects an image of economic and political
opening, it doesn't take weighty measures to promote freedom of
expression. The medium of diffusion of information continues being in
the power of the State. The citizens continue without participating in
the political life of the country, and the government doesn't take this
into account," added Boloy.

Another journalist, Julio Aliaga, told how he had been detained on
several occasions, and he pointed out that in Cuba the provinces are
"dark zones" as far as journalistic coverage is concerned, owing to the
fact that the international media is centered in Havana.

Aliago requested of the Castro regime that they develop a law that
establishes freedom of expression and abolishes the crimes in the penal
code that affect this right, and the law known as the "gag" law, as well
as modify the law of association.

Furthermore, the journalist appealed to the IACHR that it develop a
report on the situation of freedom of expression in Cuba and that it
invite the government to participate in the inter-American system of
human rights.

The constituents of the IACHR regretted the absence of representatives
of the Cuban executive and recalled that the Commission always invites
the State and notifies it of all the denunciations.

Participants: Hablemos Press Center of Information (CIPRESS)/CUBALEX

State of Cuba

Please sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner
of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 March 2014

Source: Serious Denunciations Before the IACHR: Human Rights Situation
of Journalists in Cuba. The Santiesteban Case | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
The lawyer, Veizant Boloy, and the journalists Roberto de Jesús Guerra and Julio Aliaga have presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denunciations about the permanent violations of human rights of the independent journalists, and explained how the persecution … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense
March 27, 2014
Ernesto Perez Chang

HAVANA TIMES — As a mechanism for ideological control, censorship is not
unique to totalitarian regimes. In nearly every country around the
world, there are political, religious and other demarcations that make
so-called freedom of expression mere semblance. This is a truism. No one
is so naïve as to believe they can freely express their opinions without
some form of hostile consequences.

The fact censorship exists nearly everywhere should not, however, be
used by governments to justify its practice as an unquestionable right,
nor as a kind of consolation for those whose right to dissent is curtailed.

All countries will always suffer some form of censorship (tacitly or
explicitly), but public opinion groups and individuals must be very much
aware of the legitimate role they must play in their relationship with

Journalists and writers – provided they are true to their calling and
assume the absolutely independent and responsible attitude devoid of
opportunism and complicity with higher-ups their profession demands –
are duty-bound to practice their trade honestly and decorously, even
when this means an open and direct confrontation with the political

It is not a question of turning literature or journalistic work into
propaganda, creating spaces, columns or opinion groups, much less
affiliating oneself to parties or parading down the streets holding
banners and yelling out slogans (as citizens, we are all free to do
this, of course). It is a question, rather, of shedding one's fears
ceasing to conceive of our intellectual subjugation and self-censorship
as "common sense", as these phenomena only lead to ridiculous and
nonsensical text and never to genuine literature or journalism.

While it is true that efforts to avoid censorship through the use of
literary disguises of every sort has spawned literary masterpieces and
brilliant authors whose real names we will never know, hidden as they
remained behind a pseudonym or total anonymity, it is also true that no
hand numbed by fear or guided by a foreign and despotic will ever
managed to write anything worthwhile. One cannot write a journalistic or
literary piece if one is forced to respect the limits imposed by others.
Nothing of any significance can be achieved when one needs a permit in
order to create.

Publishing a sterile work that has been emptied of potentially offensive
content, besmirched by convenience and adulterated by the fear of
punishment could be tolerated in mentally challenged people, but it is
shameful and objectionable when practiced by individuals who have an
effective influence on the public sphere.

Any system that fears individual opinion, the direct usage of the
written word or questioning (misguided or not) only demonstrates that
the ideological foundations that sustain it are as fragile as paper or
as insubstantial as hot air.

By attacking those who dissent, governments merely reveal their colossal
clumsiness. By revealing, through their hatred, their disproportionate
and contradictory faith in the written word, they attest to the fact
that their reality is made up of a huge pile of words, each propped up
by the other, part of a discourse that is only apparently coherent.

Words are not the political or ideological property of anyone. Imposing
limits on the activities of intellectuals and artists does great harm to
a country's culture. Strategies aimed at silencing people and at
controlling the opinions of individuals within the sphere of culture and
others are the fundamental causes behind the stagnation and mediocrity
that prevail in our society.

Source: Cuba: Censorship, Self-Censorship and Common Sense - Havana - Continue reading
Cuba for Foreigners / Miriam Celaya
Posted on March 31, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On Saturday 29 March 2014 the Cuban Parliament "will
debate" in a special session period the new Foreign Investment Law,
another desperate attempt by the regime to attract foreign businessmen
who choose to risk their capital and ships where those of others have
already been shipwrecked.

This time the scenario and the circumstances are markedly different from
the decades of the 90s, when the fragile and dependent Cuban economy
touched bottom and the government had no other alternative but to
reluctantly open it to foreign capital, creating then a Foreign
Investment Law that granted some legitimacy and limited guarantees for

Hugo Chavez's rise to power in Venezuela at the end of this same decade
came to the rescue of the regime with new subsidies that allowed
backtracking on the opening to capital and the small private family
businesses that arose in the midst of the privations of the period.

Paradoxically, 15 years later, the critical socio-economic and political
situation in Venezuelan situation, which threatens to collapse the
Bolivarian project, once again closing the sources nourishing the Cuban
government, strongly affects a new search for foreign capital because
this is the only way the system will survive, but the investors are
reluctant and skeptical given the absence of a legal framework to
protect the invested capital.

It is rumored that the recent visit of José Ignacio Lula Da Silva to
Cuba , concerned about the risk of elevated investments from Brazil and
the delay of the government of the Island in updating the Foreign
Investment Law, was the definitive touch that made the Cuban cupola
decide to push its approval, postponed several times. There are also
unofficial rumors about the freezing the Brazilian investments in the
Mariel Special Development Zone, and the approval of new credit to the
Cuban side, until there are adequate legal safeguards. The agreements
are no longer based in solidarity, but rather on purely capitalist
financial and commercial relations.

Propaganda at the Recent International Trade Fair of Havana

The new Foreign Investment Law in progress, therefore, is to "strengthen
the guarantees of the investors," while it "also contemplates the total
tax credits and exemptions in determined circumstances, was well an
increased flexibility with regards to customs, to encourage investment,"
according to the statements from José Luis Toledo Santander, president
of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly of People's Power
which, "deals with the Constitutional and Legal Affairs," (Granma,
Saturday March 17, 2014, page 3), elements not covered in the Law.

Also the high official declared that the draft presented to the
deputies,"established the priority character of foreign investment in
almost all sectors of the economy, particularly those related to
production." Clearly, a self-employed person is not the same thing as a
capitalist entrepreneur, in case anyone had any doubts.

In the preparatory process, which according to the official press has
been developing throughout the country, participating along with the
deputies have been "specialists, functionaries from the municipal and
provincial governments, representatives of international legal
consultants and consultants from important businesses; in general people
who could support the discussion." (Emphasis by this author.) A plot
behind closed doors of which some harmless notes have reached the
national media, but the common people are nothing more than this
conglomerate of spectators incapable and prevented from making some
"contribution" and should swallow the pill as the olive-green
filibusters stipulate.

The "main concerns and contributions of the deputies" in the so-called
process of analysis and discussion of the draft on the Island revolved
around "the labor rights of the Cubans who work on these projects, the
terms for the investment and the protection of the National Patrimony,"
omitting the fundamental question: the privileging of foreigners over
what should be the national rights of Cubans. A details that recalls
that "Carolina Black Code" that in 1842 recognized the doubtful rights
and privileges of slaves such as corporal punishment not exceeding 25
lashes, and the prize of freedom in exchange for the betrayal of fellow

Almost 40 years of experience in parliamentary simulations allow us to
anticipate that, like all the previous laws "discussed," this one will
also be unanimously approved by the choir of ventriloquists from the
from the orchestra seats in the headquarters of the farce, the Palace of
Conventions, on March 29th. For now, many of the parliamentarians have
conceded that the new Law "is in complete harmony" with the economic
adjustments drive by the General-President in his process of updating
the model, another experiment that—indeed—will allow him, through
capital, through capital, the solving of the ever pressing problems of
building socialism.

Miriam Celaya

28 March 2014

Source: Cuba for Foreigners / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people /
Augusto Cesar San Martin
Posted on March 30, 2014

Havana, Cuba — Hubert Matos is a symbol of the struggle against the
tyranny that has dominated Cuba since 1959.

As an admirer of his rebelliousness and perseverance — something that
characterized him until he drew his last breath — I resolved during my
visit to the United States in January of last year not to go home
without interviewing him.

We quickly settled on a date for the interview, arranged by Cuba
Independent and Democratic (CID), an organization that he founded to
bring freedom to his homeland.

With the help of a 17-year-old student, Christopher Campa, to capture
the images of the meeting — he filmed unedited images — we'll see three
generations in his house in Miami. The same home which welcomed him on
October 2, 1979, coming from Costa Rica, to where he was exiled by Fidel
Castro, and in which country he asked for his body to be temporarily
interred, before being placed to rest in Cuba some day.

Huber Matos gave us four hours of his precious time to explore his
indefatiguable life, which he committed fully to Cuba.

Before his physical loss, we forwarded Cubanet fragments of the
interview, taking notes of the transcription of the video.

Cubanet: I understand that your name has something to do with the life
you have lived.

Huber Matos: "The first thing you should know, or the most important in
my life, is that they gave me a name the kids said was unique — "Where
did they get that name Huber from?"

"Before I was born, my father read a book by a Swiss-German researcher,
biologist and naturalist named Francisco Huber. I used to say, "What
does that have to do with me?" The man was blind by the time he began
studying the lives of honeybees. He spent twenty years studying the
subject with the help of two assistants and wrote the most definitive
book of its era on the subject.

"That persistence, that strong will of that man… that means you have to
be strong inside," said my father. And that's how me raised me.

"One cannot soften oneself, one cannot allow oneself to be defeated by
adverse circumstances … The life of a human being has one principal
function that goes beyond saving one's skin.

"So I owe a lot to my parents and teachers. It is not happenstance that
I could withstand 20 years in prison. Of course, there's the luck
factor. If, in those beatings they give … once they almost split me.
They made deep scars on my neck area.

Cubanet: But you also trained values as a part of the Cuban magisterium.

HM: "I spent years training teachers in the normal school in Manzanillo.
We were some 20 professors training teachers, from the first year though
the fourth. Trying, not only to give them knowledge, but also to train
conscience in my case.

"I told them: The Republic is an entity that must be built day by day.
Each of you has a role to play, not only to teach reading and writing,
and teaching arithmetic … helping to train the citizen in the field
which corresponds to him. Help form a conscience.

"As a youth I was afraid of prison. Once they condemned a relative to
one year, 8 months and 21 days because he'd taken a girl and didn't want
to marry her. He asked me to visit him in prison. "Cousin, get me out of
here", I told him, "this is insufferable". Afterwards I had to tolerate
20 years in prison.

Cubanet: You were incarcerated due to a sinister and vengeful trial
during the beginning of the Revolution. Linked to events like the death
of Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the dark chapters of the revolution. Do you
feel hatred towards the Castros, declared enemies of yours since then?

HM: "With all certainty, I tell you in a very sincere way, the question
of hatred no, it's a rejection and some unsettled scores. But I
subordinate that of the unsettled scores to the harm I've done to them
and they are doing to Cuba. In my personal order of things, I've
overcome all they've done to me.

"When I left a free man, I could have accepted recognition at the
international level. Afterwards, when I wrote my book, I noted that in
my story.

"Right now they've called me to Mexico to recognize me as a Hero of
Freedom in America", I told myself "Boy, I didn't expect this … I think
this is beyond my rights, what I deserve."

"Anyway, I think that in some form it's a recognition of the demand of
the Cuban people for respect of their rights. I try to cover the
unsettled account (with the government) with the Cuban people.

"The Castros killed Camilo. I have no proof, but I know that Fidel had
tremendous jealousy of Camilo, for his popularity. He wasted no
opportunity in the months I was in office, from 1 January (1959) until
21 October, which was when I resigned, to impress me with Camilo.

"Fidel traveled all the provinces twice. I was the boss in Camaguey. No
two weeks passed without Fidel calling to tell me something … the two
(Fidel and Raul Castro) were determined he'd form some part of the
government, or perhaps the Minister of Foreign Relations, or Minister of
Agriculture, at the beginning, when they were talking of agrarian
reform. In all their conversations with me they were always trying to
impress me with Camilo.

"Camilo was a guy the people applauded, but he was disorganized, drunken
… I was Camilo's friend, and I'd tell him: "Take care, you know that
Fidel eulogizes you in public, but in private he says nasty things about
you." Camilo didn't put much stock in that.

"They took advantage under cover of my resignation to see if my people
were trying to kill Camilo. Afterward, they took advantage of my
situation to eliminate him.

"How they killed him, I don't know. That which I do know is that they
killed the pilot and bodyguard. I can't affirm how they killed him
because I don't have the evidence. Camilo got in the way of Fidel's

Cubanet: Have you been afraid?

HM: "I've been lucky to be a man who doesn't scare easily. In more
difficult situations, I haven't backed down.

"At my sentencing, I was convinced they were going to shoot me, they
were going to shoot me for proclaiming my truth. If they didn't shoot
me, it was because they made a mistake. They brought a lot of people to
encourage my execution, so they would shout "To the wall!", and it
happened that when I stopped speaking, they applauded me. And they
applauded me because I said: "Okay, if with my death the true Cuban
Revolution is saved and the republic is saved, then blessed be my death."

Cubanet: You know intimately the how attached the Castros are to power.
Do you think Raul has the will to change?

HM: "A change to survive them. One always has to expect the chance of
deceit, of the trap. Because they're two individuals who, although they
differ much in their personalities, they team up to scam the rest. To
deceive the rest and leave with what's theirs.

"Fidel is a talented guy, an egomaniac who with all certainty harbors a
tremendous hatred of the Cuban people, which no one can explain. He
hates and detests everything that is not in his self-interest. His taste
for dominion and power traps all mankind.

"Raul is very careful to make sure of this and that, he's organized.
Fidel is chaos.

"They're being flexible in matters of maneuvering here and there, but if
they find a seriously adverse situation, they will ensure it's invented
on the way. That is Raul Castro, in my manner of seeing, the man I know
and have known through his pronouncements."

Cubanet: If I told you to send a message to the new generations of
Cubans, what would you say?

HM: "That it's worth it to make the maximum effort to implement the
ideals of the founders of the Cuban nation. In a true republic, as Marti
said, "with everyone and for the good of everyone".

"What exist and what the Castros have imposed on us is something, but
not a republic. The opposite of the ideals that inspired the mambises,
the founders of the Cuban nation. This one (Castro) has a fiefdom, a
whorehouse, a colony, a farm — something — but not a republic.

"The compromise with the founders of the Cuban nation and the compromise
with the values that inspired them is permanent. Service to collectivity.

"I trust in that. I don't know if it will take us 20, 15, or 100 years
more to achieve a real republic. It's worth the trouble to make the
maximum effort for that achievement."

Cubanet: Does Huber Matos still have things to do?

HM: Before I die, although one never knows if death will come tomorrow
or the day after, I have to write a few more things. I'm taking it from
there. I can't afford to fool myself, 94 years isn't a very short time.

"I wrote the book How the Night Came; now I have to write how we want
the dawn to come out.

"I still have a little understanding, but doubtlessly the almanacs are

Cubanet, 28 February 2014. Augusto Cesar San Martin

Translated by: JT

Source: Fidel is a talented, egotistical guy who hates the Cuban people
/ Augusto Cesar San Martin | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba – On Saturday 29 March 2014 the Cuban Parliament “will debate” in a special session period the new Foreign Investment Law, another desperate attempt by the regime to attract foreign businessmen who choose to risk their capital and … Continue reading Continue reading