ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 21 de Febrero de 2017 - 09:05 CET.
In recent weeks the regime of General Raúl Castro has "spooked," and is
now galloping in the wrong direction, in defiance of time and history.
The economic crisis is compounded daily, and the dictator and his
military junta, far from taking steps to unshackle Cuba's productive
forces, are restricting and choking them more and more.
Price caps on taxi drivers, prohibitions against street vendors hawking
fruits and vegetables, the nationalization of agricultural markets based
on supply and demand, and bans on the self employed in Varadero, are
just some of the Stalinist measures exacerbating the severe economic crisis.
Turning its back on the people, the Government is thus recklessly
staving off the emergence of a massive and vibrant private sector, the
only force that can rescue the country from this crisis, and that will
be, necessarily, that which rebuilds the devastated Cuban economy.
Meanwhile, poverty, despair and unhappiness grow amongst Cubans. The
economic, social, political, moral and even anthropological cataclysm
caused by Castroism is now of such a magnitude that it is difficult to
assess the disaster. Yet, this diagnosis is the first thing that must be
done to rebuild the country.
It is a historical shame that Cuba is the only Western country that is
actually less advanced than it was in the mid 20th century. The same
cannot even be said of Haiti. Many Cubans on the island would be happy
if the country enjoyed the same standard of living it did 60 years ago
today, when it was one of the highest in Latin America.
So, although it seems a Kafkaesque absurdity, Cuba today is
socioeconomically below zero, which it needs to get back to, going on to
build a future. The situation is that serious.
The Castroist higher-ups are trying to ignore the fact that it was
European entrepreneurs in the 16th through the 18th century who made
possible the emergence of a large private sector based on free
enterprise. Private property and economic liberalism were what brought
and end to the ancien régime; that is, the absolute monarchies like
those under Louis XIV, and the enlightened despotism embodied by
Catherine the Great of Russia, with her policy of "everything for the
people but without the people," which, by quashing individual liberties,
prevented the development of productive forces and the creation of
widespread wealth, leading to uprisings like the French Revolution.
Entrepreneurs paved the way to modernity
It was the sector of entrepreneurs that rapidly grew and shaped the
modern world we know today. Traders, artisans, innovators, investors and
enterprising people in multiple activities, in a spirit of laissez faire
(live and let live), encouraged by French physiocrats and English
liberalism, took the baton of capitalism and changed the face of the planet.
This possibility is what the Castro dictatorship is denying the Cuban
people. These are freedoms and rights enshrined in the UN's Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in Paris in 1948, and instituted
through a series of political, civil, social, cultural and labor rights,
none of which are respected in Cuba.
It is no coincidence that the 35 most developed countries in the world,
members of the OECD, enjoy all of these individual economic freedoms and
democratic systems. Nor is it a coincidence that these freedoms do not
exist in any of the 41 poorest countries (according to the UN), or in
dozens of other Third World nations.
General Castro and those who maintain him in power must be aware of two
The more they tighten the political screws on Cuba, and hound the
private sector, the less able they will be to resolve the national
crisis in a humanitarian fashion.
The more restrictions there are on the self-employed, the more poverty
and shortages there will be throughout the country, and the longer, more
difficult, and more expensive will be its economic reconstruction.
A secret source of funding?
Hence, it is scandalous, and suspicious, that in response to the near
collapse of the Venezuelan economy, and all its political tribulations;
the lack of subsidies from Brazil, Beijing's and Moscow's refusals to
send aid to Havana, and a new administration in Washington that is not
leftist or pro-Castro, the regime is not only refusing to promote
economic freedom, but is increasingly curtailing it. Is the regime
concealing some source of financial support that it cannot divulge?
After not paying a penny for the servicing of its foreign debt for 30
years, the regime announced recently that in 2016 it paid the enormous
sum of 5.299 billion dollars to its short and long- term creditors. And
it is surprising, to say the least, that the payment of such a sum of
money, so disproportionate to the small size of the Cuban economy, came
precisely during the year in which, for the first time, the Government
admitted to a drop in the GDP and a deteriorating economic crisis.
Is it possible that the Castro regime has links to high-ranking members
of the Venezuelan government who are, effectively, drug kingpins? Is it
receiving "donations" from the FARC in Colombia in exchange for the
peace agreement, favorable to it, forged in Havana?
The military and younger members of the dictator's leadership are
determined to remain in power and to establish, starting next year, a
kind of neo-Castroist model of authoritarian and militarized capitalism
under which only they, the military, the Castro family, and some
civilian members of the Communist Party (PCC) will be able to do serious
business and make big money.
A right of all
The struggle of the Cuban people, political dissidents and human rights
activists, journalists and independent trade unionists, the
self-employed, and all democrats and anti-Castro elements inside and
outside Cuba, necessarily hinges on preventing the perpetuation of the
dictatorship. Opposing this is a natural right of all Cubans.
Cuba also needs international support, particularly from the US, as the
policy of former President Barack Obama politically fortified the Castro
regime and opened to it the doors of the world.
From the existential point of view, that of daily subsistence, everyday
Cubans need the dictatorship to loosen its grip over economic matters
and to let the self-employed off their leash. Economic freedom is
essential to save the people from their appalling poverty.
Raúl Castro and his military junta must legally recognize private
property, and Cubans' right to hold it, and to invest and create their
own businesses. They cannot continue to limit and even strangle the
private sector, the only economic force that the nation can count on.
If they fail to do this everything will be increasingly difficult, not
only for the people they claim to represent, but for them too.
Source: The energy that Castroism is stifling | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487664301_29113.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Some fifty Ladies in White were
detained this Sunday on the Island, according to members of that
Former political prisoner and regime opponent Angel Moya told 14ymedio
by phone that Berta Soler had been arrested by members of a State
Security operation and the police surrounding her Lawton house. The
incident happened shortly after three in the afternoon on Sunday, when
Soler left the movement's site in the company of the Lady in White
Moya added that in Havana the Ladies in White Yordanka Santana and Norma
Cruz were "abandoned to their fate*" on the ExpoCuba and Cotorro
highways respectively, after being released. According to the same
source, as of 6:00 in the evening 23 Ladies in White had been arrested
in the capital, although that number could be increased by some "who
still haven't called in."
Moya also reported on a Lady in White detained in Bayamo and eight in
Palma Soriano, while in Matanzas there were 22. In that locality Leticia
Ramos and Marisol Fernandez were arrested twice in a single day and he
said that the whereabouts of both women was still unknown.
The opponent also reported that from the province of Ciego te Avila
Lucia Lopez complained that she was "beaten at the time of her arrest"
by State Security agents and "stripped of her blouse and bra before
being released," in a "clear act of indignity," said Moya.
Meanwhile, Iván Hernández Carrillo reported from his Twitter account of
the arrest in the city of Cárdenas of Odalis Hernandez, Hortensia
Alfonso, Cira de la Vega and Mercedes de la Guardia. Likewise, from
Columbus the activist denounced the arrest of his mother Asunción
Carrillo and Caridad Burunate when they were on their way to the church.
At two o'clock on Sunday afternoon, minutes before being detained, the
leader of the Ladies in White women's movement, Berta Soler, informed
the media that there were already more than twenty detained in Havana to
"prevent them from reaching the site." She mentioned that two of them
were "released on the road to Pinar del Rio*," despite living in the
capital. "Since last Wednesday morning there has been a constant [State
Security and Police] operation outside," the organization's headquarters.
She also mentioned the particular case of Berta Lucrecia Martínez, who
was detained at noon hours after a solo protest in Calabazar
Park. According to the information that Soler has received, the activist
stood for "more than 35 minutes" with a poster regarding Human Rights
and shouting anti-government slogans.
Lucrecia Martinez is one of the Ladies in White who has repeatedly been
prevented from attending Sunday Mass or reaching the headquarters of his
organization. Until the moment of not knowing the place to where it was
led by the police patrol that stopped it.
Calabazar park is a very busy wifi area. As reported to this newspaper
by the activist Agustín López Canino, many people "filmed and
photographed the moment of protest."
Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary
detentions, a figure that "places the Government of Cuba in first place
in all of Latin America" at the head of such arrests, according to a
report by the independent organization.
*Translator's note: Cuban police/State Security often arrest dissidents
and drive them a long way outside the city where they are arrested and
then put them out of the car in the "middle of nowhere," to find their
own way home.
Source: Cuba's Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-ladies-in-white-report-50-arrests-this-sunday-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Worcester Democrat is part of bipartisan delegation
By Anthony Fay
Published: February 20, 2017, 9:48 am
WASHINGTON (WWLP) – Congressman Jim McGovern is in Cuba with a group of
other members of Congress, to discuss increasing cooperation between the
two nations. McGovern (D-Worcester), who has long advocated for the end
of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, is attending meetings on a
variety of issues, ranging from health care to human rights.
"Americans are ready for a 21st Century approach to Cuba, and two year's
after President Obama's historic announcement of a new U.S.-Cuba policy,
I am proud that this delegation will build on that progress," McGovern
said in a news release sent to 22News.
Obama removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism,
oversaw the re-opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana, and allowed for the
loosening of some trade and travel restrictions relating to Cuba,
however there are still many barriers to travel and trade between the
U.S. and the communist-controlled island.
During the trip, McGovern and fellow Massachusetts Congressman Seth
Moulton (D-Salem) will attend meetings with members of the Massachusetts
Biotechnology Council, the Washington Office on Latin America, and a
group from Northeastern University that is investigating academic and
business partnerships in the country.
Other members of the congressional delegation in Cuba are Sen. Patrick
Leahy (D-Vermont), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), Sen. Michael
Bennet (D-Colorado), and Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico). The lawmakers
departed for Cuba on Sunday, and will return on Thursday.
Source: McGovern in Cuba to discuss new partnerships | WWLP.com -
http://wwlp.com/2017/02/20/mcgovern-in-cuba-to-discuss-new-partnerships/ Continue reading
DDC | Madrid | 20 de Febrero de 2017 - 09:41 CET.
Ever since the trip to Cuba taken by Pope John Paul II, the Cuban
Catholic Church's dedication to the defense of human rights has clearly
been insufficient. Understandably, some have come to describe this
failure as constituting collusion with the dictatorship, especially
during the years and years under Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, who
decided to advance the Church's position on the Island at the expense of
not denouncing the social, political and economic crisis induced by the
dictatorship. Ortega Alamino even went so far as to deny the existence
of political prisoners in Cuba, and to serve as a spokesman for the
regime in various international forums.
While Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba yielded few advances in the
struggle for human rights, that by Pope Francis was downright
regrettable, with the pontiff solely focused on repairing relations
between Cuba and the US, without even acknowledging the main problems
haunting the country: the lack of freedom and permanent violations of
On Wednesday, however, the current Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la
Caridad Garcia, received representatives of the Ladies in White and
spoke with them, thereby sending an encouraging signal.
Hopefully this dialogue will help to lessen the harassment this group of
women regularly receives from civil society, and the Catholic Church,
without renouncing its ecclesiastical work and promotion of the faith,
will speak out regarding the injustices suffered by the Cuban people at
the regime's hands.
The trail blazed by Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García must be trod
again in the near future, for the sake of the Catholic Church, and for
the good of the Cuban people, both believers and nonbelievers.
Source: Editorial: The Catholic Church takes a good step | Diario de
Cuba - http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487580115_29087.html Continue reading
Ever since the trip to Cuba taken by Pope John Paul II, the Cuban Catholic Church's dedication to the defense of human rights has clearly been insufficient. Understandably, some have come to describe this failure as constituting collusion with the dictatorship, especially during the years and years under Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, who decided to advance the Church’s position on the Island at the expense of not denouncing the social, political and economic crisis induced by the dictatorship.Continue reading
Vermont U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is headed to Cuba and Colombia during
the President's Day congressional recess.
Feb. 19, 2017, at 8:18 a.m.
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is headed to Cuba
and Colombia during the President's Day congressional recess.
Leahy, a Democrat, and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican, will
lead a five member delegation to the two countries between Sunday and
Leahy says the trip to Cuba will discuss U.S.-Cuban cooperation on a
wide range of topics, including foreign trade, migration, human rights,
and property claims.
In Colombia, the delegation expects to gain information on the peace
agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia and its significance for U.S.-Colombian relations.
Source: Vermont US Sen. Patrick Leahy Heading to Cuba, Colombia |
Vermont News | US News -
http://www.usnews.com/news/vermont/articles/2017-02-19/vermont-us-sen-patrick-leahy-heading-to-cuba-colombia Continue reading
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he
shares Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio's views on Cuba.
"We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way,
lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba because we have
very similar views on Cuba," Trump told journalists.
"Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the
Cuban people, Americans," he added in reference to the support of Cuban
Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and First Lady
Melania on Wednesday night, after the president received Lilian Tintori,
the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the
White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice
President Mike Pence and Tintori.
The comment suggests a possible change in Cuba policy since Rubio was
one of the staunchest critics of former President Barack Obama's
engagement with Cuba, especially in the area of human rights.
Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Senator Bob Menéndez, also Cuban American,
introduced a bill this week to "reform" the human trafficking report
produced annually by the State Department. Both senators expressed their
displeasure with the improvement of Cuba's ranking in the report, from
the worst level to the "tier 2 watch list" in 2015. Several proposals
included in the bill would likely affect Cuba's position in the report.
Rubio, who was reappointed as chairman of the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee in the Senate, has also been one of the most active
politicians in Washington on Venezuela. On Monday, he gave a speech on
the Senate's floor in which he called for the release of López and
stated his hope for new sanctions to come against the government of
Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, the Trump administration froze the
assets of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged links
to drug trafficking.
During his campaign, Trump promised that he would negotiate a "better
deal" with the Cuban government or would reverse Obama's measures. White
House Spokesman Sean Spicer has said that Cuba policy was under review
and that human rights would be a priority.
On Thursday afternoon, Rubio was scheduled to chair a hearing on the
need for U.S. leadership on democracy and human rights in the Americas.
Among the speakers was Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto,
who was recently released from prison in Havana following his arrest for
using street art to celebrate the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
FOLLOW NORA GÁMEZ TORRES ON TWITTER: @NGAMEZTORRES
Source: Trump: Rubio and I have 'very similar views on Cuba' | Miami
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article133193594.html Continue reading
to limit trade expansion
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Humanitarian shipments, frozen chicken parts, chocolate bars, empty beer
kegs from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, medicine, even a
traveling Bible exhibit.
These items and more have flowed through the state's ports and airports
headed to or returning from Cuba even though Gov. Rick Scott doesn't
think any Florida port should be doing business with the "Cuban
The governor's statements recently scuttled plans by two Florida ports
to sign a cooperation agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding,
with the Cuban port administration, and Scott also put wording in his
2017 budget recommendation that would withhold funding for port
improvements from ports that expand trade with Cuba.
In a note to a $176.6 million recommendation for improvements at
Florida's seaports, the governor said no state funds can be "allocated
to infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with
the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses."
Now it's up to Florida legislators to decide whether to leave that
wording in the budget when the session convenes March 7.
McKinley Lewis, the governor's deputy communications director, later
clarified that the governor's proviso language would only apply to the
business a port itself might carry out with Cuba — not to port users. It
was "directed at the ports, not private companies," he said. "Any
private company will have to make their own decisions regarding their
partnership or involvement with the Castro dictatorship."
That means a cruise line that leaves from Port Tampa Bay or PortMiami
with ports of call in Cuba wouldn't jeopardize state funding for those
ports. Neither would a shipment of frozen chickens carried by a Crowley
ship from Port Everglades to Mariel, Cuba. But a port signing an MOU
with Cuba or agreeing to joint marketing studies would be verboten if
Scott's proviso language stays in the budget.
John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council, said the
budget wording is confusing:"The vagueness of the wording was precisely
what Gov. Scott and his staff sought — to create uncertainty and, as a
result, negatively impact the desire of exporters in the United States
to engage in commerce with Cuba."
It's important to note that Florida ports don't actually trade with
Cuba. Their private customers do.
"We don't have any authority to tell port users who they can do business
with," said Ellen Kennedy, a Port Everglades spokeswoman. "We just have
land leases with them. The port is like a shopping mall. We lease the
space to tenants but we don't sell the T-shirts."
The U.S. embargo against Cuba limits trade between the United States and
the island, but an analysis for the Miami Herald by Datamyne, a trade
data company, shows steady traffic between several Florida airports and
seaports and Cuba. It totaled almost $65 million last year.
Humanitarian donations, as well as food and agricultural products and
pharmaceuticals and medical supplies can be legally exported to Cuba. So
can products exported to support the services of regularly scheduled
airlines flying to the island. Also included in the totals are products
shipped to and from the Guantánamo Naval base.
For the entire year of 2015, the Datamyne analysis showed that Port
Everglades, PortMiami, Miami International Airport, Jacksonville, Port
Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — tallied
$57.2 million worth of exports to Cuba.
But last year, Datamyne found only three Florida seaports — Port
Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville — and MIA sent exports to Cuba, and
the total fell to $46.4 million because frozen chicken shipped from
Jacksonville plummeted from $27.2 million to just $765,606 in 2016.
What did Florida ports send to Cuba in 2016? The biggest category:
frozen chickens and chicken parts. Nearly $28 million worth headed to Cuba.
Among the U.S. companies that exported to Cuba were AJC International,
one of the world's leading poultry marketers; Koch Foods, Intervision
Foods, an Atlanta-based company that ships meat and poultry all over the
world, and Globex International, a New York supplier of poultry and meat
Other products exported to Cuba included $2.2 million worth of charity
and relief donations [although the numbers don't capture products that
Cuban Americans personally transport to friends and family in Cuba],
more than $3 million worth of chocolate bars and cocoa preparations,
$4.1 million worth of cookies, and $1.3 million in medicine in measured
Florida ports sent more than $1million worth of clothing donations, more
than $730,000 worth of catheters and medical needles, $402,000 in
pharmaceutical donations, and a smattering of other products ranging
from bicycle lights, beer, broths/soups and bread to carpets, hand
tools, blankets, artists' paints, whiskey and books.
The U.S. embargo against Cuba precludes most true imports from the
island. In 2015, those exceptions added up to $61.95 million worth of
goods from Cuba shipped to five Florida ports — Jacksonville, Miami,
Port Everglades, Tampa Bay and Fort Pierce, according to a Datamyne
analysis of bills of lading.
In 2016, imports from Cuba handled by Florida ports fell to $18.5 million.
A rule change last year that allows the import of some products and
agricultural goods produced by Cuba's self-employed sector could boost
imports from Cuba. Last month, two containers of artisan charcoal
produced by a private workers cooperative in Cuba arrived at Port
Everglades. It was the first true import shipment from Cuba in more than
What has been counted as imports from Cuba over the past two years are
mostly returned empty containers, furniture and personal belonging being
shipped back from the U.S. Embassy in Havana and from Guantánamo and
personal cars — 2005 Chevy Tahoe, 2012 Toyota Prius, 2007 Ford Mustang —
used to tool around the base that are coming back home with their owners.
But there are more intriguing entries among the imports from Cuba last
year: 13 self-inflating life rafts from Guantánamo, troop gear, stage
equipment used in the Rolling Stones' Havana concert in March, and the
return of a traveling Bible exhibit.
The exhibit from the Museum of the Bible in Oklahoma City went on
display from Feb. 6 to March 13 last year at the Catedral de Nuestra
Señora de la Asunción in Santiago de Cuba. It focused on the Bible's
impact on Cuba's history and featured rare texts and manuscripts,
including the first complete Bible in Spanish.
The museum is chaired by Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, subject
of a landmark Supreme Court case that found corporations controlled by
religious families can't be required to cover contraceptives for female
workers under the Affordable Care Act.
In partnership with the American Bible Society and the Archbishop of
Cuba, the museum also sent 75 artifacts and pieces of art from its
collection to Cuba in 2014 for display at the Havana Cathedral.
Some analysts question why the governor's stance on port business
applies only to Cuba and not to other Florida trading partners such as
China and Venezuela that also have troubling human rights records.
S. Fla airports and seaports
South Florida airports and seaports recorded $6.7 billion in trade with
China last year and it was the region's third most important trading
partner. PortMiami also has sister seaport agreements, which are similar
to MOUs, with the Port of Xiamen and Shanghai International Port.
Some say Scott is being short-sighted in trying to discourage legal
trade with Cuba.
"I don't like to see a state do what's out of step with the federal
government. Whatever federal law says on trade, a port should be able to
do," said Lee Sandler, who specializes in Customs and international
trade law. "I don't think a state should try to limit opportunities."
Sandler said there are "bona fide sensitivities" in the local community
about Cuba, but the bottom line is: "Our ports need to be able to compete."
Scott said he is all for trade — just not with Cuba. "Trade is a
significant opportunity for us," Scott said during a recent speech at a
Coral Gables meeting of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce
in Latin America and the Caribbean. "My job is to figure out how we get
Other states that are in the thick of competition for cargo don't seem
to have a problem exploring business opportunities with Cuba. Since the
U.S. rapprochement with Cuba began on Dec. 17, 2014, governors from
eight states — Colorado, New York, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, Missouri,
Louisiana and West Virginia — have visited the island.
Cuba already has signed MOUs with the Port of Virginia, the Alabama
State Port Authority and the ports of New Orleans and Lake Charles.
"Ports are a highly competitive business," said Kavulich, "and if a
state creates impediments, there are state capitols awaiting
opportunities to audition for additional revenue — and the economic
impact that a thriving port or ports provide to a state, county, city,
As Cuba expands its new container port at Mariel and dredges it so it
can handle NeoPanamax vessels, the big ships that now transit the
expanded Panama Canal, it is trying to set itself up for a future as a
As part of that effort, a Cuban business and port delegation recently
concluded a 12-day visit to the United States that took it from Port
Houston to the Port of Virginia in Norfolk with stops at New Orleans,
Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach, Washington D.C. and the Port of
The Cuban port delegation's recent visit to New Orleans concluded with a
dinner with Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and
officials from the five deep-water ports on the Lower Mississippi River.
"We have an unmatched port system here in Louisiana, and the leaders of
those ports continue to prioritize trade with Cuba on many fronts," said
Louisiana is the top U.S. exporting state to Cuba and has cumulatively
sent more than $1.4 billion in legal exports to the island. Like
Florida, it is a big exporter of frozen poultry.
"We want Louisiana to be first in line to any new opportunities with
Cuba, particularly the import, export and foreign direct investment
possibilities that could range into the billions of dollars in the
coming years," Gov. John Bel Edwards said when a business delegation
from his state visited Havana last October.
Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi
Source: Florida's trade with Cuba adds up to millions of dollars | Miami
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article133344049.html Continue reading
Juan Orlando Pérez, 1 February 2017, (re-published in Ivan Garcia's blog
on 7 February 2017) — Antonio Rodiles, one of the Cuban government's
most tireless enemies, or at least one of its most eloquent, has said
that the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House is "good news for Cuba."
It is difficult to criticize Rodiles, who every day faces the danger of
State Security agents, or his own neighbors, breaking his nose — they
have already done this once with exquisite precision — or of being
accused of some monstrosity such as contempt of court, assault,
incitement to violence or failure to attend Fidel Castro's funeral,
resulting in him being cast into a windowless dungeon without light or
Every Sunday, Rodiles leaves his house Havana to protest against a
government that he considers illegitimate. While not comparable to the
battles of Peralejo or Las Guásimas, much less the crossing of the
Trocha de Mariel to Majana, this action is one that does require more
political and personal courage than all the deputies of the National
Assembly together could muster to change a single comma in a decree from
Raul Castro's government, should they even notice a comma misplaced.
Unlike other leaders of the Cuban opposition and most deputies of the
National Assembly, Rodiles knows how to speak correctly, in proper
Spanish. Perhaps that is why foreign journalists prefer to talk to him
rather than to others whom they can barely understand. But what he told
the Spanish newspaper El País is dangerous nonsense.
In no way can Trump be "good news" for Cuba when he is so bad for all
the other countries of the world, including those whose leaders —
Vladimir Putin, Theresa May, Benjamin Netanyahu — selfishly hope to
benefit from the ascent of a thug to the presidency of the United
States. At least Rodiles does not contend Trump is not a thug.
Rodiles declined to say if Trump's victory was also good news for the
United States. "I don't want to get into that," he said flatly. "It's
not my problem."
Perhaps Rodiles thinks that if personnel at the American Embassy in
Havana or at the State Department in Washington hear him criticizing
Trump's character, skills or intentions, even if the criticism is so
mild it might almost be considered a kind remark, he will no longer be
invited to the embassy or to conferences, congresses and seminars — one
takes place every month in Miami, Madrid or Washington — where the
participants ardently debate the future of Cuba, condemn Castro's
wickedness and lament Barack Obama's faintheartedness.
Rodiles' discretion — his refusal to express an opinion about the
domestic issues of another country — is admirable, especially because it
stands in contrast to foreign politicians who talk about issues in his
own. In late December, Rodiles participated in a panel organized by the
right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington along with two former
George W. Bush administration officials: the former under-secretaries of
state Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. As reported by Diario de Cuba, he
took the opportunity to explain that "the new Administration has the
opportunity to reorient US policy towards the human rights and freedom
for the Cuban people."
Noriega and Reich are co-authors of the infamous Helms-Burton Act of
1996. More than a law, it is the list of relentless conditions that the
United States would impose on the Cuban government if it were to
capitulate, which one can easily imagine these two former officials
recommending to the Trump Administration provided someone in the White
House still remembers who they are and asks them what to do about Cuba.
Noriega and Reich may express any opinion about Cuba, or about Jupiter,
if they so choose. That is their right. No one in Washington is going to
end up with a nose out of joint if they do so.
But it is not clear why Rodiles should not in turn be able to say with
more or less the same degree of tact what so many other political
leaders around the world have said: that Donald Trump's brand of
vicious, racist and ignorant populism is a very serious threat to
international security, to the rights of other nations, to Americans'
civil liberties and, of course, to Cuba.
Perhaps Rodiles thinks Trump is as innocuous as Tian Tian, the giant
panda at Washington's National Zoo. If so, he might as well say so. For
the moment, Rodiles has refrained from criticizing Trump, though not
from criticizing Obama. He believes, as he told El País, that Obama's
legacy in Cuba can be described in two words: indifference and fantasy.
In a video released by the Forum for Human Rights and Freedoms, Rodiles
appears next to others celebrating Trump's victory on November 8 and
criticizing Obama's Cuban strategy.
"It was very frustrating," explains Rodiles in the video, "to see how
the Obama administration was allowing the regime to gain advantage, to
gain political advantage, to gain economic advantage, while leaving the
Cuban people and their demands on the sidelines."
He added, "Unfortunately, the legacy of President Obama on Cuba is not
positive… His policy has been counterproductive. His policy has led the
regime to feel much more secure and to behave more violently."
It is not clear, however, what exactly Rodiles and his colleagues at the
Forum hope Trump will do. "It seems to me that the new administration
under President Donald Trump will give much more attention to the Cuban
opposition. It will give much more attention to the subject of
fundamental rights and freedoms, and the Cuban people will be able to
express themselves more openly, though the regime will, of course, do
everything possible to prevent that."
It is likely that on May 20 — if the world lasts until then — a
committee of Cuban opposition figures, including perhaps Rodiles
himself, will visit the White House, as always happened before Obama,
after which the president of the United States might write a Twitter
message in jovial Spanglish condemning Raúl Castro and his minions.
But it is unclear how tweets by the lunatic that Americans have chosen
as their commander-in-chief are going to get Cubans out onto the
streets. Nor is it easy to imagine the Cuban government agreeing to sit
down with Rodiles or any other opposition figure just because the
president of the United States demands it, even if he makes it a
condition of maintaining diplomatic relations; or of continuing to allow
Cuban-Americans to send money to their families on the island; or of
allowing them visit their relatives whenever they want.
If the members of the Forum for Human Rights and Freedoms believe that
these are conditions that the Trump Administration should impose, they
should say so clearly and run the risk that Trump or one of his
underlings might hear and pay attention to them. An even greater risk is
that Cubans might hear them.
It is perfectly legitimate for some members of the Cuban opposition to
disapprove of Obama's policy of normalizing relations between the United
States and Cuba, at least to the degree that it is possible to normalize
something that will never be normal. No one should be surprised that
those who would like to see the immediate overthrow of Raúl Castro have
no confidence in a plan that acknowledges the unlikelihood that the
Cuban government will be overthrown in a domestic revolt.
Raúl has been accepted — with indifference or resignation — as the
legitimate president of Cuba by almost all the nations of the world. The
plan addresses the political and intellectual weakness of opposition
groups, counting instead on the slow but inexorable growth of a new
post-Castro civil society that will one day reclaim political and
economic rights that Raúl or his successors will never be willing to grant.
It is true this plan pays no particular importance to the Forum for
Human Rights and Freedoms, or to other groups with equally florid names,
whose members feel they have been abruptly and unceremoniously abandoned
by their old patron. But not all opposition groups have judged Obama's
decisions regarding Cuba as negatively as Rodiles and his cohorts.
With bitter pragmatism, others have warned that it is foolish to oppose
head-on a policy that is viewed favorably on both sides of the Florida
Straits. While it has, of course, benefited the Cuban government, it has
also benefitted millions of plain and simple ordinary men and women. If
nothing else, it means that, after two short years, Raúl can no longer
blame his problems on an enemy ever ready to wipe Cuba off the map in a
single, brutal blow.
There was nothing fanciful about Obama's strategy, though there is in
the illusion that the Cuban government would have agreed to sit down
with Rodiles and other opposition leaders if Obama had insisted on it.
And he will do so if Trump makes that demand with his characteristic
coarseness. After so many years and so many body blows, Rodiles still
has not met Raúl Castro.
Before falling in line with Trump and conspiring with the most
reactionary elements of the new administration — its more conservative
faction, in particular, wants to break off the truce between the United
States and Cuba — the Cuban opposition should take a few weeks to
consider whether it would be wiser to avoid allying itself with those
who have come to power with a program that not only causes a great deal
of alarm within the international community but which should also
disgust any person of integrity, whether one's integrity be of the
right-wing or left-wing kind.
The Cuban opposition would do well to maintain a relative independence
from the United States, a benevolent gift from Obama, and if they are so
inclined, to keep their distance from an administration which, in two
short weeks, has led its country to the brink of a pernicious political
and perhaps constitutional crisis.
That is unless one sees nothing particularly reprehensible in what Trump
says and does, or believe that his vandalism is justified because he got
ten thousand votes more in Michigan and fifteen thousand more votes in
Wisconsin than Hillary Clinton. It would be very bad news if opportunism
led a segment of the Cuban population, even a very small one, to become
pro-Trump out of foolhardiness, ignorance, a misguided sense of
self-preservation or, even worse, by a genuine ideological affinity with
a government that resembles a social democratic Nixon, Reagan or Bush
But even more troubling is the Cuban opposition's hope that the United
States, Barack Obama or Donald Trump and not the island's plain and
simple ordinary men and women might grant them the right to discuss
Cuba's future with Raúl Castro or whatever petty tyrant happens to come
after. Trump will just disappoint them. And should he fall, which is
likely to happen, he will drag with him all those who have not taken
great care or had the decency to maintain a safe distance.
Juan Orlando Pérez
Published in El Estornudo on February 1, 2017 under the title "Bad News."
Source: Trump, Rodiles and the Cuban Opposition / Juan Orlando Perez –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/trump-rodiles-and-the-cuban-opposition-juan-orlando-perez/ Continue reading
Oppression," says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 11 February 2017 – Rocio Monasterio, a
Cuban living in Spain who became popular after starring in a televised
debate at the end of November in which she confronted Castro supporters
about the legacy of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, gave a talk
Friday in Miami about her ideological platform and her aspirations for
This 43-year old Cuban with parents from Cienfuegos and a member of the
(conservative) Vox Party in Spain defends the family and liberty as
supreme values. She is a passionate speaker who strongly criticizes the
Cuban government and condemns those politicians disposed to dialogue
"Cuba raised a big wall in 1959. Since then night fell on the country,
the search for liberty was interrupted. Unfortunately, 60 years later,
Cubans are still in the shadows and we don't see a light that
illuminates our homeland. All those who live in Cuba are imprisoned,"
she said before emphasizing, "When we see a brother imprisoned we have
to do everything possible to help him."
An architect by profession, Monasterio decided to go into politics as a
result of the loss of values that, in her judgement, Spanish society has
experienced. She joined Vox as a way of giving voice to hundreds of
Spaniards who do not agree with the relaxation of policies by the
Popular Party, currently in power, an organization to which she
delivered her vote every year but about which she is singularly critical.
"It is extraordinary that a Hispanic Cuban can speak to Cuban Americans
in Miami. We are united by the Hispanic phenomenon," she said.
About those who opt for investment in Cuba in order to foster an
emerging middle class that in the future will be able to demand
political changes, Monasterio asserts that those politicians and
businessmen are "soothing their conscience for collaborating with the
"It is being shown that investment in Cuba is nothing more than
supporting Castro-ism," she adds.
As an alternative to totalitarianism, Monasterio proposes Hispanic values.
"We have inherited from Spain the Christian values that are society's
foundation: equality, defense of freedom, right to life, belief in the
individual and in his individual responsibility, also the family as a
fundamental value of society. All this is this based in freedom," she said.
One point that she emphasized was the relationship between the European
Union, above all Spain, and the Cuban Government. For the Hispanic
Cuban, the credibility of the institutions and the parties that
negotiate with Raul Castro are in jeopardy.
"In the collective imagination of Spain, Cuba is the most beloved. The
relationship of both countries is that of brotherhood," said Monasterio.
Nevertheless, she characterized as "a great betrayal" the normalization
of relations without a single word about human rights violations on the
"Those today who do not help the victims of Castro-ism are accomplices
in the oppression and contribute to the perpetuation of night in Cuba, a
night that has already lasted too many years," she added.
The architect conceives her battle as not only against communism but
against all kinds of totalitarianism, which according to her is being
exported from Cuba to Spain and Latin American countries like Venezuela,
Nicaragua and Ecuador.
"Totalitarianism is not only the lack of freedom, but also the
elimination of the individual. All contrary to our values," she says.
She also admitted that she fights hard against gender politics and is
radically opposed to homosexual marriage:
"I don't meddle in civil unions between people who have another view of
sexuality, but that is not matrimony. Matrimony is between a man and a
woman," she says.
For Monasterio, gender ideology is "another big dictatorship of our
time." She condemns Spanish education in this sense.
"We are subjected, once again, to determined ideologues who come from
big institutions. Gender ideology is contrary to the family and our
values," she said.
To oppose the proposed education in gender ideology values, Monasterio's
party proposed a platform for freedoms that defends the right of parents
to educate their children according to their values.
About her dispute with "the defenders of the indefensible, that is,
Castro-ism, Monasterio reminded that the Castro brothers came to Cuban
government promising equality," but what they have done is to equalize
everyone "in misery and oppression."
"A Castro military elite controls Cubans and makes them ignore freedom."
According to Monasterio, the Cuban diaspora confronts three big
responsibilities: the obligation to denounce what Castro-ism means
before those who truly do not know what it is; to be effective in the
use of a new discourse and new tools for telling and transmitting the
values of our culture; and to create a new iconography. "We have to pass
to the next generations the commitment to fight for the freedom of our
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
Source: "Those Who Do Not Help the Victims of Castro-ism Are Complicit
in the Oppression," says Rocio Monasterio / 14ymedio, Mario Penton –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/those-who-do-not-help-the-victims-of-castro-ism-are-complicit-in-the-oppression-says-rocio-monasterio-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2017 – Now underway is
the second meeting of young journalists at the Jose Marti International
Journalism Institute in Havana. The main objective of the event,
organized by the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), is to discuss
"journalism and citizen participation, and communication in the context
of updating Cuba's social-economic model."
The news reports published in the official press, in addition to
reviewing the 24 proposals from the previous meeting, held in December
2015, reiterate "the urgency of a change in the routines of production
and a transformation of the management model."
It is likely that the young participants of this experience will leave
with the belief that national journalism is on the verge of change, and
that they will have a role in its transformation. This would be the
healthiest mistake of their professional career.
Imbued with this useful error, they will return to their newsrooms
convinced that the sacred verse of "changing everything that should be
changed" will be applied to the mass media so that the press will
finally fulfill its social role of keeping the population informed about
what is really happening in the country.
The vast majority of those in charge of deciding what can be published
and what must be silenced know perfectly well how diffuse are the limits
of their responsibility. They know, for example, that they can berate
the negligence of an administrator at a collection point where the
bananas are rotting on a truck, but they can never criticize the evil
effects of the excessive centralization of public administration.
When it comes time to choose, these leading cadres prefer to censor
rather than declassify, because, as they know, no director of a
newspaper or radio station ever been dismissed for silencing a criticism
or hiding complaints in a drawer.
When these impetuous kids return to their media with a new shot of
adrenaline, their more experienced colleagues will take the time to
explain to them that since the 3rd UPEC Congress, held more than 40
years ago, it seemed that everything would change if they fulfilled the
theme of that event: "For a critical, militant and creative journalism."
Since then, there as been a lot of talk from the podiums about the
culture of secrecy and the essential need to undertake rigorous analysis
of the problems that afflict the population.
A brief inventory of recent information lacunae could justify a certain
pessimism about the future of Cuba's official journalism. The most
notorious example is that no one has reported on the cause of death of
ex-president Fidel, despite the fact that his passing is the news that
has occupied the most space in the media since the end of last year.
No journalist has tried to explain in the official media why Marino
Murilla, in the last session of parliament, did not not offer his
traditional progress report with regards to the implementation of the
Party guidelines, nor what has been the fate of the new electoral law
that Raul Castro announced in February 2015 would be forthcoming, but
about which nothing more has been heard.
Silence reigns over such important topics as the date when the country's
dual currency system will end, or when the United Nations human rights
covenants will be ratified, or the depth of the dredging in Mariel Bay,
just to mention a few topical issues.
If we go back a decade, it comes to mind that there have been no
explanations about how the super-entity called the Battle of Ideas
ended, which was led by Mr. Otto Rivero, of whom nothing more has ever
been said. Nor is there any official report on the ouster of Carlos
Venciaga, a member of the Council of State, nor about that of the army
of social workers who had become omnipresent, but which are now nowhere
to be seen.
Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel spoke with reporters Monday afternoon
and emphasized "the need to perfect" the work of the media. In passing,
he called attention to ways to confront "the platforms of ideological
political subversion," which target young people. Curiously, among these
platforms appear all of Cuba's independent journalism, which finds among
its principal niches all the information that is never talked about in
the official press.
Source: Young Cuban Journalists Look at Their Profession / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/young-cuban-journalists-look-at-their-profession-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio
14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the
National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
(CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the
island during the month of January. The text states that during the past
month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016.
The independent body documents "12 cases of physical aggression and 11
cases of harassment" of opponents, a situation that is part of the
"policy of intimidating repression" that "has prevailed in Cuba for
nearly six decades."
The CCDHRN affirms that the Ladies in White movement continues to be a
priority target of political repression, although the Patriotic Union of
Cuba (UNPACU) also is a particular target of "the arbitrary arrests and
destructive raids against its members."
UNPACU, an opposition organization with a strong presence in the east of
the country, has been the victim of "plundering of their means of work
(laptops , cameras, mobile phones, etc.)." These police acts have been
carried out "with a great deal of political hatred," the Commission
The report conveys the concern of the CCDHRN on "the situation in prison
of Dr. Eduardo Cardet, general coordinator of the Christian Liberation
Movement, who has just been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by
For ordinary prisoners, "material conditions and abuse continue to
worsen" in the nearly two hundred prisons and prison camps on the island
The concern extends to the "arbitrary detention for several days, of
Karina Galvez," a member of the editorial board of the
magazine Coexistence, accused of the crime of tax evasion and now
awaiting trial. The economist was released on bail on January 17 after
six days of detention.
The Commission states that "the number of politically motivated
prisoners in Cuba is still over 100, of which 55 are active members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba." For ordinary prisoners, "material
conditions and abuse continue to worsen" in the nearly two hundred
prisons and prison camps on the island.
The text states that the Government "continues to use prisoners as
semi-skilled labor in various jobs for commercial purposes," including
"the production of charcoal for export, mainly to Europe and the United
States of America," referring to the recent shipment of charcoal made
from the invasive marabou week to the United States.
Last year the CCDHRN documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests, a
figure that "places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all
of Latin America" with regards to arrests of this type, according to a
report by the independent organization.
Source: More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU,
According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/more-than-50-of-cubas-political-prisoners-belong-to-unpacu-according-to-human-rights-group-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) after his release from prison. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 February 2017 — The uniform haircut
imposed upon entering the Combinado del Este prison contrasts with the
stains of fresh paint on the shoes of the super tall man, who stands
nearly 6'5″. Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as 'El Sexto' (The Sixth),
a graffiti artist and human rights activist in Cuba, embodies the
antithesis of the New Man forged by the Revolution.
After being imprisoned for 55 days for painting graffiti on a wall of
the Habana Libre hotel, Maldonado was released on 21 January. He is
currently visiting Miami to promote his art and to thank the Cuban
community there for their support.
His life has not been easy. He was born in 1983 and grew up in the years
of the Special Period when the Soviet subsidies ended and the island was
plunged into misery. Originally from Camaguey, he had to share a roof in
Havana with another family and take on the weight of a home without a
His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small"
"In those years I was selling milk caramels in the neighborhood to help
my mother get by," he recalls.
"Sometimes we did not even have fifty cents to buy milk. The rebellion
against poverty and oppression began at that time."
His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small." Leonel, a teacher in the House
of Culture in his neighborhood, took him under his wing and showed him
the first strokes.
"From there I wanted to get out what I had inside, but I did not know
how," he says.
The first time that Maldonado went to prison was due to a robbery at a
warehouse on a Cuban Army tank base. At that time he was serving his
compulsory military service. He was sentenced to six years in
prison. The prison experience changed him "forever."
"Prison is a place where you find many types of people, with different
cultures and points of view. Learning to live among them, to live
together, is one of the great lessons that experience left me with," he
His artistic name, El Sexto (The Sixth) occurred to him in the midst of
the Cuban government's campaign to bring back "The Cuban Five" – spies
imprisoned in the U.S.
In prison he also learned that respect is not gained through violence
but "with principles and with acting in the right way of."
Maldonado does not hide that he had a troubled past.
"I have been involved in many things in my life that have made me what I
am. I do not come from a monastery. I come from the street but that is
not where I wanted to stay," he answers when asked about the campaign
against him pushed by bloggers working for the Cuban government who
accuse him of being addicted to drugs.
"People change, they have the right to do it. I do not like even the
smell of drinking," adds the artist.
His artistic name, El Sexto (the Sixth), came in the midst of the
campaign by the Cuban government to bring back the five Wasp Network
spies imprisoned in the United States, who were known in Cuba as "The
He called himself "The Sixth Hero," who represented the voice of the
Cuban people, "the hostage" of the dictatorship, according to Maldonado.
Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons
"They (the Government) put them on television, like they are part of
your family. I want people to know the message of freedom and to open
their eyes. So I understood I had to come to them with a message that
was sarcastic and that everyone could understand," he says.
"You cross out my things, I cross out yours," he wrote, about the stupid
black spots that officialdom uses to try to hide graffit in the capital.
In addition, he distributed leaflets with subservise phrases and invited
the whole world to be free and happy.
"I am doing my work: being free. I would like others to see that it is
possible to be free and to break with the government," he says when
asked about his role in Cuban culture.
Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons. In 2014
he attempted to stage a street performance titled Animal Farm. He
proposed to release two pigs in Havana's Central Park. On the backs of
piglets, which were painted green, the names of the Cuban rulers were
also painted: Fidel on one piglet and Raúl on the other.
The idea was that whoever captured the piglets could keep them as a
prize. It was easy to imagine what the winners would do with them. The
daring act, which never came to fruition, cost him ten months'
imprisonment in the Valle Grande prison.
El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners
The conditions in the Cuban prisons, the dirt, the bad food and the
degrading treatment to the inmates were documented by him in a diary. In
addition, the artist was able to take photographs that he clandestinely
sneaked out of Valle Grande to support his complaints.
Art and his activism go hand in hand. Sometimes both activities are
"There are people who accuse me of calling the flag a 'rag' or reproach
me for a work of art made with the bust of José Martí. For me what is
truly sacred is human life, above any other symbol created by society. I
believe in life and in respect for it," says Maldonado.
El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners, and
has been part of the 'We All March' campaign.
Laura Pollán, the deceased leader of the Ladies in White and Oswaldo
Payá, the deceased leader of the Christian Liberation Movement,
are tattooed on his skin, along with a petition for the release of
Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan politician currently a political prisoner
in that country.
In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, for "creative
dissent, the display of courage and creativity to challenge injustice
and live in truth"
"I am worried about the situation of political prisoners in Cuba,
Eduardo Cardet and many others," he says. He is also trying to sensitize
the international community to the drama of thousands of Cubans who were
stranded in Latin America following Barack Obama's repeal of the wet
foot/dry foot policy, shortly before he left office.
"These are our brothers, we should unite to help them. As long as we
Cubans do not join together, we will not change the situation of our
country," he laments.
In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, awarded to
people "who participate in creative dissent, display courage and
creativity to challenge injustice and live in truth."
Currently, El Sexto is preparing an art exhibition in the United
States. He also plans to travel to Geneva to talk about human rights in
Cuba and plans to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum.
This article is part of an agreement between 14ymedio and the Nuevo Herald.
Source: "I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there," says
'El Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-come-from-the-street-but-i-did-not-want-to-stay-there-says-el-sexto-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
In his last month in office, former President Barack Obama preempted
what could have been one of President Donald Trump's first actions on
Cuba: he suspended a section of the Helms-Burton Act that allows former
owners of commercial property expropriated by Cuba to sue foreign
companies "trafficking" in those confiscated holdings.
President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which among other
things sets strict conditions that must be met by Cuba before the U.S.
embargo against the island is lifted, in 1996 soon after Cuba shot down
two Brothers to the Rescue planes, resulting in the deaths of four South
But no one has ever filed suit because every U.S. president since has
routinely suspended the lawsuit provision every six months. The fear has
been that letting the lawsuits go forward would alienate important
trading partners such as Canada and EU countries whose citizens have
invested in Cuba. Opponents contend that Section III of Helms-Burton
violates international treaties by attempting to punish foreign
companies for business they conduct outside U.S. borders.
On Jan. 4, former Secretary of State John Kerry notified Congress that
Obama had suspended the lawsuit provision for another six months,
effective Feb. 1. The Trump administration won't be able to take action
on the provision until this summer but it could make other changes in
U.S. policy toward Cuba.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing Friday that a
"full review of all U.S. policies towards Cuba" is under way. "The
president is committed to an agenda of ensuring human rights for all
citizens throughout the world. And as we review those policies in Cuba,
that will be forefront in their policy discussions," Spicer said.
Under Obama, there was a rapprochement with Cuba that included both
countries reopening respective embassies, the signing of 22 agreements
on topics of mutual interest, the resumption of regularly scheduled
commercial airline and cruise service to Cuba, and a limited commercial
and travel opening to the island.
Trump has said variously that he would get a better deal than Obama and
that he might consider shutting down the opening unless Cuba makes
Section III of Helms-Burton was designed to have a chilling effect on
foreign investment in Cuba. If the president doesn't exercise a waiver,
it would allow the preparation of lawsuits in U.S. federal courts
against those using, for example, tourism properties, mining operations
or seaports where there are prior claims.
"There are individuals who maintain they have Title III-actionable
claims relating to Jose Martí International Airport and the port at
Santiago de Cuba," said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade
and Economic Council. "United States-based air carriers and those from
other countries could find their assets attached if they do not avoid
the Republic of Cuba. Passenger cruise ships and cargo ships might avoid
docking and unloading [in Santiago] for fear of expensive and enduring
Cuba is actively courting foreign investors and says it needs foreign
investment of around $2.5 billion a year to reach a goal of 7 percent
annual economic growth. Since Cuba's new foreign investment law went
into effect in 2014, it has only attracted about $1.3 billion in
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Source: Obama suspended lawsuit provision of Helms-Burton Act | Miami
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article131092324.html Continue reading
This week's question: Have you ever been to Cuba? Do you plan to go? Why
or why not?
No, I have not been to Cuba. Of all of the places I would like to visit,
Cuba is not a priority of where I desire to have personal travel.
However, we are in the process of developing a specialty team that will
be reviewing commercial real estate business opportunities throughout
the entire Caribbean, including Cuba.
Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young
I have not been to Cuba and have no immediate plans to go there. I have
no family ties or shared common culture and unfortunately, don't speak
the language. There are many other countries on my bucket list and it
doesn't include any Caribbean islands.
Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, South Florida, The Commonwealth
Institute South Florida
I have not been to Cuba, but I would love to visit. I enjoy traveling
and learning about cultures including my own. Since moving to Miami, I
have witnessed the amazing impact of the Cuban culture on the fabric of
our community. I would surely welcome an opportunity to visit the nation
that has so influenced South Florida's phenomenal success.
Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg
I have no plans to ever go to Cuba and that is out of respect and love
for my mother, who is still alive and lost everything when she had to
leave her homeland under a Castro-dominated regime.
Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System
I have never traveled to Cuba, and would be very interested in visiting
the Island. I would want to visit schools, talk with school principals,
and school leaders to learn about their system of education. The Council
for Educational Change could share programs that have been effective in
Florida and share our business models and best practices.
Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational
I have been to Cuba for leisure travel, and I will continue to support
the opening of Cuba to trade and travel. Personally, I believe it is the
right thing to do for the advancement of that country and its people.
From a South Florida standpoint, our region has more to gain than any
other in the U.S. from this opening when it comes to trade. I also
believe that capitalism and market-driven policies will invariably
affect the political future of Cuba more than any handling from politicians.
Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development
I have not visited Cuba. From conversations with friends and colleagues
who are of Cuban descent, I recognize there are several historical
challenges that many generations have experienced and I do not fully
understand them all. I believe the day will come when my Cuban friends
and colleagues will feel comfortable traveling there and I will feel
comfortable at that time as well.
Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus
The last time I visited Cuba I was only 5 years old, and I would very
much like to go again in order to see where my ancestors came from. At
the same time, as Governor Rick Scott recently said, the United States
could help put Cuba on the map quickly in regards to development and
growth, creating an excellent investment opportunity as well.
Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group
I was born in Cuba, but have never been back. I don't plan on going back
because I don't want to give my hard-earned money to a brutal
dictatorship. The United States is an amazing country and there are
plenty of great things to see and do here. Now, when Cuba has freedom
and human rights are respected, I would love to visit the neighborhood I
was born in.
Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade
I have only visited during my military service, quite some time ago.
I've not yet determined whether investments in Cuba make sense for FECI,
but we certainly have an expertise in areas that will likely need
attention in Cuba over the longer-term, particularly infrastructure.
Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries
I have not been to Cuba, but we have many tour operator members that
conduct tours there. In our LGBT segment, this has become a popular
destination and we've seen an increasing number of LGBT group trips to
the island. I do plan to visit in 2017.
John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel
I grew up in Miami as a young child, when many of the original Cuban
refugees arrived here. I can remember my mother teaching many of the
women how to drive for the first time with her car. In some ways, the
Cuban history is my history. I would very much like to go to Cuba with
some friends who have deep roots there.
Faith Read Xenos, co-founding partner, Singer Xenos
Source: South Florida CEO Roundtable: Travel to Cuba not a top priority,
most say | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article129954384.html Continue reading
by MARIO T. DE LA PENA February 5, 2017 4:00 AM
Fidel Castro is dead, but Castroism still needs to be defeated
Fidel Castro died on November 25, but Castroism — the one-party,
neo-Stalinist system that has tyrannized Cuba for more than half a
century — still needs to be defeated.
Fidel's brother, Raúl, "president" of the island nation for most of the
last decade, has shown no signs of ending the political oppression and
human-rights violations that define the regime. To be sure, Raúl has
made a few minor reforms out of necessity, to open up the economy. But
those changes have not been accompanied by political reforms.
The Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with the Cuban
government and made it easier for Americans to travel and do business
there. On January 12 of this year, the administration announced that it
was ending the longstanding "wet foot, dry foot" policy that grants
permanent-resident status to any Cuban who makes it to the U.S. shore.
And back in October, the Obama administration announced the
implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 43, which directs the
Department of Defense to expand its relationship with Havana.
Other changes include permitting Americans to bring back as much Cuban
rum and cigars as they like from Cuba. "Already we are seeing what the
United States and Cuba can accomplish when we put aside the past and
work to build a brighter future," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan
Rice said at the time. "You can now celebrate with Cuban rum and Cuban
But Cubans aren't celebrating. Under Castroism, Cuba's main
accomplishments have been the highest per-capita rates of suicide,
abortion, and refugees in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has the oldest
population in Latin America. Cuba ages and withers away, strangled by
The problem with Obama's overtures is that they have not been
reciprocated by the Cuban regime. There is still no respect for human
rights or political freedom. As Amnesty International put it recently:
Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on
freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of
cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and
detentions were reported.
But the situation is not hopeless. Cubans of different generations and
backgrounds are committed like never before to working for a free Cuba.
There are many things Cubans, Cuban Americans, and other people of
goodwill can do. They can support the resistance by encouraging those
who are involved in direct civic action on the island. For instance, the
Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed
dissidents, continue to suffer beatings, harassment, and jailing at the
hands of the government for their silent, non-violent marches. Such
protests are an indispensable means through which Cubans' rights will be
What must happen for Cuba to be free? The regime must give general
amnesty for all political prisoners. That means full rights to free
expression, access to information, assembly, association, peaceful
protest, profession, and worship.
Other essential rights include the right to collective bargaining, the
rule of law, checks and balances, and the balance of power, including an
A free Cuba will be realized only when multi-party elections are held
and the right to vote and the privacy of the ballot are respected. For
that to happen, a constitutional process must take place that includes a
constitutional convention and a referendum on a new constitution.
Many Cuban Americans hope that President Trump will be a stronger
advocate for human rights than Barack Obama was. During the campaign,
Trump promised to "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against
Communist oppression" and criticized the "concessions" that Barack Obama
made to the Castros. He promised to secure a "better deal" between the
two countries than the one Obama negotiated.
Trump should make it clear that he will sever diplomatic relations with
the Cuban government unless it makes progress to end political
repression, opens its markets, protects freedom of religion, and
releases all political prisoners.
The public may believe that, now that Fidel and Obama are gone, Cuba is
well on its way to being free. But Castroism didn't die with Fidel. The
repression and violence against the Cuban people continues. Economic
changes alone will not bring about democracy. They are important, but
only respect for human rights and political liberty will truly make Cuba
— Mario T. de la Peña is an advocate for a free and democratic Cuba who
has lived in the United States since 1962.
Source: Cuba Post-Castro: Repression Continues | National Review -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444622/cuba-post-castro-repression-continues Continue reading
Less than 100 miles south of Key West sits a socialist country forbidden
from doing business with the U.S. for 57 years. Now it's on the brink of
being opened to American entrepreneurs. Meet the ones hoping to cash in
By David Whitford
The Friday before Halloween, Josh Weinstein was set to take his first
trip to Cuba: bags packed, visa in hand, leased Beechcraft turbo-prop
booked for Sunday pickup at Sarasota Bradenton International. Then the
dispatcher called. We have verbal approval to fly to Havana, he told
Weinstein, but we're still waiting on one last stamp from the Cuban
government. Don't worry, he explained, this happens all the time.
Unfortunately, the government offices were now closed for the weekend.
"we'll keep pushing," he promised.
Weinstein is president of Witzco Challenger, a $12 million family
business that builds heavy-haul trailers in Sarasota, Florida, and ships
them all over the world. Witzco lost about half its sales in '08 and '09
during the Great Recession. That was not long after Weinstein, former
treasurer of his local stagehands union and grandson of Witzco's
founder, took over the company from his aunt and uncle, and he's been
scrambling to recover ever since. Exports are a big part of his
business, about 35 percent, but they've been slipping lately. The
stronger dollar hasn't helped.
His unlikely solution: Cuba. The forbidden market less than an hour's
direct flight from Witzco's central Florida factory is suddenly bursting
with pent-up demand. Tourism in Cuba is soaring, on pace to exceed
2015's record 3.5 million visitors, including a growing number of
Americans who find a way to qualify for one of 12 exceptions to the
Treasury Department's limits on travel. (U.S. tourism is technically
still banned.) Weinstein's betting on a construction boom, spurred by
the Cuban government's plan to double the number of hotel rooms in the
country by 2020, in pursuit of economic growth. "The first thing they're
going to have to do is infrastructure," Weinstein says excitedly.
"Water, septic, cable, electricity, communications. They're going to
need heavy equipment. My trailer moves the heavy equipment." Not exactly
a Cuba expert, Weinstein wants to see for himself. "I don't really know
the market, only what I've been able to Google," he says. So he booked a
booth at Cuba's international trade show, slated for the fall.
Sunday night, the stamp came through. Monday morning, he was on his way,
a day later than hoped. (The first lesson anyone learns when dealing
with Cuba: It'll happen when it happens.) Forty-five minutes across the
Everglades to Miami to top off the tank--gas is much cheaper in the
U.S.--and then another 45 minutes across the Straits of Florida to
Havana. Upon landing at José Martí International Airport, Weinstein and
his posse of two--all wearing khakis and Witzco golf shirts--were met in
an otherwise deserted terminal by unsmiling customs officials, who
opened one of Weinstein's bags. In it was a stash of trade-show
paraphernalia--candy, logoed pens, and sales pamphlets in Spanish,
English, and Russian (in case there were any Russians left in Cuba,
Weinstein figured). The pamphlets raised eyebrows. Propaganda, declared
one of the officials. Where is your approval? A discussion ensued.
Weinstein turned on his charm. Maybe a little bit of money changed
hands. "It's the cost of doing business," Weinstein says. "I'm OK with it."
And the Witzco delegation was in.
When President Obama flew to Havana last March, it marked the first
visit to Cuba by a sitting American president since Calvin Coolidge in
1928. His posse numbered more than 1,000. Among them: Brian Chesky,
founder of Airbnb, Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal, and Fubu founder and
Shark Tank judge Daymond John. The president drove straight to the Meliá
Habana Hotel, where he addressed the staff of what used to be the United
States Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana (it's a
long story) but is now a full-fledged U.S. embassy. There he spoke of
his desire to "forge new agreements and commercial deals" with Cuba, in
line with the main thrust of U.S. policy as of December 2014, when the
current wave of reforms began.
A lot's happened since then, including the death of Fidel Castro; the
removal of Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism; the
restoration of full diplomatic relations; the resumption of regularly
scheduled flights by U.S. airlines, including American, Delta, United,
and JetBlue; authorization for U.S. hoteliers Marriott and Starwood to
pursue Cuba deals; service agreements involving U.S. cell-phone
providers; and glory, hallelujah, the granting of permission for
American visitors to bring home Cuban rum and cigars.
But that doesn't mean Cuba is open for business. There's still the
nettlesome matter of the embargo--a dense web of constraints,
restrictions, and outright prohibitions, some in place since 1960, that,
despite the recent thaw, prevents anything approaching normal business
relations. Most commerce between the United States and Cuba is banned
outright. Everything else is a hassle. For instance, while U.S.
companies have been permitted to sell food and medicine to Cuba since
the Clinton administration, the U.S. government often requires Cuban
customers to pay the full amount up front. (That, in a nutshell, is why
Cuba buys nearly all its rice from Vietnam, rather than from nearby U.S.
growers.) And if you're an American trying to do anything in Cuba, you
had better bring plenty of cash, which is all anyone accepts. Unless you
happen to have a credit or debit card from Stonegate Bank--a Fort
Lauderdale, Florida, institution that has a temporary continental
American monopoly on Cuba-ready cards--plastic credit is worthless, and
ATMs barely exist.
The embargo is like an argument that's been going on for so long, nobody
remembers anymore how or why it started. Initially, under President
Eisenhower, it banned only sugar imports. After Cuba responded by
confiscating the assets of U.S. companies, it was broadened to cover
nearly all trade between the nations. Soon it morphed into a Cold War
weapon to punish Castro for aligning with the Soviet Union, and
supporting communist-led insurgencies in Nicaragua and Angola. Cuba's
dismal record on human rights didn't help.
But attitudes toward the embargo have changed. In a CBS News/New York
Times poll conducted on the eve of Obama's Cuba visit, more than half of
Americans (55 percent) said they supported doing away with it. A more
recent Florida International University poll of Cuban Americans living
in Miami-Dade County--traditionally ground zero for the no-compromise
camp--found an even bigger majority who would be happy at this point to
move on. But we're still stuck.
Washington, D.C., attorney Robert Muse has been advising U.S. companies
on Cuba for 25 years. He says that lifting the embargo is up to the
United States. He equates Cuba's position to that of an abused wife
whose husband says he'll stop beating her if she'll start putting dinner
on the table: "Her attitude, quite rightly, is, 'It's you attacking me!
You have to stop. Then we can have normal relations.' "
If and when the embargo is lifted, American companies need to remember
what kind of market they're dealing with. Cuba indeed dominates the
Caribbean, by landmass (it's roughly the size of Virginia) and by
population (11.3 million). But it's poor. The average state salary is
$25 a month. In 2010, according to the CIA's latest estimate, its gross
domestic product per capita was $10,200, one rung up on the world ladder
from Swaziland's. That's partly why John Kavulich, longtime head of the
U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, sees "a lot of inspiration and
aspiration chasing very little reality" in Cuba. Americans assume, not
unreasonably, that Cubans "need everything, they want everything, and
they put a period there," Kavulich says. "But there's a next sentence:
Do they have the resources to purchase everything? Dubai isn't 93 miles
south of Florida. Cuba is."
Even so, Weinstein and other eager Americans are stubbornly optimistic.
Entrepreneurs like Saul Berenthal, for instance, a 72-year-old in
Raleigh, North Carolina, who wants to sell small tractors to Cuban
farmers. And Darius Anderson, a political consultant, lobbyist, and
investor who's been visiting Cuba since he was a college student, and
now has a scheme to sell California wines to Cuban restaurateurs.
Everybody wants to believe that we're at the beginning of the end of an
era; that no one--not unforgetting Cuban émigrés in Miami, not Fidel's
ghost, not a brash and unpredictable President Trump--can halt the
momentum now. That the embargo must be, will be, swept aside, and the
rivers of commerce will flow.
But Cuba is not for innocents or neophytes. "People get besotted with
Cuba," Muse warns. "If you're a little guy, you might think that because
the big guys aren't there, you can play in those waters. It's exotic.
You're a pioneer! All these things combine to make some people abandon
basic business principles."
The fairground for Cuba's international trade show is 12 miles south of
central Havana. It's a slow cab ride, on crowded roads filled with
midcentury Fords, Chevys, and Cadillacs, many of them refitted with
diesel motors, not one of which would pass a U.S. emissions inspection.
A mural of Che Guevara hovers omnisciently over the Plaza de la
Revolución, while billboards flaunt slogans like socialismo o muerte
("Socialism or Death") and normalizar no es sinónimo de bloquear
("Normalization and Blockades Don't Go Together"), a blunt reminder of
Cuba's all-or-nothing stance on the embargo, which Cubans call "the
The American pavilion is a hike from the trade show's main entrance, in
the farthest corner of the grounds, beyond the scattered remnants of
past exhibitions--a petrified pump jack, a stilled windmill, a parked
Air Cubana airliner repurposed as a restaurant. JetBlue banners flank
the entrance. Inside, ordinary Cubans who have managed to snag coveted
trade show credentials graze the American booths, scooping up free hats,
pens, and pistachios. Perhaps because there is no conventional
advertising in Cuba (it's illegal), Cuban consumers are adept at
ferreting out whatever's available, wherever it can be found.
The National Auto Parts Association has a booth, looking toward the day
when it can begin populating Cuba with its stores. So do a smattering of
state-sponsored trade delegations representing poultry farmers, soybean
growers, and the Port of Virginia; and all manner of small and midsize
U.S. manufacturers, displaying motors, electronic controls, and other
industrial gear, none of which are yet on the list of permissible
products. The U.S. embassy's chargé d'affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis,
roams the aisles in a seersucker suit, chatting up exhibitors and
awkwardly ducking reporters. ("There is still an embargo," his aide
Overall, attendance by American exhibitors is lower this year than last,
when Obama's first round of reforms created a kind of euphoria that has
since dissipated. Those who have returned see the potential but
understand the need for patience. Among them is investor Noel Thompson,
decked out in a blue blazer advertising his ties to the U.S. Olympic
Committee. Thompson is a former Goldman Sachs banker now running his own
hedge fund in New York City. He's been coming down to Cuba every few
months for the past couple of years, working his way into the culture,
gathering intel, developing contacts. He imagines doing a lot of
business in Cuba one day-trading currencies, advising on deals, helping
privatize government assets, and otherwise capitalizing on the explosion
he thinks will surely come when the embargo lifts and America fully
engages with Cuba's suppressed capitalist passions. It won't happen
tomorrow, he knows, or even next year, but one day. "Maybe it's my
Goldman training," Thompson says. "When you see a butterfly flap its
wings ... "
Manning a nearby booth with sunglasses propped on his forehead and an
unlit cigar clenched in his teeth, another American, Darius Anderson,
presides over a winetasting led by his pal Fernando Fernández, Cuba's
preeminent blender of rums and cigars. Anderson first visited Cuba in
1986 as a student at George Washington University, where he had a poster
of Che Guevara on his dorm room wall. When his pals went to Florida for
spring break, he went north to Toronto, from which he was able to get to
Havana. His total visits since then: "Somewhere in the mid-60s," he
guesses. Every time the border agents run his passport, they ask, "Why
so many times?"
Originally, he went because it was forbidden, Anderson says, and now
it's because he's long since fallen in love with "all things Cuban: the
music, the culture, the cigars, the baseball." After college, Anderson
worked for a Democratic congressman on Capitol Hill, was an advance man
for Bill Clinton in California, and apprenticed seven years at the right
hand of supermarket billionaire Ron Burkle--a useful résumé for
navigating a market in which business and politics are inseparable.
With his company U.S. Cava Exports, Anderson, 47, is trying to bring
expensive wines from Napa Valley to Cuban consumers. He's been laying
the groundwork for years, hosting a seven-day tour of Napa and Sonoma
wineries for his Cuban friends, and leading a party of more than 100
California vintners on an educational mission to Cuba, where they met
with chefs and sommeliers. Like Weinstein, Anderson is hoping to make
money on tourism. Unlike Weinstein, he's peddling an embargo-exempt
agricultural product that's not contingent on new construction. This
should be easy.
And yet, 2,500 miles northwest of Havana, in a refrigerated warehouse
near Napa County Airport, sits a shipping container filled with
Anderson's stranded inventory: 1,200 cases of carefully curated
California sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, pinot noir, cabernet, and
chardonnay. Total value, just under $400,000. It's been there all fall,
costing him at least $500 per month, and not for want of a buyer. In
fact, Anderson has one all lined up, a Cuban state-owned distributor
willing to pay full price in advance, per U.S. law. But there's a
holdup. Anderson is waiting on final approval from the highest levels of
government--in this case, Cuba's foreign ministry.
U.S. Cava Exports is only one of Anderson's ventures at the moment, so
he has the luxury to wait this bureaucratic purgatory out. He still sees
a chance to have "a real, viable business and grow it over time." The
rest of the world is already here, he points out. Not just Cuba's
biggest trading partner, China, and Spain--it's oldest--but also Brazil,
Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands. The list goes on. "A whole litany of
countries are here doing business," Anderson says. "They trust the
system well enough to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. This idea
that it's not happening? It's happening, but it's happening without us."
Saul Berenthal went to high school before the revolution. He was born in
Havana, where his parents met after fleeing the Nazis in Eastern Europe.
His father worked his way from Holocaust refugee to sole GM parts
supplier for Cuba, which helped land Saul at the elite Havana Military
Academy. In 1960, his parents sent their 16-year-old son to study in the
United States. They visited him the following year, expecting to stay
for a few months. Then came the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Suddenly,
they were unwilling to return to Cuba, refugees once again, this time in
Bespectacled and trim, still at home in a loose-fitting guayabera,
Berenthal has a complicated relationship with his birthplace. He belongs
solidly to the generation of exiles whose grim resolve and political
clout have defined U.S. aggression toward Cuba. But he's also become a
full-fledged American, having had spent 18 years at IBM, where he met
Horace Clemmons, his future business partner. They bonded over their
frustration with IBM's stubborn attachment to proprietary product lines
when the future was all about open-source computing. "We worked hard,
lived the American dream, created three companies and sold them, and set
ourselves up for a nice retirement," says Berenthal.
But, a couple of years into retirement, Cuba beckoned, and starting in
2007, Berenthal was finding excuses to visit his birthplace. "It was
curiosity more than anything," he says. The surprise was that he felt
instantly at home. The language, the mannerisms, the customs, the
operating in a culture where it's hard to make appointments ("You'll be
here next week? Look me up") and a meeting might not happen because
somebody's car won't start or he can't find gas. Where checking email on
the fly means locating a Wi-Fi hotspot and making sure you've got enough
minutes left on your government-issued access card. "Not very well
organized, but I understand why," says Berenthal, revealing a trace of
his native Spanish. "People take care of things as they come up. They
don't know where they'll be at any time until it's that time."
Berenthal still knew people who knew people in Havana. He was introduced
to professors in the economics department at the University of Havana,
organized academic exchanges, and got involved in studies that led to
Cuba's accelerated reengagement with the global economy in 2011. But it
was Obama's dramatic announcement on December 17, 2014--"Today, the
United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of
Cuba"--and the policy changes that followed that convinced Berenthal it
was time to reunite with his old partner, Clemmons, and come up with a
business idea for Cuba.
Berenthal knew that an American company could succeed in Cuba only if it
was sensitive to the socialist country's motivations for doing business
with outsiders. Cuba is not interested in inviting foreign companies in
to make a few players wealthy. If Cuba is to embrace capitalism, it will
be on socialist terms: to generate revenue and become less dependent on
imports, and so protect what Cubans consider the lasting achievements of
the revolution--free education, free medicine, subsidized housing, and
Clemmons, a farm boy from Alabama, thought of tractors. Inexpensive
tractors designed to meet the needs of small farmers in a poor country
that's rich in arable land but where many still work the land barefoot,
behind a mule or an ox, without basic equipment. An alternative to a
company like John Deere, which could come into Cuba with an expensive,
proprietary product. Instead, Cleber, as their company is called, would
assemble tractors according to open-source manufacturing principles,
using standard components, making them easy to maintain and infinitely
customizable. By creating an opportunity for Cubans to build an
ecosystem of products around Cleber's tractor, they would help
kick-start the creation of a homegrown agricultural manufacturing industry.
Berenthal and Clemmons proposed building their tractor factory in
Mariel, a planned economic development zone about an hour west of
Havana. When Cuban officials expressed support, the pair began working
to persuade their own government to create an opening in the embargo
that would allow them to proceed. "We spent a lot of time in the Office
of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of Commerce, trying to get
it through," says Berenthal. In February 2016, after months of meetings,
they succeeded. Cleber won U.S. approval to build the first
American-owned factory on Cuban soil since the revolution. It was a
happy story, shot through with hopeful symbolism, coinciding perfectly
with the Obama administration's initiatives. They even got a shout-out
in a White House press briefing.
But they still needed final approval from Cuba, and by last summer,
Berenthal didn't like the signals being sent from officials at Mariel:
pushback on environmental standards and workplace safety, and worrisome
doubts about whether Cleber fit with the development site's larger goal
of promoting high-tech manufacturing. Berenthal was baffled. None of the
other projects in the Mariel pipeline--cigarettes, cosmetics,
meatpacking, none of them U.S. backed--were obvious ways to achieve that
goal. Here he was, trying to persuade higher-ups who opposed a simple,
practical idea that somehow threatened them. He had flashbacks to his
time at IBM. "Everybody is acting in their own best interests," says
Berenthal. "IBM wanted to protect the proprietary lab where they were
building the proprietary technology and not accept change, because that
would mean loss of power or prestige or even their jobs."
In late October, Berenthal drove to Mariel for a meeting with
development zone officials. "They were very cordial," Berenthal says.
Then they proceeded to tell him that after much consideration, they had
decided not to approve Cleber's proposal after all.
Weinstein had a good trade show. He didn't arrive until late on the
first day--after the delay at customs, and an errant cab ride to the
wrong fairground--but he hit the ground running. Within an hour, every
bottled-water peddler in the building had a Witzco bumper sticker on his
cooler, and most were wearing Witzco baseball caps. He made no actual
sales to actual Cubans, of course. The embargo forbade him, which he
knew going in. But he met a lot of people there, and went home happy at
the end of the week with a long list of proposals to prepare for buyers
from Canada, Panama, Mexico, Belgium, and Spain.
Then history happened. Days after the trade show ended, Donald Trump was
unexpectedly elected president. Then Fidel Castro died. Suddenly
American entrepreneurs with dreams of doing business in Cuba were forced
to reevaluate everything.
When it comes to Cuba, Trump the politician appears to have a different
mind than Trump the entrepreneur. At least twice since the late '90s,
emissaries associated with Trump companies have visited Cuba to scope
out investment opportunities for hotels and golf courses--acts that may
well have violated the embargo. Since the election, however, Trump's
been all bluster and ill will. When the news broke of the former
dictator's passing, he tweeted gleefully: "Fidel Castro is dead!" He
soon followed up with, "If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for
the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I
will terminate deal."
In reality, Trump's tough talk is off base. As attorney Muse points out,
there is no Obama-era "deal" between the nations. Only a "series of
rolling measures" issued from various realms of the federal government
that would be next to impossible to untangle one by one, and which few
Americans object to anyway. But what Trump could do, says Muse, is "go
big and go unilateral," in a way that plays to his strength. That is, he
could leapfrog Obama's measured steps toward normalization by announcing
his willingness to negotiate America's $1.9 billion in outstanding
property claims against the Cuban government as a "necessary predicate"
to ending the embargo once and for all. "Where the embargo began is
where the embargo should end: With a resolution of the certified
claims," Muse says.
After the Cuban government derailed Berenthal's factory plans, he was
discouraged but not devastated. He understands why his company, in which
he and Clemmons have invested $5 million, was used as a political pawn:
Cuba wants the embargo gone; as long as it remains in effect, Cuba has
little incentive to grant piecemeal exceptions that reduce the pressure
on Congress to demolish it once and for all. At least, that's the best
explanation he or anyone else can come up with to justify what happened.
So Berenthal and Clemmons have shifted plans. Now they're building
tractors for export at a factory in Paint Rock, Alabama. Clemmons, the
more frustrated of the two, is focusing his energy on selling them to
other markets--small farmers in Australia, Ethiopia, and Peru.
Meanwhile, Berenthal's contacts at Mariel have told him, "Commercialize
your tractor and your products, and bring them to Cuba," and he's taking
them at their word. Cleber's new business model may in the end be more
lucrative, albeit less transformational for Cuba than Berenthal had
Still, there's one more wild card. Cuba's current president, Fidel's
brother Raúl Castro, is scheduled to end his term in 2018. "In my
opinion," says Berenthal, "this will trigger the final removal of the
embargo." Castro's likely successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was born nine
months before the revolution. If there's going to be real
change--generational change--in U.S.-Cuba relations, that'll be the
turning point. "I hope others will take the long view and continue the
efforts to bring the two countries together through commerce," Berenthal
says. He understands, as best as anyone can, how it works in Cuba. That
things happen when they happen. But, eventually, they do happen.
Source: Meet the Entrepreneurs Breaking Into This Long-Forbidden Market
| Inc.com -
http://www.inc.com/magazine/201702/david-whitford/crashing-into-cuba.html Continue reading
Rights in Cuba
Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, 30 January 2017 — To Mr. Suarez
Pagan: For six months, since we took the initiative to identify those
people who exercise the repression of the Cuban tyranny, your name is
repeated more often than any other, associated with the use of methods
that stand out for their brutal violence against peaceful citizens.
We have accusations against you that have been issued by your numerous
victims and that are validated by photos, videos and medical opinions.
However, your more recent act of intimidation intended to recruit as an
informant the young woman Liset Maria Santos, from the recently formed
Dignity Movement, has exceeded all limits.
You have told her that you released the criminal who raped her when she
was 11-years-old, and have given her the choice of informing against her
friends or facing the consequences of what this criminal might do to her
or even to her daughter. To brag about your total control over the lives
of others you tell her that, if she cooperates, you can put the rapist
back in prison (he hasn't served even half of his sentence for that and
other crimes) or even kill him.
You believe yourself to be immune for being a part of the national
repressive machinery. But you are wrong Mr. Suarez Pagan.
You are a cog in that machine, it is true, but you are inescapably
personally responsible for your actions. Even your superiors – if they
consider it convenient to their own interests – could take the
initiative to prosecute you at any time to distance themselves from your
You may believe that the current non-violent vocation of the regime's
opponents assures you of a peaceful future. But you are wrong there,
too. No one is going to forget or forgive your crimes. For repressors
like you there will be no amnesty.
You are personally responsible for any and all of the detestable
assaults you have perpetrated against peaceful opponents. Do not forget
that. This has happened historically since the trials of the Nazis in
Nuremberg. Each person is legally obliged to take individual
responsibility for their actions and no one can excuse themselves
afterwards with the justification that they "carried out orders from my
You told young Liset Maria Santos that it was within your reach that
nothing would happen to her or her family. Make it so.
You believe yourself omnipotent because you know where each opponent
lives. We also have the facts and reliable proofs of your despicable career.
Know that we are already working to apply various international
sanctions and we will do the same with any superior of yours who is
implicated in this and other sadistic actions. We are not going to wait
for things to change in Cuba. And they will change, Mr. Dainier Suárez
Pagán. Keep that in mind.
Source: On Notice: Cuban Repressor Dainier Suarez Pagan / Foundation for
Human Rights in Cuba – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/on-notice-cuban-repressor-dainier-suarez-pagan-foundation-for-human-rights-in-cuba/ Continue reading
Posted: 5:43 p.m. Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Port of Palm Beach officials see an opportunity in normalizing relations
with the communist island of Cuba. As well they should.
The port is in an advantageous position geographically. It has a deep
and rich history of trade with the island, pre-Fidel Castro. And most
important, the 156-acre port has room to expand and accommodate any
future growth in a relationship.
This is no pie-in-the-sky proposal. This is a well-thought-out growth
plan led by Port Executive Director Manuel Almira, who was born in Cuba.
For example, ground was broken in July 2016 on a $10.4 million mini-slip
at the port's southernmost berth that could eventually serve as a base
for cargo service to Cuba — and boost local businesses.
This economic potential deserves the state's support, not to be held
hostage to politics of the moment. But Gov. Rick Scott, who has made job
growth the focal point of his two terms in office, has unfortunately
lost focus when it comes to the state's ports doing business with Cuba.
Days before a delegation of Cuban maritime leaders was to arrive for
separate meetings with officials of three Florida ports — Palm Beach,
Port Everglades and Port Tampa Bay — Scott issued a threat, via Twitter
no less, to cut funding for port operators that do business with Cuba.
That threat risks $920,000 this year for the Port of Palm Beach.
"Disappointed some FL ports would enter into any agreement with Cuban
dictatorship," Scott wrote in a series of tweets on Jan. 25. "I will
recommend restricting state funds for ports that work with Cuba in my
budget. We cannot condone Raul Castro's oppressive behavior. Serious
security/human rights concerns."
Though laudable, the governor's reasoning smacks of hypocrisy. The Cuban
government indeed remains an oppressive regime under President Raul
Castro, despite the movement toward normalization of relations begun by
President Barack Obama two years ago. But more than a half century of
Cold War relations, centered on a draconian trade embargo, hasn't done
much to bring democracy to the island's 11 million residents either.
Moreover, Cuba is not the only oppressive communist regime the United
States — and Florida — would do business with.
China, the United States' largest trading partner, is well known for its
iron hand and shows little sign of changing. "The outlook for
fundamental human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly,
association and religion, remains dire," says the nongovernmental Human
Rights Watch in its latest world report.
The government controls the media, restricts the internet, arrests
dissidents, regulates religious practice. There is only one political
party. Human rights lawyers and activists are detained, their forced
"confessions" shown on nationwide TV, and punished with stiff prison
Yet the People's Republic of China is a land of McDonald's, Starbucks,
KFC, Pizza Hut and Wal-Mart. General Motors and other major American
giants do big business there. It's where iPhones and iPads are
manufactured, where the all-American Barbies and G.I. Joes are made.
Was Scott thinking of any of these contradictions when, on human rights
grounds, he slammed the ports' plans to sign a memorandum of
understanding (MOU) with the National Port Administration of Cuba to
cover future cooperation?
"There's no human rights down there. I don't believe our ports should be
doing business with a brutal dictator," Scott said last week. "We should
say to ourselves, 'We are going to do business where they are not doing
what Raul Castro is doing.' "
Did Scott somehow forget that he has personally courted China during
trade missions for the state of Florida?
As Almira told The Post's Susan Salisbury: "Private businesses based at
ports do business with Cuba, not the ports themselves. The port's role
is to help with that."
The state's role is to help expand Florida trade and grow Florida jobs.
Not pick winners and losers based on politics.
Though laudable, the governor's reasoning smacks of hypocrisy.
Source: Florida ports deserve state support in dealing with Cuba -
http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/opinion/editorial-ports-deserve-state-support-dealing-with-cuba/nx6GJslfTZl2Q17LItjXwN/ Continue reading
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Following on the heels of last's week threatened retaliation against
Florida ports that sign agreements with Cuba, Gov. Rick Scott has tucked
another anti-Cuba provision into his proposed state budget that is even
Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach backed off plans to sign
what's known as a memorandum of understanding with the National Port
Administration of Cuba last week after Scott tweeted that he would ask
state legislators to cut off funding for any Florida ports that "enter
into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship."
In a Twitter post, the governor said he had "Serious security/human
rights concerns" about Cuba.
The two ports received visits from a high-level maritime and business
delegation from Cuba last week, but both port directors put plans to
sign any MOU with Cuba on hold.
However, that didn't prevent Scott from putting wording in his new
budget, released Tuesday, that says no money can be "allocated to
infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the
Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses." The
reference can be found on page 221 of Scott's 362-page 2017-2018 budget
It's up to Florida legislators if they want to include the governor's
recommendations in the budget they will craft during the legislative
session, which begins in March.
At stake is $176.56 million for port improvements that Scott has
stipulated shouldn't be funded if they lead to expanded trade with Cuba.
It's unclear if the budget reference also includes trade in services and
would impact Florida ports that have cruise service to Cuba or
potentially ferry service to the island. Several ferry ventures have
proposals before the Cuban government to offer ferry service from
Florida to Cuba.
Carnival's Fathom Line currently offers cruises from PortMiami to Cuba
and Pearl Seas Cruises has scheduled 11 Cuba cruises through April from
Port Everglades. Royal Caribbean International plans to offer a sailing
to Cuba from PortMiami on April 19 aboard the Empress of the Seas and
then switch the ship to Tampa where it will offer two more cruises to
Cuba in April and May.
The proposed state budget was released the same day as a shipment of
Cuban charcoal arrived at the Hialeah warehouse of Fogo Charcoal. Two
containers of the hardwood charcoal, which is made by private worker
cooperatives in Cuba, arrived at Port Everglades aboard a Crowley
Maritime ship last Tuesday. It was the first legal maritime shipment
from Cuba to the U.S. in more than 50 years.
Port Everglades Director Steven Cernak said last week that the port
leases space to its tenants and does not get involved in decisions about
their trading partners or how they operate. Crowley is Port Everglades'
Potentially, Port Everglades could lose as much as $125 million in state
funding over the next five years if the state imposes the governor's
"The bottom line is that [trade with Cuba] is really
private-sector-driven. Crowley has been doing business here with Cuba
for the past 15 years," said Ellen Kennedy, a Port Everglades spokeswoman.
"It's a question for the ports in this case," said a Crowley spokesman.
"The infrastructure projects planned at the port are mostly to better
handle the big ships that are coming from South America and Europe,"
Kennedy said. "The expansion is not specific to trade with Cuba."
FOLLOW MIMI WHITEFIELD ON TWITTER: @HERALDMIMI
Source: Gov. Scott uses budget to try to stop expansion of trade with
Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article129874089.html Continue reading
DEMAND RELEASE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER
Five days after Fidel Castro's death, human rights defender Eduardo
Cardet was detained and has since been held in provisional detention in
Holguín, south-east Cuba.
He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and
Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation
Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación,
MCL) since 2014 was arrested in Holguín on 30 November 2016, five days
after the death of the former leader of
Cuba, Fidel Castro. Eduardo Cardet has spent two months in the
provisional prison (prisión provisional) of Holguín.
He has been refused bail on three occasions, according to his wife.
According to five witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International by
telephone on the condition of anonymity,
Eduardo Cardet was pushed off his bicycle and violently detained in the
early evening of 30 November by at least
four plain clothed and one uniformed police officer as he returned home
after visiting his mother. It is not clear on
what grounds Eduardo Cardet was initially detained. According to his
wife, who witnessed her husband's detention
with their two children, Eduardo Cardet is charged with attacking an
official of the state (atentado). This offence is
covered under Article 142.1 of the Criminal Code. One officer is
alleging that Eduardo Cardet pushed him during
his arrest. All witnesses who spoke with Amnesty International counter
this allegation, and state that Eduardo
Cardet was quickly and violently restrained by plain clothed officials,
placed in handcuffs, and beaten, and had no
opportunity for self-defence. The witnesses believe that Eduardo Cardet
was arrested for his beliefs and ideas.
Prior to his arrest, Eduardo Cardet had given interviews published in
international media in which he had been
critical of the Cuban government. In an interview with Madrid-based
radio station esRadio, aired two days before
his arrest, he described the mourning in Cuba following the death of
Fidel Castro as imposed, and said: "Castro
was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our
people". According to the MCL's website,
Eduardo Cardet's lawyer informed the family on 27 January that the
Public Prosecutor is seeking three years of
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to release Dr. Eduardo Cardet immediately
and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of
conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to
freedom of expression;
- Calling on them to guarantee the peaceful right to freedom of
expression, assembly and association including
for dissident, opponent or activist voices and to repeal all legislation
which unduly limits these rights;
- Urging them to ensure that, pending his release, he is provided with
any medical care he may require; that he is
not tortured or otherwise ill-treated; and that he is granted regular
access to family and lawyers of his choosing.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 14 MARCH 2017 TO:
President of the Republic
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in
Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban
Mission to UN)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (c/o Cuban Mission
Salutation: Your Excellency
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella
Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/
Señor Fiscal General
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country
https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr25/5601/2017/en/ Continue reading